Thursday, June 07, 2018


Beautiful, fresh, breezy weather.

Black, white and purple outfit, with my late grandmother's jewellery (she always emphasized how important voting is, so I bring her with me), and enormous sunglasses to hide the fact that my still-recovering eyes are puffy from overdoing it on work over the last couple of days and I didn't have time (or, frankly, inclination) to do a serious camouflaging eye makeup job.

Encountered a mindblowingly adorable Shiba Inu puppy on my way out of my building and got a good petting in, but that was the only dog I saw before I voted. (Got some sniffs and smiles from various good dogs on my way back home - not sure if those count.)

No line at the polling station. Three people in front of me at the table for my specific poll (howdy, neighbours!). Eccentric surprisingly-young old woman (looked younger than my parents but acted senile) loudly trying to engage an Elections Ontario worker in a political debate over whom she should vote for, while the election worker remained scrupulously nonpartisan.

Put an X in a box with a sharpie, and then it was scanned by a machine. Not a fan of that system. I like hand-counted paper ballots, and putting my folded ballot in the box with a jaunty tap.

Walked out of the polling station 10 minutes after I walked out of my apartment door. Smooth and effortless.

Let's hope for a government that lets everything equally be smooth and effortless for the next four years.

Voters' Resources (Ontario 2018 edition)

This is a postdated post and will be at the top of my blog until Election Day. If Election Day has not yet passed, there might be new posts underneath.

Getting Started

Election Day is June 7!

First, go to the Elections Ontario Voter Information Service to find your voting locations and candidates. Elections Ontario e-Registration can apparently check if you're on the voters' list. (It says I'm on the list but I haven't gotten a Voter Information Card yet, so I can't yet vouch for its efficacity.

Here is the ID you need to vote.

On Election Day, your employer is legally required to ensure that you have three consecutive hours during polling hours during which you are not schedule to work. (Election Act, subsection 6.(3)). This means that if your voting hours are 9 am - 9 pm and you work 11 am - 7 pm, you employer is required to allow to you either come in at noon or leave at 6 pm.  However, if you work 9 am - 6 pm, there are still three free polling hours after the end of your workday.


The platforms:


There's also the CBC Vote Compass, which asks you about your positions on various issues and shows you which parties' positions are closest to yours. I wouldn't trust it blindly, since it said one party's platform was closer to my positions but put me physically closer to another party on the chart, but it's useful as a starting point, for identifying which parties' positions on which issues might not be what you expected and therefore merit a closer look.

Strategy and Predictions

My "How to Vote"
My "Where to Vote
My "How to Vote Strategically"

Riding-by-riding predictions:

- The Election Prediction Project is crowdsourced riding-by-riding predictions
- LISPOP has poll-based riding-by-riding winner predictions, but doesn't give a breakdown by party
- Too Close to Call regularly updates their blog with their latest riding-by-riding projections (including the breakdown by party) and has a simulator into which you can input your own (real or hypothetical) poll data.
- Calculated Politics also has riding-by-riding projections with a breakdown by party.


This post was last updated on June 3, and will be updated as needed throughout the election campaign, right up until voting day.  If there's anything you think belongs in here but hasn't be posted yet, let me know in the comments.

Why this election surprises me

1. I'm surprised how strong the "there are no good choices" narrative seems to be this election. The available choices seem to be within the same range as previous elections, but the "there are no good choices" narrative seems to be way louder.

2. I'm also surprised by the strength of the "obviously the Liberals need to be voted out" narrative.  When you think about the public reaction compared with the outgoing party's record in other elections where a party has been in power for over a decade and the voters have decided it was time for a change, it seems quite disproportionate this time around.

Basically, given the political context going in, this seemed like it should be a routine election, but we're suddenly getting this narrative that it's an Unprecedentedly Big Thing.

