rants

On politics and gender and stuff

I’ve tried to move away from talking about politics in a partisan way here – for a few reasons.

Firstly, I’ve moved away from thinking about politics in a particularly partisan way, I’m one of those people who feels largely disenfranchised by our adversarial political system (at least as our media reports it). Secondly, the differences between our major parties are greatly exaggerated – they’ll both do a reasonable job at the majority of policy setting in our country – and both have hugely problematic approaches to big issues that mean neither gets the “Christian vote” automatically. Thirdly, there’s a tired old trope I’m prone to reacting against that says something like “Real Christians should vote conservative, so must therefore eschew the Labor Party (and can’t possibly think the Greens are anything other than extreme).” But what is conservative anymore? And this seems to place some sort of odd moral issues on a pedestal above stuff like looking after the poor, and the marginalised, and the people that our so-called “left” focuses its energy on. I think the suggestion that to be Christian is to vote a particular way is patently ridiculous.

I’m also not all that concerned that our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is an atheist. She’s either up for the job of governing, or she isn’t. Governing a secular democracy with a relatively nominal attachment to a “Judeo-Christian heritage” doesn’t take a theologically orthodox Christian. In fact, in a democracy, Christians might be forced to compromise their views to a degree where standing apart from the political sphere is a better way to contribute to society and love people than being elected to represent a swathe of people they fundamentally disagree with.

I’m especially not concerned that our Prime Minister is a woman. I know there are some from my complementarian camp of Christianity who have problems with women in leadership roles. But I think that any “submission/authority” relationship dynamics happening in the context of Christian relationships (marriage, church, or otherwise) are to be voluntary from both parties, and only really make sense if your thinking is being shaped by the relationship dynamics modelled in the Trinity and some notion that they’re created by God. Women might feel otherwise – but I have grown up without any major awareness of different capabilities of men and women when it comes to the corporate, business, or political sphere (I’d rather watch men’s sport – but that’s because part of the watching sport is the vicarious “I’d like to be out there” thing). I was taught predominantly by women at primary school, and high school, and there was probably a 50-50 split in the classes I bothered going to at uni. My first CEO in my professional job was a woman, as was my line manager (and my managers in my part time jobs while I was at uni were women too). Most of my colleagues were women.

I don’t feel particularly enlightened on the basis of these aspects of my history – I think they’re pretty normal for people my age. I wrote a speech last year for a young professional (about my age) for a women’s function she was speaking at, and she said this was pretty consistent with her experience in the business/corporate world too. I’m not saying it’s universal. It’s probably a generational thing. I hope. I love that my wife has the same opportunities to study that I have, I hope that we’ll continue to make decisions that allow her to use her gifts and abilities to serve others. I hope my daughter grows up in a world where she has the freedom to make choices about her life, where her gender isn’t really a factor. I pray that she’ll grow up as a follower of Jesus, and be prepared to make sacrifices of some of her freedoms for the sake of others – but I want those sacrifices to be voluntary and driven by love, and her convictions about the world God has created and the way he created people – not chosen for her.

Which is why the rhetoric in Julia Gillard’s speech during question time today plays into a world I wish we could just leave behind a bit. Here are the words she said today that are echoing around the media, as I’m sure they were intended to…

“Let me say very clearly to the Leader of the Opposition – it will be a contest, counter intuitive to those believing in gender stereotypes, but a contest between a strong, feisty woman and a policy-weak man and I’ll win it.”

I’m still trying to parse this statement. I’ve been staring at it for quite a while. She has a go at people who believe in gender stereotypes while reinforcing gender stereotypes by making gender an issue (she also called Abbott a misogynist again).  I think there’s a real danger that despite her intentions to the contrary – this sort of frontending of gender is perpetuating a dangerous form of cultural misandry. In rejecting one stereotype, the Prime Minister is creating, or buying into another.

She may as well label Tony Abbott the dumb/incompetent/bumbling man we’re familiar with thanks to so many TV sitcoms and advertisements (more here). Here’s what TV Tropes says about this cultural meme:

Often used as an enabler of several Double Standards. Sometimes, on the rare occasions that a mom does something dumb, she’s cut more slack than she otherwise would be, since the Bumbling Dad is there to make her look better by comparison. On the other hand, if everyone just gets used to tolerating Dad’s incompetence, they might still hold Mom to the standards of a competent adult – in fact, she may end up being held responsible for fixing his screw-ups. After all, somebody’s got to be the grownup in a family, and you can’t hold Dad accountable for not acting like one if he’s just an idiot. The frustrating and stagnant sexual roles enforced by this trope are often pointed to by feminists as a sign of how sexism hurts men as well as women.

