Thursday, 8 October 2015

Eat Food

As you know - yes you do - in my spare time* I write. I write all sorts of things. In my head I am A Writer. But I never finish anything. Never satisfied with it. I'll get there.

But for once a book is actually being published. Not what I intended to be the first one, it's a cookbook. It's called Kitchenwitch. It's not just recipes, it's food trivia and weird stuff too.

It doesn't get controversial. When I touch on opinions about food rather than facts, I keep it light and humorous. I edited out a LOT of rants that were too controversial or preachy. So, here they are. The "outtakes" from Kitchenwitch.

First of all I have to tell you, I don't care what you eat. At all.

If there's one thing this world has way too much of it is fake care. 9 times out of 10 we don't care enough, and then we go and pretend to care when in fact we are just being busybodies. If you say you care about the health of total strangers based on their own choices, I don't think you are telling the truth. What you really want to do is be high and mighty about it.

Sure, it's a good idea to share information. If you happen to know something the rest of us don't. If you have insider stuff from the food industry. If you are actually a food scientist. But usually, we already know. Thanks. When you tell me that too much salt isn't good for me, this isn't news. Tell it to a child, they are still learning. Most adults are fully aware of what is and isn't the best food choices, and the exceptions to this will not be reading you anyway.

Not only that, food is subject to a lot of the misinformation we know as pseudoscience. I expect you've heard about "natural antibiotics". Well, by now you know my attitude to the word natural. Antibiotics are living things, so in at least one sense they are natural already. But let's consider what they are trying to tell us here. They are trying to say that some food kills bacteria. I hope not. The main problem with antibiotics is that they kill a wide range of bacteria, not just the one you are aiming for, so when you take them you also, inevitably, kill the useful bacteria that lives in our digestive system. And that is in a medicine that has been carefully tested and assessed for results, side-effects, etc. Imagine being given a completely untested drug, in random dosage, with no idea of what it will do to that "friendly" gut bacteria. Would you take it? I wouldn't. No, we don't want food being an antibiotic. Bad idea. Bad bad bad.

Then there's the fear porn about food that is "bad for you". Eat these items and you'll die. I hate to point this out but "bad for you" is about as unscientific as it gets. It's fine in an informal conversation, especially with a child. But what does "bad" mean? Define it. Does it mean that if you eat 500grams of food X daily for 20 years then your risk of kidney stones increases by 20%? Then say that. Be precise. The benefits may outweigh the risks.

A good example is fat. We know that too much fat in your diet can contribute to various diseases. We also know that too little fat in your diet can cause deficiencies that are detrimental. Depending on how old you are the risk/benefit here is dramatically different. With other issues thrown into the mix, the risk/benefit changes. It actually makes no sense to make statements such as "too much fat", because it tells us nothing.

But that's people. We talk rubbish a lot of the time.

The latest idea of course is that some food is better than some other food because it's "natural". So, let's look at that. If you eat non-hybrid, or wild food, raw, as is, straight from the garden, that's natural. But not that apple, it was from a grafted tree. Not that potato, that was selectively bred not to be poisonous. Not that broccoli, it was invented by the Romans, by crossing other brassicas. Believe me there are many things required to qualify as natural, and very few foods pass the test. There are a few berries that qualify, not many.

The concept of processed food is one of the sillier ones. Processed can simply mean cooked. People who rant against processed food ("I never buy ANYTHING processed") can often be found in late summer pickling and making jam so they can store their lovely organic harvest over winter. Somebody should tell them.....

Then there's "junk food". Meaning WHAT? A burger? What's the junk? Do you even know what you mean when you say that? Which part of that burger is junk? Why?

You are probably thinking of the additives in it. None of which are harmful, in sensible quantities. If you had a Big Mac 3 times a day with nothing else, you'd die. If you had organic wild blueberries 3 times a day and nothing else, you'd die. It's all about dosage, and deficiency.

Yes, I use terms like processed food and junk foods, in informal conversation. Usually the person I'm talking to knows what I mean, there is a context. But I don't talk complete bollocks. I don't tell people that "junk food is bad for you" because that is a completely meaningless thing to say. In one sense it's a "thank you Captain Obvious" thing to say, and in another sense, without any solid definitions of "junk" or "bad" you may just as well say "hubjiggypootlecombi". Makes as much sense.

And then there's "clean" food. Well, how high and mighty is THAT? "My food is clean, yours is dirty". I KNOW what they are trying to say, but it's bullshit. If your food was actually clean it would be bad for you................

So, let's just look at all of this. If something is digestible by a human without any major or lasting harm to the digestive tract (including the liver) and it provides calories as well as other nutrition, then it's food. Food is not a strictly scientific term, you see. It's a guideline. We have learned by trial and error ( = science) over millions of years what we can and can't eat and we feed our children accordingly. We don't feed them wood, even though it's natural, we know it isn't food. We don't feed them exclusively sugar, even though some of them would be happy with that, because we know better. We don't feed them grass, that's food, but not for humans.

Sometimes we have to be told that something is food.

I don't consider processed cheese product to be food, but it says it is on the label. And I'm only teasing anyway. Not everyone is. Read the comments here, some are spectacularly stupid:

I don't buy it because I don't like the taste. I don't like the way it looks like plastic melting when it melts, something to do with the polymers, they tell me, but I find it off-putting. I didn't give it to my children because it was cheaper to buy cheese in a bar, but I'm not a moron. ALL cheese is processed, or did you think there were cheese mines? To go with the spaghetti trees perhaps?

If you want to eat better, and we all can, it certainly helps to eat MORE raw and fresh foods, and LESS commercially pre-cooked. Everybody I have ever known who switches from the "bad" to the "good" there feels better, and that's what it's all about, But it isn't necessary to be a food saint. Extremism is never healthy.

Here are my tips:

If you weigh more than your body enjoys (if the lower bits complain about the weight above them) or if your doctor has said that your health issues can be remedied by weighing or eating less, then eat less. Yeah, that was a tip. Especially eat less late at night, and don't drink calories. The jury is still out on snacking. Correlation is not causality. However, people who snack a lot are fatter than those who don't, so draw your own conclusions.

If you are happy with your health and weight, carry on eating as you do. Don't mess with a good thing. It's working.

