Thursday, June 30, 2005

Harry Potter thoughts for the day

1. When Hagrid took Harry into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time and everyone wanted to shake his hand, a witch named Doris Crockford kept coming back to shake his hand time and time again. I think we'll see another cameo from Doris Crockford.

2. Suppose a person manages to become an Animagus before they hit puberty. Would their Animagus form be a not-yet-fully-grown animal? Does the Animagus form age along with the person?

3. I think I'm beginning to agree with the fandom theory that the place with the boat that we see on the back of the book cover is the same place as the boats that take the first-years to Hogwarts land.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I guess I should give everyone fair warning...

I started my Pre-HBP-Release Harry Potter Reread today, so Harry Potter-related posts are going to be much more frequent between now and the time I finish reading and absorbing HBP. I'll still be blogging about other stuff, but there's going to be far more Potter than usual. So if there's anyone out there who doesn't want spoilers for the first five books, you'd do well to stop reading until at least July 18, and those of you are repulsed and repelled by the thought of a grown woman extensively theorizing about Harry Potter might want to visit less frequently for the next month or so.

Also, I think Dumbledore's watch will show up again :)

Harry Potter theory of the day

Today, I think Uric the Oddball will be the Half-Blood Prince :)

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror by Richard A. Clarke

This book is a description of the events leading up to Sept. 11, by the former White House Counterterrorism Director.

It's quite interesting, and brought up a lot of things that I didn't know. For example, I didn't know that al-Quaeda was so new. I didn't know that the US dropped so many bombs in the 1990s (I knew about some, but not all), and I didn't know that they had very specific intelligence that led them to drop bombs where they did, as well as very specific intelligence about the 9/11 attacks, and other previous terrorist threats that were averted. I did hear some talk in the 1990s about terrorists who wanted to attack the US, but it just sounded all paranoid to me.

I don't know what's to blame for this ignorance on my part. It could be the fact that I don't read every article in the newspaper - I just skim headlines and read only what's interesting to me. It could be the particular newspapers to which my parents chose to subscribe. It could be the media's distraction with Clinton's sex life. It could be the fact that I didn't consume any American media at all during that time, except for the occasional newscast teaser while watching sitcoms on a US channel. It could be that the fact they were able to get such specific intelligence was classified at the time. I could play the "But I was just a teenager!" card, but frankly my ability to follow current events was just the same then as it is now, except that now I get to choose the newspapers to read and the newscasts to watch, and now the internet is bigger. But really, I was operating without all the facts in the 1990s, which is kind of embarrassing.

Another thing that I found kind of disturbing was the fact that apparently the US had/has a "snatch" program, where they'd send agents in to grab suspected terrorists and put them into custody (or possibly kill them, if necesssary). I feel conflicted about this. On one hand, the thought has occurred to me that sending in a special agent to kill key enemies of the state is preferable to starting a war. On the other hand, the fact that they didn't even seem to care that this is inviolation of international law disturbs me. It makes me think that if someone randomly one day decides I'm a suspect for something, agents might come in the night and abduct me and take me away, and if they aren't respecting international law they might not care for keeping me under Geneva conditions or giving me a fair trial or remanding me to Canadian custody. Yet another example of where US foreign policy operates under the assumption that they are The Good Guys and everyone sees them as such.

There were a few annoyances, such as Mr. Clarke's (and his editor's) apparent inability to differentiate between the words "insure" and "ensure", and the fact that it never seems to cross anyone's mind that dropping bombs is an act of war. But it's still worth reading just for the sake of hearing the story from an insider's perspective. Just do keep in mind that the author is likely to have certain biases because of the field which he has been working for so long.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Harry Potter fandom theory pet peeves

My biggest pet peeve about Harry Potter fandom theories is that it has practically become fanon that a) Metamorphmagi cannot morph into someone of the opposite sex, and b) Polyjuice Potion cannot turn you into someone of the opposite sex.

Magic can turn a person into a rat or a cat or a dog, make a person or thing vanish into thin air, let a Phoenix die and be reborn from the ashes, and put Hogwarts letters inside eggs. Why on earth would it not be able to turn a penis into a vagina or vice versa? Even Muggle medicine can do that!

St Urbans-Hof Riesling

This is the featured white at Vintages this month, and it's quite good. It's very bright and a bit minerally - reminds me of lemon-flavoured Perrier - and quite refreshing when well-chilled. The only problem is the bottle is ridiculous. It's long and skinny, making it far too tall for my fridge, so I have to wedge it into the door shelf sideweays. Luckily I have room to do that, but it could be a deal-breaker for someone with a full fridge.

