Thursday, November 30, 2006

Describing accents

Today, I found myself describing someone's accent as being "like cut glass," because that's the expression that first came to mind when I heard her accent. Then I realized that I don't actually know what the expression means. I've heard it before, as applied to accents, but I couldn't tell you what kind of accent it was being applied to. It occurred to me today when hearing someone speak, but I have no idea whether or not my interpretation of the expression is the same as the common meaning. It's all very intangible. I don't even know what cut glass has to do with the particular accent (like the sound of cutting glass? like the appearance of cut glass? like the sound of cut glass stemware tinkling against each other?), and yet the simile came to mind unbidden. I know what "plummy" means in describing accents, but I have no idea what that actually has to do with plums.

Analogy for monogamy

Imagine you're craving coffee. A new coffee shop just opened up right across the street, so you decide to give it a try. The coffee is exactly what you were craving. It completely meets your needs. You've never had coffee that so perfectly met your coffee needs. It's fresh, it's aromatic, it doesn't have any yucky bitterness to it, it's everything coffee should be and nothing coffee shouldn't be. In fact, you never knew that coffee could be this good. So the next time you're craving coffee, you back to the same coffee shop again. And once again it meets your needs perfectly, so you keep going back again and again.

Now sometimes your tastes vary a bit, but it turns out this coffee can meet your needs even when your tastes vary. When you want something a bit richer, it meets your needs if you add cream instead of milk. If you don't want caffeine, the decaf is perfect. If it's hot out, the iced coffee is exactly what you're craving. Every time you go to the coffee shop to get something you're craving, their products fulfill your craving completely, and you've never found another coffee anywhere that fulfills your cravings nearly as well.

After this goes on for a while, it would simply no longer make sense to try new coffee shops, now would it? You wouldn't feel that it's dull or boring to keep going to the same coffee shop, because their coffee is so unbelievably good compared to any other coffee you've tasted or even smelled. In fact, you'd feel it's a privilege to have such perfect coffee right across the street, and you'd be thankful every day that they're right there.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"A complete list of things I have seen and not seen is available on my blog"

Seen on Yonge St.: two small white puppies, possibly Bichone Frises, possibly Lhasa Apsos, trying to assert dominance over each other.

Seen on the cover of Cosmo: "The Sexiest Things To Do After Sex" Wassa matter? Sex not sexy enough for you?

Seen in line at the store: Teenage boy says "She's hot!" (with as much enthusiasm as one would expect from a teenage boy). His mother says "Yes, she is" (with more enthusiasm than one would expect from a mother). Not seen: who exactly they were talking about.

Seen in the newspaper: an ad for a TV movie called "Candles on Bay Street". The thing is, in Toronto, Bay St. is the financial district. So to me it sounds as odd as "Candles on Wall Street".

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Open Letters

Dear blind gentleman in the Eglinton station tunnels around 3:50 pm:

I apologize for not walking you to the station myself when you asked me directions. I'm afraid I was too worried about how to explain the directions without any pointing, so it didn't occur to me to walk you there myself until I was already down on the platform. I'm really sorry, and I hope you found your way okay.

Dear CNIB:

You know those commercials you have, telling us that many of your clients have some sight? I really wish you'd elaborate. What am I supposed to do with this information? How am I supposed to change my behaviour? What action do you expect on my part?

Dear Biore:

Okay, so you're trying to tell me that your products will give me flawless skin. So why use a black and white picture? Everyone looks flawless in black and white. Show me a colour photo! Yes, I know you still have Photoshop so you can make the non-flawless look flawless even in colour. That's precisely why the black and white makes me suspicious. If a professional model + your product + lighting + makeup + photoshop produce flawless skin in colour, why should I buy your product?

Best dry-cleaner ever!

I highly recommend Vic-Tone Cleaners in North York. They're at 4866 Yonge St., which is a block north of Yonge & Sheppard (southwest corner of Yonge & Elmhurst).

I had a horrible stain on a new blouse. I already tried to get it out at home, and it wouldn't budge - if anything I'd made the problem worse. My research showed this type of stain may well never come out, so I was very upset. I'd only worn the blouse twice, it was a very flattering cut and colour, and the store I'd bought it from didn't have any more in my size. This was very problematic because the stain demoted the blouse from first choice to last-resort-with-a-jacket. So I decided it's time to shell out for a professional job.

So I took it to Vic-Tone on a purely random guess. They looked at the stain and said they weren't sure whether they could get it out, but they'd try and there would be no charge if they didn't succeed! And then they managed to get the stain out!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

High-heeled sensitivity training (for men)

Inspired by the guy in Sheppard station yelling at his female companion for descending the stairs so slowly.

