Showing posts with label personal life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal life. Show all posts

Friday, December 22, 2017


Toronto Star:

IF TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: This year you present a strong personality. Others innately know that you are not a person to fool around with. You also have an offbeat quality that draws a diverse group of people toward you. If you are single, you could find several of your potential suitors to be overly possessive. While their neediness might not have bothered you a few years ago, today you have little tolerance for that behaviour. If you are attached, you and your significant other make a major purchase that you both have desired for a while. As a couple, you are emotional spenders. AQUARIUS knows how to present new ideas.
When I try to think of Aquariuses from whom I might get new ideas, I come up with Poodle and Eddie Izzard.  So it's probably going to be someone else.  (Baby Cousin 6.0 is scheduled to be an Aquarius, so maybe there's some surprise infant inspiration imminent.)

Globe and Mail:

Some of your ideas may be outlandish, even outrageous, but they can be made to work for you over the coming 12 months. There is no such word as "cannot" in the Capricorn vocabulary, so dream your dreams, then turn them into realities.

Also, when I look back on last year's horoscopes, I see "If you are single, romance will knock on your door."  Recently, a strange man of my approximate demographic knocked on my door for no apparent reason. (He wasn't wearing the uniform of a building employee, and I didn't hear knocks on my neighbours' doors so I don't think he was canvassing.) I didn't answer the door because I don't answer the door to strangers.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Girl colours and boy colours

I currently have four baby cousins: three boys and one girl. (They aren't all so much babies - the oldest one is 3 - but old nomenclature dies hard.  And it's not like they can read this blog to complain that I'm referring to them as babies.) I bought xmas gifts for all of them (I don't celebrate xmas myself, but my family does and it's an awesome excuse to look through all the adorable children's books at Mabel's Fables), and since all the gifts would be going under the same tree I put gift tags on them.

I managed to find a package of non-xmas-themed gift tags in all different colours, one of which is pink.  So I put the pink tag on the girl's gift.  Because pink is for girls.

Of course, I myself don't actually think pink is exclusively for girls and not for boys at all.  If any of my male baby cousins expressed interest in pink things or things that are culturally marked as for girls, I'd be the first to make sure he had all the girly things he wanted. 

But, because on a broader cultural level pink has connotations as "for girls", some boys might not like it.  Some boys might find it insulting to be given the pink thing. It might be problematic to give one brother pink and the other brother a colour without gender connotations. (The inverse is true too - I remember once feeling very humiliated and insecure in my femininity when my sister got a Judy Jetson toy and I was given smelly old George Jetson.)

If I had multiple pink tags, I wouldn't hesitate to give every child a pink tag. But I only had the one, and I only ever use gift tags for the baby cousins, so the one pink gift tag went to the one girl.

And so, out of consideration for connotations that these small children may or may not have yet picked up from the prevailing culture, gender stereotypes of colours are perpetuated for another generation.


Another similar issue is that I'm very mindful of making sure the boys get books with male protagonists (insofar as the books have protagonists and the protagonists have gender - with children this young, sometimes the books are about animals or shapes or colours, and sometimes they don't have enough of a plot to have a protagonist), but I don't put the same thought into making sure the girl gets books with female protagonists.  This is because I have the idea, absorbed from the ether, that boy are more likely to be reluctant readers, and that boys are more likely to be disinclined to read books with female protagonists. 

In real life, none of these kids are reluctant readers, simply because they're too young for anyone to make that determination.  In real life, I'm not even sure to what extent children that age do or don't perceive gender.  But, nevertheless, I've decided to pre-emptively address this Thing That People On The Internet Say Might Happen, and, as a result, might be perpetuating the stereotype that books about girls aren't for boys.

Part of it is the fact that I can testify from my own first-hand experience that even a girly girl whose gender identity and expression is wholly feminine can totally enjoy books about a male protagonist, and therefore would feel confident in getting a girl a book with a male protagonist.  But I have heard anecdotes of boys being disinclined to read female protagonists, and I only have a self righteous "Well, it shouldn't make any difference!" to counter that.  (I don't actually know whether my male baby cousins as individuals care about the genders of their protagonists - I'm never able to have as comprehensive a conversation with their parents as I'd like because we keep getting interrupted by the presence of babies and toddlers.)

But ultimately, I think it's more important (in terms of both gift-giving and child development) to maximize the likelihood that the kidlets will enjoy the books put in front of them. And so I resort to gender stereotypes unless I have further specific information.

