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megpie71

February 2017

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megpie71: Slave computer, captioned "My most humble apologies, master" (computer troubles)
Friday, January 6th, 2017 09:00 am
Centrelink crisis 'cataclysmic' says PM's former head of digital transformation

The notion that the current Centrelink crisis is a result of a culture of "don't want to hear bad news" in Centrelink management doesn't surprise me at all. Centrelink management has long had a culture of shooting the messenger bearing bad news, because it doesn't agree with the glossy picture they're trying to sell their Minister (not to mention themselves). It really is one of the main ways the particular algorithm being used (compare total incomes reported against the ATO total for the financial year to determine whether income has been reported accurately, then average the ATO total across 26 fortnights to determine whether there's a debt) could have survived even cursory testing.

I suspected the whole thing was developed in-house, and it's nice to have those suspicions confirmed, but the point to be raised here is Centrelink's programming staff are not sourced from within the group of people who have worked on the customer contact end of Centrelink's operations. Instead, they're sourced from within the IT industry, and generally from a group of people who have had next to no contact with what could be considered the bulk of Centrelink's business (their parents may have received Family Tax Benefit for them while they were in school, but that's pretty much it). This is where a blind spot in the bureaucracy intersects with a blind spot in the IT industry - the bureaucratic insistence on "no bad news" intersects with the IT industry article-of-faith that if you can figure out programming, you can solve any problem at all with no additional knowledge required (and if you did need extra knowledge and didn't get supplied with it by the client, this is the client's fault for not knowing you'd need it).

So basically, what's happened is a programmer (or group of programmers) in Centrelink's IT section has been handed the job of figuring out how to automate the process of debt recovery sparked by income data matching, and they've done this effectively starting from scratch (and probably reinventing several wheels along the way) with absolutely no reference to existing processes and procedures, or to the knowledge bank of staff who were doing this job at the time. When the program was tested, it passed all the standard tests to see whether it would break the Centrelink desktop environment (this is mandatory for all products on the Centrelink network, whether they're being rolled out to all staff or not), so it was assumed to be Just Fine! If someone in the debt recovery section raised the problem of "we know this is going to raise a lot of false positives - something like nineteen out of twenty of the issues data matching raises aren't actually valid debts" with their manager (assuming they found out about it ahead of time), the caution would be buried, because nobody wants to hear bad news in Centrelink's upper management.

And thousands of people across Australia got asked to justify their receipt of social security benefits they were legally entitled to, because they made a typo in their income reporting once (or because the business they were working for made a typo when they created their record with the ATO), or because they got a good job after having been on social security (and this averaged out over the course of twelve months to be higher than the fortnightly cut-off limit), or whatever. Things which probably could have been picked up very quickly and resolved with minimal fuss and bother to the person affected if there had been any efforts at inserting a human element in the whole process to just double-check the results of the first couple of weeks, and then remove the bugs.
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)
Thursday, November 10th, 2016 08:33 am
A lot of people are probably feeling numb, flattened and despairing today in the aftermath of the US election. In other words, you're feeling much the same way I often feel for no reason whatsoever. So in the interest of being able to get through the whole mess, and pull yourselves out the other side, and deal with the rest of the world rather than hiding in a bunker panicking for the next few months, I offer the following tips.

1) Acknowledge what you're feeling is genuine. Don't tell yourself you're "over-reacting" or "being over-dramatic" or "being silly". Especially, don't try to tell yourself that you're "fine" (unless you actually mean, "freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional" when you say that). What you're feeling is what you're genuinely feeling, and it's something which deserves to be acknowledged. Don't try to make yourself feel happier or better. Just accept you're feeling bad, and you're allowed to feel bad.

2) Start treating your emotional self the way you'd treat a six-year-old who was feeling the same way. If you need cuddles or hugs, try and get those from friends and family members. If you need to huddle in a blanket with a stuffed animal, do that. If you want to eat chocolate, eat chocolate. Soothe your inner child, in tangible, physical ways. Physical comfort builds mental comfort. Our minds are linked to our bodies. If our minds are in turmoil, comforting the body can help ease this. So eat comfort food (the best comfort food is hot, milky and sweet, because that taps back into our first memories of being comforted and soothed as babies), wear comfortable clothes and favourite colours, and keep at a comfortable temperature for the environment (cool if it's warm out, warm if it's cold out).

3) Acknowledge that emotions require energy. If you're feeling a lot of things, you're going to be more tired, and you're going to need more sleep. So, see whether you can re-arrange your sleep schedule such that you're going to bed earlier, and sleeping a bit longer. Try to avoid pushing yourself intellectually in your time off - now would be a good time for things like colouring in, or playing solitaire or listening to music, or other recreations which don't require you to be doing much thinking. Re-read favourite books (the ones which are sort of like chewing gum for the mind - the ones where you can just sit back and let the story flow over you and not have to think for a bit).

4) If you're feeling constantly anxious, panicking over things, start asking yourself these questions:
  • What am I actually worried about? Write down a list, if you feel the need - often one of the underlying "anxiety" processes is a worry that you've forgotten something important that you were worrying about. Writing a list of worries helps defuse that one. Writing a list also helps pin down what you're worried about
  • Are these things I'm worried about things which are certain to happen (for example, "the sun is certain to rise tomorrow"), things which are probably going to happen ("the sun will rise in the east"), or is something which is technically possible, but not necessarily feasible ("the sun will rise in the north")? Put more energy into dealing with the things which are certain, or probable. Things which are only possible aren't worth worrying about until they ascend the ladder of probability.
  • What can I do about this problem right now, right this minute? It is likely the answer will be "nothing". If you are unable to do something about the problem, then worrying about it isn't going to help anyone. Least of all yourself. Start intervening actively in your worry loops, and diverting your thoughts elsewhere.

