Static

I’ve been having static trouble lately. Both kinds.

Type 1 Static: Sheer bloody inertia. Putting on clothes, brushing teeth, making coffee… too much effort. Nope. None of that. Going to sit perfectly still and play Farm Mania and watch Play School with the ninja until my brain liquefies.

Type 2 Static: Annoying fizz between ears that inhibits creative thought. Nothing shifts it – playing stimulating music, watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, hot showers, all the usual things? No, they will not be working now. Now all your creative neurons have collectively rolled onto their backs, making an irritating fizzing sound and refusing utterly to cooperate.

Type 1 is linked to depresssion and anxiety, and I’m following the prescribed steps to deal with it. But Type 2 Static is just… argh. I don’t even know what it is, sometimes it just happens and it’s the most irritating thing in the world because I can’t think and I can’t imagine anything and I get so very bored. I really don’t realize how much time I spend creating stories in my head – original, fan-fiction, silly songs, whatever – until I can’t do it and suddenly the walk to the train station or the shops is twice as long and so very, very dull because there’s nothing going on in my head and nothing going on outside my head and I get so bored.

I was having trouble with that yesterday – usually I enjoy pacing up and down at the station waiting for the train, listening to my music and creating a Tyrion and/or Zuko fanvid to Lion King 2‘s ‘One of Us’ in my head. Just for a random example.  But yesterday I couldn’t kick my imagination into gear at all, so I was getting bored and frustrated as I paced, and then this guy showed up to wait for the train too, and he was just… standing there. At the edge of the platform. Just standing, doing nothing.

I really, really wanted to ask him how he could stand it. I was moving around. I had my music. And I was still bored out of my skull because of the stupid static. And he was just standing there staring at the train track. I can’t do that even when I don’t have static!

I didn’t ask, of course, because it would be rude. And maybe he was just absorbed in the My Little Pony/ Gargoyles epic crossover he was writing in his head, I don’t know. Maybe he was reviewing football scores or composing a breakup speech. Who knows?

But he looked bored. And yet he was just standing there.

Does anyone else ever look up from their book or their game of solitaire or whatever on a train or in a food court or something and see people just sitting and think ‘aren’t you so bored? how can you stand it’? I do, all the time. I’d really like to know, actually, so if you do know, fill me in please!

Stupid static. I’m going to go make myself more coffee and see if it budges anything.

You Are Not A Statistically Relevant Sample

Is there a politer way to tell someone ‘you are not a statistically relevant sample’? Because I used those words in an argument a while ago and caused some offense.

It was true, though. I offered some statistics on institutionalized sexual discrimination (I actually memorized numbers, and you guys know how hard remembering is for me) and the person I was talking to asserted that there is no such thing because she, personally, knew two women who were high up in management in very successful companies.

I hate, hate, hate when someone responds to ‘societal trend’ or ‘statistical information’ with ‘personal anecdote’. I believe that you know women who are successful. I will even believe that all your female friends are super successful and happy with their career choices. Sure.

BUT YOU ARE NOT A STATISTICALLY RELEVANT SAMPLE.

“But I know women who are successful.”

“But I would never rape anyone.”

“But I don’t have any problem with trans/gay/non-white people.”

“But I totally knew a guy who was accused of rape and it turned out she made it up.”

I believe you. I do, I swear.

YOU ARE NOT A STATISTICALLY RELEVANT SAMPLE.

No matter what your gender, sex, sexual orientation, age, race, nationality, height, whatever. Your personal opinion does not trump everyone else’s experiences because statistics. And because logic. I’m not saying it’s not relevant to anything ever, but when one is trying to discuss institutionalized racism in one’s country’s history personal opinions are not evidence.

