Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Knowing your facts

One of the more amusing exchanges I've had recently...

[while talking about the impact of segregating people and what happens when it's over]

Him: And then there was all that stuff after the fall of the Berlin Wall, remember?
Me: Was I there then?

Turns out that the Wall fell when I was a year old, so I have a good excuse for not remembering! Ah, the things you don't realise you missed until you add the dates up.

It's kinda weird when you get thinking about what political events happened in your teenage years. What am I gonna tell people one day? 'Well, the war in Iraq happened and no one my age really knew what was going on and actually I still have no idea how it was significant to anyone.' Hmm.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Punctuation like you've never seen it before...

So my 'Culture, language and communication' lecturer started this afternoon's lecture with an old article from that paragon of virtue, the Daily Mail, on the subject of how students are getting into top universities without even knowing how to use an apostrophe correctly, wah wah wah. So far, so normal. Course, then he went on to show some examples of incorrectly punctuated sentences and then you're really paranoid 'cause, hey, the last thing you want to do is prove the Daily Mail right. Imagine.

Anyway, we also had to do the following exercise. I wasn't sure whether to post it as it's not my work, but it's all over the internet so I guess I'll just be next in line. I've copied and pasted from here to save typing it out myself.

So, you start by reading this love letter:

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy—will you let me be yours?

And now your task is to alter the letter so that it's a letter breaking up with the man, instead. (Apparently a 'Dear John' letter means just that, but that's obviously a bit of cultural info that passed me by!) The catch is that you can't change anything except for the punctuation.

After a bit of deliberating, I did manage most of it. Here's the answer:

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Nice, huh? Just goes to show how important punctuation can be to meaning. Gotta love the cleverness, however geeky it is :)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Here we go again

Blah, blah blah...rolling of the eyes to the Telegraph who fell in line with another of those stories on what men look for in women....

The nice thing about it, however, was that a quick scan through the first few comments reveal a load of men either saying that they couldn't care less about those things and have already found and married their perfect woman, or that they haven't yet but still don't go by the results of the survey. That cheered me up a bit.

I couldn't believe that 54% of men wouldn't date a woman that earned over £25k a year though. Ego, much?

So I guess as a blonde haired, blue eyed student who gets about £4k of student loan a year, I must be the perfect catch! So I'm sorry to devastate all the men over at with my unavailability...

* * * * *

Ooh, as a quick side note, there's a press release out announcing the formation of an 'internet safety task force' which is going to work with AOL, Google, Bebo, Facebook, Myspace and a bunch of other organisations to develop some stuff on online safety. One of the co-directors is danah boyd, whose blog I follow. I'm really impressed - it's about time something like this was formed, and (from what I know) danah at least seems to be very in touch with a lot of the issues. Nice one.

Friday, 14 March 2008

'Typical maths nerd'

I just scrolled down to the BBC's 'Most Read' stories, as you do, and saw the headline 3.14 and the rest. I immediately thought "Hmm, why are they talking about pi" and the numbers 3.141592654 sprang to mind as I clicked on the story. Turns out, it's Pi Day! Who knew?! Apparently the date is based on the fact that a shortened form of pi is 3.14, and 3/14 is the 14th March in the American date format.

I was suitably amused by the first few paragraphs:

As we're all taught at school, pi represents the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter).

With just a string and a ruler you can quickly measure that pi must be just over three-and-an-eighth (3.125). With more precise measurements, you may be able to narrow it down to 3.14.

However, if you ask a typical maths nerd, you'll get an earful of pi - 3.14159265 and so on. A surprising number of students have memorised 50 or even 100 digits after the decimal point.

It was the third paragraph that got me: as I just indicated, I've known the first 10 digits of pi for years, and somehow it was still tucked away in a dusty corner of my brain. Which is impressive for someone who has difficulty remembering her own PIN number if she doesn't use it for a week or two. But who cares - I'm officially a maths nerd!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Girls vs. Women

So guess what? I'm annoyed at the news again. Nothing changes!

I bought the Independent while I sat down for a coffee earlier, largely because it only costs 30p from student outlets and has a couple of sudokus in it (and no I don't know if that's the right plural, and I don't care). To be honest, I rarely find much of interest in there but for 30p you can't go far wrong. I'm wishing I went for the Guardian now though - I think they were featuring something about Sylvia Plath.


You can read the story that got me annoyed here. Obviously I was annoyed at the whole 'spending thousands of dollars on prostitutes' business...not only is it horribly unpleasant because he's married and it'd also be quite nice if he set a good example, I don't believe anyone that blindly insists that every prostitute in the business is a happy, successful woman who won't feel any emotional consequences and is doing it out of her own free will just to make a bit of extra money. Don't be so stupid. But that's a huge debate which I won't go into now as I'm lacking in time and expertise.

The point I was actually going to make was actually not about the story itself but how it was reported. I recognise that 'call girls' is a widely used euphemistic name for the job that these women do, and I know that this can then be shortened to 'girls' when referring to them. And maybe it's fair enough that the Independent therefore sees fit to use both terms in its article (both online and in print). So my upset here is a general point as well as one about the article today. But here's the thing - they are NOT girls. They are women. In English, we tend to be very squeamish about calling males 'boys' as soon as they're past early teens. The only scenario when you might refer to males as 'boys' is usually along the lines of 'going down the pub with the boys'. For females on the other hand, they are often referred to as girls well past their teens. They themselves perpetuate it by calling themselves 'girls' for decades afterwards, and can pretty much be referred to as such by any man who is older than them. I know this sounds biased because I get annoyed about this stuff, but if you think about it I think you'll realise that is how it works. And, of course, there's the research to prove it...but I won't bore you with that now.

The point is that 'girl' and 'boy' are terms for young females and males. So calling either gender by this 'young' term when they are no longer young is diminuitive. I put up with it, normally. At 19 I feel that emotionally, physically and legally, I am not a 'girl'. I'm a woman, end of. But I usually won't object to it because I am still relatively young and, as such, I can't be bothered to get too insulted. And, coming from those close to me, it can be quite sweet - it can be used as a protective, affectionate term too. Of course, that doesn't mean that any man (or woman) that I don't know should assume I don't mind them using the term 'girl' to refer to me. Stuff political far as I'm concerned, it's misleading to call me that, so don't.

The crux of this, if you've made it through this far, is that the women mentioned in the Independent story are just that: women. They aren't girls. I can grit my teeth and get past the 'call girl' title for the time being, as it does refer to a particular role. But, dear newspaper writer, they are not 'girls'. They are all adults, as far as your reporting indicates. So no more 'girls', please. Don't use the diminuitive, because it makes them sound less than they are. They regularly have rich, powerful men paying them to obey and oblige. That's a scary enough power dimension to start with, so please don't go along with it. I know I probably sound uptight and picky to you, and I know you're just trying to do your job, but think about it. Thanks.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

All I have to say today is that it's hard not to look like Hormonal Woman: Exhibit A when you're in the supermarket queue clutching green tea, dark chocolate and ibuprofen...

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Just realised - I don't think I ever uploaded this photo. So apologies if I did already but, if not, was taken last summer with my parents' camera, about 10 minutes before me getting on the train back to Cardiff.