Friday, March 31, 2006

Open letter to the 12-year-old boys playing some game that involves running back and forth across the subway platform

I don't care that you're having fun - more people should have fun in subway stations!
I don't care that you're making noise - it's a subway station, not a library.
I don't care that you're getting in the way - it's a busy station, everyone is in everyone else's way anyway, and I'm happy to deal with a little inconvenience in the name of the enormous amounts of fun you seem to be having.
I don't care that if you make one false move, you'll fall on the tracks and be in a life-threatening situation - your life is yours to risk.

However, I do care that if you fall in the tracks, power will have to be cut, and the whole subway line will grind to a halt, right in the middle of rush hour. This will mean that hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are tired and hungry, will be late getting home. People who have to pee will be stuck on trains until they can restore power which, if you get hit by a train, they can't do until they've scraped all your guts off the tracks. People with jobs to get to - including important shift work like police and fire fighters and hospital workers - will be late. People with kids in daycare will have to pay the daycare extra to keep their kids later. University students with evening classes will miss very important information about what may be on their exam. People with dinner dates will be late, which may lead to someone being dumped for being late to their lover's special birthday dinner. People who have to get to the bank before it closes won't be able to pay their bills in time, thus accruing interest and hurting their credit rating. People who dropped off the car or their eyeglasses or their hearing aid to be fixed will have to go one more day without this valuable equipment. People who play on sports teams might not make their game, causing their team to lose. People with flights to catch may miss their plane, but have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the plane ticket anyway. People who have to catch the GO may be stuck in the city and have to pay for a hotel. A priest on his way to give last rites to someone on their deathbed may be too late, thus condemning that soul to burn in hell for all eternity. A couple getting married may have to do without their rings, because the person who was brining the rings is stuck on the subway.

Whatever fun you were having wasn't worth the risk of inconveniencing all these people. Take your game somewhere else, where the worst that can happen if you mess up is you die.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why I love Vulcans

So I'm watching Voyager (Yes, I've been on a Star Trek kick lately. What's the point of being a grownup if you can't enjoy all the Star Trek you want?), and a doppelganger of Ensign Kim is suddenly created out of nowhere, they don't know how. Within about 30 seconds of this information coming to light, Tuvok detects an individual on the sensors and says it's "one of the Ensigns Kim."

Within seconds of being given the remarkable and mind-boggling information that a doppelganger of one of his crewmates has appeared seemingly out of nowhere, Tuvok not only continues performing his duties without missing a step, but also comes up with the correct pluralization of Ensign Kim, without skipping a beat and with complete sangfroid! Damn, there are few things sexier than being completely confident in one's obscure pluralizations during life and death situations!

Aside: When Ensign Kim saw his doppelganger, he looked at his face (which had its eyes closed) and saw right away that it was his doppelganger. That seems a tad unrealistic to me. If you met your doppelganger, would you assume right away that it was your doppelganger? Wouldn't you think instead "Wow, that person looks an awful lot like me?"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is this really how you give birth?

The newspaper showed a picture of this statue of Britney Spears, apparently in the process of giving birth.

Now, I've never given birth or witnessed a birth, although I did see one on TV once. However, I do know a thing or two about female anatomy, being in possession of a full set of said equipment myself. Now it looks to me that in that position, her birth canal would be pointing upwards. I realize that different people like to give birth in different ways, but wouldn't you want to have the birth canal pointing downwards, or at least horizontally? In that position, in addition to the normal effort involved in pushing a great big baby out a little tiny vagina, you'd have to fight the force of gravity too. I find it very difficult to believe that birthing muscles are strong enough to push the baby out AND fight gravity. Would someone seriously give birth in that position? Any mommies out there who can confirm or deny?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why proofreaders are important

I am going to type, letter for letter, the text of the ad for The Rick Mercer Report that appears on page A4 of today's Globe and Mail. Unfortunately I do not have a scanner, but rest assured that I am going to make absolutely certain my typing is accurate before I post this:

This week,

Rick visit's the University of Guelplh's Veterinary College

It was just a hairball. He's okay now.

The Rick Mercer Report
Tonight at 8/8:30 NT

I am very, very surprised to see a major typo and a misplaced apostrophe, both in the same ad, get past both the CBC ad-copy-checker-people AND the Globe and Mail people.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Best facial expression ever!