Intervening in worry loops is a skill - which means it can be learned, and it will improve over time. What it involves is three things: recognising you're stuck in a loop, stopping the loop, and changing the mental subject. Recognising you're stuck in a loop starts by recognising you're anxious in the first place - and again, the questions above can help there: start at "what am I worried about?". Does the same subject come up repeatedly? In that case, you're stuck in a loop. Stopping the loop involves catching yourself in the worry, and quite literally choosing not to pursue it - and the easiest way to do this is by changing the mental subject. I've found things like multiplication tables useful for me when I'm trying to do this - start at 1x1 and work up to 20x20, and if I make a mistake, I have to go back to 1x1 again and start over. Or play "FizzBuzz" with yourself (count from 1 to as high as you go, replacing every number divisible by 5 with "fizz" and every number divisible by 7 with "buzz" - again, make a mistake and you have to start over).

Oh, and while you're anxious, accept you're not going to be 100% on the intellectual side. You have the anxiety sitting there occupying mental cycles, and this is going to affect your mental processing speed in the same way having an anti-virus program performing a scan affects the performance of a computer. Things are going to be slowed down, and take a bit longer to run. Be kind to yourself while this is happening - brains are much harder to reboot than computers.

5) If you find you're really sunk into a negative frame of mind, unable to see any positives in life, I offer the following tip which has worked for me. Get a notebook. Into that notebook, each day, write three things which went right. Note the phrasing there: it's "things which went right" as opposed to "things which went wrong". At present, you're probably going to have problems with things like "positive" or "good" or "happy" - it's impossible to spot those things when the emotions are right off the radar. But when you're feeling like this, trust me, you can spot everything which is going wrong in your life - and that makes it easier, in turn, to spot the things which aren't. Doesn't have to be a big thing - a hot drink on a cold day, or even the thought of not having to be outside in rotten weather is enough. But you have to find three things each day which went right, and write them down in the notebook.

Please note: this isn't going to perform an instant transformation on your mood. It isn't supposed to perform an instant transformation on your mood. What it is intended to do is perform a gradual transformation and build the habit of not looking on the dark side all the time.

In conclusion, I will leave you with this truth: believe me, you CAN get through this bad spell of mental weather. What you're experiencing now, in the aftermath of a terrible shock in world events, is what a lot of mentally ill people live with on a constant basis. Yes, the real world events are terrible. But you cannot let these real world events rule you to the extent that you give up living, give up hoping, give up working toward change. What I've offered here is a collection of coping tips which worked for me to allow me to do this. I'm hoping they'll work for other people as well.
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Less obstacles)
Saturday, June 25th, 2016 11:00 am
Rupert Murdoch is not our friend.

Rupert Murdoch is an ageing billionaire sociopath, who appears to believe the world will end when he finally dies, and is going to a great deal of trouble to ensure this is the case for all the rest of us, too. Rupert Murdoch's motto at present appears to be "apres moi, le deluge".

The only apocalyptic "End Times" approaching are those of Rupert Murdoch - he's 85, his father died at age 67, while his mother lived to 103. Which means he's pretty much reached the age of splitting the difference between the two and any year he gets after now is a gift. He is in his personal "end times" and he doesn't like it.

Rupert Murdoch's media properties (all of the News Limited newspapers in multiple countries, all of the Fox television stations in multiple countries, Sky TV in the UK, and so on) are generally not institutions which display a one-to-one correspondence with consensus reality. This means if you see something being heavily reported on Fox News, or in the Murdoch press, you should check with other sources to ensure you're getting the correct picture. Or indeed, whether there is actually a picture there to be getting - the Murdoch media does have a long history of making things up out of whole cloth in order to sell advertising space, and also of bouncing the same made-up story around their various international properties in order to give it creedence.

Please, don't trust them. They don't have your best interests at heart. They don't have anyone's interests at heart except those of Rupert Murdoch, and his primary interests are in acquiring power over world leaders and getting All The Money for himself.

So think about it: do you really want your life overturned because one cranky old man with a lot of money doesn't want to die and resents the fact it's inevitable?

If you can do nothing else, please fact-check what you're hearing from Fox, what you're hearing from News Limited, and what you're hearing from Sky. Find some source which isn't inside the Murdoch Media fold, and see whether they're reporting on the particular "crisis" of the week. Spread the news about what's actually happening out here in consensus reality, rather than in Murdoch-land. Tell people where you found counter-stories, and where you find your facts. Spread the news that there's more out there than what the Murdoch media is telling us.
megpie71: AC Cloud Strife looking toward camera in Sleeping Forest (WTF)
Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 02:04 pm
The "toilet" argument is the one which says "of course trans* and gender-queer people shouldn't be allowed to use the lavatories appropriate to their preferred gender presentation" because somehow women will get their modesty affronted by having a person with a penis in the ladies room. I always get stunned by this argument, mostly because it shows a degree of wilful blindness to some necessary differences between masculine and feminine public hygiene set-ups which really needs to be addressed.

