Friday, April 29, 2005

Pierre Sparr Alsace One

I read that Alsace wines, which I'd never heard of before, were suddenly becoming the next big thing or something, so I decided to try this one because, like, it has "Alsace" in the name, so it must be representative!

Like one of the wine critics warned, the bottle is inconveniently tall, so it doesn't fit very well in my fridge - I have to wedge it in the door shelf kind of diagonally, taking up enough space for two normal bottles.

The wine itself, however, is very interesting. It's the most complex white I've ever tasted, probably because it's a blend of five different whites, not all of which I've heard of before. It has some aspect of almost everything I've ever tasted in a white wine (except, fortunately, that weird smokey taste that is part of Viognier), and different elements are brought out when you drink it with different foods. It makes me want to actively experiment and try it with various weird things just to see what will happen. (Yes, the "What does this button do?" school of oenology...) It's certainly worth trying, as long as you can make room in your fridge for a slightly-taller-than-convenient bottle.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Things They Should Invent: Spell-checkers that can handle misplaced spaces

Sometimes when I'm typing I accidentally hit the spacebar before I reach the end of the word, resulting the last letter of the word being appended to the beginning of the next word, lik eso. Spellcheckers should be able to recognize this, and automatically correct "It i sno longer possible" to "It is no longer possible".

Things I've never done that most people probably have

The meme asked for 10, but I started typing and 25 just came out:

1. Ridden a roller-coaster
2. Had a hangover
3. Been to a wedding
4. Been to a professional sporting event
5. Been hired by a man
6. Made my own travel arrangements when travelling somewhere I've never been before
7. Had surgery
8. Eaten meat with bones in it
9. Left a job, except when mutually agreed upon in advance at the time I was hired
10. Lived with roommates
11. Been hospitalized, except when I was born
12. Successfully asked someone out on a first date
13. Bought furniture
14. Interior decorating, in the broadest sense of the term
15. Bought xmas decorations
16. Had a close friend who was more than an inch taller than me
17. Had short hair, except when I was too young to verbalize a desire to have long hair
18. Had to trim a fingernail because it was getting too long
19. Purchased any single item that cost more than $250
20. Balanced a chequebook
21. Voted for a federal or provincial candidate who won
22. Incorrectly called an election on election day
23. Had a letter to the editor rejected when I did intend the letter for publication
24. Gotten a sunburn
25. Had chickenpox

For the record

Stephen Harper officially ceased to make any sense whatsoever today. I've never agreed with him on key matters of policy, but generally I could see why he's saying what he's saying given what he believes and his position in the grand scheme of Canadian politics. But today, as near as I can tell, he just started declaring everything Paul Martin says or does as shameful or otherwise bad simply because Paul Martin says or does it, and he's turned the whole thing into a giant pissing match. He's no longer backing up his statements with reasons, he's taking it as a given that he should be calling an election without reiterating why, and I think at this early stage I think he still needs to be stating his reasons. Basically he reminds me more and more of Frank Burns every time he opens his mouth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Standards for keeping pets

Cats and dogs can have the run of the house, or can be forced to live outside some or all of the day. a dog that lives outside gets a doghouse, a cat is left to fend for itself. However, a cat is generally allowed to roam, but a dog is tied up or fenced in. You'd never keep a dog or a cat in a cage full-time, but you might do that with a hamster or a bunny. The hamster might sometimes be allowed to run around in a plastic ball, but the bunny doesn't get a plastic ball.

These standards all seem normal to us, but I wonder how they came about? Like why don't we have cathouses in the backyard or plastic bunny balls?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Something to think about

Some people don't think it's necessary to wait for the Gomery commission to finish its inquiry before holding an election, because they feel that they don't need a judge to interpret the evidence for them. That is a perfectly valid point of view and entirely their prerogative. However, it does occur to me that we might want to wait at least until all the witnesses have given their testimony. After all, imagine if an election had been held before Jean Brault testified...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Faith, atheism, and sinning

A book I'm reading right now just reminded me of something I was told a few years ago: for some religious people, the main reason why they don't engage in acts that are generally considered to be "sins" (e.g. killing, stealing, adultery) is because their god doesn't want them to. Therefore, they find it particularly disturbing that some people are atheists, because they simply cannot see any reason why a person without a god wouldn't be killing, stealing, committing adultery etc. whenever the urge strikes them.

I can't speak for all the atheists everywhere, but for myself personally, the reason why I don't go around killing/stealing/committing adultery is that I can put myself in the potential victim's shoes. I can imagine how much it would suck to be murdered when you still want to be alive, or to have something that you need or something that's important to you stolen, or to be cheated on by someone you've promised to love forever. It never even crosses my mind, not even in vengeful fantasy, to engage in these acts because no satisfaction I could get from it could possibly be worth the pain it would cause the other person.

