Thursday, May 30, 2013

Analogy for why you don't need to give up your stuffed animals

I previously blogged about how when I was a kid I thought I'd need to give up my very favourite stuffed toy just because none of the adults around me used stuffed toys, but once I grew up I realized that you don't ever need to give them up, even if you don't need to use them any more.

Today my shower gave me an analogy:

As we grow up and grow older, we need our parents'  help less and less.  When we're well into adult life, sometimes months or even years go by when we don't need their help at all.

But we don't respond to this development by murdering them, or by casting them off on an ice floe to die.  We respond by leaving them mostly to their own devices while we handle our own problems without interrupting their well-deserved retirement. But (as long as they're still alive) we still retain the option of going to them if we need their help.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dr. Morgentaler

When Dr. Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada, I wrote:

What astounds me about Dr. Morgentaler is he had no particular reason to become an abortion activist. It didn't affect him personally, he was older when he got into it (late 40s, if I remember correctly), no one would have noticed if he hadn't done anything. No one would have said "Hey, you, Mr. middle-aged holocaust-survivor doctor man, why aren't you loudly and publicly performing a controversial medical procedure for which you could be sentenced to life in prison?" If he had just quietly gone about his family practice, no one would have cared. But he stepped up

In a discussion of the age at which people learned about abortion, I wrote:

I learned how pregnancy happens around the age of 8 or 9, I reached menarche at 10, and I learned (on a theoretical level, fortunately) that rape exists at 10 as well.  So, starting at the age of 10, I had a quietly ever-present fear of being forced to gestate my rapist's baby, and hadn't the slightest clue that pregnancies could be terminated.  (I was thinking solely in terms of a rapist because I was still years away from being able to even imagine wanting to have sex voluntarily, even in a distant and hypothetical future.)

Several years later, I read something (I don't remember if it was an article or a work of fiction) where a girl who was pregnant thought that if she skipped rope for hours and hours, she'd have a miscarriage.  (I don't remember if she actually tried it or if it actually worked.)  This was my first exposure to the idea that miscarriage could be induced.  I was relieved to learn that such a thing might be remotely possible, and started brainstorming other ways to force myself to miscarry so I wouldn't have to gestate my rapist's baby.  I considered the possibility of simply stopping eating and drinking, thinking that if it didn't cause a miscarriage it would at least kill me, and, by extension, also gave some thought to suicide as a solution.  I was probably under the age of 16 when this happened

I didn't know that at the time, but my 10-year-old self needn't ever have worried about having to gestate her rapist's baby.  Because Dr. Morgentaler stepped up, long before I knew such things existed, I - and millions of others like me - have no reason to lie awake at night pondering whether starvation would be sufficient to induce miscarriage or whether self-harm would be necessary.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Help write the next New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition!

I have a series of posts called New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition, in which I propose natural consequences rules for various behaviours that really should have consequences.

There's one behaviour for which I really would like to introduce natural consequences, but I haven't been able to think of anything yet.  That behaviour is:

Lying to people about their own thoughts, feelings, motivations, or experiences.

This is probably my greatest pet peeve, so I want to give it a really good consequence.  But nothing is coming immediately to mind.  Any ideas?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living in the future

Sometimes, when I'm walking down the street, I look around and imagine what a person from the past would think of what I'm seeing and doing and experiencing.  What would look familiar to them and what would look impenetrable to them?  Which changes would they think are a miracle and which ones would they think are a tragedy?  How would this live up to their expectations for the year 2013?  Would they be disappointed by the lack of flying cars, or amazed at the computing power in our handheld devices?

So I was walking down the street, thinking these kinds of thoughts, and I saw a Future Shop.

And I found myself wondering what people from the past would think of the fact that, in the future, we have a Future Shop! 

It seems like something out of a mid-20th-century scifi B-movie, doesn't it?  "I need a new space phone.  Better go to the future shop!"

When you add in the mid-20th-century retroish vertical signs on some of the urban locations (like this one) it almost comes across as something created in the 1950s in an attempt to fit into the future as imagined in that era. (Even though the internet tells me it was founded in the early 80s, and most stores don't have those retroish signs - they seem to be used where the stores open right onto the sidewalk instead of into a parking lot as they do in most big box locations.)

