Monday, January 31, 2005

A grammatical question

In the movie title Return of the Jedi, is Jedi singular or plural?

UPDATE: Further research suggests that no one is really certain, not even the official translators. The French version of the movie is called Le Retour du Jedi, which is singular. (If it were plural it would be Le Retour des Jedi(s). Unless of course Jedi is a collective noun in French, but I don't know if a borrowed word in French can automatically be a collective noun referring to human beings without it meaning ALL the Jedi, ever, which would be a bit inaccurate). The German version of the movie is called Die Rueckkehr der Jedi-Ritter, which is plural. If it were singular it would be Die Rueckkehr des Jedi-Ritters, assuming Jedi as a modifier doesn't decline. (And pardon my umlaut-free spelling - I can't always get diacritics to appear with any consistency in this blog).

Unfortunately I don't know where to find international titles of Star Wars movies other than on international Amazon sites, and the only international Amazon sites I can read are the French and German ones. Any further thoughts on the matter are most welcome.

A poll: how much did you learn in school about the origins of life?

I've been noticing in my perhipheral vision that people are still debating whether or how evolution or creationism should be taught in schools.

This raises a question, and I'd like the feedback of anyone who might be reading this:

Exactly how much instruction on the origins of earth and the origins of life did you receive in school?

Because in my experience, there simply wasn't enough time devoted to it to make it worthy of such a debate.

I remember we watched a video on the Big Bang in grade 5. I was religious at the time, and at first I was moderately perplexed that it differed from the biblical account, but by the end of the video I was able to reconcile the two in my head. I simply decided that this whole Big Bang thing was how God had created the universe. I seem to recall that at the end of the video there was a brief mention of the fact that no one knows this for certain and it disagrees with some religious teachings, and I remember thinking (although not in such grown-up words) "Why? This is perfectly compatible with religion, it's simply science's best speculation on God's methodology."

Sometime after that I internalized the whole evolution and Darwin thing. I don't think it was taught in school, I don't know where I picked it up, but by the time it came up in class I was already quite familiar with Darwin and natural selection and that diagram of a thing crawling out of the sea and becoming a lizard and becoming an ape and becoming a person (who was always using a walking stick for some reason).

The next time it came up in school was in grade 11 Ancient Civilizations. We touched briefly on Lucy the Australopithecus and other findings of pre-human ancestors, and the whole problem of the Missing Link was mentioned. We didn't look at this in any great depth - perhaps two days were spent on it - because it was basically a tee-up to the fact that the earliest humans lived in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates. We did touch on various ancient civilizations' creation myths at various points throughout the year, but that was mostly to help contextualize their religions. Any creation myths of any religions practised by any of the students in the class were beyond the scope of the course.

Anyway, my point is that no more than three class periods of my educational career (in Ontario public schools in the 80s and 90s) were spent on anything that might touch on evolution vs. creationism, so I'm wondering if my experience was vastly different than average, or vastly different from the American experience.

So my poll for anyone reading this: where and when did you go to school, and how much attention was given to the origins of the universe and/or human life in your curriculum?

Insomnia update

I was all awake and energetic early this morning. I did an hour of yoga, half an hour of cardio and half an hour of weights, and I was feeling great. As I took a shower, it occurred to me that perhaps I had dreamed my insomnia and was, in fact, well-rested. I had big plans to watch Sesame Street at 10:30, but I wasn't quite hungry for breakfast yet. So I wandered into my bedroom around 10:00, pondering whether to get dressed even though my hair was still wet. I decided to lie down on my bed to see if it felt as hateful as it did last night.

It was like falling into the arms of an old friend.

I had the most fascinating series of dreams, and woke up just now. And NOW I'm tired!

It was nice to know that I CAN sleep, even if just out of sheer exhaustion. So my new plan is to stay home all day, stay awake, do whatever I'm up to doing, and then go to sleep for the night around 5:30-6. No going to class tonight! Hopefully this will get me a nice 12 or so hours of sleep, and then I'll be ready to deal with real life tomorrow.


I haven't slept. So I guess I'm calling in sick tomorrow, i.e. today. I lay in bed for hours doing breathing exercises, but it didn't help. Right now I'm more comfortable in my computer chair than in bed anyway, so I'm revisiting all the web-based games I haven't played in a while. Then I'm going to make myself exercise, then I'm going to have a shower and let myself lie in bed and listen to the radio until 10, then I'm going to force myself to get up and do stuff so I dno't become completely nocturnal. I hope to go to class tonight, but I don't know if that will work or not. Bleh.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

An Aesthetic Underground: A Literary Memoir by John Metcalf

I did not enjoy this book at all. I picked it up because I had heard it was witty, but I think it caused a total of one chuckle and two small smiles. I find the author's writing style tedious, particularly his habit of listing things in the middles of sentences and paragraphs (e.g. People Who Were There, Books the Author Read During This Time, The Food on the Menu). To me, this comes across as pretentious name-dropping.

More significantly, based on the information in this book and no prior conceptions, I found the author to be a thoroughly unpleasant person. I found him to be so unpleasant that after the first couple of chapters, I was holding the book horizontally in the subway instead of vertically as is my custom, so that people wouldn't see that I was reading this author's memoirs.

Now here's a strange reaction: I was going to enumerate the precise reasons why I found this author to be such an unpleasant person, but then I thought "That wouldn't really be fair. After all, we don't know his side of the story." Then I realized this is a strange reaction to an autobiography. After all, the book is the author's own word. Why would I think, even for a moment, that I don't know his side of the story? Upon reflection, I realized that I was subconsciouly getting the impression that the author isn't really the person he's portraying himself as. I was getting the impression that he was pretending to be more crotchety and curmudgeonly and closed-minded than he really is. Of course, I have no way of knowing this since the only impression I've ever had of Metcalf is from this book.

