Category Archives: memes

The Privilege meme

I picked this up from the Singing Librarian, and decided that it was an interesting quiz to do.

It was devised by PhD students at Indiana State University – Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka. If you participate, they ask that you please acknowledge their copyright.

My parents were what’s now termed asset rich and cash poor. We lived surprisingly frugally in a great big house so we looked flash on little cash, and it’s left me slightly uneasy about privilege ever since. That, and the combination of being raised by women who spoke like Celia Johnson while growing up surrounded by the inverted snobbery of the 60s and 70s. I notice that today’s young hackerati are perfectly comfortable describing themselves as “middle class kids”, but I still feel slightly embarrassed and uneasy about it.

1. Father went to college.
2. Father finished college.

Sandhurst counts, presumably.

3. Mother went to college.
4. Mother finished college.

She was told she hadn’t studied hard enough to return for her second year, which left her with no good argument to put for me when I… Oh, never mind.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.

Well, my sister’s a solicitor and I’m stepping out with a doctor.  Oh, and my father-in-law was a university lecturer. I have to conclude that we’re as professional and middle class as all get out. So, despite the Americanisms, yeah, I guess.

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.

Had more than 5,000 books in my childhood home, though I doubt it was up to 50,000. As Scout says in To Kill a Mockingbird: “I did not love to read; you do not love to breathe”.

9. Were read children’s books by a parent.

Until I was over 18, graduating from Winnie the Pooh through to Jane Austin.  One of the formative experiences of my life.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.

Private lessons I assume – my parents very sweetly paid for piano lessons and riding lessons.  Pigs were more likely to fly than I was ever likely to play the piano, and ponies and pony-girls just intimidated me, so it was a lovely gesture but a complete waste.

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.

No.  The failure of the piano lessons and riding lessons probably put them off.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.

I don’t know what or who “people who dress and talk like me” are, and I never watch tv anyway.  Um. My family could have stepped out of an Agatha Christie in many respects (those Celia Johnson voices) or Morse, or the Midsummer Murders even. Is being a murderer with be-a-u-tifully en-unc-i-at-ed vowels a positive representation or a negative one?  You decide.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

No freaking way.  Credit cards for teenagers?  No. Absolutely not. My parents had more than enough problems preventing their own costs from turning into debts to give us little debt-lets of our own.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.

Local Education Authority Grant.  I didn’t realise at the time how lucky I was.

16. Went to a private high school.

Er.  Yes. It was pants though. A very nice school for the sweet but unintellectual daughters of doctors. Loathed it. Still get flashbacks.

17. Went to summer camp.

Mmm. Opera camp. Just typing it makes me blink in amazement.

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.


19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.

Do guest-houses and pubs in English and Scottish seaside towns count as “hotels”?  They do, don’t they.  In fact my parents were pretty frugal with regards to summer holidays, and we tended to lig off family and friends who lived nearer the coast than we did.

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.

Hah! No. None of it was.  It was either second hand (school uniforms) hand-me downs (I had two big sisters) or home made.

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.

Surely a 10 year old Fiat 127 doesn’t count?

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.

But all painted by relatives. Pretty good, some of it, though.

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

I’m not sure what this means.  We were a three generation household, grandparents, parents and kids.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.


25. You had your own room as a child.


26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.

I can remember being shocked by people who had TVs in their rooms at uni.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.

I’d never even been abroad before I was 16. In fact the first time I went to Europe I was 28 or so and married.

31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

Oddly enough, they didn’t, but that was more a matter of their own philistinism than anything else.  I think it was “educational” and so they delegated it to the school to do that. My Ma read a lot of pretty middle-brow stuff, and that was it.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

I remember once, aged 5, being held in front of an open internal door and being told that I could feel the heat coming out of the room (I couldn’t) and that I should learn to shut doors. I also remember having baths by candlelight because of a mixture of powercuts and fuel prices.  I remember frost on the inside of the windows, though that was only one winter. I do remember lying in bed for an hour because it was too cold for me to want to get up. I may not have known how much the bills were, but I was very aware that fuel costs money, and still am.  I cannot leave a light on in an empty room to this day.

