Showing posts with label a complete list of things i have seen or not seen is available in my blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label a complete list of things i have seen or not seen is available in my blog. Show all posts

Friday, July 20, 2018

So it turns out I'm not an alcoholic

You aren't supposed to drink when you have a head injury. I didn't have any bottles in the house the day I hit my head, so it was a simple matter to just not go to the LCBO.

Some time passed, with my brain doing a variety of strange things, most of which were extremely temporary (i.e. one day of weirdness), the stickiest of which was vision issues, and none of which were cognitive issues or balance issue or anything that could be exacerbated by alcohol.

But I never got around to going to the LCBO, so I continued not drinking.

After some time, I noticed it was taking significantly longer to fall asleep each night, and I wondered if that was because of the absence of alcohol.  I thought I should go to the LCBO, get just one small bottle, and have just one standard drink under controlled conditions, for science.

But I never got around to it, so I continued not drinking.

The sleep situation stabilized. I started vision therapy. I scaled back and eventually completely eliminated my system of rest breaks.  I spent more days not crying than crying. I started working on waking up to an alarm again (with mixed results).

And I still never got around to going to the LCBO.

It's been five months since I had any alcohol.  It has occurred to me on and off that I should have a drink at home under controlled conditions so I can see how my body reacts, and I just keep...not getting around to it.

In the past, people have expressed concern about my drinking because I like drinking.  People have expressed concern about drinking because I drink alone rather than going out or inviting people over every single time I fancy a drink.  People have expressed concern about my drinking because people have expressed concern about my drinking.

But I'm pretty sure alcoholics don't just...not get around to buying more alcohol, especially when they have already arrived at the conclusion that they should drink alcohol for science.


Normally when people talk about not drinking for a period of time, they talk about how they feel better and don't miss it.

I don't feel better for not drinking.  I don't feel worse, but I don't feel better either.  I haven't lost weight.  I don't feel like I've saved money.  I don't feel in any way healthier.  Basically everything feels exactly the same, except for the residual symptoms of my head injury.

It wouldn't be fair to say I don't miss it either. Whenever I see a mention of someone drinking wine in something I'm reading, I think "Ooh, a glass of wine would be nice!" I kind of miss the feeling of  fun-twirling-around tipsy, but I'm so wary of falling now that I wouldn't risk that anyway.  At the same time, I don't really feel deprived, because it isn't something I can't do or shouldn't do.  It's just another thing I'm procrastinating, and I can stop procrastinating whenever I want.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A story for Pride month

When Fairy Goddaughter was about to turn 5, her parents mentioned to me that they wanted to introduce her to social issues (but hadn't gotten as far as deciding which issues).
So when I was buying her 5th birthday present, I took this vague instruction to Mabel's Fables, where the awesome employees cheerfully recommended a wide range of age-appropriate books on a wide range of social issues, some of which had LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes.

Which, of course, is completely unremarkable in 2016 (the year this story takes place).

Which, in turn, is awesome!

Within my lifetime, children's books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters have been non-existent, and, once they came into existence, have been radical.  Now they're just sitting there on the shelf unremarkably.

On top of that, I'm an unmarried, childless adult buying books for someone else's child.  (All of which the employees knew or could conclude - the fact that it's someone else's child came up in conversation, the fact that I'm childless is apparent from the way I talk about kids, and the fact that I'm unmarried is extrapolable from my lack of rings.)

Within my lifetime, it would have been seen as questionable for an unmarried, childless adult to buy books with LGBTQ+ themes for someone else's child (especially with the child being the same sex as the unmarried, childless adult).  But now, it's just one among many valid options.

And on top of that, I don't come across as woke at all! (Even less so in person than online.)  I'm an conservatively-dressed white woman of below-average coolness, with my chronological age and rejection of current trends combining to make me come across as middle-aged to people who for whom leggings have been a valid fashion choice their entire adult life.

Within my lifetime, there have been periods of time where LGBTQ+ themes were safe among woke people, but it isn't safe to assume the frumpy middle-aged white lady won't get all offended and complain to the manager and start a boycott of your business.  But now, we're in a place where the baseline assumption is that even non-woke frumpy middle-aged ladies will see LGBTQ+ themes as benign.

My teenage self could not have imagined a context where an innocent shopping trip for a 5th birthday present leads to a recommendation of LGBTQ+ books, and this is seen as benign and unremarkable by all parties.

For my 30-something self, it was so benign and unremarkable that it went unnoticed in the moment, as I admired the age-appropriate descriptiveness of the refugee experience in one book, and then squeed over the idea of introducing Fairy Goddaughter to another book that was an old childhood favourite.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Post-election roundup


I was pleased that my candidates weren't bickering on Twitter this time around. In previous years I've felt like a kid stuck in the back of the car with soon-to-be-divorcing parents what with the way they kept sniping at each other.  This year, they mostly went positive, and any negativity was about the other parties, not the other individuals. And after the election, I even saw my veteran Liberal MP and my newly-elected NDP MPP being gracious to each other about local riding business. I hope that keeps up.


