Monday, June 30, 2008

Banned words in court

From Language Log:

The latest development is that a number of courts in the US are now forbidding lawyers and witnesses to use certain words during trials. Words like "rape," "victim," "crime scene," "killer," "murder," "drunk," "homicide," "embezzle," "fraud," and "robbery" are now not allowed in some courtrooms. Language engineering like this usually has a social or political basis. In this case it's more a problem of trying to treat the accuser and the accused fairly. District Attorneys want to keep on using words like these as they prosecute alleged criminals, while some defense attorneys claim that using such words violates the presumption of innocence that has been held dear by the legal system. They call the forbidden words, "loaded terms."

If I were testifying in court and I was forbidden from using my first choice words, I would very much want to the judge and jury to know that the words I was using aren't my first choice because my first choice words were banned. I can do this when I'm speaking comfortably and confidently. (A side-effect of translation brain is that half the time I think there's a better word for what I'm trying to say, so indicating that the words I'm using aren't the best words to describe the concept has become a natural part of my speech patterns.) But would I be comfortable and confident in a courtroom? Given that I'm shy and I've never been in court before and I'd know that I'm under oath and my words would be recorded for public record, I seriously doubt it.

From later in the article (bolding is mine):

"Using your own words" isn't all that common in trials I've experienced. Among other things, you can't introduce your own topics, you have to answer the opposing lawyer's questions according to the form in which they are asked (usually yes/no questions, or worse, tag-questions), and you have to be ready to be interrupted at any time. Testifying requires a witness to learn a new set of communication skills, many of which can seem counterintuitive. Doing this can be daunting for anyone not trained in the special culture of the courtroom.

I've seen this on TV, when the lawyer very loudly and in-your-face-ly insists that the witness answer with a simple yes or no. But in the oath you take at the beginning, you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So what happens if answering with a simple yes or a simple no does not tell the whole truth, or does not meet the nothing but the truth condition? What do you do then? Does this mean I should find out if perjury or contempt of court gets you in bigger trouble before I'm ever called upon to testify in court?

Do fire sprinklers come with an off switch?

They either just passed or are about to pass legislation requiring fire sprinklers in residential highrises.

I have one question: can the people in the apartments turn off the sprinklers if they start going off in a false alarm?

When your smoke detector starts going off for no reason, you can turn it off by removing the battery or flipping the circuit breaker, depending on how it's set up. In my apartment, I have a mute button for the fire alarm (I can still hear the alarm coming from the hallway) so it doesn't make me go deaf when there's a false alarm and I don't have to evacuate. I would very much like something similar for anything that might be installed in my apartment.

I've been googling around to see if this exists, and all I'm finding are reassurance from sprinkler companies that they don't produce THAT much water, and that they really won't go off unless there actually is a fire, honest, we promise, coupled with loud trumpeting of the fact that insurance companies will give you discounts if you have sprinklers.

But that's not reassuring. I've never been in a fire, but I've been in plenty of false alarms. Several times I've been in buildings where the fire alarm went off because of plumbing problems. I can't trust that sprinklers will work more reliably than that. The fact that insurance might compensate me for any damage is immaterial; insurance money won't make my mattress dry and fit to sleep in that night, it won't save irreplacable-because-of-sentimental-value stuffed animals that live on my bed when no one else is there, it won't replace the data on my computer, and it won't make a suitable assortment of size 11 narrow width shoes commercially available.

I'd be happy to sacrifice any of these things to water damage if the alternative was being burned down in a fire, but to lose them to a false alarm would be unacceptable. Please don't anyone install sprinklers in my apartment unless you can also give me an off switch.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gee, he was just here a minute ago

We love you George!

(Returning to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.)


The Globe and Mail thinks that La Senza's dropping sales of the ITEC bra and rising sales of cotton bras are a sign of poor economic times.

This is interesting to me, because last year I tried on the ITEC and the cotton and ended up buying the cotton. (Unfortunately, because La Senza changes its styles so frequently, the style I blogged about there is no longer available.)

This wasn't because the cotton was cheaper, but rather because it gave me a better shape. My issue is that I do have the resources, but their distribution is suboptimal. The ITEC seems to work on an equalization model, where all affected areas are allocated an equal amount of resources. However, the cotton leverages the resources available by assigning them specifically to areas where they can best serve their mandate of mitigating worrisome inflationary trends to the south. I'd have been happy to spend more on the ITEC, but the cotton simply did the job better.

And now apparently La Senza is trying to take the next logical step in this alleged trend by making cotton bras fun and interesting-looking. But the problem is that this year t-shirts are very thin, so if the bra is anything but plain solid nude it shows underneath the t-shirt. Even a plain black bra shows underneath a plain black t-shirt. And I'm not talking about straps sticking out, I'm talking about people can see straight through the shirt and identify the colour of your bra and any decorations on it. (Q: Why don't you just wear last year's t-shirts? A: I do, but I go through shirts too fast so I need to buy a few new ones every season. Q: Why don't you just wear last year's bras? A: Because the elastics either just have or are about to die a horrible death. They are cheap bras.) I do see the point of fun bras, but we do need underwear in addition to lingerie, and I think they're doing themselves a disservice by making all their cotton bras fun and colourful with whimsical patterns.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


There's a sort of conventional wisdom that having a present father is good for a child, and you tend to hear this most and loudest from people who didn't have an involved father. But if you ask people who do have an involved father, some of them appreciate it, others wish he would STFU. It's like people feel more disadvantaged by the lack of a father than they actually are advantaged by the presence of a father.

The other two things that work this way are siblings and university degrees. I've often heard people who don't have siblings wanting to have more than one child so their children can have siblings. IRL you will find siblings who are close friends, but you will also find siblings who don't get along at all. And people who don't have university degrees often think they're panacea, employment-wise, but those of us who do have degrees know this isn't the case.

I think what people need to remember about relatives is that any relative, even a parent or sibling, is just another person in your child's life. They may or may not be a positive influence, just like any other person may or may not be a positive influence. Even if you, personally, like both of the people involved, they may not still like each other.

And I think what people need to remember about university degrees is that there are employers who don't want to hire people with degrees for jobs that don't strictly require a degree, and employers for jobs that do require a degree often don't want to hire someone without experience. So if you don't have a degree and make a living, say, waiting tables or doing customer service you might pressure your child to go to university so they can have a better job, but then your kid may graduate and find themselves in the position of not being able to get a degree job because they haven't had one before, and not being able to get a job waiting tables or doing customer service because they have a degree.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Two years ago, I issued a Pride Day challenge for factual use of "That is SO gay!" (And no less an authority than The Onion has taken it up.)

I didn't issue a challenge last year, so this year I'm issuing two:

1. Negative use of "That is so NOT gay!" First usage that comes to mind is things that are aesthetically displeasing, but feel free to broaden usage as it occurs organically. Same tone of voice as negative adolescent use of "that is so gay". Usage: "Fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror? That is so NOT gay!"

2. Let's start using "queer" as the generic. The LGBTTTIQQ2 (and perhaps some letters I've missed) abbreviation is getting ridiculous, and I think everyone falls within a broad definition of "queer", oui?

