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Month: March 2024

Much ado about a veggie tray

Much ado about a veggie tray

Sometimes the local community groups online are just a gift that keeps on giving. Currently, many people in the city are up in arms about this $44.99 veggie platter at Metro (TikTok vid). Like! Most! Hysterical! Social Media! Posts! This video is simultaneously true and also misleading.

If you put on your thinking hat, you realize that while what she is staying is correct – a 2.7KG pre-prepped veggie tray is $44.99 – a few tricks of the eye and mind are happening here. Thankfully, you can just pop online and search for the veggie tray and find it on the grocery store’s website. Here it is, with similar trays for comparison:

What people don’t seem to realize is that in our heads we all are imagining the medium tray because that is the tray that is a> most available in the stores; b> the one more commonly purchased. It also doesn’t help that they make the trays fit into the same size of square in the photos on the website, even though in person they vary. Every potluck I have been to features the medium veggie and/or fruit tray so it is the most ubiquitous and almost every grocery store sells the same one. So it is a bit of a trick of the eye which you can notice when she puts her hand down on the tray briefly: it is much larger than the medium size.

If you run the numbers, the veggie tray costs you $1.67/100g. If you look at grape tomatoes alone, they are $1.76/100g and carrots are probably the cheapest at $0.79/100g. Both of these are easy to toss onto a tray (which also costs money) unlike the celery, broccoli and cauliflower that requires processing which costs labour, also not factored into the dramatic balking at the price*.

I think the funniest part about VEGGIETRAYGATE is that if you lay out all of the trays beside each other – like I have in the image above – you can see quite clearly that you get a better selection/value of veggies, with dip, for $1.47/100g. So in my head that is the biggest scam of this entire debacle: buying more in bulk is costing the consumer more money! Along with Shrinkflation, this is one of my biggest pet peeves because it is designed to use our minds and habits against us.

It doesn’t help that Canada also has a long history of bread price fixing and a tumultuous relationship with the qu’ils mangent de la brioche Weston family that can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight for very long much to the chagrin of their PR folks, I am sure. These are their veggie trays which are very similar:

I am also not arguing that grocery prices aren’t high – after 10 years of almost no inflation we seem to have had all of the inflation in a short time span and it hurts, especially for people with the lowest incomes**. I also get that not everyone wants to drill down and do the math on the unit price – but also: the f*ckin’ unit price is right on the sticker! If you are going to be BIG MAD about something than at least be BIG MAD about it truthfully. Personally, I am more than happy to pay $24.99 for a selection of 8 types of veggies and some dip if I am pressed for time and off to a potluck event. A pre-washed and pre-cut tray of veggies packaged up for easy transport isn’t a necessity either. You can just make your own or you can vote with your dollars and just walk away.

I spend $50 easily on drinks when I am out. It seems to me that $44.99 for 2.7kg of veggies is a way better deal.

*Minimum wage is $16.55 in Ontario

**Hilariously, the OG video was taken in one of the richest suburbs in my city

Stop selling us out!

Stop selling us out!

A few times a year people will send me a link to a “mobility device” that is actually not an accepted mobility device at all. In the “about us” section there is a quote about why the owner designed it and the reason was: the person she designed it for didn’t want to “look disabled” by using approved mobility devices such as walkers and scooters.

The TL;DR of this is: you are disabled and should feel badly about looking so uncool! Here, buy my overpriced contraption that isn’t approved by any authority at all so you look a little less uncool!

I feel the same about mobility devices that I feel about the way words change over time to become pejoratives, so we keep having to change them. If people would just stop shaming others by, say, calling them the R word, using the R word would have never become problematic. I am sure intellectually and/or developmentally disabled will eventually lose some cultural runway as we turn those terms negative as well*.

But at the crux of both of these issues is this: we are “othering” people for getting old and/or losing mobility. But we fail to see that we are the problem for not normalizing getting older or becoming disabled. Given that over a quarter of the population will become at least temporarily disabled in their lifetimes, you would think it would be more accepted. For me, I feel that because I became disabled at a younger age I had less of an issue transitioning to mobility devices. But christ on a cracker: are old people ok? They get BIG MAD at even the suggestion that they aren’t young anymore and it drives me bonkers. It also seems to be a mostly Boomer issue**, judging by our parents. My FIL fell out of a tree and lay in the backyard for hours because he still insists on doing his own yardwork and my dad still gets up on his roof to remove the snow. It’s absolutely ridiculous – oh and they are both still doing it.