This kind of remind me of when Stéphane Dion was leader of the federal Liberal party.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, the media started reporting that people (regular people, not party insiders) found
Stéphane Dion unlikeable. This seemed completely out of the blue to me, so I started asking around - regular people, not politics people - and the worst thing anyone had to say about him was that he was a member of the Liberal party. (Which, call me old-fashioned, but I think that's an occupational hazard of being leader of the Liberal party.)  But somehow the generally accepted narrative became that no one likes him, and ultimately leadership of the federal Liberal party went to Michael Ignatieff.

I feel like the same thing has happened here.  A Big Dramatic Narrative has suddenly been imposed out of nowhere.  And if you had asked around before the Big Dramatic Narrative took over, responses to the same situation would have been far more measured.  "Yeah, Policy A is helpful but could have gone further, Policy Z is pretty bad, I could really go either way depending on what the other parties are doing."

In any case, good luck, Ontario! I hope we win!

Friday, June 01, 2018

How to ethically dispose of vintage pornography

From the Ethicist:
A female friend says she is planning to sell her late husband’s vintage collection of Playboy magazines, which she says are in excellent shape and worth a lot of money. Normally, this woman is a progressive feminist. Selling this “literature” would seem to run counter to ethical values in our “#MeToo” world. Am I off-base here?
A person who wanted to dispose of some vintage pornography while addressing these ethical concerns could do so by being very choosy about the buyer.  For example, they could sell them to people who plan to use them for academic research, or for an art project, or as set dressing for a movie with a historical setting. Perhaps they could even find some relevant organizations that take donations, so they aren't in the bizarre situation of posting a Craigslist ad "Playboy magazines for sale, non-lecherous inquiries only".

Of course, I understand completely if the seller doesn't want to do this. It would take time, energy and work to find a suitable recipient, and screening people to make sure they don't have lecherous intentions towards Playboy magazines could be an unpleasant interpersonal interaction.

But, nevertheless, that is how you would dispose of vintage pornography while addressing the ethical concerns raised in this letter.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Books read in May 2018


1. Dark in Death by J.D. Robb
2. A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How to make Google News RSS feeds once again work in The Old Reader

A couple of days ago, I noticed that my Google News RSS feeds in The Old Reader weren't working properly. The feed was getting served up to me, but when I clicked through to the article, it took me to the main Google News page.

It turns out this was happening because Google News automatically modifies the URL (similar to how Google search changes the URL from the actual URL of the page to a redirect starting with "" with a bunch of tracking information in it.) Something about the redirect makes it now point to the main Google News page, rather than to the article in question.

After some experimentation, I discovered that a Firefox extension called "Don't track me Google" effectively eliminates this redirect, so I can once again click on the article in The Old Reader and be sent to the actual article.

I previously had another extension for this purpose called "Google search link fix", but for some reason it wasn't effective with the latest changes to Google News.

I have no idea if this works in browsers other than Firefox, or feed readers other than The Old Reader.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Does good vision care insurance even exist?

I want to get vision therapy for my post-head-injury vision issues. It isn't covered by OHIP and apparently it's expensive, so I started looking at whether there's insurance that covers it.

(I know I probably can't swoop in, buy insurance, and instantly be covered for a pre-existing condition, but nevertheless I was interested in what's out there.)

And I could not find a single insurance plan that covers vision therapy.

I also could not find a single insurance plan that provides enough coverage for people's actual real-life glasses needs. 

All I could find is an inadequate amount for an eye exam every two years (even though optometrists recommend an annual eye exam), plus an inadequate amount for glasses, which maybe maybe maybe would cover a simple pair from the cheap rack at a chain store during a good sale, but would be nowhere near sufficient for people who need complex lenses or multiple pairs of glasses.

Is there even such thing as good vision care insurance that will cover the actual expenses that actual people incur, and maybe even extraordinary expenses for extraordinary situations like vision therapy?

I always figured that high-quality products were available somewhere out there for a price, but it seems that is not the case for vision care insurance. Is high-quality vision care insurance out there somewhere that's just outside of the awareness and google-fu of proles like me, or is there really no such thing?

