Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why can't people hear past the upspeak?

I've written about upspeak before, but the comments on this Language Log post surprise me (not so much the commenters themselves, but what they are saying about how people in general perceive upspeak). It sounds like some people can't hear beyond the upspeak. They hear upspeak and think "ditz" or "insecure", seemingly without giving a moment's attention to the words being used or the ideas being communicated.

That seems utterly bizarre to me. Why should my intonation blind my interlocutor to the fact that I'm using the words "intonation" and "interlocutor" rather than "how I'm talking" and "the person I'm talking to"? If, instead of "Things They Should Invent", I titled my blog posts with "I wonder if this exists?", why should that affect the perceived merit of my ideas (insofar as my ideas might have merit). Even if upspeak was a sign of insecurity, a useful idea expressed insecurely is still useful. If the solution to all our problems is a red widget and I say "Um, I kinda have an idea? Just putting this out there, I don't know if it's any good, but what if we got a red widget?" how could my uncertainty stop everyone else from immediately making the mental connection that yes, a red widget will solve all our problems?

When someone is talking in your first language, you hear their words and understand the content without any effort unless what they are saying is way too difficult for you. If someone is speaking with a low-prestige accent and clearly communicating good ideas, you still automatically hear the words and understand the ideas and can quickly grok that they know what they're talking about despite their low-prestige accent. It takes no effort to do this in your first language, your brain processes it automatically.

So why doesn't it do the same thing with upspeak?

Analogy for how my atheism works

This analogy may not apply to everyone in the world's atheism, and it obviously won't work with everyone's gender identity. But I'm putting it out there because it might help explain the concept to a lot of people.

I am atheist the same way I am female. I just am. I can't be anything else. I could perhaps pretend to be something else if I wanted to, but that wouldn't actually make me something else.

Some people try to talk me out of my atheism because they perceive there to be a god. But no matter how strongly they believe there is a god, that isn't going to make me capable of the same faith. (Believe me, I've tried.) This is just like how no matter how strongly other people believe themselves to be male, it isn't going to make me male.

Some people try to convince me that I will one day find religious faith on the basis that they themselves used to be atheist and then found religious faith. However, the fact that they found this faith doesn't mean that I will. There are people with female bodies like mine who have come to the realization that they are actually male, but that doesn't mean that I will one day come to the same realization.

Some people tell me that it's irrational to be atheist because one has no way of knowing for certain that there is in fact no god. I could respond to this by citing empirical evidence, but ultimately the fact that it cannot be proven for certain is irrelevant. I simply cannot be anything else because I am incapable of religious faith. Similarly, I can't prove or justify my gender. I could point to empirical evidence of my physiological sex, but I have no way of proving that I do actually identify as female. But I simply cannot be anything else.

Is it really necessary to fellate the microphone?

You often see people singing with their mouth practically on the microphone. Is that really necessary? Why can't they make a microphone that will work maybe six inches from your mouth?

Fuck Christmas

Today is the first day of Advent, and xmas decorations and carols have been infesting public space for a month already.

So here's a musical number from the great Eric Idle. The video is irrelevant (it's the only way I could embed it) and the audio is just as obscene as my subject line.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things They Should Study: why can't parents identify with their kids?

When people become parents, they seem to lose the ability to identify with the child half of the parent-child relationship. Even when thinking in the abstract about situations that don't involve themselves or their kids, they can never seem to get past "How would I feel if I were in that kid's parents' situation?" to reach "How would I feel if I were in that kid's situation?"

This is strange. All parents have been kids. Every parent I've ever talked to can still remember things from when they were kids. They can think about their favourite toy or their first crush or a teacher they hated and remember how they felt in that situation. So why don't they seem able to think about how their child self would have felt in a parent-child situation?

Someone should really study this from a psychological and neurological perspective.

Things I am currently wondering

1. In collective agreement negotiations, the two sides always come to the table with percentages in mind for the economic raise and then negotiate their way to the middle. Why don't you ever hear about them deciding to make the economic increase equal to the consumer price index increase (or, if that's logistically difficult, the previous year's CPI increase and it should all even out in the end?) I know sometimes this isn't appropriate, but it seems to me like for cases where they key issues isn't actually percentages it would save a lot of time to just index to the cost of living and get on with it.

2. In a description of a DVD player: "NTSC/PAL Playback." Does this mean it can play both Region 1 and Region 2 discs?

3. David Miller mentions in passing that he carries his groceries home in a plastic box. I'd love to know the logistics of this, because to me it sounds like the most inconvenient method humanly possible. Doesn't it take both arms? How do you open doors? Doesn't the stuff in the box rattle around? What if you're buying something that's taller than the box? Isn't it difficult to walk with a big box in both arms when it's snowy out? Doesn't it prevent you from carrying an umbrella when it's raining? What if the grocery store isn't your only errand? What do you do with the box until you get to the grocery store? What features or characteristics of the box make it preferable to using some kind of bag?

Things They Should UNinvent: MA in expiry dates

I have several packages of food, meds, etc. with the expiry day "MA 2009".

Is this March or May? How do they expect us to know in a vacuum?

They should use MR for March and MY for may.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Give me a good excuse to tip my supers

My awesome supers have saved my ass quite a few times lately. The internet tells me that it's customary to tip or give a gift to your supers (along with everyone else you've ever met) for xmas. I've never done this before, but I feel moved to do it this year. Thing is, I am (finally, joyfully) completely out of the xmas game. I'm not buying gifts for anyone, with the full consent of all involved. So it really doesn't seem appropriate for my only enactment of a ritual associated with a religion I have rejected to be essentially a tip on a business transaction. (They are awesome and they do save my ass, but they do that for everyone and our relationship is nothing special.)

So what I need is another day of the year I can use to give them a gift or a tip. Something that they make greeting cards for would be convenient because then I could give them a monetary tip (and thoughts on what constitutes an appropriate amount would be helpful - or what constitutes an appropriate gift.)


Conspiracy theory of the moment

I don't believe this for a second, but it makes a fun conspiracy theory:

This confidence vote pissing match is really a stealth economic stimulus. They want the government to fall to trigger another election, because elections create jobs.

Teach me how condos work

This morning I woke up to find I had no hot water and very little cold water. I called my super and asked what was up, he went and poked around in the bowels of the building and reset a water pump, and then I had hot water and could have a shower. YAY!

What I'm trying to figure out is how would this situation have played out if I lived in a highrise condo?

I know condo owners are responsible for maintenance of their own unit, but this problem wasn't in my unit. It was a common element that's outside my jurisdiction and beyond my diagnostic skills. So do condos have on-site people to handle problems like this? If not, how does it work?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The City of Toronto wants to ban biodegradable plastic bags!

According to today's Globe and Mail, the City of Toronto wants to ban biodegradable plastic bags. Let me repeat that: ban biodegradable plastic bags! You know, the kind that we really should be using for our garbage?

Here's my email to the mayor and my city councillor:

I was shocked to read in today's Globe and Mail that Toronto is thinking of banning biodegradable plastic bags.

As I'm sure you know, most plastic bags end up in the landfill because people use them as garbage bags, to line their trash cans or wrap their green bin waste or clean up after their pets. And, as I'm sure you know, environmentally optimal behaviour would be to use biodegradable garbage bags for this purpose.

Every time a retailer bags a consumer's purchase in a biodegradable plastic bag, they are making environmentally optimal behaviour literally effortless for the consumer. The consumer makes their purchase, gets it bagged as usual, uses the bag for garbage as usual, and that's one less plastic bag in the landfill. The consumer would have to go out of their way to be less environmentally friendly.

