Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Why young LCBO workers still card me?

One of the things we did in my Sociolinguistics class in university was analyze print advertisements.  While analyzing an ad for some kind of beauty product, the prof asked us who the target audience is.

"Women at the age where they are just starting to see fine lines on their face," said one of my classmates. 

"And what age is that?" asked the prof?

"Late 20s," said one of my older classmates.  The other older classmates and the prof all nodded and murmured assent.

I was rather surprised that the beginnings of wrinkles would turn up while you're still in your 20s, but, being only 19 years old myself at the time, I had no actual frame of reference.

My own fine lines began showing right on schedule,  at the age of 27.  And, since I became aware of them, I also began noticing the presence or absence of lines on other people's faces.  I must have seen people with fine lines before, probably including those of my classmates in that Sociolinguistics class who could attest expertly to when fine lines start making their appearance, but it was never a factor that I took specific note of when processing a face as a whole.

It occurs to me that this might be the answer to the mystery of why younger LCBO workers keep carding me when older workers stopped long ago!

If the younger LCBO workers are like my younger self, they might not notice my fine lines as evidence that I'm no teenager.  But they'd be more likely to notice my acne since they've most likely been through acne themselves.

Similarly, people who haven't started greying yet might not notice my few individual grey hairs (I didn't notice random strands of grey on people who were anything less than salt-and-pepper before I started greying myself), but the fact that my hair is long, which is culturally marked as youthful, is readily apparent to anyone of any age.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Books read in June 2015


1. The Housekeeper's Tale: The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House by Tessa Boase
2. Naked Came the Phoenix (serial novel) by Barr, Robb, Pickard, Scottoline, O'Shaughnessy, Jance, Kellerman, Clark, Talley, Perry, Gabaldon, McDermid and King
3. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine


1. Immortal in Death
2. Rapture in Death

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Epsom salts are the solution to blisters!

Content warning: this post contains graphic, yucky descriptions of blisters and feet. tl;dr: if you have blisters on your feet, soak them in water with epsom salts

Last week, I wore my awesome brown sandals for the first time this season. Even though I've been wearing them comfortably for years, this time around they somehow managed to give me an enormous blister on the bottom of my foot, right where the heel meets the arch of the foot. I was a fair distance from home when I realized I was developing a blister, so I had to walk for another half an hour before I could take the shoes off and treat the blister.  By this time, the blister had grown to about three finger-widths in diameter.

This was, clearly, a problem. I didn't want to burst the blister because then the outer layer of skin would peel off and I'd have an open wound on the bottom of my foot.  (Not the most hygienic place for an open wound!) But if I put a shoe on my foot, the blister would burst by itself from being compressed between my foot and the shoe.  I didn't have a bandage or dressing big enough to cover it and didn't much fancy walking to the drugstore on my blistery foot, so I started googling for home remedies for blisters in the hope of finding something I could do to shrink it with what I had on hand.

The only thing I google up that I had in the house was epsom salts. I highly doubted that would work, but soaking my feet sounded nice anyway.  So I soaked my feet in hot water with epsom salts and a drop of iodine, and discovered that the blister was sticking out far less, as though some of the water had drained from it.  However, I didn't feel any stinging when my feet were in the water, so I was pretty sure it hadn't broken open.

Then I went to bed, and slept for 11 hours (I usually sleep 9-10 hours even on non-alarm mornings).  When I woke up, I discovered that the blister was completely empty of water!  However, it hadn't been punctured - the water had either dried up internally or been reabsorbed into my body.  The outer layer of skin was still dead and it seemed like there was still an open wound underneath, but the outer layer was completely stuck to the wound, serving as a very effective moist dressing - which is a bonus since I don't have the materials to make a moist dressing here at home!

My foot stayed like that for a week - the blister didn't fill back up, there was no sign of contamination or infection, it just looked funny - and then one day it became really, really itchy.  I tried to avoid scratching it because I didn't want to damage or contaminate it, but eventually I couldn't resist and scratched it.  The gross dead outer layer of skin came off....revealing fresh, pink new skin underneath, and no hint of open wound!

