Thursday, February 28, 2008

I think the assholes have a new technique for trying to get laid

I was reading the comments for the Globe & Mail article I linked to below, and some guy started going on quite adamently about how he hoped his daughters would be virgins when they got married because he really didn't want them sleeping with several different men.

Suddenly, I had this mighty need to go out and have sex with like three or four people all in a row.

Not because I was horny - quite the contrary! I was repulsed. I was so utterly disgusted by the idea of a father thinking about his daughters in those terms I can't even articulate how disgusted I was. The last time I cringed that much was when I was watching The Aristocrats and Bob Saget was telling the joke and he got to the point where an eyeball popped out of its socket (and understand that eyeballs are one of the things I'm most squeamish about - and when I get squeamish I'm the most squeamish person I know!). But the idea of a father thinking of his daughter that way repulsed me so much I felt this huge urge to go whore around so that my father could not possibly think of me that way.

Now I have no idea whether the person who wrote that comment is my father. I have no idea whether my father actually thinks along those lines (I suspect he might, but I don't discuss this sort of thing with him for fear of giving him the idea that his thoughts on the matter are welcome). And I'm not even a virgin! And I can't even think of three people that I'd actually want to have sex with right this minute! And yet there I was, my instinctive gut reaction telling me to add more notches to my bedpost in exactly the same way it makes me cross my legs and arms when someone gets creepy, mentally scrolling through a list of everyone who has ever flirted with me to see if I could find someone I could stand to let touch me for half an hour or so, all before I even realized what I was doing.

But I just realized that this is all a clever scheme on the part of the asshole. He isn't actually posting because he cares about whether his daughters (if he actually has daughters) have sex. He posting because he wants to get laid himself. So he puts out there an idea that will make every woman who reads it want to have suboptimal quantity-over-quality casual sex. Very clever, that.

Open Letter to the person who wrote in to today's Globe and Mail Group Therapy column

The reader is having sex drive issues, and her partner thinks the Pill might be the problem. Various responses and comments either tell her to go off the Pill, or that the Pill isn't the problem.

Dear reader, please listen to me, I am speaking from firsthand experience: you need to switch pills. Do not go off the Pill, do not disregard the Pill as a possible source of the problem.

Every pill has a different level of hormones, and every person has a different level of hormones. If the hormone levels in the pills are incompatible with your own personal hormone levels, you may experience side effects including reduced sex drive. Finding a more compatible hormone level will alleviate these side effects. Also, switching from monophasic to triphasic or vice versa may also have an effect.

Personally, Alesse killed my sex drive, Cyclen brought it back, and Ortho-Tri-Cyclen actually increases it for one of the three weeks (which is nice - it's fun, but it would be unsustainable if I were like that all four weeks).

So don't stop the Pill, don't disregard the Pill, just tell your doctor your sex drive is waning and ask if switching pills might help. There are at least a dozen different hormone levels available, so give it a try before you write it off.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cake AND death!

Poor, poor Adam Deely of Birmingham.

Not only does he die in a terribly embarrassing way, by choking on a cupcake, but Eddie Izzard fans everywhere are giggling despite themselves.

Another stroke of luck

Let's pretend I live on a corner. It's more complicated than that, but the arrangement doesn't actually matter so we'll just pretend it's a corner.

There is a power outage on the other side of the street my building is located on. There is a power outage on the other side of the street my building is located beside. But there is no power outage on my side of the two streets.

This is a really weird amount of good luck to be getting

Linguistic research needed

Dear Abby readers complain about being addressed as "You guys".

Based on the letters, it seems to be a regional dialect thing. I can see how the word "guy" can be masculine when it is intended to be so, but personally when I say "you guys" it is gender-neutral. By that I mean that there's no intention of gender in it. It's even more gender-neutral than the intentions behind "Everyone should bring his book," because I don't see unless you point out to me and make me think about it how "you guys" could even be interpreted as masculine. It would be like interpreting the word "human" as masculine because the word "man" can be found in it. It isn't even like the French ils for a mixed group (which seems to be falling into disuse, incidentally). In my train of thought in using this word, it isn't marked as masculine at all. It's like "you guys" is a completely separate term from "guy".

