Saturday, August 11, 2018

Unwanted "healing"

A couple of years ago, my brain started doing that old-lady thing of accidentally calling people by the wrong name.

One of the most unexpected after-effects of my head injury was that my brain stopped doing this.  I can't explain why, it just...didn't happen. For months and months and months.

I'm sad to report that that's over.  In the past few weeks, the wrong name has been coming out of my mouth with pre-head-injury frequency.

I really could have done without that bit of "recovery"! Why couldn't that part of my brain stay "injured", and my vision bounce back instead??

Monday, August 06, 2018

Civic Holiday should be Emancipation Day

I'm 37 years old, I've lived in Ontario my entire life, and it's only this year that I learned a) August 1 is Emancipation Day, b) Caribana is a celebration of emancipation, and c) John Graves Simcoe, after whom Simcoe Day is named (Civic Holiday technically being called Simcoe Day), was instrumental in abolishing slavery in Canada.

This information has always been available, it just never reached me.  In my life some people have been pedantic about calling Civic Holiday "Simcoe Day", but I was like "Yeah, yeah, yeah, another politician from history, whatever", and didn't bother to actually look at his legacy.  And with Caribana, I was like "Yeah, yeah, yeah, cultural tradition, whatever", without bothering to look into its origin and meaning because it isn't for or about me.  I never even realized that they're related and that the backstory is of interest!

This needs to be made more glaringly obvious.  Because the end of slavery is definitely worth celebrating and being celebrated by everyone, and not everyone knows that this is what is being celebrated.

Solution: rather than calling the Civic Holiday "Simcoe Day", we should name it "Emancipation Day".  It can either be celebrated in August 1 or on the first Monday of the month - people more knowledgeable of the nuances can make this decision.

But they should put Emancipation Day right out front, printed on our calendars on the day people get off work, so even clueless idiots like me will notice what it's marking!

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Things They Should Invent: legally binding #StealThisIdea

TV writers on Twitter keep telling people not to tweet show ideas at them.  Apparently if you tweet an idea at them, they're not allowed to use it for legal reasons, and that could mess things up if they already have an episode using that idea in the pipeline.

As a person who has a lot of ideas but isn't equipped to actually execute them, I find that disheartening. I would be thrilled and delighted to see any of my ideas (for television episodes or otherwise) actually brought to life.

They should invent some legally-binding way of marking ideas you post on the internet as being freely stealable, so the people who can make them happen can make them happen. (BTW, that is the intention behind my Things They Should Invent, Free Ideas, and Research Ideas blog categories. Take it, implement it, and I'll be thrilled)

And, of course, if you don't want people stealing your ideas, you can just not mark them as such.

The #StealThisIdea hashtag seems to exist, and would do the job nicely.

Unfortunately, like all my ideas, I have no idea who can actually make this happen. But if they do stumble upon this post, I hereby formally authorize them to steal this idea.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Things They Should Study (or publicize, if they've already studied it): to what extent do social programs make life easier for employers?

I am truly terrible at washing my windows.  Every time I wash them, they end up covered in streaks - basically I'm just rearranging the streaks a couple of times a year.

I've considered on and off hiring someone to wash my windows, but I have no idea how to hire someone good. I'd be happy to pay well for completely streak-free windows, but if they're just going to rearrange the streaks, that isn't worth anything to me - I can do that myself.

The problem, of course, is that all window-washers and any number of random odd-job people are incentivized to say "Of course I can give you streak-free windows!"  They need money.  They need to hustle.  Conventional wisdom is that you should apply for jobs even if you aren't confident you can do them.

But this makes it much harder to find someone who actually is good - especially if, like me, you're unaccustomed to hiring people - so I end up hiring no one.

I have heard small business owners make similar complaints - they're often in the market for skilled, competent help before they're in a position to put resources into long-term development, but, because they don't have much experience with hiring, they have trouble finding/identifying people who actually are skilled and competent in and among all the gumption/desperation applicants, so they often end up not hiring at all.

In the shower the other day, it occurred to me that basic income might improve this situation.  An effective basic income program would eliminate the desperation factor, so employer and prospective employee could have a straightforward conversation about their needs and abilities.

So I could say "What I really want is completely streakless windows. A cleaning job that results in streaks has no value to me. Are you able to guarantee streaklessness?"

