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Answer for question 4594.

What part of your job (or other daily routine) do you hate the most right now? Why is it so troublesome for you? If you could change one thing about your job (new boss, new co-worker, new location) to try to improve it, what would it be?
I actually love my job. It's great fun, I really like meeting people, I get real satisfaction from it, and I'm good at it. Most of the time, I even get to work from home, and just go into the office for meetings and such.

However, it's not a secure job (no guarantees of how much work I will get at any particular time), and it's not usually a full time job, which means that I could do with a bit more money at times. I know I'm incredibly lucky to be able to survive on the money I do get, and still have enough time to be able to go out and do the things I love, but I'm not saving any money at all. My outgoings don't tend to be over my income - but neither are they much under, either.

Answer for question 4601.

If you retired tomorrow (or in some other way no longer had to work a job anymore), how would you spend the free time you suddenly had? Would it be new hobbies, volunteering, visiting family/friends? To what age do you think you'll have to work before you can retire?
This depends on how much money I have, whilst retired.

I would love to just be able to travel around, visiting friends and partners, going to festivals (like the New Orleans Jazz Festival, for example, or the Carnival of Venice), going to different conventions around the world.

I would also like to go back to university, and learn more things. Perhaps something like culinary history, or philosophy of science, or something even more niche. I just like to learn!

And I would also learn and practice the (already too numerous) hobbies I have, perhaps whilst picking up a few more! And perhaps finally read the books on my list quicker than I keep adding to it....

Basically, not needing to work anymore isn't quite enough - if that's all I wanted to do, there are ways to manage that. I would want the autonomy to go and do the things I want, the physical health necessary for those endeavours, the time to be able to dedicate to them, and the money to be able to pay for them (and to survive in the meantime).

Considering what I'm currently doing, I just can't see how I'm even going to get to a point where I can afford to retire, even though the job I do tends to be a young person's job.

Answer for question 4608.

Donald Trump as presidential candidate -- what's your opinion? Among your circles of friends and family, is your opinion the norm or does your opinion of him differ from those around you?
Oh. Hell. No.

If Donald Trump ever becomes president of the US (and I would have said this was an absolutely absurd, entirely impossible to consider, totally ridiculous concept when this whole mess started), then I think the whole world is in trouble.

Like it or not, the US is a major player in the world. And, like it or not, the president of the US is an extremely powerful person, one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful single individual) in the world - certainly in the West.

I think the best that could happen if he became president (and there's a part of me that is still disbelieving that I'm seriously considering that) is that the US turns entirely inward and isolationist. No, it still wouldn't be great for the world, but is the alternative that they turn outward any better? Because Trump will certainly not just do nothing and maintain the policies of the current POTUS (not that I think he has the political ability or will to do so). He seems very much to be the type of warmonger that would encourage the US's imperialist empire-building tendencies overseas. He's not the type to reach for a diplomatic solution to anything.

I can't ever see that being good for the world.

Answer for question 4600.

What's your favorite beverage that you drink often (daily or near-daily)? Why do you enjoy it so much?
Anyone who knows me, knows that I drink green tea - well, I'd say religiously, but it is practically a religious activity in Japan, so that might give the wrong impression! It does have an incredibly soothing, meditative effect on me sometimes, admittedly. It works with practically every food I eat (although I wouldn't have it with some Western entrees, just Because. It's inappropriate, you know.)

At it's height, I was drinking approximately five pots of tea a day. Yes, that's five pots of tea, not five cups. Because insofar as it's possible, I make it with loose leaf, in a proper pot, drunk with the appropriate small, handle-less teacup (and without milk or sugar, of course, because only heathens drink it with milk or sugar to any extra condiments of any kind. Whoops, there I go again.)

I might occasionally Have Opinions when it comes to tea.

Naturally, if I'm drinking tea made by others, I will be polite and appreciative of the care they are showing. I still prefer only to drink green tea, but it's hardly fair to expect someone who usually only drinks Builder's Brew, or even coffee, to have decent tea making accoutrement. I used to be a lot more fussy about the type of tea I would drink too, but managing a professional development course and working 10-14 hour days for a week at a time in a place where the only green tea available is that awful Twinings tea bag stuff that tastes like it's been swept off the factory floor maybe a year or two ago...

