Let’s Swear Together!

Inspired by this great comment thread following a post by our friend Z, I decided to start a thread that will allow us to blow off steam through practice of obscenity. Swearing aloud or in writing is a great mechanism of psychological hygiene.

Feel free to swear in any language about anything that annoys you or bugs you.

I will make this post sticky for a while, so scroll down for new posts.

Are Ukrainians Particularly Anti-Semitic?

On one of the blogs I follow, I just read an appalling (albeit not an unusual) suggestion that Ukrainians are especially anti-Semitic. Forgetting about how many Ukrainians fought against Hitler – and defeated him, in the end – this blogger has the gall to write the following:

In the end, this is why the Holodomor [the genocide of the people of Ukraine in 1931 when over 11 million people died of organized famines] might deserve its own wing in the museum.  Like the Holocaust it too has a unique feature: its victims, when given the chance, did to the Jews what the Soviets, y”sh, did to them.  The idea that a people could suffer in such a way and then learn absolutely nothing moral about it, could remain as cruel as their oppressors, is certainly unique.It should be remembered that the Ukraine has an extensive history of Jew hatred including the worst massacres of Jews between the destruction of the Second Temple (may it speedily be rebuilt) and the Holocaust, the Cheilmnitsky pogroms.

Contrary to this blogger’s hateful lie, when given the chance, the victims of Holodomor defeated Nazism.

One of the victims of the Holodomor was my Ukrainian grandfather. He was also a veteran of World War II. A hero who fought against Hitler, was wounded, and remained an invalid for the rest of his life. Yes, there were a few Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis and served as polizei. But there were just as many (or just as few) French, Poles, Russians, Estonians, etc. who collaborated. The majority of the people in the countries occupied by Hitler, however, fought bravely against the Nazis. Few countries suffered from Hitler as much as Ukraine did. There is not a single family in my country that didn’t lose somebody and have somebody fight in the war against Nazis.

It’s shocking to me that some ignoramus would just spit on the memory of these heroes and on the memory of my Ukrainian grandfather (who, by the way, had a Jewish son-in-law and two half-Jewish grandchildren). It is also completely appalling to me that people don’t even make an effort to learn the first thing about the history of Ukraine and of the Ukrainian Jews.

Well, what can you expect from a person who feels the need to pontificate about Chmelnitsky pogroms without even finding out how to spell the word Chmelnitsky.

So this is what I wrote in response on the offending blog:

As a Ukrainian Jew, I am saddened that the author of this blog has bought into the lies about the anti-semitism of the Ukrainians.

Are you even aware that the moment when Ukraine gained its independence from the Russian Empire in 1918, Ukrainian politicians introduced laws that insisted that no Ukrainian parliament could open a session without a significant number of Jewish MPs being present? Are you aware that all of the foundational documents of the independent Ukrainian Republic were always signed by the Ukrainian committee, the Russian committee, the Jewish committee, and the Polish committee? Have you missed the fact that Volodymyr Vinnichenko, the Prime Minister of the Ukrainian Republic was sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis for refusing to collaborate with them? That he spend his entire life tirelessly defending the rights of Jews everywhere?

In 1918-1921 (the only years before 1991 when Ukraine was independent), nowhere in the world – nowhere – were the rights of the Jews so protected and cherished as in Ukraine.

The degree of willful blindness you need to practice in order to equate the pogroms of 1648-9 and the pogroms of the early XXth century with Ukraine is terrifying.

An Update on the Blogger Wars by an Autie Come Lately

So I just discovered that I had managed to make myself a center of two controversies over this past weekend (and not just one, like I thought until half an hour ago). One was provoked by the most recent post on circumcision and the other one by my post on the  MLK memorial. What normally happens is that I don’t spend a lot of time on other people’s blogs unless these are the blogs I truly love. I never leave more than one comment per topic on blogs of which I’m not a passionate fan and never go back to see how the discussion evolved. I spend too much time on my own blog as it is, so I really have no time to spend elsewhere.

And then it turned out that two kind, nice bloggers went to those discussions I unwittingly provoked by my posts, tried participating and got aggressively dumped on by weird folks. In the meanwhile, I’ve been sitting here unaware of all that, wondering why I was suddenly being assaulted by spammers who tried leaving strange acronyms and links to Twitter feeds on my blog. Trust an autistic always to be out of it.

I’m now more popular as a blogger than I was before, so I see my modest popularity as a sort of Internet capital. If I am to come to a person’s blog often and promote it by leaving links to it on mine, I’m only ready to do that if it’s a blog I really like. I’m not going to expend my capital on people and blogs I dislike. When people I don’t know come here and leave a link saying, “Come and see what we’ve been saying about you”, I always just delete the comment without following the link or giving it a second thought.

