Online – Offline

Online – Offline

Last week I was at a friends birthday party, I met their nieces and nephews who I had seen on Facebook before but some of them never in real life. I realised the world has changed significantly in the last 20 years. I have seen some of these kids grow up online, baby pictures, first steps, first bike, first school day.  It was nice to see them run and play. But after the party, back home, I started wondering if online social media has made my social life better.

The answer I have come up with in the end is "No". 

No? I don't think I have a fuller life than I had before online social media. I do have more knowledge and more insight, or so it seems. The fact of the matter is I know about the life people want to share online. 

This has had major consequences on my social relationships, that I could think of. 

The friendships I built after online sociale became more flat – it is easier to leave out actual real life interaction if you think you already know they are doing alright. I remember wondering "How would Vicky being doing today?" and inviting her over or calling her to have a good chinwag. Now I might look at her facebook see a happy picture and put it all off for a bit. And a bit longer, and longer. The longer you put it off, the harder it becomes to actually do something. It is like you get stuck in this little happy bubble thinking you know all there is to know. I lul myself into a false sensation that I am a good friend because I write "Happy Birthday" on their wall once a year and say "Aww I hope you feel better" when they are ill.

However what is a "No" without a good "but", so here it comes.

But I can't fault the social media for this, I just think I was not prepared for this new phenomenon. Being a child of the 80's I grew up without mobile phones and internet but became an adult in a world full of online wonder. I was able to keep in touch with people I have seen maybe once or twice, and that has made my life richer. I have found great comfort and strenght in simple little comments of strangers. 

Finding a balance will become more and more important I think in this brave new world.

For me this balance means making time for face to face meetings or voice to voice phone calls with my dearest friends, not being satisfied with following certain peoples life from a far but getting involved. Getting out of the house and seeing things instead of looking them up and gazing at pictures.

I feel blessed for the opportunity to have these online social ties but I will guard my offline social ties from being neglected. I hope you will look at your social landscape and make something beautiful out of it. You have all the tools at your disposal to build friendships all around the world, but never forget what it entails being a friend.

Dedicated to my friend Suzanne, who inspired this journey that I hope will make me a better friend.

Living with infertility, my story

Living with infertility, my story

I won’t bore you to death with every single detail of how I became barren and how no one is to blame but it still happened and I am still in the situation I am in. When I discovered that hoping to conceive would be actually hoping for a needle in a haystack to grow into a healthy baby, without punching a whole in mummy and deflating her into an early grave, my world collapsed. Omg how melodramatic some might think but in all honesty it did. When a girl has been playing with dolls all her life and was picking up babies at an age that some would fear a kid might fall over, she nurtures a certain mothering sensation inside. Getting married and building a house with 2 kids rooms and a big garden was all a logical preparation for a new little person to step into my life.

My marriage didn’t survive the kid dilemma; I basically gave up a marriage for kids and a happy family. I found a guy who would love to start that little family with me, just when the rug was pulled from under my feet.  At first the only thing I felt for a long time was sadness. After a while it became a back seat passenger, a sadness hitching a ride on your soul, keeping you company through the happy times and there were happy times. Now years have passed and that sadness is still present but most of the days I can just tell it to shut up and live my life without a nagging feeling of incompleteness.

But there are days, for instance days that I see “I am pregnant, woohoo” on facebook or “Our family is going to grow by one”, that I can hear the sadness chatter in the back of my head. I call it the “I wish” days, I wish days are not that hard, they are just a reminder of the fact that there is something I want that I can’t have. I deal with them the same way then my “I really want a horse/pool/trip to New Zealand/winning lottery ticket”, I tell myself that I have loads to be thankful for and that you can’t have it all. Plus it is a happy message I am reading, the happiness for the people with the happy news easily drowns out the sadness sobbing.

Other types of days are ranging from the “If only days” to the “Its not fair days” and “Shut the fuck up or I will shout at you days”.

Let me enlighten you about these days, “If only days” mostly happen when I see a cute baby romper or baby bed or baby room décor and I walk by that empty room in the house and those plans, ideas just fill my head and the dream of a family living in our big house fills my soul. The longing for a family of our own is so strong it will fuel the sadness. I deal with it normally with a good cry and a hope for a way to get this family not requiring me to actually get pregnant. These are still days where the sadness is fueled by basically happy dreams, so they are not stemming from what I call the negative pool of emotions.

