I dream of homeschooling.

February 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm (Julia) (, , , , , )

I know that’s not very fashionable. I know that the phrase “homeschooling” brings to mind weird, undersocialised fundamentalist christian kids, or a borderline Flowers in the Attic thing. But I think that’s not all there is to it.

I had a shit time in school. That’s fair enough, so did most people. I constantly felt completely alone an isolated, that I wasn’t cool, that I wasn’t fun, etc. I still have these feelings of extreme anxiety – when things are bad, I feel as though I am utterly unspecial to my friends, that no one really wants to hang out with me, that I am a second thought for them. This is pretty stupid, but I spent 13 years having this drilled into me.

“Julia, you shouldn’t wear black so much, you look weird.”

“Julia, you read too much.”

“Julia, it’s okay if you want to talk around me, but don’t do it so much around my friends. You say weird things, and it’s embarrassing.”

Those were helpful statements from my friends. I’m not going to mention the things said to me by my enemies, highschool sucked for everyone, you can probably fill in the blanks yourselves.

I don’t want this experience for my kids.

Here’s a blog post by a woman who was un-schooled, “I used to be the prettiest girl in the world”. I want my children to have that level of self-confidence and belief in their own abilities. Especially if they’re girls, because it is SO HARD to be proud of yourself if you’re a girl. Hard for boys too, but man – modesty is bullshit.  I would like my children, during their formative years, to be largely unconcerned with conforming to whatever aesthetic ideal has been set by the media and the cool group at their school. I want them to be able to express interest in whatever they like without having to worry that they’ll be seen as uncool. I want them to try on different identities and feel out their own sense of self, unhindered by constant negative pressure to conform to… whatever.

However, it’s not just personal development that makes me want to homeschool my kids one day, it’s largely the horrendous failings of our educational system. As a teacher, I’ve seen what it’s like. Teachers are overworked and undersupported. They teach enormous classes full of hugely diverse kids, and are expected to deliver lessons that cater to all of them. They are trapped by the very strong limitations of the syllabus. I do not understand how kids manage to be enthusiastic or passionate about learning in our current school system.

I would love to homeschool my kids. I am passionate about what is called cross-curriculum content, but basically means learning skills over a variety of disciplines. I believe the boundaries of disciplines are largely useless at school-age, and the focus on subject areas means kids learn to hate certain subjects and the skills that go along with them. Having a hard time with one aspect of maths means you decide you’re no good at maths as a whole. Finding one aspect of history boring can mean you write the whole subject off.  Cutting yourself off from these skills at such a young age is a tragedy.

I would love to teach my kids about fractions using baking. I would love for them to read Asimov, then discuss the ethical and metaphysical  implications of robots (are they human? are they not? Is it okay to have them as slaves?), and then maybe build a robot. Maybe a model, maybe something with some cool electronics. I would love to teach them history and physics together by building working models of medieval siege engines.

In the classroom, it is hard for me to feel amazing and inspiring. I am so limited by the curriculum, by the school timetable, by the resources available in state schools, by the lack of interest of the kids, by the overbearing bureaucracy that seeps into every aspect of school education. Sorry, kids, we’re doing textbook work today because I’ve got to write your term reports, so I don’t have time to create interesting lessons. Sorry, kids, there’s no time to teach you about the protest movement, music and counter-culture during the Vietnam War, we’ve got limited teaching hours for this topic. Sorry, kids, we can’t derail this lesson into a discussion of gender in ancient greece, we’ve got to stay on track so we can finish the topic in time for your exam.

This is not how learning should be. Students should not have to work hard to stay interested. Teachers should not have to unprioritise inspiring, engaging lessons.

This is not just a failing of the state school system. I’m currently employed as a tutor for two kids, a brother and a sister, who are in year 6 and year 7 respectively at two of Sydney’s most prestigious private schools. I don’t tutor them, per se. I extend them. I provide an interesting, engaging counterpoint to what they’re learning. I provide the one-on-one time they need. I link what they’re learning to their other interests.

They shouldn’t need me to do this, not with what their schools charge. The schools have amazing resources – drama rooms, art supplies beyond a public school teacher’s wildest dreams, huge and beautiful grounds – but they lack diversity. Everyone is upper middle-class. The kids I tutor complain because their mother won’t buy them iPads or designer clothes, like their friends’ mums do. The 12 year old girl felt stressed about attending a year 6 school dance at a nearby independant boys’ school because her mum wouldn’t fork out for a proper formal dress. Instead, she went in a lovely sun dress. She isn’t even interested in boys yet, but was extremely concerned about not wearing the right thing in case her friends judged her. The boy attends an Anglican school and his mother is increasingly concerned about the overbearing religious aspect of his education.

I think about education all the time. I love it. I love getting young people to understand things. The Eureka! moment is amazing to watch. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been unable to extend a student within class due to the millions of limitations placed on us.  And I’m afraid of putting my own hypothetical children in this system, where they become faceless, where they can’t pursue their interests, where they can’t direct their own learning.

Already, there are so many fantastic educational resources on the internet, and in the next decade, this will only grow. By the time I have kids of schooling age, the internet will be full of everything I need to teach them. My own skills as an educator would add to this – when utilising online resources, you can’t really just sit a kid in front of a computer and let them go. I know how to structure activities using resources so that the students actually gain knowledge.

One of my favourite sites, which I’ve used for the year 7 History curriculum, is the British Museum’s Ancient Greece site. On my second prac, I created a worksheet for kids that required them to use this site as research, and to analyse the information and present it in new ways. They loved it. I don’t get to teach fun classes like that enough. Educational experiences using awesome websites and interactive resources shouldn’t be a sometimes food. They shouldn’t be a special treat, a break from the norm of textbooks and whiteboard notes. Homeschooling would give me the chance to create holistic, memorable educational experiences. My kids could spend their formative years loving learning, and loving themselves.

And so what if they were weird and undersocialised at the end of it? So was I, when I finished high school. And I certainly wasn’t the most awkward person to ever start university. I think, largely, the concept of age-based peers is completely overrated. Some of the teachers I’ve gotten on best with have been lovely middle-aged nerds who use comic books in English classes, rather than the women my age who just want to talk about Masterchef. So, yes. I attended a variety of different schools (a k-2 infant’s school with a focus on early childhood development, a multilingual school where I did a third of my classes in German, a small-town state public primary school where my teacher created a whole program just for me because I was brighter than everyone else, a state highschool where I was invisible and unhappy, and a private Uniting church school with a seriously amazing extra-curricular program. I’m still a total spaz when it comes to socialising with people my own age, and I’ve had to work very, very hard to overcome the damage school did to my self-esteem.

