Thursday, April 30, 2009


I look forward to finally welcoming our Afghan colleagues to Canada. We've been worrying about them for years, so I'm very happy to see our government doing something for them, if belatedly.

This will make you melt

(yoinked from Antonia Z)

White House Photostream

I'm really enjoying the White House Photostream. I've never been huge on photography as an art, but looking at these pictures I'm really appreciating the photographer's sense of composition and eye for interesting details. Each picture is its own little story and they make life in the White House look vaguely fun.

It's also fun to guess which of the "candid" photos are and aren't staged. It's a bit unfortunate that the people in the comment thread don't seem to see the careful and deliberate spin, but that might just be how the comments are moderated.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Open Letter to the City of Toronto recycling program

Dear recycling people:

Thank you for that very useful flier showing me, with pictures and detailed instructions, exactly what can and cannot be recycled. I didn't realize just how extensive our recycling program is (milk cartons! styrofoam!) so now I've put the flier up on my fridge and I'm recycling much better.

However, next time you make a flier, would you mind also including those recycling numbers that are sometimes found on plastic products? I can't figure out which category this plastic bag falls under. The manufacturer has very helpfully labelled the bag with a number 4 inside the recycling symbol, but I can't figure out which of the plastic categories on your chart that corresponds to.

P.S.: If you start collecting organics from my highrise building, you'll get like 90% diversion out of me. My building has a tri-sorter and everything, we're ready whenever you are.


(Content warning: graphic descriptions of worms. In case, like, you couldn't tell from the title.)

When I was a kid, quite often after it rained there's be worms all over the sidewalks, and it would be SO gross and it would SMELL like worms outside.

It just occurred to me that that hardly ever happens any more.


1. It's because I live in a city now. More paved areas = less grass for worms to live in. I think this is unlikely, because I live on a residential street and there are lawns at nearly every building. I would notice at least on the side streets.

2. It's because I live in an older neighbourhood. I don't know (and can't google up in 30 seconds) precisely when my area was first developed, but historical fact has buildings on my section of Yonge St. in the 1830s. The neighbourhood where I grew up, on the other hand, was built in 1979/1980, before which the area was farmland. Maybe worms prefer natural areas as opposed to paved and built-up areas, so the local worm population has died out or emigrated.

3. Maybe global warming or climate change or some other factor is reducing the worm population.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Let's make some new rules for the subway

1. Point to the train. One of the unorthodox tips for riding the TTC is to exaggerate your body language so the people behind you can see that you're running for a train. While I appreciate the intentions behind that idea, its execution is difficult, passive-aggressive, and easily misinterpreted, especially on centre-platform stations. Instead, let's all point to the trains. If you see a train, point to it. If you see someone else pointing to a train, point in the same direction. Then everyone in the station will quickly know which train is there.

2. Be your own pusher. In Tokyo, they have people whose whole job is to push passengers into crowded trains. In Toronto we don't, so people stop right in front of the doors even though there's a dozen people behind them. So from now on, if someone stops right in front of the doors and you're trying to get on, push them. You don't need much of a push - I've been trying it the past couple weeks and a gentle nudge always does the job.

Rogers tech support: the good and the bad

The bad: there was a prolonged internet outage in my area yesterday.

The good: when I called Rogers tech support, I got an automated announcement informing me that there's an outage in my area and giving me an ETA for service to come back online. This quickly gave me the information I needed and saved me a lot of pressing buttons and waiting and troubleshooting.

The bad: service wasn't back online by the ETA given.

The bad: even though service wasn't back online, the automated announcement was gone.

The good: I only had to wait under 10 minutes to speak to an agent, and they gave me an estimated hold time going in.

The bad: the interrupting "we appreciate your call, please continue to hold" sort of message is way too frequent.

The good: the agent accepted my troubleshooting and my explanation that there was a previous outage, and confirmed that my area is still out.

The bad: the agent was unable to give me an ETA.

The good: the agent arranged for me to be called back when service was back online.

The bad: I was never called back.*

The possibly good, possibly bad, depending on your sleep schedule: perhaps the reason why I was never called back was because service came back online sometimes between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

The good: service was back online when I woke up this morning.

The bad: after being out for somewhere between 14 and 18 straight hours.

*Update: I just got the call back - eight hours after I noticed that it started working

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Things They Should Invent: let people join other countries' do not call lists

When I joined the do not call list some of my voicemail spam did drop off, so now a significant portion is taken off by that automated recording that apparently wants to lower my interest rates without bothering to tell me which card they're talking about.

According to call display these calls are coming from the States, so I tried signing up for the US do not call list. But it won't let me because my phone number isn't USian.

Why not let us join their list, and they can join our list? Or are they trying to stimulate the economy with a cross-border telemarketing industry?


The Simpsons is pronouncing clique as "click". I've always pronounced it "cleeeek".

How do you pronounce it?

Another reason to stop renaming venues

I've blogged before about how annoying it is that they keep renaming Toronto theatres every time they get a new corporate sponsor. Here's another problem:

Today a very nice family stopped and asked me directions. By my best read on the situation, they're newcomers to Canada who live in 905 and are in the city for a special family outing. They didn't seem to be used to navigating the subway and the busy sidewalks with their gaggle of young children, and seemed rather overwhelmed by the whole situation.

I'm walking by, apparently looking like I know where I'm going, so they stop me and ask me directions. I can tell that the place they're asking for is a recently-renamed venue, but I don't know what it was called before (i.e. what I have it labelled as in my mind), so I don't know where it is. It was a part of town I'm not completely fluent in, so I wasn't even able to give them a "your best bet is in that general direction." So I apologized profusely for not being able to help them, and left them standing on the sidewalk with their gaggle of children, trying to find someone who can give them directions.

I just got home and googled up the place they were looking for. I've been there several times. I could totally have given them good directions complete with landmarks for the kids to keep an eye out for. But because they renamed the place, I was useless. Instead of being helpful and welcoming to these tourists and newcomers, I was useless and gave them a suboptimal Toronto experience.

Today needs some Hip

Grace, Too - The Tragically Hip

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What I love about translator brain

I love being able to see nuances that I couldn't see before. The word "proactive" means something to me. I see how the statement "it is what it is" might contribute to discourse. I couldn't see those things in high school. When I was a kid, my father had this book called The Politically Correct Dictionary or something similar. The thesis of this book was "OMG, look, these politically correct people want us to replace all these everyday words with these cumbersome expressions! Let's laugh at them!" Now I can see and articulately explain the precise nuances of connotation that the authors of this book were either blind to or ignoring, and I can productively use both the "politically correct" and the "politically incorrect" words to achieve specific effects.

