30 November 2014

Hope and hackers

Hope! It's my favourite topic, and it is the theme of the first Sunday in Advent. It's my favourite service of the whole liturgical year. To say I have high hopes for the service is both lame, amusing, and ironic (as is my use of both for three items). I was not disappointed today at Cadboro Bay United Church. The minister, who I'm not sure about yet, had a pretty good sermon. The pictures with it included the instantly iconic picture of the black protester hugging the white police officer. It also included pictures of the protest on Burnaby mountain. They were given as examples of hope, even against something that seems hopeless, like racism or the reign of corporate power.

I lost hope briefly, but I'm back. Thank God. It was rough there for a while.

Hope is everywhere. It's in little things like small random acts of kindness, to big things like the election of the first black president or the return of sovereignty to native lands. I even have hope for the scam artists who call me at 10pm to tell me that hackers have taken over my computer. First, I keep them on hold for a long time and then when I can't delay any longer, I tell them that they're good people and should get a better job where they don't have to hurt people. Usually this ends in them slamming the phone down on me. The other night, it was... different.

I tweeted it on Nov 27. It was the best thing ever. At 10pm PST, the phone rang and it was some dude with an Indian accent of some sort who told me he was calling from Microsoft, that my computer was "infected by hackers" and that he could totally prove it to me. I told him that the computer would take some time to start up and would he hold. Then I went and got a glass of wine and took the phone to bed with me. I left him on hold for about 10 minutes.

Finally, I took a sip of wine and said, "Okay, it's on. What should I do?" He directed me to the Event Viewer and had me tell him what was going on the whole time. He told me to press the window button, and I told him my windows didn't have buttons. Hahaha. Oh man. I made him explain the windows key so many times. I was having a hell of a time not laughing. I told him there were 1600 events in the viewer, and he said, "Oh my goodness, Ma'am! Oh my goodness. 1600 hackers are in your computer! We must get them out. The hackers have control of your computer!" I lost it laughing. I mean, I just started killing myself laughing. He said, "What is so funny, ma'am? The hackers, they have control of your PC!" I said, "There's no hackers. You're good. I'll give you that. I'm not stupid, I know that the events in the event viewer have nothing to do with... " "Yes, they do! It's hackers!" "Dude. This is beneath you. There are no hackers. My printer throwing errors is not hacking. You've got to be better than this. Get a different job, an honest job where you're not scamming people for a living. You're a good man, right?"

He didn't hang up. I swear it. He didn't hang up. He said, "Do you think I am a fucker? Huh? Huh? Well, I am. I am a fucker. I love my job. This is a great job. Because it pays me good money." I said, "Money? That's it? Come on. You don't care about hurting people? There's other work out there. Good work." He said, "THIS is good work. I don't care. I have no ethics. I don't believe in karma or whatever. I only want money." I said, "Oh, that's so sad. No ethics at all? Why not? You can change that you know, you can be a good man!" And then it got really weird.

A new voice cut in, and it may have been the old voice trying to affect an American accent, but it may have been someone else entirely. He said, "Did you know this call has been monitored for quality control?" I dissolved into gales of laughter and said, "Oh this is just the best. Oh my god." He said, "This call has been monitored by CIBC." Hahahaha. Okay, so when I stopped laughing and caught my breath, I said, "CIBC, like, the bank? Or?" He said, "You haven't heard of us?! Are you an ignorant? [sic] Bitch, are you scared? Are you pissing your pants? You should be!" Oh, I was pissing my pants laughing, but no, not scared. So then the guy says in this super ominous sounding voice, "Isn't it Thanksgiving?" "No. That's in America. HAHAHAHA! You don't even know where I live. And I thought you knew all about my computer!" I mocked him. Then the first voice came back and said, "Are you having a good day, ma'am?" (what?!) I said, "Oh yes, fabulous. This has been a wonderful day and this just tops it off perfectly! This was awesome. Wow!" He said, "Um... really? Okay..." And then they put the phone down on me. They didn't hang up. Just set it down and let me listen to the background noise. Exactly like I did to him in the beginning. It was awesome.

Best scammer call ever.

I highly doubt I changed that guy's mind, but here's hoping I planted a seed of doubt! :D

And I swear on my children's heads, I am not exaggerating, I have not taken poetic license, and every word is true. I may have had to paraphrase some quotes (though every word in the Twitter version was exact. I left out stuff there, because it's Twitter, but every word was uttered), but it happened exactly like this, and it was fabulous.

18 November 2014

Inhospitable hospital

I've been away to Saskatchewan for a week and a bit. My Mom's health deteriorated and she had a heart attack. The doctors determined that she needed a triple bypass and a valve repair. So I went out there to be with her before and after the surgery. Turned out she needed a septuple bypass, a valve replacement (mitral valve), and a valve repair (aortic valve). She's doing okay now. Moved from SICU to Cardiac Surveillance to a regular ward. Now she's just got to get the fluid off her lungs and get a bit more strength, and then she can go home.

A few observations I have:

1) Regina General Hospital was far cleaner than either of the Victoria hospitals.
2) The parking situation at RGH is a nightmare. It's terribly expensive to park in the lots and so people try to park on the street. RGH is in a rough neighbourhood, so going out to the car after dark is a bit scary. However, security is happy to walk someone to the car. Also, the people who work in the parking booth are amazing. One of them recognised that I'd been there a few times, and told me how to save money. When I explained that because of the holiday, I couldn't get a pass, and the day before, I didn't know about it, he took two days off the price of the pass and set me up with one. Saved me a fortune.
3) Every single medical professional I talked to was kind, polite, and forthcoming*. That has never ever happened to me. Not even when I was there before. SICU had "family rounds" which meant that 2 family members (i.e. my brother and I) were allowed to be there when the team did rounds. For someone like me who has no trouble with medical terminology, this was fantastic. My brother didn't understand anything except the summary, which was a dumbed down version of what they'd said.
4) Hospital food is still remarkably sub-standard. Grape drink? Really? Water, sugar, food colouring and artificial flavour? That's supposed to help someone get well? Pork? For a heart patient? Really? One of her meals literally looked like something my dog has vomited. I mean, truly, literally, it looked like dog vomit. It was "beef stew". ICK.
5) The view from the SICU waiting room was a trailer that housed an MRI unit. The roof of the trailer was held down by cans of gravel. I'm pretty sure they could use a bit more funding! Wow.

There was one doctor who was/is an asshole, but I didn't talk to him. Here's the story, and it's kind of funny. Unless you're my Mom. Dr. Duffy told Mom that she should say "God Bless You" to her surgeon when he visited after the surgery. Mom isn't a God Bless You kind of person, but she did it. After he left, I looked at her and asked her why she'd said that. She told me that Dr. Duffy said she should. I started to laugh, and she looked baffled. So I told her. Her surgeon? Dr. Moustapha. A Muslim. Mom was horrified and embarrassed, and felt like a complete idiot for not knowing (She also thought Dr. Selim was "Mexican or something"). Mom might be dreadfully ignorant about some things, but she's not a jerk about it. She'd never have done that had she known. So while it's hilarious on one hand, Dr. Duffy is a complete dickbag on the other. My poor Mom was just trying to be nice.

Also, it's weird but it was far less stressful to be there with Pop and my Mom than it was to be at home. That's definitely something to work on! Home should not be a source of stress.

The etymology of the word hospital amuses me, because hospitals are about the least good at hospitality.

27 October 2014

But bitches be crazy!

I'm sitting in my van (which is named Halen, because how could it be named anything else, when it rocks so hard and is totally undervalued) while Tony takes Crackle to the dentist. I'm phobic, so it's best I don't go in.

And I'm thinking about the Ghomeshi story, and the PR of abusers. They usually don't have the money and power this one has, being able to afford a high powered firm, but they are always running a PR game, discrediting anyone making an accusation, often before they make it. And people fall for it, hook, line, and sinker.
And look what it gets them! Uncritical support. And what do the victims get? Rape threats. Death threats.
 And they can't win. If they go to the police, their names become public and their lives are ruined. If they stay anonymous, they're not credible. Just look at any comment section you can stomach.

Which is bullshit. By the way, Toronto Star, adding that they are well-educated and employed suggests that their social standing should have an impact on whether I believe them. Fuck you for that.

I believe them. No, I don't know for a fact that he did it. But I believe them. Just like those who believe he is innocent believe but don't know. Sadly, I'm in the minority.

And why? Why is it so easy to believe women are crazy bitches, making up stories to smear wonderful men, instead of believing that men might be abusive assholes, hiding their nature, running a PR game on everyone? Why is liar easier to believe than victim? Several reasons.

1. Misogyny. Systemic misogyny. It's easier to blame women when the societal narrative supports that belief. Women are lying, scheming, screech harpies because that's what we're often taught to believe. They're set up to fail at rape accusations. From the simplest details like whether they provide a name or not - Presumed lying if they don't; presumed attention whore if they do. And look at that language. Women-only insults for this sort of thing.

2. Denial for self-preservation. For a fleeting few minutes, I played the denial game and believed his story. Because I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to believe he was one of those guys, an abuser, a rapist. Because I liked him. And I hated thinking that I didn't know. And quite honestly, because I didn't want to accept the reality that this happens all the time. I didn't want to believe that it happened again.