This trope is still mostly seen in sitcoms and cartoons, along with many commercials, especially ones aimed at kids. In anime, this type of character is taken more respectfully, since it usually consists of a goofier dad, more involved with his family than the stereotypical Salaryman. This is even more common when his children have no visiblemother.

This is an example of how a Subverted Trope can end up becoming the norm. Back in the day, fathers were assumed to be wise and in charge, and the Bumbling Dad was something fresh and unusual. Today, sitcoms have made Bumbling Dad an Undead Horse Trope, and consistently competent fathers are a comparative rarity.

In the political sphere this guy would be the “policy weak” man. Which makes Gillard and Abbott a pretty odd couple. If politics is a comedy. There’s the related “Man can’t keep house” trope…

“It doesn’t matter if a male character is a globe-trotting super-spy, a hyperintelligent genius, or a Millionaire Playboy — according to this trope, any male who’s responsible for maintaining a home, apartment, or regeneration pod will inevitably fail in the most spectacular way possible.”

You could add “country” to the list of domestic situations a man can’t possibly be responsible for and you’re, I think, tapping into the kind of image Gillard is trying to paint for us.

I have no doubt our Prime Minister is a capable and articulate woman – and I’ve got no doubt she has fought through barriers created by her gender so her feelings on this issue are genuine.

But surely the time has come for gender not to be part of the public conversation like this. It feels like a political trope “pandering to a constituency on the basis of what you are not what you stand for” that is ultimately unfulfilling.

Making the election a contest between a “feisty leader” and a “policy-weak leader” regardless of the gender of the leaders involved is doing a disservice to the electorate. If its an amuse bouche for the election campaign that’s about to be forced down our throats then I’m kind of hoping the media regulation legislation gets amended to provide some politics free zones in our media or I’m going into some sort of self-imposed media blackout.

Gender is a huge issue for us to think through. Not just in the church – where how we think of gender as created by God, and the implications we see that having for how we structure our church community as a testimony to that created order – but in society where there’s a push to do away with gender distinctions altogether. The big question in both cases is whether or not the genders (and gender identity) are “essentially” different, not just constructed differently by different cultural forces (be it our culture, or the culture operating when the relevant bits of the Bible were produced). This is a huge, defining, landmark, watershed, pivotal, and important discussion that flows through to myriad social issues from marriage, to abortion, to education, to defence, to toymaking, to sport, to how we do democracy, and most importantly to how we conceive of what it means to be human…

Gender issues are still big issues – I’m not trying to play down the way women are mistreated by certain people in society – there are all sorts of industries where glass ceilings exist. There are serious policy questions surrounding gender, just as there are serious theological questions about gender for the church to continue answering well. There are serious cultural imbalances to be addressed – we see that as we speak up against violence against women (perpetrated by men), or when we recognise that an Oscars host has been incredibly unhelpful in his objectification of women and identify an ugly sub-culture that underpins that, or when TV reporters talk about a sexual assault in a way that blames the victim or tries to sympathise with the perpetrators (there’s a significant trigger warning on that article)… All of these are issues – big issues – gender issues. But they’re not the sort of gender issues that Julia Gillard is using to whack Tony Abbott with – I don’t think he’s blameless here, I’d say there’s merit to more than half of the criticism she levelled at him in her famous misogyny speech. The “gender issue” at play there is that there seems to be genuine antipathy between Abbott and Gillard, which has unfortunately, at times, involved terms that have been a little loaded when it comes to gender (but seriously – have you heard many men describe themselves as “feisty”?).

It’s great that we have a woman as Prime Minister. It’ll be greater still when we don’t really care what gender our Prime Minister is, when that’s completely unremarkable. It’s a tragedy, I think, that gender is being used to score cheap political points. It saddens me that her legacy, gender wise, will be making an election campaign about gender stereotypes, using her gender in such a cheap way for cheap votes.

That is all.

Allow me to rant a little…

I do some PR consulting on the side. I’ve mentioned that before, I think. I have some really fun clients, and sometimes in the course of my work I’ll write a release from my client’s perspective, and need to include some quotes from a third party, who have a shared interest in what I’m doing. So, for example, if I’m promoting an event, I may include quotes from a supplier who is benefiting from the event. But the release is about the event. Not about the supplier.

I write the quotes for people. I’m happy for them to change them. But I want our releases to be true to our key messages and achieve our communication goals, and this is the best way to do quality control. But I won’t ever put out something that quotes somebody if they haven’t approved the quotes. That’s pretty much standard practice in PR.

Anyway. What I’m not doing, when I send that release to you, however politely I may frame the invitation to contribute to the release, is asking you to send me a completely different release that you have written from the perspective of your company, even if you think it greatly improves on the original.

