27 August, 2015

Here We Go...

How long before every day is just another day?

Independent grocers in Toronto are fighting for the right to remain open September 7, Labour Day. They argue that the city bylaw specifically exempts businesses that sell "prepared food" from having to close on statutory holidays.

Every full-serve grocer and many of the discount chains sell "prepared food".

Mark my words. This will spread, both geographically and throughout the year, until every day is just another day.

The perception of the company I work for is that it would invent new hours of the day for the express purpose of keeping its stores open. At least as far as my store is concerned, this is not true: we close earlier than any other store in our district. And although we opened on the Civic holiday--which is, contrary to very popular misconception, not a holiday, I was actually paid stat holiday pay for that day for the first time in my career.  (There will be an upcoming post on how my employer is very different from how it is perceived.)

I believe, with all of my heart, that everybody should work retail at some point in their lives. The empathy quotient in the world would rise considerably. As it is..well...
The refrigeration systems in grocery stores have an uncanny ability to break down at ten a.m. on Christmas Day. And if you happen to be in the store at ten in the morning on Christmas Day, I have it on excellent authority that you will hear the phone ringing off the hook. If you pick up that phone, you will be greeted with "What time do you open?" "Why aren't you open?" "I only need a couple of things, please open your store."
On Christmas Day.
The funny thing is, if the store actually did open Christmas Day, it would hardly see any traffic at all. But that doesn't matter. The people who do come in feel entitled to shop when they want, where they want, employee time off be damned.

"Maybe the stores should be open," you're thinking, "but employees should have the option to work, or not, with no reprisals if they don't." Yes, that would work. Except when you're laid off two weeks after a stat holiday you declined to work on, you'll be told it was a "business decision",  and you won't have any proof otherwise.

"Competitive pressures", we're told. Except like everything else, grocery stores are now competing with the online world, which never closes. There really ought to be limits to convenience, I believe. If you need that salad or that salad spinner that badly, plan your week accordingly. Don't tell me you can't spare the time in your busy life, not when you look at a screen for twenty or more hours a week.

I am not religious in the slightest, but I wouldn't mind overmuch if we turned the clock back to a time when Sunday shopping was illegal. There's something to be said for a day of rest, especially in this consumerist culture. But that won't happen. Indeed, the very concept of "rest" is seen as a weakness nowadays. If somebody tries to bring a pill to market that eliminates or greatly reduces the need for sleep, I'm stating here for all of you to see that I will do my utmost to murder that person.  

I work to live. I don't live to work.

26 August, 2015

A Few Truths

Few people understand me.


Fewer still accept me for who I am.


Even fewer care.


I have said, and meant, that I love people to whatever extent is permissible, no less but certainly no more.  My actions haven't always aligned with those words. Out of loneliness borne of depression (or maybe depression borne of loneliness, I still haven't quite chicken-and-egged that), I've pressed a smidgen too hard, more than once, leading people to distance themselves, sometimes subtly and sometimes much less so. I have chosen to interpret this as their rejection of me. Ironic, since it's actually my rejection of them. It's me trying to make them into something they're not, rather than being happy with who they are.

It's funny, you know. Over the length of my marriage, any time tensions have risen, it's almost invariably been my fault. (Call me submissive or a pussy if you want: it's still true.) It doesn't feel like that in the heat of the moment, of course. But if I'm able to take ten steps back from the situation (and pry my eyes open--most of the time Eva's frustration at me is a product of glued-shut eyes), I will realize yet again that I am the cause of whatever is happening around me.

It's a vital lesson. It's something I know intellectually, but need to be forcefully reminded all too frequently. I AM THE CAUSE OF MY OWN DRAMA. Nothing "just happens". As my parents always said, "life is what you make it". It's all too easy to forget I am a creator.

This holds true with depression as well. My personality is susceptible to it. I've known that since puberty, if not before. By now I know the chinks in my armour that it seeks and exploits. The biggest one, by far, is the belief that the people who do not understand me, accept me, or care for me matter.

I know where that belief came from: a need to be needed. I have no idea why I allowed it to become as strong as it did. Somehow I managed to get to a point where the people who don't understand, accept or care mattered to me at least as much as the people who do. And that's no way to live a life.

I am not responsible for how clearly my messages are received, only for how clearly I send them. If I have sent as clearly as I can but my message of love is garbled into something it's not...the solution is not to try harder, but to accept and move on. Without feeling rejected. Without feeling worthless.

If I try to engage a Russian speaker in conversation using English, I'm not going to get anywhere. That's not my fault, or the Russian's fault. There's no fault. It just is. It won't help to speak loudly and slowly, or even to use simpler (English) words. I can simply accept that this Russian doesn't speak my language and move on in search of people who do.

While I'm at that, I need to remember that I AM SUFFICIENT UNTO MYSELF. This is a truth I set aside somewhere a year ago, and forgetting this has contributed mightily to the depressed state I have existed in.

