Friday, July 31, 2009

Eddie Izzard once again raises the bar for both awesomeness and lunacy

In January, Eddie Izzard raised the bar for human awesomeness everywhere.

Now he's just outdone himself. He is running over 1,000 miles around the entire UK to raise money for a charity called Sport Relief. That's a marathon a day for over a month.

The man is well into his 40s, has been in training for only four weeks, and apparently already has a hamstring injury going in.

He's a looney.

I must send money.

This is particularly interesting as a fundraising strategy because it's so excessive. If Eddie hadn't done anything at all for this charity, no one would have noticed. If he had donated some money or done a benefit gig or autographed some spare merch and donated it to be auctioned off, people would applaud his generosity. If he had run a single marathon and tweeted a sponsorship link, he would have gotten a huge wave of donations (he has half a million twitter followers and a marathon is inherently impressive) and that would have been considered above and beyond in and of itself. But instead he's Terry Foxing it (plus one leg, minus cancer, plus 25 years of age, minus years of athletic training = you do the math) with insufficient preparation. This is ridiculous. He's going to be miserable. He probably already is miserable. He might do permanent damage.

And this is why I feel moved to donate.

Not because I want Eddie to suffer, but because I like Eddie and I don't want his suffering to be in vain. I'm not so very into athletic charities, and I never feel particularly inspired to donate when people (even people I know personally) are running marathons or climbing the CN Tower. That's suffering too, and I don't want those people to suffer either, but it's a reasonable amount for self-inflicted suffering - a few hours and then you can go home and go to sleep and never run again in your life if you don't want to. But Eddie runs a marathon, then has do it again the next day, and again the next day, for an interminable month.

So he's getting a donation out of me (and I'll probably donate more out of sympathy if he ends up having to quit early), but I'm also going to have to reflect carefully on my donation standards. I don't want to make a world where you have to do something this crazy and painful to move people to raise money.

Which, now that I think about it, might be the intention behind this lunacy in the first place.

You can stalk follow Eddie's progress here and here, and donate here.

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: childfree ring

This idea started here and was enhanced by this.

Childfree people don't want to be in a relationship with non-childfree people, and vice versa. There's just no point. However, reproductive goals don't always naturally come up in conversation, and it's really presumptuous and kind of creepy to bring them up early on in a potential relationship. ("Want to go for coffee sometime?" "Sure, but I won't bear your children.") This could have the unfortunate result of people ending up emotionally attached to people who would make unsuitable partners. You might be well on your way to falling in love before you discover that one of you wants kids and the other doesn't, so the relationship will necessarily have to end.

Solution: a universally agreed-upon visual signal denoting one's childfree status. It would work the same as a wedding ring. You wear it and anyone who cares can look for it, see that you're childfree, and proceed accordingly. It doesn't necessarily have to be a ring, but it should be subtle, visible, and unisex.

The flaw in this plan is that since a childfree ring is worn only for the benefit of potential mates, wearing one implies that you're on the prowl. After all, if you're in a relationship, the general public doesn't need to know that you're childfree - whether you're CF or not, you still won't bear their children. Not everyone might want to walk around at all times wearing a symbol indicating that they're on the market. (I certainly wouldn't!) But then if you don't wear it all the time, you'll have a romantic comedy meet-cute with the guy in front of you in line at the grocery store and fall in love before you both discover that you're CF and he wants 12 kids. So I wouldn't wear it (although I'd have supermarket guy reading my blog before we got too serious anyway), and if not everyone wears it then it won't work.

Actually, now that I think about it, people who are in the market for a relationship should all blog. Not about looking for a relationship, but about everyday stuff. If I were looking for a relationship and a potential partner read my blog, they'd discover that I'm CF and urbanist and recovering catholic, they'd get a sense of my politics and tastes and neuroses and sense of humour, so any core incompatibilities would be identified immediately and incompatible partners could reject me before I even noticed they were looking. It would be much more efficient.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why doesn't breast milk go bad?

Serious question. I know it's the natural way to store and dispense milk, but at the same time it's milk that's being kept at 37 degrees. What specifically prevents it from going bad? (Or, if it's more accurate to phrase it this way, what causes it need to be refrigerated when removed from the body?)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good thing I don't have to drive anywhere

Me two weeks ago: "I have an idea! I'll add some vodka to all this lemonade I'm making!"

Me a week and a half ago: "Lemonade is boring. I'll put it in the back of the fridge and forget about it."

Me an hour ago: "Hey, there's some lemonade in here!"

Me half an hour ago: "You know, I'm feeling awfully mellow..."

Awwwww of the day

This dog has a guide dog!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Things They Should Study: do linguistic innovation and fashion trends diffuse along the same paths?

My only basis for this hypothesis is a very small sample of empirical evidence. If I pick up fashion ideas from someone, I also pick up word choices from them. I've also noticed that people who might be picking up fashion ideas from me (it sounds egotistical to assert definitively that they are, but there are one or two things I was definitely wearing first) also pick up word choices from me.

Of course, this is all complicated by multiple languages and genders and looks. I pick up all kinds of words and phrases from people whose clothes I'd never wear.

What I would write if I were a journalist

If I had access journalist-calibre resources and research skills, I would do a search of as many media sources as humanly possible to find every instance of "Assuming X% interest", "Assuming an X% return" or synonymous in personal financial advice articles written in, say, the past 10 years before the current economic crisis.

Why? Because I have a hunch that the interest rate assumption was most often 10%. I'd conservatively estimate that the average was close to 8%, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if it approaches 10%.

So why is this relevant? Because, since the economic crisis, especially in reference to the Madoff thingy, I've seen commentators saying that people should have seen that something was wrong because returns were so high, citing returns of around 14%. I can google up this Margaret Wente article and distinctly remember hearing it discussed on Metro Morning around the same time (that would be either Andy Barrie or Michael Hlinka), but I know I've seen it elsewhere too.

Now, I would never have invested in the Madoff thingy because I have no risk tolerance and because I wouldn't have understood how it was supposed to have worked. However, I would have considered those factors personal faults, not indications that there was something wrong with the investment. And despite the fact that I'm so excessively cautious about investment, it never would have occurred to me that the 14% return was a sign something must be wrong. Even if I'd known it was significantly exceeding market averages, I would have just assumed that these people know how to invest properly.

Why would I have thought this? Because I've heard the phrase "Assuming 10% interest" bandied about so often. I've seen it casually and thoughtlessly mentioned in so many financial advice articles that I'm always surprised when I see a more sensible (but still higher than I could ever achieve) 7% used instead. In literally every conversation I've ever been in about what we'd do if we won the lottery, someone would mention investing some portion of the winnings at 10% returns and living off that forever. When I've asked people how, exactly, you get 10% returns, my question has been waved off with an implication that if you know how to invest like a proper grownup, it's easy.

