Category Archives: personal revelations

iPod 1: Bus 0

Okay, so term ended with the exam on Monday, and I finished marking on Wednesday, and I am done, with the exception of an UNHOLY mess with regard to a student with a learning disability, about which I will tell you more later, I promise. So yesterday, I got it into my head to whoop it up by going to the Mall, a thing I do approximately twice a year.

The Mall in question is not terribly far away, but it does involve riding the bus to a ginormous hub of bussery (GHoB) and then taking a very short trip on a second bus to the Mall. The first bus, on its way from my house to the GHoB, passes through the Campus of Craptacular U, the other U here in the Armpit, which has continually distinguished itself in the past few years by being in the top 10 of Imperial Universities for cost, and the bottom 10 for everything else. That’s right, it is the worst value for money education you can buy. Awesome.

It’s also broke, and, at the same time has an eleventy billion dollar budget for building. They built a HOTEL on campus. A motherfucking HOTEL. Meanwhile, they cut their entire communication department and all writing requirements for students. Their students don’t need to be able to write a stinking sentence, no sirree.

But I digress. Well only partially.

So, part of the current grandiose architectural vision for a building which touts that it will be housing, among other things “a state of the art communication centre” – yes, that’s right, there’s a new building for a faculty that no longer exists – is being constructed in such a way that the road the bus normally drives down is blocked off. So, the bus has to take a detour.

Normally my bus gets to the GHoB a comfortable couple of minutes before the Mall bus comes along, but the detour throws the timing off, and I can see that the bus I need is about to take off, as my bus pulls in. So I run up to the front of the bus, and ask the driver to wave at the other bus, which she kindly does.

I leap out, and dash to the second bus, and get on it, and am just celebrating this fact (yes, I know, I have such a dull little life that making a bus connection is enough to make me happy), when I realize that although I still have earbuds in, I no longer have an ipod at the end of them.

Shit.

So I beg the bus guy to stop and let me out, which, because he is an asshole, he do not do until the next stop. Then I race back and just manage to hop on my first bus which is leaving the GHoB. This bus driver, not being an asshole, says “take your time” when I ask if I can just see if I dropped my iPod. It’s not on the bus, and the teenage boy who is sitting where I was sitting says he has not seen it. Dammit. Well, if he’s lying, he can enjoy my audiobook of Mrs Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, I guess.

I get off the bus, and go back towards the place where I made my leap from one bus to another. And there’s my iPod on the ground. YES!

On closer inspection, there’s a TIRE track on the back of the silicone cover. FUCK.

(I want to mention here in case you are curious, that it is an iSkin Vibes cover for the iPod nano, although mine is the 4g version without the hard screen cover, which maybe in this case was a GOOD thing.)

I turn it over and there’s not exactly any visible damage. The screen is still on, but paused. I try to click the wheel and get no action, though. I try to reset it, and can’t get it to respond. Okay, now I am upset. Look, I don’t want to bore you with a whole rant about how I am utterly dependent on my iPod, but I am utterly dependent on my iPod. Let’s just take that one as read, okay?

Because I am a GIRL and I am utterly dependent on my iPod, I am feeling weepy and I call my husband to be metaphorically patted on the head. “OMGIwasrunningforthebusandIdroppedmyipodandthebusranoveritanditisbrooooooken,” I tell him.

“That’s okay,” he says. “You are on your way to the Apple store. If it is broken, just buy a new one while you are there.”

Oh, yeah? Did I forget to mention that that I was ON my way to the APPLE store? Talk about your irony, right there. That’s right up there with having your iPod crushed because the bus had a detour for construction of a new building for a faculty that was abolished.

Since I now have to wait for next bus to the Mall, I sit and take a few deep breaths. Then I take the ipod out of the case, the better to mourn its passing. Maybe we’ll have a little funeral or something. The thing is, it really doesn’t look damaged, that I can discern. It did come out of the really really tight case quite easily, which it never has before, though.

Just for the hell of it, I try pressing the buttons that make it reset. It resets.

IT RESETS.

HOLY FUCK.

Well, sure, it reset, but I bet it won’t actually work, will it? I plug the earbuds back in and try it get it to play.

Yep, that’s fine. It’s happily playing. No fucking way.

Well, I am pretty sure it won’t charge. This is just like it’s deathbed wheezing, or something. I text my husband, and he texts back “JUST BUY A NEW ONE.”

But now this is like a miracle, and I am INVESTED. Also, this iPod has a sappy engraving on the back because it was ordered online, and a new one won’t have that.

I get to the Apple store, and one of the overly chipper Apple pips comes up to me and asks if I need help.

“This may sound weird,” I say, “but my iPod just got run over by the bus, and it appears to still work, and before I rashly buy a new one, I was wondering if you had somewhere I could plug it in, to test if it will still plug in.”

