Positive reinforcement isn’t positive…

plus signI play a game called Redecor on my phone. It’s a fun and relaxing game. They post colourless rooms and you need to “colour them in” with various materials such as fabrics, tiles, and wood. Then everyone is organized into groups of ten, we all can vote for which room we like the best (two at a time), and finally the top three people win prizes and we move onto the next room. Simple right?

Not so simple. I was fine with decorating the rooms and love choosing the colours and the materials (I’m absolutely in love with the Caribbean upholstery and the Peacock sequin cushions). It’s great hanging out in the Facebook groups too. And a friend of mine (the one I sing karaoke with) plays it too so that’s great. No, it was the easy peasy room judging that left me doing my breathing exercises and reassuring myself and I couldn’t figure out why.

First I’ll quickly explain how the judging works. You click on the judging and are shunted into two options. The first has you judge five sets of one current room (10 rooms in all). You see two rooms, no identifying information, and then you choose. Once you choose you see the same rooms but with the people’s screen names, the level they’ve completed this season, and their current score (out of five). The second has you judge ten sets of ten “design duel” rooms (so 20 in all). Everything else is the same except you see their score by percentage. Also, after you vote you get a prize, kind of a “thank you for voting” thing. It’s usually $75 for for first option and $150 for the second but I find you can get quite a bit more between 8 and 9pm. That being said, there’s nothing overtly scary about the judging. No punishments, you can’t vote “wrong”, it’s just a game. And I like flipping through and seeing all the pictures, at least until my chest starts tightening and it gets hard to breathe.

I think I inadvertently loosened something recently. I’m in a Storytelling group run by a mental health organization and, while my story about explaining non binary to Colin was well liked, everyone else dealt with big issues that had big feelings. So I thought that maybe I could talk about my early school years. I don’t know why. I’ve blocked most of those memories away then deadbolted them shut. But I thought… maybe??? And I remembered myself standing on a stout pipe that stuck out of the school, watching all the other kids playing together and wondering how they decided to be friends. Then I picked out one girl who looked friendly and a bit like me and went over to ask her… in front of her friends… and I mentioned that I thought we looked alike. I just remember the stunned disbelief and the laughter. I don’t remember what was said but it was enough to send me slinking back to the pipe. Enough that the next time I made friends with someone at that school, it was a tree.

But that memory was enough. I was sitting at the kitchen table late this morning and flipped the game over to judging. Soon the panic began to build but, this time, I could hear myself instead of just staticky panic.

C’mon Kath, you need to pick right. You need to pick the right one or else they’re going to take your reward away.

And, as soon as the word “reward” hit, I knew exactly what was going on. The reward is why positive reinforcement is supposed to be so good. There’s no punishment, you’re simply rewarding for good behaviour. Really? You ask a child who was promised a chocolate bar if they washed the dishes then missed a dish and didn’t get the chocolate bar if that’s a reward or a punishment. The child knows about the reward, it’s not a magical surprise that happens later, so if they don’t get it they know that too.

I find myself trying to pick the right rooms so I’m voting with everyone else so I don’t get stuck voting the wrong way. There isn’t a right way or wrong way in the game. And I’m often stymied by the lack of rules. People say beige and one pattern is the way to go and then someone will make a room with three bright colours and just as many patterns and get a great score. Then I end up blindly guessing until I recollect myself and assure myself that it’s alright to pick the room I like, that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

When I was a little girl I had undiagnosed autism, ADD, and dyscalculia. My coordination was horrible. I struggled to hold a pencil. I was also incredibly bright, talkative, and wrote well enough that the teachers were passing my stories around in the lunchroom because they were so cute and enjoyable. Basically I was a mixed bag and needed help. I also needed someone to realize I was trying and not dawdling around and daydreaming on purpose and my numbers didn’t drift because I was lazy. All kids want to do well and please the adults around them, if it’s not happening, we need to sort it out. I don’t know how, I just know that positive reinforcement isn’t the way.

The adults around me were trying to teach me but the way they were trying wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting it. That, to them, meant I wasn’t trying hard enough (note they never wondered about their own teaching skills). So, since I must know the subject since I’d been taught it enough, I was given assignments with positive reinforcements to encourage me. And what do you do when you know you have to answer like everyone else but have no idea what to do? When you have to answer no matter what? You guess of course. And I was left panicked because if I didn’t guess correctly I was going to lose my reward, through absolutely no fault of my own, even though I was trying to the best of my ability, because the adults around me couldn’t find a different way to teach me.

Forty-three years later and it’s still strong enough to trigger anxiety attacks. Don’t tell me positive reinforcement is positive.

A Karen by any other name…

I don’t know which is more annoying, having some unknown man tell me to “relax” because I disagree with him or having him call me a “Karen” for the same reason. I mean both, ultimately, are dismissive. In one I’m simply too uptight to understand why he’s saying what he’s saying and in the other… well it’s the exact same thing.

When Karen originally started, it was used to describe a certain type of women who often dressed and styled themselves similarly and put their wants and needs above everyone else. If Karen wanted pomegranates in July, she didn’t care that they weren’t available. It didn’t matter that’s not when they grow. She wanted pomegranates! Get her a manager NOW!!!

Everyone, at least everyone who’s worked in retail, has met at least one Karen. I’m not sure why the name Karen was picked. Maybe someone thought of it as an average white woman’s name? I don’t know. If that’s the case they should have gone with Jennifer, Lisa, or Sarah (with or without the h). Goodness knows I could toss a stick in any direction and hit someone with one of those names. Not so much with Karen.

