Saturday, July 31, 2004

After reading a grammatical discussion on Sugarquill, I felt like making a
list of all the grammar errors that I find understandable/forgivable in
amateur writers. Of course, being the proofreader from hell, I would still
correct these errors, but I can understand why someone might make them, and
sympathize completely.

1. Not using the subjunctive in English. Misusing it is still wrong, but
not knowing to use it at all is understandable.
2. Applying English pluralization to words that take Latin pluralization.
However, the reverse is not acceptable.
3. Minor errors in reported speech tense sequence when the sentence
requires three or more tenses.
4. Faulty noun genders (fiancé vs. fiancée), ONLY if the writer has not
studied the language from which the gendering arises.
5. Singular "they". I don't even consider this an error - I want to
standardize it as soon as someone lets me edit the style guide!
6. Sentences ending with prepositions, as long as the preposition is not
one that should go with "whom."
7. Using "who" instead of "whom" when there is no preposition, and
confusing "who" and "whom" in convoluted sentences.

From the Brilliant Ideas that will Never Work file: Designated parking-free

A lot of development of high-rise housing doesn't get off the ground because
the neighbourhood is concerned about where all those cars are going to be
parked. However, there are also a lot of people in the city who don't own a
car at all, and wouldn't mind living somewhere where parking is not

Most residential buildings charge for parking separately - you don't use it,
you don't pay - but perhaps its time to go a step further and have
designated parking-free residences, and pay a modest financial incentive for
people to move into these places.

When you live in parking-free housing, you are not entitled to a spot in the
underground garage or on the street. However, if the building has a carshare
you are still allowed to use it. A whole building can be parking-free, or
there could be a certain number of parking-free units (they wouldn't
necessarily have to be the same units all the time, the residents could just
self-designate). People who choose to be parking-free can still own
vehicles, they just will not be entitled to a parking space in their
building or in reserved parking on the street.

Anyone who moves from a parking unit to a parking-free unit, or designates
themselves as parking-free in an eligible building, would get a one-time
financial incentive (maybe two or three months' housing costs, maybe a
year's worth of metropasses and taxi vouchers, maybe a guarantee that their
rent in the new building would not be higher than the cost of a comparable
apartment in the old building, plus reimbursement of any expenses associated
with moving). Perhaps there could be a large fee associated with switching
your status back to parking if you do so while living in an area that has
parking-free residences, or perhaps you might be required to pay back the

The advantage would be that residents who do not require parking will be
identified, and the financial incentives would encourage them to move to
parking-free areas. I know that if someone paid me to move to a comparable
apartment in the same neighbourhood for the same rent, I would do so. Once
a significant mass of people who are willing to live car-free have been
identified, it will be easier to convince all parties involved to permit the
construction of a car-free highrise in a neighbourhood that can easily
accommodate 200 more people, but cannot handle 200 more cars.

From the Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work file:

With most television services, you can pay a lot of money and get every
channel ever, or you can pay less money and get fewer channels.

For those customers who chose to pay less money and get fewer channels, they
should give them random daily previews of other channels. Customers get,
say, one free hour per week of every channel they don't subscribe to, with
the exception of pay per view and any channels they choose to block. The fun
part is that the free hour is totally randomized, generated by a computer
program. You never know when a channel is going to be available, or which
of the channels are available at a given time. So you're flipping channels
(aside: they need a system where you flip channels and automatically hit
every channel you're currently getting, which some TVs have and some don't)
and suddenly there's this channel you don't pay for! Is it interesting? Do
you want more? Should you pay for this, or try your luck again next week?

Friday, July 30, 2004

Someone to Run With by David Grossman.

A boy runs through the streets of Jerusalem trying to find the owner of a
lost dog. A girl runs through the underworld of Jerusalem trying to get her
brother back from the clutches of the seedy characters who are exploiting
him. And, eventually, find her dog.

The book is a bit slow to start out with, but it picks up about a quarter of
the way in and just doesn't stop. It sometimes comes perilously close to
falling in the TEEN DRAMA! category, but it manages to stay on the realistic
side of the line. Sweet Valley High this isn't. The characters are
beautifully flawed and realistic, and the plot is very plausible for a
thriller/mystery/adventure. The book gets uber bonus points for having a
character who's a shy geeky loner, and NOT giving him a kind, loyal,
omnipresent soulmate of a best friend. (Because if you have a kind, loyal,
omnipresent soulmate of a best friend, then you are NOT a loner). The
ending has so much cliche potential, but the author manages to avoid it by
ending the story at an appropriate moment and leaving the rest to our

I'm told the translation from Hebrew leaves something to be desired, but
I'm not at all qualified to evaluate that. Otherwise, very enjoyable, hard
to put down, one of the best books about adolescent characters I've ever

Thursday, July 29, 2004

"If they made those comments about any other identifiable group, they
wouldn't be able to get away with it."

Have you ever noticed that this is always said about any comments made about
any identifiable group, and it's always said by the people who aren't
letting them get away with it?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The media is very good about reminding people that 911 has interpreters, so
you should call 911 even if you don't speak English. However, it might be
helpful to mention what information a caller needs to provide to get the 911
dispatcher to set up with an appropriate interpreter as soon as possible.
It's nice to know that interpreters are available, but surely 911
dispatchers aren't able to instantly identify every major language,
especially when it's being spoken by someone who's panicking. Non-English
speakers probably realize this, but don't know what information they need to
provide or how to say it in English, so they don't call 911.

