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October 7, 2014

On writing and not writing

Filed in Uncategorized

I sometimes wish that I could write the way I could when I was younger, before I crossed over to academia. I have these memories of being able to write in a really skilled manner that captured the pain that is life in a simple but non-tacky manner. At least that’s how I remember it. Then sometimes I come across stuff that I wrote 10, 12 years ago, and it’s embarrassing. Is it ok to write like that at 18, but not 30?

As we get older, are we expected to express our pain in different ways – in more restrained ways, or at least with less hyperbole and bluntness?

A few weeks ago, I started to write some things down, and it was so melodramatic. “But I just want to be able to express the words in such a way that anyone who reads will feel the pain that I do!” I thought. And then I thought, “anyone who reads this will just roll their eyes, because people’s fatigue replaces empathy if you don’t move on.”

To what extent is “moving on” if it is nothing more than observing social norms about the appropriateness of acting or saying things? At what point do people grow into new roles that seem too far removed from pathological pasts for a person to still legitimately be recognized as troubled?

 

For years, I wished that I could be “normal” and not be singled out as someone on the margins of society, but now that I’m accepted as “normal,” I find myself wishing that people recognized that it’s more complicated than that simply dichotomy.

December 1, 2013

In the desert

Filed in Stories

When I woke up, I found myself lying on my bed with my head facing the doorway. Why is my door open? Why is the door across the room open? It’s dark, but the moonlight shining in through the window across the hall filled the top floor with a haunting calm.

3531 East 22nd Avenue; East Vancouver. I lived here for 6 years; love came and went, and so I left, and then I left again. And now I live on the other side of the world, so why am I waking up in my old bedroom in a deserted house? All there was in my room was the twin bed that I awoke in, and across the hall the room was empty.

But then as my eyes started to make things out, I saw small ovals reflecting the moonlight, and so I went to close the door. This scenario had gone through my mind before, and so I had a plan. Close the door, lock it. Put the dresser in front of the door, climb into the attic. But the door was gone, and so was the attic, and of course the dresser was gone since the only thing that was left was this bed.

So I closed my eyes and hoped maybe they would think I was asleep and ignore me, but as I closed them, I heard the creek of footsteps coming from the other room, crossing the hall, until they were right in front of me. I opened my eyes again. I wanted to tell them: “get out!” But I had no voice. There were two of them, and as my eyes continued to adjust to the moonlight, I could see their faces.

I stood up; they were both so much taller than me. Leave. Please leave! But my distress just made them grin. White teeth in the moonlight. Sick eyes in the moonlight. Please leave. And they stood there, looking at me, knowing I couldn’t do anything. All I could say was “please.” But I had no voice, and they could not hear anyway.

I moved around the room, in the darkness. Around the room that was empty except for my bed. But they would follow and draw closer, and I was always with my back against the wall; counting the distance between them and me. Their arms can reach me, but my arms can’t reach them.  If I keep my distance for long enough, maybe the sun will come up, and I can escape.

The sun didn’t come up, but I realized I had a piece of wood in my hand. This must be a dream, because where did the wood come? It was a piece of dowel rod, so it didn’t really serve much purpose. I had two choices: use the piece of wood, or see what happens if I don’t. So I poked at the first man, the taller one. Aside from his awful grin, he was unassuming with curly hair and a plaid shirt. I thrust the useless piece of wood forward, and he fell backwards half a step – laughing at my futile attempt to ward him off. Worse yet, he stepped forward more than I had pushed him back, until he was looming over me, laughing silently, with his perfect teeth shining in the moonlight.

Well, the piece of wood didn’t break, right? No. So I thrust it forward again, towards his chest, with such weakness, but I lost my grip, and it poked him just above his groin. Somehow this caused the curly-haired man to keel over in pain. The whole time, the other man – the shorter man without curly hair – had just been standing there, solemnly. He looked at me, and I pretended that I didn’t know he was there. I grabbed the piece of wood tightly, and again thrust it towards the curly-haired man’s chest. This time, I hit him in the chest, and the paltry, weak piece of wood pierced through his shirt, and to my shock, pierced through his chest and right through to the other side, out of his back.

