Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More information please

So this guy in Austria...

He keeps his daughter prisoner in the basement, fathers seven children with her, and has three of them come live with him and his wife (leaves three more in the basement and one died).

Investigators say they believe his wife, with whom he had seven children, was unaware that the daughter she believed ran away to join a religious cult in 1984 was living as a prisoner beneath her feet.

So where did the wife think the three children that came to live with them came from?

Obviously she thought something, but none of the news outlets seem to be telling us.

New Rule: pronounce OB/GYN like two words instead of five letters

I recently learned that OB/GYN is pronounced O-B-G-Y-N. That's F-U-C-K-E-D. It should be pronounced ob-gyn. Two words, two syllables. Everyone started doing that right now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Anyone up for a real-life word problem?

I'm trying to figure out if I could do more good by playing freerice.com for an hour, or by donating an hour's pay to...somewhere. I don't know where. And I'm not going to tell you how much an hour's pay is either.

How Toronto works

Um, quick question...

Do the people of Indonesia know that there are ways prostituting oneself that don't require taking one's pants off?

Actually, if they really want to prevent prostitution, shouldn't they lock the clients' pants?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brief thoughts on the TTC strike

I've got a hugeass TLDR post coming up with more in depth on the TTC strike and other things, but a couple of quick things that don't fit into there:

- I think if the TTC was declared an essential service, that might result in more public goodwill and better salaries and benefits in the long term. After all, you don't hear people complaining that firefighters and paramedics and nurses are overpaid. (Police officers sometimes, but that's not because we think they're overpaid for protecting us and catching bad guys, but because we think they're overpaid for beating us up and knocking our teeth out when we're just peacefully protesting, and tasing us to death when we're frightened and confused.)

- Perhaps it would have been better for the union to announce that the 48 hours notice is no longer in effect. If they had specifically announced that because their workers had been threatened during the last 48 hours, they could no longer give 48 hours notice, that would be one thing. But not giving notice when all signs seeme dot indicate that your previous offer of notice still stood is just not going to help in the public goodwill area.

I before E except after C

The only word I can think of that makes the "except after C" part of the rule necessary is receive. Can you think of any others?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Naming rights to TTC stations

There's talk of selling naming rights to TTC stations.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet, surprisingly because it is very important: they should only be allowed to name stations after things that are located near that station! For example, Museum Station is fine because the ROM is right there. Yorkdale Station is fine because you step out of the station into Yorkdale. They could rename Don Mills to Fairview Station because Fairview Mall is right there. But they shouldn't be allowed to rename Eg. Station to Walmart Station, because there's no Walmart there. You know how whenever they rename a theatre after its new corporate sponsor, you always have to google it to see which one it really is? The last thing we need is for that to happen to subway stations.

Speaking of naming things, why did Rogers rename the Skydome the Rogers Centre instead of the Rogers Skydome? Why take the distinctive identity out of the name? With the word Skydome there, you can look and point and go "Oh, THAT'S what it is!" With Rogers Centre, you have no way of knowing that it's even a stadium - it sounds exactly the same as the Air Canada Centre or the Eaton Centre or the Sony Centre (WTF is the Sony Centre anyway? I know it used to be called something else, but I have no idea, which just proves my point.)

Weird turn of phrase

"And we hope to gain support of all parties to ensure that TTC service is restored quickly for the families and businesses of Toronto."

So if you don't have a family or a business, he doesn't care if you can get where you have to go?


Dear TTC:

I want to be on your side, really I do. I'm a worker too, solidarity and all that.

But no warning? After you said you'd give warning? Not cool! Especially since people who work on Saturday are more likely to be people who have to be at work on time and have to be at their workplace, unlike office workers who can flex their time or work from home.

Oooh, you know what? I'll be they're doing this to get essential service status! Recent commentators have said that essential services generall get better contracts, and in the long term if something is an essential service, the public is most likely to be okay with them being well-paid.

Restraining orders

Once upon a time, mi cielito and I came up with the idea of getting a restraining order against someone and then running towards them, forcing them to run in the opposite direction.

XKCD has just topped us.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why universities shouldn't be expected to act in loco parentis

Other people have already mentioned that students over the age of 18 are as much legally adults as you and I are and therefore no one can have any sort of custodial relationship over them whatsoever. Other people have already mentioned that if your doctor is required to report your condition to your parents, you'd probably respond by just not seeking help. People have even pointed out that the parents knowing about it wouldn't necessarily have stopped her from committing suicide. (And I'd like to add that having your parents constantly supervise you so you don't commit suicide might be enough to drive one to suicide if one weren't there already).

But what I want to blog about here is something I haven't seen mentioned yet: we must make sure that university students continue to have the same rights and freedoms as their peers who are not in school.

Whenever something tragic happens involving a university student, it's easy to call upon universities to do something to prevent it, usually by supervising students more heavily or placing restrictions on students. I've seen several calls for universities to be accountable to parents instead of to students, I've seen calls for alcohol to be banned on campus (even in residences), all kinds of things like this. But the thing is, in our society, going to university is a) not something everyone does, and b) generally considered the most laudable choice. Not everyone gets to go to university, and there are lots of people in that age group who aren't in university. If you're 18 years old and you, say, dropped out of high school, got knocked up, and are living on welfare and working for a gang as a drug dealer on the side, no institution is meddling in your life and trying to supervise you and reporting your medical situation to your parents. University students shouldn't have to face more restrictions and limitations just because they took what our society considers the optimal path.

Edit: This is the story that sparked this discussion.

Why HPV vaccine is important

This article misses the point.