I love being able to tell what language a person was thinking in when they said or wrote something. I love being able to look at a single innocent error and get useful information on how I should analyze the word choices for the rest of the source text.

I love being able to look at someone else's mistranslation and tell exactly how it happened and sometimes, if the language combination is one of mine or a cognate of one of mine, tell what they really meant without even seeing the source text.

I love being able to tell when an author's word choices are meaningful and when they're mindless. I can't always do this, but when I can it's awesome.

My coffee ideas

1. Chocolate milk in coffee instead of regular milk. Good idea or bad idea?

2. Taking coffee into the shower in the morning, most likely in a travel mug with a fully closeable lid. Good idea or bad idea?

Things Fanfic Archives Should Invent: tell us when the author knows how the story ends

One of the most annoying things in fanfic is when an author starts an interesting and compelling story, then writes themselves into a corner and abandons it.

To avoid this, I'd like stories have tags indicating whether or not the author knows how it ends. No judgement either way, just yes or no. Then people who get annoyed by stories that are abandoned can skip those where the author doesn't know the ending until the author has actually completed them.

I would totally read a story being made up as it goes along by some of the more talented authors - people whose work I've previously read and enjoyed. But I'd like the option of opting out of stories by n00bs who don't know where they're going.

That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight

When I was 10 years old, my parents came up with the idea that we should say grace before Sunday dinner, and that we should all take turns - every week a different person says grace.

I was really uncomfortable with this idea. It seemed random and out of the blue. Why start now? Why only Sunday dinner? If they thought saying grace was so important, why didn't they ever do it when they were sitting down to eat themselves?

In retrospect, looking at it from an adult perspective, it seems likely they read one of those parenting articles on the importance of creating family rituals. This also might have been related to a tragedy that occurred in our extended family around that time. But to me that wasn't how religion worked. You did it - or you did your best to do it - because you believe in it, or because it's what you're supposed to do. You didn't just arbitrarily start doing other bits of religion for no particular reason!

I thought long and hard trying to make sense of this, and couldn't get past the feeling that my parents were trying to put on a show to trick God (written this way because that's how I thought of Him at the time), trying to impress Him with what I then didn't have a word for but would now describe as false piety. I was not comfortable with that. No way we could trick God. We were totally going to hell for that.

This would ultimately be the catalyst of my loss of faith.

I'd never really thought about whether my prayers and other religious acts were sincere. It was just how life worked, it was just what you did to be good. Say please and thank you, 7x9=63, I believe in one God the Father Almighty, don't pick your nose. But because I was uncomfortable with my parents' attempts to apparently trick God, I started thinking critically about this whole saying grace thing, and I arrived at the conclusion that I wasn't thankful for my food. I know, I know, you're supposed to be even outside Catholicism in life in general, but the fact is I wasn't thankful for it. I just took it for granted. (Still do, actually.) So now I'm not only trying to trick God, but I'm trying to trick God by specifically lying to him. Our family never really did every single piece of Catholicism, but generally my failures were benign neglect, and any religious acts were sincere. They were often automatic and had not been thought about critically, but, apart from my first confession (I made up plausible stuff because I couldn't think of anything to say - I've since learned that tons of people did that) I was never lying or outright faking it.

So I decided I didn't want to lie to and trick God, and told my parents I didn't want to say grace when it was my turn. I couldn't articulate my reasons very clearly, so I told them it's because I wasn't thankful for the food. They told me I had to anyway. We were all sitting at the table, with food on the table, and no one was allowed to eat until I said grace. So I said grace and felt dirty doing so.

For the next 10 years, there would be a monthly battle for me to get out of saying grace and my parents to try to get me to say grace. This cause me to be constantly questioning and thinking critically about my religion, and to ultimately conclude that I cannot be Catholic. (It wasn't until well into adulthood that I realized I'm congenitally incapable of religious faith - my brain just doesn't bend that way.) I could have either accepted it unquestioningly or as not-particularly-meaningful ritual, but putting on an intentional show false piety was a dealbreaker and drove me to a life of sincere sacrilege.

Today needs Craig Ferguson and Eddie Izzard being silly

(Non-overlap of second clip starts at 0:53)

If you know how to get these clips to stop pretending they're widescreen and fucking up the aesthetics of my template, let me know.


In honour of World Penguin Day:

Things They Should Study: next-of-kin overruling organ donor wishes

I blogged previously that they should change the rules of organ donation so they don't require next-of-kin consent when they already have clear consent from the prospective donor.

I think this would be interesting to study. In what percentage of cases does the next-of-kin not go along with the prospective donor's clearly-expressed wishes? In what percentage of cases does the next-of-kin block donation, and in what percentage do they consent to donation even though the prospective donor doesn't?

(I also wonder, purely as a matter of theoretical ethics, whether there's an ethical difference between consenting to donation against the donor's will (and thereby helping other people) and blocking donation (thereby preventing the donor from helping others). I can make arguments both ways.)

Friday, April 24, 2009


Right now I am playing Insaniquarium and listening to Mahler while blue gunk soaks into my face.

Toronto moment

I love when you honestly can't tell if the call centre you're talking it is in Bangalore or Brampton.

The only problem is I'm not sure if I'm being insulting or helpful when carefully spelling my street name etc. If they're in India, maybe I have to say "M as in Michael" when giving my postal code. If they're in 905, they probably know that 416=M.

Friday schadenfreude

I hate the existence of hair extensions. They're worse than breast implants, because the untrained eye can't tell if hair is real or extensions. I'm doin' it for real, yo, with all the imperfections that that entails, and it's irritating that people can just buy the length that I'm working to achieve, theirs looks better, and no one can tell.

So I hope you'll excuse me if I'm petty and small enough to enjoy this:

I'm also petty and small enough to enjoy the fact that a millionaire whose job description is to look good on stage (and therefore can reasonably spend most of her time working on that) still needs extensions to reach shoulder-length.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Things They Should Invent: universal size chart wiki

One website - only one single, universal website - where everyone lists all the clothes that fit them and which size fits them. Then you can see what fits other people who are the same size and shape as you.

For example, my black flats are a size 11, and they're a generous fit. My awesome red shoes are a size 10.5, and they're a bit of a tight fit. The other awesome red shoes I tried on are an 11 and I couldn't even get my foot all the way in. So someone else somewhere in the world who has the same black flats and is considering buying awesome red shoes can look them up and determine what size they'd be.