Evoluent Mouse-Friendly Keyboard

I was having some mousing-related ergonomic issues, so I went and bought the Evoluent Mouse-Friendly Keyboard.

Ergonomically, it does the job fantastically.  I started using it in mid-March (and started working at home in April) and haven't had any ergonomic owies whatsoever!

My only complaint is I really wish the spacebar extended about a centimetre further to the right.  In the existing configuration, the right edge of the space bar lines up with the space between the J and K keys, which means that my right thumb lands right on the very end of the spacebar.  (Unfortunately, my Grade 9 typing class, which I took for an easy A as I already knew how to type, drilled into me the habit of using only my right thumb for the spacebar, so using my left thumb greatly slows me down and creates hilarious typos.)  I understand that the abbreviated spacebar is a result of trying to cram all the assorted crt-alt-delete-insert-windows keys into the bottom row so the keyboard doesn't need extra columns for all those keys like you have in a standard keyboard

One thing that hasn't caused any problems but seems a bit worrisome is that the keys are very shallow and the mechanisms seem kind of delicate.  This means that if a crumb gets into the keyboard, you can feel it under the key right away and it's more likely than with a standard keyboard to interfere with typing.  This is good in some ways, because you can detect and remove crumbs immediately rather than having them accumulated like they do in deeper keyboards, but it always seems like the keys are so delicate that something might snap when I'm prying them off.  Nothing has snapped yet, so I have no empirical evidence supporting this claim, but it is a general feeling I get. I will update this if anything actually goes wrong, so if I haven't updated it's just me being paranoid so far.

However, it does have a one-year warranty, and it seems to have completely eliminated the sporadic ergonomic issues I was previously experiencing, so even if it turns out it is more fragile than other keyboards, I'd say it's still worthwhile overall.  (Although I'd still very much prefer that it be made to last.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

How to study the impact of gender imbalance on future generations.

I previously came up with the idea that they should study how gender imbalance (in this case, resulting from heavy wartime losses of the male population) affect future generations.

I think I have an idea about how one might actually study this.

For pre-21st-century wars, compare countries with heavy military losses with countries with heavy civilian losses. The US and Canada, for example, did not have combat happening within their country.  So we would have lost a greater proportion of men, whereas countries like Germany and France and Poland would probably have had more gender-balanced losses.

So if someone wanted to study this phenomenon, they could look at military and civilian death tolls, put countries in order of postwar gender imbalance (perhaps with the help of postwar censuses), and then look at various outcomes over the course of generations.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Things They Should Invent: multiple customizable email alerts

I have visual and audible email alerts for both my personal and my work email.  In general I'd rather have the alerts than not, but what I'd really like is to get alerts only for emails that are important.

For example, in my personal email, I'd like to get alerted about personal communications from family and friends, ebay auctions that I've won or been outbid on, and anything from my banks, my apartment building, or my condo that require immediate action.  I don't need to get alerted about "Here's our newsletter!" or "Sign this petition!" or "This is to confirm that you made the paypal purchase that you made literally 2 seconds ago."  I'll look at those things later, but I don't need to interrupt what I'm doing to look at them.

Similarly, in my work email, I'd like to get alerted about new assignments, emails from clients, and specific personal communication from my team.  I don't need to be alerted about "Here's the employee newsletter!" or "This is just to let you know that I will be away Friday." Again, I'll look at them later, but they don't require my immediate attention.

Gmail has a function where they automatically mark certain email threads as more important, and it works reasonably well if you put in the effort to train it (I did briefly and was happy with the rate at which it was learning, but then I got lazy and stopped using it.)  So why not pair this up with Gmail Notifier so it notifies you only when you get an email that meets "important" criteria?  Or perhaps give you a different kind of beep for the more important emails?

Outlook allows you to create all kinds of finicky rules, so why not allow you to create rules defining what kind of alert the program gives you?  You could tell it to give you the "important" alert if you get an email from certain senders or in reply to an email that you yourself have sent.  If you can convince your colleagues to use good subject lines, you could get one kind of alert for "FYI" emails and another for "For Action" emails.

