Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU

Dear kids

Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote 🙂

Love, mum

Post-Brexit, I’ve been doing some metaphorical soul-searching. Rummaging around in my drawer of tidy private political opinions. Well, I’ve tipped that drawer on the kitchen table and this is what’s come out. (Some swear-y bits follow below. )

Kids' guide to the EU

This kids’ guide to the EU recently appeared in our kitchen. Great timing.

 

Age-appropriate socio-economic context

I explain the world to my kids with a pinch of age-appropriate socio-economic context. Mentioning background, life opportunities, education, bad luck. I follow up with: “In our house, dad and I think [*insert appropriate liberal metropolitan educated employed opinion*], but there are people who don’t agree. That’s OK.”

Today, a day after Britain voted to leave the EU, bollocks to that nuanced ‘two-sides’ approach. I think that 51.9% of the voters made the wrong decision about the EU referendum. I’m telling my kids that I voted Remain because I wanted them to have the same opportunities that British kids had before them.

Unfortunately, more scared, confused, mean (sorry), arrogant (apologies), wrong (not sorry) people voted Leave. They probably damaged the economy for a lot of us, and they definitely stuffed up the European future for my kids.

More immigrants? No thanks, I’m full.

I’m telling my kids that a lot of nasty people supported a Brexit because they don’t like immigrants. (Of course, not ALL people who voted to leave were bad. Aaaaah – can’t help myself … Sorry.)

Our family is stuffed-full of immigrants. We like to get around, so I’m horrified and disappointed that this debate was so racist and fearful.

The Leave campaign was supported by famous arse-hats. Farage, Trump and a dirty pile of right-wing European leaders talking up the anti-immigration bullshit. These are not my people.

My reactions on Facebook yesterday

1. First thing in the morning – unfiltered emotion.

Went to bed in the United Kingdom and woke up in land of hate and glory. I slept badly, hopefully dreamed that the Remain side would ‘edge’ ahead… Instead I’m now living in Little Middle England.

This morning I had an unexpected cry over politics and unexpected need to share my sadness on social media. I’m not angry. There are apparently enough angry haters out there already and more of them voted. Just sad that being moderate and reasonable and compassionate isn’t good enough anymore.

I’m still glad I supported and voted for Remain. I can tell my kids that.

2. A bit later – after too much information, emotion and social media

My knee-jerk metropolitan liberal elite post-Brexit strategy: combination of stay within safe bubble of left-y urban multicultural suburbs + make sure our kids give a fuck.

European Union 2

Smiling daughter within the European Union. 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Keep the water in your mouth   Yesterday I found a Post-It note in the kitchen with these words of wisdom: Keep the water in your mouth.

Where do you go when you press Home?  Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home). My old house is empty and my new house is waiting for me.

The invasion of the attention-snatchers

Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

This morning, while mindlessly Twitter-scrolling during the kids’ swimming lessons, I found some people with interesting job titles explaining why and how to take control of our technology.

The rebirth of calm

I found this article first: The rebirth of calm: Why we need technology with manners.  Amber Case, who is a Cyborg Anthropologist (!!) talks about why technology needs to be less intrusive and more polite.

“… fancy computerised replacements threaten to overcomplicate the tiniest details of life. Imagine a fridge or an AI-studded fruit bowl that texts you when one of your bananas is rotting. That might sound nice, but Case points out that a banana already comes with a custom technology that lets you know it’s going bad: “It’s a peel,” she says.”

Time Well Spent

That first article led me to this website: Time Well Spent. They are a bunch of designers who want technology help us spend our time well. They have a manifesto (of course they do), but it makes sense.

“We believe in the possibility of better design, that lets us connect without getting sucked in. And disconnect, without missing something important.”

They also have a video of a TED talk (of course they do).

Mindful smartphones

From there I ended up reading about mindful phone use: Distracted in 2016? Reboot Your Phone with Mindfulness I can’t tell if the author Tristan Harris wears bamboo sweaters, but I do know that he used to be a Product Philosopher(!!) at Google.