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Why I'm not happy with the Weather Network latest website redesign

Weather Network 7-day forecast

The default page for each city is the 7-day forecast, shown to the right. (Click to embiggen. The long and narrow shape is the result of Firefox's awesome screenshot function, which allows you to take a screenshot of the full page, rather than just what appears on screen.)

At the top of the page are the current conditions.  That part's good - that's exactly the information I'm looking for.

However, the next thing I'm looking for is the short-range forecast, which isn't there.  There are two small boxes below the current conditions giving a brief summary of the next two 12-hour periods (labelled "Tonight" and "Tuesday" in this screenshot), but that isn't sufficient information. At a minimum, I'm also looking for humidex/windchill (labelled as "Feels like" in these screenshots) and probability of precipitation (labelled "POP" in these screenshots), but they don't have that information on the default page for the short-range forecast. They just have those stingy, inadequate summary boxes with way too wordy a description and way too little quantitative information.

I do want to see the long-range forecast on the main page as well, and it's right there in a format that makes me happy, just below the row of news videos.  But without a proper short-range forecast, there's a gap in the information provided.

Weather Network 36-hour forecast
The short-range forecast can be found on the 36-hour page, shown to the left.  (Click to embiggen).  And all the information I'm looking for is right there, in a format that makes me happy, in the table just below the row of news videos.

However, the current conditions at the top are incomplete. They  have the sky condition with the temperature and humidex, but that's it. No wind speed, humidity, air quality, UV, etc.

This is a problem, because now I have to have two tabs open to get all the information I want, especially when I have weather-sensitive outdoor plans, or in shoulder seasons where I have to make multiple decisions throughout the day about heating/air conditioning, windows open/closed, blinds open/closed to keep my home comfortable.

For example, I'm currently trying to find a good time to wash my windows.  To do this, I need to know the current temperature, humidex, wind, humidity and sunset time, all of which are in the current conditions on the main 7-day page, but not all of which are on the 36-hour page.  I also need the temperature, POP, and wind for the next couple of days, all of which are on the 36-hour page but not the main 7-day page.  So what was a simple at-a-glance task with the Weather Network's old design now requires two tabs.

The best thing the Weather Network could do to fix this is remove the two small boxes ("Tonight" and "Tuesday" in the 7-day screenshot) from the 7-day page, and remove the row of news videos. Then they should put the 36-hour chart from the 36-hour page in their place.  This would give us the same at-a-glance skimmability we had on the old website.

If it really is important to separate 7-day and 36-day, the second most useful thing the Weather Network could do is put full current conditions on the 36-day page. This would provide a single-page at-a-glance of the information that updates most frequently throughout the day, and whose updates are most immediately relevant.  (In other words, if the overnight forecast changes, that becomes relevant to me far earlier than if the forecast four days from now changes.)

If they really, really, really can't do either of those things, one very simple thing they definitely can do is put humidex/windchill information in those two inadequate short-term boxes on the 7-day page ("Tonight" and "Tuesday" in the screenshot.)  They have the information, it appears in every other place in the forecast that mentions temperature, and there's room in the boxes.  I have no clue why they chose to omit it in that one very specific location, but that would be easily remedied.

And if they want a bold, innovative option, they could let users customize their own homepage, with the forecasts and data of their choice.  This would have the additional benefit (from the Weather Network's point of view) of incentivizing users to create accounts and stay logged in.  They've been trying for ages to convince me to create an account and I haven't seen the need to, but I'd do it in an instant if that were the price of admission for all the at-a-glance information I want on one page.  The technology exists - iGoogle did it in 2005!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

How to Vote Strategically

This post is part Voters' Resources post. It, and the rest of the series, will be updated as appropriate between now and election day.

Some people vote for the party whose platform they find most suitable (the Best Party). Other people try to prevent the party whose platform they find most harmful (the Worst Party) from being elected, by voting for the party that's most likely to defeat the Worst Party (the Compromise Party). This is called strategic voting.

The most important thing about strategic voting is that your strategy has to apply to the reality in your riding. The media feeds us provincial polls for breakfast every day, but they're not directly relevant. Regardless of what the rest of the country is doing, your vote will only be used to elect your own MP. If your riding is already disinclined to elect the Worst Party, there's no point in a strategic vote - you'd just end up making the Compromise Party look more popular than they really are.

