Rocket's Gorgeous in the City

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Airport biometrics and national ID card

An hour ago, Amanda Vanstone announced biometric security at Sydney Airport and snuck in a mention that a national ID card with fingerprints on it would be a jolly good idea. (Source)

Thankyou Comrade Vanstone! Now it will be a little bit harder for people to speak out against our Glorious Leaders in an UnAustralian manner!

This country is getting ever more ridiculous. Already our government and police have far too much power over our freedom of conscience.

In Soviet Australia, leaders vote for YOU.


One thing that bugs me about biometric security is that they have no idea what to do with that information - they just want it "in case". There is no good use for it! It's not "secure" and it's not useful - just one more thing to use to harass darkies with beards or funny hats.

Checking a police record to make sure a person's ID is legit is a great idea. If you think a person should enter the country on a valid passport, then by all means check the international database of passports to make sure this one's good.

But a national ID card is a really weird idea. I was very young during the Soviet Union days, but I remember grown-ups saying stuff along the lines of "You need to have an ID card and hand it over at any time and if you don't have it they can take you away" - everyone was glad to bring Russia the freedom to be anonymous. Also, "You aren't allowed to criticise the government and if you do they take you away" was often heard - criticism is considered suspicious behaviour here too.

And the Australian police already have the ability to quietly take you away.

In a police state, the government has more power than the people electing them - the "democratic" system begins to resemble feudal government with the occasional "vote" that is more of a frightened "Yes, glorious leader, you're just the greatest!"

Feudal systems can work if the king is good but of course there's always the possibility that the peasants may be left without bread and regularly beaten. Same goes here - our government has created a police state and then said "It's OK - we're benevolent dictators and not ever going to use the power we insisted on having. Of course you can't have that written into the Constitution! Don't you trust us?"

I'm assuming they're just confused. They've got a lot of silly technical stuff taking up their time and the beurocracy doesn't really advise them on these matters. So why not help them to understand all the issues by writing to them?

Your representative will be pleased to take your concern to Parliament.
Your Senator will be delighted to inform the country of the problems with current law.
Amanda needs edumacating.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Reward yourself

There's not enough research into stress and how we can benefit from doing things that feel good.

If there is, I'm quite cranky that it's not published in the science magazines alongside reports on obesity and depression. We're happy to medicate these problems, but seeing them as part of a deeper syndrome of joyless existence is too difficult.

Face it, if you're eating for comfort or pleasure until your heart gives out, then you've got a lack of whichever emotion you're trying to fill.

I've certainly had my share of experience with depression - for me it was part of the postnatal experience, but the seeds were already sewn.

When I was wound up really tight, I couldn't relax into a bubble bath. I had a beautiful big bath, with spa jets and a bathroom full of various floral and fruit scented bubble bath lotions, but I didn't feel right just settling down like that.

I couldn't enjoy my meals. I'd worry about whether I was eating enough, then if I caught myself enjoying it and wanting more, I'd just shovel it in, trying to distract myself with a book or just general despair.

I lost my will to feel simple pleasure. In fact, I began to dread it.

I also feared doing anything that might make my life better. There might have been a streak of perfectionism involved - the idea that I wasn't good enough to deserve to even try to do something I might be good at and succeed in.

There's so much you can do to stop all of this from happening!

The first step is to give yourself permission to enjoy things. And to stop doing things you don't enjoy. If that sounds like the opposite of your problem, consider that people who enjoy sweets really only enjoy the first mouthful or two. The French love their desserts and have one at every meal - but it's just one petit four. I love coffee but I drink espresso. The point is to enjoy a little rather than hating a lot.

So go ahead - enjoy a good meal! Prepare it or go to a restaurant and sit down. Eat it slowly while sitting down. When you stop enjoying it, stop eating it.

Pamper yourself - have a bubble bath or take a few minutes to rub some lotion into your skin. These little indulgences can take from a few minutes to an hour, but in the long run you'll be feeling less stress.

Another way to start feeling better about yourself is to take up a hobby that involves learning something or gaining some benefit.

Why not try exercise? You can jog, swim, cycle, row, fight, climb, or begin a programme of yoga or pilates. Dancing counts as exercise too.

