Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The problem with Little Mosque

The problem with Little Mosque is that none of the characters can say no. Right now Yassir's mother wants him to take a second wife, and Yassir doesn't just go and say "No, absolutely not." So then she goes to the imam, and the imam doesn't say outright "No, we don't do that here."

I can accept this sort of thing for sitcom plot purposes once in a while, but it happens every week!

The convert starts being a self-righteous dick, the imam never says "Um, dude, that's not what we're all about there."

Yassir's client and the mosque both need wiring done, there aren't enough electricians to do both, and Yassir doesn't say to anyone "No, I'm sorry, there aren't enough electricians." Instead he blows up the mosque.

The finance-focused archdeacon comes for a visit, and the (priest? minister? what do Anglicans call them?) stages a massive charade instead of saying "Yeah, the presence of the mosque helps us fund the church."

Call me when they start acting like grownups.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Enough about the dresses, what about the hair?

I was really surprised at the number of actresses wearing their hair long and straight for the Oscars. My hair is like that naturally, so I really don't think of it as a formal hairstyle.

You'd think I'd be happy that my hair naturally falls into an Oscar-calibre hairstyle, right? Well, it's not that simple...

The problem is that, when left to its own devices, my hair becomes lank and limp and greasy and stringy. It constantly needs to be fluffed up with a brush, the part certainly doesn't stay neat, and it tangles if you even look at it funny. I could certainly acheive, say, Gwyneth Paltrow's look for a photograph, but there's no way I could maintain it for several hours.

So what in the world did all these actresses do to keep their hair looking good? I have no idea! Everyone's talking about the dresses, but no one's talking about the hair! I've heard that mousse is involved, but it just makes me look greasy even faster.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nonarbitrary goals are the secret to happiness

I've previously postulated that pessimism is the secret to happiness.

I think another secret to happiness is not to make your goals too specific or arbitrary. I know that conventional wisdom is to make your goals specific, but I think unless the specificness has some particular purpose, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment.

This train of thought started awhile back when I read an article (linked to via some smug CFer or another) wherein a woman was convinced that she would have her children play with wooden toys only. (Incidentally, thanks to Google for re-finding that article for me with only msn lifestyle wooden toys plastic as keywords.) It occurred to me that if something meaningless like her children playing with plastic toys disappointed her, she would never be happy.

Then I thought of my family's xmas celebrations (yes, I am an atheist; no, my family is not). We used to have all these things that the grownups made us do. Let's all gather around the piano and sing xmas carols. Let's all share opłatek. Let's take a picture of all the kids lined up by height. We grew to not like those things, and people rebelled or opted out, which always disappointed one or more grownups. But as we got older and scattered far and wide and built our lives elsewhere with other people, they grew to be more appreciative that we were still all showing up. So instead of being disappointed that not every single person wanted to gather around the piano and sing carols, they were happy that everyone was there and more or less having a pleasant time.

It's not uncommon for people to set unnecessarily specific goals. "I'm going to be married by the time I'm 30" before you even know who you're going to marry. "I'm going to teach my son how to ride a bike" before you have any children. But why 30? Why a son and why a bike? What if you don't meet your soulmate until your 32nd birthday? What if your child is born with no legs? It's better to set goals like "I will only give my heart to people who are kind to me" or "I will teach any children I might have whatever I can." That way, you won't be taking a situation in which there is nothing wrong and defining it as a failure.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"A two-liter bottle of soda"

Peejee told Davan's father that Davan drinks "a two-liter bottle of soda" every day.

"A two-liter bottle of soda"???

Do they even use litres in the US? If so, why? Y'all don't use the metric system anywhere else outside of hardcore science, do you? Is liter even a legitimate spelling variation? It looks so funny! Do there really exist people who say both soda and litre? I figured if you said litre you'd also say pop.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The effect of expectations on comprehension

Disclaimer 1: This post is about linguistics. It does veer perilously close to politics because a point of linguistic research reminded me of a current political situation, but it is not intended to be at all partisan. Please consider the political aspect as nothing more than the most readily-available practical example, and please keep any partisan debate or discussion out of this comment thread. This is a linguistics-only zone.

Disclaimer 2: The following is an excerpt from page 195 of Deborah Tannen's Talking from 9 to 5: How Women's and Men's Conversational Styles Affect Who Gets Heard, Who Gets Credit, and What Gets Done at Work. I am copying it here because a) I'm under the impression that doing so is fair use, and b) Dr. Tannen can explain it much better than I can. If this is a copyright problem, please let me know nicely in the comments and I'll be happy to remove it. Any typos are my own.

