Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This song will not leave my head


Move Along - The All-American Rejects

Things They Should Invent (incompetent linguist edition)

1. Google should publicly post how many pages they have indexed in each language. I'm sure some computer somewhere has this information because in non-English versions of Google you get the option to search only pages that are written in the interface language. It would help in cases where I'm trying to figure out if something is idiomatic. For example, the other day I was trying to figure out if a certain word is in fact a real word in a relatively small language that I can't speak or read. I googled the word, and got maybe a hundred hits. That seems low, but it is a small language and not the most common of words. What I really wanted to know is whether a hundred hits in the other language was proportionate to the number of hits I'd get for the equivalent English word in English. If the ratio of hits in each language was close to the ratio of total pages indexed in each language, then it's likely it was a real word.

2. HowDoYouPronounceThisWord.com You post a word, people reply with an audio file of its pronunciation. They could have some kind of functionality to make it super-easy to upload an audio file - you simply press "record" on the interface rather than having to save and upload your own file, for example. And, of course, there would need to be some kind of screening and moderation to prevent it from degenerating into Yahoo Answers.

The biggest dog I've ever seen

Giant cow dog!

(I don't know the story, I have no further context, I was just sent the picture.)

How to eliminate all but the most medically necessary late-term abortions

I know, this is a boring topic, but I'm just gonna do this one real quick post with a practical solution to a specific problem that has only recently come to my attention, and then on to more interesting things. They're going through the motions of dropping it, so I'll do the same.

In reading the comment pages lately (I know, I know), I'm surprised at how many people are concerned specifically about late-term abortion. I always thought it was more of an "abortions for all" vs. "abortions for none" dichotemy, but it seems for some people it makes a lot of difference how far along the gestation is.

Strange issue that never occurred to me, but luckily I have a solution that will reduce late-term abortion specifically:

Make timely abortion easily accessible to everyone.

If you can just get on the bus one day at your convenience, go down to the local abortion clinic, get your abortion, and take the bus back home where you can recover quietly, you're going to get it within a week of peeing on the stick, possibly the same day. However, if you have to plan out-of-town (out-of-province? out-of-country?) travel, scrounge together a bunch of money, take a day off work and lose a day's pay in the process, find a sitter, convince someone to come with you because you can't drive yourself home after an abortion and the only way to get to the clinic is by car, and/or ditch your overprotective parents and find someplace to crash out of their sight while you recover, that will seriously hinder your ability to get it done in the first trimester.

So if, for whatever reason, the idea of late-term abortion bothers you, the thing to do is lobby for increased access for everyone. That will eliminate late-term abortion in all cases except those upredictable ones where the fetus just goes kerflooey (or whatever it is happens - I'm not up on the third trimester) and has to be removed.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Things They Should Invent: curling irons with switchable barrels

If you want to volumize, you need a large-barrelled curling iron. If you want tight curls or a little nest of curls at the top of your updo or those little accent ringlets, you need a small-barrelled curling iron.

But the same people often want both, either in the same intricate hairdo, or in different simpler hairdos that they have in their repertoire. So you have to own multiple curling irons.

Why not make one curling iron where you can switch out the barrels as needed?

The other reason why I don't want to reopen the abortion debate

Some MP wants to reopen the abortion debate. Here's the other reason why I don't want this to happen, apart from all the usual reasons:

Actually, that really says it all, doesn't it? "All the usual reasons." We've been through this before. They'd been through it all before I was even born, and we've been going over the same material over and over my whole life. There's nothing new, there's nothing innovative, there's nothing that hasn't been said before I was born, it's boring!

There are plenty of other exciting things going on politically. We're facing the biggest economic crisis most of us have ever seen. Such sacred cows of our capitalist system as investment in stocks and real estate are proving to have feet of clay, if that isn't too mixed a metaphor. Both our manufacturing base and our social safety net desperately need to be either rebuilt or completely revamped. Meanwhile, we might have a coalition government for the first time in most of our lives. The constitutional role of the Governor General is in the spotlight, as are the pros and cons of proportional representation. We have a governing party whose favourite method is ad hominem attacks, and a new opposition leader whose most attackable past public statements happen to be things that the leader of the governing party is likely to agree with. We might have deflation for the first time I've ever heard of, which regardless of how often economists say it's a bad thing sounds pretty tempting to me (have you seen gas prices lately?). Meanwhile, the US seems to be moving to the left while our country seems to be moving to the right, which calls into questions all kinds of core assumptions, but we might be in a stronger position economically (that seems to be the opinion of domestic media, I haven't corrobrated with international media). The local condo (I just typed "condom") market is apparently poised to crash any minute. There are a bevy of new environmental initiatives out there, some brilliant and some ridiculous.

And these guys just want to keep flogging a dead horse?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

March of the Penguins drinking game

Every time a penguin falls down, take a drink.

(Yes, Poodle, this means I completely disregarded your advice. I take full responsibility.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Powdering one's nose

"I have to go powder my nose" is a conventional euphemism for "I have to go to the bathroom."

But does anyone actually powder their nose as their primary make-up touch-up?

Personally, if I'm going to powder anything, it's going to be my forehead. I might do my nose, but my forehead gets shiny way sooner and if anything needs a touch-up it's either that or the lipstick.

Do other people's noses get shiny first?

Half-formed analogy

This one's not perfectly formed yet, but I think it might be productive so I'm posting it.

Yesterday I was kind of drained from all the xmas, plus my muscles were achy and I didn't have much of an appetite. So I spent the day alone with no interpersonal contact whatsoever, ate ridiculously little food, and went to bed way early to sleep myself better.

No one would ever dispute that it was entirely my right to spend the day that way.

However, I'm sure everyone would agree that I in no way have the right to make other people spend the day without human contact, eat no more than half a meal during the entire day, and go to bed way earlier than they usually do. It would also be exceeding my authority if I were to pressure other people into implying that they were going to spend the day this way, or set up situations where their presence or not-rocking-the-boat would imply that they were planning to spend the day this way and they'd have to make a Big Hairy Deal to ensure that people don't interpret their actions that way.

Some people say that atheists are trying to stop xians from enjoying xmas, but that's not what we're doing. We just don't want to do xmas ourselves, and don't appreciate our actions or quiet cooperation being considered part of xmas.

You don't care that I spent my day like I did, but you probably wouldn't want to spend your day the same way. You'd probably also be a little irked if every time in the two months before boxing day, if you walk past the store without buying food, people assume that this means you plan to not eat very much on boxing day.

To do next time the Canada-US exchange rate is favourable

I just thought of this now, but I wish I'd thought of it a year ago.

If there are US retailers you like to shop at, buy yourself a bunch of gift cards from them when the exchange rate is favourable. Then when the exchange rate worsens, you can use your gift cards and it will be just like spending money at the better exchange rate.

In other worse, if I had bought myself some gift cards when the dollars were at par, the $114 US purchase I just put in my cart would cost me $114 CAD instead of $138 CAD.

To find out before carrying this out: do US gift cards expire?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The problem with calling the police is you can't call them off

This is a bit meandering, but I do have a point eventually.

It started with poor Gregg Moynagh. The fact that the police couldn't deal with a man in crisis armed with knives without shooting him frightens me, because this means I can't ever call 911 if I should ever have a loved one in crisis.

So this got me thinking about what I would do if someone was in crisis and had knives, which got me thinking about the choreography and potential for injury in fighting someone with a knife. And after thinking about this for a while, I came to the conclusion that the risk of getting cut or killed is very real, but the possibility of talking them down or disarming them is still great enough that I'd be willing to take that risk for someone I cared enough about, especially if the alternative is them getting shot. So perhaps the police aren't as willing to risk their own lives, which isn't very Starfleet of them but they are human and that's not my point here.

My point is this: suppose I have a loved one in crisis. Suppose he has knives. Suppose I call 911 and the police show up. Suppose the police tell him to put down the knives or they'll shoot shoot. At this point, I am no longer allowed to decide I'd rather risk myself getting stabbed than him getting shot. The police would stop me. Because I'm a civilian, I'm not allowed to make that decision in the presence of the police. Because some random police officers aren't willing to risk their lives for a stranger, I'm not allowed to risk my life for someone I love.

Even if you trust the police to behave proerly in all situations, that's still not comfortable.

Why medical interpreters are important

Think about the last time you were in pain. Describe the pain. Not just "My foot hurt," but describe how exactly it hurt, the flavour of the pain.

Think about the last time you felt like something might be wrong, you weren't quite sure, and were debating whether to go to the doctor. Describe what exactly you were feeling and experiencing.

Think about the last time one of your bodily excretions was abnormal. Describe it like you would to a doctor who needs to diagnose it but doesn't get to see it.