Now the “It’s not fair” days are caused by an acute sense of injustice, why me, what did I do to deserve this, why can they fix most issues but not mine. These are days when I hate the world and life for putting me through this. I often think these days happen when there is an extra “injustice” done to me and that puts me over the dark edge. For instance when I get blamed for something I haven’t caused but no one is listening. It is like a spiral in my head of every occasion that life has been cruel to me ending in the big pool of sadness that I am infertile and an endometriosis sufferer. I wallow in self-pity and shout out how unfair it all is. These days need a certain point of light, someone who shows me there are good things happening and I do get blessed with a nice job, nice colleagues, a fun hobby, a garden that has wildlife in it most people would only see on tv or in a petting zoo. Here is where my boyfriend shines in patience and understanding, he will let me shout and get angry at the world and then point me in the direction of light. It will take me a while and I might fall on the way out but I will get out and be my happy self eventually. He is my rock, he is my savior, he is my lighthouse keeper.

“Shut the fuck up or I will shout at you days” happen mostly on one of the above days combined with a new factor of perceived insensitive behavior by someone I know, care about or that I expect to know about how hard a time infertile people have. They don’t happen often but when they happen they simmer in my system for days, sometimes weeks. I believe it is because my soul was hurt, cut and it needs to grow a scab, then a scar and with time the scars fade. These days no one can console me, I know this hurts the people I love the most around me. One of the most common reasons of this is people complaining about a)pregnancy, b)their baby keeping them from sleeping or c)being a parent and how their life is ruled by kids. And looking back I know they are not meant as harsh and its normal to every now and then complain. But on those days when I read some woman complain about how much her pregnancy is hurting her, I rage inside. How can she even complain about it, when I would give the world to shot at it. How can she not pick herself up and just keep telling herself that in a few months she will be holding a little miracle in her hands. The worst one of these days was when some lady actually had the nerve to tell me to not minimalize her pain by telling her she would have a baby at the end of it. I was about to rip her a new one, but contained myself. Weeks later her baby was born and I snapped. I was having a really painful endometriosis day and all I could find was her cheerful posts of this beautiful perfectly  healthy baby that even looks like the parents. I was still in excruciating pain while her pain was over (or would be soon at least) and she got for me the ultimate reward, a baby. I went in a search in my brain about all the things I would tell the world and how amazingly insensitive people are and how everything is shit in my world and no one cares. I shut myself in a box of regrets, ‘this is unfair’, ‘why?’, ‘I hate everyone who doesn’t get it’, ‘no one gets it’, ‘I hate everyone’, ‘no one cares’ and spiraled around and around. Driving my car I was having conversations to myself about how was going to tell everyone what they put me through, how they hurt my feelings and how they are slowly killing me. I kept it up for quite a few days and even my boyfriend told me to ‘Get over it’. This is about the worst thing you can ever tell someone in this situation, if the person across the table from you could “get over it” they would. Some wounds take longer to heal, his wound healed mine was still in the process. It did shock me so much that I realized I can’t put this on people who obviously love me, not that I consider that many people. From there I worked my way out of the box, ‘not many but some’, ‘who needs many if you got a few good ones’,’who cares what they write and say’.

I wrote this more for myself than for others, to remind me how to free myself from the box of sadness and self-pity. I wrote this for others like me, to remind them they are not alone and there is no shame in feeling, even if you are feeling untrue things. Most of all I wrote this because it needed to be written. I don’t expect anyone to learn how to deal with me or other infertile people, but secretly I do hope you get an insight to what might go on in someone’s head, someone who looks perfectly together but actually is fighting for her sanity and happiness most days.

Organic Food, the BIO label, ecologically grown produceā€¦

Organic Food, the BIO label, ecologically grown produceā€¦

To start off a disclaimer, I was raised in a family where food is for the most part stuff you grow yourself or you at least know where the cow was born and raised before you ate the steak. I still buy my flour from the miller down the street. 

The whole business of organic food, this strange phenomenon that you see in supermarkets and restaurants, it annoys me. A slogan and sticker parade backed up with all the sales talk you can stomach, 'free range', 'farm fresh',… It actually infuriates me to certain degree.

organicWhy, do you ask, does it annoy me so? It is all healthier and better for you and the environment, the animals actually get treated like animals and have a good diet. And my answer should be backed up with the message that, I am all for what organic, bio, eco food stands for. I think people shouldn't eat eggs from battery chickens that can't even stand on their own feet or water culture tasteless veg. But that does not take my rage away that I have about Organic food.

