Wednesday, 26 August 2015

So... now what?

Well, gosh, this year has been a whirlwind. Changed jobs, bought a house and settled down more permanently than I have in 10 years, made new friends, and my life in general looks a million times differently than it did even last fall.

Most of it has been overwhelmingly positive. I am able to work from home, and I know we'll be calling this place home for many years to come. All of our animals are able to live under our roof with us again after having to find alternate arrangements for them last year. We're making a good combined income that is allowing us to gradually pay stuff off and do stuff like go visit family and friends (within driving distance).

We're doing well. So well, in fact, that I'm feeling uninspired in my writing. I've been cooking up a storm (I have an adorable anecdote about learning how to make eggs Benedict by watching Julia Child on Youtube while also referring to the Julia Child cookbook and having Julie & Julia playing in the background in the living room), so I might try my hand at the food blogging again. The 3 Day Novel Contest is in less than a week and a half, so I might join that again. I wonder if anyone has submitted a cookbook?

If anyone out there is wondering if I've fallen off the face of the earth, all I can say is "Yes, and it's been super. Thanks for asking."

Yes, I'm done talking now. Jeez. RUDE.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

SlutWalk 2015 - Where can we go from here?

I've been a supporter and follower of the SlutWalks from the get-go, and I am honestly really excited about the changes that some of the cities have gone through. It's no secret that the term "slut" being in the name doesn't sit well with everyone, and that there have been some very valid criticisms of the name by black feminists. In fact, some cities started off organizing with different names to stand in solidarity with the spirit of SlutWalk while not under the 'slut' label, such as ConsentFest, Solidarity Walk, SafeWalk: A Walk of No Shame, and Walk For Respect, to name just a few.

Two cities that have previously organized under the SlutWalk label are Boston and Chicago. In 2012 the Boston organizers changed their name to Boston Feminists for Liberation, and just this year some of the Chicago SlutWalk organizers have started a group called FURIE - Feminist Uprising to Resist Inequality and Exploitation.

I love it. I love it I love it I love it.

As much as I was excited for SlutWalks when they first started because of the new conversations they were inspiring about victim-blaming and misogyny, I am so ready for and stoked about these new phases. I love the radical brazenness of them. I love how they simultaneously speak to some of the specific concerns women of colour have had about the word 'slut', but also give a big middle-finger to the misogynists who troll SlutWalk pages.

Not gonna lie - the name SlutWalk will always have 
a special place in my heart for its fuck-you attitude.

I would be over the moon if all the towns and cities that are organizing currently under the SlutWalk label changed their names to radical (in the badass-sense, not in the SWERFy or TERFy sense) feminist ass-kickers. Not because I don't support those who ID as sluts, or who have been called misogynistic slurs, or victim-blamed because of their sexual histories or attire, or for the respectability politics of playing nice. But simply because SlutWalk was never intended to be a worldwide movement and so it wasn't created with longevity in mind.

There is a new way forward, and I think the Boston Feminists for Liberation and FURIE are that way.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Facebook is bullshit, but nevermind that because it's New Year's Resolution Time

I am presently the proud(?) owner of two Facebook profiles because a couple weeks ago I told someone off and they reported my profile name as fake. That resulted in Facebook unceremoniously disabling my account and effectively zotting every interaction I've ever had under that profile into the abyss. I wasn't sure if I my attempts to send them proof of identity were going to be successful in resurrecting the account, and my 8 years worth of photos.

Nevermind that I originally took on a nickname on Facebook when I was going through a separation and divorce in 2007/2008. Nevermind that I decided to keep my pseudonym when I started receiving rape and death threats from my involvement in SlutWalk. Nevermind that my name is rather unique and makes me an easier target to track down. Nevermind that the person I pissed off got huffy because I told them not to make ableist statements on my personal page or I'd ban them. Nevermind any of that Facebook, just kindly go take a long walk off a short pier and go thoroughly fuck yourselves.

It's New Year's Resolution Time!

