And the award for political scandal of the week goes to…

Well I’m not actually sure at this point who is going to win the award. I would have liked to conduct a poll but as I have neither the technical know-how nor the traffic to make it a practical reality, I will ask you to let me know your opinion in the comments sections. So here we have it, the nominees for the award for the ‘Political Scandal of the Week’ (ending June 15 2008 ) are…

  1. The human traffic accident that is the governmental power couple John Della Bosca (NSW MP) and Belinda Neal (Federal MP). John lost his license for speeding a few weeks ago was photographed on his bicycle telling a journalist to F*%K off. His wife was allegedly banned from her soccer team for kicking an opponent while down. But now they are in big trouble due to a ruckus at the NSW Central Coast nightspot ‘Iguana Joes’. ‘Iguanagate’ (I mean really can’t we come up with our own names for political scandals, do we have to put ‘gate’ on the end of every story involving a silly pollie?) has cost Mr Della Bosca his ministerial position and Ms Neal has been rebuked by her party and told that she must do a ‘Anger Management’ course. (Debate about whether or not the response to this story has been sexist or not can be found here). Our second nomination goes too…
  2. The Sex, Death and Rose scandal currently haunting the QLD state government. Now the story goes something like this (and it runs like the plot of a bad novel), apparently State MP Merrie Rose had an affair with the Premier Peter Beattie and was sentenced to 18 months gaol for attempting to blackmail him. Letters by a now deceased aid of hers, Ms Barbara Darrow allege that Ms Rose was having Ms Darrow involve herself in corrupt and illegal activites, covering up and destroying evidence of the affair. While it does not implicate Peter Beattie in illegal activities it may explain why Beattie gave up the Premiership last year. Details of the story can be found at Crikey. And our third and final (and my personal favourite) nomination goes to…
  3. The British public servants who keep leaving top secret documents on trains. Maybe I like this one because its just so British, or because it comes with the best quotes, but here’s the story from the BBC. In the same week that a senior official left intelligence about Terrorism on a train, details of a secret meeting of financial crime experts was found on the London bound Waterloo train. There is tension and confusion in London and files on train thing is turning their security into a joke

Our enemies don’t even need to hack into our computers, they apparently just need to travel on public transport

Keith Vaz, Home Affairs Select Committee chairman
So there we have it, nominations are now closed. Please give me your feedback as to whom the award should go to.

Enough ranting, let’s talk about Me(me).

After having been tagged for my first meme by LuLi whose blog is not only a good read but is the most beautifully ‘illustrated’ (is this the right word?) of any I have come across, I decided to share a couple of things with you. Not only the meme, but also this clip about the 7 plots of all blogs. It’s a great premise, (and my blogs are typically of type 1, but this one is type 7) but the blogs that I’ve tagged don’t seem to fit into these 7 categories. So for this meme I fill in the answers to these questions and tag others to do the same, but the bloggers I tagged may not as their seriously clever blogs may not support this type of entry. I leave it in their hands, but do check out their work.

Bloggers tagged: FoodieFi and the Bog Logger

1. What were you doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago I was in my second year of university and living with my grandmother. I loved my grandma, but at the time was getting increasingly frustrated with the old fashioned type and very restrictive rules that were a part of the deal of living at her place. I was studying psychology and getting increasingly disillusioned with the course. I had also began dating the man who is now my husband. (I can’t believe that we have been together for over ten years). But second year uni was much better than first year, and I managed to see a lot of live music, eat cheap and very bad food, and waste spend a lot of time at the uni bar, playing cards and acquiring a taste for Toohey’s Old. I have some great memories of that year, undies runs around the bar by various members of our group (including myself) who lost cards games without scoring a point, the ‘Autonomy Day’ celebrations at uni where we managed to be drunk by six o’clock in the morning, and well you get the picture… probably the best of my uni undergrad years.

2. What are five things on your to-do list today?

Today I had a ridiculously ambitious list that ran something like this, clean the bathroom (one of my least favourite jobs, but seriously who doesn’t feel that way), fold and put away the washing, quick tidy up of house, meet friends for coffee, go and see local production of ‘The Full Mounty’. Well, predictably, only the last three on the list got done, so the first two are waiting for me tomorrow. But the show I saw was a lot of fun and whenever I see a local production (which is actually not that often) I am always struck by how much talent there is in the local community.

