Photography envy

I’ve been browsing for almost an hour on photography websites and wishing my professional blog looked the same, even going so far as to browse cameras again. Wait, what?

A lot of my job is understanding why people act the way they do online. Why they subscribe to a newsletter which they never read. Why they may download a budgeting or reporting tool, but don’t use them even during the free trial*.

So, of course, I started looking inward.

I’m jealous of existing outside of text input and output, design analysis and synthesis.

When I used to take photos I focused on what was outside, in the external world, beautiful just as it was.

I miss knowing a city and feeling so comfortable walking in it that I could feel unselfconsciouss taking street photos. Or having nature a bus ride away.

Big, deep, green, nature. Not anaemic, dry, manicured parks and replanted mountains that still look “new”.

It takes a special kind of wealth and security for a nation not to have needed to plunder its own land for wood and arable land during its history. I took that for granted in the UK. Even the husbands’ home county of Galicia has distinctly “new” looking forests and trees.

I want to make a hobby of turning outwards again and enjoying the beauty of outside. I would like to do it in nature, but it feels like the kind of nature I think of is very far away. Further outside even than Castilla de la Mancha, which is the next county. It’s really huge and dry, with Mars-like red soil.

I feel like this country is on too big on a scale for me. An hour of driving through Oxford would have me deep inside Wiltshire or Berkshire and have crossed several rivers and old forests. I would need about 3 to 4 hours of driving to reach that.

So, maybe I need to find something else to love enough to photograph.

*because not using a thing you paid for means you’ll stop paying for it, while designing a thing so people will actually see value from their subscription or payment is called good work.

Advertisements

Nom-tember recipes

Or, “fall recipes I’m excited about trying”.

The amazing thing about Yummly is that it does deliver these gluten-free, paleo, and vegan recipes into my inbox.

I’m not vegan, but since I allergic to anything from the sea that isn’t seaweed, my meat-free meals are essentially vegan meals.

Recipes:

  1. Beetroot, Celeriac and Fig Salad, porridge & papaya porridge
  2. Paleo, gluten-free and vegan burgers (hint: here be cauliflower)
  3. Maple roasted Brussel sprouts with pomegranate. Pomegranate is pricy AF, tho, but looks pretty.
  4. (bonus!) Rainbow power salad with roasted chickpeas

Thinking about getting a parrot? Here are the hidden costs.

You know, I love my birdie boo. But like all bird owners, I know people only see the fruits of my labor and not the actual labor. We- parrot owners- make it look way easier than it is, because we’re frankly nuts.

So, maybe you’ve seen the videos on youtube and pics on Instagram and fallen in love with the idea of a bird-baby, or “birb” for short.

Maybe you’ve done your reading on diet and lifestyle and how many hours of interaction a particular species needs per day with their human to find a perfect fit for your lifestyle and apartment or house. You know where to find breeders and how much that bird typically costs and found the perfect cage.

This is doable! With smaller birds, it’s not even that expensive!

Well, I need to be completely honest with you. There’s a lot you don’t see and which parrot owners conveniently forget about when describing costs- especially if a partner or non-bird person is in earshot.

So, here is costing of all the other, unseen factors when getting a bird.

But first…Here’s why we don’t take advice seriously.

You may think some of the following are unnecessary, but even with all the care I’m about to detail, I’ve run up almost two grand in vet care fees in the last two years.

If I didn’t get my bird to an avian vet when I did (if I didn’t have access to a specialist, or didn’t have the means to pay for one), I would have a dead bird before he saw his third birthday.

These animals are not designed to recover from illness. They are designed to breed before dying in numbers that over compensate for their fragility.

I would encourage you to join a bunch of parrot owners groups on Facebook. Really pay attention to the number of death announcements and lost bird announcements vs birthdays for animals over 3-4 years old. Cute pics don’t matter. Just look for the birthdays over 4-year-old birds. They are rare compared to the daily death lists. If that many birds can die each day, that many can have birthdays, but those numbers are not equal.

Because although we read that the animals live for 20, 30, even 80 years, in practice, it seems that most do not see their third birthday based on the never-ending stream of death and lost bird announcements. And this is something my vet sadly confirmed.

“The two most common deaths”, he told me “are by toxicosis” – nibbling something in the house that is poison to them- rings, zippers, plastic coating on cages, house paint, many types of house plants, or even furniture material, exposure to air contaminants like cleaning product traces on surfaces or present in the air in any amount- “or from a seed diet, which doesn’t apply to you”.

But even with my all organic, vet approved pellets, making and freezing veggie chop in tiny ice cube trays to have fresh food every day, watching what he nibbled at, banning all air pollutants in house, and keeping his cage so clean, it wasn’t enough to keep Floki healthy.