If you are just trying to be your best, and why not indeed, be sensible about it. Don't follow a fad. Just because your neighbour got thin (especially if she was already thin, and just got thinner) in the "Expensive Monthly Plan Drink All Your Food And It Tastes Like Chocolate" cult, doesn't mean you will. Individual results may vary (it's in the small print). And if you don't STAY on the plan ($$$$ for them) the weight goes back on. Plus a bit more. And the less said about that the better.

Given the choice of less food or more exercise, opt for a walk. Or a dance. You CAN lose weight sitting down all day, but that doesn't mean you are healthy. The healthiest people you will ever meet stuff their faces with anything they feel like, and wash it down with vodka. And they live to be 100, still working. And they are chubby too.

Health includes eating well, but what "well" means may not be what you think it means. And that's just your own body. Don't even start preaching to others about theirs.

And as Billy Connolly says, if it comes in a bucket, don't eat it.

*spare time is defined as time when you have nothing else to do. Which is why I write in my sleep.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Not Atheist Not God Botherer Not Conservative Not Liberal

When I get an idea for a blog I just create a title, and may add a few notes here, 2 or 3 sentences at the most. Then when I have time I come back and "FLESH IT OUT". It's called Torrent of Consciousness for a reason. I write it in one go, quickly, without editing. Those of you who are fast on the uptake often see it before I've even read it back, and find some hysterical typos. Another word for a piece of writing that is written in this way is a rant. This morning, I know not why, everything is crazy. And I thought to myself, now which of those blog idea would be best turned into a full piece today.

This one won the prize.

It goes like this. We are all different, and we all have different beliefs, so we see things differently. Good. It'd be bloody boring otherwise. And obviously that means we are going to disagree over religious and political matters and doughnuts, but if we are mature and sensible, we don't have to actually attack one another. Which is why I'm so done with labels used as insults.

I get it that labels are convenient. I get it that we have a tribal history, so identifying people in groups comes naturally. I get it that people label themselves too, and that while I usually follow the maxim of calling them what they call themselves, that can get complex too.

To explain what I mean, let's pretend there's a group called Dunglings. And somebody says "I'm a Dungling" and we say "OK". Then time passes and we meet another Dungling, who is very different, and we mention this, and get told that Dungling #1 isn't a REAL Dungling. And we say OK. So then we talk to Dungling #1 and HE says Dungling #2 isn't a real Dungling. And we shoot ourselves. No, but how are we supposed to deal with this? Which one do we believe?

So, just "go with what he calls himself" doesn't always work.

Still, that's the best we've got, so I think it's the best way to approach it.

For that reason, if you call me a liberal, with no bad intent, I'll gently correct you.

In the United States politics is just a two party thing. One or the other. Right or left. Either/or. This is black and white thinking but you can't really blame them because it's all they've ever known.

In most of the rest of the democratic world (and I use that term loosely) there is right, left, and centre. And generally speaking liberals are in the centre.

HOWEVER, increasingly in the US (and elsewhere, actually) liberals have moved right of centre in many ways. And while I'm not actively Marxist despite everything, I am most definitely left of centre.

Here in Canada liberal is associated with waste and corruption, especially in Ontario. Which isn't to say these are liberal traits, it's just what the Liberals (big L) in power here tend to be like, so we've got used to that.

There is a dictionary definition of liberal:

Which is the best guide you can use really.

But what a Canadian thinks of when they say liberal, and what an American thinks, are really not the same thing.

Either way, use of the word liberal as an insult is a bit bizarre.

For a start who knows what they mean? Do they mean anything from the dictionary definition? If so, how is it a bad thing? Do they mean like an American democrat? Do they mean like a Canadian Liberal?

So how do you respond? Difficult.

Then there's religion. I get called an atheist, A LOT. Which I'm not. OK. But I'll state flat out here, I'm not a theist. A theist is what we non-theists call a God-botherer. Not only have they decided that their version of what the word God means is the correct version, they then ANNOY that deity constantly with demands. They have all sorts of reasons for doing this, but when it comes down to it they either:

1. Think God is a magician who casts spells on request, or
2. Has no clue what's going on.

Both of which really aren't things taught in most mainstream religions.

Somebody once told me there are no atheists in foxholes and that when you are really at that point, you WILL PRAY no matter what. So, when I was on that airplane that I believed 100% was just about to crash what did I do? Pray? Nope. What went through my mind? I'll tell you. "Well, this is it then, at least the kids and Martin are with me and we'll all go together." There was no fear, no tears, no screaming, no last minute conversion, nothing you might quite reasonably expect. Certainly no pleading for mercy to any deity just in case. It was an interesting experience.

There's nothing wrong with praying. It's a nice quiet meditation, a bit of gratitude, and a bit of hope. This is all very positive. Personally I prefer a bit of moon drawing down, but I think what happens inside us amounts to the same thing, which is really why we do whatever we do.

I don't believe in Reiki. I think it's complete bullshit, and anyone who pays for it is a sucker. BUT, if they enjoy the experience, then that's fine. I would never support any effort to ban Reiki, or cause trouble for Reiki practitioners. They provide a service, and one pays for services. If that service is a placebo, or headology, or for entertainment purposes only, or the only chance you get to relax and have somebody's undivided attention for a while, and you are not taking food from hungry children to pay for it, then be my guest.

You will never find me criticizing a person for doing anything harmless that they enjoy and can afford.

I do think some things cross a line. The price of the water that they sell labelled "homeopathic" is unethical. Even as a placebo it's outrageously expensive. I think scientology crosses the line into actual scam territory, and I'd happily see it illegal. When the price is that high, it's no longer harmless and I can no longer shrug it off.

And then there's that whole idea that if you believe something enough, it becomes real. It creates itself, like Discworld gods. You know, they have shown this to be true in very very small ways with quantum physics, and therefore we cannot dismiss it. But I think we have to be careful with it.

But that's not all, is it?

As I've said before, I don't see belief as an actual choice. There's something else going on there.

Not that it matters.

Going back to the Discworld, Pratchett was one of our finest thinkers - a philosopher. Authors die all the time, and there are plenty more, but he was a loss because he was more than just a story writer.

“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman."

If a deity requires belief to exist, maybe that's why he demands prayers or worship.

