Thursday, 11 January 2018

No Sex Please, We're British

No Sex Please, We're British

It is now less than four months until the government starts enforcing their latest ill thought out piece of morality legislation - from April 2018 any website containing pornographic content will require visitors to fully verify their age or be forcibly blocked by ISP providers. In other words, unless you're willing to input passport or credit card details into every website designed to titillate, you will be prevented from viewing anything the government deems too risque.

The point of the legislation is to protect children which, of course, is an admirable aim. We all want young people to be safe online. How blocking access to Pornhub for anyone with the good sense not to leave themselves open to credit card fraud will achieve this is less clear. Children, the government says, should not be able to stumble across pornography.

This was presumably why parental filters and their ilk were developed. Although, as anyone who employs such restrictions will know, it's not as simple as saying 'no porn, please'. Sometimes the filter casts the net too wide - school filters for guns and Nazis, for instance, also prevent access to BBC GCSE revision guides on WW2 - other times the filter doesn't cast it wide enough. Tumblr, a popular social media website primarily aimed at teenagers, springs to mind. The site is renowned for porn blogs, x-rated spambots, and so on. As the website is not intended for the distribution of porn it should be exempt from the law - yet a cursory use of the search function reveals how easy it is to access inappropriate content.

(And this isn't even something unique to the internet age. Just think of how many classics of literature - openly available at any library or book shop - contain sex scenes, for example. It's easy to say 'ban sex' but much more difficult to enforce it. Especially if you want to start arguing the toss, pun intended, about what counts as pornography. Does something have to depict penetrative sex or even nudity for it to have been principally created for the purposes of inducing sexual arousal?)

feet
To someone, somewhere, this is some seriously exciting stuff...

Because something like this is almost impossible to police, although rumours are that the government is going to give the BBFC the responsibility. MindGeek, one of the proposed providers for the age verification service, claims up to 4 million websites could be blocked unless they comply - up to and including Twitter. Unsurprisingly the government has been painfully slow to provide proper guidance as to which sites will be affected by the ban, and how the age verification will actually work.

The reality is a) the law will be patchily enforced, if at all, and will make little difference beyond politicians grandstanding about how Britain is getting back to its core values [of censorship and restriction]. Much like the ban already in place on 'alternative' porn, which bans the production and distribution of porn containing acts like spanking, hair pulling and dirty talk in the UK. Or b) huge databases of sensitive information being held by companies vulnerable to hacking - just waiting for something like the Ashley Madison scandal but on a bigger scale.

The impact assessment came out in December and has already been signed off on because the benefits outweigh the risks. Allegedly. ISPReview has created a handy list of the risks it identified:

  • Deterring adults from consuming content as a result of privacy/ fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps, also some adults may not be able to prove their age online; 
  • Development of alternative payment systems and technological work-arounds could mean porn providers do not comply with new law, and enforcement is impossible as they are based overseas, so the policy goal would not be achieved; 
  • The assumption that ISPs will comply with the direction of the regulator; 
  • Reputational risks including Government censorship, over-regulation, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. 
  • The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems / spoof websites and access user data; 
  • The potential ability of children, particularly older children, to bypass age verification controls is a risk. However, whilst no system will be perfect, and alternative routes such as virtual private networks and peer-to-peer sharing of content may enable some under-18s to see this content, Ofcom research indicates that the numbers of children bypassing network level filters, for example, is very low (ca. 1%). 
  • Adults (and some children) may be pushed towards using ToR and related systems to avoid AV where they could be exposed to illegal and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with.

Of course, there is a precedent for this progressive legislation. The Russian government blocked access to the most popular porn websites in 2016 because they were detrimental to the development of children who might access them. Russian users now have to set up accounts to access Pornhub and its sister sites via VKontakte - the Russian equivalent of Facebook - whose accounts require a mobile phone number, only legally available in Russia with the presentation of valid passport information.

