Thursday, 7 November 2013

How to Survive the Internet

File:Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement1.svg
Graham's hierarchy of disagreement
A few weeks ago I blogged about an unfortunate incident involving my luggage and it garnered a LOT of comments not only on my blog but all over the world as it went viral. I was heartened to see how civil the majority of posters were despite the incendiary subject matter. It surprised some people to learn that I don't censor or delete comments from my blog because the overwhelming majority of commenters were well behaved and seemed to be singing from the same hymn sheet.

But you'd expect to hear hymnal choruses in your own digital echo chamber.

With this in mind, I'd like to post a far-from-comprehensive guide to surviving the Internet, with respect to comments and social media posts. The suitcase incident went crazy, and I survived the ensuing debate (read: shitstorm) by keeping the ideas below in mind.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Parker "51" Fountain Pen

A trio of Parker "51" on a bed of rice.
This is an ode to a pen I reach for more than any others despite it not being my favourite: the Parker "51" (P51) fountain pen.

I had heard a lot about these pens, usually from mouthfoaming zombies rabidly spewing hyperexcited praises for their pens that were made 60 years ago. Never one to question the integrity of the undead, I heeded their wizened words, have been bitten, and now go around talking through excess drool to anybody with a functioning ear.

Monday, 14 October 2013

That Horrible Suitcase

"I AM GAY" was plastered over my suitcase while in transit...a response.

Having missed out a night's sleep, I am quite tired at this moment and ask that any mechanical language errors below be treated kindly.

Here is the original tweet.
(See also my follow-up post about
going viral -- surviving the Internet)
Yesterday I tweeted a photo of my luggage after a Jetstar flight from Perth and it has caused quite the stir on social media. It has burst out of my own digital echo chamber and has been reverberating around the world for the past 24 hours.

I would like to point out that Jetstar has contacted me and offered a very sincere apology. For which I am grateful.

They are also conducting a "serious" investigation that I am assisting them with. Their PR machine is making all the right noises and saying all the right things. I have set no expectations of Jetstar with regards to their procedures or outcomes.

I have also been approached by media of all forms from around the globe but I have not offered any comment or answered any questions. Whatever you read/hear/see is based purely on the content of my Twitter feed and the posts in this blog. In the age of soundbites and limited column inches, I am not confident that anything I say won't be used out of context for the sake of time/space limits. Also, I can't keep up with the requests so I apologise if you don't get a personal and polite decline to your queries.

What I would like to share with you is what happened from the point where my luggage is on the carousel. I won't speculate as to what happened in the lead up.

My suitcase was the first bag on the carousel. The entire flight's passengers were shoulder-to-shoulder looking for their bags and I'm pretty sure that most people would've seen mine rattling along the rollers. I saw a big red case approaching and excused my way through the throng in order to retrieve it. I noticed some white bits on the side and turned back, apologising to the people who I had just pushed passed. "False alarm," I said to one gent. Then I realised that it actually was my bag and that the white bits were the sign you see in the image above.

I plucked the suitcase off the carousel and had many eyes look me up and down. I was taken aback by the slogan but thought I had thick enough skin to ignore the leering. My connecting flight was about to board so I had to speed through the terminal to check in with Qantas. As I dragged the case through the terminal, I looked back at the people I had passed and they too looked at me differently. My luggage was a scarlet letter.

I am a white heterosexual male. This trifecta of privilege means that I'm not routinely subjected to prejudice. But for a few minutes I got to walk in the shoes of a gay person in a public place. For no good reason I had had a slur marked over my luggage. I was degraded. I was shamed. I was humiliated.

For me, this was only a few minutes of one day of my life. If what I felt for those few minutes is extrapolated out every day over a lifetime, then I can fully understand why our gay friends feel persecuted and why they have such high rates of suicide. It is unacceptable.

It is said that words can't hurt you. That it is true. But it isn't the words that hurt, it's the intention behind them. "I am gay" was not emblazened across my luggage as a celebration. It was used as a pejorative. It was used to humiliate. It was used as a slur.

