Sunday, February 28, 2010

This makes me ridiculously happy

Things They Should Study: does athletic success correlate with religious faith?

Watching Joannie Rochette's short program, I found myself coveting whatever sports psychology she does. I wish I had that mental resilience and focus!

Coincidentally, the next day Rosie DiManno wrote a column about sports psychology, and I realized it would never work on me. I know some people who swear by visualization or mantras or positive thinking, but it doesn't work on me because I know that it's just visualization. I'm not actually doing anything, I'm just picturing stuff in my head.

Within my own mind, in terms of the thoughts and feelings I experience, my inability to do visualization come from the same place as my inability to have religious faith. I know that it is powered solely by believing in it, and because of that I'm unable to believe in it.

Elite athletes are obvious able to believe in it. I wonder if this also means that they're more likely to be capable of religious faith?


Six months ago, I resolved to add pink to my wardrobe.

My first step was to enter this contest, but didn't win. (Which isn't surprising - I seriously doubt they actually have samples sitting around in an 11.)

Then I tried on a number of different things as I encountered them, but kept finding problems - the fabric was unpleasant or the cut was wrong or something. I considered painting my toenails pink, but it's too classic for toes - I want something interesting, like shimmery turquoise.

But now I've completed my mission with the acquisition of a sweater in a deep raspberry. It's soft and beautiful and well-cut, and works fantastically with the fine pieces of engineering available at Secrets From Your Sister. Plus I got it for 50% off!

Now we'll see how this works. Will I end up buying more pink stuff in the future?

Things They Should Invent: translation problems wiki

I don't really like going to translation workshops and seminars because more often than I'd like, they aren't telling me anything new. More than once I've been stuck in a room playing "Let's brainstorm possible ways to translate intervenant", with no one coming up with anything I couldn't have done myself. Been there and done that in first year university.

However, I know there are translators out there who need this. More than once I've gotten a text from an outside contractor where intéressant was systematically and automatically translated as "interesting". (For the googlers: it can also mean something in the range of beneficial/advantageous/profitable/useful/helpful/worthwhile. Start with the Collins-Robert or TransSearch, then hit the thesaurus until you land on le mot juste.)

What we need: a wiki of possible translations for these tricky words. One wiki for each language combination and direction, one entry for each tricky word. Everyone adds every idea they have, with examples and context. If you come up with a solution that isn't already in the wiki, you add it to the wiki.

This is different from the translation community forums in that we aren't trying to solve a specific translation problem we're facing in our current text, we're trying to brainstorm all the ways to solve a recurring problem for the benefit of future translators.

This would improve the overall quality of translations in general because everyone would be able to access everyone else's ideas, and it would also improve the quality of translation training because there would be no more need to brainstorm on intervenant, at least not outside of a first-year undergrad class. There'd be a cascade effect and we'd all get smarter and better.

I probably have the skills to set this up and admin it, but I don't have the network to get a critical mass of people to use it. If you have the network and want my help to make this happen, contact me privately or through one of the professional networks.

Things They Should Invent: non-informative condom sizing

Apparently there are problems getting people to buy the right condom size, both because of a disinclination to buy condoms labeled anything that connotes smallness, and because of efforts made by manufacturers to counter this disinclination.

Solution: instead of sizes, give them meaningless qualitative descriptors. You know how beauty products (especially body washes, etc.) sometimes have names like "revitalize" and "rejuvenate" with vague descriptions that don't exactly mean anything, so you find yourself standing in the drugstore wondering whether you want a revitalizing cream scrub or a soothing clarifying exfoliator.

They should do the same thing with condom sizes. Give them qualitative names, all of which are equally manly-sounding, with no informative or linear characteristics. Have maybe eight or twelve different varieties, and make it known that they don't just vary by length, but also by girth and proportion and perhaps some other factors if they can think of some good ones. Therefore, it's not a matter of simply big or small, it's a matter of finding the right fit. You know how sometimes, IRL, a particular brand or style of condom just...doesn't fit right? Like the "elastic" isn't comfortable to the wearer or the reservoir is wonky or something? Leverage that and start advertising the importance of having the just right fit.

Now you're thinking "But then you'd have to buy all kinds of ill-fitting condoms to find the right one!" Solution (apart from the ubiquitous free samples): all places that sell condoms should sell condoms individually as well as in packages. (I'm honestly not sure whether they already do this or not - I've never been in the market for just one condom.) They could also have fitting instructions on their website, similar to the more advance bra-fitting instructions you sometimes see. For example, "If the elastic of the James Bond condom rides up, try the Chuck Norris condom."