So, as I said, I don't believe in God, ergo I'm not a theist, but I'm not an atheist either. That's something else. I have many friends who are atheists, and they are all fine people. Ethical people. People beyond criticism. So I get a bit....ranty.....when anyone disparages atheists. I've never actually MET a bad atheist. I've met more bad theists than I can count.

"Ah, but they weren't real.........." (fill in the blank).

They said they were. What do I know.

I've even met bad Pagans. Some fucking arseholes.

I've also met good theists, but now, after all these years "good" isn't a requirement. Huh. Who knew. I thought it would be a basic requirement, but apparently you can be HORRIBLE and still belong to any religion you like, even preach it. It doesn't even make you a hypocrite. It just means you're still not there yet. You are a work in progress.

I think that entire thing is complete bullshit.

I once knew a Catholic who was in most ways a really good man. 99% ethical, and that's a high mark.

But we got onto the topic of the sanctity of life. He was anti abortion, like any by-the-book Catholic, but he wasn't difficult about it. Still, we discussed the bigger picture and I asked how he could justify other types of legal killing, and yes, they do. Oh they do. Self-defence is...... a grey area.

Here's what he said about that. He said that if somebody broke into his house and threatened his family, he would not shoot that person. INSTEAD he'd aim the gun at the space behind them, and tell them to get out of the way. Then he'd shoot. That way he was not responsible. He didn't kill. He just fired into empty space and somebody got in the way.

And he was quite serious about this, and I gathered that it was not his own idea but a standard Catholic apologist method of dealing with an ethical dilemma.

I think that's very clever, but I also think it's bullshit.

Anyway, the point is, that's theist ethics. Twisty turny wormy weasely theist ethics. The atheist and the non-theist will tell you straight out that they will shoot to kill if necessary, and face the consequences.

The theist believes. The atheist does not believe. The agnostic says "it's impossible to know" and I long ago sat that in my head on the shelf alongside belief not being optional. If I were a Discworld witch it would be so much simpler. Their gods walk around and meet people, like celebrities. Or politicians.

As a Pagan I guess it's much the same, every time a butterfly lands on me I smile and enjoy a brief moment of interaction with the divine. Some people (both those within and without my world) decide to call that God. It's a bit (!) controversial, so probably not a good idea, but it sure makes the questioning fun....

"Do you believe in God?
"Which one?"

"Do you believe in God?"
"Define God."

The problem is that it's the wrong question. It's a SILLY question, and if you ask silly questions you get silly answers.

But it's just so convenient, isn't it? "He's a conservative Christian." Sometimes he even tells you this, but what does it really mean? Does it help warn you what to expect? Does it soften the blow if he walks like a duck and quacks like a duck? I don't know.

Sunday, 4 October 2015



Grey, drizzly October morning. End of the garden. Heating is on, because two days of shivering is quite enough thank you. Funny time of year.

I got told I spend a lot of time on Facebook. This is true and not true at the same time. I leave that window open 24/7. So in some ways I'm actually always there. However, sometimes I'm asleep, outside, or in another town. Some of the time I'm right here at my desk (no actual chains) but oblivious to FB because I'm busy on something. I hear the notifications noise (sometimes only just, because of loud music) but it has to wait. Sometimes the noises annoy me and I mute them. I don't like phones ringing either.

Quick tangent then - I think phones are rude. "I demand your attention. NOW." Good luck with that. I only answer the phone if I know who is calling. When I make the silly mistake of picking it up before the Call Display kicks in, it's invariably Air Canada thanking me for my business (last used them in 2010 and never again if I can help it), or Google saying my business listing needs updating. And that's even ruder. Demanding my attention NOW and then hiding who you are, that's totally unforgivable. It's like banging on my door wearing a disguise. It makes modern etiquette an oxymoron. If you want me, email me. I'll get to you in due course. No, you can't text me. I don't have a cellphone. Mine broke, well, its battery did anyway, almost two years ago, and I don't miss it. I do not rule out buying another one, but right now, if you need me it'll be on my schedule, not yours.

Anyway, another good way to get hold of me is Facebook messaging. Different noise, makes me actually check it (well, usually) if I'm in the office.

Lately I've been getting criticism, if that's the right word, about some of the things I share/post.

Here's the knee jerk response:

My wall, I'll post whatever I like. 

Here's the more mature answer:

I have a wide variety of interests. Some of them are hardcore social stuff (which ends up being political) and some are knitting and cupcakes. You will see both because that's who I am.

I do share a lot of pre-made stuff, or "memes" as they have come to be known. See previous post for a bit of a guide there. They save me a lot of typing and some are just pretty. Like this one:

I think that's one of those adult colouring book things, not sure. Anyway it's a sort of mandala. And I love mandalas. If you missed the post where I explained about my relationship with Buddhism, I'll be doing a new one this week, also by request. So watch this space.

I have a Facebook page called "All One". I don't always remember but most days I post a meme that is supposed to make you think. They are usually positive, semi-spiritual, and at the very least inoffensive to all but the most cynical or fundamentalist anything. They represent who I am very well, because I am essentially positive.

But the world around me is full of nasty shit. I have the luxury of being able to be positive because most of it does not affect me. Like most of my Facebook friends, I have a very easy life. I have it far easier than many. I'll dwell on that in the next post, but suffice to say, I can complain about nothing, on the mundane, personal level.

I do complain. I complain about cruelty, injustice, selfishness, greed, hypocrisy, and various other things. I'm not a yogi.

So, sometimes you'll see me share stuff like this:

You are not required to respond.

You can, if you choose, pull a sour face and scroll on. For a variety of reasons.


You can, if you choose, engage me on the topic, and you can choose to support it (with just a thumbs up "like" or a full out rant) or you can pull it to bits (but please see yesterday's post before making a tit of yourself).


And guess whose choice it is as to how I respond to your response?


Just so we are clear on that.

You do not have to agree with me. Some of my FB friends almost never do. Some of my dearest friends and I disagree on some really huge issues. The reason we are still friends is probably because I enjoy the debate, or that you are fun in some way, or you have redeeming features. Whatever, we don't always have to agree in order to be friends, we just need core values that play well together.

And then there's quantity.

Well..................I read/listen BEFORE I write/speak.

