Privacy – possible?

This past year I have finally become more privacy conscious about my personal information. Ever since pin codes became a thing, I have tried to be good about what kind of passwords and codes I use. However, I haven’t been quite as good when it comes to other areas. Birth date and real name were two things I thought I had to be open about. Of course, there are times when sharing that information appropriate, but not on social media or with the keepers of all information.

Two corporations that annoy the hell out of me, and that I am dropping out of my life, are Google and Microsoft. It turns out nothing of what I have deleted is actually gone. Microsoft keeps all of my mails in case I want to revival them. Google is no better when it comes to privacy issues.

As a result of my experiences, and educating myself about privacy, I (and my better half) have been insistent on avoiding “smart” functions as much as possible. Amazon’s has many privacy issues and one of those is their app “Ring”. The investigative journalists on Point recently released the following video about Amazon’s Video Doorbell. Tsk, tsk Amazon!

Leslé Honoré: We don’t report (2018)

We don’t report
Because you ask us what we wore
Were we drinking
Did we say no
We don’t report
Because husbands can’t rape
Because my mama would break
She would never forgive herself
For letting him in our home
And I want to protect my mama
The best way a 7 year old can
We don’t report
Because no one ever told me
What consent was
What my value is
That I can say no
We don’t report
Because long before my abuser
Groomed me
Society groomed me
Patriarchy groomed me
That I am worthless
I can’t even get paid equally
So I am not protected equally
When a man reports his priest
For raping him decades ago
He is heroic
When I report my rapist
To try and protect my nation
I am a whore
A liar
A con
A democratic plant
Because upstanding
Educated white men
Don’t rape
They don’t grab pussies
We don’t report
Because we know
You don’t care
And every time we
find the courage
That is deep within us
Past the shadows of our screams
Past the tattoos of hands that aren’t
Our own
Past the shame and pain
We push down
To try and love
Past the tears no one heard
Past the uncles at family BBQ’s that
We are supposed to forgive
Past the R Kelly’s songs on the radio
Woody Allen films
Or sacrificing my dignity
For what Cosby did for the culture
We push out our courage
Through all of the darkness
And hold it
Like a newborn in our hands
And then you murder it
Because we didn’t birth it sooner
And with the blood of our dead hope
Covering us
You scream in our faces
“WHY DIDN’T YOU REPORT”

~Leslé Honoré

 

Dyslexia takes time

I have a child who is both dyslexic and dyspraxic and she may or may not have dyscalculia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder related to reading and writing. I have a previous post about it. There are three degrees of dyslexia: mild/moderate, severe and profound. My daughter has severe dyslexia. Her vocabulary and use of it is excellent. Her writing and reading, not so much. Spelling and grammar programs have been essential for her schoolwork, and audio books and youtube videos have helped her understand topics her teachers (or I) could/can not explain well enough.

Many dyslexics also have dyspraxia. Both disorders are inherited from my side of the family. She was diagnosed in England at a time when dyspraxia was not an accepted diagnosis in Norway. All of the symptoms and experiences described below have been part of her life. As with dyslexia, dyspraxia is life-long. Certain aspects can improve with a lot of work. Essentially, one has to prioritize which aspects matter in the long run.

When it comes to dyscalculia we might have our suspicions. I’m not sure how well she would have done at school without my tutoring. Probably much worse. Interestingly enough these disorders do not indicate intelligence. Generally people who struggle with one or all of them range from average to highly intelligent. If you need understand the world through IQ test lenses, you will have problem with dys-cal/lex/praxic people.

In spite of her disabilities she is currently (2018/2019) taking a business masters at a university in England. At the beginning of the school year she had to take another test to determine the severity of her adult dyslexia and dyspraxia. As the person testing her concluded the report said: “…. is to be congratulated on her achievements to date.”

Open access journals

There are 1978 research articles that have been published by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) available, free of cost, at PubMed Central (PMC). Titles include everything from the 2018 article “Seasonal energy exchange in sea ice retreat regions contributes to differences in projected Arctic warming” to the 1965 article “Nature of Particles Involved in Lipid Synthesis in Yeast“. For English-reading scientifically inclined minds this should be a treasure trove. 

NASA is not alone in making such a contribution to Open Access. The European Union, by way of its ministers of Science, Innovation, Trade, and Industry, realized that the only way to aid future discoveries was by making previous research accessible to researchers of all kinds. Hiding data behind paywalls* can become expensive and difficult for cross-field researchers who need to go outside their specialized fields. Their solution was to create Horizon 2020, an open access site for scientific articles. 

