Category Archives: Annoyances

You keep using that word.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
— Inigo Montoya

Let’s talk about word usage for a minute. Specifically, let’s discuss the word “hack.”

Historically, it was appropriate and accurate to use the word “hack” if you were referring to …

1. … someone’s wood-chopping technique.
2. … the sound of a cough.
3. … a data breach.
4. … Judy Blume.

A fifth context arose a few years ago, when people started using the word “hack” to refer to the practice of disassembling something, making major modifications to it, and then reassembling it. The first time I saw it used in this context was sometime around 2007, on a website selling Holga camera modifications.

I’m not sure whether the term is meant to evoke chopping (“hacking up” an object to alter it) or cybercrime (“hacking into” something to improve it, as you might do with a smartphone’s operating system), but either way, it makes sense when you’re talking about making major alterations to something.

It does not make sense when you’re talking about using an item straight out of the box, with no modifications (e.g., hanging a spice rack in the bathroom to hold small items), using an item exactly as it was designed to be used (e.g., pushing in the little tabs at the ends of a box of waxed paper so the roll doesn’t fall out), or doing something sensible that anybody with any common sense could figure out (e.g., all of the tips listed in the “Five Hacks for Winter Running” article I saw the other day, which included such dazzlingly clever innovations as wearing several layers of clothing, putting Yaktrax on your shoes when it’s icy, and doing a few warmup exercises indoors before heading out to run).

“Hack” was a clever term about 10 years ago, but at this point, if you’re not using it to refer to a person who writes clickbait headlines for a living, I think it’s probably advisable to drop it from your vocabulary.

Emily

My promise to you

I am trying VERY hard to read what looks like a potentially useful blog entry about eliminating plastic products from a household. There are many good reasons for buying less plastic and using better materials.

I found the blog in question through a link from Pinterest. And I want to read it. I really do. But like 99 percent of the other blogs I’ve found through Pinterest links, this one has so many plug-ins and pop-ups and animated ads and obnoxious, memory- and bandwidth-eating nonsense that I can’t get the damned thing to load so I can read it.

With that in mind, I am making a promise to you here and now: If I ever decide to monetize this blog, I will NEVER put ads, offers, promotions, subscription requests or other useless crap on here that interferes with your ability to read the posts you came here to see.

To that end, I would like to extract a promise from you: If you ever find something on here that causes a page to load slowly, keeps you from being able to scroll down to read a whole post, locks up your browser, commandeers your phone, automatically opens the App Store, or does anything else besides sit there quietly, minding its own business, PLEASE tell me so I can remove it. (Any ads you see on here right now are put here by WordPress itself, and I don’t have any control of them or get any cut of the action. That’s how they keep the service free for users, which is fine, but if any of the stuff they’re posting causes you a problem, please screencap it and let me know what’s going on so I can raise hell about it — or, if need be, bite the bullet and switch to a self-hosted site so I can control the minutiae.)

I can’t think of anything that irritates me more than having to force-quit my browser because some stupid plug-in on somebody’s blog locked it up, and that seems to happen every time I click on a blog somebody linked from Pinterest. It’s infuriating, and I don’t ever want to subject my readers to that level of frustration.

Emily

A tale of corporate incompetence

I completed one of my New Year’s resolutions this week.

After six months of fighting with 3M Cogent — the breathtakingly incompetent vendor to which the state of New Mexico has outsourced all its background checks for professional licensure — I received my New Mexico teaching certificate in the mail Tuesday morning.

The end result delighted me, as New Mexico accepted my Oklahoma math certification, thus granting me dual endorsements in math and English at both the middle- and high-school levels. (Because of differences in certification requirements from state to state, I wasn’t sure I’d get a New Mexico math endorsement without taking their test.)

My joy at this outcome in no way excuses Cogent’s ineptitude, which turned what should have been a simple process into a six-month ordeal requiring at least 15 phone calls to nine people in three different offices.

How incompetent is Cogent? Read on.

February: I begin compiling my application packet.

Early March: I submit my packet, including the two fingerprint cards required for my mandatory background check.

Early April: Cogent sends me a letter saying the FBI rejected my first card because the prints weren’t clear. “If you originally mailed hardcopy fingerprint cards, the second card will be automatically scanned, and no further action is required,” the letter states.

Early May: I receive a letter from the New Mexico Public Education Department, saying I need to go to a Cogent office in New Mexico and be re-fingerprinted. (Cogent has an office a mile from my house, but it only fingerprints applicants for Missouri certificates, despite the fact Cogent is a national company using an electronic system to request background checks from a federal agency.)

