10.20.2018

my plans and hopes for our big life change

We are moving west for several reasons. One is a lifestyle change. I've adjusted to living in the sprawling suburbs, and while we were living in a (rental) house, it was nice. But for the last 2-1/2 years we've been living in an apartment. A nice apartment, and a large one, but what's the point of the suburbs if you don't have a backyard?

Soon we will have a big yard, a deck -- and the ocean very nearby! I want to spend more time outside. We're not super outdoorsy, but I love to walk and hike, and I would like to kayak now and again. We're about to have a huge wilderness area in our backyard. I want to experience it as much as I can.

I have two goals.

In 2019, I will take a break from activism and focus on improving my fitness level. Although I've never been thin, I was in good aerobic condition and had good muscle tone -- until I started grad school in 2009. First school plus two jobs, then becoming a local union president, made physical exercise sporadic at best. My fibromyalgia demands I get adequate rest. Something always got pushed off the schedule, and it was almost always exercise. Now it's almost 10 years later, and I don't like how it feels.

Another change I want to try involves travel -- how often, where to, and why.

There are few things I love as much as travel. It feels more like a need, an addiction, than a pastime. But these days, some of my hunger to see new places has abated. I just want to travel -- anywhere. There are still dozens of places I'd love to see, but I notice that any travel, to anywhere, feeds the need. A big, special trip -- like Egypt last year, or Peru in 2006 -- slakes the thirst for a long time. But a short trip to a place I know well also quiets the bug, just for a shorter time.

Since we moved to Canada in 2005, all our family has been long-distance. This has sometimes caused conflict between wanting to visit people, and wanting to travel someplace new. Moving to Vancouver Island, we'll be closer to some family and farther from others, but everyone will still be long-distance.

So here's what I'm thinking. I'd like to try traveling primarily to see friends and family, plus local exploring, and see how that feels. That alone includes Vermont, Boston (Fenway Park), New York, New Jersey, California (both SoCal and the Bay Area), and Oregon. It could also include Florida, Maryland, Texas, and Alaska, if we wanted. And the GTA! We would see family and friends, and get some travel in at the same time.

I wonder, could we do this for, say, five years? Would it satisfy my wanderlust?

10.19.2018

thank you, 2018 red sox! #yearofthemookie

2018 Red Sox To-Do List

✔  Win the division with unprecedented number of wins.

✔  Beat the Yankees in the ALDS.

✔  Beat the Astros in the ALCS.

__ Win the World Series.

__  Mookie Betts wins American League MVP award.

10.14.2018

how the media (invisibly) props up capitalism and other hidden biases

I recently read these somewhat old, but still relevant, letters to the New York Times Book Review.
Cost of the Crash
To the Editor:

In his review of “Crashed,” by Adam Tooze (Aug. 12), Fareed Zakaria asserts that “the rescue worked better than almost anyone imagined.” He notes there was no “double-dip recession” and growth returned “slowly but surely.” But this misses what was the major criticism of the “rescue.” It merely hit the re-set button — keeping the big banks solvent. Meanwhile, the stimulus did little to put people back to work. It was not the double-dip recession that critics feared but a long sluggish recovery that failed to affect the majority of the people.

For example, it took six years (2009-15) for the unemployment rate to return to the pre-recession number. The share of income received by the top 1 percent had been 23 percent before the recession. After falling to 18 percent in 2010 it jumped back to 22 percent by 2015. Meanwhile, as late as 2015, the bottom 99 percent of the population had only recovered two-thirds of the income they had lost. Zakaria should have added a few words to his assertion that the rescue worked: It worked for the top 1 percent, not for the rest of us.

MICHAEL MEEROPOL
SPRINGFIELD, MASS.

The writer is an emeritus professor of economics at Western New England University.



To the Editor:

Fareed Zakaria’s review of Adam Tooze’s “Crashed” is an approving account of an approving book. But what was “saved” was “the economy,” not humans.

Yes, the government and others acted to prop up banks. But humans lost twice: Houses and savings were savaged, while banks, their executives, and the rich, as usual, won. And in a further irony, they used taxpayer money to save “the economy” and the banks. Yes, some of it was repaid from those financial institutions, using money deposited in them by humans.

And the endless greed spawned by free market capitalism and lax regulations, which created the crash in the first place, gets mentioned simply in passing.

PHILLIP GORDON
CASTRO VALLEY, CALIF.
These letters brought to mind some concepts that I enjoyed thinking about in library school information school. There were many exercises in illuminating hidden biases and assumptions. In academia-speak, this was sometimes called problematizing or contesting, but I like to think of it more plainly as making the invisible visible. This book review reinforced the dominant view of the economy; the letter-writers challenged the underlying assumptions of the review.

When something is everyday ordinary, commonplace, accepted as normal, it becomes invisible. How can we discuss and analyze, and perhaps challenge, its influence? First we have to make it visible.

Gender roles are the perfect example of this. From the colour of a baby's room, to the toys they play with, the stories they see and hear, and a million other data streams, humans are taught gender roles and expectations. Sure, this has loosened up a bit for some segment of society, but in the overall scheme, it is still largely true. Expectations of gender roles are as invisible as the air that baby breathes. We are thoroughly indoctrinated from the moment we are born. If we want to challenge gender roles, we first have to name the many ways those roles are taught and reinforced. We have to make the invisible visible.