I remember once being involved in project managing a rebranding of our organisation, where we sent the new logo concept out for input from our sponsors and stakeholders, and one guy took it upon himself not just to make suggestions, but to redraw his own alternative version of the logo. As if we didn’t need to be paying a professional to do the job and think about things like scalability and the ability to produce the logo in embroidered form on t-shirts, and, well, the ability to look like a company who didn’t just pull a hand drawn version of some clipart into its visual identity.

I guess my message is this. You are not a professional. Unless you are. And if a professional gives you some work, provide feedback, but don’t assume that you can just do their job. If everybody could just do their job, there would be no need for that job to exist.

That is all.

Moving out of your rental property? Need a Bond Cleaner? Avoid Brisbane Property Solutions

So our move from suburb to suburb within Brisbane has been somewhat protracted. Partly because of the incredible incompetence of our bond cleaners. We used Brisbane Property Solutions. They rank well on google. They are endorsed by a bunch of real estate agents (all of whom will be receiving an email with a link to this page). They offered an expensive, but according to their website, comprehensive, bond cleaning service. Backed with a “bond guarantee” and an intangible “satisfaction guarantee”

Thorough clean?

We knew our property was dirty – that’s why we hired professionals. It had copped some water in a storm before we moved in, and had some reoccurring mould problems. The walls were a bit dirty. The floor copped a pounding during the move – because we moved when it was wet, so there was some mud on our dining room floor.

Here’s what Brisbane Property Solutions says about themselves (all spelling mistakes their own):

“Our move out cleans are carried out by dedicated mobile teams of cleaning profesionals who specialise in properties in need of a thorough deep clean either at the end of a tenancy or before the start of one. Our teams are equipped with all the necessary cleaning products, tools and equipment to undertake your move in/out clean in the fastest possible time frame with an eye for detail that is unrivaled by our competition.”

This sounds like these guys will deliver the product they offer, on time, and with a certain eye for quality and detail. And “necessary cleaning tools”… so one would assume that a standard sized house, with a bit of mess, would fall within the normal terms. Or so we thought.

As it turned out – our house had some unforeseen issues – including a dead, and badly decomposed rat, which they found sitting on top of one of our kitchen cabinets. The oven was messy, as a result of a fire which we attempted to put out with flour. But we’ll get to that. Lets keep breaking down the claims on the site:

“We understand how important it is for you to have your property professionally cleaned and checked prior to moving out. We have carried out thousands of move out cleans in Brisbane and know how to satisfy landlords and Real Estate agents. We have created an extensive checklist (Below) outlining all of the standards required by letting agents to assist our move out/in cleaning crews.

Book this service with us and you can be rest assured that every square inch of your property will be professionally cleaned and polished its not just a promise … It`s our guarentee !

Sounds good. Especially the bits I bolded.

“Don’t forget that our move out cleaning service is fully guaranteed and insured – if you are not entirely happy with the job we’ve done then we’ll come back and rectify any issues free of charge within 48 hours of completion ! Because getting your Bond Back and your Satisfaction is our number one priority !

Brisbane Property Solutions currently works with in excess of 30 real estate agents & property managers throughout and as such we are real estate preffered suppliers for services.”

A 48 hour period was a bit out of the question for us – but we were pretty confident on the basis of the above words, and the checklist, that we wouldn’t need it.

So we called to book. And despite the website listing the costs as:

Bond/Deep/Construction/Pre-Sale Cleaning Services 1 Cleaner 2 Cleaners (Recommended)
3 Bedroom Property $299 (6hrs Labour) $349 (8 hrs Labour)

We were told the second cleaner was required for the purposes of the guarantee – and that the price listed did not include GST. Despite their Customer Service Agreement stating that all prices are inclusive of GST:

“5. All prices that are displayed on our website are inclusive of GST, Chemicals and the labour of the required staff unless otherwise specified.”

Other relevant clauses in different sections of that document include:

“3. If at the commencement or during the course of providing a service or services, it is apparent that the actual cost of the Service will exceed the quote provided by BPS, BPS will provide the Customer with an option to pay an increased amount to complete the Service, or pay the quoted amount without the Service being fully completed.

4. The Customer must inform BPS whether any cleaning services required are for an ‘end of tenancy or move out clean’ at the time of quotation.”

And:

“6. The customer agrees that unless BPS has deemed a job complete our customer satisfaction guarantee is thereby nil and void. In the instance a customer books only the minimum time period i.e.: 3hours of an end of lease clean and more time/service is required we will not guarantee our work as we have not completed and signed off on its completion.”

