Wordpress... Blogger... Wordpress... Blogger... and Templates

I'm very new to blogging, having moved over to it from Twitter only recently (hit 2000 Tweets last night, woot!). I started at WP for one simple reason; somehow, long ago, I had signed up with them so I could comment on another blog. It just seemed to simplest way to get started; use my account there.

WP is simple, elegant and intuitive. I barely had to look at the support or go to the forum. I hit a snag though; lack of template editing ability. If I wanted to move away from the pre-set themes I would have to pay them money. Didn't really want to do that; what if, in a couple of months time I found I'd got bored of blogging. I'd have wasted my money.

Okay, so it's not a huge amount of money... but it's still money I don't want to be spending just yet. Blogger, on the other hand, allows people to play with their template to their heart's content (and if they think it's worth it; monetize with AdSense... genius move on Google's part there).

I'm not much of a dab hand with html and css editing, though I'm a pretty quick learner. If I want to change something that Blogger's own layout editor won't allow, I can pretty much work out what I need to do to the template through trial and error. Yeah, I could just look it up or ask someone... I enjoy the challenge though. I'm not very creative, visually, either... so anything I create myself tends to come out looking a bit bland... a bit 1.0.

Google to the rescue! I have no idea why, but I'm finding searching template galleries and directories rather addictive. Many a morning I have got up after only five hours sleep because I had to look at just another page the night before... and another... and another. *sigh* In the last week and a half I must have viewed nigh on a thousand templates. Ouch.

I'm so damn picky though. I want something blue with light grey gradients, rounded, three columns, clean, image free... but has to be just the right blue. Microsoft blue, as I refer to it, is hideous, but template designers seem to love it. Yeah, I could and do play with the colours... but the right blue in the template demo will catch my eye more than the wrong blue, so I ignore the wrong blue.

Aaaanyway. Figured as I've been going through all these bloody sites I'd do a list... because everyone loves a top five list!

1) BTemplates This one's pretty easy. Type 'blogger template' into Google and this is the first one that will come up, most likely. They have a search option but also have an excellent list of categories including number of columns, basic colours, rounded, web 2.0... Has a 'Features' section for each template, detailing properties and compatibility.

2) Mashable Kind of a cheat; Mashable's list of articles about the best template sites they've found. Takes a bit of going through though. They also have some great articles on finding html and css guides, widgets, advice on monetizing... just a great all round site for anyone interested in social media.

3) BloggerStyles A lot of overlap with BTemplates here as they not only list them but review them, handing out different ratings for various features and slapping on bronze, silver and gold certificates. Again, nice and clean, easy to navigate and search. A lot of the template demos don't just include the ol' "lorem ipsum" stuff but also give details of what the features are and how they can be changed... which is nice.

4) DeluxeTemplates Not as easy to navigate as the others; it has a search box but not a list of categories. It does, however, have a lot fo very nice, very clean templates as well as a nice hints and tips section. Klodian also takes requests for template conversions from other blog hosts to something you can use on Blogger... hehe.

5) BlogTemplates4U Yeah... stupid name. They have both Blogger and WP templates, search by categories or just search. A lot of nice templates that I've not seen on other sites. I couldn't find anything on here about whether or not these could be used for commercial purposes, no mention of a creative commons licence. It simply says; all can be downloaded and used for free...

Something else I've found useful, because I have no eye for colour combinations (check out my latest pair of shoes!); Color Schemer. The online tool is good, but the full programme is VERY useful, especially the gallery. The demo lasts for two weeks, which is surely long enough to sort out your personal blog/site. The full product is $50, a little steep for us amateurs, but well worth it for anyone above that level.

[EDIT]

Haha, Tompl has informed me this basic theme doesn't support comments... which I never noticed. Not all that fussed right now, will work on that after my "holiday". Right now I'm just enjoying playing. He also says; many other good color scheme tools out there so go check 'em out. Yup, there were others... but this one's my personal favourite so far.

Sub or Dub?

Ah, that age old question. A question that has plagued anime forums and chatrooms since the dawn of time... well, since the advent of good dubbing practices anyway. Time was you couldn't watch dubbed anime; the acting was bad, the lip syncing was awful and the animation wasn't all that so it didn't matter if you had your eyes plastered to the white lines at the bottom of the screen.

Times are different now, thank goodness.

Yeah, that's right; I PREFER dubs.

Just hear me out, yah?

