Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things They Should Invent: free valet parking for hospital emergency rooms

I've been to the ER once, as a child with a non-critical but still ER-worthy problem. We had to park in an underground parking garage. I don't remember whether this was a massive inconvenience because that was the last of my worries at the time, but I'm certain we had to park underground and I am certain that you can't just park in front of the hospital doors.

But parking underground is the most difficult parking of all! I know, I know, some people do it every day, a lot of people do it without any trouble. But if there's one thing that people are going to have trouble with, it's parking underground. This isn't something you want to deal with in an emergency situation! The patient shouldn't have to wait while you try to manoeuvre the car between the wall and the big concrete pole. The patient shouldn't have to go into to ER all alone while you deal with the parking. And the driver is probably going to be rather frightened and stressed, which isn't the time to be dealing with fussy parking manoeuvres.

What they should have is valets right in front of the ER door. You unload the patient, hand over the keys, and they deal with the car. Let the patient's caregiver go into ER with them, and let a calm and experienced third party play Tetris with big expensive machines.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things They Should Invent: earbud-holder earrings

So you're going about your everyday life, listening to music to maintain your happy place and drown out the sounds of that homeless guy who keeps propositioning you and the insipid xmas music that they've been playing in all stores everywhere since FUCKING HALLOWEEN! But then you need to talk to someone, to pay for your groceries, for example. So you take your earbuds out. But where do you put them? If your iPod (or whatever) is in your pocket, the earbuds will dangle perilously close to the ground. If you throw them over your shoulder or put them through your beltloop or whatever, it's a rather complicated process to put them back, especially if you care about getting the right bud in the right ear.

The solution: attractive, functional earrings that you can somehow hang your earbuds on. You just remove them from your ears and somehow attach them to your earrings, so they're right there a centimetre below your earholes. Perhaps they could even design them so that if you take the earbud out of your ear, it will fall naturally onto the earring without your having to fiddle with some kind of hooking mechanism. No more getting wires all tangled up, no more accidentally stepping on your earbuds, no more rudely leaving one earbud in because you can't figure out what to do with them.

I have no idea what the specific design should be like, I'm leaving that for people with aesthetic sense.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Materialism and self-esteem in kids

So apparently, low self-esteem causes materialism in children, and parents are supposed to counter this by complimenting their children to raise their self esteem. (Ignore any dollar amounts mentioned in this article - the Globe and Mail lives in a different order of magnitude than the rest of us - and just focus on the message).

I see a couple of problems with this.

1. When I was a 12-year-old with no self-esteem, there was nothing my parents could possibly have done to raise it, because the source of the low self-esteem was my peers. Yes, parents, can easily do things to make it worse, but they can't make it better (all together now: life isn't fair!) My parents did try to raise my self-esteem, but all it did was destroy their credibility because clearly they didn't know what they were talking about - no matter what they said to support me or how they tried to advise me, I was still tormented at school. In fact, sometimes I was tormented because of what they did to try to help me - being spotted doing outdoor activities with a parent was worth a threat to spraypaint obscenities onto our lawn (no, I don't know how the bullies calculated that sort of thing), using a turn of phrase provided by a parent was worth at least two days of mockery, etc. No amount of parental reassurance would have negated the fact that I was treated like I was subhuman by dozens of people.

2. "Those with low self-esteem were more likely to arrange a hodge-podge of cars, money, jewellery, sports equipment and - among the youngest bunch - stuffed animals. The children with high self-regard assembled images related to friends, family and outdoor activities such as camping."

Camping is a hobby/activity. Sports are also a hobby/activity, an argument can be made for cars being a hobby/activity, and stuffed animals are both a hobby/activity and a friend. (I dare you to find anyone whose young childhood relationship with their stuffed animals was materialistic rather than affectionate.) They seem to be arbitrarily claiming camping to be superior to other hobbies/activities based on the fact that it takes place outdoors. In other words, this study would rate my self-esteem lower because I'm geeky and arachnophobic, and therefore love my computer more than camping.

3. Again thinking back to my low self-esteem days and the material things I wanted at the time, I never wanted material objects as status symbols in and of themselves; rather, I thought the function they served would help raise my standing in the world or make my life more pleasant. For example, I wanted a discman so I could listen to music more often, thus bringing my pop cultural knowledge up to an acceptable level, plus it was far more socially acceptable to be seen alone listening to music than to be seen alone doing nothing, and headphones would allow me to either tune out or plausibly pretend not to hear the things that were hissed behind my back rather than getting "Oooh, I'll bet her mother told her to just ignore us!" It wasn't the discman itself that I thought would help me socially, it was the ability to listen to music wherever and whenever.

