Tuesday, May 31, 2005

An open letter to Dell Canada

Dear Dell,

My first computer, which I love like most people love their first car, came from you. I've been using it for coming up on six years, and I'm quite happy with it. It runs smoothly and does whatever I need it to do. The documentation that came with it is extremely clear and helpful; it taught me to set up a computer when I'd never done so before, and walked me through hardware upgrades that I'd never done before. I've only had one problem with this computer - the power supply died when it was into its third year - and that was promptly and helpfully replaced in my home, under warranty. So naturally, when I began looking into buying a new computer, I automatically assumed I would get a Dell.

However, I cannot buy a new computer from you if you don't answer my email.

I sent you an email through the Contact Us link on your website (which it took me a while to find!) asking for some specific technical details about the inside of the case, and some logistical questions about delivery. I sent this email last week, but I'm not sure whether it took because it just redirected me back to the same form. So I sent it again on Monday from work, since the web browser at work sometimes works when the one at home doesn't. That time it redirected me to the main Contact Us page.

I never received a message back from you. Not even an acknowledgement that my email had been received. I don't know whether you send confirmation emails, so I don't know if this is indicative of a technical problem. But, at any rate, it is indicative of a problem of some sort, because I should be able to easily email a company that sells products through its website, especially when I am in the process of making a $2000 purchase!

I will be phoning you tomorrow. I am not happy about this, because I do not like to conduct business on the phone - I prefer email. When I phone, I will be asking the agent I speak with the same questions I emailed, and I will also be asking them to check if my email was received.

If my email was lost in a technical glitch, I will forgive it, although the gracious thing for the agent to do would be to offer me a discount of some sort for my trouble. However, if my email has just been blithly ignored, I will have no choice but to not buy my computer through Dell.

I hate the idea of having to refuse to buy from Dell. I hate shopping, I don't want to have to go around and find another trustworthy vendor, I don't want to have to comparison shop. Having a known vendor I can trust makes my whole life much easier. But I simply cannot debase myself to making a $2000 purchase from a company who thinks me so subhuman that my emails are not even worthy of acknowledgement.

So please, answer my email by the time I get home tomorrow. If you haven't received my emails, answer all my questions clearly and promptly when I call tomorrow, offer me a discount for my trouble, and inform your webmaster that there's a problem with the email form. You can make me happy by offering me an nVidia Geforce for the price of an ATI Raedon, an LCD monitor for the price of a CRT monitor, or MS Office Pro for the price of MS Office Basic. Or by upgrading my processor speed.

I really do not want to have to leave Dell - the idea of having to do so is upsetting me even now. Please take good proper care of me as befits a purchase of this expense and importance so we can all be happy instead of none of us being happy.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Speaking of strange fashion ideas...

...there are a few gems in here!

-Always wear a size smaller than your actual size - Destiny

-When you walk in high heels ,don't walk on the heel; it makes you seem like you walk in them everyday.-- Nae

-Being a blond now is so cool, when I dyed my hair blonde, I became so poplar even if I'm Chinese. -- Angel

What are they thinking???

Are celebrity stylists boycotting bras or something?

What's up with celebrities not wearing bras in situations where a good bra would vastly improve their look? I can see not wearing a bra if you're running down to the corner store, but on the red carpet you'd think they'd go to the effort to wear the most flattering foundational garments possible...


1. "Mommy, why is that lady wearing black?" - from a small child (around five years old?) as I passed him and his mother walking down the sidewalk. For the record, my pants and shoes were black, but I was also wearing a green and white top.

2. "Because it's not really water" - random co-worker, unknown context.

Debunking moral platitudes

1. "You shouldn't use profanity because it isn't very creative."

I've heard people say this to their children, and I've heard the children parrot it back to others. The problem is that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with not being creative. Perhaps I'm not associating with the right people, but I've never seen a parent correct a child (or, indeed a person correct another person) about not being creative for anything other than profanity. After all, you wouldn't correct your child for answering the phone with "Hello?", would you? Besides, most people are as creative as they can be at any particular given moment - there are very few situations where a person would stifle their own creativity - so it's not like you could just say "That isn't creative. Be more creative!" and the person will instantly be more creative.

If you don't want someone else to swear, saying "Please don't swear around me, it offends me" is far more valid than saying "Don't do that because it isn't very creative." Besides, it's counterproductive - if someone randomly and arbitrarily told you that your everyday speech patterns aren't creative enough for their tastes, wouldn't your instinct be to reply, "Fuck you!"?

2. "Don't take the easy way out."

The problem with this one is that difficulty does not affect moral value. Yes, there are some situations where the less moral choice happens to be the easiest, but it isn't the ease that makes it less moral - it's some completely unrelated factor. However, this platitude seems to have expanded so that some people seem to believe that doing something in a more difficult way is somehow inherently more moral. I can buy raw carrots and cook them myself, or I can buy frozen cooked carrots and microwave them. Choosing the raw carrots is morally superior, yes, but that's because the cooked ones come with more packaging and are therefore worse for the environment, not because they're easier. Easy does not automatically equal bad.

Even Dumbledore falls into this trap: "If the time should come when you ahve to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort." Here Dumbledore goes around tacitly assuming that joining Voldemort - doing the immoral thing - will automatically be easier. Also, Cedric never actually was in a position to choose between what is right and what is easy, he just kind of wandered through. Actually, if he had chosen what was easy - grabbing the cup and winning by himself (which wouldn't have been wrong - he was, after all, in a race) he alone would have been transported to the graveyard, and perhaps Voldemort would not have been resurrected at that point because he seemed to be rather gung ho about getting Harry's blood. At any rate, there's nothing to suggest that what is easy isn't going to be wrong, and what is right is going to be hard.

In a situation where the easy way out happens to also be the less moral choice, we should say something along the lines of "Don't do the wrong thing just because it's easier", or perhaps something catchier than that. But we really need to put an end to equating easy with morally wrong.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Consumer guilt redux

My new computer is sitting in a saved cart on the Dell website, waiting for me to complete the order. Fortuitous upgrade synchronicity means that the configuration I want is currently $400 cheaper than usual, including tax and delivery. But I feel guilty about actually ordering it.

