Monday, February 27, 2006

Legal rights for working animals!

In light of the poor Toronto Police horse who was killed by a hit and run driver, I propose that hurting or killing any working animal should incur the same punishment as hurting or killing its human handler. (With a possible exception of dogs that are trained to bite or attack, because there's a self-defence element there. I'm not sure how I feel about that yet).

Generally-accepted ethical standards consider a human life to be of more value than an animal life, but I think that for working animals, this is cancelled out by the fact that the working animal has no choice about being in the situation.

In the case in question, all the police officers made an informed decision to become police officers, fully aware of the risks they might face. The horse made no such informed decision. He was bought by the police department, and trained to be a police horse. Since there is no way to properly and fully inform a horse of the risks that he'd face being a police horse, he didn't even have the option of deliberately flunking his training so as to avoid being in the line of fire. Even if the horses can talk to each other and the other horses could tell him what they'd seen, they had no way of knowing about abstract risks that they might possibly face in the future but haven't faced yet. A human has some chance of figuring out that an enraged crazy person in a motor vehicle might try to run them over. A horse can't figure that out.

Because the horse is truly an innocent, his death should be punished more severely. I think it is most appropriate for the punishment to be the same as it would be for hit-and-running a human officer.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Things They Should Invent: Blog Anti-Tags

Most blogging software (although not Blogger - HINT HINT BLOGGER TEAM) has tags sorting the posts into different categories. You can click on a tag, and it shows you all the posts in the category. For example, if my blog had tags, there would be a link at the bottom of this post that says "Things They Should Invent." If you clicked on that link, you would see all my Things They Should Invent ideas.

I want something that does the exact opposite. I want to be able to click on an anti-tag, and get the entire blog, except for the posts that fall into that category. So if you were sick of me talking about politics, you could click on my "Politics" anti-tag and get a politics-free blog.

As a practical example, I'm going to pick on Wil Wheaton. I enjoy his blog, but see all that poker talk on the front page? I don't understand a word of it. If his blog had anti-tags, I could click on the "Poker" anti-tag, and get entries about everything but poker, so I don't have to go all scrolly scrolly, oh look a monkey, this looks interesting, no it's just poker, scrolly scrolly.

Open Letter to Men Everywhere

I do not accept acts of chivalry from strangers unless absolutely necessary, and I will not make small talk with strangers unless I am completely certain they are harmless and their intentions are benign.

Why this drastic policy?

As you may know, there are men out there who assume that the slightest bit of positive or neutral attention from a woman means that the woman is interested in them sexually. And there are men out there who think that their having the impression that a woman is interested in them sexually is an open invitation to aggressively pursue her, or even rape her. And there are men out there who think that if they do a favour for a woman, she owes them something.

You may well not fall into any of these categories, but I have no way of knowing that. You are a stranger, I know nothing about the way your mind works, so I am going to err on the side of caution.

On a less dramatic note, there are also men out there who assume that the slightest bit of positive or neutral attention from a woman means that the woman is interested in them romantically, and take that as an invitation to pursue her within the bounds of propriety. I am already in love and am not interested in any attempts at romance with anyone else, so I attempt to take strict measures to avoid leading people on.

Now I don't always read people well. You might not actually be interested in me. Perhaps you just have that Dale Carnegie Charm School approach to social interaction and you act like that with everyone. Perhaps you're gay and my gaydar is jammed - that has certainly been known to happen, especially cross-culturally. But I honestly do not need anyone else in my social circle, I have all the friends I need, so I would rather miss the opportunity to have a lovely chat with you than give you the impression that I'm available. That's just where my priorities lie.

So I tell you that no, I do not need any help with my recycling, back off and stop trying to take the box out of my hands. When your attempts at elevator small-talk are met with a cold, non-smiling "Hm," it's because I heard you say to your buddy "Let's get in the elevator with all the girls," so I think no good can come of anything resembling a friendly response. When you try to give me your card and I get confused and say "Why?" don't force the card on me. Maybe you really are harmless, but I have no way of knowing that. "But I was just trying to be FRIENDly!" Someone whose intentions were not benign would also say that. So stop making my life less pleasant and wasting your time, and go give your attentions to someone who is not actively trying to make you go away.