And then my bubble burst. In about 3 seconds of critical thought. It's not about me. It's not even about him. It's about women who wanted to see him stopped, without destroying their own lives.  And so, I believe them and I support them. Because they have nothing to gain, everything to lose, and I admire their courage. Ghomeshi doesn't need my support. He's rich and powerful and male. He has all the support he needs.

17 October 2014

Random thought about privilege

Another random thought about privilege. Being white, cis-male, and straight doesn't mean you don't get an opinion on minority issues. It means your opinion is irrelevant. Maybe pull on your big boy pants, and reflect on what it feels like to have your opinion ignored.

You can TOTALLY think that random racist/sexist/transphobic/ablist comments are completely harmless and unoffensive. And when someone informs you otherwise, your choices are to change your opinion and not do it again, keep your opinion and still not do it again, or keep your opinion and continue to do racist things.

I love people who can easily change their beliefs. Confronted with new information, they just jump on it and go with it. Blackface is not okay? Dude. Sorry. Let me wipe that off right now. Hey, Jim. Dude here says our costume is offensive. Wipe it off, okay?

Choosing to keep your opinion but still not doing the behaviour is totally okay, btw. I've done it plenty. I don't understand why LOTS of things are offensive. I don't need to understand. I'm told it is, so I don't do it. Because my opinion on the matter is irrelevant. Sure, education is great, and I do try to learn. But sometimes, it's not appropriate to ask and sometimes I don't understand the answer. So I STFU and don't do that. I wish I could think of a good example offhand. Maybe the -ed on transgendered vs. transgender. I get the logic, but I don't see the problem as a big deal. But guess what, my opinion on the matter is utterly irrelevant because I'm not trans. I don't get it. I have cis-privilege. What I do know is that it's considered offensive by the people actually involved, so I don't do it. Even if I don't really understand. I call that "Not being a douchetree". And I don't sit on Twitter or Facebook arguing about why I'm right. Furthermore, when I hear others do it, I suggest that they don't. Because even if I don't understand, I can signal boost.

There's a difference between "I don't get it, but I won't do it" and "I won't do it, I think you're being utterly ridiculous and I'm going to tell you every chance I get what an over-sensitive sucky baby you are". The former shows respect. I respect that when a member of group X says, "Don't do that, it's Xist" it's probably Xist, even if I know 10 others who don't care. I had a friend in high school who said, "Oh ferfuckssake, I'm Indian. STOP with the native/aboriginal/FN shit. I'm an indian and you can just say that". Great. And I did. With everyone. Because I was young, arrogant, ignorant, and a bit of an asshole. And then someone finally clued me in in a way that I understood and I stopped that shit.

And then there's the massive fuckpuddles who think that their opinion is correct, don't care to learn, and don't give a rat's ass if the people around them are hurt. Beautiful example: gypsy costumes at Halloween. It's a culture, for fuck's sake. Not a costume. These people are treated like shit all over the place, and wooo, let's dress as a caricature of them for Halloween. Told someone that. She said I was being ridiculous and she'd dress however she wanted. I told her to go for it, but not be surprised if someone told her she was an insensitive asswipe. Seriously, if you're okay with people thinking you're insensitive and uncaring, go to it. Be gypsies or geisha girls or harem girls. Be sure to paint your face and wear eagle feathers. It's your right. And it's mine to call you out on it.

There's another post brewing here about the very notion of offensive. Stay tuned. :)

15 October 2014

Anti-Feminst Women.

I just do not understand anti-feminist women. What is in it for them? Is it that they have creepy sons that they're trying to protect?

I've noticed more of them lately. There was one odd conversation on FB yesterday in which a man was standing up for feminism and an anti-feminist, horribly misogynist woman. Baffling. And I can't find it again, but do look at this:


What the everlovin' fuck? Okay, so I responded.
All she had to say about that was that I'm a feminazi, ignorant and arrogant. Okay... I mean, if she's so anti-feminist, shouldn't she be serving her husband somehow? Why is she allowed to read? Where do they draw the line? Does she have a job? If so, how does she wrap her brain around that? Does she get paid as much as the men doing the same job? If so, does she not realize that it was feminism that made that happen? And if not, is she okay with that? Really?

I just can't even. When it comes to that kind of hypocrisy, how can she stand it? How does her brain not collapse in on itself. The disconnect is just astonishing.

13 October 2014

Some notes on privilege

Privilege. No one likes admitting that they benefit from it. Many with it won't admit they have it. And there are different kinds of privilege, all of which people like to pit against each other.

Luna, wtf are you talking about?

Good question, me. I'm a little bit jumbled about on this topic and can't seem to make my brain create the words to describe what I want to say about it. I'm only going to talk about white privilege and class privilege for this. And that's barely scratching the surface. There's also gender, sex, thin/fat, ability, and any number of other issues.

Maybe we should do this by question and answer? First of all, wtf do you mean by privilege?

Sure. Why not? Go for the hard question first. Privilege: When something inherent about a person grants them special "rights" (i.e. privileges) and makes things easier for them. A certain awesome author and blogger described it in terms of the video game of life, where privilege gives you an easier difficulty setting. Straight, white male = easiest difficulty setting. You can fuck it up, you can still lose, but when all else is equal it was easier for you. There are other random variables that can make the game harder, like addiction, abuse, poverty (which I'll come back to), but in general straight white cis male = least amount of difficulty navigating the game.

But surely wealth and class is also privilege! Poor white folks have it as bad as black people and first nations, right?


Yes, class privilege is real. No, it is not the only privilege out there. Being poor and white has plenty of advantages over being poor and black. Or poor and Cree. Or poor and any visible minority. Seriously. Yes, I know cops are shitheads to people who look poor. But if you're poor and white, you're not as likely to end up on a Starlight Tour than if you're poor and aboriginal. And when was the last time a white person was mistaken for a burglar in his own house?

You say class privilege is real, but then don't describe it. You're not very good at this, are you?

No. And that's why you're asking the questions. Of course, it's a huge advantage to have lots of money. And POC who are also wealthy also have class privilege. They have access to the circles of power that poor people of any colour do not have. Telling white people who are dirt poor and wondering where they'll get their next rent cheque from to "organize the white allies", to change things within the white power structure, is patently ludicrous. They have no power. A rich black guy has way more pull in the power classes than a poor white guy. And a poor black guy has even less. And is more likely to get put in prison for trying.

Are you suggesting that there's a privilege hierarchy? So rich + white > rich + colour > poor + white > poor + colour?

Um, yes and no? Yes, in some circles. No, in others. That hierarchy is likely true in cases of "trying to effect change within a power structure" and completely untrue in "trying not to get killed at a traffic stop". In the former, money = power. That's why Barack Obama can be president of the USA and Oprah is one of the most powerful women on earth but white privilege is still very real and being black is a disadvantage. Just try shopping while black or native. Do ask Forest Whitaker about that. Rich black guy accused of shoplifting. When was the last time that happened to a rich, white guy? Right?

I was watching people argue about this on Twitter last night, and someone said that white people can do it just by going down to goodwill and buying a suit. They'll get in to places black people won't. Um, bullshit. I'm sorry, but bullshit. No. First of all, a goodwill suit will barely get you through a job interview. Ask any poor person trying to get a job - if you don't look the part already, you don't get the job, and people know the difference between a goodwill suit and an Armani.

Another example: When was the last time a poor person was elected to anything? Never. You cannot get elected without a lot of money. That's just how it works. And I mean a LOT of money. I do pretty well, and I wouldn't be able to afford to run for provincial politics. Municipal even. Oh yeah, I could run for mayor, put up my signs, go door to door, and have no hope whatsoever, because the incumbent has MONEY. Money he spreads around everywhere. Unless that guy is caught... I don't even know what would take him down. He's white. Drinking and driving? Nope, that got Gordon Campbell an ambassadorship to the UK. Even though it was rumoured he had a second family on the side (girlfriend and kid in Hawaii, is what I heard). Gay scandal? Nope, wouldn't matter in BC (and that's a good thing). Fucking the babysitter? Nope. See Vic Toews. Stealing from other rich white guys? THAT might do it. Because money and the knowledge of how to use it = power.

The knowledge of how to use it? What? 

Yeah, it's not enough to be filthy, stinkin' rich if you want to be powerful. If you want to change the power structures from the inside. Even rich and white isn't enough. Suppose you won $50M and your goal was to raise awareness of disability issues in the public schools, effecting change in a way that would make public schools more accessible to people with a disability. How do you even start? You don't have the connections of someone born to it. You don't have the knowledge of the system passed down to you from your parents. And you may not even have much of an education. The latter can be bought. The other two? Not so much.

Remember the example of the Armani suit? Even if you're lucky enough to score an Armani (ha!) that fits (HA!), the second you open your poor, lower class mouth, you're out. They know you're not one of them the first second you speak if you don't have the education to speak in their register.
Now, again, you're not likely to be arrested, beaten, or killed for it if you're white. Not as good of odds if you're a POC. And that leads us back to the race problem. "Oh, he's so well-spoken!" = "Huh. I expected AAVE! [as if there's something inherently wrong with AAVE] He managed to speak a whole two minutes without saying motherfucker! Good, good black man!" Being black and educated enough to speak the upper class register is treated with suspicion, disbelief, and amusement. At least until that guy proves himself well enough. It's bullshit. And a perfect example of white privilege. A poor person can't get access and a rich person with an education can. But a rich black person with an education has a shitload of prejudice to wade through. And that shitload is too thick for a whole lot of people.