I saw a significant number of signs this year compared with previous elections - so many that I didn't keep count effectively.  In my riding and each of the two other neighbourhood ridings (they still haven't fixed the riding boundaries to serve the needs of my neighbourhood!) I saw signs in a ratio of about 4:3:2 for Conservative:Liberal:NDP.  One of the ridings went Conservative, one went Liberal, and one went NDP. All three were tight races.


I saw one television ad for the NDP multiple times. It was less negative than election ads usually are, but not completely devoid of negativity.  I also got a letter from my Liberal candidate.

I got one canvassing phone call each from the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP candidates. The Conservative canvasser sounded really snide, the Liberal canvasser was polite, and the NDP caller had the decency to put "Andrea Horwath" on call display so I didn't answer. (I only answered the other two because I was expecting a medical call-back and didn't know which number it would come from - they both used local phone numbers with no name showing on call display.  Normally I don't answer phone calls from numbers I don't recognize.)


The phone call from the Conservative campaign kind of creeped me out, because, when I answered the phone, they said "Hi, is this [first name]?"

I have no idea where they could have gotten my first name from! My phone number is registered under first initial and last name - I deliberately didn't include use my full given name so it wouldn't be apparent that I'm a woman living alone. My provincial riding has been Liberal for the entire time I've had this phone number, so I have never contacted any member of the provincial Conservative party in my capacity as a citizen.  (And I'm almost certain I've never given my phone number to any politician I've contacted ever - I vastly prefer email.)

I can't imagine any legitimate way they could have gotten my first name associated with my phone number!

The letter from my Liberal candidate creeped me out similarly, because it was addressed to [first name] [middle initial] [last name].

And I have no idea where they could have gotten my middle initial from!  They might have my first name from my correspondence with previous Liberal MPPs, but I don't use my middle initial! It's on my credit card for some reason, but they wouldn't have my credit card information. (I don't make political donations.)

Why I'm worried:

And the outcomes of correspondence with MPPs are exactly why I'm particularly worried about the results of this election.

When Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto, I wrote to him several times in his capacity as mayor and my capacity as citizen. And, every single time, not only did he not address the issues I raised, he did the exact opposite. Intellectually, I know I'm not important enough to influence Rob Ford, but the fact of the matter is the correlation is 100%: I bring an issue to Rob Ford's attention, his subsequent actions on that issue are as harmful as possible to me and/or to those I'm trying to support.

The Fords always presented themselves as a package deal, so I'm concerned the same thing will happen with Doug Ford.

Which is highly relevant, because I'm on the cusp of a Great Big Cause: vision therapy.

Vision therapy is like physiotherapy for your eyes. It is my best hope for returning to normalcy since my head injury.  It's expensive, it isn't covered by OHIP, and, unlike the other Great Big Causes of my life, people haven't even heard of it - which means that even just raising awareness could be a huge step in getting it covered by OHIP and thereby made available to everyone.

I thought I'd be a far more credible advocate if I went through the process for long enough to start seeing results, so I've been mentally writing talking points and pondering social media strategy and refining my elevator speech while I contort my eyes and my brain to the point of nausea.

And then, Doug Ford.

And now I'm left to wonder if my plans to raise awareness could actually be harmful under this government.  I mean, it already isn't covered by OHIP, but I can't quite shake the fear that if I tell Doug Ford about vision therapy, he'll ban it or something.

Thursday, June 07, 2018


Beautiful, fresh, breezy weather.

Black, white and purple outfit, with my late grandmother's jewellery (she always emphasized how important voting is, so I bring her with me), and enormous sunglasses to hide the fact that my still-recovering eyes are puffy from overdoing it on work over the last couple of days and I didn't have time (or, frankly, inclination) to do a serious camouflaging eye makeup job.

Encountered a mindblowingly adorable Shiba Inu puppy on my way out of my building and got a good petting in, but that was the only dog I saw before I voted. (Got some sniffs and smiles from various good dogs on my way back home - not sure if those count.)

No line at the polling station. Three people in front of me at the table for my specific poll (howdy, neighbours!). Eccentric surprisingly-young old woman (looked younger than my parents but acted senile) loudly trying to engage an Elections Ontario worker in a political debate over whom she should vote for, while the election worker remained scrupulously nonpartisan.

Put an X in a box with a sharpie, and then it was scanned by a machine. Not a fan of that system. I like hand-counted paper ballots, and putting my folded ballot in the box with a jaunty tap.

Walked out of the polling station 10 minutes after I walked out of my apartment door. Smooth and effortless.

