Thursday, June 29, 2006


When I first started my job, three years ago, it seemed impossible. I felt like it would be ages before I could achieve what was expected of me, if ever.

Now I'm doing what's expected of me, and I believe I'm doing it adequately (certainly haven't received any indications to the contrary), but I don't feel like it's anything special.

This would probably indicate that I have more skills than I did three years ago, but I don't feel like I do. I have more experience, more familiarity with common genres, more familiarity with what kinds of situations are likely to cause me to make mistakes, but I'm not doing anything special. And I don't know when it became nothing special. Probably when our team* suddenly shrank - there was no time to fret over how I didn't know how to do anything, the deadlines were piling up and it had to get done. So I just kind of muddled through, did the best I could, and it somehow ended up being satisfactory.

*Aside: my father has this thing, where whenever I use the word team, he keeps trying to convince me that my work team isn't a really a team, via some definition that he read in some book. And apparently if I can't rattle offthat definition word for word, nothing I say about anything counts for anything, and I must defer to him about my team not being a team, despite the fact that he has no idea how things are even done in my workplace. And people wonder why I moved out.

Monday, June 26, 2006

How do you get to be a Starfleet captain when you're missing vital life experiences????

In the episode of TNG when Counselor Troi has a baby, her son gets to play with puppies in the little preschool/daycare thing they have on the Enterprise. Then later he's talking to Captain Picard, and asks him if he's ever played with puppies.

Picard says he hasn't.

HE HAS NEVER PLAYED WITH PUPPIES! HOW do you get to be, what, 50 years old - not to mention a Starfleet captain - without having EVER played with puppies?????

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Half-formed thought

Every time there's a slow news day, some media outlet or another publishes an article about how Kids Today (i.e. young adults) aren't "becoming grown-ups" despite the fact that they're legally adults.

Have you ever noticed that the definition of "grown-up" in these articles is increasingly nebulous?

It started out during the 1990s recession, as commentary on the economy more than anything - people aren't able to find jobs that can support them and therefore aren't able to move out of their parents' house. Defining adulthood as self-sufficiency for the purpose of an article on the state of the economy - that does make some sense.

Then they moved on to more social things, like marriage and children - traditionally associated with adulthood, but not strictly necessary, and also not entirely matters over which one has complete control - all the good planning and responsible behaviour in the world, and a stroke or two of bad luck could still leave you unmarried and/or without children by the time you've reached age 35 or whatever the arbitrary cut-off is.

Then the criteria started getting more materialistic, like house and car ownership. Again, even less necessary for self-sufficiency and independence, and even more easily eliminated by circumstances - to say nothing of personal preference.

Then the criteria started getting ridiculous. I've seen articles declaring that today's young adults are not grownups because they wear sneakers to work or listen to certain music or wear headphones on the subway or enjoy unwinding with a video game. So basically the older generation of adults is now arbitrarily defining the younger generation of adults because their clothing, music, and recreation choices are not identical to those of the older generation - because a noticeable number of younger adults are not behaving in a way that is interchangeable with that of a noticeable number people who are 20-30 years older than them. Because the trappings of one generation are different from the trappings of the next.

What started as an illustration of economic realities had degraded to dissing the generation gap based on the superficial - declaring an entire generation immature based on their footwear, without even looking at the kind of life they were making for themselves.

I wonder if this happened in the past, with other generations? I'm too young to remember myself. But imagine it in the 1950s: "Kids today, with their suburbs and their televisions and their circle skirts - when are they going to grow up?" You know how the parents of the baby boomers are historically known as the greatest generation? I wonder if their parents felt that way?

If I were Lex Luthor...

In Superman I, Lex Luthor has kryptonite.

In Superman II, there are these three bad guys from the planet Krypton, and Lex Luthor has just broken out of jail.

So why doesn't Luthor use his kryptonite to destroy the bad guys from Krypton, and get the powers that be to give him Australia in return? Or did they kryptonite vanish when I wasn't looking?

Things that would be cool

It would be cool if, whenever a real-life person is a character in your dream, they're having the same dream but from their perspective. And when they only play a quick cameo, your paths cross in your dreams and then you both go off on your separate paths.

Pride Day Challenge

Your challenge for today is to use the expression "That is sooooo gay" as many times as possible, but ONLY in obviously non-judgemental contexts where gay means gay. Important: use the same tone of voice and modulation you would use to say "That is sooooo cool!"