And my prospective window cleaner would have the leeway to say "You know, I don't think I can do a job that could make you happy." Or to quote me a ridiculously high price since I'm so needy and demanding, which I can then accept or reject depending on what it's worth to me.

And my prospective window cleaner would be far less likely to be a person who's bad at cleaning windows, because people who are bad at cleaning windows aren't going to be going around looking for window cleaning jobs.

I did one brief, cursory google and couldn't find much on how basic income interacts with the hiring experience from an employer's point of view.  So I started looking into the logistics of Ontario's basic income pilot, to see whether it could produce relevant results . . . and, that very day, the government cancelled the basic income pilot.


In recent discussions of introducing pharmacare, I was surprised to see the idea raised of pharmacare covering people who don't already have a drug plan through work.

That seems like an administrative nightmare. (How will the government know who does and doesn't have drug coverage through work?  Will pharmacare cover my the large co-pay in my workplace plan? Do we have to worry about coverage gaps if we lose our job?)

But it also seems like it would be a lot more convenient for employers if pharmacare were universal.  Employers wouldn't have to administer or pay for drug plans any more. Employers who don't provide drug plans wouldn't lose quality employees who can pick and choose to other employers with better benefits. And employers who already provide good benefits would immediately realize significant savings by not having to do so any more.


When they were talking about creating an Ontario pension plan, they were also talking about having it apply only to people who don't have pensions through work.

Again, it seems like it would be far more convenient for employers if the public pension plan covered everyone, for exactly the same reasons. It would save employers the trouble of administering a pension plan, employers who are unable to provide a pension plan wouldn't lose out on quality talent, and employers who already provide a pension plan would immediately realize significant savings by not having to do so any more.


Discourse about social programs tends to focus on what it can do for regular people, which is, of course, where the focus in planning and delivering social programs should be. 

However, I've noticed a strong correlation between people who are opposed to social programs and people whose roles involve hiring.  I also remember seeing things from time to time where organizations representing small businesses object to the fact that government employees receive benefits, presumably because their tax dollars are supporting providing benefits that they can't offer their own employees.

It would be useful to have the data to quantify how social programs can make life easier for employers, in addition to making life easier for ordinary people.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Books read in July 2018


1. Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell
2. Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
3. Life Among the Qallunaat by Mini Aodla Freeman
4. My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling


1. Concealed in Death

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Do culture that value biological paternity produce more people who don't want children?

Today's post was inspired by this Scandinavia and the World comic:

The post under the comic:
Something that was deeply offensive to most of the cultures the Vikings encountered was that Vikings didn't worry too much about fidelity, even the women could shag around, and their husbands happily accepted the children as their own even if they knew they weren't the father.

The reason was quite simple. Keeping a child alive was difficult back then so any child that survived was a miracle, and people wanted big families, so if your wife had a child it was your right as the husband to keep it. The other loser could mob around with one child less to his name.

(Some of the commenters suggest that this might not be historically accurate, but that's not relevant to what I'm blogging about today.)

Reading this comic, I found myself wondering if living in a culture that values biological paternity increases the likelihood that people will realize they don't want children of their own.

How I arrived at this idea:

Every adult around me growing up would have said, with absolute certainty, that having children is a blessing and a gift and a wonderful thing.

And every adult around me growing up would have said, with absolute certainty, that's it would be a horrific burden and the epitome of injustice for a man to end up raising another man's biological child.

Not so much of a blessing and a gift and a wonderful thing, that.

I think (although I can't be certain) my first exposure to the idea of children being work/a burden (as opposed to simply being baseline human reality) had something to do with this idea of raising another man's biological child being the epitome of injustice.  I can't remember the details - it was probably something I absorbed from adults having adult conversation around me - but reading the comic stirred in me the forgotten knowledge that the two are inexorably linked in my mind.

I wonder: if I had never been exposed to the idea that raising another man's biological child is an injustice, and therefore to the idea that a child can be an undue burden, would I have entered the thought process that led me to realize I'm childfree?  I think I'd probably still be childfree - essentially, I don't want children because I don't want actual human beings with thoughts and feelings and human rights that I need to keep forever - but I don't know if I'd ever consciously realize it.  I might have been stuck on "Aww, babies are cute and funny and interesting!" and had children (or aspired to have children) on that basis.