By banning biodegradable plastic bags, you would not only be making environmentally optimal behaviour more difficult by requiring consumers to a) purchase biodegradable garbage bags and b) carry reusable bags with them all day every time they might want to pick up a couple of things at the store after work, but you would also be making it ILLEGAL for retailers to show good corporate citizenship by simplifying environmentally optimal behaviour for their customers.

Please do not allow this ridiculous proposal to pass. The last thing you want to do is make environmentally friendly behaviour more difficult.

You know, I'm starting to get really frustrated with having to write to politicians about things that are so bloody obvious.

Things They Should Invent: interbloguality

1. People who are on Twitter and also have a blog (or LJ or something similar) should post their Twitter feed on their blog as a sidebar or something. No, I don't know how to do that, but I have seen it done. Readers who don't work 100% from feeds might not want to have to check two things.

2. Inspired by today's Dear Ellie, people who are trying to meet people on online dating sites should blog, and either put their blog link in their dating profile or share it early on in the getting-to-know-you process. Then they can get a window onto each other's inner life and figure out if they're compatible much more easily than by sharing favourite movies and bands.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The internet just might be complete

Check out the third comment here.

Judith Martin, who writes Miss Manners, likes Eddie Izzard and watches him on YouTube.

Dear Internet: Can you top that?

Waking up

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I think is "WTF?" and the second thing I think is "Gotta pee!" However, between "WTF?" and "Gotta pee!", I remember everything.

Today is Wednesday. I have to finish that medical file by 3. If the clothes I hung up to dry last night aren't dry yet, I'll wear a black shirt. It's the first week of my current pack of pills. It's supposed to snow today. I ate pierogi last night. DS9 is on tonight. I need to buy cheese and Scrubbing Bubbles. I didn't have time to do a beauty routine last night so I'll have to do it tonight. I'm sore there because I did core strength yesterday. I meant to blog about yesterday's Dear Abby column. Xmas is not at my parents' house this year. Walmart might have those hair curlers I can't find anywhere else. The acne scar on my forehead is almost gone and should only need foundation today. My friend might know that guy in the elephant picture.

In just a few seconds, after having spent 6-8 hours comatose and hallucinating vividly, I know who I am, where I am, and what I have to do. That's really weird if you think about it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I learned today

1. I look like I know where I'm going. I was in a maze of an office building I've never been in before going to an office I'd never been to before, and by the time I got there like three people were following me because they thought I knew how to get to the office.

2. If you stand at the sink in a public bathroom hurriedly applying makeup while appearing to ignore the other people in the bathroom, it won't occur to them that you're eavesdropping. It only works if you do the makeup like you're in a hurry though, so carry a lot of makeup in your purse for situations where you want to eavesdrop.

3. Dan Snaith is even more awesome than I thought.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Small point of order

There is a fanfic writer who goes by Impudent Strumpet. I am not her, she is not me, don't blame her for anything I write here. I hardly ever review fanfic (and have only reviewed fic in the Harry Potter fandom) so in the realm of fanfic it's almost certainly her you're reading, while in the blogosphere it's more likely to be me. (I don't know if she's active in the blogosphere, but our paths haven't crossed yet.) I either link to this blog or don't link to anything. Now that I know there's more than one of us, I will link to this blog in the future.

How my brain works

I can sing along with my background music while typing, even though the words I'm typing are completely different from the words I'm singing. However, I can't do this if I'm trying to harmonize with the music. (Not that I'm especially successful at harmonizing, but that doesn't stop me from trying.)

Hilarity for a lazy Sunday

Funny warning signs

Slight misfire in Dear Abby

Someone writes into Dear Abby saying that parents should teach their teenage daughters how to politely decline a date. (Which I agree with, by the way. I'm still not sure I can do it - I always send out pre-emptive "not interested" signals so I've had very few civilized invitations to practise on. But that assumes that parents can teach their kids things that will work in the kids' social circle. The vast majority of the scripts my parents have given me when I asked for advice have been way off and just gotten me laughed at.)

In reply, Abby says:

If a girl is so eager to please that she doesn't know how to say, "Don't call me" or, "Thank you, but I'm not interested," then how is she going to learn to say, "Do not touch me in that way"?

I don't think this is quite a fair analogy. If you get asked out on a date in a way that's perfectly civilized and appropriate, you don't want to hurt the guy's feelings and it may be that you don't know him very well. But by the time you get to "Don't touch me that way", your thesis is either "Fuck off!" or "Touch me this way instead." If it's "Fuck off!", you don't have to worry so much about his feelings. If it's "Touch me this way instead," you know him well enough that you can say to him "Touch me this way instead," or you can just grab his you-know-what and position yourself for him to verb your noun (assuming he's already expressed enthusiasm for verbing your noun).

"Don't touch me" is a far easier concept to express. Someone who can't quite manage to politely and with no hurt feelings convey "You're a perfectly decent person, the invitation was perfectly appropriate, I'm just not nearly as enthusiastic at the prospect so I'm going to decline," can still manage "Don't touch me!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I wonder if the US housing market crisis will result in changes to the property tax model?

I know the housing market problems are more of a US thing (but they're so very loud about it!) and I don't know if the property tax system works the same way there, but I'm just braindumping here.

I've never been comfortable with the property tax system. You pay tax that's proportional to the assessed value of your home, but you have no control over the value of your home. Sure, you can reasonably assume it's proportionate to your income upon purchase, but there could be a housing bubble and your assessed taxes could skyrocket while in the meantime you lose your job. People who disagree with me on this tend to argue that you can always access the value of your home (presumably by mortgaging it?) so if your house is worth more you are in fact richer and can in fact afford more taxes. This solution never seemed sustainable to me, but I've never been good at advanced financial management things like that. About all I can handle is I have $X in my bank account, so if the thing I want costs less than $X I can buy it.

But if I'm understanding correctly, this housing crisis thingy seems to be pointing out the very flaws of assuming that a person's property values can be used to calculate how much tax burden they can bear. Maybe they'll make a better system now? I don't mind income tax - after all, it cannot possibly be more than 100% of my income, unlike property tax. I don't mind consumption tax as long as they don't charge it on necessities (although I'd really rather they include it in the sticker prices), and they'd both make budgeting much easier than the current property tax model.

Chickens break up a fight between rabbits

I'm just stealing all Malene Arpe's animal videos this week.

Things They Should Invent: "don't make an example of my death" clause for wills

So it seems the recent age-based restrictions on young drivers are due to lobbying by a father whose son died while driving drunk. Yeah.

This reminded me of a situation near my parents' house. There's a road there that is functionally a minor highway. It's a well-built, well-lit, 80 km/h four-lane divided road with no buildings along it or crossroads, it just serves to link two built-up areas. There's one place along this road where people tend to jaywalk as part of a convenient shortcut. Shortly after I moved away, they installed a pedestrian crossing there - you push a button, stoplights stop traffic, and you can cross. But then someone died from being hit by a car while jaywalking (opting not to use the crosswalk) so they slowed down the speed limit on that section of the road to either 60 or 40, I forget which. It's really weird to drive that slowly in that section. It's awkward and counterintuitive and confuses everyone. Even I, a non-driver who believe that pedestrian precedence over cars is an essential part of forward-looking urban planning, think this is overkill.