Anime: What Makes It Different?

We have 'cartoons,' 'animation' and 'anime.' What's the difference and are they interchangeable?

Essentially all three are the same thing; non-live action video entertainment. Anime and cartoons are animated, animations look like cartoons. However, we do make a distinction between them in certain contexts. Anime is specifically of Eastern origin; predominantly Japanese but Chinese and Korean are also popular. I know of no anime from other Eastern countries so drop a comment if you do. 'Cartoon' mainly refers to Western animated shows and movies for children. Adult cartoons aren't usually called cartoons. You wouldn't describe The Simpsons or South Park as cartoons, you'd say animation or animated show. 'Cartoon' has a distinctly child friendly connotation. 'Anime', however, is used for both child-friendly and adult-oriented Eastern animations... though there are subgroups and genres a plenty (there is a lot more anime than there is Western animation, so it covers a much wider spectrum).

However, we are starting to hear of Western anime. Global manga has been around for a fair few years, but is only just starting to go mainstream. Sweatdrop Studios are based in the UK, but one look at their work and you'll be thinking 'manga' rather than 'comic books.' Tokyopop and Yaoi Press are also picking up and publishing the works of Western authors and artists such as long time favourites of mine; Dany & Dany (The Lily and The Rose)... a lot of 18+ on their site, just to give you fair warning, though they do that well enough themselves.

Why do we say Western 'anime' and 'manga', why not just call them 'cartoons' and 'comic books'? Western and Eastern artists and animators have very different styles. The two industries developed alongside each other, but also independantly. They may have learnt and copied from one another, but their own backgrounds and cultures had far more of a role to play in developing the styles and fashions of todays artists. Watch something by Disney or Dom Bluth and then watch a Studio Ghibli piece. They're all quite similar, in some ways... but one look at a single clip, with or without sound and you'll be able to say whether or not it was produced with Eastern or Western hands (not money... that's a whole other area to talk about).

Due to the ever growing popularity of Eastern entertainment in the West (anime, live action, manga, computer games), Western companies are begining to emulate what were once quintessentially Eastern styles from archetypal characters and plots, to animation style and character design and even colour pallete (to what degree you think they've been successful and should they continue to do this is your own opinion... 'cos again; whole other post). There are probably a whole bunch of examples out there... but I don't tend to like them so the only one forthcoming is Avatar: The Last Airbender... probably because it is one of the best. Feel free to throw more examples at me.

Many people argue that the West has yet to grasp why anime is so popular. It's not just about how it looks but the way the audience is treated. In the last decade, TV producers have (in my opinion) ignored the fact that the audience does have a mind. Shows that accepted this were and still are quickly cancelled (Farscape, Firefly, Futurama, Action Man) or sidelined (Star Trek, Family Guy), with a few managing to hold on firm for as far as they wanted to go (Buffy... aye, Joss fan). Maybe the audience wanted a break, maybe there was a big conspiracy to stop the audience from thinking... either way, the audience is bored and wanted better, more intelligent shows. If the Western companies couldn't provide them, the audience would have to look elsewhere; Eastwards.

There WERE a lot of very good, very thought provoking or just plain old entertaining-without-being-stupid shows coming out of the West. However, they were not mainstream, many had a low budget and were aired at why-am-I-still-awake? o'clock. Anime was seen (however true or untrue the idea may be) as smarter, more thought provoking, better viewing. Despite being from the other side of the globe, anime was easier to find than 'clever' Western shows thanks to the internet (and people looked harder). This is all changing now; the Western execs are catching on and allowing ever more 'sophisticated' shows to air on popular channels at family friendly times. Heroes and Lost are the big two right now, but I also love the likes of House and CSI... which whilst slick and sometimes very witty, are hardly sophisticated viewing.

People believe that anime isn't dumbed down for the audience. This may or may not be true, but it was and still is popular opinion among those that enjoy entertainment from the East. Anime is also considered to be much more pleasing to the eyes than most Western animation. Think of the adult shows; Family Guy, American Dad, Boon Docks, Metalocalypse, The Simpsons, The Venture Bros... you're not exactly wowed by the level of artistic talent. Now take a nose at current popular anime shows; Death Note, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Vampire Knight (and Guilty)... even Naruto. If nothing else, the characters are daaaamn pretty. Even the older shows can outshine newer American stuff in terms of entertainment for the eyes; Cowboy Bebop is still beautiful.