The effect of expectations on comprehension is also supported by research. Speech-communication professor Donald Rubin was concerned with complaints by students at his university that they had trouble understanding foreign-born teachig assistants. Rubin suspected that their preconeptions about foreign-looking speakers being difficult to understand might be playing a powerful role. to test this idea, he tape-recorded a four-minut lecture given by an American-born woman from Ohio, then played the tape to two groups of students at two different times. As the students listended to the leture on tape, they saw projected on a screen a photogrpah of the person they were told was the lecturer. In one case, they saw a photograph of a Caucasian woman, in the other, a Chinese woman. [...] He foundt hat the students wh othought they wer elistening to a Chinese lctruer scored lower on the comprehension test than those who thought they were listening to a white American - and their lower socres were about the same as those for a third group who had heard a lecture given by a real Chinese teaching assistant with a heavy accent.

The first thing this made me think of was Stéphane Dion. A lot of people have been saying lately that his English is insuffcient, which surprises me because it's quite clear that he's thinking in English. As a translator, I have been trained to identify gallicisms in English, so that I may eliminate them and make my French to English translations sound more natural. From what I've heard, Stéphane Dion's English has fewer gallicisms than a bilingual Ottawa anglophone's English. When you can hear all the mistakes he isn't making, it's quite clear that he's either thinking in English, or quite deliberately making a concerted (and successful) effort to give everything he says in English an English syntax.

But people still think he's difficult to understand. Why is that? Idealistic Pragmatist's readers suggest that it's his accent, which it may well be. I listen to French accents all day, so I can't tell you what they sound like to the average anglo. However, I asked some anglos in my life, and they said yes, he does have an accent, but it's not that bad. He's comprehensible. My parents' consensus is that they've had professors with worse accents and learned perfectly well from them.

So bearing all this in mind and then reading Tannen all made me think: what if Dion's English isn't really bad, but people have heard that it's bad and then they're having trouble because they expect it to be bad? This is impossible to test, of course. If someone thinks they don't understand something, then they don't understand it. You can't go around saying, "Oh, you don't really have trouble understanding that, you just think you have trouble understanding it." So if people are suggestable enought, they are actually going to be unable to understand him. I wonder if political strategists know enough about linguistics to do something like this on purpose?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fun with the English language

Read the following two sentences and absorb the meaning by gut reaction only:

1. He was making an effort to speak French.
2. He was making the effort to speak French.

Doesn't it sound like his French was better in the second sentence? Isn't that cool???

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: your own apartment as coming-of-age ritual

In today's Toronto Star, there was an article suggesting that Canada needs a coming-of-age ritual to make youth feel like responsible and enfranchised members of adult society. (Unfortunately I can't find a link, but it's on the second-last page of the Ideas section). I don't know if I agree with this premise, but I have an idea for something that might make an effective ritual. Inspired by the Native tradition of having boys go out alone in the woods, I'm imagining everyone having to live alone in their own apartment for a certain period of time after their 18th birthday.

The apartment is a very basic studio apartment, but you have it all to yourself. No roommates, and you're not sharing a kitchen or a bathroom like in res. You don't get it for free, but perhaps it would have to be geared to income because obviously most 18-year-olds can't afford their very own apartment. You'd pay market prices for your telecommunications, and utilities would be at market rates if feasible, or geared to income if unfeasible (we don't want people ruining their credit score or having to declare bankruptcy or going without running water just because we've forced them to leave their parents' home before they were ready financially). There would also have to be some kind of assistance for students who are still in high school, because we don't want this ritual to have to make people have to drop out. The coming-of-age apartments wouldn't all be bunched together in one building, they'd be spread out across the community, so your neighbours would be a random sampling of whomever lives in your community.

Of course, there are huge feasibility problems (which is why I categorized this post under Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work), but if it were feasible I think it would achieve a great many coming-of-age results.

Living alone is the ultimate exercise in dealing with the consequences of your actions. If you don't take out the garbage, it sits there and smells up the place. If you don't pay the phone bill, the phone gets cut off. If you make too much noise, the neighbours will complain. You get to see all the stuff your parents nagged you about come true (or not).

