Sexual Harassment at a Sex-Friendly Event.

I recently was invited to attend the Perth edition of the ever-popular sex-friendly event, Sexpo. I was there as part of a group educating about, and sometimes demonstrating, the fetish side of things. I attended the event over the course of two days, and found the crowd to be largely respectful and genuinely interested in learning, even if it wasn’t “their thing”.

"Consent Comes From My Word" by Eric Parker. http://bit.ly/152iX9P

“Consent Comes From My Word” by Eric Parker. http://bit.ly/152iX9P

What took me by surprise, however, were the occasions where sexual harassment was displayed by members of the public against members of our group and against myself. Now, you may think that it was naïve of me to not expect such occurrences at this type of event. I say to you, that sexual harassment is never okay. It’s not okay in the workplace. It’s not okay at a restaurant. It’s not okay in journalism, and it sure as hell isn’t okay at events celebrating consenting adults enjoying their sexuality.

The first instance I experienced was when I had just finished displaying some techniques to the crowd. I had been consulting with the person who was acting as crowd control (we were drawing rather large crowds and we were being rather vigilant on the “no photos” policy). I was having difficulty hearing something they were saying, so I leaned forward, over what happened to be a piece of furniture designed for spanking. A member of the public who just happened to be walking past, came up behind me and struck my backside with such force that my feet actually left the ground.

The BDSM community places a big emphasis upon consent. I had not consented to being hit. I did not know I was going to be hit. My mere presence at this particular place did not constitute consent. When I turned around and confronted the young man in question, he looked shocked that I would take offense to him doing something that I had not consented to. While he eventually apologised, hastily and perhaps in the presence of the male counterpart of our group, it was not a heartfelt apology. He didn’t look remorseful for his actions, and he still had a deer in the headlights look about him, like he honestly had no idea where he had gone wrong.

Is this the “rape culture” I have heard about? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. I think that it is definitely a sign that we need to educate everyone on appropriate behaviour, and what exactly CONSENT is and is not.

If you took this situation out of the context of a sex-friendly environment and put it perhaps in a restaurant, it would still be non-consensual abuse. Say I had gotten up from the table, my dinner guest said something, I couldn’t hear so leaned over the table to hear better. It is my bet that the entire restaurant would stop and look if some random person walking by smacked my backside. I would be willing to bet that that person would be escorted out of the restaurant. I would bet that I would have been asked if I wanted to press charges, should I feel the need.

While I thank the other members of the group I was with for backing me up on the issue at the time, and for making sure I had calmed down and was alright, the attitude of security when being told the situation, and of other crowd members was shocking.

 

The second situation involved a lass who had engaged in activities with her partner that had placed  her in a state known as “sub-space” (you can check this term out here). She was safe in the arms of her partner with a friend nearby for support, as she regained her composure. She was being held in a loving embrace and she was smiling happily with her eyes closed. Again, a member of the public came up and suggested she’d had “had a good f**king and she must have “been a go-er” and maybe someone might “give him a go later.” The person in question had been drinking, had caused a fuss previously, by making completely inappropriate remarks about latex attire a member of the group was wearing (the outfit in question was of a socially-acceptable standrd, were it not for the fact it was made of rubber). We had asked that the man be removed from the venue as he was harassing people who were watching and learning. He was not and returned later to create the previously mentioned scene.

I would have assumed, and perhaps that is my own failing, that such an event would want to keep the space as friendly without being over-friendly as possible. Sexpo is known for its female-friendliness, but I have not necessarily seen this premise upheld by the security crew hired to staff the event. I don’t know the company involved, but I have to say, from a personal viewpoint, I did not feel very secure with them around, and was infinitely more at ease with men from our group (including some I had not met before that evening). When the obnoxious man in question was finally asked to leave by security, it was some time after we had been suggesting he move on as he was causing distress to a few of our group. Again, sexual harassment is never alright or excusable, regardless of how much you’ve been drinking.

Let me say, here and now, sexual harassment and sexual abuse are never okay – regardless of the setting, regardless of the occupation of the person being abused, regardless of your attitudes to BDSM. Consent is King and you are not allowed to touch another person or enter their personal space without it.

Running a conference or convention? You need to read to read this.

Why?
Every conference.
Every single conference…

“Here is the wifi password: XXXXXXXXXX1234.”

The hamster starts running in the wheel…

Aaaaaand, has a heart attack.

Conference attendees beat their heads against their iThings and other devices.
The tweet feed slows to a dull roar, then a trickle … Then … Stops.