So I mentioned to my parents that I've jaywalked through there dozens of times, and I've always done so with the assumption that if I get hit by a car it's my problem. After all, I'm the one jaywalking across an 80 km/h road. I know it's a stupid thing to do, if I decide to do it and the natural consequences occur it serves me right, and it would really piss me off if my personal decision to do something stupid were used to inconvenience everyone else forever. My parents, who have also jaywalked across there dozens if not hundreds of times, agreed with me on this.

However, parents can be weird when it comes to their children's safety, and people can be weird in their grief. Therefore, I'd like to be able to put a legally-enforceable clause in my will saying that if I die while doing something that I know is stupid, I don't want my death to be used to make all kinds of new rules that are going to inconvenience people who are more sensible than me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to retrofit your highrise for green bin organic waste collection at no cost whatsoever

The green bin organic waste collection program is now being extended to highrises! YAY!

Problem: My building only has one garbage chute! Problem: People aren't going to want to take their organics downstairs and outside every day! Problem: If people don't empty their green bin frequently enough, we'll get infestations! Problem: The outdoor dumpster for organics is going to get really gross really fast!

Solution: use the garbage chute for organics, and put your regular garbage dumpster out back along with the recycling.

That way, the thing that needs to be disposed of most urgently will be the easiest to dispose of. People can throw their organics down the chute every day, and take the recycling and regular waste (neither of which will go smelly or attract pests) out back at their convenience. If the organics dumpster gets smelly or gross or infested, people can still dispose of their organics down the chute without having to go anywhere near it. Since the garbage chute room is indoors, the organics will be indoors where they'll attract fewer pests. And since the smelly pest-attracting garbage is locked away, fewer pests will be attracted to the remaining outdoor dumpster.

All you have to do to make this change is print up a few signs and flyers for your tenants, and if you're a well-run building you already have that in your budget.


Typealyzer thinks I'm an ISTJ

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

IRL, I'm right on the threshold between INFJ and INFP

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm glad Dalton McGuinty isn't my father

"Perhaps the most precious thing we have in society is our children, and that includes our older children," McGuinty said at Queen's Park.

"We owe it to our kids to take the kinds of measures that ensure that they will grow up safe and sound and secure, and if that means a modest restriction on their freedoms until they reach the age of 22, then as a dad, I'm more than prepared to do that."

"As a dad" doesn't get a vote for people over the age of majority. Even my over-protective parents understand that. Dalton McGuinty has, what, four adult children? He should understand this. Since OAC was eliminated, people finish high school at 17 or 18. That means they'd finish a four-year university program at 21 or 22, or a two-year college program at 19 or 20. These aren't children, they're young professionals just starting out. They are legally adults, they need to be treated equally to all other adults rather than put under specific restrictions just because of their age. While it is true that many, if not most, people under 22 haven't fully launched yet, that doesn't justify the law as treating them as less than fully adult. Their not having launched is between them and their parents, a private arrangement between familiy members. My mother does my taxes (Q: Why? A: Because she's a professional and I'm not.) but that doesn't mean it's reasonable for the law to require that people under 30 get their tax return signed by their mother. When my parents travel I help them find information on non-English websites, but that doesn't mean it's reasonable for the law to require that people over 50 get their travel arrangements vetted by a professional translator. Experience-based restrictions? If you must. Age-based restrictions? Completely inappropriate, arbitrarily treats younger adults as subhuman, and violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For example, I'm a horrible, nervous, skittish driver who hasn't been behind the wheel in a decade (aren't you glad?). I didn't finish graduated licencing within the allotted five years, but I have a G1 to use as ID. I also happen to be 27 years old. Under these proposed rules, I could go to one of those crammer driving schools that promises to get you through the road test in 24 hours, pass my G1 exit test and get a G2, and drive around with as many screaming idiots as I can fit in the car. However, a fully-licenced 21-year-old who's been driving every day since they were 16 (and who is, in fact, qualified to be my accompanying driver as I frantically practise for the road test) can't road-trip to the cottage or drive their whole band to the gig in the same van. But if the 21-year-old scootches over, nervous skittish me with a day or two of intensive driving practice and a freshly minted G2 under my belt can drive the whole lot of them.

I'm worried about this government. They seem to be tabling a lot of bills that might sound like a good idea at first glance, but really the issues are much more complex and the simplistic solutions might actually be detrimental. For example, recently they were talking about banning bottled water. Period. Problem: bottled water is also an emergency provision and we'd have enormous potential for disaster if it was banned without contingency plan. They did ban plastic bags at the LCBO without giving any thought to the fact that plastic bags end up in the landfill in their capacity as garbage bags and to actually divert plastic from the landfill they'd need a solution that addresses that. I shouldn't be spotting these problems, the government should be spotting them and addressing them before they even get to me. The government needs to be smarter than me, because, frankly, I'm not that smart! Get on it Mr. McGuinty!

This all came about from lobbying from MADD after some kids died in a car accident. I know it's bad form to speak ill of anti-drunk-driving organizations, but frankly the more I hear from MADD the less respect I have for them. They seem more focused on putting restrictions on people (especially young people) than on actually reducing drunk driving. For example, I distinctly remember in the early part of this decade (either when I was in uni or shortly thereafter) they wanted to ban alcohol on campuses - including res!. Yeah, brilliant thinking there. You've got an area where some of your target audience lives, a lot more of your target audience lives within walking distance, and that probably serves as a transit hub for the community. So make it so your target audience has to go further from their homes and the transit hub if they want to have a drink. Yeah, that's really going to cut down on drunk driving! (To say nothing of making it illegal for on-campus university students to enjoy a legal drink in their homes even though it's perfectly legal for their high-school dropout peers to do the same).

Why don't we ever see them lobbying for things that are non-punitive to prospective drinkers and prospective drivers? For example, why not lobby for the TTC to run the subways after last call? Why not lobby to make it easier to get alcohol permits for non-car-dependent locations than in car-dependent locations? Why not use all their resources to come up with a workable taxi voucher system for those take-the-keys-away situations? (Off the top of my head: 1. The bartender takes your keys and gives you two taxi vouchers - one to take you home tonight, the other so you can collect your car tomorrow. The next day you pay them a nominal fee that's less than the taxi rides would have cost and they give you your keys back. 2. With every purchase of a keg you get a certain number of taxi vouchers. How to fund it? Contributions from MADD, contributions from governments, contributions from alcohol taxes, bulk discounts on taxi vouchers. There are flaws, obviously, but that's at least 50% of the way to a workable system and that's just me off the top of my head in a mid-rant digression. Surely MADD with all their researchers and experts and influence can do better.) If MADD does do things like this and I just haven't noticed them and wasn't able to google them up, please post links in the comments to let me know. I don't want to dislike them, but they seem way more M than ADD and it's getting very difficult for me to have any respect for them.

Things Youtube Should Invent

1. Give us the option to have embedded videos start at a defined point. You can do this in a link to Google Video by adding #1m25s to start the video at 1:25. But I'd like to be able to do that with embedded youtubes, so I don't have to post the embed and then add "The part I'm talking about is at 5:00" and then my users have to wait for it to load and scroll around to find 5:00.

2. Let us mark a video as "This doesn't need to be a video!" For example, today I found a video that was essentially a list of sentences. They appeared as text on the screen while irrelevant music played in the background. It was five minutes long, and I could have read it as text in 10 seconds. This is inappropriate use of the medium! Or, if you want to be more positive, how about letting us mark videos as "Transcription requested." Then the person who posted it or a friendly volunteer user could post the transcript in the comments, thus increasing googleability, helping viewers who have trouble hearing every word (poor sound quality, strange accents, lyric-deafness), and saving people having to sit through a five-minute video when a simple text list would do.

