Working hard or hardly working

I had an interesting political conversation this morning. I am generally of the left-wing persuasion — tremors of shock echo through the very small readership of this blog — but it’s always interesting to chat with people from other political leanings. Lately we’ve lost that ability to talk among ourselves and disagree or find common ground. When was the last time you said that’s an interesting point to someone with different political leanings?

The thing that sticks with me from our discussion is the idea of work. The person I was talking to said that they were okay with some government programs and services, they just want to make sure that people work and earn stuff. My reaction was okay we have something here. I agree that people should work.

The difference between the left and the right on this front is the question of whether or not they will work, or are already working. Somehow the left has failed to be the answer on this.

When I think about work I think of all the people out there dying and failing to stay afloat while working endlessly and doing the best they can. Some people can’t work for a variety of reasons, but I’m not prepared to make assumptions about why that is. Sure, some people are lazy and useless, I’ve done enough group projects to harbour no illusions. Still the vast majority of people I know want to work and will work. A lot of them are working and not getting by. The dream of stable hours and health insurance seems far off and distant for many.

I’ve worked jobs that were awful. One was a retail job where I was scheduled 6 days a week for four hour shifts. Because I had to pay for a two zone fare in Vancouver I spent the first hour of each shift earning the cost of transit. The other three didn’t cover basics like food and rent. I was working six days a week and not earning enough for it to be worth showing up. They had one full-time employee. The rest of us were part-time waiting to be fired after Christmas. They also liked to cancel our shifts on short notice.

I did not get insurance. I did not get a living wage. I did not survive. I was working all the time but not in a way that respected me or allowed me to live.

Now I have two gigs. Neither guarantee me hours. Neither give me benefits. I am working and working and can’t see a way to have another job. Still I am poor and not getting by. I don’t have coverage for dental or the ability to cover rent that in some neighbourhoods is more than I earn each month.

Social democracy is great for business and it’s great for giving people who are working really hard rights and protections, and access to basics like prescriptions, dental and glasses. It’s great for making sure that people who might be working multiple jobs can actually afford food and housing — trust me a lot of them can’t right now.

Being an entrepreneur is risky and prone to failure. For people to leap they need to know that there is a floor they won’t fall below. Obamacare was great for small business owners and expanded medicare in Canada would be great for contract workers like me. These programs don’t cancel out work, they make it possible and worthwhile.

Let’s all agree that most of us are working, but that for many that work isn’t paying off like it’s supposed to or that for others it’s just too hard to find a good job. Some people are slackers, but I fundamentally believe that most people most of the time want to work. A lot of them already are. The DI here in Calgary gives out lunches for people staying there and going to jobs. That’s how bad things are. You can be working full-time and living in a homeless shelter. Let’s worry about that and not the occasional slackers.

Flat tire

I was out in Canmore this weekend. This morning I discovered that I had a flat tire. It wasn’t a huge deal, I have an AMA membership but it did eliminate any possibility of popping by Banff. A gentleman in a van appeared quickly and got the spare on in no time. He told me that the max speed on the tire was listed at 80 km/h and that I would be in trouble if I went above 90.

I decided that taking the 1A home was probably my best bet. It’s slower and calmer, and the Bowfort construction has been a bit annoying so I’d been thinking of going that way before I discovered the flat. It just meant that I would be going 20 km/h below the speed limit most of the way. People would have to deal.

Going out to the mountains is a blast but driving on any of our highways in the Rockies is a terrible experience most of the time. People are crazy and aggressive. I usually get honked at at least once for going the speed limit. I don’t get when we became this crazy and aggressive people or when following laws became optional — yes speeding is as illegal as stabbing people. It makes it awful and stressful to try and go hiking because you have to deal with a bunch of people who somehow forgot that vehicles can kill you at highway speeds, and that we’re all sharing this space and need to find a way to make it work.

There wasn’t that much traffic on the 1A and I tried to pullover when I could. I wasn’t that concerned by it, I didn’t ask for a flat tire and I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day. One car felt the need to give me the finger as they jetted by as if the five minutes I cost them was the worst thing possible. Apparently they lack the basic empathy to imagine that there is some sort of reason this vehicle is going slowly, must just be some idiot in your way.

