Bringing God into it? Don't.

2017 07 17 - 17:18

Why is it that whenever a traumatic event happens in a TV show, people run to the chapel for comfort? It's particularly prevalent in anything involving a hospital. Even non-religious people run to the chapel. It's one way in which the yoke of religion still holds sway, and it's a trope that's got to go. You even see it happening on Babylon 5.

People need comfort, that's for certain; but there are a variety of ways in which people seek that relief from stress. Some work, some play a sport, some nap - some of us even like super-loud music or walks outside when it's frigid, in order to soothe the savage. None of these things are really possible for a character that needs to be close at hand for the next dramatic plot twist; but there are ways you can avoid having to fall back on the deity crutch like a person with no imagination.

So, show-makers, a challenge for you: avoid the religion trap when- and wherever possible. Use your noodles to find ways around having to fall back on something that tired. Increasing atheism isn't the only reason to do that - not even religious people spend all their time at church. You need to allow people to grieve in some other way, and to cope with that grief in ways that are actually more normative.


I think the chapel thing is a lot more 'American' than I thought it was. As a friend pointed out - in one British soap opera, their habit is to go down the pub, or engage in strong drink in some other fashion.

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Why Do Poor People ‘Waste’ Money On Luxury Goods?

2017 07 17 - 13:27

"If you are poor, why do you spend money on useless status symbols like handbags and belts and clothes and shoes and televisions and cars?"

For the very same reasons that others do it - to fit in, to feel better, and also to place some kind of control on their lives. They also do it, on the note of feeling better, for the same reason someone might eat a litre of ice cream when they're depressed, as a band aid to not be depressed, even for an hour. Being poor is depressing in a pretty 'special' kind of way. When you can't do anything - maybe not even get a haircut to look good for a job interview, or go out for a coffee with your friends, or go see a show, or buy a CD, or food - then when you do have the chance to soothe, you do it.

Those are some reasons. But here's another.

Status symbols get you past the gatekeeper. They get you accepted. They get you noticed. This article does a very good job of pointing that out. I've seen it happen myself. I was at a staffing agency a few years back; almost everyone there was dressed business casual, except for the guys who were there for labour positions, and one woman wearing a sundress and sandals. I don't think she was hired for anything. You could see that all the other women in the room were taking a look at her, and assessing her. She looked out of place, inappropriate. She didn't fit in. Maybe she didn't know how to dress; or maybe she didn't know that you treat a staffing agency interview like an in-house interview, and dress the part; or maybe she didn't care; or maybe, just maybe, those things were all she owned. Maybe that's the nicest outfit she had. I get that. I've been there; when the nicest thing you have isn't really nice at all. When I had a little money, though, knowing I had nothing nice, I got myself a black suit jacket. I have a couple of skirts I can pair with it. I have a pair of low-heeled ankle boots. All of this together may not be runway chic, but it makes me look more than just presentable. It's a nice enough outfit. I don't offend the gatekeepers.

I'm going to tell you something I did that's embarrassing, arrogant; something I did so I did not "fit in".

At the same time that the poor do things so they can fit in to the acceptable baseline of the culture in which they live, there are things about the poor of every culture that are norms about that group - one of the things that's prevalent about some swatches of the poor in Hamilton, is lack of education - formal, self-continued/directed, and social. I know this. I've known it since I was a kid. It had nothing to do with how I self-directed my learning when I was a child - I was just a voracious reader who was never filtered by her caregivers. My grandparents had no real clue what I was reading, so I read everything. I had no "appropriateness" filters placed on me; no one told me what was right or wrong for children to read or watch, and I was curious. I watched it all. I read it all. As a consequence of this, I had a reading and comprehension level well beyond what was normal for kids of my age - not necessarily because I was a 'genius', but just by virtue of exposure. It affected my learning in school (in a good way), it affected my world-view, it affected the way I speak even. People still say to me "I can tell you're well-read just by the way you talk." So it all had an impact - one that was noticed.