Last year at this time was such a bleak, black hole of suck that I don't even care to follow through on my usual habit of looking up my posts around this time and comparing notes with my previous resolutions. I'm just going to go forward and onward from this much more solid and stable jumping off point.

Ok, I lied and just went back and checked out all my resolutions. But that's a good thing! What I've been able to accomplish this year are:

  • Getting my debt under control. This past year I actually went through a debt consolidation service via Credit Canada. I no longer have any credit cards (they got shit-canned for non-payment last winter) but I am actually paying them off now and will be able to start building my credit again.
  • I've paid back most of the people I owe money to, as well. My parents are still outstanding, but we've just moved and so as soon as we have discretionary income they will be paid back in short order
  • Reading? Yeah I haven't been reading or writing, but I'm giving myself a pass because this year has been really up in the air and buggered and I've had bigger fish to fry
  • Vegan? Oy, well this is embarrassing. Not only am I not vegan, in the summer the doc said I was severely anemic and low on B12 so I've started eating some meat again because I've been too disorganized to keep up with supplements. Now that we've moved up north to a rural community with the closest grocery store a half hour drive away, I'm probably going to finally be able to kick that cheese habit since it's expensive and so far away.
  • Fostering kittens? Shit, for close to 10 months my two cats have been living with friends and family while my wife and I moved in with the in-laws. We've only just got our cats back under one roof with us, so no rush back to fostering. 
  • Crafting? No. Most of our stuff has been in storage, and that includes my crafts.
  • Getting my Server+? No, and actually with the job path I'm on now, I don't know that I will try to get that this year either.

So, since that's what I didn't accomplish, let's see what I want to/ feasibly believe I can accomplish given where we are now:

  • Finish paying off my personal debts and start building saving - This winter is going to be very tight financially, so I don't expect that to start in earnest until March. But I'm working on a couple ideas to bring in more income: I've got more piercing supplies so I can do those if called upon, I've set up an eBay and Etsy store to see if I can sell some stuff, and I'm considering setting up a local "taxi" service. In this small town there are no legit taxis, but it's winter and folks sure are sociable and like to go visit and drink. If I can learn to drive our standard Jeep better and drink near-beer when we go out, then I'm certain I can make a killing.
  • Arts and crafts - I've got my own office set up for work, so I can definitely set it up to craft as well. All I've got to do is finish unpacking to actually find my art supplies.
  • Read more - The house we've moved into already had some amazing books here, on top of my own collection that has been sorely neglected. I've got the space and the time, now I just need to read read read.
  • Do home renovations - through magic and a series of small miracles, we have moved into our own house. It is amazing and beautiful and really really needs some TLC. So this year we need to get some renos done. First on my list would be painting, but my lovely and talented wife has so far replaced a toilet and so I'm pretty impressed with her and ok with that as a starting point.
  • Work out on my own - there are no personal trainers up north here, and I put on some weight from a sedentary (albeit very well-paying) gig I had for half the year. 
All in all, I'm in a really great spot personally. If I don't get any of my resolutions done, I'm still going to be in a far better spot than in 2013 or 2014. This is already shaping up to be an amazing and positive and prosperous year. 

I am so excited for 2015. Bring it on.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

How to maintain white supremacy on social media in 3 simple steps

Step 1:

Do you know anything about privilege, power structures, or institutional oppression? Yes? Good, now pretend that you don't and act hurt and aggrieved any time a group tries to organize to address specific issues. Take for example, oh say... "Black Lives Matter - TORONTO PEACEFUL PROTEST ACTION". Take everything you know about oppression and anti-black racism, and use that as a reason white people are being oppressed by this group. How dare they ask white allies to respectfully concede the space to black protestors? How dare they specifically discuss police violence and murder against black folks? This is segregation, and reverse-racism, and every other "social-justicy"-kinda sounding words you can string together. Folks who are legitimately concerned about addressing oppression may just wind up getting sucked into conversing with you for a day and a half, and those who don't know enough about trolls or white supremacy might just be fooled into taking your side.