3. What snacks do you enjoy?

I probably don’t snack as often as I should and as I usually have an early lunch I seem to always end up really hungry and cranky by dinner time. There just never seems to be stuff that I feel like in the house (but as I’m the one that does the shopping who’s fault is that?). If I had a magic pantry I would snack on chocolate, corn chips, and twisties, and its probably for the best that I don’t buy those things all that frequently. When I do snack its very boringly on fruit (typically a banana with no black spots on it, I’m a bit picky) or corncakes with butter and vegemite.

4. Things you would do if you were a billionaire.

Not succeed in my desire not to spoil the kids rotten. Take my father’s business off his hands. Enable my sister to buy that Cafe she is dreaming about. My husband could quit his job and run his dream business, and I’d help everyone I love that has a mortgage to pay it off, as well as buying my desired house (same as this one, old ramshackle and federation style but lots bigger with all those modern conveniences, you know, like storage space and off street parking). Travel to Europe and spent some time with my husband’s family, and then go to South America. Said husband could do his dream thing of going to Base Camp, but I’d give that a miss.

I’d also set up investment accounts for various charities so that even if I (foolishly) ran out of money they would continue to benefit and set up a scholarship program to send lots of young people from around the world to university.

5. Three of your bad habits.

  1. Procrastination.
  2. Procrastination.
  3. Procrastination.

6. Five places you have lived.

I lived in Muswellbrook until I was ten. Then Singleton until I was 18 ish, with some months in New Zealand as an exchange student. Which I loved and I have been there two other times and would love to go back again, its a beautiful country. Also miscellaneous suburbs of Newcastle, near the hospital, near the uni, near the beach, and now in a suburb that in between the beach and the uni.

7. Five jobs that you’ve had?

I’ve been a pizza delivery girl. Which literally ended in disaster with a car accident.

I’ve been a waitress/bar person at least twice, and not a very good one at that. I much, much, much preferred nights when I was behind the bar, then when I was on the floor. I am clumsy and once dropped a glass of coke on top of a woman.

I’ve been a retail salesperson in two different jewelery stores for a number of years, where I was capable but not really great. Putting the hard sell on people is not really my thing.

I’ve been a child care worker, which I found to be fun easy work.

I’ve done some teaching at my university and that looks like what I’ll continue to do.

8. How did you name your blog?

Well when I registered a gravator ‘rayedish’ was the first thing that I thought of that wasn’t already used. (God, its hard to be original in this world!) So when I finally decided to start my own blog, I based the design around the concept of being a radish/rayedish.

A ‘Mother’s Choice’ (tick, tick, tick)

DI BAKER: Look, I knew I never wanted to push. I knew before I even met my husband so, it’s – girls plan for their perfect dream wedding. I planned for the perfect pregnancy.

I had meant to catch the 60 Minutes program on Sunday Night so that I could watch the story on childbirth entitled ‘Mother’s Choice’. Not at all because I trust 60 Minutes to help me make that ‘Mother’s Choice’, but because I was interested to see how they framed the ‘choices’. But I forgot and only caught the last half of it. When a friend of mine mentioned her displeasure at the story I decided that it was worth de-constructing. So rather than rely on my memory of the program (undoubtedly clouded by my emotional response to the story) I have dug up the transcript.

The story was presented by Tara Brown and introduced in the following terms,

There’s nothing unusual about women having babies. Understandably, though, every mother-to-be feels unique and, here, I’m speaking from personal experience. If all goes well, come October, I will be a mum for the first time. Soon, I’ll have to make that decision – how I want my baby delivered. These days, one in three Australian babies are delivered in an operating theatre. Caesareans are fast becoming the norm. Right at the other end of the spectrum, some women have their babies at home with no medical intervention at all – not a doctor or a midwife in sight. So, natural or the knife? Tonight, the intimate stories of women who’ve already made that difficult choice. And I should mention some viewers may find some scenes confronting.

So for starters giving birth is presented as a stark choice. ‘Natural’ is made to sound as though its done, home alone and sans medical support versus ‘the knife’. We are given the stats – ‘one in three’ which means ‘Caesareans are fast becoming the norm’. Ok so we completely ignore the experience of the majority of mothers who fall between the very few women in Australia who choose to give birth without a doctor or midwife present, and the one third of women who have a caesarean. It should be noted that not all caesareans are elected, (and this story conflates elected caesareans with medical emergency caesareans) a lot are decided upon during the course of labour, for the health of either the mother or the child. The experiences of the majority of mothers, vaginal birth in a hospital setting, is not even examined as one of a ‘mother’s choices’.