I've been trying for the past five minutes to make my face do this. I don't think my face bends that way.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Random thought

An article about the rescued Christian Peacemaker hostages mentioned that a) during the time they were kidnapped, they had little to know information about world events, and b) they got a phone call from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It occurred to me that, depending on their politics, the conversation might have gone something like this:

Harper: "Hello, this is Prime Minister Stephen Harper..."
Hostage: "YOU'RE PRIME MINISTER? Oh shit!"

Pet peeve of the moment: gratuitous PDFing

It is perfectly reasonable to make a PDF when it is essential that you preserve the physical appearance of the document, like if it's a form to be filled out and mailed in, or sheet music, or camera-ready copy, or a situation where the arrangement of elements on a page is absolutely essential.

But it is absolutely ridiculous to make a PDF when you're just posting textual information on your website for average website readers to peruse. A PDF you have to download and wait for it to open, and if you have a particularly fussy computer that might affect your multitasking, and the search function isn't nearly as user-friendly as the web browser search function. This is especially annoying if you don't know if the PDF will contain the information you're looking for, and have to wait for it to load and use the unfriendly search function only to find that you didn't need it after all. PDF format simply does nothing to make things easier for the user, but can contribute greatly to making things more annoying for the user.

So if you're posting information that can be expressed in plain and simple text, and there's no usability reason why page layout is important, just post it as part of your HTML document. If you really feel it's necessary to have a PDF available, you can post a link to the PDF on the HTML page. But don't just post a PDF instead of an HTML document. It's really not helping anyone.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Weird dream

Last night I dreamed I was on a group tour in Poland. I stopped in a store to buy a book about North American aboriginal people (I don't know why I would buy a book like that in Poland of all places), but the bookstore lady (who looked very much like the lady who runs Artus Books on Ronce)refused to sell it to me unless I could tell her the Polish word for aboriginal. I didn't know, so I said "autochtone" (the French word) because I thought it might be similar to the Polish (I don't know if it is IRL). But that turned out to be incorrect, so she wouldn't sell me the book.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

How to get an abortion in South Dakota

They are setting up an abortion clinic on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation.

Here's how to make a donation

This has been a public service announcement.

Silly plot holes

I'm watching a particularly stupid episode of Voyager, where they're all trapped in a Holodeck simulation of WWII France. Anyway, in this simulation, a troop of Nazis captured a bunch of French Resistance people and ordered them at gunpoint to line up against a wall so they could be executed. The Resistance people complied. (Then a bunch of Klingons came in and disrupted the whole thing so they didn't get executed, but anyway).

So you are ordered at gunpoint to get up against the wall so they could shoot you. Why would you comply? Why wouldn't you try to run away? What are they going to do, shoot you?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I don't think I'm in for a good day today

I have long, oily hair. This means that while the ends of my hair can occasionally do with a bit of conditioner to help detangle them, the scalp needs no conditioner whatsoever. In fact, it could probably do with a dessicant.

Unfortunately, this morning I unthinkingly put conditioner on my scalp. This can't be a good day.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Birth order science by mutual commiseration

I've been asking around in my social circle, and have come to a scientific hypothesis, backed by empirical anecdotal evidence.

In two-child families where the children are the same gender and the age difference is 2-3 years, when the younger sibling gets their first grown-up job, i.e. their first job in the field in which they ultimately aspire to work, they begin talking to their older sibling as though the older sibling is an ignorant, misbehaving child and the younger sibling is the only person in the whole entire world who is aware of How The World Works and How Things Are Done. This behaviour seems to occur regardless of the older sibling's life situation.

I'm hoping to gather more evidence about how this works in mixed-gender families and families with more than two children.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Things They Should Invent: Don't feel thankful!

I don't think we should feel thankful for things that we consider basic human rights or basic elements of our standard of living. I think we should feel self-righteously entitled to them. Why? Because if we feel thankful for something, it seems less unreasonable if it's taken away. If we feel entitled, we generate an appropriate amount of outraged.

For example, I'm thankful that I have high-speed internet access, because I remember the days of dialup and even the days before the internet. Because of this, if suddenly I couldn't have high-speed internet, I would feel like I'm obligated to suck it up and make do. It would be difficult for me, but I'd feel like I don't have the right to complain, because I remember well life without high-speed internet, so it still strikes me as a luxury.

