Monday, February 11, 2019

Tide Ultra Oxi has a stronger scent than Tide Ultra Stain Release

I've been trying and failing to figure out the difference between Tide Ultra Oxi and Tide Ultra Stain Release (i.e. which product is better for which laundry challenges?) but I have observed one difference: Tide Ultra Oxi has a stronger scent.

I find the scent pleasant, but I know that not everyone likes every scent, and some people are sensitive to scents.

So the moral of the story is smell a new detergent before you buy it.

I'm currently testing the Ultra Oxi after having previously used Ultra Stain Release, so I'll make another post if I come up with any substantive findings about how they work for actual laundry, as opposed to just smelling pretty.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Books read in January 2019


1. Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
2. The Asshole Survival Guide by Robert I. Sutton
3. Pikiq by Yayo 


1. Dark in Death 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Working 9 to 5

It surprises me how often businesses and services that serve the public directly choose to have their operating hours Monday to Friday, 9 to 5.

This makes it far more difficult for customers who work regular business hours to use these businesses.

It's particularly surprising when I see these hours on, like, hair salons and small clothing boutiques in Yonge St. storefronts. While it's possible that customers could get time off work to go to the doctor, it's less likely that they could get time off work to get their hair done, and may well choose instead one of the many comparable businesses in the same neighbourhood with more convenient business hours.  Especially with storefront space on Yonge St. being so expensive, I'm surprised they can afford to make themselves less convenient to their customer.

Also, if I think about it in the first person as a small business owner, why wake up early to open at 9 if you could instead sleep in, open later, and be available to the after-work crowd?  If you're, like, a doctor, why not sleep in at least a couple of days a week so you have office hours where your patients wouldn't have to miss work?  Why not work four 10-hour days and get three days off every week?

Even if you need to be available for deliveries etc., a very small business probably doesn't get deliveries every day. Be on site when you're expecting something, sleep in the other days.

If I had completely control over my schedule, I sure as hell wouldn't be waking up to an alarm!  And if your clients are the people whose workday causes rush hour to happen, you'd also be doing them the kindness of being available at more convenient hours.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Things They Should Invent: teach students how school norms differ from workplace/adult life norms

I've been thinking lately about how school instills a set of norms that's different from workplace norms, and a recent Ask A Manager gave a perfect example:
2. Does “let me check” make me look incompetent?

I am a new grad and recently got a job interning in a teapot development company. I work closely with my boss since we’re a two-person team, and I do a pretty good job (my boss has given me positive feedback), but there is one thing that I sometimes stumble upon. When my boss asks a question that I’m like 70% sure of, which is often, is it better to say “I think it’s ____, but let me check,” or say whatever I think the answer is confidently and then maybe check later and revise if I’m wrong? I usually go the “Let me check” route, but I feel like it might be making me look incompetent. Am I overthinking this?
As Alison makes quite clear in her response, saying "let me check" and then checking is the good and correct and responsible thing to do, and actually makes the employee come across as more reliable.

And it's also the complete opposite of the norms instilled in school.

In school, if you are asked a question, you are expected to know the answer.   If you don't know the answer, you don't get the mark.  And looking up the answer is cheating.

But no one ever actually tells you that this change is a thing that happens, so many young people do foolish things in their first few years in the workforce.

There are other examples too.  As a kid, you're told "Don't talk back!"  But in the workplace, you're supposed to speak up if you see someone making a mistake, so the mistake doesn't reach the client.

When you're in school, your tests and assignment are specifically designed to be doable based on the information you've been taught in class.  In the real world, there's nothing guaranteeing that the specific task you're called upon to do will be feasible, or that you will succeed at it.  Your restaurant might get a rush that overwhelms the kitchen.  Someone might call you tech support line with a problem no one has ever heard of.  The text sent for translation might be illegible or nonsensical.

But, at the same time, in the real world you can sometimes say to your boss "It is literally impossible for me to do this task by this deadline in addition to all the other tasks.  What's my priority?"  And something might get taken off your plate or reschedule.  In comparison, in school you're expected to do all your work from all your classes even if they conflict.

