Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How to Vote

In honour of the upcoming election, a review.

1. Of the parties running candidates in your riding, decide which one has the best platform that comes closest to meeting your needs and your vision of the country (hereafter the Best Party). Then decide which one has the worst platform that is furthest from meeting your needs and deviates the most from your vision of the country (hereafter the Worst Party). You are judging the parties as a whole, not the individual candidates in your riding. Assess each party individually without regard to possible strategic voting - that comes later.

2. Based on your own needs and your own vision for the country, decide whether it is more important to you that the Best Party win, or that the Worst Party does not win.

3. If it is more important to you that the Best Party wins, vote for the Best Party. If not, continue to the next step.

4. If it is more important to you that the Worst Party does not win, assess the Worst Party's chances of winning in your riding.* Not in the country as a whole, just in your riding. If you feel that there's too great a risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding, vote for the party most likely to defeat the Worst Party. If you feel the risk of the Worst Party winning in your riding is acceptably low, vote for the Best Party.

*Here are some suggestions for ways to assess sentiment in your riding:

- The Election Prediction Project
- Lawn signs
- General sentiment gleaned from talking to people
- Letters to the editor, if there's a local newspaper which has the majority of its leadership living in the same riding. This won't work in major cities, but it will work in smaller towns and cities
- Historical election results in your riding.
- Contact your local reference librarian and have them help you find out if any polls have been done for your specific riding.
- Extrapolations from seat predictions. This depends on the kind of predictions available, but sometimes it works. During the last election, the Toronto Star predicted X Liberal seats in Toronto, Y Conservative seats, and Z NDP seats. By looking at a riding map and using the process of elimination, I was able to determine which way my riding was predicted to go, and that prediction was correct.

Remember: do NOT use national polls to inform your strategic voting. Your vote is only effective in your riding. No matter how earnestly you vote, you cannot cancel out votes in another riding. Vote strategically only if the situation in your very own riding demands it, regardless of what the rest of the country is doing.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thoughts on the eve of the government falling

As a voter, I don't feel that it's necessary to make the government fall right now. The decision to make the government fall today feels completely arbitrary to me - the opposition leaders are acting like it's extremely necessary, but to me it sounds like they're just randomly saying that. I'm equally disappointed in all parties for their lack of consensus-building, so as a voter I'm back at square one.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


If you go to a doctor with a complaint of pain, the doctor asks you to rate it on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you've ever experienced.

There are many problems with this, and I think I might have blogged about some of the problems before. But another problem that just occurred to me is that we experience pain differently at different points in our lives.

I've never given birth or had a kidney stone. I have broken a bone, but my only memory of the experience is overwhelming terror - I don't remember the physical pain itself. The worst pain I can remember experiencing is a bout of menstrual cramps at the age of 11 that left me curled up on the floor in the fetal position. If I experienced those same cramps today, I would still go to work and do whatever else I needed to do. I would be watching the clock and popping Midol and thinking lustful thoughts about heating pads, yes, but I wouldn't be curled up in a ball. This is because I've become accustomed to menstrual cramps, plus I can duck out of my office at any time if the cramps start to feel slightly digestive instead of having to wait until the end of my class.

So if I go to the doctor and am asked to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, is my ten hardcore cramps as I experienced them at age 11, or is it hardcore cramps as I experience them as an adult? I haven't really experienced that much pain as an adult. I can produce pain equivalent to the worst I've experienced as an adult with impractical shoes and too much walking, but it's still pain I can work through. So how would some arbitrary number be helpful to a doctor?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Things that rock!

1. Cover Girl TruBlend Powder Foundation. I know I'm probably too old to be wearing Cover Girl, but this makeup works as advertised and I feel good wearing it. It would, however, benefit from having a wider range of colours available, and more colours available within the existing range. I wear a blend of two different colours, neither of which matches my natural skintone, but together they create a pleasing third colour that is a sort of idealized artistic allusion to my natural skintone. This works for me, but it would be better if they could match my natural skintone exactly.

2. Parissa 2-in-1 Roll-on Hair Removal System. Finally they combined the convenience of a roll-on applicator with the quick clean-up of a sugar-based hair removal system! Makes annoying hair removal much faster and easier, and even a little bit fun! The only problem is it comes with these weird sort of wax paper-ish strips, and I find unbleached cotton strips work better. So I use the cotton from an older sugaring system, and it's all good. You can buy cotton strips separately as refills for other sugaring systems.