But Karen is slowly migrating from ridiculing the people who think they’re perfect and deserve more than everyone else to taunting any woman who disagrees with you. And I’m finding that it’s mainly men doing the taunting (feel free to tell me if you’re having different experiences). Take last week for example. A woman in a local group I belong to asked where she could find veggie burgers in town. Of course Random Man had to jump in to tell her that veggie burgers are terrible for you and worth looking into before she kept thinking it was a healthier alternative.

read the commentsWait, what? There’s so many kinds of veggie burgers, from cheap, frozen no name burgers to freshly made organic ones, you can’t just make a blanket statement like that. But more importantly she didn’t ask for nutritional advice! She simply wanted to know where she could pop in to grab a burger. So I replied, “I really don’t think she asked” and got back, “Relax Karen. Just trying to help.” And when I told him they fit just fine into a healthy diet, his response was, “Apparently you have done zero research and have no real input so please just choose not to comment in the future rather than look like a Karen who’s just trying to pick an internet fight.” Because the only thing I love more than being called Karen or getting told to relax is being told to be quiet and not worry my pretty little head about matters I don’t understand. Ironically enough I have researched multiple veggie burgers over the years and had answered the OPs question with several options for veggie burgers in the area so the only one who hadn’t provided any real input was him. A couple of women jumped in to support me and he was less than enthusiastic, complaining mainly about their lack of intellect because obviously if they disagreed with him they couldn’t be that bright.

Which meanders me over to my next thought. Why is there no similar name for men? It’s not just women who rant at cashiers. I had one customer who was so positive that the Tim Hortons I worked at must have an adjoining Wendy’s, even after I said we didn’t, that he went around the corner to look for it not once, not twice, but three times. Or the guy who threatened to take a lady outside for a fist fight over a spot in line. I used my Mom Voice™ to stop that one but seriously! And, on an even scarier note, I’ve dealt with a male customer before while my quite pregnant assistant manager hid around the corner plus I came into work one morning to find out another man had actually split one of our countertops in half pounding on it in a fit of rage. If I remembered correctly, he wanted the baker to give him all the baked goods for free and the baker couldn’t. It’s against the rules and there are cameras, she’d get fired if she did. So he smashed the counter and went home empty handed instead of waiting an hour and pulling a completely sealed, clear plastic bag out of the dumpster, full of all the goodies he’d wanted. I think those are worse than whinging about an expired coupon. So mush over, Karen, maybe Bradley should have his turn in the sun. And every man who calls a woman Karen, simply for disagreeing with him, automatically becomes a Bradley.

I know exactly who should be the first Bradley. Random Man! Because you deserve it!

The road to hell…

The road to hell…

blog post blurred photo(All quotes, unless stated otherwise, are written by Sarah Plake)

A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday. Okay, that part isn’t new or newsworthy, it’s why that matters. Someone on a Kansas City News Facebook page shared an anti-transgender meme that featured her then nine year old child. Even now her child is, just that, a child. She thought about ignoring it but, well, this is her baby. So she called in reinforcements. That’s where I came in.

I very rarely enter the comment section. I joke that’s where the trolls live but, in reality that’s pretty close to the truth. My first foray into the comments years ago was a shock and a half. I’d expected it to be the online version of The Letter to the Editor. Heavily moderated and edited for brevity. What I found was the online version of a drunken college party but with worse grammar. But I do make exceptions on wading in there for friends.

I found the offending comment right away and my friend’s request to please remove her daughter’s photo, stressing that she was just a child. I took this photo hours later, obviously he didn’t care. And that’s why his name has not been edited out of the image. I’ve edited the girl and I’ve removed everyone else’s names. I even removed my friend’s profile picture. But him? Pfft. If he can’t be bothered to remove a child’s photo off the internet, so be it.

blog post retortThe comment was on an article regarding transgender youths and medical procedures regarding them plus transgender athletes. It quickly became obvious that pretty much nobody had a frigging clue what the hell they were talking about. I mean here’s a quote about the bills being proposed in Missouri and Kansas.

“Kansas House Bill 2210 and Missouri House Bill 33 would make it a crime for doctors to perform any gender-reassignment services, procedures or surgeries for transgender children under 18, which includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy.”

Puberty blockers for pete’s sake. They’ve been used for decades to treat precocious puberty. You know, like when a five year old girl starts getting her period or an eight year old boy grows a beard? They are not new or experimental or dangerous or permanent. There is no reason to stop them. Absolutely none.

A Republican, of course, introduced the bill in Kansas to protect children because, in his words, “I don’t think a child would ever think about something like that if their parents or others around them weren’t telling them that they can choose to be the opposite gender. I think this is something that’s just being forced on kids.”

Meanwhile his co-sponsor is only opposed to children being “surgically altered”. She goes on to say that “if a child has a tendency or curiosity, or there is a ‘fad’ to be gay, the child [needs] a parent who is open to conversation with the school, [their] pediatric physician and then an experienced child therapist to work with the child before permanent decisions are made.”

Really? Really??? I mean totally ignoring the whole bizarre “fad to be gay” thing, what did she think happened? Sadly the reality is she doesn’t have a clue. I bet she’s never spoken to a single trans adult or the parent of a trans child let alone a trans child. Neither of them have reached out to a paediatrician or any other doctor who works with transgender youths. I mean that’s all just patently obviously. No one who’d done any amount of research would think children are being “surgically altered”.

blog post commentAnd they’re not the only ones. The more I read, the more I find there’s a whole swathe of people who claim to be fighting against kids transitioning on their behalf. They can’t believe a trans child would know their gender at seven years old; someone must be forcing them to think they’re transgender. Meanwhile they’re just as likely to say that of course their five year old son picked the blue ball, he knows he’s a boy. It’s only the trans kids who don’t know their gender. The cis kids not only are allowed to know it but they have their noses rubbed in it (gender reveal parties anyone?).

And multiple people, like the co-signer, are there wailing about the six and seven year olds getting surgery and how it’s abuse and it needs to be stopped immediately! Umm… it never started to begin with. I have no idea where they come up with this idea but there’s always someone new who’s positive a kindergarten student is going in for gender confirmation surgery.