Take...right now. I have two days off. (Nights, actually, but we won't quibble).  My standard approach to time off over the past year has been to wait for somebody to fill it, then feel terrible when that didn't happen. (And before I got my job, I was off every day...)
Oh, I wasn't just sitting here waiting for the phone to ring, by any means. I'm not quite that dense. : I'd often try and take an active role. "Let's get together", I'd say, and people would feel obligated  to agree. Not my intention at all, but it would come off that way, like they had to say yes for politeness' sake.  And so they'd (quite reasonably) bail, and I'd (quite unreasonably) feel miserable, forgetting both that I AM AT CAUSE and that I AM SUFFICIENT UNTO MYSELF.

My best friends, the people who understand, accept, and care without question--plans with them just sort of coalesce. What's more, I can go weeks, months, and in some cases years without ever doubting the friendship one iota. The next time I see them, the threads will be picked up as if they were never dropped.

THOSE are the people who matter. Knowing they are there gives me the security to fill my own free time up, without having to pester and bother other people to make time for me. The people who matter know that I am here for them, just as they are here for me. The people who don't...don't.


20 August, 2015

Of course! But maybe...

Link to one of my favourite comedy routines...

So the people who hacked Ashley Madison and threatened to release their client list have made good on their threat.

"Made good." The glee has been palpable. I've shared in it myself. Cheaters deserve to be outed, right? And they deserve whatever they get. I said as much not even a month ago, and I stand by what I said. Of course.

But maybe...

There are over twelve hundred email addresses with .sa suffixes on that list. The penalty for adultery in Saudi Arabia is death by stoning for married people and  a hundred lashes for unmarried people. Homosexuality merits a death sentence (and at least one Saudi Arabian claims to have used Ashley Madison for hookups with men while studying in the United States).

Now, you can ridicule these people for naively believing they and their data would remain forever anonymous. But...the death penalty? A hundred lashes (which probably works out to the same thing, more often than not)? For adultery, let alone naivety?: Really?

ASHLEY MADISON DOES NOT VERIFY EMAIL ADDRESSES. So the data is suspect in some cases. Two other sites owned by the same company--one for "cougars" (older women seeking younger men) and another for 'sugar daddies'--ALSO had their client lists hacked and leaked. Neither site catered to cheaters, but the data will inevitably be conflated.

Furthermore, consider these cases:
  • People who made an account for research purposes (social scientists of all sorts would have a field day);
  • People who signed up out of curiosity, with no intent to actually use the site;
  • People who may well have intended to cheat on their significant others, but decided not to and have since repaired or ended their relationship;
  • People who created an account to try and catch a partner whom they suspected was cheating;
  • Thousands upon thousands of 'scam' fake female profiles (which have nefarious purposes of their own that don't involve infidelity); 
  • Poly people.
(NB: I do not have and have never had an account with Ashley Madison.) 

My first thought when I heard AM's client list had in fact been leaked was (of course) musical. If you're among my younger readers, you may never have heard "Escape" (The Pina Colada Song), the last #1 hit of the 1970s. It details the story of a married man seeking escape from marital boredom through the personals: the woman he pursues turns out to be his own wife. The song is pure cheese...but there are some real lessons about communication in there. 

From there it was a short hop skip and jump to wondering how many people like me may have signed up with Ashley Madison, which was founded in 2001. 

There are a dozen tiny poly-themed dating sites nowadays, probably more; also FetLife, which caters to anyone wanting anything, and OKCupid, which is easily the preferred online avenue for polyamorists. It wasn't always; polyamory is still a niche. But before OKCupid became poly-accepting, there were next to no online dating options for polyamorous people. And while polyamory is not about cheating, as I have said numerous times...the two are, often, the ethical and unethical sides of the same coin.

It turns out quite a few poly folks did sign up with AM with the full knowledge and consent of their partners. This leak will thus have no effect on their relationships...but it may well compromise their employment or some other aspect of their lives. There are a LOT of poly people who are not "out" in any meaningful way, because the stigma against this love style is just as strong (and in some cases, perversely, stronger) than the stigma against infidelity. 

Privacy is kind of like free speech...there seem to be many people who believe wholeheartedly in privacy so long as what's being kept private is something they agree with. I have to admit I fall into this category sometimes. It's occasionally useful for me to be 'of course! but maybe....'d' out of my sanctimonious little hidey-hole.

Is cheating itself ever justifiable? I'd have said no--I did say no--until I read this from Dan Savage. The whole thing is VERY much worth the read, but I will excerpt the part most relevant to my point:

Take a woman who has two children with special needs, who has been out of the workforce for 15 years, and who is financially dependent on a husband who decided five years into their marriage that he was "done with sex" but refuses to allow her to have sex with anyone else. The marriage is good otherwise, she and her husband have an affectionate, low-conflict relationship, their kids are happy and well cared for, but sexual deprivation is driving her out of her mind and threatening both her marriage and her children's health and security. What would you advise this woman—whose letter, coincidentally enough, came in today's pile of e-mail—to do? I would advise her to do what she needs to do to stay married and stay sane. (And until this morning I might have advised her to join Ashley Madison.)

