Saturday, January 31, 2009

What people need to know before commenting on Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance benefits are 55% of your weekly income, to a maximum of $447 a week (which is equal to just over $23,000 a year).

This means if you make $100 a week, you'll get no more than $55 a week in EI.
If you make $500 a week, you'll get no more than no more than $275 a week in EI.
If you make $1000 a week, you'll get no more than $447 a week in EI.
If you make $2000 a week, you'll get no more than $447 a week in EI.

All these amounts are before tax.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Things They Should Invent Words For

1. When something fucking obvious that you have trouble actually explaining it because it is so incredibly fucking obvious. (e.g. "Why would you want to retire? What on earth would you do with your time?")

2. When you read or hear something about someone that makes you think they're an asshole, then time passes and you forget why exactly you think they're an asshole but you remain convinced that they're an asshole.

3. The phenomenon where someone in one breath tells you not to worry about the thing you're worrying about, then in the next breath says that you should be worrying about something else that you've already thought about and have determined to the best of your judgement is not worth worrying about.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Terminological note

For reference, the updated definition of saddleback.

Me and my problems

A few weeks ago, an ATM gave me half of a $20 bill. It was ripped clean in half and only one half came out of the ATM. I went into the bank and they had me fill out a form and they swapped it for a normal bill.

Problem: It happened again a few days ago. I didn't notice at the time, but now there's half a $20 in my wallet and I think it was from the same ATM. But I'm too embarrassed to go into the bank and have them fix it because I already did it once and I'm afraid they'll think it's some scam or something.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Currently wondering

To what extent would the current financial crisis have been mitigated if no one had invested in anything they didn't understand?

Write or Die!

This is awesome!

I wish it was feasible to use it for translation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pnau vs. Pink Floyd vs. Country Joe McDonald vs. John Lennon. Hell yeah!

Prominent but inconsequential profanity. It won't offend you, but you might not want your boss/parent/kid to hear it.

Newsreel accent mystery

This is a US newsreel from 1944.

Hear the guy's accent? (He starts talking at 0:35.) Lots of black and white newsreel narrators talked like that (unless, like, it was always the same guy). But I've never heard anyone talk like that IRL, and I've never heard anyone talk like that in old movies. I wonder what the story behind the accent is. Unfortunately, I don't know what it's called and my attempts to google it have been unproductive.

Language people are hot!

Really! It's been pseudoscientifically proven!

Cough syrup

Why does cough medicine only come in liquid form? Why can't you buy it in pill form? The liquid stuff is disgusting! (Although it's a lot easier now as an adult knowing how to do shots.)

The logistics of the Finance Minister buying shoes

On TV they're showing Jim Flaherty buying shoes. He appears to be trying them on, and there appear to be some other boxes nearby for him to try on too. There's a swarm of media around him taking pictures.

I wonder how that really works? He can't possibly be doing a from-scratch trying-on-for-real shoe shopping trip with all those media people following him. A real shoe-shopping trip involves going to several different stores and trying on a bunch of different things and then maybe going back and doing a comparision etc. It could take all day, which would be boring for the media people and tiresome for Mr. Flaherty to do with a mob of cameras on him.

They must either do one trip to a specific store where he buys the best pair available there (and perhaps returns it later if it isn't good enough) or they must do preliminary recon to identify the best pair and then he shows up with his media mob and goes through the motions of trying them on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Impossible Quiz

I am smarter than 90.33% of the rest of the world.
Most Difficult Quiz

The quiz seems to think you're allowed to google, but I didn't google while taking it.

Perception of safety

Yesterday there was a shooting on the subway and there was a shooting on the 401.

I've seen news items about people who are now afraid to go on the subway and news items reassuring people that they shouldn't be afraid to go on the subway. I haven't seen any news items about people who are afraid to go on the 401 or reassuring people that they shouldn't be afraid to go on the 401.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Parenting is futile

Think about all the behaviours that parents try to limit or restrict in their children.

Now think about how many of those limitations or restrictions are relevant to adults.

We can smoke and drink and have sex. We can go out whenever we want with whomever we please and go driving around in a car if one of us has one and come back as late as we want and stay up as late as we want before going to bed. We can talk on the phone or play videogames or watch TV or go on the internet as much as we want with no restrictions, and if we hear a swear word or see someone's boobies it's no big deal, not even worth mentioning really. We can have whatever cake or cookies or candy or junk food we want in any quantity without having to first drink a glass of milk or eat 11 peas or any other arbitrary rules. We can wear all the make-up we want, plus high heels or short hemlines or low-cut tops or bras with the best engineering money can buy. We can dye, pierce, or tattoo any part of our body humanly possibly. We can totally just walk into a pet store and buy a puppy. (We don't, because it's morally wrong, but we totally can.) We can leave our beds unmade and our clothes unironed and take hour-long showers and leave the house looking like that.

And we do whatever we want out of this list, whenever we want, to no ill effects.

And yet for the first 18 years of our lives, our parents were desperately trying to restrict these behaviours.

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: celebrity interrogation for charity

You get a famous but reclusive person who hardly ever gives interviews, and you get them to do a Q&A session. You charge admission to the Q&A session (being a real hard-ass about recording devices), and then auction off the right to ask questions. Top bidder gets to ask the first question, second bidder gets to ask the second question, etc. etc. until time is up. The size of the audience and the duration of the event should be such that only 10-20% of the audience gets to ask questions, and if possible a live bidding system should be set up so people sitting in the audience can increase their bids in desperate attempts to get their questions in.

Fatal flaw: finding someone who is sufficiently famous and sufficiently reclusive that people would be willing to pay significant money for the opportunity, but still willing to do the interview.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Things They Should Invent: defined contribution to defined benefit pension conversion program

This economic crisis has really pulled the rug out from under defined contribution pension plans. People are seeing their pensions disappear with the tumbling stock market, which destroys consumer confidence among everyone with a defined contribution plan and makes people more likely to save than invest their pension contributions. At the same time, the economic turmoil must be making employers even more hesitant to set up defined benefit plans for the same reason that their employees are losing confidence in defined contribution plans. The impact of this is likely to be felt in our economy for a long time.

This is where the government could step in. They set up a system where you turn over your defined contribution, they invest it, and they guarantee you a defined benefit. The guaranteed benefit would simply be whatever is reasonable. Not an excessive amount that would put our public finances at risk, but not a stingy amount like EI either. There would be no ceiling - the bigger your contributions, the bigger your pensions. Perhaps people could add private contributions too, I'm not sure how that would affect it. The program would be completely optional. They'll tell you up front how much defined benefit they will guarantee, and if you think you can do better you can still invest your defined contributions yourself.