I kind of wish I could switch off that portion of my knowledge of self and culture, and choose books cheerfully unaware of what gender (and other) stereotypes might exist and need to be addressed.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Toronto Star:  
IF TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: This year you find that others count on you and want you to take the lead. Though you might need to adjust to handling what they ask of you, you will make it your pleasure to take on the responsibility. If you are single, romance will knock on your door. The person you meet through your work or a community commitment could become a long-term relationship. If you are attached, the two of you move to a new level of understanding. Both of you enjoy going out on the town together. LIBRA appreciates your leadership skills and would like to learn from you.
 Globe & Mail:
The lesson you need to learn over the coming year is that there is good and bad in everyone – yes, even in you. That does not mean you should never be judgmental but you do need to move away from the idea that some individuals are evil – they’re not

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The bizarro universe of new home construction

So when you buy a new home, the expectation is that there will be problems.  (They call them "deficiencies".)  I've had a number of them, ranging from the superficial (paint on a lighting fixture) to the more problematic (a draft caused by my balcony door being misaligned).

The developer has a system all set up to handle this. I report the deficiencies to this office, and they coordinate having people come in to repair them. Since I work from home, they just give me a ring to let me know when someone is coming, and a nice tradesperson swoops in and solves a problem for me, often answering any questions I might have along the way. (If I weren't home during the day, property management could let them in for me.)  Every individual I have dealt with throughout this process has been awesome, and no one has batted an eye at the number of things I have reported.

Everyone I know who has bought a new home (condo or detached) says they've gone through this.  Even my parents, who bought a new home back when I was still a fetus, went through this.  And everyone tells me it's normal.

What's weird to me is that it's normal!  Imagine in your own job, if you could turn in work with about at least a dozen mistakes!  I'd get fired for that kind of error rate! And imagine if this was considered fine and normal, to the extent that your employer had a whole infrastructure set up for your clients to report the mistakes you made, and then you'd resolve them in batches over the next several weeks. And your employer was considered a good service provider on the grounds that the mistakes were resolved promptly and cheerfully, and it would be completely unreasonable for your clients to expect you not to make mistakes in the first place!

And the bizarre thing is it's been like this for decades!  It was like this 36 years ago when my parents bought a new home, and no one has fixed it yet!

Don't get me wrong, I'd still rather have a newly-built home that only I have ever lived in than an older one that has the leavings of other people's different housekeeping priorities in it, but it blows my mind that for decades and decades this entire industry has just been okay with the fact that there are multiple deficiencies in the product delivered to the customer - especially when it's the biggest purchase of the customer's life and one that affects every aspect of their day-to-day happiness.

Friday, December 09, 2016

How I'm making my new home uninhabitable to anyone but me.

I blogged before about my filing system, where I sort things in order of when I received them after years of failing to sort stuff and just sticking it in the front of the file drawer.

As I've been setting up my new home and finding myself have to organize things, I've been coming up with more unique ways to organize things:

- I organized my desk drawer full of office supplies and other miscellany in order of "How likely am I to look for it?" Stuff I think I'm going to look for all the time goes in front, stuff I don't expect to look for goes in the back.

-In my file drawer, I made a folder for "stuff I can never figure out where to put and then can't find it and then panic". Now I'll never need to panic about not being able to find something again!

- In a bathroom drawer, I made a "stuff I use every day" section. Once I get drawer dividers figured out, I'll also add a "stuff I use regularly but not daily" section.

- My new place has a den. I'm used to living without a den and didn't deliberately seek one out (the suites that met my other requirements all came with dens). So I'm putting all the stuff that I can't figure out where to put it in the den, some of it in moving boxes, some of it in random piles.  I'm going to leave it like this for several months to see what makes its way out of the den, the I'm going to simply use the den as a storage room for everything else. In theory, I'll eventually acquire some kind of storage furniture or boxes that look more permanent than moving boxes, but who knows if this will actually happen in practice? Meanwhile, my desk is still in the living room like it's always been - previously because I didn't have a choice, but now because my den doesn't have windows and I don't want to spend the vast majority of my waking hours in a windowless nook.

In short, where my limited skills enable me to impose an organizational paradigm, I'm setting things up so they meet my own eccentric needs perfectly.  But, in the process of doing so, I seem to be creating a space that won't make sense to anyone else. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Status report

So remember how I bought a condo four years ago? I just moved in today. Too soon to tell how I feel about it.

I'll be blogging more about the process as time passes. (The process isn't yet complete - final closing is still at some indefinite point in the future.)

In the meantime, I have a job for you all: if I start nimbying now that I'm a homeowner, call me out on it!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Moving stress braindump

I'm moving into my condo at the end of the month, and I'm really disproportionately stressed about it.  And I'm trying to figure out why.

