Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Today is International Translation Day

So here's Eddie Izzard on learning French:

Monty Python's Italian lesson:

Monty Python's Latin lesson:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is this actually a once in a lifetime economic crisis?

This economy thing that's going on, that I don't quite understand. I've heard it described as a once in a lifetime crisis and compared with the Great Depression.

I would love for that to be true. It's not the severity part that I'm excited about, it's the once in a lifetime part.

Even if it is like the Great Depression and we're in for 10 years of grinding poverty, if it's a once in a lifetime thing we may as well get it over with! A decade of devastation, and then everything is uphill for the rest of our lives!

If only it worked that way.

Dreams of things falling on my head

Last night I dreamed I had a car - an adorable little blue Mini! It was parked on the street in front of my building (not allowed IRL, perfectly legal in the dream) even though the street was also a construction zone with like six cranes lifting heavy stuff. (IRL, there's a construction zone with four cranes further down the street.) One of the cranes dropped a tree, almost killing me, so I ran inside to figure out what to do to protect my car.

Even though I went up the elevator in the same glass building I live in IRL, my apartment was a dark, dank underground hole. It was also in New York City, even though the outside of the building was in Toronto. It had these sort of diagonal windows (like greenhouses) at street level, but it was such a deep dark hole these served as skylights. So I was chatting with Poodle, trying to figure out if I'm allowed to put my car in the garage because I only have a G1 licence, when suddenly a bad guy came crashing down through the window into my apartment, looking for drugs and getting quite erratic when we didn't have any. So I subdued him (luckily he weighed literally nothing) tied his arms and legs in a knot and handed him back out the window to a passing fireman.

Then suddenly I was in the ravine behind my parents' house with my mother. It had been raining heavily, and the ground was literally swollen with water - it was like walking on a giant waterbed. All this rain caused the trees to wake up and start walking around - turns out they were really Ents. Then the Ents started dropping coconuts on our heads (there are no coconut trees in this ravine, it's a temperate zone) because humans used that part of the ravine to smoke marijuana (true IRL).

So I ran away to where the President of the United States was giving a speech in this same ravine. Except it wasn't the real president, it was the fictional one from the Covert One novels. And my mission was to protect him. So I jumped into a LAV with all the other people whose mission was to protect the president (but we left the president outside, apparently at the mercy of the Ents) and started driving around. Then the same bad guy came crashing through the windshield. But I woke up before I could find out what he wanted this time.

So that's two trees being dropped on my head, two bad guys breaking through glass to come crashing down on my head, and an ongoing drug theme (I haven't done any drugs IRL). I wish I knew how to analyze dreams.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Comedy in lieu of content

I got nothing today. I've been working on updating my voter's resources post (should be up within the next couple of days) and putting together my 10 to the 100 submissions, and suddenly it's Sunday and it's dark out and I haven't even read the paper yet and I'm way behind on housework.

So here's the Kids in the Hall on the importance of keeping on top of your life:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tax incentives

Do tax incentives (or taxation as a deterrent) work on you? Do they cause you to change your behaviour at all?

I'm wondering because they don't work on me. I don't even think about it.

But then I must either not make very much money or have my life arranged in an unusual way, because I find my tax burden negligible. If all the money I paid in taxes ended up in my pocket, it wouldn't be enough to improve my quality of life. My savings account might be a bit bigger, I might be able to pay off my mortgage like a year sooner once I get a condo, but overall I wouldn't notice the difference.

For those of you who do notice your taxes, do tax incentives or deterrents work on you?

Friday, September 26, 2008

So this is why I don't know any rich men

Last week there was a study that found that men who think women should stay at home and raise the kids earn more money than men who are egalitarian. I wondered at the time about cause and effect (could the more sexist men be more attracted to higher-earning occupations, or the less sexist men less attracted to these occupations?) but it didn't seem worth blogging.

But it just occurred to me that this might explain another phenomenon I've noticed.

A while back, someone mentioned to me that a lot of people have the tacit assumption that men necessarily make enough money to support their family single-handedly, and want to make policy based on that assumption. I kept an eye out for that assumption, and I have seen it around underlying other discussions. For example, the whole Mommy Wars construct assumes that your husband can make enough money to support the whole family, and when people complain about single mothers on welfare they're assuming that the baby-daddy earns enough money to bring the family out of welfare, or enough that they'd be better off than on welfare.

The concept of a man earning enough to support his family single-handedly isn't foreign to me. Most of the households in my extended family have done this at one time or another, including my own parents. However, it always seemed unreasonable to me to use it as a basis for policy, because I don't know anyone - not one person - who a) is male, b) would make a compatible mate for me, and c) earns enough money for two (to say nothing of children - although children would make them an incompatible mate).

And I'm using a broad, arranged-marriage type definition of compatible mate. Within the xkcd age range, shares basic core values, we can have a conversation without boring or infuriating each other, and there is at least one sexual activity that we would both enjoy doing (i.e. with each other). I know absolutely no one who meets these criteria, is male, and earns enough to support a couple.

So maybe this recent study explains why. I don't get along with men who think women should stay at home and raise the kids, and they don't get along with me - and we seem to mutually get this vibe before we even know how the other person feels about these issues. Even men who think this subconsciously - who would never say this out loud but when they picture what life will be like when they have kids, there's a stay-at-home wife in the picture. Even among family members and other people who aren't prospective mates, we grate on each other. They vaguely dislike me, I vaguely dislike them, even before we've discussed our respective family statuses. Even on the internet, if they're not disregarding me they're flaming me, and I write off their posts when I see the name at the top.

So maybe these two things are related?

When to screen for the breast cancer gene

They're debating whether minors should be screened for the breast cancer gene. They seem to be looking at it in terms of what the potential screenee could do at that particular point in their lives to prevent breast cancer.

But they seem to be missing one key point: the breast cancer gene is hereditary.