Bonus link: a relevant article from America's Finest News Source

Thursday, June 26, 2008


So Catholic bishops in Alberta are opposed to the cervical cancer vaccine because they think it will encourage girls to have casual sex.

You know, I got Gardasil last year - got my last shot in the fall - and now every time someone propositions me, I don't give a moment's thought to a single thing except pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, gonnohrea, syphillis, chlamydia, herpes, crabs, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, heartache, emotional drama, the durability of friendship, the possibility of unintentional adultery, penises that are too small, penises that are too big, inopportune latex allergies, recent advances in candid digital photography, the effect of readily-available pornography on certain individuals' sexual expectations, and my own personal sexual preferences!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The bathroom at work has automatic flushing toilets - very enthusiastic automatic flushing toilets that sometimes flush when I've just shifted position.

So it's very odd that sometimes I walk in and find a toilet full of urine and toilet paper.

It occurred to me that maybe someone with a penis is peeing in the toilets, so I started going through a mental list of all the women on the floor to try to figure out if any of them could be trans, and started going through a mental list of all the men on the floor to try to figure out if any of them might be motivated to pee in the women's washroom for some bizarre reason.

But when you pee with a penis, you don't use toilet paper, do you?

So my latest theory is that we have a ghost who has to pee sometimes. Or perhaps someone has an invisibility cloak.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I wonder why laxatives always market towards women? I've never heard of constipation as a "female problem". I've had a number of girl-talky relationships over the years where you talk about personal shit (loonie in the pun jar) like that, but no one has ever said anything about constipation. I thought maybe it was a getting older thing, since the women in the commercials are generally cast as "older", but my mother doesn't know anything about it either.

Or maybe the mental image of someone's hairy old father straining on the toilet to take a dump is just too unappetizing.

Monday, June 23, 2008


George Carlin died

But but but...but...but we still need him!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I wonder if battery sales have dropped with the advent of the iPod?

I was just changing the batteries on my Scrubbing Bubbles, and I realized this is the first time that I have used batteries for anything in the whole year I've lived in this apartment.

When I was in high school I used batteries a lot, for my discman. Most people carried extra batteries with them for just that purpose, and it wasn't uncommon to hear people asking if anyone had any extra batteries. But the iPod is recharged by hooking it up to the computer, so people don't need batteries for their portable music needs any more. I wonder if that has been enough of an influence to affect overall battery sales?

Best bikini wax soundtrack ever of the day

Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler

This is a fun song to sing. It makes you feel kick-ass. (I know that's not quite the message of the song, but that's how it feels.) So that sense of kick-ass is multiplied if you sing this song while ruthlessly and unflinchingly pulling out your own body hair.

Just try it!

Things They Should Invent: topsoil transplant

One thing we were told repeatedly in school was that Southern Ontario has some of the best farmland in the country, but it keeps getting used up for development and urbanization instead of farming.

So what if, as they develop things down here, they took all the topsoil and carted it away and took it somewhere further north that isn't going to be developed any time soon, and let people farm up there? Would that work?

When everyone has kids at once

I was poking around on Facebook, and saw that a bunch of people I went to high school with have had babies (or at least they were holding babies in their pictures).

I understand intellectually that a lot of people have children, but because I can't identify with the need to have children it's very strange to me to see such a huge number of people have all made that decision. I think I'm subconsciously processing it as an obscure, expensive and time-consuming hobby that some people have, and it's strange to see a bunch of people all suddenly doing the same obscure, expensive and time-consuming hobby. It would be like if you poked around on Facebook and found that half a dozen people you went to high school with all quit their jobs and bought land way out in the wilderness and are now planning to live off the grid and support themselves through organic farming. If one person did that, you'd say "Hey, cool!" But if half a dozen people, all from your high school, all did that your first thought would be "What kind of weird trend is this? Do they know what they're getting into?"

Things They Should Invent: temporal localization

Sometimes when I read a book that was written in the past and set in what was then the present (but is now the past), there are things or ideas that I don't fully understand because they are no longer current. I might not understand what a particular piece of clothing is, or why a character is shocked or surprised by something.

They should adapt books set in the past like this so modern audiences can understand "cultural" references. It would work along similar lines to what a translator does when the target audience isn't going to get all the references. To give an extremely simplistic example, a translator of a book set in Toronto for an audience who isn't going to be familiar with Toronto might slip in the word "subway" the first time "TTC" is mentioned. If the target audience is unlikely to be familiar with bras (why? I don't know) and it's important to know that bras fasten in the back, the translator might refer to someone doing up their bra by reaching behind their back rather than just doing up their bra.

If they did something similar with older books, i tmight make them more accessible to the reader. Still have the original text available, of course, but add this option for casual readers who just want to get the story.

Is Google Ontario-centric?

I just google for the population of Manitoba. I got three relevant results, then I got one of those "helpful" little Google suggestions saying "See the results for "population of Ontario" and three results for Ontario. Then underneath the three Ontario results were more Manitoba results.

Is this happening because I'm in Ontario, or does it do it for everyone?

Help me out here please. If you're outside of Ontario, go to Google and type in population of Manitoba (no quotes or anything) then post in my comments here and let me know whether it suggests population of Ontario, or population of wherever it is you live. Anonymous posts are welcome, although I'd appreciate it if you'd post your province or country, especially if in your results Google replaces "Ontario" with wherever it is you live.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Make me a t-shirt

Demetri Martin has a t-shirt that says COMEDY.

I want a similar t-shirt that says TRAGEDY.

Girl-shaped (preferably v-necked) and dark or deep colour please.

How to write a new Hockey Night in Canada theme

You know how the Simpsons changes existing numbers from major musicals just a little bit, so they're still easily recognizable but (presumably) don't violate copyright? (e.g. Be Our Guest becomes See My Vest) Do that to the HNIC theme.

Why is rape used as a weapon of war in the first place?

From a perspective of pure heartless military strategy with no consideration for human decency whatsoever, why is rape worth using as a weapon of war? It seems really inefficient to me. Even if everyone has premature ejaculation issues, it's still faster and easier to just kill someone than to rape them.

At first I thought it was just to satisfy the soldiers' sexual needs, but if you read about it in wretched gory detail, they're actually putting way more time and energy and effort into war-crime rape than they'd need if it was for their own sexual satisfaction.

I also thought it might be for the purpose of terrorizing the population, but again, you can terrorize the population by killing large numbers of people, and that would be a far faster and easier.

So who decided, and on what basis, that war-crime rape was a good use of time and resources and manpower from a military strategy point of view?

Good thing I can't pee standing up

I saw this commercial for a pregnancy test that called itself "the most advanced piece of technolgoy you'll ever pee on."

I now feel compelled to pee on a more advanced piece of technology, just to prove them wrong.

How do you measure how advanced the technology is, anyway? Is it more advanced than a computer? Is it more advanced than an old computer that I don't need anyway?

Mash-up bunny, free for the taking

Yesterday, it occurred to me that the Log Driver's Waltz needs to be mashed up with something.

In the shower this morning, it occurred to me that the Lumberjack Song would be thematically appropriate.

I'm not sure how you'd carry it off since the tempos and time signatures are incompatible, but that's left as an exercise for the reader.

