the New York Times has an interesting article on how etiquette, (more specifically, etiquette rules), is making a comeback with the current generation, and notes that there are a lot of blogs, videos, and even a few books popping up on the subject, with three being published last year. The author wonders near the end of the piece whether or not this will be just another fad like a good number of the diets we see advertised. Personally, I hope it sticks around, because we could all use a little more civility in our lives.
This has been one of those days. It’s the kind of day where you know before you even get out of bed that you are going to have a serious spoon shortage. (don’t worry, I’ll explain what I mean by spoons in this post, so keep reading). And not only is there going to be a shortage, it’s going to be severe, and it might even be a spoon deficit. When you wake up and you realize that getting out of bed is going to be hard today. And thinking is going to be hard. And so is eating, or reading, or paying attention, or anything else that would still allow you to classify yourself as a useful human being.

Why do I keep referring to spoons?

As promised, here is the spoon explanation. You can read the original exposition of the Spoon Theory here, but in case you don’t want to click the link, here’s a breakdown. This theory applies if you have one of those invisible illnesses. The ones that get you the “you-don’t-look-sick” treatment.

Imagine you start your day with twelve spoons. Some days you might have less, but we’ll keep it simple for now. Now imagine that there’s another person. A real hard-ass who will take your spoons without mercy. Each task you have to do during the day, (and this includes waking up), costs you a spoon. And because there’s this hard-ass waiting to take your spoons, once you use one, you don’t get it back. OK, so cracking open your eyes costs a spoon. Getting in the shower, shaving and everything that goes with showering costs you another spoon. Then you have to eat. And there goes another spoon. Work? Let’s not talk about work. Just know that you could end up using a lot of your spoons doing that. Then you get to the end of the day and you only have a couple spoons left. You still have to cook, then eat, then clean up, and possibly do stuff around the house. And you’d like to do something fun. But you’re limited on spoons so you have to make a choice about what you’re going to do. You can borrow spoons from tomorrow, but then you have to figure out how to get tomorrow done with les spoons.

So back to today. Today, there were very few spoons. Getting out of bed was hard, getting lunch was hard. By t, things had gone totally downhill. I ate some yogurt for dinner because I didn’t feel like doing anything else, and wasn’t really hungry. And bedtime will be in a few minutes. As soon as I finish this post. Which has taken me close to two hours to write, and not because of a serious amount of thinking. I really hope tomorrow is better. Wil and Denise are coming over, and we’re supposed to go out and have some fun, which I’m looking very forward to. And Pesach starts tomorrow night, and there’s the Seder. So I’m not canceling tomorrow. But for today at least, everything sucks.

I’m trying to be nice about this, I really am. Mainly because I don’t want to push away my sighted readers. But I came across something incredibly stupid today that I think demands a complete fisking. So today, we’re going to visit E-how and find out why this article is wrong on every single level. But first, let’s get some things out of the way. As I said I’m going to try to keep from offending my sighted readers. To that end, I will try to provide constructive answers, even though quite frankly I’m foaming at the mouth. So if I say anything offensive, let me know in the comments, but try not to take it personally. I really do love all of you guys. There’s going to be a little visualization exercise at the end of this, and a pop-quiz. (No, not really a pop-quiz). So let’s start at the beginning.

Having a disabled person in your life can be a challenge. Many blind people have never had sight, so they cannot relate to color, shape or perspective. Here are steps you can take to help a blind person live with his or her handicap.

The first thing that realy bothers me about this article is that it has one hundred and thirty-seven (137) likes on Facebook. Now, some of these could be simply because there isn’t a hate button, but I doubt it. And if it has that many likes, then there are a lot of uneducated people out there, and I sincerely hope that all those people go out, find and talk to actual people who happen to be blind for their own sakes.

And now to the meat of it. Specifically, this bit about blind people having no perspective about shapes, or just plain not having any perspective at all. Lots of blind people know about shapes. We can even identify some of them. Just because our eyes don’t work doesn’t mean the rest of us doesn’t work. We have working brains in most cases, get educations. Some of us even have degrees, and (gasp) jobs, which I’m pretty sure you can’t get if you don’t start out by being able to identify shapes. Some blind people, even though they’ve never had full sight, can identify colors, or at least the basics. And no, I don’t know anyone who has learned to identify colors by the way things feel. That’s a huge myth unfortunately perpetuated by the movies. So is that thing about blind people feeling other people’s faces to find out what they look like. I don’t know anyone who’s ever done that to strangers, unless you count the people who want to use that as an excuse to hopefully cop a much more involved feel.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4snGt8OzUV0]

This wasn’t the clip I was looking for, but it illustrates how the face-feeling myth gets propagated.

So by this point, we’ve established that

  • Blind people know what shapes are and how to identify them
  • And blind people really don’t feel people’s faces to find out what they look like. There are usually other motives, like sex.

On to the next bit.

Put everything back in the same place after cleaning. If you have someone help you clean, make sure they are advised to do the same.

This one isn’t actually a bad idea. But I assumed that this was just the decent thing to do. The only quibble I have with this is that, while there’s no problem with cleaning or getting help to clean, most of the blind people I know can pick up after themselves. We may need some assistance with things, (like cleaning glass), but generally blind people are perfectly capable of cleaning up, and should be doing that by themselves.

Keep everything on a blind person’s desk exactly where he or she left it. This applies to braille paper, CDs, radios, telephones and computer accessories.

This is also a good idea. Most of us, (and I’m sure that includes sighted people), hate it when other people move crap around, or don’t put things back, and blind people are no different in that regard.

