Education - a future shouldn't be a short-sighted spite-fuelled cash-grab

2019 02 10 - 04:39

Many moons ago, when I was taking distance courses via a university here, I was part of the students' union, and, consequently, part of a group that managed a scholarship fund for needy students.

One year we received an application from an incarcerated male. He'd been using all his prison earnings and commissary money to pay for university courses, one course at a time. He'd been writing all his essays using only what he could find for research in the prison library, writing them by hand in pencil, as he wasn't allowed a computer or pens. We naturally gave him the award that year, which constituted enough money to pay for one course.

As I was lying in bed trying to sleep during one of my many it's-still-the-middle-of-the-night wakeup periods, it occurred to me that it wouldn't be a half-bad idea to provide no-cost education to incarcerated individuals. It provides two things in the immediate: a way to step up their lives on release, or even before, and something to keep them occupied to keep out of the muck of prison life. Also, it's nice. You know, kindness, decency?

Really, we should be providing low- or no-cost post-secondary education (of all types) for everyone. We've long, long since passed the tipping point on that level of education being the minimum required to function past a certain level in this society. It is, in fact, the very reason high school long ago stopped being only something that those with money could have, because it used to be a pay-as-you-go institution as well. Education isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.

As I've said before, post-secondary education is a responsibility of a society that expects to have certain jobs available to it, that expects to be bolstered and backed up by certain positions - like doctors, teachers, accountants, bricklayers, machinists, and the like. If you want it, you need to provide it. These aren't only the pipe-dream positions you think they are. If you want an individual to spend their future serving you, then provide them the best possibility of doing so. You will find yourself in a blighted future, if you cut your nose off to spite your face now.

There is absolutely no good reason, other than short-sighted and mean-spirited spite, to continue to make education, and all the attendant costs of attaining it, so expensive and problematic, that students forgo safe housing, or any housing at all, for example, just to get it. This is not a recipe for success. In Canada, there are students sleeping on common area couches even, because they can't afford a place to live, rental prices being as insane as they are. And it's grotesque to punish these kids because their parents were unable or unwilling to provide the funds for their kids' futures.

Stop being so short-sighted, mean-spirited, and downright dumb. Provide no-cost post-secondary, and help build a future, rather than turning future into an elitist cash-grab, like so many other things are becoming, like decent housing and food.

Addendum: 2019 02 18

Not educating/training persons, is a punishment we inflict on ourselves, because we end up churning out more people that are more likely to become a burden on the system, either by further incarceration or by not being able to contribute in a productive way.

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What to do with your art

2018 12 08 - 02:29

I just saw the saddest thing. I was watching a DIY video on YouTube of a lady doing pretty much what I've done with my watercolours, gouache, and pigment sticks, and lawdy mama, the people who shat on her for having more than a 12 colour minimal palette, was unholy. The arrogance of it was saddening. If you ever wonder why some non-artists hate artists, or why some artists hate each other, there's one reason; some of 'em really get up on the high horse. It's nauseating.

Should you have a large palette? Should you stick to a basic one? Should you multi-brand, or stick with one? Should you learn to mix paints from raw pigments and binder? Should you buy convenience colours or only the basic mass tones?

You know what you should do with art? What you want. That's it. Do what you want. Do what makes you happy. If you want to stick to the six basic primaries, then go to it. If you want to buy every single Daniel Smith Primatek, all the Senneliers, all the M. Grahams, all the Van Goghs, Turners, Mission Golds, Rembrandts, Paul Rubens, Schminkes, QORs, Holbeins, and Winsor & Newtons, then go to town. Go nuts. I would personally applaud you, but I'm biased.

Is it necessary to own all those paints? No, but if you like colour, options, and have the money, then have at it. I would if I could. My personal dent in the watercolour medium is very small, but I have at least one or two from almost all the brands I've mentioned above - except for Mission Gold, M. Graham, Paul Rubens, and Schminke - I have Winsor & Newton gouache, though; also Jack Richeson and Turner. Believe me when I say that I'd make as much a fuss over watercolour and gouache as I do over coloured pencils if I could. Well, maybe not quite the same amount of fuss, but you get the idea. It is a good idea to start off with a small palette while you're learning, this is true, but you don't need to stop there.