Therefore, people should be screened before they become sexually active, so they can make fully-informed decisions about family planning. Some will argue that potential for increased breast cancer risk is no reason not to have kids, but actual carriers of this hereditary gene have first-hand knowledge of what it's like to live with this hereditary gene and the ensuing risks, so they are the best people to make that decision for themselves.

I think the optimal time for testing is when it starts to occur to a person that they might want to have sex one day, so they're at a point where they can see the necessity of having the information, but they still have a bit of time to let it fester before they have to make any decisions. However, this puts the kid in the awkward position of going to their parents and saying "It occurs to me that I might want to have sex one day," with the ensuing potential for parental overreaction. If we have to pick a specific age, I'd say when the kid starts high school would be most appropriate, although some parents will worry that this would give kids tacit permission to have sex starting in high school. The other option would be menarche. Speaking as someone who had early menarche, I would have found the knowledge terrifying at that age (although I also found menstruation and bras and armpit hair terrifying) but people with a family history of breast cancer might feel differently.

At any rate, they're doing people a disservice by not allowing them to be tested before they're sexually active just because they're too young for a preventive masectomy.

Can I has a crystal ball plz?

I wish I knew how much time in my life as a whole is going to be spent unemployed. I'm trying to make decisions about increasing how much money I spend to upgrade quality of life - ongoing operational expenditures, not capital investments, and it is kind of a luxury although most people reading this (of the people I know) will tell me I deserve it. As long as I'm employed at my current job, I can easily afford it and it isn't an issue. But bag lady syndrome keeps kicking in and I keep thinking that instead of spending money on an ongoing luxury, I should be saving up the money to tide me over for whenever I lose my job. The optimist contingent tells me that with my skills I should be able to find another job no problem and that surely my job search wouldn't outlast my savings, but I cannot agree with them based on my own experience looking for work. Members of the optimist contingent who don't have a job like mine tell me that my job is perfectly secure, but from where I'm sitting I don't feel anywhere near as confident.

I just wish I knew, right now, how much of my life is going to be spent unemployed. I don't need to know when it will happen or even whether it will all happen in one big chunk or a month or two here and there. I just want to know how long in total. Then all I have to do is save up enough money to cover that period of time, and after that I can splurge on whatever I want.

I wonder if people's parental status affects their opinion about Omar Khadr

I have no basis for this theory, not even anecdotal evidence, but it occurred to me as something that some people might think.

The people who want to keep Omar Khadr on Guantanamo generally support their argument at least partially on his family's political opinions. I wonder if parents are more likely to feel this way as compared with non-parents? Parents try to instill their own values in their children, so it stands to reason that they might be more likely to think people share their parents' values and that this attitude is permanent. (I've noticed that when people become parents, they seem much less able to identify with the child half of a parent-child relationship, even though they are still someone's child themselves.) I have a theory that Omar Khadr's natural adolescent rebellion might have turned him into a moderate if he'd gotten to spend his adolescence in a more normal environment, but I've never had anyone who is a parent agree with me that this was even a possibility.

If parents are more likely to want to punish him based on his family's political opinions, it would also be interesting to see whether this changes based on the age of the person's kids.

People need to stop using the word anti-choice to mean anti-abortion

Why? Because we now need the word anti-choice to describe this guy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Need to de-stress?

A bowl full of puppies!

Open Letter to the three ladies speaking sign language on the TTC southbound at Lawrence around 6:20 p.m.


I did see you all there signing at each other (don't worry, I wasn't eavesdropping - I don't understand it well enough), I did hear the announcement on the speaker, I did realize you probably couldn't hear the announcement and would probably need someone to explain it to you, and I was going to go and try to help even though all I have is finger-spelling. But I got swept up in the tide of people leaving the subway, and by the time I was able to stop I couldn't see you anywhere. I'm sorry for not helping you and I really hope you all got where you were going all right.


The girl who kept foolishly gawking at your sign language like she's never seen sign language before.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We can retire the SENTENCE game now

In my first year linguistics class, the prof mentioned in passing that you might say "I heard a new word today," but you'd never say "I heard a new sentence today." (She was making some point, I forget what it was.)

We glommed onto that and started pointing out every time someone says a sentence that we have reason to believe has never been uttered before, usually by shouting "SENTENCE!" at it.

But we can retire now. Stephen Fry has us all beat. (And I want to be in the room when this was written):

Added bonus: this is so gay!

Missed opportunity for a practical joke

I just realized my drugstore purchase included both pickles and ice cream.

Just to weird out the cashier, I should have added a home pregnancy test and wire coathangers to my basket.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Things I learned today

1. It is, in fact, possible for a black dress that looks perfectly innocuous on the rack to make me look fatter than I do naked. No, it wasn't the bad empire waist phenomenon, but I can't tell what specific aspects of its design created this effect.

2. Two Always Ultra Thin Long with Wings and three O.B. Mighty Small are nowhere near sufficient to absorb 500 mL of water spilled in your purse.

3. The face I make when I unexpectedly encounter an impossibly adorable puppy causes my earbuds to fall out.

4. Those teenage boys who walk along the sidewalk taking up the whole sidewalk so people have to step onto the road will move aside for me if I look them in the eye with a look of "Yeah right, you have GOT to be kidding me."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Phobia round-up

1. Scientists have found a correlation between political ideology and physiological response to perceived threats, which is interesting. But I wonder if they controlled the test for phobia? Two of those images mentioned would have given me panic attacks, and it is one of the more common phobias, but I think it's unrelated to what they were trying to test for.

2. There are people who think I should be indifferent to the presence of a phobia trigger in my home. Even though I have been given a professional opinion that as long as I can get rid of them somehow desensitization isn't necessary, a number of different people have told me that I should be just ignoring their presence, letting them wander around and do as they please. But the thing is, whether they make you panic or not, they are still an unwanted outside animal. If you walk into your bathroom and find a dog or a lizard or a bird or chipmunk or a worm or small pony, it's a problem, or at the very least a situation that needs to be addressed. You wouldn't just ignore it. Even if you like the animal - if I found a dog in my bathroom I'd totally keep it! - you'd do something as opposed to just ignoring it. Even if you personally think they aren't a problem because they're small or whatever, you should still at least be able to imagine why someone else might not ignore an unwanted outside animal.