It isn't about money. The total cost is less than 2 weeks' gross income - it's an amount I could easily hand over to a loved one in crisis without worrying about whether or not I'd be paid back. I don't need to make any economies or watch my spending after making this purchase it won't be out of necessity, it will be because my chequing account balance is lower than I'm accustomed to (but still well above the balance of anyone to whom I'd divulge my chequing account balance).

No, I feel guilty about abandoning my old computer, tossing it aside like an old shoe. It may sound silly to be so attached to a household item, a commodity, but this computer (which, I just realized, I never even bothered to name!) has been there with me my entire adult life, and was the greatest symbol of my transition into adulthood until I got that beautiful letter from my current employer formally offering me a full-time permanent position.

This computer allowed me to game, chat and participate in web communities well into the night and away from the prying eyes of meddling grownups. I fell in love with mi cielito through its keyboard and screen. It bore withness to years of gloriously banal conversations with my truest friends. It served me loyally as I completed all the coursework necessary to obtain my undergrad degree. It saw me through many the rough night with games and internet, and would joyously cry "User is online!" to announce the arrive of someone who could make my rough nights easier. It tolerantly allowed me to install all manner of games produced in the last 20 years and in the 21st century, commercial software of various degrees of legitimacy, and propriety software whose existence the powers that be at Microsoft and Dell have never fathomed - all the while allowing me to freely alt-tab in between them so I could blog, as I'm doing now, thoughts that occurred to me while playing a game that I was too young to play when it was first released. This computer was instrumental to my first instant messages, my first hardware upgrades, my first software and peripheral installations, my first MP3s, my first love, my first move out of my parents' home, my first network troubleshooting, my first network security, my first pornography, my first FTP, my first translation, my first digital photos, my first hacking, my first email attachment, my first distributed computing, my first Sims, my first technical writing, my first Russian, my first Polish, my first photo manipulation, my first terminological research, my first apartment, my first internship, my first Harry Potter, my first fandom participation, my first RRSPs, my first online purchases, every university registration except my first, and even, as soon as I work up the courage to complete the transaction, my first purchase of a computer all by myself. It has participated hugely, perhaps moreso than anything or anyone other than mi cielito, in my becoming the person I am today. And I don't feel good about just abandoning it because it's old when it's still perfectly functional.

I know that by all standards, except those of the strictest frugality geeks or the poorer citizens of this planet, it is ridiculous for a person of my station in life to be using a computer that was built in the 20th century. I know that no one would begrudge me this worthwhile investment given my financial resources and given the major role that a computer plays in my social, recreational and professional life, especially since empirical evidence suggests that computers under my care last over five years, with only minor problems that are promptly and effectively dealt with under warranty. But I just don't feel good about abandoning the old one after it's been so good to me...

How faith works

Can people who are religious make a conscious, deliberate decision to believe in something, and then they believe in it? I don't mean organizing one's life or basing one's actions or choices on what one believes in, I mean the actual act of believing.

I'm wondering this because I occasionally see things coming from religious people who seem to think that atheists are beligerently not believing in god out of stubbornness, like a toddler holding their breath. This seems strange to me, because I, personally, cannot just believe in something. Either I believe in it or I don't, like either I like a food or I don't - it can't be turned on and off at will or changed through a deliberate decision. I did make a deliberate decision to live as an atheist rather than submitting to the hypocrisy of false piety, but what I actually believe has always remained the same, no matter how much I tried to change it to conform.

But then I remembered that my catechism also presented faith as someone one could control. Be good, don't tell lies, have faith. I can make a conscious choice not to lie, cheat or steal, say "No, I will not do that because I have decided that I am going to lie, cheat or steal," and then end up not lying, cheating or stealing. However, if I make a conscious decision to believe in something, the closest I can come to succeeding is going through the motions of believing in it. I might be able to convince the entire world that I believe, but no matter how hard I try I will not end up actually believing.

But why would they present faith as a deliberate choice if it is not? Are there people out there who can tell themselves, "From now on, I will believe that the universe is ruled by a flying red dog," and then they just automatically believe it?

If there are people whose minds work this way, I wonder if it can show up in a brain scan - could you scan someone's brain and see if they're religious or an atheist?

Friday, May 27, 2005

I don't like wedding registries

Circumstances led me to be looking at a couple of wedding registries lately. I cannot imagine making a wedding registry. I cannot imagine asking people for dishes and linens and household items. I'd think people would react with "What's the matter with you? Aren't you a grownup? Don't you have basic household items?" I guess it's because my attitude is that gifts among equals (and, for the purposes of gifts, I consider myself "equals" with all self-supporting adults, even if they are older than me) should be fun things, interesting things, not everyday household necessities. I feel like as long as one is self-supporting and gainfully employed, one should buy one's own household items as required. (Obviously the situation is different if the recipient of the gift is not in a financially secure position and is lacking some basic necessities). To buy a self-sufficient adult bedsheets or drinking glasses feels to me like buying them everyday groceries or toilet paper. Self-sufficient adults should buy each other things that are "I saw this and I thought it was cool," or "You'd enjoy this but would never splurge on it yourself," or "This fulfills a need that you didn't know until now that you had," or "You've been looking everywhere for one of these and could never find it," even "Look! A joke that will make us all have a good laugh!" I understand it is traditional, but I couldn't look the world in the eye and say "I want you to buy me everyday necessities."

New rule for elopements!

Whenever a couple elopes, they should make sure they have a bouquet. Then when they are leaving the venue where the wedding was conducted, gleefully running off towards their honeymoon, they should toss the bouquet to a random passer-by. Just because it would make life so much more interesting to be innocently walking down the street one day and suddenly someone tosses you a wedding bouquet.

The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in the Age of Terror by Michael Ignatieff

I wasn't excessively impressed by this book. I wasn't UNimpressed, but did leave feeling rather indifferent. It's a very small book for such a big subject, and didn't mention too much that I haven't read or heard before, although I haven't seen all these ideas set out all in a row in one place before.

