Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to get my organs

Dear Government of Ontario:

So you want my organs. Great, I want to give them to you! Here's a law you can pass to make sure that happens:

If you have clear consent from the prospective donor, don't require consent from the next of kin.

I have a health card, driver's licence, donor card and will all indicating that I want my organs donated. I also have some relatives who are kind of irrationally uncomfortable with organ donation and cannot necessarily be trusted to dispassionately carry out my wishes in their time of grief. Depending on the circumstances, these relatives may end up being my next of kin when I die.

Why give them the chance to veto my wishes to the detriment of the greater good? Why put some doctor in the position of having to talk them out of their irrational grief-fuelled preferences in order to carry out my wishes and serve the greater good?

There's going to be a lot of public opposition to presumed consent. I doubt there's be nearly as much public opposition to preventing people from overriding their loved-ones' clearly set out wishes.

Where exactly are you from with that dialect anyway?

Lacey on Corner Gas says soda (instead of pop). But she also says Tranna (instead of Tor-on-to.)

Does that combination of markers even exist in any known dialect? Any Canadian who's had enough US influence on their dialect that they're going to say soda to a bunch of hosers in Saskatchewan is NOT going to say Tranna.

The only possible explanation is an American upbringing, followed by a move to Toronto in late adolescence/early adulthood (giving her enough time living in TO to start calling it Tranna, but not feeling any peer pressure to stop saying soda). But if Lacey were USian, I'm quite certain we would have heard about it on camera. At the very least Oscar would have complained at some point.


I want half a million dollars next time someone makes lewd comments about me!

Actually, if the payout were automatic every time you get lewd comments, I think most people could support themselves that way. Just walk around, go about life, and every once in a while you run into some dickhead and get half a million dollars. It wouldn't even need to happen that many times to get you set for life.

Reminder: how to boycott the olympics on the internet

With the olympics starting to make the front page, I thought I should post a reminder.

If you feel like you should be boycotting the olympics but can't manage a full boycott, here's how to boycott them on the internet.

Quote of the day

"it's unusual for dogs to care for tiger cubs, but it does happen."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wherein I become one of those boring people who talk about muscles

1. My previous miracle fitness discovery was to put the newspaper on the floor and read it while I do push-ups. I've made another discovery: bustle around all evening getting things done and finally get everything done and get into your pyjamas and you're about to go to bed and then remember that you haven't done your pushups for the day yet and have an argument with yourself ("But I'm in my jammies and my bed is so comfy!" "But I've been making progress and don't want to lose momentum now!") and then put a book on the floor (because you've read the newspapers already) and decide to just get the fucker over with real quick so you can go to bed without guilt.

My personal best set - of the day and of my lifetime - was 23 in a row. (Despite all this, my arms still look the same and I haven't noticed any improved strength or anything IRL.)

2. There's this Tide commercial where this overly-perky lady gets way too enthusiastic about washing the tablecloth. I always noticed that she has mad crazy arm muscles, moreso than you usually see on TV commercial actresses, and seems to be dressed to show them off. I thought this was interesting because to have arm muscles like that she'd have to put in mad crazy gym time, which would peg her this really driven goal-oriented GO GO GO type of person, which is entirely consistent with the character. So I thought it was really clever casting to find an actress for whom these minor details of her physique epitomized the character, even though it's just for 30-second detergent commercial.

Then I found out that it isn't some anonymous actress from central casting in the commercial, it's Kelly Ripa, who was cast because she's a celebrity (apparently she's on some talk show or something with this other chap who's been in one or two other things?), not because her look perfectly epitomizes the character.

Make your own microloans

In case you haven't heard of it yet, Kiva is a site where you, yes you personally, can provide microloans directly to entrepreneurs.

The Toronto Star has an article about it.

Remember 0.7%? Run the numbers on that, then go to Kiva and take a look around.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things They Should Invent: ask the commenters on ratings sites questions

My regular doctor is on a long-term leave of absence, I don't know why, and I have mixed feelings about the doctor who's replacing her. And I'm going to need to get my prescription renewed within the next three months. So I was looking up the replacement doctor on, and someone said that he's a bad doctor for women's health issues, and that he prescribed her (presumably it's a woman) unnecessary treatments. Now when I read bad at women's health, my first concern is whether I'll have difficulty extracting birth control pills from him. Other commenters have described him as a bit judgemental (and he administered my last Gardasil and seemed a bit judgy about it, despite the fact that I had already discussed it extensively with my own doctor and had already started the treatment), so this makes me worried that I might have to jump through hoops to get my pills. But the same commenter (and others) also suggested that perhaps he overprescribes, which is a good thing for me since what I want is a prescription. Plus in my googling I found him on a website of health care providers for people with HIV/AIDS, and it seems to me that a doctor who would advertise/allow himself to be advertised to people with HIV/AIDS wouldn't be the kind of person who would give someone shit for a routine birth control prescription.

So I really wish I could ask some of these commenters to elaborate on how, exactly, they think he isn't a good doctor for women's health issues. If they don't like how he's treating their menopause or infertility, or if he's quick to prescribe oral contraceptives for endometriosis or something, then at least I'd know I don't have to worry. But if other people have had trouble extracting pills from him, I'd like to know so I can make a backup plan. (My backup plan for if my regular doctor ever mentioned "Hey, you know, you've been on the pill a long time, that's not always a good thing" was to say "All right then, let's talk about Essure" but that might not work as well on a judgemental male doctor who's not good with women's health issues.)

Also, I recently saw an article somewhere suggesting that pharmacists should be allowed to prescribe in simple cases. I would love that! (Or nurses, or nurse practitioners.) The vast majority of my doctor's appointments in my adult life have been about the pill, and it's almost always routine. (And when I've wanted to switch pills, they look stuff up in a book before writing the prescription anyway.) My doctor also has patients with chronic conditions and complicated pregnancies and sicknesses that want immediate attention and degenerative disabilities and, presumably, HIV/AIDS. Is it really necessary to take up an appointment slot for "Everything's fine, blood pressure's decent, more pills please"?

Casting my playlist

I've decided that the person Blue October is singing to in Hate Me is the same person Ani DiFranco is singing about in Fixing Her Hair.

How to test Cuil

Cuil is clearly having teething troubles so I haven't been able to test it, but here are the things to search for when you're testing it.

1. Reproduce the last search where you were actively impressed by Google's results. A while back someone told me about someone they know who lives in Toronto and has two very disparate and very cool jobs. Googling the names of the two jobs with the word Toronto returned the exact person they were telling me about as the first result. Can Cuil compete?

2. Search for something you can't find with Google. I can't find a torrent of the 1973 movie soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar. I can't find certain people from high school I've tried to look up. I can't find the French lyrics to the Log Driver's Waltz. Can Cuil do better?

3. Search for some random article or website you read once. I once read a very good Miss Manners column where she lays a smackdown on a LW for attempting to fix up a friend (whose late husband was blind) with another blind man, despite the fact that the friend had quite specifically asked not to be fixed up. It was the first Google result for the keywords miss manners blind date, which was also the first keyword combination I tried. Can Cuil compete?

