Thursday, August 31, 2006


I was expecting it to be fair to middling, to be perfectly honest. I didn't see how something as indie as Holy Grail (I know it's mainstream now, but it was indie when they first made it!) could translate into a major musical. I figured it would hit all the plot points and in-jokes, throw in a few musical numbers, and we'd have a perfectly adequate night's entertainment and some nice royalties for the Python chaps. I was indifferent myself, but some of my friends wanted to go, and I am the resident Torontoise Python fan, so off we went.

Turns out I was way wrong - it was hilarious! It's very tightly packed, with something laugh-out-loud funny happening on stage like every 10 seconds or so. My friend who had never seen Holy Grail (!) was laughing constantly throughout! The delivery and timing were flawless, but not so flawless that it sounded like Python fans quoting the whole thing. The actors alluded to the voices of the original Pythons in their delivery, but again it didn't sound like fan imitation. Plus there were frequently little things thrown in - a gesture or a sound effect or a prop (HAY!) that added an extra layer of humour to the scene without breaking stride, and often took us two beats to realize it was there.

The stagecraft was also very good. Stagecraft was something they could quite easily have phoned in, but in several places we found ourselves remarking "Ooh, that's clever!", and in a few others we found ourselves wondering how exactly they did what they just did. (Hint: the Black Knight scene is there, intact. I could guess at how it was done, but I could well be wrong.)

There were only two things I didn't like. One was the inclusion of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which doesn't belong in Holy Grail, it belongs in Life of Brian! The other is the fact that the female cast members never got to do anything funny! Their roles were decorative or functional, but never humourous. I realize the original is essentially an all-male cast, but in a big complex musical number with lots of things going on, you'd think that at least once or twice one of the girls could have gotten to do something funny.

It certainly isn't Holy Grail. It's missing some key scenes, namely the witch and the bridge, and it's about half Holy Grail and half parody of musical theatre. However, it is also the most I have laughed in a two-hour period in recent memory, and I would see it again tomorrow if someone gave me a ticket, especially if the seat number ended in 101.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The problem with overtime is that you have to work regular time too. Twelve straight hours of work on any given day isn't that big a deal, but it's a much bigger deal when you still are expected to come into the office early the next morning. I could do a 17 hour day if I could add one more additional day off to my long weekend in exchange, but I can't. (Yes, my employer does allow me to be compensated for my overtime in leave, but all leave is subject to operational requirements and the project requiring overtime is only one of the many things I'm working on so I can't just take a day off right now.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

What do I do now?

Receptionist: Doctor's office
Me: Hi, I'm interested in getting the cervical cancer vaccine. I was wondering if you're doing that yet?
R: The what?
Me: The cervical cancer vaccine?
R: ...
Me: HPV vaccine?
R: ...
Me: Gardasil? It was approved by Health Canada several weeks ago and it was all over the news, and they said it would be available near the end of August and you should ask your doctor?
R: I'm sorry, I haven't heard of anything like that
Me: do you have any idea when would be a reasonable timeframe for me to call back again and see if you have it yet?
R: I have no idea, sorry

SO WHAT DO I DO NOW???? I was totally unprepared for this! I was all prepared to be all proactive, and ask whether there's any testing required before you get the vaccine, and if so whether an internal examination is involved so I can schedule it around my period, and to find out before hand if I need to get the vaccine from the pharmacy myself so I could be a good patient and walk in there all prepared, but what do I do when the receptionist has never heard of it? Does this mean the receptionist is exceptionally ignorant, or does this mean the doctor has never heard of it either? How can I trust these people to manage my health care when they haven't heard of something that is all over the news and I need to get on a somewhat time-sensitive basis? And how can I manage my own health care when any attempt to be proactive gets derailed at the first moment of ignorance?

I have been told that I should call back and insist that she either let me speak with the doctor or speak with the doctor herself and find out for me, but how on earth do I do that politely? I did give my name the first time I called because I thought that was the correct thing to do (it isn't in my little script because I don't want to put it in my blog). So how do I call back and say "Hi, it's me again! I'm right, you're wrong, and I want to go over your head until someone agrees with me!"

I am afraid of bugs, I am afraid of bugs, I am I am I am!

Somewhere out there, the great arachnoid conspiracy found my comments about Shelob and felt the need to reassert itself as a force for terror. So today when I got to work, there was a dead you-know-what on my mousepad. Unfortunately, I don't inspect my mousepad every morning (I will from now on!), and I TOUCHED IT WITH MY HAND! My boss found me whimpering with a giant handful of paper towels, trying to summon up the courage to dispose of the corpse, and was kind enough to do it for me. So I've been jumpy and edgy all day now.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Big Questions arising from a repeat viewing of Attack of the Clones

Why would little Anakin Skywalker program a droid for etiquette of all things?

