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Drat this working for a living all to heck.

May. 16th, 2016

05:23 pm - The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

Yesterday I read The Girl with All the Gifts all in one sitting and it was a very satisfying experience.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_with_All_the_Gifts

It is the kind of book where the first page grips you and you are all the way to page 29 before you know it.

SPOILERS

This is a little bit Paperbag Princess:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paper_Bag_Princess
a little bit Riddley Walker:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riddley_Walker
and a little bit The Ghost Sister:
http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/ghostsister.htm

Melanie is a bright child in a peculiar educational situation.  As the story unfolds we find that Melanie is more than bright and the educational situation is more than peculiar.  Melanie is one of at least 22 children captured in the wild and held in a prison situation complete with restraints and guards with guns.  The children are exceptional, not least because they all learn to speak very quickly after capture.

This is like the Paperbag Princess because ultimately Melanie must save herself.

This is like Riddley Walker because we are introduced to this world by Melanie, who has never known anything else.  We find things out as she finds things out.  We make connections only a little bit before she does.

This is like The Ghost Sister because Melanie is a tranformed human whose intellect is periodically overwhelmed by biology that she can't control, and who ultimately chooses to defend her transformed state and those like herself against a doomed band of purifiers.  Also, at the end she is the guardian of the one lone unchanged human who has valuable knowledge the new people need.

I suspect there are holes in the story (like: what *did* happen to the first occupants of the lab), but I don't care because I am still in the glow of an excellent story read under perfect circumstances.

If you like any of the above stories, I think you will like The Girl with All the Gifts.

May. 7th, 2016

05:59 pm - Investing update.

So, a year ago I began DIY investing.

http://agoodwinsmith.livejournal.com/162899.html

http://agoodwinsmith.livejournal.com/163448.html

and I'm here to report that this is still the best option available.

At my class level our stereotype of a stock investor is some wheelie dealie guy, buying and selling stocks in a badly suited greasy frenzy and the only stories we hear about the stock market are when someone gets taken to the cleaners by a con artist.  So there is a lot of fear.  There is also distrust of bank-mediated stock participation through mutual funds because most of those "financial advisors" make their money by how many times you buy and sell, not by how much you earn.

I have discovered that one doesn't have to buy & sell.  One can buy and hold and get dividends.  This works even when the stock price dives significantly.  At one point, on paper, the money value of my stocks had dropped by a fifth - but I continued to receive dividends.  Also, recovery is irregular.  My portfolio is technically in the black again - but this is because one of my stock prices has gone nuts - and some of them are still below what I paid for them.  But: I am continuing to get dividends.

I have now come to completely accept as true something that I marvelled at earlier: the rock solid belief that the stock market may be daily volatile but it will return from drops to continue to rise.  I think I believe this now because the day that the stock market system actually falls over never to return (which will happen: everything ends) will also be the day the whole financial system falls completely apart and it won't matter where your money is.

I wish I could have done this earlier, but I needed the age of internet.  I can find out just about anything about any company, so I am not reliant on smooth talkers.  I have an online do it yourself account so that nobody mediates between me and my mistakes.  I know that if I had been brave enough as a young woman to find a broker to invest through I would have fallen prey to well-intentioned paternalism where some stock purchases would not have been executed "for your own good" and others would have been made so that I wouldn't have had to bother my pretty head.  (Seriously, this sort of thing was seldom done out of malice - or at least not personal malice - but Father Knows Best was genuinely a thing.)

But it has only been a year, with just a tiny stock wobble, so we will see what I think when one of my stocks actually fails completely.  Naturally, I think I have picked stocks that won't do that - but I suspect everyone believes that right up to the moment it is no longer true.

No matter what else is true - this beats the pants off bank interest.

Apr. 17th, 2016

10:49 am - Buckwheat.

Last night I discovered that one can be allergic to buckwheat - oh boy howdy.

10:40 am - Basic Income - wait! It's a trap!

Over on  Andrew Ducker's page there was this discussion:
http://andrewducker.livejournal.com/3439694.html

I have pulled one of my responses (& tidied the typos) because I want to be able to find it again:

I think getting rid of the means testing for economic assistance is good - as long as it isn't also used to get rid of social services such as mental health care and other services for assisting those who have barriers that prevent them from navigating the system - or even knowing there is help. We need those even if every person on the planet can have exactly what they want as soon as they want it.