This in turn leads me to think of something Allan and I talk about a lot: how anything progressive or leftist is labeled "political" -- and declared inappropriate in many settings -- while pro-government and pro-military displays are thought to be natural and not political. Military displays at sporting events: neutral. Sitting down during the national anthem: political. Honouring "fallen heroes": natural. Honouring anyone who is a vocal opponent of war: political.

Once you are aware of these hidden biases, you see them everywhere. In one iSchool project, I had to choose a classification system, describe it, then use a different method to classify the same things, and show how assumptions and biases were transformed through the use of a different classification system. I analyzed the way clothing is classified by L.L.Bean, and proposed a gender-free alternative.

I think this hidden bias thing should be a regular wmtc feature, for capitalism, and for war. Or maybe it already is?

(Whoo-hoo, I'm blogging again!)

10.12.2018

in which we take a big gamble and are rewarded, or, we are moving to port hardy

I got a job! We are moving to Port Hardy, BC! Port what now?

Yes, we are moving to a tiny, remote town in the "north island" -- the northern end of Vancouver Island -- a town of 5,000 people. Nearby Port McNeill counts 2,600 residents, and the third town in the region, Port Alice, is a village of less than 1,000. And we are thanking whatever it is we atheists thank, because we're actually already paying rent there!

As my friend Detective Monk used to say, here's what happened.

As I've mentioned, finding a place to live that allows dogs on Vancouver Island (and possibly all of British Columbia) is incredibly difficult. When we were on the island in April, we saw a huge number of rental buildings. We were very encouraged, as in the GTA, rentals are increasingly rare; everything is condos. But that was before we knew that the great majority of rentals do not allow dogs. Even buildings that say "pet-friendly" may restrict to cats only, or something like "small dogs negotiable".

I applied for a job at the Port Hardy branch of VIRL, a job I really wanted. I had seen great-looking rental townhouses -- spacious, newly renovated, affordable. They're the only rentals in town that allow dogs, so of course they have no availability. No one ever leaves.

Then suddenly, over the Labour Day weekend: an ad. A house. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms. A fireplace. A deck. A big fenced-in yard. The rent is great and dogs are welcome. And if we don't put money down right now we will lose it.

We put off the agent as long as we could, but it quickly became clear that I was not going to know about the job before we needed to commit to the house. In fact, I was not even going to interview for the job before we needed to commit! But what choice did we have? If I got the job and we had no place to live, what would we do? But if I didn't get the job in Port Hardy, we couldn't move there. It was a potentially expensive gamble.

We did it. We signed a lease, and put down a deposit. About 10 days later, we paid October rent. And two days after that, I had my interview! Ohmygod has this been stressful!

And today, just a few hours ago, I found out I got it. Whew.

The problem with being a risk-taker is that every time a gamble pays off, it reinforces your belief in taking risks -- when in reality those past gambles have absolutely no bearing on the present. But... whew.

Here we go!

10.08.2018

wmtc moves west

We are moving to Vancouver Island! As soon as I find a good library job there -- which may be very soon -- we are giving notice, packing up, and driving across this beautiful country in a little car with a big dog in the back seat.

Why are we moving there? Short answer: because we want to.

The full answer is multifaceted.

I've always wanted to experience life in a small town. The question always was: what would we do for work? Our previous employment was conditional on living in or near a large city. One of the many reasons I chose a library degree for my new career was its portability. Every little town has a library. Maybe I could work in one.

Now I'm settled in Mississauga, which is neither big city nor small town, but a massive sprawling suburb. There are many nice things about living here, but this neither-nor is just not me. Mississauga is also physically ugly. A few years ago we visited our family on the US west coast, in an incredibly beautiful area. When we got home, I saw Mississauga with fresh eyes -- and it was depressing. The strip malls, the concrete high-rises, the massive blocks of townhouses squeezed into every available piece of land. Every few kilometres, everything repeats itself -- the same stores, the same restaurants, the same the same the same. I just found it ugly and depressing.

I have a great job here, and I'm very aware that if I do nothing, I will play out the rest of my library career in Mississauga. And I don't want that. This just doesn't feel like my final destination. I want something else. Something more beautiful, quieter, less commercial.

When we moved to Canada from New York City, most of my family lived in the NY-NJ area. Now most of them, including my 87-year-old mother, live on the west coast of the US. Vancouver Island is a lot closer!

When it comes to family, it's not a perfect move. We do still have family in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. But there is a way to find that small town, and that natural beauty, and still live near family.

My strongest ties in Mississauga are to my union team, an incredible group of women who I love working with, and who I'm proud to call friends. But that is a moment in time. I had already decided not to stand for re-election for local president. I'm ready to have more time in my life. So the thing that I'll miss most would be ending anyway.

In April, we spent 10 days on the island
, visiting towns and libraries to get a feel for the possibilities. The more I saw, the more I liked. Since then, I've been looking at job postings... and this week I announced to my employer, management, and to our members that I'm stepping down. (Expect more frequent posts!)

There is a downside, and it's a tough one: rental laws in BC are not pet-friendly. Unlike in Ontario, landlords in BC are allowed to exclude pets. And they do. A good 90% of the rental ads I see say "no pets". This is very discoouraging, and a bit scary.

Other than that, all systems are go. I've already had one job interview and have another lined up. I don't want to say too much about that until we know more.

9.30.2018

thank you, 2018 red sox!


It is the Year of the Mookie.

108 wins. Eight games up. 11 wins to go.

That is all.