The story presents the opinions and birthing choices of four Australian mothers. Julie Heath, Georgia Sheahan, Tara Darlington and Di Baker. While Dr Michael Van Der Grien and Dr Garth Leslie give their opinions there were no midwives’ views in the program. Through out the story we cut to Julie Heath’s home birth. She is giving birth to baby number four and is quite confident of her ability to do so unaided by doctor or midwife, with only her husband present to catch the baby (in the intimacy of her own home surrounded by the TV crew). We are not told about the births of her other children, but we are informed that they live only a minute and a half from the hospital, in case any thing goes awry with this birth.

This birth footage is interspersed through the the story, the birth goes well and seems to be relatively quick and easy, and eventually we are given the proud parents’ reactions:

JULIE HEATH: It’s a girl.

BEN HEATH: Another bloody girl. Another bloody girl.

(And that’s really a topic for another day, but here’s the link to the ‘Because I am a girl report‘ if you are interested in the implications of being born a girl.)

TARA BROWN: The baby girl seems healthy… ..but there are anxious moments. Julie is worried by her own bleeding and calls for an ambulance. While the blood loss is not unusual they decide to take her and the baby to hospital for a check up. But sometimes it can be so much worse.

DR MICHAEL VAN DER GRIEND: Home births… ..when they go great are great. But when home births go wrong and you don’t have back up it can be a disaster.

TARA BROWN: And you are left to clean up the mess?


Let us note the juxtaposition here. We are shown the home birth pool that Julie has used to give birth in, the water stained with her blood, just as Tara Brown starts to discuss the dangers in the ‘natural’ birth scenario with the doctor. We are not told what ‘mess’ the doctor has had to clean up but we are left with the image of a pool full of blood.

TARA BROWN: But Dr Van Der Griend believes in most cases, vaginal births and elective Caesareans are equally safe. While he prefers to deliver babies normally he thinks Caesars should always be available.

DR MICHAEL VAN DER GRIEND: I think a woman has the right for choice and I think in 2008 the safety of that as an alternative to a vaginal birth or a normal delivery is still… it’s on par with it. I think women should still have that as an option.

Now we have a paradox, we are subtly made aware of the danger of the natural birthing, but are reassured by our good doctor that caesareans are as safe as natural births. The doctor feels that all mothers-to-be deserve to have a choice, but that choice needs to include the option of an elective casarean. Georgia Sheahan made the choice to have a caesarean and admitted to Tara Brown that maybe she was “too posh to push” but she chose her C-section because she was concerned about the potential for things to go wrong.

GEORGIA SHEAHAN: I don’t like the idea of, you know, pushing something the size of a watermelon outside something the size of a golf ball. It just sounds awful and I didn’t want any part of it.

TARA BROWN: Georgia is part of a growing trend of women opting out of labour, giving Australia one of the highest Caesarean rates in the world. And it’s not just the pain. Georgia says too many things can go wrong with a natural delivery.

GEORGIA SHEAHAN: You know you can get a cervical prolapse, you can get tears, so there’s all those unpleasant things, from a mother’s point of view. But I was also terrified of things that can go wrong for the baby. You can have, you know, shoulder dislocation, you can have the cord wrapped around the neck and, at the end of the day, I wanted a child, not a childbirth.

The way the show presents women choosing to have a caesarean, it is almost as though they are choosing a procedure equivalent to having a tooth extracted. But a caesarean is major abdominal surgery and comes with its own risks, but the doctor informs us of these.

DR MICHAEL VAN DER GRIEND: You tend to lose a little bit more blood with a Caesarean section birth compared to a straightforward delivery. Your risk of infection or wound infection or urinary tract infection is higher. But all of those things, even though I’ve named them, are significantly low in my experience in a straightforward elective Caesarean section.

But Georgia doesn’t seem to be aware that C-section carries some risks for the babies as well, their limbs can be broken as the babies are pulled from their mother’s stomach.

TARA BROWN: And for the babies, some delivered by Caesarean need special care to help with their breathing. This little boy, just five minutes old, is no exception.

