Sunday, January 31, 2016

Books read in January 2016


1. The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story by Hyeonseo Lee
2. The Only Average Guy: Inside the Uncommon World of Rob Ford by John Filion 
3. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Royall Tyler
4. Never Learn Anything from History by Kate Beaton 
5. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee 
6. Mirror, Mirror (short story anthology) by Robb, Blayney, Fox, McComas and Ryan


1. Divided in Death
2. Visions in Death 
3. Survivor in Death 
4. Origin in Death

Sunday, January 24, 2016

More things I don't understand in Go Set a Watchman

This is still a spoiler-free zone for Go Set a Watchman. I'm still less than 100 pages in.
In Maycomb, one drank or did not drink. When one drank, one went behind the garage, turned up a pint, and drank it down; when one did not drink, one asked for set-ups at the E-Lite Eat Shop under cover of darkness: a man having a couple of drinks before or after dinner in his home or with his neighbor was unheard of. That was Social Drinking. Those who Drank Socially were not quite out of the top drawer, and because no one in Maycomb considered himself out of any drawer but the top, there was no Social Drinking.
1. What's a "set-up" in this context? I'm not able to google it effectively.
2. I know that "top drawer" is a good thing (high class, elite, etc.)  Is "out of the top drawer" a synonym or an antonym? Drinking socially seems classier than drinking behind the garage. Does that mean the people of Maycomb are specifically attempting not to present as classy?

With company came Calpurnia’s company manners: although she could speak Jeff Davis’s English as well as anybody, she dropped her verbs in the presence of guests; she haughtily passed dishes of vegetables; she seemed to inhale steadily. When Calpurnia was at her side Jean Louise said, “Excuse me, please,” reached up, and brought Calpurnia’s head to the level of her own. “Cal,” she whispered, “is Atticus real upset?”

Calpurnia straightened up, looked down at her, and said to the table at large, “Mr. Finch? Nawm, Miss Scout. He on the back porch laughin’!”
I know from Mockingbird that Calpurnia code-switches.  She speaks like educated white people in the Finch home, and speaks like other black people within the black community.  But I don't know how they're saying she talks in the presence of "company".

After some interference-riddled googling, I suspect "Jeff Davis" refers to one Jefferson Davis, who, according to Wikipedia, was the president of the Confederate States of America during the US civil war. However, I don't know what his English is like.

The phrase "dropped her verbs" suggests a deviation from what is considered standard English, which suggests that Calpurnia talks more black in front of guests. Why would she do this?  But in her answer to Scout's question, she appears to drop a verb (saying "He on the back porch" rather than "He is on the back porch").

Also, in Mockingbird, Calpurnia talks more black within the black community, which includes her immediate family. Which would suggest that she's "herself" within the white community and performing within the black community.

Unless this is another instance of unreliable narrator, and Scout is misinterpreting which language choices are Calpurnia's "company manners".  But that still doesn't explain why she would perform blackness in front of white guests.

I know that this is laden with meaning, and I'm too far removed from the culture in which it was written to grasp the meaning.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Things They Should Invent: building emergency keys automatically summon the elevator

From an article about emergency response in highrise buildings:
Fire departments are supposed to have access to a universal elevator key, which gives firefighters sole access to elevators without public interference, the study notes. In contrast, only rarely in pre-hospital care systems do paramedics have access to a universal elevator key. “Availability of a universal key seems like a simple intervention, but it has remained unaddressed for decades,” Drennan wrote
In addition to giving keys to paramedics, they should also have a setup where opening the front (or other exterior) door of the building with the universal emergency key summons the elevator to the lobby.

Currently, firefighters can open building doors with a universal emergency key, and take control of elevators with a universal emergency key.  But they still have to make their way to the elevators before they can summon the elevators.

If the elevators started heading for the lobby as soon as emergency personnel enter the building, then the elevators can head to the ground floor as the emergency personnel head across the lobby. This would minimize waiting time, and the precious seconds gained could save more lives.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Things I don't understand in the first 15 pages of Go Set A Watchman

I just started reading Go Set a Watchman (no spoilers please - I'm only 15 pages in) and I all at once encountered a whole spate of things that confuse me because I'm missing historical information.  So I decided to blog them, as one does. This might be part 1 in a series depending on how the book goes.

