Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trump, immigrants and the RNC

Now that I'm building a new blog for my business, Welcome Dialogue, I choose between my two blogs, depending on the content. Today's post is here:

Friday, July 15, 2016

I love turning 50!

As I get closer to my 50th birthday on July 24th, I'm getting tired of people trying to tell me I'm not old. They obstinately don't understand that for me old is good. I have always been happy to get a year older because I experienced no great benefit to being young, even as a child. After that, my 20s and 3os were years of low self-esteem, weak confidence, painful family dynamics and fear of almost everything in the world. In my 40s I finally began to build self-esteem and feel more hopeful about my life. At 50 this is the best I've ever been.

When a ten-year-old declares on her birthday that she's all grown up now, no one tries to take that away from her. They don't say, "No, you're not. You've got a long way to go. You're just a little kid." No one says that to a ten-year-old because they understand the context: compared to how old she used to be, being 10 is a big deal! Please give me a similar response. When I say, "I am now officially old!" respond with a statement like, "Congratulations!" not "You're not old. You're still a youngster." When people say things like that to me, it feels like they're dumping a bucket of discouragement over me.

Being told that 50 isn't old also sounds very patronizing, especially when it's said to a woman. The stereotype is that women want to stay young forever and we require constant assurance that we are succeeding. F@#$ that. (And don't give me that "50 & Fabulous" crap either.)

I suspect part of the problem is that my peers take my claim of "oldness" personally. They worry that if Regina is old at age 50, how old does that mean they are? This is just insecurity and overfunctioning. If a 10-year-old calls herself "old," does that make a 25-year-old think, "Damn, then I'm ancient. Oh, no!" No, the 25-year-old knows the 10-year-old's statement has nothing to do with her. Please, people. Let's keep in mind that we're all separate.

So I thank you in advance for not trying to talk me out of my age and wisdom and I leave you with this list.

(Just Some) Reasons It's Great To Be 50 Years Old:

1. You have more authority to talk about things that happened, even in the distant past, because you were there.
2. People can no longer give you that patronizing “Wait until you get older. You’ll change your mind.” (For example, when a 50-year-old says "I don't want children," you have to believe her!)
3. Your opinions count more because they’re based on actual experience and not speculation (such as managing employees, child raising, running your own business, divorce, surgery).
4. The cost of auto insurance goes down.
5. It's easier to rent an apartment, get a loan and do other things that people size you up for based on your appearance.
6. You have more confidence to not put up with the same bullshit as when you were young.
7. You're closer to the end of that annoying, painful, expensive process called menstruation!
8.  It's the age when the senior discounts begin.
9. Salespeople who think you have more money (than young people) are often nicer to you.
10. Women have a brief window of time during which we're neither too young to be taken seriously nor too old to be taken seriously. When we're 50, we're in our prime for being seen as authorities!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

American currency is changing

I missed the announcement a few months ago that not only will the American twenty dollar bill be updated, but the $10 and $5 bills will be, too. Harriet Tubman will be on the $20 (even if it's not for 14 more years), and although Hamilton will stay on the face of the $10, on the back of the $10 will be Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul and Sojourner Truth. On the back of the $5 will be Marion Ross (famous contralto), Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. Pretty good.

How did I find out? This is interesting. A stranger from a website called Invaluable emailed me asking if I'd be interested in posting some content from Invaluable's blog called In Good Taste. The website looks to me like an upscale Ebay, which I have little interest in, but the graphic he sent is interesting. Here it is:

It's hard to read in web view, so I wrote the person back and asked for a graphic that could be easily zoomed in. He sent the ones below.

I confirmed this information (this New York Times article lists the new faces) and decided to share it. If you ever wondered how currency goes from the design state to the finished product, now you know.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Against no-kill animal shelters

Sabine Heinlein's essay, The Cruelty of Kindness, poses the question of whether no-kill animal shelters have gone too far in saving every life. It comes down to the question of whether any kind of life, no matter how painful, is better than death.