If you've been pregnant, think about the odd feeling you got that, in retrospect, told you you were pregnant before you even noticed your missing period. Pretend it's your first pregnancy and you don't know that this feeling means pregnant. Describe the feeling.

If you've ever done fertility awareness, describe what your cervical mucus is like when you're ovulating. Not what textbook cervical mucus is like, what your own personal cervical mucus is like.

If you've ever had a panic attack or a depressive episode or anything else that can be found in the DSM, describe what you felt and experienced. Not cold textbook symptoms, where your head and your emotions were at during the episode.

Now describe all these things in your second language (or your favourite non-first language). Right now, off the cuff, without reaching for a dictionary.

You lose a lot of nuance, don't you? You can do the gross concept, but the fine details just don't turn out right.

This is why medical interpreters are important.

Learning the English you need to do your job and go about everyday life is far, far easier than describing these delicate nuanced things, especially when you don't know what aspects are and are not important for the doctor to know. I'm a language professional and I've done medical translation, but I don't even think I could describe the nature of my pain or the odd qualities of my bodily fluids in another language off the cuff. I could use my computer and my dictionaries and thesauruses the internet and come up with a decent prepared statement if I had a bit of time and was in my right mind, but if I'm in such a bad state that I'm being hospitalized I'm not going to be nearly articulate enough. I could write a formal business letter or discuss the history of coalition governments in Canada or draw up a union grievance or fake being an air traffic controller in French (not that air traffic controllers really work in French that much) better than I could describe my pain in French.

Needing a medical interpreter is not a sign of laziness or insufficient English. It's merely symptomatic of the fact that people rarely need to be able to describe symptoms in full and proper nuance in their everyday life.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Interesting horoscopes this year

From the Star:

Answers to some vexing questions will begin to arrive within the next six weeks. This will allow you to start afresh on an emotional issue. Your next year will end on a fantastic note.


From the G&M:

A sun-Pluto aspect on your birthday this year will make you assertive in the extreme. You don't have to be domineering but you probably will be.

The good news is it's a role you seem destined to play, so play it for all it is worth. It could be fun.


Too bad these things never come true.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Things They Should Invent: service to take charitable donations to charities

There are a lot of charities that will accept donations of various things. However, it's usually incumbent upon the donor to get the donation to the charity. This is problematic when the donor doesn't have a car, which happens often in urban areas.

Solution: a service where people pick up your charitable donations and take it to the appropriate charity.

What's people's motivation to do this? If pure volunteerism isn't enough, it could be done by people who need community service hours (high school students and people who have been charged with minor criminal offences). Those who have cars can do the schlepping (maybe they could swing it so their mileage expenses count as a tax-deductable charitable donation?) and those who don't have cars could answer phones, schedule pick-ups, and find charities who will take the various items people have to donate.

I'm thinking maybe it could even be done almost entirely online to minimize need for overhead. People could book pick-ups and do research online, so they wouldn't necessarily have to go into some central office. There probably would need to be a central office, but it could be small and maybe even in donated space belonging to a larger organization.

Things They Should Invent: divide "sense of humour" into two separate concepts

"A good sense of humour" can mean either of two things. It can mean that the person finds things funny easily, or finds a wide variety of things funny. (This is the definition that Laughlab used when comparing different countries, and it was the definition used in that study a while back that determined that women don't have a good sense of humour.) It can also mean that when the person tries to make a joke, it ends up being a good joke that makes most people laugh.

These two concepts are not interchangeable, and can even be incompatible. If you're in the audience watching a stand-up comedian, you want them to be able to make up good jokes. However, you don't want them to be the kind of person who finds things funny extremely easily. If they find things funny too easily, they'll just stand there on stage and say "Dude, I farted!" and expect a laugh.

If you're listening to the joke, your idea of a good sense of humour in your interlocutor is a very high standard of what's worthy of a laugh. If you're telling the joke, your idea of a good sense of humour in your interlocutor is a very low standard of what's worthy of a laugh.

These really need to be two separate concepts with two different names, because they aren't really interchangeable.

Look at the baby turtle!

Teeny!

Why I don't like this number

For reasons I can't articulate, I've always associated 28 with a certain degree of coolness. For like half my life, it's been the age I've had in mind when thinking about when I'm properly grown up and have got it all together.

While I do have one or two things going on, there's no way I'm going to hit that level of coolness by tomorrow. Which, again for reasons I can't articulate, makes me feel like I'm never going to hit it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So how exactly does one act offended in a manner becoming a president?

Mitch Potter at the Star seems to think that George W. Bush's not being particularly offended that he had shoes thrown at him is a sign of obliviousness and Bush should have been more offended.

First of all, I don't think not being bothered by the shoes is a sign of obliviousness, it's just a sign that shoes have no emotional weight for Bush, as they don't for most of us I suspect. If someone disses you with something that's intended as a dis but just doesn't feel like a dis to you, you aren't going to feel offended even if you understand intellectually that it was intended as a really hardcore dis.

For example, in Quebec profanity, crisse can be pretty hardcore. But when we as anglos hear it, it doesn't carry that emotional weight. We hear and react emotionally to "Christ!", even when we understand intellectually that the speaker meant "Motherfucker!" (Yes, I know it's more often used adjectivally, but it's the best cognate example I can think of at the moment. If you have anything better, please post in the comments.)

So what I'm wondering is what sort of reaction does this columnist think would be appropriate? How would a person express offence on something that they don't even feel is much of a dis in a way appropriately becoming a head of state, and that would be more helpful to the situation than just brushing it off? (Especially considering that he's already invaded and is occupying his country?)

Childfree for Dummies: Part II

Think about pets. There are some pets you're really into. (Doggies? Kitties? Bunnies?) You think they're adorable and have or want one yourself and are interested in all your friends' stories about their pets of that species.

Then there are other pets you're not that into. (Budgies? Goldfish?) Logically you can appreciate them and give them basic pet respect, and one in a while they can be cute, but you skip right over them when you go to the pet store to objectify puppies and scroll right past them on Cute Overload.

Think about the pets you're not that into. Think about how you'd feel about owning one. Now think about how you'd feel about owning one that you have to keep for the rest of your life and it would have full human rights.

That's how I feel about having kids.

My 2009 New Year's resolution

In keeping with my tradition of reckless and irresponsible resolutions, my 2009 New Year's resolution is Shut Up And Buy It Already!

I recently realized that the vast majority of things I buy make me happy, and those that don't (most often cosmetics misfires) feel like acceptable collateral damage. Unsuccessful purchases don't feel bad for very long, denying myself a purchase because "Oh, I shouldn't!" doesn't feel good (not even when I appeal to my base and very unattractive need to feel smug and superior), and successful purchases always feel very good.

Therefore, as long as I'm employed and the purchase won't put me into the red or require breaking into my emergency funds, I will buy everything I covet. If I regret a purchase, I will learn from the experience. Since I've never messed up financially, I can afford a few learning experiences if necessary.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Someone must make this youtube mashup!

Remember this from back when Knut Eisbär-Baby was little and cute?



Someone recently mentioned to me that the problem with this video is that the soundtrack is cute. The soundtrack doesn't need to be cute, because the bear is already the cutest thing ever! The soundtrack is just overkill, making a stupid schmaltzy mess of what should be a genuine AWWWW! moment.

So what this video needs is a vaguely bad-ass soundtrack. Off the top of my head, I recommend Fifty Cent's If I Can't. (Content warning 1: NSFW unless you're wearing headphones, unless your boss cares what you listen to even if you are wearing headphones - it's hip hop, with the corresponding lyrics and themes. Content warning 2: Yes, I linked to the jungle book remix. Because I can.)

Better suggestions are welcome. But someone needs to make this.

Majel Barrett died! :(

Lwaxana Troi, the voice of the Enterprise computer, Mrs. Roddenberry. Passed away yesterday at the age of 76 from leukemia.

The National Post, of all places, has a best-of.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do extroverts really deliberately not talk to people (even when they have something to say) for the sole purpose of spiting them?

I've heard this sentiment many times; the most recent iteration come from today's Dear Prudence:

My husband has three children from his first marriage. Every year the three of them—now ages 16, 21, and 25—come to my mother's Christmas party and line up on the couch sullenly, grimly, and silently. This rudeness is extremely embarrassing to me in front of my other relatives. Worse, my husband is kind of powerless when it comes to his kids and tends to join them, silent, on the couch. I would just like to have them not come, because I don't think I can make them talk, but this thought distresses my mother no end. What do I do?


