Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tap That Talent Pool, Already: Disability, Entrepreneurship, and Social Obstacles

"This is what the ramen was for!" exclaimed my friend Rustin, as he pondered the very successful re-launch of his business. His company, Reed&Wright, had been left a metaphorical smoking ruin much in the same way as Rustin's life, health, dwelling, and property had been left a literal smoking ruin after a devastating apartment fire back in 2004. Besides losing his business and the majority of his possessions (what didn't get ruined by the fire or the smoke got ruined by sitting around in an inch of water for months afterward), Rustin sustained structural second-degree burns over a large portion of his body, a serious, life-threatening intestinal infection (you don't want to know the details, trust me), and lost most of the use of his left arm. His arm is recovering, slowly, but the medical professionals estimate that the damaged nerves repair themselves at a rate of about a half-millimetre a month, so he has a long, long recovery ahead of him still.

Nevertheless, because he is a self-described "driven motherfucker," he has managed to produce this, and this, and has an entire line of products in the works.* (Disclosure: A work which encompasses the information from Streetcar Suburbs and Trolleytrack Towns and Built For Riders is among them.) He is well on his way to having a successful small specialty publishing company.

Me, I'm also a disabled entrepreneur. (And I'm looking for more of you!) I went a slightly different route and got a government grant from the Canadian federal government for entrepreneurs with disabilities, and now I have a moderately successful microbusiness. It's keeping me alive and in groceries and roof, at least. I also know another disabled entrepreneur; I'll call him Theo, although that isn't his name. Theo is a consultant like me, albeit in a different field. He's missing a leg and uses a wheelchair.

While I realise that the plural of anecdote is not "data," one common experience the three of us have had is coming to entrepreneurship out of a desire to walk away from a system (the traditional employment system) that was not, we felt, giving us a fair break and recognising our talents and skills. In my experience, there are very many disabled entrepreneurs who go into business for themselves because they've felt shut out of traditional employment opportunities and undervalued in the workplace. For us, starting our own businesses and relating to potential employers as service-providing contractors rather than as job seekers changes the power dynamic dramatically and in our favour, especially if we already have a proven track record of successful job performance. (I built up a lot of my resume doing telecommuting jobs, the ultimate blind audition, because most of my previous clients had no idea what I looked like or that I was handicapped. I was the perfect author function; for all my clients knew, I could have been a cat with opposeable thumbs. But I could do the job, and that was what was important.)

The Power Dynamic: For us, the important part was to be able to shift the discourse away from being a petitioner (so to speak) to being an offerer. In terms of optics, it makes all the difference. As a job seeker, you are already in a subordinate position to the people who have the job on offer. If you therefore seem in any way weak or desperate, you are at a severe disadvantage. If you seem weak or desperate because of your very nature, as I've written about before, you are even worse off. Being unable to perform the appropriate look and feel on demand for corporations who are currently obsessed with "fit" (which, in my experience, is a sort of shorthand for "conformity to the corporate norm") because of your nature is a real drawback on the job-seeking market. However, if you can become an offerer of services, you are suddenly on a much more equal footing with potential employers, and the level of professionalism with which you are likely to be treated rises accordingly.

All is not lost for those who would rather not eat ramen while waiting (interminably!) for their embryonic startups to start having positive cashflow. A lot of corporations are coming to realise that there actually is a significant business case for hiring individuals with disabilities, which is a step in the right direction. A group in British Columbia, WorkAble Solutions, has published a research report and an employer handbook on the subject.** WorkAble Solutions' summary of the business case is as follows:
  • Employers need skilled workers

  • Persons with disabilities are a largely untapped human resource available to meet today’s growing labour and skill shortages

  • Persons with disabilities are a large, growing consumer market.
I am personally skeptical of the claim that there are "growing labour and skill shortages," particularly in light of the recent local demise of mandatory retirement laws, although I am hearing this claim repeated over and over again by HR professionals of my acquaintance (many). Cynical me, I suspect that their idea of a "labour shortage" means that the unemployment rate and the cost of labour is such that most employers no longer receive hundreds of resumes for one position and may have to -- horrors! -- select from a pool of merely some tens of candidates. Which is how it should be, really. I think a lot of the current crop of HR people have gotten so used to an "employers' market" that it makes them nervous when the tables are turned such that job-seekers actually have a little power.