“I just impaled a man with a piece of dowel wood, and it made no sound. And he made no sound.” It was so strange. I had never thought about the sound a piece of wood would make as it impaled a man, but as this piece of wood sat there in the man’s body, I thought how it was strange there were no sounds of crunching bones; of organs squishing against each other; of air escaping through the wound; no cartoon-like noises. No gasp for breath or screams of pain coming from his mouth. He stood there, as a huge circle of blood spread outward on his plaid shirt from where he had been impaled.

I pulled the piece of wood out, which actually required a lot more strength than it did to accidentally impale the tall, curly-haired man. I looked at the other man, the shorter man. He also had a plaid shirt, but it was blue. As I pulled the wooden rod out of the curly-haired man, blood poured out, and he fell to the ground.

I thought “I wonder what would happen if I do this again to the short man.”

One last time, I thrust the piece of wood forward, this time with some idea of what to do. Again, it pierced through him perfectly. And again, it made no sound; he made no sound. I quickly pulled it out, and he fell to the ground.

Am I safe now? I was dizzy like Meursault when he kills the man on the beach, and wondered if this is what happens to everyone who kills a man. When the dizziness subsided, I realized I was not at 3531 East 22nd Avenue, but in the desert. Had I ever even been at 3531? The two men lay dead on the desert floor, and I knew I had to tell the police, because they would find me even if I didn’t.

A few cacti away, there was a phone booth, so I could go there and call the police. But all I could think about was how strange the sounds were. And I pictured myself saying to my friends “you would think that when you impale a man, it would make a noise. But there was no sound of crunching bones, and no sound of organs squishing against each other as the wood pierces through and mashes them all together. It was so surprising, and so easy.” But now that I’ve done it, what if I do it again?

September 7, 2013

Sensory deprivation in Vienna

Filed in Uncategorized

The past week it’s been like I’ve been living with blinders on. I’ve become extremely isolated in some ways. I live alone, and every day I leave my place to wander the city. All (most) of the words that surround me are in a language I don’t speak, so it’s all an unintelligible tangle of white noise.

 

The only time I have heard my voice over the past 5.5 days has been when I go to the grocery store and say “dankeschön” when I get my change. The only words I hear from people: I just nod in response awkwardly.

 

It’s very quiet. I feel like Werner Herzog when I say that the silence is stifling. It encroaches my space and forces me to confront all of my thoughts; the silence pushes al of my thoughts right to the front, which is a very strange experience that I had forgotten about for a long time.

 

The only non-self destructive way that I know to deal with this is to write. Basically exorcise my demons; barf them out wit a pen and keep writing without thinking what the next word is until the water runs dry and I can’t even force anything to come out. And then the feelings of being tortured by myself subside…

May 9, 2012

Our peculiar natural environments

Filed in hyperreality

As a Sociology major with a minor in Human Geography, one of my pet interests is how we interact with built environments, especially the parts that we take for granted. The taken-for-granted things are all slices of a bigger picture that represents the every day world. The picture below represents a scene that captured my attention yesterday.

Looking at it, the scene just looks like a shitty, poorly framed cell phone picture of something incredibly mundane.

This is a construction/landscaping site at the University of British Columbia where I am finishing up [finally] my undergraduate degree this summer. I was walking across campus yesterday when I noticed this site – which I have been passing on an almost daily basis for the past year or two – and realized “oh crap! Look at all this stuff!” It’s great.

One of the weird things about construction/redevelopment/landscaping etc. that seems so normal is the placement of grass, trees, flowers, etc. This picture captures that:

In this picture, we can see that a fence has been erected to keep the general public away from what happens within it. Amidst the concrete is a whole lot of freshly laid soil and manure that is lightly decorated with young trees. Soil is “natural” and trees are “natural”. But the trees were grown on tree farms and transported by trucks from somewhere else; the soil came from a store in large bags that had to be purchased, and also transported by vehicle.

The space within this enclosure at one point would have been covered with soil and trees and grass that existed there without the interference of modern technology and material interests. If something identical existed today, it would probably be impractical because of how people currently interact with UBC (weeds, overgrowth, bears, stray branches, whatever… not practical for when you are rushing about campus).

The “nature” that will exist behind this fence will instead be an idealized simulation of nature.