This lady seems to think that her stepchildren aren't talking for the sole purpose of spiting everyone else. This is odd to me, because it seems so bloody obvious to me that they're feeling shy and awkward and uncomfortable in the home of all these near-strangers (their stepmother's family of origin). They clearly just can't think of anything to say - or perhaps can't think of anything to say that's of sufficient interest and doesn't push any hot buttons. (For example, I know full well that people don't want to hear about the organic hair products I'm recently obsessed with, and the strange mistakes that came up in the text I was quality controlling don't make a good story to people without a solid grounding in comparative stylistics. And we can all think of that one person whom you just shouldn't get started on politics, so a whole wack of topics are right out if that person is there.)

However, this lady thinks they're doing it on purpose and out of spite. Therefore, it stands to reason that not talking even though she has something productive to say is something she might conceivabely do out of spite (because how else would it occur to her that this might be their motivation?)

Do extros actually do that? How egotistical is that train of thought - "I will deprive them of my wit and wisdom because what I have to say is so fucking special that it WILL be missed!" Do they never find themselves at a loss of what to say?

In the meantime, here's a helpful hint: whatever fascinating thing you think the non-talker has to say, they aren't aware that they have it or aren't aware that it might be of interest. So (assuming it isn't too personal) ask them about it!

Pretty puppy

Clicky

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Noblesse oblige

I think I'm better able to articulate what's bothering me about criticism of Montadhar Al-Zaydi. Yes, throwing a shoe is imperfect behaviour, but we all lose our temper every once in a while.

The problem is that some people are acting like this imperfect behaviour is some egregious sin because it happened in the presence of a dignitary (like it or not, George W. Bush is a dignitary), as if to say "How dare you expose our dignitary to your lowly proletarian emotions!" They are demanding that Mr. Al-Zaydi be the bigger person because there's a dignitary in the room. This is contrary to basic chivalyr, it's contrary to noblesse oblige, and it's contrary to the basic American principle of equality.

We need our dignitaries to be the bigger person. We need the then-Queen of England visiting bombed-out sections of London, symbolically keeping her family in London instead of fleeing to safety in the countryside. We need Pope John Paul II meeting with and forgiving the guy who tried to assassinate him. We need Adrienne Clarkson inviting the kid who wrongfully got kicked out of Rideau Hall to tea.

But demanding the commoner to be a bigger person is like Marie Antoinette, playing at being a peasant, milking cows that the servants have bathed ahead of time so that Her Majesty will not be offended by the smell.

The noble thing for George W. Bush to do would be to insist that this incident be treated just the same as throwing a shoe at an ordinary person.

Google-fu (Guns & Banjos edition)

I think this is this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things They Should Study: is it easier to become rich or educated?

A while back someone somewhere in my comments (sorry, I'm blanking on who and where) mentioned that there are people who decry academics as elitist, but don't do the same for rich people because they (the decriers) aspire/expect to be rich one day themselves.

Someone should study whether it is in fact easier to become educated or rich. They'd need to do it by thresholds. For example, is it easier to become a millionaire or to get a PhD? What about a master's degree? What about a billionaire?

Things I need mnemonics for

1. practice/practise (I know practise is the verb, but I want it to have a mnemonic on principle)

2. allemand/allemagne (one of them capitalizes but I forget which, so that should be included in the mnemonic)

3. continual/continuous (I have to look it up every. single. fucking. time.)

For thinking about

Forget everything you know about Montadhar Al-Zaydi for a second.

Imagine someone throws shoes at you. You duck, they miss, you are uninjured.

Would it even occur to you to press charges?

I don't think it would even occur to me. I'd want to get away from them or for them to be removed from where I am, but once that's done there's not much more than WTF. If the shoes hit me and broke my glasses or damaged my teeth or hurt my eye or bruised my face, it would probably occur to me to press charges. But if I was uninjured, I'd probably get no further than flummoxed and glad it's over.

Now you can remember everything you know about Montadhar Al-Zaydi again.

Politically, the best possible thing George W. Bush could do is inisite that Mr. Al-Zaydi be freed and no charges be pressed on the basis that he was simply exercising the rights and freedoms that the US has so generously won for him.

But since that's not gonna happen, you can sign a petition to have him freed. (h/t L-girl)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Things They Should Invent: text-only DVD menus

So your DVD menu has nifty visuals and sound bites from the movie all cleverly animated together so it does a little dance as the menu loads and another little dance as the menu goes away. Very nice and we all applaud your talents - until about the fourth time we're going through the menu. Then we really don't care any more, really we don't, we just want to watch the last couple of special features!

Can we have a workaround please?

Why we should all be worried about the Dziekanski ruling (plus: the definitive guide to when it's appropriate to use a taser)

They aren't laying charges against the Mounties who tased Robert Dziekanski to death.

This is only one of many recent cases where cops have tased people for acting agitated or erratic (here's another). Even if you aren't opposed to tasers, we need our police to not go around tasing people for acting erratic or agitated.

Why? Think for a second, quietly and to yourself, about situations you, personally, might one day find yourself in where you would require police assistance. You dial 911, you need the police to come quickly and help you because that's their job as police, to come quickly and help you in emergencies. Just think of these situations and how you'd feel.

Wouldn't you most likely be a bit agitated and erratic?

People who need police assistance are going to be agitated and erratic, so the police need to be able to help people who are agitated and erratic, not zap them so they'll shut up!

Tasers were undoubtedly inspired by Star Trek's phasers, which have a harmless stun setting that has never killed anyone, not even heretofore unknown aliens on whom they're being used for the first time ever. I'm sure the ease of stunning with a phaser has informed (consciously or not) people's perception of when it is or is not appropriate to use a taser.

But think about when they actually use phasers on Star Trek. They would never stun someone just for acting erratic. They'd draw them, sure, but they'd try to talk them down. Even if the person started throwing (smallish, non-lethal) stuff, they'd never stun them, they'd just dodge the projectiles. Apart from that one very clever moment in Enterprise when T'Pol was being held hostage by cowboy aliens so Reed stunned her (making the enemy think he'd killed her and therefore that she was no longer useful as a hostage), every single instance of person-to-person phaser fire by a good-guy Starfleet officer has been in response to a direct and immediate threat on their own or someone else's life. The bad guy has started shooting or is about to destroy the ship or something.

I think that's a good guideline on when to use tasers. Think to yourself: "Would a Starfleet officer fire their phasers in this circumstance?" If the answer is no, don't use your taser.

"But," you protest, "Starfleet officers are held to impossibly high standards! They're held up as ideal examples of all that is good and fair and right and just about humanity!"

Yes, yes they are. Just like Mounties.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Most accurate internet quiz ever!

Have you seen the Cool Person Test? It's astounding! It pegged every nuance of my coolness level with uncanny accuracy!

Click here to take the test.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

OMG, this is a real song!

Remember the episode of the Simpsons where Bleeding Gums Murphy is in the hospital (dying?) and Lisa is running around trying to get someone to play his record on the radio? The song she sings in that episode is real!

The, Mannequin, The

You know you're a langling when you've had Toronto band Die Mannequin on your ipod for like a year, and it only just occurred to you that the first word in their name might be the English verb as opposed to the German definite article.

Complete sentences

When I was in elementary school, we always had to answer written questions in complete sentences. If the question on the worksheet was "What is the capital of Canada?" we had to write "The capital of Canada is Ottawa." Just writing "Ottawa" was wrong.

It just occurred to me that this rule has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the real world.

Brain usage profile

Quiz is here

Your Brain Usage Profile:

Auditory : 44%
Visual : 55%
Left : 55%
Right : 44%

You are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant and show a preference for visual learning, although not extreme in either characteristic. You probably tend to do most things in moderation, but not always.

Your left-hemisphere dominance implies that your learning style is organized and structured, detail oriented and logical. Your visual preference, though, has you seeking stimulation and multiple data. Such an outlook can overwhelm structure and logic and create an almost continuous state of uncertainty and agitation. You may well suffer a feeling of continually trying to "catch up" with yourself.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor. You can "size up" situations and take in information rapidly. However, you must then subject that data to being classified and organized which causes you to "lose touch" with the immediacy of the problem.

Your logical and methodical nature hamper you in this regard though in the long run it may work to your advantage since you "learn from experience" and can go through the process more rapidly on subsequent occasions.

You remain predominantly functional in your orientation and practical. Abstraction and theory are secondary to application. In keeping with this, you focus on details until they manifest themselves in a unique pattern and only then work with the "larger whole."

With regards to your career choices, you have a mentality that would be good as a scientist, coach, athlete, design consultant, or an engineering technician. You can "see where you want to go" and even be able to "tell yourself," but find that you are "fighting yourself" at the darndest times.

***

That might explain why I'm never able to figure out if I'm left-brained or right-brained, or auditory or visual - I had no idea it could be so close.

Denervousization?