Properly implemented, this would allow people to have all the benefits of email alerts with none of the disadvantages.  So why don't we have it already?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thoughts from advice columns

My husband and I are preparing our wills. We have two adult children: a daughter who is more successful than we are, and a son, who has been down on his luck for years. He also has three young children to educate. Everyone, including our lawyer and close friends, tells us that we should leave our money to them in equal shares to avoid hurt feelings. But that doesn’t seem right. Our son needs the money. Still, we don’t want to hurt our daughter. What would you do?
An option would be to leave everything to your grandchildren, perhaps in trust for their education if you should pass away when they're still underage.  This would be perfectly just, it would (if you die relatively soon) spare your son the expense of educating his children, and it would help mitigate any negative impact for the children of having a father who is down on his luck. If the daughter should have children, they'd inherit too, but if she doesn't I can't imagine a more-successful-than-her-parents childless auntie begrudging her nieces and nephews an inheritance from their less-successful-than-her grandparents, unless she's the sort of person to begrudge anything and everything, in which case you're no worse off.

Dear Miss Information,
I dated a guy about two years ago pretty seriously, and at the time we were on track to be engaged. Blah blah blah, it ended really badly. We haven't spoken since, even though I found out through mutual friends that he has been asking about me for months if not years. Finally, that has died down, and we've both moved on with our lives, I think. Here's the problem: I'm now dating a woman (oh, I'm a girl, if that wasn't already clear.) She and I are really happy together. I guess I've always identified as "bi," but it never came up when I was dating the guy. So this isn't that surprising to me, but apparently it is to him. I think one of our mutual friends told him I'm with Anna now, and supposedly he's been really freaked out about it.
A very close mutual friend is getting married in about a month, and my girlfriend is coming as my plus-one. I know he will be there with his new girlfriend (The friends who told me he was freaked out also filled me in that he's dating someone from his work), and I want to avoid hurting him further. How do you tell someone, "I'm gay now, but I wasn't when I was with you"? And really, we haven't spoken in about two years, so how much responsibility do I even need to take for "letting him down gently"? I'm just really, really, REALLY dreading this wedding because of having to see this ex. What do I do?
 (This letter is from the Miss Information column in Nerve.  The column itself is fine, but Nerve sometimes has NSFWish ads and pictures around the column text.  You can see the original here, or see a fully SFW version in CF Abby here.)

Anyway, as to the actual question, I think if I were in the guy's position, I'd find it something of a relief if it turned out the person I love who left me did so because they had come to the realization that they wanted a same-sex relationship.  That would make me confident, more than anything else I could possibly imagine, that it wasn't anything I did wrong and that there wasn't any diligence on my side that could have saved the relationship.

Individuals can face criminal charges when they pose as nurses or policemen. But what about people posing as meteorologists? A B.S. in meteorology is a science degree. But many broadcast meteorologists are not meteorologists at all; they hold a mail-order certificate offered by some schools instead. Is it ethical for TV stations to give just anyone the title “meteorologist”? NAME WITHHELD
Before we even get into the question of whether a certificate from an education institution should be completely disregarded as credientials, I don't think anyone is actually under the impression that the people on TV are actually doing the forecasting.  Weather forecasts are made using data from Environment Canada (or, since this is a US column, whatever the US equivalent is), and then they either reiterate the Environment Canada forecast or input the data into their own computer model that they bought from somewhere.  The people on TV are just reading the forecast, and I don't think anyone thinks otherwise.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Talking to children

Introducing myself to babies

The first time I met my new baby cousin (technically my first cousin once removed - his mother is my cousin) I formally introduced myself.  I told him my name, explained how we're related, and told him that I'm very pleased to meet him and hope we can become friends.  My parents laughed at me for doing this, but I do it anyway because it only seems polite.  I see part of my role as a non- parental adult as modeling normal and healthy interpersonal interactions for kids, and the normal adult world, people don't just walk up to you and start touching you apropos of nothing.  I figure I should do my bit to normalize this standard of behaviour.

I'm cheering for my baby cousin.  I want him to grow up to be strong and smart and happy, and have an easier and more pleasant life than I have.  It's possible that I might not always like Baby Cousin.  He's going to grow up to be a little boy, and little boys aren't my very favourite demographic.  At various points in his life, he might think farts are funny or think an appropriate response to the presence of a spider is to keep it in a jar as a pet, all of which is the kind of behaviour I prefer to avoid.  But even if I do end up not liking him for a period of time, I will still be cheering for him.

