Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda

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A longstanding policy of the Conservative government has been reliance on information gathered from, and outright complicity with the torture of human beings. Since we’re deep into an election, and elections are one of the most clear ways that we’re supposed to be keeping our government accountable, let’s have a look back at the Conservative government’s “soft on torture” agenda.

As Man-in-Blue-Suit would say, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about metaphorical torture. I’m talking about purposely imposing literal pain, humiliation and deprivation on actual living human beings in order to elicit information, or to otherwise bring about some political gain. This is serious, and to call it “torture” is not an exaggeration in the slightest. And Stephen Harper has made sure that the Canada is a part of it. To sum up, as Harper said himself, we might not recognise Canada, now that he’s had his way with it.

To start with, this is not a one-off thing. This is a policy that the Cons have crafted over the course of years. Far from being an accident or an oversight, parts of this “soft on torture” policy were implemented in secret, which suggests that they understood the enormity of what they were doing, but they wanted to get away with it anyway.

Contrary to Harper’s patronising dismissals, this is not a conspiracy theory either. This is well-documented by internal government “watchdogs,” military memos, Parliamentary debate and even reports from foreign powers.

The following is not an exhaustive report, but just a convenience sample that I came up with. The earliest article is from the Globe and Mail in 2012, saying that Harper covered up the delivery of prisoners to be tortured more than 5 years prior, and the most recent is the response to the CIA report in December of last year.

Fortunately, Canada is a democracy, and one of the things that we citizens of Canada have is the right—and the responsibility—to hold the government of the day accountable for its actions at the polls.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4566,
    title = {Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-09-2,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/09/02/stephen-harpers-soft-on-torture-agenda/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Sep 2015. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/09/02/stephen-harpers-soft-on-torture-agenda/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Sep 02). Stephen Harper’s “soft on torture” agenda [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/09/02/stephen-harpers-soft-on-torture-agenda/

Yes, it’s racist

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Judge Eliana Marengo recently told another human being that she had to be stripped of her identity and publicly humiliated in order to have her case heard in a court in Québec. That is to say, the judge refused to hear the case while she was wearing a hijab.

For clarity, Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec make no reference to headscarves. This was just one judge’s decision to make life harder for another human being. And it was racist.

Wait, how was it racist?

This is a point that people keep refusing to understand. I have written previously about how you can be substantially racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. without ever actually making reference to a person’s race, sex, orientation, gender, etc. This is exactly the same thing.

A policy that makes life harder for one group of people is discriminatory against that group, regardless of how obliquely that group is singled out in the wording of the policy itself. And it’s still discriminatory even if that policy contains an ostensibly non-racist/non-sexist/etc. counter-example to ward off suspicions of racism, sexism, etc. (Cf. the Charter of Values and conspicuously large crucifixes).

It is laughable that Marengo invoked equality to justify her racist abuse of power. She deigned to instruct us in righteousness by telling us, “The same rules need to be applied to everyone.” To get an idea of how the rules are applied to everyone in Québec, I have compiled Table 1, below.

White people do religious stuff in the public sphere in Québec all the time. Nobody minds. Nobody gets upset. Certainly nobody refuses to give them the basic justice that all humans are due. But when one private person of colour wears a hijab to court, suddenly a) it’s fair game to publicly humiliate them and strip their identity, and b) it’s hitting below the belt to call it “racist” when it happens.

Table 1: A convenience sample of conspicuous religious accommodations in the province of Québec, indexed by race

Religious thing Private or public? Who did it? (Race) Is it okay in Québec?
Prominent crucifix in legislature Public White Okay!
Giant cross overlooking biggest city in province Public White Okay!
Big white cross dominating the provincial flag Public White Okay!
Nearly every street and city named after a Christian saint Public White Okay!
Private person wearing hijab in court Private POC “This is unacceptable! Religious people are always demanding more and more accommodations. This is not about race at all!”