So I find it kind of creepy that for some people the consequences of their actions on others are a minor factor (if a factor at all) in their choices of behaviour, and the main thing standing between them and murder is their god. However, I'm sure these people find it equally creepy that god plays no role in my decision-making, and the only thing standing between me and murder is that I think it would hurt the other person too much.

This does raise the question: suppose a religious person with this particular attitude loses their faith for whatever reason. Do they still have a reason not to murder? Or do they develop the habit of prioritizing the effects of their actions on other people? Or is the law enough to stop them?


Apparently a building just up the street from me is on fire right now. I can't see anything from here though, but for some reason I feel the need to stay up and see what happens even though I can't see anything.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Personally, I work better with constant email interruptions

This article postulates that constant use of email reduces mental capability based on subjects' performance on IQ (I just typed ICQ - how telling is that?) tests where they were and weren't allowed to check their email.

There are two things I'm wondering about this study:

1. How closely does the act of taking a test simulate natural working conditions for whatever jobs these people do? My natural working conditions involve staring at a screen, typing, and constantly switching back and forth into different windows in order to look stuff up. I can check my email without breaking my rhythm. However, it would probably break my rhythm if I were writing a test on paper.

2. Did the subjects of the test learn to do their jobs before or after the advent of email? Personally, I learned out to translate several years after I started using email and ICQ, so all my translation has been done with constant electronic interruptions. I find interruptions a refreshing break from the sustained close attention of translation. My most productive day this month was the day the white smoke was released from the Vatican, during which I was checking Google News every 5 minutes and constantly exchanging email updates. It's a lot easier for me to buckle down and work in highly productive bursts when I know I'm going to be interrupted in five minutes, although this certainly may vary from person to person.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

This is such a good book! The main character is fascinating - he's a psychotic serial killer who works as a forensic lab technician using his knowledge of criminology gained from his job and from his late policeman father to put on every appearance of being normal, while sating his need to kill by becoming a vigilante, killing only those deserve it. Then one day, a copycat serial killer turns up, and Dexter tries to track him down to help his police-officer sister's career, all while trying to hide his own psychotic proclivities.

It sounds strange that I would enjoy a book about a serial killer, but this is very well done. It has only the absolute bare minimum gore and sensationalism necessary, and the author manages to portray the protagonist (who is also the first person narrator) in such a way that it seems realistic (at least to me, although I don't know that many psychotic serial killers) but I still didn't mind being in his head.

I thought I had the whole mystery figured out abuot two-thirds of the way through, but it turned out I wasn't even close. Then we're thrown a couple more twists at the very very end, making the conclusion most satisfying. The author bio on the back flap says he's in the process of writing another book about Dexter, and I can't wait!

Political action for Canadians

Speaking solely in my capacity as a politically engaged citizen, I would recommend that all Canadians email Stephen Harper, and your MP if you live in a riding with an opposition MP, and tell them whether you would prefer to postpone an election until the Gomery inquiry is over.

I'm not providing links because it reduces credibility when people take political action based on a random blogger's suggestion, but you can find all the necessary contact information by typing "Stephen Harper" or the name of your MP into Google. If you do not know the name of your MP, google the name of your riding and "MP", or enter your postal code here.

Things They Should Invent: reusable post-it notes

So often I throw out a post-it note with only one word written on it, and it feels so wasteful. If only you could erase and reuse them, like a etch-a-sketch, but easier to write on than an etch-a-sketch.

Consumer guilt

I got my computer in 1999 as a high-school graduation present. I was planning to replace it when it turned five, but then I decided to put that off until this coming summer, since when I get a new computer I will be getting Sims 2 (my current processor is too slow for Sims 2), and having a new addictive computer game is not a good idea when you're working full-time AND taking night classes.

But now that the date I planned to replace my computer is approaching, I'm starting to feel guilty about doing so because I don't actually NEED a new computer, and I don't want to become all consumerist, buying new things because they're new and shiny.

My old computer is turning six this summer, it doesn't have PowerPoint (which could be a hindrance to working from home - it hasn't been a hindrance yet, but I want to work from home more than I do now), and it processor is too slow for me to buy current games. I'm also running Windows 98, which MS either already has or soon will stop supporting. The computer gets sluggish enough that it needs rebooting every ten days, which isn't TOO too bad, and it takes about 2-3 minutes to reboot.

But I'm feeling really hesitant to replace it because, other than my lack of PowerPoint and my inability to play Sims 2, I'm not actually having any problems with it. Rebooting it every ten days isn't any trouble, and I don't mind waiting 2-3 minutes for it to reboot. I guess part of the thing is that I'm kind of emotionally attached to this computer - it contains the entire records of my transformation from adolescent to grown-up. It has all my DOS games from childhood, my ICQ history shows the formation of the most important relationships in my life, and it contains literally all my university schoolwork. I became the person I am now on this computer. Of course, I don't have to actually throw it out, I can keep it around as long as I want. And I certainly am going to keep it around, at least until I can transfer all the important files to my new computer. (Anyone know how to transfer ICQ history from one computer to another so that it can still be read on a new computer?) So maybe I should replace it before it dies, so I can still salvage all the stuff to which I am emotionally attached. I see no sign that it's going to die soon, but I have no way of knowing when/if it will die suddenly.