My baby cousin has many many adult cousins (his mother and I have 12 mutual cousins, and she also has cousins that aren't related to me, plus his father has his fair share of cousins as well), and I'm absolutely certain that all of us are cheering for him, as are his grandparents and great-grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles and the other random people in this new family's orbit. If he finds himself in the same room as an adult by virtue of that adult's relationship with his parents, that adult will be cheering for him.

My parents also have many many cousins.  I met quite a few of them at various family events when I was a kid, but I didn't understand who they were.  I don't know if it wasn't explained to me or I just didn't retain it, but I didn't understand that they were my parents' cousins the same way my cousins are my cousins.  I didn't understand who they were or why they were talking to me - they just felt like strange grownups, so I was wary of them the way I'm normally wary of strange grownups.  The thought never once crossed my mind that they might be cheering for me.  Why would they be?  They're just strange grownups.

But maybe if some of them had taken a moment to speak to me directly and tell me their name and how we're related,  to shake my hand and tell me they're happy to see me, maybe I would have felt that I was in the safe presence of loving adults rather than surrounded by strangers.

Elevator buttons

One thing I've learned from living in highrises is that small children love to push elevator buttons! You can push them and they light up and they make the whole elevator move!  So I play along.  If I find myself in an elevator with a small child, I ask them if they can do me an enormous favour and push the button I need for me.  Then I thank them for being helpful.

I don't claim any child development knowledge beyond having been a child and basically I'm doing this because it entertains me.  But I'm wondering whether or not it's actually a good idea.

On the positive side, I'm engaging them as human beings in their own right rather than talking over their heads to their parents, I'm modelling "please" and "thank you" and general polite discourse, and, of course, I'm giving them an opportunity to press more buttons!

On the negative side, perhaps it's a bit condescending to gratuitously give someone a job to do that I can just as easily do myself on the assumption that they'll enjoy doing my menial tasks. (I've been in situations where I suspect people were doing that to me during my adult life, and I didn't appreciate it.) And, on top of that, I am a stranger. I know children do have to learn to interact with strangers and I am a harmless stranger so perhaps I'm a good person to for them to practise on (although I shouldn't go barging into interactions on the assumption that I'm harmless - I must continue to recognize that I'm a stranger), but I'm not sure if I should be setting the precedent that they should be doing unnecessary favours for strangers just because it amuses the stranger.

I've encountered kids who were absolutely delighted when I asked them to press a button for me, but that doesn't mean it's right.  My child-self would have wanted to curl up in a ball and hide, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Things They Should Invent: needs-based telecommunications technology funding for seniors

As I've mentioned before, I'm watching my grandmothers age and deteriorate and become more dependent on their children and caregivers.  And, as I watch this happen, I'm thinking about how I'm going to handle the same situation without anyone to take care of me.  And one thing that strikes me is that I could handle it better in some respects because I'm comfortable with technology.  If I couldn't manage grocery shopping for myself, I could order from grocery gateway.  If I couldn't remember to take my meds, I could set up a series of alerts.  My grandmothers aren't up on using today's technology, so they're dependent on their children to do these things.

However, it's not just interest and technological aptitude that keeps them from using technology, it's also cost.  My grandmothers retired in the 1980s, calculating their expenses based on expenses that existed in the 1980s.  They couldn't have anticipated the eventual need for $40 a month for internet or a data plan, plus the major capital investment of a new computer or device every few years.  Even if they'd be interested, they probably couldn't afford it.

If retirement still exists when I'm a senior, the same thing will probably happen to me.  If I retire when I'm in my 60s, I couldn't possibly budget for the evolution and cost of technology over the next 30 to 40 years.  (And if retirement doesn't still exist when I'm a senior, I'll have to hoard money even more because I have to assume 20 years of incompetence based on my family history of Alzheimer's, so I won't be able to afford to keep up to date.)

So I propose that all senior citizens should get a needs-based financial supplement of some sort (a discount or a rebate or free services or something) to keep them in up-to-date telecommunications technology, by which I mean both devices and data/internet plans. I don't have specific dollar amounts in mind at the moment, but the funding should be enough that it's an absolute no-brainer to keep up to date.