Open Letter to "Wanting To Talk It Out in Alexandria"

To the writer of the second letter here:

I'll bet you anything "Elaine" is an introvert. She actually does need to stop and think about how to respond. It isn't passive-aggression. Her thoughts don't come to her immediately as words, and she cannot just talk out her thoughts. She does not have the words - her thoughts do not exist in word form - until she stops and thinks about how to formulate them.

Read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney for information about how this works and how you, probably being an extrovert who thinks by talking, can coexist with this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I love Wikipedia

Wikipedia has an entry for Stella Ella Ola.

What I want to know about the naked airport xray machine

It seems they've come up with an airport security machine that can show what a person looks like under their clothes.

A couple of thoughts occur to me:

1. Does it show distribution of body hair? Because, to me at least, if they want to see my shape that's fine, but the distribution of my body hair in areas covered by clothing is personal.

2. If a person has something in a body cavity, can they tell what it is from the machine? The last thing you want is to get pulled aside for a cavity search because you're wearing a menstrual cup or an IUD or something.

The mystery of lyric websites

I just found out that they made a French version of the Log Driver's Waltz! Being the kind of person who is congenitally incapable of clearly hearing song lyrics in any language, I promptly googled for the lyrics. I couldn't find them. But what I did keep finding - in both English and French! - was blank lyric site pages, like this, inviting you to add the lyrics yourself.

There were at least a dozen sites like this, for something so obscure as the La Valse du maître draveur. They must be automatically generated! I wonder why and how? I wonder where they originate from?

Also: The Log-Driver's Waltz needs to be the subject of a) a punk cover and b) a mash-up.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Quote of the moment

"It is the weakness of weak-charactered men that is holding the world for ransom" - Eddie Izzard

Wherein I am greedy

I yoinked the ymail address of my real name. Even though I don't intend to use it. And I already have (and use) the gmail address of my real name. And my name is common enough that I have at least 250 doppelnamers on facebook (none of which are me, by the way).

That whooshing sound you hear is all my accumulated karma flying out the window.

Refuting intelligent design

Thus far, I've always refuted intelligent design based on the fact that thunder comes after lightning. But I've got something better now:

The ovaries aren't directly attached to the Fallopian tubes! There's a little space in between, and there's these sea-amoeba-like things on the Fallopian tubes that sweep up the released egg!

The only purpose of the ovaries is to release an egg into the Fallopian tubes. The only purpose of the Fallopian tubes is to collect the eggs released by the ovaries. And yet they aren't attached???

What your translator is doing when you're not looking

1. I read your text like an internet asshole. I think "How would an internet asshole react to the contents of this text?" and tweak the language wherever possible to mitigate any undesirable aspect of that reaction.

2. I user-test your intra-textual references. If I have to look at the chart in Appendix G to understand what you're saying here I'll make a note of it and, if appropriate, will add "(see Appendix G)" at the point where I had to go look at Appendix G.

3. I set my inner child to reading the text. Anything potential double entendres that make her snicker get reworded (unless you meant them to be there).

4. If your text is meant to be read aloud, I read the translation aloud. If I stutter or stumble, I try to reword it to eliminate the phoneme combination that caused me trouble.

5. I read your text like the most easily offended person on earth, and tweak the translation wherever needed so I find nothing offensive.

A drinking game for Pride Week

1. Put iTunes/iPod/whatever on shuffle.
2. Every time a GLBT song plays, take a drink.

Defining what constitutes a GLBT song and what constitutes a drink is left up to you, depending on the nature of your music collection and desired buzz factor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Analogy for the anti-circumvention clause

Making it illegal to circumvent technological anti-copying measures is like making it illegal to pick locks. Yes, a person could pick a lock as part of breaking into a house. But they could also pick a lock when they've accidentally locked themselves out of their own house. The breaking and entering is the actual problem (and is already illegal), the lock-picking isn't a problem in and of itself even though it can be (and most often is) used as part of an illegal act. Making lock-picking illegal would just make innocent and harmless activities illegal for no good reason. It would be more effective to increase the punishment for or enforcement of breaking and entering rather than adding an additional lock-picking charge.

The fine for circumventing technological controls is $20,000, which is 40 times the fine for simple piracy for personal use ($500). With our lock-picking analogy, that would be like if you walk into someone else's unlocked house and steal something, you go to jail for a year. But if you pick a lock - any lock, even on your own house - you go to jail for 40 years.

Now suppose you've locked yourself out of your car one cold winter's morning. But your next-door neighbour left their car warming up in their driveway, engine running and doors unlocked. And your across-the-street neighbour is a nosy cop and you can see him looking out the window. You'd go to jail for 40 years for picking a lock, but only 1 year for stealing a car. So do you try to break into your own car, or do you take next-door's car?

Random weird advice column letter

I stumbled upon this old Annie's Mailbox while googling for something else.

Dear Annie: I am a retired naval officer. Two weeks ago, my 16- year-old daughter had a date with a young man I had never met. My wife, a teacher at the school, said he was a good kid.

When the young man showed up to get my daughter, he sat in the car and honked the horn (strike 1). I went out and told him she was not ready and he should come in the house. He did and then proceeded to call my wife by her first name (strike 2). When he tried the same with me, I very sternly said, "You can call me 'Sir.' " Finally, when my daughter came down, he blurted, "It's about time" (strike 3). At this, I blew my stack.

In military fashion, an inch from his face and speaking loudly, I proceeded to tell him that I will not allow anyone to come in my house and treat my family this way. I grabbed his coat and threw it outside and informed him that unless he also wanted to end up on the ground, he would walk out and never see my daughter again.

My daughter cried, as expected, but my wife has not spoken to me in two weeks. She says this is the way kids are now and I should remember that I no longer wear a uniform. She thinks I owe "Junior" an apology. I told her he owes our family an apology for his lack of respect.

Tell me, Annie, was I wrong? My wife and I will do whatever you say.

Obviously, father, you have never been a 16 year old girl. I'll bet you anything she specifically instructed her date to honk instead of coming in so he wouldn't have to deal with her asshat father. Your date is someone you like and choose to spend time with; your father is someone whose presence is forced upon you. Protecting your date from your father's unpleasantness is far more important than having your father like your date.

Dear Abby misfires

This guy is tired of living in the shadow of his more popular and attractive younger brother. He concludes by saying:

I know I shouldn't compare myself to Chaz, but it hasn't been easy living in his shadow and being seen by everyone as "just his brother." It has done a real number on my self-esteem. What can I do to not let this affect me so much? Should I move someplace where nobody knows him?

Abby starts her answer with:

Let's follow that last sentence to its logical conclusion. You move far away from Chaz -- and then what? Pretend you're an only child? What if he comes to visit? What if you meet someone special and want to introduce her to the family? Only as a last resort should you take such drastic action.

