Tag Archives: thoughts



I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood collection (containing Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago), and I’ve been thinking about alienness, specifically how we react to things that are very different to our experience or how we’d actually react if aliens arrived tomorrow.  This post was also partly inspired by e.smith’s post, “I can’t help myself, it’s innate” and by my girlfriend’s reaction to slaters.

A small, multilegged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae
A slater, a small, multi legged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae. Photo credit: Joe Buckingham*

So, after reading Dawn, I thought about whether or not I’d be repulsed by aliens or scared by them, and I thought about all the science fiction I’ve watched and over the years, and all the weird and wonderful creatures I’ve watched on nature documentaries and how I react to seeing something for the first time.  I’ve had conversations with my husbands (yes that is plural and it is not a typo) about what we’d do if spaceships hovered over the city (I’d run to the hills, they’d want to stay and watch).  My initial reaction to new and different things is caution.  If I found a creature that I’d never seen before, I’d watch it before deciding whether or not to touch or interact with it.  I’m not likely to know if a creature is going to sting me, bite me, poison me, spit at me or any other defensive reaction.  In the event of aliens hovering over my city (a la Independence Day – terrible movie, but fits this scenario well), I’m going to want to wait and watch and see if I’m likely to be harmed before approaching something new… so in that way, I understand Lilith’s reaction to the aliens, though without the corresponding fear – mostly because I haven’t experienced a true level of alienness.

And I wonder, does the fact that I have been exposed to science fiction since I was old enough to start remembering TV (Dr Who to begin with), mean that my reaction to an alien, if I ever come across one, is going to be different to someone who hasn’t been exposed to as much science and speculative fiction.  In most SF, aliens are taken as given, and it’s rare that a human panics when they first come across one, and they’re either on the side of humans or against them – depending on which story is being told.  Will that influence me, make me cautious instead of scared?

It’s an interesting train of thought, and one clearly I’m unlikely to tease out further in my lifetime – what with the current lack of aliens wandering around.  It’s also not something that many current SF writers (that I have read – please provide suggestions below if you know of any others) are addressing currently – that being how humans would react if aliens turned up tomorrow and were not evil.  District 9 put aliens in a slum and otherwise generally ignored them.  Galaxy Quest had a couple of characters faint, but generally the cast of the TV show got on with saving the universe, with help from some fans.  Babylon 5 only briefly touches on earth’s first contact with aliens, specifically the Centari who lied to them about them being distant relatives, but no mention of mass panic.  Many stories have a government or secret organisation out to kill the alien, but everyone else harbours it and keeps it safe.

I’m enjoying Lilith’s Brood, and am most of the way through Iago now.  The ideas and issues identified by Butler in the series are as fresh and current as when she wrote them.  I do recommend the books to anyone who hasn’t yet read them.

*Joe Buckingham’s Flickr link here

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Tropics below Capricorn

[I’d like to state at the very beginning of this post that I am having a small whine.  I, unlike Queenslanders who have been affected by the floods, have a roof over my head and haven’t lost family, friends, belongings, pets, or my house.  If you want to donate to the Queensland flood relief fund go here]

For the past few days, I haven’t been living in Melbourne, well I have, I’ve been living back in the tropics.  The warm nights and warm days, with very high humidity have put me in mind of my time on Christmas Island versus living in Melbourne.  My tiles are covered in condensation, meaning we have towels all over the place, my carpet is damp (and smells of wet sheep or carpet depending on your point of view) and the humidity level inside the house are currently at 98% (only slightly below being immersed in water (this is a joke)).

My back garden (have I mentioned that we’re situated on clay soil?) has taken as much water in as it can, and has flooded into the garage, so for an hour after I returned from the gym we bailed out the back yard, moved stuff that shouldn’t get wet in the garage higher, tried to seal the garage against further inundation, swept excess water from the garage, and then bought cat litter for the poor kittens who don’t want to go to the toilet in a lake.

This La Niña, although successfully having broke the drought for much of Australia, has been incredibly destructive.  My parents have had their property flooded twice, and this time they’ve evacuated because the reservoir upstream from them is above capacity and the Government is concerned about downstream residents.  I’m wondering how many of us want the drought back.

