For the last time; being an introvert is not the same as being anti-social.

I like it in here. It’s quiet and I can still drink my tea.

I am an introvert.

I am very social.

But when I’m done being social I need to lie down in a dark room for awhile.

Or at least sit on the sofa with Simon on the other side of the room while I type furiously and he plays XBox.

Introvert: Someone who needs quiet to recharge their batteries.

Extrovert: Someone who needs to be social to recharge their batteries.

So stop saying ‘I can’t be an introvert, I love being social. But then I do need to have some quiet time.’

That is an introvert you big doily!


So Much For A Blog A Week!

I have spent much of this past winter hibernating and feeling crap. I may write about it later, but that’s not what has brought me back.

What has brought me back is MacMillan’s Brave The Shave campaign and their horrible response to objections to the campaign.

It is a campaign asking people to donate money to other people who shave their heads in supposed solidarity with people losing their hair to chemo.

Let me state, for the record, that one of my oldest friends in the U.S. does this every year for St Baldrick’s. The issue I have is not the shaving.

The issue I have is the encouraging of happy smiling pictures of people shaving their heads shared all over social media. Have a think for a minute; imagine you have lost your hair to chemo or love someone who did. Maybe that person also lost their life to cancer.

Do you want to see picture after picture of happy smiling shaven head people on your Facebook feed? When you or your loved one cried their eyes out as they lost their hair? And when you cried yours out again when cancer took them from you?

Shaving your head in supposed solidarity to those who have lost it due to illness should not be entertaining.

I posted on their Facebook page telling them why I think this is a terrible idea. Their response? Pretty much pat me on the head and send me on my way.

And if you read down the page? You’ll see the same sort of response to people with and without cancer who feel as I do.

Macmillan claim to be about making lives easier when you have cancer.

Well, they aren’t. They are making it so very much harder.

I’m trying to figure out

When I stopped reading books.

I have never stopped reading, I read all the time. But I read websites or fanfiction or glance through magazines. Until about a month ago I don’t think I had read a book for more than a year.

Why did I stop? I love books. I love reading. I always have. In elementary school I read a book a day. And got teased for it. A lot. But that was one tease I never minded. Because I knew books were cool.

I guess I stopped reading them when I got my first iPhone, when Adam was about one, so four and a half years ago.  It was easier, while dealing with the great unsleeping child, to read something on my phone. Oh, I had eBooks, but I didn’t even really read those.

I suppose exhaustion made it easier to read short things, little bits of information and entertainment.

And I’m not sure what brought me back. A lack of other things to read, I guess. I logged onto OverDrive and into my library account with Libraries NI and looked around. And stumbled on Tess Gerritsen, who I’ve read before, and grabbed book one of Rizzoli and Isles and started reading. I am in the middle of Book 7 now.

I also bought a book by Mark Billingham from Amazon over the past week because I had a voucher and he was recommended on GoodReads and had Simon pick me up the first book in a new series (well new to me) by Laurie R King, in actual book form, from the library today.

And I’m having trouble getting anything else done.

Because all I want to do is read.

Book? Cover? Never judge.

I’ve been thinking a lot about an old friend of mine lately. Heads are like that, aren’t they? You’ll be walking down the street and someone you haven’t thought about in a long time pops in there and you smile or you frown or you laugh or maybe you cry.

I think this friend came to mind because I was just out for the evening with my friends this past weekend, for our Christmas dinner. These are all women that I know because they are the mum’s of Adam’s friends. We always have a great time when we are together, whether for a coffee or drinks or dinner. We laugh and we lament and we talk about our kids and our spouses/partners/whatevers and we dance and we drink and we have a great time.

So I guess I was thinking about friends in general and this old friend of mine popped into my head. She was gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. Someone people look at when they walk down the street. Someone who part of me still thought ‘she’ll never be my friend’ about, even after we were good friends. She always exuded such confidence you could never imagine her being insecure about anything.

Just don’t.

But she was. Like this past weekend, we were heading out in a group one night. We were not mums. We were just friends going out for drinks and dancing and to see what might happen. Yes, we were all single. 😉

My friend rang me just before I was about to leave (This is before mobile phones. Yes, I am that old.) freaking out. Why? Because she had just coloured her hair and she wasn’t sure she liked it or that it suited her and oh my god what had she done, no she wasn’t coming and so on.

A freak out I’d bet every woman, and some of the men, reading this have had. Whether about their hair or their make up or their LBD. Moments of insecurity. Yes, even my gorgeous, so confident friend had her moments.

I calmed her down, told her to meet me and told her she was gorgeous (and she was) when we met up.

And I was grateful I had stomped on my own insecurity long enough to get to know this woman who I at first thought ‘would never be my friend’. Who I still sometimes thought that about. Even when I was the one she called when she was having a crisis of confidence.

And now, about 20 years on, I look at my friends, my son’s friends’ mums, and know they are my friends. And I am their friend. And we can call when we have a crisis of confidence. Or have a child who needs picking up. Or a cup of sugar or help moving house or anything really. And I hope no one is judging any of us.

Because none of us are our covers.

The Part of Heart Bleed No One Seems To Be Explaining

I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard all about Heartbleed and that you should change your passwords as soon as the websites you have accounts on confirm they are patched.

But I keep hearing from non-technical people ‘Why would anyone want into my Facebook/Twitter/other non-financial/credit card link account? For what purpose?’ And no one seems to be explaining!