I'm a large size 13 at Smart Set and a small size 13 at Reitman's. So someone who's a large size 13 at Reitman's can look that up and see that they're probably sized out of Smart Set.

Gap jeans gap in the back for me. Lee One True Fit gap in the back for me. Point Zero don't gap in the back for me. Maybe there's someone else who has tried these brands and has the same fit issues, but maybe they've also found another brand that doesn't gap in the back.

Once this thing reaches critical mass, it will save us all a bunch of annoying fruitless shopping, and maybe people could even make some friends they can trade clothing with.

Why is this Canadian citizen not entitled to a health card?

Kim Suk Yeung arrived nine years ago with a male friend on visitor's visas. Eugene was born in April 2001. The girl's father returned to Korea and has married. Kim held various jobs, most recently behind the counter at a drycleaner's on Davenport Rd., where the neighbours met mother and daughter.

She applied for refugee status in 2004, knowing South Koreans are rarely granted it, so Eugene could have a health card.

The mother (Kim Suk Yeung) arrived nine years ago. The child (Eugene) was born eight years ago. Therefore the child was born in Canada, and it does say elsewhere in the article that she is in fact a citizen. There is no indication in the article that they have lived anywhere other than Toronto, so surely the child fulfills the Ontario residency requirement.

So why isn't she automatically entitled to a health card? Why did her mother have to apply for refugee status to get her a health card? If the mother isn't entitled to a health card because of her own immigration status, that's one thing. But the daughter is a Canadian citizen and an Ontario resident. She should be entitled to a health card on the same basis that I'm entitled to a health card - because I was born in Canada and in Ontario and have lived in Ontario my whole life. She shouldn't be denied a health card on the basis of her mother's personal decisions. Have your parents ever made ill-advised personal decisions? Did you deserve to be denied health insurance on that basis?

The child is eight years old. She was three years old at the time when her mother applied for refugee status to get her a health card. The child has no ability to influence her mother's immigration decisions, and she does not yet have the ability to go apply for a health card on her own. She has no ability to pay for her own health care or seek out her own health insurance. Therefore, it is especially important that the government automatically provide her with all the benefits to which she is entitled as a citizen and a resident rather than punishing her for her mother's decisions.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Idiomatic Translation For Dummies

Via the awesome Malene Arpe, this is the trailer for the film Coco Avant Chanel, subtitled by a student with one and half semesters of introductory French.

With the exception of a few conjugations and a few misheard homophones, the translation is accurate. Painstakingly so. I'm actually impressed that someone with 1.5 sememsters of high school French could do that.

But that's just the problem. It's painstakingly accurate, so painstakingly accurate that the translator hasn't given a moment's thought to whether it sounds idomatic in English. This very dramatically shows why literal or close translation won't do, and we need idiomatic translation. The translator needs to think about whether things sound normal in English, because something that doesn't sound normal in English (no matter how close it is to the source language) is practically useless to the Anglophone reader, as these subtitles so dramatically show.

I'm not going to tear the whole thing apart because you can do that yourself. I'll just do the first line as an example.

French: "Comment vous vous appelez?"
Subtitle: "How do you call yourself?"

That is a perfect literal translation. Every single word in that sentence is translated into the single English word that most closely expresses its meaning.

The only problem is that in English we would never say "How do you call yourself?" In that place, to communicate that concept, to obtain that answer from our interlocutor, we very nearly always say "What's your name?"

Lather, rinse, repeat for every single line.

What is the environmental impact of gardening soil?

Today for Earth Day people kept trying to give me seeds and plants. I refused them because I have nowhere to plant them. I live in a highrise and don't have rights to any ground whatsoever. So someone told me that I could plant them in pots on my balcony, but I don't own pots or soil and I'm sure as hell not buying dirt!

Then I got thinking. You can buy dirt. Which means they removed the dirt from the ground somewhere (I don't think you can manufacture soil? So what is the environmental impact of removing that healthy soil from wherever it originally lived?

Dell comes through again

My first computer, bought in 1999, was a Dell. Just months before its warranty expired, my power supply died. Dell sent a technician to fix it at no cost and at my convenience, and it was as stress-free as could reasonably be expected considering it's a difficult-to-diagnose-by-phone problem.

My second computer, bought in 2004, is a Dell. Today, just months before its warranty expires, the monitor stopped working. I called tech support, no waiting on hold, they accepted my troubleshooting that correctly diagnosed it as a hardware problem. Procedure said they had to flash the BIOS and see if the problem came back, so they did so and then arranged to have someone call me back tomorrow and check if the problem came back. Total time on phone 30 minutes, total angst zero.

Unfortunately, it came back an hour later. So I called them back (had to wait on hold 15 minutes), they accepted my diagnosis again, and they arranged to ship me a new monitor. Total time on phone like 10 minutes, total angst zero.

While it takes a few business days to ship so it would have been a noticeable inconvenience but for Poodle's awesomeness (see below), that's the reality of logistics and the laws of physics so I find it perfectly acceptable. (Which, I realize, is very easy to say when I'm still sitting here using my computer thanks to Poodle's awesomeness.)

So that's two Dell computers, both of which kindly had their major problems before the warranty expired, both of which got fixed under warranty at no cost to me and no more inconvenience than strictly necessary. I think my third computer will be a Dell.


Mega-bonus thanks to Poodle who eliminated literally all the stress surrounding this situation!
Me: "My monitor stopped working and I might not be able to use my computer for a few days! My life is ruined!"
Poodle: "Here's a spare, I'll go out of my way to bring it to you as though it's no trouble whatsoever."

Shipping update: My conversation with the call centre that resulted in them shipping out the new monitor occurred on Wednesday, after 8 pm. My monitor arrived by Purolator on Friday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Moderato - Sergei Rachmaninoff

Where does the idea that babies don't feel pain come from?

There is an idea out there that infants don't feel pain or don't feel it as strongly as adults do. I know not everyone believes this and maybe even most people don't believe it, but I have seen it used to justify everything from neonatal circumcision to piercing little babies' ears.

Now I'm not an expert on pain or infants and I don't remember being an infant, but I do remember most of my life and I know that pain was worse for me when I was younger.

When I was 11, menstrual cramps had me doubled over on the floor weeping. Now, worst case, they have me sitting with a heating pad while I translate normally and a maybe tiny bit cranky. Around the same age, the band of a bra felt hideously constricting and uncomfortable. I noticed it all day, every day. Now I wear underwires all day without noticing, and can even fall asleep in them.