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My favourite colour

I don’t remember the year it was when I decided I no longer liked pink.  I do remember that it was a definite decision, and that pink was not a colour I should like.  Pink was passé, all the girls liked it, and I did not want to be like anyone else.

I lay back on the trampoline, under the leafy green trees (so it was probably sometime in Spring when being outside in Alice Springs wasn’t a bad move), and pondered what my new favourite colour would be.  I looked at the various greens around me, the greens of the trees, the green of the grass and thought that green was too commonplace to be my favourite colour.  I thought about the browns of the bark on the trees, the tan colour of the sawdust used as mulch and the decaying leaves under the trampoline and again decided that browns were too commonplace to be my favourite colour.  Then I looked up, through the trees and saw the sky.  It was a perfect sky blue, and a colour that was not represented anywhere else, so I decided that was different enough to be my favourite colour, and it became so.

So for a long time sky blue was my favourite colour – which is nice because it is actually a range of blues, from the almost white blue near the sun through to the deep midnight blue of the sky at the end of twilight.  And now it’s a blend of purple and blue, oddly enough a colour I was lucky enough to find in one pair of underpants (which I purchased instantly).

A purple blue
A purple blue

Pretty much the colour just here.  The colour shift started with my decision to make my birth stone (amethyst) my favourite gem stone (at the time it was really difficult to find amethyst jewellery – how things have changed), and I’ve always stayed on the blue side of purple, because pink is not cool.

Looking back it seems a little odd to me that I deliberately went out and chose to be different (though in Alice Springs difference was tolerated unlike Bendigo to which we later moved), though on the other hand, I should thank my parents for bringing me up to rebel, question, be independent and with sufficient confidence to be different (most of the time – the confidence not the being different which was pretty much all the time).

Did you choose your favourite colour or did it just happen?  Does your favourite colour have a story behind it?

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Science Fiction women who kick arse

NOTE: This post will be discussing female science fiction characters and their roles.  Therefore they may be spoilers for those who haven’t seen these shows/films.  It will also be discussing violence which may be triggering.

I was thinking today about Kara Thrace, better known as Starbuck, from the remake of Battlestar Galactia (of which I’ve only watched the first season), and the episode Flesh and Bone from season one in which she oversees/participates in the torture of a Cylon spy.  And I was thinking that typically women tend to fill the same gender roles in science fiction as they’re expected to in current day society, and those that don’t tend to be on the receiving end of a lot of hate.

I don’t condone violence, but I know that I’m fully capable of it if I thought that it was required.  I don’t think that torture is actually a way to get information from anyone, but I can understand the desperation that existed in that episode for another woman (the President) to order the Cylon to be tortured.  I do not condone torture in any way, I want to make that REALLY clear.

Continue reading Science Fiction women who kick arse

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It’s now 2011, and probably is now across most of the globe.  After a chat with my sister earlier today and reading a tweet from MyMilkSpilt which said:

This NYE do yourself a big favour: don’t resolve to lose weight. Set activity & home-cooking goals instead, if you wanna ‘get healthy’!

I thought I’d write down my resolutions for this year.  I’m trying to make relatively concrete resolutions about things that I am able to control.  The happiness of others, for example, is not something I can control, so won’t be on my list of things that I’d like to achieve/happen this year.

  1. Cook more often – I cooked a lot last year, more than I have other years and consequently I ate a whole lot less take-away than previous years.  I want to continue this into 2011, because I’m an awesome cook and I really love cooking.  I know I’m privileged by both being able to cook and generally having time to cook (as well as a partner who will also take turns in cooking).  I will also attempt to learn more recipes and cuisines.  I had fun exploring Moroccan last year and this year perhaps I should try something else as well.
  2. Exercise – Last year was up and down regarding exercise with time, health, stress and dramas getting in the way.  This year I want to get to the gym twice a week (at least) and to walk more and climb more stairs.  I do actually like being active and the way my body feels (after the initial shock).  So more of that please.
  3. Travel – I will travel to places this year that I have not been to (and places that I have, and really like).  I have rough plans to travel to Byron Bay and the UK, so will travel with an open mind, a willingness to have fun, and understanding that things don’t always go as planned.
  4. Writing – I plan to blog more, and not always write long, detailed and deconstruction posts, but just quick short ones pointing out things that interest me, annoy me, or have made me think.  I might even participate in NaNoWriMo this year to write out the novel that is forming in my head (or another one if I finish that one first).
  5. Believe in me – I’m going to spend more of this year (than I did last year) believing that I am entirely capable of what most people believe I am… well the positive things…. the negative things will not be listened to.