So what they should study (in addition to mapping "you guys" usage) is whether anyone who says "you guys" ever intends it as masculine, whether explicitly or through an "everyone should bring his book"/ils/mankind type usage. Because in my dialect there's no thought of gender whatsoever. It's just that we don't have "y'all" or "folks" in our active vocabulary, so there's not much else we can put there.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The problem with interesting work

Right now (yes, literally right now, blah overtime) I'm working on a terribly interesting text. It's the kind of thing I want to have a massive conversation about. I want to sit down with the author with coffee and ask "But what about cases where..." and "In your research, did you ever find..." and "If I were in that position, I'd be inclined to think...but is that just a function of my own cultural background?" I want to take this text and show it the people that it concerns and ask them what they think and is the situation on the ground really like this. I want to find supporting and refuting research and anecdotal evidence.

But there's no time. I just have to get it into English and get it revised and get it to the client by deadline and then I've got a dozen other things waiting for me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Comedy bunny, free for the taking

The Mac guy and the PC guy do the Nudge Nudge sketch.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chitchat poll

My shyness and introversion incline me to talk too little. My attempts to compensate for my shyness and introversion to put others at ease incline me to talk too much.

If I were just an acquaintance that you don't care about any more than anyone else (because if you're reading this you probably care more about what I have to say than the average person) would you rather I err on the side of talking too little or talking too much? (No, I am not capable of just talking appropriately or only about interesting topics.)

Icy Hot patches

Icy Hot patches are my new best friend! I love them! You know how in like Grade 2 if you say you love something, the other kids will say "Do you want to marry them?" Well I want to marry them!

I woke up yesterday morning with this muscle I didn't even know I have (across the top of my chest and the front of my shoulder) really really stiff. Like it hurt to lift my arm far enough to wash my hair. (Yes, on top of strep throat and a broken washing machine and getting splashed by a car and getting my day off rescinded and having to work overtime). Yoga didn't help, a hot shower complete with shower massage function didn't help, a heating pad didn't help, and advil didn't help. I was debating with myself whether it needed heat or whether I should put ice on it, because it felt muscly but the heat didn't help, then I remembered seeing these Icy Hot things advertised and thinking hey, best of both worlds. So I picked some up at the drugstore on the way to work and put one on in the bathroom.

Instant relief. The discomfort disappeared, the muscle loosened, and I had my full range of motion back within minutes.

I kept it on for the two hours set out in the instructions. I wanted to keep it on for longer because it felt so good, but figured I should try following the instructions first. And guess what? After I took it off, the stiffness didn't return! It's been fine ever since! I don't know how they work, but it's a miracle!

They smell a bit mentholy and don't really get hot (I'd call them Icy/Less Icy) but they don't leave any gunk on your skin when you take them off, don't hurt your clothes, and they WORK! They're a bit expensive though - $10ish for a pack of only five patches - but I haven't had to do anything to my shoulder since so I guess they're worth it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Earth Hour

Why not kill two birds with one stone and have Earth Hour during the eclipse?

Some good luck for a change

I woke up this morning with my annual bout of strep throat. Which is weird in itself - it usually comes on over the course of a couple days, but today it came on suddenly and so painfully that it woke me up at 4 am.

So I called my doctor, and their voicemail told me that my doctor was on "a leave of absence for reasons beyond her control." Uh oh.

So I called again later and asked what to do, and the receptionist said she could get me in with the other doctor at the clinic at 10 tomorrow. I was very happy about that, because last time I called my doctor with strep it was a Thursday and they couldn't get me in until Tuesday. So I accepted that appointment, then the receptionist called me back an hour later (on her own initiative! she didn't used to do this!) and said they'd just got an opening for 4 pm today. So I took that.