So why not homeschool? Why not save everyone from that? Why not totally avoid being told I’m a bad mother for NOT letting my kids wear designer clothes? There are extracurricular activities available outside schools, surely my kids could socialise through those?

I just can’t really see any overwhelming arguments FOR sending my kids to a normal school. Does this make me a filthy hippy? Possibly. I just think of the whole thing, thirteen years of trying desperately to fit in, and I kind of feel it’s not worth it.

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I really like Christmas.

December 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm (Julia) (, )

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.)

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No, I won’t make you a sandwich.

October 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm (Julia) (, , , , , )

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.

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Fatchelor Chum: a feminist musing.

September 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm (Julia) (, , , )

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.

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Sims Fortress 2: Total War

March 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm (Julia) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I was growing up, computer games weren’t allowed. My mother abhors anything she considers violent – quite famously, in the early years of her marriage to my father, she was shocked to discover he enjoyed watching The Bill, and felt that this meant he was a violent and angry man. I’m talking about 1984 The Bill, with Reg and Polly and “You’re nicked, my son!” “Fair cop, gov!” Not exactly Oz. But this hatred of violence (mostly because she can’t stand raised voices or conflict) meant that computer games didn’t happen for me.

Even as a teenager, when I had friends with consoles, I didn’t enjoy playing them because invariably, my friends were much more familiar with the game and controls, and always kicked my arse. A steep public learning curve is NOT the Julia way.

I didn’t really get into computer or console games until I moved in with Tom. A month before we moved in together, I bought him a PS2 as a moving-in gift. I figured he’d love it, and that it would work as a DVD player. This was in 2002, when DVD players were often over $300. $400 for a DVD player that als0 played games seemed like a bargain (and it was, we still use that thing 7 years later). I wasn’t really expecting to play games on it, it really was a present for him. One of the games that came with it was Project Eden. I really enjoyed watching Tom play, and he often let me have the controller to do certain things. I found that I was surprisingly good at the puzzle-solving aspect, as well as being able to spot important items. The game can be played as co-operative multiplayer, but we were doing this as co-operative single player, and it was a really enjoyable couple activity for us.

About six months after we’d moved in together, Tom bought me The Sims for Christmas. I’d seen ads for it on TV, and it seemed sort of interesting. I’d dabbled a bit with Civ 3, and I liked that, because of its history-basis, but this seemed like even more fun. So, he bought me The Sims, and I absolutely fell in love with it.

This was also during my recovery from bulimia, and Tom quickly worked out an excellent reward system – if I went a month without purging, he would buy me an expansion pack for The Sims. I LOVE extrinsic rewards, and because I wanted The Sims so badly, and because I couldn’t bear the thought of lying to Tom, it gave me the willpower to break patterns of behaviour I’d had in place since I was 14. I stopped seeing food as the ultimate reward for good behaviour, and started focusing on computer games instead. Say what you will, but I think that’s a lot healthier. Also, it got me totally hooked on computer games, which I think may have been Tom’s cunning plan all along.

I love The Sims because there’s no winning. I grew up as an only child, and so I’m far more focused on narrative-based play than Ludist (or Gamist)-based play (Hey Tom, I payed attention to your thesis). Competition isn’t exactly enjoyable for me, and so if people are playing MarioKart or another party game, I’ll generally just read a book. I like WiiBoxing, but only because I have competed against some EXTREMELY sore losers. But for me, the story is the most important thing. With The Sims (and these days, The Sims 2, and soon to be The Sims 3), I can create my own story. It’s got all the features I loved about Lego when I was small, which was my favourite toy. I can build whatever the damn hell I want, and be creative and have fun, but I also have little people to play dolls with. I can change their clothes, in The Sims, I can build a house to look like whatever I want. I can tell stories. The Sims franchise is a game which I believe encourages imaginative play, and I absolutely adore that. I also really love the potential for user-created content – websites like Mod The Sims 2 have anything you could want. I have downloaded Victorian clothes and furniture, medieval stuff, and an entire set of Harry Potter themed stuff, including uniforms for university-aged Sims (like, for all four house, and for boys and girls, and some with robes on, and some with robes off, and some with shirts untucked etc), and furniture for the different common rooms, and so on. If I want to make a themed neighbourhood of some kind, the stuff will certainly be available. I even have some downloaded furniture that’s better than the stuff in the game, which I think is rad.

As well as The Sims etc, I find I also dig city-building games, like Sim City, and recently, CivCity: Rome. But I like to play these with the cheats on: I want to build a beautiful, functional city, not having to worry about running out of cash or shit like this. I don’t like my gaming to be stressful, I like it to be creative and beautiful. When the little dude pops up to tell me my treasury’s running low, I tend to shout HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO WORK UNDER THESE CONDITIONS and go off and have a liedown. This is probably why I’m not allowed to be Prime Minister. (“All children should travel to school on elephants!”)

I’m digging the Total War games pretty hard, and I think I actually like them better than Civ (don’t taze me, Tom), just because everything is themed properly. With Civ, I find I can’t deal with the concept of the Americans v. the Roman Empire, and things like that. So I’ll make a Classical Period game, with the Romans and Greeks and Persians and Celts and Carthaginians etc, or a Modern Europe game, with England and France and Germany and Russia and so on. But I am deeply uncomfortable with crossing the streams, or playing America as an ancient civilisation. It’s just not right, man! So, the Total War games appeal to my sense of order.  The map is correct, (none of this “London is right next to York and right near sources of ivory and dyes” malarky) and I understand where things are. If I want a medieval game, I can have one, and there’s no Americans.

Fucking Americans.

But, I also like how the game dynamics change depending on the era. Gameplay for Medieval II is very different to Empire, and a lot of that is based on the historical period. They’re also games that are more enjoyable if you’re a bit of a history buff, which appeals to my love of entertainment which doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominator. I’m just getting used to Empire, right now, and it makes me want to play Rome: Total War, which I avoided when Tom played it due to my lack of knowledge (at the time) of Ancient History. But now I’ve done a bit of Ancient, and learnt more, and I think I would get a bigger kick out of the game. Awww yeah.