I'm sure there are a sizeable number of people in such situations... dead bedrooms are sadly common. I'd still argue forcefully that communication is the way to go and that hopefully  some sort of arrangement can be negotiated, but as Savage notes above, that doesn't always work. So I've been "of course! but maybe'd" into accepting that as a last resort, an affair may be preferable to other action.

Regardless, we must put aside our schadenfreude and consider: AM was compromised by self-proclaimed moralists. What other behaviours. completely legal yet perhaps frowned on by some segment of society, might be next in line to be exposed? Any of yours? Are you sure?

17 August, 2015


Please pardon the introspection. These blog posts are therapeutic, and a couple of people have asked me for an update. It's a good opportunity to take stock.

I'm one week into my antidepressant. That's far from enough to have fixed me...but it is enough to have made a noticeable (but extremely hard to articulate) difference.

It was, you'll pardon me, a shitty week...the kind of week that would have sent me careening way downhill without these pills. Three sets of plans fell through in three days. That happened entirely too often over the past year, and it always set me to brooding...especially if I was the one who made the plans. I took it personally, as a rejection, and then blew it out of all proportion. Logically, I knew, and know, that it's pretty much never about me, but logic simply doesn't register when you're depressed. Either everything is about you, and it all sucks, or nothing is about you because you don't matter, never did and never will.

I'm still brooding--it's only been a week, after all--but some...no, quite a bit of the sting has gone out of it.

Can I tell you what was scaring me about going on antidepressants? Bearing in mind I was depressed at the time? That I'd still be just as worthless, only I wouldn't care. I'd be this vacuously happy drooling idiot.

Yep, that's the kind of channel my mind always seemed to fall into. For over a year.

It's...really odd. I can still feel my brain trying to fall into that kind of destructive pattern, but it doesn't...quite...get there. I'm still fixated, still initially registering innocuous things as rejections...but instead of digging the hole deeper with every pass, I'm...more like sanding rough edges. Which is a huge improvement.

My next goal is to de-cling. I'm trying to normalize my use of social media, particularly Facebook. I should be able to go some reasonable amount of time between hearing from people without thinking they don't really like you, they were just pretending all this time. Stupid depressive thoughts, where the hell do they come from? They make no sense. I lived some 35 years without Facebook, and for a majority of those years I sure as hell didn't consider myself friendless. Furthermore, I KNOW I have friends, quite a few of them, very good ones. That's a fact proven many times over. I'm not alone in the world, far from it. I shouldn't have to talk to you, let alone see you, to remember that: I carry a part of each of you with me, and it's well past time I recognized that and cherished it properly.

Another thing I was worried about...because apparently I worry about everything...is that some weeks into the course of treatment, I would have a really, really bad day, the kind of day everyone has from time to time, and...how would I deal? Would it still register as a bad day? Is it bad to have bad days? Am I supposed to be happy happy happy all the time?

I think I'm starting to suss out the answers to those questions. Yeah, I'm still going to have really bad days every now and again...and those days will hurt...but they won't kill me from the inside out. I'll be able to process the hurt and move on. Because that's already started to happen.

Thank God. Or Trintellix.

12 August, 2015

Polyamory and Depression

Nice writeup here about how polyamory is becoming more visible, marred only by the description of polyamory as "ethical cheating". Cringe. Cheating means breaking agreed-upon rules, not abiding by your own set.
That aside, though, it's nice to see generally positive articles in the mainstream media. USA Today is about as un-obscure as media gets.

Pity about that comment section, though.

It's really nasty: worse than most I've seen, and that's saying something. The arguments advanced against polyamory are the usual: we are all sefish, narcissistic cheating commitment-phobic moral degenerates and walking cesspools of sexually transmitted diseases.

Ugh. So many willful misconceptions. As usual, I've waded in to try and set some things straight. I doubt I'll get anywhere, but the person I am demands I try.

The person I am right now is depressed, and I got to thinking I should set something straight here in the Breadbin as well. The depression I am currently being treated for settled in on me right around the time we embraced polyamory publicly.  I'm sure some people may be thinking that's no coincidence.

Correlation does not imply causation.

I've been depressed off and on, mostly on, for a little more than a year. As I have said several times, I have been poly far, far longer than that. Being poly, incidentally, does not mean having more than one partner, any more than being bisexual means you must date a man and a woman at all times. Check out the official definition, bold mine:

Polyamory means "loving more than one". This love may be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof, according to the desires and agreements of the individuals involved, but you needn't wear yourself out trying to figure out ways to fit fondness for apple pie, or filial piety, or a passion for the Saint Paul Saints baseball club into it. "Polyamorous" is also used as a descriptive term by people who are open to more than one relationship even if they are not currently involved in more than one. (Heck, some are involved in less than one.)

--from the alt.polyamory FAQ on USENET, first published May 29, 1992: I was a tiny, tiny part of that FAQ's vetting process. I and my then-girlfriend became regulars on that discussion group.

There have been ups and downs since I came out for the second time. Some of the downs have really stung...and may well have pushed me down a little further than I might otherwise have gone, at times. But being true to myself (and learning how best to model that authenticity) is a lifelong process having nothing to do with depression. Actually, I can state with confidence that publicly proclaiming who I really am has been a huge net benefit in many, many ways...and those ways will only multiply, like love itself, as time goes on.