The thing about HPV, the thing that makes it different from all other STDs, is that a) you can't test for it when it's dormant, b) it can be spread while dormant, so you can carry and spread it without having ever experienced any symptoms, c) it can spread from skin-to-skin contact outside the areas covered by condoms, and d) it may or may not go away by itself, after a period of time that varies from person to person and in a process that medical science does not understand or know how to expedite.

So basically, unless you know the complete sexual history of every single person who has sex with every single person who has sex with every single person...[ad infinitum]...who has had sex with you, you have no way of knowing whether or not you've been exposed or whether or not you carry it.

AIDS you can test for. Herpes you can see if you've got an outbreak or not. But HPV you can't always tell. It's the biggest hole in our safety net. Oh yeah, and it causes cancer too. So something that will sew up I think it's 70% of this hole is significant.

Macleans magazine revved up the tone with a front-page story referring to our young girls as guinea pigs involved in a huge vaccination experiment to prevent a virus that a) most women are exposed to; and b) is easily cleared from a woman's system. Is this virus a problem? It's hard to say, but we know that the pap smear currently detects the early signs of cervical cancer so it's not clear how this vaccine would do much more.

Translation: "You're going to get it anyway, but it will probably go away by itself so don't worry your pretty little head about it. Besides, if you get a bunch of foreign objects stuck up your cunt on a regular basis, they'll probably be able to catch any cancer it causes before it kills you."

I dunno, personally I think not getting any STDs at all ever and not having to get my cervix scraped with a pointed stick every year are valid goals in and of themselves.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Snow on green deciduous trees

The following pictures were taken on November 22, 2007. An unseasonably warm fall had left some of the decidious trees still green and leafy, and then there was a sudden snowstorm. I'd never seen snow and green leaves together, so I took some pictures. Please forgive the quality, these are literally the very first pictures I've ever taken with a phone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Telecommunications companies have this really quite remarkable talent for making me feel like I'm getting screwed over when I'm not. Whether it's Bell's habit of making touchtone service a separate item on the bill even though it's mandatory, or Roger's pricing their home phone service entirely too high but it all evens out once I bundle my Rogers services, or Fido's obscenely high data fees, I always come away from any telecommunications billing change feeling like I've been cheated somehow.

It's really weird that they manage things that way. Most, if not all, other types of companies I do business with try to make me feel like I'm getting a good deal even when they are screwing me over. Reitman's tags their clothes as though they're on sale even though I don't think they were ever the "original" price. My shoemaker has a loyalty card - 10th heel lift free, as though I'm going to get 10 heel lifts within any reasonable amount of time. People on ebay constantly overcharge for shipping, but the products themselves are so ridiculously cheap (or commercially unavailable in Canada) that I still feel like I won. But with telecom, they aren't even trying to make me feel good, they know I'm dependent on them and their prices are close enough to the competition's to make switching pointless, and they're rubbing my face in it every day.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Why do chaplains have to be religious?

This train of thought started with this article, then wandered a bit.

So you have a group of people brought together by or for some purpose other than religion. Then you think it would help for them to have a chaplain. So why does it help that the chaplain is religious?

I can sort of see in military deployments abroad how it would help to have someone on hand who can conduct religious services, although the chaplain can only be on denomination at a time so I'm not sure how well it helps (Father Mulcahy on MASH claimed to be able to do multiple xian and Jewish denominations, but I'm not sure whether that counts properly.)

But in the workplace, you don't need that. When people finish their workday they go home every night, and their place of worship if they need one is right there. If they require spiritual guidance specifically, they can go wherever they'd normally go for that sort of thing.

So what else do chaplains do other than their specific religious jobs? Counselling and morale, essentially. So why does being religious help for that? If the person they are helping is an active and devout practitioner of the same religion it might help (or it might be irrelevant), but because the workplace is a group of people gathered together for a purpose completely unrelated to religion, you have no way of knowing what religion the employees are going to be.

So suppose you need counselling or morale, and the person you go to has some kind of pastoral training in a religion that is not your own. What's the best that could happen? The best that could happen is they help you without introducing any religion into the matter at all. But any intrusion whatsoever by a religion that is not your own would be simply detrimental. You'd be worse off than you were before, because now not only do you have this problem, but you have to deflect the person the company has sent to help you with it.

But suppose you need conselling or morale, and the person you go to happens to be the same religion as you, but their training and the help they give you is completely secular. So what's the best that can happen? The best that can happen is they help you in every aspect of your problem except the religious aspect, for which you'd have to go to your place of worship. What's the worst that can happen? They can't help you at all because it's too spiritual a problem. So you go to your place of worship for help.

So if the best thing a religious chaplain can do for employees of a different religion is keep their religion out of it, and the worst outcome of a secular chaplain for religious employees is that people who go to church have to go to church, why bother to hire religious chaplains? Why not hire people with secular training in counselling etc.?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

There's no TTC strike

Just in case for some weird reason you're reading my blog instead of the news.

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: total war to save the world

Think about World War II. Not the war part, what was happening at home. Everyone and everything was completely mobilized towards the goal of winning the war. Food and clothing and fuel were rationed. Recycling was invented so raw materials wouldn't go to waste. Geeky students and posh housewives went to work on farms and in munitions factories. Barriers were broken down, assumptions were challenged, there was constant innovation, and eventually they achieved their goal.

So let's do it again. Not the war part - it's so frightfully noisy! - but the complete mobilization of all society's resources to some greater goal for the good of the world, like ending hunger or weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, for example.

The advantage of the total war model is that your role is handed to you, you don't have to work out the right decisions for yourself and you'd have to go to a good deal of trouble to make the wrong decisions. You get your ration cards, and that provides you with your fair share of food. You go to the war office and say "Hello, I'd like a job," and they send you to the aircraft factor and teach you how to make airplanes. You just do what you're told and sacrifice for a bit.