"Although she was a respectable driver, she hated to operate anything mechanical more complicated than a safety pin: folding lawn chairs were a source of profound irritation to her; she had never learned to ride a bicycle or use a typerwriter; she fished with a pole."

She fished with a pole as opposed to what? I live 60 years in the future, and the only other way I'm aware of fishing (even on an industrial scale) is with a net, which certainly isn't mechanical.

[Discussing the car] "Power steering? Automatic transmission?"

I legit didn't know they had those in the 1950s! We didn't have a car with power steering and automatic transmission until the mid-90s!

"His father had left his mother soon after Henry was born, and sh worked night and day in her little crossroads store to send Henry through the Maycomb public schools."
To me, this sounds like she had to pay to send him to public school. Quoi?

Anyone have any insight on any of these?

(If you have spoilers or want to discuss the book, please wait for my eventual post following up on my speculations after rereading Mockingbird.)

Friday, January 15, 2016

New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition IX

14. If you complain that someone is doing X instead of Y when X and Y are in no way incompatible or mutually exclusive (e.g. "Instead of wasting your time campaigning for social justice, you should be getting an education"), you are banned for 24 hours from benefiting from multi-tasking (your own or anyone else's).  No watching TV while cooking, no reading on the subway, no listening to music while working out, nothing.

If you complain that X is being done instead of Y when X and Y are the responsibility of completely separate individuals or organizations (e.g. "Why are they putting all these resources into settling refugees instead of getting the traffic lights to sync up properly?"), you are banned for 24 hours from benefiting from the work of more than one individual or organization at once. No texting while you get your hair done, no eating dishes composed of multiple different foods, no enjoying both electricity and running water at once.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Things They Should Invent: the option to delete real words from the spellcheck dictionary

"Costal" is a real word. It means "of or relating to the ribs". And I very, very, very rarely have to use it in my translations.  However, I do have to use the word "coastal" with some frequency, and I tend to typo it as "costal" (or as something that autocorrects to "costal".)

"Pogrom" is a real word. It means "an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe". And I never have to use in my translations. However, I do have to use the word "program" quite frequently, and sometimes a combination of typo and autocorrect will change "program" to "pogrom".

I would like to have the option of removing these words and others like them from the spellcheck dictionary, so red squiggles appear underneath them as though they were typos. Because, despite the fact that they are real words, they are nevertheless typos. They're not supposed to be there, and I'd find it convenient to have them flagged as such.

I'd also like to have the option of having profanity, slurs, slang words for body parts and functions, etc. treated like typos. They most often aren't supposed to be in my work documents (I have had one or two interesting transcripts, but they were very much the exception), so it would be useful to flag them as such to avoid particularly embarrassing typos.  This seems like something Word could allow users to opt into or out of with a checkbox - and it would have the added bonus of pointing out potentially-controversial words to users who might be ignorant of the potential controversy (perhaps because they're sheltered, perhaps because they aren't writing in their first language), thereby allowing users to make an informed decision about whether to use these words.

The true purpose of spellcheck is not to provide a comprehensive list of "real words", but rather to help users catch errors. Sometimes an error can take the form of a perfectly valid word.  Allowing us to not just add words to the spellcheck dictionary but also to delete words from the spellcheck dictionary would enable spellcheck to better fulfill that mandate.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Curse of Knowledge: condo edition

I recently learned about a concept called the curse of knowledge.  Wiki defines it as "a cognitive bias that leads better-informed parties to find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed parties."

This is a problem I keep running into when dealing with the condo situation: experienced homeowners and other real estate people can't even begin to fathom how utterly ignorant I am.

I recently blogged that builders should provide manuals for new homes, clearly describing all the maintenance for which new homeowners will be responsible.  In multiple separate conversations, I've mentioned that I want this because I don't want to have something go disastrously wrong because I didn't do some kind of preventive maintenance that I was completely unaware of.

