Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not dead yet

Big things are in motion re: my possible new apartment, so I'm just angsty and antsy and on edge this week and probably am not going to be blogging much (or watching my comments) for the rest of the week, unless I get bored on my work-from-home days. On tap for when the drama settles down: my theories on aliens, my superpowers and lack thereof, the semantics of atheism, and at least one either elated or devastated post about the new apartment.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

East or West?

I might find myself in the position of choosing between two apartments that are identical except that one faces east and the other faces west.

There are two primary factors involved: sun and wind.

East gets more sun in the morning, West gets more sun in the afternoon. East would be better for my cicardian rhythms and marginally better both in winter and summer insofar as sunlight will warm my apartment (in the winter I'd rather have warmth in the morning, and in summer I'd rather have coolness at night). West would allow me to enjoy sun-filled rooms for more hours a day (since if I'm home during the day, I'm likely to be asleep in the morning and awake in the afternoon).

The prevailing winds come from the west, so West gets more wind and East gets wind only rarely. Wind is very very good in the summer (helps cool and freshen the apartment naturally) and marginally bad in the winter (seeps in and makes things colder). Less wind might also mean that my windows don't get as dirty on the outside.

If everything functions optimally - my blinds can keep out the sun, my heating and air conditioning work, the windows are well-sealed - the primary factor will be my circadian rhythms (favouring East), with the fact that I like having wind blow into my windows in good weatther (favouring West) coming in a not-close but not-distant second.

If my air conditioning stops working, wind becomes far more important (favouring West) and sun somewhat more important (favouring East). The air conditioning system is new, which reduces the chance of age-related difficulties but increases the chance of teething troubles.

Other things that can go wrong have a more marginal effect. The biggie is presence or absence of air conditioning. I guess it's also dependent on whether I can turn on my air conditioning at will regardless of the date, or whether the whole building switches twice a year. I don't have this information yet. Being cool in the summer is more important to me than being warm in the winter.

Any thoughts? Would you pick East or West?

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: magnetize all cars

All cars should have the same magnetic polarity. That way they won't be able to crash into each other.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ambassador taxis

The City of Toronto has this Ambassador taxi licence program. I don't know the details, but apparently Ambassador drivers are have more training and are generally more l33t or something.

A newspaper article I was reading reminded me of this, so I found myself wondering how a customer would go about getting an Ambassador taxi. Standard googling couldn't tell me. I know you could flag one down if you see one, but I have no idea if you can call and ask for them, or if they have a special phone number, or what.

What's the point of having a special program if you don't tell the prospective clients how to access it?

Dogs in bars

Washington State is considering changing the law to allow people to bring dogs into bars.

I'm all for more dogs everywhere. However, I'm also sympathetic to people who are afraid of dogs. But what would be interesting about allowing dogs in bars is how it would completely change the dynamic of picking up people in bars. Dogs are a great conversation starter, which is wonderful if you want to meet people, but a problem if you have a dog to walk but don't want to have to chat with anyone (or if you're like me and want to talk to every dog you see, but don't want to lead anyone on.)

The legal details of fake police officers

Assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest are both crimes.
Impersonating a police officer is also a crime.
If someone was impersonating a police officer and tried to arrest someone else, I think that would also be a crime beyond the fact that they're impersonating a police officer.

I wonder which crime receives the greater punishment? I wonder what happens if a real police officer tries to arrest someone, but the person being arrested has reason to believe that it isn't a real police officer and thus tries to escape, I wonder what kind of trouble they'd get in?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Why is real estate considered a good investment?

I always thought that buying your home was considered a good thing because then when you're old it will be paid off, thus reducing your operating expenses in retirement. But reading the letters for this Cary Tennis column, I see that it's considered a good investment as an actual investment - a way to make money.

The more I think about this, the less I see it. Help me out here, tell me what I'm missing.

Let's assume you have a nice paid-off house that you paid off yourself over the years, and then it appreciated as real estate tends to do. So your house is worth more dollars than you paid into it. I understand that much.

But suppose you want to get at some of those dollars? My understanding is that you have two options: borrow against your house, or sell your house.

If you borrow against your house, you have a loan that you have to pay back. You haven't gotten at any new money, you've just borrowed some. This isn't a money-making investment, it's just another loan option that's especially important to pay back lest you lose your house.

If you sell your house, you still have to live somewhere. So you have to either buy or rent somewhere else to live. Your home equity is more dollars than you had before, but this is because real estate appreciates, so housing costs everywhere will have increased comparably. I suppose if you rent after you sell your house, then you can use your house money to pay your rent, but it the money still has to be spent. You have to live somewhere, after all. So you aren't really making money, you're just spending it differently.

I suppose it would work if you expect your housing needs to become smaller in the future. If you buy a big house to raise children in and then downsize after they've launched, you might come out with more money. If you're living somewhere expensive and then move to somewhere cheap, you might come out with more money. If you own property and then move in together with someone else who owns property, then you might come out with more money. But for everyday life where your housing needs remain the same, I don't see how you can actually make money out of it. What am I missing?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I bought new glasses from Lenscrafters.

Product quality: excellent - I don't feel like I've compromised at all.

Customer service: excellent - friendly, honest, didn't pressure me to spend more even though I (inadvertently) gave them a few openings to do so, went a wee bit above and beyond.

Product selection: decent - could always be better because there are way more frames in existence than shelf space, but I found a few suitable frames so I can't complain.

Store layout: suboptimal - I find it very difficult to browse, I have to deliberately force myself to look at each frame, there are frames in these drawer things that appear to be showing you their entire contents but you actually have to pull them out.

Price: either the prices are way too high, or my insurance is way too low. People who don't have the same insurance of me have told me that my insurance is good, but the fact of the matter is it doesn't cover the lenses on my prescription, to say nothing of the frames. This is always a dilemma for me. I feel like I should refuse to spend more than my insurance covers so as to manipulate market forces, but the fact that glasses are something that I must wear at all times on my face in order to see keeps winning out, and I end up spending 2x-3x my insurace amount on optimizing appearance and user experience. And then I feel guilty for manipulating market forces in the wrong direction.

But, on a positive note, I can see!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Know what I hate?

I hate when something comes up in the media and I have something to say that the media isn't mentioning, so I blog about it and write any appropriate letters, and then a few months later it comes up in the media again, still without my point included.

Realistically I know my blog has small readership, and realistically I know that my elected representatives and any relevant corporations and newspapers' letters to the editor columns get a lot of letters and they can't change their actions in response to every one.