I think part of it is that this doesn't have the potential for any immediately-appreciable increase in my quality of life.  Every move I've ever done at least had that potential.  When I moved out of my parents' house into res, I got to live away from prying adult eyes!  Every new res room gave me more privacy than the previous (apart from that one awful summer in summer res, but that was outweighed by actually working grownup jobs all summer for the first time in my life).  Then when I moved into my first apartment, I got a whole apartment with a living room and a bedroom and a bathroom and a kitchen, just like a real adult!  Then when I moved into my current apartment, I also got a dishwasher and washer/dryer, plus the decrease in panic attacks that comes with living in a brand new building. But the condo is comparable to my current apartment, so there's nothing to get excited about.

There are benefits to the condo, but they're dull, pragmatic long-term benefits. It's better for aging in place, it increases the likelihood of retirement being feasible in 20-30 years if retirement is still a thing then, etc.  That's the sort of thing that it's hard to work up a visceral positive emotional reaction about, but the work and uncertainty of moving still elicits a visceral stress reaction.


I don't remember getting this stressed with my previous moves, but I do think I got a lot more stressed about other things.  I was less secure in most areas of life, I hadn't yet discovered Entitlement, couldn't cope with my phobias as well, had far less experience with getting problems solved, and had far less cumulative empirical evidence that people will help me solve my problems when they arise. I mean, today alone I made two phone calls and sent several emails to people who may or may not be the right person to solve my problem. This past week at work, I solved three different problems caused by other people under extremely tight deadlines and even communicated with two of the clients myself without blinking an eye. I regularly patronize stores and restaurants that are way cooler than me, and often go in with specific needs or special requests.  And I do all this with complete sangfroid.  but I wasn't anywhere near as stressed about moving as I am now. What's going on?

Unsubstantiated theory: I'm out of practice with feeling stressed. The combination of working from home and having nearly all aspects of my life arranged just the way I like them means my baseline is zero stress.  I previously blogged that it would be awesome if I could save my day-to-day non-stressed feelings.  But what if it's actually working the other way and my coping muscles have atrophied?

Another unsubstantiated theory: I have a finite capacity for stress, so it's all manifesting itself in this one stressful thing as opposed to being distributed among multiple things like it was in the past.  I read a while back about a concept called the "psychological immune system", which suggests that the brain protects itself during times of high stress by limiting the amount of stress you experience. I found this concept difficult to believe when I first read about it.  But what if it had been working all along, and even the high stress I experienced back then was being limited by my psychological immune system?  And now that I'm not stressed in my day-to-day life, I'm feeling the full impact of the stress that I'm capable of handling?


Thinking back to when I was younger, I would never have said that my day-to-day stress is zero, but neither would I have said that I'm particularly stressed.  Things like the rush of the daily commute, getting frantic at an urgent text, getting nervous about making business phone calls, etc. were all part of baseline human reality for me.

Putting aside for a moment the current and (hopefully temporary) stress of moving and dealing with the condo purchase, I wonder if, in the future, I'll look back at the baseline that I currently perceive as zero-stress and wonder how I ever coped with that much daily stress?

Friday, November 11, 2016

No Remembrance Day blogathon this year

For the past several years, I've been blogathoning on Remembrance Day. Unfortunately, this year I'm very overwhelmed with all the stuff I have to do to prepare for my move and my condo purchase, and something's got to give.  Hopefully by this time next year life will be calm enough that I can resume the tradition.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Interpersonal interaction of the day

As I've mentioned before, one of the many things I dislike about myself is that I'm not (and can't seem to get) knowledgeable enough about how to treat people with disabilities. (At this point, some people will say "Like a person." This doesn't help for reasons that I will get into momentarily.)  I can't always tell when they need help or when they've got this. I can't tell when to offer help or when to wait to be asked. If the lady in the wheelchair drops something, can she pick it up herself or does she need help? When giving directions to someone who's using a white cane but wearing glasses, can I point or give visual cues (e.g. turn left at the big green sign?)

When I do my best, I sometimes fuck up, like the time I eagerly scurried to open a door for a lady with a cane and almost caused her to fall down, because she needed to hold onto the door handle for support. 

When I try to educate myself, I just end up feeling even less certain. For example, I saw some kind of awareness campaign saying that some people who use wheelchairs can walk. So when I overhear the couple in the wheelchairs saying "There it is on the top shelf," should I interrupt and offer to grab it for them, or can they get it themselves?  How do I tell?

I don't want to make people with disabilities do the extra work of having to ask for help, or do the extra work of having their day and train of thought interrupted to fend off unnecessary offers of help. And I hate the fact that I'm not good enough at being a person to tell, and thereby impose extra work on people for whom the simple act of going to the grocery store is more work than it is for me.

So with all this as background, I had an extremely interesting interaction in the grocery store today.  Behind me in line was an older lady in wheelchair who spoke broken English with a thick accent.  As I'm telling the cashier that yes I would like bags and try to balance the weight if you can and I have coupons and air miles, I see out of the corner of my eye that the lady in the wheelchair has dropped a bag.