And every single homeowner I've mentioned this to has the same response: "Like what?"

That's the problem exactly. I don't know like what. I have no idea what kinds of things I'm completely unaware of. Sometimes I respond to this with the example of filters that need changing that I gave in that blog post, and people invariably respond by listing all the filters that need to be changed. (Some of which I didn't know, thereby proving the need for this information, but there's no way that the maintenance for which I'm responsible can possibly be limited exclusively to replacing filters!)

The same thing happened when I expressed surprise and dismay that my developer didn't provide a list ahead of time of what kinds of finishes you have to choose between, so I could research them and actually know what I want.  They seemed shocked that I would have to research such simple decisions ahead of time. They eventually did provide to a list of impenetrable finish names that I'd never heard of before. I passed it on to my mother who said "Don't worry, I know all of these, you don't need to research anything."  But it turned out there were other decisions I had to make, which they hadn't thought noteworthy enough for a first-time buyer to need to research.

The same thing happens when I mention that I intend to hire and inspector to do my inspections because I haven't the first clue what you might be looking for in an inspection. ("Why waste your money hiring an inspector? All you have to do is look around and see if anything is wrong!")  The same thing happens when I mention that around the time of my move and finalization of my purchase I'm scaling back my schedule, taking some time off work, and not taking on any new commitments so I can give my full and immediate attention to anything unexpected that comes up ("What could there possibly be that's unexpected? And if there is something, just handle it!")

What's extra weird about this is experienced homeowners and real estate people kept "warning" me about things that already knew about (e.g. occupancy fees, maintenance fees) or don't care about (e.g. occupancy will most likely be delayed).  But no one seems to be able to give me the information I actually want, because they can't conceptualize not having it.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Things They DID Invent: a way to get alerted to new items in the library catalogue

I previously blogged that the library should invent a way to subscribe to a particular author or series. Ideally I wanted new titles from a particular author or series to be automatically added to my holds list, but, if that's too complicated, I'd be satisfied with an email alert.

I recently discovered that, while there still isn't an email alert, the library does provide an RSS feed for search results.  This means that I can search for an author or series, add the RSS feed to my feed reader, and get a notification when there's something new available that meets those search criteria.

For example, I blogged a while ago about how the library didn't have a print copy of a book I was looking for called Down the Rabbit Hole.  So after I searched for the book and found only an ebook available, I clicked on the "Subscribe to results" link at the top right, added it to my feed reader, and proceeded with life. And when the library finally got the print version, it show up right in my feed reader as I was scrolling through the day's updates.

The obvious flaw in this approach is that not everyone uses feed readers, but tools for converting RSS feeds to email alerts do exist. (I can't vouch for any particular tool since I don't use them.)

There's also a risk of getting too many false positives - for example, getting a new item in your feed every time the library acquires an existing title in a new format or languages. This could probably be mitigated with robust use of advanced search functions, although I haven't actually experimented with this yet.

I do still think email notifications would be optimal and automatic holds would be ideal, and I'm concerned that RSS might seem opaque to less techy users, but I am glad to see that there is an existing solution to the problem of wanting to know when there's a new title from your favourite author or series, and extra pleased that it's something I can use without any changes to my normal technology use patterns.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books read in December 2015


1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
2. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
3. The Trouble with Brunch by Shawn Micallef
4. After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson


1. Imitation in Death
2. Remember When

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Things They Should Invent: streetlights with time-sensitive variable brightness

I was walking down a residential side street at about 5:30 pm in the bleakest depths of December, and I found it uncomfortably dark.  The street did have perfectly normal streetlights at perfectly reasonable intervals, but I found myself wishing the lights were significantly brighter.

Of course, the problem with making the lights significantly brighter is that they're right in front of people's houses.  No one wants a giant floodlight just metres from their window in the middle of the night when they're trying to sleep.

But what if they could program the streetlights so they start out brighter in the early evening and get less bright as we transition towards bedtime? We could have a safe, well-lit rush hour even in bleakest midwinter, while still making it possible for people who have a streetlight in front of their house to sleep comfortably at midnight.

