Monday, 21 July 2014

And now for something completely different

I've got two Netbooks in my possession that have been keeping me afloat in terms of having access to a personal PC when I needed it. One I thought had died a miserable, sugary, drowning death at the hands of an ill-placed alcoholic beverage and a vacuum cord, and the other pathetically putters and sputters along.

Now I've got new chargers, one second-hand hard drive I'm going to try to revive, and some time on my hands.

What am I gonna do? I'm gonna see if I can revive the one iffy hard drive, and if I can I'm going to put Linux on both of them. Why? Because I have time on my hands.

Now... for the most important question of all...

What flavour of Linux? I'm not sure. I haven't played with any of them since I learned to hate SUSE in college in 2008. Any advice for a n00b?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

This is why safety advice is not enough

Between yesterday and today, two news items have come to my attention involving sexual assault. Today Peel Regional Police released information on a man they arrested for a series of sexual assaults in a park area near Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road.
Mississauga – Investigators from the Special Victims Unit have arrested a male for several sex assaults in Mississauga.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. on Monday, June 30, 2014, three teenagers were in a park area near Barbertown Road and Mississauga Road, Mississauga, when they were accosted by an unknown male. The suspect threatened the three girls with a weapon and sexually assaulted them. The suspect was scared off by a citizen who was walking in the area.
A subsequent sexual assault occurred at approximately 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in the same area. The victim was walking with her boyfriend when they were confronted by the accused. Both victims were threatened with a weapon and confined, and the female victim was sexually assaulted. The victims called police and provided a detailed description of the suspect.
Randy BLACKWOOD, a 22 year-old resident of Mississauga, was located by police a short time later in the area.  He was arrested and charged with the following offences:
-          Sexual Assault with a Weapon
-          Utter Threat to Cause Death or Bodily Harm ( 2 counts)
-          Forcible Confinement (5 counts)
-          Sexual Interference (3 counts)
-          Sexual assault (3 counts)
That's good information for anyone living and visiting in the area, to be aware of what happened, where, by whom, and how. It can help them to protect themselves potentially in the future, and if they were assaulted and did not yet come forward, this information may give them the confidence to now do so.

The release ended with some further safety advice to the public:
Investigators are reminding the public to use caution when walking alone, avoid isolated areas and to report any suspicious activity to police.  Walk in pairs and be cognizant of those around you.  Make sure someone knows your route and when you are expected to return home.
Now, I'm not pointing this out to give the police a hard time or to gather an army with torches and pitchforks, but I want to draw attention to something I think is pretty important. The police advise to "use caution when walking alone, avoid isolated areas" and "walk in pairs". These assaults all happened to folks who were with one or more people, in a public park, during daylight hours. The reason I bring this up is because I want to emphasize that this is some of the "common sense" safety advice that is given out pretty much daily. I'm sure sometimes it can help to deter a potential attacker. But it's not a guarantee of safety. The only guarantee of safety is to not be in the vicinity of someone who would attack you, and we generally don't know who or where that is.

The other story is of a Winnipeg cab driver who picked up and sexually assaulted a woman on Saturday night. Included in the story are several other accounts of people being assaulted or threatened by cab drivers.

Again, use whatever safety measures you feel make sense for yourself. But if you're giving out blanket safety advice to folks to end all rape ever, I urge you to spend some time asking and researching whether your "common sense" advice is really as practical and foolproof as you presently think it is.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

General tips for using Microsoft Windows 8.1

After a busy week and a half blogging about social justice stuff, I want to cleanse my palate with some nerdy advice.

In my new job role, my main task is to help consumers resolve issues with their home laptops and desktops. It's a bit different from my previous experience in an enterprise environment, but I'm really enjoying the challenge of fixing literally every kind of software issue under the sun. The only thing I miss is that all this support is over the phone, so I don't get to gut machines any more and Frankenstein them to make them work. C'est la vie.

From this experience, I have a few tips on how to keep your home Windows computers running. I'm not going to go over everything there is to know ever. If you want something that in-depth, pull up a chair at and hunker down. Bring snacks.

Firstly, if you have Windows XP you'll ok for now so long as you have an active antivirus installed. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP in April, which means that it's not sending out any more updates to patch issues they find out about. You're on your own. Some folks have had their Windows XP automatic updates disabled because they didn't like the slow-downs or interruptions, so you may very well still be working on SP2. Continue on with your bad selves.