Friday, February 26, 2010

The good old days

A couple of days ago, I blogged about how my grandmother didn't have a pension from her job. The employer offered one, but the vast majority of the workers didn't want one because, in my grandmother's words, "they all had husbands." I didn't see the cause and effect there so I had to ask my grandmother a whole bunch more questions, but it turns out that each of the husbands had a job, each of those jobs came with a pension, and job security was so great in those days that they had literally no reason to believe that he would ever be without a pension. Even on the off chance he lost his job, he could totally find another job with a pension.

This got me thinking about happiness studies. There was one a few months ago that suggested women are becoming less and less happy (and I think there have been others to this effect too, about various demographics of people). All the commentary I saw on this was interpreting it as the influence of feminism (perhaps because I read about it in the feminist blogosphere), but what if it isn't about feminism at all? What if it's about employment conditions?

In my grandmother's day, when people had a pension, they had a pension. Imagine a world where getting a job with a pension means you will be able to retire and you no longer have to worry about it! I woke up this morning to Michael Hlinka saying interest rates on safe investments will likely be extremely low for a decade, so I lay there in bed wondering how earth do I save for retirement when I not going to be able to get the kinds of returns financial planning strategies are based on until I'm in my 40s. That's something my grandmother's cohort never had to worry about. They also never had to worry about what they'll do if their pension plan goes bankrupt and they're 80 years old and have been out of the workforce for nearly two decades. Nor did they have to worry about very loud people, likely embittered by years of contract hell, dissing people who have pensions and calling for them to be fired and/or pensions to be eliminated. All my grandmother's cohort had to do was get a job that has a pension, work hard, and they were fine.

Imagine a world where working hard is enough! My grandmother's job was typing! Just typing! Imagine being able to make a living just by being able to type! I would love to live in a world where that's even an option, where if I lose my awesome job, I could earn a living by typing or working on an assembly line or even collecting garbage. The problem is that, in my experience, employers aren't willing to give jobs to people who have had or that the employers perceive to be overqualified. So I can't assume I'd have the safety net of being able to serve coffee or answer phones or work a cash register. My grandmother never had to worry about that!

My grandmother has also told me stories about how to instill in her kids the value of education, she "got them" menial jobs, serving food or shoveling coke, so they'd get the sense that if they don't stay in school, they'll be doing that the rest of their lives. Imagine a world where a parent can just get a job for their kid! I have never known anyone in my own lifetime who could do that. It took me years to get a minimum wage fast food job because employers didn't want to hire someone who had never had a job before. My grandmother's generation (and my parents' generation) never had to worry about that, because the plant could always use another pair of hands somewhere.

So if I would in fact have been happier in another decade, I think it isn't because I'd be taking care of the house (and kids?) instead of being in the workplace (if I am in fact married in this alternate decade). Maybe it's because if I (or my spouse) was able to get a job with a pension I'd have no reason to believe the pension wouldn't always be there, so I wouldn't have to worry about long-term investment strategies or the possibility of having to work well into my 80s. If was good at something and worked hard - hell, I could type - I would never have to worry about unemployment. If I knew a person who had a job, they could probably get me a job. Whole categories of worries - probably 80% of the worries that I've been carrying around since I first became economically aware - were completely nonexistent. Even if they did have less money in the bank and fewer home electronics, who wouldn't be happier under those circumstances?

Question I wish I could ask religious people

Suppose there's someone who is completely unable to believe in your deity, despite all the convincing evidence otherwise. They just can't, any more than they can lick their own elbow.

Would your deity prefer that person pretend to believe, going through all the motions in order to convince the people around them (and the deity) and they are in fact a devout member of your religion? Or would your deity rather that person live honestly as an atheist?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canadian figure skating drinking game

There's a figure skating drinking game! (via Ice Charades, found on Xanboni's Twitter feed (a.k.a. the source of all the answers to my bizarre and obscure figure skating questions!))

Problem: it's very US-centric and assumes you're watching US TV.

So I made a Canadian version, at least for those of us watching in English. (Malheureusement, je n'en ai pas regardé assez en français pour créer une version pour celles et ceux de parmi vous qui regardent RDS.)