Scientific Research, Open Access Journals, The Royal Society and the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) are some of the other available open access sites. While Elsevier have plenty of paywall journals they also list a number of open access journals. Some of them are non-English ones. Unlike Google Scholar, Google Dataset Search-engine (GDS) links solely to open access articles. I sampled it, and it seemed to do what it promised, but it is difficult for me to say whether GDS did its intended job.

I am a fan of education, good education, that leaves us more knowledgeable about a topic rather than mired in  old prejudices and attitudes. Before the need for more accessible articles became loud enough to be heard, the general public had a difficult time finding anything solid to base their opinions on. Now we no longer have that excuse.

*While I no longer pay to read the article, the authors (or institution behind them) pay to have them made open access. 

Manipulation

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we cannot be manipulated. That people who are taken in by cults are gullible or stupid. However, all of us are manipulated each and every day of our lives. Conditioning begins the moment we are born into a certain culture, a certain family, a certain language. Businesses thrive on how simple it is to get us to buy things. Usually things we do not need. Even if we are starving, we might choose to pay for “not food”. This video by Theramin Trees is an excellent introduction to the idea that EVEN YOU might be manipulated. 

Who were The Computers?

Socializing over lunch. From left to right, Barbara Paulson, Vickie Wang and Helen Ling. (Credit: JPL)
I have found truth to be malleable in the hands of historians. Writing people out of history or rewriting history so important people are deleted or even replaced with preferred characters seems not uncommon. While some people might have heard of the first programmer ever (Lady Ada Lovelace), the names of the six females who started modern US programming were conveniently hidden from the public. So were their images. In fact, the idea that they were models posing in front of the ENIAC was encouraged. Not until Kathleen Kleiman went searching for female role-models in computer programming did the world get to hear about these six “Computers”: Kay McNulty, Jean Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman.
Any person who differed from the idea of a white male persona were hidden from public mention and public viewing. Many “Computers” who were part of launching NASA’s manned rockets flights, were denied recognition.
The US were far from alone in this regards. British, names like Kathleen Booth or Stephanie Shirley, have probably not been heard of.
It is important that we realize that information will be kept from the public if it suits the purposes of the majority within any field or in any country.

Being human

How do you people stay sane?

When you walk down a street in your hometown or city, or along a corridor on whatever station you visit, how do you stay sane when you see a fellow sentient being who is homeless and hungry, and in need of sanitation and fresh clothes, food and a warm bed, things that you get to enjoy? How do you stay sane when you hear about your neighbor having lost their job, and they’re mired in debt, unable to pay their bills, when you have plenty to spare? How do you stay sane whenever you see an injured stray dog who needs a trip to the nearest vet, with no owner in sight and no one else but you aware of his pain and his plight?

How, meioa, do you and your viewers stay sane when there are so many things you can do to make this universe a better place, day by day, step by step, kindness by kindness, instead of just sitting there complaining about its awful state? How can you and your viewers stay sane whenever you stay silent on matters of social injustice, oppression, and bigotry?

Johnson, J. (2014). Damnation. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 318-319).

Equality: Raising our children

Illustrasjon: Eivind Gulliksen


I came across this wonderful article by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that expresses many of my thoughts on how we might raise children to equality. I realize parents can only do so much by themselves, but those first few years when parents have an almost godlike status for their children lay an important foundation when dealing with others. Both men and women need to let go of their preconceived ideas of what the other should do/be. The entire article can be found at the above link.

… I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop.

The second tool is a question: can you reverse X and get the same results?

For example: many people believe that a woman’s feminist response to a husband’s infidelity should be to leave. But I think staying can also be a feminist choice, depending on the context. If Chudi sleeps with another woman and you forgive him, would the same be true if you slept with another man? If the answer is yes then your choosing to forgive him can be a feminist choice because it is not shaped by a gender inequality. Sadly, the reality in most marriages is that the answer to that question would often be no, and the reason would be gender-based – that absurd idea of ‘men will be men.’

Here are my suggestions:

Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive

1. First Suggestion: Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. Be a full person. Your child will benefit from that. The pioneering American journalist Marlene Sanders once said to a younger journalist, “Never apologize for working. You love what you do, and loving what you do is a great gift to give your child.”