But it's still very frustrating because whenever an issue resurfaces, I feel like I'm negligent if I don't address it, and I really don't have anything new to say. My blog is repetitive enough without my making a point to harp on every single issue that resurfaces. But my silence might also be misconstrued as apathy, which it isn't.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sally Hansen Miracle Cure

Of all the many nail strengthening products I've tried in my life, this one works best, no question! I used to have 10 nails of various lengths, all with peels. By trimming off the peeled sections as they grew, I managed 10 short nails, all with peels. By using Sally Hansen No More Peeling and trimming off the peels whenever possible, the best I could manage was 10 short nails, four of which had peels. After using Miracle Cure for about two weeks and trimming off the peels as they grow out, I now have 7 long nails (i.e. past my finger tips) without peels, 1 short nail without peels, and 2 short nails with peels. This is the best my nails have ever been in my life, including the period when I ate meat.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Comparing Ashley with Rebecca Beayni

Helen Henderson's column in today's Toronto Star compares Ashley (the severely disabled girl whose parents are giving her medical treatments to make her small and infertile) with one Rebecca Beayni, who, as a child, had the same diagnosis as Ashley, but is now involved in the community and has a supportive social circle. Without saying so explicity, the article rather implies that "the Ashley treatment" is ill-advised, because if her parents would only do something different, Ashley could end up like Rebecca.

With respect for Ms. Henderson's consistently excellent work, I think this comparison is something of a red herring.. What we know about Ashley has to do entirely with the physical aspects of her treatment. What Ms. Henderson writes about Rebecca has to do entirely with her intellectual, social, and professional life. The two are not incompatible. If Ashley does end up being capable of making the same progress that Rebecca has, "the Ashley treatment" will not hinder her. She will be smaller and infertile, yes, but this does not affect her mental or social capacities. If she ever becomes capable of maintaining a social circle and being involved in the community like Rebecca is, this will not be affected by the presence or absence of her ovaries or by her physical size.

Although it would be interesting to learn what Rebecca thinks of Ashley's treatment...


The cool thing about being 26 is that 13 was half a lifetime ago.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Maybe sleeping next to the elephant is impairing our judgement?

The other day, I heard an interview on The Current with a British doctor who's working on developing cheap knock-offs of drugs for developing countries. (It's under Ethical Pharmaceuticals if you want to listen.) What really struck me was how this doctor seemed convinced that drug costs are simply not an issue for patients in developed countries. He thought of it more as something that a hospital administrator would have to worry about. The interviewer noticed this too, and asked him about it. He didn't seem to understand what she meant, so she gave the example of the United States. The doctor said he didn't know much about the United States, but he considered the situation there as a one-off, and clearly thought that drug costs weren't a patient issue in the rest of the developed world. You have your indoor plumbing, you have your electricity, you have your drug coverage.

This makes me wonder if our medical coverage in Canada is really as good as we think it is. In my world, everyone knows how much their drugs cost, even those of us with insurance. Drug costs are most definitely the patient's issue here. This makes me think that maybe our medical coverage isn't actually good at all compared with Europe. Maybe we just think our medical coverage is good because we hear about things like this, and we're glad our is good in comparison. Ultimately though, I don't think that's a fruitful attitude. I think if our health coverage doesn't meet our needs, we should openly feel that it's insufficient and lobby for it to be improved, thus raising the bar for everyone. I also think we should be able to readily compare our health care with the rest of the world, not just the US (and the media should help us get to the point where we can do this.) Just because we're not the worst doesn't mean we're good enough.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Things They Should Research: plastic bags' route to the landfill

With all this talk of banning plastic grocery bags, I'd really like to see a user-centric study of how they end up in the landfill. A lot of the suggestions I've seen for grocery stores' alternatives to plastic bags seems to be based on the assumption that people bring their groceries home, unpack them, and then throw the plastic bags straight into the garbage. However, 100% of the anecdotal evidence I've collected (by asking everyone I've been talking to the last couple of days) indicates that people save their grocery bags and then use them to wrap their garbage or clean up after their pets. The bags do end up in the landfill, but as garbage bags, not as garbage. If we didn't have the plastic bags, we'd still need some kind of plastic bag to wrap our garbage and clean up our pet's waste, and that plastic bag would still need to go into the landfill. I'd really like to see some research or stats on user behaviour to see if these anti-plastic-bag people are way off, or if there's actually a "throw out the plastic bag" contingent out there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Little Mosque Part Deux

The second episode of Little Mosque just didn't do anything for me. It didn't entertain me, I didn't laugh, I found it formulaic, and a few times I even muted the TV because the characters were making such fools of themselves. If I had found this show while flipping channels, I would have kept going.

They will get my attention for one more episode because I like what they're trying to do, and I want to give them a chance to do it well. This isn't an ultimatum or anything, I still might look at it, but I don't plan on making a point of watching it if the quality doesn't improve. A Simpsons rerun is more appealing.

Actually, come to think of it, that's why I watched Enterprise too. The Star Trek prequel concept was interesting, and I watched to see how it would be carried out. It was okay - I did make a point of catching up with every episode in reruns - but most episodes I wouldn't watch twice unless I was bored. In comparison, major sitcoms like Seinfeld or MASH I can watch in reruns 5-10 times before I get bored of them.

Things I don't understand

Residents of the Beach(es) were opposed to having an Out of the Cold program in their neighbourhood. They quoted one of their major concerns as "safety."

I really cannot understand that. I simply cannot put myself in that headspace. I mean, I can see how you might feel less safe with homeless people around. I'm sure it makes me sound posh and over-privileged to say so, but I do grok the fact that walking down a street with zero homeless people feels safer than walking down a street with one homeless person, whether or not that feeling is justified.

But the thing is, for the homeless people this is a matter of survival. They are giving them shelter from the cold, in the winter, which has become an actual Canadian winter this week. They are letting them sleep in a building with walls and a roof and heat instead of sleeping on the street in -10 with a windchill of -20.

They aren't putting them in residents' homes or anything, they're putting them in a church that isn't otherwise occupied at that time. Residents can still go home and lock the doors. The only difference is that 12 homeless people will definitely be in their neighbourhood that night, which I'm assuming doesn't usually have a lot of visible homeless people or they wouldn't be complaining.

The Out of the Cold program rescues homeless people from a definite threat to their survival. The worst it presents to the residents is a small potential threat to their safety. Survival is below safety on Maslow's pyramid, and normally that includes in our dealings with others. It's like how you wouldn't talk to a strange man walking down the street, but you would give him the Heimlich manoeuvre or CPR if he needed it.

I can get not being 100% thrilled with this program in your neighbourhood (although there is one in my neighbourhood and it's no problem whatsoever). I can get sort of quietly deciding to yourself to avoid the church on those nights. I can even get quietly grumbling about it to your spouse if you feel the need. What I don't get is going out and complaining about it to the church and the organizers. Even if you don't like it, it's the sort of thing that you just suck it up and recognize that it's for the greater good, no? They're not in your home, they're just in your neighbourhood. Even if you do think homeless people are a threat to your property values, and you do think your property values are more important than not freezing to death, why would you want to announce this to the world?