3. Or, barring that, how about a fast-forward button, so we could play the video at 2x or 4x speed to skim through and see if we want to actually watch it?

How to do a reverse apology

Via Language Log, some guy walks around New York City apologizing to people who bump into him.

That took a minute, didn't it? We all do that automatically, it a basic part of Canadian etiquette.

The problem is, the guy in the article is overdoing it. His reverse apologies are really pointed and come across as passive-aggressive. A proper reverse apology has to come across as perfectly automatic, as automatic as saying thanks when the cashier hands you your change. It needs to be non-specific. "Sorry" or "Oops, sorry" will do just fine. "Sorry you dropped my apple" is petty and passive-aggressive. However, even if you are just saying the word "Sorry" and saying it automatically as soon as the incident occurs, you also need to say it like it's no big deal. Imagine you're walking through a subway station, busy day, a lot on your mind, striding briskly towards the platform (the train isn't there yet so you aren't running) and you bump into someone else. No big deal, no one is hurt, really your bag just hit their bag, no need to break stride, you say "Oops, sorry" and continue on your way, the encounter forgotten two seconds later. That's the kind of tone you need. In my corner of the world, that will elicit a sorry of equal or greater value. Doing anything bigger or more pointed for a minor incident in which you are not at fault will come across as passive-aggressive and put the other person on the defensive.

It would be interesting to repeat this experiment with someone who is fluent in reverse apologies, who does it automatically, and who isn't so actively seeking to change behaviour. Canadians who are currently in New York City (I'm sure there are some Canadians in New York City at any given time): spend a day apologizing like a Canadian and blog your findings!

A hamster eating broccoli

I'm very tired and cranky today, and am going to be doing some cranky blogging as soon as I get less cranky (cranky blogging isn't nearly as effective until I'm post-cranky, but the material still needs to be blogged). But this made me melt, so I'll share it. That way if you're reading my blog from the top down you'll get a smile after all the crankiness. (If you're reading chronologically, you've been warned.)

(via the awesome Malene Arpe)

Monday, November 17, 2008

In re: today's Corner Gas

1. Brent Butt has had his teeth whitened to TV standards. Perfectly normal thing to do if you're going to be on TV (I'd totally get it done if I had to be on TV even once, but I'm insecure that way), but it looks WAY out of character. Brent would never get his teeth whitened.

2. My mother's lasagna recipe totally involves the food processor. I can't figure out how you'd make lasagna without one.


I think true generosity isn't giving people things or money or time. I think true generosity is giving people the benefit of the doubt, and not begrudging them whatever good fortune they might have.

It's hella hard and not nearly as personally rewarding. Dropping a quarter in the tip jar at Tim Horton's is way easier than thinking "Poor girl, she must be having a rough day" when they mess up your order after you've already waited in a line that goes out the door. Spending an afternoon sorting cans a the food bank is way easier than thinking "Good for them, that's a much-needed increase" when you hear about social assistance rates going up while you sort through paying the bills after a long day at the office. Picking something pricey off the wedding registry is exponentially easier than convincing yourself to be genuinely happy for them even though you were supposed to get married first. Generosity of time and money get noticed, get thanks, get people thinking of you as generous. Generosity of attitude goes unnoticed.

But I really think if everyone could just somehow figure out how to muster up benefit of the doubt and non-begrudgeal of good fortune, the world would be a far better place.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

For the person googling for the definition of "stanaist"

"Stanaist" is a typo of Satanist. :)

Dear Google: You might want to add this to your autocorrect thingy.

From PostSecret

An email commenter said that they did this too, and several other people in the community agreed. And, it feels bizarrely personal to admit, my first thought after he was elected was to wish that I was able to pray so I could pray for his safety. Later on I did try to pray, but I'm still incapable of it. I'm still just empitly going through motions, even though I actually wanted to be able to do it.

But it occurred to me, this might be the one thing in the history of the world that has inspired the most atheists to attempt to pray. That would be...kinda weird, kinda cool, kinda sad, kinda scary.

Things They Should Invent: garbage bins that are too small to be too heavy

I've recently heard of people whose green bins or blue bins weren't picked up by the garbage collectors because they were too heavy (the bins, not the people).

Simple solution: make the bins small enough that they won't be too heavy even if they're full, and give each household two or more bins. It seems to me that the weight of organics and recyclables should be relatively predictable. Assume each bin is completely full of the heaviest possible materials that might go in that size of bin, adjust bin size accordingly, issue each household a sufficient number of bins.

Outside my window, October 27, about 4:30 p.m.

I know the buildings look overexposed, but the colours actually are just about accurate. A massive rainstorm was heading out to the east (i.e. the direction the camera is facing) and bright sun was shining in from the west, lighting up the buildings.

Things LJ Should Invent: have locked posts show up in feeds

I don't actually check my LJ friends page that often because it's such a very small part of my overall internet rounds. I've added some people's feeds to my Google Reader, but that doesn't show friends-locked posts so I miss stuff.

To solve this, LJ feeds should show the presence of friends-locked posts. Not the contents, of course. Just show that there is a post there. Then people could click through, log in, and read the post. That would accomodate both the internet's general shift to feed readers and LJ users' need to maintain some privacy.

Things They Should Invent: limited number of "offensive" votes per user per day

I've noticed that people in newspaper comment threads (yeah, I know) are way overusing the mark as offensive option. In some threads, nearly every post has been marked offensive.

Each user should only be allowed to mark one or two things offensive per day. Things that actually are offensive would still get marked, but it would stop people from marking everything willy-nilly.

Open Letter to Rogers

Dear Rogers:

If you're experiencing higher than usual volumes that mean it will take nine days for you to respond to my email, you might want to change your autoreply so it no longer promises me a response within 24 hours. A realistic timeframe would be nice, or just have the autoreply tell me you've received my email and it will be handled in the order received. I wouldn't be disgruntled at your response time if you hadn't promised me 24 hours.

That said, a reply saying nothing more than that my issue needs to be handled by phone is unacceptable. I sent email in the first place because I don't like the phone, so you need to give me a good reason why this has to be done by phone. It only takes like 30 seconds to do this. If that channel actually isn't part of my package, as my readers have worked out faster than you could, you can tell me that in an email. If it is part of my package but for whatever reason you can only activate it by phone, you need to tell me that in the email. Ideally you should put some note on my file so when (if) I call, the phone person will know right away why I'm calling and I don't have to go through the whole story again. (If you want to be really awesome, set up something so that people who have contacted you already by email only to find that they need to call get bumped to the front of the queue.)

In any case, waiting nine times the promised wait time only to be told I need to call is unacceptable. You could very easily do better.

Best fanfic rant ever

Read this now. Seriously. Even if you aren't into fanfic. Really.

Famous people twittering

It seems John Cleese and Stephen Fry are both actually and legitimately on Twitter. (This is confirmed on their official websites.) What surprises me is that other users, who seem by all appearances to be just regular ordinary people, are sometimes replying to them, and sometimes they reply back! I envy that confidence, to think that of course you're allowed to reply to a famous person just because they're on Twitter!

Of course, if I had the confidence to think I'm allowed to talk to famous people, I'd probably end up like Mel on Flight of the Conchords.