The other reason I don't want to buy a new computer is because I don't really want to be the kind of person who disposes of something just because it's old and there's a newer model available. My computer has served me very well for many years, and I don't want to treat it like a trophy wife. If I didn't have enough money to buy a new computer I wouldn't be bemoaning the fact that I couldn't afford one or trying to scrimp and save because it so badly needs replacing - the worst I'd be doing is casually worrying about what I'd do if my current computer died, but as I mentioned before I have no particular reason to believe that might happen. It just feels too materialistic to go around buying something new and expensive just because my perfectly serviceable current model is old. Financially I can afford to be materialistic - especially about something so important to my day-to-day life as a computer - but karmatically it doesn't feel so good to do so.

Unformed Harry Potter theory

Hermione went on a vacation with her parents to France, and might have gone to other places with them too, I can't quite remember.

I don't think this has fully played its role in the series. She recognized that some people were speaking French at the Quidditch World Cup and mentioned that they might be from Beauxbatons, and later she identifies what Boulliabaisse is, but this hardly contributed anything to the book - all it contributed was JUST before the existence of other wizarding schools were announced, Hermione says "Didn't you know there are other wizarding schools?"

I think Hermione's travels with her parents will contribute something futher to the series at some point, even if it's just one or two minor pieces of information.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How the church can embrace moral relativism without losing face

I know the church currently does not wish to embrace moral relativism, but when it's ready, I've thought of a good sell.

The concept has already be established that humans are fallible and can be led into temptation. So all the church would need to do is mention, when appropriate, that if one does find oneself led into temptation, one should attempt to cause as little harm and damage as possible. They wouldn't have to have any great fanfare or make a big announcement about the change in policy, and they wouldn't even have to change the rules about what constitutes a sin. Just whenever the topic comes up, mention that, while it's preferable not to sin or give into temptation at all, if you just aren't strong enough to resist, it's better to reduce harm as much as possible.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I always knew no good could possibly come of a mustache

Toronto's 20 Most Wanted.

Look how many of them have mustaches!

My feet might be famous

The picture in today's Fixer shows a pair of shoes that look exactly like mine. I have no way of knowing if it's really me or not, but I do remember seeing a photographer in that area, although I couldn't tell what exactly was being photographed.

Pope round-up

This post is a compendium of random thoughts that occurred to me as this new pope was being elected. Keep in mind that I'm a left-wing atheist who left the church 10 years ago, so if you don't wish to read commentary on catholicism from my perspective, you might want to skip this post.

1. The "just a humble worker" statement would have been much more effective without that regal red cape around his shoulders.

2. I think no matter what your stance on abortion, euthanasia and related issues, you might want to be concerned about the views expressed here. It seems to me that he's saying he thinks abortion/euthanasia/etc. are bigger, more important issues than war. No matter how you feel about abortion et. al., he should be going around trivializing war like that!

3. The more they go around denouncing moral relativism, the more I think it's a good idea. If everything is absolutely black and white, sin or not sin, there's less motivation to actually be the best person you can, particularly if you adhere to that one passage in the bible that apparently means that everyone is necessarily a sinner. But if all sins are relative, some are worse that others, you get bonus points for attempting to minimize harm, and some things that are generally sins are acceptable under certain extenuating circumstances, people have more motivation to be on their best behaviour and consider the consequences of their actions rather than simply going through the motions of confession/forgiveness. Although this might be why the current church regime is so opposed to moral relativism in the first place.

4. In all the brouhaha, I picked up the factoid that divorced people are to be denied all catholic sacraments. I don't think this is fair, because, under common law at least, both spouses' consent is not required to get a divorce. It seems that living apart for two years is grounds for divorce, and once one spouse has filed for divorce all the other spouse can contest is the terms of the divorce, not the divorce itself. So imagine your spouse suddenly, without warning, abandons you. They don't tell you where they're going or anything, they just disappear. If you make an attempt to have them tracked down, they accuse you of stalking and get a restraining order. Two years later, they file for divorce on the grounds that you've been living apart. When you are summoned before the judge, you can either agree to your spouse's divorce application, or you can contest the grounds of divorce (for example you could try to make it be based on abandonment or cruelty or adultery rather than irreconcilable differences), or you can contest the way you split up all your possessions/sue for alimony etc. If you refuse to show up in court or sign the papers, the judge will grant the divorce on your spouse's terms. There is no mechanism for saying "Your Honour, I do not consent to getting divorced. I love my spouse very much and want to do everything possible to save our relationship." That simply is not an option. One spouse requests a divorce, eventually it will be granted. Because a divorce could happen without someone's consent and despite their best efforts, it is terribly unfair to deny divorcé(e)s the sacraments. You don't go around condemning someone to hell because their spouse was an asshole to them.