Every time.

Why?

Venues do not seem able to comprehend the idea that while they may deal with conferences all the time, that more people are bringing more devices to a conferences in order to record all their brains may not be able to capture. Not only that, but they still want to be able to keep up with their own tweet feeds and Facebook pages. Needless to say, while it may be a good enough wifi service for small numbers of people, it simply cannot shingle the load of attendees carrying two or three devices, all to which have notifications on for multiple apps, and are trying to get their emails at the same time as tweeting and blogging.

I’m not sure what the solution is to this. I know in the past, I have worked for events at have one dedicated wifi for the official bloggers and one for the rest of the attendees. Even then, the strain was too much, it broke on a few occasions, and I was forced to resort to using my cellular data in the interim while the problem was solved.

Another pet peeve, and some may well see this as a bit of “gimme gimme”, with all the different devices being employed, and with the drive to tweet away to your heart’s content, or “follow the event on the following hash tag”, why do events not think of setting up a bank of power boards. I’m not suggesting that they supply an array of various charge cables for the different devices out there. People should bring their own! What I am suggesting is that we admit that we are a power-hungry society, meaning electricity but you can read into that what you will, and cater to that need. Want people to tweet? Let them, but provide them with a means to charge their devices so they can.

Ahem…

I will now return you to your normal programming.

Gattacca – coming to a world near you.

So I happened to come across this article this afternoon and it kinda scared me.

We’re heading down Genetics Lane without a map. – by lousia_catlover

Not because I don’t think it’ll do amazing things for the medical field. Not because I think it’ll serve to save lives (eventually). Not because I think it looks a little too “Tron” for my liking. More because I think it’ll bring us one step closer to the world shared in the film Gattaca.

For those not familiar with the plot (and without spoilers, because I think EVERYONE needs to see this film), the future is a world controled by your genome. Babies are no longer born without careful screening for future medical conditions (well, rarely and if they are, they’re at a significant disadvantage). You don’t just fall in love with someone. You nab yourself a DNA sample and have their genome compatibility matched to you, THEN you fall in love with them. You don’t get jobs based on the merit of your work. Instead, promotions are based on the decency of your genetic make up to that particular position. It’s frightening stuff… and it’s becoming more and more real.

We have in utero screening which, trust me, I think is a good thing. With this kind of a machine though, I can see a time in the not too distant future where people have the genomes of their babies mapped out in the first trimester and decide from there whether or not to continue to full term. While I am sure this would save a world of heartache and pain, is it really the best thing? If one thing leads to another as we have seen in the past, the chances of the world becoming a genetic competition in more than the most base of levels is very possible.

We just need to remain responsible for the advancements of genetic research. – by Sean Graham.

And I’m not the only on who feels this way. This post by Symon Perriman (apologies for the screen options – highlight it to read), and this commentary by Jason Lipshin are just two of a multitude of writings on the dystopian idea that our future is one set to weed out genetic inferiority by way of selective breeding. We have done it to animals and plants. It is only a small step in logic to extend the idea to humans.

The greatest hurdle, of course, will be “ethics”. In my mind, I can see a persuasive argument build for progressive implementation of the technology to give parents the choice to reduce the risk of their child having a burdensome and debilitating genetic disease, causing excessive drains on an already tired public health system. From there it is a series of small steps to break down even further opposition to have genetic screening implemented prior to conception for each couple, as an extension of marriage applications.

I guess rather than saying it’s good or bad, I am trying to say that technology is being developed so quickly that our morals, mores and values cannot keep up with it. Rather than asking it to slow down, perhaps it is time that we learned to really think about the extended ramifications of the advancement of technology upon our society.

Online Students: What Do We Want?

I’m finally going to write a little a bit about my studies. It seems that not only do a lot of people still feel that online learning and, by default, external learning, is a bit of a cop out, but they really don’t understand what it is that I am studying and how it can lead to anything in the future. Also, I would like to start documenting my intentions for this magical piece of paper I’ve been working towards, and noticing when or if those aspirations change.

First things first: What is it I am studying?