When I was a child, standing or walking for long periods of time (in retrospect, probably an hour or two) was exhausting. My feet hurt (in running shoes) and I was tired and desperately wanted to sit down. Now I can do that in heels effortlessly, and any discomfort is not even worth mentioning.

When I was a pre-schooler, I couldn't stand it when the seams in my socks were crooked or rough or in any way less than perfectly comfortable. It seriously bothered me - I could feel the seams! Now I don't give a second thought to how my socks fit, and sometimes I walk around in shoes that cause blisters (Q: why? A: normal breaking-in process) and consider the discomfort acceptable collatoral damage.

So if the younger you go the more sensitive to pain you are, why would the sensitivity just drop at infancy?

Even if you don't remember the details of how you experienced pain in childhood, just think about infants. Have you ever seen a new baby in the doctor's office who has just gotten a needle? They're bright red and screaming their poor little heads off! How did it feel when you last got a needle? Maybe "Oh, look, a needle." Maybe a quick sharp pain. Maybe you felt a bit oogie if you're sensitive about needles. But you probably didn't feel the need to scream until you turned red, even if you did allow your Id to take over. Think about a baby who needs to be burped. What do they do? They cry. Think about the last time you had a burp that hadn't come out yet. Can you even remember? It's completely negligible.

So how on earth did some people somewhere at some point once arrive at the conclusion that babies are less sensitive to pain.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Me and my problems

1. I broke a nail and now I type with a limp.

2. My left shoe is too big. This is weird because the right shoe is fine, and my left foot is bigger. I wore this pair just last week, and they were fine. Nothing appears to be stretched or broken, the insoles and heel cups are the same in both, and I'm wearing identical socks on both feet.

Things They Should Invent: delivery service for restaurants that don't have delivery

It's cold and rainy and windy and I'm craving pierogi. Making them myself would require a grocery store run, which isn't gonna happen in this weather. The only restaurants I know of or can google up that have pierogi are down on Ronce, and none of them deliver. I would totally pay someone good money to bring me pierogi right now.

A pierogi delivery service in and of itself probably isn't a viable business model, but what about a service that goes to any restaurant, buys whatever it is you want, and brings it to you? Imagine: you could have someone bring you pierogi or a hamburger or a lobster dinner! They charge a standard fee (either flat or mileage-based) on top of the restaurant price, and I think people would pay pretty well on days when they can't be assed to go out to a restaurant.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


When I was a kid, a lot of the grownups around me were counting the years/months until retirement. At the time I thought they just hated their jobs. But I just realized something even better:

If you're retired (with a defined-benefits pension, which the grownups in question did have), that's basically job security. Apart extreme (at the time - more normal now) cases where the entire pension plan collapses beyond insurability, you aren't going to lose your income. It's not the not having to work, it's the predictable income for the rest of your life.

I would totally work every day until the age of 100 for predictable income that's as close as humanly possible to un-loseable.

And they get this, AND they get to sleep in in the morning.

That's what I want to be when I grow up.

Theoretically useful but realistically useless

I took everything off my bathroom counter to clean it, and in the process I found a few stretched-out hair elastics and a couple of hair pins that seemed to have turned rusty from the wet bathroom counter. So I threw them all in the garbage.

This then is our garbage problem. Things that are theoretically still useful, but realistically we aren't going to use them. The elastics could still anchor hair or serve other elastic-type purposes, but realistically I'm not going to use them when I have others that aren't stretched out. The pins could still pin hair, but they seemed rusty, and besides I've since found other pins that work better on my hair. They both came in packages of several dozen from the dollar store. Even if there is someone else who could use them, it would be practically insulting for me to freecycle them since they're so small and cheap and in such poor condition. Even if I didn't throw them out, even if I committed to keeping them until I got full use out of them, they would still be sitting around my apartment doing nothing for literally years because I have more useful similar items in my home right this minute.

They aren't poorly made - all elastics lose their elasticity eventually, and the pins were simply being metal that got wet. They weren't an ill-advised purchase - the elastics did their job and the pins were the best I could find at the time I purchased them (the better ones I've gotten since then weren't available at the time). I suppose I could have been more careful about not getting the hair pins wet, but leaving a hair pin on the bathroom counter isn't the greatest irresponsibility ever.

But they're still technically useful, I'm never going to use them, and now they're in the garbage. What do we do about this?

Open Letter to the wife whose husband lost his religion

Dear lady who posted this on PostSecret:

Even if he does see the connection, he can't just start believing again. Yes, he could go through the motions, but he'd just be attempting to trick you and your god. He wouldn't actually believe in it. Religious faith is not something you can turn on and off on a whim; as you know from your own faith, you have to truly believe in it.

Think of it this way: could you truly stop believing in your god if you thought it would bring you luck to do so? Could you truly believe in, say, Allah or Ganesha or Athena or Gitche Manitou? You could go through the motions, sure, but would you actually believe in it?

Today needs some Stones

Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones

Most fascinating PostSecret ever

Yoinked and re-upped from PostSecret France because I couldn't get it to post otherwise.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Things They Should Invent: products that change your hair's reaction to humidity

Curly hair goes frizzy in humidity. Straight hair goes lank.

In the great tradition of everyone wanting the texture they don't have, I'd love for my hair to go frizzy in humidity, especially when I'm trying to curl it. And I'm sure there are some curly people who wouldn't mind a bit of lankness.

Invent something that does this, and I will buy it.

Things They Should Invent: arguably edition

1. Arguably Awards: there should be an annual award for the most egregious use of arguably. Because you can use it practically anywhere. "Puppies are arguably the root of all evil."

2. Opposite of arguably: we need a word to emphasize when something is absolutely positively not arguable. "Deep-fried lard is [opposite of arguably] not very good for you."

Things They Should Study: where did the idea that we all pay 50% income tax come from?

Conventional wisdom is that we pay 50% of our income in taxes. That idea has been mindlessly bandied about as fact for as long as I can remember.

I just did my taxes, and the computer very kindly told me how much tax I'm paying in income tax. I'm paying a total of 18% of my income in taxes (my marginal tax rate is 30%, but obviously not everything is taxed at the marginal rate). So even if I spent every single dollar I earn on stuff that's subject to both sales taxes, that would be a total of 31% of my income in taxes.

My income falls between the median Canadian household income and the mean Canadian household income.

I don't have children, I don't have medical deductions, I don't have employment-related tax writeoffs, I don't have educational deductions, I don't claim my charitable donations. Basically the only deductions I claim are my RRSP contributions and my Metropass.