In the summer, when it doesn't get dark until 9 pm, the streetlights wouldn't have to start out as bright as they do in the winter, but they could still dim as the hour gets later.  In other words, the streetlights are the same brightness at 9 pm in June and at 9 pm in December, they're just brighter at 5 pm in December (but completely switched off at 5 pm in June because it's still bright and sunny out.)  They wouldn't ever get darker than they are now, they'd just get brighter during hours when no one is anywhere near ready for sleep.

We already have the technology. Dimmer switches have existed for decades (I was originally going to title this "dimmer streetlights" but that would make it sound like I just want the streetlights to be less bright), and programmable dimmers already exist in household products such as the Phillips Wake-Up Light.  If they can deploy this technology on a large scale in streetlights, our streets would be safer and more user-friendly for the vast majority of users.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The real fantasy of Pemberley is the servants

I've fallen down a bit of a Pride and Prejudice rabbit hole lately, exploring fanfictions and historical background information.

While I do enjoy poking around in the Jane Austen universe from time to time, unlike many Pride and Prejudice fans I never found Mr. Darcy particularly dreamy.  He proves to be kind and honourable and madly in love with the protagonist, all of which certainly come in handy, but doesn't have the je ne sais quoi that it would take to make me fantasize my way into Elizabeth's place.

However, in my recent revisitation, I realized the actual fantasy of being mistress of Pemberley isn't having Mr. Darcy for a husband - it's having Mrs. Reynolds for a housekeeper.

Mrs. Reynolds has been serving as Pemberley's housekeeper since back when Mr. Darcy's parents were still alive, and has kept it running smoothly even after his mother died.  This means that Pemberley can run smoothly without a lady of the house, but also knows how to accommodate a lady of the house.  So the position of mistress of Pemberley can be as much of a sinecure as its incumbent wants, and as much of an apprenticeship as she wants.

Being the mistress of a well-run estate is pretty much the most prestigious role in life that someone in Elizabeth's position could reasonably dream of. So imagine you end up in the most prestigious role in life that you can reasonably dream of, and the support team is in place to ensure that you will succeed. Even if you do nothing, the endeavours under your responsibility will succeed and you will get credit for it.  If you want to actually do the work, they can train you up so you can do it independently, and if you want to introduce your own ideas, they know how to adapt to that.

On top of that, the presence of Georgiana means that, despite the absence of a "lady of the house" for many years, the estate is equipped for there being a lady in the house.  They no doubt have a maid who knows how to do hair, an existing business relationship with a local dressmaker, a horse who is accustomed to a sidesaddle rider - all kinds of things that it would be convenient for Elizabeth to have in her home and less convenient to have to acquire from scratch.  On top of that, Georgiana probably knows a little something about being the lady of the house at Pemberley, but, since she isn't out yet, she doesn't officially hold the role (and would never expect to hold it in the long term since she'll likely get married and be mistress of her own household) so she wouldn't feel usurped by Elizabeth.  Mrs. Annesley probably also knows a thing or two about being mistress of a household since she's an upper-class lady and a "Mrs." herself, and part of her role is likely to prepare Georgiana for her future. But, at the same time, Mrs. Annesley is an employee, so she is incentivized to help Elizabeth succeed as well.

Compare this to the situation of Jane and Bingley, who are going to buy an estate of their own and start the Bingley dynasty from scratch.  Neither of them has ever run a large estate before (except for Bingley's time leasing Netherfield, which doesn't entail running the whole thing.)  Probably neither of them has ever hired a whole staff of servants before, and the servants they do hire won't necessarily know how to run the place optimally since no one has run that estate before (or, at least, not for the Bingley family). Caroline Bingley is around and has been mistress of the Bingley household (formally, because she's out), but because of that (and what we know of her character) she's likely to feel usurped, so she's less likely to be a useful resource for Jane.