Actually, now that I think about it, although my self-esteem has skyrocketed since its nadir in middle school, my materialism is probably higher now than it was then. Part of this is because I now have disposable income (which still feels new to me), but I think part of it is actually because my self-esteem is higher now - namely the part of my self-esteem that they're talking about in the article, the part that's based on parental approval. You see, my parents value frugality, so to Be Good I was supposed to not want material things. So I tried very hard to not want material things in order to Be Good. Then in university I tried very hard to spend as little money as possible so I could put myself through school and no one could accuse me of being spoiled. But getting a proper grownup job was a huge boost to my self-esteem. I used to feel like the whole world was looking over my shoulder disapproving of my life choices (the side-effect of being a B.A. student among scientists and mathematicians and engineers) but now that I've proven myself and it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, I can shop freely. Camera phone, iPod, ridiculous special-ordered dictionaries, the complete works of Eddie Izzard on DVD - I have a job, I can afford it, so WTF do you care? Also, especially in the area of fashion, having higher self esteem makes me more willing to take risks, which I never dared do back when I was trying to be invisible. The red purse, the tall shiny boots, the fascinatingly-cut green skirt - I never would have dared try any of this as a teenager. But now that I'm brave enough to wear it, it comes home with me in a shopping bag rather than being passed over on the rack.

It would be interesting to further compare grown adults' desire for material objects with that of their younger selves. I don't think your materialism gets noticed as much when you're an adult, probably because you don't have to ask for things, you just quietly go out and buy them. Also, more things fit unquestioned into adult life. If I express the desire for a cordless phone that can do call display, it is automatically assumed that I have a good reason rather than that I'm spoiled. I don't expect to keep acquiring material goods at the same rate for the rest of my life because one does build up a reserve, but I see no reason (apart from poverty, of course) why my "I want that - I'll buy that" threshold or my standard of comfort would lower as I age.

What about you? How does your desire for material goods compare now with when you were younger with lower self-esteem?

Monday, November 26, 2007

iPod does pathetic fallacy

The snow is beautiful. It's those big fat wet flakes that can't help but fall gracefully, sticking to everyone's hair and clothing like it's a movie.

Unfortunately, my jacket is not quite warm enough, my bags are just a bit too cumbersome, the wind is blowing right in my face so I can barely see for the snowflakes on my glasses, the snow on my body is melting the instant it touches me so my hair is plastered to my head and water is dripping down my nose, and the snow on the sidewalk is creating a messy icy slush that, in the dark under the streetlights, makes it impossible to tell whether my next step will be into an inch-deep puddle or onto a greasy patch of ice.

My boots, pants, hair, makeup, glasses, purse, and groceries are all a terrible mess, and I am miserable. But, nevertheless, the snow is truly beautiful.

For this walk home, my iPod serves up k.d. lang's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Computers and their attempts to read my mind

I needed to upgrade my French-English dictionary, so I went to and typed in "Collins-Robert". The first result? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in DVD.

Then iTunes serves up Close Every Door from that very musical.

So I proceed with my shopping, poke around and price and compare with the US prices (Canadian's better in this case), and just as I'm finalizing my purchase of my French-English dictionary, iTunes has Eddie Izzard forgetting the French word for "tiring".

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

This book is a story of Gen. Xers in New York in the dot-com bust. The plot is there, it's a story, it does its job, there's nothing wrong with it. But that's not what's cool about the book.

The first thing that's cool is the way the author does detail. Usually I'm not fond of excessive detail because it seems unrealistic to me that people would notice that, but here it just seemed spot-on. For example, early on in the book the author describes a character's make-up, from that character's point of view, in terms of the character's own perception of the flaws of her make-up and the flaws on her face that it's concealing. And it was an absolutely perfect description of my own face at the time I was reading it. It's like the author was inside my head when I look in the mirror around 3 pm and was articulating in words all the thoughts that pass through my head as wordless concepts. As the book went on I stopped noticing the descriptions of detail (which is good, it means they didn't overwhelm the book) but in every case it was exactly right without getting overwrought.