The horror one reads about the way producers deliver us food does make you feel a bit weak in the knees. So I understand why people will buy the more expensive labeled food. A few weeks ago I read the story about orange juice. You wonder orange juice, what can go wrong there? You take some oranges,  squeeze them until the juice comes out and bottle the juice, right? Nothing complicated about orange juice in my head until I read the following:

'Once the juice is squeezed and stored in gigantic vats, they start removing oxygen. Why? Because removing oxygen from the juice allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. But! Removing that oxygen also removes the natural flavors of oranges. Yeah, it's all backwards. So in order to have OJ actually taste like oranges, drink companies hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that make perfumes for Dior, to create these "flavor packs" to make juice taste like, well, juice again.'*

I was gobsmacked is this really the kind of thing that happens to our food? Further down in the article there was a reply from an orange juice producer saying they do not use artificial flavour packs but create flavour additions out of the peal and oils from the oranges itself. But still it is quite a stretch from a freshly juiced glass of orange juice, oxygen removed and afterwards injected with orange aroma. And this opened my eyes to a shift in food culture, this is where my dislike for the bio, eco, organic and other labels stems from. Why is the food that has been grown normally, the juice that is just juiced and the cow that was in a field not a box the stickered food? In my simple farm logic the 'normal' situation is still what you expect would have happened to your food. Let me try and make myself clear

When I step into a supermarket and get myself a veal steak, I will probably find a packet with veal steak and a bio/organic labeled packet of veal steak. Now in my logic we shouldn't need to be told this veal has had a normal life before we killed it to make this steak by labeling it 'Organic'. No, I think we should have a label that shows the abnormal way the other veal is treated, a big sticker saying 'cheaper and softer, because we grew it in a box'. You could find 'Orange juice' and 'long life juice' labeled 'Deoxygenated and reflavoured with orange peel for longer keeping'.

organicfoodIt would just seem more honest and more upholding to logic that you expect your food always to be treated normally as if you would grow it yourself. We should demand that our food is not treated by loads of chemicals and be aware that when you do want that stuff to last for ages it will have more chemicals in it. Fair enough that you make the decision to eat how you eat and budget has place in that decision. But let people make their choices from information and not from organic, bio labels that most of the time only make a packet look more posh. 

In my humble opinion, there shouldn't be a 'undefined' default version and a well-treated, organically grown version of food. We should be expecting the well-treated, organically grown/bred food as a default. Expect to be honestly told about the shortcuts and methods that are applied to the food we find in the supermarket. I find myself, more and more, relying on the family garden, a reared cow by a friendly farmer acquaintance and seasonal produce from farmers markets. But I am fully aware I am a lucky one, having access to these budget friendly means of getting healthy food on the table. The fact we have to pay through the nose for traditionally reared and grown ingredients is the cause of outrage and compelled me to write this blog post. If this isn't going to change soon are we going to be eating a mix of chemically preserved compounds soon rather than food grown from the heart?

*From Gizmodo –

The Smelly Truth

The Smelly Truth

Living with a silence hater, who must have the TV on when doing anything, I must say I have watched more TV adverts than ever before in my life. Somehow I pay more attention to them than to the Friends episode that I've seen about hmmm 15 times? Is it because they are so bright or just because a lot of the products are new and different? I don't know, however what did really popped out at me was this. 

All these adverts show you products that we all seem to need, desperately need! Just think about it and their explanation makes sense, you should be convinced by this sales talk. Yes, you'll think 'that is the whole point of an advert!' but a pattern unfolded before my eyes. I noticed a 'Need (re)Cycle' going on of late. Let me explain with an example.

Air fresheners

Advert 1:

Oh look we have this fabulous air freshener you can place anywhere and it will make your house smell like summer time!

Initial reaction is 'oh yeah great idea!', I can put this nice looking thing anywhere and press it when I want to freshen up this space. A couple of weeks later this thing is standing on your dresser, collecting dust… And low and behold in the commercial break during the 3400th Friends episode, there is a new smelly stuff advert.

Advert 2: airfresheners

Look at this, no longer any need to press anything, this beautiful air freshener it goes 'PFouwT' every 12 1/2 minutes! Giving you the exact freshness you will need to impress all your friends!