I'm nervous about something, and I've been carrying this nervousness around for a few days. Then about an hour ago I hit a point where I was all "I'm sick of being nervous! It's really consuming!" Then I stopped being nervous because it was so annoying. But then the nervousness came back.

I wish I knew how to leverage that.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Helpful hint to ebay sellers

If you somehow indicate in or on the packaging what your ebay name is, it's easier for me to give you your well-deserved five-star rating.

Puppy time!

Awww!

Six degrees of Wikipedia

New game! You say the idea that sent you to Google and the strange place you ended up, and people have to guess how you got there.

For example, I started thinking "It's cold out today" and ended up in the Wikipedia category "Fictional Tubers".

The tricky part is it isn't a matter of simply clicking links. You think of an idea, google something, start reading an interesting page, google an idea that stems from that etc.

Or you could just find the shortest route between two Wikipedia articles (c.f. xkcd)

Would a trickle-up economic stimulus work?

Once upon a time I suggested that we should try to make up our government's foreign aid shortfall.

I wonder if doing the same for the economic stimulus would work? What would happen if we all spent 20% of our income on extra, ethical, green, targeted spending?

Obviously it's logistically unfeasible. Most people don't have 20% of their income just sitting around, and for the vast majority of those who do it's probably in retirement accounts or something you shouldn't be touching. And even if you did have that kind of money sitting around, what on earth would you spend it on? Do the math, 20% of your annual salary. That's a shitload of money to just spend on extras, isn't it? Especially since you'd have to spend it in a way that would boost our economy rather than shipping it off to China or somewhere, you couldn't just replace perfectly good existing stuff because that wouldn't be environmentally friendly, you couldn't spend it on necessities because that isn't extra spending...I suppose house people could spend it on green renovations, but the rest of us? I don't think I even have room in my apartment for an extra 20% of my income worth of anything! (Except perhaps diamonds or something, but that's a whole nother ethical issue.)

But suppose it was possible. Suppose every single citizen went and spent 20% of their income on ethical, green purchases that are targeted to boost our economy and that they wouldn't otherwise buy. Would that boost our economy the same as the 20% economic stimulus the government is supposed to do?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why photoshopping shouldn't be allowed in fashion magazines

Antonia Zerbisias points out that Jessica Alba was photoshopped and, in accordance with the mandate of her blog, touches upon its effect on women's body image. But that topic bores me; I want to talk about the other problem with this practice.

The other problem is it makes the clothes look more flattering than they are, which, if this is the kind of magazine that lists clothing credits, is essentially false advertising for the designer and gives them a bye on actually doing their job well.

That is not a well-designed outfit. The shorts do nothing to help her hips, and the belt is too wide which makes her waist look thicker because it encompasses some thicker-than-waist areas and marks them as waist-thin. But by photoshopping the model and the clothes, it gives the impression that it's a more flattering outfit than it actually is.

It isn't that difficult to design a flattering outfit - well, I shouldn't say "It isn't that difficult" because I can't do it, but I have a closet full of clothes that are more flattering than that thing. I have a good 20-30 pounds on Jessica Alba, and my outfit right now makes my waist and hips look better than her pre-photoshopped photo - and my outfit was thrown together while running late based on what's clean and the fact that there was a wind chill of -15 when I left the house this morning, and cost less than $50. A professional photo shoot should be able to do even better.

Any designer who can't make Jessica Alba's figure look sufficiently attractive does not deserve to have their clothes featured in her photo shoot. Photoshopping non-flattering clothes so they look flattering is a disservice to everyone who has to wear clothes. We need to hold our designers accountable!

Parents vs. dog people

I like to interact with dogs, and sometimes I feel moved to interact with children (damn ovaries!). I start the interactions the same way with both: by smiling and (if appropriate) saying hi, then I continue if the creature responds positively.

Somewhere between 50% and 75% of the time, the dog people try to temper the dog's interaction, by making it sit or scolding it about approaching me. I'm not sure whether this is intended to protect the dog from me or to proect me from the dog. (And I'm not sure what an appropriate response on my part is - I want to pet the dog and it seems to want me to pet it, but I don't want to mess up its training. But it doesn't seem fair that dogs with stricter training should never get to play with a willing passer-by.)

But I have never in my life had anyone try to temper my interaction with their child, not even total strangers. They let me say hi to their kid, they let me do finger-grabby with their baby, they let their kid tell me all about Dora the Explorer, they let me convince their kids to press elevator buttons for me, I've even had strangers stand by smiling while their toddler hugged my leg like I was her new best friend (I thought she had the wrong person, but even when I looked down and made eye contact she just kept hugging my leg and smiling back up at me).

I'm not sure what this means. If it had to be one or the other, I'd rather get to play with the dogs.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I don't usually post about US politics, but...

Supreme Court Overturns Bush v. Gore

Things I want

1. Punk carols. Not that I particularly want xmas music, but if there has to be xmas music it should at least be punk.

2. Fierce boots! If only I could justify spending $500 on boots...

3. An Iggy mashup youtube. Michael Ignatieff vs. Iggy Pop. Not that the entertainment value would be particularly high, but it seems very much like the kind of thing that should exist on the internet.

4. Black roses! Except real live ones (which currently do not exist).

5. Everyone who thinks its appropriate to saunter two-abreast down the subway stairs when there are trains at BOTH platforms and dozens of rushed people on the stairs behind them to be banished from the realm.

Handles are an important part of the bag

From a larger article in Sunday's Star:

When Irish officials resolved to charge a fee for plastic grocery bags, they didn't use detailed economic calculations to determine the optimal number. They went for simple shock value – what amount would make shoppers think twice before taking a disposable plastic bag to carry home, say, a loaf of bread already wrapped in plastic?


The point - the need for a bag - is not to protect the bread from dirt and elements. It isn't that I specifically want to wrap the bread in another layer of plastic. The reason I get the bread in a bag, even if that's the only thing I'm buying, is that the bag has handles.

If I were to carry a loaf of bread home without a bag, that would take up either a hand (if I held it by the end of its plastic bag) or an arm (if I cradled it). I'd have to be at least a little careful with it so as not to drop it or squish it. But if it's in a plastic bag, I hold the bag by its handles or hang it from my wrist - whichever's easier and usually switching between the two as I go about my business - so my hand and arm are almost entirely free and I don't have to make the effort to protect the bread.

"Big deal!" you're thinking, "How much trouble could that be? What harm could possibly befall a loaf of bread on the way home from the store?" Not much if all I did was buy the bread and take it home. But I do a number of errands on the way home from the office. Today when I arrived at the apartment door, I was carrying six full shopping bags from three different stores, two newspapers, two library books, a letter, a parcel, and my keys. The shopping bags were all hanging on my wrists by the handles - I couldn't have carried it off any other way. And even with the convenience of handles, I was still soaking wet because I didn't have a free-enough arm to hold up an umbrella.

This is why even if an individual item doesn't need a bag, the shopper still might. This is why those LCBO paper bags with no handles are downright insulting. And this is why people need to think of the logistics and choreography of the entire trip chain when trying to determine our bag needs.

Is it reasonable to assume that deaf people can read lips?

Written on the grocery store cashier's name tag just under her name is "I am deaf".

So does this mean I should assume she can read lips?

On one hand, it seems reasonable to assume the person behind the cash register is capable of handling the transaction in the usual way. I've been shopping at that store for eight years, every single cashier interaction I've had has been in verbal English assuming I can use verbal English wouldn't be out of line.

On the other hand, it seems really hearing-centric to barge in assuming she can read lips. Lipreading seems like the kind of thing that you'd find out isn't that common IRL and is only a TV plot device.

Fortunately it was a simple transaction (scan, bag, pay, thank you come again) so we didn't really need to communicate. And I don't know if she could read lips, but she could speak. I also found myself exaggerating my facial expressions just a tinch. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad. On one hand, in my aborted attempt to learn ASL, the teacher said that facial expressions were especially important among the Deaf (at least I think that's what she said, she was signing at the time). On the other hand, it seems like of like going to Germany and speaking to the locals in loud slow English.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Whoa.

Ignatieff has been more ambivalent, describing his position Sunday as "coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition."

Which is just what I said on Saturday.

If only I could make this trick work on Dalton McGuinty and Eddie Izzard.

Kid Rock vs. Star Wars

The good stuff starts about 1:20 in.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

But if I shop, the marketers will have won

I don't like shopping at this time of year. Not just because of the crowds and inconvenience, but because I feel like I'm betraying some kind of principle.

