Odd Question Monday

Which of the following is the more intriguing power?

  • People can not say no to you
  • You can eliminate the ability to remember

Asking for a friend.

(Also, this is a blog maintenance post.)

Conversations at work

“AH, Jig-A-Loo(TM), how I’ve missed you.”

“It’s been a long time since you’ve addressed Jig-A-Loo(TM).”

“Yes. The elliptical machine I use at the gym is starting to sound like a constipated elephant. Completely unrelated to my use of said machine, of course.”

“Of course.”

“It could probably use some Jig-A-Loo(TM), is what I’m saying.”

“Understood. Too bad you don’t have travel-size Jig-A-Loo(TM).”

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“Well, I do, but it’s called anti-chafing cream. You know. For the chub rub.”

“Indeed.”

“Which, incidentally, sounds like something you’d pay an awful lot for someplace in Wisconsin.”

Dear Diary

Because my friend Rhea is doing an art project looking for teenage angst diary entries, I share the following with you. Those of you who know the epic tale “I coulda cried” will recognize some of these events. Note: these are actual journal entries – a handful out of THREE FULL DIARIES.

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I know CBC has a program called “Adults Read Things They Wrote as Kids”, and trust me, the main reason I’ve never submitted to this show is because PEOPLE WOULDN’T BELIEVE ME.

I am laughing so hard I’m crying. You can’t make this shit up:

November 9, 1986
Dear Diary,
You know the saying, ‘you never know you’re in love until it’s too late’ is absolutely right. I think I did love Chris. If I didn’t love him, I sure liked him a hell of a lot. God, what I wouldn’t do to have him back. Devin gave up on me, thank God [poor Devin!]! Last Friday at the Hallowe’en dance, I avoided him – on purpose – all night. It worked just perfect [what a bitch I was]. I’m so damned jealous of Mike and Tracy I could barf. They’ve been going out for 3 months now! Chris and I went out for a whole two weeks. Wow, huh? Also, Eugene, this chick that likes me [I had a thing for calling guys ‘chicks’], well he shot his finger off with a shotgun. Smart, hey? I just can’t stop thinking about Chris. Even when I’m alone. Especially when I’m alone. I think I’m going to stop rating my days. They make me to depressed when I look back on them.

So goodnight, Diary. I’ll call if anything exciting happens.

Monday, November 26, 1986
Dear Diary,
I got a B in my flute solo in Saskatoon, and a 76 average on my report card [slacker].

B day

Tuesday, November 25, 1986
Dear Diary,
Today, my baby [Wildebeest the Cat] died.

F———

Sunday, June 7th, 1987
Dear Diary,
We got a puppy! He is pure black except for a small white stripe down his chest. I call him Mike. He is part Lab & part Husky, he is huge for his age, he will be a VERY strong dog. He is only 4 weeks old, and already, when you put his paw in your hand, it almost covers your whole hand. I love Mike. He is a sub for the boy I need so desperately.

Sunday, June 14th, 1987
Well, we’ve a new puppy.
Dad ran over Mike with the truck. He really feels bad about it, too. Anyway, SAMBO, our new puppy, looks exactly the same as Mike, except she’s female – so, not as big or strong [WTF ME]. Too bad. Mike would have been REALLY strong. Oh well. I love Sambot, too, even though I do miss Mike & I still love him.

“Any Day Now”
I just wish, diary. I just wish. So many things have gone wrong in the past year. Chris leaves me [I dated this guy for two weeks in grade 8], Baby dies. 2 of Baby’s babies die. Mike dies. No one likes me now. Fuck. Chris was very special to me. If I ever seen him again (romantically), I will never let him go. If he ever wants to ever go out again, just ask Jill.

August 17th 1987
Dear Diary,
This is the best summer I’ve had since ’84. All kinds of guys are interested in me. I’ve had a perfect summer. I only hope the school year is just as rewarding. I’m glad you’re here to listen, diary. Thanx [sic]

November 4, 1987
Dear Diary,
I’ve changed my mind almost completely. I gave up on: [litany of boys I ‘gave up on’], and Chris likes Mel anyway. Marks [litany of marks]. Oh Diary, why does everyone hate me? I’m in a play which makes me feel a bit more popular, and stage band, too. I hope Chris B. likes me…I hope SOMEONE likes me. But mostly Chris B. P.S. Daddy had to shoot SAMBO. It’s best for her but I’ll miss her. Not as much as Mike though.

Shelf this.

So here’s the thing.