So I won't comment on what kind of a person Metcalf actually is, but I will tell you that he succeeded in representing him self in a way that caused me to have the following two reactions:

1. When Metcalf mentioned that he couldn't fathom why someone would accuse him of misogyny, the first thought that popped into my head was "Perhaps they'd read your work?"

2. When Metcalf described experiencing chest pains and getting diagnosed with angina, my immediate gut reaction was "What do you expect?"

I was also disappointed to see that Metcalf is involved with Porcupine's Quill. I've enjoyed every Porcupine's Quill book I've ever read and I find that their books tend to be physically beautiful, with well-chosen paper and attractive covers and binding. (Not that this is hugely important, mind, but there is something heartening about reading a book that is beautiful.) However, knowing that Metcalf is involved in Porcupine's Quill makes me less likely to buy any of their books, because I find him so unpleasant that I don't want to help him earn any royalties.

In all fairness, I shouldl say that the book is less dull and less tiresome as you get closer to the end, but by that point the author has already eliminated any possibility of my seeing him in a pleasant or sympathetic light. Perhaps it sounds harsh, but no matter. It is quite clear from the contents of this book that Metcalf would feel the same way about me.

Random thought

As I've mentioned before, I have remarkably low novelty-seeking. This doesn't bother me at all - in fact it's quite convenient. The funny part is how much it bothers certain other people. Not even people who are terribly close to me - random acquaintances mostly. I've had people get actually offended because I'm sufficiently amused in a situation that they deem to have insufficient amusement value. Which is quite amusing in and of itself.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Some visual effects don't stand up to time so well

I'm watching Return of the Jedi, and I just noticed that they keep using different wipes whenever they change scenes. It reminds me of someone just learning to use PowerPoint playing with transitions: "Look what I can do!" Of course, all of Star Wars, as much as it comforts us and makes us run around pretending to be Jedi, is really just George Lucas going "Look what I can do!"

Friday, January 28, 2005

How to improve political discourse

I think general global political discourse could be much improved if various opinions on the situation in the Middle East were not automatically considered to be "left-wing" or "right-wing". We all have a general idea of what constitutes being left-wing or right-wing in the areas of social and economic policy, but the Middle East has nothing to do with any of this. It's even a bit different from general foreign policy. It's a complex situation with a lot of history where both parties have been wronged to a certain extent and both parties have wronged others to a certain extent, and equating "left-wing" and "right-wing" with enthusiastic support for one side or the other simply trivializes the whole situation. I think the best thing those of us who are not directly involved can do is encourage our political parties (and, to a slightly lesser extent, our governments) not to make this a major part of their policy at all but rather assess every individual sub-issue and new occurrence on its own merit and only speak out or act on the most serious, worthy occurrences.

Is this really appropriate attire for Auschwitz survivors?

In the newspapers they were showing photos of Auschwitz survivors marking the 60th anniversary of the camp's liberation. The weird thing is that they had them wearing blue and white prisoner-striped hats and sashes made of the same material with their numbers and badges on them. Is that really appropriate? I haven't heard anyone speak out about it, but it seems a touch undignified for Holocaust survivors.

Edit: Here is a close-up of the sash with the number and badge and the gentleman on the right in the first picture on this page is wearing the hat. Does it bother anyone else that someone actually manufactured these things, then looked up each survivor's number and classification to make them a personalized sash? That seems really creepy to me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A formula for evaluating age differences in a relationship

We all know about the formula to measure social acceptability, where you take the age of the older party, divide it by two, and add seven years to determine the minimum age of the younger party. This is all well and good, but there are age differences that may fall within the socially acceptable range, but that you yourself might be uncomfortable with. I've come up with a formula to solve that.

Simply take the other party's age and divide it by your own age so you get a fraction (which can be proper or improper). Then multiply the fraction by your age, and think about how you'd feel about dating someone of the resulting age.

I'll give a few examples. These are not intended to reflect any real-life couples, they are chosen for pure mathematical simplicity.

Suppose you are 25, and you're considering a relationship with someone who is 30.
Take your own age and divide it by the other party's age: 25/30 = 5/6
Then multiply the fraction by your own age: 25*5/6=20.8333

Then think about how you'd feel about a relationship with someone who is not quite 21. If that seems too young for an equal partner, you can wait a bit until you're both older and the gap between your ages is less significant. If it doesn't seem like a significant difference, then you can reasonably assume that your partner considers you an equal (or if they don't it's not for reasons of age).

It also works if you're the older party. Suppose you're 50, and you're considering a relationship with someone who's 40.
Take your own age and divide it by the other party's age: 50/40=5/4
Then multiply the fraction by your own age: 50*5/4=62.5
Then simply ask yourself how you would feel about having a partner who's 62.5. Old fogey or peer?

Note that if you run this formula for an age difference of x years over the course of a hypothetical lifetime (e.g. 18 and 20, 28 and 30, 58 and 60, 98 and 100) the result of the formula doesn't seem to change that much with respect to the two ages. That's because it's designed to be run only right now. For example, an 18-year-old considering dating a 20-year-old can easily imagine how they might feel about dating a 16.2-year-old. And a 28-year-old considering dating a 30-year-old can easily imagine how they might feel about dating a 26.1333-year-old. But an 18-year-old can't imagine how they'll feel in ten years about dating a 26.1333-year-old. It's simply intended to give the user some perspective on how the other party might consciously or subconsciously assess their age and/or maturity.

The benefits of unique headwear, and other stories

Today at work I felt like the crappitiest crap ever crapped. I was tired and grumpy and couldn't concentrate or focus. My eyes were tired and breathing was way too much work. I'd decided that I was going to go home sick. I could hear that my boss was on the phone, so I closed my eyes for just a moment while I waited for him to get off the phone so I could tell him I was going home sick. An epic saga then unfolded before my eyes involving waterfowl and catholicism and preposition usage. Battles were won and lost, dynasties rose and fell, the history of a galaxy played itself out. Suddenly the beep of someone swiping a security card startled me out of my REM sleep. It was 10 minutes later, and I felt bright-eyed and re-energized, like I could take on the world. Most efficient nap ever! (Although I still decided to skip class today anyway).

