Saturday, November 09, 2019

Not blogathoning this year

Traditionally, I blogathon on Remembrance Day.

However, this year's goal is to eliminate things that don't serve me well, and blogathoning would not serve me well in the current context.

I do have a quite a few posts half drafted and they will come along in due course, it's just spending an entire day on it that would be unhelpful.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Why is there a "gender" field in Elections Canada's voter registration?

You can use Elections Canada's Voter Registration Service to see if you're registered to vote.

You enter your name, date of birth, gender and address, and it tells you if there's an entry on the voters list that matches those criteria.

My question: why is gender one of the criteria?

It's obvious why they ask for your name.

Your address is relevant because it confirms the riding you're eligible to vote in and the poll you should vote at.

Date of birth confirms that you're old enough to vote.  It can also help distinguish you from other people at the same address who share the same name (given that it's not uncommon for parents and children to live together and that it's not uncommon for children to be named after their parents). Also, historically (with the existence of the phone book) it's been fairly simple to find out a person's address, but less easy (or, at least, requiring some degree of acquaintanceship) to find out their date of birth.  Added to that, date of birth is a data point that doesn't change. You can change your name, you can change your address, you can change the gender marker that appears on your ID and personal records, but your date of birth stays the same.

But gender doesn't add much to proving or confirming someone's identity.

Because so many given names are most commonly associated with one gender, it's not terribly likely that the gender marker would help differentiate you from other people with the same name. It can happen that people with different genders have the exact same name, but it's not nearly as robust a factor as address or date of birth.

And, because so many given names are gendered, it's not a workable factor for authenticating your identity either. A malicious actor (or a bot programmed with data scraped from baby name sites) would probably be able to guess the gender of the majority of people on the voters list.

On top of the fact that using gender as an identity factor adds little to no value, it also creates a situation where any negative impact is felt strictly by the most marginalized demographic.

People who continue to use the gender they were assigned at birth will have no problems whatsoever with choosing the same gender as appears on the voters list, or with having their gender as it appears on the list match the gender that appears on their ID.

But people whose gender marker on their official documentation has changed may find that their previous gender marker is still on the voters list, which would mean the online system says they're not registered to vote when in fact they are.  Or it could cause problem at the polling station, when the gender indicated on the list doesn't match the gender indicated on their ID, or the poll worker's perception of the voter's external appearance.

At a minimum, the presence of a "gender" field on the voters list creates the possibility of extra red tape for transgender voters, non-binary voters, and any other voters whose gender marker has changed at some point in their lives. Worst case, it could prevent these populations from being able to vote.

But it would have no possible impact on people whose gender identity and gender marker align with what they were assigned at birth.

Since we still live in a world where non-cis people are all too often marginalized, this means any negative impacts of having a "gender" field land squarely on the marginalized group.

Elections Canada does deserve credit for introducing a "Gender X" option on the voters list.  But I do encourage them to look critically at whether they need to be including gender at all. Does it actually add any value? And is that value worth the burden that it places squarely on the marginalized group?

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Books read in October 2019


1. Vendetta in Death by J.D. Robb
2. Be With: Letters to a Caregiver by Mike Barnes


1. Loyalty in Death

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wish strategy

1. If you ever find a genie in a bottle or some other wish-granting mechanism, here's how you do the most good:

I wish that every decision ever made from now on will be optimal on as broad a level as possible.

If you get more than one wish, make the your subsequent wishes under the influence of that first wish.

2. Conversely, if you're wholly selfish, your first wish should be:

I wish that every decision ever made from now on will be optimal for me.

3. If you want to do good and are also a bit selfish and have more than one wish, your first wish should be:

I wish that nothing will ever get worse for me or anyone I care about.

Then wish for broadly-optimal decisions under the influence of the first wish (if it still comes out that way), and the third wish under the influence of broadly-optimal decisions.

4. Conventional wisdom is that you can't use wishes to make anyone fall in love with you, and, really, we want to be loved for who we are, not because the object of our affections has been brainwashed.

I previously theorized that a getting-to-know-you spell would be a good alternative to a love potion, and I think you could also do the same thing with wishes.

If you're brave, your wish could be:

I wish that [object of my affection] will know everything about me.

If you're more cautious, your wish could be:

I wish that [object of my affection] will know everything about me that they perceive to be positive.

That way, they still fall in love with you (or not) on your own merits, they just fast-forward to knowing what those merits are.

