Saturday, February 26, 2011

RealGrouchy upgrades again

(Yes, the timestamp is accurate. I've been somewhat awake since I started the previous post at 6am on the 25th) After I finished the previous post, I read it aloud to myself and liked how it flowed. I wanted to podcast it.

The resulting efforts have resulted in the biggest change since in 2006, when I rebranded the blog. (Which is to say that the template is still the same old off-the-shelf one I picked in 2004, and a couple of details here and there were tweaked.)

After some digging around discovered I'd need some hosting space of my own for podcasts, and of course a domain. With being taken by some squatter in Virginia, I registered I used which I've had experience with and I know their services are versatile. That said, I just looked at configuring it so that Blogger publishes on and it looks too complicated, so I just set it to redirect to the ol' Blogger blog.

I also set up a RealGrouchy WordPress account, to make it easier to subscribe by e-mail to comments on people's WordPress-based blogs. It used to be that you just click the checkbox. Then you had to click a link in a confirmation e-mail (missing out on any comments that were posted before you next checked your inbox). Now, and for the last few months, it has required you to follow a link in an e-mail, then click a confirmation button on the other side of that link.

I also set up a GRAvatar (globally-recognizable avatar, IIRC) with my usual RealGrouchy icon (though it wanted me to crop the photo down, chopping off the top and bottom; it wouldn't let me expand the box, so that took more time, making the avatar square in GIMP). Creepily, WordPress automatically associated all my old comments with my new WordPress account and added in my new GRAvatar and blog link.

That's better than LiveJournal, I guess. A couple years ago, I went to register the RealGrouchy handle on LiveJournal to comment on the OC Transpo livejournal, only to find that was publishing a carbon copy of my blog, without my permission, using what they call a "syndicated account". They promptly deleted this copied blog, but told me that syndicated accounts can't be converted to regular personal accounts. Instead, they can delete the account, I can create a new one under a different username, then get them to move the RealGrouchy username for a $30 fee. How nice of them to charge me $30 for stealing my content. I declined, and it's probably just as well that I don't waste time trying to talk sense in the OC Transpo LiveJournal forum.

As for the podcasts, I didn't really have time today to prepare a podcast, much less preparing a podcast and setting up all this hosting stuff.

But the next time I feel the urge to podcast, I'm already a third of the way there (step 1: get web space, step 2: figure out how to podcast, step 3: record and edit the actual podcast for posting).

- RG>

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ken Gray wants you to stop blogging

Beware of the Bulldog. He's a Serious JournalistKen Gray is a Serious Journalist. Like other isms (think "sexism" and "racism"), "journalism" in the way Ken Gray practises it means he doesn't like it when other people keep journals.

In other words, Ken Gray doesn't want you to blog.

Of course, he can blog, but that's because he's a Serious Journalist. Gray's blog is called "the Bulldog", at (I post the link reluctantly, because I really don't like driving traffic to him). Living up to his name, a lot of what he says about blogging and social media is bull.

The latest round of his drivel about bloggers started with the post "Pity the poor blogger", in which he compares his Well-Visited Blog to the lesser citizen journalists who resort to Twitter because they are ashamed of how few people read their blog.

You can also follow Ken Gray on Twitter at @KenGray.

The self-appointed Minister of Truth followed up that post with "Blogging and the law: let the bloggers beware," in which he asserts that bloggers (and tweeters) shouldn't be trusted because they don't always get their facts right.

I'm not going to waste my time arguing with Ken Gray on the topic, but if you want to get into that discussion, I recommend this post by Twitterer Keenan Wellar and the comments to Ken's posts linked above. He's actually approved a couple of them that make decent points, and Ken graciously inserted his own comments into their comments instead of replying in a separate comment. It's like a Ministry of Truth certificate of inspection.

If you're really lucky, like me, Ken Gray will keep your comments all to himself. You see, Ken Gray upholds standards of Truth, and will only approve comments on his blog that are True, because as publisher he can be sued for libel. For example, one Truth is "Ken Gray is not a Hypocrite". I suspect it must be libelous to say otherwise, or to point out clear examples of hypocrisy by Ken Gray, as he will often not approve comments where you do so. I guess he's afraid that Ken Gray might sue the Citizen for defamation if the comments are allowed.

As a concrete example (which are definitely not allowed on the Bulldog blog when referring to Ken Gray being a hypocrite), the following comment must be libelous, because Ken Gray did not approve it when I posted the comment on his aforementioned post, "Bloggers and the Law: let the Bloggers Beware":
"I thought journalists were in favour of the widespread sharing of information; not restricting it to a select few approved by authorities. Of course, that assumes your oft-repeated definition of journalism applies to you.

