Saturday, June 30, 2007

Random thoughts from the news

1. My very least favourite Canadian tradition is this habit of every Canada Day doing a study that scolds me for not knowing stuff about Canadian history that I do, in fact, already know.

2. The problem with the National Day of Action is that I don't know what they want from me. They interviewed some people on the radio on Friday and they seemed to be saying that they were trying to raise awareness of the shitty conditions that Aboriginal people have to live in, but I already know this and I'm already outraged by it! So what do they want me to do? 'Cause I'll probably do it, I just need to know what I'm supposed to do!

Another belated analogy

I previously blogged about the concept of ad-hominem self-righteousness.

It occured to me today that the real problem is that people who practise ad-hominem self-rightousness then get grumpy when other people aren't on their side. If you want to go it alone, be as "I'm right because I'm me!" as you want. But if you want other people on-side, you have to give them something more to convince them.

It's like if I were trying to convince y'all of something, and I said "I'm clearly right here, because I'm the smartest person in this conversation." The only people who would agree with me are the people who already believe that I'm the smartest person in this conversation. If I want to convince people who don't believe that I'm smarter than them, I have to give them some other reason why I'm right. Otherwise, it's just as convincing as saying "We must remove all troops from Afghanistan because the sky is maroon."

Things They Should Invent: the opposite of "role model"

Have you ever looked at someone and thought "Wow, I don't want to be like that!" and then that desire not to be like that informed your life choices?

There needs to be a word for that!

Belated analogy

A long time ago, I proposed that we should expect the impossible from our political leaders.

I now have an analogy. Imagine you have a health problem where you have no idea what it is or how to fix it. Despite the fact that you don't have the specific knowledge of how to do so, you expect the doctor to be able to figure out what it is and how to fix it. That's what she went to all the medical school for, and why she gets to be a doctor. It is perfectly reasonable to ask her to fix a medical problem you have no idea how to fix, and it is perfectly reasonable to ask her to do so in a way that minimizes the impact on your golf game because golf is one of your priorities in life.

Similarly, it should be considered perfectly reasonable to demand that our political leaders fix problems in a way that is consistent with our priorities, even if we, personally, can't figure out a way to do so ourselves.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Jeopardy drinking game: first draft

1. If you get an answer right and no one on TV gets it right, take a drink.
2. If you get an answer right and no one else you're playing with IRL gets it right, take a drink.
3. If you manage to guess an answer based on the category, before hearing the clue, take a drink.
4. If you get a Before & After right, regardless of circumstances, take a drink. (just because we suck at Before & After).
5. If you don't get the answer right but it's clear that you know the answer, your fellow players may grant you a drink at their discretion.
6. If you get an answer right thanks to something you were once told or taught by another player, you should grant them a drink. (This rule should rarely come into play, unless we someday find ourselves playing with Monty Python.)
7. Only your first guess for each question counts.

This game is intended to accompany playing Jeopardy with other people along with the TV. You can do it in person or over the computer (although you'll probably want to go sip-based instead of shot-based if you're doing it on the computer because pouring and typing at the same time are hard).

This is a performance-based version where drinks are rewards. In a two-person game using sips or half-shots of wine, we went through most of one glass. Adjust your beverage of choice and definition of "a drink" accordingly. In a game with more people, you'd probably end up drinking less.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Random Harry Potter reread thoughts

I've started my Harry Potter reread, which means that this blog is now a spoiler zone for all HP up to the end of book 6. Be warned.

1. In Philosopher's Stone, when they're driving around trying to escape from the Hogwarts letters, it's mentiond that Dudley is the most miserable he's ever been in his life. I wonder if that's what he experienced when he was attacked by Dementors?

2. I think Firenze's presence at Hogwarts will come into play in book 7.

Video mashup ideas, free for the taking

1. The music: "I'd Be Good For You" from Evita. The images: a montage of photos from the courtship of a newlywed couple who both struck you as people who would never marry.

2. The music: "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" by Cake. The images: Eddie Izzard's Sexie show.

Comedy bunny, free for the taking

The premise: The French taunting scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was really just a massive miscommunication.

The execution: First, translate the entire scene into French. Then compare the English and French side by side, and look for places where mistakes might be made. Words that sound like other words, common mistakes that Anglophones make when learning French and vice versa, faux amis, etc. Then incorporate these mistakes into the dialogue so that every statement made is a logical and rational response to the previous statement. Any character can speak either language at any time - after all, it's perfectly normal to try to accomodate.