The second thing that was very cool is a spoiler. If you read the rest of this, it will stop you from having "Whoa!" moments of realization if you read the book. So you might want to stop reading now. But if you're still here, the second cool thing is that the book is set in the months leading up to September 11, but this is never explicitly mentioned (until Sept. 11 actually happens, that is). Months are mentioned, a few hints are dropped, so you might figure it out or you might not. I figured it out because a movie was alluded to (by namedropping the real-life actress who starred in it), and I happened to remember where in res I was living at the time that movie came out, thus being able to work out that it was 2001. I think if my life had been more stable during that time and I had been living in one place for several years, I would have missed it. Casually dropped into all this are references that would become more significant after Sept. 11. Firefighters are included in a list of people who might be thought of as heroes. The skyline of Manhattan is mentioned, without mentioning any specific buildings. It's all very subtly done, as is appropriate given that the characters had no idea what was coming.

This makes me really curious about how this book will stand up to the test of time, how it will look to readers 20 or 50 years from now for whom this setting is nothing but a history lesson.

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: ugly glasses protest for better insurance

Optical coverage in the health insurance of absolutely everyone whose insurance details I know is insufficient. Every insurance plan I'm familiar with (which includes university employees, teachers, steelworkers, some hospital workers, and all levels of public service) pays a limited dollar amount, and many don't even cover the cost of lenses.

This is unacceptable. Insurance companies should - actually OHIP should - cover the actual cost of glasses (or, at the very least, lenses), not just "Oh, you need glasses, okay, here, have $200." But the problem is that because glasses are so important - we need to wear them on our faces, all the time, to see - people end up coughing up whatever it costs to get a decently functional and reasonably attractive pair of glasses.

But imagine for a moment if everyone stopped doing that. Everyone started buying only what was covered by their insurance. Ugly square plastic glasses abound - not the hipster kind, the kind you'd expect to see on a serial killer who's been in jail for 20 years. Everyone does without anti-glare and without sunglasses. Everyone who does have glasses is walking around with smudged lenses and crooked frames. Everyone whose doesn't have insurance coverage (or doesn't have enough coverage to buy even lenses) is walking around squinting unattractively, unable to drive if their licence has conditions.

That would certainly show the world how insufficient our insurance plans are, making the powers that be more willing to increase coverage for both the haves and the have nots. Unfortunately it will never work because no one who can possibly make the money work will be willing to make themselves blind and unattractive.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Downtime at work

When I get home from work, I'm tired. My brain is like a computer that badly needs to be rebooted, with all kinds of extra little file fragments floating around in the memory, taking up processing power. (I have no idea if I mixed that metaphor, but you know what I mean.) I need to just tune out, close myself off from the world, and reboot my brain before I can do anything, sometimes before I can even do anything interactive online.

I'd always thought this was your basic introvert overstimulation, but I think it's something more than that. At my previous job, which involved far more work with people, I didn't have this happen. I walked out of the office and my head was clear. Sometimes I was tired, yes, sometimes I was cranky, but my brain didn't need rebooting.

So I've been thinking lately about why exactly this is, and I think it comes down to one difference: at my previous job, downtime was allowed; at my current job, I'm supposed to be actively working at all times.

At my previous job, part of the reason I was there was simply to staff a campus office in case anyone calls or drops by. People did all the time, of course. Some days I didn't even get to sit down. But there wouldn't necessarily be people. There was the possibility that I could just sit at my desk and no one would come ask me for help all day. We did have was a long schedule of where all the equipment needed to be at what time, and we did have a queue full of requests. But if all the equipment was where it was supposed to be, I'd looked at the whole queue and done everything I could, and no one had asked me to do anything else, I was perfectly justfied in sitting at my desk doing nothing. Plus we were allowed to play on the internet or do homework or whatever if there was nothing else we were supposed to be doing. So it gave me a sort of motivation - get all this shit done, and then I can get some work done on that assignment or watch Homestar Runner (we didn't have Youtube back then). Most days I didn't get to do this - most days I was running around like crazy - but the sentiment that when all these tasks are done I can have some recreation just helped push me through the rush.

But at my current job, we're supposed to be in the office doing proper work all day long regardless of our productivity. If I finish two days' quota in four hours, I am still required to stay at the office and keep working for the rest of the day. And even if I did manage to finish all my work (which has never ever happened - they're quite good at keeping us full) recreational internet usage is strictly forbidden, so I'd still have to sit at the office until the end of my designated work hours in case any new work comes in. So basically there's less motivation to get the job done. I still meet all my deadlines of course, but when I finish a task, all I have to look forward to is continuing to work at at least the standard pace until quitting time, then coming in at the same time tomorrow and doing the same thing, etc. etc. for several more decades. Of all the jobs I might possibly have this one has the least struggle per dollar earned, but the daily and hourly motivation still leaves something to be desired.