And the people who just want to be “reasonable” and let trans kids minds have a chance to mature before starting any kind of treatment. Kids and teens change their minds so often and they shouldn’t be allowed to make such life altering decisions at such a young age.

Wait… what??? Teens can join the military and see live action. They can get their driver’s license and take control of a several tonne vehicle which could easily kill themself and/or the people around them. They can take out a massive loan for post secondary education, one that will take decades to pay off, and one which they could end up taking out on a program they ultimately don’t like. They can get married. They can have a baby (or more). They can have a tattoo and/or piercing in a variety of places. They can have sex, which, depending on the person they’re with and the STI they have, can be very life altering. Where the fuck are these people at recruitment centres with their signs reading “Getting blown up is a life altering decision”? Why aren’t they protesting student loans? Especially in the States where they can’t be forgiven no matter what circumstances you’re in. Why aren’t they fighting against child brides? But, no, it’s only against trans people.

I just read a tweet by someone who goes by the name Tamra Bonvillain, which reads, “Not allowing trans teens to go on blockers/hormones is also an irreversible choice”. This is absolutely true and absolutely never mentioned in these bills or in conservative discussions regarding transgender youths. These people are saying they’re trying their hardest to protect the poor innocent children and teens but have never spoken to a single transgender youth. They’ve never thought of the ramifications of their actions. Why not? Maybe it’s because they’re not trying to protect transgender children. They don’t want to believe trans children even exist. They don’t like trans people. They don’t accept trans people. They think of trans people as being horrible and abominations of nature. And there’s no way innocent children could be any of that.

So they claim it’s adults causing it and try to legislate them out of existence. If they’re not having name changes in the classroom, or using the correct washroom, or playing on their proper team… those people don’t have to think about trans children at all. They get total ignorant bliss. Unless they have to notice because a child simply won’t just go away and then it gets ugly. I read one story a year or so ago where a child, a literal prepubescent child, wanted to use the girls washroom. Parents of her classmates got together and she was called such things as “it”, “the thing”, and “half baked maggot”. Fathers were bragging about how it was going to be their son who beat her up. Parents. Of children her own age. How could they tuck their children in at night, kiss their foreheads, and marvel at how young and precious they were while literally referring to another child that same age as insect larva? It just doesn’t make sense.

Or, well it does. They don’t like trans people. They don’t know anyone who’s trans and they don’t want to know anyone who’s trans. Children are innocent and therefore can’t be trans, someone must be forcing them. Unless they prove they really are trans and then it’s fair game to call them a maggot and share their picture in a meme that mocks them. And, well, the kids get ignored until they’re adult and can’t be legislated out of existence anymore. And then they’re mocked and harrassed for looking different and not fitting into gender norms, like they picked the wrong puberty on purpose. And so on and so forth and I’m sick of it and furious.

Friends talk and share stories about health care woes. Of having to teach even the good doctors how to treat them. Of being called “it” and “he-she” by medical professionals. Of having doctors simply refuse to treat them. Of a man who died of ovarian cancer after a three year struggle to find a doctor willing to treat him. A woman hemorrhaging from her leg who was made to walk downstairs to an ambulance, while the attendants mocked her, because they didn’t want to touch her enough to help her onto a stretcher. I even found my own psychiatric intake papers from 2016, shortly after I broke up with my then fiance, stating I had a “recent breakup with a ‘boyfriend’, who was actually a transgender female to male”. She went on to state that the relationship “was perceived to be romantic in nature”. I really doubt she’d have written any of that if Lenny had been a cis male. The psychiatrist literally recoiled when she found out.

For the love of all we hold holy and/or dear can we not just listen to other people, care for other people, and accept other people? Can we stop trying to make decisions for people without finding out what they want and actually need first. Can we accept people as, you know, people instead of othering them in a derogatory fashion? And… this should be complete and utter common sense here… can we please not take the picture(s) of children, make derogatory memes about them, and spread them around the world wide web? It doesn’t cost us a single thing to be kind.

A cat and mouse tale…

If you want to know what kind of day I’m having, I can tell you. It’s a “which cat pooped in the food bowl?” kind of day. Although to be fair I think it was more of an Olympic kitty litter kick kind of incident and not an actual squat over the dish. The end result is the same though.

It pales in comparison to my experiences exactly two weeks ago.

Angel sleeping on my bed filteredFirst I saw my grandson on Saturday and shortly after got a gazillion scrapbooking kits (where a gazillion equals six). The next day was Valentine’s Day my cat Angel’s 15th birthday which is obviously very important and required plenty of attention, yummy food, and her favourite stuffed catnip carrot. I didn’t get much done on the computer that day. And finally Monday rolled around and I decided to devote the day to scrapbooking. The kits were already downloaded and sorted into the right folders and albums (I’m just a little organized) and all I needed to do was save my pictures from Google to My Photos then I was good to go.

Except the mouse. just. stopped. Right there in the middle of the screen.

Okay, that was irritating. Obviously the battery must have died, the downside of having a wireless mouse. So I got a freshly charged battery and nothing. Tried Ctrl-Alt-Del and tabbed my way to the shut down menu then the computer restarted with a frozen mouse. Moved the dongle to several different ports and… nothing. I even pulled the second mouse out of the closet (it was a set of two) and that one didn’t work either. At this point I was getting worried and so I called Colin.

His first suggestion was to try remote desktop which, luckily he’d already installed on my computer so I had no problems added it to my phone. I must say that trying to repair a computer by controlling the cursor via a tiny phone screen and one finger ranks just above getting a root canal.