Living alone lets you develop your own person separate from the expectations of your family. When you live with your family, their expectations colour your every action, whether it's meeting their expectations, or defying their expectations, or trying to avoid their expectations. When I lived at home, if I wanted to go out I'd have to justify it to my parents, and if I wanted to stay in I'd have to avoid or put up with my sister's mockery. Here in my own apartment, I just come and go as I please. It's quite refreshing to go about your everyday life without having to justify your actions to anyone, and not having to justify your actions gets you away from the necessary adolescent defensiveness and ultimately leads to a more mature and adult attitude towards your life.

Living alone teaches you a lot about yourself. Think of how you set up your very first apartment. You doubtless anticipated some needs that didn't materialize, and didn't anticipate other needs that did materialize. And your second apartment was set up to reflect these needs. For example, I would never have guessed that I'd fall into the habit of gaming while watching TV, but now it's my favourite way to unwind. Conversely, I have a blender and a mixer in my kitchen, and I've never used them. I guess I anticipated doing more complicated cooking than I do, but ultimately found that it wasn't worth it since I don't have a dishwasher. I take fewer baths than I'd anticipated (no, I'm not dirty, I shower instead) but sleep in more than I'd anticipated. I eat less sugar and more salt than I thought I would. When you're all alone with complete control over your space and no one around to impress, you learn a lot about what your real preferences and priorities are, and can use that to inform your decisions.

Living alone also helps your parents and the other adults around you respect you for who you actually are. My parents weren't nearly as dismissive of my phobias when they found out that I still have panic attacks even when there's no one around to rescue me. My mother was convinced I'd change my kleenex-wasting ways and start using less kleenex once I had to buy it myself (I still don't know what is perceived as excessive about the amount of kleenex I use), but I didn't so now she has to chalk it up to "Different people do things differently." Living alone gives you a certain amount of grownup cred. You're managing, you're coping, you're dealing, so they can't really Kids Today you that much. The community also has to treat you like an adult because you're approaching them in your adult role to buy your groceries or do your banking or get your strep throat diagnosed.

Basically, living alone calls everyone's bluff. It's a real, relevant trial by fire (21st century industrialized urban version). If you make it, your elders have no choice but to give you basic adult respect. If you don't make it, you're much humbled and know exactly what you need to work on. In any case, it would make it clear that you are not spoiled or sheltered, but instead know exactly what it means to be an adult.

Couples living apart

One thing I've noticed lately when enjoying my guilty pleasure of reading advice columns and online responses is that there are a lot of people out there who firmly, strongly, believe that if a couple lives together, then finds that they aren't very compatible cohabitation-wise, then their relationship is automatically over. They just cannot wrap their brains around the possibility of a couple saying "Well, looks like we aren't good at sharing a home, but we still love each other and that isn't going to change."

I know that sharing a home is the established norm, and I certainly do see the benefits of pooling your talents and resources, but I don't think it's the unconditional, no-exceptions, sine qua non of each and every relationship. I know that ceasing to live together is generally part of a breakup, but I don't think it must necessarily cause a breakup. I know a couple who tried living together and found that they couldn't, but they're still together romantically (they were well into their 50s when they met and both very set in their ways). I know several other couples who preemptively came to the realization that they can't live together, so they happily continue their relationship from separate apartments. While I can see how it could be a deal-breaker for some people, it shouldn't have to be a dealbreaker for each and every couple in the world. But it seems that many people just cannot or will not accept this.

Most people can comprehend the idea of a happy, successful romance between two people of different religions, or two people with vastly different political opinions, or two people who work opposite shifts, or two (or more) people who are consensually non-monogamous. Even if you could never do it yourself, you can say "Yeah, it's not for me, but I can see how other people could make it work." But so many people seem to have such a hard time imagining even the possibility of a relationship working from separate households.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I wonder if anyone IRL has gotten a tattoo of the Dark Mark? There's no reason for a Muggle to perceive it as a cool thing to have a tattoo of, but people do all kinds of weird things.

"You will someday"

Most childfree people have, at one time or another, had the following exchange:

Childfree: "No, I'm not having children, I'm childfree"
Interlocutor: "You will someday."

An idea just to make the whole situation more entertaining: if your interlocutor is of the opposite sex, take it as a threat. Recoil, hide, refuse to be alone with them, etc.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The 10th anniversary of the relationship that has had the greatest effect on my life

Ten years ago, I got my very own internet access for the first time. (Yes, I'm saying the internet has had a greater effect on my life than mi cielito, because without the internet I would never have met mi cielito).