Before I'd even had time to mentally debate whether I should retrieve it for her or see if she can get it for herself, she snaps her fingers and says "Hey!" to me. When I turn to look at her, she points to the bag that fell and says "Get that for me?" I promptly pick it up for her, she says thank you, and I go back to dealing with the cashier.  Shortly afterwards the bag falls again, she snaps her fingers, says "Hey!" to get my attention, and points to the bag again.  I retrieve it with a joke about how it really doesn't want to go home with her, we laugh, and I finish my transaction.

If I'd been reading this story in someone else's blog, the lady's actions would have sounded imperious and arrogant to me. But the dynamic IRL was that she was answering my unasked questions about what I should do (and thereby attending to my emotional needs). Her immediate reaction (rather than waiting to see if I'd react) and clear call for my attention spared me the debate about whether to get involved, so I had the positive feelings that come with helping the lady in the wheelchair rather than the uncertain feelings that I usually have in this situation.

Of course, I'm sure a huge part of the reason why this lady didn't sound imperious and arrogant was that I held all the privilege in the situation. It could very likely have read differently if I'd been young enough that she held the age privilege, or if she'd been white and I'd been non-white, or if she'd spoken the same generic Canadian English as I do, or perhaps even if she'd been male.

But, somehow, she read the convergence of factors right and managed, even in this unconventional way, to give me the information I needed and facilitate the interaction so we both left with our goals achieved.

Of course, none of this should be necessary. In an ideal world, I'd know how to be a person well enough that I wouldn't have to look to the less privileged person in the interaction for guidance. But since the reality of this specific situation is that my incompetent self was the person we were stuck with, I admire and laud this lady for handling the situation with such aplomb. It doesn't sound like something that should work, but it worked beautifully!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Things I did invent!

For years and years, I've been telling the universe to invent things for me. This week I shut up and invented the things for myself!

1. Since I discovered the Toronto Fire Active Incidents page years ago, I've gotten in the habit of checking it whenever I hear a siren, just to see what's going on. However, not all sirens are the fire department.  So I was going to write a Things They Should Invent that someone should merge the Toronto Fire Calls map and the Toronto Police Calls map (as well as ambulance data, if it is available) into a single "What's that siren?" map.

Making a map isn't in my immediate skill set, but people who are smarter than I am have already turned these data streams into twitter feeds. So I made my very first twitter list, which shows all police and fire calls in near-real time (there's about a 5 minute delay). So now when I hear a siren, I just pull up my list and within moments the answer to my question will appear.

(Although if anyone is feeling ambitious or creative, I still think a map would be a better interface).

2. There was some visible sediment in the reservoir of my coffee maker.  Neither running vinegar through the machine nor rinsing it out would budge it, so I figured it needed to be scrubbed. Unfortunately, since it's only a 4-cup coffee maker, the reservoir is small enough that I can just barely get my hand in and couldn't move it around in the way I needed to to scrub the sediment. A bottle brush wasn't soft enough, and that sponge-on-a-stick thing that's like a bottle brush but with a sponge was too bulky. I thought a q-tip would be about the right size and texture, but I couldn't get my hand in properly to manipulate it the way it needed to be manipulated.

I was going to write a Things They Should Invent of extra-long q-tips for these kinds of cleaning challenges, but then I had an inspiration:

I took a cotton ball (the kind you use to remove makeup or nail polish), stuck it on the end of a fork like it's a meatball, and used that to scrub the inside of the coffee maker reservoir.  The cotton was the right texture, the fork gives it the kind of stiff support you need for scrubbing, and the fork was long enough that I could manipulate the movements of the cotton fully because my hand could be outside the reservoir. The whole thing was perfectly clean in about 20 seconds!

I've never before been able to actually make one of my Things They Should Invent, and this week I made two in one week!

Monday, October 19, 2015


I dressed in my usual black and purple election day outfit, but then decided to violate my "no party colours" rule by wearing my late grandmother's birthstone ring.  She was a huge fan of voting (and of dogs), so I thought it would be appropriate to bring her with me.

As in previous years, I planned the longest justifiable route, with some errands along the way, to maximize my opportunity to pet dogs.  (For those of you just tuning in, the more dogs I pet on the way to vote, the better the election outcome.)

But zero dog-petting opportunities presented themselves!  The dogs kept being led away from the sidewalk onto the grass, or across the street from me, or otherwise on trajectories that I couldn't reasonably intercept.  The only interceptable dog I encountered was in the middle of pooing! 

I began to wonder if I'd thrown off equilibrium with the ring, so I went home (perfectly justifiable! I was carrying groceries and there was a line-up outside my polling station!), put the groceries in the fridge, and took off the ring. I'm still not sure if that was the right decision. Then I proceeded to the polling station by a perfectly reasonable route that happens to have high dog potential.

