While I’m not a member of the Greens, I have a lot of sympathy for their positions on issues. Over my voting life, I’m pretty sure I’ve put 1 next to a Green more often than an ALP member, despite having handed out for the latter party on a number of occasions. It’s possible this makes me a a hypocrite or a tribalist, although I tend to think of it as an attachment to the principles of the ALP combined with a dissatisfaction about their seeming reluctance to put those principles into practice. Anyway, it seems to me that one of the key problems the Greens face is a lack of institutional support. The symbiosis (though occasionally toxic) between the ALP and the unions is a key factor in the ALP’s longevity and ability to call upon trained and committed people for operational and leadership positions. The connections between the Liberal parties and the business and legal communities provide them with a similar bank of resources and personnel, though this broader catchment is more informally attached. The Nationals, for their part, have a steady base of support through the farmer’s federation, the CWA, and rural (non-mining) business and social groups. The Greens, however, are limited to the occasional support of environmental groups; which are a hotch-potch of feuding, single-interest groups reliant on public charity or unstable public funding. It’s notable that most of their parliamentary representation do not have a background in organisations like Greenpeace or the Conservation Foundation, which might have provided the kind of hands-on experience and political training they desperately require; nor in ostensibly sympathetic groups like microfinance banks, environmental regulation agencies, green power businesses, internet providers or tourism operators, which might give them the kind of policy expertise (and financial support) they often seem short on in the very areas they are most committed to reforming.
If the Greens want to get beyond 13%, they’re going to need to develop not only a set of policies that appeal to people, but a party structure that’s not only capable of sustaining itself (they’ve got that), but growing, organising in areas of weakness, and marshalling and directing large quantities of money, resources and personnel during election campaigns.
Beyond a few derisory efforts at “progressive business forums” (a contested territory that Left Labor has already colonised, the Greens lean heavily on environmental groups. However, the key problem is that every such group considers itself a peak body – single-handedly assigning itself responsibility for speaking on behalf of the earth. If an environmental peak body can be said to exist, it’s arguable that it’s the Greens Party itself playing this role. This leaves them inflexible on environmental issues – unable to differ on policy with any of its constituent groups without risking their defection from the cause. The ALP can disagree with its unions occasionally (all too often, perhaps), because the ACTU acts as a buffer between them, allowing dissention without all-out war.
So, what should they do about it? In a sense, this is the wrong question – a party shouldn’t theoretically need to build its own institutions – the same community that the party represents (if it’s large and dynamic enough to be desirous of representation) should be expressing itself and organising in other ways, the most successful expressions of which would become the stable insitutional wing of the party. But since this doesn’t really appear to have occurred for the Greens, they do need to consider what kind of institutions would best support and express their particular philosophies; and how they can sustain themselves and hopefully provide financial support for the party from a position in the private sector.
Now, to that idea I first mentioned.
In Australia, right now, governments of all hues are determined to build “open markets” in areas that were once public monopolies. Think NBN, think electricity, think primary health care, but also wheat, fish, timber, ore, and other commodities that have become increasingly federally regulated in recent years. The market structures being implemented are characterised by the artificial creation of two rigidly seperated arenas – a “wholesale” market and a “retail” market. The wholesale market is tightly regulated, perhaps dominated by a public monopoly, and players in this market are prohibited by law from intervening in or directly entering the “retail” market. The retail market, on the other hand, has a limited choice of suppliers, but can rest easy in the knowledge that their retail competitors are only able to purchase their wares at exactly the same rates, and under the same conditions as they are. The point, of course, is to protect and control supplies, while driving innovation, entrepreneurship and product differentiation at a retail level.
There is one business model that enjoys significant tax advantages, consumer engagement, and flexibility, and which should be very much to the philosophical taste of the Greens – the co-operative. Why not use the organisational resources of the Greens to start seeding co-operatives designed to tap into these market “grids”, and pass on the benefits of consumer control and low NGO tax rates to consumers? A renewed focus on co-operative businesses would be a great trigger to help the Greens recruit those with hands-on commercial expertise and an understanding of small business, tax and regulatory burden.
Co-ops do have a major problem – diseconomies of scale. As the size of a co-operative grows, the necessity of providing voice and a vote to its members becomes more and more of a burden – especially over basic operational matters that businesses deal with summarily. For “grid” markets, like power and internet, that’s not a problem – there’s no real economies of scale to be found (because bulk pricing from the wholesaler or vertical integration are disallowed), so growth is not an imperative. If your co-op ISP (the most obvious “first step”, to my mind) is having trouble dealing with customers in two exchanges, it makes more sense to simply split it into two co-operatives, dealing with one exchange each.
One hitch is that these “open markets” often seem to have a gateway cost – a big fixed price charged for access to the network, after which each additional customer or unit of product comes with a much smaller, variable charge. If that remains the case with the NBN, then it might fall to the Greens (or whoever funds them) to set up a “peak body” for the co-operatives – a single provider that pays the big fixed costs and onsells retail amounts to the local co-operatives. Preferably, to maintain the tax advantages, this would be a not-for-profit organisation, which would also give it more ability to advocate on behalf of its “constitutent” co-operatives, or get involved in politics (hint, hint).
The support of localised, democratic organisations, providing members with a tangible benefit that they could not otherwise access? That was the formula that saw Australian Labor parties increase their vote from 10% in the 1890s to more than 50% by 1911. And I’m pretty sure that with a bit more vision and little less entitlement, the Greens could achieve something similar.
In Australia, I could only find one internet co-op; which seems to have closed down in the last few years, unfortunately:
However, there are a number in the US – it’d be worth finding out how they work, and what services they provide.
Depending on what I’m doing next year, I might seek out a technical expert, get a NSW govt. business development grant and see if I can’t put together some kind of business plan, actually. Anyone else interested?
I’m a pretty confident cook. I don’t cook very often, these days, because I’m also a pretty lazy cook, but I know what I’m doing in the kitchen. I’m quite happy tinkering with recipes or inventing things entirely from scratch. I’ve made lasagne from the pasta up – the only thing I didn’t do was mince the meat, that’s because I asked my nice butcher man to do it for me.
When I’m making something I’ve never made before, I look at a few recipies for the same thing, and then forget about them all and do whatever seems right. I can pick flavour combinations that seem outlandish and horrifying, that I think will be good together, and I am rarely wrong.