What astounds me in retrospect is how small it all was back then.

The very first thing I did the very first time I dialed up was go to Yahoo (there being no Google at the time) and do a search for Monty Python. I forget how many results I got (a few pages worth), but I know that I managed to read site Yahoo turned up for Monty Python, in its entiretey, within a few weeks. Yes, in a few weeks I had managed to read every single word that was written on the Web about Monty Python.

In the online communities I visited, I read every posting. Every single one. And it was perfectly acceptable to email just anyone on the sole basis that you'd read their site or one of their web postings.

I looked up Square One Television, a childhood favourite; I found no sign that it had ever existed. Now there are 500 Google results for "Square One Television", and another 50,000 for "Square One TV".

There was a time when I self-taught myself all the HTML in the world, and that was enough to build a serviceable Web page. (My lack of design abilities was still a problem, but I had the technical skills down.) I still know HTML, but I'd probably have to take a course to get my overall skill set to a point where I could make Web pages that will stand up to 2007.

*Sigh*, the good old days...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I wish I could write back to Dear Abby's correspondents

In today's Dear Abby, readers give advice in reply to a previous letter from a young woman who was receiving unwanted attention from her male colleagues. I really wish I could ask the writer of this one letter for clarification:

Before complaining to the management about sexual harassment as you suggested, "Plain Jane" might take a careful look at herself. Is she dressing inappropriately for the workplace (low neckline, exposed midriff, short skirts)? Does she smile too much?Is there candy on her desk, encouraging co-workers to stop and chat? "Jane" might ask a trusted older working woman friend or relative to look over her wardrobe or share other hints.

I would love to get her to elaborate on the "smiling too much" concept. How much smiling is too much? How do you tell? Personally, when I smile at my co-workers, it's a natural smile - I haven't faked a smile since I worked in customer service. So if your natural smiling in reaction to context has you "smiling too much", how do you deliberately not smile without looking like you're being deliberately mean?

Silly things Harry Kim says in "The Haunting of Deck Twelve"

1. To a mess hall full of people, when an emergency begins to occur: "I want everyone to report to their stations until we figure out what's going on!" But these people are off duty, that's why they're in the mess hall! We know that Starfleet vessels operate on rotating shifts, so if all these people report to their stations, their stations will all be occupied by someone else!

2. To a frightened crewman in a dark hallway: "Trust me, there are no aliens roaming the corridors." Um, yeah...Vulcans, Klingons, Talaxians, Bolians, a handful of Borg's a Federation starship! Actually, since the crewman in question is a Bajoran, HARRY is an alien to her.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Just saying no

When we think of why being a grownup rocks, we tend to think of things we can do even though our parents don't want us to. But another thing that rocks about being a grownup is that when our parents do want us to do something and we don't want to, we can just say no.

When you're a kid, if your parents offer you some specific food, you can't just say no thanks. They try to get you to eat it anyway, they make up all these rules like you have to eat ten peas before you leave the table or you have to drink a glass of milk before you can have some juice or if you don't eat it now you have to eat it for breakfast tomorrow morning. If you're going outside, they can make you wear snowpants, and you can't just say "I won't be needing snowpants, we'll be skipping and they'll just get in the way." If they think you need to practice your piano before you watch TV, you can't just say "Actually the one show I really want to watch is on now, so I'll watch it now and practice my piano after."

And this isn't just for disciplinary things. If your parents stop for ice cream but you don't want any ice cream, you can't just say no thanks, you have them try to convince you and you have to keep saying no and it's this whole big thing. If your friend invites you over to play and your parents think it's a good idea but you don't want to, you can't just say "Maybe later, I'm not up to it right now," to your friend - you have to justify the whole thing to your parents. If they offer to go play catch with you, under the impression that they're doing you a favour by doing something they think is fun for you, but you'd rather finish your book because you just got to the good part, you can't just say "No thanks, I want to finish my book." They try to coerce you and convince you and maybe they make a rule that you have to go play outside for at least an hour before you can come back in and finish your book.

When you're a kid, every single time you want to say no to your parents, you have to justify it, you have to discuss it, you have to get them to agree, you have to go through this Whole Big Thing. But as an adult, you can just say no. You can even manage to just say no thanks, because you know you're not going to have to go through the Whole Big Thing so your no doesn't have to be that forceful.