This idealized, [to be] constructed space hints at lots of different characteristics about everyday life in Vancouver (or other urban places in Canada): the commodification of “nature”; the extent to which we are comfortable including “nature” within an urban setting; how we have been socialized to stay off grass that has not yet matured when it is being used for aesthetic purposes, but we trample haphazardly across other plant-covered plots of land without considering that we might “kill” it.

The space hints at supply chains, of trucks, of oil, of municipal by-laws; it hints at communication technologies used to coordinate and execute the placement of grass and trees on a space that was once covered by grass and trees.

Essentially, this is the kind of stuff that Baudrillard talks about in Simulacra and Simulation and other writings of his, so if that interests you, I suggest you [attempt to] read what he has to say or Google him. Finally, in this blog post, I am not advocating for or against various activities that relate to the construction of our built environment. I am, however, encouraging that people enjoy the opportunities they have to scrutinize the aspects of every day life that they take for granted!

April 2, 2012

Poisson d’Avril

Filed in Uncategorized

……..

February 12, 2012

Funky Towel

Filed in Uncategorized

I watched “Joe’s Apartment” last night with my boyfriend. It’s a very 90s movie about this guy who lives in a crappy apartment in the East Village that is infested with talking/singing cockroaches.
It had its moments…. such as this, which I now have stuck in my head.

February 7, 2012

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board still sucks and still doesn’t really want to help victims of crime.

Filed in Uncategorized

Sensational, I know, but it’s actually true.

See, I was hoping to start going to see a therapist again, but Criminal Injuries has to approve my request to have therapy expenses covered (as part of their “benefits” for victims).  Pesky rape victims! Always trying to play the rape card to get things their way!

Skip to the bottom (“Can I go to therapy, please?“) if you know the background and just want to know the latest chapter in my almost 9 years’ worth of dealing with them.

$$RAPE DOLLAZ$$

As some of you may know, I was raped on March 29, 2003 outside of Kennedy Subway Station in Toronto. By a stranger.  While the cops watched.  Because even though having sex in public is illegal, they decided to watch instead of interfering, because they assumed what was happening was consensual.  But that’s a whole other story.  So is the story of how the rapist got acquitted.

If there was one silver lining to said traumatic incident, it was that because of the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, which meant I was eligible for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board of Ontario.

Wait.  You can get money if the accused is acquitted?

Yes.  You can get compensation even if the accused is acquitted.  Now before people start worrying/planning to scheme the government, I suspect it is close to impossible.  You need to fill out forms and get others to fill out forms that support your claims.  This includes forms filled out from the police, therapists, doctors, employers, court documents, lawyers (I might be wrong there); you send in photocopies of prescription receipts, of sick notes from your doctors; corroborating evidence from the HR at your work that shows you missed the 2 or 3 days following your rape, only to so indignantly go back to work when you don’t know how to function…. cause rape or no rape, you have bills to pay.

 

AND then after all of that, you have a hearing which takes a couple of hours.  You get interviewed and questioned about everything you had said in your forms, and about what happened in court, and it all gets cross-referenced, cause you need to prove you are not making it up, and that you really did suffer.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, Bureaucracy and “colossal failures”

Unfortunately, my experience from 2003 through 2008 — when I finally received compensation was a bureaucratic nightmare. (See: Ombudsman of Ontario’s scathing report on the “colossal failure” / or read the press release here).

To get an idea, the Ombudsman of Ontario’s report opens with the following:

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board is in deplorable shape. Instead of holding out support for victims of violent crime, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board often greets them with bureaucratic indifference and suspicion. Instead of giving steadfast and urgent assistance, it trades in technicality and embraces delay. As a result, instead of providing relief, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board too often adds insult to injury.

By bureaucratic nightmare, I mean filling out form after form after form.  Filling out a form to send in so that the Board could send a form to someone else, who would then send a form back so that the Board could send me a form to sign and send back, which would ultimately mean “yes that other party can now speak to the Board about their role in the victim’s post-rape life” —  therapists, doctors, EMPLOYERS, people who you wouldn’t want to talk about being raped to once, letalone multiple times.

