Well, today is the last day …

That sounds ominous. I don’t mean it to be. I am not disappearing into the nether. I’m still here … will be here. Today, though, is a last in a couple different ways. It’s the second day of my last class at the University of Phoenix. In just under 5 weeks, I’ll be the proud holder of a Bachelors of Science in Intercultural Communication. Boom! And I know that some of you are wondering how on earth I ended up doing a non-tech degree instead of just continuing with my tech career. Here’s the thing though, and I knocked the socks off my BFF the other day with this: I ended up in tech by accident!!!

When we were finishing up my second year of 6th form (I can’t think of an equivalent in US parlance; think of it as basic entry-level University classes), my best friend at the time said to me “Bah! It’s easy to get into School of Law. Try getting into the Department of Computer Science! Now THAT one is hard!” I know – it sounds pretty stupid now when I say it, but for us it seemed easy to get into the Law Faculty at the University of the West Indies. In retrospect, and considering I failed to get in, the flaw in our reasoning is pretty obvious. Nevertheless, I took her on and submitted an application to the Department of Computer Studies at the then College of Arts, Science, and Technology (it’s now known as the University of Technology, Jamaica).

Turns out, that was a good move, because I had no backup plan for failing to get into Faculty of Law at UWI. And no amount of begging was able to get them to look past the abysmal failures that was my 6th form exam results. I was never a big studier – I was always the kind of person who either “got it” while doing it or writing it, or not at all. Even today – things mostly sail over my head unless I get a chance to write them down or do them. 6th form studies are just that … studying. There isn’t a lot of classroom work, and teachers expect you to do most of the work on your own. Having been spoon-fed all my school years, I was a complete and utter failure at the self-study deal. So … no University of the West Indies for me, but luckily the College of Arts, Science, and Technology accepted me without so much of a batted eye. And thus I entered the technology field. Luckily for me, not only was I pretty good at it, I actually enjoyed it too.

Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand – this is my last class. I haven’t checked in at all since yesterday except to beg for team favours. It’s pretty appalling how much I am slacking these last couple of classes. The University of Phoenix is … one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had. I will have to talk about that in another post. Suffice it to say that … teamwork is not my strong suit when there are people who are dimwitted and lazy on the team. Call me callous if you want …

On top of that is it’s also the last day of the Mists of Pandaria expansion in World of Warcraft. Yes – I’ve been playing WoW again lately – a lot. Hubster and I had stopped for a while, and I had even managed to stay away from games almost altogether for a long time. Then the Hubster grabbed ahold of my heart strings and tugged. He said, “I miss WoW. I miss I miss us in WoW. It is where we met, after all.” And here we are, back in-game for yet another expansion. This time it’s the Warlord of Draenor. And if you aren’t in the WoW world, you probably don’t realise just how much of a HUGE deal this expansion is. I have heard a few people say that with WoD, we go back to when things were like vanilla WoW when people actually had things to do other than mash buttons mindlessly. That’s either a good or bad thing depending on where you’re standing. In my case, it means back to the basics of enjoying the game and to hell with the people who are racing to get to end-content on day 2.

I have some health issues that I am taking care of starting tomorrow too. So maybe I can see today as the last day on this side of the solution? /shrug Maybe. Suffice it to say, the next 2-5 weeks is going to be both hectic and surreal. :) I can’t wait.

In any case, if I disappear off the grid again for a while, it’s not quite “business as usual” … I am just super preoccupied with school and WoW and (channeling Arnold Schwarzenegger) I will be back. Heh. :)

How Stereotypes hurt us, from a personal perspective

If you’re like me, in any of the smallest of ways, you’ve chafed at the bit that is stereotypical roles for all your life. I struggled long and hard as a child with statements such as “you should focus on behaving like a lady” and “but you should wear (read:like) pink; pink is for girls” and “frills are just so pretty, I don’t know why you don’t like them – you’re a girl” and “but patent shoes are so formal and show class”.