That is incorrect. From firsthand experience as the older sibling of a more attractive, talented and popular younger sibling, I can assure you that moving away does help. You don't have to pretend that you don't have a sibling, it just helps to be in a place where people don't know your sibling and aren't going to compare you to them (and you aren't going to get the impression that they're comparing you to them). You also get the bonus of not having your sibling's accomplishments in your face every day. Carving out your identity as your own person instead of as compared with someone else is far easier to do when you don't see your "competitor" on a daily basis. Moving away, even temporarily, will help.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gun correlations

Some letter to the editor or the other suggested that those two guys who were seemingly randomly shot last weekend might still be alive if they'd been allowed to carry guns. This made me wonder how the LW arrived at that conclusion. Someone comes at you with a gun, right? So you pull out your gun. Now you can shoot them. But they can still shoot you. They're no more motivated to drop their gun than you are to drop yours.

Then I realized that this whole "having a gun will protect you from being shot" thing is based on the assumption that you, the good guy, have the superior gun skills. So that's why I had trouble with the concept - I can't identify with having superior skills in anything that requires visual acuity and nerves and steadiness of hand.

And this reminded me of two other areas where there's a similar disconnect - proponents think that you can do it best yourself, whereas I know I can't do it best myself so I would rather leave it to someone else: entrepreneurship, and DIY. Both entrepreneurs and DIY people think "if you want something done right, do it yourself." I think "If I do it myself it won't get done right, but I'd happily give my skills or my money respectively to someone who can do it right."

Which makes me wonder: is there a correlation between being pro-gun and being an entrepreneur? Or between being pro-gun and doing DIY?

How to make our point about the Copyright Act

If you ever get a chance to talk to an artist whose work is among what the new Copyright Act is supposed to be protecting, ask them if they, personally, mind if their audience circumvents the electronic copy protection on their legally-purchased CDs/DVDs for the purpose of conversion to another medium for personal use.

Take a video of the question and the answer, and post it to YouTube.

The more celebrity the artist, the better.

Another rainbow!

Yeah, I know, taking pictures of rainbows with a phone isn't the best idea. But I hardly ever see rainbows and now I've seen two just in the past week.

This picture shows only the end of the arc, but arched all the way up and back down, taking up a whole quadrant of the sky. From my perspective at Yonge&Eg, it started just south of Sunnybrook and went almost all the way to the lake. I tried to get a picture of the whole thing, but the roof of my balcony kept getting in the shot.


The exercise lady on TV is being fucking sanctimonious today.

- "Once you start working out, you can never go back!" Oh, I would go back at a drop of a hat lady, it's just that I need to keep my blood pressure low enough to stay on the pill.

- "You'll feel better, your mood will be better..." No, actually it just makes me cranky and angry.

- "You'll spring out of bed instead of just lying there doing nothing, it's about quality of life!" If I had spent another 90 minutes in bed this morning, I would have had cool dreams. Having that every day would be quality of life, doing this just eats up my time!

- "People hate hearing these messages, but you gotta hear them!" I'm here already. All your fucking sanctimonious nagging can do at this point is drive me away to the computer, which is fun and does make me feel good and is part of my quality of life.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Helpful Hint: delete your restore points every once in a while

I found a function in disk cleanup that allows you to delete all but the most recent restore point. So I clicked on it. It hourglassed for quite a while, and when it was finished I had 7 gigs of space freed up. (My computer is just celebrating its third birthday sometimes soon or recently.)

A baby deer!

Via Cute Overload, a baby deer!

Anyone know how Craigslist works?

Craigslist postings have an alphanumeric email address at the top. I assume this is so you don't have to post your personal email address.

So suppose I post something on Craigslist, someone emails me at the @craigslist address, and for whatever reason I don't want to respond to them. Do they know what my real email address is? Or does my real email address stay absolutely unconditionally secret until I choose to respond to someone's email?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Original Soundtrack

All my soundtracks say "Original Soundtrack" in the title. What's the word "original" doing in there? What other kinds of soundtracks are there?

Car colours

Why are silver cars so popular? Why on earth would you choose a silver car when you could have a red one? Silver is so boring, but red is VROOOM! I can see why people would choose boring colours for things like clothing or decor - you can't have everything being bright and fun or it gets overwhelming. But a car is self-contained, so you don't have to worry about it going with anything else.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wherein I mishear a lyric for nine straight years

The first line of the last verse of Ani DiFranco's Cloud Blood is "It's been way too long since I've been behind the wheel."

Up until just now, I've been hearing it as "It's been far too long since I've been behind the wheel."

I just checked the liner notes (I have the actual CD), and it is "way". I've been mishearing it since I bought the CD in 1999!


I somehow managed to completely miss the fact that the terms "baby mama" and "baby daddy" have negative connotations. I recognized that they're casual, but thought they were neutral and have been using them as such because they're convenient.

So apologies to anyone in reference to whom I've used those terms. Please understand that my word choice was coming from ignorance, not malice.


June 8, 2008, 8:50 pm, just after a mad crazy thunderstorm with tornado warnings, there was a rainbow just out my window. So obviously the thing to do is attempt to photograph a rainbow with a camera phone. Click to embiggen.

I think I might have discovered the secret to push-ups

Today I put a newspaper down on the floor and read an article while I attempted to do my push-ups. And I did 9 in a row! (My previous record was 6 in a row, which I was only able to do once before today.)

Half-formed theory: the majority doesn't identify with the factor that makes them the majority

People in many parts of Canada identify with their regions (Westerners, Quebecois, Maritimers), but I don't think Ontario does. I've lived in Ontario all my life, and to me it's nothing more than an administrative category. I identify as Canadian, I identify as Torontonian, I might identify with my neighbourhood or with the place where I grew up if that scale of identity were relevant to the situation, but I have no sense whatsoever of being Ontarian. I've asked around, and I haven't found any Ontarians who actively identify as Ontarian. It's used in politics sometimes, but that's about it.

Similarly, I am white, but I don't identify with it. I identify as Canadian, I might identify with one or more of my heritage cultures if it's relevant, but my skin colour means nothing more to me than a factor to be addressed in my fashion and cosmetics choices.

So I'm thinking maybe the majority doesn't actively identify with whatever the thing is that they're the majority in. They don't feel it. It's unmarked, to apply linguistic terminology. I'm not quite sure where to go with this next.

While I was writing this, I was also trying to figure out if I actively identify with being female or not. I can't quite tell. I experience female on two levels. The first level is that it's simply a physical reality that sometimes has to be accomodated. I need birth control pills, I need a bra, I have to be wary of strange men in some contexts. But this isn't something I feel or identify with, it's about equal to how I have long skinny feet so I need shoes in a large size with straps in the right place. The second level is that I like to present as female. I just feel...more myself, i.e the best part of myself, more confident and competent, if I look girly. This is very bizarre because I've never heard this sentiment expressed by cisgendered women, I've only ever heard it from MTF transgendered people. So I don't know if with this sentiment I'm articulating the usually unspoken and unidentified sense of actively identifying with and feeling one's majority status, or if I have some kind of unidentified gender issues or what.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The anti-circumvention clause would discourage people from legally purchasing content

I'm not going to get into excruciating detail about why the anti-circumvention clause is stupid. I'm sure we all had the same "One of these things doesn't belong here" moment when reading about it, and if not the whole entire internet has already commented on it.

I'd just like to add that, on top of everything else, this clause will actually make it more desirable for the consumer to download pirated content instead of purchasing it through legitimate channels.

Under the proposed bill, consumers could be liable for $500 in damages for "private use infringements" pursued by the copyright holders.