(Addendum: I am not addressing women in this letter because, while I have received unwanted attention from women, they do seem to consistently back off at the slightest sign of my disinterest.)

Update: In a Usenet post on some unrelated topic, some random Usenet person mentioned in passing that there's a certain system of "honour" among cads, in which they don't flirt with women they're not actually interested in just for the hell of it. Apparently cads who subscribe to this "honour" code only try to charm women they're interested in, even though less "honourable" cads might go around trying to charm everyone and anyone in order to, I don't know, feel all manly and shit? For some kind of strange middle-school schadenfreude? ("Ha ha! I talked to her and she thought I was serious!") I'm not sure the exact motivation.

But anyway, my point is, please allow the women you're attempting to flirt with to display the same "honour"! When we try to tactfully make it clear we aren't interested in you, leave us be rather than pursuing to the point where we have to be harsh and then calling us all sort of petty middle-school names!

O Canada

I fully understand the symbolic value of singing O Canada bilingually, but the problem is that it makes far less sense when you understand everything they are saying. The two versions do not say the same thing at all, and it just sounds strange - like alternating Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with the alphabet song.

The smartest show on television?

When the TV show Frasier was running, it was often described as the smartest show on television. I just saw something that made me disagree.

I turned on the TV and a Frasier rerun was playing. Frasier and Roz were sitting in a restaurant. Roz was crying for some reason, and Frasier was consoling her. He had his arm around her and she was crying onto his shoulder. Frasier tells Roz that he is not going to leave her alone until he sees her smile. Then another woman comes up, clearly intended to be uber-sexy, and asks Frasier if he'd like to have a drink with her. The joke is clearly intended to be that as soon as Frasier says he's not leaving Roz, temptation to leave her walks right up.

But there's a huge problem with this: if you're going to attempt to pick a guy up, you're not going to do it when he has JUST put his arm around another woman! And even if it was clear to the other woman that he was consoling her, why on earth would she interrupt this clearly much-needed consolation?

That is stupid, not smart.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pet peeve of the moment

One thing that really frustrates me is when I state a personal limitation, for perfectly legitimate and relevant reasons, and my interlocutor tries to convince me that no, that isn't really a limitation! You can do it! You can do anything you want if you just put your mind to it!

Example 1: My boss asked me if I'd be interested in going to a certain meeting. This meeting would involve some travel, and therefore some expense to the employer, so I told her that while I'm not uninterested, I am not the best person to represent the unit. My other co-workers are more experienced and less shy, so they'd be better at representing, advocating, networking, etc. I said this because I didn't want to put the employer in the position of paying for all my travel and not bringing any benefit because of my shyness and lack of experience. But my boss answered this by trying to convince me that yes, I probably do have a valuable contribution and a new perspective even though I am new and shy. Two other co-workers who I thought would represent the unit better had already volunteered much more enthusiastically than I had, but for some reason she felt the need to try to talk me into "You can do it!" anyway, which seemed really unnecessary. I'm not some insecure adolescent wondering if my jeans make me look fat, I'm a professional trying to communicate to my supervisor how I can best serve the employer. I'm perfectly fine with the fact that I'm less skilled at schmoozing and more skilled at sitting quietly at my desk and translating, and given the nature of our work it's far from necessary that everyone be able to schmooze (but it is certainly necessary that we all be able to sit quietly at our desks and translate), so there's just no need to get all rah rah rah about it.