The animation is slick, the characters are attractive (yes, they're cartoons...), work goes into the backgrounds (Gonzo are AMAZING at this stuff, just try Gankutsuou or Last Exile on for size). I am well aware that some anime has had very little effort go into it, visually, however; one word can be used to sum up the aesthetics of most of the popular anime; shiny.

What's This Got To Do With Subs and Dubs?


Anime, the good stuff (and even the not so good stuff) is not just about the plot and the script; it is a visual art. I can't watch an ugly anime (well, there are exceptions like Honoo No Mirage) just like I can't read a comic or manga that's ugly (to my eyes). I guess that makes me a snob... but I like looking at pretty things.

Dubs add to my viewing pleasure. Why? Because a dub doesn't require my eyes to be fixed to the bottom of the screen. I am incapable of reading a line of a sub, looking at the animation, background, character design, then reading the next line of sub. I just can't read fast enough to keep up with the script AND enjoy what's going on, on the screen. Just can't be done.

Watch Gankutsuou, Le Portrait de Petit Cossette with the subs and tell me you managed to take in much of the art work (or with Gankutsuou, keep your eyes in your head). What about all those wonderful action sequences in Le Chevalier D'Eon? How about the sheer beauty of EVERYTHING in anything that Miyazaki has produced? Though, to be fair, there's a lot of silence go on in Miyazaki films.

People have told me that hearing what the original character sounded like is very important. Well, yes, it is and many of my favourite characters do sound quite different in Japanese and English. Yuki of Fruits Basket is the best example I can think. Give me Eric Vale's interpretation over Aya Hisakawa's anyday (although she's probably a lot prettier than he is... it's the voice that counts). Vale gives Yuki a soft but definitely teen boy voice, while Hisakawa gives him a much younger boy's voice... that just grates on my nerves. However it is rare that a character is built around a voice (it does happen; G in Crisis Core IS Gackt) especially when so many anime are being based on manga now. A voice is found to fit the character and, frankly, sometimes the voice actors (VAs) do a better job than the seiyuu. For the most part though, both do fairly good jobs.

I cannot, of course, comment on VAs for languages other than English... though I did once watch Yu-Gi-Oh in Welsh. That was a personal all time low. Oh, and I love the Russian 'dub' for Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' On Heaven's Door; it's just one guy and one woman, reading everyone's lines over the top of the English sound track. It's hilarious. If you have the Region 2 discs try out the other dubs XD

But They Change The Script So Much!


Well, that's unfair. They change it a little in the anime that aren't dubbed for the kids (Pokemon and such), and often times the official subs on the discs (not the legal downloads from places like FUNimation) are just the dub script... and sometimes they're worse. My grasp of Japanese isn't wonderful, but it's good enough to notice some changes.

Bad subbing irks me a whole lot more than bad dubbing. There really is little excuse for it. You see, with dubbing they have to make the English words fit the mouth movements. They may require some skillful squishing of lines by the translators and even more skillful tongue twisting by the VAs. A good translator (John Burgmeier, I adore you... you too Jeff Nimoy) will not only be able to squish those lines up and make sure they still make sense, but will also be able to adjust those few jokes that just don't work for an international audience, without losing the original meaning of the joke. You know, those references that most Westerner's just won't get, even the more J-culture savvy ones.

This squishing and adapting isn't important at all for doing subs. The words don't have to fit the mouth movements and any obscure cultural elements can be explained in the dub, as is often seen with fansubs. So when a sub is wrong, when even I can tell that a sub is wrong I just think someone was being lazy.

So Yeah, I Prefer Dubs...


I can get all that 'orginal feel' in one veiwing, either first or after I've seen the dub a few times. Once I've got that out of the way, I mostly watch the dub.

If I could understand Japanese better, trust me I would be watching anime in its original format (well, okay... unless certain VAs are involved in the dub). However, my Japanese is barely even tourist level, my ability to skim read is non-existent and I like looking at the pretty, pretty colours as they dash around on my screen.

Dubs are just more fun...

Where Am I Going?

Soooo, been having a bit of a boring debate with someone on Twitter. I say boring because I debate online not to convince who I'm talking to (that is a fruitless endeavour; anyone with a strong enough opinion to air it is usually unchangeable in that opinion), but to convince the audience. There's not much of an audience for private conversations on Twitter... and the character count is rather frustrating when dealing with complex ideas.