I also think the program should start at age 65, even though 65-year-olds are perfectly capable of keeping themselves up to date if they have any interest in doing so.  The reason for this is that elders seem to lose their ability to learn new things as they deteriorate and lose their faculties.  They need to form habits and keep current before they start losing their faculties, so they can coast along on their existing knowledge once they lose the ability to learn.   For example, my one grandmother lost the ability to learn about 10 years ago.  If she had computer skills that were current to 2003, she wouldn't be able to  use an iphone, but she could still order her groceries online. 

I'm sure it would be an expensive program, but it would help keep people living in their own homes and independently for longer.  By any standard, tech is cheaper than housing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A better way to schedule preventive medical care?

Today my doctor told me that pap smears are no longer included in annual physicals.  This isn't the thing where pap smears are now once every three years, it means that they're apparently now considered a completely different test.  Because doctors aren't allowed to bill for more than one issue per appointment, this means that if I want an annual physical and a pap smear, I have to make two appointments.  Apparently OHIP is kind of cracking down on multiple issues in one appointment, and auditing doctors to make sure they don't treat patients for what they weren't booked in for.

I was googling around the idea, and apparently the intention is to cut back on the tests and examinations done during annual physicals because they've found that the tests have little to no benefit for healthy people.   Apparently studies have found that the people who diligently go in for annual physicals tend to be a healthy demographic for whom the tests don't turn up anything because they're healthy. Meanwhile, the less healthy people are already going into the doctor regularly for all their various health problems, so there's little benefit to a schedule physical this month if they just saw the doctor last month and are going to see the doctor again next month.

Which I'm fine with.  Because I don't actually want an annual physical.  Or a pap smear.  What I actually want is my birth control pills.

For my entire on-the-pill life, an annual physical and/or pap smear has been the gauntlet I have to run to get my birth control prescription renewed.  This doctor books physicals far in advance, which I didn't know at the beginning, so I called when I had a month of birth control left and was told it would be six to eight weeks.  When I told them I was running out of birth control, they booked me in for an appointment, where they gave me a three month prescription and then scheduled me for a physical, which I had to have before I could get a whole year's worth.

I don't think this is unique to my doctor.  At various times I've read discussions about whether birth control pills should be available over the counter, and in them doctors have said one of the reasons they like them to be prescription is it gets a sizeable proportion of their patients in for their annual physicals.  (You may remember we discussed how 1/3 of all Canadians use prescription contraception.)

Without getting into the (important) question of whether a physical is in fact necessary for birth control, this gave me a broader idea of how they can make the health system much more user friendly for patients and doctors.

Step 1:  Completely abolish annual physicals
Step 2:  Completely abolish the one issue per appointment rule
Step 3:  Create a system where whenever you come into the doctor for a specific issue, you also get all the preventive tests and examinations you're due for, based on your specific medical situation, and any other care your doctor feels you need.

So, in my case, I'd call the doctor when I'm running low on birth control pills.  The receptionist (perhaps with the assistance of a computer program designed to track these things) would see that it's been 12 months since I had blood work so I should probably get it done again, but it's only been 34 months since I had a pap smear so I'm not due for that.  Then it would book appointment length accordingly.  (Perhaps it could also add some extra time to the appointment if the patient hasn't been to the doctor in X months.) 

The doctor then sees me to renew my birth control pills, and also offers all the tests and examinations for which I'm overdue, and offers any other care that he feels would be appropriate.  And I am permitted to decline tests and care that are unrelated to the birth control pills and still receive my pills.

This will make things easier for the patient.  No more having to keep track of your preventive care schedule and call the doctor and make the right kind of appointment.  You just call the doctor when you need to go to the doctor, and they'll give you all the care you need, not just for this one issue but for everything.

It will also make things easier for the doctor.  You treat the patient in front of you for everything they need treating for, without worrying about whether it falls under the issue for which they made the appointment.  You can use your professional judgement without worrying about administrative matters.

And it will save the health system a little bit of money by creating a scenario where patients get their preventive tests and examinations sometime after their due, rather than right on the button of when they're due.  The current system normalizes coming in every 12 months for various examinations.  But if it's 12 months plus whenever the patient has an issue for which they need to see the doctor, some patients will be coming in after 14 months, some patients will be coming in after 2 years.  The healthier the patient, the bigger the interval between when they come in.  But it's self-selecting, so the patients are still getting care whenever they request care.