So 16 yeses out of 34.  I was raised and educated with middle class values but my parents were surprisingly uncultured: lots of books, but no trips to the theatre, art galleries, museums or concerts.  Privately educated, but definitely on the cheap.   There wasn’t, as I said, a lot of spare cash to go round.  However, I am irredeemably middle class. I’m nervous around plumbers and comfortable with lawyers, and I guess that proves it completely.

Oh well.

Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge – are you up for it?

I tumbled across Emily’s EcoJustice Challenge when reading Charlotte’s blog. Please read Emily’s whole post, in the meantime, I’m cutting to the chase and quoting verbatim.

So, here is how this challenge will work. The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

None of it should be too hard, right?

But all of it really is hard, isn’t it?

I’m going for the two options I’m already nearly doing, I’m afraid, which are the organic and local veg and recycling the packaging.  But since I’m already 3/4ths of the way there with those two, I’m also going to go for the lights-out option one day a week because it’s summer and it should be easy.   The thing that would make the biggest difference is if I wangled a transfer and worked in t’city, because I could get there by public transport.  Hmmm.  Small steps, I think, for the time being.

Failing to plan is much easier in the short term

Longer ago than it’s polite to admit, Bloglily tagged me with the meme to ask how I plan things. I didn’t do it, because I don’t really organise myself, so it never got on a to do list, so I never did it, so it’s all rather embarrassing. However, today I found a sheet of paper I wrote up a year ago when I was working out things that need doing to the house, and it clicked itself in beside the “must do Bloglily’s meme” entry in my brain, and so I offer it here. Pretty, isn’t it?

To Do List

And confusing. And impractical.

The long and the short is that I don’t have a consistent system. As I’ve said, I tend to carry my to do list around in my head which is a Bad Thing. The diagram above shows an attempt to get the list out of my head and prioritised in some way.

At work where these things matter, I either plonk my way through my email inbox, red flagging things that need dealing with and confirming them as complete when I’ve done them, or else I make a list in my notebook and tick them off when I’ve done them. I’ve taken recently to doing beautiful diagrams in Visio of things that need doing and the order they need doing in, and they look rather like demented seaweed. Oddly, I have a reputation at work for planning and preparation, but that is because I can be heard snarling things like “failing to plan is planning to fail” and “being without a list makes you listless” and “poor preparation makes for p***-poor performance” at myself, and occasionally at others.

Every five years or so I make a Life Plan. I write the things I want to have or do more of in coloured pen on a sheet of flip-chart paper. They tend to be fairly generic things like “laugh” and “do gardening”. I also work through the exercises in “What Color is Your Parachute” which help me think about what I want in my life and what I want out of it. It can take me years to gather my thoughts for the really big changes like buying a house or making a career change or choosing a degree course, but once I’ve gathered them I end up putting my criteria into a checklist of 4 – 8 things. I am then ruthlessly uncompromising about the criteria on the list, but very patient.

Ultimately though, I find that lists of things to do are usually so oppressive and depressing, and full of so much obligation and so little that’s actually worth doing for its own sake, that I tend not to bother. Which is why only half of the things on the picture above have actually been dealt with a year later.

Insert Name Here

Oh, I’ve been tagged for a meme by Charlotte:

List one fact, word or tidbit that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your first or middle name. You can theme it to your blog or make it general. Then tag one person for each letter of your name.

A – Anger – the blog has been a good place to vent mainly political rage.

P – Patricia Hewitt – ironic to use a verbal medium to write about a woman who leaves me speechless.

H – Humour – when not Hyperventilating, I do have a sense of humour and have expressed it here, though it is a tag I keep forgetting to use

R – Reading – I ought to read other peoples’ blogs more than I do, but there’s a selection of those I read regularly, with the links to the ones I still miss left in for old time’s sake

A – Analysis – Q: What do mathematicians do when they are constipated? A: Sit down and work it out with a pencil. Well, I sit down and work it out with a blog.