Now, I do see that 10% makes the math easy. However, it doesn't appear to be especially realistic. But I wonder if its pervasiveness as an example led people to take on more financial risk than they can handle with the assumption that they should be getting that level of returns?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I can't stop listening to this song

Take Your Mama - Scissor Sisters

I'm having a relativity crisis

I did my first practicum seven years ago. That's a quarter of my life!

When I did my practicum, I was 21 years old. Seven years before then, I was 14 years old. The difference between 14 and 21 is HUGE. The difference between 21 and 28 not so much.

This is weirding me out more than it should.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Things They Should Study: is there a correlation between childhood stuffed animals and materialism?

When I was in Grade 5, our teacher played John Lennon's Imagine for us. I listened to the song, following along the lyrics sheet, briefly scandalized by the use of the word "hell" but agreeing wholeheartedly with the sentiment. Until we got to the line "Imagine no possessions." Then I was scared: this man obviously wanted to take Smurfy away!

Smurfy is, as you might have guessed, a toy smurf. He has been with me my whole life, and for a good chunk of my life was my best friend - for a few dark years, my only friend. When the world gets too scary, Smurfy is there. After a long day being tormented by my bullies, I'd go to my room, cuddle up with Smurfy, and all would be right with the world. I still have him, and to this day there is a certain shade of comfort that only he can bring.

I'm sure only the most cold-hearted curmudgeon would characterize my relationship with Smurfy as materialistic. And yet, he is, strictly speaking, an object, a material possession, that I am emotionally attached to. The rest of my possessions I like for their function, perhaps combined with their aesthetics. With the exception of a few difficult-to-fit-and-discontinued pieces of clothing, I could do without them or replace them without blinking an eye. But Smurfy I need, and another stuffed animal can't do the job nearly as well. The emotional attachment to an object is there, developed at a very early age.

I know John Lennon didn't really want to take my Smurfy away. I know most people wouldn't characterize a child clutching a stuffed animal as materialistic. I know that whether people characterize me as materialistic will vary according to how much they like me and what point they're trying to prove. And I'm not suggesting or even hinting that parents should deny their children stuffed animals so they don't become materialistic - I would never deny another child the comfort that Smurfy has brought me.

But I can't help but wonder, does this emotional attachment to an object early on lead to materialism later in life? Or, conversely, does it reduce materialism because ordinary consumer goods will never be your best friend like that one stuffed animal is?

Like red but not quite

I own very few pink clothes. In fact, apart from subtle pink eyeshadow (which really is the best neutral for green eyes) I have very few pink things in my life. And for every one of those things I can tell you exactly why I got it despite the fact that it's pink.

My best colours are red and purple, so you'd think I'd have some pink in there as well. But I don't. Why?

Because pink is for girls.

I totally internalized this attitude and haven't even thought about it critically until just now, but my whole life pink has been spoken of disparagingly. It's for girls, it's for babies. Parents throw up their hands in despair when their toddler/preschooler daughter wants to wear girly pink things. People complain of the Barbie aisle being an explosion of pink. If a woman is behaving ditzily and happens to be wearing pink, you can be sure that the pink will be mentioned when the story is retold. Whenever I've been shopping and a salesperson has suggested something pink, I've said without a second thought "No, I'm not really a pink person." Why not? Because I'm not pretty, because I'm not ditzy, because I'm not a dainty blonde.

You know what? Fuck that.

As we all know, dissing or opposing or disparaging or rejecting things because they're allegedly girly leads to a society of assholes. I'm not going to be someone who does that. I don't actively like pink the way I actively like makeup and heels and the other femme trappings I loudly embrace, but my reasons for claiming to dislike it are not valid, so I'm going to give it an equal chance.

I hereby resolve, from now on, I will not relegate pink to a colour of last resort. If I see a suitable clothing item in pink, I'll give it just as much consideration as I would if it were red or purple. I also resolve that to add at least one new pink item to my wardrobe within the next year. (Q: Why such a long timeframe? A: Because I can't reasonably plan on finding a suitable item in any one given colour in any one given season. I'm trying to be realistic.)

If you also find yourself in the position of having automatically and unreflectedly rejected pink because it's for girls, I encourage you to do the same.


Whenever I have cow milk and goat milk in the fridge at the same time, one of them goes bad way before it should.

I'm pretty sure it's not a rule of Kosher not to mix cow and goat milk (they seem like they'd be equally-hoofed?) but doesn't it sound like one?

Currently pissing me off

A good part of my politics are based on the thought "What if [bad thing] happens?" I want mechanisms to be in place so that I, and everyone else, can get through the bad thing without too much damage.

But it pisses me off when people work against me politically on the sole or primary basis that they find the "What if [bad thing] happens?" approach pessimistic, and choose to believe that [bad thing] won't happen, because, golly, it just gets them down to plan for bad things! So because of this, they don't want to sacrifice a negligible amount of money or convenience to help build a safety net.

This is particularly irksome because in my adult life the two things I've been most pessimistic about that people have most tried to change my mind about are the following:

1. What if the Great Depression happens again?
2. What if I buy a condo and then soon afterwards unexpectedly need to access the assets invested in it but the value of the condo has dropped in the meantime?

I've been worrying about these things since...I guess it would be 2003, when I read Ten Lost Years and when I started looking at what goes into buying a condo. People tried like crazy to convince me not to worry about them, not to make life decisions based on these possibilities, and certainly not to waste our tax money insisting on a social safety net that would get everyone through these disasters.

And then, a year or two ago...they kind of happened.

And yet, when I'm pessimistic, people still try to talk me out of it and work against addressing it politically.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anyone know the Sims 3 food icons?

One of my Sims (dude on the right) wants to make Kate Pistachio's (lady on the left) favourite meal. The internet tells me that you find out another Sim's favourite food by chatting until they start talking about food. So I had them chatting and my Sim's thought bubble showed the cartoon icon (like on the Simology page) for his own favourite food. Then Kate came back with this icon.

But I can't tell what it is!

Anyone know which food that's supposed to be the icon for?

Edit: Never mind, I figured it out by going into Create a Sim and looking at the bit where you can edit their food preferences. (Can't believe I didn't think of that right away!) Apparently that picture's supposed to be ratatouille. So, for the googlers: Kate Pistachio's favourite food is ratatouille.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are we also not wearing enough hats?

I find it presumptuous and just...weird to say that the IUD is being underused in Canada and is "due for a comeback" just because we use it at a lower rate than in other countries.

I use the birth control method that's best for me (i.e. the pill). The IUD doesn't have the primary characteristics I look for in a birth control method (i.e. hormonal and allows for regular monthly menstruation). It's basic human respect to assume that other people are also using the method that's best for them, and if they aren't they'll take it up with their doctor.