The goal: a bilingual conversation wherein every character thinks they're responding perfectly reasonably to what their interlocutor says, but the end result is (or can be interpreted as) the French taunting scene.

Yes, I might work this out myself someday, but for now I haven't the slightest idea how to do it and don't have the time and energy to try. So I'm throwing it out there for free.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ecological dilemma du jour

This morning on the radio, they mentioned that they're asking us to minimize electricity usage between noon and 8pm. So I waited until after 8 pm to put my laundry in. However, because I waited until later (I normally would have done it at 6), I'll have to run the dryer on a higher setting so my sheets will be dry so I can put them back on my bed before I go to sleep. So was it still worth waiting until 8 pm? Or should I have put the laundry in earlier and used less power for drying?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Me = Hermione

I got an Outstanding on my Grade 3 WOMBAT!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gah, not again!

Wente does it again.

"Most of the policy-makers knew next to nothing about the villages where 90 per cent of the Afghan population lived," he writes. "They came from postmodern, secular, globalized states with liberal traditions in law and government. It was natural for them to initiate projects on urban design, women's rights, and fibre-optic cable networks; to talk about transparent, clean, and accountable processes, tolerance, and civil society; and to speak of a people 'who desire peace at any cost and understand the need for a centralized multi-ethnic government.'"

What they don't understand are the thought processes of a village woman who has never travelled five kilometres away from home. And so most of their projects are doomed to failure.

Okay, but what ARE the thought process of a village woman who has never travelled five kilometres away from home? If you tell me, I might understand! If, instead, you just tell me that I don't understand, we're not going to get anywhere.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the photo caption in the print edition also repeats that NGOs don't understand the thinking of Afghan women. So I started reading the article specifically to find out about the thinking of Afghan women, and learned nothing about it!

I'm going to have to stop reading Wente - like make a deliberate point of not reading her even when the article looks interesting. It's just too frustrating.

Carrying things on your head

People in many parts of the world carry things on their heads.

So why doesn't anyone do this in Toronto?

We have immigrants from all over the world, including refugees (who are likely to be less urbanized and westernized than your average skilled worker immigrant). But you never see anyone carrying their groceries home in a basket on their head.

I would love to have this skill! I want to walk along Yonge Street, in skirt and blouse, heels and purse, with all my groceries on my head!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tales from the grocery store

The man behind me in line put a bunch of things on the conveyer belt, including a pile of women's fashion magazines. I was unintentionally staring at the magazines - I think it was because one of them had a picture of Jennifer Lopez and I once again found myself pondering what's so big about her assets because really, I don't see it - and after a moment he caught me staring.

Now perhaps this wasn't obvious from looking at me (I wasn't very well-dressed and may have looked a bit soccer-momish), but as it happpened I would be going home that evening and chatting at length with a gay beauty pageant geek about a transvestite we both admire and whom I kindamaybesorta find a shade more intriguing than strictly appropriate, so no possible reason this man had for buying these magazines could have phased me.

"Oh, I just enjoy the pictures."

Except for that.

Now, of course, standard operating procedure dictates a notch more coldness. Not being able to think of anything else to do, I give him the obligatory "I acknowlege that you've made a light-hearted remark" smile, put my shields up and discreetly move away as I busy myself with paying and collecting my bags. But my gut tells me that it was all a charade, that he had some other reason for buying these magazines and was hiding behind machismo. After all, when a man is buying magazines to "enjoy the pictures", he doesn't exactly go around telling the strange woman in front of him in line. Or go around buying them in the grocery store for that matter.

This is Toronto, in the 21st century, the week before Pride. He shouldn't have felt the need to make an excuse. But I couldn't think of anything to do other than take him at face value, so I did so. And if he was, in fact, lying to me, I might have made things worse by giving the impression that I was getting cold for the very reason he thought he needed to hide his motives.