Things They Should Invent: post on the CPSO website which doctors refuse to provide which services

Apparently doctors have or might have the right to refuse to provide medical treatments based on their own religious beliefs.

I'm still wondering a) do any other professions have this as a capital R Right? and b) since there are so many specializations in medicine, why not just specialize in something that is completely unrelated to the areas where your beliefs limit you? If you believe birth control pills are inethical, why become a family doctor (which is most people's #1 stop for their contraception needs?) Why not become a podiatrist or an ear nose and throat specialist instead?

But if they are going to do that, they should save everyone time and hassle and give us all fair warning by posting in the doctor's profile on the CPSO website which services and procedures they refuse to provide. For example, what I want out of my family doctor (the reason I even bothered to go to the trouble of finding a family doctor in the first place) is contraception. If I go through the CPSO directory finding someone who's taking new patients, schedule an appointment, wait for the appointment, take time off work, wait in the waiting room because they're running an hour behind as usual, go in and talk to the doctor and THEN find they won't give me contraception, I've wasted a shitload of my time and gotten really pissed off, in addition to wasting the doctor's time and the receptionist's time and inconveniencing my work and making the people in line behind me in the waiting room wait marginally longer. It would be a lot easier for everyone if I could just see on the website that they won't give me contraception, so I can rule them out and scroll down to the next one.

The doctors shouldn't object to this, unless their goal is to make it more difficult for people to get contraception by sending them on wild goose chases (in which case they shouldn't be practising medicine and should probably undergo some kind of psychiatric evaluation). Doctors will still get patients whose ethics jive with their own (for example, I would happily go to a doctor who refuses to provide artificial conception because I think it's morally wrong too, and I'd go to a doctor who refuses to provide, like, circumcision because it's way irrelevant to me). If the doctor can't find enough patients because of their religious restrictions, then maybe that's a sign that they should be in another profession, or at least another specialization.

Life imitates Simpsons

From the Simpsons episode The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and her Homer:

(Homer drives home in a new red pickup.)
Marge: Homer! Where did you get that truck?
Homer: Uhhh, it fell off a truck! You know, a truck truck!
(An airhorn blasts and Bart rolls up at the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler transporting pickup trucks).
Lisa: Where'd you get that?
Bart: It fell off a truck-truck truck.
(Another airhorn, and a truck-truck truck drives past, carrying several eighteen-wheelers loaded with pickups).

Found on Fail Blog, a truck truck truck truck.

Things They Should Invent: cancon online music store

I've noticed that smaller musicians tend to release CDs, but not be on itunes or otherwise have their music available for download. This is an inconvenience for me as a consumer, because since I got an ipod I no longer want actual CDs. And sometimes I want just one or two songs, but I don't want to spend $20 and have an extra piece of clutter around to get them. (For local artists I can often find their CDs at the library, but that doesn't actually help the artist.)

I think the people who are responsible for promoting Canadian content could fix this, and promote Canadian music worldwide in the process. All we need is an online music store of literally all Canadian artists.

The store would be web-based and highly googleable, so people would land on it while looking for specific songs and artists. If it prices itself like itunes but in Canadian dollars, it will slightly undercut itunes on every sale. If they can avoid having DRM and make it open to everyone in the world to buy from regardless of which country they live in, word will quickly spread that this store is superior to itunes when buying Canadian music. This will, in turn, increase awareness of which music is Canadian and thus global awareness of Canadian culture. (I've heard that this is important in terms of international relations, although I don't grok why.)

Then if they give the store one of those ubiquitous "If you like this music, you may also like this music" functions, then people from around the world who wander in googling for mainstream music that happens to be Canadian, like Diana Krall or Nickelback, will be able to discover other Canadian artists they would never have thought of, and quickly and easily buy their music DRM-free at a price that undercuts itunes. And, of course, if the consumer would prefer a CD, they could use the website to discover new music, then purchase the CD from the artist's website like usual. Or maybe this music store could sell CDs too. If they posted lyrics on the site too, it could attract traffic from people who are googling for lyrics, and drive them to more music they might like.

Consumers get the music they're looking for, even if it's obscure, in the format they want at the best possible price. Artists get broader promotion than they could do themselves. Canadian culture gets promoted to anyone who happens to be googling for any music that happens to be Canadian. Everybody wins!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Things They Should Invent: viable alternatives to plastic

This train of thought started with this article but drifted far enough that I'm not actually quoting the article or anything.

There seem to be two attitudes towards plastic packaging today. One is that it's bad and evil and we must ban it. The other is that we need it.

The "Ban it!" contingent seems intent on changing people's behaviour, often in ways that are less convenient. But is anyone actually thinking about inventing something that will fulfill the same functions with the same convenience as our plastic products currently do, so people won't have to change their behaviour at all?

If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of plastic. But it isn't the plastic itself that I like, it's the functionalities of the various plastic products. I like getting my shopping packaged in plastic bags because then I don't need to carry giant totebags around with me all day just because I might want to pick up a few groceries on the way home. I like that the plastic bags are disposable because then I can use them as garbage bags. I like plastic bags as opposed to paper bags because the plastic bags have handles, so I can carry way more of them at once and hang them on my forearms when I need my hands free. I like take-out food containers because then I can eat my food at my desk when work is busy, or take it somewhere else when the Tim Hortons is full (which the one near my work often is). I like disposable take-out containers rather than bringing my own reuseables because then I don't have to wash dishes in the poorly-equipped office kitchen or carry dirty dishes home with me.

So is anyone actually thinking or researching about alternatives to these products that won't require the users to change behaviour? There's definitely a market for this and it's going to be a money-maker.