Well, you make do. I needed something to get me through the day. Generally a takeaway cup every hour or two would do it. Over time I grew, well, not exactly fond of it, but at least to tolerate it. I've come to realise that there's worse green tea out there (including some of the other Twinings green teas - it's bad enough on it's own, but with lemon flavouring? *Shudders*)

But still, the first thing I do when I get home? Make myself a decent pot of green tea.

Answer for question 4583.

How would you define being an introvert? Is it different than just being shy, or are they the same thing to you? Would you classify yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
The difference between an introvert and an extrovert (and very few people are entirely one or the other at all times for that matter) is purely what drains your energy and what renews your energy.

For an introvert, being around people, even when it's fun and exciting, will tend to be very draining and tiring. Introverts need private quiet time away from people to recharge their batteries. Extroverted people gain energy from being around others, and feel refreshed and enlivened after social activity.

This means that yes, it's possible to be a sociable introvert or a shy extrovert - or even both, at different times of your life.

I'm a introvert, but I tend to be *very* sociable when I'm out and around people, then require lots of intensely private, quiet time afterwards to recharge.

Answer for question 4527.

How important are the opinions of other people to you? Do you actively try to find out what others think of you? Whose opinion do you value the most?
John Donne once said:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

This rings for me, true down to the heart. It doesn't mean that the opinions of every person is important, but treating others with compassion and kindness and generosity is.

The people whom I love the most are those whose opinions I tend to trust totally and utterly. They've proven, time and time again, that they want me to be happy and healthy. I want to be my best self, my most ethical, genuine, compassionate, thoughtful, curious self. They help me to make that possible, they encourage me to keep improving and changing and seeking, whilst also making it clear that they support me and love me. These are my Tribe, my people, my family. They make me want to gift them with the best self I can be, because they deserve that for all the love and joy they bring to my life. So for me, their good opinions are paramount.

For the rest of the world, however...

I am sufficiently non-mainstream that if I cared too deeply about what the world thought of me, it would merely make me desperately unhappy in the long run. So I don't. I treat people compassionately because that is a good thing to do, but if they have negative opinions of me, that doesn't matter. I'm not delusional enough about myself to believe that people thinking bad of me is not hurtful, but it's a shallow, temporary hurt. We are after all, as Donne says, connected to one another. It's so fleeting a hurt, and often from a place of ignorance or fear or confusion or misunderstanding, however, that it doesn't touch me inside. It doesn't impact the heart of me the way that a negative opinion from someone I loved would, so I don't seek to redress or clarify it the way that I would if I cared more.

Answer for question 4528.

Have you ever been addicted to anything? If so, what was it? If that addiction was a negative addiction for you, how did you break it (or how are you working on doing so)?
I don't know that I've ever truly been addicted to anything. I joke that I get a little obsessed with things sometimes, and that may be true in the short term, but there's never really been anything that I was unable to stop myself from consuming.

Except maybe reading. Now I come to think of it, that may be the only thing I could ever say that I have continued, even when it would have a negative impact. I will read to the detriment of all else. I will happily consume and voraciously text in a way that I would find unhealthy if I did it with anything else. I will find justifications/reasons/excuses to sit and read even when I really should be doing something else.

I would regularly miss meals at lunchtime when I was younger, because I didn't notice the time or my hunger in my fascination for a good book.

The night before I left for university, when I should have been completing my packing, I stayed up till 4am reading.

I read every day, including standing in front of the mirror with an ebook whilst brushing my teeth. I read whilst travelling, whilst walking, whilst eating, whilst making tea. I read when I should be sleeping.

I would stay up reading till 6am at least once a week, dragging myself into school the next morning just on the fragments of my determination. I would spend all my mental efforts to avoid falling asleep in class that afternoon (hence why I remember none of my French classes).

Who am I kidding, I've not improved in my sleep discipline. I will still occasionally (erm, often) stay up until 6am, 7am, or even later in order to finish a book. I recently stayed awake reading for 36 hours straight because I wanted to finish a book.

If addiction is "is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences" (thank you Wikipedia!) then I guess this would fit. If I calculate the amount of sleep I've lost over the years, and the things I could have been doing instead of reading, the number of nights out meeting potentially interesting people I bailed on because I was head down in an enthralling book (and not always for the betterment of my mind, either! I do love a good piece of sci-fi or fantasy fiction.) I'm aware that I could probably have made a bit better use of the time.