But today it occurred to me how I could have handled it better. What I should have done instead is drawn on the full powers vested in me by Revlon and La Senza, given him a coy smile, and purred "Oh, that's too bad, and I was just thinking what a fascinating man you must be."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I think I find myself agreeing with Margaret Wente

As Canada's very own no-fly list goes into effect, I'm glad my name isn't Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad. For that matter, I'm also glad my name isn't Patrick Martin. That's my boss's name. Even before this latest list, he sometimes got hauled aside and had to prove his innocence. That's because there is, or was, another suspicious character named Patrick Martin. There also are, or were, suspicious Kennedys, Thompsons and Williamses.

I have six to eight doppelnamers in Canada that I know of (two of them may be duplicates). Those of you who know my real name are probably going "Is that all?" and in fact I wouldn't be surprised if the number is 2-3 times that many. So before I even get to thinking of civil liberties and national security and its appropriateness in society as a whole, my first thought is whether I'll get hauled away and deported to Syria for torture because of something one of my many doppelnamers did. (No, I'm not Syrian, but my Canadian citizenship is exactly equal to Maher Arar's).

Then I find myself wondering about the ethics of the point Ms. Wente is making here. On one hand, I do find it somewhat distasteful to be all "OMG it affects white people to so therefore it's important!" On the other hand, I have noticed a tendency among people with whose skin is just as pale and whose names are just as WASPy as my own to assume that this stuff doesn't apply to them. "Of course you won't get deported and tortured," they attempt to reassure me, "you were born here!" Maybe if more people could immediately identify with the risk of being disappeared, they'd be more willing to question stuff rather than blindly accept it?


On TNG, a crewmember is kissing Data. This makes me wonder if Data is warm-blooded or cold-blooded. It would be weird to kiss someone who isn't physically warm.

Then later, (because you have to have a technical plot when you have an interpersonal plot) the ship is trapped in some kind of nebula and they have to be guided out by a shuttlecraft that requires l33t expert piloting or everyone will die. So Picard says he'll pilot the shuttlecraft himself. But why not have Data do it? Data's a computer, he must have better visual acuity and response time!


There is a bit of a debate in the letters to the editor page of the Star about whether Kids Today are getting too much homework, especially in the younger grades, or whether they're just spoiled and coddled or what.

I'm not going to offer up an opinion because I know that schools are now using a completely different curriculum than the one I was taught with. But I do have a question that I think everyone should be asking: what about the quality of the homework?

I remember a lot of time, especially in elementary school, spent gluing stuff to bristol board, trying to draw a picture of my house (yes, for that dreaded Grade 4 French project), frantically scrambling for pictures to make a collage with when my parents didn't subscribe to any magazines, etc. I found that all very time-consuming and stressful (because it did count, and it was just as important as anything else I had going on). More academic stuff - learning spelling words, doing work problems, studying for a history test - I didn't mind as much. Of course, I'm a pretty academic person for someone who is no longer involved in academia. I consider reading a journal a nice treat, I play Jeopardy for fun, and I sit down with popcorn to watch election returns. I don't know what less academic people thought of this kind of work. I do appreciate that there are different learning styles and some of the less academic kids might feel differently about what's a worthwhile use of their time, but I also think it's a problem if you're spending more time trying to figure out how to make a mobile about your book than you'd spend writing a book report.

I don't know if Kids Today are facing these kinds of issues, but I hope people who are more directly affected are taking this into consideration.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning by George Monbiot

This book sets out a way to cut our carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 without sending us all back to the stone age. The science seems sound to my only slightly trained eye, so I'd recommend that anyone who's a political leader or who's in a position to make significant invetment in new technologies read this. Maybe if that sending-books-to-Stephen-Harper thing is still going on, someone could send him this. (The Canadian edition starts out by laying a smackdown on Canada for the Harper government's policies.) I can suggest only one improvement, and that would be to put a brief summary of all the recommendations at the end of the book. I'm sure I forgot some things by the time I finished reading it. But it's really not that big a deal for the reader to page back.

There are lots of good ideas in this book, but my favourite (just because it's so obvious in retrospect and so applicable to real-life) is the idea of appliances like washing machines and dishwashers where you load them up and then they will automatically start operating when overall demand on the power grid is low. Obviously you'd need to be able to override that, but it's such a good idea!