At one point in the book, the author states as a given that committing acts of violence fulfils a psychological need. He presents this idea as though it's obvious, but it isn't obvious to me. I don't know anything about violence fulfilling a psychological need, so to me it reads like a random idea that he made up and stated as a given. This causes me to wonder what other givens in this book might not necessarily be facts.

The book also loses some credibility in my eyes because the author only barely alluded to the fact that if a state practises torture or takes preemptive military action, it thereby gives the impression that it thinks these kinds of actions are perfectly legitimate. By contributing towards this legitimization, the state is endangering its own citizens: show that you think torture is legitimate, and your enemy may take that as leave to torture your own citizens; show that you think preemptive military action is legitimate, and your enemy may take preemptive military action against you. This is very much something a state needs to take into consideration when ethically analyzing its position, and the author does a disservice by not including it in his book.

Two unrelated etiquette questions

1. Suppose you're walking down the sidewalk when you come up behind someone who is walking far too slowly, and for whatever reason you have no room to pass them. How, logistically, do you walk behind them at an excruciatingly slow pace without your body language saying "OMG, I am walking SO slowly, I am SO put out!"? Whenever I find myself in this situation, I end up either taking extremely tiny steps or taking a step, then pausing, then taking another step, then pausing. I think both these actions communicate a sort of exaggerated passive-aggressive eye-rolling "This is SO SLOW, but I'm not going to complain, no, don't mind me, I don't have anywhere that I need to be or anything..." How does a fast walker walk slowly and make it look natural?

2. Today's Vine brought up the fact that you aren't supposed to wear black, white or red to a wedding. But what about patterns? Can I wear that retro black dress with 1940s-style white dots? Can I wear black with red flowers and white accents? Can I wear a plain black skirt with a top in a different colour? Can I wear my black, white and red skirt with a top in one of these three colours? What if it's a bad fashion season (like, oh, say, Spring 2005) and the only appropriate dresses available are lime green or hot pink - is it better to wear red than one of those ridiculously bright colours? What if my choices are black/white/red or some pastel that makes me look so sickly that everyone asks if I'd like to lie down or if I need a glass of water? I totally see the reason why you shouldn't wear a plain white (white's for the bride) or black (for mourning) or red (hello, I'm a siren!) dress, but the powers that be in the realm of fashion don't allow us infinite choice of colours and styles at any given moment, and if I'm spontaneously invited to a wedding there simply might not be anything available in stores at all in an appropriate and flattering non black or red shade.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Brilliant Ideas that will Never Work: let's all write in library books

I think whenever someone reading a library book has something useful and brief to say about the book while they are reading it, they should annotate their comments in the margins. And if a later reader has something useful and brief to say about a previous comment, they can answer it - like the graffiti conversations found in better bathrooms everywhere. I'm sure librarians and other purists wouldn't be too pleased about this, but I think it would be cool for everything to be annoted.

For example, in a rather academic book I'm currently reading, the author made a cause and effect statement and presented it as a given - as something that's common knowledge. I didn't see the connection between the cause and the effect, so this given didn't make sense to me. So what I'd do in this case is underline the phrase in question and ask "How so?" Then a future reader can elaborate if they are able to do so, or take advantage to this logical fallacy I pointed out if they're ever writing a paper on the book.

Things they should invent: cars with variable engine power/efficiency

Someone I know owns a big horse, so she needs a big SUV to pull her horse-trailer. However, she isn't pulling her horse trailer at all times - I'm sure she doesn't need to be using all that gasoline to drive to work or the grocery store - a smaller car would do just fine for these jobs. But owning two cars - a big one for the horse trailer and a small one for the everyday - is too costly or inconvenient for households with only one driver.

So what they should invent is a way to make cars switch between a more fuel-efficient but less powerful mode, and a less fuel-efficient but more powerful mode.

I'm really terribly shamefully ignorant about how cars work (I've never owned one), so I don't know how exactly this could be done. Some ideas, with the caveat that they may all be completely incompatible with the basic elements of car construction:

1. Part of the engine could be blocked off when the car is in Efficient mode, and the car can access that part when you switch to Powerful mode. (Like you know how there are V6 and V8 engines? Just turn off two of the V's)
2. Put two engines into the car, but only use one at a time (or use one in Efficient mode and both in Powerful mode)
3. If the efficiency/power of the car is more a function of its size (I know that bigger SUVs and trucks tend to be more powerful, but I don't know what the cause and effect elements of this phenomenon is), make it something that can be physically added on to the vehicle. Picture the ship Obi-Wan uses to go to Kamino in Attack of the Clones - he has a little ship with this big hyperspace engine thing, and when the time came to land on the planet he detached the ship from the big engine and went down to the planet using what the Star Trek universe calls impulse power. (Is this metaphor mixed up enough yet? Or should I add another fandom?) There could be something that hooks up to car in a relatively simple way and provides it with more power, and the user could remove it for their daily commute. Maybe, if you didn't need full engine power very often, you could even rent a power booster thing for when you take your boat up to the cottage once a year or whatever.

Anyway, the point is, even though some people need SUVs for some things they don't necessarily need them all the time, and it would be convenient if you could switch the extra engine power on and off, and save some gas in the process.

What the other 90% of the brain does

They say you only use 10% of your brain. I'm pleased to announce that yesterday I located part of the 90% that I don't use. I was playing Jeopardy, and one of the categories was something like "Alphabetically Last" - it gave the name of a set of items, and asked for the thing in that set that was last in alphabetical order. For example, the clue would be "The nine planets in our solar system", and the correct answer would be "Venus". Or the clue would be "South American countries" and the correct answer would be "Venezuela".

As I was trying to mentally list and put in reverse order all the planets or all the south american countries before those super-fast ultimate tournament of champions players answered, I noticed that this was a new part of my brain I was working. I've never used that part of my brain before! It felt exactly like if you learn a new exercise that stretches or exercises a muscle you've never targeted before.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Huge Star Wars plot hole! (spoiler-free)

This post mentions things that we know have to happen between Episode 2 and Episode 4, but spoiling details are not given. It also mentions things that should be, but are not, explained in Episode 3, and provides the EU explanation. If this is not spoiler-free enough for you, stop reading.

