Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Not-So-Awful Truth About Being Single

"If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company."  Jean-Paul Sartre

In yesterday's Globe & Mail, Margaret Wente claims that people can get to a much greater depth of understanding and "perfection" of self through a married relationship than they can possibly do if they remain single.
"...the road to self-actualization isn't through perfection of the independent self, but through imperfect, messy, long-term relationships.  Everybody needs someone else to nurture, and someone to stand up for them, and someone to plan the future with, and someone with whom they share a past."  
Wente stumbles into one of the most annoyingly common false dichotomies surrounding this issue:  either you're married or you're alone.  And she continues that single people are lonely implying, of course, that loneliness never ventures into a marriage, that it's solely a quality of aloneness.  I've never been married, yet I know too well the messiness of relationships with myriad friends and colleagues whom I nurture, stand up for, and with whom I share a past.  We don't plan a future together in the same "until death" way that some married people manage, but that shared future in marriage is often illusory.  The future is unknowable.  Shit happens, and happily married people can still end up on their own.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Stoic Resurgence

In reading a few other blogs lately, Stoicism has come up a few times, and I'm seeing it in a few books I've been reading lately too.  Maybe it'll stick this time.

In Robin Hanson's blog discussing why middle aged people are most pessimistic, I suggested that maybe it's a point in life where we know too much horrible crap happening in the world, and it's making us miserable.  And we're just before a point in which we've found a way to cope with the unending tragedies that are part of being alive.  Maybe my cohort will become happier in a stoic manner - once we get our heads around how little control we have over the world, accept that many of these problems aren't ours to solve, and develop a tranquility around it all.

Then stoicism came up again in arguments about the relationship to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy via Lieter Reports, a N.Y. Times article by Kathryn Schulz about self-help books' suggested dualism of selfhood.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Lasting Influence of Rhoda Morgenstern

I just saw that the house featured in the Mary Tyler Moore show is up for sale.  And I've been thinking about how much I was influenced by the character of Rhoda.  I used to wait for the few minutes she'd be on screen each episode.  I'm sure I'm not alone.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Climate Change as an Asteroid

Over the break, I got a Kindle app for my Macbook (free!) when I realized I could wait for morning to go to Wordsworth to get one of Paul Krugman's books, or get it right that second and start reading.  Immediate rewards are very motivating.

The book outlines the diminishing overlap between Democrats and Republicans and the increasing rich/poor gap, and explains how the government could actively change this current scenario.  It's not impossible at all to manipulate things to stop the debt crisis and eradicate the kind of poverty the states is seeing in its "1st world" citizens.  The problem as I see it is that the people in power are in the 1%, and they'd have to actively destroy their own means to wealth in the process.  What could possibly make them want to do that to themselves?  What could make people work collectively at the expense of the gains they've made individually?  A common enemy.  Kennedy said that long ago, and now we've got a few.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On RESPs, EAPs, Grants, Gains, and Morons

Okay, maybe "moron" is a little harsh.  I just finished a painful conversation with a banker.  We argued for over an hour before he asked a superior and conceded that I actually know what I'm talking about.  Here's the deal...

ETA (Jan 10) - Okay, wait!  The following shouldn't have happened at all according to Rob Carrick AND according to the Canada Revenue Agency.  I'm still waiting for National Bank Securities to explain themselves - or for the agent I spoke to to apologize for an error that maybe had nothing to do with company policy.  And I could be out $5,000.  I'll keep you posted.  Anyway...

ETA MORE (Jan 13) - The following shouldn't have happened but for a different reason.  I got an e-mail from National Bank Securities, and they showed me the complicated formula and insist it's government imposed.  SO why doesn't the Canada Revenue Agency know about that??  BUT we're NOT back to (as I'll get to later):  if you withdraw the EAP portion in a family plan, you have to ask for a little bit at a time in hopes you don't go over,  BECAUSE the last person I spoke to at NBS completely understood what I was on about, and said she solves this problem by making a note to tell the "formula people" when someone's close to the maximum grant, and they make sure it's the full amount. Rob Carrick wasn't precisely right when he told me I could "specify the breakdown of the money", but what you CAN do, is specify the amount of grant you want, and they can figure out the formula from that figure instead of the total figure then give you the total amount later.  Too bad that first guy just didn't get it.  The problem isn't the formula, it's that some agents at NBS don't understand how to use the formula to help the customer.  Anyway... back to the beginning...

I'm at the wondrous point of withdrawing RESP contributions.  It's a tricky, tricky thing to do.  It shouldn't be, but it is.  I'm going to explain it all right here for anyone googling for advice.   First of all, if you've got a kid under 18, get an RESP - you can backpay for a few previous years if you've missed out on this windfall.  It's well worth the automatic 20% gain.  But there's a lot of information out there that explains it all from that end.  Here's what's harder to find - the withdrawing bit:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Crisis of Environmentalist Faith

A couple of sentences from Matthew Altman (from "The Green Onion") have been weighing on me for days:
Ironically, environmentalism itself can become a means of advancing our own selfish interests, as when we barely adjust our lifestyles in order to feel a disproportionately strong sense of smugness....If a well-intentioned environmentalism does nothing for nature, it only has ["morally bankrupt"] anthropocentric value:  its contribution to the environmentalist's sense of self-satisfaction.
Is the smugness the bigger problem here or the uselessness of the pursuit?  If I do all sorts to try to save the world, and still feel devastated because I recognize what little impact I have, I'm still doing precious little for nature, and then my acts don't even have anthropocentric value.  They got nothin'! My "Sisyphean" efforts do little to actually prevent global warming.  Shockingly, my letters and petitions aren't yet being acted on in parliament.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thanks for the Contract, Laurel!

In a cab ride yesterday, I happened to catch Laurel Broten on the radio explaining how necessary it was to first deny teachers' right to negotiate, then impose a contract, and then repeal bill 115 to make the teachers happy again, all to help decrease the insane provincial deficit.  What a hero.

My concern with her speech (and everything about this) is she presents part of the argument as if it's in its entirety.  She leaves out crucial information, and some information she includes is misleading.  It's beyond a biased presentation and sliding into propaganda territory.  And it's so easy to simplify it all to "teachers are greedy" sound-bites instead of elucidating honestly on the entire dilemma.

She suggested that unions walked away from negotiating tables because of money.  But back in April, OSSTF negotiated some substantial money-savings initiatives, and the government walked away.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On Being a Mean Mum (and Defining Bullying)

"He cut Charlie's ear, and he's driving him nuts!  Water won't hurt him; it will just remind him to stay off our porch."

"You know what you just cut, mom?  The line that connects us.  You are not my mother anymore in  That's it.  We're over."

My eight-year-old is mortified that I sprayed a visiting cat with water. My neighbourhood is full of wandering cats with good homes, so this is not likely a stray, but he's new to our porch.  And he's a vicious little bugger. It wasn't just my own cat's injuries that drove me to such malice.  The visitor scratched my daughter as she tried to pet it.  She's never been scratched by an animal before - so it was a personal affront as well as a physical shock.  For the record, she also terminated my matriarchal position when I insisted on washing the cuts - with soap even - and coating them with polysporin, which, apparently, soothes like battery acid.

Our (Slightly) Wounded Charlie
The Visitor