Never mind the dumb horse.

About the horse? I baled in January. Mostly done with partnership and electronics.

I am gearing up for gardening with two girlfriends. Look for commentary on public land use, encouraging action and working together.

I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort doing political commenting on Facebook.  I know, I know. Pearls before swine. I will be moving that here. Some of what’s going on just needs bigger commentary. I might even throw in the not-obviously-related rant or two.

I’m also getting seriously into new family positions: great-aunt and grandma. How sweet it is. And isn’t it amazing how some home knit gifts to toddlers can warm up a relationship.

Hmmmm — I might even talk about the horse – a little –




Getting back up on the Horse.

I’ve been writing but not posting. I have found myself lately wanting to write long posts in Facebook, so maybe it is time to use this voice. Lots going on:

  • Smith & Clarke are working on organization issues and are regrouping.
  • Most recent project was a Cylon Pumpkin for Halloween. We used a Freeduino, a 4 pack of AAs and a bare board. Done free style and inserted into a pumpkin we grew in our garden. Success.
  • The garden is done for the year. Report can be found in Bachelor Suite
  • Knitting continues. Getting better at it. Knitting for family Christmas now.

Check my other blogs for more.

Election Challenge Etobicoke, by the Numbers

Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

News is coming out of the first court challenge of election results: Federal Election for Etobicoke Central. Staff
Published Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2012 6:19AM EDT

CTV reported

“Opitz won the riding by just 26 votes in last year’s federal election, edging out Liberal incumbent Borys Wrzesnewskyj.  Wrzesnewskyj challenged the win in court, alleging there were electoral irregularities on election night.”
“The Ontario Superior Court agreed with Wrzesnewskyj earlier this year, with Justice Thomas Lederer throwing out 79 votes due to technical irregularities, and overturning the result.”
Opitz appealed, and last week Elections Canada revealed that 44 of the votes rejected by Lederer were cast by people who were legitimate voters and were on the national voters list, though they may not have lived in the riding when they voted.”

More specifically, as shown by the official court decision:

“[22] The parties, to their considerable credit, worked to limit the issues so that the Court would be able to adhere to the direction, found in the Canada Elections Act, that this application be dealt with “in a summary way” (see: Canada Elections Act, s. 525(3)). The result of these efforts was the subject of a consent order made on February 12, 2012. By this Order, the applicant agreed, among other things, to restrict the submissions made on his behalf to ten of the polls that make up the electoral district of Etobicoke Centre (Polls 16, 21, 30, 31, 83-1, 89, 174, 400, 426, and 502). Counsel for the applicant submitted that a review of the poll books and the registration certificates for these ten polls provided evidence of sufficient irregularities to require that the result of election be declared “null and void”.

That is, the Ontario Supreme Court decision was based on the examination of 10 polls out of 244 polls that make up Etobicoke Centre.

More specific information is available through Elections Canada.

Read the rest of this entry

Kestrel My Father

Male Kestrel

Just went through — a roadblock

I had an unhappy conversation with my son about his atheism. The conversation racked me back into my unhappiness with God issues.
I was fussing about it, and getting stuck again with the essential question my son had asked: “How can there be a God when things are so horrible.” I also was uncomfortable with the “God the Father” and my parent.

Then tonight, my dad called. How was I, and how were the Bible lessons, and gave me a little sermon about the events before the Ascension and Jesus’ promise. It was so familiar, and he had it by heart. I told him a bit of my unhappiness with my son’s life and we went on. He told me about the gardening. He and his third wife had taken garden stuff to the market and made $60.

Then he dropped a surprise. Money they had invested from the estate had done well, and he wanted to help the two of us who had medical problems. Okay — that’s nice. But it doesn’t erase any of the other less happy examples of fatherhood.

So, I was still stuck thinking “God the Father” compared with my parent.

Then, as I was watching the bird nestcams from Cornell University labs, I got it.
Let me explain. There were five nests I was following: red-tailed hawk, great blue heron, kestrel, and then the peregrine here in Alberta and osprey in Calgary. I had been continually impressed by the constancy of care the bird parents gave. Just this week, I had seen the osprey cuddle her wee bare chicks with her knuckles.

