Saturday, August 29, 2009

How to decommercialize christmas without sacrificing anything

But after a disastrous Christmas last year and lacklustre sales most of this year, many retailers are desperate to make up the shortfall in the final four months.

Holiday sales can account for as much as 40 per cent of annual sales, more for those who specialize in giftware.

So that's the problem. That's why retailers are so aggressive with the music and the decorations. They've associated huge sales with this season.

So what we as consumers have to do as consumers is make xmas sales unremarkable, and this without fucking up the economy.

Here's how:

In 2010, don't give your xmas presents on xmas. Instead, give your xmas presents (to your family and friends, as well as any employees and service providers to whom you give a xmas tip) on your own birthday. To dissuade retailers from responding by instituting year-round xmas decorations, do not purchase any xmas presents from retailers who have decorations up before November 28, 2010, which is the first day of Advent 2010. Because people tend to give you presents on your birthday, the result will be multiple opportunities to exchange gifts and good wishes throughout the year.

Santa will bring kids their presents on their half-birthday. Q: Why not their birthday? A: As people born in December and early January can attest, when your birthday coincides with xmas you tend to get less than your rightful share of presents (rightful share being determined by observing siblings and peers). This will maintain the common standard of two annual gift-receiving occasions, which is particularly important when you're a kid and can't just buy stuff for yourself. This will also enable Santa to have more consistent workflow management, with elves specializing in different parts of the production process being more steadily employed year-round, and to save in overtime costs. Mrs. Claus also looks forward to spending a quiet Christmas at home, drinking eggnog in front of the fire and reflecting on the true meaning of the season, for the first time in over two millenia.

Santa assures all good little boys and girls that they will receive their presents on their half-birthday regardless of whether a tree and/or stockings and/or milk and cookies are present in the home.

December 25 (or 24 or January 6 or whichever day you use in your particular culture) can, of course, still be used as a religious feast day, a family gathering, and/or a statutory holiday. But the only socially mandated gift-giving that will occur on or marking that day is xmas gifts from and birthday gifts to individuals whose birthday is December 25, and xmas gifts from Santa to children whose birthday is June 25.

In summary, in 2010:

- Give your xmas gifts on your own birthday
- Santa brings kids their xmas gifts on their half-birthday
- Don't buy xmas gifts from retailers who have decorations up before November 28
- Your religion's, culture's, and/or family's customary celebrations can continue to be held on the customary date, but without the exchange of gifts.

Let's all work together to decentralize xmas 2010 and bring some sanity back to what should be a happy occasion.

Do more people want to keep what they have, or do more people want more?

Disregarding the altruistic and social justice aspects, the purely selfish aspect of my politics can be reduced to "I have some good things. I don't want to lose them." I don't particularly care whether or not I gain more good things. The selfish part of me doesn't particularly care whether or not other people gain more good things (the altruistic part thinks everyone should have access to the good things I have if they're interested). The primary focus is just not losing what I have.

I think there are some people whose primary goal is not to keep what they have, but rather to gain more. There also seem to be people who are focused on what other people have, and seem not to want other people to have more than them, or to gain new things at a greater rate than they themselves are.

It would be interesting to study what percentage of society falls into which categories.

I don't intend this judgmentally - I realize it's very easy to say you don't need more once you have enough - I just think it would be interesting to take the pulse of society from this perspective.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What are you supposed to do when you hear someone scream outside?

I'm sitting hear in my apartment with the windows open and I hear someone scream, maybe two or three times. It could be a woman or a child. It doesn't sound specifically like distress, although it doesn't sound specifically playful either. I scream in more distress when I encounter an ordinary household pest. I can't see anything really, but it's dark out. The scream could be coming from the street, or the balconies of any of the neighbouring apartment buildings, or inside any of the neighbouring apartments if someone has a window open. The source of the scream could be anywhere within a three-block radius containing well over a thousand households. That's if I'm estimating correctly how far sound can carry.

Now I'm hearing other screams that sound playful from the same general direction. They are a mix of different voices, some male, some female, some children.

Now, if someone is in fact being attacked, it will be all over the newspaper tomorrow that no one called for help. But I'm sitting here 12 storeys above the ground, unable to see anything. Am I supposed to call the police saying it's possible someone in my general vicinity in this high-density neighbourhood might possibly be in distress, although it's possible they might be having fun, or might be a child being tormented by their sibling, or might be having an overzealous game of hungry hungry hippos?

Now I heard two more, more like the original voice, that sound more towards the distress side of the scale (but not objectively distressful).

It's 11:00 on a Friday night in a neighbourhood with a young adult demographic, so it would be very odd indeed if there was no one having fun under the influence of anything within this radius. And people having fun under the influence do often scream while walking down the street, although they tend to sound more obviously playful.

Two more: one not-really-playful, one more playful, followed by a loud collection of various voices talking loudly. Whatever's going on, there's an assortment of people of various ages and genders there, assuming I'm hearing who's all in the same place properly.

If I had a bug, I would scream in distress several times. Then I would deal with it, drink or med myself down, and go to sleep. If someone who isn't on my floor tried to come to my rescue, they'd never find the source of the screams.

One more, again didn't seem distressed or non-distressed, but the number and variety seem odd. Then two more that sounded like a child being tormented by a sibling, and a short one that sounded playful. A dog barks, a child shouts, a man calls out in response.

I don't want to live in a neighbourhood where you scream for help and no one helps, but I don't know where this person is or if they are screaming for help. Either they aren't or I have convinced myself they aren't. What are you actually supposed to do in this situation? What can I do if I'm ever on the street screaming for help to maximize the chance someone will help me? (One idea I once came up with is, if at all possible, to run out into traffic. Then I'm suddenly all the cars' problem too.)

And now it has started raining, and all I can hear is the rain beating down on my metal balcony railings.

Why does it bother you that I'm quiet?

Question for extroverts:

I've blogged before about how when I was a kid people would say to me "You're so quiet, you never talk."

Question: suppose we're in a randomly-assembled group (classmates working on a project, co-workers on the same shift, people who happen to live in the same neighbourhood waiting for a bus). Sufficient conversation is flowing among the group, but I personally am being quiet.

Why does it bother you that I'm being quiet?