Head of Internet Studies Dept. Prof. Matthew Allen at the Curtin Uni Open Day. For license and info: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamaleaver/6064211772/

I am currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts in Internet Communication through Curtin University (and I’m not supplying these details for kudos or cash FYI). As it stands, Curtin University is the only Uni in Australia that has a dedicated Internet Studies department, which I find particularly strange considering the ubiquitous nature the Internet has these days. I started my line of study through Open University Australia, because it offered a delivery system that I could work around the rest of life. Also, I have to admit, the university system, to one who hasn’t wrangled it is daunting and more than a little intimidating. Given that OUA offered a HECS-style payment system, it also worked in with my available cash flow (ergo: nil), meaning I could study towards getting an awesome job (as yet to be decided upon) and then pay it all back, which I am cool with. Other students find that the more flexible study times, due to the delivery system, are the key to their choice. It allows them to work their study in and around parenting and work commitments.

I am learning about interactions online, why people have flocked to it (and continue to), the issues surrounding online practices and privacy concerns, how writing for an online audience is a little different to writing for an offline one, and how society can find balance between the two “worlds”. It may not sound like much, or its relevance may not be immediately apparent to you, but it is these kinds of studies that will allow people such as myself to develop better practices for the future world in which we all become cybermen, symbiotically attached to our tech… wait a minute! 🙂

I still have just over a year to go of my BA at which point, depending on my grades, I will think about Honours. And, just because I’m crazy and have obviously taken leave of my senses, a PhD application may be thrown in for good measure. Because I can… Or might be able to… Hopefully…

What do I hope to achieve with all of this?

I want to keep researching what is making people tick. Ever since I was a young’un, I’ve been interested in why people like what they like, why they do what they do and what can be done to make people happier. Some days, this comes from a kind of altruistic intention to make the world a better place… If only for myself. I want people to stop their whining (myself included) by aiding them in finding what it is they want or need out of life. Also, realistically a virtual world is only going to become more integrated with “reality” (whatever that is these days) and, as such, if I want to have a place in that multi-world, I need to carve a place out now. I’m not super smart, or a massive tech head. I’m not an engineer and I don’t have a really good head for creative coding (plain and simple stuff I could probably deal with, if I could be bothered updating my language skills, which I can’t), so it’s not likely that I will be heading a development team bringing you the latest installment of what Google Glass aims to be in the future.

What I will be able to give you (at least once I’ve finished all this study) is an in-depth analysis of why your ideas (or their ideas, or that platform for interaction, or … whatever!)failed and what you can do next time to get people to flock to them. I will be able to tell the world why they need to assess what it is they aim to gain from electronically-delivered engagement systems (because the phrase “online worlds’ be become obsolete – stay tuned for my book on that in a few years’ time), in order to spend their precious time, effort and cash in the right places. I will be able to authoritatively show people why employing current slow thinking (as in it takes more than a few months to get an idea out there and have it accepted – look at pressure start-up groups and their success if you don’t believe me) for a world that is changing so fast is a dumb idea (this may also involve revolutionising the way we peer-review stuff, but we have to aim high, right?).

So, online learning vs on-campus learning. Is there even a contest?

Firstly, let me dispel the myth of online learning being easy. It is NOT. Plain and simple. You have to be self-motivated. You have to search out your own community groups if you want to really engage with the material and ideas presented. You have to maintain that level of stamina, all without the scheduled-out-for-you, spoon-feeding that on-campus learning can give you and you have to do so all by yourself. If you don’t have that drive, you’ve got no hope. If you can’t find it in yourself to keep going when you have to do a unit with a university that hasn’t fully understood what it means to provide an online unit, then the chances of you completing your studies are very slim. More on this later. If you can’t handle being interrupted by people who don’t see your head in a book or you typing on a computer as “real study” (I’m talking parents, children, partners, friends who drop in, everyone!), and you can’t tell them to please respect your study time, then you’re going to fail. No sugar coating it. You will.

Using online tools are only useful if they actually offer students something that they need or want from their study. Online tools are only as good as the education they offer. If tutors are not engaging with their students or if the unit materials are not accessible, then what good is the delivery system?

Just waiting for the Quickening. For license and info: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelfan/46008993/

Too many times I have heard from students studying units with various universities. That the tutors don’t answer questions sent to them either by the internal mail system or through discussion boards which serve for many as online tutorials. That some units relying on web-based materials, meaning digital copies of papers or articles, have broken links or resources that just cannot be found at all! Simply copying a paper-bound university unit to a digital format does not making an online learning environment. An online student is, unfortunately, at a disadvantage when it comes to finding resources that are not published in a digital format. If your unit still relies on bound text books that an on-campus student would be able to check out of a library, you are doing your online students a dis-service. If you don’t have reliable checks and balances to make sure that your students are receiving the education they have paid for, then you are failing your students. I’m not talking about providing customer service for students. I think this opinion that universities are no longer the bastions of education and research they once were, is a little misguided and black-and-white. So what if students are expecting some kind of a ROI (Return on Investment) in regards to their education? This doesn’t mean that the primary role of a university can’t still be research and attainment of knowledge. It just means that those who help invest in that gathering expect a little something for their investment. The world isn’t as Highlander (“There can be only one!”) as some people would like to make out.