This winter I'm wearing a red wool cloche hat. It's been really cold for quite a long time, so I've been wearing this had for many days in a row. Because of this hat, the people in stores and stuff are starting to recognize me. I'm all "The Lady With The Funny Hat" now.

I inadvertently bought $8 nail polish today (I didn't see the price, assumed it was similar to the price of the other polishes, and didn't find out how much it cost until I got to the checkout). I'm so going to hell for that. To add insult to injury, it's only 11 mL (compared with 14 mL for my usual polish), and you need two THICK coats to get decent colour! On the bright side, my toenails are now the most fascinating shade of blue ever!

I got this ad in the mail "Why rent when you can own?" It was advertising mortgage rates from some bank. They had done their audience targeting well - on the list of mortgage rates and the corresponding monthly payments, the highlighted amount was the base cost of some of the new condos they're builing in this area, and the monthly payment was very close to what I'm paying in rent. However, the asterisks next to the amount of the principle (or is it principal in this case?) led to a footnote that said "Including the cost of private mortgage insurance." So I can't get ~$150,000 worth of condo for what I'm paying in rent, I could only get less than that because of the mortgage insurance thing. And people wonder why I'm waiting to save up for a 25% downpayment!

One more thing I forgot: this salon near me is advertising how they can give you Donald Trump's hairdo. And they're trying to sell it in that it's sexy! GAH! Let me make this perfectly clear: Donald Trump is not capable of being sexy! Even if he were, all the sexiness potential he might have had would have been eliminated completely by the whole serial trophy wife thing. (It's times like this I wish we had a proper subjunctive in English). Let this be a warning to anyone who was even considering this: emulate Donald Trump, and you will be like a north magnet in a sea of north magnets.

Monday, January 24, 2005

In re: BYOB

Why only wine? Why can't you bring your own beer or vodka?

Fuzzy, grey,

For my birthday, my mother got me these fuzzy charcoal-grey pants. They're just comfy warm fleece loungewear, not intended to be seen at all by the general public. The purpose of them is basically so I can have something comfy to wear if I'm sick or lazy but want to duck outside to the store, because charcoal is a lot less obtrusive than my fuzzy red pants.

I'm wearing these pants right now, and I just happened to walk past a mirror and I noticed...they look HOT! I have no idea why, but I look sexier in these pants than in any other pants I own. They aren't particularly fitted, and the fabric is thick and chunky, but somehow they hang just right.

They're from Old Navy, which prompts me to wonder whether Old Navy also has women's dress pants...

The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson by David P. Silcox

I was first introduced to the Group of Seven (which, incidentally, had ten members) as a young child. I didn't like their work at the time because I knew it wasn't as realistic as painting could possibly be, and this coloured my attitudes towards their work right up to the moment when I read this book.

It's a huge-ass coffee-table book on archive-quality paper, presenting a wide assortment of the Group's paintings (not just the most famous ones) and providing some background and context. It was fascinating to read, for example, that the Group of Seven very deliberately went about trying to establish a Canadian identity (when country was only a few decades old), and, through their art, defined Canada as The North. While I identify Group of Seven paintings primarily as slightly abstract nature scenes using a bold impressionistic style with larger strokes - almost hurried sketches in oil paint - this book also showed some of their paintings of portraits and city scenes. The portraits are so realistic that if they were about 4x6" I could mistake them for photographs, and the portrayal of the buildings in the city scenes are also perfectly accurate and realistic. This made me realize that they can do realism, so when the paintings are not perfectly realistic, it must be for a reason. With this knowledge, I can appreciate their work much better. Their abstract portrayal of nature (which is sometimes juxtaposed against rigidly realistic portrayals of buildings) is alluding to movement and light. The painting is trying to represent the clouds scrolling by over time, for example, or the mottles of light streaming through the tree canopy. These are things that can't be captured by a camera, so therefore cannot be painted using realism. It's remarkable what they can do through allusion - the goldish tints make the scene an autumn sunset, the blue alludes to the long shadows of a winter afternoon. It's particularly effective when I take my glasses off and let my astigmatism help me.

All in all, it was a very interesting and educational book. Unfortunately, it's too expensive to buy and too big for reading on the subway, but interesting and educational nonetheless.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I'm looking for this video I found a while ago. It has these guys in robot-like outfits acting out little skits demonstrating the difference between real life and the internet. Has anyone seen this? Does anyone know where I might find this thing, or have any suggestions of what I can Google to find it? (Other than difference between real life and the internet).

Then I was I'm sad and tired...

Logically I know that what I need to do to learn a new language is steadily work ahead. I've formally studied four other languages before, and I've got this down to a science. I need to read the material we'll be covering in class before class, and do some work, reading or studying every day. I also need to be constantly reviewing for the next test, so all the material on the test will seem blatently obvious to me come test time.

The problem is I don't wanna!

I just can't motivate myself to do the work I need to do. It isn't that hard, just reading my notes aloud to myself so I can internalize them, but I don't wanna. Since I'm not pursing a degree, it really doesn't matter how well or poorly I do, and really I'd rather read or play computer games.