At this point, you might be thinking "But the nature of a classroom is different! It's only natural for expectations to be different!"

And that is true.

The problem is that when you're a kid just beginning to enter the workforce after a lifetime in the classroom, no one tells you that expectations are different, so you end up like the Ask A Manager LW, genuinely uncertain if it's professional to verify before making declarative statements.

So they should tell students this at some point in high school, probably earlier rather than later, so as to reach students before they start getting part-time/summer jobs.  Talk about ways the classroom doesn't reflect the expectations and realities of adult life, and the reasons why the nature of the classroom makes this necessary. If possible, create some "classroom norms don't apply, adult norms apply" environments within the school experience to give students some practice.

The challenge here is that it has to be done well.  We've all our teachers tell us "This will be really important in high school/university/the work world" when it ended up being irrelevant.  And it would be a particular disservice to give students information about the adult world that ends up being outright incorrect.

But if it can be done well, it would be doing an enormous service to young people, those who will one day work with them, and those who will one day rely on their work.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Things I Don't Understand: why do my thighs get colder than my calves?

Whenever I walk around outside in cold weather, my thighs get colder than my calves.

This makes no sense, because my winter coat is knee-length, so my thighs are covered in coat while my calves aren't.  (I don't own or care to shop for winter coats of any other lengths, so I can't do the obvious science experiment.)

Neither my boots nor my socks are tall enough to cover my my calves or warm enough to outweigh the warmth of my coat. (In other words, they're ordinary everyday socks and shoes, not thermal footwear for outdoor activities.)

My thighs have noticeably more fat on them than my calves do.

Even my feet don't get cold as much as my thighs do, and my feet are downright bony!

The coldness of my thighs can be felt externally as well as internally.  In other words, if I take off my pants as soon as I get home and feel my thighs and calves with my hands, my thighs are colder to the touch than my calves are.

Has anyone else ever experienced this, or know why this might happen?

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

"Kids Today think they invented sex!"

Sometimes people who are old enough to perceive young adults as "kids" complain that "Kids Today think they invented sex!"  Which is a really bizarre thing to say!

First of all, think back to when sex first became part of your life.  You didn't think you invented it (literally or metaphorically).  The history of sex was irrelevant to what you were thinking and feeling. You were simply revelling in a new and thrilling life experience (quite possibly the most thrilling life experience you'd had in your entire life so far.)

But on top of that, at least within the cultures with which I'm familiar, young people grow up in an environment where adults (or, at least, non-abusive adults) are trying to keep sex secret from them.

For the first several years of your life, if all goes well you don't know that sex at all.  Then, when you're old enough to wonder how babies get in a lady's tummy, your parents might tell you about procreative sex.

Around middle school and into high school, you start getting sex ed, with a generally vanilla focus and an underlying message that you're not supposed to be doing this yet.  But also around this age, you're starting to become aware of adult popular culture, which frames sex as the ultimate human experience. It's Unimaginable Pleasure, and it's Not For You.

At the same time, you are most likely supervised by parents, school, etc. in a way that's intended to prevent you from having sex, or even from finding out about the details of sex that aren't taught in sex ed. Your adults make rules like you can't bring a person they think you might have sex with into your bedroom, and they try to prevent you from accessing porn, or whatever else Kids Today are using to learn about Weird Sex Stuff.  If they find out you know even about Weird Sex Stuff, you can get in trouble.

And, at the same time, the adults around you are hiding any sex that they might be having. They lock the door, they don't leave their sexual accoutrements out in the open, etc.   Even if they don't object on a theoretical level to you knowing that they have sex, they take measures to prevent you from knowing when and how.  If they are using porn or engaging in Weird Sex Stuff, they actively try to keep this secret from you - even beyond the point where they're not keeping the fact that they have sex secret.