The Physics:

In a high-heeled shoe, the wearer's body weight is shifted forwards. In the vast majority of situations, this isn't a problem, and the wearer can walk normally or with a slightly shortened stride. However, when descending stairs or any sort of slope, the change in balance becomes particularly apparent. Stand on a stair (a low stair! and hold onto the railing!) and lean forwards. See how you're suddenly at greater risk of falling? If someone wearing heels walks down the stairs at a normal pace, she will fall. I know this from first-hand experience.

The Experiment:

Take off your shoes if you're wearing any. First, walk around the room a bit, at your normal walking-down-the-street pace, just to remind yourself of what that pace feels like. Next, stand up on your toes, lifting your heels as far off the ground as possible. Now walk around the room at the same pace. See how your stride is shortened, but you can still maintain a decent pace?

Next, go to the nearest staircase. If you have to wear shoes to do this, make sure you pick a pair with a flexible enough sole to let you stand on your tiptoes. First, walk down a few steps at a normal walking-in-public speed, just to get a sense of what you're working with normally. Then go back to the top of the stairs, and stand on your toes. Make sure you hold the railing! Before you descent on your toes, I want you to put one foot down on the stair below you, with your toes at the very front of the tread (i.e. the horizontal part of the stairs). Why? Because our instincts tell us to put our toes in the centre of the tread when descending stairs standing on our toes, but you can't do this in heels because the heels themselves would be in the way. So put your toe at the very front of the tread, and make sure your heel is lifted in a way that it doesn't touch the riser of the stair above it. Got that foot position down? Then grab the railing and walk down the stairs on your toes, with your feet in that position. Try to go as fast as you can. See how precarious it is?

What you can do to help:

"Okay," you're saying, "now I understand why descending stairs in heels is problematic. So how can I, as the chivalrous gentleman I am, help my lady friend through this ordeal?"

First of all, understand that stairs are slower and don't nag when she slows down. If she falls, that will just slow you both down even more, as well as getting in more people's way. If there is a choice, opt for an escalator or elevator if your lady friend is wearing higher heels than she usually wears.

If you want to be actively chivalrous, you can offer her your arm or you can walk in front of her. Offering your arm is appropriate only in places where you can walk two abreast without getting in anyone's way. It is, by far, the better option if the stairs have no railing for some reason. However, in crowded places where walking two abreast is a problem, the best thing you can do is walk in front of her, so you can catch her, break her fall, or help her if she does fall. Walking in front of her is also particularly helpful in places like subway stations, if you find yourself moving against a large sea of pedestrian traffic. That way, you're making a path for her lady friend, so all she has to worry about is staying on her feet. Do NOT "ladies first" down the stairs if there's a huge wave of people coming up the stairs.


I don't feel educated. By most standards I am, by a few standards I'm not. I've had job interviewers who didn't give me jobs tell me I have a lot of education. (Job interviewers who did give me jobs never commented on it.) But internally? I don't feel anything special. Yes, I've spent most of my life in a classroom, but that would have happened even if I had the minimum education legally permissible. My mental library is what it is.

I don't feel smart either. I've been told I am. (I've also been told I'm not.) The requisite IQ test and years of good grades sit in a dusty old school file somewhere. But I don't feel it. My brain often (but not always) does what I need it to do, but that doesn't feel particularly special or anything - most of what I need my brain to do is fairly mindless.

I wonder if anyone feels educated or smart? I wonder if people who are not educated or smart can feel it? I wonder if the smarter you are, the more your brain does what it needs to do, or if it somehow works differently?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


For me, the slang meaning of the word sick has always been "disgusting".

In current adolescent parlance, the meaning of the word sick is something along the lines of "awesome"

About 80% of the time, this is fine. I'm familiar with the new meaning, even though it isn't part of my active vocabulary, and you can usually tell by context.

The problem is those few times when you can't tell by context. This happens especially often on the internet, particularly when the word is being used by someone a bit younger than me, who would likely have both meanings in their active vocabulary. (I don't know whether or not Kids Today use sick to mean disgusting, but I doubt someone 3-5 years younger than me would be unfamiliar with the that meaning.) If someone says, without elaboration, in response to something like a dirty joke "OMG, that's SICK!" it could really go either way.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Things I wish I could say without sounding all judgeosaurus

The vast majority of human discourse occurred before I got here, so the vast majority of words and expressions have taken on certain connotations beyond their strict denotations, and I wasn't consulted on any of it.

This is a problem, because sometimes I want to say something perfectly harmless and innocuous, for completely benign reasons, but when I put together the simplest, most plain-language combination of words that denotes my intended message, it takes on connotations that I don't mean, because of what people did with the language generations before I came along.