On the booking page there is the following disclaimer:

“Please Note:Prices are exclusive of GST. If additional services are required ie: carpet cleaning or pest control additional charges will apply. The above Hours of Labour are calculated as an average of labour required to complete an average sized bond clean – Prices may vary depending on the size & condition of your property. Brisbane Property Solutions offers a 100% customer satisfaction guarentee – Please refer to our customer service agreement for further information.”

This time they say prices are exclusive of GST. But intriguingly, offer this “100% satisfaction guarentee (sic).”

So we booked the second cleaner, at the already increased price of $389. And arranged to leave the front door of our now vacant property unlocked. They were unavailable on our preferred date – so our carpets were steam cleaned before they arrived. By a different company – who performed their job adequately (though not brilliantly).

Our cleaner called at approximately 7am to inform us that our house was a big job, and to attempt to claim that our study, quite a narrow room with a built in desk and bookshelves, was actually a bedroom. Which was odd, because there is no room in that room for a bed. She also informed us that she would not be cleaning the cement rendered walls in the kitchen, and the glossy rendered wall in the dining room because she didn’t want to damage them. These were the two messiest walls because they were home to our turtle tank, and coffee machine, respectively – and they were a large part of the reason we booked the cleaners.

So much for having the “necessary tools”. She told us they’d found the rat, and that the oven was dirty, and they’d spent a long time just on the kitchen and bathroom. I said we really wanted to make sure the walls and floors were done, and mentioned that our carpets had already been steam cleaned.

A few hours later she rang back to say that the only work she could guarantee was the kitchen and bathroom, and she asked what we wanted as the allocated time was drawing to a close, and she had to go off to do a private cleaning job in the afternoon. I said I wanted to make sure the walls and floors were done. She said that she was worried that it didn’t look like much had actually been done. I said I would get back to her about booking additional time at an obscene hourly rate. After that phone call ended I weighed up the costs involved, and sent the cleaner a text message asking if two hours would be enough for her to have the place looking like something had been done. She rang back, and in the phone conversation I stressed, again, that we wanted the floors done, and we wanted it to look like we had spent some money on a cleaner. I authorised the additional work on that basis. Phoning Lisa, at the company’s head office. I would later have an incredible conversation with Lisa, which I recorded, where she spends an amount of time insulting me for missing their 48 hour guarantee period…

Time passed. I did not hear back from the company at the end of that period. There was no inkling given that the walls and floors had not been completed.

On Saturday we had our first real opportunity to drive across town to check out the state of the place, and clean the rendered walls. We bought some cleaning gear for those, and opened the front door. I think there might be a mark on the landing from where my jaw hit when it dropped. This is a story best told in pictures.

Here is the list of jobs the company claims to undertake in a standard bond clean:

 

ENTRY
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Screens Dust & Wash down
Light Fittings Dust & Wash light shades removing all bugs
Floor Mop/Vacuum paying particular attention to all edges & corners
LOUNGE/DINING ROOM
Doors/Walls/Skirtings Dust & Wash down
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe down – For stains consult your proffesional
Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all fans
Power/Light Switches Wipe over with damp cloth
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
KITCHEN
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Screens Dust & Wash, ensure all oil & grease is removed
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe – Stains consult your proffesional
Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all fans
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
Cupboards/Drawers Vacuum inside & clean inside & Out -Wipe down doors
Benches/Tilings/Splashbacks Wipe down with spray and scrub stubborn stains if needed
Sink/Disposal unit/Taps Clean & Remove any build up stains ( Jif works well) rinse thoroughly
Stove top/Grill Remove all oil & grease, ensure all rims are cleaned (oven cleaner works well)
Oven Use oven cleaner scrub well, ensure any residue is removed
Exhaust Fan/Range hood Clean all filters with oven cleaner and hot water
Dishwasher Wipe inside & out remove filter and clean complete final clean with empty load
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
BEDROOM / S
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Screens Dust & Wash down
Door Frames/Wardrobe tracks Vacuum & wipe over with damp cloth if have mirrors clean leaving no streaks / smudges
Wardrobe/Drawers/Shelves Vacuum & Wipe over with damp cloth scrub walls inside if needed
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe with clean damp cloth and water if necessary
Exhaust Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all exhaust fans
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
BATHROOM / S
Doors/Walls/Skirtings/Tiling Dust & Wash down
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe clean – Consult your proffesional for stains
Exhaust Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wipe all light shades removing all bugs
Floor Vacuum/Mop paying particular attention to all edges & corners
Bath Clean thoroughly using bath cleaner
Shower/Shower Screen Clean thoroughly removing any build up
Basin/Vanity Clean thoroughly & vacuum all draws
Mirrors/Cabinets Vacuum as necessary & wipe out. Polish mirror with window cleaner & paper towels
Towel rails Wipe over with damp cloth
Toilet (doors/walls/floor) Clean with stripping agent & rinse thoroughly Remove Seat & Clean
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
LAUNDRY
Doors/Walls/Skirtings Dust & Wash down
Windows / Screens Vacuum all sills, tracks & screens, clean windows thoroughly ensuring no streaks/smudges
Blinds/Curtains Vacuum & wipe with clean damp cloth and water if necessary
Exhaust Fans/Light fittings Vacuum & wash all light shades removing all bugs, Vacuum all exhaust fans
Power/Light switches Wipe over with damp cloth
Wash tubs & cupboards under Vacuum & Wash remove pieces of soap, scale & lint
Washing Machine/Dryer Wipe & Vacuum inside & out
GENERAL
Balcony/Deck Sweep away dust & cobwebs, mop if needed clean windows ensuring no streaks / smudges
Garage/Storeroom Sweep out , Wash walls
Staircases/Railings Remove all cobwebs & wipe down with damp cloth

