Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things They Should Invent (if they haven't already): you can text any phone you can see

I have the idea that this exists already, but I haven't been able to google up confirmation. (Of course, I don't know what it's called if it does exist.)

You should be able to send a text message to any cellphone that you can see. Just kind of beam the message through the air, like how a remote control works.

Why not just go over and talk to the person? Maybe they're busy. Maybe they're too far away to get their attention (walking down the other side of a busy street, for example). Maybe they're a stranger and their zipper's undone and you can't figure out how to say that in person tactfully. Maybe you want a really smooth way to hit on them by just sending them your phone number. Maybe you're exchanging phone numbers anyway and it would be easier to just beam it straight into each other's phone instead of you dictating your number to them and then they dictate your number to you.

At any rate, it's an option that should exist.

Recurring elements in my dreams

Two things have been recurring in my dreams every night for the past couple of weeks.

1. A woman who wants an arranged marriage to two men. In the dreams, she's a close acquaintance/casual friend, but it isn't anyone I know IRL. She wants to be married to two men and is putting out personal ads and using matchmaking services to find appropriate candidates. Just to make things more interesting, she doesn't want two men who know each other already - she wants to meet and court them both separately - and she wants to marry them both at the same time in a single wedding ceremony. This all has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot of my dreams. She's just someone who's around and I happen to know these few details about her personal life. It's like how on Corner Gas, Wanda has a child but the vast majority of the time that's irrelevant. Or on Dexter, that guy with the hat (what's his name?) is having marriage troubles, but most episodes it doesn't show up and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot.

2. Your sense of self is fully formed at the age of 32. This is frequently presented in my dreams as an indisputable fact. You know how there's that recent meme that your fertility starts declining at age 26? This idea is everywhere in a similar fashion in my dream universe. It's quoted in magazines and people make life decisions based on it. Last night in my dream, there was an ad in a newspaper for a famous hairdresser who was about to retire, and the ad was encouraging everyone to book an appointment with her today because you want to have good hair before the age of 32 so your sense of self includes good hair.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Things They Should Invent: custom-made porn

This idea was inspired by this Savage Love column (most obvious content warning ever: it's a Savage Love column about porn - proceed accordingly) where the guy is looking for het femdom porn with werewolves and vampire themes targeting a female audience (with a laundry list of sex acts he doesn't want to see in said porn) and Dan Savage is all yeah, good luck buddy.

There's a business opportunity here! Customers send in requests for porn that meets their exacting specifications. The pornographers calculate how much this porn would cost to make and how much of a return on investment they can expect to get. Then they give the customer a price that constitutes part (but not all) of the cost of making the porn. The better the projected ROI, the less they charge the customer.

So if the customer agrees, they make the porn and give it to the customer. But THEN, they also sell the porn through their website, and split the profits with the customer by the same proportions that they initially invested. So while the porn is significantly more expensive to the customer to start with, they can make money back and maybe even turn a profit. So if woman-centric het femdom vampire porn has a larger audience than the marketing department expected, the dude who wrote into Savage Love could get rich. If not, he can still get his niche porn for the right price even if he's the only person in the world who wants it.

Other possibilities that would make it more interesting but I'm not sure if they'd wreck the business model:

1. If the customer can't afford to have their porn made, the pornographers can still keep the idea. If they use it sometime, the customer who submitted the idea gets the porn for free but doesn't get a cut of the profits.

2. If the pornographers think an idea is commercially viable so they don't charge the customer very much, the customer can choose to invest a greater amount and thus get a greater share of the profits.

Money, keys, comb, wallet, lighter, hankie, pens, cigarettes, contraceptives, vaseline, whips, chains, whistles, dildos and a book

How Elizabeth and Anthony's relationship could have been made convincing without changing the overall plot

1. After Anthony rescues Liz from Howard, they get chatting and he hints at the fact that his marriage is having trouble, but waves off Liz's concern because her ordeal is much more important.

2. Liz is subpoenaed for Howard's trial just before the end of the school year and has to head south early. Susan is called in to replace her. The trial takes up the better part of the summer. Grampa has his stroke while Liz is still in Millborough, and after much soul-searching she realizes she can't leave at this time, finds some kind of contract teaching position, and subsequently gets turkey-dumped by Paul. This gives Liz a perfect excuse to stay with her parents for however long the plot requires (was it actually necessary to the plot? I don't remember it being but I might be forgetting something), and sets the precedent of her changing major life decisions out of consideration for Grampa's health, which makes moving the wedding earlier a less WTF decision.

3. During the trial, we see Anthony quietly being perfectly supportive of Liz. This isn't a plot point, it's just regularly going on in the background while the plot goes on over top. He pats her on the hand and gives her a sympathetic look, he hands her a timely cup of tea unbidden, and in at least one instance he is able to comfort her when her parents' attempts at comfort misfire in that tragicomic way attempts to parent adult children often do. I'll even allow once instance where Liz bursts into tears and Anthony holds her she cries herself out, and, in keeping with general FBOFW practices, I'll even allow him to thought-bubble something schmaltzy about how it feels good or right to hold her or protect her or help make things better for her or that he'll always be there for her or some other such thing that's swoony if you approve entirely of the relationship and the context and nauseating if you don't.

4. After the trial, we see Liz and Anthony socializing a few times truly as just friends before they even begin to consider a romance. It isn't a plot in itself, it's just going on in the background. They're having coffee together in a plotless wordplay strip. They're walking down the street together when Liz's cell rings with a message from the main plot.

5. At some point, any time after Liz returns to Millborough, Anthony confides in her about a parenting issue and she has some insight (since I assume she does have child psych training.) It would read just like other parenting strips (e.g. where Robin wouldn't sleep through the night or toddler April jams a banana in a typerwriter) and could be either a single strip or a week-long plot, depending on what works. The focus is Françoise, not the Liz/Anthony relationship.

6. At some point, Liz and Anthony are shown totally geeking out over something together. Reciting Monty Python or singing musicals or playing Wii together or, since this is FBOFW, having a pun war.

7. At some point, we see them being just completely silly, like snowball-fight silly, and collapsing into giggles afterwards. The giggles can segue into foreplay (or what passes for it in a comic strip) if their relationship has reached that point yet. Or, if it can be executed properly, this can be when and how their relationship reaches that level.

8. At some point, they're seen working together on a projectish thingy - preparing dinner, wallpapering Liz's new apartment (does anyone wallpaper any more? It makes a fictional good project, but I don't know if it's even in style any more), putting together a very complicated toy for Françoise. This can be the plot or the background action (background is better, I think). They can be talking exposition or trading wordplay or talking about The Relationship if The Relationship has started already, it doesn't really matter. The point is that they be seen working well together and taking for granted that they're working on a project together (we don't see any "Thank you ever so much for helping me with this!" "No problem, that's what friends are for.")

9. Once the relationship starts, we see at least two instances of snogging, at least one lustful look with thought-bubble, and handholding whenever realistic. They don't have to be the plot of that day's strip, they just need to be happening.