Advantages: The government already has pension-management expertise because they have to manage the CPP and their own employees' pensions. This would just be doing the same thing with more money. Since the government operates on a longer term than individuals, they can absorb losses in bad times and make them up in good times, which individuals can't do. This would boost consumer confidence among pensioners and older workers because they don't have to worry about what if they lose their pensions. It would also stimulate the economy by investing money that would otherwise be saved, and perhaps set an example for other investors. I seem to recall our PM recently saying something about how this economic turmoil provides a lot of good buying opportunities. This would be a chance to walk the talk, perhaps also increasing investor confidence. On a smaller scale, you know how every once in a while you meet someone who hates their job and is just marking time until their pension kicks in, to the detriment of the entire organization? This would let them leave their job for something they like better, without having to worry about losing security in retirement.

Question marks: This is based on the idea that larger investors with more principal can get a better return on investment than smaller investors. I'm not sure if this is actually true. It's in my mind as a pretty solid piece of conventional wisdom, but I have no idea where I got the idea from or how valid it actually is.

Disadvantages: People would have all their eggs in one basket and be entirely dependent on the government not going bankrupt.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Question for USians

This purple lady who is talking before all the actual swearings-in happen is putting a lot of emphasis on how US democracy is apparently peaceful and non-violent.

Is that normal? It seems really random to me, but I've never watched a presidential inauguration before.

ETA: For that matter, is it normal to have your inauguration soundtracked by John Williams?

I think Peter Mansbridge is misreading Barack Obama

Peter Mansbridge is saying that Barack Obama is looking cool and confident and composed.

That's not what I'm seeing. To me it looks like he's quite obviously trying very very hard to look cool and confident and composed but is really somewhere between ecstatic and terrified.

Insert a stupid joke about money buying happiness here

Via Antonia Zerbisias, a silly little study postulating that women have more orgasms with wealthier partners.

I didn't give this much attention when it first came out because it contradicts a lifetime's worth of empirical evidence.

But it occurred to me today: what if the link here is really charm/charisma/people skills? Sex is way better when your partner makes you feel special and important, and people who can make others feel special and important are likely to do better in business.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Things They Should Study: gender-based material wishlist comparison

Carol Goar has some statistics about men's vs. women's financial habits that lead her to conclude that if the economic stimulus does not address women's concerns, it won't work. On one hand, this reads like one of those articles written with the express intention of focusing on "women's issues", regardless of whether that is the best approach to the subject at hand. On the other hand, it is completely consistent with my reality. My Protect Existing Jobs policy is based on this reality, and protecting existing jobs would totally address every point Ms. Goar raises.

But the big question mark here, which I think might be a productive line of inquiry, is whether there's any difference between what men and women would spend their money on (but aren't spending it on because of financial uncertainty). Are the things they covet within their means (but they feel they shouldn't buy them) or beyond their means (i.e. the money simply isn't there)? Are the things they covet one-time purchases (capital expenditures) or ongoing lifestyle upgrades (operational expenditures)?

I'm thinking along these lines because most of the things I covet are lifestyle upgrades that are technically within my means, but I feel like I shouldn't because then if money becomes tight it will hurt to downgrade. For example, I'd very much like to use Touche Eclat and unless it runs out ridiculously quickly I could totally come up with $30-40 every time I need a new tube of concealer. But I feel like I shouldn't, so I'm making do with discontinued Skinlights purchased on ebay. I'd like to upgrade my hairdressing (I just recently upgraded from no hairdressing to hairdressing, and I like the results and want to go further) and the money is there, but if I lost my job having spent that much on my hair would be inexcusable. I'd love to get my bras at Secrets From Your Sister, but if they're as good as they say they are I won't be able to go back to ill-fitting $12 numbers from La Senza, and then if my bra explodes while I'm unemployed I'm screwed. With the exception of real estate, everything I covet is an operational expenditure that I probably could afford. And, with the exception of real estate, everything I covet is girly stuff.

My non-spending could be fully addressed with job security. If I were certain I was never going to lose my job, I would totally buy all those things. I would be buying $30 make-up and bras with prices in the three-digit range and the best hair stuff money can buy for the rest of my life.

But when I think about the men around me, the stuff they covet is different. They seem to covet more one-time purchases that they aren't purchasing because the money simply isn't there. A big-screen TV with surround sound. A car. A trip. A new computer. Their non-spending could be addressed by putting more money in their pocket. If the money was suddenly there for a big-screen TV, they'd get one. So, following Carol Goar's logic that women are underrepresented on economic decision-making, perhaps this is why some of our politicos seem to be under the impression that a tax cut would be an effective economic stimulus?

Now I have no way of knowing if I'm typical of women or if the men in my life are typical of men. But looking at all of this, I'm thinking perhaps someone should study the coveting habits of different economic groups to try to figure out what it would take to get different people spending.

Kiva has gone crazy!

There's a notice on Kiva saying they've gotten so much press lately that there are more donors than loans, and they're not kidding! I've tried to donate to three different loans, and every time they ended up fully funded in the time it took me to google the field partner (Q: Why? A: To confirm that they're secular).

The third loan I looked at was at $0 when I first logged in. I looked at two other loans first, and by the time I got to the third loan it was fully funded up to $1000. A thousand dollars of funding in just a few minutes!

This is fantastic for Kiva and all the loan recipients, but it's starting to annoy me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What's up with sock sizes?

When you buy women's socks, the label says "Sizes 6-10". What's the point of that? First of all, that's ALL the standard women's shoe sizes. Secondly, it's not like there are other sizes on the shelf next to it. It's not like I can look at the size label, say "Oh, I'm a size 11" and go up to the next size. That's the only size they ever come in anyway. Why bother to label them if you aren't going to have different sizes?

(And in case you're wondering, 6-10 usually fits me anyway - I've only had two pairs of socks in my life where 6-10 was too small - and I can wear men's socks too which is fine since I usually wear just plain black.

How NOT to explain the meaning of a phrase

If a person says "I don't understand what they mean by [phrase]" or "What does [phrase] even mean?", replying with the dictionary definition of every word in the phrase is not helpful. (Especially when you include every meaning in the dictionary definitions, not just the one that applies to the phrase in question!)

Apart from the fact that if it were a matter of dictionary definitions they would just google it, if they are missing the meaning of the word they would say "What does [word] mean?" If I said "The Governor General prorogued Parliament" and you didn't know what prorogue meant, you wouldn't say "What does prorogue Parliament mean?", you would say "What does prorogue mean?" If, in some bizarro universe, you knew what the word prorogue means in general terms and you knew what the word Parliament means but you don't know what proroguing Parliament is, THEN you would say "What does prorogue Parliament mean?" You'd want to know the specific implications for Parliament, not the general dictionary definition.

Or, to use a simpler example, if you didn't understand what was meant "Coalition if necessary but not necessarily coalition," looking up all those words wouldn't help. The information you're probably missing here is that it means the Opposition doesn't intend to automatically make the Government fall, but they are prepared to do so if the Government is inadequate - basically using the threat of a coalition to keep the Government in line. That information isn't found in the dictionary definitions; if you don't get it, it's really a political strategy question.