If you're musically inclined, you might go to lessons or just pick up and play with the instrument you haven't touched for 10 years. You can write songs for your sweetheart, listen to opera or go to the ballet.

The arts have plenty to offer. I write, so I can definitely recommend that! Also consider theatre, painting (get a canvas and some student acrylic from your local art shop - wear a beret if you think they'll realize you're not an artist and snigger), scrapbooking (there are classes everywhere or just get a bunch of stuff marked photo-safe and go for it!), knitting (scarves and patchwork blankets will do very well), or even something more ambitious like pottery or woodwork.

So much for long-term benefit. There's also the matter of finding little things that will help you through those moments of intense stress when you're likely to start doubting yourself all over again. Although you can lift your mood by doing good things, you can't expect moments of doubt to ever go away - they happen to everyone and you need to find ways of dealing with them. There are times when you'll have a few minutes and other times when you'll have a few seconds, so you might try different methods and see what works in your lifestyle.

Meditation is often an option. You'll probably need to go to a class or at least read a very good book, but depending on the style of meditation, you can try variations on these sorts of things: focusing on relaxing your body and slowing your breathing, noticing every thought that enters your mind and acknowledging then dismissing them, thinking about something beautiful or a happy memory, repeating a single word or phrase - can be meaningful or random and might change with the situation.

Try a short walk or a stretch. I have a favourite yoga routine - a warmup that only takes half a minute but stretches everything out. I always feel better as my muscles stretch out and relax. Walking or running is a similar principle. The other aspect of an exercise as a stress-lifter is that you'll do a lot of deep breathing - if you don't exercise then just circle your shoulders or neck and take a deep breath.

Remember that somebody loves you. This assumes that somebody loves you, but that's probably fair. Think of your mum, your best friend, your pet puppy, your girlfriend or boyfriend and feel good.

These are just some simple ideas to help bring the joy back into life.

Please take a moment to share how you enjoy yourself or what you do when it all gets too much. "Rocket is a depressed teenager and for just a minute of your advice, she may begin to feel meaning....improve her blog quality..." you get the idea. Except that I haven't been a teenager for a little while.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Cocaine

This week Kate Moss' already shaky reputation has been dragged through the mud all over again. A newspaper claims to have a video of her with her boyfriend. In the alleged video, Kate pulls out a big bag of cocaine and they snort it up. The newspaper article shows pictures and gives a transcript of the video.

Kate Moss has fascinated me for a long time. She became famous for being featured in a fashion shoot in which she played the part of a smacked out, androgynous, malnourished yet somehow glamourous human coathanger. Because she is not just skinny but just tiny, the newspapers and television media wouldn't give her a moment of peace, commenting on her low weight, miniscule measurements and gaunt featues.

Actually, the gauntness was painted on. The truth about Kate Moss is that she's very plain ... not actually ugly but certainly not pretty either. She's like a perfect version of an extraordinarily unremarkable female body. She was chosen as a specialty model for a concept that was about fashion, not beauty, and would have faded into obscurity (too short to really be successful as a catwalk model, too plain for photos) if not for the controversy.

Kate basically ignores fashion when off-duty. Her hobo style has influenced the current "boho" trends that see women draping mismatched, ill-fitting garments over themselves and adding a few doodads. At work, Kate has shown there's little she won't do for money - she frequently appears in fur.

Kate's boyfriend, with whom she appears in the alleged video, is a junkie. Or rather everyone says he is and he doesn't call libel. He's been caught with heroin and cocaine. Kate has often been accused of taking lots of drugs, but nobody's ever been able to prove anything - if she does, somebody's making sure she's not caught.

So what's the fascination with Kate Moss? If she's just an unattractive cokehead whose 15 minutes are over, why do we keep thinking about her? What's the missing factor?

The fact is that fashion loves plain women. Plain women can be painted up as fashion requires - they're the equivalent of a simple blank canvas. A pretty woman can only look like herself - useful for a particular look, but quickly obsoleted. Fashion also loves an androgynous figure. No lumps or bumps or curvy bits, please. The point of catwalk models is to be walking coathangers. If models start having shape, desners will need to consult heavily with the models before the show to ensure the clothes look good on the models. But fashion is not about showing a dress that makes the model look good - it's about showing a dress that looks good. The model is usually painted up to look unhuman!