So, for the benefit of all those guys who haven't been in the ladies' lavs since they were tiny tackers escorted there by their mums, here is a description of the average set-up of every single women's public toilet block I've ever been in for as long as I can remember:

Long and involved description under the fold )

So, to be honest, I absolutely fail to see how anyone's modesty is going to be affronted by someone who is trans-female, or female-identifying-today gender-queer, getting into the queue to use the stalls in the ladies. No matter what their (or your) individual plumbing hook-up appears to be, nobody else is going to be able to see it in use, or be offended by its presence.

I mean, on the other hand, if the people who are worried about the prospect of trans* or gender-queer people using the appropriate lavatories for their identifying gender are men worrying a trans-man or a male-identifying-today gender-queer person is going to go into the gentlemen's lavs and snigger at the willies on display at the urinals... well, just say so, guys. (And maybe use the stalls to pee). But please, don't push the whole mess over onto the women and feminine modesty.

(Oh, and if anyone who is trans-negative and female-identifying wants to explain to me either: a) exactly why and how their modesty is/would be affronted by a trans* or gender-queer person using the ladies' lavs at the same time as them; or b) how they'd know if a person in one of the other stalls was a trans* or gender-queer person; or even c) why they can't just deal with their problem by waiting for the trans* or gender-queer person to finish their business and leave; then feel free to do so in the comments.)
megpie71: Animated "tea" icon popular after London bombing. (Default)
Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 04:49 pm
What happened in the Clementine Ford case was this: a bloke said something abusive about her on the internet, in such a way that it could be linked back to his employer. Namely, he had his employer details on his Facebook profile[1], and Ms Ford brought his online behaviour to his employer's attention. He got sacked as a result of his actions, because his employers didn't want to deal with the negative publicity involved.

Or in other words, this bloke did the online equivalent of yelling abuse at her on public transport while wearing his workplace uniform, getting snapped while doing so, and reported to his employers.

Now, we'd all agree that if someone did something like the second example above, should they get sacked, it was their own silly fault, and they should have behaved civilly in a public setting. We'd agree if a guy yelled abuse at a woman in a public hotel, or a shopping mall while wearing anything with their employer's logo (such as a uniform shirt or similar), the woman they yelled at would be within her rights to report it to their employer, and the employer would be within their rights to sack the damn fool for being too daft to work there any more. We'd agree that if a guy launched into a tirade of abuse at a woman for talking to her friends in the pub, he'd be due at the very least to be barred from being served any more alcohol, and more likely, kicked out by the management.

We readily agree that unprovoked personal abuse in a public context is unacceptable when it's in a face-to-face context, and that if someone does it while being able to be clearly linked to an employer, a professional organisation, a particular religion, or family or so on, then they should bear the social consequences of their actions being reported to those groups. We agree that doing such things while being able to be linked to employers, professional organisations, religions, disapproving family members or similar is something which is likely to fall under the parameters of the Being Bloody Stupid Act[2] - not only do you wear the consequences, but it's expected you're going to wear them politely, suck it up and bloody well deal!

Yet somehow, the apparent expectation is that this bloke (and the many others who do similar things, such as sending abusive and/or harassing emails from their work email accounts), who has done something Bloody Stupid (and Bloody Rude, while we're at it) should be allowed to not only get away with his actions, but that it's positively unfair of Ms Ford to have pointed them out to his employer. That this was somehow an over-reaction, and a vindictive act. That he should not have been forced to deal with the consequences of his behaviour (a behaviour he chose to carry out of his own free will, and which he wasn't, to the best of anyone's knowledge, coerced into by any other person) in an adult fashion.

To be honest, I'm with Ms Ford on this. He brought his problems on himself, and my sympathy is strictly limited.

(PS: Guys, women across the world have already learned this: on the internet, you have precisely as much privacy and anonymity as you can be bothered to carve out. If you can't be arsed to keep your online life strictly segregated from your offline life, then the only damn solution is to ensure your online behaviour is either beyond reproach, or something you would feel positive about defending to your employers, your spouse, your mates, your girlfriend, your mother, your grandmother, your kids, your work colleagues, and anyone else in your offline life who asks about it. Because otherwise, sure as eggs are eggs, your online sins will find you out, eventually).


[1] Strangely enough, not many women feel it's appropriate to have such details publicly available online. The main reason why not starts with "bl" and rhymes with "folks".
[2] Ankh-Morpork legal code.
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Monday, October 12th, 2015 11:58 am
In the interests of my continuing mental health, I've had to banish a few words and phrases from my vocabulary. One of them is "should".

"Should" is a word which has disappointment built-in from the start. It's a word used to talk about ideal situations, ideal results, ideal worlds. As such, to someone like me with an anxiety disorder, it's essentially poison for the psyche. Because, you see, one of the things at the core of any anxiety disorder is this: we want the world to be perfect. Perfection implies control.

So to someone with an anxiety disorder (and this also includes the vast majority of people with depression, since the two conditions tend to be co-morbid to an astounding degree) a "should" is not a vague ideal to be used as a general directional indicator. Instead, it is a definite goal, which needs to be achieved (in order that the world be perfect). So phrases like "you should know better" or "you should be able to do better than that" or "I shouldn't need to tell you" and so on aren't just expressions of regret for one single instance - they are clear indicators that we have failed on a comprehensive level to achieve the goals set for us[1]. The world is imperfect and it's All Our Fault.