None of this is hideous hardship, of course, because they are rich, but Jane does have to put in effort and diligence to succeed in her role as Mrs. Bingley, whereas all Elizabeth has to do to succeed as Mrs. Darcy is nothing. As long as she doesn't insist on overruling her experienced household with subpar ideas, she will succeed gloriously.

Friday, December 25, 2015


This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Big Bang Theory. If you follow the show but haven't been spoiled for this episode yet, I highly recommend not reading this post.


I got spoiled for last week's Big Bang Theory, so I knew going in that Sheldon and Amy were going to have "coitus", as Sheldon likes to put it.  I had some speculation about this that didn't end up getting blogged because life got in the way, but there was one thing I didn't see coming, and actually didn't realize was even possible: the writers created a situation in which the sex was actually better for both people because one party wasn't actively into it.

Mayim Bialik (who portrays Amy) has blogged about how people keep asking her "Is Sheldon good?"  But the first thing that popped into my head when I got spoiled is "Is Amy good?"

As we know, Sheldon is a finicky person with a tendency towards self-absorption. If he's half as particular about his sex as he is about his meals, it's quite possible that an inexperienced partner like Amy won't be able to meet his expectations first time around - especially if, like nerdy virgins since time immemorial, he's been getting ideas from the shadier parts of internet.  What would that do to the relationship? What would that do to Amy's self-esteem?

I was also contemplating whether the writers would hand-wave this by making them both end up being surprisingly good together. (They're intelligent people, they would have researched, if they used good sources instead of porn and happen to have certain physical compatibilities, it might just work out fine the first time.)  Then I was hoping the writers wouldn't overdo it and make it a joke that awkward nerds might be good at sex.

I was also pondering the situation from the other direction: what if they're not able to have good sex together at the outset, but the show chose to explore that?  Not every couple can always have good sex together the very first time, and the likelihood of it not going perfectly increases it when it's a first time for both. But this isn't something you often see depicted in media or fiction, so it would be an interesting approach to take. Then I was hoping that the writers wouldn't overdo it and make it a joke that awkward nerds have awkward sex, or make it cringingly horrible with Sheldon's finicky nature.

However, the Big Bang Theory writers did something that I didn't know was coming: they had Sheldon come up with the idea of having sex with Amy as her birthday present.

Normally I dislike the dynamic of a sex act being a gift and it's certainly not something I'd want in my own private life.  But, by making it a gift from Sheldon to Amy, they eliminated the problem of Sheldon's finicky nature.  He doesn't actively want sex for himself, so he doesn't have highly specific needs and preferences like he does with seating arrangements and bathroom schedules and take-out food. He's simply interested in making the experience work for Amy - kind of the sexual equivalent to accompanying your partner to a high-school reunion or something (which is quite an emotional/interpersonal milestone for Sheldon!)

The fact that Sheldon (as the person who's less enthusiastic about sex) came up with the idea of having sex on this particular occasion himself, without any pressure or suggestions from Amy or anyone else, goes a long way towards mitigating the any potential distastefulness of the "sex as a gift" dynamic.  It's also somewhat mitigated by the fact that both parties are nervous and tentative beforehand, and that we learn that the experience ultimately exceeded expectations for both of them.

Another fantastic choice by the writers and producers is that the combination of script, editing and choreography gave us no indication of exactly what sex acts they engaged in, or whether they were perfectly successful or it was a trial-and-error kind of situation. This was an excellent choice because it attends to the audience's emotional needs.  Certain people have certain feelings about certain sex acts, including feeling that certain sex acts are degrading or humiliating or other negative emotional baggage. It would probably ruin the heart and sweetness of the scene to see a likely-asexual character engaging in a sex act you consider humiliating or degrading as a birthday gift for his partner. As it stands, all we know it that Sheldon was at peak emotional generosity, both parties were nervous beforehand, and both parties were happy afterwards. And every viewer can fill in the blanks with whatever fits those criteria in their own worldview.

