Friday, December 31, 2004

For the past few years I've been uncomfortable about receiving cash gifts
from people who are retired when I have a perfectly good job. So this year
I donated the total amounts of all my cash gifts and gift certificates to
tsunami relief. I still feel guilty though. I'm not sure if it's about
accepting the gifts instead of giving them back, or about giving the gifts
to charity instead of using them to indulge myself like my relatives
intended, or if it's about making a donation that doesn't hurt at all. I'll
have to think about this a bit more.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

I stumbled upon a new self-revision technique today: after you have a full target-language draft, revise one page to completion, then do something else. Then revise the next page to completion, then do something else.

"Do something else" consists of a 5-10 minute distraction, like getting coffee, going to the bathroom, talking to someone, reading an article on the internet or taking care of a piece of administrative minutia (comme suite a la discussion concernant alumni/alumnae, I'm assuming that's the singular of minutiae?).

It's slow, it's not efficient, and if my boss knew I was working this way he'd give me a "reminder" about our quantitative objectives. But using this technique (and working with hard copy, not on-screen) I managed to get c.10,000 words of English draft copy all finalized except for proofreading (which needs to be done by someone else anyway) on a day when I hadn't done yoga, hadn't had breakfast, and was in a generally grumpy and non-revision mood.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I also have another enlightenment this morning, but I'm not sure at the moment whether it's a good idea to blog about it.
The reality of the whole tsunami disaster thing hasn't sunk in for me yet. I haven't even started absorbing it emotionally. So I see it on the front page and my first subconscious thought is "Why is this on the front page?" I read every article about it straight through because intellectually I know it's important, but I'm reading with an "I should be reading this" attitude rather than a "This is of interest" attitude. I know it will sink in eventually (it took about a week for Sept. 11 to sink in, it took a couple of weeks for Darfur to sink in), perhaps it's taking so long because the scale is so large, but until it does sink in I just look like a horrid terrible callous cold person :/.
The yoga lady on TV says to passively watch your thoughts float by without getting involved. That sounds like a cool skill. But HOW do you do it?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I am finding it extremely difficult to feel anything but ennui about my job lately. Which wouldn't be a huge problem if my job were more mechanical, but it's purely intellectual and I need to give it my complete mental focus. I've just had five days off, and I'm not looking forward to going back at all even though I've got just a three day week ahead of me, followed by a three day weekend.

religion and fanfic

A few random scribbles on religion and fanfic:

The important thing to remember is that religion is not a positive
experience for everyone who experiences it. Some people feel negatively
about religion as a result of their own negative experiences with their own
religion. Therefore, when introduce religion into fanfic in a fandom where
canon is completely secular, there are going to be some negative reviews
simply because you have introduced a new element that is negative for some
people. It's like if you wrote a teacher-student romance, you'd get a
visceral negative reaction from readers who were led on or exploited by
someone in a position of authority. That doesn't mean that religion HAS to
be completely avoided, but just understand that there will be some negative
reaction whenever religion is used, simply because an element that does not
exist in canon and is
negative for some readers has been introduced.

When the presence of religion does not contribute to the plot, the reaction
will be even worse because the use of religion will seem completely
gratuitous. Canon doesn't need religion to work, so if you want to use
religion in a fic it would have to be for a particular plot reason. When it
doesn't contribute to the plot, it seems at best irrelevant and at worst
preachy. For me personally, it give the impression that the author lacks
the ability to get inside a character's head, and has to replace the missing
elements with bits of their own self. It feels like the author cannot
imagine a person who isn't actively religious, which is not a good thing in
a secular fandom. Authors who cannot get inside the head of a person who is
not actively religious should write their own characters who can be as
religious as they want rather than appropriating existing secular characters
and making them religious because they are not creative enough to do

I associate [place where I grew up] with having no control over my own life.
Because I spent my whole childhood there, with the perpetual confusion and
not understand the world that comes with childhood. Then I spent my
adolescence and the first couple years of my adulthood there, with all the
constraints of strict parents and being the suburbs without being able to
drive and having to coordinate my use of the internet and telephone and
television and bathroom and piano and kitchen with three other people. So I
have all kinds of negative associations with that place; just the look and
the smell make me feel out of control.

I think the trick is to think of myself as a houseguest in some strange
place. I don't live there, I'm just visiting. Then I can come back home
and be in total control of my life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The issue with sharia-based arbitration is not about religion or equality or separation of church and state. The big question is: why are people who are not qualified to interpret law allowed to make legally binding arbitration rulings?