Step 2:

Take up space. If it's an online group or comments section of a newspaper, keep posting. It doesn't matter if it's one word or a copy pasta of "How to Make Friends and Influence People". Make sure that no conversations are allowed to go on without your interference. It's much harder for folks to maintain momentum and enthusiasm when they have to spend all their time on you. Suck the air out of the room and if you have to leave, ensure you've brought in more folks to replace you. Pretend you don't know them and are just impressed by how thoughtful and right about the world they are when they, funny enough, parrot your exact talking points.

Step 3:

People are seeing through you and calling you a racist? That's racist! Report their comments that are rightfully telling you off, because there's a far greater chance Facebook will give them a suspension for defending themselves and their rights to focus on black issues than of you receiving any repercussions.

I'm posting this not to encourage trolls, but to point out that this is what they are already doing. These are a few of their tactics. You can see this happening on pages that are supposed to be dedicated to supporting the family of Mike Brown and other victims of police-sanctioned murder. It's transparent as fuck if you know what you're looking for and acknowledge that, for the most part, these people aren't ignorant or misguided. This is a concerted, organized effort of anti-black, white supremecists to take over what should be safer spaces and interfere with planning and solidarity efforts.

They will concern troll:
"But if you exclude white people, then how will we change things? We all need to work together, and I am just honestly concerned that your divisive tactics will hamper that progress."
They will gas light:
"Police brutality is not a black issue. It's a human rights issue. I've been the victim of police brutality, and I'm white, therefore you're assigning race to an issue that it doesn't belong to."
They will call you racist:
"You're lumping all white people together by saying that we take up too much space. That's racist! Anybody else catch how racist that is?!"
They will not "see the light" if you keep talking to them. You can be calm, collected, and articulate as possible. They are not there in good faith. They are literally trying to wear people down to get them to abandon the page/ group/ organizing committee. These are their tools. Don't let them get away with it. If you are moderating a page/ site and you see this happening, I strongly recommend just to ban/ delete them. Yes, they'll like start in with "freedom of speech" arguments, but what they're doing is interfering with your freedoms to assemble.

Let's get things back on track and reclaim the spaces eked out to create change.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


I'm not an organizer of this protest, I'm just signal-boosting for all Toronto residents to have the opportunity to come out and show solidarity tomorrow for #Ferguson and all the black folks on both sides of the border who are targets of state violence and lethal anti-black racism.


Text of image below:
•Toronto Event Name: Black Lives Matter: TORONTO PROTEST ACTION
• Toronto Event Link:
Mike Brown, a black unarmed teenager, was murdered. The state is letting his murderer go without any accountability or justice. Black people are murdered by the state in our local communities regularly and systematically. And their murderers get away with it on a regular basis. We are asking that you stand in solidarity with us.
We are ready to retaliate. Join us on Today Nov 25th. 6pm. Across from the US Consulate (361 University Avenue. University & Queen. Osgoode Subway Station).
Because Black Lives Matter.
No Indictment 4 murder of #MikeBrown. Darren Wilson walks free. Time for Action. US Consulate (queen & Uni) 6pm #ferguson2TO #Ferguson
No indictment 4 murder of #MikeBrown. Cop walks free 4 killing unarmed black man. Time for action: US Consulate 6pm. #ferguson2TO #Ferguson
#toronto take action for justice for #MikeBrown and other victims of racist policing. US Consulate 6pm. #ferguson2TO #Ferguson
#toronto rallies in solidarity with the protesters of #ferguson. Racial violence is crossnational. US Consulate 6pm. #ferguson2TO #Ferguson
Please share widely. This isn't an issue isolated to a small town in USA. Black Lives Matter. Now let's help show we believe this.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Jeez people are such whiners nowadays!

It's only the second of October and I've already had it up to here ^ with folks. On Facebook there's an image of a Halloween yard decoration that was taken down because the neighbours objected to how graphic it was.