I've never before had a large blister heal to completion so quickly, and this was by far the largest blister I've ever had!  Next time I get a blister, I'm going straight to soaking it in epsom salts before I even try anything else.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Taking for granted achieved!

With yesterday's legalization of same-sex marriage nation-wide in the US (congratulations, by the way!), I was surprised to see a few people on Twitter suggesting that same-sex marriages had been legalized easily and without any fuss in Canada. 

At first I was shocked that anyone could forget, but then I realized that same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario 12 years ago.  There are grown-ass adults who would be legitimately unaware of the struggle to get it legalized for the simple reason that they were children when it happened!

Five years ago, I wrote:
One day, in a couple of decades, we will be celebrating the 20th or 25th anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage. I will be in my late 40s, with lines on my face like my father's and salt-and-pepper hair dyed chestnut like my mother's, wearing no-line bifocals as though that little line is the only thing that betrays my age. My co-workers and I (for in my imagined future I'm still in the same workplace with the same co-workers) will sit around the break room reminiscing. Where were you when you first heard? Who was the first same-sex married couple you knew? When was your first big gay wedding? Newspapers will tell the story of how this all came about, track down the court justices and the Michaels and do "Where are they now?" profiles. And in our office will be some new hires, kids in their early 20s just out of university, who will look at all this fuss we're making and feel nothing, because for them it will be something that has always been there.
 I'm in my mid-30s, with the lines on my face just beginning to form and enough salt in my pepper that I'm aware of it but not enough that I'm dyeing it. My glasses are still monofocals.  I'm not chitchatting with my co-workers in the break room because I work at home, and I still haven't had the opportunity to attend a big gay wedding.  But already, 10 years earlier than I estimated, there are people who are unaware of the fuss and feel that same-sex marriage has always been there!

Happy Pride, everyone!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All change is not created equal.

My various investigations into resilience tend to talk about change an awful lot, often framing people as either embracing change or being change-averse, and talking about how to become more open to change.

And, analyzing my own life, I realized that this is a huge fallacy.  Change is not a monolith.  I (and, I assume, others) embrace change when it's a good change, but want to avoid it when it's a bad change.

For example, I was (and still am) absolutely thrilled about being given the opportunity to work from home rather than going into the office very day.  But that's not because I like change per se, that's because working from home is in all ways superior to working in the office.

And I was stressed like crazy about having to do without my computer when it was being repaired.  But that's not because I dislike change per se, that's because not having a computer is in all ways inferior to having a computer.

I find I am more resistant to change in many areas as life goes on, but that's not because I'm growing to dislike change in my old age. That's because I've been able to figure out how to make more and more areas of my life optimal, so change would make them worse, whereas before I was able to make those areas of life optimal, change would simply make them different.

For example, when I lived in one of the many 1970s highrises in my neighbourhood, with no dishwasher and the laundry in the basement and a small silverfish invasion every spring and fall, I wouldn't have been disappointed if I'd had to change apartments, because there was clear room for improvement and many comparable buildings (with room for better to exist). But then when I moved to my current apartment, which was brand new when I moved in and had all the appliances, much better management and construction, and averaged only one bug a year, I would have been distraught about having to move because there wasn't, to my knowledge or within the reach of my research, anything comparable in existence. (Now there is, but there wasn't for several years after I moved in.)

This has nothing to do with my attitudes about change itself, but rather with the fact that leaving good housing for mediocre housing is different from leaving mediocre housing for other mediocre housing.

My inner conspiracy theorist wonders if this "openness to change" thing is a conspiracy. I'm sure most people welcome change when it's an improvement and dread it when it makes things worse.  But by presenting "openness to change" as a virtue, perhaps the powers that be are trying to shame or embarrass people into speaking up against changes that will make our lives worse?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Things They Should Study: does the success or failure of clothing retailers correlate with specific fashion trends?

A few months ago, they closed the Smart Set in my neighbourhood.  I was disappointed, because some of my very favourite shirts have come from Smart Set.

But, at the same time, I haven't bought anything from them in years.  They discontinued the specific style of shirts that's my very favourite, and, for the past couple of years, haven't had anything in colours that are flattering on me.