Now obviously it would be totally inappropriate to have that "suck it up and make do" attitude when it comes to basic human rights, or basic standard of living, so let's not be thankful! Let's feel entitled!

So I don't feel thankful that I have enough to eat; I feel entitled to having enough to eat, so I feel outraged that other people don't have enough to eat!

I don't feel thankful that I have freedom of speech; I feel entitled to freedom of speech, so I feel outraged that other people don't have freedom of speech!

I don't feel thankful that there are no bugs in my apartment; I feel entitled to a bug-free apartment, so I feel outraged that other people have to have bugs in their homes!

So don't feel thankful, feel entitled! Bring on a better world through judicious entitlement!

Things they DID invent!

I've always said someone needs to invent a way to search for a song you have in your head, especially when you don't know the lyrics.

Well, they did! I've been doing some experiments, and it seems to work with about 75% accuracy.

It's just clothing!

A pet peeve of mine is when people assume that Western Muslim women are oppressed when they choose to wear a chador, hijab, or burqa. Yes, in some places, particularly theocracies, these garments can be a symbol of oppression. However, it is patronizing and dehumanizing to assume that just because someone chooses to cover more of their body than average, they are automatically being oppressed and therefore need to be liberated from it.

Sometimes if you grow up with a certain standard of modesty, you just aren't comfortable walking around dressed less modestly. For example, about 10 years ago, it became legal in Ontario for women to go topless. However, most women continue to wear tops at all times. That isn't because we are oppressed, but rather because we simply prefer to keep that part of our bodies covered. With my shirt on, I am comfortable. With my shirt off in public, I would feel uncomfortable, over-exposed, unsupported, and humiliated. I feel my breasts are something to which I'd rather control access, and would strongly feel that my basic human dignity was being violated if I were forced to expose them. Perhaps this does have cultural origins, but that does not negate the fact that I prefer to have, at minimum, a bra and a shirt covering the top half of my body at all times. It doesn't hinder my ability to live my day to day life, it doesn't oppress me, it makes me more comfortable and more confident in facing the world than if it wasn't there.

Similarly, a woman who has grown up her whole life wearing a chador or a hijab or a burqa simply might feel over-exposed if she had to go without one. She might feel that her hair, for example, is something to which she'd rather control access, and she feels her human dignity is being violated if she's forced to expose it against her will. Maybe she prefers to just put on a hijab rather than have to spend the time and effort grooming her hair to a standard at which she'd be comfortable exposing it to the public.

Our duty as a society is to let people know what freedoms are available to them, have resources available to help them if they're being oppressed, and make sure they are aware that they don't have to be oppressed. It is not our place to go around telling people that they are being oppressed instead of letting them decide for themselves. No good can come of pressuring or forcing people to go out in public with more of their body exposed than they are comfortable with, regardless of the reason why they are not comfortable exposing certain parts of their body.

This isn't a frat party. This isn't middle school. We should simply operate under the assumption that everyone has a good reason for wearing what they're wearing rather than patronize grown adults by telling them that they didn't know what they were doing when they picked dressed themselves this morning.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Anyone out there know US military uniform regulations?

Whenever US military people are on TV game shows, they wear their uniform. Are they required to do this, or are they just doing it by choice?


Has anyone noticed that the comic Backbench in the Globe and Mail has been really funny looking this week? I can't tell what the artist is trying to do (or if it's a printing mistake) and the internet won't tell me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Even Miss Manners approves of not answering your phone!

Yesterday's Cary Tennis column generated huge numbers of comments. Basically, the letter-writer's friend asked if he could come over to her place because he had a power outage in the middle of a blizzard, and she said no because she had her boyfriend over. Mitigating circumstances on both sides - read the column and the comments if you want the whole complex issue.

Now I can see both sides of the argument. I can totally see wanting to go to someone else's place if I had a power outage, and I can totally see want my friend to go elsewhere when I'm having alone time with my boyfriend.

But one very important thing wasn't mentioned in all the 181 (jusqu'à maintenant) comments on the article: why did she answer her phone if she doesn't want to be disturbed?

Am I the only one who has thought of this?