*thinks for a moment*

Marginally

I tried for hours, both with and without Colin, before giving up. I uninstalled that damn mouse so many times!!! Colin wished that I could try with a wired mouse but I didn’t have one and didn’t have any money to go buy one so that was out. His only solution was for me to buy an SSD drive and then he’d coach me, via video chat, on how to transfer all my files over and then format my hard drive. You can imagine my enthusiasm.

Then I remembered my friend has an older computer and, sure enough she had a wired mouse and it worked!!! So we traded mice because my mouse worked just fine on her laptop. And, because of anxiety, it took me two days before I attempted to finish downloading those pictures and over a week before I could bring myself to complete this post. But there hasn’t been a single hint of trouble from the computer since we traded mice and I (thankfully) haven’t needed to buy a new drive of any sort.

And I still don’t know who the Olympic poop flinger is although, if I had to play money, I’d place my bet on Smudge. Then, a couple of days before the flinging incident, I had to give Blackie Boo a bath. She thought I was trying my hardest to drown her which made bath time very enthusiastic with lots of extra bath toys in the water like the pot scrubbie and the dish soap and very nearly a small vase of artificial flowers. Poor kitty. I picked her up to put her on my bed and she started flailing like it was bath time round two. She seems over it now, hopefully, or well maybe I should keep checking my slippers before I wear them for just a little longer. Just in case.

Above: Angel on her birthday
Below: Angel’s birthday layout (because that’s not extra at all). It’s the first layout I made after the computer started working again.
 
Angel's 15th birthday

When the spiders sang…

TW/CW: Holy fuck racism!!!

Colin and Savannah campingWhen I was a little girl I had a friend who lived across the street from me. He was about my age and he had a bright green coat. He also claimed that the spiders in his front garden sang to him every morning. I tried to tell my Mom about him but she couldn’t figure out who I was talking about as there were a lot of kids on our street. I was frustrated because I knew I had a very easy way to describe him as he was quite black. But, while I was young, I also had eyes and ears and knew that describing someone by any colour other than white meant that they disappeared and only their colour remained and I didn’t want to do that. So I went with the second best description, his coat. It took a while to pin down her friend’s son as my friend with the green coat. Both my Mom and his got a bit of a chuckle that I apparently didn’t find his skin colour relevant enough to mention. They didn’t live there for very long and, after he moved, my sister and I went over one morning to listen for ourselves but the spiders never sang. Maybe he took them with him.

Obviously I was quite privileged as a young blue eyed, blonde haired girl in white suburbia and, even with him, I could count the number of BIPOC I knew on one hand growing up. Even so, I learned and realized that people are people. That we all have hopes and dreams… thoughts and fears. And that skin colour does not tell you what a person is like. Some people missed that memo. Some never even saw it go by.

I follow a page by Ally Henny and she posted yesterday about a woman named Sharon Lee Davies-Tight who is, hands down, the most batshit crazy racist person I’ve ever had the misfortune to read. If there’s an award for self entitlement and ignorance she’s up there on the podium smiling and waving, oblivious, to the crowd. Her shitty post that was shared said, and I quote, “All animals have the capacity to love, including black people – The Animal-Free Chef”. Because, of course, that five pounds of shit, triple dipped in crazy, is vegan. And I speak for almost the entire vegan community when I say we don’t want her, can someone (anyone) take her?

At first I told myself that I did not want to go down that rabbit hole and I went and did something else. But the rabbit hole stayed and the search bar is a thing that exists and holy hell!!! This woman starts talking about multi-ethnic people and how much more diverse and open minded they were than single ethnic people. At first I had no idea what the hell she was talking about but it soon became apparent that she considered white people to be multi ethnic and black to be single ethnic. Yes, there are multiple white ethnicities but Africa is not a monolith, there are many ethnicities there. Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania have black aboriginal people and there are the people of the West Indies as well. Black people are far from being a single ethnicity.

She mentioned several times how black people don’t call the police, not because they’re worried about harassment and/or harm, but because of their own criminal involvement. That black people all call themselves the n-word in bars just in case there’s an undercover police officer. That white women call the police while black women scream and fight, the latter because they didn’t want to get the police involved and their criminal misdeeds uncovered. I don’t know where this woman’s lived but I’ve encountered plenty of white women who screamed louder than angry opera singers and a few who wouldn’t contact the police because of criminal issues. Like my daughter’s friend whose Mom had a grow op in the living room. The plants were lovely and green by the way, just not legal at the time. As for calling the police, as Colin pointed out, that’s an act of force in itself. That’s “I want to get you but I don’t want to get my hands dirty so I’ll let someone get you for me and they have a gun”. And that’s just plain shitty.

There were reams of posts and she had pages of external links listed but I couldn’t bring myself to read any farther so I just backed on out and wrote here instead. In bits because my brain can only handle so much vile at a time. If I was a kinder person… a more understanding person… I’d wish those singing spiders would rest under her window and sing her songs of empathy and humanity. As it is I just hope they crawl up her fucking nose and bite her!

Today was socks…

money for blogToday, well, today was something all right. Today reminds me of the saying, “If every day is a gift then today was socks” and not the fun and funky ones either, just those horrid scratchy “sport socks” with ragged toe seams.

I guess things really started on Thursday when I found out that online grocery shopping (with home delivery) is finally a thing in my area. We’ve joined the 90’s!!! So I got online in my fuzzy slippers and cozy nightie and went grocery shopping. It was great! I found almost everything I needed, picked a delivery time on Saturday, and hit “submit”. It almost immediately showed up in my bank account as a pending order. Pending orders just seem to sit there until the order ships then they plop down to the actual balance. They don’t show up in the balance before then so I’m regularly calculating my “real” balance but that isn’t a hardship.

