Monday, November 23, 2015

MIND BLOWN. LIGHT. WHY?

My mind was blown today. Thought I'd share.




I was trying really hard not to stare at the sun this morning. It was especially bright, making driving hard but making the walk in the cold a bit more pleasant with its warm radiant glow. I started thinking about how neat it is that life on Earth exists only because we're just the right distance from this gigantic perpetual explosion so fierce that light takes 8 minutes to travel here, yet we can still feel its warmth and not burn up and die. We're on the luckiest rock in the loneliest place, to quote a song by Hollerado.

Then I started thinking about light. Light comes in many forms on Earth, but the only naturally occurring source of regular light is the sun. Before fuckin' flashlights and stuff, we used the light of the sun (be it direct or bouncing off the moon) to make our way through this world. It's pretty neat that higher life forms have adapted eyesight as a way to passively observe our surroundings, as opposed to actively like bats using sonar to "see". Light is already there and we just take advantage of it.

Then I started thinking about the nature of light. It's made of photons, we all know that. Photons zip through the universe at the speed of light, and when they bounce off of things and into our eyes, our brains recognize the stimulus of incoming photons and, depending on the wavelength, interpret them as different colours or shades. The ability to distinguish between different colours and shades is what allows us to see this stuff.

Then I realized: all these photons were around for billions of years before the first eyeball ever evolved. Before the first light-sensitive cells evolved. So... what in the hell were photons doing before we arrived to observe them? We take for granted that light is there to show us what's up the road, but never to stop to think that if we weren't there to observe the different wavelengths of photons being bounced off that dead cat, the dead cat would still be visible in the sense that photons are bouncing off it at different wavelengths no matter what.

So why are the photons even there? What's the point of the different wavelengths? We observe them daily but this phenomenon wasn't put there for our benefit. We adapted to an already existing system in order to take advantage for evolutionary and survival purposes, but those photons have been bouncing around the universe on their own since forever, for no good reason that I can think of.


If a tree falls in a forest...

Neat side note: have you ever noticed that when you look at a picture of the sun online (or in a magazine, Grandma), you perceive it as extra bright, when in reality it's the exact same shade of white as the background of the Google page (or the paper, Grandma)? Go ahead, scroll up and try it.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

All Y'all Need To Check ALL Y'all's Privilege

A few things to make clear from the get-go: 
-This is not an #alllivesmatter protest;
-This is not an attack on the PC police;
-This is in no way meant to poo-poo the daily struggles of the disadvantaged or oppressed;
-This is an attempt to get you to think of inherent privilege as a broad spectrum of advantage and disadvantage that has been and always be a big part of society, instead of just my "my people vs. yours".

Here goes, and apologies for the lack of snark you were probably expecting:

I am the most privileged of them all: a physically able, white, cis, straight, male with no disfigurements and with decent hair. I could use some more money, but I'm mostly ok. Next in line is all of the above except female. It's possible she makes less money than I, depending on her field. Otherwise, she's ok.

I recognize my privilege, I do. Still, it really grinds my gears when my privilege is used against me in an argument or debate, as if the colour of my skin, the shape of my genitals or the number of my limbs negates my opinions or makes me unable to empathize with someone less fortunate than I. But whatever, you can't expect every internet debate to be rational on all sides.

Here's the thing about privilege: we all have it. ALL. Privilege is contextual, and only works if you frame it within the context of another person's station in life. Privilege is a case by case basis, and there will always be someone with more or less privilege than you. Heck in some situations, you and the guy next to you can swap amounts of privilege based on particular circumstances.

An example:

A) A white man, born to dirt-poor parents and of average intelligence, can't afford to go to college.
B) A black man, born to middle class parents and of average intelligence, who can afford to go to college but just barely.

Who's more privileged? The white man might be when he walks into Starbucks or is stopped by the police, yes. But the black man is when it comes to getting a leg up on the job market. No guarantees that it'll land him a job and a great life long career, but you can't deny that his chances are much higher than the poor white guy with no degree.

I chose black and white for the above example because it's a hot topic right now: you've got your #blacklivesmatter people and you've got your #iamwhiteanddonotfeelguiltyaboutit people.

But privilege has SO SO SO many different forms that are unrelated to racial/ethnic or gender differences.

Let's look at a few. These will seem obvious on their own but I'm going for a big picture kinda thing here so bear with me...