5. The more I think about catholicism, the more it reminds me of an abusive relationship.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mes excuses publiques

Au cas où il lit mon blog, je voudrais sincèrement, formellement, et publiquement m’excuser auprès du collègue qui j’ai par inadvertance abandonné dans le métro. Lorsque j’ai noté que tu ne pouvais pas entrer, j’aurais dû te laisser entrer avec mon Metropass. C’était absolument inexcusable de ne pas l’avoir fait. Je voudrais t’assurer que ce geste n’était pas fait par mauvaise foi, c’était plutôt une erreur passagère et stupide de jugement. Je suis vraiment désolée, et je te prie d’avoir la gentillesse de m’excuser.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Learn from my fashion disasters

If your eyes are green and you like the fact that your eyes are green, it is not helpful to wear a shirt that is a brighter green than your eyes. It will just wash out your eyes and make them look brown.

Star Wars characterization problems (contains the very most minor of spoilers for RotS)

In Attack of the Clones, it is quite obvious that Anakin loves Padmé. However, it is not so obvious that Padmé loves Anakin. She goes through all the motions of loving him and says she loves him and marries him at the end, but as I'm watching the movie I'm not actually feeling the love from her like I am from Anakin.

I didn't notice this at first because I was kind of experiencing the movie from Anakin's point of view, but it becomes more important in Revenge of the Sith. I'm not going to fully spoil this (although it isn't much of a spoiler), but the fact that Anakin loves Padmé more than anything is important to the plot, and the fact that Padmé loves Anakin more than anything is important to the plot. While I can intellectually accept them as a married couple based on the characterization to date, and while I can see based on the characterization to date that Anakin madly and passionately and eternally loves Padmé beyond anything else, I'm not seeing the same depth of love coming from Padmé. And in RotS, her love needs to be just as intense as Anakin's.

I think when it comes to building the romance, George Lucas is telling, not showing, and I'm afraid the final film may suffer for that.

On the way home from the subway

Seen: a man in an elegant suit and dreads that are longer than my hair inadvertently attempt to put a metropass into an ATM.

Heard: an older lady loudly complaining in Polish about how terribly cold it was. It was close to 20 degrees and gloriously sunny at the time.

Seen: a man who appeared to be in his thirties attempting to chat up a girl who appeared to be about 16, all while standing in the middle of a small sidestreet rather than walking the whole two metres to the nearest sidewalk.

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: Dream Coach

This came to me as I was doing yoga relaxation. If something is bothering you physically, a yoga instructor can probably recommend some stretching and breathing that will make it feel better. Similarly, a dream coach will give you advice on how to have dreams that make whatever is bothering you mentally and emotionally feel better. They'll give you advice about how to tweak your sleeping environment and behaviours and what thoughts to focus on so as to produce dreams that will ease whatever particular thoughts and feelings are troubling you.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday by Ian McEwan

I'm not sure if I like this book. It's almost universally well-reveiewed, but it wasn't entirely a good experience for me. The obsessive minute attention to detail kind of annoyed me, although it is clearly part of the exercise in which the author is engaging. The climax of the story upset me emotionally, although it could easily have been much worse (I'm not describing it here because it would rather spoil the book), and the ending didn't give me satisfactory closure. I literally just finished it and I'm writing this in an attempt to create closure. I'm not in a position to actually assess the literary merits of this book because I'm kind of upset from it. I guess it's good in that it can affect me emotionally like this, but this isn't a good way to be feeling when I have to be at work in 9.5 hours.

How to study for a language exam

My original plan was to do all the previous years' exams, have my grandmother (a native speaker) mark them for me, and use that as a basis for where to focus my studying. However, I ended up not being able to do this because of scheduling conflicts, so I decided to mark the practice exams myself.

That was SUCH a serendipitiously good idea!

I don't have an answer key, so to mark the practice exams I have to look up the answer to every single question that I'm not 100% sure of. Most of the questions are applying my grammatical knowledge rather than spewing back vocabulary, so I have to look up the grammatical rules, understand them fully, and apply them to the example in question. It takes forever (it took me twice as long to mark the first exam as it took me to write it), but it is SO effective!

Sci-fi physics

I've seen several times in science fiction a situation in which a spaceship has a brief hull breach and the people inside survive by holding on REALLY tight until the hull breach seals itself, so they aren't sucked out into space.

Is that at all plausible?