Class != Money. Class is inherent, something you're born to. It's evident the second you open your mouth. Unfortunately, if you're a POC, you may not get the chance to open your mouth.

So what was your point again? Give us the TL;DR version!

My point is that white privilege doesn't trump class privilege in all cases. And class privilege doesn't trump white privilege in all cases. And we really need to stop fighting amongst ourselves about this. Poor white people have obstacles. Poor people of colour have more obstacles. Class is privilege. White is privilege. Education is privilege. None of these alone will grant a person magical access to the world of power and control. Telling poor white people to just change things within their communities is not ever going to work. They have no power. Oh sure, white people get weaker sentences in the criminal justice system, better jobs, and a whole lot of freebies. But they have no more ability to change society than a poor black person. Okay. Slightly more. Like how a canoe has a better chance of getting across the ocean than a dinghy does, because the people shooting at them can't sink the canoe like they can sink the dinghy.

You're rambling again. I said I wanted the TL;DR version, dammit!

Take D&D. If you have a strength of 18 and dex of 17, that'll get you a long way in fights. But if your charisma is 2, good luck getting a deal on the sword you want.

It's not linear. Class privilege gets you farther in some parts of society than white privilege does. White privilege gets you farther in some parts of society than class privilege does. And that's just if you're a straight cis male. If not? Good luck, sister!

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edited for clarity

28 August 2014

Women and children

Ahh the lazy days of summer. Almost over. Well, unless you're a kid in BC. Then who knows how long this mess will go on for. My kids aren't in the public system. For so many reasons. Most of which could be fixed with better government funding. But I'll be damned if I'm going to sacrifice my kids' education (and safety!) for ideology. Yes, I'm part of the problem, pulling my kids out and going to the private (and subsidized) system. Too fucking bad.

Here's how to fix it: Give the teachers everything they're asking for except the wage increase. The government gets to say they're helping kids. The teachers get to say the kids are their first priority. The kids actually get some funding for things like text books (My daughter had to share a text book in Grade 12!) Everyone wins.

And speaking of everyone winning, any chance that women could get some decent healthcare in this province? No? Didn't think so. Listen to this shit. Kids are not allowed in the ultrasound room**. Not even well-behaved kids. No chances to try. Kids under 10 may not be left in the waiting room either. So a quiet 9-yr-old needs a babysitter. Or in my case, a quiet 5 year old named Pop. This is highly frustrating because this means the parent in charge of child care (usually the woman) has to pay $10/hr or more to go get a simple test done. It's not a sterile environment. It's not a situation where the patient is sedated and unable to care for the child. It's simply company policy, and it's bullshit. What if I didn't have the money? What if I didn't have a person to look after my kids? When I was pregnant with Pop, Tony had to take time off work to watch Crackle during my ultrasound. Tony couldn't watch the test, like most Dads get to. We are spectacularly lucky that Tony has a union job and was able to take time off for that. Had he not, it would have cost a lot of money to get that ultrasound. And maybe I'd have skipped it. Is that a good idea? Hell no. As it is, this ultrasound is going to cost me $30 in babysitting. Which isn't much for me, but geez, if one of my neighbours in low-cost housing next door needed this, what then?

Ahh women and children. Just useless members of society anyway. So who cares, I guess.

**EDIT: No, I'm not pregnant! If I were, I wouldn't be going for an ultrasound. I'd be going for an abortion.
edit 2 for testing.

19 July 2014

Don't tell me how to behave

The news of last couple of weeks has been astoundingly bad. Israel invading Gaza. A plane carrying almost 300 people is shot down, likely by Russia, and now rebels won't let investigators near it. Another girl was roofied, raped, and mocked on social media for it.

And I've been happy. I know, according to the internet quiz I took on a whim, this makes me a terrible person. Only being utterly miserable in the face of others misery is acceptable. Especially for a woman.

But you know what? No. I can be happy while still saying none of these things is okay. While still recognising the tragedy and pain that others are experiencing. And in fact, I think I can do it better, because I'm not caught up in my own pain about it.

TOOT TOOT. Sorry. That was my horn. I was blowing it.

I believe in happiness. I think it's the only way to make the world a better place. I also believe that many people use anger as a motivator, and think they need to. More power to you if it works for you! No judgments here. I was an angry person for a lot of years, and I'm not judging myself for it either. Nor for the times when I still get angry! I've just decided I'm done with it, and if others want to be done with it too, that would be lovely. If not, cool. Go about your business. :)

It just seems to me that angry people make mistakes when they act in anger, not quiet determination. Of course, I could be projecting. I have made a number of truly spectacular fuckups when acting out of anger. The kind that I suspect people might still be talking about 20 years later when they have those "What's the weirdest thing that ever happened to you..." conversations. "Well, this one time, this crazy lady stomped past my secretary into my office while I was in a meeting with the university president and the board of directors, and yelled at me over a parking pass problem. She started throwing things at me, and I had to remove her, without making it look to the board like I couldn't handle a 19 year old woman without violence. She was CRAZY." -- University Director of Security

It seems to me that the vast majority of the shit that happens in the world happens because people are scared or angry (and I still think anger comes from fear). Russia shot down the plane out of fear that it was a Ukrainian jet coming to kill them. Or because they needed to assert their power and dominance. And now the rebels are blocking access, to do the same. Because any opportunity for a warring faction to show power and dominance is taken. To do anything but is to appear weak.

Those boys raped that girl not so much out of anger or fear, but out of an inability to see her as a human. That's a different kettle of fish. That's patriarchy, and the societal need to hold on to it. The system is designed to give power to men, and one of the best ways to do that is to make women so utterly invaluable as to be worthless as a human, but rather a thing to play with, a toy. They weren't consciously thinking that when they did it (I assume!) They'd just been taught via our society that women have no worth. That's societal fear. Patriarchal fear that if women are treated fairly, equitably, or even as human, that they might take some of the male power. And that fear is bred into boys without there ever being any real feeling of fear or anger on the boys' part. It's incredibly insidious.

Israel invaded Gaza... I don't know why. I don't know what in the hell they could be afraid of. Not having all the land in the region? I have no idea. But it's certainly happening because they're angry. Look at the rhetoric floating around. They hate the people of Gaza. And why? They can't be particularly afraid of the rocket attacks. They've got them so blockaded they won't ever manage to build power. So what the hell? I don't know.

What I do know is I refuse to hate them for hating. They're a bunch of angry people doing angry shitty things. And while I'm a wee bit afraid of the world devolving into another world war over this, with my ridiculous Prime Minister choosing what I think is the wrong side, I refuse to be miserable. I refuse to add to the misery of the planet with my own.

And you know what? I'm tired of being told how I "should" behave or react to things. We women get this more than men, but men get it too. We're told by both men and women to be "classy" (see @lindywest's Twitter feed last night). We're told that we should smile more. That we should swear less. That we shouldn't talk so much. Should talk more. Shouldn't interrupt. Should interrupt more. Should be nice when we say no. Should be more forceful when we say no. That we should mourn differently than we do. That we should joke differently than we do. (Women comedians aren't funny, you know! Pfft.) That we should lighten up. That we shouldn't lighten up.

To hell with it all. I will swear when I want. I will fart when I want. I will eat what I want. I will wear what I want. I will brag when I do something awesome. And I will joke about my shortcomings when I don't. I will believe whatever I want to believe, rational or not, because if it makes me happy, I don't give a shit if it's true. And especially, I will feel how I want to feel and I will make no apologies for it. I will be happy even if the world is going to hell around me. Or I will rail and scream and stomp into the office of ... okay, maybe not that one unless it's significantly more important than a parking pass clusterfuck. But I will rail and scream and swear if I fucking feel like it. And fuck decorum. Fuck classy. Fuck patriarchy. Fuck the so-called feminists who want to tell me how to behave. I will laugh at that sexist joke if I find it funny. I will tell someone I found their joke disgusting if I find it disgusting.

I guess I'm just not that nice. Or so Buzzfeed tells me.

12 July 2014

A Senate Solution

A simple solution to the Senate problem:

The popular vote achieved by each party is equal to the percentage of senators the party can appoint to the Senate.

- No party may appoint any senator without at least carrying 5% of the vote.
- No party may appoint a candidate who has lost their riding in that, or the previous election campaign. i.e. If Joe Con loses to Jane Lib, the Cons cannot appoint Joe Con to the senate for 8 years.

Problems? I mean, other than that it just makes too much sense for anyone in government to take seriously...

Conflicting message

And I wonder why I'm self-conscious about wearing a bikini, sitting in my fenced backyard, because a neighbour might see my flabby belly from the window.


Conflicting messages much?

10 July 2014

Lies, damned lies, and...

Statistics. I am so tired of hearing shitty science extolled as good science by people who are trying to point out shitty science. Convoluted, no?

Okay, so it's like this. Some study comes out showing a correlation between X and Y. Not a causal relationship, but a strong correlation and a note in the study saying more research is necessary.

Crazy Nutbars Who Can't Distinguish Between Correlation and Causation (CNWCDBCC) jump on this study and scream WE TOLD YOU X CAUSES Y!
Snarky Motherfuckers Who Know Less About Stats Than They Claim (SMWKLASTTC) start snarking that correlation != causation, and conclude that X cannot cause Y, because crappy understanding of Science.