You don’t even have to love your job; you can merely love what your job does for you – the confidence and self-fulfillment that come with doing and earning. Reject the idea of motherhood and work as mutually exclusive. Our mothers worked full time while we were growing up, and we turned out well – at least you did, the jury is still out on me.

when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

It doesn’t surprise me that your sister-in-law says you should be a ‘traditional’ mother and stay home, that Chudi can afford not to have a ‘double income’ family.

People will selectively use ‘tradition’ to justify anything. Tell her that a double-income family is actually the true Igbo tradition because in pre-colonial times, mothers farmed and traded. And then please ignore her; there are more important things to think about.

In these coming weeks of early motherhood, be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Expect to be helped. There is no such thing as a Superwoman. Parenting is about practice – and love. (I do wish though that ‘parent’ had not been turned into a verb, which I think is the root of the middle-class phenomenon of ‘parenting’ as one endless, anxious journey of guilt).

Give yourself room to fail. A new mother does not necessarily know how to calm a crying baby. Don’t assume that you should know everything. Look things up on the Internet, read books, ask older parents, or just do trial and error. Let your focus be on remaining a full person. Take time for yourself. Nurture your own needs.

Please do not think of it as ‘doing it all.’ Our culture lauds the idea of women who are able to ‘do it all’ but does not question the premise of that praise. I have no interest in the debate about women ‘doing it all’ because it is a debate that assumes that care-giving and domestic work are exclusively female domains, an idea that I strongly reject. Domestic work and care-giving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and at home.

2. Second Suggestion: Do it together. Remember in primary school we learnt that a verb was a ‘doing’ word? Well, a father is as much a verb as a mother. Chudi should do everything that biology allows – which is everything but breastfeeding. Sometimes mothers, so conditioned to be all and do all, are complicit in diminishing the role of fathers. You might think that Chudi will not bathe her exactly as you’d like, that he might not wipe her bum as perfectly as you do. But so what? What is the worst that can happen? She won’t die at the hands of her father. So look away, arrest your perfectionism, still your socially-conditioned sense of duty. Share childcare equally. ‘Equally’ of course depends on you both. It does not have to mean a literal fifty-fifty or a day-by-day score-keeping but you’ll know when the child-care work is equally shared. You’ll know by your lack of resentment. Because when there is true equality, resentment does not exist.

And please reject the language of help. Chudi is not ‘helping’ you by caring for his child. He is doing what he should. When we say fathers are ‘helping,’ we are suggesting that childcare is a mother’s territory, into which fathers valiantly venture. It is not. Can you imagine how many more people today would be happier, more stable, better contributors to the world, if only their fathers had been actively present in their childhood? And never say that Chudi is ‘babysitting’ – people who babysit are people for whom the baby is not a primary responsibility.

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.

Chudi does not deserve any special gratitude or praise, nor do you – you both made the choice to bring a child into the world, and the responsibility for that child belongs equally to you both. It would be different if you were a single mother, whether by circumstance or choice, because ‘doing it together’ would then not be an option. But you should not be a ‘single mother’ unless you are truly a single mother.

My friend Nwabu once told me that, because his wife left when his kids were young, he became ‘Mr. Mom,’ by which he meant that he did the daily care-giving. But he was not being a ‘Mr. Mom,’ he was simply being a dad.

3. Third Suggestion: Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense. Do not ever tell her that she should do or not do something “because you are a girl.”

“The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina.”

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.

I remember being told as a child to ‘bend down properly while sweeping, like a girl.’ Which meant that sweeping was about being female. I wish I had been told simply ‘bend down and sweep properly because you’ll clean the floor better.’ And I wish my brothers had been told the same thing.

There have been recent Nigerian social media debates about women and cooking, about how wives have to cook for husbands. It is funny, in the way that sad things are funny, that in 2016 we are still talking about cooking as some kind of ‘marriageability test’ for women.

The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking – domestic work in general – is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have. It is also a skill that can elude both men and women.

We also need to question the idea of marriage as a prize to women, because that is the basis of these absurd debates. If we stop conditioning women to see marriage as a prize, then we would have fewer debates about a wife needing to cook in order to earn that prize.

If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential.

It is interesting to me how early the world starts to invent gender roles. Yesterday I went to a children’s shop to buy Chizalum an outfit. In the girls’ section were pale phenomena in washed-out shades of pink. I disliked them. The boys’ section had outfits in vibrant shades of blue. Because I think blue will be adorable against her brown skin – and photograph better – I bought one. At the check out counter, the cashier said mine was the perfect present for the new boy. I said it was for a baby girl. She looked horrified. “Blue for a girl?”