This always happened in randomly-assembled groups with sufficient flow of conversation. Among friends, I'm better able to think of stuff to say (or babble mindlessly and boringly). When there is insufficient flow of conversation, people never seemed to tell me that I'm quiet. The vibe I got is that my quietness bothered them (rather than being a poorly-conceived attempt to draw me out), and googling around this idea I've found that extros are bothered/weirded out by quiet people.

So why, precisely, does it bother you? (Not that I can really do anything about it - I don't have a secret stash of witty conversation that I'm stingily withholding - but I cannot even begin to imagine why this would bother someone.)

Wherein the catholic school boards solve a 40-year-old problem

Apparently some of the catholic school boards are eliminating the uniform kilt because students are wearing them too short.

I think this is hilarious, because my mother wore her uniform kilt too short when she was in high school, back in the 1960s. It's actually my mother who (inadvertently) taught me how to roll a kilt so your hemline is high but you can readily lower it when there are teachers around. I never went to a school that had uniforms, but I still know the technique.

If my mother had chosen to start her family in her early 20s, and then I had chosen to start a family in my early 20s, my mother could easily be the grandmother of one of the high school students who's now seeing kilts banned from their wardrobe because people are wearing them too short. Imagine that! "But my grandmother got to do it!"

Women's trust is irrelevant to men's contraception

Tangental to this:

One thing I've frequently seen mentioned in discussions about the possibility of a male birth control pill is that it wouldn't fly because women wouldn't trust their partners to take the pill.

The more I think about it, the less I can see how this is at all relevant.

If my partner doesn't want children, he takes his pill. If I don't trust him to take his pill, I take my pill. Then we're doubly protected. Nothing wrong with that.

I've recently come to the realization that I still want to be sterilized even if my partner has been sterilized. But that doesn't mean my partner shouldn't get sterilized too if that's what he wants.

I know many people make these decisions as a couple and operate under the assumption that if between the two of them they can't make a baby, they're fine. And it is entirely their right to do so. But that doesn't mean that people who happen to be coupled shouldn't also be allowed to take measures to make sure that they, personally, don't sprog.

Some people will say that making these decisions as an individual implies that you're going to cheat. (Personally, I was thinking more along the lines that I could get raped.) But even if you are going to cheat, isn't it better to avoid making unwanted children while doing so? Best-case scenario: there's an affair, you reconcile and decide to move forward, if there are no children you can leave it completely behind you. Worst-case scenario: you DTMFA, there aren't any sprog requiring child support payments to take away from your alimony.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How do psychic people know they are psychic?

We tend to assume that other people can do what we can do. If I can read that sign over there, I assume you can read that sign over there. If I heard that noise, I assume you heard that noise.

So if you are psychic, you'd assume other people can read people as well as you can. So you wouldn't think of it as psychicness, you'd just think of it as...being able to read people. Like how you can tell if someone's trying to hit on you or just making smalltalk, or you can tell if someone is nervous or uncomfortable.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Things They Should Invent: wireless internet in laundry rooms

Seriously, all laundromats and apartment buildings NEED this!

Why your childless friends stopped calling

I often see in advice columns new parents complaining that their childless friends aren't calling them as much or aren't as involved in their lives.

Here's why:

We don't want to wake up the baby.

We know that you're not getting much sleep, and that the baby requires a lot of time and attention. We know that whatever idle chitchat we might have isn't nearly as important as letting the baby sleep if it's asleep, or as letting you parent the baby if it's awake. So we aren't going to go barging in on your important stuff for our less important stuff. Frankly, we don't know how you do it, but we do know well enough not to go imposing additional burdens on you.

So if you want to chat, call us when it's a good time for you. If you want something specific from us, let us know. Remember: you have been childless, but we have never been parents. Your needs have changed immensely, but ours are still pretty much the same. You know where we're coming from as well as you ever did, but we can only guess where you're coming from. You're the only one with the ability to bridge the gap, because you're the only one in this relationship who's been on both sides.

Monday, August 24, 2009

xkcd knows everything

How to fix your computer.

In case you needed just one more reason to sponsor Eddie Izzard's run

In case the fact that Eddie Izzard is running a marathon a day for a month (while injured and insufficiently trained) to raise money for charity isn't enough to move you to donate, it seems he's also rescuing lost kittens as he goes along.

You can donate here.

From the "things I never knew were a problem" file

The edge of the strap of my beautiful, well-made, comfortable new sandals lands exactly on the cuticle of my big toe.

Friction + cuticle = not good. My morning commute involves probably a total of three blocks of walking, but by the time I got to the office there was blood.

With normal blisters and stuff, I just work through it and after a few days of pain the shoes and my feet come to an understanding. But in this case, I don't know if my cuticles will ever toughen up to the extent needed. (I don't mind wrecking my cuticles and a couple of days of blood and bandaids if it will solve the problem, but not if it's going to be unproductive.)

So the moral of the story: don't by sandals where the edge of the strap lands exactly on your toe cuticle.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Filing her nails while they're dragging the lake

I like version far better than the original:

Search String of the Day

Tubals make you horny

Do they? Forever, or just temporarily? Could it possibly be because you stopped the Pill after your tubal and it was suppressing your sex drive?

(Search String of the Day concept shamelessly yoinked from L-girl)

Brilliant Ideas That Will Never Work: Godwin's Law penalty box

First, we make a universal standard for necessary exemptions from Godwin's Law (i.e. cases in which a comparison with nazis is appropriate).

Then, anyone who makes an inappropriate comparison with nazis gets a time-out. They are banned from all discourse for a certain period of time, like a penalty in hockey. If any particular political faction is egregiously overusing nazi comparison, these penalties will enable their opponents to dominate discourse, like a power play in hockey.

A potentially feasible variation: people who make completely irrelevant comments in comment threads (e.g. the gist of the article is "Look! Baby ducks!" and someone comments "See, this is what's wrong with feminists!") is banned from commenting for a certain period of time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Teach me how US health care works

Conventional wisdom is that you can't get medical care in the US unless you can pay for it. When I was a kid, they'd tell us to always carry your travel insurance information on your person at all times, because you can't assume a hospital will treat you until they know you're able to pay the bill.

But what happens if you go to the hospital, prove you can pay for the treatment they expect that you'll need, then it turns out to be more complicated and the complications are beyond your ability to pay? Do they turn out out of the hospital before you're fixed up? If not, what happens?