Reading this book did bring up one thing that has been sort of quietly bugging me about environmentalism for a while: there seems to be greater value placed on cutting back your own footprint than on having a small footprint in the first place. If you give up driving during Environment Week, and you can get points for Commuter Challenge. Give up your car permanently, and you've won the One Tonne Challenge. But if you don't own a car in the first place, you don't get any credit. Which is kind of frustrating for me as I sit here, childfree, carfree and vegetarian, in my LEED-certified apartment. Monbiot insists that everyone needs to cut back by 90%, and while he maybe means that in the macro sense (the suggestions in the book are all things that governments and businesses can do rather than personal choices - policies have to be changed, different products need to be available etc.) I still find it kind of annoying that by his philosophy, there's no possible way anyone, no matter how virtuous, can count as having already cut back their 90%.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Missing information

I'm surprised to see such big missing information in an article in the Star. But I've read through the article twice and still can't figure this out:

"There are hormonal changes in men when they become fathers," says Wynne-Edwards, whose work is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. "Those specifically are an increase in (female) estrogen, a temporary decrease in testosterone, and an increase in prolactin, which is a hormone associated with the nursing process."

So my first thought is why and how this happens - a man becoming a father isn't a physical change in his body, not like a woman becoming a mother. And this raises a bunch of questions. How can it come from becoming a father? Is it a reaction caused by his female partern becoming a mother? Or is it actually related to the presence of his own offspring? What if he becomes a father without his knowledge? What if he becomes a father without his knowledge and then is unknowingly put in the presence of his baby? If it does work that way, would it work with sperm donor? What if his female partner bears another man's child, but he believes it's his own child? What if his female partner bears another man's child and he knows it isn't his own but he's willing to raise it?

I'm sure this hasn't be researched as thoroughly as I'm asking about, but I would appreciate a little more background on why exactly they're making the statement quoted above.

Things They Should Invent (or, rather, standardize and everyone start doing): descriptive Youtube linking practices

The problem with Youtube links is that the URLs themselves aren't descriptive, and this is compounded by the fact that people tend to share Youtube links by going "OMG, you have to see this" without any further description.

Okay, but what is it I just have to see? A dozen little yellow puppies meeting a cat? A surprisingly hilarious moment from Whose Line? Scenes from Harry Potter remixed with music from Chicago? This is especially annoying on forums etc., where the link is more likely to be something the linker enjoys, rather than something they know I specifically will enjoy, and then it ends up being clips sports or a reality show or something that just isn't of that much interest to me.

So until and unless Youtube starts giving us descriptive URLs (could happen, Amazon started doing it after, what, 10 years?) please provide a description when sharing Youtube links. Not just "OMG this is funny," something a bit more substantial. Use the "Drop everything and look at this. No, seriously, don't ask questions, you just have to see this" approach only when absolutely positively most strictly necessary.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Anyone know where I can find the thingy to edit Youtube videos with?

A few days ago, while googling something unrelated, I saw a mention of something that will let you cut only a section out of someone else's Youtube video. So instead of saying "Here, watch this, the part I'm talking about starts at 3:27," I could either link to or post just the section I'm talking about.

But I was looking for something else at the time, so I went "Oh, that looks interesting, mental note," and moved on.

And now I want to find that thing and I can't find it. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?


Last night I dreamed I had a lighter in my purse. I was at work in the dream, and for some reason I walked out into the hallway and started playing with the lighter, flicking it on and off. Then several co-workers burst out into the hallway and yelled at me for smoking, speculated whether I was smoking cigarettes or pot, and threatened to tell my mother. I insisted that I wasn't smoking, but for some reason I kept the lighter hidden behind my back - I don't know if this was because a lighter was contraband, or because it's kind of stupid to be standing in the hallway playing with a lighter.

Then I woke up to the fire alarm going off in my apartment building.

Seriously! True story!

(And no, there wasn't actually a fire in my building.)


When I was in high school, everyone would roll up the sleeves of their t-shirts (sometiems clamping them in place with bra straps) when they went outside in the sun, so as to avoid farmer tan.

I don't know if it's a Toronto thing or a 21st century thing, but here and now no one does that. Not even poorly-dressed high-school students sunbathing in between classes. People wear t-shirts with the sleeves down, or people wear sleeveless tops. In my entire Toronto life, I have not seen a single person do this.