I would also add to that list that people are more likely to patronise a firm they feel looks like them and their community, which is where my next point comes up. Unlike me, both my friends Rustin and Theo came to their disabilities late in life. As the population in general gets older, and as medical science turns what once might have been fatal or severely debilitating medical problems into manageable conditions, the proportion of disabled people to the overall workforce is only going to increase. A bias against disabled people in the workplace is only getting more irrational by the moment. There may in fact be significant improvements (finally!) in prospects for disabled people to have stable, meaningful work in the fields in which they were trained, particularly in future. (I'm also cynical enough to suggest that now that disability issues are becoming important to those penultimate power brokers, the Baby Boomers, they're starting to get some attention and remediation.)

Of course, rosy future prospects don't translate into paid bills now, which is something I think a lot of rights activists in general forget (especially when criticising others for choices they've made). Entrepreneurship is one of the ways to bridge that gap. Of course, it's not for everyone. (Not everyone likes ramen.) The hours are long, it requires a lot of work, patience, persistence, tenacity, and, as Rustin puts it, "complete shamelessness helps." The life of a small-business owner or a consultant may not be ideal, but it beats yet another "We received many applications from extremely qualified candidates...we wish you great success with your future career" letter in the mail.


* Obligatory Bleg: Feel free to buy posters. I don't make any money from the sale, but Rustin does, and they're $4US, cheap at twice the price. They look damn good in those pictures, and nicer in real life, too.

** Because of insider information, I know that more material like this is forthcoming from other groups.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

John Stuart Mill Was Right

He said, "Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative" (click for larger view, which is really important in this case).

"Unexplained silliness" my rosy pink behind...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Bravest Women in Iraq

Here's an enraging story that I haven't yet heard the mainstream North American media pick up on:
Amid the Iraqi Government's attempts to stop the spiral of violence, comes the story of 20-year-old Sabrine Janabi - a story that threatens those very efforts to improve the security situation.

The woman, whose identity has not been confirmed, told Al Jazeera Arabic television that Iraqi police raided her house in western Baghdad on Sunday, while her husband was away.

She said the officers accused her of providing food to Sunni fighters, before taking her to a police facility. She then alleges she was raped by three officers.
I first heard of this from Riverbend, who gives a detailed account of the original Al Jazeera broadcast, including screenshots.

A website I was on yesterday had a quotation, "If we believe absurdities, we will commit atrocities," and I think that's about the most accurate summation of the problem here. The US government believed some patent absurdities enough to start the whole conflagration. Enter atrocities.

I find it doubly heartbreaking to see Riverbend write
I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.
I'm pretty enraged. I'm perhaps more enraged about this case than I am about the tiresomely usual case in which a woman in North America comes forward claiming to have been raped, and is roundly disbelieved, mocked, shamed, and degraded. It's worse in this case because this isn't just another simple case of the Patriarchy At Work; it's also complicated by the (admittedly patriarchal) exercise of American supremacy in the world. The conditions for atrocities like this one (and the ones at Abu Ghraib, and so on) would not exist had the US not irrationally decided they needed (for whatever twisted reasons) to take out Saddam Hussein. I'm more angry about this case than the business-as-usual story in North America because it's obvious here that Iraqi women are losing their agency, autonomy, and humanity in great leaps and bounds every day.

I'm even more angry about this case than the business-as-usual story in North America because, as a Canadian citizen whose government isn't even involved, and who cannot vote in US elections nor petition US politicians seeking redress on behalf of others (and expect to be listened to), there's next to nothing I can do about it.

A Short Tangential Aside: This, and the case of Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, for whose rape and murder a US soldier has been sentenced to 90 years in prison, and two others may face execution, are ample refutations of the tedious argument that feminists should support the "humanitarian intervention" in Iraq on the grounds that it's beneficial to women. Short course: Wars are never good for women and other human beings; invasions even less so. It's really that simple. (Why am I reminded so much of the beginning of the War of 1812-14, where the US rhetoric was all about how they should invade Canada to free us from the wicked tyrant-king? Then some part or other of their fighting force decided that the best way to liberate the citizens of Chatham, Ontario, from the wicked tyrant-king would be to slaughter the entire population of the village, loot what they could carry, and burn the rest. Why am I reminded so much? Because the stories themselves just never change.)

"Enraged" is a good word. Also "disgusted" and "appalled."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Eight Hundred Sixty Seven Million Dollars

...is 17% of the current $51 billion Employment Insurance surplus in Canada.

17% of Canadians who pay into Employment Insurance are never able to collect it, because they work too few hours per year to qualify. According to Service Canada,
Most people will need between 420 and 700 insurable hours of work in their qualifying period to qualify, depending on the unemployment rate in their region at the time of filing their claim for benefits. ... [I]f you are living in one of the 23 participating economic regions, you could qualify for regular benefits with a minimum of 840 hours instead of 910 hours.