When you think about it, it really is remarkably liberating to not have to justify your every little preference, instead just quietly going about your life the way you want to. It saves so much time and energy!


A 5-year-old girl fended for herself for days while home alone with the body of her mother, who apparently succumbed to bacterial meningitis, authorities said.
[The girl] was examined at a hospital and is in the temporary custody of the state human services department, agency spokeswoman Karen Stock said Tuesday. The dog was taken to an animal-rescue organization.

So her mother dies, she's alone with the body for days, she's now an orphan, and on top of everything else they take her dog away??? I wonder if they couldn't find a foster home that would take both the kid and the dog, or if they didn't try at all? She really should get to keep her dog after all she's been through!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How to keep Google Groups from freezing in IE 6

Ever since Google Groups updated, it's been freezing for me in IE 6 (and malheureusement I don't have the option of using another browser at work). I accidentally figured out a workaround.

Open Google Groups in a maximized window. Open another IE window but don't maximize it (i.e. click on the little two-box "restore" icon on the top right.)

When you click on a link in Google Groups, immediately switch over to the non-maximized IE, then switch back to Google Groups. In my experience, the Google Groups window will display normally.

For some reason, this doesn't work if the second IE window is maximized, and it doesn't work if you just wait for Gooogle Groups to load. I have no idea why.


A petition against female genital mutiliation. Available in French only. (Pétition contre les mutilations génitales féminines).

Pour celles et ceux d'entre vous qui peuvent lire le français, veuillez cliquer, lire, et signer si vous le jugez approprié. Moi, je le juge approprié.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fitting into culture

I've recently noticed a convergence of commentary on how it's important for immigrants to make an effort to fit into the culture of their new home. But I find myself wondering if this really is important. After all, there's nowhere nearly as much emphasis on making people who were born in the geographical area in question fit into the culture. I can think of cases where, yes, certain cultural values could cause a major clash. But I can think of many more examples where if the behaviour in question were being done by someone who's ethnically or culturally unmarked, it would be considered at most an eccentricity.

Many of my personal values are completely different from prevailing societal values. There may well be no one else in the world who shares my exact same set of values. From my idea of what constitutes respectful behaviour to my classification of sex acts, from my rituals surrounding charitable donations to my reasoning behind my position on abortion, from what I would do if I won the lottery to what I would do if I lost my job, I'm sure at least some of these things are different from what you'd think in the same situation, and almost all of them are different from the cultural norm. But I don't hear anyone calling for me to adapt the values of the mainstream. Because I was born here? Because of the pallor of my skin? Because of my comically generic name? I can't tell you why. But it does make me think that cultural assimilation isn't really that important.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Beware of AutoCorrect

The word I am attempting to type: succinct
The typo I accidentally make: succincg
Word's AutoCorrect of said typo: sucking
The result: a sentence implying that people should make sure their presentations suck.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Open Letter to HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH Prince Charles, and HRH Prince William

Dear Current and Future Monarchs:

Apparently Justin Trudeau considering running for MP. I'm sure this means that eventually, someday, he will aspire to be Prime Minister of Canada. If this ever should happen, whichever one of you is reigning at the time must find some way to do a pirouette behind him.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Parking etiquette question

Some of the moving companies I'm looking into do in-home estimates, where they come and look at all my stuff and tell me from there how much they expect it to cost.

My question for any urban drivers reading this: am I expected to provide the estimate guy with parking?

My building has underground guest parking. Guests need to be let in with a building key, which means I'd have to escort them, which is perfectly normal for people who are actually my guests, but weird for someone I've just met. There is limited free one-hour parking on my street, but more often than not it's all full. There are some Green P lots in the area, but you have to pay for those.

Is parking a basic hospitality like offering a chair to sit in or a glass of water, or is it a business expense that he's responsible for?

Thursday, February 08, 2007


If you haven't seen this yet, you must go look: Daily Puppy.

I know, I know, I say every dog I find is the cutest dog ever. But the puppies on Daily Puppy are so adorable that they often make my eyes well up with tears at their sheer adorableness.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Boring grownup stuff

The problem with arranging a move is that there's so much boring grownup stuff involved. I have to call people and get estimates for stuff and write cheques and watch my bank account balance and sign things. I've used the word "insurance" more in the past week than in the rest of my life combined! Don't get me wrong, I'd still rather be an adult than a child (I watched whatever I wanted on TV today! And now I'm playing computer games while drinking wine!) but this high density of boring grownup stuff is kind of getting me down.