Embarrassingly, I thought long and hard (obsessively in some instances) about things like why boys stand up to urinate and why girls must sit. I will even admit to experimenting a little with the reversal of that concept. We won’t get into the details… let’s just say the results were hilarious in retrospect, if humiliating at the time. Chalk it up to youthful ignorance of human anatomy. When I learned more about how our bodies are built, I heard the gong go off in my head on the why of that particular fact. Some of our “norms” are as a result of biology – case in point. A ton others, though, are not. Like how long we keep our hair or what colours we wear. Those things are dictated by society, not biology.

Something someone very dear to me said to me recently got me thinking. There are so many ways in which we produce cookie-cutter children and we are not even remotely aware of those ways. Why? Because it is what we were taught growing up (much in the same way I was), and we saw how it went for those who were socialised in ways other than the “norms” of society. Shunned, ridiculed, abused, discarded. Better to be “normal”, isn’t it?

But I have to ask you this: how does that feel, that “normal”? Does it feel comfy to be in your “normal” skin? And just for a second, I want to ask you to set aside that “but I wouldn’t fit in” feeling and really think about how it feels to be “normal”.

And here’s the thing: some of you will tell me it feels perfectly fine. That’s the thing about stereotypes. They actually do fit some people. The hurtful part is when it doesn’t. We can’t all be the same. And we shouldn’t have to be. I am firm advocate for allowing people to grow into the kind of people they want to be instead of the kind of people society says they should be. And the way to do that is to stop insisting that they stick to the “norms” that society dictates. A 3 year old boy can most definitely have long hair and wear pink if he wants to. Objections to either of those are society talking, not biology. We have to remember that.

I applaud the trashing of gender stereotypes because I have never been comfortable with the “typical girl” one at all. And I think it hurt me far more than it needed to be forced into pink frilly dresses and socks with patent leather shoes and bows in my hair. It hurt because I was uncomfortable and we often associate discomfort with other items. For example, church became a consistently bad thing growing up because it was when Mom forced me into pink, frilly dresses and socks with patent leather shoes. That’s harmful – no matter what you think of church and religion. A child’s recollection of church should not be as a result of how he or she was dressed.

Do me a favour – please. The next time you think “Oh but that’s not very masculine/feminine” stop for a moment and ask yourself whether whatever it is you are criticising is a biological dictate (like urinating standing up), or societal (long hair and pink for a boy). And if it is societal, acknowledge that the reasons why you want to change them is not because it’s wrong, but because you are concerned about them being shunned, ridiculed, abused, discarded. Then allow them to experiment and choose and hope they realise that society can be unforgiving on their own before it is too late. Perhaps, like me, they’ll realise that to be vastly different is to draw unwanted attention to their lives. Or perhaps they’ll say “to hell with it – I will be who I want to be” and chart the course for new lands.

Remember, some of our most loved heroes and creative geniuses were far from “normal”. Maybe that is what it takes to succeed – the courage (or crazy) to challenge the status quo. Maybe that’s what we need to change the world we live in. Allow those harmful stereotypes to die the miserable, lonely death they deserve.

Testing a new plugin

If you see this post, then this new plugin works and I am in love with Evernote anew.

 

Editing to add more information … this plugin had a note on its WordPress.org plugin page that said it had stopped working. Except that it works perfectly fine. This post was created using it. So I can write in Evernote and publish from it as well. Beauty <3!

About that job I mentioned …

Remember me saying that I got a job using those supposed “soft skills”? Yeah … Well, I had to quit that job. … And … I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few weeks wondering whether my subconscious generated an excuse to quit because I was so dissatisfied with the job … or whether I really was too sick to continue at that point in time.

The truth is there were several things wrong … not the least of which was the fact that I was overqualified and I felt it acutely every minute of every day. When they interview you, they really only need to know that you’ve completed high school, have a basic work ethic, and can pass a drug screening. Nothing more really. Having some computer skills is a bonus, having some customer service skills is also a bonus … but not a requirement.

The bottom line is that it required basic skills but was tough as hell because people. Look lemme tell you something … considering my gross misanthropy, it’s a wonder I lasted as long as I did. Sick or not, I don’t know how much longer I was going to be able to stand sitting and allowing people to shit on me that way. Oh yes – there were some fun and enjoyable and rewarding calls. Sure. But there weren’t enough of them for me to work that hard for that little.