Saturday, October 26, 2019


I usually blog about my voting experience directly after the election, but I've had an extremely busy week so I'm not getting to it until now.

Voting went literally as quickly as humanly possible. I walked out the door straight to the polling place  (pausing only to pet two friendly dogs who proactively greeted me).  There was no line at the door, there was no line at the table for my poll, I cast my vote immediately and walked straight home. No more than 10 minutes elapsed between locking my door on the way out of the apartment and unlocking the door on the way back in.

I saw more than the usual amount of signs this time around, in the usual proportions. On the weekend before the election, a fringe candidate in my riding put up a bunch of signs on lampposts - some at the perfect height to smack pedestrians in the face, others so high up that the property owners would need a ladder to remove them. The next day, I noticed that many of the face-height signs were battered and torn.

I got one flyer each from my Liberal, NDP and Conservative candidates. The Liberal and NDP flyers were the usual boilerplate. The Conservative flyer managed to assume both that I'm wealthier than I actually am and that I have a harder time making ends meet than I actually do. It also failed to mention the candidate's name.

The Conservative candidate also had a branded SUV that they kept parking just outside the riding (probably because my neighbourhood marks the boundary of three ridings and street parking is scarce.) I can't tell if this was an advertising measure or if that was just their campaign vehicle. (Do candidates in transit-intensive urban neighbourhoods have campaign vehicles?)

One thing I do appreciate is that my Liberal candidate's campaign office configured their phone service so that a name showed up on call display. I find that fewer and fewer callers are doing that lately, and I particularly appreciate knowing who's calling when it's for a legitimate reason. I don't know if any of the other campaigns called me. I didn't get any voicemail messages from them or see any of their names on call display, and I don't answer the phone to unknown numbers.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Voters' Resources (Canada 2019 edition)

Getting started

Election Day is October 21!

First, go to the Elections Canada website and type in your postal code to find out if you're registered to vote, your riding, your candidates, and where to vote.

You need ID to vote. Here's the list of acceptable combinations of ID.

Your employer needs to allow you three consecutive hours off during voting hours.


Bloc Québécois (PDF)
Conservative Party
Green Party
Liberal Party
New Democratic Party

My posts about deciding how to vote

How to decide who to vote for
How to decide where to vote if you have a choice
How to vote strategically

To figure out which party is best for you

CBC Vote Compass
Political Compass: compare your results on the test with the Canadian federal elections 2019 chart

Riding-by-riding predictions 

Election Prediction Project
338 Canada
Too Close to Call 

This post will be updated through to Election Day as I find more information. Do you know of anything else that should be included here? Are any of the links dead? Let me know in the comments!

How to vote strategically

This is part of my Voters' Resources post.

Some people vote for the party whose platform they find most suitable (the Best Party). If that's what you're trying to do, this post isn't for you. Go vote for the Best Party.

Other people try to prevent the party whose platform they find most harmful (the Worst Party) from being elected, by voting for the party that's most likely to defeat the Worst Party (the Compromise Party). This is called strategic voting.

The most important thing about strategic voting is that your strategy has to apply to the reality in your riding. The media feeds us national polls for breakfast every day, but they're not directly relevant. Regardless of what the rest of the country is doing, your vote will only be used to elect the MP for your own riding. If your riding is already disinclined to elect the Worst Party, there's no point in a strategic vote - you'd just end up making the Compromise Party look more popular than they really are.

So here's what to do if your priority is stopping the Worst Party from winning:

1. Ask yourself: "If I don't vote, who's going to win in this particular riding?"

If the answer is a party other than the Worst Party, vote for the Best Party. If the answer is "the Worst Party" or "it's too close to tell," go on to step 2.

2. Ask yourself: "If I don't vote, who's most likely to defeat the Worst Party in this particular riding?"

This is your Compromise Party. Read their platform. If it's acceptable, vote for the Compromise Party. If it's not acceptable, vote for the Best Party.

Remember: ignore the national polls; think only about the situation in your riding!

Links to tools to help you figure out what's going to happen in your riding are available in the Voters' Resources post

How to decide where to vote (if you have a choice)

This is part of my Voters' Resources post.

Some people (such as university students renting housing in the community where they go to school who also still have their parents' house as their "permanent address") are in a situation where they could legitimately vote in one of two possible ridings.  This post is intended to help them decide where to vote.

1. If one of the ridings is a really close race, vote in that riding. If both are close, vote in the riding with the closest race. If neither is really close, follow the instructions below.

2. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, decide which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision for the country (hereafter the Best Party). Then decide which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision for the country (hereafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

3. Based on your own needs and your own vision for the country, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

4. If it's more important to you that the Best Party win, vote for the Best Party in the riding where the Best Party is least likely to win.

5. If it's more important to you that the Worst Party not win, and the Worst Party has a chance in either of your ridings, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party in the riding where the Worst Party is most likely to win.

6. If the Worst Party doesn't have a chance in either of your ridings, vote for the Best Party in the riding where the Best Party is least likely to win.

Tools to help you figure out where you're eligible to vote and which party is most likely to win in your ridings can be found in the Voters' Resources post

How to decide which party to vote for

This is part of my Voters' Resources post

1. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, determine which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision of Canada (hereinafter the Best Party). Then determine which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision of Canada (hereinafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

2. Based on your own needs and your own vision for Canada, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

3. If it is more important to you that the Best Party wins, vote for the Best Party. If not, continue to the next step.

4. If it is more important to you that the Worst Party does not win, assess the Worst Party's chances of winning in your riding. Not in the country as a whole, just in your riding. If you feel that there's too great a risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party. If you feel the risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding is acceptably low, vote for the Best Party.

Remember: do NOT use national polls to inform any strategic voting you might choose to do. Your vote is only effective in your riding. No matter how earnestly you vote, you cannot cancel out votes in another riding. Vote strategically only if the situation in your very own riding demands it, regardless of what the rest of the country is doing.

Information about how to find who's running in your riding and links to party platforms can be found in the Voters' Resources post. Further information on how to assess parties' chances in your riding and other aspects of effective strategic voting can be found in the How To Vote Strategically post.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Analogy for spicy food

Imagine you're at an amazing concert - the music is beautiful, the lyrics are deep, the artistry is incredible...except someone pointed a microphone at a speaker, causing loud high-pitched feedback.

The feedback is so loud and high-pitched that it causes you physical pain.  It's louder than the music, it's hurting and hurting and getting worse the longer you hear it, and no one is doing anything to fix it for the duration of the entire concert.

That's what it's like to eat spicy food when you have a low tolerance for spiciness.

It hurts (the roof of your mouth, your tongue, your esophagus), and the pain gets worse the more you eat. On top of that, it completely overwhelms and buries the other flavours of the rest of the food, so you can't even perceive the interaction of the other flavours and textures. You may as well be eating spicy chalk.

People who enjoy spicy food seem to feel that the spiciness interacts interestingly with the other flavours.

But, for those of us with a low tolerance, that's like saying that the microphone feedback harmonizes delightfully with the rest of the music. We can't even tell, because it hurts and we can't even hear the delightful harmonies beneath.

Sometimes, people who enjoy spicy food point out that all spices are different, and, if you think a particular cuisine is too spicy for you, it's likely just one spice or style of preparation that's causing that effect, and you should try a variety of dishes and narrow down what exactly is bothering you.

That's like if you go to a concert at a particular venue and there's a lot of painful feedback. But when you say you don't want to go to that venue any more, people say "It's just that one set-up. You should go to more concerts there to see if they have other set-ups that don't cause the feedback." But why would you subject yourself to more pain to pinpoint the precise source of the pain when you could just go to one of the many other concert venues in the city, or listen to your own music at home?

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

[X] or [X+1] [noun]s

A turn of phrase I've noticed recently, although it seems old-fashioned (or possibly British) is "[X] or [X+1] [noun]s".

- "An army of 300 or 400 soldiers."
- "I drove there with 2 or 3 friends."
- "The house had 13 or 14 windows."

This turn of phrase is interesting to me, because I think it has connotations and I can't tell what they are.  I suspect it's not (or perhaps not always) literal - like how "a dozen eggs" means literally 12 eggs, but "a dozen people in line" can mean 10 or 14.

Does "300 or 400 soldiers" mean between 300 and 400?  Or might it be 298 or 407?  Or might it be between 300 and 500? (i.e. "three hundred and something or four hundred and something")?  The speaker knows, I can't tell.

The "2 or 3 friends" phase is a real-life example, i.e. someone actually said that. (Unfortunately, I didn't save the source.)  That's a situation where they'd actually know the real number - surely when it's only 2 or 3 people, you can remember who exactly was there.  So why did they phrase it that way?

This sounds like a strange thing to worry about - even if I don't know what the speaker's thinking, it's clear enough for our purposes - but this kind of thing is sometimes relevant in translation, when the target language doesn't do the same thing with numbers or doesn't have the same connotations.