When you show that you have at least 490 hours related to employment in the labour force during the labour force attachment period you will need between 420 and 700 insurable hours to qualify for regular benefits. Otherwise, you will need a minimum of 910 hours to qualify regular benefits. In some instances, a minimum of 910 hours in the qualifying period may be needed to qualify.
Most of the workers who do not meet the cutoff are low-income women, who often have short-term, temporary jobs, and are exactly the kinds of people a rationally-designed (un)employment insurance system would benefit most.

Under Brian Mulroney in 1990, and then again in 1994 and 1997 under Jean Chretien, it became progressively harder and harder to collect EI. Now, the federal government has a $51B surplus in the fund reserved for Employment Insurance payouts, and has been posting billion-plus dollar general funds surpluses since 1997/8.

That's even despite dispiriting news such as this reported (in an oddly right-wingily celebratory sort of way) by Statscan:
Federal government revenue fell to $190 billion in 2002/03, down from $192 billion in 2001/02. This second straight decline was due in part to a drop in personal income taxes, explained largely by weakness in the stock market. As well, corporate income taxes dropped, reflecting a weak profit performance in the previous year.

At the same time, federal government expenditures decreased, albeit marginally, from $185 billion in 2001/02 to $184 billion in 2002/03.
So, personal income taxes are down, the politicians are handing out tax cuts left and right (mostly right), corporate income taxes are down (and if anyone thinks that's because of "weak profit performance" instead of the Liberals' "business friendly" attitudes, I have a tower in Toronto I'd like to sell you, cheap), and so have government revenues.

Meanwhile, so has the national debt as a percentage of government spending, " from a high of 33 cents of every dollar of revenue collected by the federal government in 1995/96 down to 19 cents in 2001/02."

Yet we're still directing vast amounts of money into "debt reduction" (as if, at this time, with one of the healthiest economies in the world, we need to do any more debt reduction) and tax cuts, while starving beneficial social services because the benevolent bureaucrats in Ottawa would rather sit on a $51B surplus than do something useful with it, like make sure it gets paid out to its supposed beneficiaries.

That's approximately $160.00 of money from every Canadian, not just the percentage of the population currently paying into EI (which excludes children, retirees, the self-employed, people who don't work for other reasons, et cetera). Not that I'm saying every Canadian should get cut a cheque for $160. For one thing, a lot more people would get $160 out of it than ever paid into it. But that's not the point. $51B is an awe-inspiring amount of money.

For once in your stupid, useless, right-wing, University of Manitoba School of Economics lives, policy wonks in Ottawa, do the economic right thing and invest that $51B where it will do some good: a revamped EI programme that gives a fair break to women and minorities; infrastructure; healthcare and social services, and maybe some roses to go with the bread, too.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

On the Outside, Looking In

"God damn you to hell," writes Arthur Silber in a post that outlines precisely what the difference is between being a white, heterosexual man and a white, homosexual man. Small things can make all the difference in the world. I've written before about how I've noticed the intersection of class and race issues in my life, or maybe I should be more broad, yet more specific, and say "the intersection of class and prejudice," since (being so white I'm practically blue in a city where pale is the overwhelmingly dominant skin colour) I don't really get hit with the racism stick, but I certainly have had to deal with ablism, size discrimination, and other forms of looks-based discrimination.

In my experience, dealing with discrimination of that sort can be an overwhelming, self-reinforcing negative cycle. The more shut out of things you feel, the less inclined you are to even try to abide by nominal social norms, and the more severe the social penalties are that accrue against you. One of the most catastrophic social penalties (as opposed to financial penalties) that one encounters here in Whitebreadville is invisibility. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? I recommend you go off and read Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man to start with, and/or, if you're pressed for time, track down a copy of Robert Silverberg's story "To See the Invisible Man." (It's available in the "New Stories from The Twilight Zone" anthology, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, and it was also made into an episode of the New Twilight Zone in 1985).

