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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Last week I wrote about how much I appreciate my readers’ generosity, and I got ample proof of it again before the week was out.  On Wednesday I drove into Seattle as I do every three weeks, and I discovered this collection waiting for me (along with Vangelis’ last album) from a reader who often gets me nice things (and the note he included gave me an extra smile).  Then the next day, I published a request for help with travel funds (because the skyrocketing price of fuel and everything else has really exacerbated my typical summer & travel anxieties), and within hours I had received about 70% of what I estimate the trip will cost me.  And let me tell you, there is nothing as good for anxiety as feeling supported and cared for!  As I sit at my desk writing this, there’s a dramatic difference in my emotional balance from when I wrote the request just a week ago; I feel calm and I’m looking forward to the journey, whereas last week I was trying to decide whether to rethink the whole thing.  So thank all of y’all for being so amazing; it’s no exaggeration to say that y’all saved my whole trip.

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I can’t breathe.  – Genivaldo de Jesus Santos

This song is here for the sole reason that it started going through my head last week.  The links above the video were provided by Cop Crisis, Mike Siegel, Radley Balko, Kevin Wilson, Popehat, and Amy Alkon, in that order.

From the Archives

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Not much scares me outright, but anxiety is a different matter; I’ve suffered from it since childhood, and though it never completely goes away, I’ve mostly learned to manage it pretty well except for circumstances I’ve mentioned before:  air travel, long summer days, dealing with bureaucracy, etc.  But there’s one cause I haven’t had to worry about since my early teens and had hoped I would never have to worry about again: inflation.  I’ve always thought that was a serious misnomer, because the problem isn’t really that prices are going up; it’s that the value of the currency is going down.  I’ve never been any good at saving, so at least I don’t need to worry about cash reserves shrinking in value.  But now that I’m semi-retired, my budget is much tighter than it used to be, and I don’t have a lot of wriggle room; also, I’m not yet finished my construction project, and the price of everything I need for it has increased dramatically.  And next month, my normal summer and travel anxieties will be compounded:  I’m going to a conference in Las Vegas, but summer standby flying is even more nerve-wracking than ordinary standby flying; not only are there more people traveling, more of them are airline employees (often with kids), therefore far fewer available seats.  And even when my outbound flights are OK, the return flights into Seattle are usually a negative-number-of-seats-available nightmare (I’m told it’s due to the fact that many cruises depart from Seattle).  So I’m planning to drive to the conference instead of flying; I want to make two other stops on the way there, so the flights would just be a logistical mess anyway even if I wanted to try it.  However, the skyrocketing cost of gasoline is causing me considerable anxiety about that strategy; I estimate it might cost me as much as $1000 (still cheaper than if I had to buy multiple airline tickets, but stressful nonetheless).  So if you aren’t hurting and appreciate my work, would you consider a gift of fuel funds so I can get to Vegas to A) meet with a couple of folks about possible consulting gigs that might stabilize my financial situation for the next few years; and B) rattle some cages about supporting sex worker rights?  If it helps, remember that I actually kinda like road trips, and one of the stops is to visit a friend I haven’t seen in almost three years, so you’d also be subsidizing a little vacation for me.

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Every so often I like to remind my readers and patrons how important your support is to me.  In these uncertain times, it’s really reassuring to know that my writing is important enough to many of you that you choose to do more than simply throw a compliment my way now and again.  For some of you, support takes the form of a subscription, money you send every month to help me pay my bills; in lean times (such as right after tax season) those small amounts add up and keep me in the black.  Others prefer to send me nice things from my Amazon wishlist; I try to keep it populated with lots of things I really want, rather than just expensive trinkets and designer gewgaws.  Take this book a reader (who prefers to remain anonymous) sent me a couple of months ago; it’s a collection of early comic strips from one of the creators of the genre.  It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but since it’s out of print I couldn’t justify the rather steep price, but since one of my admirers sent it as a present I could enjoy it without guilt (as I’m currently enjoying the second volume, received from a different reader just last week – you know who you are, and thank you!)  So whether you prefer to send me practical help to put food on the table, or to send “hyacinths to feed my soul”, please know that “appreciation” is far too mild a word to describe my feelings of gratitude to all of y’all.

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I can’t breathe.  –  John Elliott Neville

Raymond Scott’s 1937 composition, “Powerhouse”, is best remembered for its extensive use in classic Warner Brothers cartoons, but few know its name or have ever heard it in its entirety, so Maggie is here to fix that for you.  You’re welcome.  The links above it were provided by Cop Crisis, Radley Balko, Fiona Harrigan, Mike Siegel, Popehat, and Marc Randazza, in that order.