Do you know how stigmatizing it is for victims to have to repeatedly involve their employers in a matter related to “Criminal Injuries”?

Oh, also the employees at the Board were unpleasant and accusatory which made the whole process even more unpleasant.

Can I go to therapy, please?

For years I was completely crippled as a victim of post-traumatic stress. To make matters worse, in May, 2003 — not even two months after the rape — my dad died unexpectedly.  I was still a teenager. To make matters even worse, in July, 2004, I was randomly assaulted by a stranger.  Violently.  Like, head smashed off pavement violently.  That case also went before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and I was also compensated for that.

Simply put, I was a very traumatized individual and did not function well for a long time.

Years later, I am living in Vancouver.  I have dealt with adversity pretty well.  For the last two years I have been functioning about as close to a “normal” person as possible, and that is quite the accomplishment for me.  I am almost finished a university degree, I have good friends, I am living healthily, etc etc etc

Why do you need therapy then?  It seems like you are doing just fine and have fully recovered.

Well, yes and no.  There are a few reasons why I am doing well.  Support from family and friends has helped.  So has my own strength and determination.  So has moving far away from Toronto.  Another reason is because of being able to access therapy so that I can deal with the things that continue to haunt me and plague me, that I can’t talk about in a social/friendly/family environment.   That I can’t really talk about because it marks me as dirty or crazy or whatever because of the stereotypes about rape victims and seeking help for mental health issues. Therapy has served me well over the years.

And right now, it would be in my benefit to have access to therapy.  In addition to getting a little bit of money, victims of violent crime are also entitled to have therapy costs covered in the event that they are not covered by provincial healthcare.

But… there is a catch

PESKY RAPE VICTIMS.  Look how lucky they are! You could almost say that they get to go to university for free, using that compensation money! Using their rape to get a free ride! And investing it?  Greedy, dirty rape victims.

You have to prove that you need the therapy.  You have to get authorization from the Board before you can claim the expenses of psychotherapy/counselling.  And it is a bureaucratic process.

This morning I called up the Board and asked them how the therapy thing works.

  • They will send me a form.
  • I find a therapist.  Therapist seems me and confirms “yes, that girl needs therapy”.
  • Therapist fills out form.
  • Therapist sends form back to the Board.
  • An adjudicator will review the form and determine whether or not I should have therapy costs covered.
Granted this is a money-saving tactic to deter people from using the Board and claiming expenses to them, but it really sends the wrong message.
It says: prove to us, oh “victim”.  Prove to us that you are still wounded from a horrible thing — from the worst that ever happened to you in your life.  Seriously.  Even after a judgment that outlines and stresses OVER AND OVER how the victim experienced years of pain and suffering from the trauma of a violent incident, the victim still has to prove that they need therapy.

BURNED

How does that make victims feel? It makes me feel like maybe I should just “man up” when I have nightmares about being raped, or “man up” when 9 years later I won’t walk alone at night, which I never used to be afraid of doing.   Or “get over it” when I can’t watch certain scenes in movies, cause they trigger me, or how I get so angry when I hear people make rape jokes.

I’m a pretty headstrong individual who really loathes being pushed around and bullied, so I am happy to stand up to the Board and go through this BULLSHIT BUREAUCRATIC PROCESS so that I can assert my rights and receive my benefits, but not everybody  else is like me, or has the means.

So this was my account of my history with the Board leading up until today.  Usually I prefer not to be so sensational and prefer to be rational.

Please feel free to share this with other people.  It’s not easy to talk about, because it deals with stigmatizing subjects.

EDIT: sorry about the grammar/typos… I tried to correct them. I was just so incensed I didn’t bother to edit :p

EDIT 2: “Still sucks”  in the subject refers to the fact that in 2007, the Ombudsman conducted a huge, in-depth review of the Criminal Injury Compensation Board of Ontario which highlighted many of its failures and proposed some solutions, which may or may not have been acted upon.

 

 

February 4, 2012

emo jerk/pseudoscience bullshit/penguins/cheer up, asshole.

Filed in Uncategorized

Being an emo jerk 

For the last few weeks, I have been feeling pretty shitty for no reason at all. It sucks.  My Vancouver life is pretty good, so the feeling shitty thing is a big WTF for me.