4. Search for the sort of thing you mindlessly google as part of everyday web surfing. I find legislation by googling its title, not by navigating I go to the smog alert site by googling ontario air quality. I get to the Jeopardy website forum by googling Jeopardy boards. Would you have to change your navigation habits with Cuil?

The thing about aspiring to be a Google-killer is that you have to be not only as good as Google, but consistently and remarkably better. Remember when Google first came out in 98/99, how much startlingly better than the alternatives it was? You'd have to be at least that much better than Google to kill it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Things They Should Invent: parking space management companies (for urban condos)

Apparently it's really hard to sell a condo that doesn't come with a parking space, even in the city. But there are also lots of people in the city who don't have cars (and general urban and environmental planning wants more and more people to be carfree). So that leaves condo buyers in a dilemma: do they pay for a parking space that they're never going to use, or risk not being able to sell their condo when they have to?

Someone should start a company to fix this problem. The company would buy the parking space off the buyer at market value (no fuss, no haggling) and sign a contract under which they're obligated to sell it back to the buyer at market value upon request, and they're obligated to sell it back at market value to whomever buys the corresponding condo next. In return, the company is allowed to rent out the parking space and collect income from it in the interim.

That way the company gets to make some money by renting and flipping property, and the condo owner doesn't have to dump money into buying this parking space they're never going to use, instead being able to dedicate the money to buying more condo or paying off their mortgage faster.

Yes, the condo owner could rent the space out themselves, but not everyone wants to spend time and effort finding a tenant and making sure they pay rent etc.

Why I want trans fats to be banned

People who oppose banning trans fats say that people should have the right to make their own choices to eat what they want.

That's exactly why I want them ban trans fats, so I can eat what I want.

I want to eat donuts. I don't want to eat trans fats. If they ban trans fats, donut-makers will be forced to find some alternative and I'll be able to enjoy donuts. If they don't ban trans fats, they'll keep making donuts with trans fats.

Alternative: allow products with trans fats to be sold ONLY if similar products without trans fats are sold alongside.

Fun fact

Assuming TranSearch's search engine is accurate and limiting myself to English-language searches because of interference from various conjugations of dire, the verb "to dis" has been used once in the House of Commons, zero times in the Senate, and zero times in Canadian courts.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How to advertise hardcore lipstick

You know how sometimes they advertise lipstick by promoting the fact that it won't kiss off?

Here's what to do: get two people, have one wear bright fire-engine red lipstic, have the other wear pale pinkish nude lipstick. Have them snog for the duration of the commercial. Then at the end of the commercial they stop snogging and you see that the lipstick hasn't budged at all. (If it does, in fact, work as well as they want us to believe it works.)

Why I wear heels

Antonia Zerbisias asks why we wear heels.

So why do women, who now run companies, wear shoes that they can't run in?

I can run in them actually, in a sort of mincing tripping way. But I don't want to run. I don't like running. It's not fun and it's not dignified. If I ran a company, I would certainly see to it that there's someone to do any necessary running for me. Not being able to run in my shoes is just as much of a problem as not being able to scale an ice cliff in them.

But I'll tell you why I wear them.

Because I like being six feet tall and having every step I take click authoritatively. Because I like asserting my adulthood by wearing things that are grownup. Because I feel kick-ass when I move furniture or carry eight bags of groceries or physically wrestle with the giant printer at work while dressed girly. Because when I was a kid my parents would rarely let me dress girly on the basis that it's impractical, so now I'm making up for lost time and asserting my independence.

But it's mostly because whenever I succeed at looking feminine, it's a victory. My internal gender identity is very femme - the more I think about it, the more I'm surprised by just how femme it is - but my genetics aren't so very. I'm hairy and oozy and smelly with loud bodily functions. I've never been dainty or petite. I walk too fast and say the wrong thing and move clumsily and speak with a harsh voice. I've never been swept off my feet by a lover because I've always been too big and heavy. I learned the truth at seventeen; I'm simply not destined to ever be pretty.

And then, as I entered my 20s, I started to figure out how to make myself pretty. I slowly figured out how to make the makeup work. I slowly figured out how to put together clothes that are actually flattering to my body (part of which is wearing heels) rather than just being funky clothes in and of themselves. I discovered the virtues of underwires. I came up with a trick or two to do with my hair. I got a decent pair of glasses, then a better pair of glasses. And every so often, when the stars and the laundry cycle and my hair's free will all align correctly, I look like a woman! Something that should be just a small pleasure but one I figured would always be denied to me, I now achieve on a regular basis. I totally win!!! And as I strut down the street, heels tapping, hemline swinging, hair bouncing, face perfectly made up, I am declaring victory.

The heels are a part of that. I can wear whatever I want - I have a few pairs of flats and a good pair of athletic shoes and my job has no dress code - but most days walking down the street declaring victory is far more appealing than walking down the street marginally faster and more comfortably.

Things They Should Invent: seasonal storage for the homeless

A lot of my local homeless people wear coats, even in the summer, even during heat alerts. I assume this is because they need their coats in the winter, but they have nowhere to put them in the summer.

Can't we do something about that? Yeah, I know, ideally we should be ending all homelessness at all ever, but we clearly haven't worked that out yet. So until we do, can't we just give them somewhere safe to put their coats so they don't have to lug them around for months?

Things They Should Invent: birth control pills that cause your sex drive to wax and wane over the day

Birth control pills can affect the user's sex drive. Depending on how the hormone levels in the pill interact with your body's natural hormone levels, they can cause your sex drive to increase or decrease, both of which can be either convenient or inconvenient, depending on your situation.

But sometimes having the same sex drive 24 hours a day is inconvenient too. A high sex drive is fun when you're at home with your partner, but inconvenient when you're at work (and vice versa). Unfortunately, the way current pills work is they give you the same sex drive the whole time you're taking that particular hormone level, so it's the same for a week or three weeks or all the time depending on the kind of pill and how you're using them.

To address this, they should come up with a pill that gives your sex drive a peak and valley. They tell you on the package that your sex drive will peak X hours after you've taken the pill and bottom out Y hours afterwards, and you can time your doses accordingly so that you peak when you're home with your partner and valley when you're at work.

These wouldn't be intended to replace existing pills - you wouldn't want to lose the option of being ON for your whole honeymoon, or killing your sex drive to keep yourself for doing anything foolish after a devastating breakup. I'd just like them to exist as another option.

(Also, I wish doctors were a bit more open to patients swapping around through different pills to game the side effects in our favour. If you know from firsthand experience that a certain pill has a certain effect on your sex drive (or your acne or your weight or whatever) and you want that effect for whatever reason, I don't think you should have to go through the Spanish Inquisition with your doctor.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's PMS week, that explains everything

Yesterday I got all pissed off because someone was wrong on the internet. Today I'm getting all pissed off that random people aren't taking into account things that I've already diligently and thoroughly explained in my blog.