My doctor: "So what makes you think you're depressed?"

"Well, I'm no longer thinking about suicide," I shot back, daring him to press his point. What makes you think is such a confrontational phrase. There are so many better ways to ask that question. Why do you feel you are depressed? Tell me about your depression. What are you experiencing, how are you coping, describe your symptoms...any of those sounds much better than what makes you think.

He didn't flinch at my short-lived venom. He's unflappable, for one thing, and for another I just don't have the energy to maintain anger. Or much of any other emotion, including sadness. I've had a joke response to 'how are you' for about ten years: 'alive'. For the past year, that hasn't been any kind of joke. I've just been...there. Sort of. Explaining this to him evidently convinced him that I don't just think I am depressed, I am actually depressed.


I am taking an antidepressant for the first time in my life. I feel no shame in this at all: it's far too common, and if I can deal with people criticizing me because I love too much,  people criticizing me for addressing a chemical imbalance can go suck lemons.  It's early, early days yet, far too early to draw conclusions.  Along with some expected nausea, I've had a small uptick in mood owing, I think, to the fact I'm finally doing something concrete about my mental state.

Oh, I've been trying to write myself better for a year now--look back on this blog and all the tools are there to make my feel good about myself. Reading them even works, for a while. just as the heartfelt love and support I have been given works, for a while. I have noticed over the past month or two that the effect lasts for an appreciably shorter and shorter period of time. It is precisely because I am aware of nearly boundless love and support that I have sought medical aid in adjusting my state of mind to better reflect my life's circumstances.

I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of my healing process from here on out. If it turns out this pill does not work for me, I will try another, and so on, until I feel more in tune with the world, more deserving of the love I receive, and much less clingy. You don't need to see the nuts and bolts of this process: I figure it should be self-evident in the kinds of things I do write about, and the (likely reduced) frequency at which I imagine I'll be writing them. The Breadbin is not going away, trust me on that, but I hope within a short period of time it will go back to what it was before June of last year: a pleasure cruiser instead of a life raft. 

10 August, 2015

In which much is confessed, and even more explained.

Is this okay? Is it really?

The number of people who say "yes, it's perfectly fine, lighten up" in the comments is truly astonishing. People? I meant men. The number of men who think that walking up to a random woman and kissing her without warning is completely acceptable...I simply can't believe it.

Ask Eva: most of my more, shall we say, "extreme" beliefs and behaviours have some grounding in childhood experience. I've said, for instance, that I never climbed a tree because I knew I would fall out of said tree and break my spine. That's true, as far as it goes. What you don't know is that I watched a kid at Cub camp do just that.

There was a really cool treehouse there. It had three, or maybe four levels, each one a good fifteen feet above the next, connected with makeshift wooden ladders. The view from the top was amazing. I know this because I climbed up there. Very, very carefully I climbed up there, with people laughing me all the way up.

The next day, Nameless went to climb up there himself. It had rained during the night and everything was still slick. He made the first step of the first ladder.

He didn't make the second.

His foot slid off the slippery wood at that exact crucial fraction of an instant when he had let go of the ladder to take his next step. He fell backwards with a grunt--not a yell, he was only a couple of feet off the ground, a grunt--and he landed flat on his back.

Not quite flat, as it turned out. There was this protruding rock, see. Barely enough to notice if you were scuffling along on the ground. If you fell on it just so, it would paralyze you for life.

Most people would view that as a one-in-a-million freak accident. Little Kenny viewed it quite differently. Little Kenny decided then and there that he would never climb anything ever again without a damned good reason.


You're thinking I've gone way off topic. You're wrong. I just had to get up a head of writing steam, because what I'm about to write is very difficult.


Grade nine. Oakridge Secondary School, London, Ontario

There is a hierarchy in high school. Everybody knows it. The 'minor niners' are at the bottom, almost without exception. When you are a member of a despised class of people, there is a very strong inclination to subdivide yourselves, to find the weakest among your number and prove that at least you're better than him.

I am, of course, him. I've been him since the first day of grade four, so it shouldn't be anything new or unexpected. Except it is. Because Oakridge kids are different.

No longer am I thrown into lockers, garbage cans, or toilets. Nobody has squashed my lunch, broken my glasses, or stolen my notebook...not that by now there's ever much in it. My notebooks were stolen so often the past two years that I've pretty much stopped using them entirely. No bullies here, not in the conventional sense.
What there are instead are snobs. Lots and lots and lots of them. I am judged inferior not because I wear glasses or because I weigh eighty pounds sopping wet but because my parents' occupations aren't up to snuff. I brown-bag my lunch every day...everyone else seems to buy theirs. The labels on my clothing are so, so wrong that I'd probably fare better showing up to school buck naked. By the standards of Oakridge S.S, I am a dalit--untouchable.