Not meeting statistical averages for birth control choices in the general population isn't a problem; leading people to think that this is a problem is a problem.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things They Should Invent: extreme public service

I've always thought strikes are ill-advised in situations where there isn't a competitor. If Stelco goes on strike you can buy steel from Dofasco, but if the TTC goes on strike it's not like you can take another subway. And when the strikers are public sector, there is the additional disadvantage of stirring up anti-public-service sentiment among the general public.

So here's my idea for a better kind of job action: extreme public service. Ignore the employer's red tape and make things as easy as possible for the public at the expense of the employer.

This idea was inspired by something I read during one of the TTC strike scares, where someone suggested that an effective job action would be for them to stop collecting/enforcing fares. Anyone can just walk into the subway and no one will stop them.

So how does this apply to the current City strike? Garbage collectors could pick up anything, regardless of quantity or whether it's properly sorted and packaged. Perhaps they could also throw recycling and organics in with the regular garbage so the city doesn't get recycling revenues, but the optics of that might be bad. The people in charge of the ferries could waive fares and let anyone go to the islands for free. Social assistance caseworkers could blindly accept every application and grant them full benefits instead of screening people. (The problem is they might have to warn applicants, in case their files get reviewed later.) The people responsible for issuing permits could issue them for free, and the people responsible for enforcing them could casually neglect to do so. I can't think of anything for child care and elder care workers to do, but there must be something.

I don't know anything about the legality of this. It might be illegal or it might be the kind of thing that leads to disciplinary action from the employer (after all, it's like the opposite of work to rule) but it would keep the public on-side while inconveniencing the employer.

This blew my mind several different ways

From City of Toronto Strike blog (but not terribly related to the strike so you can go ahead and keep reading even if you don't like what I generally have to say about the strike):

Today a couple of 40-ish men approached looking festive in not-quite-matching pink shirts and funky shoes. I approached them as we do to be helpful and to avoid line-crashing, and said, “We’re asking people what service they need access to in City Hall because not everything is open due to the strike.” Tax collection and permits for example, are closed; Service Canada, the library, and marriage licenses are open.

One of the men flushed slightly and assured me in a southern American accent, “We know where we’re going is open.” But he didn’t tell me what they were doing inside.

They were going to get married, but they were embarrassed/hesitant/afraid/reluctant to tell people!

Imagine that headspace! You're getting married - like in just a few minutes - but you feel that you can't or shouldn't tell randoms! Personally, if my marriage was so forbidden or socially frowned upon, and I was literally on my way to get married, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops. "We're getting MARRIED and there's not a damn thing you can do about it! See this piece of paper? Booyah!" But these guys, even though they're in another country where same-sex marriage is totally allowed and on their way to the actual place where same-sex marriages are performed on a daily basis, still didn't feel they could tell people. That's a bit sad, and yet somehow a bit more romantic.

But then think about it the other way around. You're about to get married to your same-sex partner, and in your headspace your relationship is so socially taboo you don't want to openly admit it even in a foreign country. Then you arrive at City Hall only to find demonstrators hindering access! Then it turns out they don't even blink at your same-sex marriage, they just want to make sure you aren't lining up for a service that isn't open, and maybe pass on some literature about why the City's offer is inadequate. That would be cognitive dissonance.

In any case, congratulations, gentlemen, wherever you are.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sometimes I just want to curl up and cry

I just want to be able to walk down my own street without hearing anti-labour rhetoric that's so hateful it would be modded out of newspaper comment threads. And this in a neighbourhood that's statistically highrise-dwelling and childless.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Things They Should Study: how does commercial sodium content compare with the amount of salt people use when left to their own devices?

Commercial canned soups tend to have an unhealthily high sodium content. Sodium-free or genuinely low-sodium soups tend to be rather bland and people are inclined to want to add salt.

Research idea: give the subjects sodium-free versions of high-sodium commercial soups, instruct them to add salt to taste, and see how the end result compares with the sodium content of commercial soups.

Was Dufferin Mall actually ghetto?

Apparently they've just finished renovating Dufferin Mall to make it less "ghetto".

Was it actually ghetto before? Or is that just how the target audience of the Globe and Mail's Style section would perceive it?

Ever since I moved to Toronto I've been going there a couple of times a year for when I need to go to Walmart, and I would never have described it as ghetto. It's certainly not posh, more serviceable and working class. But that's to be expected from somewhere that I'm going for the express purpose of going to Walmart. I'd never describe it as ghetto - Dufferin Mall:my usual haunts::Bloor line:Yonge line. Surely there are far more ghetto places in the city?

One of these things is not like the others

I don't know the story here, I just found the pic on that list of random articles on the log-in screen of Google Reader, and I thought it was funny.

Things They Should Invent: heat-generating appliances that cool the surrounding room

Cooling appliances, like refrigerators, radiate heat into the surrounding room because they're discharging the heat that they sucked out of the thing being cooled.

Heating appliances, like ovens, also radiate heat into the surrounding room because of the heat that they're generating.

So why not make ovens that generate heat inside the oven partially by cooling the surrounding room? That would be way better in the summer! Maybe they could even have a switch so they could radiate heat in the winter but cool the room in the summer.

Now you're probably thinking "How often do we use ovens in the summer?" But you know what we do use all the time in the summer? Water heaters! We have energy heating our water and more energy air conditioning our home. Why not take the heat being removed from the air and use it to help heat the water?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Things They Should Invent: self-cleaning dishwasher spray arms

Sometimes bits of food get stuck in the little water-spraying holes of my dishwasher spray arms. This is problematic because they then spray bits of food back onto the dishes, so the dishes don't come out fully clean. They're annoying to clean out - I have to detach the arms and remove them from the dishwasher and soak them in the sink and poke at the bits of food with a brush.

It occurs to me that they could be cleaned from the inside out by squirting water out at high pressure. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is to run a dishwasher cycle, which uses a lot of water.

I want a setting where the dishwasher will send just a few good sharp squirts of water through the arms to blast the food particles out. It will only take a minute and won't use nearly as much energy as a full dishwasher cycle.

Things They Should Invent: partial basket of goods CPI

Apparently the inflation rate was negative in June, due primarily to lower gas prices.

I don't know about June specifically but I have been feeling inflation lately. And, as it happens, I don't have a car so I don't buy gas. (I know that gas prices should theoretically also impact the price of consumer goods, but you can see how I'm not feeling it as much as someone who drives a car.)

So this got me wondering what the inflation rate for products and services I actually do buy is.

They could totally calculate this. They know what's in the basket of goods, they know how much each of the goods cost, they're dealing with real numbers that actually happened - they could totally write a program to calculate all this stuff and put it up on a website similar to the inflation calculator.