Yes, this blog, read by like five people, written by me with all my stellar credentials of is...yeah.

I think during PMS week I shouldn't be allowed to do anything on the internet except look at cute puppies, watch funny youtubes, and read good fanfiction (but only good fanfiction because bad fanfiction pisses me off too.)


Yes, I'm still up. Because someone is wrong on the internet!

I'm kind of frustrated. In a community I lurk in (but don't post in because the people there are so smart and cool they're eons out of my league) someone posted something that's wrong - the kind of wrong that Snopes would normally debunk, but Snopes hasn't touched it yet. And they're planning to take action based on it.

I know this thing is wrong from knowledge that I happen to have but have no formal training in, combined with critical thinking, but I'd need to make a big massive long cited essay to prove it to someone with whom I have no particular credibility. And that's not exactly the politest way to delurk, especially not in a community full of people who are way smarter and cooler than me.

It's just very frustrating seeing a normally very smart person be misled like this, and watching other similarly smart people be similarly misled on the basis of the first person's usual credibility, and I just can't come up with any way to swoop in and announce that a credible regular who's normally way smarter than me is just wrong wrong wrong.

My kingdom for a Snopes link.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things They Should Invent: secular penance

In the Catholic church, you confess your sins to the priest, he gives you penance (usually prayers to say), and then you are absolved.

There should be something similar IRL. If you've done something you feel guilty for (something that you can't just undo), you go to some authorized absolver, they assign you a suitable penance that's commensurate with your misdeed, and once you have completed your penance you are officially absolved and don't have to feel guilty for it any more.

However, unlike church penance, you get to decide which things you think you need to do penance for, rather than having it imposed on you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things They Should Invent: unrespectively

Respectively is a useful word. Toronto and Quebec City are the capitals of Ontario and Quebec, respectively.

But you can't always get things to come out in the respective order. Sometimes when you're talking verbally and unscriptedly, things come out in a less organized order. Sometimes when you're constructing a complex sentence, it would be less unwieldly (more wieldly? wieldlier?) to put things in a different order.

So Toronto and Quebec City are the capitals of Quebec and Ontario, unrespectively. (This sentence doesn't demonstrate the need, but I forget the context where I first realized the need.)

Alternative coinage: disrespectively

This is awesome (like 47,013 hot dogs)

Language Log discusses British attempts at American accents.

In the comments, a number of people (who I assume are British speakers of non-rhotic dialects) discuss how you know where to pronounce the rhotic R in American dialects. It takes several comments before they establish that you pronounce the R where a letter R is written. Then they briefly hypothesize on WHY American dialects would do such a thing.

That completely blew my mind! I'm familiar with the concept of non-rhotic R and I've been exposed to a reasonable variety of British accents, but I never consciously realized that their pronunciation of R does not directly correlate with the presence of a written R! In my dialect, R is one of the few reliable letters that is always and consistently pronounced as written. (Unless, of course, you can think of some exceptions that I'm blind to, although R is one of the phonemes I had speech therapy for so I am more aware of it than I am of the average phoneme.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The mother who drew a swastika on her child

There was a story a couple weeks ago about a woman who drew a swastika on her 7ish-year-old child's arm and then sent the child off to school that way.

I just wanted to point out one little thing about this story. I don't know if it's meaningful given the larger context, but it is a weird thing: she drew on her child! That's WEIRD! Parents don't usually draw on their children. It doesn't make much difference here because of the net weirdness of the story already, but in any other context people would be going "You DREW on your CHILD? WTF?"

The internet is a thing of beauty

Wikipedia has an article on inherently funny words. This article falls within the scope of WikiProject Philosophy. And contains a warning thingy that this page may contain original research or unverified claims.

I am SO GLAD that I was born at a time where I get to enjoy the internet!

The problem with the mosquito tone

So this place in BC is playing this really high-pitched noise to keep Kids Today from loitering around. Apparently only people under 25 are supposed to be able to hear this noise because you lose the top part of your hearing range as you age.

There's a sample of the noise here. Can you hear it? How old are you?

Now even if this is a reasonable and justifiable means to keep Kids Today from loitering around, there's still a couple of major problems:

1. I'm 27, I can hear it, and it HURTS! It isn't just unpleasant, it's painful, like fingernails a blackboard. My whole body tenses up, my blood pressure skyrockets, and I get a tinge of nausea. You could torture me with this noise. The oldest person I've tested it on who could hear it was 31 at the time, and it hurt for him too. So if we can hear it and it HURTS us, how many other people outside the target demographic would be adversely affected as well? Not just being able to hear it, but it being painful. I listened to it for just a couple of seconds about 10 minutes ago (to make sure I can still hear it because I last tested it a year ago), and I still haven't gone back to neutral - I'm still a bit tense and feeling the remnants of that tinge of nausea. I'm not sure whether it's equally painful for younger people - I'd imagine if it hurts kids like it hurts me some parents would have complained by now - but what if it's more unpleasant for adults than for the kids who are the target? I've got half a dozen respectable adults with important jobs and disposable income and yuppie tendencies and all kinds of traits that you want in your downtown area, all of whom are going "OMG it HURTS!"

2. How do you know the only people who will hear it are loiterers? What if there are homes in the area? Apartments above the bars? People who are at work and trying to do their job? Parents who can't hear it with kids who can hear it in tow? What if animals can hear it? Does it hurt them? (I haven't been able to get anyone to test it on pets, probably because I keep introducing the subject with "OMG this hurts me! Does it hurt you? Now test it on your pet!") I don't think keeping loiterers away is worth subjecting area residents and nightclub employees who are trying to close up and the people working the Tim Horton's next door and local taxi drivers and other people who are in the area for perfectly legitimate reasons to all the hurtiness.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

If you want to get people out of cars, target well-dressed women

The key to getting people out of cars and into transit or on foot or onto bicycle lies in making the alternate modes of transportation easy and comfortable and workable for a person wearing a skirt and heels and carrying nothing but a handbag.

On a busy, mixed-use urban street, where all the storefronts open up right onto the sidewalk and most people walk from place to place within the neighbourhood, you wouldn't look twice at a woman in skirt and heels walking down the street. She's unremarkable and going about everyday life with no problems whatsoever. However in one of those "power centres" where you have a bunch of big box stores each surrounded by their own giant parking lot and no sidewalks to speak of, if you saw a woman in a skirt and heels walking in between stores you'd think she's planned poorly or is doing something foolish or something, perhaps briefly wondering if she's having car trouble or needs some help.

This is the make or break for getting people out of their cars. There are dozens of different factors involved, but essentially it comes down to whether a person would do the desired activity or mode of transportation in a skirt and heels, carrying nothing but a handbag. If they will, it will get people out of their cars. If they feel the need to carry a backpack or put on their New Balance or wear a wicking shirt, it isn't going to get people out of their cars. If they look strange and out of place in a skirt and heels, it isn't going to get people out of their cars.