Listen SMWKLASTTC, in an observational study, a strong correlation is required for proof of causation. It is not the only requirement by a longshot. You also need to have a well-designed study, consistency (hence the "more research is necessary" in the study), dose-response relationship (more people exposed, more people affected), reversibility (remove the potential cause and the incidence rate should decline), biological plausibility and coherence with known facts.[1]

It's those last two that have the SMWKLASTTC crowd screaming. It's not plausible, blah blah blah. Remember when rheumatic fever was most emphatically NOT caused by strep? Yeah. That was what science said then. Now it doesn't. Because they proved it, and changed the known facts.

And what's really important is controlling your study. Removing or randomizing associated factors and doing so with a large enough sample isn't easy. Especially when studying the cause of Y (Cancer, autism, OCD, roseacea, obesity, warts, whatever). Because human genetics aren't easy to control for if you don't know what you're looking for.

Suppose for the sake of simplicity that we're looking at whether the sun causes skin to burn. We get a nice random sample of people from all around the world, and they're all sorts of natural shades, from ivory to black coffee. We've got hundreds of thousands of people, because we're awesome. But we don't know anything about melanin, because we're not scientifically advanced enough yet. All we know is that in 15 minutes in the sun, only a tiny fraction of our millions in the sample are burnt. So we conclude that the sun doesn't cause burns. Nope. Because science! Because stats!

Oh, but we left them out for another 15 minutes, and all of a sudden, a lot more of them are burned. Oh, huh. And it's only the pale ones. But there's no reason for this (remember, we still don't know about melanin), so the pale ones must be having a psychological reaction. Because science! Because stats! But the CNWCDBCC are screaming WE TOLD YOU X CAUSES Y! Crazy nutbars.

And then someone comes up with the idea of melanin. Crazy bastard! EVERYONE knows that pale redheads are just psychologically weak. But eventually, the idea catches on, and he proves that it exists. Huh. Cool. So the sun does cause burns in short periods of time. But only in people who are genetically sensitive to it. Well, I'll be damned! Science was wrong! New info! The correlation between being in the sun and getting a burn was actually causal all along. But until they knew about melanin, they couldn't prove it. And the crazy nutbars? Well, lucky guess, right?*

And what's worse, is that the same motherfuckers who swear that X doesn't cause Y are the same ones that love to jump into an argument about obesity and scream that overeating is the cause of obesity because of that whole calories in/calories out bullshit lie. They holler that eating too much and obesity cause diabetes, even though there is no causal link proven. There is a strong positive correlation. But they pick and choose. Much like we all do, I suppose. Some correlations we assume to be causal and some we don't, based on our beliefs. But if you're going to get sanctimonious with me about suggesting that I'm going to stay away from X because of its correlation with Y, and claim I fail at science, I am so going to do it right back at you.

So stop that shit. If someone tells you vaccines or glyphosate cause autism, strep causes OCD, aspartame causes cancer, eating sugar causes diabetes, sniffing farts prevents cancer, or that wearing shoes will give you cancer*, feel free to tell them that current scientific consensus says that's not true. And when they yank out some study that shows a correlation, feel free to remind them in as condescending a tone as you can manage that correlation doesn't imply causation. But do try to remember that correlation doesn't exclude causation either. There may be some factor missing in the studies and those crazy nutbars may one day be vindicated. You know, like the ones who insisted that cigarettes cause cancer. The ones who were certain that epilepsy was physical, not psychological. The ones who said BPA was dangerous, even in tiny amounts - especially in tiny amounts. The ones who screamed that the poor air quality was giving them asthma. All of those crazy nutbars who couldn't prove causation until they did.

*And of course, sometimes the crazy nutbars are just crazy nutbars.
[1] http://learnandteachstatistics.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/proving-causation/
I picked my links more or less randomly. Fair warning! :)

09 July 2014

This is Canada

Canada Day has come and gone, and no peep from me. I'm conflicted about Canada Day. Patriotism is bullshit in my not so humble opinion. You're proud of being Canadian? Why? We've done some great things, yes.
We have universal health care.
We have no abortion laws.
We have codified equality, including the right of any couple to marry each other, regardless of genital configuration.
We have a social safety net.
We have a law that allows people to apologise without taking legal responsibility for the issue.

And... ummm... we're good at hockey?

It's not enough. We could do so much more. We've codified equality, but we are not an egalitarian society.

Oh Canada, our home on native land. Racism continues to flourish. Just read the comments on any CBC article about aboriginal people. Never mind the statistics that show that they die younger, are paid less, are on welfare more, are incarcerated at way higher levels, and the biggest kick in teeth: have their children removed at way higher levels than non-aboriginals. Nearly half of the children in foster care are First Nations children. 3.6% of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under (14,225) were foster children, compared with 0.3% of non-Aboriginal children (15,345)

Women still make less money than men for the same work. Women still can't walk down the street at night without fear of rape, and then be blamed for having the nerve to walk down the street at night. Our reproductive rights are still an issue. There is no access to abortion in PEI, and in NB women need permission from TWO doctors. And if you're a native woman? Well, you're more likely to die of a violent crime than any other group. Domestic abuse (pdf) is far far higher in the aboriginal communities. And if you're missing? No one seems to give a shit. Forget about an inquiry, even if there hundreds of you missing or murdered.

Our social safety net is so awesome, isn't it? I mean, that's what I hear from my father-in-law. He tells me that people (read: natives) scam the system, because it's just so generous and easy to live on. No. Not just no, but Grumpy Cat NO. You know what welfare pays in BC?

a single person considered employable receives $610 per month – $425 for shelter and $185 (or about $6 per day) for all other needs, including food, clothing, transportation, telephone, etc.;
a single parent with one child received $946 a month from the province (plus $422 in various federal tax credits and child benefits); And if the parent receives any child support, it is clawed back from their welfare.
a single person with ppmB (persons with persistent multiple barriers to employment) status receives $658 per month; and
a single person with PWD (person with disability) status receives $906 per month.
$906 for a disabled person. $906. This is for someone who anyone but the harshest of conservative assholes can't blame for their situation. Do you know much rent goes for? A 1 bedroom apartment is about $700/mo. Are we really saying that disabled people must take a roommate? That we won't afford them the dignity of being allowed to live on their own if they desire? Fortunately, their meds are covered (except when they aren't!). Food isn't though. Or heat. Or telephone. Good luck with that.

And that's what we do for people who were born here. Not born here? Refugee? Well, we're sorry, but fuck you.

And that's just our domestic social policies. Don't even get me started on foreign issues. Or what we're doing to the environment. It's shameful.

So while I'm happy to live in a society in which I don't have to have my head covered to leave the house, where my husband can't beat me in front of a cop, where my daughter can and in fact must be educated, where we don't let people die from infections because they can't afford the ER, where gay people can marry the person they love, there is so much more we can do.

But we won't. Not with the KapitalistKonservativeKrapfest in power. Because greed trumps all with them. Greed of money and power. That is all they care about. And it's heartbreaking. So I don't celebrate Canada Day. I quietly rejoice to have been born in one of the best countries in the world, and quietly pray that everyone can step up and be better.

20 June 2014

The Handmaid's Tale was not an instruction manual, dammit!

I sometimes forget how insulated I am in the world of Progressive Christianity from the world of fundamentalism. Never was this more clear to me than when I read what was happening at Bob Jones "University". Nutshell: Women were raped, got the courage to tell someone, and were told to repent their sins. The comments I have read about this have been heartbreaking. A woman told of how her ex-husband beat their 5 year old daughter so badly she had to sleep on her stomach for days because of the welts on her back. She went to her church and was reprimanded for not standing by her husband in a united front. That will stay with me. I can't imagine what it did to her. The stories in the article are shocking to me, and I guess they shouldn't be. Too many comments are "not surprised" for me to feel comfortable asking how I could have known.

I'm too disgusted for a proper rant. This is just me barking in several directions like a dog who can hear the mail carrier but can't figure out where she is. I don't even know where to begin a takedown of these turdfondling fuckwads. I guess we start with WHERE IN THE HELL DID YOU GET THE IDEA THAT RAPE IS GOD'S PUNISHMENT FOR ANYTHING? BECAUSE THAT SHIT AIN'T IN THE BIBLE!

I mean, what the hell is this garbage? And doesn't it strike you that these fuckers must think that God is working through men who rape? Which in turn means they're very likely rapists who think they're doing God's work, because God can't rape anyone himself, right? *puke*

THIS IS NOT WHAT IS MEANT BY "BEING GOD'S TOOL". (Sacrilegious rape joke!)

See, this shit right here, this is why "a Christian nation" is a bad idea. Because what if this was codified into law? Punishments for the victims, perpetrators considered God's hand, laws based on corruptions of scriptures. It's a horrifying thought. These people seem to think that the Handmaid's Tale was an instruction manual for utopia.

So, while I've got you here, this is my message:
I'm sorry. I'm really truly sorry for the harm that has been done in the name of God, the name of Jesus, a man who prevented a legal death of a woman for a crime that was also a sin. I'm sorry that people with whom I align myself in the name of Christ have fucked this up so horrifically, and worse, don't even know that.

I'm truly sorry that we are seeing the wolves in sheep's clothing we were warned about. And they're perfect wolves. They're wolves who think they're sheep. They truly believe they're righteous followers of Christ. Baffling how they can disconnect from his message of love to do such enormous damage.

