Monday, September 21, 2009

Weight of social expectations

We don't get the paper but last week when I was visiting my parents, I had a skim through theirs. Here's one of the feature articles in the Adelaide Advertiser that day.


I'd seen something about that finding on TV during the week too. You know, the sort of thing that tries to shame tubby people by showing their stomachs hanging over their belts as they walk down the street. The newspaper write-up was just a follow-up on that. I'm sure we've all read and seen lots like it. Anybody who doesn't watch their weight should be ashamed of themselves. How could you possibly let yourself get like that? It's more than just a health risk. It's a bad example to the younger generations. People like you should make an effort to get trim because you are a blot on our society.

My question is how come our society gets off scot-free? Our society makes it easy for people to gain a few pounds or kilos in a twinkle. We walk into supermarkets and there are gorgeous towers of Tim Tam biscuits and Mint Slices and Pascal's marshmallows gleaming beautifully at the end of every aisle. There are chocolate advertisements as soon as you leave the car-park and step on the escalator into the shopping centre. There are people cooking samples of wonderful shaker pancakes or chocolate mousses or Nanna's apple pies waiting to pounce on us with their little paper sample plates and plastic spoons, saying, "This is so easy to mix up, and it's on special!" Our society's message seems to be, "You've had a long day, you deserve to relax tonight. Just grab a packet of bite sized Mars Bars to nibble while you read." Our society doesn't behave like one which is concerned about its peoples' health. It behaves more like one which runs on supply and demand, economic greed, give people what they want. Our society encourages us to socialize with friends over cake and coffee.

You might argue, "Society is doing its bit! Look at the thousands of fitness clubs out there for proof." But have you considered that the fitness clubs are happy when people over-indulge in all the tasty, unhealthy food society has to offer? That's when people come and use their services. If most people were trim, taut and terrific, then it'd be a worry for the fitness clubs.

If our society was really serious about helping people lose weight and get healthy, it would urge entrepreneurs to set up alternative supermarkets for weight watchers. They'd be supermarkets that don't stock junk food, or else keep them low on the shelves and not in people's faces.

I'm speaking as a person who's experienced both sides of the weight spectrum. I know what it's like to be anorexic with hair falling out and icy cold hands and feet at all times, and I also know what it's like to have a bit of a muffin top and want to lose a few kilos. At the time, I took full responsibility for being foolish enough to get myself so unreasonably skinny. I've also taken the blame upon myself to let the kilos creep around my waist practically overnight. But perhaps that blame shouldn't be entirely mine. Some of it must go to society; yes, that same society that claims to be encouraging us to be healthy. My point is just to point out how sick I am of our society that enables and even encourages us to indulge, and then shovels the blame entirely on us individuals when we don't look exactly that way it would like us to.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Clever Old Woman

OK, here's a challenge for my blog readers. It's a brain teaser. See if you come up with the correct answer. Here goes.

Long ago in the days when people used candles to light their houses, there lived an old woman. She was poor but very clever. She thought of many ways to save money. One way she saved money was by making new candles from old ones. She found that one quarter of a candle never burned because it was inside the candle holder. Most people just threw away these unburned candle stubs but the old woman saved hers. By melting four of these stubs she could make one new candle.

One day the old woman went to the candle maker's shop and bought sixteen candles. How many new candles could she make from the left over stubs of the sixteen candles?


I confess that nobody in our family (including Dad) got the correct answer. We all took it on face value as a simple maths question and said the answer was four candles. Did anybody work out the correct answer, which is five candles?

The clever old woman made five new candles. Every four candles gave her four quarters from which to make one new candle. So from the sixteen candles she made four new ones. I guess we all got that far. But those four candles also gave her four quarters from which she could make a fifth candle.