Cono Sur Reserve Chardonnay

This bottle is interesting. It's ever so slightly shorter and stubbier than normal, but still contains the standard 750 mL. The foil is slightly harder to remove than usual, but the cork, though artificial, is easy to remove. The cork is black, which I've never seen before.

As for the wine itself, it's very well-balanced - it's fruity/buttery/oaky in equal measures, and whichever taste you're looking for tends to emphasize itself. It also has a little hint of that "tangy zip" (I don't know what it's really called - is it dryness? acidity?) that you often find in white wines, but you do have to look for it. It keeps you from gulping the wine down, but you don't actually notice that it's doing this.

This is a very archetypal chardonnay - the sort of thing you expect to get when you go to a patio and order a glass of white wine to sip as you watch the world go by.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

I have just upgraded my requirements for elected officials

Thomas Walkom mentions in his column that "When bureaucrats went on too long at [Mike Harris's] cabinet meetings, [Harris] would throw things at them."

My requirements for elected officials have now been upgraded to include the provision that any candidate worthy of my vote must have sufficient self-control NOT to throw things in meetings!

VIA Signature Strengths

A while ago I took the VIA Signature Strengths survey (It will ask you to register and log in, but it's free and they don't spam you). Apparently people who use their signature strengths on a regular basis tend to be happier.

My signature strengths are as follows:
  1. Modesty and humility: You do not seek the spotlight, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not regard yourself as special, and others recognize and value your modesty. (100th percentile)
  2. Love of learning: You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn. (97th percentile)
  3. Caution, prudence, and discretion: You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret. (97th percentile)
  4. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind. (87th percentile)
  5. Creativity, ingenuity, and originality: Thinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible. (82nd percentile)
This is a good picture of my inner self, especially if you look at the full results for all 24 strengths (which I stored in my LJ if anyone cares). The problem is that you have to use your signature strengths, and many of mine are things that I cannot deliberately use. I can use my love of learning, and I can sometimes use my creativity, although more often it just jumps out at unexpected moments with random ideas that are of little to no use in real life. However, humility, prudence and critical thinking are all things that are just there. I can no more deliberately use them than I can deliberately choose to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. In fact, I wouldn't say I even use them, they're just there, part of my self, just like my arachnophobia and my night-owl tendencies and my introversion and my unconscious devoicing of final consonants. I did read the relevant parts of the book, but they don't say anything about HOW one goes about applying these strengths.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Vermeer In Bosnia by Lawrence Weschler

This is a fascinating book! It's a series of essays by New Yorker writer Lawrence Weschler, on subjects ranging from war crimes to art to Polish history to Judaism. I love the way Weschler shows how everything is connected to everything else; in the title essay, he mentions how a justice at the war crimes tribunal at the Hague would destress by going to a museum to look at Vermeer paintings, then proceeds to draw a connection between the political and historical context in which Vermeer painted and the context in which atrocities were committed in the former Yugoslavia. The vast majority of the topics he discusses in this book are things I know nothing about, but he explains everything so well that I am able to follow along like an expert. It sounds like something that would be dull and pretentious, but it's actually fascinating and easy to read. Read this book if you want to feel smart!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I want to know which Flame Warrior I am!

Someone needs to turn this into a personality quiz!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


What with Karla Homolka being in the news again, I have occasionally seen media outlets referring to Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffey as "schoolgirls."

I find this strange for a couple of reasons. First of all, the word schoolgirl is long and redundant. Anyone in our culture who is young enough to be referred to as a girl is going to be in school. There are many synonyms that are both shorter and more neutral - student, girl, teen, youth - and I can't imagine any situation in which a person would prefer to be referred to as "schoolgirl" rather than "student".

Secondly, the semantic value of the word "schoolgirl" above and beyond "girl who is in school" (which could be just as easily communicated by student, teen, youth, girl) is limited to two negative connotations: trivializing (giggling like a schoolgirl), and objectifying (like one might find in a description of pornography). Both these connotations are clearly inappropriate in this context. There is no good reason to trivialize the victims of brutal torture and murder, and that very sense of objectification is what led to Bernardo and Holmolka choosing to abduct, torture and murder them in the first place.

I realize that not everyone in the world gives as much thought to the implications of word choices as I do (that's why they pay me the big money), but I would think that journalists would be one group of people for whom word choice is an important everyday issue. So what on earth are they hoping to achieve by using the word schoolgirl?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

No TTC strike tomorrow!

Pass it on!

Stupidest Dear Abby problem ever

Am I the only one who thinks there's no problem here?

The parents give their daughter a car, then complain that she's doing all the driving when her boyfriend doesn't drive. What did they expect to happen when they gave her a car? Does the daughter even mind? I can't think of any 16-year-olds who would rather have their date's parents drive than drive themselves. And if the daughter does mind, why isn't she writing to Dear Abby herself?

