Yeah‽ Well I ****ed your mother!

Has anyone ever tried to insult you by claiming that they had sexual relations with your mother? On the face of it, it is just another one of those not particularly clever insults that gets bandied about when a witty retort can’t be found. But when you think about it, it is actually quite a confused little sentiment.

As near as I can tell, t here are only 3 ways it can be interpreted.

1) It implies that your mother had sex, as if that is somehow an insult. I’m not sure exactly how that works though…apart from one isolated case, it is a good bet that almost everyone’s biological mother has had sex at least once.

2) Your mother is sexually attractive. Whoa, that’s such a deep insult. It’s not like society sees any merit in being sexually attractive. And hey, she’s your genetic antecedent – so some of her sexual attractiveness has passed on to you. This is more like a compliment than an insult.

3) The insulter is so horribly repugnant that the very idea that your mother slept with him is a slur on her good taste. How that is an insult to you is unclear; maybe the assumption is that no matter how far she’s fallen, she will still have higher standards about with whom she gets jiggy.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on one of the more perplexing aspects of modern culture.

P.S., yes typography geeks, that is totally an interrobang.

Yam Yam – Surreal Sweets from Malaysia

I popped in to one of the local Asian grocery stores today, and purchased something called “Yam Yam” – they are little breadlike sticks with a sweet dipping goo. They come in several flavours; I bought strawberry.

Yam Yam packet

I noticed that the package says “Look inside for fun words”. Sure enough, on each of the sticks was an animal and some associated text.

Yam Yam Sticks - Animal descriptions

It’s a great idea as a learning tool for children. But then it starts getting a little weird.

Yam Yam Sticks - Duck

Duck – go for a swim. Is it saying that ducks like to swim? Or is it a command?

Yam Yam Sticks - Mouse

Mouse – do not be timid. That doesn’t make sense. Timidity is an important trait in mice, which protects them from being eaten.

Yam Yam Sticks - Fox

Fox – beware of lies. Whilst it’s a nice sentiment, it is a tenuous link at best.

Yam Yam Sticks - Panda

Panda – Go for more. What the heck? Go for more what? Bamboo? More pandas? That makes about as much sense as a beach ball in a blender.

Yam Yam Sticks - Lucky Colours

Chick – lucky colour; yellow / Beetle  – lucky colour: brown. Ok, now you guys aren’t even trying. What happened? The copywriter was sick that day and the fortune cookie guy had to sub in? Beetles come in more colours than you can poke a stick at, why limit it to the most ugly one? And how can I have two lucky colours? Is there a limit to how many lucky colours I can have? I am beginning to have serious doubts about just how lucky the colour yellow is!

How to steal from hotels – A comprehensive guide from a leading newspaper

The Sydney Morning Herald is the oldest continuously published newspaper in the southern hemisphere. It is the Sydney equivalent of The Age, which I have already written about.

So what sort of cutting edge journalism are they dishing out? How about this article, published online in May, detailing all kinds of useful tricks to steal from or defraud hotels. After all, hotels are made of money. They can afford to have people steal from them.


Who knows how to do the Heimlich manoeuvre? You’ve probably seen it hundreds of times in movies and on TVs. It’s a great thing you know, if you would rather cause internal injuries than actually help someone.

The manoeuvre has long since been superseded by another process that won’t leave grandma with a crushed liver and ruptured spleen (in the unlikely event she survives).

So what do you do if someone is choking?

  1. Try to calm them down and get them to cough hard to remove the object. This is hard because choking people will often panic.
  2. Call your local emergency number to seek medical assistance.
  3. Get them to bend over, e.g. over a chair, and give them five hard pats to the middle of the back. Check after each whack to see if the obstruction has been dislodged
  4. Give them 5 chest thrusts – put your hand on their back, and the other hand in the position you would place it for CPR, and squeeze – not as quick as you would for CPR, but more sharply.
  5. If you still have no luck, keep alternating back blows and chest thrusts until the ambulance arrives.
  6. If they become unconscious at any time, call for emergency services and do your normal CPR stuff.

St John Ambulance has a fact sheet for choking (and for a whole bunch of other useful first aid stuff).

The travel tip nobody will tell you

Travelling overseas? There are a million books and websites filled with an amazing range of travel tips,but I want to share the one thing I’ve discovered that is not in the books:

Carry a ukulele.

A ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn, and it is incredibly portable. You can get a cheap Mahalo brand for less than $30. It is one of the few instruments that is so cheap that will still sound good. It sounds even better if you throw on some Aquila strings (about $20).