So I was happy to have an appointment, but a bit nervous about seeing this other doctor. He administered my third Gardasil and seemed a bit judgy about it, and I was worried that he might make me take a swab (which is an ordeal in and of itself - I have a bitch of a gag reflex) and take it to the lab and get results back before he'd give me antibiotics, which meant a couple more days of suffering because I've had this every year, I know it's not going to get better without antibiotics. So I looked him up on and got perhaps a sense of his character from the other patients' reviews, which I used to tailor my pitch.

So I went in at 4, and was seen at 4!!!! This is astounding - usually there's 30-60 minutes' wait!!! I described the situation to him, refraining from diagnosing myself based on the info on RateMDs, and good-naturedly warned him about my gag reflex when I saw him wielding a tongue depressor. Poke and poke, no tongue depressor, and he announces that I have a throat infection. I smile and nod. I then allow him to brief me on an antibiotic I've taken a dozen times before, and trot off to Shoppers, prescription in hand. By 5:00 I was comfortably ensconced in my apartment with a nice cup of tea, my first dose of antibiotic already taken, just finishing up the last few hundred words of my text for tomorrow. It could not have gone more smoothly.

I know I'm generally anti-thankfulness, but right now I'm thankful. I'm thankful this appointment went as smoothly as humanly possible (I was fully prepared to still be in the waiting room right now), I'm thankful that my education and job indirectly gave me the skills to convince a strange doctor that writing me a prescription without taking a swab really is the best option, I'm thankful that I live in a sexy high-density neighbourhood where my disappearing doctor is replaced by another doctor in the same building and where I can drop of my prescription, go buy juice, pick up my prescription, and then walk home, and I'm thankful I have a job that will accomodate a last-minute medical appointment like this! All of which really comes back to money buying happiness.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Open Letter to the car who splashed me on purpose

Dear Silver Car:

It's a long block with narrow sidewalks and big puddles in all the gutters. There were about a dozen pedestrians walking down the street at the time. You could have splashed anyone or everyone. So what exactly made you choose to speed up and make a big splash only as you passed me, but drive at a reasonable non-splashing speed when passing everyone else?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Things They Should Study: how do childless elders feel about their social lives or lack thereof?

You often hear or hear of elders complaining of social isolation because they don't get enough attention from their descendents. And people with children do tend to assume that their children will take care of them in old age.

But what about childless elders? On one hand, if you're childless, you don't have any younger people who have some sense of duty to take care of you. But on the other hand, you can see it coming. You know you don't have any children, so you aren't going to be surprised when you get old and you don't have any children or grandchildren around you.

I did a quick google and the research I could find suggested that childless elders are more socially isolated, although marital status is also a factor. However, none of the abstracts (I can't access academic databases from home so I couldn't see the whole articles) said anything about whether this bothers them.

What's interesting is this is all going to be moot anyway within the next generation. With the internet, even if you're confined to your home and your children never visit you, you can still blog about whatever you want or find an online community about whatever interests you (or whatever it is people will do on the internet a generation from now).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Things Google Should Invent: click on a building and see its Yellow Pages entry

I was searching to see where a specific address was located. Google Maps found it for me, of course, and let me see a nice satellite picture. But then I wanted to see what was near there. Was there anywhere to buy lunch? Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't help with this. All I can see from the satellite photos is roofs of buildings surrounded by parking lots. The buildings are biggish, so they could be malls or they could be supermarkets or they could be Walmart or they could be strip malls or they could be sprawly industrial parks. I can't tell at all.

Now Google Maps does know what's inside these buildings. If I do find "Food" near "$ADDRESS" it will produce results, but these results aren't completely good. If Pizza Pizza is labelled "pizza" but not "food", my search won't turn it up.

So what I want to do instead is click on the buildings, and Google will tell me which businesses are inside them. They already have the information, I just want to get at it the other way around. You can do it Google!

School shootings

I wonder if there are any numbers on whether a person is more likely to be shot up by a crazed gunman in a school vs. in other places.

Why women don't vote Conservative

Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail speculates on why fewer women vote Conservative than men.

Now I rarely make bold black-and-white declarative statements - I adore nuance - but in this case, speaking as a member of the demographic in question and given the specific numbers in the article, I am quite convinced there is one answer.

It's all about abortion.