There this other meme, that pre-dates "memes". And it goes like this:

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

So, when I settle at my desk for the day's work, before I do anything else, I read. I read all my emails and mull them over before responding (customer service, you know, deep breath, don't murder anyone), I read any PMs on FB. And I scroll through my feed. That's what I do. Every day.

Maybe you engage with the world differently, the radio, the TV, a newspaper, other humans, etc. I don't. When I get up the rest of the family are either already gone to work, or sleeping in after a late shift. I am alone. Eventually Tom gets up, but for a while there, it's just me, the animals, and Facebook. I read.

After I've read, caught up, heard the latest, then I may be ready to respond. But sometimes all I feel the need to do is share. So you may well just see a slew of posts arrive that are "memes". Overkill? Sorry. I see 'em, I like 'em, I share 'em. Please feel free to scroll on, or if need be, limit the notifications you get from me. I will not be changing my ways to suit anyone.

I know that some of you bristle at some of the things I share. It's mutual. All's fair in love and war. You don't like my left-wing stuff? That's fine, I don't like your right-wing stuff. We both have the choice to ignore or engage. That's the beauty of it. It's not like I stopped you in the street, or at the watercooler, or phoned you, and started a rant. You have such freedom of choice as to how to deal with what comes from me, it is unprecedented.

I've known some of you a long, long time. Auntie Pat - I think we met before I was a week old. Some of you remember me from school and are horrified at how much I've changed, or not......!!!!! Some of you ran in and out of my life at some point in a job or whatever, didn't stay in touch at all, and now we found each other again, how about that? 7 billion people on the planet and we stumbled back into each other's lives. Some of you started out as internet friends on MSN nearly 20 years ago and have become like family, quite frankly. Some of you are FB friends of FB friends, and I don't even know what you look like, but we hit it off. We share stuff. We make each other smile. All of you are my friends because you've never done anything to get culled off my friends list (it takes quite lot, actually) and clearly, I haven't annoyed you quite enough for you to do it to me.

So, in some way, even though you aren't always happy with what I post or share, the fact that you're still here says a lot.

I am not going to stop doing any of it. This is who I am. I'm opinionated but I'm kind. I rant, but I smile. I'm not bitter but I can be quite firm. I don't forgive, but I almost never actually take offence, so it's irrelevant. I have a large personality, I am confident and sometimes a bit full of myself, but I don't take me too seriously. One can't. (That was a two word joke. A record?) What I do most of is love, and the reason I post stuff that bothers you is because I see harm going on, and I prefer love. And I will argue, because I'm not a fucking doormat. Ask my family.

You don't like Facebook - but you still use it. You are ambivalent about it, but it has its uses. You use it all the time but never stop complaining about it. (That's 3 different yous, pick one).

I LOVE IT. It has a lot of stupid aspects, and a lot of stupid people (not on my friends list, but on friends' friends lists etc) and I LOVE it just the same. If it were not for Facebook, can you imagine how inappropriate and eccentric I'd get up here with just a bunch of crazy people around me? I mean how much MORE inappropriate and eccentric I'd get........

I need Facebook. And whatever mass social thing that eventually supersedes it. It's good for me. If you find it causes you problems, you need to adjust your settings. Cull a few people. Facebook is no better or worse than the people you choose to interact with, right?

So, really if you don't like what I share, at all, ever, in any way, there's a button for that. Bye.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Fake, 2

I'm a rotten cow quite frankly. I put down bait, and a good guy took it. But he's an educated, intelligent man so there's no excuse. I knew he would reply like that, I almost guessed what he'd say. I thought I'd need to post several before he took the bait, but he saved me a lot of work.

This was exactly what I have been leading up to in yesterday's post about fakery. What is it, and does it even matter? If your favourite $5 earrings turn out to not be fire opal after all (such a shock) will you still wear them? Some will, some won't.

If the quote from Mother Theresa turns out to be from an American doctor you never heard of, do you still like the quote? I do.

If it turns out to be from Hitler, then what?

And where do we see these mostly, these days?


I love 'em. Succinct. Clever. Pithy. Gnomish. And some are really the opposite of all that, and are full of spelling mistakes to boot.

I make 'em, I collect 'em, I share 'em.

Are some of them "fake"? Nope. ALL of them are real. You are not seeing things. That is a real genuine computer graphic, not a hallucination.

Are some of them FAKE I said?

Yes. they all are. That is not what a meme is at all.

A meme is an idea that is shared and spreads like wildfire, not a picture. It's not even a solid thing, you can't pick it up.

So you'll often see me refer to them as "memes". Because they aren't real memes. Except they ARE, because an idea can be expressed as an image, and it can be digital.

Graffiti is a meme, but it existed before the word meme did, so it got its own name. Memes on the internet are just called memes because we are lazy.


The image, a screencap of a meme plus comments, at the top of this page is 100% genuine. I didn't fake any of the wording, although I did blur out identfying names etc. I think I may be legally required to do so anyway, but as I didn't ask permission to post it, I was polite about it.

My friend, who truly is a good guy, made assumption #1. He assumed it mattered whether the photo in the image was genuine or not. It doesn't matter at all. Nope.

The purpose of this meme is to demonstrate a silliness (silly in the opinion of the creator of the meme, obviously). It could have been done just as easily with a cartoon. Nobody would call a cartoon fake. But by suggesting the image had been manipulated in some way, or could possibly be real, it misses the point by several miles. You can simply think of it AS a cartoon. It was just a lot less work!

So is it genuine? Are you listening? It doesn't matter! The whole point is the irony.

Because we have all met people who think like the sign.

Oh, so you want to argue that? If you like. Lots of options there. You could roll your eyes and ignore it. You could object to the point in many ways, some quite subtle. You could object to the meme comments about the sign. There are a slew of things that could create a sensible argument there (it could end up far from sensible, but that's entirely up to those taking part).

But arguing over whether the sign is genuine or not makes as much sense as arguing over whether Fred Flintstone or Barney Rubble was the better bowler.

If you like the gemstone, does it matter what it's made of? Even if it's fake?

This is one of a number of issues raised about memes. Perhaps in the course of time these "I missed the point" objections will get a formal academic list like logical fallacies. No, I'm not going to volunteer. I'm just going to explain a few more.