As the law is in large part designed to stop teenagers accessing porn on their phones perhaps we should have adopted that approach instead. No mobiles for under 18s, no access...

This might seem a strange topic for a parenting blog but I just don't believe that a blanket ban on online porn is the way to protect children, no more than a blanket ban on mobile phones. As a parent I have tools at my disposal to restrict internet access. As a corporate parent it is my responsibility to ensure children in Torfaen are kept safe from the darker side of the internet. You do that by being frank and open. Sex education needs to explain that porn and reality are not always in sync - the same as any other aspect of the media - not that two consenting adults having sex is so dangerously deviant a young person legally old enough to have sex themselves can't even access a website where they might watch it!

My feeling is that this is a piece of knee jerk legislation that is only going to continue to generate more problems than solutions.





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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Creative Writing Tips

Creative Writing Tips

I was asked over on Tumblr for my writing tips! I can't claim to be an expert or anything, but here are some of my thoughts on what makes a successful story.

  Any style guide that says ‘always do this’ or ‘never do that’ is hogwash. You’ve got to write what works for you and your story. I abuse the English language a lot in my writing, but I like how it works stylistically so I will just carry right on doing it.

  The opening lines are some of the most important. They’re the ones that are either going to reel people in or have them back clicking, so immediate impact is good. I like to start with dialogue - coming straight in on the middle of a conversation! - or a statement, generally. (Jane Austen did it best: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife...)

  You don’t have to explain anything. Say you’re writing a fic where aliens have taken over the planet. Hollywood would probably have Character X give a long spiel to camera (via Character Y) with the hows and whys, and even with the megabucks they spent on the script it’ll still sound clunky. You don’t need to give the explanation all in one go. Or at all. If you’re writing a short story sometimes ‘here be aliens, deal’ is everything your reader needs to know.

  Write what you know. By which I mean write anything you want to, but ground it in what you do have experience with. E.g. The people in the post-alien apocalypse live very different lives to me, but they still have hopes and fears and moments of pettiness. I’ve never been an alien from outer space - worst luck - but I know what it’s like to have an overbearing boss breathing down my neck wanting outcomes, just like poor Zog from literal Human Resources. Etc, etc. …You get my drift!

  Don’t be afraid to just get words on paper. I still struggle with this, especially if it’s an idea that feels like it will stretch more than about 6k. I want it to be perfect, to all fall together… so instead of actually starting to write it I just avoid it completely for fear that it will turn out badly. Writing can be edited into better condition. The blank page isn’t going to help that story get posted.

So, yeah, those are my words of wisdom - such as they are! :D

As a follow up I was then asked to comment on writing romance fiction specifically:

I think romance is quite a forgiving genre to write because it’s so much about how it makes you feel, rather than needing to push boundaries or whatever to be relevant. Like, it doesn’t matter how many fake relationship with mutual pininig fics I read for my OTPs ('One True Pair') I will still always want to read more. I don’t even want that trope subverted - I just want it played out over and over (and over) again. But, still, some random thoughts on romance fic:

  You don’t have to have a happy ending. A romance that ends in tragedy is no less a romance, and sometimes it’s the fics where it just didn’t work out that stick in the heart and mind.

  Ignore the ‘no head hopping’ rule. I always see this advice listed but, really, it’s not the cardinal sin the style guides make out. Limited third is probably always going to be the favoured POV for this kind of thing, but if there’s any genre where head hopping can work spectacularly well, it’s romance. We all want to know if A loves B as much as B loves A.

  Be wary of background couples. Sometimes they’re a key component of the primary romance and absolutely necessary, sometimes they’re just a natural inclusion depending on setting/scenario, but sometimes they’re just ‘pairing the spares’… and for everyone who thinks ‘aww, that’s a cute ship’, someone else will despise it as their NotP.