So really ask yourself : how much can you afford to pay in vet fees if it comes down to it? Because we never think we’ll need to.

Because if we really thought we’d get gored by the bear or die in childbirth, we’d never leave our caves or pro-create.

We are designed to ignore cautionary advice.

And the worst thing is, when I read all the care requirements, I thought they were overboard as well, until Floki got sick a second time.

Floki’s complete list of symptoms, in case you’re wondering

  • was a bit more cuddly than usual
  • didn’t scream me awake one morning
  • his poop was softer than usual that morning (I was keeping an eye on that because the no-scream thing really had me worried)

He was eating and playing just fine as normal, I didn’t even notice the “more cuddly” thing until the morning he didn’t scream.

He was in the vets less than an hour later that same day. He has been under treatment since early July and I hope the next vet visit on Monday will be his last, but it may well not be.

Advice always seems overboard until something bad happens to you or someone you care about. Then it’s so obvious. 

All those people posting about suddenly dead birds on FB didn’t influence the ones with sick birds to get to a vet immediately. They were good owners who took great care of their bird. So it couldn’t be that serious, right?

All those posts about dead birds due to other pets didn’t affect other from posting “cute” pics of their parrot playing with their cats or dogs. Their dog would never do that!

And all the people saying that pellets had to be separate from veggie mash, and that it was better to feed the parrot small amounts multiple times a day to avoid bacteria, that many fruits and veggies were too rough for conure digestion, and to change the water several times a day just didn’t land until my bird was sick two times in two years before the age of three.

I just stood there asking “but..he has no contact with any other animal….I keep his cage clean…how can he get an infection?”

I already knew the answer, deep down – all those people telling me to do that “over the top” stuff had explained it was to make sure no bacteria were around. I just couldn’t believe it was really necessary. I mean, come on, tap water has chlorine, right?

So, you will probably read this and also think this won’t apply to you as well. You’ll find reasons to rationalise away each point below. It will be different in your case, you’ll tell yourself.

I am here to tell you to that although this denialism is what keeps our species doing personally-dangerous yet important-to-our-collective-benefit things like discovering new continents an injecting ourselves with the pox vaccine we just invented- if you value the life your pet, you should take this seriously.

Because yes, it applies to you.

First, up, Parrots need to be with people or other parrots.

If they didn’t, they would cost less. My parrot cannot be left alone for many hours a day. 4 hours occasionally is acceptable, but for longer than that or more frequently than that he must be boarded or have a bird sitter stay with him. I would not be able to work in an office and have Floki without him mutilating himself or developing a severe personality disorder. I have turned down travel to places I might otherwise enjoy or benefit from because of this.

For this reason, I have many carrier cases and a few bird harnesses to take him with me when I run errands or go to the park or for a long walk. These aren’t optional for a single parrot.

I even planned my wedding around his bedtime and asked my mom to sit with him while I got ready that day.

Parrots also need a reliable routine to feel safe and secure and be emotionally and physically healthy. And catering to that routine costs me emotionally, socially, physically and financially.

This is why Floki is so friendly, adorable and gentle with humans.

People who don’t do this have very different birds.

Since parrots get PSTD and other trauma issues, it’s much easier to just avoid giving your parrot a personality problem than to try to tone down a problem that’s developed.

So with that said, let’s see those..

