I Declare After All the Women in History, Jane Austen Isn’t the Best for a Banknote

Is Austen the ideal face to be replacing Darwin on the £10 note? What about the forgotten women of history? My thoughts on providing equal representation on our currency.

Jane Austen is due to replace Charles Darwin as the historical figure on the British £10 note. Whilst I respect Austen’s undeniable talent as an author, I feel the choice of her smacks of tokenism. There are countless other women who have been downtrodden in history who’s achievements have come in fields dominated by men.

I then had a thought – why is there only one variety of each note in circulation? Why couldn’t we have equal representation by having two versions – one with a notable man from history and another with a woman who had similar success in that field, a woman history forgot?

£5 – Elizabeth Fry and John Howard

The £5 is the only British note in circulation to currently depict a woman – Elizabeth Fry. Fry was a driving force behind the introduction of legislation which brought about the humane treatment of prisoners serving custodial sentences.

John Howard similarly fought for the humane treatment of prisoners. He fought for improvements to penal institutions to maintain prisoners’ physical and mental well-being.  He found to ensure prisoners had access to an adequate water supply along with a healthy diet.

Elizabeth Fry is to be replaced by Winston Churchill in 2016 (when Austen will be making her appearance on the £10 note), so really Austen’s appearance will only maintain the current status quo.

£10 – Charles Darwin and Rosalind Franklin

As far as I’m concerned, Darwin’s contribution to scientific advancement cannot be argued with. He introduced the concept of evolution and survival of the fittest to a society still relying on the religious explanation of where the creatures of Earth have come from.

Rosalind Franklin’s contribution to scientific advancement has been largely ignored. She is the unsung hero of the discovery of DNA. Franklin’s X-ray images of the double helix provided the data that Francis Crick and James Watson used to make their hypothesis on its structure. She died of ovarian cancer at 37, just four years before the Nobel prize was claimed by her contemporaries.

£20 – Adam Smith and Joan Robinson

Adam Smith is another unremarkable inclusion on British currency. Although a controversial idea (something I don’t agree with myself), the theory of free market economics has shaped this country to the economic state in which it currently resides. Take it as you will, but his effect on the British economy is undeniable, therefore it is only right that his image be on the currency he has shaped.

Joan Robinson was also an economist who contributed to British economic history. She contributed her name to an economic growth model, and wrote numerous works on economic theory.  Finally, four years before she died, she became the first female fellow at King’s College, Cambridge.

£50 – Matthew Boulton & James Watt and Caroline Haslett & Amy Johnson

Matthew Boulton and James Watt were pioneers in the engineering industry, Watt being the inventor of the of the steam engine with a separate condenser. The business the partnership created also nurtured a lot of engineering talent at the time.

Sadly, there haven’t really been any women who’ve had the same effect on the engineering industry in a partnership as Boulton and Watt. However Caroline Haslett stands out as a female face in an overwhelmingly male field. She was a pioneer of electricity in the home, as she helped women escape from the drudgery of housewifery (obviously it’s not for everyone). An electrical engineer and campaigner, she was the first Secretary of the Women’s Engineering Society as well as first Director of the Electrical Association for Women. Caroline Haslett Trivia – Her dying wish was that she be cremated by electricity.

As there are two faces on the current version of the £50 note, it seems only right that another woman who shone in a predominantly male field join Caroline Haslett. My choice is Amy Johnson. After becoming the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930, the pioneering aviator went on to set a slew of long-distance flying records. She died after going off-course in bad weather while transporting RAF aircraft around the country for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War.

How would you deal with the current imbalance of historical figures depicted on British currency? Do you feel it is a problem?


One Thousand Views

A fair lady’s smile is worth more than a thous...Wow, I can’t believe (with the help of one feminist group of facebook bombing my blog with hate) my blog has surpassed 1,000 views. I was genuinely happy when I found the stats page and found I’d had my first view. My blog is very patchy, I don’t write about one particular topic for long as once I’ve released the ire, I don’t feel the need to revisit it.

To anyone who contributed to the first hundred views (including those who left the rude comments), thank you for putting up with my rambling, shambolic, infrequent posts.

Here’s to the next 35 posts!

Animal Testing – Cruel, Corrupt or just Current Testing Procedure?

This is an inflammatory subject. If you don’t agree with what I’ve said here, that’s just fine. Just don’t get in my face about it. Reasoned debate doesn’t come from flinging insults. Be civil, inform others of how you feel, and take on board what they have to say too.