#2. The outright hoax. These are often all text, just an easy to share version of something older, like The Great Facebook Privacy Hoax. Sometimes they are photographic hoaxes like the same person dying in two or more mass slaughters so the poster can cry "false flag". Sometimes they are hoaxes for fun ( a joke, text or visual) something to twist minds. Good or bad? You choose. Are they real? Well, they are really being sent around, it's the context that's debatable.

You'll also see cute animals that are photoshopped to look very different, and rabbits called wombats, and airbrushed close-up photos of celebrities than make them look 10 years younger. Live with it. The world is full of hoaxes.

So it follows that some memes are accused of being hoaxes when they are not. Except sometimes they are. A hoax about a hoax. Twitch. Does it matter? Only if people fall for it, obviously, and then only if harm is done. An April Fool's joke can go either way too.

#3 The exaggeration.

Usually done with numbers. Not always. Can also be done visually. The picture from a funny angle that makes things look much bigger than they are (you know, like builder's drawings of new houses). Can go the other way. Crop a shot of a crowd to fill the frame and it looks like more people attended the rally.

Are these figures accurate? Who knows. Who cares. Even if you proved them, cited sources, etc. somebody would argue (ad infintum) the definition of gun death, and the definition of political donation. And on and on. The fact is far too many people die by shootings, the NRA appears to be totally cavalier about this, and they really don't choose their party because they are the prettiest, trust me. So...follow the money, and yeah, argue about that. The numbers here are not really important.

Nothing new in any of this. Newspapers invented it centuries ago. Memes just make the rumours travel faster. Does it matter? Sometimes. Depends.

#4 Other misleading images

These are all over the place. Some of them have intent that is quite malicious. Others, not so much. This isn't new either. Bogus maps used to be "given" to opposing armies. Its other name is propaganda and if it's done well, it's really effective. Does it matter? Only if the other guys are doing it. If your side does it, it can be excused, obviously.

In all cases, it's all about the point. The intent. The message. That's what matters. It can be complete bollocks in one way or another, but it can still be utterly valid.

There is much truth in fiction.

The Onion posts completely fabricated stories, and yet many STILL make a valuable point, maybe politically, ethically, or whatever, maybe just an "AHA!". All lies. All valuable. Unless they are poking fun at you, obviously.

Some memes just make you cringe......................

But are they completely untrue? Matter of opinion.


Remember what an opinion is.

Sometimes they are so complex that the size seem problematic. Too many words. Too much attention required.  Would this not have been better as a blog post?

But how many people read blogs?

Far more chance of getting busy/lazy people to look at that.

Some of them are sort of obscure. Inside jokes. You won't get it unless you are part of the selected ones. So, you could keep scrolling. Or you could pick on somebody. Go for it arsehole.

Memes are neither good nor bad. No matter what my son says. He won't even use Facebook because "it's nothing but stupid memes". No, they are just ideas. (He loves ideas.) Nothing more nor less. And some of them do indeed show things that aren't true. But what is truth?

The same friend who worried about the validity of a photo of a man holding a sign also objected to another meme I shared (which I can't find now, typical) comparing a rich white man who got probation only for raping his daughter, while a poor black man got 50 years for stealing food.

The objection was that there was no proof of the latter (it's OK, I found it, it's legit). So, you know, bad meme.



The point of the meme is about the unfairness of the US judicial system. It wasn't about those two particular men. I could just as easily have posted this one. Exact same point.

There are plenty of others too.

Do you get it? If you are white and rich you are advantaged when you break the law. For pity's sake is there anyone out there who doesn't know this? Why would you argue it? You can't. So why argue over minutiae instead? Misdirection? Just wanted the 5 minute argument?

Here's why. Read carefully.

I posted this. Read what it says at the bottom of the meme.

I wasn't the only person who posted this, and everyone had the same experience.

A lot of jokes, which is fine, it's not a serious matter.

A lot of people who answered correctly.

And some who insisted others were wrong. Which was completely impossible.

And if you don't understand why that is, no wonder you get all bent out of shape when you focus on the trees instead of the forest.

So, I'll leave you with this thought. Is that Eye Test a fake? Is it a hoax? Is it true?

The correct answer to the meme question is the key.

Now, to satisfy those of you who CAN read, here is the sensible response to the original meme at the top of the page.

I'm always available for argument.

Friday, 2 October 2015


Fakery. What is it? Can you handle the truth?

First of all I'm going to waffle on at some length about beads, which may or may not be of any interest or use to you, but it works really well as an analogy to so many other things, so bear with me.

A US company, Fire Mountain Gems, one of the largest/most popular websites for buying beads online was found to have "small print" where it admitted that most of its "gemstone" beads were fake. Hardly earth-shattering news (no news at all to me) but created quite the stir in the online craft sales world. People using their products having to change a LOT of titles and descriptions on Etsy, for example, and eat a fair bit of crow too.

You see, a LOT of Americans are deluded into thinking that if they "Buy American" they are buying American. Not only is this hardly ever the case, it's of no advantage anyway, as Americans are every bit as likely to sell you a fake as all the nasty brown or slant-eyed people. More so. I have experience of this.

I've been in this rather strange bead world for 25 years. Just like you know your "real" job inside out, I know this stuff. If you put a bead on the table in front of me, 9 times out of 10 I can tell you what it's made of without even touching it. Actually I could usually do that 25 years ago, because I'm a fast learner and in any case, I already had over 20 years of mineral geek experience before I got into beads. I got my first quartz geode from my grandfather when I was about 8 and we've had a long and happy relationship, me and rocks.

Oh yes, I'm still learning. We all are. Even mineralogists with PhDs can be "caught out" or unable to be sure without doing tests. But when I ordered (once, and NEVER AGAIN) from FMG, a strand of beads that weren't even the right size (and got no reply from customer service about any of this, I might add) I knew right away that it wasn't what it claimed to be. It wasn't obsidian.

I subscribe to two totally different schools of thought on this.

1. Don't tell lies..
2. If you like a thing, the details don't matter.

Remember those two. It isn't hard to reconcile them, but you can't just ignore the matter either.