Friday, November 25, 2005

How to make people paranoid

If you're ever near people having a conversation in another language, stare at them as though you're following along. If they look in your direction, quickly look away. If they start laughing, you laugh too. Then cover your mouth as if to hide your giggles and avert your eyes as if to say "No, I'm not eavesdropping! Who, me?"

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Free political advice!

One piece of political advice for each party that runs in my riding. In alphabetical order:

Conservatives: You seem to be trying to promote yourself by dissing the Liberals, but a lot of people are saying something along the lines of "I don't want the Liberals to win, but I can't in good conscience vote Conservative." You might want to be looking at why people feel they can't in good conscience vote Conservative, and change your policies accordingly.

Greens: Many people see you as a radical sort of party, but you are actually more fiscally conservative than most people think. You might want to emphasize this in your campaign.

Liberals: This is tricker, because, as the centremost party, people are complaining about your policies from both sides, and the fallout from the sponsorship scandal can only be healed over time. The best I can think of here is to distance yourself from Conservative policy on dealbreaker issues.

NDP: Many people want to vote NDP, but vote Liberal instead because they don't want the Conservatives to win. To counter this you should sponsor riding-by-riding polls at several points during the campaign. If people can see that the Conservatives aren't likely to win in their riding, they'll be more likely to throw a vote your way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating.

IF you own a business or are in charge of a public space or institution, and
IF your business or public space or institution, for whatever reason, does something to mark a religious occasion, and
IF members of the public, especially of that religion, complain that your method of marking the religious occasion is not religious enough,
THEN I would recommend not doing anything at all to mark the occasion next time it rolls around, if not to save yourself some trouble, then at least for the amusement if seeing if anyone notices that you haven't gone to any effort.

How to build the perfect website for an eyewear store

Eyewear is a tricky business. It's expensive, serves both fashion and medical purposes, and has to be worn on one's face at all times. While eyewear does need to be sold in bricks-and-mortar stores so people can try it on and get second and third and fourth opinions and have it properly fitted and get adjustments when necessary, retailers could add so much value by having a useful, informative, interactive website that will help people do their initial research at home.

Seven steps to the perfect eyewear retailer's website:

1. Have a website, with hours and locations. Sounds obvious, but some stores don't.

2. List your prices for lenses and coatings, as well as the full terms and conditions of any deals you might have. I want to be able to walk into the store, look at a price tag, and mentally calculate what I'll have to pay. Come to think of it, list your prices for lenses and coatings in the store too! (And have price tags on the frames in stores too, *coughHAKIMcough*).

3. Show me your frames. All of them. Have an online catalogue like those online eyewear vendors do. You don't have to sell online, but show me pictures and prices. If the frames happen to come in different sizes and colours, tell me! I want to have the option of walking into the store with a list of style numbers, colours and sizes that I want to try on.

4. Let me search through your inventory effectively. With a click of the mouse, I want to be able to see all the oval frames, or all the oval wire frames, or all the oval wire frames with a lens size between 46 and 50 and a nose size 18 or 19. If there are only two frames in your inventory that meet my needs, let me find that out in 2 minutes on your website instead of by trekking all the way to The Big Mall and browsing through your entire inventory. Then, of course, show me which stores these specific frames are available at, and give me the option of having them sent to my local store for me to try on if they aren't there already. I know some chains' internal computer systems already allow store employees to do this. Now just make it available to the customer!

5. Have a price calculator on your website. I want to be able to enter the price of the frames and my lens requirements, and see how much I'll have to pay before I even leave the house. If you have promotions, set up the calculator that will automatically apply the best promotion to my purchase. For bonus points, have a reverse calculator, where I can enter my lens requirements, prescription, and the maximum I'm prepared to spend, and it tells me how much frame I can afford. For double bonus points, then let me select my frame preferences, and generate a list of the frames in that price range that match my preferences.

6. Let me enter my prescription too, so the computer can automatically exclude lens-frame combinations that are not compatible with my prescription. I would much rather find out that my hideously myopic left eye prevents me from ever being able to wear big frames before I get my heart too set on those big movie-star sunglasses that seem to be the fashion right now.