Things Blogger Should Invent: first-time only word verification

Blogger should have an option where users with blogger accounts are asked for word verification only the first time they post a comment on any given blog. Then Blogger takes that word verification to mean "Yes, this is a real person," and that user doesn't have to verify any more. That would still deter the spammers, because I doubt they want to go through in person and verify at each blog, but it would make things easier for regular commenters.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rimmel is better than Maybelline, pass it on

I've been using Rimmel mascara for years, ever since my mother read somewhere that it's on par with department store brands. However, this time around, I couldn't find the kind of Rimmel I wanted in waterproof. Then, last weekend, I saw an article in the Globe and Mail about the best cheap beauty products, and they picked Maybelline Great Lash mascara, mentioning in passing that many professional makeup artists use it. I remembered reading that factoid about professional makeup artists somewhere else before, so I decided to give Maybelline a try.

It's not that great. I mean, it's perfectly effective, it coats my lashes in black and makes them look somewhat longer and thicker, and the waterproof version doesn't run during the course of a normal day, but Rimmel does all that better, and for only a couple of dollars more.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Parents Today!

A letter in today's Globe and Mail in response to Saturday's Kids Today article. I can't seem to find it online, so I'm going to type it out here. Any typoes are my own. The original can be found on page A16 of the Jan. 15, 2007 Globe and Mail under the headline "Licence to plead"

Re Flirting With Disaster (Jan 13): Are parents of adult off-spring not exacerbating their own problems by allowing the kids to move home (or never move out) in the first place?
How does a "child" live at home if the parents don't want him to be ther? And then have the nerve to complain about it?
I have adult children who suffer from some of the attitudes written about in Alexandra Shim's Article. Their apartments look like dorm rooms and they have no interest in finding a "real" job, despite having university degrees. They still dress like skateboarders, party like co-eds, and shake their heads in disbelief when a friend gets married or buys a house or condo. But they pay their own rent and buy their own food. They know that the only way they can live at home, rent free, is if they are in school. And that offer only stands until age 30.
Parents: Just say no! Decide what is best for you and your family and stick with it.
COLLEEN COOKE, Brockville, Ont.

I could deconstruct this, but I'd just be repeating stuff I've said before. Instead, I'd just like to draw attention to the sections I've bolded. We're working in reverse order because it flows more smoothly that way.

1. "They're paying their own rent and food", but "they have no interest in finding a 'real' job". If their job allows them to pay their own rent and food, it sounds "real" enough to me!

2. "Their apartments look like dorm rooms" is presented as an "attitude" from which they "suffer". This is a problem why? "Dorm room" is a bit subjective, but I'm taking it to mean a cheaply-furnished space that looks like it's inhabited by a young adult. What would you have their apartments look like instead? Given that you feel the need to explicitly state that they pay for their own rent and food, I'm inferring that they're not rolling in money. So isn't using cheap furniture the responsible thing to do when you have no money?

/me puts on Crotchety Gramma Hat

Parents Today! When will they learn to stop being so damn unappreciative? Why, in my day, parents were happy that their kids had a job, any job that could support them, without fussing about whether it's a "real" job that they can show off to all their little parent friends! In my day, if parents weren't happy with the furniture their kids could afford with their hard-earned paycheques, they either showed some initiative and bought them some better furniture as a gift, or they kept their damn mouths shut!

/me takes off Cortchety Gramma Hat

Seriously though, one thing I find really disturbing about all this is all these parents who aren't giving their kids any credit for their own life decisions. This lady is taking all the credit for the elements of her kids' lives that she approves of, and getting all judgeosaurus on their asses for the elements she thinks are suboptimal. This makes me wonder if, somewhere out there, my parents are taking all the credit for my life, when in reality everything good I achieved by going against their wishes (studying translation) or behind their back (mi cielito).

Things that make a snowy day easier

First major snow of the winter, mixed in with some freezing rain. (Yes, in mid-January. It's been a mild winter).

However, thanks to the nice grippy soles put on my boots by Centre Shoe Clinic at Yonge-Eg Centre, I was able to walk around in 2.75-inch heels with no difficulty whatsoever. Elly Patterson, take note.

Last month, I bought a cashmere sweater on sale at Fairweather. Why cashmere? Because I was in the market for a black sweater, and the best one readily available happened to be cashmere at a very good price. My mother told me cashmere is especially warm, but I didn't believe her until today. I was wearing just a simple blouse and this thin sweater under my usual winter coat and scarf, and I was perfectly comfortable. Usually when the windchill drops below -10, I add a hat and tall boots, but today I was hatless with short boots, and perfectly fine. The only difference is that my sweater was cashmere instead of my usual proletarian poly-cotton blend.

The TTC is a mixed blessing. Of course, it lets me have my nice underground commute, making a snowy day no more difficult than a sunny spring day. However, because the TTC is so on top of things, snow days are very rare in Toronto. Growing up in a part of the province that enjoys lake-effect snow, we usually had about three snow days a year when I was a kid. That's one of the few aspects of childhood I'm nostalgic about - waking up in the morning to the radio telling me that I don't have to go to school today, rolling over and going back to sleep, then waking up again when I'm done, watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and Price is Right (even well into adolescence), drinking hot chocolate, usually there'd be some failed attempt to make a snowman in there and our nice snowy lawn would end up looking all ugly afterwards. We had all these rules and rituals: you had to finish your homework and chores the night before or the snow day wouldn't come, you had to get to bed on time, no looking out the window to check on the snow after dark, you have to set your alarm for the usual time - we'd do our little voodoo and hope for the best, and a few times a year it would work. I did my voodoo last night, went through all the usual rituals, followed all the usual rules, but there was no snow day. The standards are much higher when your commute is a one-block walk outside followed by an underground section that isn't affected by snow at all.

Thoughts from the first 3 seconds of Little Mosque on the Prairie

That's an awful lot of trees for a prairie.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

This book didn't do it for me. The concept was good - the beautiful people decades later when they're old and haggard and wasted with STDs - but it lost my sympathy early on. The first part of the book deals with the protagonist's life as a young model, and it completely lost my sympathy because every decision she made was presented as something that happened to her, rather than an actual decision. That's a pet peeve of mine, both in fiction and in life, so it caused me to lose all sympathy for the book and finish reading it just for the purpose of getting to the end.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Things the Globe and Mail missed

I finally finished reading the Globe and Mail's Kids Today article (Don't know how long until it is put behind the firewall), and I noticed there are quite a few salient points they didn't mention at all.

- They present adult children living with their parents as pure laziness on the part of the kids. They never mentioned that sometimes parents want their kids to live at home. When I was starting university (at 18), my family considered it irresponsible for me to move out and live in res instead of continuing to live at home to save money). Some of my peers have families that consider it irresponsible to move out and rent rather than living at home until they save up a downpayment. (I was once in a training with some people from another department, and some older ladies I'd just met were lecturing me for throwing money away by living on my own.) I know other families that expect their kids to live with their parents until marriage, and still other families where all parties simply prefer living together because they don't like living alone.

- They don't even mention the role of employment insecurity in all this. The article seems to assume that because the economy is good on paper, anyone can just go out and get a nice secure full-time job whenever the hell they want, and not doing so is due entirely to laziness. They completely ignore the fact that even if economic indicators are good, more and more jobs today are insecure, term or contract positions, increasingly low-paid and without pension or benefits. Jobs for life stopped existing in the 90s. This has the dual effect of a) making it riskier for people to move out of their parents' (would you move out and sign a one-year lease if your job was just a three-month contract?) and b) giving people fewer reasons to stay in whatever job they have (imagine, in the first person, the difference between quitting a job with benefits, disability, and a pension because it sucks, and quitting a job with no benefits whatsoever because it sucks).

