Friday, 27 August 2010

All that worry for nothing

In reference to my earlier post about not knowing how to handle telling my work I don’t want to renew my contract – no need, they don’t want me.

While it is a blow for the old self esteem it is understandable, I never really got my head around this project and it showed in my productivity.

Now, although I’ll put my CV back out there, I will have much more time for the increasing amount of personal projects I want to work on.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The fat acceptance movement

I’d love to give you my thoughts on body acceptance but they’re complicated, messy, and still being formed. And they’re mostly being formed and informed by some wonderful bloggers and other fat acceptance / body acceptance movement advocates (such as Kate Harding and DefiNatalie).

So I present to you the words of Greta Christina, which I think wonderfully encapsulates my feelings on the matter. Maybe a little less focus on the weight loss aspect, since I’m sick of feeling like I can never be me rather than constantly striving for the me I’m “supposed” to be; but for the most part she says what I feel.

Just one note, I know most, if not all, of you are cringing at my use of the word “fat”. And if one of you tell me “but you’re not fat!” I’ll scream. I am. THAT’S FINE. I’m taking back the word. I’m sick of euphemisms and skirting around the word as if I should be ashamed of it. I’m fat. So what?

We need to make major changes in how our society views weight, fatness, and fat people. Our society has an excessively narrow definition of what constitutes an acceptable body type, and it's a definition that is unattainable for the overwhelming majority of people. People can be healthy, happy, and attractive at a variety of sizes; the standard medical definition of a healthy weight range is almost certainly too narrow, and some evidence suggests that it may be too low. Furthermore, many popular weight loss programs are grossly unhealthy, both physically and psychologically, and are aimed, not at maintaining good health, but at an almost certainly fruitless attempt to attain the cultural ideal of beauty. And many people who try to lose weight have no earthly medical reason for doing so.

We demand that people be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their size. We demand an end to job discrimination based on size. We oppose the moral outrage that is commonly aimed at fat people, and the persistent media representations of fat people as objects of disgust and ridicule. And we demand an end to medical discrimination based on size: we expect doctors to treat fat people with respect; to discuss weight loss with fat people as one option among many instead of the one course of action that must be pursued before any other; and to treat non- weight- related conditions equivalently for all patients, without regard to size.

Weight loss is both very difficult and very uncommon, especially in the long term. And we don't yet know why it's so difficult, or why a few people are able to do it while most people are not. We therefore think it's completely valid for a fat person to decide that weight loss isn't where they want to put their time and energy. Many of the health risks associated with being fat diminish significantly when people eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise -- even if they don't lose weight. We therefore encourage fat people to be as healthy as they can be: to eat healthy diets and get regular vigorous exercise, even if they don't lose weight doing so. And we encourage people who do choose to lose weight to do so in a healthy, sustainable way.

We understand that there are health risks associated with being fat. There are health risks associated with many things -- things we have control over, such as playing rugby; things we have no control over, such as carrying the breast cancer gene; and things we have limited control over to differing degrees, such as where we live. We think it is reasonable for people to decide for themselves whether they are willing to live with these risks, or whether they want to take action to reduce those risks -- whether that's by quitting rugby, having a pre-emptive mastectomy, moving, or losing weight. Both fatness and weight loss can involve health risks and loss of quality of life, and each individual must determine for themselves their own cost/benefit analysis of those risks and that quality. No person can decide that for another. We do understand that fatness is a health concern -- and we think it should be treated as such, as a public health issue and not as a moral failing or a character flaw. We support social and political changes in the way our society is structured around food and exercise -- changes that will improve the health of people of all sizes. We support bike lanes, cities and neighbourhoods designed to be walked in, farmers' markets, accuracy in food labelling, laws prohibiting wild and unsubstantiated claims in the advertising of weight-loss products, yada yada yada.

We passionately support healthy eating and exercise programs for children, since fatness in children can cause even more long-term harm than it does in adults... and is easier to address as well, at an age when set points and eating/exercise habits are more malleable. And we oppose the American food-industrial complex's use of psychological manipulation to sell excessive amounts of unhealthy, highly- processed, non- nutritious food, and their prioritization of profit over all other concerns. Finally: We want to base our movement on the best understanding of reality we can get. We encourage people of all sizes to base their cost/ benefit decisions about food, exercise, and weight, not on wishful thinking, but on a realistic assessment of the best hard data currently available.

We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into why people come in different sizes, and why sizes vary not only from person to person but from culture to culture. We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into maintaining and improving people's health at the size that they are. And we also support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into safe, sane, effective weight loss for people who choose to pursue it. Our bodies, our right to decide.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


My contract at my job expires at the end of September. I can't decide whether to extend it or not. When I first took the job I insisted on the shorter contract but the understanding was we'd extend it by another six months, as they were looking for a year long appointment.

I have no idea if they still feel that way, though; I worry that my trouble getting familiar with, and excited by, this project's code makes them not really want me there. But then again, I also know how prone my own insecurities are to making me project these kinds of feelings on others. There have been times when we've not seen completely eye to eye, though.

I fully intend to go to the UK in November to see family and friends and to attend ThoughtBubble, a comic convention in Leeds, with my friend Matt who runs our brainchild webcomic Moo & Keo. I haven't bought tickets yet so it's not an absolute surity, but that's only because the hospital bills upset the budget a bit and I really do intend to go. Some great friends I've made on the xkcd forums are travelling from far to attend too and I really want to meet them in person.