For example, in French they have the word dizaine, deriving from dix, meaning 10. As I mentioned above, in English we have "dozen", which means either "12" or "approximately 12" depending on the context. (French also has douzaine, meaning "dozen".) Dizaine does the same thing with 10 as "dozen" does with 12 - it either means "10" or "approximately 10", depending on context.

But because English doesn't have a word for dizaine, the French to English translator needs to figure out from context where this particular instance of dizaine means "10" or "approximately 10", and whether the approximateness needs to be explicitly stated in the translation. (For example, if I say "Cassandra can cook Thanksgiving dinner for 10 all by herself!" and there were really 11 people at dinner, no harm is done by my saying 10. If I say "Cassandra invited her 10 nieces and nephews to Thanksgiving dinner" and Cassandra actually has 11 nieces and nephews, someone might read that and wonder whom Cassandra has disowned.)

This doesn't seem like it would be relevant to translating "[x] or [x+1]" - all languages have words for numbers and for the concept of "or". (And if there are any that don't, please let me know in the comments!) You can just plug the words for the numbers and for "or" into the sentence, and the translation is complete, right?

Not necessarily.

It's possible that a number phrase that's perfectly cromulent in one language might sound unduly weird in another, and the translator might have to adjust.

An example I routinely encounter in technical and administrative documents written in French is an approximating adjective followed by a non-round number, for example environ 473 voitures ("around 473 cars").

It is a simple matter to translate the words, but it sounds conspicuously weird to the English reader in a way that it doesn't to the French reader, so the English translator has to figure out the connotations (do they mean literally 473 or approximately? If they mean approximately, how did they land on that number rather than 470 or 475?) and the implications (what would be the consequences if you said "473" without any modifier and it turned out to be approximate? Or vice versa?) and adjust their translation accordingly, or find a workaround. (I like "some" as a workaround here - "some 473 cars". It conveys the notion of approximateness, but is also more easily overlooked by the English reader).

There might be some languages where "300 or 400 soldiers" also sounds conspicuously weird in a way it doesn't to the English reader, so a translator working away from English might need to understand the connotations so they can eliminate the conspicuous weirdness without eliminating accuracy.

And that translator may well ask me, in my capacity as a native-speaker Anglophone, exactly what the connotations are.

And I haven't a clue! Isn't that weird?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Books read in September 2019


1. Moccasin Square Gardens by Richard Van Camp
2. Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ron Derrickson
3. Frying Plaintain by Zalika Reid-Benta
4. The English Governess at the Siamese Court by Anna Leonowens 


1. Conspiracy in Death 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Things They Should Invent: "helpful" "funny" "agree" buttons on advice column comments

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy reading advice columns.

Many columns have robust commenting communities, where commenters provide helpful advice, insight and perspective.

Many columns have robust commenting communities where commenters provide entertaining snark.

Many columns have robust commenting communities where commenters provide unpleasant toxicity.

And, often, these three types of communities overlap.

For a while, I've been thinking that advice column communities should have an upvote/downvote system or a system where you can click Like on a comment, so helpful comments can rise to the top and toxic ones can be buried.

But, on further reflection, I think a three-factor voting system would be more helpful.

On Yelp, you can mark a review as "useful", "funny" or "cool". 

I'd like to see this adapted to advice columns, so you could mark a comment as "helpful", "funny", or "agree" (or any combination thereof), and sort the comments view by any one of these three factors.

Letter-writers and anyone with the same problem could sort the comments by "helpful" to see the best ideas for addressing their problem, without all the other clutter and judgement.

People who are there for the popcorn could sort the comments by "funny" to see the most entertaining comments.

And people who are interested in avoiding toxicity can sort comments by "agree", so bad comments are buried.

Voting on comments might also reduce arguments and other clutter in the comments section, because the fact that a comment has a lot of votes or no votes tends to speak for itself, and people don't feel the need to respond with "THIS!" or "BULLSHIT!" or whatever.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Grade 3 moment

My fairy goddaughter just started Grade 3!  So here's the story of a seminal moment from when I was in Grade 3:

Mornings in our Grade 3 classroom followed a routine: spelling, then math, then journal, then silent reading. The teacher started each morning by writing the day's spelling exercises, math questions and journal topic on the board, so we could see as soon as we walked in what the morning would bring.

I was one of the better students in the class, so I was always among the first to finish my spelling exercises. Then, one day, I had an idea: I'm done my spelling, so rather than sitting around waiting bored, I'll do my math next!