This train of thought was brought on by information I've seen in various places about the cost of childbirth, although I'm sure it applies to other situations as well. Apparently an uncomplicated vaginal birth costs four digits, a complicated c-section costs five digits, and NICU care (i.e. when the baby's in one of those boxes with tubes sticking out of him) costs six digits. I've seen, in multiple places, numbers in the $500,000 range for preemies who required a NICU stay. I would never be able to pay that - not even with a lifelong payment plan. However, I could easily afford the bill for an uncomplicated vaginal birth. But when you show up at the hospital in labour, not even the doctors can tell how complicated it's going to get. How do they handle this?

Friday, August 21, 2009

How clothing standards are completely subjective

My body is covered neck to wrist to ankle in thick, unflattering material that hides my shape. My hair is completely covered. My face is free of makeup.

There's a knock on the door. I'm hesitant to answer because I feel overexposed, but it's the UPS guy and if I don't take the package then I'll have to go all the way to Jane & Steeles to collect it. So I answer, and he averts his eyes a little to protect my modesty.

If he had come to the door half an hour later, I would have been wearing a fitted scoop-neck cap-sleeve shirt, a knee-length skirt, more makeup than strictly appropriate, and my hair completely uncovered and styled in a way that hints at its length and lusciousness. If the knock on the door had come then, I wouldn't have hesitated to answer because I wouldn't have felt overexposed, and he wouldn't have felt the need to avert his eyes because I was clearly fully clothed.

In the outfit I described in the first paragraph, I was just out of the shower in a bathrobe and hair towel. In the outfit I described in the third paragraph, I was dressed for work on a hot summer day in Toronto.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Teach me about the US political process

Logistically, legislatively, is there any reason why they couldn't just legislate a single-payer health care system into place without first seeking broader consensus? I get that it's a bit arrogant and assholic to go around unilaterally doing something that so many people are opposed to, but could they just make it happen if they didn't care about pissing people off and future electability? If not, why not?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advanced urban navigation

In the subway:

- If you're using a token, use the token-only turnstile. Not all turnstiles have a card swiper, so leave the ones that do for the Metropass users.
- If there's only one escalator and you're going in the same direction as it, take the escalator. Leave the stairs for the people going in the other direction, who have no choice but to use the stairs.
- If there's a train coming and you aren't running for it, assume the people behind you are running for it.
- Your dog is truly awesome, and everyone in the subway car agrees and is having a fabulous time petting him and squeeing at him. However, you need to have him in a sit on a tight leash every time the train pulls into a station. Why? Because some people are afraid of dogs, and those people might be waiting on the platform completely unaware that there's a dog in this car. You need to give them an opportunity to get on, get their bearings, realize there's a dog over to their right and head as far as possible to their left before Mr. Puppyface comes and slobbers on them. I know he's harmless, but that doesn't mean everyone wants him to lick them. There are a lot of harmless people on the subway too, but you still want a chance to consent before some random person walks up and kisses you.

In the grocery store:

- Act like you're driving. Do you leave your in the middle of the road parked perpendicularly when you need to run into a store? No, you pull off to the side. If you're driving down a busy street and accidentally pass your intended destination, do you do a u-turn (blocking all of traffic) and go back? No, you go around the block. Do the same with your cart.
- If your kid doesn't know the dance, don't let them push a cart during rush hour. You wouldn't let them practice driving during rush hour if they didn't know the rules of the road, would you?
- Don't have your children stand behind you in the grocery line. They get in the way of the person behind you putting their stuff on the conveyor belt, which slows down the line for several people. Have them stand in front of you, put stuff on the belt, and collect bags once the cashier has bagged your groceries.

On the street:

- If the sidewalk is temporarily narrower than usual due to construction or some other obstruction, don't panhandle, fundraise, hand out free samples, stop to talk on the phone, snog, smoke, loiter or wait for your friend in the narrow section. Walk a few doors down to the wider section so you don't block the whole sidewalk for everyone.
- I can totally see why you might leave garbage on the ground in front of the garbage can if the garbage can is full. However, before you do this, look at the company name on your take-out cup. Then look to your left and look to your right and see if you can see any franchises of that company. If you can, throw out your cup in there. There's no excuse to have Tim Hortons cups on the ground two doors down from Tim Hortons.
- When driving, signal your turns even if there's no car behind you. If the pedestrian to your left doesn't see your left turn signal, she'll assume you aren't turning in her direction and jaywalk out onto the street in front of you.

Life in general:
- If you're ever in charge of some being that doesn't understand the meaning of "Excuse me," (dog, cat, small child, llama, etc.), it's your job to make sure said being doesn't get in people's way.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Things They Should Invent: foreign-language official document confirmation service

Many freelance translators don't translate birth certificates etc. I don't know if there's a particular business reason for this, but I've done a few as parts of larger files of documentation, and I do know that they are especially annoying to translate. (For the googlers: sorry, I can't translate yours or give you specific advice on how to get yours translated.) For example, I've seen death certificates from France that listed all the pertinent details (and some less-pertinent details such as birthplace and parents' names) in a single run-on sentence of over 100 words. While the gist of the information was simple, it took a not-insignificant amount of actual work to wrestle that sentence into something that the English reader would have a chance of understanding, and I'm never going to be happy with the results because it cannot be made idiomatic in English unless I completely restructure it, which is beyond the scope of translation.

I don't think the end user actually cares whether I reflect the structure of the original. I think they're just looking for the basic death certificate information. So what I'd like to do instead is either produce a summary of the certificate (just list name, time of death, place of death, cause of death in point form without having to worry about the structure of the original) or to issue an official certification letter saying something to the effect of "I hereby certify that the document in question is a death certificate for Pierre Untel."

The logical question at this point is "But then how do we know if the document is real?" The answer to that question is even with normal translation, you still don't know if the document is real. Certifying the validity of documents is outside the scope of the translator's job; we just translate the words on the paper. When I certify the translation, it means that my translation accurately reflects the original. It doesn't mean the original is accurate. I cannot certify the authenticity of the original document any more than I can certify that an article I'm asked to translate is factually correct. Nor would the method I'm proposing hinder the end user's ability to certify the validity of the original document. If the end user knows how to certify the validity of a death certificate from France, they wouldn't need it translated. They'd be familiar enough with the format that they could easily extract the necessary information themselves. In other words, even if they can't read every word on the page, they'd know that this is the space for the deceased's name, and this is the space for time of death, etc. They might have to get the cause of death translated, but that's a 10 minute turnaround at minimum charge rather than an hour spent wrestling with bizarre sentence structure.