Let's hope for a government that lets everything equally be smooth and effortless for the next four years.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How to make Google News RSS feeds once again work in The Old Reader

A couple of days ago, I noticed that my Google News RSS feeds in The Old Reader weren't working properly. The feed was getting served up to me, but when I clicked through to the article, it took me to the main Google News page.

It turns out this was happening because Google News automatically modifies the URL (similar to how Google search changes the URL from the actual URL of the page to a redirect starting with "" with a bunch of tracking information in it.) Something about the redirect makes it now point to the main Google News page, rather than to the article in question.

After some experimentation, I discovered that a Firefox extension called "Don't track me Google" effectively eliminates this redirect, so I can once again click on the article in The Old Reader and be sent to the actual article.

I previously had another extension for this purpose called "Google search link fix", but for some reason it wasn't effective with the latest changes to Google News.

I have no idea if this works in browsers other than Firefox, or feed readers other than The Old Reader.

Monday, April 23, 2018

"What if I never get better?" is a valid question

Frustrated with the persistence of some of my post head-injury symptoms, I googled what if I never get better.

The first page of results was all pages about depression, reassuring depression patients that it will get better at some point and that if life feels hopeless, that's just the depression talking.

If the first page of Google results represents the zeitgeist, this is a problem.

The full scope of human experience includes situations where you never get better. Sometimes you might spend years or even decades not getting better.  It's not necessarily depression talking, sometimes not getting better is simply an objective reality, and people need to figure out how to live with that, not to be patted on the head and told they're depressed.

This would also make me reluctant to mention to a medical professional when I'm afraid I'll never get better. I'd be concerned they'd get distracted from the thing that's causing me despair and instead start treating me for depression - confusing things by introducing new medications and such, when what I actually need is a timeline and a flowchart and a series of possible outcomes and perhaps to be informed of the existence of assistive devices or palliative options.


This is all the more important because, since I started writing this post, I've seen an optometrist (given that my remaining symptoms are visual) and it looks like there's a decent possibility that my problems can be solved with different glasses, and/or vision therapy (which I didn't even know was a thing, but is kind-of-but-not-entirely like physiotherapy for the eyes).

I don't want to fall into the trap of getting overoptimistic, but this is the first time since I hit my head that there seems to be even a remote possibility of just maybe being happy or comfortable at some point in the nonspecific future!  I'm still waiting for the glasses to be made, so keep your fingers crossed!

And this is all significant because it comes from treating me like I'm never going to get better.

I didn't approach the optometrist with "what if I never get better?" - I approached him from the point of view of "this is what I'm experiencing, can we diagnose and/or rule stuff out?" But a productive "what if I never get better?" conversation would have had the same outcome:

Me: "What if I never get better? What if focusing on the computer screen is hard work every single moment of every single day for the rest of my life?"
Doctor: "We'll see exactly what your eyes are doing, and then look into making you glasses to adjust. If you never get better, you'll wear different glasses that do some of the work for you. In parallel, we can also give you some exercises for your eyes, so you can work proactively on making this specific symptom better."
Isn't that a better outcome?  And more hopeful than platitudes and/or psychological treatment that don't address the underlying issue?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Disappointed with Fresh's latest menu update

I've finally had a chance to try every new item on Fresh's menu, and I'm not impressed. All of the new items are less yummy than the items they removed. The only new item that makes me go "Yay!" is the essential greens, but that's an appetizer-sized dish at an entree-sized price. Meanwhile, several of my favourites are gone. (holiday wrap! mega life salad! jerusalem bowl!)

Also, there are now fewer wellness choices on Ritual (which is significant because that's the only nutritional indicators we have), and the only new item that's a wellness choice is the dragon broccoli, which is too spicy for my refluxy self.

Fresh has been a favourite since they moved to my neighbourhood, so it's disappointing that this latest update made it meet my needs less well than before.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Things They DID Invent: shut up and pregnancy test

Something I'm sure I've blogged about before but can't find the post: when I was younger, many of my peers and I had the experience of medical professionals interrogating us about whether we were pregnant.  They'd start with "Is there any possibility that you're pregnant?" and then, when you said no, they'd say "How do you know?" They'd ask about the details of your menstruation and the choreography of you personal life and basically it was a whole gauntlet - which is particularly upsetting when you're a teenager (especially a teenager who feels too young to have sex), if your parents are present, etc.

Because of this, I've long advocated for simply doing a blood or urine test for pregnancy without belabouring the point, rather than interrogating the patient at length if you aren't going to take her word for not being pregnant.

I'm pleased to announce that when I was in the hospital with my head injury, they did just that. They did a number of blood tests to rule out heart attack, do a blood count, test for nutritional deficiencies, etc., and one of the tests they did was a pregnancy test.  They didn't even mention this to me - I didn't even see it until I was handed my printed-out blood work results.