I guess that's the problem with full-year courses. If this were two half-courses, I would still be motivated by the bright optimism that comes with starting a brand new class. But as it is, we're halfway through, it's the dead of winter, I'm doing okay as it is (thanks mostly to bonus marks), and aren't there just so many wonderful and fascinating things on the internet to get distracted by! And I guess the fact that I have a job has something to do with it too. When you've already put in an eight-hour day, some of which was spend doing the impossible, you don't feel like as much of a slacker even if you do completely neglect your studies.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

One tonne challenge

So I went to the One Tonne Challenge website to see what it has to say. Turns out my emissions are 3.17 tonnes (out of a national average of 5ish). When I do all the reductions they recommend, it goes down to 3.14. The problem is that I have no control over my heating/cooling systems and the energy efficiency of my home and major appliances because I rent. So if I seriously wanted to reduce my emissions I'd have to move. Which wouldn't actually help the environment, because someone else would just move into my apparently and keep using the same HVAC and appliances. If they actually want me to reduce my emissions by one tonne, they should come up with some advice that's better for renters.

Brilliant Ideas that will Never Work: food price controls that make the healthiest food the most affordable

Some countries (I think France is one of them) have price controls on basic staple foods to ensure that things like bread and milk remain affordable to even the poorest citizens. I don't know exactly how this words, but obviously there is a mechanism for the state to put a ceiling on the price of food. The state can also make goods prohibitively expensive by taxing them (c.f. alcohol, tobacco). So what they should do is harness this power to make the healthiest foods the most affordable, and the least healthy foods the least affordable.

You would calculate how healthy a food is by working out the nutrition per calorie. Take the percentage recommended daily intake of each good nutrient, and divide it by the number of calories in a serving. This ratio could then be weighted so that foods with less bad fats and other bad things get a lower score than healthier foods. It's complex and I'm not a nutritionist so I can't come up with the formula myself - they'd need to take into consideration things like the fact that some fat is necessary, but too much is bad, and trans fat is unconditionally bad, or that some sodium is necessary but too much sodium is bad. Or fibre is good, but it isn't a nutrient strictly speaking. The formula would also have to be adjusted so it doesn't favour food that's low calorie, but has very few nutrients.

Anyway, my point is they work out a system so that healthier foods have a higher score and less healthy foods have a lower score. A big old tub of pure trans fat with no redeeming qualities would have a score of 0, and the single most efficient food in the world would have a score of 100. Then they put a cap on the amount that one serving of the healthiest foods cost, with the price cap being lower the healthier the food is. They would do this for, say, foods with a healthiness score of 65 and over. They could pay for this by incrementally increasing the taxes on foods with a healthiness score of, say, 35 and under. Since the price cap is per serving, using the standard Food Guide servings, you wouldn't have to worry about the fact that yes, one apple is cheap, but it won't fill you up nearly as much as one bag of chips.

They'd obviously need to check a few things first (like what if all the foods that were price-capped ended up being fruits and vegetables, with no protein in the mix?) but if they could implement this it would ensure that even the poorest can afford a healthy diet, and may help improve the health of the population as a whole.

Fun with headline semantics

Globe and Mail headline:

"Martin threatens same-sex election"

My first thought upon seeing this:

"NO NO NO! God intended an election to be between a man and a woman!"

Friday, January 21, 2005

Quiz: Are you a psychopath?

Have you ever wondered if you're a psychopath? Now there's a test to find out! (It's a PDF file).

For the curious, I got 2 points out of a possible 40.

How not to collect statistics

An annual report on illicit drug use in Toronto has found a significant number of young people admit to smoking marijuana and driving.

The report was compiled by 20 agencies, including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Toronto Police and Toronto Public Health.

It says that 14 per cent of of students in Grades 10 to 12 admit to driving an hour after using marijuana.

Question: why were they including Grade 10 students in the poll? Grade 10 is for people who turn 15 by the end of December. That means that, with the exception of students who skip a year or a held back a year, the youngest Grade 10 students (in September) are about 14 years and 8 months old, and the oldest Grade 10 students (in June) are about 16 years and 6 months old.

In Ontario, you can get a G1 (learner's) licence on your 16th birthday, but you can't drive without an accompanying adult until you've had your G1 for at least 8 months. This means that the vast majority of Grade 10 students aren't even old enough to drive by themselves. If you're doing a poll about driving habits, why would you include a significant number of people who have no possible way to be legally allowed to drive?

A fair and equitable approach to...polygamy?

I thought of this idea yesterday when I read that Stephen Harper decided to go all "OMG, but if they legalize same-sex marriage then they'll legalize polygamy!!!!!111!!!1eleven!!" (Never mind that if you Google the words slippery slope it returns information about logical fallacies...) I didn't blog about it since I didn't want to dignify his comments with a blog entry, but today both CBC'S The Current and Prime Minister Paul Martin chose to comment on it, so it's not like my blog is loud enough to add to the din...

It occurred to me that the idea of polygamy being legal doesn't bother me at all. I find the idea squicky and certainly wouldn't want to live that way myself, and I wouldn't march and write letters in support of it or anything, but I simply don't care one way or another of other people decide to do it.

However, the existing models for polygamy, being a tad old-fashioned, aren't exactly equally fair to everyone involved. So I invented a way to update polygamous marriage for the 21st century.

All you have to do is invoke one simple rule: each person in the marriage must marry every other person in the marriage by taking separate vows for each person.

So suppose A and B want to get married. At the ceremony:

A vows to love and take care of B forever
B vows to love and take care of A forever

Some time passes, and A gets the idea of also marrying C. Suppose B consents. So at the ceremony:

A vows to love and take care of C forever
C vows to love and take care of A forever
B vows to love and take care of C forever
C vows to love and take care of B forever
And, of course, A and B could renew their vows to each other if they choose to do so.

If A dies, B and C are still married to each other. All existing married spouses are treated as a unit, so if one person wants a divorce, they have to divorce ALL of their spouses - you can't divorce just one or two.

There you go, Mr. Harper, since you seem so eager to start a dialogue about polygamy, you now have a viable model for the 21st century. Now you just have to figure out how it would work WRT taxes, insurance, next-of-kin etc.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Lakeview Cellars Riesling

I decided to try this wine because Gord Stimmell, the Toronto Star's wine critic, said it had peachy flavours in it, and I wanted to see how a wine managed to be peachy without being one of those wretched "flavoured wines".