Hidden parrot costs

  1. Teflon-free frying pans. Teflon, and non-stick coatings in frying pans (toasters, toast makers, muffin tins, irons, hair straighteners, etc) are deadly to birds, whether you sense it or not. We bought ceramic pans as soon as we got a budgie and for everything else, we keep two doors closed between the bird and those things and ventilate right after so the fumes are gone. We can do this thanks to the layout of our flat and the weather. Even with this, our vet commented that Floki’s feathers looked like someone in the house smoked, so we had to be really careful about the doors being closed all the time when we cook or fry or have anything in the air. €40, because we were stupid and bought from a department store and not Amazon.
  2. Throwing out candles (scented or non-scented, the wick puts soot in the air) incense, cleaning sprays. These are deadly to bird lungs. Maybe €15 total including sprays. I didn’t have that much in the way of candles/incense when I moved to Madrid, although they were a big part of my UK chill time. If you really can’t live without cilit bang, maybe rethink having a bird.
  3. Buying steam cleaners, microfibres cloths to replace spray cleaning, making our own non-toxic to birds cleaning sprays. Thankfully, the latter is not too expensive with cheap vodka and vinegar. €116. But honestly, this is worth it.
  4. Humidifier or dehumidifier depending on your location. Their lungs need humidity, but fungus and mould (on walls or in food, whether visible or invisible, on perches, snuggle huts, etc) are deadly to them. €30 for a humidifier . My dehumidifier in the uk cost more like £150, but it depends on the readings from your hygrometer whether you need that kind of power. I had a tropical tank on a ground floor apartment, so the humidity there was often at 70-90%.
  5. Hygrometer. €8.99. This determines whether I put on the humidifier. Believe me, if the air isn’t right (dry or dusty), the bird is a pain all day. It’s like he knows something is off, but assumes being on my and shoulder will fix it.
  6. Perches, toys. They need these way more often than you imagine to prevent boardroom/screaming. Like, new, homemade, or rotated toys each month. If you rotate toys, this becomes more like a 20-40 euro expense per quarter after you have enough toys,
  7. Carrier cases. there are different types depending on whether we are traveling by train or car or to the vets – where he needs security and a hard case in case anything weird happens like something falls from above, and a softer, mesh carrier for when I’m just taking him along somewhere since I’ll be out all day. This is a less secure cage, so I need to be sure it will not be a long trip. The hard case can have perches and food bowls attached so it’s better for longer trips, as well as being car/train safe. Total = €28.29
  8. Snuggle huts at different sizes and materials to find one that he would sleep in but not chew. €24.99
  9. Daily exotic Fruit. Mangos, papaya, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, banana, cantaloupe, fresh pineapple. These may be expensive for a weekly budget but they are unfortunately required in his diet, every single day. This was the diet advice I thought was not necessary, btw, so instead I offered what I thought was a super healthy mix of vegetables every day. I spent 15 euros on that these fruits this week, but the truth is, you can freeze the fruits so it’s not like a weekly expense. It’s just that the hubs also eats fruit for breakfast so when the good stuff is around it becomes a weekly expense, because he doesn’t want to be less important than the bird.
  10. Daily Veggies. Sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli and red, green and yellow peppers. For people in northern climates, this might be more doable. I buy these frozen because in this heat veggies travel too far to have the optimum nutritional profile.
  11. Travel cage and bag to keep it in. This cost me about 150 plus shipping. I use this sturdy design for the same reason I won’t use the smaller cages from pet stores (see point 13. Even small birds break out eventually when hormones strike)
  12. Boarding. €12 a day at the avian vets (because like we said, parrots can be sick and seem just fine). €14 a day with veterinary care. For when the Airbnb doesn’t allow pets or he needs meds more frequently than our travel schedule will allow (it’s 5 hours on a train to the north of Spain). For for 4 days €56
  13. Escape-proof cage & duplicate cage for visiting the in-laws so he’s less traumatised when we reach our destination. I finally bought this metal monster when I realised that the smaller cages you buy in pet stores can be broken out of by first my lovebird and then a tiny finch, both of whom I hope found a human willing to care for them, rather than starve in the cold. You could not pay me enough money to keep my bird in one of those today. The big metal monster keeps my bird safe from whatever hormonal fueled urge to escape he may face one day. I got the duplicate cage because this is Spain and there’s no way around the fact we will be visiting the in-laws at least bi-annually, so a full sized cage makes sense rather than having him in his tiny travel cage. Each cage cost almost 200.
  14. Poop-off liquid for accidents on fabric chairs or other hard to clean surfaces. £8.99
  15. Time off work for vets & travel to vets: I work at home for myself so I don’t need to request time off for his visits, but I would have had to if I worked in an office. I may have had ten appointments with the vet this year. Honestly, I see them a lot. I’m also unaffected by travel costs since they are exactly nine minutes away from my front door by foot, including traffic lights. If this doesn’t apply to you, factor the cost of ten visits, cos a tiny illness takes a long time to treat in birds.
  16. Air purifier. This is for reducing the amount of dust in the air since Madrid is dusty and for reducing the amount of bird dander so I do not develop a lung reaction. Not everyone buys this, but since my lungs are affected sometimes by dust and exhaust that makes it’s way in the flat, so will the birds. 119.99 but I don’t need to buy filters for it, which is the “gotcha” for air filters.
  17. Non-toxic cage spray. That kills viruses, fungi, bacteria. I wipe his cage bottom grill with this every morning. £6.99 and some cheap €3 plastic bottles.
  18. Bird scale. This was also part of my “I keep reading I need to do this but I don’t think it’s necessary” thing that has now been proved to be actually necessary. I also thought the kitchen scale was fine since it’s in grams, but it turns out I need 0.01g measurements to record how much he eats and weighs each day. The good news is you don’t need to buy the kinds that are branded for bird owners. I got mine from amazon for £9.99 shipping to Spain, so £15 overall (and free shipping in the uk with prime). Much better than the ones going for £49.99
  19. Bird light. I knew birds needed full spectrum UV light for their immune system and feather health but was hoping being by the window in the full brightness of Madrid would be enough. Even though I knew the windows filter out some UV rays. So after he got sick the first time I got a bird light that fixes onto the roof of his cage and some bulbs. £96
  20. Bird harness in two sizes, plus shipping to spain (baby and adult size). To take him with me to the local park or when I’m in a place without fear of Hawkes (I see many of these over Madrid) and where he might enjoy interacting with people. He still doesn’t like this harness so it’s remained unused since he was a baby and more easy going. More or less €59 plus shipping
  21. Extra tickets for trains. Yeah, they bill for pets now. €5 each way, so 10 for the last trip.
  22. Replacement chains, shirts and clothes. Parrots will break chains and chew through t shirts, vests and basically anything you’re wearing. Lets say €40 but mostly for clothes since after the first chain broke I stopped wearing chains around him and take off my wedding ring like the vet recommended.
  23. Throwing out nail varnishes. I had to throw mine out except for what I wear on my toes after he chomped through the dry varnish and sent me to the vet yet again! I seemed the colours fascinated him so he wasn’t letting up and out went my lovely Opi, Essie and Revlon collection. Probably about £50 worth at least.
  24. No more bleaching my brows or doing my hair at home. No ammonia- for whatever reason- in the house. Hair has to be done at salon. €150 every other month
  25. Throwing out oven cleaners. Just. no. Unless you want a dead bird. Cleaning an oven without oven cleaner, total hell.
  26. My Jasmin and Lilly plants. These had to go outside since they are toxic to birds and shrivelled up in the Madrid heat. My plumeria got decimated by my lovebird when I brought it indoors for the winter, too. Lets say, €30. They weren’t huge plants, but it’s more that I really loved them and my jasmine was growing well indoors. You need to check if you plants are toxic, because birds can get on them in a flash no matter how careful you are. They’re like toddlers width wings.
  27. Our paper lantern. €5 Love bird saw this a giant hanging chew toy. We have discouraged Floki from paying any attention to the thing on the ceiling and hope he will continue to distrust it.

