Saturday, August 5, 2017

Left Handers Day 2017, part 3

August 13th is International Left Handers Day.

This is part three, the last of the series.  Due to facebook's incompetence and poor site I am posting this here.

This is divided into four comments posted below:

1) Where to get left handed stationery and goods.

2) Role models and famous left handers.

3) Examples of abuse and discrimination against left handers, present and past.  You definitely need a TW for this one.

4) The lie that left handedness is a "first world problem".


I hope these posts change a few people's minds.  Kids deserve the best education possible.  Being a minority is not justification for impediments caused by a selfish and inconsiderate majority.

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Websites and stores that sell left handed products

Schools should provide supplies for left handed students, but don't due to the right handed privilege of the majority.  (If that term triggers you, take a breath and keep reading.)

These links are for school administrators enlightened enough to think, for teachers considerate and caring enough, and most importantly for parents who want their children to succeed in school.  Pass these links onto other teachers, parents and administrators, and let them know that such products exist.


In Taiwan, I have encouraged lefty students to start using Pilot Kakuno fountain pens which are sold in some stationery stores.  They take getting used to (i.e. the ink takes time to dry) but they're much easier to write with if you're left handed.



Ball point pens are designed to be pulled by right handed people, and they jam when pushed by left handed writers.  Writers of right to left languages like arabic and hebrew prefer fountain pens for the same reason: ball point pens jam up.  (Funny thing, countries that write in arabic and hebrew are some of the most oppressive towards to left handedness.)

This is not an exhaustive list of sites, there may be others.  Surprisingly, you can find left handed scissors for kids in Taiwan, though not scissors for adults. 

1) Left Handed Specialty Stores

These stores sell a variety of products for left handed people.
  • educational materials (e.g. books on handwriting)
  • stationery (pens, rulers, folders, geometry sets, etc.)
  • housewares (knives, can openers, gardening tools)
  • watches (the dial on the left of the face)
  • musical instruments and supplies
  • novelty items (e.g. mugs that face a left handed user)
  • entertainments (playing cards for the left hand)
Left Shop Online, UK

Lefty's Australia

Lefty's Left Handed

Anything Left Handed, UK

Left-Handed Convenience Malaysia

Left Handed New Zealand

2) Stationery only, various items:

Maped UK

3) Notebooks:

These companies sell books with the spine on the RIGHT side, not the left.  The left hand can rest comfortably on the table, as righthanders do with most notebooks.

Imborrable, Spain



RS Paper Products




Rainbow Resource (yes, it's a "homeschool" company and run by fundy christians; I include it because there aren't many sources for left handed materials)

4) Pens:

These pages sell fountain pens, space pens and yoro pens, the latter designed specifically for left handed writers.  I have included only sites selling affordable pens.

Tools To Live By, Taiwan (online)
Tools To Live By, Taipei and Kaohsiung

Pelikan

Pen Heaven, UK

Jet Pens

TTS Group, UK

Easons

Pen Chalet

Sporting goods are easy to find, so I'm not listing any.  Left handedness an advantage in many sports (e.g. hockey, playing first base in baseball) so manufacturers make many products that are easily found.

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The list of famous and important left handed people is long and full of significant names from ancient history (e.g. Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Julius Caesar) to the modern day.  It includes some of the greatest minds and achievers in history.  The idea that left handedness is an "impediment" to success is farcical.

There are unproven claims that left handed people have higher IQs and that we make more money.  But there is also the fact that left handed people cannot do certain jobs or produce as high a quality of work because equipment is made only for right handed people (e.g. industrial machinery).  And don't get me started on desks in schools and colleges, made solely for right handers....

Scientists:

Marie Curie (two Nobel prizes)
Charlie Chaplin
Mark Twain
Albert Einstein
Brian Kerninghan
Nicola Tesla

Business people:

Bill Gates
Mark Zuckerberg
Henry Ford

Artists, Musicians and Writers:

Leonardo da Vinci
Michaelangelo
Wolfgang Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
H.G. Wells
Cole Porter
M.C. Escher
Lewis Caroll
Rembrandt
Vincent Van Gogh

Politicians and militarists:

Winston Churchill
Napoleon Bonaparte
Barack Obama
Bill Clinton
Ronald Regan
Herbert Hoover
John F. Kennedy
Harry Truman

Famous Left-Handers by M.K. Holder PhD, U of Indiana

Famous left handers from LeftHandersDay.com

Left Handed Wiki: Famous Left Handers

Biography.com: Famous Lefties

The Guardian: One hundred famous left-handed people

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A short history of abuse against left handed people:

Last year on this blog site (I blog elsewhere now) I posted a seven part series on left handedness.  Part three of the series focused on social discrimination and violence against left handed children.  Kids lack the voice to speak out, the money to buy things, the experience to solve problems, the strength to defend themselves.  By comparison, left handed adults don't have problems.

My blog page lists examples from all over the world, both from the past and where it's still happening today: Russia/USSR, Brazil, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, Ghana.  You can find similar examples across all of eastern Europe, other African countries (Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, et al), Asia (China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Burma, et al) and South America.


Violence against left handed kids has been common throughout history. 

Here is an excerpt from Chris McManus's 2002 book, "Right Hand, Left Hand":

Looking further afield, geographically and historically, soon reveals how discrimination against left-handers can take many forms from the systematic and the oppressive to the subtle but nonetheless effective.  Among the most extreme are the Zulus of southern Africa who,
if a child should seem to be naturally left-handed, pour boiling water into a hole in the earth and place the child's left hand in the hole, ramming the earth down around it; by this means the left hand becomes so scalded that the child is....
Put a child's left hand in BOILING WATER so it's permanently damaged and can't be used.  That's your "cure" for left handedness?  Why not just cut the hand off with an axe instead?  It would be faster and less painful.

