Sunday, September 14, 2014

Things that bother me that I should probably get over, already. Part 1.

Back in 1993, I was in grade 8.  As part of our music curriculum we were to form groups and perform a lip sync to the song of our choice (pending approval by the music teacher whose name escapes me).

My friends and I approached this nameless entity, who may have vaguely resembled Rhys Darby if memory serves, with great excitement and proposed our intention to lip sync to "(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles" by the Proclaimers, which to this day is probably the most innocuous song ever performed by twins with unintelligible Scottish accents.

We were denied permission to perform this tune, because the teacher in question felt the lyrics "When I  get drunk, I'm gonna be the one who gets drunk next to you" was wholly inappropriate for a group of thirteen year olds to perform.

We were utterly devastated.  Okay, maybe not devastated, but we were most certainly indignant.  Even  more so when we watched the other performances, which included a rendition of Nirvana's "Lithium"

Oh, yeah.  References to getting drunk are too inappropriate, but 13-year-olds singing the line "I'm so horny" is hunky-fucking-dory.

This, my friends, is why every so often, I am reminded of this incident and how it resulted in the grave injustice of having to lip-synch "Boot Scootin' Boogie" in front of my grade 8 class.  Which, I may add, also includes references to alcohol, thus making me question exactly what that nameless grade 8 music teacher had against a couple of homely Scots who apparently lacked a decent mode of transportation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Food banks, nutrition, Kraft Dinner and the social safety net

I've been seeing a few posts going around about an Ottawa area food bank, the Parkdale Food Centre, and their recent policy change wherein they are refusing certain items of food they deem unhealthy... Namely that Canadian lunch staple, Kraft Dinner.

I have a few thoughts on this:

- KD is, yes, pretty much chemical glop.  Delicious, delicious chemical glop. Mmmm.

- KD has the capability of being mixed with meats and veggies to create a more filling and nutritious meal.  It is also easy to cook and easy to store, which is important for people who lack cooking facilities or safe places to store food.

- With the exception of around Christmas and Thanksgiving, food banks in Ontario are generally understocked and screaming for donations.

- Some people who donate food are assholes and will use food drives as an opportunity to unload their expired and or plain nasty stuff.

- Food banks do need to be able to offer more healthy options such as fresh fruits and vegetables, milk.  Money donations help them do this by offering grocery vouchers that can be redeemed at local grocery stores, or by allowing the food bank to stock these items daily.

I think a big point is being missed in a lot of the debate about this policy.  From my perspective, it is reasonable to encourage the donation of healthier options, but it is kind of arrogant and patronizing to refuse items (barring items that are expired or opened).  Healthy food is needed, but so is comfort food.  So is the occasional treat.  

But the thing nobody commenting on this story seems to be touching on is that food banks are supposed to be an emergency measure, a stop-gap.  If we have people relying on food banks to the point where it is becoming nutritionally detrimental, then that is a BIG problem and in most cases not the fault of the people having to rely on the food banks.   It's a symptom of a system that is not doing what it can to look out for its more vulnerable members.. the elderly, the disabled, families having to work at minimum wage, both single-parent and two-parent. 

If these people who rely on ODSP or CPP or a fair minimum wage do not have enough to even feed themselves on a regular basis, then that's a sign of a much bigger problem than a few boxes of Kraft Dinner.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Body acceptance and 'unacceptable' bodies.

Before I start, I just want to point out that societal standards and the idea that there are acceptable bodies and unacceptable bodies are bullshit.  Complete, grass-fed bullshit.

That being said, these ideas and standards exist, and it is naive to say societal standards are bullshit so you should just ignore them and feel good about yourself.  Context matters and there is only so far you can go in 'ignoring standards'.

I include this caveat mostly to make clear that when I speak of acceptable and unacceptable bodies, I mean by societal standards and definitely not my own.  Had I my druthers, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all, because there'd be no concept of a body that was unacceptable.

The other day I read a post on my Facebook feed, lauding Australian 'plus-sized' model Robyn Lawley for posting a number of un-retouched, un-airbrushed bikini pictures in the name of body acceptance.