However, the penalty could rise to up to $20,000 in damages if a consumer hacked a digital lock to make an illegal copy. That includes hacking the anti-copying mechanisms of a computer game to make illegal copies.

Suppose you want a certain movie on your iPod, to watch during a long plane trip. And suppose it is available on DVD, but not through iTunes because Canada sucks that way. You have two options: get the DVD and convert it, or download it. Now suppose you like the people who made the movie and want them to get rich from the movie, so you purchase the DVD through perfectly legal commercial channels. You then remove the copy protection, rip the movie, and put it on your iPod. Guess what? You've just broken the law, and are liable to a fine of up to $20,000. However, if you had simply gone to your favourite torrent site and downloaded the movie, you would be liable to a fine of up to only $500.

The situation in which a person would ever find themselves circumventing copy protection is if they have a legally-purchased commercial copy of the product in hand. If you make the fine exponentially higher for an act you can do only with a legally-purchased copy (and would have to do as part of the perfectly-legal act of converting content you own for a device you own), then the more enforceable you make the law, the more people will be encouraged to download a bootlegged copy and be liable to a much smaller fine.

Open Letter to women who are wondering if their boyfriends will ever change their mind and want to have children

Dear R who wrote in to Cary Tennis and lady who wrote into Claudia Dey:

My first thought was to implore you, speaking as a childfree 27-year-old (who was recently a childfree 26-year-old), to take your boyfriends at their word.

However, I quickly realized that if you aren't going to listen to a 27-year-old whom you like well enough to date, you clearly aren't going to listen to a 27-year-old stranger.

So instead, I'll give you a little piste de réflexion. Just think about this, quietly and to yourself, at your leisure, and see what you come up with:

If you were dating a 27/26-year-old man who said he does want children eventually, would you assume that in his youthful folly he doesn't know what he's talking about and may yet change his mind?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Open Letter to Elizabeth Patterson

Dear Elizabeth:

You can't expedite your wedding in the hope that your grandfather will still be alive for it, because there's something more important. Your first priority when setting a date for your wedding needs to be that Françoise is prepared for the major life change of having a stepmother in the household.

Having your grandfather there for your wedding day is nice, but his presence at one important day isn't nearly as important as a smooth transition for Françoise, who is not only the most innocent party in this whole situation, but is also the one person who will be most affected by it.

Does everyone know how immigration works?

Sometimes I read about immigrant parents who aren't happy that their kids are assimilating into the new culture, or I read about how there are parenting courses specifically for immigrant parents to deal with this, and I always wonder "Didn't they see this coming?"

I just occurred to me: maybe they didn't see this coming?

I think it's obvious to us here in North America. We all know first generation immigrants, and most of us know exactly when our families came over. We all know that the first generation will work jobs below their education level and always speak with an accent, we all know the second generation will overachieve and assimilate more than their parents are comfortable with and serve as the family interpreters, we all know that the third generation will never be fluent in the mother tongue (unless they're language geeks) and rebel slightly against their parents' work ethic and reach the family's maximum assimilation threshold by adulthood. This is so obvious to us that it doesn't even bear mentioning.

But do people know this in countries that don't have a tradition of receiving immigrants? Or are they going into this situation with no idea of what to expect?

I don't know the answer. I'm second generation myself (second-and-a-half if you count that way) so I have no frame of reference. Maybe it's a stupid question, maybe it's an insulting question, but I'm completely ignorant here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bad headline (sub-headline, actually)

Most brides-to-be and their parents say asking for her hand in marriage shows respect.

It doesn't say anywhere in the article that most brides-to-be think this. It says that 47%-50% of grooms (surveyed by a wedding magazine, which means it probably skews more traditional than the general population) did ask for their prospective bride's father's permission, but there's nothing statistical. about what brides-to-be and their parents think of this. It goes on to say, non-statistically, that this reflects that my generation is allegedly more traditional than previous generations and citing the fact that 69% of brides take their husband's name (aside: isn't it inappropriate to publish something so heterocentric on the fifth anniversary of same-sex marriage?), but I don't think the two things are related, because I would take or append my husband's name for exactly the same reason that I would be offended if he asked my parents for my hand in marriage.

But the reason why this headline worries me is because I'm afraid it will make people think that asking your intended's parents for permission is de rigueur. But the fact of the matter is it isn't a neutral act. For people who don't like it, it's downright insulting. A lot of people work very hard and go through a lot of angst to assert their independence from their parents, and the last thing they need is to suddenly be treated once again like an incompetent chattel of their parents by the one person they love most in the world. For me, this might even be a dealbreaker. Intellectually I'd probably be able to see that it's just a well-intended fuck-up, but emotionally I don't know if I could stand to share a bed with someone who would think even for a minute that my parents would have a say in something so personal. To say nothing of what its implications for the balance of power within the relationship! I don't get to make my own decision about marriage on my own authority but my spouse does? That's so...Taliban!

So, to people who are considering proposing marriage: do not do not DO NOT ask your intended's parents for their hand in marriage unless you are absolutely 100% without a doubt certain that your intended actively wants you to do so. Err on the side of treating your intended with the respect they deserve as an autonomous human being. You can always ask their parents afterwards.

To parents: if you can put your parental ego aside for a moment, you have a great opportunity to do some good here. If anyone ever asks you for your child's hand in marriage, tell them "No, I won't have my child marrying someone who doesn't realize she's an autonomous human being who gets to make her own decisions." Then they will, of course, have to defy you and get married, but you will have given your child a vote of your confidence in their abilities as an independent adult, and the symbolism of the whole thing will be so much more powerful than the antiquated symbolism of asking the parents' permission and **shudder** giving away the bride.*

*Added bonus theory: the most symbolically appropriate person to give away the bride would be not her father, but her previous partner.

How to solve your stripper staffing problems

Apparently strip clubs are having trouble finding enough strippers (NSFW warning: photo of clothed-in-lingerie stripper in the context of a newspaper article) and they're trying to find immigration loopholes to work around the problem.

Here's a better idea: improve the working conditions, and you'll get way more applicants. A lot of people have at least considered the idea of stripping during times when money was tight, and a lot of people would do it for the right price. It doesn't even have to be straight-up money; change the working conditions to make it a Good Job.

For example, as I understand it, strippers are essentially working on commission. I've even heard of cases where they have to pay the strip club for the privilege of working there (sounds like a line from the Four Yorkshiremen but it's true), and then their earnings are whatever cash the patrons give them. So instead of this, pay them a salary, so they can depend on their income. Give them benefits - not just health and dental, but gym membership, clothing allowance, free laser hair removal. If you're worried about them sticking around too long until they're not hot any more, give them free tuition as a perk and set the salary levels at a point that would be a lot of money for someone with no post-secondary but nothing special for a white-collar professional position. Make doing lap dances optional - maybe pay dancers a bonus for doing lap dances, but still have a respectable salary level for just stage dancing. Kick out patrons who don't treat your workers with respect, even if they have a lot of money.

Then once you've done all this, advertise the fact that you're a fair trade strip club - there are prospective patrons to whom that would be a tipping point. Charge your patrons as much as it costs to do all this, and if the costs go way up you can market it as high-end.