I don't know if this could be studied - you'd need a population that thinks children are a gift regardless of biology and have access to reliable family planning and whose family planing intentions can be known (i.e. they have to be living or have a very robust and thorough diary culture, they'd have to be willing to speak honestly to researchers, etc.)  And then, I'm sure, you'd need other comparable populations who don't think children are a gift regardless of biology but are comparable in every other respect, in order to control for variables that I can't even imagine.  And then there's the question of which is cause and which is effect: do people see raising non-biological children as a burden because they value biological paternity?  Or do they value biological paternity because they see raising children in general as a burden, so if the kid doesn't even have your genes why bother?

But it would be super interesting to study if it could be done!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Tax dollars vs. library books: a personal cost-benefit analysis

The City of Toronto's 2017 tax-supported operating budget was $10.5 billion.

The Toronto Public Library's 2017 operating budget was $178.763 million.

$178.763 million / $10.5 billion = 00.0170250476

This means the library's budget is approximately 1.7% of the City's budget.

Therefore, 1.7% of my municipal tax dollars go to the library.

My 2017 property tax levy was $2618.47.

$2618.47 * 0.017 = 44.51399

Therefore, in 2017 I paid just over $44 in taxes to support the library.

 In 2017, I read a total of 55 books from the library.

44 / 55 = 0.8

Therefore, I paid $0.80 per book I read.

In comparison, Amazon's Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 a month, which is $119.88 a year.  The cheapest book on their ebooks "deals" page is $0.99, and the cheapest book on their print "deals" page is $3.90.

So what was my return on investment? 

According to the Ontario Media Development Corporation (the first google result with relevant information), the average list price in 2016 was $19.12 and $12.86 respectively for trade and mass market paperbacks.

55 * $12.86 = $707.30

55 * $19.12 = $1051.60

Therefore, extrapolating from these averages, I got between $707.30 and $1051.60 in value from my $44 investment.

That's a return on investment of between 1607.5% and 2390%.


1. I also use the library for other things, but I can't figure out how to quantify them and don't have any record of frequency.

2. Since I started working from home, I've been reading less (about 50 pages less a day, since I'm no longer commuting and having a clearly delineated lunch break) and using the library for wifi/third place less (since I'm almost always at or very close to home). People whose patterns are more similar to my going-to-the-office patterns would get better value for money than I calculated.

3. I don't know which of the books I read were trade paperbacks and which were mass market paperbacks. Some of them were hardcover, which tend to be more expensive and therefore make my library use even better value for money than I calculated. Someone more ambitious than I could look up the actual prices of all the books I read in 2017 in the print format in which they were available in the month I read them.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

What do you think of the body text colour?

I tweaked the body text of my blog in an attempt to make it more readable.  I'm not sure if I've succeeded.

This is the place to share any thoughts on the matter.

Friday, July 20, 2018

So it turns out I'm not an alcoholic

You aren't supposed to drink when you have a head injury. I didn't have any bottles in the house the day I hit my head, so it was a simple matter to just not go to the LCBO.

Some time passed, with my brain doing a variety of strange things, most of which were extremely temporary (i.e. one day of weirdness), the stickiest of which was vision issues, and none of which were cognitive issues or balance issue or anything that could be exacerbated by alcohol.

But I never got around to going to the LCBO, so I continued not drinking.

After some time, I noticed it was taking significantly longer to fall asleep each night, and I wondered if that was because of the absence of alcohol.  I thought I should go to the LCBO, get just one small bottle, and have just one standard drink under controlled conditions, for science.

But I never got around to it, so I continued not drinking.

The sleep situation stabilized. I started vision therapy. I scaled back and eventually completely eliminated my system of rest breaks.  I spent more days not crying than crying. I started working on waking up to an alarm again (with mixed results).

And I still never got around to going to the LCBO.

It's been five months since I had any alcohol.  It has occurred to me on and off that I should have a drink at home under controlled conditions so I can see how my body reacts, and I just keep...not getting around to it.

In the past, people have expressed concern about my drinking because I like drinking.  People have expressed concern about drinking because I drink alone rather than going out or inviting people over every single time I fancy a drink.  People have expressed concern about my drinking because people have expressed concern about my drinking.

