Monday, March 31, 2008

If you've never seen an elephant ski then you've never been on acid

Everyone who cares has already seen these, but I just feel the need to squee about this one because they make lego elephants1 There's such thing as lego elephants!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

So how much power does Nelly Furtado's microphone use?

Nelly Furtado did a concert in Nathan Phillips Square to mark Earth Hour. It was described as an acoustic candlelight concert. But the picture in the paper shows her holding a microphone, which means there was also some sort of PA/amp/speaker system.

Now from a performance perspective this is eminently reasonable. I don't think you could ask even an opera singer or a musical theatre performer to handle an outdoor performance to a crowd of 10,000 on lung power alone. But how much electricity did this require, and was it worth it?

Happy thoughts

I'm not into the spiritual aspect of yoga, I'm just in it for the stretching. (I know, I know, white people like yoga, but so do my tendons.) Perhaps this is hypocritical, but I'm hoping this is mitigated by the fact that I'm doing it quietly in the privacy of my own home without making any spiritual claims. I doubt even the Vatican would mind if people spent some time going sit-stand-kneel-stand-sit in the privacy of their own homes. At any rate, my point is that when the yoga lady on TV is talking about the spiritual aspects, I'm usually off googling something, waiting for the stretching to start.

But today something she said piqued my interest. I don't have an exact quote because I was only half listening, but she said something to the effect that if you find yourself thinking bad thoughts you should replace them with good thoughts, in order to achieve a state of bliss. And apparently in yoga, pushing away bad thoughts and thinking good thoughts and achieving bliss are all a good thing spiritually.

Now this is interesting to me, because I've been deliberately trying to do this for the past few months. I'm not doing this for any grand spiritual reason, I'm just doing it because it makes my life easier. It was the complete opposite of a diligent virtuous New Year's resolution to buckle down and start living life perfectly - it was a resolution to practically embrace my flaws and in fact live them even more enthusiastically, not even trying to do stuff I find hard. It was an anti-resolution specifically designed to fly in the face of what resolutions usually do. So I was very surprised to see something similar as part of a legitimate religious/spiritual thing.

The thing is though, as I've been aggressively pushing away my bad thoughts, Catholic guilt and Protestant work ethic have been teaming up to make me feel guilty for doing so. (It's amazing what you can do if you put aside your historical differences and work together!) Most of my bad thoughts are the result of bona fide personal failings, so I feel like by pushing them away I'm shirking the deserved punishment for my failings. I fucked that thing up and I should know better so I should be agonizing over it and replaying the most cringe-worthy moments in my head, not thinking about the wonders of the human tongue or laughing at the latest thing on YouTube.

So I was thinking about this and googling around it, and I found that some people actually consider this to be a xian principle too. They tend to cite Romans 12:21, which says "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Now to me this says "Do good things instead of bad things" and if you google neutrally for interpretations of the verse the general consensus agrees with my interpretation, but I did find a number of different sources citing this verse as evidence that when you find yourself thinking bad thoughts you should think good thoughts instead. So this suggests that somewhere out there, there are xians who would applaud me for rejecting my guilt in favour of happier thoughts.

Of course, I think what the ancient yogis (or St. Paul for that matter) had in mind was that I should use the sheer strength of my mental discipline to push the bad thoughts out of my mind and meditate on the beauty of the lily or something. I don't know if they would quite approve of my technique of eating white chocolate and dancing around the apartment singing along to Nugget (warning: shitloads of swear words) at the top of my lungs.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How to fake Earth Hour

Set up candles so that you're between the candle and the window. Don't turn on any lights that are closer to the window than the candle is. Then any shadows thrown on your windows and visible to the outside world will be cast by candlelight, and anyone who's snooping will think that you're just going about life by candlelight. You can then use your computer with impunity, as long as the screen doesn't face the window.

That said, I didn't want to be one of those assholes like in the Globe and Mail comments but I didn't want to be bullied into doing Earth Hour either. So I closed the blinds (which I normally do for privacy after dark anyway), turned out the lights (which I normally do after dark when I don't need them anyway, not out of environmentalism or thriftiness but because it's better for my circadian rhythms), set up my decoy candles, and went about doing the task I was dreading most of all the tasks on my to-do list. Then at least there was some element of sacrifice, although not environmental. (But ultimately, getting that task out of the way contributed more to my overall fulfillment of all my current responsibilities than reading by candlelight for an hour would have. It didn't contribute to the greater good of humanity, but I don't think anything on my to-do list at the moment does. Overall, I probably contribute most to humanity by keeping out of its way.)

But looking out the window, everything looked the same as ever. Some lights were on, some lights were off. There were one or two areas that might possibly have been darker than usual (I'm not sure exactly, I don't normally pay that much attention to how many lights are on) but if I hadn't known something was going on I wouldn't have thought "Wow, it's really dark over there." So nobody would have noticed if I'd gone about life normally anyway, which is reassuring.

Actually, another problem with Earth Hour is that it's impossible to invisibly opt out, but if you do participate it looks exactly the same as if you happen to not be home at the time.

The Toronto Star updated during Earth Hour, which seemed inappropriate. Since they're the primary proponent, they shouldn't really give people reasons to be going on the internet during Earth Hour, should they? I do like what did though - they made their page black instead of white! It doesn't actually save monitor energy, but I have to give them credit for a very visible and effective way of raising awareness, even though I don't agree with what they were raising awareness for.

Here's a proposal for next time: instead of everyone turn off their lights for an hour, how about everyone take their car off the road for a given hour? Let's see which gets more participants. Let's see which has greater effect.

