Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Of Barbies and burqas

Interesting comment by Ophelia Benson on what religious fundamentalism and the commercial sexualisation of ever-younger girls have in common. Have I become a feminist without realising it?

Of course, the complexity always seems to re-emerge under a different bit of the carpet. Even at eighteen months we see our firstborn as "all boy". Naturally we both hope for him to grow into a happy and fulfilled man, so maybe we take even more pleasure in those sides of his character which we hope will help him become an alpha male (such as the fearlessness and joy with which he clambers up his cot and somersaults over the edge onto the sofa) than we would if he was a girl.

And marriage itself teaches you a lot (especially those innocents who've never lived with a partner before) about the reality of the differences of the sexes. But then it teaches you a whole lot about the realities of individual difference, and about adjusting to them.

As with religion, I think I respect sexual difference because it's an indivisible property of individuals - it's when you turn that around that things seem to start going wrong.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Adventures in Johnnycare

Eva's doing an online test for her OU course in accounting today, so I've taken the day off to look after Johnny. After a pizza at Franco's in the Brixton Arcade (officially called Eco nowadays, but us old-timers like the old name) it started raining, so I took him to Adventure World in the Brixton Rec.

Adventure World is great - a safely padded three-dimensional maze of slides and ball-pits, ramps and rope-bridges. So in we go, happily chasing each other round until we find ourselves going down a ramp. Johnny's technique is rudimentary - he basically goes spread-eagled and slides down until one foot hits a padded rung, at which point he starts spinning until he hits the next one. He stops half-way down, turns his face up, opens his mouth, and "Waaah!"

Well, he knows he's stuck but he isn't in full meltdown yet, so I lift him by both hands and let him slide until both feet are square on the next rung. Down goes his bottom, up go the feet and he slides to the next rung, and so on all the way down. Have I traumatised him? He immediately heads down the next ramp, this time just holding my wrist with one hand as he confidently bum-slides all the way down.

Ah, the magic and rewards of having a toddler - the growth in skills, the growth in confidence - and it's pretty cool seeing Johnny learn stuff too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Culture wars - is there still a fence to sit on?

It seems to me that you can have respect for individuals or respect for cultures, but these will inevitably lead to contradictions at some point, and that if and when the contradictions become serious enough you have to start making choices.

This article and, of the debate that it kicked off, this supporting piece by Turkish German author Necla Kelek, persuades me of the case for valuing respect for the individual above respect for culture.

Thanks to ButterfliesAndWheels for the link

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The semantic web - no longer a pipe-dream?

Let me be rash - I've just had my first look at Yahoo pipes and I think this will prove a major milestone in the evolution of the web. I believe that the semantic web is appearing under our noses, not as the result of the ontologies and predicate reasoning that I used to imagine would be involved, but through a rapid evolution of bottom-up folksonomies and strength-off-association relationships, which in fact are a better fit to the loose-fit metaphorical reasoning we actually use in practice.

I'm too tired and coffee-wired and busy right now to write my own pipe - but I'll be doing it as soon as work and domestic circumstances permit.