Episode 2 mentions a Jedi named Sifo-Dyas who ordered the creation of the clone army, but who Sifo-Dyas was and why he ordered the creation of a clone army are not explained in the movies. A bit of googling showed that this comes up in one of the EU books, and that Sifo-Dyas is nobody (the Mark Evans of the Star Wars universe). He's just a random Jedi who randomly ordered the creation of a clone army. The EU book may explain why he chose to do this, but it certainly doesn't come up in the movies. It really should have been in the movies, because after I saw Episode 2 the first time I went into fandom to find out theories about Sifo-Dyas, and I never spend time in Star Wars fandom!

We also know that the clones are on the Jedi side in Episode 2, and on the Sith side in Episode 4. In Episode 3 we see this switch happen, but, unless I missed it (I've only seen the movie once), we don't see why and how it happens. We don't learn which Sith or Sith ally is responsible for making the clones switch sides and how this happened. And if Sifo-Dyas is really going to be a nobody, Episode 3 really ought to have explained what when on behind the scenes.

The Nine Planets by Edward Riche

I did not enjoy this book. The main protagonist (who is also the first-person narrator) is a singularly unpleasant person, so I simply did not enjoy spending time in his head. The secondary protagonist is more interesting, but nothing is done with her character. She literally just wanders around. At the end of the book it seemed like the main protagonist was going to get some comeuppance and I was eagerly reading ahead so I could watch it happen, it was all being nicely lined up and I was ready for a glorious burst of schadenfreude, and then the book just petered out in a trickle of sentimental pap.

There must be readers out there who enjoy books with unpleasant, unsympathetic protagonists because I keep stumbling upon these kinds of books, and they're often critically acclaimed. However, I do not enjoy spending time inside the heads of asshole characters unless I get a good, solid, Nelson-style "HA HA!" out of the book (which happens all too rarely), so these books don't work for me. I only wish critics would make it obvious that they are giving certain books good reviews because of the unpleasant, unsympathetic characters, so I would know to avoid those books.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Wherein Dear Abby does a huge disservice to all her readers

A reader writes in to Dear Abby complaining that her fiancé is hiding gay porn around the house and hitting on her male friend. Dear Abby replies:
It is highly unusual for straight men to keep pictures of naked men under their mattress. You have given me three reasons why you suspect he's gay, which indicates that your alarm bells are sounding. By all means address the subject with your boyfriend.

Although your boyfriend may not be gay, he may be bisexual -- and that spells trouble ahead if you marry him. If I were you, I'd put the marriage on hold and listen to my intuition.
Yeah, good job Dear Abby, go around precipitating the misconception that bisexual equals incapable of monogamy. That is going to do SO much good for all humanity!

While I can see that it could be a problem if the fiancé is not capable of being sexually attracted to the woman who wrote in, because most people do want mutually satisfying sex to be part of their marriage. However, if he is capable of being sexually attracted to her, regardless of whom else he may be capable of finding attractive, the crux of the problem seems to be that he's hiding porn in the marital bed and hitting on her friend, no?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More Star Wars ponderings (completely spoiler-free!)

I wonder what Lucas's intentions gave Padmé and Anakin a five-year age difference?

It's a hurdle to their relationship that was never addressed. Five years isn't that much for adults, but when Padmé and Anakin first me, she was functionally an adult and he was a child, so they would both be quite aware of the age difference. When they are reunited at the beginning of AotC, Padmé clearly still thinks of Anakin as something of a child, but that just vanishes, it's never addressed.

If Lucas didn't intend their age difference to serve any purpose, he could quite easily have made them closer in age (Padmé was already extremly young to be a queen and Anakin was already too old for Jedi training, so they could have made them both 12 without changing a thing), or he could have quite easily not had them meet until AotC, where they both appear to be grown adults and have plenty of time alone together. That might even have made their falling in love more believable, because the audience wouldn't be sitting there going "What about the age difference?" They're both young attractive people and spend a lot of time romping around on Naboo, that would be enough to convince the audience. But with the age difference, I found myself feeling unsatisfied that nothing in particular happened to make her think of him as a grownup. So what was its purpose?

Budget passed

Budget passed, no election, pass it on!

I've never watched the H of C on TV before - it's really interesting!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What if...

Suppose the opposition defeats the budget tomorrow, calls for a vote of non-confidence, and triggers an election.

Then suppose the election results in a Liberal minority with a precarious balance of power, much like we have right now.

Then what would happen?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Thoughts about today's political events:

The bad:

- I disapprove of MPs changing parties without the consent of their constituents. I vote for the party, not the individual, and it makes me very grumpy indeed that that can be changed on a whim.
- The Liberals seem to have a whole "Defect from the Conservative Party and get a free cabinet position!" offer going on. This is rather ill-advised on their part, as it doesn't do anything to make them look less corrupt.
- I also think it's inappropriate for media outlets to be speculating/reporting on Belinda Stronach's and Peter Mackay's relationship, whatever form that relationship may take.

The good:

- I rather like the idea of a millionaire making political decisions based on social as opposed to economic principles.
- But the main reason I was moderately asquee today is because this makes politics SO much more exciting! The score is tied one all and we're into sudden-death overtime!


Apparently the Conservatives are running an ad campaign trying to convince people of the necessity of an early election. Shouldn't they be responding to the will of the people rather than trying to change it?