Usually people who feel this way feel like xmas has become too commercial, too materialistic, and the true meaning is lost. But that isn't where I'm coming from. I'm not xian so I don't believe in any true meaning of xmas, and I am a materialistic person who has no problem with the materialism. When I was a kid, the materialistic part of xmas was actually the most important to me, because it was the only way I had of getting new toys and books and money and computer games and other fun stuff. Gifts obviously aren't as important now that I can buy my own toys whenever I damn well please, but I'm certainly not about to forget why they can be important to some people, so I should have no objection to the materialistic aspect. So why do I feel wrong about shopping?

I think I've figured out what it is. If I buy something now, the stores will assume I bought it for xmas. It will go under the xmas sales heading. They will assume that their strategy of putting up decorations in October and playing that maudite music has worked and led me to buy the item in question.

I wish there was some way to go on the record as saying "I didn't buy this for xmas!" I didn't buy the red shirt because it's an xmas colour, I bought it because I look hot in red! I didn't buy the fuzzy warm jammies for xmas despite the fact that they're all giftwrapped in a ribbon, I bought them because I was cold last night! I didn't buy the chocolate to put in a stocking, I bought it because I had a rough day! I don't celebrate xmas, I just have a bit of disposable income and like pretty things. But as long as my every purchase makes them think their xmas marketing strategy has succeeded, I'm going to be hesitant to shop.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Is the media reporting on the Liberal leadership situation objectively?

The media keeps mentioning that Michael Ignatieff is by far the frontrunner in the federal Liberal leadership race as though it's an unquestioned fact. However, I haven't seen anything to prove or even suggest this, nor have I seen a media mention that backs this allegation up in any way.

I freely admit I may have missed something. I don't read all the media coverage of everything at all ever, I can't. And I'm not a member of the Liberal party so there may well be stuff going on that I can't see.

But from where I'm sitting, I see the media having unofficially crowned a winner, and I see no particular basis for this idea.

This calls for skepticism.

What all our politicians need to do now

Many many people are making the mistake of turning the entire Canadian political stage into a referendum on the Coalition. But it's not really about the Coalition. I know, I know, the Coalition is the most interesting thing to happen in my lifetime. We've never seen one before and it's nice to look at. It's somewhere between a breath of fresh air and a wave of Obama-like inspiration to people who are sick of the partisan-über-alles turn our politics have taken. It's he shoots he scores in the final seconds of the third period and suddenly the score's tied one all and we're into sudden death overtime.

But it's not the point.

The point is economic policy. The coalition came about because all the opposition parties agreed that the government's economic statement was inadequate. The first thing that is going to happen when Commons sits again is a budget vote. Those are the things that are getting voted on, so those are the things that our politicians need to focus on.

The Conservatives need to stop putting so much energy into dissing the Coalition. Even if every single Canadian decides the Coalition is pure evil, that isn't going to affect the outcome of the budget vote. What the Conservatives should be doing is a combination of preparing a budget that the other parties will find acceptable, and selling their budget to Canadians so Canadians will encourage their MPs to vote for the budget. (Aside: does anyone remember whether some time passes between when the budget is read in the House and when it's voted on? It seems like there should be, but I can't for the life of me remember.)

Meanwhile, what the opposition parties need to do is take a "Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition" approach. Not all Canadians like the idea of a coalition, and if they take a "Coalition über alles" approach that will drive anti-coalition voters to the Conservatives. The opposition parties need to have a plan in place for forming a coalition if the government should fall (they already have one, they just need to keep it.) Then they need to agree upon minimum standards of economic and social policy they will hold the government to, and inform the government and the public of these standards. If the government meets the minimum standards, the three opposition parties will continue working in accordance with their own party platforms. If the government fails to meet the standards, BOOM, instant coalition. This would be a much more effective way to keep the government in check and it would mitigate the impression that the opposition just want to be in power because they'd effectively be telling the government how to keep them out of power. If there should be an election, the opposition parties shouldn't campaign as a coalition. They should campaign as separate parties with separate platforms, but they should also publically and transparently inform us of the conditions under which they would create a coalition.

Dear Margo misfires

This one really surprised me because Margo is usually very good.

Sixteen is a tough age for kids and their parents. It's good that you understand the value of communication, but unfortunately you can't achieve it. There's an old saying that the older you get, the smarter your parents become. I hope this is so in your case. In the meantime, to calm things down, you might try to lose a little weight, clean up your room and bring that D up to a C. As for retreating to your room for hours, granted, that is not screaming, but it is passive aggressive. I am guessing if you make an effort your parents will seem much more reasonable to you.


1. While losing weight is generally a good thing for most people, it is completely inappropriate to advise someone to change their body to smooth over interpersonal relationships with someone else. Do you really want to be setting that precedent and normalizing that concept with a 16 year old girl?

2. Retreating to one's room isn't passive agressive, because passive aggressive implies she's doing it to evoke a certain response from her parents. She isn't. She's doing it for her own benefit, so she doesn't have to deal with them. Think about when you seek privacy in your own life. You aren't seeking privacy as a dis to the other people. You aren't going "I'll show them, I'll deprive them of my company!" It's for your own purposes, because you personally need to either be alone, or be away from certain people, or be alone with a certain someone.

Things They Should Invent: online circadian rhythm tracker

There are a number of websites that you can use to track your menstrual cycle. You put in the dates of your periods and over a number of months it starts predicting your menstruation and ovulation dates. It's useful for people who have irregular cycles or are trying to do fertility awareness.

I want something like that for my circadian rhythms. My energy levels wax and wane throughout the day, and if I could predict when it's going to happen I could leverage this so I don't find myself having to do more draining activities at low-energy times. Mindfully doing hour-by-hour observations over a number of days isn't very practical, because I have to fit in real life too. What I'd like to be able to do is whenever I notice that I'm feeling up or down, I enter the time that this happened, and the computer uses all this information to tell me when I can expect to be up or down in the future. Then I can schedule more draining things for up times and keep down times more low-key

Friday, December 05, 2008

Is it always possible to give exceptional service?

I was reading some people talking about tipping, and as usual there were one or two loudmouths who said they think they should only have to tip if the service is exceptional.

I know why that's a problem under our current wage model, and that's a boring discussion anyway so that isn't what I want to talk about here.

What I'm wondering is whether most transactions even have the opportunity for exceptional service to happen. As I think about the business transactions I go through every day, most of the time the opportunity isn't there. If the transaction is simple and nothing goes wrong, there isn't really room for much more than competent service.

I get in a cab and the driver takes me where I'm going. Done. No room for it to be exceptional. If I'm running late and the 401 is closed and he still gets me to the airport in time to make my flight that's exceptional service, but if I have plenty of time and there's nothing wrong there's no room to make it exceptional.

I order my meal, the waiter brings it, I eat it. No room to be exceptional. If I have a lot of questions about the menu or the order is complex or the kitchen is slow so the waiter brings me a free drink or something then the service can get exceptional, but if everything is smooth or unremarkable the opportunity isn't there.

I've recently been considering tipping my supers because they saved my ass in a couple of minor emergencies. But if the minor emergencies hadn't occurred, the opportunity wouldn't have been there for them to provide me with exceptional service.

Even if you don't agree that you should tip everyone all the time, it seems unfair that workers should get less money just because the world as a whole is running smoothly.

Things They Should Invent: mirrored cameras that force people to pose flatteringly

You know how you can look in a mirror, make eye contact with your reflection,* and quickly and easily arrange your face and body into a flattering pose like Paris Hilton does automatically whenever someone points a camera at her? And you know how you can never do that when being photographed IRL if you're not Paris Hilton?

Solution: a camera with a mirror on it. The person being photographed poses themselves automatically, and the camera lens is somehow arranged so that the picture taken by the camera looks exactly like what the person being photographed sees in the mirror.

Quick and easy real-world alternative: digital camera with an LCD screen that faces out. You'd probably need one that faces the photographer too, and the LCD screen delay might be problematic for the person being photographed.

*Someone once told me that it's humanly impossible NOT to make eye contact with your own reflection. I don't have verification of that, but I think it's a cool factoid if it's true.

"Tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne pas savoir demeurer en repos dans une chambre." - Blaise Pascal

All of man's troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room. I've seen it quoted differently and attributed to different people, but I think the one in the title is the original.

I can totally sit quietly in a room. I can sit there and just think, it's intellectually satisfying. Add internet access so I can google and I'm perfectly content for hours and hours and hours. It's a hardcore introvert thing.

The problem is this can easily hinder real life. I have stuff that has to get done. I have to be places by a certain time. But I sit down and start thinking and then google something and the next thing I know two hours have passed. I'm content, I'm satisfied, I'm at peace, I've had all kinds of interesting ideas, but real life isn't getting done. I can convince myself to build up momentum and go out and get a shitload of stuff done and I do feel some satisfaction from checking it all off my list, but it doesn't give me the hap hits (as Marti Olsen Laney writes about) of sitting quietly in my apartment.