One thing that is particularly true of watercolours, I've noticed, is that every brand could have a version of Indigo (for example) but no two will look or behave the same way. Every company has a different way of dealing with pigments, different binder mixes they use. Sennellier and M. Graham, for example, use honey-based binders. QOR doesn't even use gum arabic like all the others do. So, sure, I have two different indigos, and they are quite visibly different from other. I could learn to mix paints if I wanted to. In fact, I do know how, I just can't be arsed, and am happy to buy pre-mixed paints. This means I get consistency, though, which can't be said of any attempts I've ever made to mix my own colours.

Are there rules? Sure, but most of them are fluid. Like I said, what you should do, is what you want.

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Public Sector

2018 10 20 - 13:35

So, my job in the public sector is clearly a make-work project; and if it isn't, it sure smells like one. I can't imagine they'd pay someone to do what I'm doing on a permanent basis. But, my workload is so light, if they did want someone to do it, they wouldn't need more than two of us - maybe not even that - and certainly not the seven of us that are there. There are some days I could handle the entire workload on my own. There's a week of the contract left, and every single day I keep hoping to hear that they are - if not making it permanent - at least going to extend it for a month or three. The idea of getting a public sector paycheque every two weeks for the rest of my working life, is an idea I do not hate.

It is a monumental delight to finally work a job where someone isn't micromanaging your every move and every moment of your time. The amount of flak one receives in the private sector - in retail specifically - for things like being ten minutes late, is unholy. Here, if I'm ten minutes late I'm not even sure anyone would notice, and I suppose they trust that I'll make up the time - which I have done. I get an hour for lunch, so I don't have to wolf down my food like a starving person, and I have time to run an errand or two. The biggest difference, though, is that when there's downtime - and there is an enormous amount of it for me - I can use the Internet. The only thing I can't do is stream stuff. But, since I can have my phone at my desk, unlike with retail or call centre work, I can just use that to stream things. I've worked in call centres where we couldn't even have books at our desks, never mind our phones. So, during downtimes, there was absoolutely nothing we could do to fill the time up, other than talk to each other, which I didn't always want to do. It's two in the morning on a Tuesday - no one's calling for a taxi - telling me I need to spend my time concentrating on my job, is utterly laughable in a situation like that.

The biggest personal difference for me, is that I do not have to talk to customers. I am so sick to death of customer service. I loathe it. I am enormously relieved to be out of it, even for a short term. The mental break is delightful. The very idea of having to go back to it after this week is up, nauseates me. Customer service is just so... relentless. And I am tired.

So let us all hope that my gig gets extended; or, better yet, made permanent, so I can spend the rest of my life making some actual money, rather than having to scrabble from paycheque to paycheque just to cover the basics.

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Audio Buzzing in Win10 After Update

2018 09 30 - 12:20

I've been having this horrendously annoying problem whereby I get this intermittent buzzing sound in my computer speakers. There's nothing wrong with the speakers.

I have:

None of these things has any effect on the issue. The only thing I haven't done, is tried a clean install; but there's no guarantee that will work - it seems it hasn't, for a good number of folks who've tried it. This buzzing issue is apparently quite common with Windows 10 and RealTek drivers. Though people with other audio cards have experienced it, it's more rare. I don't want to have to waste my time redoing Windows if it's not going to fix the problem. I wasn't having an issue until the last update.

I'm at a complete and utter loss.

UPDATE: Well, I don't know what gave, but I decided to unplug everything from the computer yesterday, and plug it all back in. The buzzing is gone. Just to be safe, though, I'm not tempting fate by re-enabling the onboard LAN chipset. This leads me to think, though, that the problem wasn't with Win10 at all, as it has been with so many others, but was something to do with a wiring configuration or loose connector.

UPDATE - 2018 10 02: The buzzing started again out of the blue, but after uinstalling the 32 bit drivers and reinstalling the 64 bit drivers, the buzzing stopped again. I'd installed the 32 bit ones in a desperate attempt to fix at least something, and when - after that, and all the other machinations - the buzzing stopped, I didn't want to tempt fate and remove them.