In Amsterdam, it's perfectly normal to see women riding bicycles in whatever it is they happen to be wearing, a purse on their shoulder and their shopping in the bicycle basket. In Toronto, you'd be laughed off the street (and fined for not wearing a helmet). The key to getting more people in Toronto to bike lies in the difference that makes Torontonians wear special clothes to bike while people in Amsterdam wear whatever they happen to be wearing.

Margaret Wente once wrote a column where she took the TTC to work for a week. One thing she mentioned was that she had to wear sensible shoes and carry a backpack to do this. I found this incredibly bizarre, because I take the TTC to work every day and have no problems with wearing heels and carrying just my purse. But the key to getting more 416ers out of their cars and onto the TTC lies in the difference that makes Margaret Wente wear sensible shoes and carry a backpack while I don't hesitate to wear heels and carry just my purse.

There was a trend a few years back where everyone should try to walk over 10,000 steps (equal to about five miles) every day as a general public health thing. There was all kinds of advice (walk to the next bus stop! park at the far end of the parking lot! go for a nice lovely 30 minute walk after dinner!) I was recently given a pedometer, so I wore it a couple of days, and found that I consistently exceeded 10,000 just from normal life. Now I'm not huge on walking as a philosophy or principle. If you asked me if I want to go for a walk, my answer would be "Of course not!" but apparently I do five miles a day without even noticing (and I don't even have a dog!). So the key to getting people to walk more for health purposes lies in the difference between me walking five miles without noticing and other people having to make a specific effort and alter their lives to get their 10,000 steps in.

Conversely, the plastic bag ban people keep lobbying for could also end up being one of these make or break factors. The fact that stores provide bags every time your shop there makes it possible for you to do your shopping as one of many stops as you go about life carrying nothing but your purse. Grab your purse, leave the office, walk into the supermarket, do your shopping, walk home carrying your shopping with your purse over your shoulder. Effortless. But if you had to bring bags with you every time you shop, either carrying them around all day when you plan to shop after work or stopping in at home to pick up the bags then going back out to the store, you'd be more likely to take the car.

There are a lot of factors at play here, not all of which planners and policy-makers can address. One is the weather. I doubt people would bike as much in Amsterdam (regardless of what they're wearing) if their winters were like ours, or if their summers were as humid as our for that matter.

Related to weather, there's also the psychological aspect of being indoors. I'm sure the reason I managed to walk five miles without noticing is because a lot of it was indoors (around the office, around the mall). If you were at the West Edmonton Mall, I'm sure you'd walk to the other side rather than leaving the mall, getting into your car, and driving to the other side (unless you have real problems walking). But (the internet tells me) the West Edmonton Mall is 48 blocks. You wouldn't walk 48 blocks outdoors in the city, you'd go "OMG, 48 blocks! Too far!" and drive or take the bus or subway. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who has walked all the way from the Eaton Centre to Union Station completely by accident from getting lost in the PATH, even though if someone said "It's only three subway stations, let's walk," I'd totally reply with "THREE WHOLE SUBWAY STATIONS! I'm not walking that far!"

There's also the critical mass issue. If you're the only person walking down the street, you feel out of place and vulnerable no matter what you're wearing. (Because a bad guy can grab and abduct a pedestrian, but that's hard to do to someone in a car.) But if the street is crowded, your walking is unexceptional. There's also the convenience issue. If the parking lots are hard to get to, people are less likely to drive. But if you have to walk across an parking lot with no provisions for pedestrians just to get to the store, you're more likely to drive. There are all kinds of factors.

But the crux of the matter is this: when planning a way to get people out of their cars, think to yourself "Will people do this while wearing a skirt and heels and carrying nothing but a purse? Will they look out of place? Will they be uncomfortable or vulnerable? Would it be impractical?" Then solve whatever problems come up, eliminate any real or psychological barriers to doing the activity in question in skirt, heels, and a handbag, and you will be successful at getting people out of their cars.

Why is the subway called the subway?

The world's first subway (i.e. underground rapid transit) was in London. But they don't call it a subway at all in London. The call it the Underground or the Tube. (Someone once told me that the word "subway" in England refers to underground walking tunnels, but I don't feel confident enough in that factoid to present it as an unqualified declarative statement.)

So how did the subway get to be called the subway in North America? They speak English in London, what made them decide to NOT use the English word coined for the first-ever one and instead coin their own word?

I've already looked in the OED and it was unhelpful.

Wherein Porter is either a victim of its own success, or successfully self-policing (depending on how much they want my business)

I like Porter in theory. They seem convenient and I like their philosophy on paper. I don't travel much, but I always figured I'd use them if I ever go to Montreal (although I do have a soft spot for VIA 1) or NYC or anywhere else they fly. (Yeah, I know, OMG island airport, but frankly I live too far north to make myself care.)

But after reading this article in the Star, I don't dare ever fly with them.

"Moreover, that NY-Toronto run is a bit of a clique."


Linda Buckley, vice-president of public relations for Tiffany's, agrees. "It's a fashion airline," she says. "Every woman on my flight had the right haircut, the right jeans, the right rock."

Yeah, no, I don't belong there.

How to volumize your ponytail without looking like a polygamist

This is for people with flat straight hair. I have no idea what happens with other hair types.

1. Make a regular high, tight ponytail at the crown of your head, using a plain regular ouchless elastic. You can use any other kind of elastic too if you want, but it won't work with a scrunchie.

2. Slide the elastic about a centimetre down the ponytail.

3. Keeping the elastic in the same place in relation to your hair, push it back so it's against your scalp. This should make your hair poof up ever so slightly around the scalp. If it isn't poofy enough for your tastes, pull the elastic back further and repeat.

4. Pin the elastic to your scalp hair with a bobby pin. To do this, insert the pin from the back, around the elastic, so the elastic is in the U of the pin and the arms of the pin are in your scalp hair. If it won't hold, insert two pins diagonally at right angles to each other to form an X and they should hold each other.

Now your hair should be in a sleek ponytail, but not perfectly flat against your scalp. If the scalp hair underneath your ponytail is too poofy, just pull the corresponding ponytail hair through the elastic some more.

If these instructions are unclear, ask me questions and I'll edit them. I know it would do better with pictures, but my only camera is a phone and my hair and my bobby pins are the same colour, so all I can do is big black blobs.

Things I am currently wondering

1. Why don't we cough or sneeze in our sleep?

2. Do men who change their facial hair frequently always have the same facial hair in dreams as they do IRL? Or can it be anything? Is it possible to have a dream where you have facial hair that you've never had IRL? I suppose the same could hold for head hair for people who change their hairstyles frequently, but I find head hair rarely comes into play in dreams, whereas facial hair would come into play any time you're eating or kissing or having sex.

Colm Wilkinson

My Les Mis soundtrack has Colm Wilkinson playing Jean Valjean. My Phantom soundtrack has Colm Wilkinson playing the Phantom. He, of course, acquits himself admirably in both roles to say the least.