From the Archives

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Customer Disservice

I understand that big companies believe that they can save money by deflecting as many customer service questions as possible to the FAQs and moron-bots; I also recognize that there are fewer supervisors than regular phone drones, and since they probably get paid more it behooves a company to instruct its employees to try not to pass a problem up the chain of command unless it’s pretty clear they really can’t do anything for the caller.  But once that has become obvious, why in the world do these employees continue to obfuscate, misdirect, pretend it’s the customer’s responsibility to solve a problem on the company’s end, and even lie, rather than just connect the caller to a supervisor?  As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not exactly stupid; by the time I call customer service, I’ve already tried everything obvious that would be listed in the FAQs, and the few times I got tricked into trying the bots I quickly discovered that they’re basically a slower, more time-wasting version of those same FAQs.  So I get pretty annoyed pretty quickly when it become clear that a human operator is reading from that same damned list.  And when they claim they’re unable to do something I need done, I immediately ask for the supervisor (whom decades of experience has demonstrated time and again will nearly always be able to do that which the front-line operator claimed was impossible).  But you’d be amazed how tenaciously they resist granting that simple request, even when I start growing increasingly angry at their insistence that the hundred-dollar billing error was somehow my fault, and even when I point out that they aren’t being paid enough to deal with a demanding, infuriated crazy lady.  I mean, do they get demerits for calling in a supervisor?  Does the company actually want to pay an extra hour’s wages to the operator to not solve the issue, on top of whatever they pay the supervisor for the five or ten minutes it takes to actually solve my problem once I finally get the first operator to grasp that I’m not going to go away and eat the extra charge, accept the wrong item instead of the one I ordered, or otherwise let myself be screwed over?  Why must I always be put in a position where yelling at some poor working stiff who absolutely isn’t being paid enough to deal with me is the only way to actually get my problem solved?  Of all the asinine shit modern companies do, I think this is probably the most incomprehensible and least forgiveable; unfortunately, it also seems to be almost universally unavoidable.

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Diary #623

I’ve had tankless water heaters for over a decade now, and I’ll never go back.  Since all this hair takes a long time to wash, my showers tend to run about 30 minutes; that means I deplete all but the largest tanks by the time I’m done, and there are very few things I hate more than having to rush a shower to avoid getting hit by cold water while I’m trying to rinse the conditioner out.  I’m not generally fussy about most things, but I view long, hot, high-volume showers as a basic necessity, not an indulgence; this also means any new shower head must be modified to remove the government’s mandated “improvements” before it can be installed, because I’m not gonna try to wet my hair under a fucking trickle because too many Americans choose to live in deserts while I prefer to live in places where the issue is too much water rather than too little, and politicians think I should suffer in solidarity or something.  Anyhow, we recently started having weird little problems with the heater: strange noises, temperature fluctuations, that sort of thing.  Since it was installed in the autumn of ’17 I figured it needed some kind of maintenance, so I asked Dr. Quest if he knew what the problem was since A) I know he also has a tankless heater; and B) he’s good at figuring out such things.  He told me that the flow sensor (that tells the unit when to turn the heat on and off) was dirty and needed cleaning, so Grace did some research and bought this kit (endorsed by the heater’s manufacturer) to add a couple of valve assemblies into the inflow and outflow lines.  Once the valves are in place, all one need do is close the water valves, turn off the breakers to the unit, and attach the hoses visible in this picture to a pump immersed in two gallons of plain white vinegar, then let it run for 90 minutes (if you’ve ever had to clean a coffee maker you already know about vinegar dissolving sediment deposits).  After that, one detaches the pump, switches the valves back to let water through, and flushes the system with clean water by opening a hot water tap for about ten minutes (and don’t forget to turn the breakers back on when done).  The noises are gone, and the temperature seems much steadier; I figure we’ll probably set up a schedule to clean it annually so it doesn’t build up as much.  And given that there was nothing about this in the heater’s manual, I figured those with tankless heaters (which I highly recommend if you’re replacing your old heater) might want to get one of these kits, especially if you have your own well or the pipes carrying your city water are old.

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As I’ve mentioned before, Star Trek was my first love.  It was the first TV show I appreciated on a level beyond merely watching, the first one that really made me think about things, the first one I cared about enough to actually learn about.  It was also the first one I “collected”; what that meant to me in those pre-home video days was, I asked for a copy of Bjo Trimble’s Star Trek Concordance (yes, the picture is of my copy, which I of course still own) and read it cover to cover, noting which episodes I’d seen and which I hadn’t.  I also collected James Blish’s episode adaptations, and came to know some of the stories in print years before I ever got to see them on the tube.  I knew the show backwards and forwards, and by the time I bought the DVD collections in the Oughts I had probably already seen every episode over a dozen times (and that doesn’t even count the ones I listened to on my TV band radio).  So as you might expect, I tend to recognize actors who were on Star Trek when they appear in other 1960s and ’70s TV shows.  In fact, it’s part of what I enjoy about watching those shows.  I don’t just mean the regular cast, though of course it’s always fun to catch a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits with a pre-Trek Shatner, Nimoy, or Doohan.  No, I mean that when we recently re-watched The Wild, Wild West, at least half of the episodes had an actor or actress who prompted me to say to Grace, “Hey, that’s the girl who played __________ in [episode X].”  And now that we’ve moved on to Mission: Impossible (Trek‘s sister show, produced by Desilu on the next soundstage over), it’s even more so; there are few episodes that don’t have a guest star who appeared on Trek (and I’m not even counting Nimoy’s appearance as a regular in later seasons).  Sometimes it’s more than one, and we recently watched one in which there were no fewer than five.  I don’t really understand why it pleases me so to recognize the faces (or voices); I reckon it’s just the pleasure of familiarity, like going back to one’s home town.  But just in case there was any doubt in your mind about my level of nerdiness, I hope this post has rectified that.