Soooooo… what do students employing online methods of study want?

Candy? Medals? A shiny pony? Not really. Although, having said that, I’d never look a gift horse in the mouth (sorry, I had to).

We expect a system that values us as students. As GENUINE students. We want tutors and lecturers who actually care that we can get and understand the material they are using to facilitate our knowledge. We aren’t expecting our degrees or diplomas to be handed to us on a silver platter. We expect to have to work for them, but no more than on-campus students. By undertaking externals studies we accept that we need to think and act differently to on-campus students, but we still want to be awarded the same level of engagement that on-campus students expect. Though, in saying that, I have heard a LOT of complaints from on-campus students saying there’s a decline in the amount of teachers giving a crap about classes… That may be a rant for another time.

We expect that when we are told that there is no text book required for the unit (as in my experience often happens) that we will be able to access all of the required readings for that unit online.  It’s no fun to play if we can’t get our hands on books or chapters because they don’t exist online. And, as a tutor, please don’t try to tell us it isn’t your responsibility to make sure your students have the resources. If a complaint is made that students cannot access the resources from anywhere online (the university’s library, Google, Amazon and the network of resource pirates out there), then it’s not that they don’t have the resources, your resource list needs revision. You need to make sure your students can actually find the resources so they can understand your lectures and complete assignments.

Which brings me to another point. When studying contemporary issues, such as politics or even Internet Studies, we expect that the topics being covered are from the past four or five years, and even then, it’s a stretch. Ultimately, we’d like within the past two to three. History is history and contemporary is now. Now, I understand the peer-review process is what universities and researchers live and die by, but it is long in the tooth and takes oh so long. I don’t have the answer. I wish I did, really, but the current peer-review process takes far too long to get actual contemporary resources into the hands of students. Think about it this way. It takes up anywhere in the realm of five years to research a PhD. Then it gets submitted for review… Now, I’m no mathematician, but that sure does add up to a lot of time in my mind. Not to mention that a lot may have changed in the world in that time. Now, if you’re doing a science (excluding computer sciences) or mathematics line of study, it’s fairly certain that you’ll be fine. Not much changes quickly there. 1+1 will always equal 2 … unless it doesn’t, in which case it’s already been proven and you can read up on it. If you’re in the Arts, some fields stay moderately constant while others change incredibly fast. My particular field of study looks to be changing and growing at a pace that the peer-review system can’t stay in step with. This causes problems for those of us looking to only use peer-reviewed articles and publications for our work. I am sure you can understand the frustration built up by trying to find something relevant written in the past two or three years when everything written in that time frame is still under review, or not widely accepted yet.

We ask that universities don’t try to charge us for services we cannot use. Yes, we are glad that should be able to we can use the physical library, or the student services centre or any of the wonderful services your on-campus students have access to. Personally, I am in something of a rare position amongst my external study peers, in that I am able to get to my university’s campus. Most of the other students I know who have been studying through external studies live too far away from their university to make use of the facilities. Some don’t even live in the same state! I think there needs to be more work done into as to what services a university might actually provide their external students that will benefit them, rather than assuming they require the same services as on-campus students.

A silly cap, a smile and a piece of paper. License and info: http://www.flickr.com/photos/willfolsom/5702452656/

We really really really (as in “cannot stress this enough”) need a checks and balances system outside of individual institutions, making sure that the level of education, educators and materials is sufficient to facilitate learning. We aren’t asking for our learning to be spoon-fed to us. We want to have to seek our own understanding, but we need to know that the help will be there if we simply don’t understand a concept or ideology. Universities and providers like OUA do their best with regular surveys asking how we felt the particular unit was delivered. Sadly, these do not seem to make a lick of difference when the same units receive the same complaints, or the same tutors receive the same complaints made against them, study period after study period. It’s not that we want studying to be easy, but we need to know there is some degree of accountability for our educators. I suspect this is a universal issue, rather than an online-specific one.

If you are in education, please understand that the world you may have learned in is changing. This means that older methods of thinking also need to change, in order to keep the pace. If you are a student or are considering undertaking online study, be patient with your institution. They may not understand the “game now. They may never understand it properly but unless you give them the chance and  provide them with appropriate feedback, they will never understand how to provide properly for the brave new world.