Obviously pregnancy needs to be ruled out when a female patient of child-bearing age faints, probably on a more solid basis than recent menstruation or lack of reported recent exposure to sperm. So instead of interrogating me, they simply did the test that they would have had to do anyway.

I'm very glad they did it this way, and I hope they do the same on minors and other more vulnerable patients.

Monday, April 02, 2018

My emergency room experience

When I fainted and hit my head, I went to the emergency room at Sunnybrook.

Upon arriving at the emergency room, you swipe your health card in an automated kiosk, select a category into which your complaint falls, and describe it in a few words. The kiosk then issues you a number.

You sit down in the waiting room chairs, and the numbers come up on these big screens above small glassed-off offices. When your number comes up, you go talk to a triage nurse. It took less than 10 minutes (and perhaps even less than 5) for my number to come up.

The triage nurse listens to your problem, asks questions, takes your vitals, takes down all the information, takes your vital signs, and enters everything into the computer so you can be appropriately triaged.  Then I was sent back to the waiting room. Some other patients were sent into the other "zones", which have different waiting rooms, and I don't know what happens to them after that. (You can google Sunnybrook emergency room zones for more information - no point in me trying to explain it here when I don't have any information that hasn't already been put on the internet from more reliable sources.)

Soon after speaking to the triage nurse (maybe 5-10 minutes, definitely under half an hour), the receptionist calls your name, and you check in. They scan your health card, take your information, emergency contact, name of primary care physician, and issue you a wristband.  Then it's back to the waiting room.

What happens next depends on the particulars of the patient's condition. For me, another nurse called my name, and took me into a room (two examining tables/beds divided by a curtain) where he took my blood and took an EKG. This was about an hour after I arrived.  Then I was sent back to the waiting room for the longest wait of the day.  I later learned that this blood work was the primary diagnostic tool in my case, so even though I was sitting around for four hours, my blood work was at the lab.

After four more hours of waiting, they finally called my name and brought me into the "orange zone", where I was seated in another small waiting area. This made me nervous, because a lot of the patients in this area were in beds with machines and/or IVs hooked up to them. I could overhear that one patient had had a stroke, and another patient's family members were crying. It turned out this was a kind of mixed-use area - the people in beds were ER patients who were going to be staying in the hospital overnight, waiting for a bed to open up in the appropriate ward. They were also using this zone for patients who didn't need actual treatment, which is why I was there.

After sitting around in the orange zone waiting area for a bit, a nurse talked to me, asked me to tell my story again, re-took my vitals, and told me that my tests had come back normal so I just had to talk to the doctor and then I'd be discharged.  Then he sent me back to the orange zone waiting area.

After some more time waiting, the doctor called me and took me to a stretcher in the hallway that could be curtained off.  He asked for my story again, asked me questions, talked to me about my test results, did some non-invasive clothed physical exams (including stroke screening and palpating my abdomen). Then he gave me discharge instructions about how to take care of the bump on my head and what signs to seek further medical attention for, answered my questions, and sent me home.

My total time in the orange zone was 1-2 hours, my total time in the ER was about 6 hours. This was on the Saturday afternoon of a long weekend.


A bit about the physical environment:

The Sunnybrook ER is on the ground floor. The main entrance is on the first floor (which is one storey higher than the ground floor), so you have to go down a storey if you come in the main entrance. I don't know whether there was another easier way to access the ER.

The waiting room chairs are padded (with a vinyl-like upholstery that appears to be easy to clean) and have high backs. I can't tell you if they're comfortable to lean back on because I had an enormous bump on the back of my head. They were more comfortable than classroom chairs, church pews, or the chairs in my doctor's waiting room. I've previously blogged that ER waiting rooms should be sleepable, so I was surprised to notice that there was one (but only one) recliner-style chair that appeared to be sleepable. I'm not sure if it was there intentionally for sleepability or it was just an extra chair that they put there for more seating. In any case, I didn't try it out since other patients needed it more than me, and I couldn't lean my head back anyway.

The waiting room was very crowded (on the Saturday afternoon of a long weekend), and some patients' family members were sitting on the floor, or standing. I suspect some patients took those wheelchairs by the entrance so they'd have somewhere to sit, and after a while uncomfortable-looking folding chairs started materializing from somewhere.

There are washrooms right in the ER waiting room - two accessible family-style washrooms (i.e. with the toilet and sink behind the same door). They weren't always perfectly clean - sometimes there were puddles of water or bits of paper towel on the floor - but they were always well-stocked with toilet paper, soap, paper towels, sanitizer, etc. so our washroom experience could be as hygienic as possible. Despite the crowded waiting room, I never noticed a line for the washrooms. There is also sanitizer available in the waiting area.