Of course, doctors can still have patients with chronic issues or high risk factors come in on a regular basis for monitoring.  And they'd still have the option of influencing the frequency with which patients come in with the length of the prescription they issue.

This leaves the question of whether anyone would slip through the cracks.  Under this model, anyone who wants to see the doctor for a specific issue will see a doctor when that specific issue arises.  Anyone with a chronic issue or high risk factors or complex needs who needs regular monitoring will get regular monitoring as required by their doctor. Anyone who takes medication on a regular basis will see the doctor whenever they need their prescription renewed. 

So that leaves people who don't have any specific issues for periods of over a year, don't have any ongoing medications, and don't have any conditions that need monitoring, as well as people who don't go to the doctor when they have an issue they need to go to the doctor for.

I think the people who don't go to the doctor when they have an issue aren't going to go for preventive annual physicals, so this wouldn't affect them.  So that just leaves people who don't have any specific reason to go to the doctor during periods of over a year.  Things They Should Study: is there anyone who's healthy enough to fall into this group but unhealthy enough that they have something just waiting to be caught by their annual physical?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A tale of two Google searches

1.  I had a song stuck in my head, but I didn't know the words.  It dated back to childhood, most likely from Sharon, Lois & Bram, and the lyrics as I remembered them were "My mother need to tell me that you omungowah."

Clearly, I had misheard it or was misremembering it, and was jamming a bunch of phonemes together to make "omungowah".  And whatever the omungowah really was, it was probably the crucial word in googling up this song.

Expecting nothing, I started typing my mother need to tell me that you omungowah into Google, and before I even got to the omungowah, the suggestion feature gave me "My mother didn't tell me that you go mango walk".  Which is exactly the song I was looking for!   Well done Google!

 (Here's an example of the song, although I have no idea what the source is.)

2.  In 2009, they had a public art project where people could stand on an empty plinth in London's Trafalgar Square and do whatever they wanted for the audience of whoever happened to be in Trafalgar Square and as a live real-time webcast audience.  In the middle of one of these plinth performances, Eddie Izzard finished his marathons, also in Trafalgar Square, and the crowd and cheering of his marathon finish interrupted one of the performances and distracted the camera operator.

I was looking for this video, so I googled eddie izzard plinth. Not only did Google not find the video, but it gave me one of those despised "Results for similar searches."  And the "similar search" that it proposed was eddy izzard!

Yes, they not only eliminated the key search term, they introduced a spelling error!  (Interestingly, the results for eddy izzard were Eddie Izzard's website, IMDB page and wikipedia entry, all of which spelled his name correctly.)

It seems like Google's algorithms missed a few crucial points. First of all, "Eddie" is a far more common spelling than "Eddy". How do they end up "correcting" away from the more common (and correct) spelling?

Second, Eddie is a celebrity with an unusual surname, which means that a disproportionate number of instances of the word "Izzard" on the recorded internet will have the word "Eddie" next to them.  Surely their concordance function should have figured this out - at least enough not to change what I entered!

And third, if your search contains something general (a celebrity's name) and something specific (the word "plinth"), the specific thing is probably there for a reason.  It is in no way helpful to completely eliminate the specific and give the user only general information about the celebrity!  If Google is going to insist on using this "Results for similar searches" function, they should use synonyms of the most specific search term, or use words that correlate with the specific search term ("Trafalgar" might have been helpful, for example.)

How is it possible that Google could fuck up this badly while still being capable of finding my "omungowah"?

(The video of Eddie Izzard finishing this marathons in Trafalgar Square and interrupting the plinth performance can be found at 31 minutes here.)

Monday, May 06, 2013

The many benefits of working from home

- I go to bed later, wake up later, start work earlier, and finish work earlier.  I've had a minimum of seven hours' sleep every night since I started working at home, and about 40% of the time I wake up naturally.

- I wake up at a time that is after sunrise year-round. I finish work at a time that is before sunset year-round.

- When I need to step away from a text or take a mental break, I can exercise. I have exercised 25 days out of the last 30, whereas when I'm going into the office I normally end up exercising only 2 or 3 times a week despite my intention to exercise every day.

- You know how I get inspiration in the shower?  When I need inspiration, I can have a shower!!!

- I can eat when I'm hungry.  When I'm working at the office, I feel the need to eat breakfast before I leave so I won't be hungry in the office, then to eat lunch during my lunch break because if I don't I won't have a chance to eat until after work.  When I'm at home I can eat whenever I want.  So I eat when I'm hungry, and exactly as much as I'm hungry for.