But I'm pretty sure alcoholics don't just...not get around to buying more alcohol, especially when they have already arrived at the conclusion that they should drink alcohol for science.


Normally when people talk about not drinking for a period of time, they talk about how they feel better and don't miss it.

I don't feel better for not drinking.  I don't feel worse, but I don't feel better either.  I haven't lost weight.  I don't feel like I've saved money.  I don't feel in any way healthier.  Basically everything feels exactly the same, except for the residual symptoms of my head injury.

It wouldn't be fair to say I don't miss it either. Whenever I see a mention of someone drinking wine in something I'm reading, I think "Ooh, a glass of wine would be nice!" I kind of miss the feeling of  fun-twirling-around tipsy, but I'm so wary of falling now that I wouldn't risk that anyway.  At the same time, I don't really feel deprived, because it isn't something I can't do or shouldn't do.  It's just another thing I'm procrastinating, and I can stop procrastinating whenever I want.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Let's talk about sex (in 1998), baby!

In the wake of the Ontario government's shameful decision to revert to the 1998 sex ed curriculum, many people have already commented on the deficiencies in that 20-year-old curriculum. It doesn't reflect the existence or needs of gender and sexual minorities, it doesn't talk about consent, it was written when many people had only dial-up internet (if they had home internet at all).

But even if you didn't care about all those things, the fact of the matter is that medical knowledge has evolved. For example:
  • The HPV vaccine did not yet exist.  (I myself either hadn't heard of or had forgotten about HPV, despite my sex education having covered every other STD that my adult self has heard of. I can't tell you whether this is a result of the state of medical science or the state of the curriculum.)
  • PrEP did not yet exist. (I don't know any more details about how HIV treatment has evolved since then, but I'm sure there's lots of other relevant and important stuff in there.)
  • Essure did not yet exist. The only available method of female sterilization was tubal ligation, which is an abdominal surgery and therefore far more drastic.
  • Nuvaring and contraceptive patches had not yet been invented. 
  • Norplant existed, but many of the issues that led to its subsequent reduced availability/withdrawal from the market had not yet come to light.
  • The morning after pill had not yet been approved for use in Canada
  • Medical abortion was not yet available in Canada (I don't know whether or not it existed.)
  • I don't know if home ovulation tests existed, but I didn't hear about them until well into the 21st century.
  • I don't know if puberty blockers existed, but I only heard of them in the past few years.
  • We were nearly a decade away from the first male pregnancy.
And that's just what I can think of off the top of my head, in my capacity as someone who isn't a medical professional and whose sexual health needs would have been served perfectly well with 1998 medical knowledge.  I'm sure there's tons more!

Everyone would be appalled if 20-year-old Geography or Physics or Computer Science were being taught in schools, because the subject matter has evolved.

Everyone would be appalled if they were given cancer treatment or antibiotics or a weight-loss regime that didn't take into account the last 20 years of medical developments.

If nothing else, everyone should be appalled that they're deliberately reverting to a curriculum in which some technical information is obsolete.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What if Star Trek: Discovery could desexualize the miniskirt uniform?

I recently saw an article saying that Star Trek: Discovery should use unisex miniskirt uniforms.  The article quoted Nichelle Nichols:
“The show was created in the age of the miniskirt, and the crew women’s uniforms were very comfortable. Contrary to what many may think today, no one really saw it as demeaning back then. In fact, the miniskirt was a symbol of sexual liberation. More to the point, though, in the twenty-third century, you are respected for your abilities regardless of what you do or do not wear.”
I absolutely agree that, when Discovery inevitably runs up against the original series uniforms (which, being set about 10 years before TOS, it will if it has a full run), it should present the miniskirt uniforms as unisex/gender-neutral, like TNG briefly did before it phased them out entirely. 

But what if, in addition to making the miniskirts gender-neutral, Star Trek: Discovery could make them non-sexy?

Imagine if the most prominent occurrence of the miniskirt uniform was a person whom modern television costuming standards would not normally put in a miniskirt. Someone whose legs are hairier than average.  Someone whose thighs rub together below the hemline of the skirt.  Someone noticeably older than the rest of the cast.