Figured I should air my thoughts here.

I was asked (not sure why) where my moral compass comes from. Mr Opposition claimed that law should dictate our ethical standpoints... unless he happens to disagree with it. It's a good job I'm not a perfectly logical brain; such an idea would have fried my positronics.

To believe the law is what decides our morals is a TERRIBLE idea. The law should be influenced by societies morals, not the other way around. If we were to just sheepishly do as the law says, there would never be forward motion. Just think about the laws that used to stand, or what laws were once lacking.

  • Slavery was once legal in America, and indeed a large portion of Americans wanted to keep it that way (it was never legal in the UK, it just sort of happened).
  • Wife beating was once perfectly legal everywhere (actually, I think it may have been much less legal in ancient Egypt than it was in say Victorian England), still is in some countries >_>
  • Legalising homosexuality is a very recent thing, even in "modern" countries. Being gay (sexual activity between men... lesbians don't exist) was made legal in England and Wales in 1967, 1980 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland. It was illegal in America (depending on what state you happened to be in) until 2003!

Those are just the big ones that spring to mind. If a person was to accept what the government set down as law as their own personal morality then men could still beat their wives, slaves would still be working the fields and the gay community would be fined and imprisoned for loving/lusting after the 'wrong' person. It is BECAUSE people did not accept the government's dictates that these laws changed. It is BECAUSE people had their own moral compasses that they argued against slavery, for women's rights and for the right to shag whoever wanted to shag you back.

Law should NEVER be the deciding factor in how you act, even and especially towards the flora and fauna that share your air.

C.S. Lewis (a man I hold in very high regard, despite his ideas about where women should stand in marriage) wrote in "Mere Christianity" that the government was there to make every man's life easier, if it was making it more difficult then it was doing something wrong. If it is doing something wrong then it needs changing.

Easier said than done, to be sure... but it must be done, even if it is simply voting in a new party at the next elections. Watching the government hurt people, or letting people hurt people is not acceptable. What is even worse is doing the hurting because the government says you can or, horribly, that you should. Unfortunately, this is exactly how many people act.

"The law says so, so don't do/do it."

If you get right down to it, the government says to you, every few years; "vote for us."

Do you vote for the current government? Should you roll over and do that, just because the government says so?

*shudder*

My moral compass points the way I want it to point and should be helping to navigate the government and the law, not the other way around.

Now, what DOES influence the way that needle points?

Everything.

Everything I see. Everything I hear. Everything I read. Everything I do.

My moral North is and always has been in flux. It doesn't often swing much, but it does shift, it does change. I am not arrogant enough to believe that my world view is perfect and correct. I am human, and as such I make mistakes, but I can learn. As I learn new things about the universe I have to shift my moral stand point.

Example; as a child I merrily scoffed meat (well, anything that was put in front of my face... which resulted in me eating an emulsion coated paintbrush once o.O Thanks for taking a picture before getting it off me, dad. ). As I grew up, as I learnt empathy, as I discovered animal biology and physiology, I became less inclined to eat at places such as MacDonald's and KFC. Then I became a vegan. However, new knowledge of ecosystems, of adapting farming practices, a maturing philosophy on life and death urged me towards Ethical Eating; Organic animal produce, free range foods, local produce, game meat. I would stoutly refuse to eat ANYTHING that did not fall under those remits though, or anything that had been near foods that did not meet my standards. Now I am more relaxed, not because I have become lazy in my philosophy, but because I understand more about food waste. 'Tis better that ham is in my belly than in the bin.

I swim in a very grey sea... well it's more like a quagmire, with the Island of Moral Truth waaaaay beyond the horizon. I might be in the wrong ocean. I might even be on the wrong planet. I have to keep swimming though. If I stay where I am, just treading water, eventually I'll drown. I don't mind drowning on the way, but drowning for the wrong thing is just... silly.

Don't hold steadfastly to your position, ignoring any new input. You don't know everything. You can't. You will always be learning (well, you should be), so let that new knowledge push you in one way or the other. You can never be certain if it's pushing in the right direction (can there ever be such a thing as moral certainty?), but it's worth finding out where it's making you go... you can always move on if it's the wrong place.

Topping Up Wages With Tips?!