  • Ablebodiedness: There are really obvious differences in privilege when you're talking about number of limbs and/or ability to use them, but there are subtle things too. Some people are disabled in ways that you can't see, and it seriously fucks with their lives. Diabetics who starve because they can barely afford insulin. People with chronic pain disorders, the cause of which is often a soul-crushing mystery. They'll always have struggles that you can't even begin to imagine, despite their privileged outward appearance.
  • Attractiveness: Besides the unrealistic standards foisted upon us by media/fashion/etc, there's a basic level of human attractiveness that drives us all in our mating rituals. And attractiveness equals privilege in non-sexual ways too. Pretty girls and handsome men will get better service, favourable treatment, that sort of thing. We all know it to be true, as ugly as it is.
  • Body weight: Skinny people have it made, we all know that. Assumptions are made about the obese, regarding their life choices or genetics, without ever knowing the true picture. And within the obese population, you've got privilege if you're at least conventionally attractive. 
  • Skin: Do you have nice skin with no blemishes or acne problems? Congratulations, you're privileged. I recently started getting red spots on my face that come and go at random, which could be eczema or rosacea. I sometimes have red blotchy cheeks when I leave the house and I'm kind of embarrassed about it. It blows. I feel super bad for anyone with a skin condition that they can't do anything about.
  • Bald vs not bald: Self-explanatory. Some bald guys can rock the Bruce Willis shaved look, but that's usually because they're tall, fit and handsome. Think about George Costanza rocking the Bruce Willis and get back to me about whether you think he's really pulling it off. He can't, because he's not tall and handsome. Sad but true.
  • Mental health/personality disorders: If you have a hard time talking to people, strangers or not, you're going to have to expect a rough ride through life.  You'll have to work harder to get and keep jobs and friends. Hell it doesn't even need to be a disorder - you can just be socially awkward and shy and BAM you have less privilege than the personable and friendly guy who just sold you a pair of weird loner pants.
  • Gender reassignment: A person who was born a man but chooses to live her life as a woman faces some non-obvious obstacles: how feminine will she ultimately look, after all the surgery and hormones? Hell, maybe she can't get the procedures and has to remain biologically male the rest of her life.  You can only go so far, and not everyone's gender reassignment ends up on the cover of Vanity Fair. As a result, her struggle for acceptance will be marred by the fact that no matter how hard she tries, she still looks like a man dressed as a woman.  Caitlyn Jenner has privilege over the person in this example, regardless of fame. She pulls off woman better, plain and simple.
  • Skin colour: Ok I said I'd stay away from race but I have to at least offer this up: no matter how much we hate to admit it, people of colour have a leg up in our society if their features are less... non-white. Lighter skin colour, skinny/pointy nose, lips that don't protrude too much, round eyes... people with these types of features have privilege over others of the same race. Look at your Denzel Washingtons and your Halle Berrys. This is another ugly truth about society, and I don't like it any more than you do.

The point I'm trying to make here is that you can't paint the privilege issue with broad strokes. Generalizing based on skin colour or gender is all well and good, but it's a generalization - the same people that cry foul over someone saying "All black people have bla bla bla feature or characteristic" turn around and say "All black people are less privileged". Instead of generalizing and spinning our wheels, let's focus on individuals, what their lack of privilege is, and how we can help them.

Look, whatever your station in life, no matter your skin colour or whatever, recognize the privilege that you have and do your best to give a leg up to those less privileged, but don't fuckin' feel guilty that you have two legs that work. And if you get your jollies yelling at "middle aged cis dudes" for their privilege, don't forget to check your own privilege, which you most definitely have - you need to recognize that you still got it made over the paraplegic transgendered latino woman with facial hair so thick that no amount of estrogen can hide her five o'clock shadow and also she's got Asperger's, and admit to yourself that you're thankful for what privilege you do have.


Friday, November 6, 2015

For This One Little Thing, Rogers Is An Asshole

First off: I'm kind of a fan of Rogers. I've had various dealings with them over the years and they've always been helpful and whatever. Sure it's a bit more expensive, but their shit is reliable and I'm ok spending what I spend with them.

But I have serious beef with their ridiculous mobile data plan schemes. Like SERIOUS beef. Enough beef to write the very thing you're reading right now.  That's a lot of beef.

Their scheme is this: if you pay for 1GB of data a month and go over your limit, they temporarily upgrade you (for that month only) to the next tier of plan, which has a 2GB limit and costs $15 more a month.

So what happens is, no matter how much you go over, they charge you $15. 1MB too much? $15. 1000MB too many? $15. I recently noticed "Oh shit I'm getting close to my limit, better be careful" and tried really hard to stay under my limit. I failed, to the tune of 5.64MB. That's 3 or 4 photos worth of data. One mp3. $15. For the mathematically challenged, that's 0.6% of the total amount of gigabytes I'm being charged for.


Why am I pissed? Because there's no good reason for Rogers to do this besides "...because we want to".



Rogers has clearly demonstrated that they have the ability to count every single MB of data that I use. I get a text message the minute I hit 75% of my cap, and another the minute I go over, this one telling me "Hey, why don't you upgrade your data plan?". Do they just somehow lose the ability to count individual MB between 1 and 2 GB? Of course fucking not, because if I had the 2GB plan they'd sure as shit count every single MB hoping I go over and they can charge me for 3GB.

Why in the hell can't they just have a flat fee for every MB I go over in a given month? The math is super easy, I'll show you: $15/1000MB = fucking charge me 15 cents for every MB I go over.

Remember in the old days when people actually used their cell phones for telephonic purposes? You'd get 200 minutes a month or whatever, and when you went over, you got charged by the minute for all the extra time. Hell, some telecom companies advertised that they billed by the second, so if you talked for 5 minutes and 30 seconds, you paid for that, not 6 minutes.

Bottom line, Rogers needs to implement this sort of fee structure, anything else is completely unjust.



Imagine if you went to your local Esso and pumped $20.01 worth of gas and they rounded it up to $25. First off, you'd be pissed because that's fucked up. Second, if that was just "the way it is", you'd pump the next $4.99 if you had room in your tank because what the hell, you're paying for it.

But if Rogers is going to charge me $15 for 999.5MB of unused data, what the hell am I supposed to do? Stream porn until I reach the 2GB ? I mean that sounds fun and all, but that's what McDonalds WiFi (Powered by Bell) is for.