The media should find out what information the 911 dispatchers most need
from non-English speakers (The name of their language in English? The
phrase "I need a [language] interpreter"? The words "police", "fire" and
"ambulance"?) and publish this every time they're encouraging people to call
911 right away. That way, non-English speakers could memorize one or two
simple words or phrases, and rest easy with the knowledge that they know
exactly what to say to get help.

It's a panda dog! Panda dog!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The other day in Peanuts, Charlie Brown mentioned (in a thought bubble) that this girl was "the prettiest little girl I've ever seen".

I wonder if Charles Schultz thought that children actually think of kids their own age as  "little girls", or if that was just a Peanuts thing?
Lunchtime.  Foodcourt.  Three women and two babies sit down at the table next to me.  The babies look to me to be under a year old (can't really tell because they're in strollers), they're active and interested in stuff, eating solid food and putting food and bottles in their mouths themselves, although they can't quite handle a spoon.  The women take turns going to buy their lunches, and the two who remain at the table take turns feeding the babies solid food that they've brought.

As one woman returns from fetching her lunch and another stands up to leave, all attention is momentarily turned away from one of the babies.  She grabs a Mini Babybel off the table and starts playing with it. I don't think the Babybels are for the babies (they'd previously been feeding the babies little pieces of cheddar cheese, and who brings two kinds of cheese for an infant?) so I watch to see what happens. In the process of playing with the Babybel, she manages to get the wrapper off.  She throws it on the ground with the practised look of an adult trying to look like they're littering accidently.  Then she figures out how to get the wax off.  Then, with the same practised look, she throws the cheese on the ground and puts the wax in her mouth!  Just as I was wondering whether to intervene (I have no idea how poisonous that wax is) one of the women notices and takes the wax away from her.  The baby glares at her and throws her stroller rattle on the floor in protest.

Madonna of Excelsior by Zakes Mda.  This book is based on a true story of 19 white men and black women in a 1970s South African township who werearrested and tried for miscegenation until the international media found outand threw out the case.  It follows the story of one of the women, and thebiracial daughter she gave birth to as a result of this rape.It is an extremely fascinating book because it is written by a South Africanauthor, and the characters hold the values of the environment they grew upin.  No attempt is made to view the story through a Western lens.  When themain character is a teenager, it's practically normal for her and herfriends to be taken into a field and raped by white men, and the matter isdescribed in the tone in which one describes a minor life annoyance, likemosquitoes or missing the bus.  She doesn't even learn the word for rapeuntil 20 years later.  The only anger that mother or daughter feel is thedaughter's frustration at her appearance, at having hair on her legs whenmost black women don't, and having to put up with schoolyard taunts forbeing "coloured" (even this is treated like it's normal).  The unfairness, hypocrisy and double standards of the apartheid aren't even mention.  Doublestandards in action are described left and right, yes, but it's nevermentioned that this is a double standard. However, because of all this, I didn't much enjoy the book.  First of allthere's the problem of reading repeated rape and sexual harassment scenes.They are essential to the story, they are no more graphic than they need tobe (in fact, they are far less graphic than they need to be), but having to read rape is upsetting, and takes away from my enjoyment of a novel. Also, my milquetoast pablum-fed psyche wanted some kind of happy ending, revenge, justice, reparations for all the cruelty and humiliation the main charactershad to put up with!  But ultimately, there was nothing. A slight semi-demi-maybe-sorta redemption for one of the unpleasant characters, relatively painless natural or unrelated deaths for one or two others. Other than that, life just quietly went on.In summary, very important, very interesting, but not quite comfy recreational reading.
Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle. I have this mental image of a
priest walking down a hill into a raging battle, calmly putting up his hand,
and everyone stops fighting and goes home. When I was five I thought this
was a perfectly plausible situation.

You know, Ms. J never did teach us the dirty version like she promised...

Monday, July 26, 2004

How to make your translator cry:

1.  Don't use verbs. 
2.  Create a situation that involves two men, a masculine corporate entity, and several masculine documents.  Then cease using nouns for the rest of the text, using only the third person singular masculine pronoun.
3.  Tell the story as it occurs to you instead of in chronological order. Bonus points for using the present tense to refer to things that happened in the early past, then using the past tense to refer to things that happened in the recent past.
4.  Always use definite articles when referring to something you haven't mentioned yet.
5.  Quote jurisprudence (excuse me, "case law") frequently, but never cite the decisions you are quoting.  For bonus points, quote jurisprudence that has not yet been archived, uploaded or indexed by Google.
6.  Instead of using one noun to refer to one concept, use a staggering array of synonyms of your own creation every time a substantive is called for.  Make sure these synonyms sound very similar to language that might be found in a law, but are, in fact, just a chain of random words.
7.  Don't bother to explicitly which individuals are the appellant, defendant, plaintiff, counsel, etc. 
8.  Make up your own names for forms, codes, titles, organization names, and other standardized terminology.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Things They Should Invent (well, not invent, but sell): Brown eggs and
white eggs in the same carton. Just 'cause.