Of course, since Canadians are relatively polite, while they're working hard to unsee you to keep from staring (because staring at someone would be rude), being effectively invisible may not keep you from getting served in a restaurant (as in Silverberg's story). It certainly won't keep you from getting arrested, but it may keep you from being able to ride public transit (as I learned to my dismay during my most outrageous punk-rocker phase when bus drivers would just not see me at bus stops, repeatedly), and it may cause people to try to walk through you on the street, which has happened a couple of times while I was wearing my scarf around my head*. It can also effectively prevent you from buying anything in certain stores, since the sales staff will actively ignore you. This latter can happen here in Whitebreadville even if you're merely insufficiently dressed-up enough for their taste. If you happen to be female, that's a fairly high standard, these days. Forget about going to the malls in the nice parts of town if you're wearing a pair of jeans with the bottom hems going raggy, unless of course you're also highly groomed and made-up and wearing a $200 pair of high-heeled boots and an expensive coat and outfit.

The choice is fairly simple: Conform to the narrow norm, or have other people's prejudices limit your options for you. This directive is particularly limiting when it's aimed at you in ways that you simply cannot conform to. Case in point, I was once given an extremely rude talking-to by a (white, male) recruiter on the grounds that the outfit in which I had shown up to a job interview was not "conservative" and "dressed up" enough for his liking. (I had turned up in a black business suit with a pink blouse on underneath, black and pink being a very hot colour combo at the time.) Most job interview dressing guides emphasise (even now) that female job-seekers should wear skirts, nylons, and high-heeled, closed-toe shoes.

Now how am I going to conform to that narrow norm? I cannot walk in high-heeled shoes (and most pumps won't stay on my feet because my feet are oddly shaped and two different sizes, and I have no heels to speak of**); I'm allergic to nylons (they turn my skin red and itchy), and, because of the way my disability makes my legs look, I'd draw more negative attention from wearing a skirt than wearing pants. (It is tangential but useful to point out that job-interview dressing advice aimed at women has not changed substantially since the mid-1960s.) However, dressing to accommodate my disability -- which is nothing I can control -- and, incidentally, to minimise other people's discomfort with the sight of my non-standard carcass still carries a social penalty.

As Silber says in another essay in the same series,
[P]ower flows from the primary cultural structures which embody and disperse that power.

This simple and inescapable fact has consequences that reverberate in countless ways through the lives we all lead. It affects the jobs we have, the jobs we believe we can hope to get, where we live, how well we are paid, how we socialize, the people whom we befriend, those whom we marry, and almost everything else. Let me be very clear: I am not endorsing some form of cultural determinism, nor am I saying that we all must inevitably be constrained by these choices. But our choices are not infinite, either; they are limited to a very significant degree by the particular culture in which we live at this particular time. When we seek to transcend the limitations imposed by our culture, such efforts require daunting work over a prolonged period of time -- and the costs, in numerous ways, can be enormous. For many people, those costs are prohibitively high.

In my case, here in Whitebreadville, the "primary cultural structures" are overwhelmingly white, affluent, professional, and socially conservative in certain ways, especially pertaining to gender differences.

Perform the gender of the affluent, white, professional, conservative woman, bitch, or else. (Performing affluence^ and conservatism are equally as hard as performing the prescribed notions of femininity, if you are not affluent or socially conservative, let alone cisgender.)

In this case, the "or else" is, among other things, "...you won't get that job," "...you'll get passed over for promotion," "...you'll wind up making tens of thousands of dollars less per year than people your age with your qualifications," "...people will talk about you to other people that you know" (in a city as disturbingly interconnected as Whitebreadville, where there often literally are only 2.5 degrees of separation between anyone and anyone else, that's no idle threat), "...you'll be invisible." And so on.

Social costs. Indeed. Daunting work, yep. It's a fucking daunting amount of work just trying to deal with people whose default gender settings for people with female bodies are either "conforms to narrow heteronormative standard" or "lesbian, and can be treated with contempt." It's a fucking daunting amount of work just dealing with people whose default settings for physical existence are "normal" (read: don't notice) and "plucky cripple," or "obvious physical disability = hidden mental disability." It's a fucking daunting amount of work dealing with people whose default socio-economic settings are "normal" (read: rich like me) and "white trash" or "social-services abusing minority" (the contrary to that is, of course, "one of the good ones," "a hard worker," "articulate," et cetera).

A Tangential Obama Aside: It really stung me when I read the commentary on "articulate"^^ being used as a racist codeword in the case of Barack Obama, since "articulate" is something that people frequently use to describe me. Now, I probably am more articulate than the average bear, but now I'm also wondering if I'm being contrastively described against those (ideational) other handicapped people, who presumably aren't articulate. (Which is funny as hell, since there are an awful lot of non-articulate able-bodied people out there, many of whom are in positions of nominal power, and who speak the godawful local rural dialect.)