In case you have the racist idea that this such barbarity is limited to Africa, Asia and islamic and other non-white countries, forget it.  When Ireland and its schools were run by the catholic cult in the 1960s, abuse was normalized:

Historical Abuse Inquiry: Boy punished for being 'left-handed'

Jon McCourt, a high profile campaigner to get the inquiry set up, has waived his right to anonymity.

[...]

He told the inquiry on Thursday: "I remember, when I was about five years old, being constantly beaten by one particular nun, to get me to stop writing with my left hand."
He said this was a common practice at the time before adding: "They were messing up with how we were wired."
I had to put up with the same abuses in a Canadian public elementary school and at home, with religious fanatics for parents.  And that was in the 1970s.

Have you ever noticed Barack Obama's atrocious hook handed writing position?  Mine used to be worse.  He talked about his childhood, being beaten at school in Indonesia:

Obama: In Indonesia, 'I Would Get Hit With Rulers' for Writing With Left Hand

President Obama, who is left handed, revealed today in Israel that as a kid in Indonesia, he "would get hit with rulers" for writing with his left hand. From the pool report:

[...]

While Obama, a lefty, signed, he talked with Sara some more.  “Michelle, she’s a right hander. I’m trying to work on it.”

Then Obama told a story: “When I was in Indonesia, it was considered bad manners (writing with left hand). “Even though I would get hit with rulers, I just stuck with it,” he explained.
Most recent US presidents of the last 40 years may have been left handed, but that no more "proves" there is no anti-left hand bias in the world than a black US president proves there's no racism in the US.

Ignorant attitudes still persist today.

From the United Arab Emirate's official website, Washington, D.C.:

Traveling in a Muslim Country

Food

The act of communal eating is a highly recognized outward expression of friendship in the Middle East.

- Do not eat with your left hand, which is considered unclean.
 
I will eat with my left hand and don't care if others don't like it.  (I have encountered anti-left hand attitudes in the Philippines and Thailand.)  If someone speaks ignorantly because I touch food with my left hand, I hand them food with the right.  Then when they eat, I tell them my right hand is my toilet hand. 

Their facial expressions are priceless.

UNICEF reports that violence against children is still common around the world:

In Ghana, an effort to abolish violent discipline in schools

ASSASSAN, Ghana, 3 September 2014 – When Benedicte Bon-Farson was a young girl in grade 3, she didn’t want to go to school. “Anytime I got up to go to school, I feel like, ahh!” she recalls, many years later.

Ms. Bon-Farson is left handed, and because of this, her grade 3 teacher constantly ‘caned’ her – punished her by hitting her with a cane.

“It took me a lot of pain to go through that one year,” she says.

Today, Ms. Bon-Farson teaches religion and moral education at Assassan Catholic School in the Ajumako District of central Ghana.

And she never uses a cane to discipline her pupils.
Similar attitudes extend to Haiti: "An Investigation Of The Perception Of Left-Handedness In Haitian Vodou", by Athena C. Patterson-Orazem, University of Florida.

India also views the left hand as the "dirty hand" in the same way as muslim countries do. 

How is being left-handed not right?

I remember the day when my mother was dumbfounded to see my daughter (who was then around two years old) invariably using her left hand for most of her activities. My poor mother reminisced the days when she struggled to convince the elders of the house that her daughter (myself) was left-handed and that there was nothing opprobrious about it but she failed miserably. She was sternly advised to change my natural inclination to use the left hand and fearing the repercussions of defying them, she coerced me into making me a right-hander.

[...]

After my hue and cry for the past three years in my family, my daughter has at last been permitted to use her left hand for most of the activities like writing and playing, barring a few like eating and serving. I feel it is very unfair to compel a left-handed child to eat with her right hand as having food is such an important activity of our daily life which is done with our heart and soul, relishing morsel by morsel, but my daughter is pressured and is not able to enjoy her food wholeheartedly. What a punishment for being a left-hander?
From Radio France International:

African lefties speak out on International Left-Handers Day

For some, they want to promote left-handedness because they weren’t allowed to use their left hand at school. That’s the case for Bernard Bogere Ssenkubuge, the founder of Keep Left Uganda based in Lugazi, outside of Kampala, the capital.

“It is a bit taboo in Uganda to be left handed, because your mother or parents at home would always beat the hand and say, ‘the left hand doesn’t eat’. In school, the teachers will still tap the hand of a child and say, ‘you are not supposed to write with your left hand’. So it is a problem,” he says.

[...]

Dieumerci Nugwaneza, another member of the Rwanda Left-Handers Club in Kigali, says that when he was in school, the teachers never explained how to write, but made them switch their hands.
Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) published a document called "What Is Witchcraft Abuse?"  Left handedness is considered "a sign of witchcraft". 

In England.  In 2009.

This is only part of the examples I have collected over time.  And that's without mentioning language bias, where every word for left is associated with ideas like awkward, weak, female, bad, evil, etc.  Right is associated with good, capable, correct.

One of the responses I get when trying to discuss left handedness (and especially when saying right handed privilege) is to call this a "first world problem". 

Are people really that stupid?  Apparently, yes.