Also, this sounds like the minute Basic Income is in place, there will be a massive sigh of relief, a dusting of hands, and a collective, "well that's a job well done" - and then a collective relaxation. But, minimum needs calculated today won't be the same price tomorrow. As someone who is planning for her old age, & has started to pay attention to how much this work pension will pay, & how much my private savings will pay, & how much the public pension will pay - and who has lived through some pretty exciting inflationary times (my first student loan was paid off at a "best" interest rate of 15% - mortgages were higher), I know that enough pension payments to cover our monthly expenses when I start retirement will not continue to be enough.

Here's a fun calculator:
http://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/

If I select 1996, the year I got married & the year after I have finished my degree & was making payments on my second student loan & the year I turned 40, then things that cost me $100.00 then, now cost me nearly twice as much. This time frame, by the way, does not include the years of outrageous inflation during which I paid off my first student loan - these figures are for a period covered by strict manipulation of the economy to prevent such inflation.

I still think that Basic Income is like School Uniforms - an attempt to stem human hierarchy with a superficial fix - and it will lead to increased anger at the poor because "we already gave you enough, you greedy shiftless scum."

Um. In Canada there was a similar thing as the proposed Basic Income - the baby bonus. For every new baby, the mother was issued a monthly cheque for a certain amount of money, and it was paid until the child was 16. Interestingly, in a country that up until the 50s didn't permit a woman to own a farm, or get her own bank account without her father's/husband's/son's signature, the cheques were issued in the mother's name, and it was accepted as cash for any kind of purchase. Every mother got it for every every child (oh - I bet First Nations mothers did not), and so there was no stigma to receiving it or cashing it - other than the sotto voce view that women who used it to purchase things, rather than banking it, either couldn't manage their money or couldn't trust their spouses. I think it was about $8.00 when I was 10 - which the handy calculator says is now nearly $60.00 so not nothing - but it wouldn't cover much.  There was the belief that women who couldn't manage that money "properly" shouldn't be given access to further assistance because they would just "waste" that, too, even though we all know that you can't feed, clothe, and educate a child for $60.00 a month.

Ooo - there are other possible motives for its beginnings:
http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/a-history-of-the-baby-bonus-tories-now-tout-benefits-of-program-they-once-axed

And, you know, if there are going to be resources given to parents for children - isn't the Finnish Box so much more inclusive and appealing? Everybody gets the same one each year; it becomes a symbol of new parenthood; it has nostalgia features - and really, it is so appealing it makes you sorry you aren't Finnish.

So, if you want to give people an equalizer, you need something that everybody gets, everybody wants and which has mostly null status issues about it. Here's my idea:

Four years of free housing, free food, and free education, for everyone, no matter whether they are taking a four year bachelor's, a four year apprenticeship, or a four year figuring out what to do, or remedial studies for developmental delays. You get to a certain age, and you automatically move into the dorms and engage in the options. Maybe somebody needs five years because they've discovered a better choice than their first. Maybe somebody only wants to stay for two because there is a whole big world out there that needs to be tasted. Maybe somebody stays there for years because they never grow beyond that step.

It needs to be something desirable, fun, flexible, and something meant to be a launcher but not everything.

Mar. 14th, 2016

01:33 pm - Unstuffed stuffing casserole & black-pepper gravy

I just sent an email to a coworker with the recipes for my lunch, so I thought I would record it here, too.

Ingredients

butter (1)
onion
celery
another veggie (2)
fake ground round (3)
bread (4)
chestnuts (marrons) (8)
Thyme
Savory
Sage
Parsley (6)
hot stock (7)

(1) - or the rendered fat from diced bacon
(2) - carrot, beet (5), parsnip
(3) - or genuine pork or turkey sausage, casing removed and browned
(4) - can probably be omitted
(5) - note that beet bleeds, even after the casserole is chilled in fridge, and it can leave weird looking pink spots on the top - it looks alarming, but it is safe and continues to be tasty
(6) - fresh is nice, dried is fine
(7) - stock can be made with vegetarian bouillon cubes, or vegetable peelings, or wine, or boxes chicken broth
(8) - because here people assume water chestnuts

Method

If using real meats, brown them and render out the fats, and use this fat instead of the butter.

Dice onion, saute until fragrant and soft but before any browning.  Dice celery and add, saute until bright green and softening.  Add dried herbs to your taste (remembering that thyme can become overpowering).  Saute to mix throughout.  Add in fake ground round (or bacon & browned sausage).  Dice chestnuts to the bite-size you like - add in.  If you are adding bread, dice and add and stir.