I find that I have varied and extremely specific tastes. I don’t tend to like everything in a genre, I will like one or two examples of that genre. The only real-time strategy games I like are the Age of Empires/Age of Mythology games. I mostly enjoy the campaign, rather than the multiplayer skirmishes, probably one again because of my love of narrative. AoE III and AoM were also very pretty games – I liked building the towns, and deciding where things went.

WoW doesn’t appeal to me, but that’s mostly because I don’t care about the world it’s set in.  If they made an MMORPG set in Regency London, with society intrigues and you could go to Almack’s and have a character and run around and be social and go to balls, I would be all up in that, ALL THE TIME. I would call it World of Ballcraft (hurr). I would also totally play an MMORPG if it were set in Rapture (from Bioshock) before all the shit went down. But I’m not interested in Second Life, because I can get that shit on The Sims, and The Sims is less full of furries and French fascists (I am not even kidding). I only want to run around in a virtual world with other people if the world has a cohesive narrative and aesthetic that I enjoy.

Another game I really enjoyed was Portal. I played Portal before I played TF2, and I adored it. I know people call it an FPS, but I find this to be a useless description. It’s a puzzle-solving game! You don’t shoot other people! It’s first person, and there’s a gun, but FPS, to my mind, conjures up stuff like TF2, or Counterstrike. Portal kind of is a genre all its own. I think I also dislike the idea that a computer game genre is based on some mechanic of gameplay, because for me, the primary appeal of a game is its narrative and setting. But yeah, back to Portal. I kicked arse at it, and I was actually better than Tom, which was sort of a new thing for me. Being good at things is always exciting, and because Portal didn’t really require me to have spent my teen years with my fingers permanantly glued to the WASD keys, I loved it. I’m good at that kind of puzzle-solving, too. But, at the same time, it gave me greater familiarity with FPS-style controls, and this eased my way into TF2.

Now I will talk about Team Fortess 2 for a while.

I freaking love this game. Before this, the only FPSs I’d actually enjoyed were things like Battlefield: 1942 and Battlefield: Vietnam, because I knew the period quite well, I enjoyed the different type of gameplay (I’m gunning down planes! I’m sniping the VC! I’m steering an enormous ship!), and it was fairly low-stress. Counterstrike never appealed to me, because, I guess, modern-era real-world killing is kind of depressing. I don’t like futuristic sci-fi games (I don’t really know why). So, these few historical FPSs were what I played at shootybang nights, until the arrival of TF2.

TF2 is, I think, the perfect game for people who didn’t spend their teen years playing FPSs. The wide range of classes means that you’ll find at least ONE class you’re good at (for me, it’s sniper and pyro), there are different maps, and the visual aesthetics of the game make things extremely obvious. There are huge arrows pointing the way to intel rooms or control points, the other team is very obviously the enemy, marked out by colour, and it’s obvious what each character can do. It’s fun, too – it has lots of injokes and doesn’t take itself seriously, which I think is good for a game where the whole point is to kill people. The flavour text is always hilarious, and you can play a really team-worky character, or a solo one. I think it’s got more flexibility than most other FPSs, and I enjoy being able to play one round, and then going off and doing my own thing. I also like being able to play with friends, without having to have them in my house.

Lastly, some console games. I enjoy some things on the Wii – I really like WiiBoxing and WiiPlay, but mostly to do on my own. I enjoyed Zelda, and I liked the Harry Potter 5 game for the Wii, because the spellcasting was fun, and running around and getting a sense of how the school was laid out was really interestiong for me. But ultimately, I am a Playstation girl. I’m looking forward to earning money and buying Tom a PS3, because I love cooperative RPGs. We’ve played a few really good ones together: the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games, as well as the X-Men: Legends had really fun cooperative play, and I kind of loved sitting down on the couch next to Tom for a whole day and killing bad guys together. But I also love Rockstar games, like Bully, which Heather already talked about, and I’m looking forward to LA Noire when it comes out.

So, yes. From being someone who never played video games, they’ve become kind of a staple of my entertainment. I enjoy playing them, and talking about gameplay and mechanics with Tom, and all that kind of stuff. I think that it’s also a good time to be a lady who games, because game designers are making games with women in mind (which means that World of Ballcraft is only a few years away, I hope), and so I can find games where “winning” isn’t necessary. Video gaming is, for me, an activity which can be done solely on my own, with Tom, or with groups of my friends, and I kind of love that. I can be running the British Empire in 1700, or I can be Harry Potter at Hogwarts, or I can be a guy who sets people wearing a different coloured shirt on fire. I can play games requiring thinking and strategy and puzzle-solving, or ones that need me to be creative, or ones that require improving my reflexes. Ultimately, I guess, I think that video gaming has broadened my mind and taught me new skills, and any hobby that does that has to be pretty awesome.

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Step 3: Profit (and) Make AP5 Go!

March 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm (Julia) (, , , )

My DET miseries are almost at an end! I have only to do the following: mail Casual Direct registration forms, give resumes to schools, and then sit back and wait for work to come rolling in.

Awwwwyeah.

This is going to be awesome, because I will be GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE, and making fat stacks of cashdollars. I know this isn’t exciting for those of you with real, grown-up jobs (Tom and Heather I am looking at YOU), but apparently my time is worth $300 a day. This is fairly huge for me. I have earmarked some of this potential money for certain things, and since we LOVE consumerism and lists here at AP5, I thought I’d write some of my plans down.

1. Lady-based cocktail evenings.

I am partially convinced that being a young woman of independant means can only be demonstrated if you occasionally go out for a few cocktails after work with other young women of independant means. I’m not talking $5 cocktails and all the bar fights you can dodge at the Ashfield Hotel, either – I mean fancy ones, at Marble Bar.

2. Travel

I have some fairly serious wanderlust at the moment, and making some fat teaching dollars would allow Tom and I to skip the country occasionally and have intercontinental adventures (different to incontinent adventures). Vietnam, Argentina, Italy… these are all places on my list.

3. Camera

I want to get me a fancy digital SLR. I bought my Canon Powershot about a year ago, and I’ve been spending the time redeveloping my eye. You’re all very patient about me getting out my camera at every available moment, so, thank you. But there is only so much this little clickything can do, and I crave something with a lens I can fiddle with. I am some kind of lenssexual (not lensexual, which is being attracted to dudes named Len). Then I will go on adventures to places

4. Moar Ikea

Oh man, the plans I have. MOAR Ikea. I want, like, the weird towels which are velour on one side, and that are the same colours as my bedspread. I want more kitchen stuff, like the Mjod glasses Dan picked up. I want my house to be awesome and beautiful and have good shit that looks amazing and does what it’s supposed to do. Maybe one day I will even buy a couch. A new couch, of my very own which isn’t some kind of futon.