7. As an added bonus feature, set up a price-watch system, especially if you have ever-changing promotions. Let me enter my requirements (e.g. oval; wire-rimmed or frameless, amber, brown, bronze or tortoiseshell, single vision with anti-glare, plus a pair of sunglasses, oval, plastic, same prescription, all for under $X) and email me an alert when something like that becomes available. If I'm asking the impossible, give me a notice saying "The product combination you requested has never been available for less that $Y. Click here to proceed with this alert. Click here to modify your preferences."

I don't need to point out that the technology to do this already exists. Every online retailer works this way. Several online retailers have already applied this technology to selling glasses. If a bricks-and-mortar eyewear store picks up on this idea, and they will have my unquestioning loyalty. If I could do all the annoying preliminary browsing online, going to the store only to try frames on, show them to trusted friends for second opinions, and get properly fitted, I would not even consider going to a competing store that didn't have the online option.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Open letter to white supremacists

While searching to see what the blogosphere had to say about the Cardinal McGuigan incident, I noticed that some white supremacists were citing it as an example to support their white supremacist ideas.

To those white supremacists: DON'T

It's already bad enough that some people are trying to make this about race rather than about the fact that a high school student was harassed and assulted and threatened for more than a year. By using it to forward your white supremacist agenda, you are simply providing more fodder for the unfortunate idea that it was all about race and not a valid sexual harassment/assault copmlaint at all.

This is not helping the victim.

If it really is strictly necessary for you to go around being white supremacists, do it in a way that doesn't make live even more difficult for victims of sexual assault.

Bullying Roundup

The thing that really shocks, outrages, and confuses me about the Cardinal McGuigan case is something mentioned by a CBC radio reporter at the bail hearing for the accused (unfortunately I can't find a cite online, but I'm certain I heard this on Metro Morning). The reporter mentioned in passing that the only ones among the parents who had any sympathy/empathy for the victim were those who have daughters, because they could imagine how horrible it would be for this to happen to their daughters.

But why can the parents only put themselves in the victim's parents shoes? Why can't they put themselves directly in the victim's shoes?

Does something happen when people become parents that they can no longer directly empathize with members of a younger generation, and can instead see them only through parental eyes? Frankly, I find that kind of creepy. Empathy is "Wow, I can only imagine how hellish it would be if people were doing that to me." To say "Wow, I can only imagine how hellish it would be if people were doing that to my daughter" is kind of, I don't know, possessive and almost selfish. They aren't empathizing with the victim, they're really empathizing with her parents, and the empathy is fraught with touches of the same distasteful archaic ideas that lead to such unpleasant traditions as the bride's father "giving her away." It's coming from the same place that leads critics of war to say I don't see the warmongerers' kids in combat without even considering that the warmongerers' kids are in no way responsible for their parents' warmongering, or leads people to think "You'd better lock up your daughter and buy a shotgun" is a compliment, without even considering that the daughter is a human being with thoughts and feelings and doesn't deserve to be denied basic human liberty or social contact (and even some dabbling in romance if she so chooses) because her father is possessive and paranoid.

If I were the victim in this situation, I would feel even more dehumanized by people saying "I can empathize, I have a daughter." That isn't empathy - that's the kind of attitude that leads me to use the word "parental" as an insult. If you want to empathize, you empathize because you're a human being with thoughts and feelings, and have probably experienced at least a touch of bullying and/or sexual harassment in your life, and can extrapolate from your experience to perhaps begin to imagine the hell the victim is going through. If you've led a charmed life where you have never experienced bullying or sexual harassment and seriously cannot imagine being in the victim's shoes, the correct expression is "I can't imagine what you must be going through."


By sheer coincidence, I was on kind of a bullying theory kick before this incident even occurred, so I just finished The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso. Overall it was quite interesting and would probably be useful to parents, but there were a few flaws that really jumped out at me.

1. The author puts huge emphasis on the idea that bullying is not sibling rivalry, thus strongly implying that bullying cannot take place among siblings. She offers no solutions to the problem of sibling bullying, which is a different issue because the victim cannot escape the bullying even in the privacy of their own home, and basically does not even acknowledge the existence of the issue. Perhaps she doesn't acknowledge this because it goes contrary to her basic thesis that bullying behaviour can be parented away, but it leaves a very real problem completely unaddressed.