Add hot stock just until it leaves small wet streaks in the pan when stirring, but not actual puddles.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Save the remaining stock for gravy.

Transfer to a buttered shallow casserole dish.  Cover with tin foil (or lid) and bake 45 minutes at 350 F.  Remove foil/lid and bake a further 10 minutes. Allow to sit for 5 or so minutes before serving.

During final baking, make pepper gravy.

Butter
Flour
Water/stock
Wine
Cream
Mucho black pepper.

Saute equal amounts of butter and flour until delicately brown.  Add small amounts of liquid and incorporate completely before adding more. Cook until thickened.  Add as much ground black pepper as you would like.  More liquid can be added if it becomes too thick (a little at a time and stir stir stir).

Alternative using guar gum:

I've never tried cooking guar gum in the fat, so I don't know whether or not that would work.  Here is what I would do.  Bring some of my liquid to a boil, so that it is hot, and then reduce the heat until it is steaming, but not bouncy.  Using a fine sifter, sprinkle guar gum on the surface, and whisk a lot.  Guar gum is notorious for clumping.  Once you've made something thick, thin it with your more volatile liquids and add the pepper.

Eat hot while making happy grunting noises.  Flatten the remaining casserole and pour the remaining gravy over the top and store in the fridge.  Eat leftovers cold from a box.  Nuke if wanted.

Tags:

Mar. 13th, 2016

03:46 pm - Apocalypse Now, or at least pretty soon.

So, I know that I have been spending a lot of time moaning about the changing economic landscape; and sometimes I am sweaty on my own behalf (puny pensions!), and sometimes I am sweaty on the new generation's behalf (no jobs!), and all the time I am very angry about the politics of austerity and how greedy "conservatives" the world round have broken most economies  - that were allowing most people to have a comfortable life -  in order to uselessly add more money to their own collection.  I say uselessly because for the austerity crooks another million dollars is as meaningless as another five dollars - it won't change their lives in any measurable way.

And I know that a lot of my anxiety is fueled by my age.  I feel the end is nigh because it is for me (not immediately,but not never either).  I feel "things" are worse because they are worse for me (my computer is aged, and does not receive every command from my keyboard, so my regular typing speed is reduced, and the need to watch for missed things is distracting, but I haven't had an increase in wages for five years while my living expenses have increased, so this is a purchase requiring delayed gratification - also my knees are not my happy five year old's knees that I still unconciously believe is the normal I should experience forever).

Also, I think sometimes that one's belief in the decline of the world is fueled by memory.  After the latest horrible news report I again have that unconcious belief that we have all now learned that that horrible thing is horrible and so it won't happen again - but it does.  So I think each new murder feels like it is more than just itself.  Each new horrible thing echoes with all of the previous horrible things one has heard, so that more memory means that each one gets heavier and heaver.

So, I am aware that my concerns are self-fueled - but I am *still* going to rant about economic things that are unnecessarily craptastic.

Tags:

01:53 am - Negotiating Class Systems - preliminary thoughts

So, back on 27 Feb 16, Andrew Ducker posted this:
Hidden Rules Among Classes chart from Ruby Payne  28Feb16-1 reduced 14Mar15

hmm  ...  I will try inserting it again later.  Second try equally fruitless.  Third no better.  No, cannot add the photo of the chart.  I will try again from work on Monday.  Woof - this is the "reduced" size.  Sheesh.

you can see his post here:
http://andrewducker.livejournal.com/3416650.html

and I made a comment (I've copied my comment here as the first comment below).

The general gist was that I identify myself as part of the lower class (living paycheque to paycheque as I do), and that I think a lot of people falsely place themselves in the middle class category.  I don't mean they are lying; I mean that they are self-deluded.

Anyway.  I know this chart was developed by do-gooders wanting to make themselves feel better by providing the kind of superficial help that doesn't change the charity-recipient's circumstances enough to make them eligible to be invited to dinner at the charity-giver's home.  And I find it interesting that it has raised a lot of hackles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_K._Payne ),so is it wrong or encroaching on received wisdom?  Dunno.  It seems like a useful starting place.

What I now find intriguing is that it can be a useful tool in the opposite direction.  If I am a person from the class of poverty, and I am making something I want to sell to the classes that are wealthier than me, then treating my customers the way I want to be treated will not work at all.  If I wish to make an application for a loan for a business, it is likely that the things I stress as proof of worthiness will not be of interest.  I think on paper I would be able to pay attention to the concerns of those I am petitioning, but in face to face life I would not be able to maintain that approach.  And making a joke to prove that I wasn't taking myself seriously (poor person's faux pas) would only prove to those I am petitioning that I am not taking the situation seriously (wealth faux pas).