When you order obsidian, which is called obsidian, because you want obsidian, and you are expecting obsidian, and you don't get obsidian, that's not right. So although, apparently, this has been going on for YEARS (which is why so many people who re-sell this stuff are shitting themselves regarding honesty in advertising) and has not caused their business any harm, as far as I can see, it's enough for me to be annoyed/amused/tell other people/never darken their doors again.

Not a problem for me as an honest seller though, is it?

Yep. People are so USED to the fake stuff that a) they often don't understand prices when you offer them the real thing, they also b) now expect the same stuff as the fake they are used to.

This leaves me with two issues.

1. I have to describe things in a rather long-winded manner so they can even FIND it. ("Light blue magnesite, often referred to as turquoise, and sometimes wrongly called howlite".......)

2. When they get real black onyx they are upset that it isn't black.

I have actually resorted to stocking dyed tiger's eye to offer a choice, nobody likes the natural stuff. Natural. Yeah. Read on.

It is tempting to just call it by the fake name and be done with it, and in many ways I don't blame general retailers who do. When I see a box of small tumbled stones in a gift shop marked as "crystals" (which they are not) and then "onyx" (which is isn't) I smile and shrug. Give the punters what they are used to. When I make cheap earrings with a small bead just as part of a design, I just call it what they expect it to be/what it looks like and don't even bat an eyelid, frankly. At those prices I don't lose sleep over it. If I sell the more expensive ones where the stone is the thing, I am scrupulously honest, which many are not. Feel free to argue over that. Anyway, this distinction is standard in the trade. Bite me.

But wholesalers shouldn't dick about like that, not the suppliers to the trade. They should know better.

As a small bead business I'm in this weird in-between position of trying to appeal to those who know exactly what they mean, as well as those who don't, because they all pay the same.

You see, honesty isn't straightforward.

I sometimes get emails that ask me if an item is natural. It's not that simple, it's not always a straight answer.

What do they mean by natural?

No, it's not obvious. I like to think it means "did it come out of the ground like that" which is always no.

This is what raw tiger's eye looks like.

If you saw that lying around somewhere, you wouldn't look at it twice. That's natural, that's genuine. Do you want it? If I took a small chunk and drilled a hole in it, is that a good bead for you? Of course not.

By the time I sell it to you, it looks like this:

Is that natural?

It's not dyed, it's not heat-treated, and it's not irradiated, so in 3 ways it is natural. But it is cut, polished, drilled, and possibly stabilized (not in this case) because otherwise it may disintegrate when you cut, polished, or drilled it.

There is a type of snobbery about "natural" but there's no real understanding of what it means. Got that? It's not the opposite of fake, that's for sure.

Here's a natural diamond.

Want that? You wouldn't turn it down right? Of course not. You could sell it, or have it cut, polished etc.

I don't get involved with diamonds, for several reasons, not least the human cost. But if you like the look of them you can get other stones that look the same for a fraction of the price. Only an expert with a good
loupe could tell the difference. So why buy a diamond? 

Because they are valuable? Says who? De Beers? They set the prices, using all sorts of sneaky ways, too big a topic for here (look it up).

I DO get involved in other precious gemstones. The system is quite different with no stranglehold on it by price fixers. I'm just starting to sell a range of more "valuable" stuff because colour therapy, right? I have all sorts on my desk here in a box that says "gems for design work". I'm working on it when I get time. Then I have to decide prices. Based on what?

OK, see if you can tell me what this is:

Holding it in your hand won't help. It looks just like that in real life, only much smaller.

How much is is worth? If you needed to buy it, what would a sensible price be?

$1? $1000?

You have no idea. I do because I paid for it, and I am good at markup.

If I told you what material it is would that help? Why?

Do you like it?

If not, it's worth nothing.

If you like it, what is it worth to you? Why?

Think about all that for a few minutes.

A thing is worth whatever the person who wants it is willing to pay for it. Their reason for wanting it can vary though. People sometimes want things for the strangest reasons. They think they like it. But 3 months ago they wouldn't have looked twice at it. Now it's fashionable, not only do they want it they are totally "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY" about it. People are really weird. I don't mind. I make living out of giving them what they want.

So, let's say you wanted that little pendant up there because it's pretty, and you know it's affordable because I don't do truly high end, what difference does it make what it's made of? Hmm?

If I say it's tanzanite (it isn't) and you pay for it expecting tanzanite, and it turns out to be glass (it isn't) what changed? What's wrong with it? You liked it. You liked it enough to pay a given price for it, and it still looks the same. What if I tell you it's one of a kind. The only one like it, anywhere? (This part is actually the truth). Does that make a difference? You just got new information about it. What happened?

You were lied to. OK. Well, that's unethical, obviously. You could probably get a chargeback on your credit card based on that alone. VISA support claims for "item not as described". So, you would get a refund. End of problem. Done. Unless you bear grudges. And if you were sensible you'd not shop THERE again.

But I thought you liked it.......

We get a lot of people buy stuff because they are into crystal magic or crystal healing. I never ever sell anything as "healing". I'm seriously thinking of doing so though, seeing as placebo is now increasingly recognized as valid in high places and ethics committees. I mean, the whole thing can be argued (endlessly). I'm still undecided in several aspects of that whole issue. But during these discussions when I am asked "is it natural" (depends what you mean) and then is it genuine (also problematic) I discover the reason these folk need to know is because it won't "work" if it isn't.

Wait a minute here. You are a practitioner of this, and you can't tell by the vibes given off if it's "genuine" or not?

That's very encouraging. I'll sign right up for your services.

Before this turns into a book about minerals, I'll just recap a few bits:

1. Experts can usually tell just by looking, while crystal magic practitioners can't.
2. If it requires a lab test to decide what it is, then choosing by appearances may be enough, unless you value things by how fashionable they are.
3. The word fake is a tricksy word.

Let us now use what we learned to discuss other things.

Easy one. Food.

If it looks like cheese, and sort of tastes like cheese, then it's cheese, right?

If you like it anyway, what difference does it make what it's called? If it said cheese would that be a problem? Does knowing it is not cheese present a problem? Why?

Oh, I see you are getting the hang of this!

Could you tell if it was cheese or fake if you tasted it?

Fake meaning what exactly here?