But time to grab an apple juice and sit cross-cross-apple-sauce on the classroom carpet (or any other accessible space that makes you feel comfy!) because it is storytime, kids!

On our recent trip to the Dominican Republic I experienced this phenomenon first hand with the world’s most irritating, entitled Boomer couples I have ever had the displeasure of encountering. So to fair Verona…I mean, Punta Cana… where we lay our scene, I will draw your attention to the following:

Instead of having a bunch of seats at the gate they had more of a security line set up where you wind around until you get to the front. As someone with a mobility device, I had a few questions. You see, at the Punta Cana airport they have a bus to take you to the tarmac so I needed to speak to the gate check clerk and see if the busses had ramps*** and what the protocol would be. This is standard protocol when you are disabled: you better get to the airport early and you better confirm time-and-time again what the process will be because chances are someone with argue/disagree and many phone calls and elaborate discussions with staff will ensue. So I went around the line to speak with the gate clerk. She told me that they did have ramps, I could get on with my scooter just fine, and then she told me to wait up front to ensure I got on the bus first before they let everyone else on. So I waited beside the counter, like I was told.

When I travel with my family, I make my kids stand so that other people can sit down. But since many people don’t realize that they live in a world with people who cannot, say, stand on a moving bus, I make my kids sit in seats and as soon as I see an elderly person or a person with limited mobility get on, I make my kids move. So as people started to pile onto the bus, I noticed an older couple coming towards us when all of the seats were full. I motioned to them to come, my kids got up and the couple was grateful for the seats.

As this was happening, I realized that a voice behind me was increasing in pitch and ferocity. It was something about it “not fair that we don’t get seats!” and “he has bad knees and I have just had a hip operation!” They had loaded from the back of the bus and my scooter was facing the front so I just didn’t see them get on. I guess one person gave her their seat because she seems to have calmed down at that point. We rode off towards the tarmac.

Once we boarded the plane, I realized that the Boomer couple were in the first row, kitty-corner, in front of me (I was in 2C). I then remembered that we had the exact seating arrangement on the way there and that I had just not noticed the couple because they were assigned seats 1E and 1 F. Seats 1A, B, C, and D were assigned to a lovely family with the parents being in the aisle seats. I suspect that the wife wasn’t a good flyer because I had noticed that they held hands across the aisle on the way there when the flight was taking off and landing.

On the way back I noticed that the Boomer husband was loudly…booming. He was complaining about his knees and how he needed more room and how awful it was that the aisle seat had been already booked when they got their seats! He was speaking generally in his wife’s direction but clearly this shame-enducing diatribe was intended for the seats around them. Then of course – gaining no tracking for his passive-aggressive moaning – he started in on the Dad in the aisle seat with his complaints. Eventually the Dad offered to switch seats with the Booming Boomer and that led to the incredibly forced, “Gosh, are you sure?! It’s just to hard on me with my knees! Wow, you are so great for offering!” Like this guy really had a choice! He then proceeded to tell every single person who lined up for the bathroom in the aisle beside him about his and his wife’s personal medical history and how it was so difficult to travel without an aisle seat. Over. And over. And over again. The entire flight. For his pièce de résistance he said, “Lady, don’t get old! I am telling you, it’s really hard to go through all of this and not being able to do things like you used to!”

My dude, I am RIGHT HERE. You watched me get on the plane.

But this brings up an important point that I alluded to at the beginning of this post: old people are constantly throwing disabled people under the bus and they either don’t realize or don’t care. Probably both since they don’t see themselves as old (not really) or as a disabled despite their clear lack of mobility.