I can’t bake, though. When I’m making something that needs to rise, I need recipes, and I have to follow them. This is because I don’t really eat bread or cake very often, so I don’t cook them very often, so I’m scared to make them in case they break.
Except pizza dough. I can make delicious pizza dough at any time without any reference materials – it’s easy, why would you need to look at a recipe?
The above is only a little bit so I can brag about how awesome I am (I’m pretty awesome, guys), it’s also to show that even confident cook-types can have areas where they’re uncomfortable, and those areas don’t necessarily make any sense, but they’re scary and will be avoided, or walked through carefully.
In my family, while growing up, all of us kids (me, my brother and sister) were involved in cooking meals. There are pictures of us with wooden spoons as big as we are, blue cake batter in our hair, delightedly stirring our cake monstrosities that we were allowed to put anything we wanted in, with some guidance from mum. The cakes were probably awful but we were involved in the process.
We wouldn’t be involved in chopping vegetables or boiling anything, but we’d get stuff from the fridge and the pantry, and when we were big enough to do it without making enormous messes, we’d measure and pour things, mix them, lay them out, whatever.
A great deal of this stopped, however, as we progressively hit school age. So when I was at school, the others were less involved in cooking because mum was doing other stuff as well, and by the time all of us were in school it didn’t happen often at all.
This means that I was the most exposed to cooking as a young child, and my sister, the youngest, the least. And while my brother and I have had family-adjudicated pizza-from-scratch competitions, with various styles of pizza each, in the past, he’s less of a generalist cook than I am, and my sister claimed to be unable to cook for a long time, but in the last two years or so has been doing so more and more, and is now more confident. But the general cooking skills gradient matches our ages, and also our exposure to the processes of cooking as tiny children.
Now, one family isn’t data, but it is an interesting counterpoint to the gender-essentialist view that men can’t cook and ladies can. First of all, no-one can’t cook. Cooking is easy but it’s definitely a matter of confidence, to some degree. Experience with the processes is also important, so you know, for instance, to start the rice earlier if you’re going with stovetop absorption rather than a rice-cooker for your whatever it is rice dish, but barring massive inattention or accidental use of the wrong measures for things, basically anyone can cook from a recipe and it’ll turn out.
It may, currently, be the case that more men than women claim not to be able to cook, which I think is more a fear of failure than a scientifically tested viewpoint, but I’m reasonably certain that more girls than boys are involved in the processes of cooking as children, at the moment (or 20 years ago – might not be the case for kids who are kids now, and if it’s not, the “can’t!” divide will probably vanish as they move out and start being adults).
A lady I lived with once, despite coming from a very much food-oriented culture, wasn’t really comfortable doing more than cooking rice and some vegetables, and attributes this to not being involved with the cooking side of food much as a kid. Food just appeared at the table, and you ate it (if said lady is reading this and being misrepresented in terms of skillset or upbringing, I apologise, but this is how I recall it from our discussions).
A lady I live with right now is much less comfortable with experimenting with food than I am, or at least was initially. Heather still likes to cook from the recipe but she does throw changes in, now, when she feels like it, and this is directly due to her increased familiarity with cooking in general (and also because she’s had to put up with me going “ooh! let’s put this in there, too!” for so long that it’s become part of her kitchen habits?).
So, yeah. Being uncomfortable with cooking isn’t a guy thing for any non-cultural reasons. There’re ladies who “can’t” cook and there’re guys who cook all the time. There are people who are masters of a few particular dishes that they know inside out, and there’re people who will give anything a shot based on a vague description someone gave them of a meal they ate when they were drunk, 19, and in Burma somewhere. They all exist in every gender and the only reason that there’s different numbers of each gender in these classes is because different genders are brought up with different expectations and experience in cooking in general.
Science fact. So there.
Here is a post about Christmas traditions. I’m writing this because, well, I’ve got a lot of Christmas traditions, as you’re all aware. I wanted to write this for you not because I think my traditions should be your traditions – but because having traditions is important. More accurately, having traditions that you like and look forward to is important. I’m excited for Heather and Abby, starting new traditions of their own, getting to decide what THEY want. So far it’s mostly been discussion of cocktails and video games – and because Dan is involved, ham. This is by no means how I would do Christmas, but that’s what’s so glorious: it represents what’s important to you. You have a holiday which is, for secular folk, about being with people you love, about celebrating and reflecting on the past year, and about preparation for the next. Traditions and feasts are important in all cultures. Christmas, in the northern hemisphere, is nearly at the same time as the Winter Solstice, so it ties in nicely with communities coming together to give thanks that they’ve made it through the worst of the winter and knowing that the sun will come back.
Fortunately, in Australia, we have summer christmas. Summer christmas is GLORIOUS – once you accept that it’s summer. You can still have roast meats, but concessions must be made to account for the hot weather. In my family, we do this by eating dinner outside, on a trestle table, under the trees.
My fellow AP5 contributers have all experienced the glories of Millthorpe in summer, and I’ve told you all about my deep love of Christmas there. I think, in recent years, my love of Millthorpe Christmas is tied closely to my love of Millthorpe NYE. I have been thinking about my traditions at each one, and feeling overjoyed. Fresh fruit, and cream. Breakfast fry-ups. Time to talk with all of you, one on one.
BUT you all know our traditions. I love the fact that I have traditions with you, my darling friends. I hope they continue. So this is about some of the other traditions my family has, because I am feeling sentimental today and I wanted to share them with you.
I have already baked the Christmas cake with my mum, in my parents’ tiny flat in Potts Point. We used to bake the cake together each year, weeks in advance. When I was an undergrad I would come up a few weeks before Christmas to bake the cake with her, but over the last few years that hasn’t happened. It was lovely – although in my mother’s usual haphazard way, we needed to go to the shops four separate times to get things we’d forgotten. We use Mrs Beeton’s rich bride or christening cake recipe. We halve it – and it still usually makes three cakes. It’s an epic recipe. It was lovely to do this again with my mum.
I have had many phonecalls with my dad about Christmas lunch itself. On Christmas day, it’s my job to set the table, but this is a massive project. White table linen, every year – my dad doesn’t believe in big lunches without white tableclothes. We have a menu, so I’m bringing up some lovely paper for it.
Here’s the menu from last time I was home for Christmas, in 2010:
Why yes, that IS some middle-class shit right there. Anyway, dad has been reminded that I don’t eat smoked salmon, but also now knows I don’t like rockmelon with prosciutto. He’s made sure to order extra pork skin to accommodate the endless hunger my sister and I have for crackling. I love phonecalls with my dad about Christmas lunch, because there were a few years where he and I didn’t have many safe topics of conversation at all – but Christmas lunch was always one of them.