-__-

I call NM PED to explain I live 1,000 miles from the nearest approved Cogent office. PED tells me to call Cogent.

I call Cogent, tell their rep I’ll be in Tucumcari in early June, and ask whether I should just go to their Tucumcari office to be reprinted while I’m in town. The rep says I should NOT do that, as it will cost extra and create unnecessary confusion. Instead, she says, I should call the New Mexico Department of Public Safety to request a “name-search background check” using my Social Security number.

Phone tag ensues.

Mid-May: I finally reach a NM DPS officer, who says she has no idea why Cogent keeps sending people to her, as ALL background-check requests have to come from them. She says if my first card is rejected, the second will be scanned automatically, and if the second is rejected, a name search will be initiated automatically, so I should just wait.

I wait.

I go to Tucumcari.

I come home.

I wait.

School starts.

Still I wait.

Aug. 19: I call Cogent. A Cogent rep says my first fingerprint card was scanned and rejected, whereupon the process stopped because I didn’t call and ask them to scan the second card (which their letter said would happen automatically).

-______-

The Cogent rep says it’s been so long, the second card may have expired, in which case I should come to a Cogent office in New Mexico and get re-printed electronically (like the other Cogent rep specifically told me NOT to do when I had the chance).

-___________-

Aug. 23: Another Cogent rep calls and says the FBI has scanned and rejected my second card. This rep gives me two code numbers and tells me to call NM DPS, give them those numbers, and ask them to start my name search.

I call DPS.

DPS: Only Jesus can help you.
ME: Can you transfer me to him?
DPS: He’s out of the office.
ME: That sounds about right.

Aug. 29: I finally reach Jesus, who has no idea why Cogent keeps sending people to him.

-__________________-

Jesus says once the second card is rejected, NM PED requests a name search automatically, but given my experience, I probably should call them just to be sure.

I call PED, leave a voicemail, and follow up with an email explaining my situation.

15 minutes later: I get a very apologetic email back from someone at PED, saying Cogent CONSTANTLY pulls this crap on out-of-state applicants and telling me she has just requested my name check, gotten results back, and printed my certificates.

Got that? New Mexico paid Cogent to spend SIX MONTHS blowing off tasks a state employee completed in 15 minutes. Meanwhile, schools are missing potential hires whose credentials have been taken hostage by Cogent’s ineptitude.

If I were a New Mexico taxpayer, I don’t think I’d be pleased to learn this.

Emily

“You’re ugly.”

NOTE: I started writing this a couple of months ago but never got around to finishing it and posting it. It dovetails nicely with yesterday’s post on ageism, so I’m sharing it now.

I was involved in a Twitter conversation a while back in which a misogynist attempted to debate an online friend of mine, got his arse handed to him, and then — when I tweeted my friend a reaction GIF — responded by informing me, “You’re ugly” and then blocking me before I had time to reply.

I find it interesting that the average misogynist’s first line of defense, whenever he feels threatened by a woman, is to attack her looks, as if his opinion of her physical appearance ever has had or ever will have any effect on her life.

Why bother?

Because nothing makes an insecure man feel better than attacking a woman — particularly a woman he views as being strong, confident or intelligent. Because women are conditioned from birth to believe our value depends on our attractiveness to the cishet-white-male gaze, a cheap shot at a woman’s looks is often the easiest way to rattle her confidence and call her value into question.

This weak attempt at psychological warfare works only if we let it.

I don’t consider myself ugly, but I’m fully aware some people do. That’s fine, and I want my nieces to know that’s fine. Everybody has different aesthetic preferences, and that’s OK. But I also want the girls to know this:

Being told I’m ugly has never stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do.

I'm not everybody's cup of tea. That fact has never kept me from enjoying a glorious afternoon in the Mojave.
I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. Neither is the Mojave Desert. If she doesn’t mind, why should I? Being appreciated is nice, but our existence doesn’t depend on it.

It didn’t cost me any scholarships. It didn’t hurt my grades. It didn’t adversely affect my career. It didn’t discourage Ron from marrying me. It didn’t keep me from crossing two marathon finish lines, adopting a houseful of pets, or publishing a novel.

I’ve done exactly as I pleased for most of my life, and I’ve done it with an oversized Celtic snout and a mop of messy curls that don’t quite meet some people’s standards for feminine beauty.

I want my nieces to know that, because they are going to encounter hateful people who don’t like the way they look, and they need to know those people’s opinions don’t matter. They need to know they can go after their dreams, and no amount of lip service from ignorant misogynists can stop them.

They need to know. And I’d be a lousy aunt if I didn’t teach them.

Emily