I’m an animal lover. When I was little, that love was for horses, although I was brutally allergic to them and would sneeze whenever one was close, I’d always take any offer to go up to the stables and look after a family friends’ horse. Now, I’m a dog lover. I can’t wait to have one of my own. I love nature documentaries, seeing monkeys happily swinging from tree to tree, and the animals on the forest floor foraging.

Reading that, you’d think someone like me would be completely against animal testing. I’m not, I’m actually pretty supportive of animal testing for medical purposes. Testing cosmetics on animals is plain wrong, it’s not necessary.

Animal testing has been something discussed at length in so many ways. The debate thread on the forum has come back to some semblance of activity, and I feel as if I’m the only one debating from the medical advancement viewpoint instead of “oh, those poor animals!”.

Animal,Porkey Pig, Lobund-Wistar

Animal,Porkey Pig, Lobund-Wistar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will make my apologies now, this post will be far longer than most of my usual posts, and it will be dry. If you stick with me from this point, I thank you. You’ll get a little phrase near the end to comment me with, and I’ll jump around with glee that someone’s finished my blog!

I’m a biological sciences student at a university in Scotland. In my first and second years, we did some experiments involving animals – the first experiment we did was a live dissection of a mussel, so we could see how its breathing apparatus works. Prior to starting the experiment, the director gave the option for anyone opposed to this sort of experiment to leave (with no detriment to their grade) and then proceded to give us a lecture about how to treat this animal with respect, and that we absolutely must avoid hurting it more than was necessary for this lesson. Prior to beginning any courses which contain working with animals at the university, you must sign a welfare form, saying that you will adhere to all rules laid out by the university. All demonstrators (postgrad students who knew what they were doing) watched over us like hawks, making sure we did not insert the scalpel far enough to touch the mussel when opening the shell gave us their time to show what proper practice when dealing with any animal is.

Worldwide, animal testing is broadly participated in, simply because in-vitro testing is not financially viable for underfunded scientific facilities to practice. Scientists who use animals in their testing though, adhere to the “Three R’s”:

The three Rs are a set of principles that scientists are encouraged to follow in order to reduce the impact of research on animals. The three Rs are: Reduction, Refinement, Replacement.

The three Rs are a set of principles that scientists are encouraged to follow in order to reduce the impact of research on animals.

The three Rs are: Reduction, Refinement, Replacement.

Reducing the number of animals used in experiments by:
Improving experimental techniques
Improving techniques of data analysis
Sharing information with other researchers
Refining the experiment or the way the animals are cared for so as to reduce their suffering by:
Using less invasive techniques
Better medical care
Better living conditions
Replacing experiments on animals with alternative techniques such as:
Experimenting on cell cultures instead of whole animals
Using computer models
Studying human volunteers
Using epidemiological studies

The 3 R’s are posted here to show that research using animals is only conducted when necessary, and minimises suffering in all ways possible. Scientists don’t just randomly think to themselves that they’re going to use and hurt as many animals as possible.

In the USA, the IACUC gives very clear guidelines as to how experiments should be carried out, such as linked here at Cornell university, here at Harvard, and here at Penn State university.

In Canada, the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is setup to act in the interests of the people of Canada to ensure through programs of education, assessment and guidelines development that the use of animals, where necessary, for research, teaching and testing employs optimal physical and psychological care according to acceptable scientific standards, and to promote an increased level of knowledge, awareness and sensitivity to relevant ethical principles. At the inaugural meeting on January 30, 1968, the CCAC adopted the following statement of objective: “to develop guiding principles for the care of experimental animals in Canada, and to work for their effective application”.
The provinces have jurisdiction concerning that area. The federal government, however, is involved in three areas: the criminal law power, the health power, and the spending power.

The Criminal Code of Canada Section 446 and 447 of the Criminal Code protect animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. This section of the Criminal Code has been under review for several years.

The Health of Animals Act (1990) and its regulations are aimed primarily at protecting Canadian livestock from a variety of infectious diseases that would threaten both the health of the animals and people, and Canadian trade in livestock with other countries. This act is used both to deal with named disease outbreaks in Canada, and to prevent the entry of unacceptable diseases that do not exist in Canada.