Ratings and censorship

Lately I've been noticing how much things like movie ratings and censorship are focused on protecting children from adult concepts. This is odd, because that's such a small portion of your life! Before the age of, say, 8 you're more into child-focused media, and by the age of about 16 you can handle adult concepts well enough that you don't need to be protected. It's also starting to annoy me a bit, because I keep coming across things that censor things that are so massively unlike anything from which I need to be protected, and the censorship is way more obvious than the offending concept would be if left alone. For example, I saw a youtube of Christina Aguilera performing Candyman on TV, and they censored the word panties. (The line, as part of a descriptoin of a charming and seductive man: "He's a one stop shop, makes my panties drop, he's a sweet talking sugar-coated candyman".) I saw a video of Nickelback's Rockstar where they censored the word pills (The line, as part of a laundry list of sterotypical rockstar behaviour: "I'm gonna pop my pills from a pez dispenser"). Actually, they also censored the word drug in "Everybody's got a drug dealer on speed-dial," which is ridiculous because "Everybody's got a * dealer on speed-dial" means exactly the same thing! I also somehow ended up with a censored version of Hate Me by Blue October (I think I got it from a Big Shiny Tunes album), where they censor the word fucking (line: "I'll drive so fucking far away that I'll never cross your mind"), but they kept the line about cockroaches leaving babies in your bed. I don't need to be protected from the word fucking, but I certainly wouldn't mind being protected from the image of cockroaches leaving eggs in my bed, thank you very much!

I wish it was possible for us to choose more specifically what does and doesn't get censored in the media we consume. For example, I don't want to watch rape scenes, but I don't need happy sex scenes to be censored. (I don't mind if they tone them down to protect the actors' modesty, but I don't need them toned down to protect my delicate sensibilities.) I don't mind blood, but I'm completely squicked out by broken bones or eyeballs. I don't mind snakes or monsters, but bugs will give me nightmares. Profanity I don't give a fuck about, but I don't want hate speech unless it really is absolutely necessary in the broader context. Remember that V-chip thing they were talking about in the 90s? Wouldn't it be awesome if you could fine-tune it to censor only the precise things you don't want to see?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blast from the past

Once upon a time this was the coolest thing ever:

Are people with white earbuds really more likely to be mugged?

A piece of information that is often repeated in the media is that you should get headphones other than the distinctive white ipod earbuds, because people like to steal ipods and the headphones are a big flashing sign showing that you have an ipod.

I find myself doubting whether this is actually true.

I see a lot of headphones walking around in my daily life, so one day I decided to count the number of ipods. On my walk from the subway to my apartment, I saw 30 confirmed ipods (either I saw the ipod itself, or I saw the ipod earbuds). I'd previously counted that I cross paths with 100 people on the same walk. (I haven't counted how many of those 100 people were wearing some kind of headphones that couldn't be confirmed as an ipod, because it's diffcult to keep multiple running tallies at once.)

So given that level of market penetration, wouldn't it behoove the thieves to assume that any headphones they see are attached to an ipod? And why would they only want ipods anyway? I haven't done extensive research (at the time when I bought my ipod the ipod was the best device for my own personal needs, but I haven't researched since), but the ipod has been on the market for seven years, surely other brands are generally competitive by now?

Things They Should Invent: an economy that doesn't need to constantly grow

The economy needs to grow. If it doesn't grow, bad things happen.

This doesn't seem sustainable. We need a new system where life can continue to be good for everyone even if there's no economic growth.

No, I don't have any specific ideas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Maybe this is why older people frustrate me

It's not that all older people frustrate me, of course. The vast majority of my interactions with older people are perfectly unremarkable. But when they do frustrate me, it's always because they aren't smarter enough than me. It's an annoyance because it's very difficult to keep up the appropriate level of respect (yes, believe it or not I don't always want to be a disrespectful little shit) when telling someone decades my elder that they're completely wrong, and it's also scary because it makes me wonder if I'm going to stop learning at some point - there's no way half the older people I deal with have spent a lifetime learning at the same rate I am.

But this might explain why:

My entire adulthood has taken place in the 21st century. The vast majority of my adolescence happened on the internet. I've been constantly intaking these huge quantities of information for nearly half my life without even noticing. I feel egregiously underinformed about buying real estate, but I have more information than my parents did when they bought their first house. I mention that the problem with translation is it isn't very organized as an industry, so I don't really know how exactly I'd go about finding a translation job next time I need a job. My older interlocutor says, "Look in the classified ads in the newspaper" as though that's the solution to all life's problems, as though translation jobs have ever been advertised in the classified ads in the newspaper, as though jobs were just advertised instead of us having to access a hidden job market and incorporate ourselves so we can bid on government contracts and educate prospective employers who want bidirectional translation AND conference interpretation AND by the way you're also responsible for organizing the whole conference all for $28,000 a year. But maybe that really was what the world was like last time my interlocutor looked for a job, and they haven't had to look for a job since so they aren't aware that his is unapplicable. Maybe they really think they have all the information because that was the quantity of information they needed last time around.

It's still very frustrating though, because I find myself unable to evaluate whether I'm exponentially more informed or egregiously ignorant. For example, suppose I read in my morning paper "The Prime Minister's economic plan will protect us from this financial turmoil." So I go and google up what exactly the economic plan is, I find commentary supporting and opposing, I do some quick research on the trickier concepts, I post my remaining questions here and maybe some of you nice people answer them. Then I finish my coffee, put on some pants, and go off to work. I don't quite feel well-informed, but I feel like I have a decent overview. Later on I find myself talking about this to an older interlocutor who has been thinking about economics since before I was born. I mention that the information I could find on the economic plan seems to be rather lacking in specifics, and one or two commenters have pointed out ways in which the lessons of the past are not applicable here, and there are some pieces of ideology they have expressed in the past that could be disastrous if implemented here. "Don't worry," my interlocutor tells me, "the Prime Minister's economic plan will protect us from this financial turmoil."

So are they saying this based on their decades of financial experience, of having watched the rise and fall of several economic cycles? Or are they saying this because they read it in the newspaper this morning and are now accepting it as fact?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Question for GTAers who have Rogers Cable

Do you get channel 163?

I have Extended Basic and Timeshifting and I don't get it, which is strange because it looks like it's another PBS station, so I should be getting it with all my other US timeshifting channels.

Plot hole in Ugly Betty

They could have just told the press that they couldn't get the call through to the printers in time.

Also: Dear Cliff, c'mere and I'll cheer you up! (Don't worry, I take my makeup off and I'm manlier than Marc.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

OMG puppy!


The spammers are invading my dreams

Last night I dreamed that the spammers were coming to my door to deliver their messages in person. Someone would knock on my door, I'd answer (I never answer IRL unless I'm expecting someone), and they'd try to sell me penis enlargement or fake diplomas.

At one point the Chinese guy from Ocean's 11 was at the door holding a printed-out email, and told me (in English) to read it when I was drunk. I said, "Sorry, I'm not drunk right now," and slammed the door in his face. Then I started drinking vodka.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Senate reform

One of my favourite translation tools uses the Hansard as its corpus. I type in a word or phrase and it shows me every sentence in the Hansard that contains that word or phrase, along with each sentence's equivalent in the other language.

In the House of Commons Hansard, I can identify which party the speaker of any given sentence belongs to about 75% of the time, because of how much party politics seeps into every utterance. In the Senate Hansard, I've only been able to identify party affiliation a handful of times.

This is why I think we need to be very careful about any move towards Senate reform. In the House of Commons they are constantly playing politics. There is constant awareness of the party line and the need to be electable next election. There is rhetoric, there is pandering, there is showmanship, there is jockeying for soundbites.