"First world problem" is the last thing you can call the bias against left handed people.  "First world countries" don't beat children in schools anymore, don't call the left hand "dirty" or deem using the hand "disrespectful".

The only "first world problems" left handers face are in technology and mass manufacturing, but those also become developing world problems because technology gets exported to developing countries.  The other countries see it with no left handed options and then ignorantly say, "See, first world countries don't have left handedness either!"

Let's talk about phones, since everyone has them.

Apple's poorly made iphone 7 gets a weak signal or none at all if held in the left hand.  The iphone 6 didn't work either, nor did the iphone 4 or 3.  I suspect it was only by accident that the iphone 5 worked left handed, not a better design. What was Apple's arrogant and ignorant response to reports and news stories of poor reception? 

"Use your right hand." 



From Time.com, about the iphone7:
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
Alicia Adamczyk
Sep 09, 2016

If you're left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.

The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user's left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.

Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone

Sep 09, 2016


If you're left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.
The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user's left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.
The difference in efficacy happens because the antenna that receives radio signals is located in a different place in every phone model, and also depends on how the user holds the phone to their head during a call. According to Quartz, "iPhones are generally bad at transmitting signals, no matter which hand you use."

Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone

Sep 09, 2016


If you're left-handed, you may want to rethink running out to buy the newest iPhone model. Or buying any iPhone for that matter.
The latest iPhone models, including the SE, 6, 6S, and 6S Plus, have the worst reception of the most popular cell phone models when held in the user's left hand, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers that analyzed cell phone reception. Models like the DORO PhoneEasy 530X, Microsoft Lumina 640, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge performed significantly better.
The difference in efficacy happens because the antenna that receives radio signals is located in a different place in every phone model, and also depends on how the user holds the phone to their head during a call. According to Quartz, "iPhones are generally bad at transmitting signals, no matter which hand you use."
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
Left-Handed? You May Not Want to Buy an iPhone
From Mic.com, about the iphone6:


Why Some Left-Handed People Are Having Big Problems With the iPhone

"The iPhone has never really been designed for lefties," said 23-year-old Kaitlyn Jakola, a Mic copy editor. (Many lefties in the Mic office noted issues with the iPhone.) To compensate, she devised a system to make her lefty life as easy as possible: employing both hands, using a Swype keyboard and using her right hand instead of her left to tap, among other things.

Except it all fell apart as soon as she downloaded iOS 9. "Before, it seemed like the iOS was designed for everybody," she said. "Now it seems expressly meant for use by right-handed people."
From Engadget.com, about the iphone4:
Some iPhone 4 models dropping calls when held left-handed, including ours (Update: Apple responds)
What's more annoying than spending hours lining up for a shiny new gadget? Learning that your precious phone can't actually connect to the network. Well, depending on how you hold it -- word has it that the iPhone 4's bottom-left corner isn't playing nice with your skin. If you recall from the keynote, that's where the Bluetooth / WiFi / GPS antenna meets its GSM / UMTS counterpart. So we decided to test on two brand new iPhone 4 handsets purchased today in the UK.

One iPhone 4 demonstrated the issue everytime it was held in our left hand (as a right-handed person is apt to do) so that our palm was essentially bridging the two antennas.
From Engadget.com, apple's idiotic response to the above article:

Apple responds to iPhone 4 reception issues: you're holding the phone the wrong way
We know what you're thinking, and we're thinking it too: this sounds crazy. Essentially, Apple is saying that the problem is how you hold your phone, and that the solution is to change that habit [read: use your right hand - R], or buy one of their cases.
 

[...]

Update: To add a little perspective, check out a video from 2008 after the break showing the same issue with the now-ancient iPhone 3G.
Here's an easier solution: Don't buy iphones, then you won't have that problem.

Android phones aren't much better.  True, there are no reports of poor reception when held with the left hand (including my Asus Zenphone).  Android does have a left handed option, ***BUT*** it's buried deep within the software instead of being readily accessible on the phone's settings and options menus.  You have to jump through hoops to find it:
  1. Open "Settings > About Phone".
  2. Scroll down to "Build Number".
  3. Tap SEVEN TIMES quickly to enable developer options.
  4. Go back to Main Settings.
  5. Open Developer Options (not visible by default).
  6. Scroll down, enable "Force RTL layout direction".
Even then, google doesn't respect your decision to use the phone left handed.  Several times after an android update is installed, my phone has been switched back to LTR without my consent, despite android's claim "it won't change your settings".

Left Handers Day 2017, part 2

August 13th is International Left Handers Day.

This is part two of three, about debunking lies and myths, and about helping your students write better.

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First, there's the lie and myth (told in both Taiwan and China) that "Chinese characters can only be written right handed." Oh really?

Explain that to The International Left-Handed Chinese Calligraphy Association, based in Singapore. They are writers producing traditional and simplified characters with the left hand, using traditional techniques (e.g. brushes).

Show this page to your Taiwanese students, their Taiwanese teachers and their parents. Good Chinese handwriting IS possible, contrary to the lie.

The International Left Hand Calligraphy Association, based in Singapore

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Second, there's the lie and myth told everywhere (not just Taiwan) that "left handed people can't write properly."

Very few teachers are ever trained in teaching left handed handwriting, most are only taught right handed writing techniques. That means left handed kids are taught techniques for the wrong hand, told to "copy what right handers do". They end up with bad handwriting, and then right handed teachers hypocritically and ignorantly blame the left handed kids, saying, "they can't write properly, we should force them to switch" instead of blaiming their own failure to teach properly.