I'm disappointed about this. I hate having a farmer tan, but since I don't wear sleeveless tops to the office (both because it's very difficult to find a sleeveless top that's not overly sexy, and because I don't want to have to worry about my armpits looking professional), so most of my summer wardrobe does have short sleeves. I'd love to roll up my sleeves when I'm outside - and I'd even be happy to discreetly use my purse straps to hold them up rather than my bra straps - but literally no one else does it, so I'd be the only one. And, for all I know, that might scream "OMG, she's so 90s!" or "OMG, she's so 905!" (Funny that 90s and 905 look so similar)


I never realized how delicate a balance introversion is. Lately I've been more reclusive than usual, making no effort to initiate social contact with even my closest friends, and sometimes even avoiding social contact. At work, I've been thinking lustful thoughts about going home and just being inside my head for a while. I've been avoiding buying my lunch at places with chattier workers. And, as you've probably noticed, I haven't felt the need to blog nearly as much.

I just realized why all this is: a small (and, thankfully, temporary) change in the way things are done at work has me spending more time talking to other people, but under circumstances that are in no way rewarding. I'm getting more external stimulation than I'm used to, and less time with my own thoughts, but no intellectual or personal satisfaction. Now I have no objection to talking to other people, our conversations are perfectly pleasant, but it is draining me where I wasn't being drained before.

So yeah, I'm going to be quieter for the next few weeks probably. But I'm glad I've noticed this, because it's going to inform career decisions that I'll be making over the next 5-10 years.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wherein Margaret Wente needs to back up her statements with more information

Margaret Wente on condos. Yes, this is a fluff piece, but I still need more information for this piece to even make sense.

It's called Condo Fever. The chief symptom is an irrational desire to dump your pleasant house with a back yard on a quiet street and buy a shoebox in the sky for twice the price.

I don't understand why a shoebox with glass walls is worth more than our entire house and our back yard

In my neighbourhood, a house goes for twice as much as a small condo. I seem to remember that Ms. Wente lives in the Beaches, which isn't exactly known for its low property values. In general, there's no such thing as a house for under $300,000 in Toronto, but you can get a condo for $200,000ish. If she's going to make these kinds of statements, she really should back them up with numbers or namedrop some neighbourhoods or something. Because from where I'm sitting, that's the complete opposite of reality.

It happens that a friend of ours is a condo lawyer. We call her the Condo Queen because she knows everything about them. One day I asked her for advice about buying a condo. "Don't do it!" she said. She herself doesn't live in a condo. She lives in a nice house with a big back yard.

Don't do it why? So you can have a backyard? What if you don't want a backyard? Or is there some other reason why a condo lawyer thinks people shouldn't buy condos? I'd like to know as I'm considering buying one myself. You can't just make a statement like this in a newspaper without elaborating!

Things They Should Invent: YouTune

When I want to link to a song, I most often search for it on YouTube (see below). This seems to be the easiest way to let people hear the song rather than just reading the lyrics, but it is bandwidth- and time-intensive for people who don't have a top-tier internet connection.

What I want is something like YouTube but for music. You look up a song, click on play, and just audio plays, no video. It wouldn't have to be downloadable or anything, just for linking and listening like YouTube is now, so I don't think it would be a huge copyright problem (although the music industry's lawyers would probably disagree - remember back in the 90s when they tried to shut down the International Lyrics Server?)

Note: there is a website called YouTune already, but it does something else. I can't seem to find any website that do what I have in mind.

Things They Should Invent: The Galaxy Song in metric

Monty Python's Galaxy Song (lyrics) (Youtube) is very helpful. You learn the song (songs being very easy to learn) and you have all these numbers that you need in introductory astrophysics. Unfortunately, it's in imperial units, and the vast majority of the world does physics in metric. I have a vague idea of the relationship between metric and imperial units so I could use it as a sort of backup checkpoint in physics class (if my numbers were way off from a rough conversion of the song, I'd double check my work), and it still sometimes helps when playing Jeopardy, but it would be far more useful in metric. Someone should rewrite it into metric, while keeping it tuneful and everything. (I've tried, but I can't keep the tune.) This would be far more useful to society in whole.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I called it!

This is SO Norbert!

I SO called it!


An oft-repeated bit of dialogue in Star Trek:

A: "I can't remember!"
B: "Try!"

Yeah, because it never occurred to them to try.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The problem with the whole Rogers customer service setup

I currently have TV, Internet, and home phone through Rogers. This was not my idea, but they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. The problem is that whenever you go to customer service, they ask which service you're calling about. Since I'm calling about billing issues, I'm calling about all the services. But they don't give me this option! It is an option in the very first voice menu, but it's not an option in subsequent menus or on the website. Very frustrating.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

Section 238 of the Canada Shipping Act. Bold is mine.