Spending power – the other mechanism through which the federal government has lent its support to the humane treatment of animals is not strictly speaking legislative in nature, but in many respects it is one of the most powerful instruments available to the federal government for setting national standards. The federal government’s power to provide for grants subject to conditions imposed on the recipients, be they provincial governments or individual or corporate recipients, may take a variety of different forms. One form is that of the conditional federal grant or contract. This manifestation of the federal power is what currently underpins the imposition of CCAC standards on facilities receiving funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Where the government itself awards a contract on an academic or non-academic institution, clause A9015C of Public Works Standard Acquisition Clauses and Conditions Manual imposes conditions related to the care and use of experimental animals in public works and government services. All of the provinces in Canada have created and passed laws that pertain to animal welfare, but only certain provinces have made their own laws. Universities in Canada also follow strict guidelines, as shown here from the University of Toronto.

Arguably the UK has the most strict laws and guidelines concerning animal testing. As all testing is governed by the Home Office, they publish data as well as the institutions involved (statistics from 2004 here).

Here’s a section of a piece written by Jess Smith and Aisling Spain who both perform animal testing at the University of Edinburgh:
The pressure on researchers to use alternatives is not adequately understood among the public and this is exploited by animal rights groups in their arguments. In condemning the use of animals in research, they make the point that animals are too dissimilar to humans for meaningful comparisons to be made. However, when making points about animal use for food PETA are quick to draw specious parallels between humans and animals. Despite high-profile failures in drug safety, there still exists a vast number of drugs on the market which have had their safety established in animals. Public perception of animal rights issues is further distorted by celebrity endorsements of certain issues, such as protests against the fur trade.

In common with other emotive science issues the most problematic issue for those defending animal research is public ignorance of the research itself and how it is controlled. This ignorance is compounded by some animal rights websites which inaccurately represent scientists as unwilling to use alternatives to animals in their research. It is time to end the silence on the part of researchers, to explain to the public what is done and why, and to open up laboratories and animal facilities so that their level of care can be clearly seen.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 link here requires experiments to be regulated by three licenses: a project license for the scientist in charge of the project, which details the numbers and types of animals to be used, the experiments to be performed, and the purpose of them; a certificate for the institution to ensure it has adequate facilities and staff; and a personal license for each scientist or technician who carries out any procedure. In deciding whether to grant a license, the Home Office refers to the Act’s cost-benefit analysis, which is defined as “the likely adverse effects on the animals concerned against the benefit likely to accrue as a result of the programme to be specified in the license” (Section 5(4)). A license should not be granted if there is a “reasonably practicable method not entailing the use of protected animals” (Section 5(5) (a)). The experiments must use “the minimum number of animals, involve animals with the lowest degree of neurophysiological sensitivity, cause the least pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm, and [be the] most likely to produce satisfactory results” (Section 5(5) (b)). source here

During a 2002 House of Lords select committee inquiry into animal testing in the UK, witnesses stated that the UK has the tightest regulatory system in the world, and is the only country to require a cost-benefit assessment of every license application (source) There are 29 qualified inspectors covering 230 establishments, which are visited on average 11–12 times a year.source here

If you’ve made it to here – post “parsimonious” so I know you made it to here and I can squee that I haven’t killed everyone with boredom. Animal testing has brought about so much advancement in medicine, it’s truly been amazing. People have called it an archaeic practice, but how else are you supposed to test medicines? How many human test subjects are really going to volunteer? How reliable do you think the results would be from a very tiny sample size?

Until in-vitro testing is more affordable, animal testing will continue. It’s a sad fact, but there you have it. From my experience of both helping out in an animal shelter and being around animals who are being tested on – people outside of labs are far worse than the people who are trying to keep you, your friends and your family healthy.

A short list of things animal testing has helped provide treatment and cures for

Protect Yourself, There’s No Excuse

Supporters of Planned Parenthood

Supporters of Planned Parenthood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to make things clear from the outset here – I don’t want children. I don’t even want to be around the children my friends may or may not have in the future longer than I absolutely have to. They make me uncomfortable, and the thought of wrecking my body to bring a child into this world disturbs me. I won’t be having children.

Now, being of reasonable common sense, I know that to avoid falling pregnant, I must use protection when having sex. That seems more than obvious to me. Sadly, it doesn’t appear to be obvious to everyone.

There are so many different methods of contraception available, hormonal and non-hormonal there really is no excuse you can give that washes. I’m glad I live in the UK, and can have free access to birth control (here in Scotland, they abolished prescription charges, so it’s completely free). In the USA, you have access to Planned Parenthood, which I’ve read gives out free condoms when you go to ask for advice (if I’m wrong, please feel free to correct me). Also at this point I’d like to add how absolutely insane it sounds that American people and politicians want to take all funding away from Planned Parenthood.