So I took out my math book, worked through the questions written on the board, and finished them all while the class was still working on spelling.

So then I took out my journal, and wrote a journal entry on the topic written on the board.  The class was still working on spelling.

So I took out my silent reading book - it was a good book and I was looking forward to it! - and settled in to spend the rest of my morning reading.

My teacher noticed I was reading instead of working, so he came over to see what's up.  I showed him I'd already finished the morning's work and was now diligently doing my silent reading.  He praised me to the class for my initiative (which was awkward) and then let me read.


What's interesting about this moment is how representative it is of my strengths and temperament.

I find task-oriented work far more satisfying than project-oriented work.

I find it disproportionately satisfying to work through a list and check everything off and then have free time afterwards (and, in fact, that's what my system that I'm currently trying to redesign is intended to do).

When I worked in fast food, I loved working closing shift because it basically consisted of going through a checklist. (I would have felt the same about opening shift, except it took place at an obscenely early hour.)

When I worked in tech support, much of my job was going through a queue of requests and responding to or escalating them. And, since part of the job was simply staffing the helpdesk, once all the requests were complete I was at liberty to do homework or internet once I finished everything on my list.

Even now as a translator, my work is task-oriented and I have a list of texts and deadlines to work my way through. And, because I work from home, I have some flexibility once I finish the day's deadlines and word count, as long as I stay within earshot of my phone and email during office hours so I can respond to anything new that comes in.

I never knew that that moment in Grade 3 was so important. None of my parents or teachers or guidance counsellors identified this as an area of strength that could be used to point me towards jobs that I would find satisfying. I don't think anyone even knew where to look.

Simply based on the number of people who respond to the fact that I work from home with "But how does your boss know you're working???" I suspect a lot of white-collar work isn't like this. I think much of it is more project-oriented, working towards broader goals, without a checklist to follow and without a clear endpoint.

So I'm very lucky I did stumble into jobs that scratch this itch!

Friday, September 06, 2019

System reboot status

My attempt to update my system was stymied by the all-consuming bra-induced back pain that I suffered at the beginning of the year. I've figured out some things I should try and identified other areas to address but haven't figured out how to address them.  I'm posting what I have so far to keep myself honest.

- Even though I reset my system to zero on my birthday, I'm once again significantly behind. This tells me that the system as it stands is untenable, but it's not apparent to me what could be cut out.

- I need unstructured time in my system - time I can spend staring at the internet or rereading old fanfic or googling weather patterns in the south Pacific. When I originally designed my system, my specific intention was to eliminate mindless staring at the computer.  I even scheduled in specific time for gaming and internetting to acknowledge and address that I do have these needs. But it turns out the "unstructured time" itch isn't scratched by "designated time for the things I end up doing when I'm supposed to be doing other things", so I need to figure out a way to fix that.  I currently have no idea how to do so and also get done all the things I need to get done.

- When I started working from home, I had a system of shortish work segments and even shorter breaks, which was an excellent fit with my strengths, weaknesses and temperament. However, since my head injury, transitioning between the two has been difficult - I have trouble jumping directly from focusing on X to focusing on Y, and time is lost futzing around during each transition.  So I'm now experimenting with longer, intensive work periods and a a different rest structure that better meets my post-head-injury needs.  I'm not sure if it will help - the strengths, weaknesses and temperament that were conducive to short segments and shorter breaks are still present - but it should at least be informative, and I can extrapolate from there.

- A few months back, I decided it was high time to return to my pre-head-injury sleep patterns. That was a mistake. So I've made the decision to treat my post-head-injury sleep patterns like a new normal, and adjusting various practises to make it easier to go to bed when my eyes start closing themselves, and be able to wake up naturally more often. (Thank you, working from home!) It's kind of disheartening to have to approach this like it will never get better, but if it ever does end up getting better, then I'll just find myself waking up bright and early and fully-rested, which is better than the status quo of waking up thinking "FUUUUUCK!" every single morning.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Books read in August 2019


1. Waiting 'til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America by Peniel E. Joseph
2. The Ghost and Lone Warrior by C.J. Taylor
3. Point Your Face at This: Drawings by Demetri Martin
4. Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities by Suzanne Fournier and Ernie Crey


1. Holiday in Death
2. Midnight in Death

Friday, August 30, 2019

Things the City of Toronto Should Invent: natural gardens as of right

When I read this recent story about how the City of Toronto doesn't allow lawns made of artificial turf, my first thought was to wonder if there are City by-laws unintentionally incentivizing artificial turf, perhaps by having strict aesthetic standards for lawns.