I grew up in a secular family, and so Christmas has never been about going to Mass or thinking about Jesus or anything like that. Therefore, most Christmas songs don’t really hit close to home for me. I love the old carols, because my mum sings them, and I love Handel’s Messiah, because my mum always puts it on at about 10.30 on Christmas day (when she’s in the kitchen), and blasts it loudly through the house. When my great-uncle Theo was still alive, I would walk through, on the way to taking linen out to the table in the garden, and I would be stopped by mum, Theo and Mary, and asked to sing the tenor part of the Hallelujah chorus. Not the main bit that everyone knows, but the “and he shall reign for ever and ever” part, which is pretty good fun. An important part of this tradition is that my mum puts it up so loud that you can hear little else through the whole house, and various other people come and turn it down again. Then she turns it up, etc.
Look, here, the Messiah:
This year will be extra special, because of Francis and Amelia. I don’t know how that will affect things, but I’m excited to find out. Tom and I will get to play Auntie and Uncle, and that’s still pretty new for us. Seeing them at Christmas makes me think a lot about the traditions I want when we have kids, and how I want them to experience Christmas, hence this long and sentimental post.
The only thing I’m sad about in regards to going to Millthorpe for Christmas is that I won’t be spending it with you, lovely friends. You are the people who I love the most, other than my Tom. You’re all such an incredibly important part of my life, and I hope that in a few years’ time when Tom and I (hopefully) have a kid, that you’ll all be around to help build amazing traditions. I hope that you enjoy Christmas this year, whatever you do. I hope that you get to do your favourite traditions, and that you can cut out anything you don’t like about Christmas. I hope you only spend it with people you think are rad, and I can’t wait to see you all in Millthorpe.
Tim Minchin has produced what I believe to be a perfect summation of my Christmas experience, so I put it here for you. I think Percy and Tab will love it most of all, and so it is a little anniversary gift to them. I hope the two of you have an amazing Christmas together this year, your second Christmas as a married couple. I hope you create traditions that you love and that you bring back every year.
(A side note: happy anniversary, Percy and Tab! Although you are not related to us, we love you like family, and we are so happy that you’re so in love with each other. You have made it through a pretty difficult first year of marriage, what with that terrible outbreak of The Kemp. We salute you.)
So I’m going to try this blogging thing, and try to do it a bit more regularly, and a bit less polished.
You see, I think I come across so many weird and wonderful things on the internet, ranging from the cute to the downright disturbing.
Most of the time, Tabitha is the only person who sees some of this, and my collection is vast. Time to share.
My number one source is, of course, Space Ghetto. I have been with this community a long time, mostly as a lurker. But some days, they are a goldmine of goodness. Some of these things are from there, so props to those guys.
(If you are reading this from work, you should probably stop right now and GET BACK TO WORK)
(But read this later, it’s awesome)
I love two things about this. Firstly, I had no idea he loses his shit in so many ways in so many movies. It seems like he should be more famous, or at least more memorable. But most of all I love the perfect syncing with the music!
Some extremely strong language, but I think it’s quite nice absurdism. A mildly hilarious thing is blown out of all proportion and taken to the maximum extreme. Like this dog:
The Picture and Text formats are two of the three primary methods of memetic transfer on the internet (the other one being YouTube videos), and again I’d bundle this humour in with the absurdism of the previous video. There is just an endless way to put them together, and I think it’s fascinating.
Also pretty. I have discovered that while I like to wear black, I really like colours in most other things. The more, the better!
Whilst not true of today (oh man) I do like the fact that I’m at an age and level of financial stability that I can actually spend a day, every now and then, doing NOTHING. So refreshing.
Now here are two videos from Natalie Tran of the communitychannel YouTube channel. She’s the most subscribed to channel on YouTube, and her channel has had well over 40 million views. Her comedy is great and her audience interaction is really noteworthy as well.
Do you like text over a nebula?
I’m glad it’s not me who’s been creeped out by Jimmy Wales’ face:
As is traditional over on the ghetto, I leave you with this:
The best 15 seconds you’ll have today!
Instead of staring at my longer, unfinished post about why partisan politics is destroying the usefulness of economics, I thought I’d post a quick one about the misuse of a particular economic theory.
The Free Market
You’ve almost certainly heard of the concept of a “free market”. Most people chalk this up to one Adam Smith, the father of classical liberal economics; although as far as I can tell, the phrase is actually attributable to John Stuart Mill, writing about 60 years after Smith’s death (and not about economics, either). It describes a situation where individuals have complete power to buy and sell property and services to other individuals at will; bound only by government enforcement of the laws of contract and private property. The advantage of a truly free market, Smith argued, was that the “invisible hand” of the market would set prices at the correct level. Subsequent economists like Ricardo and Cournot cleared up what he meant by this confusing statement, introducing the supply/demand curve and explaining the mechanism behind it.
Simply put, (and in the absence of all other stimulus):
1. People buying in a market will look for the lowest possible price amongst the sellers. If the lowest possible price is above the amount they’re willing to pay, they drop out, and are no longer buyers.
2. Sellers will look for the highest price amongst the buyers. If the highest possible price is less than they’re willing to sell for, they drop out.
3. Prices will move to the point at which the number of sellers is equal to the number of buyers.
4. At this price, this is neither a surplus nor a shortfall, so it is the most efficient and stable state.
So far, so good. It hangs together, it can be proven logically and by experiment; and from the late 1700′s to today, it’s been a centrepiece of anti- or minimal-government thought. Basically, the wisdom of crowds is superior to the wisdom of bureaucracies.
However, there is a key problem with the theory – it relies on information symmetry. For it to come off without a hitch, every single one of the buyers and sellers needs to have complete knowledge of every other transaction and possible transaction able to take place in the market at any given time. That way, they can compare all the options, and come to the perfect, rational decision. Obviously, this isn’t possible in practice, and where one party has access to better information than the other, they can take advantage of this to get a higher or lower price than the model says. This problem is the source of much of the consumer protection law of the 20th century; which was a project begun by the British common law, and continued by the Liberal party in the UK, the Republicans in the US, and the Menzies-era Liberal Party in Australia.
However, where the theory causes real problems is when you’re buying and selling money itself.
