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?