  Sex scenes will never please everyone. Some people don’t like smut, some people (FFA… i.e. fail_fandomanon) cannot bear the use of the ‘wrong’ word in a scene, etc, etc. Just write what you want to is the best advice I can give. Because I often see advice like ‘a sex scene should move the plot along’. Well, yeah, but sometimes the plot is just ‘these characters find each other hot and want to have sex’. Sex can show all kinds of things about your characters, but it doesn’t really have to push the plot forward beyond that for it to be welcome.

  Nothing is OOC ('out of character') if you can make it believable. If you want a character who is gruff and hostile in canon to be sweet and tender just make sure you show your working. Maybe it’s set pre-canon. Perhaps there’s been a life or death experience they’re reacting to. It could just be that they act differently in private than they do with the rest of the team. Like I said before, romance fic is kind of forgiving in this respect! :)



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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

30 Day Disney Challenge

30 Days of Disney

Since becoming a mum I have had no choice but to get closely reacquainted with Disney - Marianna can sit and watch Cinderella four times in a row and still want it on again!

#01. Favourite Villain

Cruella de Vil. She has the coolest song and was played by Meryl Streep in the live action version. What's not to love?

Cruella de Vil


#02. Favourite Princess

Snow White. The original and best!

Snow White


#03. Favourite Prince

Arthur Pendragon from The Sword in the Stone. He's way more interesting than your average Disney prince!

Arthur Pendragon


#04. Favourite Animal Character

Tramp from Lady and the Tramp.

Lady and the Tramp


#05. Favourite Couple

Bert and Mary in Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins


#06. Favourite Song Sung by a Villain

Friends on the Other Side from The Princess and the Frog.



#07. Favourite Song Sung by a Princess

Colours of the Wind. ♥



#08. Favourite Duet

A Whole New World from Aladdin. I'm unoriginal.



#09. Favourite Song Overall

I'll Make A Man Out Of You from Mulan.



#10. Most Catchy Song

That's How You Know from Enchanted.



#11. Film You Think Should Have A Sequel

Brave. They could do more with that setting, I think.

Brave


#12. Most Memorable Scene

I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book.



#13. Favourite Disney Pixar Movie

Toy Story!

Toy Story


#14. Scariest Film

Alice in Wonderland. That scene with the walrus and all the little oysters he lured away from their mother used to scare me as a kid!

Alice in Wonderland


#15. Favourite Heroine

Pollyanna. Glad game, and all!

Pollyanna


#16. Most Underrated Film

Piglet's Big Movie. It has a really lovely soundtrack!



#17. Most Overrated Film

Frozen. I was really disappointed by it.



#18. Favourite Hero

Hercules.



#19. Favourite Sequel

Finding Dory.

Finding Dory


#20. Best Animation

Eyvind Earle's background art for Sleeping Beauty is out of this world.

Sleeping Beauty


#21. Favourite Kiss

Ariel and Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid


#22. Favourite Non-Animal Sidekick

LeFou from Beauty and the Beast. The Gaston song is the best thing about that film. (Both versions!)



#23. Favourite Animal Sidekick

The one and only Heihei from Moana.

Heihei


#24. Favourite Theme Park

I've never been to any of them. *sniff*



#25. Favourite Castle

Cinderella's Castle, of course.

Cinderella's Castle


#26. Best Parents

Thumper's mum and dad in Bambi, especially the unseen Father Rabbit who spends his days imparting wisdom on eating greens and saying nice things. I bet he has hundreds more - one for each kid! :D



#27. Saddest Moment

That montage of Carl and Ellie's life together at the beginning of Up. I cried like a baby.

Up


#28. Favourite Outfit

The stepmother's wardrobe in the new Cinderella film is amazing.

Cinderella


#29. Best Friends

Hayley Mills and, er, Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap.

The Parent Trap


#30. Favourite Happy Ending

Brutus becoming a permanent part of the family in The Ugly Dachshund.

The Ugly Dachshund





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Monday, 8 January 2018

Selling on Ebay

Ebay Listings

Check out what I'm selling on ebay! My username is aeronwyn321.