Racism, sexism, any old ism you can think of, there are people who will trot out a single anecdotal example to the contrary and think that that’s a counter-argument. And it isn’t. It really, really isn’t. Your opinion does not counter the thousands of incidents of racially or sexually motivated violence reported every year, or the prejudice people other than you experience every day. A single anecdote, however moving, does not counter them either. I don’t care if you were mugged by a gang of rabid feminists who made you kneel to the matriarchy, laughed at your penis size and then stole your wallet. Well, I do care on a personal level, because obviously that would be scary, and I sympathize, I do. But unless there are over 84,000 reported cases of Feminist Muggings every year, and when you tried to report it you were asked if you’d been drinking and what you were wearing and told you must have asked for it, and your partner blamed you for giving other women your money instead of bringing it home to her because you must have wanted it, then it does not mean jack shit in an argument about rape statistics because one incident is not a trend and it does not mean that sexism is over.

On a personal level, yes, you have my deepest sympathy.

But you are still not a statistically relevant sample, and you cannot extrapolate a social trend from a single incident. A personal anecdote, no matter how personally traumatic, is not an argument against an institutionalized social thingie. (Watching Finding Nemo does not make remembering appropriate language easier, so you know).

I haven’t been able to come up with a more polite way to say ‘yes, but your personal opinion doesn’t actually outweigh facts’, so arguments with certain members of my family and circle of friends will continue to be fraught with difficulty.  However, this phrase has worked quite well for me in derailing the ‘yes, but personal anecdote’ line of argument. Just look the nay-sayer firmly in the eye, or the text, and say as nicely as possible ‘yes, but you are not a statistically relevant sample.’

Anyone who is made angry by your failure to accept that their personal opinion and anecdotes are equally relevant to the argument as the entirety of a United Nations statistical report compiled from multiple government sources is a person who has not done their research and is therefore a suspect source of information. Assuming that you have done your research and are not likewise talking out of your butt, unless they have a really killer argument for how their personal experience illustrates a larger trend (and I’m not saying that the ‘established facts’ are always flawless, for the record), the odds that they’re right and you’re wrong are pretty low.

The odds of me getting my butt flamed off for this, by the way, seem pretty high. I’ll concede that I’m only going from my personal experience here, but observation tells me that when a woman announces ‘your opinion is invalid’, her chances of being flamed by men is very high. Let’s see if the facts bear out my personal experiences!

Narrative Reality

Things have not been going well for me lately, what with one thing and another. Bills, medication adjustments, and the like.

And some higher power is trying to comfort me with sales.

The seat of the ninja’s pram is giving out? HERE MASSIVE CLOSING DOWN SALE AND WHEN YOU GO THERE’S A NEARLY BRAND NEW REPLACEMENT SEAT FOR YOUR PRAM FOR A QUARTER OF THE USUAL PRICE FOR YOU.

You want a new couch? HERE IT’S LESS THAN HALF PRICE BECAUSE IT HAS A LITTLE HOLE IT JUST WENT OUT ON THE FLOOR IT’S FOR YOU.

New desk? EIGHTY DOLLARS OFF FOR A FEW SCUFF MARKS HAS TO GO TODAY FOR YOU.

Now that I’ve gone into debt to buy a couple of reasonably necessary pieces of furniture (we didn’t have enough seating for everyone in the lounge-room and my desk is developing a serious wobble), though, the sales keep coming.

That pizza you like? Super sale!

Computer games on sale for you.

Five dollars off your next book purchase because we love you.

Shoes!

Clothes!

Household items!

A TV that’s less than twenty years old!

And I have no money left, and yet I keep being offered things I love – and things I need – at vastly reduced prices. Which is kind of helpful, because it means I can buy some things I couldn’t otherwise have, but is also frustrating. It’s sweet that you want to make me happy with my very favourite thing, higher power, and I do love shopping for bargains, but it would be so much better if they were spaced out a little!

….

So I drafted this the other day and left it half-finished because it was kind of personal and boring and I just did the thing about the new desk instead.

So guess what?

A Daiso Japan store opened in Brisbane. Full of all sorts of things that I want, like rice molds and cheap but sturdy plastic containers and useful things like that.

And everything in it is AU$2.80. Prices even the unemployed can afford.

And it’s open just in time for me to go there when I go out for Free Comic Book Day and the Buddha Birthday Celebrations, so I can do it all on one train fare.