So yeah, posting a definition of every word in a phrase doesn't help people understand the phrase. And worst case, it can make you look like a dickhead. Don't do it.

Let the pilot be a hero!

What's up with the comments section people who don't want the pilot of that plane that landed in the water in NYC to be called a hero? His airplane lost both engines while flying over New York City, and not only did everyone on board survive (and I think only one person had a serious injury), but no one on the ground was even put at risk! He saved hundreds (maybe even thousands, depending on the surrounding population density) of lives in one of the most terrifying situations we can imagine ourselves in. Even if that's exactly what he's trained to do and any pilot could do it, objectively speaking that's a huge fucking deal! Let him be a hero! It isn't a zero-sum game. It won't take away someone else's hero designation. It won't make your penis fall off. Let him have some glory and prizes and laurels and maybe a paid week off if they can swing it.

Ask every hero in the world. I don't think any of them would begrudge him the hero designation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hoshi Sato demonstrates translator brain

I love this scene. It perfectly captures how the perfectionism that is necessary to our profession can paralyze us.

Can we have headbands come back in style please?

Today I accidentally discovered that my hair looks fantastic in a headband. It looks copious and flowing and I don't look like a trekkie or a polygamist. Unfortunately, the look isn't actively flattering to my face and it isn't in style. Since my haircut isn't fashionable, any hairstyle I do has to have two of the following: my hair looks good objectively, the hairstyle is actively flattering to my face, or the look is in style.

So can we have a headband trend please? I've already suffered enough with leggings and low boots and empire waists and all this other stuff I can't' wear.

Barring that, could we have chunky heels back in style please?

This song needs to be covered by an opera singer

I Put A Spell On You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Things They Should UNinvent: slideshow-style top 10 lists

A lot of websites, especially magazine-type websites, present typical list-style articles (Top 10 Trendiest Cheeses! Eight Ways to Redecorate for Under $2!) as slideshows. You click on the link, it opens in a new window, you see a photo and blurb of the first item on the list, then you have to click the "Next" link (or wait for the slideshow to play automatically) to see what's next. For every item in the list, you have to click a link and wait for the page to load.

This is inconvenient! When I'm looking at a list-style article, I'm either looking to see what's on the list, or I'm skimming the list items to see if it's worth reading the whole article. The slideshow set-up makes it impossible to do this, which frustrates me and makes me less likely to read the article. The worst offender I saw was a top 100 list, with one item per slide. I forget which list exactly it was, precisely because the slideshow structure made it not worth my while to read.

If it is absolutely necessary to present your list as a slideshow, also include the list itself in text form (wwithout the blurbs or photos) so we can skim it briefly and see if the article is worth all the clicking.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I am soooo old...

Iris - Goo Goo Dolls

When I was in high school this was the deepest, most meaningful song ever. It had the remarkable ability to perfectly reflect and magnify whatever emotion I was feeling at the time, and served as the perfect soundtrack to my life.

Today I heard it as Muzak.


Me last Friday.

Michael Ignatieff yesterday.

And, as an added bonus:

"That money must be used to preserve jobs, said [Thomas] Mulcair."

There's a fucking H in it!

Is the H in "historic" properly pronounced in any dialect? I pronounce it on principle (a practice that predates Eddie Izzard, by the way), but I've heard people say "an historic" in Canadian, US, and UK English.

Okay, you can start calling them anti-choice again

They seem to insist

Edited to add: Language Log has some interesting (and new to me) information about historical/political context.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two awesome things, one thing they should invent

1. Smurfs! There an international Smurfs translation index, plus Wikipedia has a list of how to say Smurf in any language you might ever need to say it in.

2. You know the expression "It's all Greek to me"? Have you ever wondered how they express the equivalent concept in Greek? Language Log has graphed how this plays out in different languages.

3. Things They Should Invent: a glossary of all the international translations of cromulent and embiggen.

Things They Should Invent: rep-counting device

When you're exercising and you're really trying to push your number of reps to the limit, counting can actually be a hinderance. The numbers are going by SO slowly and your target is SO far away you're NEVER going to make it.

We need a device to count reps for us. Program in the target and just go. Then we can focus our brains on listening to music or watching TV or chatting (if you're the kind of person to work out with other people) and the device will beep when we're done.

It could be wearable, like a pedometer but probably with a different kind of gyroscope (assuming the thingy I'm talking about is in fact called a gyroscope). Maybe it could also be trainable for different exercises. There's a "program" mode where you do one rep or three reps to teach it what comprises a "rep" for this particular exercise, then it could be used for bicep curls or sit-ups or anything.

Things that bug me about random movies that I saw ages ago

1. In the recent Phantom of the Opera movie, Minnie Driver plays Carlotta, but since she can't sing opera a professional opera singer dubs the singing parts. It makes sense if you think about it from the perspective of casting an actress - the actress can't sing opera so we'll have someone else do it. However, being an opera singer also involves a certain amount of acting, and I find it difficult to believe that there are no professional opera singers who could play an over-the-top diva. Sopranos everywhere must be pissed!

2. In Juno, Juno could just take the van and drive off to the adoptive parents' house on a whim, even though it's established that it's like an hour away. The first time she gets a "Where have you been?" from her step-mother, but there are no consequences and she does it again a couple of times. I'll grant the character a bit more freedom than is realistic because this is a movie about teen pregnancy, but in no world can you just take the family's main vehicle for several hours without telling anyone! Even if her parents don't feel the need to closely supervise her, it's a matter of basic household logistics. People need to know when the car is coming back. If she isn't even going to be subject to this constraint, why bother to make the character a teenager?

Also, Bleeker can just stop running in the middle of track practice to talk to Juno? Since when is that allowed?

Make sure you read Savage Love this week

Everyone needs to vote on a new coinage. (NSFW, as usual)

My campaign promise

Dear Canadian politicians everywhere:

I have decided to walk the talk.

If you can create a situation where my employer is able to promise me that my job is safe, I will spend an extra $1000 in the next year. That's right, $1000 above and beyond what I would normally spend, and above and beyond my New Year's resolution. I will actively seek out things I would never have thought to buy otherwise.

What's more, I will spend all this money on Canadian-made, environmentally-friendly, ethical products, either that I can make good use of, or that the person I give them to as a gift can make good use of. If these products end up replacing any perfectly good items in my home, I will make sure the superceded items are donated to someone who can make good use of them. Nothing will end up in the landfill, nothing will go to waste. And, just to make everyone happy, I will buy them without using plastic bags (even though we all know that doesn't actually change my footprint).

You give me what I need from you to get through this crisis, I'll give you what you need from me to get through this crisis.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If you get arrested, can you leave a note?