Well, it does in fact have peachy/apricoty undertones. I never would have been able to put a name on it myself, but where most Rieslings are dry and limey, this one is peachy. And it's the flavour of a real peach, not fake peach! This gives is a sort of nectary sweetness (even though it has a zero sugar rating) and a warmth that evokes summer without evoking "refreshing drink for keeping one cool," making it enjoyable for sipping indoors in cold weather. I've never actually felt a cold drink was suitable for sipping in cold weather before!

Of course, the outside of the bottle doesn't betray any of these delights. The glass on the bottle is green and the label is nondescript. I doubt I would ever have given the bottle a second glance if the description hadn't intrigued me, so yeah, book, cover, blah blah blah fishcakes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

My eyes hurt

My eyes have been bugging me all day, and now they don't want to stay open. I'm not tired, but my eyes want to rest. In fact, I'm typing this with my eyes closed.

But before I go to bed, I have to:

- Do the dishes
- Take out the garbage
- Brush my hair
- Finish reading today's paper
- Refill my phone
- Drink some milk
- Do some reading.

Plus I haven't done any household chores either yesterday or today, so technically I should be mopping the floor and taking out the recycling, but that isn't gonna happen today.

My eyelids have been so dry lately. I've amassed an impressive collection of eye moisturizers - even more so considering that I don't use moisturizer on other parts of my body except around my eyes! I think I've finally come up with a moisturizing combination that words - I'll take a couple more days to confirm that it does work, then I'll blog about it.

I just sneezed. I sneeze loudly. I take after my father - he sneezes in the basement and you can hear him on the second floor. I'm the only woman I know who sneezes loudly. I'm not too proud of that distinction, but I have no idea how to sneeze quietly.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

If you don't understand what I'm talknig about here, you don't need to know.

As I mentioned once or twice before, I was hesitant to use the washroom in the building where my class is held because the building is very old and the washroom is in the basement. Today I ended up having to use that washroom, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. Based on the state of that washroom and based on some further pondering, I have come to the conclusion that my alma mater had an inordinate number of you-know-whats.

I don't want to jinx myself here, but in the almost two years since I moved out of res and into my own apartment, I've had fewer panic attacks than I usually had in a semester at Alma Mater. At Alma Mater, I was almost always in a state of generalized anxiety, but since I moved out I've spent more time with zero anxiety than experiencing clinical anxiety. And this is taking into account everything - panic attacks brought on by nightmares, anxiety brought on my things other than you-know-whats, anxiety brought on by the other problem I was experiencing a while back.

I am slightly curious about the reason for the difference, and whether it means that there was a higher than usual frequency of you-know-whats at Alma Mater, or whether I'm experiencing a lower than usual frequency in this phase of my life. Either way, I'm glad. It is nice not to have to go to the bathroom with cringing trepidation all the time.

My building is making strange sounds

I was awakened at about 1:30 am by a loud popping sound that sounded like it was coming from the floor below my bed. The springs of my mattess vibrated. I don't know what was making those sounds, but I've been hearing more of them, from different parts of the building. The ones closes to me sound like they're coming from inside floors or walls. It reminds me of that sound those metal-painted-like-faux-wood sliding closet doors make when they settle. It also reminds me of a person's joints cracking. I have no idea what it is. I guess it can't be an emergency since it's been about 20 minutes and no one has made any emergency announcements or anything, it's just weird and kind of scary. I guess I'll try to go back to sleep.

ETA: I'm going to turn off my computer for the rest of the night just to be safe. If I'm not online before ~8pm tomorrow (i.e. Tuesday night) don't worry, it doesn't necessarily mean that the popping monsters have gotten me :)

Monday, January 17, 2005

This amuses me greatly

Rejected chemical weapon ideas from the Pentagon

Perhaps it isn't proper to be amused by chemical weapons, but these are totally the kinds of things I'd think of when I'm in one of my can't-sleep-being-silly moods.

A solution for the Union Station bus terminal

A couple of years ago, they built a bus terminal across Bay St. from the rest of Union Station. Despite signage and warnings to the contrary, many commuters (myself included) cut across Bay St. instead of walking up to Front St. to cross at the lights. They built an overhead walkway across Bay St., but that didn't help because it was still faster to go outside and cut straight across. Recently, they've put in metal barricades on either side of Bay (and on the median too?), but commuters just keep going over, under, around or through these barricades.

I have a simple solution: just lock the Bay St. doors of Union Station. Make sure they can't be opened from the inside or the outside. Perhaps install a system where they can be opened if a fire alarm is going off (or make an alarm go off when they are opened?), but don't let them be opened during normal operation. That way, people will only be able to get in and out of Union through the overhead walkway or at Front St., so they will have no reason to cross in the middle of Bay. After all, you wouldn't cross a street in the middle of the street if your destination was not directly opposite your current location, would you?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Jackson-Triggs Proprietor's Reserve Chardonnay

I read an article not too long ago about how Ontario growers had a bad year recently and are therefore allowed to mix other grapes into their non-VQA wines. The article postulated that we should therefore buy only VQA Ontario wines for the next season or so. Now my palate is not refined enough to tell that there's something particularly wrong with non-VQA wines, but tasting J-T Proprietor's Reserve reminded me of why VQA can be so much better.

Basically, this wine has everything I like in a chardonnay, all perfectly balanced, wtih nothing that I don't like in a chardonnay. On a quick gulp it is smooth and buttery and extremely easy to drink. On a slow, deliberate taste it has apples and pears and all those lovely green fruit tastes along with toastiness and vanilla and creaminess and all those things that make chardonnay comfy. I'm not entirely sure and I don't have any popcorn on hand to check, but I think this would go marvelously with buttered popcorn. (As well as most fish, but I don't care about that).