The global economy is worth about $61.06 trillion US dollars. That’s an estimate of every single economic transaction taking place all over the world. Of that, the world stock market is now worth $36.6 trillion dollars (measured at one of the lowest points of the financial crisis, it’s picked up since then). So a little more than half the world’s economy is listed on a sharemarket somewhere.
However, average daily turnover of the foreign exchange market alone is $3.98 trillion US dollars; and the total value of derivatives is $791 trillion US dollars. That’s more than 11 times the total value of the world economy.
So the vast bulk of transactions made every day in the finance industry aren’t for tangible things. They’re making and taking bets about what happens in that “real” economy, the tiny little $36.6 trillion dollar nub that deals with the measurable, regulated, material world. They’re buying and selling a chance to make more money.
At the start of the 20th Century, there were two schools of thought that rebelled against this emerging financial capitalism. Broadly, they were called Fascism and Communism, and both seem to have largely died out – but their unifying thread was the complete rejection of speculative earnings. They both argued that this kind of trading was unproductive, parasitic, and, after the 1890 and 1929 stock market crashes, dangerous, too.
The answer from economists was to develop the Efficient-markets Hypothesis. This says that in financial markets (where people are buying a chance at more money, rather than an item they need to consume or trade), the market is actually dealing in information and trading risk. The price someone is willing to buy or sell for is dependent on their knowledge of what’s likely to happen to that price in future; so the market price will move quickly to reflect all available information about the item. So if you’re trading in the market, you don’t really need to know what you’re buying or selling – if you have an idea as to whether the price is going to rise or fall in future, that’s all you need to know, because the market will always get it right. Government, by “regulating” will just slow down the wealth creation process, and add the risk of the market getting it wrong.
You see where this is heading, right? In the leadup to the financial crisis, new types of derivative products flooded the newly deregulated US exchanges – most famously “sub-prime” mortgage bundles, but these weren’t the only culprits – food and fuel futures and foreign exchange bets played a role too. Since a downturn in the US economy in about 2000, the US federal reserve had been giving out loans at near 0% interest – certainly below the rate of inflation, and this free money found a place to go. A massive bubble built, but because people knew that the market couldn’t get it wrong, there was no reason to check out what they were buying.
And then, disaster. There are plenty of reasons the EMH doesn’t work in practice, but the key problem is that it’s using Adam Smith’s old theory in a context stripped of the things that make it work. Why? Because until the market fails, it makes a lot of people a lot of money. And when it does, it turns out they can shift that failure on to the taxpayer or consumer.
Built-in Market Failure
But even where the market is of a type that Smith could have forseen, the problem of information asymmetry remains strong. The theory argues that where buyers and sellers have differing levels of information, there is an incentive to improve it; so as they do so, the market returns to equilibrium. OK, good answer, but what about markets where a large number people only buy occasionally; but a small number of producers sell all the time? It’s very much in the interests of those producers to have all the information, but the time and energy involved in collecting it as an individual makes it prohibitive. What if, even better, the producers can invest money to misinform, selectively inform, or otherwise manipulate the buyers? We call this sort of thing “advertising”.
A pretty good example of a free market vs an efficient market is the US pharmaceuticals market and the Australian one. In the US, medicines are sold subject to a check from the US Food and Drug Administration; doctors then have leeway to prescribe whatever drug they wish. Consumers, in addition, are able to request particular brands or drugs from their doctors, and in some states regulation prevents doctors from refusing to prescribe these alternatives, if it’s appropriate to the patients’ condition. There’s public assistance for the poor and the elderly, but everyone else pays full price. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars a year marketing to and influencing both consumers and doctors; with very little regulation. This is a deregulated market in action, and in 2009 constituted 17.3% of their economy (public + private spend).
Australia, on the other hand, bans direct-to-consumer advertising and severely limits marketing to medical professionals. Doctors can specify what is prescribed by brand, and can refuse to prescribe anything they don’t think is worthwhile. It also operates a subsidy for medicines called the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which dramatically reduces the prices of drugs considered by an expert panel of scientists to provide good value-for-money. You can still buy the other drugs; but they’ll cost you the full amount, just like in the US. This is a highly regulated market; and in 2009 constituted 9.1% of our economy (public+private spend).
The American market is clearly more free; so why is it more expensive and greatly less effective?
Well, the trick is that the word “free” doesn’t just apply to governments. By limiting the information that the sellers can put into the marketplace, and by adding a major and highly accurate price signal to the matket in the form of the PBS, the Australian system actually corresponds more closely to what liberal economists would term a “free” market. It’s not the removal of regulation that makes markets work efficiently, it’s the removal or minimisation of market distortion; and business is just as capable as government of distorting a market – in fact, that’s pretty much their job.
So next time someone tells you that free markets are more efficient, check that they actually know what they’re advocating – the strict regulation of corporations, consumer protection, banning advertising or inexpert buyers, government guidance to market participants, the removal of distortionary incentives like yearly executive bonuses and sales commissions and possibly the closure of most of the global financial system.
I play online games quite a bit, over Steam. Mostly it’s L4D2, or TF2. L4D2 I tend to play only with my close friends – people I know in real life. The larger servers on TF2 mean that I’m often playing with strangers. Sometimes I stack a team with my friends, sometimes I don’t.
I also use my microphone. A lot. I like talking – sometimes to tell people what’s happening in the game, or to ask questions, sometimes just to dick around. However, sadly, I have a very obviously non-adult-male voice, as do the two women I game with most frequently.
The first thing that happens is that people try to guess whether we’re female, or young boys. We’re different, you see. The norm in online gaming, they believe, is to be a post-pubescent male. After establishing that we’re female, the other players seem to split three ways.
1. People who don’t care either way, and just continue playing. These are my favourites. They’re the people I’m mostly likely to accept friend requests from. People who enjoy the game, like having a chat and a bit of fun, and who enjoyed playing with me, but aren’t going to get weird about it. They’re well-adjusted and mature, and tend to be people like myself and my friends – adults who are unwinding with a bit of fun.
2. Young men who get kind of… obsessive. They’re fascinated with the concept that women are on the internet, and you can tell, over the course of a few rounds, that they’re beginning to imagine themselves in love with us. They are lonely, and they are a bit sad, and I feel kind of sorry for them. I won’t accept their friend requests, though – that way lies madness, and angry steam messages because you were logged on and they tried to talk to you and you were AFK and they assumed you were ignoring them. No thanks.