Things They Should Invent: removable on demand hair dye

The problem with dyeing your hair is that you have to either keep re-dyeing, or grow it out and have trashy-looking roots. Yes, there are temporary dyes on the drugstore shelf, but they're unreliable - sometimes they wash out way too quickly, sometimes they don't wash out at all. I was once walking around with six-inch roots from what was supposed to be a 24-day hair dye, which you can get away with when you're a teenager but doesn't work so well when you're pushing 30. I'd rather like some interesting colour, but it's an expensive commitment to do and maintain to a standard that's suitable for my age and hair length.

So here's what I want: hair dye that is permanent if left to its own devices, but can be washed out with a specific shampoo designed for that express purpose. Regular shampoo won't budge it and if you do it once without maintenance you'll get roots like usual. But then, once the roots are too much, if you don't want to re-dye, you can buy this special shampoo and wash the colour right out so you're back to your natural colour.


I invented two things in the shower today, but when I got out of the shower and went to the computer I forgot the better of the two. So I went back and stood in the shower and remembered it again. But then when I got to the computer I forgot it again. So I went to the shower, and it wasn't there any more!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Make-up off, comfy pants on, beer in hand, scalloped potatoes simmering in the oven, and no one will ask anything of me for the next two days.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

The other other problem with all this anti-labour sentiment

This post arose from, but is now only tangential to, today's Margaret Wente.

No more than six generations ago (and in some cases, far fewer generations than that), every single one of my ancestors was living in poverty - the kind of poverty portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof. They earned a living on farms or perhaps in mines, ceaseless work, starvation a very real possibility. I earn a living in sitting at a computer in air conditioning wearing high heels, and barring some true disaster I'm not going to starve (not because I'm confident in my own perpetual employability, but because there are enough people in the world who are sufficiently personally invested in me that they won't let that happen.)

How we got from my ancestors milking cows in Anatevka to me blogging in Toronto is a very common story. You probably have it in your own family. Free farms, immigration, industrialization, unionization, post-war diaspora and economic boom, education. And the recurring theme throughout this saga in my family, as it probably was in your family, is a better life for the children.

I'll admit I haven't given this much critical thought. It's something I've always blindly accepted - people want a better life for their children. But I think it's generally accepted as a positive value in our society. There's a certain romance about it, it's the sort of thing that's often invoked when trying to sell political platforms. And even if a better life for your children isn't top priority, you'd have to be a real excessive flaming asshole to be actively opposed to it.

In any case, it did work. My ancestors did make a better life for their children. Every generation has had freedoms their parents couldn't imagine (My grandmothers could vote! My parents could plan their family! I can marry a man OR a woman!) and every generation up to my parents' (to soon to tell for mine) has had a significantly better quality of life than their parents did. But, as I blogged about before, the most dramatic change has happened since my grandparents' generation. My grandparents might not have always had shoes; I have a favourite shoe designer. And the reason for this sudden, dramatic improvement within the last few generations is one thing: Good Jobs.

My grandparents' jobs at the plants paid enough that they could support their families and retire with a pension. Hard Work, yes, but they weren't going to starve. Their kids went and worked at the same plants as their summer jobs (apparently this was normal at the time - you could just get your kid a job at the plant), enabling them to earn their university tuition and get white-collar Good Jobs. They supported their children more comfortably (orthodontics, music lessons) and brought us up in a world where living in a safe neighbourhood and going to university after high school is perfectly normal. So we did just that and have been fortunate enough to get Good Jobs ourselves. So far, all our ancestors' hard work and sacrifice has built a better life for us.

But will it last?

As Margaret Wente discusses, these city jobs are Good Jobs. Stability, benefits, pension, a rate of pay where you can breathe. But fewer jobs in general are Good Jobs, because of the economics shifts that happened with the 90s recession. So, as Wente discusses, there are a lot of very loud people who want these jobs to stop being Good Jobs.

But eliminating Good Jobs is completely detrimental to the value of making a better life for one's children. How are people going to raise their children without Good Jobs? How are their children going to support themselves once they're adults? Frankly, I'm feeling this already - and I still have a Good Job! While I do have a few more toys than my parents did at my age, overall my quality of life is never going to exceed theirs, and is very likely to end up lower than theirs. (If I aspired to the same lifestyle as my parents - house, car, children, vacations - I would be certain that my quality of life will always be lower than theirs and I'll have no chance of ever reaching their quality of life. The only reason why my quality of life might ever be in the same league as my parents' is because I aspire to a far less expensive lifestyle.) If they take away the Good Jobs, I'm going to end up worse off than my grandparents were slaving away in the plants. Three generations of hard work (and Hard Work) and sacrifice to build a better life for the children, all down the drain.

Given the amount of anti-labour sentiment and the proportion of parents in the general population, I'd imagine at least some of the anti-labour people are or aspire to be parents. I wonder what kind of career arc they envision for their own children?

Application: I do not think it means what you think it means

I hadn't been following this super closely so I thought it was just some random bit of diplomatic businesses. But it turns out, to my shame, that the reason why Canada wants to require visas for visitors from the Czech Republic is because they say they're getting too many refugee applications from that country. This isn't the first time I've heard this government, in the context of immigration, complain that there are too many applications or too many unqualified applicants. And there's one issue here that I keep coming back to and just can't get past:

They're applications!

In general, in our society, the social contract surrounding an application is "You should totally apply!" If you think you might enjoy blogging about an island in Australia or standing on a plinth in London or having Google bring your most brilliant ideas to fruition, you should totally apply! If you're interested in an academic program or a scholarship or a job, you should totally apply, even if you don't quite have all the requirements. In fact, to fail to apply because you don't think you'd be accepted is generally seen as lazy - or, in the case of a job, irresponsible and lacking in due diligence. Meanwhile, applying even when you most likely won't get in is seen as positive, gusty, showing initiative. It's like the archetype of the little working class kid who convinces the neighbourhood grocer to let him stock shelves even though he's just a kid, and eventually grows up to own a whole chain of grocery stores. If you picture an employer sitting there with a stack of applications from applicants who don't meet the requirements, they'd be bemoaning the lack of qualified applicants, not the glut of unqualified applicants.

What's up with this total violation of the social contract surrounding the nature of application? I can't speak to whether previous governments have done it, but I've only noticed it recently. I know when I applied for EI six years ago, their explicitly stated policy is that if you're not sure if you qualify, you should apply anyway and they'll assess your application. That's how applications work. You have something desirable, applicants apply, you assess the applications. I've never before in my life ever heard of anyone dissing applicants for applying.