10. We see at least once instance of snogging interrupted by parenting needs.

11. At their wedding, when Liz finds out that Grampa is in the hospital, Anthony is right there with a protective arm around her or hand on her back, a look of concern on his face.

Things They Should Study: how does vocal register change when speaking another language?

When I'm speaking another language, I tend to speak at a lower pitch. In French (my second language and the one I use most often) it drops a little bit, not very noticeable. I lose access to the higher pitch that I use in English for casual-young-female and customer-service-perky, but I'm mostly within a natural range. But by the time we get to Polish (my fifth language, the one I speak worst of the language I can even remotely claim to speak, and also the one that's least similar to English) my entire register drops a whole octave and I can't even reach my normal pitch. (I am physically capable of speaking Polish at a higher pitch, but I'd have to make a very deliberate effort. In the course of normal conversation, trying to think of what to say and how to say it in the other language and how to pronounce it properly, my pitch drops.)

I didn't think much of this until I saw some stand-up comedian on TV talking about how he has a Francophone wife/girlfriend/whatever, and how her pitch drops when speaking English. This has me wondering if it's a common phenomenon. Does pitch always drop in the other language, or does it rise sometimes? Do certain target languages (or target languages in combination with certain mother tongues) consistently cause pitch to raise or lower? Is the phenomenon the same for both men and women? Is it related to how similar the target language is to the speaker's mother tongue?

Things They Should Invent: Kernels in movie theatres

Kernels sells awesome popcorn. Why do they not have locations in movie theatres????

Possible new academic year resolution

My new year's anti-resolution is working well, so I'm considering starting another for September, because after 19 years of my life spent in school it's still the psychological new year.

Potential resolution: when shopping or considering a new purchase or new ongoing spending, I don't have to worry about good value for money, I don't have to worry about whether I'm getting screwed over price-wise. All I have to do is stay in the black. As long as I don't fall into the red, I can spend whatever money I want on whatever I want. If I feel after the fact I didn't get my money's worth, I don't have to buy it next time.

I'm not sure if I'm going to go with this resolution. It feels risky, but I think it would reduce stress.

One thing I love about being a grownup and living alone is that when I do decide to make some kind of change in my day to day life, I can just quietly do it without telling anyone. (Yes, I know I blog some of them. I don't blog all of them.) When I was a kid, I'd usually have to tell my mother if only for logistical reasons, which made me feel like both my idea and my ability to execute my idea are up for scrutiny. I like being able to do things without anyone noticing.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Elizabeth says "I'd like to have a baby someday."

I know it sounds mad crazy nitpicky, but the use of the word "someday" sounds so wrong to me in this context. I'm Liz's age, and I cannot imagine a woman my age - especially when she's married and her career's established and her husband's career's established - using the word someday there. She'd have a timeline - she'd say "I'd like to have a baby within the next five years" or "I'd like to have a baby sometime after Françoise starts kindergarten." Or if she isn't so into strict family planning, she'd just say "I'd like to have a baby" and let nature take its course. (And actually, now that I think about it, she'd probably say "we" instead of "I".)

"Someday" would be used by teenagers or by people who don't know whom they'd have the baby with or who don't know when they're going to be able to afford to have a baby or for whom there are too many factors still up in the air to allow for long-term family planning. It sounds so wrong coming from a 27-year-old newlywed with a stable career. If this were a translation, I'd cross it out as being unidiomatic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Google is scary smart

I wanted to go to The Weather Network's website, so I typed www.thew into my address bar, trusting the autocomplete to do the rest. The autocomplete didn't take for whatever reason, so I had this random www.thew sitting in my address bar dropdown.

So, as with everything in life, I decided to google it to see what would happen. I googled the w, no quotation marks or anything. The very first thing at the top of the page under Related Searches was The Weather Network.

Hairdressing FAIL

You know how sometimes with updos people have wispy little curls around their faces? I tried to make that happen (just the wispy little curls bit, not the updo).

I came out looking like an Hasidic rabbi.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Things They Should Invent:

Right now, somewhere in your home, is expired cough syrup. You are completely unaware of this, and won't give it a moment's thought until the next time you get a cough. Then you'll find your cough syrup, notice that it expired 18 months ago, and ponder whether you should take it. What will happen if you take it? Will it poison you? Will it just not work? Will you have all of the side-effects and none of the benefits? You don't know and it's difficult to google.

We need a website that tells us what happens to stuff when it expires. For everything in the world. Then we can make informed decisions. Animal products turn into food poisoning? Don't eat them. A certain over the counter medication simply stops working? Try it anyway to see if it does any good, and if not run out to the drugstore. Condoms stop working? Throw the out right away so you don't reach for the wrong one in a fit of passion. We need answers!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things Youtube Should Invent (or, rather, reintroduce): shrink poor quality videos down to their original size

I don't have the technical vocabulary to describe this phenomenon, so please bear with me and feel free to politely put it in more grownup words.

When youtubes are poor quality (low resolution?), they don't have enough pixels to fill up the standard youtube screen size, so everything gets enlarged and the pixels take up more than one pixel's worth of space, making the whole thing look kind of fuzzy and pixely and poor quality. (If you don't understand what I'm talking about, take a normal-quality youtube and expand it to full screen.)

YouTube used to have an option where you could shrink the video back down to its original size. So you could have tiny and crisp, or regular and fuzzy, or full-screen and even fuzzier. I think they should bring that option back. I'm not a technical quality geek at all (the technical quality geeks in my life are apalled at my hardware), but even I'm noticing the poor quality and wishing for the option of a smaller but crisper image!

My predreams are carnivorous

Last night as I was waiting to fall asleep, I predreamed that I was in my kitchen preparing breaded chicken. The chicken was in a baking pan thing, and I was expertly seasoning it as though I knew exactly what I was doing.

I've never prepared breaded chicken in my life. I don't think I know how to prepare breaded chicken. There has never been chicken in this apartment. And yet I was seeing this image in the first person. It was definitely a predream as opposed to a proper dream, because I was awake and deliberately shifting position as I settled myself in my bed and thinking about something completely unrelated, but I've never before had a predream image that did not come from reality.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where my priorities are

Long story how I came to be thinking about this, but today I realized: I don't care if someone steals my cellphone. I'd just buy a new and better one, not a huge deal. However, I would care very much if I couldn't get my phone number back (I don't know offhand how permanently attached to the SIM card the phone number is) because it's a 416 number. For a cellphone. I think I'd even decline to switch providers for a better deal if I couldn't take my number with me. I've been here long enough to have a 416 cell number, I want my Toronto cred dammit!