The problem with Earth Hour

With most things in life, you can just quietly not participate. Even things with a lot of social pressure, you can just sit at home and do your own thing. You're "supposed to" spend xmas with your family, but if you just stay home and do your own thing people won't notice (except perhaps your family). You're "supposed to" go out on New Year's Eve, but if you just stay home and do your own thing people won't notice. With most things in life, if you don't participate you're just quietly staying out of everyone's way.

But with Earth Hour, if you don't do it, everyone will notice because you'll be all lit up. If you don't participate, you'll be a big loud shiny beacon. The only way to quietly stay out of everyone's way is to participate.

Once upon a time my then-employer had a fundraiser. You donate $5 to cancer research, and you "get to" come to work in costume. Problem was, I don't own any costumes and didn't really want to put all the time and effort into thinking of and making one. I did donate to cancer research ($20 because there was no change) because it was the right thing to do, but I didn't wear a costume because I didn't think I should be punished for my generous donation with a complicated and time-consuming chore. But I stuck out like a sore thumb, looking to everyone who walked by like someone who didn't care about cancer, and I really resented this attempt to bully me into a hugely inconvenient chore in return for having done the right thing.

I use under 200 kWh a month. My last bill was 198 kWh. (The average household is 1000 kWh, according to the general consensus of the first page of google results.) I have so many offsets that my carbon footprint is negative. The reason for all of this is because I happen to live in a very enviro-centric building that does all kinds of things to reduce its residents' footprints. However, because of the way the windows are and the way the blinds are (both of which are dictated by the landlord) if I have any lights on people outside will be able to see, even if I close the blinds. I have a lot of things that need to get done this weekend, all of which require either the computer or electric light (candlelight won't do). Turning off at 8 pm would be a massive inconvenience, so basically I'd just be killing time with busywork until 9. I'm already doing the right thing every single day of my life (and paying rent that's significantly higher than the neighbourhood average for the privilege of living in a building that enables me to do so.) I very much resent being bullied into inconvenience. If I wanted to live into a world where I'm bullied into conformity and if I don't conform I stick out like a sore thumb so everyone can point and judge, I'd go back to middle school.

Things La Senza Should Invent: put precision fit cups on the invisible bra

Dear La Senza:

I adore what your precision fit bra does for my shape, but something about the elastics on the back make it a bit more conducive to bulginess, making me feel fat.

I love how invisible your invisible bra is at the back, but it doesn't give me nearly as good lines at the front, making me feel fat.

So why not put the precision fit cups on the body of the invisible bra?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour

The more I hear about Earth Hour, the more Stuff White People Like it seems.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why do you not work for the TTC?

The usual brinksmanship about the possibility of a TTC strike has brought out the usual rage from people who think TTC workers earn entirely too much money and have entirely too many perks.

Personally, I think the TTC workers have a very difficult job and I'm surprised they can find people to do the job for what they earn. The reason I think their job is so difficult is because driving and dealing with the public are two of the things I find the most stressful in the world. I don't consider that level of compensation adequate for the amount of stress that job would cause me. This is why I am not a TTC driver - instead I have a job where I can sit quietly in an office and hardly talk to anyone.

Now some people will obviously disagree with me on how stressful a TTC job would be. Some people like driving, some people like dealing with the public. And that's fine, we all have different strengths and skills and preferences, that's how we've managed to build a society. So these people who don't think a TTC job is that stressful may well think that they are being compensated adequately, or even that they're being compensated excessively.

So the question is, if you're one of the people who think TTC work is not that difficult and think their workers are being compensated excessively, why are you not working for the TTC?

Think of all the other jobs in the world other than yours. Why don't you quit your job and go do one of these jobs? Because they don't pay enough, or because they don't have the security, or because you aren't qualified, or because you couldn't do the job well, or because it's too much work/difficulty/stress.

But the people who think the compensation is excessive - not those who think it's adequate, those who think it's excessive - what's their reason for not quitting their job and going to work for the TTC? Obviously not that it doesn't pay enough. If it's just that they aren't qualified, they'd go get qualified. Obviously not that they couldn't do it well or find it too difficult/stressful (if these were true, they wouldn't think the TTC workers are overpaid). If I knew of a job for which workers were excessively overpaid based on the amount and difficulty of work they have to do, I'd certainly go about seeing how I could get in on it. Why are the complainers not doing the same thing?

I don't work for the TTC because the job would be too stressful for me. Why don't you work for the TTC? (Unless, of course, you do.)

You know you're a langling when...

a man is pregnant and your first thought is all the fascinating grammatical issues this raises in various languages (enceint? embarazado?).

Another interesting point is that all the laws/policies related to maternity leave that I've ever read have been written specifically in the feminine. I don't think this was specifically intended to be exclusionary, I just think it's because it's easier to write in the third person singular if you can use gendered pronouns. I wonder if at some point he's going to be (or someone is going to argue that he is) not entitled to something that pregnant women are entitled to because the rules were written in the feminine?

Conversely, I wonder if somewhere in the world he can legally get an abortion but women can't because the rules are written in the feminine?

And on a less lingusitic note, I wonder if he's going to lactate?

I think I need sensitivity training

The lady behind me in the grocery line was in a wheelchair. So I looked at her to see what was wrong with her. Then I remembered that you shouldn't stare, so I looked away from her. Then I remembered that people with disabilities sometimes complain that people don't make eye contact with them, so I looked back at her. Then I didn't know what to do with my gaze, so I looked away from her. By which point I probably looked like I was flirting (and I seem to look like a lesbian today too, at least it's one of those days when I'm getting more of Those Looks from women).