This would all suggest that most people are paying significantly less than 50% of their income in taxes. So where did the ubiquitous 50% idea come from?

Edited to add:

It occurred to me while I was putting on my makeup that this 50% idea might be responsible for our weak social safety net. It is a common misconception that people don't pay tax on social assistance benefits (in reality, it counts as income and is taxed if your income is high enough).

Suppose, for example, your gross income is $50,000 a year. And suppose you're under the common misconceptions that a) you're paying 50% of that in taxes, and b) government benefits are not taxable.

So someone tells you that Employment Insurance pays a maximum of $447 a week. You do the math and see that this is $23,244. But because you're under the misconception that you pay 50% of your income in taxes, you think your take-home is $25,000. And because you're under the misconception that EI isn't taxable, you think their take-home is $23,224. So you look at the situation and thinking that living on EI is no sacrifice whatsoever. But in reality, their take-home is less than that and your take-home is more than that, so there's a significant difference.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How ghettoization works

I was chatting with my hairdresser and mentioned in the natural flow of conversation that I'm childfree. She told me that most of her clients are childfree. That's very bizarre. I chose her because she has a somewhat unconventional approach that is compatible with my own somewhat unconventional needs, and I ended up as part of a clientele with generally similar family planning goals.

Then I realized that a lot of things in my life have worked out that way. I chose something based on specific factors, and ended up surrounded by people who are similar to me in completely unrelated areas.

For example, I chose translation because it's the first career path that I've ever been absolutely certain I could do. (All the others I would have had to blindly trust that my education and training would get me there.) I took what opportunities were available to me, and ended up on a team full of children of immigrants, ranging from first-and-a-half to second-and-a-half generation. (This is notable because none of us are translating in our heritage languages.)

I chose my neighbourhood because it's located at a subway stop, it has all the basic amenities (grocery store, drug store, LCBO, banks, library, doctor, dentist) all within walking distance, and it's safe and comfortable. Turns out it also has a good selection of demographically-suitable women's clothing and shoe stores, and a decent range of restaurants and bars that I wouldn't feel out of place patronizing. When I first moved here, my big political issue was working towards the legalization of same-sex marriage (this was April 2003, and I had no idea how close we actually were); turned out my MP supported it wholeheartedly.

I keep making decisions based on the relevant factors, and finding myself surrounded by people who are similar or like-minded in other areas of life as well. I'm not quite sure what to think of this. On one hand, it's convenient. On the other, it might be making me narrow-minded. But then, it's not like I'm going to go out of my way to live somewhere that meets my needs less well or find a less suitable job (or get my hair done by someone I don't trust) just so I can be around people who aren't similar to me.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but it's kind of interesting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do you actually want me to understand your story, or should I just smile and nod?

A number of times recently I've had people tell me stories involving topics or plot points that I don't understand, and that they know I don't understand. To use fake examples, they might be telling me about their ultrasound when they know I've never been pregnant, or they might be telling me a story about a family thing where I don't know the names of the family members.

So I ask the questions I need to follow the plot of the story. E.g., "So why do you have to drink all this water?" or "Wait, is Bob the ex-husband?" And then my interlocutor seems to get pissed or frustrated at me for not knowing this stuff. In life in general I seem to learn things quickly enough so I don't think I'm just generally stupid. (Of course, if I were generally stupid I wouldn't notice, would I?) This frustration seems to happen only when people are telling me stories where I don't know the subject matter, and it seems only when they know that I'm not familiar with the subject matter. When they don't know about my ignorance going in and then I confess it, I seem to do fine.

So should I be just smiling and nodding in these cases even though I'm not following the story at all?

Interesting study

A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calculating how much taxpayer-funded public services we receive based on income and household configuration.

While it is interesting, it's a dense study (at least to economically semi-literate people like me) so I haven't read it thoroughly yet or analyzed the methodology or looked for other research on the topic (although the study says that there isn't much out there). But in any case, it's worth at least skimming through and seeing where you fall on the various charts.

(Via the always awesome Linda Diebel)

Things They Should Invent: make heel height proportionate to shoe size

I can strap a pair of four-inch heels on my size 11 feet without blinking an eye, but it's probably far more difficult to contort your feet into a four-inch heel if you only wear a size 6. According to the first chart I could google up, a size 6 foot is two whole inches shorter than mine, which is a different of about 20%. This means that a four-inch heel has the same difficutly level for me as a three-inch heel does for a size 6. Conversely, a four-inch heel on a size 6 would feel the same as a five-inch heel does on me, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that a five-inch heel is really pushing the absolute limits of what I can wear.

Why not give the dainty-footed a fighting chance and reduce heel height in proportion to shoe size?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let's change the meaning of circumnavigate

Circumnavigate means to travel all the way around the planet. But how often do we need to express that concept - especially now that it can be readily achieved and is no longer any particular feat (except of general endurance)?

Circumnavigate should instead have a meaning parallel to that of circumlocute. It should mean to find a route around something so as to avoid that particular something. Example: "The subway is down and the shuttle buses are way overcrowded, so it's best to just circumnavigate Yonge St. entirely."

Normally we'd use "avoid" in that sentence where I used the word circumnavigate; the nuance requiring a different word is that circumnavigate would imply seeking out and finding a way to avoid Yonge St., rather than just not going on Yonge St. There's a slight connotation of initiative and achievement.

Pas de deux à six membres

(Shamelessly yoinked from James Bow)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Refining the Dream Drugs

I previously came up with the idea of Dream Drugs, which make your dreams more interesting.

I have an idea of how to achieve that: reverse the sleep cycle.

If I remember my science properly, at the beginning of the night you fall into a deep sleep, then you get more REM cycles (and therefore more dreams) as the night wears on.

This is inconvenient. If you aren't going to be able to get a full night's sleep, you aren't going to have as many dreams. If you happen to wake up an hour or two before you've completed your sleep cycle, it's extra tempting to go back to bed because that's when all the good dreams are going to happen.

So what the Dream Drugs should do is reverse the sleep cycle so that the dreams come first and the deep sleep comes second. Then every night you can enjoy dreams, even if you don't get a full night's sleep. And if you happen to wake up an hour or two before your alarm, you may as well get out of bed and get a head start on your day since you aren't going to get any more dreams to play with.

I wonder how bad writing works

Sometimes in fanfic I see people who just can't write dialogue. They have the characters talking in giant run-on sentences without commas.

"Good morning ma'am sorry to bother you but we're with the police and we need to ask you a few questions."

"Oh well come in then pardon the mess but I have three kids and just got them off to school and haven't had time to clean up."