I was going to share it but, enh, screw it. You can mentally fill in the blanks on what you might think crosses the line or not.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love Halloween. I mean I looooooooove Halloween. I love getting dressed up, I love trick or treating (thank goodness for young family members and friends kids we can borrow!), and I love watching all the scary movies they start marathoning on tv. October and Halloween are legitimately my favourite time of year. 

But that's just the thing. I like it. I have my own quirks and personal preferences and things I love and hate and am pretty solidly "meh" about. If people don't share my quirks, that's not only ok, with over 7 billion people on the planet that's pretty much a given.

Take my wife, for example. We've got a lot of really solid things in common that make us a great match. And then we have our differences. She's a big ol' scaredy cat. That's not an insult or me maligning her character. That's what she calls herself because she hates scary movies, haunted houses, scary anything and just generally hates being scared at all ever. And you know what? That's fine. Fear, disgust, and repulsion aren't emotions we can reasonably expect everyone to enjoy or numb themselves to.

Well, unless you ask these people:

I find it extremely ironic that many of the folks who make such a big fuss about people disagreeing with them do so from a standpoint of "Gosh. People are just so sensitive nowadays! I am so outraged by their sensitivity that I'm going to take it as a personal insult that they aren't all Rambo and watch snuff films for kicks."

Maybe y'all aren't jaded or desensitized or too cool to be affected. Maybe y'alls are just pretentious assholes. Don't get me wrong, I've been the pretentious asshole, too, who thought it was cooler not only to "not give a shit", but to chide anyone who had the audacity to go through life feeling anything but smugness. There is hope. You can choose to not be such a douche.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Windows 10 preview

I watched the video and like the features they're adding, so I figure I'll try it out and see what's what.

The video and preview versions are available here:

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Is it irresponsible to be critical of safety advice?

The amount of safety advice that women* are given with the goal of "not getting raped" is extensive, to say the least. It is long, and it just keeps getting longer as new products are marketed to us, and often the individual pieces of advice are conflicting.

As a person who is the target of all this safety advice, how do we navigate what pieces of advice make sense in our lives? Are we allowed to decide what makes sense to us and what is relevant to our realities?

On its face, that's a pretty innocuous question. Putting that question into practice by being critical of the specific safety products or advice, however, I have frequently been accused of everything from not being serious about preventing my own rape to wanting women to get raped to prop up the Feminist Industrial Complex. I wish I were exaggerating.

When I'm critical of safety advice or products, it's because I am very much invested in stopping rape. I am so invested that it is not enough for me that a tip or product provides the illusion of safety; they must actually prove they are worth the time, expense, inconvenience, and potential danger they may pose for me to not only use them for myself but also recommend them to others.

For example, I've been heavily critical of the RapeAxe, and Undercover Colors and the ways using those products themselves can pose serious health risks. Those criticisms don't even mention the current rise in ebola infections. 
"But what if this tip/product/philosophy prevents just one rape? Isn't that enough to give these a pass, if only to save one person the heartache and trauma?"
That kind of statement, while often made in earnest and with good intentions, misses the point by a wide margin and is often made to shut down the conversation about the person's valid and tangible concerns. Maybe anti-rape products will work? Well, maybe crossing the street instead of staying on the south side will prevent me from getting squashed from a falling piano. Maybe singing karaoke off-key for a friend's birthday will result in me being offered my own reality tv show.

Maybes aren't good enough for me. If you want me to alter and restrict my life more than I already do, then I want proof, I want field testing, and I want evidence this tip/product/philosophy does not just work in an alternate dimension populated by people from infomercials.

If you have safety products and advice that you think will help, absolutely share them. But keep your cool if people point out practical issues with them. We're allowed to think critically about the ways we alter our lives for our own safety.

*Safety advice against rape is more often than not given out aimed at women in cissupremecist binary language. When I am referring to "women and girls" in this post, I mean all female-presenting persons who are at the receiving end of this advice.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Stolen nudes and the new Peeping Toms

If you don't think it's a big deal to seek out and look at nude pictures of persons that were taken or shared without their consent, I am going to try to explain in nice and calm words why this is problematic.