For this to work, they'd need a tangible goal and a carefully detailed, workable plan for how to get there. To get society to buy in, the goal should be achievable within a relatively short period of time - say between six months and two years - with the promise that all rationing and restrictions will be lifted as soon as the goal is achieved. The goal should also be such that its positive effects will be felt for a long time afterwards. Under any rationing or restrictions, everyone should still be adequately fed and clothed and sheltered. Small pleasures like coffee and wine and cigarettes should still be somewhat available, even if they are not as abundant as they were before. Jobs that work towards achieving the goal should be available for the asking, and the jobs should provide full training (just like then-Princess Elizabeth - and other posh girls like her I assume - was trained to be a mechanic during WWII rather than being told "Sorry, you can't be a mechanic because you don't know how to be a mechanic.") The internet must continue to exist just as movies continued to be made during WWII. The sacrifices required must be feasible, productive, well-thought out and temporary, ultimately achieving a goal that will bring about greater good in the long term.

But people will never go for it.

Things They Should Invent: one-handed rubber gloves

Especially now that I have a dishwasher, many of my rubber glove chores really require only one hand to be gloved. This means that my right-hand rubber gloves get used and dirty, but the left-hand ones are still fine. Unfortunately, I'm not ambidextrous enough to do these chores with my left hand, so I'm throwing out a bunch of perfectly good left-handed gloves.

Instead of buying a pack of two right-handed gloves and two left-handed gloves (i.e. two normal pairs), I'd like to have the option of buying four right-handed ones.


Around this time of year, the sun comes shining in through my window and right into my eyes at about 8:30 in the morning, waking me up.

"So what's the problem?" you're thinking, "You chose eastern exposure to help with your circadiam rhythms, no?"

The problem is that 8:30 is too early for me on weekends - I need more sleep than that - but too late for weekdays so I still have to wake up to the alarm. And it's shining right into my eyes so I can't ignore it.

In the summer, the angle of the sun is different so I get ambient light to help me on weekdays but I can still ignore it on weekends. In the winter, I'm entirely dependent on the alarm on weekdays but the sun comes late enough for a sleep-in on weekends. But right now I'm in the rough patch where I just can't get a proper sleep-in on weekends but the sun can't quite help me get up for work.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On not being poor

The Toronto Star attempts to define poverty.

I can't define poverty. I know what it is, I grok it, I'm a language professional, but I still can't put together a definition that encompasses every nuance of the negative feedback loop that is poverty

So I'm going to talk about not being poor. A lot of this is going to dance on the border of being well-employed, which is why I'm not poor, but I didn't expect to be well-employed - it was a series of flukes, a cascade of freakish good luck that probably should make me believe in god were I not a congenital atheist - so I'm all too aware of how things would be different if I were poor.

Let's start with the potential TTC strike. I don't have a car, I'm dependent on the TTC. But I do have a carpool in case of a strike. And it's because I didn't grow up poor that I have a carpool. The driver is a friend whom I originally met as exchange students in high school, which I would not have been able to afford to do if I had grown up poor. If the carpool doesn't go as planned and I arrive later than expected or have to leave earlier than expected, that's okay because I'm well-employed. My boss will understand that it's an exceptional circumstance. If I didn't have a carpool I might be able to work from home, because I am well-employed in a sit-at-the-computer job. Or I could take a day off from my sick leave or my vacation leave, which I have because I am well-employed. And even if for some reason I didn't get paid for coming in, I could absorb the loss of a few days' pay because I am not poor. But if I ended up having to come in to work anyway, I could walk - it's a 90 minute walk, tops. Because I am not poor, I can afford to live this close to work. Walking would be more exercise than I normally do in a day, but I should be able to handle it. Because I am not poor, I was able to buy a pair of good running shoes that will hold up to a long walk despite the fact that my tendon injury never completely healed. And if I didn't have my friend's carpool and did have to come to work and couldn't handle the walk, I could probably get in on another carpool. Because I am not poor, I could afford to pay a carpooler for their gas or parking or just throw money at them. Plus it might be easier for me to get in on a stranger carpool because I'm harmless-looking.

Let's talk about how I'm harmless-looking. Politically-incorrect as it may be to say, being harmless-looking does make everyday life easier. People working in stores tend to trust me rather than accuse me of stealing. Strangers sometimes feel inclined to protect me. People assume at first glance that I'm honest and sane. Basically, I look harmless because I have good glasses and a nice smile. Having attractive glasses instead of fugly glasses makes me look intelligent and competent, like I'm a respectable person with a job instead of someone who has just been released from prison. This makes people treat me better. Having glasses with the correct prescription enables me to make proper eye contact (I have a lazy eye naturally) and makes it physically possible for me to open my eyes properly instead of squinting assymetrically. When I make eye contact with my eyes open properly and symmetrically, I look far more innocent and trustworthy than I do when squinty and shifty-eyed. And this is all in addition to the fact that they help me, you know, SEE! Because I am not poor and because I am well-employed, I can afford regular eye checkups and attractive glasses with good lenses. And because I am not poor and because I am well-employed and because my parents are not poor so I've had proper dental work all my life, I also have a nice smile. Just as proper glasses give me a full range of emoting in my eyes, a nice smile gives me a full range of emoting with my mouth. I don't have to hide my teeth by keeping my mouth closed (and thereby in a frowning position because that's how my mouth goes.) Best case, my smile charms and disarms. If not, it still labels me as harmless and well-intentioned. So if I have to take a strange carpool, when I meet the driver I can shake their hand, make eye contact, make my eyes light up, give them a big gorgeous smile, and they'll have no reason to feel like I'm a threat to their carpool - especially since I now have hardly any cystic acne (and therefore no oozing sores on my face) thanks to my latest birth control pills.