Another advantage of this approach is that the less-desirable documentation translation market could be redirected to less-skilled translators without any particular loss of quality. A student in their final year of undergrad or a first-and-a-half generation immigrant looking to earn some extra cash could totally confirm "Yes, this says he was born in Belgium on such-and-such a date" or produce a point-form summary of the death certificate, even if a full translation of the run-on sentences and legalistic language is beyond their skills. This would give the newbies some experience and make it easier for

It sounds like I want the translation industry to invent this, but really what we need is for the end users of translations of official documents (governments, universities, etc.) to accept this kind of simplified translation when they don't actually need a full translation. It would make life easier for everyone, but we can't do it unless the end users would accept it.

Facing your fears

Think of a situation where you're afraid to do something, and then you work up the nerve and do it. Let's assume it goes sufficiently smoothly.

Is the positive feeling you (i.e. you, personally) get from having successfully faced your fears stronger than the negative feeling of the fears themselves?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Let's consider friends a luxury, not a necessity

"But my friends are a necessity," you're thinking, "I really do need them!"

Don't worry, I don't want to take your friends away. But just stick with me for a second; if we consider friendship a luxury, then everyone will have the opportunity to get the same friendship benefits that you do.

If a person doesn't have any friends, society in general thinks there's something wrong with them. And while it's true there might be something wrong with them, they also have simply never had their paths cross with someone who is compatible to be a true friend. Think of how many people you know. How many of these people would you let call you at 3 in the morning with a crisis and gladly drop everything so they can cry on your shoulder without begrudging it even an instant? Probably not a super-huge percentage - for me, I can count the people on one hand.

Given how small this percentage is, isn't is possible that the friendless person just hasn't met any compatible friends yet?

There were a few years where I had no friends. The problem was that my bullies would mock me for having no friends, and people wouldn't want to be friends with me because the bullies were mocking me. So because of this, I adapted two personality traits that are hindrances to making friends: I got really defensive, and I acted like I had a whole nother active social life outside of school so I didn't need to be friends with anyone there. This kept the bullies away, but it also kept prospective friends away. Frankly, I'm astounded that I ended up with any friends at all!

Even now as an adult, if I found myself in a situation where I didn't have a sufficient number of friends, I would do everything possible to hide it. I would get defensive, I would dissemble, I would make up elaborate excuses, I would generally become an unpleasant person to spend time with. All of which would make people disinclined to be my friend, thus perpetuating the problem. If it were socially acceptable to admit to not having enough friends, or to admit to the trappings and side-effects of not having enough friends, I could be frank and candid and pleasant.

This train of thought originated from that guy who shot up an aerobics class because he couldn't get a date. I originally started blogging about how not wanting to have sex with someone isn't a personal diss. (Do you want to have sex with me? Probably not. Do you think negatively of me? Most likely not. Although, if you do, why are you wasting your time reading my blog?) Similarly, not being friends - like real, true, call-at-three-in-the-morning friends - with someone isn't a personal diss. (Think of your co-workers. How many of them can you chat perfectly pleasantly with, but don't have any particular need to see outside of work?) But if a person hasn't had sex in a long time, or doesn't have friends, society in general tends to think negatively of them. When developing a relationship, the revelation that one's prospective friend/lover doesn't have friends or hasn't had a lover in a long time is generally seen as a red flag. How is anyone supposed to self-actualize in this context?

Let's consider friendship and lovers as a luxury, the same way a dishwasher is a luxury. Dishwashers are awesome! If you've had one, you don't ever want to do without, and a lot of people who don't have them covet them. But if you don't have one, that isn't a sign that there's something wrong with you. It's mildly unfortunate, but doesn't have broader implications. "Oh, that's too bad. So how about that local sports team?" If we consider lack of friends the same way, stop looking at friendless people as inherently unstable, maybe fewer unstable people will feel the need to act out specifically because of a lack of friends.

Think about war. If you've never been in a war zone before, do you know precisely how you'd react if you were sent to a war zone and got PTSDed? Probably not. I certainly don't know what would happen to me, but it has the potential to be disastrous. But since I've never been in a war zone, whatever demons lurk there remain safely tucked away and have no potential whatsoever to be loosed upon the world. If people who don't have friends don't feel like they're under siege for not having friends, maybe any unpleasantness that might possibly be lurking will never have the opportunity to come to the surface. And when the unpleasantness doesn't ever come to the surface, it's much easier to make friends.

The Bird And The Worm (Album Version) - The Used

What if we're accepting subpar health care because of the US influence?

We have public health insurance. The US doesn't, and they're very loud and have us surrounded and outnumbered.

We're more inclined than we should be to think our system is mad crazy awesome just because it's better than the US's - after all, no matter what happens, there is no possible way, no matter what goes wrong, we can possibly end up with a hospital bill that's larger than our annual income. Conversely, whenever there's discussion about whether we should be changing our health care system, there's always a disproportionate US influence in the conversation, as though that's the only other plausible option.

What if this is really skewing our perception? What if our system is only mediocre, and looking at the US will make it worse, and where we really should be looking is, say, Japan?

Why don't we tune them out for a bit and see what the rest of the world has to say?

Coffee with chocolate milk

This morning I put chocolate milk in my coffee. It tastes like yummy take-out hot chocolate. Imagine the hot chocolate from a place in the league of Tim Hortons, whichever of those places is your favourite to get hot chocolate from. You know it isn't actually real hot chocolate, you know it's from powder, you know it doesn't meet the standards of Stuff White People Like organic foodies, but it's yummy, dammit, and it makes you happy on a cold day!

That's what this tastes like. Not life-changing, not essential, but worth doing.

Scissor Sisters vs. Beatles vs. George Michael vs. Aretha

Things They Should Invent: socially-acceptable way of saying "Don't worry, I don't need condolences"

For the purposes of a blog post that I'm still composing, I needed to mention that someone I know passed away recently. It occurred to me that this might lead people to feel the need to express their condolences, so then I added "Don't worry, we weren't close." But that sounds horrible and awful and callous! But the fact of the matter is, we weren't close. Emotionally, he was an acquaintance. He was elderly, in poor health, and the death was not unexpected. Emotionally, I'm not bereaved or grieving.