As you can guess, that kind of feeling doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels.

Then there's the other kind of "should" - the ones we tell ourselves, the ones which come with the invisible tag of "but I won't". "I should stay on this diet... but I won't". "I should Clean All The Things... but I won't". "I should do this disagreeable task... but I'm not gonna!". Again, not only is the world imperfect, and not only is this All Our Fault, but we're also unable to even rely on ourselves to do things. How hopeless are we?

(Something else which doesn't do much for anyone's anxiety levels).

However, banishing "should" (and its close cousin, "ought to") from your mental vocabulary is a hard thing to do at times. For a start, there's all the externally imposed "shoulds" - the expectations of parents, partners, friends, children, teachers, employers, co-workers, advertisers, marketers, manufacturers and so on. ("You should buy $PRODUCTNAME!") Plus there's all the internal ones, yelled at us by our jerk!brains on constant loop - including the ones which come up as part of the memory tapes bringing up old humiliations to dance on the stage of the Grand Olde Embarrassing Recollection to remind us of what we "should" and "shouldn't" be doing, or have done.

What's the solution to all of this? Well, the one which worked for me was basically stepping back from what I "should" be doing, and asking myself "what, realistically, can I do?" This one works particularly well for the memory tapes. Asking myself "okay, what am I able to do about this problem/issue, right here, right now?" tends to make the tapes suddenly grind to a glitching halt - because usually the answer is "nothing". I can't fix past mistakes from the present. I can make an effort to alter future behaviour, but other than that? There is literally nothing I can do.

This works well for other people's expectations of you as well. I have a lovely little icon (created by Copperbadge a while ago) which reads "Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles". If other people want you to do something, if they think you "should" be able to do it, ask yourself: "can I do this?" Are you physically, socially, mentally capable of performing the task they're asking? (This includes such things as "do I have the skills needed?", "do I have the available spare capacity?", "do I have the available spare time?" and, of course, "do I actually want to do this?"). If the answer is "yes", then perform the task. If the answer is "no", then tell them so - give reasons if the person asking is a reasonable person (unreasonable people don't deserve reasons for your answers, because unreasonable people can't or won't be reasoned with).

By bringing things back from the ideal world of "should" to the actual world of "can I, am I, do I, is this" you wind up being a lot more realistic about your own capabilities, and a lot less prone to stressing yourself out over things which are outside your own control.


[1] You'll note one of the apparent "goals" being set there is fully functional human telepathy. Nobody said the goals of a "should" were ever either realistic or achievable.
megpie71: 9th Doctor resting head against TARDIS with repeated *thunk* text (Head!Tardis)
Thursday, October 1st, 2015 04:30 pm
The bits of Twitter I follow have been exploding in about twenty-seven different directions regarding "Peeple for People".

This article pretty much sums up what it's all about:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/09/30/everyone-you-know-will-be-able-to-rate-you-on-the-terrifying-yelp-for-people-whether-you-want-them-to-or-not/

"Yelp for People" is pretty much the elevator pitch version of the idea. According to their FAQs, they largely envision it being used by folks to be all positive and caring and nice about people they know (in the same way Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are at present). Which, I think, says it all.

Essentially, this is how it would work - someone wants to 'review' you, and so long as they fulfil the conditions, they can do so. What kinds of conditions? They have to be over twenty-one, and have a Facebook account. They need to know your name, the city you live in, and your phone number (or know a phone number they can say is yours). Then they can create a profile for you, if you don't already have one, and publish 'reviews' of you. If someone posts a negative review of you, that review will get texted to your phone number (or to the phone number Peeple has for you) and the onus is on you to respond to that reviewer within forty-eight hours and see whether you can "change a negative to a positive".

(Those of you who are busy attempting to beat yourselves unconscious by head!desk-ing, I sympathise.)

What possible problems could there be? Well, let's start with the idea that *there are more checks on, and privacy for, the person who is leaving the rating* than there are for *the person who is being rated*. From the way I understand things, if I had an iPhone, a Facebook account which said I was over twenty-one, and a plausible mobile phone number, I could conceivably create a Peeple profile for Santa Claus. (I'd love to see whether one of the "thousands" of beta testers they're bragging of actually does this, by the bye. Bonus points if the profile is created by the Easter Bunny). Let's continue with this: once you have had a profile created for you on Peeple, you can't get it deleted - they're thinking about adding this feature in future. They don't have a privacy policy up as yet (that's coming once they release the app). Once your profile is authenticated, app users are able to see both positive and negative reviews for you, and you have no way of removing that profile.

Even getting off the internet altogether won't protect you from these negative reviews.

(Meanwhile, the people behind the app started the day with a locked Twitter account - which they've since unlocked to a degree; have taken steps toward getting a parody account mocking them on Twitter deleted; and are said to be deleting non-positive comments on their Facebook accounts. Nice for some, clearly.)

The system as it is described at present is wide open to abuse by stalkers, abusers, online hate mobs or just people who are feeling malicious on a particular day. It's all the worst possible social aspects of high school, pulled onto the internet and made international.

You can read their version of the story here:

http://forthepeeple.com/#story
megpie71: "Well, when I was a little girl, I thought I'd like to become a scientist, so I became a scientist" (feminism)
Monday, June 8th, 2015 11:39 am
Found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html

Okay, first thoughts about the first few paragraphs: this comes across as very TERF-y[1] at times.