It's a perfectly acceptable practice - even Miss Manners advocates it - and that's precisely what voicemail is for! "But what if it's an emergency?" Then you should be prepared to respond to the emergency. If you aren't prepared to respond to whatever emergency is on the other end of the phone, then don't answer it. Let it go to voicemail. If you really want, you can screen immediately afterwards to see what the problem was and then decide to address it. But if you pick up your phone when you don't want to be disturbed during a weather emergency, it is perfectly reasonable for the person on the other end to expect you to be able to respond to whatever emergency they're having. It's that simple.

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor

This book was very difficult for me to read or enjoy because it was full of what I can best describe as unhappy sex. Woven throughout the story are episodes of rape, inappropriate pairings, infidelity, borderline coercion, and borderline incest. Some of these are essential to the plot and others do help move it along, but they prevented me from enjoying or appreciating the parts of the book that did not involve unhappy sex because I was just too put off. The only reason I finished the book was because of my principle of finishing every book I start unless it gives me panic attacks.

Don't read this book unless you enjoy reading about unhappy sex. And if you do enjoy reading about unhappy sex, please stop reading my blog and go elsewhere, because you creep me out!

Blown away!

I just went out to the store. On the way back, I had to walk directly against the wind. When the wind gusted, I COULD NOT MOVE FORWARD! It simply took more physical strength than I possess to counter the force of the wind! In fact, it took all my physical strength to stand still - if I didn't make the effort, the wind forced me to trip a few steps backwards. I could only walk forward when the gusts let up.

And I'm far from petite and dainty! I wonder how little old ladies and small children managed?

Environment Canada says:

Observed at: Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport 15 March 2006 2:00 PM EST
Wind: WNW 68 km/h gust 84 km/h

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The "People Person" Paradox

I am not a "people person". As I may have mentioned one or two times, I'm an introvert, I feel awkward in social situations with people I don't know well, and I suck at small talk.

My doctor is the same way. I can tell she feels a bit socially awkward, so she's very serious and not that good at making small talk. This adds just a tinge of awkwardness to our sessions, because neither of us is able to effectively break the ice, and because the ice is still there. Her receptionist is the same way. As a result, I don't feel particularly welcome or comfortable in her clinic. As an innie myself, I can tell logically that this coldness is not deliberate, but emotionally it's still there. I still have my guard up, there's still that tiny element of middle school left over, where because it doesn't feel warm I feel like I'm going to be harshly judged. Not the best feeling to get from your doctor. I don't look forward to going to see her.

On the other hand, my dentist, and all of his staff, are very much people people. They have the ability to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I feel like I can make a joke if one occurs to me, and I can let my guard down completely. I do realize that this means I have succumbed to "charming" (which is rather frightening to think about), but the result is a comfortable clinical environment.

At first I was thinking that there should be some way for patients to find out if doctors are people people, so the introverted patients who can't break the ice themselves can be paired up with doctors that can break the ice, and the extroverted patients who can break the ice can be paired up with the doctors who can't.

But then i realized that the problem with this idea is that bubbly extroverts who can break ice left and right tend to be seriously creeped out by introverts. They tend to think that we're being deliberately cold as a personal slight to them, and don't seem to realize that we just do not have the ability to be charming, they tend to think instead that we're deliberately holding back, perhaps out of spite. So the extroverts aren't going to want to go to the introvert doctors either.

I don't want to eliminate all introvert doctors or anything, and logically I know I should be accepting of people who have the same shortcomings as I do, but I also want a doctor who makes me feel comfortable.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Harry doesn't need to be an Auror

Fandom analysis still seems to be assuming that Harry's goal in life is to become an Auror. I don't think this is applicable any more.

Harry decided he wanted to be an Auror in GOF, when Crouch!Moody planted the idea in his head. He brought up the idea again in OOTP, in the specific context of a career planning interview, where he was asked outright what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he answered the only career choice that he has actually considered.

But later in OOTP, Harry found out he was the only person who can destroy Voldemort. That, combined with the fact that he's already independently wealthy, should negate the requirement for any career ambitions, no? Whatever helping people/saving people/being heroic fulfilment Harry could have gotten from becoming an Auror, he could easily get from destroying Voldemort. That's surely enough heroic Gryffindor karma for a lifetime.

While it's true that Harry may well choose to pursue a career of some sort after he destroys Voldemort, it's not a priority at the moment, and will never be absolutely necessary. He does need to destroy Voldemort. He is determined to do it immediately (and we, the readers, know that he has to do so within the next year). He does not need to earn money to support himself financially. A career, even a career as an Auror, is not his goal at the moment, and this is not informing his decision-making.