For more on ebay, check out my posts on Ebay Bargain Hunt (what you can get for a single penny!) and a tutorial on how to block individual buyers.



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Sunday, 7 January 2018

Written in the Stars

My Star Sign and Me

Western astrology traces its roots right back to ancient Babylonia, with the Zodiac as we know it first being developed by the Greeks. In the medieval and early modern periods astrology was big business - and important business - with the stars being relied upon to predict everything from royal births to wartime victories. Today astrology has been relegated to 'pseudoscience' by the scientific community at large, with generalised horoscopes padding out the pages of newspapers and pre-teen magazines alike.

Still, as personality archetypes go, the signs of the Zodiac probably aren't any sillier than the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators so beloved of HR departments. They have cooler symbols, at the very least!

Signs of the Zodiac

As the bad ass lion above suggests, I'm a Leo, the sign for birthdays between July 23rd and August 22nd inclusive. Leo is ruled by the sun and characterised by ambition, idealism, and a love of the lime light. Horoscope.com sums Leo up with:

Bold, intelligent, warm, and courageous, fire sign Leo is a natural leader of the Zodiac, ready to blaze a trail, vanquish injustice, and make a name for themselves along the way. Blessed with high self-esteem, Lions know that they possess enviable traits—and they’re proud of them. They don’t believe in false modesty and will be the first to praise themselves for a job well done. But Leo isn’t self-aggrandizing or unwilling to roll up those sleeves and do the work: this sign knows that in order to be respected and admired, he or she needs to put in the effort worthy of a leader. 

But it’s not all hard work for Lions. Intense and energetic, Leos thrive on social interactions and have no problem making friends—although pinning them down to spend time with you is another story. Leos put themselves first, and will turn down a plan that doesn’t fit with their agenda or idea of fun. This trait has gained them an unfair reputation for arrogance. But on the flip side, when a Lion chooses to spend time with you, it’s genuinely because he or she wants to. 

Work and outward appearances matter to this sign, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to gain a job title or workplace status, even if it means temporarily sacrificing their precious leisure time. Benevolent with their time and attention, Leos are never cliquey, always showing friendliness and politeness to everyone. While almost everyone else is entranced by the Leonine personality, Leos are their own harshest critic and consider each day a challenge to be the best, brightest, and boldest Lion they can be.

I've always felt like I'm really far too shy to be a Leo. I think I can be kind of bossy and impatient, and will definitely take over a group project if given half a chance, but I've never had the self-confidence and love of social gatherings Leos are supposed to have in spades.

But, astrology has a fix for that!

If you don't feel like your sun sign is an accurate portrayal, check out your moon sign which influences the 'inner you'. According to the moon sign calculator, my moon is in Cancer which is, apparently, strong enough to cancel out a fair bit of sun sign traits. Alwaysastrology.com says:

Cancer Moon has a knack for being in touch with their feelings, as well as those of others. They may be so in touch with their feelings that they become very self-absorbed. At the same time, they are so in touch with others' feelings that they can see through any superficial statements of well-being. They have a terrific memory, especially for emotional things. The Cancer Moon Sign looks for familiarity and security. They tend to cling to their home, their family and friends, and their possessions. They really appreciate peace and quiet, and they are not big fans of change. 

Devoted and accommodating, they do not like superficiality. When they have feelings of insecurity, they may attempt to create a sense of it by accumulating things around them. While others have moved on from a hurt, those born under a Moon in Cancer may tend to keep dwelling on them. They may tend to feel taken for granted, and they don't like to confront others, so they may leave hints about their unhappiness to get your attention.

...Fairly accurate, all in all!

How well do you fit your star sign?








Saturday, 6 January 2018

30 Days of Pokemon Challenge

30 Days of Pokemon Challenge

I saw this blog challenge and just had to do it! It combines two of my favourite things, after all - kitschy nostalgia and the survey format...

Day 1: Favourite Pokemon

Pikachu!