The shunning started pretty much the first day and it has continued, without exception. I have no friends. That's not unusual--I've had one over the last six years, three schools ago. He goes to Saunders now, and ironically, his parents decided after three years of close friendship that I wasn't his sort of people.
I'm nobody's sort of people now. This is made clear to me every day at lunchtime:  the people at whatever table I choose to sit at get up as one and scatter to the four winds. It's unnerving: like I have some kind of super ultra mega leaf blower, or rather, four of them. This can't be just because I'm not as upper-crust as the rest of these people. I don't know why they treat me this way. I've tried asking. Once.

"If you have to ask, you'll never know."

Well, that's helpful. NOT.

So I sit in class and lose myself in the lessons. I go to band (I'm learning to play baritone, which is a small tuba) and I lose myself in the music. Then I go home and lose myself in my books, like always.

I'm lost.

February. Valentine's Day. Or rather, Friday the 13th. I was hoping to dodge the dreaded VD this year by virtue of it falling on a Saturday...but no such luck.

I hate Valentine's Day. I imagine lepers everywhere do.

You have to understand, I am a fully functional human male teenager. More than that: I never went through a "girls are icky" stage as a kid: from grade four or five on, if you were female and you shared a class with me, you shared a hell of a lot more than that with me in my imagination. I'm fifteen now and I seem to have hit what we may as well call Peak Boner. It's embarrassing as hell, all the more so since it's not like I'll ever get to do anything with it.  I haven't so much as kissed a girl--for real--since third grade. And I kissed quite a few girls in third grade. I am, in short, hornier than the proverbial hoot owl.

To raise money for the United Way, the school is holding a kissing booth. [2015 Ken intrudes: you're going to have to believe me on this. I know it's not the sort of thing you can even imagine a school holding today, but I'm telling you: it happened.]

Twenty five cents a kiss...

Oh. this is, like, totally gnarly.  I live in an apartment building almost next door to the school. There's a laundry room in our building. With washers and dryers. That take quarters. I happen to know where an entire roll of quarters is hiding.

There are three girls who volunteer to be kissed. Older girls, grades 12 and 13.  I don't remember their names, any more than I remember the name of the kid who fell from the first rung of a treehouse ladder and became paralyzed. I do remember one of them was tall and willowy and seriously cute. The other two were lovely as well--even then, I wasn't picky as to physical type--but the tall girl had a smile that could melt steel. Or smelt it.

At first.


I wasn't even halfway through that roll of quarters when the smiles were gone. I'd like to tell you I stopped then, but that would be a lie. I did stop when the tears showed up, but by that point I was almost out of quarters.

Those tears brought me up short: my elation turned to ashes in an instant. At first, those ashes smouldered...god damnit, can't they at least pretend a little harder?  Then it finally dawned on me that all the other customers at the kissing booth had spent somewhere between a quarter and a dollar. I honestly hadn't noticed: I was too deep in a dream.

I withdrew in shame, and that shame intensified over the following days and weeks. Nobody needed to keep up the shunning charade: I started eating lunch in the music room, alone with a piano. Don't pity me: I earned every bit of my treatment that year, retroactive or not. Pity the nameless women, instead. They never asked for what I did.

I never did learn who those women were. I wanted, very badly, to apologize to them, but I also wanted, even more badly, to make sure they never saw my face again.


And that was when I changed from your typical lusty teenage male to something a little harder to fathom: a guy who kept his every sexual attraction (he still had more than his fair share)  firmly in check until he was absolutely, a hundred and fifty percent sure it wouldn't cause tears. After enough years of that I stopped feeling sexually attracted to random people, no matter how pretty they were.

Explains a lot, doesn't it?

I have carried that guilt with me for almost thirty years. If there's ONE day I could obliterate out of my entire life thus far, Friday, February 13, 1987 would be the day I'd pick without hesitation.

Is it any consolation to those women that I learned something from my despicable actions? I doubt it is. I wish I'd had the guts to apologize. I really do.

07 August, 2015

The Silly Season

We are in election mode.

My readership numbers tank whenever I get political. I understand that. Politics seems boring and irrelevant to a large number of people; to another subset of people, nothing I say is going to sway them from their candidate of choice. A third set already agrees with me, and...well, there is no other set.

So why bother?

Because like everything else, I take my politics personally.

I am a creator, a consensus-builder, and a rank idealist, that last to a fault. People have often called me naïve, and that's the one criticism that, for whatever reason, I'm able to shake off relatively easily. Sometimes my idealism backfires on me. Sometimes it doesn't. I still find it preferable to a philosophy of cold and cynical pragmatism.

I believe in power with, not power over; that people are fundamentally good (though often shortsighted) and that the word "profit" has more than one meaning. And furthermore--here's where the idealism comes out--I believe that governments ought to have a larger role in our lives than corporations do. I don't trust entities whose sole motive is to maximize short-term (monetary) profit at any cost, and the describes the vast majority of corporations.