It's like that for the whole fic, which is unfortunate because usually the premise of the story is interesting, but I just can't hear the characters in these run-on sentences.

This has me wondering how exactly the author ends up in that place. They are exposed to proper dialogue construction in their recreational reading (and I know they read recreationally because these are book fandoms, plus the majority of fic in the fandoms uses properly-constructed dialogue), and yet in their own writing they land on these unpunctuated run-on streams of sentences.

When translators misfire on tone, they tend to err on the side of sounding like themselves instead of sounding like the source text. I'm not enough into fiction writing to know for certain, but it would stand to reason that in fiction people would make the similar error of sounding like themselves instead of sounding like the character. I know that in my own many epicly failed attempts at fiction, the problem was that all the characters sound like me.

But, I don't know about anyone else, but I think in sentences, with clauses and punctuation and everything. They aren't always impeccably structured - this post is a representative braindump - but they are sentences. That's just the way my thoughts arrive once they have manifested themselves into words.

So does this mean there are people walking around out there who don't think in sentences? Do their brains give them an epic spew of words to which they must consciously and manually add punctuation?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Things They Should Study: bullies who tell their victims they should kill themselves

Today's Annie's Mailbox has a girl whose bully is leaving her MySpace messages saying "Why don't you just go and kill yourself already?"

I've heard of this bullying method before, although it was never done to me, and I really think someone should research it. We could use more information about the perps motives and what they're thinking, because this makes even less sense than most other bullying techniques.

My bullies bullied me when we were unwillingly all in the same place - at school or on the bus mostly. But in this technique, the bullies go out of their way contact the victim at home outside of school hours. If they really think the victim is so worthless they should commit suicide, why would they go out of their way to contact her during free time that isn't being marred by her presence?

Also, I don't know if this is broadly applicable, but within my own circle the victims who were being told to suicide were far cooler than me. (To me they looked like they were on par with their bullies in terms of coolness, but they were all several levels above me so it's possible I couldn't see the distinction.) In callously cold and objective terms, I was a far better candidate for suicide than these victims, but no one ever suggested that I should commit suicide. And now that I think about it, those particular bullies were never cruel to me. We certainly weren't friends and some of us didn't quite get along in a sort of cold and distant and avoiding each other way, but they never actually bullied me. Why would they do something so much more drastic to the cooler victim while leaving the uncool victim alone?

I'd love for someone to seek out adults who used to bully this way and find out about their motivations and how they chose their victims. Even moreso than regular bullying, it's a giant mystery to me.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jackson 5 vs. Kid Rock

I want You Back All Summer Long - Calmucho Presents Jackson 5 & Kid Rock

Psychoanalyze this

Last night I dreamed I had to go camping with a bunch of fat people. I didn't want to go because I hate camping (I prefer activities involving more indoor plumbing and internet access and fewer bugs, thank you very much), but everyone kept saying that I was discriminating against fat people. It had nothing to do with the fat people, it was just that I didn't want to go camping, but no one believed me and I quickly gained a reputation as being biased against fat people.

Analogy for why I didn't convert to another xian denomination

In the past, people have suggested that my leaving catholicism for atheism was rash and closed-minded, and that I should have tried other denominations of xianity first.

As I've blogged about before, I view catholicism as an abusive ex. I view the other denominations of xianity as his brothers. Now we all know that siblings don't always have a lot in common. We all know that's it's very possible for one sibling to be a complete asshole while all the others are perfectly nice guys. And there is room for the possibility that your abusive ex's brother might be a perfect match for you. However, that doesn't mean that your first step should by default be to date your ex's brother. Most people would agree that the reasonable step at this point would be to spend some time being single, or to date someone who is completely unlike your ex. Even in a Jane Austen matchmaking-über-alles world, it is by no means closed-minded or judgemental or indiligent to move on to someone completely else rather than systematically trying out every brother.

If you don't see the fallacy of this xiancentric approach, look at it from the other perspective. Suppose you have a real asshole of a brother who is abusive to his spouse. His spouse finally leaves him. Do you expect the spouse to start dating you? Do you feel personally dissed if they don't automatically start dating you to see if you're a better match than your brother?

I wonder if dogs are good investments for homeless people

I'm inclined to give more generously to homeless people who have dogs, just to make sure the doggie doesn't starve. It occurs to me that I'm probably not the only person who does this. So I wonder if, from a cold economic perspective, owning a dog has a good ROI for homeless people?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Things They Should Invent: slipcovers for bra straps

Sometimes your bra straps are going to show. Even if it isn't on purpose, even in a sleeveless but modest outfit, sometimes they wander out. This means that you have to worry about what your bra straps look like, and take this into consideration when choosing a bra.

The problem is there are also other factors when choosing a bra - structural engineering issues, how well the material and texture of the cups works under your clothes, how well the bra achieves the intended effect once your clothes have come off. So sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have a bra that works perfectly under your fierce little black dress, but the straps are fugly and beige. Having a black strap wander out from under a little black dress is within the range of acceptable human error, but a beige strap just completely ruins the effect.

What we need is something to cover the bra straps in a different colour of fabric, so your straps will match your outfit even if your bra doesn't.

Childfree for Dummies: Part III

Think about porcupines. They're cool and interesting and can be cute, especially when they're little. If you're walking down the street and you see one, you totally give it a second look and maybe even stop to interact, and as long as nothing goes egregiously wrong it's a pleasant experience that makes a good story to tell when asked how your day was.

However, you don't particularly want one of your own. If you found one, it would never occur to you to keep it. If one popped up in your house one day, you'd probably get rid of it. And you certainly don't feel at all deprived for not owning a porcupine.

How you feel about porcupines here is the same as how I feel about children.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


From the Toronto Police Sex Crimes Unit (PDF)

According to Statistics Canada, 2003, in cases reported to police, 80% of sexual assault survivors knew their abusers. About 10% were assaulted by a friend and 41% were assaulted by an acquaintance, 28% were assaulted by a family member, while the remaining 20% were assaulted by a stranger.

The Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women found that 38% of sexually assaulted women were assaulted by their husbands, common-law partners or boyfriends.

I'm not sure how the 38% corresponds with all the previous numbers. Maybe because it's a different survey? Maybe husband/partner counts as family member and boyfriend counts as friend? But that's not my point here.

My point is the large percentage for acquaintance, because personally I find the acquaintance dynamic the most difficult to manage in terms of saying no. Friends/lovers/partners/family members you know well enough to have assessed for yourself, and you trust them or not on their own merits. Strangers are strangers and you owe them nothing socially. But acquaintances you generally know through someone who knows them better. So it's not just the not-terribly-relevant-to-you acquaintance you might be dissing, but also the judgement of someone who's closer to you.