It did have high dog potential, but, again, none of them were interceptable. I saw like 20 dogs in 2 short blocks, and I couldn't reasonably pet any of them. In desperation, I passed a shade too close to a large dog that was part of a family with a crying baby, trailing my fingers a shade lower than natural in the hopes of getting a quick pet in even though they clearly didn't want to stop because they wanted to get home and take care of their baby.  But I misestimated our respective heights and missed.

The line to enter the polling station reached outside, which I've never seen before.  I had a voter's card, so once I was inside I was directed straight to my poll.  There was no one else waiting for that poll, so I was in and out in two minutes.  However, there was a very long line-up for people who didn't have voter's cards.

This means lots of new people are voting.  I hope that's enough to outweight the back lock of zero dog pettings.

Friday, August 28, 2015

How working from home affects my subconscious

One side-effect of working from home is that my subconscious seems to be less active.  I don't notice the lack of subconscious activity itself, but when I have a now-unusual) high-interaction day, I notice that I'm predreaming a lot more as I wait to fall asleep.  And the content of the predreaming is most often directly related to the interaction of the day - I can hear the voices and cadences of the people I interacted with echoing in the background, like you would if you were nodding off in a crowded room.

I don't specifically remember the influence of the people I interacted with in my subconscious before I started working from home, but it's quite possible I didn't notice it because it was baseline. 

If asked to think about my dreams or predreams in isolation, I would never say that I feel they're not what they should be on a regular work-at-home day. But, nevertheless, they are far more vibrant on high-interaction days, with content directly related to the interactions of the day.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The time I failed to do surgery on a Sleeptracker watch

I've blogged before about my various successful attempts to repair various malfunctioning household objects, so it's only fair if I write about my failed attempt.

I'd been using a Sleeptracker watch for years without incident, when one day the battery died.  The little hole-in-the-wall jewellery store where I'd previously gotten the battery replaced had closed and I happened to be at the Bay store at Yonge & Bloor, so I decided to see if their jewellery department did watch batteries. They did, and appeared to change the battery successfully.

Unfortunately, after a couple of days' use, I determined that the watch wasn't beeping any more.  It was telling time properly, but not beeping when the alarm was supposed to go off. Which makes it useless, since the whole point of a Sleeptracker is to wake you up!

 I did some googling, and found some other people on the internet who had had the same problem with digital watches (although never Sleeptrackers specifically), including instructions that were supposed to fix the problem. (I can no longer google up the specific instructions I found.)  So I bought a tiny screwdriver and opened up the watch to follow the instructions.

I managed to open it up reasonably easily, followed the instructions, replaced the battery, but it didn't beep. And, to add insult to injury, I couldn't get the watched closed again.  The band kind of overlaps the piece on the back of the watcht hat needs to come off, and I just don't have the physical dexterity to get that piece back on and tucked under the band on both the top and bottom and get the screw-holes to line up so I can put the screws back in.

So I put all the parts in a ziploc bag, and ended up buying a new Sleeptracker watch on eBay. (They seem to have discontinued the watches and replaced them with an iphone app, which is useless to me given how often I throw everything in bed with me out of bed in my sleep!)

Now the battery of that new Sleeptracker is running low, and I'm worried about whether it will be a complete write-off too.

Friday, August 07, 2015

The time I did surgery on a remote control

A few days ago, I turned on my TV, pressed the AV button on the remote to switch it to my Wii, and discovered that the AV button didn't work.  I pressed some other buttons, and they didn't work either.  I replaced the batteries, and they didn't fix the problem.

My cable remote could be convinced to control everything on the TV except switching it to AV, so I figured I'd have to either try a universal remote (might not work, since my TV is not a common brand) or maybe even buy a new TV.

Since the remote was dead anyway, I decided to see if I could take it apart to find out why it wasn't working. I saw some little screws, so I unscrewed them.  Then I pulled the casing apart, and could clearly see how the inside worked.  There was a rubber layer that constituted the buttons, with a small dot of what I assume is conductive material corresponding with the appropriate point on the conveniently-labelled circuit board.  I couldn't see any flaws or signs of wear and tear, so I sprayed compressed air at everything and put it back together, noting with interest that the various parts seem to be deliberately shaped in a way that makes it impossible to put it back together incorrectly. 

I screwed the screws back in, put the batteries back in...and it worked!!!

I have no idea why it worked - I didn't do anything to cause it to worked - but nevertheless I took it apart, put it back together, and it worked.

That's one impossible thing before breakfast!


I've blogged before about positive physical changes that correlate with getting older.  I think I now have a positive mental change that correlates with getting older: better ability to take things apart and put them back together.