Bad teaching leads to bad handwriting, which leads to poor classwork and poor tests, less enjoyment and more frustration for the student, and inevitably lower grades. The problem starts with the teachers, not the handedness of the child.

So how do we fix this?

First, teach a left handed student to hold a pencil (or pen) properly. The pencil should be cradled between the thumb, index and middle fingers like a triangle, just as right handed students do. Most left handed kids hold pencils in a death grip because of poor training and parents and teachers forcibly trying to take it out of their hands.

Second, stop forcing left handers to use techniques meant for right handers. Allow left handed children to pull the pencil, to draw lines Right To Left (e.g. the horizonal lines in T or E). Shape and accuracy are what matter, not direction, and pulling the pencil (the same way right handers do) will improve shape and accuracy.

Third, angle the paper so the arm is perpendicular to the lines and length of the paper or book. The hand should be below the line being written. This will prevent hook handing (like Barack Obama) and prevent smudging (the side of the hand covered in pencil or ink).

Fourth, ensure the left handed student is at the left side of shared desks or has a left hander to their left. Intentionally or by ignorance, many teachers place or allow left handed students to sit to the right of right handed students. This puts both writing arms in the same place, leading to conflicts, poor writing position, poor posture and poor handwriting.

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Below there are several pictures showing proper hand positions which you can print and show to students. In the links, there are several videos demonstrating good technique you can watch and learn or show to your students. There is also a link to free samples of left handed writing practice sheets, or a full paid version for US$5 (which I bought myself) that you can print and copy.








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Part 3 will be the last of the series. I will provide links to sites that sell left handed stationery and other items. Forget minor inconveniences like scissors, kids need rulers that number right to left, notebooks with the spine on the right of the cover, etc. These sites also sell other left handed items. I love my kitchen knives with the bevel on the proper side.

I will also include a list of role models for left handed kids to look up to, and a little history of how left handed people have been treated in the past and still are today. I'm not talking about minor inconveniences like pens on the wrong side at banks, I'm talking about rude behaviour (e.g. people refusing to take or give things if you use your left hand), discrimination and far worse.

From Global Times (PRC), October 2015:


Chinese schools should be more accepting of lefties
By Louise Ho Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-15 18:08:03

Local media recently reported that left-handed primary school students in Shanghai are being forced by teachers to write with their right hand. The reports say that one teacher even warned the mother of a first-grade girl that writing with left hand would "cause learning difficulties." Believing the teacher, the misguided parent reprimanded her daughter to tears as a method of "re-educating" the girl.

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Links and videos on left handed handwriting:

Youtube videos:

How to hold Pencil and Paper for Left handers by New American Cursive


Writing left handed, by LeftHandersClub


Problems with writing, by LeftHandersClub



From the Handedness Research Institute:

HRI: Teaching Left-Handers to Write by M.K. Holder, Ph.D.

HRI: Teaching Left Handed Writing (PDF)

HRI: What Is Wrong With This Desk? (PDF)


This Reading Mama Blog:

This Reading Mama: Left-Handed Handwriting Pages {7 free!}
















Friday, August 4, 2017

Left Handers Day 2017, part 1

August 13th is International Left Handers Day. I encourage ESL and public school teachers in Taiwan to learn about the day for the benefit of their students.



-----

A 2007 study done in Taiwan (published by the National Institute of Health in the US) reported that 59.3% of left handed children had been "successfully changed to right handed". They were not "changed", they were physically, mentally and emotionally abused. The forced switching of hands is no better than "aversion therapy" of LGBTQIA children, which civilized countries now legally consider abuse.


Forced hand switching is an attempt to alter and eliminate a natural behaviour to make children conform to "societal norms". Left handedness is wired into the brain at birth and linked to at least one gene (LRRTM1), so it cannot be changed. More than half of the left handed children in 2007 were forced to use the wrong hand, which means only 5% were reported as left handed. Compare this with Canada, the US, and nearly all Western European countries which report a natural left handedness rate of 11-14%.


If you consider coercing left handed children into use the wrong hand "acceptable", then you shouldn't be teaching them. A recent report said that 30% of Taiwanese children suffer mental disorders due to abuse, disorders which are often the result of physical and mental abuse at home and in schools. There was no data linking left handed children and such abuse-driven problems, but it's not a stretch to believe there is one.

 
What can you do to help? Pay attention to the handedness of your students - not just the left handed, but the "right handed" kids too. Encourage them to use their left hand, and tell them (and their families and other teachers) that they will perform better at school and in life.

Over the years in Taiwan and South Korea, I have met many left handed kids at many schools who report common problems. The stress caused will hurt their ability to learn, affect test scores, their confidence and ability to speak:

  • verbal and physical coercion (forcibly taking pencils out of the left hand and putting it into the right)
  • "corporal punishment" in school and at home (hit on the hands or face)
  • work marked wrong for being done left handed
  • teachers ignoring and refusing to interact with left handed students
  • passive aggressive behaviour by teachers (e.g. forcing left handed kids to sit to the right of right handed students, blaming the lefty when conflicts occur)
Also pay attention to "right handed" students who may not be. Do any "right handed" students have poor handwriting? Sit in uncomfortable writing positions? Have poor dexterity or limited use of fingers when holding a pencil (i.e. writing from the wrist or arm? Do they use the left hand for many other activities (e.g. tying shoes)? Ask them if they prefer their using left hand (i.e. which arm they throw with, etc.). Encourage them to write with the left hand, and train them if they are willing to learn.