Imagine you're out somewhere and you need a ride home. You didn't arrange a specific ride because there are dozens of people there that you're close enough to that they'd be happy to give you a ride. Your brother is there, your best friend is there, your boyfriend is there, you've done this without a specific ride dozens of times before, you're certain you're not going to be abandoned. But life and logistics are complicated. So when it comes time to go home, your brother says "I can't give you a ride, but my former roommate is going your way." Or your best friend says "I can't give you a ride, but my neighbour here has room." Or your boyfiend says "I can't give you a ride, but my co-worker totally can." So now you're getting a ride from a strange man. Your brother/best friend/boyfriend totally trusts this dude and if you were to protest "WTF I'm not taking a ride with a strange man!" they'd be all "That's not a strange man, that's Steve!" and might even be insulted.

Most of the times I've been alone with a strange man have been because there's some presumption of acquaintanceship, i.e. we have been Properly Introduced. When I was a kid sometimes I might end up getting a ride home from a friend's father. When I worked on campus doing tech support I'd often go alone to profs' offices and students' res rooms. Sometimes in my apartment-dwelling life my super or a contractor might come into my apartment to do work while I was in there. Nothing ever did go wrong, but I had no way of knowing that going in. If I had refused any of these things - if I had insisted on getting a ride from a female adult or my own parents, if I had refused to go alone into male profs' offices and male students' rooms*, if I had insisted on the presence of the female super when there was one or that the work wait until I could have someone else in my apartment with me, it would have been a Big Hairy Deal and I'd be inconveniencing everything and perhaps insulting some people.

With strangers you're under no obligation, and we all learn from an early age not to talk to strangers so you're perfectly justified in snubbing them. With friends and family you know them well enough to use your own judgement unapologetically. But with acquaintances, especially acquaintances to whom you've been Properly Introduced, you have to thin-slice and then do a whole etiquette dance with the person who introduced you if you don't trust the new acquaintance.

We need a workaround.

*I did once refuse to go to a male student's room because I wasn't comfortable with him as an individual. He had invaded my personal space on the pretense of casual chitchat, and had repeatedly dissed my boyfriend. It was no big deal - I just said I wasn't comfortable going into this individual's room so another (male) tech went instead - but it would have been very high-maintenance and inconvenient if I had issued a blanket refusal to go into strange men's spaces.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

School makes teenagers annoying

Walking past the local high school on the way to the subway, I was getting rather frustrated at the clumps of kids who would block the whole entire sidewalk, as though it never occurred to them that other people might be in a hurry and trying to get by.

Then I realized, it's quite possible it's never occurred to them that other people are in a hurry and trying to get by. I'm not saying that they're too stupid to understand this or anything, but when I think about it from the point of view of a high school student, it's quite possible they've never in their lives walked past the school. They walk to the school. You only walk past the school if you're going from one of maybe a dozen buildings straight to Yonge. If they don't live in these dozen buildings (most of which tend towards one-bedroom apartments), this sidewalk has been a thoroughfare for them. To them it's just the area in front of their school.

And it may have never occurred to them that other people are in a hurry because they aren't in a hurry themselves. In a school, classes always start at the same time and everyone is in a hurry at the same time. You don't have some people starting at 8:30 and some people starting at 9. So they may well have never been in an environment where they're in a hurry but other people aren't.

So I'm thinking maybe a lot of the seemingly inconsiderate behaviour of large groups of teenagers is really the result of the fact that they've spent the vast majority of their lives in the institutional environment of school. In school, you're never alone trying to do something different from the people around you. You're always in groups, you're always doing the same thing as the other people around you, you're always on the same schedule as the people around you. So it doesn't occur to the clumps of kids blocking the sidewalk that I might be in a hurry to get past because they've never been in a hurry to get passed. It doesn't occur to the throngs in the foodcourt that I might have to grab my lunch in a hurry and get back to the office because they've never had to finish their lunch and get back before the rest of the throng. It doesn't occur to the cluster blocking the entire grocery store aisle deciding what kind of pop to get that I might want to get past and grab something real quick because they've never done a quick grocery run knowing precisely what they need.

Unfortunately I don't have any solutions, other than saying "Excuse me please." (And they do always apologize and move.)

Things They Should Invent: if a store doesn't accept returns, leave the merchandise with them anyway

I'm in the midst of an ongoing battle with my hair, trying to convince it to hold a curl. I've already bought quite a few pieces of equipment that are supposed to curl my hair, only to find that they just don't. So not only have I spent all this money on stuff that doesn't work, but I have it all cluttering up my apartment. And you can't return hair equipment because it's a personal care item and it's been in my hair.

So I think what I'm going to do next time I buy something that doesn't work is go into the store with my stick-straight hair and try to return it. Then when they say no, I'm going to leave it with them so they have the burden of disposing of it.

If everyone does this with everything that doesn't do its job and is unreturnable, maybe they'll start selling us stuff that actually works.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Shoes on a wire

At the high school I walk past every day, someone threw a pair of running shoes tied together at the laces over the overhead electrical wires. At first I thought this was something some bully did, and I was feeling sorry for the poor kid whose shoes they are - running shoes are expensive and not everyone can afford to replace them on a whim, and you lose marks in gym class if you don't have your shoes.

But then someone told me that the shoes mean that drugs are sold there. Okay, good to know. But that raises a bunch of questions:

How do you know who exactly is selling the drugs? There are a lot of people under those shoes - it's a high school so there are hundreds of kids during the day, and there are some benches in front that random passers-by sit on sometimes.

How do you know what drugs they are selling? Not everyone is in the market for just any old drug. And how do you know how much it costs? Not everyone has an infinite drug budget.

How do you strike up the conversation? You don't just walk up to some random and say "Good evening, I wish to purchase some marijuana." There's a whole dance that you have to know that I haven't a clue about.

Despite the fact that this convenient location is clearly marked as being open for business, it's still quite obvious that outsiders aren't welcome. So basically the moral of the story is that I don't do drugs for the same reason I don't shop at Holt Renfrew.