I don't go out for meals very often. This is mostly due to me being far too poor and partially down to me being a funny vegan while my partner hates vegetables... we're a pain in the backside. When I do I always leave a tip, even if the service isn't great. I've done waitressing, I've worked cafes and restaurants and it's a damned difficult, thankless job. You're the main point of contact for customers and for some reason they assume that you decide the prices, you have a time machine and you let gremlins out into the computer systems... just to annoy them. No matter how hard you work, how nice you try to be, sometimes things are beyond your control and someone gets bad service and angry.

So yeah, I tip. If the service was really good they get a bigger tip.

I always knew that some companies (the big ones, it must be said) take the tips and use them to pay basic, minimum wage. This is why I tip with cash and not on the bill. However, I've just discovered that companies were perfectly allowed, under British law, to take those tips.

The Hell?!

That's a gift from the customer to the waiter (waitress, w/e), not to the company. How is taking it from the waiter not theft?

Now I learn that not only is it legal, but it's going to be made easier for the company to do so; from October staff will no longer have to be informed that the tips from cards go to their wages and not to the tip jar (if the company uses a tip jar).

Managers (specifically under the STRADA group which includes Bella Italia, where I've eaten a few times) are pressured by their bosses to not only get the card tips but to take cash tips off their staff. People have the gall to do this? To walk up to their dog tired, under paid, over worked staff and say "that's not yours, give it to me."

Now, there is an argument that people don't need tips in Britain; we HAVE a minimum wage, unlike America. This argument is pretty much made by people who have never worked in the service industry. Go and work as a waiter on minimum wage for six weeks, then tell me tips aren't needed. Go on, I dare yah.

It's not just about the amount of money. I've never received much in the way of tips (I've not worked in posh places). I was tipped 50p by a customer this week (I'm not waiting at the moment, but I do work in an eatery) and it made me so happy. It's not so much the money as knowing someone appreciated what I did and how horrid the job is. It's the thought that counts and all that. Of course... extra money is always nice (did I mention I was poor?).

So please, continue to tip (if you do so already, if you don't... well whatever) but take a bit of cash with you and hand it to the waiter (not the head waiter but the one that dealt with you the most). And don't forget the kitchen staff. If the food was good, if it was timely, ask that some of the tip go to them too. Kitchen staff NEVER get tips, unless the company has a tips jar that's divided up between everyone at the end of the month... again, this is generally the kind of thing that small companies do, not the big ones.