If I wrote my life as it stands now, it would be ridiculously unrealistic. Magical Sales coming to comfort the suffering and impoverished? And it may, of course, all be coincidence. But it’s a very nice coincidence, and one that’s making me feel a lot less overwhelmed. It’s as if someone’s coming to my rescue in the nick of time.

Missing Milestones

I had intended to make some sort of note of my hundredth post, but apparently I missed it, as this is my hundred and second. This is absolutely typical of me, as I am notorious for missing important milestones (including my own birthday).

I mean, not the *really* important stuff. For example, Free Comic Book Day is this weekend, I know that. And it therefore follows that the Buddha Birthday Celebrations are also on. This is a family tradition for us – we go get lots of free comic books and cheap manga (my favourite store usually celebrates FCBD with a manga sale) and then we cross the Brisbane River into South Bank for vegetarian food, bathing of the Buddha and other fun.

The Buddha Birth Day Festival is a big deal here in Brisbane. It’s not only the biggest multicultural festival in Brisbane, it’s also, according to its own website, the now recognized as the biggest celebration of the event in the world, with hundreds of thousands of people attending. There is dancing, a Baby Blessing Ceremony (which the ninja underwent two years ago), dozens of vegetarian and vegan food stalls, calligraphy lessons, activities for kids and a hundred other things. If you’re anywhere near Brisbane on this or any other first weekend in May, I really recommend going.

I’m trying to come up with something witty and interesting to say, but Angelina Ballerina is playing beside me and that little dancing mouseling is a brain-sapping idiot.

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting a lot lately. Life outside the computer has been taking a fairly massive dump on me of late. But I’m still hammering away at it. And I’m kind of proud of making it to a hundred posts. Thank you to every single one of you following me – it means a lot!

If there’s any subject anyone would like me to write about, or something, let me know! I would love to get requests!

New Desk!

I have a new desk!

I went out yesterday to buy a new mattress for the ninja’s new Big Girl Bed (she’s three, and loves getting into grownup beds, so the cot is being retired) and bought myself a new desk as well. It’s much wider than the old one, with drawers for putting important things in, and a little socket for putting the hard drive into, and it doesn’t have a hutch like the old one so it will be much less cluttered.

See how pretty it is?

See how pretty it is?

This was a big step for me. Losing my little shelves and all my clutter will be hard, and I hate change.

But being reasonable about it… I don’t *need* any of this stuff. All these CDs have been ripped to mp3 and are safely stowed away in my computer and backups. I don’t need fifteen-year-old game disks or the belt to a cardigan I lost years ago or extra cords that I don’t even know what they’re for or the old remote for the DVD player that broke or the sleeve I always forget to put my tablet into and holy crap there’s a lot of stuff up here.

All the things in my desk that I actually need – my tax information, my address book, my current games and so on, will fit perfectly well in the drawers of the new desk. And my working area will actually be clear and useable for the first time in a long time.

I think this is a good thing. I think this is progress.

And honestly, the pain of change is greatly eased by the fact that I got $80 knocked off the desk because it was a scuffed floor model. I don’t care if it’s scuffed. A white desk is going to stay pristine about eight seconds in this house. It will get its first baptismal coffee ring within the first 48 hours, I know this to be the case. So who cares if it’s scuffed, it was cheap!

Security!

So on my way back to Australia, I was wearing a new bra.

Riveting stuff, right?

The damn thing set off every metal detector I walked through. Suddenly I was a Slightly Interesting Person to the security people.

Only slightly interesting. Being a white, English-speaking female wearing a suburban-mum outfit travelling with an American (and male) spouse and carrying a sleepy three-year-old apparently puts you fairly low on the list of dangerous types. Nevertheless, I was removed from the line and patted down and such.

I’ve read accounts of this that made it seem very upsetting and scary. And I’m sure it was, for those people. Certainly I think that our pallid-middle-class appearance stood us in good stead. But seriously, the TSA people were just so nice! The first time I set the detector off, the guy gave me about five tries to get through without jostling it, then waited while I passed the sleeping ninja to the spouse and waved me through to speak to one of the female TSA people. (Officers? Peons? who knows?) She took one look at my not unimpressive bust and said it was probably my underwire, and did I buy my bra at Nordstroms by any chance?

