Friday, May 22, 2015

Matched: Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth Bennet. One of the most beloved characters in English literature, Lizzie (may I call you Lizzie?) is the clever, quick-witted protagonist of Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice.

Mr. Wickham has been on my mind since I binge-watched Homeland this Spring (see: Peter Quinn), so I think I'll curl up and watch my favourite film version this weekend. I ♥ Keira Knightley.

P.S. Loving Pride & Prejudice and A Pride & Prejudice Engagement

(1. Smitten necklace by Boe; 2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson; 3. In spite of herself, this print by Hey There Design; 4. Modcloth Rose Menagerie dress - for the modern English Rose; 5. Madewell Transport tote; 6. Tide-to-Go stick; 7. Women's Chucks by Converse)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What I'm Reading Lately.

Springy weather is here, which means that my fiction game is back on point. A weekend spent at the library/bookstore + a mail delivery of The Walrus and The New Yorker has yielded a stellar reading stash.

First on the docket is Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (who, incidentally, kind of looks like my friend John). I'm speeding through this one - you can read the first chapter here to see if it catches your eye/brain.

Next, in no particular order, the line-up is:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami - reviews for this one have definitely been mixed, but I recently read - and enjoyed - Sputnik Sweetheart, so I'm going to give it a try.

The Isle of Youth: Stories by Laura van den Berg - I started reading the first story as I walked out of the library, then had to sit in my car to finish it. Looking forward to continuing this one.

The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi - whom I first encountered here, and whose excellent collection of short stories I devoured here.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill - this book is on Must Read lists everywhere! I love lists. What could possibly go wrong?

What are you reading lately?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Curating a Home Library.

Some time ago, I visited a beautiful home library. I tell you, it was like seeing bookshelf porn in real life! In addition to its gorgeous furniture and airy shelves, the library had one rule: a book could not be on the shelf unless the owner had actually read it.

I like this rule, and, thus, I am stealing it. Currently, my bookshelves contain a lot of old favourites, but also several books I've never read; aspirational books, books that were given as gifts, impulse book purchases - I need to slim my collection down.

My new rule got me thinking about other rules we follow for curating our own bookish spaces. I can be a bit persnickety about books, so I have my book rules and my stingy lending guidelines, but maybe I need more home library rules? Lists, rules, yes yes yessss.

What rules govern your home library? How do you decide what to purchase? What stays? What goes?  

(Image via Bookshelf Porn)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed: #FHRITP Edition

Last month, Dane and I both read Jon Ronson's new book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed (a sidenote: Ronson is a great pick if you're trying to make the leap from fiction to non-fiction).

It was a fascinating read about the power of shame, in particular, the phenomenon of social media shaming. I was familiar with several of the incidents that Ronson outlined, but what I found really interesting was his exploration of the impacts of being publicly shamed - for many, the shaming experience had serious consequences, such as death/rape threats, loss of employment, PTSD, depression, etc.

This is top of mind today as I sift through pieces about #FHRITP and Shawn Simoes, who is currently being publicly shamed over his actions at a Toronto FC game this weekend. To be perfectly clear, this post is not a defense of Simoes behaviour - he sexually harassed a member of the media, and was completely unapologetic when confronted. His behaviour was not okay, and I agree that he should face consequences for his actions.

However, I am seeing the resulting pile-on in a new light after reading Ronson's book. This man's life is being dismantled piece by piece - his name has been published, he's lost his job, and he's being obliterated in social media. Even people from his past are taking the opportunity to air old grievances:

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In Ronson's book, he describes how Internet trolls target shamees in different ways based on gender. One of the interviewees, a young female 4Chan troll, said this of the group's approach:
4chan aims to degrade the target, right? And one of the highest degradations for women in our culture is rape. We don’t talk about rape of men, so I think it doesn’t occur to most people as a male degradation. With men, they talk about getting them fired. In our society men are supposed to be employed. If they’re fired, they lose masculinity points.
Thus far, people on Twitter seem positively gleeful about Simoes firing, many riffing on the FHRITP acronym by suggesting that it should actually stand for: Fuck Him Right in the Pocket.

Based on what I have read, it does sound as though Simoes' firing was justified - his actions were in violation of the company's Code of Conduct. However, I worry about our tendency to further gang up on people when they have made a mistake and faced the consequences.

I wonder, is the online shame campaign educating us about why Simoes' actions were inappropriate? Will would-be perpetrators avoid committing similar acts because they now have a deeper understanding of the sexism and privilege tied up in what Simoes did, or just because they're scared? Does it matter?

Am I naïve in thinking it possible that Simoes (and other shamees) can learn important life lessons without being publicly destroyed?

Lots of questions that I don't have answers to. But, in any case, if you're looking for an engaging read, I'd recommend grabbing Ronson's book!

P.S. As I was searching for articles about this book, I found the Tumblr, Public Shaming. The point of the site is to "out" people for their offensive tweets, and further embarrass them by juxtaposing previous tweets to make them look even stupider. Feeling a bit guilty, based on what I just finished saying, but I lol'd at this one...

(Scarlet Letter image via)

Friday, May 08, 2015

Getting Along with Co-workers.