I seriously completely forgot how you normally go about looking or not looking at the person behind you in line! I disgust myself sometimes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things They Should Invent: a torrent of all songs banned by Clear Channel after September 11

I just found this on Wikipedia.

I noticed it when it happened, and then forgot about it. But it's a good playlist! Someone make a torrent of this, because I want them all!

But why is this song on there? Apart from excessive amounts of 80s aesthetic, isn't this the most benign thing ever?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Post your headphone recommendations here

The headphones that came with my ipod are dying, so I'm in the market for new ones.

I want something with hardly any bulk (because it has to be carried around in a pocket or purse and I dress girly) and that can be comfortably worn for up to 10 hours if necessary. Because I already know that clip-ons hurt my ears if worn for long periods of time, I think this points to earbuds, although I'm not married to the idea.

I plan to treat my headphones with no care whatsoever. They will be worn outdoors in all sorts of weather, stuffed into wherever I happen to be putting my ipod, and exposed to disgusting amounts of sweat and earwax. I don't expect them to last forever, but at the same time I don't want something that has to be babied.

I spend most of my time in areas with a lot of white noise so I'd appreciate headphones that can address this, but I still want to be able to jaywalk across Yonge with impunity so I don't want so much noise cancelling that I can't walk around safely. I can hear the technical flaws of the white ipod headphones and I don't want anything worse, but I'm not a huge technical quality geek and top-of-the-line anything is generally wasted on me.

Price point is flexible. I don't want to spend $200 for something that's going to die in six months, I don't want to spend $10 on something that's inconvenient to use.

I'd appreciate any thoughts anyone might have.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another one of those annoying posts where I take credit for coincidences

Me last May

Salon since January

Me a couple weeks ago

Toronto Star yesterday (3rd picture from bottom)

Things They Should Invent: don't ghettoize classical music

There's been a bit of a fuss in the Globe and Mail lately because CBC Radio 2 is going to be playing less classical music.

It occurs to me that the real way to be bold and innovative about classical music programing is not to ghettoize it. Just play classical mixed in with all other types of music. It's music too, and anyone can enjoy it. At this point, some people will argue that classical is more advanced and complex, and involves a greater intellectual commitment. I can't address this point, because as a result of the way I slacked off and the stopped slacking off and then slacked off again in my musical education I learned how to do proper analysis and Music Appreciation of classical genres only. I know there's way more to other genres than I know how to process academically, but I don't know how much. But even if it is true that classical is more intellectually complex, it can still be enjoyed casually. As an adult, I enjoy early Beatles because I'm trying to analyze and internalize the vocal harmony with the goal of eventually being able to improvise vocal harmony myself; as a small child, I enjoyed early Beatles because it was fun to dance around to in my own little six-year-old way. The fact that I didn't even know what harmony was didn't hinder my enjoyment of it then, and if I hadn't been exposed to it then it may well have never ended up on my ipod today. Similarly, someone who can't tell Bach from Cage could still listen to and enjoy a piece of classical music just because it's nice or it's interesting or some totally benign reason, and may then be moved to learn more about a kind of music they normally wouldn't have touched. To ghettoize and isolate it on the basis that it's too advanced does the whole genre a disservice.

Radio 2's playlist should be something like Diana Krall, followed by Tragically Hip, followed by Glenn Gould, followed by k-os. (Of course it should all be less mainstream, more innovative up-and-comers, etc. but I'm too lazy and ignorant to come up with good examples.) The usual objection to intermixing classical like this is that classical pieces tend to be longer and radio stations need to hit their scheduled commercial breaks. But the CBC doesn't have this problem, so it's the perfect venue for this kind of open-minded, innovative programming! This is the 21st century, we're already doing the same thing on our ipods, the public can handle it!

Slice of life

1994. Grade 9. I'm painfully shy and awkward as the result of years of bullying, feel miscast in my role as a high school student, have been shunned by all my supposed friends for reasons I don't understand, and hate what I see when I look in the mirror. But when I'm walking to school and my mind is wandering freely, it's starting to occur to me that I might want to kiss a boy someday.

I'm at my locker, and the guy who was assigned the locker next to mine through the magic of alphabetical order is at his locker. I don't know him that well because he's from another elementary school, but he seems perfectly nice, quiet and unassuming, the kind of guy who's getting his puberty on the installment plan instead of an overnight visit from the puberty fairy (although I didn't quite notice that sort of thing yet at that age). We start chatting, I forget what about, and get into a perfectly decent small-talk conversation. This was quite a novelty for me at the time. I hardly ever got to have a decent conversation with anyone, but here I was having a decent conversation with a real live boy! So we have our conversation, then he goes off to wherever he was going.

Just then, the girl whose locker is on the other side of me comes up. I don't know her very well because she'd just moved into town, but she struck me as the kind of girl who might get into fights or might get to dye her hair or might get to drive a car around on her parents' land or might even get to have sex. Nodding towards the boy who has just left, she asks me "Are you two going out?" She didn't sound surprised, she didn't sound judgemental, she didn't sound like she had an ulterior motive. Just a simple straightforward question, "Are you two going out?"

She thinks we're going out! She thinks I could conceiveably be going out with a boy! This girl who meets the exact demographic profile of the people who put icky things in my hair last year thinks I am a candidate for going out with a boy!

"No," I reply, trying to keep my voice as neutral as possible, trying not to read anything into her comment or allow anything to be read into my response, "we're not going out..." I was about to follow it up with "We were just chatting about the English assignment" or something else that with 14 years' hindsight would probably have been a mistake, but she interrupted.

"Oh, so you're just friends then."

She thinks I'm the kind of person who could have friends! This girl who dresses and acts exactly like the girls who would walk up to me and say "You have no friends, you know," takes as a given that I could be friends with a boy!