Harry's eye is on the goal of destroying Voldemort, period. People should stop making fandom theories based on the assumption that his eye is still on the goal of being an Auror.

Things They Should Invent: garbage cans that fit plastic bags perfectly (or vice versa)

I line my garbage cans with ordinary plastic bags that I get when buying things from stores. I don't know how common this practise is, but I do know a number of other people who do it, and I've never had anyone say "Why the hell is there a plastic bag in your garbage can?" so it can't be that unusual.

As it happens, Shoppers Drug Mart bags fit perfectly in my bathroom garbage can, but my other garbage cans are not nearly as compatible with plastic bags. Occasionally a bag from a store I rarely shop in will fit perfectly in one of my other garbage cans (and, before the LCBO cheaped out on their plastic bags, LCBO bags used to fit perfectly in my kitchen garbage), but it isn't at all consistent. Bags from Dominion, where I do the vast majority of my shopping, don't fit perfectly in any of my garbage cans.

I think stores like supermarkets, drug stores, walmart, etc., should sell small, indoor garbage cans that are the perfect size and shape for their bags. Or, if it's more cost-effective, they should make their plastic bags the perfect size and shape for garbage cans that are available in the store. I would totally buy new garbage cans if I knew they would perfectly fit plastic bags I have on hand, and I would totally make a point of going to a specific store for something like soap or shampoo (i.e. something that I could easily and conveniently buy at any one of several stores) just to get plastic bags that would fit perfectly in my garbage cans.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Red coats and big fuzzy hats

You know those british soldiers with the red coats and big fuzzy hats, who have to stand guard and aren't allowed to move or talk? I wonder what happens to them if they do move or talk?

When I was little, I thought they were executed if they moved. In retrospect, that's not terribly likely. And I suppose that if there is a genuine emergency they should react in some way. (Mental image of a typical cartoon robber being chased down the street by a red coat fuzzy hat guard).

Cool thing in the Sims

In Sims 2, if you click on the wants or fears, you'll get a little blurb telling you how to fulfill/avoid the wants/fears. And if you click on the memories, you'll get a little blurb about that too.

Yes, I just noticed this :)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Things They Should Invent: expect the impossible for our political leaders

This train of discussion usually starts when I let slip one of my unpopular pacifist sentiments. For example:

Me: I don't think it's appropriate to use armed forces to impose or enforce peace.
Interlocutor: How on earth do you expect them to do that?
Me: I don't know exactly how it could be done. I have no specific training in that sort of thing.
Interloctor: See? It's impossible! You can't expect them to do something like that if you have no idea how it should be done.

But that's it exactly - I have no idea how it should be done. But I'm only 25 years old, I have but a single undergraduate degree, and I doubt I have the leadership skills to organize a birthday party. That's why I'm not leading the country. Anyone who claims to be qualified to lead a whole entire country should be able to come up with ideas that are so vastly beyond anything I can possibly think of that, until I learn of the ideas, I would have thought them impossible.

Our expectations of anyone who would dare think themselves worthy of leading us should be far beyond our expectations of ourselves. Accepting anything less is doing us all a disservice.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Angst! Drama! Tragedy!

PBS is fundraising with Andrea Bocelli instead of showing my Monty Python! When will they even show Monty Python again????? This ruins my whole day! :(

Helpful hint: if you're selling food, don't make comments that could trigger your customers' food insecurity

This morning I went into my local "Quickie-mart" to buy some food for breakfast and lunch. I had a long day of work ahead of me in which I had to stay at my desk, and hadn't had breakfast, so I bought a bagel with cream cheese, a salad, and a wrap. At the last minute, I impulse purchased some candy. I wanted to make sure I had enough food so I wouldn't get hungry and cranky, as I couldn't leave my desk to go look for more food.

So I take my purchases to the cash register, and the guy behind the counter says "Wow, big lunch!"

Now, this didn't bother me. I just smiled and said "It's breakfast AND lunch." But there are a lot of people out there who would be really uncomfortable with that comment. Some people don't like to be seen eating large quantities of food. Some people, rightfully or not, think that others are judging them for what they eat. Some people have eating disorders that can be triggered at the slightest provocation. I don't fall into any of these categories, but the guy behind the counter had no way of knowing that. There must be a lot of people around who would feel insecure about that comment - the comic strip Cathy is widely syndicated for a reason, after all - and I think a lot of that insecurity would be found in women of my demographics and proportions.