Last week I was filling out some paperwork for Human Resources, and one of the forms needed a witness signature from "a disinterested party." When I called HR to ask who counted as "disinterested," they suggested that I ask one of my colleagues to sign for me.

Funny, it had never occurred to me that my colleagues would be "disinterested parties." These are the people who send "get well soon" emails when I'm under the weather, gave heartfelt cards when Beagle passed away, and stop by my office just to say hello. In turn, I've attended the funerals of colleagues' parents, gladly celebrated the accomplishments of others, and visited new parents and their babies at home. While it is likely they don't care who receives my pension in the event of my untimely death, disinterested they are not.

It brings to mind this article that I discuss with my students - a piece cautioning readers about the blurring lines between colleagues and friends in a social media age. While I am certainly not BFFs with all of my colleagues, I enjoy a happy, healthy working relationship. I am lucky to be in a collegial department where debate is spirited and disagreements are not poisonous.

According to CBC Business, Canadian workers are among the happiest in the world - nearly two-thirds say they love or like their job a lot. So what are your secrets to a harmonious workplace?

P.S. Here are some tips from the Globe & Mail on how to survive a toxic workplace.

(Image via)  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Under Construction.

Oh, My Word! is building the new.

Please bear with me as posts + widgets disappear/get moved around. Stay tuned...I hope to be back up and running with new content soon.


(Image via)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thank You, Greece.

At 11 p.m. tonight, my partner and I were scheduled to set out on a 2-week trip around Greece. We had spent months plotting out a coast-to-coast road trip - stunning coastlines, otherworldly mountains, and all the fresh seafood we could eat. Much of our journey was pre-booked, work had been carefully scheduled so as to be fully left behind, and I had already packed my suitcase in anticipation. (Sidenote: I am happy to share details of this itinerary, if it catches anyone's eye!).

Unfortunately, we received news of an unexpected family health emergency on Saturday night. As we anxiously made plans to travel home, we realized that we could not be out of the country over the next few weeks - the trip would need to be cancelled. As Michael Bluth says: family first.

Since we are not millionaires at the moment, we took advantage of many "pay now, non-refundable" accommodation fees. We also bought plane tickets with no cancellation insurance (Dane actually thought he had purchased it, but it turned out he had only purchased 24-hour cancellation coverage). All in, we had put up $3,500 for the trip, more than two thirds of which was absolutely, positively gone.
Flashback: Just to back up for a second, I should remind you that Greece has come upon some financial trouble of its own. Until Thursday, it was looking as though the country might be unable to make the 460 million euros payment required by the International Monetary Fund, thus putting them at risk of being pushed out of the eurozone. In addition to this payment (and another to come shortly), the government needs to pay nearly 2 billion euros in public sector wages and pensions by the end of the month. Greece's unemployment rate is twice the rest of the eurozone. There are, as you can see, tough times afoot.
Okay, back to us. So, given the current financial climate, we figured that any hope of leniency on the non-refundable policies was an impossible dream. Nevertheless, as we sat for seemingly endless anxious hours in the hospital waiting room, I dashed off emails to all of our accommodations - explaining our situation, expecting the worst, hoping for the best.

Our dear friend, Janet, spent over half a day being passed from operator to operator as she tried to get through to FlightHub and British Airways, our flight vendors. "Send a doctor's note and they will see what they can do," was the conclusion of her day's work. So we did.

We had tried our best, and then we left it; there were much larger issues that needed to be handled. We had made peace with our trip being cancelled, and we would consider any refunds to be a bonus.

Then, a day or two later, something amazing started to happen: all but one of our accommodations, from small independently-owned inns to large international chains, agreed to refund our money in full. They didn't ask for proof our circumstances, they didn't make us feel badly about it. Not only that, but many of them offered condolences and kind words in their response to my message. Even the airline - an industry which often gets a bad rap - refunded us fully, and FlightHub cut their cancellation fee by two thirds.

To be clear, we knew that we had signed up with non-refundable fees. None of these vendors owed us anything, and were well within their rights to tell us to take a hike. But they did not. Chalk one up for humanity. 

I cannot tell you, in a time of immense stress and worry, how meaningful these compassionate gestures were for us. We recognize that this may have been a sacrifice for some of the smaller accommodations, and we have promised all vendors that we will visit them as soon as we can make our way to Greece (although we may be another year away from that.).

In one of my classes on service quality, I teach students that people are far more likely to share a bad customer service story than they are a good one, and I want to try and reverse that trend in some small way. We cannot possibly repay the generosity of all of these vendors, but I want to share their names and locations with you, in hopes that you might consider traveling with them one day.

There is good in the world, even on dark days. Check these do-gooders out:
Our airline was British Airways via FlightHub.

Our rental car vendor was Hertz

In Athens, we planned to stay at the Central Hotel on our way in, this AirBnb on our way back, and the Sofitel Athens Airport Hotel on our way out.

In Karpenisi, we planned to stay at Galini Hotel.

In Agios Nikitas, we planned to stay at Myrto.

In the Pelion Peninsula, we planned to stay at Amanita Guesthouse.

In Limni, we planned to stay at Eviali Apartments.
Please spread the word!

(Image of Meteora via Mike Reyfman)