So…excluding the duplicate page, vet fees, fruits and veggies that’s..

€1,164.24

in parrot care costs in the two and half years since I got Floki

and another 2k in vet care, give or take.

 

So.

Are you really ready for a pet bird?

Cos I’ve had charming, adorable, comical, smart, social guinea pigs that did not cost anything like my parrot does in terms of lifestyle changes or care costs. It’s just that I’m allergic to everything with any kind of fur and the hubs doesn’t like reptiles.

Of course, love and companionship is priceless.

But it’s also important to know very clearly what you’re getting into.

So, with the vet bills I’ve paid despite all the above precautions, you can see why I’m fully on board with those “crazy” care guides now.

It doesn’t matter what non-parrot people think of how “over cautious” I’m being. I know what has not worked at keeping my lil guy safe and healthy.

And I have zero interest in going through this every year.

PS. if you’re looking for safe, reliable parrot advice, Manda’s youtube and blog are currently my “go to” advice places. I printed out her daily plate photo and have it hanging on my fridge now so I can mentally “tick” off all the elements.

 

I want to message you and say that your profile photo with you beau is the most heartwarming thing I’ve seen today. It makes my heart swell. I hover over your profile on WhatsApp.

But I don’t message you. I know you know I see your updated icon and I hope you know my joy for you.

But I also I know a big part of your happiness is from actively changing how you see the world, and I know I’m contagiously cynical.

It’s like how they tell junkies to distance themselves from their old junkie pals.

And you’re ‘clean’ now.

All I can do for you is drag you backwards.

So it feels more supportive of me to keep away.

I hope you know I’m always here.

“Everything happens for a reason” and Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual bypassing is

“using spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks . . . trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it.”

Excellent article by Chris Wallis explaining how “Everything happens for a reason” is ..not so lit.
I had a girlfriend who had this perfectly – I don’t want to say ‘rehearsed,’ because that would imply intentionality –  story of how her life fell apart.

It was honestly a devastating story, which I think she confided within maybe half an hour or our reunion.

Over the months I’d hear that same story many times, each time with new information added in, context and re-interpretations and explanations of various people’s possible motives and even her own motives re-examined. And with each re-telling it became more and more obvious that her story of “awful fate” as she saw it, was largely because of impulsive outburts and choices on her part and their ramifications. And yes, there was untreated mental illness and childhood trauma that needed treatment behind those choices, which she was working on. Sometimes, she would quietly voice that she could see the part she played in series A or B of her “downfall”, but it was always summed up as “fate” or “luck”.

I think that’s why I find these kinds of quotes on facebook so annoying. It’s ok when it’s said or posted by someone who’s been passed over for a job interview but has a bunch more on the way and isn’t really thinking about things too deeply, but some people really buy into this kind of “the universe has a plan, and that plan is to hold me down no matter what I do” narrative and keeps them stuck or angry, and that causes all kinds of other behaviors and choices that eventually push people away. Or worse.