Maybe I'm all alone in this opinion, but I don't think death is always worse than staying alive. There are many conditions that make life a questionable advantage over being dead. This is at the core of discussions of euthanasia (choosing death because the quality of life has sunk to a certain point). I think as people get older and the prospect of living in extreme pain looks more like a possibility, they tend to support the idea of euthanasia. They want the freedom to choose whether nor not to keep in living in a state they find intolerable.

Animals under the care of humans don't have this choice. We choose for them. We can't know what shelter animals think about their situation or if they would consider death a more humane option than a dog living for years (and years) in a place where it doesn't have the human companionship it was bred for. Sure, dogs are physically capable of surviving the most miserable, inhumane circumstances indefinitely, but should they?

When I've discussed this with friends, they've insisted that the best option is for a dog to find a forever home, and they remind me that shelters hold that hope. Yes, shelters do provide the possibility that a dog could find an owner at any time. But is that hazy prospect enough to keep a dog indefinitely in a structure with inadequate heat/cooling capacity, minimal nutrition, no medical attention, almost no contact with humans, in a constantly soiled and cramped space? Most shelters keep their animals in either a cage just big enough for the animal to pace in or in a room filled to capacity. Many of these shelters can't keep up with standards of health and cleanliness. No-kill shelters run on shoestring budgets and they can't all maintain a decent quality of life for their occupants. Why not let the worst of those shelters put their dogs down peacefully?

Once again, I know the mission of no-kill shelters is help dogs find owners. I know the reason to keep dogs alive is to give them a chance to find a new life. Yes, of course, that's the best case scenario. But take off your rose-colored glasses. Imagine living for years in a lonely cage with the constant smell of shit, surrounded by miserable creatures, and you'd have no loved ones or anyone who even knows you exist and no hope of escape (dogs can't plot their exit or appeal for parole).  I'm sure you can't even imagine living like that. Being a shelter dog isn't like being in prison. It's worse. Those dogs probably didn't do anything to deserve that fate, often don't get treatment for medical conditions, can't relieve themselves when they need to, have no way to comprehend why they're there, and are unable to get anything close to the level of companionship we've bred them to need. Many are constantly hungry or in pain. I wouldn't want anyone -- human or animal -- to live a single day in that situation. Again, I know that experience includes the possibility of being rescued any day, but still: doesn't the peacefulness of death sound better than years of that, especially since dogs can't conceptualize hope?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hammacher Schlemmer lifetime guarantee

I bought Hammacher Schlemmer's Plantar Fasciitis Orthotic Sandals three years ago, but one of the soles started to detach. I went on their website to replace them and noticed that they have a lifetime guarantee on their products. I decided to try it. 

I called and got my original order number, shipped back the sandals and in two weeks they sent me a brand new pair for free! Apparently I can do this any time I buy one of their products and it wears out/breaks/falls apart. Excellent. From now on, if I can find it on their website, I'm not buying it anywhere else.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Purge movies

Promotion for the first movie.

So I finally watched The Purge (2013) and The Purge: Anarchy (2014), which have to be called "social science fiction action horror" because there's so much going on in them. The first movie seems to be another home invasion story that pits a family against assailants who threaten to kill them, but James DeMonaco wrote some serious social commentary into it. The story takes place in the year 2022, at which point the United States has legalized one night a year when you can commit any crime -- including murder -- without consequences. All laws and emergency services are suspended from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (no police and no hospitals). During this annual event, called the purge, the wealthy protect themselves with state-of-the-art weaponry and security barriers and the un-wealthy do their best to lock themselves in and hope they make it through the night.

The initial movie only sketches out what it must be like to live through this night, showing the experience of one family. The second movie, which takes place in 2023, gives us a fuller picture of what it's like during those annual 12 hours: assailants with ghoulish masks and face paint slaughter people in the street, kidnappers deliver the disadvantaged to wealthy families who want to purge in the privacy of their homes, armed individuals set out on private missions to settle scores, and anyone stuck outside (sometimes driven from their homes) has to survive by wits and luck until the ending horn sounds at 7:00 a.m.