Let's talk about my birth control pills. Because I am not poor, I can afford birth control pills. Because I am well-employed, I can have the regular doctor's appointments necessary to make this happen, and if my doctor wasn't cooperative I could fit in the time and effort needed to find a suitable doctor or clinic. In addition to regulating my acne and thus preventing me from walking around with oozing sores on my face, my birth control pills also regulate my periods. This means that my periods are manageable instead of leaving me alternating between curling up in a ball and sitting on the toilet (although because I'm well-employed I could still work under those conditions, and could use my sick days if I couldn't work under those conditions, and because I'm not poor I could afford to take unpaid time off if I didn't have sick days.) Ironically, manageable periods also mean I don't need to buy as many feminine hygiene products, although I could afford to buy shitloads of the very best feminine hygiene products without a moment's thought because I am not poor. My birth control pills also make my period come like clockwork. Naturally, it's very irregular and only comes every 6-8 weeks. Unregulated, I could be 2-3 months pregnant and not even notice. With birth control pills, if I were pregnant I would notice by the Wednesday of my scheduled period week. And, ironically again, because I am not poor and because I am well-employed, I could take whatever time and resources are necessary to terminate my pregnancy, which would also be easier if detected earlier. Plus, with birth control pills I can have sex! Which, in addition to being geil in every sense of the word, also made it possible for me to land mi cielito. Again, it's probably politically incorrect to say so, but I wouldn't have landed him if sex were out of the question. We would probably have still ended up friends, but he would have found some other girl to have sex with, and she would have been his #1 and I would have been relegated to mere acquaintance status. And then I wouldn't have gotten...there's so much, I don't even know where to start. The man deserves a Nobel Prize for my panic attack coping mechanism alone!

Let's talk about my panic attacks. As you probably know, I have a severe phobia of bugs and get a panic attack whenever I encounter one. Because I am not poor, I was able to move into a lovely, new, clean building with understanding and attentive management. And, living in this lovely building, I have only had one panic attack in the past year and that didn't take place at home. Not having panic attacks keeps my blood pressure down, which makes it possible for me to stay on birth control pills. Not having panic attacks means I can go through life behaving in a way that appears normally, instead of peering fearfully at corners and jumping at pieces of lint, again making me appear harmless and trustworthy rather than shifty and odd. Panic attacks take up a lot of energy, so with this energy free I can think of new and innovative ways to combat anorexia and save both the environment and manufacturing jobs and discourage ipod theft. With this energy free I can translate better and faster, making me a more invaluable employee and perhaps more likely to stay well-employed and not poor. With this energy free, I'm a less needy friend and therefore better able to maintain the kinds of friendships that result in people just handing me carpools or dropping everything to help me get through a panic attack. And with this energy free, and with all these dozens of small freedoms afforded to me by not being poor, I have the luxury of dismissing any personal inconvenience caused by something like a TTC strike and instead looking at the bigger picture, easily absorbing the blow with this cushion I'm sitting on, so that other workers will also be able to enjoy the positive feedback loop of not being poor, and will be able to become as much of a better person as it has made me.

A better way to legislate away anorexia

In Europe, there have recently been several attempts to make laws to stop the fashion industry from promoting an unhealthy body image.

I think I might have a better idea: standardize larger sample sizes.

Models are thin in the first place because they have to fit into the sample sizes. So why not issue an industry standard that sample sizes have to be, say, a size 10 (or whatever size the average woman in Europe is). Then there will simply be no use for a 5'10" 90 lb. model. If my understanding is correct, the EU is big on legislating industry standards (at least whenever my terminology research leads me to EU websites they're always about industry standards for something), and Europe is the world leader in fashion, so it seems appropriate.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Things They Should Invent: ban lawns

Lawns are stupid resource-sucks. Giant swaths of land deliberately covered with one and only one species of plant that serves no particular purpose, with all other species eradicated if they dare infringe upon the area. It's ethnic cleansing on the botanical level!

Any areas currently used for lawns should have to be used for something beneficial to society. For example:

- growing food
- solar panels
- growing endangered native plants
- creating habitat appropriate for endangered native animals

Now not everyone can do these things. Some people own lawns but just aren't capable of farming or stewardship of endangered species. I totally understand - I have a black thumb myself. If this is the case, people should have the option to just neglect their lawns, letting the grass grow and the weeds take over and allowing the local ecosystem to slowly reclaim the land.

Things They Should Invent: a torrent of all the real-life songs parodied by Weird Al

I have a bunch of Weird Al on my ipod (I'm a nerd from the 90s, what do you expect?) but I keep thinking "I should get the original of that song too." I want to be able to download them all in one torrent instead of having to track them all down separately.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Serendipitous confidence?

I'm sitting here doing not much. I'm watching a movie, I'm drinking sauvignon blanc (I don't know where I picked up the habit of namedropping my wine, but it's very Stuff White People Like, isn't it?), I'm playing a rather dull Sims house where nothing interesting is going to happen until either the baby grows up or the elder dies, then suddenly:

There was one thing I was vaguely worried about. Quasi-sorta-work-related, but not really. Suddenly, as I was watching my movie and playing my Sims and drinking my wine, and I became confident about the thing I was worried about.

Nothing had changed. Nothing around me had inspired me. The confidence came from the normal Eddie Izzard method of "Here it is, this is what I've got." But somehow that didn't happen before, and it did just now. Weird

Things They Should Invent: demographic poll of the kinds of people who answer polls

Have you ever seen a poll published in the newspaper and though "WhoTF answers these poll?"

Have you ever declined to answer when a poll called you up? Have you ever just not answered the phone when an unrecognized number came up on your call display?