Things They Should Invent: popcorn utensil

Buttered popcorn is yummy, but feels unpleasant on the fingers. Popcorn is good to eat at the computer, but (even if it isn't buttered) your fingers get dirty which would get your keyboard dirty.

Someone should invent a utensil for eating popcorn with. Like a spoon, but better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


When I was playing with the City of Toronto's sick leave buyout calculator to try to assess what kind of offer City employees were getting by plugging in my own real-life data, it gave me an insultingly low number. That offer didn't even come close to making up for the number in days of my career so far (like today, for example) when I've woken up in the morning, yearned to call in and take a mental health day, had the days available and could totally have gotten away with it no questions asked, but instead dragged myself out of bed and went to work because my team needed me that day.

But when I increased the number of years of service on the calculator from my real-life 6 years to a more approaching-retirement 30 years, the result was either 10 times or 20 times as much (depending on whether I said yes to the 1998 grandfathering clause.) Turns out the buyout isn't proportionate to the number of years of service - the workers get less per-year credit if they have fewer years of service.

I've heard about this sort of thing happening before when the employer wants to buy out some previously collectively bargained benefit, and I always have a massive, visceral negative reaction. Like beyond the "No fair!" factor of a year not being equal to a year. It really is a disproportionate reaction for something that doesn't affect me personally.

I think I've figured out why I'm reacting this way: they're treating the workers with fewer years of service as though they're less loyal.

Now, at first glance, you might be thinking "Well, of course! Someone with 30 years is a lifer!" But it cuts close to home for me because I'm a lifer too with my six years of service. How can I claim to be a lifer with only six years of service? Because I'm 28 years old, my job requires university-level training, and time proceeds linearly and at a fixed rate.

When I was growing up, all the grownups around me were lifers. Some people left the workforce to raise children, but other than that the reality as I knew it was you get a job, you work hard for decades, you retire. Then, just as I was starting to become economically aware, the 90s recession came along and the conventional wisdom was that no one will ever have a job for life at all ever again, you're always going to be constantly getting downsized and having to scramble for a new job. But (like many people, I'd imagine) I don't want to keep scrambling for a new job. I'd love to keep the same job all my life, work hard, and have that be enough to one day retire. If (when) that becomes impossible, it's going to be because of a decision by the employer, not because of how I want to live my life.

As a junior worker, I'm no less loyal than my senior colleagues. I just have fewer years of service because of the limitations of the space-time continuum. If my employer were taking away my benefits (when my employer does take away my benefits) it would be a second slap in the face to be treated like I'm less loyal just because I am, for reasons completely beyond my control, younger and newer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why would a business block call display?

A couple of times recently I've had phone calls from businesses who block their outgoing call display, so it just shows up as "private number" on my call display. These are legitimate businesses with whom I have existing client relationships and who are calling me for a specific and necessary reason. But I didn't answer because I always let calls I don't recognize go to voicemail.

Why would a business do this? How does it help them?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How to teach English lit: make the students read poorly-written fanfiction

I had a lot of trouble with English lit class. I read just fine (in the days before the internet I was a voracious reader) but the subject as a whole annoyed me. Why should that green light be symbolic? Why should that gun on the mantlepiece be important? Why should every word of dialogue be important? Life just doesn't work that way!

Of course, we all know that while all the business of everyday life does happen in the fictional universe, only the parts that are important to the plot or the characterization make it onto the page. Otherwise, the book is boring or just doesn't work.

I didn't understand literary analysis until I entered the Harry Potter fandom, where people were using literary analysis to try to figure out what was going to happen in the last three books. In school, we'd always do the analysis after we finished reading the book, at which point I didn't care. In Harry Potter, the story was still ongoing, so we were looking for clues! I could have done way better in school if I'd had an opportunity like that.

Similarly, I didn't understand how only the important stuff makes it onto the page (is there a literary term for this concept?) until I started reading fanfiction. Many fanfic authors do get this point, but when you encounter one who doesn't it's arduous to read! For example, I recently saw a fic where the general plot was "OMG, long lost relatives!" At least a dozen characters and their intricate degrees of relation to the protagonist were painstakingly introduced. And then nothing was done with them. The author just wanted to give the protagonist a big extended family.

So English teachers should make their students read a few things like that, dull and arduous fanfics that demonstrate what happens in the complete absence of the literary techniques being discussed.

Then compare that with the Harry Potter series, specifically in terms of the first three books and the revelations at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban.

Then they'll be prepared to buckle down and discuss symbolism and foreshadowing and plotting and characterization.

Things They Should Study: What percentage of expensive things actually are well-made? What percentage of cheap things are poorly made?

Conventional wisdom is that cheap things are poorly made and will wear out quickly and have to be thrown out, and that expensive things are made well and will last.

Empirical evidence collected to date is mixed. On one hand, my $2 necklaces keep breaking and the most expensive shoes I've ever bought are so truly awesome that I keep making people try them on. On the other hand, I'm listening to music from a pair of computer speakers that cost me $5 and are nearly 10 years old and wearing a bra that, while it is a fantastic piece of engineering, cost me more than I care to admit and is progressing towards needing to be worn on a tighter setting at a faster rate than I'm comfortable with.

My main qualm about buying expensive things is that I don't know how to tell if things are actually good quality. What's to stop people from making crappy things and putting expensive price tags on them? Someone once told me that some manufacturers of beauty products have a business model where they don't need repeat customers. They need X people to buy Acme Shampoo one time only for the company to turn a profit. Then six months later, they'll come out with a new product. If this is true (my source was not a neutral party), who's to stop someone from applying the same model to clothing or household goods? Make something cheaply, market and price it like it's well-made, then re-brand.

So I'd like to see some research on the how product quality actually correlates to price. Are there poorly-made expensive products out there? If so, how many? Are there well-made cheap products out there? If so, how many?

(Another point that people often neglect is that not everything needs to be made to last. I buy drinking glasses at the dollar store because I'm so clumsy that all my dishes are in for an early death anyway. If I need to replace a proprietary device-specific cable or charger, I buy a knockoff on ebay. Yes, the knock-offs wear out and die after three or four months, but they only cost $5, the real thing is $75 from the manufacturer, and no way is my cellphone going to last me long enough to make the real thing worth my while.)


This page has links to a bunch of Calvinball strips.

Things They Should Invent: self-chilling brita

I recently rearranged my fridge so my brita is as effortless to reach as possible. Before it was either a bit tricky to get out of the fridge, or it had to be kept on the counter (depending on what's in the fridge) and I'd pour room-temperature water onto ice cubes. But now it has a permanent, easily-accessible home in the fridge regardless of fridge contents. And because of this, I find I'm drinking more water. Just making cold yummy water that tiny bit easier to get at was the tipping point to notably increased water consumption.