Quibbling over semantics

The Crown is appealing the sentence of a mother whose toddler died of dehydration after she left her home alone overnight.
Crown prosecutor David Wright had asked for an eight- to 12-year sentence for what he called her "unspeakably evil" crime.
Call me callous, but I don't think that's unspeakably evil. I think you could get a lot more evil than that. Basically she killed her daughter through neglect. It would have been a lot more evil to kill her through a deliberate action, or to torture her, or killed more people, or something else that I'm sure people who are more evil than me could think of. I think it's maybe right on the borderline between evil and horribly selfish/stupid. Maybe I've been having too much RotS lately, but I think you've got to do a lot worse to be unspeakably evil.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Characterization of Padmé (SPOILERS for Ep. 3)

Upon rewatching Phantom Menace yesterday, I realized why Padmé's characterization in Ep. 3 bugs me. There are ten years between Ep. 1 and Ep. 2, but the character of Padmé doesn't mature significantly during this time.

Not that she's IMmature - she never was immature, she was Queen of a whole planet at 14! In Ep. 1 she showed that she was capable of being tough and making difficult decisions and holding her own with a blaster. However, she was still vulnerable and inexperienced, as demonstrated in the scene where Palpatine manipulated her into calling for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorem.

Fast forward 10 years to Ep. 2, and she's still essentially the same person. There's
nothing that shows she's grown, matured, gained more political savvy, or improved herself in any way. To be sure she was sufficiently grown, mature, and savvy in Ep. 1, but 10 years a huge amount of time when you're only 24, and some personal growth and self-improvement should have happened during that time. But we didn't see it. She was exactly the same person, and her relationship with Anakin changed only because puberty was extremely kind to him

One might even argue that she grows more and more vulnerable as the trilogy progresses. I'm not entirely sure this is true, because as the trilogy progresses we also see her in increasingly intimate contexts. Our first view of her is in all her Queen regalia; our last view of her (which I'm going to rot13 because it's a major spoiler) is qlvat va puvyqovegu, univat orra orgenlrq naq zheqrerq ol gur ybir bs ure yvsr. You simply cannot compare a person's vulnerability in these two contexts.

However, we also see enough of her external self, the self she shows to the outside world, that we should have been able to perceive some significant growth, experience and maturity as compared with the first episode. There simply was not enough of this growth in the movies to do justice to the character.

St00pid consumer products!

Dear Revlon,

How DARE you cancel my powder without telling me? What am I supposed to do now? There simply is no comparable product on the market! Fuck you!



Dear La Senza,

Why the hell don't you have any bras in black or nude? And if you're going to change the colours of your bras every season, you could at least design the bras so that they can easily be sewn back up when the wire starts poking out. What am I supposed to do now? Neon colours are fine for the bedroom, but some of us work outside the bedroom and need more subtle undergarments that won't be glaringly noticeable through our blouses.



Sunday, May 15, 2005

I am very happy with my Polish mark

It's not polite to gloat, (and my classmates wouldn't agree that my mark is gloat-worthy), but I'd just like to quietly say "I win!"

That is all :)

Family Guy

This season's Family Guy is not nearly as good as previous seasons. It's so not living up to its potential, and that makes me v. v. grumpy.

Phantom Menace redux

I just watched Phantom Menace because it was on TV, and I wanted to see how felt knowing the exact plot of the entire trilogy. It's a better movie when you know what's going to happen in the following two, because you know what's important and why. It doesn't work nearly as well when you have to wait three years to see why various things are important. Jar-Jar is more tolerable when you know he has a purpose, although there's still no good reason for him to be characterized so stupidly. The other problem (stop reading this entry here if you don't want a minor spoiler for ep. 3) is that they didn't show Qui-Gon passing into the force, and they really should have for the purpose of continuity of the next five movies.

But other than that, it's better as part of a trilogy than as a standalone movie.

Strange ways to train your dog

Seen in front of the post office at Yonge & Eg: a big fat bald man with a little tiny chihuahua dog sitting on his shoulder like a parrot.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A poll

How many people do you know personally who have had to use homeowner's or renter's insurance to replace possessions that were stolen or destroyed in a fire or some other disaster?

Wherein road rage is transformed into a serendipitous burst of music

Two cars are honking at each other outside. Their horns harmonize quite nicely - the harmony is a bit dark, but definitely not dissonant. Unfortunately I've never developed the skill of aurally identifying harmonic intervals, but if I had to guess I'd say it's a minor third.

How to find homes for all the orphans in Kenya

A few days ago there was this adorable news story about a dog who had rescued an abandoned newborn and taken it home to her puppies. Apparently hundreds of people all around the world offered to adopt this baby. So here's the plan: contact every one of these people privately. Tell them that they can adopt the miracle baby, but they have to keep it secret so she can grow up without media attention. Then send them some random Kenyan orphanage baby who needs a home. Repeat this process every time there's a miracle baby somewhere that a bunch of people want to adopt.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Building a better brothel

Recent thoughts about the legalization of prostitution got me thinking about how prostitution could be legalized without having a negative effect on the quality of life of residents who are neither an employee nor a client of the sex industry. I have no problem with legalized prostitution itself, but I think having it all over the streetscape would devalue the whole city. I'm quite proud of the little urban niche I've found for myself, and I would be ashamed if it if it were suddenly flooded with gaudy neon like a Montreal strip club, or if they started having prostitutes standing in display windows like those patties they sell at 7-Eleven à la Amsterdam, or if cars started pulling up alongside me while I'm walking home minding my own business. Prostitution is so much classier if done discreetly.

So I got thinking: how do you fit something into the urban landscape without people noticing unless they're looking for it?

Well, what element of the urban landscape don't you notice unless you're looking for it?

Office buildings! All they have to do is model brothels on office buildings!

The first step is to make sure brothels are called brothels. Maybe not the word "brothel" because it's rather old-fashioned and may be disrespectful, but some word that isn't used for anything else. No spas, massage parlours, holistic centres, nightclubs, etc. Escort services maybe. Just make sure it doesn't have the same name as something that also exists as a non-sex-related service, so people don't accidently wander into a brothel while looking for a watchmaker or something.

