Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why Work Sucks

TOP 3 REASONS WHY I HATE MY JOB (in the last 7 days)...

1. Being invited to a dinner for one of our practicum students, not really feeling up to going to said dinner, not having enough money to go to said dinner, being convinced to attend said dinner anyways.

Arriving at the restaurant to find several coworkers, two former practicum students, and one volunteer who is also a client. Not saying anything regarding the client’s presence, because it was awkward, and there was a big group of us, and no one else was saying anything, and convincing myself it was fine. Eating food, having good time, going home.

Being sick for two days, after which I returned to shitstorm of doom, which culminated in an individual meeting with my manager to give me a verbal warning to compliment the report she had made to HR regarding my unprofessional conduct with a client. (Because, while I did not invite a client out to a social gathering, another staff had, and I was present, and I didn’t say anything, but I should have. Also, because other staff were drinking and so was the client and that was bad, even though I wasn’t drinking. And my manager telling me that she didn’t know that she would respond differently in the same situation, so she’s glad she wasn’t there. Fuck.)

2.i. Listening to a large Muslim man screaming for thirty minutes in the middle of my workplace about how he was going to kill and cut out the tongue of a petite, hostile woman who had said, eloquently, “fuck Muslims,” and been escorted by staff from the building. Finally, eventually, getting the man calm enough to sit, breath, and then exit.

ii. Having to file a police report after becoming scared that said man would actually kill and cut out the tongue of said woman, and vaguely recalling that counselling professionals were legally obligated to report serious threats, even if it meant breaking confidentiality. Wondering if I qualify as a professional, deciding I probably don’t, erring of the side of caution anyways. Feeling guilty.

iii. Being sad and conflicted, because I really do like the man in question, and I don’t want him to get in trouble, but I also don’t want him to kill anyone, or cut out their tongues, or cause large and frightening disruptions in the middle of our centre. Being sad because the man has absolutely no insight that his reaction was inappropriate or out of proportion in any way. Being sad because my life has been invaded by a destructive religious cliche.

iv. Discovering that, during my weekend, coworkers who were not present during the original incident had decided to ban said woman for a month, and said man for a week, which would have been fine, except for the whole “holding the entire centre hostage for a half hour while screaming violently about how he was going to kill someone less than half his size and cut out their tongue” part, which apparently was deemed unimportant.

1.i. Cracking, “who died?” when an unusually large impromptu meeting occurs, and having our manager respond with a name of a well-loved client who had committed suicide that morning. Gasps and crying ensue.

ii. Bursting into tears during my lunch break which, because lunch was served late, was divided into two thirty-minute halves. Deciding after twenty-five minutes of crying (which had rendered my face incredibly red, blotchy, and quasimodo-esque) that I was not okay to go back to work, and then finding out that, not only were were intentionally short-staffed that day, but that all other workers in the building (save four) had decided to take an impromptu afternoon off. Then returning to work, trying to remember that anger is a step in the grieving process.

iii. Spending the first ten minutes of my second crying-break watching a large unknown woman on the street banging on the window of an neighbouring restaurant while screaming and swearing and generally causing a scene.

iv. Leaving my crying-break at running pace when same screaming swearing woman crosses the street and enters our building.

After evicting said woman from our building (via her swearing at me until she voluntarily exited), letting my coworkers know that I was then returning upstairs to take the second half of the second half of my break, at which point one coworker laughed, “why, because you’re crying?” to which I responded, elegantly, “fuck you,” apologized, and then burst into tears.

I have become the screaming swearing woman that I hate.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Beautiful, Stupid MacBook

My Macbook sucks.

Let’s be clear - in the television-advertisement world, I would much rather be the sauve and attractive thirty-something Mac than the older, pudgy, vindictive PC. That, along with the near-fanatical insistence that Macs are amazing, made by various well-respected friends and family members, was why I made the transition from PC to Mac last December.

But ever since I received my beautiful, silver-plated, backlit MacBook Pro in the mail, times have been tough. Not ‘tough’ in the sense that it was difficult to use, or anything - it's way easier than I thought it would be. And, actually, I’ve been bringing my laptop in for work, and have been able to make amazing magazines and pamphlets that are cool and designy and I’d never thought I’d be able to do, and other stuff like music and using the internet have never been easier...but that’s not the point.

The entirety of the Macbook’s amazingness centres around its track-pad, which I thought I would hate, but I didn’t. It’s really freaking cool, and intuitive, and if you press the command button before you click, it’s the equivalent of a right-click on a mouse, so there’s no downside compared with a traditional PC. But, anyways, there was an problem.

My trackpad seems to be possessed from the devil. Sometimes it moves on its own. Other times, it doesn’t move at all, or moves only right, or in slow bursts, and then I’ll give up in frustration to toast a bagel and return to my laptop, minutes later, to see that my trackpad is moving in zig-zaggy waves, entirely independent of any human hand.