I hate the way people drive in Calgary and Southern Alberta. Our traffic isn’t that bad but I get routinely honked at and sworn at for doing things like obeying traffic laws or waiting to turn until I can see clearly. These delays cost nothing yet people act like it’s the worst thing anyone has ever done around them. It’s not a race and I’m not ruining your life. We’re all just trying to get where we’re going. It would be nice to not act like an asshole on the way, and to make sure we actually get there alive and uninjured.

After the fact

There have been a number of terrible tragedies in the UK of late. Yesterday we awoke to news of a council tower burning. The conditions in the tower were deplorable and the tragedy could’ve been prevented. It wasn’t.

It’s great to see people coming out and offering support to the victims and those who have been displaced. It would’ve been much better to actually protect the people living in the tower and all those like it before the events happened. It’s great to donate clothes and offer shelter after a tragedy. It’s another to build a fair and equal society where those without lots of money are entitled to basic things like safety and shelter, and where we require housing to be fit for human habitation. We haven’t done that.

The response to this reminds me of the story of the homeless man who assisted victims of the Manchester bombing. He was awoken while sleeping rough and went over to help because it was the right thing to do. Sadly before his story went viral no one had bothered to help him. Crowdfunding campaigns were started and he will get a brief bit of help. Before that he was someone you probably wouldn’t have bothered to speak to or acknowledge as you walked past. You definitely wouldn’t pay slightly higher taxes to ensure that he and others like him have a roof over their head. Or pay slightly higher taxes to ensure that that roof wasn’t a fire hazard or filled with mold.

We’ll donate after the tragedy, after the story goes viral but not before that. Until then we want our right to buy, lack of regulation and a system that says if you don’t have money you don’t matter. You don’t get a home, safety, food, in Canada prescription medication, dental care and glasses. You are on your own and I will keep that little bit of sales tax thank you very much. Look at Grenfell and ask how you can wake up everyday and build a world where people matter and have access to a decent standard of living, not what clothes you can donate after a bunch of them are dead and injured because they just didn’t earn enough money to matter. If you can donate as you watch in horror and sadness, or applaud the homeless man who turned out to not be so bad then you can also build a more equal society, that starts with your vote and attitudes towards redistribution.

I am reminded of the 99PI episode about egress, the thing that people in Grenfell desperately needed and died because they didn’t have. Good egress involves taking care of people you will never meet in case something bad happens to them. It involves being a society where we work together and look after one another. Right now we’re a society where we keep our heads down and only look up for a few minutes after something horrible happens. I don’t feel protected or taken care of. The people in Grenfell certainly weren’t.

The whole package

My family members often tell me that I love backpacks and end up endlessly collecting them. I don’t agree with that statement. It may have been truer when I was young and wanted new and shiny things but now it’s not. Now I find backpacks frustrating and disappointing. It’s not that I love them, it’s that I keep buying them hoping that the new one will meet my needs and then it doesn’t quite do what I want.

So I try again. And again. And again.

At this point in time I don’t actually like either of my two main backpacks. One is comfy but a bit small and quite ugly. The other has a fatal design flaw that stops it from being very useful and lacks a laptop pocket. I plan to use them until they die or I get enough money to be able to replace them without it ruining my finances for the month — I inhabit that space where if you gave me $100 it would profoundly improve my level of happiness that is known as being poor and precariously employed — though since second job came along I purchased new pants without checking my account balance and being really stressed so life is better than it was. I also feel this strong need to use things because they are in my possession whether they worked out as planned or not.

I have thought about starting my own backpack company that makes backpacks that solve all the issues I’ve had with backpacks. My criteria include:

  • Cool and stylish
  • Supportive — I have issues with back pain and can’t do anything without proper support and waist straps for my everyday pack
  • Well designed including good internal organization and good external access
  • Has a laptop pocket
  • Performs well in rainy conditions

Usually you have to pick between stylish and comfortable and it shouldn’t be that way. My Hershel didn’t get replaced because they don’t have any concern for people with back issues in their design — no straps, minimal support. Once you’re past 20L I can carry enough weight that I need it. It’s a shame.