How does one go about becoming a wealthy, eccentric, reclusive genius with a discreet but loyal butler to take care of all their petty day-to-day needs?

Acapellas

Move Along:



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:



I'm Too Sexy:



Bohemian Rhapsody:



Fat-Bottomed Girls:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Separatist vs. souverainiste: an analysis

I've been trying to wrap my brain around the meaningfulness of separatist vs. souverainiste. My problem is that I was trying to think this through from a position of hegemony. I was assuming that my English was standard, and I was thinking in terms of "What was their reasoning in referring to the separatists as sovereigntists?"

I've been thinking and doing some research, and I've discovered the problem is that the meaning of "separatist" and "sovereigntist" in my English is skewed, and the real question to be asking is "What was their reasoning in referring to the people in question as separatists?"

Forget everything you know about Quebec for a second. In the world at large and in the English language in general, "separatist" is negative and "sovereigntist" is positive.

Separatists want to break away from something to which they belong, to destroy an existing union, The connotations are usually a bit extremist and a bit irrational (think Basque separatists, white separatists, black separatists, Tamil separatists, etc. etc.)

"Sovereignty," on the other hand, is a good thing. One's sovereignty over one's own body. Canada's sovereignty over its northern waters. Sovereigntists want to preserve their existing rights and freedoms.

They are two separate concepts. They are separate concepts in most parts of the English-speaking world, and they are separate concepts in cognate languages, including French.

(Now you can remember everything you know about Quebec again.)

However, we Anglo-Canadians are so used to hearing the word sovereignty used to describe Quebec separation (which, rightfully or wrongfully, we do perceive as a threat) that we tend to forget its positive connotations and immediately equate it with this perceived threat. It's like the words "life" and "choice" when discussing abortion. If abortion is the topic of discussion and one of those words comes up, it is not going to be taken neutrally.

So because we equate this positive word "sovereignty" with Quebec separation, we don't always distinguish between "separatist" and "sovereigntist". Certainly both words can be used very deliberately and advisedly in our English, but they can also be used mindlessly and interchangeably. Again, think about about the terms "pro-life" and "anti-abortion". Sometimes (depending on speaker, audience, situation, context) the choice of one or the other is meaningful and politicized. But sometimes it's just the word the speaker happens to land on.

Analogy: "sovereigntist" is like "potato chips". "Separatist" is like "junk food." They can be used to describe the same concept and they can both be used positively, negatively or neutrally depending on speaker/audience/situation/context, but the second one is generally more negative.

So what does this mean for Stephen Harper's speeches? I can't tell you. Why? Because I don't know how mindfully he chose the word "separatists" instead of "sovereigntists" in English. He (or his speechwriters) might have just grabbed the first word that came to mind. They might have chosen it to demonize the Bloc as much as possible. They might have chosen it because the people in question tend to refer to themselves as souverainistes and they don't want their base to view them as sympathetic. I have no way of knowing.

So how did the French end up being souverainistes? At some point someone changed it. Was this cunning and manipulative? There is, of course, room for it to have been, but it was not necessarily. It is a perfectly normal part of the French translator's job to make minor stylistic tweaks, and to be the one to realize "That line may play in Canmore, but not in Baie-Comeau" and edit it to something that will get the desired reaction from the Francophone audience. That's why you want mother-tongue translators. From a translational perspective, changing separatists to souverainistes is morally equivalent to altering a line that is a political catchphrase in the target language but politically neutral in the source language, or changing an abbreviation so it isn't a dirty word in the target language. Whenever it's in question, you always err on the side of not making people look like dickheads.

Was the PM aware of the different connotations? I have no way of knowing. I know that any sensible person does review their translated speeches before delivering them. I know that souverainiste is harder for an Anglophone to pronounce than séparatiste (sometimes this is a factor in word choices for speeches, sometimes not - I have no idea if it is for Mr. Harper). I know that Mr. Harper is coming from the same English as I am, so he may well not immediately recognize that separatist and souverainiste are in fact different concepts (I never thought about it before this speech happened).

So the take-away:

sovereigntist = potato chips
separatist = junk food

There is room for the difference in word choices to be calculating and manipulative, and there is room for it to be perfectly innocent. It all depends not on why they decided to refer to the junk food as potato chips, but on how mindful they were in choosing to call it junk food in the first place.

And regardless of any motives or lack thereof in word choice, the impact of the use of separatist and souverainiste is negligible when compared with the impact of all Mr. Harper's other comments on the Bloc's alignment with the coalition.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hilarity!

Make sure you watch the second half

Things They Should Invent: alternate closed captions of the original material, not the interpretation

Right now Gilles Duceppe is speaking on TV in French and being simultaneously interpreted into English (because I'm on the English CBC and I don't know offhand where this is on TV in French).

Simultaneous interpretation is necessarily awkward, and I don't blame the interpreter for this. I'm certainly not good enough to do it. However, it would be easier for me to follow along in French.

My TV has the options for two sets of closed captions: C1 and C2. C1 is regular subtitles, C2 doesn't do anything.

I want C2 to give me the French in cases like this.

To watch for in media spin

I hope media coverage of these speeches points out that Mr. Dion's comments were prepared and pre-recorded without his having heard Mr. Harper's speech, presumably due to television network constraints.

Neither of these gentlemen is especially good at talking to a camera. They're better when talking to actual people.

On terminology

Because I know some people are going to ask me...

According to Termium (the official Government of Canada terminology database, created by professional terminologists), separatist and sovereigntist have separate and non-overlapping. This means the English separatist and the French souverainiste are, strictly speaking, different concepts. However, there is some room for stylistics in translation, so I'm not saying it's inappopriate or incorrect to translate separatist as souverainiste.

I'm only commenting on this because the people on TV seem to think it's meaningful. I have no idea whether or not it's meaningful or, if it is, what it might mean. The Francophone media will most likely be able to comment on this.

Edit: For the googlers, more here.

For reference

The economic statement is here.

Drinking game for the PM's speech tonight

Sip for the following words and any derivatives thereof: separatism, socialism, sponsorship, democracy, Canada

Take two standard drinks if he gets through the whole speech without talking up or improving upon or retracting the economic statement.

Finish the bottle if he resigns.

Even if there's no coalition, you still need the confidence of the House

The more I think about it, the stranger it is that the government is spending so much energy on dissing the idea of an Opposition coalition. Even if for some reason the coalition doesn't happen, it still remains that the economic statement, which is a confidence issue, doesn't have the confidence of the House.

Why aren't they working on selling the economic statement to us, trying to convince us to tell our MPs to let it pass? Or why aren't they working on a new economic statement that is more to everyone's liking? Even if they do convince everyone that the coalition is bad, Parliament isn't going anywhere until this thing or its replacement passes.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Things They Should Invent: smartest person in the room detector

Wouldn't it be awesome if somehow everyone always knew which person in the conversation is most knowledgeable about the topic of conversation?

(Inspired by an earlier attempt at a conversation with someone who's supposed to be smarter than me but in fact wasn't even aware that there WAS an economic statement.)

I feel sorry for Michaëlle Jean

Poor Michaëlle Jean. She's in a no-win situation. There are so few existing precedents they are pratically one-offs if they apply at all to this situation, and no matter what she does some very loud people will view it as partisan and complain that it's inappropriate for an appointee (and a representative of the monarch yet!) to have that kind of power. But she's duty-bound, she has no choice.

Because there's no one clear answer and so little precedent, you'd really have to be the universally-acknowledged single greatest constitutional expert in Canada to have wide credibility here, and Madam Jean is not. Nothing against her, she's an excellent figurehead and knows more about the constitution than I do (and probably does have the very best constitutional experts as her advisors) but the optics are never going to work with someone who isn't an acknowledged expert.

I wonder if Madam Jean has had a chance to talk to the Queen lately? Do Governors General get to talk to the Queen? Her Majesty might have some insight into this situation. I don't know if the UK has ever been in a situation where the Crown has had to decide whether to prorogue Parliament or call an election or let a minority coalition govern, but since the Queen has been head of state since before Madam Jean was even born, she might have given this a bit of thought.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Because every historic political event needs a drinking game

In ascending order of buzz:

1. Drink every time you hear the words King, Byng, Meighan, Miller, Peterson, Rae
2. Add the words: Harper, Dion, Layton, Duceppe
3. Add the words: Chrétien, Broadbent, Ignatieff, Leblanc, Jean
4. Add the words: socialist, democratic, undemocratic, separatist, constitutional crisis, prorogue, economy, stimulus
5. Drink every time you hear the word coalition

Pour celles et ceux de parmi vous qui peuvent lire le français

Chantal Hébert is blogging at L'actualité. She's totally on top of things and very much worth adding to your feed reader for the duration.