For a couple of years not that long ago, my financial situation was quite bad. No work, no real hope for any (though I tried my damnedest). Things were so bad that I had to regularly go to the food bank. I hated that. I don't even like talking about it too much. I don't like to admit that my life was so out of my control that I couldn't even afford food sometimes. It's shame-making. Purchasing power is one of the ways in which we measure people in this culture, and I had none. I only had the one thing that was completely under my control, and I kept that. I had my mind. So this is where thee embarrassing, arrogant thing comes in - whenever I would go to the food bank, I'd take a book with me. In fact, I don't leave the house without a hard-copy book in my purse. There's two in there right now. But I wouldn't take just any book with me. I'd take Hitchens' essays, or Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach", or a 19th century British lit novel. I'd take something that was very obviously a book that only a "smart" person would read. It was my self-defence - not against the other people using the food bank so much; but more to prove - I don't know to whom - that I didn't belong here; that this was not the norm for me; that I was not part of this group. I hated being there so much; this was the only aspect of all of that that I could control at all, so it could have been as much for shielding myself from the situation I was in, as it was anything else. I think it's the only very obvious posturing I've ever done. I'm ashamed of it.

But, on the note of formal education itself - studies have shown that the better-educated a person is, the less likely it is they'll be a drain on the public coffers. They have the tools to take better care of themselves in more ways. So, while some folks have a fit over free post-secondary education, I'm all for it. I've always been all for it. Education should never have been a privilege reserved for the rich to begin with. While it might not outright get you your dream job, it will help you cope better in the long-term. It keeps the mind working; which was the initial point to begin with, from at least part of the Socratic sense; not to provide specific information, but to help provide an environment to keep the mind flexible, working. It taught a coping mechanism.

University is not the only way to keep the mind flexible. Read a book once in a while. Read the news, not watch it. Engage in cultural activities that broaden the perspective. Take up a hobby. Take up a sport. Go for a walk. Coach something. Volunteer. Whatever it is, just don't stay in your bubble. Believe me, there's lots of stuff out there you can do for free. You'll feel better. I know I did. Staying in the bubble of the home as a poor person just makes being poor more depressing; but when you get out there, take control of even that tiny bit of your life, you feel better.


I never believed, by the way - and still can't believe others do, that the poor should be happy to be poor, and that everything they do should be pragmatically based. Unless you're some kind of monk, you can't live like that. If you think a certain thing is normative for your culture, you have to allow the possibility of that thing for everyone; and by denying some things to a person based solely on their economic class, is gross elitism. I'm not talking about luxury items either; but about food, shelter, decent clothing, education. Basics. You can't expect any level of decent societal participation from a person, if you deny them the very means by which to do so; and worse yet, judge them for it.

Spending power, as I've said, is a way in which we measure success in this culture - we know we are surviving or doing something right, if we can buy our way through life, get what we need whenever we need it. This is, as you know, a thing that is denied to millions of people - even ones who are working. A minimum wage isn't even a subsistance wage anymore. Besides, in order for an economy to remain stable and viable, people have to spend money in it. If they have the money, they will spend it. This is why UBIs and living wages are vital. If you keep denying the means of survival to people, they will not survive. If you deny money to them, they can't spend. The less spending they do, the weaker the economy becomes. To put it more simply: If you don't feed something, it dies.

Also, if you happen to be one of those folks who thinks that everyone should suffer through school on student loans or shit jobs just because you did, that's punitive thinking. Why do you want to punish people just because of your own experience? Imagine how much easier it would have been for you to make a success at school, if you didn't have to eat up your study time with a job you had to have simply to pay for the education you're not really getting because you have to be at that job; or how much easier things would have been after university, if half your wage wasn't taken up repaying student loans. The idea that this is the norm, that this is how it should be because adversity builds character, is also punitive. Just because it was the norm - and was so only out of necessity - doesn't mean it has to stay the norm. Be a little more generous, and don't wish misery on others.

And as far as charity goes - it's a nice thing when needed; but I can tell you for sure and for certain, that what people want is not charity, not hand-outs; they want the ability to control their own lives - and one of the ways to give them that control, is by giving them an income by which they can catalyse, instate, and maintain that control.

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Naughty or nice

2017 07 16 - 09:25

I'm sure that there are enormous numbers of people who think that I'm not patient, nor kind, nor generous, nor nice. None of those things are true. I can be all those things, on a personal level, when I can choose to be them, not be forced into them. What I do not hesitate at, is sharing my frustrations openly in situations where a lot of folks seethe inwardly. I don't keep the poisons in. Some things I let go, other things I let out.