I had.

She nodded wisely and said that yes, that usually happens. The lines carried at Nordstroms use a heavier gauge of underwire or something. She asked a couple of times if I knew what a patdown entailed and if I wanted to have it in private. (I said no, but it was nice to be asked). The pat-down itself was barely noticeable, and another TSA lady very kindly assisted my husband with our copious carry-ons, stroller, and dozy little ninja while I was otherwise engaged. They were all very friendly and nice about the whole thing, and I was warned that since I knew my underwire would set off the machine, I should just offer to go through the body-scan machine at LAX, when we switched to the international flight, so I wouldn’t have to get patted down again. The TSA lady giving me the patdown assured me that she worked around the machine all the time and had absolutely no worries about safety, radiation-wise, which was a nice effort to be reassuring.

Unfortunately, there was no scanner in the area I went through at LAX, so I had to be metal-detected again. And once again, the lady doing the pat-down was very nice about it, offering me privacy and apologizing a couple of times for having to feel around in the waistband of my jeans. Once again, someone else helped the spouse manage our bags, piling them up on a bench out of the way while he had to wait for me and helping him manage stroller and ninja. They even hurried my mobile phone through the scanner so it could be handed back to the ninja, who is besotted by a new nursery-rhyme program I downloaded for her.

So if you’re traveling to or from the USA, and have heard the scary stories about the TSA… well, sometimes they’re true. But sometimes they can be awfully nice and helpful, too!

And wear a bra with thin underwire.

The Bookshop. THE Bookshop

I am home!

Which, sadly, means that nobody is going to make me a mocha when I lurch out of bed, or offer to cook breakfast for me, or watch the ninja while I sleep until noon. I miss you, kindly mother-in-law! But it does mean that I have my preferred brand of soymilk for my coffee (which the spouse made for me, so I still didn’t have to make my own), my favourite kind of bread for my breakfast toast (the USA does not contain King Henry rye bread, which is a terrible loss for the USA), and I have my own computer again and I have missed it so much!

I have also missed Tumblr. I love you, Tumblr.

It was a pretty great trip, all up. Got to spend time with family, show off my beautiful and well-behaved daughter, and do fun stuff like shop at the BIGGEST BOOK STORE IN THE WORLD. Seriously!

Powells' City of Books

Powells’ City of Books

This is only part of it, by the way – the City of Books is a full city block in size, with many rooms on multiple levels. My personal favourite is the Gold Room, which contains science fiction, fantasy, comic books and manga. Perhaps you would prefer to get some children’s books or YA from the Rose Room, a best-seller from the Green Room, a travel book from the Red Room or a historical tome from the Purple Room. They have everything, and I mean everything.

They buy new and used, so I’ve found out-of-print treasures for a few dollars, including a copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Budge’s translation) which I’d been hunting for for ages. It is THE bookshop, the shop of shops, where you really can get lost – seriously, you can get so turned around in there. The spouse tells the story of a man who really did accidentally get locked in there one night at closing – he was sitting in an out of the way corner and had dozed off. There’s a coffee-shop that they let you take books into. There are shopping baskets in bright primary colours and a checking desk, so you can buy an armload of books, drop them off, and keep shopping!

The new and used thing means you should check every copy of a book – some will be much cheaper than others, especially if they’re a little foxed around the edges. There are some amazing bargains – but be warned! It’s possible to spend a lot of money in there very quickly. If you live close enough, you can offset this by bringing old books to sell off, earning yourself some store credit.

If you’re travelling from far away – well, try to control yourself. And make sure you have some spare room in your suitcase. But wherever you are in the world, if you love books, then Powells’ is definitely a place to put on your ‘places to visit’ list. Portland is a lovely city to visit, unless you really hate rain, and I absolutely recommend it a stop – or the destination – on a reader’s literary pilgrimage.

And if you can’t afford that, they have an online store.