I am thinking about this because a friend of mine has been struggling to launch their business, and I have come to the conclusion that they are providing a luxury service but approaching people who need bargains.  Given my background I have no idea how to help them be noticed by the people who will pay for the service.  Ruby Payne's chart helps me think about it.

Canada pretends it doesn't have a class system.  Canada is also self-deluded.

Jan. 31st, 2016

01:11 pm - My culture is a disturbing place.

So.  My culture makes children's animated movies where worker ants are boys (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antz) and worker bees are boys ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee_Movie) and boy cows have udders (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnyard_(film), and this is passed off as one of those metaphor things, and not important; and this usurpation of female agency is pretty common.  One of its most straight forward messages is that what is true is never as important as what should be true.

There's also a little bit of the big pink fake plastic breasts that are apparently a common feature of drunken men by themselves being drunkenly humourous, as per Blackadder (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/371617406723267689/) (and others, I'm sure) about this whole making female attributes safe by rendering the attribute that derives its value from its essential femaleness as not actually female.

Which is all ubiquitous and habituating.

But then something creeps you out again, making you aware of your self-forged kiddie gates:

There is currently a commercial for the Laughing Cow cheese snacks, which has the mother-like Laughing Cow admonishing us to eat healthy snacks, in that really condescending stereotypical Cinderella-Evil-Stepmother-guaranteed-to-make-you-want-to-never-ever-do-the-sensible-thing-again way.  And .... and .... she has no udder.

http://thelaughingcow.com/products/creamy-original-swiss/

In the 3/4 image of the Laughing Cow above, it is possible that her udder is just delicately out of frame - but in the commercial, she is sitting on the couch beside the snacker, and there is nothing in her lap, except that vaguely indecent pale patch of a teddy-bear belly.

Even when we want to draw our authority from female authority, it has to be weakened; trivialized.

It's those weird little moments that scald your awareness and remind you of the concessions you have made with your culture so that you aren't too scary to the easily scared.

Tags:

Dec. 30th, 2015

12:04 am - Christmas in Tappen & the Coquihalla Blues.

We went to Tappen to spend Christmas with my parents.  It was excellent.  Family friends came over for Christmas dinner and we all had a good time.  I know my parents are sorry they don't have grandchildren, but they seem to be resigned - which is good because I am nearly 60.  This is what can happen if you put all your genetic eggs in one basket.

The horrible part of travelling to Tappen in the winter is the Coquihalla mountain pass.  Argh.  There aren't enough arghs to cover the amount of arghs needed to express all of the ARGH needed to be expressed.  Argh.  This is the highway televised as "The Highway from Hell" in the eponymously named reality show.  Argh.

The trip up (higher elevation as you go to the interior) was notable for the semi which had careened down hill taking out the meridian barrier in various places and ending up jackknifed on the other side of the highway with the body pointing up hill and the cab bent back pointing downhill crushed against the remaining barrier bits. People heading down to the coast were diverted to the Fraser Canyon from Merritt, unless they had already passed the last u-turn place, in which case they were stuck there for several (four?) hours.

For Lorne the trip down was fun (not) from Merritt to the summit.  It had not yet been plowed and there were four to eight inches to work through, depending on elevation and local microclimate.  Yes, there were fools out there without winter tires, but they were mostly in the ditch, unfortunately not necessarily right way up.

For me the bus arrived late (problems with the Roger's Pass), and those of us embarking from Salmon Arm were sent from there to Kamloops in a chartered bus.  Argh.  Not the best driver; not confidence building. Once on the regular Greyhound from Kamloops on it was winter conditions, but the driver seemed to know his stuff, so one was able to relax from complete plank.  It wasn't until we got to the lower mainland (mostly flat), that we discovered that he had never driven to Vancouver before - he gave up looking for Chilliwack and asked the bus passengers for directions.  :)

So - we had an excellent Christmas - one of the best.  Hate that road, though.

Dec. 6th, 2015

03:36 pm - 06 December 1989

Taken from :

http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/5514361.html


Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.


Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.


Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.


Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.


Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.


Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.


Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.


Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.


Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.


Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.


Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.


Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.


Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.


Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

Twenty-six years ago, this seemed like the canary in the coal mine - and it was.  And we're still being willfully obtuse about the societal norm it festered up from.

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