DR GARTH LESLIE: That’s right, a few big breaths, that will help.

TARA BROWN: But paediatrician Dr Garth Leslie isn’t too worried. Is that a consequence of having a Caesarean or do you see the same in natural deliveries?

DR GARTH LESLIE: You see the same in natural deliveries but its a bit more common after a Caesarean because they haven’t been… ..had their lungs squeezed down through the pelvis during the labour process.

Tara Darlington had four children, her second, due to a medical emergency, was born via caesarean. For her this was not an experience that she would care to repeat.

TARA DARLINGTON: It was much harder bonding. I mean, I was laid up in hospital for longer. It was harder to carry him… So if it saves your life what can you say but if it wasn’t necessary I wouldn’t choose it.

Her attitude is in sharp contrast to that of Di Baker.

DI BAKER: In order to keep everything intact, um, I wanted to have a great sex life, I wanted to enjoy intimacy with my husband and have total fulfilment.

TARA BROWN: Well so when you say “keeping everything intact”, what do you mean exactly?

DI BAKER: It is like the unspoken myth, women don’t want to talk about it. Things certainly have to open up for baby to have to pass through and things don’t necessarily remain intact down below.

This is the part of the story that I found the most disturbing, she puts these ‘myths’ out there and these are not really corrected or explored, although Tara Darlington does say that her own sex life hasn’t been affected by the birth of her four children. What is disturbing here is the fact that whomever her doctor was they have agreed to give her a caesarean on the basis of something that is unlikely to happen. While we are discussing myths, there are also rumours that giving birth vaginally can have the opposite effect, it can give a birthing mother the biggest orgasm of her life (I can’t think of why ’60 Minutes’ didn’t explore this ‘unspoken myth’) In the circle of mothers I know it’s not the giving birth vaginally that has affected their sex life it is the looking after the baby!

There are so many demands on mothers in our culture and continuing to look sexy and nubile while managing to bring up your offspring is now one of them. The modern mummy is expected to remain ‘yummy’ and this subtle pressure on women to remain ‘intact’ and to undergo unnecessary surgery is something I find very disturbing.

This story focused on two ways to give birth, ‘naturally’ or with the knife. The story contained no exploration on giving birth vaginally in a medical setting, either in a birth centre or a delivery suite, and no mention of independent midwifery. So for a story ostensibly about a mother’s difficult choice we certainly are not given a clear picture of all the available options. According to this ‘expose’ ‘a mother’s choice’ is presented as being between danger (home birth without help) and vanity (choosing a caesarean because you are too posh to push). The subtle message seemed to be that with choices like that it seems that women would better off letting their doctor choose for them. (Some examples of the ways some doctors respect their patient’s choice are provided here by Lauredhel).

A big Yay! for Feminism and Slacker Mums

So I was ‘attending’ the inaugural Down Under Feminists Carnival being hosted by Hoyden about Town (a worthy monthly event – note to self must get butt into gear and submit something one of these days) and while I haven’t yet made my way through all of the attractions of the Carnival I particularly enjoyed this piece by blue milk. Blue milk hosts a discussion about the American ‘Slacker Mom’ movement, which is a conscious response to the ‘over – parenting’ trend, an accelerating tendency that has been in place for at least the last twenty years (if the tales of university students getting mother on the mobile to sort out their problems are to be believed). Reading the confessions of self identified ‘Slacker Mums’ sure made me feel a lot better about some of the parenting that goes on around here. That being said, most of the comments were more about the all too human moments that inevitably occur when looking after children. (Around here we had the case where a toddler drinking cup went through the kitchen window *smashing noise heard in background* instead of into the kitchen sink when thrown in anger by a tired mother). This type of confession (while cathartic and useful) is slightly different to admitting that one is a ‘Slacker Mum’ as a opposed to just having moments of being a slack human mum.

To me identifying as a ‘Slacker Mum’ is an admission that one is consciously trying not to be everything for one’s kids and one is letting them be kids, without having to micromanage every aspect of their childhood. To participate in this movement is to reject the ‘competimummying’ that is going on. (if you want to know what ‘competimummying is check out Best Parent Ever).  It is an admission that its ok to let the kids get dirty, and is ok for them to risk limbs at the playground and its fine if they’re not a bilingual, ballet dancing, sports freak by the age of seven. So you can heave a sigh of relief and have a sip of chardonnay because there are other average mothers out there.