Now, if your Windows XP computer shits the bed, you're basically out of luck. All machines will one day fail. What I'd recommend is to regularly back up your data to an external drive, and start making your succession plans by saving up a rainy day fund for a replacement. Then just run your machine into the ground.

If you have Windows Vista, you're on your own.

Windows 7? You're fine.

Windows 8? Upgrade to 8.1. No, seriously, do it. If only because if something goes wrong, it's easier to get to the tools to fix it.

What I love about Windows 8.1 (stop laughing, there are some things I love about it) is the start button. As someone who fixes stuff, being able to right-click on the start button and have everything from Device Manager to Control Panel to Command Prompt with admin privileges right there is hella convenient.

Now, what do I do with these?

From Device Manager I can see if any hardware devices have notifications beside them to let me know about a driver issue. For 9/10 devices, I'll just uninstall them and upon reboot they'll reinstall themselves. Often this will fix the issue. If it doesn't, I'll look online for a more up to date driver.

If I suspect I have malware, I'll open Control Panel, go to Programs and then look for stuff I didn't download or install that isn't from either Microsoft or my computer's manufacturer. If you don't know what you're looking for, check this out but don't remove anything.

If you have pop-ups, just download and run Malwarebytes free version. I'd say 99/100, Malwarebytes has gotten rid of the malicious ickies that have infested a machine and caused pop-ups, page redirects, and resource hogging. Because of how well their free version works at spot-cleaning, if you were to buy a version to do real-time scanning and protection I'd recommend them.

The only time recently it didn't work, I used Dr. Web Cureit free. This program takes longer to download and run, which is why I don't use it as my first line of defense. They're a Russian company, so don't be concerned if you Google them and wind up on a site that's not in English. Just click on the language option in the top-right corner. If you were to pay for antivirus, they'd be my #2, since their free scans also work so well.

If you get errors when trying to run Windows update, let the Troubleshooting tool in the Control Panel do the heavy lifting for you. If that doesn't work, there's a tool and some more tips here.

If your computer is acting wonky and you suspect it may be an issue with the Windows files themselves, right-click on the start button, select "Command Prompt (Admin)" and type out the following commands:

dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth

When in doubt, with any computer issues, Google is your friend. Well, I mean, searching the internet for IT forums and advice is your friend.

I know this isn't the most exhaustive list, but it comes up often enough that I figured it would be handy to write it down. Good luck, intrepid home computer-users, and gob speed.

Friday, 11 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: What to wear, what to wear?

Tomorrow is the big day! SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?!

The question that comes up quite often from participants is "What should I wear?"

My go-to, copy & paste response is this:

SlutWalk does not require its participants to adhere to a certain dresscode in order to participate in our marches or events because we don't just support survivors who dress a certain way. We support office workers, we support fast-food workers, we support unemployed folks, we support independently wealthy folks who don't have to work, we support retired folks, we support sex workers, we support undocumented immigrants, we support trans*folk, we support upper-middle-class, white, heterosexual males.

We will not tell our participants to dress in business attire so as not to look like "sluts", because we support them even if someone deems them to look like "sluts". We will not tell our participants they have to dress like "sluts", because we know that people are slut-shamed and victim-blamed in every manner of clothing, and because we want participants to feel comfortable and empowered in whatever way they deem fit.

We support survivors of all ages, shapes, sizes, colours, ethnicities, gender-expressions, citizenship status, religions, etc., because we know that sexual violence permeates all of these areas and anyone can be a survivor and deserves to be free from victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and further violence.

 Now that we've got that information out of the way, what should *I* wear? The first year I wore a bridal gown and my wife wore a snazzy suit, but that march was held in the spring and was much cooler. In 2012, I wore knee-length shorts and a SlutWalk Toronto organizer t-shirt. I'm not sure where that t-shirt is now, though (we've moved too many times). I won't be strutting my stuff in a bikini or something similarly petite because my skin is so fair I'm liable to burst into flames.

This is a tough decision, y'all.


Solution: Batgirl.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Buttons, stickers, and magnets. Oh my!

Two more sleeps until SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?!

We ran short on time and budget this year to get t-shirts made for the parade, and so we've been making up for it by rolling up our sleeves and making hundreds of buttons, stickers, and magnets!