I'm not even going to get into discussing how ludicrous the modelling industry's idea of plus-sized is.  Most of the average-sized women I know are considered too large for plus-sized modelling.

Yup.  Plus-sized.  Okay, then.
First off, I want to say, on a personal level, hats off to you, Robyn Lawley.  Body insecurity can be an issue for anyone of any size and shape and putting yourself out there like that can be a great act of bravery.  I applaud you for calling out the practice of PhotoShopping and airbrushing that gives women even more unrealistic standards to try and live up to.  You, along with so many other women, live within the context of a capitalistic system where industries make money off of tearing down the self-esteem of women, in a never-ending quest to sell us more make-up, more diets, more surgeries and more ways to hate our bodies for being less than utter perfection.

So, yes.  On a personal level, a big thumbs up for you, Robin Lawley.

All that being said, I just wish that the body acceptance movement would focus more on 'unacceptable' bodies.  Practising body acceptance, while a generally good thing, is a lot easier when you live in a body that falls near the "most acceptable" end of the spectrum.  Having a slender, white, youthful women preach body acceptance leaves me feeling pretty underwhelmed.

A woman like Robyn Lawley can post online a picture of herself, flaws and all, and will most likely receive accolades and support and comments to the effect of how beautiful she already is.  Granted, you always get a few assholes that will pick apart her appearance.

I have to wonder.. what if someone like myself, at 200+ lbs, stretch-marked, scarred, flabby, posted the same picture in my own bikini (which I have, because fuck societal standards)?  Mockery, cries of "No one wants to see that!", fake concern for my health and possibly threats of violence because the internet is like that.

Body acceptance should be applicable to all bodies, not just acceptable bodies.  Black bodies, brown bodies, short bodies, fat bodies, disabled bodies, old bodies, scarred bodies, tattooed bodies, trans bodies.  All ethnicities, all genders.

We need to celebrate ALL bodies.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I don't know cars but I can read an invoice, or, Why I Won't go to Pro Oil Change again

I'm really starting to wonder how I keep running into service companies that don't seem to understand that if you give someone a price on something, that should actually be what they pay.  Hell, just being relatively accurate would be great.   In the general ballpark, even. Whatever.

So, in preparation for an upcoming big-ass road trip, and in the name of general automotive maintenance, I decided to get my car's oil changed on my lunch break.  I've had friends offer to do my oil changes and sometimes I take them up on that but mostly I get lazy and impatient and end up going to a 10-min oil change place.  Usually Midas, but they are admittedly a bit pricey, especially when you start treating your motor-baby to synthetic oils.  Generally in the $90 range for a full-synthetic package.

So I decided to try a different place this time.  Pro Oil Change opened a franchaise near downtown about a year ago and lo and behold, they also had a ten-dollar-off coupon on their website and a claim to a 12-minute drive-through service, which seemed handy considering I get a half an hour for lunch.


Lunch time rolled around and I drove down to see what the pricing was like.  I asked the senior mechanic guy about pricing and if they did synthetic and he told me a full-synthetic oil change was 60 bucks plus tax.  I asked if the coupon was valid with that package and he said sure so I gave him my keys and hunkered down with one of the limited magazine offerings.

On a side note:  How much sense does it really make to have hot rod and other automotive magazines in a 10-minute oil change place?  Anyone interested enough in cars to want to read about them in magazines are probably doing their own oil changes.

But I digress.

Gripe Number One:  I waited a lot longer than twelve minutes.  I guess they were short-staffed, but I still feel the need to include that to give the fullest picture of my overall shitty experience dealing with this particular company.

Gripe Number Two:  My air filter needs changing, apparently.  I was offered a new one for 29.99 installed.  Now, I could be mistaken, but I have bought one of these before and I don't remember it being near thirty bucks.  And I don't know if you've ever seen where the air filter on a PT Cruiser sits, but a monkey could probably change it.  Hell, I'm fairly confident I could change it, and I'm sure there are monkeys with better automotive knowledge than I have.

Now, these first two gripes, I would let slide.  People get swamped, and understaffed.  Shit happens.  People are in the business to make money so they are going to try and upsell.  And honestly, my air filter DOES need changing.