I cannot help but wonder about the clever marketing person who invented this pink-blue binary. There was also a ‘gender neutral’ section, with its array of bloodless grays. ‘Gender neutral’ is silly because it is premised on the idea of male being blue and female being pink and ‘gender neutral’ being its own category. Why not just have baby clothes organized by age and displayed in all colors? The bodies of male and female infants are similar, after all.

I looked at the toy section, also arranged by gender. Toys for boys are mostly active, and involve some sort of ‘doing’ – trains, cars – and toys for girls are mostly ‘passive’ and are overwhelmingly dolls. I was struck by how early our culture starts to form the ideas of what a boy should be and what a girl should be.

she noticed that the mothers of baby girls were very restraining, constantly telling the girls ‘don’t touch’ or ‘stop and be nice,’ and she noticed that the baby boys were encouraged to explore more and were not restrained as much and were almost never told to ‘be nice.’

Did I ever tell you about going to a US mall with a seven-year-old Nigerian girl and her mother? She saw a toy helicopter, one of those things that fly by wireless remote control, and she was fascinated and asked for one. “No,” her mother said. “You have your dolls.” And she responded, “Mummy, is it only doll I will play with?”

I have never forgotten that. Her mother meant well, obviously. She was well-versed in the ideas of gender roles – that girls play with dolls and boys with cars. I wonder now, wistfully, if the little girl would have turned out to be a revolutionary engineer, had she been given a chance to explore that helicopter.

If we don’t place the straitjacket of gender roles on young children we give them space to reach their full potential. Please see Chizalum as an individual. Not as a girl who should be a certain way. See her weaknesses and her strengths in an individual way. Do not measure her on a scale of what a girl should be. Measure her on a scale of being the best version of herself.

Instead of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try and fix physical things when they break.

A young woman once told me that she had for years behaved ‘like a boy’ – she liked football and was bored by dresses – until her mother forced her to stop her ‘boyish’ interests and she is now grateful to her mother for helping her start behaving like a girl. The story made me sad. I wondered what parts of herself she had needed to silence and stifle, and I wondered about what her spirit had lost, because what she called ‘behaving like a boy’ was simply that she was behaving like herself.

Another acquaintance once told me that when she took her one-year-old son to a baby play group, where babies had been brought by their mothers, she noticed that the mothers of baby girls were very restraining, constantly telling the girls ‘don’t touch’ or ‘stop and be nice,’ and she noticed that the baby boys were encouraged to explore more and were not restrained as much and were almost never told to ‘be nice.’ Her theory is that parents unconsciously start very early to teach girls how to be, that baby girls are given more rules and less room and baby boys more room and fewer rules.

Gender roles are so deeply conditioned in us that we will often follow them even when they chafe against our true desires, our needs, our wellbeing. They are very difficult to unlearn, and so it is important to try and make sure that Chizalum rejects them from the beginning. Instead of gender roles, teach her self-reliance. Tell her that it is important to be able to do for herself and fend for herself. Teach her to try and fix physical things when they break. We are quick to assume girls can’t do many things. Let her try. Buy her toys like blocks and trains – and dolls, too, if you want to…..

The rest of the article may be read on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s FB page

Farting: popular topic throughout history

In 1781 Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to the Royal Academy of Brussels that includes the following quote:

Permit me then humbly to propose one of that sort for your consideration, and through you, if you approve it, for the serious Enquiry of learned Physicians, Chemists, &c. of this enlightened Age.

It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind.

That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.

That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such Offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.

That so retain’d contrary to Nature, it not only gives frequently great present Pain, but occasions future Diseases, such as habitual Cholics, Ruptures, Tympanies, &c. often destructive of  the Constitution, & sometimes of Life itself.

Were it not for the odiously offensive Smell accompanying such Escapes, polite People would probably be under no more Restraint in discharging such Wind in Company, than they are in spitting, or in blowing their Noses.

My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome & not disagreable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes.

Fart jokes are found in most cultures. The oldest fart joke is apparently from as long ago as ca. 1900 BC in Sumeria (Iraq).

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.” (Reuters)

The Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Japanese, and Old Egyptians joked about flatulence. I do not understand all of them, but their intended public tend to think that such humour is funny.