Heather Jarvis posted her lovely and oh-so artsy picture of her progress with the buttons so far:

I don't have snazzy pictures of the finished product, but I do have lots of images to give y'all an idea of what's to come:

These are all to help us to recoup the costs of the march, which are all paid out of pocket by SlutWalk Toronto volunteers. Our expenses include ASL, honorariums for speakers, our emcee, and water for our volunteers the day of the march.

If you would like to help us cover our costs, you can purchase some of the swag at the march (by a suggested donation of $1.00 each), or you can help sponsor us through Crowdtilt.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Speaker's List has been released!

With 3 days left until SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?,  do you need any more reasons to attend? No? Awesome, but I'm going to share our amazing speaker's list with y'all anyways!

Monica Forrester

Recently honored at world pride 2014, for her tireless work in the LGBTTQ2IA community. Monica Forrester is a 2-spirit, black, queer, Trans-femme, radical, sexworker, and activist. She is currently the Coordinator at Maggieʼs Toronto – Sexwork Action Project.

Monica rallies for the rights of all sex-workers, marginalized women, and trans* people.

Blu Waters

Laureen ( Blu) Waters; Istchii Nikamoon- Earth Song
Cree/Métis / Micmac-Wolf Clan, member of the Metis nation of Ontario
Blu’s family is from Big River Saskatchewan, Star Blanket Reserve

And Braʼdor Lake, Cape Breton Nova Scotia.

Currently working at York University as a elder on campus Providing Traditional teachings and One on One Counseling.
Blu grew up with her grandmother and learned about traditional medicines performing extractions, healings, and care of the sick and teachings
She was adopted by a white family, at 10, and grew up and lived in Parkdale.
Blu spent many years in High Park, hunting geese, rabbits, ducks, muskrat, harvesting medicine plants and maintaining her connection to Mother Earth.
She has traveled to Nova Scotia to learn from Herbal medicine people and the Queen Charlotte Island in British Columbia where her brother is a Shaman. And medicine man.
She studied landscaping and Horticulture for four years and has studied herbal medicine.
Blu was also the national caucus Representative for the Toronto urban aboriginal strategy for 5 years working with the community of Toronto and the Government
She also is a graduate of DeVry Institute of Technology receiving her business software, micro computer architecture, and A+ Certification.
Bluʼs gifts include,
House cleansing,Giving traditional spirit names,Hand drumming,Song writer
Creative writings. Full moon conductor, Traditional teachings
She has been a traditional counselor for most of life.
She is a mother of 3 and a grandmother, of 3 and a Sun dancer and a pipe carrier

Jeff Perera- White Ribbon Campaign

Jeff is a Community Engagement Manager for White Ribbon, the worldʼs largest movement of men working towards re-imagining masculinity and inspiring men, young men, boys and male- identified people to help end gender-based violence. Heading up the annual What Makes A Man White Ribbon conference and having delivered two TEDx talks, Jeff speaks to people of all walks of life about embracing the impact we make, and difference we can make.

Akio Maroon

Akio Maroon is a Mother, Occupational Health and Safety Consultant, Educator, Nurse, Social Justice Organizer, Advocator and Fundraiser for sex workers rights and HIV/AIDS support services. Akio is the founder of GRIND Toronto – a quarterly event celebrating sex positivity, the joys of safe/r consensual sex, in a LGBTQ2I space for BIPOC* (Black, Indigenous and People of Color)

Flo Jo

Flo is a sex worker and active drug user. She is self described as very sexy, hot, and delicious. Even at 52, she is all that!

****************^^^Picture ban on this speaker. NO PHOTOS!

Kira Andry

A longtime supporter of the SlutWalk movement, and aided in the organization of SlutWalk 2014.

Kira Andry is an agender, queer, mixed, activist and student. As a proud and out non- binary trans* person, they go by gender-neutral pronouns (they/them/their).

They are passionate about body positivity, consent, education, reproductive healthcare/ choice, sex worker rights, BDSM awareness, trans* visibility, and social justice.

They are currently the organizer of HAVEN Toronto, and are heavily involved with many other community initiatives.

Kira aims to shed light on the injustices that currently exist for trans* survivors within the legal system, as well as the lack of basic civil rights.

Their main goal is to unify the community, fight for justice and ultimately help create a more supportive and survivable world for fellow victims.

Catherine McCormick- SlutWalk MC

Catherine McCormick is a queer writer, comedian and unrepentant feminist, intent on smashing the patriarchy apart, one pussy joke at a time.  She also hosts and produces the popular podcast Box Social as well as the groundbreaking biweekly LGBTQ+ comedy show Queer As Fuck.