Why travel with a ukulele?

  • They are cheap. Cheap enough that if they get damaged or lost it doesn’t matter
  • They are a fun and happy instrument. You can’t be sad when you are playing a ukulele.
  • They are easy to learn. You can be playing basic songs in 15 minutes. And they sound good, not like someone learning violin!
  • They are portable. Easy to stuff in a backpack and carry anywhere, and they fit in your carry-on luggage
  • They are a great way to meet people. In my experience, when you have a ukulele people will come up to actually talk to you, not just sell you trinkets. They seem generally interested and love to have a go at it. It’s a great way to make momentary friendships with those many random people that pass through your life as you travel.
  • Protection from monkeys. Probably not a big concern for most people, but it was an effective tool for keeping away aggressive monkeys at the Old Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.
  • Crime prevention strategy. Unfortunately I don’t know if there is a causal effect, but I carry my ukulele everywhere and I have never had troubles with being attacked or robbed, even walking in the dark streets of developing nations alone at night.

So there you have it, take a ukulele when you travel.

For the last and best word on ukuleles, let’s ask Amanda Palmer.

One nation : One brain cell

One Nation, the back-country bogan’s favourite political party, is back!

Unfortunately, they may not quite be ready. Stephanie Banister has put her foot in her mouth a little at this interview.

She says that Channel 7 used fancy editing to make her look like an idiot. And I have no doubts that a commercial news network would twist a quote or two around to spice up a story. But you can’t exactly Photoshop a Mona Lisa from a stick figure – you need something to work with.

The worst part about her racism is how uneducated it is. If you are going to:

a) be passionate about something (such as racism, GLBTQI rights, religion, the role of the nobility in agrarian cultural revolution); and

b) proselytise your views

then you have a responsibility to at least do some basic research first! It’s one thing to be a racist because you aren’t sure why but your dad always hated those bloody foreign bastards and everyone knows the abos are just a bunch of drunks who don’t want to work and those curry munchers are taking all the good jobs away from Aussies. Ignorance like that is sad, but at least you are keeping it mostly to yourself.

But to stand up in front of a nation and try and convince people to hold a view that you clearly don’t understand? Priceless! Do you know how many times I have been on TV trying to convince people that Australia should introduce a Keynesian economic system? None. And not because no TV show will have me (though they won’t), but because I have no idea what a Keynesian economic system is. In fact, we might already have one. Maybe we are getting one in 2016?

In a way idiocy like Ms Banister’s could be seen as a positive thing, because it highlights how ridiculous racism actually is. Let’s hope a few racists hear how stupid they sound and start to rethink their own views. At the very least, she has given us all the opportunity for a good laugh (albeit with mildly uncomfortable undertones).

Papua New Guinea solution – good or bad?

The Australian Government’s recent announcement that it will send all “boat people” (i.e. refugees/asylum seekers that attempt to come to Australia by boat) to Papua New Guinea and not allow them to ever enter Australia has caused widespread controversy. The main argument against this policy is that it is not exactly a compassionate way to deal with asylum seekers (who, let’s not forget, are fleeing all kinds of awful horrors). Today I’m going to play devil’s advocate and ask: is it such a bad idea?

Note: for the purpose of this blog, let’s pretend that there is no political motivation behind the solution.

I was watching TV the other night, and a government representative was defending the policy on the grounds that it will stop people smugglers. The argument is that if asylum seekers know that attempts to come to Australia via people smugglers will just see them abandoned in PNG, they will choose not to use the people smugglers.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, is this so bad? People smugglers are nasty criminals who take advantage of people’s desperation, and I think we can all agree that they should be stopped. But basic economics says that as long as there is demand, there will always be supply. How do you get rid of demand? Achieving world peace is apparently quite tricky, so the tactic seems to be to convince asylum seekers that life will be just as bad if they come to Australia via boat. The best case scenario is that an initial batch of people get sent straight to PNG and have a pretty miserable time, but in the long run less people drown at sea and we get rid of most of the people smugglers.

There is a logic to that argument. If all assumptions are in your favour, it ends up with a better result for people in general, at the cost of some extra suffering for a small few. Would you kill one innocent person to save 20 people’s lives?

Of course, this is a best case scenario depending on a lot of assumptions. If life in PNG is still better than whatever hell these poor people are fleeing from then it won’t achieve anything except some nice under-the-rug-brushing for our politicians.

So will this policy stop people smugglers? Or will we just cause a bunch of extra misery for some people who have already gone through all kinds of suffering? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!