Why they need to stop renaming Toronto theatres

[the following is an unofficial transcript]

Me: Where's Spamalot playing?
Poodle: The Canon
Me: Is that the one where we saw it last time?
Poodle: I think we saw it at one of the ones on King St.
Me: No, I'm sure it was the one that used to be the Pantages, because I remember I was wondering about the chandelier.
Poodle: I think the Pantages is the Elgin.
Me: No, the Elgin is the Elgin.
Poodle: Okay, then the Pantages must be the Canon, so it's the same one as last time.
Me: They have to stop renaming these fucking theatres! I'm blogging this.

Things They Should Invent: quick and easy general fertility test

There are all kinds of ways to test if you're fertile (i.e. ovulating) today, and there's a lot of medical science that diagnoses specific problems that may cause infertility. But we could also use a quick and easy pee-on-a-stick type of test to give you a rough idea of how fertile you are in general compared with the average woman. It doesn't have to diagnose the reason behind any reduced fertility it finds, just the presence or absence (or, ideally, the degree) of fertility.

For example, I put a lot of time and energy and resources into not becoming pregnant. But I don't actually know if I'm fertile. I've never been pregnant, so there is room for the possibility that I cannot become pregnant. I'd really like if there was an easy way to confirm that I am in fact fertile before I go through any invasive and time-consuming sterilization procedures.

This isn't just applicable to the childfree. People who want children could do a quick general test for the presence of fertility to decide how much time they want to spend on "trying" or whether to go with adoption or artificial conception. People could take the test every year to see if (or how much) their fertility is declining as they age, and plan their lives accordingly. If you want to impress upon teens the importance of responsible sexual behaviour, you could have them take the test and see just how must of a risk they'd be taking. People who have recently had babies could see when their fertility returns and make their family planning decisions accordingly.

Things Ticketmaster et al. Should Invent: find best available seats over multiple days

Sometimes people want to go to a show on a specific day, which is what the current system accomodates. But sometimes you could go on one of several days. Like any Friday is fine, really, and you'd go on a Thursday too if it meant getting really good seats. It would be really convenient if you could search for the best available seats of all the shows, or of all the Friday shows, or all the shows in the one particular week when you'll be in town, etc.

Did they know alcohol was bad for fetuses in the 1950s?

Check this out:

Major Houlihan thinks she's pregnant, and she has two or three standard drinks in this scene. Her reaching for the bottle is context- and character-appropriate, except for the fact that she's a medical professional and has reason to believe she's pregnant.

Is she being irresponsible, or is she being historically accurate?

I've got someone's dream job right here

From an article about the Cancon porn channel:

Northern Peaks would also have to ensure it close captions all of its programs.

Ladies and gentlemen, right now, at this very moment, somewhere in our great nation, there is a job opening for a close captioner of pornography!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Weirdest thing ever

This sounds like something from The Onion, but I just saw it advertised on TV. Is it wrong if I laugh hysterically?

And once again, children provide perspective

So I finally got off my ass and did my errands. Behind me in line at the grocery store was a lady with two small children - I'd estimate their ages at 2 and 4* - who clearly needed some food and a nap. Mein Gott what I have to do is easy in comparison - in comparison to both the mother and the children!

I can go about life without ever having to worry about someone else's Dora the Explorer doll, and if all I want to do is go home and curl up with my favourite stuffed animal I can just go and do that. I can buy what I need at the grocery store without someone wheedling for some junk food every two seconds, and if I want some junk food I can just throw it in the cart without asking anyone's permission. I don't have to organize my life around someone else's bladder needs, and if I have to go to the bathroom I can just go without someone telling me to hold it or scolding me for not going earlier.

All I have to do is put on some music, pour a glass of wine, and tear through 3,000 words of translation. (Don't worry, it gets carefully revised tomorrow without the influence of music or wine, it's just most efficient to do the first draft by brute force and the distractions make that go easier.) Compared with grocery shopping with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, dead easy!

*Most people I know who are in a two-child family spaced two or three years apart think this is a bad spacing. The eldest is old enough to get used to being an only child, but too young to really appreciate (both in the sense of "think is little and cute" and "empathize with the greater needs of") a baby, and still needs a lot of parental attention that might take away from the baby's needs. With a wider spacing, like five years, the older sibling is more independent and more able to appreciate a baby. And apparently (or so I've heard) with really close spacing the older sibling doesn't become accustomed to or remember being an only so they don't resent the lack of full parental attention or the need to compromise to accomodate the younger sibling. And yet so many people continue to space their children at two to three years. I wonder why? Perhaps no one tells them. (I certainly couldn't think of a tactful way to tell someone to space their children differently.) Perhaps they grew up in different family configurations themselves. Someone should do a study on how the configuration of the family in which people grew up affects their later family planning as an adult.

The problem with introversion

Introversion is inefficient. I've spent the better part of today inside my head, maybe eating or drinking coffee or experimenting with my hair, but mostly inside my head. But the problem is I have 3,000 words of overtime this weekend, plus I have to go to Dominion and Noah's and the LCBO and the library and Futureshop and BSO and Beddington's, plus my apartment needs probably about 10 hours of housework, plus I have to exercise enough not to lose momentum and there's about six things I want to blog and a dozen things I want to watch on youtube. (Watching youtube or TV or anything is external stimulation. It entertains me, but doesn't give me those inside-my-head hap hits.)

All of this would be so much easier if I actually found it more interesting to do things than to do nothing and spend time inside my head. But not only is getting all this stuff done work, it's also more boring than doing nothing.

Times like this I wish for an extrovert pill.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How to save the planet with one simple rule

I think we can solve all our environmental problems if every human undertaking from this moment on follows one simple rule: everything must be made easier for people using less-polluting modes of transit than for people using more-polluting modes of transit.

Whether you are building a building or opening a business or planning an event, it must be easier for pedestrians than cyclists, easier for cyclists than transit users, and easier for transit users than for drivers. All other rules intended to directly or indirectly promote or discourage use of any particular mode of transit are void. You can do whatever the fuck you want, it just has to be easiest for pedestrians (always using the skirt/heels/handbag standard)and hardest for drivers.

So go ahead and build a drive-thru on a busy, high-density thoroughfare. However, you must arrange things so that the cars in the drive-thru don't get in the way of pedestrians, and so that it's faster to walk in than go through the drive thru.

Go ahead and build a Walmart in the middle of a giant parking lot right on the waterfront. But arrange things so that people don't have to dodge cars to get to the door from the sidewalk or the bus stop (but it's fine for cars to have to wait for buses to get out of the way).

Go ahead and move your office from an expensive urban transit hub to a cheap industrial park in the middle of nowhere. But you must do something to make the commute easier for non-drivers than for drivers, for exampe provide a free shuttle from the old, convenient location for transit-using employees (or multiple shuttles to accommodate people's flextime) and pay for the service by charging employees for parking Or if employees decide to move closer to the new office so they can bike to work, you must compensate them for their moving trouble and expenses.

Shout-out to the plastic bag wars: make a rule that you can have your purchases bagged or you can have your parking validated, but not both.

This approach doesn't stop anyone from driving, it doesn't impinge on real or perceived rights or freedoms or entitlements, it doesn't impinge on free market economics (if the market dictates that cars should be accomodated you can accomodate them all you want, you just have to accomodate pedestrians a tinch more.)