UPDATE - 2018 10 10: So, the buzzing came back a couple of days ago, but moving around the tower and anything near it, seems to have solved the issue. I think, now, that the problem was routed in proximity of the speaker cable going into the tower, the antenna on the router, and maybe something else. Someone had mentioned to me that sometimes the router - physically - can cause issues when the antenna is pointed in the wrong direction, or other wires coming in contact with the speaker cables. I am 100% certain, now, that the problem was caused by that - something physical, placement of equipment and proximity, etc.

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Customer service gaslight

2018 09 04 - 19:20

Some time ago I had a brief, but validating, interraction with a customer who, and I quote, was "sick of customer service 'positivity'". He complained of the 'cheerfulness', but how he never gets any actual help.

He's not wrong. There is a huge demand from our superiors for what they refer to as 'positive scripting'. Everything must be shaped, scripted, and molded, and packaged in a positive fashion, because gawd forbid a customer hear anything that isn't saccharine. I am not one of those people; but I'm sure that surprises no one. I've been 'coached' to be 'more inviting', but the customer I spoke with was happy I was not. He appreciated that I was blunt, to the point, didn't phrase everything like I was talking to an idiot five year-old, listened to his issue, and actually helped him.

The trouble with the over-positivity, is that it contributes to customers having unrealistic expectations about what you can and can't do; such that, when they do contact you, you spend far more of your time dealing with the fallout of pissed off people than you might have if they'd been told the plain truth to begin with. But, since companies are concerned more with profits than people - despite what they say - getting the fish on the hook is their main objective.

I find the over-positivity frustrating because it's so demeaning and dishonest. I'm not a delicate snowflake that needs to be 'handled'. I just need a rep to get the job done, and not pretend to be my buddy while they do it. I don't even need them to care; because that is not required in order for a person to be efficient and effective.

You might think, of course, that I do not like helping people. I do. I used to volunteer for various organisations, the hospital, etcetera, and found it very redeeming. I simply have no respect for retail, the  entitlement based off factors of money and consumerism, and the fact that it does not make customers responsible for their own actions, nor teach them any kind of shit-happens coping mechanisms.

Of course, there's also the issue that with retail customer service one is expected to take the blame for things one did not do. That's a bit of a problem for a victim of verbal abuse. I'll be jiggered before I'll apologise to a spoilt adult for the shit-sometimes-just-happens mistakes of another person, or the company. I never got paid enough to be the company's 'whipping boy'. If you want reps to take that kind of abuse, you might want to consider paying them more than the legal minimum. Because, right now, you've got yourself a slave population that you put in the way of abuse, and blame when things go wrong that have nothing to do with them. Were retail customer service a noble vocation, a calling, rather than a wageslave middleman punching ground, you might have a more valid argument for taking on blame, but you don't; and you, you corporate shits, should stop trying to make minimum wage earners feel bad for not wanting to take that abuse. You put them in the way of it, give them very little to fight it with, then try to make them feel guilty about hating it or being frustrated by it.

It's a lovely gaslight you've got going there.


Your kindness buys dignity for you - not for the recipient

2018 08 27 - 15:33

Today a friend is going to help me with something I can't do alone. As a thank-you, I will be taking said friend out for a meal after. The only reason I am able to do this, is because I now make a wage that accommodates such things. Prior, I was lucky if I could take someone out for a coffee - or anything at all - as a thank-you for a favour.

I realise that this may seem trivial, superficial, or mundane; but...

... people need self-determination. In this culture, personal control comes out of having enough money to have that control. Without money, you are dependant on "the kindness of strangers", charity, hand-outs, desperation moves, or nothing at all. Our ability to move within this culture, is dependant on money. If you have no money, you can't move; or, if you can, it's glacial, and fairly lateral. I realise that you think you are kind by donating to food banks, or giving without expectation of return - and you are kind for doing so, and keep doing it; but your kindness buys dignity for you - not for the recipient. Our culture orients itself on purchasing power; and I can tell you from personal experience, that when you spend your entire life needing help, it's finally nice to be in a place where you don't need it, or need so much of it, any longer; a place where you can determine your own path yourself.

Let me put it more simply.

There is a great deal of embarrassment and shame involved in being so broke that you have to borrow money to buy feminine hygiene products. Stop perpetrating a cultural condition that allows things like that to happen.