Women, especially younger women and especially single women, don't vote Conservative because we don't trust that they'll uphold our rights to and access to abortion.

Look at the specific number breakdowns. Please qualify all my statements with "In general, statistically speaking, using gross generalizations to explain broad trends, etc.":

Among single women, the Conservatives trail the Liberals by a whopping 19 points (36 to 17 per cent), whereas the Conservatives are seven points ahead among married women (37 to 30 per cent).

Because raising a child single-handedly is way harder, married women are more likely to welcome a pregnancy (or at least not see it as a major problem). It is also easier to get a tubal (or a vasectomy) if you're married, so married people who don't want any (more) children may be able to get sterilized and therefore be less likely to need an abortion.

The Conservatives lead by nine points among rural women (37 to 28 per cent) but trail by four among urban ones (33 to 29 per cent).

With the cost of living being lower in rural areas, supporting an planned child would be easier. In major cities, even a two-bedroom apartment may be out of people's price range. Also, this is a (positive or negative, depending on your opinion) feedback loop - culture in rural areas tends to be more conservative and family-oriented, so people who don't want that sort of life tend to leave and move to the city, which reduced the number of non-family people in rural areas, which makes it even more family-oriented etc. etc.

Women under 34 favour the Liberals by 11 points (38 to 27 per cent); women over 50 prefer the Conservatives by eight points (36 to 28 per cent).

Younger women are more fertile, so more likely to become pregnant despite contraceptive efforts. Doctors don't like to do tubals on women under the age of 35, so younger women are more likely to be fertile against their will. In contrast, menopause tends to happen around 50, so the vast majority of women over 50 simply will not become pregnant no matter what happens.

As part of their strategy of slicing and dicing the electorate, the Conservatives have very specifically targeted married women.

Their so-called "child care policy" was really a new version of the old family allowance approach: a cheque in the mail for families with kids. Their "tough on crime" policies were intended to be popular with older women and those with children. Their itsy-bitsy tax credits for children's athletic programs had young families in the bull's eye.

This not only is irrelevant to the childless woman, but also, by targeting women through child-related policies tells us specifically that they don't care about us except as mothers. All the child tax credits in the world do not negate the existence of a child. Crime is bad, we do agree with that just like anyone else, but even executing - even torturing! - my rapist would not make up for being forced to gestate his baby. It doesn't matter how many women are in government, what matters on a personal, visceral level is that everyone - not just me and my friends and cousins and sister but everyone, even random 14-year-olds in Nunavut - gets to gestate only the pregnancies she wants to. If they doubled my taxes to pay for an abortion clinic on every corner, I would applaud and campaign for them next time around. If they cut my taxes to zero and eliminated all crime and gave you $100,000 a year for each child but eliminated the possibility of abortion, I would riot.

At this point, people usually point out that the Conservatives are not trying to take away my Morgentaler Clinic. Which is true, on paper at least, and explains why they're getting any votes at all. However, we have long memories. If Paul Bernardo was out on parole having been a model prisoner and evaluated as unlikely to reoffend, I still wouldn't get in a car with him. And before you tell me that this isn't an apt comparison, if you told me "Get in the car with Paul Bernardo or abortion will be eliminated," I'd pause only long enough to tell you where to find my will.

If you have a fertile womb but do not want to become pregnant, there are few things anywhere near as important. Anyone who we even suspect does not understand this has no chance of getting our votes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Does anyone get anything out of rote recitation of a prayer?

Apparently they say the Lord's Prayer in the Ontario Legislature? and they're only just now thinking "Hey, maybe this isn't the time or place"?

I've already written what I think about saying it in public school and that applies here too, but now I'm wondering something else.

If you are in fact religious, and you're in a situation like this where you have to recite a specifically-worded prayer in a secular context, do you at all feel it emotionally or religiously or faithfully or however it is you normally experience prayer?