So then I got thinking that maybe I could do the same thing at work. We actually do have a brita in the office fridge, but it's SO far away! (My co-workers are all laughing at me for that statement - I sit closer to the kitchen than any of the people who actually use the brita.)

But I'd totally drink more water if I had a brita on my desk at work! Except then it would be room-temperature, and that's no fun.

Solution: self-chilling brita. It looks vaguely like an electric kettle and plugs into the wall, but instead of heating the water it cools it down.

That was no fun at all

I recently blogged about how I've never dreamed about translation.

Last night I did.

I dreamed that an IRL person with whom I've recently had a (private, on-the-surface-civilized) disagreement about translation (and I should emphasize that this is NOT one of my co-workers) tracked down some old translations of mine. (IRL these are tucked away in the corner of the internet, but my name isn't on them and it would take some hardcore digging through systems to which this person doesn't have access to find them and attribute them to me.)

They then went over these with a red pen and released the results to the media, spinning me as incompetent. (IRL, the translations are not incompetent, but might be more suboptimal than I'd prefer. Worst case they'd get a mark of 75% when I'm aiming for 100%.)

Their spin was very effective, and the media ran with it as one of those shocking oversensationalized lead stories (like a while back where some government consultant expensed cookies.) People were calling for me to never work again, people were following me around with cameras taking my picture, people were criticizing my physical appearance and speculating on my sexual proclivities in comments threads, people were criticizing me for being overpaid because I recently (IRL too) started wearing real silver earrings (for piercing health) instead of cheap $2 crap from mall kiosks.

All because in a long time ago, in a couple of places, I translated effectué une recherche as "searched" (like it normally is) where in that context it should have actually been "conducted a search".


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Things They Should Study: why are there monsters under the bed and how did they get there?

When I was little, my furniture turned into monsters at night. Sure, it sat very very still, but I knew it was a monster and I knew it was going to get me. The cabinet in the downstairs bathroom also turned into a monster if I blurred my eyes a certain way, and ALL the furniture in my baby sister's room (where my parents would sometimes send me as a punishment because there were no interesting toys in there, unlike my room) was turned into monsters at all times, even during the day. (No, I never questioned why the baby was kept in a room with monsters. I was too young to see a baby as something that needed protecting.) When I started elementary school there was no respite from the monsters. Some of the toilets had monsters in them, and this wisdom was carefully handed down over the years. I'll bet you anything that if you asked a current student at my former elementary school which toilet the toilet monster lives in, she'll say the last one on the right-hand side.

When you're a kid, there are monsters everywhere. Under the bed, in the closet, we know this. When you were reading me describe my childhood monsters, you probably weren't thinking I was a completely delusional loony. You probably know that they aren't there now because I'm a grown-up, but there were very much real when I was a child. Sure, they didn't actually get me and I never actually saw them move, but they were real.

But why do children have monsters? How did this come about? Is it cultural or evolutionary? Do all children in all cultures have monsters? If so, what evolutionary purpose does it serve? If not all cultures have monsters, which ones don't and why not? Why do we have them?

Life should be scarier now than it was when I was a child. I know, in more specific detail than I've ever wanted to, about things like torture, rape, and war crimes. If there's a phobia trigger, no one is going to rescue me. My grownups can't solve all my problems - in fact, we're getting frighteningly close to the point where they can't solve any problems that I can't already solve for myself. I'm well aware that my financial resources are finite and competence and hard work aren't enough to earn a living. The number of people in the world who actively want me to be safe is so small I could probably type up a list of names, and the number of people in the world who directly or indirectly want to do harm to me seems to be bigger every time I turn around.

But I don't have any monsters, and generally live in less fear that I did back when my dresser turned into a monster. So why did we have that omnipresent but nonspecific fear back when we were kids, and why do very real and specific fears seem to chase it away?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Conspiracy theory of the moment

Conventional wisdom is that any minute now we're about to get hit by a huge wave of baby boomer retirements, and then there's going to be a desperate need for workers in all fields.

What if that's not true? What if there's never going to be a shortage of workers, they're just telling us this to placate us into thinking that stability and security is imminent?

I have no basis for this theory. All I have is that it occurred to me: if you wanted to placate workers, isn't that exactly what you'd come up with?

Unfair spin

The City of Toronto site on their offer to the unions includes calculation of salary including benefits, but does not present salary not including benefits. I don't know what the benefits are and it occurs to me that not everyone might make use of every benefit (for example, if they have maternity leave top-up, I'd never need that) and certainly would not make use of every benefit in every year.

But there's something more important:

You can't pay your rent with benefits.

When you go to get a new apartment, when you go to get a mortgage, they look at the gross salary number on your paystub or on your T4. That doesn't include your dental plan or sick days or whatever the employer pays into your retirement plan. Yes, those things are good, but they won't help you with your day-to-day expenses. The big question is "How does my pay increase compare to my rent increase?"

To at least give the impression of attempting to be fair, they should have included the pre-benefits salary as well, and a brief blurb on what benefits includes.

This is kind of cool

The City of Toronto made a calculator for employees to calculate how much sick day payout they'd get under their most recent offer.

I'm not a City of Toronto employee, but I was curious. So I plugged my personal information into the calculator to see what would happen.

The total I would get comes out to $10 for each banked sick day, and is less than three days' pay.

Try it yourself! If you don't have bankable sick leave, figure out how many sick days you'd have if it were bankable.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Wanted: purely aesthetic heel cream

The rough skin on the backs of my heels is rougher than usual this year and it looks really gross. While it is cracked and dry and stuff, I'm not feeling any discomfort or unpleasantness. It just looks ugly. I'm looking for a product that will address the aesthetic aspect.

I already pumice it regularly and use Dr. Scholl's pumice scrub.

How the Toronto garbage strike will affect tourists

My credentials: I live in Toronto. I am not a city worker, I am not involved in city government. I am not personally inconvenienced by or otherwise personally involved in the strike. My livelihood is completely unrelated to tourism. While I understand intellectually that tourism is important to the economy, on a personal level I don't care either way whether people come to Toronto or not.

Considerations: I do not spend a lot of time downtown or in tourist areas. However, the areas where I do spend time are typical of the density of tourist areas. It seems to me that tourist areas would have greater motivation to stay clean than my corners of the city. I live in a highrise neighbourhood, and the garbage strike is more likely to affect house neighbourhoods. I'd think tourists would be spending more time in higher density neighbourhoods.


The only sign I've seen of a garbage strike so far is that the sidewalk garbage bins seem a bit full. There's stuff sticking out of them. On occasion I've seen small piles of stuff in front of them, but that's rare. If I only saw one bin like this, I wouldn't think much of it beyond "Hmmm, that bin needs to be emptied." It would take seeing three or five bins like that to notice that something is wrong.