There are plenty of people already in Canada who would be strippers for the right price and the right working conditions. Be brave and bold and innovative and revolutionize your industry.

Good communications

1. The entrance to the subway consists of about four doors all next to each other, all interchangable. One door is out of order. The sign says "Out of order. Please use other door. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

I love that "may have caused"! They're subtly putting the inconvenience not only in the hypothetical, but in the past. There's a bunch of other doors, you use one of them, the inconvenience is over! I must remember that trick!

2. There's this clothing repair place I go to for sewing that's too difficult or important to do myself but can't wait until I next visit my mother. The proprietor is a very large and intimidating-looking man, and he always addresses me as "my friend." Never "ma'am" or "miss", always "my friend". That's a very masculine form of address without being explicitly masculine - if you extrapolate from his accent and appearance to fill in the blanks about his history with stereotypes, you can totally see him in a market in the Old Country addressing some man with a beard as "my friend" while haggling with him for a purchase. And that's actually a good thing to do in his position, because if I went to him for alterations our interaction would become far more intimate - he'd have to stick pins in me and scrutinize how clothing drapes over my curves. Addressing me as "my friend" is an indicator that he sees me as a pants-wearing equal, which helps the balance of power and professionalizes our relationship should it ever involve his manipulating the fit of my pants. (It hasn't completely worked - I'm too shy to have any stranger of any gender put darts in my pants so I save those jobs for my mother - but I can see what he's trying to do and appreciate the cleverness of the strategy.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Happy anniversary!

Tomorrow (June 10) is the 5th anniversary of same-sex marriage in Ontario.

The traditional 5th anniversary gift is wood.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Whenever I give the cashier one cent more than the total cost of my purchase, I feel stupid standing there with my hand out waiting for one cent in change. So my first thought is that I should say "Keep the penny," like my customers did to me when I was a cashier. But that seems a bit condescending, magnamiously offering the prole the penny as though it's such a gift to them (even though I didn't mind it when I was a cashier). So then I started saying "I don't want the penny," as though I'm just some demanding eccentric instead of an upper-class twit who thinks a penny is important to a cashier. But that seemed to assholic, so now what I'm doing is saying "I don't want the penny" with an apologetic smile, as though the cashier is doing me a kind favour by keeping the penny. We'll see if I find something wrong with that approach in a few weeks.

How did the Bridge of Death get there in the first place?

Gratuitous Python in service of a serious question:

Bridges like the Bridge of Death (I don't know what that kind of bridge is called - I keep thinking suspension bridge but that's like the Golden Gate Bridge) are a mainstay of the historical adventure/fantasy genre.

But how would they build a bridge like that in the first place? How do they attach it to both ends when there's no way to get across in the first place?

Try going to US websites

The past couple of days, I've been able to get at US websites that I can't normally get at. I've been asking around, and some people can and some people can't. I don't see any pattern to it (and I'm infuriatingly not posting details in the hope of keeping the issue nongoogleable).

At any rate, it's worth trying to get to US websites that you can't normally get to, just in case you can right now.

If you post a comment on this, please do NOT include any keywords like names of websites or ISPs. I think this will last longer if it stays ungoogleable.

I wish I could do this

Melissa Etheridge covers Piece of My Heart with just one voice and just one guitar, and fills up the whole room so much that you can't imagine why anyone would ever need a band or backup singers.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I don't need my newspapers covered in bees, thank you very much

Everyone should read this article. It is good and important and informative and it is very important for everyone to know the facts contained in it if they don't already.

Unfortunately, I couldn't read it in the print version because the Star chose to illustrate it with pictures of bees to illustrate the bee sting metaphor. For some reason bees don't bother me as much as crawly things, but these were really zoomed-in pictures of bees, where you could see all their grotesque insecty characteristics, the hairs on their legs and everything.

Insects are one of the most common phobias, and even the vast majority of non-phobic people would rather not see a bug than see a bug. The bees may be attention-getting for someone skimming the newspaper, but they do nothing to make people want to stay on the page and read the article, and will even drive some people away from the article.

I sought out the article on the website (at the risk of seeing more grotesque pictures there - but luckily there aren't any) because I agree with the thesis as gleaned from the headline and wanted to see what else they have to say. But people who don't agree with the thesis aren't going to seek out the article online, and if the grotesque bee pictures drive them away they're not going to learn these important facts.

Dear Toronto Star: please be more mindful in the future.

Things They Should Invent: light-reflecting antiperspirant

If your armpit hair is dark, it's impossible to maintain that "There has never been hair here, at all, ever" look all day long, even if you start the day with a perfect shave. But other hair removal methods (waxing, electrolysis, laser hair removal) are time-consuming and expensive and take planning because you have to grow your hair out some before you can get it done, so it's a bit much for people really just need their armpits to look good a few times a year, if they're going out and want to look especially good while wearing something sleeveless. Makeup isn't really an option in hot weather either, because you're going to sweat it off.

What we need for these circumstances is a light-reflecting antiperspirant. It should work like regular anti-perspirant, but contain something light-reflecting, like Touche Eclat and Revlon Skinlights and Olay Definity Illuminator do. Then you can give yourself a good close shave in the morning shower, apply the antiperspirant, and the light-reflecting function will counteract the five o'clock shadow effect, keeping your armpits looking smoother all day.

Did they ever actually ban pictures of soldiers' coffins?

In 2006, there was talk of banning the media from covering the repatriation of soldiers' bodies. The reason given at the time was that it was for the privacy of the bereaved, which I thought was strange because I'd only ever seen pictures of the coffins, not pictures of the bereaved. But I thought that ban did go through (and in 2006 I blogged as though the ban had gone through).

But in today's Star, there were pictures of the bereaved. And now that I think about it, we have been seeing pictures of the bereaved for quite a while, as well as pictures of the coffins being carried by other soldiers.

So did that ban not go through, or what? I thought it did, I can't google up any evidence that it didn't (although I am getting a lot of interference from websites discussing the similar US ban, even when I use Canada as a keyword and try to restrict my results to Canadian sites) or that it was rescinded. So what's up with that? And when did they start printing pictures of the bereaved instead of just the coffins?

Open Letter to the strange men in the elevator


Let's review our little interaction from my perspective, shall we?

I get in the elevator. There are three people there (you two and the older lady with the awesome shoes) and one button pressed, for one of the lower floors. I press the button for my floor, which is one of the higher floors. The doors close and the elevator proceeds to the lower floor. The lady with the awesome shoes gets off, but you two don't move. The door closes.

So now I'm trapped in the elevator with two strange men who, as far as I can tell, are following me. The only floor that was pressed before I got on had come and gone, and you two didn't give the slightest sign that you cared, or press a button for another floor, or anything. And, come to think of it, you were awfully quick on the door close button after the lady with the awesome shoes got off. And you're also positioned in such a way that I will HAVE to get off first, and there's no way to change this choreography. And I don't even have my phone on me because I just ran down to the mailroom. (In retrospect, perhaps I could have pressed a button for an earlier floor and gotten off sooner, but I didn't think of that at the time.)