- The article briefly mentions that even in adolescence, Kids Today are generally more dependent on their parents, but it fails to mention the role of suburban sprawl in this. With suburban sprawl, kids have to be driven everywhere. There's no choice, because there's insufficient public transit and walking is too far and not really safe. In the 1990s, with the introduction of graduated licencing, the minimum age at which one could drive alone was raised to 16 years and 8 months with driver's ed or 17 years without, and a few years ago Grade 13/OAC was eliminated, so kids now spend only four years in high school. The result of these two changes is that, compared with previous generations, suburban kids necessarily spend the majority of their high-school years dependent on their parents to drive them around, which changes the whole dynamic of high school compared with when OAC was still around, when the majority of high school kids were old enough to drive alone, and before graduated licencing, where even the oldest Grade 10 students could drive alone. Understand, however, that even though kids are old enough to drive alone, that doesn't mean they can. The family might not have enough cars for the kid to drive to school or work or a friend's house, so a parent might have to drop them off and bring the car back home for someone else to use. Or the parents may not approve of the kid having their own car and thus forbid the kid to even buy a car with their own money. (I've even heard of some parents who deliberately prevent their kids from having a car - or even for learning to drive - so they can better monitor their comings and goings.) Also, the shorter driving-in-high-school time makes it less cost-effective to buy a car for the kid's use in high school, (whether the kid buys it themselves or the parents buy it), because most people don't take their cars to university with them. Before graduated licencing and before OAC was removed, the oldest kids in the year could start driving halfway through grade 10, and drive until the end of the summer after Grade 13, when they'd go away to school. Now, the oldest kids can start driving alone at the beginning of Grade 11 if they've done driver's ed, and can use that car until the end of the summer after Grade 12, when they go away to school. Every time that an adolescent has to ask their parents for a ride because there's no way for them to get from Point A to Point B independently is one missed opportunity for increasing their independence. This influences every single person who grows up in suburban and rural areas, but the article doesn't mention it at all.

- In the print edition, there's a blurb saying "Do you know of any young people who aren't making what they could of their lives? Please share your stories at globeandmail.com." That's a very strange thing to say. "Not making what they could of their lives." Guess what? You're not making what you could of your life! You could be a lumberjack! (If you are a lumberjack, you could be a barber! (If you are both a barber and a lumberjack, please post in the comments - I want to meet you!)) Me, I could be a nun or a lawyer or a trophy wife. But instead I'm a translator, to which I'm much better suited. However, I'm sure that there is someone out there somewhere who thinks I would be better off as a nun, and someone else who thinks I would be better off as a lawyer, and another someone else who thinks I would be better off as a trophy wife. But that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with how I'm living my life now.

When people go to prison

I wonder if, when people go to prison, there's some mechanism for taking care of their personal affairs. I know that if you are going away for several months or years, you have to arrange for your bills to continue to be paid, you have to stop your newspapers, you have to get someone to water your plants and take care of your pets and children etc. etc. But when you go to prison, they just come in and arrest you - there's no time to take care of any of these things. For example, if the police came and arrested me right this minute and I was put in prison for several years, my landlord would notice that I'm not paying rent and evict me. But they couldn't find me, so they'd probably sell or auction or keep all my personal possessions. Bell would still bill me for phone and internet every month, and Look would still bill me for TV. The Star and the Globe would still each deliver a newspaper to my door every day (and bill my credit card for it), and the TTC would still send me a Metropass each month (and debit my bank account for it). So unless there's some way to stop all these things from happening, I'd come out of prison homeless, possessionless, and in heavy debt with my credit rating destroyed.

Now I know prisoners are allowed to write letters, so maybe it would be possible to fix some of these things by mail. But the thing is, I have no idea where to write. I manage my personal affairs online, and have no idea of the mailing addresses of any of the companies I deal with, or if they're even prepared to handle customers by mail. I wonder if in prison they help prisoners work this stuff out, or if they just leave them to their own devices?

Open letter to media outlets everywhere

Every so often, some media outlet or another does an article on "failure to launch" among Kids Today. Media people, whenever you feel the need to do one of these articles, please think critically about the indicators of adult independence you cite, and ask yourself if they really are necessary to adult independence, or if they're just things that grownups tend to do.

The lastest offender is the Globe and Mail. Just looking at the blurbs, they mention living with one's parents (which I agree is generally a sign of failure to launch, although there may be extenuating circumstances such as if the parents are ill or can't support themselves without the kid's income) or "delaying [one's] career" (for which I agree with the point they're trying to make, but it's worded a bit vaguely - some people can still support themselves with a big capital-c Career).

However, they also include not buying a house and not getting married. Buying a house is so optional! You can also buy a condo or rent a house or rent an apartment, and in all these cases you're living independently. Some people prefer to live in a high-density urban area, or don't want the extra work of a house, or want to rent so they aren't responsible for repairs, but they're still grownups! Think about the characters on Seinfeld - they might be immature at times, true, but they have definitely launched. Except for the period when George lived with his parents, they are all independent, self-sufficient adults. Similarly, getting married is not only highly optional, but also beyond one's full control as an individual. Someone can live their entire life in a way that is by all standards exemplary and beyond reproach, and simply happen to never meet someone who would make a suitable marriage partner. Or they could find a suitable marriage partner, but marriage is unfeasible for one of any number of reasons, and they prefer to continue loving their soulmate rather than ditching their soulmate and taking up a marriage of convenience with someone they don't love. Or they could have found their soulmate and be enjoying conjugal bliss, but not be allowed to marry because they happen to be of the same sex and live somewhere that's stuck in the dark ages. Choosing to marry only when it's the right thing to do rather than marrying someone, anyone, just for the sake of getting married, is a mature, adult way to carry out your life. Making getting married your primary goal and focusing everything on finding someone, anyone, to marry so that you can Be Married simply doesn't belong in the 21st century. Therefore, you cannot judge people as immature or unadult for not being married. Certainly no one would think that, say, Condoleeza Rice has failed to launch!

If you use examples like this, things that aren't actually problems but you're presenting them as problems, it ruins the credibility of your entire article. Use indicators of adult independence that actually indicate adult independence, rather than arbitrary factors. If you can't find enough concrete examples using only appropriate indicators, then maybe that means the "problem" isn't big enough to be writing an article about it.

Friday, January 12, 2007


A blurb on the Globe and Mail's Facts and Arguments page advises avoiding using "um" or "like" "during job interviews or when asking for dates or raises".