Example 2: Some relatives were, for some reason, telling me that I should be an engineer. It was particularly strange because this was just after I had graduated and gotten my current job. Anyway, I told them that engineering would be particularly difficult for me, because it involves designing real, tangible, functional things, and design and the physically tangible are probably my two greatest weaknesses. I have no sense of design, and I am particularly sloppy when it comes to actually making things (sewing, sanding, decorating, arts & crafts, wrapping gifts, food presentation, etc.), so a job where I design and help to create major tangible things, real things like bridges, is something for which I'm particularly ill-suited. And yet my relatives would have none of this. They spent far too much time trying to convince me that if I just took some courses and studied hard I'd learn how to do all this stuff, and there's simply no reason to go around saying that I can't do it. I can do anything if I just put my mind to it and work hard! That may well be true, but there's just no reason to do it. I have a job for which I am much better suited, and I have no particular need to be able to engineer. I'm perfectly fine with the fact that I have no talent or skill for designing or building - there's no reason why I should need to be able to do these things - so why do they feel the need to harangue me into believing that I can?

This has happened with so many things. I have had people naggingly try to convince me that I can sew (I'm too sloppy and it's not worth the risk of ruining my clothes), teach (because I can sometimes explain a single concept well to a single individual, but it's not a suitable profession for an introvert), run a marathon (boring and painful), raise children (have no desire to do so), be a scientist (because I measure carefully when I cook), and renovate a house ("If I can do it, you can do it" syndrome), none of which I have any need to be able to do. And yet they try so enthusiastically to convince me that I can, as though it's some kind of self-esteem problem that I'm realistic enough to realize I can't prepare and host dinner for 20 in my tiny apartment instead of over-optimistically thinking I can do anything. And the people who have this attitude won't let up, they just keep trying to convince me, as though they seriously expect me to say "You know what? You're right! I can do it if I just put my mind to it! In fact, I'll start right now!" when in reality I don't even have any interest in doing the thing in question?

Why is it so socially unacceptable to know one's limitations and be content to work within them?

Friday, February 24, 2006

MASH modest inconsistency

In one episode of MASH, Col. Potter is in his tent in his t-shirt and trousers. Maj. Houlihan walks in, and he tells her to turn around until he can get "decent" by putting on a button-up shirt over his t-shirt.

Today, Col. Potter is in a t-shirt and boxers and in the process of doing up his bathrobe, and he lets a Korean girl who does his laundry in with no hesitation.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How to teach your kids sex ed

There was an article in yesterday's Star about how sex ed is insufficient because teens don't fully understand various risks. The article basically gave two options for sex ed: formal education in schools, and parents talking to their kids.

I would like to draw the world's attention to a third way to teach your kids sex ed. It's quick, painless, factual, informative, and thoroughly non-embarrassing:

Buy your kid a book.

Seriously. This is what my parents did for me. They got me a book that explained all about various sex acts, STDs (as they were called then), and methods of protection, all couched in the conceit that the book is what you need to know about puberty. It also had information on where babies come from, dealing with menstruation, measuring oneself for a bra, what kind of strange new hair growth one can expect, fitness and nutrition, etc. But in all this information, I learned the name of every STD then in existence, how they could be transmitted, and how curable they are. I knew the risks of oral sex with a cold sore years before I learned the slang words for oral sex, and I knew that these risks could be reduced with a condom or a dental dam, depending on the sex of the people involved. I learned what a clitoris is before I ever felt the urge to use it. I learned what sex acts existed and created my own standards for the contexts in which I'd participate in them and the level of protection I'd require long before these issues came up socially. I gained the vocabulary needed to discuss these issues clinically with a medical professional, should that ever be necessary. And I learned all this, to a level that still serves me well as an adult, without once having an embarrassing conversation with a parent.

My mother told me where babies come from (using another book), and she later told me about getting your period when I asked how women know they're pregnant before they start showing. The rest was left up to this book. I'm sure I could have asked questions if I wanted to, but I had no need to. The book told me everything I needed to know until I started being curious about technique, at which point I had internet access and my own computer.