If everything from now on was made more convenient for pedestrians than for cars, more and more people would reach the "not worth driving" tipping point as time goes on. With any luck, that will happen before the oil runs out.

Open Letter to the extremely attractive couple on the subway with the pointy yellow puppy

Dear yellow doggie's humans:

You have the most awesome and adorable puppy in the world. But you can't just let him wander around the subway car on a long loose lead and lie across the aisle. I see that he's harmless and I totally get that interacting with him is a privilege and a joy - seriously, it made my day when he jumped his front paws up on my lap and let me pet him.

But there are people who are afraid of dogs, there are people who are allergic to dogs, there are children who might not know how to behave around dogs, there are blind people who might not be expecting a leash stretched out against the aisle, and there are people who just don't want paws on their lap or a snout up their skirt.

Please, before anything goes wrong, make sure that when you're on the subway you keep him in a sit or down right next to you and on a tight leash so he doesn't wander around. I don't want such a happy and adorable dog to get in trouble.


Someone who doesn't want to give anyone any reason to prohibit dogs on the TTC

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wherein a foreigner tells the US how to judge their politicians

I've seen a few people on the internet dis US presidential candidate John McCain because apparently he owns multiple houses. I see that this isn't the kind of thing the average person can identify with, but maybe we should be open-minded. Different people have different needs - I'm sure there are a lot of people who think it's decadent that my sister and I each had our own room growing up, even though this was probably the only reason we both survived to adulthood - and as long as he isn't hurting anyone it isn't an actual problem.

However, I might humbly suggest that a trait USians should look for in a prospective president is that they know exactly how many houses they own.

Things They Should Invent: a device that automatically separates menstrual blood from used feminine hygiene products

Yesterday we learned that they can make stem cells from menstrual blood.

So now we need an effective way to harness all the menstrual blood that people throw out every month in their used pads and tampons. We need some way to take all the used FHPs from those bins in public washrooms and throw them all in a giant machine or something and separate out the menstruation. You know how for the Toronto green bin program they came up with a way to automatically separate plastic bags from organic waste, so people could sanitarily wrap their organic waste in plastic before throwing it out? We need something similar for FHPs and menstruation. Then we'll have an infinite supply of stem cells.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bottled water

1. Does anyone actually drink a bottle of water and then throw out the bottle? Like systematically on an everyday basis? Everyone I know refills them. Every once in a while you leave it behind or it starts tasting yucky or you start using a new one because you have a cold, but in general you refill it. I always see people at the drinking fountain refilling their water bottles. That Aquafina bottle in my purse? Full of tap water, and I use like six a year.

2. Does anyone actually consider bottled water to be a status symbol? The blamosauruses are all "OMG they're just carrying it around to show off!" (and they say the same thing about cell phones) but I can't imagine anyone actually thinking that a bottle of water that you can get at the shadiest convenience store in your neighbourhood is a status symbol.

3. Now Toronto is talking about banning bottled water. If they want to ban selling it in municipal buildings like they did in London (I think it was?) that's perfectly fine, but they can't ban it from the city. Why? Think back to the 2003 blackout. Did you have running water? People in highrises didn't. The water pumps run on electricity. So people ran around the neighbourhood until they found a corner store that was still open and bought bottled water. I'm worried that if they get overzealous with this ban, we won't be able to buy bottled water at the corner store any more. I'm worried that someone might bring up the fact that it's an emergency provision and they'll attempt to address it by making it possible to buy those big blue cooler bottles at like one Home Depot in Scarborough, which is useless if you're carfree like they're trying to encourage. (It's like how when they talk about banning plastic bags people always say "You can get biodegradable garbage bags at Home Depot," but Home Depot is a half-hour bus ride completely out of my way.) I mean yeah, we're supposed to have 72-hour kits in our homes, but that doesn't mean that people should die of dehydration if they don't manage to get it together.

Dear City of Toronto:

Whatever you do, please do not ban or make it more difficult to acquire bottled water as an emergency provision.

You can have your stem cells next Tuesday

They can make stem cells from menstruation!

It occurs to me that perhaps I should master use of the menstrual cup.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Things They Should Invent: let The Hunger Site hijack your browser

I try to click on The Hunger Site (and its affiliates) every day, but sometimes I forget. Back in the days of dial-up I would use it as my home page, but now that I'm always on I find myself opening a new browser way more frequently so having it as my homepage would be an inconvenience the vast majority of the time.

It would be awesome if we could have the option to let it hijack our browser if we haven't done our clicks for the day yet. Have something check to see if the cookie is there, and if it isn't it redirects to The Hunger Site. We could override it if we were in a hurry, but it would be nice to have option of making it mindless.

Things They Should Invent: wheelchairs that can take passengers

Apparently those scooter-type wheelchairs can go like 16 km/h, which is faster than most people can walk. Which must be annoying when a wheelchair person wants to go somewhere with a pedestrian - it would be sooooo bloooooody slooooow! So then the wheelchair person might be inclined to give the pedestrian a ride, but that wouldn't work if you didn't have a lap-sitting type of relationship, or if the pedestrian is bigger or heavier than the wheelchair person.

My idea: make it possible for someone to stand on the back of a wheelchair behind the seat, like on a dogsled. That wouldn't make the wheelchair much bigger (we don't want them turning into minivans) and it would maintain an appropriate physical distance while allowing the wheelchair user to drive unfettered.

Why you want to avoid double translation

Sometimes your translator might call you up and ask you to send her documents that are referred to in the text she is translating. If you're really busy that day and have a lot of things to do and not have time to dig through your files, you might be inclined to tell the translator to just translate the text as written. At this point she'll warn you that doing so might make the overt and hidden quotes in the translation come out different from the original document they were citing. You might be inclined to say this is not big deal and instruct her to just carry on with what she has.

Here's why you don't want to do that.

I don't speak Chinese (I'm not even 100% certain that language is Chinese), but it seems perfectly feasible to me that this could be a perfectly competent translation (albeit lacking in-depth knowledge of North American commercial products).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Conspiracy theory anyone?

What if the real objective of the Westboro Baptist Church is to get hate speech legislation introduced in the US?

I've always been rather apathetic about the whole hate speech vs. free speech issue. I can see where both sides are coming from, but the status quo doesn't bother me and there are many other things I'm more interested in reading and thinking and talking about.

But when they threatened to protest Tim McLean's funeral, I instantly became an ardent supporter of our hate speech laws. Nothing I might ever conceivably have to say under any imaginable circumstances is nearly as important as getting them to STFU.

What if their intention was to produce this very sentiment in a large segment of the population? What if they brought their act to Canada so people could see how much easier it is to get them to STFU in a country with hate speech laws? What if their ostensible thesis is OMG TEH GAY despite its irrelevance to the things they are picketing so that the public will support including homophobia under the definition of hate speech?