Nigh on about this time of year, I start seeing all this crap about ‘elf on a shelf’. The basic premise is that there’s this satanic doll that lives on a shelf in your house and it watches you with a keen Orwellian eye to your behaviour, and if you fuck something up, it reports back to Santa directly so that you don’t get your Christmas goodies. This hair-raising horror story was penned by self-published authors Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell in 2005, whose work should be right up there with William F. Blatty and Clive Barker. The marketing gimmick here is that you buy a book that tells the horrifying tale, and it’s packaged with a demonic toy that comes to life when you’re sleeping.

DSC_3393If you’re well-behaved, little Beelfzebub reports back to Santa Claus that you deserve all the heavily marketed, over-packaged crap you think you’ll be getting under the tree. If you’re a nasty little turd, though, Elfistopheles tells the Man in Red that you get nothin’. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Worse yet, your SISTER might get stuff and YOU WON’T because ol’ Lucelfer is basically a tattling little dink hole.

I wish I were kidding. I’m not. The idea that people will modify their behaviour based on the idea that someone is watching is not new. Decades of CCTV with no commensurate reduction in crime rates proves that the idea is a bad one, but it’s been around for a long time. In fact, it’s been around since upright-walking apes invented fiction.

This goes back to your basic story of religion. There is an entity who watches over your every move and judges whether your actions are good or bad. If you’re good, you get one consequence – like a place in the eternal afterlife where all the greatest achievers of your culture will also be hanging out. The upper crust of society, if you will. The warriors, the saints, and the virgins. But if you do the *wrong* things, you will suffer eternal torment. You will be separated from all you hold dear. From all you value. You may be burned in fire or drowned in a cold dark sea. You may be forced to walk the earth forever more, with none of your tribe able to recognize you and your name forgotten through all time.

Right here, this is the problem I’ve always had with the way religion is taught. The most important part of any religion isn’t about who the creator is. It isn’t about what you should or shouldn’t do. The most important part about religion is what it says about how you’re supposed to treat each other, and so far, I haven’t come across very many religions that tell us to treat each other like crap. But, I digress.

I don’t like the idea that the only thing keeping us on the straight and narrow is the idea that someone is watching over us to MAKE SURE we’re on the straight and narrow. A surveillance state doesn’t prevent crime, and it doesn’t stop people doing bad things. I don’t want the police watching my every move, even though I’m usually not doing anything wrong (and whatever’s on that tape of the bookstore parking lot is NOT ME, and even if it were, being topless in Canada is legal for women, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it). I don’t want the government watching me, I don’t want Jesus watching me, and I sure as hell don’t want some flappy-limbed elfubus sitting on a shelf taking notes about how many times I drop the eff bomb.

As a good friend of mine says, nobody needs ceiling Jesus watching us masturbate, and our kids sure as crap don’t need the thought that evil, plastic-faced toys are climbing down from their shelves at night and rummaging about in the house while we sleep, looking for reasons to ruin Christmas.

buynothing-comp01We should never equate gifts with good behaviour. We should expect good behaviour because that’s what people do. We give gifts because we’ve bought in to the commercialization of a semi-religious tradition, and we give gifts as an outward and visible sign of our love, reflected in the inward and invisible grace of feeling beholden to give people shit they don’t need and don’t have room for, in exchange for the guilt that whatever it was we got them wasn’t nearly as good as what they got us. Sure, some of us like giving gifts because we like thinking about the people we’re making things for, or buying things for. Sure, some of us buy gifts throughout the year and save them up, hidden away under the floorboards of the upstairs bedroom, only to pull them out, wrapped in layers of plastic, to wrap up the night before Christmas after most of the spiced punch has removed our ability to use tape responsibly. But some of us – most of us, drones that we are – trudge through malls that smell of fake pine and peppermint and the pressure to perform, to spend money we earned doing things we detest in order to please the people we most care about, who would most prefer to have us work less so we could spend more time with them instead of get them MORE Riders-themed shit from the outlet store.

Elf on a Shelf is a symptom of a much bigger problem, of course. And that is that we have gone from being the sort of people who celebrate holidays and vacations by being together simply, to the sort of people who teach our kids that if they want to get stuff at Christmas, they have to have good behaviour. But the bottom line here is that the Elf on the Shelf is the creepiest, evilest, most over-the-top Orwellian stuff to hit the market since nanny cams – at least nanny cams don’t mess with your kids’ psychological well-being. At least they don’t creep down from the shelf at night and steal all the bits of your kids’ souls that could have been used to understand the TRUE meaning of Christmas (which is that we should give each other presents because we want to make each other feel guilty, not because we have good behaviour) but instead are now being used to fuel Big Elf and corporate America.