Example: "Multi-coloured fruit-flavoured martinis? That is soooo gay!"

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Open letter to the Fashion Powers That Be

Dear Fashion Powers That Be:

I'm glad to hear that the Midriff is Out. Really I am. However, the problem is, for my entire adult life the Midriff has been In. Even though I was making every effort to cover my midriff I was limited by the fashions that were commercially available, so I now have a closet full of clothes that reveal my midriff when I stretch or bend or reach. So what am I supposed to do now? This season's colours and shapes aren't particularly flattering on me - I could use more reds, more V-necks, more long shirts that don't looks stupid tucked in and lumpy untucked over pants, fewer pales and neutrals, fewer empire waists, more cuts that can accomodate a short, high waist on an endomorphic body without making me look lumpy or pregnant. I'm certainly not going to buy a whole new wardrobe that is so unflattering to me! And while my midriff is forgiveable when fashion realities make the occasional glimpse inevitable, it isn't nearly pleasant-looking enough to be exposed when midriffs are Out.

I didn't have the opportunity to build up an adult wardrobe that covers the midriff under all circumstances, because the Midriff started being In when I was about 15. So now I'm stuck with a closet full of clothes that exposes a body part that is neither fashionable nor attractive to expose, and a mall full of clothes that are unflattering.

What on earth am I supposed to do now?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Good design

Like many of this season's skirts, the skirt I'm wearing today has two layers: the skirt itself, and a built-in slip. This is very convenient because then you don't have to worry about light shining through your skirt.

The main skirt (i.e. the outer layer) is cut very full, so it spins out when I twirl (yes, I twirl on a regular basis) and creates an aesthetic allusion to the 1950s. The slip (i.e. the inner layer) is not cut nearly as full, so if it were its own skirt it wouldn't twirl nearly as well as the outer layer.

Today I realized this has an excellent practical function: when an unexpected gust of wind or a poorly designed subway station results in the Marilyn Monroe effect, the bottom layer doesn't lift up nearly as high as the top layer. So I can enjoy the effect of my skirt swirling about and imagine that if I jump off the stair I'll float into the air like Mary Poppins, all without compromising my modesty or horrifying the masses with my unattractive undergarments.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


This article in the Star's ethics column has me perturbed:

Q: I'm a Protestant minister. I'm pretty well known in my church for my outspoken advocacy and actions on behalf of marginalized people — street folk, the mentally challenged, and members of the queer community.

Recently I was approached by a political party to run in the next provincial election. I'm intrigued by the possibility, but wondering about ethical implications. Comments?

A: First off, you're going to have to stop using the word "queer" if you plan to get elected. We haven't quite come full circle on that one yet in mainstream society.

Is this true? I always thought anyone can use queer. I am aware that:

- queer has been (and still can be, with certain context, intent, and presentation) used as a slur
- queer has undergone or is undergoing a reclamation process
- during a reclamation process, not everyone can rightfully use the word being reclaimed - the circle of people who can use the word widens steadily until it encompasses all of society, but it's not like just anyone can wander in and start using the word.

But I thought queer had undergone enough of a reclamation process that anyone can use it with benign intentions and a proper understanding of the scope of the word's benign use. It was even used in the title of a mainstream TV show! Was I wrong about this? Besides that, it's quite a convenient word - the scope is broader than any other individual word that I can think of, although the level of language is rather low. I don't find I use it terribly often, but when I do use it it's the best possible word, and there's no other word that will do.

Abstract discussion points: who is and is not allowed to say queer and why?

Concrete discussion points: am I allowed to use the word queer? If not, what should I say when I need to communicate that concept?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Weird voicemail spam

I got this message on my voicemail today - I don't know if it was a legit phone call or voicemail spam because it arrived while I was at work - that sounded very unprofessional. The guy was saying "Um, I was wondering if you or anyone you know was planning to move within the next six months?" The message was very vague, unclear, and unprofessional, filled with ums and ahs and broken, heavily accented English. (Normally I don't judge imperfect English, but if they're approaching me apropos of nothing I'm not going to make an effort to understand).

I can see two possibilities:

1. It's a hook. The unprofessional-sounding script was designed specifically to sound that way, so people wouldn't think it's voicemail spam or something, I'm not sure why.

2. They really are that inept.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Further meditations on being Childfree

People who try to talk CFers into having children usually use the argument "But it's so rewarding!" The thing they fail or refuse to understand is that a childfree person does not feel that they're missing any "reward" from their life. The detractor is proposing a solution to a problem, but the CFer doesn't feel that there is a problem.