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4434,
    title = {Yes, it’s racist},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-02-27,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Yes, it’s racist" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 27 Feb 2015. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Feb 27). Yes, it’s racist [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/

A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive

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Pride is a political protest, not just a big party

Whatever else Pride is, it’s a political protest highlighting the ongoing plight of sexual and gender minorities. Sure, it’s also a parade, a big party, a chance for gay guys to put on their most revealing clothes and hook up with other gay guys, but at its core, Pride is about the dignity and rights of sexual and gender minorities, which are still a hated and vulnerable group in Canada.

Events like Pride are important because Canada is a country where people who live outside the sexual / gender mainstream are regularly the object of abuse ranging from actual physical life-threatening violence to institutional and systemic discrimination and all the way down to daily micro-aggressions. Straight people often don’t realise that this still happens (“But we have gay marriage in Canada!”), or even worse, they sometimes try to paint themselves as the ones being oppressed. Being able to deny that this hatred exists is just one more privilege of being straight. Don’t forget: less than a month ago, the mayor of Toronto himself was doing his darnedest to keep the rainbow flag off city hall while the Olympics were being held in a country where non-straights are persecuted openly and explicitly.

This is why Pride is not just an exercise in frivolity and licentiousness. It is an important political movement. We haven’t “made it” yet.

The true meaning of Christmas Pride

Pride, figure 1

Pride, figure 1

The point of Pride is emphatically not that non-straight people are just like straight people, and therefore they deserve to have equal rights and be treated with equal dignity. That is the opposite of what Pride is for. If that were the goal, it would be called the “Gay Integration Festival” or something like that. Instead, it is called “Pride,” as in “I’m proud of the fact that I’m different from the sexual / gender mainstream, and I don’t need to deny who I am or assimilate to the mainstream in order to be valuable.”

The point of Pride is to emphasize the fact that there are sexual and gender minorities that are different in a lot of ways, and even though you may be offended by the fact that there are people who are different from you, non-straight people are still human beings with rights and you still have to treat them like human beings—with a certain amount of respect and dignity.

Thus, prominently featuring drag queens, sexual fetishes, strippers, and people in various states of undress is a political statement. The fact that it is offensive to the mainstream is a part of that statement.

This means that the (semi) nudity at Pride is not gratuitous in the slightest. If you want gratuitous (semi) nudity, watch the newest Star Trek film. (That’s right. I said it. The varying degrees of undress in most mainstream films is less defensible than the varying degrees of undress at Pride. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, conservatives.)

“The gays would get their message across better if they cleaned themselves up a bit”

CBC comments

CBC comments

You hear this from ostensibly well-meaning “allies” or even from gay people themselves—the argument that straight people would be more likely to accept non-straight people if they were less flamboyant, or if they were less in-your-face about it.

What’s scary about hearing this sort of thing from straight people is that they don’t even see how utterly dehumanising it is to make their acceptance of us as humans conditional on us “cleaning ourselves up.” As if our benevolent straight overlords get to choose who is treated with dignity and endowed with human rights and who isn’t on the basis of how they perceive us. And of course, if we don’t act the part, they get to revoke those privileges. That is exactly the opposite of what Pride is about, and suggesting that Pride be “cleaned up” and made “family friendly” totally misses the point of the whole political movement.

To ask for a Pride that’s had all the offensive, lewd and sexual parts removed would be like asking a labour union that’s on strike not to mention the terrible wages or the unsafe working conditions.

To ask for a Pride parade that’s just a bunch of cute monogamous gay and lesbians couples holding their adopted children is to even further marginalise all the other sexual and gender minorities. What could be more cruel than telling someone who’s a minority within a minority that the festival that’s supposed to be celebrating his/her differences is embarrassed by him/her?

It’s even more disheartening to hear the “Pride should be cleaned up” line from gay people.

Maybe you would be okay if it were a “gay integration festival” rather than Pride. Maybe you want to find your masc-for-masc gay guy (no fems!), get married, buy a house in the suburbs, wear sweater-vests, adopt a kid and enjoy all the straight privilege that you can. (“You’re gay, but you’re just like one of the guys, you know?”) If you want that, go and do that. I sincerely hope the life you choose is fulfilling and happy.