Jargon is the death knell of business planning

Allow me this one small dalliance into negativity. It won’t take long, and it’s about jargon. In this case, it’s specifically about business/financial jargon, but every group has its own set of nonsensical words that may have a specific meaning in their particular setting, but which become ridiculous outside of that setting.

article-new_ehow_images_a06_fd_1i_difference-paperback-mass-market-paperback-800x800Jargon is basically a set of words that nobody understands except the group that uses them, and there is a connotation here that the group that uses them is a smaller group. And when I say ‘nobody understands’, I mean jargon is difficult to understand. There’s a reason groups use jargon. F’rinstance, in the tech world and in medical settings, these words might be incredibly specific. A “JP tube”, f’rinstance, is a very specific piece of equipment that’s used to drain fluid following surgeries. Academia is FULL of jargon that has little or no relevance outside the walls of the “ivory tower”. There’s all KINDS of jargon in the publishing world – you’ll hear things like ‘recto’ and ‘verso’ and ‘folio’ and ‘trim size’ and ‘bleed’ and ‘hash marks’ and ‘braces’ and ‘stet’ and ‘EAN’ and your eyes will glaze over and you’ll just fall over dead.

THUD, your body will say, and publishing will have claimed another hapless victim. Let us all have a moment of silence for that guy.

There are reasons why we have jargon, and usually it’s because in the field to which the jargon pertains, those words have very specific meaning, and the people in those industries have an instant understanding of what you mean when you say “ALOC” or “M&M” (it’s sadly not a delicious candy when you hear it in hospital) or “dynamic tessellation” or “VBR”. The PROBLEM with jargon is that when you bring it outside your particular arena, you get fatalities like that one that just happened with the guy who died from publishing terms.

*shoves body under a stack of galley proofs*

*sticks thumbs in braces and leans back* Now I’ve been through a fair number of planning…okay wait, this bit is only going to make sense if you picture me in one of those hideously starched business suits with a white collar and cuffs and, like, stripes or whatever on the actual shirtwaist, and suspenders (which I call braces because of my granddad) and, like, dress pants and stuff…a fair number of planning sessions in my day, and I’ve run across something that disturbs me. It’s the tendency of companies to use horrible jargon in their planning processes. There is a reason financial/business consultants use jargon, and near as I can figure, it’s so that they don’t actually have to say anything accurate.

It’s like they KNOW they’re on the rung above “psychics and charlatans” and so the language they use has to be purposefully vague and noncommittal so that no matter what happens in the future, you can look back on it and say, well, I guess those consultants were right. I think. Maybe. What the hell does this even mean?

I am a HUGE fan of clear, concise, accurate language when you’re dealing with people’s money. I work for a non-profit, and we are stewards of public investment. So when someone asks me what we’re doing with government money, I want to be as accurate as humanly possible so that they are left with no questions about how their money is being spent. I do not want a consultant to tell me that the purpose of their study (being paid for with public money) is to embiggulate the prescriptive dataset of market-ready intelligence intended to stretch the market and produce commercially viable, trackable products for the international trade sector. I don’t want that. I want them to tell me that the purpose of their study (being paid for with public money) is to learn the best way we can help increase sales.

If you need to use jargon in your business dealings with other business people or other consultants, please do so! Use the word “co-partnerships” all you want. What the HELL does that word mean? Doesn’t “partnership” already contain all the things you need to have a partnership? Seriously. Talk about “avenues of appreciation” (yes, I picture a street lined with people all chanting ‘go you!’. Regina City Council, I demand a street called “Appreciation Avenue”). What in the blazing blue fuck is a “brand presence opportunity”? I think that means shelf space for products in shops, but I actually haven’t got a clue.

If this is a document that someone other than the business community is going to need to look at and a) understand; b) DO something with; and c) report on later, you kind of have to make the language comprehensible. If you say that you want me to “increase appreciation” of something, then you can’t come back to me and tell me that the way I report on that “increased appreciation”, by including the five letters that say ‘thank you’ in my report, is insufficient. A planning document is supposed to do a couple of things: 1) Identify stuff (and make sure stuff is easy to understand); 2) Identify goals (and make sure they’re actually feasible goals, based on the stuff you identified); and 3) Provide suggested actions that your clients can take to achieve the goals you identified based on the stuff you found out.

I mean, that is a basic planning document right there. If your client can’t figure out what the stuff is you’ve identified because your mouth is full of jargon, you’re going to have to spit that jargon out and use regular marbles like everyone else.