I love an intelligent, passionate discussion as much as the next person. But as a greedy Jew that I am, I won’t waste my capital and promote blogs I don’t approve of by visiting them or posting comments.

My New Dresses

I’ve been looking for good, decent dresses that one can wear to work and that are non-revealing but beautiful. Finally, I found them on Amazon (where else?). I was a little nervous about buying them without trying them on but I know both these designers (not personally, of course), and their clothes usually fit me well. I also appreciate them because they have clothes in my sizes. Too often, you can’t find anything good in a size larger than 6. And I’m a lot larger than six, of course. The dresses are expensive but these designers make the kind of clothes you can wear for a decade and they still look like new.

So here they are:

 The dress on the left is by Jones New York and it is available in size 14. Oh, what a miracle! It costs $134.

In real life, it looks a lot better than in the photo. The fabric is very unique in a way that makes you want to touch it immediately.

And it looks a lot better on a more full-figured woman than on this model. (No disrespect to the model, of course.)

I’d post photos of me in the dress but a have a rat’s nest on my head right now, so that will have to wait.



The dress on the right is by Evan Picone. It costs $99 right now. I also got it on size 14.  This style looks perfect on a larger woman.

I always thought that olive was not my color but it turns out it is.

I’m not very tall, just 5’6, so both dresses come below my knee. Which is exactly what I wanted for teaching.

Many women say they are not into dresses but a dress is perfect for a lazy person or for somebody who doesn’t have a lot of time in the morning to select an outfit. With a dress, you don’t have to choose different garments for the top and the bottom and think about whether they will match. You just put it on and forget about it. Also, I find that it is much easier for a larger woman to find a well-fitting dress than well-fitting pants. I dread shopping for pants because it always puts me into a vile mood. And I haven’t owned a pair of jeans in over a decade because for a woman with a noticeable behind jeans are a torture device.

A dress also allows you to show off your shoes in a way that pants don’t. Dresses look great with flats, which is the kind of footwear I prefer.

I think I’m going to start a pro-dress campaign now.

The War on Drugs

I’m not going to list for you the statistics on the incredible amounts of money that are being expended on the war on drugs. I’m sure we are all well aware of them. I also will not describe the kind of truly horrible damage that has been inflicted on Latin American countries by the US government that uses the war on drugs as an excuse to keep these countries in eternal subjection. Talk to your friends from Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia if you want to hear first-hand accounts of the scourge that the war on drugs is to them. What I want to address here is the philosophy that is used to justify the war on drugs within the US and Canada.

Before I say what I mean to say about this issue, I want to clarify that I’m as anti-drug in my personal life as anybody can be. I don’t even take Tylenol, I’m so anti-drug. A bottle of Advil scares me. When my friends in college passed around joints, I was always the only one to refuse them. So I’m not criticizing the war on drugs because I’m planning to take them if they get legalized. For me, this isn’t personal but ideological.

Drug addiction is a horrible tragedy. I have seen people being eaten up alive by drugs and their families deeply miserable. However, I believe in one’s complete and utter ownership of one’s own body. Whatever one might think of drug addicts, smokers, alcoholics, and junk food eaters, nobody should have the right to control what these folks do with their bodies. If I support abortion rights, suicide rights, and euthanasia, I cannot possibly be in favor of jailing drug users. I believe that if one chooses to drug, booze, eat, etc. oneself to death, one should be able to do that.

If we abandon the paternalistic attitude of needing to save drug users from themselves, the only argument that is left for persecuting them is that a person on drugs often becomes dangerous to others. This, of course, is true. The danger is as real as the kind that comes from a person who is strung out on such perfectly legal substance as alcohol. If the same restrictions are placed on drug use as the ones that exist on alcohol use (no drinking on the streets, at the workplace, or campuses, for example) and drug use is contained to people’s homes, the danger to others would diminish.

Of course, drugs will never be legalized. Even marijuana use is not likely to become legal in the US. (Quebec is getting there, for sure.) The reason for this is that the two mafias – the drug cartels and the governmental “war on drugs” machine – bring too much profits (both monetary and political) to their participants. Neither the cartels nor the governments want to relinquish the income and the power that the illegal status of drugs offers them. It only seems like these two groups are at war with each other. In reality, they are both profoundly invested into the continued illegality of drugs.

“Men as a group hold power in society and this power, damages women as a group.”

I think I need to put this comment I just made into a separate post.

Why I believe that contemporary feminism cannot base itself on the following statement as its underlying assumption about the world:

Men as a group hold power in society and this power, damages women as a group.

I believe that this statement is a gross simplification that is built on a gross generalization. I don’t find it useful at all. You can’t just subtract issues of class, race, education, cultural differences, etc. etc. from the equation. If you do, you come up with an over-generalized statement that doesn’t promote genuine understanding.

This assumption worked when immediate goals of basic rights for women needed to be achieved in the XVIII and XIX centuries. Today, we will get nowhere if we don’t start developing a more nuanced, profound approach.