I was just watching the last two kestrel babies finally with room in the nestbox and only the two of them after having grown up with five. The week before the first three chicks fledged, “4” and “5” had spent most of the time crushed up into corners with little access to food.

The parents did feed directly and did their best to ensure all were fed. I kept thinking that it would become better as they fledged. Now there were two, and the parents were doing fly-bys and food drops. And now, “4” was grabbing the food, and “5” was begging her to be fed.

Some of the chatterers also noticed and shared my concern.  Then the Father came in, with a large piece of food, and fed little “5”.
Something clicked. This was parenting. This was the model for God the Father. This dedication. This selflessness. This, that I had seen all of the birds show.

Major Reason for Delay in Retirement Glossed Over

So what about that Ipsos Reid survey which gives credence to the federal government proposed pension changes?

The results of a poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid for Sun Life Financial, were recently released as part of Sun Life Financial’s “Unretirement Index.”  The publication of those results followed The Prime Minister’s unexpected announcement of changes to the Old Age pension during a speech in Davos at the World Economic Forum. The results of that poll appeared to support the changes.

The best article I found which tells the story of announcement and survey is Andrew Moran’s “Study: Majority of Canadians to work past 65 amid uncertainty”

Andrew Moran  is a busy independent journalist/blogger. His credits include “libertarian op-ed pieces to Crucial Politics.” The story appeared Feb 22, 2012 in Politics

An aside on the article: The article, while it gave a good general survey of current media reporting, had a couple of errors. It identified the pension under discussion as the CPP [Canadian Pension Plan, which is partially funded by work deductions] rather than the OAS [Old Age Security Plan which is wholly funded by the federal government, and one of the few remains of the safety net. One wonders if the misunderstanding is general. The other error may be innocent, but …  He called Statistics Canada an agency, rather than a government department. Is this an indication of Stats Can’s continued loss of status?

Various media broadcast the results of the poll with headlines such as: “Canadian seniors expect to keep on working: Poll” [Headline, 24 H NEWS, Thursday, February 23 2012, pg. 5.]; “Canadians expect to work past age 66: Poll” [Metro News, Thursday, February 23, 2012, p. 18]; “Most Canadians plan to work past age 65: poll” 02/22/2012 | Marcia Chen,

I wondered about those results. The poll appeared to support the government’s reported plan to change the age of qualification for the OAS from 65 to 67. The conclusion that, for many seniors, the delay in retirement was financial hardship appeared to be glossed over. Many of the news stories repeated Sun Life’s own list of conclusions, without attribution. They concluded “a majority of Canadians expect to work past the age of 66 due to a variety of reasons, such as longevity, an increase in debt, the rising costs of healthcare and the lack of money for retirement.” I found the order of that listing troubling.

Here’s the thing about statistics and polls, surveys, etc. First, a lot of their influence is formulated in the reporting. That is, the results that are highlighted or included in the capsule account appear to be the most important. In fact, the conclusions should be weighted evenly. Of course, where the results can be divided into those supported by strong definitive results and those who have only a suggestion of an implication, it is proper to report that difference, and proper for news stories to reflect that difference.

The second thing about statistics, especially when derived from polls and surveys, is they are only as good as the methodology. There are rules about how such tools are used. That the conclusions end with the confidence formula does not mean that you should accept the results without question.

In this case, I found the results and the reporting, when fully reported in the more comprehensive news story, to not fit my bottom-up view of the world. They included:

I felt that the reason for the change in the expectations for retirement should have received much more media attention. Ipsos Reid’s own report included this striking paragraph:

“Fully six-in-ten (61%) of those who will be working at age 66, say the main reason is because they “need to”, not because they “want to”. The number one most often cited reason they will be working at the age of 66 is to earn enough money to pay basic living expenses, (23%, up from 15% in 2009), followed by to earn enough to live well (20%), I don’t believe government benefits will be enough (19%) and to stay mentally active (14%)” ( Ipsos Reid press release “HALF OF CANADIANS PLANNING A PHASED-IN RETIREMENT” )

For me, that was the story.