His article is well worth the estimated reading time of 11 minutes and 28 seconds.  It has some simple tips on how to use your phone when you need to, and not be tempted by those shiny pretty colourful apps.

“We live in an Attention Economy. That means every app and website … is trying to get you to come back and spend more time. Companies literally have teams of people called Growth Hackers, whose job is to invent new reasons (notifications) and new persuasive tactics to bring you back.”

I don’t think that we are weak or stupid, but there are just much smarter people whose jobs are to keep us app-happy and alert-addicted.

Lessons learned

  1. We have limited capacity to pay attention. Technological fun is unlimited. It’s not a fair fight, so we have to try harder.
  2. If you use frog legs instead of dolphin kicks while doing butterfly arms , the swimming teacher gets annoyed.
  3. I was right to turn off my email, app and phone notifications. Last night, my husband had an enjoyable drink with my boss because I was finishing something in the office and hadn’t seen his messages. The world didn’t end, and I joined them a bit later.
  4. Job titles are much more interesting than they used to be.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Using tech for good, not evil. I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone.

Slightly ranting about kids, technology, good and evil. I can’t decide. Internet = evil cesspit of narcissistic idiots chatting to gambling-addicted paedophiles? Or Internet = global community of inspiring humanity sharing knowledge and joy?

Make your own laptop I was in one of those over-priced Belgian cafes, filled with equal quantities of rustic wooden furniture and jars of chocolate spread.

Hello Hong Kong

A selection of Hong Kong holiday snaps, with side trips off to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom theme park and Macau.

Photos by me and husband. #nofilter, as they say on Instagram. I’m @alifelessdigital if you enjoy that sort of thing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With thanks to mum and the magnificent Moks for their help and hospitality.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Alien fruit On holiday, I like to relax. And take pictures of fruit.

The sound of one glove clapping Lost gloves.

Tiny tablets and toys It was a quiet morning at home. I was pondering the largeness of my multivitamin tablet.

To all the ladies in the house

Mother’s Day had serious expectations heaped upon it, such as handmade cards and someone else replacing the toilet paper for once. International Women’s Day? Just the same old fluff – gender parity, equal opportunities, more women in leadership, less violence blah blah.

Here are some words for the important girls and women that I know.

My daughter. I will never be disappointed in you, even if you don’t become the first female astronaut on Mars. (It would be VERY cool if you did though.)

My nieces. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of your big lives starting. Enjoy. I watch with hope and interest.

My female colleagues. You are smart and funny and interesting and ambitious. Please be kind to yourselves.

My lady friends. Thanks for not judging. We’ve got enough to deal with, without kicking each other behind the knees. We do not fight dirty.

My sisters in law. The paid work, the unpaid work, the family, the friends, the home decor – you are totally smashing it. All of it.

My mum. If you don’t want to live with me later on in life, I’ll pick a really good retirement home.

My mother in law. You are the head of a very impressive family of women. You can never have enough X chromosomes.

Pair of finished lipsticks

Finished two lipsticks in one week. Not much comes close in the ‘achievement’ stakes. 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Judgemental as anything. It’s not cool to judge, unless you are a legal official or preside over hotdog-eating competitions.  Women and mothers – judge me not.

Let there always be kittens. One day I found myself hopping with a clickety click of the mouse from pictures of vintage French cheese labels, to a pro-anorexia, self-harm Tumblr site.  I have never seen one of these before because I am neither interested in anorexia nor self-harm.

 

 

 

 

Using tech for good, not evil

I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone.

Him: But you’re a digital person aren’t you? It’s technology!

Me: I believe in technology for good, and not evil.

I can barely remember what life was like before search engines. Not because I am young, but because Googling has become so automatic.

There is barely a nanosecond between thinking “I wonder …” and someone tapping on search engine results. We have no time for pondering and musing. And everyone is a proxy expert.

Here are some things I Googled this week. Was this using technology for good?