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I think you can still send a telegram, like for real, in real life. Check this out!

I'm so tempted to send someone a telegram sayin "OMG a telegram!"

Open Letter to my iPod

Dear iPod:

You contain 3,363 songs. About 20 of these songs are by R.E.M. I did press shuffle. So what's the deal with three R.E.M. songs in a row?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Warning: the Borat DVD is dangerous for langlings

It all started with a simple plan: I'll watch Borat on DVD. I haven't seen it yet and it may or may not end up being funny.

But it's in broken English, which means I have to watch it again with the French and Spanish subtitles to see how they addressed that.

And the DVD case and some of the captions on the DVD and in the movie are in Cyrillic letters, wich means I have to work out if it's real or fake, and if it's real which language, and if it's Russian what does is say, and is the sloppy English a logical bad translation of the Russian? (All this being complicated by the fact that my attempt to learn Russian didn't take.)

So in my original plan I'm in for two hours of movie, and maybe the extras if I feel like it. Now I'm in for six hours plus, like, learning Russian.

Edited to add: This is compounded by the problem that I don't find the movie particularly entertaining. I see what they're trying to do, and I appreciate Sacha Baron Cohen's talent in creating the character, but it just didn't entertain me. I laughed maybe three to five times during the whole thing, and the idea of watching it again for the subtitles seems like a chore (but I'm going to do it at least in places anyway.)

Things Livejournal Should Invent: Expand All Threads button

In LJ, if there are over X comments (where X might equal 50 or 100, but I'm not sure), it collapses all the threads so you can only see the first comment in each thread and have to click to see the replies. There's now a handy "Expand Thread" function so you don't have to click and wait for the page to reload, then go back to the main post to read the next thread, but you still have to expand each thread separately. I'd very much like the option to expand all the threads in one click, because most often I'm interested in seeing all the comments.

More information please

Norway knighted a penguin! Cute and funny and awesome!

But how on earth did the penguin get into this line of work in the first place?

Friday, August 15, 2008

If you feel the need to make a friends forever pact, you're too immature to get married

I am the same age as Elizabeth Patterson, so I can tell you on the best of authority that this is not age-appropriate behaviour.

I do have a few very awesome friends with whom I very much hope to remain friends forever, and I cannot imagine any circumstances under which we'd be moved to make a friends forever pact. Occasionally we do sit back and marvel at how long we've been friends, but we'd never make a pact about being friends in the future. We just do it.

Actually, maybe that's what this is commenting on. A friends forever pact is the sort of thing you'd find in like Baby-sitters Club, where they can't imagine a bigger world than the one they inhabit now, but you know they'll have gone their separate ways by the end of grade 9. Come to think of it, Elizabeth hasn't seen Dawn and Shawna Marie on camera outside their own weddings (although we don't often get to see her IM/email conversations) so maybe they aren't as friends as they think they are, and maybe, despite her sojourns to university and on the reserve, her world hasn't gotten bigger yet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What if a can-do attitude leads to consumerism?

I've been feeling insecure lately, and that has me considering trying new beauty products/techniques, generally at increased expense (in terms of money and/or time) compared with my usual regimen.

Conventional wisdom is that this is because the media has created an unattainable image and then the fashion and beauty industries are exploiting the resulting insecurities for profit.

But I find myself wondering if this is partly because our society values the whole can-do, self-help, Protestant work ethic attitude? You can do it, you just have to put work hard! If you want something badly enough, the universe will give it to you! Stop whining and take charge of your life by making the 10 quick and easy changes listed in this magazine article! You just have to make an effort!

I can see how working hard and making an effort could translate into a time-consuming skin-care routine, or how taking charge of your life could translate into biting the bullet and going to that expensive hairdresser, or how a person who believes that if they want something badly enough the universe will give it to them could see the prominent display of a brand new high-tech foundation as the universe giving them a solution to their problem.

Maybe if our culture as a whole was more zen about things, more "it is what it is" rather than "with hard work and the right attitude you can achieve anything!", maybe we'd be less susceptible to consumerism. (Assuming, of course, that being less susceptible to consumerism is a good thing - the consumerism in which I do indulge does makes me happy, although I try to indulge mindfully which is why I'm writing right now instead of shopping for beauty products.)

Would abortion patients actually care if abortion had a negative impact on their health?

Salon debunks the idea that having an abortion has a negative impact on women's health.

Which got me thinking: even if it did, who cares?

You get an abortion, you go insane. You get an abortion, you get breast cancer. You get an abortion, you become infertile. Even you get an abortion, you go to jail.

All of those are so incredibly negligible compared with the alternative of going through an unwanted pregnancy and bringing an unwanted child into the world!

If someone actually thought "Well, I've thought it through thoroughly and determined that it's best for this child to be spared the misery of existence. Oh, but wait, if I did that then I'd have to take Paxil for a little while! We can't have that!" then they'd be entirely too selfish to have a child anyway.

Added Aug. 15 11:30 pm: Some people aren't going to like or grok or agree with this post because it's about abortion. But I just realized it isn't really about abortion at all. I wrote about abortion because the article that triggered these thoughts was about abortion, but it's bigger than that.

So reread the post, but cross out the word abortion and replace it with whatever your personal family planning goal is right this minute. For me, that's never becoming pregnant. For other people, it is becoming pregnant. Or perhaps having four kids. Or perhaps getting a vasectomy. Or perhaps adopting kids. Whatever your goal is, replace the word abortion with your goal and reread the post.

See how all those potential health effects are so completely negligible?

How insecurity works

I looked good as I was leaving for work today. My makeup worked, making my complexion look smooth and my eyes look big and bright and my teeth look white. My hair was clean and shiny and mostly obediant, staying in a sleek and flattering style. The cut and colour of my clothes was just right, and my undergarments were doing their job very nicely underneath.

That was 16 hours ago.

Now my hair is starting to look oily again. It's braided in a way that's completely unflattering but good for sleeping. I'm wearing no makeup, there are splotches of zit cream on my zits and wrinkle cream on my wrinkles, and the circles under my eyes are darker than usual. I'm wearing an old t-shirt in an unflattering cut and colour, mostly because it's convenient to sleep in. My upper lip is hinting that it might want to be waxed sometime soon, and my teeth are suggesting that I ask the dentist about the whitening options available.

When I look in the mirror now, I can't see the person who was looking back at me 16 hours ago. But when I looked in the mirror 16 hours ago, I could still see the person who's looking back at me now. And when I picture myself in a situation where I need to look good, it's the now version that comes immediately to mind, oily and oozing in a big old t-shirt surrounded by perfectly coiffed beautiful people.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things Wikipedia Should Invent: stop trying to be encyclopedic

I love Wikipedia. It always seems to contain exactly the scope of information I'm looking for. However, its attempts to be encyclopedic are undermining its usefulness. For example, apart from protecting living persons, I don't think the notability rule should exist. Apart from obscure translation-related purposes, the most use I get out of Wikipedia is finding small information. Who was this song written about? What is the significance of this pop culture reference? Most of this isn't Notable, but it is what I'm looking for.