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Acrylic Pouring

2018 08 20 - 20:35

Acrylic pouring (fluid painting) has become a huge craze over the past couple of years. There are quite literally hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of videos on YouTbue of various means and methods of doing it - which is why I haven't linked one, because it would be impossible to choose something without wanting to choose a dozen more.

Since it's quite a messy process, it's something I've only tried in a minor sense. I have no room to do this kind of work properly, and no room to store canvas, so I only work on paper (for the time being - which you can also do pouring on, and not only with acrylics, but watercolour pouring is a much different kettle of fish that I'm not going to touch on - but you can find that on YouTube as well). This kind of creation is not new, and forms of it have been around since Jackson Pollock and the other action abstractionists splattered their first canvas. I tend not to like action painting, and have never hidden the fact that I hate Pollock's work; but I've also never hidden the fact that I adore the doors it opened.

I have always disliked the barriers artists, or at least some aspects of the arts community, have placed between themselves and the masses; making art a niche meant only for the few. I have always believed that everyone is capable of creating, it's just a matter of finding the means by which it works for them - and that's not always traditional arts.

I've always wanted the creative in others to be encouraged, which is why this acrylic pouring craze is so fabulous. While it may be messy, it's also easy (and cheap, if that's required, since you can use dollar store paints to do it if that's what you can afford). It's allowing people who previously didn't do much that was creative, whether through fear or something else, to do something that gives them a feeling of accomplishment; and, more importantly, a great deal of joy. The results may not always be beautiful, but they're always interesting; and it's so easy to start and keep going, that it encourages them to keep trying, and trying different things. The only downside, if it means anything to you, is that they are apparently hard to sell. Straight-up non-representational abstracts can be like that.

So here's to acrylic pouring, the current great democratiser of acrylic painting.


Low Vision

2018 08 20 - 20:34

I was compelled by one of my eye doctors to see a low vision specialist today - one of those folk from the CNIB who discusses the availability of various assistive devices - none of which I've ever used, as most of them were more trouble to integrate into my life than it was for me to just cope without them.

We talked about the issue of trying to have people understand that glasses don't correct vision all the time, especially with severe cases like myself. I mentioned to her something that someone said to me once, about how there's only one key that will fit a lock; so the glasses I have are the key that fit my lock. Stronger glasses won't help me see better, any more than bigger shoes would help me walk better.

She did show me this awesome text enlarger that, while useless to me for every day reading, would be completely awesome for reading labelling on packages - this reader can even change the colour of the text/background on the screen it has, to make things more legible - switching from a white on black, to black on white, to yellow on black, and a few other colour combos. I think I'm going to get one of those. A little less of a pain in the ass than my current method of taking a picture with my phone and zooming in to read.

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I can find better things to lie about than my sexual preferences

2018 08 14 - 03:27

I was just reminded of a time, many moons since, when I was - I kid you not - lectured at by a gay man that I absolutely must be a lesbian. His reasoning? I had short hair and wasn't wearing make-up. He absolutely refused to believe me. Now, let's get one thing straight (other than myself), there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian - and I certainly wasn't offended or upset about being called a lesbian - I just don't happen to be one. I still can't, to this day, understand what this guy was on about. If he was looking for an ally, he'd have had one; but the categorical refusal to accept what I said, was sure not winning him a friend that day. It was like he was trying to convince me I was a lesbian, and wasn't far off outright calling me a liar - and that's the part that pissed me off. Believe me, I can find better things to lie about than my sexual preferences.

Yes, I'm very dull. I'm a monogamous-preferring cis hetero. But clearly, to that guy, all the men I'd to that point known in a Biblical fashion, must have been a hallucination.

On a side note, the reason I didn't - and still don't - wear make-up, is because it's hard to apply something evenly or well, when you really can't see the left side of your face properly - or, indeed, really at all; and seeing the right side is questionable as well. I have never actually learned to apply anything other than lipstick.

I'll tell you what, Guy Whose Name I Can't Remember; the first time I acquaint myself with a vagina that isn't my own, I'll hunt you up and let you know.