For example, maybe 10% of the background cast is in miniskirts (at least 50% of whom are male), and maybe one or two characters who have "Aye, Captain" sort of lines are seen wearing miniskirts in one or two brief scenes.  And then the most prominent instance of a miniskirt is on a stout, battle-hardened octogenarian admiral, with a reputation for being a brilliant military tactician as well as a bit of a hardass (like Captain Jellico), who is called in for some particularly dire crisis where particular bravery, heroics and expertise are required. And throughout, the camerawork is done exactly the same way it would be if everyone is wearing pants, neither lingering on nor ignoring any particular character's legs.

From a production perspective, this would be difficult to carry off well.  First of all, every actor deserves the dignity of flattering, thoughtful costuming, and non-sexy miniskirts would not be perceived as flattering.  Secondly, there's a history of putting revealing female-coded clothing on performers who aren't women who meet the narrow Hollywood definition of sexy and presenting it as comedic. ("HA HA HA! Look at that dude's hairy man-legs in that miniskirt!")  It would be absolutely essential to avoid inadvertently doing this, and I don't know whether they could avoid having the less-savoury parts of the audience interpret the scene that way.

But if they could carry it off, it would disarm the unfortunate connotations of the miniskirt uniform and reclaim its original empowering intention s in a way that's consistent with woke Star Trek: Discovery values and with Federation values.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

What if construction workers weren't even allowed on construction sites during quiet hours?

The most frustrating thing about all the construction near me is the frequency with which they wake me up by starting work early. City of Toronto noise bylaws state that construction can't start before 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays, but all too often they're out there making noise before that.

The thing is, I think that most of the time when they're making noise too early, they think they're not working yet.  I think they think they're just getting ready to work.

The noise that wakes me up is stuff like gates opening, trucks being backed up, the external elevator operating, and equipment being moved into position (note to construction sites: moving dumpsters around is the single loudest thing you do!).

Then, at 7 on the dot, the noise picks up - big loud whirring machines spring into action, millions of people start hitting things with millions of hammers, etc.  As though they were waiting until 7 to start all this stuff, as though they thought the stuff they were doing before 7 didn't count.

But, nevertheless, the stuff they were doing before 7 still woke me up.

Idea: what if construction workers weren't even allowed on the construction sites before 7? That way they couldn't possibly make noise to wake people up, regardless of whether they think they're working or not.

It would also be easier for by-law officers to enforce (if we ever get by-law officers working outside of business hours - and I'm strongly confident that such an initiative would pay for itself in fines collected if they patrolled the Yonge and Eglinton area between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.) because if there is any activity or worker presence whatsoever before 7 a.m., that's a violation.  Gate open? Trucks present? Violation.  No debating whether work is being done or not, instead it's a hard and fast "yes or no" question.

On top of that, it would make life easier for workers by disincentivizing the employer from requiring them to report to work obscenely early.  The earliest I was ever woken up by construction was 5:36 a.m. - and this was in the middle of winter!  Imagine how early they had to wake up on a cold winter's morning to get to the construction site in time to wake me up that early!  But if the construction company got fined for workers being on the site early, the employer wouldn't make them come so early, and would in fact order them to "sleep in" another hour and a half so they aren't there before 7.

Monday, July 02, 2018

A new colour

A common thought experiment is "imagine a new colour", i.e. a colour that no one has ever seen before.

But that must have been a thing that has happened in human history.

On an individual level, there's the fact that there's a first time for every life experience, including the first time you see each colour.  If there isn't any orange within your immediate field of vision when you're born, you will one day see orange for the first time.  You probably won't realize that you're seeing a new colour, because you're experiencing all kinds of new weirdness, like eating and peeing and breathing and air and light, but the fact is you did, at some point, see orange for the first time.

But it might also have happened on a societal level. Within the full scope of human history, people have lived (and still do live) in some pretty desolate environments. In the past, where people didn't travel very long distances and didn't have access to dyes, maybe there have been societies living in the Arctic or the Sahara who went years without seeing a particular colour, because it simply wasn't present in their environment.

Then, one day, someone goes on a journey, sees a new flower, and OMG, what is that colour???

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The voice in your head vs. the voice outside your head

The first time I ever heard a recording of my voice, I was completely weirded out. My voice sounds nothing like it does in my head!  (And everything about it is gross, but that's a whole nother story.)