(All of which is the right thing to do, of course.  In our culture, it would be considered abuse for such specifics of their parents' sexuality to be inflicted upon kids.  If your kids don't know about your Weird Sex Stuff, you're doing your job right.)

So basically, the people who say "Kids Today think they invented sex!" are contemptuous of their kids for enjoying the novelty of a new experience that, for as long as they have been aware of it, has been hyped as the ultimate human experience, while also dissing their kids for not assuming they have been doing the very thing that, to do their job as a parent in our culture, they've been trying to conceal from their kids their whole lives.

How self-absorbed is that!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Books read in December 2018


1. The Legend of Lightning & Thunder by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt
2. Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent by Liz Howard
3. Slash by Jeannette Armstrong
4. Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing by and about Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging


1. Secrets in Death

Thursday, December 27, 2018


May 2002 Metropass (source: Colnect)
I got my first Metropass in May 2002, when I was doing my internship.  I felt so glamorously adult, going into an office each morning and swiping my pass like a proper grownup who does this all the time!

I went back to tokens when I was back in school, but once again turned to Metropasses once I graduated and started working full-time. I'm not sure if they ended up being cheaper than tokens every single month, but I loved the convenience - hopping on and off the TTC whenever I wanted, swiping my way into turnstiles.  It made me feel like a real urbanite, a true part of my city.
March 2013 Metropass (source: Woodsworth College Students Association)

I stopped using Metropasses when I started working from home in 2013.  But even though I haven't needed them in over five years, I'm still sad that they're being discontinued in favour of the Presto card. My Metropasses have been symbols of and tools of adulthood, independence, urbanity...all the things I never dreamed I was even allowed to aspire to. And so I mourn their loss.  My Presto card, while it has the same functions, doesn't have the same emotional weight.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

System reboot status: December 2018

As part of my resolution to reboot my system, I'm posting each month the top three things in my system that don't serve me well.

This is for personal accountability only, it's not a request for help or feedback.  (There isn't enough information to provide help or feedback. If you're thinking "There totally is!", that's because you don't have all the information.)

So, for December 2018, the top three things that aren't serving me well:

1. My system for getting myself out the door on time and unrushed just...doesn't.  I can't pinpoint the problem and have no ideas for how to improve it.
2. The time/pattern allocated in my system for recreational internet use doesn't meet my needs, and I end up "wasting time" with additional recreational internet use. I have some ideas for how to adjust this, and I'm going to try them and see what happens.
3. My system disincentivizes going to bed as soon as I'm tired if I get tired before finishing my evening routine.  I also keep staying up later if I finish my evening routine well early of my bedtime, even though I should probably be going to bed.  I have some ideas for how to adjust this and I'm going to try them, but I think there's more that I haven't figured out yet.

Let's see what happens...

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Last year was the first year when my birthday horoscopes couldn't be interpreted as reflecting reality, possibly because the head injury came and disrupted everything. (Is that statement going to be true for the rest of my life???)

But here's this year's, just to see what happens:

Toronto Star:
This year you will learn to handle your temper. You might be feistier than others realize. You also can be spontaneous at times. Try to curb unexpected actions or words. You might find that you often see both sides of a problem. If you are single, you could attract a strong group of admirers. Your temper and volatile style could be a problem when dating, though. If you are attached, the two of you experience more closeness than in the recent past. Perhaps you will pursue a mutually enjoyed hobby together. CANCER can be quite nurturing.
My mother's sign is Cancer and she's always quite nurturing, so nothing new there.

They say the same sort of thing about "if you're single/if you're attached" every year, and it never comes to pass.  Someone more ambitious than I could look into whether they say that for every birthday.

Globe and Mail:
A full moon on your birthday suggests you will need to make a decision that not everyone will be happy with. What really matters, of course, is that you are happy with it. It’s time to let go of the past and to embrace your glorious future.
I've never in my life made a decision that absolutely everyone was happy with, so that's basic reality.  However, I have already decided to throw away my system and start over, so hopefully that will give me a glorious future.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The first swimming

I wonder which came first: humans learning they can swim, or humans learning they can't swim?