Further thoughts on reading more of it: actually, come to think on it, this is not only a wonderful example of trans-exclusionary feminism, but also a wonderful example of the sort of feminism which makes me want to say "if this is feminism, I don't want to be identified as feminist!"

Read more... )

I agree with this writer there's a lot of work men need to do on the way masculinity is defined and presented (and if she'd pointed out the complete lack of enthusiasm for the job demonstrated by the majority of persons identifying as male, I'd have agreed with her even more). But quite frankly, I don't see that attempting to lock transwomen out of the definition of "women as a whole" is a good move to get this work started. Trans identity is already gatekept by the medical community and the psychological and psychiatric community, not to mention the trans-erasing radical feminist community. I seriously doubt mainstream feminism needs to step up to the plate.


[1] Trans-Erasing Radical Feminism - the sort of feminism which basically states flat out that transwomen aren't "real" women because they weren't born with the correct genitalia.
[2] Can I just say, I have to wonder about when organised feminism became, by default, a movement intended solely for those women who were considered attractive by men?
[3] This can include things like requiring the permission of her husband, if she's married, or of her parents if she isn't - this for a fully functional adult with no mental illnesses or developmental impairments.
megpie71: Kerr Avon quote: Don't philosophise at me you electronic moron; answer the question (don't philosophise)
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 09:49 am
[Inspired by: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-11/abbott-defends-indigenous-communities-lifestyle-choice/6300218 - particularly the comment thread]

I was born in Western Australia, and I lived most of my life until I was about 27 in the south-eastern suburbs of Perth. I then moved to Canberra, in the ACT, and lived there until about mid-2006, when my partner and I moved back to Perth.

I hated it in Canberra. The land wasn't right. The way the sun rose wasn't right. The way the sun set wasn't right. The water wasn't the same. The seasons were all wrong. The city was put together strangely. I never felt settled, never felt "at home". I felt displaced.

I went to London for a month in August 2002, on holiday. I felt more "at home" in London during that one month than I had in three years living in the ACT, despite the different hemisphere, different latitudes, different everything.

I went back to the ACT, and lived for another four years in exile, before returning to Perth, Western Australia. Since then, I have come to wonder whether the profound feeling of "home" I feel living here is akin to the Indigenous notion of "country". Whether that horrible feeling of being displaced, of being exiled, is what they feel when they're forced by circumstance or government policy to move away from their country. I know that for me, songs like "My Island Home" now have a whole new meaning, because I hear them through the filter of my experience living in Canberra.

This is part of why I feel angry and upset about the WA state government's decision to close a number of remote communities. I would not want to push that feeling of displacement, of always being in the wrong place, on anyone else. It would be a wrongness, an evil, a wicked thing to do. I am angry the government of Western Australia is doing this in my name. I am upset the Premier, Colin Barnett, is implicitly claiming he has the support of white Western Australians to do this. His government does not have my support, or my consent.

These days I'm living in the south-western corridor of suburban Perth. The sun rises in the correct way, over the right hills. The sun sets properly, over the ocean. The ocean is there, within reach - I'm about twenty minutes drive from the beach, if that. The seasons flow correctly, from dry heat, to stormy heat, to gradually cooling dry, to cold and wet, to gradually warming and drying, to dry heat again. The city is the way it should be, the right mix of architectural styles and geographic features. I'm home. I would say I'm in my country, and I would challenge anyone to uproot me from it.
megpie71: Vincent Valentine pointing Cerberus toward the camera (BFG)
Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 04:37 pm
To all the Americans who read my blog: It’s already Tuesday here in Australia. It’s voting day. Democracy is a participatory system of government. You owe it to yourselves and everyone else around you to get out there and vote.

Yes, even if you don’t like any of the available candidates. One of those people on the ballot is going to be representing YOU for the next however many years, whether you like them or not. So get out there and vote for the one you dislike least. If you don’t vote, you don't get a say in whoever represents you.

Yes, even if you’re in a gerrymandered district where there’s no chance the incumbent is going to lose. The more people go out and vote, the more votes the incumbent needs to win the election, and the bigger the chance they can lose. If 100% of eligible voters vote, the winning candidate needs to have the support of at least 50% of the people. If only 50% of eligible voters in an electorate vote, the winning candidate only has to be supported by 25% of the population. If only 20% of the voters get out there and vote, the candidate needs 10% of the population voting for them to win. The more people get out there and vote, the higher the bar the candidates have to get over in order to win. Even if you’re in a gerrymandered district, and the incumbent is going to get over the bar anyway, you can at least hope they sprain their back doing so!

ESPECIALLY if you’re in a state which has voter ID restrictions, and you have the right ID. Voter ID is essentially an effort to restrict the voting population to those people who will support the status quo. As per my paragraph above, the fewer people are eligible to vote in a district, the fewer people the candidate has to appeal to in order to win the district. Voter ID laws try to restrict the population and knock down the difficulty level for the big candidates.

Even if you “don’t care about politics”. Politics is all around you. It’s in the air you breathe (whether that air is breathable is a political decision); it’s in the water you drink (whether you’re able to drink the water or not is a political decision); it’s in the food you eat; the job you work at; whether you can find a job or not. Politics is in everything, because politics is about power. The one guaranteed, non-criminal way you can affect things in the current system is by voting. So get out there and vote, and start regaining a bit of control over the world.