Everyone who wants to do arbitration should have to study enough law so they are qualified to interpret law. This would ensure that all their decisions are in accordance with federal, provincial and local laws. They can then make decisions in accordance with whatever other rules or standards they want, just as long as the standards are fully disclosed to all parties involved, and the decisions do not violate any existing laws.

If potential arbitrators do not want to go to the trouble of studying law, they can be free to become mediators instead, so they can still mediate disputes, but their decisions would not be legally binding.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I woke up this morning to the sound of my cellphone freaking out - vibrating madly and playing Pachelbel's Canon at double speed and top volume. This could only mean one thing - HBP release date! There it was, right in my inbox: JULY 16! Thank you!

So after squeeing and blogging and emailing, I proceeded to have a shower. Just as I was finishing up my shower, I heard this HIDEOUS HIDEOUS noise. It was like the feedback you get when you point an open mike at a speaker, but a hundred times worse. Turns out this is my building's new fire alarm! I have to say it is the most effective fire alarm ever, because you want to get out of the building just to get away from the noise! So I threw on my pyjamas and coat and evacuated, my hair wet and tangled and dripping, no feminine hygiene products, no bra (down 14 flights of stairs - OUCH!), no socks, stupid slip-on shoes that kept falling off. I hung out in front of the building, alternately going inside to escape the cold and outside to escape the noise, until the firetrucks came. Turns out there was a broken sprinkler pipe in the basement. So I walked back up 14 flights of stairs (because the alarm was still going and the elevator doesn't work while the alarm is going). By this time it was 5 minutes until I had to leave for work, and there was all bedraggled and shivering in pjs and wet hair. So I called work and said I'd be a bit late (shouting over the alarm), got myself sorted out, and left, walking back down 14 flights of stairs because the elevators were still out of order.

More excitement before breakfast than I usually have in a whole day.
Harry Potter: July 16, 2005!
At my first job, we had two single-room washrooms. Each contained one
toilet and one sink; there were no stalls, just one locking door opening
onto the hallway. Although they were both identical, one was labelled men's
and one was labelled women's. Since both washrooms were completely
accessible, they both had that wheelchair icon on the door.

One day, a lady asked where the washroom was. I pointed her in the right
direction, then continued doing my work. She came back a few seconds later
all indignant. "But that's the HANDICAPPED washroom!" she huffed, sincerely
offended by the idea that she might have to use an accessible washroom.

It occurs to me that this story is a perfect metaphor for people who get all
offended when wished Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2004

In a dream I had last night, there was a gumball machine that sold sugar-covered slices of bread. They weren't fried or sticky or anything, it was just normal bread covered with normal sugar, and somehow the sugar just stayed attached to the bread. And I don't know how the gumball machine managed to dispense bread slices, but it worked.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Backstory: one of the books I'm currently reading is about Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor and was not particularly skilled in the art of fresco, the medium in which the chapel ceiling was to be done. Therefore, he was less than thrilled about being assigned to fresco the ceiling when he would rather be working on his pet project, a large sculpture for the Pope's tomb.

Story: Last night I dreamed that mi cielito was driving me around so I could do some errands. (This is odd, since IRL he doesn't drive). All the time he was complaining about having to drive me places because he's a boyfriend, not a chauffeur, and he's much rather devote his time and attention to "boyfriend functions" than sitting in the car waiting for me to finish my errands. As I ran in to one more store, I told him that there's a book in my purse that he can look at if he gets bored waiting. (No, I don't know why I wasn't taking my purse into the store with me). Bitterly and sarcastically, he says "Is it about a man who is hijacked from his true calling and passioned and forced instead to carry out menial tasks that are not only beneath him but also that he's not even very good at?" I looked in my purse, saw the Michelangelo book, handed it to him, and said "Yes it is!"

Saturday, December 18, 2004

You know that Monty Python sketch where they're making an art house movie
with the two characters standing in a garbage dump, holding a cabbage, and
saying how they love each other? The Royal Tennenbaums reminds me of that.

The Master by Colm Toibin

It's a fictional biography of Henry James, which sounds promising, but the
book itself doesn't do much. It extrapolates from what's known about
James's life to tell anecdotes about his day-to-day thoughts and life, but
it doesn't really seem to have much point. Which I guess is perfectly
valid - why should our lives have to have a point? - but it was a bit
disappointing. Perfectly readable, but it could have been better.

I got to interact with a baby today, which is unusual for me since I don't
know any babies socially. One thing I noticed is that the baby would often
stare at people who were doing the most innocuous things, like eating or
chatting or walking around. While I was in a large group and there was
always at least one, often more, people interacting directly with the baby,
he would often stop and stare at other, unrelated goings-on.