  • Balayage. Freehand hair colouring technique. I’ve recently fired up my old Instagram account again , and there are entire accounts filled with bespoke heads of highlights.
  • Getting chicken fat out of suede. It happens.
  • Seokmin Ko. A Korean artist who holds up giant mirrors in beautiful places. See his wonderful art.
  • Harpy. Mythical bird women. See photo below that I took at The National Maritime Museum. Who knew that they were so well-proportioned?
  • Female astronauts. Because my daughter wants to be one.

   

 

Only slightly mentioning Star Wars

So the new Star Wars was good. Very Good. Top class space opera with amusing droids, old friends and sparky new characters. Now we can all relax, without worrying that our kids would never feel the genuine Star Wars love.

If it had been disappointing, all of our Christmas-themed gifts would have been tainted by the unsightly hand of Jar Jar Binks. I am most proud of the Imperial Death Star Manual by Haynes. We’ll be fighting over that one on Christmas Day …

H5372_node

Merry Christmas!

Here’s one I wrote earlier

How Star Wars took over my lifeI used to like Star Wars quite a lot. As a young-ish urban childless New Media professional, basic Star Wars knowledge was mandatory.

A Christmas cat and snowman videoHusband and daughter have collaborated on a wonderful Christmas video. Enjoy the magic of plasticine and patience…

 

Keep the water in your mouth

Yesterday I found a Post-It note in the kitchen with these words of wisdom: Keep the water in your mouth.

post it note

Keep the water in your mouth.

I assume it was part of some weird game the kids have been playing. Otherwise, as general life advice, it’s not particularly useful.

I’ve had some crappy times this year, when I have been almost pressed flat under the weight of must do/should do/forgot to do. Advice from others hasn’t been as valuable as advice to myself.

  • Be nice(r) to my family. One day my kids will choose my retirement home. Husband has seen me through my worst and best.
  • Look after my health. Watching others watch their parents and partners cope with serious illness has reminded me of how we really are ‘bone clocks’ (as described by author David Mitchell).
  • Do things I enjoy. Books, music, art and any combination of noodles in soup will win.

Simple, isn’t it? And don’t forget to keep the water in your mouth.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

My Last Night of the Proms
Last night I went to the *Last Night of the Proms. I didn’t realise that the evening included two world-class opera singers leading a full Royal Albert Hall audience in a jolly singalong.

Judgemental as anything
It’s not cool to judge, unless you are a legal official or preside over hotdog-eating competitions.

My Last Night of the Proms

My Last Night of the Proms

Last night I went to the *Last Night of the Proms. I didn’t realise that the evening included two world-class opera singers leading a full Royal Albert Hall audience in a jolly singalong.  For me, even more remarkable was the range of nationalities represented at such a traditional British event.

  1. Danielle de Niese “was born in Melbourne to Sri Lankan parents of Dutch and Scottish descent, and grew up in Los Angeles.” She led us in a joyful Sound of Music medley. This is an American film set in Austria with the very British Julie Andrews and her excellent diction.
  2. Jonas Kaufmann, a German tenor, belted out (in a top class opera sense) Rule, Britannia! This is a traditional patriotic anthem from 1740, celebrating Britain’s naval dominance. The original poem describes a ninth-century British king defeating Danish invaders. It felt oddly exhilarating to be singing “Britons never will be slaves!”
  3. Marin Alsop was an electric conductor. She is an American who divides her time between Baltimore and Sao Paulo. She chose to teach us an old American children’s song by Copland called ‘I bought me a cat’. One of the lines was “My pig says ‘Griffey, griffey'”. Weird. [Aside: at the end of the concert she swapped her baton for a selfie stick! Read her guide to taking concert selfies...]

I had expected the Last Night of the Proms to be awash with Union Jack flags. There were a lot, with a few novelty waistcoats too. But there were also flags from all around the world, and a very large, simple “Refugees welcome” too.  Story via The Guardian, obviously http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/13/refugees-welcome-banner-steals-show-last-night-proms-royal-albert-hall

My Italian friend and I felt rather pleased to be part of this charming event. We even stood up to sing Jerusalem. This was absolutely the musical equivalent of a warm ‘upper body only’ British hug, with a firm back pat.