One of the problems that I have with the type of intense parenting that seems to have become the norm is the fact that this focus on perfect parenting comes at the detriment of both parent and child. This article discusses the dangers for the child of this type of parenting, but I wonder about the effects on the parent. If caught up in the competitive aspects of parenthood do you have time to enjoy the whimsical aspects of parenthood? Do you have time and energy to devote to other things that you may be interested in? Like, for instance, Feminism. Which apparently is still kicking having permeated the mainstream according to this article.

So lets have a round of applause for slacker mums and leave your children unsupervised in the sandpit while you jump on the internet and check out the Down Under Feminists Carnival!

Happy Anniversary

Mother Nature is at it again. Heavy rains and flood warnings have been issued for this weekend, just in time for the anniversary of the June Long Weekend Floods of last year. From the local paper:

Raincoats and flood warnings have almost become routine for the June long weekend.

More than 52mm of rain fell on Maitland before 9am yesterday in a deluge that brought back worrying memories for property owners, particularly in low-lying areas neighbouring the Hunter River.

It did not ease during the day, and was expected to continue last night.

Totals for the past 24-hour period could eclipse this year’s wettest day on January 18, when 80.2mm fell.

More rain is forecast for today as the region commemorates the first anniversary of the June long weekend storm and flood that wreaked a damage bill in excess of $2 billion.

I was looking for some pictures of the floods but instead I give you this. Enjoy and have a peaceful and uneventful long weekend.

More techutopian dreams

The BBC are carrying this story about an interesting study which has just been published in Nature. In this study they tracked the movements of 100 000 people as they used their mobile phones. The anonymous cohort (who are not aware of their participation in the study) were randomly selected from a European nation of 6 million people.

The whereabouts of more than 100,000 mobile phone users have been tracked in an attempt to build a comprehensive picture of human movements.

The study concludes that humans are creatures of habit, mostly visiting the same few spots time and time again. Most people also move less than 10km on a regular basis.

Ok so that is very interesting, but what about the ethics of tracking people without their permission? Apparently the possibilities are endless.

“It would be wonderful if every [mobile] carrier could give universities access to their data because it’s so rich,” said Dr Marta Gonzalez of Northeastern University, Boston, US, and one of the authors of the paper.

Dr William Webb, head of research and development at the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, agreed that mobile phone data was still underexploited.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he told BBC News.

Did you notice that they want the data from the mobile phone carriers companies and not the mobile users? Don’t worry the benefits and commercial possibilities will be passed onto users.

Commercial products also exist, allowing parents to track children or for friends to receive alerts when they are in a similar location.

These types of services and projects will continue to grow, Dr Webb believes, as researchers and businesses find new ways to use the mobile phone networks.

“There are so many sensors that you could conceivably attach to a phone that you could do all kinds of monitoring activities with,” he said.

We mustn’t worry about being monitored through our mobile phone usage after all we are already giving away all our details on facebook and through our blogs. Just combine Facebook with your mobile and not only can your location be tracked to within three kilometres, but information about your mood, status and friends is also readily available. Welcome to the future.

A solution after my own heart.

As a homegrown vegetable brought up in an a suburban vege garden I really could not go past this story. In case you haven’t noticed we are in the midst of a world food crisis. But the great folk in Lesotho (the country that is entirely surrounded by South Africa, for those of you that are geographically challenged) have come up with a simple and life saving solution, according to this BBC news report.

In a country in which creeping desertification and erosion have crippled the economy, households have manged to become self sufficient in vegetables through a simple yet innovative solution. They have created two metre wide, circular, raised vegetable gardens in stone walls. Known as ‘keyhole gardens’ the nutrient value is restored to the soil through filling the raised beds of the gardens with tin cans and mulch. The height of gardens means that they are easy to care for. The stone walls of the gardens prevent the erosion that is blighting much of the country. These gardens have proven to be more productive than expected and even in the off season produce enough food to feed a family of ten, with extra to sell.

A couple of points to this story. As a radish I love this idea. Local and simple, home grown solutions to global problems. (Like the old slogan “think global, act local”). It reminds me of this other home grown story, about the people of Burma who are taking matters in to their own hands and attempting to rescue those their government is neglecting.

It also brings some perspective to those of us bitching about the hike in grocery prices.