This came to mind when I saw that Gap is closing 25% of its North American stores.  Again, some of my favourite pieces are from Gap, but at the same time I haven't bought anything from them in years because they haven't had styles and colours that are flattering on me.

In general, the trends of the past few years have been unflattering on me, so I haven't bought nearly as many clothes as I did in previous years.  I don't feel enthusiastic about anything I see in stores, I don't feel moved to stock up on anything, and I keep reading about how clothing retail is dying.

It would be interesting to study this on a broader level and see if there is a correlation between specific fashion trends and the success or failure of clothing retail businesses.  You'd have to control for overall economic conditions, which should be fairly straightforwards (is clothing retail growing/shrinking faster than the overall economy?) You might also be able to control for other factors (such as the growth of online shopping) by comparing men's and women's clothing retail. Trends aren't the same for both genders, so if, for example, women's retail slows down significantly compared to men's when baggy white shirts are in style for women, then we'd have evidence suggesting that baggy white shirts are bad for women's clothing retail.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Things They Should Invent: train PSWs in feminine facial hair removal techniques

A while back, I came up with the idea that nursing homes should provide free esthetics services so female patients don't have to deal with the indignity of facial hair.

Today, my shower gave me a far simpler idea: PSWs should be trained in hair removal methods that are appropriate for women's facial hair.

By general societal standards, removing facial hair is seen as more optional for men than for women. PSWs are trained in the more-optional removal of men's facial hair, so they should also be trained in the more-mandatory removal of women's facial hair.

As we know from our own firsthand experiences, tweezing out your yucky chin hairs is more of an everyday personal grooming thing that you do in your own bathroom rather than a specialized beauty treatment for which you go to a beautician.  Therefore, it should be treated as such and be part of the patient's everyday personal care done by their PSWs.  (Yes, beauticians do provide more hardcore facial hair removal services.  Barbers will also shave clients if asked, but male patients get shaved by PSWs rather than having to pay to go down to the hairdresser.)

Some will argue that PSWs are already trained in shaving and that's a hair removal method.  But it's not the a correct, appropriate, suitable method for women's facial hair. Shaving results in same-day regrowth and stubble (especially on hairier-than-average people - and any woman with facial hair is hairier than average), which means that the socially-inappropriate facial hair problem will return before the end of the day.  Removing the hair at the root means the removal will last several days and grow back more gently and less visibly, allowing the patient to retain her dignity for longer.

And that's what this really is - a question of dignity.  Tweezing or threading or otherwise removing the hair at the root spares female patients the indignity of facial hair and the indignity of suffering through the masculine-marked process of having their face shaved. PSWs are trained to retain as much as patients' dignity as possible when bathing them, dressing them, toileting them, feeding them, moving them - every single area of daily life.  This should include the removal of unsightly facial hair.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Things They Should Invent: cellular network detection device

My cellphone uses both the Rogers and Fido networks. The other day I was involved in a long texting conversation while walking around the neighbourhood doing my errands, and I noticed that in certain places I got the Rogers network but not the Fido network, and in other places I got the Fido network but not the Rogers network.

This makes me think that it might be possible for there to be certain dead zones for a particular cell phone provider even within an area that's supposed to get service from them.  Which could be an annoyance if you switch providers only to find that you can't get service in your apartment or in your office.

Proposed solution: some kind of a device that can tell you which cellular networks can be picked up in a particular place.  You carry it around, it detects networks, and it tells you which networks it detects.

These devices could be rented out by cellphone retailers for a reasonable price per day. I'm sure potential customers would be quite happy to pay a reasonable amount to confirm that a signal is available right where they need it, and I'm sure cellphone providers who try to compete on signal quality would be happy to empower potential customers to confirm the quality of their signal.

Currently, if you look on cellphone providers' websites to see where their signal is available, they give a rough geographical map. Since I live in the geographical centre of Toronto, all providers claim to provide service in my neighbourhood.  Nevertheless, there are pockets where the Rogers signal can't reach, and pockets where the Fido signal can't reach, which suggests that there may well be pockets where other signals can't reach.  Cell providers can't reasonably be expected to provide a map of all these pockets, but surely they could provide us with a device that would let us detect them ourselves.