There isn't nearly as much of this in the Senate. It is, like they say in the motto, sober. It is dull and sensible. Because they don't need to be electable they don't need to play the games, and our parliamentary system is better for it.

Any attempts at Senate reform should take this into consideration and make sure that the new Senate structure continues to have these advantages.

Open Letter to the grocery store customer satisfaction survey people

Dear grocery store customer satisfaction survey:

If you're going to ask how much of my total household grocery spending is spent at your store and ask for a response in dollars, you also have to specify over what period of time.

Could Google possibly be listening to me???

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that Google Blog Search should index blog entry contents only.

Now they do.

Dear Google, if you're listening, thank you and I love you! If you're interested, here is the rest of my wishlist:

1. Don't localize search results to the interface language, or at least give us the option to turn it off. (Example: compare the search results for éléphant in the English and French interfaces of Localizing to interface language makes life difficult for people who work multilingually, especially since you are accent-blind (which we love and adore and appreciate more than you can possibly imagine!)

2. Make iGoogle a separate thing rather than simply an alternate interface.

3. Let me mark messages as read from Gmail Notifier. I can see from the notifier that it's just the email telling me I've made an ebay bid. I don't need to read it, so I'd like to be able to make the notifier stop telling me I have a new email rather than having to go all the way to my inbox to mark the email as read.

Edit Nov. 12 6:30 p.m.: And now it's giving me results from tag clouds again. Dear Google: WTF?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Things that are completely unlike video games cannot be used as a viable substitute for video games

There has been a lot of anti-gaming sentiment in the media lately, and a lot of it has been suggesting things that parents could have their kids do instead of gaming - sports, outdoor activities, family board games, etc.

The problem is that these activities don't do for the user what video games do.

Video games occupy part of the brain while letting the rest of the brain roam freely. It's an indoor activity that you can comfortably do in any weather and in any clothing. Because it's indoors, children don't require immediate adult supervision so can be given some modicum of privacy. It's a solitary activity, so you can use it to unwind from the stress of a day full of social interaction (especially helpful for introverts). If you're playing a multi-player game, it's something you can enjoy with people you have stuff in common with.

The proposed alternatives don't do these things. While gaming lets me think by occupying the part of my mind that would get bored from just sitting and thinking, sports occupy just enough of my mind that I can't think freely, while not providing me with any significant entertainment. Gaming can be done indoors in any clothes and in any weather, but outdoor activities require that you get dressed appropriately for outside and make yourself suitably presentable. Video games can be done in privacy from one's parents, while outdoor activities require supervision and family activities have parental involvement. Gaming can be done alone, but sports and family activities must be done with others, thus making them draining instead of re-energizing for introverts. Multi-player gaming is done with your online friends, whereas organized sports and family activities are done with a group of people whose composition you have no control over.

None of these activities provide users with the same benefits as gaming. They are completely different things and no substitute for gaming. If so-called experts feel the need to propose alternatives to video games, they should come up with alternatives that users would enjoy the same way as they enjoy video games.

Things They Should Invent: custom-made birth control pills

Picture this:

They take some blood, analyze its hormone content, then use that information to come up with the doses that will work best for you - either by choosing from commercially available pills or by compounding a new one. They could consult with the patient on the desired side effects and proceed accordingly.

Doesn't that sound like a much better system?


Freakshow - Ani Difranco

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The difference between La Senza and Victoria's Secret bra sizes

The bra I liked best at La Senza was discontinued and I saw one that looked identical in the Victoria's Secret catalogue, so I ordered one in the same size I wear at La Senza.

The band of the Victoria's Secret bra is a good inch longer, and the cups are smaller. The arc of the wire is identical on both bras, but if you lay the Victoria's Secret cup on top of the La Senza cup, the La Senza cup has about a centimetre more material the cleavage side and on the armpit side. The result is if the La Senza bra contains your entire breast, the Victora's Secret one will create cleavage or uniboob or quadboob (assuming you distribute your assets so that all the fleshy lymph-nodey part of your breast on the armpit side is always contained inside the bra cup).

I don't know which bra is closer to true size (i.e. the size you're supposed to be if you measure yourself and plug the numbers into the chart) because I'm infuriatingly nowhere near a true size.

This is something that annoys me about the bra industry. People always say that all you need to do is get a really good professional bra fitting and then you'll know what size you really are and live happily ever after. Now I have no doubt that a really good professional bra fitter can help you find a good bra. (Assuming you get a proper professional bra fitter, not one of those people who just takes a tape measure around your ribs and then around your bust and runs the numbers through the chart and says "Okay, done!" But since the sizes don't seem to be reliably the same from store to store, this isn't going to help you find other bras. Even if I go to Secrets From Your Sister and let them spend like 45 minutes doing their voodoo and they come up with the perfect bra, that isn't going to help me buy bras from other places if the sizes aren't going to follow the rules. I don't want professional assistance every time I buy a bra, I want to be able to pick something off the rack and have it fit. What's the point of measurement-based sizes if they aren't going to do this?

The Globe and Mail has a strange concept of thrift

The Globe and Mail on thrifty vintage dressing.

Those prices are pretty much what I pay for regular clothes at the mall or at Winners. I'm no fashion plate, but for those prices and with no effort whatsoever and within walking distance of my home I can find clothes that I wear instead of them wearing me and that don't make me look fatter than I am. Those prices certainly aren't worth the effort of scouring vintage stores! You want thrifty? Thrifty is a $10 prom dress from the Amity.

This is actually a symptom of a broader problem I've seen. There is a shitload of stuff in the media lately about how to save money, and I find that none of it applies to me. Either it's stuff I'm already doing (e.g. I already buy the cheapest store brand products unless there's a specific reason why the name brand product meets my needs better) or it's stuff that's completely irrelevant (e.g. I don't need advice on how to save on gas mileage since I don't have a car). Why has there been absolutely nothing that is relevant to me? I'm not in a position where I desperately need to come up with ways to save money, but there's no possible way that I'm managing my money as optimally as humanly possible - I'm terrible at financial stuff!

Sheet music

In classical music, standard practice is for musicians to use sheet music while performing. In rock music, that would be laughable. In jazz, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.

So at what point in musical history did it become normal not to use sheet music, and why did this happen?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

I'll verb anything as long as it's concrete

Stephen Fry says:

New examples [of nouns becoming verbs] from our time might take some getting used to: ‘He actioned it that day’ for instance might strike some as a verbing too far, but we have been sanctioning, envisioning, propositioning and stationing for a long time, so why not ‘action’? ‘Because it’s ugly,’ whinge the pedants. It’s only ugly because it’s new and you don’t like it. Ugly in the way Picasso, Stravinsky and Eliot were once thought ugly and before them Monet, Mahler and Baudelaire.

I hate actioned, and it is ugly. But I don't hate it because it's ugly or because it's new, I hate it because it's abstract and non-specific. I'm fine with googling, blogging, commenting, twittering, youtubing, facebooking, texting, zaprudering, microwaving, dustbusting, shower-massaging, swiffering, PDFing, mp3ing, vasectomizing, tubalizing, essuring, LOLing, ROFLing OMGing WTFing and puppy-head-tilting. In every one of those cases it is completely obvious what the verb means, and in most cases it can only mean one thing (googling is obviously searching with google, although facebooking could be doing any number of things on facebook).