"Yes," I reply, "We're just friends."

The next time I looked at myself in the mirror, I liked what I saw a little bit better.

The boy moved away the next year and he's ungoogleable. I don't even remember the girl's name. But I'd like to buy them both a drink.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Things They Should Invent: a book on how to swear fluently in other languages

I know lots and lots of swear words in all kinds of languages. But I don't know how to use them properly. I think I know how to use them properly, but I always come out sounding like Spock on Star Trek IV.

I want books on how to swear fluently in every language! Someone go and write them!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The problem with Elizabeth and Anthony as a couple

Most of the fandom grievances against Anthony have been described here far more eloquently than I could. Now I don't object to Anthony as much as the average fan, although I've blogged before about why Liz's arc doesn't work, but their engagement just isn't convincing.

Now, unlike most of fandom, I don't mind that he's awkward and geeky - I can identify with that. I do think the fact that both Liz and Michael end up with their childhood sweethearts is a bit much, but I can accept that if it's done well enough. But the problem is that they don't have any romantic chemistry, or even friendship chemistry. They simply are comfortable with each other.

Don't get me wrong, I can totally appreciate being comfortable with your partner. I swooned the first time mi cielito wore sweatpants in my presence, because I was so flattered he's that comfortable with me. But we don't see anything beyond comfort with Liz and Anthony. We've never seen even a glimmer of lust - even if you've been with someone a long time, you occasionally still look at them and just have to...pounce. They didn't even kiss when they got engaged! We've never even seen the signs of deep and abiding friendship. We've never seen them finish each other's sentences, anticipate each other's needs, surprise each other with the perfect thing, share a geeky delight in something, or even know how the other takes their coffee. Right now the chemistry between them is like the chemistry between cousins who aren't the best of friends but have nothing against each other. No pretense is needed, you're automatically entitled to be in each other's presence and ask each other for favours of reasonable scope, you can chat without awkward silences, and you wouldn't be embarrassed for them to see you in sweatpants and without makeup. But you can't say to them "So I was in the bathroom squeezing my zits..." and they probably wouldn't be on your list of people you'd be roommates with if absolutely necesary.

I'm getting the same vibe from Liz and Anthony, and that's no basis for a marriage. So show them singing showtunes together. Have Liz pour a cup of coffee and Anthony wordlessly hands her the milk. This isn't an arranged marriage; just comfort isn't enough. Get their hair messed up every once in a while! FBOFW should be able to do better than this!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Writing a "cake or death" joke is left as an exercise for the reader

I have a million things to blog and I'm too tired. So here's some fun music. (You don't have to watch, you can just press play and listen.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A sociological survey of my spam folder

My spam folder is full of penis enlargement spam (amazing what those spammers know about my genitals), but nearly all the subject lines are about something else. There's "Re: Your Tracking Number" and "Hot Tight Wet Pussy" and "Thousands of Rolexes," and the contents are always penis enlargement spam.

Are there really people out there who are going "Oh, my tracking number, just what I need!" and then click on it and say "Why, now that you mention it, I do have a small penis!"

The other thing that's weird is some of the spam wants to enlarge you to 7 inches, and some of it wants to enlarge you to 13 inches. So I'm very curious about how big they think my penis is right now. And the 13 inches is the one with the tight pussy subject line,, no thank you!

The other thing that's weird is it's all loudly heterocentric. You'd think there'd be at least SOME gay penis enlargement spam?

On sharing homework on Facebook

It occurs to me that if students could actually cheat by discussing their homework on Facebook, i.e. they could just copy answers instead of doing and understanding the work themselves and still leave the course with a good grade, then the problem is really a poorly-designed course.

In every course I've ever taken even as far back as high school, the point has been to learn how to do something, or to acquire in-depth understanding of something, rather than to regurgitate the correct answers. We've always had opportunities to discuss our work with others - in fact, my resource teachers actively encouraged me to help other students as part of my "enrichment" (an offer I didn't take them up on until uni because I didn't want to help my bullies) - but if you just blindly copied rather than understanding then you wouldn't be able to understand the next lesson and the lesson after that and you wouldn't be able to do well on the exam and on your ISU. So when we discussed homework we'd quiz each other, share mnemonics, explain procedures to people who didn't grok them the first time around, sort of help everyone arrive at understanding the material. Blindly copying the material might possibly maybe get you through one minor assignment (but most likely not), but wouldn't help your overall mark.

So if blindly copying other people's work from Facebook actually works and makes it possible for students who don't understand the material to pass the course, the problem is really how the course is designed, how material is graded, how different assignments/projects/exams are weighted.

One of my favourite profs - a veteran and professor emeritus who addressed male students by surname and female students as Miss Surname and taught us to write an essay so tight you can bounce a quarter off it* without us even noticing that he was teaching us essay skills - allowed students to go to the bathroom unescorted during exams, his logic being that if you've managed to hide something in the bathroom that will give you the in-depth intellectual and analytical understanding of the material needed to write his exams, more power to you. In his classes, you had to actually understand to pass, and we all came out better for it.

Any good course should be designed this way. If you can get by by blindly copying other people's answers without understanding them yourself, then there's clearly a flaw in the course design or evaluation method.

*You're thinking "You can write an essay so tight you can bounce a quarter off it? Could have fooled me!" Apart from entries that are clearly tightly choreographed, everything I write here is first draft, typed up as soon as it comes to me in words, so it isn't really an example of what I can do.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Rule: when making declarative statements about hair, specify hair type

From an article about how to pack when travelling for business, on what to do about your hair if you don't want to pack a hairdryer:

She also encourages people to forgo the blow dryer and use travel as a chance to wear hair naturally and "live simply."