Buffy Movie Rehash

Yeah, I could have used re-vamped and made so much lolz. Not.
*cough*
So my beloved Twitter is going stir crazy over the news that a new Buffy movie is in the works. Normally this would bring tears of joy to many BtVS fans' eyes. However, one of the leading hashtags is #buffymoviefail. Go take a peek; they're HATING the idea.
Apparently, Joss himself is not yet involved (#NoJossNoBuffy)... and is unlikely to be involved. People aren't happy about this. It WAS his idea to begin with. He IS the one who made it something amazing (with the odd bit of "ech, what did they do that for"). On top of lacking Joss' input it's not actually going to have anything to do with the series and will simply be a remake of the original lame-tastic movie... which we all know Joss had very little if any say in. And of course, as it's nothing to do with the TV show none of the actors, or indeed their characters, will be making an appearance (we assume).
So it's going to be something completely new from a different set of heads with a new bunch of faces... a bit like JJ Abrams Star Trek, no? Abrams took Star Trek, shook it by the shoulders, turned it upside down and spun it around a bit. Most of us geeks agree that he did a damn fine job of it too (even if there was TOO MUCH LENS FLARE!). Why are people thinking that a Buffy movie remake is going to be awful?
I'll tell you why.
The Kuzuis.
Yiy!
THEY were responsible for the monstrosity that was the original movie. They still own the rights and think they and Vertigo Entertainment can do a better job than Joss and Mutant Enemy... again. Fran originally re-worked Joss' script (she did WHAT?!) for the movie and directed it. Nuff said.
Vertigo Entertainment have actually done good in the past. They specialise in remaking Asian films for a lazy western audience and were responsible for Sam Raimi's production of The Grudge, which was actually better than Ju-On... if you ask me (and hey, SMG was in it!). Unfortunately, they were also responsible for The Eye and The Ring. Both of which were awful (though I didn't think much of Gin gwai to begin with and how could you do better than Ringu?).
This remake could swing several ways because of the unique position of the franchise. It could go the way of Trek and be a mind blowing geekasm of awesome. It could be an okay re-hash of a crappy old movie. Or, and I fear this terribly, it could be an absolute slap in the face to all BtVS fans the world across (I want to say "like Battle Star Galactica" but many people seem to find joy in it... goodness only knows why). The original film was pants, so a remake (by the laws of remakes) should actually be seen as a good thing; take the crap out, add in some new stuff and voila you have a good movie that people will have no choice but to compare favourably to the old one.
The trouble is; Joss already did that!
He wrestled Buffy's corpse out of the hands of the Kuzuis and breathed life into it. Vibrant, exciting, heartbreaking, colourful, ecstatic life. Is it possible to do something better with the concept than what Joss did? Honestly? Is it possible to conceive of characters to put in that 'verse that will be as much loved as Buffy (well, okay... that's not too difficult), Willow, Xander, Giles, Faith... Spike!
Nah-ah.
However... I think we should at least consider giving this idea a chance (as long as the Kuzuis don't get creatively involved). There's a LOT of fanfic out there for BtVS. A fair chunk of it is Alternate Universe (AU) or are "what if?" stories. Essentially taking the idea in a different direction, like what they did in season 3 episode "The Wish." We all enjoy these fanfics, right? Right?!
Remakes and adaptations CAN work. Everyone else seems to love BSG. Willard (story about a man and his rats) is an amazing remake of a lovely (if your mind works that way) 1971 film. The Cat and the Canary was remade several times (Bob Hope's one, the second one, is the best). Willy Wonka anyone? The Magnificent Seven and Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai)? I'm sure you can think of some... in fact I bet you have some favourite movies that you don't even know are remakes... and remakes of good, but old films.
If, I say IF, Vertigo get in the right people; it might work. IF they do something considerably different and NEW; it might work. IF the Kuzuis stay out of the way (repeating myself much); it might work. IF they play up the geekdom (a la Orci and Kurtzman's' in-joke laden Trek script); it might work. IF they respect Joss' vision of Buffy while making it their own; it might work.
There are possibilities. I'm not holding my breath or anything... but I'm holding out hope it's at the very least better than the original and sufficiently different enough from the TV show to make comparisons (which could never be anything but unfavourable) impossible.
Call me an optimist.
Of course, I'd rather Joss do a sequel, with all his squishy characters and the same wonderful cast. Less likely than another Firefly season though *sigh*
[EDIT]
If you really want to sign the petition; go here. I put little stock in petitions (Sliders never returned despite the petitions *sniffle*) so I'm not signing it. Just so yah'll know.

Babies Having Babies!

If I hear this cry one more time on the radio... well I'll just complain at the radio... not a lot else I can do. News resources (I use the term loosely when referring to the likes of The Sun and Fox News) have been reporting a lot on 'children' having children recently. The most recent story is that Alfie, the 13 year old father, is not actually a father. I'd say lucky him... but then I don't want kids, never did.

I don't understand the complaints though. First of all, it is physically impossible for children to reproduce. If you've gone through enough of puberty to allow you to have children, you're no longer a child. But that's just semantics.

It is not the teenagers having babies that are the problem, it is our culture, our society. It seems to think it knows better than Mother Nature in this aspect, and for the most part it really doesn't. Way back when, women got pregnant as soon as their bodies were ready for it. This was a good thing, not a bad thing.

The female human body is at its peak, in terms of reproduction, between the ages of 14 and 25 (depending on the individual). This is the best time for a woman to give birth if you're merely thinking of her physical safety. The pelvic bones are still flexible, the muscles strong, the heart fresh. Birthing in your teenage years is sooo much easier than it is in later life, especially when you're running through your thirties and even fourties. The menopause is there for a reason.

One of the main complaints I hear about teenage births is that the teens are not financially secure. This should not be an issue. They say that it takes a village to raise a child and while it may not require an entire village, it does require more than two people. Young parents relying on their own parents for financial as well as emotional support while bringing up children should be the norm. It should be perfectly reasonable and even expected. What an utter waste of resources to not bring in your parents and your grandparents, who have the experience and free income to provide so much help. If a couple have their children in their thirties, not only will their kids miss out on many years with their grandparents, but the couple will lose out on a vital source of support.

If a woman has her child at 16, by the time the little blighter has reached those difficult teenage years she will still be young enough to remember them herself. Understanding a teenager's emotional state is the best tool for any good parent. If a woman has her first child at 30, she's already well into middle aged when the child reaches its teens. Her own difficult years are well behind her and probably quite difficult to recall.