2. She states several times that sometimes bullying is exacerbated when the victim does not fight back or stand up for themselves (although she doesn't recommend telling the victim to stand up for themselves - she does have other practical recommendations). However, she never acknowledges that one reason victims might not stand up for themselves is because they were told by well-meaning grownups to "just ignore it." The author does not recommend telling kids to just ignore the bullying, but neither does she emphasize that this is an ineffective, yet common, tactic. I've even seen it put forward on websites specifically dedicated to stopping bullying, with no advice given on what to do if ignoring it doesn't work (or, at least, doesn't work within a reasonable time - ignoring it will work eventually because everyone will graduate and move away, but asking someone to ignore abuse and humiliation for years and years is not reasonable or feasible advice). I would expect an expert in bullying to know that this is frequently-given and ineffective advice, and to at least mention the fact that it is ineffective. She does once quote a bullying survivor as saying that she was told to just ignore it, with the implication that this is ineffective advice, but the author never once says this herself or explicitly states that it's ineffective.

3. The author emphasizes many times the need to build up children's self-esteem, but doesn't say anything about how exactly this is done. If I were in charge of a child, I certainly would not know how to build up their self-esteem! People need to be told these things! Nor does she really address the fact that even if the parents treat the child in a self-esteem-building manner, this isn't necessarily going to build their self-esteem if no one else is treating them with basic human respect. If their parents are saying "You don't deserve to be treated like that," but everyone else is treating the kid "like that," then the kid will simply assume that the parents are wrong because they're parents and they're clueless. This is exacerbated if the ostensible reason for the bullying is because of something that originates from the parents. If the kid is being bullied because they are wearing the wrong colour jeans, and the parents bought them those jeans, then the kid is likely to be mad at their parents for buying them jeans that would get them bullied. So, from the kid's perspective, on one hand the parents are saying the kid doesn't deserve to be treated badly, but on the other hand they're furnishing the kid with possessions that the bullies use to treat the kid badly. This makes parents as a whole untrustworthy, so the self-esteem-building messages need to come from other sources.

These shortcomings make me doubt the usefulness of the methods described in the book as a whole. I'm not in a position to test the methods, but the fact that the book doesn't address some of the major issues from my own time as a victim of bullying does raise some doubt in me.


It occurs to me that there might be some value in sensationalizing all bullying.

(Forgive me if I've blogged this before - I thought I had, but I can't seem to find it in my archives).

The word "bullying" itself is rather unfortunate in that it trivializes what is in fact physical and psychological abuse. Use of the word "bullying" makes it sound like some everyday part of childhood - only one or two levels above "teasing" (which is not always even a negative thing). The word "bullying" itself is inherently negative, but I don't think it's negative enough. Legally and semantically, the activities that comprise bullying are, in fact, abuse, assault, torture, extortion, harassment, maybe even bordering on rape in some cases.

I think people in general, and the media in particular, need to take this up. Instead of using the word "bullying", we should use the worst word possible to describe the occurrence in question. For example, instead of saying "I was bullied as a child", I would say "I was threatened, harassed, abused, tortured and assaulted as a child." Instead of saying that someone was a bully, I would say that he was guilty of sexual harassment or she was guilty of psychological abuse. See the difference?

So why are we doing this? First of all, it will emphasize the seriousness of bullying. Assault is still assault even if it can also be categorized as bullying, and is no less devastating to the victim. In fact, it might be more devastating if the bully is punished for "bullying" instead of for "assault".

Secondly, it will give victims of bullying the vocabulary to describe their experiences. At the age of nine or 11, I didn't know how to describe the concepts of psychological abuse, sexual harassment, or uttering threats of violence in words that would make them sound like the misconduct they are. "He is sexually harassing me!" is much better than "He's saying things to me!"

Thirdly, (and this is the part I don't have the expertise to be sure about), it may decrease bullies' motivation to bully. Being a bully is one thing; having your name publicly associated with the words "abuser", "assailant" and "torturer" is another thing. This would be particularly effective if cases of bullying were reported sensationally in news media. The only problem here is I'm not sure if a bully would thrive the attention, even when it's such strong negative attention. I've heard theories that bullies just want attention, but there are holes in these theories. The other thing it may do, if this is doable, is make parents more likely to want to stop their kids from becoming bullies, for fear of having the kid's name (and maybe even the parent's name) publicly associated with the words "abuser", "assailant" and "torturer". Again, the problem here is that I don't know if bullying can be parented away. Some people say it can, but I have seen families where one sibling is a bully and the other isn't, so I don't know if it's 100% parenting.