Firstly, growing old is a gift that is often denied to many. Instead of the constant complaining, sir, practice some GD gratitude. If you’d like, I can hook you up to some perspective in form of a woman diagnosed with ALS who has four small children under 8-years-old if this is difficult for you. This isn’t to say that it isn’t ok for you to mourn the loss of your youth and mobility. Of course we are all entitled to navigate the emotionality of change! But screaming your own personal issues to every stranger within 10 feet is rude and selfish. What I did find fascinating was that he targeted mostly older women who felt that they had to be “nice” to him. No one younger than 50 gave him the time of day for his incessant whining. They just nodded and turned their heads to look in a different direction while they waited for the rest room. Instead of getting the hint, he just spoke louder to anyone who made the mistake of making eye contact with him.

Secondly, if you want accommodation, ASK FOR ACCOMODATION. Don’t wait until you are lined up to get on the flight to whine about disabled people going first or other people booking the seats that you wanted. Airlines (and other businesses) will accommodate you if you ask but if you refuse to see yourself as a person who requires accommodation then that is a YOU problem that you are making everyone else’s problem at the very last second. Not only does that mean that airlines (and other businesses) won’t allow for more accessible availability, it also means that you are throwing disabled people under the bus by pretending that there are more able-bodied people than there actually are.

When I make a restaurant reservation I ask for low seating or booth seating, I make sure we won’t be seated in a place where there are stairs, I make sure there are first floor, accessible bathrooms. Is it a pain in the ass? YES. But the alternative is showing up and having to make the staff panic and force other people from their tables just so I can be accommodated. When I buy tickets for an event I make sure to contact the box office in case there are SURPRISE stairs. I never go to General Admission shows or open seating because I need a seat and I need it to be accessible. I just can’t take a chance that when I get there, there won’t be seats I can get to. Most people consider “only one step” as accessible in their minds and for many people it isn’t. For me, it’s important to know if there is a railing. It’s absolutely exhausting but if I want to have any semblance of a life, the legwork is part of that.

When I first was diagnosed a woman I know who is a physiotherapist said, “Man, if you were only older, I could hook you up with so many resources!” The reality is that between 18-65 most resources for disabled people are incredibly sparse. But there are a TON of resources for seniors to help with a variety of home maintenance/chores to social clubs and events. But they don’t access these services and I have even had one elderly person tell me that they don’t want to, “hang out with old people.” LAIRD TUNDERIN’ JAYZUS: you are old people!

I guess what it comes down to is that if you are struggling with a disability or need an accommodation – whether it is visible or invisible, temporary or permanent – please ask for the assistance. Please use the provided services. Please do not suffer through it and pretend that it is ok to make anyone who needs support to go without it. Not only will it make your life easier but it also paves the way for people who also need accommodations in the future to be able to get them. No one will think you are a hero for struggling up a flight of stairs dragging a broken leg behind you but you will certainly be a hero for paving the way by letting businesses and organizations know that have good access protocols in place makes sense. The key is to not just open a door and leave it open, but to install a door opener for those that need it… and to make sure it works.

* “Concepts, not words are in charge. Give a concept a new name and the name becomes coloured by the concept the concept does not become freshened by the name.” – Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct

**I know it’s du rigeur to shit on Boomers but they really don’t accept that they need to slow down.

***When we got to the DR in the first place they didn’t bring my scooter to the gate and I ended up being forced into a wheelchair. I had to scream at the guy to stop because he was trying to whisk me away but my family was still on the plane. Because he didn’t speak English the flight attendant had to get involved and it was a whole THING that didn’t need to be a THING had they just brought my scooter like they were supposed to. They ended up losing it, which is not shocking if you have ever traveled as a disabled person. On the way back, I was allowed to use my scooter until the gate.

What is luxury?

What is luxury?

But it is pretty, I will give it that

I just got back from a week at the Royalton Punta Cana in a Diamond Club swim-up room. It was to be our last HURRAH trip as a family. The Eldest goes into grade 11 next year, The Youngest starts high school and Mr. Tucker wants to retire so we figured we would have one last blow-out before settling down for a bit. We splurged & paid quite a lot for the trip and it was…mediocre. If I was to be completely honest, I felt like it was a huge bait-and-switch and was not as advertised. But what I really want to discuss is the elusive concept of luxury and why I tend to upgrade as much as I can afford to when I travel. But it’s not truly luxury for me: the idea of paying a luxury price is to overcome barriers for disabled people.