3. Men who have a seething hatred for all womankind, and choose to express it using incredibly violent, vitriolic, sexist language. People who will tell you how much they hate you, simply because of those two X chromosomes you’re carrying around.
This post is about that third group.
Last week, Heather told me about a particularly negative gaming experience she’d had, in which men on a TF2 server hurled huge piles of abuse at her, including the phrase “Speak when you’re spoken to, bitch.” That’s a particularly violent example of the kinds of things one hears as a female gamer, but jesus, it made me pretty angry to hear about it.
The issue here is not that gamers like this are making TF2 a less woman-friendly place, and therefore cutting off their nose to spite their face. I mean, sure, that’s an issue, but that’s kind of a male-centric one.
My issue with this is that the men who talk like this are the most fucking gutless idiots on the face of the earth. They are the worst kind of internet tough guy.
Can you imagine these young men, late teens, early 20s, in a real-world situation, using that kind of language? I’m a teacher, and while I’ve copped some abusive language, I’ve never heard anything quite like that. Imagine them using that in the workplace, to a superior, or even to just a colleague. Imagine them trying to tell a female student in a tutorial, or a lecturer, to speak when she’s spoken to. Imagine them saying that to their mother.
We have social rules that clearly state that behaviour is inappropriate. They know it – there’s no way they can’t. And I know a lot of you are thinking, well, what do you expect, it’s the internet, people behave badly there.
No. There is no excuse for that kind of behaviour. The internet is becoming an increasingly important means of communication – young people are doing most of their socialisation on it. Hell, I do most of my socialisation on it. It’s where I get my news, where I plan my social events, where I unwind with my friends at the end of the day. Imagine if Heather and I were on the bus, having a conversation, and a guy behind us started telling us to speak when we were spoken to, or that old chestnut, to make him a sandwich.
I would call the cops. If someone was harassing me like that in public, I would get the five-oh on them. That behaviour is completely inappropriate, and it’s not okay on the internet either.
The shitty thing is, though, my opinion doesn’t matter. Douches like that guy have managed to transform the internet, and online gaming, into male space. Women are told to show tits or GTFO, as though the whole internet is one of those “exclusive” but seedy men’s establishments where women are only allowed in if they’re taking their clothes off. ‘Fraid not, guys.
But if you are a lady and you encounter behaviour like this (and you will), even your actions are limited. If you go off at them, you’re a raging bitch feminazi lesbian who needs a good dicking to sort her out. If you leave the server to find one where you can play without being subjected to verbal violence, you’re a whiny crybaby. There’s only one way to make them happy, and that’s to giggle, to get sexually suggestive (in a non-threatening way) and tell them you’ll make them that sandwich, while wearing a french maid’s outfit. This is because by making it male space, they also get to redefine people’s reactions to their awful behaviour in ways that fit their skewed worldviews. And in turn, it makes women feel as though we’re playing those roles. Leaving a server feels like losing. Getting angry can feel like losing. Either of these actions are, of course, totally justified. No one should stay somewhere they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And no one should be made to feel bad for defending themselves.
Strangely enough, I, and all the women I know, don’t really feel like stroking the egos and confirming the world views of a bunch of pathetic, angry losers who have, for some unknown reason, complete and total rage for my entire gender. Because that’s what it is, at the end of the day. It’s not just because it’s acceptable behaviour on the internet – it’s because for some reason, they want to treat women with that level of contempt and disrespect. You only do it on the internet if it’s how you want to act in real life.
What the fuck is that about? People will say things like “oh, they’re just mad because they can’t get girlfriends” or “they’re lonely basementdwelling losers” and so on, but the truth is, some of these guys have jobs and girlfriends and friends and lives and yet they completely and totally hate women.
Remember that guy I used to know, the one who ended up being the worst person in the entire world? He was a guy whose complete hatred of women developed over time. I figured it was largely a joke, but then, no. He spent a lot of time at the bodybuilding forums, and you want to see some misogyny? Go there. It is mindblowing how much they hate women. Now, not hating women is a pretty key element for any person I’m friends with. I need all my friends to be people who have decent gender politics. I don’t think this is completely unfair. And I don’t hate men – I love them. I don’t think all men are dreadful people. Hell, until I started using the internet, I hadn’t really experienced that level of total hatred for women. I don’t know why some men can hate women that much. I know I don’t want to be around women who hate men that much, either. That’s a lot of hate to be carrying around with you all the time.
The internet is normalising this kind of behaviour. It’s not normal. If it’s not appropriate to say it in real life, it’s not appropriate to say it on the internet.
Finn showed me this video. Have a look at it. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but while you watch it, consider the fact that during my hundreds of hours of online gaming, I’ve had most of those things said to me (the female version, anyway). I’ve had random strangers threaten to rape me. I’m not particularly afraid because, well, they don’t know where I live, but I want you all to seriously think about what kind of person actually says these things to another human being, actually attempts to verbally intimidate them and silence them and make them feel bad about themselves simply because of a factor like gender. Think about if you’d tolerate that kind of behaviour in your workplace, at your uni, in your home.
Now; do me a favour. If you’re a guy, and you’re gaming, and you witness behaviour like this, speak up, even if you don’t know the people involved. If someone does something dreadful like this, make your opinion known. Tell them it’s not okay. Help reduce the shitty misogynist culture of gaming; it’s the right thing to do. Ladies: I’m sorry that this happens. I hope you keep playing, because fuck, these games can be so much fun. If you feel like you can speak up, speak up. There are good guys on the internet – I know, I game with them all the time. Or, you know, you could just ask for a sandwich for yourself.
I have a somewhat embarrassingly big love for mathematics. I find myself talking about it all the time in a variety of social contexts – birthday parties, drinks with my brother’s friends, I seem to take any excuse to talk about the wonders of my field by the horns. I get the feeling that most people don’t understand mathematics as I do (a strangely creative and incredibly powerful area that bridges the gulf between philosophy and science, the study of reason itself for its own sake) and I feel compelled to correct them. Does the subject have an unavoidably narrow appeal? How much is the state of mathematics education to blame? Why do people flinch when I say things like “equation”?