At the very least, the questions that need to be asked of this statement are: Which men? Which society? Which women? What kind of damage? What is the price both groups pay for this system?

Only then will we start to progress. The times of “bad, horrible men exploit and oppress good, long-suffering women” feminism are so over. We need to move on already.

The Imperfections of Canadian Healthcare

My Canadian readers are clamoring for clarifications on my posts that extol the free universal healthcare system in Canada. To ensure that my relatives who are in Canada don’t stop talking to me, I will clarify: the Canadian healthcare system is absolutely amazing if you have a serious health issue. You will get an operation, the most sophisticated tests, the best care for free. You will be kept at the hospital for as long as you need. Doctors and nurses will dance around you, making sure that you are healing properly. Nobody is pinching pennies to get rid of you as soon as you are marginally OK. Post-surgery or post-treatment outpatient care is also absolutely brilliant.

If a person suffers a heart attack or a stroke, God forbid, they will receive the kind of care that will allow them to restore their faculties as much as possible and as soon as possible. And it is, indeed, a huge relief not to worry about the cost while you are on a hospital bed.

However, when your ailment is not as major as the ones I just named, you’ll run into problems. Even in big cities, getting help for less serious issues is very hard. To give an example, I had my first spike in blood pressure when I was 24. I had no idea what it was that I was experiencing and I was terrified. My sister took me to the emergency room (this was in Montreal.) For over six hours, I waited in line (this was during the  night time), suffering horribly. If your BP ever spiked to 200 (which I really hope it never does), you’ll know what that feels like. (For those who are worried for me, I will clarify that I learned to manage my BP non-medicinally and haven’t had a spike in a long time.)

Finally, I was seen by a nurse who took me to make tests. For some incomprehensible reason, nobody took my blood pressure. Now I know what it was after experiencing the same spike in BP many times after that. Then, I had no idea. And neither did the medical stuff. Everything occurred extremely slowly. I kept being left sitting in cold rooms alone. Eventually, a doctor saw me.

“This is something weird that you have,” he said. “I suggest you go home and take a Tylenol.”

This, of course, is just my own story. However, I hear many other people say that urgent care is slow and very difficult to access unless you are on the death’s door. Then, it becomes miraculous and fantastic.

As for the specialists (gynecologists, otolaringologists, etc.), there is a shortage of them in Montreal. Finding a gynecologist who is taking on new patients is very hard. You have to wait for appointments forever. Many specialists prefer to move to the US, which is what results in the shortage.

P. S. People seem to get huffy when I narrate my experiences, which is surprising to me. This is a personal diary where I record what happens to me and what interests me. If I filled posts with copy-pasted statistics from the official governmental releases, would anybody even read them? I thought that people came here with the goal of reading my opinions and stories and sharing theirs. If anybody is here to be told the one objective truth about everything, you’ll be disappointed. I don’t even think such truth exists.

I’m sure there are people who have the opposite experiences with Canadian urgent care. They are welcome to share their stories. I, however, will continue sharing mine because they are part of my life and they matter to me.

Bird Groups

A flock of birds. A brood of hens. A herd of swans. A flock of pigeons.

But what do you call a group of ravens? And crows? What about larks? And owls? Starlings?

I’ve known about the ravens and the crows but then started researching and discovered the rest.

Are there any lovers of the beautiful English language who know?

Answers will be provided shortly.

People Skills

Today, I unexpectedly discovered that I have people skills when I interact with people who are not students. This is a very surprising development that I’m still processing.

So here is how I discovered my people skills. I’m on a committee where we have to interview faculty members at another department. The first person we talked to was a senior colleague who is preparing to retire. Obviously, this is a person who could care less about our committee and its findings. So I realized that I needed to find a topic that would make this senior scholar want to engage in a conversation. Can you guess which topic makes academics at this stage of their lives open up? Exactly.

“Can you tell us about your research?” I asked, departing from the pre-set interview questions. The professor lit up like the Lincoln Center Christmas tree.

Next, we talked to a junior faculty member. This is the kind of person who under no conditions should be asked about research. People who are on a tenure-clock need to publish a certain amount per year and it is always a sore point because you never know if you’ll manage to publish enough. A junior faculty member is likely to clam up completely if research is mentioned.

There is, however, an issue that junior faculty, adjuncts, lecturers and instructors respond to passionately and immediately.

“Do you feel this institution is treating you fairly?” I asked this colleague. Bingo. Fairness or lack thereof is a subject near and dear to the heart of each non-tenured faculty member.

I’m kind of proud of myself. I think I will wear a T-shirt that says “This is the face of autism” on the last day this committee, which is now suitably impressed with my people skills, meets for the last time.

Maybe it’s all because of blogging but I’m now kind of more interested in people.