This one has now rocketed to the top of my "to bring as a hostess gift" list.

The most brilliant idea ever: pet medical insurance as employment benefit

Su and I just thought of the most brilliant idea ever: pet medical insurance as an employment benefit! If you have less than the average number of dependents, or perhaps for add-on to the basic employment benefits, you can get medical insurance to cover your pets' veterinary needs. Employers must implement this NOW!

Potterverse Ponderings

I got thinking about the Sorting Hat. We know that what House the student wants to be in influences the Sorting process. For example, it put Harry in Gryffindor instead of Slytherin because he was vehemently opposed to being in Slytherin, and it is implied (although I think it may not be said outright) that it put Hermione in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw because she wanted to be in Gryffindor.

The problem is that the students being sorted are only 11, and they might not have the insight to realize which house would really be best for them. For example, when taken alone I am a Ravenclaw, but I'd do better in a Hufflepuff environment. If the Sorting Hat suggested to my 11-year-old self that I might do well in Hufflepuff, I would mentally shout back "No, no! Not Hufflepuff! Ravenclaw!" My 11-year-old self would feel this way because she would probably have heard that Hufflepuffs are "duffers", and would know that she is the intellectual type. However, because Wizarding children are home-schooled, she would be completely unequipped to consider what type of social environment would be best for her in to live in over the next seven years. If the Hat made the decision between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff based on her insistence, she would have a miserable seven years in a competitive House like Ravenclaw. But my 11-year-old self was nowhere near developing the self-awareness needed to determine that she might do well in Hufflepuff. Would the Hat be able to dig this out of her mind anyway and put her in Hufflepuff despite her protestations? Or is the student's request the deal-maker?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Village of the Small Houses by Ian Ferguson

This book is a fictionalized autobiography ("a memoir of sorts") of the author Ian Ferguson's (of How to Be a Canadian fame) childhood growing up in Fort Vermillion, in northern Alberta just below the Arctic Circle. It's a sweet, sometimes poignant, always funny account of the vagaries of life In The North.

This is an extremely enjoyable book with a brilliant cast of characters! You'll laugh, you'll go "awww!", you'll keep reading on to see what happens next. This book stops when the author/protagonist is 15, and I think if Ferguson can keep up this tone as he leaves childhood, there is definitely room for a sequel!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Jacob's Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir

This wine was recommended a while back and I put it on my "to try" list just to see what a white/red blend is like, but I could never find it in-store. Today I happened to notice it while looking for something else - turns out it's a sparkling wine, so it was in the champagne section, not the Australian wines section!

It's corked like a champagne bottle, so there are the same difficulties with opening it. The wine itself is golden in colour - you can see the chardonnay, but there's no visual hint of the pinot noir. The taste is kind of like sparkling apple cider, richer and fruitier than shampagne. If you concentrate, you can taste the pinot noir undertones, but I think if someone had handed me a glass of this without telling me what it is, I wouldn't think of that particular taste as a red wine taste. I'm not sure how I feel about it being bubbly though. The taste is kind of incongruous with the bubbles, and I don't know if the bubble were a necessary part of the process, or if they thought the bubbles would add to the experience. I suppose I could let a glass go flat and see how that affects the taste, but that would require time and planning.

This would probably be good if you want a sparkling wine but don't like the dry taste of most bruts, or if you want a cheap alternative sparkling wine. I've never had real champagne, so I can't tell you how that compares, but I'd imagine it's not intended to compare.

So you take a dead tooth, you see, and you put it under your pillow...

You know what's fun? Find someone from a culture that doesn't have the tooth fairy - preferably from a culture where baby teeth aren't special at all. Then try to explain teh concept of the tooth fairy to them.

Meanwhile, it was summer today! When I left work, it was 18 degrees! Unfortunately, by the time I got home from class, it was 4 with a wind chill of -2. And my umbrella was totally destroyed by the wind. Anyone know where you can get an umbrella that doesn't get completely destroyed when it's blown inside out?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


My blog looks green to me right now. I don't know why - I didn't intentionally do anything to make it green. I don't know if it looks green to anyone else. But I might like this template better, although I think the body font size is a bit big, so I might keep it. I don't know.

Another strange job dream

Last night I had a dream where, in addition to my current (fulltime, professional) job, I still had my first job (parttime, fast food) because I had forgotten to quit. I suddenly remembered that I hadn't been in to work for 18 months since I started my current job, so I went in to the fast-food restaurant to straighten things out. I walked in and started counting out my float - still in civies, without changing into my uniform - and the employees (who were all new people because of the high turnover) kept asking me who I was. Then the owner came up, greeted me brightly, and started showing me all these new ways of doing things, with no mention of my absence. I went to the back and looked at the schedule, and it was in some code I didn't understand, and didn't explicitly mention the times that people were scheduled. Surprisingly, I was still on the schedule. I asked the owner how to read the new schedule, and she mentioned in passing that I hadn't been in for quite a while. I decided to be honest, and admitted that, while this is really stupid of me, I had gotten another job and completely forgotten that I had this one. The owner was super nice about it, saying "You know, my brother did the exact same thing!" (which is totally out of character for her). I then began considering giving my two weeks notice, since I didn't really need this job any more and the commute was a bit excessive. But I was hesitant to do so because you don't just quit jobs!

When I woke up it took me a moment to get my bearings and remember that I had, in fact, quit that job 4.5 years ago when I moved to Toronto.

This is at least the second dream I've had in the past month where I've had an extremely entry-level job in addition to my current job, and while I was tempted to quit it there was a lot of pressure not it. I'm kind of concerned about what this might mean...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Yoga is evilly addictive!