Gripe Number Three:  When I got the invoice, I saw that I had been charged 38.99 plus tax for service and 37.00 for the oil filter and about 5 liters of synthetic oil. 5W-30.

All told it comes to about $85 bucks after the tax.  After I had been told $60+

(for those unfamiliar with HST, the Ontario rate is 13% so after my coupon was applied, I should have been looking at about $58 bucks total)

I pointed out the discrepancy and was told that ".. that's how the computer rings it up.. you see, it's this much for the service and then this much for your oil."

To which I replied "I see that, but you told me it would be sixty dollars, not over seventy-five."  To which he again said that it was the way it comes up in the computer.

Once again, I reiterated that I was told $60 and that the price card I was shown when I came in also said $60 for the package.  If it comes up as over $75 on the computer, then that is what it should say on the price card.  That is what I *should* have been told when I asked about pricing.

I was also told that I needed to account for the tax.  Which pissed me off, because - as I pointed out on the computer screen - the price BEFORE tax was still fifteen bucks more than the price I was told.

The guy apologizes and says that he's run into this problem before and has told his boss about it a couple of times now.  I told him I'm not surprised he's had problems with customers over it because it's a shitty, dishonest way to do business.

I also told him that as a first-time customer this was a crappy first impression and that I felt I had been ripped off.  I agreed to let them do the oil change under false pretences, believing that I would be paying one price, and then being charged more after the fact.

He then apologized and offered to knock 15 bucks off the price, without the coupon.  He gave me the coupon back and said I could use it again the next time I was in.  I scoffed and told him to keep the coupon as I would not be returning.  I also suggested that he pass that message along to the company owner, once again expressing my opinion that theirs was a shitty, crooked way of doing business.

So yeah.  Will not be going back there.  I had full intention of going in this morning and speaking to the manager face to face, but... life.

For now, this will need to serve as my strongly worded letter and my warning to others who may be tempted as I was.. don't bother.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Whatcha got in that bag, Lady?

My co-workers crack me up sometimes.

This conversation happened this afternoon.

My co-worker who we will call CA (because no one will figure it out) is cleaning her keyboard with one of those compressed-air cans.

Me: I need to do that too.  My keyboard is gross.

(My keyboard is gross.  I'm not lying.)

CA: Just fart on it.  Fart through a straw.

(We're classy)

Me: I'm pretty sure that would result in a much bigger, much more unpleasant mess in my keyboard.

CA: You can't do that, can you? That's right, you can't!

Me: I can't what? Fart?

CA: Yeah, because you got the [ostomy] bag.  Right?  I thought you couldn't fart anymore.

Me: I never got the bag.  Didn't I tell you that?  About a week before my surgery the doctor decided they could save my rectum so they just attached it to the small intestine.  I swore I told you that.

CA: I didn't know.  I thought you had the bag.

Other members of the Grey Carpet Area (hereby known as the GCA): Yeah, we knew.

Me: Yeah, no ostomy. Everything works about 90% the same as before.

CA: Oh jeez! I thought you had the other thing done, 'cause you always had that little red bag with you.
This red bag. From my awesome friend Sammi. Because Sammi is awesome.
CA: You're always taking it into the bathroom with you and everywhere you go.

Me:... that's my purse.  That's why it's with me all the time. Sometimes I'm on my period and need a pad and sometimes I just want to put on some lipstick.

CA: Holy shit! You're kidding me!

Me: (grabs purse and opens it) See?  No shit in here.  Well, okay, there's a lot of shit in here.  But no feces.

Me: That being said, if it ever does come down to an ostomy bag, I'd totally be into a Wonder Woman design.

(Fun Fact:  These exist.  Thanks for the link, SB!)

GCA: *hysterical laughter and smart ass comments.. including something along the lines of "Go for the Wonder Woman bag, because you don't wanna shit in a Gucci."*

CA:  Oh my god.  OH MY GOD.  The other day, when you dropped the plant..!1  I was all worried because you left your bag on the floor next to all the dirt.. and you were nowhere near it.  I was panicking thinking something horrible happened to you, because you weren't with your bag!  That's why I picked it up and brushed it off and was all worried about getting it back to you!