That’s my little story on why I hate quasi-spiritual platitudes and Dr-Seuss-as-a-Zen master, style quotes.

But I do encourage you to read the article.

In design, the wrong decision is not making one

There are two ways to make design decisions, but I’m going to start by telling you the wrong way, the way that too many companies use because it feels safer and easier. The way that’s guaranteed to crush the soul of every person in the project and result in unambitious, bland, ultimately forgettable products and increasingly lower standards.
That way is Consensus.

“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?” – Margaret Thatcher

What’s so bad about wanting a consensus? isn’t that democratic?

No. it’s not.

It’s cowardly. It doesn’t have to hurt anyone’s feelings because it’s not any one person’s opinion.
It’s an abdication of leadership and vision. It says that all inputs and outcomes are equal as long as no one objects too much.

I am no fan of Thatcher’s politics (although for many reasons, I admire her) but she nailed it about consensus. Design is about solving problems, and consensus steps around them for the sake of pleasantry and getting along.

Consensus is what gave us the Kendall Jenner coke ad. Consensus is what gives us the Eurovision entries. Consensus is what makes Microsoft products still feel shitty even though they have some of the very the best brains in the industry working for them, because at this point they have to please all these opposing interests, so the products please and cater to no one, but don’t alienate anyone too much.

This isn’t how you make an impact. You have to choose. You need to have conviction. You need to be able to see where this is going and who your people are in this journey and cater to only them. You might hurt someone’s feelings. You may be disliked. You may be seen as weird or niche, or mean.

You may even have to eat crow from time to time and pivot. And as long as you don’t do it at Theresa May frequencies and hold to your vision of how your want your product to impact people, you’ll be ok.

And you’ll be respected. Maybe even quoted.

Other Women: the problem with Mona Eltehawi’s “Handmaid Tale” comment

First wave feminists told married women that sex was rape and that bras and girdles were oppression. The problem was the vast majority of married women did not feel they were being raped. Many had no strong feelings about bras beyond the trouble of finding a comfortable one that fit for various dress cuts. And so feminists was beleaguered by a lack of credibility from the start, even as it sought to capture the attention of women to get them to consider the more subtle, harder-to-describe ways they were being indeed pushed down, not by husbands in the bedroom but by systems designed by men like their husbands in the wider world and societal norms designed to capture and appease men like their husbands.

This is the problem with needing to get attention to get an issue talked about and the deeper problems considered. It’s the problem the facing Mona Eltahawi’s claim that women in Saudi Arabia are already living the Handmaids Tale. Telling Gulf women that the abayya is oppression often lands with the same confused expression – I know, I’ve done the former – as telling an average woman that her bra and heels are oppression. Trebly hard as a judgment on Gulf national women, since they wear all three. They can tell, just like married women in the 60s, that there is something on one hand disingenuous in the statement, something that treats them – ironically, since the speaker claims to fight for their autonomy – like dumb animals, not able to know their feelings or voice them, simply being herded by society.
They can only be speaking under the duress of some sort, the speaker will claim, and cannot be trusted to even see the reality in which the subjects live. Unless they agree with your assesment of them. These women know on one hand that their lives are being misrepresented to fulfill the speaker’s agenda, as much as the western women in Gadaffi’s audience knew that this was not the “liberator of women” he claimed to be when he claimed that the demands of working were a form of oppression that women in his country were well free off.

On the other hand, the women will know that something even deeper, wider, more subtle and much scarier is wrong and that the speaker of these overblown statements is trying, for whatever purpose to shine a light on it. Even as the speaker uses every tool in the otherisation toolbox to do it. Even as the speaker is blind of her own oppressions by the standards of feminists yet to come, or even by some standards of those in years behind (makeup, bra, heels, maybe even getting married)

For this reason, I don’t support Mona’s statement, but I can’t denounce it either, it simply follows a precedent set long ago in the form of discourse within activism.

The difference for me is the question of harm. Because when white women speak about white women, it is understood that each person is speaking as an individual whether they agree or disagree, have experiences that match or clash. When brown women speak about brown women, we are treated as representatives of “our people” and used to further the agendas of different political fractions whatever our views. Our clashing experiences are used as proof of brainwashing or mass jihadist thinking on one hand, or that feminists are crazy liars on the other hand. Our agreeing experiences are used, frustratingly, only to further bash us: showing us as complacent for lack of resistance – by the way, how well is that working out in Syria? Algeria? Libya? Egypt? – or being dangerous radicals for resisting, to place more personal interviews before granting a visa, more searches before boarding, more detainment in airports after landing for further questions, more barriers against immigration, work visas, sharper looks in the subway stations, being ranted at in trader joes, and landlords who can say no to us because they don’t want a “curry smell” in their rental flats around dinner time.