On the TV show I'm watching, the police come by and arrest this guy when his wife isn't home. It's a calm and civilized arrest and he goes along quietly without protest. However, he doesn't leave a note for his wife or anything. So she's going to come home and find her husband missing and have no idea where he went (she couldn't have guessed he was going to be arrested.)

So IRL, if you're arrested, do they let you leave a note so your family or household isn't wondering where you went? I know you're supposed to get one phone call, but that's for a lawyer. What if you need to arrange for someone to pick your kids up or something? I mean, even if you are under arrest, that's no reason to leave your kids stranded somewhere.

Life little luxuries

This was the coldest morning of the winter and the prospect of getting out of bed filled me with dread. So I dragged myself into the bathroom where I had a hot shower, then I had a nice cup of coffee sitting in the sunny spot by the window.

If you think about it, that is really astounding. It's like -30 outside, and I can stand in a stream of hot water for like an hour if I want. Then I can sit just a foot away from a pile of snow, perfectly comfortable in nothing but a glorified towel, enjoying the warmth and light of the sun without the cold of the outdoors, drinking a drink made from a tropical plant.

Not a bad way to start your morning.

Q: "It's the 21st century, where is my flying car?"

A: Right here.

Can I have a robot maid next?

(h/t James Bow)

How to cut taxes in the way that will best help the Canadian economy

I still find it difficult to believe that tax cuts would actually instigate consumer spending, but let's pretend for the purposes of this post that they will. Here's how to do it:

Eliminate the GST on everything that's made in Canada. Charge GST on everything else.

Nuances: 1. Currently GST is not charged on necessities. If there are necessities that are not available in made-in-Canada version. 2. There might be degrees of "Made in Canada", like how there's the MAPL system for cancon. For example, Fluevogs are designed by a Canadian but manufactured in Europe (and yes, I lose points for a) having the first idea that comes to mind be shoes, and b) for knowing offhand where they're made). If this happens with enough things to be significant, they could have a sliding scale based on how made in Canada they are.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wanted: an economist to build the karmameter

Still thinking about the karmameter...

If we assume that time = money, the karmameter is a question of economics. What is the best use of my time/money? Does my money do more good in my savings account keeping me self-sufficient, or in my spending account boosting the economy, or being given to charity to help the less fortunate, or being paid out in taxes to support the social safety net? There's probably a pie chart of the optimal balance, like you see in mutual funds.

Are more expensive, more ethical purchases worth it in how much good you're getting for your dollar? If I could can buy a dozen cheap Made In China shoes for the price of one pair of good shoes manufactured in a factory that meets EU labour standards, I'd be supporting more people's livelihoods but promoting poorer working conditions - especially if I bought the cheap shoes at multiple stores. There must be a threshold somewhere.

Even on a more personal level - for example, right now the work I'm doing is emotionally excruciating, but it's ultimately going to help the people whose stories I find emotionally excruciating. So I'm neglecting all kinds of my obligations to myself and to society just so I can keep myself in a state where I can complete this project properly. But there must be a cost-benefit threshold in there somewhere (if not within the range of reality then at least in the pool of theoretical possibilities) where the good I'm doing by doing this translation properly no longer outweighs my neglect of my other obligations.

Karma is basically a series of cost-benefit ratios. It sounds like the job for an economist.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: results-based prison sentences

Right now, you commit a crime and you're sentenced to five years. That's rather arbitrary. Instead, it should be you commit a crime, and you're sentenced to prison until, say, you've got your substance abuse and anger management problems sorted, then you're on parole until you've proven you can hold down a job and an apartment without cheating or stealing from anyone and have a relationship without beating your partner.

The only tiny wee flaw in this plan is coming up with an objective way to measure results that neither correctional officers nor criminals can game.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What would have happened if my parents had banned Barbie dolls

Broadsheet discusses parents forbidding their children from owning Barbie dolls.

I had dozens of Barbie dolls - either 27 or 37, I forget which. I liked them because they let me be a girl (in that playing with dolls is a girly thing to do) and they let me role-play at being at the fun parts of being a grown-up woman (dressing up in grownup clothes and heels and, later, having sex.) I'm sure my parents weren't too thrilled with this. They tended to discourage girly things, and I'm sure they didn't want their kids coveting fancy clothes or role-playing sex. However, they did not ban Barbie from our house, which is a good thing because if they had it would have been far worse for my self-image.

You see, as I've mentioned before, I'm very femme mentally but don't look very feminine physically - especially not when I was a pre-pubescent child. I've always been bigger than average for my age, I have a big nose (just like my father's) and a heavy brow (just like my father) and unattractive dark skin around my eyes (which I'd never seen on another person when I was a child). I'm clumsy and awkward and say and do the wrong thing (just like my father). My feet are enormous and rather ugly (just like my father's). My body hair has always been black and more copious than average (just like my father's). I was the first person in my class (male or female) to be able to grow a mustache and the only person (male or female) at the Grade 5 pool party with hairy armpits. When my hair was short people mistook me for a boy all the time, which is why I now wear my hair hip-length.

My parents often tried to discourage me from girly things and point me more towards boy things. I don't know why exactly this is - I don't have a brother so I have no idea which parts of their child-rearing were about raising girls and which parts were about raising children - but I suspect a lot of it had to do with because being girly is less convenient. A kid who doesn't care about clothes is easier to shop for than one who wants to be a pretty pretty princess (and I was especially complicated because I wanted to be a pretty princess but had no idea what kinds of clothes I wanted to accomplish that and hate the process of shopping.) A kid who wants to dig in the garden is more useful than one who runs away screaming "EWWWW! Worms!!!!" It's easier to get everyone off to school on time when no one feels the need to do their hair and put on make-up than when you have two kids wearing a total of five kinds of foundation between them.

However, because I was already wanting to express and present as far more feminine than I was capable of, whenever my parents tried to discourage me from something girly or encouraged me towards something more boyish, I felt like they were saying I don't get to be girly because I'm not pretty enough, and should just be a boy instead. I was nowhere near capable of expressing this at the time, but that's how I felt. They said "You can't wear a skirt because you'll be running around," I heard "You aren't girly enough to dress like a girl, so you may as well just act like a noisy smelly running-around boy." (This is back when boys were yucky.) They made me help my father with home improvements or join him on a bike ride, I heard "You're practically a boy anyway, so you have to keep your father company with his boy stuff." (And to add insult to injury, when my sister didn't have to do this stuff (in retrospect probably because she was too young) I felt like it was because she's prettier and looks more like a girl so she doesn't have to do the yucky boy stuff.) So if they had forbidden Barbie dolls, I would have taken it as "You're not pretty enough to play with these pretty things like all the other girls."

I did like some boy toys and boy activities too. I like legos and trains and science fiction and video games and dodgeball and Ninja Turtles. But these were never a source of conflict. I could do them, I like them, people never tried to stop me, they never made people think I was a boy. It didn't feel like gender expression, it just felt like doing stuff I liked. I don't like them because they're masculine (or even despite the fact that they're masculine), I like them because I like them. But with girly toys, there was always an aspect of gender expression there. I guess it's similar to how if I like a dress it's partly because it makes me look feminine, but if I like running shoes it's because they're nice running shoes.