But now that I have both soundtracks on my ipod, it gets weird when they come up close to each other on the soundtrack. It's incredibly bizarre to hear the same person promsing Fantine on her deathbed that he'll take care of Cosette one minute, and threatening to kill Raoul the next minute.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

For your amusement, my bathroom neuroses

1. If the person in the stall next to me is peeing way more than I am (i.e. she's making a waterfall and I'm making a trickle) I feel guilty for taking up a stall when other people obviously need it way more than me.

2. Once upon a time, I saw someone on the internet mention that they hate it when long-haired women toss their hair around. Ever since then, I try to avoid fixing my hair (a very hair-tossing undertaking) when someone short-haired is in the bathroom. Or, if a short-haired woman walks in while I'm in the middle of doing my hair, I try to do it in a way that doesn't draw attention to the length.

3. If there are other people in the bathroom, none of whom are wearing makeup, I don't fix my makeup then because I feel weird taking up counter space for something the other people don't need to do because they feel secure enough in their skin. Even though there is enough room in the bathroom and non-makeup people do tend to say "Good on you for making an effort" rather than "I don't understand how anyone can waste their time smearing a bunch of goop on their face."

4. If I'm just sitting in a stall to decompress or whatever and someone else comes in and I'm not ready to leave the stall, I loudly open a maxi-pad. However, I also loudly open maxi-pads when I am in fact menstruating and sitting in a stall a long time to deal with heavy menstruation, so you'll never know which one it is on any given day.

Still not taking it for granted

Yesterday I was at work, telling a co-worker "Yeah, so I've finished my part of Big Scary Technical Text 1 and I'll be happy to discuss any quality or terminology or consistency issues in as much excruciating detail as necessary, and I expect to finish my part of Big Scary Technical Text 2 in draft by the end of today and read it over and finalize it on Monday." Then I realized, dude, I'm actually doing this! I'm translating these Big Scary Technical Texts! And competently! I'm working on a team of people and they're trusting my judgement and I actually have developed the necessary judgement and I'm like competently and authoritatively giving people ETAs and when a discrepency or an unclear meaning comes up I do the research and find a solution! I'm translating like a grownup and they're paying me accordingly! This is awesome!

Then in the shower this morning I realized, hey, this is MY shower in MY bathroom! And the whole apartment is mine! I can take however long I want in this shower and no one will care! The peaches that I bought will all be there when I get out of the shower (except for one that decided to spontaneously turn moldy, but I didn't know that then)! I slept 11 hours last night and no one interrupted me or cared or even knew! This is all my space and I can do whatever I want with it! This is awesome!

It's been five years, and every one in a while it's still exciting to me.

Test my Sitemeter please

If you're reading this through a feed, I'd really appreciate it if you could click through to the main blog for a second.

Now go to the very very bottom of the main page (just press the End button on your keyboard) and click on the little rainbow box at the very bottom.

1. Do you see site statistics?

Then, on the left, underneath "recent visitors", click on "By Details".

2. Is the most recent visit you?

Please post the answers in the comments. Anonymous posts are welcome if you don't want other visitors with too much time on their hands to associate your IP address with your usual username. You don't have to tell me what your real ISP is and what Sitemeter thinks your ISP is. Just is it correct or not.

Thank you! Real content later today, I promise (unless like I get hit by a bus or my internet service goes kerflooey or something).

Edited to add: Don't worry, the sitemeter isn't normally viewable by everyone. I just opened it up to test it. Thank you to the people who've given feedback already, but I'm still looking for more feedback - especially if the sitemeter ISN'T seeing you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are official languages inclusionary or exclusionary in other countries?

Language Log has been writing about how there are some people in the US who want to make English the official language of the country (currently it has no official languages).

This has been grating on me, and for the longest time I wasn't able to articulate why. After all, I earn my living through our official languages. I have more academic and professional knowledge of official languages policy than most people, and it's always struck me as completely benign and not especially worth worrying about. So if Canada's official languages policy seems so utterly harmless to me, why does this proposed US official languages policy give me a gut reaction of "OMG that is SO WRONG!!!!"? (Yes, I know, American policy is not my business at all, but my gut reactions aren't very good at sticking to their own jurisdiction.)

But reading Language Log's latest entry on this issue, I realized what the difference is. Official languages policy as I'm accustomed to it is a tool of inclusion. It's there so people can live in English or in French. It's in no way stopping people from doing other languages as well. Our legislation is just making sure that I can read the instructions on my cough syrup in English and do my taxes in English and get helped in English when I frantically call 1-800-O-CANADA because my wallet was stolen and I need to know how to replace all my ID. But you can still serve your deli customers in Polish, you can still provide TTC information in Tagalog, and you can still label your food products in Mandarin as long as the English and French are on there somewhere too. It's setting out a minimum standard that anyone is welcome to exceed.

But this proposed American policy would be (at least if some of the loudest people had their way) a tool of exclusion. Rather than making sure people would be able to live in English, it would be trying to prevent people from using other languages. It would be setting out a ceiling and preventing anyone from exceeding that standard.

I'm far too deeply immersed in Canada's official languages culture and in multilingualism in general to even make a nominal attempt at comparing how worthwhile these two opposing approaches are. I'm too accustomed to what I'm familiar with to evaluate it objectively. All I'm saying here is this explains why the idea seemed so viscerally wrong to me - because they would be using official languages policy to do the exact opposite of what I'm used to it doing.

This makes me wonder what the situation is like in other countries. Are other countries' official languages policies inclusionary, setting a minimum standard? Or are they exclusionary, creating a ceiling that you can't exceed?

That old cliche where a small child provides perspective

Today is one of those days where I'm afflicted by a thousand small miseries. My immune system's been too busy battling my cold/cough/sore throat thing so zits and muscle aches and contact dermatitis have been running rampant. My work is boring, my headphones are dying, my hair isn't nearly as gorgeous as I want it to be, and it's that time of year where the apples I like are out of season but the peaches haven't started yet. I'm grumpy.

Then, on the subway, I see a woman with two small children, aged maybe 2 and 3. Whenever the slightest thing is wrong with one of these children, the mother has to take care of it the kids can't do it themselves. A shoe is uncomfortable, a sweater is getting too warm, a drink of water is needed, the teddy bear would be happier sitting on the other side of the stroller - every time the mother has to handle it.

I got off the subway thinking warm happy thoughts about my quiet apartment and perfectly-administered Ortho Tri-Cyclen.

Free mashup bunny

In keeping with my habit of thinking of mashes that are thematically appropriate but musically incompatible:

Rockstar (Nickelback) vs. Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle (Cake)

I might possibly be the first person in human history with this problem

I got Icy Hot in my hair. As part of a bona fide attempt to use it as directed.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

So apparently Fannie Mae is a creative pronunciation of FNMA, which stands for Federal National Mortgage Association.

And Freddie Mac is a creative pronunciation of FHLMC, which stands for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Association.

Note to news media: you have to tell us this! After hearing a news item on the radio this morning, I was walking around all day thinking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the actual names of the things, and I was all "OMG, the Americans give their mortgage lenders hillbilly names!"

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dear Nyquil: WTF?