To actually say this makes me sound especially coldhearted. But the reality is, this sometimes happens, and sometimes it's useful to be able to tell people that you aren't grieving, that they don't need to worry about your emotions. For example, when this death occurred, I thought I might be expected to attend the funeral. If I had been expected to attend the funeral, we would have had to juggle some things at work so I could have taken the time off on short notice. In a situation like that, it would be useful to be able to tell people "Don't worry, you don't have to manage my emotions, just my workload. I can still work at 100%, I just need a day off to put in an appearance at the funeral."

Let's make this socially acceptable.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My 2010 New Year's Resolution

For 2008 and 2009, I made anti-resolutions, which worked well. However, my resolution for 2010 is serious. I could flippantly spin it as another anti-resolution, but the fact of the matter is it's difficult and real and necessary. That's why I'm posting it now instead of waiting for New Year's, because it came to me now and I'd be doing myself (and perhaps others) a disservice if I put it off for months.

By the end of 2010, I need to cultivate Entitlement.

It's the missing link. It goes against the most ingrained hard-wired aspects of my nature, and it has to get done.

Everything for the past several years has been converging on this. In 2007, thanks to Heather Mallick's quirky choice of a book title, I discovered Eddie Izzard (and am still kicking myself for not listening to Poodle and looking him up years earlier). Suddenly, unexpectedly, at the age of 26, I had acquired my very first role model. In the past I was always able to give some appropriate names and reasons when asked who my role model is, but Eddie is the first time I actually felt it - the role model equivalent of being in love for real after thinking you were in love 47 times as a teenager. The thing that inspires me most about Eddie (apart from his moments of truly excessive awesomeness) is the way he's charmingly and disarmingly unapologetic. He messes up on stage, he says "Messed that up," laughs along with the audience, and just keeps going - no blushing, stammering, trying to hide the fact. He wants to buy a dress, he walks into the store and asks to try it on in his size - no abashedly asking if it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if he tried it on. I've been able to use that in my own life, and my social and professional skills have benefited.

My December 2008 birthday horoscope said questions would be answered in six weeks. They were, but, as these things usually go, it's not something I would have expected: I read Naked in Death by J. D. Robb. It's a bit trashy, but so much fun! The characters are interesting and compelling and witty and grow and evolve as the series progresses, the love scenes are sexy and inspiring, the mysteries are sufficiently suspenseful, and I just enjoy spending time in that universe. I promptly read all 34 books in the series, more often than I should staying up until 3 in the morning to finish a book. And it was in this series' protagonist, Eve Dallas, I found my second-ever role model. Eve inspires me in a number of different ways, but the most significant is that she doesn't get nervous - not even one bit - about talking to people. She was 30 when the series started - just a couple of years older than me. In the first book she spends a lot of time talking to people, interviewing suspects and witnesses and sources, and she's never ever the slightest bit nervous or hesitant. Until I know a person well, I always have to work up a little bit of nerve to talk to them. It might not show, but it's there, and a good part of the reason why it's there is because of my bullies. But Eve, who survived horrific abuse, doesn't even have a glimmer of hesitation (and we're inside her head, it would show), she just knocks on a door, flashes her badge, and talks to people. That blew my mind!

My 2009 New Year's anti-resolution was "Shut up and buy it!" (It's going well, by the way - a number of things bought that make me very happy, only one misfire so far. I just think it's in poor taste to blog about it in the current economic climate.) One thing I discovered that I didn't even know was there was that it isn't just the financial "Oh, I shouldn't!" factor stopping me from buying stuff. It's also the fact that I don't feel cool enough to buy the things that I want to buy. The products are out of my league, the retailers are way cooler than I'll ever be. For example, I covet Fluevog shoes. Despite the fact that I have bought some (and they are truly awesome) and got exceptional customer service every time I went in there, I'm still nervous to go into their store because they're so much cooler than me. I'm here, with money, ready to make a purchase, they're there, selling stuff, with 100% of empirical evidence suggesting that I'll get excellent service, and I'm still nervous. This is a problem, and creates more self-loathing than anything else since catholicism.

I had some angst about turning 28. I thought I'd be cooler by the time I turn 28, and I had, despite the fact that I know better, developed some age-specific goals that were not met. But after doing Shut Up and Buy It for a bit and enjoying the results, it occurred to me that even though I'm not cool enough to be 28, I might be able to become cool enough to be 30 by the time I turn 30.

Then I read Outliers, was introduced to the concept of Entitlement, and saw that it's what I'm missing. Eddie Izzard is so cool because he feels like he's totally allowed to be on that stage, and he's totally allowed to be buying that dress. Eve Dallas is so competent because she feels like she's totally allowed to be walking up to people and interrupting their day and interviewing them. My Shut Up and Buy It fails have been because I don't feel like I'm actually allowed to be shopping at those places or for those things. Entitlement is the characteristic I admire in my role models, and lack of Entitlement is the thing that causes me to self-sabotage my own goals. (No, Shut Up and Buy It isn't my only goal, but it's the most suitable example for this post.)

So I have to develop Entitlement. I'm never going to actually feel it, but I need to eventually be able to slip into it when necessary, like how I can easily slip into Perky Customer Service. At the end of 2010, I turn 30. If I can act with Entitlement on demand by then, I'll be cool enough to be 30. Then, as an added bonus, I can use my Entitlement to convince my doctor to sterilize me.

It's going to be hard. The introversion is an obstacle, the residual effects of the bullying are an obstacle, my poor social skills are an obstacle, my need for my betters to know better than me is an obstacle. I'll have to work against all these natural tendencies. Plus, this is one the one aspect of life, more than anything else, where I find it very hard to shrug off negative feedback. If one person to whom I'm practising my Entitlement reacts negatively, that will set me way back. But it has to be done.

I might find myself having to blog about it along the way, it will get self-indulgent (moreso than usual), it might get angsty, and it might get boring. But it's my blog, I'm totally allowed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Awww of the day

This makes me grin like an idiot.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To what extent is the delay in Google's Project 10 to the 100 a translation problem?

Project 10 to the 100 was originally supposed to be open for voting last January, but they say they got more response than they ever anticipated and it's taking way longer than expected to sort through the responses.

I wonder to what extent this is a translation problem?

They accepted submission in, and I quote, "English, German, French, Portuguese (Brazil), Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Korean, Russian, Swahili, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Arabic, Hindi, Greek, Czech, Hebrew, Danish, or Thai". If I'm counting right, that's 25 languages. So they all need to be translated into the preferred language of each of the people helping select the top 100, and then the top 100 all need to be translated into each of those 25 languages. Skimping on the translation will prevent ideas from being assessed fairly.