That's all interesting in its violent, action-packed way, but what I find more interesting is the social commentary behind it. In The Purge: Anarchy we find out that since the purge was ratified in 2017 (it's part of the 28th amendment), unemployment and crime are down. The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) say the purge gives people a chance to cleanse themselves of their worst tendencies so that the rest of the year they can live in peace. The NFFA state that the economy is improving and the country is more peaceful because of this new tradition.

Zoë Soul, Carmen Ejogo in The Purge: Anarchy

But in this twisted dystopia, other Americans point out that in the five years since the purge started, the numbers of working class, homeless, etc. have decreased because the rich use the purge to slaughter the poor. In The Purge: Anarchy we see the emergence of a political, grassroots opposition led by a Black character named Carmelo. He leads an armed movement during the 2023 purge and urges his peers to join him in fighting back. 

The Purge was prescient in its anticipation of an American population that's ready to do what it takes to get rid of "unwanted" elements. As we've seen since Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency, many Americans have been waiting to unleash their bigotry, fear and violence towards people of color. It startled me to see that in The Purge: Anarchy, the Founding Father who's shown giving a speech on TV is named Donald Talbot. The movie came out in July 2014. How did DeMonaco know?

But as much as DeMonaco gets right about political dynamics, he gets a lot wrong about economic dynamics. As I posted recently, when Alabama passed harsh laws in 2011 that caused large numbers of immigrants to leave the state, Alabama lost so much of its working population that its businesses lost millions of dollars. Simply eliminating the poor doesn't result in better employment rates and an improved economy. If everyone who earns less than $10 an hour dropped dead right now, who the hell would pick the fruit, bus the tables, drive the cabs, give the pedicures, watch the children and clean the toilets? We saw in Alabama that unemployed, American-born citizens do not flow right into underpaid, labor-intensive jobs even when they're vacated. Alabama's failed experiment did not improve its employment rate or economy at all. 

DeMonaco's Purge series seems to criticize a country where the rich want to get rid of the poor, but it makes a very insidious argument: that eliminating the poor (and the homeless and the old and the sick, etc.) would improve the economy. This seems particularly irresponsible when I consider that Alabama's cautionary tale was well underway by 2012, the year DeMonaco would have been creating his fantasy world where getting rid of the poorest members means an economy improves. 

Promotion for the third movie.
I can only hope that The Purge: Election Year (out 1 July 2016) shows us that the NFFA's stories of the economy improving have been false. That's the only way DeMonaco can correct his misguided dystopic vision and back away from the idea that killing those who earn the least will result in more prosperity for all. In the second film, one character describes the purge as having resulted in the redistribution of wealth upwards. What? Our country's wealth has already redistributed upwards. You could kill off all of us who earn less than $20,000 a year and it wouldn't make much difference at all to those at the top. The storylines of The Purge movies seem pro-working class on the surface, but they're supported by a dangerous theory. Come on, DeMonaco. Show us in The Purge: Election Year that the purge hasn't really been about economic wealth. Maybe it's really been about racial purity or good old eugenics, but it can't be about money. The math just doesn't work.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Can we get rid of all the Mexicans?

I call this my "House Bill 56 Bedtime Story." It's the story of how Alabama tried to get rid of their unwanted immigrants back in 2011 and how it all went horribly wrong. Ha! It's a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences. Please read it HERE. It reminds me of this moment on South Park:

"Can we get rid of all the Mexicans?"
"No, Mr. Garrison. We can't get rid of all the Mexicans."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This just in: be healthy!

I hardly know why news providers like the L.A. Times do stories like Americans could prevent roughly half of all cancer deaths by doing these four things. We know we should stop smoking, drink less alcohol, exercise regularly and achieve and maintain a "healthful weight." Most of us just can't do it.

What would be more helpful is proven ways to do those things. Cigarettes, excess alcohol and stress eating are coping mechanisms. Until we find ways to manage our stress and emotions, we're going to keep smoking, drinking and overeating. More articles with more statistics on how good it is not to do those things are pointless and a waste of reporting resources.