For example:

"That's not funny" Sometimes something just...isn't funny. It simply doesn't have any humour value. Like a Marmaduke cartoon. Sometimes context compels me to say that I don't think something is funny. The problem is when you say "That's not funny," it implies that you were offended, that you think an intended joke crossed the line into cruel or sick or hateful. It's very difficult to simply say that something isn't funny without these further connotations. I encountered this dilemma today, when Scott Adams posted a Dilbert cartoon that he had decided not to run. A lot of the commenters found it funny. I didn't find it funny. But if I posted "That's not funny," people would think I found it offensive. My point wasn't that I found it offensive - I didn't think that far. My point was simply that there's insufficient humour, so it was a good decision to pull the cartoon. But I just can't work out how to say that in a forum full of strangers without implying that I found it offensive. Even if I said "I wasn't offended, but it's just not funny," it would sound like I was offended but I'm just saying I'm not so they don't dismiss my opinion as a prude.

"What was she wearing?" Sometimes, when a crime occurs, I want to know the circumstances. What was the victim wearing? Was it a crowded street or was there no one around? What kind of locks were on the door? I'd like to know these things so I can make better-informed decisions about my own safety. However, long before I entered into discourse, people used comments like this to blame the victim, and now they are inappropriate because the "blame the victim" connotation was too strong. But I don't want to blame the victim, I just want to use the clues available to assess the perp's mentality. For example, the more information I learned about Paul Bernardo, the more I was able to accurately judge that I was in fact at risk. He was specifically after my demographic, so I was able to use that information to be wary of strangers without worrying about being rude. (And, because it was so widely publicized, well-intentioned strangers would probably understand why I was being so standoffish.) Conversely, the more information I learned about the Toronto shootings in the past couple of years, the more certain I became that I'm at low risk of being shot, since I'm not involved in or near gang or drug activity. So if there's, say, a perverted groper man stalking the subway, I'd be interested in knowing what the victims were wearing. Not because I want to blame them, but because I want to make informed decisions about my own wardrobe and behaviour. If perverted groper man is going after women wearing skirts and heels, then I'm okay today. If he's going after women wearing trousers and boots, maybe I'll sit near the guard, or head for the subway at the same time as a more-intimidating co-worker, or ask mi cielito to go a bit out of his way and escort me home instead of saying "I'll be fine." But there's no way to ask for that information without sounding like you're making unpleasant insinuations.

I had a third example, but I can't seem to remember it now. I'll edit later if it comes to me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

How many times do I have to go over this?

Once again, they're talking about reinstating the draft as an anti-war measure, because lawmakers wouldn't want their children to be sent to war.

Okay people, pay close attention this time, because I'm getting tired of going over it again and again:

The problem with this plan is that it completely neglects the fact that the potential draftees are human beings in their own right. They aren't their parents' chattels that you can threaten to damage or destroy to coerce or threaten the parents, they are human beings in their own right, with their own lives to live, and with little or no influence over their parents' politics.

Do people really not understand this? How old do you have to be before you lose the ability to understand that people's kids are separate human beings with their own thoughts and feelings and human rights?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Powerful software

I've become very wary of the adjective "powerful" when used to describe software. It seems the more the word "powerful" is used, the harder a time I have convincing the software to do something simple without extensive RTMFing. I can appreciate that some software is made to do far more complicated things than I'll ever need to do, but can't they make the very simplest functions a wee bit intuitive?

Excuse me, ma'am, but how exactly do you cover your greys?

Since before I even started going grey, I've wanted to somehow colour my grey hairs some random third colour, like bright crayon red, while not affecting the natural colour of the hair that hasn't gone grey yet. Today on the subway I saw a lady who had achieved that very effect. It was a crowded train and I was standing right above her, so I had a chance to inspect the top of her head with impunity. Most of her hair was naturally black and did not appear to have been coloured at all, but about a dozen individual hairs were this beautiful shade of copper. When I visually followed the path of the copper hairs up to the roots, I noticed that they suddenly became silver about half an inch from the scalp. Clearly some kind of artificial colour applied to the grey hairs only - exactly what I've always wanted!

I only wish there was some way to politely ask a stranger on the subway, "Excuse me, ma'am, but how exactly do you cover your greys?"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

How For Better or For Worse could have been much improved

Last spring, For Better or For Worse had Elizabeth suddenly wanting to move back down south. I didn't like this and thought it was out of character. Then she coerced Paul into applying for a transfer south, AFTER he's already applied for a transfer to be near her in Mtigwaki, which really made the her character look flighty and unsympathetic. Then, once she arrived, she moved back in with her parents, which, again, didn't look good on the character.