They should have a research company call people up, say they're doing a poll, and then just poll demographic information. Then they should compare that information with the available census data to see if it is truly representative.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Phil Jupitus imitates Eddie Izzard imitating Obi Wan Kenobi

Eddie Izzard imitates Michael Gaston imitating Christopher Walken

So now all we need is Christopher Walken imitating someone else imitating Phil Jupitus, and the circle of life will be complete.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I really need to blog more promptly

Lately I've been thinking that the real problem with the federal political situation is fixed election dates. If they didn't have fixed election dates, they could just call a bloody election instead of getting into these constant pissing matches trying to get each other to trigger an election.

So I've been thinking all this and not blogging about it, because, like, I'm lazy, and, like, it's far easier to post links and covet Sarah Polley's boots than to put together intelligent commentary on what I freely admit is an amateurish theory.

So today Norman Spector beat me to it. His commentary is, rightfully, much better than anything I could have put together, but I still would have liked to have beaten him to it.

So how was your morning?

My mascara is hardcore. Not just black but "Ultra Black", waterproof, the lengtheningist kind I can find (currently Rimmel Eye Magnifier, although I'm always looking to go even more extreme, so if you have something that you know is better I'll welcome any recommendations). One of the few advantages of being hirstute is that I can carry off the 60s TV actress look (in my mind...).

So anyway, I'm putting on my hardcore mascara when I think I see something drip off the brush. Don't be silly, mascara doesn't drip! And it's not like seeing strangely-moving floaters out the corner of my eye is unprecedented. So I keep doing my makeup, eat my breakfast, brush my teeth, get dressed, do my hair, and take a quick glance in the mirror before I dart out the door. Hmmmm, a bit shiny. So I grab my compact, powder my forehead, and quickly blend it with my fingers.

Suddenly, there's a giant black smudge across my forehead. Turned out a huge clump of mascara did drip off the brush (first time in 14 years of wearing makeup that that's ever happened!) and landed on my compact - and I'd put my hand right on it and then used it to blend my powder.

So I'm frantically washing my hands, trying to get the black off my forehead, running late for work...eventually I had to use eye makeup remover on my forehead then redo all the concealer and foundation on my forehead to look civilized again!

Why couldn't this at least happen on Ash Wednesday?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wherein my latent insecurities hinder the natural dissemination of language

You know how sometimes you pick up the speech patterns of the people around you?

Whenever someone near me picks up on my speech patterns and starts using them, I always feel like they're making fun of me, then get cold at them.

I'm completely fucking up the natural spread of linguistic innovation, aren't I?

Mash-up of the moment

Amy Winehouse vs. Linda Ronstadt. Seriously, it works. Not only a good mash-up, but they mashed both the audios and the videos instead of just two audios or one audio with another video.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My letter to Dalton McGuinty and to my MPP

I am writing regarding your recent comments on the possibility of banning plastic bags at the LCBO.

I hope you get the chance to read this before passing any legislation, because you have an opportunity here to do something that will have an even better environmental impact than banning plastic bags: have the LCBO give out biodegradable bags.

As I'm sure you know, plastic bags don't end up in the landfill because people unpack their shopping and throw the bags straight into the garbage. Plastic bags end up in the landfill because people use them as garbage bags.

If you ban plastic bags at the LCBO, that won't change this behaviour. People will still throw out the same amount of garbage, and will still use the plastic bags they have on hand at home as garbage bags. The plastic bags in the landfill won't say LCBO on them, but there will still be just as many.

However, if you make the LCBO use biodegradable bags, then when people reach for a garbage bag, it will be biodegradable. Every time the LCBO gives out a biodegradable bag, that's one less plastic bag in the landfill.

If the LCBO bans plastic bags, then consumers will have to deal with two inconveniences to achieve environmentally optimal behaviour: first they will have to carry a reuseable bag around with them all day if they plan to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home from work, then they will have to seek out and specifically purchase biodegradable garbage bags.

But if the LCBO gives out biodegradable bags, then consumers can achieve environmentally optimal behaviour without any effort whatsoever - just buy your wine, get it bagged as usual, then use the bag as a garbage bag as usual. They would actually have to go out of their way to be less environmentally friendly.

You are, of course, perfectly correct in saying that it is the LCBO's duty as a government agency and as a monopoly to set an example, and using biodegradable bags would be the perfect way to do just that. Furthermore, just as the LCBO uses its massive purchasing power get good wholesale deals and make a wide variety of products available to Ontarians, its sizeable influence could also have a powerful effect on the biodegradable bag market. If the LCBO starts using only biodegradable bags, the economies of scale could make biodegradable bags more affordable for other retailers to use. If the demand created by the LCBO is significant enough as compared with the number of biodegradable bags currently being produced, this meay even lead to the creation of more manufacturing jobs in Ontario.

You have an opportunity to do good on several fronts here. Please don't waste it with a simple and short-sighted ban.

Is the North actually empty?

If you look at Environment Canada's weather warning maps for Nunavut, NWT, Yukon, Northern Quebec, and Labrador, you'll see that there are huge areas for which there is no forecast service.

Are these areas actually empty? Or are they just sparsely populated? (Even more so than the areas for which there is forecast service.)

Looking Google Maps doesn't have anything labelled in those areas, but is that because they're empty or because Google Maps doesn't have complete information about these large and sparsely populated areas? Looking at the satellite pictures I'm not seeing anything, but it would be quite easy to miss a small fly-in settlement when skimming over such a large area.

So are there actually these huge tracts of Canada that are completely and totally empty? And if so, are they uninhabitable (as compared with the areas where there are settlements) or just uninhabited?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Open Letter to Sarah Polley

Dear Sarah Polley:

I will read up on, become informed on, and write a gorgeously eloquent and convincing letter to my MP and the most relevant Ministers and anyone else you want me to supporting your position on the arts funding issue you were lobbying about in Ottawa, IF you tell me where I can get a pair of red boots like yours.