Open Letter to the Coalition

Dear Coalition:

You know that history-making resurgence of idealism and hope our neighbours got going on? You can make something similar happen up here. You're already talking a good game, all you gotta do now is walk the talk for a little while. You don't have to walk the talk forever, you might not even have to walk the talk for the timelines you set out today (although it would help if you did.) All you have to do is walk the talk for two consecutive quarters of economic growth. De-recessionize us, play at being grownups for a while, give everyone a chance to look good. Then, if you still miss the old ways, once everyone has had a chance to make any leadership changes they need to, you can allow an election to be triggered. I don't think we'll mind so much.

That's all you have to create hope and make history. It's really not that hard. You can do it!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why can't people hear past the upspeak?

I've written about upspeak before, but the comments on this Language Log post surprise me (not so much the commenters themselves, but what they are saying about how people in general perceive upspeak). It sounds like some people can't hear beyond the upspeak. They hear upspeak and think "ditz" or "insecure", seemingly without giving a moment's attention to the words being used or the ideas being communicated.

That seems utterly bizarre to me. Why should my intonation blind my interlocutor to the fact that I'm using the words "intonation" and "interlocutor" rather than "how I'm talking" and "the person I'm talking to"? If, instead of "Things They Should Invent", I titled my blog posts with "I wonder if this exists?", why should that affect the perceived merit of my ideas (insofar as my ideas might have merit). Even if upspeak was a sign of insecurity, a useful idea expressed insecurely is still useful. If the solution to all our problems is a red widget and I say "Um, I kinda have an idea? Just putting this out there, I don't know if it's any good, but what if we got a red widget?" how could my uncertainty stop everyone else from immediately making the mental connection that yes, a red widget will solve all our problems?

When someone is talking in your first language, you hear their words and understand the content without any effort unless what they are saying is way too difficult for you. If someone is speaking with a low-prestige accent and clearly communicating good ideas, you still automatically hear the words and understand the ideas and can quickly grok that they know what they're talking about despite their low-prestige accent. It takes no effort to do this in your first language, your brain processes it automatically.

So why doesn't it do the same thing with upspeak?

Analogy for how my atheism works

This analogy may not apply to everyone in the world's atheism, and it obviously won't work with everyone's gender identity. But I'm putting it out there because it might help explain the concept to a lot of people.

I am atheist the same way I am female. I just am. I can't be anything else. I could perhaps pretend to be something else if I wanted to, but that wouldn't actually make me something else.

Some people try to talk me out of my atheism because they perceive there to be a god. But no matter how strongly they believe there is a god, that isn't going to make me capable of the same faith. (Believe me, I've tried.) This is just like how no matter how strongly other people believe themselves to be male, it isn't going to make me male.

Some people try to convince me that I will one day find religious faith on the basis that they themselves used to be atheist and then found religious faith. However, the fact that they found this faith doesn't mean that I will. There are people with female bodies like mine who have come to the realization that they are actually male, but that doesn't mean that I will one day come to the same realization.

Some people tell me that it's irrational to be atheist because one has no way of knowing for certain that there is in fact no god. I could respond to this by citing empirical evidence, but ultimately the fact that it cannot be proven for certain is irrelevant. I simply cannot be anything else because I am incapable of religious faith. Similarly, I can't prove or justify my gender. I could point to empirical evidence of my physiological sex, but I have no way of proving that I do actually identify as female. But I simply cannot be anything else.

Is it really necessary to fellate the microphone?

You often see people singing with their mouth practically on the microphone. Is that really necessary? Why can't they make a microphone that will work maybe six inches from your mouth?

Fuck Christmas

Today is the first day of Advent, and xmas decorations and carols have been infesting public space for a month already.

So here's a musical number from the great Eric Idle. The video is irrelevant (it's the only way I could embed it) and the audio is just as obscene as my subject line.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things They Should Study: why can't parents identify with their kids?

When people become parents, they seem to lose the ability to identify with the child half of the parent-child relationship. Even when thinking in the abstract about situations that don't involve themselves or their kids, they can never seem to get past "How would I feel if I were in that kid's parents' situation?" to reach "How would I feel if I were in that kid's situation?"

This is strange. All parents have been kids. Every parent I've ever talked to can still remember things from when they were kids. They can think about their favourite toy or their first crush or a teacher they hated and remember how they felt in that situation. So why don't they seem able to think about how their child self would have felt in a parent-child situation?

Someone should really study this from a psychological and neurological perspective.

Things I am currently wondering

1. In collective agreement negotiations, the two sides always come to the table with percentages in mind for the economic raise and then negotiate their way to the middle. Why don't you ever hear about them deciding to make the economic increase equal to the consumer price index increase (or, if that's logistically difficult, the previous year's CPI increase and it should all even out in the end?) I know sometimes this isn't appropriate, but it seems to me like for cases where they key issues isn't actually percentages it would save a lot of time to just index to the cost of living and get on with it.

2. In a description of a DVD player: "NTSC/PAL Playback." Does this mean it can play both Region 1 and Region 2 discs?

3. David Miller mentions in passing that he carries his groceries home in a plastic box. I'd love to know the logistics of this, because to me it sounds like the most inconvenient method humanly possible. Doesn't it take both arms? How do you open doors? Doesn't the stuff in the box rattle around? What if you're buying something that's taller than the box? Isn't it difficult to walk with a big box in both arms when it's snowy out? Doesn't it prevent you from carrying an umbrella when it's raining? What if the grocery store isn't your only errand? What do you do with the box until you get to the grocery store? What features or characteristics of the box make it preferable to using some kind of bag?

Things They Should UNinvent: MA in expiry dates

I have several packages of food, meds, etc. with the expiry day "MA 2009".

Is this March or May? How do they expect us to know in a vacuum?

They should use MR for March and MY for may.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Give me a good excuse to tip my supers

My awesome supers have saved my ass quite a few times lately. The internet tells me that it's customary to tip or give a gift to your supers (along with everyone else you've ever met) for xmas. I've never done this before, but I feel moved to do it this year. Thing is, I am (finally, joyfully) completely out of the xmas game. I'm not buying gifts for anyone, with the full consent of all involved. So it really doesn't seem appropriate for my only enactment of a ritual associated with a religion I have rejected to be essentially a tip on a business transaction. (They are awesome and they do save my ass, but they do that for everyone and our relationship is nothing special.)

So what I need is another day of the year I can use to give them a gift or a tip. Something that they make greeting cards for would be convenient because then I could give them a monetary tip (and thoughts on what constitutes an appropriate amount would be helpful - or what constitutes an appropriate gift.)

Thoughts?

Conspiracy theory of the moment

I don't believe this for a second, but it makes a fun conspiracy theory:

This confidence vote pissing match is really a stealth economic stimulus. They want the government to fall to trigger another election, because elections create jobs.

Teach me how condos work

This morning I woke up to find I had no hot water and very little cold water. I called my super and asked what was up, he went and poked around in the bowels of the building and reset a water pump, and then I had hot water and could have a shower. YAY!

What I'm trying to figure out is how would this situation have played out if I lived in a highrise condo?

I know condo owners are responsible for maintenance of their own unit, but this problem wasn't in my unit. It was a common element that's outside my jurisdiction and beyond my diagnostic skills. So do condos have on-site people to handle problems like this? If not, how does it work?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The City of Toronto wants to ban biodegradable plastic bags!

According to today's Globe and Mail, the City of Toronto wants to ban biodegradable plastic bags. Let me repeat that: ban biodegradable plastic bags! You know, the kind that we really should be using for our garbage?

Here's my email to the mayor and my city councillor:

I was shocked to read in today's Globe and Mail that Toronto is thinking of banning biodegradable plastic bags.

As I'm sure you know, most plastic bags end up in the landfill because people use them as garbage bags, to line their trash cans or wrap their green bin waste or clean up after their pets. And, as I'm sure you know, environmentally optimal behaviour would be to use biodegradable garbage bags for this purpose.

Every time a retailer bags a consumer's purchase in a biodegradable plastic bag, they are making environmentally optimal behaviour literally effortless for the consumer. The consumer makes their purchase, gets it bagged as usual, uses the bag for garbage as usual, and that's one less plastic bag in the landfill. The consumer would have to go out of their way to be less environmentally friendly.

By banning biodegradable plastic bags, you would not only be making environmentally optimal behaviour more difficult by requiring consumers to a) purchase biodegradable garbage bags and b) carry reusable bags with them all day every time they might want to pick up a couple of things at the store after work, but you would also be making it ILLEGAL for retailers to show good corporate citizenship by simplifying environmentally optimal behaviour for their customers.