Take the environment as an example. Corporations like to ignore the environment in which they operate, to the extent they can get away with doing so. The logic is sound from a purely economical perspective: externalizing your waste product costs, for example by, say, dumping your waste into the nearest river...well, it increases your profit margin, and it keeps the price lower for your customers. Win-win, right? No, not really. Because those costs you've dodged just get passed on to everyone who lives downstream. In Ken-world, governments would have, and use, the power to prevent this. In the real world, it doesn't happen near as often, nor to anywhere near, the extent that it should, and that is because corporations are larger than governments.

A similar effect is in play with wages. My blood boils every time I hear someone say that ___s make too much money. The statement is applied to everyone from  (unionized) retail cashiers to teachers to factory workers. Strangely, I don't hear it applied to hedge fund managers.

Retail cashier pay at one of my former employers is capped at thirty cents an hour over the minimum wage. I know people who have been stuck at that wage for fifteen years. You can say that those people should go to school and make themselves more marketable, and I'll ask you: using what for money?
Teachers: there are so many misconceptions about what teachers do and how they're paid to do it that the people spouting off really aren't qualified to have an opinion. Besides, if you believe teaching is such a cushy job...why aren't you a teacher?
Factory workers: the unionized ones do quite well, the non-unionized ones tend to make minimum wage or close to it. Same, or similar job. But it's always that the union folks make too much, never that the others make too little. I have always found that perverse.

You know what minimum wage is? Minimum wage is "well, we'd pay you less, but regrettably the government says we can't." Again, keeping wage costs low looks good on paper. Until you realize that your minimum wage workers can't afford to buy the products you produce, or contribute in any other meaningful way to the economy. Henry Ford, nobody's left-winger, understood this implicitly. There are a few today who do as well...but not many. It's a race to the bottom, and we're all losing. Who can arrest it, or at least slow it? Surely not corporations.  To turn a famous political quote on its head, corporations are not the solution, corporations are the problem.

From what I have written here, never mind what's in the rest of this Breadbin, it's pretty obvious I don't support our current government. The funny thing is, I don't doubt for a second that Prime Minister Harper truly believes he has the best interests of Canadians in hand and in heart.  He comes from a place of conviction...enough of his government's been convicted, after all.

Sorry, cheap shot.

I truly do not understand how anyone can support the man. Even if you agree with every policy of his government, the way he enacts those policies should greatly offend you. There is literally zero room for any competing viewpoint....on anything. Particularly if that viewpoint comes from an educated person. He has muzzled scientists, crippled his government's ability to collect data (supposedly in the name of privacy, which he later abolished under C-51), and he proudly, even defiantly, flaunts the Constitution. He will not take questions from Canadians unless they have been thoroughly vetted...and no more than five a day of those. He's shut down Parliament twice to avoid sticky situations. He routinely hides completely unrelated legislation in huge omnibus "budget" bills. I can go on and on, but I'll stop here: His solution to criminal wrongdoing in the RCMP was to rewrite the law and make it retroactive. 

That kind of behaviour is unacceptable in a leader...and I'd say that just as forcefully if it was a leader I had voted for myself. (Full disclosure: I did vote for Harper...once. I didn't like either of his predecessors much, either, and Harper initially campaigned on transparency and democratic reform. Ha. More fool I.)

The biggest problem in our country today, what really holds us back from getting anything done, is that if you disagree with me you're evil and if I disagree with you, I'm an idiot. What we need is someone who can work to bring differing viewpoints together.  

I will give my endorsement closer to October 19th, which is an insanely long way off, yet. In the meantime I will try to keep the political chatter in the Breadbin down to a dull roar: people do seem to like my personal posts more. But please understand that for me, the political is personal.

Cord cut. Snip, snip.

The Breadner household has made the move away from satellite television and to Apple TV.

This move has been a long, long time coming: we're not what you'd call early adopters. Frankly, I wasn't sure it would ever come...for many years, Eva has been wedded to the convenience of one bill for all our media and telecommunications...and for just as long, there wasn't a simple option to access the shows she likes to watch.

Enter Netflix, and especially Crave TV and Shomi.

Between the three of them, plus a streaming site for my baseball and hockey needs, pretty much everything we'd care to watch is available when we want to watch it, commercial free, and...oh, hell, this is old news to you, right? You've saved yourself thousands of dollars over the years by cutting the Bell and Rogers out of your life.

We've had a great-great-grandfathered unlimited internet plan at a not-too-obscene price: we'd been told that having three  services through Bell kept that Internet deal operative. We had four: a landline, our cells, the satellite, and the internet itself. When it came time to try and trim our monthly bills, preserving that internet deal was imperative. We could cut one service out and still be fine.

Most of you would cut the landline, I imagine. In this day and age, landlines seem to be redundant...I mean, hell, you can't even text on one. I'm still leery of killing mine. Cells are far too easily lost/stolen/forgotten/shattered/depleted to zero charge...hell, my little iPhone sucks power as if it's actually a washing machine. I think we'll get to the point where I'm comfortable with just my cell (and if you told me six months ago I'd say that, I'd have cheerfully informed you that you were full of shit)...but I'm not there yet and I won't be pushed.