Another reason for Kate's celebrity is that she looks so normal. She resembles every girl at your local high school or office (well not the pretty ones, they have distinctive features) - she embodies the concept of "no one in particular". If you passed her on the street you wouldn't notice her. That's very compelling for two reasons. First, women are fascinated by the idea that someone so normal can become such a phenomenon, and second, when she goes through rough times, it's so much closer to home. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez have big hair and impossible apparent features due to clever surgery (OK, alleged surgery, but she did not look that way before) and makeup. In a sense, Lopez is not a real person any more - she's larger than life and somehow not quite human. We watch her career knowing it's all a big show, not really thinking of her as a person. Kate Moss is alarmingly real. She may be worth millions of dollars, but she usually appears with flat hair, often looking tired or harassed, and she clearly has trouble understanding her celebrity even after all these years.

Kate Moss is not a healthy role model for young women to emulate, and as the media keep telling us, we really shouldn't try to be like her. She's not pretty and has a desperately unsexy body. Her lifestyle is unhealthy. Yet, she continues to be a role model for imperfect women in an imperfect world. We hope to learn from her experience rather than copy it.

Kate has our sympathy. Actually, that's the basis for her entire career.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Blokes' World

There's a nice big conference on for guys, organized by the TV show Blokes' World. As I've had the radio on in the evenings the last two days, I've heard all about it. There's a movement to shut down the few exhibitions that could be considered quite degrading to women, such as lingerie pillow fights and topless bull-riding.

You know, it's not wrong that men find women sexy. It's the way they're built. If you've got a sex drive, you're going to have sexy thoughts about someone and that's a sign everything's functioning correctly.

What we women object to is that we are often treated as though sex is the only defining aspect of our personality.

If a pretty girl smiles at a man and he feels sexy, he'll think she's flirting. If her friend makes the same approach, without the veil of testosterone, he might correctly interpret her behaviour as being friendly, or indeed even professional-polite. (I mean, you don't scowl at your colleagues!)

Here in Canberra, home of Summernats, each Summer, we're visited by men who yell "Show us ya tits!"

I had no idea that was the thing to do at Summernats - I thought they were just stupid and figured it was worth a try.

I won't show them my "tits" because to do so says that I'm happy to gratify these disrespectful idiots (nobody's ever said please) and I'm not!

My attitude to Blokes' World is similar.

I understand that it's all in good fun. I know they aren't going to go out afterwards and rape anyone. They might be a bit sexually "agressive" in the night-club setting, but given that it's socially part of the package of going to a nightclub, it's not really wrong.

I don't think the activities should be banned, but if the show were nearby, I'd ask to go and set up a stall too. My message would be this:

I'm often asked to model for men. I refuse. I won't accept money to endorse commercial products, and I don't want people I know professionally to think of me lustfully or as a body to be hired (depending on what the modelling job was). I'd happily model for an artist if I liked the art - but it's only happened for one artist ever.

I dye my hair because people see me as a blonde and think I'm all sex, but with short dark hair they experience me as a young, attractive, ambitious, friendly student. I'm sad that I have to change my appearance to get this respect and that it costs me so much money and time! But I won't stop - it would just be stupid to insist on being blonde when I can make one little change that will improve my life so much.

Women understand that horny men who we work with think of us sexually. We understand and appreciate when you notice how we look. But we ask that you please be polite about it and not put us in a position where we have to respond to your attention. Flirting at work can be fun, but many women would rather it was the same friendly chit-chat that you have with male colleagues, or find it harmless in small or mild doses but uncomfortable when it starts to resemble solicitation - even if you're totally casual about it.