Please do not allow this ridiculous proposal to pass. The last thing you want to do is make environmentally friendly behaviour more difficult.


You know, I'm starting to get really frustrated with having to write to politicians about things that are so bloody obvious.

Things They Should Invent: interbloguality

1. People who are on Twitter and also have a blog (or LJ or something similar) should post their Twitter feed on their blog as a sidebar or something. No, I don't know how to do that, but I have seen it done. Readers who don't work 100% from feeds might not want to have to check two things.

2. Inspired by today's Dear Ellie, people who are trying to meet people on online dating sites should blog, and either put their blog link in their dating profile or share it early on in the getting-to-know-you process. Then they can get a window onto each other's inner life and figure out if they're compatible much more easily than by sharing favourite movies and bands.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The internet just might be complete

Check out the third comment here.

Judith Martin, who writes Miss Manners, likes Eddie Izzard and watches him on YouTube.

Dear Internet: Can you top that?

Waking up

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think is "WTF?" and the second thing I think is "Gotta pee!" However, between "WTF?" and "Gotta pee!", I remember everything.

Today is Wednesday. I have to finish that medical file by 3. If the clothes I hung up to dry last night aren't dry yet, I'll wear a black shirt. It's the first week of my current pack of pills. It's supposed to snow today. I ate pierogi last night. DS9 is on tonight. I need to buy cheese and Scrubbing Bubbles. I didn't have time to do a beauty routine last night so I'll have to do it tonight. I'm sore there because I did core strength yesterday. I meant to blog about yesterday's Dear Abby column. Xmas is not at my parents' house this year. Walmart might have those hair curlers I can't find anywhere else. The acne scar on my forehead is almost gone and should only need foundation today. My friend might know that guy in the elephant picture.

In just a few seconds, after having spent 6-8 hours comatose and hallucinating vividly, I know who I am, where I am, and what I have to do. That's really weird if you think about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I learned today

1. I look like I know where I'm going. I was in a maze of an office building I've never been in before going to an office I'd never been to before, and by the time I got there like three people were following me because they thought I knew how to get to the office.

2. If you stand at the sink in a public bathroom hurriedly applying makeup while appearing to ignore the other people in the bathroom, it won't occur to them that you're eavesdropping. It only works if you do the makeup like you're in a hurry though, so carry a lot of makeup in your purse for situations where you want to eavesdrop.

3. Dan Snaith is even more awesome than I thought.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Small point of order

There is a fanfic writer who goes by Impudent Strumpet. I am not her, she is not me, don't blame her for anything I write here. I hardly ever review fanfic (and have only reviewed fic in the Harry Potter fandom) so in the realm of fanfic it's almost certainly her you're reading, while in the blogosphere it's more likely to be me. (I don't know if she's active in the blogosphere, but our paths haven't crossed yet.) I either link to this blog or don't link to anything. Now that I know there's more than one of us, I will link to this blog in the future.

How my brain works

I can sing along with my background music while typing, even though the words I'm typing are completely different from the words I'm singing. However, I can't do this if I'm trying to harmonize with the music. (Not that I'm especially successful at harmonizing, but that doesn't stop me from trying.)

Hilarity for a lazy Sunday

Funny warning signs

Slight misfire in Dear Abby

Someone writes into Dear Abby saying that parents should teach their teenage daughters how to politely decline a date. (Which I agree with, by the way. I'm still not sure I can do it - I always send out pre-emptive "not interested" signals so I've had very few civilized invitations to practise on. But that assumes that parents can teach their kids things that will work in the kids' social circle. The vast majority of the scripts my parents have given me when I asked for advice have been way off and just gotten me laughed at.)

In reply, Abby says:

If a girl is so eager to please that she doesn't know how to say, "Don't call me" or, "Thank you, but I'm not interested," then how is she going to learn to say, "Do not touch me in that way"?


I don't think this is quite a fair analogy. If you get asked out on a date in a way that's perfectly civilized and appropriate, you don't want to hurt the guy's feelings and it may be that you don't know him very well. But by the time you get to "Don't touch me that way", your thesis is either "Fuck off!" or "Touch me this way instead." If it's "Fuck off!", you don't have to worry so much about his feelings. If it's "Touch me this way instead," you know him well enough that you can say to him "Touch me this way instead," or you can just grab his you-know-what and position yourself for him to verb your noun (assuming he's already expressed enthusiasm for verbing your noun).

"Don't touch me" is a far easier concept to express. Someone who can't quite manage to politely and with no hurt feelings convey "You're a perfectly decent person, the invitation was perfectly appropriate, I'm just not nearly as enthusiastic at the prospect so I'm going to decline," can still manage "Don't touch me!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I wonder if the US housing market crisis will result in changes to the property tax model?

I know the housing market problems are more of a US thing (but they're so very loud about it!) and I don't know if the property tax system works the same way there, but I'm just braindumping here.

I've never been comfortable with the property tax system. You pay tax that's proportional to the assessed value of your home, but you have no control over the value of your home. Sure, you can reasonably assume it's proportionate to your income upon purchase, but there could be a housing bubble and your assessed taxes could skyrocket while in the meantime you lose your job. People who disagree with me on this tend to argue that you can always access the value of your home (presumably by mortgaging it?) so if your house is worth more you are in fact richer and can in fact afford more taxes. This solution never seemed sustainable to me, but I've never been good at advanced financial management things like that. About all I can handle is I have $X in my bank account, so if the thing I want costs less than $X I can buy it.

But if I'm understanding correctly, this housing crisis thingy seems to be pointing out the very flaws of assuming that a person's property values can be used to calculate how much tax burden they can bear. Maybe they'll make a better system now? I don't mind income tax - after all, it cannot possibly be more than 100% of my income, unlike property tax. I don't mind consumption tax as long as they don't charge it on necessities (although I'd really rather they include it in the sticker prices), and they'd both make budgeting much easier than the current property tax model.

Chickens break up a fight between rabbits



I'm just stealing all Malene Arpe's animal videos this week.

Things They Should Invent: "don't make an example of my death" clause for wills

So it seems the recent age-based restrictions on young drivers are due to lobbying by a father whose son died while driving drunk. Yeah.

This reminded me of a situation near my parents' house. There's a road there that is functionally a minor highway. It's a well-built, well-lit, 80 km/h four-lane divided road with no buildings along it or crossroads, it just serves to link two built-up areas. There's one place along this road where people tend to jaywalk as part of a convenient shortcut. Shortly after I moved away, they installed a pedestrian crossing there - you push a button, stoplights stop traffic, and you can cross. But then someone died from being hit by a car while jaywalking (opting not to use the crosswalk) so they slowed down the speed limit on that section of the road to either 60 or 40, I forget which. It's really weird to drive that slowly in that section. It's awkward and counterintuitive and confuses everyone. Even I, a non-driver who believe that pedestrian precedence over cars is an essential part of forward-looking urban planning, think this is overkill.

So I mentioned to my parents that I've jaywalked through there dozens of times, and I've always done so with the assumption that if I get hit by a car it's my problem. After all, I'm the one jaywalking across an 80 km/h road. I know it's a stupid thing to do, if I decide to do it and the natural consequences occur it serves me right, and it would really piss me off if my personal decision to do something stupid were used to inconvenience everyone else forever. My parents, who have also jaywalked across there dozens if not hundreds of times, agreed with me on this.

However, parents can be weird when it comes to their children's safety, and people can be weird in their grief. Therefore, I'd like to be able to put a legally-enforceable clause in my will saying that if I die while doing something that I know is stupid, I don't want my death to be used to make all kinds of new rules that are going to inconvenience people who are more sensible than me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to retrofit your highrise for green bin organic waste collection at no cost whatsoever

The green bin organic waste collection program is now being extended to highrises! YAY!

Problem: My building only has one garbage chute! Problem: People aren't going to want to take their organics downstairs and outside every day! Problem: If people don't empty their green bin frequently enough, we'll get infestations! Problem: The outdoor dumpster for organics is going to get really gross really fast!

Solution: use the garbage chute for organics, and put your regular garbage dumpster out back along with the recycling.

That way, the thing that needs to be disposed of most urgently will be the easiest to dispose of. People can throw their organics down the chute every day, and take the recycling and regular waste (neither of which will go smelly or attract pests) out back at their convenience. If the organics dumpster gets smelly or gross or infested, people can still dispose of their organics down the chute without having to go anywhere near it. Since the garbage chute room is indoors, the organics will be indoors where they'll attract fewer pests. And since the smelly pest-attracting garbage is locked away, fewer pests will be attracted to the remaining outdoor dumpster.

All you have to do to make this change is print up a few signs and flyers for your tenants, and if you're a well-run building you already have that in your budget.