Here's where we differ: My experience with female friends, family members and colleagues leads me to believe that women fear the thought of bad hair days.

So I say reward yourself for all the work by visiting a nearby salon. A blow dry typically costs less than $50 and - marathon notwithstanding - will last the duration of a three-day trip.

From my perspective sitting here with long straight oily hair, that is one of the most bizarre statements I've ever heard. It's so surreal I can't even come up with a good analogy. It makes just as much sense in my reality as if she had said "But these problems can be easily avoided by sleeping with a pair of fuzzy pink earmuffs under your pillow." Even if for some strange reason the blowout could last through sleep, my hair would still absolutely positively HAVE to be washed every single day so I don't look like I dunked my head in a vat of grease. Of course, I can easily wrangle my hair into a respectable conservative updo without any product whatsoever and let it air dry. It's completely unsexy, but it's quick and easy and does the job. So wear it naturally and live simply is extremely feasible for me (and is actually what I do most days anyway) while getting it blowdried at a salon and then leaving it for three days is something from the bizarro universe.

But all this aside, every hotel I've stayed in in my adult life has provided a hairdryer. Is that really that strange?

And if you're willing to spend $50, why not just buy a hairdryer at a local drugstore and leave it in the hotel room when you leave? Not being able to do your own hair and having to pay someone else to do it instead is a bit...Marie Antoinette, I think. You're not an Egyptian pharoah, this isn't Oscar night, a suitable hairdo should be in your repertoire.

So yeah, my point is, hardly any statements can apply to everyone's hair, so specify the kind of hair you're talking about.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Things They Should Invent: illegal drug weight to dosage converter

Suppose I'm reading a newspaper article, and it mentions two ounces of cocaine. I have no idea how much that is. Like I know what two ounces is, but I have no idea how many doses of cocaine that is. Is it one dose or one hundred doses? Sometimes you need to know this to properly understand the article.

I want an easily googleable website that will do this for me. Actually, I want Google Calculator to do this, but I don't think they'd go for it.

Awareness Test

This is brilliant

Awareness Test - Watch more free videos

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More information please

Mentioned in passing in a larger article:

[Mavis Gallant] moved to Paris in 1950, after discovering that women could not be served alone [in restaurants] in North America, even at New York's Algonquin Hotel.

Um, why? On what basis? What would happen if a woman went to a restaurant alone? They mention this like it's either common knowledge or irrelevant to the story, but it's bizarre and I've never heard of it before and there's a whole story behind it that I can't seem to google up.

I wear heels for the greater good of society

Today I wore running shoes, which I don't normally wear. I'm a fast walker to start with, and in running shoes I walk even faster. The problem is I get really frustrated at the slower pedestrians (which, when I'm wearing runners, is literally everyone except for people who are actually running) - I get like sidewalk rage! Not at old people or people with disabilities or small children or impractical shoes or carrying lots of stuff, but people who look like they're in perfectly good condition. I feel like "How is it physically possible for you to be walking that slowly? Don't you get bored in between your interminably slow steps?"

So next time someone gives me shit for wearing girly shoes, I'll tell them it's for the good of my blood pressure and the good of society. They're to handicap me, like in Harrison Bergeron, so I can act civil in today's slow-walking society.

Culinary tip of the day

If you're out of milk for your coffee, whipped cream will do in a pinch. Cover the surface of the coffee with a layer, let it melt in (stirring helps) then add more as needed. Not the classiest thing ever in the world, but it gets the job done and you can enjoy your coffee without having to run out and buy more milk. My previous back-up plan was adding powdered milk to the coffee, and whipped cream works better than that.

Open Letter to all US video streaming sites

So you want me to watch a commercial before you'll show me the TV show? That's fine, that's how these things work, I won't even try to hack my way around it.

So you won't show me the show because I'm outside of the US? Well, I'm not as cool with that, but I'll take that it's a given for the moment.

But please, please, for the love of all human decency, don't make me watch the commercial and THEN tell me I can't watch the show because I'm outside the US!!!!!!!!!! If your sponsor is US-specific then it doesn't do any good to show me the commercial anyway, and if your sponsor sells its products internationally then you may as well let me watch the show so I'll come back to your site and see more of your commercials!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Analogy for profanity

Swear words are like hammers. They vary in size and quality - "hell" is one of those little hammers (mallets?) your doctor hits your knee with, while "cunt" is a sledgehammer. Obviously it's unhelpful to go around hitting things with hammers when they need to be tightened with a screwdriver or cut with a saw, but this doesn't mean no one should ever use a hammer ever.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eliminating intolerance through corporate sponsorship

So apparently some people boycotted Ford because they advertised in gay publications. I wonder how they knew what kind of ads are in gay publications, but I digress.

But they've just tipped their hand here: if you advertise in gay publications, they'll boycott you.

So all we need to do is get really important things, really major things that would be extremely difficult to do without, to advertise in gay publications. A single brand of car is easy to boycott; let's make it hard for them.

For example, Google. Boycott Google, then their ability to navigate the internet is seriously impaired, plus no gmail, no youtube, no blogger, all kinds of important tools.

Or Microsoft. Suddenly they can't use any computers with Windows, they can't use MS-Office, no hotmail, no MSN messenger. I know many people would say that this is a good thing, but losing the option of using (like it or not) the standard platform would be a blow.

Or, if you prefer, Apple. No iPod, no iTunes, no QuickTime, no iPhones.

Or, to take another tack, Proctor & Gamble. How much stuff do they make? Just avoiding their brands would be an inconvenience!