If you asked my kids or anyone from Gen-Z what their definition of luxury is, they would probably list off a bunch of things that they’ve seen on TikTok: private airplanes, certain fashion brands, sports cars, large homes and (for some strange reason) fancy ice. When you are young you tend to think of THINGS as luxury because you tend to have few things and not a lot of money. But as a woman of a certain age I do have enough things and I also have enough money. So, if I had to define luxury right now in relation to my own life, it would be: the ability to minimalize friction by throwing money at a problem*.

Over the years, my idea of a good vacation slowly changed. I used to camp with my own equipment in my 20s. By the time I had kids in my 30s and had small kids, it was all about Glamping, then we started renting rustic cabins, and today I won’t rent a cottage that doesn’t have a certain level of amenities. When I was young I had mobility and a high tolerance for friction but no money. As I got older, that reversed course. In my 20s, I would have told you that there would be no way you would ever catch me dead lying on a Caribbean beach somewhere doing nothing. As far as I was concerned, travel was about seeing and experiencing things, about culture and history, about new food and drink! It was about backpacking and hostelling and $15 CAD Ryanair flights and sometimes just taking off for the weekend to Montreal with 20 bucks in my pocket and a floor to crash on. The adventures made the stories and honestly, I was able to do a lot of very cool things for not a lot of money. I was very proud of this fact and so completely convinced that this was the ONLY way to travel and experience the world. No pre-planned tours or packaged vacations for me, thankyouverymuch, I am here to live like a local!**

As you age and/or lose mobility the amount you are willing to pay to smooth over the friction that eats up your time and patience increases. Now that I have money but less mobility***, I use it to try grind off the edges of how user-hostile things have become. Keeping with the theme of travel, here are a few things I have done to minimize friction:

– The entire family has Nexxus/Global Entry cards.
– I have a credit card that gives me free luggage, insurance and other travel perks.
– I upgrade my airplane seats and use the priority line.
– Because I have a scooter to gate check, I always arrive early (and yes, there is always a problem).
– I have upgraded to the ship-within-a-ship cruise concept to minimize waiting for anything and to ensure I always have a large suite, an accessible seat at the theatre, that I am not left standing outside waiting for anything, that I get reservations for everything I want to do and to get special requests actioned quickly.
– I get private transport when possible because a bus transport may – or may not – be accessible for me and it’s a very difficult thing to know in advance because most people don’t know the difference between a step I can manage on a bus and one I cannot.

I know people will read this and think, “oh boo hoo, a luxury experience wasn’t good enough!” But it is more about being sold one thing and getting a completely different experience. I pay for the extras because walking is difficult, getting up is difficult, managing a buffet with a scooter is super difficult so instead I pay to reduce these things. My idea of luxury, again, is to smooth out the rough edges of an experience, or, put another way: I pay for upgrades just to have a similar experience to what an able-bodied person gets at a base tier.

What I found with this last trip though is that we spent a fortune on a “luxury” experience (swim out room! Turn down service! Butler! Priority reservations!) and got closer to a budget experience (pool is disgusting and full of detritus! Mold and must in the AC! No towels! Room looks like it was shot up in a war! Only resos are at 7:30pm!). I suspect that it has something to do with revenge travel that still looks to be going strong. I follow some travel folks on social media who are saying that deals on cruises aren’t really happening because they are finding their itineraries booked solid. What makes for less incentives for sales also makes for less incentives for customer service, too. I suspect that it what happened with our trip: the resort has no incentive to deliver on their promises because for every customer who is dissatisfied, there are 10 more lined up to pay for a garbage experience.

In the end, we feel completely scammed but if I was to takeaway a positive from this experience, it is this: it confirmed our decision to stay put until the kids are out of high school. When we got home last week I had never been so grateful to fall asleep in my own bed. Coming home, in fact, must be the most luxurious experience of them all.

*I want this on my tombstone.

** We love the myth of the “authentic travel experience,” even though it doesn’t actually exist. We pooh pooh the idea of all-inclusive resorts and cruises (or even hotels, really) as culturally bereft even though the idea that you can have a genuine “authentic” experience has been debunked in multiple articles such as this one and that one. But as I’ve aged I have come to appreciate the pre-packaged, they-come-they-spend-they-leave vacation as something that can be good for the soul, if only because a change of location is good for the mind.