I have a theory about this. I think the baby is used to people looking at
him and making faces and saying "Hiiiiiii!" in that high-pitched voice
everyone uses to talk to babies. I think he stares at other things to see
what the grown-ups do when there's no baby around. This must be how kids
learn how life works, otherwise all everyone would know how to do is stare
people in the face and say "Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!"

I know that when you have several utensils at your place setting, you work
from the outside in. But when there are some utensils above your plate,
lying parallel to the edge of the table, are those ones intended to be used
first or last? I knew all this once and I've totally forgotten!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Lately I have been having this recurring dream where I am a
transcriptionist. It's strange, because this dream feels exactly like a
warning or informational dream, like it's trying to tell me something, and I
can't figure out what it's trying to tell me. Nothing much happens, I just
am a transcriptionist - that's my job. Usually it's obvious to me what a
dream is trying to tell me, but this one I can't tell.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A week or so ago I discussed the problems that arise from having spent most of my life in the company of people who reacted to me in an irrational manner.

I have a follow-up half-formed theory. Let's suppose that the irrational reactions of people around me were simply a function of their having been children at the time. I'm sure we all remember how confusing it is to be a child and how you sometimes don't understand how things work. Let's suppose this is the main cause of their irrational reactions.

If this is true, we can posit that other people, in fact most other people, also had this situation of being surrounded by irrational reactions. Obviously different people react differently to a given situation so not everyone responded by becoming skittish like me, but it would have an effect of some kind on everyone's life.

Therefore, this is why people tend not to mature fully until they are around 30ish. That's the age when you will have spent the majority of your life in the presence of rational reactions, so the part of your mind that reacts like a kid in a schoolyard can finally go dormant.
My favourite red wine is now Sangiovese, and my favourite white wine is Pinot Grigio. That's unfortunate, because I seem to have developed a distinct taste for pretentious-sounding Italian wines. It would be so much more socially acceptable if my favourites were like Merlot and Chardonnay (which I certainly don't mind, but aren't my favourites).
A while back, I googled "Jeans that don't gap in the back" and turned up something called Lee One True Fit. Apparently they are specially designed so they don't gap in the back. Further research showed that they are available at The Bay. So today I went down to The Bay to try them on. They SO gap in the back! I could wear a fanny pack INSIDE those jeans! Now I'm sad and my zen is gone :(

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Civic officials won’t be forced to marry gays

A copy of my email to my MP re: this article:
I was surprised to see such a bizarre headline in the Toronto Star. While I can see the point of not forcing religious institutions to marry anyone they feel doesn't conform with their religious beliefs, I would like to know how exactly the government plans to go about implementing something similar for civic officials without trampling over the rights of citizens in the process. What will be done to ensure that an officiant is available whenever a same-sex couple wants to get married? Would this measure mean that civic officials are free to refuse to marry anyone whose marriage they find distasteful, no matter what the reason? The article says these things haven't been decided yet, but surely the federal government must have something in mind before boldly proclaiming something that seems so unfeasible!
My ROTK Extended Edition arrived today! I wasn't expecting it until at least the 16th! The shipping confirmation was emailed at 9:43am, and the package was at my door when I got home!

The only problem is that no one I know has gotten theirs yet, so I can't watch it until someone confirms the bad chapters for me...

Monday, December 13, 2004

I just saw the weirdest shadow outside my window. It looked like someone walking past the window. But that's impossible - I'm on the 14th floor.
Interesting new thing from Google. As you type into the search field, it autocompletes based on what common searches are. I typed in one or two rather obscure searches that I've done in the past, and they showed up! Scary!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Some choice phrases from my new bottle of body wash:

"Feel the wild freshness of Fa Body Wash and turn your daily shower into an exciting ritual."

"...provides your skin with a perceivable unique freshness experience."

"Feel it, live it - directly on your skin."

"Work into a rich refreshing lather."

"Fa Body Wash is pH-skin-neutral. Dermatologically proven skin compatibility."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I got promoted yesterday. So I decided as a reward to myself I get to stay home in comfy clothes all day today instead of going to the Eaton's Centre as originally planned. So I slept in, played Sims, and read Paul Quarrington's Galveston all the way through. Amazing book! Go read it! At first it's tempting to put it down because the characters are initially presented as rather unsympathetic, but as they are fleshed out further in depth the book becomes better and better and wow!
Because there is a certain degree of bizarreness and a certain degree of
insanity in what I do for a living, I am often tempted to do silly, childish
things at work. The vast majority of the time I resist this temptation - I
just giggle quietly to myself about the idea that occurred to me, then go on
working in a mature, responsible manner.