Doing It All… and then some…

The issue of pressure upon women to “do it all” crops up occasionally in the media. Generally, it’s when some idiot journalist hasn’t bothered to do their homework and get some good questions for the female-celebrity-with-children of the moment, so returns to the age-old “How do you manage it all?” questions.

In my mind, yes women are expected to be driven in their careers, run a well-oiled machine of a household, get the kids to school on time (clean, ironed uniform is optional these days), hang out with their friends, be a loving and supportive partner and still make it to the gym, do the grocery shopping and not forget a breakfast meeting conference call.

The real question is: who is doing all this expecting? Is it society? The families? Work colleagues? Or is it a case of the women themselves thinking they should be able to do it all, not realising that they’re placing that pressure upon themselves to Do It All? I honestly believe, against the flow once again, that it is this latter option, and it’s time we woke up to ourselves.

There is a lot of talk in the self-help books available everywhere, about saying “No” when people make a request of your time and/or effort. Guess what? Sometimes you need to do that to yourself. We can’t Do It All. Even if you had a healthy amphetamine habit (which, for the record, I am NOT proposing you resort to), there are still only 24 useable hours in every day and for at least some of those, you need to be pretending to be asleep (if so only to maintain the humanoid facade). So why can’t we Do It All?

Image

There comes a time in your life when, contrary to how you feel in your teens and twenties, that something’s got to give. You know that if you keep giving and giving, pretty soon there’ll be nothing left for you. Sometimes, you need to think about what you actually get out of all the things you have signed up for and assess if they’re giving back to you something comparable to what you put in.

Obviously, work is work and we need to do it in order to pay the bills and keep that roof over our head. If you have no job, I’m going to be sorry to be the one to tell you, but you really ought to be looking for one or taking on training to get one. There. Unpopular opinion for today. If there is not a GOOD reason you are not working (and I’m not talking about not being able to find a job after actually really putting yourself out there for all the available positions you might even vaguely be qualified for and some that you’re so not, or having a disability that absolutely 100% means you cannot work), or taking it upon yourself to make yourself more attractive to employers (and no, getting your hair and nails done is NOT what I mean by this),then you’re not giving back to society. If you’re unnecessarily not giving back to society, then you’re bludging off the system and deserve to be made to clean the green ways between highways and the such to earn that pittance (and yes, I admit that welfare is a pittance and only barely covers the true cost of living, but surely you don’t need those cigarettes if you can’t make payment of bills on time?) they call welfare. Ahem. But I digress.

Education should be a priority to anyone who feels they cannot get a job in the current employment conditions. It should be a focus to anyone who wants a better job. Hell, if you’re bored, go learn something! There are so many assistance packages out there for those who are unemployed and want to go and learn that the only excuse I can see for not being able to afford to learn is you’re in a dead-end job that refuses to pay you enough to go and learn. Having said that, sometimes it takes a great deal of courage to undergo training when the rest of life is falling down around you. That is when you need to re-evaluate and see if the long-term goals you have set for yourself as a result of this learning you’re undertaking are going to truly enrich your life as much as you imagine. If not, then maybe it’s time you re-assessed your work study load (take a study period or semester off and give yourself some breathing space), or drop it altogether and try something else.

Friends, if they’re real friends, will understand no seeing you so much if you have too much on your plate. Plus, with pretty much everyone having access to the Internet and/or a mobile phone, there’s no way you can’t take a quick few minutes to send a friend a text message or FaceBook message to let them know you’re alive and thinking about them.

That hobby you signed up for last summer? Is it still doing something for you? Would your life be significantly less worth living if you cancelled out of it?

Do your kids really need to attend ALL of those meets? Does your partner really need you by their side during ALL those work functions? Are there little largely regular events that you can drop out of in order to give yourself time to go and have that bubble bath once a month?

I think what I am trying to say is: You Can’t Do It All And that’s Okay! Do what you can.

Make others pick up for themselves. Teach your kids to use the washing machine, wash the dishes, make breakfast for themselves. Make a family calendar and rather than asking for babysitting duties from the grandparents, ask if they can attend something for your kids, or drive them to a meet once a week. Not only will you get an hour to yourself, but your kids will get dedicated grandparent time. It’ll be a Good Thing.