I've blogged about my experiences with a chair and a lamp.  In both cases, and in the case of the remote control, I don't think I could have done it in my 20s without clearly-illustrated written instructions.  My brain just didn't see how things worked the same way.

I have no idea why this is. I've never done anything to work on it deliberately.  There's nothing in my day-to-day life that should improve my ability to take things apart and figure out how they work.

Understand, I'm still not objectively good at taking things apart or figuring out how things work.  I'm still very much hindered by my clumsiness and poor physical skills of all types. But I do seem to be better at it than I was before, and I do seem to be improving, for reasons I cannot fathom.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Stressing about stress

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

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

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

Then two things happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Signs I'm getting old

Baby Cousin 1.0 and Baby Cousin 3.0 are brothers, just a year and a half apart in age. I've noticed that sometimes when I mention one or the other of them in conversation, I use the wrong name - I call Baby Cousin 1.0 by Baby Cousin 3.0's name or vice versa.

In the past year, I've noticed this happening quite a few times.  I'll be talking about one person, and refer to them by the name of another person with similar characteristics.  For example,  I found a picture of Fairy Goddaughter when she was 9 months old and said aloud to myself "Aww, look at [Baby Cousin 2.0]", (Baby Cousin 2.0 being a 9-month-old girl).  Or when mentioning an uncle, I'll use the name of another uncle (who is the first uncle's brother).

When I was a kid, older adults (especially my grandparents' age) would mix up names like this from time to time.  I thought they were actually getting the people mixed up or forgetting the people's names, and their response when their errors came to light didn't disabuse me of this notion.

However, when I do this myself, I'm not forgetting names or mixing people up.  I know with absolute certainty which baby cousin was born first and which was born second, and I can even tell you their dates of birth and distinguishing characteristics and recent accomplishments.  This isn't like when I first started my job and got the names of the two petite francophone ladies of a certain age confused and didn't realize I had the names wrong until one lady retired.  There's no confusion or uncertainty whatever in this case.  It's just that sometimes the wrong word comes out of my mouth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The condolence script

This bereavement has given me some insight into the condolence script.

During my last bereavement (which was 15 years ago!!) I hadn't yet read up on etiquette theory, so I didn't know what people were supposed to say or how the bereaved is supposed to respond.  (It didn't really come up IRL though, because I was in university and the funeral was on a day when I had no classes, so I just went about life without telling many people.)

I used to think that you had to say something awesome to the bereaved person, that would make them feel better.  And I used to think that, as the bereaved person, you have to give a mitigative response, because condolences are such an intense and one-sided thing to receive that you have to sort of balance out the conversation (like how if someone compliments a specific aspect of your outfit, you might look at a specific aspect of their outfit to compliment.  Or if someone thanks you extra-profusely for something, you might feel like saying "Please, it's no big deal.")

When I started reading Miss Manners, she said that a simple expression of condolences or sympathies is sufficient ("I'm so sorry" or "My sympathies" or "My condolences"), and that "thank you" is a sufficient response.  These seemed woefully inadequate to me, but Miss Manners said they suffice and I certainly couldn't come up with anything that was as awesome as I thought it needed to be, so I began using them.

With this bereavement, I've come to the realization that there's no such thing as a series of words that can achieve the level of awesomeness that I thought was necessary in an expression of condolences.  Words uttered just exist on a completely different plane and scale than bereavement, even simple bereavement. It's like trying to knit a sweater that will refute a political argument.  It's just not a tool that can be used to achieve that goal, no matter how awesomely you do it.

So why bother?  Because the expression of condolences acknowledges the elephant in the room.  Death is huge, and it can seem weird and wrong and assholic to avoid the topic if you're talking to someone who's recently bereaved.  So "I'm so sorry" or "my condolences" is the standardized code for "I acknowledge that you were bereaved", and "thank you" is standardized code for "I acknowledge that you acknowledged it."  Then you can proceed with the business at hand without anyone having to worry about being rude about the elephant.

The existence of a standardized script helps because it's so difficult to say something right.  It's like saying "please" or "thank you" or "you're welcome".  Imagine trying to express those concepts if we didn't have standard words for them!  And, of course, bereavement is a far more sensitive and emotionally fraught situation than asking someone to pass the salt!  So the standard, etiquette-approved script allows us to acknowledge the situation and then move forward. No more, no less.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Programming note

My grandmother passed away early this morning.  I'm still processing the situation.

I am therefore a one-week hiatus from blogging, unless I feel the need to blog about my bereavement (so far my emotional needs don't seem to be going in that direction), or unforeseen circumstances require posting something urgently.

I will continue to use Twitter and the rest of the internet in whatever way best meets my needs at any given moment, which may include frivolous use.  This is my first bereavement in the age of social media, so I have no idea what I'll need from it.