Maybe someone could even make an app that would do this?

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Could working-class women dress themselves when upper-class women couldn't?

At certain points in Western history, aristocratic women didn't dress themselves.  They had their maids help them.  Based on what I've absorbed from the ether, they weren't necessarily able to dress themselves either, because of the design and complexity of the clothes.

For example, there's a scene in Downton where Lady Mary is going away for a weekend tryst, and she and Anna are looking through her wardrobe making sure that everything she packs is something she can put on all by herself (implying that she can't dress herself in all her clothes independently).  And this is in the 1920s when clothes were easier - in the Edwardian and Victorian eras, with corsets and crinolines and everything, it would be even more difficult to dress oneself.

I also recently read a book that mentioned that Edwardian upper-class ladies would wear tea gowns in the afternoons because that's when they met with their lovers, and tea gowns were something that a lady could put back on herself (implying that she's not able to put on her other styles of dresses herself).

This makes me wonder about the situation for working-class women.  Even if their dresses are more practical, the maids on Downton still have corsets and petticoats before the 1920s.  (In fact, there was a brief period where the aristocrats were wearing the newer, more comfortable uncorseted dresses, but the maids - who had to do actual physical labour - were still in the old corseted dresses!)  Could they dress themselves, or did they have to help each other dress?  What about Daisy, who woke up before anyone else in the house?  What about Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore?  Did one of their subordinates see them in their underthings every morning?  What if a working-class woman lived alone?  If a household consisted of just husband and wife, did he have to learn how to do up a corset?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Books read in May 2015


1. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 
3. This is Improbable Too by Marc Abrahams
4. The Brain's Way of Healing by Norman Doidge
5. The Myth of Alzheimer's by Peter J. White house with Daniel George 
6. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman 
7. Gilgamesh (Stephen Mitchell version)


1. Naked in Death
2. Glory in Death 

Teach me about the connotations of Orange County, California in the 1980s

When I was in elementary school (between 1985 and 1991),  this story-teller sort of guy came to our school and told us some stories.  When it came time to tell us the last story, he said we could choose between two: one was about a boy and his pond, and the other was about a big-city thief.  His tone and delivery suggested that the boy and his pond story was idyllic (and, by extension, boring) and the big-city thief story was exciting. My schoolmates overwhelmingly voted for the story about the thief, so he told us that story.

Afterwards, there was Q&A session, and someone asked him if anyone actually asked to hear the story of the boy and his pond, and he replied that it had happened once, in Orange County, California. His tone and delivery suggested that if you knew anything about Orange County, California, you'd understand why this was and perhaps find it humorous.

Of course, as an elementary school student in southern Ontario, I didn't know anything about Orange County, California.  In fact, I still don't.  This memory came back to me in the shower this morning so I've been doing some googling, and I still can't figure out any characteristics of Orange County that would make it clear why students there in the 1980s would prefer to hear a story about a boy and his pond. 

Anyone have any insight?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The international exit sign

I first saw this kind of sign in Frankfurt Airport in 1998.  I had just gotten off long flight and badly had to pee.  In my condition, I thought the sign pointed to the washrooms.  After all, where else would a person possibly want to run to?  I followed the arrows, running nearly as fast as the figure in the sign, and eventually found some washrooms, to my great relief! It wasn't until several days later, when I saw the sign in a context where it was clearly pointing to the exit and not the washrooms, that I realized what it meant.

They recently installed this sign in my apartment building, replacing the red EXIT signs that are more commonly used in North America.

And every time I see it, I feel like I have to pee.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Whistling is hard, at least compared with other ways of producing potentially-musical noise such as humming or singing or just opening your mouth and vocalizing. It takes more skill and experience and precision to produce the intended note than it does with humming or singing.

Whistling is also non-intuitive compared with other ways of producing potentially-musical noise.  When you see a pre-verbal baby vocalizing, you can see how a person might stumble upon humming or singing, but you can't see whistling just happening by accident.