Someone who is maligning our whole demographic by being more enthusiastic about boots than politics


I don't mind getting wrinkles. I've looked entirely too young for far too long, so I don't mind looking more like a grownup. (Although I do strongly resent still having to deal with zits at the same time.)

What I do mind is that the lines on my forehead, which are starting to not go away anymore when I'm done furrowing my brow, look exactly like my father's! I've already inherited his nose and brow and eyesight and body hair and adult acne and all the worst aspects of his bone structure and personality, and have been working very hard as I grow up to eliminate or conceal these characteristics and assert myself as a separate individual defined by who I actually am instead of by my genes.

How dare my body age me in a way that counteracts all this hard work??

Advanced pedestrian techniques

1. You're pushing an enormous stroller. This means you're slowed down a bit, and it means you have to use the rampy bit of the curb (what's that thing called?) to get back up on the sidewalk after crossing the road. We, your fellow pedestrians in the crosswalk, understand that. That's why we're walking beside you to pass you and straying slightly out of the crosswalk to get back up on the sidewalk on the non-rampy bit, so the rampy bit will be free for your use. So once you've gotten your stroller up on the sidewalk, please take one or two steps directly away from the road before turning left or right. If you get up on the sidewalk and turn straight left or right, you're preventing the people who've so kindly gone off to the side to make room for you on the rampy bit from getting up onto the sidewalk before the light changes.

2. It's raining. Some people have umbrellas and some people don't. A lot of the buildings have overhangs that cover half the sidewalk. So if you don't have an umbrella, walk under the overhang. If you do have an umbrella, don't walk under the overhang.

3. The tunnel doesn't quite connect directly to the mall. You have to walk outdoors for about 20 seconds. So some people might put on a coat, some people might not. I think we can all see both sides. So if you are wearing a coat and walking in a large group of people, make extra sure you leave room for people to pass you. As you know, large groups naturally walk slower than individuals, but there are individuals without coats who were planning on having to spend only 20 seconds outside and don't want to have to spend a whole minute outdoors without a coat stuck behind you while you talk loudly and laugh at your children for acting their age.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wanted: an anonymizer that will let me watch hulu

Anyone know offhand of an anonymizer that will let me watch stuff on hulu that's blocked to people outside the US? I can google up all kinds of anonymizers, but for some reason the video viewer thingy (to put it in technical terms) will never load.

Things someone with magical powers Should Invent

1. A way to block advertising for stuff you already know about. I know Head & Shoulder makes dandruff shampoo, I know I shouldn't drink and drive, I know about my OHS rights. Showing me those ads doesn't do anything but annoy me.

2. Whenever you go to interact with someone, you get some kind of automatic brain dump informing you of everything that both of you know and everything that both of you agree on. So if the best metaphor is iść/chodzić, I'll know whether I can use that or whether I have to come up with something else. Or if the person asking me where I'm from lives a block away from where I grew up, I can say "The brown house with the funny roof" instead of "Canada".

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dear Google, please make a workaround for the POPLINE problem

Dear Google:

The US government is fucking up academic databases. You are perfectly positioned to fix this.

You are a search engine whose mandate is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This is information that is being made inaccessible because of ineffective search.

I know it's not as simple as indexing it and posting it, but you have money, you have a team of geniuses, and you're important enough to the world that you're immune to political interference.

You need to do penance for China. Why not this to start?

Things They Should Invent: torch extinguishing as an olympic sport

I'm having so much fun with this olympic torch extinguishing thing that I've decided it should be an olympic event

The rules are simple: every time the torch gets extinguished, the person who extinguishes the torch gets a point for their country.

Countries don't field their own torch extinguishing teams, instead anyone in the world can play. There's no official time and place, anywhere the torch happens to be is fair game.

There's some kind of points handicap for the country where the torch is located at any given time, to mitigate any home field advantage.

The IOC is required to to increase security around the torch au fur et a mesure que it is extinguished. Security people aren't allowed to extinguish the torch, and inside cooperation from security people is seen as just as unsporting as steroid use.

At the end of the olympics, the country with the most points wins. It's that simple!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Boarded up houses

Whenever they show pictures of foreclosed houses in the states, they're always boarded up. Why are they boarded up? Who does the boarding up? Does the bank do it? If I was kicked out of my home I certainly wouldn't make the effort to board it up (plus I probably couldn't afford boards).

Essure leads to surreality

I just found out about Essure (obviously I need to spend more time in CF communities since this was the first I'd heard of it) so I was doing some googling about it. In my travels, I came upon a blog where someone had seen a TV commercial for Essure and was outraged that it was portraying a family with something like children. "Wow," I thought, "This is one of the most militant radical childfree people I've ever seen! OK, so you don't like children, but why get so upset about having to see them in an Essure ad? If you're that upset about children, you should be glad they're promoting Essure to people who have children, so they won't have more." Then I read on in their comments, and realized they aren't militant radical childfree, they're militant radical breeders who were upset that OMG poor innocent children are being used in an ad for a big evil sterilization procedure! Just goes to prove Eddie's circle theory. (And kind of makes me want to invent a sterilization procedure that involves sacrificing your existing children into a volcano, just so something will exist that's worthy of this dude's outrage.)