Try to keep all hallway and cabinet doors closed. Warn the blind person if you plan to have a particular door open for a prolonged period.

Ooooooo-kay. I mean, if the door opens on the hallway, maybe I could see that. But just because there’s a door or cabbinet open doesn’t mean alarms need to start going off. Blind people learn their surroundings, learn where doors are, and pretty much learn to move around them when they’re open.

And here’s where it starts getting really stupid again.

Keep restocking supplies of anything the blind person uses regularly. This includes food and drink, bathroom items and paper towels.

Here’s a better idea. Take your blind housemate or spouse or friend to the store, Ask if they need anything if you’re going to the store by yourself. I suppose if you want to occasionally pick up something because you notice it’s running low, that’s fine. But blind people who are responsible, independent adults can and do make decisions about what they need and what needs to be replenished. I hated this part especially, and the items that come after it, because they assume an incredible patronizing tone which is extremely offensive, and will make most blind people I know foam at the mouth.

Take out the trash regularly. Check for food that has been accidentally dropped on the floor or not returned to the refrigerator.

No. Definitely no. We can, and unless there’s some other physical disability that prevents this involved, be expected to do this on our own. Same with food being put back in the fridge. In this case, if you wouldn’t do it for a sighted housemate, don’t do it for the blind one. But do make a point of remind that some food has been left out that needs to be put away.

Remember to turn off the lights before you leave, particularly if you are a part-time caretaker. Most blind people have limited incomes.

If this article had been entitled “How to take care of an elderly blind person” possibly with dementia, This might be relevant. But to assume that you should turn off lights because the poor thing is on a fixed income is just patronizing and stupid. Ask if they want the light left on. Most of the time, you’ll probably be asked to turn it off. But the point is, ask. Don’t just assume.

Help the blind person braille a list of important phone numbers, account numbers and any other personal information they might need to access when you are not available.

Once again, ask. Most blind people will take the initiative and ask for phone numbers and account numbers they need, and put them in their phones or wherever they keep other important information. But the important thing is to ask, and not assume.

Some blind people have problems opening doors with keys. You can buy a lock that requires both a matching fingerprint and a code for entry. It also comes with a standard key as insurance should it stop functioning.

OK, this is just stupid. Incredibly stupid. Unless there’s some other physical disability involved, we don’t usually have extra trouble opening doors with keys. Does this person really think we all live in apartments or houses with special locks?

And here’s my absolute favorite:

Keep all sharp objects like knives or scissors out of reach.

Damn. I was going to murder my guide dog, but they took my sharp objects away!

This evidences the “poor thing, she’ll hurt herself” mentality, which I hate with a passion. If every blind person were actually subjected to this sort of treatment, we’d never eat steak again. (which would be a special kind of hell, in my oppinion). But seriously, childproofing, (and that’s pretty much what this little nugget suggests), for people just because they’re blind is really demeaning. I’m surprised this idiot didn’t just go ahead and advise caregivers to roll out the potty chairs, because, you know, blind people are so incapable of taking care of ourselves. So what if we cut ourselves. If it really gets bad enough that it needs stitches, then maybe it might be time to worry. But most of us know how to clean a cut and put a bandaid over it like anyone else. And we need to shave. What are we supposed to do, get help bathing too?

Thankfully, this stops right here and we don’t have to go any further. And I hope I’ve made it easier to see why someone might get offended over this sort of thing. It’s patronizing and objectifying all at the same time. Just visualize for a minute how you would feel if someone seriously wrote an article on how to take care of a sighted person, and suggested that we put pictures on everything to make it easier for you to figure out what it is. I can’t think of anything dumber than that, because I don’t spend most of my time demeaning sighted people, unless I’m joking. If you have a blind person in your life, whether it’s a friend or spouse or colleague, talk to them. Ask questions. Hell, you can even do it in the comments, and I’ll try to answer as best I can. Just don’t go to eHow looking for advise on how to help blind people, because if you do that, and follow some of the advise you find, you really will make a complete ass of yourself, and whichever of us you’re dealing with will likely hate you for the rest of your life. OK, probably not for the rest of your life, but they will be really pissed. and hurt because you didn’t just ask. And if you’re that person’s parent, he or she could retaliate in your later years by putting you in a nursing home when you don’t really need it. (Just a joke. That probably wouldn’t happen. But they’d be tempted).

Until next time.

Right about now I have a serious hate churning inside me for the WordPress Media Uploader. But even though it’s giving me no end of problems, (I’ve been working on this same post for the last two hours), I’m still going to share these pictures because they’re awesome.

As Father Z has noted, there have been two comets visible throughout the last two weeks. Whether you’ve been able to see them or not depends on where you are. I haven’t looked at Rapture Ready, but I’m sure they’re really nutting up over there since comets were seen as omens in previous centuries, and there have been two of them visible in such a short time.

And now, on with the pictures. All of these come from Astronomy Picture of the Day, which is a great site because, along with the pretty pictures, they provide nice descriptions with lots of links.

For my blind visitors, I have uploaded this as a gallery since I had to do this via email, and it contains the following pictures, in no particular order. I apologize. I had planned to put these up with nice, descriptive alt tags and everything. Most of these pictures are of Panstarrs. One of them was taken over Boulder, Colorado, with the sunset; one was taken with the Tucson Mountain Range featured along with the new moon; one of them was taken from a space vehicle and features Earth and a mass coronal eruption; and lastly, one is a picture of both Panstarrs and Lemmon, (the other comet), both visible at the same time at sunset.