Now I did (and probably still do) have body image issues, but that had nothing to do with the Barbie dolls. For example, the thing I hate most is the dark skin around my eyes, but that's because I never saw anything similar on anyone else ever except cartoon portrayals of evil. (I have seen it on other people since, but no one who was around when I was a kid had anything like it.) I hate how my stomach sticks out no matter what because my waist is so short there's nowhere else for my guts to go, but that's more from cultural disdain for fat rather than anything to do with Barbie specifically. I'd still have that even if I'd never met a Barbie doll.

But mostly Barbie's figure was irrelevant because I was pre-pubescent when I was playing with her, and she represented a grown-up woman. I did aspire to be a grown-up woman one day, but I certainly didn't want to be one yet. My Barbie play was just forward-looking role-play for one day when I was a proper grownup with breasts and heels and lipstick. I didn't have big breasts or mile-long legs when I was playing with Barbie, but that's fine because I didn't want them yet. I wanted to be a pretty little girl, not a sexy grown-up woman. And by the time I had matured enough physically that I had a woman's body and matured enough mentally that I wanted a woman's body (i.e. in the now instead of in the indefinite future), Barbie was irrelevant. When I wasn't getting laid, the other girls around me who were getting laid were relevant (what does she have that I don't?) and when I was getting laid they were irrelevant too because I was quite clearly sexy enough.

All banning Barbies would have done was make me feel more like I wasn't good enough for girly stuff when I was a child. So it's a good thing my parents didn't.

Edited to add: I started out just writing this as an anecdote, but I think I have a broader conclusion. A lot of the time when parents don't want their kids to have Barbies, it's really that they don't want them to want Barbies, or to want what she stands for. But if the kid already wants Barbies (or whatever else the parents are trying to ban), banning the thing isn't going to stop them from wanting it. So when parents are inclined to forbid something, they should first think about whether what they really want is for the kid not to have the thing, or just not to want it.

Best thing ever of the day


(h/t Language Log)

Friday, January 09, 2009

How to improve Canada's consumer confidence with three simple words

Protect existing jobs.

That's the soundbite our governments need. Protect existing jobs. Frankly, realistically, since we're talking consumer confidence (which is subjective and somewhat emotional) they wouldn't actually have to do very much to protect existing jobs. Perhaps one or two token gestures, but mostly all they'd have to do is not do anything that would cost people their jobs. If people feel like their jobs are being protected, their consumer confidence will increase.

Protect existing jobs.

Dear Mr. Harper: Let's see these words in your budget speech.

Dear Mr. Ignatieff: Let's see these words in the conditions to which you hold the government's budget speech.

Teach me how to speak out against racism

There was a study that concluded that people are more tolerant of racism than they care to admit.

For the study, researchers placed three students in a classroom, one white, one black, and one white or Asian. And while two of the students – the black and one white – were in on the scheme, the third believed they were all there waiting for a study to begin.

"Then the black person stands up and says `I forgot my cellphone,' and he walks out of the room. And as he walks out, he gently hits the other white person on the knee," Kawakami said. When the black person left the room, the white person turned to the other person and said something racist – "in some cases extremely racist," she said.

Despite using terms as offensive as "clumsy n----r," the planted bigot faced little or no reprisal from the majority of white subjects.

Personally I'd love to speak out or otherwise do something at this point, but I simply have no clue what to do. The racist would get a glare, sure, but I have no idea what I might say that might be helpful. I've met a number of racists in my life, and nothing that it has every occurred to me to say has ever elicited any reaction in them other than for them to try to convince me that I need to be more racist. I am completely unequipped to deal with this situation. In other more social situations I'd likely either leave or kick them out, but this is a room where we're both waiting for an appointment. We both have a right to be there and I'd be breaking my commitment to the study if I just walked out (I know that sounds like a lame excuse, but (as far as I know) it isn't the study's fault the other person was racist).

So what could I say or do at this point that would be helpful?

If there are any racists reading this, I'd be especially interested in what you might have to say. Anonymous posts are welcome, and as long as you give me information that would help me construct a useful response I won't dis you or allow anyone else to dis you for being a racist in this thread.

Things Canadian Blood Services Should Invent: don't hold clinics only at multiples of four weeks

The blood donor clinic that is most convenient for me always happens during the week of my period. I'm often not up to donating during my period because my iron levels are too low. So I have to be diligent and go to a less convenient clinic, or (more often then not) it just ends up not happening.

I see why they are doing this. You're allowed to donate blood once every 56 days, so they're holding the clinic every 56 days (i.e. 8 weeks). However, that means that it is inconvenient for me every single time.

I don't know what percentage of blood donors are women with regular or regulated periods who can't donate during their periods. I know that with the rule against donations from men who have sex with men, there are probably more female than male donors. I know women whose periods affect their iron levels are more likely to be on the Pill and therefore menstruating like clockwork (if they choose to menstruate - I don't know what percentage just take a monophasic pill every day without taking a week off to menstruate.) I don't know if there are enough of us to be significant. But I do know that if the clinic was every 9 weeks, they'd get my blood way more often.

I wonder if there's good money in being a political advisor?

On December 6, I said:

Meanwhile, what the opposition parties need to do is take a "Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition" approach.

On December 7:

Ignatieff has been more ambivalent, describing his position Sunday as "coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition."

On December 6, I also said:

Then [the opposition parties] need to agree upon minimum standards of economic and social policy they will hold the government to, and inform the government and the public of these standards. If the government meets the minimum standards, the three opposition parties will continue working in accordance with their own party platforms. If the government fails to meet the standards, BOOM, instant coalition.

Then today:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, speaking in Halifax, said he will judge the federal budget on whether it provides tax relief for low-income Canadians, infrastructure projects and invests in productivity and competitiveness.

Ignatieff, who spoke in Halifax as part of a town hall tour across the country, has said he's prepared to vote down the Conservative government and form a governing coalition with the NDP if the budget isn't in the best interests of Canadians.

Maybe I should start blogging purely selfish policy recommendations.

Actually, I do have an idea for another policy recommendation that addresses my own situation but would also help other people. I'll blog it later or tomorrow and see what happens.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Words, words, words! (NSFW edition)

1. From a Globe and Mail article on a new edition of The Joy of Sex: teledildonics! I wish I was into that sort of thing just so I could use the word on a regular basis!

2. From Savage Love (third letter): seroconverted! Initially I thought it was politically correct terminology and was both admiring it and wondering if it made the process sound too intentional, but it turns out it's proper scientific terminology. Way cool!


Money doesn't exist in the Federation.

The entire Ferengi culture is based on the acquistion of wealth.