*Use of capitalisation as per the official programme.

Last Night of the Proms

The view inside Royal Albert Hall.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Where do you go when you press Home?  Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home).

Happy Chinese Australian New Day Chinese New Year and Australia Day completely passed me by this year. Instead, we surrounded ourselves with cheese, mountains and snow in France.

 

Please make your way to your nearest procrastination station

The wonderful thing about procrastination is that the longer you put something off (like updating a blog), the better it feels when you actually do it (this blog post).

In the spirit of sharing my immediate achievements, today I have completed the following:

  • A plate of scallops fried with chorizo.
  • City of Death by James Goss.  Classy Dr Who pedigree as it’s based on an actual script by Douglas Adams. The book is a magical mix of time travel, aliens, jokes about Parisians and art history.Bonus points for mentioning one of my favourite sculptors Barbara Hepworth. (Full disclaimer: James is an old but still youthful friend, but even if I didn’t know that he hates fish with bones, I would still recommend this.)
  • My 2014 Australian tax return. Several months late, but DONE at last.
  • A tube of Yu-Be Moisturizing skin cream. I smell a bit like a mothball as it has camphor in it, but this stuff is good. (I need to shoe-horn more beauty products  in to this blog to make it more blog-y. )

Hooray. Done. Tick. Complete. Over and out.

A funeral from afar

A couple of weeks ago we went to a funeral service in our pyjamas. Thanks to the power of the internet, at 2:30 in the morning (UK) we sat in our dark bedroom, and tuned in to a webcast of an early afternoon funeral service (Australia).

I normally associate webinars and webcasts with work-related learning. “27 reasons why you should horizontally integrate your on-boarding data with your digital marketing ROI leverage opportunities”.

In contrast, this webcast was a fond remembrance of a loved uncle. We listened to the gently amusing, achingly sad and warm-hearted tributes to the unfamiliar other facets of this man – father, brother, friend. All from the comfort of our suburban bedroom, cradling mugs of tea, with a light scattering of pretzels over the duvet.

Technical issues

There were some technical issues. At first, although we could hear the service, the video was mostly an old-fashioned test pattern of bold coloured stripes. The experience of listening to the voices pausing and wobbling with emotion, in the silent dark made the eulogies even more moving.

test pattern

Later on, as the service began drawing to a close, we lost the audio, but gained video. We saw the people rising and falling and shifting and singing.

I don’t work for you

As interesting as this was, we thought that we would enquire about the simultaneous transmission of audio AND video. We called the funeral home and then it got a bit weird.

INT. BEDROOM. NIGHT.

The funeral home reception person has put us through to the ‘technical people’. A very efficient man listens as we describe the issues – what we previously could or couldn’t see or hear.  He performs some technical jiggling at his end, asks us some brisk questions, and we duly report back on what we can or cannot see or hear.

IT MAN: (businesslike) Right. OK. Seems to be some kind of issue with the cabling at (‘name of funeral home location’). I need you to get on to that straight away before the afternoon service.

US: (Baffled silence)

HUSBAND: (quietly) We don’t work for you…

(Pretzel packet rustles slightly. Mugs of tea are silent. )

ME: (confused) We’re calling from London, trying to watch a webcast of a service …

(Uncomfortable micro-pause.)

IT MAN: (mortified) I am SO SORRY. I thought you were calling from the venue. I didn’t realise … etc etc

US:  (Speechless with laughter.)

FADE TO BLACK.

I’m not sure if the tears in my eyes were from the strangeness of this last conversation, or the moving stories of a great man.

[– In memory of PJ –]

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Love is not dead, it’s just resting. How often do you tell your loved ones that they are loved? On a sliding scale, I think the most romantic medium are (with 1 being most lovely) …