Some douchebags say “it is the saddest time of the year” and the bad weather can be responsible.  Vancouver is certainly miserable (though it has been unusually sunny lately).  Anyway, that “3rd month of January/Blue Monday  is the MOST MISERABLE DAY of year” thing is total pseudoscience, if you didn’t assume as much already.

Failing any motivation to test other hypotheses because I am oh-so depressed or something, I have decided to just cheer the fuck up.  

Because I can.  Because at another time in my life I would not have been able to do that, and I think it’s pretty cool that I am not the me who was once hiding inside a cave of PTSD and drug addiction as a younger adult.

Here are some things that can help cheer you up:

  • Watching videos of penguins on YouTube

  • Getting some bullshit exercise.  SRS.  It works.  I bought a treadmill last week (aka the “Hamster Wheel” as per my boyfriend).  Ok. They are not cheap, but there are other ways to get exercise if you don’t have the cash to drop.   Also, fuck those dudeboxes at the store who stare all like “OMG SOME FATASS IS BUYING EXERCISE EQUIPMENT LOLOLOL” cause there is nothing lame about looking after your health (OK. 19 year old me just came over here and punched me for being a dork).  But the exercise feels good, and if you are like me and often holed up inside for days working on school stuff and feel as though you can’t get out to do anything, taking a run on the Hamster Wheel is pretty sweet.
  • Watch additional penguin videos

  • eat unhealthy food and then go back on the Hamster Wheel?

 

OK . I am out of ideas.  I guess I will watch more penguin videos.

January 30, 2012

B.C. Snowboarding for accident prone Ontarians who are afraid of heights

Filed in Uncategorized

Ever since I moved to Vancouver in September, 2006, I have had a slight interest in trying out snowboarding on one of the many mountains in the general vicinity. There are a couple of problems:
1) I am afraid of heights
2) I am extremely accident prone (more on this in a moment!)
3) I am from Toronto. My concept of impressive topography is this hill, which I think has a fairly gentle incline:

Skiing/snowboarding never came to fruition for logistical reasons…. UNTIL NOW.

So I guess it is ok if I get injured while snowboarding, but there are a few caveats:

  • The injury cannot result in full or partial paralysis
  • Bones must not be located in my arms/hands, because I need them to write and type for school
  • In the event that I absolutely MUST break an arm, I will require the service of a scribe  who will not get paid, but will subsequently come out of the experience moderately educated in sociological concepts which can be applied to every day life (pretend I am not joking.  I will need a scribe really badly, but have limited funds).

 

Anyway, I have had bad luck with stupid injuries.

Like the time I broke my arm when I was 11:

Sorry about the watermark, guys.

How did I do this? Actually, I did not do this.  My little brother did this.  We were playing “box head tag”.  It’s like hide-and-go-seek, except the person who is “it” has a box on his or her head, meaning your hiding spot can be less inconspicuous.  My brother was “it” and I was hiding on top of a major home appliance in the unfinished laundry room.  “It”, while searching around the room with a box on his head, pushed me off the appliance.  I broke my fall on the cement floor with my arm/wrist.  The above X-Ray is from AFTER it had been yanked around several times and “set” as best it had been, so I think it actually initially looked gnarlier than this.

The hospital let me buy a copy of the X-Ray for $20!  I certainly did.

Other failures

– the previous year I dislocated my knee cap after getting into a bike/car crash.  I was riding a bike with an ice cream sandwich in my hand.  I realized I could not use the handbar breaks without getting ice cream sandwich all over the handlebars of the bike I had borrowed from my friend.  I did not want to be a bad friend, so I did not use the breaks.  This resulted in a crash.  It’s okay; the bike was unscathed.

– The year after the arm-breaking, I went skiing on a bunny hill at Horseshoe Valley in Ontario.  This is skiing for Ontarians, so it is pretty small potatoes or whatever. YES I TORE SOME LIGAMENTS AFTER WIPING OUT ON THE BUNNY HILL. IN ONTARIO.  It’s okay; the skis were unscathed, I think?

-5 years ago here in Vancouver, I managed to get dropped on a milk crate.  That required 15 stitches to the head.   IT’S OK; the milk crate was unscathed.