So how do they coexist on DS9? Quark wouldn't give the Starfleet people food and drink for free, but they don't earn money so they (theoretically) have nothing with which to pay him.

How do I find my missing mp3s?

My itunes contains 3686 mp3s. When I press "shuffle songs" on my ipod, the first song says "Track 1 of 3666." I know that only two tracks in my itunes have been set to "Skip in shuffle." I did double-check this and I did sync manually.

So how do I find where the other 18 mp3s went?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Things They Should Invent: food to non-food analogy converter

When I'm trying to describe the size or colour or texture or consistency of something, especially bodily functions and other broadly medical things, I often find myself landing on food analogies. The problem is this grosses some people out. I inadvertently compare my bodily excretion du jour with something that happens to be in their sandwich, and I've ruined their lunch and their entire day.

We need a website for just these occasions. I search for "cherry", it gives me a list of non-food things that are the same size (or colour) as a cherry. I search for "mustard" and it gives me a list of non-food things that are the same colour (or texture or smell) as mustard.

Do you find high school gave you all the information you need on any particular subject?

Often you hear people saying "Kids Today don't know enough about X. They should teach X in high school!"

But I find myself doubting whether teaching something in high school is really intended to give people all the knowledge they need on any particular topic.

I studied a lot of stuff in high school. I took 12 OACs (only six were required). And I can't think of one single subject where high school gave me all the knowledge I need for life.

And that's perfectly okay.

What high school did do is give me some sense of the scope of knowledge that's out there. Because of high school, I have a general idea of what I do know and what I don't know. Then I can use the internet to fill in the blanks.

From high school, I know that coalition government have happened in the past although they are rare and the Governor General does have that discretion, and that if I remember correctly King-Byng is a key word here. That's fine. A couple of quick googles and I was up on what I need to know.

High school taught me that the derivative of a function is a rate. I could then use that as a basis to find the English terminology to translate the mathematical concepts being expressed in that frustratingly vague French way.

High school gave me an idea of what information can be found on the periodic table, so now I can go to the periodic table when I need that information.

High school gave me an idea of what financial concepts there might be a mathematical formula for, or what sorts of things a computer program could be convinced to do, or what can be reliably calculated using the laws of physics. It gave me the basis to self-teach myself a new musical instrument or a new language. High school didn't teach me enough about the causes of WWI, but it made me aware that I didn't know enough about the causes of WWI so I sought out more information when I wanted it.

So why are people expecting high school to give kids everything they need? Are there people who actually got everything they need out of high school?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sexy tune

Temptation - Diana Krall

Things They Should Invent:

I spent my childhood in catholicism and my adolescence and adulthood on the internet. As a result, I want a website to keep track of my guilt for me.

I'm always justifying my vices by my virtues. If I don't exercise one morning, I justify it by the fact that I had two salads the previous day. If I fail to take an opportunity to do something generous, I justify it by other instances of generosity. If I buy expensive shoes, I justify it by the fact that I haven't been to a movie in theatres in ages whereas some people go every week.

But I have no idea if I'm justifying things fairly. I want a website to keep track of it all for me. Like one of those weightwatchers tracker thingies. I enter my virtues and vices at the end of the day, and the site tells me how much karma I have stored up. The I can make the next day's decisions accordingly.

Today I set a record

Today I did absolutely nothing correctly. Every single thing I did I fucked up, at least a tiny little bit. From washing my hair in the morning to typing this post just now.

Things They Should Invent: job security as economic stimulus

You are not going to lose your job in this economic crisis.

Wouldn't that get you spending money? No reason to put of any purchases, go ahead and splurge on those awesome shoes, your next paycheque will still be there.

If the gov't could guarantee no one will lose income for the duration, consumer confidence would be 100%.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I wonder why I can't adjust my glasses

I've been wearing glasses for 15 years, and I still can't figure out how to do my own adjustments. It seems like it should be logical. The left pad is giving me a bit of an owie, so I need less weight on the left and more weight on the right, so I need to move them just a skinch this way, but it never actually works.

I wonder if there's some kind of class I could take or something.

Things They Should Invent: "dry as efficiently as possible" dryer setting

Yesterday I washed a load of big, fluffy, brand new towels. Being big, fluffy, brand new towels, they soaked up a lot of water in the wash and therefore took a long time to dry. I set my dryer on the same energy-efficient settings I always use, low temperature and "Rotary Iron" (which means that it will dry until 20% of the moisture is left - I hang them up to dry the rest of the way). The dryer ran for 2 hours and 20 minutes on these settings, which is a really long time (I've hardly ever seen a dryer run for more than an hour).

I have been told by a number of sources that dryers take more energy generating heat than just tumbling, so it's generally better to use low heat even if the dryer runs for longer. But this incredibly long drying time made me think that perhaps there's some threshold, some point where it's more efficient to apply a certain amount of heat so the motor doesn't have to run for 2.5 hours. I don't know how to work that out, but perhaps the dryer with its internal moisture sensors could be programmed to do so.

I'd like to have the option of setting the dryer to dry in whatever way is most energy efficient, using heat or not, whatever needs to be done. I don't want this to be the only setting - with certain clothes you don't want it to use heat at all - but I'd like to have the option for things like big towel loads or bedspreads.


When we're told we have privilege based on our demographics, we tend to immediately respond "No I don't!"

But it occurs to me that maybe we just don't see it because it manifests itself as everything going smoothly and normally.

This train of thought started with this article from last month about why some taxis refuse short trips. This surprised me because I had no idea short trips were less profitable. I'd assumed they were more profitable because the base fare made up a greater percentage of the total fare (therefore the driver earned more $ per km). It also surprised me because I use taxis for very short trips when I buy something big, and I have never - not once - got even the slightest sign that it was a problem. It's usually only a few blocks, costs me $4 which I've been tippin up to $5 or $6 if I have a loonie (although seeing in that article how little money they make, I plan to increase that), and since I thought the economics of the trip were different I've always brightly reassured the driver as I flagged him down that it was just a short trip, only a couple of blocks, would only take a minute of his time. And every single time not only has the first cab I spotted stopped for me and accepted my short and unprofitable fare, but every single time he was actively polite and gracious about it.

So why the gracious and polite 100% success rate? It would be ungenerous for me to assume it isn't because the vast majority of our taxi drivers are good and ethical and will take every fare. But I can't help but notice that I'm a white girl (perhaps an attractive and/or well-dressed white girl, depending on how together I am that day and the cabbie's standards of what constitutes attractive and well-dressed), in one of Toronto's better neighbourhoods, with a bit of a damsel in distress vibe going on (skirt, heels, scrawny arms, big heavy box to carry home).

If it is a privilege thing, it was completely invisible to me. When you flag down a cab and it stops and drives you home on what you thought was a quick, easy, and profitable-per-km trip, you don't think that you've just received privilege. That's just life happening normally and unremarkably.