This makes me glad I'm childfree and carfree. People with children and cars have to worry about stuff like this ALL THE TIME! Cars are giant resourcesucks, and with children you have to be doubley extra super-duper careful about EVERYTHING!

Maybe that's why those Kids Today people take childlessness as one of the signs of not being a grownup - because it affords you time to think about stuff other than boring grownup stuff.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Things They Should Invent: unwanted bottle drop-off point

With the new bottle deposit return system, I'm not going to take my bottles back to the Beer Store, because it's out of my way and a few cents isn't worth the trip to me. However, some of my local homeless do seem to think it's worth the trip, as I see them scavenging through my building's recycle dumpsters. But dumpster-diving is rather undignified, so it occurred to me that I might help out a bit by leaving my bottles in a bag outside the dumpster. But this is rather inconsiderate of my neighbours - it would be a mess if everyone kept leaving stuff outside the dumpsters.

What we really need is a central point where people who are too lazy to take their bottles back can just leave them behind - not in a dumpster, just in a small, civilized box - and someone who does have the need or initiative to go all the way to the Beer Store can take them and collect the deposit.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Police, fire, amubulance?

Last night while I was waiting for sleep to overcome me, I heard a strange noise outside. For a brief second I thought it meant someone was climbing the side of my building. Of course, that is impossible for anyone but Peter Parker. But the thought crossed my mind nevertheless.

Then I found myself thinking about what I'd do if someone was, in fact, climbing the side of the building. I'd call 911, of course. The thing is, according to what few 911 transcripts I've read, a 911 call starts with the operator asking if you need police, fire, or ambulance.

So what do you say if someone is climbing up the side of your building? You need the police because you have a would-be intruder. You need the fire department to get him down. And you need an ambulance for when he falls.

No wonder people think our urban 21-century lives are unnecessarily complicated!

Things They Should Invent: centralized directory of people's new email addresses

For my primary personal email address, I use the address that came with my ISP. It has been serving me well for the past four years, but when I move in a couple of months I'm going to have to use a different ISP, so I'll lose my primary email address. I will, of course, email everyone I correspond with to inform them of my new emaill address (no, I haven't decided what it will be yet), but if I miss someone - say, someone I went to university with, or someone who wants to hire me - they'll be SOL. Since I haven't made myself terribly googleable using my real name or my primary email address, I'll be very difficult to find. I don't mind anyone who knows my old address knowing my new address, but they might not be able to find me, and I have no way of knowing who might be looking for me.

I'd like to see a website that is specifically designed for the sole purpose of informing the world of email address changes. When you have to change your email address, you enter your old email address and your new email address in a form. You don't have to enter any other information if you don't want to. Then if someone comes looking for you, they just enter your old email address, and the website will give them your new email address. If they know the old address, they can get the new one with no difficulty. If they don't know the old address, they can't find you by searching by your name or anything, unless you set it up that way. Simple, straightforward, solves a lot of problems. But it will only work if there's only one centralized site, which, really, is the problem with many online things.


I just got this call. I picked up and a recording said "Hi, this is Rachel from cardholder services, this is your last chance to reduce your interest rate." I then had the option of pressing 1 to reduce my interest rate. This is clearly a scam, not the least of which because I have three credit cards and she didn't identify which one she was with. So I did a *69 and got 712-429-0268. The internet tells me that this is in Iowa, which makes me certain this is a scam. My credit cards are Canadian! The thing I don't know is whether I need to report this, and if so to whom. I looked at the Phonebusters website, but they seem to be all about helping you if the scam succeeded.

Fun fact

I don't follow football. I know that the Superbowl was today, and I'm only certain about one of the teams that's playing and it's corresponding city, although I'd be willing to hazard a guess at what the other team is. I can't name any football players involved and don't know which team wears which uniform.

Based on the information currently available on the front page of Google News, I can't tell who won the Superbowl. I can tell that the game is over, and there are the names of some players and a small picture or two, but I can't figure it out without clicking on the articles.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tolkien linguistics

When I was taking sociolinguistics, I did a lot of work on code-switching. I internalized most of the main reasons for code-switching (I used to be able to rattle off with absolute certainty and provide examples for the top ten reasons for code-switching. Now I'd give it a shot, but I'd check the textbook before writing a paper about it or anything.)