But don’t you dare try to co-opt a political movement for your own narrow ends when its goals are broader than just extending straight privilege to those who “clean up well.”

“Won’t someone please think of the children”

The bigots on the TDSB have framed their objection to Pride in terms of upholding the laws regarding nudity and protecting children. How pious of them. (Have you ever noticed that in debates touching on sexual morality, there’s always someone who cries out, “Won’t someone please think of the children!” By the way, the answer to that style of argument is almost always: “We are thinking of the children, and some of those children happen to grow up to be the people that you’re demonizing.”)

Their argument is that if a person were to be naked in public in any other context, she would be breaking the law regarding public nudity. This may of course be true, but the fact remains, we’re not talking about any other context. We’re talking about Pride. I would presume there’s also a law against driving a truck down the middle of a street at 5 km/h carrying an extra-wide load with dancers on it, but we make an exception in the case of the Pride parade, because we all agree that allowing this kind of political expression is more important than always slavishly enforcing this (otherwise valid) traffic law.

The reason for a law against public nudity is presumably to protect vulnerable people from aggressors who might use nudity to threaten them. Nobody wants to live in a place where some creeper can make you feel unsafe by following you around and then flashing you from underneath his trench-coat on the métro. I’m not suggesting that the public nudity law needs changing.

That said, we should realise that the reason for the law against public nudity is not to stifle valid political expression. (Sorry, TDSB!) The lewd and offensive nature of Pride is not gratuitous and incidental. It is an essential part of the core message, and frankly, anyone who comes to Pride should know beforehand to expect to see some skin.

The right of non-straights to protest ongoing hatred, discrimination, intimidation, bullying and violence against sexual and gender minorities is more important than the right of a few prudes not to get offended by seeing the human anatomy while attending the Pride parade.

And if by chance there’s a certain someone from the TDSB reading this, say a homophobic trustee who thinks that he can hide his hatred and bigotry under the holier-than-thou camouflage of respect for the law, I want you to know—from the bottom of my heart—that you can go suck a bag of dicks.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2014-3994,
    title = {A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2014-03-5,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/03/05/a-response-to-the-hatred-from-the-tdsb-pride-should-be-offensive/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 05 Mar 2014. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/03/05/a-response-to-the-hatred-from-the-tdsb-pride-should-be-offensive/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2014, Mar 05). A response to the hatred from the TDSB: Pride should be offensive [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/03/05/a-response-to-the-hatred-from-the-tdsb-pride-should-be-offensive/

Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism

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Pattrick Blackburn

Pattrick Blackburn (taken from CBC, Courtesy Pattrick Blackburn)

Pattrick Blackburn from St John’s NL was brutally attacked a week ago today. He was called a “faggot,” and then he was physically beaten and nearly died as a result. Shortly after this happened, a whole lot of people who weren’t even there informed him over the Internet that he probably misunderstood the attackers. They might not have been attacking him out of hatred for gays. After all, just because he was beaten nearly to death by someone calling him a “faggot,” doesn’t mean that he was being beaten to death for being a faggot, right?

Violence inspired by hatred for gays does happen, even in Canada, even in the year 2013

Let’s start by establishing that this is a Thing That Happens. For example, just this week, my boyfriend and I had a full bottle of water thrown at us from a moving vehicle. Why? Because we were holding each other’s hands in public. And in the same walk, a few seconds later, a car drove by and the passenger yelled “gay!” at us in a manner that was somewhere between sneering and threatening.

We probably get an average of 2 negative or threatening responses per week, just by holding hands on the way to the gym. It is worth noting that we live about 400 m away from our gym. It’s not a long walk, and we only go 4 times a week. This means that just by walking down the street and holding the hand of my boyfriend, my safety is threatened.

Hence, I am inclined to believe that Pattrick was attacked in exactly the way that he described, and that it was motivated by hatred for gays. This sort of crime is invisible, but it happens, and it happens more than we want to think about. The sort of response that Pattrick has received is exactly why we never hear about it.

