Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Google-bomb for the BCA

Filed under: challenges and memes,Google-bomb,science — alison @ 05:26


British Chiropractic Association

The real problem of course is british libel laws, not the BCA. But we do what we can.

Saturday, February 21st, 2009


Filed under: challenges and memes,depression — alison @ 10:52

A friend who has suffered hard losses writes: “What do you appreciate? Come on, stretch yourself: we want to hear more than the standard “I’m grateful for my health and my family” answer. Come up with your top 10 and pass it on!” And goes on to list ten convincing gratitudes.

My first thought was that this was going to be a difficult but important exercise for me because I’m feeling anxious and depressed these days.

My second thought that I’m going to have trouble listing things I’m grateful for that are not countered by the fear of losing them. I will lose my health and my mind and my family. I will lose my job, if not now then soon or later. So I need to identify things that I either will not lose or that I can enjoy in the moment, knowing that I will lose them. (Consciousness of not using them to their fullest – that is a burden I will just set aside for now.)

My third thought is to be inspired by a young cousin. At age four, during his private nightly review of gratitudes with his mother, he offered up “That relative at the party with [gesture toward his chest]?” Meaning me. I was so chuffed! My genetics, poor diet and tacky wardrobe combined to bring pleasure to a small boy, even as they brought shame to my personal judgement.

My cousin is a hard act to follow, but I’ll try.

1) Canadian citizenship. Patriotism is not one of my values, but I was not born into a country where, for instance, I would be more likely to be raped than to learn to read. A more general phrasing might be ‘the goodwill of my neighbours.’

2) My smile. The pleasure of connection it brings me; the kick I get when a stranger grins back at me.

3) The fact that for now, I have the resources I need to meet my challenges. Tomorrow is another day.

4) Sunlight. Walks in the sunlight.

(Do I need more? Ick. I’m not even halfway through and I’m already stuck. See? I really need to do this exercise.)

5) My past. (Even the painful parts – I’m glad they’re over!)

6) My apartment. Every day I wake up and am grateful for it. I own the building and it’s true, I’m constantly fearful of losing the building, but the apartment itself? I am able to be grateful in the present.

7) Ok, my job. I am grateful for it. People give me all sorts of opportunities and they pay me well. It’s a pained gratitude, because I don’t feel that I deserve it, and unlike sunshine a good job is something that needs to be deserved. But I am not ungrateful.

8) Mark. He hates it when I say this because he feels that I am putting him up on a pedestal. But it’s exactly the opposite: he’s down here in the muck with me, and we are a good fit here. (Mostly.)

9) My friends. I’m not good to them but they are good to me. I am grateful.

10) My family. Yes, I will lose them, have lost some already, but there is no fear, only love.

Your turn!

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

a bee for my bonnet

Filed under: challenges and memes,children,consuming,dogs — alison @ 21:31

I finally went to my suit store and for a little over $400 I bought:
– two lined, tailored suits;
– a soft, unlined fitted jacket;
– a lined skirt.

I am still dreaming about how I can match everything with t-shirts, scarves and tights. Fun!

In other news, I have finally found something to become obsessed with as I transition into my age-appropriate role of batty menopausal pest. (Running the world will just have to wait until I’m post-menopausal, as per Margaret Mead.) The Riot for Austerity. It’s a project in which people set themselves the goal “to cut their emissions by 90% of what the average person in [Australia, Canada or] the US consumes – the approximate amount people in the rich world need to reduce by in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming.”

Which means in my case:

1. Using only 10% of the average Canadian’s annual use of 1,200 litres of gasoline, so 240 litres per year for our household of two.

2. Using only 10% of the electricity of the average Canadian’s 17,000 kW-hour per year, so only 3,400 kW hour for our household.

3. Using only 10% of the heating and cooking energy of the average Canadian. I’m not sure how to calculate this, but if I use the US figures from the site that would mean 285 litres of heating oil per year.