-plenty of other injuries that did not require visits to the emergency room for surgery, stitches or crutches!

January 28, 2012

RETRO LEORA WORDS: There was a time with life was simple; I was a block of cheddar.

Filed in Uncategorized

I found the following. It is an old blog entry from 5 years ago when I had just started going to university and was majoring in English. My failed attempt at being Kafkaesque is at least somewhat existential, I guess.

“Here is the super short story I wrote for a different class where we had to write a story inspired by “The Metamorphosis”.

When I woke up from a terrible dream, I found I was a giant block of cheese. The first thing that crossed my mind when I realized that I was a giant block of cheese was that if someone didn’t find me soon and put me in a fridge, I would surely die. The second thing that crossed my mind was that giant blocks of cheese are inanimate, so I had no way of alerting anybody about what had happened to me. I was surely going to die in my bed. My final legacy was that I had amounted to nothing more than a basic dietary need, and barely at that, because some people don’t even like cheese.

A day passed and still nobody had seemed to notice that I hadn’t left my bedroom. Everyone probably assumed that I had left for school early in the morning before they woke up, and arrived home late at night. I was starting to get uncomfortable and smell like rotten cheese; I could tell that it was disturbing my pet rabbit.

Finally, two days later, my roommate came into my room looking for a lighter, but it was too late. All that remained of me was a pile of spoiled cheddar cheese dressed in pajamas.

There was nothing else that my poor roommates could do but dispose of my dairy carcass and put an ad in the classifieds for a new roommate….

THE END”

January 27, 2012

Real-life reenactment of the Contra Code & No Facebook

Filed in Uncategorized

I deactivated my Facebook account two days ago because I realized my use of it was resulting in hours of procrastination. For example:

– 1 + hour bus ride to and from UBC each day; instead of reading, I would use Facebook on my phone

– get home from school and spend an hour bumming around on the internet

– 2 hour break between classes?Why… how about I waste time on Facebook and chat with my friends?

So that needed to stop, and I am only so disciplined, so I just deactivated my account altogether.

So far I am enjoying not having Facebook; those three examples of time-wasting did not occur yesterday and I was way more productive.

HOWEVER.  Just because I don’t have Facebook does not mean I am not going to find silly things on the internet and post them on occasion.

 

Like this, a real-life reenactment of the Konami Code (aka Contra Code) which is rather charming.

 

 

November 6, 2011

In the meantime

Filed in Uncategorized

Oh hey. I cleared house. All old entries are now gone, and the stuff below is just crap from my barely-used Tumblr that I have imported. I don’t think this blog will be particularly tumblr-y, but it’s now to said seldom-used account, so the occasional stupid picture might pop up.

Stay tuned?

July 28, 2011

I wanted to post a picture of Kermit the Frog on my mom’s Facebook…

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I wanted to post a picture of Kermit the Frog on my mom’s Facebook, but Facebook wouldn't let me’

June 20, 2011

I made my friend a cake that looks like nachos for his birthday. 

Filed in Uncategorized

It met an early demise

April 17, 2011

tomasdelbalso: the real hunt- the hunters have become the hunted

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tomasdelbalso: the real hunt- the hunters have become the hunted

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April 14, 2011

Party party!

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supninja: fuckyeahdementia: Party party!

March 27, 2011

Freestyling in the boudoir

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At my house. East Vancouver special.

November 27, 2010

Being too rational about accepting gifts

Filed in Uncategorized

My mom just came back from Paris and has €60 leftover.  I am going to be in Vienna next month, so she generously offered to mail her remaining money across Canada to me.

While [I think] most people would gladly accept such a gift, I didn’t feel like it was necessarily in my mom’s best interest to send me the money.  Apparently I am wack.  So I wrote to my mom:

“if the value of the amount of time it takes to go to the bank and exchange it + any exchange rate fees exceeds $75.00 + the cost of a stamp, envelope, and card/object to conceal the bills + the value of your time to organize said items and go to the mailbox, then I will rationally and happily accept your generous gift!”

November 11, 2010

Freudian typos?

Filed in Uncategorized

“Earth’s EATMOSPHERE”.

I am not sure how I managed that one, but I refused to change the mistake.