Oh, yeah, and is it just me, or are cell phone charger cables a new cash cow for the industry? In this house they seem to work reliably for about a month. Maybe. Then there comes a day when you plug one in and nothing happens: ch-ching, another twenty bucks down the rabbit hole. Landlines don't have that problem. Just saying.

Thanks to Apple TV, we could save almost a hundred bucks a month cutting out satellite, and that's what we chose to do.

Bell doesn't make it easy. You're on hold indefinitely (probably because they're dealing with so many other people abandoning them)...and then when you try to leave, you're told you can't, not without paying some kind of penalty.  As it turned out, either we misunderstood the three-services-gets-you-reasonable-internet thing or, more likely, they changed it. We were informed that cutting satellite would hike our internet bill by twenty bucks a month. This really pissed us off, but what can you do? It's communicated in such a way as to make you feel like you missed a few lines of fine print. For all we know, we did.

Still: saving eighty bucks a month and not missing anything. Until they start screwing with our Internet speed even more than they already do. We are severely throttled here: I have friends in Pittsburgh whose internet speed is roughly six times ours and so far as I can tell, we're paying about the same a month. It's pathetic....but it's part and parcel of being Canadian, I guess. Netflix still streams. For now. I fully expect at some point they'll throttle it to the point where you'll be forced to get their premium package in order to stream anything.

Anyway, Bell retention called us yesterday with a last-ditch effort to try to keep us in the satellite fold. They threw so many numbers and so much bafflegab at us, and they wouldn't give us a straight answer as to how much money we'd be paying them if we chose to accept any of their enticements. In the end we hung up in disgust. It sounded as if they were trying to give us the satellite for free at one point, which makes less than zero sense from their perspective. I'm sure there were untold snarls and traps in there designed to siphon ever more money out of our bank account.

I'm ready to ditch Bell entirely. Unfortunately, we can't do that until our cell phone contracts are up...and I just started one. They'll find a way to preserve their ridiculous profit margins at your expense. Trust me.


I am having trouble adapting to the new economy.

As I write this, I can look up and see what remains of my CD collection. I haven't listened to a CD in five years at least. The CD drive on my Mac mini is pooched and so is the under-cupboard CD player in the kitchen. The only other CD player I have access to is in Herbert the Pervert, our Hyundai Tucson (so named because his seats are shaped in such a way as to violate you as you climb into one). So far as I know, no CD has ever been played in Herbert.
Off behind me is our tiny DVD collection: three TV shows (Joan of Arcadia, Game of Thrones, and Saving Grace) and a handful of movies. It gets next to no use.
In front of me is my 64 GB iPod, about half full of music: mostly classical and French, with a smattering of many other genres. I'll admit to pirating some music...the stuff I can't find in the iTunes store. But usually I buy my music, dutifully sync it to my iPod...and then, more often than not, end up listening to it on YouTube anyway. I'm about to start the free three month trial of Apple Music, and in three months I suspect I'll be asking myself why I ever bothered to own music at all.
Upstairs there are at least a thousand books. They're going nowhere. I keep adding to them. And yet...sigh...give me five years and I just bet I'll have a tablet with an e-reader function...and I won't have to replace all my books because I'll just pay ten bucks a month for access.

Looking at this model from the outside, there's a lot to like about it. For the price of one or maybe two widgets a month, I can have unlimited access to all the widgets. If I was normally in the habit of purchasing anything close to one or two widgets a month, this seems like a no-brainer. But call me paranoid if you will: when you don't own the product but only access it, access can be restricted or withheld at any time for any reason. That's in all those end-user license agreements we all pretend to read. Things like this happen. And if you cross the U.S. border with certain e-readers, you'll find the content has been geo-blocked. I don't like that. At all.

I'm a cautious sort: always have been, always will be. I'm not one for headlong leaps into voids. I imagine that eventually, I will look back and scoff at myself...heaven knows it's happened many times already. I'm on record right here on this blog stating a whole bunch of absolutely insane objections to iPods. (Go back and read that one: it's entertaining.) Hell, I distinctly remember getting Internet access for the first time in 1991 and asking myself what I needed it for. Everything I want is on my computer already, why would I want access to other computers? 


06 August, 2015

Premature Capitulation

I'm back. Much sooner than expected. And for good this time.

Last week, I had an attack of despair. As usual, it came out of nowhere, for no discernible reason: there is nothing in my life remotely deserving of such a black emotion. Nevertheless, these attacks come on with disturbing regularity. All the happiness drains out of my world as if somebody pulled a plug. If if it goes on long enough, other things start to swirl down the drain as well: motivation first, then energy, and eventually, in a very real sense, my consciousness: I start living on autopilot, barely engaged with the world around me, with little sense of how I got so low and even less sense of how to climb out. And yet I always have climbed out, aided by kind words from friends.

I shouldn't need kind words from friends. Nobody should need them, and I loathe myself because I seem to. Even more so since they have a half-life of two or three weeks...even less when I sense rejection on any front.

I understand that happiness, energy and consciousness are self-sustaining in normal people. I wish I knew why they aren't in me. I suspect it's related to other things I am missing, namely direction and purpose. Why THOSE should be missing is something I've been circling around in this blog for the better part of a decade.