*** The poverty rate for people disabilities is twice as high than for people who do not have disabilities. In 2021, 16.5% of people with disabilities lived in poverty, representing more than 1.5 million people. This is compared to compared to 8.6% of people without disabilities,” (source). Being disabled is incredibly expensive as well. So not only do you make less money you also have to spend more on just the day-to-day costs of living.

On scams and fear of starving in retirement

On scams and fear of starving in retirement

John Oliver is amazing and it is the reason why HBO hasn’t canned him, despite the fact he stirs up a lot of legal drama. He does to a lot of great public service segments and most are well worth watching. Here is a show he recently did on pig butchering scams:

Now, this is an important PSA for everyone because I think that a> yes, we – and by “we” I mean “everybody,” including me – are prone to getting scammed; b> we have no idea how far the rabbit hole goes with organized crime getting in on it; and c> how important it is to come forward and tell people about how easy it is to get scammed. It’s incredibly embarrassing to admit that it has happened to you but it is so important to let others know. Forewarned is forearmed, after all!

But I think what struck me in the comments section were people who said, “Can you imagine having enough money in the first place that you could lose $350,000!” followed by, “Interesting to see this comment!! I was like “wow, I can barely afford my rent, no savings for a rainy day and they’re losing more money than I can save in 4 lifetimes!!”

I automatically juxtaposed these comments to the hysterical headlines of “CANADIANS BELIEVE THAT YOU NEED OVER ONE MILLION DOLLARS TO RETIRE*” that has plagued Canadian media in the past year. This lead to a bunch of rebuttals including from one of Canada’s most adorable couples who retired early(ish) with “only” $300 000 in the bank.

The reality is that even though people are supposed to save for retirement, most of them don’t. Many people just live on the average amount of government benefits. So I thought it would be interesting if I calculated it up for a person who made minimum wage their entire lives but who worked until they were 65. This is both for the Canada Pension Plan (which we pay into) and Old Age Security (which is welfare for old people**).

They would get a total of $17658/pa or $1471.50 a month.

Since that number is under the $21624/pa cutoff for a single person for the Guaranteed Income Supplement, a single person working a minimum wage job could get up to $1065.47 on top of that CPP/OAS amount, bringing the grand total to $2536.97 a month or 30443.64/pa. It’s not a lavish lifestyle but it is definitely manageable, especially if you have some paid off real estate, social or co-op housing, live in a low-COLA area or have a bunch of roommates.

If you somehow also managed to save in a TFSA – let’s say, $100 000 total over your lifetime – you could probably also take out 4% tax free during your retirement that would also give you an extra $4000 a year that wouldn’t affect your benefits at all. Again, not a high-on-the-hog lifestyle but manageable.

OH? You don’t think someone who makes minimum wage could save $100000 over 30 years? I mean maybe not…but also it would only mean saving $1380 OR $115 a month in a TFSA at a 5% interest rate, which is not out of the realm of possibility, either.

We all know that this is over a long time span and programs come/go/and get cut by governments all of the time & the future is unknowable. While we tend towards the catastrophic, things can also get better if you are a good saver and/or make more money over your lifetime. They can also get worse if, say, you were a stay-at-home spouse with someone who died and left you nothing***. I think focusing on what you can control, today, is better than letting the panic freeze you into inaction or living your life in fear.

Naturally, this is all just a thought experiment. I am sure you could nitpick this example to death**** but it is an example of one particular scenario out of many and it’s just to show people that all is not lost if you don’t have a million dollars in the bank. I feel that it is counterproductive to push the ZOMG IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A MILLION DOLLARS YOU WILL HAVE TO EAT CAT FOOD narrative in a province where we seem to be ok with Welfare being $733 and Disability (ODSP) just $1308 a month.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

*Depending on your demographic, according to this BMO survey.
**This is exactly what OAS and GIS are as it comes out of the current federal budget. If you want to watch your old, curmudgeonly uncle lose his goddamn mind at Thanksgiving, tell him that he is actually on welfare and stand back and watch the sparks fly!
****I put in 1975 as the birth year but the TFSA has only been around since 2009, par example.