I hope that 2011 is far, far, far more awesome for everyone than 2010.  Do you have any new year resolutions that you’d like to share?

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2010 – the year in review

2010 has been a really tough year for people I love and care about, and for me (but to a lesser extent).  I don’t know many people who’ve had a great year, there seems to be an unfortunate coincidence in my social circle of unhappy people, broken relationships, job stress, relationship stress, study stress, health stress and money stress.  If I was asked to nominate the worst years in my life, this year would rank in the top 5 of crap years (which makes me instantly think over the other 4 crap years – how depressing).

So instead, I’m going to focus on the good things – because even though there were some hard, dark and miserable moments this year, there were also some really fantastic moments.  This post is inspired by a conversation I had on Christmas Day with a friend I don’t talk to nearly often enough, who related to me his three best moments of 2010 in order to change focus from the negatives of the year to the positives.  I’d like to share with you my (at least) three most positive moments of 2010, moments that were life-changing, heartening or just plain awesome (I know, I set the bar low don’t I?).

One: James and I recently spent a weekend away in Bright.  Everything was perfect (all things considered).  We hiked, we ate great food, we saw many beautiful things, we took many photos, we had a spa, we relaxed together, we bought cheese from a cheese factory and we had a great time.  Given the time and money pressures both James and I had in 2010, it was absolutely amazing to be able to get away for a weekend and relax.

Rebecca with hat, grinning at the camera
Rebecca grins at the camera with her hands on her hips and a hat shading her eyes

James straining under the weight of a mighty rock
James is strong and holds up the rock

Two: I got a job.  This doesn’t necessarily seem like an amazing thing, but I got a job that I thought I was only just qualified for, for a company that is ahead of its time.  It was really affirming to be told, consistently, that I have everything that this company wants and needs, despite not feeling that myself.  I do feel a little like I’ve joined an elite unit of … something, but on the other hand I’m being paid well to do a job in a field that I’ve just graduated from, and I’m going to get all the on-the-job training I need as well any formal training… and the future opportunities are very bright indeed.

Here is my company and one of the biggest reasons I’m very proud to work here already.

(The video is subtitled, if a transcript is required let me know and I’ll find/create one).

1953… Just as the second wave of the Civil Rights Movement was picking up in the USA.  In 2010, IBM topped the DiversityInc list of Top 10 Companies for Global Diversity.  These things make me happy, and happy to work here too.

[EDIT: I’ve just found this FANTASTIC timeline of IBM diversity, including when the first non-white people were hired, when women were hired, when disabled people were hired, the scholarships and other activities that IBM has undertaken with disadvantaged communities, etc.  It makes great reading]

[EDIT again: IBM paid women equal pay for equal work as of 1935 – I did say ahead of their time]

Three: Taking my “family” to Alice Springs to see where I grew up and what my country is.  I’m deeply attached to Alice Springs and travelling around there is going to my spiritual home.  I like seeing what’s changed and what is the same, measuring the years I’ve been away by what is different and minimising them again by what has remained.  It’s now a regular pilgrimage for me, and will be for a long time.  Being able to show off my home and the places which are special to me, to people I love, was fantastic.  Yes the weather wasn’t great, and the accommodation could have been nicer, but it was great to spend a week with everyone while playing tour guide.

Mount Gillen and clouds
Mount Gillen and clouds
Simpsons Gap cloud kissed
Simpsons Gap cloud kissed
Spiny wattle with water droplets
Spiny wattle with water droplets

My other moments worth mentioning include finally completing and graduating with a Degree (Yay!) and being a refuge for a dear friend when needed.  So, what were your best moments of 2010?

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I’m not used to feeling intimidated… well I am and I’m not.  Let me explain.