So why should you worry?

Because hackers think you are dumb. They assume, rightly in a lot of cases, that you use the same username and password for all your logins. This is bad practice, of course, but lots and lots of people do it.

So the hacker harvests hundreds or thousands or millions of usernames and passwords from, say, Facebook, and then puts them into a programme that sends those username and passwords across the web. It automatically tries the username/password combinations it has saved and, if it gets lucky, gets into your bank, or your email (for phishing or replicating) or some other useful thing. And they have you.

So how do you remember unique passwords for all of the things you access?

There are three really easy ways to create secure and memorable passwords:

1. Think of a sentence that you will remember on a specific site, like Facebook Sucks But Everyone Uses It So I Do. Then take the first letter of each word: FSBEUISID and then add some symbols or numbers rather than letters: FSB3U1S!D. Appears totally random to someone else, but you will remember it!

2. Create a code of numbers, letters and symbols: 123&^324. For each website, add 2 or 3 characters to that code: FB123&^324. Now you only have to remember your random code and your website code.

3. Create a pattern on the keyboard. You look at the keyboard and imagine shapes on top of the keys. Trace those shapes with the keys and a totally random string of characters will be chosen, but all you have to remember is the pattern.

So wait until you get the all clear on your sites (there’s lists all over the web) and then get to strong password creation!

The Disconnect That’s Been Bothering Me

As anyone who follows my blog or my Twitter or my Facebook knows, I went to California this past summer.

The San Francisco Bay Area is where I lived for ten years before I emigrated to Belfast. This summer, thanks to my mom, we stayed in a beautiful holiday home in Berkeley, not too far from where my brother and his family live.

Since we were staying in a house we, obviously, had to do basic cleaning/garbage/recycling for the two weeks we were there.

And Berkeley’s recycling rules are a bit mind boggling. They do plastic, paper, glass and food. And each of these things have their own collection bin in the house to put into a ‘split bin’ on the curb on pick up day.

City of Berkeley curb side split bin. credit:

City of Berkeley curbside split bin. (1)

Obviously, all of this recycling costs money. The city apparently makes money from the recycling but I would imagine it is also part of property tax that my brother and all the residents pay, just as we pay Council Tax.

So the residents of Berkeley are really into saving the planet. Good for them.

However, I was stunned by the number of homeless people I saw around the city.

And a quick Google of ‘Berkeley homeless’ finds article after article of the persecution of these people, including one from this past December on the city throwing away the possessions of some of these homeless people. At the last homeless census, in 2011 (2), there were 4,341 homeless people in Alameda County and in 2009, about 680 of them lived in Berkeley.

That same article says that the city has a budget of $2.8m for helping the homeless with $1m of that going to direct services and that no one believes there are only 680 homeless in Berkeley.

To be fair, it also says the homeless numbers across the county are dropping, but that there just isn’t enough money to help everyone at the local level.

Meanwhile, the recycling plant is making $5m (3) a year to do more recycling.

I am certainly no economic expert in any way. Nor do I claim to understand the ins and outs of homelessness in the US.

But it sure seems to me that Berkeley would better serve everyone if they stopped worrying quite so much about the planet and started worrying a little bit more about the people who live on it.

Of course, I am also doubtful that those split bins make a difference anyway, since it all seems to go into one truck. Now, the truck could be split on the inside, although I can’t imagine what sort of mechanism could be sure to only place, for example, metal to the left and paper to the right. There has to be a human in there somewhere. Which costs money as well.

It should also be noted that, in some ways, I think recycling is the biggest myth and fairy tale perpetuated on the world anyway. How much energy does it take to recycle one can? What kind of fuel does that recycling take? What’s the carbon emission of all those extra trucks driving around?

I’m sure all of those things can be answered.

But I doubt anyone really wants to know what the answers are, much preferring to feel good about ‘saving the planet’.

By the way, I’m fairly sure the planet will be just fine.

The human race, on the other hand…

(1)credit: City of Berkeley Recycling

(2) source: Homeless Census

(3) source: Berkeley Recycling

I Need Feminism Because…

That’s the phrase of the hour. Day. Week. Month. Year.

There have been two news reports this week regarding feminism and that phrase. One has been incredibly positive and one that has been incredibly negative.

The second one terrifies me and makes me a bit ill. Mostly because of the school’s response. It should have been ‘Find out who those boys are and get them to stop and give them some sort of sanction’. It should not have been ‘Take your pictures down. You’re getting what you deserve.’

Victim blaming, in other words. From a girls school. To girls who are trying to make the world a bit better for themselves and everyone else.

So tired of the apologists. The victim blamers. The ignorant.

It’s like we’ve gone back in time to the early 1900s. I just checked. It’s still 2013.

A black man is President of the United States. A gay man just became the Mayor of a town here in Northern Ireland.

But women are still blamed for wearing short skirts and having a drink if they are raped.

Women are still fighting for control of their own bodies.

Women are still second class citizens in first world countries. Or less than second class.

Women are still paid less for the same work, called bitches when men would be called strong, expected to never age and not speak up. Ever.

Is this the world to raise our children in?

Is the world my own mother fought to create?


So what are we doing about it?

Personally I am blogging and Tweeting and reading. I’m thinking and speaking.

I will not be quiet.

I will not be silenced.

Power to the women…