Saturday rolled around and so did my order. Everything arrived except for my vegan black garlic nut cheese, it got substituted for artichoke and fine herb nut cheese… and I got credited for it. I was all excited about my $10 credit. The new charge went through but my original pending charge was still there, just chilling and pending. I called the grocery store yesterday and was informed that charge had been cancelled and it takes between three to five business days to disappear. I didn’t like seeing it there but it wasn’t causing any problems. Right? Right???

Then came this morning. I was having a great day. I got all my chores done before breakfast. I even brought my handful of Valentine’s Day decorations up from storage and put them up. I sat down at the computer with my cinnamon toast and mug of hot chocolate while I chatted with Colin… then I opened my bank account.

$45 NSF charge

What??? I had only one thing coming out of my account currently and that was my rent and I had over $100 on top of my rent still in my account. How could it bounce with that much money padding it? Meanwhile all that money was accounted for so the $45 was literally money I didn’t have. Cue a quick goodbye to Colin and a 45-minute long hold for my bank. The rep I spoke to was terrific. It turned out that the pending charge was the issue. Even though it does not show up in my balance on my end, it shows up in my balance on their end. So while I really did have enough money in my account, I ended up “short” by $7. They credited back the NSF fee then I called my landlord to ask them to hold off on taking my rent out again until the pending charge is gone. I’m hoping that worked. My landlord is a big mental health organization so I have to call my care team then they call me back and then they have to message the housing department and wait for a response. I’m going with no news is good news.

So, there I am, anxious and tired with my mind worrying about money issues but not entirely sure where to land, and I decided my best bet was to get myself a bowl of chips and a book and curl up in my swing chair to read. Pour the chips, go to grab my tablet, and the doorbell rings on my phone. It was the drug store delivery person dropping off a prescription. Picture me with ??? above my head. I hadn’t ordered anything. Turns out my psychiatrist sent in a prescription for lorazepam yesterday, which is great, and they filled it, good, and immediately delivered it, okay. I get all my other prescriptions delivered so that makes sense. It costs $17. Wait. What? And it’s non-refundable once it leaves the store. And now you’ve got to be fucking kidding me! So I called and now the fee is postponed until the end of the month when I actually have money and they’re going to call me from now on if something costs money instead of automatically sending it.

Come to think of it, it’s likely a good thing I’ve got that lorazepam prescription now because after today I really could use a couple! Or maybe I’ll just make curry and console myself with curry and a brownie (not simultaneously).

Freeze Peach and covid…

There are some things that really annoy me. That pull tab companies place on the jars’ protective covers. You know, the one that never actually helps open the jar and just gets in the way? People who sniffle on the bus… for the whole ride (especially when they refuse an offered kleenex). People who blast their music at 1am in an apartment building (my dresser decor should not be dancing to your music).

Then we get into the people who think it’s their god-given right to harass other people because it’s “free speech”. Seriously? How are you any more freer by telling queer people that you hate them than when you kept your mouth shut? What happened other than hurting people you don’t know (and often people you do)? The answer to both questions would be nothing. You’re not really looking for free speech, you’re looking for carte blanche to bully.

Free speech is about freeing yourself. It’s being allowed to speak your truth. It’s being allowed to say what’s wrong with the government without reprisal. It’s the ability to criticise the police without getting arrested. It’s the right to stand up for yourself and others and say “we are here and we deserve a place in society where we can be safe and equal”. If you’re wanting a space to stand and say “I am better than this group. I don’t think they should have the same rights as me. I want their rights removed”, that’s the exact opposite of free speech. But time after time there are assholes who declare they want to claim that Black people cause their own problems because [insert weak excuse here] or First Nations people are “stealing” government money or trans women are transitioning solely to sneak into women’s washrooms. Explaining to them that they’re wrong is, in their opinion, “going after their free speech”. Telling them they have to stop a) telling lies and b) discriminating against these people results in huge flailing tantrums because their rights are being challenged. Nevermind that they were the ones trampling on someone else’s rights, their right to incite anywhere from dislike to outright hatred of another group has been put into question and that’s not “fair”.

We as a society need to stop listening to false logic and start focusing on what hurts people and what doesn’t. Does a trans woman changing in the corner of the change room hurt anyone? No. Does a group of people harassing her outside the change room door while telling everyone in the vicinity (and online) that she’s a pervert who’s there only to prey on their little girls hurt anyone? Hell yes! These two sides are not equal, hatred or damage wise and I’m so tired of people acting like they’re the same.

And then there’s covid-19 and the dreaded masks. My first three masks were handmade by my Mom, two strawberry patterned and one plain cream. Then I got one with maple leaves while camping this summer… following up with three more pretty ones (plus a Christmas one I’ll hopefully never need again). The hook beside my door is full and there’s often a mask or two on my bathroom counter ready to be washed. They’re a bit of an annoyance. They can suck into my mouth and nose when I breath at times and they fog up my glasses, plus blowing my nose or getting a quick sip of water is a challenge. But they’re comfortable enough. They’re soft and don’t pull anywhere.  Meanwhile anti-maskers act like they’re the anti-Christ. I don’t get it, they’re a piece of fabric and a bit of elastic. They’re not dangerous, or painful, or difficult to wear. But anti-maskers talk about people breathing in a stew of their own wet germs as if they’ve never worn a scarf before. I have one friend who saw a man slip into the grocery store with a mask on then take it off so he could come up behind people and yell “baa” in their ear. Like a sheep, right? Because they were all “sheep” for wearing masks 🙄

I must admit that I didn’t do a tonne of research but what little I did showed a 70% reduction rate in transmitting covid-19 using social distancing and wearing a fabric mask. That’s a hell of a lot of a reduction. With odds like that, what’s the harm in putting on a piece of fabric? There’s a good chance you could be saving someone’s life, maybe even your own. And there’s no downside other than a bit more laundry and some foggy glasses. But on the anti-maskers side they get a tiny bit less laundry, clear glasses (at least until the scarves get pulled out), and an upswing on the chance of killing Granny. I know which side I stand (and it’s not the side yelling “baa” at unsuspecting strangers while they pick out cereal). I mean who sits there and thinks, “I don’t like being told what to do. I mean I follow road safety guidelines, wear my seatbelt, pay for my purchases, cross at crosswalks, put my garbage at the curb on the designated day, and keep my lawn neatly mown but I’m damned if I’m going to put a strip of fabric across my mouth to keep myself, my friends, and my loved ones alive. That’s government interference and I don’t do what the government tells me to do. I’m not a sheep!”