It also occurs to me that replacing disposable products with non-disposable products might not always be a good idea. If you create a product designed for permanence that the user doesn't actually want to be permanent, it's probably going to end up in a landfill next time they move. For example, several businesses have given me free totebags, with the idea that I'll reuse them when shopping next time. But I never use them, because I don't shop that way. They're just cluttering up my apartment. Eventually they're just going to end up in the clothing donation box (which I know isn't where they belong, but the alternative is the landfill.) As I've mentioned before, a more effective alternative would be biodegradable plastic bags, which would be used as garbage bags and biodegrade, rather than taking up room and being useless. And I'm sure there are similar alternatives that could be created for other currently-plastic products that people don't actually want to be permanent. Our scientists and engineers and inventors shouldn't view permanence as panacea and as the only alternative to the landfill; they should look at what the user actually wants out of the product, and create more environmentally-friendly impermanent alternatives when the user doesn't want permanence.

Texting lowers your IQ?

Mentioned in a larger article I found via Language Log:

“The act of texting automatically removes 10 I.Q. points,” said Paul Saffo, a technology trend forecaster in Silicon Valley.

I'm not questioning that it's distracting. It's way distracting to me. I stop texting when crossing streets, stepping on and off trains and escalators etc. because if I don't I'll fall or crash into something or get hit by a car. But is that really IQ? Are people with higher IQs really better at not getting hit by cars? And, conversely, do people with lower IQs get hit by cars more?

And if it is IQ, it's way more than 10 points. There's no way the average person is as stupid as I am when texting (and I test significantly more than 10 points higher than average - I know it's obscenely gauche to mention this but I don't know how to make my point without this factoid). If that were true, society couldn't function. Everyone would be tripping and falling and crashing into each other.

Also, if it is IQ, does it lower everyone by the same number of points? Or does it lower everyone to the same number of points? Maybe, instead of knocking X points off everyone's score, maybe it makes everyone act like they have an IQ of 80 or something. This would make more sense. If it just knocked 10 points off your IQ, then MENSA members should still be allowed to text while driving.

Anyone know stuff about employment law?

Employment laws require employers to give employees notice - on average, six months, although that could be shorter or longer depending on the length of employment and seniority - when their jobs are being terminated; employees are entitled to be paid for that time.

Six months? Is that correct? Like even for ordinary people? That seems really high to me, I always thought it was like two weeks.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Explain economics to me please

Economists warn of deflation threat.

Why is deflation threatening?

With inflation, each dollar buys less. So it stands to reason that with deflation, each dollar will buy more. On a personal level, this means that I can buy more stuff. It means that, even if I don't manage to get a good interest rate, the real value of my savings isn't going to decrease. It means that if I lose my job, I can stretch my savings further.

On a broader level, if people can buy more stuff that will stimulate the economy, which is generally considered a good thing. If we can buy more stuff, we can buy more discrete consumer products (i.e. instead of buying shoes I can buy shoes AND a dress), each of which has its own supply chain involving several jobs that will be supported by the purchase. If real prices are lower, we'll be able to afford more local and more ethical purchases rather than buying the cheapest made in china stuff from the dollar store, which will support local and ethical businesses and manufacturers and, again, boost the economy.

So why is deflation a threat? What am I missing here?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What To Expect When You're Aborting

I mentioned earlier that I've been reading what might be the internet's first abortion blog.

I went in hoping to learn more about the procedure itself, and I learned some very useful things about the timing of the procedure. Turns out you can only get a medical abortion (i.e. using pills) until 7 weeks and you can't get a surgical abortion until later, which ultimately means you need to find out that you're pregnant as soon as possible. I used to think that since I'm on the pill I'd wait until I missed the second period, just so as to not to cry wolf. Then I learned there are sometimes waiting times, so I decided I'd act as soon as I missed my first period. But now, knowing how important the timing is, if I don't get my period on Tuesday afternoon like I have every month since I started taking the pill, I'm buying a pee-on-a-stick test on Wednesday!

But there was one thing brought up in this blog that never even remotely occurred to me before and completely blew my puny little mind:

Between conception and abortion, you experience pregnancy symptoms!

This makes perfect sense, of course. Your body doesn't know you're getting an abortion, so it's merrily gestating away. But I never thought of this before. Yes, I've been planning my abortion for the last 12 years, but I've always been thinking of it as a mcguffin to acquire, a mission to fulfill. Where can I get one? What will it cost me? What hinderances might I face and how can I overcome them? For 12 years I've always had in the back of my mind how I might scrape together hundreds of dollars in a real hurry (even though they're covered by OHIP) and face down protesters (even though many, if not all, clinics have an injunction) and get to, through, and home from the appointment without a support person (even though I can think of half a dozen support people offhand) and get out of whatever obligations I might have at any given time without telling anyone who might try to stop me or whose reaction I don't want to deal with managing what I'm really going off and doing. I have a massive mental decision tree that I'm constantly updating. But I never once gave a moment's thought to what my body might be doing at the same time. I'd always thought of pregnancy symptoms as something that happened to other people, to people who were going to have a baby. In trashy women's magazines it's in the Pregnancy & Baby section, which I always just skip over when I'm looking for hair styles or crappy advice columns or stupid quizzes. I'd always thought of it as Someone Else's Problem, I'd never thought of it as something I might have to deal with myself.

And, frankly, the prospect of going through pregnancy symptoms is scary! I haven't even thrown up since I was like 13, I wouldn't know what to do! Having your body do anything new for the first time is always exceptionally scary and difficult. (My first menstrual cramps I spent the afternoon curled up in a ball on the family room floor, desperately trying to teach myself how to swallow pills so I could take adult-calibre painkillers, sobbing at the prospect of going through this once a month for the rest of my life. Two hundred cycles later, worst case I take my heating pad to work with me.) And because abortion is a sensitive topic, I might have to go through all these pregnancy symptoms without telling anyone. If I threw up from the flu or food poisoning, or even from a wanted pregnancy, I could call my mother and say "Mommy help I threw up!" and she'd comfort me and tell me what to do and probably even come take care of me if I asked her to. If I were at work experiencing pregnancy symptoms from a pregnancy that I intended to carry to term, I'd only have to drop a hint into the rumour mill and half a dozen women would flock around me bearing soda crackers and pickles and advice and old baby clothes. But I don't know how any of these people would react if I told them I was having an abortion, and I wouldn't necessarily want to manage their reaction when also dealing with pregnancy-induced bloating and nausea and mood swings for the first time in my life. Oh, and guess what, it turns out there's also another round of hormonal shit after the abortion, because your hormone levels change again!