New template

I got tired of the big giant space and changed my template. Let me know what you think of the font size, please. It looks a bit to big to me, but I stubbornly insist upon keeping my screen resolution at 800x600 (I know, I know, that's dirty and shameful and disgusting and scandalous and a reprehensible way to treat an LCD monitor and I should go to bed without my dinner) so it might be fine for people who have a more 21st-century resolution.

Oh no! Not a FENCE!

Just when Charles and Pauline Sammut thought their six-year war with the Islington Golf Club was over, a new battle with the private course has emerged over its proposed solution to stop a flurry of golf balls from hitting the retired couple's $1 million home.

Today, the exclusive club plans to begin construction of a fence nearly 7 metres high in the Sammuts' front yard. The chain-link barrier will be built on the city-owned road allowance off Fairway Rd., just 9 metres from the Sammuts' front door. It will stretch from the course boundary off the third hole to within 2 metres of the couple's driveway.

The golf club calls it a reasonable solution. The Sammuts call it a farce.

"I'm peeved and mad," said Charles Sammut, 75, upon hearing of the proposed solution. "I do not want a 22-foot fence in front of my house. It's going to make us feel encaged. I don't even think it's going to stop the balls."


The golf club was given permission by the City of Toronto to build the fence, DeSaverio said. That decision upset Charles Sammut, who moved into the home with his wife, Pauline, in 1999.

"I can't understand how anybody could get a permit to build this kind of a fence in front of a house," he said. The department responsible for issuing building permits in Toronto could not be reached for comment.

The lawyer representing the Sammuts called the golf club's proposition "unreasonable" and said he plans to ask Justice Stewart whether or not the fence complies with her court order.

"It doesn't sound like a very common-sense solution," said John Ritchie. "We put a man on the moon. We should be able to resolve a problem with some golf balls."


Picturesque Islington Golf Club was incorporated in 1923 at a time when homes near the course were scarce.

Since 1999, there has been increased residential development on the land just east of the course.
Wow, I wish my biggest problem was that someone was building a tall fence near my million-dollar home. And I wish I had had so few problems in my life that I thought a tall fence being built near my home was outrageous enough to go to the media.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I'm such a conformist

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Blog template and the Giant Space

For the record, this blog template is called Split Pea. I tried reinstalling the template, and it still gapped. I tried comparing my template line-by-line with the sample provided, and the best I can tell is that it's the same except for font size changes I made months ago (although I don't have software to do a line-by-line comparison for me).

I emailed the blogger people so I'll give them a couple of days to see if they can respond. If not, I'm going to have to change the template. This just doesn't make any sense...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Inclusive and neutral language

My earlier post about racial slurs got me thinking:

What constitutes inclusive and neutral language is always changing, as we make a conscious and deliberate effort to eliminate inadvertent negative connotations from our daily discourse. So sometimes people don't know that if they use a particular word in a particular context, it could be interpreted as offensive, exclusionary, or otherwise give the impression that their intent is not benign.

What I don't understand is people who, upon learning that a certain word is not or is no longer appropriate and being told an acceptable alternative, stubbornly insist upon their right to continue using it. I'm not talking about using it in contexts where they intend to give offence or other contexts where they wish to include or allude to the negative connotations for a specific semantic reason - I'm talking about neutral contexts, where the strict denotation of the word is all that is intended to be communicated. But instead of using the word that they now know to be neutral, some people insist upon continuing to use the old word and insist that other people should simply not read into it the negative connotations that it bears.

Why, upon learning that a particular word could cause offence and that using it could give the impression that the speaker's intent is to cause offence, would a person beligerently insist upon continuing to use it? Do they know that this makes them look like assholes? Do they know that this gives the impression that they are deliberately and passive-aggressively attempting to cause offence? Why would a person who does not want to cause offence not immediately alter their linguistic choices to the words that are the most neutral and benign possible? What are they hoping to achieve?

Everything is soooo gay today

Is it Pride everywhere today, or just in Toronto? I'm wondering because non-local entertainment media seems to be focusing on its various queer plots. For example, tonight's Simpsons is supposed to be the same-sex marriage one, and 9 Chickweed Lane chose today to come the closest it ever has to making Seth's sexuality an "issue" (before it has been either just there, or a convenient plot device). Is this a coincidence, or is today as Pride Day more global than I thought?