Finally, I think the media should take it upon itself to demonize bullies as much as possible - both individually and collectively. Create an environment in which angry talk-radio caller types are only capable of pronouncing the word "bully" by spitting it, like certain factions in the US used to do with the word "France."

If anyone reading this happens to be a bully, I'd appreciate any feedback on whether this would actually work. Anonymous comments are welcome, and, for the purpose of this post, we won't judge you for being a bully as long as you keep your bullying out of this blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Poll: Mental Arithmetic

When is the last time you had to do any kind of math (or arithmetic, for the purists) in a situation where you didn't have the option of using a calculator, or using a calculator would have been an inconvenience? Please post in the comments and describe the situation. Feel free to post anonymously.

I can't think of any situations myself. The reason I'm wondering about this is that I've noticed people getting outraged that Kids Today can't do arithmetic in their heads*, and I find myself wondering whether that would actually be a hindrance in real life?

*I don't know enough kids to tell whether or not this is true, but I do know that people were making the same complaint about my generation, and I've found that my mental math skills have always more than met my needs.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Maybe I'm becoming a synaesthete?

It has just occurred to me that the word umami is onomatapoeic. I don't think tastes are supposed to be onomotapoeic.

Does enfranchisement come from the inside or the outside?

Conventional wisdom has it that people need to be employed and/or productive to feel enfranchised (in the broadest sense of the word). Apparently if people are contributing to society, they feel enfranchised and this results in fewer social problems.

But does enfranchisement actually come from feeling like you're contributing to society? As a person who has been on both sides of the employment divide, I'm not sure that it actually has to do with the employed/unemployed person themselves. Rather I think it might have more to do with society's reaction to them.

I was fortunate enough to be hired for a full-time permanent job just over two years ago, and that certainly increased my level of enfranchisement and feeling of belonging in society. But internally I'm still the same person - it hasn't directly changed my own feelings or attitude. Rather, it's changed people's reactions to me.

During my various periods of unemployment or under-employment, I got a sneering attitude from certain quarters. There were individuals who loudly voiced their assumption that I was unemployed or under-employed because I was lazy and simply wanted to be a leech on my family and/or society. There were individuals who loudly voiced the opinion that I was not entitled to call myself an adult or be treated as an adult because I was not working or because I was only working in fast food or because my upkeep was not completely free of parental contributions. If I got involved in a political debate, I was often told that I was not entitled to my opinion because I had a lower marginal tax rate than my interlocuter. In stores, I was still treated like a teenager. When looking for work, the fact that I was unemployed or under-employed was a hinderance.

Because of all this, I felt somewhat put on the defensive. I felt rather dehumanized next to people whose resume showed more contributions to society than mine did. I felt that I always had to justify my existence. While not everyone looked down upon me because of my employment status, enough people did that I felt it was likely that any stranger would respect me less, unless they proved otherwise. For example I was terrified to meet mi cielito's parents because I was certain they'd think I wasn't good enough for their son because of my resume. While this didn't result in me going around burning cars, it did have a negative effect on my attitude towards society in general. Despite the fact that I voted and was politically active, I felt terribly disenfranchised.

When, through a sheer stroke of luck, I started working full-time permanent, people's attitudes towards me suddenly changed. I think a huge part of it is that those who just want to find fault simply can't, as my employment situation is, by all standards, perfectly respectable. Since I'm as much of a taxpayer as anyone, my political opinions can no longer be dimissed on that basis. Also, the general public seems to treat me with more respect when I'm walking around in office clothes, and stores treat me with more respect either because I'm dressed like a grownup, and/or because my purchases reflect my greater disposable income. After being treated with this increased respect for a while, I started getting used to it, and no longer felt the need to justify my existence. So while I do feel more enfranchised and my attitude towards society in general has changed somewhat, it's more because of how people are treating me. My own politics and personality and attitude, independent of how they are affected by how others treat me, remain exactly the same.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Computer tip of the day

From last week's Monday Morning Manager:

Computer sharpener: In Windows XP you can dramatically improve the sharpness of text by right clicking on the desktop, selecting Properties, then the tab called Appearance, and pressing the Effects button. In the screen that appears, check the box reading "use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts," and then select Clear Type on the drop-down menu, completing the process by clicking on OK and Apply.