Canada Shipping Act
Protection of Seamen from Imposition
Punishment when drunk, etc.
238. Every person is guilty of an offence and, without prejudice to the right of recovery from him of any amount payable by him as fare, liable to a fine not exceeding ten dollars, who

(a) being drunk or disorderly, has been on that account refused admission to board a steamship by the owner or any person in his employment, and persists in attempting to board the steamship;

(b) being drunk or disorderly on board a steamship, is requested by the owner or any person in his employment to leave the steamship at any place in Canada that is a reasonably convenient place to leave the steamship, and does not comply with that request;

(c) after warning by the master or other officer of the steamship, molests or continues to molest any passenger;

(d) after having been refused admission to board a steamship by the owner or any person in his employment on account of the steamship being full, and having had the amount of his fare, if he has paid it, returned or tendered to him, persists in attempting to board the steamship; or

(e) without reasonable excuse, proof whereof lies on him, fails, when requested by the master or other officer of a steamship, either to pay his fare or exhibit a ticket or other receipt, if any, showing the payment of his fare, as is usually given to persons travelling by and paying their fare on steamships.

R.S., c. S-9, s. 238.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Today I am a comedian

In bilingual environments, I have English days and French days. On English days, strangers with no external cues speak to me in English. On French days, strangers with no external cues speak to me in French.

Today I seem to be having a third kind of day. Today I am having a comedian day. Everything I say with even the slightest element of humour gets a laugh. And by humour, I don't mean that I was telling a joke. I mean that there was some element of understatement or irony or some other literary device in my statment, and it would get a laugh. I have no idea why, but that happened all day today.

Edited to add the relevant Python.

Do I know anyone at Ryerson?

My call display is full of calls from 416-979-5000. There are no corresponding messages on my voicemail. Google tells me this phone number is Ryerson. Do I know anyone at Ryerson?

Monday, June 04, 2007


A Toronto Star letter to the editor claims that the fact that Afghan women have started wearing make-up is oppressing, not liberating.

You know what? I find wearing make-up liberating. Instead of being oppressed by my genetics, it gives me the freedom to look like I want to. Instead of small, squinty sallow-greenish-hazel eyes surrounded by big dark circles, I can have wide, bright eyes in the most fascinating shade of pale green. Instead of shiny, oily skin with uneven skintone, pocked with acne scars, I can have smooth, even skintone in a nice matte. Instead of strange dry pink lips that don't match my skintone (really - I've been told that shade of pink looks awful on me while walking around without any lipcolour on) I can have shiny lips in a subdued reddish earthtone that goes with both my natural and my made-up skintone.

Is my make-up actually that miraculous? Who knows? But I think it is, so I face the world with the confidence of big bright green eyes, smooth skin, and dewy lips. I am no longer my parents' daughter, the spawn of two people to whom it never occurred that their child might inherit their more unattractive physical features. I am my own person, with my physical appearance at least hinting at the person I want to be.

I wear make-up for myself, sex appeal doesn't enter into it. But suppose it does make me more sexually appealing. That doesn't make me feel exploited or oppressed. Unwanted sexual attention happens whether I'm wearing make-up or not, but I can initiate positive social interaction (whether sexual or not) with greater confidence when I look like I want to look. The big green eyes and smooth skin also seem to have a molifying effect on potentially contentious social interactions. If I'm in a situation where I'm awkward or uncertain, people tend to be more trusting of my made-up self, give her greater benefit of the doubt. Whether I'm passing through airport security or asking the saleslady to remove the beepy security tag from these pants before I try them on so I can see if they gap in the back, people are more likely to be nice and friendly and not at all suspicious if I'm wielding the big green eyes. Professionally, I feel more confident and pulled-together if my complexion is smooth. And, of course, I always have the option of not wearing make-up at all if I don't feel like it, or putting it on but not taking advantage of the extra powers it affords me, instead just being quietly gorgeous.