So what can I do now? I look at you, so I can give your description to the police if I ever get out of this alive. And I make my look a glare, because I'm certainly not going to give a positive or neutral expression to the two strange men who seem to be following me! I try to emote the most fuck-off vibes I can possibly emote, and I try to discreetly arrange my keys in my hand so my apartment key is right there between my thumb and my forefinger ready to open the apartment door, and all the other keys are in between my fingers to reinforce the first punch I expect to have to throw. (Gift of Fear told me not to do this because apparently it shows the potential attacker that you're scared or something, I forget the exact details, but I have to get the apartment key ready anyway and it's not like I have a lot of options at this point.) Meanwhile, I'm mentally debating whether I should get to my apartment as quickly as possible so I can get a locked door between us and access to a phone and some things I might be able to use as weapons, or whether I should fake going the other way so you don't find out where I live. The doors open on my floor. I decide to go for my apartment. I stride brusquely out of the elevator and down the hall, glad for once to have inherited my parents' fast-walking genes. As I turn to put my key in the door, I glare in your general direction again to see what you're up to, and breathe a sigh of relief when I see you at the door to another apartment on my floor, unlocking it properly with a proper key.

So yeah, in conclusion, the "What a bitch!" that one of you uttered just before your door closed was perhaps less called-for than you thought.

I wonder how long standups comics can get away with being just interesting for?

I'm watching a standup comic who isn't especially funny, but what she's talking about is rather interesting. So I'm not laughing, but I don't mind listening.

I wonder how long a comedian can get away with that for?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Do cap sleeves look good on anyone?

Cap sleeves make my arms look fat and my shoulders look round and schlumpy. IRL, my arms range between nondescript and skinny, and my shoulders are narrow and bony.

I recently saw someone who I know has mad crazy arm muscles because of the sport she does wearing cap sleeves, and they had the same effect on her.

Do they look good on anyone?

I appreciate them in theory, because then I don't have to worry about getting a farmer tan or about how my armpits look, but regular short sleeved or sleeveless or strapped shirts area all exponentially more flattering on the arms.

Things They Should Invent: contents insurance that comes with a personal shopper

You can get insurance for your home that will give you enough money to replace any possessions that are lost or damaged in a disaster. But for me, the money's just a minor annoyance. The real annoyance would be doing all the shopping to replace absolutely everything.

They should have insurance where instead of giving you money, they give you a personal shopper who goes out and buys you brand new everything, to your specifications. And the specificness of your specifications can vary. So if you don't care about furniture you can say "Yeah, a kitchen table and four chairs, I don't care what kind." But since you're probably more picky about your own clothes, you can say "I want black pants that are comfortable and fit me well and make me look slimmer than I am and don't look lumpy under long shirts," and then the personal shopper has to do the legwork. You don't get any money from your insurance claims, but you do get your stuff replaced quickly and with minimal effort on your part.

I would totally pay extra for that!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Open Letter to greeting card shops

If, in addition to Father's Day cards for children to give their fathers, you also want to stock Father's Day cards for wives to give their husbands (phrased that way because that's how the cards were phrased), that's perfectly fine with me. I totally get that your business is to convince everyone in the world to buy cards for everyone in the world.

But would you mind terribly moving the wife-to-husband cards futher away from the child-to-father cards, so we don't wander into them by accident? It's really quite skeevy to be looking for a card for your father and suddenly land on something suggestive.

Things Google Should Invent: iGoogle as a separate concept from Google

Google seems to think of iGoogle as an alternate but equal interface for the regular Google homepage. But that's not how I use it. I use iGoogle to catch up on everything that happened when I wasn't on the internet. I visit it only once or twice a day - when I get home from work or when I wake up in the morning - see what's going on at a glance, and then get on with my life. The problem is, once I go to iGoogle, when I go back to Google I have the iGoogle interface and have to switch back to the classic interface when I need just search. I simply don't need my search engine to be a portal all the time, just once or twice a day is fine. It might be useful to me at work if we were allowed recreational surfing (back when we were less heavily monitored I would compulsively check stuff for updates, whereas iGoogle could do the checking for me and it would show up whenever I go to google something), but as it stands it would just sit there and tease me with things I really shouldn't click on. And when I'm on iGoogle, I don't even use the search function, at all, ever, because that's not what I'm there for.

I want iGoogle to be considered a separate function, like Google Reader is. I want it to have its own button on my Google toolbar, and not interfere with my ordinary Google homepage that I use when I just want to search. Portal and search are different functions. They are not interchangeable. That's why I left Altavista, that's why I left Yahoo. Google, I love you, but please learn from your predecessors' mistakes.

Puppy break

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


When puberty happened, I lost the ability to do push-ups. It had always been a struggle, but my pathetic upper-body strength just couldn't keep up with my growth spurt and changing shape. I struggle just to do knee push-ups when the exercise lady on TV has push-ups in the workout, and just one foot push-up is my physical limit. But it has become clear that the ability to do push-ups would address most of my upper-body flaws.

So I came out with a brilliant plan. I would start by doing one push-up the first day, then two the second day, etc. etc. adding one a day. If I started on June 1, I could be doing 100 by the end of the summer!

So on June 1 I did one push-up then felt good and virtuous for the rest of the day. On June 2, I did two, but the second wasn't nearly as easy as the first. One June 3, I did 3, and was really pushing my limit on the third. Today I tried 4, but I couldn't do more than 2! I had to take a break and then do the third, and then take another break and do the fourth. This is never going to work!

If you feel the need to mock or taunt me for not being able to do push-ups, you are free to do so, but only if you also explain to me why you think that would be productive. Many times in my life I have had people mock or taunt and judge me for not being able to do push-ups, and it seemed like they thought doing this was going to make me be able to do push-ups, so I'm interested in the logic behind that.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Early Ani Difranco is showing its age

From Shy:

I might go out to that phone booth
And leave a veiled invitation on your machine

Apart from the fact that it wouldn't be a phone booth because Ani would have a cell, it also wouldn't have to be a veiled invitation because the other girl (girl? I've always pictured it's a girl, but I don't think the song specifies) would have voicemail instead of a tape machine. And they'd probably just text anyway - isn't that now the standard medium for hook-ups?

My subconscious has a strange sense of humour

Warning: don't read this if you're squeamish about blood.

Last night I dreamed I was sitting in the blood room from Dexter with Eddie Izzard, chatting about arm hair removal. Eddie's hair removal technique was something entirely new to me, but it seemed like it would be just the thing for my own (IRL) problem arm hair. And we were sitting there on the floor having this whole girl-talky conversation, not caring at all that we were sitting in a giant pool of dead prostitute blood.

When I woke up I was menstruating heavily. By the time I got that sorted, I'd completely forgotten what the miraculous hair removal technique was.

Monday, June 02, 2008

How to make retirement homes not be like high school

I previously blogged that they need to make retirement homes not be like high school. I now have a couple of ideas on where to start.

I'm drawing on my university experience here. I lived and worked on campus in university, so I should have been getting the full impact of the institutional environment, but it didn't feel like high school to me. I've pinpointed a couple of reasons why: I could leave the campus whenever I wanted, and I didn't particularly need anyone on campus to be my friend.