And you even admit you yourself make factual errors once in a while (an understatement, I must say), yet you contradictorily seem to think that people should not blog unless their posts are entirely without errors. You also lump all bloggers together, insulting an entire community en masse, including people who mostly write about knitting and pets.

Don't worry; I don't expect you to approve this comment. I've saved up a collection of my comments that you have censored, and your latest set of posts about bloggers has rekindled my urge to post them all on my own blog, where Ken Gray, self-appointed Minister of Truth can't veto them."
Well, Mea culpa. A couple of years ago when he went on one of his tirades about the anonymous ZeroMeansZero blog, I naively told him about the Streisand effect, and pointed out that by talking about ZMZ he was broadening its viewership with free advertising.

And as the ZMZ example illustrates, this is by far not the first time the Bulldog has come out at full bark on bloggers, or boldly expounded his virtuousness while cowardly concealing his foibles. Ken Gray's style is to make sweeping generalizations about groups of people or things when he doesn't agree with one or two members of those groups, and "bloggers" is perhaps his favourite group to talk about in this way.

I've got lots more to say about how Ken Gray is a liar, a coward, and a hypocrite, but for now I'll just say that people should follow his advice to not pay attention to blogs, starting with his.

To keep up with my upcoming series Ken Gray exposées, follow the ones that are tagged KenGray.

- RG>

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Furey vs. Motherhood and Apple Pie

The Ottawa Sun's editorial page editor, Toronto expat Anthony Furey, made an antagonistic first impression last month by shouting out his opinion on how the City of Ottawa should be run, context bedamned.

He's at it again, questioning the status quo. Only this time instead of siding with the failed 2006 efforts of rookie politician Larry O'Brien, he's siding with the failed 2000 efforts of veteran councillor Alex Cullen.

Like the 2009 Atheist bus ad issue and the 2007 Support Our Troops fight, which prompted me to create the yellowribons label for blog posts on such groupthink issues.

Like those two more recent issues, Cullen alone in 2000 in voting to remove the prayer from the start of council meetings. Furey thinks this idea's time should come around again. And while the City of Ottawa is a secular corporation, and 1 in 6 Canadians and Ontarians were non-religious in 2001, Furey doesn't realize that we can never risk offending the other 5.

Furey needs to learn that if he wants to make it in small-town Ottawa, he's going to have to support Motherhood and Apple Pie.

- RG>

NCC faces its Waterlude

With warm weather coming up this weekend, I guess it's time to pull out ol' rainful, my cleverly-crafted parody of the Winterlude logo.

First debuted last January. Like so many of my subversive efforts, the changes were so subtle and so seamless that I think it went unnoticed in plain sight.

It would be a terrible thing if someone were to print it out and paste it over official Winterlude materials...

BTW, I'm a great fan of the canal and Winterlude. Aside from the Beavertails, it's a free festival for all to enjoy in the middle of a miserable season.

- RG>

Monday, February 14, 2011

I'm not getting you down at all, am I?

I've had a few people remark to me that I haven't blogged in a while (just over a month, actually), and what gives.

Long story short:

- I've been busy at work

- I've been busy outside of work

- I've been procrastinating the things I should be doing in the previous two categories

- I've been depressed again.

I do want to elaborate on that last point. There were a few depression-related newspaper articles a month or so ago that would have made good launching points for this post, and I never got off my arse to actually do it. The Sun and the Metro both had a depression-related article one day, and sometime last week there was something about wearing purple to raise awareness for mental health. I never found out exactly what it was, but I wore purple that day for the heck of it. They all generally fall under the category of "[some campaign] says that not enough people talk about depression", so I figured I'll just talk about mine.

I'd previously seen a shrink and taken pills for a number of years (including all through high school), and went off and back on and back off pills and psychotherapy (which is just a fancy word for "talking"). It has been well over half a decade since I last saw a shrink for depression, and I've been able to work out my own personality problems myself.

In the intervening years, I'd have downswings, often after pushing myself too hard, from which I'd recover after I ease up. It helps that I can be very stubborn.

But things have been going squarely downhill lately.

It doesn't help that I have a really complicated lifestyle, where I don't really have a routine but I'm always got many projects on the go, in each of my personal, work, and extracurricular lives. My sleep schedule is pretty erratic, as are my eating habits. So I've never had a baseline for how I "normally" feel.

So as I dealt with my new job and adjusted to its new full-time hours and new location (and the new pay--at least I didn't have money issues to compound problems), my extracurriculars also demanded more and more from me. If I was falling behind on one, I assumed it was due to pressure from the other.