By which I mean: did some random prehistoric human boldly go charging into the water (to what end? to catch a fish? to escape from something? to get to the other side?), never suspecting anything could go wrong, and end up dying?  Or did some random prehistoric human end up in the water (how? by accident? murder attempt?) fully expecting that this would be the death of them, and survive?

I'm told that you put a human baby in the water they'll swim intuitively, but older kids still need swimming lessons.

Some land animals seem to swim intuitively.  Did humans originally have that intuition?  Or did they figure it out from copying the water?

Is the fact that we can't breathe underwater instinctive, or hard-earned knowledge passed down through generations since time immemorial?

If it isn't instinctive, did it take several drownings to figure out that the reason people keep dying in the water is because they try to breathe underwater, and they should hold their breath to survive?

(Did humans ever hold their breath for any other reason before they started swimming?)

At some point, humanity (or, at least, the precursors the predominant culture in which I grew up) must have internalized and normalized the idea that humans can't swim naturally, because swimming lessons became a thing. 

Also, someone at some point came up with the idea of standardizing and naming different swimming strokes, some of which are weird. (Butterfly? WTF?)

And some other swimming strokes may well have existed but are lost to history. (And still others probably exist within other cultures and haven't reached me.)

You could also follow this same line of thought for diving.  Why did someone first think they even could do it?  Or did people never think they couldn't do it, until several people broke their necks.

Do other land animals dive?

Is figuring out how high you can safely dive from (and how deep the water needs to be) instinctive or learned? (I dove off a three metre board once - into an Olympic-sized pool, properly supervised - and it felt unsafe. It felt like a fluke that I didn't die, not like a safely reproducible thrill.)

And, again, enough people dove enough times that it became a normal thing to be able to do, a normal thing to learn in swimming lessons, normal enough that nobody even thought I was weird or reckless for wanting to try the three metre board.

I wonder if there are other, similar things related to swimming that were once (or are elsewhere) considered culturally standard, but are now lost to history (or haven't reached me).

I'm sure that sometime, somewhere, within the full scope of human history, there have been people who never once thought swimming was a possibility.

And I'm sure that some other time, somewhere else, within the full scope of human history, there have been people who never once thought that swimming was difficult.

But I do wonder which came first.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Default couple genders in sketch comedy

I'm late to the game on this, but I just started watching the Baroness Von Sketch show this season, and I'm really enjoying it.

One little thing I appreciate is when a sketch involves a couple but the gender of the couple is irrelevant to the sketch, they most often make it a same-sex couple played by two of the (all-female) leads.

Here's an example:

That sketch is entirely gender-irrelevant. It would have worked out the same way regardless of the genders of the characters.  So they simply cast two of the leads as characters who are the same demographic as the actors - two women played by two women.

If you think back to older sketch comedies like Monty Python or Kids in the Hall, they wouldn't do that.  If the genders of the couple were irrelevant to the sketch, they'd make it an opposite-sex couple.  They'd only use same-sex couples if there was a specific reason why a same-sex couple was needed.

But another thing that Monty Python and Kids in the Hall often did was have female characters portrayed by the all-male leads rather than using a female supporting actress to play a female character.  They did use female supporting actresses as well (just as Baroness Von Sketch uses male supporting actors), but the default seemed to be a male lead dressed as a woman.

If you think about it, it's kind of bizarre that in a sketch comedy environment that couldn't perceive a same-sex couple neutrally, a sketch comedy couple consisting of one male actor dressed as a man and one male actor dressed as a woman was seen as neutral and unmarked (in the linguistic sense).

Someday in the future, probably sooner than we expect, people are going to watch those sketches and think all the Monty Python pepperpots are meant to be trans or genderqueer, and they'll need a historical explainer to understand what the Pythons are doing. And they're going to think this post, noticing that gender-irrelevant couples are portrayed as same-sex couples by the all-female cast, is going to come across as having homophobic undertones, like how someone's grandmother who gratuitously mentions the race of everyone she brings up in conversation comes across as having racist undertones.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition XIII

18. Some people have trouble coping with certain distressing possibilities, so, to get through the day, they delude themselves into thinking that the distressing possibilities can't possibly happen to them, because of their circumstances or because they're sufficiently diligent.