And yet somehow, someone in human history figured out how to whistle.  And thought it was worth the trouble as opposed to humming or singing.  And, somehow, the idea caught on and now it's something that everyone is at least aware of if not capable of doing. (Unless it's cultural?  A quick google for whether there are any cultures that don't have whistling only turns up cultures where whistling plays a key role.)

And not only does whistling persist on a macro level, it also persists on an individual level.  There are people who, when they have a tune in their head that they want to express, opt to whistle it out instead of humming or singing or going "dodo dodo dooo".

I can't fathom why whistling is so normalized or why a person would opt to whistle rather than hum their current earworm, but it is an interesting cultural phenomenon.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The mystery of the Yonge Eglinton haters

The "density creeps" who have been in the news lately remind me of one of the mysteries of Yonge & Eglinton: people who deliberately move here and then complain that the neighbourhood has characteristics that it has had since long before they moved here.

In the density creeps story, that characteristic is density.  from the proposed development site are highrise buildings, which are part of the highrise cluster that was built in the 1970s, 20 years before the density creeps moved here.  There are also four 4-storey apartment buildings that appear architecturally to date back to the 1950s on that one block alone.

In short, the kind of density they decry, along with the attendant impact on property values and population demographics, were well-established in the neighbourhood long before they even arrived.

(Which makes me want to flag a lot of the commentary on this story with #JournalismWanted - many commentators seem to be taking the density creeps at their word that this new development is somehow significantly denser or significantly cheaper than the established neighbourhood, when this allegation could be disproven with a simple google, or by going to the site (conveniently located just 4 blocks north of Eglinton subway station!) and taking a quick look around.)

But the density creeps aren't the only ones I've seen doing this.  Far more frequently than you'd expect, mostly on the internet but sometimes just walking down the street, I hear people who live here and, based on demographics, appear to have moved here recently and to have had a choice in the matter (i.e. they're old enough and employed enough to live independently of their parents, but young enough that they definitely didn't move here before the 21st century) complain about things like density or highrises or chain stores or yuppies - things that have all been here since before the 21st century, and things whose presence you can easily detect by walking down the street.  If you don't like those things, you can see that the neighbourhood isn't for you the moment you emerge from the subway.

The other thing is, this isn't the cheapest neighbourhood.  If you want lower density or lowrises or fewer chain stores or fewer yuppies, there are other neighbourhoods that meet those characteristics and are cheaper to live in. So what are they doing here?

Despite the criticism from some quarters, this isn't the worst neighbourhood in Toronto.  We're generally closer to the top than to the bottom for indicators such as amenities, services, accessibility, quality of schools, quality of housing stock, infrastructure, lower crime rates, etc. 

I wonder if people in neighbourhoods that are worse in all these areas complain as much as the residents of Yonge & Eg, who, by all appearances, could totally choose to live elsewhere?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Various thoughts on various kinds of prejudice depicted in Call the Midwife (full spoilers)

1. In one episode, the expectant parents with the Medical Drama of the Week happen to be a black couple.  It's mentioned in passing that they're from another country, and their accent suggests somewhere in the Caribbean (I'm not familiar enough with Caribbean accents or history to narrow it to a specific country, and further details were not given on-screen.)  The husband is a bus driver, and they live in one of the nicer flats portrayed in the series (clean, well-lit, decorated, not overly cramped).  As I watched this, I appreciated that they managed to portray the real-life diversity of London in a matter-of-fact sort of way that wasn't limited to discrimination plotlines.

In the next episode, there was an Irish family that was living in squalor and destitution because people wouldn't hire them or rent housing to them on the grounds that they were Irish. My first thought was surprise that after people would even consider holding such petty prejudices so soon after WWII.  But then I was even more surprised that in a time and place where English people would discriminate against Irish people for employment and housing, black people could successfully get employment and housing!  It seems like black people would seem more Other to the white English majority.