Even if you don’t think it matters. It matters, because you are taking back the power the politicians are given. Even if you don’t believe your vote will accomplish anything. Your vote on its own will not make much of a change, this is true. But it will accomplish more than not voting will.

Find your nearest polling place. Get out there and vote. The big boys with the big bucks don’t ask your opinion very often, but when they do you’re a fool to yourself and a menace to others if you let the chance go by without taking it.
megpie71: Avon looking unimpressed, caption "Bite Me" (bite me)
Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 08:33 am
The Abbott government has decided they're going to back down on their proposals to get jobseekers to look for up to forty jobs per month (10 jobs per week, double the current maximum). This is being greeted with sighs of relief in some quarters, and in others by comments along the line of "drop the other shoe, why don't you?". I'm one of the latter.

I'm one of the latter because, as I mentioned on the ABC's comments on the article yesterday, I remember the sighs of relief which accompanied their late-April announcement they weren't going to be seeking a $5 co-payment for GP visits... which turned to shrieks of outrage when they brought in plans for a $7 co-payment for GP visits instead. Now, the word is they've taken this step on receipt of community feedback, but the strong impression is the majority of the feedback they're listening to is from the business community - and the business community basically screamed blue murder about it because it would have meant they'd be inundated with job applications from people who were essentially seeking to meet their weekly targets, whether or not they were eligible for the jobs in question.

So let's be clear on this: the Abbott Liberal Government has not given up on plans to punish the unemployed for being unemployed, and they have not given up on the notion of making all forms of welfare more onerous and unpleasant than they already are - they are neo-liberal ideologues to a man (and woman), and they strongly believe being poor is something which intrinsically deserves punishment. There's already talk of extending income management, and making it a compulsory requirement for receiving welfare - or in other words, your welfare payment will come on a specified card, rather than being deposited into your bank account; it will only be able to be spent on certain things, and you will only be able to buy these things in certain locations; and if you aren't on state housing, it's unlikely your landlord is going to accept it as payment for your rent. They haven't backed down on the six month waiting period for people under the age of thirty, and they certainly haven't backed down on the notion of extending work for the dole.

Quite frankly, I'm still waiting on them bringing back the notion of workhouses.
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Monday, July 28th, 2014 08:43 pm
The latest bit of brilliance[1] on the part of our glorious[1] elected leaders is to continue doubling down on the unemployed. In the next edition of "the floggings will continue until unemployment decreases" thinking, there's a brilliant plan in the works to have the unemployed required to submit up to forty applications for jobs per month (ten applications per week), starting in July next year.

The current maximum rate is ten applications per fortnight, or one application per day.

On top of this, if you're between the ages of 18 and 30, you'll be required to sign up for 25 hours per week of work for the dole; if you're between 30 and 49, you'll be required to put in 15 hours a week; if you're over 50, you get to volunteer for it if you want to.

Have some references:

Unemployed to be forced to apply for 40 jobs a month as part of $5 billion dole overhaul

Industry concerned about Coalition's 40-job-applications-a month plan

Work for dole program to be expanded to include almost all jobseekers

Work For The Dole Doesn't Work And Never Has

Now, as I mentioned in my post of 25 JUN 2014, we're already seeing an increase in the experience required in order to get a job - it's gone up to an average of 2 - 5 years recent experience in role (or equivalent) since the budget in early May. I have a suspicion by July next year, we might be looking at a minimum of five to seven years recent experience in role to be considered. Or in other words "so much for working your way up the ranks".

The business community has already spoken up about this one, concerned they're going to be flooded with applications from people who are mainly concerned with getting together their numbers and meeting their targets. Already, employers have largely ceased replying to application letters unless you're a successfully short-listed candidate - a number of ads are saying explicitly that only short-listed candidates will be contacted. Or in other words, applying for these jobs is a bit like Don Marquis' lovely metaphor regarding publishing poetry in the US market - he compared that to dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon, and listening for the echo of it hitting bottom.

I find this depressing enough when I'm only required to apply for five jobs a fortnight.

One of the more interesting snarky suggestions on the Guardian's comments is sending regular applications and query letters to the offices of Liberal Party MPs and Senators. I'm strongly tempted, I must admit. Just write up a form letter, put together a brief database of names and addresses, and set the silly thing going on a weekly basis. I'd need fifteen candidates a week to bring me up to the level required for forty a month, and it'd be almost cathartic after another week of combing through jobs databases trying to find something suitable to apply for. Oh, and just think, they could bask in the warm glow of helping another Australian do their share of the "lifting" for the economy. What a pity I'm on the wrong side of the country to realistically send applications or query letters to Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Abetz[2].


[1] Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
[2] No, I'm not being sarcastic. I'd love to try out applying for a job in their offices anyway - and see how fast I get sacked for having left-wing political opinions. Maybe I could try a spin on the US Religious Right trick of suing them for discrimination, the same way anti-abortion types are trying to sue for the right to work in family planning organisations...
megpie71: Impossibility established early takes the sting out of the rest of the obstacles (Impossibility)
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 11:46 am
I have chronic endogenous unipolar depression. This is a technical medical term. Chronic means my depression is always there, as background noise in my life. Endogenous means there is no identifiable "reason" for my depression other than "my brain hates me and wants me to be miserable". Unipolar means I get major depressive downs, but I don't get manic highs.