Some people have been commenting that it's probably just some loser in backrooms making a distasteful joke. Or that Jetstar has a culture of homophobia. Unfortunately, the mistreatment of our gay friends spans society. It goes all the way up to our political leaders and includes such luminaries as our Prime Minister. Our laws ensure that homosexuals are not afforded the same rights and dignities that many of us straight people take for granted every day.

Until our political/religious/community leaders acknowledge and address these inequalities, until we de-normalise prejudice, we can't expect the "losers" to follow.

As for the people calling me a whiner and telling me to toughen up, I would like to quote Lieutenant General David Morrison: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

This incident isn't about me, it's about what we as a society find acceptable. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

We are Like Giants - Spanking Kids

We are like giants to them.
I play in a social sports team - all nice people, most are parents. I like them. I don't necessarily agree with their views though, but how often does a group align?

A few weeks ago we were warming up on the sideline and the conversation revolved around funny things that happened while they were hitting their kids. One example is the belt recoiled and the buckle smacked the dad in the nuts.

They all laughed and made comments like "better not put that on Facebook!" as though they knew hitting their kids wasn't right. But they did it anyway.

Sleepy Dad has never hit his kids.

When the Little Dude was 18 months old, he had a play date with a friend. The friend did something wrong (?) and his mother smacked him and he cried. The Little Dude looked at me, aghast, with an expression saying "What the hell? Did you see that? Could that happen to me?"

Friday, 26 April 2013

Old Stuff Better Than New Stuff: Pens

Mightier than the sword, mightier than the biro
A pair of Pelikan piston-filling fountain pens
Today's "old stuff is better than new stuff" topic is pens. Oh, how exciting I hear you say! Stationery paraphernalia, yay!

I would understand your sarcasm if I was talking about ballpoint pens, sharpies and 2B pencils, but I will be gushing about fountain pens.

(Note: I have no affiliation with any products or manufacturers mentioned.)

Why fountain pens?

Fountain pens are fantastic writing instruments. Writing becomes a pleasure that is anticipated rather than a chore to be avoided.

In the past I had tried various ballpoint pens, gel pens, mechanical pencils and rollerballs and all of them left me cold. I had lots to write but found the physical process tedious, tiring and, at times, terrifying.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Old Stuff Better Than New Stuff: Cookware

Staub cocotte: the workhorse of my kitchen.
You may remember a few weeks ago I opined that ye olde-timey razors are better than new twenty-blade behemoths. Well, I am about to make some outrageous claims about old-style cookware that has fallen out of favor. Strap in for more bromidic blogging.

(I have no association with any products mentioned here.)

How many "non-stick" pans have you thrown out over the years? 100? 200? Me too.

Or are you concerned about non-stick fumes causing you flu-like symptoms, killing your pet birds or, according to the hype, the big C?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Ramblings on Marriage

The following is my view on marriage, and it is far from universal. I have only one marriage on which to draw from, so I should be in no way considered an expert in the field.

There's a lot of talk about marriage in the media, social media, and even from the pesky Jehova's Witnesses who like to sprinkle magical thinking all over my doorstep every other week. So I thought, "I'm married, I'm opinionated, I have a blog" and as if by magic, my spleen vented itself onto this blog post...

It took several minutes of searching
to find my wedding band.
Athena and I have a strong marriage. It is often commented upon by friends and family, with one memorable comment being: "if you guys ever divorced, I don't know what I'd believe in anymore."

Athena and I are together because we want to be, not because we have to be. I often say that if we had our time over again, we wouldn't get married.

But we would still be together.

The strength of our marriage is an illusion. It is our relationship that is strong.

The little piece of paper signed by God has no bearing on our relationship. We are together because we want to be, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

If, for whatever reason, Athena wanted to call it a day, I would be devastated, but I wouldn't stand in her way or defy her will. She is a fully realised and autonomous person. I respect her agency and sovereignty and wouldn't want her to be forced to stay by using a marriage certificate like a gun to her head. I don't own her and I have no right to think of her as my property.

It hasn't escaped my attention that people in relationships think they own their partner, particularly their wives. As you may (or may not) be aware, marriage has traditionally been a property transaction, where the woman is the product being traded. In Western countries this is progressively improving, but poorer countries still arrange marriages, dowries are paid, and "faulty" wives are returned for refunds, or worse, killed.