Do I sound a bit angry? Bitter, perhaps? Maybe. Here's Silber again, from his essay We Are Not Freaks, after having described a case where school officials wanted to use a little boy with a slight deformity as a "case study" in teaching genetics and heredity (they couldn't use eye colour like everyone else in the world?): "If he allowed himself to experience fully the humiliation and the shame, and the immense rage to which he was fully entitled, and if he felt it for more than a couple of minutes, it would kill him. That's how the repression begins in the case of the innocent victim: it is the only way he can survive."

Damn right. Buy in, sell out? I own a collection of designer blouses, some very expensive, conservative suits, and a pair of flat, loafer-like "Republican shoes." Deal with it.

*I feel bad for anyone who wears a hijab out of a sense of religious obligation or for any other reason here in Whitebreadville if idiot frat boys from the local university try to walk through them, too.

** The backs of my feet are essentially straight up and down.

^ The existence of Whitebreadvillian thrift stores where $200 designer blouses et al can be gotten for a pittance by the intrepid and lucky is a blessing, especially when one is a consultant and socially obligated to try to look rich when hustling for business, especially against the myriad female types here whose husbands have cushy, well-paying jobs and who consult, part-time, and then don't understand why you can't pony up $1200 to come to their "really beneficial" seminars, et cetera.

^^ I have nothing to say about this.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Objectively Pro-Robot

Note: Understanding this entry requires having seen the video for Heck No! (I'll Never Listen to Techno) by Maldroid. You can come back; I'll wait.

I found this video quite randomly the other day while surfing around on YouTube, which is definitely my visual drug of choice (television is not the drug of the Nation of Interrobangs; I kicked my television habit over ten years ago now). I was intrigued by the title, since I actually like some techno, and I was wondering if it was going to be a TISM-style one-sided pissing match or not. Besides which, the video said it was stop-motion animation done on a Lite Brite, and anyone who's crazy enough to have a music video using stop-motion Lite Brite animation is obviously my kind of maniac. Shades of Lasse Gjertsen.

And here I'd thought subtle Juvenalian satire was dead.

I'm not sure if it was an accidental political statement or not, but the message of the song -- and the video even more so -- basically effectively takes the wind out of those "If the [foo]s win, then we'll have to [bar]" arguments. I'm generalising here, although the most common form of those these days is "If the terrorists win, then [some horrible thing]," although the right wing has been using this basic formulation for years. I remember quite vividly people like Phyllis "Ladies Against Women" Schlafly using this one in the form of "If the ERA passes, then everyone will have to share bathrooms!" (Oh, the howwow! Widdow Intewwobang gonna fwow up now...)

The rhetorical strategies haven't changed in 30 years, just the targets, or, as Mrs. Underwood the algebra teacher (from Stephen King's "Rage") put it, "So you understand that when we increase the number of variables, the axioms themselves never change."

Naturally, half the commenters on YouTube, of the comments I read, missed it entirely. Nevertheless, you, dear intelligent readers, can answer the next wingnut fulmination about beheadings and Shari'a law and whatever else and the "terrorists winning" (whatever the hell "win" means in this context -- as though life is some kind of zero-sum sporting event) by saying, "Yeah, yeah, and if the robots win, we'll have to listen to techno." Be sure to have your digital camera ready to capture the reaction for posterity (and posting to YouTube).

Friday, February 09, 2007

Not Muslim, Just Cold

It's been liquid nitrogen weather here in the microclimate. Wind chills have been down to -30C at times, which is an important number to note if you, like I, are an unperson and don't drive a car, and thereby are spending quite a bit of time out perambulating around in the Big Blue Deep-Freeze.

I must confess, I hate wearing winter hats. I have long, wavy-ish, fine, thin, flyaway hair (I'd cut it off but I've spent years growing it, and about four years ago I got tired of people mistaking me for a lesbian graduate student), and winter hats don't make it happy...especially when I'm going to work or something where I can't walk around wearing the damned thing, like at work.

Fortunately, I have the perfect solution. It doesn't squish my hair, or if it does, it doesn't squish it in that annoying "hat head" way, and it also doesn't seem to aggravate the flyaway tendencies, either.

I own several of what are vernacularly called "pashmina scarves" (only two of mine are actually pashmina/silk, one of which is actually from Nepal and I've had it since long before the things were cool), or "fringed shaylas" in other parts of the world. Instead of wearing them Ghurka-fashion, folded in thirds and wound around my neck, instead of a hat, I wear them shayla-fashion, around my head.