Then the building itself has to be set up like an office building, as opposed to a storefront. You walk in, there's a lobby with a reception desk or signage directing you to the various services available, you go to the specific suite you're looking for, and then once you're inside it can cease to look like an office. They could make zoning rules so that certain buildings are sex-work only, much like there are office buildings that contain only medical offices. The outside of the building would have a discreet sign (no neon XXX or anything) stating in the standardized euphemism what kind of building it is. The building could have some kind of designated indoor smoking area or be set back from the street so that people leaving don't congregate on the sidewalk (if people who have just been to a prostitute are anything like people who have just been to a strip club, I wouldn't want to have to walk by clumps of them outside the building). If they feel a discreet sign isn't enough, they can advertise by mentioning their street number (or maybe even put it in their name like Club 279), and put a really big street number on their building.

This way the locations of newly-legalized sex work can be as unobtrusive as possible, so people who need nothing to do with it can just walk by without noticing it any more than you notice an office building that you never need to go to. This will help keep NIMBYism from hindering the legalization of prostitution, give sex workers (and their clients) more dignified working conditions, and make our streetscape much classier overall.

"...due to a personal injury at track level"

Conventional wisdom is that news media don't report it when people commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train, because they don't want to glamourize it. However, I think is policy may be having the opposite effect. Every time anyone hears an announcement citing "personal injury at track level", they assume it's a jumper. That is a sensible assumption, but if the TTC really wanted to cover up how many people jump, wouldn't they say something else or just not cite a reason? I remember one serious delay caused by a "personal injury at track level" turned out to be a lady who slipped in a puddle of spilled coffee and fell onto the tracks. Yet hundreds, if not thousands, of people who were in the subway that evening but didn't bother to read the little blurb in the GTA section of the next day's Star went home thinking it's a jumper.

This idea of a mass cover-up of an unspecified number of cuicides seems to have developed a certain mystique. My classmates were speculating on the number of suicides per year, and the numbers they were throwing out were so high that statistically someone in that room must have had a friend of a friend who had seen an actual jumper. In another milieu, I once encountered someone who was completely convinced that all the PA codes to call supervisors and janitors ("299 Sheppard 299 Sheppard 299 Sheppard please call") were actually a way of communicating that there had been a suicide. I think if the TTC wants to deglamourize the idea of commiting suicide by jumping in front of a train, they need to do something about their policies for handling suicide before it reaches urban legend status.

Random questions that occur to me

1. Why on earth would anyone own a pager in the 21st century? Cell-phones can do the exact same job, plus you can use them as a phone!

2. What exactly is wrong with ankle bracelets? The general consensus seems to be that they're tacky, with the tacit implication that the wearer is a whore, but I don't understand why. For me, they evoke no more visceral a reaction than a normal bracelet or a pair of earrings. Were they once some kind of secret code to indicate that the wearer is up for casual sex or something?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Logistical question for parents

When people use cloth diapers, what do they do with the dirty diaper when they change the baby somewhere other than at home?

You know you're getting old when...

You know you're getting old when you start envying students their summer jobs.

He clearly doesn't remember being a student too clearly. This article makes me gleefully rejoice in all my adult responsibilities because they mean that I don't have to work with the public, I can work in air conditioning, I can wear whatever I want, and I don't have to worry about financial security for at least two years.


The Ontario government is considering legislation that would force tenants to pay their electricity bills directly.

The main problem with this is that tenants don't always have the resources to make their homes energy-efficient - the landlords would have to do that. To demonstrate how drastic the changes would need to be to make some apartments energy-efficient, here is a description of the heating/air conditioning system in my apartment, taken from a longer letter I am sending to my MPP and the energy minister.
My building has central heating and air conditioning. The hot or cool air, depending on the time of year, comes out through a vent that is located on the wall, about a foot below the ceiling. The intake vent is located on the same wall, directly below the output vent, and just above the floor. The thermostat is on the same wall, in between the output and intake vents, at about eye level. The whole setup is in a corner where the wall meets the windows, about eight inches away from the windows.

Anyone familiar with the basic principles of convection can see that this is problematic.

In the winter when the furnace is on, the heat is emitted near the ceiling. Heat, as we all know, rises. You can visualize the effect of this vent placement by picturing the heat as a fluid being poured into a container, except instead of flowing first to the bottom of the container it flows to the top. My apartment has to be "filled" with heat from the top down, and enormous amounts of energy are wasted heating the ceiling area before any of that heat gets down to where I am.

In the summer when the air conditioning is on, the placement of the output vent is not a problem, but the placement of the intake vent is. Because heat rises, the coolest air in the apartment is likely to be near the floor, and that air gets taken back into the HVAC system instead of being permitted to circulate around the apartment.

The placement of the vents near the windows is also problematic, because the windows are not very well sealed. They do close properly, but they are cheap and 30 years old, so there are drafts in the cracks and no attempt has been made to make the glass energy-efficient. I'm sure this results in some of the heat and air conditioning being lost by flowing directly out the window.

The placement of the thermostat is also very inefficient. Because it is so close to the window, it is affected by the weather conditions outside. For example, it may be sufficiently warm in the apartment, but a draft from the window might be blowing directly onto the thermostat, thus encouraging it to keep heating the apartment. I'm sure the fact that the thermostat is directly below the output vent and directly above the intake vent also means it gets an inaccurate reading.

The other problem with the thermostat is that it is not very precise. It is an old analog model that doesn't even mark the degree numbers on it. It is simply a knob that I can turn to "higher" or "lower", so I can't turn my temperature down a couple of degrees like so many people recommend. Even if I could, I don't know if it would make that much of a difference. Because of the location of the thermostat, on the wall directly below the output vent, directly above the intake vent, and inches away from the drafty window, it doesn't shut off when the apartment is suitably heated or cooled. One cold winter day, I did an experiment. I turned my thermostat to the very lowest level that still made the furnace be on - just one tiny increment above where the furnace shut off. It took the thermostat two days to shut off by itself, when the apartment was suitably heated within an hour or so.

With heating and cooling taking up 49.5% of the energy use in my whole life and over 2/3 of the energy use in my home (according to the One Tonne Challenge website), all the austerity in the world isn't going to make a significant dent in my energy bills. I already open my windows on cool summer nights, keep them closed through the cold of winter and the hottest part of summer days, close my curtains in the summer and keep them open in the winter, and turn on the fan above my stove to suck out hot air on hot days. What I need is serious renovation to change the locations of my vents, the quality of my windows, and the location and quality of my thermostat.