But the difference between my patience on a personal level and the lack of it I have in my job, boils down - for the most part - to the fact that I have no respect for money; not when it comes to some trappings of commercial and retail situations. I just don't care about how people react to money, behave because of money - the sense of entitlement, what people think they have a right to because of money, and the aura of signifiance they give it. Some people treat commercial and retail situations the same way they treat personal ones, and I have a hard time dealing with that with any respect.

I don't waste precious personal energy on matters involving money; not in that way.

Specifically from the customer service perspective, your money entitles you to my efficiency and accuracy, it does not entitle you to my empathy or sympathy, especially not if you're going to couple the situation with condescension, abuse, or whining. Just because you're not getting your own way like a five year-old, does not mean you're getting poor customer service. I do not have any respect for an adult who whines like an infant in a public situation. Grow up. If you want a slave population at your beck and call, become a despot on your own private island.

As far as being nice goes, I don't sit around blowing my own horn about my generosity, about the nice things I do for people. So the imbalance exists because of that also.

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The Poor Need a Guaranteed Income, Not Our Charity

2017 07 13 - 21:57

" 'Do you worry about running out of food before you will have money to buy more?' and 'Do you skip meals so someone else in your house can eat?' "

If questions like that are on a survey, then something is severely wrong, and you shouldn't need to be told that. No one should have to be asked these things. If you can see things like this, still demonise the poor, and still think that a charity band aid is all that should be done about it, then you're off your meds. And if things keep going the way they're going, it isn't just the current poor that are going to need help. Food security is not jyst a poor man's issue; but the world is full of short-sighted and greedy people.

On the note of charity, though, I keep wanting to volunteer at a food bank, but the idea of seeing people hungry guts me. I'm not sure I could witness it without being too hit by it to do it at all. I should see if there are stocking and packing positions open.

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2017 07 13 - 16:33

After watching the first episode of Salvation last night (no specific storyline spoilers), I've come to the following thoughts:

It, like a lot of "network"-made sci-fi below the fold, is over-the-top.

It glorifies "types" - the social misfit working alone, the rich benefactor genius (who always seems to be a male), the female mole/spy, the nosy reporter - like we haven't seen that shit before, dozens of times.

It tells us that a rich man is going to solve our problems. One day, I hope, someone is going to take that trope and shove it where the sun does not shine. Stop glorifying the wealthy. At least this time, though, he's a man who became wealthy through brains and work. The only good thing that generally comes from this trope a good bit of time that it is used, is that it tries to teach some kind benovolence to the rich. I think we all know that not everyone is Warren Buffett (not that I think he's some kind of saint; but at least some of whatever money it is he gains in whatever ways he gains it, goes towards doing good for others - please show me anyone in the current White House 1% that are doing even a fraction of that); but it sure would be lovely to see a few more of them toss a few more dollars and resources down the rungs of the ladder a little further than they do.

In all truth, it probably will be nerds that save us; which would be a lot easier for them to do if they weren't hampered by the glorification of the cult of ignorance that exists so widely in some areas. Outside of a laziness factor, I've honestly never understood why people would want to be so willingly and gleefully stupid. It shocks me, sometimes.

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Humans Need Not Apply

2017 07 11 - 09:38

I come from a generation of people who, when young, were told that a university education would get you a job. And for the most part, that was true. It's no longer a guarantee of any kind; and even when it does get you a job, the likelihood that job has anything to do with the education you received, is very slim. University educations will make you employable, they just won't get you employed.

So, the idea that automation will push everyone into 'better', more skilled, job markets might have been a true and believable thing at one point, but it no longer is. There aren't enough brain-powered jobs to go around.

Automations on all levels are one of the reasons that a lot of people are pushing for a Universal Basic Income. It is going to become absolutely necessary for governments to subsidise their populations, because there really will not be any jobs for those populations to have. It will not be a matter of people not willing to take what is available, because there won't be anything available.

We already don't need people to prepare food, teach, drive, or build. The idea that the arts are safe has long since been rendered untrue. If you look at decor in a pragmatic sense, decor and art that's hung merely to take up space and add colour, you don't need an old master for that - any bot with the right program can make something for your wall.