This is a huge problem, because governments in particular shell out all KINDS of money for consultants to come in and study things and then provide recommendations to the government for how to do things or achieve things. I’ve been involved in some of these processes. Time and time again, I have asked for people to use plain, concise language in these documents. Time and time again, the consultants produce a report full of drivel and nonsense words that ends up in the bottom of someone’s filing cabinet because nobody really understands what “explore global market readiness” really means. NOT EVEN THE POLITICIANS. Hell. ESPECIALLY the politicians.

And if the politicians don’t grok it, how the hell can they explain to the people to whom they are beholden to be stewards of public monies, what they’re spending public monies ON? They can’t.

I’ve been chastised for being the person who sits in meetings and says “I don’t think that phrase says what you intend it to say”. I’ve been told “we don’t want an editor, ha-ha”. And that’s fine. I’m not asking you to pay me the $80/hour you’d be paying me if I were your editor. Or even the discounted friends-and-families/small press rate of $40/hour. I’m not copyediting your document, and if I were, we would have some SERIOUS discussions about comma use. I’m not proofreading it either (and if I were, we’d have a sit-down about how you really shouldn’t send out a document with someone else’s information in it. Using a boilerplate document is fine but have some self-respect and proofread it before you send it out, please – note: this has happened in probably 4 out of the last 5 times I have worked with a consultant on planning documents for the boards on which I sit, and the work I do for pay). If I’m sitting there saying “what does global marketplace readiness mean?”, what I’m asking you is what does that phrase actually mean. Especially if you’re recommending that the board assess global marketplace readiness.

I THINK it means decide whether you’re able to sell your stuff into the US (neither ‘global’ nor even ‘foreign’, btw). But I don’t know. Maybe you’re asking me to figure out whether our association is ready to do business in China. If that’s the case, I can answer you right now.

Writing business plans and planning documents should not be akin to writing the Great Canadian Novel. Which is to say, business plans and documents should not be boring, dry, and inaccessible to people who don’t have PhDs in literature. (Sorry, Great Canadian Novel; you and I have very different ideas about what makes for good reading.) You have a duty to your clients to provide them with clear, understandable business plans in clear, precise language. Your job is to help the business clients you have do things better and more efficiently. Having to hire consultants every two years because you never really understood the first strategic plan is not efficient.

 

What Not to Wear

I’m certainly no bastion of fashion. Yet here I provide you with a handy guide for what not to wear at any age, particularly after your parents stop dressing you. This guide will apply to you regardless of your body shape, gender, ethnicity, age, ability level, or education. It’s a pretty foolproof system of mixing and matching and colour-co-ordinating. You may want to take notes. Ready?

What not to wear after age whatever: shame.

As for clothing, wear whatever the fuck you want; you’re magnificent.

Keep it together

Human-RightsI’m going to post this article here. I need you to read it, and I’ll wait.

Many things are going on here, and none of them is particularly good. For anyone who says that feminism isn’t needed anymore; for folks out there who say feminism isn’t relevant anymore, this judge proves why you’re wrong. Feminism is about fighting for EQUAL RIGHTS regardless of someone’s gender.

The fact that the judge in this case doesn’t like our country’s rape shield laws*, and was openly contemptuous of them is bad enough. This isn’t even a case of not believing someone who alleges rape or sexual assault; if the prosecution has proven that a woman was assaulted, which it *has* (why would the judge ask whether penetration could have been avoided if that fact hadn’t been proven?), then there are very clear processes that follow.

Asking a survivor of rape why she ‘couldn’t just keep her knees together’ shows the kind of ignorance that means this judge should not be on the bench. Asking a survivor why she ‘couldn’t just scoot her bottom into the sink so she couldn’t be penetrated’ misses the point altogether. The point of this case is that a young woman was sexually assaulted, the prosecution argued the facts of the case well enough that the judge accepted that they happened (enough to ask why the survivor didn’t stop the assault), and the JUDGE hearing the case dismissed pretty much the entire case with a level of ignorance and coldness that makes me seriously wonder how the hell this rube got to be a judge in the first place. I would even go so far as to say this level of ignorance borders on total stupidity.

The judge issued an apology – sorry, buddy; too little too late there – and has been ordered to take “gender sensitivity training”. First of all, what in the blue fuck is “gender sensitivity training”, and second, you can’t fix stupid. You just can’t fix stupid. People who believe it is in the power of the survivors of assault – sexual or otherwise – to stop the attack are just wrong. Possibly stupid.

If you and I are sitting down for tea and we start arguing the stupidity of people who don’t believe in Canada’s rape shield laws, and I whip out a baseball bat and bash your knees to smithereens, chances are good that a judge isn’t going to ask you why you didn’t just get up and leave. Chances are good that the police aren’t going to look at you and say, “well why didn’t you call for help?”.