I also wish they'd stop eliminating trivia sections. Even when the trivia sections don't contain the precise information I'm looking for, they (and things along the same spirit) are the parts of Wikipedia that are most likely to make me go "This is AWESOME!" (as opposed to "Yes, I see.")

Storage is dirt cheap, text has a negligible effect on bandwidth, there's room to make Wikipedia infinite. While I do see the point of being encyclopedic in style, using encyclopedic standards to limit content simply is not an improvement.

Does Google localize its search results?

Help me test Google please.

1. Where are you (geographically)? You can post anonymously if you don't want to reveal your location.

2. Google solutions. Just the word solutions. Is the first result If not, what do you get?

3. Google the unicorn. No quotation marks, but make sure you get the the in there. Is the first result If not, what is it?

Why am I asking this? Because those two searches worked for me, producing exactly what I was looking for as the first search result, even though they seem far too vague to work. But those two businesses are also located right in my very neighbourhood. So is Google a pure genius, or is it a genius because it's localizing search results?

Why do I care if it's localizing as long as it's producing results? Because localization is great for normals under normal circumstances, but it's a real PITA for translation research. If I'm trying to confirm terminology or phraseology, I need my results to be neutral.

We already know that it localizes linguistically, which is problematic for translation research. If I'm using English-language Google (which I do by default beause it's both my and Google's first language) and I google an expression that contains a French word that's spelled the same in English, it will favour English results. (Elephant in English Google, elephant in French Google And yes, Google is supposed to be diacritic-blind.) As a translator, I find this problematic because it's more likely to lead me to use calques or faux amis. As a lazy Anglophone I find this problematic because I have a poor memory for diacritics and prefer to type on an English keyboard like I originally learned to type on, so sometimes I like to google up a foreign-language word without diacritics then copy-paste the proper spelling into my text. (This is especially useful with Polish, because my computer won't do all the Polish diacritics.)

I did send Google a feedback about this, but I don't know if it will help. Linguistic and geographical localization are still helpful to normals, even if they are problematic for translation research. But then again, I sent Google a feedback a while back asking for multilingual Google News search results (which, again, are generally not useful to normals) and now that option is there.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Get rich quick scheme

So apparently someone is suing someone for loss of faith.

So if this lawsuit works and the legal precedent is set, let's have a class action suit against the Vatican! They're insanely obscenely indescribably rich, and they're the world's largest producer of atheists. It's totally the next logical step!

Things They Should Invent: "when does this stop being creepy?' calculator

We already know how to calculate your datable age range based on your own age. But someone should come up with the inverse: you enter the couple's age difference, and a website automatically tells you how old they have to be to start dating.

I'm astonished that the internet hasn't invented this yet!

Deviating from the script

So I'm on my way home, carrying six grocery bags. I get on an escalator to go down to the subway platform. The guy in front of me is getting off the escalator around the same time and presses the stop button on the escalator, nearly making me fall down (and causing me to miss the train - and causing himself to miss the train because he would have made it if he hadn't stopped to press the button). I made it down to the platform in time to see him walk down the platform systematically spitting twice on each bench. He didn't seem angry or unstable or fucked up or anything, he seemed perfectly calm and cool and collected, it's just he was doing these weird things that were vaguely cruel to random strangers. I had no idea what to do! I kept an eye on him and tried to memorize his description (but he was a really nondescript white guy and I can't even tell age in men), but I was completely flummoxed. This was completely outside the range of things I thought might possibly happen, and I couldn't come up with an appropriate reaction.

This is why I don't think it's appropriate to blame the people on Tim McLean's bus for running away. I wasn't going to dignify this blame with a response, but my experience on the subway today just reminded me of it too much.

We've all given some thought about what we might do in every extreme situation we've ever thought of. We've thought about what we'd do if we saw someone being swarmed in the subway or pushed onto the subway tracks. We've thought about what we'd do if we were on a hijacked airplane, then rethought it after 9/11. We've thought about what we'd do if we walked into a bank robbery. We've thought about what we'd do if we were taken hostage. We've thought about what we'd do if we were deported to Syria. And we've thought about what we'd do if we witnessed some guy trying to kill some other guy. However, in all the mental scripts we've run through, I don't think anyone ever thought there wouldn't be any yelling or scuffling or altercation first, that you'd just wake up on a bus to a guy with a knife in his neck. They were, quite understandably, completely unprepared for that situation and had no idea how to react.

In most situations in life, if you can't think what to do and are completely unprepared for this situation, you get the fuck out of the way. The people also had their self-preservation instincts pushing them out of that bus, and Tim was already quite clearly dead.

I don't think it's fair to blame people who find themselves in a life and death situation that they never in their craziest ideas ever thought would happen at all ever anywhere or anytime in the world for not instantly pulling themselves together and saving the dignity of a dead man. Even if you think it would be appropriate to blame them for not helping if, say, a nice loud altercation had broken out first to give everyone plenty of warning, you can't expect them to have the same presence of mind under these circumstances.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

So it seems I'm capable of militaristic sentiment

Have you ever seen those World War II propaganda posters that show the evil shadow of fascism lurking over cherubic children? You know the sentiment they're intended to evoke to make people run off and join the army?

The thing with the nutters at Tim McLean's funeral did that to me.

I wanted, in a very aggressive, militaristic sort of way, to run off to Winnipeg and get all in those fuckers' face with one of those hardcore Pride supersoakers. I wanted to sabotage their every movement and vandalize their cars and sexually harass the women (Q: Why? A: Because it's Teh Gay that they're afraid of) and all kinds of things that are probably illegal. If I had been there in the human wall and the nutters had shown up and mob mentality had made things turn violent, I could quite readily have been swept along and would totally have punched out a nutter at the slightest excuse.

I seriously had no idea I was capable of this kind of sentiment. It has never happened before. The furthest I've gotten before was a desire for cool calculated revenge to be followed by schadenfreude. I've never had this aggressive militaristic sort of thing happening before. I've never been in a place where I could have been swept along with angry mob mentality before. Not even about Paul Bernardo, although I can't give you a good reason for why that is.

But it looks like I do have a threshold, and it looks like it's right about at the worst people in the world. (The article is nothing new, I just like the headline.)

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with this now.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

I think the funeral went smoothly

Tim McLean's funeral started 2.5 hours ago and no sign of the nutters. But there were hundreds of people (and 10 cop cars) waiting in case they did show up.

Good job Winnipeg, I'm sorry I couldn't be there to help, but I'm thrilled that you pulled it off and scared the nutters off.

The vast majority of the time I'm quite content to be a quiet, unassuming, peaceful little nation, but it feels good to know we can still get a posse together when absolutely necessary.