Give us information on how to cope in healthy ways that will release us from our addictions! And I don't mean articles that claim to have found the guaranteed cure. There are all kinds of ways to get yourself off of smoking and excess eating or drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. work for some, but not everyone, and there are many other programs and centers. Or you can try things like acupuncture, meditation, EFT or working with some kind of therapist (from psychology to hypnosis) to dig deep into the emotional reasons you keep overeating, drinking or smoking. Present us with those stories, media.

Instead, they give us stupid articles about how good it is to not be fat or how much healthier non-smokers are than smokers. Before this L.A. Times article came out, did we really need another news flash telling us that "the most effective way to fight cancer is to promote healthful habits that foster cancer prevention" -- ? Who needs more research that shows that their eating, drinking or smoking habits are killing them? The people who know this don't need to hear it again, and the people who don't believe smoking and heavy drinking are dangerous aren't going to be convinced no matter how many times you print it.

I already struggle with hating myself for not eating better nor fitting into my size 14 pants. Another article on how much better I'd be if I were different isn't going to help. Give us real options for tackling the emotional patterns behind our self-destructive behaviors. At this point, articles like Americans could prevent roughly half of all cancer deaths by doing these four things are insulting.

Monday, May 30, 2016

You might have prosopagnosia if...

Prosos can't tell if these are different people or not.
I'm a member of a public Facebook group for people with prosopagnosia. Prosopagnosia causes you to have difficulty distinguishing faces. It's a true brain handicap that's recently been discovered in the past thirty years. If you have trouble remembering faces, get people mixed up all the time or can never follow movies/TV shows because you can't tell who's who, you might have it. Here are some more clues that you might be a proso, as we call ourselves (Prosopagnosia is also called "face blindness," but I don't like that term because it suggests that everyone's face looks to us like a smooth egg-like surface, which is not true.)

Each of these statements was posted by someone in the Facebook prosopagnosia group. They gave me their permission to use these anonymously. I've only changed the punctuation on some of them to make them easier to read.

You might have prosopagnosia if you have ever joined an organization simply because members wear name tags when they gather.

...or if you don't join a group or attend an event because they DON'T wear name tags!

You might have prosopagnosia if you have ever studied a list of names of people who are going to be at an upcoming event, so you might have a shot at knowing somebody.

You might have face blindness if you are frustrated because no matter how many times you ask people to introduce themselves to you when they next see you because you have a memory impairment that makes it hard to recognize people, no one ever does!

You might have face blindness if you feel very, very lucky that the good-looking man you were admiring turns out to be your husband!

You might have face blindness if you have ever happened upon an intruder in your home only to realize a moment later, you just walked by a mirror and didn't recognize your own reflection.

Or said "excuse me" to someone in a store only to discover it was you, in a mirror. (I have done this more than once!)

You might have face blindness if you often lose touch with friends shortly after they get a dramatic new haircut.

You might have face blindness if you've ever turned away from someone you've been talking to and immediately thought "cr@p I forgot to make note of what shirt they're wearing!" Double points if this has happened while out someplace crowded and the person in question is your significant other.

You might have face blindness if you know all the dogs at the dog park, but you never recognize any of the people.

You might have face blindness if you help out a celebrity and are confused why your coworkers are freaking out over the normal person.

You might have face blindness if all your problems were solved until Facebook started letting people change their FB profile pictures.

You might have face blindness if you can't watch a movie without a companion to tell you who is who. Or you don't really like popular shows such as Mad Men because everyone looks the same. It's like... the women look alike except the redhead, and the men all look alike except the one who has silver hair.

You might have prosopagnosia if choosing to dine alone means giving up any hope of being able to pick out your server when you need something.

You might be a proso if you tell someone you have it, and they go home and google it to see if it was safe for you to drive home!