I think I just saw Shelob

I saw an ad for a LOTR disc set, and I think I had a brief glimpse of Shelob. I've been deliberately avoiding even a glance because even the scene in the book freaked me out to the extent that I had to skip to the end of the chapter. But in this brief on-screen glance wasn't as bad as I expected. I certainly could not watch the whole scene, but I saw it for a second - enough to tell me that I had to look away - without any panic symptoms (this is coming from a 100% panic-free state) and only the slightest twinge of nausea. I think it's because it looked very computer-generated. Apart from the shape, something that looked like that would never be crawling across my ceiling in miniature. It was like those arachoid robot thingies in Star Wars - not pleasant, but a glance isn't going to give me extensive nightmares. Good to know. (Of course, the possibility exists that I'm a touch more placid than usual because I've had two glasses of wine today.)

The definitive Python

Everyone knows about singing lumberjacks and dead parrots and knights who say NI and spam. In fact, all these things have gotten so tired and cliche cliche that people who aren't familiar with Monty Python are likely to think it's not that funny, that it's just a bunch of people shouting NI and SPAM and EX-PARROT at each other.

So here, thanks to the magic of YouTube, is a small collection of representative Python sketches for those who aren't very familiar with Python, but think that SPAM SPAM SPAM just isn't that funny any more.

Ministry of Silly Walks
Spanish Inquisition
Four Yorkshiremen
Nudge Nudge (note: this one actually has a punchline)
Self-Defence against Fresh Fruit
Penguin on the Television
Buying a Bed
Dirty Fork
Every Sperm is Sacred
Romans Go Home!
Election Night
Argument Clinic
And, because it was voted their all-time favourite by the Pythons themselves, the Fish-Slapping Dance!

Have I missed any? Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Things They Should Invent: more precise TV content warnings

When I'm watching TV, I sometimes get these warnings: "The following program contains mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised."

But they refer to the whole program. When it's on commercial television, the program is divided up into segments by commercial breaks. So why not give warnings just if the next segment contains mature subject matter? (Oh yeah, and also standardize segment length.) The movie I'm watching right now (which is such a bad movie that I don't want to admit what it is) contains mature subject matter in places, but also contains some very decent comic scenes that I would have no problem with showing to any school-aged child*. If they gave me warning for specific segments, (and I were in charge of children), I could turn off the TV just for X minutes for the inappropriate segments, and still let these children I'm mysteriously in charge of watch the funny bits.

*Note: the possibility exists that these aren't, in fact, appropriate for children and this is all just another sign of why I shouldn't be in charge of children

Weird science

There was recently a story all over the news that couples who are more attractive are more likely to have daughters than sons, because it is evolutionarily more beneficial for women to be attractive, and therefore women are getting more beautiful over time.

There's a flaw in that theory:

With the exception of some esoteric cloning science that isn't yet being used on humans, every woman who is born has a mother and a father. Women, and therefore mothers, are getting more beautiful, but the study says nothing about men, so we must assume that they stay the same.

The conception process does nothing to ensure that the baby will receive the most attractive of its parents' genes. The baby receives a random sampling. There is nothing to make the baby receive the best of the available genes. (I'm proof of that! Except for my eye colour, I'm the worst of both worlds.) So even if the parents are attractive, the babies are just as likely to inherit unattractive characteristics from their fathers (who are not growing more attractive) or their less-attractive ancestors.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My doggie paradox

I love dogs! Just seeing a happy doggie walking down the street puts a smile on my face and lowers my blood pressure. I've always wanted a dog, but my sister is allergic so we never had one when I was a kid. But as an adult living on my own, I've been seriously looking into getting one.

My personal ethics dictate that as long as there are dogs in shelters, I must adopt a dog from a shelter. I consider it morally wrong to get a dog from a pet store or a breeder, thus creating demand, when there are dogs in shelters waiting for a home.

However, because I have never owned a dog, I am not a good candidate for a shelter dog. My inexperience would get me screened out from all but the lowest-maintenance dogs*, and very few low-maintenance dogs end up in a shelter.

I know the next logical step is to volunteer to walk dogs at the Humane Society, but my inexperience could still prove a problem. The Humane Society rates its dogs on a scale of Green (easiest), Yellow, Orange, and Red (hardest), and newbies can only walk Green dogs. However, the Humane Society does not necessarily have any Green dogs at any given time. I'd say the majority of the times I've looked at their site, there have been no Green dogs whatsoever. So either they'd refuse me as a dog-walker, or they'd have me doing stuff other than walking dogs, but at any rate it wouldn't be getting me any closer to having a doggie of my own!