Based on the sounds I can hear from the apartment above me, my upstairs
neighbours seem to have spent about half an hour doing something very active
on their bed, then proceeded into the living room where they hammered nails
into pieces of wood.

After using MSN messenger for a week or two, I have to say that I'm not at all impressed.  It offers far less control over your contact list than ICQ - with MSN you can't make yourself invisible to a single user without blocking their messages and you can't choose to make yourself visible to a select few users when you're in invisible mode.  You can't even send a message to a user who's offline!  I cannot fathom why someone would willingly switch to MSN from ICQ. I will therefore be switching back to Trillian posthaste.  The only reason I'm even keeping my MSN account active is because everyone I want to talk to is using MSN, but I'd like to be perfectly clear that this is under protest.
It occurred to me in the shower this morning that perhaps I could eliminate the need to dust the inside of my computer by taking a piece of one of those filters for household heating vents, and putting the piece of filter between the case and the fan, thus filtering the air that enters the computer.

As I usually do before undertaking anything new, I tried to think of any reasons why this might be a stupid idea.  The best I could come up with is "You should stick stuff inside computers," but I can't think of any specific negative consequences that might result (as long as I get the filter attached properly so it doesn't go flying around and get caught in the fan.)

Does anyone reading this have a more definitive idea of why this would be a bad idea, or, conversely, know that it should work without any problems?

There was a poll a while back where they came up with the idea that 40% of Canadian youth think Americans are evil.  (Interestingly, it seems that's the only statistic from that poll that made it into the media.)  I had some thoughts about this while brushing my teeth:

1.  A lot of the interpretation depends on how the question was presented.  Was it multiple choice? ("Do you think Americans are a) cute and cuddly, b) a tasty breakfast treat, or c) evil?")  Was it "Do you agree with the following statement:  Americans are evil."  Was it incremental?  (Strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, strongly disagree) Was it fill in the blank, just asking "What do you think of Americans?" and compiling the results?  There is a difference between agreeing with or choosing a statement that's presented to you, and pulling the idea of "evil" out of thin air.  For one thing, if "evil" was an option presented in the poll, that would certainly give the respondents the impression that it's an acceptable answer in this context, just like if you're talking to a friend in a private conversation at home and he says "My boss is an idiot, is yours?" it's acceptable to agree, but you don't go calling your boss an idiot to his face. Unfortunately, I can no longer find information about how the poll was conducted.

2.  I'm honestly not sure if this is from the same poll or not, but I seem to remember the phrase "a force for evil" kicking around and I have it mentally associated with this poll.  The few remaining articles I could find through Google News have the only the word "evil" in quotation marks.  If the phrase was, in fact, "a force for evil" or something similar, that implies that the actions are evil, not necessarily the people. It's analogous to a brilliant person doing a stupid thing - you can say "That's a stupid thing they did" without meaning that the person themselves is stupid.

3.  Didn't some US politician or another unilaterally declare a few various countries to be evil not so long ago, in front of one or two TV cameras?  Funny, that.

4.  Sometimes it seems like the US is becoming one of those countries where if you criticize the foreign policy it gets interpreted as hate speech against the people.  I'm not sure if this is because of the Weltanschauung of certain significant elements of American society, or if the people who make these accusations in the media I regularly consume are just really loud or what, but it just makes me want to ignore US news and politics.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Things They Should Invent: Pay-Per-Use Last-Caller ID

You press *##, and the phone tells you verbally the number that called last.
You get charged a few cents, whatever's reasonable, whenever you use this
function. I know phones can do this because my work phone does it, but I
don't want to pay money for call display and for a display phone because I
don't get that many missed calls.

Do different cultures have different constellations?
I saw horsies!  Walking down Yonge Street!  Horsies!!!!
Things I wonder about bodily fluids:

1.  How much blood can you lose without dying?

2.  Suppose you're a hemophiliac, so if you start bleeding it doesn't stop without medical attention.  Suppose you get a really really tiny pinprick, so you're bleeding very very slowly.  If you're bleeding at a slower rate than your body can regenerate blood cells, but you keep bleeding forever, would you still bleed to death or could you keep functioning normally despite the fact that you're trickling blood.

3.  When people have had total kidney failure so they have to have dialysis, do they still need to urinate?
I hate this. I'm a shy and nervous person, so I have various nervous tics
when I'm feeling uncomfortable. When I was a child, these tics were rather
unpleasant things, like picking my nose, squeezing my zits, or cracking my
knuckles.. As I got older I realized I couldn't do these things in public,
so I consciously switched to playing with my necklaces. Eventually, all my
necklaces broke. So I made another conscious effort to switch fixing my hair
and touching my neck as though unconsciously scratching an itch. Then I read
an article that said that these are signs of flirting, so I worked
consciously to eliminate them, channelling my nervous energies into
adjusting my clothes.

Now I just read an article that said that signs of flirting are adjusting
your clothes, tossing your head, and making eye contact and looking away. I
now adjust my clothes as a nervous tic, I toss my head to avoid touching my
hair and coming across as flirting, and I make eye contact and look away
because I'm trying not to make eye contact at all so as not to give the
impression that I'm interested! GAH! So now it looks like I'll have to
find another nervous tic, wear my hair pulled tightly back and thoroughly
sprayed at all times so it never requires adjustment, and wear dark
sunglasses everywhere.