So here's what to do if your priority is stopping the Worst Party from winning:

1. Figure out: "If I don't vote, who's going to win in this particular riding?"

If the answer is a party other than the Worst Party, vote for the Best Party. If the answer is "the Worst Party" or "it's too close to tell," go on to step 2.

2. Figure out: "If I don't vote, who's most likely to defeat the Worst Party in this particular riding?"

This is your Compromise Party. Read their platform. If it's acceptable, vote for the Compromise Party. If it's not acceptable, vote for the Best Party.

Remember: ignore the provincial polls; think only about the situation in your riding!

Tools to help you figure out likely outcomes in your riding can be found in in my Voters' Resources post, under "Riding-by-riding predictions"

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Things They Should Invent: customize the user-facing appearance of Word without changing documents' appearance

As I'm dealing with vision issues resulting from my head injury, I've been contemplating whether changes to the appearance of my computer interface would make things easier for me. Perhaps a light grey or beige background rather than stark white? Perhaps a different font might be easier to read?

The problem is that, as a translator, I'm expected to deliver my translations with the same formatting and appearance as the client-provided source text.  So if I were to change the background colour or the font, I'd have to change it back before delivering the text. Since some texts have specific and complex client-provided formatting, changing it back would be time-consuming and increase the likelihood of introducing errors that would make the client unhappy.

I would really like to be able to change the appearance on my screen without changing the underlying formatting - like imposing my own style sheet upon what I see.  Web browsers have accessibility options that let you override a webpage's formatting - I'd also like to be able to do this in a Word document.

Early versions of Word (circa 1993) had the option of making the interface look like WordPerfect 5.1, which many users at the time would have been accustomed to. However, the final document wasn't grey text in whatever font that is on a blue background - the final document was text in the colour selected by the user, in the font selected by the user, on the background selected by the user.

Word could do this in 1993. So why not also do it now, so people with visual issues can work on an eye-friendly interface while creating a document that meets the graphic and/or layout standards of their employer or their client?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Where to Vote

This post is part of my community where they go to school or living at the location of a temporary summer job) are in a situation where they could legitimately vote in one of two possible ridings.  This post is intended to help them decide where to vote.

Where to Vote:

1. If one of the ridings is a really close race, vote in that riding. If both are close, vote in the riding with the closest race. If neither is really close, follow the instructions below.

2. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, decide which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision for the province (hereinafter the Best Party). Then decide which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision for the province (hereinafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

3. Based on your own needs and your own vision for the province, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

4. If it's more important to you that the Best Party win, vote for the Best Party in the riding where the Best Party is least likely to win.

5. If it's more important to you that the Worst Party not win, and the Worst Party has a chance in either of your ridings, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party in the riding where the Worst Party is most likely to win.

6. If the Worst Party doesn't have a chance in either of your ridings, vote for the Best Party in the riding where the Best Party is least likely to win.

Links to tools to help you figure out which party is most likely to win in your ridings are available in my Voters' Resources post, under "Riding-by-riding predictions".

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Things They Should Invent: Transitions lenses with manual override

Transitions lenses are those eyeglass lenses that automatically darken when exposed to bright light and then turn clear again under normal light conditions, with the intended goal of automatically switching back and forth between being sunglasses and clear glasses.

The problem is they don't always work as well as intended. Often the dark doesn't go away quickly enough, leaving the wearer looking dorky and awkward indoors. And sometimes the dark goes away when you're outdoors on a bright sunny day but briefly in the shade or wearing a hat or something, failing to protect the your eyes.

Solution:  a small, discreet button on the frame that will force the lenses to change manually. You step inside, the glasses don't change quickly enough for your liking, you press the button and it changes immediately.

Yes, I know clip-on sunglasses are a thing, but they're even dorkier. Effortlessly functional Transitions lenses in an attractive frame would address the fashion aspect without the expense of buying two completely different pairs of glasses.  And a manual override would make Transitions lenses effortlessly functional.