I sat down and read the draft Mathematics syllabus a while ago, but read it again in response to an article I read a few days ago. Though it only addressed the K-10 syllabus, my first stop is the new 11-12 course called Essential Mathematics. Here’s the rationale:
Mathematics is the study of function and pattern in number, geometry and data. It provides both a framework for thinking and a means of communication that is powerful, logical, concise and precise. Essential mathematics focuses on using mathematics to make sense of the world. The emphasis is on providing students with the mathematical skills and understanding to solve problems and undertake investigations in a range of workplace, personal, training and community settings. There is an emphasis on the use and application of information and communication technologies in the course. The course includes investigation of the application of mathematical understanding and skills in workplaces or community settings.
Reading through the meat of the syllabus, you find exactly what you’d expect – measurement, money, pie charts, basic statistics, simple probability. I think this “practical” mathematics is a great course to have available to students, as it fosters the necessary numeracy that is required to navigate today’s complicated world. Innumeracy is just as unacceptable as illiteracy, and is far more prevalent. But I am shocked at the simplicity of the syllabus. How many students are unable to convert between 12-hour and 24-hour time before starting year 11? How many are unfamiliar with the concept of an “average”, or be able to reason through that the chances of getting “two heads” on two fairly-flipped coins is one in four? Are we really making such knowledge optional?
There is almost no content within this syllabus that is not directly addressed in earlier years. It’s as though they’ve stripped things down to “the basics” and want to give failing students another go. The essential problem, however, is that this is not a course that most people would like to teach, and not a subject that most students would want to learn. I’m sure that almost no-one wants to sit in class and learn how to adjust for the GST or draw a stem-and-leaf plot, and I’m just as sure that there are few who would want to be responsible to make these kids do so.
The essential problem, I think, is a misconception of what these basics should be. Students who end up in this course are those who haven’t been engaged with the subject in previous years, and this course isn’t going to change that. It’s like teaching failing kids to read by getting them to read job ads, without telling them about the stories they can read to themselves and others, the world that is opened to them when they can finally understand what those letters actually mean. There is little attempt to make it interesting, as though the needs for such mathematics in society should provide all the motivation students require.
So let’s go back a bit and look at a relatively simple example of something that wouldn’t be taught to a kid doing Essential Mathematics. It’s the Quadratic Formula:
Chances are you had at least one test during school where your ability to use this equation earnt you marks. Now learning to use this equation is hard work; there’s a lot of bits to remember, there’s a “plus or minus” and you have to do that before you divide, and that’s after you’ve done this square root business (surds are tricky). Even then, your calculator might tell you “MA ERROR” when you try to make the equation work, and you don’t know whether you’ve done something wrong or there’s something wrong with the question.
Why on earth do we go to the bother of teaching you how to do this? Almost no-one will ever use the quadratic theorem on even an occasional basis, and those that do already have calculators and/or software that will do it for them. When I teach mathematics to university students enrolled in the bottom two of the five possible levels of mathematics at my university, at least half the students don’t know how to use this equation anyway.
Maybe this like learning to brew your own beer – you don’t need to know how it all works, you can just buy it from the store, but it’s good to know “just in case” and those that get good at it can make lots of money. Hell, it can be a fun hobby and maybe you can earn some money, but if you don’t get it, then it’s not really that big a deal. This is certainly the line most mathematics teachers I’ve come into contact with use when defending their subject. The students are told that you’ll get a better job if you know it, somehow, probably. Also, it scales really well in the HSC, so you should do maths.
But I think that misses the mark. The obvious parry heard from many students is that while it may be useful for some people, it’s not going to be useful to them. They’re going to be an artist, a novelist, a landscape gardener, work in a call centre, when are they going to use this formula? And unfortunately for the state of mathematical education today, I don’t blame them for thinking this way. The mathematics syllabus is becoming more and more skills-based, meaning more and more disconnected pieces of highly specialised mathematical knowledge most useful for the job market. This means lots of calculator use at lower levels, and only statistics and hardcore calculus (both very good for making money) for those who are more interested in the subject.
Above all, the emphasis is on usage. This objection can be applied equally to many other disciplines – when does knowledge of Shakespeare, or the Napoleonic Wars, or the fact that we’re made of carbon affect your daily life? When are you going to use that knowledge? But as far as I can tell from my own personal experience, this objection is not as prevalent elsewhere. It’s as though the importance of learning the subject for its own sake is so embedded in the way the subject is taught that you don’t even need to ask, that the subject is engaging and interesting enough that the students don’t want to ask.
An additional and related complication is quite obvious to me in the way these problems are often phrased:
Not only is this boring, but it’s also unrealistic. Who decides what area their path should have? Whilst being able to take words and turn them into mathematical formulae and then solving is an incredibly important skill, I can see why this kind of question really turns students off. They’re technically presented with exactly the amount of information they need to solve the problem, and no more, though situations are rarely like this. Instead of engaging their problem-solving skills in an interesting way, showing how mathematics can make sense of complex situations, the single skill of “turn words into formula” is tested in a simplistic and frankly dull way.
Mathematicians try and demonstrate how their knowledge can be used in the real world, but all it serves to do is to show how out of touch they are. It fosters a belief that the mathematical world is a separate, Platonic world, where there is RIGHT and WRONG and nothing in between, ugly and inhuman. Who thinks like this? Who asks these stupid questions?
We need to start thinking differently about what mathematics can and should inspire in people. Imagine you’ve invited your friends over and cracked open a brand new board game.
So good, this game.
You grab the rulebook, and start reading. After you’re done, you’ll hand it to someone else, until everyone’s up to speed. You pick your colours and away you go.
Even though you all start from the same ground state (you all know the rules and haven’t read any strategy guides), one of you will win. Even if there’s an element of luck, good players will win more often on subsequent playthroughs. There is, somehow, not enough information – and yet you’re expected to do the best with what you’ve got. Players who play enough may start to create “house rules”, alterations of the foundation to maximise play experience. What is going on here? What makes one foundation better than another? What makes one person better at the game than another?
There’s an analogous skill, one that is equally important – what happens if you’re presented with lots of information (in the form of conflicting strategy guides and advice from experience players), and you have to decide what’s relevant? How do you decide what makes an effective model for victory?
Whatever the answers to these questions are, they are what mathematicians like myself want to find, and a desire for such answers is what we want to inspire in others. The applications are instantly infinite – we almost always have too much or too little information, and we have very little sense of what’s going on “under the hood” and what that means for the way things play out. The aim of this approach is to help people correctly identify the foundational assumptions (“the rules”) of a situation, asses the possibilities, and make the most of it. Everybody does this every day, to varying degrees of effectiveness. The skills of argument, of comparison and contrast, of quantifying and extrapolating, pattern recognition and modelling; in short, the ability to make distinctions using reason are so important and universal, and mathematics is poised and ready to help people learn how to do this better.
