Category: Miscellaneous

There is a difference

Today it is Jr’s “harassment” note, decades ago it was the assertion that “harassment is an ugly guy trying to get some”, but the fact remains that *harassment* there is a whole spectrum of harassment. Some dude whipping it out on the lunch queue, that’s blatantly obvious harassment without me specifically asking the individual to keep their genitalia covered. But harassment can be subtler too. The harassment I experienced frequently at work (twenty years ago) was the kind that became harassment when the guy refused to stop. A coworker asking me on a date is not harassment; a fellow student asking me to go to a dance is not harassment. Asking a dozen times *IS* harassment. Grabbing at my person and telling me how much I’ll enjoy the date *IS* harassment. And throwing them down on a bed, and attempting to disrobe them whilst covering their mouth … that’s not just harassment, that’s assault. And battery. And likely false imprisonment.

History Without Context

There’s a challenge in teaching history to young people — whilst it is not good to proceed through life ignorant of what has come before you, there are facets of history that are simply incomprehensible to a five year old kid. Explaining why some people are afraid of the police, describing the point of the military … it is a snarl of sociological and political facts, individual experiences … there’s a good and a bad side, but it is difficult to understand points of view without the entire history that created that point of view (a bit like coupling Zinn’s People’s History with Johnson’s History of the American People and calling that a balanced history lesson). I used to advocate for the inclusion of fictional works in University history classes — while the story itself may not be true, fictional works provide a picture into the reality of the time. History provides a context for books, and books provide a context for history. Arthur Miller was not randomly enamored with the Salem witch hunts.

Sadly, Anya’s teacher has begun down the path of history without context. Today (why not yesterday!?!) she taught the kids that “bad people” crashed planes into buildings in DC and NYC, as well as PA. Which left me to try explaining that it’s not like half a dozen people woke up one morning and thought it might be a lark to try flying an aeroplane … only to find it wasn’t as easy as it looks on TV. It was an organized group executing a plan. It was also a group organized partially because of terrible things done across the globe. A cause can be just without justifying any action taken in support of the cause. The validity of a cause doesn’t make the action right any more than “he hit me first” makes slugging your brother right.

A lot of nation-states, countries, and people have done a lot of terrible things to one another in the name of just causes … the events of which the teacher spoke is an egregious example.

Did you know … Sub-addressing

Sometimes you need to provide your company e-mail address – registering for a conference or training class, signing up for an industry newsletter. Unfortunately, this can lead to an inundation of unwanted mail.

Exchange Online supports something called “sub-addressing” (so does Gmail … and you can test your email service’s support of this feature by sending yourself a message from some other source. If it gets delivered, you’re good. If not … bummer!). Sub-addressing allows you to slightly modify your e-mail address to customize it for every situation – between your last name and the ‘@’ symbol, put a plus and then some unique text. It will look like Your.N.Ame+SomeIdentifier@domain.ccTLD instead of Your.N.Ame@domain.ccTLD.

When signing up for a Microsoft newsletter, I can tell them my e-mail address is Lisa.Rushworth+MicrosoftSecuritySlate@domain.ccTLD … and messages to that address will still be delivered to me. When I sign up for the NANPA code administration newsletter, I can tell them my e-mail address is Lisa.Rushworth+NANPACodeAdmin@domain.ccTLD.

Should you start receiving unwanted solicitations to the sub-address, you can then create a rule to delete messages sent to that address.

You can also alert the person to whom you provided the address that their contact list may have been compromised … although my luck with that hasn’t been particularly good. Most companies deny any possibility that they might be the source of disclosure. Even when the address disclosed is Me+YourCompanyNameHere@… because that is something someone randomly generated. Sigh!

Just say the word

It worries me — the did he / didn’t he “say the n word” question once again surrounding Trump. Not because I think he did or did not use the term, but because the discussion is meaningless. Trump will deny saying it — hell, he denies writing things that are archived in his Twitter account. He denies saying things that even when told there is a publicly available recording of him saying it. The racists among his supporters will see a wink with that denial. Some willfully blind supports will believe the denial. Opponents will assume the tape exists. Whatever.

Words are powerful, but not in the way this debate seems to imply. Not saying a specific word does not magically cure the social, political, and economic problems in this country any more than having a president say radical Islamic terrorism magically solved the real social, political, and economic problems that lead to terrorist attacks.

But what makes a single word the arbiter of racism? I had a physical education instructor who was sexist. The fact he called every girl in his class “chick” didn’t make him sexist. His belief that we were less capable because of our gender, that our time in physical education would best be spent sitting on the bleachers fixing up our nails, that we did not have the mental capacity to be taught. That made him racist. Had the man respectfully called me by my proper name every single time … he would still have been a sexist asshole who had no business teaching school children.

Someone who made his political name demanding a president show him some ID, who knowingly called Mexican emigrants a bunch of rapists, who thinks shutting down Mosques bears consideration, who refers to hut-dwellers from shit-hole countries … words are powerful, but refraining from uttering a specific word does not negate his racism. Maybe the dude was not a racist (discrimination against tenants and such says otherwise, but just pretend). Maybe Trump’s political persona is a role he’s playing. Willing injuring others by inciting racist violence. Scapegoating others for serious economic problems. Fomenting a social environment where racist actions are acceptable. Maybe that’s not racist. It’s still horrendous behavior.

Show Respect

All NFL Players ‘Shall Stand And Show Respect’ For Flag And Anthem – Wow! I wish I was an avid football viewer so *not* watching football would be a state change. Hopefully being permitted to stay in the locker room enables players to make their point. If two guys on a team of, what, fifty people aren’t on the sideline you’d never notice. Half only emerge once the anthem is over? That makes a statement too. And someone’s camera would end up in the locker room to cover the protest. Any takers on how long it is before players aren’t permitted to stay off the field after that protest makes news?