I really worried about the methodology. You see, I belong to an Ipsos Reid online “I-Say” panel. These panels are self-selected and therefore not representative of any population. My experience on the panel leads me to suggest that it is possible that Ipsos-Reid would further select respondents based on their own formulae for an even representation. Further, they stipulate that they “employed weighting to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflected that of the adult population according to Census data.”

Because they are represented as using a sample that reflects Canada’s adult population, it seems fair to look at the methodology used in surveys which attempt to be truly representative of a population. The following guidelines from the UN (2003), describe the rules of sampling generally used collect information on a national population. One of the first things emphasized is the necessity for using Probability Samples:

“It is this mathematical nature of probability samples that permits scientifically-grounded estimates to be made from the survey. More importantly it is the foundation upon which the sample estimates can be inferred to represent the total population from which the sample was drawn. A crucial feature and by-product of probability sampling in surveys is that sampling errors can be estimated from the data collected from the sample cases, a feature that is not mathematically justifiable when non-probability sampling methods are used.” (Anthony G. Turner, “Sampling strategies” Expert Group Meeting to Review the Draft Handbook on Designing of Household Sample Surveys, Statistics Division, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARIAT (ESA/STAT/AC.93/2) 03 November 2003.)

So, basically, if the survey or poll does not follow probability sample rules, then the poll or survey cannot be used to make inferences about the population and it is not possible to know the size of the sampling error. What element makes the probability sample mathematically solid? The paper cited above gives the following:

“Probability sampling in the context of a household survey refers to the means by which the elements of the target population – geographic units, households and persons – are selected for inclusion in the survey. The requirements for probability sampling are that each element must have a known mathematical chance of being selected and that chance must be greater than zero and numerically calculable. It is important to note that the chance of each element being selected need not be equal but can vary in accordance with the objectives of the survey.”

Doing research using surveys: methods: questions, numbers of respondents

Let’s begin with the source of the poll, as reported by Sun Life Financial. They conclude their article with this paragraph:

“These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid/Sun Life Financial poll conducted from November 29, 2011 to December 12, 2011. For the survey, a sample of 3,701 adult, working Canadians between the ages of 30 and 65 was interviewed from Ipsos’ Canadian online I-Say panel. Ipsos employed weighting to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflected that of the adult population according to Census data. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of sample of ±1.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult Canadian population been polled. The margin of error would be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, methodology change, coverage error and measurement error.” [ web address of their article]

[ Further information was found in their downloads, the Press Release and the Detailed Tables, found on the same page.The numbers from the survey are taken from their “Detailed Tables”]

Does the Ipsos Reid Poll present itself as representative of a national population? They stipulated that they “employed weighting to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflected that of the adult population according to Census data.” Did they used probability sampling? By using the online survey method, Ipsos Reid eliminated certain portions of the population. They eliminated:

  • Anyone who chooses not to indulge or participate in online surveys. I dare say that the portion of the population who take part in online surveys is fairly select.
  • Anyone without east access to the internet.
  • Anyone who does not want to reveal their economic status.

You wind up with a fairly small portion of the population. It is surprising that their conclusions included the data on those who felt they had to keep working.

From my experience taking part in Ipsos Reid surveys, I believe it is entirely possible that exclusionary questions were used. An exclusionary question could be “Have you used any agents or services to assist in planning for your retirement?” Another example could be “What is your work status?” with choices that include “not working, ” “employed part time,” “employed part time,” etc. With the first question you can eliminate anyone who cannot plan for the future by reason of their low income. With the second question, you can eliminate anyone not employed.

So we see how the portion of the population of Canada which is represented in the poll has been significantly narrowed.

There is another surprising way in which the results of the poll have been made even less representative.  They stipulated that they “employed weighting to balance demographics. . .” This is normally done to correct for demographic skew. One would employ a set of correct percentage data on the focus group from a trusted source, compare it with the percent used in the poll, and then correct the poll results to reflect the difference in the ratios.

Their own statement reveals that it was the comparison of their sample to the general population of Canada, including the proportion of respondents in each of three income categories which was weighted to reflect “the adult population according to Census data.”