- Because I'm using things like exercise and showering as my work breaks, I no longer have a massive to-do list to get done before I go to work.  There's no inkling of stress or racing the clock.  I just boot up and sign on right at the start of my work day, and I still get all my morning stuff plus my work done before I need to actually leave the apartment.

- I enjoy peace and quiet, without having to hear other people's chitchat.  But, at the same time, I don't have to be quiet.  I can read my texts aloud when I need help focusing.  I can orate. I can sing. I can spout off profanity when my computer doesn't work.  I'm an auditory learner, so it's quite helpful to have access to this dimension.

- My stress level is zero the vast majority of the time.  This one time a client used a pun and my stress level went up to 2, but then I had a shower and figured out what to do with the pun so my stress level went back down to zero.

- I feel like a part of the neighbourhood.  Out my window, I see the rhythms of the day, kids going to and from school, the schedules of the mailman and couriers, my building's cleaning people.  There a lady who goes to this little parkette in a wheelchair, then gets out of the wheelchair and walks around and around the parkette, obviously working very hard to regain her walking or retain what mobility she has left.  She didn't show up for a couple of days, and I started worrying.  But then she came back.

- Speaking of the mailman and couriers, when I have something delivered, it's now no inconvenience whatsoever even if it comes by UPS!  I had a Dell technician come to look at my computer, and it was no trouble whatsoever.  When I'm at home, couriers and repair people can come by whenever.  I can do my work while I wait on hold with a bank.  If I need to make a phone call that includes personal financial information or the name of a gynecological procedure, I don't need to worry about being overheard.

- I don't feel the need to wear makeup while working at home or while doing errands in my immediate neighbourhood (unless they're fashion-related), so my skin gets to rest.  And, when I do go out in makeup, I look better because I've only been wearing it since just before I left the apartment, not since early in the morning.

- When I was in university, on days when I didn't have work or class I'd wake up, shower, make coffee and sit down at the computer, and the next thing I'd know it would be 4 pm and I'd still be in my bathrobe and hadn't accomplished a thing, which I found depressing.  When I'm working at home, some days I am in fact still in my bathrobe at 4 pm.  However, I have completed a full day of paid work, so there's no need to feel guilty or unaccomplished.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition IV

(Previous editions can be found here.)

Inspired by Sir Anthony Strallan on Downton Abbey and by the boyfriend of the first letter-writer here:

8.  If someone deprives you of something with the excuse "You can do better", (without taking into consideration whether you actually can do better, or whether you want whatever it is they consider to be "better"), you're allowed to deprive them of something.

So if the person you love pulls a Sir Anthony on you and abandons you with the excuse "You deserve better than me", you can say "Okay, you deserve better than cheese.  You aren't ever allowed to eat cheese again."

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Reversing the glass analogy

In a common English figure of speech, someone who "thinks the glass is half full" is an optimist, and someone who "thinks the glass is half empty" is a pessimist.

As I've mentioned many times before, I'm a pessimist.  This means I tend to expect things to turn out terribly.  An employer didn't hire me, so I expect that I'll never be able to get a job.  A person was mean to me, so I expect that everyone ever will be mean to me.  I saw a bug, so I expect that everywhere I ever live will be infested.  I can never see any good reason why things wouldn't turn out worst case scenario, so that's what I expect.

However, things don't always turn out as poorly as I expect.  Sometimes I get a job.  Sometimes people are nice to me.  Sometimes there aren't any bugs.  And this always makes me very pleasantly surprised.

I was recently in a conversation where I was talking about something that turned out better than I expected (it was about the joys of adulthood, and how when I was a kid I had no idea that the problems of childhood would go away in adulthood), and an interlocutor said to me "You're really a glass half full person, aren't you?"

My first thought was to deny it because I am intrinsically pessimistic, but then I realized in this particular situation, I was seeing the glass as half full.  But that's only because I was expecting it to be empty.

Meanwhile, my interlocutor's child-self was expecting adulthood to be all glamorous and awesome and it turned out to be mundane.  So they saw the glass as half empty.  But that's only because they were expecting it to be completely full.

Maybe the figure of speech should go the other way around?