And what is Dear Abby hoping to achieve by suggesting that the girl's parents tell the boy's parents not to leave the kids unsupervised? If they didn't trust their daughter to be unsupervised, why would they have given her a car in the first place?Telling boyfriend's parents to supervise at all times is just making their daughter's life more annoying by denying the kids privacy for no good reason. And I'm not even talking about privacy to do whatever things their parents think they shouldn't be doing (which they already have every opportunity to do, because she has a car!) I'm talking privacy to gossip about friends or bitch about how much they hate their English teacher or discuss how tempting it is to skip the assembly they're having at school tomorrow or complain about their parents - you know, all the things you want to talk about when you're 16 but you don't want your parents to overhear because they'll stick their nose in.

Moral of the story:

1. If you give your kid a car, don't be surprised when they start driving more.
2. If you don't want your kid driving or being unsupervised, don't give them a car.
3. If your kid isn't complaining about how much they're driving, it's none of your damn business.
4. If your kid is complaining about how much they're driving, it's really their job to resolve the problem, not yours.

A logistical question

How are TTC workers who don't own cars going to get to their pickets?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Prince Charles and Robert Mugabe

Some media outlets are jumping down Prince Charles throat for shaking hands with Robert Mugabe. I think they're jumping down his throat for the wrong reason.

First, a bit of context. This was at the pope's funeral. They were, of course, conducting a full catholic mass. At one point in a catholic mass, the priest says "Let us share with each other the sign of peace." The everyone shakes hands with their neighbours and says "Peace be with you."

I don't think a funeral mass is an appropriate place to make a political statement, so on that level Charles should have refused to shake hands with Mugabe. However, perhaps he should have not shaken hands with anyone, because that might count as participating in a religious service for a religion he doesn't subscribe to.

Because I sometimes find myself in this position, I have read up on the etiquette for attending the services of a religion you don't subscribe to. The goal is to show appropriate respect without actually participating. In catholicism, this means that you stand when they say to stand, sit when they say to sit, and remain sitting when they say to kneel. You do not say any refrains or sing any of the songs, or go up to receive communion. However, I have not been able to find a directive on what to do with the "Peace be with you" part of the mass. As an atheist, I can honestly and sincerely wish someone else peace, but I cannot do it with whatever religious intent is inherent in catholicism.

If anyone has any insight on the etiquette for non-catholics regarding the sign of peace, I would greatly appreciate if you could share it. And if it is not appropriate to share the sign of peace if you are not catholic, how do you politely refuse?

But at any rate, the most appropriate options for Charles would have been to shake hands with everyone if that was apporpriate in catholicism, or to shake hands with no one.

A long-shot attempt to find a carpool

For the people whom I know personally, either IRL or online:

Do you know anyone who has access to a car and whose commute involves driving north on Yonge in the morning and south on Yonge at night? If you do, and would be willing to facilitate an introduction, please contact me privately. My general deal is that I'm willing to pay for parking in exchange for a ride.

This offer is not intended for strangers, even if they are regular readers. My intention here is to find a carpool whose character can be vouched for, not to find any carpool at any cost.


It seems Muggle technology is only about 10 years behind that of the wizarding world...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ponderances arising from the pope's funeral

1. I wonder if that casket is in any was fastened to that stretcher thing?
2. I wonder if the pallbearers rehearsed?


Suppose that everyone in the world shares a particular opinion. Every single person is of this opinion, and no one has ever thought to question it.

Is it still an opinion, or does this make it a fact?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Verbal misstep of the day

You've got three million people at the largest funeral in human history. And it's about something positive
- Global news anchor Kevin Newman

Yes, because the fact that the pope is dead is quite positive, isn't it?

My thoughts on the recently-made-public sponsorship testimony

Same disclaimer as before still applies: I have not read the evidence that is under a publication ban, I have only read what has been published in major national dailies. I currently do not wish to be pointed in the direction of any banned evidence or commentary thereon.

My very first thought upon reading what was made public today: Is that all?

With all the hype it was getting, I thought it would be something that directly and severely hurts people - extortion, death threats, taking advantage of desperate refugees, dealing with the mob, trading in sexual favours from third parties, smuggling illegal goods, trafficking in human beings - something hardcore like that. Turns out it was just more financial back-scratching. Which is what was already going on. Not that said financial back-scratching is commendable behaviour, but it's nothing new - same ethical plane, just a different scale. Based on the information I have now, I think the media was making too big a deal of this. I reserve the right to change my opinion when I've read about the information that is currently still under publication ban.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

On banned sponsorship testimony

First, I want to make it clear that I have not read the banned sponsorship testimony that's allegedly floating around on the internet. I'm not sure whether it is ethical for me to read it, given my particular station in life, so I would appreciate it if no one links me to it for the moment.