The problem is, I want credit for not doing the silly things that occur to
me. I want to go up to my co-workers and say "It occurred to me today to
replace the holiday ornaments on the intranet site with pictures of little
green aliens. It also occurred to me to cartwheel down that section full of
empty cubicles, rearrange the nameplates on the offices of the ladies who
are on maternity leave to see if they go to the wrong office when they get
back, move documents from cubicle to cubicle via paper airplane, and send an
office-wide email informing everyone 'IT'S SNOWING!!!!!!!!!1' But I didn't
do any of these things. Now give me a prize."

But of course I can't tell my co-workers that these ideas occurred to me or
they'll think I'm psycho.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Theory: anything in the world is intrinsically funny if you think about the
fact that someone invented it - someone thought it up at a time when no such
thing existed and proceeded to sell other people on the idea.

On the radio someone is commenting on the fact that videogames can be educational. This is new? We had educational videogames when I was a kid! Operation Neptune anyone?

Anyway, I'm blogging at this strange hour because I want to record two analogies I thought of in the shower.

1. Why I don't like being thought of as "someone who is on a diet", even though I have been watching my weight for the past few months: Dieting is a temporary unpleasant chore. I don't want it to define me. For example, suppose your kitchen floor is dirty, so you start scrubbing the floor. As you're doing this, the phone rings. You answer the phone, and your friend asks you what's up. You say "I'm just scrubbing the floor". From then on, you're thought of as a person who scrubs the floor. You're given a bucket and brushes for your birthday. When a fun activity is planned, they don't invite you because they thought you'd rather spend the time scrubbing the floor. Whenever they see you doing something else, they say "What are you doing? Why aren't you scrubbing the floor?"

2. Why I don't need a religion: Suppose that when you're a kid you have a dog. It belonged to your parents before you were born, and it's just a part of the household. It's rather surly and grumpy and keeps trying to frighten you. Your parents say it's just being friendly and playing, but it looks to you like it wants to hurt you. This isn't helped by the fact that your parents keep making you scoop the poop from the backyard even though you don't like this dog. Then you grow up and move out of your parents' house. You find that, living on your own, you're relieved to be free of that dog, and you don't feel that you're lacking anything not having a dog in your life. Would you assume that a) you just haven't found the right breed of dog for you yet, or b) you don't need a dog?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

According to a recent study, using a laptop on your lap causes low sperm
count in men. Blogger is being slow so I'm posting by email so I can't
provide a link, but go to Google News and type in "laptop".

So if you're a man and you want to have kids, use your laptop on your desk.
And if you're a man and you don't want to have kids, use your laptop on your

I overheard a conversation on the subway today where someone mentioned
giving their super a year-end tip. Is this a requirement (like tipping
waiters, hotel housekeeping, taxi drivers etc.) or just a nicety?

The Narrows by Michael Connelly is your standard detective story. Basically
film noir for the 21st century. Not bad, but not particularly exceptional.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I love my library holds list, simply because I never know which book is going to come in next, or when it's going to arrive. I find randomness rather aesthetically pleasing, (when I was a kid, I would reach into my crayon box with my eyes closed and colour the next part of my picture with whichever colour I drew out) so books arriving randomly makes me happy.
Discussion topic of the moment:

Adult privileges, in the order in which I think of them: stay home alone,
babysit, drive, vote, drink, smoke, consent to sex, take legal
responsibility for yourself, gamble, get a job, see movies with various
levels of adult material, get body piercing and tattoos.

Suppose you didn't have these privileges yet, and you get to choose in what
order you get them. What order would you ask for them in? If I missed any,
feel free to add them in.

Enlightenment of the day: the root of most of my problems is that, for the
majority of my life, I was constantly exposed to people who would react in
an irrational manner to things I did. They would yell at me, criticize me,
mock me or attack me for things that were, objectively, not a transgression,
thus hindering my acquisition of the common social code. Not everyone
around me did this, but almost every day I was exposed to at least one
person who did. While I no longer experience this in my daily life, it was
the norm for most of my life. As a result being treated in a rational manner
is something of a novelty; it feels like a warm sunny spring day in March -
a recent exception, not the rule, not something you can count on.

So because I simply cannot make myself believe that people will react in a
rational manner, I'm shy about people. I don't like making requests of
people - not even to ask someone to do something that's their job, or to ask
a friend for a minor favour. I don't like exposing my habits or likes and
dislikes. I apologize in advance for my eccentricities. I don't like social
interaction with people who aren't trusted friends, because I have no idea
what they'll do.