So I went a-googling, and discovered that if you want to have a natural garden (as opposed to a lawn), you have to apply for an exemption.

I think that's bass-ackwards.

In addition to the drainage issues that the ban on artificial turf is trying to address, a natural garden would help with pollinators, native species, and biodiversity. Growing food in residential yards would also boost the city's food sovereignty and sustainability (as well as urban biodiversity, and probably pollinators too.)

In contrast, a lawn and flat.  And that's about it.

It's monoculture, it doesn't contribute to biodiversity or pollination, I think it might even be an invasive species. 

If the City's priority is green and flat, they should allow artificial turf.

If the City's priorities are environmental, they should allow natural gardens as of right, so people don't have to apply for an exemption, they can just go ahead and have a natural garden - including by neglecting their lawn and letting it revert to nature in its own time.

But let's be brave and bold and take this a step further: what if we make natural gardens the default, and require an exemption for lawns?

"But lawns are important!"

Then it shouldn't be too difficult to get an exemption - just apply for an exemption telling them about why it's so important.

"How do you propose we transition existing lawns to natural gardens?"

I'm a huge fan of benign neglect myself. But when it comes to designing actual policy, a good starting point would be to look at how transitions are normally handled when there's a change in property standards, identify weaknesses in past transitions, and adjust to eliminate those weaknesses.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Age of majority

In the English-speaking world at least, ages of majority are weird.  It tends to be 18, 19 or 21.  But never 20.  Why are they avoiding the only round number in the general range?

I know the age of majority of 21 originally comes from England centuries ago - it was the age of majority for the purposes of marriage without a parent's consent in Jane Austen - but it's not easy (and certainly not readily googleable) to find how they landed on that particular age.

People's instinctive answer is going to be "because that's when you stop being teenage-like and start being adult-like," but I wonder about the actual cause and effect there. It's a lot easier to actually be adult-like when you are legally and socially permitted to! Fifteen-year-olds may well be sufficiently adult-like within a social structure that allows them adult roles, and doesn't require them to be in child roles (e.g. in school) by default and/or to achieve long-term success.

The other interesting thing about 21 as an age of majority (at least in historical England) is people under the age of 21 could easily fulfill adult roles in a society where formal education was far from the norm and there were no other obligations specific to teenagers. A 20-year-old, or a 17-year-old, or probably even a 13-year-old, would have been doing work that is comparable to their parents' work. I wonder why societal structures kept them legally dependent for what seems like an awfully long time?

As someone who was a legal adult for years before I was an adult economic actor (I was a full-time student until the age of 22, but a legal adult at 18) I wonder what it would have been like to be an adult economic actor but not a legal adult?

I'm going to have to find a book on this or something - there's a lot of interesting stuff in here, and I'm sure some of it has been documented as history and/or sociology.

And I still wonder why the age of majority is so rarely the nice round number of 20?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Loving your child is necessary but insufficient

In a recent Twitter thread where people were discussing why they wouldn't tell their fathers if they were raped, one commenter made a reply to the effect of "This is why I make sure my kids know that I'll love them no matter what."

(I'm not linking directly to the thread or quoting the comment directly because I don't want to pile on to this individual. You frequently hear this kind of comment from a wide range of parents, and my thoughts in this post apply in most, if not all, of these cases.)

Loving your child is important. Loving your child no matter what is the right thing to do.

And, in my capacity as my parents' child, the question of whether they love me is completely irrelevant to the question of whether I'd go to them in an emergency or tell them about a traumatic experience.

My parents' love for me is internal to them. They feel it inside themselves.

What's relevant to me is external to them - their words and actions as I perceive and experience them (which, unfortunately, includes their failed attempts to hide their emotional response).

If I believe my parents' response to a situation will be useful to me, I will go to them for help and support. If it isn't useful to me - for example, if it frustrates me or requires additional emotional labour from me or even just doesn't contribute anything that I can't already contribute myself - I won't go to them.

It is possible for a parent to love their child and also be unhelpful.  It is also possible for someone to not love you but be supremely helpful.

If it is important to you for your kids to come to you in an emergency, be a person who is helpful in that kind of emergency, and provide your kid with a lifetime's empirical evidence that you're a person who is helpful in that kind of emergency.  Not just that you will feel the right feelings, that your words and actions will be what they actually need.