If I recall correctly, the submissions had to be very short. On one hand, this reduces the translation workload because there are fewer words. On the other hand, fewer words means less context or background, so it may well happen that there are cases where the translator honestly does not understand the problem they're attempting to solve, especially since Google seems smart enough to use target-language-mother-tongue translators, which means the person translating Thai into English may well be living in the states and not grok the, say, technical problem with rice paddies that the proposal is attempting to solve.

Also, I wonder if the word count requirements were the same for all languages? How would this affect the quality of the ideas? How would this affect the quality of the translations? (Imagine translating English to French without exceeding the English word count!)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another argument for sick leave and Good Jobs

My glasses broke today. They're half-frames, with the frame on the top half and the bottom of the lens held on by a thread-like thing. The thread thing came unattached, causing the lens to fall out (luckily it didn't break!) and leaving me helpless.

Luckily I was able to get to Lenscrafters before they closed and they were able to fix it for me. But on that desperate subway ride, I was thinking about what I would do if they couldn't fix my glasses. I can't work without my glasses - there's simply no point in showing up blind. So I thought about it and decided that the best plan was to find a one-hour glasses place (I don't know whether Lenscrafters does one hour at every location), go there first thing tomorrow, get my eyes checked (I know my current prescription is outdated), blindly trust the optician in helping me select frames (since Poodle is out of the country), limiting myself to the selection available on hand in one particular store, and hope they still have that thing where you can return them within a month for any reason. Absolute best case, that's half a day's work lost, several hundred dollars out of pocket, and walking around wearing glasses that were chosen with insufficient consideration for aesthetics. Worst case, I lose a day or two of work, or struggle to work with inadequate eyesight (which, best case, will worsen the quality of my work and create more work for my colleagues; worst case, it will be impossible.)

Fortunately, I can absorb this because I have a Good Job with sick leave. I could totally use my sick leave to drop everything and get my glasses replaced. (Some might argue that that's not being sick, but it's a necessary medical device that needs immediate replacement so sick leave is the closest possible accommodation). And I wouldn't lose any pay for taking sick time, which is good because it coincides with an unexpected several-hundred-dollar outlay. And (because I haven't yet bought new glasses during this two-year-period) this outlay would be partially mitigated by my insurance, which I have by virtue of this being a Good Job. (The insurance amount is insufficient, but it does help.) If I didn't have a Good Job, if I didn't have sick leave, I'd lose pay, I might even lose my job, and between the lost pay and the uninsured cost of new glasses I'd probably have to choose between getting the glasses and paying some other bill.

My broken glasses were a relatively minor malfunction. Things like this happen, that's life. Even if they hadn't been able to fix them, it would have taken a few hours' inconvenience to remedy the situation. A quick change of plans, a bit of schlepping around on the subway, putting a rush on the big text I have due at the end of the week. No one should be in a situation where a relatively minor malfunction like this has them up at night worrying about how they're going to pay the bills.

How did white Americans get so rich?

Barbara Ehrenreich found via David Olive:

In 1998, the net worth of white households on average was $100,700 higher than that of African-Americans. By 2007, this gap had increased to $142,600.

The net worth. On average. Was $142,600 higher. $142,600 would be high for an average net worth anyway. Remember, net worth is assets minus debts. If I went and bought a condo right now my net worth would be in the negative six figures, because I'd owe a couple hundred thousand in mortgage. But this demographic has a net worth that's not just $142,600, but is $142,600 more than another sizeable demographic!

I'm not an economist, so I tend to assess economic things like this by extrapolating from my own situation. My income is close enough to the national household average, so I can do this. I know we're talking about another country here, but our dollars are close to par and the US household average in US dollars is close enough to the Canadian household average in Canadian dollars that I think it's safe to extrapolate from my own situation just to get a general idea of how life works. And when I extrapolate from my own situation, I can see acquiring a net worth of $142,600 eventually, if everything goes well and I don't lose my job or suffer any major disasters. A particularly ill-timed job loss could eliminate that possibility forever. However, I don't have any of the money-sucks that the average North American has - no children, no car, no mortgage, not carrying student loan debt. (And, since we're comparing with USians, no medical bills.) Given the percentage of the population that has a house, car, and children and is carrying some debt, I cannot imagine how enough people would have enough money that the average is well over $142,600.

Some people might say there's a difference in income tax rates. Some will loudly support this, some will loudly refute it. Here's a US income tax calculator, here's a Canadian income tax calculator (both from the "first useful google result" school of research). [Update: a non-USian friend thinks the US calculator might be federal tax only, and there might be state tax in varying amounts on top of that amount. We aren't sure about this and don't know enough about how US taxes work. Can any USians confirm or refute this?] Do your own math. In my case, the US amount is less than 1% higher than the Canadian amount.

So what's going on in that country that such a large number of people managed to acquire so much wealth?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I am officially throwing more plastic into the landfill than before the bag levy

Since the City of Toronto started requiring retailers to charge five cents for each plastic bag, a number of retailers (Metrominion, Loblaw's, possibly Shopper's but I'm not certain) have been providing larger plastic bags. This means I'm taking fewer plastic bags home. But, regardless of how big the bags are, I still empty my kitchen garbage every day because I'm not about to leave food garbage sitting around overnight. So the total number of plastic bags being used as garbage bags is the same, but the number incoming is reduced.

I have a stash of LCBO plastic bags. I started hoarding them when the LCBO started phasing them out, because they are without question the best plastic bags. I'm coming perilously close to having to break into that stash. I just put my last non-LCBO bag in the garbage can now, and it goes down the chute tomorrow. I'm probably going to get three plastic bags with my errands tomorrow and maybe one at the market on Thursday, which leaves me out of non-LCBO bags by the end of the week. Which means I either use LCBO bags for garbage, or buy garbage bags. Both of those contain significantly more plastic than regular pre-five-cent-levy plastic grocery bags.

If they had listened to me in the first place, we wouldn't be having this problem.