In other words, imagine if someone tells you "I have the solution to your problem. However, it entails:

- permanently and irrevocably changing your and your partner's lives, with which you are already satisfied
- permanently and irrevocably affecting every aspect of the life of an innocent third party
- making the potential consequences of every decision you and your partner make from now on far more serious
- decreasing the likelihood that you will be financially self-sufficient, and increasing the likelihood that you will require social assistance (in the broadest, generic sense of the term)
- increasing the size of your environmental footprint
- reducing your ability to be there for the people in your life who sometimes need you to be there
- quite possibly permanently and irrevocably affecting the lives of your families
- at least temporarily inconveniencing your and your partner's employers and co-workers, which may result in some bitterness or make you a less valued employee, thus decreasing your job security, which is now far more serious than it was before (see item 3)
- permanently and irrevocably accepting a new person as one of your intimates without first knowing who they are or what they're like"

...and you don't even feel that you have a problem in the first place.

You don't go to all the trouble and smell of repainting your home when you're happy with the current paint job, just because some random person likes some other colour better. You don't go to all the trouble of moving house when you're perfectly satisfied with your current home, just because some random person is more happy in a different home. So why on earth do people think a CFer would have a child when they're perfectly satisfied without?

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

I would highly recommend that Americans read this book. It's a slow, labourious read (I poked at it over a period of months, while reading other things in between), but it shows you how the CIA essentially created the conditions for the Taliban and al Qaeda. I do find myself wondering if they didn't see this coming at all, or if they did see it coming and simply thought it negligible compared with the threat of communism (which they were attempting to fight at the time). I do wish the author had elaborated on his statement that Taliban fighters wear eye-liner (or at least showed a picture), but apart from that, a difficult read, but an important one for Americans.

Concealed weapons

On TV, a guy is trying to rob some people by either holding a gun in his pocket or pretending he has a gun in his pocket. I've heard of people doing this before.

Why would someone do this? I can see how it's an effective way to pretend that there's a gun in your pocket if you don't really have one, but if you really did have a gun, why would you keep it in your pocket? Wouldn't it be more effective to show them the gun? Obviously there's some precedent for people doing robberies this way, so there's something that makes people think a robber might actually have the gun in his pocket instead of taking it out. So why would this be beneficial to the robber to hide the gun while conducting the robbery?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wherein a lowly prole blithely tells Stephen Hawking he's wrong

Dear Mr. Hawking:

Today you said that humanity must colonize space in order to survive.

That is wrong.

True, it is probably factually correct that, at some point in the future, humanity will be wiped out if our habitat is limited only to earth. But it would be morally wrong to attempt to colonize space.

We have no way of knowing who or what is living on other planets. True, we can probably detect whether carbon-based, air-breathing, 3+1 dimensional lifeforms are on a planet before we go about colonizing it, but why on earth should life in space be limited to that? It could be, say, cobalt-based, and seven-dimensional. Or it occupies the same time continuum as us, but travels in the other direction. Or it could breathe water and hydrate itself with nitrogen. We have no way of knowing that, and we have no way of knowing what kind of damage we'd do to the aliens' habitat, or how pissed off they'd get at us.

If humanity fucks up badly enough that we make our own planet uninhabitable, then it would be pretty damn cocky to assume we're entitled to start taking over other planets. Let's go extinct with dignity instead.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

For if you want to watch Enterprise from the beginning

I'm currently watching what appears to be the final episode of Enterprise. This would suggest that they're going to start showing the series from the beginning tomorrow. So if you're in Canada and want to watch Enterprise from the first episode, it's on Space at 9 pm on weekdays.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Liberal leadership

The weird thing about the Liberal party leadership race is that there is no way that every single one of the candidates can possibly think that they are the best person for the job or that they bring something unique to the job that the others don't have.

Party leadership races differ from regular job competitions in that the candidates all know who all the other candidates are (or who all the other potential candidates might be), so they can reasonably assess whether they are the best person for the job. Everyone's professional qualifications are a matter of public record, so why would you even put your hat in when it's clear you're nothing special?

Party leadership races differ from elections in that the candidates in each riding are affiliated with different parties. It doesn't matter of a particular candidate is not the single most qualified individual in the world, because they represent a larger party which contains a lot of people with different strengths. They only need to be competent, represent their party's platform, and be different from the other parties. But in a leadership race, everyone has essentially the same politics. I'm not sure, but I believe policy is set by the party in general, so it's not like the leader is just a person representing a certain policy platform. The leader needs to be exceptional, not just competent.