Oh, there have been many other reasons for writing this blog: to refine my thoughts on life and love; to share unorthodox views on both; to write out quotidian stress. But figuring out where my motivations lie, or indeed if I even have any, has been the unspoken raison d'être of the Breadbin since May of 2004.

Probably not a good idea to let my despair kill the Breadbin, just when I need the Breadbin most.

That attack was a bad one. Not the worst I've suffered--I had one last summer and another in February that were existential--but bad. And starting to get worse. I wasn't just going to shut down the Breadbin; I was trying to figure out a way to delete my  Facebook account as well, without attracting undue attention. Like I say, I loathe myself when I get like that, and the last thing I want to do is go pity-fishing. Oh, here comes Ken around for his monthly ego-stroke. Like he's even got any reason to be depressed. What a whiny, needy waste of space that man is.  It's strange, because deleting Facebook would rob me of most of my social connections...surely not a reasonable action for somebody feeling disconnected. But then very little about depression is reasonable.

As ridiculous as it sounds when the sun is shining, isolating myself completely comes with its own logic when the black clouds descend. I already feel isolated, so isolating myself is only stating what I feel to be true. And nobody really needs the burden that is Ken, depressed. I'm better off in a hole somewhere.

I even wrote about this the last time I wrestled with it. Rereading that, I can see the tendrils of my disease gripping between the lines. August was a bad, bad month for me.


I was struggling, trying hard to grasp positives, when -- as usual -- this time around it was a friend reminding me

you must realize there are people who love you and people who need you in their lives

that gave me a foothold in the murk. That's phrased as an imperative ("you MUST") and it reiterates the connections I have, connections that seem so tenuous when I can't see through the fogs.

Then I had a couple of great shifts at work, where my efforts were praised and promotions were spoken of.


See, the thing that has masked my drift over the years is that I am internally motivated, at least when people are paying me to be. I don't do anything different in terms of work ethic at seven bucks an hour less than I was making two years ago. For the first time ever, I find myself working for a company that has noticed this and seems ready to help me exploit it, rather than exploiting me instead.

Now I have to fill out what appears at first blush to be a daunting Individual Development Plan. I admit to a fair bit of apprehension here: I'm pretty good at defining where I am. I've spent eleven years writing that out. I'm much less comfortable writing about where I want to go.

You see a lot of past in this here Breadbin. Quite a bit of present. Not very much future. Futures in my life have always been hidden. As a kid, I moved so damned often that I eventually couldn't look much past next Friday; I took a dead-end degree without any thought if what it might do for me, then dropped out in disgrace when I first got caught in the endless now of the internet. I aspired to stability--no more and no less.

I've got that. I've had that since I met Eva in 1999. We've been through and continue to go through life upheavals. Through it all we're building...something. I'm not sure of its final form, only that it will have one, and it will be multifaceted, because that's what both of us are.

But stability without strategy is stasis. It's like that woman who had sex in a swamp, did you hear about her? She's apparently six months stagnant now.

Having achieved stability, I was happy for many years, with only minor nigglings of what now? that I forcefully suppressed. If I was thinking what now, it meant I wasn't happy with my lot in life, right? And I was. Very much so. What would I change? We were living comfortably...not ostentatiously, but we'd gotten to the point where we could afford a real vacation every other year or so...just perfect for curious people who are nevertheless homebodies.  Keep me in books and internet and my material comforts are pretty much taken care of. I've always felt as if I had much more love to give, and even that has begun its own process of being addressed. Until I lost my last job, life was damn near idyllic.

Of course, there's a straw man in that paragraph. It is possible to be perfectly content with your situation and still want more. More responsibility, more chances to make a difference. And not to put too fine a point on it, more remuneration. The perks of my current job are exceptional; the pay is very, very ordinary.

And I am anything but content with nights, as I have said. While it's true that they're only as isolating as I let them be, it's also true that the amount of effort required to overcome that isolation is often overwhelming. You live on a different, darker plane of existence from everyone else.

I'm told I'll have to live with nights for a bare minimum of another eighteen months to two years. That's fine. My first career goal is to get myself to a place where I can afford to take the dollar an hour pay cut that foregoing nights will cost me.

The more I work in this environment, the more I feel I can bring to the table as a  manager.  Most of our staff are treated like five-year-olds and only a few of them deserve to be: I think it's a contributing factor to an insanely high turnover rate. I would be different, because one talent I have is recognizing people's strengths and weaknesses: playing to the former and working with people to address the latter. And I have found numerous opportunities for departmental improvement that have not been addressed by my superiors, probably on the grounds that I'm still green.

But I'm not. While I'm new to this company, I have many, many years of running my own department under my belt: even though 'manager' has never been a part of my official title, I've thrived under managerial responsibility.  I know what works and what doesn't.

And if there's any way I can work this

into my professional development, I'm going to try to do it. My store manager is Québécois: that can't hurt.

A promise to my faithful readers: If I go a long period without posting, it will be because I am busy living, not busy being sulky. I am seeking pharmaceutical help, to that end.