Which makes me wonder what else I'm not noticing.

A childhood classic, updated

This is genius. They've taken a classic from our squeaky-clean 80s childhood and updated it for our darker and more adult 21st-century sensibilities.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Why Metro is not a good name for a supermarket

They've renamed a bunch of supermarkets (Dominion, A&P, The Barn, and maybe others) to Metro. This name change doesn't work for anyone. We're all just obstinately continuing to call it Dominion, and when we do have to say Metro we have to clarify - "Metro, you know, the grocery store that used to be Dominion".

At first I was saying this is because Metro is already used for several other things. It's a free subway newspaper. It's the subway in Montreal and Paris. It's a now-defunct-but-still-remembered level of government. In some newspapers it is or was the name of the local news section. And I do think this is part of the reason why the new name doesn't work.

But the rest of the reason why it doesn't work is because Metro doesn't sound more like a supermarket than the previous names do. It doesn't necessarily sound less like a supermarket (Dominion and A&P don't especially sound like a supermarket) but we're used to our supermarkets having those names. There have been supermarkets called Dominion and A&P and The Barn since I was a kid. But we aren't used to our supermarkets being called Metro, so it has no particular supermarket associations for us. So now our supermarket sounds no more supermarkety objectively, and less supermarkety subjectively. It's not a useful change.

Helper Monkeys!!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Why can we still see youtubes that have been taken down?

When a youtube is embedded, you can see a still from the video. Then you click on the Play symbol and it starts playing.

However, if the embedded youtube has been removed from YouTube (like this one - sorry, I cannot remember what that clip actually was) you can still see the still to start with.

I wonder why?

I seem to have somehow inadvertently become posh. In a bad way.

The mission was simple: try on every pair of red heels in Yorkdale. (It's not as onerous as it sounds - there's only a few per store, some are ruled out automatically based on their pencil-thin heels or other characteristics that I can tell at first glance are unworkable, many aren't available in double-digit sizes. I think only about half a dozen pairs got as far as my attempting to squeeze my feet in.) As I'm doing that, I see a number of other interesting shoes, but I really don't feel like trying them on. Why? Not because trying on is annoying (which is my usual reason) but because being in the crowds is annoying. There were just so many people around - loud people, slow people, people with kids, tourists - and I was frustrated with navigating through these annoying crowds who seemed to want to do everything but efficiently shop for one specific item.

As I dodged my 12th stroller-pushing cellphone-talker who had decided to come to a full stop right in front of me, I found myself thinking of a time earlier this year when I had ventured into a small designerish store on Queen West. The store is quite clearly several orders of magnitude cooler than anyone I've ever met will ever be, the prices are really pushing the topmost limit of what could be at all justified (even under my new Shut Up And Buy It Already policy), and it was the kind of place that's set up so you have to have to get personal attention and can't just casually browse. But one item they had really intrigued me and was actually reasonably priced (for good reason - it turned out it didn't fit) so I went. I really had to muster up every ounce of bravery and go in emoting a "Fuck you, I am SO cool enough to be in here" vibe (it was so cool I can't even put together a single outfit that's cool enough - I had to aim for "I'm so cool I don't even need to make an effort to dress cool"). So I went in, inquired knowledgeably about the one item I was looking for, and was assisted by some very attractive and perky gay men who were incredibly knowledgeable about the products.

So as I was making my way through Yorkdale, it occurred to me that I could go back to this little store, tell them what specific characteristics I need, and sit back and relax as they brought me every shoe in the store that might meet my specifications and used their expert knowledge of the products to find something that will work for me. And the thought did cross my mind that it might be worth the extra money just to not have to deal with the crowds and the frustration of constantly explain no, really, I do want to try it on in the largest size you have, seriously, my feet are that big and probably bigger, and no, an 8 won't do, I haven't fit into an 8 since I was like 9 years old.

So it seems I've somehow become the kind of person who is willing to spend extra money to be waited on hand and foot and not have to deal with the proletariat. This is not good. I don't want to be that kind of person.

What luck has to do with it.

Someone in the Toronto Star writes about how people keep telling her she's lucky when really it's because of her hard work. That's interesting to me, because my professional success is entirely due to luck, but people keep telling me that it's not luck, it's because I'm smart and talented and work hard and learn quickly. A lot of people seem really invested in believing this, but it simply is not the reality I've experienced.

It is true that I work hard and learn quickly (can't speak to whether I'm smart and talented because my smarts and talents, whatever they may be, are all that I know), but that's not why I have a good job. From the fact that it took four years for me to convince an employer to hire me for a minimum-wage food-service job because no one wanted to hire someone who had never had a job, to the prospective employer just after my graduation who wouldn't hire me because I have a degree and the (bilingual tech-support) job didn't require one (still don't know why I got as far as the second interview), the vast majority of my job-seeking life has been characterized by employers who were unwilling to hire me for a job I am perfectly capable of doing. Being smart, talented, hard-working, and quick-learning has never been enough; what success I've had has been all about luck.

Here's all the luck it took me to get here:

In Grade 12, the first OAC French class (which was traditionally taken in Grade 12) conflicted with Grade 12 Music. Since technically you don't have to take the two OAC French classes in order and I was top in the class at French, they put me in the second OAC French class (which was traditionally taken in your OAC year (i.e. Grade 13 for the young'uns and the non-Ontarians)). Since you don't do your university apps until your OAC year, when people from the French-language and bilingual universities would come to talk to my class, I'd ignore the presentation and sit quietly reading the literature they handed out. It was in one of these booklets that I saw that you could major in translation. If I hadn't been in the "wrong" French class, I would never have learned that translation is a job that people can do.

In OAC, I finally got my first paying job. Why? Because it came up in the interview that I wanted to study translation, and the business owner's sister-in-law is a translator. If it hadn't been for that coincidence, I probably would never have gotten a paying job before university (which would have hindered my ability to get a paying job after starting university).

There was an entrance exam to enter the translation program. I applied to the program and was accepted pending a successful entrance exam, but I was never informed of the date and time of the exam. I happened to wander onto their website one day and found that the exam had taken place two weeks prior. I contacted them in a panic, and they very kindly let me come in and write the exam privately. If they hadn't extended that kindness (despite the fact that the number of candidates was already 10 or 20 times the number of available places) I would never have gotten into the program.

Once in, I managed to get an on-campus job doing tech support. I'm good at tech support, but people tend not to believe me on this because I've never formally studied computer science. So how did I swing the job? Because I was a translation student who had been on exchange to Germany, and the person doing the hiring was a translation grad of German descent who was self-taught in her own tech support skills. It was a good student job, well-paying as such jobs go, awesome people to work with and good opportunity to network with profs and staff. If tech support was being run by some comp sci grad, my resume probably would never have gotten looked at twice.