I would strongly recommend to any parent who wants to teach their kid sex ed, go to the bookstore, look through all the books, and pick the best one. Pick one that is thoroughly informative, non-judgemental, easy to understand, doesn't need to be read straight through, and contains illustrations. Then quietly, privately, give the book to your kid. Tell them to keep it in their room, and look at it whenever they feel the need. Get each of your kids their own book so they can each look things up privately, without anyone knowing. This way your kid can find information without the embarrassment of having to ask anyone. If they want to look stuff up on the internet they'll have the clinical language in which to do so, but having the book will save them the embarrassment of having their search attempts found if the parents monitor internet usage, as well as the awkard situation of finding illicit material in an attempt to do a legitimate search for sex ed information. It also lets them access information as they need it. Even if everyone involved is comfortable with having a Big Talk, maybe the subject won't come up socially for another couple of years, in which case the kid will need a refresher. Conversely, if the kid is curious about something that remains theoretical to them, they can find information about it without worrying the parents that the subject has suddenly become practical. Furthermore, having the information available in hard copy makes it easy to bust rumour or myths, as I'm sure every rumour or myth in existence can be found somewhere on the internet, presented as credible.

Long story short: the best way to do sex ed is to give your kid a book, and no sex education is complete without giving your kid a book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Open dare

I dare you, you, the person reading this, to:

1. Put on a neat, tidy, professional-looking suit, then
2. Walk down the street (Yonge St., Bay St., the major downtown street in your city) doing a Monty Python style silly walk, with a look of complete sangfroid on your face.

Censorship standards

PBS censored the word "blowjob," but didn't censor the racial slurs in the song Never Be Rude to an Arab.

(Context: Monty Python)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Teh funny!

If you only ever watch one episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show, watch the episode where they're waiting for their baby to be born. The blurb/description thing is that the son (Richie?) wants to know where he came from. I haven't laughed so hard at television since Monty Python uttered, in sloppy German, "Ja, in Bavaria, wo die Schafe selten Brillen tragen*." (I have no idea why their translators didn't think to say Bayern instead of Bavaria.) I haven't laughed so hard at physical comedy since the Marx Brothers' mirror scene in Duck Soup. It was so densely packed with physical and verbal comedy that I think I'd have to watch it about four times before I noticed everything!

*Yes, in Bavaria, where sheep seldom wear glasses

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Is it just me, or does the new scoring system make it less likely that people will skate clean? There seem to have been way more falls than usual this year.

Post your coffee recommendations here! Please!

Second Cup has discontinued its Early Edition blend, which is my absolute favourite coffee ever :( I suppose the good news is that I'm no longer paying $14 a pound for coffee and pretentiously taking up the time of Second Cup employees discussing filters and grinding while honest, hardworking citizens are just trying to get a cup of caffeine.

So now I'm in the market for a new coffee, hopefully something less pretentious this time.

I'm looking for a smooooth coffee that I can buy in the supermarket* (or anywhere else in the Yonge & Eg or Yonge & Shep neighbourhoods that doesn't involve going out of my way) and that will stand up to storage by just sticking the lid back on and putting it in the cupboard*. I use a mediocre basket drip machine* and drink my coffee with skim milk.* I'm attempting to avoid the unpleasant, sharp, bitter taste that comes about halfway through a can of Tim Horton's coffee - it starts out okay, but after it's been open in the cupboard for a while it gets this sharp, yucky undertone. I want something that will stay smooooth for the whole can. Any recommendations?

If you don't understand half of what I said in that previous paragraph but have a coffee you enjoy, post it anyway :)

As with all posts where I actively solicit suggestions, anonymous comments are welcome here, although I still prefer if you select "Other" and give yourself a pseudonym :)

*Yes, I realize all these statements are considered heresy by some. If you find them so shocking or disgusting that you can't bring yourself to recommend a coffee within these parameters, it is not your input that I am seeking.

All that jazz

I have a working familiarity with jazz, perhaps somewhat moreso than my average contemporaries. When I reach for a song to sing while showering or doing housework, chances are good I'll come up with a jazz standard.