Teenage bodies WANT to have children. That's what all those hormones are about; its the body's way of saying "okay, this is the best time for you to get pregnant, it'll be a breeze. Go on, get yourself a mate and have a baby!" Why should we be yelling against this? It's not like those other ancient instincts that just cause trouble like tribalism and greed.

Well... there's that whole school thing. That career thing. That having a life thing. Honestly though, why are we saying that having children is not a worhtwhile choice? Can it not be counted as a career? We shouldn't be telling young women "having babies is a bad choice, you should have a proper job." That's like saying "only stupid people with no chance at anything great in life have children," or "we're all just the result of a woman too lazy/stupid to do anything better with her life."

Pft.

Sure, almost anyone can have a baby. That's not the end of it though; that baby has to be brought into adulthood. And that's a full time job, right there. A job that shouldn't be relegated to "well, if you can't leave your mark any other way." If a girl, if a woman, makes the decision to have a child instead of a paying job, who are we to say "that's not good enough"?

Yeah, I don't want kids. Yeah, I want to leave my mark in some other way. Yeah, I don't understand why any woman would want to even think about giving birth. That doesn't mean I'm going to go around saying that women shouldn't want children (except jokingly... mostly).

And no, I'm not saying that teenagers should all go out and have babies. That's just plain dumb. What I'm saying is; stop villifying the teens that do have children. Sure, they did something dumb (though I know of girls that got pregnant on purpose because they wanted children at that age), but that's not their fault. When you live in a culture that says "sex is bad" at teenagers and says nothing else, what do you expect them to do? Telling a teen not to have sex because "sex is bad m'kay" is like telling a starving man not to eat the steak dinner you left in front of him without telling him it's poisoned.

Ain't gonna work. No way, no how.

We shouldn't be encouraging teens to make children their 'career' (because very few of us really know what we want to do with our lives at that age). However, when a girl does get pregnant there should be NOTHING but support and well wishing. NOTHING else, at all. No "babies shouldn't have babies!" That helps no one. And frankly, having that baby in her teens is probably a lot better than waiting till she's thirty.

Dumbing Down

The general public, when they set foot inside a store or eatery, are stupid. It doesn't matter what degrees they have, what books they've published or how well they are paid. Almost everyone leaves their brain at the door. For us lowly service monkeys it's INFURIATING.

It's as if they expect not to have to think, that the service peeps are being paid to think for them, to lead them by the hand through every tiny step and decision. Well, this might be just dandy if you're talking to the maƮtre d' at some high class hotel. For the most part though; this isn't the case and you're dealing with a minimum wage slave.

I've had customers ask me where the cutlery is, when they have just walked straight past it.

Why do people think that I can guess how many sugars they want in their drink? Simply saying "yes" when asked "do you take sugar?" is not helpful and requires me to ask yet another question.

I get asked every day how much something costs, when the price is clearly labelled right next to the name of the product, which I KNOW they've just read because most of them can't tell the difference between eggs and mozzarella unless they've read the card.

I get asked if we're open when the doors are up, the lights are on, the food is out...

Why do people assume I'm not going to tell them how much their order comes to? Honestly, do they think I'm going to stand there and make them guess? Just give me chance to add it up.

I've had people ask me "there's no meat in it is there?" in a vegetarian cafe >_>

And then there are the people that stand in line for five minutes, staring blankly at the menu board but don't actually start deciding what to order until they get to the till. They then have to wait for me to ask for their money before looking for their wallet, which is invariably at the bottom of their bag.

Don't take any of this as insult. It's simply what happens to people, almost all people, when they enter a shop. The only ones that seem immune to this are fellow and ex-service monkeys. They know what it's like. They know how infuriating it is to see the human race reduced to idiotic, monosyllabic puffballs. When someone rattles an order of five items off to me, with exact details on how they want everything, I know they've worked in the service industry.

That's not the main point of this post though. Oh, no. Human stupidity is a well known and extremely well documented phenomenon. No, this post is about a little problem that may very well be peculiar to me.

When at work, at this particular oh-gods-someone-else-accept-my-application job, I go into autopilot. The many questions I have to ask to get ANY information out of customers get reeled off with practised politeness, the answers duly recorded and stored for the briefest moments. And then some horrid person decides to throw in a previously unimagined question and I stall.