OK......I hope you have really "got" all of this, because tomorrow we're going to apply it to something else, something we all look at every day.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

I Don't Do It, And That's OK

As I pointed out when I put this on FB, I'm actually an immigrant woman, and, as was pointed out to me, I missed another one there, which is that I support soldiers, but not "the military". Two entirely different things. Anyway, that aside, this is a good list.

Why progressives?

Well, the usual definition of a small c conservative is a person who is opposed to change (or at least sudden, or - as they see it - unnecessary change) and who prefers to do things the tried and tested way (even if it doesn't work). It's not just a political bent, it's a personality thing, and you can break it down into mundane things too, for example, I am a language conservative (I prefer that to "pedant").

But I've also noticed that it's a decidedly conservative thing to prefer "like me" to "not like me". I'd be interested in how conservatives see that. They may dispute it. Obviously it won't apply to all people, or all issues, but it's a trend I've observed.

Anyway, the point is that some people more than others, and especially those who are indeed progressively-minded, regardless of actual political affiliations, are able and willing to support people and things NOT LIKE THEM.


But seriously, that's progress. It goes against our ancient instincts. We are essentially tribal, it was tribes that helped us dominate, and tribes had requirements. You had to follow them. Rebellion was not tolerated. What you wore, what you ate, what you did, it was all decided for you, and you did it, because being ostracized often meant death.

Still, that was a long time ago, so that now, we tolerate difference. Well, most of us.

And all of us have a hard time shaking off the very last bits of this. My son, the writer, asked me how I felt about the idea of dominant reptilian species, and I said YUK. He said it was far more likely than mammalians being dominant, and I said YUK again. So I guess I'm speciesist. Or something.

I've nothing against reptiles (I love 'em) but I don't want to have to talk to them, especially not as equals or (YUK!) overlords.

But you don't have to be "like me" for me to love you, or even like you (which is much harder).

This crops up a lot in the marijuana issue, you know. It's not an issue with much middle ground. You are either pro or anti, and let's be honest, most of those who are pro will take advantage of legalization.

I am considered a bit odd by some, because I am 100% pro legalization, and 0% likely to ever use it. Inhale a drug? ME? Are you serious? Not going to happen.

Yeah, because guess what, it is actually possible to tolerate other people's choices, assuming they don't harm me. Ideally, they don't harm anyone, but despite harm being my yardstick, obviously it's always arguable.

Is there any harm in marijuana? Well of course there is. It's disingenuous to say otherwise, but it's no more harmful that a million other things people do, and a zero harm lifestyle is neither possible nor desirable.

But in the big picture, the harm is small, generally restricted to users, so why would I have a problem with it? Just to spoil somebody else's fun? Do I say they can't play dangerous sports? Do I say they can't eat fast food?

And as for governments, well, they pretend they care about public health, but they don't. Their laws are uneven, low-harm things are illegal, high-harm things are legal, and as always you have to see what makes them most money to understand why they ban what they ban.

And individuals who claim harm in the things they disapprove of are every bit as illogical, because they miss the harm in the things they approve of. I know plenty of people who claim that their objection to gay marriage is "for the sake of the children", and not politics, but ask them about reasons for childhood poverty being anything to do with politics and they change the subject.

At least I recently learned something about those who are both religiously and politically right-wing. Did you know that "being good" is not a really important thing in Christianity? I admit this was a bit of a shock to me. I've only heard this from conservatives. I thought it was an anomaly the first time, so being me I asked questions. No, this is solid conservative Christian teaching. Apparently "sin" isn't about being cruel to other humans, it's about your own personal relationship with God. Who will forgive you if you harm people, even if you persecute deliberately, because you did it for him.

Brings this to mind:

So when this warped version of morality comes up for discussion, they have it all figured out.

Progressives? Not all saints (see previous blog) but with the concept, by definition of "we must change for the better", that harming fellow humans (at least) on purpose, and for no good reason, is not the right way to go. Do I believe that ethics on the left are more honourable? You bet.

Here's the thing that makes it all so weird. The more important an issue is, the less effort is made to create justice.

There have been a few reports in the media recently about students being suspended for having coloured hair. Which is just so stupid. And even a lot of my more small c conservative friends have said so. That there are far more important things to worry about. Good. Good. We can all agree that if it's a matter of personal taste, that you don't have to like it to let it be.

In fact, those who get the rules changed about such "petty" things aren't always progressives even in power. They're just sensible people who pick their battles. Or they'll say their support of whatever is for humanitarian reasons. Well, it can't be.

Because if you bring to the table life or death matters, these same people suddenly aren't very humane at all.

You know my position on the niqab. Hate them. None of my damned business, if it's personal choice. Does Harper know when that is? I very much doubt it. Does he really care? Like hell.

If you'll stand up (suddenly) for women you've never given a damn for before, it makes me very suspicious.

Ah, follow the money. That's usually it. I don't always "get it" but I know hypocrisy when I see it, and anyone who is suddenly ultra supportive of anyone or any group they usually don't think twice about, there's always money involved.

A person who actually cares, cares universally. Remember, a person who is nice to you but isn't nice to others, isn't a nice person. If you love your fellow man, well.....

You know, I haven't checked to see if love by conservative Christians is conditional. I should ask.

Admittedly, when it comes to the petty things, I actually find it harder to get it right. But for the opposite reason. You see, for me, the harm in the "big" issues is obvious. If we shun or devalue those who are different to us, the next step is oppression, and we all know what happens after that. People die. So it's a total no-brainer to love and support those who differ to me in major ways, such as in the list up there. It matters.

When it comes to minor choices and differences of taste, it's so easy to fall into the trap, because it's not a big deal, of not caring about the feelings of others.

I believe this:

And yet I struggle, daily, to tolerate people's weird shit, and to say nothing, and to basically be nice. In order to not turn into Lady Bracknell, I have to remind myself of this constantly. I fail a lot. I keep trying. Doesn't make any of it right. The only reason I forgive myself is that if I'm going to be a bitch, I'll be a bitch about your hat or your beer. Not your skin or your gender. Bitch, not bigot. Not that it's OK, but it's better. Nobody's perfect.