Then later on I was talking to my friend about how I was very excited to have learned about a new sterilization option. "Oh, it's so cool!" I was saying, "they stick something up your vagina and through your cervix into your uterus. Then they put these little bits of metal in your fallopian tubes, and they somehow irritate your fallopian tubes and cause permanent scarring! Isn't that great?" If you take that out of context, it might possibly be the weirdest thing I've ever said in my life.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Half-formed idea: sterilization on demand to ease the burden on the health care system

The vast majority of the times I've gone to the doctor in my adult life have been to keep up my birth control pills. The vast majority of the prescriptions I've had filled in my adult life have been for birth control pills. The vast majority of claims I've submitted to my insurance have been for birth control pills. If I could have gotten sterilized on demand when I first became sexually active, my entire burden on the health care system in my adult life would probably be about 25% of what it has been so far. (More like 10% if it weren't for Gardasil, which is pricy and required four appointments).

We know that 10 million Canadians use prescription contraception. What would the burden on the health care system be like if all those who never wanted to have children (ever or again) got sterilized?

The first page of Google results rather vaguely suggests that just under 20% of the population is childfree. Given that some childfree people are already sterilized, and given that some childed people might want to be sterilized but not be able to (perhaps because they're young, perhaps because they only have one child, etc.) let's work with the assumption that 10% of the people using birth control would like to be sterilized. So that's 1 million people who would like to be sterilized. So let's sterilize them. Snip, snip. Now what happens to the health care system?

I use up one standard annual appointment slot a year for my birth control needs. If we assume that everyone has simple birth control needs and only needs one appointment a year (a very low estimate, since some methods require 4 appointments a year and some people have to try a number of different methods before they find the right one) that would open up one million appointments across the country. The first page of google results gives numbers between 2.4 million and 5 million for Canadians that don't have a family doctor. But in any case, one million free appointment slots would make a significant dent!

Other factors that I have been unable to quantify:

- How many free doctor appointment slots = room in the doctor's practice for a new patient?

- Sometimes unwanted pregnancy occurs, even with birth control. Getting an abortion surely takes up more medical resources than simply maintaining contraception, and carrying the baby to term anyway would take up even more, plus produce a whole nother human being who is also going to need medical resources.

- A lot of people, if they don't need to go to the doctor for their birth control every year, aren't going to get a pap smear every year. Come on, we all know it's true. How would this affect overall public health? And how would it be affected by the introduction of Gardasil, once enough of the population has been innoculated to wipe out the major strains of HPV?

- Would the reduction in the number of people taking hormonal contraception (which can increase blood pressure) have any appreciable impact on the instances of heart disease in the general population?

- With the baby boomers, the issue of contraception has recently become/is about to become moot for a huge chunk of the population. Would that make the impact of sterilization on demand negilgible? What would the impact have been if it were available as the baby boomers were starting to become sexually active? (And as an aside, is the fact that this huge chunk of the population no longer requires contraception going to have an impact on the sexual health of the overall population? I once heard the boomers described as the generation that had the drinking age (in the US) lowered to 18 so they could drink when they were in college, then had it raised to 21 so their kids couldn't. Are they going to do the same thing with birth control now that they no longer need it? Although it might be too late for that now anyway - I'm the child of boomers who started their family relatively late, and I'm far too old for my parents to be interfering in my contraception.)

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Drop everything and go look at the baby polar bears now!!!!!!!!!

Elizabeth Patterson is not Elizabeth Bennet

I blogged previously about how Elizabeth and Anthony in FBOFW do not make a convincing couple.

It occurred to me today that what Lynn Johnston is probably trying to do is set up a Jane Austen-style marriage-as-happy-ending sort of thing.

Now Anthony actually would make a good Jane Austen happy ending bridegroom. He's kind and decent, fulfills his responsibilities, gets along well with Elizabeth. He's make a perfect match for an Austen heroine. But the problem is that Jane Austen's heroines need to get married. Austen is very careful to set up situations with entails etc. that leave her heroines in a situation where marriage is the only thing that will allow them to continue living in the manner to which they were accustomed. So for them, a kind decent man who fulfills his responsibilities and wants to marry them is a total score. It's like if any of us thought ourselves unemployable, then suddenly landed a job for life that pays enough and has decent benefits and involves work we don't entirely mind doing.

But FBOFW is set in Canada in the 21st century. Elizabeth Patterson has no special need to be married in and of itself; marriage only makes sense for her if she wants to spend her life with a particular person. It's like if you were already independently wealthy and didn't need to work, you wouldn't take a job just because the compensation was decent and you didn't entirely mind the work. It would need to be valuable or fascinating or mad crazy fun work that you actively enjoy.

Elizabeth Bennet needed to get married so the fact that a man was kind, decent and responsible was reason enough to marry him. Elizabeth Patterson does not need to get married, so we need to be shown, on-"camera", why this is the right choice for them.

Strange as it seems my musical dreams are rather bad

Lately I've been having recurring bad dreams about having to practise music. It's different music every time - sometimes I'm playing clarinet in the high school band, sometimes it's piano, sometimes it's something I've never done publicly IRL like singing or playing guitar. I can't quite classify them as nightmares because they aren't terrifying, it isn't the "OMG exam and I haven't studied!" dream, it's just that I'm obligated to practise because other people are depending on me to be able to play competently, and it's this huge burdensome chore. It's not even the standard "Aww man, another thing on my to-do list!" ennui that everyone gets once in a while, it's this massive burden, disproportionate to what it ever was in real life. It's like I never had any choice about getting involved in the musical performance thing that's requiring all this practising, but I can't quit and people are depending on me to deliver a good performance just like people depend on me to deliver good translations.

I wonder what this all means?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Things They Should Invent: a study of how people on the receiving end of "I'm sorry" process the statement

Nan Connolly said I erred in saying women should decline additional assignments when they were already swamped at work by telling their co-worker, "I'm sorry. I'm on deadline."