Part 2 talks about how to teach left handed kids.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I Remember: A few thoughts on Niki Massey

I would have liked to post this sooner, but life intrudes.

I didn't meet Niki Massey until she joined The Orbit, and only knew her online (different continents and all that).  I regret not meeting her sooner and knowing her longer, especially knowing that she had been blogging for a few years.  In our conversations on her blog, by email and by facebook, I liked her immediately, and surprisingly she put up with me.

She was definitely not afraid to say what she thought, which is all too rare a trait.  Her opinions on and reactions to events gave me pause for thought, even if I didn't entirely agree with her.  Learning to shut up and consider others' POV is always a good thing.

My conversations with Niki weren't as many as I would have liked, but I liked the ones we had.  She showed no quarter, and she will be missed in these quarters.  She was also a cosplayer, somthing I have never done but will be doing this Hallowe'en in tribute to her.

Life Interrupts: What happens when you were making other plans

Don't you hate it when that happens, when real life throws things at you that overload you and eat away your time?  Between finding a new job, moving to a new city and new apartment and other issues, my time is spread thin.

But that's not a complaint.  A lot of people have it worse - they're underemployed or unemployed, not paid well, not treated well by employers, not able to get good medical care, etc.  Having a limited amount of time for blogging and other things is a minor issue.

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Ducks Lined Up : Finally, things begin to happen

Why is it called procrastination when it's one of the most anti-social things people can do?

After much delay, trips back and forth between cities at my own expense, and schools not hiring for the new year until the middle of August, I finally have both a new job and apartment in Taipei.  (I began my job and apartment search in March.)  I begin moving this week.

Now I just have to deal with my own procrastination, not getting started on packing and cleaning until today.  Joy, joy, joy.

I've been looking forward to this for a year.  I couldn't find a new employer a year ago, which prevented me from moving to Taipei and accessing the transgender clinic.  They only work Monday to Friday, and commutting simply wasn't possible, not even with the High Speed Rail (THSR).  Living in Taipei means the clock now starts on the road to medical transition.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Time Passes: Edward Albee, 1928-2016

Edward Albee: March 12, 1928 to September 16, 2016.
Edward Albee often wrote about regret and things not accomplished, far from the most accurate description of his life.  He had early career as a playwright ("The Zoo Story", "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", et al) and had a long wait until his later successes (Three Tall Women", "The Goat"), but the breadth of his career made him a literary giant of the 20th century.


Albee's main purpose in writing was to disturb the comfortable, to take people to places and subjects that existed but were taboo in "polite company", to challenge people's unwillingness to talk about dark topics.  Silence doesn't end their existence, it only hides them, and Albee was determined to challenge society into having that conversation, willing or not.

Albee's own life would have made for a play unto itself: adopted but unloved, knew he was gay at a very young age (during the Great Depression) and at a time it was still criminalized in the US.  He grew up witnessing bigotry, racism, hypocrisy in society and made them the subjects of his work.  He tried his hand as novels and poetry, failing at both, then eventually turning his pen to plays.  One of his first attempts, "The Zoo Story", was an instant success allowing him to experiment and challenge audiences with ever more brazen writing and topics.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Youtube Censors: Demonetization is government censorship

Youtube content makers are livid, and rightly so.  They are being censored for making content that does not meet youtube's extremely vague "terms of service" rules for video content. 

What's that you say?  Google and youtube are private companies, not the government?  Private companies cannot censor?

I agree, private companies cannot censor, only governments can.  But if a company silences people at the behest and by the order of a government (as part of the price of doing business with said government), then it IS government censorship.

Google abandoned the Chinese market in 2010 but in 2016 has decided to go back.  One of the conditions set out by the mass murdering Chinese dictatorship in 2010 was the censorship of search results, prevention of certain topics online.  In order to re-enter China's markets, google will have to do the corrupt government's bidding and censor user content.  And judging by the new "terms of service" for youtube, google has already started.

These are their five "rules for unacceptable content":

"Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor"
What constitutes "sexual content"?  LGBTQIA kissing?  Transgender people's videos?  People at the beach?
"Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism"

Does this include video showing police and governments violently assaulting and murdering peaceful human rights protestors (e.g. the corporate and government violence against protesters in North Dakota)?  Does this include video exposing war crimes by corrupt governments?  Very likely, it does.
"Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity and vulgar language"
So, it's perfectly alright for advertisements to appear in hollywood movies full of profanity and racist language, but a youtube video with a much smaller audience cannot say them?
"Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use and abuse of such items"
Meanwhile, advertisements by multinational pharmaceutial industries will still be perfectly legal.  Discussing and advocating the legalization or decriminalization of drugs, or even discussing countries where drugs are legal, will remain a banned topic.



"Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown"
China Uncensored is a youtube channel based in Hong Kong which factually (while humourously) reports on serious events in China such as human rights abuses, the mass murder of falun gong members for "organ harvesting" and transplant tourism, the silencing of the press, arrests without trial and torture, etc.  Would it surprise you to hear that China Uncensored has been "demonetized" (read: demonized) for reporting facts?  All at the behest of Beijing and likely other governments.




Unfortunately, it's not just the corrupt Chinese regime that likes these rules.  Other governments which mass murder and commit war crimes (e.g. the US, Israel, the UK) would be just as happy to see these rules imposed, to silence whistle blowers and help cover up their crimes against humanity.