But with action as a verb, it's not clear at all what you're doing. In fact, it varies widely depending on context. It feels like the writer doesn't want to give any thought to what exactly needs to be done, so they're sticking the word "action" in and making me figure it out myself. I once received an email containing some information, followed in close succession by another email saying "That first email was for information only, you don't have to action it." Boy was I glad I didn't have to action it, because I had no idea how I might have "actioned" that email. It wasn't clear to me at all what might have needed to be done.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I may well be feeling this way because I'm a French to English translator. French verbs tend to be far more abstract than English verbs. In many cases (e.g. effectuer, favoriser, intervenir), you can't even translate the French verb or things will get ridiculous. You have to read and understand the entire situation and describe it in clear English, with the verbs being no more helpful than the blank in a game of mad libs.

After spending your entire workday making abstract verbs more concrete and vague verbs more specific, the last thing you want to do is go action something!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

No smoking, no drinking, no talking

The year is 1994. I'm about to start Grade 9. High school, all new, Big And Scary.

One day, shortly before school is to start, my then-best friend calls me. "We have a problem," she announces. "The gym a lesbian."

I was shocked and horrified. She's a lesbian! She likes girls! But she's allowed in our locker room??? Apparently her OFFICE is IN our locker room???? Why is this even allowed? I felt like someone should tell a grownup or something, but I didn't tell my parents for fear they might lock me in my room forever for knowing what a lesbian is or for having a course schedule that puts me in the general vincinity of an alleged lesbian or something.

So off I went to my doom. Not just high school, not just gym class, but high school gym class with a lesbian. And when we got there she...taught us gym. And then the next day she taught us gym. And every day after that she taught us gym, perfectly competently, with the occasional glimpse of humanity. Then the semester was over and I never took gym again and she became irrelevant.

Other things were happening around that time, in the background, in the media. On Friends, Ross's ex-wife was a lesbian. And she was...there, sometimes, when the plot demanded it. Ellen DeGeneres came out, and she was...there, on TV, I wasn't paying much attention. I found out Graham Chapman was gay, and that...didn't change anything, actually. And so it continued, every once in a while I'd find out someone was queer, and, except for the people who ended up being my friends, they'd just go on being ultimately irrelevant, like most people in the world end up being.

This is why the situation in California surprises me so much.

I can see how people who have never been exposed to same-sex marriage might arrive at the visceral "OMG THAT'S WRONG!" reaction. That's how I thought in Grade 9, and the reason I thought that was was because homosexuality had only ever been presented to me as a problem, so I had no reason to think that it might be anything other than a problem. What it took for my homophobia to go away was not happy rainbows and sensitivity training, but rather the sheer innocuousness of every queer person that I ever encountered IRL or in the news.

But in California, they already have this. They had legal same-sex marriage for several months. And, after a brief flurry of "OMG George Takei! OMG Ellen and Portia! OMG octogenerian lesbians!" it just became irrelevant to everyone who isn't immediately involved. So why do they still care after months of evidence that it's harmless?

I thought I understood the thought process, but this has me flummoxed. They do know that it isn't mandatory, right?

How to use the strike at York to your academic advantage

I was at York during the 2000-2001 strike, which lasted about three months, and here's what I learned:

Keep doing your coursework.

Even though you have no classes, keep doing the same number of hours of homework a day no matter what happens. (If you don't plan your work that way, half an hour of work per class per day is a good guideline, at least it was back in my day.)

Get caught up on all your assignments (it's November, you're feeling the crunch now anyway), study the fuck out of your December exams, then start doing next semester's reading for your full-year courses. Don't stop until you've finished every single word of reading and assignments that you can possibly extrapolate from your syllabuses and studied all the material so well you're certain you'll get 100% on every exam.

You obviously don't have enough information to identify every bit of work you'll have to do between now and April, but you have some of it. So do the part that you have now, and it will ease the workload when you go back to class. Those of us who did this during our three-month strike found that it was like taking a half courseload in terms of stress and busy-ness and time to dedicate to each class. And for those of you who are worried about the school year being extended and thus cutting into your summer job time, getting ahead now will let you do your year-end assignments ahead of time, so worst case you can just leave early at the end of the year.

Teach me about non-bankable sick leave

Apparently the City of Toronto wants to stop making workers' sick leave bankable, and according to the comments on the article (I know, I know) that's apparently a bizarre and outrageous thing that doesn't happen in The Real World.

This has me flummoxed. Every job I've ever me that has sick leave has bankable sick leave. Not all jobs have sick leave, of course, with some jobs you lose a day's pay if you stay home sick. But my jobs, my friends' jobs, my family's jobs, the jobs of the grownups who were around me when I was growing up, they all either had bankable sick leave or no sick leave whatsoever. I have never in my life encountered the middle ground.

So talk to me about how this works. What happens if you get hardcore sick? With bankable sick leave, the understanding is you aren't going to use all your assigned sick leave in any given year, but you save up the extra and then years from now when you get cancer you'll have weeks or even months banked. Or even what if you get the flu and you need a week off, but you're only allocated one day for that particular month. What happens then? Doesn't the fact that you haven't taken any sick days for the past eight months count for anything?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Rule

Everyone in California who voted to eliminate people's right to marry anyone of any sex is hereby required to change their name to Doris.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Things They Should Invent: TVs that turn on automatically when something of interest happens

My eyes are killing me and I don't know if anything else I'm interested in seeing live is going to happen. I wish I could just go to bed and have my TV make the decisions for me.

For anyone who needs a laugh

Explain US politics to me please

1. Is it normal to have hours-long line-ups to vote? If so, why don't they get more people or equipment? If not, what's up today?

2. What's up with voter registration? Why does everyone need to be registered, and what is complicated about the process that they need organized drives to do it? (Where I'm coming from: I'm automatically registered via my income tax return, and if I don't show up on the list for some reason I register on election day by showing them appropriate ID.)

3. From Joe Fiorito's latest column:

I know a woman who lives in Mississauga. She is an American. In order to vote she said she had to go to her embassy where, after supplying her ID, she had to state whether she wanted a Democratic or a Republican ballot.


Exactly: huh? Or, since the Star is a family newspaper and this isn't a family blog, WTF? Why can't they put everyone on one ballot? What if you want to vote for an independent/fringe candidate? What if you want to vote for some reps and some dems (I think they're generally voting for more than one office)? What if they run out of one kind of ballot?

4. There's this yes/no to Prop 8 thing rattling around the blogosphere, and every time I read about it I have to pause and scrunch up my brain and try to figure out which side is which. So why don't they give the Prop (Proposition? Proposal? Propeller? Prophylactic? Propaganda?) a descriptive name so the answer will be obvious?

5. What's up with the people who are against elitism also being against wealth redistribution? If you're not elite, you don't have wealth and therefore would benefit from wealth redistribution. If you would be hurt by wealth redistribution, you have wealth and therefore are elite. What am I missing?

Monday, November 03, 2008

I think I have the weakest nickel allergy in the world

At least I assume it's nickel. When I spent an extended period of time holding my cellphone, and when I wear one of my necklaces made of an anonymous (and presumably cheap, since they were $2 each) silver-coloured metal, I get vaguely uncomfortable. Really, that's the best description, vaguely uncomfortable. My muscles tense up a bit. I get a touch edgy. My joints crack a bit louder than usual. I find myself sort of idly mindlessly scratching - I don't feel actively itchy, I'm not uncomfortable, I don't see any discolouration on my skin, but when my hands are unoccupied they end up lazily scratching. Then I put down the phone or take off the necklace and it stops.