There is no way all 10(?) of the leadership candidates are exceptional or are without question the best person for the job. Quite a few of them have shortcomings that even I can see. There is no clear winner as yet so it does make sense for a number of people to run, but some of these people I don't understand why they're running. If I were a member of the Liberal party I'd be emailing them all to ask them why they think they're the best choice, but I'm not a member of any parties so this isn't something I need to take action on.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Things They Should Invent: Call Priority Display for cellphones

The problem with a cellphone is that the call recipient could be anywhere, and the caller has no idea where the recipient is or what they're doing (as opposed to landlines, where the caller knows that the recipient is at home or in the office).

The recipient can screen the calls by looking at the Call Display, but they still don't know how important the call is. Is the caller having an emergency, or are they just calling for information? Can it not wait, or can it wait an hour? And, for people who don't have a landline, is the caller calling just to chat, or for a specific purpose? The recipient may feel obligated to answer because the caller is their partner or child - someone who would be calling the recipient if they were having an emergency - but the caller may be calling about something that can wait an hour.

Therefore, I propose that, before the call connects, the caller should be instructed to press a number corresponding with the priority of their call. Priority 1 is "Requires immediate attention" - i.e. emergencies, or the need to change your plans to meet up in half an hour. Priority 2 is "Purposeful but not immediately urgent" - i.e. the caller wants information that's too urgent for email, but the recipient doesn't need to drop everything/pull over to the side of the road/interrupt their romantic dinner etc. The recipient can let the call go to voicemail and return it when they're unoccupied. Priority 3 is "Just calling to chat," and the recipient can just refuse the call if they're not up for chatting at the moment.

And now, a musical number

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday same-sex marriage
Happy birthday to you

Friday, June 09, 2006

South Toronto?

"South Toronto, like those parts of London that are host to the radical imams who influenced the 9/11 terrorists and the shoe bomber, has people who adhere to a militant understanding of Islam," said John Hostettler, chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on immigration and border security, noting that Toronto has a very large South Asian community.

Attn: Mr. Hostettler:

First of all, the people accused in this case were not South Asian at all. That is the most random comment ever.

Secondly, there is no such thing as South Toronto. A quick Google search will show that's unidiomatic. The southern part of our city is our downtown, which features the city's financial district and trendy waterfront condos. Toronto's marginalized tend not to live there. The accused were from Scarborough and Meadowvale, both of which are well north of our downtown, as well as significantly east and west, respectively.

If you're going to make shit up, at least make shit up that can't be refuted with a single Google, or by the common knowledge of anyone with passing familiarity with the situation.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


The Star's Antonia Zerbisias touches on the usual comments from the usual quarters about the hijabs worn by the family members of the accused terrorists (You have to scroll down a bit - the post I linked to deals with several topics).

It occurs to me that the relatives of the accused may be choosing to wear a more extreme form of hijab for privacy or disguise purposes, specifically because they are surrounded by the media.

I have noticed that their headwear seems a little more haphazardly put together than the hijab I usually see on people walking down the street and riding the subway. Most hijab that I see in real life gives the impression that it's a single, one-piece garment that somehow magically drapes itself where the wearer wants it to, without the help of pins or clips or knots. Upon closer inspection, you do sometimes see the occasional pin or a hint that it's really two pieces, but to the casual observer it just looks like a single, particularly obedient, piece of cloth.

Even from newspaper photographs, I can see that the relatives of the accused are wearing two or three sometimes-mismatched pieces of cloth around their head and face. I can see where they are pinned in some cases, and some pieces appear to be inexpertly tied on, as though the wearer is not used to wearing her scarves that way. I have never seen such haphazard hijab in real life.

Understand, I do not know any of these people personally and do not frequent the neighbourhoods where the accused are reported to have lived or where the trial is taking place. Perhaps they do dress this way all the time, I have no way of knowing. However, if I were in their position, with a loved one unexpectedly arrested for egregious crimes and the world's media following my every move, and if I had the equipment and the knowledge to whip up a makeshift burqa or abaya, I would totally do so. That way, when I am inevitably photographed, my facial expressions, facial feature, physique, wardrobe, and skill with cosmetics would not be subject to public scrutiny. I wouldn't have to worry about someone googling my name at a later date and finding criticism of my acne or lank hair or armpit stains. (Even if the mainstream media wouldn't make these kind of judgements, the average Fark reader certainly would). Also, once the media is no longer hounding my every move, I could go back to dressing normally, and random passers-by and casual acquaintances and the people at the deli and future co-workers and classmates would have no idea that I was associated with that sordid ordeal, all at the minor cost of making some non-standard wardrobe choices that, worst case, will cause critics to sneer "Well, what do you expect?"