5. PS3

Oh, Tom will play ALL the GTA4. All of it.

A Pleasing Fiveness, let’s have at it!

Okay, so, obviously some people are uninspired to post. I was fairly uninspired this week, and hence, a list. Sorry, guys. But I have some ideas!

– Maybe sometimes we could have a week where everyone blogs on the same topic, but from personal experience. Like, blog about a favourite childhood memory, or something like that. I think that could be really interesting.

– Requests! Is there anything that you guys would like me to write about? Anything where you go “That thing Julia does, I would like to hear her reasons for it”.

– Commenting! Guys, I think we need to try to comment more. Even if you just write something brief, I think it would help all of us to know that what we’re writing is being read and being appreciated.

I also have a second post coming for you, but it will have to wait for tomorrow, for Secret Reasons.

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I wish I could quit you, university + what is Julia doing these days anyway?

March 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm (Julia) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So, I’m considering going back to uni. I know, I know, it’s like I’m Dan or something (Hi Dan!).

I think it’s probably not a surprise that I am massively gay for formal education. I love learning, I love thinking, and I love university. I also love letters after my name. I have slight dreams of ending up lecturing in the Education faculty, I think that would be pretty awesome.

So, what is driving this new desire to go back to uni? There are some real reasons and some reasons that are extremely subject to change. I’ll put my whim and fear based reasons first.

1. I am SO BORED. I’m currently in the middle of sorting out a massive bureaucracyfail with the DET, and I’ve done all the stuff I can for now, and it’s their turn to do send me some things. It’s like the slowest and most boring game of tennis ever, and considering tennis is shit to start with, yeah. I haven’t had anything to do since last September and I am bored. My brain, it craves stimulation. So, obviously, when my casual teaching finally kicks in (DET I AM TALKING TO YOU SEND ME MY GODDAMN FORMS), I may reassess this plan. But right now, I’m bored, and so uni is the first thing I think about.

2. Sutekh is awesome this year. It’s like I’m the Queen Mother. I’m not in charge of anything, but everyone pays me respect and thinks it’s adorable when I’m drunk and listens to my stories. Sutekh has FINALLY become the way Newtekh envisioned it – there’s a really competant, drama-free committee that runs about a bazillion events, all the n00bs are freaking awesome, and everyone’s super friendly and welcoming. I’m also a bit afraid of finding another community, I guess – Sutekh is just how I want it, and the idea of starting from scratch, working my way up and effecting positive change seems overwhelming. Sometimes at schools I feel like I don’t fit in in the staffroom – people talk about Rugby League and stuff like that, and while I can fake it, I don’t feel like I’m totally surrounded by My People. Obviously, working at the right school would fix that – I’ve gone to three public, non-selective schools for prac, so I assume a private or selective school might house a few more geeks in the staffroom. There are some, but not quite enough. It’s a strange feeling – and it reminds me of being in high school and feeling like I shouldn’t talk about what I’m into for fear that people think I’m strange, and man, I kind of hate that. Stupid social phobia.

3. It’s that time of year. O-Week is awesome, all my friends are doing cool classes. Seriously, Finn has a class where they have to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Uni was SO not that cool when I was an undergrad. Fucking new cultural studies department. But, you know, I’m fairly certain that in about seven weeks I’m going to be feeling pretty superior about the lack of essays.

4. I have a hard-on for academic dress. No, really. I’m graduating on the 3rd April, and it will be so awesome. I’m going out for tapas and sangria afterwards with my family, and it’s a 4pm graduation so I can wave my robed self (different to my rabid self) at n00bs. Aww yeah. (hey guys, come for free food in the Quad). I get to wear Masters robes! Shit yes. But, yeah, I love ceremonies. Especially ceremonies about how I am AWESOME.

Now, the more sensible, grown-up reasons.

1. Either an M.A or an M.Ed would make me a more awesome teacher. I’m leaning towards an M.Ed right now (different to the M.Teach), because I could do something on G&T students, and I’m considering something about how G&T kids need extra-curricular stimulation to keep them focused (or “Why Sutekh Should Be In Schools). That would be awesome, right?I would be more employable and I would be able to focus on the aspects of education I’m really passionate about. Alternatively, an M.A could let me play with history some more, and man, I could go for some of that right now.

2. It could help me on the path towards Academia. Man, teaching at uni? Teaching at Sydney uni? Best thing ever. I would sit up in that ivory tower and just piss on everyone. I would be all THIS IS HOW TO BE AWESOME and people would cower in fear, while taking notes.

3. M.Eds are designed for workers. I could take some evening classes, and still totally casual-teach, which would rock. Money AND study, aww yeah.

4. I really like research. I do. I’ve been re-reading my Action Research Project from last year (the big bit of research I did during my internship) and shit, it was awesome. I’m pretty impressed with what I did, with what I learnt, etc. I love that kind of higher thinking. Education is a field with so many problems, and we’re only JUST starting to move away from the old-fashioned teacher-centred learning. I have all these theories of how school and learning could be totally awesome (because it SHOULD be) and getting to explore that some more would totally rock. I think casual teaching could really help me with this, too, because I’d get to see the different ways a lot of schools function, and incorporate the best bits into my theories.

This plan is by no means set in stone right now. I’m aware that a LOT of this urge is based on fear of NOT being in formal education for the first time in 21 years, the fact that I’m bored, and the fact that university is so awesome at this time of year. But an M.Ed is in my plans SOMEWHERE in my future, so I’m giving this some fairly serious consideration. I’ll see how I feel about it in six months, basically. Of course, I’ve just check out the Masters of Education (Research) page and I think I may be having an attack of the vapours due to the thesis requirements. I shall loosen my stays, find my smelling salts and then think seriously about this for six months.

In the meantime, here’s another post (sort of) about what I’m doing with myself at the moment, and how I’m keeping myself busy.

1. Flametiger Throwdown

Centrefold Kitty!

Centrefold Kitty!