So now she's been back in 905 for a few months, but things aren't going as planned. Her grandfather has had a stroke, she isn't teaching much because she's been subpoenaed as a witness for Howard's trial, she's living with her parents, and she's missing Paul.

But if the plot required her to be in 905 and/or living with her parents and/or away from Paul, either the subpoena or the stroke could have done that. She could have come for the subpoena and stayed for the stroke, and it wouldn't have reflected poorly on her character at all. She wouldn't have looked flighty and inconsiderate of Paul's feelings because she would have had no choice in responding to the subpoena. It wouldn't have seemed immature and uncharacteristic to have her staying with her parents, because she was south only for an indefinite temporary period of time. If their separation is intended to end her relationship with Paul, this could still have happened if she had come south because of a subpoena rather than because of a sudden whim. If Paul is intended to eventually come south, he could still do that - but of his own accord, not because he was coerced by Flighty!Liz. If Elizabeth is intended to eventually go back up north, she could do that once the trial is over and her grandfather's health is stabilized, instead of appearing flighty.

Just eliminate Elizabeth's sudden desire to move back south, and you could tell the exact same story, but with a more sympathetic character.

Surreal moment of the day

I was sitting in the subway, just behind the front door of the front car, engrossed in my book as usual, when the train stopped in the middle of a tunnel. I fretted about being late for work for a microsecond, but my fascinating book pushed that thought aside. Then I noticed the door next to me was opening. "Oh, are we in a station? I thought we were in a tunnel!" I look up to see we are in a tunnel, and a group of men in hard hats and reflective vests is climbing into the train. One of them closes the doors using some tool, they thank the driver, and off we go.

I've never seen that before!

Income splitting

What surprises me most about income splitting is that it occurs to people in the first place. True, I currently have a one-person household, but I've been thinking in terms of an eventual marriage for almost the entire 21st century, and it never once occurred to me that it's unfair to tax each income the usual way. In fact, if you asked me in a vacuum to name what's unfair in the way couples are taxed as compared with singles, I'd most likely come up with the idea that singles should get a tax break, since they have more living expenses per potential earner!

If I were married and earning enough money to support two people single-handedly, I would feel twice lucky. Just as I do now, I would be rejoicing every day that I have a bit more money than strictly necessary, and I would also be rejoicing every day that I get to be married to mi cielito. It would simply never occur to me to feel cheated or put out or discriminated against. And yet, every long-married couple I know thinks it's an egregious injustice that each earner is taxed at their own marginal tax rate.

I wonder how many years a couple has to be together before they stop rejoicing and start feeling cheated?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To keep in mind when talking about municipal voter turnout

On paper, using the numbers that everyone uses to calculate voter turnout, my own immediate family looks like it has 50% voter turnout. In reality, we have 100% voter turnout. That's because my sister and I have both moved out of our parents' house and now live in other municipalities, but still appear on their voter registration card. We have not yet figured out how to get us off their voter card.

On paper, we look like two responsible parent types, and two Kids Today who are too damn lazy and apathetic to bother to vote. In reality, we are four enfranchised adults who have fulfilled their civic duty after gaining the self-sufficiency to establish their own households.

The numbers don't tell the whole truth.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Accidental by Ali Smith

The basic premise is quite intriguing. A girl shows up in a family's vacation house. Everyone assumes that she's there with another member of the family, so she just kind of hangs around and affects them all. I quite enjoyed that premise, but I didn't find the book itself too compelling. I didn't care that much about the main family, and if, at any point in my reading, you had taken the book away from me and told me that I could never find out what happened next, I wouldn't have cared.

Until like six pages before the very end of this book, I was irritated by two unresolved questions. Then one of them was suddenly and cleverly addressed. It wasn't answered or resolved, but it was addressed and in a way that made me go "Cool!" The other was left unresolved though, which bothered me.

What's interesting about this book is it's set just a couple of years ago - in 2003, I think. There are passing references to current events, which I recognize, but I don't know whether people will recognize them in 10 years. (For example, a description of the Abu Graib photos, mentioned in passing as being on a newspaper page without any explicit identifiers.) I guess it's a risk on the part of the author, but it will be interesting to see whether these things hold up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Election results

The three races that I voted in have been called. The incumbent won for city councillor by a vast, vast margin, which surprises and perplexes me. One thing about the incumbent that always bothered me was his opposition to density and the trappings of density. That position simply doesn't make sense here in this neighbourhood, because it's a very dense neighbourhood - right in the geographical centre of Toronto. And that's why I chose it - because I enjoy the convenience and amenities that can only be the result of density. The high-rises have been here for 30 years, so you'd think that everyone who opposes density would have moved out by now, and all the residents would be, like me, specifically seeking density.