Job interviews, I can see avoiding like. Some people are very anti-like. But would they even notice the um? Um seems kind of unmarked to me. I've never had a job where asking for a raise is an option, but I'd imagine that if you've been there long enough to ask for a raise, your boss would be used to your normal speech patterns. If you used your usual um and like, your boss would probably cognate it as your normal speech pattern, and if you used them more than usual because you're nervous, she'd probably just cognate it as you being nervous. If she's a decent boss, she'd judge you on your general performance, not your nervousness when asking for a raise. If she's a judgeosaurus vulture waiting to pounce (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) the instant you show a bit of nervousness, the problem is really your boss, not your ums.

But asking for a date? Since when is a bit of nervousness or uncertainty a problem when asking for a date? Are there really people who would turn down a date because of a few ums or likes, but would accept if the invitation is umless? I think if someone rejects your date invitation because you're nervous, they're not worth dating anyway. What's the point of a boyfriend/girlfriend you can't be dorky around?

Remember when they said that everything would change?

I'm watching the South Park movie, which was made in 1999. At one point, some guy falls off a tall New York skyscraper. That now seems way in poor taste. (Yes, I know the whole movie is in poor taste, but that one scene seems in way worse taste than it was originally intended to be.)

Things Salon should invent: searchable letters

Often I read an article in Salon and I think of something fruitful to say in reply. Salon has a letters page for each article that allows you to do just that. However, sometimes by the time I get there there's already a metric shitload of letters on the letters page, and it would take forever to read them. I know there's no point in posting my letter if someone else has already brought up the point I want to make, but sometimes I just don't have time to read through dozens of other people's letters to check whether my point has been made. However, in my experience, any point that I think of will not be addressed by anyone else about 50% of the time, so it might be worth posting anyway. On the other hand, as a reader, I hate it when people post who clearly aven't read the other letters.

Salon could easily fix this problem by including a search engine for each article's letters page. If this isn't feasible, they could also give us the option of seeing all letters on one page, and letting us use our browser's serach function to find whatever we need to find.

Comment experiment

Because word verification has been being a real bitch in some other blogs I read, I've turned it off for the time being. If I start accumulating spam, I'll turn it back on.

My questions for you, the person who's reading this: has word verification ever refused to verify you in my blog? Has the need to do word verification ever stopped you from commenting because it's too much trouble?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wherein my inner 12-year-old expounds on the subject of dog breeding

Today in the pet store I saw a puppy called a Cockapoo, which is a cocker spaniel/poodle cross, and a puppy called a Shih-Tees, which is a Shih Tzu crossed with something else, I can't figure out what.

I think they should crossbreed them the other way, so you have a Shihtz-Poo and a Cock-Tees.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What about evacuation?

1.25 years ago, a bunch of people were trapped in New Orleans because there was no contingency for evacuating people who don't have cars. At the time, I thought "Well, at least this means that in the future they'll come up with evacuation plans that take into account the people who don't have cars."

Have they done that yet? I haven't heard anything.

The fluffy parts of the newspaper are particularly stupid today

Jump Start: This doesn't make sense. Dot has always been presented as smart. Why on earth wouldn't she know that you can't bring liquids and gels on the plane? It's common knowledge! And she's always been presented as an English-major type, so she must read the paper! I hate it when comic strips break character for the sake of a gag.

FBORFW: Oy, where to begin? Nothing about what they're trying to set up today makes sense! First of all, why wouldn't Liz call ahead? She's staying with Gary and Viv house, so they would need to know that she's arriving a day early! Yes, they are ready for her already, but she has no way of knowing that they would be. They could have gone into town to get groceries or something and there'd be no one to let her in when she got there! Secondly, why would she so quickly draw the conclusion that Paul is cheating from the conversation at hand? She loves him and has had no reason whatsoever to suspect him previously - surely she'd read it has he's just visiting Susan, since she's an old friend. Thirdly, why would Paul invite her up to Mtigwaki if he's cheating on her? Fourthly, why would Paul transfer south if he's so not-in-love with Liz that he's cheating on her! Or, if he lied about the transfer, why would he do that? Why not just tell her it didn't go through? After all, this is his second transfer in a year, it's perfectly plausible that it wouldn't go through.

Dear Dear Abby: Before you give anyone any more advice, please read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney

Dear Clara in Chicago: Your boyfriend is clearly an introvert. This means that he finds spending time with people draining, and being alone energizing. I know, this sounds bass-ackwards about you, but I've explained it in greater depth here. Introverts are very choosy about their friends, so the fact that he has chosen a romantic relationship with you is a very high compliment indeed! I'm sure he loves spending time with you, it's just that sharing you with all those other people is draining to him. And surely you chose him as a boyfriend because he has some excellent qualities beyond being another person to flutter around your circle! So the solution to your problem is simple: you go out with your circle of friends around you, thus recharging your extrovert brain, and let him stay home if he wants, thus recharging his introvert brain. I know this sounds mean to you, but he won't mind, honest! Then when you come home, you will both be recharged and re-energized, and can each share your best selves with each other.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Things They Should Invent: walking directions for Google Maps

I was trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B on Google Maps. It gave me a direction, a distance, and a driving time, but it wasn't clear to me how walkable this trip was. I'm not very good at converting km into walking time. So I decided to compare the distance that of a walking route I knew well - the route I walked to school when I was a kid. Unfortunately, my walking-to-school route was much shorter that the driving directions Google gave me from my parents' house to my old school, because my walking route included shortcuts through parks and through those little paths they put between the ends of cul-de-sacs (culs-de-sac?), so Google couldn't tell me how long my walk to school either.

What I want is to enter Point A and Point B, and click on "Walking Directions". Then Google will show me a route that takes into account shortcuts that pedestrians can take but cars can't, and provides an estimated travel time for walking.

The problem with PDFs on the TTC website

As everyone who cares knows by now, there's discussion in the big Toronto blogs about how to redesign the TTC website. All of these discussions seem to have fallen into pro-PDF and anti-PDF factions.

I fall into the anti-PDF faction, and I've come up with a demonstration to show why:

Here's the TTC system map in PDF form. This is the only electronic format in which the full system map is available, and the full system map is the only way to find out which routes you need to take.

Find someone who doesn't live in Toronto and is not familiar with the city. They can be as tech-savvy as you want. Give them two points in Toronto, and have them figure out what subway stations and bus routes they need to get from point A to point B. Pick two points that require at least one transfer. See how quickly they get pissed off figuring this out with the PDF map, especially if their computer isn't brand new or doesn't have gamer-calibre RAM.

If you're a non-Torontonian and you want to take up this challenge, here are two sample routes for you to try to figure out:

1. How do you get from Union Station to Bayview & Lawrence?
2. How do you get from Yonge & Eglinton to Roncesvalles Ave?

Torontonians will know that these are simple trips, but are they so simple to figure out with the PDF map if you don't already know where you're going?

Sunday, January 07, 2007


The parents of a severely disabled girl are having her sex organs removed and giving her hormonal treatments to stunt her growth. Understandably, there has been outrage, but I don't think what they're doing is bad.

Some, if not most, of you will disagree with me - and that's fine, I can totally see the other side too - but I think the parents did the right thing here in removing her sex organs, and I don't think stunting her growth is actively wrong. I'm thinking my way through this by putting myself in the little girl's shoes, and the more I think about it, the more I think the parents were not wrong.