So let’s forget any patronising nonsense about how this sort of thing “doesn’t happen.” I haven’t had anyone try to kill me, like Pattrick has, but  I still don’t always feel safe when I’m in public with my boyfriend, and it is perfectly rational for me to feel that way.

Denialism and victim-blaming

The really scary part about this whole thing is how much this parallels rape denialism, which is also unspeakably disgusting and deserves more attention than it normally gets. It’s not a perfect analogy of course, but it’s pretty close. See Table 1.

We should all be condemning this attack on no uncertain terms, but the first response of so many people I’ve talked to is something more like, “We can’t really say whether the attacker was motivated by hatred for gays or not. We should really give the attacker the benefit of the doubt.”

What is insulting and de-humanising about that is the fact that the attacker hasn’t even been identified or accused, let alone arrested, and the biggest concern that so many have is to be sure that no one thinks that he is a homophobe.

By telling Pattrick that this did not happen to him or that the attack didn’t happen because he’s gay, we’re blaming the victim. In the same way that rape denialists say, “You weren’t raped. You probably sent the wrong signal or faked the whole thing,” gay-bashing denialists say, “It wasn’t a hate-crime. You must have provoked it some other way or just faked the whole thing.” By doing this, we are accusing the victim and putting the victim on trial, when we should be rushing to their defence.

I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how offensive this is.

But what if the attacker seriously wasn’t motivated by hatred for gays?

Let’s recap:

  • A gay man was attacked and nearly killed.
  • The attacker called him a “faggot” while doing so.

The fact that the attacker is using that particular language while bludgeoning his victim makes the attack into something racial or sexist, even if hatred for the race or sex of the victim isn’t “the main reason.”

Update (2013 Nov 26): Ted Falk, the Conservative MP who won the by-election in Provencher, Manitoba has graciously provided another example of gay-bashing denialism, when he famously claimed that a 17-year-old teenager had staged his own bullying.

Table 1: Similarities and differences between rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism

Rape denialism Gay-bashing denialism
Victims Women* Faggots*
Common triggers for violence
  • Manner of dress
  • Use of make-up / anything overtly feminine
  • “Slutty” behaviour
  • Flirting with a man
  • Manner of dress
  • Use of make-up / anything overtly feminine
  • “Lewd” behaviour
  • Flirting with a man
Common justification Done as a corrective—”she was asking for it” Done as a punishment—”that will fix him”
How the victim is blamed “You weren’t raped. You probably sent the wrong signal or just faked the whole thing.” “It wasn’t a hate-crime. You must have provoked it some other way or just faked the whole thing.”
Focus of concern “Don’t ruin the lives of promising young men.” “Don’t suggest that straight people might be homophobic.”
Category of privilege that this culture protects Men* Straight people*
Effect on victim Victim blamed → victims stop speaking out → “This never happens; what are you talking about?” Victim blamed → victims stop speaking out → “This never happens; what are you talking about?”

* Not exclusively

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3768,
    title = {Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-08-22,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 Aug 2013. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Aug 22). Rape denialism and gay-bashing denialism [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/08/22/rape-denialism-and-gay-bashing-denialism/

Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP

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Dear Andrew Williams and Randy Pettapiece,

Recently, my father was hospitalised for schizophrenia in the psychiatric ward at the Stratford General Hospital. This was good news. It was a welcome change after months of increasingly abusive and dangerous behaviour on his part that affected the entire family. Not only was he suffering from disordered thoughts and paranoid delusions, he lost his impulse control with regard to money (and some other things as well). Due to his condition he lacks the ability to deal with his own finances. He was admitted to the Stratford General Hospital and shortly thereafter, a medical tribunal determined that he was not competent to make his own medical decisions. My mother was assigned to be his medical decision-maker and power of attorney.