I was once religious so I do grok that prayer is something to be experienced, not simply something to be recited. You think and feel something and then pray it, and then something happens, something that's more than just thinking and feeling it. (I don't know what happens, I never had the experience myself which is why I'm an atheist, but it's supposed to happen.) And I do see how saying a specific prayer could be an experience when done in a church or some other religious context - in Catholicism, all the words and actions of the mass had a specific purpose which served a greater goal of forgiving all our sins so we wouldn't go to hell if we died between the end of mass and our next sin or something (there are big words for all this but they escape me at the moment).

But if you're in the legislature - a completely secular context of no theological significance - and you recite from a given script, are you experiencing it religiously at all? Reciting in a religious context I can see, praying whatever your happen to be thinking and feeling in any context I can see, but does reciting in an irrelevant context actually do anything for you?

Any religious people out there? Or have I already alienated them all?

ETA: Theme of the day seems to be blogging things that other people have already said better. Here's Eddie's take.

A better name for Family Day

Monday is Family Day. Which is a bad name for a holiday - it imposes obligation on people who don't want to spend time with their families and alienates people who don't have families, while people who do want to spend time with their families would be doing so anyway. Not that I care that much because I don't get the day off.

Today, the sun was out as I was leaving work for the first time this year. I usually notice the return of the sun around around this time of year, and it does make life a little brighter.

Therefore, this holiday should be themed on something like Here Comes The Sun Day. But shorter, perhaps with a mythological reference or something. Suggestions are welcome!

ETA: James Bow's idea is better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Toronto moment

The cashier goes to give the customer his change, then realizes that one of the coins is foreign.

Cashier: Wait, this isn't right, let me get you a real dime.
Customer: **inspects strange coin** I wonder what this is?
Cashier: I don't know, I've never seen one of those before.
Customer: It looks like some European language. I can never tell them apart.
Cashier: Me neither, they all look the same.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Math lesson for Michael Bryant

So the Ontario Liberals want to have the legislature sit in the morning instead of in the afternoon and evening.

Now I should admit a perceived conflict of interest here: I am a card-carrying member of Night Owls International (Motto: "We do more after 2am than most people do all day"). However, this post isn't about circadian rhythms, it's about math.

When the legislature is in session, it sits from 1:30 to 6:00 p.m. and again from 6:45 p.m. until as late as midnight Monday through Thursdays, with the only morning sessions at 10 a.m. Thursdays for two hours of private members' business.

Bryant said sitting from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. would expand the number of hours for debate each week by as much as 50 per cent and make life a little easier for members with family demands.

So let's calculate this. First, the number of hours a week under the current system:

1:30 to 6 = 4.5 hours
6:45 to midnight = 5.25 hours
= 9.75 hours a day * 4 days a week = 39 hours a week.
+ 2 hours on Thursday mornings = 41 hours a week

Now under the new system:

9:30 to 6 = 8.5 hours
8.5 * 4 days a week = 34 hours a week

So under the new system they'd actually be sitting for fewer hours a week! That in no way expands the number of hours of debate by 50%!

Now if the MPPs decide they want to sit earlier for work-life balance purposes, that's perfectly fine. A lot of people get to flex their work hours, and I don't think anyone will begrudge them that except for the subset of people who will begrudge them anything and everything on the basis that they're politicians. But don't go around saying it increases the number of hours of work when it doesn't! Frankly, I expected better from Michael Bryant, he's always struck me as rather sensible.

Things They Should Invent: Youtube 4'33"

I would start this myself if I had a video camera.

It occurred to me today that Youtube would be the ideal venue for visual performances of John Cage's 4'33". There are some videos of musical performances, but instead of having it "played" on a piano or a violin or a guitar, I'm thinking it should be "played" on a video camera.

Here's how it works: set up your camera somewhere where you don't have complete control over what's going to pass through the viewfinder. Looking out the window, looking at the fishtank, or strapped to the dog are good. Pointing at a blank wall or sitting on top of your computer monitor filming your face are bad. Then press record, and wander away from the camera going about life as you normally would be, whether that has you in the same room as the camera or not. After 4 minutes and 33 seconds, stop filming and post the results on Youtube. You only get one try and you have the post the results of your first try unless it ends up invading someone's privacy in a context where they should reasonably expect privacy (e.g. if your camera is pointing out the window and films someone walking down the street, that's fine. If it's strapped to the dog and the dog wanders into the bathroom where your spouse is doing a bikini wax, don't post that one.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour on a Sunday night, I think I'll do a stupid meme

Soundtrack to your life meme.