In my own experience, and I’ve been through the awkward buying of a packet of condoms as a teenager – I’d rather go through that a million times than be landed with a child. Having a child would ruin my life, so I’d do anything in my power to avoid it. When I was single, I “doubled up”, using both birth control and condoms to avoid both pregnancy and STD’s. And now I’m with someone and we’re both happy neither of us have anything sinister floating around in our stuff, I use the pill only.

Continuing on the point of doubling up as a single woman – you can’t just trust that the lucky guy is going to have a condom on him. You take him back to yours? Have a box hidden away in a drawer in your room. You go back to his? Have a condom or two in a little part of your bag.

There really is no excuse not to protect yourself properly. If you’re caught short one night, or the condom breaks, then there’s always the morning after/plan b pill, but you can’t use that as a viable means of stopping pregnancy. Those hormones kick your ass.

Look after your own interests, please.
If you’re not sure what sort of birth control would work for you – I found this brilliant thing to help you decide on the Planned Parenthood website.

Why I Love the Paralympics

Samsung Sponsors 2012 London Paralympic Games

With the exception of Sainsbury’s moronic choice to feature David Beckham as the face of the Paralympic games, the lead-up to the games themselves was brilliant. Showcasing several of Team GB’s best and brightest Paralympian (and no, several news reporters I’ve heard in the last few days, they’re not Para-Olympians), even cheekily saying “Thanks for the warm up” in response to the London 2012 games, where, for the first time a double-amputee competed alongside the best and brightest in the hopes of an Olympic medal.

English: Oscar Pistorius during 2011 World cha...

English: Oscar Pistorius during 2011 World championships Athletics in Daegu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m glad these men and women are coming to the public’s attention. I feel in the minority as I watched the Paralympics from Beijing four years ago. I love the different events. I love the flat-out brutality of wheelchair rugby (imagine people hitting each other out of wheelchairs, on purpose, being good sport). I love goal ball and how silent the arena is so the competitors can hear the ball. The competitors are just amazing.

By now, those of you who follow sport should be aware of who Oscar Pistorius is now. He’s the aforementioned double amputee who competed in the men’s 400m and 4x400m races in the Olympic games a few weeks ago. He’s done so much to raise the profile of Paralympic athletes, even if through his struggles to compete with those who still have all of their limbs. In several articles, I’ve seen people commenting, saying that Oscar gets an advantage from using his artificial limbs. There have been studies either way, proving that although his leg swing is faster than other athletes as his lower legs are lighter, he has to start more slowly than the rest of an “able bodied” field. I’m so glad Pistorius was allowed to compete in London, he was a real credit to professionalism in sport. After his 400m individual heat, he spoke to EVERY journalist who wanted to interview him. He left the stadium more than an hour after his heat.

Ellie Simmonds and Oscar Pistorius

Ellie Simmonds and Oscar Pistorius (Photo credit: Nick J Webb)

Another of my favourite athletes who should have a bigger presence is Ellie Simmonds, a British swimmer. Ellie has my eternal jealousy, she’s 3 years younger than me and has already achieved so much. She was the youngest competitor at the Beijing Olympics, at just 13 years old, and put in an amazing performance in her category (S6) and won 2 gold medals. She also puts herself over so well in interviews, is very humble and respects her field. Absolutely amazing.

I love the paralympics as it truly throws into focus how much you can achieve if you don’t allow the barriers placed in front of you to get in the way. Each and every one of them is inspiring.

I hope you’re all paying close attention to the true heroes of these games, not the tosser with the expensive haircut on the Sainsbury’s ads.

DP Challenge: The Sounds That Make Me, Me.

I adore music of all sorts. I always loved music during high school. I loved everything that was available. I learned to play a wide range of instruments, those small enough you were terrified of breaking them (such as a little glockenspiel, producing tiny yet significant hints at something magical appearing in the near future), and those which were actually big enough to support my 5ft 2 frame (sorry, Mrs. Norman!).

I played in the school’s tuned percussion group from when I was in second year (and had the talking to from the history teacher mentioned in my post written to a teenaged me). At first I felt very odd at giving up a lunchtime to do something so inherently uncool. I mean, what kind of self-respecting teenager wants to play an instrument bigger than them?