Friday, May 11, 2018

How to Vote

This post is part of my Voters' Resources post. It, and the rest of the series, will be updated as appropriate between now and election day.

1. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, decide which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision of the province (hereinafter the Best Party). Then decide which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision of the province (hereinafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

2. Based on your own needs and your own vision for the province, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

3. If it is more important to you that the Best Party wins, vote for the Best Party. If not, continue to the next step.

4. If it is more important to you that the Worst Party does not win, assess the Worst Party's chances of winning in your riding. Not in the province as a whole, just in your riding. If you feel that there's too great a risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party in your riding. If you feel the risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding is acceptably low, vote for the Best Party.

Remember: do NOT use province-wide polls to inform your strategic voting. Your vote is only effective in your riding. No matter how earnestly you vote, you cannot cancel out votes in another riding. Vote strategically only if the situation in your very own riding justifies it, regardless of what the rest of the province is doing.

Links to platforms and tools for figuring out the different parties' chances in your riding are available in my Voters' Resources post, under "Riding-by-riding predictions".

Monday, April 30, 2018

Books read in April 2018


1. Rogues edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
2. An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton 
3. From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars anthology)
4. The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson


1. Celebrity in Death
2. Delusion in Death

Monday, April 23, 2018

"What if I never get better?" is a valid question

Frustrated with the persistence of some of my post head-injury symptoms, I googled what if I never get better.

The first page of results was all pages about depression, reassuring depression patients that it will get better at some point and that if life feels hopeless, that's just the depression talking.

If the first page of Google results represents the zeitgeist, this is a problem.

The full scope of human experience includes situations where you never get better. Sometimes you might spend years or even decades not getting better.  It's not necessarily depression talking, sometimes not getting better is simply an objective reality, and people need to figure out how to live with that, not to be patted on the head and told they're depressed.

This would also make me reluctant to mention to a medical professional when I'm afraid I'll never get better. I'd be concerned they'd get distracted from the thing that's causing me despair and instead start treating me for depression - confusing things by introducing new medications and such, when what I actually need is a timeline and a flowchart and a series of possible outcomes and perhaps to be informed of the existence of assistive devices or palliative options.


This is all the more important because, since I started writing this post, I've seen an optometrist (given that my remaining symptoms are visual) and it looks like there's a decent possibility that my problems can be solved with different glasses, and/or vision therapy (which I didn't even know was a thing, but is kind-of-but-not-entirely like physiotherapy for the eyes).

I don't want to fall into the trap of getting overoptimistic, but this is the first time since I hit my head that there seems to be even a remote possibility of just maybe being happy or comfortable at some point in the nonspecific future!  I'm still waiting for the glasses to be made, so keep your fingers crossed!

And this is all significant because it comes from treating me like I'm never going to get better.

I didn't approach the optometrist with "what if I never get better?" - I approached him from the point of view of "this is what I'm experiencing, can we diagnose and/or rule stuff out?" But a productive "what if I never get better?" conversation would have had the same outcome:

Me: "What if I never get better? What if focusing on the computer screen is hard work every single moment of every single day for the rest of my life?"
Doctor: "We'll see exactly what your eyes are doing, and then look into making you glasses to adjust. If you never get better, you'll wear different glasses that do some of the work for you. In parallel, we can also give you some exercises for your eyes, so you can work proactively on making this specific symptom better."
Isn't that a better outcome?  And more hopeful than platitudes and/or psychological treatment that don't address the underlying issue?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Disappointed with Fresh's latest menu update

I've finally had a chance to try every new item on Fresh's menu, and I'm not impressed. All of the new items are less yummy than the items they removed. The only new item that makes me go "Yay!" is the essential greens, but that's an appetizer-sized dish at an entree-sized price. Meanwhile, several of my favourites are gone. (holiday wrap! mega life salad! jerusalem bowl!)