Many, if not most, if not all people feel that way about hearing recordings of their voice.  It just sounds so different!  (I wonder if anyone thinks their recorded voice sounds better than the voice in their head?)

This is why I'm surprised that vocal impersonations/impressions are a thing.  We sound so different outside our heads that I'm surprised anyone can even do a vocal impersonation that is recognizable to anyone outside their head.

Or do they record themselves, see what their attempt sounds like, and adjust accordingly?  Then you'd have to remember what an accurate impression sounds like inside your head.

I wonder if they eventually develop the ability to determine "If I sound this way inside my head, I must sound exactly like Famous Person to others."

Or do people who can do accurate vocal impressions sound the same both inside and outside their head?

I wonder if vocal impersonations existed before recording technology?  I wonder if they were less accurate/recognizable than they are now? 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Books read in June 2018


1. Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick by Maya Dusenbery
2. Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany by Frederick Taylor


1. Thankless in Death
2. Taken in Death

A story for Pride month

When Fairy Goddaughter was about to turn 5, her parents mentioned to me that they wanted to introduce her to social issues (but hadn't gotten as far as deciding which issues).
So when I was buying her 5th birthday present, I took this vague instruction to Mabel's Fables, where the awesome employees cheerfully recommended a wide range of age-appropriate books on a wide range of social issues, some of which had LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes.

Which, of course, is completely unremarkable in 2016 (the year this story takes place).

Which, in turn, is awesome!

Within my lifetime, children's books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters have been non-existent, and, once they came into existence, have been radical.  Now they're just sitting there on the shelf unremarkably.

On top of that, I'm an unmarried, childless adult buying books for someone else's child.  (All of which the employees knew or could conclude - the fact that it's someone else's child came up in conversation, the fact that I'm childless is apparent from the way I talk about kids, and the fact that I'm unmarried is extrapolable from my lack of rings.)

Within my lifetime, it would have been seen as questionable for an unmarried, childless adult to buy books with LGBTQ+ themes for someone else's child (especially with the child being the same sex as the unmarried, childless adult).  But now, it's just one among many valid options.

And on top of that, I don't come across as woke at all! (Even less so in person than online.)  I'm an conservatively-dressed white woman of below-average coolness, with my chronological age and rejection of current trends combining to make me come across as middle-aged to people who for whom leggings have been a valid fashion choice their entire adult life.

Within my lifetime, there have been periods of time where LGBTQ+ themes were safe among woke people, but it isn't safe to assume the frumpy middle-aged white lady won't get all offended and complain to the manager and start a boycott of your business.  But now, we're in a place where the baseline assumption is that even non-woke frumpy middle-aged ladies will see LGBTQ+ themes as benign.

My teenage self could not have imagined a context where an innocent shopping trip for a 5th birthday present leads to a recommendation of LGBTQ+ books, and this is seen as benign and unremarkable by all parties.

For my 30-something self, it was so benign and unremarkable that it went unnoticed in the moment, as I admired the age-appropriate descriptiveness of the refugee experience in one book, and then squeed over the idea of introducing Fairy Goddaughter to another book that was an old childhood favourite.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

The logistics of being rich

When you go through customs, they ask you if you packed your baggage yourself.

But very rich people probably don't - they probably have their personal assistant or whatever pack their bags.

So how does that conversation go?  "No, of course I didn't back my own bags - I had my assistant do it."  Then what happens?  Do they need to question the assistant?  What if the assistant isn't there?

Rich people also probably don't wait on hold - they have their assistant call the cable company. But often when I make these kinds of phone calls, they verify my identity.  So how does that work?  Does the assistant pretend to be their employer?  Does the employer have the assistant added to their account? Do they have to change a whole bunch of accounts every time they get a new assistant?

When I make an appointment, I have all kinds of preferences.  Ideally after 4:30, although I might be able to do earlier if necessary. Afternoons are better than mornings. Thursdays are worse than other days, although not completely out of the question.  Certain medical appointments need to take place at certain points in my menstrual cycle. Certain beauty appointments need to be timed vis-à-vis other beauty appointments and a certain amount of time before the event in question.