(I had gone to get a broom. See footnote.)

Me:  I thought you were just being nice!

At this point, I have tears running down my cheeks, I am laughing so hard.  People are coming in from other departments to see what is going on and why we are laughing about pooh-bags and shitting in Gucci.

This must have been especially confusing to anyone who has joined our department since last January. I can kind of understand the confusion, because in all fairness, back when I was first diagnosed with colitis at the tender age of 18 and had the dreaded words "colostomy bag" uttered to me, I thought it would look kind of like a fanny pack.  At this purse, with its shoulder strap, does kind of sit over my hip, where an ostomy bag might go.

It's been a while since I've laughed that hard.  Cancer is bullshit, but poop jokes never get old.

1The other day, coming into work, I attempted to carry two large spider plants, my tote bag, my purse and a coffee into the building in one trip and succeeded in dumping one of the plants upside down on the floor.  Considering I was carrying my travel mug in my cleavage, things could have gone much worse.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The continuing saga of the so-called penis table

I have what some may call irrational and so may call perfectly rational hatred for MDF (also known as chip board) furniture.  I have a shit ton of it in my house, but I absolutely loathe it.  

Thing is, it's inexpensive and light and usually comes ready to assemble.  Ergo, I have a ton of this crap in my house.  Book shelves, dressers, desks etc.  

But I dream of wood.  Real wood furniture.  I dream of eventually replacing every piece of cheap, shitty, Walmart/Canadian Tire etc prefab crap with oak, or maple or pine.  

A few years ago some friends of mine were moving out-of-country an as such, had divested themselves of most of their furniture.  By the time they their going away party, they were down to a coffee table set and a couch, both of which were slated for the dumpster the next day.

It was a few hours into the night that I realized that here was a rather nice wood coffee table set, that was just going to be thrown in the garbage without my intervention.  I asked my friends if the would mind if I took it instead and they quite were agreeable to this arrangement.

There was one small catch.

Prior to my "hey, this is some pretty decent shit" revelation, our host had presented the partygoers with a few Sharpies with which to sign their well wishes on the last of the furniture before it made its way to the dumpster.

Do you know happens when you combine an apartment full of revellers and a batch of Sharpie markers?


Penises on your new coffee table set.

So many penises.  And boobs.  And penises with boobs.  Some sort of multi-headed penis hydra.  And a penis palm-tree.

There was even a Cock Ness Monster.  I kid you not.

Nonetheless I was determined.  With help, I dismantled and fit the set into my car, then took it home and hid it in the shed away from my children's impressionable view until I could find some time to strip and refinish it.

Three years later, I'm finally getting around to this project of mine, mainly because I dislike my current coffee table and I got tired of hemming and hawing about whether or not I was actually going to get around to refinishing the damned thing.

It's slow going.  I started off using a paint/varnish thinner but after multiple chemicals burns and some kind of reaction to my nitrile gloves that caused my hands to heat up and stiffen in an alarming manner, I decided that paint stripper was fucking bullshit and sought out a heat gun, which I was able to borrow from a friend and former co worker.

What a difference.  I've only burned myself bad enough to leave a mark once (although I've probably singed off some leg and arm hair with flying paint chips), and the gun goes through the paint and varnish much faster than the paint stripper did.

I am hoping to at least have the whole set stripped, if not sanded, by the end of the summer.  But that is what I have been up to.  

Work in progress.. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Personal Opinions vs. Prescriptiveness (NSFW)

Saw an article on the Facebook feed today that bothered me enough that I felt it necessary write rather than watch lunch.

Ugh.  I'm going to do a takedown of this article, mainly because I have a kid on Facebook who may, sooner or later, come across this article and I don't ever want her to feel obligated to do things she's not comfortable with.

No.  Not every girl should give blow jobs.

Girls who like giving head should give head, hopefully to someone who likes receiving head.  Girls who do not like giving blow jobs, should not give blow jobs.  Just like guys who do not like giving head should not give head.  