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Union to 'vigorously' defend any teacher who defies province by teaching current sex-ed curriculum

2018 08 13 - 22:27

The union that represents Ontario elementary public school teachers vowed to "vigorously defend" any educator who uses the modernized sex-ed curriculum in the classroom this school year in defiance of the province's decision to impose an outdated version.

In a fit of narrow-minded post-election pique, the Ontario government revoked a studied and reformed sex education curriculum that was rolled out in 2015 to replace one that hadn't been updated since 1998. This old curriculum didn't include any information on consent, gender-identity, or homosexuality. They claim they pulled it so it could be reviewed by teachers, parents, and professionals. However, the 2015 curriculum had been reviewed by teachers, parents, and professionals. The government pulled it to pander to a voter base more concerned with antiquated, right-wing blindness, than opening its eyes to the realities of the current era.

Many teachers, schools, and boards, were deciding on their own to continue to teach the revamped 2015 curriculum regardless of what the government said, and for this I applaud them. Now, the teachers union has stepped in saying that it will defend any teachers who do decided to teach the upated curriculum against any government backlash they might face, and for that I applaud them.

The commentary from many quarters, however, is still that knee-jerk idiocy of parents should be teaching their kids about sex. Why? Why should parents do it? It's medical information. How many parents, as well, are anywhere remotely equipped to deal with questions and concepts of same-sex partnerships, cyberbullying, transgender issues, consent? Especially since some of the kids being taught that information in school, might need to defend themselves against the very parents some think should be the only ones allowed to teach their children about sexuality and sex.

The idea of moralising whether or not children are taught a thing, should be far down the list of concerns - certainly much, much lower than the fact that these things are happening to kids right now, and they need to be given the tools to deal with them. I sure as hell wouldn't ever have talked about any of these matters with the person raising me who was also the person emotionally abusing me; who also, coincidentally, was the same person who tried to sexually molest me. And as for the other half of that pair, they were very ill-educated, and would have had absolutely no clue what to do had I gone to them with any issue at all. That person wouldn't even explain my period to me, but gave me a pamphlet and left me to figure it out on my own. Possibly if she'd had a conversation with my mother when she was 15, my mother might not have got pregnant with me. My mother, for the record, didn't know how she'd become pregnant, as no one ever explained the birds and bees to her. But teenage pregnancy is the least of the worries of the modern age.

What happened to me, however, is far from the point. Why we're still trying to moralise these issues in this day and age, is an antiquated, short-sighted knee-jerk. Teaching children the proper names for body parts is not dirty, and is not immoral. Teaching your kids how to say no, gives them empowerment and self-determination, and is not immoral. Teaching a girl that it's called 'vagina', is not immediately going to make her go out and insert a penis into it - or anything else, for that matter, and is not immoral. I can state, for a fact, that girls with proper information are far less likely to engage in pubescent sex, become victimised, or get pregnant. I've seen it, many times, with my very own eyes, with the children of family and friends.

If you're worried that hearing about a penis is going to make your son gay, I've got news for you - the penis wasn't making your son gay, he was already gay before he heard about the penis. Almost every single person I know who's gay, trans, or any version of either or both, knew at a very young age that they were, as one gay friend once put it, 'different'; and they knew these things in an era when there was no one to turn to, no one to ask questions of, no one to get support from, and turning to parents tended to result in moral, emotional, and physical abandonment - as has happened with someone I know personally, whose parent won't acknowledge their transition and won't speak to them at all. If nothing else, those folks need to know that what they're going through is not wrong, and that there's someone out there who will listen to them and help them and support them.

None of this curriculum has anything to do with you or your morality - this is about educating your kids for reality. Why on earth would you be so dead set against that? Do you hate your kids that much that you want to keep them ignorant, unable to cope, and unable to find help for whatever they're questioning or experiencing? What on earth are you so afraid of? It's just information - like proper names and actual medical facts - none of those things are evil, immoral, or harmful. If you have a moral issue with your children being informed, I suggest you get over it for the sake of your children, because they are being abused, and victimised, and are questioning, and they need help, all the information they can get, and not a wall of silence or ignorance. These things aren't waiting for your children to be 'ready' (or for you to be). Any 1950s Disney morality, doesn't trump the needs of your children.

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