And every once in a while, even now living as an adult surrounded by adults,
I do end up being exposed to someone who acts in an objectively irrational
manner. This doesn't happen too often, but it does occur frequently enough
that, combined with my personal history, empirical evidence suggests that
random or unfamiliar people will behave irrationally. And so the story

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A half-formed theory, based solely on heresay, conjecture, and anecdotal

People with higher novelty-seeking get more pleasure out of physical
exercise. People with lower novelty-seeking get less pleasure out of
physical exercise. I haven't yet decided why, although it could be a result
of the effect of endorphins on an addictive personality. I have low
novelty-seeking, which is why I hate exercising.

Interesting detail from MASH: Major Houlihan usually wear her shirt tucked
in. But in the episode where her appendix is bugging her, she wears it
untucked. Because her appendix is bugging her so she doesn't want tight
stuff around her waist!

From the happy white wine files: Barossa Valley Spires chardonnay and Les Fumees Blanches sauvignon blanc. Both are a bit dry for my taste, but they're still highly drinkable - the kind where it's easy to drink more than you intended to. fumees Blanches has a screwtop lid, which is good for when you want a decent wine with the convenience of a screwtop.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Blah. That's all. Just blah.
Over the past couple of months, there have been some ads hanging in Yonge
Bloor station that contain a picture that causes me distress. I've noticed
recently that some, but not all, of the ads in the station have changed.
Obviously I avoid the part of the station where there are ads I don't want
to see, so I don't know if these ads have changed. Does anyone know if
they're gone yet?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The great advantage to taking night classes is that when I don't have class it seems like I have so much more free time. After my last class on December 8th, I'm going to be feeling a glorious freedom at the oodles of time available to me each day. I'll still be working full-time five days a week, but the idea of finishing work, doing an errand, and still being home by 6:00 feels like unspeakable luxury.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

From the Stupid Things That Annoy Me file:

People who put their babies in carriers/strollers and then cover them up completely. Like they put a blanket over the whole stroller, or somehow close the carrier completely so the baby is in a little closed dark box. I know that when you're outdoors it's to keep out the wind, but you should really let your baby see the world! Actually, it's more for purely selfish reasons - if you're talking up a lot of space with a big stroller or something, I want the compensation of seeing a cute little baby.
The problem with being a translator is that people think I'm an interpreter. Translation is written, interpretation is verbal. They're different skills. Many, if not most, people who can do one can't do both. So then when people find out I can't interpret they get inordinately disappointed in me.
Random, quasi-inappropriate thought of the moment: Wouldn't it be funny if
the hijackers who were flying planes into the World Trade Center missed?
Like they tried to hit the building, but they couldn't steer very well or
something and just flew right in between the buildings? I have no idea if
that would be feasible, but it makes a funny mental image.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Anyone know of any products that can be used for exfoliating the skin around
your eyes and don't require much rubbing or friction?

The Bodybreak people seem to take as a given that "being active is fun". They're going for the wrong audience. They should really do Bodybreak with the given that people don't enjoy "being active", and work from there
Yesterday I learned that at U of T, a 4.0 (the highest mark on the grade point scale) corresponds with 86% to 100%. So if you get 86% in a class, it will show up on your transcript exactly the same as if you got 100% in that class.

This is not good for me.

You see, on my last test, I had more trouble than I had anticipated. I went into the test a bit cocky and was humbled by the number of questions I couldn't answer or had to guess at. I left the test thinking that I'd need to do some additional studying on top of my standard everyday studying.

It turn out I got 90% on that test.

I still got things wrong that I shouldn't have, but since this 90% is considered by the university to be exactly the same as 100%, what's my motiviationto perfect myself? I can just study on the subway on the way to class, and squeak through with guesswork!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

WARNING! Do not buy American grapes!!!
Things they should invent: What'

A website where you can enter two word and it will tell you the difference
between them. It will come pre-programmed with pairs of similar words (for
example, stuttering and stammering, or continuous and continual, or highway
and freeway) and will tell you the difference between those words. If you
enter words that aren't a pre-programmed pair, it will provide dictionary
definitions. If the dictionary definitions don't help, you can "submit"
that pair and trained terminologists will determine the difference and add
it to the database.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

My IP address currently starts with 70. For the entire 2-ish years I've been with this ISP, my IP address has always started with 65. Weird.
A comment by someone named Don Meredith, in today's Globe and Mail,
regarding the Jane bus incident:

"A child is shot and there's no outrage?"

Um, there is outrage. From all sides. Who do you know that isn't outraged?