Think you have to be the Super Parent and win all those (non-existent) awards? I have news for you: No one is keeping score. You don’t get a prize for killing yourself in the name of Doing It All. What you do get is increase anxiety, increased chance of heart failure, stress disorders and a significantly lowered quality of life. If you have kids, how is that being a good role model? Newsflash: It isn’t.
Ahem.

Right. So now you’ve heard all of my ranting, I’d really like to hear what you’ve done in the last little bit to ensure that you’ve regained a little work/life/family balance. Comment below, or head to my FaceBook page where the conversation is also taking place.

The Australian Internet Filter.

All the cool kids are doing it, so why not me?

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Just in case you haven’t heard of what this is. Let me recap. In essence, the Australian government has already started paving the road for a mandatory internet filter of the internet for all Australian citizens. There will be a secret blacklist for sites that will be banned, which no one has access to. There is no real recourse if your site ends up on the list to get it off. There is no real disclosure on what might get your site onto this list, suffice to say the official line is: “Items refused classification”. This could anything deemed illegal, immoral or otherwise.

There’s that curly word again… Immoral. It’s a word that makes my skin curl. I am all for deciding that illegal thing should be banned. Child pornography, bestiality, those such things. But how do I know that even typing those words won’t get my site on the blacklist? But what if I have a site about polyamory? Homosexual health issues? There are some that would consider that immoral. Who is to say that what I am saying is or isn’t immoral? Who has control over the list?

Another issue that has not really been brought up has been the implications on academic internet research. Those researching potentially “suspect” subjects may find that they are not able to access such sites that contain articles concerning such things. Where will that leave our universities and other researchers?

What I am afraid of is this being just yet another extension of the Blame Game. What’s that, I hear you say? What I call the Blame Game is people suggesting the magical “someone” should that magical “something” about whatever. There is a trend that is growing in the world that we do not want to take responsibility for our own actions. Suing a major technological corporation over false advertising is one thing, but suing them if you were surfing, got dumped by a wave and ended up in a wheelchair claiming they needed to erect signs warning about the dangers of the surf is another thing. Take responsibility for your actions people!

In the same way, parents arguing that the internet has become too ubiquitous and “someone” needs to do “something” about keeping the children safe is just another attempt to forgo some hard-line parenting and discipline. I am not suggesting that you do not allow you children to use the internet at all, although if that works for you, go for it. What I am saying is educate your children on the right way to use it. Yes, that may mean NOT using the computer as a substitute for the babysitting television. Yes, that may mean actually sitting down with your children and using the computer with them. Yes, it may even mean that you have to go and educate yourself on safe internet practises. Heavens forbid you actually have to take time out of your schedule for the betterment and protection of your children! You decided to have kids. Go wild and actually be a parent to them. Stop using the magical “someone” and “something” to fix all your problems.

Why should adults be told what they can and cannot view? Australia already has some of what are viewed to be the most strict censorship guidelines in the western world. Surely we don’t need more restrictions? We seem to be making a bee-line for the ultra restrictive days of the 1930s where books were banned under the Indecent Publications Act (look up the first book to be banned: ‘Upsurge’ by J.M. Harcourt) for having communist tendencies and immoral leanings (yes, there’s that word again).

Even beyond that frightening trend is the fact that this filter will not stop future governments from banning to their own agenda. With the increasing power pressure groups such a Family First and others, developing significant say in the parliament through members we can only project that the future in one in line more and more with seemingly science-fiction films as Equilibrium and V for Vendetta. Harsh? Idealistic? You think? We see in other countries that panic spreads amongst people and they rally to a previously uncharismatic leader who finds strength in the people’s “time of need” (post 9/11 fiasco). We see that a coupe in Australian politics (K-Rudd vs Gillard) is viewed with disgust but no real outrage. We in Australia have become so terribly disconnected from our government that most are still unaware that decisions are being made in the parliament despite politicians not having read senate inquiry reports, not even waiting for them to be published before the vote is tabled!

“The concept of the Web is of universal readership.” – Tim Berners-Lee

The sad part is that the Web which runs on the internet, when invented, was never supposed to be ruled over by governments. It was supposed to be a depository for all the collective knowledge of the world. Yes, it may have gone a little out of proportion and out of control, but Tim Berners-Lee was on to a good thing when he said no government or corporation would have control over the whole web.

Make no mistake, this is a far-reaching topic that will go through unless there is a major outcry from those that our politicians supposedly have been elected to represent. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t felt very represented in the parliament of late. What can you do about it? There are a number of on line petitions and such useless ways of making yourself feel like you’ve done something, but if you rally want to do something about this, write your local member or senator a letter or email detailing what your concerns are. Call them. Make them realise that this is an actual problem that they can finally step up and act the valiant politicians just like they dreamed they could.