I know very few racial slurs, and I don't know the meaning of the majority of the racial slurs that I do know. (I picked most of them up from Monty Python's "Never be Rude to an Arab" song. (Warning: this song contains racial slurs, obviously)) I rarely hear racial slurs in my day-to-day life, of course, but they do come up once in a while in certain irregular social contexts.

Therefore, I have decided to take it a step further, and pretend to be completely ignorant of any and all racial slurs that I might hear or read in a social context. I will give the impression that I've never heard the word before (which in most cases I haven't), ask what it means (because in most cases I don't know), if it's rather far removed from the proper term I will ask about its origins or if it's perhaps in another language, and then I will politely inquire as to in which contexts or situations one might choose to use this word rather than the proper term. If someone explicitly says it's a racial slur, I'll say, "Oh really? I've never heard one before!" (I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've heard them in an actual conversation.)

This approach is extremely close to reality, and is consistent with what reality should be in the 21st century, and it should work with every racial slur, with the possible exception of one that people would expect me to have encountered in literature.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Why does everything have to be so superlative?

Why does life have to be beautiful and wonderful and a precious gift? Why can't it just be a biological fluke that we happen to be experiencing?

Why does Canada have to be world-renouned with a sterling reputation abroad? Why can't we just be a quiet, decent place to live?

Why do food and drink and sex and movies and art and books and theatre and yoga have to be amazing? Why can't they just be nice, pleasurable, enjoyable?

Why does Toronto have to be a world-class city? Why can't we just be a nice city with decent amenities for its residents?

Why do we have to work hard and play hard? Why can't we just work when necessary and play when it strikes our fancy to do so?

Why do we have to be passionate about our favourite hobbies? Why can't we just like them, enjoy them, find them relaxing?

Why do we have to be passionate about our charitable causes? Why can't we just think they're worthy?

Why do we have to live life to its fullest, making the most of each moment? Why can't we just live life?

Strength vs. weakness, courage vs. cowardice

I've blogged before about how recently the word "cowardly" tends to be overused and extended to mean "something I disapprove of" or "generic negative adjective". I've noticed this extension is happening more and more often with the words courageous and cowardly, and the words strong and weak, and all the adjectives thereof. These words are growing connotations of "moral and immoral" respectively, or "morally superior and morally inferior" respectively.

This is terribly inaccurate. Being courageous or cowardly, being brave or scared, being strong or weak, is morally neutral. This notion of giving moral value to degrees of strength or bravery probably, the fact that our culture tends to celebrate situations in which the moral or morally superior choice requires exceptional courage/bravery/strength, but the fact remains that it isn't the courage/bravery/strength that makes that particular choice moral or morally superior.

If, god forbid, there is a you-know-what, and I muster up every ounce of my courage (plus some that I don't have) and go charging into the room to dispose of it myself, that is courageous. If instead I run screaming from the room and make someone else dispose of it, that is cowardly. But the actions are morally equal - just like taking out the garbage myself vs. asking someone else to do it.

If, in the midst of a great personal crisis, I manage to go through my day-to-day life with a stiff upper lip and total sangfroid, not letting the crisis affect me at all, that is being strong. If, instead, I only just manage to fulfil my duties and spend every spare minute crying into my pillow, that is being weak. But there is no moral difference between these two situations, just a difference in emotional reaction.

I think this all arises from the fact that courage, strength and bravery are quite convenient, whereas cowardice and weakness are quite inconvenient. If I am the epitome of courage and strength at all times, that is useful for those around me. They can count on me to do anything, and know that I will always be low-maintenance. But if I am weak and frightened, that requires a lot of work and attention from others - and not simple problem-solving and throwing money at things, but slow, painstaking, handholding emotional support. Combine that with the fact that situations in which courage and moral superiority co-occur tend to be loudly celebrated, and we have this whole over-celebration of courage and strength and over-demonization of cowardice and weakness.

The fact of the matter is that courage, strength, cowardice and weakness cannot have moral value because they are not choices. They are states of being, or personality traits. They can no more have moral value than can our eye colour or our phobias or our like or dislike of bitter foods. I cannot make a conscious choice to be more courageous or less cowardly. I can, in some situations, make a conscious choice to take the course of action that happens to be more courageous, but, like everyone, I do possess a finite amount of courage, and I cannot just make a decision to use more courage than I possess.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sims 2 question

One of my characters has the main ambition of marrying a rich sim. How do you tell if a sim is rich? I picked a character I thought was rich, but it turns out she only had $200 to her name!

Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel

This book didn't do anything for me, but I don't think it's the fault of the book. I think it's just because I don't like memoirs. Perhaps a memoir would be an enjoyable read for me if it were about someone I knew or a vaguely famous person whose career I'd been following, but memoirs in general, even when they are well-reviewed, don't do it for me. I simply am not emotionally attached to the same things to which the author is emotionally attached, and I don't necessarily see the same significance in events that she does. She is doubtless sparing us certain details to preserve some modicum of her own privacy, but those are the very details that would have made the story interesting to me. Similarly, the things that she appears to feel are bold, dramatic exposures of her innermost self are rather ho-hum to me, because in most cases I know someone or another who has been through a similar experience.

I think authors write memoirs more for themselves and perhaps those who know them, and so far in my life (not just with this book but with others) it has been a waste of my time to read them.

This is why I'm not going to bother to blog about the book itself at all. My dislike for memoirs should not in any way be construed as any sort of review of the literary merit of this book. If you want more well-thought-out reviews, feel free to do some googling or go to amazon.

Quick thoughts on being childfree

Some quick thoughts arising from this article.

1. I find it rather odd that "I don't want to have children" is not generally considered "enough" of a reason for not having children. Why would you want children being raised by parents who are anything less than completely thrilled with the idea of children?

2. A slightly flawed metaphor: For me, having children is like swallowing a live goldfish. People have done it, and I'm sure I could do it, but I really don't see the point. The flaw, of course, is that having children will affect every single day of the rest of your life, while any residual effects from swallowing a live golfish will likely be over in a week.

Actually, the live goldfish is a good metaphor for any number of things that I am not at all interested in doing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Things that annoy me

On the CBC radio new this morning, an politician made a remark that seemed generally innoccuos, but I found it particularly ill-advised for reasons that required about 100-200 words of linguistic analysis. But since this was the morning and I was in the process of getting ready for work, I didn't have time to type it all out. So I left myself a little note to look up the story when I got home, and write out my reaction, complete with links.

However, when I got home this evening and started looking for the story in question, it turned out the particular remark never made it to any of the online print versions of the story. It was just played on the radio. And in the mess of my day, I forgot who made that remark and what the exact wording was, so I can't exactly comment on it any more. Bleah.

Trapiche Chardonnay

This is a rather interesting wine. It contains all the elements usually found in chardonnay, but in different proportions. I can't really explain it beyond that, but it's quite refreshing.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Quick poll

Which place name is better:  Moose Factory or Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Brain development and sense of consequences

This article (well worth the trip to bugmenot if you don't have a Toronto Star login) is really interesting. It postulates that adolescents have less of a sense of consequences because their brains are not yet fully physically developed. It gives some fascinating examples of trains of thought arising from not-yet-fully-developed children's brains, such as:
Ask a 4-year-old if he has a brother, and he'll tell you yes. Ask what his name is, and the child may answer "Jim." Then ask, "Does Jim have a brother?" The answer might be no.
The only problem about this theory of sense of consequences is that it does not correlate at all to my personal experience. The last time I remember my sense of consequences being different from what it is now was around the age of 3, when I honestly did not understand that if I made a big complicated mess my parents would have to clean it up. But, with the exception of things that require factual or experiential knowledge (for example, turning off a Linux computer without shutting down properly could fuck up the kernel, or mixing bleach and ammonia makes poisonous fumes), my sense of consequences has been about the same since age 9.

I wonder if this means my brain developed early, or if it means I'm still walking around with a child's brain. That would be interesting, if I were using a child's brain to do my (rather intellectual and cerebral) job.

The magical stalking sanding ghost

Someone either upstairs or next door or in the hall is sanding or doing something that makes a lot of scrapey and frictiony noises. The weird thing is that no matter where I am in my apartment, this noise sounds like it's coming from the nearest wall or ceiling. As I lay in bed, it sounded like it was coming from the ceiling directly above me. Then as I sat in the toilet, it sounded like it was coming from the wall of the apartment next door. Then as I wandered into the kitchen it sounded like it was coming from the hall. Now I'm in the living room, and it sounds like it's coming from a different part of the ceiling.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

People who live on less than a dollar a day

The number of people who live on less than a dollar a day is often bandied about when describing global poverty.

But what does this number actually mean?

Does it mean the amount of necessities of life that I could purchase if I walked down to the corner store with a (presumably US) dollar?

Or does it mean the amount of necessities of life that I could purchase if I wandered into the marketplace of a poor village in a Third World country with a (presumably US) dollar?

I realize it's probably the GDP of the country divided by the number of people, but which of these two scenarios is it probably closer to?