The demon possession of my trackpad seems to come and go, with entire months of functionality, followed by weeks of frustration and threats of holy water. When it first happened, mere days after I got my macbook in the mail, I assumed I was the problem. After all, I knew very little about using Macs, and my last nice computer had died when I accidentally spilled water on it, so my record in taking care of nice, expensive electronic equipment was none too good. I assumed I was pressing too hard, or using the wrong digit, or...something.

Eventually, I learned that I was not, in fact, the problem...except when I insisted on eating near my computer, and getting bits of crumbs and oil slicks on and under the keys, which probably isn’t good.

But this learning came with a record good-patch of only the minor-est instances of demon-possession, and I thought, perhaps, my macbook had healed itself and learned to love me as I had learned to love it. So I pretended nothing was wrong, until life decided, once again, to slap me in my hopeful, skyward face.

I tried to watch a DVD, which was for work, as part of an initiative by the World Health Organization and several local governments to encourage sedentary individuals to get active and stay active throughout their adult lives. I was organizing some events, and somebody sent me a free DVD in the mail which features old people doing two-minute aerobic workouts to peppy elevator music, which...amazing. I was trying to explain the concept to my coworkers and encourage them to join in (movements include ‘Open the door!’ and ‘Pick up your grandchild!’) when the DVD, proudly displayed on my laptop, froze mid-stride. Concerned, I pressed buttons, blindly, in vain. A few seconds later, my macbook spat the DVD out, in seeming disgust. I thought that was a little rude.

Sadly, I let my coworkers proceed with their meeting without the mandatory fitness demonstration.

A couple days later, growing worried, I tried again with another health-related DVD sent to me by an obscure branch of the Canadian government. This time, the DVD never started, and was spit out almost immediately. And when I talked about this to a friend, they suggested using my manufacturer-supplied ‘recovery’ CD to ensure that all software was functioning properly, but then my macbook spat that CD out, unprocessed, as well.

I realized that, while I used to own a DVD player, I had lost the remote, and the entire thing had stopped working about six months ago, after which it remained on my floor, where a puppy had peed on it, prompting me to finally throw it away. I had not really noticed or cared about this loss, because I had an amazing macbook and it had largely replaced by need for a DVD player or even a TV. I still owned my tiny, baby ACER laptop, which I used prior to purchasing my macbook, but tiny, baby laptops don’t possess CD drives, which means I had absolutely no ability to watch a DVD.

Which...I only own about three DVDs, and for the most part I like to watch movies in the theatre or online, and sometimes I download them from iTunes, which means that I don’t actually need a disc drive at all, still seems like an important thing to have, in case I need it. Like a backup kidney.

Two days later, I realized, with growing distress, that the demon possessing my trackpad had returned with a vengeance. Checking my email and finding out my bank balance become a tiresome chore (it takes an average of five minutes and three gut wrenching screams of frustration before I can drag my stupid cursor to the appropriate shortcut tab). I realized that, with my imminent move, I had to phone people like BC Hydro and Telus, and that, because of my total reliance on laptop technology, I didn’t have stupid obsolete things like phonebooks and business cards.

...Why are you making my life so difficult, stupid demon possessed macbook that I love??

The demon possession has abated enough that I am able to blog, which I appreciate. And I finally, after seven tries, was able to navigate the web enough to book an appointment at an Apple Store, with a Genius, who will undoubtedly think that nothing is wrong but, at my insistence of demon possession, take my precious macbook away for repairs...which could take months.

And, since I decided not to install cable in my new apartment, or a phone, this move should be extra fun and interesting. How can I look up potential new furniture from the ikea website? How can I check my credit card balance, to see if I could possible finance said furniture? How can I order take-out food when its 2am and I’m sad and I don’t know the names or phone numbers of restaurants in my new neighborhood?

Damn you, macbook, I love you, but you’ve ruined my life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cool Free Stuff That I've Discovered On the Internet and You Should, Too

Ivy Donegal’s Interwebbed Guide to Free Knowledge...

Remember that discovery channel song that came out a year or so ago, the one about “loving the whole world” and being fascinated with all the amazingness of nature and humanity?

The world is a fascinating, beautiful, brilliant place. To be fair, it’s also a horrible, caustic, nightmarish hellscape which forces humans and animals into unthinkable situations as a matter of course. Suffering is everywhere. But the brilliance and beauty does not have to overwhelmed by the bleakness. And discovery, or learning, about anything, really, is one of the most powerful things that we can do, as human beings, to cope with all of the inhumanity that we’ve inflicted on the world.