But both were falling further and further behind, and the things I did to cheer myself up, didn't. It's not that I didn't want to get these things done (I did), it's not that I didn't know what to do (I did), it's that I realized I had absolutely no motivation to do anything productive. I didn't derive satisfaction from completing a project.

To a utilitarian like me, this was a serious problem.

Quitting wasn't really an option. I enjoy my job--when I actually accomplish things--both in absolute terms and relative to whatever else I might get. And it's not like I'd be successful at any other job in this state. Unemployed, I'd just waste away my savings doing nothing until I was depressed and destitute.

Over a month or so, I tried every trick in the book to get back on the wagon. I tried various forms of lists, reminders, and angry notes to myself. I tried (and generally failed at) tricks like drinking more water, changing my sleeping arrangements, and eating healthier. I tried directing my procrastination into lower-priority things that at least needed to get done.

Finally, at a certain point I had reached a low where I didn't want to even bother trying anymore. I was afraid that I had hit a dead end with no escape strategy.

I didn't clue in to the fact that there was something fundamentally wrong with me until one day when I realized that I not only accomplished nothing at work that day, but I also didn't work on any of my personal projects either. I had pissed it away reading news articles, commenting on blogs, diddling away on my stupid Blackberry's games, and snacking. When a deadline would approach or pass, I'd make excuses or pithy apologies.

I finally remembered my Psych 101 classes, that sometimes there is something physiological going on. Maybe I was...depressed.

Sadly, this epiphany by itself did nothing to alleviate the situation. But at least I found another corner to follow on my erstwhile dead end.

My doctor--the one who once said "maybe it's just you" when I complained of chronic fatigue--graciously* fit me in between some other patients the next day, and prescribed me some medications (apparently our overstretched modern medical system has replaced the psychologist with a flowchart as the primary diagnostic tool for depression). She said I probably won't feel the effects until 3 or 4 weeks into taking the pills daily. I'd always found this peculiar because Psych 101--or maybe Wikipedia--also taught that bouts of depression usually last only 2 weeks. Obviously mine had already stretched longer so I was hoping for more than a placebo effect.

(*Not being sarcastic this time. Normally the earliest appointment is two weeks away or more and I don't know what I'd have done if I had to wait that long.)

I'm now 3 weeks in, and still feeling pretty damn shitty. I had five major work/personal tasks I needed to get done on the weekend, and woke up in a panic in the middle of the night last night, realizing I hadn't done any of them.

While I haven't noticed any good effects of the drug, the side effects began pretty much from day one. I've been keeping a list on my Blackberry. The form that came with the drug said I should have notified my doctor immediately about the itching (which I didn't even realize was the drug for a few days), but I'll wait until the 4-week checkup.

There is a moral to the story, and it doesn't really come through well in the above paragraphs. In fact, it's not a very uplifting one, either.

I've always just assumed that everybody else was just as miserable as I am and kept it to themselves--not a bad coping mechanism, actually. But the occasional media campaigns on depression remind me that there are lots of depressed people who don't make this assumption. (And, implicitly, that there really are "normal" people out there who really don't feel like shit all the time. Burst my bubble, why don't you!)

So I thought I'd put it out there that there do exist people who appear to be organized and productive and who have made a name for themselves in their community. But beneath that outer shell of accomplishment, bear in mind that some of them--like me--suffer from depression, and are just good at hiding it.

If you are also depressed, what you choose to do with this knowledge is up to you:

- buck up and stop acting depressed

- take solace in knowing that you're not as alone as things might look

- realize that maybe your depression isn't prominent in others' eyes

If you've read this far hoping for some happy resolution or magic solution to depression, I'm afraid there isn't really one.

But if you are also depressed and my story has made you feel better, or if it has somehow inspired you, what I'd really like you to know is that I am very much not in the mood to care.

- RG>

Notice previously given

Back in November, I pointed out some street art popping up on streetposts around town called Take Notice. Coyote noticed them too.

Turns out it's an art project by Paul Roorda, which is currently on display at City Hall. Not the first time I've seen former street art on display in an gallery (though it looks like this one was only put out on the street in order to later go into a gallery. Not sure if the street art scene likes that)

There are a couple other of Roorda's projects (of similar format) on display also.

Coyote doesn't include text in his blog, so I don't think he'll scoop me on this update!

Take Notice is on display at City Hall until April 3, 2011. It's open daily from 9am-5pm. No admission; just walk right in!

[Cool visual illusion: if you scroll up and down so that the second photo goes past the bottom of the page, and stare past your screen, it looks like the little squares are zooming in and out or moving. Or something. It did for me.]

- RG>