Shuffle your playlist and press play. For each question type the song that's playing. Then press next and type the next song for the next question.

Opening Credits:
Knuckle Down - Ani DiFranco
That could work

Waking Up:
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 1) - Pink Floyd
Wow, that's going to be an intense day...

First Day At School:
Baby's in Black - The Beatles
This is going to be a weird story...

Falling In Love:
I've Got a Crush on Your - Ella Fitzgerald
My iTunes is smart!

Fight Song:
In My Life - The Beatles
I want to see a fight scene to that song!

Breaking Up:
Don't Download This Song - Weird Al Yankovic
Again, I want to see a breakup scene to that song!

Outta Me, Onto You - Ani DiFranco
Could work if the prom doesn't take itself seriously. Actually, would work well since the prom comes AFTER the break-up

Life is Good:
Excuse Me, I Think I've Got a Heartache - Cake
Are we going for irony here?

Mental Breakdown:
I Just Can't Wait To Be King - from the Lion King
Hey, if it's a really thorough mental breakdown, why not?

Your Little Body Is Slowly Breaking Down - from Evita
Well, I'm not a good driver...actually, this would work if I had a car I'm emotionally attached to and I'm driving it on its last trip ever before it dies

Prologue from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
Flashback to what?

Getting Back Together:
Find Your Grail - from Spamalot
That could work actually!

Hallelujah - Rufus Wainwright
For an emotionally complicated wedding, yes!

Paying the Dues:
Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
Am I paying the dues by working on a ship?

The Night Before The War:
Space Man - Smash Mouth
Am I in the air force?

Final Battle:
Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars - Weird Al Yankovic
I don't think this movie is taking itself very seriously

Moment of Triumph:
Earth Intruders - Björk
Okay, so this movie clearly involves a futuristic space battle. It would work though!

Death Scene:
This Jesus Must Die - from Jesus Christ Superstar
So now I'm the messiah too?

Funeral Song:
Good Morning Starshine - from Hair
Well, if I'm the messiah people are going to have to celebrate my death at some point...

End Credits:
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - Cake
Okay then, not the weirdest thing

Okay, so I'm secretly and unknowingly the messiah in a futuristic universe that includes space battles and where half the time the emotions of a situation are the opposite of what they should be.

Also, I don't think my iTunes knows how to shuffle very well. That wasn't nearly random enough.

School buses

So apparently in the US they do or used to bus students around to different schools so that schools would be more balanced racially.

It's obviously a big and loaded issue, but there's one thing I'm surprised they didn't mention: taking the school bus SUCKS!

I took the schoolbus in grades 6-8. Before and after that, my schools were close enough to our house that I could walk or my parents would drive me depending on circumstances.

The major problem with the schoolbus was you were trapped. You had no freedom. You had to be on that bus at that specific time, and you had no other choices. In grade 5 we could stop at Becker's for candy on the way to school, or go in early and join the pick-up soccer game, or sleep in a bit (or watch Jem and Punky Brewster) and get to school just in time for the bell. On the way home we could go to a friend's house or run home really fast to watch Ninja Turtles or dawdle and play Ninja Turtles. Then suddenly in Grade 6 we had to take the bus and all these options were gone. The bus got us to school half an hour before the bell - no more, no less. If you were a victim of bullying, you were trapped on the bus with your bullies, and you had to kill half an hour in the mornings before classes started instead of showing up just before the bell to minimize bullying opportunities. You couldn't go to the store and buy candy, you couldn't go to a friend's house without a note from your parents stamped by the office to let you on your friend's bus, there was just no freedom whatsoever.