U Really Got a Hold on Me

Yes! I knew this Sesame Street sketch existed! No one else remembered it, but I distinctly remember the first time I heard the Beatles song "You Really Got a Hold on Me" I was highly impressed that they did Sesame Street covers.

But I don't want Harry Potter to grow up!

One of the things that makes the Harry Potter characters most endearing to me is that they have the full awkwardness, ignorance and confusion of their ages. Even though they're brave and magically powerful, they aren't emotionally precocious. Being safely out of that awkward stage myself, I can sit back at arms-length and fully appreciate where they are. I even like CAPS-LOCK!Harry, because I find that emotionally realistic.

One of the things that really annoys me in fanfic is when people suddenly make Harry become calm and rational and reasonable about everything. Yes, it might be easier to write and more pleasant to read and it might enable certain plot directions that the author might want to explore, but that isn't where he is right now - and he certainly isn't going to achieve that over one summer!

But this interview worries me. They seem to be hinting that Harry is going to grow up emotionally, and that doesn't seem a realistic thing to happen at this point. It is quite necessary for the plot - and the fact that 17 is the age of majority for wizards suggests that he needs to be an adult in book 7. But I don't want Sweet Valley High-style adult teenagers in my Harry Potter, I like them being children!

Hopefully J.K. Rowling will, à la limite, have Harry at the end of his sixth year reach the place where those fanfic authors have him at the end of the summer. I'm in no hurry to have my Harry grow up.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Knowledge base

Things I have learned recently:

- LCD monitors work best at the optimum refresh rate. They do not work best at a higher refresh rate. Yes, it is counterintuitive to take the refresh rate down to 60, but it helps.

- If you are using InterActual DVD player and you can't access the DVD-ROM specific material on the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD, click on the Extra Credit link on the bottom.

- In Sims 2, if you want to do the move_objects on and then delete a character thing, don't panic when the character's icon disappears. Simply exit to the neighbourhood (saving your game on the way) and re-enter the house. The character will reappear with their mood levels all up.

- If you have WebWasher, ZoneAlarm, Norton Internet Security and Windows XP firewall and pop-up blocker, the easiest thing to do is disable the pop-up blocking/ad blocking/privacy capacities of all the software except WebWasher, then edit the WebWasher filterlist as needed to allow access to sites you want to access and block things you want to be blocked. It's also easier to disable the Windows XP firewall and let ZoneAlarm take care of that with Norton as a backup. Anything more (or different combinations) gets far too overprotective.

- You can't stash .exe files in your gmail account. Zipping them doesn't trick the gmail filter.

- If your OS is Windows XP and your ISP is Sympatico, there may be two little network connection icons in your tray. Do not try to close one of these network connections, bad things will happen! (When I did this it inadvertently deleted my network card). You can convince the non-sympatico icon to not show itself, but don't try actually closing it.

- In Windows XP, if you set your taskbar to auto-hide and then maximize a Trillian window, the Trillian window will cover up the taskbar and you have to annoyingly switch to another window or resize Trillian before you can access the taskbar. Instead of maximizing Trillian with the icon in the top right of the window, just drag the window edges until you reach the required size.

- Furniture on casters that is frequently rolled around can damage the finish of hardwood floors.

- Hiking up your pants by casually sticking your hands in your pockets and then casually shrugging your shoulders is not a good idea, because it puts pressure on seams that the designers never intended.

- If your bra straps have metal buckles and adjusty-things, and you have a zit right under where one of the metal pieces needs to be, wear a different bra. Even if it ruins your line. The resulting skin irritation is extremely aggravating.

- If your vegetarian meal comes with an item that wasn't part of the meal description on the menu, find out what that item is before eating it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble

This is a blend of two grapes with which I'm not too familiar: Malbec and Corvina. I couldn't tell you which grape is doing what, but the end result is far too tannic for me. It might work with some really hardcore meat, but this simply is not a good wine for me. It doesn't even give me the vague healthful feeling I generally get when sipping on a red wine.

Manipulative commercials

There's this commercial that shows this adorable little baby crying inconsolably. She's just crying and crying and crying for long enough to make anyone who is capable of doing so lactate, and anyone else look around to make sure the baby is okay.

Then the caption comes on saying that X people die of drunk driving. The more crying. Then they say "Emily's mother was one of them."

I don't like this commercial because it is far too manipulative. First of all, it upsets me, as is intended. But I don't like my television set upsetting me unexpectedly - especially in the morning, if I have my TV on while getting ready. Selfish as it sounds, the last thing I need is to tear up when I'm running late and have just put on my mascara.

Then I get indignant about being upset as a warning against something I would never do and never allow others to do. I do own a breathalyzer and carry taxi money for a reason!

