Half Way Through the Shopping Ban. Or, How I Utterly Failed at the Shopping Ban.

So, I lasted until the end of February.  

Up until then, I'd been really focused on the three "goals" of the Year of Enough, which are:

  1. I've had enough -  I want to contribute to positive change in our world. 
  2. I have enough -  I need to learn to be mindful with how I spend my money and in my consumption of things.
  3. I am enough - I don't need stuff, or accomplishments, more money, or less weight, to be a worthy, lovable, person.

I really focused on my goals.  I volunteered my time with the Canadian Cross-Border Legal Coalition, and hung out at the airport providing pro bono advice to people affected by Trump's Muslim ban.  I went to marches.  I joined the Conservative political party just so I could have a say in their leadership contest and help thwart racist politicians like Kellie Leitch becoming their leader and potentially Trump 2.0.  I realized how tired I was from shows and started saying no to auditions, something I haven't done since 2010 because I've been so terrified of being forgotten or losing my right to identify as an artist.  I went on a lovely holiday to Maui and resisted the urge to shop.    I felt like I was really living my goals.

But then, the "stuff" started to creep back in.   The Ban disappeared, without me even consciously knowing it had disappeared. It's taken me forever to write about this,  because I'm still not really sure why it happened, but it became important to me to say that the Ban has, for the past several months, been a failure. 

I had a big life change in the beginning of February when I changed jobs.  I went from an office where I didn't feel understood or appreciated, where there was little socializing, to my dream job, in terms of the work, people and culture.  My job went from being a place that I went for 7.5 hours a day to being the centre of my life, in a very positive way.  I suddenly felt more supported and happy in my professional life than I ever had before.  I'd found my "forever" job.   

You'd think being so happy would make it easier to stick to my goals, but it hasn't made it easier.  Every day I have wonderful people tell me that I'm OK.  That I'm more than OK, I'm pretty great, and a valued member of the team.   I feel like I belong.  I feel accepted.  So suddenly the need to change hasn't seemed so urgent.  Maybe that's a positive.  It probably is.   But it's also caused me to get lazy with my goals.

That initial feeling of joy and belonging is how the Stuff first happened:  I shopped in celebration.  I was happy, joyful, even, in my new role, and shopping is a way that I celebrate.  So, that seemed OK by me.   Treating myself to a new outfit to celebrate a new beginning felt fine.  I was liked, so I liked myself, so I deserved the Stuff.   The reasons for the Stuff had changed: it was less about making myself feel better about myself, my life, or the world, and more to treat myself, show myself "love", to reflect the love and acceptance I was feeling in my life. 

But the Stuff has started creeping in not just for positive, encouraging reasons.   It's a convoluted explanation, but stay with me. 

While this career move has been a joyous one, it's created some change in my life that has caused some stress that I think I'm only really starting to process.   IMPORTANT IMPORTANT NOTE: This stress is almost entirely self-inflicted.  It's not that my new bosses are suddenly insisting on certain things that are stressing me out.  They have high but reasonable expectations, and don't ask me to do anything that they don't do themselves.   And more than that, they genuinely care about me and my well being.  It's just that I, as usual, want to throw myself in and do a good job, make them happy, and go above and beyond, so everything feels very high stakes, very do-or-die. As a result, there are changes that I have made to meet expectations - my own, or perceived expectations, which are maybe not the healthiest choices for me.

For instance, I used to work from home quite a bit (and least one day a week, since 2011), and go home for lunch every day.  Being able to go home for a healthy lunch but also do a little meal prep for a healthy dinner, and maybe tidy up around my house (as tidiness and order are a big part of my mental wellness), was great. Working from home one day a week allowed me to throw on loads of laundry while I worked on my laptop.  At my new job, I'm in the office full time, 5 days a week.  While my most recent previous gig was usually finished by 4:30 or 5 at the latest, I'm staying much later at work now, and working through lunch, which is quite a common practice in my new office.  So the time I had every day to do some of the mundane things I need to do to help me feel calm and healthy, is gone.  It is really only a small increase in working hours, but its impact currently feels huge.  I'm often working through the hours I would normally go to my TRX gym, for instance.  Or, something will happen at work and I'll stick around and miss the class I reserved.  As it's a small gym, you get charged if you miss a class you reserved, so rather than getting charged for classes I wasn't making, I just...stopped reserving.  After a busy day surrounded by people in our open plan office, this introvert is often exhausted, and the thought of going home to meal plan and cook Whole30 meals is the last thing I want to do, so I go home and eat what's easy.  It also means that weeknight socializing is almost impossible for me, because I'm just too tired.  Weekends feel more for sleep and recovering from the business of my week than going out, or putting my house in order.  Suddenly a lot of the healthy habits I've been working on for the past few years, in terms of doing the things I know I need to do in order to feel love for myself, seem very far away. 