This box of Nyquil contained two blister packs. On the left of this photo you see the blister packs, on the right you see the now-empty box. This is the entire contents. I haven't taken any pills out yet. So what's up with the blank space at the centre of the top row of each blister pack? Why not put two more pills in each space? If it's OMG too much medication someone might OD or make drugs, why not put four doses in a blister pack instead and package the whole thing smaller? What is the purpose of this random blank space?

Patriarchy leads to bad sex

From Antonia Zerbisias:

Meanwhile, south of the border, the more progressive pundits blame the misogyny inherent in so many societies in Asia and the Middle East, where, according to the United Nations, some 5,000 women every year are executed by their fathers, brothers or other male relatives, supposedly to preserve the family's good name.

If it were funny, it would be ironic.

I mean, how do you restore your reputation if you go around strangling your daughters and sisters?

It's confounding how this works.

Conceivably, men in these societies are guilty of all kinds of crimes against their religion and their states, whether we're talking gambling or drinking, burglary or murder, and yet their families don't seem to feel the need to stab them or stone them to death.

Unless they're gay, of course.

So it seems like their real problem is with people sticking penises in their family members. At its most Freudian root, there are people with penises who think that having a penis stuck in you is the worst of all possible disses.

Now there are lots of places people who know stuff about psychology and sociology and gender theory could go with this idea, but I have no training in these areas and I'm currently doped up on cold medication, so I'm going to take the easy path:

Sex must really suck for people with this attitude.

Just think about it first hand for a second. Quietly and to yourself, think about the sex act that gives you the most direct physical pleasure. Now imagine if you thought this was inherently demeaning to your partner. Not just in a little-games-people-play-behind-closed-doors sort of way, but in a big serious permanent way that affects their entire worth as a person forever and ever.

That takes huge amounts of fun out of sex! Yeah, you still get the physical sensation of friction applied to the genitals, and it's not incompatible with certain kinks, but that's about it really. To take just one example, you know the feeling when your partner does some absolutely brilliant and ingenious feat of intelligence and creativity, and you just have to jump them? These people would never have that feeling! Must be a sad life, for all you get out of sex to be friction against the genitals.

Best (or worst) unlikely cover ever

I thought I was good at coming up with unlikely cross-genre covers. (Latest idea: opera cover of Piece of my Heart). But Jaymz Bee's got me beat. Video quality sucks, but it gets the idea across.

OMG PUPPY of the moment


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Things They Should Invent: driving schools for people who don't have a car to practise in

A while back, they found that driving school grads have more accidents than people who didn't go to driving school.

It occurs to me that this might be because all driving schools are based on the idea that the student is a teenager who can practise in their parents' car. (If you know of a driving school in Toronto that isn't based on this model, please let me know in the comments. I might need it someday.) A lot of people are, especially in more exurban areas, but not everyone falls into this category.

People who do have a car and an adult driver to practice with may go to driving school, or may just practise a lot and then take the test. But people who don't have an opportunity to practise will have to go to driving school to get even a little bit of practice in. Therefore, 100% of people who can't practise independently go to driving school, while less than 100% of people who can practise independently go to driving school.

What we need is a driving school program that does not assume students will have a chance to practise. They pick you up after school and work and take you driving every day for (1 month? 2 months? whatever's an appropriate amount of time) before your exam so you get enough practice time in with your driving instructor.

Things They Should Invent: hazardous waste pick-up day (in Toronto at least)

Hazardous waste (paint, batteries, etc.) you're supposed to drop of at depots for proper dispoal. Now electronics like computers and TVs you're also supposed to drop off at depots for proper disposal.

This is fine for car people, but unworkable (or at the very least a huge fucking inconvenience) for people who don't have a car. For environmental and congestion-control purposes, Toronto's supposed to be encouraging people to live carfree. Therefore, once or twice a year, the garbage collectors should pick up absolutely anything and see that it's disposed of properly. Don't put people who are living the socially-optimal carfree lifestyle in the position of being unable to properly dispose of all their household waste.

Why are all the BC feet wearing running shoes?

In yesterday's Star, there were pictures of all the shoes from the severed feet found on the coast of BC. (I can't find an online link to the pictures, but it's on page A20 of the July 11 Toronto Star.)

They're all wearing running shoes.

Why are they all wearing running shoes? And all proper athletic shoes, no chucks or skater shoes or anything.

You'd think, given the normal range of human behaviour, there'd be some sandals or some hiking boots in the mix.

This seems like a clue.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Is there sign language for "I've lost my voice"?

I have a really sore throat and it hurts to talk (and to whisper), so I was trying to get my errands done with as little talking as possible. It occurred to me that everyone in the world should learn the sign language for "Sorry, I've lost my voice." That would make things a lot easier.

Then I started wondering whether there IS sign language for such a thing. After all, people whose first language is Sign would never have to express that concept.

But it's really just a colourless green idea, isn't it? We can use English to express such concepts as "My telepathy isn't working very well today" or "I seem to be having technical difficulties with my time machine." So Sign should be able to express "I've lost my voice."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Things They Should Invent: sickness meter

This afternoon I hit that place where you feel like you're coming down with something but you're not quite sure what's going to happen. Either it will go away with a good sleep, or I'll have to take a day off tomorrow. I can't tell which.

It would have been convenient if I'd been able to tell work this afternoon that I'll need to take tomorrow off so they could be prepared. But at this point I have no idea (and don't want to tell them I'll be off then wake up fine and use up one of my precious sick days for nothing).

I want to be able to pee on a stick or prick my finger into a test strip or something and have it tell me how sick I am. I don't need a diagnosis of what I'm sick with, just enough to know whether I should stay home from work. The thingy could count your white blood cells or the germs in your blood or whatever and give you a number, then the number would be on a chart corresponding with instructions like "Take tomorrow off" or "Get 12 hours' sleep" or "Make a doctor's appointment now because you'll feel like crap by tomorrow."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Things They Should Invent: mystery novels with the chapters out of order

The problem with mystery novels is you can basically tell what's going to happen based on how far along in the book you are. You're only a quarter of the way in and the detective has a promising lead? Red herring. There are 30 pages left? The bad guy's going to get caught momentarily. It takes some of the fun out of it.

So what they should do is put the chapters out of order. You start on page 1 and Chapter 1 is right there. Then when you hit the end of Chapter 1, it says "Turn to page 132" and Chapter 2 is on page 132. Then at the end of Chapter 2 it says "Turn to page 47" and Chapter 3 is on page 47. And you keep jumping around the book until you lose track of how many pages you've read and how far along you are. Then when you get to the end of the story, you don't know that it's the end of the story so the surprise is better.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

An incredibly stupid thing I can't stop laughing at

I just keep hitting refresh, I can't stop!

You're doing it wrong!

You know you're a langling when

A beauty product I bought came with an instruction leaflet in about eight languages. Of course, I looked through it looking at all the languages, but I couldn't identify them all offhand. So I got all pissed off at the thing for not indicating what the languages are.