I tried to hang on … I really did. Ultimately, it’s always better to hang on to employment when you get it in this economy. The problem is … well, I spent all 7 weeks sick. The only week I wasn’t sick was the first one. Thereafter I was either flushing out a sinus irritation, or developing a cold from that sinus irritation or getting over a cold. In the final 7th week, the cold took my voice on Saturday morning and it was gone for a full 5 or 6 days thereafter. Which is kind of pointless for a job where you need to be talking. And they are very strict at this place … 2 absences and they fire you. Considering it was going on 2 days, I figured it was best to just quit. Within a week of leaving, I was better … much better. I hesitate to point fingers because while I know the building wasn’t the cleanest (and someone else actually said to me once that the ‘place was one giant petri dish’), I also know my resistance was probably low having worked from home for 4 years prior. It was as much me as it was the building. Regardless, it just wasn’t going to work.

Still, I learnt some things. I learned I absolutely can do just about anything I put my mind to. That those “soft skills” that I thought I didn’t have, are just unpolished … or unpracticed. But also … I learned I need to be happy in my 9 to 5. I was miserable – every day, all day. That is just no way to live.

So while I finish the degree and re-analyse what I want to do, I am back volunteering at the Dispute Resolution Center in downtown Olympia because that gives me a nice warm feeling deep down inside, that I am making a difference. Can’t beat the kind of work that is fulfilling … even if it doesn’t pay a dime.

Damn Daylight Savings Time Anyway

I’ve discovered one aspect of living in Washington State that I do not like.

Took me almost 4 years, but I found a flaw – at least a flaw that isn’t being 3000+ miles from home and family and familiar. You see, at this time of year, most of the US “fall back” and are on “standard time” again after having spent 8 months of the year in “Daylight Savings Time”. I have never quite gotten the explanation behind why we “save daylight” for the half of the year that we have more daylight – especially the farthest northern locations. It makes zero sense to me and even when someone tries to explain it to me, the whole deal just gets lost in translation. Ridiculous.

According to Wikipedia: “Putting clocks forward benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but can cause problems for evening entertainment and for other activities tied to the sun (such as farming) or to darkness (such as fireworks shows). Although some early proponents of DST aimed to reduce evening use of incandescent lighting (formerly a primary use of electricity), modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited or contradictory.” My understanding? We did it way back when and since it benefits the profit-making enterprise most, we’ve never changed it. Who cares whether it actually harms people – right?

And it does harm people. Take me for example. This year, the “fall back” hit harder than usual. On Sunday, it was suddenly dark an hour earlier than it had been the day before. And between the dark, and the cold, and the rain … I just wanted to crawl into bed and never leave.

“Just SAD” you say? Meh. Honestly … I think if I were given the chance to ease into the shorter days, I’d deal with this cold, dark, rainy stuff far better than I have been. “Turn on a daylight lamp” you say? Meh. Honestly, just another way retailers make bank and I suffer. (Wait … don’t I make candles? Heh. Idea bulb!)

Anyway – this was the one thing about the PNW (Pacific Northwest) that I think I will never like. This sudden dark, damp, and cold that converge on one day a year when we “fall back”.

Can we stop this Daylight Savings Time nonsense now? Please? Come on – are we really “saving” anything?

Musings on light and dark imagery

I had an odd experience this morning. Two actually.

The first was as I was driving in to the DRC this morning … I passed a woman on a street corner with a huge image of a dismembered baby. (I understand that there is a Planned Parenthood is nearby and that this is common Friday morning fare … ) To say that the sighting was jarring is just a little understated. Three things crossed my mind in a matter of seconds – all three of which are extremely telling about me. My instinctive and immediate response was “Gross!!!!” My secondary response was, “Clearly never had one because that image is totally inaccurate!” And my final reaction was, “Well, it is her right!” Just as I had that last reaction, I turned my head to look at her, and she smiled at me. My mind is blown.