So while I don't care what random people think about the size of my lunch, Mr. Counter Man had no way of knowing that. He should really keep his comments to himself, or one day he's going to lose himself some customers.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Something Positive!

Hee hee hee!

Okay, check out Branwen's comments on Sept. 12, 2004. (Yes, that's Branwen on the left and Davan on the right.

Now check out what happened today.

I couldn't actually see Davan and Kharisma hooking up, but it was just so clearly set up 1.5 years ago!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Pants Age Test

Consider the following situation:

You have to wear regular pants (i.e. not shorts, not capris, not those stupid cullotte things).

You have to wear regular socks and shoes with your pants (i.e. no bare feet and sandals, no hose and pumps).

Your day is spent in equal parts sitting down or standing up, visible at all times to people you don't want to look frumpy and gross in front of.

There are only two lengths of pants available. The shorter length looks fine when you stand up, but rides up when you sit down, so that you can see the skin of your legs above your socks. Even if you pull your socks up and the pants down, the interplay of pants and socks and leg shape will always cause the hems of the pants to ride up above the socks in short order. The longer length looks fine when you sit down, but drags on the floor when you stand up. You aren't going to trip on the hems, but you might tread on them occasionally.

Do you choose the shorter pants or the longer pants?

I propose that, regardless of your chronological age, if you choose the shorter pants you are old, and if you choose the longer pants you are young.

The Big Book Catch-up Post of Doom!

Between my persistant cold and my nasty habit of reading several books at once, I finished a bunch of books lately and failed to blog them. So here they all are!

Hell's Corner: An Illustrated History of Canada's Great War, 1914-1918, by JL Granatstein.

This is an excellent book on WWI. It describes the deroulement of the war and the experiences of everyday people (both soldiers and on the homefront) in a way that can easily be understood by a 21st-century readers. It does go into the politics of the time, but, again with the modern-day reader clearly being the target audience. It's very Canaa-centric so you get very little idea of what was going on in the rest of the world, but it's still a good starting point. The mixed blessing is that it's a giant coffee-table sized book. This is good because it has rooms for lots of good pictures, but it's bad because you can't read it on the subway. It's still worth perusing at home though.

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Laney

This book is all about me! It explains precisely how my brain works, with diagrams and neurological explanations and everything! It turns out introversion affects my life in more ways than I originally thought, from my Hufflepuff approach to relationships, to my childhood self's feeling insulted that my parents felt the need to bring toys to amuse me on long car rides. It turns out that my low novelty seeking is a direct result of my introversion. Because of the way electrical signals travel through the brain (I'm not quite at the point of fully understanding this, but I'm very close), introverts don't have as much need for dopamine, and can actually feel overstimulated if they get too much dopamine. In practical terms, this means that I'm perfectly happy reading my book and think a big party sounds exhausting - which I already knew, but it's cool that there's an actual neurological reason for it. Introversion can also affect a person's ability to think of stuff to say - their mind might go blank when called upon to speak, but they'll be able to articulate their thoughts perfectly later on. I've never experienced this in English, but I get it all the time when working in other languages, so it was quite reassuring to learn that it's not a flaw in my mastery of other languages, but rather a neurological thing that simply is not as apparent in the English part of my brain. This book is interesting for anyone who is an introvert, but it is an ABSOLUTE MUST READ for anyone who is an extrovert but has an introverted partner or child. My life would have been much easier if my parents had read this book when I was little, but they couldn't because it wasn't published until 2002.