Examples: "I won't get sick because I eat all the right superfoods and do all the right asanas!"  "I won't be raped because I dress modestly!" "I won't ever be a refugee because I'm a regular person living in a developed country!"

This part I don't take issue with.  Life is hard and the world sucks, do what you have to do to get through the day as long as it doesn't do any harm

The problem is when it starts doing harm.  Some people feel the need to reinforce their self-delusion by inflicting it on others assholicly, and sometimes even by advocating for assholic policy.

Examples: "Your mother died? She should have eaten more superfoods!" Which later escalates to "My taxes shouldn't have to pay for health care because people wouldn't need health care if they were responsible enough to just eat the right foods!"  Or "Those people say they're refugees but they have smartphones! They must be frauds - deport them!"

So I propose a natural consequence: if the self-delusion you resort to because you can't cope with distressing possibilities leads you to behave assholicly, you are sentenced to the very distressing possibility you fear.

I do realize this is a very severe sentence, so it's a three strikes rule.  The first two times you do it, you get a very stern warning that makes the offending actions and the future consequences quite clear to you.  (Q: How? A: Through the same omnipotent magic that enforces all of my natural consequences, of course!)  Then, the third time, you're sentenced to the very horror you dread.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

People who are reluctant to call landlines

As I've blogged about before, I prefer having a landline to using a cell phone for everything.

However, in recent years, I've noticed that people (including business relationships) are reluctant to call my landline, even when I explicitly tell them to.

For example, I will say "Please put in my file that my landline is the preferred number. I work from home so I'm at that number 23 hours a day, and I live alone so it is a private number. If I'm not at home, I'm not equipped to check my calendar or schedule an appointment or anything, so if you call my cell phone I'll just have to call you back anyway." 

And they still call the cellphone.

I do try to disincentivize calling the cellphone.  I don't answer the cellphone when I'm at home, sometimes even turning it off when I'm home (depending on whether I'm open to receiving texts at that moment). I don't answer it when I'm out and about for calls that aren't going to be immediately relevant (for example, I'll answer if it's the person I'm meeting or someone who might be trying to get in touch with me for emergency reasons, but I won't answer a call confirming a dentist appointment or wanting to discuss renewing my mortgage.)  If I do answer and it's something that would better go to the landline, I'll say "I'm not at home right now and not able to address this at the moment.  I'll call you back when I'm at home."  (And then, when I do call back, I tell them to call my landline next time.)  If they leave a message, I don't call them back until I'm at home.  (If they call the cellphone while I'm at home and leave a message, but don't subsequently try the landline, I don't even check the messages until I've gone out and returned back home.)

And I do try to incentivize calling the landline by always answering immediately when the call display shows a number that does have business calling me, and always returning calls immediately.

But people still call the cellphone.

I've even stopped giving out my cellphone number unless strictly relevant, but some people still have it in their records from back when I would blithely fill out every field of a contact form without regard for consequences, and some people do have a reason to be able to contact me by cell in emergencies. (For example, work needs to be able to reach me in case I disappear off the face of the earth, sometimes I give people my phone number if we have an appointment in an place I'm not familiar with, in case I get lost or delayed or something.) And when I do give it out, I tell them "You can use this if I don't show up at my appointment, but normally it's the worst possible way to reach me."

And they still call the cellphone.

I totally understand why some individuals might find not having a landline more convenient for their own purposes, but I'm rather baffled by the fact that they avoid calling someone else's landline even when explicitly instructed to do so.

Somehow, their baggage about calling a landline seems to outweigh my explicitly stated instructions about which number to call, plus all the cumulative empirical evidence about which number I'll answer first and which voicemail I'll respond to most quickly.