Finally, please don't be vulgar. I might think "show us your tits" is hilarious and be happy to pillowfight in lingerie for the joy of being fought by an equally gorgeous girl also in lingerie. But you really should try to guage whether I'm likely to be offended by that before you start on about it. This isn't just female sesitivity - it's ordinary respect of the fact that people have different cultural norms.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Good Wife's Guide

Most of us think we know all about being a good wife and how horrible it is. We're not at all interested in submitting ourselves to our men in the way suggested by the (possibly not real) 1955 article.

If you haven't read the original, have a look at it - Snopes has an image of the article and the textbook quote at http://www.snopes.com/language/document/goodwife.htm but if the URL ever goes dead, you will be able to dig it up by searching for "good wife's guide" on Google or whatever search engine you use.

Most people look at the Good Wife's Guide with horror. We think about how liberated we are and are disgusted and dismayed at the idea that our entire life is supposed to revolve around our husband's relaxation after his difficult day at his job thingy. Is this how Nanna lived? Collecting her husband's pipe and slippers, making sure the house was tidy, preparing a delicious meal a day ahead and generally thinking only of her duties and his desires? I'd rather work as a maid and return home as an equal than be indentured to a husband! And maybe I could be more - an engineer, a businesswoman, a doctor...

You know, re-reading this article, I think many women have missed the lessons to be learnt. My nanna never submitted to her husband for one second! And he was a VERY dominating man. She prepared the meals, sure, but Pa prepared the table and chairs they were eaten at, and never expected any of that pipe and slippers nonsense. So what made their relationship work? What can I learn from Nanna while keeping my self respect in the age of the married professional woman?

Here follows the Good Wife's Guide 50-year retrospective. It's been rephrased and reworked for a modern woman as a tool of good rather than evil, as a method of flattery rather than of submission... and I hope it's done again in another 50 years, reflecting new uses of language and developments in psychology

*The only way to change your relationships is by changing yourself. You can't possibly change the other person, although you can certainly give him the example that may inspire him to change. The Good Wife's 50-year retrospective focuses on things you can do that your husband will respond to... show him what a great wife you are, and encourage him to be an equally great husband.

*After a hard day's work, you and your husband will want a good dinner. Rather than each of you picking away uncertain of what you'll eat, you should encourage a routine of eating a healthy and delicious meal together. If you plan in advance, you or your husband can start cooking straight away, then you'll be able to look forward to enjoying the dinnertime as a couple. Taking responsiblity for the cooking when you are able, or for arranging a take-away meal when you're both busy is a great way to keep your husband on track with this routine. It's also good fun.

*Putting effort into your appearance encourages your husband to feel good about seeing you.

*Put on a happy face for each other. If you keep bringing joy into his life, he'll be happier when he's around you.

*Make an effort to keep your environment pretty. If are first to arrive home, then spend a few minutes clearing the clutter. If you're both professionals who work all day, you must get a cleaner to wipe and dust. Make the bed first thing in the morning, and generally make an effort to pick things up. A clean house isn't going to make your life better, but a messy house just makes you both feel bad - and it's certainly not worth fighting over!

*When it's winter, a cosy spot makes it all worthwhile. It makes home feel like a retreat. You can snuggle up with a hot water bottle or blanket, but nothing beats a fire and a beanbag. The most practical and enjoyable heaters are natural gas ones that look like they burn real wood. The best ones are so real your friends will ask how you get it open and where you keep your wood-pile.

*If you've got children, try to pretty them up for arrivals and departures. Have them wash before and after meals or have a no dirty clothes at the dinner table rule. Untidy children are a fact of life, but you shouldn't encourage it! Everyone likes cute, well presented children.

*Washing machines and all manner of noisy household items are a fact of life, but when you're having family relaxing time, they shouldn't be on. Put them on during the day when you're all at work or even at night after dinner when you've got a video on.

*However stressful the events in your own life, you'll always get a better response from your husband if he thinks of you as that wonderful woman who makes him happy. So don't make a habit of crying over your husband every time you see him - instead think about how glad you are to see him. Also try to remember that he's often more interested in his own problems than yours, just as you're more interested in your problems than his... so be patient with him, let him talk first, and be good company, then he'll be so much more relaxed and have more energy for you and those horrible people and how they treated you!