This raises the issue of leave, as well. I have already taken almost two weeks unpaid leave shortly into my contract at the current job to go to Singapore, and have as it stands accrued 3.75 days of annual leave; I don't really know if I can go on another holiday. And that's without the 10 days of sick leave (when the HR system shows I only have 3 available). And the two days I took around the long weekend to go to see the folks (wonderful time, subject of the next post).

Steve knows I'm not totally fulfilled at this job and supports me if I don't want to renew. I have some pet web projects on the side that I could devote my time to if I only started looking for a new contract to start beginning of next year. Then again, our income would almost halve. We're blessed enough that we could pay all our bills on Steve's salary but we wouldn't have much by way of expendable income (and going to England for a week or so isn't cheap when you're taking SA Rands!).

Decisions, decisions. I will have to gather the courage to ask the Head if Technology and the project manager (aka my immediate boss and her boss) for a meeting next week. The last time I had a meeting with the two of them, it was to (very unfairly, in my opinion) give me a tongue lashing on attitude so it's not the most pleasant of prospects for me. Will have to grow a pair, though, I guess.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Shipping News

Our import woes continue, as Customs have decided Steve can’t bring his own damn property into the country because his current visa expires in February.

By then he will have already applied for residency but officially, right now, he only has until February in SA.

What I don’t understand, is what business it is of theirs how long he wants his stuff here, if he wants to ship it all this way to have it for a few months and then have to pay to ship it back when he gets deported that is surely his own problem! They’re supposed to care about whether we should pay import duty or whether we’re trying to bring in plants that will zombify all local flora; not how long we get to play the brand new Xbox we still haven’t even taken out of the box (yes I want to play with my new toy and am bitter, thanks for asking) before having to leave the country!

Steve contacted his work about this, which contacted the immigration service they use to get work visas, who say they have *never* heard of a clearance application being declined on those grounds.

Now I have to go to a police station and get an affidavid endorsed that I have been out of the country and then fill in all the forms and then go to Customs myself and hope they’ll let me apply even though it’s all in Steve’s name - even though, in the 4 months I’ve been at this job, I have taken 2 weeks unpaid leave to go to Singapore, was sick for 2.5 weeks (with only 3 days sick leave available), AND I had booked leave around the upcoming long (bank holiday) weekend long before getting sick and basically really need to stop having reasons to be absent from work!

The two days are Friday (tomorrow) and Tuesday; Monday is a public holiday so we’re having a super long weekend which we’re going to spend with my parents in Velddrif. I’m really looking forward to it and as far as I’m concerned this other stressy crap can wait until I get back.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

So near, yet so far...

So, our box of stuff is in Durban Harbour, awaiting customs clearance.

In July, we got a letter from the South African company used by the UK company that did our shipping – a month later than they were supposed to send it. It told us we have to fill in a bunch of forms and go to South African Customs and Excise ourselves to have the shipment cleared for customs before they could proceed. Then I got measles and we isolated ourselves. Then sort of one thing and another happened and we didn’t get round to it.

Yesterday Steve made the utterly unprecedented move of taking time away from work and went to Customs and Excise (since his is the name on all the forms). Once again not one of the shipping companies managed to be remotely compitent, i.e. inform us of all the facts – when he got to the front and presented our forms, he was met with much head shaking and uhming and ahing, since his visa is only until early next year.

Since he’s married to a South African, he will be able to apply for residency on our 5th anniversary – December this year. As a result his work only applied for a visa for as long as they needed to, which is understandable. However now the customs people don’t really know about someone wanting to bring their entire life over here when they technically can only stay for another few months (by the information available right now). We never thought of this, and not one of the companies that supposedly deal with this stuff every day thought to bring it up.

The customs officials took the forms and have apparently sent them off to head office with a promise to call Steve. Needless to say, we haven’t heard back yet.

The most frustrating thing about it all is that apparently the Customs & Excise staff asked Steve why he was doing it himself, why wasn’t his shipping company sorting it out for him?


Monday, 2 August 2010

My theory on computers

The self-aware computer is a popular theme for movies and the like. From the adorable (think Short Circuit) to the terrifying (a la Terminator) there have been many that have contemplated the possibility of our machines gaining sentience.

I have, however, come up with an alternative theory about what it would be like if our metally servents gained consciousness. A theory based on personal experience. What’s more (and, I think, more worrysome) is that THIS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.

Every time you got a Windows blue screen of death; every application that crashes or freezes; every website that doesn’t load right, every painstakingly typed document you can’t find or open later: this is their plan. Their frighteningly subtle, calculatingly elegant, perfectly terrifying plan. They’re slowly driving us crazy.

They probably have no sense of mortality, which is why it doesn’t matter that their plan will take years, even decades to complete. For all we know this is just the recconnaisance phase. They’re that patient. They have nothing but time.

So, the next time you load up Bejewelled Blitz, just remember that that cute notebook you’re so fond of is probably as aware of you as you are of it, and underneath it’s high resolution surface it hates you with a burning, seething hate. Think about that the next time it claims that a program has encountered an illegal action and decides FOR you to shut it down.