There are vending machines selling water, juice and pop (just inside the doors of the ambulance entrance, by the security booth). I didn't notice anywhere where you could get food within the immediate vicinity of the ER waiting room, but I didn't ask either. There is a food court on the main floor between the main entrance and the elevators, and Google suggests that there are other sources of food elsewhere in the hospital, although I didn't investigate. Some patients' family members went and fetched food from the food court, and I suspect one person somehow had food delivered.

There are multiple password-protected wifi networks with "Sunnybrook" in the name, and no open networks. I didn't inquire about whether we were allowed to use any of them, or try to guess any of the passwords. I googled around the idea after the fact and the internet suggests that one is intended for patients and visitors, but I have no firsthand information.

There are a few wall outlets in the waiting room, but the waiting room was not designed with the assumption that everyone will have a device to charge.

I saw the triage nurses give a basin-like thing to one patient who thought he might vomit, and a blanket to another patient who was shivering, so it's possible other items for the patient's comfort might be available upon request.  No one gave me ice for my head bump, but I didn't ask either.


The best thing about this ER visit is that every single person I dealt with had outstanding bedside manner.

The triage nurse, young enough to see me as non-young, who squeezed my hand reassuringly when I confided that I had never been in a hospital before and was frightened, even though she's in a hospital every day and, I'm sure, sees hundreds of people with more cause to be frightened than I have.

The nurse who did my blood work and EKG, diligently requiring me to remove only the minimum clothing necessary and exposing only the minimum skin necessary (and covering exposed skin up as soon as the procedure permitted, even when the body part in question was just my calf), despite the fact that we were behind a curtain and my style of dress makes it apparent that I don't come from a more-modest-than-average cultural tradition.

The orange zone nurse, who patiently answered all my questions about what test result numbers mean even though they were normal and I didn't have to worry about them, and took the time to explain to me why I was in this section with stroke patients and people on tubes and machines.

The doctor, who sat down with me, looked me in the eye as though I had his full attention, and patiently answered every single question about what might have happened and what do I do next and how fainting works and how head lumps work and what they tested for and how they ruled out certain things, even though he was also in charge of all the stroke patients and people on tubes and machines - and even took the time to reassure me that I had done the right thing by coming to the hospital and when I should go to the hospital under similar circumstances, even though we could both see that I was the least important patient he was treating that day.

Even the security guards, who were kindly and patiently giving people directions and answering questions about where you can get food and drink and bathrooms and how the sign-in kiosks work, in between actual security guard emergencies.

Several years ago, I fell down an internet rabbit hole of reading ER nurse blogs, and I found that some of them were kind of . . . contemptuous, I suppose, of their patients. On their blogs, they dissed patients for being frightened when their condition wasn't serious, or for coming to the ER for something that isn't an emergency, or for bringing their mother even though they're a grown-ass adult. As someone who met these criteria (I didn't bring my mother, but I was considering calling her because sometimes I want my mommy when things are scary), I was kind of worried about how I might be treated in the ER. So I am quite pleased that every single person I dealt with at Sunnybrook was outstandingly kind and caring. This makes me feel far safer and more confident for next time I need hospital care.

And I sincerely hope there isn't ever a next time.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Schroedinger's concussion

My contemplations of whether I underassess my own pain aren't purely academic.

A few weeks ago, I fainted and hit my head.

At the hospital, they seemed much more interested in the cause of my fainting, but ruled out a concussion because I did not report any of the symptoms on the list.

And I did not report any of the symptoms on the list because I did not perceive myself to be experiencing any of the symptoms on the list.

Nor did I perceive myself to be experiencing any of the symptoms that I was told to seek medical attention for if I should experience them in the days that follow.

But I wasn't functioning at 100%. I was moody and my eyes got tired easily. Focusing visually was harder work than usual.

About a week after the incident, I found myself crying myself to sleep because I hadn't been diagnosed with a concussion - if they'd told me I had a concussion, I reasoned, I would have rested my brain and probably felt better by then!

Then I realized I didn't need a diagnosis to rest, so I spent my weekend doing strict brain rest like you're supposed to do after you have a concussion.

It helped enormously, but didn't completely fix my problems.

So I scaled back my work and other responsibilities and made myself a program of brain rest that could fit around my work and other responsibilities. (Working from home was a lifesaver here!)

And it helped, slowly but surely.

It's been a month. I'm doing significantly better, and I'm still not completely 100% yet. Most days are better than the day before, although sometimes there's weird slippage. (For example, today my eyes were extremely fatigued in the morning, and I haven't a clue why.)

I have no idea if I had a concussion or not, and I don't know if I can ever know.  I can't blame the doctors for not diagnosing me, because they asked me if I was experiencing symptoms, and I reported what I perceived. I wasn't trying to be brave or tough or heroic by minimizng what I was experiencing, I was accurately reporting what I perceived.