Edited to add: you might also consider emailing Stockwell Day to thank him for his role in helping keep the nutters out. He could have just as easily not done anything and most people wouldn't have noticed. Day[dot]S[at]parl[dot]gc[dot]ca

Friday, August 08, 2008

A mission for everyone in Winnipeg tomorrow

If you are or can be in Winnipeg tomorrow (i.e. Sat. Aug. 9), drop everything and clear your schedule. Your mission is now: a) protect the mourners, and b) make life difficult for the nutters.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How many things can you find wrong with this picture?

We've secretly replaced today's For Better Or For Worse with one of those "how many things can you find wrong with this picture?" games to see if anyone would notice.

1. I assume it's Elizabeth's wedding day since everyone is all dressed up. So why hasn't she been informed of the transportation arrangements until just now?

2. And why does her teenage sister have this information before her?

3. And didn't she already make transportation arrangements of some sort?

4. And the limo drivers are apparently picking everyone up at their homes. But in this strip we see April, Liz, Meredith, and Dawn(?) - all of whom live in different homes. Where are they right now? Are the limo drivers up on all this?

5. And why haven't they done anything at all with April's bangs? You can't do a formal updo but completely ignore the bangs!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The argument for laughing at mistranslations

Current topic of discussion is whether it's appropriate to laugh at Chinglish.

The general argument for why we shouldn't laugh at it is that it's arrogant and colonialist to mock people for not mastering our language. And I can see where that's coming from.

However, I might be misfiring on this, but my first thought is that it's kind of arrogant and colonialist to give them a bye. As translators we demand perfection of ourselves and fully expect to be laughed at (or reprimanded or publicly humiliated or never work again) if we mess up seriously. It seems kind of patronizing or condescending to go "Awww, but we shouldn't laugh at them, they're just poor little China! They don't know any better!" They're a proper grown-up country, they're a world power, it seems only basic human respect to treat them like they're capable of competent work.

I'm not saying we should laugh at individuals' accents or misspeaking or fumbling for words in their second (third? fourth?) language. And I'm not suggesting we paint an entire country/culture with a broad brush based on a few mistranslations. But I do think when you see a giant pink sign announcing Very Suspicious Supermarket, go ahead and laugh. When it's a giant public sign, that's like laughing at a grown adult who spoonerizes their way to something Freudian. I'm not talking huge public judgement, I'm just saying we should feel free to enjoy the humour.

Whenever you create something static and permanent for public consumption, you open yourself up to being laughed at if it goes hysterically wrong or shows your fallability. I think treating China (or any other country) with kid gloves in this respect on the unspoken basis that they're non-Western is condescending, and arrogant in its own way.

Paris Hilton is on a first name basis with Barack Obama?

I know everyone who cares has already seen Paris Hilton's presidential campaign ad.

But did you notice she calls Barack Obama "Barack" and John McCain "McCain"? Start watching about about 0:55, she totally does!

The problem with doctor/patient relations in the internet age

Doctors tend to be suspicious of patients who learn things on the internet. I guess they do get people who see some drug ad on TV or blindly trust the first google result to diagnose them even though it's from Ask Yahoo. The problem is I do know how to use the internet judiciously for medical research. I can evaluate the reliability of sources, I can google up independent confirmation, I can double check whether I'm getting confirmation bias, it's essentially my job. I wouldn't have made it past my first practicum if I had poor google judgement. So if I walk into a doctor's office with information I've found on the internet, at the minimum I've done the first level of troubleshooting myself (like when you try to reboot and system restore before calling tech support), and it's quite possible that I've gotten as far as a proper diagnosis and all I need is treatment. But I don't dare say the I-word to the doctor, because their shields immediately go up and they get suspsicious about everything I might say.

Actually, the same thing happens when I get strep throat. I get strep throat almost every year, I know what it feels like, I know I need antibiotics. But if you go into a doctor's office and say "I know what the problem is, I get this all the time, just give me the drugs" they are (understandably) suspicious.

The problem with all this is I feel like I have to play dumb every time I go into the doctor's office. I feel like I have to put on the big green eyes and little girl voice (which I'm really getting too old for and should break the habit of, but it still works more reliably with unknown interlocutors than the assertive grownup act) and describe my symptoms like all gosh golly I'm just the patient you're the big smart doctor, manipulating them into arriving at the diagnosis I've already arrived at. I hate that. It makes me feel like some one-off Sweet Valley High character trying to land a football player and being advised on flirting techniques by Jessica Wakefield. If I wanted to play dumb to convince other people they're oh so smart so they'll do what I want them to, I'd go be a trophy wife!

At this point people always tell me that I have to be assertive, but when I'm assertive that seems to get me subconsciously labelled as a difficult patient and the doctor pushes back like they're actively trying to prove me wrong. The only thing that seems to work is ditzing, and that is very hard work. I wish I could just go in as myself, a competent adult who is capable of reading and thinking and the occasional medical translation.

Things Starfleet Should Invent: a universal translator with a slight accent

When people on Star Trek are incognito on some alien planet, they depend on the universal translator to communicate. On this type of mission, they usually claim to be from some other place on the same planet (the southern continent, the other side of the ridge) that's far enough away to explain any cultural tonedeafness they might have, but close enough to be plausible.

To facilitate this, the UT should give them a slight accent in whatever language they're speaking. It's a lot easier to play at "Sorry, I'm not from around here" when your speech isn't perfect.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Today is artificial limbs day

Today I saw four different people with artificial limbs. Weird coincidence.

I also saw a lady in a wheelchair wearing mad crazy awesome red stiletto sandals that no human being could possibly walk in. Which is fine, because she's in a wheelchair. Makes me wonder why more people in wheelchairs don't wear awesome shoes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Did any of the pharmacy staff address you by name?

One of the questions in the Shoppers Drug Mart customer survey is "Did any of the pharmacy staff address you by name?"

I'm really curious about which answer they're going for here. All the various customer service training I've had encourages you to address people by name, but as a customer at a pharmacy I'd prefer not to be addressed by name for privacy purposes. The pharmacy area is kind of out in the open, and I'd rather not give random people in the store the opportunity to match up my name with what medication I'm taking. Not that it's especially secret - I'm pretty sure I've mentioned every prescription I've ever had here - but it's the principle of the thing. They shouldn't be giving them customer service rules that could possibly compromise patient privacy.

But maybe they know that. I'd assume they're not entirely stupid. Maybe they're asking to make sure no one called me by name. At any rate, I don't want to be called by name and I don't want to get anyone in trouble, so I always mark it as no, no one addressed me by name, then clarify in the comments that that's what I prefer.

(Aside: because I know being called by name is a customer service technique, it always puts my shields up. Miss Manners says it's required by etiquette, but it just seems pure phoney to me. If someone addresses me by name when it isn't strictly necessary, I assume they're trying to play me somehow. And because of this, I rarely address other people by name when not necessary, except in customer service situations.)