And while refusing to wear a mask while vulnerable people are dying irritates the hell out of me, there’s one thing that really bloody, fucking pisses me off. And that’s ignorant nazi analogies!

absolute fucking outrage

There is a black and white photo taken after one of Hitler’s speeches and, in it, there’s one solitary man standing in a sea of other men. He’s easily noticeable because he’s the only one who’s not saluting, in fact he’s crossing his arms. There is no record of who his is. Two families claim him. One paints him as a man with a Jewish fiance (who he could not marry due to German law) and two little girls. The other as a man who refused to salute in every situation due to religious reasons. For whatever reason, humanitarian or religious, he stood alone. He’s seen as a symbol of defiance. But this complete and utter walking lack of intelligence did a horrible photoshop on the picture as if to claim he was the sole person fighting against the tyranny of… wearing a mask to save your neighbour. Around eleven million people died during the Holocaust. Eleven million!!! That’s six million Jews and five million assorted people from neighbouring countries (like Poland and Serbia), people from the LGBTQIA community, people from the Roma community, autistic and developmentally delayed people, and prisoners of conscience (like Unitarian Universalists). So many people murdered, starved, tortured, and worked to death and this shit for brains person wants to compare standing up against all that, at the risk of death, to refusing to wear a mask while going in to pick up a Pepsi, at the risk of not being allowed in the store.

DO THEY NOT SEE THE DIFFERENCE???

How can they not see the difference between standing up against a totalitarian regime who’s taking your neighbours away and loading them into cattle cars and a bored 20 year old saying, “You have to wear a mask. There’s a box by the sanitizer.” How deep is their need to feel oppressed… to feel like the lead in their own exciting adventure story… that they’ll make up stories like this? They think the government, “big pharma”, and scientists are all working together to microchip them by covid-19 vaccine while they carry around a phone that has their entire Amazon shopping history, credit card information, and can pinpoint their location within a few metres. They’re worried the vaccine will make them sick while walking around maskless during a pandemic. Have they ever met common sense? Even waved at logic from a distance?

Dear anti-maskers (and anti-vaxxers for that matter). No matter what Barney and/or your mother told you, you are not special. You are not one of the chosen few who are smart enough or daring enough to peek behind the curtain and see the truth for what it is. You have not discovered the secrets that scientists, big pharma, the government, Monsanto, the illuminati, etc don’t want you to know and you certainly didn’t find it via YouTube, a personal blog, or a blog pretending to be a news site. The government is not one big political entity. It’s multiple governments over multiple countries and those countries have multiple governments as well. In Canada we have our federal, provincial, and municipal governments and they can all be from opposing parties. So, no, they are not all working together in one huge formation. Some are barely tolerating each other. Some aren’t even tolerating each other at all (written as bombs detonate somewhere in the Middle East). And big Pharma isn’t a thing (which is why we have umpteen dozen competing covid vaccines). Yes, there are big companies. Yes, they’re out to make money. But, no, they’re not working together. And there’s no way every single health care worker around the globe is keeping major secrets. Multiple someones would tell a spouse or family member or friend and the secret would soon be out. Same goes for scientists. They aren’t mysterious people who live in labs, they’re your neighbour with two kids and a pet bunny. I’m sure conspiracy theories makes you feel special and important and quite intelligent, like you’re playing spy except for real, but don’t you think it’s time to be special, important, and intelligent on your own merit and not because you’re believing someone else’s fantasy tale? It will feel even better, I promise. And, seriously, don’t you ever, ever compare yourself to a resistor in WWII Germany. You’re risking, at the worst, getting banned from Loblaws if you’re mouthy enough. That is nowhere near the same category as “starved and forced to dig your own grave”. Don’t be that person.

The cancel culture…

Cis white vegans are the worst!

Some might say I shouldn’t take it seriously but it’s hard not to when every. single. word. is aimed at a part of you. It’s even harder when it comes from a friend, someone who knows I fall under each of those categories. I responded with, “Umm gee thanks. Stereotype much?” then got back a series of rapid fire responses, sent so fast that I received them all at once, explaining it was exactly one person they were mad at and that one person was racist and I “obviously” agreed with her so must be racist too so they’d be happy to yeet me off their page (phew). I’d already been unfriended before I even read the last comment and they never even found out if I agreed with her or not.

The very next day, another friend wrote a post that said, in part, that white women are white first and then women. I took it literally, thought it meant we were born white first then female, and jokingly replied that I was pretty sure both happened at conception. I went on to agree that white women have far more privileges than black women. That was taken to be white supremacy (if it helps I think that having black skin and being a woman also both happen at conception). The friend proceeded to unfriend me and then message me to have me explain what I’d posted. I believe that’s called putting the cart before the horse. They haven’t replied since. They had been Facebook friends with me for years, followed my posts, and knew what the content of my post and my views were like, enough to know this was out of character for me (remember they did message me to ask why I said what I did), yet they still unfriended me because they didn’t like how I phrased one reply in five years.

internet and real youThe hard part is this isn’t the first time I’ve fallen into a situation like this. I’m finding an increasing and uncomfortable amount of inflexibility these days, especially in younger adults. For some reason people seem to feel as if their friends need to have all the same beliefs and opinions as them and, if you differ, you must be wrong and out you go; you’re yeeted to the curb like yesterday’s garbage. Often it’s incredibly fast, the person’s made up their mind and decided you need to go before finding out what you even meant. Heck, like I said above, both friends removed me before I even had a chance to speak. Why? Where is the friendship in that? Friendship involves mutual respect and understanding, it’s not hair trigger and walking on eggshells in case you say something wrong. You’re supposed to look for common ground and mutual interests, not nitpick over minor details and search for reasons to uncheck the friend box.