I'm rather surprised that more people haven't advanced this theory - I've discussed it with a number of people in real life, and the vast majority of them came up with the same theory independently.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

PMS drinking game

1. Use the internet to locate a drinking game that goes with whatever activity you are currently engaging in.

2. Where the game instructs you to take a drink, eat a salty snack instead.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why people don't wear bike helmets

The Star attempts, unsuccessfully, to delve into the issue of why adults don't wear bike helmets. I think I can provide some insight here.

The introduction of bike helmets is rather recent. I'm 25 years old, and when I was a kid my parents made me wear a hockey helmet to ride my bike, because bike helmets either weren't available at all, or weren't available for small children. The law that kids must wear bike helmets didn't come into effect until I was in my teens. This means that most adults grew to adulthood without ever wearing a bike helmet, and most young adults who did wear them as kids were not required by law to do so, which means that the helmet was imposed on them by parents who were overprotective (at least compared with their peers' parents). Personally, during the years when I had to wear the hockey helmet on my bike, I never saw any of my peers wear a helmet. I think I was over the age of 10 before I saw someone other than myself and my sister wear a helmet while riding a bike. Even my own parents didn't model the behaviour.

Now, obviously some adults do wear bike helmets so this isn't intended to apply to everyone, but I think I can pin down the motivation of those who don't.

For older adults, it's a simple matter of habit. If you've never worn a bike helmet in your life, why would you start at the age of 30 or 40 or 50? Adults tend to think that they are more cautious and in better control as adults than they were as kids (I can't speak to whether or not they actually are), so if they've never hurt themselves on a bike as a kid, they'll assume they're not going to do so as an adult.

For younger adults who were made to wear helmets as a kid before it became widespread, the helmet is a tool of parental oppression. When we were kids it made us look funny and geeky. While our friends were enjoying the wind blowing through their hair, our hair was getting sweaty and greasy and matted. This was particularly problematic in early adolescence, when looks were important, oil and sweat glands were out of control, and bicycles were the primary mode of transportation. It was a shamefully uncool thing - I personally remember people throwing rocks at me because I was committing the social faux pas of wearing a bike helmet (this was in addition to the fact that looking sweaty or greasy was also a social faux pas punished by tormenting). You can see why someone who dealt with this throughout childhood and adolescence as a result of parent-imposed helmet-wearing would gleefully cast aside the helmet and ride around with the wind in their hair the instant they hit the age of majority. Personally, in early adolescence, I decided that I would prefer the inconvenience of simply never riding a bike again to the ongoing humiliation of wearing a helmet. As an adult, I don't enjoy biking as sport, and it's not practical as transportation because I'm not comfortable riding on Toronto city streets (with or without a helmet), so I have never had reason to revisit that decision. Even during threatened transit strikes I would prefer to walk if it came down to that, because I would have to go far out of my way to find a route that's quiet enough that I'd feel capable of biking on it.

Many people would think riding on the street without a helmet is foolish because of the potential for injury from motor vehicles, but even if you do wear a helmet, there is still great potential for injury. We're talking broken bones, at the very least. People who ride on busy streets are either accepting great potential for injury, or are blithely disregarding it. On a separate bike path that doesn't involve streets, the potential for injury is very different. Yes, you could still fall off or drive into a tree or something, but you're not going to end up under the wheels of a truck. The Star article doesn't mention the specific conditions of the cyclists they interviewed - whether they were on a street or a bike path or what. But the picture shows a smooth, separate bike path with no noticeable obstacles or traffic interference. In childhood, I fell off a bike under similar conditions many times, and none of those falls were such that the presence of a helmet made a difference in the outcome. (I don't go that fast, because I don't particularly care to break a sweat just for the sake of going faster - and I break a sweat at the slightest provocation.) Therefore, as an adult, if I were biking on a smooth bike path that was separate from traffic, I would likely forego the helmet and rejoice in the wind in my hair as a joyous celebration of the liberty of adulthood. If the venue was not a smooth bike path that was separate from traffic, I wouldn't be there on a bike in the first place.