Shelter from the storm

There's a crazy thunderstorm going on outside, but I feel safe. My windows are good enough quality that the sound of the thunder is muffled. My air conditioning is working beautifully, so even though there's a rainforest-like humidex of 42 degrees outside, it's a brisk freon-tinged 24 in here. The weather is not going to get me; I can just sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

When humanity first evolved, they wouldn't have felt safe from the thunderstorm. The best they could have managed is to hide under a tree (yeah, brilliant idea) or in a cave. Even once they started building structure, they wouldn't have felt safe right away. A teepee or a longhouse or soddie isn't going to make you feel completely safe from the storm, even if it does keep you a bit drier. But on the other hand, if they were living in the best structure technologically possible at the time, they might have felt safe. Someone in, say, the 19th century probably wouldn't consider it a failure of their housing that they didn't have air conditioning.

So I wonder how far into human evolution it took before housing reached a level where people felt safe in a thunderstorm? I wonder how long it took before the majority of the population was living in a place where they felt safe? (Obviously this still varies around the world, but I'm thinking there was a time when the British royal family was feeling safe in Windsor Castle while the proles down the street were scared in their thatch-roofed cottage, whereas now most people probably feel safe in flats in London.) I wonder if, 100 years from now, people will be shocked that I could ever feel safe in this apartment?

More thoughts from Outliers

1. Why is rice a staple food? Gladwell describes at length how a rice paddy requires daily diligent work, unlike, say, a wheat field where there are stages in the cultivation process where all you have to do is leave it alone and let it grow. So how did something that requires such painstaking cultivation end up being a staple food for so many people? Isn't there something else in that part of the world that grows more easily?

2. How much cultural bias is there in IQ tests? Gladwell mentions in passing a very advanced IQ test analogy question: “Teeth is to Hen as Nest is to ?” The general consensus of the internet is that the answer is mare. Hen's teeth and a mare's nest are both idioms whose literal meanings refer to non-existent things.

However, I would never have gotten that question right because I have never in my life, not once, heard the expression "mare's nest."

This ignorance is not entirely a function of my intelligence or lack thereof. It also means that the expression is absent from the active vocabulary of the people around me and the word choices of the writers whose work I consume. Now it's true I haven't read everything (although there have only been two books that I started and was unable to finish and a third that I neglected to start because they were too hard, and all of those I could have read if I'd had to for a school assignment or something), but no one can be expected to have read everything. And having read everything isn't entirely a sign of intelligence - it's also a sign of free time and hobby preferences. In any case, I don't know if I would have gotten the question right even if I had heard of a mare's nest, but my not having heard of it was at least partly a failure of my cultural environment. And I spent my entire life in an English-speaking community where the vast majority of the grownups were university educated. This makes me wonder how well these tests can assess people from other source cultures.

3. Why do the KIPP programs seem to rule out the possibility of going to college from public high school? Gladwell describes a USian middle-school program called KIPP, which gives motivated but economically disadvantaged public school students significantly more instructional hours so they can get scholarships to good private high schools and from there go on to college. But why are the school boards working on the assumption that the way into college is a private high school? Why aren't they also doing anything to help motivated by economically disadvantaged high school students go to college? Have these school boards written off all their high school students?

4. What are the Entitlement expectations of working-class authority figures? The book discusses Entitlement from the point of view of parents' expectations of their children and parents' and children's expectations of their authority figures. But what about the authority figures' expectations of people. In my own life, my friendly neighbourhood authority figures seem to expect that I'll have Entitlement, and I think it makes their jobs easier if people express their needs rather than being quietly complacent. Do working-class authority figures feel the same way, or do they expect their charges to be quietly complacent? If they do expect complacency, are they under them impression that they know their charges' needs as well as or better than their charges, or do they just not care?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Why don't I have Entitlement?

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes a concept (originally from Annette Lareau's research) called Entitlement. (Both Gladwell and Lareau lowercase it, but I'm capitalizing it to differentiate from the generic.)

Entitlement, in this context, is a sense that you're totally allowed to ask people in authority stuff. If you have a question, you can totally ask. If you need some accommodation, you can totally ask for it. If an authority figure is miss informed, you're totally allowed to set them straight. This concept is brought up in the context of child-rearing. According to Lareau's research, middle-class families tend to raise their children to have Entitlement, whereas working-class families tend not to and the parents themselves are more likely to quietly defer to authority. (I'm normally not comfortable talking about "class" like it's a Great Big Thing, but it's an essential part of this concept and relevant to my personal observations about my own experience.)

I've been thinking very hard about this, because I had a solidly middle-class upbringing (my own room, an allowance, chores and responsibilities on principle rather than out of necessity, family vacations, music lessons, extracurriculars, going to university was a given), but I don't have Entitlement. I don't feel like I'm allowed to ask, I feel like I'm imposing and breaking from What's Done when I ask. I feel like the people in authority know exactly what they're doing and are doing it for a very good reason (and, as I've blogged about several times before, it both scares me and pisses me off when they don't know exactly what they're doing and don't have a very good reason).

So I'm trying to figure out why this is.

My first thought is that my parents didn't raise their children to have Entitlement because they themselves weren't raised that way. Their upbringing was most definitely working class, and I can't imagine my grandparents had any time to do concerted cultivation. But here's where it gets bizarre: I think my sister (just under three years younger than me) has Entitlement. I wanted to be a musician, I signed up for music class in high school and only joined the more advanced school bands when specifically asked to do so by a teacher. My sister wanted to be a musician, she joined a band and later helped start another couple of bands, playing actual gigs and even making a CD. Could it be because I'm Gen Xish and my sister is pure Gen Y? Could it be that my parents had become familiar with more middle-class parenting techniques by the time my sister came along? Or could it simply be a difference in personalities?

My second thought was that my Entitlement had been bullied out of me, but upon further reflection I realized that I had less Entitlement than I was expected to long before the bullying started. My first pertinent memory is from when I was 3 or 4 years old, in Montessori school, in what would now be described as junior kindergarten. I wanted to play with these beads, and I was told that I wasn't allowed to play with them because you have to be able to count to 10. (The counting was relevant to how one played with the toy, but I forget how exactly.) This confused and frightened and baffled me, because I could totally count to 100 at the time. But it never occurred to me to tell the teacher that I knew how to count to 100, I just assumed they had some big grownup reason I didn't understand and slunk off to metaphorically (and perhaps literally) curl up and cry. Years later, while going through some papers at my parents' house, I came upon my old Montessori school report card. One of the comments was something to the effect that I didn't show the teachers what I could do and what I had learned, worded in a way that made it clear they expected me to take the initiative. Reading this, I was flabbergasted. I had had literally no idea whatsoever that the teachers might have wanted me to show them what I could do. The thought never occurred to me. I would never - not even with the benefit of adult retrospect - have come up with the idea myself that the teacher wanted me to take the initiative of showing her that I could count to 10. I always assumed that if grownups wanted something from me, they'd ask. So it seems I never had Entitlement in the first place.