And what makes it especially weird is I get the vibe that people who are reluctant to call landlines seem to feel that doing so is rude.  Even though calling my cell increases the likelihood of interrupting me at a bad time. If I'm not at home, I am almost certainly in the middle of something and almost certainly do not have privacy.  If I am at home, I may or may not be in the middle of doing something and almost certainly do have privacy.

Again, I understand why some individuals might feel that calling in general might be rude - society as a whole certain seems to have moved towards texting or emailing to confirm it's a good time to call rather than calling cold - but this isn't what's happening here.  What's happening here is I'm getting a call without warning that requires thought or action or decision-making or scheduling on my part, and callers are deliberately choosing the number that's most likely to reach me at a bad time, despite my clear instructions to use the other number.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Books read in November 2018


1. Badger by Daniel Heath Justice
2. Amun - Nouvelles ed. Michel Jean
3. As Long as the Rivers Flow by James Bartleman 
4. Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones


1. Echoes in death

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine braindump (full spoilers)

Nearly a year after I started watching, and 25 years after it first started airing, I finally finished watching DS9! My immediate thoughts:

- I didn't watch the series when it first came out because it was too dark my preteen self.  But I was pleasantly surprised about how light a touch they had on some of the darker storylines. For example, there's one plot line where Chief O'Brien is implanted with the memories of spending 20 years in prison.  I'd heard of this episode before I went in, so I was expecting to see an hour of O'Brien going through hell and then in the last act we learn it's all a dream.  But instead they start with him being released, and the memories come out in counselling sessions. The episode is much more tolerable knowing from the outset that he's okay! Other things I thought would be awkward, like the O'Briens' baby being implanted in Kira's uterus and the Dax symbiont being  implanted in Ezri (I sense a theme here?) were presented as a fait accompli rather than as the angst I was expecting,

- I blogged before about how I found the technobabble from Discovery and The Orville unconvincing.  It turns out I find the technobabble from DS9 perfectly convincing - and sometimes even informative! For example, someone on screen mentions tachyons, and my brain instantly goes "There must be a cloaked ship!" Moments later, a ship decloaks.

- Compared with other Star Treks, I can see the scaffolding of the writing, by which I mean I recognize things like "They showed Odo shape-shifting in the cold open so people who are just tuning in would know he's a shape-shifter" or "The away team is composed of humans only because having multiple alien species on the away team would complicate the intended plot." I can't tell if this reflects the writing, or if it reflects my own sophistication. The last time I watched new-to-me Star Trek was Voyager, which I watched 10 years ago, and I didn't see the scaffolding of the writing.  At first I was thinking this must reflect how my literary analysis skills have improved (despite the fact that DS9 takes place in a visual medium, recognizing the scaffolding of the writing is a literary analysis skill), but upon further reflection I think it's because I read TVTropes (warning: rabbithole). I now recognize things like lampshading and handwaving and MacGuffins and Applied Phlebotinum.

- Weirdly, I can't see the scaffolding of the writing nearly as much on Star Trek: Discovery. Again, I don't know if that's because of the quality of the writing, or just because of what I'm accustomed to.  I don't watch that much drama, so the more modern style of television writing we see on Discovery and the serial season-long arc structure are less familiar to me. I've probably watched less than 50 episodes of comparably-written television in my life.  In contrast, I have now watched over 500 episodes of 90s-era Star Trek, so I have a far better sense of how the story needs to work.

- I was surprised by how often they did time travel and mirror universe episodes. I was watching at a rate of 5 episodes a week so I can't tell how well they would have fit into the original broadcast pacing, but to me they felt really frequent.  My visceral reaction was that the writers were "cheating" - which of course is a ridiculous reaction (especially since mirror universe/time travel doesn't necessarily produce a better episode), but nevertheless that is my visceral reaction.