However, suppose I threw my ethics out the window, walked down the the pet store, asked for the most adorable, floppy-eared puppy they have, and handed over my credit card. Then I could have a dog, just like that. I would be betraying my ethics, creating demand for puppy mills, and being irresponsible by getting a puppy as my first dog, but I would have a dog. And then in 10 or 15 years when the first dog passes away, I could go down to the Humane Society, tell them I have 10/15 years experience with dog ownership, and I would be far more likely to be eligible for a dog.

If I do something that I consider morally wrong, I will be considered a better candidate for adopting a dog. If I stick to my principles, I will continue to be considered unsastisfactory.

*The ideal dog for me, established in consultation with a Humane Society person: an adult, possibly a senior, who has already been house- and obedience-trained and is able to live happily in an apartment. This dog has no behavioural problems or difficult history, most likely having come to the shelter because its people couldn't take care of it due to their own health or lifestyle changes. It currently does not have any health problems or require palliative care (I am certainly willing to provide for my dog's health or palliative care, but it would be better for me to get used to having a dog - and for it to get used to having me - before dealing with complicated medical issues.) Sounds very picky, true, but some of my neighbours have successfully adopted dogs taht meet this description, so I'm not giving up hope.


There is currently a doggie wearing a birthday hat in the Blogger logo. Apparently this is because Blogger is seven years old, and one dog year equals seven people years. Whatever, I like doggies and any excuse to have more doggies is a good thing!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Post your printer recommendations here

I want a new printer. Mine is seven years old, loud, big, awkward, and runs out of ink at the slightest provocation. I want a quiet, unassuming printer that is efficient enough that I can print whenever the fancy strikes me, without worrying about whether the print job is worth using up the ink.

Anyone have any thoughts?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

As usual, Rebecca Eckler misses the point

The problem is not that people are finding parenting boring (This link takes you to a Google page. Click on the URL link provided under "If the URL is valid, try visiting that web page by clicking on the following link" to see a Globe and Mail article).

The problem is that the people who find parenthood boring are talking about it in the media and on the internet, using their own names or their "real life" internet names. This means that when their children are old enough to google, if they aren't already, they will google their parents (and you know that it will eventually occur to them to google everyone they know) and find these comments by their parents about how they're boring. And when they do this, they'll still be young enough that "raising kids is boring" will sound exactly like "my kids are boring people" and that will be enough to seriously hurt the kid's feelings. Not to mention what will happen if one of their peers stumbles upon it first!

Everyone has the right to find anything as boring or interesting as they want. Boredom isn't something you can control, and you aren't evil for getting bored. However, it is very cruel to announce to the whole world that your kids are boring (and that is how your kids will interpret it when they find it, and they will find it). If the thought of parenting sounds so boring that you just can't keep your boredome to yourself, don't have kids. It's that simple.

Monkey monkeys!

Telus is using the monkey monkeys in its ads again! I love the monkey monkeys!

Advice for parents

Here's something I overheard today. It's remembered and then translated and then paraphrased un peu so as not to be too ponderous in English, but I think the message is a good one:

Every time you feel like taking credit for your child's achievements or virtues, don't. Instead, take it as an opportunity to praise your child for their achievements or virtues.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Open letter to Google

Dear Google:

You should be honoured. Website names rarely get verbed. The only other ones I can think of are EBay, LiveJournal, and YouTube. Your predecessors, Yahoo and Altavista, didn't get to be verbs. Blogger doesn't get to be a verb because blog was already a verb when it was created. Even the venerable Amazon doesn't get to be a verb. Every person who verbs your name is another person who has you linked inextricably with search. It's free marketing, and testament to your permanent impact on society as a whole. Besides, there's no room for language police in the English language.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Things They Should Uninvent: Ad hominem (self-)righteousness

I think the major problem in politics today is people who act as though they're automatically right because of who they are, or who treat other parties as though they're automatically in the right because of who they are. I see this in Canadian politics, US politics, Middle East politics, everywhere. So much policy-making is permeated by a sense of "We're the good guys, therefore our opinions in this matter are automatically correct," or "They're the good guys, therefore their actions are automatically virtuous," or "I define myself to be on your side, therefore anything I think of will automatically be to your benefit."

I think it would be a lot better if all our politicos presented every idea as though they had no particular credibility based on who they are or based on their record. All policies and all ideas must stand up on their own merits, and don't get any bonus points even for being thought of by the smartest, most innovative, most virtuous person in the world.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


They're talking about lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 10 (right now it's 12).