I just noticed that in LOTR, whenever Aragon is speaking Elvish and then switches back into English, it's a natural code-switch. Every time, he has a reason from the top ten list. I might do the same thing if I were in the same situation speaking French to a bilingual francophone.

I knew that Tolkien was a linguist, but I never realized before that there was such attention to detail. I just took it as an excuse for him to use the languages he created.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I have an apartment, but not the apartment. The apartment was far far too expensive. But I'm more or less happy with what I got. More later, I'm done for today.

Me being foolish at 1 am

I feel ridiculous doing this, but Wil Wheaton once claimed it works for him, so may as well give it a shot.

If I can have a convergence of good karma (or, as Wil calls it, mojo) around 4pm tomorrow, I will get the very best apartment ever in the world. Like an apartment that's so good I won't even consider buying a condo when I make my fortune, because the apartment is better than any of the condos. Statistically, there's no reason why I should get it. There's only one that meets my needs so perfectly, and it will most likely be taken before I get there. Plus, economically and based on the price points that I've been provided, it should be priced out of my range. Rightfully, I shouldn't even be thinking about it. But mein Gott do I ever want it!

Last time I had a convergence of good karma was April 2003. That resulted in my current job, despite the fact that rightfully no such position should have existed. The previous convergence of good karma was March 2000, when I was permitted to write my entrance exam late after not being informed of the date, despite the fact that there were hundreds of candidates competing for mere dozens of positions and rightfully they should have just said "Sorry, try again next year." So, if I may be so presumptuous, maybe I'm about due for another karma convergence?

So if you have any good karma, positive energy, mojo, or anything helpful like that, please send it in my direction around 4 pm EST tomorrow (Feb. 3) if you have the ability to do so. If it works, I shall be eternally grateful. If it doesn't work, I won't even notice.

I wonder if I'm jinxing it by saying what it's for? Wil never says what it's for, but that might be because of the nature of his profession?

Friday, February 02, 2007

I dreamed about the new apartment last night

Last night I dreamed that I went to look at my new apartment - the one specific suite that (IRL) I want the most but don't know yet if it's going to be in my price range. I wandered in unilaterally to look at the suite, rather than going as part of my appointment.

I looked around and it was much bigger than I thought. Like ridiculously big - I couldn't see where the kitchen was because the main room was too big. I looked out the window, and saw that the building had a huge backyard - like just a giant patch of grass with a wooden fence around it like the one around my parents' backyard. (IRL it definitely does not have a backyard, and even if it did my parents' fence would be way out of place.) There was also a big chart on the wall telling you the names of the people in all the other apartments in the building.

Then I reached into my purse and took out my bed and my desk, and started placing them in different places around the room to see what they'd look like, all while looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn't get caught.

Then the neighbours dropped by. The first people came by with this awesome big dog, and let it run loose in my apartment. It made a beeline for my bed, and I was afraid it was going to hurt my stuffed animals because I'd just left them lying around, not thinking there would be a huge dog in my apartment. I was all "Your dog is awesome and I'm happy to meet him, but can you at least give me some warning?" Then all the other neighbours also came in, wandering through my apartment to see what it would look like. This one guy decided to take his sweater off, and left it on my bed. I asked him to take the discarded sweater with him ("Dude, I don't want your sweater, and my boyfriend's not going to be thrilled to see another man's clothes lying on my bed...") but he refused.

By that time it was apparent that, despite my meddling neighbours, everyone thought this was my apartment. Maybe I could just keep it! The only problem was, I had no idea how much the rent was. If only there was some way to find out without revealing that I didn't actually belong there yet! Just then, a rental agent walked in, and told me that my mother had talked to her (my mother isn't involved IRL) and negotiated a lower rent, so I could now afford the apartment. But the rental agent thought I already had the apartment too, so she didn't give me a lease to sign or tell me how much my new rent was. So I was stuck squatting in this apartment, unable to pay my rent because I didn't know how much it was, with all my neighbours walking through, a big dog running around out of control, and a strange man leaving his clothes on my bed.

Then my alarm went off.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Experiment idea

I'm watching Jeopardy on ABC instead of CTV, and the American TV commercials seem just a I can't quite articulate why, but there's obviously a subtle cultural difference.

So I'd like to see an experiment: get a collection of Canadians and Americans, show them some commercials that haven't aired yet, and see if they can guess if the commercial Canadian or American.