So then this challenger comes up who supports intelligent development and other trappings of density, as well as many other perfectly sensible positions. This is a breath of fresh air to me - I'm certainly not about giving corporations free reign, but if any neighbourhood is prime for further development it's this one. More housing = increased supply = slows down the rise of local housing costs, enabling everyone who lives here to continue living here. More commercial = more amenities for us. I was very glad to have a viable challenger, and was looking forward to a good race.

But the incumbent won by a longshot. Is that because that's the way people around here feel, or is that because the challenger had trouble getting the word out? I'd be very surprised if such a majority of the riding was so strongly opposed to density. As I mentioned above, the density has been here for decades, and we're all benefitting from it. Is this riding really full of assholes who are sitting there enjoying the fruits of density while trying to prevent anyone else from enjoying it? Or is it just that the challenger didn't get the word out? The challenger did have a website (there was another challenger who didn't have a website or answer any media requests, so he doesn't count), but I only got one flyer, and that was from the incumbent. The flyer was a very well-targeted outline of his position on tenant issues (the challenger had nothing about tenant issues on his website), so I could see how that might sway people in this tenant-heavy neighbourhood, but it also seems to me like the very people who would be swayed by that would support density. So maybe people just weren't getting the challenger's message because he didn't manage to actively reach us. I just hope it's because of poor targeting and the fact that many people don't actively seek out their candidates' positions so they take what information arrives on their doorstep. I'd hate to think that those hundreds of people whose apartment windows I can see out of my 14th storey window are sitting there saying "High-density? Nooooo, we don't want that! It would ruin the character of the neighbourhood!"

Aside: Hazel McCallion has been mayor for 28 years, and has just been elected for another 3 or 4 years. Thirty-plus years. That's an entire career. She's has one job for an entire career. I don't think that happenes to anyone anymore. It does make me wonder how in touch with reality she can be. She's held the same elected office for an entire career's-worth of time. How could she possibly identify with someone who has been or lives in fear of being downsized?

Weird Salon letters

1. First, someone wrote to Cary Tennis saying that her friend's boyfriend didn't want her to go on the bus in going-out clothes. What I found weird about the letters is how many people seem to think that buses are So Very Very Dangerous. That's simply not my experience. I mean, I'm not going to count my money or change my shirt on a bus, but I feel quite safe. There are always multiple groups of people around, there's the driver, you're on camera at all times, it's well-lit - it's simply no more of a problem than any other element of public life. The only potential area of concern is waiting for the bus, which I did find sometimes iffy in my pre-Toronto life. But these people are talking about being on a bus, and that's not nearly as much of a problem as the commenters make it out to be.

2. Then there's this guy who wants permission to hit on women who already have boyfriends. What I find odd about the letters is that there are so many more men commenting on what women do/don't want than women commenting on what they'd want in that situation. There were even a couple of men who commented that all women are up for grabs until they're married, despite the fact that I and a couple of other women had previously posted that we specifically do NOT want to be pursued when we're in a relationship. Frankly, I take offence. It's pretty damn cocky for random third-party to presume to overrule my declarative statement about my personal standards! Ladies, if you ever meet one of these guys in real life, please go Lysistrata on his ass!


Well, no TDSB students took me up on my offer, so I voted in accordance with my own judgement. This shouldn't be taken as indicative of the apathy of Kids Today, but rather as indicative of the fact that I'm an unknown blogger with no high school or elementary school students in my readership. Next election, someone should really come up with a way to poll students on their trustee preferences though, just so people can use it to inform their voting if they wish.

But on to the mystery: I wasn't on the voters' list! This is really weird, because I voted in the 2003 Toronto municipal election, and I still live at the same address now! I didn't get one of those "confirm that you're on the voters' list" letters, but I assumed that's because I haven't moved. Then I didn't get a voter registration card, but I figured it got lost or something. I have no idea how I got off the list! Although, now that I think about it, I haven't gotten one of those MPAC forms in quite a long time. And apparently I'm still on the list at my parents' address in my hometown, although I don't think the two are connected. That's very odd though, since I've never voted in a municipal election at my parents' address (I moved away shortly before the first municipal election in which I was eligible to vote).

In any case, it turned out just fine. I filled out a form, showed the nice lady my driver's licence, and was given a ballot. I was a wee bit surprised by the lack of security - I only had to show one form of ID, didn't have to prove my citizenship, and simply verbally told her which school board I support. If I wasn't a citizen, I could have voted anyway. If I had done enough research to do so, I could have sabotaged one of the school boards I don't support. But maybe people are so generally apathetic about municipal politics that no one cares enough to sabotage them? Anyway, I would have been far more pissed if I couldn't have voted than because it was so easy to vote.