*Sometimes your husband doesn't want to be with you. He might be working or he might be out having a social evening with friends. If his family life and home are enjoyable and supportive, then you've nothing to worry about. Indeed, you should probably enjoy your own time at activities your husband isn't into, and get to know your friends as an individual.

*Your home is your castle, your cave, your temple. It should feel safe, happy, fulfilling. It should be a place of calm and joy.

*If your husband is acting strangely, don't attack him for it. He's probably already feeling really crappy and if he's not sharing, he probably wants to feel safe and secure.

*There's nothing like getting spoilt! To spoil your husband, give him a chair or a lie-down, a drink, take off his shoes... and he'll just melt!

*Questioning your husband on his actions is still a bad idea, even though he isn't considered master of the house any more. Instead, you should discuss the way you want your life to be and make sure you agree on your core values. If he is out of line with the agreed policy, you'll have much more success with sympathy and forgiveness than you will with criticism and condemnation.

*A good wife knows when to back off from a fight. Domestic arguments only produce losers, never winners. If you want something and he disagrees, don't argue about it, but rather respect him if he has a good reason to disagree or if he's just being argumentative, ask nicely later, outside the context of the argument.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Learning to exercise

I've just arrived home from a jog in the park. Although I've never been unfit and always loved to move, you could never say I was one for exercise. But for the benefit of my readers, I'm willing to try an exercise programme and share the results.

I decided to start exercise because it's the only way I have to tell my body "do better". I would like to gain some strength and endurance, and I really want to improve my appearance. I chose jogging because it's great for my legs and thighs and because I can do it for free in the park at the bottom of the street.

I often feel uncomfortable jogging in the park because I'm no good at it. I've tried to start so many times and decided I'd rather not because people are out with their dogs. I decided to push past that today. I didn't see many people, which helped, but I need to remember that I don't know these people so it doesn't matter what they think. Even if I did see someone I know, that person would probably be pleased to see me out running!

I did a small loop and then ran out of breath. As I slowed down to a walk, I noticed that my body was tingling. I had this sensation a few times while I was out. I guess it's my body getting used to the oxygen flowing through to my muscles. It went away after a while and I started to feel more peaceful and confident. This must have been those "endorphins" I heard about.

I only spent about half the time really running - otherwise I just walked normally. The point of exercise is to move beyond my comfort zone, and my heart was thumping away the whole time, so I was pleased with my efforts.

After about 25 minutes I got a "stitch" and had to go home. Everyone's had this at some point. It's a cramp in the abdomen caused by the unusual oxygen levels in the muscle. When I placed my hand over the part of my abdomen where the pain was, I could feel the muscle spasm. It was only a mild pain and it cleared up after a few minutes.

Another problem for me was the discomfort of perspiring. I don't usually get very sweaty, so it was a bit weird to arrive home with sweat on my face and body. I think it smells bad, but as I've been straight to work on this piece, I haven't had the opportunity to think about it, so I guess it's not that bad!

Overall, I'd say the exercise was challenging and made me feel different - not good or bad. I can understand how people get accustomed to exercise, and I look forward to tomorrow's run. Part of me wants to get back out there, but I've had my 25 minutes today so I've probably done enough.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Power dressing for business success

I just hate the way women are dressing themselves these days. Women have never had anything to wear to work. You can wear a dress, a suit (usually sans tie), a skirt-suit, a vest, pinstripes, the list goes on and you'll never be sure you're doing it right. Here in Canberra, the home of the red shirt/blue tie public service fashion, women go to all sorts of trouble to dress badly.

I blame magazines. The writers for Cosmo are always going on about the cool things they wear to work and how trendy they are. They put together spreads suggesting a colourful skirt, an unusually cut top (in the latest mode) and dozens of accessories make suitable office wear.

It's not that the clothes themselves are ridiculous - although I think most of them are. It's just that they create such a bad impression at work, that anyone wearing them is just begging to not be taken seriously.

First of all, these styles suggest a youthful attitude - they're geared towards teenagers and grown-ups who want the carefree lifestyle of teenagers. Frivolous clothes are fun because they are frivolous. But if you're going to dress frivolously at work, your colleagues have every reason to assume that you have a frivolous attitude towards your work.