The blogger behind What To Expect When You're Aborting (you know, the thing I'm REALLY talking about in this post even though I just went off on a me me me tangent about something that's completely hypothetical) recently mentioned that she's disappointed in herself for experiencing this emotional drama and was hesitant to blog about it. But I'm very glad and grateful that she did blog about it, because if she hadn't it would never have occurred to me. As scary as pregnancy symptoms are, it's not like they change anything in my decision-making. But now that I know about them, at least I can have an idea of what to expect and maybe eventually come up with some coping strategies. In my limited null gravida experience with hormonal mood swings, I find they're easier to deal with when I realize that my mood is hormonal. Now that I have some idea what to expect, maybe that will help.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pop quiz

Read the following line aloud.

I can't, can you? You can't, can you? I can't.

Did you read it aloud? Seriously, not in your head, aloud.

Are you sure.

Okay, then you can continue.

Did you pronounce can and can't with the same vowel sound?

Before you did that, did you think you pronounced can and can't with the same vowel sound?

I was absolutely 100% certain I pronounced them the same. But it turns out I don't. I wonder how many other things I don't pronounce the way I think I do. Maybe this is why I always had so much trouble with phonetics.

It's official, they don't want my vote

I recently theorized, based on the campaign literature I've received so far, that the Conservative party doesn't care about me at all.

I was right, I am officially of no interest to them.

The Conservatives have given fictional names to demographic segments in the electorate that they've identified.

“Zoey” is a central city inhabitant who eats organic food and is of no interest to them; ditto with “Marcus and Fiona,” a high-income urban couple with no children and professional jobs.

I know, I'm not as cool as Zoey, Marcus and Fiona. I'm only organic when it's convenient, I'm not high-income, and I'm not in a couple household. But that's basically what I identify with and aspire to be.

I'm glad we all understand each other.

Store cats

You know how sometimes small non-chain stores have a cat that hangs out in the store and purrs at and/or sheds on the customers? Does it live there full-time, or does the owner take it home at night? If so, does that mean they have to coerce the cat into a carrier twice a day?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our immigration policies disgust me

Holy shit! Immigration Canada investigates immigrants' marriages to make sure they're "real" and not marriages of convenience. I am shocked and appalled and disgusted!

Even if they are marriages of convenience, as long as everyone in the marriage understands and agrees to the terms, who cares? As citizens, we can marry whomever we want under whatever circumstances we want and the state doesn't care. We can ask our parents to arrange a marriage, we can seduce a billionaire centenarian, we can have a chaste arrangement with someone of incompatible sexual orientation, we can post an ad on craigslist saying "I have breasts and insurance!" and marry the first person to respond, and the state is going to give a moment's care. But immigrants have to prove that they know each other well enough and like each other well enough to meet some functionary's qualitative standards? How dare the state demand this? We established, before I was even born, that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation. But apparently it's allowed to poke around in the hearts and minds of the nation to make sure they like each other enough like some asshole father who enjoys tormenting teenage boys by interrogating them about their intentions towards his daughter, even if his daughter just wants him to STFU so she can take her date somewhere private and get some cunnilingus!

At this point some of you are wondering "Why are you, a huge fan of serious till-death-do-us-part marriage, advocating marriages of convenience?" I'm not advocating them. I certainly wouldn't want one myself! But then, I wouldn't want a marriage that involves child-rearing either. However, some people strongly believe that the purpose of marriage is "for the procreation of children" (I think that's the exact wording of wedding vows in some Protestant denominations). Now suppose I had some relatives who thought that and disapproved of my childfree marriage. Then suppose I died. Then suppose my relatives tried to get my spouse disinherited and kicked out of the country on the basis that our marriage wasn't real because we didn't have children. Then suppose some government agency took their complaint seriously and investigated it and interrogated my spouse and might actually kick them out on the basis that we didn't have children, even though we both agreed on being childfree, because the vast majority of Canadian marriages do have children?

That's just what they're doing here. They're investigating immigrants to make sure their marriages are similar enough to most Canadian marriages without even allowing for the possibility that they're consenting adults with their own unique arragement, even though citizens are allowed to have whatever bizarre arrangement they want without the state even throwing a glance in their direction.

I'm ashamed of us, Canada! This also makes me want to go get a marriage of convenience to somewhere cooler than us, like Europe or something, just out of spite.

Why has no one made this mashup yet?

Fat Bottomed Girls vs. Baby Got Back vs. Bootylicious. It's so obvious! Sure, they're melodically incompatible, but it's so obvious that one or two songs could be represented with only nominal snippets, or they could be medlied more than mashed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How to get through abortion clinic protest lines

What To Expect When You're Aborting, which is possibly the internet's first abortion blog (and which I'm going to blog about more later because it's kick-ass and very helpful and makes me think - I hope she doesn't mind the attention) gets credit for making me think of this.

The patient approaches the clinic with two support people, at least one of whom is female. (This could also be executed with one female support person, but with two people it would be more convincing and take less acting.)

As they approach the clinic, they patient and the other support person flank the female support person, put their arms protectively around her, and hustle her into the clinic. The female support person serves as a decoy patient and takes all the abuse, leaving the real patient with nothing to do but play bodyguard.

Not that anyone is obligated to be gratuitously awesome in this situation, but bonus awesome points if the decoy patient pretends to have a change of heart in a big dramatic way, distracting the protesters and making them think they won while the real patient slips quietly into the door. Logistical problem: then the support people aren't inside to take the real patient home.