Yesterday, we found out that some unscrupulous lawyer visited the Stratford General Hospital to arrange the papers so that my dad could transfer his medical decision-making and power of attorney away from my mother, and give it to another patient on the psychiatric ward. As far as we know, this other patient is just some guy that my dad met less than two weeks ago when he was admitted. The name sounds made-up, though, so for all we know, it’s not his real name. This “other patient” could even be a delusion of my dad’s.

Needless to say, we were upset.

We contacted the lawyer to ask him what he thought he was doing. He said he didn’t do anything—that it was my dad who made it happen, and that he had training to determine when someone was competent to make such decisions. We will be inquiring about what legal options we have against this individual.

When we told our own lawyer about the problem, his administrative assistant broke out laughing, because it was such a ridiculous turn of affairs. He advised us to get a letter from dad’s psychiatrist, and on the basis of such a letter, it would be possible to have this transfer of power of attorney reversed. This seemed reasonable. On contacting the doctor, we were told that he could not release such a letter, since my dad has requested that his medical information not be shared with us (one of his paranoid delusions is that we’re out to get him), and my mother no longer had her status as his medical decision-maker and power of attorney.

In the face of this Catch-22, we’re not sure what to do next. As of today, the doctors at the Stratford General are still refusing to provide a letter indicating my dad’s condition, because they are afraid of being sued.

I’d like to emphasise at this point that the unscrupulous lawyer got paid for what he did. Paid with money. He came in to the locked ward of the Stratford General and walked out substantially richer, thanks to money he took from a person who was determined by a medical tribunal to be incapable of making his own medical decisions.

If someone walked into a hospital and found an old woman with dementia and exploited her condition for his own financial gain and gave her nothing in return, that conduct would be reprehensible, but it still wouldn’t be as bad as what this lawyer did to my dad yesterday. Not only did he take money from someone whose mental condition renders him incompetent to handle his own financial affairs, but he made it a thousand times harder for us to get my dad back on his meds to stop the paranoia and abuse.

So, Andrew Williams: When do your doctors plan on doing the right thing for their patient and his family?

Yours angrily,

Benjamin Carlisle

(Edit 21h00—the original version had more cursing, but as my friend advised, “Try not to swear so that your interlocutor doesn’t have an excuse to dismiss you.”)

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-3132,
    title = {Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-11-16,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 16 Nov 2012. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Nov 16). Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/

So Apple isn’t tracking me after all

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I remember in September, I joked with my supervisor about how I was sure that Apple was tracking me through my iPod. I sort of assumed that Apple was doing that. I was okay with it. I thought maybe some day it might provide a much-needed alibi for a crime I don’t plan on committing.

Then this past week, there was a big scandal about how some people found a file on everyone’s iPhone that has a whole bunch of locations and times tagged. I even downloaded the application for the Mac that allows me to view the file on a map of the world. I thought it was pretty cool. It wasn’t very accurate though. Sometimes it would tag me as having been kilometres away from my actual position.

Now today it turns out that Apple hasn’t been tracking me after all. Those locations and times are just locations of wi-fi hotspots and cell phone towers.

It is a little bit of a let-down that Apple doesn’t care about me enough to stalk my every movement.

Google and Microsoft are doing that, though.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-1691,
    title = {So Apple isn’t tracking me after all},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-04-27,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/04/27/so-apple-isnt-tracking-me-after-all/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "So Apple isn’t tracking me after all" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 27 Apr 2011. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/04/27/so-apple-isnt-tracking-me-after-all/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Apr 27). So Apple isn’t tracking me after all [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/04/27/so-apple-isnt-tracking-me-after-all/

Some problems with Microsoft Word for Mac 2011

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Word disclosure triangles

Disclosure triangles in Word's Document Map Pane

Design flaws in Microsoft Word for Mac 2011

In my beloved typesetting programme of choice, TeXShop (a Mac front-end for LaTeX), if you click on the “Tags” drop-down menu, it gives you an ordered list of all the chapters, sections and subsections in your document, so you can see the structure of your document at a glance and skip to the part that you’re interested in.