If you're young, wearing party clothes at work says "I'm very young and really haven't stopped partying yet." Your boss will be much more interested in the girl across the hall who looks serious at work. She doesn't display any particular signs of being a party girl (even if she is) and thus seems more reliable.

The next thing to realize is that fad items tend to be cheaper than well-designed classic items. Unless you're spending thousands of dollars on top-name boutiques, chances are you're getting your fad items at low quality. They look cheap. Fad items are always made out of cheap, transparent or blatantly plastic, shiny fabric, with a very low-effort finish. They often have something scrawled on them...

Dressing in cheap clothes says something about you. Dressing in expensive clothes made on the cheap says about the same thing, so don't get the wrong message here. If you dress in badly finished clothes, you are not grooming yourself very well. Your clothes should fit well and be of a good quality. Your appearance at work is a matter of grooming, and grooming is a way of showing everyone just how important you are. Having clothes that don't fit or drape strangely, hanging from the collarbone and blooming out at the waist, for example, only tells your colleagues that you don't respect yourself enough to appear neat and tidy for work. And if you don't respect yourself, why should they?

Fads are here to stay, but when you're at work, it's important to keep them in perspective. If the fad is for polka dots, then you can probably wear a well-fitting polka-dot dress or shirt, depending on just how serious the workplace is. But if the fad is for polka-dot mini-skirts or a transparent fabric or a big silly flower, then just save it for the weekend. You're not at work to show your colleagues how trendy you are - and you're certainly not there to be sexy! If you want to make an impression, impress them with your grooming and neatness.

To finish, I want to remind you not to over-accessorize. A big plastic bangle is still just a piece of plastic, even if you are stupid enough to pay $35 for it. And while it might suit your navy slacks, you must remember that less is more! Otherwise, you're only going to look like a little girl playing dress-ups, adorning herself with every bangle, string of beads and hair-clip in the dress-ups box.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Yoga for fun and health

The origins of yoga are set in mythology. It is said that there was a beautiful princess who didn't want her beauty to fade. So she summoned the wisest men to create a way for her to remain beautiful and they created yoga.

Yoga help you be more than beautiful - because it cleanses and clarifies the body, it is an important factor in your health and vitality. Yoga can give you the energy you need to get through your day, and the more demanding stretches and balances can give your heart a great deal of stimulation.

Of course yoga isn't just a 15 minute exercise. You'll need to work at it every day. The good news is that it's not very long before you can't live without it. I've tried so many forms of exercise that were just no fun! Running, swimming, cycling... they each have their appeal, but would you say you looked forward to them? I don't... Dancing and inline skating have their appeal, but the exercise is not the attraction - I just happen to love moving to music and the freedom of life on four wheels.

With yoga, from the moment you start your first stretch, you can feel it doing you good. As an example, try a head roll. Sit or stand perfectly straight and breathe deeply. You'll probably feel better after just a few of those. Then, when you're ready, let your head slowly fall forward until your back muscles are stretching out. Continue to breathe deeply. Slowly inhale as you roll to one side. Continue inhaling as you let it fall slowly backwards. Then, breathing in, lift it back up to the opposite shoulder and let it roll forwards. Stretching feels amazing! It stimulates and removes toxins from your muscles and gives you energy. In a sense, it's like a massage.

I believe the best way to stay gorgeous is to stay healthy. So I avoid animal products and drugs. I exercise gently every day, using a combination of yoga and other activities such as sit-ups and squats... although yoga has options for this sort of exercise also.

To get involved in yoga, you can practice at home with a book or video - Vimla Lilvani gives excellent descriptions of the correct way to practice the exercises. Or you can join a class at your local gym. Many gyms let you join their classes without needing to purchase time on the machines, or you may choose to join a gym that gives you access to everything for a single fee.

Alternatives to yoga include Pilates - which is all about looking good and hybrid programmes (my old gym ran "Yogalates"), and some other more athletic programmes that include some good stretching components in the hour.

Enjoy your yoga! And remember to take it slowly, because your body is doing something new and although it's quite rewarding, you don't want to give your system a shock.