This is objectification, where one's personhood and humanity is literally separated from their rights over their body. Whether the picture is of a celebrity or a regular person you may or may not know, it is an absolute violation of their privacy and bodily autonomy to seek out, view, and share those images.

I can understand how people have a disconnect when it comes to nude photos being shared without the subject's consent. In the popular media, it is a common trope that "boys will be boys" and that "boys want to see girls naked." Think of some of the classic and recent movies where boys or men go through various measures to see young women naked without their knowledge or consent:
  • Police Academy - the scene where Lt. Harris catched Mahoney casually drinking a beer while watching the female recruits shower
  • Monster Squad - the boys in elementary school spend half the movie trying to take photos of one of the kid's sister while she's changing
  • Private School - the three male leads dress up as women to get into an all-girls' private school to catch the young women naked and have sex with them (so, rapey as well)
  • Not Another Teen Movie - two of the characters are in the airducts and stop over the girls' washroom to watch a young woman on the toilet
  • Carrie - the entire opening sequence is a voyeuristic wet-dream going through the girls' locker room and hyper-sexualizing young women who we are supposed to accept as being teenaged and under the age of 18
Those are just 5 examples that immediately come to mind (can you tell I'm into 80's movies a smidge?) There are many more examples in popular culture of this trope and free-pass to men to disregard women's rights to privacy. This is one of the major reasons we need to be critical of popular media and the messages it sends. This is one of the major reasons we have to talk about consent in all sorts of scenarios. Has seeking out, viewing, and sharing nude or sexualized pictures taken of someone without their consent come up in your Birds & the Bees talks? They definitely should.

It does not matter if the person's photos were taken from a distance by paparazzi with a telephoto lens, if they were taken from a literal Peeping Tom, if they were taken while incapacitated, if they were taken by their partner, or if they were taken by themselves. It does not matter if they left their pictures in Fort Knox, in their home vault, uploaded to an offsite storage service like iCloud, in their email, on their phone, in their purse, or printed out and in their pocket. If you do not have permission to view those photos, you are disrespecting them, their body, and their rights to privacy. You do not get any free passes because "someone shared it first" or "a million other people have seen them anyways", or any other excuse. Your only free pass is if the subject of the photos gave you their explicit permission.
"If you don't want your naked pictures to be leaked, don't take any. That's not victim-blaming, it's common sense."
Actually, that's victim-blaming. "Common sense" is quite meaningless in this context, because you don't know what you don't know until you know it. Many times the victim is not even the one who took the photo, so the entire situation is out of their hands. Even if the person in the photos is the one who took them and decided how they would be stored, if you don't have permission, you don't have permission. It is still theft, it is still a violation of privacy, it is still an aggressive act of misogyny to seek out, view, and share these photos without this person's consent.

Taking sexy photos can be a lot of fun for consenting adults. Straight up, it can be foreplay, or in the case of long-distance partners, it may be the only type of sexual "contact" they get together. Plus, in terms of lesser "evils" of sexual relationships, sending a nude selfie to your partner is 100% safe from STI's and pregnancy. There are pro's and con's with every action, and let's be honest - there can be a lot of legitimate pro's of these.
"You never put anything on the internet without the expectation everyone can see it and access it."
I'd like to address the underlying assumption that everyone is internet-savvy and understand the myriad of potential security holes in literally everything you do online. Being ignorant of some risks does not mean that you deserve to be victimized, and it does not mean that you are stupid. As I've stated before, "common sense" is meaningless. Since we can flippantly tell someone to Google anything, we assume that they can always find the answers to every question in the universe. That's only helpful if they start out knowing what the question is.

In terms of "everyone can see it and access it" - why do you have to part of "everyone"? What gives you a moral free-pass on this one? Since it's our culture that tells men to disrespect women's rights to consent and boundaries, how about you be part of the change and not participate in this form of degradation?

