Tuesday, September 29, 2009

15 minutes and counting...

Check out today's Column 8 (Sydney Morning Herald), paragraph five, where I got my name in print today. Such erudition!

Do I get my C8PhD now?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Vaccination in the news

An article in this morning's broadsheet about complaints to the TGA over homeopathic immunisation claims caught my attention. I know many people who subscribe to a belief in homeopathic treatments without really understanding how they work.

The fear of vaccination, like the fear of dentists, is irrational and unjustified. As Dr Ken Harvey is quoted as saying in the article, "overall [vaccinations] have been one of the most powerful health interventions we've had to eliminate infectious diseases". I will not claim that there are never any adverse reactions to vaccinations, just as I can't promise that it won't hurt when the dentist needs to drill your tooth, but the fear of the risk seems to be out of all proportion to its actual chance of occurrence.

Immunisation is not foolproof: two children I know and love have both suffered from whooping cough in the epidemic of the past year. Both were fully vaccinated, but were immune-compromised because of other chronic illnesses, and the lowered herd immunity that arises from people turning to things like homeopathy instead of proven medical treatments must take part of the blame for their illness, as it must in the case of the tragic death of Dana McCaffery in February this year.

In the same issue of the newspaper was a story on a new vaccine against HIV. Its effect, of preventing around a third of infections, is not a complete cure or a total preventive, but it would be a shame if people's irrational fears of vaccination did not allow the vaccine to be further developed and offered to people at risk.

I was never more appreciative of the efficacy of modern vaccinations than the day that I took the Dude for one of his early immunisations. Ms ND, who was about 10 years old, asked what the vaccinations were for: "Diptheria, whooping cough, tetanus", I replied, "and polio". She asked, "What's polio?" That's how you know vaccination works!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Scam spam

Yesterday I received this scam email.

I knew it was a fake straight away: I can't understand why the people who come up with these ideas (and go to the trouble of setting up websites to phish for your bank details) can't even be bothered using a spelling check! I mean, "imputs"? Another clue is the use of exclamation marks: that's not something a government department would be likely to do. And it's hardly worth mentioning the bad grammar and punctuation.

At least we know it didn't come from the office of Steve Fielding, since they managed to spell the word "fiscal" correctly.

When I checked the source code, I found that the link that appears to go to the ATO website actually goes to, where, I assume, I would find a page asking for my bank account or credit card details and PIN or other ID. Not going to happen.

Children, this is why correct spelling and grammar is important. Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Twitter for luddites

Via Keri Smith

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nelly bag, part 5

Finished the outline and fill of the daisy petals on the Nelly Zhang shopping bag inspired by the character in Michelle de Kretser's novel The Lost Dog. I'm about to start the satin stitch over the petals.

I stitched the cutting line of the bag front to help with placement of the daisies. For the other pieces of the bag (back and strap/gusset) I've ironed on interfacing and cut out the shapes. I've also cut out the lining pieces, ready for assembly. The silk shantung and hand-dyed silk thread are working together quite nicely.

I am considering working some daisies on the strap, as well, but there are some logistical problems about placement. What do you think?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Take that, Ratzy.

The welfare state is perhaps the greatest altruistic system the animal kingdom has ever known. But any altruistic system is inherently unstable, because it is open to abuse by selfish individuals, ready to exploit it. Individual humans who have more children than they are capable of rearing are probably too ignorant in most cases to be accused of conscious malevolent exploitation. Powerful institutions and leaders who deliberately encourage them to do so seem to me less free from suspicion.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, chapter 7. On why the welfare state must be accompanied by access to contraception.


Monday, September 14, 2009


I almost forgot that I'd bought this gorgeous card of vintage buttons (in the "Latest Style") at the Roycroft antique store in East Aurora, NY. They're almost too pretty to use!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Too Ys?

Having worked for Parents magazine in the nineties and dealt with the hundreds of photographs of babies with food on their faces that were sent in each month for the Happy Snaps page, I've been aware of various annoying trends in baby naming in the past: just ask me about "Wraith" or "T'neal", or the 17 different permutations of Brittany. Then there's the one my sister recently told me about: "La-a", pronounced "Ladasha". Obviously.

Apparently in vogue around 20-something years ago, a trend is appearing among young males (particularly footballers) to have a Y in their name, whether one is required or not. Here are the three examples that irritate me most, in reverse order:

3. Rugby League's 2009 Dally M medal winner Jarryd Hayne. He's got one in his surname, which can't be helped, but why complicate the whole matter by putting a Y in his first name as well? It's not as though it changes the pronunciation: everyone still calls him "Ja-rud", not "Ja-rid".

2. Another offender is the illiterately named Tarkyn Lockyer, who plays for Collingwood in the AFL. Once again, a Y in each name is gratuitous, and what is wrong with "Tarquin"? I mean, if you're going to make a literary reference, at least spell it the way Shakespeare/Shakspere/Shaykespyre did.

1. The most gratuitous Y award goes to Danyle Pearce, who plays AFL for Port Adelaide Power. Despite all appearances, his name is pronounced "Dan-yull", as in Daniel, not "Dan-isle". People complain that English spelling is illogical, then change the spelling of their children's names for no apparent reason, and not even to increase the chance of it being pronounced correctly.

And don't even get me started on Jaxson Barham or Eljay Connors...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Nothing to write home about

Hope I don't need to send these postcards on my next holiday.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Nelly bag, part 4

Working the daisies: the petals will be in padded satin stitch, like the centres. I'm doing all the outlines first, so that I can stop redrawing the design all the time, as the white fabric pencil comes off very easily with all the handling.

I've also realised I probably should have worked the petals before the flower centres, but I can always go back over the centres after the petals are finished. At least I can do my embroidery at night now, as the yellow silk thread is easier to see under artificial light than the purple against the black background!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The oldest oppression

I was listening to the latest Humanist Network News podcast this morning, in which Norma Ramos talks about her work to illegalise prostitution. The sex industry's effect on the women who are trapped in it and on the rest of women in society is something I have never been comfortable with, no matter how many happy hookers the pro-lobbyists trot out to try to support their argument that it is harmless.

It is difficult to argue that prostitution is bad, without being made to feel like a prude or a hypocrite. Some of the things that Ramos said, however, helped me to formulate a new argument (or at least, one that is new to me): making sex a purchasable commodity is bad for all of society because it implies that sexual satisfaction is a right to which we are all entitled whenever we want it, rather than a relationship (of whatever depth or duration) between two people.

Proponents of sexploitation often argue that sex is natural, that we as animals evolved such an appetite and are thus naturally entitled to fulfill it. But even in the wild, animals must earn the right to fulfill their instinctive desires: by attracting mates through elaborate displays and courtships, providing food and protection, etcetera. These behaviours are part of a relationship. People who visit prostitutes or view pornography (and I have never been able to see the difference between the two, from an ethical point of view, except on a cost-per-unit basis) are asserting their right to sexual satisfaction, now, without reference to the needs, wishes or rights of the object of their immediate desire.

I'm not trying to put a social value on sex in a backhanded way, by insisting on a certain amount of time or number of dates before two people are allowed do the deed. I'm not even saying that it's wrong to have sex with someone you've just met and will never see again. Or with someone anonymous. Or with more than one partner. Or even by exchanging money, gifts or favours for sex. If that kind of relationship is okay with everyone involved, it's okay with me.

However, while a sex drive is natural, it is not an imperative. There is no inalienable right to sexual satisfaction in the articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. On the other hand, article four asserts an inalienable right to be free from slavery in all its forms, and I believe that the purchasing of sexual satisfaction is a form of temporary (or, for some, more permanent) slavery.