4. Reducing garbage production to 10% of the average Canadian’s 1.35 kg of municipal waste per day. Our allowance will thus be 135 g each per day.

5. Consuming only 10% of the water of the average Canadian household’s daily 1,000 litres of water, which means each of us would use no more than 50 litres per day.

6. Spending only 10% of what the average Canadian spends on consumer goods. That would mean capping at $1,600 per year for our household. That will cover all clothes, toiletries, recreation, household maintenance etc. for two people for a year.

7. Reducing the impact of purchased food by 90%. That would mean that if I purchase 20 food items in a week, I’d use 14 home- or locally-produced items, 5 bulk dry items, and only 1 processed or out of season thing.

The idea is to pick from one to seven goals and within a year, make the infrastructure changes necessary to meet the goal(s) and maintain them after the year is up. I like the idea of this project because nobody’s saying “recycling my newspapers has the magical effect of making the impact of my consumption on the world disappear.” (Bonus! If people are actually achieving all these goals I can forgive them for breeding, which is psychologically beneficial.)

I’m not sure which, if any, of the goals I could meet. We may already be meeting the water one (oops, nope, I water the garden). With a little effort we could meet the food one, and I think we’re already not far off the heating oil one. No idea about electricity. Consumer goods would be a radical change (see beginning of this post). Garbage though – it already takes at least 135 g per day to take care of Pepe’s little incontinence problem. Enlisting his cooperation for my pet project will take some doing.

The other reason I like this project: when I am laid off and not working and rampant inflation has taken hold, being broke will be repackaged as virtue.

*** *** ***
Now, I wonder what Mark is going to say when he finds out.

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Six words.

Filed under: challenges and memes — alison @ 22:12

A friend submits the following challenge:

Foglia, dans sa dernière chronique, a proposé un jeu :

“ON JOUE ? – Pour finir, une idée piquée dans un journal en Alabama, je ne sais plus lequel, anyway c’est un jeu. On a demandé un jour à Hemingway d’écrire une nouvelle en six mots ; pas n’importe quoi, une vraie nouvelle qui raconte vraiment une histoire. Hemingway a écrit ceci : À vendre : souliers de bébé jamais utilisés (en anglais ça fait six mots).

Sur ce modèle, le journal – peut-être The Atlanta Journal – a demandé à ses lecteurs de raconter leur vie en six mots. Le journal a reçu plus de 15 000 réponses. Deux exemples au hasard : Found true love, married someone else. Moins intense : Wasn’t born a redhead ; fixed that.

J’ai essayé évidemment. J’ai visé de ne pas être trop sérieux, mais quand même, d’être le plus près possible d’un vrai résumé de ma vie. Ça donne ceci : Euh, quelqu’un aurait-il un tournevis ?

Vous, votre vie en six mots (pas sept), ça donnerait quoi ?”

Moi, ça donne ceci : Né handicapé, pour limiter les dégâts.

Et vous ?


Ok, my six-word life summary is: “Well, at least I didn’t breed.” (I had some others, but they were too self-deprecating to publish.)

And yours? It’s harder than it seems. Give it a try!

*** *** ***
Addendum March 23: If you submit something for the Six Words challenge I’ll bake you a cake next time I see you! If you submit something not self-deprecating, I’ll bake you a cake as a reward and encouragement. It’s a harder thing to come up with and you deserve the recognition. (If it is self-deprecating, then I guess you need cheering up.)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Hugely privileged.

Filed under: challenges and memes — alison @ 08:01

Alston has invited his readers to do the ‘privilege’ meme. It was designed as an exercise for students at the University of Indiana. Students line up together and for each Yes answer they take a step forward. At the end of the exercise, some students have taken quite a few steps. This represents the head start in getting to college that they had over the students who stay close to the original line. Discussion, anger and rationalisation ensue.

An interesting aspect of the exercise is that it’s for college students, so doesn’t include getting to college as a step. (I would hope that the discussion includes those who will never be in that room.)