Now other subjects teach this love of logic too. I loved history for the same reasons I loved mathematics – you tried to get a sense of the past, of people’s motivations and actions from the texts and facts available, where weighing up evidence (establishing the foundation) was intimately linked with constructing the best argument (the finished product). What drew me away from history and humanities in general was that I couldn’t stand the cheating, so to speak – the conflation between medium and message, where gifted speakers or writers could have undue influence on others through careful window-dressing of bad arguments. As a shamefully gifted cheater, I found my basic essay skills plus a light drizzling of facts could pass me through a book review with a minimum of time spent actually reading the book.
Some people have an “ear” for languages, and some people can barely speak their own, and the analogy holds just as well for mathematics. Mathematics requires a lot of discipline, and that doesn’t help its attractiveness, but it really is like learning a language. Add to that the fact that the “rules” to a lot of things we grapple with nowadays are very complicated and not very intuitive – most of the time, they’re counter-intuitive. Here’s two nice examples where we go nowhere near the world of physics.
Suppose you’re on a game show and you’re given the choice of three doors – behind one is a car, and behind the other two there is nothing. The car was placed randomly behind the winning door before the show. You pick your door, but the host doesn’t open it yet – instead, he opens one of the doors you didn’t choose with nothing behind it. Now the car is either behind the door you originally chose, or the other unopened door. You’re given the chance to switch your preference. Should you do so?
This is the famous Monty Hall problem. Identifying what is important in this problem is hard, and the answer is even more surprising – switching doors doubles your chances of success!
Suppose you’re in a room with a group of people, and you each call out your birthday in turn. How many people would you need to get into a room to make it 50% likely that at least two people share a birthday?
This is the equally famous Birthday problem, and the answer (23) is quite surprising – especially considering you need 367 people to make it a sure thing!
Even though you don’t need words for numbers to have an innate sense of number, the level of abstraction required to do this kind of thinking is quite intimidating, and humans are not custom-built to do this kind of manipulation. You have to do it every day to make your brain think in these new, unnatural ways, and nothing is going to make it easier. Mental discipline is a good thing to encourage, it must be said, but sometimes students only see the stick and don’t get to see the carrots that keep people like me going.
For example, I was having a discussion with a (non-maths) friend of mine about how cool maths is while we were out for dinner (any excuse will do, remember?). He recalled the story of Isaac Newton, who invented Calculus. He just made it up. At the same time as Leibniz, sure, but he invented it. How cool is that? It’s one of the most powerful analytical tools today, and it wasn’t around before he was. Why did he do it? What possessed him to make it the way it is – could he have made it a different way? Why is the way it is today “the best” way? What do we even mean by that?
How about the statement “This statement is a lie”? What is going on here – linguistic trickery, or something more fundamental and interesting?
How about fractals – Benoit Mandelbrot asked the seemingly simple question “How long is the coastline of Britain?” and came up with the answer “Infinitely long“, and he could say it with a straight face. Paradoxes and puzzles are compelling, and fractals have the bonus features of being really pretty and engage students with technology!
Watch this in HD with the lights off!
Maybe you knew something of these wonderful ideas, and maybe you learnt about them in high school, but I doubt it. I was blown away by this stuff when I got to university, and I can’t understand why students don’t learn about this. This kind of backwards thinking is so stunning, and appears to be unique to mathematics. They don’t teach you the cool stuff, or even give you a hint that it even exists. Teachers battle to tell students how their learning will earn them money or get them better marks, and that’s the only way the conversation is developing – and the syllabus along with it. I’m going to quote from the article I linked before. I agree with it in its entirety.
“Just as children best learn to read by experiencing the joy of great stories, they best learn mathematics by experiencing its beauty and the joy of mathematical play. But in this curriculum there is little sense of the fun and the beauty of mathematics. Not a hint of infinity, of the fourth dimension, of Moebius bands, of puzzles or paradoxes.
Why? If mathematics can be taught as ideas, as something beautiful and fun, then why is it not being proposed? Because it is difficult to do. To teach real mathematics makes demands on the teacher, and it is risky.
What is proposed is little more than a cowardly version of current curriculums, a codification of the boring, pointless approach – which is “safe” but which has already failed a generation of students.
The draft curriculum begins by declaiming the beauty and intrinsic value of mathematics, and the elegance and power of mathematical reasoning. But as a means of unfolding all this before our students, the proposed curriculum is a feeble tool indeed.”
If you look at what engaged the founders of mathematics (Euclid and his geometry, Newton and physics, Gauss and number theory), you’ll find the means to encourage students to participate. You could talk bright students through the Millenium prizes, to show them what captivates mathematicians to this day – even get them to look at Hilbert’s problems, which guided the course of mathematics throughout the twentieth century. For other students, teaching them about puzzles and games and paradoxes would be easy, fun and valuable. Instead, we’re teaching them how to use a calculator and calling it a day. Trying to engage students by focussing on how society sees and uses mathematics is going to force this negative feedback of disengagement to continue.
There is such a shortage of mathematics teachers in Australia that you can become a high school mathematics teacher with six months of training, having only completed 2 unit mathematics yourself (source). You will be called on to teach classes that you yourself only need to have passed, and there is no requirement for any higher training whatsoever.
I say again, you can become a high school teacher, having only passed 2-unit. Who thinks this will solve anything? If you’re running out of mathematics teachers, the solution cannot be to scrape the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. Something more drastic needs to happen.
Listening to trainee teachers talk about mathematics in the classroom was one of the main reasons I dropped out of my Masters of Teaching and went into tertiary study instead. There was such a dearth of passion for the subject. Most students were surprised that I had done advanced level mathematics, saying they found that stuff “too boring”. I cannot understand how making it easier for poor quality maths teachers to enter the system is going to solve anything, and with the syllabus in its present state, I can only see this trend continuing.
Mathematics is beautiful, fun, compelling, dramatic, creative and human. Mathematics education is crude, oriented towards the job market and painfully dull. And things are only going to get worse.
Well, not if I can help it. I’m going to spend my life trying to fix the perception of mathematics at every level of society. It is my mission, my calling, and if I can make it work, my career.
Okay so guys! Long time etc etc.
I have been working full-time recently, and I have a post coming about what that’s been like, but first I would like to tell y’all about another project I’ve got going on at the moment.