ETA: I didn't see any doggies while voting today, which usually portends an unfavourable election. However, I didn't do my good-luck ritual either, so I don't know how that will affect things.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New record?

I think the recruitment video in today's Simpsons wins for the greatest density of pop culture references per minute.

Behind the counter

Today I purchased a behind-the-counter product at a pharmacy. I walked up to the counter, asked for the product, and the pharmacist handed it to me. That's it. Makes me wonder what the point of keeping it behind the counter is. I know it's behind the counter for pharmaceutical reasons, not because it's commonly stolen like razor blades are, but I was not asked any questions or given any advice. (Unless the pharmacist could tell just by looking at me/talking to me/being in my presence that I needed the product in question, which would have been terribly embarrasing.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wherein Dear Ellie misses the obvious answer

In re: the first letter, where the lady's husband insists on switching sides of the bed when his neck hurts:

Why not just switch sides permanently?

I've decided what to do about the petition

I've decided that I'm not going to sign the petition, but I am going to email my MP and the Prime Minister a reworked version of my post below, outlining what I think would and would not be an appropriate use of the state funeral. Signing the petition would have been too supportive - I could have left a small comment, but I don't know if it would be taken into considerations. Not signing wouldn't have been interpreted as either outright opposition, or simply my not having seen the petition (aside: petitions in general should keep a tally of people who had a chance to sign but chose not to do so). An email outside the aegis of the petition seems to be the best way to tell the powers that be about the nuances of my opinion. I would encourage anyone else with a nuanced opinion to do the same thing.

Coming up sometime later this weekend: how to avoid making Remembrance Day into a meaningless cliché. Then on to other topics, I promise.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Petition for a state funeral for the last surviving WWI veteran

From James Bow, I just learned that there's a petition to give a state funeral to the last surviving WWI veteran.

My first thought is that this is a really cool idea. My second thought was that there's a lot of potential to do this poorly. If it is done in a way that makes it not for just this one guy but symbolic of everyone, military and civilian who died in and suffered through WWI, that emphasizes the utter senselessness and tragedy of WWI, and the terrible cost of WWI and all wars in general, I think a state funeral is a brilliant idea. But if it's all empty pomp, mindlessly making the deceased (and perhaps his fellow veterans) out to be heroes, making the military look glamourous and sexy, the sort of thing that could be remixed into a recruiting ad, I don't think that's appropriate.

While the soldier should, of course, be buried with all appropriate dignity, the public's mind also needs to be on trenches full of mud and shit and gangrene and death, rats and roaches and amputated limbs, the foolishness and shortsightedness of nations stuck in the 19th century getting the world into this mess, the foolishness and ignorance of men who are really boys charging off like it's some great adventure, hundreds even thousands of men dying to gain a few metres of ground, all to be fought all over again in a few short decades. This would be an appropriate use for a state funeral.

However, if it's just about clean and pressed uniforms, flags and honour guards, and a sepia photograph of a dashing young man off to be a hero, that's highly inappropriate, and not something I will sign a petition for.

Holocaust memorials can honour the dead appropriately while emphasizing the horror; the survivors leave feeling the dead have been properly honoured, the general public leaves feeling "never again." This is what our war memorials should be doing, this is what our Remembrance Day ceremonies should be doing, and this is what the state funeral for the last veteran should do.

I haven't decided yet whether or not I will sign the petition. I will need to reflect on it some more, and do some research into what a state funeral involves. While I don't begrudge the state funeral in any case - I certainly wouldn't protest if they decided to do it - I'm not yet sure if I'm comfortable actively demanding it. But I think everyone should have a fair chance to sign the petition or not, which is why I'm posting the link here with my thoughts on the matter. Do whatever you think is right.

On being anti-war

On the radio this morning, they were discussing at length a poll on how people feel about Canadian troops being in Afghanistan.

I listened as I bustled about my morning routine and mulled things over, and I kept coming back to one thought:

In general, being anti-war is surprisingly unpopular. I hold a lot of unpopular and/or uncommon opinions, and I think of all the opinions I hold, my pacifism is the one I get the most shit for. It sounds strange, but based on my experiences with these things, if you stick me in a randomly-selected group of people I'm more likely to offend by saying "What if they had a war and nobody came?" than by anything else it might occur to me to say. I've also noticed that whenever someone expresses general or specific anti-war sentiments in public, they seem to qualify them more than with most other statements, like people need more reassurance that this doesn't mean the speaker wants your brother in the military to die or for the world to be dominated by nazis or something. Look at the uproar surrounding white poppies - apparently it's controversial to express pacifist sentiments for Remembrance Day of all things!