They did show a black patient facing prejudice in a previous episode (I can't remember if they've shown Irish people not facing prejudice) and before the Irish episode I was able to handwave the fact that this more recent black couple wasn't facing prejudice with the intellectual understanding that showing diversity outside of discrimination plotlines is a good thing, but after the Irish episode, I had more trouble getting past it, feeling like we needed an explanation of why they didn't face discrimination.

2. In one episode, a young man was discovered to be gay when he fell into a police sting operation, where the police had an undercover officer hanging out in a public washroom trying to instigate a tryst. I'm well aware that homophobia was far more rampant in that era, but I'm surprised they'd consider that a good use of police resources!

3. In the same episode, the neighbourhood had their  Rose Queen festival, where tradition dictates that the new Rose Queen is crowned by last year's Rose Queen.  As it happens, last year's Rose Queen is the wife of the young man who was discovered to be gay.  As a result, there was vocal outcry about her participating in the Rose Queen ceremony.

I kind of surprised that the woman who unwittingly married a gay man wasn't seen as a victim.  I kind of surprised that the fact that she was pregnant didn't count in her/their favour.  But more than anything, even given the ignorance and homophobia of the era, I was surprised that someone would get from "Her husband is gay" to "So, naturally, we can't possibly have her fulfill the duties of the outgoing Rose Queen!"  It's so inconsequential, and so irrelevant to her husband, and so ephemeral, I was amazed that the people of Poplar had time in their busy, hardship-filled lives to think about it.

4. After Patsy attends a particularly emotionally devastating birth, she goes to visit Delia for comfort. She lets herself into the nurses' home where Delia lives, goes to Delia's room, and sits on her bed crying while Delia consoles her. After the first wave of sobbing is over, Patsy reassures Delia that she'll be out of there very early in the morning, so "no one will ever know I was here".

It surprises me that anyone in that era and setting would even conclude "Patsy is in Delia's room crying" = "Clearly, they're lesbians!" Patsy used to work in that hospital (and, presumably, used to live in that nurses' home) and, since Delia is her best friend, they've probably spent a lot of time hanging out in each other's rooms, much like the secular midwives at Nonnatus. And, since they're both young nurses, this probably isn't the first time one of them has had an emotionally devastating nursing experience.  If anyone wonders what's going on, they'd simply have to tell them the truth: Patsy just came from a delivery of undiagnosed twins, the first one stillborn and the second still alive, and after struggling to keep a brave face throughout the ordeal for the sake of the patient.  So now she's talking through it with her best friend and fellow nurse, just as they always did about emotionally-difficult cases when they worked together, in a place where they would have frequently hung out when working together.  Given that same-sex relationships weren't seen as "normal" or common in those days, I'm surprised that they think people would arrive at "They must be lesbians!" rather than "Poor Patsy, she had a rough day!"

5. But just a few episodes later, Patsy and Delia decide to get a flat together.  And they don't seem too worried about people finding out about their relationship.  "Lot of girls share flats," they say, "Not even a nun would bat an eyelid."  Again, I found this hard to reconcile with their previous fear of being caught talking in Delia's room together.  If you can't even be seen hanging out in your best friend's room in a way that's been established as perfectly normal among nurses who work together, aren't people going to raise an eyebrow when you start living together in your own flat?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The folly of condemning a boycott

There was recently a story tweeted into my feed about proposed "zero tolerance" for boycotting Israel.

This reminded me of something I've seen in US contexts: when there is a boycott of a business because of its business or labour practices, there are some commentators who say it's unethical to boycott the business in question.

This is ridiculous and unworkable.

I want to make it clear, I don't have a horse in this race.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the products I regularly buy or consider buying are from Israel.  All the cases I've heard of where people are talking about boycotts as though they're unethical have to do with US retailers that aren't available to my Canadian self.  I don't even have an opportunity to make these decisions, so I'm writing here solely as an external observer.  And as an external observer, I just don't see how boycotting could be unethical or something that you could have "zero tolerance" for, because of the very nature of a boycott.

What is a boycott?   It's choosing not to deal with a person or organization because you oppose some action or policy of theirs. (For syntactic simplicity, in this post I'm going to talk about boycott in terms of choosing not to buy from somewhere, but this can extend to all types of boycott.)