Once nude photos of someone are released and being spread without their consent, you have as great a power as anyone to stop the spread and to put your foot down. If your friends are sharing them, talk to them about it and ask them why they feel this violation is acceptable. Tell them you're disgusted and disappointed. Be a part of the change in the culture that stops these criminal acts by removing the demand.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Anti-rape Nail Polish: A good way to prevent drug-facilitated rape, or an excellent way to ensure intestinal distress?

Undercover Colorsis presently making the rounds on social media, and there is both praise and criticism about its potential effectiveness and cultural implications. It's basically a nail polish that changes color in the presence of common "date rape" drugs.

From a practical level, my first concern is honestly not about whether this product buys into rape myths and tropes. I absolutely support anyone in taking whatever measures they feel make sense in their lives, regardless of my reservations.

That said, I don't believe any of those guys actually wear nail polish on the regular and have really thought through the practicality of this. 

Must have missed this step on my last wine-tasting tour

Is it really that feasible to be dipping your fingers into your drinks? Every drink? Every time you leave it and come back to it? Am I really that big of a germaphobe that I'm the only one made queasy by that prospect?

Have any of the men on that team considered how they're implemented? Has no one thought that maybe requiring your customers to put their unsanitized fingers in their drinks a bunch of times when out in public may raise the eyebrows of public health officials?

At a point the precautions have to take into account that people aren't *just* spending their entire existence trying to prevent rape. They're also trying not to infect themselves with noro-viruses. Plunging my dirty digits into every drink I have when I'm out and touching public door handles, tables, chairs, etc, is like playing Russian Roullette with Norwalk.

A lot of people are excited about this product, and I honestly don't want to poo-poo their enthusiasm (Get it? Poo-poo because of a norovirus? Sorry)

The reality is that rape is happening right now while we wait for rape culture to be abolished, and so naturally people are eager for immediate solutions. I can absolutely empathize with their impatience and desire for quick and easy answers.

My hope is that when people create, market, and promote these products through word-of-mouth, they'll take the time to consider the practical, mundane, every-day lives of the people who would use them. We all have a lot more going on in our lives than just preventing rape. Does your product/solution take that into consideration? Are we expected to make unreasonable accommodations in order to use this product? Is the product potentially more dangerous to the user than the threat it's intended to guard against? Is the product being marketed as a cureall, or a tool that can only possibly be useful in a particular set of circumstances? Are the marketers promoting rape myths in the marketing of their products, or do they understand and speak to the reality of how most rapes are committed?

These are very important questions to ask the marketers of these products, and to ask yourself when promoting these products.

Fortunately, there are some tangible ways to help insulate our communities, social groups, and families from sexual violence. They may not come with snazzy packaging and marketing, but that's just the mundane, uncomfortable reality of stopping sexual violence.

Monday, 21 July 2014

And now for something completely different

I've got two Netbooks in my possession that have been keeping me afloat in terms of having access to a personal PC when I needed it. One I thought had died a miserable, sugary, drowning death at the hands of an ill-placed alcoholic beverage and a vacuum cord, and the other pathetically putters and sputters along.

Now I've got new chargers, one second-hand hard drive I'm going to try to revive, and some time on my hands.

What am I gonna do? I'm gonna see if I can revive the one iffy hard drive, and if I can I'm going to put Linux on both of them. Why? Because I have time on my hands.

Now... for the most important question of all...

What flavour of Linux? I'm not sure. I haven't played with any of them since I learned to hate SUSE in college in 2008. Any advice for a n00b?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