Things They Should Invent: an "I don't want to see this ad any more" option
for web browsers

It would put a cookie in your browser telling ad servers not to show you
particular ads. This would be no loss to the advertisers because obviously
users aren't going to click on an ad that they don't want to see, and it
would make users' browsing experience more pleasant.

I use WebWasher to achieve this at home, but I'm not allowed to install
software on my work computer and I really would like a way to avoid seeing
ads for Spiderman, dating services, and pornographic screensavers while at

Some Great Thing by Colin McAdam

I can't decide whether I like this book or not.  The big problem is that all the characters are entirely unsympathetic. They all act like assholes, jerks or idiots, they all end up committing adultery, and they all do so with the attitude that the adultery is some random phenomenon that just happened to them, rather than a conscious decision that they made themselves.  I found it very difficult to work my way through the book because of all this - I simply did not enjoy spending my evenings inside these people's heads.

However, it does have a lot of redeeming qualities.  The author has perfectly captured the vernacular of his diverse characters, both in terms of speech and in terms of train of thought.  He has an unfortunate habit of not indicating frequently enough which character is speaking, leaving the reader counting lines, but the dialogue is impeccable.  Another plus is that the book is about urban planning in Ottawa during the 1970s, but the fact that it is about urban planning does not make the book less interesting in any way.  That's certainly an indication of the author's talent, being able to make a novel about urban planning interesting!

The book itself is quite good, it's just that I found the characters intolerable.  If you think you can put up with the characters, it might be worth reading the book.  I should warn, however, that there is a LOT of profanity in this book.  It's piled in layers upon layers in fascinating combinations that I've never seen before.  For me, the sheer density of the profanity made it meaningless, but other people might not feel this way.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Indulge me for a moment as I talk my way through a train of thought:

There are some people who are opposed to employment equity.  People have various reasons for being opposed to this policy.  One of the reasons that some people are opposed is that they feel that employment equity is favouring less-qualified candidates from designated groups over more qualified candidates not from designated groups.

It occurs to me that the people who oppose employment equity for this reason might want to keep quiet about it.

Why?  Well, let's start with the premise that since they are opposed to employment equity, their goal is to put an end to the program, so all candidates will be evaluated solely on merit and qualifications with no consideration for designated group status.

So what would it take to make the program end? First and foremost, all parties involved would have to feel that the program has done its job and is no longer necessary. 

How would they decide if the program has done its job?  I think two factors have to be met. 

First of all, the numbers have to work out.  The percentage of members of designated groups within whatever the organization is would have to match their percentages in the general population.  This is complex, there are many factors,  I have many thoughts on this, and it does need to be addressed.  However, it is very big, and it outside the control of people who are opposed to employment equity, and outside the scope of this little logic exercise of mine.

The second factor is that the members of designated groups who are sitting on employment equity committees have to start reporting back that they are not feeling at all disadvantaged or discriminated against because of their designated status.

Now imagine for a moment you are a member of a designated group; let's say you are an Icklibogg.  You worked very hard to get where you are, learned a lot, were always willing to try something new.  Meanwhile, somewhere decided that Ickliboggs are under-represented in your organization and put them on the employment equity list, because there aren't many Ickliboggs in the organization, they rope you into sitting on the employment equity committe. 

Then one day you overhear someone saying, in a very derisive tone, "Oh, they're only where they are because they're an Icklibogg."  You don't know whether they're talking about you or not, but you heard quite clearly what they said.

Later that day, you have to go to an employment equity committee meeting.  The chair asks you "So do you feel that our organization is a positive environment for Ickliboggs?"

Would your answer contribute to the elimination of employment equity?

Re: Catney's comments (which I'm far too lazy to find a link for - do a
Google News search for Catney if you don't already know what I'm talking

The problem with the possibility of these comments poisoning the trial is
not purely academic. It isn't just some lofty theoretical matter of a
police officer verbally violating the "innocent until proven guilty" precept
even though we all know everything thinks he's the guy. The problem is the
possibility that Chen did, in fact, kill Cecilia Zhang, if he is, in fact, a
psychopathic cold-blooded child murderer from whom society needs to be
protected, and he gets a decent criminal lawyer and walks free because
Catney let his professionalism drop for one minute and poisoned the trial.

Things They Should Invent:

1. Self-scanning library return drop-box. When you drop a book in, it
automatically scans it as having been returned. Then all the librarians
need to do is reshelf the books. The scanner would have to be further
inside to prevent people from sticking the edge of the book into the slot
then pulling it back out and walking off with the book, but I think it could
be done with something like a supermarket scanner. On a related note, they
should come up with a library system that lets the library track books with
their UPS barcode instead of adding a new barcode.

2. Time-sensitive "reply to" field for email. So when I send an urgent
personal email from work, I can have the "reply to" address be my work
address before 5:00, and my home address after 5:00.

When I read that there had been an arrest in the Cecilia Zhang case, the
first thought that popped into my head was "I wonder if this guy really did
it, or if they're just pinning it on someone they had to arrest for
something else so the police could have some positive press."