I think this is why I work faster from home. Because I can reward myself and don't have to put on the appearance of working (while it's true that no one would scold me for staring into space - it is purely mental work, after all - I can't blog or read comics while trying to clear my head) I can work in productive bursts and do something irrelevant in between rather than having to spend the whole day trying to maintain a constant work pace. So it looks like I should be working towards being in a position to work from home more often...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things They DID Invent: Songza!

A few months ago, I proposed "Youtune" as an audio equivalent of Youtube. Turns out Songza does this. Their catalogue is not as comprehensive as I'd like - I can still outsmart it - but it's not even 2 weeks old yet so we'll give it some time.

Let's see if this embedding thingy works...

Edit: It sounds like this the soundtrack of the music video, rather than being the actual song as recorded on the album. (That's what's up with all the talking at the end. Here's the video in question - it is one of the best videos I've seen and definitely worth watching.)

Don't run a reader poll when you aren't giving the readers enough information

Boys, 8 and 9, charged with raping an 11-year-old girl.

Obviously this raises one major logistical question, and a series of smaller ones. You can't expect the reader to form an informed opinion without more information on the choreography of the alleged incident, as well as how much theoretical grounding in the subject matter all the parties involved had.

Now I totally understand if they can't publish this information. You have crimes involving minors, you have sexual assault charges, you have a case that has not yet gone to court. There are several layers of reasons why they can't publish all the information the reader needs to informedly evaluate the situation. Which is fine.

Just don't run a reader poll when you've provided so little information!

Nothing fruitful could possibly result from polling the readers based on insufficient information! It's tacky and cheap and sensationalist, and no good can possibly come of it. Run your poll on a more fully-informed story instead.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vitamin D + acne update

Further to my hypothesis about Vitamin D's effect on my skin:

I've just gone through a full cycle without the Vitamin D, and my skin has behaved normally during this time. Apart from my normal clogged pores, there were only two minor zits of note, both adjacent to my period and neither of which left a scar.

When I start my next cycle next week, I'm going to resume the Vitamin D for another month just to observe what happens.

Fashion tips for people with narrow shoulders

If you have narrow shoulders, don't buy a purse with flat shiny straps. The straps will slip off your shoulders far more readily than regular purse straps, which is particularly problematic if both your hands a full of heavy grocery bags and the purse contains several valuable pieces of personal electronics.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

If you're in the market for nailpolish

Right now, PharmaPlus has Rimmel nailpolish on for $1.99, plus like five bonus air miles each. I don't remember if I've blogged this before, but the Rimmel Wear 10 polish actually does last significantly longer than regular polishes (it lasts a week on me, and generally my nails chip if I even give a passing thought to doing housework). So yeah, go to PharmaPlus and buy one in every colour that appeals to you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

For the lack of an interpreter, a life was lost

A translated transcript of the Dziekanski video.

I'm glad the G&M did this, because I'm too squeamish to watch a person die. I wish we had more context though. I'm not familiar with Vancouver airport and I haven't been on an international flight in years. Was he just in the wrong room and not leaving that room going looking for his mother? Or was someone preventing him from leaving that room? If someone was preventing him, why couldn't they find an interpreter? Wasn't he in there for 10 hours? It would make more sense if we knew the layout.

While I know the real issue is that the police tased him at least three times, but I keep thinking how this might never have happened if there had just been someone there who had enough Polish to understand him and enough English to navigate the airport. Which I can do, either alone or with the help of my cellphone.

I've never been in the situation of witnessing someone acting erratically in another of my languages, but I might rethink my reaction in the future. I've always been told by people who know better than I do that if someone is acting threateningly because of distress or a mental health problem, they're still a threat to me and I should protect myself accordingly. But now I think I should take the Starfleet approach and answer any distress signals I can decode, at least until someone better able to help them gets there. I've always been willing to intervene to protect a person from another person, but I never thought before about protecting people from themselves before the police come. I'm not the kind of person who trusts the police unconditionally, but I always assumed they'd be able to handle the situation of a person in distress in another language. It looks like I can't assume that any more, which means it's my job now.