This is why safety advice is not enough

Between yesterday and today, two news items have come to my attention involving sexual assault. Today Peel Regional Police released information on a man they arrested for a series of sexual assaults in a park area near Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road.
Mississauga – Investigators from the Special Victims Unit have arrested a male for several sex assaults in Mississauga.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. on Monday, June 30, 2014, three teenagers were in a park area near Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road, Mississauga, when they were accosted by an unknown male. The suspect threatened the three girls with a weapon and sexually assaulted them. The suspect was scared off by a citizen who was walking in the area.
A subsequent sexual assault occurred at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in the same area. The victim was walking with her boyfriend when they were confronted by the accused. Both victims were threatened with a weapon and confined, and the female victim was sexually assaulted. The victims called police and provided a detailed description of the suspect.
Randy BLACKWOOD, a 22 year-old resident of Mississauga, was located by police a short time later in the area.  He was arrested and charged with the following offences:
-          Sexual Assault with a Weapon
-          Utter Threat to Cause Death or Bodily Harm ( 2 counts)
-          Forcible Confinement (5 counts)
-          Sexual Interference (3 counts)
-          Sexual assault (3 counts)
That's good information for anyone living and visiting in the area, to be aware of what happened, where, by whom, and how. It can help them to protect themselves potentially in the future, and if they were assaulted and did not yet come forward, this information may give them the confidence to now do so.

The release ended with some further safety advice to the public:
Investigators are reminding the public to use caution when walking alone, avoid isolated areas and to report any suspicious activity to police.  Walk in pairs and be cognizant of those around you.  Make sure someone knows your route and when you are expected to return home.
Now, I'm not pointing this out to give the police a hard time or to gather an army with torches and pitchforks, but I want to draw attention to something I think is pretty important. The police advise to "use caution when walking alone, avoid isolated areas" and "walk in pairs". These assaults all happened to folks who were with one or more people, in a public park, during daylight hours. The reason I bring this up is because I want to emphasize that this is some of the "common sense" safety advice that is given out pretty much daily. I'm sure sometimes it can help to deter a potential attacker. But it's not a guarantee of safety. The only guarantee of safety is to not be in the vicinity of someone who would attack you, and we generally don't know who or where that is.

The other story is of a Winnipeg cab driver who picked up and sexually assaulted a woman on Saturday night. Included in the story are several other accounts of people being assaulted or threatened by cab drivers.

Again, use whatever safety measures you feel make sense for yourself. But if you're giving out blanket safety advice to folks to end all rape ever, I urge you to spend some time asking and researching whether your "common sense" advice is really as practical and foolproof as you presently think it is.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

General tips for using Microsoft Windows 8.1

After a busy week and a half blogging about social justice stuff, I want to cleanse my palate with some nerdy advice.

In my new job role, my main task is to help consumers resolve issues with their home laptops and desktops. It's a bit different from my previous experience in an enterprise environment, but I'm really enjoying the challenge of fixing literally every kind of software issue under the sun. The only thing I miss is that all this support is over the phone, so I don't get to gut machines any more and Frankenstein them to make them work. C'est la vie.

From this experience, I have a few tips on how to keep your home Windows computers running. I'm not going to go over everything there is to know ever. If you want something that in-depth, pull up a chair at and hunker down. Bring snacks.

Firstly, if you have Windows XP you'll ok for now so long as you have an active antivirus installed. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP in April, which means that it's not sending out any more updates to patch issues they find out about. You're on your own. Some folks have had their Windows XP automatic updates disabled because they didn't like the slow-downs or interruptions, so you may very well still be working on SP2. Continue on with your bad selves.

Now, if your Windows XP computer shits the bed, you're basically out of luck. All machines will one day fail. What I'd recommend is to regularly back up your data to an external drive, and start making your succession plans by saving up a rainy day fund for a replacement. Then just run your machine into the ground.

If you have Windows Vista, you're on your own.

Windows 7? You're fine.

Windows 8? Upgrade to 8.1. No, seriously, do it. If only because if something goes wrong, it's easier to get to the tools to fix it.

What I love about Windows 8.1 (stop laughing, there are some things I love about it) is the start button. As someone who fixes stuff, being able to right-click on the start button and have everything from Device Manager to Control Panel to Command Prompt with admin privileges right there is hella convenient.

Now, what do I do with these?