And I am grateful that there are a bunch of us trying to change it. This is from the theological statement within the Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response manual that we follow:
We affirm: We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
God intends for all life freedom from abuse and injustice; God desires for all human beings, created in God’s image, mutual respect, care, protection, and empowerment.
We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God.
Sexual abuse, exploitation, and misconduct are destructive to God’s people, violating the love we know in Jesus and negating people’s ability to develop and use their gifts of creativity and wholeness. We believe God continues to call God’s people to love and to respect the Word made flesh, and where there is abuse to seek restorative justice and healing.
A little different from Bob Jones, I think.

My hope for today is that the victims of the church someday find healing.

19 June 2014

Cultural Appropriation

There is a young white woman I know who has an aboriginal boyfriend (he's in line for hereditary chief of his tribe, actually). She's a lovely lady, and she's utterly clueless about matter of privilege, racism, etc. She drew a Salish style hummingbird for her boyfriend, and he suggested she tattoo it on her foot. Um. Right. So that's serious cultural appropriation there, but her First Nations boyfriend suggested it. I suggested that it's not going to go over very well with a lot of other people, and she was horrified when I explained and was very very happy that I had told her. She said, "Oh my god. I might as well have gotten 'asshole' tattooed on me!" Which was very very awesome of her. She didn't do the "Don't care. It's pretty" thing.

So what the hell, Boyfriend? You trying to get her killed? She lives on a reserve!

edit: I just had a... you know! A headache. With pictures... A thought! Yes, a thought. So my clueless friend, she might explain it as "So, you know I'd be okay as long as you're around. But you know, I might not be able to walk through my neighbourhood without someone assuming I'm a racist asshole who doesn't give a shit about your culture". Remember the episode of Scrubs where Turk (a black guy) and J.D. (a white guy) go to a Halloween party together? Turk goes in whiteface. J.D. goes in blackface. It's okay because they're together and it's funny. But when Turk gets sidelined and J.D. is alone, he looks like an epic sonofapigfucker. This is the same.

09 June 2014

Why I Protest

Yesterday was Pentecost in the Christian church. The story goes (WAIT... bear with me, this stops being all Christian-y in a few minutes) that 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit blew a wind through a home where the disciples were holed up, and scared the pants off of them. Flames came to rest on them without burning them. They left the building they were in and started to speak, and in a seriously cool turn of events, everyone could understand them as if they were speaking their own languages. Well, not everyone. Some people thought they were drunk. And then Peter said, and I'm paraphrasing liberally, "No dudes! They're not drunk. It's only 9am for fuck's sake. That old dude Joel, from scriptures? Remember him? No? Well, he said all this would happen! All of it! Don't you get it? You killed the Messiah! So repent and be baptized in his name". And that's how the church began. So the story goes.

I love Pentecost. I like the imagery of the wind and fire. I like the idea of a bunch of disciples holed up in fear trying to figure out what in the hell to do next (it's just so human). And I like the idea of the Spirit moving them to do something. Even if it wasn't as literal as the story. Especially if it wasn't as literal as the story.

The idea of saying NO. This is NOT okay. That's kind of what Jesus was all about. And I like that. I can take that with me to a protest. To a Slut Walk*. To a March against Monsanto. That energy for changing the society into a place I where everyone is welcome. Where everyone is accommodated. Where compassion rules and money is irrelevant. Where power is only achieved with love and compassion. That's what I want. That's what a lot of us lefties want. The fact that it jibes with the vision of God's Kingdom outlined in the Bible is just a nice bonus. And completely irrelevant to most lefties I know. Which is fine, of course. I don't give the first rat's ass if you're working for this vision because it's the right thing to do, or if your God tells you to, or if you're just a happy hippie. It's all good.

So yeah. Even though a lot of protests seem futile and fruitless, and the cynic in me says why bother, I bother because it's the right thing to do. Because if 11 guys 2000 years ago could make the difference they made (and sweet merciful Jesus did we fuck it up), a bunch more people can make a difference. Even if they never see the results. Because that's hope. And you know how I feel about hope. There is no such thing as false hope. If I never see the results of my work, if there ARE no results of my work, I still had hope. Oh, and that reminds me, my least favourite concept ever: Don't get your hopes up. Really? Why not? Because I might not get what I want? So? So what? There are so many things wrong with that. First, it presupposes that I can't be happy if I don't get what I want. And that's bullshit. Second, if I don't get my hopes up, I won't bother to try, and if I don't try, it for certain won't happen. So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Third, without hope, there's nothing.

So that's why I protest. That's why I toss pebbles into the ocean and hope for a tsunami. Because I have to. Because if I don't, I'm part of the problem. And I don't want to be part of the problem.

*Yesterday's Slut Walk in Victoria was sponsored by KoolFM radio station. They played loud music for the protesters. They played Blurred Lines. The date rape anthem. The crowd booed it until they turned it off.

26 May 2014

Yes All Women

This whole clusterfuck in Isla Vista and the media coverage of it has been somewhat... triggering, I guess. I'm not curled up in a corner quivering (though that has on occasion happened). But I've been quite upset by it all. More than I am by the usual tragedy. Far more than I was by Sandy Hook, for example. There are so so so many issues.

Mental health: Look, Male Entitlement Syndrome is not a recognised mental illness. Maybe it should be! "But your honour, I had to kill the bitch! She wouldn't fuck me!" "Yeah, she wouldn't fuck me either. Not guilty!" Pfft. Smacks of "I'm too rich to know the difference between right and wrong. And I wouldn't do well in prison!" And what's more, even if he was legitimately mentally ill, the chances that THAT was what caused this are very low. One can be mentally ill, commit a crime, and the mental illness not be the cause. It seems clear to me as an armchair psychologist that this man had some mental health issues. Borderline Personality Disorder is my unqualified diagnosis. And you know what? That's not enough for an insanity defense. Furthermore, it's not crazy to believe what you are taught. And in our society (and most societies) men are taught that they have the right to our bodies, our affection, our attention. No matter how we feel about it. Yes, everyone has the right to be loved. But not by anyone they set their eyes on!

Misogyny is rampant in the world. It's systemic. It's endemic. It's institutionalized in many parts of the world. This young man thought he was entitled to have sex with women. And when they would not, he was so angry, he murdered them. That is fact. That was in his video. That was his own stated reason for it. And still in our ridiculous society, we go on about why this happened, without any mention at all of misogyny! In fact, in Gurney's article, he doesn't even mention women. This was a hate crime. Can you imagine a radical Muslim extremist going into a church and shooting it up, and the media not mentioning Christianity as a target? Me neither. And back to the mental health issue, I think a big problem with labeling this as a result of mental illness is that it completely sidelines the systemic misogyny. It's a hate crime. As much as a murder of a gay person is. He killed them because they were women and they refused him what he thought was his right. And other men are calling him a hero, and blaming the women. If he had a mental illness that was not being addressed, that may have been the spark, but it was by no means the whole story. Mental illness may have taken him from anger about his situation to actually murdering women as revenge, it, but it is a rape culture that gave him the idea that he had a right to women's bodies in the first place.

Racism: Yup. It was white on white crime and racism is still an issue to be discussed. Why? Because the media calls him a 'boy', when a 16 year old black kid is called a man. Because they call him a lone, deranged gunman instead of a thug, gangster, or terrorist. If this were the theoretical Muslim I mentioned before, you can be damn sure they'd call him a terrorist. Kill a bunch of women because they're women, and poor baby was sick. And not to even mention that women of colour are killed in far greater numbers than white women? Ya know, we could use this opportunity to bring some light to that!

eta: I wrote this before the #YesAllWhiteWomen tag popped up. Toot Toot! (That's my own horn, I'm tooting!) Good. I'm glad some coverage to the issues that women of colour face are being discussed. I do however wish they'd named the tag #YesAllWomenOfColour because it's about them and their issues. Just like #YesAllWomen was about all women's issues. Making it about the shitty treatment (and it is!) that white women have piled on them is about as useful as a #YesAllMen tag. That said, the vast majority of the tweets did not attack white women (except for one very angry woman whom I blocked almost immediately because I didn't want to do something stupid like reply to her). Most of them were absolutely excellent examples of the kind of privilege that white women have over women of colour. I read as many as I could, and tried to contribute in the same way that I appreciated from men in the #YesAllWomen tag. /eta

As always, I look for some good to come out of tragedy, and the good I've seen so far is the discussion on #YesAllWomen. Women are sharing their stories so other women don't feel so alone. And some men are getting it. Some aren't, of course. Like the guy who was going on to me about how women need to be more forceful about how they say no, because sometimes people aren't good at reading social cues. So I told him to stop telling women how to say no. In those words. And he continued to tell me and explain. So I got as forceful as I could. He did not get it. He continued on and on, all the while claiming to be an ally. *sigh*

Allies are great. Allies who like to tell us how to be better, not so much. Allies who think their experience is the same as ours, not so much. Some differences:

Men can't walk wherever they want at night without fear of bodily harm.
Women can't walk anywhere without fear of bodily harm.

Men can't break up with women without fear that she might diss him to all his friends.
Women can't break up with men without fear that he might kill her.