Then I realized, normals don't need to know what all the languages are. The typical user doesn't need to know what all the languages are. They'd just locate the language they can read most easily and read that.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Things They Should Invent: everything sucks

I was googling for reviews and feedback about a business I'm thinking about patronizing. (The word patronizing sounds wrong there, but it means what I mean too and I can't think of a synonym.) I found a lot of positive feedback and no negative feedback. But the problem with googling is confirmation bias. So in an attempt to find negative feedback, I started googling things like "$BusinessName sucks!" and "Don't go to $BusinessName" and "$BusinessName is terrible", but there was nothing with quotation marks and the results were inconclusive without quotation marks.

Until we figure out a reliable method of googling without confirmation bias (which I desperately want to do myself and write the definitive paper on it, but that's not gonna happen) we need to solve this problem on the other end, as bloggers and reviewers.

So whenever you're reviewing something negatively, write "$Subject sucks" somewhere in your review. If it's partly negative and partly positive, write "$Subject sucks somewhat, but not entirely". Please do continue making the actual content of the review calm, rational, specific and informative - not just a rant about how much it sucks - but get the "$Subject sucks" string in there somewhere for easy googleability.

What if submetering is actually worse for the environment?

Conventional wisdom is that submetering in multi-unit residential buildings is better for the environment, because residents have an incentive to save energy when they have to pay their own utilities. The problem, of course, is that there are many factors residents (especially tenants) don't have control over. You can't upgrade your insulation, if you're renting you can't get more efficient appliances, you have no control over the nature of the HVAC system. I even know someone who had to pay utilities even though she didn't have a thermostat in her apartment. It got too hot in the winter so she had to open a window because she couldn't turn down the heat, but she still had to pay for all that extra heat. So I've always thought that apartments should have to pass an energy audit before they can be submetered.

But just now I was reading an article about green upgrades that they can make to whole buildings. This makes me wonder if maybe it would be better for the environment to require the landlord to pay utilities instead of the individual tenants. If the landlord has to pay the utilities, they're more motivated to upgrade major things like insulation and plumbing and HVAC - things that individual residents could never do themselves. They might also be motivated to install more cool European things that let you save energy without any effort whatsoever. I don't have numbers, but just by logic and gut instinct it seems like a lot more energy could be saved by landlord initiatives than by any measures tenants could take in their own little units.

A workable alternative to Revlon Quicksand nailpolish

For everyone who's getting here by googling for Revlong Quicksand nailpolish:

I find that Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear in Vanilla Bean is a workable alternative. It's just a skinch sheerer than Revlon Quicksand, but two coats does give sufficient coverage (unlike most polishes that colour that are so sheer as to be useless). Plus it's one of the most durable polishes I've ever worn, and you can't beat the price.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

New marching orders for the pro-life movement

Top Secret Memo

To: All Pro-Life Activists
From: Headquarters
Subject: New Marching Orders
Security: Top Secret, Decoy Mode Only

In light of recent findings, we are now implementing an all new, far more insidious and far more effective strategy. You are hereby ordered to suspend all current operations. Repeat, suspend all current operations effective immediately. Henceforth, only the new strategy is to be used.

Our intelligence agents have successfully infiltrated the enemy and found some shocking but extremely useful information. It seems the enemy has convinced the world that certain earthly troubles outweigh the sheer joy and beauty that is the miracle of life. While this is a distressing development, it also provides the perfect opportunity to bring down the enemy for once and for all, when they will least expect it. Therefore, your mission is to infiltrate and befriend the enemy, win their trust, and identify every one of these problems that they use as an excuse to end lives. Then you will drop into stealth mode, and secretly, behind the scenes, permanently resolve these problems - not just for your subject, but for everyone in the world. Essentially, you will be working covertly to call the enemy's bluff.

For example, some enemy operatives use the fact that a child will have to live with certain medical conditions, or would inherit certain medical conditions from the mother, as an excuse to terminate it. In this case, your mission is to get all these medical conditions permanently and globally cured, so the enemy no longer has that excuse. Other enemy operatives use the fact that the parents simply do not want any children as an excuse to kill any children they do conceive. You can stop them in their tracks by facilitating access to surgical sterilization on demand, so they will never be able to conceive any children to kill. Another common excuse is that the child was conceived through rape or incest. In response to this, you will put an end to rape and incest everywhere in the world. Enemy operatives have also been known to use the fact that they cannot afford to care for and feed their children as an excuse for their bloodlust. Your mission is therefore to manipulate labour policy and social safety nets around the world so that everyone will be able to feed, house, clothe, and educate as many children as they can possibly gestate.

In short, identify every one of the enemy's excuses and eliminate those excuse from existence. Then the enemy will have nowhere to hide.

Be warned, as soon as the enemy gets wind of our new strategy, they will likely try to convince you that it has been superseded. Our intelligence suggests that their modus operandi will be to infiltrate some of our overt channels and issue orders that are more in line with our previous methods. Any such orders are null and void. Repeat, any such orders are null and void. These orders can only be voided through decoy channels. You can find the active decoy location at any time by following the same procedure you used to find this one. Any countermanding orders received through overt channels are to be considered enemy propaganda and handled accordingly.

Headquarters is aware that these are demanding and difficult orders and may in some cases go against your every instinct, but we have every confidence in you, our operatives. Never forget, because of your tireless efforts, there are over six billion souls alive on the planet today. The enemy has no defence against this new strategy, so with your hard-earned skills and expertise, we can crush them for once and for all!

Good luck and godspeed.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Puppy puppy puppy!


Proof that I'm old

So according to Stuff White People Like (that impeccable arbiter of my demographic's taste), bangs are cool.

For white people, the haircut-with-bangs is an important symbol that a female has completed her transformation from a nerdy girl to a cool woman. In fact, if you went to high school with a nerdy white girl who moved to a big city, there is a good chance she will show up to your high school reunion with this haircut.

It was just the opposite for me. When I was the nerdy girl in high school, I had bangs. As part of becoming attractive, I grew them out. (Yes, I'm still nerdy, but I'm sufficiently hotter than I was in high school that this cliche should apply.)

So a complete trend reversal has occurred in the fashion-aware portion of my lifetime. That must mean I'm old.

Friday, July 04, 2008

How the Catholic church can get me to respect it

It would be a lot easier to respect the Catholic church if they'd stop trying to influence the politics and behaviour of the whole world, and instead just pay attention to teaching and guiding their own people. Then they'd be a nice quaint religion with strong morals, a lot of history, like Hutterites, but with a kind of cool mystical thing on top, like Kabbalah (before it became trendy). I could respect that. And if someone said that they, personally, can't use birth control because they're Catholic, I could respect that the same way I respect that Muslim and Orthodox Jewish men can't shake hands with me.

But the instant they start getting political, the instant they start trying to influence people who are not willing members of their church, they become The Enemy. If you can't grok this, try thinking about how you'd feel if the Amish suddenly started lobbying for the elimination of the internet, or FLDS was trying to make polygamy and old-fashioned hairdos mandatory for everyone.