If the government insists upon passing legislation to make all tenants pay their own utilities, they must first make all landlords ensure that all rental units are reasonably energy-efficient, so that austerity measures on the part of the tenant can actually save energy.

Things They Should Invent: discontinued product early warning system.

All too often I have gone to a store to buy one of my favourite products, only to find that it has been discontinued. This can be particularly annoying in the case of hard-to-fit clothing items or cosmetics of The Perfect Colour. As a service to their loyal customers, companies should offer a service where you can go to their website and "subscribe" to a product. You just fill out a form that automatically tells a web server that this product is one of your favourites, and if the company is ever thinking of discontinuing a product, the server can automatically send out an email to all the subscribers informing them of this. That way the customers can go out and stock up before it's too late, and the company (or maybe the store, I'm not entirely sure how this works) can make some extra money by sending out this information before the stores reduce the item to a clearance price. I know I would certainly buy multiple copies of, say, my favourite concealer or bra at the full price if it were about to be discontinued, and people who didn't need it quite so badly could buy the last few items left after they go on clearance.

If it is true that discontinued items are those that don't sell so well (as opposed to companies discontinuing stuff just to piss us off), then this system shouldn't present too much of a problem because there won't be that many people running out to stock up before the item is discontinued. This system could also help companies and consumers in other ways, for example by showing companies just how many people are loyally devoted to a particular product (as opposed to those who buy it once then find out the colour doesn't work for them), or by sending out a notification to customers when a particular store in their area is having one of their favourite products on sale. I'm sure it would also provide some kind of valuable demographic information, since companies are always using air miles and stuff to see what products I'm buying where and when.

Gesticulating wildly in five languages

Scientists have proven that waving your hands around helps you think of the correct word.

This is SO TRUE and I'm glad it finally has scientific justification! I always wave my hands around when I get stuck on a translation, and I find it quite helpful! Yet another reason why I shouldn't be an interpreter - in the tiny interpretation booth, I'd put my partner's eye out!

How to build word processer brand loyalty among language professionals

I use MS Word, WordPerfect, and Lotus Word Pro all on a regular basis. Regardless of the other merits of any of the software or the corporations behind them, Word remains my favourite because when I go to change the language of a document, it is most likely to take for the first time in Word. There's nothing more annoying than having to change the language of every cell of a table individually, or having to close and reopen the document for the new language to take! Yes I could proofread manually, but that can get rather dull and tiresome and I always end up missing typos when my red and green squigglies won't show up (or rather, show up on every correctly-spelled word).

An analogy

A non-confidence vote is like a movie sex scene: both can be quite enjoyable if the scriptwriters take the time to build up a good plot, but they just come across as sleazy when they're completely gratuitous.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Problems with so-called "spas" and "holistic centres"

The Star is running a series on business that advertise themselves as "spas" or "holistic centres" but actually offer sexual services. An assortment of my thoughts on the subject:

1. I think the prices mentioned in the articles are too low. I'm sure the reporters got the prices right, but I think the sex workers themselves should charge more. Why? Someone I know got a legitimate massage from a registered massage therapist, and it cost about $70. Most of the prices listed in the article were less than that. Since the conceit is that sexual services are "extras" offered on top of a massage, it should cost more than an actual massage.

2. The huge problem with this industry is that I don't know how to tell by walking past whether a business is a legitmate spa or whether it's a front for a brothel. They showed pictures of some of these businesses, and I couldn't tell by looking at them that they were brothels. Apparently they sometimes advertise in places where sexual services are typically advertised, but I'm not in the market for sexual services so I'd never look at those kinds of ads. (In fact, I would make a point NOT to look at them out of respect for mi cielito.) However, I may one day be in the market for legitimate spa services. Since I have no way of knowing whether a small local day spa is legitmate or a front, and I certainly don't want to be seen walking out of a place that sells sex, or inadvertently pay a prostitute to give me a pedicure and have some of that money go to a pimp (is there a technical word for pimp?), I'm now likely to avoid all small privately-owned day spas, and instead go to a spa affiliated with a luxury hotel or something. I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't want to accidentally walk into a brothel, so this might hurt legitimate small businesses. It also might result in people walking into legitimate small businesses and sexually harrassing their employees.

3. I have decided that I would be perfectly willing to support legislation that legalizes prostitution if and only if it resulted in a system where sex workers made more money than the other people involved. As I've mentioned before, the thing I find squickiest about the sex industry is that people who aren't sex workers make money from it. Someone once told me that pimps are only necessary because prostitution is not legal - I don't know about the economics myself. But if prostitution is legalized, it should be set up to ensure that each and every sex working in a particular organization makes more money per hour/per client than any one of the support workers, if they need or choose to have any support workers. And this should be before any tips. Ideally the sex worker should be the only one making money (well, ideally there should be no market for sex work at all because no one wants to be that pathetic, but...), but if some sort of support worker is necessary, obviously they have to get paid. But in a fair and just world, no one should be making more from sex work than the sex workers, and if we're going to make specific legislation, it may as well be fair and just.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

VE Day

They keep talking about VE Day itself, but I'd be more interested to hear about the aftermath. How did men who had spent perhaps their entire adult lives in combat zones go back to working in an office or a factory? What happened to women who needed to work to support themselves but had to give up their wartime jobs to veterans coming back home? What kind of long-term psychological effects did people who had been born in a war zone and spent their entire childhood in a war zone suffer? What happened to people who developed their political awareness as WWII broke out and grew up to be young adults whose entire political awareness had taken place during propoganda-saturated wartime? How did they transition from rationing to not rationing? What happened to prisoners of war? How did people in internment camps reintegrate into the rest of society? This would all be much more interesting to hear about than how everyone ran out of their offices and jumped on cars and looted liquor stores and partied.