And Fantino says there has been no loss of public trust!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Helpful hint: wrap skirt + windy day + 4 bags of groceries = bad idea

However, it did result in my inventing something: a button at about knee
level on the outside edge of a wrap skirt! Unfortunately, I don't know how
to make buttonholes. Fortunately, I think my mommy does. Yes, I'm so inept
at the whole "physically making stuff" thing that I still have to go crying
to my mommy when I want to alter a garment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

What are earlobes for anyway?
It seems that, through jurilinguistic fluke , same-sex marriage is legal in
Ontario, but same-sex divorce is not.

That has me wondering: how do people who are opposed to same-sex marriage
feel about same-sex divorce? What about people who are opposed to same-sex
marriage but are also opposed to divorce in general?

Things they should invent:  exercise television.  All exercise shows, all the time.  Not shows about exercising, shows where the people on TV are exercising and the viewer at home is supposed to follow along.

Why? Well, I find that for myself, personally, the only way I can get myself to exercise is by following exercise shows on TV.  I like doing this because I can exercise in the privacy of my own home, there's little to no cost for me, and the exercises presented are sufficiently random so I don't have to do the same thing every day and I don't always know what's coming. I know exercise shows aren't the best workouts in the world, but they are the only ones that I end up actually doing, so that makes them the best option.

Now I can't be the only one who feels this way about exercising.  I'm sure there are a lot of people who wouldn't mind having the opportunity to exercise in the privacy of their own homes, at their leisure.  However, in my area at least, exercise shows are only on TV at one specific time, around 6:00 a.m.  Now this happens to fit into my schedule, but I'm sure there are some people who have to leave the house early or work shifts or whatnot and simply can't make the time to exercise at that particular time of day. This is where Exercise Television comes in.

Exercise Television would show only exercise shows, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There would be strict alternation between shows featuring cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises, so if the viewer watches for any 90 straight minutes they'd get all three.  There would be maybe three 8-hour cycles or four 6-hour cycles every day, so if someone wants to catch a particular show they have several opportunities, but no one episode would be shown two days in a row so viewers don't find themselves doing the exact same thing every day.  The channel could pad out their programming by buying up old PBS exercise shows that are all retro 70s or 80s but still perfectly good exercise.  They could show commercials only between the shows so as not to interrupt anyone's workout.  If necessary, they could even become a pay channel - I'm sure people who are interested would pay something like $5 per month to be able to exercise at home at any time of the day.  What would be better is if whatever gov't department or agency is responsible for getting Canadians to exercise (those demons who came up with Canada Fitness!) subsidized this channel and made sure it was broadcast on every television service.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Reasons why I am grumpy:

1. Everyone gets to be nocturnal except me.
2. I have a zit in my eyebrow, which not only hurts but also messes up my
eyebrow grooming. Not to mention that I should have outgrown zits by now.
3. I bought the wrong shampoo.
4. There was apparently a torrential thunderstorm this afternoon and I
missed the whole thing except for a few thunderclaps because there is no
window in my office.
5. Various political things I can't discuss here.
6. Every day when I go to collect my morning newspaper, the carpet outside
my apartments looks more and more unravelled. I have no idea how this is
happening. It looks like it's my fault because it's right outside my
apartment, but it isn't - I never even walk on that section of the carpet!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

So I'm buying some items in a lingerie store.  As the cashier goes through her normal transaction spiel, she asks me "Did you find the right sizes?"
This is a very strange question to ask in a lingerie store.  Lingerie is a very finicky item of clothing that only works if it's the right size.  Why would I be buying things if I didn't find the right sizes?  Do they think someone's going to say "Actually, you were plum out of 36D, so I decided to make due with this 32A instead."  I wonder what they were thinking when they put that in the script?
However, I am very happy.  I got two bras for only $32, and I spent less than 30 minutes in the store.  Some La Senza products have small cup sizes, so if you happen to be a half size like me, going to La Senza and getting an item in the larger cup size might help.
Someone remind me in mid-August to sign up for my class at U of T please? 
Now that I've sorted out the application process and been accepted and decoded the calendar and taken a brief detour to drool over the assortment of linguistics courses available, I have no need to think about it until my enrolment date, and if anything else requiring my attention comes up between now and then I might forget about it completely!

Saturday, July 17, 2004

I try to blog about any new products and services I've tried that I either
like or don't like, but I keep forgetting to blog about my best discovery in
recent weeks: CBC Radio One.

I've never been too fond of radio in general; I find most radio programming
either obnoxious or dull, and hold a particular animosity towards radio
commercials. However, I do find it's the best thing to wake up to in the
morning because it eases me out of sleep more gently than an alarm. For
years I never listened to CBC because I have it mentally associated with
long, nauseating car rides, but when I was in Quebec in June I needed a
radio station to wake up to and found myself faced with a dial full of
unfamiliar stations and no internet on which to look them up, so I tuned in
to the English CBC just because I knew they have higher standards than most
commercial radio, so I would hear pertinent news and weather, with no
obnoxious commercials or crude hosts.