He tries to look like he doesn’t think I am completely insane, but fails. “Uh, how about here?” He unplugs one of the iPods on display, and pops my iPod on there.

It charges perfectly happily.

It’s been 24 hours since this happened, and I have synced the iPod twice (just testing), and listened to it for several hours. It’s FINE. It’s HUNKY DORY in fact.

I know, you’re all like, “Dude, it totally wasn’t run over”. Which I would believe, except it IS slightly squashed on one end. I present to you photos, for evidence, but you might not quite be able to discern the difference unless you look closely at the shape of the top compared with the shape of the bottom.

Anyway, I was in such a good mood for the rest of the day that when the annoying jerky kid who had been bugging the hell out of us and everyone else at the pool for a good half hour started to drown, I actually swam over and saved him.

Okay, that was partly because I was in a good mood, and partly because if he did drown, they would have made us get out of the pool.

Free Bristol, too.

I know, you thought I was dead. I just checked out, intellectually. No promises, but I’ll try to get back into it. Assuming you are still out there.

Anyway.

Someone just linked me to this. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally gripped by the potential trainwreck that is Sarah Palin, abuse of power, enquiries into book burning, horrible policy choices and all. It’s times like these that make me thank the goddess I am not a USian. No offense.

But the Bristol thing hits home in a personal way.

Some years ago (not saying how many, and pbbbt to you, too) a 17 year old girl I know personally was pregnant and got pressured into getting married to the father of her baby, even though what she wanted was to keep the baby and raise it herself as a single mother. The father of the baby was her highschool boyfriend; he was kind of good looking in a geeky way, and had a sensitive artistic streak that somehow appealed to her, even though she was an ambitious, grade-grubbing over-achiever who was doing an accelerated High School program in order to get into University a year early.

Her father was pushing her to be an academic success, while her mother was just happy she had a nice boyfriend. The pregnancy couldn’t have been a more spectacular accident, happening, as it did, just before she went to Germany as an exchange student.

She got home from Germany, decision made, to face predictable pressure from his parents, who were Evangelicals with strong family values (read “fucked-up weird-ass wife beater” for the father in that scenario), and surprising pressure from her own family. It was too much, even for a strong-willed smart-ass. She married the boyfriend a month before the baby was born. The day after, the girl’s mother and father confessed to her that they wanted her to get married because her younger sister was pregnant, and there was no question of her marrying the father. Woah. Nice betrayal.

She made the best of it, writing to her best friend cheerfully about what might have been seen as grinding poverty. With the help of a sympathetic (childless) aunt, who did a lot of child care, she went to University, kept up with her courses and graduated with grades good enough to get her into a graduate program at a top-flight University.

The baby – a daughter – was happy and healthy, and the aunt and grandparents pitched in to help raise her in the early years.

Meanwhile, her husband was on kind of a downward spiral. He didn’t do so well in his classes, and eventually became resentful of his wife’s academic success. She had an affair. He started hitting her. Don’t judge him too harshly; it was behaviour modelled in his home during the time he grew up – his dad used to smash his older brother’s head into the pavement and call him stupid and a failure. Maybe, in other circumstances, the boy might have been able to see the pattern of abuse for what it was, and transcend it, but pushed too early into an adult role, he was emotionally handicapped from day one.

Eventually, the girl – well, let’s call her a woman – told her husband that she had had enough and she was going to leave him. They were walking down the street with their daughter, who was by that time around four years old. The boy – man – lost it. He punched his wife in the face, breaking her glasses, then picked up the broken shard of glass and dragged it down the woman’s nose. Blood dripped down her face, as she stood, stunned.

That’s my first memory.

Extremely apologetic brief update

I am sorry I have not been updating. I’ve been in Australia for 3 weeks, and there have been huge upheavals in the Feckless saga. I’ll be home in a couple of days, and I promise to totally spill my guts, including some fascinating revelations about the cultural differences between Canadians and Australians.

On spiritual kindred, or kindred spirits.

I’ve been having a tough time emotionally lately, and for various reasons I haven’t really wanted to talk about it much to my Real Life colleagues and family members. In the spirit of not using my blog just to whine about Feckless and his Mongolian Floozy, I am not going to talk about it here, either. What I really wanted to write about was about the nature of online friendships, and how interestingly intimacy and anonymity interact.

I’ve developed some really interesting online frienships with people I know from a particular forum; I liked what they had to say, and maybe we also hung out in chat together, or exchanged messages or emails. These friendships are based originally on a meeting of the minds; they are with people who are so separated from me in age, or geography (or both) that there is no way we would have met, let alone become friends in a real life situation, but that impossibility is part of what makes me treasure these intimacies. I pick these people to be friends with because we share some essential similarities – they make me laugh; they make me think about stuff; we don’t need a history together, all we need are common interests and philosophies.