Edit: So far, I've been thinking about this in terms of the difficulty of getting an interpreter in the context of everyday life, about how I'd handle the problem in ordinary public space. But, as a letter in today's Toronto Star from one Omer Lifshitz of Toronto (whose name I am deliberately making Googleable because he deserves credit for seeing something I missed) pointed out, Robert Dziekanski had just gotten off a plane from Poland! They knew where he came from, and there must have been members of the flight crew who spoke Polish since he managed the flight okay. It should have taken far fewer than 10 hours for someone to notice that he had been in the arrivals area for a long time, look at his passport and/or boarding pass, identify his language needs, and find someone who speaks Polish. Before I disagreed with people who said this is the airline's responsibility, but now that I think about it they had people, right there getting off the same plane as Pan Dziekanski, who could have explained things to him in Polish.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coolest thing ever of the moment

I'm not too fond of marching bands, but as a band geek and a gamer I can't help but think this is awesome (like at least 100,000 hotdogs).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Seen in the hallway: the neighbour dog who's been WOOFing at me every time I step out into the hall. Turns out its a tiny little schnauzer! I'm impressed by the little guy's lung power!

Seen on the way to the store: a lady with two adorable dogs, standing on the corner as though waiting for someone.

Seen on the way home from the store: a different lady with the same two adorable dogs, standing on the same corner as though waiting for someone.

Seen at Noah's: cookies called "Bowel Buddies". I'm surprised anyone would eat something with the word bowel in the name when they have the option of eating something without the word bowel in the name.

Seen at Dominion: those tote bags that they're trying to get people to use instead of plastic bags, redesigned with a seasonal motif. (And I'm using the word "seasonal" literally - pine trees and snowflakes). I'm wondering what went on in the strokey-beard meeting behind that. Why introduce the concept of seasonality to something specifically designed to be permanent and represent permanence?

Seen in my ZoneAlarm alerts: "Trillian is trying to act as a server. IP address:" Yeah, you do that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dancing through the streets

Evening rush hour. It's dark out, which we're still getting used to since it's only a week into standard time. I'm standing directly across Yonge St. from where I need to be, but unfortunately there's no crosswalk at that point. I'm clad entirely in black, wearing four-inch heels, burdened with shopping bags, and pondering whether to risk a jaywalk at this point or to walk a block to a proper crosswalk.

An older woman in a similar predicament is also pondering the same thing, so we catch each other's eye and wordlessly form a temporary alliance. We are soon joined by another woman pushing a baby stroller. We scope out the traffic, use the power of our numbers to assert our position in the curb lane, and then on some unspoken signal run across after that taxi cab, while that SUV is making a left turn, myself and the older woman flanking the stroller by some unspoken agreement in case it's too low for the cars to see. On the other side of the street we unceremoniously dissolve our alliance and hurry off our separate ways, with only a brief glance back to make sure the mother managed to get the stroller up on the curb.

I think this is why people in cities don't make small talk with each other.

I've previously theorized that it's because of sheer numbers (I cross paths with 100 people on the way to the subway this morning - like hell I'm going to say hi or even smile and nod at all of them!), but now I think it's that by having so many people crowded together, we automatically have to engage in quite a few positive social interactions that generate goodwill, just as part of walking around without being an asshole. So because of this, maybe we don't have to chitchat to get positive social interactions or goodwill, because we're already sated.

For example, on the way to work I have to do the door-holdy dance 10 times. I get to a door, take it from the person who's holding it from me, say thank you, hold it for the next person, receive their thanks. There are also two elevator dances, where everyone in the elevator positions themselves in order of anticipated departure, where the person near the buttons tries to offer to press buttons for everyone while everyone tries to press their own buttons without invading any personal space, where you either hold the door and the person running apologizes for making you old the door, or someone opens the door with the call button and then apologizes for delaying you while you apologize for not seeing them. Half the time there's a dog in the apartment elevator which means we also have to do the doggie dance, where I'm gracious about the fact that the dog is sniffing and/or jumping on me while the dog's human is gracious about the fact that I keep petting and babytalking at their dog. There's also a dance at every subway stop (Are there any free seats? Does anyone need my seat more than I do? Am I in anyone's way? No, no, you go ahead, I'm getting off soon anyway) and every subway staircase (I have to make my train and not be in the way of the people going for the other train and I can go fast but still I'm wearing heels and it's downhill so I'll go in front of this old lady to break a trail for her (I hope she realizes I'm helping her and not budding) and behind this big tall man.) Plus people often ask me for directions or to help them with strollers or something - I'd say it happens at least three times a week.