So, if we examine the evidence:

Their numbers or respondents by income: under $50,000 [1025] ; $50,000 – $100,000 [1421] , over $100,000 [801]. [The Detailed Tables, available here ]

The Statistics Canada data is available on Table 111-0008. It lists income brackets by increments of $5000 and gives numbers for the stated income and over. To arrive at the number and percent of the population for the three categories used here, it was necessary to subtract the amount for the income level from the total before changing it into a percentage.

Compare that with the Population of Canada by income: under $50,000 [ 24,964,290 -6,458,940 = 18,505,350 ] = 74%; $50,000 to $100,000 [6,458,940 – 1,343,150 = 5115790 ] =  20%; $100,000+ [ 1,343,150 ] = 5%.

{Statistics Canada. Table 111-0008 –  Neighbourhood income and demographics, taxfilers and dependents with income by total income, sex and age group, annual (number unless otherwise noted),  CANSIM (database). } Online

The Ipsos Reid survey weighing according to the tables gives: under $50,000, 1217 respondents; $50,000 to $100,000, 1436; and +$100,000, 633. They had a total of 3701 respondents of survey.

This means that their under $50,000 = 33% of respondents, $50,000 to $100,000 = 39%, and  +$100,000 = 17%.

{, (home/ news and polls/ Half of Canadians Planning a Phased-in Retirement.}

This means that for the portion of the Population with a yearly income of under $50,000, which according to Statistics Canada is 74% of the total, is represented by 33% of the respondents in this survey. The portion between $50,000 and $100,000, 20% of the population, represents 39% of the respondents in this survey. The portion with an income of over $100,000, at 5% of the population, is represented by 17% of the respondents in the survey.

Is this representative of the population of Canada? Could this mean that a much higher proportion of Canadians are actually worried about life after retirement and preparing to work as long as they are able because it is necessary?

And another thing: Further on that Poll


retirement (Photo credit: 401K)

Compare that poll and results with this one by the Royal Bank of Canada, reported in April, 2011.–workers-forced-into-early-retirement-they-can-t-afford-poll


Published: April 21, 2011 5:58 a.m.

Last modified: April 20, 2011 11:01 p.m.

Canadian workers are increasingly being forced into an early retirement they can’t afford, compelling them to get new jobs to maintain their income levels, according to a new RBC poll.” [RBC Retirement Myths & Realities.]

“The poll found only 59 per cent of retired Canadians chose when to stop working. But a full 83 per cent of those currently working believe they’ll get to choose when to retire. Of those retired, 18 per cent left at their employer’s request — the top reason for retirement among those who did not choose to stop working.”

“Employer’s request was followed by health reasons (14 per cent) and having reached mandatory retirement age (six per cent.) When asked about being ready to retire, 14 per cent who are retired said they had saved enough to live “comfortably” while 25 per cent of workers thought they will have saved enough to live comfortably by the time they choose to retire.”

Have the facts changed?

Foreign influence as it reads in the Elections Act:

Department of Justice Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Department of Justice

Breadcrumb trail

    Main Page >
    Consolidated Acts >
    S.C. 2000, c. 9 –  Table of Contents >
    S.C. 2000, c. 9

Canada Elections Act (S.C. 2000, c. 9)

Act current to 2012-02-20 and last amended on 2011-12-16. Previous Versions

Broadcasting outside Canada
Marginal note:Prohibition — use of broadcasting station outside Canada

    330. (1) No person shall, with intent to influence persons to vote or refrain from voting or vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate at an election, use, aid, abet, counsel or procure the use of a broadcasting station outside Canada, during an election period, for the broadcasting of any matter having reference to an election.
    Marginal note:Prohibition — broadcasting outside Canada

    (2) During an election period, no person shall broadcast, outside Canada, election advertising with respect to an election.

Non-interference by Foreigners
Marginal note:Prohibition — inducements by non-residents

331. No person who does not reside in Canada shall, during an election period, in any way induce electors to vote or refrain from voting or vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate unless the person is

    (a) a Canadian citizen; or

    (b) a permanent resident within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

    2000, c. 9, s. 331;
    2001, c. 27, s. 211.

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Sounds clear to me.

Canada and Greece

Canada and Greece: Debt and the Economy

From the House of Common, Ottawa  Feb. 8, 2012.