Bunny break

Baby bunnies!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Can people with prosthetic hands use microwaves?

Long story how I stumbled upon this, but it turns out the touchpad on my microwave only works if you press the buttons with actual flesh and blood. Pressure alone won't make them work, they need the warmth (I assume it's the warmth) too.

Every microwave I've ever met had a touchpad, I assume they all work the same.

So what about people with prosthetic hands? Are they forever locked out of microwaves?

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: yellow bike approach to reuseable containers

Toronto wants to ban disposable coffee cups in addition to plastic bags.

If they do this, then if you want a coffee while away from home, you'll have to carry a mug around with you all day. This would work for office workers, who can keep their mug on their desk and wash it in the sink, but it won't work for people who are on the move all day or work outdoors or for whom spontenous coffee comes up. ("Want to go for a coffee?" "I can't, I don't have a mug with me.") If this goes through, people will have to carry a couple of totebags and a coffee mug around with them all day just so they can go through the normal everyday activities of grabbing a quick coffee if they feel the need or pick up a couple of things for dinner on the way home. This isn't a huge deal for car people, who have basically a small room in which to store anything they might have to carry around, but it's a major inconvenience for pedestrians and transit users. We're supposed to be getting people out of their cars too, and this doesn't pass the skirt heels handbag test.

It would be brilliant if they could solve this by taking a yellow bike approach to mugs and tote bags. You can pick up a reuseable at the place where you buy your coffee/groceries, then you can just leave it somewhere when you're done. Maybe you could leave the tote bags in the lobby of your apartment building. Maybe you could leave the mugs anywhere in the city that sells coffee. In any case, drop-off locations would be plentiful and convenient. Then someone would pick them up (job creation!), the mugs would be washed sanitarily, and they'd be taken back to retailers for reuse.

Obviously the logistical problems are overwhelming. They'd need massive numbers of drop-off locations to make this convenient for people. Getting the right numbers of containers back to the right retailers would be complicated. Who would pay for all this? I have no idea! That's why I classified it under Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work instead of Things They Should Invent, but I'd love to be proven wrong.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today also needs some music from high school

Today needs some Sesame Street

Things They Should Invent: hot compress mask

If you have a zit or clogged pore that won't come out, you're supposed to put a hot compress on it. The problem is that you can't go about your everyday activities with a hot compress. You need one hand to hold it on, and depending on where it is you might have to remove clothes or glasses or something.

What we need is a mask that serves as a hot compress. Not a mask in the sense of an object that you wear on your face, but mask in the sense of cosmetic goop that you put on your skin. You take a bit of goop, put it on the affected area, and it sits there and acts like a hot compress, opening the pore and bringing the contents to a head. It would have to come in a tube or something so you can dispense only a small amount to cover the zit.

Biore Self-Heating Mask does this sort of. It helps a bit with the pores in general and cystic acne drains faster after I use it (plus on occasion it has even tightened up wrinkles, which doesn't make sense but it did happen) but I'd like something more targeted that serves specifically as a hot compress.

What if infertility is hereditary?

Extraordinary measures to address infertility are very recent. I think the world's first test tube baby is about my age, so the first children born of artificial conception might be starting families themselves right about now if they're into that sort of thing.

What if it turns out that whatever caused their parents' infertility is hereditary? We would just be finding that out right about now or maybe within the next few years. Up until now, we would have no way of knowing if infertility is hereditary, because people who were infertile never had children before my generation was born.

I don't really have a point here, I'm just appreciating the mindfuck aspects of this idea.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sophisticated voter targeting?

Mentioned in passing in an only tangentally-related article:

Both are evidence of what Canada's political parties and for-hire election campaign tacticians have known for some time: that the Conservatives are doing the most sophisticated, intense and widespread voter-targeting in the country.

I wasn't going to mention it this early on, but I've gotten two pieces of literature from the Conservative campaign so far, and they were both addressing me very specifically in my capacity as a parent.

Thing is, I'm not a parent. Not only that, but very few people in my postal code are. If they had done any demographic targeting at all, they wouldn't be sending me this stuff.

Originally I was going to comment on how I've never before gotten political propganda targeting me as something I'm not. I've gotten material targeting me as having an opinion I don't have, but always in my capacity of something that I am. I've gotten both "As a tenant, here's why you should support rent control" and "As a tenant, here's why you should oppose rent control." I've gotten "As a hard-working citizen" as a premise for nearly every political platform I've ever heard of. But I've never been targeted as something I'm not. And they consider this sophisticated voter targeting? All I can assume is that means they don't give a flying fuck about me.

There is something very wrong with the world

Sarah Palin wigs are commercially available.

In and of itself, I wouldn't find this terribly worthy of comment. All kinds of weird things are commercially available.

The problem is that I can't google up instructions on how to copy her hairdo. So someone went and manufactured a mass-market wig before anyone reverse-engineered and wrote down instructions for the hairdo.

I'm sure that's symbolic and/or representative of something that's terribly wrong with society today.

Because I feel like posting mindlessly fun music

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Most useful website ever

If you're like me, the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning is "WTF?????" Then, after you get your bearings, the second thing you think is "Gotta pee gotta pee gotta pee!" Then, after you pee, the third thing you think is "I wonder if that collider experiment they're doing over at CERN has destroyed the world yet?"

If so, this is just the website for you!

Things They Should Invent: predictive text automatically learns every word in every text message you receive

I received a text message containing (entre autres) a word my phone didn't know. I then went to compose a reply that included the same word. But my phone didn't know the word, so I had to teach it.

It would be faster and easier if the phone would learn these words itself. They're right there in the text messages in the inbox!