And as you’ll see from this gallery, we’ve every reason to be disappointed with the results. We understand it was a big job, but we purchased the additional time with particular instructions regarding what we wanted done. And it wasn’t…

Tomorrow, I’ll share a follow up post with my interactions with the company since. There’s plenty to learn from in terms of what not to do so far as customer service is concerned.

An open letter to Australia’s Television Networks Regarding the Royal Wedding

Dear Seven, Seven2, Nine, Ten, 11, ABC, SBS, Mate, Go, Gem, 1HD, and anybody I’ve missed,

I don’t care about the royal wedding. I’m sure there are thousands, nay, millions of other men and women out there in the Australian populace who feel the same way. On a scale of one to “I really don’t care about this stupid wedding” I’m about a 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. I would rather have my eyelids removed with a potato-peeler than keep them peeled to your stupid coverage featuring irrelevancies like Ita Buttrose, and Dame Edna, who you’ve dragged out of the closet to cover the circus. Only it’s not a circus. There are no monkeys. Actual monkeys I could tolerate. I could even tolerate the Arctic Monkeys – and they are British.

The royal family are, always have been, and always will be, an anachronism. Foisted on us by history. Irrelevant except that they adorn our currency, provide us with an annual public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday, and open the Commonwealth Games. Which are like the Olympics, only we win.

Please stop. Resume normal coverage. Stop blabbering on about dresses. British etiquette. Telemovies about the lovely romance of two boring English people. Don’t take me through the empty house that Kate once lived in as though it is news and not just some PR consultant’s attempt to jack up the price of British realty. And stop interviewing the bogans who went to England for the wedding as though they are normal Australians. They are freaks.

I would prefer a bunch of Biggest Loser outtakes, Eddie Macguire game show pilots, anything with Sam Newman, or whatever non-ratings dregs you can drag up to fill the air – even endless repeats of old seasons of NCIS – and I’m sure I’m not alone. This charade has gone too far. I’m calling it what it is. Television for the lowest common denominator, by the lowest common denominator.

If we were to score some sort of public holiday from this process I’m sure we could come to some sort of agreement.

That is all.

P.S – Seriously. Channel 10, I know you think you’re really clever juxtaposing the “food is fuel, not pleasure” mantra of the Biggest Loser with the “we need more butter and amazingly decadent desserts” mantra of MasterChef – but surely some crossover episodes could have been arranged where the contestants from the former learn to eat healthy, but tasty food, and those from the latter learn to cook the same…

That is really all. Seriously.

The Grinch Who Stole Halloween

So I was driving to church this Reformation Day (October 31) (yesterday), and I saw a bunch of American tourists. Children. Walking the streets of suburban Brisbane. They were dressed in costumes. Most of them were dressed as vampires – though not the emo/street kid/Twilight/sparkly campire/Edward Cullen variety – the good old caped Dracula variety. So I am thankful for small mercies. It seems our costume shops still think the Count from Sesame St is the model vampire, and not a sulking never-aging teenager with a brooding face. And make-up. Man make-up. And permanently windswept hair.

I’m glad there weren’t too many twihards. That would have made this post even harder to write.

Halloween is a scourge threatening to infect our cities. Australia. It is time to stand up and be counted. This is not an Australian event. This is a commercial opportunity that Coles and Woolworths have seized on with the zeal of a grocer flogging MasterChef products and ingredients. Give Coles and Woolies a sniff and they’ll have a product range and a pallet full of overgrown pumpkins out for sale quicker than Usain Bolt wolfs down a KFC two piece feed after a race (and no, I’m not suggesting that just because he’s a black man from the Caribbean he likes to eat fried chicken – I’ll leave those PC mongers who watch ads and look for hints of racism to come up with that sort of pointless speculation). The man likes KFC. It’s a fact. Here. Look. It’s on the internet.