In the exchange in the House over changes to the Old Age Pension, Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development in the Canadian government, explained the strategy of cutting government spending. She compared the need to reduce spending to the Eurozone crisis, where a number of countries are striving to prevent default of government debt.

English: Public debt in percent of GDP (2010) ...

Image via Wikipedia

Greece is currently in the news as it struggles to comply the demands of IMF and its European creditors. Among all the news, the clearest explanation I have found in a New York Times article. This concise survey of the problem explains the history of the situation as well as the current options.

Diane Finley clearly referenced those debt problems as the reason for fiscal austerity here. I thought it would be interesting to compare the debt to GDP ratio for the Greece and Canada.

Greece is in severe trouble. They are looking for a loan of 130 billion Euro to satisfy creditors to whom they are in default. They owe 350 billion Euro. That is 160% of their GDP.

They are being asked to cut pensions by 15% and minimum wage by 20%. The crisis is being blamed on government spending, but also on rich Greek citizens who have defaulted on their taxes.

Greece has a population of 10,787,690. Seniors over 65 make up 19.1% of that population. Unemployment is at 18%.

The population of Canada is about 34,031,000. Seniors make up 15.9% of that population.

[Source: CIA World Factbook]

Canada’s Federal Budget as announced   Tue Mar 22 2011.

Spectator wire services reported:

“Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s new federal budget calls for total spending of 278.7 billion dollars in the fiscal year that starts April 1st —up one per cent from 2010-11.”

“•deficit projected to fall from 40.5 billion dollars in fiscal 2010 to 29.6 billion in fiscal 2011 and to be virtually eliminated by 2014-2015.

•Total debt rises to 586 billion dollars in 2011-2012”

Canada’s debt

“The $33.4-billion difference between the government’s total expenses of $270.5 billion and total revenues of $237.1 billion is the 2010–11 budgetary deficit. The budgetary deficit represents an increase in the federal debt (accumulated deficit).”

Wikipedia Chart of countries — includes GDP and rank

“List by the International Monetary Fund (2010)[1]”

Rank                              GDP (millions in US$)

“10        Canada            1,577,040”     [$33.4 billion / $1,577 billion = 2% {yearly}]

[$586 billion /$1,577 billion  = 37% ]

“32        Greece            305,415”        [160%]

Is the Government of Canada over-reacting, or is there, perhaps, an ideological reason for the austerity that they are seeking to tie to the Eurocrisis?

Throwing around Numbers

Throwing around Numbers

On Feb 8, 2012, Diane Finley, responding to questions in the House, stated that the OAS will cost 3 times as much and would have 1/2 as many workers. (video, 6.30 minutes in)

I did some work with figures available through the internet, and came up with some interesting conclusions. Total public pensions cost 13% of the Budget.  Budget

The Budget for Canada was reported as $278,700,000,000. The Spec Newspaper  13% of that is $36,000,000,000. That tripled is $108,000,000,000.

I checked on a demographic profile. and found that in 20 years, the number of people at 65 will be twice what it is now. [Not 3 times.]

Based on that, I used the same profile and shifted all the numbers by 20 years.

According to my figures, today’s profile gives 11.7 million people of working age.

The shifted profile, shifted 20 years in the future, gives 10.5 million people of working age.

Diane Finley, you claim the Opposition is fear-mongering. I think you are fear-mongering.  In twenty years, there will be twice as many seniors. [ Not 3 times ]  And, based on the demographic profile, there will be 1 million fewer workers, about 1 tenth less that now.

And that isn’t counting the rising youth populations in the Aboriginal population and among immigrants.

It doesn’t add up.

Dinner with Dad

Last week of Dec 2011

I visited with Dad on Boxing Day. I was not looking forward to it. Dad and I had not been close since Mom died. I had trouble accepting the newest spouse, even the fact that there was one. B/F (driver), knowing I wasn’t eager to spend a long time visiting, dogged the time a bit. We arrived later than planned. To my dismay, they appeared to have been waiting dinner for us. We went directly from the door to dinner, with a brief stop to place our coats in their room.

