Monthly Archives: September 2012

Crazy cat lady

I love cats.  Throughout my life, with the exception of times spent travelling, I’ve had at least one cat companion.  There is a pretty high chance that I will end up as a crazy cat lady with thirty cats, and when I die alone the neighbours will only discover my body after the cats have devoured half my face.  In fact, it’s only with the sternest self-control that I am managing to stick to a two-cat maximum at the moment, because every time I see a kitten I melt a little bit on the inside.

So I’m pretty sure I must be a carrier of the toxoplasmosa gondii parasite, an issue that has had me mildly worried since I first found out about it a few months ago.  Luckily, a recent study has shown that carrying this parasite probably does not cause brain cancer.  Instead, it decreases inhibitions and causes the carrier to be more outgoing.  Who wouldn’t want to be more outgoing?  Now my only worry is that if I don’t have it, how do I make sure to get it?  I love my cats, but not enough to roll around in their litter tray..

Colour wars

I love colour.  I really love deep, saturated colours, colours that mean business.  Don’t give me any of this pastel-bullshit.  This drives my girlfriend, lover of all things subtle and pastel, a little bit crazy, especially when it comes to interior decorating decisions.

So I really really love this interactive chart, created by xkcd.  I want to print it out big and put it on my bedroom wall.  Wonder what my girlfriend will have to say about that!

Reading: Masters of the Planet – The Search for Our Human Origins

I recently read this book by Ian Tattersall.  It explains the science around human evolution, tracing back our family tree to the split from the other apes.  It’s an entertaining and informative read, full of real science but still accessible for a layperson like me.  It explores the question of what makes us uniquely human, and concludes that it’s our ability to think symbolically that catapulted us from just one hominid species among many to rulers of our world.  It delves into the way our evolution shaped the contrary beings we are today, capable of understanding the extreme complexity of the natural world, capable of creating moving, beautiful works of art, and capable of horrendous savagery.  I would add this to the “highly recommended” pile.

Privilege

Reading this post by Natalie Reed on privilege made me think about the experiences in my life that helped me understand my own privilege.

I was born white in apartheid South Africa, where being white came (and still does come) with enormous advantages.  I grew up in an affluent home where I was waited on by servants and received an excellent education that today enables me to make a comfortable living virtually anywhere in the world.  I grew up during a time when homosexuality was becoming widely accepted throughout the Western world, which meant that I was free to express my feelings and choose to live with a same-sex partner.  As a woman I have benefitted greatly from the achievements of the feminists of the previous generation, and can now demand the same salary as any man working in my field.

In my twenties I was able to live for a few years in the UK, in itself an amazing opportunity.  I spent some of my time there doing temporary and part-time menial jobs to fund my travels in Europe, South America and Australia.  This experience made me see for the first time just how much I had been taking all my good fortune for granted.  For the first time in my life, people looked down on me.  I was a foreigner, working at unskilled jobs for minimum wage, I spoke with an accent, and people treated me as if I was uneducated or even stupid.  Employers tried to cheat me out of wages and co-workers humiliated me.

It was jarring.  I had been used to being treated with respect.  I regarded myself as educated and sophisticated and felt that I deserved to be listened to.  And here were people that I would have looked down on at home, people who had dropped out of high school and seemed to think domestic abuse was normal, desirable even, who treated me like scum!

It was a revelation, no, rather, it was an education.  I didn’t enjoy it.  I felt very, very sorry for myself.  But today I am really grateful for having lived through it, because I don’t think any other experience could have taught me as much about how different other people’s experience of the world can be.

Most of all, it taught me a level of empathy that I see in very few of my peers.  It baffles me when I see my friends and co-workers expect the poor and uneducated to behave as they would.  They express irritation at what they perceive to be the irrational actions of striking workers, and seem unable to fathom the level of desperation that drives people to protesting in the streets.

I sometimes think the world would be a better place if all of us “haves” could spend just a little time as a “have not”.  The world really does look different in another person’s shoes.

Nelson Mandela Bridge

Hi! This is a guest post by trophywife. There will be more to come…

The Nelson Mandela bridge is an icon in the Johannesburg city centre. What caught my eye was the coloured lighting that they’ve recently added to the bridge. This was taken while driving because it’s not quite safe to leave your car in this area at night.

Discovery Insure – not what you think it is

Dicovery has launched a short-term insurance product, called Discovery Insure.  Why am I bothering to comment on this?  Because they promise to pay you back up to 50% of your petrol spend in return for “good driving behaviour”.  This is supposed to reduce the number of deaths on South African roads.  Sounds pretty cool, huh?  Well, it won’t work.

The reason is simple:  Who will buy this insurance?  Financially sophisticated, affluent people.  Who causes the majority of the deaths on South African roads?  Drivers of un-roadworthy vehicles such as minibus taxis and drunk drivers who don’t care about how much petrol they won’t be getting back by the time they’re getting behind the wheel.

So all this really is is a lovely marketing stunt designed to attract the type of people who think they’re going to get back more in petrol than what they’re paying extra for insurance and get the warm and fuzzies from thinking they’re helping to save lives.  I think it’s pretty clever, and it might well take off.  Well played, Discovery!