I loved the sound of the marimba, the cool sound of woollen mallets striking the massive wooden bars resonating around a room in four part harmony. It really relaxed me, for all it took so much effort and practice to improve. Though, improve I did. I was lucky enough to have had an excellent teacher, who must have saw some degree of potential within me, as she taught me personally how to use four beaters. I still don’t regret the horrific claw hands I wound up with after hours of practicing changing the distance between the two mallets I had in each hand.

I loved the listening section of music also, being introduced to so many wonderful pieces of “classical” music (the term applies to the classical period, although all pieces of music which involve an orchestra are often referred to as classical). I loved listening to the twinkling sound of the harpsichord which signified music from the Baroque period. I loved the playfulness of Mozart’s composition. I even loved the utter bizarreness of music introduced to us as “bonkers minimalism”.

I adore a variety of modern music, also. I can quite happily browse my music library and find Beyoncé happily beside Biffy Clyro, and Shakira beside Slipknot (seriously). I have my parents to thank for my varied and probably bizarre taste in music. My mother has a similarly eclectic taste, harbouring loves in equal measure for Journey (yes they did more than just Don’t Stop Believin’), Duran Duran and the Sex Pistols. My father is a rock fan, he introduced me to the funk-infused brilliance of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy, the theatricality of Queen, and the balls-out insanity which make AC/DC so unique. Though, my heart does lie in rock. It must be a family thing.

I still apply the concepts learned in my music classes to the music I listen to today (though regrettably, what appears to be hitting the mainstream now all appears to be cover versions of some of my favourite songs by some breathy woman).

I’m one of those people who is always listening to something on the bus and no matter the mood I’m in, there’s something there for me which agrees with me. A prime example is the other day, when I was travelling on the bus, hadn’t slept well, and was feeling quite down. I found Bon Jovi, and his reaffirming, though cheesy, stadium rocking anthems. One particular lyric, accompanied by Richie Sambora plucking his way through a little ostinato pattern sang

“Some, day I’ll be Saturday night, I’ll be back on my feet, I’ll be doing alright. It may not be tomorrow baby that’s O.K. I ain’t going down, gonna find a way”

Isn’t that just wonderful? It personally makes me feel comforted by the fact this song was written so many years ago, yet I can relate to it in my current situation.

Great music and lyrics never die.

If I May Put Forward Two Lists of Favourites

Well, even if I may not, I’m going to write them anyway (with links to videos, which you can check out if you feel so inclined)!

Starting with my top 5 favourite pieces of “Classical” music:

  1. In The Hall of the Mountain King – Grieg
  2. The Nutcracker Suite –  Tchaikovsky
  3. Minute Waltz – Chopin (these guys came to see us play and complimented ME!)
  4. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart

And my top 5 favourite songs

  1. The Light and the Glass – Coheed and Cambria
  2. Aqueous Transmission – Incubus
  3. Truce – The Dresden Dolls
  4. Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night – Bon Jovi
Marimba man image from http://www.tiwy.com/pais/guatemala/telon_de_platanos/marimba.jpg
Also, this post is an entry to the DP challenge

Tumblr is a Very Odd Place

I’ve attempted to keep blogs in all places online, and this place is the only one where I’ve kept at it with actually writing words and posting them – that is what the traditional form of blogging is, after all. I tried blogger, and found that much too complicated for me, and the community element of the place seemed almost non-existent. I even tried writing on tumblr for a while, but the community on there genuinely boggles my mind.

My tumblr is basically a collection of cool images I found whilst searching random terms online, be it fashion, retro or even just searching for colours. It’s not for everyone. I don’t have many followers at all (given I’m celebrating having a sum total of 33 followers on here, which twitter aside is my most-followed online profile), and I don’t really interact with anyone unless it’s to reblog something cool they’ve posted.

Tumblr is, however, a fantastic place to collect gifs, which according to a piece in The Guardian supplement G2 today, are phenomenal. I’m so easily pleased by the repetitive little blighters. One such example is from my post last week, in which I posted a gif of Kemboi dancing after finishing his 3,000m steeplechase.

I keep a folder of animated gifs on my external hard drive, and each of them make me smile. They can be little daft things, clips from TV shows, football players getting hit in the face with TV cameras, or normal people doing ridiculous things. I just love them, ok? And after all of my ranty posts in the last few days, I felt like my blog needed a bit of light reprieve.

These gifs are a small selection of what comes up when I look at my favourites on tumblr. And if you enjoy the three things these have come from, then you deserve a gold star for having excellent taste.