How many other topics will be deemed "sensitive" and silences by google for the benefit of governments?  Systematic racism in countries like the US and Australia?  Climate change?  The corporatization of the entire world with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

"Not censorship."  Yeah, right.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mind Bends: Mini-Cryptic Crossword #3

Here's the latest cryptic, or is it just the third I've made out of many?  You be the judge.  Send your suggestions to anyone who might be interested.

Across

1 Small mirth for common religious practice (9)
5 Religions' excuse for 1 Across (9)
7 Take up a home (9)

Down

1 Rattling tooth (5)
2 Collection plate's place (5)
3 A thousand imitate christians shocked by Darwin (5)
4 Refined and new prepubescent (5)
5 Without reason (5)


The Uncivil Protest : When gun nuts call for rape and murder

Whenever there is a scheduled murder...I mean, "execution" in a US prison, the dregs of US society crawl out from under their rocks and "protest" outside the prison.  Of course, what they call a "protest", I call sickening behaviour.  They gleefully await the prisoner's murder, then cheer when it happens. 

I have long said that those who cheer for the murder of prisoners are as sociopathic as the murderers themselves.  The only difference is that one killed a person or people, the other wishes they could get away with it.

The same can be said now of the sickening ammosexuals "protesting" outside of Brock Turner's home.  Yes, he is a rapist, yes, he should have gotten at least ten years in prison, if not more.  But standing outside of the house, carrying guns and calling for Turner's murder makes the ammosexuals just as revolting as the rapist himself.  The only difference between them is that Turner committed a violent act, and the sociopathic ammosexuals want to commit a violent act.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Predilection predicted: Predator christian arrested for raping children

From the files of the sadly predictable: A far right christian "leader" and loudmouth named Ken Adkins has been charged in Georgia for the rape of two children.

His arrest comes two months after he gleefully cheered the mass murder of people at the Pulse nightclub in Florida.

Pastor who said Pulse victims deserved to die busted for child abuse

Conservative Pastor Ken Adkins of St. Simons Island, Georgia, who has led a public campaign against the rights of LGBTQ Americans, is now an inmate at the jail of Glynn County, charged with two counts of child molestation.

Justice Done: There will be no hate crimes trial in Georgia


In early 2016, Georgia man Martin Blackwell committed a violent assault upon two young men - the son of his girlfriend, and the young man's boyfriend.  Blackwell poured boiling on them, causing burns, disfigurement and long term nerve damage that the victims may never recover from.

The FBI has declared is will not proceed with a hate crime trial against Blackwell.  Their reason?  Blackwell was convicted of the assault by a Georgia court and received a forty year prison sentence.

Normally, I would be livid at the idea that a criminal is not going to face trial for a hate crime.  But in this case, it is arguably the right thing to do.  Why?

First, he was given a forty year sentence for his crime.  At his age, that is effectively a death sentence.  He will never walk free for the rest of his life.

Second, Blackwell was arrested, tried and convicted without a hate crime law.  The courts in Georgia did their jobs.

Hate crime laws came into being because those in the so-called "legal system" would allow criminals to go free or undercharge the criminals (and not send them to prison) because the cops, prosecutors and judges hated the victims as much as the perpetrators did.  The "authorities" were condoning the crime and victimizing people a second time with their arrogance.

The actions of the Georgia court speak volumes.  They properly charged Blackwell and convicted him, and the judge sentenced him adequately.  Justice has been done, thus there is no need for a hate crime trial.

But it does beg a question: Would Georgia's legal system have convicted Blackwell without the FBI breathing down their necks?  Would such a conviction have happened if hate crime laws didn't exist elsewhere?  In all likelihood, they wouldn't.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Music Rules: Cover to cover, part 1

Sometimes, hearing an amateur play with basic equipment can be much more satisfying than hearing a professional performer on stage.  There's a purity to it, a lack of "polish" in the production that lets the polish of the performance shine through.

Here are two examples, both too much fun not to share:

Luna Lin, covering Dire Straits's "Sultans Of Swing"

Ameri (no other name given), covering Rush's "YYZ"

 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mind Bends: Mini-Cryptic Crossword #2

"Everyone wants to have been a writer,
But nobody wants to write."
- old maxim

After finishing off the series on left handedness, I need to do something frivolous.  Here 'tis, mini cryptic crossword #2.




Across

1 Failed park - Ken's asylum (6)
4 Rodents come back for the sun (4)
6 Hit the party (4)
7 Can't remember your own visage (6)

Down

1 Middle Easterner left East for fertile land (6)
2 Keep it simple, stupid (4)
3 Sad code with nothing in it (6)
5 Hate turned into a goddess? (4)

Seven Days Left: Who's who, and what's what

This is the last of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness - Who's Who, and What's What

Who's Who

There are many lists of left handed people so I will only link to some that exist, not repeat the names here.  There is some debate about whether certain people were or weren't left handed, and I don't have the resources to confirm it either way.  And when it comes to criminals and handedness, there's far too much "He's on YOUR team!" nonsense.

RightLeftRightWrong.com: Famous Left Handers

Lefthandersday.com: Famous Left Handers

Biography.com: Famous Lefies

The Guardian: One Hundred Famous Left-Handed People

Buzzfeed.com: 60 Famous People Who Are Left Handed

One recently famous left handed person worth noting is Malala Yousafzai, the heroic Pakistani teen who won the Nobel Peace Prize and has become an advocate for women's rights around the world.  Which hand is she writing with?