I know there are times you have to get rid of a friend. I had an online friend several years ago, then I posted a benign, “Axial tilt is the reason for the season” meme and she became frothing at the mouth mad and devolved into a series of incredibly racist comments. There was no misunderstanding, she made it extremely clear. She might as well have worn a t-shirt saying “I’m racist and I’m proud of it”. The friendship ended immediately with no regrets. Another was an IRL friend I knew from a couple of community groups. We got along fine until she realized who my ex was… and I realized she was a friend of his. Even that would have been fine except she suddenly decided that I a) had to realize what an incredibly great guy he is and b) needed to get back together with him immediately even though we haven’t been together in twenty years. I told her several times that he had been emotionally and financially abusive to me and had treated both myself and my two kids terribly for years and that I didn’t want to get back with him or even speak about him. She ignored my wishes and continued to badger me on reconciling with her “great guy”. By that time we weren’t living near each other so I simply blocked her. Again no regrets. But this is different.

These days it’s like there’s a socially acceptable checklist of words and phrases to use and say, a culturally acceptable clique of White people and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) who decide what’s correct.  I see it time and time again where someone’s trying their best and has the best of intentions but gets lambasted because it wasn’t done or said exactly how things are getting done right now. No room for recognizing good intentions (remembering these are good intentions that caused no harm), no honest constructive criticism, just how dare you!!! I’ve seen people post on multiple occasions, “Is it safe to ask this here? I really want to know but don’t want to get yelled at…” And, yes, I know that BIPOC people have been dealing with crap for years but it’s not right for anyone to feel like that no matter who they are.

Back around nine years ago I joined a forum called Regretsy and made friends with a poster who used neopronouns. I had never, ever known anyone who used anything other than him or her, it was completely new to me. I asked a bunch of questions, got answers, then settled down with a sheet of paper and a few practise sentences. I worked hard to make sure I got those pronouns right. If he (the pronouns have changed) got mad at my initial fumbling questions, well I wouldn’t be transphobic but I’d be a lot more cautious and wary. I definitely would have been hesitant to ask any similar questions to anyone and there’s a lot that I wouldn’t have learned, a lot which Colin needed me to learn.

We pride ourselves, or at least we used to pride ourselves, on our compassion and on our understanding that we’re all equal. Equal rights… equal love… equity… we were trying to make the world kinder and a whole lot more fair. But more and more I’m seeing a “throw the whole man out” attitude. That person has “problematic” views? Just don’t speak to them anymore. Doesn’t matter if they’re your grandmother or a close family friend, they’re garbage now. Yeet them out with the trash.

When Colin changed his pronouns back in, umm, I think sometime around 2014, my parents couldn’t grasp it at all and refused to use them. They refused again when he changed his name to Emma for a year-ish and switched to she/her. By today’s standards he shouldn’t be speaking to them, ignoring the fact that they still loved him dearly and spent time with him and that he wanted to keep them in his life. Life isn’t black and white. They weren’t simply “problematic”. They’re his much loved grandparents. Not everyone has to (or should be) tossed to the curb like yesterday’s paper.

Another issue with this black and white, that person doesn’t count because they’re problematic/racist/transphobic thinking is people forget the person is still, just that, a person. You can disagree 125% with someone’s views and opinions and still recognize their basic humanity. I read an article today from British Columbia where a Native Canadian reserve has a covid-19 outbreak and the surrounding area has had a racist outbreak. Okay, I get it, racism is horrible but racists are not literal trash (like the garbage you put at the curb). They are still people. Debate them if you want (I do), explain why they’re wrong (I do this too), but back off before it gets personal. One person that was interviewed was one of the racists, who now realizes he was wrong, which is great except people were wishing death on his children (like multiple people) and he’s ended up suicidal. We’re supposed to be the good guys here. We’re not supposed to be driving people to the point of killing themselves. And we’re certainly not supposed to be hoping that innocent children die of covid to teach a stranger a lesson.

The thing is, sometimes people won’t agree with you 95% of the time. Or even 80% or 75%. That doesn’t make them bad people. It just makes them not you, and that’s okay. People are allowed to be different. And, as long as they’re causing no harm, it’s fine to live and let live. Not every opinion needs to be a battleground. Not every view has to be an “agree with me or you’re yeeted” perspective. Sometimes it’s fine to just discuss the things you have in common and back off on the other stuff. So your aunt thinks aliens built Stonehenge and that Elvis is still alive. Alrighty then, moving right along. You disagree over politics… okay, unless they’re raging asstwats and/or racist, maybe just take a deep breath and change the subject when T-Rumplestiltskin rears his ugly head. It doesn’t make them Satan’s cousin.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I want to leave this world a better place than when I arrived. Standing up for human rights is amazing but if we end up so narrow sighted that we ignore the simple fact that we’re all human, we’re not going to accomplish anything. Take the time to listen.

Best laid plans…

Anyone searching for Facebook Notes tips, they’re a few paragraphs down

tardis ornament bokehI woke this morning to a cat nibbling on my fingers. That’s not out of the ordinary, not with Lara in the apartment. She’s a lovely cat, just lacking a bit with social skills (with cats too). I wasn’t in a rush so I stayed in my cosy nightgown while I brushed my teeth and fed the cats and chatted with my Mom and made my breakfast. I’d just settled down at the computer when I decided to open my email and see if there was an update on my Amazon order. It wasn’t due until Tuesday but sometimes they come a bit early… like now when the package was two towns away… clicks refresh… and out for delivery.