I think this all will change within the next 20 years, as wearing a helmet is normalized with today's children. By the time I'm 40, not wearing a helmet when you bike will probably be as weird as not wearing a seatbelt in the car. But not all of today's adults are going to make that change, because they believe they are aware of all the factors and are making a calculated risk using their best judgement. Speaking as an adult who does not want to wear a helmet, I have weighed all the factors and am using my best judgement. That's why I don't own a bike.

Big yucky mess

I was lying in bed in that nice calm place where I'm not asleep yet but my thoughts are wandering freely and dallying wherever they please, when I suddenly realized I hadn't taken out my garbage yet. As I've mentioned before, it is absolutely imperative that the kitchen garbage be emptied every night. So, despite the fact taht it was pushing 2 a.m., I got out of bed and went to the kitchen to get the garbage. I took the bag out of the can, tied it off as usual, and carried it out to the garbage chute. In the livingroom, I felt like I had stepped on something, so I looked down.


The garbage bag had sprung a leak. And it was particularly full today, so there was a mess of coffee grinds and dead noodles (funny, I don't remember putting noodles in the garbage) and unidentifiable liquid all over the kitchen floor and halfway into the livingroom. I took the bag back to the kitchen (making more of a mess along the way), stuck it in another bag, took it out to the chute and threw it down, then came back to my apartment to clean up the mess. It's now clean, although I had to run the vacuum for about 10 seconds to pick up some stray bits of ground coffee.

So if one of your neighbours was disturbing you by vacuuming and throwing things down the garbage chute in the middle of the night, please be forgiving - she was probably having a rough night.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Why I won't use reusable tote bags to do my grocery shopping

Dominion is trying to convince me to buy reuseable totebags for my grocery shopping. I understand the environmental concerns, but I'm not going to do this for two reasons:

1. Grocery shopping is not a special trip for me. I usually get groceries on the way home from work, whenever it occurs to me that I might want some food that I don't have at home. I don't want the additional planning of having to anticipate grocery shopping, anticipate how much I will buy, figure out how many totebags I need to carry that many groceries, and carry the totebags around with me all day. I don't have a car, so I can't just stick the totebags in the trunk, and I usually carry only a large handbag which is generally pretty full because of my habit of carrying an umbrella and a novel and a waterbottle everywhere, so bringing the totebags would mean carrying an extra piece of luggage on my commute.

2. I need plastic bags anyway. I put a plastic bag in every one of my four household trash cans (i.e. small wastepaper baskets). I empty the kitchen can every day whether it's full or not (to avoid bugs), and the other three whenever they are full. I live in an apartment building, so my garbage goes down a chute. This means that all the garbage has to be wrapped in a plastic bag, and grocery store bags are perfect for this. If I didn't get plastic bags from the grocery store, I would have to buy small plastic garbage bags. So my plastic bags are going into the landfill, but that is out of necessity because of the logistics of my building's waste disposal infrastructure. I don't throw out plastic grocery bags automatically when I bring them home, I throw them out once they've served their purpose as garbage bags

Basically, using totebags would increase my inconvenience and expense without having any net effect on the number of plastic bags I send to the landfill.

If Dominion wants to improve my personal environmental footprint that results from their store, the best thing to do would be to use biodegradable plastic bags that are strong enough to get the groceries home and serve one use as a garbage bag, but will break down in the landfill.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Things Google Should Invent: enable users to mark parallel texts

Note for the non-linguists: parallel texts are texts that say the same thing in two or more different languages. The multilingual instructions for setting up your Ikea furniture or your new electronic widget are parallel texts. Your Canadian cereal box is a parallel text. EU websites are generally parallel texts.

Google already has what is probably the largest multilingual indexed corpus in the world, and millions, if not billions, of users. If Google cannot learn to recognize parallel texts itself, it should include a function on the toolbar or the interface (I'd prefer the interface because I don't have the toolbar at work and am not permitted to install it) that lets users mark two webpages as parallel texts - either tightly parallel (for direct translations) or loosely parallel (for texts that discuss the same topic, but aren't translations). Then they could add a function that lets users retrieve pages that other users have marked as parallel to the one they are currently viewing.

Apart from the obvious applications in the language industry, this could be very helpful for people who want to be tourists in a country whose language they don't read fluently, or do research on a topic where information is more readily available in a non-preferred language.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More power!

They always advertise cars based on how much power they have. Do cars ever not have enough power for normal, real-life driving?