Most jazz dates back to decades before my birth. I just realized that this means when I'm old, I'll be walking around singing songs that are like 100 years old. In the year 2040 I will be 60, so I will most likely still be walking around singing, and a jazz standard that was written in 1940 will be a hundred years old then! I am going to be such an archaic little old lady!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Things They Should Invent: fomgers pm tje wrpmg leus cprrectpr

(I.e.: Fingers on the wrong keys corrector)

I translate by looking at the source text on paper and typing the translation into the computer. This means that I'm not looking at the screen as I type. While doing this, I accidentally typed out an entire paragraph with my fingers on the wrong keys. I couldn't read the results and had no way to correct it automatically, so I had to go back and retranslate the whole section.

Spell-checker and auto-correct should be sensitive to fingers on the wrong keys, like how if mY cAPSlOCK KEY IS ON, Word will detect it an automatically turn it off for me. If this is not doable, someone should make a fingers on the wrong keys decoder like the rot13 decoder. Simply tell it where your fingers were, and it will decode the text for you.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Not dead yet

I am still here, and I do have a number of things to write about. In fact, there are a number of half-formed ideas sitting in my drafts folder at this very moment. However, at the moment I am too distracted by the fact that my brain seems to be draining out my nose. Content will return when I'm capable of focusing on anything other than mucus.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

There's no such thing as Ontario

I think there's a bit too much emphasis in federal politics on the idea that provinces are homogenous. This may (or may not) be true in some provinces, I'm not really immersed enough to know, but I think it's foolhardy to act like there's an "Ontario Vote." I'm sure I have more in common, personally and politically, with someone in Vancouver than someone in Pickle Lake. In fact, I may have more in common with your average Vancouverite than your average denizen of, say, Ancaster. Of course, it isn't just urban/suburban/rural. I'm sure I have more in common with a 20-something professional in Pickle Lake than an independently wealthy 60-something a few blocks away in Forest Hill. But then, I might have more in common with a childfree 60-something professional in Calgary than with a 20-something mother of four in midtown. But I digress.

My point is that there isn't really any homogenous "Ontario" sentiment. You may be able to effectively categorize 416 or 905 or urban or suburban or rural or various economic or demographic indicators, but there's no one vote that's really "Ontario." I am not typical of Ontario, nor is the society matron in Rockcliffe, or the superannuated steelworker in Hamilton, or the tobacco farmer in Hagarsville, or the beleagured band on the Kashechewan reserve, or the multi-family Sikh household in Brampton. Even if our voting patterns do coincide somewhat, it isn't for the same reasons, which means a politician could win some of us, but lose other in the process. We are far from homogenous, so little good can come of referring to Ontario as a single entity.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Are you American? Do you wear Revlon makeup? If so, read on...

Revlon Skinlights Custom Face Powders used to be available in Canada, but now they aren't any more. I really like it and I didn't feel like spending a bunch of money on failed attempts to find a comparable product, so I ordered some from the States.

But the makeup I ordered from the States has English-French bilingual packaging! AND it says it was made in CANADA!

Are you American? Do you have any Revlon makeup? If so, is it bilingual? Was it made in Canada? Or did they just get some old leftover discontinued Canadian makeup to send to me since I'm in Canada anyway?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Critiques of the comics from someone who can't draw or write

1. As webcomic fans already know, Kestrel from Queen of Wands is now a character in Something Positive [Warning: Something Positive isn't always worksafe. It's fine at this exact moment, but I can't guarantee it will be when you click on it.] In Queen of Wands, the characters' eyes have irises, but no pupils. In Something Positive, they have pupils but no irises. The problem is that Randy from Something Positive has decided to draw Kestrel just like she looked in Queen of Wands, with irises but no pupils. This makes her look like a zombie in the Something Positive universe. I think it would be better to draw Kestrel with Something Positive-style eyes as long as she's in that universe, unless the artist's intention is to actually make her look like a zombie.

2. Why wasn't Elly in For Better or For Worse inspired to have these thoughts about her own children? She wants her granddaughter to be all she can be and finish her education (which is strange seeing as how she hasn't started her education yet). But why didn't her own three children (or, if this is gender-centric, her own two daughters), one of whom still lives with her, "make her think" this way?

Things They Should Invent: Restore points for the Sims

There was a small error happening in my Sims: the helicopter (which takes one of my Sims to work) wouldn't appear. After that, none of the vehicles would appear, so one of my Sims was stuck at work and the others lost their jobs.