Men can't blog under their real names without fear of insult or losing their job if they say something against company policy.
Women can't blog under their real names without fear of credible rape threats (as opposed to the "normal" ones that we can sort of safely ignore. Threats like "I'm going to fuck you until you cry, Luna" aren't as threatening as "I'm going to come to your home at X-Y Street and fuck you until you cry, Real Name.")

Men can't make YouTube videos without fear of being called stupid.
Women can't make YouTube videos without fear of rape threats, critiques of what she looks like, and comments about her fuckability.

If a man lets a repair guy into the house, the worst fear is that he might be robbed. And most don't even consider that.
If a woman lets a repair guy in to the house, the worst fear is that she might be raped or murdered.

A man can drink at a bar, get in a cab drunk, and go home without fear of waking up beaten and naked.
A woman? Not so much.

This happens. All of it and much more. If you're an ally, or you aspire to be one, go spend a few hours reading #YesAllWomen on Twitter. Don't respond to any of them. And never, ever start a sentence with, "Not all men..." or "But women should..."


20 May 2014

Sexist, ableist, AND ignorant? Must be a doctor!

I'm not sure how it can be that I can be so surprised by the dumb shit that people say about Autism, but here we are. Dough Ford, full of shit, saying his heart (like he has one!) goes out to autistic kids, but he didn't know they'd be let out of their home when he was okay with them having one. Bwuh? So he was okay with a group home when he thought it was a prison? He's upset at how many times the cops have had to come. Well, first of all, I suggest he look at how many times the cops have been called to his brother's home. Shall we shut it down too? Second, maybe think that it is Conservative policies that have gotten them into that situation in the first fucking place. Third, where exactly does this asshole think that autistic adults are supposed to live?

I'm really tired of the misinformation, the stereotypes, the condescension, etc. Just today, I had Snap to a clinic (no family doctor. Another post...) to get a refill for her thyroid and adhd meds. Well, Dr. Genius was a condescending douchebug. As soon as I said she has autism, he started talking more slowly to her, and when she said she was going to college, he asked her if she was going to take a trade, like baking or gardening. Ableist and sexist, all rolled into one! Add in that Dr. Genius knew way less about Celiac than I do (seriously, he told me that ttg levels would be raised even on a gluten-free diet. When I explained that he was wrong, because the celiac body produces those antibodies when gluten is consumed, but no other times and therefore could not be elevated if the person is gluten free, he said, "Then how do you diagnose Celiac?" UH! DUH!  By having the patient eat gluten and then test!) He also told us that Snap is too young to have Hashimoto's. She's not. And my favourite: even though I kept referring to the pediatrician we've been seeing as 'she', he kept correcting it to 'he'. I'm sure Dr. Heather X would be pleased.

Really?!

03 May 2014

Celiac Awareness

So the clusterfuckery that is Autism Awareness month is over. Thank God. And we're into Celiac Awareness month and Mental Health Awareness Month, which is kind of hilariously awesome since untreated Celiac disease can cause all sorts of mental health problems.

For me, the two go hand in hand. Because Tony and I both have Celiac Disease, so do all three of the kids. And when we get glutened, which isn't difficult (did someone touch regular cookies before handing out the gf ones? Glutened!) all the Autism symptoms are exacerbated. More exclusive behaviour, less engagement. Bloated belly. Pain. Easy to anger. And that's just me! ;)

The world is not a Celiac friendly place any more than it's an Autism friendly place. My church is having a Secret Friends breakfast tomorrow. We're not going. There will be gluten crumbs everywhere. Oh sure, there's gluten-free bagels, but are they washing their hands between touching the regular ones? Are they side by side so regular crumbs can drop on the gf ones? Is the fruit right beside the regular bagels? Of course. And have you ever watched someone eat a bagel? Crumbs fly. I told them he wouldn't be able to participate, and of course I got a reminder call this evening telling me just how disappointed his secret friend would be and is it really that serious?. Too bad. Better than Pop crying all night from gut pain.

I would give up chocolate for some food free spaces. Chocolate is a food group for me. You have no idea.

Every single kids group has snack break.
Every pre-school has snack break. And play-doh.
Every adult event ever has gluten. Usually crackers.
Bread is everywhere.

And the worst? THE WORST? People who claim to be celiac but cheat. Because it makes those of us who are careful and do give a shit about our health look like some sort of gluten fascist nutbar.

And, thanks to Stevil the Harpy, the new labelling laws mean that anything can be labeled gluten free if it has less than 20 parts per million. I get sick at less than 2ppm (which I know thanks to Rice Dream and their claim to be gluten-free. My gut disagrees). What this means is I have to phone the company, every time. And usually, I have to test it with a Gluten Tox kit. Plenty of things labeled gluten free are NOT. Cross-contamination is everywhere.

Every single meal we eat, I make. From scratch. There are a very few things we can buy that are processed. Renee's cucumber dill dressing, Daiya Cheese, Eden Organic beans (some varieties), Lay's Potato chips (thank christ!), Bragg's Aminos, So Good organic soy milk, McCormick's spices. That's about it. Even plain lentils have tested positive, so I'm going to try to grow some this year.

I'm so tired of it. I'm tired of being sick from people not being careful. I'm tired of cooking. I'm tired people accusing me of over-reacting. I'm tired of my kids being sick. I'm tired of Celiac disease.

24 April 2014

Evil will never have the last word

Evil may have the upper hand, but it will never have the last word.
--Rev. Gail Miller, on the message of Easter

Yeah, it sure seems to have the upper hand some days.

Like when the Federal government is rigging elections while offering to send Canadians to Ukraine to oversee theirs. (see: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/pierre-poilievre-says-amendments-coming-to-elections-bill-1.2620474 and http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/robocalls-made-across-canada-in-2011-won-t-bring-charges-1.2620444)

When a cop kills a kid, gets 7 months paid leave, and then comes back to work in the Crimestoppers unit.

When a man can beat the shit out of his girlfriend (wife?) ON TAPE and bureaucracy gets that thrown out, but she is blamed for all of it because she was too scared to testify.

When good people die of cancer when they have young children. RIP old friend. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. (I know, seems more like unfair than evil, but you don't know the story and it's not mine to tell.)

That cops can just take a person's meager possessions and sell them.
These are just the "little" things. This isn't the ongoing use of rape as a war crime. This isn't governments using chemical weapons. It's not genocide. Or starvation. Or the AIDS crisis in Africa. Or Haiti still being a fucking mess because no one gives a shit about black people. This isn't slavery. It isn't even slavery-light (You know, when you still get a home... okay, shack, but you have to work 18 hours a day to have it and search through dumpsters for food, but get told that you're damn lucky to have that textile factory! And you're "free" enough that you can leave, but only if you'd like to die on the street.)

But there is a lot of light. A lot of good in the world. And these acts of goodness will always ALWAYS have the last word. Mr. Rogers once famously said that his mother told him to look to the helpers in times of tragedy. Look for the good people who coming running to help. Also, just look around. There's good everywhere.

The man who saw a barefoot man and gave him his shoes, right off his own feet.

The couple who left a thousand dollar tip on an $80 tab because the bartender's dog needed surgery.

The man who paid off the delinquent cafeteria accounts for poor kids in an Indianapolis school.

Challenge! Everyone find one example in real life and one story they can link to of something extraordinarily awesome. Post it here, or on your blogs. Share the love.


16 April 2014

Hope and Autism

I haven't written since late February, and we're in mid-April. It's been a rough couple of months. All three of my kids had birthdays. I was sick. The SEAs all had bouts of illness. Glutened several times. Basically, life got in the way. And besides which, I had books to read, things to crochet, and TV to watch.

And honestly, shit was getting me down. Another birthday for Crackle, come and gone with no language from him. Garbage on the news. Garbage in the government. Garbage, shit, and bullshit. Everything seemed like it was exactly the same, and no improvements anywhere.

And then I snapped, blew a gasket on some people for their crap, unfriended and unfollowed some accounts that I was keeping around in the idea of knowing one's enemy, but was really just using to anger myself. Stupid. So it's gone. Cleared out.

And I'm back, hopefully more regularly, with less serious, more hopeful and hopefully some funny stuff.

On Hope, because I need some, and so do you:
Some people with children like Crackle have no hope for their full recovery. I have hope for Crackle. Why not? I mean, what's the harm in having hope for a full recovery. I don't mind the term, not because I think it's an illness, but because I think it's a social developmental disorder. And it can improve to the point where it's no longer an issue. I know it can. I have friends who have kids who have adapted so well to it that they no longer need therapies, or only remedial, catch-up therapy (like occupational therapy to help develop fine motor coordination, or speech therapy to help improve clarity). Their kids no longer behave autistically. They don't. They just don't. It's fabulous, it's awesome, it's cool, and it's true. I have one of those miracles myself. Oh, he's not quite there, but so close, it's palpable. And yes, 3 years ago, they told me it was hopeless. That there was no chance. He'd probably never talk. He'd never have a friend. He'd never have a meaningful relationship. They were wrong. And what if I'd given up? What if I'd said, "Okay. We'll teach him to cope."? He'd still be an awesome kid. I'd love him with all my heart (like I do Crackle). He'd be an amazing little liner-upper of all the things. Now? He has a friend. He says things like, "Mommy? Is tomorrow Sunday? I want to go to church to play with my friend! He's so much fun! Last week, we played with the cars." He says things like, "Oh Mommy, I love you." and "When I grow up, I'm going to watch Crackle* for you. I will teach him to talk." (Of course, he used his real name).