No one should participate in sex acts they are uncomfortable with.  If you really enjoy them, then go for it.  If you're just kind of meh about it, but generally okay with it and get enjoyment from making your partner happy, then that's cool too.

There's a number of problems with this article.  It's heteronormative, to begin with.  I'm going to ahead and mention that a lot of lesbians probably don't like being told they should give blow jobs.  But I guess lesbians don't exist in this universe.

Not a single point on the list even remotely touches on the woman's enjoyment.  Most of the points like "He's more likely to get down on one knee if you get down on two" revolve around using oral sex as a manipulation tactic, or getting a guy's approval.  People, this mentality is gross.  GROSS.  Do it because you like it, and if you don't like it, don't do it.

The only reference to enjoyment is where the author mentions that it's fun.  Fair point.  It sure can be loads *snicker* of fun.  But she then goes on to kill that by claiming that if you don't think it's fun, you're doing it wrong.

And that's where my issue comes into play: the author employs a prescriptive voice throughout the article.   She doesn't say, "I think this is awesome." She says, "I think this is awesome, and so should you."  

That's a big nope.

It could have been possible to write this while making it clear that it's completely subjective, and without shaming people who don't like to participate in oral sex.  The author of the article could have titled the piece "15 Reasons I Think Blow Jobs Are The Freaking Awesomest."   Because then it stops being prescriptive and becomes one person's personal opinion.   Instead of ending the article with "Get to work, people" she could have said something like "Now if you'll excuse me, I've gotta head downtown for a while... if you know what I mean *wink*"

Hey, that's pretty clever.  I'm starting to think I should have written it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

This is why I hated "She's All That"

Tumblr user Justplainsomething posited an interesting question recently:
Why do we see a story where a guy falls for an “ordinary” girl as pandering? It’s one thing if the story’s message is “Your self-worth is directly connected to whether or not a boy loves you” because that’s problematic as hell, but why do we mock girls for liking stories where they’re wanted? Is the idea that girls like being wanted so off-putting to us?
Years ago, I had a thing for movies with vaguely schlubby/geeky guys who win the girl in the end, but often thought similar.. "Why are there no movies where a plain, kind of dweeby girl, wins over the hot guy by being herself?"

The answer is rather depressing.   While we see a plain schlubby dude winning over a beautiful woman as a hero, a beloved protagonist, I feel like a schlubby woman chasing a hot guy would be seen by most as kind of desperate and pathetic, or alternately, as frightening.

Male entitlement (and I'm going to piss some people off using that term) dictates that our schlubby dude is a hero because as a guy he deserves to win the pretty girl's affections.  He should be able to get the girl just by being himself.

How else does Seth Rogen get leading man roles?  Source
The only time we seem to root for the schlubby girl is when she earns the affections of the hot guy by becoming beautiful.  It's as though we schlubby chicks are not allowed to win over hot guys by simply being ourselves.  We have to be beautiful before we get to win them over.  Hence the popularity of the scads of Pygmalion archetypes in film.

Even Hollywood's idea of plain geeky women is rather skewed.  Skewed enough that I am having a hard time thinking of a particularly schlubby or dweeby leading lady that I'd like to see paired up with a hot leading man.

Sorry, even with glasses and a taco hat, you're still Rachel Leigh fricking Cook.  Source
The other time a small subset of us cheers for the schlubby woman is when she decides that she's better off alone.. but like I said, that's a small, small subset.

I'd love to see a movie where someone like,  geez, I don't know.. Mayim Bialik in Full-Amy Farrah Fowler mode gets paired up with someone like Kit Harrington (garrgghghh).. without a makeover, without her flinging her glasses off and becoming a supermodel.  Just a plain, geeky girl and the hot, hot dude who loves her.

I have a feeling I may be waiting some time.

In the meantime, I'll be over here, having a Kit Harington appreciation moment. Source

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Entitlement to Women's Bodies at its Most Horrifying.

Trigger Warning: Extreme Violence, Misogyny

Last night, a 22 year old man named Elliot Rodger allegedly opened fire on a small community near Santa Barbara,California, killing six people, possibly himself included.