In real life, we meet people, and we share experiences, and we have some stuff in common, but often, I find, with real life friends, you make allowances for opinions and personality traits that piss you off. My best friend at university was a vet student who was great fun, but gradually became less and less of a kindred spirit as time passed and the things I dismissed as her annoying quirks became more and more central to her personality. Sometimes we hang on to these kinds of friends – I only really dropped the Vet because I moved to a different country. If we still lived in the same city, we would probably still hang out occasionally.

Work friends you like because of proximity, and for me, because I like to exchange ideas at work, and I spend part of my day hanging out. Apparently, this makes me “a good colleague,” according to my Chair. I like the a lot of my colleagues, but I also know that if I quit my job tomorrow, I would never bother to talk to the majority of them again, and I wouldn’t feel that as a huge loss.

Online friends for me are a matter of pure choice. There’s no social obligation attached, really, and people come and go much more freely than they do in real life (big showy exits are more frequent in online communities, but so are quiet, creeping returns). Silence is much more common, and sometimes its hard to know how to interpret it – if your real life friends hang up or stop calling, it is a big deal, but online friends might just have had computer trouble or borken internets.

People who don’t have an online social life say stuff like “but how do you know if what they tell you about themselves is true?” which is a fair point in evaluating friendships according to real life criteria. However, I’m quite happy to have a friendship with an online persona, and not trouble myself too much about how true it is to the “real” person. If your persona is much more fun and interesting and intelligent than your real self, I think maybe that says something about the quality of “real” life, rather than something about honesty.

We all create online selves; we reveal what we want to reveal, but if what you show me of yourself is something I like, why should I be too worried about whether you are a married mother of 4 who claims to be a younger woman or a single 30-something who pretends to be an old guy?

Likewise, maybe the quality of the support network offered by online friendships is not the same as “real” friends who bring you icecream or help you move house, or babysit your spawn when you are desperate, but on the other hand, I have felt hesitant about talking to my “real” friends who have known me forever, and always seen me as part of a “perfect” couple about Feckless’ shenanigans. Online friends, with that relative degree of anonymity, can be excellent listeners.

I never really believed in that old saw about how it is much easier to talk to strangers than to people you know, but I think it is easier to talk to people who don’t have to know all the extraneous details of my life, who don’t know Feckless, and who can perhaps also bring a degree of objectivity (or a degree of “rah, rah!” if that is what is needed) to the situation.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying – e-pals, I really appreciate your support. SJ, Surely, Lorelei, witch, reggiko, Annan, and yes, even Pescado: I appreciate your friendship. Readers, I appreciate your potential friendship; feel free to say hi.

Sestina

Lorelei said “sestina,” and this is what popped out.

I can see myself twofold in the mirror –
the easy choice to be a wicked witch;
much harder to find forgiveness, truth,
and love. Thus and so, I feel my way
stumbling through the thicket of roses, blind
and insightful: a paradox, defined by doubt.

Ironic that the thing I never thought to doubt
is now my downfall. If I look in the mirror
I don’t recognise myself. I am a cliché. Blind
with tears, my reflection wavers. The witch
I thought I could be mocks me. The way
I saw myself is hollow, emptied of its truth.

I want to scream at you to tell me the truth,
but there is no truth anymore. Only doubt
that undermines every utterance. No way
to trust you, or my feelings. The mirror
is dark and unreliable, as if that witch
had cast a spell on it, and made me blind.

For a moment, I found hope, but it was a blind
alley. You turned on me and questioned the truth
in my desire. Suddenly, I’m the wicked witch
again: I’m not kind; I’m manipulative. I doubt
myself in new ways. I thought your eyes mirrored
my regrets, but we were not facing the same way.

I want our bright love to last, not fade away.
Is this just an after-image on my eyelids? I’m too blind
to tell. I cling to bleak hope. I don’t want the mirror
to show me what I dread. The truth
is, that all I really have left is doubt
in my intuition. But I’m an oracular witch.

If I were not me, I would bewitch
you with a kiss, and force you to turn away
from the path you’re taking. I don’t doubt
my powers.Well, I do, but I could blind
you. But that would be a love without truth,
and I’m greedy. I don’t want a plastic mirror.

I doubt anger will help, which is the only
reason the mirror isn’t smashed. Don’t go away.
That’s my truth. I keep loving, blindly.

What Hillary and I have in common.

I really didn’t create this blog for the purposes of venting about Feckless Husband, but today he is seriously getting right up my nose. I got an email from him this morning announcing that he and the Vanessa Mae Wannabe are leaving BF, Asia for some remote undisclosed location and will be out of communication for 2 days. Apparently, this is for a concert. Dude, 3 camels in a ger does not a concert make.