Despite the fact that I still think it would be helpful for sexual novices if the spectrum of media portrayals of sexuality included occasional (and sympathetic) depictions of  unsuccessful first-time sex, I think the writers did right by Sheldon and Amy.  And I hope that the physical part of their relationship can now fade into the background where they can explore it in private, much like the show did when kissing was introduced into their relationship.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015



IF TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: This year you will greet some positive changes in your life. You’ll need to learn to look at the big picture more often. Your ability to learn comes out as you adapt to new ideas, cultures and perhaps new developments in your chosen field. If you are single, you might connect with someone who is very different from the type of suitor you have chosen in the past. This experience will be a real eye-opener for you. If you are attached, you find that more acceptance and trust builds between the two of you. Your in-laws could play a significant role in your life. GEMINI might wear you down with his or her constant chatter.

Don't aim for the top of the tree, aim for the stars. Your potential is limited only by your imagination and your imagination is limited only by your willingness to dream. What is it you want most from life? Go out and get it over the coming 12 months.

Saturday, December 05, 2015


I've decided to adopt the French usage of Daesh to refer to the organization that recently committed terrorist attacks in Paris.

This article gives a good English-language explanation of why.  In short, they're not actually Islamic and they're not actually a state, so we shouldn't give them an importance they don't have.  Plus, the word "Daesh" (which is an acronym of the group's Arabic name) can mean "a bigot who imposes his view on others" in Arabic, which is appropriate.

I find each of these points sufficiently compelling in and of itself, but, on top of all that, we have the fact that Daesh dislikes being called Daesh but France prefers that usage. Under the circumstances, I think it's especially appropriate to disregard Daesh's preference in favour of France's.

It occurs to me that it would be interesting to extend this principle. What if there was a general rule that the victim of any offence gets to choose the name or terminology used to define and/or address the perpetrator?

This would be optional (so the victim isn't in the situation where now they have to decide on a name for the perpetrator on top of everything else!), and perhaps there would have to be limitations, like the name you give the perpetrator can't be worse than the offence they committed (so you can't insist that everyone address the guy who blocked your car in the driveway as Pedophile) and they get to resume their own name after the consequences of their offence have ended (so if they kill someone the name change is permanent, but if they fixed your shoes wrong and you had to go back and get them redone, the name change only lasts until you get your properly-fixed shoes back.)

Assholes have been known to use names and forms of address to insult, belittle, or otherwise disrespect people (e.g. calling a grownup woman "miss", misgendering transpeople, insisting on addressing people by their birth name even though they changed it, addressing people by their spouse's surname even when they didn't opt to take their spouse's surname.)  So why not use this power against the assholes?

Unless, of course, that would just make us no better than the assholes...

Friday, December 04, 2015

Things They Should Invent: open source all discontinued products

Sometimes, for various reasons, companies decide to discontinue a particular product, because continuing to manufacture it is no longer an optimal business choice.  Perhaps it's not profitable enough to be worth manufacturing any more, perhaps they prefer to focus their business efforts on other things and it's just not worth continuing to put resources into that particular thing.

The problem with this is that the product is no longer available to any consumers who may still want to buy it.  We're completely at the mercy of manufacturers to continue manufacturing the products that work best for us, and we're left in the lurch when they decide to change their business direction for whatever reason.

Solution: whenever a company discontinues a particular product, they should be required to make the source publicly available for free.  The "source" c\would be the recipe for a food product or beauty product, the pattern for an item of clothing, the technical specifications for a piece of technology, etc. - whatever information is needed to reproduce the product.

This kind of information is usually proprietary, because if the source were available anyone could just make the product themselves and the company wouldn't make any money.  Which is a reasonable rule within the framework of a capitalist society.  However, if the company chooses not to make the product available any more (and, therefore, opts out of making money on it), they shouldn't get to hold it hostage and prevent anyone from ever using it again.

If the company's decision to discontinue the product was in fact advisable - because there isn't demand, because their other products are superior, because the revenue generated by the product doesn't make up for the expenditure and trouble of producing and selling it - then it shouldn't make any difference if they release the source.  But if their decision to discontinue the product was inadvisable, the rest of us shouldn't be punished for their inadvisable business decision.