We're all on this rock together. One of these days we're all going to have to come to terms with that, and start taking care of each other, rather than determining that our individual ego is more important than survival for many.

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2017 07 06 - 17:44

While my main focus is singing jazz, there are also some pop songs on the list - and blues.

Here's the thing about the blues:

You need to learn to growl, to scream, to really pull it up from the belly. I have enough problems getting over my timidity enough to sing jazz even; it's going to take a lot more work to get myself into the mindset of singing the blues without feeling embarrassed about it. It's a kind of gut-wrenching singing that really draws attention, and attention is why I don't sing in public.

So, there we are. I have a talent. I know I have a talent, and no one else knows it, because I won't share it.

That's a pickle.

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Some Ways In Which My Shitty Eyesight Impacts My Life

2017 07 06 - 12:52

The usual practice is to have a computer monitor set back from the edge of the desk some - either with blank space in front or a keyboard. This does not work for me with my vision. I need to keep the average monitor right at the edge of the desk. My face has to be within eight or so inches of the screen, or I can't read it properly. At that distance I am using an 18 point font in my text editor.

Because I need the monitor at the edge of the desk to see it, it means ( can't use a desk without a keyboard tray, because there generally isn't enough room to put the tray on the desk between me and the monitor - although sometimes this is possible with a bit of balancing. If I do use a desk with a keyboard tray, it has to be one where the try stays in, and has enough room for my hands to go under the desk's top so I can use the keyboard with the tray in. I can't leave the monitor on the desk's top, and pull the keyboard tray out as most folks would use it, because then I'm too far away from the screen. There are not, let me tell you, enough desks on this planet with a keyboard tray lowered enough so I can fit my hands under there.

You're going to ask me why I don't just enlarge things on the screen. I'll tell you why: because that messes up the use of the screen. It makes it harder to navigate around when there's a lot of stuff open. It also means I can't have my eye on a whole window at once - I'd have to move it around to see all the things I need on it. That is an enormous pain in the ass.

You're going to ask me why I don't use a bigger screen and sit further back in a normal-ish fashion: because my vision issue isn't just about size, it's also about distance. I had a 50 inch flat planel TV as a monitor at one employer's, and I still had to sit within a foot of it.

I'm trying to remember my numbers... this is WITH correction, so WITH my glasses on:

left eye: 0/200 with 5 degrees
right eye: 80/200 with 40 degrees

That's what was on the medical form sent to the government.

I can read with my left eye, but only if I put my face right against the screen with the font size I'm using now; and even then it's not the most clear. for all intents and purposes, I have just the one working eye - only the one eye I 'use', or read out of.

The distance issue is specifically why I don't use a laptop, and never will. I'd have to be hunched over all the time to try and read the screen. My vision is also why, when out in public, I will not look up when someone honks a horn at me or yells my name from a distance. I can't see people's faces from a distance, nor what they're doing, so if  you're waving at me from a car on the road, I won't know it's you. So, I just don't look up. It's better than having people assume I'm being rude by looking at them - or so they think - and not waving back, when I can't tell they're waving. If you're more than five feet away from me in a public space and want my attention, yell my name and give me a direction - or, don't yell my name. I have had people accuse me of being rude because they've walked by me and waved and they think I've ignored them. So, really, the best thing to do is just get in my face, within two feet of me should be good.

The distance issue is also - in part - why I avoid any film or TV show that relies heavily on subtitles. At a distance, I can't read them at all; up close, I can either watch the pictures or read the text. I can't do both at the same time.

Oddly, it wasn't until well into my adulthood that I realised I had no depth perception. I've learned to compensate for that so well that I never realised how bad it was. When I was a baby, and we were still living in Glace Bay, we had a tile floor in the kitchen - green and red squares. I wouldn't walk across it, but would slide my foot from square to square, because I couldn't tell they were at the same level. This was after the surgery but before glasses. Whatever issues were caused by the lack of depth perception all those years, I mis-assumed they were related to not being able to see at a distance. I still catch a ball like a small child - either with my hands up warding it off, or arms stretched out to hug-catch it with my face turned away. It does mean, though, that I can't watch 3D movies, or sometimes navigate a staircase without sliding my foot along the floor until I find the edge.