So with all this in mind, I keep finding myself wondering how honestly people answered this poll. Maybe they did answer honestly - I'd assume that pollsters aren't in the habit of dissing pollees opinions. Or maybe they answered less anti-war than they feel, out of the habit of toning down their anti-war sentiments. Or maybe they were more anti-war than usual, to compensate for the fact that they usually have to tone things down in public (although I don't know if people would think of this on their feet while answering a poll.)

It doesn't usually occur to me so strongly that a poll may be inaccurate, but in this case it really struck me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Dan Savage's attempt to redefine the word santorum seems to have worked on me. I didn't pay much attention to it the first time around, but just now I had the TV on to US election results while I puttered about doing other things, and whenever the word "Santorum" was uttered I'd sort of do a double take. "WHAT are they talking about????...Oh yeah, it's a person's name."

Weird bumpersticker combination

Seen on a car:

1. a bumpersticker saying "God Bless America
2. a bumpersticker saying "CNN Lies"
3. Ontario plates

Based on that information, I can't tell what they think CNN is lying about.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Missed a spot!

A while back, I started using a Schick Quattro, because I could not longer find blades for my previous razor (Gilette Sensor Excel), probably because I'd been using it for like 10 years.

Ever since I switched to the Quattro, I've been missing spots, and always the same spots. The inside edge of the armpit, the very bottom of my ankle, the bit between the sticky-outy part of the ankle bone and the Achilles tendon - I keep finding these small patches of centimetre-long hair in areas that I thought I was shaving every two days.

A side-by-side comparison shows that the Quattro blade is the same width as the Sensor Excel blade, and the handle is longer so that doesn't explain why I keep missing the bottoms of my ankles. It's like my shaving autopilot needs to be recalibrated for the new razor or something. At any rate, I hope I get it sorted out by summer.

Grey hair science

There was a small knot in a lock of my hair. This lock of hair included a couple of greys, but consisted mostly of dark hair. After I got it untangled, the dark hairs returned to their normal straight condition, but the greys remained strangely bent, as though they had been though a bizarro curling iron.

Maybe this is why white-haired little old ladies always have their hair curled. Maybe grey hairs are far less likely to fall back into their natural shape, so old ladies set their hair so they can control its shape, rather than leaving it to chance and having every hair be a different shape.

If this is the case, when I've gone completely grey, I'm going to put my hair in GIANT curls on top of my head, like Ginger from Gilligan's Island.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Harry's Firebolt

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry's Nimbus is broken by the Whomping Willow, and Sirius replaces it with a Firebolt, which is The Very Best Broom Ever In Existence.

So why does Harry need to have The Very Best Broom Ever In Existence? He's a teenager, and he's been clearly established as an Exceptional Flier. The fact that he's an Exceptional Flier almost negates the need for him to have The Very Best Broom Ever In Existence - he should be able to do just fine on any decent broom.

And what has the Firebolt done for Harry anyway? Getting past the dragon in the Triwizard Tournament, flying from Privet Drive to Grimmauld Place in OOTP, and a bit of Quidditch.

In the dragon scene, the emphasis was very much on Harry's flying skills. It wasn't even mentioned that Harry had The Very Best Broom Ever In Existence - he succeeded because he's an Exceptional Flier. Goblet of Fire seems to be a very random, disjointed book, and I think the reason for this is that it was setting up a number of future plot threads. For example, Harry's training for the maze task is what gave him the expertise to lead the DA, and ultimately to defeat the Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries. The book also introduced Fleur Delacour, who is all teed up to become a character in her own right, and Viktor Krum, whose presence set up all the relationship drama in HBP. So I don't think the dragon was an end in and of itself. I think it was more intended to emphasize the point the Harry is an Exceptional Flier.

The flight to Grimmauld Place is unexceptional. No emphasis is made on how Harry's flying skills or the quality of his broom came in particularly handy. He was competent and able to keep up with the adults, but there was nothing really difficult to it - it was just getting from Point A to Point B. Worst case, it's meaningless. Best case, it's intended to show that Harry can keep up with adults in standard flying for transportation purposes.

Quidditch is the only situation where the fact that Harry has The Very Best Broom Ever In Existence is emphasized, and it is emphasized along with the fact that Harry is an Exceptional Flyer. However, I don't think Quidditch has much significance in the larger plot. I read it as originally intended to increase Harry's sense of belonging in the wizarding world (since he's exceptionally good at Quidditch but not particularly good at anything in the Muggle world), and in later books it was intended to enable various interpersonal relationship plot points. J.K. Rowling has said that she wrote her last Quidditch scene in HBP, so I don't think it has any significance in the overall Harry vs. Voldemort plot, with the possible exception of establishing that Harry is an Exceptional Flier flying The Very Best Broom Ever In Existence.