I will always, reliably, stand up for you in the things that matter. Even if I hate your point of vew, I will stand up for your right of free speech. Even if I hate your politics I will stand up for your voting rights. Because that's the right thing to do. When ethics becomes partisan, we're fucked.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Saints and Sinners Redux

I am actually a little shocked that I'm writing this. Last time I did it, I had an overwhelming agreement from you, dear readers, that there are only people, and people do good things and bad things. Some more of one than the other, sure, but there really are no evil people, no perfect people, and some aspects of ethics are (shock, horror) not agreed upon.

And yet, pretty much every day just lately somebody tells me that X is evil, or gets all bent out of shape because somebody posted nice things about X, or whatever. Or they do some X worshipping.

It doesn't matter if it's a politician, a cleryman, a child, a celebrity or your old Mum. Nobody is ever all good or all bad. When you even begin to suggest this it simply screams your own agenda to me.

Example #1. Bill Maher.

When he's trashing politicians for you, you love him. But the moment he puts on his militant atheist hat, you hate him. Is he really good or bad? Neither. He's a guy. First and foremost he's an entertainer (so any reaction is valid) and any attention you give him makes his agent very happy. Like so many of the more intelligent comedians, he has dipped his toe in political waters (actually, in Bill's case all the way to the neck) and as soon as you do that, you're not funny any more, if your opinion is the wrong one.

Example #2. Pope Francis.

Because he's all about helping the poor you think he's awesome, but when he sticks to the traditional Catholic anti-woman and anti-gay lines, he's a git. Well, what did you expect? He's a Pope. He's not even doing anything innovative. Believing these things together has been going on a long time. Not new, not only Catholics and not that remarkable. It is very modern for social justice to be universal, and I'm not even sure it is now.

I'm not going to give you any more examples. No, not even Obama. Use your head and find your own. The people you don't like (i.e. the majority of stuff they do, you oppose) and the people you do like (i.e. the majority of stuff they do, you support) are just people. With jobs and lives. Who make decisions. The best you can ever do is choose whether to trust them or not. Then listen/vote accordingly. It's all part of critical thinking, and isn't it already how you pick your friends anyway? That their good bits outweigh their bad bits, from your perspective?

You (yes YOU) are reading this because you know me, and presumably like me, or because you stumbled across this blog and find it worth reading. You are therefore, in a way, one of my fanbase. This makes you biased towards me. The advantage (for me) of this is that you are more likely to read my stuff, and even more likely to consider it deeply (even if you don't agree with what I say). You give me the gift of your attention and time. Thank you, and namaste.

But the problem there is that unless you are really careful, you could become biased. A few of you will never have any issues there (including some I'm related to, LOL) because (thanks to me?) you are SUCH a critical thinker, you will tell me I'm full of shit.

Bias towards people you usually agree with and against people you usually disagree with is normal. We have to sort the wheat from the chaff somehow, there are only so many hours in a day. So unless I'm on a "know thy enemy" mission, I basically don't read anything written by people whose values seem very differently to mine.

It reached a point where I had effectively shut all of them out of my life. I don't actually regret this, but I threw the baby out with the bathwater. You see, along with the gits, I had tossed aside some good people. People who I almost always disagree with, but their reasoning was genuine. So I made the conscious effort to acquire new social contacts who, while we didn't have much in common on "issues" were nevertheless basically decent sorts, with good intentions, a good heart, and the ability to think outside the box.

I've only just lately discovered that the result of this was sheer bloody ignorance on my part of some recent attitudes. In other words, a distinct lack of know thy enemy missions. I get too busy. That won't change but I need to let a few more people into my life who do have time, so I can pick it up 3rd hand. There is no excuse for ignorance these days.

That is the long-winded way of saying that you really need saints and sinners - or at least, those perceived that way - in your life for complete awareness in any issue.

Let me give you an example of how important this is.

I grew up in England during the active IRA attacks on the mainland. Terrorism was all white for us, back then (oh, how quickly we forget). I grew up hating the IRA and anyone who supported them, even the slightest bit. At one point, because of NORAID (q.v.), that included Americans. How dare people who had no idea what it was like to have a genuine danger of terrorist attack 24/7 send money to those terrorists. HOW DARE THEY?

Well, I was fucking ignorant.

One day, I was out shopping and was stopped by a handsome young middle eastern guy (nobody batted an eyelid at this, back then) who was collecting money to help arm freedom fighters/rebels in Afghanistan. I knew about that. Russia had just invaded. The Mujahdeen needed foreign aid. They got mine.

I was fucking ignorant again.

You only know what you know and I was only 17 anyway, for pity's sake. But when I look back, I'm quite sure that many, if not most (but not ALL) Americans who gave money to the IRA were just unaware of the whole situation, and didn't think for one moment that children would be blown to bits with their money. I certainly had no idea what the future of the Mujahdeen was to become.

But that's not even it. The Americans who knew EXACTLY what the money they gave to the IRA would be used for weren't monsters either. And.....neither were the IRA. They were just people.

Some years later I got to know a girl who'd been active in the IRA. And I found out why. Because as a child she'd lost family members and several homes to the Ulster loyalists, and she was bitter and wanted revenge. As an angry teenager she got her revenge. Did she regret it later on? Sort of. Anyway, she dedicated her life to peace but also to explaining, and she taught me something important. An explanation is not the same thing as an excuse. This is one of the pillars of my personal philiosophy, and yeah. I got it from a killer.

The most important thing we ever do in trying to understand, and trying to get along with one another, is to listen. But right alongside that we must always remember that may still not hear, if we prejudge. After we've listened, considered, researched, asked more questions, then we can decide. Then we can judge. It really isn't necessary to like everyone, and you certainly won't/can't/shouldn't like everything they do. But you have to find out what that is first, AND WHY.

There really are no evil people, and no perfect people. Not one of either extreme. And all the time YOU are not perfect (and, like me, you are far from it) you have to listen to the gits. And you have to examine the heroes carefully too. Get them down off their pedestals. Find out what makes them tick.

It's OK to point out the strengths and flaws in our leaders (of all types). Good grief, we don't want to censor dissent. If you put yourself "out there" you leave yourself open to it. The right to an opinion, and the right to challenge an opinion must be equal. I'm just saying that it's childish and possibly dangerous to allow emotions towards a person, be it from admiration or disgust, to cloud your judgement. AND......there's always the chance, after all, that you may be wrong.