Drink when:

- The announcers between segments get way over-dramatic about something (e.g. "Heroes and villains!" in ski-jumping)
- Rod Black compares something happening on ice to something experienced by one of the figure skaters in the booth with him. Two drinks if you can think of a better figure-skating analogy.
- Someone falls. (Two drinks if they fall doing something you yourself can reliably do.)
- Someone has the same music as a previous skater. (Five drinks if they have the same dress.)
- Someone's costume has more flesh-coloured fabric than regular fabric.
- The in-rink announcer doesn't use French. (Finish the bottle if they use French but not English.)
- A commentator says "For those of you who are new to figure skating" and then proceeds to explain something that even people who don't watch figure skating know.
- The phrase "the new judging system" is uttered. Two drinks if it's by Jamie Salé or David Pelletier
- The phrase "final flight" is uttered.
- Elizabeth Manley's 1988 silver medal in Calgary is mentioned. (Two drinks if the reference is made by Elizabeth Manley. Finish the bottle if the reference is made by Elizabeth Manley but she isn't even working the booth that day.)
- The audience starts clapping along to the music. Two drinks if the clapping isn't quite in rhythm with the music, or is emotionally/thematically inappropriate.

And every time Therese Rochette is mentioned or alluded to, say a prayer for or send positive vibes to Joannie.

Parenting FAIL

In the mall, there's a big gorgeous doggie (kind of weimaranerish) tied to a railing, presumably while his humans stepped into a store. A couple pushing a toddler in a stroller comes up, squees at the doggie, and stops to pet it. But they park the stroller off to the side, as though it's an unimportant shopping cart, and don't involve the kid in the doggie interaction at all!

Aren't you supposed to show interesting animals to your small child whenever the opportunity presents itself? Shouldn't you be saying to your kid "LOOK! It's a DOGGIE! Look at the DOGGIE!" and taking him out of the stroller to interact with the doggie under your careful supervision? Even if you don't want to have your kid pet the dog since the dog is taller than your kid and the dog's humans aren't around, shouldn't you turn the stroller so your kid can watch and learn from the doggie interaction rather than turning him towards the wall?

How did we get here?

I was talking to my grandmother, and it came up in conversation that she didn't get a pension from her job. This surprised me, because I had perceived her workplace as somewhere that would be progressive about labour relations and employee benefits. It turns out that a significant majority of the employees didn't want a pension, because their husbands had pensions. (Apparently it was an all-female workplace.) I sat there stunned and baffled for quite some time, and then asked "So did husbands not lose their jobs in those days?"

Apparently they didn't. Apparently job security was so great in those days that the fact that your spouse happens to be currently employed in a job that currently offers a pension is a good enough reason to go around declining the employer's offer to set up an employee pension plan!

So how did we get here?

Everyone wants a better life for their children - certainly no one wants life for their children to be worse. No one cradles their newborn baby and dreams of them having to work until the age of 80. So how, in two generations, did we get from a place where you can just turn down a perfectly good pension to a place where it's considered an obscene luxury to be eliminated?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How the former Reform MPs can keep their pensions with the full support of the public

In 1993, MPs from the then-Reform Party (now part of the Conservative Party) spoke out against MPs' pensions and said they would refuse to collect these pensions themselves. It has recently been revealed that 11 of these MPs are now in line to collect six-figure (defined-benefit, indexed) pensions.

Here's how they can keep their six-figure pensions with the full support of all Canadians: create defined-benefit indexed pensions for everyone.

The Government of Canada already has expertise in administering defined-benefit indexed pensions: it's called the Canada Pension Plan. Unfortunately, the CPP pays a maximum of $934.17 a month, which isn't enough to live in with any degree of comfort or security.

So what they have to do (as I've blogged about before) is allow us to access this expertise - which is already being paid for by our tax dollars - by letting us put our RRSPs, contributions from defined-contribution plans, and any other money we care to throw at the problem into a fund from which the government will then guarantee a defined benefit. The defined benefit would be such that if you contribute your full RRSP amount, you get a return commensurate with the benefits you'd receive from a good employer-provided defined-benefit pension plan.

Based on CPP rates, I think this would be feasible. Maximum CPP benefits are $934.17, which works out to $11,210.04 a year. Maximum annual CPP contributions are $2,163.15. From this, we can conclude that the experts at the CPP can give you a pension of about to five times your annual contribution. Since your RRSP amount is 18% of your income, they should be able to get you a return close to your pre-retirement income if you contribute your full RRSP amount every year.

Contributing would be optional - if you think you can do better yourself, you're welcome to do so - but it would be there as an option for those of us who don't have hardcore long-term investing in our skill set. And I seriously doubt Canadians would begrudge a few MPs their pensions if we all had the security of commensurate pensions ourselves.

Added bonus analogy for why we need professionally-administered pensions for everyone:

Think back to when you were about nine years old. You knew intellectually that one day you'd have to get a job and make money to support yourself. You understood that concept perfectly well. However, you didn't know what to do about it. You'd never been employed or employable, so you didn't know how to make yourself employable. If you'd had to make yourself employable single-handedly, it would have been a hit and miss proposition. All you'd have is hearsay about what makes a person employable, and even if you grok and agree with someone else's assessment of what you need to achieve, you wouldn't necessarily know how to go about achieving it.