Continued below the fold )

Employing me, or someone like me, requires a workplace which allows me to vary my workload in order to cope with the changing mental weather. It requires a workplace where my boss is going to accept me saying "I'm having a bad week at the moment; can I please not be put in customer-facing situations unless it's absolutely necessary" without either complaining, attempting to force me into situations I've said I'm ill-equipped to handle, or attempting to guilt me into performing according to their plans. It requires a workplace where I'm allowed to say "I'm feeling overloaded, can I go home?" (and where there's an acceptance this point may well occur twenty minutes into the working day). It requires a workplace where I don't feel required to meet the performance standards set by persons who don't have my rather interesting set of obstacles to performing at capacity. It requires, in short, a workplace which Western Capitalist society is profoundly ill-equipped to supply.
megpie71: Simplified bishie Rufus Shinra glares and says "The Look says it all" (ticked)
Friday, May 23rd, 2014 09:58 am
21 May:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/21/tony-abbotts-daughter-did-not-have-to-pay-for-60000-design-degree
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/21/liberal-donor-frances-abbott-degree-scholarship-tony-abbott-daughter
https://newmatilda.com/2014/05/21/leaked-documents-cast-doubt-abbotts-60k-scholarship-claims

22 May:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/22/former-classmates-angry-scholarship-abbotts-daughter

23 May:

https://newmatilda.com/2014/05/23/whitehouse-staff-register-reveals-no-role-frances-abbott

I've been following this as it surfaced in my feeds, and a couple of things which spring to mind:

1) Frances Abbott is as human as everyone else, which means when she sees what looks like a chance to get something for nothing, she'll grab it. Let's be honest - we'd all take the offer were it made to us. The problem is, as Frances is no doubt learning, there is no such thing as a genuine "something for nothing" offer. Everyone pays somehow. If you're getting "something for nothing" in terms of access to services, you're probably being asked to supply your information to the service provider in order for them to on-sell them to advertisers (as per Web 2.0 portals such as Facebook and Linkedin). In Frances' case, what she's paying with now is her self-respect - she's no doubt learning the stuff she got was basically aimed at getting her Dad on side, and not something she obtained through her own hard work and effort, and this apparently includes her job as well. I feel somewhat sorry for her, because through their political machinations, her father and his cronies have essentially reduced whatever level of talent she has for the work to nothing - a non-event, a sideshow. No matter how good her work is, she will always have this hanging over her head, and she will always be regarded as someone who got by on connections rather than ability.

That can't be easy for anyone.

2) Tony Abbott apparently has a deeply entitled attitude toward life, since he appears to have hit up this particular "donor" or "mate" on a regular basis for things like clothing (suits) and similar. I can't help but wonder how many people find a similar cost applied to their "friendship" toward him, and how many he's dropped like hot rocks along the way when they couldn't supply him with what he wanted.

3) Given this tale of an unprecedented scholarship being offered at this "no scholarships" institution to the child of a friend of a director, I find myself wondering whether this kind of thing won't become much more common for the children of politicians, company directors and similar in future, as our higher education becomes much more monetarized and cash-driven. It won't ever be named as "favours for friends", but instead we'll see the children of the Right People (self-defined) getting scholarships, intern-ships and similar through connections, while the rest of the group struggles along on effort.
megpie71: "Well, when I was a little girl, I thought I'd like to become a scientist, so I became a scientist" (feminism)
Friday, September 20th, 2013 08:23 am
Julian Burnside writes a very interesting response to the problem of hate mail and the sorts of vicious comments which are made to people who stand up for causes in public in The Conversation today.

His response was (to put it bluntly) fascinating. He chose to engage with those people who sent him hate mail over the asylum seeker issue, treating them as reasonable individuals, seeking to find out why they felt as they did. Oddly enough, by treating these people as though they were reasonable individuals, he discovered the vast majority of them were reasonable individuals, able to engage in civil discourse, and discuss a position calmly and in a considered fashion.

Which is great, but before people go around recommending that (particularly) women who are harassed and abused and trolled on the internet make efforts to discuss things civilly with their tormentors in an effort to bring them back to the path of light and reasonableness and politeness, let's just consider a few extraneous factors in the case. Firstly, Mr Burnside is male. He's white. He's a lawyer who is well-enough off to be able to afford to perform copious amounts of pro-bono work. All of these things mean he has privilege in our society. He is, in fact, extraordinarily privileged, with a high amount of social status.

All of this means if Mr Burnside goes to the police with, for example, a collection of abusive emails all emanating from the same email account, he's going to get a different reception than I did when I tried it. He's going to be treated with a lot more respect if he brings a screenshot of a tweeted death threat than, for example, Caroline Criado-Perez was when she brought the torrent of abuse she was handed to the attention of police. He'll get a more concerned and sympathetic reaction to someone publishing his address and other personal details online than, for example, Kathy Sierra did. If he's assaulted physically, the police will take this much more seriously than an assault on someone who is, for example, indigenous Australian.

Plus, of course, any abusive communications Mr Burnside receives are coming at him from a different angle to the ones received by women like me.

The abusive emails and letters Mr Burnside receives are examples of what I'd call "shouting up" - shouting up at the windows of the privileged from the street. The primary goal is to be heard, and to be taken seriously. A white man who sends an abusive email to Mr Burnside is hoping to catch Mr Burnside's ear, to be heard. When Mr Burnside does listen, and does engage with them, they're polite - they've achieved their aim, which is to begin a discussion.