How would I feel if my sex organs were removed? Well, in early adolescence, I wouldn't miss them and might even be glad that I didn't have them. (IRL, I felt the trappings of fertility were a burden for several years, and thereafter felt they were a tolerable nuisance.) In later adolescence, I would either have come to terms with the absence of sex organs, or I would resent their absence because it prevents me from having a sex life. But that's the benefit I get from sex organs - they make me more physically attractive, thus increasing my likelihood of finding someone to have sex with me, or they make sex physically possible. Other people also enjoy sex organs because they enable them to reproduce. But none of these apply to this little girl. She will never be able to consent to sex or even comprehend sex, and of course she will never be able to reproduce, so her sex organs are simply a burden for her. I think they did her a favour by removing them, and if I were in her position I would want them removed.

The other issue is that the parents made this decision unilaterally. How would I feel if my parents unilaterally made a decision to have my sex organs removed? I would feel that they are exceeding their authority - I would feel that they should have consulted me, or, if I was rather young, my parents and medical team should have educated me objectively to the point where I could have made an informed decision myself. However, this little girl will never be able to make an informed decision herself. She probably doesn't even grasp the concept of an informed decision. I don't even know whether or not she understands that she's an autonomous being. There is simply no possibility whatsoever of consulting her, at all, ever, so it was not inappropriate for the parents to make the decision unilaterally.

Now for the size thing. How would I feel if I underwent medical treatment to stop me from growing? I would feel cheated. I've long aspired to be a grownup, and part of that is being grownup size. I like being grownup size. I like that I can reach things, I like being treated with grownup respect, I like it when I can come across as authoritative, I like being able to look over the cubicle walls and see where everyone is. Being tall is fun. However, this little girl will never be able to stand up, so she will never be able to actually be tall. She could be long, but being long is an inconvenience (have you ever tried to sleep on a too-short bed?). Because she has the physical and mental abilities of a three-month-old, she will never look grownup or come across as authoritative anyway. None of the reasons why I enjoy being tall will ever apply to her. In fact, given her severe disabilities, I think being small would be the least of her problems.

How would I feel if my parents unilaterally decided to stop me from growing? I would think that's sick and twisted, that they cannot let go and accept the fact that I'm growing up, and that if they wanted something little and cute, they really should have gotten a chihuahua instead. But none of these statements apply to this little girl. She will always be physically and mentally three months old. She will never be an adult, she will never be independent, her parents cannot let go because she will always need care. With the mind of a three month old, I'm not sure if she even comprehends the concept of independence, never mind that she will never have it. Maybe she wants to be held all the time, maybe she has no need for privacy, maybe she doesn't want to be apart from her parents (I'm not a child development expert, but that sounds about right for a three-month-old to me.) Again, this little girl will never be in a position to make that decision for herself, and will never be able to comprehend what might have been. Even if she does perceive herself as different from everyone else, it will be because she is so severely disabled, not because she is small.

The most frequent argument I hear against these measures is that the parents did it for their own convenience, not for the child's convenience. This is a very good point - parents should make their kid's medical decisions based on what's best for the child, not what's easiest for the parents. But we have to ask, are these measures any inconvenience to the little girl? I don't think they are. I think by removing her sex organs they're doing her a favour (although she will never realize it), and making her small is no inconvenience to her whatsoever. While, as a general rule, I don't think parental convenience should be a factor in decision-making, I don't think there's anything wrong with making it more convenient for the parents if doing so is not inconvenient or unpleasant for the child.

I've also seen a few red-herring-type arguments in this debate, so I'd like to briefly address them here. The first is drawing a parallel between removal of her sex organs and female circumsion. I don't think this is an apt comparison, because breasts and uterus will be a burden to her, while the clitoris is no problem whatsoever. If she has or ever develops sufficient motor control (I have no idea whether or not this is possible for someone with the motor skills of a three-month-old), she may even figure out how to use her clitoris to give herself pleasure, which would be a safe and appropriate way for her to enjoy her own sexuality despite the fact that she will never be able to properly consent to sex. Her breasts and uterus can give her no such pleasure. Therefore, removing the sex organs removes a burden that gives her no pleasure, while removing the clitoris would be removing something that's gives her pleasure without any inconvenience.

The other red herring I've seen is that keeping her small is just as bad, ethically, as would be removing her arms and legs to make her lighter. This is not an apt comparison either, because her limbs are some benefit to her. The general consensus among the first page of Google results is that a three-month-old can move their arms and legs and hold things in their hands, and that doing so amuses them. They would also keep her balanced while lying down, and allow her to roll over if that's within her abilities. So removing her limbs would make her smaller and lighter, but at the expense of what little mobility and ability to interact with her environment she does have. However, hormonally stunting her growth makes her smaller and lighter at a negligible cost.

I certainly don't think this situation is black and white. If her parents weren't taking these measures, it would never occur to me that they should be taken. It might occur to me to recommend tubal ligation, but that's about it. I also think we need to carefully keep an eye on the slippery slope thing - this one case shouldn't be a wide-open door to allowing parents to alter their disabled children willy-nilly. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel that the parents in this particular case are not doing anything wrong, and may even be doing what's best for their child.

Question for people who wear glasses

Do you remember how much anti-glare lenses cost X years ago? X can be any number of years ago you happen to remember, but I'm looking for numbers for anti-glare lenses instead of regular lenses, and just the lenses, not the frames.

Why? Because my optometrist prescribes anti-glare lenses for me, and, given the nature of my eyesight, it is very necessary. I never realized it at the time, but lack of anti-glare was the reason why I found driving at night so disorienting when I was in my teens. If I drove now, having the anti-glare would be a matter of public safety. As it stands, it doubles my stamina for just normal walking around city streets after dark, and working at a CRT monitor (which I still use all day at work).

However, anti-glare lenses cost significantly more than my insurance will cover. This is just the lenses, without even taking into account the frames - just what's written on my prescription, without the other stuff that the doctor says is optional.

I've noticed that the cost of my eyewear as a whole has been increasing far faster than the amount my insurance will cover. However, I've only been prescribed anti-glare for a few years, so I can't track anti-glare lenses in the long term, and I'd like to know if they've always cost more than my insurance limit, or if that's just a recent development because insurance hasn't been keeping up with prices. Anyone have longer anti-glare memory than me?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Anyone have TNG DVDs and a ton of spare time?

A lot of the Star Trek articles on Wikipedia - especially TNG articles - appear to have been written by someone for whom English is not their first language. Every once in a while, they just use the wrong word. I've been wandering around and editing a bit, but a lot of the time I can't tell the author actually intended to say, and I don't have the DVDs so I can't check the actual episodes.

If you've got the TNG DVDs and nothing better to do, here's a project for you!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Adventures from the puppy store

Today, after stressing myself out with shopping, I went to the store to look at the puppies. There was this adorable little floppy-eared beagle in with two silly poofy bichon frises. And the bichon frises were using the poor beagles floppy little ears as chew toys! Poor beagle! Mr. Floppy-ears deserves better!