I have read a lot of bloggers and news commentators decrying divorce. I can see how divorce is actually better for all marriages.

Traditionally a woman couldn't divorce her husband. With no incentive to be a better husband, many men were the worst of husbands and the their poor wives had to grin and bear it. With the introduction of unilateral divorce, these women are able to escape the bonds of a bad marriage. And husbands are made to be better husbands as a result. Studies have shown significant reductions in female suicide, domestic violence and overall divorce rates since no-fault divorces were introduced.

Obviously the legal side of marriage affords protections to each partner. While I may be talking marriage down, there are many people are being denied simple rights and dignities that most of us take for granted. This is to our collective shame.

I don't see Athena as property because I respect her as a person. Quite often, people stop seeing their spouse as a real-life, independent human being with wants and needs, goals and ideals, hopes and dreams. Never lose the ability to see your spouse as an individual.

In line with this individuality, don't insist that you must know the innermost thoughts and feelings of your spouse. Give them the space to be their own person, to hold a little part of themselves back and know that this space is respected.

I haven't worn my wedding band for the past 14 years, in fact, I don't even know where it is. In some circles, this sends arms flailing and chins wagging. The ring is a relic, it isn't the relationship. By not wearing it, our relationship is still the same as it always was; taking it off changes nothing, a piece of paper changes nothing.

The wedding, the certificates, rings and paraphernalia are just showy gloss covering the real work of art. If pieces are crumbling from the statue, no amount of varnish will save it.

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Friday, 5 April 2013

Old Stuff Better Than New Stuff: Razors

Vintage DE razors and boxes of modern blades.
Razors (clockwise) from 2000s,
1960s, 1940s and 1950s.
This will be the first of a few posts where I wax lyrical about how some daily items were much better in the past.

Today's hot topic: razors!

Here's a little tidbit that confuses people. The arm that holds the blade is called the razor and the blade, is, well, a razor blade.

A few years ago I broke my right disability allowed a beard to sprout and flourish. This time allowed me to reassess my shaving regime and kick my high-five habit.

Friday, 29 March 2013

On Clear Thinking and Circumcision

The other day I was talking to a mum, and I don't know how or why, but we were talking about circumcising our kids.

I'm not going to go into the vast arguments for/against genital mutilation of our little boys and girls, but would like to walk you through this particular case of astounding (non-)thinking.

She said that they circumcised their boy because they didn't want him to be different from daddy, who is obviously circumcised (well, not obviously, I haven't seen it, just drawing a conclusion).

So, in my head, the problem reads:
If Junior's penis looks different from Daddy's, we will have to explain a taboo subject about penises and circumcision, and why his penis looks different.
And the options are:

  1. Have a conversation with Junior and explain circumcision, and why he wasn't circumcised; or
  2. Permanently and irreparably mutilate his genitals.
The benefit of option #1 is the little kid doesn't have the form and function of his penis permanently altered.

The benefit of option #2 is that the parents don't have to have an awkward (in their mind) conversation with their child.

The obvious choice to them is #2: no cost to the parent. That five minutes of awkwardness certainly outweighs the lifetime of disfigurement incurred by the child.

Taboos be damned! Learn how to talk to your kids. If you can't talk to them about little things like this when they are young children, how are you ever going to handle conversations of greater gravity when they are teenagers and adults?

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Thursday, 7 March 2013


Fun is fun, no reason needed.
Yes, it has been a while since I spilled the beans on my kids and my alleged parenting! My creative juices have been bubbling over on other projects and poor little Bloggy has been left to starve.

But now Bloggy will be soiled and stained with this: the inaugural post for 2013!


All kids love games. They can find a game in just about anything. It doesn't even need to be that interesting (in an adult's eyes). They just love them and snuffle them out, like truffles, at will. A man with a delicious, juicy brain, Bertrand Russell, praises this in his small book Conquest of Happiness: 
"The pleasures of childhood should in the main, be such as the child extracts from his environment by means of some effort and imagination."
So here are three games that have been invented in the Sleepy household that you may like to try. The first one is educational, the second makes a parent's life easier and the third is just plain, old-fashioned fun.