The night before, he posted a video to YouTube, complaining about being rejected by women and still being a virgin at 22.  He declared that he would take retribution on the women who refused him love, and sex.  He labelled them sluts and said he would mow each of them down. (By the way, that video is disturbing as hell).

A Facebook acquaintance who posted the story referred to him as America's own Marc Lepine.  She's right.

People will see this story and rave on about gun control (which I am all for).  They will see this story and scapegoat the mentally ill.  I get it.  There are not enough resources for the mentally ill.  They need more help that society is willing to provide at this point.  But every time we jump to "They must be mentally ill!" it does a disservice to the numerous non-violent mentally ill.

This guy have been ill.  What he definitely was, is entitled as hell. People will likely ignore the sheer amount of entitlement that it takes to justify murdering numerous people in cold blood because you can't get laid.

Elliot Rodger thought that because women refuse his advances they were sluts and deserved to die.  Women were supposed to be there for his enjoyment.  They didn't provide that.  So they had to be punished.

That is entitlement.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

This is Triskadecaphobia.

To My Daughter On Her Thirteenth Birthday,

Bear with your mother for a moment.  As you probably already know, being my child and all, I have a difficult time walking a fine line between sentimentality and snark.  Allow me this moment to get a little misty, to wax philosophical and to pass on some advice as you enter your teen years.

1) You are loved.  I figured I'd get that one out of the way first.  It probably goes without saying, but I don't like to go without saying it.  You are loved.  When you are feeling lost and alone, there is always someone there you can talk to.   I'd like it to be me, but I know there will be things that you may not want to share with your mom.  But I do know that for all the things that you feel like you can't come to me with (which I hope is a very small list) there are any number of people who would be willing to listen.

2) You are beautiful.  But you are also smart, funny, and kind. While beauty may definitely helps you in many areas of this looks-obsessed society we live in, it will be your humour, your kindness and your willingness to learn that will, in the long run, be the things that dictate the direction your life will take and how you are remembered.

3) You are worthy of respect.  Those who would deem you unworthy are not entitled to your time or energy.  That being said, treat others with respect as well.  Every new person you meet has their own stories, strengths, weaknesses, and potential to be a friend or ally.

4) Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses.  Work hard to develop your strengths. Be patient with yourself in areas of weakness.

5) "An it harm none, do what thou will."  Basically, be who you are as long as you are not hurting people in the process.

6) You do not owe your time to people who treat you badly.  YOU DO NOT OWE YOUR TIME TO PEOPLE WHO TREAT YOU BADLY.  It is okay to cut off communication with people who do not respect you or your boundaries.

7) Do not apologize for your passions.  Even if someone tells you that your interests and hobbies are weird or boring, do not apologize.  Even when you've graduated and gone off and left your family and friends, you'll still have Bandersnatch Cummerbund.

8) Be nice to your sister.

9) Try not to view other women as competition.  Don't judge other women's style, bodies, or sexual choices.  We face enough judgement for these things from society at large, without being shitty to each other.  There is no right or wrong way to be a woman.

10) For the love of Gord, turn your light off when you leave your bedroom.  I'm not made of money.

11) Take risks.  Not stupid risks, like getting into a car with some drunk asshole driver or doing drugs or stuff like that, but don't be afraid to try new things or to put yourself out there.  Like someone? Let them know.  If an opportunity presents itself to try something new and exciting, don't let the possibility that things might not work out *exactly* as planned dissuade you.

12)  Don't let people tell you that you are not good enough to accomplish the things you want. However, remember that when someone points out potential flaws in your plans, it is not to discourage you, but to make sure you can see and plan for challenges and obstacles in your path.

13)  Don't be in a hurry to grow up.  Enjoy your childhood and adolescence.  Being a grown-up can suck.  For instance, grown-ups have to watch their kids grow up and deal with all the crappy stuff that can sometimes come with being an adult.  We're also not allowed in the McDonalds Playland.

14) Speaking of which, I will never not worry about you.  So you can just forget about that right now, missy.  I will, however, do my best to trust that you will make good choices in life.

15) You are loved.  Happy birthday, my sweet girl.

Step lightly, love.

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