I'm just pondering whether it's productive for Canadian media sources to be all "OMG! There's banned sponsorship testimony that will make the whole country have to have another election!" I can see a few negative consequences arising from that:

1. People will go looking for said testimony, increasing the risk of tainting dude's trial.
2. People's interpretation of the seriousness of the testimony will be tainted ahead of time, so they'll be treating whatever facts come up as "OMG THIS IS BAD" because the media told them, not because they're thinking for themselves.
3. Alternatively, people might read the banned testimony and think "Oh, that's not so bad" because it doesn't live up to the hype, then consider most of this sort of thing to be less important than it is.

Obviously, I haven't seen the banned testimony yet and I don't wish to do so at this exact moment, so I'll reassess my position when I've read it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I guess I'm not the biggest pessimist in the world...

From the Passport Canada site, on why children need their own passports:
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has recommended a policy requiring every individual who travels by air to have his or her own passport. This policy has been put in place to combat the traffic of millions of children around the world who are often sold into slavery, child prostitution or worse.
Or worse? Like what?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Why is everyone so curious about the Pope's shoes all the sudden?

Ever since the Pope fell ill, I've been getting a lot of hits from people searching for the Pope's shoes and finding a link I posted to this picture of the Pope where you can see his shoes from October 2003.

I know it's gauche to talk about one's site stats, but I'm really curious: why are so many people looking for the Pope's shoes? Did his death suddenly make everyone think "I've always wondered what kind of shoes the Pope wears"? Or is there some better reason?


I read Dose today.

I find myself really disinclined to read it, because I feel like they're trying really hard to market to some fictional impression of who they think I am based on my demographics. Being marketed to based on my demographics (rather than based on the benefits of the product or service in question) frankly makes me feel dirty, and being treated like who I "should" be because of my demographics rather than who I am as an individual infuriates me. Also, I'm not too fond of the media conglomerate behind this publication, mostly because of the editorial stances of other media outlets owned by said conglomerate. Most everyone I know of this target demographic is not too fond of the editorial stance of this media conglomerate, and I feel like they're insulting my intelligence by treating me like I don't think editorial stance matters because they are Targeting My Demographic.

However, I felt it would be judgemental to rule it out unread, and there was a copy sitting on the kitchen table at work, so I had a look. My reviews are mixed. I liked their coverage of the Pope (they mentioned that he typically had a latte for breakfast, and sometimes cookies, which is interesting to me), but my reaction to the rest of the paper ranged from indifferently scanning the headlines to "Ew, they're trying too hard." I found that I was only reading about a third as many articles, percentage-wise, as when I read the Star or the G&M.

I also found the articles I did read didn't always contain all the information I wanted. For example, there was a poll saying that a significant number (I forget the number) of teens thought that there was a lower risk of STI transmission with oral sex than with vaginal sex. However, the article a) never specified what kinds of oral sex and whether they meant giving or receiving, b) never said what the risk actually was, and c) never said which activities are lowest risk. It was simply repeating what percentage of teens thought what, with the tacit implication that They Are All Wrong Because They're Teenagers, without providing me with any actual facts.

Overall, I wouldn't read Dose for news because I have two broadsheets on my kitchen table at home and CBC Newsworld available on my television, not to mention the entire internet. I might read it to keep me amused during my commute, except that I always carry a book with me. It's better than 24, but I still prefer Metro because it isn't freaking out with trying to market to me. Dose wasn't filling any gap that I could perceive, and if it vanished off the face of the earth I wouldn't even notice.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope Overload

I wonder how people who have nothing to do with catholicsm feel about this wall-to-wall coverage of the Pope's death?

I was raised catholic and my heritage is Polish, so I see where all the passionate mourners are coming from; I'm also rather fascinated by the idea and everyday life of the pope, the same way I'm fascinated by the everyday life of royalty. What does his bathroom look like? What does he wear when he isn't in costume? What does he watch on TV? The result is that, even though I'm not mourning myself, I find all this media coverage quite interesting. But I'm also rather surrounded by people of catholic heritage, so I don't know if all this fuss is actually of interest to anyone else. What does the rest of the world think?

Brilliant Ideas that will Never Work: Make Phys. Ed. Fun for Everyone

There is often talk of making physical education mandatory for a longer time in order to promote the population's physical fitness. The problem with this idea is that not everyone enjoys phys. ed. Many people do enjoy it, but others' feelings range from vaguely negative to living hell. Making phys. ed. manadtory for longer is more likely to increase dislike and resentment of fitness in general among people who don't enjoy it, so I think the emphasis should be on making it enjoyable for everyone. Absolutely everyone. Even the klutzes, even the geeks, even that one student who is the favourite target of all other students.