Things that were invented in my dreams

Last night I had a dream that I was in my high-school German class. It was all the same people, plus a few people from other aspects of my life who had nothing to do with high school. We were all the same age we are now, and had been pulled from whatever we are doing with our lives to take this class. I was dressed for work because I had to go to work after class, and people kept asking me if I had a job interview because they didn't believe that I could actually have a job requiring office clothes at the tender age of 24.

I haven't used German in five years, so I was a bit rusty. However, I didn't think I deserved a poor mark in this class since I am, in fact, a translator (despite the fact that my translation work has nothing to do with German). So I successfully negotiated an agreement with my German teacher (who, in high school, was also my French teacher) that I can answer in French when I don't know the German answer, as long as I use an equal number of German words in French class. Everyone thought this was a good rule that should be implemented posthaste in all language classes everywhere.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Thoughts from the COS movie

Dobby's special house-elf magic bears a striking resemblance to the "lightning" used by Sith lords.

Amancay Cabernet Sauvignon

By the initial scent, I thought this would be too strong to drink by itself, but it isn't. It's the usual vanilla/berry taste of cabernet sauvignon and not at all tannic, but I don't find it particularly exceptional. There's nothing wrong with it, it just doesn't stand out in any particular way.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Things They Should Invent: free doggies at charity walks

They often have walks to raise money for various charities.  What they should do is partner up with a local shelter, and bring free doggies to the walk for whomever wants to walk a doggie.  You don't get to keep them, but you can walk with them if you want and play with them along the way.  So the doggies get a walk, the shelter gets higher visibility and maybe more people would be motivated to adopt after going for a walk with a beautiful doggie, the charity behind the walk gets an incentive for more people to walk, and the people get to play with a doggie if they so choose! It's a win-win-win-win situation!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

This book was almost universally well-reviewed, but it just didn't do it for me. I simply could not understand the protagonists motivations for the vast majority of the novel. He did this and he did that and someone says, "Lets to go visit this random person!" and he agrees and he tells lies and makes up stories and I don't understand why he's doing any of it. This might be cultural (it's a translated Turkish novel) or it may just be my lack of ability to read people well, but I just couldn't get emotionally invested in a book where I didn't understand the motivations at all.

Random things

1. My exam went well. It was in a chapel, which was weird, but I think I got at least 90% on it. I'll have more accumulated vacation time next September than I did last September, so if I decide to take the next class next year I'll be able to take slightly more frequent mental health long weekends. Of course, I don't have to (in fact, I CAN'T) make the final decision until August.

2. People keep trying to sell me insurance lately. I have no idea why. Probably because I'm very unlikely to need insurance.

3. I just realized that, knock wood, there have been no you-know-whats in my apartment in the last EIGHT MONTHS! It is SO refreshing not to be walking around in a constant state of anxiety!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More politics (*yawn*)

If the majority of Canadians think the way I do (and I have no way of knowing whether they do or not), the Conservatives are in big trouble.

We already know that I don't agree with them on matters of policy and, of the parties that run in my riding, they are the ones who would have the greatest negative effect on my life. (Is "It would be in my worst interests to vote for them" a real expression, or did I just make that up?) I can deal with all this in a more or less rational manner, however. I can intellectually separate my own interests from the interests of Canada as a whole, I can go through their platform point by point and say "This policy would be bad for me personally, that policy would produce a Canada I'd be ashamed to live in, and there's nothing particularly wrong with this other policy, but Party X has a much better policy on this particular issue."

But now their latest move has added a visceral dislike for the Conservative party.

They have just announced that they will be calling an election as soon as possible, no matter what, because, um, because they can? And because they want to? That's certainly the impression I get anyway. This move makes them come across as cocky and aggressive, and I don't like that - in fact, that simply makes me want to see them defeated with the same visceral emotion that makes me administer a cut direct to cars with thudding subwoofers and thugged-out guys who sit with their legs open wide to take up three seats on the subway and anyone with a mustache who attempts to be charming. I like consensus-building in my politicians, or at the very least going through the motions of pretending that they value consensus-building.

If enough other Canadians also feel this way, this would be very bad for the Conservative party. Because even if they change their policies (or other parties change their policies so that the Conservatives are no longer the worst choice for myself personally and for my vision of Canada) that visceral dislike is still going to be there, and that doesn't just go away all the sudden.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Harry Potter non-theory

I think Harry's innate teaching skills in the DA will have to play a role in future books. However, unlike many fics, I don't think he will be made a teaching assistant since there is absolutely no precedent for that. I very much like the idea of Harry not being treated like he's special at all, but given the prophecy and his discussion with Dumbledore at the end of the year, I don't know if that can happen.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

This one is very interesting. In addition to the usual refreshing aspects of Sauvignon Blanc, it has a sort of grassy taste to it. It's kind of the average of lemongrass and green banana and the smell of lawn being mowed. It sounds weird, but I quite like it. Also, it comes in a screwtop bottle! I know that this is generally accepted as an indicator of cheap wine, but I find it rather convenient. Hey, maybe it is cheap wine and I don't know what the good stuff is, but I like it and the bottle is convenient, so it's all good.

Almay wants me to look like a child experimenting with her mother's cosmetics

I saw a commercial saying that Almay has special shadows specifically designed to bring out your eye colour, so I went to the drugstore to look at them, to see what colours someone with green eyes should be wearing.

Apparently I'm supposed to wear plum on my lids, dark green in my crease, and light green on my browbone.

That seems a tad ill-advised, no?

Interestingly, the colours they had for hazel eyes were very close to what I'm wearing now, which might be why my eye colour has been mistaken for brown by parties who shall remain nameless. I would like my eyes to look as green as possible, but I don't think green and purple shadow is quite the way to go...

Sunday, May 01, 2005


I'm watching Simpsons and Family Guy. I'm greatly enjoying the shows themselves, but from the commercials they're showing, I get the distinct impression that Global does not want me, personally, watching the show. It's not just that the commercials aren't targeted to me, it feels like they're actively trying to drive me away with commercials that make me feel dirty or insult my intelligence.

Half-formed theory

Most misunderstandings are the result of people assuming that other people's motivations are the same as their own would be in the same situation.