Catherine’s Tumblr:
Find her on Twitter:

I am so excited for the march and to hear these incredible community members speak. Please join us and make some noise against victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and rape culture!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Monday, 7 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Taking a walk down memory lane through YouTube videos

This Saturday, in just 5 days, we've got  SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?

I decided to check out Youtube for news videos from the previous SlutWalk Toronto protests. It was also a great trip down memory lane, a reminder of the messaging we still need to work on, and opportunity to check out my changing hairstyles and consider, "Hmmm. Maybe I will go back to that short, bleached-blonde look."

I am definitely looking forward to the new speakers, the new participants, the new signs, and the new energy this upcoming weekend. We've got a long way to go, but we're proud of how far we've come.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Making activist spaces accessible

EDIT: Updated to include info on availability of active listeners

We're in to the home stretch, with only 6 days left until  SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?

One lesson we've learned (and are still learning and have more room for improvement on) is that in order to really get to the root of struggles against oppression, we have to make our activism accessible.

To that end we're going to have space reserved at the front of the march for folks with mobility issues and chemical sensitivities. The front will sent the pace for the march, and it will be a non-smoking, and scent-free zone. There will be clearly-labelled active listeners as part of our parade marshal crew for folks who get triggered or upset during the march, or just need someone to talk to/offer support.

Tomorrow we should get confirmation on our bookings of ASL interpreters for the speeches, and we will have speeches pre-printed and available to participants. In the future, we aim to have the funds raised to be able to offer closed-captioning for speeches as well.

We had thought that we were making our planning meetings accessible physically and for all LGBT participants by hosting them close to Wellesley Subway Station at the The 519 Church Street Community Centre, but we were wrong. As it turns out, there have been some criticisms of them not being sensitive to the concerns of trans women and not hosting a space that is safe for their participation. Knowing this going forward, we will book alternate spaces until such time as The 519 has remedied those concerns.

There is going to be a Trans* Contingent in the march, for those who would feel safer marching amongst peers and allies.

If there are other ways we can make our events and movement more accessible, we want to hear it. Our goal is to address all forms of sexual violence and victim-blaming, and the systems that keep those abuses going unchecked.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Poster edition

Just one more week until SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?

Today we made posters!

I'm a dork and totally spaced on taking pictures, so for those looking for ideas to make their own posters to bring with them next weekend, here's the text of some of the posters from today and pics from our 2012 prep day.

My dress is not a yes
All genders have a right to consent
Fuck your rape apology
Your rape jokes aren't edgy
Who are you calling a slut?
Clothes =/= consent
Marriage =/= consent


I hope these give you some ideas for your own posters and that I'll see you next weekend!

Friday, 4 July 2014

8 Days to SWTO: What has safety advice got to do with it?

As stated before, I am continuing the countdown to SlutWalk Toronto 2014. Just 8 more days before we hit the pavement.

One issue that comes up over and over (and over and over again) is safety advice for women. I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I've heard some who is very earnest (or maybe only a little earnest) asking why we've taken such offense to the police officer's very well-intentioned and not-at-all-malicious advice of "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

The issue is not so much "they're telling us what to do." There are many occasions where safety advice is not only absolutely welcome, but extremely useful. Advice such as "Look both ways before you cross the street", "Don't eat stuff you pull out of the couch," and "Don't run with scissors" are not only very specific and tangible, the cause and effects are immediately apparent. I will look both ways before I cross the street because a vehicle travelling at 50+km/hr may not have enough time to stop before I'm just another greasy spot on the road. I won't eat the stuff I pull out of the couch because I would rather not shit out my own intestines. And I will not run with scissors because I would rather my obituary not read "Impaled herself after tripping on a cat while rushing to open up some freezies in the back yard."

When advice such as "don't dress slutty" is trotted out, it is neither specific nor does it have immediately apparent cause and effect. What constitutes as slutty? Who, specifically, do I need to be concerned about when I dress "slutty"? How can I recognize them? If I can recognize them, then why can't I dress "slutty" and just keep an extra eye on them?

What is the proper length for, say, debunking rape myths?

These vague, nebulous statements about safety are especially frustrating when they're met with statements such as "You can't assume all men are rapists. That makes you man-hating!" Often these statements even come from the same person who, only moments before, were expressing how one has to dress respectfully because "the world is a dangerous place, and you have to look out for yourself."