From Device Manager I can see if any hardware devices have notifications beside them to let me know about a driver issue. For 9/10 devices, I'll just uninstall them and upon reboot they'll reinstall themselves. Often this will fix the issue. If it doesn't, I'll look online for a more up to date driver.

If I suspect I have malware, I'll open Control Panel, go to Programs and then look for stuff I didn't download or install that isn't from either Microsoft or my computer's manufacturer. If you don't know what you're looking for, check this out but don't remove anything.

If you have pop-ups, just download and run Malwarebytes free version. I'd say 99/100, Malwarebytes has gotten rid of the malicious ickies that have infested a machine and caused pop-ups, page redirects, and resource hogging. Because of how well their free version works at spot-cleaning, if you were to buy a version to do real-time scanning and protection I'd recommend them.

The only time recently it didn't work, I used Dr. Web Cureit free. This program takes longer to download and run, which is why I don't use it as my first line of defense. They're a Russian company, so don't be concerned if you Google them and wind up on a site that's not in English. Just click on the language option in the top-right corner. If you were to pay for antivirus, they'd be my #2, since their free scans also work so well.

If you get errors when trying to run Windows update, let the Troubleshooting tool in the Control Panel do the heavy lifting for you. If that doesn't work, there's a tool and some more tips here.

If your computer is acting wonky and you suspect it may be an issue with the Windows files themselves, right-click on the start button, select "Command Prompt (Admin)" and type out the following commands:

dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth

When in doubt, with any computer issues, Google is your friend. Well, I mean, searching the internet for IT forums and advice is your friend.

I know this isn't the most exhaustive list, but it comes up often enough that I figured it would be handy to write it down. Good luck, intrepid home computer-users, and gob speed.

Friday, 11 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: What to wear, what to wear?

Tomorrow is the big day! SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?!

The question that comes up quite often from participants is "What should I wear?"

My go-to, copy & paste response is this:

SlutWalk does not require its participants to adhere to a certain dresscode in order to participate in our marches or events because we don't just support survivors who dress a certain way. We support office workers, we support fast-food workers, we support unemployed folks, we support independently wealthy folks who don't have to work, we support retired folks, we support sex workers, we support undocumented immigrants, we support trans*folk, we support upper-middle-class, white, heterosexual males.

We will not tell our participants to dress in business attire so as not to look like "sluts", because we support them even if someone deems them to look like "sluts". We will not tell our participants they have to dress like "sluts", because we know that people are slut-shamed and victim-blamed in every manner of clothing, and because we want participants to feel comfortable and empowered in whatever way they deem fit.

We support survivors of all ages, shapes, sizes, colours, ethnicities, gender-expressions, citizenship status, religions, etc., because we know that sexual violence permeates all of these areas and anyone can be a survivor and deserves to be free from victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and further violence.

 Now that we've got that information out of the way, what should *I* wear? The first year I wore a bridal gown and my wife wore a snazzy suit, but that march was held in the spring and was much cooler. In 2012, I wore knee-length shorts and a SlutWalk Toronto organizer t-shirt. I'm not sure where that t-shirt is now, though (we've moved too many times). I won't be strutting my stuff in a bikini or something similarly petite because my skin is so fair I'm liable to burst into flames.

This is a tough decision, y'all.


Solution: Batgirl.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Buttons, stickers, and magnets. Oh my!

Two more sleeps until SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?!

We ran short on time and budget this year to get t-shirts made for the parade, and so we've been making up for it by rolling up our sleeves and making hundreds of buttons, stickers, and magnets!

Heather Jarvis posted her lovely and oh-so artsy picture of her progress with the buttons so far:

I don't have snazzy pictures of the finished product, but I do have lots of images to give y'all an idea of what's to come:

These are all to help us to recoup the costs of the march, which are all paid out of pocket by SlutWalk Toronto volunteers. Our expenses include ASL, honorariums for speakers, our emcee, and water for our volunteers the day of the march.

If you would like to help us cover our costs, you can purchase some of the swag at the march (by a suggested donation of $1.00 each), or you can help sponsor us through Crowdtilt.