Look. Here he is eating some with his mum.

I’m not buying into promoting stereotypical racial tropes.

But America. Keep your over-sugared excuse for a holiday out of our country. We don’t want your obesity. We don’t want our children to be fat like yours. We don’t want to have to stock up on bags of sugared goodies or “tricks”1 in order to assuage our middle-class consumer guilt foisted on us by big commercial supermarkets looking to boost sales of confectionery and ghoulish paraphernalia.

We already have a cultural excuse to dress up in silly costumes. It’s called Book Week. And I’m still scarred by my experience attending one such event in primary school dressed in purple tights, undies on the outside and a pair of toy guns. That’s right. I went to book week as the Phantom.

Halloween is barely even worthy of Grinch status. It’s not a sacred day. I don’t care about its supposedly Catholic or Pagan or Roman origins. The etymology of the word is boring. Current usage determines meaning – and currently it’s a thinly veiled holiday designed to prey on the gullible and to use children as manipulative pawns in a game of excess. So parents who dressed their children, bought lollies, and took groups trick or treating, I quote an Australian media doyen at you: Shame. Shame. Shame.

That is all.

1 Why we’d want to promote kids to go door-knocking asking for “tricks” in the age of stranger-danger is beyond me.

The perils of so-called “privilege”

Sometimes I feel like being a straight, white, anglo-saxon protestant, with a physically imposing stature and strong (some would say over-inflated) sense of self worth, means I’m not allowed to voice an opinion on any minority position, or indeed any power imbalance… and indeed, when I dare to question a gay atheist, or contribute to a discussion on gender politics, my contribution is somehow invalid because my shoulder is not chipped the same way. What really gets me though, is when this happens in discussions about social conditions in an egalitarian, democratic society with universal suffrage. Life’s tough? Well vote the other people out and change it. Whiners. Sure, some WASP guy just took the job that you thought you were entitled to and is going to get paid more than you would have… well, perhaps he’s a better negotiator than you. Perhaps he went to the right school. It’s not always about gender. I don’t know about you, but if I ran a business I’d be wanting to hire the most competent candidate for the job. Gender is only an issue if you make it an issue. As is race. Sure, Andrew Johns made a profane and offensive statement, I’m not going to condone it, but do you think he thinks poorly of Greg Inglis because of his skin colour? His whole statement was predicated on Inglis’ extreme talent. I’ve got no doubt Johns said similarly derogatory things about Darren Lockyer. South Park’s Hate Crimes episode had it right – normal people these days don’t tend to pick on people of different races because they think they’re inherently less valuable than their own race. They just pick on people because of their own inherent sinfulness (all crimes are hate crimes).

Oh, to be an oppressed first world minority.

I think, if I ever want to tell people to just get on with life, I’ll need to invent an alter-ego who is a female, Muslim, gay midget from a third world African country with 18 children.

I could listen to Rage Against the Machine or enjoy other forms of artistic protest without feeling pangs of privilege induced guilt. Like a celebrity member of PETA. Then I could comment on any issue with impunity. And nobody would be able Most of the time my advice would be “life is not fair, suck it up, and get on with it.” Does anybody know of anybody with the aforementioned qualifications who voices such a message. I would buy their books.

As a member of this aristocratic class by a quirk of happenstance and genetics I feel like I’m missing out on plenty of opportunities to tell other people what to do, and can’t do so without appearing to be a bully.

I read all these minority reports online wishing I could be part of a minority so that I could passionately own a cause. Even the teams I support in sport are the “overdogs” – though there was a period of about ten years when Manly were lucky to win a game. There is no area in my life where I can call out “help, help, I’m being oppressed,” I’m not a member of any proletariat or suffrage movement. I didn’t ask to be who I am. There is not a majority position that I do not instinctively support. I am as boringly conformist as Kevin Rudd. I don’t even belong to a fashionable subset of society. I can’t dress to express myself, to distinguish myself from the masses of which I am a part. I am bland beyond individuality. A sunflower in a field of sunflowers. My cause du jour is the cause de rigueur.

There are many like me. Many not interesting people. Without exotic foibles. Without histories of oppression. Without an inherited sense of entitlement engendered by years of ancestral persecution, or the memory of a past wrong. For us there is no “audacity of hope,” but in its place the mendacity of hope.

White anglo-saxon protestant males earned their social standing. There is not a skerrick of progress in the western world in the last two thousand years that we have not worked for. That’s why we get paid more. That’s why the cards of society seem to fall in our favour. We see opportunities and we take them. Carpe diem.