There are a lot of things about my situation that upset and annoy me, but apart from the obvious, I found that Jack Hitt really put his finger on one of the deeper underlying issues in his article “Harpy, Hero, Heretic: Hillary“. That link will take you to the full text in Mother Jones, but the key point is here:

Hillary is an avatar of an existential dread skulking in the hearts of every couple who’ve tried to put together a life since the feminist revolution. This anxiety explains why the darkest question a liberal feminist can ask is: Why didn’t she leave that son of a bitch?

The flip side to Hillary’s ambition evokes every career woman’s greatest fear. How fragile is marriage? It can come apart as quickly as that girl delivering the pizza can snap her thong. And there is no amount of superachieving or hard work that can prevent this lurking humiliation… It’s absurd, sure. It’s clichéd and pathetic. But, for the working wife, trying to build a career off the foundation of her marriage to even the nicest (smartest, richest, handsomest) man, her worst fear is that he’ll stray in this, the most debasing of ways. It’s a complete denial of her womanhood, an essential insult. It’s why the kind of anger liberal women feel toward Hillary always circles back around to the issue of why she stayed in the marriage. Why didn’t she take a stand against male grossness?

There’s a lot in that passage that rings true for me, even though it is (ironically) written by a man. I thought I had made an equal, civilised, grown-up 21st century marriage, with an educated man who had ethical and aesthetic standards. Suddenly, my husband apparently prefers a skimpily-dressed airhead who can’t make up her mind if she is 28 or 29, and who has an “interview” with herself on her website in which she makes the following statements:

Do you have a boyfriend or a special person?
Yes, I have a boyfriend; I can’t be without a man!

Which is your favourite musical group?
I very much enjoy watching and listening to Kenny G on sax.

It makes you question the fundamental values you thought you shared. More ominously, it brought home to me that although I thought my marriage was an equal partnership, when the shit hit the fan, it turned out that I was just as vulnerable to male oppression as any woman. Because I refused to abandon it immediately, my husband currently holds all the power in the marriage.

Before this happened to me, I was definitely in the category of liberal women who thought Hillary had betrayed feminist womankind by putting up with this shit. Now, unfathomably, I am in her shoes, putting up with being cheated on. No, more than that, agreeing to let it happen, at least for this month.

There are times when I feel like I have betrayed myself, actually. Why didn’t I kick his feckless ass out when I found out about the affair? Why didn’t I do it when he finally confessed? Is it because I don’t feel able to cope on my own, as a good feminist should?

I’d like to think it is because I am holding on to something worth having, and that he will come to realise that. We have a child and a life together. On my bitchier days, it is because I think, “Kenny G? Seriously?”

Reflections on anonymity

I decided to make this an anonymous venture, for two reasons – first, so that I can share my What Ladder? moments without too much of an ethical twinge about student confidentiality, and second, so that if I feel like venting about my feckless husband (currently spending a month working on a concert for a floozy in BF, Mongolia, and no doubt bonking her brains out), I can.

I was talking about anonymity and blogging with my incredibly smart brother, Henry the Philosopher, last night. H the P maintains that no one’s blog is truly anonymous, and his hobby is finding the supposedly anonymous blogs of his freinds, acquaintances and enemies in order to poke fun at them. I challenged H the P to find this blog, and here are his observations:

Here is how to find when a person naturally compromises their identity:

  1. They will mention their cats’ names on their anonymous blog – search their pets’ names.
  2. They will use the same sig as they do on other forums – search for their sig.
  3. If they revealed their new blog to some other person, that person will exist in both the anonymous and non-anonymous places using the same username or sig. Search for their friend’s username or sig.
  4. They will use one email address in conjunction with two different nicks. If people spend enough time on the internet, they will eventually reveal a public email address.
  5. People think they can reveal their age, gender and location without compromising their anonymity, but it really helps to narrow the field. One of the best things you can do to hide your identity is to change your age, gender or location to a false value.
  6. The idea is to create a cloud of search terms which surround but exclude the obvious ones. So you don’t search for a person’s primary nick, but you search for all the terms that show up near their primary nick.

I don’t think you made any of these errors, but maybe you aren’t indexed on Google yet. But you were probably trying not to, plus your blog hasn’t been around very long. Eventually, you would probably be findable in this manner.

I just edited his PhD, and I complained bitterly about that pronoun agreement error, but clearly without any lasting effect. Grammatical niggles aside, I am taking his list as rules to blog by.

It makes for an interesting balance, or a shift in identity. I revealed something here that few of my friends and none of my family members know, although they so many other things about me.