- Another thing that surprised me watching 20-25 years after it was written is how gratuitously cis-heterocentric it appeared.  For example, if the Jem'Hadar don't procreate naturally, why would they all be male as opposed to being genderless? Why should the female changeling be female (or have any gender)?  I can see Odo opting to present as a gender because he grew up among solids, but the female changeling is from the link. Why should Odo only be sexually attracted to women? (Why should Odo be sexually attracted to anybody?)

- Since Odo is established as having a sex life, are his genitals sexually sensitive?  Can he make them sexually sensitive (or not) as he morphs?  Can he make other parts of his body sexually sensitive and, like, get off on shaking hands with someone?

- I appreciate how DS9 shows that the various alien cultures (Klingons, Ferengi, etc.) have complexity and nuance, and also suggests that we're only seeing a slice of their complexity and nuance.   Previous Star Treks made the aliens more one-dimensional, so that was a welcome and refreshing improvement.

- Speaking of only seeing a slice, another thing I wasn't expecting but appreciated was that I felt like we were only seeing anecdotes from the Dominion War.  Previous Star Treks (and Discovery, now that I think about it), I've felt like we're seeing everything that happens to the crew during the time period in question.  The argument could easily be made that we're not seeing everything, but I did come away with the impression that we were seeing everything in the other serieses.  However, by having the overarching Dominion War arc interspersed with smaller, lighter episodes that don't advance the Dominion War plot, I came away from DS9 feeling like we're not seeing everything, which leaves room for other things to happen in between. (Novels! Fanfic! Webisodes!)

- And speaking of leaving room for other things to happen, I appreciate that the writers obeyed the campsite rule as they ended the series, and left the Star Trek universe nice and tidy for future writers.  The Dominion War is over, so we have the option of picking up in a peaceful, optimistic future.  Many different alien species are more fleshed out, so we can have them as interesting allies in our peaceful optimistic future, but underlying tensions aren't completely gone so almost any old antagonism could be picked up.  And, if we need a mysterious enemy, the Breen are there.  Or they could just fade back into the background since they're so very mysterious. The Pah-wraiths are vanquished, so the Star Trek universe can go back to being aspiritual if needed, but they did exist (as did the Prophets) so that can be explored if needed.  I don't believe any protagonist character's return has been ruled out, and any given character can easily be written around.  Basically, the Alpha Quadrant is left nice and tidy so the next writers who come along can make full use of it however they need to.  I appreciate the planning and effort that went into doing that (and am vaguely amused that I can see it.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Things They Should Invent: early releases in palliative care

In the world of publishing, there's something called an Advance Reader Copy (ARC), which is a very limited edition of a book that comes out before the official publication dates.  Sometimes they have contests where you can win one, although I suspect they also have some other function.

For movies and TV shows, there are advance screeners that sometimes get sent to critics and people who vote on awards, so the production can get good publicity.

These things should be made available to palliative care patients.

Some titles are highly anticipated, including beloved series where people want to know how they end.  And, when the patient's death is imminent, there's a high likelihood that they may never find out how it ends.

Which is especially tragic if the work is complete, or close enough to finalized for the reader/viewer to get the story!

I know it can be done - it has been done in the past for young Harry Potter fans with terminal illnesses.

We just need a system to make all stories in all media available to everyone who is terminally ill as soon as humanly possible.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Outdoors ≠ simple

From a recent Carolyn Hax chat:
Dear Carolyn, My fiancĂ© and I want a small, backyard wedding with about 75 guests. My grandmother has a huge yard that would be perfect for our wedding next spring. I asked her if we could get married there and she said yes, so I was very excited to start planning. Then last weekend I had lunch with my sister. She told me that our grandmother is too old and isn’t well enough physically to get her house ready to host an event like this so our mother will be doing most of the work. I told her it was an outdoor wedding, all we have to do is get some chairs and everything will work out. My sister started telling me I have to plan for parking, bathrooms, permits, chairs, a tent for bad weather, alerting the neighbors, hiring a lawn company to fix up our grandmothers lawn and I’m sure I am forgetting stuff. I just wanted a simple backyard wedding and my grandma agreed to it, now it feels really complicated. I am upset with my mother and sister for inserting themselves into something that ought to be between me and my grandma. How can I get them to back off?