Or, in certain markets, telecom companies. Imagine losing access to the only cable internet provider! Or, in certain markets, utility companies. Having to boycott the water company would be quite a blow, wouldn't it?

So if you're a monopoly, or if you're the best, or if you're the industry standard, or if you're unique in your field, or if you're impossible to avoid, advertise in gay publications and smoke out intolerance!

Free ideas: make your own automatic podcast transcription program

I'm too busy and too lazy to try this out myself and I don't have the cables (which normally wouldn't be a problem except I've had some bad luck buying cables lately so I don't feel like doing more experimenting) so I'm putting it out there.

The basic idea is to run podcasts etc. through voice recognition software so you can read them (which is faster and easier) instead of listening to them. Hook up your audio output to your audio input, open up your voice recognition software, open up itunes or whatever, and press play. As I understand it (I haven't played with voice recognition very much) you'll have to train the software a bit at first, but once it's learned a particular podcaster's voice, it should be able to scan through quickly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to get me to stop using bottled water

I don't use bottled water for the water, I use it for the bottles. Once I've finished the water that comes in the bottle, I refill it from the tap and keep reusing it until it dies or until I get sick and have to replace the bottle. It's just that I want to have water with me in my purse, and a water bottle is the easiest way to do that.

So to stop me from using bottled water, I will require a reuseable water bottle that is no less convenient than a standard 500 mL bottled water. That means that it must:

- Hold at least 500 mL
- Be no heavier than a 500 mL plastic bottle
- Fit easily in my purse. In addition to the regular goods and chattels, I always carry a small umbrella, a 500 mL water bottle, and a (usually hardcover) library book; my purses are sized accordingly. I would love to use smaller purses and would embrace a bottle that allows me to do this, but if the bottle is too big for the purse I want to use, I'm going back to "disposable".
- Close tightly (I can't guarantee it will stay vertical in my purse) and be able to put up with being treated with no care whatsoever.
- Stand up to being washed in the dishwasher, and fit comfortably into my 3/4 size dishwasher. I don't want to have to wash by hand or plan dish loads around the bottle.
- Be obtainable without going out of my way. Go to a website and click on a button good. Go somewhere on the Yonge subway line good. Get on a bus bad.

Let's stop thinking of the pay gap as a gender issue

In the news again recently was how the average woman gets paid less than the average man

The problem with positioning this as a gender issue is that it erects a giant Somebody Else's Problem Field around the issue. It makes it sound like employers are deliberately paying women less because they are women, then you realize that you don't know of anywhere where that's happening. Somebody else's problem! You read the story, then sneak a look at the paystub of your opposite-sex colleague with the most comparable job description and experience and see that you're earning more or less the same. Somebody else's problem! If you're male, it automatically labels to the story as Other. Somebody else's problem! If you're unionized or otherwise have everyone's pay governed by the same unbendable rules. Somebody else's problem! If you're an employer, you think "But I pay my male and female employees the same!" Somebody else's problem!

The headlines make it sound like women are getting paid less because they're women, but that's not what it is.

“As the report shows, the jobs women hold in Canada today mean they get paid less,” the labour congress said in a release. “These jobs also mean fewer women are able to access benefits through the federal government's Employment Insurance program.

The jobs women hold. It's not the fact that the employees are women, it's the nature of the jobs. So let's look at the recommendations:

The report makes several recommendations:

• Change employment standards so that full-time hours and part-time hours get paid the same when the same work is done.

• Raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

• Improve public pension plans so women, who live longer, aren't penalized for taking time away from the workforce to care for children.

• Improve access to quality and affordable child care; the report says two-thirds of women with children under the age of six are working outside the home.

If we take gender out of these, we have some pretty good issues.

Part-time workers get paid a less for the same work than full-time workers! So if you come to realize you could get by on 60% of your salary, you couldn't get paid 60% for working three days a week! Injustice!

The minimum wage is far too low! Imagine making only $8 an hour! In today's rental market? With today's gas prices? Injustice!

Pensions penalize you for taking time away from work, even if you make it up later! So if you decide to take leave without pay to make your movie or care for your elderly parents or do your graduate degree or take care of your children or travel the world, it will fuck up your pension and your entire retirement forever! Injustice!

There isn't enough affordable child care, and that makes life difficult for parents! Injustice!

These are all issues that could conceivably affect a lot of people. A wide range of people can identify with these scenarios. They feel like it's their own problem, not somebody else's problem, and you tend to care more about things that affect you than things that are somebody else's problem.

For example, you might have noticed that when I was making issues out of the four recommendations, I was a bit vague on the child care one. That's because I'm childfree and child care doesn't affect me. It's Somebody Else's Problem, so I haven't been able to sum up the focus to learn about the issue well enough that I can articulate it in my own words; and if I can't articulate an issue in my own words, I'm certainly not going to be in a position to lobby for change. And that's exactly what's happening to all these important labour issues because they keep getting slapped together under the headline "Women are paid less than men!" and thereby promptly hidden behind a Somebody Else's Problem field.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Genres that are more benign than I expect

I really have trouble groking ths scope of three genres: satire (writing/humour), punk (music) and alternative (anything). Whenever I encounter something that legitimately fits into one of these categories, I'm always surprised that it fits into that category. I keep expecting them to need to be far more out there than they actually are.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

There's another story in here somewhere

In a Toronto Star article about teen pregnancy (the article is not particularly relevant to this post) there's a map showing the correlation between low income and teen pregnancy. (PDF)

The map makes its point and I'm not going to get into that because it's not particularly interesting. What's interesting is that there are two neighbourhoods on the map where high income correlates with high pregnancy rates. One is the northeast corner of the Danforth/DVP intersection, and the other extends vertically from the DVP to Eglinton - it's where the DVP would go if it didn't veer eastward halfway between Danforth and Eglinton.