I’ve also found a Mountain Hardware backpack that I thought was the answer to all my questions. It looked decently cool in a bike messenger kind of way, it’s “waterproof” and it has great organization. Despite being over 25L there is no waist strap so I can’t go there. I emailed them but they just didn’t think this backpack where you can carry enough stuff to seriously injure yourself — see students with a laptop and textbooks — merits that basic piece of fabric and plastic. Alas. They have an alternative hiking oriented one but it’s just a big trough with no internal order. A lot of money to spend on something that will only disappoint me.

I love Fjallraven. It was everywhere when I was in Denmark and we all wanted the coats and bags. (As a sidenote Kankens are for small children. If you aren’t in elementary school they weren’t designed for you. They now make a photo insert for the Kanken if you want to be a super happy hipster grown up child.) We wanted them so badly but they were a touch on the expensive side so I resisted. I now have one of their backpacks, which is good other than poor external access — aka the deal breaker design flaw — and lack of laptop pocket. I always look at their stuff and imagine buying more of it when I have the funds to do so. I have one of their wallets in part because it reminds me of how content I was when I lived in Copenhagen every time I pull it out.

Today I saw one of their backpacks and I think it might just meet all my criteria. It’s the closest I’ve come so far. It has waist straps and back support. It has good internal compartments and convenient zippers. It is a good size. The material they use is water repellent. And there is a laptop pocket. I can buy it in this deep rich purple (or go with something a little more classic).

Now I know I’ve been fooled before — I’ll see something and think it is the answer to all my problems or at least one problem I spend too much time thinking about — but gosh do I like this one. It seems like it’s got it all, the whole package.

A summer night in Sunnyside

Tonight I decided to go to the rock garden in/next to Riley Park to do some sweet macro flower pics. I never expected to love flower photography but I do. It’s a great example of how the photos you take aren’t necessarily what is actually in front of you. If you know what buttons to press and lens to pick you can make images that are very different from what you see. In this case they are mostly blurry somewhat abstract images. I don’t have a real macro lens — one day — so I just use a f. 1.8 and mess about. I’d post photos but I still haven’t found a blogging platform where the two can work together yet. I will one of these days.

I’ve also never actually gone to the rock garden even though it’s on a hill that I go past all the time. It’s nice to go out and explore places and see something new.

While I was there I noticed these orange cubes hanging off things. Then I noticed people running. Then I noticed numbers. Then I figured out that it was a scavenger hunt. Nice idea.

At the bottom of the rock garden I was pleasantly surprised to see people playing cricket. I don’t understand cricket but I love that there are people in this city who gather in this specific place to play it and that people from the non dominant culture get a place to play a sport specific to them and make this space theirs. I’ve always meant to go take pictures of the cricket players and now I have a few. There were lots of other people in the park too. People throwing a football, playing frisbee, reading. It was a vibrant place with lots of people nearby to come here and use it.

From there I started to get thirsty and walked along 10th in search of somewhere open. Fortunately the newly renovated Second Cup is open until 10 pm so I went in. I was happy to see a wide range of people from a range of backgrounds hanging out in there. When I arrived it was hoping.

By the time I left there were still lots of people out and about. People going home, people buying groceries, people hanging out. A group of friends cycling towards the pathway. Another group of cyclists pulling up outside a liquor store. Some kids on bikes. Some teenagers on foot. Some skateboarders.

This is what I miss about living in an European space with a street like what you get in Kensington. There is the density to support life and stuff to do. There are people coming and going. There are people from lots of different backgrounds and age groups all in one place.

While so many people in Canada fear urban environments and the basic building blocks of Kensington like midrise apartments with ground floor retail on the high street and a diverse range of housing leaning towards the midrise high density side of things I see a healthy and vibrant place that can give lots of European cities a run for their money. I’d take the life on 10th tonight over a single-detached home with a big yard and lots of vehicle miles traveled any day. We could easily make the northwest up the hill more like this. We’d just have to change some of our attitudes and some of our zoning bylaws.

Fidget cube

I first heard about fidget toys, in the form of the fidget cube, when I saw a company that had done a Kickstarter to design one. I seriously thought about ordering one because at the time I was fidgeting with a mini-stapler and that seemed like a very high risk fidget strategy. Shipping was expensive and being a broke millennial I try to avoid making purchases unless I absolutely have to. I took the staples out of the mini-stapler and carried on.