You might have face blindness if your explanation of why it is you don't recognize people causes folks to ask stupid questions like, "Can you see my face at all?" "Does my whole face look blurry?"

You might have face blindness if you have ever warmly hugged a stranger and called them "mom."

Hahaha! Never did that, but I did put my arm through the arm of a man I thought was my husband!

Bonus points is your actual mom was standing RIGHT THERE.

You might have face blindness if you thought the movie "Heat" was a film about a man at war with himself, a police officer who was secretly on a crime spree.

You might have proso if you go to meet your long-distance boyfriend for the first time after years of dating, including talking on webcam and exchanging pictures, and you still have to ask him what he's wearing so you'll recognize him!

You might have proso if you have to ask friends who are giving you a lift, what colour and make their car is so you can be sure of getting in the right one....

You might have proso if you freak out anytime someone changes their avatar or profile picture because now you have no idea who they are, even after looking at all their posts.

You might have proso if you watched a couple minutes of the new Battlestar Galactica and decided there was no way, even if your partner was willing to explain.

You might have face blindness if you ever had to explain to a coworker why you have a post-it note on your computer monitor that reads: "Susan P: heavy set, red curly hair, Sara W: blonde straight hair, Rachel B: glasses, br hair, Mike W: almost bald, Chris F: br hair, wears bow ties..."

You might have face blindness if you avoid large community gatherings because the most common complaint friends have about you is that you are such a "snob" because you sometimes "completely ignore" friends you see in public. By skipping the special events, you avoid the social faux pas and resulting resentments caused by your not properly recognizing and warmly greeting pals you happen upon outside of their usual setting.

You might have face blindness if you have ever accidentally mistaken your boss for a client.

You might be a proso if you introduce yourself to your aunt at your grandmother's funeral.

You might have proso if you hear your boss coming down the aisle and do a double take because he is wearing jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. This guy was big, over 6‘5" and heavy. Normally he wore dark slacks and polo shirts but there had been a bad snowstorm overnight.

You might have face blindness if you have unfortunately had to avoid talking to someone in any setting other than one-on-one because you don't know how to avoid coming across like a racist because to you "they all look alike."

You might have face blindness if you choose which landscaping or cleaning company to hire by finding out which one doesn't have workers in identical uniforms.

You might have prosopagnosia if you've argued with your significant other about your inability to distinguish between people, and s/he thinks it's just carelessness, inattentiveness or you being dumb.

You might have face blindness if you enjoy that one of the extra benefits of having a service dog for your other neurological condition is that you can tell by your dog's body language if the person approaching you is a stranger or not.

You might have face blindness if you think the worst thing about getting in an argument with someone is that afterwards you feel paranoid because you aren't always sure when you are in that person's company or not.

Yes, these are all real things that happened to people who struggle with prosopagnosia, so if anyone ever tells you they have it, please take them seriously and maybe even ask how you can help them out. Helping them might be as simple as not being offended in the future when the person ignores you because they don't remember ever having met you. It's a difficult handicap to live with, so please be patient with us.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Want to learn digital marketing?

Digital marketing is a cheap and effective way to get the word out about ANYTHING, and you don't even have to leave your home to do it (I love that part). If you have a "side hustle" or hobby you want to tell others about, this is the way. Also, knowledge of digital marketing is a great thing to be able to put on a resume/LinkedIn profile.

Andy Nathan's Digital Marketing Training Course is a five-week webinar course that's an excellent start to mastering digital marketing. It's one of the offerings of his Smart At the Start business, and I took it last month. Andy's webinar taught me a lot about the most effective programs, apps and websites to use for promoting your business. I particularly needed help understanding WordPress and how to advertise using Facebook, and Andy gave expert advice on those things plus a LOT more. I'm excited about my new marketing knowledge!

It's a bargain for five weeks of classes and includes ongoing support after you've finished the course. It meets every Wednesday in June for 90 minutes at lunchtime, and you can log in from anywhere. Andy knows his stuff, while people like me can only pretend to (and badly). And if you're already an expert, then please pass this info to others.