Want to know more about this topic? Here are a few links for you to take a look at:

The OpenNet Initiative.

The Australian Government Classification website.

The No Clean Feed website.

news.com.au: Enemy of the internet: Australia under surveillance for violating online freedoms.

Communications minister Conroy misleading public about the filter.

 

Image courtesy of Sally06 on Flickr

Do all Perth People Dream of Melbourne?

I had the good fortune of attending the swarm conference in Melbourne this past week.

As I hadn’t had a holiday for a number of years, I decided it would be best to combine the two into a week of pure awesomeness. Holiday plus social media and community manager conference plus catching up with friends equals win. Plain and simple.

I had always planned to go to Melbourne, having seen many a Perthite head over there and blossom, but it was always something that required a good reason rather than just a holiday. I will post separately about the food I experienced over there, choosing this time to just write about the comparison between Perth and Melbourne.

So, here we go:

  1. In Melbourne, when you stand at a pedestrian crossing, the cars actually stop for you. Even if they have right of way. In Perth, they see you as a challenge and will hunt you down.
  2. Those in customer service generally truly want to serve you. The waiters understand that they are the line of first impression, so if they do a good job, people will have a better experience. People in stores genuinely want to assist you in making a good purchase. The people in visitor centers want to help you find your way. The concierge at your hotel, even if they’re new to Melbourne themselves, wants to make sure you have a good stay.
  3. Hook turns don’t freak drivers out and they allow for greater flow of traffic. Put those in Perth and wait for the in flux of emergency casualties.
  4. People in Melbourne want to use the city. In Perth, the city turns into pumpkins come six o’clock in the evening. With spinnafex. For real.
  5. In Melbourne, even if you’re lost you can find something to do. There are little bars and niche places down almost every alley way and turn. In Perth, if you’re lost, you’d better hope and pray you come out of it alive.
  6. In Melbourne the public transport understands that people actually want to use it to get around the city. In Perth, public transport is a sometimes thing, and even then, it’s dodgy at best. You certainly don’t rely on it t get around the city, unless you’re a traveler.
  7. Melbourne has more than three shades of green. Perth has more than three shades of brown.
  8. Deregulated shopping hours have made Melbourne an easier place to work in a life/work balance, as you don’t have to rush around to do your grocery shopping so much. In Perth, we baulked at Sunday City trading.
  9. In Perth, we have three months of vaguely decent temperatures to go wandering around outside in. In Melbourne, they have three months of vaguely unbearable temperatures.
  10. In Melbourne, you know the areas to stay away from if you don’t want to get harassed/violated/king-hit. In Perth, if you don’t want any of those things to happen, you just don’t go to Perth.

Okay, so that’s my comparison. Got other ideas? Think my opinion is wrong? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing about Yourself…

… Or: Why Writer’s Will Spend Foooorrreverrrrrrr Writing Their Own Bio or Intro.

“My name is Melissa Nile and I will be writing these posts for you. I have covered previous conferences, blogging and tweeting my way. I will be your resident blogger and tweeter for the conference, so please approach with caution, preferably with a suitable offering (coffee and cake is entry level. Vodka and lime will afford you a single question and answer. Real conversation requires creativity on your part)…”  – Needless to say, this will not be the intro I include.

Okay, let me get one thing straight. I am not a writer. Well, not in the real sense. I have published one poem in a book in my life time. I have submitted chapters of stories that have never been picked up, presumably because they were crap. I have always thought my style of writing was more of an insight into the feeble mind of a something-something than anything worth a Grand Prize. Having said that, other people clearly have faith in my ability to write, at least in certain circumstances. Apparently I am particularly good at covering events with blogging and tweeting. It’s a talent, what can I say? I type hard and fast and never look back. I am like the Hunter S Thompson of the tweet-verse… and yes, this is bat country.

ImageSo, if I am okay with introducing speakers and topics for discussion, why is writing a short introduction to myself so freaking hard? Does it stem from a sense of unworthiness (that is when you feel like you’ve stumbled into a room full of experts and you have to make conversation, knowing absolutely nothing about whatever it is they’re talking at you about!)? Or a dislike of sounding like a conceited clown (that’s when you make your intro sound self-important but then throw in a line you think is hilarious to lighten the gravity, but no one else gets, and so you end up looking like a douche)? For me, it’s a bit of both.