There's only one place where I've gotten a whiff of a smell - this parking lot that I shortcut through, behind a block of small businesses with the dumpsters out back. I can smell the dumpsters as I walk past. It isn't disgusting, but it's there. I've smelled similar in parking lots of suburban strip malls. If I didn't know there was a garbage strike, I'd notice the smell, but I wouldn't think there's anything egregiously wrong.

Privately-owned public space, such as malls and the subway, seem to be doing perfectly fine. Their garbage cans are being emptied regularly.

I haven't seen any sign of vermin - not even cute vermin like mice or raccoons.

I haven't been in any parks, so I can't speak to how they are affected.

Extrapolating from what I've observed, it seems to me that any well-run tourist attraction would be able to manage things in a way that the garbage strike doesn't affect the tourist experience. They might just have to walk past a few over-full bins on the sidewalk is all.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Our government might have just set a record

They've offended both the queer community and the catholic church in under 24 hours. I wonder if anyone else has ever done that?

(Random thoughts on the communion thing: 1. In the eyes of the church, is it worse to take a host and put it on your pocket, or to accept communion when you aren't catholic? 2. It seems to me that if you're a political leader whose primary strategy is to accuse his opponent of being out of touch with ordinary Canadians, you'd brush up on the protocol of Canada's largest religion before attending a state funeral in that religion's church. Especially since you have access to the services of a protocol office.)

I'm afraid to leave the country

A Canadian citizen is in jail in Kenya because she doesn't look like her passport photo.

This makes me afraid to leave the country.

I never look like my photos. In my first driver's licence photo, I had my hair down and no glasses. If I went out with my hair up and glasses on and then got carded, they wouldn't believe me. I'd have to take my hair down and remove my glasses just to get a drink.

I wear makeup that changes the relative skin tone of various facial features. Among other things, I make the skin around my eyes lighter and my cheeks and forehead darker. In some pictures (especially small photos like you'd find on a passport) it isn't apparent that this is a function of the makeup. Depending on the situation, I might travel in full makeup, or in no makeup, or in what was originally full makeup but has worn off with sleep and sweat to the extent that I look like a dead whore. Any one photo is not going to reflect all of these possibilities, and I can't necessarily organize my life so that my makeup condition will be the same every time I travel.

Depending on the lighting and what I'm wearing and how I've done the rest of my makeup, my skin tone can inspire comments ranging from "Are you okay? You look really pale." to "Where are you from? I mean originally? I mean what's your heritage?"

How can I possibly feel safe in this context?

Monday, July 06, 2009

In my bed

In the morning, my bed is the most tempting place on earth. The sheets, the pillows, the covers, the familiar shapes and textures are all the most comfortable and comforting things humanly imaginable. I yearn to just stretch out, close my eyes, and drift through thoughts and dreams and half-wakefulness.

If only I could feel that way in the evening when I actually should be getting to sleep.

Things They Should Study: newspaper comment thread agree/disagree rates

Some of the news media comments sections let you vote on whether you agree or disagree with the comments. I never give it much attention because I try to avoid comment threads in general, and the agree/disagree rates tend to sit there unobtrusively. Maybe if I am in the comment thread and you don't have to log in to click and I have a strong reaction either way I might vote, but generally I pay it no mind.

Today I noticed a comment thread on a Globe and Mail article where all the comments were the kind of asshattery that normally makes me avoid comments threads in the first place, and all the comments had received a wide margin of disagree votes. So that implies that the people posting comments are not representative of general public opinion.

I think this merits further study. What percentage of comments receive general agreement overall? How frequently does the consensus of the voters correspond with the consensus of the commenters? (For example, is a given article receiving a lot of pro-widget comments, but those comments are being voted down, suggesting that the broader audience is anti-widget?) Insofar as political affiliation can be determined, which political affiliations are most likely to comment? Which are most likely to vote?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The universe is mocking me

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that my water pressure sucked. I'd originally planned to have my coffee before my shower, but I decided to go straight into the shower so I could get clean before the water completely ran out.

So I have my shower, struggling against the wimpy spray, worrying about whether there's going to be any water for a shower tomorrow because I'm definitely going to need to have my shower tomorrow before the supers are on duty. Then, just as I'm finishing up, full glorious water pressure returns.

If I'd had my coffee first like I was planning, I could have had a full pleasant shower.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Props to Tide To Go

My Tide To Go pen instantly removed red wine spilled on my carpet - after it had been in my purse with the lid off for months and months and months!

Fingers and toes

[reposted because my previous attempt to edit the embedded player made my blog go wonky]

Boots Or Hearts - The Tragically Hip

Posting this because a) it's running through my head, and b) I appear to be the first person on the recorded internet to come up with the idea that it should be used for line dancing. Might be sacrilege to say so, but it would totally work.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The other problem with all this anti-labour sentiment

It's draining me. I'm just getting so tired of hearing from all these loud people wanting to sentence others to poverty, hearing between the lines that they want to sentence me to bugs crawling out of my walls, that I'm starting to avoid news. Especially since so many other things in the news and politics also seem to be people wanting to ruin other people's lives.

Everyone should have a bug-free home, dental care whenever they need it, and to be able to grocery shop without budgeting. People's human rights should be respected. People with power should act with noblesse oblige. People should give others the benefit of the doubt, especially when it doesn't hurt them any to do so.

I don't want to be blogging about these things. They should be so obvious and inherent that they don't even bear thinking about. I should be inventing stuff, not blogging about why garbage men deserve to live above the LICO.

So here's a squirrel eating a lemon, shamelessly yoinked from the always-awesome Malene Arpe

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hard Work

It surprises me that people are being so hateful about the garbage collectors' compensation in particular, because being a garbage man is Hard Work. It's physical labour outside in the elements, it's dirty and smelly, there's probably bugs. They shower after work, not before. They have enough callouses on their hands that they hold their Tim Hortons cup by wrapping their hand around it (rather than thumb on top and fingers on the bottom like us office workers). It's real, honest, hard work. The kind of stuff that Builds Character. It's practically a Canadian value - you do Real Honest Hard Work and you support your family on it. Nothing fancy, but perhaps a small postwar bungalow (rented if you're in the city), a roast on Sundays, and skates under the xmas tree. That's almost universally considered a Good Thing.

Suppose I wrote a story about my family and the jobs we've had and the what we did with the money we made. I'd start out by telling you about my grandparents worked in coke ovens and meat packing plants - dirty, smelly, unpleasant work, Real Honest Hard Work - to support their gaggles of children. Then I'd tell you about how my parents worked in the same coke ovens and meat packing plants to put themselves through university, then got white-collar jobs in offices and classrooms and used that salary to buy a house in the suburbs where each kid could have their own bedroom and we could have a car and there were vacations almost every summer. Then I'd tell you about how in my generation our jobs were more of the cash register type - be perky and look pretty for the customers - and didn't contribute as much to our tuition as our scholarships and our parents' money did. Then we finished university and went straight into professional jobs that support our habits of specialty hair products and more shoes than strictly necessary.