Day 2: Least Favourite Pokemon

Unown. What a disappointment they were when you opened a new pack of Pokemon cards. Or just in general, to be honest.

Unown Alphabet


Day 3: Favourite Starter Pokemon

Well, Pikachu, obviously, because Pokemon Yellow was my jam. But, if I couldn't have Pikachu, I'd start with Charmander because at the beginning you're up against a load of plant based green Pokemon. Fire is going to make that vegetation burn.


Day 4: Favourite Eeveelution

Flareon.
Flareon


Day 5: Favourite Legendary Pokemon

Articuno.

Articuno


Day 6: Most Terrifying Pokemon

Cubone. I mean, Cubone itself is adorable, but the concept of it is pretty terrifying - a kid wearing it's mother's skull and staining it with its helpless tears. It's supposed to be a kid's show!

Cubone


Day 7: Most Adorable Pokemon

Togepi.

Togepi


Day 8: Most Amusing Pokemon

Poor old psyduck.

Psyduck


Day 9: Favourite Pokemon Type

The purple psychic ones. They had lots of cool powers.


Day 10: Least Favourite Pokemon Type

Earth. They were vulnerable to a lot and their background colour was brown. Who wants a collection of brown cards?


Day 11: Favourite New Pokemon From Black & White

What are these newfangled games of which you speak?


Day 12: Favourite Pokemon Card

It has to be the Ancient Mew you got with the first film. It was just so shiny.

Ancient Mew


Day 14: Favourite Companion

I liked all of Ash's companions. Well, maybe not that weird Ritchie kid he travelled around with for a bit, but the rest of them were cool. Brock was a lech, but it probably ran in the family given the endless siblings he was caring for at the beginning of the series, and Tracey was shy and had a kick ass Scyther. Misty just inched them both out for top spot though. She was never afraid to speak her mind!

Misty


Day 15: Prettiest Pokemon

Ponyta and Rapidash.

Ponyta and Rapidash


Day 16: If You Could Live Anywhere In The Pokemon World, Where Would It Be?

Anywhere but that city destroyed by giant Tentacruel. That episode was nightmare fuel.


Day 17: If You Could Be Any Pokemon, What Would You Be?

Snorlax. What a life.

Snorlax


Day 18: Favourite Gym Leader

It's a toss up between Erika and Sabrina. Sabrina was kind of goth, but Erika had the prettiest trainer cards...


Day 19: Officer Jenny or Nurse Joy?

It has to be Nurse Joy - she had better hair.

Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy


Day 20: Favourite Pokemon Professor

Professor Oak. I didn't realise there were others, to be honest.


Day 21: Favourite Pokemon Bad Guys

Team Rocket.

Team Rocket

Day 22: Favourite Rival

Gary Oak, of course.


Day 23: A Pokemon Which Reminds You Of A Friend

Er, pass?


Day 24: A Pokemon You'd Find Useful In Real Life

Mr. Mime. All he wanted to do was cook and clean for Ash's mum. Now, that's my kind of pet!

Mr. Mime


Day 25: A Pokemon Based On Your Favourite Animal

Growlithe.

Growlithe


Day 26: A Pokemon That Is Your Favourite Colour

Vulpix.

Vulpix


Day 27: Favourite Pokemon Game

Pokemon Yellow. I hated the tiny little screen of the gameboy though - don't get me started on mobile phone gaming... - so I had Pokemon Stadium for my Pikachu N64 with the pad extension so I could play it on the TV.

Pikachu Nintendo 64 from The Museum of Play


Day 28: What Did You Nickname Your Rival?

Gary. I was unoriginal, okay?


Day 29: Favourite Pokemon Tune or Song

Gotta Catch 'Em All. The original and best.


Day 30: Most Nostalgic Element of Pokemon

Rearranging my Pokemon cards in their special branded binders. Good times.





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Friday, 5 January 2018

My Baby Photos

1988

1988






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