First thought, 'Nice! Lets face it mine is there but I always forget too press it and the initial freshness is like sitting next to uncle Lou who likes to shower in his aftershave' And yes your next trip to Tesco's you can't resist this new and improved freshness bringer. The following weeks/months your trips to Tesco's contain more than usual air freshener refills and batteries… to the point where you give up and it just stands there as another ornament on your dresser (Good thing it looks like a pretty rock!). As if the air freshener people felt the drop in refill sales, there it is the new advert in another awesome lipping episode of Glee (I don't know why I watch it I don't even like it but it always ends up on the telly in our house…).

Advert 3:

Now plug your favourite air freshener in a plug socket, forget about batteries! Every now and then if will fill the air with a flower smell that will make a bee dizzy!

Oh my, now there is a solution to my battery problem! So yes again I was completely convinced this was what I needed… And this thing ends up in the hallway plug. After running into it a few times, cursing myself a few times after finding out I didn't turn the power 'ON' on the plug socket. Explains why I only noticed only a flower smell when tying my shoe laces. But after the power slip up, it was spraying like a macho male cat and going through refills way too fast. So again I went back to my trusty smelly candles to give the house a nice atmosphere and smell. While dozing off to an episodeof Chuck, there they were again my air fresheners desire demons.                                  

Advert 4:

The new and improved non plug in air freshener from XXXX, no longer going through refills by spraying when you are not in. Control it yourself and make your house smell nice whenever you want it to smell nice! Just press it and the house will be filled with 'Smells of The Orient'.

Side Note: I don't know if you ever walked through Mumbai, which is one of the most intense and rewarding olfactory experiences on Earth. It's kind of like Avatar for your nose. Everywhere you turn, the thick, penetrating scent of unfiltered motor exhaust and water in gutters lingers. There's the salty smell of ocean mixed with tropical rot, air conditioning, and frying palm oil. Not really what I want my living room smelling like.

And that's when I noticed it… wait a minute! That is the exact air freshener I had before I started this whole fragrant dance! This IS advert 1, for crying out loud they are even using the same actors… oh gasp its the same exact advert! So every few months, this whole cycle starts over again -> old becomes new -> bad becomes better…

After my epiphany I started to look at adverts differently and this same cycle happens for shampoo (all in one, separate shampoo and conditioner, for all hair types, for just one hair type), face crème (day-night, combined, one skin type, all skin types, …),… Are we becoming this saturated with ideas that there is no room for new ones? Have we come to the point where innovation becomes reinvention of old ideas? It is a scary idea but "Is this what the future will bring?", I wonder, while relaxing in my sofa, my lavender candle casting a comforting glow over the living room and the scent of the Provence filling my nose. Sometimes old fashioned ideas are not the worst after all…

TIC – An Imminent Threat

TIC – An Imminent Threat

Compelled by the number of victims of a yet to be officially recognized health risk I want to warn you all for TIC or in full "Traumatic Intellectual Coma".

What is TIC?

TIC is caused by the repeated digestion of malarkey, nonsense, idiocy in either verbal or written form. Both the amount of exposure and the grade of idiocy can induce mild to severe forms of TIC.

A TIC sufferer will go through following phases:

  • denial: This just can't be true.
  • anger: How is it possible!
  • doubt: I must have misunderstood this or just read it wrong.
  • depression: Is this really the kind of world we are living in !?
  • acceptance: I can't change it so let's just not think about it anymore.

All 5 phases will be present in a mild to normal case of TIC. However in more severe cases a 6th phase can appear, this is where the TIC gains its power to spread its mind numbing grip on the worlds population. In the dreaded phase 6 the patient will take the ludicrous information and accept it as a truth. Convinced he has discovered something, he will want to share his fellow men and hereby spread the TIC causing bit of nonsensical information. Once in phase 6 an individual might become immune to TIC causing information and skip straight to the spreading phase.

I am sad to report that the only way to prevent lasting brain damage caused by TIC is to keep getting annoyed by the amounts of bull you find in the world. Please keep vigilant and remain a skeptic when it comes to hard to believe stories you read all over the place.

A TIC Case Study

I can present you with the case that made me realize the existence of this horrible condition.