The mini-stapler has gone somewhere — MARCOOOOOO — but it makes for the perfect fidget device. I open and close it and flip it around. I also like to take the plastic that goes around the outside edge of my phone off and on. My fidget style is basically opening and closing and spinning things.

I discovered that London Drugs carries fidget cubes and had to go out and buy one. It isn’t blue like the Kickstarter one but it was a whole lot cheaper. So far I am whelmed. There are some nice features to it. I can spin it around in my hands and some of the sides have cool things to do. Overall it lacks that opening and closing feature that something like a mini-stapler or bottle with a child lock has. I don’t think I’m about to jump on the fidget toy bandwagon just yet. The things I already have in my house are much better.

Letter board

Letter boards seem to be the cool new thing. They seem amazing. I first saw them at Plant here in Calgary. Since they’ve been popping up all over social media. They look great in photos and are perfect for quotes. I’d like to get more into product photography and they’re the hip thing in a lot of Insta style coffee shots.

The downside is that letter boards are insanely expensive. Way too expensive. A small one at Plant starts at $75. Yikes. There’s got to be a way to get these things cheaper. If you know of somewhere hit me up. Otherwise I’ll be saving my pennies and hoping it’s worth it.

A beeping noise

My sister called me yesterday. It had been a while since we’d chatted so it was good to hear from her. My phone had been beeping throughout the day in part because I hadn’t charged it. My charger is currently plugged into one wall when it would be much better to plug it into another. I need to move some furniture to get to that outlet so I haven’t done it. Instead I keep not charging my phone.

Midway through our conversation my phone beeped and died. I sent her a Facebook message saying goodbye.

I should probably just deal with this. I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a bit stuffy for my taste — seriously the list making and researching — but has some good information. One of her goals is to do things right away instead of leaving them for later. She finds that long to do lists and those tasks you put off make you miserable. Just dealing with stuff is a relief and a great step. I want to start doing more of that instead of letting things pile up. It’s not that hard. It’ll take five minutes.

I also thought of Jenny Lawson and her conclusion that if her life ever stopped being weird and she ever got her shit together then she’d have nothing to write about. If I cared more about the whole phone situation then maybe I’d be more motivated. I even have a whole category on this blog dedicated to how my phone is a gong show. Future employers be warned. This would totally be a valid what’s your weakness/downside as an employee answer right? My phone only kind of works, I don’t always charge it and I frequently don’t know where it is.

AWOL

The saga of my phone continues. I hope that my readers enjoy it. Comment below. I am open to feedback.

My phone disappeared a couple of times today and I didn’t really do a whole lot about it.

The first time I was using it to direct me to Fiasco Gelato, where they tragically didn’t have the cinnamon toast crunch I wanted to go specifically to eat, and was pleasantly surprised that I was in fact going in the right direction and on the correct street. It probably says something bad about me that I get really excited when I am going to the right place when navigating. I pulled over to pick up my friend who I was going to meet as she was walking from the bus. Somehow this interaction caused my phone to fall but I couldn’t figure out where it had gone. About five hours later I found it wedged next to my seat. Who knew.

The five hours didn’t make much of a difference in my life and no one urgently needed to contact me — I don’t feel particularly busy or important and can’t honestly imagine how having immediate access to me is vital, things can generally wait. Especially since it’s shorts season and my shorts funnel cellphones out of the pockets so I have to keep them in bags or shove them random places it was probably easier and I wouldn’t have noticed if someone had tried to reach me.

After relocating my phone I came home and I honestly have no idea where my phone is. It could be anywhere in the house but I haven’t seen it. I might look for it. I might not. We’ll see.

It actually happened

Those of you who follow this blog or who know me in person are aware of the relatively dysfunctional relationship I have with cellphones. Today I did something exciting that I honestly didn’t think would happen: I topped up my credit before the end of my current credit. That’s right I won’t be going through the monthly process of forgetting and then not having my plan renew and then being cut off for half a day while I try to get it together and find a computer where I can top up.

For the first time since switching to this provider I get to experience whatever the process of having my plan just top up again is like. Should be exciting.