What I heard was the most relevant newscast I've heard in ages, weather at
frequent intervals, local election coverage that was interesting to me even
though this wasn't my riding, and NO COMMERCIALS except for paid political

I was particularly happy with the way they covered local election issues and
the way they did news - they have a knack for touching upon all the stories
that are interesting to me - so I decided to set my radio to CBC once I got
home and listen to them for the rest of the election. The election finished
weeks ago, and I'm still listening! Every single topic they discuss is
interesting, and they leave me wanting more rather than droning on and on
for far too long. Their news coverage touches on all the developments in
the stories that are most important to me - they mention Maher Arar almost
every single day, and on days when nothing is happening with him they
mention why nothing is happening, unlike certain newspapers that just ignore
it when nothing is happening. Their traffic coverage includes mentions of
any TTC delays! Their sports coverage even touches on more interesting
things like Euro Cup and Tour de France and Olympic trials rather than just
rattling off professional sports scores, or going way overboard with

Basically it's the first time I've ever listened to a radio station and felt
like I'm the target demographic, like they actively want me, personally, to
be listening. So I'm going to keep listening.

Whoever invents plastic surgery to correct short-waistedness is going to be
very rich.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Two random things I've been wondering:
1.  What are the origins of pressing the palms of one's hands together to signify prayer?  I know that this gesture exists in xianity and in yoga, so it can't be religion-specific...
2.  I read that they film five episodes of Jeopardy! in one day.  Has anyone noticed if the returning contestant (or Alex Trebeck) wear the same outfit for two episodes in a row?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I've been using the Reach Access flosser for a couple of weeks now, and it works in that I actually do floss with it.  BUT but but . . . since I started flossing, I've noticed that the gap between my two front teeth, which I got orthodontically removed in high school, has started to return!  Right now it's not too big, it's maybe one third of a millimetre, it's the smallest possible gap that could be there and look like a gap, but it's there!  GAH!  I thought flossing was supposed to be good for you!  So now I don't know what to do.  I still wear my retainer for about 15 hours per week, but maybe it isn't working any more.  I'll have to find an orthodontist and see about getting my retainer adjusted, because I'm sure as hell not going to start wearing braces again!  I get mistaken for a student enough as it is!
Swans!  That is so cool, all animals should carry their young like that!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Where are the stairs at the end of the Oral B Brush-ups commercial? I know I've seen them before, I know I've walked up or down them before, I know they're in Toronto, but I can't place them for the life of me!
There's a doggie in my building with whom I'm vaguely acquainted. He's a big doggie, white with brown spots. He likes bananas, is afraid of elevators, and always takes the time to thoroughly sniff my shopping bags, even when they contain nothing but clothing or household cleaning products.

Today, as I headed from the mailroom to the elevators, I heard frantic barking interspersed with whimpering. Doggie was scared of something, but trying to frighten it away with his big dog status. I went to see what was going on, and saw Doggie being walked into the building while someone else carried a houseplant into the building. Doggie didn't like the houseplant and somehow felt threatened by it, so he was trying to scare it away before it got him, while his humans tried to explain that it's only a plant.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

This always always happens: It's evening. I'm starting to nod off while reading. I figure this is a sign I should just go straight to bed, get an hour or two extra sleep, and feel bright and fresh the next morning. I drag myself off the couch and set about doing the most necessary aspects of my bedtime routine. But somehow, doing these few necessary tasks wakes me up. And gives me a sudden craving for soup. And makes me think of something to write that I really should get down before bed. And isn't the internet interesting today! And, oh, look, MASH is on! And let's just get this game to a point where we can save it and pick up easily next time...and suddenly it's midnight and I have to get up in 5.5 hours.
The Stowaway by Robert Hough is, in a word, amazing. Some stowaways are found on board a container ship, and, to the crew's shock and horror, the officers respond by setting them adrift in a makeshift raft, sending them to certain death. When another stowaway is found, the crew is compelled to keep him alive and hidden from the officers, knowing full well that if their plan is found out they will be the next ones thrown overboard. The result is a dark, tense, dramatic thriller that has you holding your breath every time you turn a page, and would be the perfect candidate for the next thriller-on-a-boat movie.

When I came to the end of the book, I was surprised to find out that it was based on a true story, the Maersk Dubai! Everything actually happened, only the character of the stowaway was changed because the author couldn't get an interview with the real stowaway.

The author also gets bonus points for accurately portraying language gaps and conversations between two people for whom English is a second language, which many authors seem to have trouble with.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Today was not a good day. I kept getting flirted with for some reason. Three times. In the building where I work. In the elevator. By men in their 30s and 40s. Some of whom were wearing wedding rings.

I am so not impressed.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A way to add a bit more surreality to your blogging experience:

1. Log into Blogger
2. Click on the link on the right that says "Edit Profile".
3. Click on the checkbox at the top that says "Share my profile".
4. Fill out the profile however you want.
5. The very last item in the profile is "Random Question". Answer this question.
6. Check the box beneath the random question that says "Give me a new question".
7. Click on Save Profile.
8. You should get a green message that says "Your setting have been saved." Click on the "View Updated Profile" link next to this message.

If all goes well, the Random Question was replaced with a new question when you saved your profile, and the new question appears on your profile with the answer that your provided to the old question.
On TV they happened to show some Fisher Price toys. The animals in the barn are over twice the size of the animals in the Fisher Price barn I had as a child. I wonder if this means that I was playing with choking hazards for my entire childhood?
As I waited in line at the ATM at Yonge & Eg., I overheard a passing child:

"Mommy, how much more walking until we get to the CN Tower?"