And we have to be honest. No one in power will cut ties with Saudi because of that article or any like it. No the UK, not the US. So far, the cause of women in Saudi is only championed by Sweden. Meanwhile, the people doing things like the landlord-curry clause are using articles like this as a moral cover for uglier motives.

I appreciate Mona’s spunkiness. her doggedness. Her refusal to back down, ever. Her speaking for those afraid to publish their name. I will always support her right to be noisy, opinioned, often dogmatic, sometimes wrong.  Her existence is proof against some of her most extreme claims. She didn’t rise up from seafoam on a shell to save us. She didn’t escape from the matrix. She was born in Egypt, not even in Cairo. Nothing, but nothing about her is special if you know more than a handful of Arabic women or any educated Egyptian women. She must continue as she has done. And because Saudi must never be normalised.

But- Saudi Arabia is best understood as the fullest manifestation of rape culture arguments I hear in ‘western’ countries all the time. Many Saudis feel arguments for advancement of women are just arguing for their daughters to be “put in the position” to be raped and it’s hard to argue that point when people in our own cultures –even judges– belive that where a woman is, what she is wearing, and how much she drank made her a target.

Saudis have acted like the AI robots in Dr Who’s “Smile” episode, implementing solutions to the wrong problems. They’ve solved what she wore by creating a standard outfit, who she was with by ensuring a ‘guardian’ at her side at all times, banned alcohol, and decided dating was way too much of a grey zone so ban that too. It’s hard to argue to change the symptoms in Saudi when the illness is still so prevalent in so many cultures. In world leaders, even.

Finally, to everyone involved in activism or social justice of any kind: consider where your words can further be used to harm, otherise and place more barriers on the people you are trying to help.

When men in tech talk about helping women enter tec, or food bloggers talk about how time-pressed women don’t feel like cooking at the end of the day, there’s almost a feeling that they’re describing helpless orcas stranded on the beach that need manipulating for their own safety, and not people who can participate and maybe shift the viewpoint of the speaker to help in more meaningful ways beyond their pet passion.

When women speak about the rights of “other women” in “other countries”, whether they are holding up placards claiming not to need feminism or placards that emphasise that they do, whether they stood with her or wanted to make America great again, from where I sit, the language used to talk about us is all but indistingushable.

And when a boat of people is allowed to sink while the lifeguard ignores their multiple calls, it’s because of ideas, transmitted via malicious or thoughtless word choices, that Muslim refugees are too fundamentally, culturally incompatible with Europeans to be allowed in.

 

Tips for Bilingual WordPress Sites & Plugins for Wedding Sites

TL:DR; How to translate a wordpress plugin or theme. Just read that link because that’s what you need.

“No,  I have time..what problems might I run into when building a bilingual page?”

Thanks! OK, so we’re using wordpress to make a wedding site. I would prefer to GTD it by using a free, ready to roll site but our requirements were:

  • online RSVP, including menu options
  • Fully bilingual
  • hidden from search engines

So self-hosted seemed like the best option. At the time I thought wordpress would be best for being able to switch the content around, update guests on any changes in plans (since most of my people aren’t just outside Spain but outside the continent of Europe as well) and was extendable as needed.

Only it’s a bitch to translate after you have a few plugins involved.

Plugins we are using:

Here was how I thought translation would go:

  1. I download WPML
  2. I create the English content.
  3. my S.O would write the Spanish content.
  4. I’d link the content up in the WMPL plugin.
  5. Voila!