In Microsoft Word, there’s a feature that’s similar to the one from TeXShop. If you open the “Document Map Pane,” you get a little panel along the side of your Word document window that has all the chapters, sections and subsections laid out for you.

Word even indents subsections that are nested in sections above it, so you can see the document structure that much more clearly. This is wonderful.

Finder disclosure triangles

Finder disclosure triangles

What’s confusing is that Microsoft implemented the disclosure triangles incorrectly. There are little triangles beside sections in the Document Map Pane that have subsections, so you can show or hide parts of the document structure. In every other Mac application, disclosure triangles are indented when the section that has subsections is itself a subsection.

I have attached an image of a Finder window in list view with disclosure triangles that are done properly for comparison.

When I first saw the disclosure triangles, I thought that I had somehow messed up the formatting of my document. (Here’s another reason why I wish there was a non-WYSIWYG editor for Word.) I spent a good 5 minutes trying to figure out what I had done wrong before I noticed that the text headings were indented, and that it was just either a design decision not to indent the disclosure triangles, or just a bug.

Word—Insert file

Word—Insert file

Dialog boxes vs. sheets in Microsoft Word for Mac 2011

Sometimes I think that the programmers for Microsoft Office found the most un-Mac-like way to write this programme, while still keeping it functioning.

Word opens up dialog boxes for some things (see attached image, “Word—Insert file”) and then for other things, it uses sheets (see attached image, “Word—Save as”). This is not only frustrating because it makes for an inconsistent user experience, but also because it makes the software harder to use.

Word—Save as

Word—Save as

The nice thing about sheets rather than dialog boxes is that when a sheet opens up, it’s attached to the document window. What’s nice about that? Well, I can still drag the window around while the sheet is open.

For example, when I want to insert a file, a dialog box opens up. Because it’s a dialog box, I can’t move the document window. If I try to click on the document window, I get an angry beep from my computer. Even if I try command-dragging the window, I still get the angry beep. (If you command-drag a window, in most cases you can move it without bringing it to the foreground.)

This is frustrating because when I’m inserting a file, this is exactly the time when I would want to be able to look at things behind my document window. I don’t want to have to click-click-click all the way to the file I want using the dialog box. Often, the file is sitting right on my desktop or in a Finder window right behind my document window, and if I could just see it, then I could drag the file from the Finder or my desktop onto the file selector. But I can’t because the people at Microsoft decided to use a dialog box rather than a sheet.

Other design flaws

I have written previously about how I dislike the way that Word has broken the command-up/-down function. This is one more example of how the programmers of Word have written their software in a deliberately un-Mac-like way.

Also, when I open a large file—and not even a very large file: this happens to ones that are only 6 or 7 pages long—the vertical scroll bar does not reflect the document’s length accurately at first.

You have no idea how scared I was the first time I saved, closed and re-opened the Word version of my thesis. The vertical scroll bar indicator took up most of the scroll bar, which (in every other application) means that the part of the document that is in view is most of the document. When I scrolled down (using the page-down button, since the command-down doesn’t work the way it should in Word), I found out that the rest of the document was actually still there.

Still, this is a bug. In every other programme with a scroll bar like that, the size of the indicator shows you how much of the document is visible in the window, so if you have a tiny indicator, then that means that a lot of the document is outside the view currently displayed.

For the main document view, the size of the vertical scroll bar changes to reflect the size of the document, once you’ve scrolled to the end. The Document Map Pane has the opposite problem—the vertical scroll bar is tiny tiny, no matter how many items are in there. I only have 11 items in my Document Map for chapter 1, for example. There’s space for probably 30-40 in the Document Map Pane, and yet the scroll bar is so small as to indicate (in any other context) that there were dozens of pages of items in my Document Map. If I scroll down, a tooltip appears, giving me the name of an item in my Document Map, and I have to scroll to the very bottom of the window in order to select an item that’s pretty much at the top of the Document Map Pane. This is just annoying.

Serious bugs in Microsoft Word for Mac 2011

Above were examples of things that are just design flaws. Someone could conceivably disagree with me about whether the things I pointed out were bugs or features.