Now, I distinctly remember how my mind worked at age 10, and I'm certain I had the necessary sense of consequences to be held legally responsible for my own actions. In fact, I thought I was legally responsible for my own actions throughout childhood - I didn't learn about the age 12 threshold until I was already 12 - which made me really uncomfortable in situations where my parents wanted to bend the rules a bit. At any rate, my ten year old self could have handled going to court just as well as my adult self could, I think. (I've never actually been to court IRL, although I sometimes translate court proceedings and have seen a few movies and TV shows.)

However, I'm concerned about the utter vitriol that some people who support lowering the age are spewing. Some commentators seem to think that all kids are evil, vicious little brats and are embracing this as a way to give them the punishment they deserve. Like I said before, I distinctly remember being that age so I know with absolute certainty that they aren't sweet innocent angels, but neither does the entire age group deserve to be punished for some inherent evil. The malicious and punitive attitude coming from the people who support lowering the age makes me wonder whether doing so is at all sound from a criminological and child development perspective. We don't want a situation where the punishment for criminal activity just makes kids into more effective delinquents. I sincerely hope any changes are subject to thorough review by criminology and child psychology experts, to make sure the process actually rehabilitates kids instead of just making things worse. I wholeheartedly support everyone being responsible for their own actions, but we don't want the anger and hatred of the loudest commentators to create a punitive system that just produces hardened thugs.

Also, there is the problem that when you're a kid and the adults around you (even if it's just a very loud minority) act like you're an insolent little brat who deserves to be punished even though you haven't done anything wrong (or anything nearly as wrong as they think you have), you come to think that all adults actively want you to be miserable and therefore are out to get you. This leads you to the realization that adults are not to be trusted, and then you don't confide in adults when you have a real problem that requires adult advice or help. When I was a kid, my father kept saying that he should spank us pre-emptively so we wouldn't be bad when we went out. He never actually did that, that I can recall, and in retrospect it may (or may not) have been some weird attempt at humour, but it didn't feel like that at the time. It felt like he actively wanted us to be miserable and humiliated, like it gave him joy to punish us and he was looking for the slightest excuse, and as a result I told my parents very little. I didn't tell them about most of the bullying I suffered for fear I'd get a lecture that I deserved it. I didn't tell them when I was sexually harrassed for fear they'd punish me for somehow inviting it. I didn't tell them that I lost all my friends at the beginning of grade 9 because they chose to take up smoking, for fear that they'd punish me for knowing people who smoked. Luckily I didn't have any serious problems in these "controversial" areas that would have required adult intervention! In retrospect I don't think they would have punished me for these things (although I'm not absolutely certain about that), but that's the mindset created when a kid thinks that grownups enjoy punishing her. I'm worried that if this ugly, punitive attitude permeats the youth justice system and trickles down to kids through the current media coverage, an entire generation will distrust their grownups the way I distrust mine.

I'm all for personal responsibility for one's actions and natural consequences, and I do think a 10-year-old can deal with that, but this must be done carefully, mindfully, calmly, with input from experts and professionals, and without influence by extremists - either those who think 10-year-olds are sweet innocent angels, or those who think 10-year-olds are evil incorrigible little demon spawn.

Further thoughts:

- There needs to be some kind of mechanism to protect children from the legal consequences of actions they do at the behest of their parents. I don't agree with parents being legally responsible for actions that the children take independently, but if the parent instructs the child to do something illegal, the parent should bear the full legal consequences. My parents never asked me to do anything illegal, but they did ask me to do things that I thought were illegal in my youthful overestimation of what the police would arrest you for, (e.g. my mother would ask me to wait in line with the grocery cart while she ran to grab one item she'd forgotten, and I thought the police would come and arrest me if I got to the register before my mother came back, because I didn't have any money on me to pay for the groceries) and I know that it's very hard for a 10-year-old to deal with a divergence between "being good" by obeying one's parents and "being good" by obeying the law.

- It's kind of. . . inconsistent? (not the exact word I'm looking for, but as close as I can come) to lower the age of legal responsibility while raising the age of consent.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Attn: billionaire philantropists, I have a mission for you

The Star mentions in passing that many major drug research companies are kind of quietly hoping someone else discovers an HIV vaccine, because there would be massive pressure to give it away for free.

What would happen if that potential financial disincentive were eliminated? What would happen if an endowment fund were created to throw massive amounts of money at the people who discover an HIV vaccine on the condition that it's distributed for free?

Imagine, for instance, that everyone involved in the team that first discovers a vaccine gets their salary matched for life. Everyone from the CEO to the student lab techs. Every time they earn a dollar, the endowment fund gives them another dollar. Even if they leave their pharmaceutical job. Or if that isn't reasonable, imagine if everyone on the team gets their mortgage paid off (or a home bought for them if they rent) and free university tuition for their entire family. If the economics of the situation also require throwing some money at the company itself, so be it. My general point is to create a situation where discovering a feasible HIV vaccine would lead to significant financial gain for everyone involved, without hindering access to the vaccine.