This case, full of wilful ignorance (just because you don’t like a law doesn’t mean you get to ignore it or apply it, JUDGE CAMP) and, frankly, cruelty (the survivor in this case now has to go through ANOTHER ENTIRE TRIAL, and what, if any, consequences does the judge have to face? He’s not being permitted to adjudicate cases involving sexual assault. That’s like saying “since you murdered someone with a rock, we’re not going to let you have rocks anymore. Axes are fine.”) highlights something pretty important. There are still people, some of them powerful people in positions of authority, who think that sexual assault is somehow different from any other kind of assault. That it’s a lesser kind of assault. That smashing someone’s kneecaps at tea is somehow worse than forcing your penis into someone’s vagina in the WC of a bar.

Gender sensitivity training isn’t going to do a goddamned thing for this twit, because this case isn’t actually about women. This case isn’t actually about men. This case is about assault. Rape is a form of assault. If this judge is stupid enough to think that the survivor in this case could have prevented her assault by “keeping her knees together” (and I’m going to point you to the actual muscles that it requires to do that; most people’s hip adductor muscles are not stronger than someone else’s hip abductor muscles…which is to say the muscles that you use to keep your knees together are generally not as strong as the muscles you use to open your knees apart, and the laws of physics being what they are, it’s pretty easy to use the leverage of the rest of your body to force someone’s knees apart, regardless of your gender or theirs), then imagine what he would have said if it had been a man instead of a woman who was assaulted at that bar. Gender, here, is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a 19-year-old young adult was assaulted in a bar. Someone did something to that 19-year-old that they did not consent to. That. Is. Assault. And in this case, the form or title of that assault is rape.

The law is not about changing things that happened in the past. The law is not retroactive (usually). What the law does is look at the actions that you took, and the actions that someone else took, and argues each side against the other to prove (or to disprove) whether harm was caused, and if harm was caused, a decision is made that doesn’t *undo* the harm, but that is supposed to make things whole. And here’s the problem. With assault and other serious crime, the law can’t really ever make you whole again. The nature of assault is that the assailant takes something away from you, and what they take away from you is power. Agency. The law can’t give that back. The only way you can get that back is by rebuilding it yourself, often with the help of physical and mental health professionals. So in the case of major crimes, the purpose of the law is to assign punitive punishment for harmful actions.

Keep in mind, I am not a lawyer, nor am I a judge, and I am not a student of laws. So maybe I have this all wrong. Here’s what I do know: judges who refuse to acknowledge or who are dismissive of the laws they have sworn to uphold and apply ought not to be judges. There are plenty of other jobs out there for smart people who can learn stuff, so if you don’t like the fact that you cannot use the way a woman chooses to dress as a reason for why she can’t possibly have been raped, get a different job. If you think the survivor of sexual assault is at fault for her own rape because she didn’t just ‘keep her knees together’, get the hell off the bench. This case wasn’t about what the survivor could or could not have done to prevent her own assault. It was about what the assailant did to the survivor.

This, and every sexual assault case is about what the alleged rapist is alleged to have done, not about what the survivor could have done to have stopped it.

Look, if part of the purpose of the law is to provide some kind of assurance that we live in a relatively safe society, and to punish the people who threaten that relative safety, then at least part of your job as someone who works in the legal field is to ensure that the people whose safety you have sworn to protect have to believe that that’s what you’re going to do. If it were me in front of that judge, I’d have recommended a little trip to the bathroom to demonstrate why I didn’t “just keep my knees together” (and then I’d have been charged with contempt of court, I’m sure, and fined some outrageous amount of money).

This judge should be removed from the bench, disbarred from ever practicing law again, and should have to spend some time with counsellors at a rape crisis centre. He is ignorant. His ignorance is a symptom of a much bigger problem, and that problem is that we do not take sexual assault seriously, regardless of gender. Until we no longer have to warn our kids to “be careful at parties because someone might take advantage of you”, we haven’t done enough. Until we don’t have to have classes about what consent means, we haven’t done enough. Until we don’t have to have arguments about the difference between rough sex and rape, we haven’t done enough. Until we don’t need “zero tolerance policies for bullying”, we haven’t done enough.

The right to be the boss of what happens to your own body may be the only inalienable right that every human being has. It is completely shameful that we so easily overlook this basic human right. We can do better. We can be better.


*Canada’s rape shield law is a piece of legislation that outlines whether (and if so, how and when) a defendant’s previous sexual history can be used against them at trial, what consent means, and what constitutes consent. There have been challenges to Canada’s rape shield laws as recently as the early 2000s claiming that it is unconstitutional, but those challenges have been defeated by the Canadian Supreme Court.