I remember telling Santa one year, "They're both autistic. Neither can talk. We're just aiming for a picture." This year, Pop went twice, and talked Santa's ear off.

So I said fuck this ABA bullshit, where the aim is to get a compliant child who will do as asked. I went to Son-Rise. I got hope in bunches there. If you can't get there, buy Raun Kaufman's book and watch him on YouTube.

And where did that get me with Crackle? Well, he's happier. I'm happier. He learned to nod his head yes last week. He learned to say "yeah" in the last couple of months (his only word, right now). He eats what I ask him to. He's potty trained (mostly). He's sleeping better. He's screaming less. He's making almost appropriate amounts of eye contact. He's asking to play with us. He takes us to the trampoline to jump with him instead of going out and jumping by himself all the time. He saw a little girl at my chiropractor's office yesterday, and he lit up with a big smile and gave her a hug. It's slower with him, but it's happening, and there's no reason why it can't continue to happen forever until he's no different from any one else.

Why should I give up on my dream of full recovery for him? Because he's awesome now? Of course he's awesome now. He's fucking perfect now. Like an infant or toddler is perfect. We love them exactly as they are in that moment, and continue to teach and hope and love and nurture. We don't say, "Oh, geez. He can't line up those blocks perfectly. I'm going to aim a little lower. Maybe mechanic instead of engineer." So hell fucking no, I'm not giving up my dream of full recovery. I've seen one miracle in Pop. I'm aiming for two. I am embracing their autism, getting into their world, and showing them that mine is pretty cool too.

And I am not judging those who don't believe like I do. Oh goodness no. They believe their child cannot recover. That is completely okay. They're not comfortable hoping for something they believe cannot happen. No one is. And they'll will do great by their kids. They will teach them to cope with autism. They will get the best therapies they can find for them, to help them adjust to the world as best as they can. They've got hope for learned skills, for new talents to shine. They're not without hope. They just doesn't believe, as I do, that their child could ever be indistinguishable from other people. And that is okay.

My Crackle may never get there. He may never learn another skill in his life. It doesn't matter. I love him unconditionally. And I believe that he will someday tell me his every thought. That he will someday have a girlfriend or boyfriend. That he will someday tell people "When I had autism..."

--------------------------
Oh geez. Okay, so apparently someone is mad at me, and is smack-talking me after blocking me, so I can't respond or explain. I did not say that it is, or should be, every autistic person's goal to be indistinguishable from other people. I said that's mine. For my child. And if he never gets there, I am totally okay with that. He's perfectly awesome, right now. If he ever gets to the point where he's not happy with what we're doing, I'll stop. If he ever gets to the point where he's satisfied, I'll happily stop. We're having fun. And he's learning. What's the problem again?

26 February 2014

Fuckupedness

The Olympics are over. Thank God. Well, okay, the Paralympics are still to come, but for reasons I can't understand, no one seems to give a shit about those. I wish that were true of the regular Olympics. I'm so tired of the glorification of sports. I'm so sick of how we worship at the altar of sports. It's even brought right into church sometimes. My church sang "The Good Ol' Hockey Game" as the last song on Sunday. I left in disgust. We glorify sports entirely too much. When we're spending billions on a competition to see who can slide the fastest and there are people dying of starvation, something is massively fucked up.

And speaking of fucked up, Arizona, you assholes. America already decided that you don't get to pick and choose who sits at the lunch counter. I'm stunned at all the hate coming out of the woodwork, all the people saying that it's worse to make a law requiring a business owner to serve everyone than it is for a person to be discriminated against. They spew out stupid free market lies, like, "People won't go to those establishments". Riiiiiight. Like no one ate at Woolworth's lunch counter. I even saw a gay man arguing for it this week. A libertarian. Such idiots. The useful idiots, like that gay guy, are especially frustrating. They honestly believe that a law requiring equal treatment by all to all is worse than a gay couple being told to piss up a tree when they want a wedding cake. Look, it's simple. If you're a hateful fucktard*, don't serve the public. And if you must serve the public, you can still be a hateful fucktard, calling yourself a Christian. Hang up crosses and signs that say God Hates Fags. And if those "fucking faggots" insist on shopping in your store, despite your obvious disgust, suck it the fuck up and make them a cake. Because the free market ain't gonna sort out homophobia, racism, sexism or any other hatred that is systemic.

The free market is bullshit. Because they cheat. Capitalism reinforces only greed. And greed doesn't play within the rules. Free market theory says that the market regulates itself (HA!) and that wages regulate themselves. That is, if an employer sets the wage too low, no one will work for it and wages will have to rise. Sure. In theory. In a vacuum. In practice, what happens is that the media inundates us with the message that if you don't work for any pittance you are offered, you're a lazy piece of shit. In practice, people will work for any amount if it means they are able to pay rent, even if they have to go to a food bank for food and to the government for assistance. And here's the stupid thing about that. If the government has to top up someone's income, the government is subsidizing the employer, allowing them to artificially keep wages low. If they stopped doing it, people would starve to death, and I sure as hell don't want to live in that society. Would employers raise wages? No. And how do I know that? Because in my province, employers ship in labour from China, paying them way way way less than they can get Canadians to work for, all the while saying no one here wants those jobs. Well, pay them enough that it's worth doing! Like the free market theory says they will. Bringing in outside labour is cheating.

And then there's unions. Unions can be corrupt and full of bullshit. You know, like every other institution on earth. But they actually help the economy by raising wages. If labour unites to require employers to treat them well and pay them well, the government pays out less in social services. If business is allowed to regulate itself, it doesn't, and shifts the burden to the government. And that is not fair. Not to employees, not to taxpayers. The idiots say 'Get a better job', but ffs, who do they expect will pump their gas, pick up their garbage, and serve their fast food? Sure, unions cut into the bottom line of the capitalists. That's a good thing. It means that more of the capital is being spent in the economy. When the rich hoard money, it doesn't do any good, anywhere.

I honestly don't know why people don't see this. It all seems like common sense to me.

*fucktard = fucking bastard. Not the r-word. Never. Not ever.

20 February 2014

A spectrum of racism

A Twitter conversation about racism got me thinking about how many white people do racist things and say racist things and then get really offended when they're called racist. I think there is a spectrum of racism. Each flavour is icky, but it varies from "icky like olives" (ICK! If you like them, think of something you can just barely choke down. And also, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!) to icky like a shit and staples sandwich with elephant mucus pie on the side. Okay. So it's NOT okay to be on the olives end of it. It's nasty, and it fosters an environment where it's okay to be served the shit and staples sandwich. Clear? No? Okay, then allow me to define the classes, as I see them:

Olives: These are people who are genuinely working on their racism. Any stupid racist thing they say is out of genuine ignorance, and if called on it, they will apologise, not do it again, and try to make it right. They might ask questions to figure out why what they said was racist. This is me. I'm working on it!

Pickled beets fished out of the garbage can: These are people who make stupid racist "jokes". They may have friends in the group they're joking about. They may genuinely like these people. They have no idea that their racism is harmful. They have been told, but refuse to believe it. They cannot figure out why it is not okay to retell the racist joke that their black friend told them, but they're not going to refuse to hire someone based on their colour. I used to be this person. I had friends who were Indians (as aboriginal people were called at the time). They told me Indian jokes. I retold them. Icky. Fortunately, I finally listened to reason. If you call these people racist, they will be offended and call you stupid.

Mouldy cheese: These people do not like most $race people, but they're willing to make exceptions. They blame them for their own problems. They blame them for society's problems. High jobless rate? Their fault. High crime rate? Their fault. They look at statistics in a vacuum. There are more aboriginal people in jail because there is a higher per capita rate of criminals. Houses are run down on reserves because aboriginal people can't be bothered to keep up their homes. 80% of the children in foster care are aboriginal because they don't look after their children. Etc., ad nauseum. Only rarely can these people be educated. If you point out systemic racism, the history of residential schools, poverty, etc., you'll be told that "those people need to get over it and stop blaming white people for their problems!" And "I know Kara Stonechild* and she was raised in a terrible family, and she's got a great job and doesn't blame white people. She got an education and a job! If she can do it, anyone can!"
I've never been this person. I know a lot of these people. Many of them related to me. :( If you call these people racist, they will say something racist like, "I'm not racist. I don't hate them because they're $race. I hate them because they're criminals. I hate white criminals too! Look at the stats!"

Recalled Hot Pockets: They are afraid of people of $race. They're dangerous under pressure. They are snide. They make racist jokes in the company of friends, and often in the earshot of strangers. And not the more Pickled Beets kinds of jokes that play on stereotypes, but the really mean ones. They are also resentful of the benefits that $race people get. No exceptions are made. If someone has made something of themselves in the white world, they probably did it by freeloading and special treatment, according to these people. If you call these people racist, they'll probably laugh and say, "Yeah. So?"

Shit and Staples Sandwich with Elephant Mucus Pie: This is the KKK and the like. White supremacist garbage. These people are not only dangerous under pressure, they're plain dangerous. These people want to round up the $race people and murder them all. If you call these people racist, they'll call you a race traitor and pontificate about the evils of $race, explaining why you should be a racist too. Or worse, they'll hate you too for being a $race-lover.