In the hopes of finding a full-time paying summer job, I applied for every paid work-experience and internship program I could find even if it wasn't translation. I also applied for a translation practicum, which are generally unpaid. So imagine my surprise when I was offered a paid practicum! It wasn't until I started working that I learned this paid practicum fell under one of the other programs I'd applied for - I'd had no idea they had translation placements! If I hadn't applied for this seemingly unrelated program, I would never have gotten my practicum.

However, despite this offer of a paid practicum, I was seriously considering declining it. It was for only a month, and my on-campus job had offered me a full-time paid summer position. I mentioned this to the person who had originally hired me at my on-campus job, and she insisted that I should go and take the practicum because it was such a good and important experience, and arranged things so that I could do the practicum for one month and keep my own job for the other three. I hadn't understood how important the practicum was, but because she had studied translation she'd seen how important it was to her classmates. So if I hadn't had a boss who not only knew better than I did how important this was, but was also kind and generous enough to let me take this long-term career development step at the expense of making her summer staffing issues more complicated, I would never have done my practicum.

On my first day at my practicum, I got my first text to translate with an administrative workflow sheet attached that included a translation time estimate. I was told to ignore the translation time estimate because I was just a student, I wasn't expected to work that fast. But I decided, just for the hell of it, to try to translate the text within the allotted time. I was at a stage in my professional development where I wasn't sure when to stop poking at a text, so I decided I'd work on it for the allotted time and see what happens. If it wasn't nearly good enough, it was only my first text and I had a whole month to improve. So I translated my text in the allotted time, and it was perfectly fine. The only things that needed changing were a result of my inexperience, which I couldn't have improved by poking at it longer. So I did the same thing for the next text. And the next one. And so on and so on for the entire month I was there. Some texts were especially difficult and took me longer than the allotted time, but the vast majority of them I did complete within the allotted time, basically because it was as good a method as any of telling when to stop poking at a text. Unbeknownst to me, they were on a huge push to improve productivity, and they were so impressed by a student who could meet professional productivity levels that ultimately they decided to hire me. (Although it wasn't that simple, it took a year and some other random behind-the-scenes drama before that became solidified, so I didn't have the luxury of doing my fourth year secure in the knowledge I had a job waiting for me.) If I hadn't decided on a whim to try to race the clock, I would never have been offered a job.

This wasn't my entire job search arc, of course. There were hundreds of resumes unanswered, years spent unable to even get a job at Tim Hortons, one prospective employer unwilling to even consider me because I hadn't finished university while another prospective employer for what appeared to be an identical job unwilling to hire me because I had a degree, people unwilling to hire me part-time during school because I mentioned I'd be interested in doing full-time in the summer, all kinds of completely arbitrary decisions I don't understand. That's how far brains, talent, hard work and quick learning got me. But what I've listed above is literally every single time I have made any sort of advance in employment and career, and literally every single one was because of luck.

Things They Should Invent: Klingon translation of La Marseillaise

It occurs to me that the sentiments of La Marseillaise are rather Klingon. Someone should do a Klingon translation. Surprisingly, I can't seem to google one up.

My fangirling skills fail me

Eddie Izzard has just raised the bar for awesomeness everywhere.

My new goal in life is to one day find a way to do something equally awesome.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Are 58% of Canadians really partisan über alles?

Via Silver-Powers, 58% of the Canadian public is opposed to the "coalition if necessary but not necessarily coalition" policy.

Admittedly I am kind of biased in favour of this policy, but I still cannot imagine why that many people would be opposed to it.

I see why some are. Some people want the Conservatives to stay in power no matter what. Some people want the Conservatives to be overthrown no matter what. But 58% seems really high. "Coalition if necessary..." means the opposition parties will allow the government to govern if it governs adequately, and cause it to fall if it does not govern adequately. Surely 58% of Canadians don't prefer blind partisanship to that?

Hopefully this is just a symptom of the flaws in the poll that Mr. Powers and the commenters point out.

Ebay feedback

I was just looking at my ebay feedback, and it's so effusive! People are enthusiastically extolling my virtues as a buyer and giving me A+++++++++++++++++++, as far as I can tell on the basis that I pay within 24 hours of winning. I really haven't done anything exceptional.

Not realizing that this is the convention, I've been giving non-effusive feedback. Stuff like "Item exactly as described, fast shipping, everything went perfectly smoothly" Positive feedback that would be encouraging to future buyers who may have some doubts, but not at all effusive.

Now I'm wondering if in the world of ebay, non-effusive feedback reads as negative. You know how on an evaluation, "Good" or "Satisfactory" isn't actually a good result if the scale goes higher? I wonder if I've been inadvertently doing the same thing to my ebay sellers?

Things Google Blog Search Should Invent: hide duplicates

On Google News, we have three sorting options: sort by relevance, sort by date, and sort by date with duplicates included. This means that duplicate articles aren't shown unless you specifically ask for it.

Google Blog Search should have the same option. That would reduce interference from spam posts and multiple blogs linking to and quoting each other, thus giving our search results a better proportion of new and unique information.

Another reason why Do Unto Others doesn't work for introverts

We already know that because introverts don't get energized by interpersonal interaction and do get energized by being alone, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us doesn't work when socializing with the other 75% of the population.

It just occurred to me that it also doesn't work in the basic art of conversation.

A general rule of making conversation is that you should ask the other person about themselves, because people like talking about themselves. But this doesn't work on me. I mean, it will do for keeping the conversation going, but I get no particular pleasure from telling someone I just met that I live in Toronto and I work as a translator, yeah, straightforward French to English, but I also speak Spanish and German and Polish to varying degrees. So because I don't get anything out of telling them about myself, it doesn't occur to me that they'll get anything out of telling me about themselves so I keep forgetting to ask. Conversely, when it does occur to me to ask someone about something it's generally because I am genuinely interested, so I tend to subconsciously assume that if someone asks me about something it's because they're genuinely interested, so then I prattle on. So as a result, I come across as a standoffish egomaniac, when I am in fact just forgetting myself and doing unto others. I am working on answering inquiries about myself in a cursory manner and then reversing the question to the other person, but it doesn't come naturally and right now I've sort of got a "Oh, right, I'm supposed to ask about you too!" vibe going on.

In real life (as opposed to artificial small-talk interactions) if I have something to tell, I only get pleasure out of telling it to someone who's close to me, and with people who are close to me I can generally just walk up to/call/email them and launch into a story. You can totally go to your mother or partner or best friend and just dive right into what happened at work today. If it's a small anecdote that isn't of particular interest or particularly personal, I just blog it and people either read it or ignore it, no big deal. But it's not like I'm sitting on a supply of stuff that I'd get pleasure out of telling to a stranger or random acquaintance if only an opportunity would present itself. I suppose if I didn't blog my random anecdotes I would be, but my random anecdotes don't like to sit quietly inside my brain and tend to blurt themselves out at inappropriate moments if I don't get them blogged.