Things They Should Invent: express queue for telephone customer service

Sometimes you need to call customer service for just a real quick question, but you still have to wait on hold for 20 minutes until a rep becomes available to answer your 30-second question.
Among all the press 1 press 2 options at the beginning of the call, they should have an express line. On the express line, the CSR will talk to you for no more than one minute. After one minute, they will hang up (perhaps it will happen automatically) and take the next call. If you're still in the middle of something, too bad, you have to go to the back of the regular queue. Perhaps they could have the customer explicitly agree to these terms before entering the express queue. "For the express queue, press 3…In the express queue, the customer service representative will assist you for no more than one minute. After one minute your call will be automatically cut off. If you agree to these terms, press 1."
This way, people who really do only have just one quick question can get served quickly, which makes calling customer service a far less dreaded experience.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sometimes I wish I could read what other people are thinking about me

Today everyone seemed to react to me like I was emoting a "Don't fuck with me!" vibe that was just barely being restrained under a thin veneer of social niceties.

But I'm frumpy today. My shoes are flat mary janes, my hair is flat and stringy and my split ends seemed to have multiplied overnight, my clothes are my fat clothes (although my jacket is just a tiny bit kick-ass), my purse is all wrong for the outfit, my forehead keeps going shiny and my wrinkles are showing more than usual. As far as I can tell, if I'm giving off any vibe it's one of patheticness. Moodwise I've been either neutral or shy/nervous, and I did yoga this morning and it did work its magic so I haven't been especially cranky or aggressive feeling.

But the world has been reacting like I will snap if provoked. I have no idea what's up with that.

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: voters have to know what's in their own interest

Once upon a time I proposed a simple knowledge test for voters, and anyone who can pass the test can vote regardless of age.

Today I have a better idea: require all voters to know which proposed policies are in their own interest. I've seen quite a few people both in Canada and in the States (when your neighbour spends like 18 months shouting on the rooftop with a bullhorn "Look at us! We're having an election!" you tend to notice a thing or two) supporting candidates or parties who stated platform is directly against that person's own interest. Basically they're saying "I have size 11 feet. The Purple Party wants to ban shoes that are larger than size 10. Vote Purple in 2008!"

I wish they could administer a test to every prospective voter: "Name any party's or any candidate's position on any issue, and explain why this position is or is not in your own best interest." People wouldn't be required to vote for a party or candidate that is necessarily in their own best interest (maybe you agree with the Purple Party's premise that large shoes use too many resources and are willing to go barefoot for the greater good, maybe you're 82 years old and own enough shoes to last the rest of your life), they'd just have to be aware of whether a particular policy actually is in their own best interest.

The only problem is, apart from the logistical problems of administering a quiz (and an essay question at that) to every prospective voter, you could never get everyone to agree that the test is being administered fairly and neutrally.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How my mind works

The CERN Collider switch-on is at like 3:30 am, when, hopefully, I'll be asleep. Wild internet rumours are saying that this thing is going to create a black hole and suck in the entire earth, ending life as we know it.

Logically I know that's not true, it doesn't work that way. And yet I felt the need to take some precaution just in case.

So I will be wearing a bra to sleep.

That way, if the world ends, I'll be comfortably supported and won't have to, I don't know, hitch-hike on a Vogon spaceship with my arms crossed tightly under my chest.

I know the Collider isn't going to cause a black hole. And I know if it does, I'm not going to survive long enough to care if I'm wearing adequate foundational garments. But I'm not going to be able to fall asleep tonight unless I'm wearing a bra.


Jukebox by Ani DiFranco

Jukebox - Ani DiFranco

Once upon a time in uni we got into a debate about whether this song is about masturbation. I can see that interpretation, but it doesn't seem consistent with what Ani was writing at that stage of her career. My iTunes just served up Jukebox for the first time in a while, and I remember that debate and went agoogling to see if anyone on the internet thinks it's about masturbation, but I didn't find anything fruitful.

So this post is really just a ploy to see if anyone else is googling for whether Jukebox by Ani DiFranco is about masturbation.

Monday, September 08, 2008

John Fluevog broke my heart

See these babies?

They're on sale for like 65% off.

They had them in stock.

They had them in a size 11.

And they were too narrow.

That was the first time in my entire life that a pair of shoes has been too narrow.

I have freakshow skinny feet. All my shoes need to be horizontally adjustable, or they fall right off. I can't wear regular pumps without straps because they fall right off. I can't wear flipflops because they fall right off. And yet these awesome purple shoes were too narrow.

Dear Mr. Fluevog:

I do see that you are incredibly epically cool, and therefore might not want to make shoes that just anyone can wear because that seems to be what the cool people do. But even if you don't want them to fit commoners with normal-width feet, perhaps you could consider making them at least fit people with freakshow skinny feet? Or is this all some conspiracy to torment the proles, teasing us with promises of awesome purple in large sizes at justifiable prices only to tear it all away?

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Upspeak and security

Language Log on upspeak (they call it uptalk, I call it upspeak).

They've covered it more thoroughly than I ever could and I've already thrown hundreds of words at the subject, so I'm not going to reiterate everything. I just wanted to talk about one thing the original LW said that piqued my interest:

It appears that it is a psychological insecurity requesting some sort of approval or affirmation from the listener that what the talker says is correct, approved by the listener or adequately explained to the listener.

I find it so bizarre that they'd perceive seeking approval or affirmation from the listener as a sign of psychological insecurity. I always thought it was a sign of, oh, I don't know, dialogue? In conversation, you check that your interlocutor is with you so far rather than barrelling ahead without a moment's thought to whether they're following you. In a presentation, you gauge your audience's response and give more clarification as needed rather than just reading the script at them.

Actually, to me, if the speaker is seeking affirmation it gives an impression of greater security than if they just talk at you without allowing you to react. If they welcome or even seek affirmation, it means they really know their stuff, they'll explain it to you in different ways until you get it, they've thoroughly thought out their argument and can address any questions you might have in an intelligent and civilized manner. If they don't seek affirmation or even check that I'm following, it can seem a bit ego.