Perhaps you find make-up oppressing yourself. And that's fine, you don't have to wear it. But stop telling me that it's oppressing for me. From the moment at the age of 13 when my mother gave me my first tube of concealer, it has always been a liberator for me, empowering me, giving me control over my own body.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

How to make a liberal adult

A new study suggests that a more stressful childhood produces liberal adults.

As with everything, I found myself thinking about this through the lens of my own experience. Any liberalism that I might have is the result of what conservatism my parents have. (They are conservative in some areas but not in others.) I find their conservatism very unattractive and unpleasant. Whenever they demonstrated conservatism, my train of thought would be "This is ugly and unpleasant. I don't want to be that kind of person. I want to be better than that." And so I do my best to be the kind of person I want to be instead of the kind of person I hate being around.

Now, I don't know if other people are liberal because they are repulsed by the conservatism they see in their parents. But nevertheless, this all led me to a follow-up question: Does having conservative parents produce a stressful childhood?

What, only $5 million?

According to the front page of some supermarket tabloid, Jennifer Aniston is writing a tell-all book for $5 million.

The cast of Friends made $1 million each per episode. I don't know the filming schedule for Friends in particular, but my understanding is most sitcoms film an episode a week.

Would you write a tell-all book about your private life for only five weeks' pay?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The problem with automatic rent payment

On Thursday I went to the ATM, took out some money, and got a slip showing my balance. So I knew how much was in my account. Today I happened to log into my online banking and OMG THE BALANCE IS OVER $1000 LESS THAN I EXPECTED!!! OMG SOMETHING HORRIBLE MUST HAVE HAPPENED! OMG CLICK ON VIEW ACCOUNT TO SEE WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENED TO ALL THAT $$$$ AND oh it's just my June rent was deducted.

Things They Should Invent: lightsabre cellphones

So you take a cellphone, and you install whatever technology they use in Wii controllers. Then on the end of the cellphone you put a laser where you can see the whole beam like a lightsabre. It will have to be a magical laser that doesn't damage people's eyes.

Then people can use their cellphones to have lightsabre fights, and bring back the social convention of challenging people to a duel.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Wherein I sacrifice one of my core principles in the name of good translation

One thing they made clear to me when I was hired is that there is no room for one's personal values in translation. My first duty as a translator is to accurately render the full meaning of the source text into the target language, and no matter how provocative the subject matter I was not to impose my own values upon it.

Not the most comfortable rule in the world, but I figured that the vast majority of the material I'd be asked to translate is not contrary to my values, and if I did find my values being compromised, I could always resign. So I accepted the conditions of my job. A couple of texts have pushed, but not crossed, the line, but overall nothing in the past four years has caused me to compromise my principles.

Until today.

In what was otherwise a perfectly innocent text, there was a pun. A horrible, terrible, ugly pun. A pun that made me recoil from the computer screen. Once I had recovered my wits, I analyzed it linguistically, showed it to some of my learned colleagues, and decided it was untranslatable. There's no shame in that, most puns are untranslatable. So I put in a pun-free translation of the phrase in question, and continued on my merry way.

Until it happened. Suddenly, unintentionally, against my very will, a solution came to me. An accurate and effective translation of that horrible pun, producing an even worse pun in English. The English pun caused me to make a face like I'd accidentally eaten an olive. But as soon as it came to mind I knew it was the best translation humanly possible of the full denotation and connotation of the French phrase.

So now I was in a dilemma. On one hand, I certainly had the option of disingenuously using a literal, pun-free translation. Certainly no one would blame me for not translating a pun. On the other hand, I did have the best possible solution, and I knew it. The source text's intentions were clear, the ethical dictates of my profession were clear. But was it really worth sacrificing my long-standing noble principle of not inflicting horrible puns on the general public?

Once again I consulted with my learned colleagues. I took a strategic approach: I printed out the section with the pun and shoved it in their faces, hoping to shock and disgust them. After all, if they reacted with the same visceral disgust that I did, I might be able to get them to agree that we really can't inflict such horror on the unwitting public. But they are older than me, and their additional life and translation experience seems to have grown impervious to such horrors. They looked the pun in the eye unflinchingly, with complete sangfroid, and confirmed that it was indeed the best possible translation, so I should use it.

So I swallowed my principles and my pride, inserted the pun, and submitted my text. So now, somewhere out there, is this horrid, wretched pun, just waiting to be unleashed on innocent civilians. And it's all my fault.

I think I'm going to go take a shower.