How did I even go without having a pet cat for 8 years? I LOVE having this little guy around. We’ve had him a week and a half now, he has pooped in the box EVERY SINGLE TIME (this may be one of his most endearing qualities), and he is basically just awesome. He has a few modes that he cycles through during the day. There’s Insane, where he runs from room to room without reason, attacks feet, tulle skirts, bits of dust, dead cockroaches that he killed the day before, etc. There’s Smoochy, which often happens when we get home from being out of the house, where he follows us around, wants to be carried or to stand on our shoulders, and rubs his face all over ours. There’s Helpful, where he climbs things and watches us in the kitchen (he is like our own special bodyguard), and wants to explore everything (like the oven). He also watches me in the bath with great concern, probably to make sure I don’t drown. It’s very endearing. And finally there’s Sleepy, which pretty much speaks for itself. He likes sleeping on our pillows, but he also loves my massive new computer shelf-thing (the one I built from Ikea stuff). He likes being behind the monitor, as well as in the very narrow shelf underneath the monitor. Anyway, he is just gorgeous.  I assume you’ve read Tom’s thoughts on the matter, but as a seasoned cat-owner, I can definitely say that Flamey is one of the loveliest kitties I’ve ever met. Particularly because I’m not doing much at the moment, he is very good for company. He’s like Finn, except nicer to stroke and he doesn’t give me sassmouth all day long about Maggie Gyllenhaal.

2. Hanging with Steeni.

So, Christina is well and truly ensconced in our front room, and this is pretty awesome. She’s easy-going, she seems to do the dishes ALL THE TIME and she brings me cups of tea. I also get to talk to her about school and what she’s doing (apparently, Newtown High is what highschool would be like if they made highschools AWESOME and fun), and she comes along to Sutekh things and hangs out with my geeky friends (who obviously all adore her because she’s fantastic)

She’s probably the easiest semi-flatmate we’ve ever had. Since she’s an only child like myself (both of us have siblings, but not in our immediate household experience) AND because she’s related to me she understands about the need to long periods of solitude, interspersed with meaningful conversations over cups of tea. She seems to go out most evenings, but she’s pretty competant and doesn’t need looking after, which is good. I really like having her here, and one day when she’s not doing all the social things ever I will bring her to stuff. For real!

3. Regressing to Sutekh

I know, I said I would quit. But, O-Week! It was so fantastic, and I really love the n00bs this year. I went to B&C yesterday, and I got to go on Aidan’s radio show, and I got to talk to awesome new people, and tonight I’m seeing Watchmen with everyone (HAY YOU GAIS), and it’s really good. There seems to be minimal fail, it’s good to see the new committee working so well (since there’s no one on it who seems to be more concerned with causing bullshit drama than making the club AWESOME), and I’m enjoying being able have awesome ideas about stuff to run, without having to worry about the day-to-day stuff. I’m currently planning:

– Victorian Marvel. One day, Percy and Finn and I will get together, drink over 9000 coffees and plan this shit right up.

– League of Awesomes. I wrote this semi-freeform with Finn and Aidan for O-Week, and Jonan has said I can offer to put it up in one of Sutekh’s wildcard P&G slots, where you  basically say, hey General meeting, instead of P&G one week, how about this cool event instead? And then they vote, hopefully in your favour. Anyway, it’s a faction-based freeform based off the Sutekh Zodiac, and it’s full of mad lolz and good times.

– N00b sub-committee. Mostly, I hang out with n00bs, and I’m going to P&G tomorrow to run Geek Charades. Good times!

4. Forms

I know, my greatest fear. The university either didn’t send my confirmation of completion to the DET, or the DET didn’t get it or lost it. Either way, that’s why there’s no workz for Julia. I’ve sorted this out, now, and am waiting for confirmation from the DET. This will allow me to hand out resumes to schools, without them throwing them away. Then I will (hopefully) get some work, and have fat stacks of cash. Or even small stacks of cash. I plan to blow my first paycheck on tequila, who’s interested? Finn has said he will drive me to schools for epic resume drop, so obviously I will have to find some way of repaying him. I guess that’s one way he’s better than Flametiger. But oh, Flamey would be so cute if he could drive. Mohh.

5. Social Life. This one’s pretty important. I’m trying to throw more parties, because hey, what was even the point of all that cleaning if I don’t have people over to my house? I’m planning to throw Zombie Thursday again, probably just with selected awesome people. I want to have an afternoon tea one day, with mah ladies. Tom has some plans for board game evenings, I believe. I’ve also really been loving Weekend Breakfast, it is always so cheerful and fun. I really dig this thing I have going on right now where all my friends are this amazing positive force on my life. Good work, you guys.

6. Stories and Shooty-bang. Oh, Team Fortress 2. The scout update has been good fun for me, because I play pyro. Oh, teensy scouts, you on fire now! I really need some headphone with a microphone, possibly a guy could maybe give me that for our anniversary. Crazy! I love being able to play with my friends, too. I’ve been watching some good stories, recently. I’m underwhelmed by Dollhouse, but a n00b girl who is Whedon-crazy told me that apparently the first six episodes are heavily Fox Network controlled, but after that, Joss had a pretty free hand. So I am willing to stick around to if that pans out. I’m sad to see that Joss has gone back to his abusive ex-boyfriend Fox, but maybe he’ll learn. If nothing else, there’s some decent eye-candy on that show, and honestly,  the WORST of Whedon is still better than a lot of other TV shows. I’m also loving the final chapter of BSG, and this season of Lost and Heroes are also doing good things. Well done, television.

So, that’s about it for me. Pretty epic post this week! Woo! I hope to see most of you tonight at Watchmen – the movie’s at 8.20, but we’re meeting at about 6-6.30 at the Lansdowne first for noms.

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Terse and unforgiving

February 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm (Julia) (, , , , )

(Okay so, this title is actually a reference to the BEST DESCRIPTION OF HEATHER EVER, and certainly the terse bit is irrelevent to my post, but as soon as I decided what to write about, this was the only title I could think of. Title copyright Heather.)

(Also, this post is maybe a little emo. I hope it doesn’t make any of you guys emo – this isn’t supposed to be a big pity party, I’m just trying to work out how my brain is formed, and where it goes wrong, and how I can maybe avoid that stuff in the future.)

I thought I would write about forgiveness, and my issues with forgiveness.