What's What








There are two more important issues that I do want to focus on.
  • Children face the most risk with the least support

As stated in part 2 and part 3 of this series, children are and should be the focus of this discussion.  When girls and women face sexism and harassment, they have family, school and feminist groups to speak for them or call on for support.  When people face racism, they have family, school and human rights and civil rights groups to ask for help.  When atheists and LGBTQIA people face discrimination there are voices they can call on, including and even when their family and school are part of the problem.

But who do left handed children call on for help?  In nearly all of the cases, their harassers are their own parents and family, their teachers and schools.  The very people who should be their greatest source of support are the cause of their greatest problems, not society in general.  There is no external human rights group who speaks for them. 

As I've said elsewhere, left handed people may be the least likely oppressed group to face murder and other extreme violence, and adults have the experience and resources to cope with everyday problems, even in societies that are openly against left handedness.  But when it comes to children, they are subjected to mental, emotional and even physical abuse, with no one to speak out on their behalf.  And when they call on others for help, they are often told, "Just do what others are telling you to do."

Here's a woman who got the point, who learnt from the experience living outside of a theocracy, that left handedness is perfectly normal and not to abuse her daughter because of outdated ideas.
  • Left handedness is normal and natural
Left handedness has occurred thoughout human history as often and as naturally as homosexuality.  It is genetic, and any attempts to coerce or force people to change are forms of abuse.


German scientists have said unequivocally that left handedness is genetic.  However, they suggest that it is related to multiple genes, not a specific one.  They may act alone on in conjucntion with others, but regardless, they exist.  The two known genes linked to handedness and other conditions are PCSK6 and LRRTM1.

An Austrian study showed left handed children are also more likely to be gestated in the summer and born in the winter.  Another study links non-heterosexual orientation to left handness in both women and men.

  • Forcing people to switch hands causes harm
Forcing left handed children to switch hands is child abuse, not "correction".  It is mentally, emotionally and physically abusive.  It causes unnecessary stress in children for valid purpose other than entrenched bigotry.

Schizophrenia is wired into the brain at birth.  Some have claimed a link between schizophrenia and left handedness.  If this is true, then it is all the more reason not to force children to switch hands.  Chronic stress is thought to be a trigger of schizophrenia, so forcing children to switch hands may only makes schizophrenia more likely to occur.  People are exacerbating the problem, not stopping it.

Some have made the ugly and unverified claim that pedophiles are more likely to be left handed.  Even if that claim had any merit, what people suggesting?  Checking foetuses for genes and aborting them?  (I disagree and would suggest being a pedophile has a lot to do with being moralizing, socially conservative zealot, especially considering the history of sex abuse among catholics, fundamentalist christians and the republican party in the US.)

Regardless of whether any of this is verified or not, studies on gay children with straight parents and children with gay parents show the way forward: leave their hands alone, support them with unconditional love and fulfil their needs.  The children who grow up the most socially well-adjusted are those who grew up in loving homes with stress-free lives.


--------------------------------------------------

If you have been reading this, I thank you and hope you got something out of it.  If you have corrections or links, let me know.  If you don't consider this to be a social justice issue and/or have a bias against left handed people, tell someone who actually wants to hear it, because I don't.

Seven Days Left: Ergonomic discrimination

This is the sixth of seven items in seven days on left handedness.


Left Handedness and Ergonomic Discrimination

Ergonomic discrimination is invisible and is everywhere.  Amongst human-made things, there is not a single part of daily life that is not designed specifically for right handed people.


Stationery

  • Pens
Ball point pens are designed to be pulled.  When left handed people use ball point pens, they jam while being pushed.

Many offices and places of business (e.g. banks) place pens only on the right side of the counter, with only enough slack for a right handed person to hold it.  Are they too poor to afford two pens per desk?

In countries with languages written right-to-left (e.g. arabic, hebrew), fountain pens are preferred over ball point pens, though arabic writers usually use bamboo for calligraphy.  I have encouraged several of my left handed students to start writing with fountain pens and they enjoy it.

  • Rulers

Most rulers are numbered left to right, made for right handed people to draw lines and measure.  Left handed people must turn the ruler upside down or measure counting backward, increasing the chance of mistakes.  Right to left rulers are only sold online.
  • Binders

Binders are agony for anyone left handed, especially for children who are forced to write with the holes on the left.  (I wrote "back to front" in my binders after teachers gave up trying.)  Most people take the paper out and write, then put it back in.
  • Spiral ringed notepads

Notepads are different than binders in that they can not be used "back to front" as right handed people would call it.  They are designed so that the "back cover" cannot be turned, only the "front".  Specialized notebooks that open to the right can be purchased online, but at great expense (usually US$5-7 per 60 page book).

  • Scissors
Left handed scissors are usually the most easily found in stores, though generally only children's scissors.

Scissors are designed so you can see what you are cutting - the front blade is underneath, and the back blade is behind.  When I am forced to use right handed scissors, I have to turn the blades toward my right and look down at the back side.  Very awkward.

  • Clipboards
You might be tempted to say, "Where's the problem, just fold the left side behind."  And what if I want to read from papers in the left side?  Your left arm is covering them.  Take the paper out?  Then how do you protect the paper, what's the point of the left side pocket?  What if I don't want the annoyance of the pen holder under my hand?

If I had a dollar for every time someone blindly said, "Sign here" with the clipboard's clip on the left and me holding the pen in my left, I could...well, buy a new mountain bike.  Some of those who do this actually resist or get upset when I move or remove the paper so that I can write.  Why?  Clipboards aren't nailed down, and the paper can be put back.






Furniture

  • School desks

Most schools, colleges and universities still purchase desks almost solely for right handed people.  If they do purchase left handed desks, it is usually an insufficient number for students' needs.