The problem with yoga is it's addictive. Not a fun happy addictive like The Sims or Lays Salt & Vinegar chips. It's an evil, life-destroying addictive like tobacco and cocaine. I started doing yoga because I heard people talking about it, and it seemed like it could be fun and might have some nice positive side-effects. I continued with it because I enjoyed how it made me feel. But now, if I don't get my daily yoga fix, my body goes into withdrawal. My tendons scream at me and nasty thoughts float around in my head and I can't function properly until I do a surya namaskar and a couple of nice, slow triangle poses. Then my tendons calm down and my evil thoughts get locked away into my little zen box and I can get on with my day. And I'm not even into the hard stuff - I just do the postures, not the meditations, and I slack on my breathing, and I'm not at all into the spiritual aspect of it!

The moral of the story is, unless you need it for medical purposes, just say no to yoga!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Things they should invent for MS Word

Word really needs a "Select All, including headers, footers and text boxes"

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Oyster Bay Chardonnay

I recently got up the nerve to go into Vintages. Contrary to my expectations, there weren't any big intimidating bouncer-like sommeliers there just waiting to be all snooty and disapproving and intimidate me into leaving. It turns out that you're free to just browse around however you like, and there are some reasonably-priced wines in there. It's not the most user-friendly setup though, and while I would unhesitatingly go in there to pick out a specific wine, I don't find it conducive to browsing. Kind of like major department stores.

So anyway, in Vintages I found Oyster Bay Chardonnay, which I had heard good things about, but had never been able to find before. I assumed that it would have a whimsical label since a) it is from New Zealand, b) it has the name of an animal in its name, and c) it rhymes. But instead it has a classy, subdued blue and white label, which may be why I had trouble finding it before.

As for the wine itself, it's fruity and smooth. The fruit is a bit different than you usually taste in wine - a bit more appley and less grape/pear/citrus I think - and it's also kind of buttery. There's a certain aspect of chardonnay that I find slightly unpleasant (but can't name) and this wine is missing this aspect. The result is something that is so yummy that I want to drink it in big gulps instead of sipping in a dignified manner. I think it could be easily overpowered by food, but it would make a lovely aperitif as long as you don't want to make it last a long time.

Jeans that don't gap in the back!

I have found jeans that don't gap in the back! They are called Point Zero, and they are available at Sears and The Bay. No, I don't know where they are available outside of Canada. And for people who got here by Google and aren't following along my quest for non-gapping jeans, Lee One True Fit jeans DO gap in the back on me, but Point Zeros don't.

The tricky bit about these pants is that the sizes are different for different styles. I bought two pairs in different styles. In one style I wear a size 34, and it's the smallest it could possibly be without being uncomfortable to sit down in. In the other style I bought a size 33, but it's a bit big and I could probably comfortably wear a 32 (but they didn't have any 32s). So make sure you try on each style anew rather than just buying the same size in every style.

Just messing with my fonts

I think it might look better with a slightly smaller font.

Things They Should Invent

Someone should create a perfectly legitimate store called The Black Market.
To up the irony quotient, this name should be applied to a government-owned
and -operated store.


One thing I don't understand is why some young men (generally athletic types) would use "Miss" to refer to a woman, especially an older woman, in a position of authority. Particularly when her position of authority confers upon her a ready-made title.

For example, one of my classmates, who can't be older than 20, calls our prof "Miss", even though she is definitely over 30, and most likely around 40. Why not call her "Professor?" (She is, in fact, an official professor, albeit a visiting professor, with a doctorate and everything). And once when I was in 4th year there were some police officers on our campus (long irrelevant story). One of my co-workers, who was probably 23/24 at the time, went up to one of the officers (I don't know how old she was) and addressed her as "Miss". Whatever happened to "Officer"? I thought that was the standard way to address police officers.

They seem to be attempting to use it as a sign of respect, because I have seen instances where people who address women in authority as "Miss" would address a strange woman they perceive as an equal without calling her anything - just like you'd address a casual acquaintance or a random classmate. It's also strange in that it seems to come from younger men. Ever since I started dressing in office clothes and walking around with an official security clearance badge, older men who need to at least go through the motions of perceiving me to be in authority (i.e. situations where I'm the customer, or random citizens coming into the building asking for directions) always address me as "Ma'am". I still get "Miss" sometimes when I'm dressed casually, low-rise jeans with my hair long, but that's what I get for dressing like a teenager. However, it doesn't feel like a sign of respect when it's said to me - it feels like a socially acceptable substitute for "Random girl whose name I don't know and upon whom I don't care to confer any more respect than strictly necessary". So I wonder what led this certain demographic of young men to believe that "Miss" is an acceptable way to address a woman in authority?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

New Template

I am experimenting with a new template. I have also enabled Blogger comments instead of Blogback - people should be allowed to post anonymously, but I would politely ask that anonymous posters provide a name or alias and use it consistently. I may yet choose to revert to the old look. Any thoughts on the matter are welcome.

Crossing California by Adam Langer

Despite the title Crossing California, it is not about California. It's about three Jewish families in Chicago during the Iranian hostage crisis (which is used as a timeline for the book, but has very little to do with the plot itself).

I really enjoyed this book because of its realism. Although all the characters go through major life changes as the story progresses, they have also gone through major changes before the beginning of the book, and more major changes are on their way after the end of the book. It isn't some magical year where all the drama in everyone's life occurs and then resolves itself.

The characters are complex - they all have some flaws, and they all have some elements that make them sympathetic. All the characters are sort of making up life as they go along - trying to be the person they want other people to think they are, even though they're not quite sure what they're doing. Although the lives of the three key families are intertwined, they aren't thoroughly enmeshed like a happy little sitcom cast; it's just the level of connection that comes from growing up in the same neighbourhood and belonging to the same temple.