Today needs a techno/dance sort of remix of Dolly Parton

Jolene (Divide & Kreate remix) - Dolly Parton

Things that are harder than translation

Let me tell you about my job. I am given a document. It can be about anything, I don't know what it's going to be about. It's written by someone who has enough expert knowledge to write the document and knows the entire context. Oh, and it's written in another language. I take that document and rewrite it in English. To do this, I have to study, learn and research the context and subject matter so that it sounds like it's written by an expert who know the entire context and that it was originally written in English. If there are mistakes in the source text, I correct them. If the author of the source text borrowed wording from other sources, I find those sources even if they're not cited. If the source text does not say what the author intends it to, my translation will. I do this every day, on tight deadlines, always competently and sometimes very well.

And yet I can't get my hair to hold a curl. I can't keep my apartment organized. I can't get my manicure to last a week. I can't park a car in an indoor/underground parking garage. And I really have to work up my nerve to walk into a store that's staffed by people who are cooler than I am (even though they're paid specifically to be cool, whereas I have to fit in being cool around full-time work).

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Wanted: annotated translation of Afghan law

A snippet of Afghan law. I got it from a CBC article, but it's quoted widely in many news sources. Bolding is mine.

The law, which does not affect Afghan Sunnis, says that a wife "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires."

"As long as the husband is not travelling, he has the right to have sexual intercourse with his wife every fourth night," Article 132 of the law says.

"Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

One provision says a "man should not avoid having sexual relations with his wife longer than once every four months."

As a translator, my first instinct on reading this is to find the source text. There are obviously nuances in the original that cannot be fully communicated in idiomatic English. Examples:

- Preen? Not especially meaningful in English. We can guess from context, but the word itself doesn't communicate much for us. What exactly is the scope of the equivalent word in the source text?

- Travelling? Why the focus on the act of travelling rather than the (presumably implied) fact of the husband and wife not being in the same location?

- Why are being ill and having an illness presented as two separate concepts? What is the implicit difference in the source?

- Should not avoid for any longer than $FREQUENCY? Why avoid (which makes it sound intentional?) What is important about this that led to the awkward construction of any longer than a frequency rather than any longer than a period of time as is idiomatic in English?

I should heavily emphasize here that this is not criticism of the translator. The translator did perfectly well. It's a close translation, yes, but that's standard for legal language and this is legal language about concepts for which we don't have legal terminology in English. The English is for information only and not at all legally enforceable, and we already know the text is foreign by its very content so the lack of instantaneous and absolute clarity and the hint of foreignness aren't going to be disconcerting to the reader.

The problem is that the translator is working within the limits of translation. You're given a sentence of source text, you produce a sentence of translation. You use all your research and knowledge and expertise and decide that preen is the best word for the concept in question, and then all you can do is write the word preen. You could write a whole graduate thesis on why you chose the word preen, but all that translation allows you to do is put the word preen in the sentence.

I want that graduate thesis on the word preen. I want all the fun factoids surrounding, to use some entirely fake examples that I just made up with no knowledge of the source language, the information/renseignements or ser/estar situation with "being ill" vs. "having an illness", or that "travel" is perhaps a very specific concept in the Koran and would lose centuries of cultural connotations if translated into something more idiomatic in English.

It's obvious that there were a lot of difficult translation decisions made in this text, and I'd love to know what they were. I'd be very happy to see a paper on this some day.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Question for anyone who's ever worked retail

What's the time-frame before closing when it's annoying for customers to come in because they're getting in the way of your closing chores?

When I worked food service we really needed an uninterrupted hour to get all our closing done, so because of that I try to avoid going into stores an hour before closing. However, it occurs to me that you might not need as much time in retail because you probably don't have as much cleaning to do. Unless, like, you do and I can't see it.

So what's the timeframe where you really want me to just go away and come back tomorrow?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I've noticed that sometimes the word "ban" is used when they really mean "not offer". For example, when the City of Toronto was talking about banning bottled water, what they really meant was not selling bottled water on city property. That isn't a ban. (Banning would be not allowing it in the city, which would be a very bad idea.) That's just not offering it. If they don't sell, say, bubble tea on city property that doesn't mean that bubble tea is banned.

A couple years back they were talking about banning the air show (I think the one at the CNE?) on the basis that it's loud and polluting and militaristic. But they didn't actually mean ban it, they just meant let's not organize an air show next year. That's really no big deal at all. People don't organize air shows all the time. I'll bet you're not organizing one right now.

"Ban" is a poor word choice in these circumstances. It's so loud and dramatic that you instinctively rebel against it if you don't think the thing being allegedly banned is necessarily a problem. If you want a water bottle and someone says "Oh, we've banned bottled water," some gut instinct has you slightly rebelling, arguing, feeling attacked, hoarding water bottles for next time. But if they just say "Sorry, we don't have any water bottles available here. There's a drinking fountain over there though," then that is what it is, no big deal.

What exactly is the relationship between the Canadian Forces and the Government of Afghanistan?

So it seems Afghanistan is passing legislation severely limiting the rights of women and Canadian politicans are acting like they're going to try to do something to stop this through diplomacy and international relations.

But no matter how hard I think about that, I can't reconcile that with the fact that Canada has troops in Afghanistan. I can't think of any situation under which we'd have troops in their country AND they'd be passing domestic policy that we don't approve of AND we'd still have a say in their policy.

In what capacity, specifically, is our military there? Are we invited guests of their government? If so, it seems kind of rude and pushy to go around telling them how to legislate even if their legislation does suck. And if we're invited guests that would mean that our presence is a favour of some sort to them, so someone should at least be mentioning the possibility of withdrawing our troops as a protest against this legislation. Besides, if memory serves, our troops were in Afghanistan before this government was set up, so we can't really be their guests.

But if we aren't their guests, then we must be an occupying force. And an occupying force wouldn't install a government that would consider this kind of legislation.

I'll admit I never understood the basis for the Afghan mission very well. Back when it first started I scrunched up my brain really hard and tried to think about it, but I couldn't get it to make sense. Time has passed since then, and I've forgotten a lot of the details (it's difficult for me to retain details when I don't see the logic of the whole.) I have the idea that it has something to do with NATO, but that doesn't make sense since Afghanistan isn't part of NATO and NATO isn't quite for invading other countries.

So here's what I've got:

If Canada and Afghanistan had normal diplomatic relations and we were expressing discontent with their legislation through normal diplomatic channels, we wouldn't have military there.

If we were an invited guest of the country, we would at least be talking about withdrawing our troops in protest.

If we're an occupying force, we wouldn't have allowed such a governmentin the first place and the Canadian politicians wouldn't be protesting the legislation through political/international relations channels.

So on what basis and in what capacity are we there? What is the official relationship between the Canadian Forces and the Government of Afghanistan?

Shoe porn

My kingdom for an excuse to wear these babies.