I will outline one non-serious interface bug, and one more serious bug.

Interface bug with the Document Map Pane

Split view-vertical scroll bug

Split view-vertical scroll bug

When I open files for which the Document Map Pane is open, the split view button initially covers the vertical scroll bar, as shown in the attached image.

The split view button is a useful one that that you pull down when you want to view two parts of the same document but you don’t want to see the intervening space between them.

The offending split view button disappears the second that I resize the window, but it’s really annoying that I have to resize the window every time I open it, if I plan on using the vertical scroll bar.

As far as I can tell, this bug occurs because the split view is not available for some reason, when the Document Map Pane is open.

Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 crashes my computer

The most serious bug that I’ve found is that I have been able to consistently crash my computer by trying to adjust the weight of a line in the Microsoft Word publishing layout. And I do mean crash my computer, not just crash Word. The whole thing freezes up, command-option-esc doesn’t work, and I have to hold down the power key in order to get out of it.

If you want, I can provide you the file I was editing in order to make it happen, and give you instructions as to how to crash your computer too.

I can’t even remember the last time my computer crashed before this, but I am able to consistently and repeatably cause it to do so by using what I would think was a fairly simple part of the programme.

I paid a lot of money (like $1,000,000 in “grad student dollars”) for this software, and the free software did the job a whole lot better.

Maybe Microsoft will release a patch that fixes all these problems to my satisfaction. I can hope, right? ;)

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-1496,
    title = {Some problems with Microsoft Word for Mac 2011},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-03-30,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/03/30/some-problems-with-microsoft-word-for-mac-2011/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Some problems with Microsoft Word for Mac 2011" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 30 Mar 2011. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/03/30/some-problems-with-microsoft-word-for-mac-2011/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Mar 30). Some problems with Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/03/30/some-problems-with-microsoft-word-for-mac-2011/

Does “The Big Bang Theory” get better after the pilot?

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For months, I have had a television programme called The Big Bang Theory recommended to me a number of times by both family and friends. Earlier this week, I watched the pilot episode, and I was not very impressed. First of all, the whole premiss of the show wasn’t very interesting. How many TV shows do we really need about young adult friends living together in an apartment building?

Worse than that, the acting was bad. Even more damning for a sitcom, the comedic timing was lacking and I didn’t find the actual jokes to be funny.

My question for those of you out there who have watched more than the pilot: Does the show get better after the pilot? I’m thinking I might skip over this programme, like I did with Seinfeld.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-1105,
    title = {Does “The Big Bang Theory” get better after the pilot?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-01-6,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/01/06/does-the-big-bang-theory-get-better-after-the-pilot/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Does “The Big Bang Theory” get better after the pilot?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 06 Jan 2011. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/01/06/does-the-big-bang-theory-get-better-after-the-pilot/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Jan 06). Does “The Big Bang Theory” get better after the pilot? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/01/06/does-the-big-bang-theory-get-better-after-the-pilot/

Why isn’t William Shatner the Governor General?

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Mock Outrage from Shatner

Mock Outrage from Shatner

My mother sent me this article that she clipped from the Stratford Beacon Herald. I was definitely in support of Shatner’s bid to become the Governor General of Canada.

William Shatner as Governor General would have made me so much more proud to be Canadian than whoever it is that was actually appointed to the position. I’m not even going to take the time to look up the guy’s name in the article attached to this post.

And the reason for that is because I’m pretty sure that the Governor General doesn’t actually do anything. It’s a ceremonial position, like that of the Queen. The Queen doesn’t actually do anything; her role in government is symbolic. And the Governor General is one step even further removed from any actual power—he’s a symbol for the Queen. I don’t think that Shatner could have done any damage as the Governor General, but he would have been much more entertaining as our vice-regal leader.

We really missed out on this one. We could have had Captain Kirk as our head of state. You don’t even have to be a trekkie to see how that could have been fun.

Oh well. Maybe next time!