And on that disgusting note, I’ll knock on your door telling you to use this meme if you want to, and run away into the blogosphere laughing.

Guilty Pleasures

FireShamelessly stolen from Reed and Charlotte:

Six guilty pleasures no-one would suspect you of having?

Well, who knows what other people expect?

  1. Black lacy underwear. Always. Run me over with a bus any time you like, I’ll be wearing lovely undies.
  2. Open fires. Wood ones are the cleanest but I’m happy to settle for coal. Snuggling down of a winter weekend with a cup of tea, a good book and an open fire. Chilling with added warmth.
  3. Gold fillings. No-one knows or cares apart from me and my dentist, but they’re shiny and they’re cool and they’ll last me for decades and they’ve put his kids through college.
  4. Afternoon naps. I dearly love going to bed in the afternoon. Alone or in company, either’s fine.
  5. Freecycling. People give me things I want for free. People come to my house, take away my crap and thank me for it. Other people look at me strangely when I describe it to them.
  6. Cardamon flavoured ice-cream. So much more interesting than vanilla.

Six guilty pleasures you wish you had the courage to indulge?

  1. A tattoo. At first I didn’t because one didn’t. Then I didn’t because I promised my ex I wouldn’t. And I now that I can, I don’t because I no longer have the necessary surface tension.
  2. Fois gras. So delicious. So wrong. So I don’t.
  3. Drinking at lunch time. I find it hard enough to drink in the evening and drinking at lunch time is just wicked. I think I’ve done it twice in my entire life.
  4. Strappy bits of nothingness costing hundreds of squidlets and referred to as shoes. I have the feet of a duck and the ankles of a heffelump so I’ve saved a fortune by never buying Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks.
  5. Road trips. Weeks and weeks of road-trips. Gas-guzzling, horizon-reaching, continent-busting road trips.
  6. Gadgets. I simply cannot bring myself to spend hundreds on electronics which is superseded the second it’s bought, but it would be nice to have Sat Nav and HD TV and Sky Plus and all the other 21st century gizmology that costs so much and needs replacing so soon.

Six pleasures you once considered guilty but have now made peace with:

  1. Puns. I will go to extraordinary lengths for a good pun. I once went to bed with a guy who commented that I was like an amateur ice-hockey player and my motto should be “will puck for funs”. Nuff said.
  2. Spending far too much money on Amazon. Some people achieve penury with gambling and booze, I could achieve it with gardening and books.
  3. Blogging. I’m still not sure why I blog, but I continue to find it enjoyable.
  4. Having my shopping delivered. Well, why not?
  5. Living in the country. I like to be able to breathe.
  6. Kinky sex. So much more interesting than vanilla.

The shallow end of the meme pool

I’ve been tidying up and fixing all sorts of things recently including my CDs, the contents of the box room, the lights in the kitchen, my plant pots and the categorisation of my blog posts. See how neatly they are listed on the right. That’s one of the things I’ve been doing. There’ve been all sorts of spin-off from this activity; for example I can now take a shower again after three months or so of strip washes and baths, (who’d have thought that when the kitchen lights blew they’d take the shower with them?)

One thing I’ve noticed while wading through my blog posts is that the word “meme” has become little more than a synonym for “personal quiz”.

Dawkin’s original explanation of the meme embraced such things as “tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches”, according to Wikepedia. But as you know, in the blogosphere a meme is a quiz which you answer, naming one or more other people so that they have a social obligation to do the same. I’ve posted 15 posts which I have categorised as “memes”, and though not all of them fall into this category most of them do.

This has led me to two specific thoughts:

  • don’t we lose something if this word is narrowed and dumbed down in this way, and
  • would it be possible to create memes in the blogosphere which aren’t quizzes?

In many respects of course the blogosphere comprises nothing but mimetic behaviour. “Posting a blog entry”, “commenting on a blog post” and even “having a blog” could all of them be added to Dawkins’ original list of memes. People lift and copy ideas, topics and subject matter all the time and we learn on-line behaviours (such as providing or using RSS feeds) on the fly.