Then I realize that it's upsetting me for no reason. The baby is crying and inconsolable, but that's not because her mother died because of drunk driving. She's crying because no one has come to get her! Even when a baby's mother dies, of whatever reason, someone is still put in charge of the baby. The problem in this scenario is that whoever is in charge of the baby either hasn't reached her yet, or is of the "let her cry it out" school of parenting. Which is a problem, but has nothing to do with drunk driving. So then I get embarrassed about allowing myself to be manipulated like this.

And the overall problem with this commercial is that the kind of people who are selfish and/or stupid enough to drive drunk probably wouldn't care that the poor widdle baby is crying, they'd probably be more the type to say "Someone shut that damn kid up!" So the target audience completely disregards the commecial, while innocent bystanders have to redo their mascara and are late for work. Not a good plan.

I don't know if the aim of this commercial is to get me to not drive drunk and not allow others to do so, or to get me to give money to MADD (or whatever organization). But I'm already not going to drive drunk - it's not like I have the opportunity anyway - and it's making me less like to give money to the organization because I don't like being manipulated this way.

I am SUCH a Hufflepuff!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another reason why parents aren't like the rest of us

In the elevator of my building, there was a woman and her toddler daughter. The little girl says to her mother: "Mamamama bayayayaya!"

The mother understood her! She looked down at the little girl as though she had said something perfectly rational, and reassured her that they could pick it up tomorrow, it would still be there.

I was so tempted to ask the mother what the little girl had just said, but that would be a bit of an intrusion.

Parliamentary procedures

MP Steven Fletcher, as we all know, is quadriplegic. And in today's Globe and Mail, there's a photo of MP Andy Scott in a wheelchair for some reason.

So how do these gentlemen rise to be counted when voting?

"This wine may contain traces of fish products"

I bought a lovely-sounding New Zealand wine called Sacred Hill Whitecliff Sauvignon Blanc. I brought it home and was putting it away, when I noticed in small letters on the back label: "This wine may contain traces of fish products"

WTF? How do fish products get into wine?

I sent the winery a polite and curious email. Hopefully they'll respond. I'm going to have to take the wine back, but I'm more curious than anything else.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Things They Should Invent: Nicotine-only cigarettes

Is it really strictly necessary to have tar and arsenic etc. in cigarettes? Why can't they just make them pure nicotine, without as many cancer-causing chemicals?

The humidity has broken!

The post-apocalyptic dystopian heat wave is over!!!! WOOO!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Fido voice-recognition sucks!

Fido switched to a voice-recognition menu rather than a push-button menu for upgrading accounts. But their voice recognition SUCKS! It doesn't recognize my voice at all! It doesn't recognize me saying the word "Yes". And I have a Standard Canadian accent (Fido is a Canadian company) and English is my first language! What really sucks is that you can't even push the buttons for the push-button system, so I'm stuck waiting for an agent! BOO FIDO! Bring back the press one press two system!

Edited to make this post actually useful: If Fido voice recognition doesn't work for you, try the following:

1. Call from a landline instead of your cell.
2. If you're a woman, get a man to do it. (In general, voice-recognition software tends to like men better). If you don't have a man handy, pretend to be a man.
3. If you can manage to speak to an agent, tell them, in your best Standard Canadian accent, that the voice recognition doesn't understand you.
4. Go to, click on the "Contact us" link, and send them a message telling them that the voice recognition doesn't understand you.

I don't know what they'll tell you to help you because they haven't emailed me back, but perhaps a critical mass of people who can't use the voice recognition will help change their minds.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Hope Estate Chardonnay

I don't much like this wine, because it has the element that is common to
cantaloupe and pink lemonade, and I don't like this particular element. It
might be a perfectly good wine, I have no idea. I just can't enjoy it for
the same reason I can't enjoy a fruit salad that' s heavy on the cantaloupe.

Note to self

- Disabling Norton Internet Security and allowing supplementary modification of the address bar works. The question is which of these is the key element?

- The emails you need are in your gmail so you don't have to worry about transferring them.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I've noticed lately that there are quite a few girls who walk around in low-rise pants with their midriffs exposed, despite the fact that they have a bit of a belly and this fashion choice results in their exposed belly sticking out over their pants.

I rather hope this becomes fashionable, maybe even considered sexy.