There's just one thing that made this book feel less than perfectly realistic to me, and that's the fact that all the teenage characters (who range in age from 13-17) can leave their homes and wander the streets of Chicago in the middle of the night and their parents don't care. And then there's the unfortunate plot device where a single father has sex with his girlfriend in the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his two daughters, instead of in the house she has all to herself just a couple of blocks away. These things did take away from it, but on the whole it's a beautifully crafted book and refreshing in its realism.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bodegas Piqueras Castillo de Almansa

Bodegas Piqueras Castillo de Almansa is very much a carnivore's wine. It is rich and spicy and complex and oaky, and would go well with a big slab of dead something cooked over a fire. But since I'm a vegetarian, I'll have to get some really hardcore cheese or something. It is also the single most beautiful shade of red I've ever seen. I want to get married in a dress the colour of the single stray drop clinging to the side of the bottle.


WARNING! (UWAGA!) Buckwheat honey sounds like a good idea, but it's
disgusting! It smells like a horse, and tastes like the smell of a horse.
I had one mouthful in a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and I had to spit
it out and throw out the sandwich and the rest of the honey because it was
so disgusting

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Blog layout angst

Any design geeks out there? As I mentioned before, I have started adding titles to my blog posts. However, my layout predates titles, and I'm rather attached to my layout and not to fond of any of the layouts currently available. So I need appropriate fonts for post titles and dates. I want the titles to be no bigger than my current date headers, and the dates should either be above the post titles (but in a smaller font) or perhaps in the bottom where it says the post time. Preferences? Any suggestions for good font sizes and attributes for doing this?
There's this thing on TV: "OMG, there might be foreign submarines sailing
around in the northwest passage! OMG! Canada could lose the northwest

Turns out "Lose the northwest passage" means "If foreign vessels sail
unhindered through the northwest passage for 50 continuous years, then it
may be considered through legal precedent as international waters."

I think the introduction was just a tad sensationalist?

Things they should invent: personal medical priority record

There's an episode of MASH where Charles works really hard to save this
guy's legs, and is thereby unable to completely restore the nerves in his
hands. Then when the guy wakes up, they find out he's a concert pianist.

I think I'd rather have my hands saved than my legs if it came down to that
since my livelihood, major recreation, and a big chunk of my social life all
depend on my ability to type. However, a doctor would have no way of
knowing this. Therefore, they should come up with a way of having the
patient's priorities listed in their OHIP record. So if I were injured and
unconscious and admitted to the hospital, all they'd have to do is swipe my
health card or look my name up in the computer, and they could find out that
I'd rather have my hands saved than my legs, my right eye is more important
than my left eye, I'm allergic to erythromycin, I really would not mind at
all if I were left infertile, I'd prefer vegetarian drugs if at all possible
but it isn't a matter of religious conviction, I don't want to be given any
religious last rites at all, and I want to be an organ and tissue donor
despite any protest from my next-of-kin.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tsunami charity challenge

It's a bit late and this isn't the most appropriate medium ever, but I'm going to issue my challenge nonetheless:

If you receive gifts for xmas, I challenge you to donate to the relief charity of your choice the sum total of a) all the cash gifts you've received, b) the value of all the gift certificates you've received, and c) the cash value of any gifts that you've returned for a refund.

It's an easy way to make a generous donation, and you'll be no worse off than you were before xmas.

And remember, if you donate to a Canadian charity before Jan. 11, the federal government will match your donation!

Be it resolved...

I don't usually make resolutions. However, I don't usually wake up every morning to a death toll being announced, so things are not typical around here. Ergo, the few resolutions I have made:

1. Add titles to my blog posts
2. Read more non-fiction
3. Make a point of doing standard smilie socializing with co-workers, especially those of my demographic
4. Whenever I notice a behaviour I don't like in others, figure out a way to avoid reproducing it myself
5. Eventually come up with a strategy to keep my physical, mental and emotional state from interfering with my work. In other words, figure out how to work well when I'm having a bad day. (This is the hard one).
Today I had to talk to my co-worker "Bob", so I walked over to Bob's
cubicle, knocked, and poked my head in. However, another co-worker (whose
cubicle this isn't) was sitting there at Bob's desk. In a fit of
brilliance, I said, "You're not Bob!"

It later occurred to me that we can draw upon this experience to introduce a
little surrealism into our workday. All we have to do is find someone who
is sitting at their own desk like usual, walk into their cube, and say
"You're not Bob!"

Monday, January 03, 2005


"It's called Europe for a reason!"
- an early-adolescent boy on the subway, speaking in a "Well, duh!" tone of
voice. I didn't catch the context of the statement.

Henry of Pelham Reserve Riesling is bright, fruity and dry. Despite the
tangy dryness, it's highly drinkable and very refreshing, while remaining
strong enough to pair with more aggressive foods. I like it!

So they found NO dead animals in the tsunami. I have therefore invented a
tsunami early warning system. All they need to do is microchip a
representative sample of animals and track those microchips on a GPS. When
ALL the animals start running uphill, sound the tsunami warning!

Last night I dreamed that I had a summer job working at a grocery store that
kept being attacked by terrorists. Whenever the store was attacked by
terrorists, I had to sneak out the loading dock and run to the grocery store
next door, which contained a police station. After this happened a few
times, it occurred to me that maybe it isn't worth being attacked by
terrorists every day for the mere pittance one makes working at a grocery
store. After all, I still had a full-time job earning a professional salary
(i.e. my real-life job), and I really didn't need the extra money. But
whenever I brought up the possibility of quitting my grocery-store job,
people would accuse me of being a spoiled lazy ungrateful brat for thinking
that I'm somehow entitled to be excused from the requirement to have a
summer job.

As I was flipping channels, I stumbled upon a clip of Martha Stewart cooking
with Cookie Monster. Now THAT I'd watch!

The one thing I still want to know that the newspapers haven't told me: how
far inland did the tsunami waters reach?