I absolutely blank. Then I probably pull a confused face, say "erm" for a while, blink, erm some more. I might finally be able to answer them if they don't give me any additional queries.

The reasons for this have bugged me for a while. I don't have trouble talking to strangers. Goodness knows I can make friends anywhere. I'm not shy. I certainly will have an answer for them somewhere in my head. It hit me the other day; I'm trying to dumb myself down.

Let me explain.

As I said; people cross certain thresholds and their IQs drop by significant levels. They could be perfectly sensible, well rounded, bright people... they'll still, for the most, lose IQ points. I know this. I put myself in a mindset to deal with this (if I don't, I just get angry at the world and the idiocy it contains). I store all the stock answers on a little board in my head, on little darts ready for me to pull off and lob at the customers. Look, it's that or I actually start throwing things.

When a question is given for which I have no dart I need to move past the board. It's a heavy, thick board though, containing a lot of darts. I then have to dig up the answer. Usually that's pretty easy, unless someone asks "is this nice?" I never have an answer for that. Well, I do... but I'd get sacked if anyone ever heard it. My honesty will defeat my sense of self preservation one day... that'll be fun.

So, I have the answer; now I need to attach it to a dart. Herein lies the problem. Those darts are designed for the stupid as well as foreign customers (of which we get many) whose understanding of spoken English (in my god-awful accent) is definitely better than my understanding of their language, but still rather limited.

I have to reformat my answer for an idiot audience. Or at least, at that moment, I think I do. If I tried to speak to the middle aged, balding CEO in the same way I speak to my friends, not only would he cringe at all the glottal stops, but he'd not understand half of what I said. Blame Buffy, and a variety of other cult shows and genre books. I'm like a sponge for quirky speach patterns.

Let me give you an example, the one that led me to this conclusion. I asked Mr Suit if he would like his baguette (it's not a roll, sandwich or bagel!) toasted. He replied "is it crispy?" and when I made my confused face (it's a baguette, of course it's crispy) he said "I like them crispy."

I understood this as "will toasting it make it less crispy?" Which, it turned out, was what he meant. My response to a friend would have been, after the sarcasm about it being a baguette and therefore crispy, more sarcasm; it's a toaster, it makes things toasty. I honestly think this would have gone completely over his head (and have been rather impolite). Maybe if I had pushed him out of the door, past that IQ dumping spot, he would have understood, but not standing inside the doorway.

I realised I was shifting the words around in my head, trying to find a way to say it that he would understand. Small, basic, mostly anglo-saxon words. This, however, would require a very long sentence; "The baguettes are already very crispy. The toaster will make them hot and crispier. Though if they are put in there for only a short period they might be a little softer and only slightly warm."

Mr Suit would have stopped listening at crispy and I would have had to have explained it all again, in different words, letting him think about each sentence before moving on to the next.

There I was, rattling my brain around in my head forming a short sentence out of small words, looking confused while Mr Suit looked just as confused. *sigh* Fortunately my ever so optimistic (he thinks everyone is special, in the good way) workmate stepped in with "they're much nicer hot."

This solved everything. Unfortunately, my honesty wouldn't allow me to formulate such an answer. I simply don't like the nasty cheddar cheese. Though now I have a new stock answer on my dartboard... not sure I'll ever manage to use it.

Please, even if it's just to kick me and every other service monkey out of this "everyone is stupid" mindset; stop at the doorway to any shop or eatery, cover all major orifices in your head and then walk in. Now, try out a little mental arithmetic. Did you manage it? No? Well, go out there, find your brain and don't come back till you've got it firmly secured in your head.

Just... playing

I run a group fan blog over at wordpress for the ever so girly PonyStars site. I was using WP at the time for my own random spouting... due to convoluted circumstances. It seemed only natural to just use my existing account there when I decided to start the PS fanblog. Alas, that seems to have been far too hasty a decision.

While WP is a great basic blogging tool, its creators want a fair whack of cash (for each blog and not per account) to allow you to much more. While I would consider paying this out for my own blog, if it were ever popular enough to warrant it, I'm not so willing to pay it out for the PS fanblog.

Which brings me here. However, before I start fiddling around with moving my fanblog over (which will take FOREVER because Blogger doesn't allow WP imports *sigh*) I figured I'd start getting my head around the Blogger interface by moving my personal ramblings over.

Wish me luck with that... yah?