I just tried this, and it's so cool!

How to make me turn into a big gooey pile of mush

The comics strip Mutts is doing a series about a doggie who is rescued from Hurricane Katrina.

I'm not a huge fan of Mutts - I'll read it because it's on the Star's comics page, but I wouldn't go out of my way to seek it out online. Their "Shelter Stories" series doesn't usually have a huge effect on me, probably because the cartoon doggies don't look anything like real doggies. Show me a real doggie and I'll turn into a blubbering idiot; show me a cartoon doggie and I'll move on to see what's going on in Get Fuzzy.

However, Thursday's strip completely melted me, for the simple reason that the doggie is wagging its tail at its rescuers. Logically I know a dog will wag its tail at anything - you say hi and it will wag its tail, you smell interesting and it will wag its tail - but the mental image of this sad, lonely, tired, wet, smelly doggie finally being rescued off the roof and still summoning up the energy to perk up and get all waggy just make me mooshy.

With just three lines and two dots, the cartoonist changed me from "Meh" to "Ooooh, the doggie's wagging his widdle TAAAAIL!!!!!" Now THAT's artistic talent!

Monday, November 07, 2005

You know you're getting old when you don't remember how the adolescent mind works

Last Sunday's Zits demonstrates an unfortunate trend I've seen in this comic strip: Jeremy as blaming his parents for not ensuring that he does something that is clearly his own responsibility. I don't think this is a realistic portrayal of adolescent attitudes. Rather, I think it's a portrayal of a flawed adult conception of what they think adolescent attitudes must be.

When I was 15 (the same age as Jeremy), I wouldn't wake up right away to my alarm and my mother would try to wake me up, but I wasn't depending on her waking me up - in fact, I was rather resenting it. I was fully aware of my tiredness level and what time it was - my alarm was a radio so I could still hear the news and weather and timechecks as I zoned in and out of sleep - and I was taking all these factors into account when deciding when to get out of bed. I really resented my parents completely disrespecting that, as though I was walking through the world completely oblivious to my responsibilities and wouldn't fulfill said responsibilities without constant nagging.

I also resented the fact that my school required a note from parents if students were late - even if we arrived literally 10 seconds after the bell. I understood why it was supposed to be important to be on time so we didn't miss any classes, but again I wanted the liberty to take responsibility for my own actions. I wanted to be able to be late for class and accept the academic consequences if I chose to do so, but I wasn't able to because school policy wanted my parents to take responsibility for my actions.

Actually, now that I think about it, the school was really trying to invent artificial consequences through outsourcing to parents. The official line was that we had to be on time because of the academic consequences of missing class, and the social conseuqences of our teachers and classmates perhaps perceiving our behaviour as disrespectful. However, these consequences are actually negligible, as the consequences of minor lateness generally are in real life. So, to enforce a value that they arbitrarily decided to deem more important than it really is, the school added the artificial consequences of making us get a note from our parents, thus handing some of the responsibility for our actions over to our parents (because they have to go to the trouble of writing a note, and if they think they're expected to justify their kid's actions they'll be more likely to try to manage kid's actions themselves) and preventing us from being able to take responsibility for our own actions.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Mashup Bunny: Everybody Raise a Glass to the Paperback Writer

I was listening to the Beatles and chatting online, when the song Master of the House from Les Mis was mentioned in my online conversation. As I tend to do when there's no one around to hear my tonedeafness, I started singing Master of the House. Turns out it goes surprisingly well with the Beatles song Paperback Writer. Someone should mash them up if they're in compatible keys.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Paris is Burning (what an original headline)

Apparently there have been riots in the banlieux of Paris for like 8 straight days.

Serious question: Why haven't the rioters gotten tired yet? Eight days is a long time to do anything. That's why weekends were invented. You'd think most people would have gone home and had a rest, and maybe stayed in for a day or two to recover. I mean, I can get angry and hold grudges with the best of them, but I cannot fathom being so constantly angry as to sustain a riot for eight days.

Maybe they're really well organized? Maybe they're on shifts? I don't know. It just seriously never occurred to me that a riot wouldn't just peter out.