If those in the minorities feel aggrieved by the power imbalance and wish to protest our implicit superiority – then why not stage a revolution. That’s how minorities achieve their ends. It’s not through whining and holding conferences or talkfests. Knock us off our perches. Don’t just complain that we’re on them. Just do something.

That is all.

How to introduce yourself better

Don’t ever introduce yourself  by your job title. Job titles are terrible and should be scrapped. Unless they’re really literal. There is only one thing worse than someone who introduces themselves by their title – and that’s someone who introduces themself with an obtuse and confusing buzzy weasleword description that requires a follow up question.

First impressions are important. Especially if you’re a conference speaker, or somebody it is important for the people meeting you to know. Don’t start a conversation with an obtuse statement unless it’s a joke that you explain straight away, and even then… don’t do it.

It was refreshing listening to the guest speaker at our camp over the weekend introduce himself and speak passionately about his new role – “campus evangelist” – by itself this would be buzzwordy and unclear – but he told us what it looked like and spoke with genuine passion about the task. This was cool. If you must use your title do it properly.

The problem with the liberals

You might be thinking, on the basis of the title, that I’m going to talk about politics. If you want to know what I think is currently wrong with the Liberal Party read here.

Today’s rant is about “liberal” Christians.

I don’t think there has been anything more harmful to evangelism than the watering down of the gospel. There are plenty of things atheists could say about what the Bible actually says that would be grounds for choosing to reject God. But nothing annoys me more in the dialogue than those weak kneed Christians who try to apologise for God’s behaviour. Especially when it comes to that archaic ban on gayness (which is a genetic trait so can’t be wrong) or those cultural ideas of marriage and family. Read any forum where gay rights are being discussed (and I’m not actually opposed to gay marriage necessarily) and you’ll see the type of people I’m talking about.

It is important to place the Bible in historical context and to understand what the text meant to the original readers. But these liberals need to go back to reading their Bibles. They’re kind of missing the point. Right from the nation of Israel to instructions for Christians the idea is that at some point God has to be counter cultural – or there’s no point? How are the people of God to be different if everything that’s natural is fair game? It just doesn’t make sense.

Liberal Christianity is less logical than atheism. Atheism functions on a type of rational and logical framework. Liberalism takes a bizarre mix of the supernatural element of Christianity and the emotional anything goes morality of Atheism and tries to blend them. It stinks.

We should expect sin to be natural. In fact, I’d go as far as to say we should have an inherent distrust for anything that seems natural to us, as humans, because human nature is sinful.

I can see where they come from, sometimes, we are called to love people. Loving the sinner but hating the sin can be pretty confusing. But to suggest that certain behaviour is ok for Christians just because it’s instinctive isn’t just a slippery slope. It’s a fireman’s pole. Straight down.

The fundamental assumption of Liberal belief – from what I can gather – is that somehow we, in the 21st century, are better qualified to understand the mind of God than those primitive disciples and their apostolic proclamations – and heaven help anyone who tries to base a worldview on the Old Testament.

Science, culture and psychology have helped us understand our sinfulness better – they do nothing to turn that which God calls sinful into something pure.

That is all.

Things that make me grumpy!

I have a pet hate. I hate a particular sub-species of grammar nazi. Well, a couple of sub-species actually.*

I hate it when I write perfectly parsed, syntaxed and phrased quotes to be included in a third party’s media release and they come back changed.

I especially hate it when that change includes the addition of an exclamation mark, or a change of spelling (program v programme) because your style guide is stuck in the mother country.

You may think you’re a better writer than me, you may be a better writer than me – but don’t ask for my help and then bastardise my quotes with awful punctuation.

If you do this I will laugh at you when nobody comes to your press conference – even though you waste almost an hour of my CEO’s time.

That is all.

*I also have a mild disdain for the Grammar SS, those Grammar Nazis who run around pulling people up with a public rebuke for a grammatical error. If it’s an issue for you at least have the courtesy to raise a mistake in private rather than trumpeting your grammatical superiority via a snarky comment. It may be that the mistake is an innocent typo.

Status symbols

You know what bothers me about Facebook… some people have annoying statuses. PC World has put together a list of common status update themes.

“English professors claim that there are relatively few distinct story plots, and that every piece of literature is just a retelling of one of those narrative archetypes. I’m convinced that the same is true of the things people write in their Facebook status updates.”