So in total, we're pushing 20 positive social interactions just on a wordless, ipoded and sunglassed, 17-minute commute to work. Who needs chitchat after all that?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The weirdest thing about In Flanders Fields

The last two lines, my bolding:

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields


Though implies an expected cause and effect. Even though poppies are growing here, we still cannot (or will not) sleep. As if the narrator expects that the reader is thinking "WTF? Why can't you sleep? There are poppies growing there!"

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that it's a drug reference.

And yet they have schoolchildren recite this?

One drink a day for women and two for men

I keep seeing that people limit their drinking to one drink a day for women and two for men.

What I really want to know is whether this gender difference is due to the difference in average body mass between the genders, or some other factor.

I'm 5'7" and 150 lbs. It certainly wouldn't be out of the ordinary for a man to be exactly the same size. So would a 5'7" 150 lbs. man be able to safely drink twice as much as I can safely drink? Or is his limit slightly less because he's a bit smaller than the average man? And does that mean my limit is more because I'm somewhat bigger than the average woman?

Or are there some kind of metabolic differences between the sexes independent of body size?

We could really use this information, and people who are far bigger or smaller than average could probably use it even more.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Strange cartoon?

I'm trying to figure out if I'm reading today's Toronto Star editorial cartoon right. (Yes, that's the Hamilton Spectator cartoonist - that's what the Star printed today.)

I'm seeing in that cartoon the passing the torch symbolism from In Flanders Fields, but it seems to be endorsing that passing of the torch. The characters might be smiling, and at any rate they certainly don't look particularly grim about it. Because they're all soldiers and only soldiers, and because they're all labelled as wars, it really looks to me like the poppy is symbolizing warfare itself. But then he passes it on to a child? With what looks like a smile on his face? Without hesitating or questioning why he's doing so? So they're essentially declaring warfare inevitable without questioning that declaration, or even bothering to look grim while they do it? I don't think that's what my great-grandfathers had in mind when they were sitting in muddy shitty rat-infested holes shooting at each other.*

The text to the right doesn't give a clear interpretation (I think it's a newspaper article, not the artist's own commentary), but it certainly doesn't do anything to make me think my interpretation is wrong.

(On a purely artistic note, the transition from sepia to b&w to colour is particularly good.)

Update (maybe?): No reply from the cartoonist yet, but it occurred to me in the shower that it would make much better sense if all those soldiers were dead. That would also explain why the Afghanistan soldier has a different colour background than the child (I assumed it was due to geography). Mr. MacKay? You still out there?

*I can't trace every branch of my family tree back to WWI, but based on pure geography it seems quite possible that half my ancestors were on the other side. I'll never know this for certain, because my surviving ancestors would not tell anyone if this were true. The more I learn about WWI, the less confident I am that it actually defended our freedoms or way of life, but even if it did then surely any gratitude I'm supposed to have to WWI veterans for trying to preserve half my ancestors' freedom and way of life is cancelled out by the fact that they were trying to destroy the other half of my ancestors' freedom and way of life? At any rate, all WWI seems to have done for me is created the conditions for WWII, which created the conditions for my family to flee Europe, which made it possible for my parents to meet and make me. And I'll tell you right now, as the person in the best position to know, my existence isn't worth all that trouble.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My inner child watches the news

From Calgary's CTV news:

"Prime Minister Harper will go one step further with the Dalai Lama..."

Yeah, if they're lucky and all goes well, they might get to third tonight...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I am superwoman!

Update to the "OMG the paper towels are behind the dryer!" saga:

I was trying to fish them out with a hook cleverly* fashioned out of a wire coathanger (yes, it only took me 2 days to think of that) when I gave the machine a frustrated push.


So long story short, through sheer brute force, my wimpy out of shape 150 pound body managed to move this big hulking 350 pound machine a couple of inches, which is enough to get one of my scrawny arms into the space between the machine and the wall and pull out the paper towels. The mirror is still back there somewhere, but at least it's not flammable.

That pill I missed yesterday must have upped my testosterone level or something.

