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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

The sheer number of women I know who have posted #MeToo is agonizing. Not intellectually. I’ve read the statistics know that, depending on the study, anywhere from 75% (EEOC) to 90% (Harvard) of women have suffered sexual harassment, or worse. I’ve heard many stories, too, from my wife, my sisters, my friends, so I know that it happens. A lot.

But until my newsfeed was filled with #MeToo posts, until so many of the women I know opened up and gave witness to their harassment, abuse, and assaults, I don’t think I truly felt it.

I do now. I sure as hell feel it now. (more…)

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One aspect of my life’s recent twist is that I learned something. This is always a good thing, especially when I learn something about myself.

I’m a pretty introspective guy, I think. I’ve always tried to learn from my errors and missteps, but that only works when you see them. Just as it is hard to fix a problem of which you’re not aware, it’s hard to learn from a mistake you didn’t know you made.

A sudden shock can sometimes bring an old habit into a new light. Well, I’ve had a shock, and I can now see something about which I’ve been wrong.

Friends. (more…)

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I never wanted this, but here it is.

You know that saying, Life is what happens when you’re making plans?

Monday night my wife came home from an out-of-town seminar. She told me how it went, what she learned, and we sat down and watched the finale of Game of Thrones. After the credits rolled, she told me she was leaving me, she packed a suitcase, and she drove off.

Yeah. That happened.

Thirty-four years and thirty days of marriage, nuked from orbit.

And now I am a cliché. A greying divorcé who drives a red sports car. Eff me.

The fact that I didn’t see it coming—along with being an understatement—does nothing to dispel the stereotypical pall.

For reasons of honor, privacy, and legality, I won’t litigate the case in a public forum. My perspective is irrelevant, anyway. She’s gone. She’s not coming back. This isn’t a trial separation. It’s the end of “us.”

To be honest, if she was that unhappy, I don’t blame her for leaving. I would have preferred being given the chance to work on it, but that horse has fled the barn. Still, though, I say with all sincerity that I wish her happy and I wish her well.

I never wanted this. I never even dreamed it could happen to us.

But here it is.

 

k

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My garbage, the refuse created by my household, must now be separated into three categories: compostables, recyclables, and, well, garbage. It’s a chore I now have to do, a decision, an evaluation I must now perform each and every time I want to dispose of something. Is this OK to go into the yard waste? Does this plastic have the little recycling triangle, and is it one of the accepted recyclable plastics? Is it clean enough? Yes, I now have to wash my trash before disposing of some of it.

Many stores now have “self-checkout” queues, where I can scan and bag my own groceries. This is sold as a time-saver, but usually it isn’t. Usually, I have to get approval to buy a beer, and usually, I put something into the bag too fast or too slowly for the machine to register it, requiring an override from a person, which means that usually, it’s not a time-saver, it’s a pain in the tuchas and, almost always, it’s slower than letting a pro do it, especially if the pro has been teamed with a bagger.

We pay many of our bills online, but it can be a hassle. The way it used to work, we got a bill, we wrote a check, we mailed it off. It took, literally, like thirty seconds. Now, there are login IDs, passwords, account numbers, and procedures, and if there’s an issue, it can take days to resolve. It is definitely not faster, but when they change the due dates so you only have six or seven days to pay the damned thing, well, sometimes online bill-pay is the only option if I want my payment to arrive in time.

Yesterday, reading an article online, there was a button at the bottom. “Report a Typo,” it read. Excuse me? You want me to proofread your articles? I mean, I expect that from some of the more dodgy publications, but the Boston Globe? CBC? ABC? The National Post? I’ve become so inured to poor editing in online news—typos, bad grammar, extraneous words—that it’s obvious they’re all cutting corners by cutting editorial staff. But asking the public to report typos? Have you seen the posts regular folks put up these days? That’s like asking a sixth-grader to tune-up your car.

My point here is this: Increasingly, we are all being used as unpaid employees and, along with increased automation, we are all tacitly complicit in the ongoing loss of jobs. Every time we check out our own groceries, separate our trash, or edit someone else’s article, we’re taking a job away from someone who can do it better, faster, more efficiently.

Better, faster, more efficient, but also more costly for the corporation. Employees cost money. We, on the other hand, are free of charge. We cost them nothing.

But we, by our compliance, cost someone a job.

My options are limited, of course. I must separate my garbage or deal with it all myself. I can pay my bill with a check but risk it being late. However, I can go the the checkout line with a human (or two) behind the conveyor. I can click that “Report a Typo” button, but not tell them exactly what it is or where.

It’s a small thing, I know, but if it keeps one person from being laid off, it’ll be a big thing to them.

k

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Yesterday, I donated my ninety-second pint of blood at Bloodworks Northwest (a name that is much cooler, and more quasi-gruesome than the previous “Puget Sound Blood Bank”).

Yep. 92 pints. That’s 11 ½ gallons.

That’s a lot of blood.

But I digress. (more…)

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Let’s have a discussion about Free Speech.

To begin, let’s go over the basics. The First Amendment does not give you or me the right to say whatever we want; our freedom of speech does have limits. Incitement to violence, threats of violence, and defamation are three of the very few exceptions to this freedom. Hate speech, though, actually is a protected form of speech, as Justice Brennan pointed out in a Texas v. Johnson, concerning flag burning:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

Given this as a foundation, it is clear that the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and others of that racist ilk who descended upon Charlottesville last weekend had every right, under our Constitution, to assemble and spew their hate.

However…

They do not have a right to be heard.

They do not have a right to be accepted.

They do not have a right to an audience.

And they most certainly do not have a right to beat, assault, maim, or murder.

As a result…

They should expect to be shouted down at every turn of every street corner of every town.

They should expect to be shunned, ostracized, and condemned by every reasonable person who lives outside their twisted clans.

They should expect to be turned away, denied access, canceled on without notice, and prohibited any privately managed venue.

And they should expect to engender our disgust, and our retributive fury, for the crimes they commit.

Some people have tried to equate the two sides that faced off in Charlottesville, saying that there were violent acts from both factions. While we will never know who threw the first punch, we do know which side came with shields, torches, clubs, and guns. We do know which side surrounded a church and chanted Nazi slogans while the congregants were praying inside. And, of course, we do know which side drove a car, at speed, into a crowd.

I do not condone violence, but if I have to choose between the Nazis and the Maquis, between the Gestapo and the Jewish resistance, between the slavers and the slaves, I know which side I choose.

There is no moral equivalence between these two sides. None. And anyone who cannot see that deserves to be called out for it, shamed, castigated, and voted out of office.

k

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We have houseguests staying with us this week, which naturally reminded me of the time my girlfriend’s parents came to dinner.

Let me ‘splain.

As part of her new business, my wife is hosting a retreat for some of her colleagues. They are staying with us for the week, during which they’ll all confab and meditate and plan and strategize and bond as a team.

Since my direct involvement is neither required nor particularly useful, I offered to do two things:

  1. Do the cooking and washing up.
  2. Otherwise stay out of the way.

Regular readers know that I am an unabashed omnivore; my recipes are almost always omnivorous or “omnivore adjacent.” Knowing that, you can imagine my reaction when, after planning menus and making shopping lists, I learned that one of our guests is gluten-free and another is vegan:

DON’T PANIC

(more…)

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