I've done some googling and identified these neighbourhoods. The City of Toronto calls the Playter Estates-Danforth and Leaside-Bennington, respectively. But I can't tell what it is about these neighbourhoods that gives them higher teen pregnancy rates when they have socioeconomic conditions that are normally associated with lower teen pregnancy rates.

Of course, neighbourhoods as defined by the City of Toronto don't necessarily coincide with neighbourhoods as defined by the people who live there. For example, they define the people living on the other side of Yonge from where I live as being in a different neighbourhood, even though we all think we live in the same neighbourhod. But nevertheless, I still think there's another story in here somewhere.

Bravo needs to get their movie rating shit together

The warning provided by Bravo before the movie: "The following program contains scenes of violence and mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised."

The TV content rating flashed up in the top left corner of the screen: G

The movie: West Side Story

Things They Should Invent: option to sync an ipod with only one computer

There should be a checkbox in itunes to allow your ipod to be synced (syncked?) only with that particular computer. The only way you can add anything to or delete anything from that ipod is through that one computer. Why? Because then if someone steals your ipod, they're stuck with your music. They can't get it off and can't add their own music.

Snowday vibe

My building has a bit of a different vibe today. I've been trying to articulate what it is, and I just realized: it's like res on a snowday.

It's kind of subtle. There's a little more music playing, and it's a little louder than usual because it's less likely that your neighbours have to go somewhere. There's a higher than usual proportion of sweatpants and pyjama pants on the people walking around in the building. The TV that you can hear from behind your neighbours' doors is of slightly lower quality. It's like everything that's good about a sick day, but without being sick.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Brilliant idea, huge potential for disaster

A device reads brain signals and converts them to speech to help people with disabilities communicate.

But how does it know which of your thoughts you want to say? I certainly wouldn't want my interior monologue broadcast for the world to hear!

Half-formed idea: a fetus is a positive physical attribute

So I've been thinking about this Bill C-484 thing. I see what they're trying to do, so I've been trying to think of another way to define the fetus that would satisfy the perfectly understandable desire to see people who hurt unborn babies punished, without creating legislative definitions. Yeah, because I'm SO qualified to think of tenuous legal language like that.

Anyway, the idea I'm currently mulling over is that a fetus should be thought of as a positive physical attribute.

We all have a few positive physical attributes. For example, I have a beautiful smile, spectacular breasts, and long silky hair. (And a surfeit of humility). Now most people in the world think these are positive things. There are one or two family members who I suspect aren't too thrilled with the breasts but are too polite to say anything, and my grandmother has said outright that she thinks the length of my hair is disgraceful (ironically, this rather closely mirrors what the reaction would be if I were pregnant), but the vast majority of people see these things a positive, or at least can understand why I like them.

However, I have every right to destroy them if I want. I could pull out all my teeth, get a preventive masectomy, and shave my head. And that is absolutely without question my right, and in no world would it be illegal for me to do any of those things. Futhermore, it is absolutly without question legal for my dentist, doctor, and hairdresser respectively to do those things for me at my request. Some people may question getting these things done electively, some individual practitioners may refuse to help me, but once I can find someone to do it there is no question that they were behaving legally.

But if some other person pulled out my teeth, cut off my breasts, and shaved my head without my consent, that would be bizarre and weird and creepy and clearly illegal.

And if someone attacked me, and as a side-effect of their attack I lost my teeth, breasts, and hair, that would surely make their crime come across as worse. Again, I don't the exact legal terms, but it would be a big part of the victim impact. Any decent prosecuting attorney would show the jury a picture of me posing like a movie star to show off my figure to its best advantage, a veela smile on my face and the ends of my hair grazing my hips, then have them compare it with the bald, toothless, flat-chested woman on the witness stand. And that would surely make the crime look worse than if I had come out looking exactly the same.

Now you're thinking "You shallow bitch, a baby is FAR more important than your hair!" Which is perfectly true, and which is why these things would be evaluated in a matter of degrees rather than as a true or false question. If my attacker had simply shaved my head or pulled out my hair, that wouldn't be judged as nearly as bad as if he had knocked out my teeth. You wouldn't assume that the attacker would be punished the same for pulling out my hair as for knocking out my teeth, nor would he be punished the same for killing my unborn child. Same concept, different degree.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

One thing I don't get about Big Love

In Big Love, polygamy seems to be against the law - like the Hendricksons and the co-worker's family, not even the people on the compound.

But how can that be illegal? Like I understand that the marriages aren't sanctioned by law, but how can it be OMG-afraid-of-the-police-illegal? So a man gets married and has children, then has children with two other women and provides for them all. That simply cannot be against the law.

Amy Winehouse is GOOD!

Being lazy about pop culture like I am, I never really paid attention to Amy Winehouse. I only ever saw her in celebrity gossip, which didn't make me terribly inclined to seek out her work.

Then I heard her mashed up with Ella Fitzgerald. And she made Ella's voice sound weak and immature!

So I'm thinking okay, awesome voice, unfortunate hair. Fair enough. Then I found pictures of her with different hair and it turns out the big hair actually suits her - it's more flattering to her face than normal hair. I gotta give the girl props for figuring out that a big fuck-off beehive is flattering on her! If my most flattering hairdo were a big fuck-off beehive, I would certainly never figure that out.

So onto the ipod she goes!