I'm not sure if my parents tried to instill Entitlement or not. (They did specifically try to prevent any sense of small-e entitlement.) If they did try to instill capital-E Entitlement, it wasn't nearly to the same extent as the parents described by Lareau. In the example cited by Gladwell, parents taking their nine-year-old son to the doctor told him "You should be thinking of questions you might want to ask the doctor." Not just that he can ask, that he's allowed to ask, but that he should. As though it's something he has to do to Be Good. My parents might have told me that I was allowed to ask questions, or they might have assumed that I knew I was allowed because no one told me I wasn't, but they never would have made a point of telling me that I should think of questions to ask. On the other hand, when I did find myself in a situation where an adult or authority figure unexpectedly tried to get me to express my thoughts or opinion or preferences, I'd become frightened. The first time I ever got a hamburger at Harvey's and they asked me what I wanted on it, I thought it was a trick. Throughout childhood and adolescence and even early adulthood, whenever authority figures unexpectedly asked me for an opinion or feedback or what I wanted, I'd panic (figuratively) and not be able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Part of this is introvert brain - I don't always instantly have words for things that I'm not expecting to have to articulate or that I've never given a moment's thought to - but there was also an underlying fear that even though they were asking what I thought, they didn't genuinely mean it. I thought asking for what I really wanted was Not Allowed, and they actually wanted me to just quietly and passively go along with what they intended (as Lareau describes the working-class children and parents as doing.) The panic would be because I wasn't able to guess at what the authority figure intended, and I thought I'd get in trouble for giving a wrong answer.

Of course, there's also the possibility this whole thing is so generational it doesn't apply to me at all. I've noticed that in general pure Gen Y people are better at Entitlement than I am. I've talked to a few other people who are X/Y cusp and they don't think they were parented into Entitlement either (although there wasn't a large enough sample size to rule out the possibility of working-class influence). But Lareau's book was published in 2003, so the research was done probably shortly before then. The kids she studied are 15-20 years younger than me, so maybe the parenting techniques used on them are completely inapplicable to me. But the fact remains that I do see Entitlement in people of all ages around me - and in my own sister - and I don't have it. There must be something somewhere in there.

I'm not completely lacking in the ability to do Entitlement. I've been able to do it when it's really truly important. For example, when I applied for translation school, I wasn't informed of the date of the entrance exam and didn't find out I'd missed it until two weeks after the fact. I took the initiative of contacting them and asking if there was anything that could be done, and was granted permission to write the exam independently. I got it done because it had to be done and I had to be the one to do it. But if it can get away without being done, I can't work up the nerve. I clearly remember being terrified to ask my high school music teacher if I might possibly swap the size XL band shirt I had somehow ended up with for a size small and would totally have spent four years passively wearing an unflatteringly large shirt if I hadn't heard that one of the guys really needed a bigger shirt.

I'm only recently starting to see how acting with Entitlement is helpful not only to me but to the people I'm dealing with. I'm learning this mostly from observing my Gen Y colleagues. They walk in with Entitlement and look competent and professional, where I looked like a shy, nervous child. There have been a few cases where I was given more responsibility than usual and had to act with Entitlement or other people's work or the product delivered the client would have suffered, and my Entitlement ended up having a positive effect for everyone. When I do act with Entitlement, it always ends up getting mentioned positively on my performance reviews. And when I was recently responsible for training one of our summer students (Why, hello Impostor Syndrome! I haven't seen you in a while!) I couldn't have done it properly without her Entitlement. So it does seem to be something I need to be a proper grown-up. But it doesn't come naturally, and I'm not sure exactly why.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Things They Should Invent: search and replace throughout every file in a folder

The translation request contained 26 files. Three different translators translated them. My job was quality control, which, in cases like this, also means ensuring internal consistency. Each of the three translators might have, perfectly validly, chosen a different way of expressing a certain concept, but I had to make sure that concept was expressed the same way in all 26 files. There were four such phrases that each occurred once in every document.

You can tell the word processor to search for every instance of A in a document and replace it with B. I want to be able to tell it to do the same thing with every instance of A in every document in the folder. An acceptable alternative would be to do so in every open document. (In other words, I'll totally go to the trouble of opening all 26 documents at once to save the work of having to do all the corrections manually.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Things Sims 3 Should Invent: get a new lifetime wish after you've completed your first one

So Sim-Eve is at the top of the law enforcement career track and Sim-Roarke is the CEO of a mega-corporation. And they're nowhere near being elders. (I started them as young adults.

So now what?

Sure, they still have their day-to-day goals - Eve wants to write a book and Roarke wants to befriend Jared Frio - but the game really would be better if they had another big crazy lifetime wish completely unrelated to the first, like becoming a star athlete or something.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wherein I am the idiot

Scott Adams asks his readers to describe the idiot who is preventing them from accomplishing their biggest goal.

I thought on this, and realized that for realistic goals (i.e. no win-the-lottery kind of stuff) the idiot is always myself and my neuroses.

Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Teach me how to dust my bathroom

My toilet and the baseboard in my bathroom are dusty. I can't quite swiffer or vacuum the dust off because it has been wet or has been exposed to humidity.

How do I clean the dust off?

The best method I've got so far is dampening an old dishtowel and wiping the dusty areas, then rinsing the dust off the towel and repeating until the towel needs to go in the laundry. But that takes for freaking ever and puts a lot of towels in the laundry. I want better.

How do you deal with this in your own home?

Be specific, none of this "soft cloth and mild detergent" crap household advice sites post - tell me specific brand names for products and precisely what kinds of equipment you use.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Are people more likely to take after their same-sex parent?

The researchers have found beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern.

This whole article and this whole scientific study seem to be based on the assumption that beautiful women have beautiful daughters, and the attractiveness of the father isn't particularly relevant, as though it's not worth considering that a daughter might inherit her father's physical traits. I wonder if that's a flaw in the study, or if that's actually true in the world in general?

If it is true, that would piss me off. I take after my father, and it isn't quite the look I'm going for.