The kid couldn't have been more than five. Fuck, I hope he was misunderstanding the situation and they weren't making him walk from Eg. down to the CN Tower! That's the kind of parenting that produces people like me who absolutely dread summer!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

An interesting philosophical and moral exercise: think about activities that are illegal and/or generally considered to be "wrong". Think about the activities from this list that you do not engage in. Now try to figure out why, exactly, you do not engage in these activities. Try to get beyond "it's wrong" or "it's illegal", try to get down to the core essential reason(s), the factors that are dealbreakers. If these factors were eliminated, you would not hesitate to engage in these activites. Is the punishment meted out by the law the real deterrent, or is it something else?
Is a Sgt. Major a kind of Sergeant or a kind of Major?
My Harmony book currently has me working on Classical ornaments. It
discusses, in practically mathematical terms, how exactly an ornament is
supposed to be played, and the exercises consist of showing me an ornament
and having me write it out in full, or showing me a big mess of black note
and having me write it with ornament symbols.

For some reason I find this terribly interesting. In my formal music
education I was always taught how to play ornaments on a case-by-case basis,
and I never realized they had such a precise meaning. Plus there's a lot of
subdividing involved, as you try to fit a sextuplet of thirty-second notes*
into an existing measure. It's amazing how mentally relaxing subdividing
can be after eight hours of translation!

*If I'd only been taught music using British terminology, I could have said
"a sextuplet of demisemiquavers" here. Curse RCM for denying me the
opportunity to use the word demisemiquaver in my daily life!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Minority Governing for Dummies Canadian Political Parties:

1. Think of the one single reason why voters who vote against your party are likely to vote against your party. Then make a pledge to address that issue, and stick to that pledge for at least one year. For example, the Liberals could commit to massive transparency, the Conservatives could commit to not actively pursuing any policy that would limit existing rights, the Bloc could commit to not actively pursuing separatism, and the NDP could commit to not actively pursuing any policy that would put Canada into deficit.

2. Look at all the policies in your platform, find the policy that is furthest away from anything any of the other parties have in their platforms, and put it on hold for a period of one year.

3. Compare the platforms of all four parties, and find the one policy on which you agree the most closely, in principle if not in quantitative details. Pursue that policy with a mind to finding a happy medium rather than stubbornly getting your way.

4. Repeat step 3 as needed.

I am now on MSN instead of ICQ. My MSN username can be found in my ICQ profile, or you can contact me at my personal email address to get it. If you don't know my personal email address, this message is not intended for you.

I want to make it perfectly clear that this was NOT my idea. I'm not the kind of person to abandon a perfectly good instant messenging platform, especially a pioneer like ICQ, just because some corporate behemoth has become trendier. However, all the most important people, the ones who merited alerts when they came online and who got to see me when I was in invisible mode, they all abandoned me and went to MSN, so I must either begrudgingly follow them or spend my days staring at a dead contact list.
Old School by Tobias Wolff is the story of a student at a New England boarding school. The school has writing competitions where the winner gets to meet a famous writer, and the story follows his entries in these competitions and the consequences thereof.

I really enjoyed this book. Part of the reason is doubtless because books about boarding schools have always, inexplicably, appealed to me. Part of the reason is that the kids in this book acted like kids. No angst, no drama, no unrealistic gratuitous sex just so the author can write a sex scene, no "look at me, I'm smoking and drinking, I'm so fucking edgy" (They did smoke and drink, they were just reasonable and unpretentious about it).

The plot itself is small, nothing huge and earth-shattering, but I think this adds to the quality of the novel. Huge and earthshattering things don't happen when you're 17, and the book doesn't pretend otherwise. Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemmingway all show up, and the protagonist has little to no interaction with them. (Although the book does do me the favour of explaining through its first-person point of view why reading Ayn Rand tends to turn people into assholes, if sometimes only temporarily). It's refreshing to have a protagonist who DOESN'T get to become personally acquainted with the famous personages who pass through his life. There is a decent story arc with a bit of a twist at the end, but nothing superlative happens at all. That's why I enjoyed it, it felt realistic. (As realistic as a period piece in an era and location that I've never been in can be).
The best thing to do about the whole Speaker debacle would be to make Independent MP Chuck Cadman speaker of the house, and give him the right to vote freely. As a normal MP his vote would only be useful in case of a tie, so this is a way to appoint a speaker without putting anyone at an actual or perceived disadvantage. I suppose the only problem would occur when he wants to present a private member's bill, but perhaps they could have someone else as acting speaker while he presents the bill, and then put them all back in their normal places when they vote?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

How do they know that dog treats are yummier for dogs than normal dog food?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A Game to Play on the Tracks by Lorna Jackson was unanimously well-reviewed,
but I didn't enjoy it. The author deliberately under-informs the reader in
a way that doesn't contribute to the overall novel and leaves the reader
paging backwards to see whose viewpoint we're reading now. The recurring
imagery seems deliberate and there for its own sake (Look ma, recurring
imagery!), and the characters aren't deep enough to make me care about them.
The overall impression I get is that of an amateur writer using devices that
she's seen other authors use, without actually knowing when and why to use
them. It seems that she had some great epic saga in her head, but she
couldn't get it through to me.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I don't think the Globe and Mail and its editors and letter-writers are being very fair to Chandler Powell.