I once had a prof who deliberately suppressed her natural upspeak (it was a linguistics class so she did mention that she was doing this). To me it didn't sound particularly authoritative, it just sounded like she was deliberately suppressing her natural upspeak. I've had other profs who retained their own natural upspeak, and (speaking as a user of upspeak myself) it didn't sound at all inautoritative. It just sounded less formal. Instead of a great big "Now I shall lecture you!" situation, it was just "Okay, here's some information I have that you need. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask."

I've also noticed that when I'm feeling secure, I use my own natural speech patterns. When I first started my job and was overwhelmed with imposter syndrome, I overcompensated by suppressing my natural speech patterns, wearing my hair in a bun, speaking in the most formal French I could muster at all times, wearing only the most subtle of nail colour, writing emails all business-like even when it was just brief and internal. Now that I've been there for over five years and gotten used to it and feel like I belong there, I use my natural speech patterns, I wear long hairstyles, I code-switch back to English for humour and sarcasm, I email jokes to co-workers, I listen to my ipod, I paint my nails fun colours, and all the while I do my job somewhere between perfectly competently and astoundingly well. I know I'm good, I know I deserve to be there, I know my work speaks for itself, so I'm secure enough to be myself, upspeak and all, instead of putting on an act.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Does the age at which you learn to read affect your accent?

Where there is room for variation in pronunciation, I tend to pronounce words very literally, very close to how they are written. I pronounce the T instead of using a glottal stop in words like button (I have both pronunciations around me, I haven't done enough observation to work out which one I'm supposed to have ended up with). I pronounce Tuesday as "toooosday" instead of "chewsday" (I've heard "chewsday" from people with similar background and education who should have developed the exact same pronunciation as I have, but again I haven't done enough observation because I just thought of this). I know there are others because I've noticed them, both IRL and when we were doing Canadian dialects in my linguistics classes, but I can't think of examples offhand.

I'm wondering if this might be because I learned to read using phonics at a very early age - I think I started learning at the age of 2, and by the age of 4 I could fluently read age-appropriate books. I spent less time during my formative years having an auditory-only relationship with my rightful accent, and more time with the internalized concept of one-to-one correlation between letters and pronunciation. (I know it isn't actually one-to-one, but you can't exactly explain the subtleties to a two-year-old).

In support of this hypothesis is my very literal pronunciation, and the fact that I tend to mispronounce words because I've only seen them written more than other people do. (I was 25 before I realized that the written word and verbal pronunciation of annihilated are in fact one word.) I also tend to fudge my vowels a bit when the spelling is different - I don't pronounce buoy and boy exactly the same, even though I remember learning the word as a child and I thought it was "boy", but I still pronounce buoy with one syllable instead of "booo-ey" which is the accepted alternate pronunciation. And I do caught and cot, and collar and caller, like half a phoneme different - not as much as in accents where it's a proper accent feature, but not identically the same even though I think I pronounce them identically the same. (Can I has a few linguistics cred points for knowing that I pronounce something differently but think I pronounce it the same?)

On the other hand, I did manage to acquire Canadian raising, which is acquired strictly through aural assimilation and contradicts strict phonetics. And I Canadian raise in exactly the right places despite the fact that I devoice all my final consonants, which is an inherited accent feature aurally assimilated from the ESL side of my family and also contradicts phonetics.

I haven't talked to any other early readers about this or made proper observations of my family's pronunciations, but if other early readers have the same thing it would be an interesting thing to research.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Victoria's Secret has excellent shipping

A week ago, I ordered some stuff from Victoria's Secret and picked the cheapest shipping method. It shipped from the States yesterday and arrived today! That's really good considering how the official ETA was Sept. 22.

Their prices are very reasonable too. Shipping costs to Canada are a bit high, but it's worth it if you're buying several items. The problems inherent in buying lingerie over the internet are obvious, but if you're certain about your size or the item is returnable or you can swallow the cost of a non-returnable item possibly being suboptimal, it's certainly worth a look.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Do people actually use Facebook as a substitute for the Internet as a whole?

Mentioned in passing in a text I'm translating (yes, right now, blah) is the idea that Kids Today don't use websites, instead if they're looking for something they look for it on Facebook.

Is that true? If you're looking for a person, I can totally see going to Facebook first. But do people actually head for Facebook first instead of Google when looking for information about an organization or a topic?

Most inadvertently hilarious thing ever of the day

Scroll down to

Apparently, as long as you follow packaging guidelines, you can send the following in the mail:

- Live day-old chicks (but only day-old?)
- Live small cold-blooded animals (except snakes, turtles, baby alligators, caimans, or anything that emits "obnoxious odours"
- Parasites, leeches, insects, and bees (as long as they are free of disease, which raises the question of how to tell if an insect has a disease). And queen bees are allowed to travel with a maximum of eight attendants.


I wish that knowing intellectually that my worries are unfounded was enough to make me be able to stop worrying. Usually being a pessimist works well for me, but sometimes I wish I could turn it off on demand.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How to revolutionize US politics right this minute with no effort whatsoever

So apparently there's a US politician whose teenage daughter is pregnant. And most people don't want a big deal made of this (because it's politically inconvenient to them and/or because they want to be better than that). Some people do want to make a big deal of it, either because it's good gossip or because a big deal would be made if the roles were reversed or out of misfired schadenfreude, but it sounds like the major players don't want to make a big deal.

So here's all everyone has to do: don't make a big deal of it. Leave the kid alone. Everyone wins! All the politicians and pundits etc. will be taking the high road and come out looking like better people for it. Because of the precedent this will set, it will move all politicians' families a bit further out of the campaign spotlight and the state a bit further out of the bedrooms of the nation, which will make some room for discussion of actual issues (I understand y'all are having a spot of economic trouble? And there's a sort of messy war-related thing going on?) to the benefit of all USians. Then after the rest of the campaign continues on this higher note, people will be hesitant to take cheap shots at people's private lives because you don't want to be single-handedly responsible for lowering the tenor of your entire country's political discourse.

And the best thing about this technique is you don't have to do a damn thing. All you have to do is not pay any attention to this one person, which I'll be you've been doing the vast majority of your life anyway.