"Too many times women say they are sorry," she wrote. "People bump into women in airports and they, the women, apologize. I see this all the time, everywhere. Someone out of your department waylaying you for additional work should not be told you are sorry not to do it."

She continued ... "I really think women give up some authority by frequently apologizing."

I've heard this idea before, that you shouldn't apologize if you haven't done anything wrong strictly speaking. I've heard various reasons given for this - that it makes it look like it's your fault, or it makes you look weak, or something like that.

But does anyone actually think this when someone utters the words "I'm sorry" to them?

I come from the traditional Canadian school of apologizing when someone steps on your foot. When I say "sorry" here, I don't really mean that I'm sorry, or that I accept blame, or anything. What I actually mean is "I am acknowledging the occurrence and now let's just get on with life." When I barge into a co-worker's cube with a question and say "Sorry to bother you," I'm not actually sorry. What I actually mean is "I have given thought to the fact that I might be bothering you, and this is important enough that I'm bothering you anyway." When they try to give me more work and I say "I'm sorry, I simply do not have room for any more work," I really mean "I do understand that this needs to be done, and I'm refusing because it's impossible, not just because I have the right to refuse overtime." In all cases, my key message is "It is not my intention to be an asshole."

And that's how I process a "sorry" when I hear it too. I process it as "It is not my intention to be an asshole," so I then assume goodwill on the part of the other party. It means they aren't just being cocky and self-absorbed, they have given some thought to the fact that they're inconveniencing me.

So is there anyone who gets a different message when they hear "sorry"? And if so, are there demographic patterns?

Friday, April 04, 2008

In Re: Lukiwski

Sixteen years ago, I was homophobic. Disgustingly, shamefully so. If you've lost all respect for me, I don't blame you.

Today, I am not homophobic. My homophobia was coming from a position of ignorance. The more I learned, the less homophobic I became.

I am very fortunate in that the world has been kind and generous enough to forgive me my stupidity and take me as the person I am today.

I would be a hypocrite if I did not suggest that Tom Lukiwki should be given the same consideration.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Soldiers. With guns. In our cities.

This is a Liberal attack ad from the 2004 election. (Note: Just ignore the link at the beginning. I have no idea who it is and haven't even visited it, it's just the only copy I could find on youtube.)

This is a brief overview of the fallout. You can find a bunch more by googling "soldiers with guns in our cities".

Here's something that happened in August 2005.

Slinger writes about wanting reassurance that he can walk around through life normally without being tased. I want the same reassurance that I can walk around through life normally without being beaten up by soldiers.

I know the main focus in this story should really be the homeless guy who was killed, but I'm finding myself far more interested in Valerie Valen. As socially unacceptable as it is to say, I've never felt particularly safe around soldiers, and I feel even less safe the more I learn about military training. People often try to reassure me about this, pointing out that I'm a civilian so I'm the kind of person soldiers are trained to protect. And if it's a sort of quiet, private conversation that isn't going to be repeated with someone to whom I'm close enough that we can get politically incorrect, my interlocutor might point out that I'm also female and white and clearly Canadian-born and don't look like I could possibly present any sort of threat to anyone. I'm basically as close as you can get without being a child or a puppy to being the poster child for everything military brainwashing training has them protecting on the home front.

But so is Valerie Valen. Ms. Valen has every quality that anyone has ever completed the sentence "You don't need to be afraid of soldiers because you're ________" with.

So all I can conclude is that soldiers will beat me up if I ever try to be a good citizen in a way that is inconvenient to them.

Dear Canadian Forces: Do you want me to feel safe about your soldiers being in my city? What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Half-masting the flag on Remembrance Day only is like going to church on xmas and easter only.
Half-masting the flag as needed every time there's a significant death is like humbly praying to your god every time you genuinely feel the need for guidance.

Half-masting on Remembrance Day only is like buying your partner a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day and never doing anything romantic for them the rest of the year.
Half-masting as needed is like buying your partner a bouquet of these really cool-looking blue flowers you saw, just because you were thinking today at work how wonderful it is to have such an awesome partner.

Half-masting on Remembrance Day only is like calling your mother because it's Mother's Day.
Half-masting as needed is like calling your mother because you thought she'd enjoy your story about the funny thing that happened on the way home from work.

Half-masting on Remembrance Day only is like buying your friend a gift certificate to Indigo for their birthday.
Half-masting as needed is like noticing when your friend mentions "Oh, there was this book I had as a kid that I really liked, I forget what it was called but there were blue people in it, and a monkey and a dog," then googling madly and asking reference librarians and finally finding the title and going through three ebay bidding wars to get it for them for their birthday.

Half-masting on Remembrance Day only is like telling your kid you're proud of them on their graduation.
Half-masting as needed is like telling your kid you're proud of them when you caught them doing something innocuous yet surprisingly mature when they didn't know you were watching.

Half-masting on Remembrance Day only will not make it more meaningful; quite the contrary. Removing all thought from something, making it nothing more than a clockwork ritual, can only take away from its meaning.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

So how Aspie am I?

Your neurodiversity (Aspie) score: 105 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 96 of 200
You seem to have both Aspie (neurodiversity) and neurotypical traits

Asperger/HFA/PDD: 127 You very likely will be able to receive the diagnosis

Social phobia: 121 You will probably be able to receive the diagnosis

OCD: 82 This isn't a primary diagnosis you should seek

ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder): 76 This isn't a primary diagnosis you should seek

Dyslexia: 48 This isn't a primary diagnosis you should seek

Quiz is here

I do wish they elaborated further on the words on the corners of the octagon though. "Hunting" is a bit WTF.

What Google should do for its next April Fool's joke

Google's April Fool's joke next year should be to announce that they've reviewed their core policies, and their mission statement is now Be Evil.