Not that I want to go around exposing my belly myself (it's just more skin that I have to worry about being hair- and zit-free), but despite my best efforts and my ability to do 200 good-quality situps without breaking stride, my belly really wants to stick out and tends to bloat at the slightest provocation. It would make my life so much easier if this was considered sexy and attractive, maybe moving us more in the general direction of an goddess model of female attractiveness, like they had in ancient matriarchal societies, where extra flesh was desireable when carried in areas where it signified fertility. (Not that I want to be fertile either, but my ovaries seem to have other plans).

The mainstreaming of the concept of bootylicious did quite a bit of good for my body image. Maybe bellylicious will be next?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Marketing prodigies!

Suppose you're a horny teenager and you want to have cybersex. How would you make this sound like a good decision to various meddling grownups?

Call it the Safe Sex Club!

I hope someone tracks down these kids and hires them for their branding department!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

New computer!

Dell Dimensions come in a big box that weighs 25 lbs. Carrying it one block home is a bit much, so I took a $4 taxi ride.

It took me 2.5 hours to save all the information on my old comp, configure the old comp so the LCD monitor would work with it (so I can get rid of the CRT), open the boxes, set up the new computer, set up my internet connection, and download and configure all the necessary software.

Things I still have to do at my leisure:

1. Figure out how to edit the startup list in Windows XP
2. Figure out how to convince Outlook to download messages that are more than one month old.
3. Figure out how to get Outlook to leave the damn messages on the server when it downloads them, and hope to hell I can get them to go back on the server because I download messages automatically but sometimes I want to check my email when not at home! GAH!
4. Failing that, figure out how to transfer emails from the old comp to the new comp.
5. Figure out how to automatically schedule maintenance operations.

But now I'm getting hungry and grumpy, so I'm going to have some food and read my newspapers.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Brilliant Ideas that will Never Work: deal-breaker personal ads

Usually in a personal ad, people write some good things about themselves and some good things about what they want in a mate.

They should invent personal ads that take the exact opposite approach. In a deal-breaker personal ad, you list everything about yourself that you think could be an unexpected dealbreaker, and everything that would be a dealbreaker in a mate. Then when browsing the personal ads, if people find an ad where they have none of the mate-dealbreakers and they can tolerate all the dealbreakers of the people who wrote the ad, they can click through and find out more information.

The dealbreakers shouldn't be things like occupation and appearance, but rather annoying personality quirks and unshakeable convictions - things that you really cannot let slide.

For example, if I were making a deal-breaker personal ad, I might write something like:
Shy, introverted, atheist female, severely arachnophobic, doesn't want kids, doesn't drive and intends to live in the city forever. Seeking man who can kill spiders, is willing to sit up with me when I've had a panic attack, and doesn't mind that I won't kiss him until I'm in love with him. Right-wingers and people with facial hair need not apply.
Then all the annoying quirks are out of the way at the outset, so you don't have to go through all the trouble of growing attached to someone only to find that their dream home is a tiny highrise condo.

What to do now that In Shape with Sharon Mann seems to have been cancelled

If anyone stumbling upon this through Google is wondering what to do now that W Network seem to have cancelled In Shape with Sharon Mann, Outdoor Life Network has a show called the Caribbean Workout on at the same time. I'm not sure what's Caribbean about it other than the fact that it seems to be gratuitously filmed in the Barbados. I did it today and got far sweatier than I normally do with Sharon Mann. I'm not sure if this is because the workout is harder or because it's hotter outside. The camera operator has an annoying habit of sometimes not showing their legs when they're showing new choreography, but I don't know whether this is actually worse than Sharon Mann - I've been doing Sharon Mann for almost two years so I've gotten used to her choreography. I'll write further about it later this week, assuming that in this weather I actually manage to convince myself to exercise more than one day.

As for a substitute for Breathingspace Yoga, the only one I've been able to find is Lilias on PBS, but it's only Mondays and Wednesdays and half an hour earlier than Breathingspace.

Computer update

So I never ended up actually calling Dell. I stumbled upon a page with all the computer's specs, and that answered all my questions about the computer itself.

That only left questions about how it shipped. But I have an unrelated situation that one of my parents is going to have to help me with, so I arranged for them to come over (with the car) at a time when, if the delivery of the computer didn't work out, the computer would be at a courier depot waiting for me to pick it up. So worst case I could have my parents go about half an hour out of their way and drive me to pick up the computer.

Then in my usual decision-making strategy, which is to fret and fuss until I reach my maximum tolerance for worrying, then throw up my hands and make a decision, any decision, I ordered my computer on Wednesday evening. At the very last minute, I decided to upgrade my videocard to an Nvidia Geforce. A bit extremisch, I know, but I wasn't 100% certain the ATI Raedon would last me five years, and the Nvidia was only $200 to upgrade, but retails for close to $500. So now my new computer will have a videocard with more memory than my entire old computer, which is a bit ridiculous.