I think this letter-writer is falling into a common cultural trap: the notion that outdoors = simple.

People tend to think this because conventional wisdom is that life was simpler in the past, and in the distant past people spent more time outdoors simply because their homes were less adequate.

But now we live in a world where our homes and other buildings meet our basic needs significantly better than the outdoors does, which makes spending time outdoors more complex.

For example, in our homes we have clean, private places where we can urinate and defecate, equipped to clean our genitals and our hands to a socially-acceptable and hygienically-necessary level afterwards.  So when we go outdoors, finding a place to urinate or defecate and a way to clean up afterwards adds complexity. We either have to figure out where there's a public washroom, or take equipment with us and find a place with suitable privacy. (And, for those of us who aren't used to going to the bathroom outdoors, there's the question of logistics and choreography - personally, I haven't a clue what angle anything is going to come out at, and I'm not sure how long I can stay in the necessary squatting position.)

In our homes, we have facilities to store food at a safe temperature, and equipment to serve and consume food and drink in accordance with social norms.   So when we go outdoors, we have to think about food safety. (How can we keep the food cold?  Or what food doesn't need to be refrigerated?)  We also need to think about how we're going to store the food, so we can carry it with us, so it doesn't spill and so ants and raccoons and cartoon bears don't eat it.

In our homes, we are sheltered from the elements. So when we go outdoors, we have to think about the elements. Do we need clothing and/or equipment to protect us from the heat/cold/sun/rain/snow?

Because of all that, the simplest way to have a wedding is at a place already designed to host weddings (or perhaps other events), which is most likely to be indoors or have an indoor component. Being in an existing, operating building, a wedding venue would have bathrooms and shelter from the weather and provisions for parking. Because its whole job is hosting weddings/events, it would already be prepared with chairs, wouldn't have to inform the neighbours because they'd already know it's an event venue, and wouldn't have to fix the lawn because they'd already have landscaping etc. that could stand up to a wedding being held there. You could practically go in and say "One wedding please, whatever's cheapest and simplest."

If outdoors is important to you for whatever reason, go ahead and plan something outdoors. If the real issue is that you don't want to pay for a venue, go ahead and try to impose on your loved ones for a space. But if what you want really is simplicity, that's going to be far more difficult to achieve outdoors.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Polite conversation and consent

Reading this Ask A Manager discussion about conversation topics that are totally off-limits in the workplace, I developed a theory:

The rules of polite conversation are essentially there to keep conversation consensual.

For example, religion is off-limits because not everyone consents to being converted or to being told their beliefs are Bad and Wrong or to being interrogated about and asked to defend their beliefs.

Politics are off-limit because not everyone consents to being converted or being debated or being told their core values are Bad and Wrong or being told Those People are Bad and Wrong.

Family planning is off-limits because not everyone consents to disclosing or being pressured to disclose the personal details of their medical history and their sex life and finances and interpersonal dynamics in their home.

And consent is all the more important in places like the workplace (and, I'd like people to start believing, the family) where there are power dynamics, and you can't just walk away and never speak to the people again.

Now, sometimes people do discuss these topics consensually.  But, as with everything in life, it is important to make sure you truly do have consent first, and that the person is giving consent of their own free will rather than feeling pressured into it.

Some people will argue "There's no need for all these rules! If they don't want to talk about something, they should just say so!" 

But enough people who don't feel they can say no have gathered enough empirical evidence that they'll suffer negative consequences ("Not a team player" "C'mon, lighten up!") that they don't feel safe saying no.

So if you want to live in a world where no topics are off-limits because people can just say no, start by influencing your corner of the world in a direction where people aren't shamed or spoken of negatively for not wanting to talk about something.

Just as more advanced sex acts, (e.g. BDSM), require a more robust consent environment, (e.g. safe words), so do more advanced conversation topics.