If you were having any judgmental thoughts while reading that story, if you were to present anyone in that story as superior to anyone else, it would be the grandparents. Because they're the ones doing Hard Work, Real Work. Their work is the kind being alluded to when trying to sell us beer or pick-up trucks or Tim Hortons or a political platform; ours is the type parodied in sketch comedy and denigrated in political attack ads. You'd spin our grandparents as hard-working and sacrificing, and us as spoiled.

The garbage collectors are doing this Real, Honest Hard Work that is usually lauded or even glamourized. So why are people so opposed to them making a decent income - above the poverty line but well below the household average?

New Rule: never say midnight

I'm following the news of a potential Globe & Mail strike, and they're now saying that the strike deadline is midnight Thursday.

Does that mean it's 12:00 AM on Thursday, i.e. tonight either before or shortly after I go to bed? Or does that mean it's Thursday night, i.e. after I've slept tonight and gone to work on Thursday and gone home and either before or shortly after I go to bed that night?

To make things like this clear, they should use 11:59. If the deadline is tonight, they should say it's 11:59 on Wednesday night.

I also have this problem sometimes with TV schedules for Craig Ferguson and whoever is current competitor is. (Used to be Conan, but I think Conan is now an hour earlier to replace Leno or something.) These shows are on at 12:35. I don't watch them with great regularity, only when they're having a guest I'm interested in. Some sources list the show by the day it's technically on, some by the evening it feels like to the viewer. For example, I'm writing this at 1:45 PM on a Wednesday. The next episode of Craig Ferguson is on at 12:35 AM on Thursday. But if I were to watch it, it would be before I go to bed tonight, so it would feel like Wednesday night in my mind. If I'm looking to see what day a specific guest is on, I feel like I have to check multiple sources to make sure I get it right, often checking the source's listings for the whole week to see if they're counting starting on Monday or Tuesday.

They need a standard way to do this. The best way I can think of is to specify "Wednesday night/Thursday morning," but a single universal standard that literally everyone uses would work.

More information please

There were early reports that a five-year-old child had survived that plane crash in the Indian Ocean. Now the news is saying that the only survivor is a teenage girl.

What happened to the five-year-old?

I wonder what my subconscious's criteria for dream material are?

I sometimes dream about being a child (although in the vast majority of those dreams I'm in the back of my parents' car going somewhere boring). I sometimes dream about being in high school (although most of the time it's that dream where I've forgotten to take a class and I wake up thinking "Wait a minute, don't I have enough credits to graduate? And now that I think about it, don't I have a job and an apartment in Toronto?"). In most dreams I'm just generically myself, sometimes I'm inserted into various fictional universes, I've had one or two where I'm wandering around my middle school (but, fortunately, not a student there).

But I've never ever in my life dreamed about translating.

I've been translating for six years. I was only in high school for five years. I wonder why translation hasn't shown up in my dreams yet? I've had one dream where I was in the general vicinity of my office because my co-workers needed to show up and catch me doing something "bad" for plot purposes, but none about actual work.

And now that I think about it, university hasn't shown up in my dreams yet either. The "OMG I forgot to go to class!" dreams are always high school.

The majority of dreams have no particular setting, but the only places I've been before adulthood show up as recurring real-life settings. Which is odd, because when I dream myself into fictional universes, they're always from fandoms I've gotten involved in since adulthood.

I wonder what this all means? I wonder if other people notice similar patterns?

Things They Should Study: economic demographics of people who are opposed to good wages for garbage men

I've been wondering why people who think the garbage collectors are overpaid don't look at the job as something they themselves could potentially do. After all, my personal inclination when I see a job I think is overpaid is to think that maybe that's the job I should be doing. (So far, whenever I've looked into things, I find that the job is either harder than I thought, or you have to pay your dues for longer than I thought, or it doesn't pay as much as I thought.)

But today it occurred to me that the people being most inconvenienced by this strike are mostly the rich. The garbage strike affects residential collection, but not highrise apartments. In other words, primarily the house people. Houses in Toronto are expensive - we're looking at $400,000 at the very least. This is a city where a million-dollar home can look perfectly unremarkable. If you own a house in Toronto, you make far more money than I ever will. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in my apartment not noticing anything except that the bins on Yonge St. are rather full.

As a general trend, public sector salaries have a moderating effect. They tend to be higher than private sector at the low end of the pay scale (garbage collectors, daycare workers, receptionists) and lower than the private sector at the high end of the scale (investment bankers, senior executives, etc.) Anyone who can afford a house in Toronto would be at the high end of the scale, and therefore lives in a world where the natural order of things as demonstrated by empirical evidence is that public sector is paid lower than private sector.

So here they are, being inconvenienced by this garbage strike, not identifying with the garbage men because that work is so much more difficult and poorly-paid than what the house people themselves do. Then they find out, to their shock, that the garbage men are making so much more money than the rich house people pay, say, their cleaners.

Meanwhile, the people who can identify with the garbage men, who, if they learned the garbage men made more than they expected, would be inclined to think "Cool! I wonder how you get that job?", live in apartments and are hardly noticing anything is going on.

The mystery: how come so many newspaper columnists seem to have houses? Surely journalism can't pay that well.

New economic indicator: are the bugs going to get me?

When I was writing about how I'm terrified by the loud people who don't want the garbage men earning a decent living, the best way I was able to articulate my fear in a single sentence is that I don't want to go back to having things crawling out of my walls. That's basically it. The single greatest improvement in my quality of life - the #1 example of money buying happiness - has been housing that is free of panic attack triggers. Even if I lost everything, it would still be exponentially more pleasant to be sitting hungry in old sweat-stained clothes with nothing but library books for entertainment in a bug-free space than to have all the food, wine, clothes, make-up, computers, TV, and internet I want in a space where something might crawl out of the wall at any time. Many people see wanting bug-free space as overly fussy, but now that I have this comfort, losing it would break me.

It occurs to me that everyone might have some #1 dealbreaker issue like this, some über-alles comfort or quality of life factor either that money has bought them and they don't want to lose, or that money could buy and they can't yet afford. It varies from person to person, and it might even change depending on your place in life. (For example, when I was a kid it was having my own room. If we'd had to downgrade to the extent where we had to share a room, it would have broken me.)

A truly informative economic indicator would be go get everyone to identify what their #1 thing is, then determine how much of the population has their #1 thing. How many people have gained it in the last quarter, and how many have lost it?