And I can't help but wonder if my own perception has been skewed by my experiences with menstrual pain. And if it hadn't been skewed, might I have reported symptoms and been diagnosed with a concussion? And gone home with doctor's orders to rest, taken a few days off work, and been completely better by now?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The final score in the laptop battery management match-up

I bought my laptop in December 2010, and started indiscriminately plugging it in whenever possible, without regard for any battery management strategy. The battery stopped working in April 2013, for a total of 2 years and 4 months.

Then I started putting the laptop in airplane mode whenever it was plugged in, and completely draining and recharging the battery on the rare occasions when I needed to work from battery. The laptop lived until November 2017, for a total of 4 years and 7 months.

Shortly before the laptop died, the battery status said something to the effect that my battery wasn't working at top performance and it was time to get a new one, although I could keep using this one for as long as it lasted. (I don't have the exact message.) It didn't display this message before the previous battery suddenly stopped working. (I noticed there was a problem because the battery light was suddenly blinking orange.) I currently don't know whether the battery had anything to do with why the laptop stopped working.

Therefore, based on my one-person study, airplane mode is better for laptop batteries (at least the kinds of batteries computers used in 2010) than leaving it plugged in indiscriminately.

Note that this is the exact opposite of what all Dell online support said, but consistent with what every in-person tech said.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Nerdview: fire alarm edition

When there is a fire alarm in my building, the concierge announces "There is an alarm condition on the 3rd floor."

That's what his panel says, I'm sure, but that's not what's relevant to residents. A more user-friendly way to explain it to us would be "A smoke detector has gone off" or "The fire alarm has been pulled."  Or if you don't know, even just "The fire alarm has gone off on the 3rd floor" would be clear and idiomatic. All we want to know at this point is whether it's near us.

Then once the fire department gets here and makes sure everything's fine, he announces "The alarm has been reset to normal condition."

Again, I'm sure that's what his panel says. But that's not what's relevant to residents.  A more user-friendly announcement would be "There is no emergency, the alarm is over, you can all return to your apartments." 

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Journalism wanted: what are tests of the Alert Ready system testing for?

Working from home, I sometimes have the TV on during the day.  So every once in a while, I see programming get interrupted with "This is a test of the Alert Ready system!", where there program is interrupted with an intrusive beep and the screen turns red, announcing that they're testing the system.  It's similar to this youtube.

What I want to know: what are they testing for? To see if it shows up? Does someone have to look at all the TV channels to see if it's working? And is that why it takes so long?  Or is there more to it than that? What things could possibly go wrong that this test could detect?

I'd love for someone to write an article about this!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why do politicians want people to telephone them?

Recently, a greater than usual amount of instructions for political activism has been reaching me, and a common theme seems to be to telephone politicians. The instructions are to tell the person who answers the phone that you would like the politician to take or stop taking a particular action, and tell them any personal stories that support this request.

But why on earth would the telephone be the optimal medium for political activism?

If you telephone an elected official's office, someone has to answer the call. If you tell them an anecdote, someone has to write it down.  If they have a case tracking system, the person who answers the phone has to enter their notes into the case tracking system. The whole process moves at the speed of human speech, and is subject to transcription errors on the part of the person answering the phone, and dictation errors (as well as general human error and any lack of preparedness that's borne of inexperience) on the part of the person making the call. This is especially egregious because less-experienced phone-callers have to write up a script for themselves, which they read to the phone-answerer, who transcribes it into whatever system the political office uses.

But if you send them an email, the message will reach your political official (or enter their automated system) in your own words, either by copy-paste or through an automated algorithm. No human intervention, no possibility of human error, and also no staffing expenses to deal with your inquiry. It's faster for political staff (reading is faster than typing) and might also be no less slow for the citizen if - like me - they'd have to write up a script before making a phone call, or - like me - they can type at the speed of speech anyway. There's no human error, because your very own words either reach the politico directly or are entered into the automated system. From the point of view of the politico, they can get their constituents' POV straight from the constituents' mouth, and/or get their constituents' POV without having to pay the salary of political staff who run itnerference.

So how did it come about that a telephone call is considered the most effective way to reach politicians?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

City Shoe Repair in Eglinton station has moved to 2200 Yonge St., 2nd floor

Looking for the awesome shoe repair place that, until very recently, was in Eglinton station?

They've moved to the 2nd floor of the Canada Square building at 2200 Yonge St.

If you're standing in front of their old location, go up the stairs to the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton, then up the next set of stairs (or the escalator) into Canada Square.

Then keep walking south through the building (parallel to Yonge, away from Eglinton). Go past the little stairs that go down to the lobby, past the elevators, and keep going. It's, on the left side (closest to Yonge St.) about three storefronts past the point where you start thinking "Did I miss it?" You can see the big red boot through the store windows. If you reach TPH The Printing House, you've gone too far.