*This cleverness is negated by the fact that I tried to move the machine back while the washer was running, and couldn't figure out why it was heavier all the sudden.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I think the mirror broke

So I wake up this morning, stumble to the shower, turn on the water, and it does that weird spitty thing that water does when the pump has been off. Then the water that starts coming out is a bit dirty-looking. I think okay, it got turned off at some point, I'll let it run a bit until it clears up. So I make myself some coffee and come back in five find GREEN residue all over the bathtub. A frantic call to a frantic superintendent later, I learn that a booster pump turned off during the night and I should just let the water run until it clears up. So I let it run and run, but it isn't clearing up. Experimentation finds that only the hot water is contaminated, so (after a futile attempt to clean the green residue - I've got some of it off but the rest won't budge) I have a cold shower cum spongebath. (Why is the water from the cold tap actually cold instead of being room temperature?) Then I try to get myself ready for work, despite the fact that I'm running way late from this water problem and the supers keep running in and out of the apartment to check on things (times like this I'm glad they're gay, because some of my previous superintendents I wouldn't want around when I'm in just a bathrobe). Finally, after running the hot water taps for an HOUR (and hot water is already the biggest part of my utility bill) they start to clear up.

So now I've got green stains on my bathtub that I don't know how to get off, my paper towels are still stuck behind the washer/dryer, I've got to run an empty wash cycle to make sure the washer doesn't turn anything green but I can't do that until I've retrieved the paper towels, I feel gross and smelly because I didn't have a proper shower, and I've got to take ALL the dirty dishes OUT of my dishwasher and run an empty cycle and put them ALL back in.

And on top of everything else, in all the confusion I forgot to take my pill this morning, so I was almost 12 hours late with it. Which, of course, causes my uterine lining to go "Warning, warning, ethinyl estradiol levels have dropped severely, all hands abandon ship!" Which, in turn, produces more laundry that I can't do until I've retrieved the paper towels, which I don't know how I'm going to do that because I couldn't find one of those hand-grabby toys anywhere.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Just For Laughs top 25

I don't think Russell Peters is #1. He's quite good and I don't begrudge him his place on the list, but he's not better than Rowan Atkinson's changing at the beach bit, he's not better than Mitch Hedberg, and, although I'm not usually into this kind of act, he's not better than that ventriloquist who could have three different voices going while drinking from a glass.

What surprises me though is the people who weren't on the list. I can't seem to google up the list of people you could vote for, but I am certain it included at least one Monty Python bit, Eddie Izzard, Wendy Liebman, and Lewis Black. Other people who have been on Just For Laughs (but I don't remember if they were in the voting or not) include Greg Proops, Omid Djalili, Margaret Cho, and Flight of the Conchords, (to say nothing of acknowledged classics like Bill Cosby, Bill Hicks, and George Carlin). None of these people were in the top 25, but Ray Romano and Drew Carey were? And at least two comedians whom I have already completely forgotten?

Another thing that was interesting is how some of the more iconic acts now feel stale. Tim Allen's bit, which got him his sitcom and skyrocketed his profile, just had me rolling my eyes thinking "It's been done." (Yes, it has, by him, 15 years ago). And Rick Mercer from 1997, and Seinfeld from like 1992 - I was sitting there thinking "Yes, I see that this is funny and worth of being on this list" but I wasn't actually laughing. Which, again, is why I'm surprised by the absence of all the people whose absence I mentioned above - with them, I actually laugh, even in repeats. I'm not just acknowledging that it's good, I'm actually laughing the sixth time I hear it.

That said, there were still many bits that were quite good. I was glad to see Mitch Hedberg there, I was surprised to be impressed by a ventriloquist, and early Jon Stewart was brilliant. None of these acts would be a weak link in a typical 30 or 60 minute episode of Just For Laughs. But I was disappointed to see how often the voting public went for the more bland and serviceable comedians on the list.

Bad luck

My package of paper towels fell behind my dryer, which is a problem because it's a stacked washer-dryer in a closet and i can't even move it an inch. So I spent two hours using various creative ways to try to fish it out, without success. Then I decided to give up and go buy one of those grabby toy things tomorrow. So I put back all the stuff that lives on top of the machines (don't worry, it's all too big to fall behind there) and in doing so accidentally knocked down the hand mirror i'd been using to look behind the machine. So now my paper towels are behing my dryer, probably causing a fire hazard, my towels badly need to be washed (and they're the one thing that MUST go in the dryer because they're too heavy for my clothesline thingy when wet, I now have to retrieve the stuff from behind the machines blind, and I've probably just broken a mirror.