It does piss me off that cheap jewellery is an irritant though. I want to wear jewellery, but I'm no good at it. I have no sense whatsoever of what works and what doesn't, so I have a lot of experimentation to do and I can't afford to experiment with real jewellery. Once I've gotten my look together I'll totally buy better stuff, but right now I'm still at the "Hey, this necklace length doesn't work with my bone structure. Who knew that could be a problem?" stage.

Plus, lurking over all this in the shadows, is the problem that with some metal allergies you can't get Essure...

Childfree for Dummies

Suppose I was standing before you with a pregnant belly, or with three preschoolers like my grandmother had at my age, or with my 10-year-old daughter like someone I went to high school with has right now. Wielding my sprog, I announce "I know what's best for my children!" A critical mass of humanity immediately rallies behind me, don't they?

That's exactly what I'm doing now. I do know what's best for my children, and that's that I don't have any children.

Suppose I have a child, and I put arbitrary limitations on this child in order to protect them. They have to be in bed by 8:00. They can only go trickertreating on these two streets and they have to be back by 7. They can't go to a friend's house unless I've met that friend's parents. Even if these limitations might seem overprotective or potentially hinder their fun, it's still being a good parent, isn't it? After all, I'm the grownup, I know more about what the world is like than they do, and it's my job to calculate the risk. I only want what's best.

That's exactly what I'm doing now. Knowing what the world is like, I've made the decision to keep my ova inside my ovaries. It is true that there is more potential for fun outside the ovaries, but I'm the grownup, I've calculated the risk, and they're staying inside my ovaries. I only want what's best.

Of all the people in the world, I'm the one who knows the most about my genetics, my personality, my strengths and weaknesses, and everything else about my reality. After all, I live inside it every day, while everyone else is just looking in from the outside. I am the most qualified person to decide whether this is a situation worth subjecting an innocent child to.

And if for whatever reason you think my judgement is so bad that I can't evaluate my reality nearly as well as you can, why on earth would you want an innocent child completely at the mercy of my judgement for at least nine months, with repercussions that would last their entire lifetime?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Things They Should Study: who establishes the greeting protocol?

I have some family members with whom I hug and/or kiss as a greeting. This wasn't my idea, I was never consulted, and I don't hug or kiss other family members with whom I have the same degree of relationship (some of whom have the same degree of relationship as me to the huggers/kissers).

Someone should do some research into how these things develop.

Pissed off

If I could change just one fact of life, I would make it so that whenever you put time or effort or resources or hard work into doing something, it always ends up better than when you started. There are few things more frustrating than trial and error situations where you still have to put in all the work but the end result is worse than if you had done nothing at all.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Things Google Blog Search Should Invent: search only in blog entry contents

Google Blog Search seems to be getting increasingly polluted by results where my search terms appear elsewhere in the blog other than in the entries, like in the tag cloud or the blurb or the title of the blog itself. This is problematic. If a blog has one of the search terms I monitor regularly in its tag cloud, for example, that blog turns up in my Blog Search results every time it is updated, regardless of whether the updates have anything to do with the subject in question.

They should fix this.

For the record

On Ugly Betty, I find Betty's neighbour-boy's interactions with her presumptuous. The way he borrowed her umbrella a propos of nothing (although keeping your umbrella in the hallway is weird too) and the way he insisted on helping her bring her groceries into her apartment both seem very Gift of Fear to me. I don't know if anything will come of this or if the writers are just being lazy in establishing a realtionship, I'm just posting it for bragging rights in case I end up being right.

Things They Should Invent: free full-time full-service advisors for entrepreneurs

On last week's Ugly Betty, it came to light that Hilda doesn't have a business licence for her salon. She just got a chair and started cutting people's hair. This makes perfect sense to me! I have looked into the process of starting one's own business (not because it interests me, but because my job search experience suggests that I can't assume employers will hire me even when I'm perfectly qualified and capable, so I may well have to go solo at some point) and I find it nearly impenetrable. I can find all kinds of government websites that link to all kinds of other government websites that give infuriatingly vague and perky advice, but there are so many types and levels of regulation involved that even if I read every word I could find, I wouldn't feel certain that I was aware of all my obligations. And I'm accustomed to reading and finding information in government websites, I use them for translation research all the time! I was initially surprised that Hilda had seemingly managed to navigate the process, and found it so much more in character that she'd just skipped it entirely. And because the process is so difficult, I wouldn't dare start my own business - not just because I prefer a steady paycheque even if it is smaller, but because if I start my own business and mess up or miss some step in the process, I'll end up charged with fraud or something.

Entrepreneurship is supposed to be a good thing. It boosts the economy and takes people off the unemployment rolls. They were really pushing it during the last recession, so I assume they'll need it again during this one. So what they should do is create a free, government-funded service of full-time advisors for entrepreneurs. Every entreprenteur would be assigned an advisor, and they can ask the advisor for any help they need during, say, the first year of running their business, and get a limited number of hours of help during, say, the next five years.

The advisors would have to be far more useful than the government websites, which is certainly quite possible and precedented when you're working one-on-one with a real person. I had my wallet stolen once, and ended up calling 1-800-O-CANADA to find out where to replace all my ID. The guy I spoke to was so incredibly helpful! He gave me specific websites and phone numbers and addresses for getting everything replaced - not just the ID under federal jurisdiction, but the province-issued documents too! - and after I'd gone through everything I could remember in my wallet, he went through a list of things that people generally keep in their wallets to make sure I hadn't missed anything. He solved my specific problem and anticipated my needs, and I completely understood what I needed to do when we were finished. They need to do the same thing for entrepreneurs. They need to be able to call someone up and ask "Do I need a lawyer? Do I need an accountant? How do I get one? And what on earth do I do come tax time?" and the advisor needs to be able to answer all these questions with specifics that pertain to the client's situation, plus anticipate things like "So you're running this business out of your desk in your living room? Okay, here's how it might impact your renter's insurance." They'd hold the clients' hands throughout the entire process until the clients find their feet well enough to take a few steps on their own.

I'm sure a lot more people would start businesses if something like that was available.

I think delayed gratification is different depending on whether you have witnesses

A while back there was a study that showed that children who could delay gratification had greater success later in life. They tested this by leaving the kid alone in the room with a treat for 20 minutes, and telling them they could have two treats if they didn't eat it until the adult came back.

My four-year-old self would totally have been able to wait the 20 minutes, but my motivation wouldn't have been the second treat. It would have been the praise from the adult about how good I was for being able to wait.

I've found I operate this way IRL. Using the broadest and pettiest possible definition of delaying gratification to achieve a goal, I'd say I succeed in 100% of the cases where my achieving the goal actually affects other people, 90% of the cases where other people will see whether or not I achieve the goal, and maybe 50% of the cases where no one but me will see whether I achieve the goal. For example, my current goals for this weekend include getting my translations done on time, buying a birthday card for a friend, and washing my windows. The translations will definitely get done because the client needs them. The birthday card will most likely get bought unless something goes egregiously wrong. The windows may or may not get washed, depends what happens. I'm not going to blow off the translations or the birthday card in favour of gaming or reading fanfic or otherwise being a lazyass, but the window washing I might.

I don't know how this affects the relationship between delayed gratification and success i nlife, but it seems like something worth studying.

My very very favourite thing about the xkcd Discovery Channel comic

Everyone has already seen this.

I just felt the need to mention that my very very favourite thing about the comic is the exclamation mark on the sign in the bakery that says "PIE!" That exclamation mark is the single most efficient supplier of teh awesome ever.