Mr. Gates? Mr. Buffett? I'm looking at you!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Things They Should Invent: combined dental and manicure services

I went to the dentist today. As I was sitting there getting my mouth poked at, I mentally went through my to-do list for the rest of the day, and remembered that I really should redo my nails today. Then I realized, I'm already sitting still, doing nothing, and being poked at for an hour, so why not have a manicurist poke at me too? It would certainly save me some time! I don't usually get my nails done professionally, but once every six months during time when I'm already doing nothing? I'd splurge for that!

Hezbollah has a lot of rockets

Hezbollah and Israel have been throwing rockets at each other for, what, a couple of weeks now? That's a lot of rockets. It doesn't surprise me that Israel has a lot of rockets because they're a whole country, but how did Hezbollah get all these rockets? Do they have their own arms factories? Do they buy them? If so, how do they get through customs? Or are they all smuggled in? Where do they keep them? What would they do with them if they ever decided to disband? This all never occurred to me before, but after all these days it's obvious that it's not an insignificant number of rockets, and that raises all kinds of questions.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What are your linking etiquette preferences?

I usually use target=_blank in my links, so they'll open in a new window. I do this because it's my personal preference when I'm clicking on a link from a blog. However, I recently read an article saying that's poor etiquette because it takes control away from the user. As a user, I often tend to click blindly without thinking to open the link in a new window before it's too late, but I don't know if that's typical behaviour. So do you prefer your links to open in new windows, or in the same window?

I'm planning a post that will have quite a few links - anywhere between 5 and 20 - and the links will probably be of more interest to most of you than the things I usually link to. It occurs to me that it could be annoying to have 10 different windows open, especially since some of them might be multimedia. But at the same time, it might also be annoying to have to click back to the blog to see the next link (and it's more likely than usual that you will be interested in looking at all the links.) So what which would you prefer: a) target=_blank, which opens every link in its own window; b) target=_new, which opens the links in a separate window from the blog, but all in the same window, so you have to use your browser's back button to page through all the links, or c) no target, so the links open by default in the same window as the blog unless you intervene?

For the purposes of this link-heavy post, which will probably get put together sometime this weekend, I'll go with any votes y'all have left in the comments here by the time I get around to putting the post together. As for my general linking policy, I'm going to mull it over, taking any comments into consideration.

Note: I use IE and am not terribly familiar with the other browsers as it's been a few years since I've had to keep my web design or tech support skills current. If any of these linking practices have different results in whichever browser you're using, feel free to let me know, along with your preferences.

Something I wish I had thought to do earlier

I wish that, when I was a kid and one of my parents was complaining about work or the Damn Goverment or Those People, I wish I had thought to look at them smugly and say "Well, life isn't fair!" with that self-satisfied "Look at me, I'm imparting wisdom, give me a standing ovation!" look that parents get when they're saying something particularly unhelpful to their children.

Unfortunately the idea didn't occur to me until just now.

Stupidest act of falsification ever!

So apparently some pictures of bombed-out Beirut were doctored before they were sent to Reuters.

The Star has before and after pictures.

What's really sad about this is that, to my civilian and unartistic eye at least, it doesn't change the impact of the photo that much.

My first reaction upon seeing the real photo: "OMG, the whole city is up in smoke"
My second reaction upon seeing the real photo: "Oh wait, it's only coming from that one building and kind of drifting around."

My first reaction upon seeing the doctored photo (without comparing it with the real photo): "OMG, the whole city is up in smoke"
My second reaction upon seeing the doctored photo: "Oh wait, it's only coming from that one building and kind of drifting around."
My third reaction upon seeing the doctored photo: "Funny pattern that smoke is travelling in..."

I wouldn't have identified it as a photoshop job myself, I would have just assumed it's some property of bombed-building smoke that I don't know about, but I'm far from an expert. The only people in the world who would be less skilled at identifying a photoshop job than I am would be people who have never used photoshop. (I've only dabbled unsuccessfully, and casually lurked around Fark and Worth1000.)

But the big issue is that the photoshopping doesn't add anything to the picture. It doesn't make it worse, it doesn't change the impact or lack thereof, it's not going to change anyone's opinion or emotional response. It's just more smoke added to a picture that already shows a lot of smoke. So why do it in the first place?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thoughts from Enterprise

1. Vanishing Point resolves by stating that Hoshi has lost her fear of using the transporter, based on the fact that she stepped on the alien transporter platform at the end of her hallucination.