Also, there were a LOT of people taking videos of the puppies with their camera phones. Y'all had better post those puppy videos on Youtube! If you're going to block my view of the puppies, you need to share the pictures with the world!

Refelctions on my first full week off of my adult life

Well, I'm certainly never going to end up being one of those people who needs to hire a consultant to tell them what to do with their time in retirement, that's for sure. I found that my time was still quite full despite the fact that I'm not in the office 8 hours a day. I also find that what I'm sacrificing to be in the office 8 hours a day is sleep, stressless mornings, and TV and gaming that makes me happy. This past week I've slept all I've needed, went about my morning routine without any sense of urgency (sometimes stretching it to 2 or 3 hours) and watched all the TV and played all the computer games that I wanted it. Some people would call that a waste of time, but every moment of it served to actively make me happy. I was actually twirling around my apartment, in my bathrobe at 2 pm, saying "I AM SO FUCKING RELAXED THIS IS AMAZING!" I don't think I need any satisfaction or fulfillment or anything from my job, I just need the money. I guess I like the respect it gets me, too, but if my bank account would stay full without me working, I would be so out of there!

Lessons learned: just because I'm not working doesn't mean I have extrovert energy. I can do multiple small errands within the neighbourhood, but my attempts to thoroughly investigate and try on at multiple Yorkdale stores were just too much. (Of course, this is exacerbated by the fact that the Gap's dressier pants now have narrow ankles - no more boot cut!)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: emotional alimony

In marriages when one spouse is generally dependent on the other spouse for financial support, if the couple divorces then the supporter is expected to pay a certain amount of alimony to the supportee, especially if the supporter initiates the divorce. This can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances.

But married couples don't just support each other financially. What if there was alimony for the other things that married couples provide to each other? Examples:

Emotional alimony: you must provide your spouse with moral support, a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, until such time as they can develop their own resources.

Social alimony: you must provide your spouse with access to your social network and an escort to any major social events, until such time as they can develop their own resources.

Household alimony: if you are solely responsible for cooking/mowing the lawn/sewing on buttons/killing yucky bugs, you must provide your spouse with support in these areas until such time as they can develop their own resources.

No, I have no idea how it would be calculated or enforced.

Jumping in front of trains

Via WMTC, this guy in NYC jumped in front of a subway train to save someone's life. Of course, this sparks discussion of whether you'd jump in front of a train to save someone's life.

The thing is, in that sort of situation, I don't think I'd jump in front of the train. But it's not because I'm not up for risking my life to save someone else's (I once unthinkingly ran out into traffic to save some random toddler's teddy bear - the teddy bear and I both emerged unscathed), it's that it would never occur to me that my presence down on the tracks would help the guy. It seems the rescuer piled on the rescuee and held him down so the train wouldn't get him, but it just wouldn't occur to me that that would work. I never thought there was room for two people under the train - one, maybe, but I never thought that piling on the fallen person to hold them down would help. If the train wasn't right there, I totally would have jumped into the tracks to help the victim back up to the platform. But if the train was in sight, I would have either run screaming to the end of the platform to hit the power cut, or reached an arm down in a desperate (and probably fruitless - I have weak arms) attempt to pull the victim back up to the platform. But it simply would not have crossed my mind that jumping in front of the oncoming train would be helpful.

Also, I like the quote here: "Transit officials recommend staying away from the platform edge and never jumping onto the tracks."

Another thing I wish I could say literally and neutrally

"I have nothing to say to him. I wouldn't care if I never saw him again."

I want to be able to say this literally, but it sounds like a dis. But I don't want to dis the person, it's just that they're not at all relevant to my life (which sounds like a dis in and of itself.)

It's like how you'd feel about some kid who was in Grade 1 with you, who wasn't your friend and wasn't mean to you, was just sitting there unremarkably in the classroom. You may or may not remember them, you probably have never given a moment's thought to where they are or what they're going. If someone said to you "Hey, remember Joey Smith from kindergarten? Well this is an opportunity to catch up with him!!! Isn't this wonderful and amazing????" You probably wouldn't feel that enthusiastic. The best you could probably muster is "Meh, it might be interesting." Joey Smith could well be an interesting person, it's just that given what you know about him, you feel no need to actively seek him out. It's nothing against him, it's just that if you never saw him again, you probably wouldn't feel like you're missing anything.

I wish there was some way to express this without it sounding like a dis.

Things They Should Invent: digital cameras at glasses stores

The problem with trying on glasses is you have to take off your glasses to do so. But with your glasses off, you can't see very well, so it's harder to see how the frames you're trying on look. I can manage by leaning in really close to the mirror, but lots of people have worse eyesight than I do.

Solution: provide digital cameras that customers can use while trying on glasses. So you put on the new frames, take a picture of yourself, put your own glasses back on, look at the picture on the camera's little screen thingy. That way, even people with the worst eyesight can actually see what they look like before they buy their glasses.

Security concerns? Tie the cameras to the glasses shelves. Set up one of those beepy security things in the doorway to go off if someone walks through with a camera. Make people leave collateral. Lots of options!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Strange translation decision of the day

In my kitchen, I have a product called, in English, No-Chicken Broth. (Q: That's just what I need! Where do I get it? A: Noah's Natural Foods, or the organic section of some Dominion stores.) However, the French side of the box says "Bouillon à Saveur de Poulet." I'll admit that it's quite possible I'm missing some small connotation, but it looks to me like there's nothing in the French name that says that there's no meat. The French name just says "chicken-flavoured broth," while the English name places greater emphasis on the fact that there is no meat in the product. Your Anglophone chicken-soup-craving vegetarian may well grab the product off the shelf based on the name alone, confident that something called No-Chicken Broth will contain no meat. But the Francophone chicken-soup-craving vegetarian has to notice that it says "Bouillon à Saveur de Poulet," not "Bouillon de Poulet". "Une échappatoire?" pense-t-elle, and then hoping against hope she goes to read the ingredient list and sees that yes, there is NO CHICKEN! And there was much rejoicing! But the Francophone vegetarian needs to get to that point of desperation where she's reading the ingredient lists in a desperate hope that she can enjoy some comfy soup without sacrificing her principles. Meanwhile, the Anglophone need only glance at the product name as she scans the shelves, allowing the product to catch the eye of the anglo veggie who isn't actively craving chicken soup, and make her think "Hey, chicken soup! I haven't had that since I was a kid!"

I wonder why they chose this translation in French, as opposed to something along the lines of "bouillon sans poulet." Is it a suboptimal translation, or is there some connotation/marketing thing for the French audience that I, as an anglo, don't know about?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Open letter to Blogger

Dear Blogger:

So you can't upgrade me to the new Blogger yet because my blog's too big. That's fine, no problem, I can wait. But in that case could you please stop giving me great big UPGRADE NOW notices whenever I log in or try to post a new entry? It's annoying! I CAN'T upgrade, so stop telling me to upgrade!

