Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crochety Old Lady

Yarn over, pull through.
Yarn over, pull through.

The index finger of my left hand is throbbing and with each search for a spine, I can hear the wool moaning as I push the needle through.

I can hear them talking about me in the other room, but their words mean nothing. I just need to finish this last row and then I will stop. Okay, just one more.

I have become an old lady. I catch sight of myself in the mirror, glasses falling slightly down my nose, my hair in an untidy bun that I would not be caught dead in outside of the house and the crocheting needle in my hand. To be fair, it's not like I am crocheting a scarf (though I probably will at some point). To be even more fair, this is not a project of my choosing. The penguin that I made earlier was. This one Grant asked me to make. He caught sight of the pattern while I was browsing and decided that it was a must-have. He even took me to Birch's this morning just so that we could get the wool that I would need to make it. It's a Mario One-Up Mushroom, which brings out the geek in him and lets me indulge in my new hobby without feeling too ancient.

I started learning to crochet at the end of January. It was a tactic to prevent boredom in an office where browsing has been forbidden and no tickets were coming in to be answered. The office was dead quiet. With no emails to reply to, no phonecalls to answer and no browsing allowed, we resorted to other activities that hadn't been banned. While some read and some scrolled through the applications on their cellphones, I crocheted. It would be crochet a row, refresh the screen to see if there are any new emails. Crochet another row, refresh again. It was great practice, getting me faster and faster and crocheting. It also meant that the F5 button on my work computer may be dying some time soon.

Within a week, I was ready to try my first project. I finished it in a day. A little wonky, not quite perfect, but still a penguin that I could be proud of and one that my goddaughter adored. I finished the penguin around 4pm and immediately started on the next project, which I finished the next morning. I could hardly wait to start on the next one!

The only problem with crocheting in Grahamstown though is the lack of supplies. Sure, there are places to get wool, to get hooks and even to get stuffing. But things like felt and safety eyes are mysteries to the Grahamstown haunts and practically impossible to get unless you want to order them online (which I do not). Instead, I resort to sewing eyes and buying beads to make the best of what I have available. Not quite the same, but they will do.

So, if you are bored and looking for something to do, considering crocheting. It is not just for old people and is actually highly addictive once you get into the hang of it, especially when you discover sites like Ravelry and all the cool things that you can make with the patterns that you find there.

What strange hobbies do you have?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Power of the Written Word

I was contacted a few days ago by Melanie Bowen, a contributor at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog. At first, when I heard who she was, I wondered why on earth she would be interested in writing a post for my blog of all places. I support her cause, of course, but I wondered to myself how I could help. I told her exactly that, but it didn't deter her, and when I read the post that she wrote, I realised just how well it fits into the theme of my blog (not that my blog really has a theme). Perhaps, actually, that is exactly why it fits in so well. A blog is not just there for a specific purpose. Well, it can be, but mine certainly isn't. It is there to write down thoughts, not caring who reads them. It is there to help those who might be feeling the same way, just to show them that they are not alone in the world. It helps the writer know that they are not alone in the world! And I can kinda see, especially after ready Melanie's blog, how that can help. So, I'll stop my rambling now and hand it over to Melanie.

By Melanie Bowen

There is a magical quality about putting down our thoughts, our
dreams, our hopes, out goals, into words--it makes them seem more
real, more concrete. From the experienced writer crafting his or
her story, to the mesothelioma treatment patient expressing hopes
and feelings, writing is not only the art of self expression, it is
a powerful tool in inspiring us. Writing helps in motivating us to
achieve our ultimate goals.

A recent oncology study indicated that writing for as little as twenty
minutes a day could help a cancer patient think and feel more positive
about their disease and increase their quality of life. Researches in
Georgetown University further found that expressive writing, which
involves writing one's deepest feelings and thoughts, can result in
immediate changes of thought about illness and improve the patients
perception of a better physical quality of life in just three short
weeks. There are other advantages of writing especially for those
suffering from depression or chronic illnesses.

Seeing is Believing

From to daily to do lists to grand "bucket list" life goals, seeing
the things we want to get done on paper helps us organize our thoughts
in a way that breaks our smallest tasks and grandest hopes into real,
doable steps. It makes them real, and motivates us from the inside
to go for them and relish the satisfaction of crossing them off our
lists. Don’t let daily task or a stated prognosis or treatment stop
from from living a quality life of wellness.

Hope during Hard Times

We all have good days and bad days. Writing down our good days reminds
us during the rougher times that good things happen and keeps us
hopeful that the present darkness will give light to dawn once again.

Writing the Blues Away

We can sometimes get 'lost' in our thoughts and writing is a way
out. It helps us see the ridiculousness of irrational fears, applaud
ourselves for the noble moments, and gives even the smallest thoughts
and actions a new sense of meaningfulness that lifts the spirits no
matter what one's life situation is.

Tangible Reminders

We learn by repetition, and when we write down our hopes and our
positive thoughts, they tend to stick more. Whether in a personal
journal for your eyes only or if it is a public blog on the Internet,
both serve on the behalf of positive rewards. What is stopping you
from starting your own blog today?