A plot hole in the NAFTA saga

First of all, I should make it clear that I don't understand NAFTA at all. It happened before I was economically aware (I have a vague memory of seeing newspaper headlines about it and feeling terrified at how big and scary the grownup world was with all this free trade stuff I couldn't even begin to understand) so I have trouble understanding it because I don't have anything to compare it to. So nothing I say in this post is intended to say or imply that I think NAFTA is a good idea or a bad idea.

But understanding NAFTA isn't necessary to see this plot hole.

So first both Clinton and Obama mentioned that they'd renegotiate or opt out of NAFTA if elected president.

Then both Stephen Harper and David Emerson made statements to the effect that it would be a bad idea on the Americans' part to reopen NAFTA because NAFTA is pretty darn good for them and we would renegotiate something that is more in our favour.

So why did they make these statements? They really sounded like they were intended for American ears too. But if NAFTA actually so good for the Americans and renegotiating was such a risk for Americans, they wouldn't need to say things like that for American ears. They could just quietly wink at Canadians and say "Don't worry, they don't know what they're talking about." Then if the Americans do reopen NAFTA, we could just shrug our shoulders and go along with it in a docile Canadian way, then work out a deal where we make some nominal concessions to whatever the perceived slight is in exchange for ALL the oil plus one of the nicer Hawaiian islands and access to Hulu and free shipping from (See, I told you I don't know what NAFTA is actually about).

But then (apparently, allegedly, etc.) someone leaked a memo from Obama's team saying "Don't worry Canada, this NAFTA stuff is all just rhetoric, we don't really mean it" (traduction libre) and all kinds of shit happened as a result.

But again, if they knew that it was all just campaign rhetoric, why would both Harper and Emerson make these seemingly US-directed statements about how it's not that good an idea for the Americans?

I don't know what to conclude, but it is a plot hole.

Things They Should Invent: a way to say "This is so stupid it's not worthy of attention" without giving any attention to the thing in question

I'd link to the thing that gave me this idea, but that would defeat the purpose.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dear Eddie Izzard, please come to Toronto

Update, since I still seem to be the first google result: Massey Hall, April 30 to May 2, plus some other Canadian cities. Info here

Dear Eddie Izzard,

So you're doing another tour! Fantabulous! But why not come to Toronto too? We're a way bigger market than most of the places you're going to, and we're also one of the more expensive markets so you can get away with charging outrageous ticket prices here. Plus you can try out your material in French and everyone will be able to follow along well enough even if they don't think they speak French (this is how we sell bread up here), and no one is going to give you shit if you want to get a bit tarted up.

Besides, you can't call it a North American tour unless you put Canada in there too! Pretty please?

Edit: since I posted this, I've been getting about half a dozen hits a day from people trying to find out about Eddie Izzard coming to Toronto. I normally average 18 hits a day, so this is significant.

Edit again: I'm getting so many hits here I decided to add a proper pitch.

Dear Eddie:

Are you in it for the money? Our dollar is stronger now in absolute terms than it was when you were last here, and way stronger compared to the US dollar. You will not take any hit because of the exchange rate. Also, our economy hasn't taken nearly as big a hit as the US economy has, so we generally have more disposable income to spend on overpriced tickets and souvenir tchotchkes.

Are you in it for the exposure? Your stand-up specials never been on TV in Canada. (Why? I don't know. Talk to the Comedy Network.) Every audience you've ever had here was word-of-mouth only, so a live show would increase your relative exposure here far more than it would in the US. Also, most of our national media are headquartered here, so doing a show here will get you media coverage across the country.

Are you in it to get exposure for The Riches/your acting? The Riches does air in Canada, but not until after it airs in the US. Season 2 hasn't started yet here. And frankly, like it or not, your comedy is the single best tool you have to make people go "OMG I must seek out everything he has ever done!" So come here, do a show before season 2 of The Riches starts airing on Showcase, and people will start madly googling you and end up watching The Riches.

So you want a diverse audience? Based on pure demographics, I guarantee you your Toronto audience will be more diverse than 90% of your US audiences. And 100% is well within the realm of possibility.

Does your market research show that Canadians don't like you that much? If you're going by DVD sales, you should know that lots of us buy our DVDs from the US, because our dollars have more or less reached par but DVD prices haven't been changed accordingly (it's generally about 30% cheaper to buy from the States). If you're going by the size of audience you draw, remember that a) our population is only 1/10 that of the US, and b) you've never been on TV here, so it's word of mouth only. Statistically, if your audience numbers here are equal to 10% of what your US audience numbers were before Dress to Kill, then we like you just as much as the US does. But I'll bet your Canadian audience numbers are way higher than that, and will be even higher if you come do a show here.

A Toronto show will achieve any goal you might have, unless it's "Completely ignore Toronto because they suck."

Monday, March 03, 2008

Read this if you ever need to feel better about yourself

Until today, I didn't realize Jeff Healey and Jeff Buckley were two different people.


You know how grocery stores are trying to sell us tote bags so we won't use (and throw out) plastic bags?

Well, despite the fact that I use plastic bags, I seem to have acquired a number of totebags. And I can't find a good place to keep them. And I never use them, at all, ever, for anything. So I'm starting to consider throwing them out.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Note to self

Red wine good.
Dexter good.
Red wine while watching Dexter bad.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I wonder if dog shows have dress codes for humans?

I was watching a dog show on TV, and I noticed that all the female handlers were wearing skirts, hose, and closed-toe flats. That seemed odd to me. Under normal circumstances and given the normal variation of human wardrobe preferences, you'd think at least some of them would be wearing pants, or bare legs, or heels or boots or sandals. I wonder if they have a dress code? That would be a strange thing to have a dress code for.