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

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?

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.