Dark Age Ahead, by Jane Jacobs

I learned so much about so many things from this book! It's so broad ranging, and every part was enlightening. For example, did you know that General Electric was behind most major cities' decision to switch from trolleys to buses? Did you know that pre-industrial agrarian societies had to be inherently conservative for their survival, but once industrialism came aloneg, technology started to grow exponentially, and society changed into a culture that had to be progressive in order to survive. This is an interesting parallel with the fact that modern rural society tends to be more conservative and urban society tends to be more progressive (obvoiusly the cause isn't the same because modern rural society is still highly influenced by industrialism, but it's still interesting). This book also finally managed to explain the whole fiscal imbalance thing to me in a way that the many newspaper articles on the subject could not. I'd always found complaining about fiscal imbalance distasteful, because I thought of it as the same as wealthy people who complain that they have to pay more taxes than poor people. But Jacobs' explanation made me realize that Toronto, for example, is not a single entity that has to pay more taxes because it's wealthy. It's a collection of 2 million individuals living in close proximity in order to take advantage of economies of scale. Each individual is taxed differently depending on their own income, so the taxation itself is still fair, but the whole equalization thing takes away the benefits of economy of scale because provinces are really artificial entities, but certain aspects of federal legislation consider them a lot more important. But I digress. Overall, this book is very interesting, well-researched, and well-written. It falls under the "read this to feel smart" category.

Woman in Bronze, by Antanas Sileika

This book needs to be a movie! It's historical and epic and coming of age and doesn't want to be put down. Plus, the action is actually action, so it would translate perfectly to the screen. Someone make a movie of this!

Souvenir of Canada 2, by Douglas Coupland

I get the impression that Coupland didn't have quite enough material for the a second book. Most of it was just as interesting as the first book, but there were many self-indulgent pages in the middle dealing with Canada House, one of Coupland's own projects, plus some of what felt like filler material. Some of it worked for me, like the adorable pictures of baby goslings, and some of it didn't, like a page containing nothing but a list of all the men who died on the Edmund Fitzgerald. I don't know whether this was all part of the artistic vision or not, but it felt to me like filler, which kind of ruined the effect.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Did they see it coming?

The casualty rate in Afghanistan seems to be higher than I would consider acceptable. What I would really like to know is did the people planning this mission foresee this? Are the blindsided by the quantity of casualties, or is their idea of an "acceptable" casualty rate higher than mine?

Riscal Tempranillo

I should be satisfied with this wine, but I'm not. It's perfectly good and fruity and there's nothing wrong with it that I can articulate, but it feels like something is missing, although I can't tell what. I don't like that I'm dissatisfied with a wine that has nothing actually wrong. It seems rather, I don't know, spoiled? ADD? High novelty-seeking? Not something I want to be. Maybe I should just shut up and drink up.

How feminism affected my life

Today's Star had articles by two women of different generations talking about how feminism affected their lives. For me, born after the influence of second-wave feminism, its effect very simple: "Because I am a woman" does not exist as a reason for any of my decisions or life choices. With the possible exception of stepping into the women's washroom when there are two washroom choices (although I have no problem with unisex or coed washrooms), I have never thought "I must/must not/should/should not/can/cannot/will/will not do X because I am a woman."

Even when I do make choices or decision that, in previous generations, would have been based on the fact that I am a woman, "because I am a woman" is not my motivation. Instead, it's "because I am introverted" or "because I am arachnophobic" or "because I am in love with mi cielito" or "because I live alone" or "because I have an aptitude for languages" or "because it amuses me".

The only time my being a woman even comes into play is in the bedroom, the doctor's office, and the clothing store and even then it isn't about gender roles, but rather about strict physiology. None of this taking modern perceptions of prehistoric human behaviour to be a biological imperative and using that to support one's own concept of morality bullshit. It's strictly about the presence of a cervix, the proximity of labia to the urethra, the ratio of hip circumference to waist circumference. These issues would need to be addressed in the same way if I were FTM. "Because I am a woman" becomes a shorthand for a number of physical realities, parallel to "because my eyesight sucks" or "because my feet are messed up," but it isn't actually a basis of decision-making.

So that's what feminism has done for me in my own personal life - it has made gender completely irrelevant as a basis for life choices.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Open letter to the Mexico tourism authority

In light of recent events, and without any speculation or presumption as to what the real truth is, I give you two important pieces of information.

1. The thought of possibly being murdered for no good reason does not make me less likely to go to Mexico. That could happen here or anywhere.

2. The thought of being falsely accused of a crime and then extradited to a foreign country whose justice system I perceive to be more corrupt and less respectful of human rights than my home justice system is enough to make me never want to go to Mexico, at all, ever.

I don't know what actually happened, but the thought of some random person being arrested to cover various asses rather than bothering to catch the real murderer is far more scary than the fact of the murders themselves.

I should write this in Spanish instead, shouldn't I?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More Pythonic censorship standards

Drawings and paintings of nudity are not censored (even though they're very realistic), but photographs are.