I have embarked upon a diet. There are two main reasons for this:
1. I am desperately unfit, and far above a healthy weight. I would like to NOT develop diabeetus, and also I would like to be a healthy weight before Tom and I decide to make a tiny little person.
2. I am lazy as shit (see causes of #1) and working fulltime has completely sapped my ability to care about food preparation.
I have a complex relationship with food. On one hand, it’s a beautiful thing that I closely associate with celebration and good times. On the other, I was bulimic for about 6 years in my teens and early 20s, so sometimes I can get a bit crazy and out-of-control with it. This has hindered weight loss efforts in the past – calorie counting, other diets, etc, all involve CONSTANTLY THINKING about food, and it is usually only a couple of weeks before the urge to purge shows up in full-force and sends me mad.
But I found, as I was teaching, that I had ceased to care about food. I wasn’t thinking about lovely things I wanted to cook, or even eat. This is generally a sign that my stress levels are at their limit – in good times, I love the whole process of preparing and eating food. However, I would come home from work, take a nap, and then when Tom got home I was too exhausted to either cook food, or even to actually care what we ate at all. This led to a LOT of takeaway. Unhealthy, expensive food.
So currently, I am eating food that comes in nutritionally balanced bar form. The discount chemist near my work sells them cheaply, I buy them (berry, chocolate or cappucino flavour), and I have one at recess, and one when I get home from school. Then, at night, I have a microwaveable meal, which provides me with enough savoury so I don’t get grumpy.
Tom and I are calling this diet “fatchelor chum” because it is the weight-loss equivilent of Stagg Chilli, or Bachelor Chum. Pre-prepared food for lazy people.
The laziness aspect makes me really love this diet (as does the fact that I feel a lot healthier since I started it, except for right now because I’ve been eating pizza all weekend). On weekdays, it is so lovely to just chuck a couple of bars in my bag, knowing that I’ll have time to eat them even if I have playground duty, that I won’t have to join the line at the staffroom microwave, and that I can eat what is essentially chocolate for lunch. I love the fact that when I get home from a day of watching intellectually disabled students jump up and down on tuna sandwiches in their socks (“I don’t like tuna, miss”), I do not have ANOTHER job to do. My epic laziness is also why exercise plans don’t work for me – I kind of hate gyms, and sweating. But recently, I am more okay with walking longer distances. Last week, for community access, we went on a half-hour-each-way walk that we’d done at the beginning of term. Last time, I was red in the face and breathless (there are a few hills). This time, I was fine. That’s fantastic, for me.
I feel, a little bit, like I’m giving the finger to societal perceptions about dieting and weightloss. I have had, for a long time, a theory (possibly I read it during uni, but I can’t remember now) that since it is generally okay for women in western society to have and enjoy sex, we must now prove our virtue by removing a different sensual pleasure from our lives; food. Food is frequently marketed to women as “sinful”, “guilty (or guilt-free)”, “naughty” – rather than just using the paradigm of “healthy all the time” “healthy some of the time” “only healthy in small doses”, which is basically how food rolls.
It is okay to eat food. It is okay to enjoy food. It is even okay – on a moral level – to eat too much food. For me, the amount of food I was eating was not okay in terms of my health. In terms of whether or not I was a good person, well, it had no effect at all. I still did nice things for my parents. I still went off to my social-justice job. I still voted against Tony Abbott. Having a Big Bondi Burger with bacon doesn’t make me an immoral person, it makes me an unhealthy one. And sure, there’s an ethical argument to be made that I owe it to my loved ones to not develop heart failure, but that’s not the argument that the media makes. The argument they make is that to be “good”, if you are a woman, you must be shown to be denying yourself pleasure. It is about self-sacrifice and hard work and control over one’s baser urges (like the urge to nom on some bacon). It is weirdly puritanical.
So, even on this diet, I am not really being the good, hardworking, virtuous person that whoever decides these things wants me to be. I am not working hard to do this. This is actually less effort than eating badly. I am not denying myself good times – I eat regular food around my friends, and try to not be crazy about it. I cut my coffees down first to skim lattes, then to long blacks (with faux sugar) – because it means I can have a beer in the evenings without pushing my calorie level up too high. That’s probably the only real sacrifice I’ve made thus far, and it was only swapping full-fat milk out for beer.
And worst of all – this diet means that I am no longer in charge of what Tom eats. Fantastic wifefail there, on my part. He cooks bachelor chum for himself – and most nights, even microwaves my strange freezermeals for me. And then sometimes I SIT IN BED and eat it. I am the very pinacle of laziness and unfemininity, and it is helping me become healthier. Suck it, dominant paradigm!
Interestingly enough, I think I’ll stick with the fatchelor chum when this term ends. It’s still the easiest thing in the world (although I might just keep the bars and do a lot of greek and caesar salads in the evenings, now that summer’s on its way). This weekend I have eaten pizza and an enormously greasy schnitzel, and the end result is that I feel a bit shit. It feels uncomfortably heavy in my stomach, and I’m regretting it a bit – not because of the extra calories, but because it wasn’t awesome. I didn’t feel this way last weekend, when I ate a million tapas. Obviously my body is becoming acclimatised to healthier food, which can only be a good thing. I find myself craving apples, rather than mint slice. And I don’t seem to want to throw up. I also don’t hate my body – I can still look supercute sometimes (my red polkadot dress, let me show you it), and this is because I surround myself with rad people of all shapes and sizes who love me for reasons that are not at all about what shape I am. This kind of emotional support – knowing that even if I don’t lose weight, I am still seen as a worthwhile person – is what is making it possible for me to try this project out. One of the things I absolutely hate is when people who subscribe to the belief that thin = better person notice that I’m losing weight, because the way they talk about it makes me hate myself. I do not like my body being seen as public property. Essentially: if I would not be comfortable talking about my former eating disorder with someone, chances are I am not comfortable with them commenting on my body or eating habits AT ALL.
I want y’all to know that I am in no way pushing my lifestyle choice on you. This is currently working very well for me, but it may not for all people. Everybody gotta do what they gotta do. I’m not going to tell you about the calorie levels in food that you eat, or how many kilos I’ve lost, or anything like that, because that shit is BORING.
This has been the first thing I’ve written in a long, long time, and so I apologise for the lack of style. I’m going to try, like Percy, to update on a more regular basis. And it’s my birthday in a few weeks, so you can expect my yearly musings about where my life is going, and what I want to accomplish over the next year.