I was regularly told during my childhood that I could do whatever I wanted.  Anything I wanted to put my mind to, I’d be able to achieve, with appropriate learning/effort/time.  My parents were happy for me to be an engineer, plumber, optometrist, marine biologist, mother, teacher, nurse, chemist, whatever struck my fancy at that point in time.  And when I first stumbled into a full time job that ended up being a 15 year career, I started with baby steps and ended up running with the bulls – all with time, effort and learning.  It flowed over the years, and although there were moments of intimidation in the whole, “You think I can do this?  Are you sure?  I’m not so sure” when I started a radically different role from the one I was doing (going from being managed to managing for example), the roles had enough in similar and I knew who I was working with, or going to be working with, for it to be relatively smooth.

I’m no longer in that position.  I’ve made a HUGE career change, I’ve started afresh again and I’m in very unfamiliar territory.  The internship here with my global multinational employer was easy, all work and no responsibility, but somehow I’ve impressed EVERYONE, and they’ve offered me a role with lots of responsibility (and training and support and time to get to know everything).  I’d forgotten just how intimidating starting a new role can be, especially when it comes with high expectations and responsibility.  I know I can do just about everything I put my mind to, but right now I’m anxious that I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew, even if many of my immediate colleagues think that I am a gift from their deity of choice.  So anxious in fact that while napping on my weekend away with James (photos here), I kept dreaming of falling of the cliffs of Mount Buffalo. Accepting this job is the right thing to do for me, for my career, for my mortgage, and for the future plans of world domination that I may or may not have.  Intellectually I know all this, but my emotional side is biting her nails and stressing about stuffing it all up.

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*trigger warning – this post discusses suicide*

Today is/was R U OK Day – a day where you are encourage to approach people (friends/family/strangers?) and ask them if they are OK.  From the R U OK website:

Thursday 7 October, 2010 is R U OK?Day. A national day of action that aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.

On that day we want everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to ask family, friends and colleagues: “Are you OK?”.

Because staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feelings of isolation and being alone are major contributing factors to depression and social issues that can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.

It’s so simple but in the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.

I get the whole raising awareness thing, but right now this doesn’t really work for me.  If I had waited until today to ask my friend who attempted suicide a couple of weeks ago, whether or not she was ok, she may not have lived that long.  The analogy for me is something like “Safe Sex” day where everyone practices safe sex and forgets about it for the other 364 days of the year (365 on leap years).  That would be a bad thing, and having one day singled out in a year where you’re told (not encouraged) to ask someone you care about if they are OK, versus the rest of the year, is not exactly helpful.

I think I’d be less … something… about this if they more clearly stated that this was an awareness exercise and that this was to raise awareness of the tools available to those who want to ask if someone is ok, and to provide information to those who need it.  Mainly stating that this is the day you should ask someone if they are ok, misses all the other days when they may not be.

It also assumes that everyone has the spoons to ask someone else if they are ok, or are ok enough themselves to ask someone else.  I have had days where I did not have the spoons to ask someone if they were ok because being prepared to listen and engage with that person enough for answer required energy I did not have.  Asking if someone is OK is not a short conversation, and can go beyond the one coffee suggested above.  It requires focus, probing and understanding feedback, and a willingness to engage – and as well the understanding that whoever you’ve approached may not be willing to open up to you and that isn’t something you should take personally.

The R U OK website also has a page providing suggestions and advice on how to start an R U OK conversation.  This page is full of good information except for one bit which I found somewhat problematic.  The page rightly tells you not to offer advice, “Avoid telling someone what to do: it is important to listen and try to help the other person work out what is best for them“.  But then delves immediately into:

Be encouraging

Encourage physical health. Maintaining regular exercise, a nutritious diet and getting regular sleep helps people to cope in tough times

Encourage the person to seek professional help from their family doctor, a support service or counsellor, or a mental health worker

Encourage self-care. Sometimes people need to be encouraged to do more to look after their own needs during a difficult time

So on one hand, don’t give advice, but on the other encourage them to look after themselves more, seek help and maintain their physical health – things the person you are meant to be listening to may not be able to actually do for a myriad of reasons, or who may be doing all or some of them and doesn’t need you to comment on.

When I found out from my friend about her attempted suicide, I hugged her, took her somewhere quiet and listened to her.  I asked if she’d like to come to my place for a while, if she needed to, again being ok with her saying no, because this was not about me – it was about what she needed.

The fact that the R U OK website also lists groups you can speak to if you need help now, is also a great resource.