Our Stories Inspire Others

When we share our defeats, perseverance and our victories, we inspire
others to push through and make it as well. There was a time when
in order to get one's story out, one had to write a lengthy book or
submit a professional article to a newspaper. But in this day and age,
anyone can share their story online through a blogging website which
reaches a vast population of young and old. It is a powerful tool and
medium to mutually encourage each other and has proved over time hope
through the written word is contagious.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Movie)

A few months ago, I wrote a review on the book Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Follow the link to see my review of the book, if you dare. It wasn't a great review, because I didn't particularly enjoy the book. But, nonetheless, I found myself going to the movie. And I have to say, I found it far better.

What bugged me a lot about the book was the way it was written, paying attention to silly details and skimming over important ones. The movie gets going very quickly where the book was slow to start with. There is no time spared on unimportant details like computer brands (though there is definitely a lot of product placement). The mystery aspect of the book is also good from the get go. There is less family history explained in the movie and more focus on the matter at hand, which is what is most important.

I must say though, that sensitive viewers are not likely to enjoy parts of the movie at least. There are some very gruesome scenes, a lot of explicit behaviour and a lot of nudity. There is also a violent rape scene which many have condemned. It is horrifying, of course, but, in my mind, partly necessary. It is a movie that does not hold back. It takes the best, most interesting, most horrifying, most exciting parts of the book and it stitches them together into something that makes sense.

As always, there are some things that are left out of the movie and some things that are changed, but for the most part I found that the things that were left out benefitted the movie rather than detracted from it, and the things that were changed were done so that the storyline made sense. Nothing UBER important was missing and that is the important thing.

Overall, where I would have given the book perhaps a 5/10, I would give the movie a 7/10. I certainly thought that it was an improvement, which is saying quite something since it is usually the other way around when it comes to movies.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Religious Issues

My friend, Amy, wrote a blogpost this morning that struck a chord. She wrote a post about how much it bugs her when, in times of difficulty, people respond by offering to pray for her. As an atheist, she finds this borderline offensive. But I am not going to put words in her mouth. If you would like to hear what Amy has to say on the matter, you are welcome to read the post itself.

What I am more interested in talking about is the chord that religion has struck with me lately. It comes in the form of a client. Now, I know that legally and ethically I cannot talk about our clients, but this is less about his problems and more about an attitude that I find highly annoying in certain religious people in general. Back in the days when Gina and I were in high school, there was a boy that Gina liked and, to avoid awkwardness while talking about him and, well, because he had many, we ended up calling him Issues. I would like to refer to this client in the same way. He will henceforth be known as Issues.

Issues had a problem with an invoice that he was sent this month. After two or three emails explaining the situation to him, I received an email back where he suddenly announced that he was a deeper meaning Christian. What he meant by that is that he is not someone who goes to Church often, but someone who believes in God and lives their life according to God's word. Which is just great for him! He is welcome to do that and I am very happy that he has found something meaningful in his life! But what does that have to do with the matter at hand?

I ignored the religious aspect and continued as I had been going, attempting to explain to him the situation and hoping that he would understand logic. His next email explained that he is only accountable to the Lord, his saviour, Jesus Christ. Actually, Issues, no. You are also accountable to the law. But no matter. I continued once again to try and bring the conversation back to the matter at hand, his invoice. I tried to explain that this had nothing to do with who he is accountable to in the long run, but that he is also responsible for his actions now.

Alas, his next email explained that he only serves God and that only God could vindicate him when the time was right. By this point, I was furious and frustrated that no matter how simply I explained the situation, he always reverted back to God and ignored anything that I had said as though it made no difference to his life because he was religious. He acted as though, by being religious, he was completely superior to anyone else and no mortal problems could affect him. Pay a bill? Pfft! God will see me  through! God will pay it for me, or God will deal with the consequences of my own actions.

All this time, he kept repeating that I had to respect his choices in lifestyle and religion. Which I accept. I do respect peoples choices. But that does not mean that they can get off scott-free. People need to accept that their choices have consequences. And that life choices play no part in business. That you choose to follow a religion does not influence the way that your ISP will treat you. You do not deserve better or worse treatment than anyone else. Your choices (aside from perhaps choices in packages) should not affect your invoice. One cannot live their life however they like without consequences and cannot get away with not paying for services that they have requested and that we have paid for on our part.

As a company, we implement some rules (like clients having to pay by the 10th of the month), but we also have rules implemented on us (like domains being automatically renewed) that we need to come to terms with and pass on to the clients. Do you see us complaining about our God-given rights? No. Because God-given rights do not come into it. Rights that the law gives us come into it. Rights that the constitution gives us. And if our services were unconstitutional, if they were unequal or unfair, then I can start to understand. But this is a case where it has nothing to do with bias due to religion or belief. God does not come into it at all.

It is business, plain and simple. And the sooner some people can understand that, the easier life will be.