 So if boycotting is unethical or punishable, that would mean that, in order to behave ethically or to not be punished, you are required to buy from them.

And that's clearly unworkable.  The vast majority of people don't buy from the vast majority of sources the vast majority of the time.  Sometimes there's a better source, sometimes there's a more affordable source, sometimes there's a more readily available source, sometimes we simply don't need or want or can't afford the product in question.  If you're going to condemn people for not buying from somewhere, you'd have to condemn nearly everyone in the world.  (And on top of that there's the question of people who have bought from there but not recently. How do you tell if they've moved from buying to boycotting or if they just haven't needed to buy anything lately?)

At this point, some of you are thinking I'm oversimplifying things. After all, a boycott isn't simply not buying from somewhere, it's making a concerted choice not to buy because you oppose the source's policies and/or actions.

So let's follow this to its natural conclusion. If the anti-boycott people are okay with consumers simply happening to not buy certain products or services as a result of the natural course of their lives, but are opposed to us making the deliberate, mindful decision not to buy from certain sources to disincentivize them from behaviour we believe to be harmful, that would mean that the moral/legal imperative to buy from the source is triggered by the source's harmful behaviour.  If the source behaved in a way we considered appropriate, we wouldn't want to boycott them and therefore wouldn't be obligated to buy from them.  But as soon as they engage in behaviour we find unacceptable, we're obligated to buy from them in order to avoid engaging in the allegedly immoral/punishable act of boycotting.

Which is, like, the exact opposite of how market forces are supposed to work.  (Noteworthy because, I've noticed, many of the people saying boycotts are unethical seem to value market forces otherwise.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why are manufacturers pushing detergent pods?

I'm signed up for various free sample and coupon sites, and I've noticed recently that they are really pushing detergent pods, for both laundry and dish detergent.  Samples are only ever of detergent pods, never regular liquid or powder detergent, and now I'm finding sometimes you can only get coupons for the pods, not for the regular detergent.

I wonder why they're pushing them so hard?

I have found that, without exception, the detergent pods are far inferior to regular liquid detergent (and to old-fashioned powder detergent.)  They simply don't break up in the machine when used as directed, so you have a half a pod, a few clumps of detergent powder, and a not-fully-clean load of laundry or dishes. 

On top of that, detergent pods seem like they'd be more expensive to manufacture than regular detergent, because you'd have to make the different components and then combine them all into a pod and count out a specific number of pods into each container, whereas with liquid or powder detergent you can just manufacture it in bulk in a giant vat and dispense it into containers.

Even if there is some reason I can't see why some customers might prefer pods, why are manufacturers pushing pods to the exclusion of regular detergents?  What is gained by trying to urge us away from the more effective product that's easier to manufacture?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Stressing about stress

As you've noticed if you've been reading me these past few months, I've been getting stressed about various things that I think are too petty to be getting stressed about.

And, I realized, the very fact that I was getting stressed about these things was stressing me out.  In addition to dealing with or coping with the stressers, I was stressing about the fact that I was dealing with or coping with the stressers less perfectly than I thought I should be.

Because of that, this blog post was originally going to be about the balance of self-care vs. self-improvement. On one hand, maybe I should just take an "it is what it is" approach during high-stress times - deal with what's actionable, care for myself the best I'm able to, get through it, and regroup when life stabilizes.  On the other hand, I'm not going to become a competent and adequate human being if I baby myself instead of treating the areas where I'm not a competent and adequate human being like problems!

Then two things happened:

First, one day, about six weeks after my I got my computer back from the depot drama, I got out of the shower to find my apartment flooded with golden morning sunlight.  I put on my bathrobe, made a cup of coffee, and sat in the sunshine with my hot coffee and my wet hair, being warmed up inside and out.  It was peaceful and delightful in a way I hadn't experienced in quite a while.

Despite the fact that I have my morning coffee in the sunshine every sunny morning.

During one of my computer-less days during the depot drama several weeks previous, I'd been sprawled on the living-room floor in the sunshine reading the newspaper, and yearning for idle aimless internetting.  I thought back to when I was a teen, and sprawling on the floor in the sunshine reading the newspaper was one of my favourite ways to spend a weekend afternoon.  So I started worrying about what happened?  Why wasn't this good enough for me?