Rich people don't make their own appointments, they have their assistant do it.  So does the rich person have this big complex conversation about their preferences with the assistant, and then the assistant has to write all this down and convey it in making the appointment?  Or does the assistant just stick the appointment in wherever the rich person has an opening on their calendar, and their preferences don't get taken into account?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Things They Should Invent: replace emergency room waiting rooms with beds

I previously came up with the idea that emergency room waiting rooms should be sleepable.

After having been to the emergency room myself recently, I have a better idea: there should be no waiting room whatsoever, and patients should do all their waiting in beds.

You show up at the emergency room, get triaged, and then are put directly in a bed.  Not necessarily admitted to the hospital (in the sense of expected to stay overnight), but, unless medically contraindicated, every patient goes straight into a bed.

Ideally each bed should be in a private room, but that would require extensive renovations, so in the interim wards are fine. At a minimum, each bed should have privacy curtains around it, a chair for a support person, and somewhere for patients to put their shoes, coat and purse once they get into bed. It should be dark behind the curtains by default, but there should be a light the patient can turn on.

Patients wait for medical treatment in this bed.  Whenever possible, the medical professionals come to the patient and do stuff like physical exams and taking blood at the patient's bed, although the patient may be taken elsewhere if particular non-portable equipment is needed.

This way, patients can sleep if they are capable of doing so, and rest comfortably in any number of seated or recumbent positions or anything in between. Patients also have privacy from other patients, and probably less exposure to other patients' germs.

Being in a hospital bed would also make the patients more, well, patient (sorry!) with the situation, because they'd feel more like they're getting care. If you're admitted to a hospital, you're put in a bed and lie there resting, with medical professionals occasionally coming in to check on you.  Waiting in a bed would feel exactly like that, whereas waiting in a chair just feels like waiting.

If I had been put in a bed when I went to the hospital with my head injury, I would have spent those six hours lying in the dark with my eyes closed - as is recommended for concussion patients! Children with fevers or flu symptoms could sleep if they are able while their worried parents wait for them to get checked out. And all manner of patients whose symptoms come on at night wouldn't have to choose between seeking medical care and getting a full night's sleep.

Q: What about patients for whom sleeping or lying down is medically contraindicated?
A: They could continue to do whatever it is they do now. But that's no reason not to make things better for the many patients for whom sleeping or lying down is neutral or beneficial.

Q: Wouldn't this cost money?
A: Probably. And it would make things better. That's what money is for.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Things They Should Invent: paper shredders with multiple plastic bags

Some recycling providers want you to put shredded paper in plastic bags.

Special plastic bags are in fact manufactured for this purpose, designed to fit neatly into the bin of a paper shredder.

But this is a security problem.  If you shred a document into a plastic bag, all the pieces of that document are conveniently grouped together in the same bag, whereas if you dump loose shredded paper into the recycle bin the pieces all intermingle with the other recycling (including other shredded paper).  If someone wanted to reassemble the shredded document, surely it would be far easier if all the pieces were in the same bag!

But what if there were multiple bags in the same shredder? For the sake of argument, let's say there's three bags.  The left side of the document goes into one bag, the middle of the document goes into the second bag, and the right side of the document goes into the third bag.

At first glance, this sounds even worse for security - now you have an approximate idea of where on the page the various pieces belong!

But I think it would improve security in a building with multiple shredder.

For example, let's suppose we have an office building with 10 offices, each of which has one shredder, each of which produces one shredder bin of shredded paper per recycling pick-up period.

With one bag in each shredder, you have 10 bags of shredded paper in the building's recycling bin.  If you can locate the bag containing the document you're looking for, all the parts of that document are there. If you're looking for all shredded paper from a specific office, you find one bag and you've got it all.

But what if each of those shredders had 3 bags in it?

Now there are 30 (smaller) bags of shredded paper in the building's recycling bin.  If you can locate a bag containing part of the document you're looking for, you have to find the correct two of the remaining 29 bags to reassemble the document. If you're looking for all the shredded paper from a specific office, you have to find three of the 30 bags.

Even if you steal all the bags and start going through them, it's more time consuming to find the correct three of 30 bags than to find the one correct bag and disregard the rest.

I still think throwing loose shredded paper into the general recycling bin is best for security, specifically because it makes a mess and gets everywhere.  But if it is necessary to contain shredded paper in plastic bags, a system of multiple bags per shredder would increase security in all instances except where the bad guy is standing right there watching the shredded paper be thrown away.