This was 10am and I had plans to go shopping with a friend of mine in the late morning to early afternoon (we were kind of winging it). Obviously that needed to be delayed. But how long could it take? And so I waited… and waited… and waited… while my parcel information just sat there doing nothing.

At 3:30pm I’d long since changed my plans to shopping tomorrow instead and cancelled our afternoon walk. But I had three very ripe bananas in my fruit bowl and a good banana bread recipe in my Facebook notes. I got out one bowl and the loaf pan then decided to call up the recipe before going any further. Notes has gotten harder to find recently so I went to my profile page and down to my about section then started scrolling… and it wasn’t there. I checked again and again, still nothing. I searched all over my page on both my tablet and computer and it just. wasn’t. there. A Facebook search called up a group of people who like notes and some notes apps but not my specific notes. And I wanted those notes. My Nana’s buttercream frosting recipe was in there and she died in 2003 so it’s not like I can ask her to rewrite it. My favourite pancake recipe which the long forgotten site removed. My hot and sour soup recipe which was modified from a product recipe. They’re irreplaceable.

Finally I did a Google search and struck paydirt. After a few false starts I found this link which lets you click on “my notes”. I was overjoyed until I realized I could only read the first couple of lines; the “see more” link wasn’t working. There’s a save option but that really only worked two or three times. But if you click on “comment” it will open up the link so you can see the whole post.

My first attempt at saving was to directly copy and paste to OpenOffice. This led to a weirdly formatted document chock full of lines. So I opened WordPress and pasted in there, thus removing the formatting, then copied and pasted into Open Office. I had to add the correct formatting but at least it was legible.

It was over an hour later by the time I got all the recipes copied to my computer and I no longer wanted to bake anything. Actually I no longer wanted to even cook anything, which is why I had half an English muffin for dinner tonight. Mmm… dinner of champions!

And, while I was eating my dinner, I was messaging another friend and telling her that my package wasn’t here yet but they still had another hour left in their estimate. I flipped over to the parcel information just in time to see the page update to “delivered”. And there it was on my doormat, much too late for me to do anything today.

But tomorrow’s another day, the stores will still be there, the trail ready to be walked, the bananas waiting to be smushed. And maybe I’ll have helped someone retrieve their Facebook notes… helped save a memory. As for now, my tardis ornament is safely on the tree, I have a stack of scrapbooking pages waiting and new photo sleeves to place them in, and I’m all ready to relax.

Remembrance…

remembrance day poppyEvery once in a while, when the stars align in exactly the wrong way, a war occurs. Of course it’s not that simple, nothing ever is. But it happens. And farmer’s fields and peaceful valleys and streams where children splashed and swam and quiet hamlets get ploughed into mud, trenches, and barbed wire.

Often, by then it’s too late to do anything else. There are marginalized citizens, either by religion or race, being (as Colin says) genocided. Often they’re pleading for intervention and yet… the ones who call the war are never the ones in battle. They’re never the ones who lie crying for their Mom while their life bleeds away and their guts mix with the mud. They don’t have to worry if the skinny teenager standing on the road ahead is innocent or covered in bombs and ready to kill them all. The ones in charge sleep in a comfortable bed every night and dine on a hot, well cooked meal every evening. The war they unleashed is an abstract in a place far away from their lives.

I remember being taught about World War I and the cavalry division. Cavalry had always played a huge role in the British Army so the commanders naturally placed them front and centre in the battlefield. Front and centre against tanks and machine guns. The cavalry didn’t stand a chance. The commanders soon realized this as the death toll climbed but they continued following the same plans because it had always worked before (against other calvary). Of course it wasn’t them or their children dying, it was the calvary and the foot soldiers so they continued.

The most frustrating part is every war starts out with a need for all parties to sit down and negotiate a treaty. They refuse and convince thousands of their people to die, ostensibly for their freedom. Eventually those same parties all sit down and negotiate a treaty… the exact same one they needed to negotiate before all those deaths. When you get right down to it, every single war is a needless war. They all boil down to one or more parties simply refusing to negotiate or refusing to negotiate fairly.

I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who. The Doctor, the main character, was a soldier in a huge, fictional war called the Time War and he gave a speech that I think is eminently suitable. I’ll pare out the parts that are specifically related to the show:

Ah. Ah, right. And when this war is over, when you have a homeland, what do you think it’s going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you’re very close to getting what you want. What’s it going to be like? Well? Oh, you don’t actually know, do you? Because, like every other tantruming child in history, you don’t actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one? Maybe you will win! But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keeps turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.

Because it’s not a game. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk!

Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch! In other words “lest we forget”.

And so we were silent for two minutes yesterday in remembrance of World War I and II… and all the other wars. Silent so we wouldn’t forget. Silent because never again. And yet wars under a myriad of names are being waged all across this world. There are Muslims in concentration camps in China and children dying in camps in the United States. There’s an outright attack on the LGBTQ community happening through eastern Europe and Africa with Poland even declaring a third of the country LGBT free… as if every queer LGBTQ man, woman, and child is going to suddenly vanish. The Middle East is a hotbed of violence and, as always, everyone has their fingers poking in making it a hundred times worse.

We are all born the same way, birthed from a womb, whether it happens in a dirt floored hut or the private ward of a luxury hospital. We are all born innocent and ready to love and be loved. Everything else comes later. We’re born loving and taught to hate. If only there was a way we could teach all the children around the world to treat each other kindly, to accept each other’s differences, to listen and try to understand instead of resolving conflicts with fists, to hug consensually. It would make such a huge difference. Imagine those children as adults, having grown up learning fairness, kindness, and equity. Maybe someday it will happen but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.