Because, without ignoring colonialism and cash crops and the gushing oil spill in the gulf of Mexico (that’s still happening, right?), the world is still full of some really cool stuff. And the advent of the internet has made so much of that available to everyone with a decent bandwidth, everywhere, all the time, for free.

So, I present, Cool Free Stuff That I’ve Discovered On the Internet and You Should Too, a guide to all of the fascinating (and not too depressing) stuff that I’ve been amusing myself with over the past several months as a part of my lifelong learning.

(Note... “learning” may not sound like very much fun to you, and that’s probably because you’ve recently been in some sort of educational institution, and are still coping through the residual terror that high schools and universities tend to inspire. Be not afraid. It may take a long time for your brain to recover and that spark of curiosity you once had as a four year old to return - I still have occasional nightmares and panic attacks - but, two years after dropping out of university, I’ve found I can read again. For pleasure. And if I can pick up a book without curling up into the fetal position with blinding-white petrification, there’s hope for you, too.)


Like books, but hate to read? Do you love the idea of free books at your local library, but feel far too lazy to trek out to your local branch? Fear not! Audiobooks are here, often read by famous actors, along with electronic ebooks - which anyone in British Columbia (and many, many other places) can download to their computer for free (using your local library card, which you may have to actually leave the house to get).

Library to Go is, to me, the gold standard in free audiobooks. So go get your library card from your local branch and then login with that number, and have free access to thousands of audiobooks, from “Moby Dick” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” to Stephen Colbert’s “I am America and So Can You,” “Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters,” “The Art of Mindful Living,” and many, many more. Some of books are ‘always’ available, while others have a limited number of ‘copies,’ and a wait-list. But the ability to clean your room or pack whilst listening to Leo Tolstoy is an amazing experience, and the ability to add said books to your MP3 player or ipod, and then spend long commutes or boring business meetings listening to “Ella Enchanted” - it’s enough to make classic literature seem cool.

Discover...Foreign Languages!

So, you’ve always thought of yourself as the sort of person who would speak seven languages, but actually only know passable english and un peut de francais? Fear not.

Rosetta Stone is here, considered the gold standard of language learning - without any of annoying verb tables, tyrannical instructors, and social anxiety. Learning is via repetition and easily labelled pictures, along with voice-recognition software, which will have you saying “Hola” like a spaniard in no time, if you’re so inclined. Languages offered include Arabic, Dutch, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Vietnamese.

But Ivy, you ask, isn’t Rosetta Stone notoriously expensive? Doesn’t their website indicate that an entire Spanish Language course costs no less than $700, plus tax?

Enter socialized education. It appears that, in BC at least, any adult can take any high school course at any time, for free. And, due to the miracles of distance education, this means that any British Columbian, in their own home, has access to Rosetta Stone language licenses offered throughout the province. This is the provincial website, which has a searchable database of courses.

My current Spanish course in via the North Island Distance Education School and a lovely instructor, Derek, who sometimes sends me emails of encouragement after I finish a unit. I work at my own pace, which is sporadic, have 30 weeks to complete the course (all online). Also, after I registered (online), I was sent a Spanish-English dictionary in the mail, for free. Just because they’re nice people like that.

Sign-up is easy...You could be speaking Tagalog in no time.


I was raised in a culture of musical theatre, and the experience of watching My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, on repeat throughout my formative years, had many effects on my adult self. One of which was a love of Neil Patrick Harris and Glee.

A recent viewing of Sweeney Todd: In Concert has rekindled by love for the stage and distaste for all things Tim Burton (except for Big Fish). And many of the best musicals of the stage and DVD can be found online, with some of my favourite links included below. (If the links appear broken, a google video search usually yields similar results.)

Stephen Sondheim’s mastery (starring Neil Patrick Harris and Patty Lupone, among others) - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (in concert version, 2003)

Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, directed by the incomparable Joss Whedon, also starring the amazing Neil Patrick Harris. (2008)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - the 1954 Technicolour film which, while incredibly sexist in its plot and characterizations, is also amazing in so many ways. And hilarious. And the dancing and music is very well done. Some of you may judge me - I don’t care.

There’s lots more...but, for me, those three links would be good for about six months of impromptu dance sequences and endless annoying of my family and friends, so it’s probably best for society that I quit now.


Want to learn about the autistic woman who used her disability to connect with animals and revolutionize American slaughterhouse design? (It’s a happy story, I swear!) Watch the inspiring BBC documentary on Temple Grandin, available through youtube. (HBO is soon coming out with a film Temple Grand’s young adult life, starring Claire Daines.)

There are a LOT of other documentaries out there, and a lot of them are beautiful and earth-shattering...but they’re fairly depressing, too. One group of films which manages to stay inspiring and beautiful is BBC’s Planet Earth, which I’d recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen the series.

And now...I’m hungry. That was a lot of writing. I think I’m going to eat a bagel. Peace out, world.