My high school was closer than my middle school so I didn't have to take the bus any more. This was especially useful in OAC when we had spares. In my last semester of high school, I had first and last period spare, so I could sleep in a bit (which also eliminated bathroom battles with my sister, who had a class first period) and go to school for 10, then take three classes in a row and go home at 2 if I had nothing to do, or stay as needed for extra-curricular or social reasons. However, a classmate with a similar schedule who took the bus had to hang around the school from like 8:00 to 3:30 with nothing to do for hours. (Some people had cars in high school, but not enough that you could make policy on that assumption.)

Frankly, on a personal level, I would be pretty pissed off if someone tried to take that freedom away from me for the purpose of greater racial integration. Nothing against the people in the other school or the neighbourhood the other school is in, it's just the limitations of being dependent on a school bus. I'm rather surprised this hasn't come up as one of the factors.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dreaming in black and white

Did people still used to dream in black and white before TV/movies/photography were invented? Because if you were completely unfamiliar with black and white images IRL, black and white dreams would be so bizarrely arbitrary!

Things They Should Invent: proper instructions on how to skip double dutch

I was googling for how to skip double dutch, and everything I can find talks extensively about how you need to get two ropes and two people to turn and one or more people to jump, and how to turn the ropes so they're opposite to each other, all of which I know. And then when it gets to the point that I want to know about, it says "Jump in!" Then it goes on about how you can do all these tricks and stuff, but never actually elaborates HOW to jump. I've never been able to figure this out! The turning isn't the hard part, the jumping is! Give us better instructions people!

What if...

- Suppose someone's got you cornered and is about to beat you up, and your cellphone rings, and you say "Just a moment, I have to take this call." Would that stop them, at least briefly before they go "Hey, wait a second..."

- Suppose you see someone else being attacked, and you just walk in calmly, completely ignoring the fact that there's an attack going on, and start talking to the victim and take them by the hand and lead them out "Oh, there you are, I thought we were supposed to be meeting over on the corner. Come here for a second, I need you to look at my car, the windshield wipers have been acting funny..." Again, would that throw off the attackers just long enough to make an escape?

- Suppose media coverage of the US elections (aside: are they going to be campaigning straight through until November? or do they get a break?) just didn't mention the fact that Hilary Clinton is female and Barack Obama is black. If the media stopped mentioning it as a factor would it continue to be a factor?

- In places where people like to go around shooting abortion doctors, what if the abortion doctors had extremely elite well-trained pregnant bodyguards? So if you shoot at an abortion doctor, a pregnant woman will jump in and take the bullet. Logistical and ethical issues aside, would that be an effective deterrent to the shooters?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Things They Should Invent: "comfortism" as a separate concept from materialism

Materialism is about having things. "Comfortism" (still taking suggestions for a better word) is about the ease and/or comfort that those things bring to your life. It would be very helpful to separate those concepts.

I love my ipod not because it's a sleeky shiny pricey toy, but because carrying around all my music at once makes life more pleasant. I love my appliances not because they're the very latest thing in energy-efficient appliances, but because they make life so much easier. I love my computer not because it looks cool and was when I bought it faster than anyone else's computer, but because it allows me to do whatever I need or want to do without any waiting or technical difficulties.

These motivations for owning consumer goods should not be given the same label as the motivations of someone who wants to own something to show off or be cool or impress other people or so people will go "Whoa, they have a solid gold Hummer, they must be rich!" (If people actually have these motivations - I've found that people are quick to ascribe truly materialistic motivations to others, but if you ask people about their own motivations it's for ease or comfort or convenience).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The problem with holding conventional opinions

The problem with conventional opinions is that to the onlooker, a conventional opinion that you've blindly accepted without a second of critical thought looks exactly the same as a conventional opinion that you've analyzed deeply.

Suppose I say, "I don't believe in photons". Regardless of how sensible you think that opinion is, it's clear that I've thought about it rather than unquestioningly accepting what I was taught in science class.