The nice people at City Shoe Repair have saved my ass and my shoes multiple times, including when my shoes literally fell apart while I was walking down the street and when my boot wouldn't unzip leaving me stuck inside it.  So hopefully I can use my googleability to help people find them now that their new location has less foot traffic.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In which Reitman's breaks my heart again

I blogged before about how Reitman's broke my heart by discontinuing my jeans.  Just weeks later, they've done it again.

During my chafing-induced frantic acquisition of yoga pants, I found an absolute treasure at Reitmans: cotton yoga pants with pockets, styled so that (I was able to convince myself) they looked like real pants rather than activewear.  A strategically placed seam at the front emulated (from a distance) a crease that might be ironed into a pair of dress pants, and the drawstring at the top was easily covered by my shirt.  They worked with sneakers and a hoodie, they worked with boots and my good coat, they worked with everything.

I promptly purchased two pairs and, once I realized my jeans were discontinued, started using them as my go-to casual pants.

Then, after only a couple of months of using them as my go-to pants, they got a hole in the crotch.  And when I went to buy more pairs, I discovered that they, too, have been discontinued.

This is particularly frustrating because they were barely a year old, and I had only been wearing them as my go-to for a few months. (And wearing them during the hour or two a day when I'm out of the house.) I definitely wore them for less than 300 hours in total, and quite possibly as little as 200 hours.  I definitely washed them less than 5 times, and quite possible as few as 2 times.  And yet they wore out.

If they were still commercially available, I wouldn't be complaining on the internet. I would shrug my shoulders, say "Meh, 21st-century fast fashion, what can you do?", cheerfully buy a few new pairs at whatever the price and keep wearing them forever. They're that awesome!

But the fact that they wore out after only a couple of months' regular wear means that, if I wear them regularly, I only have a couple of months before they're forever lost to me. So now I have to ration every step and every wash. Every time I decide which pants to put on, I have to think about whether today's activities are worth the wear and tear on the pair of pants I really want to wear, or whether I should wear a suboptimal pair of pants to save my favourites for later.  It's so disheartening! I think about the decades of statistical life expectancy I have left, and cringe in dread of having to keep myself properly clothed for that many decades.

And the thing is, I actively want to buy all my clothes at Reitman's and never shop anywhere else again!  I love clothes, I hate shopping, Reitman's has always been reliable for me, plus Reitman's is literally the closest clothing store to my home.  All I want is to walk into Reitman's, pick up the reliable standard pants that have always worked for me and whatever pretty tops and skirts and dresses they have this season, hand over my credit card, and be home in half an hour. I don't want to shop elsewhere, because it's more work and less predictable.

But Reitman's is making this impossible, by discontinuing the clothes that work for me and not having a comparable replacement.

If they're going to discontinue the clothes, at least make the last batch sturdy enough to last. If they're going to make them so flimsy they get holes in only a few months, just keep them in stock and I'll keep buying them!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

King Charles III (and some thoughts on cultural references)

I recently saw the movie King Charles III. The premise is that, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles ascends to the throne and causes a constitutional crisis by refusing to sign a bill into law.

The plot I could take or leave, but what made this movie particularly interesting is that it's written in a Shakespearean style, using blank verse, iambic pentameter, asides to the audience, etc. So watching it was akin to being one of Shakespeare's contemporaries watching a Shakespearean history play.  In fact, as I was watching it, I kept finding myself noticing references that would need to be footnoted if this were taught in schools centuries in the future.  But for me, they were just common knowledge with a soup├žon of tabloid gossip.

It might be interesting to show this movie to students learning Shakespeare, just to give them that experience.  Anyone who can name or extrapolate from context the names of most of the people in this photo already has the necessary cultural references.


When I studied Shakespeare in school, the plays came in these books with extensive footnotes explaining the wordplay or cultural references that weren't part of our vernacular. The teachers said that in Shakespeare's time, everyone understood these references, with tone, delivery and connotations suggesting that if Kids Today would just be more diligent, we'd understand it too just like in the Good Old Days.

But as I watched King Charles III, I realized that those were just their modern cultural references at the time - contemporary slang, basic current events, current social media use patterns, the sort of celebrity gossip you pick up from seeing tabloid covers while waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.

Similarly, when we did an extensive unit on Greek and Roman mythology in Grade 8, the teacher said that people used to know all these references, again with tone and delivery suggesting that our lack of knowledge of these references that are apparently so crucial and vital and baseline to our culture made us somehow subpar.