Kangaroo Springs Shiraz

I like this more than most shirazes, because it's more cream and berries and less tannic. It's sort of softer, instead of screaming out "LOOK AT ME! I'M SHIRAZ!" It pairs well with pasta, but I'm not sure how it would do with meat. The conventional wisdom is that you need tannins to go with meat, so it's possible the meat might overpower the wine.

Open Letter to Toronto Cops

Attn: Toronto cops:

I generally support the workers in any labour dispute as a matter of course. As a worker myself, I feel that only good can come from raising labour standards, any labour standards anywhere, even if it's in a profession that I would never work in myself.

However, you have lost any sympathy you might have had from me by bringing firearms to your demonstration last Wednesday.

The main reason the police do not have the full support of all members of the public is that they are seen as thuggishly throwing their weight around, because of racial profiling and that guy who got beaten up by police and got his teeth knocked out, and that woman who was raped by an police officer, and those protestors who were kept in a paddy-wagon for hours and hours and had to pee their pants because there was nowhere to pee.

Taking guns to a demonstration comes across simply as another sign of thuggishly throwing your weight around. This is Canada - people simply do not take guns to demonstrations! If anyone else did, they'd be surrounded by riot police and possibly beaten and thrown into paddy-wagon for hours and left to pee their pants. Taking your guns gives the impression that you think you can get away with stuff that no one else can get away with, simply because you're cops. This makes you look like thuggish bullies, and is not the way to earn the respect and support of the public!

I know it was only a small minority who wore their firearms, but I have no way of knowing which specific cops it was, so they have tainted the entire organization in my eyes.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Helpful hint of the day

If you have astigmatism and arachnophobia, a stucco ceiling is not a good thing. All that will come of a stucco ceiling is a lot of jumping at shadows, and more places for icky things to hide.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Creepy dream

I had a dream where my grandmother attempted suicide, so I called 911. They told me that it's not possible for her to have attempted suicide because statistically her demographic does not engage in suicidal behaviour. They then transferred me to an outside contractor who could supply the ambulance, but instead of sending an ambulance, the ambulance dispatcher gave us extremely complex instructions on how to get her to the hospital. Part of this involved a rule that she had to be accompanied by either eight or ten people. For some reason, there were nine people in the house at the time (I can't think who they were), and no one wanted to stay behind, but there was no possible way that she could receive medical care if nine people accompanied her. Then the dream merged into another plotline and this one was never resolved.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Initial thoughts on the Gomery report

Despite Gomery's exoneration of Paul Martin, certain factions are still pointing fingers at him, saying that, as Minister of Finance at the time, he should have known what was being done with the money.

This is the position that I expected from those factions, given their previous track record, but I don't think it's a reasonable expectation. Federal expenditures are over $100 billion, according to the first Google search result, and I don't think it's reasonable for one person to know where every dollar actually goes.

I've never been in charge of people, and the most money I've ever been in charge of professionally is a cash register with a $100 float, but here's the impression I get taking what I know about public sector finance, adding logic, mixing thoroughly, and baking at 350 for 30 minutes.

I think it is reasonable to expect the Minister of Finance to know (or be able to look up) to which cost centres every dollar is allocated. That is essentially his job.

I also think it is reasonable to expect the Minister of Finance to be aware of any anomalies found by any audits that may have been conducted (at least on a "Yes, I heard about that, let me check my records and I can give you more details" basis), and to take action to correct said anomalies.

It may or may not be reasonable to expect every dollar of every year's expenditure to be audited. I have no idea what audit standards are like or how complex a process it is, so I'm not going to presume.

However, I do not think it is reasonable to expect that the Minister of Finance would be aware that and where and how and what quantity of funds are being misappropriated.

Why? Two reasons:

1. If you were misappropriating funds for personal gain, wouldn't you take every measure to avoid tipping off the person ultimately responsible for allocating funds?

2. If you were misappropriating funds on behalf of a political party, wouldn't you want as many people in that party as possible to have plausible deniability? And what better plausible deniability is there than actually not knowing?

There could have been no benefit to the Minister of Finance knowing that funds were being misappropriated, but there could have been several benefits to him not being aware of it at all. Therefore, if the miscreants had any sense, they would have taken every measure to prevent him from finding out, perhaps even to cover it up. Since keeping perfect track of $100 billion worth of even perfectly transparent spending is rather a tall order for one person, I don't think he should be held cupable for not being immediately aware that maybe 0.1% of that amount was not accounted for.