However, if I say, "I think democracy is a good thing," you have no way of telling whether I've given the matter any thought or whether I'm just blindly accepting society's opinion.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Deep thoughts on US politics

Barack Obama's name always sounds backwards to me. He should switch it around and be Obama Barack instead. Plus, then he's be higher up on the ballot.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Open Letter to my Subconscious

Dear Subconscious:

Sex is a nice thing to dream about. So is flying. A quest or adventure dream is always good. Being a character in any work of fiction is a fun way to spend a night, and being given a plot that I can use to write my own fiction is always worthwhile. Barring that, I can appreciate any dream that will make a good anecdote, even if it is a nightmare.

So why the fuck did you make me spend all last night being 11 years old and stuck in the back of my parents' car while they drove all over suburbia doing boring errands???? Frankly, I'd rather have had a panic attack dream that woke me up at 4 in the morning! At least then once I'd recovered my equilibrium I could get some gaming in before my alarm went off!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Analogy for why I am not a musician

In Grade 12, my English teacher made us memorize the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet, which was a perfectly normal assignment. On the test, we had to write out the soliloquy. Perfectly reasonable, right? Except that he was also marking us on whether we had memorized the exact punctuation! This was really surprising, since he also taught Drama, so I figured he would appreciate that the punctuation is not that relevant. As long as you know the words and understand their meaning and emotional arc, it doesn't matter if there's a period or a comma or a semi-colon or a colon or a dash between "To be or not to be" and "that is the question".

I stopped music when I came to the realization that I was never expressing myself artistically or creatively through that medium. I know other people do, but it doesn't work that way for me. When I worked on music - and I did have to practice and work extremely hard just to be competent - it was like memorizing the punctuation in Shakespeare. The more I worked the more I knew about music, the more familiar I was with the mechanics of the piece, the better I could play the piece, the more it became something my fingers could do automatically without involving my brain, but it was never artistic or creative. It never had soul, just like memorizing the punctuation in Shakespeare isn't going to give your performance soul.

Now I'm quite good at learning new things. I can pick up a book and learn fingerings and/or embouchure, then pick up an instrument and practice relentlessly, and with hard work I will eventually be able to play all the notes as written. But that doesn't make me a musician any more than a voice synthesizer reciting Shakespeare is an actor. I can learn knowledge and technical skills, but I can't fake having soul. I had to leave the church for that reason, and I also had to stop being a musician for that reason.

This always reminds me of this commercial. She wanted to be a gymnast, she was too tall, so she ended up being a pole vaulter. So impossible is nothing? No...being a gymnast was impossible because she was too tall. You can't set out to do one thing, fail, end up doing a completely different thing, and declare success on that basis. I can't go around saying "I always wanted to be a musician but I don't have the soul for it, so I ended up being a translator. See, you can do anything you put your mind to!" Not that people should be castigated when their original plans don't work out so they switch directions to something more suitable, but you can't use that situation to illustrate the idea that impossible is nothing.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A statement that is perfectly logical today but was utterly nonsensical a few short years ago

"I have a phone full of videos."

Thank you to Tabatha Southey for successfully articulating what I haven't been able to yet

"Saying, "I'm a feminist," is almost like saying, "I have no problem with Pakistanis" - we're all just going to assume that one, okay? Unless you say otherwise."

I'd love to link but the Globe & Mail won't let me

Friday, February 01, 2008

A playlist for the aliens

They're broadcasting Across The Universe into space (the original Beatles song, not the movie).

Very appropriate from the point of view of us down here on Earth, I freely admit, but is that really the best thing to send to the aliens? A lot of the meaning is in the lyrics, so they would have to be able to manage the concept of music, then recognize the many different instruments, then recognize that some of the sound is vocal, then have the concept of verbal language, then work out the English language except that one sentence is Sanskrit. I think even Hoshi Sato would have trouble working out a language if the occasional sentence was in another language. Plus, if it's the recording I think it is, there are some birds and stuff in the recording, which is non-linguistic (or, if it's linguistic it's another language completely irrelevant to the message) vocalizations from a whole nother species! That's an awful lot for the aliens to work out!

Better music to broadcast out to the aliens would be something with no lyrics, only one instrument, and a very clear structure so they can see there's intelligence behind it. Goldberg Variations anyone?


Is it just me, or are people not being nearly as diligent about clearing their sidewalks this year?