We found a great book full of this sort of puzzle from a second hand shop. If anybody likes this sort of thing, I'll post more from time to time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Talking about our generations

After a bit of waiting, we've finally got our new computer. It's a nice desk top one. The last two we've had have been lap tops. After being initially impressed by the size, I found they weren't really as gutsy and reliable as desk tops in my opinion. My dh was out when I went to pick it up so my ds1, Logan, set it up. Sometimes I wonder at his deftness at this sort of thing. I've been his main homeschooling teacher for several years and I've certainly never taught him all of this computer knowledge because I don't know much about them. I think it's incredible that the younger generation seem to have been born with this built-in part of their brain that knows all about computers!

Then I came across an article in the newspaper which makes a lot of sense and seems to explain it. Through the ages, each of the generations seems to have born with more innate technological knowledge than the one which came before. In a nutshell, here they are.

The Builders (born 1920 - 1945) This is my parents' generation. They lived through the Great Depression and WW2. As a result of living it tough in their childhood and youth, they exhibit a strong work ethic and financial frugality. They built the current infrastructure, institutions and the economy.

The Baby Boomers (born 1946 - 1964) My older brother and sister surprisingly fit into this one, having been born in the early 60s. I would have guessed that all the babies born as a result of returning soldiers might have been over by then but apparently not. This generation was born into an era of freedom and financial prosperity. They are characterised as being vocal on social issues and liberal in outlook. I guess you'd have to say the Baby Boomers are probably the generation to have 'invented' computers.

Generation X (born 1965 - 1979) This is the one I fit into. We're portrayed as being cynical about traditional authority and open to new forms of communality but with underlying fear of the financial future as well as threats such as terrorism. I would say we're the 'guinea pigs' of new technology such as computers. I can remember the teachers writing on blackboards with chalk during my earliest Primary School years. I can remember thinking my electric typewriter was just perfect during my mid to late secondary years. I think I can probably pin point when computers took off. It was about 1985 onwards, yet I never owned one until I got married in 1992. Now I have fun telling my kids all about how much more annoying it used to be to research assignments during my school days. If our class had to research Shakespeare, for example, we'd have to rely on the World Book encyclopaedias in the school library. The quickest and luckiest would grab the "S" ones straight away. The rest of us had to use our creativity and search for things like E for Elizabethan theatre instead. If anyone had told us about the internet and Wikipedia, where everyone can research from his own home, we would have been awed.

Generation Y (born 1980 - 1994) I have a couple of nephews and a niece in this one. In a work sense, they've been labelled as a fickle, flighty "me-now" generation, based on the tendency to blend work and study and regarded as superficial and driven by consumerism. Very computer-canny and smart. To me, they often appear far more sure of themselves and their direction than I ever was. They seem to have more of an air of maturity than I used to, and are more comfortable in their own skins.

Generation Z (born 1995 - 2009) This is the one my kids fit into. Logan just scrapes in, being born in February '95. We never realised there was such a thing as Generation Z until we read this article. Reared in the social networking and user-driven content era, they are extremely tech-savvy, creative and confident with a strong work ethic and financial conservatism. Even more so than Generation Y. They think this might be a result of having more mature parents (because the Gen Xs who are their parents tend to have many of their children at a later age than their own Builder and Baby Boomer parents before them).

Generation Alpha (to begin January 1st, 2010) We'll just have to wait to see how these turn out. They will mostly be the children of Gen Y it would seem.

I find this sort of research interesting. Human traits are essentially universal across the ages of course, yet I see these generational differences play out over and over again. My Builder parents have retained their Depression, work-hard-and-don't-spend-too-much mentality, as if they're not really living in the real world but still in some historical time period of the past. Mum will comment, "That's a lot of money for a book," when she's talking about quite a normal price. She seems to still think they should be sixpence or tuppence or something from her pre-decimal era.

And the Builders and some Baby Boomers are still very rigid about teaching things like rules and grammar and mathematics parrot fashion. My first editor, who was an older lady, commented that in her opinion, it was obvious that I'm from Generation X. Apparently we are the first generation who weren't taught this sort of thing with such strict legality at school. True enough, my English lessons emphasised the thoughts and feelings of characters rather than pulling every sentence apart to work out what each of the words are.