Tools and Equipment

Hammer and crowbars are likely the only hand-neutral tools.  Almost all industrial machinery is designed exclusively for the right hand.  Some examples:


Even drafting tools and tables, and tape measures are almost entirely right handed.  If left handed people are forced to use equipment designed for the wrong hand, they will inevitably produce lower quality work because they cannot be as precise in their motor skills.


Electronics, Appliances and Devices

All electronics, appliances and devices in everyday life are designed solely for right handed people.  Face any of these, and tell me which of these machines is easier to use with the left hand (hint: none of them).


That's just a partial list, to keep this short.

Kitchenware

Good luck finding a knife that can be used left handed without paying through the nose for one online.  The bevel on most blades is like "A" in the picture below.  Cutting straight with the right hand is easy, with the left almost impossible.  "C" is designed to be held with the left, making straight cuts easy.

(When using a knife and fork, I hold the knife in the right hand.  When I cook, my carving, paring or bread knife in is my left.  I can afford to buy specialy knives, many people can't.)


The same goes for spatulas, ladles, can openers (including the P-38 style), and many other commonly used kitchen items.

Here's a funny happenstance: a glass measuring cup.  It was designed so the imperial side will be closest to right handed people, metric on the other side.  (Another sign that Americans don't want to go metric.)  As it turns out, this is perfect.

Do any companies cater to left handed users?

Yes, but these are usually limited to high priced items or where there is a great demand, including some by right handed people.  The three most common left handed products are:
  • Musical instruments
The most readily available left handed instruments are guitars and bass guitars.  Myself, I don't see the point - the able hand should be used for fretting, not strumming (see: Mark Knopfler, Steve Morse, Robert Fripp, Johnny Winter, et al).  There may be other extreme examples, but for the most part, instruments are two handed (most notably, percussion instruments). Interestingly, no one builds violins to be played the opposite way.

That said, most two handed instruments favour one hand.  For example, a piano's treble keys are played by the right hand and are more important, while a saxophone, clarinet or flute depend heavily on the left hand.  Many instruments cannot be converted and are played either strictly right handed (trumpet, trombone, tuba) or left handed (French horn).

  • Sporting goods 
Some sports value and desire left handed players, so left handed equipment is often readily available and affordable.

Baseball is a game of geometry where left handed players are invaluable.  A left at first base faces home plate when catching a ball, and teams wants half their pitchers to be lefties.  The handedness of outfielders doesn't matter, but you will never see a left handed catcher and rarely at second, third or shortshop.

Many right handers intentionally learn to hit left handed because hitting left handed is advantageous.  After swinging the bat, a right hander faces third base.  A left handed hitter faces first base and is six feet closer.  Additionally, lefties hit to right field, away from second, third and home, resulting in fewer outs.  Righties hit to left field where there are more players and more putting players out at second and third is easier.

Hockey values left handed players at all skating positions.  Take left wing for example: a left handed winger can pass to the centre accurately, but a right handed winger has a good shooting angle for scoring goals.  This applies to all five skating positions - teams value talent, handedness is irrelevant.

Coaches often try to prevent left handers from being goaltenders, though that's probably more to do with the availability of equipment rather than ability.  Former NHL left handed goalies include hall of fame players (Grant Fuhr, Tony Esposito) plus many who played a decade or longer and won major NHL and international trophies (Roger Crozier, Tomas Vokoun, Roman Turek, Tom Barrasso, among others).


North American football coaches intentionally try to prevent left handed players from becoming quarterbacks.  And yet amongst NFL quarterbacks, two left handers are in the hall of fame out of less than forty in the NFL's history (~6%).  There are only 32 right handed quarterbacks in the NFL's hall of fame, out of almost 1000 players (~3%)(I no longer watch football at any level because of the off-field violence by its players and other issues like CTE.  It is long past time for the game to be banned.)

Some teams sports do not need specialized equipment.  Basketball has no bias in equipment, but definitely desires players who can use the left or both because of positions and defending.  Many soccer/football players are left or right footed which makes a big difference in passing - watch Japan's #5, Yuto Nagatomo(I'm left handed but right footed.  Go figure.)

In sports where individuals compete one-on-one (e.g. racquet sports, combat sports), left handers have an advtantage because of their rarity.  Right handed opponents rarely face left handed people, while left handers face them all the time.  And the opposite handedness means balls or combat strikes come towards the right hander's attacking side, not their defensive side.
  • Firearms 

Firearms designed or altered for left handed use usually involve ejecting bullet casings to the left side, away from the shooter.  (No, I am not going to provide links for ammosexuals to look at.)

In Conclusion....

Isn't 10% enough of the market for corporations to accomodate people?  Especially when it is much more expensive and less profitable to install or purchase things used by a much smaller percentage of the population (e.g. wheelchair accessible ramps on buildings, sidewalks, buses, and even a playground swing; braille written on objects; floor and sidewalk tiling for the blind)?

No, being left handed is not a disability, nor is there any overt discrimination by manufacturers.  But one can accurately describe this as thoughtlessness, as arrogance and a lack of consideration.  Other examples of such thoughtlessness (and with a larger market, 50% of humans) are car manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry.  The front seats and seat belts of cars are still built for adult males, which makes it difficult for women to drive and puts their safety at risk.  And drugs are tested only on men, leaving women to face unexpected side effects and drug companies falsely claiming their products aren't at fault.

Saturday, part 7: Left Handedness - Who's Who, and What's What