Here’s how it actually went

  1. I download the WPML plugin.
  2. I create English content
  3. I create Spanish content shittily because S.O is ‘too busy’
  4. I translate the navigation bar.
  5. I translate the helpful links section
  6. The language switcher isn’t working and I lose my mind.
  7. It’s not working because I forget about the static homepage in the theme (since we have no blog content yet. Just pages). The language switcher won’t work because the homepage only exists in English.
  8. I create a Spanish version of the static homepage with WMPL. (basically, hit the plus sign and create another empty homepage inside the pages list.) Now the language switcher works.
  9. But the widgets on the homepage are in English.
  10. I download WPML widgets.
  11. I create two versions of every widget on the home page and use the language select option to specify which language they should appear on.
  12. realise that WordPress still counts there being two widgets in each area and the theme formats the one visible widget to occupy half the page width, to the left of the page. Because it’s a dynamically created page, there’s nothing to edit but to remove the widget counting function, and I definitely don’t want to do that because I do want to occasionally use the two widget layout.
  13. I ponder adding jquery to remove the “two-widget” class to select elements. But do I really want to load jquery on a page just for this? Most people will load it in mobile where it renders fine.
  14. I install a static HTML cache (WP super cache) because that at least speeds up page load speed while also rendering a static html page in which I can remove the “two-widgets” div element from.
  15. I edit the static html and everything that should be centred is centred.
  16. S.O is finally available and needs me to edit all the Spanish content.
  17. I delete cache to view the changes and (as expected) my edits are gone.
  18. Repeat step 15
  19. S.O has realised the navigation bar needs edits in Spanish
  20. repeat steps 17 &  15
  21. S.O notices a typo
  22. disable cache until all edits are done and create a trello board for issues.
  23. S.O notices an error in a WordPress translation of the form fields. It’s saying required fields are NOT required, which is just confusing.
  24. I rummage around plugin folder, core WordPress translation files but nothing I do results in changes. This takes forever.
  25. I eventually cheat and use the “Advanced” tab inside ninja forms form editor for that form > “display settings” > “Advanced” > “custom labels” and type in sensible Spanish.
  26. S.O wants the field above the comment section which I’ve changed inside the Comment Guestbook plugin to read “leave a note” to appear in Spanish on the Spanish site. I remove the custom text inside the plugin since it’s not translatable and decide to edit the english text since the spanish text makes sense with defaults on.
  27. Rummage some more inside the core translation. Find ‘comment-template.php’ file and edit “leave a reply” to ‘Leave a Note’,
  28. The Spanish translation now says “Leave a Note” in English.
  29. Open up es_ES.po inside /wp-content/languages/ search and find and replace “Leave a Reply” with “Leave a Note” so the translation has the updated string.
  30. Discover this isn’t enough because the .po file needs to be compiled into that .mo file I keep seeing everywhere.
  31. Download Poedit, which 1) makes finding the string much easier. 2) compiles the texts after editing. Edit and save.
  32. Upload the edited file and generated .mo file to the FTP server.
  33. It works now.

Take homes & tips:

  1. As with professional sites, it’s always down to having content ready for you to put in.
  2. If you do have to go ahead without the dummy text or your own translated efforts without your translator, keep a list of every item you’ve translated so you can go through everything methodically rather than on a “visibility” basis. Just because it’s personal, don’t assume you’ll get it done faster than if it were paid.
  3. If you have a static webpage, make sure you “translate” that too in WPML, even though it’s technically an empty page in the I’m using.
  4. Don’t bother with po/mo editor plugin. It takes ages to load and didn’t save properly. Poedit was way more efficient and easy, but you need to be able to ftp or have access to file manager in Cpanel.
  5. Use browser language, never IP address for presenting translated pages.
  6. Don’t expect people to see the language switch option in the navigation bar- on mobile this is often squished into a “hamburger”. Use system language detection. Although this does rely on javascript, which is limited.
  7. Separate folders or subdomains are best in case the system language detection doesn’t work. In our use case, we can send the /es/ version to his family and friends.

Anyone with tips on multilingual or bilingual pages? I’d love to hear your tips!

The Creative (ADHD) Person’s Guide to Productivity at Home

I am a woman in a domestic relationship, and thus, no matter how enlightened my partner is and aspires to be, no matter how much my mom flat out refused to cook, clean, or buy my brother and I gendered toys as children, I am still affected by cultural expectations ambient in our environment. This means that while both of us work from home most days, I feel the burden of needing to shop, cook and tidy up most of the time. We discuss this. He tells me I can delegate, I can ask. I think that needing to delegate often will be seen as me being “not in control” by him subtly. We discuss why I would feel that way. We’re a two person cultural panel-cum-assignment-taskforce.

I used to be in a relationship where we “understood” each other and never discussed anything but fun things. It worked great until we grew up. I prefer this way.

While working for yourself is pleasant, being your own project manager, sales team, marketing team, HR department (what training should I do next?), head of strategy & investments, and own legal team is draining. I’m also the webmistress of my boyfriends Political Economics blog and facebook page (he’s slowly becoming a big deal) and in-house IT person. I’m planning a wedding, have a parrot who — like all parrots— needs a lot of attention to be emotionally healthy and happy, am always training for the next race and have a project on the side which tends to get ignored on weeks like this week when the wedding website has problems with translating widget content.

My time is very full.

Distractions have to go if I ever want to deliver assignments, maintain basic hygiene standards and eat one square meal a day.

But there is a difference between being focused and being effective. Effectiveness is when you focus on worthwhile things and I’ll discuss that at the bottom.