I mean, clearly I “get it” because I was able to say to myself that it is her right to protest. The thing is … there is responsibility in protestation and I honestly believe that if you are going to protest a thing, at least educate yourself on the facts of the thing before you protest it. And this poor woman clearly has no idea what she’s protesting … because a dismembered baby is just … gross! It’s inaccurate and it’s using scare tactics to solve a problem. It’s effective … to a certain extent, but it’s extremely damaging in several other ways. At the very least, it’s perpetuating an inaccurate image of the problem. I really wish people would learn more about the world before sounding off about things they don’t understand.

Still, it’s kind of perfect considering it’s Halloween today … and isn’t today all about death and fear?

Actually, it isn’t. And that is yet another myth. Halloween, traditionally, is about autumn (or fall), thanksgiving (for experiences, and lives, and loves), remembrance, and respect to those who have moved on from this world. Whether you believe or not, some think that on this day of all other days, it’s easier to contact and communicate with those who have died. For me, it’s just a day when I keep my porch light off at dusk instead of turning it on. The whole idea of celebrating Halloween with costumes and candy is still very alien to me. I still don’t get it. Not sure I ever will.

In any case, Halloween certainly isn’t about sick imagery of dead babies. Ugh.

It takes all sorts, doesn’t it?

Luckily on the heels of that experience was one that reminded me that there is solace. I parked my car in the lot and got out. I stood at the back of the car struggling with my bag and rain gear – not something I normally do. Normally, I get out, slam the door, hit the lock button, and head off towards the building. This morning, I stopped to look at the back of my car. Very out of character. But then I saw this image …

Signs of Autumn

Signs of Autumn

… and I understood. This was my reminder that there is as much beauty in this world as there is hate and ignorance. Often I need this reminder because I tend towards severe misanthropy – especially after seeing images of dismembered babies. (Ugh! What the hell are these people even thinking? Every time I think about it, it gets weirder and more gross!)

So I am keeping that image in my head for today … the leaf stuck to my bumper. It sounds kinda silly when I put it in words like that … but it’s a good silly. Autumn is my favourite season. And that image is the perfect foil to ignorance and terror. I hope these people find wisdom some day … and soon.

Late on Saturday night with The Walking Dead

Saturday night, after our outing at the Murder Mystery Dinner, I lay in bed beside my sleeping husband and decided I wanted to put on something on tv that would have me snoring in no time. I browsed through the Netflix catalog and came across The Walking Dead. Knowing that Sarah Wayne Callies (from Prison Break) was in it, I decided to queue up an episode.

Please note, I am not a zombie fan. My first introduction to zombie storylines was Night of the Living Dead and I had not been even remotely entertained. I watched that movie with a mixture of boredom, consternation, disgust, and horror because it was quite gross. But I think part of my problem was that I was amazed at how lazy the writing was. To me the whole deal was: conjure up the most horrific monster s human being can become, corner some normal humans in a building together (total strangers to boot) and let them struggle to stay alive through a night, throw in sim difficult personalities, and let one survivor walk free in the morning. Too easy. I wasn’t impressed.

Similar stories followed the same formula and I lost interest in the zombie story early. So it is that I am only now giving The Walking Dead any attention – after 4 seasons have passed. And it’s not that I didn’t know about it. I’ve known of the show’s existence from the pilot. If anything, I am intrigued that the show has lasted this long. Well, partly intrigued. We still have tons of reality shows, so that a crappy idea had lived for 4 seasons isn’t all that odd.

But back to Saturday night. I queued up the pilot and the first few scenes were boring and predictable. Some lone survivor of the zombie apocalypse encounters a zombie and shoots it in the head. It’s not until the credits start rolling that it hits me just how significant this introduction is. This particular survivor is dressed in a law enforcement uniform and seems to have the demeanor of lawman… but the zombie he has to shoot in the head is a little girl.

That was my first clue. This is no ordinary zombie story at all.

Before long, it’s almost 2 in the morning, I’m exhausted but now highly intrigued and on episode 3. It wasn’t so much that it was scary (and it was more thrilling than scary), but it engages you on a completely different level. There are real, rounded personalities to get drawn in by. Several story threads interwoven with the zombie head shots and swarms would interest the audience all on their own. The Walking Dead, it would seem, is a particularly engaging story after all.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to continue with it … I mean, it is zombies, after all. My least favorite paranormal creature.