It makes creating art, choosing food at a buffet, and playing with swords interesting, that's for sure.


Futon, Electrickery, and Running Water

2017 07 06 - 00:49

I was never much of a nature person. Whatever hippie gene my mother might have had, did not get passed on to me; although a love of Otis Redding seeped through the uteran wall during my gestation. Apparently she listened to a lot of Otis while I was baking.

I didn't ever enjoy camping - still don't have any craving for it - and a lot of what's involved does nothing for me. A lot of what's involved is also precluded by having a severe visual impairment. The most, for example, I'm ever going to notice about a bird, unless it's right at my feet, is that it's flying - a black dot in the sky. It could be an alien craft up there, for all I know. It's the same for walking in the woods. I have to spend all my time looking down, to make sure I don't fall on my face. Details are utterly lost on me. Green. Brown. Lighter brown. Wet brown. Grey. Blue. Possibly flower colours, but I woukldn't know they were flowers unless they were right in my face. Even though I'm short, that's all I see from the eye level of someone who's 5'4 1/2", are just fields of colour. I have the same problem with buffet tables. That could be cheese... or it could be melon. That could be tomato... or it could be red pepper. That could be sliced chicken... or it could be pork... or even fish.

Sometimes I've even had to get other people to get food for me, or at least tell me what everything is. It's kind of discouraging, but it's a necessity. I'm sure I've talked about all this before.

I don't hate nature, don't get me wrong. It's just that because of my vision, and having spent so much time (by necessity as well as exposure matters) living the urban life, my taste for nature is minimal, and very specific. Someone's back porch (in the shade) is sufficient for me. If I really crave trees, I can go stand in some for half an hour, and I'm good. There are several sufficiently enclosing groves of trees within ten minutes walk of me. If I really feel like a woodsy experience, I can hop a bus to the RBG and walk through Hendrie Valley - which has fisheries and lawns and gardens and woods - woods that have paved paths, which means I can walk and enjoy green, brown, and blue, and not have to worry so much about falling flat on my face. There are also not pathed woodsy parts, which are also quite lovely. The RBG is a great place for people who want nature in small and selective doses. I can enjoy nature for as much as I need to, and go home - where there is a futon, electrickery, and running water.

I think that part of the reason I don't like camping, is that I am trapped. I feel trapped. I am in a place that I can't get out of, with no options for entertainment other than things I have no enjoyment for or capability for. I am nowhere near a bus. I can't walk anywhere where there might be one. I am completely dependant on others for motor vehicle transportation since I can't drive, so anywhere outside of a bus drive away, means that I have no choice but to stay. I really don't like being in places that I can't leave at a moment's notice if I'm really inclined to. I have even avoided family functions because of that; because of people who live in places where there is no bus access. I think they probably thought I didn't like them, or wasn't interested; but here's the truth: I felt trapped. I just didn't know how to tell anyone that without feeling like a complete idiot. I've avoided other social functions for the same reason.

That's a funny thing, feeling trapped in the outdoors.

Oddly, and despite all this, I do have a fondness for certain kinds of desolate places - Death Valley, the summit of Kilimanjaro, Uluru. Actually, what I like the most, are abandoned places. There is an allure about them; I am fascinated. I've never been able to define, why; but those others who also enjoy abandoned places, will understand what I mean. I should get someone with a car to take me around some ghost towns.

I have also become such a solitary creature, that sometimes I just don't feel comfortable anywhere but home. I used to be able to sleep anywhere, but I can't do that anymore. I can't sleep well, or even at all, if I'm not in my own bed. Home is my sanctuary.

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The Hospital

2017 06 26 - 09:14

When I used to volunteer at the hospital I got very good at "not noticing" things. There are things you just don't see, in order to preserve what might be the last shreds of dignity a person has. People generally weren't there because they were having a good day. You needed to treat everyone like there was nothing wrong, but in such a way as to show understanding or compassion, because something generally was terribly wrong.

You always do see things, but it didn't sink in how adept I was at the above, until the day a lady came back a week after her initial visit to the ER, to thank me for not judging her because she'd come in still in her pyjamas.

That would be the last thing I'd judge anyone for in a hospital.

I hate hospital ERs. You see things there that just take the heart out of you.