How I get Shit Done

  • Pomodoro all the things. You know how when you hear there are people on the way over you run around cleaning for ten minutes then wonder why your place never looks this tidy normally? That’s the kind of result setting a 20 minute timer gives you. Having a timer on means I have to prioritise: unload & reload dishwasher, or put the plates by the sink to be cleaned before doing dinner? Change the bird’s cage liner, or just vacuum around the cage? Do the floors NEED cleaning or just spot vacuuming/wiping? By the timer runs out, the place looks respectable, but I didn’t get sucked into it. I also Pomodoro time personal admin (emails to my tax guy, dealings with Oxfordshire country council, or my letting agency in the UK), which is by far the thing I hate doing the most. knowing I’ll only spend 25 minutes doing something makes it seems less daunting, and I reply to emails faster and worry less about the wording. It ends, and if I need more time, I will get back to it another day or in another session.
  1. Planning the week.  After I’m done with the morning swipe and have my coffee, I check my planner. This is the wireframe for my week where I keep workouts, deadlines, and day related tasks or appointments as well as plan tasks around energy intensive social obligations so I’m not drained or overwhelmed on the day. The most important thing about this system is that I only have the things I need to do this week on there. Some things might be day specific, but I like to leave tasks as for the week. This gives me a little bit of time to get everything done without a panic if I don’t get something done on a particular day.  The reason paper works better for me is because I can’t “cheat” with it and perpetually move tasks to the next day, like I do with digital to do lists.It’s either checked off, or it’s not. Also, it doesn’t annoy me with popups and alerts, which distract me from what I’m doing in the moment.  For tasks that have multiple steps associated with them (as most of my digital work does, as well as wedding planning) it’s easier to break those next actions down and space and schedule them out in trello.
  2. Scrum Points for Spoonies: Inside trello, I use an extension that allows scrum points to be added to cards, although as a solo worker, I don’t use scrum. Scrum points are an estimation of effort and that helps me be realistic about how much I can get done in a day as a spoonie. Above 21 points in a day is a sign I’ve taken on too much..
  3. Maintain regular work hours: blocking off my time -as much as possible- really helps me focus. Also, I know my relaxation time is after 8, and that I have time to workout, do the evening tidyup, and run whatever errands I need and chillax thanks to my planning steps above.
  4. Capture Inspiration While doing stuff, other ideas will pop into my head that are not related to the task at hand. I have one page in my planner for incoming ideas I want to expand one. If the idea is a good one, it can get expanded on later and added as a project in my queue. But capturing it allows me to get back to what I’m doing without spending energy trying to “hold that thought”.
  5. Block distractions. As I said about paper planners, notifications are distractions. In my mac I switch off as many of these as possible (even slack) and only have my time logging tool reminding me to log my billable time. I’m not a sysadmin, so I can check alerts on my breaks. I also use RescueTime, which only allows me to check certain sites on Pomodoro breaks until 8pm. The best thing about Rescue Time is that it tracks your behaviour on mobile as well as computer and scores you daily on productivity.
  6. Avoid email. Email is a time sinkhole. There’s always something interesting to check out, but the time to do that not now. Sending emails happens after work is done, in the personal admin pomodoro.
  7. Hide the taskbar and app-launcher.Yes, I’m serious about blocking distractions, and the taskbar and app-launcher are just reminders of OTHER things I could do or should pay attention to, like edit that youtube video for my channel with only one video on it, or that blog post on how people make decisions for my work blog. The thing is, I can’t do anything effectively with my mind of something else. The best thing I can do is focus on the task at hand and leave others for after whatever I’m working on is done.
  8. The ADHD buster: I have a column in trello called “doing” which may only have one card at any given time. I have a goldfish memory, and if anything interrupts me (answering the door for a delivery), it takes me a while to remember what I’m supposed to be doing, especially with all those other lovely ideas popping up all the time. Referring to the “doing now” column in trello stops me opening another tab or getting lost in a new tangential idea and makes me want to push that card into the “done” column.

There is one sneaky thing I’m not telling you, though.

It’s really easy to stay busy. 

Especially if — like me — you equate being busy with being useful. Yes, the opportunities for being busy are everywhere.

Being effective is hard.

It’s important to assess each would-be project in terms of positive impact on my life, or on others.  To that end, I have a page in my planner about areas of responsibility: (work, house, health, business, partner, parrot, etc.) and another page for my values.  There are just there for me to review, not to link to anything.

Every app I’ve tried that links these areas to projects and those project to tasks takes more time to manage than is worthwhile.

It’s up to me to make sure that my projects -whether building a raspberry pi powered amazon echo*, or baking an actual raspberry pie- align with those areas of responsibility and those values.

Otherwise, it’s not worth my time.

What about you? How do you manage your time? Especially for the energy or health challenged, I’d love to hear your tips!

*Designing pleasant voice interactions for products is an area of responsibility in my work and also ties with my values of making the interface as out of the way as possible. If I could, you would blink twice and think of pizza and it would arrive.