I noticed first:  No table-cloth etc., that had been present at the last visit (when Irma [the second wife] was still alive) There was no table dressing at all. There were salt and pepper shakers and maybe a sugar container. It was very bare.

We queued up for cafeteria style serving.  I heard someone whisper “You know there won’t be any turkey or anything like that, today.”

Dinner was: Green Salad, potato salad, jellied fruit and marshmallow type salad, raw fruit in chunks, Maybe something else?  Then the main dish was macaroni and tomatoes. There were white buns and margarine. I saw no meat or cheese.  They served us, to our tables, thin beef soup with crackers while we were in line.

Plain macaroni is inadequate as a main dish for meal. I saw no protein. It seemed thin on the tomato sauce. There was maybe a tablespoon per cup of macaroni.  The serving size was large and readily consumed by the clients/guests.

They offered milk at the table or other beverages on the sideboard, fruit drink from machine, coffee or tea.  They offered a serving of chocolate pudding for dessert.

Cookies etc were brought around after the meal. It seemed that they were from another visitor.

The menu for the meal bothered me. I had worked in the Stettler Hospital kitchen years ago, and also know the Alberta Food Guide. The meal just seemed inadequate.

I checked into the regulations and monitoring of food for our senior family members.

There is a provincial government document titled “Supportive Living Accommodation Standards

It is accompanied by a checklist. The section of that pertaining to nutrition is:

Nutrition Guidelines

Because it stipulates that the diet conform to the Alberta Food Guide, I went to that to check for serving sizes and recommended daily amounts.

Along the way, I also checked on the ownership and management of the Supportive Living Facility Dad lives in.  It is apparently owned by the county and managed by a local individual.

I knew from my previous experience working in care homes how easy it was to have a menu which met the standards. Without a quality check, such as is provided by a staff dietician, it is very easy to make substitutions. For instance, the meal I shared may have originally called for a macaroni dish which included meat, cheese and enough tomato to count as a vegetable serving.

That would have meant, to meet the food guide standards, the macaroni dish should have contained, per serving:

·       One cup cooked pasta

·       ½ cup lean ground beef

·       1.5 ounces cheese

·       ½ cup of canned tomato or equivalent in concentrated product.

Another type of substitution is counting a fruit jello as a fruit serving, or a fruit drink instead of a juice. In this case, a pudding was offered for dessert. They may have counted it as a milk serving. It doesn’t quite work. The serving was about ½ cup. A milk serving is a whole cup. Even counting the whole of the pudding, ignoring the quantity of sugar, cocoa and thickener, it would have been a half serving.

My next question was, what kind of government monitoring and oversight was there, and how would one check on the reputation of the facility?  Returning to the legislation and user guides, offered to assist in choosing a facility, one finds quite specific regulations for the licensing of facilities.

“·  Supportive Living Accommodation Licensing Act and Supportive Living Accommodation Licensing Regulation

On the subject of monitoring and compliance, the Govt site says:

Alberta Seniors monitors all supportive living and long-term care accommodations for compliance to the accommodation standards, minimally on an annual basis. The purpose of the accommodation standards is to ensure accommodations maintain a high quality of accommodation services (e.g. meals, building maintenance, security and housekeeping) that promote the safety, security, and quality of life of Albertans living in those accommodations.”

Further down the page is this statement:

“Health and Wellness also audits a sample of continuing care accommodations each year, including long-term care accommodations, for compliance with the Continuing Care Health Standards and applicable Infection Prevention and Control Standards. As audits are completed, they will be posted as links in the online Alberta Seniors and Community Supports Accommodation Standards compliance report and on the Alberta Health and Wellness website.”

That “audits a sample” approach is not very reassuring.  I wonder how many homes are in their yearly sample, and if each home is eventually re-assessed for compliance. I can see no merit in doing a sampling here, except for the acting government’s statistics. Sampling has no effect on individual compliance.

So, now, after I have worked my way through the documentation, I have two choices.

  1. Report the diet as a problem.
  2. Monitor my father’s home and his diet to get a more complete picture, and maybe influence more compliance from the management and staff, by virtue of the presence of witnesses.

Time to get back to being the good daughter, if I want to be able to live with myself.