‘Show respect’ is a ill defined term too. I assume this is so you don’t have guys standing backwards, but how is hanging back in the locker room playing candy crush *more* respectful than kneeling during the anthem? And for the guys on the field, some dude who was kneeling last season is a little slouchy in his stance, the team still gets fined to avoid a presidential tantrum?

The whole idea of being forced to stand for the anthem seems anathema to the ideals of our country, even if the long history of private employment shows we can be forced into just about anything if we want to continue receiving a pay cheque. The same could be said for being forced to stand and pledge allegiance to the country 180 days a year for thirteen years. Or more – I was rather dismayed to learn that my daughter’s preschool class was taught the pledge of allegiance so they could recite it at their graduation ceremony. Now I’ve got a bit of an Anabaptist philosophy – I don’t much see the point in having someone repeat words or go through a ceremony without *understanding* what they are doing. I avoided children’s clothing with words on it – overkill, yeah, but a six month old baby doesn’t *mean* to say “I just did 9 months on the inside”, “Grandma’s Drinking Buddy”, or make a boob joke, no matter how many people find the messages cute or silly. Until she knew and understood what the shirt said, she got shirts with pictures. Or patterns. Or plain colours. So I asked my kid if the teacher explained what allegiance *is*, or even explained any of the historic principals of the United States. Of course not; they were just given words to recite. Now we’ve had some discussion of the country’s principals and failings – she votes with me two times a year (primaries and general, this is not some admission of voter fraud), we’ve discussed how to affect local, state, and federal laws (and the diminishing influence an individual has as you move from local to state to federal government). But the principals of the Republic for which the flag stands is pretty abstract to convey to a preschooler. And pledging allegiance to a flag? The essence of a nation is not bound up in its cloth banner.

Forced recitations of pledges and vows do nothing to impart knowledge, develop skills, or promote good citizenship. As an intimidation technique, forced declaration of faith and loyalty are not new, although they are generally the hallmark of an insecure society. People do not become more patriotic through such declarations, but being subject to coercion can have the opposite effect.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Some company official posted an internal article titled “Sitting is the New Smoking” to tell us all how bad sitting for prolonged periods of time can be for your health. While they make suggestions for using your break to do some exercises or suggest cube-exercises … frankly, they’ve designed a job that requires sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Some people have standing desks. Not all. Not most. My understanding is these things were purchased as accommodative equipment the company had to purchase based on medical need. If sitting is as bad for your health as smoking, did the company not just publish its own statement of medical need to support widespread purchase of standing desks?

Beyond near-term costs, though, the assertion brought to mind the Black Lung Benefits Act from nearly two decades ago. While mine operators may have been able to reduce exposure to coal dust, some level of exposure to coal is requisite in mining the stuff. A generally unavoidable environment based on the work being done caused a major medical problem that led to disability and death, and companies ended up shelling out disability payments and survivor benefits. It wasn’t quite the least they could possibly do to quell public outcry, but there are a lot of *’s on qualifying that let reasonable requests be denied or pushed off for years without retroactive payments. Even so, the payout is like eight grand a year per afflicted miner. And there are like 30k recipients (and something like 5k dependents, which can drastically increase the annual payout). That’s minimum two hundred forty million bucks in 2017. And it’s a LOT less now than a decade ago. There are nuances to determining the payer, but it is generally the mine operator most recently employing an affected individual. A significant portion of this money has been payed by mine operators.

Sitting at work is different from exposure to coal whilst mining coal. There’s no reason most jobs require sitting for hours on end. Historically there’s a component of elitism — a hundred plus years ago, low paying jobs were physically intensive, and it was a bit of an elite thing to be able to sit at work. Now the sign of affluence is a few spare hours a week to exercise, and sitting is just a norm no one has sought to change. If a company is aware of how bad sitting is for its employees, seems like said company would have a better defense against liability if they actively attempt to re-design their workplaces and jobs to avoid sitting. Sending out a mass mail telling you how bad something is or having a webinar to tell you how bad it is … but generally employing people to sit for hours at a time isn’t much in the way of due diligence. Routinely deploying standing desks, even in training classrooms, would reduce mandatory sitting among call centre staff. Walking meetings for one-on-one or small group sessions.

 

Those who do not know history …

Those who do not know history compound errors by using phrases with loaded meanings or abysmal histories. As the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee retires names so no one has another Katrina approaching them, I assumed politicians would retire phrases which haunt their predecessors. Then there’s this guy:

With a narrowly defined ‘mission’, sure it’s true. But GW stood in front of someone else’s sign and “mission accomplished” still hasn’t escaped the new connotative meaning.

There’s *ALWAYS* A Worse

I thought James Comey was fired in about the worst way imaginable – giving a speech at a remote office, he sees a TV with a banner announcing her termination and thinks it’s a joke. Which … I know a lot of people with that sense of humor. I remember putting an etc\hosts record to direct someone’s company home page to an internal sandbox web server, cloning over the internal home page project, and editing it to announce the company’s merger with some big competitor and the immediate closing of the HQ office. Screen grabbing CNN, throwing on a new banner, then playing the video back isn’t a stretch.

Then Rex Tillerson, who set out to prove experience negotiating mineral rights contracts is the same as negotiating international political situations where everyone isn’t getting what they want, read his boss’s tweet and learned he was terminated. This is what you get when 48% of voters want a guy whose fame, really, was firing people (in new and dramatic ways) on TV.