But that doesn't prove anything! From Hoshi's perspective, she has already died and demolecularized, plus now the ship is about to blow up. The transporter cannot possibly make things worse! However, since this didn't really happen and was all a vivid and horrific hallucination, she now has a tangible reason to fear the transporter IRL - she might get stuck in the pattern buffer and in a psychological nightmare again!

2. Whenever they find a promising-looking uninhabited M-class planet, the crew always wants to go have R&R on it. They want to go camping and rafting and climbing and who knows what else. That's really bizarre if you think about it - imagine if the aliens came to earth with the goal of going scuba-diving or something!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Question I am currently pondering

It's 1929. You are 30 years old. At the very nadir of the Great Depression - the very bottom point in that big economic chart I'm sure we've all seen - you invest some money in the stock market. Your stock choices are typical and representative - you have no particular great insight except that you're sure the economy has no where to go but up. You sit on your portfolio for 35 years until you retire at age 65, when your portfolio provides you with enough income to live at an average middle-class standard of living until you die at age 100.

Is this a feasible situation? How much money would you have to have invested initially? How much would that be in today's dollars?


I've been familiar with the word annihilated for years and years, but I only just now associated the pronunciation with the spelling. I always mentally read the I's as short instead of long, and sort of subconsciously imagined them as two separate words.

Attn: Toronto municipal candidates

If you're a candidate in the Toronto municipal election, listen up! Here's how to optimize your chances of getting my vote:

Somewhere on your website, state explicitly and neutrally how exactly your platform differs from that of your opponents, and do this without dissing your opponents.

I'm neither particularly supportive of nor particularly opposed to my current city councillor. I agree with about half of what he does, and disagree with the other half. As a challenger, you could be better or you could be worse. However, both of your platforms sound pretty much the same right now, so that just isn't helpful to me at all. I don't feel that it's imperative to overthrow the incumbent, but none of you have shown me any particular reason why you deserve my vote over and above the other candidates.

Federal and provincial politics are party-based, so I can make my decisions based on the values demonstrated by each party. However, municipal candidates are not associated with any parties. You're just random individuals and, unless you're an incumbent, I have no basis on which to judge you except the information on your website. So tell me why you're different! I don't want to hear you defaming the other candidates, I can do that myself. I just want to know why your platform is better, what you have to offer me that the other guys don't. Then I can decide for myself whether that corresponds with my priorities or not. Don't be vague and indefinite in an attempt to not lose my vote. Be bold, be specific, tell me what you stand for!

Last time around, I was not able to vote for a city councillor because I could find no information on one of the two candidates' platforms. I would very much like to vote for a councillor this time around, but I don't know what I'm going to do if I don't see any difference between the platforms.

Any media people reading this? If so, I'd love to see a comparison of all the candidates' platforms that emphasizes the differences!

New word!

I hereby coin the word Doppelnamer, to mean someone who has the same name as you. (Yes, I have checked, and it doesn't require an umlaut, unless I've forgotten some rule of German.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A note on body language

I can't find a picture of this leg crossing position, so you'll have to act it out yourself (unless you're wearing a short skirt and there's someone else in the room): Put your left foot flat on the floor. Now rest your right ankle on top your left knee. Your right calf should be perpendicular to your left thigh and parallel to the floor.

I just read that crossing your legs in this position means you're feeling competitive and argumentive.

I would like the world to know that, even though I sit like this all the time, it is not a sign of being competitive and argumentive. Rather, it's a sign that I'm knock-kneed and have snapping hip syndrome, and this position is the most comfortable way for me to sit for long periods of time without my joints getting stiff.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Open Letter to the Globe and Mail's David MacFarlane

Dear Mr. MacFarlane:

As, apparently, a member of your target demographic, I feel qualified to respond to your column.

First, I want you to ask yourself a question - seriously reflect on it: What, exactly, do you hope to accomplish by complimenting strangers? Because I can't imagine it achieving anything except making the lady in question uncomfortable. You claim you want to say something nice, but you do seem to be aware that it will likely make the subject of your attentions uncomfortable. So why do you still want to say it? Instead of saying something nice, why not do something nice and not make her uncomfortable? What is it that compels you to completely disregard the fact that you do not think she would appreciate your compliment, and instead barrel away on the cocky presumption that she should appreciate your compliment because...because you think she should? I'm not sure why. Seriously, why, in any social interaction, would you so callously disregard your best guess at how the interlocutor would respond, and why would you persist in labelling a statement that you anticipate would make her uncomfortable as "nice"?

Speaking as a member of your target demographic, when I am beautiful (which I sometimes am and sometimes am not), I know that I'm beautiful. I am perfectly aware of it. And when I am not beautiful, I am also perfectly aware of it. Telling me I'm beautiful will not make me feel any better about myself under any circumstances. If I am beautiful at the time, it will not give me any new information but might make me feel uncomfortable. If I am not beautiful at the time, I will know you're bullshitting me, and I will also feel like strange old men read me as someone so pathetic and desperate that she'd be grateful for any compliment. This, in turn, will make me feel uncomfortable and insecure, and I will raise my shields even higher so as to avoid coming across as an easy target.