Shortly after the federal election was called, G&M started running a series called "Will Chandler Vote?", where they profiled Mr. Powell, a 23-year-old who wasn't sure if he was going to vote, and followed him from the election call to election day, writing a weekly column about his decision-making process.

All throughout this process, people were sending letters to the editor accusing Mr. Powell, and sometimes his whole demographic (full disclosure: I am part of this demographic) of being selfish, self-absorbed, lazy, navel-gazing, and overly introspective. Many of these letter-writers seemed extremely angry that Mr. Powell had not decided whether to vote and was going through such a complex decision-making process, some implied that this introspection and over-analysis was some shameful crime for which he should be punished by being senteced to poverty or war or oppression or hard labour. The Globe and Mail itself even wrote a scathing, scornful editorial, just after the first Chandler column appeared, slamming the fact that he had not yet decided whether to vote.

The problem is that all these people are condemning Chandler Powell for being exactly the kind of person the Globe and Mail needed to do this feature.

Each Chandler column was between 1/3 and 1/2 of a newspaper page. I word-counted a couple, and they came in just under 900 words. The election was about five weeks long. That comes to a total of almost a full two-page spread, or between 4000 and 5000 words, about Mr. Powell deciding whether to vote. Imagine if you were making a simple personal decision and a reporter was following you around, asking questions, making you expound and explain and justify and rationalize and reflect upon your decision making process until they had enough material for a two-page spread. Could you do this and not come across as self-centred, self-absorbed, navel-gazing and overly introspective?

It was particularly inappropriate for the Globe and Mail's editorial of May 27th to attack Mr. Powell for possibly choosing not to vote. On May 27th, the campaign was less than a week old, and there was still a month left. The Globe and Mail still had four or five columns to do about his decision-making process. They NEEDED him to be undecided. What would they have written 900 words a week about if he had already decided that yes, he was going to vote? If the newspaper wanted to write an editorial about how important it is that young people vote that would have been fine, but it was awfully rude of them to condemn Mr. Powell personally for essentially being a cooperative subject for their feature.

As for the readers and letter-writers who, for reasons I don't quite understand, seemed so very outraged that Mr. Powell might not vote and was thinking so much about it, taking so much into consideration, I would have expected better than for them to take it out on Mr. Powell personally. The self-centredness, self-absorption, introspection, navel-gazing and possibly-not-voting for which they condemn Mr. Powell are all necessary characteristics of this sort of feature. If the readers find that disagreeable, they should be taking issue with the newspaper itself for choosing to run such a feature, rather than with its subject for being an ideal subject.
Apparently, until 1998, in the British parliament, every time someone wanted
to raise a point of order in the House, they had to wear a hat. They kept
collapsible top hats on hand for just such occasions.

I like that rule. It reminds me of Calvinball.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc does not taste like a Sauv. Blanc to me. It tastes more like a dry Chardonnay. It isn't bad, it isn't good, it doesn't seem like a Sauv. Blanc. That's really all I have to say about it.
Kitchen Stuff Plus has keychain breathalysers for only $15!
I had a dream where I was at my grandmother's. Her dog (not her current dog, her previous dog) kept tugging at the leg of my pants. (I was wearing giant bell-bottoms, probably as a plot device). I figured out that the dog wanted me to follow her, so I come along in the direction she was pulling me in. She takes me up to the attic, where there's a leak in the roof. So I start looking around for a bucket to put under the leak, but I can't find one. Then the dog wanders into the room with a giant bucket over her head. (Which is even funnier since this dog is tiny - she always weighed under 10 pounds).

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Fountain at the Center [sic] of the World by Robert Newman is essentially an anti-globalization treatise disguised as a novel. The problem is that the people who are going to read this novel are already anti-globalization, or at least not pro-globalization, so it's unlikely to change any opinions. It starts out slow - I had no enthusiasm for reading more than my allotted chapter per day - but picks up as to goes on. The approach to the "villain" is very interesting, because he is introduced as the protagonist and is never explicitly made out to be "evil" - he is treated with the same neutrality as the "good guys". If it weren't for the anti-globalization rhetoric (and I use this word without its connotations) smattered throughout the novel, the treatment of the protagonist/villain could even result in it being read as a pro-globalization novel by those who are already pro-globalization.

I do have an issue with the editors, however. I, with my two half-hearted years of Spanish, could find two errors in the incidental Spanish in this book: they wrote the Italian "Signor" instead of the Spanish "Senor", and they spelled "maquiladora" with two L's, which would change the pronunciation. There were also a few uncaught typoes: "some placeelse" instead of "someplace else", for example. I caught about half a dozen editing problems in total, and when the editing is not as thorough as it should be I'm inclined to think that perhaps the fact-checking wasn't as thorough as it should be, which is an unfortunate impression for such a political book to give.
Bellingham Shiraz is a fickle fickle little wine. The first glass was very nice, creamy, berryish, spicy, everything a shiraz should be. Then I sealed it and stored it in the usual manner. When I opened it again for another glass, it was slightly tannic and a bit too sharp. Perhaps this isn't a normal standard by which one judges wine, but I like my wines to stand up even when I don't finish the whole bottle in one sitting.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I have the worst headache ever and there's something squeaky and rattly - like a really bad motor - in the apartment upstairs or on one of the balconies and it's making the most horrid noise ever. :(
I wonder how composers decide what key their compositions will be in?