But in that contented morning sunshine several weeks later, I realized that the stress of the computer drama (and the stress over the fact that I was stressed by the computer drama) was actually making it impossible for me to enjoy the simple things in life like my morning coffee.  It's like when your Sim's "Tense" moodlet is too strong - you could be drinking coffee and sitting in a beautiful room and listening to music, and none of those things are going to outweigh the tense.  So I hadn't lost my ability to enjoy simple pleasures, I was just at a stress level that was beyond what simple pleasures could achieve.

The second thing that happened was my little breast lump adventure. Even in the shock of getting a telephone call telling me I needed a mammogram (when I didn't know that was a thing that could happen at that point in the diagnostic protocol), I wasn't nearly as stressed as I was with my computer out for repair and no fanfiction to tide me over.  Why on earth was this??  WTF is wrong with my priorities???

After some thought, I came to the realization that I wasn't as stressed during the breast lump incident because I felt like I was allowed to be stressed about it, so I wasn't stressing about being stressed.  I'm allowed to be stressed!  I have to get a mammogram at the age of 34 FFS!  So I just flipped the world the metaphorical bird, had comfort food and wine (for which I got carded - if there hadn't be a dudebro behind me in line, I would have actually called the cashier out on that), and got myself through that night and off to the clinic the next day. I'm not sure if anything else got done that day, but it didn't matter.  I went from thinking my first mammogram would be in 15 years to learning my first mammogram would in fact be in 15 hours, and I had to assimilate that information and deal with the mammogram process and all the attendant what-ifs.  I just got through it, regrouped on the other side, and life proceeded with as little stress as humanly possible under the circumstances.

Reflecting upon this, I realized a similar thing happened after my grandmother passed away.  My employer gave me a certain amount of bereavement leave, so I made the decision to use this time to process the experience however I needed to.  Apart from any duty to my family, I decreed to myself that I wasn't required to do anything specific during those days.  A day spent doing nothing but gaming, drinking, and eating cheese was totally allowed. A day spent in bed watching Eddie Izzard videos was totally allowed.  If I felt the need to do something completely uncharacteristic like take a long walk in the woods, that was totally allowed.  There was no wrong way to use my time.  And because I wasn't worrying about my day-to-day (I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, and if I found myself at a loss the system was still there), I didn't stress, just processed my bereavement as much as one can in six days and then returned to work on Monday.

So from all this, perhaps I can conclude that if I give myself permission to be stressed by the things that are stressing me, they won't stress me as much.

But, on the other hand, I'm very good at justifying self-indulgence. And I don't think you get to be good enough by telling yourself it's okay to not be good enough.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Another reason why early sex ed will lead to less early sex

This post was inspired by, but is not directly related to, this quiz testing how much you know about the new Ontario sex ed curriculum. (I got 9/10.)

Some critics of sex ed criticize teaching students about various sex acts at an age that is generally perceived to be too young to be engaging in those sex acts.

But it occurs to me that if your goal is to prevent young people from having sex, introducing the concepts early would probably help achieve that goal.

I was informed, via age-appropriate educational books, about the existence of various sex acts years before I was ready for them (which was a good thing, since I reached menarche years before I had the slightest even theoretical interest in sex), and every single time my visceral reaction was "Ewww, gross!!!!"  As I evolved in the direction of developing interest in sex, I had to overcome the "Ewww, gross!!!!" before I could develop positive interest.

I also learned of various other sex acts, via the internet, when I was older and ready to have sex.  In these situations, my reaction was either "Hmm, interesting..." or "Meh, not for me."  Even for the sex acts I find more distasteful (which are objectively more distasteful than any of the sex acts I learned about before I was ready for sex) I never reached the same level of visceral revulsion as I did before I was ready to have sex.

So if you want young people to not have sex, telling them about sex when they're young enough to think that it's gross will introduce an additional emotional barrier that will stand between them and their desire to have sex for a certain period of time.