Unaware of any danger I was reading my new version of my monthly magazine called "Electronics and Embedded Systems", when, in between articles called "a chip-scaled atomic clock""broadband sampling oscilloscope" and "MED's views on multiprocessor-ASIC", I found an article that induced my eye-opening TIC experience:

!! Beware, reading the following article might induce TIC. Read further at own risk !!

Forget implants: the breast enlarging ringtone

So Hideto Tomabechi, one of the guys who helped deprogram members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, has started selling a ringtone that will make your breasts grow larger just by listening to it, something which should make it very popular with the ladies . Fortunately there are customer testimonials in case you were worried about this thing being legit or not, and Tomabechi says it's really simple, that he just uses sounds that "make the brain and body move unconsciously. It's a technique involving subliminal effects," that's like "positive brainwashing." If getting all busty through a ringtone isn't your bag, he also ringtones on the way that'll improve your memory, make you more attractive to the opposite sex, cure baldness, and help you give up smoking.

Reading this article and the customer testimonials made me rush through a quick succession of TIC phases.

I hope this little blog post will make you too recognize TIC when you witness it first hand and share this knowledge with the world. Awaken your friends and family that start spreading TIC information so information spreading through various media will not have a global dumbing down effect.

There is no e in book.

There is no e in book.

You know that moment of social interaction while waiting for the kettle to boil? Because you know it is going to boil by the time you get back to your chair and actually re-enter your password to unlock the pc. I remember this one morning I felt particularly opinionated after being squashed into an overfull tube (subway train) and to top it off having been hit over the head by a eBook reader. Off topic – if Boris (Johnson) thinks his tubes are fine I really would like to invite him on the Victoria Line between 8 and 9 in the morning. So you can guess my mood when I unleashed my prepared speech onto the first unsuspecting colleague who came in looking for a cuppa.

As a predator ready for the kill, I saw him look at the kettle filled to the maximum and not making any sounds of reaching boiling point yet. Then the most wonderful invitation to a chat sounded, 'So how are you?'. Muhaha! How am I? How am I? I will tell you how I am! Is what sounded in my head as I started to tell him my opinion on eReaders…

Yes, eBook readers and other electronic devices posing as a replacements for a book. How can you possibly say one of them toys can replace a book? I gave him all my arguments. How was I to know that I encountered my nemesis a true eBook lover? So I started by saying that it just isn't the same, you don't know how far along you are in a book. He proved me wrong, you have little icons showing you how far along you are in a book in some readers.

Startled but not beaten I stated that you miss a big part of joy when you line up a trilogy on a bookshelf. He countered that in his tiny London flat books were mostly kept under the bed, in boxes at his parents and no where near a bookshelf.

After a few more waved away points I thought I had him, and revealed my secret weapon the smell of a new book! Now admit it, there is nothing like that lovely smell of opening a fresh book. Breaking the binding and sniffing the pages is like smelling a waft a perfume that takes you back to a lovely holiday or a steamy hot date with a handsome man. It recounts all those wonderful adventures you shared with Drizzt, Scarlet, Fitz, Frodo and so many more. He looked defeated, there was no winning this one. That was until a few hours later when I got this link sent to me in my mailbox…

Yes, some person had this kettle argument before and ended up thinking, I will get that e book reader hater! And bottled the scent of that sacred pleasure that every book lover cherishes, the plucking of a books cherry. To add to the audacity of bottle new book smell they also have old book smell and bacon smell! You read it right, bacon smell described in the following poetic words: 'Crunchy Bacon is a low calorie, low cholesterol alternative for your breakfast reading enjoyment. ' I don't know about you but I don't really end up eating the pages I read on my morning commute.

But there went my last bit of defence I had to hold on to the old fashioned medium called books. However the day went on and I decided to be the old fashioned book user while the world would convert to e readers. I imagined myself printing an e book and having it bound at the printers. This morning I passed mr e reader on the stairs and just as the warm sun hit my back he spoke these words: 'You forgot to mention that you can never run out of battery with a normal book' while shaking his kindle at me. The smile that appeared on my face that blissful moment has not left my lips all day. How could I not see the flaw, me whose phone is always dead and never knows her own number when someone asks for it, me whose laptop dies in the middle of the most exciting episode of V ever, me who has turned back from running multiple times when her iPod didn't have the energy I was so willing to waste away on a run.

Books always work, they don't need charging or plugging in or expensive batteries! They love you without needing anything in return, nothing but a shred of imagination and a hint of curiosity.