I am a very forgiving person, until one day when I’m not any more. This makes me sound kind of fickle and harsh, but I don’t think I am, simply because I tend to forgive people for MUCH longer than I really ought, and so by the time it eventually becomes all too much for me, there’s a fairly large supply of ill-will stored up, and it means I’m kind of angry for a while. I don’t LIKE being angry, I don’t like the way I am when I’m angry at a person, it’s kind of hard and stressful. This is a thing I’m trying to improve about myself at the moment, because I’m currently pretty goddamn angry at a few people, and it’s unpleasant and stressful for me, and awkward for mutual friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own reactions to this sort of stuff, in an attempt to fix the things I can fix.

This is difficult, though, because I sort of like the reasons why I forgive people. I would like to think of myself as a fairly compassionate person. Particularly with my friends, I understand that stuff is hard, and sometimes people do shitty things without meaning it.

I’ve isolated the two main patterns:

1. A friend constantly hurts me in very small and insignificant ways, which seem not quite worth mentioning. Mostly this is due to maybe being inconsiderate, but for a long time, and with few episodes of doing awesome, considerate things to make up for it. One day it is TOO MUCH and I snap.

2. A friend is awesome some of the time, but does seriously horrific hurtful things to me the rest of the time. I forgive them because they’re having a hard time, etc, and because when they don’t suck, they totally rule. I try to fix whatever it is that makes them suck sometimes. At some point I realise that being friends with them is a huge strain on my mental health, and decide to cut them off.

The second thing has only really happened twice, and both times I got to make the decision about ending the friendship. Both times I felt a HUGE weight off my shoulders when I went “this person is no longer my problem”, and both times, Tom and my other friends completely supported my decision (which is more important to me than it probably should be – if I’ve ended a friendship after being seriously fucked over by someone, I would like to know that my close friends who understand the situation can support my actions. I don’t necessarily need people to take sides, but I need people to accept that what I’ve done is the right move for me).

The first scenario is much more common. I think the trait of Heather’s that I envy the most is her ability to tell someone when they’ve pissed her off a bit. This is a thing I’m definitely working on to improve this whole situation. See, if someone does something minor, and I know they haven’t meant to hurt my feelings, I’ll generally let it go. This is okay a lot of the time, because for most people, they ARE just having a shitty day and it’s a once-off. However, I know I really appreciate it when I’ve done something slightly thoughtless and Heather calls me on it, because she does it in a way where she lets me know that I didn’t intend offence, but that I hurt her feelings. This allows me to apologise, make sure I don’t do that shit again, and then everyone can move on, no harm, no foul. The one person I can always, ALWAYS do this with is Tom, and I’m pretty thankful about that.

The problem is, I guess, that the more someone is inconsiderate towards me, the less I feel like I can explain my feelings to them without them either dismissing it, or making drama happen. Also, when people are consistantly inconsiderate towards me, the first reaction I have to it is kind of thinking I deserve it. This is hella unhealthy, but it’s from bad friendship patterns built into me during my impressionable teenage years, when I had friends, but not often really good friends who I could rely on to do good things for me. For most of my teenage years my friendships were with people who tolerated my personal quirks, rather than kind of loving them, and so they weren’t really the kind of people who gave any real thought to doing nice things for me, ever. (This is possibly another reason why I am kind of crazy about birthdays being a giant celebration of the birthday person). So yes, when a friend first starts being kind of consistantly inconsiderate, I don’t put a stop to it right away, and then it gets out of hand and one day they will do something inconsiderate when I really, really need them to be there for me and then things are OVER FOREVER and it makes me feel bad and stressed about seeing them, and this is crazy and I really do not enjoy being crazy.

(I say consistantly inconsiderate because this is a very, very important point – there’s a big difference between someone having a crap day and doing something which bugs me, and that being the norm of our relationship. I would also like to add that of you guys here at AP5, I don’t think you even do occasional shitty things to me, because I’ve been trying to think of an example and I can’t, so, go you guys! Possibly this is also due to the fact that sometimes I like a stamp with you and so I am fairly aware of how you’re formed and so things you do don’t bug me at all. )

Anyway, the problem with this first teen regression is that when I realise I’m letting someone treat me like Heather Chandler treated Veronica Sawyer[1] I kind of flip out, and while I don’t react in the same way as Veronica Sawyer, I kind of get my righteous fury on.

Mostly it’s because I get really mad at letting someone treat me that way because I am an awesome person and a good friend and goddamn, bitches betta recognise. And then I get mad at myself, and then I get mad at them for making me feel the way I did when I was in highschool because that was a time which sort of sucked for me and part of my mental health management plan is NOT feeling that way again, oh man.

I have awesome friends who I don’t mind doing lots of stuff for because I know that if I’m in a bad way, they’ll pretty much drop everything to see that I’m okay. I do nice things for my friends because I love them deeply, but really, as long as they occasionally come through for me when it matters, everything is cool. I think the things that really, really get to me are when people either don’t come through when I’m having a legitimate crisis (if they’re having their own crisis, it’s cool, though), or if they ruin something which I’ve been relying on to be a good time and improve my mood, by being selfish and crap.  Once again, NONE of you are guilty of this. Man, I promise never to use this blog for passive-aggressive suckarsery. That shit, it’s wack.

I guess another part of the problem is the issue of reconciliation. For the two situations of Type 2, I’m not interested in that friendship because it is too toxic and because both times, that person has become someone I find genuinely reprehensible. So reconciliation isn’t really an issue, there. For Type 1, though, I think a really big problem is that to move on to some kind of new friendship, I need an admission of wrongdoing. Not because I like making people feel guilty, but because I need to know it won’t happen again. However, I tend to be so completely angry at this person for what’s transpired that I feel unable to calmly say “back when we were friends you did this stuff, if we are to be friends again I need to know that you understand that what you did was extremely hurtful and that you’ll attempt to not do this stuff again”, because I feel like if I begin talking to a person about what they’ve done I will go off into a terrifying rant which won’t solve any problems. Even if I understand (due to stamps) WHY someone might act inconsiderately, I feel like I really, really need them to be aware of this tendency in themselves so it doesn’t fuck me over again.

So, um, yeah. Any suggestions? How do you guys forgive serious transgressions?

So, that was kind of full-on, so here is something exciting and filthy. I’ve been watching Season 3 of the UK TV show Skins, and in a recent episode, a character’s sister was in a reality TV show to become the next member of “Sexxbomb” (a fictional version of the Pussycat Dolls), and performs this song – Ass2Ass. For anyone who doesn’t know, “ass to ass” refers to when a gentleman is becoming intimate with two ladies, and he places his private member inside the posterior of one lady, and then pulls out and places it in the posterior of the second lady. It sounds most unhygienic. But yes, this show is mostly fairly serious, except that sometimes they have completely deadpan shit like this in it. This should also be watched to see Bob Fossil from Mighty Boosh as the show’s judge, and also the proud look on the faces of this girl’s dad and brother as she performs this song.