Compliments on my appearance are only worth anything to me when they come from people who see me regularly and are familiar with my range of appearance. My base appearance is something over which I have no influence, so compliments on it are meaningless. However, I can influence my appearance with clothing and cosmetic and hairdressing choices, so a compliment from someone who sees me regularly on a specific aspect of my appearance is appreciated, because then I know what I'm doing right. The opinions of strangers who have never seen me before simply do not make me feel good, under any circumstances.

So how can you be "nice" to a strange young woman? The single best thing you can do is respect my reality. You seem to be aware of it, because you are aware that your attempt to compliment could be taken the wrong way, so now respect it. You know that I get unwanted attention, you know that you're most likely not my first choice of person I want attention from, you know that I have the burden of not leading anyone on and there are a significant number of men who are extremely easily led on, so simply respect and understand that that's where I'm coming from. Backing off at the first sign that your attentions are unwanted or that you're making me uncomfortable is an excellent way to show goodwill. If you don't back off, you leave me no choice but to assume your motives are impure. And don't sit there saying "But I'm just trying to be nice!" You are, by your own admission, old enough to be my father, you are a columnist for a major national newspaper, so you are obviously worldly enough to know that a common tactic of cads and predators is to try to make their target feel guilty for not obeying her instincts. As the initiator of an unnecessary and likely unwanted social interaction, the onus is upon you to make it clear to your interlocutor that your intentions are pure, and you don't do that by trying to guilt her into accepting unwanted and uncomfortable attention. Even Miss Manners will attest to the fact that it is rude to try to force anything upon anyone when they have attempted to gracefully opt out.

Let me give you some examples of middle-aged men with whom I came into contact involutariliy, but who I still thought were nice. Perhaps you can see the common thread:

- The guy who came into my apartment to replace my kitchen floor. He moved the stove for me (building management had told me that I was responsible for moving it, but I'm not strong enough) and told me that it was no problem, even though that wasn't part of his job and I'm sure his union would have encouraged him to refuse. Then he went about replacing my floor in a perfectly businesslike manner, allowing me to go about my morning routine without interruption. He put the stove back, made sure the floor was perfectly clean, and left my apartment in a timely manner. He was perfectly polite but never once acted the slightest bit entitled to my attention. He never once gave my body or any part of the apartment except the floor that he was fixing an assessing glance. I felt comfortable enough with him in the apartment that I would have changed clothes behind a closed bedroom door if necessary (albeit standing next to the door so that my body would have prevented it from opening.)

- The backup superintendant, who had to come to my apartment on an urgent basis because of a leaking pipe. Again, he went straight down to business, explained things to me, never once looked at me anywhere but in my eyes or at my apartment anywhere but the toilet (which he was fixing), accepted my inexperience with plumbing as a reasonable basis for my possibly calling him for a non-emergency but didn't use it as a tool to make me feel stupid (in fact, he treated me like my actions were laudable when we found that the leak was in fact something that could have developed into an emergency). I felt comfortable around him that when we needed to move two packages of feminine hygiene products to access the toilet tank, it didn't make me feel awkward or embarrassed at all.

- My supervisor at my previous job. It was clear to me that he was well aware that I was an attractive female university student in an otherwise all-male office and that this made the office's dynamics different than if it had been gender-balanced or all male, but he handled the situation admirably. There were a couple of instances where I had to be treated differently because of my realities (in one case, I didn't want to do a resnet installation in the private residence room of a (male, extremely tall, extremely strong, no sense of personal space) student who creeped me out, and in other cases there was some equipment that I simply could not lift, but all the guys could) but he didn't make a big deal of it, he just assigned me to different work and in no way used it as an excuse to question my overall competence. He was perhaps a touch too chivalrous at times, but he made up for that by recognizing that I had been in the office longer and knew How Things Are Done, and I returned this respect by giving him the information he needed to make decisions, but deferring to him for the actual decisions.

In none of these cases did any of these gentlemen ever comment on my appearance, and there has never been a situation in my life where a strange man has commented on my appearance and it made me think that he's nice.

My morning adventure

I woke up this morning to a bizarro noise. I looked out the window, and saw that there were pigeons on my balcony. This is unusual because I have a bird net, and these guys had somehow gotten BEHIND the bird net and were now trapped on my side. There were two on the balcony, and a third on the outside of the bird net squawking frantically at the other two. They were obviously quite scared, so I figured I had to something about it.