1. Apparently we aren't supposed to buy fake designer purses. Okay, fine, I fully agree in principle. But my problem is I don't pay attention to real designer purses. They're so ridiculously out of my price range that I know absolutely nothing about them, the same way I know absolutely nothing about racehorses or scuba gear or real estate in Dubai. So if I don't know what real designer purses look like, how am I supposed to know if a purse I'm considering buying is a knock-off of a designer purse? Do I have to start paying attention to real designer purses so I can identify the fakes?

2. It seems you can have dinner suspended in the air by a giant crane. Question: but what do you do with your purse? And, come to think of it, what do the people marching in Pride do with their purses (and, when applicable, their clothes?)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The problem with purity rings

So there are these guys called the Jonas Brothers who are apparently all the rage among Kids Today. And, according to a photo caption in the Globe and Mail today, they all wear purity rings.

Upon skimming over this tidbit of information, a dirty evil little part of my brain - pausing only to glance over at the first few paragraphs of the article to check that they're as old as they look (oldest one is 20, that's fine) - thought, "Oooh, a challenge!"

But I don't even especially like them (I was completely unfamiliar with them until five minutes ago and still have no idea what it is they're famous for), I don't find the 20-year-old any more attractive than any other typical person I encounter in everyday life, and the idea of spending quality time with a virgin is not at all appealing. And yet, in one little corner of my brain, that thought still occurred to me.

So why am I telling you that I had these unsavoury thoughts? Because I daresay it's one of the least creepy possible permutations. There are people who are far creepier than me, who would look at people who are far more vulnerable than a 20-year-old man, and think "Oooh, a challenge!" with far more enthusiasm and single-mindedness than I did.

Why would a parent want to make their kid wear a label for these people?

What is UP with all these bees?

I appreciate a good covered in bees joke as much as anyone, but this is getting ridiculous.

Bees invade the music department of a school. (Paging Mrs. Badcrumble?)

Bees invade a cafe.

Trucks full of bees (aside: There's such thing as trucks full of bees!) overturn in New Brunswick and California.

Someone stole a bunch of bees in Alberta. (A beekeeper who just lost it one day?)

What is going on here? I've heard that bees are sick or dying or have the plague or something - could they be fighting back?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

They just aren't gonna stop until I'm proud of my country, are they?

I'm not huge on patriotism. Loyalty to an abstract concept because of where my mother happened to be geographically located when she went into labour with me is a bit too arbitrary for my tastes, plus I'm well aware of how dangerous blind patriotism can get (c.f. WWI). So whenever I find myself proud of my country I try very hard to think about it very critically and not let it go to my head.

But Canada seems to be getting the better of me this week. First, we had military marching in Pride. Now logically, I know it's just a recruitment strategy. I know it isn't all happy rainbows like they're making it out to be (c.f. Valerie Valen). And I totally see where Hamilton Pride was coming from not allowing the military and I don't disagree with that decision. But still, I didn't know the Canadian military wasn't don't ask don't tell, and it was cool to see them out and proud in uniform (including one or possibly two people who were there in the time and place when I was afraid to wear an Ally button) - plus all the cops wearing rainbow flare with their uniforms, so I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed that our uniformed authority figures have gotten to that point, even if they aren't perfect yet.

So then I woke up this morning to hear the radio telling me that Dr. Morgentaler is being awarded the Order of Canada! I quite literally jumped out of bed, ran to the computer, googled up confirmation, and fired off a squeeing email to the Governor General's office congratulating them for such an awesome choice. I mean, we all owe him our lives - not just people who are or have been or will be capable of becoming pregnant, but also everyone who has benefited or will benefit from being a planned and wanted child gestated in the womb of a healthy bio-mother. What astounds me about Dr. Morgentaler is he had no particular reason to become an abortion activist. It didn't affect him personally, he was older when he got into it (late 40s, if I remember correctly), no one would have noticed if he hadn't done anything. No one would have said "Hey, you, Mr. middle-aged holocaust-survivor doctor man, why aren't you loudly and publicly performing a controversial medical procedure for which you could be sentenced to life in prison?" If he had just quietly gone about his family practice, no one would have cared. But he stepped up, and now my ova shall never be sentenced the misery of the world, and the world shall never have the misery of my ova unleashed upon it! Then multiply that by everyone, past, present and future!

Actually, the Order of Canada's decision to give the award to Dr. Morgentaler parallel's Dr. Morgentaler's decision to start providing Canada with abortions. I know some people were lobbying for it, but the Order could have easily said "Nope, sorry, we're for nice friendly uncontroversial figures," and most people would have accepted that. But they were brave and bold and stepped up, and because of that I woke up this morning asquee and proud of my country.

And, now that I think about it, the soldiers and police in Pride are the same way too. No one would ever be watching a Gay Pride parade and saying "Hey, wait a minute, why aren't there any soldiers in this parade?" No one would ever look at a uniformed cop, even at Pride, and say "Dude, what is up with the total lack of rainbow flare?" But they were brave and bold, they stepped up and did it, and I came away feeling the sort of capital P Pride that we're supposed to feel from Pride, in my city and my country.

So keep it up Canada, be brave and bold, you've made a cynic proud of you!

Makes me wish I had something brave and bold to do.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Things They Should Invent: Speaker's Corner YouTube channel

Since they're cancelling the Speaker's Corner TV show, they should give it a YouTube channel. You put a loonie or a toonie or whatever in the booth, and they upload your video to YouTube. They could have one of those co-branded channels with whatever benefits that has for everyone, and they'd get more eyeballs because you'd know that your video WILL be posted.

Colbert vs. Cookie Monster

(Yes, this whole post has been edited because I found a better embed)

How much of an expert do you have to be to be an expert?

Broadsheet asks its readers what they're experts in.

But how much of an expert do you have to be to claim to be an expert? Because I know more stuff than most people about quite a number of things, but in all these areas there are people whose expertise exceeds mine by several orders of magnitude and anyone with knowledge of the field would laugh in my face if I claim to be an expert.

I do perfectly decent translations with the occasional flicker of genius (note to clients: I cannot guarantee that one of these flickers of genius will end up in your text) which is all very impressive to non-translators, but within the profession I am unremarkable and to claim to be an expert in translation would be bordering on fraud

I can explain to you how a mistranslation or a misunderstanding happened in any combination of the languages I've studied, but any academic in any of these languages would completely reject anything I might have to say.

If you've never read Harry Potter, I can explain to you anything about the plot or the characters or the rules of the universe, and if you give me 30 seconds on google I can produce multiple citations. But I'm not nearly good enough to work for Leaky.

In fact, in any of my fandoms, I'm a total geek to outsiders and a complete poseur to fen.

People are always asking me to google up stuff for them because apparently I can do it better than them, but librarians would scoff at my measly research skills.

So I may well be able to pass myself off as an expert in translation, or comparative linguistics, or Harry Potter or Monty Python or Star Trek, or internet research, or even things like music theory or music history or make-up or Toronto or Canadian children's television of the 1980s, but I don't dare publicly say I'm an expert in any of these things, because the real experts are lightyears beyond me.