In the end the R U OK idea is good, but for me to be satisfied with it, it needs more tweaking.  More conversation up front about how this should happen every day and not just once a year.  More tools for people who’ve never had conversations like this.  More information about what constitutes being helpful, how to provide feedback during the conversation so that whoever is being listened to knows that they are being heard, what to do if things get out of hand, how to check up on someone again later and how to debrief with someone afterward so that you too are OK.

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I am not like you

Recently, and unfortunately I can’t find the page that I read it on, I found an article which discussed visual and verbal thinking.

Research by Child Development Theorist Linda Kreger Silverman suggests that less than 30% of the population strongly uses visual/spatial thinking, another 45% uses both visual/spatial thinking and thinking in the form of words, and 25% thinks exclusively in words.” (Source: Wikipedia)

This amazed me, because I’m part of the minority that thinks only in words.  Visualising something is really hard work for me, and has to have words with it, from which I can draw the picture.  Most of the time I walk around with a conversation in my head about things, it is rarely quiet up there.

I asked my parents, partners and friends how they thought, to test the hypothesis… most people thought in pictures and words, I was the only one I knew at the time who thought in words.  My mother thought solely in pictures and was most distressed that I didn’t have images in my brain like she did – though it adds to the reasons we don’t communicate well.

Until I read this article, I assumed that everyone else was like me, that they had only words in their heads, that they held conversations with themselves and others all the time.  Of course, I should have known better, I’ve been learning all my adult life that everyone is different and that our tastes, colour perceptions, enjoyment of sensation, and tolerances for things are different.

James likes to be touched firmly, a light touch or caress annoys him.  Scott loves to be caressed lightly for days at a time, his brain turns off and he relaxes into it, my girlfriend and a few other friends I know are the same.  I can tolerate a repetitive touch for a little bit before it has to stop or the caresser will lose their limb.  Every one of us likes different things, or subsets of the same things, but in different places or with different textures.

One of my sisters swears my car is more yellow than green, I tell her its more green than yellow.  Each of us see the same vehicle, but due to quirks of nature, we see colours slightly differently and texture differently and each of us goes around thinking that the world looks the same to everyone – because we all think we’re the same and why wouldn’t we?  Its not like we can see or feel through someone else’s body and in a big way we know we’re all part of the same species, we have the same bodies more or less… but we don’t really.  We’re mostly shaped the same, but our nervous system mapping is always slightly different – hence the different enjoyment in sensations.

I think I started to realise this a long time after reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, specifically:

“[The horse] slowly surveyed the whole field, and then decided to plan out a nice relaxed day for itself.  A little trot later on, it thought, maybe around threeish.  After that a bit of a lie down over on the east side of the field where the grass was thicker.  It looked like a suitable spot to think about supper in.

Lunch, it rather fancied, could be taken at the south end of the field where a small stream ran.  Lunch by a stream, for heaven’s sake.  This was bliss.

It also quite liked the notion of spending half an hour walking alternative a little bit to the left and then a little bit to the right, for no apparent reason.  It didn’t know whether the time between two and three would be best spent wishing its tail or mulling things over.

Of course, it could always do both, if it so wished, and go for its trot a little later.  And it had just spotted what looked like a fine piece of hedge for watching things over, and that would easily while away a pleasant pre-prandial hour or two.


An excellent plan.

And the best thing about it was that having made it the horse could now completely and utterly ignore it.  It went instead for a leisurely stand under the only tree in the field.

I thought that Mr Adams might actually have an idea about happiness, and specifically how to be happy – in this instance by making plans for the sake of making them and then letting them go.  I’m a big organiser, I can’t help myself, but I thought maybe I’d be happy if I made plans – because that’d make me happy – and then ignored them.  It failed miserably.  I felt like I achieved nothing I set out to achieve and just got more miserable.  Then I realised what was wrong.  Douglas Adams knows what makes Douglas Adams happy, he doesn’t know what makes me happy.  He is not like me and I am not like him.  Despite our physical similarities, we’re very different inside, in the way we think, feel and act.

Everyone is different from everyone else and this is not a bad thing, but it is a very important thing to understand.  Just because someone does or doesn’t like something that you like, doesn’t mean that they are less of a person or more of a person as a result.

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