True story: Shatner was a McGill student, and a few years ago, the student body at McGill had a vote to try to name the student centre after him. Due to McGill policy, the building’s name has not been officially changed—buildings can only be named after dead people, or people who have given a lot of money—but the building is still referred to as the Shatner building by most of the students.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2010-872,
    title = {Why isn’t William Shatner the Governor General?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2010-08-19,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2010/08/19/why-isnt-william-shatner-the-governor-general/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Why isn’t William Shatner the Governor General?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 19 Aug 2010. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2010/08/19/why-isnt-william-shatner-the-governor-general/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2010, Aug 19). Why isn’t William Shatner the Governor General? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2010/08/19/why-isnt-william-shatner-the-governor-general/

I specifically asked for the Borg implant

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Maybe next time

Maybe next time

I had a minor accident a few weeks back, where I suffered a blow to the head. I didn’t think it was too bad, so I didn’t end up going to the hospital for it right away.

I didn’t plan on going to the hospital at all, actually. I had a great black eye, and I just told everyone that I got into a big fight.

Come to think of it, “I didn’t think it was very serious, so I didn’t go to the doctor” is a theme that recurs in my medical history a lot.

It wasn’t until my eye got infected that I went to the hospital. I went in, told the ER doctor my symptoms:

“Itchy eye, red eye colouration, headaches, watery eyes, runny nose, sore throat.”

She took my temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.

“You have a fever, Mr. Carlisle,” she told me, struggling with my last name (French Canadians have a hard time figuring out the silent S), “When you blow your nose, does the phlegm have any colour?”

“Yes, in fact. It’s black.”

“Black?” she asked, surprised.

You know that you have something good when your symptoms shock the ER doctor. I blew my nose and proved it to her.

I sat in the waiting room until another doctor came to see me, and pronounced that I had pink eye, and was about to send me on my way when I asked if the pink eye would explain the fever that I had.

“Fever?” she asked. That’s two ER doctors that I shocked.

She started feeling around my skull at that point, seeing where it hurt and didn’t, and decided to send me for a CT scan. I dripped my pink-eye tears all over the CT machine. I’m sure that the next 5 patients to use it will get infected, thanks to me.

When the results came back, she told me that I had broken my right orbital floor, and the tissues surrounding my eye were actually falling down into my sinus. That would explain the fever, sore throat, and the blood in my phlegm. There wasn’t any bone supporting my right eye, so it was literally falling through my face. I would need surgery.

I was sent to see an ophthalmologist, who told me that my right eye had fallen about 3mm from where it should be. On the upside though, he told me that I still have 20/20 vision, and that there’s no nerve damage or damage to my retina. The only problem is the broken bone and the pink eye.

I was sent to see the surgeons who were going to fix my face, and they sent me home for a week and a half, to let the infection go away, so that they don’t let it get inside my skull. On Friday, August 6th, I had my surgery, and despite my specific instructions that they replace my right eye with a Borg-style implant, they only put a metal plate in my skull, to fix the bone, and put my eye right back where it should be. I will make a full recovery and require no bionic implants at all.

The swelling has gone down almost entirely, and I’m feeling good. I think they must have made the incision into my head somewhere inside my eyelid, so there won’t even be a scar.

There were only two really scary parts about this whole thing:

1. When I am put on morphine, I have hallucinations. Not really bad ones, but I consistently have them. This time, I seriously believed that if I stopped consciously thinking about my breathing, then I would stop breathing, and probably die. I was very afraid to go to sleep.

2. When I mentioned to the doctors that I’m a MA bioethics student at McGill, they had a sort of “we better be on our best behaviour now” thing going on, which scared me. What do they think they can normally get away with, that they can’t with a bioethicist watching?

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2010-866,
    title = {I specifically asked for the Borg implant},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2010-08-9,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2010/08/09/borg-implant/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "I specifically asked for the Borg implant" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 09 Aug 2010. Web. 23 Jun 2018. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2010/08/09/borg-implant/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2010, Aug 09). I specifically asked for the Borg implant [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2010/08/09/borg-implant/

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