You are welcome to continue to engage with me in whatever way you normally would, but I may or may not respond depending on what meets my needs at any given moment.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Dell depot repair experience

The good: the whole process took less than 4 business days, despite my having been told that it takes 7-10 business days.

The bad: it didn't fix the problem

Update: It took a second, more stressful depot repair to fix the problems by applying the solution I thought of in the first place.


This repair was the next step in the process of repairing the very mysterious process of BIOS intermittently not recognizing the operating system on the hard drive. When I sent the computer out, I included a note (one page, typed, with informative subheadings for easy scanability) detailing the history of the issue and what we'd tried already, describing my recent observation that the computer was more likely to boot up on a second try if I turned it off and on quickly so it was still "warm" (like an old car that needs to be warmed up), and mentioning my theory that a different brand of hard drive, ideally Samsung, should be tried.

Purolator picked up the computer from me on Monday afternoon. It arrived at the depot first thing on Tuesday. According to the online tracker, it was in "diagnosis" status for an hour, then was moved to "repair" status.  On Wednesday afternoon, it was shipped back out via Purolator, and on Thursday morning it arrived back at my door.

The depot report stated that they'd replaced the hard drive (with another Western Digital) and the processor. I booted it up, and found that Windows was in Setup mode from an initial installation, which is how you normally receive a computer from Dell.  I completed the setup, then decided to reboot it from a "cold" shut down state three times before I restored my data, just to make sure the problem had been solved.  On the third try, it once again failed to detect the operating system.  (In subsequent boot ups from a power off state over the next few days, it took two tries, four tries, and one try to boot up successfully.)

I emailed my tech to let him know about this and got an out of office message, so I decided to restore my system image so I could at least have my computer back for the moment.  On Friday, my tech emailed me back saying he'd look into what the next step would be.  I haven't heard back from him yet (which is fine - I asked him prior to sending it out what happens if the depot can't fix it, and he said he's sure there's some measure to take but that he has no experience with this, so he probably has to escalate it.)

So, long story short, I'm pleased with the turnaround time, but displeased with the fact that they couldn't fix it.

I suspect that their inability to fix it is yet another sign of Dell employee disempowerment.  The replacement hard drive I received was Western Digital despite the fact that my notes to the depot tech said that this was the variable that has yet to be eliminated. I suspect that this is because Dell employees are not empowered to provide another brand of hard drive.  (Although the ungenerous interpretation would be that it's because they ignored or disregarded my notes.) The fix they applied wasn't properly tested (again, despite my notes) because they didn't finalize the installation of Windows and therefore couldn't possibly have tested it with multiple start-ups from a power-down state.  I suspect that this is because they're required to deliver computers to clients with Windows in set-up mode rather than finalized. (Although the ungenerous interpretation would be that they couldn't be bothered to take the time to finalize and test properly.) So, because of this disempowerment, the computer was returned to me without the problem corrected, completely unbeknownst to the technicians.


I don't know what happens next. I emailed the tech in charge of my case, he said he has to look into what's to be done next, and he hasn't gotten back to me yet.

This doesn't actually bother me at the moment, because I genuinely don't know what I want from them.  Well, that's not completely true - what I want is a single, simple fix, ideally that I can implement myself, that will correct this problem and leave my computer functioning perfectly and meeting my needs at least for the next year.  But I don't know what I want from them that's within the realm of possibility.

My best guess is still that the problem is with Western Digital drives and that a Samsung drive should be tried, but the Dell website no longer sells non-SSD Samsung drives (and introducing SSD at this point would be the opposite of controlling for variables).  They did sell non-SSD Samsung drives in December, but they seem to be gone now.  So I can't reasonably expect them to provide parts that they don't have.

I'm worried that they'll ask me to send it to the depot again so they can try other things, which I really don't want to do.  I feel like I've already been cooperative enough by allowing it to be sent to the depot once for a problem that occurred under an on-site service warranty, and like I've already been inconvenienced enough being without my computer for 4 days for something that didn't even fix the problem. I don't know what my response would be if  they told me that's what the next step is.

It does occur to me that the next step might be to replace the computer, and I don't know how I feel about that either. Apart from the boot-up problem, my computer still works beautifully, and I've heard that replacement systems are refurbished and therefore sometimes not always particularly good quality, so I'm afraid that I might end up with something worse.  My computer was very customized and upgraded, and even at the age of 4 years it still surpasses current entry-level systems. I don't know if they'd even have comparable refurbished systems available, and comparable new ones from Dell retail for close to a thousand.I'm also afraid that if they did replace, they'd want me to send my old computer back before sending me a new one, which would leave me computerless again, for something that may or may not end up being comparable.