The issue of leaving campus can be encapsulated in food. Most days, I would buy something in the campus cafeteria. However, I was also perfectly free to go anywhere in the city and buy any food I wanted, whether groceries or restaurant. No one would stop me and there were no limits on me except my own laziness and my own fear of running out of money. So because of this, I didn't feel trapped by the cafeteria's menu at all. I felt like I had complete freedom and full run of the city. This applies to everything else too. Because I could come and go as I pleased, I could take in a movie or a concert or go shopping or visit friends or whatever. Even though I only ended up leaving campus about once a week, I didn't feel trapped there at all because I could go wherever I wanted.

What this means for retirement homes is that they should be located in an area that has enough amenities and transit that the seniors feel like they can do whatever they want. A van that goes to the mall once a week isn't good enough. There should be grocery/drugstore/library/clothing/a couple of cafes within a walking distance that's feasible for the seniors, and transit to everywhere. The sense of being able to come and go as one pleases is very important. Looking at the seniors in my life, the thing that bugs them the most is having to depend on someone else to drive them. Making it so they aren't dependent on someone else to get around would seriously boost morale.

I didn't need anyone on campus to be my friend because I already had all the friends I needed. I needed to get along civilizedly with classmates and co-workers, but I didn't need them to actually like me because I already had mi cielito and Poodle and other people whom I haven't assigned a pseudonym yet. (If you want a pseudonym, pick your own and let me know.) This just left no room for petty drama to happen because it didn't have to be your social life at all, unlike high school where you were supposed to be able to find a best friend and a second-best friend and a group of friends and a appropriate range of kissing partners all from within the same pool of 800 students (and you were expected to have a friend in every class you were randomly assigned to take).

So to translate this for seniors, first they have to have the resources they need to maintain their outside relationships. Everyone should have a phone in their room and internet access. (No, most seniors today don't need it, but they will soon. Hands up everyone whose parents have email.) Second, retirement home life should be organized in a way that minimizes any requirement of spending time with any particular randomly-assigned person. For example, in the home profiled in the article, residents has assigned seating in the dining room, and everyone at at once. This means you have to get along with the other people assigned to your table or else Every. Single. Meal. is going to be miserable. Why not let them sit where they want? Why not serve dinner over a period of several hours during which people can come and go as they please? Why not give them the option of eating in their room? Everything in the retirement home should be organized this way, so people aren't forced to spend time together with specific any more than happens by random chance. Then if someone grates on you, you can just go about your lives separately without having to make nice at each other.

Seniors have to spend the rest of their lives there. They deserve better than to spend the rest of their lives in high school. Work on making them not beholden to the institutional nature of the environment.

Everything should work this way

I was talking to someone who is trying to conceive, and she said that they lied to us in sex ed by telling us that you can get pregnant at any time in your menstrual cycle, when in reality you have to be ovulating.

And that is perfectly true if you're trying to make a baby RIGHT NOW.

However, if you're trying to avoid pregnancy, you still essentially have to protect yourself every day of your cycle. Unless you're absolutely 100% certain you're not ovulating right now and any sperm will have left by the time you do ovulate, the rhythm method is useless.

This is actually a good way to have imperfect knowledge that doesn't grasp every nuance. You start by thinking you have to protect yourself every day, so you err on the side of caution and not making any humans who are going to be dependent on you. Then when you do want to have a baby, you have to learn more and do research and understand complicated things about body temperature and mucus consistency. If you mess up on this complicated stuff, you end up not having a baby. To deliberately make a baby, you have to set out to educate yourself on how to do so and get all these copmlicated techniques right. If you think you can have a baby by just stopping the pills without learning all the complicated ovulation science, you're less likely to end up with a baby.

Everything in the world should work this way! The base understanding of anything should lead people to err on the side of caution and of less risky outcomes, and you should need more knowledge and understanding to achieve the riskier outcomes.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

How can you tell an unregistered polygamous marriage from simple cheating?

The Star has an article about a family that was broken up when the wife ran off and eloped with another man even though they were still married. The Star makes this out to be a problem with Canada's polygamy laws, but I think really this is just a case of cheating. It's sad, of course. Emotionally devastating, in fact, and broke up a family. But if they didn't attempt to legally register a marriage, it isn't polygamy under the law. It's on the exact same legal footing as cheating. And, like it or not, cheating isn't illegal.

But the laws themselves do have their problems.

According to the Criminal Code, those who enter into a polygamous marriage, polygamous conjugal union, or officiate at a polygamous union can be charged with a criminal offence and face up to five years in prison. Even if the marriage is not registered, it is still considered a crime according to the law.

How would the law enforce that? By definition, a marriage that is not legally registered has no legal weight, so in the eyes of the law this is exactly the same as simply cheating on your spouse.

Here's what the Criminal Code says: (copy-pasted from The Star, not from the Criminal Code itself because I'm lazy)

(1) Everyone who:

(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or

(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Look at the part I've bolded. Doesn't that make a shared polyamorous household illegal? Like if you want to live in a great big poly orgy house, where everyone has sex with everyone else with everyone's knowledge and consent, that would be illegal under that paragraph, no? That doesn't seem right. If you want to move into a sharehouse and have sex with everyone there, that's not the law's business. It's the law's business if it decides not to grant all of you the full rights and privileges of marriage, but it can't stop you from all fucking each other.

But if you keep all your polygamous spouses in separate houses like Bill Hendrickson does, then you're fine, because a conjugal union other than legally-binding marriage has to be in the same household. There's no way legally to have a common-law spouse who lives in a different household, so if your polygamous spouse lives in at a different address and you haven't attempted a legally-binding marriage, there's nothing the law can do.

I think the problem is that what marriage laws are capable of doing is governing who can and can't get the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, but they aren't capable of stopping people from sleeping together or building households together.

So, unless the law is going to make cheating illegal (somehow I don't think the general public would stand for that), I'm thinking maybe the solution is to legalize fully consensual, non-coerced polygamy. The people being profiled in these articles seem to take marriage seriously because they are acting like they're married to their new partners rather than just running off and cheating. So make it so that everyone has to actively marry everyone else, like say wedding vows to everyone else. So if the Big Love family did this, Bill and Barbara would say wedding vows to each other, then Bill and Nikki would say vows to each other, then Barbara and Nikki would say vows to each other, then Bill and Margene, then Barbara and Margene, then Nikki and Margene. And they'd all sign the marriage certificate, and if any one person did not consent to any new union, that union could not happen. This practice would address the situation in the article and the situation they wrote about last week where this lady's husband married a second wife without informing her. They could throw in some kind of anti-coercion clause to address those cults and make sure everyone involved is fully informed and consensual. Polygamists clearly feel that they don't need to get a legally registered marriage because they feel polygamy is part of their religion and the law doesn't respect their religion. So if the law just calls their bluff and legalizes polygamy with the perfectly reasonable conditions of full knowledge and consent by everyone involved, then they will have to abide by these conditions since they do seem to value marriage.

I'm congenitally monogamous so I'm not about to actively lobby for this, but I fully expect it to become legal at some point within my lifetime. And I fully expect the last and loudest protesters to be employers and insurance companies who have to provide benefits to people's spouses.

I got nothing today

A pudu is an adorable little miniature deer. What could possibly be cuter?

A BABY pudu!