The great enshittification

The great enshittification

So I went on vacation last week to an all-inclusive resort. I haven’t been to a AIR since I was pregnant with the youngest -13 years ago – but I have been on luxury cruises and have stayed in high end hotels. I am currently working on a post about that but, I did write a fair but honest Tripadvisor review… that was promptly throttled. It took 3 days to “approve” my review so now it is buried 3 pages back while 5-star reviews were automatically approved. The review appeared after I made a scathing post on facebook. As the kids would say: SUS.

I did a bit of digging and it seems that I am not the only one who has experienced this phenomenon. Apparently Tripadvisor now partners with brands and that gives them more control over the kind of ratings & rankings they receive. After years of having a community-built model that enshrined trust in the website, it is now just another pay-to-play platform that prioritizes business over transparency.

This speaks to the larger phenomenon of what Cory Doctorow calls the “enshittification” of the internet. All of the platforms we have grown up with and contributed to have now been raked over by capitalism and our data and our eyeballs are sold to the highest bidder. Etsy is now just a slum of drop-shipping, Reddit (which, like Spotify, has never turned a profit) is selling its communities to the highest bidder to mine for AI, and even Bandcamp has been recently bought out and is moving towards maximizing profit and minimizing payouts to artists.

This topic seems to be ramping up lately, so here are some interesting links:

“We’re at the end of a vast, multi-faceted con of internet users, where ultra-rich technologists tricked their customers into building their companies for free. And while the trade once seemed fair, it’s become apparent that these executives see users not as willing participants in some sort of fair exchange, but as veins of data to be exploitatively mined as many times as possible, given nothing in return other than access to a platform that may or may not work properly.” Are we watching the internet die?.

“Viewers may hardly see MrBeast having fun in his videos because he’s not actually having a good time. In podcasts, Donaldson tells hosts that he goes so hard, he won’t stop working until he burns out and isn’t able to do anything at all. With a laugh, he admits that he has a mental breakdown “every other week.” If he ever stops for a breather, he says, he gets depressed. MrBeast is so laser-focused on generating content on YouTube that he describes his personality as “YouTube.” He acknowledges that this brutal approach to videos, which has cratered many creators over the years, is not healthy. “People shouldn’t be like me. I don’t have a life, I don’t have a personality,” he said in a podcast recorded in 2023.” The end of the MrBeast era: Jimmy Donaldson warped YouTube in his image — but YouTube is warping him back.

“Everything used to work symbiotically. Then, those entities unceremoniously flipped to become extractors of the web, pulled up the digital drawbridge and never looked back. And all have been made significantly worse by doing this… They want your attention, intellectual labor and links (to them) all for free, but will not reciprocate even just your ideas if they’re external. They’re attention roach motels (traffic goes in, it does not come out). There is no ‘focus on the user’ any longer. Users like hyperlinks, which are internet lindy and a representation of our digital freedom: sharing what we want, with our online communities – links included. Personally I’ve witnessed this happen everywhere: my own links on social are shown to increasingly fewer followers, while posts without links do fine.” You aren’t upset enough about the war on hyperlinks: Our freedom to share links with our own digital communities has in many places already been taken from us.

This Apex Money post also has a link to two posts in r/professors that are a depressing read for anyone with kids. I have warned my own children about using AI for their schoolwork. But what is fascinating is that we have this happening:

Essay created with AI -> Essay run through AI detection scrubber before submission -> professors run essay through AI detection program AND AI detection scrubber detection program


The Eldest has told me that some teachers have moved to only doing homework assignments in class, in pen, and submitted in person (not online) as they were experiencing so many ChatGPT submissions that it had become untenable.

Also, there is a great link to the Honest Broker in that post that I had also queued up to post here but is worth reading as well. The Rise of Dopamine Culture. I’ve seen it posted everywhere so it is definitely resonating with people.

I am still recovering from our trip – I don’t know if it is just a horrible reaction to mold or if it is something more serious like Legionnaires Disease (I wish I was kidding) but my breathing is horrible. If it doesn’t clear up by tomorrow I am off to the doctor’s. So much for our last HURRAH of a luxury vacation until the kids finish high school!