To say that I am aware of the fact that I am not seeing friends as much, that my training regime has been thrown off, that my house isn't as tidy as I need, that I don't have as much time or energy to meal plan, is an understatement.  I carry around this awful feeling of failure about it, while at the same time still feeling the joy, satisfaction and excitement that I do about my job. The conflict between those two feelings is so, so uncomfortable. And rather than deal with it, because the effort seems overwhelming and I am still concentrating all of my energy on my new job, I need to medicate it, numb the discomfort.  I medicate with...the Stuff.  Shopping once again is the replacement for the workout.  It's a reassurance that I'm OK, even if I know I don't feel OK.

So, that's not the greatest thing.  And like I say - it's self-inflicted.  Which makes it actually feel worse, because there's nothing a perfectionist-in-recovery hates more than knowing that the not-so-great situation they find themselves in is entirely their own fault.  That they fucked up.  Because then you PUNISH YOURSELF MORE.    

That's why writing about what I've failed at and how it's made me feel is important for me, although it's excruciating.  I need to say I failed and not have the world collapse.  So. yeah.  I failed at the Shopping Ban.  In order for me to not fail at Goal #3 ("I Am Enough"), I have to be OK with having failed at the Shopping Ban.   I have to be OK with admitting my failure, picking myself back up, dusting myself off, and trying again.  Half of the year has gone by, but that means I have half of the year to centre, re-focus, and try to do better.  My goals haven't changed.   But my attitude needs an adjustment.


NY Resolution: No More Jargon

There is a word that many of my beloved colleagues use to describe what I do in the legal department, and in other departments that provide documentation or language to colleagues and clients.  And this word is: "verbiage." For example: "Dani, can you put together some verbiage on topic X for this client?" Or "We need you to approve this verbiage."

Where in the heck did the word "verbiage" come from? It seems to be firmly entrenched in corporate jargon now, along with expressions like "I'm going to reach out to X on this issue" or calling something "actionable."

Here's the thing, though. These things don't necessarily mean what we think they do, or worse: they don't mean anything at all (Actionable? Huh?). For example, the dictionary definition of "verbiage" is: "speech or writing that uses too many words or excessively technical expressions." Gosh, I know I'm a lawyer but  I do try very hard not to use too many words or be excessively technical in what I say, so calling my work that is kind of insulting.   And unless you're grabbing me for a hug (hugs always welcome!), you're not "reaching out" to me - I'd prefer if you contacted me about a task you'd like me to perform.  Or called me with regards to a work request. Or emailed me with a question. 

Doesn't sound as fancy, but it's much more clear, don't you think? 

Let's make a resolution for 2014 to say what we mean, and mean what we say. 

My new column with Canadian Lawyer: The IT Girl

I'm now writing a monthly column for Canadian Lawyer Magazine, called the IT Girl.  Each month I'll be scribbling about something tech related that catches my fancy.

You can read April's column here, and May's column here.  As the intended audience is lawyers, sometimes the columns won't be of general interest, but hey - who knows?  Maybe I can get you interested in the joys of outsourcing agreements even if you're not a lawyer.  Always good to be optimistic, Dani. 

Debunking Facebook "Copyright Declarations"

Monday morning.  Always a grumpy time, but never more so than when I log on to Facebook and find all of my friends posting silliness like this:

In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, illustrations, comics, paintings, professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berner Convention).

For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times!

(Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place...them under protection of copyright lawsBy the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook's direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute).

Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates...  

There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to begin.  I hastily posted a quick few lines about why these Facebook declarations are actually useless, from bed, on my iPad, which was quickly liked, commented on and re-shared.  So I thought, now that I'm awake and had a cup of coffee, I would elaborate a bit more on why this particular Facebook declaration is crap, and also debunk some of the concerns about what the evil Facebook overlords are doing with your content.  

1.  Copyright Exists in Original Works, Whether You Declare It or Not.  

Copyright automatically exists upon the creation of an original work, and in most cases will vest in the creator of that work.  You don't need to "declare" your copyright in order to have copyright in your original photos, Facebook statuses and other copyrightable works that you post on your Facebook status.  

2.  It's the "Berne" Convention, not the "Berner Convention," and it's not new - it's been around since 1886.  Yes, 1886.  

So this Facebook declaration seems to suggest that as a result of some new convention, you now have copyright in your Facebook data.  Um, no.  The Berne Convention for the Protection of Artistic and Literary Works was first enacted in 1886, in Berne, Switzerland (get it?!), and under the convention, copyright is AUTOMATIC - no declaration or registration required.  Which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole "I'm declaring this as a result of the Berne Convention."  By the way, international conventions don't have the force of law until they're ratified by an individual nation - i.e., until Canada enshrined its principles in the Copyright Act.  Which we did.  A long time ago.  

3.  Copyright Protects an Original Work, Whether it's for "Commercial Use" or Otherwise.  

This Facebook declaration seems to suggest that you only need to give consent for "commercial use."  Err, that's great, but aren't you worried about non-commercial use, too, if you're posting this on your Facebook wall?  Anyway, just so we're all clear - under copyright law, you have to consent to ANY kind of use, which brings me to me next point...  