But for all that, I don't regret any of it. Me without a book is...inconceivable. It is such an intrinsic part of my psyche that I wouldn't know who I am without that connection to reading. I've certainly had wonderful experiences because of my reading, and I've chatted to some fantastic people.

Overall, does it count as an addiction if I don't really think it's doing me any harm? Or does it make it even more of an addiction?

Regardless, this isn't something that people are going to tell me I should stop doing - bibliophiles like to band together and egg each other on (usually in various geeky tomfoolery)! What other kind of 'addiction' would bring this much joy, and such wonderful people?


Ooh, the Writer's Block is back! You may just see me on Livejournal more often from now on...

On humanity and monsters.

I was having a conversation about human rights campaigners, and a comment came up about the 'genuine' or 'good' human rights campaigners. This got me to thinking about the subject. What is a 'non-genuine' or 'not good' human rights campaigner? Is this someone who campaigns for human rights for the people you disapprove of or disagree with? (I'm including terrorists and criminals in this category.)

Surely it's a mark of our humanity - not how we treat those we approve of and agree with, but whether we treat even those who have done something we consider horrific as human. Because we must never, ever, forget that they are human, just like us. We can, and should, punish them for hurting others, and perhaps even lock them away forever if they're a continued danger, but we must not stop trying to reach them or rehabilitate them. We must not stop thinking of them as human. If we forget that, if we try to treat them as just monsters or boogeymen, then soon we can pretend to ourselves that 'our kind of people don't do these things', and only the monsters do it, and we stop watching ourselves for signs that we are doing bad things. Instead of thinking of ourselves as people who do decent, good things (which we generally are, of course), we start thinking of ourselves as just decent people who of course will never do bad things, and therefore things we do must be good. It happens - decent, genuine, honest, kind people doing horrific things because they've assured themselves that it's for the greater good and they're being selfless, and they wouldn't do something bad because 'they're good people'.

We need to keep thinking of ourselves as 'people who do good things'. We need to remind ourselves that this is an ongoing struggle, and that we can't be complacent. We need to keep examining whether the things we do are genuinely helpful and kind and beneficial.

And one way we can do that is by extending humanity even to those people who we feel don't deserve to be treated as human (and yes, sometimes I feel that way about certain people too. Rapists, murderers, child molesters, etc etc. It's very tempting to treat them like monsters). But accepting a world in which we can designate some people as 'not deserving of being human' is not a good place to be. Who gets to choose? Who gets to decide whether we are deserving of being treated like a human being? Who gets to decide the criteria by which this is decided?

In reminding ourselves that we can be monsters too, we remind ourselves of what it is to not be a monster. To be a human who treats others well to the best of our ability.

The good we can do, instead of the bad others can do.

Humans aren't automatically nice, but they can be good. We can be good. We just need to keep an eye on ourselves, and keep campaigning for a better world, in which it's easier to be good. This world is not yet it.

Also, I just want to point out that I don't necessarily think of human rights campaigners as innately any better or worse than, say, soldiers, as people. There are good and bad people in every profession. We should all be striving to make society a better place, in any way we can, no matter what our job.

So I recently was involved in a conversation with a guy about why women should be friendlier to him in the street. All he wanted was a nice 'Hi!' or smile back when he said hello when passing them in the street, after all! Why, oh why, was every female so impolite and unfriendly, and in some places downright rude? They would ignore him, or just look through him, or even walk quickly to the other side of the road. Why couldn't they just show normal, common decency and respond to his 'Hi!'?

Since I've filled multiple comments about this subject before, and it's getting a little tiring to repeat it each time, here are my main points, collected together where I can just point people at it in the future:

So. This is addressed to and for the guys (and please, please, for love of chocolate, please, don't leave a What About The Menz! or Not All Men or 'Women are X too!' type argument in the comments. I've heard it all before, and that's not the point of this piece). If your reaction upon hearing this is not "Wow, that sucks!" or "We need to make society better" or "I think I understand, but I want to find out more" then you may want to consider how your experiences might have influenced your reaction to this piece. If your reaction starts with "But...!" or "This is a blatant exaggeration" or "I have women friends and they don't think this!" then see what I said about leaving comments, above.

I'm not trying to speak for all women, I'm trying to bring some points up that might be helpful in understanding why women don't always respond to your friendly greeting in kind.