By contrast, people who are identified as women, or people of colour online are abused for an entirely different set of reasons. Generally, this abuse is what could be termed "shouting down" - an attempt to silence the persons speaking up against the power dynamic in our society. A white man who sends an abusive email to a woman, or a person of colour, will generally react with rage and escalated abuse if they respond by attempting to engage, because this is precisely contrary to the intent of their action. They don't want to talk to us. They don't want to even HEAR us. They want us to shut up and go away and stay shut up, and stay away - and they'll keep up the torrent of abuse and harassment until the point sinks in.

Or, to put it even more bluntly: Mr Burnside receives abusive email when he speaks up on disputed topics. Women and people of colour receive abusive email when they speak.

So Mr Burnside's solution to the troll problem, while fascinating in its particular context, is not scalable to deal with the larger issue.
megpie71: Vincent Valentine pointing Cerberus toward the camera (BFG)
Monday, March 25th, 2013 08:32 am
(Or indeed to anyone else saying any of a number of victim-blaming things about the young woman who was raped by the rapists in question).

I've been reading a bit about the Steubenville rape event in various blogs and articles. Not too much - I'm not really in a psychological space where I can take the stress at the moment - but enough to get an idea of what's being said. I'm hearing an awful lot about the victim of this rape - about things she should have done, things she shouldn't have done, attitudes she should have held, behaviours she should have avoided. Things she could have done to avoid being raped, and thus avoided this whole mess coming to light, and "ruining" the lives and careers of two young men who apparently thought rape was a permissible thing, and bringing to light an entire town subculture wherein being part of the high school football team gives a person social licence to act as though the normal rules of society are not applicable.

The young woman in question was going to a high school party where members of the local high school football team (who were local heroes, and from what I can discover, practically deified in the local area) were going to be present. I sincerely doubt she thought of herself in context as "a sheep among the wolves". These were people she went to school with. People she attended classes with. People she knew. She most likely thought of herself, if anything, as a human being among other human beings.

She thought she was safe. She didn't know she wasn't safe. She found out AFTER THE EVENT she hadn't been safe.

How the bloody hells was she supposed to have known she'd be targeted for this sort of thing? How was she to know nobody would be looking out for her? She thought these people were her friends. She thought, more importantly, she was their friend, that she mattered to them. She found out, sadly, she wasn't their friend, and they weren't her friends, in the worst possible way.

And victim-blaming strangers say "she should have known better than to get drunk in the presence of rapists". SHE DIDN'T FUCKING KNOW SHE WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF RAPISTS, YOU SELF-IMPORTANT FOOLS!. She thought she was in the presence of friends.

Now, I learned at a very young age I couldn't trust other people to be looking out for me. I learned at a very young age if someone said they wanted to be my friend, they were most likely either attempting to lull me into a false sense of security, or trying to trick me outright. I learned I can't trust other people to stand up for me, to stand by me, or to take my side.

I know I'm broken.

But I'm broken in possibly the only way that might have protected this young woman from what happened to her. If she'd been broken in the same way I'm broken, she probably would have been suspicious of an invitation to such a party. She would have either said no outright, or more likely she would never have been asked to the party in the first place (because the kinds of bullies who are adept at setting up victims get pretty good at recognising the ones who won't take the bait).

You know what? I wouldn't wish my brokenness on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But you seem to think this is a necessary and vital state for all young women who want to be able to avoid rape.

I'm broken. I'm unable to function as a social animal, because I can't trust people. I'm able to fake it for a bit, but I will never let people close to me. I'm broken, and I'm child free by choice, and I've made the deliberate decision that my line of brokenness stops with me, because I know I'm not capable of functioning as a parent or a caregiver. I'm constantly depressed, I'm constantly miserable. I wake up every morning and my first thought every morning is "oh damn, I'm still not dead".

And you seem to think my state is somehow a desirable and necessary one for other people to be in, so they can avoid being raped.

From the depths of my misery, I LOATHE you.
megpie71: Avon standing in front of Zen's dome, caption "Confirmed" (confirmed)
Friday, October 19th, 2012 07:12 am
To be honest, I'm not surprised Alan Jones has had to go to Journalism school. What should be surprising people is that this man got a job as a broadcaster without having any journalism training in the first place. Mr Jones previous history (as per Wikipedia) is as an English teacher, a rugby coach, a parliamentary speech writer, and an unsuccessful conservative politician. There's indications he was very successful as a rugby coach (it's what he got his MAO for, after all) but aside from this, most of his paid employment since approximately 1974 has been as a result of his connections in the Liberal and National (formerly Country) parties.

He used to be a columnist for the Sun-Herald (but lost the job after publishing a column which was pretty much a straight lift from a Frederick Forsyth novel without bothering to attribute his sources - the other staff at the newspaper campaigned to have him removed as a result).

Alan Jones was never a journalist. He was never trained as a journalist. He should never have been taken seriously as a journalist. He's a demagogue. Simple as that.

Sources and Resources:

http://theconversation.edu.au/a-very-naughty-parrot-acma-sends-alan-jones-back-to-school-10212 - The Conversation
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-18/alan-jones-ordered-to-do-journalism-training/4320534 - ABC.Net.au
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jones_%28radio_broadcaster%29 - Wikipedia page on Jones
http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/business/media-2/alan-jones-greatest-hits/ - Independent Australian
http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_600069 - ACMA media release about the conditions they've put on 2GB.