Also, y’all, let me know when you’re free for some kind of AP5 dinnerfoods deliciousness.

[1] Man, I really, really want to watch this film right now. It’s in my head, like when you get a song in your head, except this is a film.

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The Great Clean, a follow-up

February 20, 2009 at 11:20 am (Julia) (, , , , , , )

Firstly: Sorry this is late, guys, I went to a wedding yesterday and then was sleepy.

So, over a month later, our house is finally, mostly clean. Success! You’ll all see this on Saturday night at my party (hint hint), and, obviously, Tom and Heather have already seen it.

I love it. It feels wonderful to have all this useable space in our house again, and I’ve already done a lot of very grown-up, social things. Last Saturday night, my parents, my grandma and my sister and her husband (and Amelia) came over for dinner. This was because my sister’s birthday was the 13th and my dad’s was the 17th, so we generally combine the two and have a dinner somewhere. This is the first year that Amelia’s been around for this, and I suggested it might be simpler for everyone if the dinner was at my house. It was, particularly for Sarah and Robert. Amelia got to sit in her bouncinet on the coffee table while we were eating, so she could look at everyone (she’s 6 weeks old now, so she’s just starting to become really interesting in her surroundings, especially people). Nappy changes could take place in the spare room thanks to their fold-up travelling nappy change mat (it is seriously cool), and my sister (who’s not a fan of breastfeeding in large groups) was able to sit on the spare bed to feed her. It was lovely being able to cook for my family, too. It was a nice relaxed evening, and I got to cuddle my niece for a really long time (until my dad showed up and demanded grandfatherly rights).

My sister has also been over for tea, with the baby, which was pretty cool. Sarah’s mum lives a couple of blocks away from us, and so Sarah spends quite a bit of time in Summer Hill. When Amelia is a big bigger, I have plans for an Amelia drawer at my house – a drawer full of things for her to play with. My godfather had a Julia drawer at his house when I was small, and it was awesome.

I feel really grown-up, right now. We have a lounge/dining room, we have a spare room. My family can come for dinner. My cousin can stay the night. We can entertain like adults.

The most exciting thing, probably, is that on Sunday Tom and I are heading off to the RSPCA at Yagoona to obtain a kitty. This was the treat for cleaning, a real kitty, of my very own. I have visions of my sister bringing her baby over, and then me putting the kitten next to the baby, for the cutest thing in the whole world.

We’ve thrown out so much stuff, and we haven’t even started on the stuff in our storage unit yet. I have been extremely strict on throwing things out, and it’s been really freeing. I’m going to try to throw out useless junk in the future, because man, I really don’t want to become a hoarder.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you some of the lovely things our flat is now set up for.

Dinner Parties

I’ve already had one of these for my family, and I can’t wait to start having my friends over for evenings of too much food and too much wine. Dinner parties, in my culture, are raucous and lively and fun. Some people think of sedate, quiet meals, but honestly, that’s not how I roll. Even at Millthorpe, we’re not really sedate at meals. Food + Booze + Friends = Good Times.

Roleplaying/Board Games

We have a dining table and chairs, AND a coffee table and two couches. This calls for some serious geekery to begin. This is to help with Tom’s plans of doing more geeky things – I would like to run or host a regular RPG (possibly a reworking of mah 1930s nWoD game), and I’m also interested in having boardgaming days on weekends.

Tea Parties

At some point in the near future, I’m going to treat myself to some really fancy-pants tea equipment (and maybe a cake tier), then have my favourite ladies over for tea and cakes. Because, oh man, that stuff is so lovely.

House Parties

The kind we used to have, back in the day, where half the guests crashed at our place and then we all had breakfast. I miss those really big parties, and I hope we can start doing that again. I’m not ready to be old and boring, yet.

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History. Learn it.

February 12, 2009 at 11:51 pm (Julia) (, , , , )

Last week (and most of you have heard me complain about this), somebody was WRONG on the internet.

I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

Essentially, there was a comments thread for the status update for one of my friends on facebook, which was about timetravel. Pretty rad, right? However, people who clearly didn’t know shit about history, because they suggested that my friend use her time machine to firstly stop the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, which would, according to them, stop WWI. Then another person suggested that shortly after this, they go and help Tom Cruise kill Hitler by moving a briefcase (or go even earlier, and assassinate Hitler in 1939, thereby stopping WWII).

GODDAMN.

This thread demonstrated to me that bitches don’t know shit about historical causality, also that the only people who should be allowed to timetravel should be history graduates. For real. This shit is the historical equivilent of saying that pi is basically 3, so using 3 instead of pi will be fine, right?

So, today, I’ve decided to explain, a bit, how those two wars came about, because otherwise my stories about how wrong these ladies were doesn’t make sense at all.

1. World War I.

Check it out, I’ve made a picture of Europe in 1914. Now, I know everyone talks about Italy being part of the Triple Alliance, but basically they declare war on some places right at the beginning, go AFK and then teamswitch in 1916. Poor form, Italy. Poor form. Now, in 1914, France, England and Russia have each other’s backs (they call their superspecial club the Triple Entente), and Austria-Hungary, Germany and Turkey are hanging out (They’re the Central Powers, because the triple alliance is so fucking crap due to Italy being a pussy bitch). Bulgaria’s in pink because it’s totally gay for the Central Powers, and a bunch of colours are light blue because they’re the weak friends of the Triple Entente. Like Serbia, check it out. In 1914, Serbia is mates with Russia. This is very important.

The other thing that is very important is that during the last few decades of the 19th Century, the great European powers avoid going to war together because they all have the same grandma (Queen Victoria), who essentially glares at them like this whenever they even THINK about making war:

Anyway, Granny Victoria pops her clogs in 1901, and all her naughty grandchildren start a-scheming. It’s important to note that they’re all totally empire-blocking each other at the moment, grabbing the last uncolonised bits of the world like it’s going out of style (which it actually sort of was). There’s a lot of tension going on. Germany’s recently unified and wants to be a Big Boy like all the other empires, and is still pissed off over losing the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to France in 1871. Austria-Hungary is totally out of date, and is losing control of a bunch of teensy countries to its immediate south-east. Also, most importantly, none of the big powers is keen on ANY of the others becoming too powerful. Balance! Or something. So there are all these complicated systems of alliances and treaties, most of which can be explained by the colours on the map above. Also, all these countries are building enormous militaries and making plans to invade each other. Now, in the Balkans, all these wee countries want independance from their huge fake daddy empire (A-H). There’s heaps of tension here, and it becomes known as the Balkan Powder Keg. Essentially, all of Europe has smoked meth and gone to the Big Day Out, wearing their nation’s flag and asking other countries if they’re looking at them.