There is no winning. That may be the point. If we can't pin down exactly what it is we're supposed to be wearing or not wearing, and we can't be on high alert around all men and yet "bad things happen so you can't be stupid and trusting", then we can't point out just what caused the attack and what went wrong.

Well, fortunately there are some things that we can do.The major themes here are that we need to hold people accountable for their actions. If someone is acting creepy, it is their responsibility to uncreepify themselves. If they don't, we don't allow them a social license to operate in our social groups, or we intervene as bystanders. If someone is making rape jokes, we tell them they're making the tone hostile and ruining an otherwise good time. If someone is making rape apologist statements, we say "Why do you hate men so much that you assume they can't help but rape?" We can change the discourse so that the onus is on people not to be creepy, rapey, abusive shitlords.

We can also support people in asserting their personal boundaries a lot better than what we do. If someone isn't comfortable around a person, let them keep a distance. If they don't want to be greeted with a hug, respect that. If they tell you that they don't want to be in the same location as someone else, then don't try to trick them into it just to make yourself feel better. Listen to and respect people's boundaries, and if someone else is trying to step over them use some of that bystander intervention and intervene.

If you have some sexual violence prevention advice you'd like to share that isn't included in that 2012 article, please share it. I'm sure there are more ways to make ourselves and our communities safe. And, believe it or not, we are very much invested in safety.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

SWTO2014 Countdown: Acknowledging the good

The countdown to SlutWalk Toronto 2014 continues, with just t-minus 9 days and counting until we march.

I know that we often get caught up in the really horrible things that are going on. It's very hard not to, because these things so often affect our own personal safety and remind us of how far we have to go and how unsafe we often are.

There are some really positive, funny, and inspiring things going on around sexual violence, and for this post I'm going to focus on a few of those.

One thing I'm really enjoying about social media is how regular folks can band together and point out the stuff that's really not right and break it down into relatable terms. For example, turns out quite a lot of people have taken umbrage with Robin Thicke's predatory habits and aren't afraid to let him know it:

I laughed. I laughed a lot. But, I'm hoping that this can also be an eye-opener for both Robin and other folks that the stalking and emotional manipulation of his ex-wife are not kosher, nor is creating a veritable rape anthem.

There have been a lot of cases of regular folks on social media banding together to shine a light on issues. Despite the progress of getting these issues out there, many of them are hard to read and so I caution readers they may be triggering.

A few off the top of my head have been:
I purposely left off with Safety Tips for Ladies because it brings me joy.

Another thing that gives me hope is the hurdles that CAFE has been encountering.

I absolutely support efforts to address the issues that negatively affect men. What I don't support are organizations who use men's pain as a front for their misogyny. 

They may have temporarily pulled the wool over the eyes of the CRA, but their lies and obfuscation weren't enough for their "Equality Day" to go ahead or for them to participate in the Pride Parade. We see you, CAFE.

I'm also seeing more educational campaigns, articles, and discussions going on that can help really break down myths and misunderstandings about consent, sex, human anatomy, and sexual violence.

Some of my favourites that I'd like to pass on are:
The creation of more and more of these types of programs and campaigns tells me that we're gaining a better understanding of the ways our community attitudes towards sexual violence can have a huge impact on our safety. If we stand together and do not tolerate the attitudes that lead to victim-blaming and rape apologia, then we can cut down on the support systems that allow abusers to commit crimes under the complicity of those around them.

There are many more positive things going on in our culture that give me hope. If you know of some I've missed, please share them in the comments.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

SWTO2014: Who are you calling a slut?

It's that time again. SlutWalk Toronto is marching on Saturday, July 12th starting at Nathan Phillip Square, downtown Toronto.

As part of a 10 day countdown, in the next week and a half I'm going to go over some of the reasons for marches such as SlutWalk. If SlutWalk in particular isn't your cup 'o tea, I respect that, but I ask that you respect that is just one of many valid ways to address our sick culture that allows sexual violence to proliferate.

Why are we still at it? *takes deep breath*...

That's a random smattering of global news articles from the past 2 years. This is the kind of stuff we're dealing with on the daily. The problem has not magically disappeared (not that we expected it would), which is why we're still here, still making noise, and still going to march in support of survivors.

To be sure, it's not all bad. We'll talk about some of the good that's being developed tomorrow and turn those frowns upside down.

Picture courtesty of Cute Overload. Mawwwww...