I used the boolprop testingcheatsenbabled cheat to see if I could fix it, and in the process of trying to do so, I accidentally deleted one of my Sims. I then needed to save and return to neighbourhood, but I wasn't sure if the deleted Sim would come back or not, so I ended up not saving.

It would have been really helpful if I could have created a restore point before each boolprop modification, so that if I really messed up the house, I could just go back and undo it. As it stands, I can only go back to my last save, which isn't helpful when you're blindly trying to fix a bug as opposed to playing normally.

If anyone got here through that particular error message, here's what I did: I did boolprop as mentioned above, and got a pop-up error message when the helicopter was supposed to come, informing me that there was an error with the helicopter and creating an error log (this didn't happen when I wasn't in boolprop). I clicked on "delete," and the helicopter didn't come, but the game continued and the other vehicles came. So the Sim that took the helicopter to work ended up losing her job, but the others got to come and go normally. It is possible that there is a better solution out there, this is just the best I could work out myself.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Adjective abuse

1. There is a variety of aerobics called Urban Rebounding. Basically it incorporates one of those little round black trampolines. So, um, what exactly is "urban" about this?

2. Read the last anecdote on this page. The story-teller's point is obviously "OMG, this restaurant guy is so stupid, he doesn't know what the word plain means." But if you read it carefully, you'll notice that the customer is doing nothing whatsoever to promote understanding. He is just repeating himself over and over ad infinitum in exactly the same words. Obviously the sandwich-maker doesn't understand what he means by a "plain" sandwich, but the customer never makes any attempt to rephrase. I don't know if the customer's accent doesn't make the word "plain" sound clear. I don't know if the sandwich-maker's understanding of the English language (whether through dialect or ESL) precludes his understanding of "plain." But as soon as the sandwich-maker stated outright that he didn't understand the word plain, the customer should have rephrased, saying "Just bread and meat, nothing else," or whatever it was he actually meant. I used to work in fast food, and when a customer ordered a "plain" burger, they could mean bun & patty; bun, cheese & patty; bun, cheese, bacon & patty; or even just a patty. The story-teller's intent is to make the sandwich-maker look stupid, but he also makes himself look stupid.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Seen in the grocery store

1. A little old lady, staring at her shopping cart, saying "But how does it work?" There was nothing in the cart, and I could see nothing out of the ordinary about the cart itself.

2. A lady crossing herself before pulling a cart out of the big-line-of-carts thing.

3. A very small dog wearing a coat. Unfortunately, the coat had a fur collar.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Open Letter to my Toronto City Councillor

I am writing to draw your attention to an egregious and unfortunate waste of city resources.

A number of OMG Media garbage bins are currently displaying ads for the new Megabins. An example can be found on the northeast corner of Yonge & Eglinton (the ad in question is on the side of the bin that faces the street), and Paved has been kind enough to supply photographic evidence.

I'm sure I don't need to explain why it's ridiculous to advertise a garbage bin on another garbage bin. Anyone in the presence of an OMG bin has no need for a garbage bin, since the OMG bin will immediately meet all their garbage disposal needs.

If it really is necessary to advertise the Megabins, do so somewhere other than on a garbage bin. Otherwise, stop buying up your own ad space, and let someone else buy it to generate revenue for the city!

I want my dream back!

Last night I had a dream where Stephen Harper did something wrong - like broke some small, niggling, unspoken rule - thus triggering an election before he had even officially taken power. Elections Canada was unprepared, so there were no parties and no candidates. So I was trying to vote for mi cielito, but I had to undertake this weird sequence of tasks to cast my vote - like some bizarro scavenger hunt combined with the Neverending Story combined with a Marx Brothers movie.

When I woke up, I really missed the dream and wanted to go back, but I had no idea why. Then I remembered - in my dream I had a dog! I had a big yellow lab that followed me around everywhere throughout my adventures, and smiled and wagged its tail at me. We had so many adventures together! I want my puppy back! :(