Variation: if a company alters a product rather than discontinuing it, they have to release the source upon request to individual customers who contact them.  So, for example, the pattern for the my old, beloved Victoria's Secret underwear wouldn't be posted online because they still make the product, but I could email them and say "Your new cotton panties don't work for me - they're itchy wedgie machines! Please send me the pattern of the previous style," and they would be required to send me the pattern so I could make them or have them made myself.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Books read in November 2015


1. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
2. Euphoria by Lily King
3. The Fame Thief by Timothy Hallinan
4. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)


1. Portrait in Death

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The 35% minimum

An article about the Catholic school board introducing a minimum mid-term report card grade of 35% gave me a lot of questions, despite the fact that it's completely irrelevant to me

First, I found myself wondering how common this situation even is!

How many students are actually getting a mark of under 35%?  How many of them are going to be able to pull their mark up to a pass by the end of the semester?  And why 35%, of all numbers?

Also, when I was in school at least, teachers entered the mark for each assignment into a spreadsheet, which weighted them accordingly and calculated the student's overall mark.  The overall mark was not subjective; it was the mathematical result of the mark one each test and assignment.  Because of this, you could figure out how many points you needed to get on an assignment or exam or during the rest of the semester to reach a certain grade.  (During bouts of senioritis, this was also used to calculated where you could slack off.)

So if a student's real total is under 35% but their report card shows 35%, they might use the 35% to calculate how well they need to do in the second semester to pass the whole course.  But if they really have some unknown number less than 35%, they won't get the mark they expect when all the numbers are plugged into the teacher's spreadsheet. Is there some mechanism in place to address this problem?

I'm labelling this post "journalism wanted" because, even though the situation has nothing to do with me, I left the article with way more questions than I went in with.  And if I have all these questions, surely the people affected have even more.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Toilet plungers

I was in a Home Hardware (where I don't shop very often, because it's less convenient than many other stores), and one of the items I was looking for was Draino. (An occupational hazard of having long hair!)  I looked on the shelf with all the other household cleaning products (which is where it always is in supermarkets and drug stores), but couldn't find it.  So I asked an employee, and he took me to the very, very back of the store, where there was an assortment of drain decloggers alongside a wall of toilet plungers.

Which raises the question: why are the toilet plungers at the very, very back of the store?  The items at the very, very back tend to be those that you need the help of expert employees for (i.e. the middle-aged full-timer with half a dozen DIY renovations under their belt, not the teenager stocking the shelves), and toilet plungers don't seem to fall into that category.

So why are they at the very, very back? Walk of shame? Or are they frequently shoplifted by people trying to avoid a walk of shame?

Or are they just trying to make sure people don't think it's a poo shop?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition VIII

I was trying to brainstorm this one a while back, but a simple, elegant solution came to me in the shower.

12.  If you lie to someone about their own thoughts, feelings, motives or experiences, you have to shut up for 24 hours. You are not allowed to talk in the presence of the person to whom you lied about themselves during this time. If the lie was communicated by mass media or another non-verbal medium, you're not allowed to use the medium in question in a way that will enter their sphere of awareness for the next 24 hours.  So if you tweeted the lie, you can't tweet for 24 hours. If you mentioned it in a TV interview, you can't talk on TV for 24 hours.  (So if you're a politician campaigning, be careful when you say "Torontonians want X")

For every subsequent offence, this 24-hour period is doubled (e.g. 48 hours for the second offence, 96 hours for the third offence, etc.)

The person to whom you lied about themselves is has the discretion to permit you to respond to a direct query on a case by case basis, but if you lie to them during this time it counts as a subsequent offence, and the punishment for the subsequent offence is doubled.  Sentences are served consecutively. (e.g. If, during the 24-hour period following your first lie, they give you permission to respond to a direct query and you lie to them about themselves in your response, you have to serve another 96 hours after the first 24 hours expires.)

13. Sometimes, people who say assholic things claim that they're the only one brave enough to express that opinion, when in reality no one else is even thinking those assholic thoughts.

People who do this should be treated like they're too cowardly to do every single thing that it has never occurred to them to do, with whatever the attendant social consequences of not being brave are in their circle.