So I grabbed a piece of bread (to distract the pigeons) and a stick (to wave them away if necessary), and went out on the balcony fresh out of bed: ugly sleepwear, greasy hair, bad breath, dirty glasses, maybe a trace of yesterday's mascara around my eyes - the pigeons were terrified! I threw a piece of bread to the far end of the balcony to keep them away from me, but I needn't have - they ignored the bread, huddled closely together, alternating between looking fearfully at me and looking longingly through the small space between the front and side balcony wall. I'm alternating between feeling sorry for them and desperately wanting them not to poo.

So I speak soothingly to them while trying to lift up a section of the bird net. However, I am faced with the conundrum that they don't want to go near me, but the bird net can only be lifted if I'm near it. I briefly consider pushing them through the small space through which they are desperately peering, but I figure that would be dangerous since they can't spread their wings while going through that space. So I take my stick and try to use it to lift up a section of the net that's above the pigeons' heads.

Apparently this was the scariest, most threatening thing I could possibly have done. The pigeons looked at me, briefly conferred among themselves, and then decided that rather than spend any longer in this horrifying situation, they'd take a life-or-death leap through the too-small space where they'd have to jump without being able to spread their wings. They cooed at each other briefly, possibly saying something along the lines of "If we don't make it, please know that I'll always love you," and made the leap. They swooped, spread their wings, soared, and ended up on the roof of a nearby building. I collected my stick and untouched bread, and decided that I'll tied down the bird net better after I've gotten myself less terrifying-looking.

If this happens again, I'm just pushing them off through that little space.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Why do people live in the suburbs?

I was reading a chat on the Globe and Mail site about the suburbs, and was somewhat surprised to see all the focus on making them less car-dependent and giving them more amenities like stores and doctors. Don't get me wrong, I like car-free living and convenient local amenities. That's why I moved to Midtown. But do suburbanites actually value those things?

When I was a kid, I once heard my father said, in response to a proposal to run a bus line near our house, that it was a waste to do so because people who lived in our area obviously aren't going to take the bus - if they had wanted to take the bus, they wouldn't have moved somewhere that required a car. (That's an extremely disheartening thing to hear when you're in your early teens and just starting to like the idea of maybe going places without your parents having to drive you!) This makes me think that the people who choose to move to the suburbs (as opposed to their dependent children and aging parents) might not value other lifestyles.

So let's think: why would you move to the suburbs?

1. Because you like the lifestyle
2. Because it's not your lifestyle of choice, but it's the best you can do with the resources you have

The people who fall under category 1 obviously aren't going to want public transit or the amenities that come with density, or, like my father said, they would have chosen to live elsewhere. As for category 2, there are two possibilities: (a) instead of the suburbs, they value a rural environment, and (b) instead of the suburbs, they value an urban environment.

If they value a rural environment, what would drive them to the suburbs? Not money, but possibly convenience - the commute from the countryside to wherever they have to work (statistically more likely to be in an urban area) is just too far. So would someone in this situation appreciate more amenities and transit? It's likely that they wouldn't, since it would make their environment even less rural. (I know that sounds strange, but it was long a cornerstone of urban planning that housing should be separate from commercial areas, so there must be people out there that value that.)

And if they value an urban environment, what would drive them to the suburbs? Money, pure and simple, as urban property values are especially ridiculous. These people, I can see why they would enjoy more transit and amenities. But I can't really see why people in the other categories would.

So the big question: what percentage of suburbanites would rather be urbanites?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I have a new skill

Take something softish and handfull-sized, like a beanbag or a foam ball or a koosh or a wadded-up facecloth. Toss it gently from hand to hand.

Dead easy.

Now do the same thing with your eyes closed.

Can you do it?

I can!

I have no idea whether this is a normal thing to be able to do or not. From a purely logical perspective, it seems like it shouldn't be humanly possible. Although if I can do it, most people probably can. In general I'm spectacuarly uncoordinated.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Smells like piano lessons

5:25 p.m. on the hottest day of my life so far. I'm sitting in my office finishing up some quality control work when one of the cleaning people comes in. This is normal for this time of day, so I pay little attention, going about my business as she goes about hers, until she walks past my cube and suddenly I smell something I haven't smelled in a good seven years: piano lessons.

The cleaning lady smells like piano lessons.

She must be wearing the same perfume as my piano teacher did.

I took piano lessons for 12 years, and never realized that my piano teacher actually wore perfume. The whole time I thought that was just what her house smelled like. I haven't seen her at all in the 21st century, but I can still instantly identify her perfume.

That makes me want to wear perfume. It would be kind of cool if, years later, random people suddenly caught a whiff of something and thought it smelled like me. Wait, that didn't come out quite right...