4.  In agreeing to Facebook's Terms of Service, You've Already Agreed to Facebook's Use of Your Data.  

When you signed up for Facebook, you had to agree to Facebook's Terms of Service (well, Facebook calls them the "Statement of Right and Responsibilities"), which are available for your reading pleasure here.  (oh, and - these "new guidelines" that apparently prompted this declaration?  You'll notice that Facebook's Statement of Right and Responsibilities, i.e., its terms of service, were last revised June 8, 2012.  So, yeah - not recently.  What the heck are these new "guidelines" that prompted the declaration?  I have no idea.)

Here's what you agreed to:   "For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it."   So.  You've already given Facebook just about as broad a license to your intellectual property as you can possibly give - subject to whatever privacy or application settings you set on your account. 

This is your contract with FacebookBy accessing and using Facebook, you agreed (and continue to agree) to this contract.    There are more details in Facebook's Data Use Policy about how Facebook uses your information, including the following:   "We only provide data to our advertising partners or customers after we have removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it, or have combined it with other people's data in a way that it is no longer associated with you."  

Facebook's Data Use Policy also says clearly:   "While you are allowing us to use the information we receive about you, you always own all of your information. Your trust is important to us, which is why we don't share information we receive about you with others unless we have:

- received your permission;

- given you notice, such as by telling you about it in this policy; or

- removed your name or any other personally identifying information from it."

5.  Your Posting of a Notice on Your Facebook Wall Has No Legal Effect.  The Only Remedy Available To You If You Don't Like Facebook's Terms? DON'T USE FACEBOOK.  

So, you've already got a contract in place with Facebook. The only way you could amend it (change it, in plain people speak) via Facebook status would be if you and Facebook agreed in your contract that you COULD amend the contract this way.  Guess what?  No dice.  Once again, refer to the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  Section 14 talks about how amendments to the contract are made.  Funny - declarations in Facebook statuses aren't covered! In fact, Facebook is the only party to the contract permitted to make changes. Even better, you agree by your continued use of Facebook to any amendments Facebook may make to the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  So maybe you should give that Statement a read sometime.  And then, you know, if you don't like the terms - DON'T USE FACEBOOK.  That's the only option available to you.  

6.  The Content Of Your Profile Ain't Private.  Unless You MAKE It Private.  

Refer again to Facebook's Data Use Policy.  Your profile is only private to the extent that you make it so, and to the extent that you haven't agreed to Facebook using or sharing some of your information.  

7.  Rome Statute?  Uhhh...Do You Mean the Rome CONVENTION?!  

The Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations is also old news - it was originally enacted in 1961 and Canada become a signatory to this WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) Treaty in 1998.  It did a lot of things, but mainly it gave performers rights in reproductions of their performances, and was a response to new high-falutin' technologies like VHS video recorders and cassette tapes.  So...yeah.  Again, you can't enforce an international convention personally - your country has to ratify it by enacting the provisions under local law.  So, for Canadians, you'd be talking about the Copyright Act.   There is a thing called the "Rome Statute," but it has nothing to do with intellectual property or privacy.  As my friend Monica Leonardo, a human rights lawyer, pointed out:   "Apart from provisions for the protection of the victims and witnesses and their participation in the proceedings at the International Criminal Court, the Rome Statute has no references to privacy whatsoever...and certainly not regarding the punishment of privacy violations by Facebook."

8.  UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103?! WHAT IN THE WHAT?   This is a reference to the  Uniform Commercial Code.  It's RECOMMENDED laws for how STATES (i.e., COUNTRIES) do business with each other.  Right.  Definitely applicable to my Facebook status update about my cat.

 9.  An "open capital entity" is not a thing.   

I think what the Facebook declaration-mongers are trying to get at here is that Facebook is now a public company, with securities traded on a public stock exchange (NASDAQ).  As a public company, the buying and selling of shares of Facebook is open to Joe Public and as a result, Facebook must comply with U.S. securities requirements, such as reporting its financial results to its investors.  Becoming a company with publicly-traded stock does not somehow mean that Facebook users' content is available to all investors or that Facebook is now publishing your relationship status on the stock exchange.  In 6 (2015 update: 9!) years of corporate/commercial practice (including a stint as a securities lawyer), I have never heard the term "open capital entity."     

So, at the end of the day, I will say this.  I'm not trying to make you feel stupid about your post.  You posted the Facebook declaration on your Timeline because it raised some concerns for you, about privacy and intellectual property rights. And rightly so. You should be concerned about those things. Good on you. But guess what?  In using social media sites like Facebook, you've already agreed to give up some of those rights. If you're concerned, read your contract. And if you don't like the terms of your contract, don't use Facebook.  

2015 update:  the new version of this Facebook post making the rounds talks about "confidential information" and preserving your privacy now that Facebook is a "public entity."  My 2015 update is...there is no update.  Everything I've just said above, still applies.