Also, there are now fewer wellness choices on Ritual (which is significant because that's the only nutritional indicators we have), and the only new item that's a wellness choice is the dragon broccoli, which is too spicy for my refluxy self.

Fresh has been a favourite since they moved to my neighbourhood, so it's disappointing that this latest update made it meet my needs less well than before.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Things They DID Invent: shut up and pregnancy test

Something I'm sure I've blogged about before but can't find the post: when I was younger, many of my peers and I had the experience of medical professionals interrogating us about whether we were pregnant.  They'd start with "Is there any possibility that you're pregnant?" and then, when you said no, they'd say "How do you know?" They'd ask about the details of your menstruation and the choreography of you personal life and basically it was a whole gauntlet - which is particularly upsetting when you're a teenager (especially a teenager who feels too young to have sex), if your parents are present, etc.

Because of this, I've long advocated for simply doing a blood or urine test for pregnancy without belabouring the point, rather than interrogating the patient at length if you aren't going to take her word for not being pregnant.

I'm pleased to announce that when I was in the hospital with my head injury, they did just that. They did a number of blood tests to rule out heart attack, do a blood count, test for nutritional deficiencies, etc., and one of the tests they did was a pregnancy test.  They didn't even mention this to me - I didn't even see it until I was handed my printed-out blood work results.

Obviously pregnancy needs to be ruled out when a female patient of child-bearing age faints, probably on a more solid basis than recent menstruation or lack of reported recent exposure to sperm. So instead of interrogating me, they simply did the test that they would have had to do anyway.

I'm very glad they did it this way, and I hope they do the same on minors and other more vulnerable patients.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Things They Should Invent: use fruitless library catalogue searches to feed the library's acquisitions list

I heard about an upcoming book that sounds interesting, so I searched for it in the library catalogue. Unfortunately, it wasn't there yet.  But, instead of going to the trouble of putting in a request for them to acquire the book, I just figured I'd search again closer to the publication date, then wandered off to do something else.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. Asking the library to acquire a specific book is A Whole Big Thing, and it may well already be ordered but not in the catalogue, or get ordered through whatever their normal channels are by the time the release date arrives.

But what if simply searching for a book and finding it isn't present in the catalogue could automatically inform the library that someone wants the book?

The library already knows what people are searching for.

The technology already exists to determine when a user arrives at a webpage and doesn't click on any of the outlinks (which, in this case, would be the books listed in the search results) and to generate a list of pages where this occurs - the free stat counter I use on my blog even has this functionality! This list could then be sorted in by frequency, to identify what multiple people are searching for but not finding.

Then the frequently-fruitless search terms would need to be compared with a list of current and forthcoming books. Does such a thing exist? I know Books In Print is a thing, I don't know if there's also a "Books Soon To Be In Print".  (Although even if there isn't, comparing frequently-fruitless searches with Books In Print could be useful in and of itself.)  I also don't know if it has some method to allow you to write your own program to search its database.  Google Books has an API, which might be a starting point (although I certainly can't rule out the possibility of there being better starting points that I haven't thought of.)

But comparing terms on List A with terms on List B is totally something a computer can do.  And once it's done, you've got a list of frequent fruitless searches that are also titles of books.  Which is most likely a list of book titles that people are searching the catalogue for but not finding.

Which seems like useful information to have when deciding which books to buy.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

How to treat your adult child like an adult

Imagine you wanted to prove that you are an excellent parent.  Think about all your child's characteristics or accomplishments that you'd cite as supporting evidence.

Assemble all these characteristics and accomplishments into a mental file, and whenever you talk to or behave in a way that affects your adult child, make sure your words and actions are fully informed by everything in that mental file.

For example, suppose you feel like a good parent because your child successfully launched and has a lucrative career that makes them happy.  Make sure that in your every dealing with your child, you treat them like someone who successfully launched and has a lucrative career that makes them happy.

Or suppose you feel like a good parent because you child is kind and caring.  Make sure that in every dealing with your child, you treat them like someone who is kind and caring.

This strategy can also be used on children who are not yet adults, to treat them with the amount of respect and consideration they deserve.