I've noticed that while Gen Y seem far smarter and more confident than me in some ways, they sometimes display a lack of general knowledge, or trivia. When I did my radio interview, the lady remarked that Gen Y tend to use far many more 'ums and ahs' which she has to edit out of the recording.

Perhaps each generation learns the skills they need to know in the society in which they live. It amuses me when my "Builder" father expresses concern that our kids might not be as brightly educated as he used to be at their age, but then relies on my Y and Z nephews and sons to help him trouble shoot and fix all his computer problems. What we can learn from each other is immense.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What makes a Christian 'show'?

My normal computer has recently crashed, so I haven't been able to reply to any emails or work on Word for the past week. The man who's been building a new one for us has been slower to deliver than he'd said he would be. Andrew doesn't care but I hate that. I'm getting a bit frustrated and stressed. But here I am on another old computer, able to blog at least.

I've been pondering the above question of what makes a Christian show because my frustration over the computer has made me feel tetchy and not very kind. I like to type each chapter of my new story up as soon as I type them, but I haven't been able to do that and they're logging up. It shows me that it's so much easier to be happy and behave in a Christian manner when we have nothing to frustrate us. Nobody would necessarily recognise me as a Christian this week! But annoying circumstances liked crashed computers shouldn't make all that much difference in a person's outlook. Jesus said we need to let our lights shine at all times. How does this show in our lives? Accepting our saviour is such an inner, personal business, especially when we don't find opportunity to talk about our beliefs openly each day. Are there signs that identify a Christian straight off? I believe there are two.

1) They have all the fruits of the Holy Spirit operating out of their personality.
Love (as opposed to hate, resentment, jealousy and envy)
Joy (as opposed to depression and misery)
Peace (as opposed to turmoil and anxiety)
Patience (as opposed to impatience and short temper)
Kindness (as opposed to selfishness)
Goodness (as opposed to wickedness, strife)
Faithfulness (as opposed to fear and dread)
Gentleness (as opposed to harshness)
Self-control (as opposed to short temper, emotionalism, panic)

I think it's really useful to remind myself of the fruits of the Spirit every so often. When we don't, so many of the counter-fruits find room to sprout up without our knowledge. And when we look at a list like that above, we can easily see where we're beginning to get a little off track.

2) You can see that God's promises are being worked out in their lives. Their needs are being met. They are not sick, broke and needy like the rest of the world. God's will is clearly taking place on earth as it is in heaven in their lives, as they depend on His promises. They are clearly children of the new covenant.

During an altar call at church week before last, I was sitting there toying with the idea of going out the front for prayer when a quick thought occurred to me. I thought, "I shouldn't sit here, year after year wondering whether I ought to respond to altar calls." I hate to admit this. I'd never given it much thought before but I'd been coming to church for most of twenty odd years (I'd become a Christian when I was 17) with a needy mindset! I'd always attend hoping to "get something out of" the message or prayer. Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that! Christians are there to reach out to others after all. But we're not to meant to remain in that needy condition!

True Christians aren't like dry, parched trickles but deep, flowing wells. Instead of being anxious that I'm not going to have my needs met and wanting to have the reassurance of prayer from others, I should be trusting that I'm having all of my needs met by God. When I'm coming from that strong, God-dependant mindset, I'm more able to give of myself to others.

That doesn't mean we need to lapse into the trap of relying on our own good works (which might be a form of neediness in itself). When we keep giving and giving through our own strength we get dry and exhausted. I've been there. I don't think this busy sort of giving is necessarily what God intended. Proper giving is simply through being the people we are. Just living our daily lives with deep love for God and the fruits of the Spirit, and then doing what we want to do, it seems we can't help giving to others as a by-product.

I've been giving this a bit of thought this week. Hope it strikes a chord with some of you too.