So far, the Firebolt hasn't proven particularly necessary. With the possible exception of one or two Quidditch victories, a Nimbus would have done just fine. But Harry's Nimbus was gratuitously destroyed and replaced with a Firebolt for no yet-apparent reason. I think some seriously hardcore flying is going to be involved in Harry's defeat of Voldemort.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I hate this

I called the doctor again to nag about the HPV vaccine. The receptionist said I need to call the pharmacy, and wouldn't or couldn't give me any information on whether the doctor could administer it, whether I need a prescription, etc.

But I have talked to a pharmacy. They said I need to talk to my doctor.

I turn 26 in seven weeks, at which point I'm too old for the vaccine.

I'm very anti-litigation, but I think if I ever get HPV or cervical cancer, I'm going to sue someone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Things They Should Invent: translation drinking game

You have to break stride and go back to insert an adjective, take a drink.
Your English sentence is less than 60% the length of the original French, take a drink.
A noun phrase of five or more nouns all piled together without the benefit of prepositions, take a drink.
You find yourself actually using some obscure linguistic factoid that seemed useless in university, take a drink.
You make a typo that results in another perfectly valid word, take a drink. It's a dirty word, take two drinks.
Faulty agreement in the source text makes the meaning unclear, take two drinks.
Your terminology database craps out on you when you're on deadline outside of tech support hours, finish the bottle.

Any translators out there? Add your own!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Things They Should Invent: indicate cellphone battery charge in hours

My cellphone shows how full the battery is with a little picture of a battery containing four or five little bars. I have a pretty good battery - when I'm down to just one bar, it can last a couple of days. But if I have a non-standard day coming up, some situation where it's more important than usual to be able to make and receive cellphone calls, I start feeling tempted to recharge when the phone is down to one bar. This is a problem - my previous phone died because I didn't let it empty all the way before recharging and left it on the charger too long when I did recharge, so I want to be particularly careful not to recharge a non-empty battery unless absolutely necessary.

This is why I want my phone to tell me how much battery time is left. Just make it a function in the menu. Tell me how much "on" time and how much "talk" time is left. Better yet, let me enter a value for "talk" time, and tell me how much "on" time I have in addition to that. That way, if I know that tomorrow I'll need to have the phone on for four straight hours and anticipate making six five-minute calls during that time, I can calculate whether I'll need to recharge the phone tonight or not.

Attention: Toronto District School Board students

I have decided to do it.

I am going to let Toronto District School Board students tell me how to vote for the position of Toronto District School Board trustee. I have one vote for a TDSB trustee in school board Ward 11. The candidates are here, scroll down until you get to Ward 11. If you are a TDSB student under the age of 18, leave a comment containing the name of one of these candidates. You don't have to justify it or convince me, I'm going with a strict majority or plurality. In the event of a tie, I will use my own judgement to break the tie. In the event that no one comments (quite likely, since I do not, to my knowledge, have any TDSB students in my readership), I will vote for a trustee using my own judgement. Any TDSB students, regardless of which ward they live in, are welcome to comment. Why? Because a) I don't know of anyone else who's doing this, and b) I have no way of checking whether or not you're from Ward 11 anyway.

If you have an online presence, I'd appreciate it if you could leave a link to your online presence in your comment, just so I can check that you're actually a TDSB student. (I'd be happy to delete any comments after the election is over, just let me know.) I'd also appreciate it if you could leave some kind of name (by selecting "Other" under "Choose an identity" rather than selecting "Anonymous"), just so I don't have multiple Anonymouses. However, I totally understand if you don't want to leave a link to your online presence on my strange adult's blog.

However, because I am allowing anonymous comments, I need some way to prevent abuse. So I have decided on the following rules:

1. Posts from IP addresses outside the TDSB catchment area will be deleted.
2. Multiple posts from the same IP address supporting the same candidate will be deleted.
3. Posts from the candidates' own IP addresses will be deleted (I will be tracking this by sending the candidates innocuous emails in the guise of an interested voter.)
4. Posts from people who I know for certain are not TDSB students - or who represent themselves online as something other than TDSB students - will be deleted.

If I find myself having to delete a post, I will say what I deleted and why, in the name of transparency.

After doing the best research I can, I have not been able to find anything indicating it's illegal or otherwise improper for me to do this. If it is, in fact, illegal or improper for me to be doing this, please leave me a comment with a link to whatever specific rule I've broken, and I'll call the whole thing off and cast no vote whatsoever for the trustee position.