It might sound like I'm marginalizing students who do enjoy phys. ed.; I'm simply not paying that much attention to them here because they already enjoy physical activity, so already have the motivation to continue to be physically active throughout their lives. I am focusing more on students who grow to dislike and resent physical activity because of phys. ed. class. If changes can be made so that every single student finds phys. ed. fun, then every single student will be motivated to be physically active as an adult.

Here are some ideas:

- Dispense with the idea that phys. ed. is fun because it involves being physically active. This clearly is not true for everyone. Instead, introduce ways to make it fun despite the fact that it involves being physically active.
- Right now, the people who become phys. ed. teachers are most likely to be people who enjoyed phys. ed. as a student. Therefore, they cannot sympathize with the students who did not enjoy it. Work on getting some teachers who did not enjoy phys. ed. as a student so they can provide some insight.
- Make the phys. ed. curriculum less strictly regimented so that teachers can adapt their classes to the needs of their particular students.
- Have the options of several activities at any given time. If two classes have phys. ed. during fifth period, perhaps three or four activities could be set up at once. For example, there could be basketball, badminton, soccer and yoga on the go all at once, and students could pick their favourite.
- Consider not giving students marks for phys. ed. It could be pass/fail, or there could simply be a period where they are to report to the gym for physical activity. There are few things more disheartening for an otherwise-straight-A student than getting a C in phys. ed. because you haven't yet mastered use of your ever-changing body, or your classmates won't pass you the ball because you aren't cool, or you're afraid of the ball because a similar ball broke your hand when you were eight, or no one has ever bothered to explain the offside rules to you.
- If it is not possible to have an ungraded phys. ed. class, give students the option of undergoing a fitness assessment (heart rate, recovery, body fat, all that other stuff) and let that substitute for part or all of their mark. Someone who can run a five-minute mile shouldn't have to have a bad mark on their report card just because they are shy and tormented.
- Make sure the locker-room experience is as unhellish as possible. Have private changing cubicles, make sure students have lockers where they can lock up their possessions, make sure the room is clean, if students have to shower make sure the showers are as clean and private as possible.
- Take whatever measures are necessary to eliminate any and all bullying, intimidation, threats, mockery, and abuse - physical, mental and emotional. A holistic approach is needed here, beyond the gym and the locker room, but since the gym and the locker room tend to be very conducive to bullying, something must be done.
- Have non-competitive games that involve being active, as opposed to competitive sports. Sit-down dodgeball with elephant balls is fun. Running around the building on a scavenger hunt is fun. Basketball is not necessarily fun.
- Let students sit out if they want. If they sit out too often, ask them quietly and privately why they are sitting out, and address that issue.
- Develop a gym class environment that encourages people to be supportive of their classmates rather than competitive. If the star of the volleyball team gives the awkward student some helpful tips, entirely in good faith, Awkward Student will feel better about this whole sports things. But if Star Volleyball Player just spikes a ball at Awkward Student's head, breaking her glasses, Awkward Student will just feel worse.

Generation gaps and pulling the plug

I've noticed the same sort of comments coming from several places. Among commentators who are older and who would not want the plug pulled on them, the general attitude seems to be that anyone who would want the plug pulled on themselves is just saying so because they're young and dread being old. Then there seems to be the tacit implication that young people don't really have the right to this attitude because when they're older, they'll see that being alive when you're older, even if you don't have all the physical abilities you had when you were young, is still pretty good.

Now I'm not going to get into the older/younger thing because anyone who has been reading this for a while already knows how I feel about age and death etc.

I just want to point out that these commentators are being remiss by being so dismissive of younger people's attitudes based solely on their youth. Even if every single young person in the world will change their attitude as they age, it is still important for everyone to think this through and make their wishes clear in case something happens while they are still young!

Terri Schiavo was only 27 when she went into her vegetative state, so what mattered was her feelings on the matter at the age of 27, not how she would have felt at the age of 60 or 80.

Making a living will and telling people your wishes is not eternally binding. If your feelings on the matter change as you get older, you can change your living will and notify your nearest and dearest of the changes. But it is totally inappropriate to trivialize someone's wishes because they are only 20, telling them they'll feel differently when they're older, only to have them meet with disaster days before their 21st birthday.

Dying from Chastity

In the wall-to-wall pope coverage on TV, they were at one point interviewing this guy, either a bishop or a cardinal, and he said "No one has ever died from chastity."

I don't think that's necessarily true.

If anyone has decided they would rather die than be raped, found themselves in an attempted rape situation, and succeeded in carrying out their choice, they have died from chastity.

If anyone has ever starved to death rather than prostituting themselvse, they have died from chastity.

In situations where they used to physically or chemically castrate people with mental or intellectual disabilities so that they wouldn't breed, if anyone ever died from side-effects of that, then they died from chastity.

Friday, April 01, 2005

You know what would be a good joke?

Tomorrow morning, the Pope should stand up, stick his head out the window, and shout "APRIL FOOLS!" to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's square.