I am hugely privileged. I knew that: the results of this exercise are no surprise to me. I would have used different criteria in the exercise myself, and my criteria would show me to be even more privileged.

My eye-opening experiences in college were with respect to entitlement. Despite my enormous privilege, I wasn’t prepared for the sense of many of my classmates that the world belonged to them. People who assumed that the position of CEO was theirs – not by right exactly. They’d still have to demonstrate to the board that the position was theirs. But it was what people like them did.

Utz I could deal with: “I know I have more money than most people, so I’m careful. When I go out with someone who doesn’t have money, I take maybe $250 in cash with me. That reminds me that I have limits. If I brought my credit card, I might end up offending my friend by doing something like buying a motorcycle on impulse. If I only have cash, I have to think before I spend.” (This was in 1981, so substitute $578 in today’s currency.) See, Utz had money but he didn’t think the world was his by right. He was always worrying about his place in it. (Well, actually I couldn’t really deal with Utz. I didn’t judge him, but left him to his anxieties and self-doubt. The problems of having too much money were not ones I could relate to or cared to contemplate.)

But this other woman whose name I have erased from my memory? “Don’t worry about Jimmy. Look, he only wants a union in the kitchen because he’d be paid more. But he’s not paid more because he doesn’t deserve more. That’s how it works.” Um, no.

Jimmy ran the dish belt in the kitchen where I worked. He quit school at eight to work in the cotton fields of Georgia when his father got sick. I could relate to him: I had friends whose parents had done the same thing. And Jimmy was an educator, like my family. He used his position on the dishbelt to educate the children of privilege about what it meant to be black and working class in America. I was grateful. He died of a heart attack before retiring.

There were other, unironic, expressions of entitlement. “I always prefer a little blood on the bedsheets.” “I like it so much when women wear hats and gloves.” The hats and gloves comment from one southern man meeting another and happily identifying common cultural touchpoints. But no recognition of what a society where women wear hats and gloves means.

I only lasted a year in that school, but I’m glad I went.

*** *** ***
This is the exercise:

Take a step / Set to bold


  • If your father went to college before you started.
  • If your father finished college before you started.
  • If your mother went to college before you started.
  • If your mother finished college before you started.
  • If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
  • If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
  • If you had a computer at home when you were growing up.
  • If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up.
  • If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up.
  • If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up.
  • If you were read children’s books by a parent when you were growing up.
  • If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen.
  • If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen.
  • If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively.
  • If you had a credit card with your name on it before college.
  • If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate.
  • If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate.
  • If you went to a private high school.
  • If you went to summer camp.
  • If you had a private tutor.
  • (US students only) If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen.
  • (International question) If you have been to the US more than once as a child or teen.
  • If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes.
  • If all of your clothing has been new.
  • If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
  • If there was original art in your house as a child or teen.
  • If you had a phone in your room.
  • If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen.
  • If you had your own room as a child or teen.
  • If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course.
  • If you had your own cell phone in High School.
  • If you had your own TV as a child or teen.
  • If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College.
  • If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline.
  • If you ever went on a cruise with your family.
  • If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen.
  • If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

So. My modifications would be to remove the step associated with having your own television (this is about getting a head start on going to university, and having a tv in your room is more likely to be a disadvantage). And to add a step for having people who work in your home, like a housekeeper or gardener. For not working more than ten hours a week. A really big step was omitted, and I don’t know why in this context: If you have no children.

Also omitted were questions related to access for people with physical disabilities. If you can walk up stairs. If you can pick up a book. If you were hospitalised or institutionalised for less than a cumulative total of two weeks as a child or teen.

Related: If money was never an object to getting health care. If you were never required to nurse a chronically ill family member.

An assumption in the exercise is that you were raised by your parents. I know it’s cumbersome to read out ‘parent or parents, and/or a relative or guardian you were living with’ but if the purpose is to make privilege visible… let’s do it.

If you felt safe at home as a child and teen. If somebody told you that you were smart. If nobody told you that you were stupid.

What steps would you add? Which do you think do not belong?

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