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My favorite musician of all time, Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou (best known by his stage name, Vangelis), died last Tuesday in Paris at the age of 79.  And because he was the creator of a large fraction of the soundtrack of my life, I find myself very affected by his passing, more so than by any of the other relatively-recent deaths of musicians whose work I admired.  I wrote a Twitter thread featuring many videos, with a few facts and a bit of criticism, but here I’d rather share more personal thoughts about my relationship with his music.

Like many Americans, I was first introduced to his work by Carl Sagan, who used the third movement of Vangelis’ Heaven and Hell (1975) as the theme to his amazing and groundbreaking TV series, Cosmos.  And while I found the music lovely and moving, it was the music used in this sequence, demonstrating the evolutionary history of humans, that really took hold of my brain:

In those pre-internet days, there wasn’t any simple way to find the name of a piece of music used in a show if it wasn’t listed in the credits, and it wasn’t.  Fortunately, someone thought of writing in to TV Focus, the weekly TV magazine of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, to ask about the main theme, and somebody over there was able to name Vangelis as its composer.  Armed with that knowldge, I begged my cousin Jeff to take me to New Orleans’ best music store, Leisure Landing, where I found the Cosmos soundtrack and a number of other Vangelis albums.  Fortunately, part of the piece I was looking for was on the soundtrack album, along with its name, “Alpha”, and the name of the album on which it appeared, Albedo 0.39.  And it wasn’t long before I made another trip to Leisure Landing to buy it.  China soon followed, then Heaven and Hell, then Spiral; I played them all frequently, and copied them to cassette tapes for playing in the car (as we used to do in those long-ago and far-off days, dear reader).  They were among my favorite albums for playing while dallying with lovers, and to this day I cannot hear the titular song, which appears on Heaven and Hell, without thinking of lying in the afterglow with my first adult inamorata on lazy Friday afternoons in the early ’80s in my apartment near UNO.

Of course, I was much too young then to really feel in my gut what it meant to remember such things across a gulf of decades; even Vangelis himself was only 32 when it was recorded, and singer Jon Anderson two years younger still.  But in the many intervening years my brain has caught up with my very old soul, and the departure of my lifelong musical friend has left me feeling very old indeed.

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The bourgeois bootlickers who think it would be a wonderful idea for everyone to be forced to use their “real names” (i.e. their government names) on social media are at it again.  They claim it would make the internet a nicer place, because as everybody knows Facebook is a perfect exemplar of how every social media site should look and operate.  This tweet was in response to a blue-checked cretin named David Klion opining that every Twitter user with over 10,000 followers should be forcibly outed, based on that perennial mating-cry of the smug, sheltered, and stupid, “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”.  He also belched up some sort of inanity about “democracy“, but not long after I quote-tweeted him he deleted his tweet (which is why what you see above is no longer a quote tweet).  Well, let me tell you a little story about what happens when one speaks out publicly, not even under her government name but under a very well-known nom de guerre.  I’ve never told this publicly before, but since I’m semi-retired and the damage is long done, I think it’s time.

In 2015 I made the decision to work and write under the same name.  After a momentary surge in business, I slowly lost clients who were either offended by my being something more than a pleasant, pretty façade, or were afraid they’d be arrested for consorting with a high-profile rabble-rouser.  In 2016, there was even a rumor going around Seattle that I was under direct police surveillance; even some of the clients I didn’t lose switched to paying me electronically so if they were intercepted by cops, there was no cash they could steal as “evidence” of patronizing a prostitute.  Obviously that never happened, but the damage was already done.  I don’t regret being who I am, or saying what had to be said, and I’ve never been any good at maintaining multiple personae anyhow.  So though I probably wouldn’t do anything differently if I had to do it again, it would be a lie to pretend that standing up for what I fervently believe in, under the name by which I’m known to the world, wasn’t a pearl of great price.  And while I’m hardheaded and uppity enough to have made that choice, and philosophical enough to accept the enormous financial costs, many others might not be so willing to speak truth to power if they knew it might damage their ability to make a living.  But sure, go ahead and forcibly dox everyone with over 10,000 followers; I’m sure that’ll be great for “democracy”.

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