Now. Archduke Franz Ferdinand (named after that band that sound just like Modest Mouse), the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, gets JFKed in Sarajevo, by a group of hardcore Serbian nationalists call The Black Hand. Austria-Hungary blames the Serbian government for this, and decides to declare war on them (this is secretly because they want Serbia all for themselves). Russia has a treaty with Serbia, and mobilises for war. France is all “Sup, my Russian brothers. I’m down with you.” and declares support for Russia (and Serbia). Now, Germany, who is allied with Austria-Hungary, declares war on Russia. Once more, this is only marginally because of their actual treaties, and mostly because all these huge countries are spoiling for a fight. France is all “OH NO YOU DIDN’T” and mobilises their army.

This is where things get interesting. Germany has this plan, right, which calls for them to defeat France first and THEN attack Russia, so they’re not fighting a war on two fronts, because that would be crap, right? So they go, “Sup, Belgium, going through you sure would be the most efficient way for us to nab Paris, according to this plan, so hows about you let us put our army right in your lowlands, eh?” But Belgium, who is mates with France and England, is all “No way, dude, last time you said you’d call me and you never did and I found out later that you told all your friends I was a whore and my friends reckon you’re bad for me” or words to that effect. Germany invades Belgium (because it’s on meth), because the only real military threat in the region in Great Britain, and honestly no one thinks GB’s going to go to war, because it’s been doing this whole isolationist thing, and also because King George of GB is first cousins with Kaiser Wilhelm, and everyone thinks that due to them being super BFFcousins and out of love for Granny Vic, Britain will stay neutral. However, because it’s  in Great Britain’s best interest for Germany to NOT become the European superpower, they totally go to war. Anyway, the German military plans certainly didn’t include Britain’s well-trained army coming and slowing them down in Belgium, or the rest of their army going to France to help out, and basically Germany ends up fighting a war on two fronts.

Anyway, my point is, Ferdinand’s death is the tipping point, but Europe would’ve ended up at war anyway. It’s pretty fucking naive to think that one incident caused all of WWI, given that the foreign policies of a bunch of the major powers involved going to war to get land back for themselves. All those countries could’ve easily ignored Serbia’s call for help, except it went against their plans of nation-building. No one really needed to stick by their treaties (Italy is proof of this).

So, that’s why WWI would not have been averted by stopping the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Now! Onto my second point.

2. World War II

So, assassinating Hilter stops WWII and the persecution of the Jews.

Firstly, if we’re talking about the von Stauffenburg conspiracy to kill Hitler and enact Operation Valkyrie, then no, that happened in 1944. War had already been going for some time. Also, while the other Nazis weren’t down with Hitler’s war-schemes, they hearted his Jew-killing pretty goddamn hard, and would’ve totally kept going. Even if you assassinate Hitler in 1939, all that stops is WWII, but honestly at that point, chances are Germany would’ve done it anyway. They certainly would’ve persecuted the Jews, and since the rest of the world didn’t really care about that, they would’ve been able to do it for a lot longer. Lame!

Secondly, this plan to assassinate Hitler, by these people on this thread, was supposed to happen AFTER one had saved Ferdy and averted WWI.

Now.

WWII does not happen without WWI. Apart from the fact that if WWI didn’t happen then WWII would have to be called WWI, making it harder for historians and timetravellers, this shows a RIDICULOUS lack of understanding of how WWII happened.

So, back in WWI, Germany gets its arse handed to it by the combination of the US and Sir John Monash joining the Allied server in 1917, with their 1337 skillz and strategic thinking. At the Treaty of Versailles, the other countries basically make Germany their bitch, and completely cripple its industrial, military and economic possibilities for the next decade. By the mid-1920s, Germany is in total financial collapse – currency inflates to similar levels to what we’re seeing in Zimbabwe right now. They’ve also got a highly flawed constitution for their new democracy which stops them doing anything ever.By the late 1920s, Germany is poor, looking for strong leadership, and deeply, deeply angry at the rest of Europe for essentially pantsing them and posting photos of it to 4chan. Germany decides that Hitler is a pretty cool guy, eh strengthens Germany and doesn’t afraid of anything. Hell, during the 1930s, when the rest of the world is in depression, Germany’s got mad economic growth. But Hitler’s popularity mostly comes from his hard-right nationalist stance, because that’s pretty comforting to a country who have been spanked by the rest of Europe. Spanked right into famine! But this would never have happened if WWI hadn’t happened. Hell, they wouldn’t have even had the shitty Weimar republic with its flawed constitution, because the people wouldn’t have been so jack of Kaiser Wilhelm getting them into a dumb war that the monarchy would’ve still existed.

Or the communists would’ve taken over, whatevs.

My point is, I guess, that when looking at history it’s pretty dumb to assume that one event, or one guy, is the total and complete turning point. If the WTC attacks hadn’t occured, the world might be a very different place. But the reasons that led to the WTC attacks would still be there – the US would’ve massively pissed off a bunch of fundamentalist muslim countries. So very probably, there would’ve been an equally devastating attack by a similar group at some point. It tends to be the longterm actions of a person, or nation, that affect history. If US foreign policy hadn’t been so fucked, the Arab world wouldn’t have hated them so much. The events in history weren’t always inevitable, but saying stuff like “if this person had/hadn’t died then everything would be completely different forever” shows a fairly epic misunderstanding of history, especially in the modern era. Pretty much once people learn to read and are able to print up pamphlets with their ideas, history just sort of happens. When it’s one guy leading an army who have to do what he says, yes, killing that guy could change things. But when whole nations of people have ideas, and hatred, and dreams, then things are going to happen. Not necessarily in the same way, but there will be events. Shit yes, communication. Shit yes, ideas. Shit yes, the printing press and then the internet.

My other point is that it really hurts my brain when people who know shit about history talk about it on the internet.

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