The list captures most of them – including my personal unfavourite – “Too much information” update. This is generally perpetrated by parents (or parents to be). Sorry parents. It’s true. People who aren’t parents (not just married people who aren’t parents…) don’t want to hear about

a) the pain involved in child birth

b) the funny thing your child did the point I was trying to make here is probably better summed up by the rest of the points. I’m fine with amusing stories, just not with the expectation that we love your child as much as you do, and not with funny stories pertaining to items covered by points c) and d).

c) Breastfeeding, toilet training, any other milestones…

d) Your child’s bodily functions

e) Your child related bodily functions

f) Running commentaries on your pregnancy

My other unfavourite is the “Christian” update – the bible verse etc – if it annoys me, and I’m a bona fide bible bashing Christian – imagine what it’s doing to your non-Christian friends. It’s not a witness to anything but your own sense of personal holiness.

Me, I prefer writing boring updates about the cricket or coffee, interspersed with occasional bursts of what I think is wit or insight.

That is all.

Coach, first class and business

You know what really annoys me. The theory that to be successful in the realm of business you need some sort of mentor, guru or coach. When did this happen?

I don’t care if your business coach or mentor is really successful – if they’re so good why aren’t you working for them?

Sure, learning from other people’s successes and failures is helpful. And wisdom comes from experience (including other people’s experience). Advice is great. But the idea that you need constant handholding and affirmation in order to realise your true potential is constantly frustrating. What happened to learning on the job and from your own experience – it seems that the approach these days is to run around collecting coaches and pithy advice before stepping out and doing something. It’s hardly entrepreneurial.

It’s especially frustrating when you run around telling everybody what your coach/mentor/guru/sage/seer etc told you and suggesting they apply it to their own endeavours in that field in a way that disparages everybody who does things differently or chooses to hold to an alternate philosophy.

That is all.

EDIT: In case anyone is wondering who this is directed at – it was vaguely work related. But I find this frustrating in every sphere.

Things I don’t Care About: The fuel subsidy

Premier Bligh has decided to scrap the 8c a litre fuel subsidy. I don’t really care. Anything the government is subsidising is being paid for by us (the tax payer) anyway. So it seems that I’ll get taxed less and have more money to spend on the things that go up in price. Balance. Plus, there have been a number of price hikes in recent years to cover increased fuel costs – and I haven’t noticed decreases to cover the drop in fuel prices since. So it should all just work itself out.

That’s what I think anyway. I wonder why all the lobby groups in the world are up in arms about increased costs when we’re still about 22c ahead of where we were six months ago. I tried to make our line on the issue consistent with my thinking – but keeping the customers (the tourism industry wants the subsidy) satisfied won the day. Oh well. More fool them.

Things I hate #43 – CC’ing

You know what I hate, people who write emails to me an carbon copy (CC) other people in on them. Not group discussions – just emails asking me to do stuff and showing everybody else that they’ve asked. That means when I refuse to do said stuff I need to provide my rationale to a wider range of people than would otherwise be the case.

I particularly hate it when someone CC’s my manager into something as though that is a tacit endorsement from my manager of the task this individual is asking me to do. It’s not. And I won’t do it on principle. Then I have to go to my manager and say – “disregard that email, the person is a twit”, or find out that I should in fact do the task for said twit. It would be easier to just send an email to me asking if I’ll do something, or send an email to my manager asking to get me to do something. It saves us all unwanted hassle and stress.

That is all.

Emoticonally challenged

Back in 2006 I wrote about why I hate emoticons. Basically if you use them incessantly or if your online dialogue is peppered with LOLs and ROFLs then I’ll probably find online discourse with you really annoying.

Emoticons and LOLs are starting to appear in actual verbal conversation. People now indicate laughter by saying LOL LOL LOL. If each of those LOLs is indicative of a bout of real life laughter then basically you’re abbreviating your response to things and packing in added hilarity. People also now feel the need to articulate the expression on their face – by saying “sadface” where they’d traditionally :( in typed text. This is sad. Particularly in the light of research that shows face to face communication is about 58 percent non-verbal, 35 percent “vocal” (tone etc)  and only 7% verbal (the words you use). And it’s annoying. This is a bit ranty, and it’s really just an intro to a story I just read and thought I’d share…

We may never know the degree of sorrow felt by a young Novosibirsk woman over the traffic cop she struck and killed with her car while driving drunk. But a senior traffic safety official said the “cynicism” of the suspect is exemplified by the text message – complete with emoticon – she sent her boyfriend after killing the officer:

“Honey, I killed a cop. I’m sorry :( What should I do?”

Yeah, nice. Her emotions are so beautifully captured by a colon and a parenthesis. That, to pick up another piece of online lingo is a “sympathy fail”.

The boyfriend’s priceless PR advice:

Create a “scandal and don’t say or sign anything.”

That is all.

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