Quidquid germanus dictum sid altum viditur

Solo by Thomas D. and Nina Hagen:

I don't know why, but this song gets me every single time, no matter where I am or what I'm feeling or wht else is going on when I hear it. The part that gets me the most is Nina Hagen's chorus:

Du hast mein Herz geklaut,
Ich weiß nicht, ob du's gewusst hast,
Du Schuft hast es getan,
Hab dich geliebt, als ob es keinen Morgen gibt, bis der Morgen kam

This part always reaches its hand down my gullet like something from an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon and stirs up my blood and phlegm and bile like nothing else has since Shakespeare's Sonnet 29.

So what does it mean?

You broke my heart
I don't know whether you knew that
You cad, you did it
I loved you like there was no tomorrow until tomorrow came.

It doesn't work nearly so well in English, does it?

When I was in uni, it was fashionable to aspire to literary translation, but I completely wrote it off as an option. This is why. Translating the meaning? Dead easy. Translating the connotations? 100% is not always possible, but I can consistently exceed 90%. Translating the beauty? Not gonna happen.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Today's rainbow

Maybe one day I'll get so bored of seeing rainbows that I'll stop posting every one I see, but that hasn't happened yet. I think we can conclude that if you face east you'll see more rainbows than if you face west (in Toronto at least).

Edit: OMG, I just noticed, it's just barely a double rainbow! You can see the second rainbow very faintly above the first one, arcing out of the top roof of the building on the very right. I didn't even notice that IRL!

A clue in the Sitemeter/Internet Explorer problem

I am running WebWasher Classic with IE 7, and I can still access websites with Sitemeter on them. However, I cannot access the Sitemeter site itself. Whatever the problem in the code is, WebWasher blocks it. That's the best I can do at the moment, but the solution is in there somewhere.

So that's why I didn't realize my blog was not accessible through IE - because it was just fine for me. Sorry about that. I'll be removing my Sitemeter code as right after I post this.

If you have a blog or a website and you want people to still be able to read it with IE, remove your sitemeter code. Pass it on.

Update: as of 5 pm, it seems to be working normally now.


You know how sometimes the most obvious most suitable consequence for a particular crime (either as punishment or to prevent the crime from happening again) is something the criminal justice system can't do? The offender should have the choice between the logical, natural consequence that's normally outside the scope of the criminal justice system, and whatever the standard sentence for the crime is. Standard sentences shouldn't be inflated to coerce offenders into choosing the logical, natural consequence, it should be a free choice where they can go with whatever they prefer.

The first thing that comes to mind for this is castrating sex offenders. I don't know if the castration would mitigate whatever psychopathic tendencies they have (it might vary from case to case?) but if it actually would prevent them from re-offending, why not put it out there as an option? The other case that comes to mind was one from a while back where a lady killed her baby through neglect because she was too stupid to take care of a baby. I forget the details of how the kid died or whatever so I can't google it up, but I distinctly remember that she honestly did not grok that her baby would die if she neglected it. Now the logical thing to do would be to sterilize her, wouldn't it? That's way outside the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system, but if she had a free choice in the matter and chose sterilization, then everyone would be better off and there would be no chance of recidivism.

I'm sure there are some examples that don't involve cutting people's genitals off, but I can't think of any offhand. Psychoanalyze that at your leisure.


The following is a quote from Successful Dog Adoption by Sue Sternberg. Any typos are my own.

Behaviourally adoptable dogs get adopted more quickly than the problem or unadoptable dogs, so the shelter gradually clogs up with the problem or unadoptable dogs. [...] May dogs who start out as behaviourally adoptable dogs wil, over time, deteriorate in the shelter/kennel environment, becoming less and less adoptable with each passing day. [...] The more aggressive, "kennel crazy" unadoptable dogs there are, the quicker the behaviourally adoptable dogs deteriorate because of the heightened state of arousal and aggression in the kennels, until they're all lunging at the front of their cages.

That sounds exactly like my young offenders theory!


Speaking of (young offenders, not dogs), I have a question for people who think Omar Khadr should be punished on the basis that he was wherever it was that he was:

How could he have gotten out of that situation?

I have been 15 years old and taken to a foreign country by my parents, and even with an additional 12 years' life experience and 20/20 hindsight, I have no idea how I could have gotten out of there. How do you plan your escape without unmonitored internet access? How do you buy a plane ticket when you don't have a credit card? How do you flee when you haven't learned to drive yet? How do you get through customs without parental consent to travel? What if your parents are holding onto your passport for safekeeping? How do you judge whether local authorities will assist you or whether they'll just return you to your parents as a runaway? How do you carry this all off with the minimal (if any) pocket money a 15-year-old generally has on them?

People are talking like it's the most obvious thing in the world that he made a fully informed choice to be there, and while I agree that he may well have been able to grok the politics and moral impliciations at that age, I simply cannot see any way that he could have left the situation.

Explain this to me please. Give me specifics, give me logistics, give me solutions to all the problems I've mentioned above. I don't see it at all, help me out here.

And then, once you've explained it, perhaps publicize the procedure to help other teenagers who find themselves forced into untenable situations by their parents.

Hot wet dirty hardcore prescriptivism

"...aux adjoints aux directeurs généraux..."

I paused, leaned back, folded my arms and smirked.

My text prattled on for a moment before it realized I had stopped, then turned and looked at me questioningly.

I raised an eyebrow. "Do you realize what you just did?"

My text furrowed its brow, mentally replaying the last couple of phrases, until a look of realization dawned. "Oh shit..."

I leaned forward, making my voice low and dangerous. "And you realize what I have to do to you now?"

My text just stared up at me, wide-eyed.

I smiled evilly. "Come on, you know I don't make the rules," I said, wielding my usage handbook. "And besides," I added, googling up several hundred precedents, "Everyone's doing it!"

My text still didn't look convinced.

I leaned in close and whispered "Listen, just between you and me, I've never had an opportunity to do this before." I looked it right in the eyes. "Don't you want to be my first?"

My text's eyes were still wide and apprehensive, but it nodded its assent.

"Excellent." I licked my lips. "Now just sit back and relax, and I'll do this as gently as I can."

I reached down, warily at first but soon gaining more confidence, and typed "...the Directors General's assistants."

Friday, August 01, 2008

A simple mission for Improv Everywhere

Burst into this song on the subway. Multiple times, on different subways, all throughout the day.

Also, someone totally needs to start a Toronto branch of Improv Everywhere.

Open letter to religious people trying to say nice things to atheists

Telling an atheist that you're sure they'll find god soon is a dis. I know it doesn't sound that way to you. I know you think you're saying "This great and wonderful thing that changed my life will happen to you soon!" But to an atheist whose atheism came from careful thought (and I don't know any whose didn't, although I'd imagine it could also be the result of growing up in a household without religion), it sounds like anything from "Soon you'll see that I'm right and you're wrong!" to "Soon you'll come to realize what a wonderful man your abusive ex is and go crawling back to him!" Just...don't say it.

Edited to add the most obvious analogy in human history: religious people, how would you feel if smiling and enthusiastically told you that I'm sure you'll lose your religion soon?