What it's like to hate sports

Every time I blog about how being forced to do sports just makes you hate it (like I did below), I inevitably get backlash from people who love sports. There's a key miscommunication here: people who love sports simply cannot conceptualize what it's like to hate sports. They have this idea that sports are fun, and they don't seem able to see the other side. This is a problem because all the expert-consultant-type people on trying to make society more active are all phys. ed. teacher/kineseology student types, all of whom enjoy sports, because if they didn't enjoy sports they would ahve picked another profession.

So here are some truths you need to understand for us to have a reasonable dialogue about physical activity:

- Physical activity is not fun. If I happen to be having fun doing some sport or active game, it's despite the fact that it involves physical activity, not because of it.
- If you increase the physical exertion or competitiveness involved in something I enjoy, I will enjoy it less.
- If I am bored, doing physical activity will not make me less bored. In fact, it will probably make me more bored, because part of my brain has to focus on the physicality of the activity, which reduces my ability to think my own thoughts.
- If you said to me "Hurry up, you have to do [insert sport here] right now, this is your last chance ever in your life to do [insert sport here]!" I wouldn't be motivated to change my plans. There is no sport or physical activity in the world that I care about or enjoy enough that I'd even blink if I never had the chance to do it again. With many sports, I'd rejoice in the fact that I never have to do it again.
- If you said to me "Hurry up, this is your last chance to do any sports at all ever again!", I still wouldn't be motivated to change my plans for the same reason listed above. Again, I'd probably rejoice.
- For me, physical activity is a chore. It's like doing the dishes or taking out the recycling. If you gave me a choice between the dishes doing themselves for the rest of my life or never having to do physical activity for the rest of my life, I would pick no physical activity, without hesitation.
- For me, physical activity is undignified. Sweating, running after a ball, stretching - they aren't the sort of thing I want people to see me doing. Putting me in a situation where other people can see me doing physical activity is as humiliating to me as having those people watch me take a dump or getting a pap smear or drooling in the dentist's chair.

At this point, all you sports-lovers out there are saying "But that's not true!" But this is my point: even if these statements aren't true for you, they are true for me, just like for me olives and cantaloupe are yucky. If you want to cook a dish I'll enjoy, you have to take as a given that olives and cantaloupe are yucky; if you want to create a physical activity scheme that will work for me, you have to take as a given that these statements are true and plan accordingly.


ETA: Same thing, but in analogy form.

You've never been too fond of scrubbing the floor. You've been exposed to it your whole life as your parents exposed you to most aspects of everyday life, but you've never really liked it. If you could choose anything to do in the whole wide world, you would never choose to scrub the floor.

However, they recently did some studies that found that the nation's floors are perilously dirty, so they added floor-scrubbing to the school curriculum.

Floor-scrubbing classes made you start to actively hate scrubbing the floor. You had to wear this ugly floor-scrubbing apron and use this grungy industrial sponge that everyone else in the school has used for the past who-knows-how-many years. Your teacher would stand over you and yell at you whenever you missed a spot, even if it was just that you hadn't gotten to that spot yet. Your knees always hurt if you kneel a long time, but if you don't stay on your hands and knees you lose marks for poor technique; this results in a grade that's significantly lower than all your other marks, and brings down your overall average. Plus, your classmates have always tormented you at the slightest opportunities, and floor-scrubbing class gives them a lot of fodder. They mock you for being in the undignified hands-and-knees position, they poke at your bum (and the teacher deducts marks for poor technique if you use a position that protects your bum), they throw dirty water at you when the teacher's back is turned, they deliberately walk on your section of floor with their dirty shoes...

So when you've completed your final mandatory floor-scrubbing class, you're ecstatic.

From then on, you do everything possible to avoid scrubbing the floor. You take on other chores instead, leaving the floor-scrubbing for your roommates. Once you move into your own apartment, you vacuum and mop and spot-clean, avoiding scrubbing unless absolutely necessary. Your floor is clean enough for your purposes - there's certainly nothing unsanitary about it - but it will never be as clean as the floors of those people who love scrubbing the floor, and scrub it on their hands and knees every day. And you're fine with that, you don't need it to be surgically clean. (In fact, secretly and to yourself, you kind of think that people who keep their floors surgically clean must be rather dull individuals, and you have no desire to meet or socialize with such people.)

Then one day you see a newspaper article about the shameful state of the nation's floors. Some floor-scrubbing experts - the kind of people who love floor-scrubbing so much they studied it at a post-secondary level - are recommending that floor-scrubbing be manadatory year-round throughout students' entire educational careers. It's also offering parents tax credits for enrolling their kids in after-school floor-scrubbing classes - but only for the kind of floor-scrubbing that's on your hands and knees with a sponge. If the kids prefer mopping - or if they prefer to learn how to cook or garden instead - the parents don't get any tax credits.

Do you really think these additional measures are going to help? Or do they just strike you as cruel humiliations that will just make those kids hate scrubbing the floor as adults?

The problem with the tax credit for kids' sports

They have or are going to introduce a tax credits for costs associated with kids' sports, but it only applies for certain sports that are deemed to involved sufficient physical activity.

There's one major problem with this scheme that I haven't seen mentioned yet: it's the kids who have to do the sports, but the parents get the tax credit. If we assume that the tax credit is sufficient motivation to get people to change their behaviour (which I don't actually think it is, but since this seems to be one of the key assumptions behind this plan I'm taking it as a given for the moment), then the parents are motivated to have their kids do sports from the approved list. But it doesn't provide any motivation for the kids themselves. It isn't motivating people to have an active lifestyle, it's motivating people to force other people to do certain physical activities that have been approved by a third party. There's nothing in it for the people who are actually doing the physical activities. If the kids want to do the approved sports, they'll be doing the sports anyway. If the kids don't want to do the approved sports, their parents are more likely to be making them do it anyway for the parents' own personal gain. As I've blogged about extensively before, being forced to do sports in childhood simply makes you hate sports in adulthood, and adulthood is much longer than childhood. So if this tax credit does have the social engineering effect it's intended to have, it will simply make more people hate sports in the long term.

This is a good holiday

The great advantage of New Years Day as a statutory holiday is that nothing is expected of you and the day itself is of little significance. On xmas you're supposed to visit your family and get presents and have the Best. Day. Ever. On Thanksgiving you're supposed to visit your family and eat turkey and be all thankful and shit. On Victoria Day you're supposed to go to the cottage and watch fireworks and OMG summer starts! Labour Day is OMG the end of summer and we have to make the most of it, all while being haunted by the spectre of school starting the next day.

But New Years Day is nothing. The big deal happened the night before. The day after isn't really a great big return to anything. It's just...a day off. Very easy, very low-pressure. Plus, there's no pressure to be productive and get stuff done, since stores are closed and we can't do our errands anyway. It's just one simple day where we are fully justified in doing absolutely nothing. As I'm typing this, it's 3 pm and I'm in my bathrobe, but no one can really fault me for that. Get dressed and do something productive? Why, what would you have me do? Go out, have fun, make the most of the day? Why, where would you have me go?

More statutory holidays should be like this.