So again. It's not okay to be racist at any flavour of the spectrum of ick. Ignoring the grottiness of something olive-like only fosters the environment where shit and staples sandwiches are on the menu. So call it out when you see it, and fucking listen if someone tells you you're being a racist asshole. And if the person calling you out is a member of $race shut your olive-hole and take them at their word. If you don't understand why what you've said is wrong, that's okay. Don't do it again, and find a way to ask someone with a clue. I recommend, "OK. I said X. Person Y called me out. Obviously, I screwed up, but I'm not sure exactly how. I'd like to avoid being an asshole, and learn from this. Would you mind telling me what I've done?"

Okay? Thanks.

*Fictional name

11 February 2014

Budget Day Anger

Holy CRAP do I ever have a hard time being a Christian on budget day. Love my enemy? I loathe conservatives. The heartless, cold disdain for anyone but themselves is infuriating. You know how I say anger comes from fear, right? Well, that's certainly true of my anger with the Cons. I'm afraid of what they'll do to this country. I'm afraid of what they're doing to people right now. I'm afraid for the youth, the poor, the environment.

I'm angry on behalf of the trans community for what happened to Avery Edison. A trans woman locked up in a men's prison?! Are you even kidding me? Fortunately, the NDP cares, and between Randall Garrison and Peggy Nash, they got her the hell out of there. I'm angry because I'm scared of what happened to her, and that it could happen again. That's not okay. Ever.

Anger doesn't work for me. I can't use it to motivate myself. Not often anyway. I'm much better with a quiet determination that comes from looking at something, deciding I don't like it, and working to change it. Anger usually leads to me throwing things, kicking things, drinking too much, and swearing at people. Often the ones who deserve it, but also plenty who don't.

I'm filled with hatred and disgust today. It's not working for me, but I'm still doing it. I'm utterly livid with the people who think that government employees are leeches. That they milk the system. Take tons of extra sick days. Etc. It's bullshit, of course. In part I'm mad because I know how hard my husband works, and how important his project is. In part I'm mad because I know that they're trying to sell public sector cuts by turning people against hard working people like Tony. In part, I'm mad because I hate that our country is filled with people who are so scared that someone might be getting something "for free" that they rejoice when their jobs are cut.

This is Canada now? The US with better heath care and without the guns?

I don't like it. Not one fucking bit. And right now, I'm MAD. Because I'm scared that I'm stuck with living in a place I'm growing to hate. And before anyone chirps at me to leave if I don't like it, I would. But I have disabled kids. No one will take me. Because of policies just like the ones you vote for.

Harper was right about one thing. I won't recognize Canada when he's done with it.


07 February 2014

What to say to parents of special needs kids

Continuing yesterday's train of thought, what should you say to a parent with a special needs kid? Fucked if I know. Someone is always going to get offended. I'm good with, "Cute kid. Has some issues, eh?" Then if I feel like unloading on a stranger, I can. And if I don't, I can say, "Yup, sure does". Conversation over.

Some people will be offended if you completely ignore that their kid is different. Someone else will be massively offended that you had the nerve to say something about their kid being different. Thing is, we're raw. We've been through the wringer. We've had doctors blame us, talk down to us, yell at us, threaten us with child protective services. We've had family question our every decision. Blame us for every setback. We blame ourselves. We've lost friends. We've cleaned up more than our fair share of messes. We're overtired. We're overstressed. We go to more appointments, see more specialists, manage funding budgets and schedules. We're paying for treatments we can't afford on the thin hope that it might help make our beautiful baby* feel a little better. Some of us have other jobs on top of this. Some of us gave up careers to do this. Some are bitter about that. Some aren't. Expecting all of us to feel the same way about something is stupid (you fucking monster - see previous post). We're not a monolithic group. And the don't do this or you'll offend us posts miss that. OF COURSE there are some things we're sick of hearing, or as a general rule are likely to be taken in a way not intended by the speaker. 

This was all brought to you by this list on the Huffington Post yesterday. So in the interest of being helpful to other parents who need snappy comebacks to ignorant bullshit, and people who might not want to be ignorant bullshit spewers, I give you this:

1) But he looks so normal! or You'd never know to look at her!
What the parent might think you're saying: Stop whining. Your kid is fine.
snappy comeback: She hides it well in public. You could learn a thing or two from her.
Instead try: I never would have known. I bet you've done a lot of work to see that happen!

2) Is it genetic?
What the parent might think you're saying: Is it contagious?
snappy comeback: Nope. Contagious. He got it from a public toilet.
Instead try: biting your tongue. It's not your business.

3) "He's going to grow out of it, right?"
What the parent might think you're saying: OMG! HOW FUCKING AWFUL. I can't stand the idea that he'll live with this forever! That would be a tragedy. 
snappy comeback: Oh yes, but it'll come back every full moon.
Instead try: Is it a lifelong thing? - asking is always better than any question that ends in "right?"

4) "Did you cause her to be in a wheelchair?"
What the parent might think you're saying: This could never happen to me, so how is this your fault?
Not my issue, but I'll take a stab at it:
snappy comeback: No. It was her choice. She's really lazy.
Instead try: No clue. I'm thinking this is another case of just don't, it's not your business.

5)"My uncle's brother's nephew's cousin has autism, so I know what it's like" or "My nephew's cousin has autism, too. He's really good at math. What's your son gifted in?"
What the parent might think you're saying: Oooh, does he do tricks?!
snappy comeback: Diarrhea. He's excellent at that.
instead try: "Were you lucky enough to get a savant?" Please learn that most autistic people are intelligent but not savants. Actually, I wouldn't say that at all. Well, I would, but my special autistic talent is offending people.

6) "Why didn't you stop having kids after the first one?"
What the parent might think you're saying: Why did you risk this awful tragedy happening again?!
snappy comeback: Why didn't your parents stop before the first one?
instead try: minding your own business.

7) "God only gives you what you can handle." 
What the parent might think you're saying: God is punishing you. But you're not so overwhelmed that you need my help. Or my tax money.
snappy comeback: Oh sure, because no one ever commits suicide.
snappy comeback: Then God's an asshole.
snappy comeback: Oh, thank you for your unsolicited platitude. I feel so much better now.
snappy comeback: You're right. He gave me you for babysitting. Enjoy them. I'm going shopping. Alone.
instead try: Do you need some help? How can I help? If you're a stranger, try, "I hope you have a good support network! No? Tell you what, here's my email address, I will see what kind of resources are available in the community, and if you're interested, email me and I'll send you some links."

8) "Have you tried juicing?" or "Why don't you watch this movie about the keto diet?"
What the parent might think you're saying: Do some research! There's lots of options out there. Are you stupid?
snappy comeback: Oh, thank you, doctor!
instead try: This one is tricky. Some people really don't appreciate these suggestions. I'm fine with them. I'm find with the original, actually. Maybe, "Hey, my friend got a lot of symptom relief with X. If you're interested, I could give you her email address" (Symptom relief is the key word here. No one will think you're doing the cure thing if you use this term)

9) Comments on work, such as: "It must be nice coming late" after running around all morning at appointments or "It must be nice getting to relax all day since you don't have a job."
What the parent might think you're saying: You're a lazy shit.
snappy comeback: Oh yeah, it's all daytime tv and bonbons. You know, between the OT, SLP, BCBC, PT, cleaning up the pee and vomit, comforting him after seizures, cooking a separate meal for each kid because of allergies. Wanna trade?
instead try: Busy morning, eh?

10)  "He's one of God's special angels."
What the parent might think you're saying: He's one of God's special angels.
snappy comeback: Special ED angels, maybe.
snappy comeback: An angel who can swear like a sailor.
instead try: shutting your cake hole.

11) "How in the world did you break both your legs?"
What the parent might think you're saying: I'm profoundly ignorant. Please school me.
Again, not my issue, but I'll try.
snappy comeback: Kicking morons who ask stupid questions.
snappy comeback: I just stood up one day and they snapped. I think it's contagious.
instead try: Nice hardware! (Beware. This will be checked closely for sarcasm.)

12) "I don't know how you do it. You are a great mom" or "Do you really start his IVs, oh dear, I just couldn't possibly do that!"
What the parent might think you're saying: Please don't let this happen to me. Please don't let this happen to me. Dear God PLEASE don't let this happen to me.
snappy comeback: Thank you.
Seriously? WTF, other parents? This is a nice think to say. The first part, anyway. The "I couldn't possibly do that" part needs its own snappy comeback.
snappy comeback: Good thing she's not your kid then!
instead try (because apparently some people have issues): You're fabulous. Can I buy you some chocolate?

13) "I can't believe you give her (insert medicine or medical procedure here), I would never give that to my child."
What the parent might think you're saying: You're a shitty parent.
snappy comeback: Thank you, doctor. What's your specialty in, again?
instead try: Whooo. That must have been a hell of a decision.

14) "I nearly had a stroke" or "I think I'm going to have an epileptic fit" or "Are you retarded?"
What the parent might think you're saying: I'm very rude. Please embarrass me in front of all my friends.
snappy comeback: You mean, like my kid? Or in that HA HA way?
instead try: I think my heart about jumped out of my chest. I'm pretty sure that's never happened to anyone. You should be safe.

15) What the hell happened to my numbering system?

*I'm not infantilizing the kid with autism. EVERY kid is our baby. When they're 40 and we're 65, they're our babies. Chill.