Since I don't actually own any hijab pins (note to self: hijab pins), I kind of have to make do with an artistic arrangement of folding and tucking. The collar of my winter coat helps a lot, especially since I can tuck the loose ends of the scarf in the collar of my coat. (This of course doesn't dispel the illusion any.)

And it's quite an interesting illusion. I've gotten quite a few looks, but nothing I can really categorise as hostile or anything, more curious. I actually must be kind of a spectacle, since "everyone knows" what "Muslims look like," and although we have a few Serbian or Croatian Muslims in town, there aren't that many (I'd wager the two largest Muslim groups are Iranians [who call themselves Persians] and Somalis), and I don't look like them, either, with my so-pale-it's-blue skin and my dusty-blue eyes. (I suffer at times from a terrible colour saturation level problem, and also sunburn.)

I actually learnt how to wind cloth around my head in interesting ways while I was active in the SCA and going to Pennsic regularly. When I had my hair dyed black (boosts my colour saturation), I found it was cooler to go around with my head wrapped in light-coloured cloth. Not only that, but a veil worn with a broad-brimmed straw hat would keep my face and neck from turning the colour of a freshly-boiled lobster, while avoiding massive slatherings with skin-stinging sunscreen. At winter SCA events, some of them held in sprawling halls so draughty you might well have been outside, I found that having my head veiled was actually quite warm, bonus points if I could, say, tuck the hem of my veil in the neck of my houppelande.

Earlier this summer, as well, I was doing research for a manuscript I wrote tentatively titled How to Dress Like a Muslim, and the idea of fringed shawls and veils (in the medieval, not niqab, sense) and stuff sort of fused in my head, and I wound up inventing my own way of draping a fringed shayla that has the look and feel of a hijab-style shayla but requires no pinning.

It's actually very similar to the technique shown here (scroll down to the bottom of the page, showing the mannequin in the brown shayla). Instead of just draping the shayla over my head at the front and then creasing it at the sides, though, I tuck it behind my ears, then bring the folds up from behind and over my ears. I also start with the shayla placed very asymmetrically on my head -- on the left side, it just barely touches my shoulder, and on the right side, it hangs down quite far. Then I bring the short side under my chin and tuck it in on the right side, in my collar. I wrap it just like pictures 3 and 4 in that series, and wind up with a look very similar to picture 5, except without the pin (I tuck the loose end up and around in my coat collar under my chin). Remarkably enough, it usually stays quite adequately, although if I were going out for what I knew would be a long walk in the cold, I'd probably pin it rather like in picture 5.

It's relatively easy to do (easier using a mirror, though), especially once you practice a bit, very warm (especially if I use one of the actual pashmina/silk shaylas), and comfortable.

In truth, I didn't start doing it because I was trying to make a statement; I did it because I could, and because I happened to be wearing a fringed scarf and no hat and my ears were falling off in an unexpectedly stiff breeze-cum-windchill. However, I must say walking around in a long black winter trenchcoat while wearing what looks to be a black hijab is an interesting sociological experiment. I feel rather like a female version of John Howard Griffin. I suspect I'm unlikely to be hanged in effigy here in Whitebreadville, though.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My First Blogoversary!

Interrobang's Internationale is one year old today! It got off to a great start with By The Numbers, a numerical analysis of the Bush death toll (a year ago) compared to various US population centres, and then almost immediately went on hiatus for about three weeks, because a friend came to visit me from England and stayed for three weeks.

I manage to post here irregularly -- I'm going to try to aim for more regular posts, now that I have a job that demands regular, if part-time, hours, although it's often difficult to come up with the kinds of things that I like to write in this forum just like that. A lot of my pieces, believe it or not, involve substantial amounts of research and, dare I say, even some number-crunching. Even Tell Her Klezmer Joe Was Here and Had to Go and the streetcar series, while more in my arts-and-social-science type background area, weren't exactly trivial to write. (The streetcar manuscript and all its pieces fought me every electron of the way.)

Thanks to all of my regular readers (I know who you are, or at least what your IP addresses are!) for being here. Thanks to those of you who leave comments, especially my regular commenters -- #1 Interrobangish Fan Sanjay, Eli Who Pinches, Green Goddess Anne Johnson, and particularly my buddy Spocko! (Also, big thanks to YodQaf for calling me today! You rock, dude! Call me sometime when I'm actually home, though.) I could have done it without you, but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun...

Thursday, February 01, 2007


She would appreciate the irony -- an entire blogosphere full of gifted writers being struck incoherent at the news of her passing.

Goodbye, Molly Ivins.