I have a somewhat over-inflated sense of self-worth. I know I’m good… I’m just not quite sure at what yet. So covering events attended by experts in a field I might like to feel “one of the team” is stifled a bit by the feeling I’ve somehow got there on a pretense. I’m not actually this blogger-extraordinaire. I’m an imposter! I have no idea what I’m doing!

This, of course, isn’t true. I do know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing and how everyone else should be doing it all the way I do it. I guess the fear is that someone is going to see me dither at making an editorial choice, point the long Bony Finger of Shaming and cry out to all and sundry, “Faker!” I will be lead through the streets wearing a dunce’s hat, forced to write lines in chalk on the footpath. “I must not pretend to be as good as I am,” they will say. Line after line, until someone washes it away and makes me start over.

And then I wake up…

It was a dream after all…

Now can I go back to the one where everyone else brings me the tribute?

Me and Tea.

I must confess, I am something of a nanna.

I drink coffee in the morning. In fact, if I don’t drink coffee in the morning there are two chances of anything getting done – buckley’s and none*. I like my coffee strong, well-made and preferably made by my darling, though this isn’t always a possibility.

After lunch, I like to have myself a short (or not-so-short, depending on the particular circumstances) nap to recharge the batteries. I find I can carry on without the nap, but my productivity in the afternoon is much better for it.

I knit. I do cross-stitch. I moan about the terrible music young-en’s play these days (unless it’s my own). I sew. I grow herbs and tend them lovingly like a retiree would their magnolias. I bake.

After my afternoon nap however, I like to partake of that sterling past-time: afternoon tea.

I am fussy when it comes to my tea. I will drink any kind o tea at least once, preferably three times across various moods and scenarios just to see if I do or do not like it, BUT (and it is such a big but that bold AND underline are most definitely necessary) there are certain protocols that simply MUST be adhered to.

First and foremost, please for the love of all that is sacred do not use anything but a teapot! When I say teapot, I mean any kind of receptacle actually manufactured for the sole purpose of holding and pouring tea into a drinking receptacle. Not an urn. I don’t care what they had to do in war times in England, it’s just not cricket. Not a tea bag, unless that is all you have available (yes, those reader’s who know me personally will know I do from time to time use teabags, however I disdain the practice and find it rather boorish). DO warm the pot and cups with hot water first. DO allow the tea to brew for the required time, not less and certainly not more. Do use a strainer when pouring English-style tea that has been made with loose tea leaves. DO add the milk to the cup first.

DO NOT clank your teaspoon around your cup as though it were a musical instrument. DO NOT double boil your water. DO NOT make your tea so sugary that you cannot possibly taste the tea. DO NOT add milk to Lady Grey (the Critic’s current, and somewhat perennial, favourite tea), it is just plain wrong.

Why?! I hear you ask in tomes most plaintive. BECAUSE I SAID SO! You wouldn’t stick your Beluga caviar on a Vegemite sandwich. You wouldn’t dream of having and ice cream and tomato ketchup soup. Don’t spoil my tea.

Tea time is a chance to sit, relax, recharge the batteries, console yourself that the world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but just for that very moment as you sip at the warm, fragrant drink in your cup, all is right and well.

Too often I see people at cafe’s asking for tea. Apart from the fact that the best temperature for brewing black tea (the “average” tea everyone in the western world seems most familiar with) is 100 degrees Celsius and the best temperature for pulling a coffee shot out of a machine is 92-96 degrees Celsius (as most cafe’s use the hot water dispenser on their coffee machine to set up the tea for brewing) it seems highly unlikely that you’ll be getting the most out of your tea from a cafe that is not a specialist in the art of brewing tea. Also, most people either under-brew (resulting in a weak, rather forgetful cup) or over-brew (resulting in a cold, bitter cup). It’s a travesty that such people should be allowed to handle such a precious commodity!

Okay. Okay… Maybe you’re all right. Maybe I take this too seriously. But think of it this way. If it weren’t for people like myself, we wouldn’t have Michelin Star restaurants, as we’d all be happy eating whatever slop arrived at the table. Yes. I rather like that analogy.

So this has been something of a deviation from my recent format in that it is not a direct critique, but more of a lesson. My apologies. I shall have another review for you rather shortly. Until then, bon appetit. Also, if you have any suggestions for where you would like me to try the food, please comment and let me know!

* A reference to “buckley’s” for non-Aussie reader’s:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckley%27s_chance