Turns out I needn't have worried about shipping. I had been frantically and fruitlessly Googling for "dell canada shipping courier" "How does Dell Canada ship?" "Dell Canada shipping Toronto" etc., so here is the answer: In midtown Toronto, Dell Canada ships by Purolator. Dell Canada might also ship by Purolator in other parts of Canada, I have no way of knowing, but in midtown Toronto they ship by Purolator. This is extremely convenient for me since there is a depot point just a block from my home, and I can easily carry this computer one block.

So I ordered the computer last Wednesday, and it shipped last Friday, which was 10 days before the estimated ship date (although they might be using the Scotty method to calculate their ship dates).

I also figured out how to convert my ICQ history to text files. In ICQ 2001b (yes, I never upgrade unless strictly necessary) you just open the history in question, click on "Save As..." and it will let you save it as a .txt file. So you do have to do every user separately, but it's rather straight-forward. So my histories have been converted and stashed in my gmail account, which makes the idea of data transfer problems a lot less terrifying.

So that's my story :) Further updates if warranted when my new comp. is delivered and up and running.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Humiliating TV characters

On television comedies, a lot of the time characters make a fool of themselves or embarrass themselves. I don't like this that much - it makes me feel embarrassed for them and vaguely uncomfortable, and often if there's too much of this I mute the TV or turn off the show. I know that some humiliation of characters is sometimes necessary for plot purposes or comedy purposes or even schadenfreude purposes, but some shows humiliate their characters far more than is strictly necessary. Do some viewers actively enjoy watching characters be humiliated?

Things They DID Invent!

A while ago (I can't find the post, but I'm certain I wrote it) I blogged that someone should invent isolated elements of wine-tasting (like fruity, floral, tannic, etc.) to help amateur wine connoisseurs identify the elements in a particular wine.

Well, guess what? Someone invented just that!

Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark by Christopher Dewdney

This book is all about night. Strange concept, eh? The author discusses night from almost ever perspective imaginable: meteorology, astronomy, history, art, literature, botany, zoology, technology... He talks about the history of streetlamps and different kinds of twilight and the relationship between a cricket's chirp and the ambient temperature and strange deep-sea creatures and prehistoric arctic life and the formation of the earth and all kinds of other things, all of it related to the central theme of night. From my description it sounds like some crazy over-ambitious lit. essay, but it's very interesting and remarkably easy to read! Read this if you want to feel smart.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

"Gravy ain't wavy"?

Can anyone help me understand this comic?

The guy in question is a total cad. The woman he's talking to is irrelevant to understanding this particular strip. Edda is a girl the guy is interested in, but she's not at all interested in him because he's a total cad, and she might be too young for him anyway, and might also be in love with someone else.

The problem is I have no idea what "Gravy ain't wavy" means or refers to. Can anyone help?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Fun with computers & math & other geeky stuff

What's fun is taking the specs of my old computer from 1999 and the specs of my new computer (I did order one, more on that later), and mathematically extrapolating to predict the specs of my next computer, which I shall be purchasing around the age of 30.

I came up with about 10 gigs of memory, 20 Ghz processor, 1 gig videocard, and 1 terabyte of storage.

Isn't that just downright terrifying?

Separated at birth?

Anyone else think that the recent courtroom sketches of Karla Homolka bear a striking resemblance to Belinda Stronach?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Statements about myself that people regularly dispute

Generally if one says something about oneself, other people will believe it. After all, who knows us better than we know ourselves? So if I say that my hair tends not to hold a curl or I don't like peas or I can't lift a certain heavy item, people will generally take me at my word. But there are a few things that people frequently do not believe. It's not just a "Don't be silly, those pants look great on you!" kind of self-esteem-boosting protest, people actually try to debate me, to convince me through some sort of logic that I'm wrong.

So here, for your amusement, is a list of frequently-contested statements about myself:

- Chocolate gives me headaches
- It generally takes me two hours to fall asleep at night
- I can translate at a professional level in only one direction and language combination, and cannot interpret consecutively at a professional level, or simultaneously at all
- I am not suited to be an engineer because I am not detail-oriented, have poor kinesthetic skills, and have no sense of aesthetic or practical design
- Both white and off-white are unflattering colours on me
- I wear a size 14
- Feces don't bother me, but vomit does
- I have no desire to work in a supervisory capacity
- I like dogs but not cats
- I hate travelling