And I'm still doing time for the last mirror I broke. I wonder if they're concurrent or consecutive sentences?

ETA: I think maybe an actual fishhook would help. Anyone know where to buy those?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Theory confirmed

I recently heard a theory that the mission of the US republican party is actually to put political parodyists out of business.

I believe that theory is confirmed with the following quote:

I will follow Osama Bin Laden to the gates of hell and I will shoot him with your products.
-John McCain, talking to employees of a gun factory.

I also think this quote may demonstrate a lack of foresight and planning on the part of Mr. McCain. If you have followed someone to the gates of hell, and you want to punish them, wouldn't the optimal course of action to be to push them into the gates of hell? Isn't that the ultimate punishment? I mean, people do sometimes recover from gunshot wounds, and if hell is right there, why would you even risk another course of action?

What talkshows should do during the writers' strike

Apparently TV writers are going to go on strike and, among other things, this will stop production of talkshows like Leno and Conan.

So why not can the comedy part of the show and add another interview or performance segment instead?

I don't know the details of the unions involved, and I'm not trying to encourage scabbing, but the impression I get from the articles I've read is that TV shows can keep on working and producing and airing whatever they can manage to do, they just can't write new material. But you don't have to write interviews, you just have to get someone to interview.

On gilding the lily

One habit of mine that is unpopular with some people is that I don't decorate. My walls are painted whatever colour they happen to be, my furniture is what it is (mostly what I could get for free), I simply don't put effort into this area because I don't have any sort of creative impulses that can be expressed through the medium of interior decorating.

Another habit of mine that is unpopular with some people is that I wear make-up. I've blogged about this before - essentially it makes me feel good and gives me a sense of control over my body, but there are people who think I (and people in general) shouldn't do this because we should just learn to love and accept the appearance of our bodies as they are.

This leads me to wonder: are there also people out there who actively believe that everyone should just learn to love and accept the appearance of their homes as they are, without feeling the need to cover the flaws and paint over them to make something more attractive?

Death (or cake?)

I've been reading about doctors diagnosing cancer patients, and the patients deciding whether to go through with arduous chemo or just to accept the limited time they have left without chemo so they can enjoy it.

I've always assumed I'd want to know if I had a specific limited life expectancy, because that would change how I arrange my life. Right now the reason I work (and, consequently, structure a lot of my life around my job) is because I don't have enough money to support myself for the rest of my life. By working, I not only accrue money, but increase my likelihood of finding another job when I lose this one. But if I had six months left to live, I'd have enough money to support myself for that long, so I'd want to know so I could quit my job and have my time free. I might also buy some things I wouldn't normally (I'd rethink whether a region-free DVD player is worth the investment if I'm not going to live to see that movie released in North America, for example) or not buy things I was planning to (my black pants are getting a bit worn, but like hell I'm spending my last months on earth shopping for pants!)

But reading about these cancer patients makes me think that maybe I wouldn't want to know, because then there'd be such pressure to make the most of every single minute. Like right now I'm sitting in my bathrobe (yes, at 2:30 pm) drinking coffee and reading my book. I am content. But if I only had a few months left to live, would I want to be doing this? Do I care enough about this book to spend some of my precious time left reading it? I love sleeping until I wake up naturally, but is the joy I get from that worth spending my last months on earth unconscious? I've never been to Paris, but I don't particularly enjoy travelling. So should I go to Paris so I don't die without seeing it, or is that giving into social pressure? And what if I find there are people who want to spend time with me before I die, but I don't really care if I spend time with them? What's my responsibility to them?

I don't know if I'd want to have all these dilemmas every single minute of my dying days! Maybe it would be preferable to just get hit by a bus, even if does mean spending more time in the office than I would have preferred and doing without a few material indulgences that I could have afforded.

Things I Don't Understand: age, weight, and dress size

Some people, especially women, don't want other people to know stuff like their age, weight, and dress size.

But why would you feel the need to keep these secret from people who can see you?

Either it won't surprise them (in which case they have no more information than they would if you didn't say anything), or they'll be astoundingly surprised and admire your ability to take care of yourself/dress well/etc.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Esprit de l'escalier

I've decided the answer to "Why don't you just buy a small house in Hamilton?" (or some other place with cheap housing and a huge-ass commute) is going to be "For the same reason you aren't buying a dairy farm in Kazakhstan."