I don't disagree that as a society we should be more friendly and open, and it's great that some people really enjoy saying hi to strangers. I'm sure that many of you guys reading this are decent blokes, and I'm saddened if you were upset at an unfriendly reaction you received when you just wanted to say hi.

May I just bring a few things to your attention, however.

1. Women often discover, from a very young age, that nodding back, or saying hi, or responding in any friendly way, even if a bit distantly, is considered by a lot of men to be a come on. A flirtation. An invitation to approach you until you're backed up against a wall in an empty car park, and put their hands on you. An offer for something, anything, everything, which they have decided you're being coy about, and that they need to 'persuade' you that it's ok to follow up on, even if you say no (because you're just playing hard to get, right?)

2. If you do actually manage to persuade them that you were just being friendly and polite, the same men will call you a cocktease, and a slut, and a bitch, and all sorts of names, because they felt a response meant that you wanted them. They will swear at or harass women, or worse just ignore the no and carry on going anyway.

3. If you are harassed or raped or killed, people will say it is your fault. For responding in a 'friendly' manner, or returning a greeting, or for not putting them off quickly enough. For engaging. Men will tell you that they aren't like that, and that they would only have come on to you if you gave some kind of strong suggestion that it was wanted, therefore this is what must have happened, that's what you must have done to that stranger who hurt you and ignored your no. Except that this line is different for every single guy, so how can we tell that this particular man isn't one of the ones that treats "hi" as a 'strong suggestion'?

4. When this sort of response happens again and again, with varying levels of intimidation and/or aggravation, you learn not to respond, or to put men off very quickly, because otherwise you're 'asking for it'. The likelihood that we will meet that guy who will be a soulmate or a great lifelong friend or launch our careers from a friendly greeting in a dark street is infinitesimally small, compared to the likelihood that we will meet a guy who follows us in his car, honking and commenting on our boobs, or walks 2 metres behind you all the way home, or swears at us and screams that we're just a cockteasing slut, or tries to get a kiss, or sticks a hand up your skirt, or, or, or....

Now, I'm pretty friendly. If someone says hi, I respond, if someone smiles, I do the same or nod back, assuming I feel safe enough to do so. I live in a big city that is well known for its extensive and frequent public transport system, as well as the large numbers of tourists and multicultural options. I'm lucky enough to have never been raped or badly harmed. I got over a mugging pretty quickly and was going out by the next day. I've walked home alone at 3am on a saturday night. And you know what? As a woman, it's in the back of my head each time I walk home in the dark. I can't help myself, thinking 'is this going to be the time that I'm killed?' when someone moves quickly out of the shadows on a dark empty road. I've held my keys in my fist, in case someone attacks me. This is what society tells women they should be doing to protect themselves. I know that if I got badly hurt, walking alone at night whilst having the audacity to be female, there will be people that blame me for stringing along the guy. Police won't take my rape case seriously. I will have practically no hope of ever getting someone charged, let alone a prosecution.

I'm sure that you, the reader, are a nice person, and maybe we could have been friends had we randomly bumped into each other at some sort of event and got to talking. But if we walked past each other on a dark empty road in the middle of the night, I'm not going to say hi. Because history and society tells me that if a man takes that as an invitation to do something more, then I will have deserved whatever I get.

I know some people hate this word, but it's still true: part of your privilege in life is that you don't have to experience this sort of stuff. You don't have to think 'is this the time I get unlucky?'. So please don't tell me 'you women are so unfriendly, why don't you respond!' when you don't know the history of the person you just said hi to. You don't know what they've gone through. Maybe they are just impolite and rude as a person, but *you can't know that from this interaction*. You can't tell whether she's thinking you're not worthy of her time or whether she's shaking internally because she fears you. And equally, we don't know you, so maybe we're being overly, unfairly cautious. We can't tell from you just saying hi. I keep coming back to this quote:

“Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.”
― Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

When the scales are so unbalanced, please don't tell us from your place of privilege that we're all rude for not responding. Please instead try to help change society so that we can feel safe to respond (or perhaps even take it further if we're interested in that). Try approaching in ways and places that aren't inherently dangerous or intimidating for women. If we're alone, in the middle of the night, walking along a dark street, please try to respect that we don't know you. We don't know what you'll do. And for us, the risk in getting it wrong is far worse than your risk of being laughed at or ignored.