So at the moment I'm quite content to wait patiently for their response, avoid shutting down my computer as much as possible, and enjoy my regular everyday life with my regular everyday computer.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Stress and resilience: an inconclusive braindump

As you've probably noticed, these past couple of months I've been finding myself disproportionately stressed about things that don't actually constitute real problems, like having to choose condo finishes and computer problems and a shortage of fanfiction.

This is a clear demonstration of the fact that I'm too easily stressed and not resilient enough to live in the real world.  But what do I do about this?  Braindump on my blog, of course!


By chance, I was recently required to take a (useless and unnecessary) training session on "change management".  It included a component on resilience, which I was looking forward to, but unfortunately it turned out to be useless.

According to the training, one of the things you're supposed to do to make yourself more resilient is self-care.  But the problem is that in my experience, resilience only becomes necessary in situations where your usual self-care is unavailable. I need to be resilient in the face of the loss of my fanfic happy place, and my fanfic happy place is a key part of my self-care. I need to be resilient during 2 weeks without  my computer, and my computer is a key part of my self-care.  I need to be resilient when dealing with condo drama that, if not properly addressed, will result in suboptimal housing, and optimal housing is a key part of my self-care.  If these things that threaten my self-care didn't exist, I wouldn't need to be resilient.

Another thing you're supposed to do to make yourself more resilient is live your values. We were told to list the traits we hate in others, then identify the opposite of those traits.  Those opposites are our values.  This exercise led me to identify my values as socialism and Wheaton's Law, which sounds about right.  But the problem is that I don't see how being socialist and not being a dick would equip me to deal with the unprecedented (to me) challenge of choosing condo finishes or the stress of eventually moving, or even the lesser stresses of a fanfic drought or two weeks without a computer - to say nothing of real problems that will likely happen to me someday, like unemployment or bereavement. My values aren't even relevant to the situations that require resilience. It's like advising someone going through a divorce to adopt a vegetarian diet - it just has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

I don't know if my emotions work differently than other people's or if the training was just spouting platitudes, but the ideas they presented weren't even on the same plane as resilience. Not sure what I'm supposed to do with that.


One issue that has become apparent to me in recent months is that my destressers are very externally dependent, which isn't very resilient.  Fanfic works beautifully, but I'm dependent on people writing new fanfic. Other fandom also works beautifully, but I'm also dependent on new creations from my fandoms - there's a diminishing return on the destressing benefits rereading/rewatching. Gaming works fantastically, but I'm dependent upon having a gaming-capable computer.  A good night's sleep and a long hot shower help, but that's dependent on quality living conditions.  Food and alcohol work, but that's dependent on my usual resources being available, and also comes with physical limitations. (As much as I'd enjoy it, I can't be tipsy and cramming cheese in my mouth every minute of every day.)  There is nothing that destresses me that isn't dependent on other people and/or circumstances.


Anti-materialistic people often say that the problem is seeking happiness in the things that money can buy, and that instead you should get happiness from your interpersonal relationships.  But interpersonal relationships are also entirely dependent on other people. They can abandon you of their own free will. They may be unable or unwilling to give you what you need.  They may not be available when you need them.  Interpersonal relationships can, of course, be rewarding, add to your happiness and improve your resilience, but they are just as dependent on people and/or circumstances as materialistic destressers.


At this point, people usually suggest exercise and/or nature.  But those don't destress me. Exercise makes me angry; nature is best case neutral, worst case a panic attack trigger, while taking me away from the things that actually do destress me, most of which occur in my home. 


Which is the problem with finding a new destresser.  Obviously, if I wanted to proactively seek something to replace my missing fanfiction, the way to do it would be to make a concerted effort to try out random things until something gets the desired results. But the problem with doing that is it would take time away from the tried and true, so it has to be approached carefully and measuredly.

Analogy: Cheese isn't available to put on my salad, but salad is still good. But if I just went around throwing other things on my salad willy-nilly in a desperate attempt to find a replacement for cheese, I could ruin a lot of salads. When I've had a difficult, stressful day and I'm desperately craving a yummy salad, it would probably be a bad idea to experiment and risk not getting my craving filled - and, in fact, risk becoming even crankier because something that I thought would fill my craving didn't.  And, of course, the flaw in this analogy is that it's easy to eat around a non-yummy ingredient in a salad, whereas the impact of stressers and failed destressers on stress levels and energy flow can't be quite so easily circumvented.


Historically, my destressers have always come to me organically, through my reading and other media consumption.  And my reading already follows a system that provides a good balance between known enjoyments and discovering new things, so I don't know if it can be further forced to provide me with the very specific form of new things I need to replace my lost fanfiction.

All of which is to say I don't have any answers, and I'd probably completely shatter if any real problems came along.