Explicit memes in blogland have to be posts whose subject matter is generic enough for anyone to post on and which differ from each other by the poster making them personal. I suspect I am trying to square a circle which simply cannot be squared.

Still I would like to think of a subject which anyone can post about, which is not actually about them.

Suggestions, anyone?

The Booky meme

Weeding Library CollectionsIt’s not my fault I’m posting a meme. Reed made me do it.

Total Number of Books Owned

What sort of question is that? On the principle of “One, two, three, many” (which really is the only way physically possible to count books) I own many.

I gave away a kilobyte of the things in 2002, exactly and spookily 1,024 of them so at that time I must have owned about 4 or 5,000, I suppose. And I am still giving them away and selling them on Amazon. The blasted things breed. They are two deep on the Legendary Bookcase, which does at least give me somewhere to hide my erotica.

Last Book Bought

Winter in Madrid, which I bought for the book group I’ve recently joined and stopped reading with gratitude three fourths of the way through once I’d been to the meeting. It was a good book, but with all the nuances that are present when you call someone a good woman. Worthy, humourless, hard-working, drear. Like Alice, I wonder what is the use of a book without pictures and conversations, and like the anti-hero’s friend in The Stornaway Way, my taste in fiction stopped improving when I was a teenager and my shelves are full of Pratchett.

The last book I bought for kicks was IT Governance – How Top Performers Manage IT for Superior Results which says something incredibly worrying about how I get my kicks.

Last Book Read

I seem to be re-reading Georgette Heyer at the moment which is basically comfort reading; the equivalent of curling up on the sofa after a bath with a towelling bath-robe, fluffy slippers and a mug of horlicks. I’ve also got a book about systems thinking called The Fifth Discipline lolling around on the bed with me, which I am taking a break from, and a book of womens’ sexual fantasies which doesn’t include anything about “The Fifth Discipline” but probably should. Before that I stalled part way though “Winter in Madrid” as already mentioned.

My Legendary Bookcase - 01Five books that mean a lot to me

Eeek. I started with a list of unimpressive fiction, but ripped it out and replaced it with some of the books that have contributed to how I think:

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins – framed my views about our place in the world. Probably the right book at the right point in my life. It’s not a book I’m particularly fond of, Dawkins is too strident for my liking. But though I prefer Carl Sagan’s company, this book probably had more impact on me.

Games People Play by Eric Berne – made me realise that there is more to how any of us behave than meets the eye. It’s over 40 years old now and over 30 since I first read it, and though transactional analysis is no longer the model de jour it’s still one of the most useful and accessible ways of questioning behaviour patterns that I know.

Not exactly a book, but hey: Wired Magazine changed my life. I subscribed to it in the mid and late 1990s and it introduced me not just to the internet, but to the new thinking about the new ways we would all start to interact. It is hard now, writing a blog post, taking time out to Instant Message friends, playing a round in Travian and a turn in Scrabulous, checking my online banking, downloading the latest podcasts from the Reduced Shakespeare Company and Business Week Magazine, checking where I have to go tomorrow on Multimap and looking up my most recent book purchases on Amazon, it is hard now to imagine a world where all this was unimagined. But it was Wired Magazine which got me off my backside and into the e-world where I belonged.

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman – structured my thinking about cognition, technology, culture and society. It describes how the medium we use to communicate affects the way in which we think, and how our cognitive processes have been changed, first by the printing press, then by the telegraph, and more recently by the radio and television. The new media coda to it is The Kids are Alright by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade who look at how the gaming generations, (those up to the age of about 35) think differently from the Gen Xers and Boomers who grew up without computer games. I really ought to read the Postman again though.

I’m struggling for the fifth one, but I am going to go with one recommended by Reed: Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal and John Brickmont – finally told me it was ok to loathe the self-serving, insouciant dishonesty of post-modernism and to dismiss them with the contempt that they deserve. This book told me that it wasn’t me it was them: post-modernist pseudo-intellectuals really are lying c**ts.

Right. If not already tagged with this, I am tagging Charlotte, Dr Z, Teuchter and YOU.