But the 90s Jane Austen movies, and some subsequent reading on the concept of neo-classicism, made me realize that this whole Greco-Roman thing was basically a trend too. It was that era's equivalent of Simpsons references and/or dank memes. The flowery, wordy reference-laden Romantic-era writing style was that era's equivalent of today's dense, reference-laden hip-hop lyrics. And people were familiar with them simply because they had consumed the era's popular culture, just like how people who have seen the Marvel Thor movies starring Chris Hemsworth might pick up a thing or two about Norse mythology.

I think if our teachers had presented these aspects of the curriculum as a glimpse into the popular culture of the olden days, we would have found it much more approachable and much more interesting.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The origin of mansplaining and bootstrapping?

A while back, this story circulated where a male employee and a female employee switched email signatures on their shared inbox:

My first thought was that nothing like this has ever happened to me, but in the shower today, it occurred to me that this might explain another phenomenon I've observed.

When I ask for something that's perfectly reasonable and then don't get it, older men within earshot of my complaints often respond with "Well, did you ask?"  Of course I asked. And I didn't get it. That's why I'm complaining about it.

For example, when Dell said they couldn't sell me an extended warranty as promised (which, BTW was two years ago and I'm still using the same computer - they could have gotten hundreds of dollars each year and absolute loyal out of me by extending it), I kept getting "Well, did you tell them that you'd been sent this personalized offer?  And that you had a confirmation email?"  Yes, I did. And it didn't get me what I wanted. That's why I'm complaining about it.

For as long as I can remember, I've been baffled at this "Well, did you [do the most glaringly obvious first step]?" with tone and delivery suggesting that they think this is a whole solution.

But in the shower, it occurred to me that maybe, in the world of the men who say these things to me, the most glaringly obvious first step is the whole solution?  Maybe they live in a world where all they need to say is "I have a confirmation email" and people agree with them?

I don't know how to test this, but if it is the case, I wonder if there are any other disadvantages I might be experiencing that I don't perceive?

Also, might this be part of the origin of mansplaining?  If things tend to work out for them when they try the first obvious step, they might arrive at the conclusion that someone who's having problems hasn't tried the first obvious step?

And more broadly speaking, this would probably be the root of punitive "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" policies - people in positions of greater privilege have things turn out right when they do the basic right things, so they conclude that people who have things turn out wrong aren't doing the basic right things.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

It should always work this way

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Things that are harder to clean than their counterparts

1. Glasses from Pearle Vision. There's a Pearle Vision right in my neighbourhood and they had frames I actually like for a price that's actually lower than my insurance limit (!!!) so I thought I had it made, but it turns out I have to clean the lenses more often than my previous lenses from LensCrafters. And yes, I did ask for the kind of anti-glare lenses that stay cleaner.  And they do stay cleaner than the kind of anti-glare lenses that don't stay cleaner. But nevertheless, I'm still cleaning them more than my LensCrafters lenses.

2.Glass cooktops. The stove on my new apartment has a glass cooktop, unlike every other stove I've used in my life, all of which had electric coil burners. (I have never at any point had a choice in the matter.) And it turns out the glass is impossible to keep clean. Every spill or drip creates a disaster, and while I've been able to get rid of 97% of the mess with a combination of purpose-built products and internet tips, I can never remove every trace of evidence. And even if there are no spills or drips and you just wipe it down, there are streaks left like cleaning a window.  The first time I cleaned it, it wasn't particularly dirty, but wiping it left streaks that made it look worse.  I don't recommend it to anyone, and can't fathom why my builder thought it would be a good idea.  (On top of the cleaning problems, the burners also either heat more slowly or produce less heat - haven't figured out which yet - so I have to relearn all my cooking patterns.)

3. Caesarstone counters. My new apartment has caesarstone counters, whereas the old one had granite. (Again, I didn't have a choice in the matter in either apartment.)  Everyone along the way and the entire internet told me that caesarstone is way easier to keep clean than granite, but I've found the opposite.  With granite, I spray it with a cleaner, wipe it down, and I'm done.  With caesarstone, wiping it leaves streaks so I have to sort of polish it with microfibre cloths (like cleaning glasses) after I've actually wiped the dirt off.  On top of that, the slightest mess is readily visible. If a bit of water drips on the counter and I don't clean it up right away, there's going to be a visible mark on the counter until I do clean it.  At one point early on I must have put a hot pot on the counter (I don't consciously remember doing this, but it's the only explanation) and it left behind a circle that can't be cleaned off.  This got me a scolding from my mother for not using those things people put under hot pots, but I've never had to do so before. Everywhere I've lived, I simply put pots wherever they landed naturally and they didn't hurt everything. But this caesarstone is such a hothouse orchid that one mindlessly placed pot in my first week living here caused permanent damage.

I know I'm the only person on the recorded internet saying this, but based on my first hand experiences I do not recommend caesarstone counters. Granite is far easier to care for, as is what ever that plastic-like stuff they used in the 70s is called. Caesarstone has no discernable benefit.