Fortunately, you didn't have to figure it out yourself. You were in school. People who knew better than you and had already gone through the process of making themselves employable (and acquired extensive training in how to turn children into functional members of society along the way) had a school curriculum all planned out, so all you had to do was keep going to school and work hard and do well. Be a good girl, and the experts will get you where you need to be.

That's what planning for retirement is like. I've never experienced long-term financial planning. Hell, I've never experienced long-term anything. Retirement is over 35 years away, and I haven't even been alive for 30 years (to say nothing of financially aware). I have some hearsay on how to do it, much of which is self-contradictory, but there's too much blind trust, too much guesswork, and even when I understand what I have to do I don't know how to go about doing it.

This is why we need a professionally-administered plan that we can pay into. We need experts who know better than us and are training in turning investments into defined-benefit pensions to make and administer a plan for us, so all we have to do is be good and pay in our designated RRSP contributions. It's simply unrealistic to expect everyone to be able to figure it out themselves, just like it's unrealistic to expect every 9-year-old to be able to figure out how to turn themselves into an employable adult.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to label temperature controls for cooling devices

The temperature control on my fridge is a dial, with "MIN" at one end and "MAX" at the other end. I'm never clear on what this means. Every time, I have to dig out the instruction book to find out that "MAX" means colder.

All temperature controls on all cooling devices (fridges, freezers, air conditioners, etc.) should say "warmer" and "colder", not "min" and "max".

We also need to banish the phrase "turn the air conditioning up/down" from the language. From now on, we say "turn the temperature up/down".

Things They Should Invent: Alex Is On Fire

I just found out that the band Alexisonfire pronounces its name "Alexis On Fire". I always thought it was "Alex Is On Fire".

Therefore, someone needs to start a band called "Alex Is On Fire." I think making it four different words would circumvent the trademark issue.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Figure skating music bunny

The Puppini Sisters' version of Walk Like An Egyptian would make good figure skating music. I could totally picture a music video for this song with people skating along the Rideau Canal or similar - skating in a "using it as a mode of transportation to get to a destination" way, not in a "let's skate around and have fun" sort of way. (Iść, not chodzić).

(As usual, the video is irrelevant, it's just the only way I could embed the song)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Things They Should Invent: contact method prioritization chart

All businesses should have a page on their website that lists in priority the best/most effective way to contact them for any given transaction (i.e. should I do it through the web site, or call them, or come in in person?)

I'm sick and tired of choosing the method that's most convenient for me only to be told that I have to do another method anyway, or it would have been way faster if I'd done another method, or having employees react to me like "WTF did you do that for?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things They Should Invent: Coach-less Olympics

I'd like to see an elite athletic competition where none of the athletes are allowed to use coaches. They have to figure it all out themselves. Why? Because it would be interesting to see what happens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A (spoiler-free) quote from the latest Dexter book

Of course, for some bizarre reason, we don't have a National Registry of Who Your Friends Are.

Um, Dexter darling, it's called Facebook!

Monday, February 15, 2010

What to do if your Phillips Wake-Up Light hisses

My Phillips Wake-Up Light makes a hissing sound after I change the alarm settings. I've discovered that unplugging it from the wall and then quickly plugging it back in makes this go away. And, for some reason, if you do it quickly, the clock doesn't lose its settings.

(The internet has also suggested that this can be fixed under warranty, but I bought mine on ebay.)


A while back, Language Log mentioned a book called The Big Penis Book. Before moving on to the morphosyntax of the title, the author says "I realize I don't have to defend my interest in the book...". And while he does go on to defend his interest in the book, when I was reading that for the first time back in 2008, it struck me for the first time in my life: you don't actually have to defend your interest in that book. We're all adults here, we can read The Big Penis Book if we are interested in doing so.

It does seem odd that it would take me until the age of 27 to realize that we don't need to defend our interest in whatever thing we might be interested in, but you have to remember that for the vast majority of my life, I was a child. And when you're a child, these things work differently. If you want The Big Penis Book when you're under 18, you have to justify it to your parents. Even if you can acquire it without their permission, they're probably going to ask you to explain yourself when they find it in your room. And even if your parents do allow you to keep it, your teachers at school might take it away and call your parents and try to get you in trouble. And even if you can get past all these grownups, if your classmates find out, they're probably going to call you gay and make your life a living hell. All in all, when you're a child, it really is best and easiest to resort to subterfuge.

The subterfuge becomes a habit - after all, you've never known anything else - and it does take some time and perhaps a bit of external revelation like I got from that Language Log post to realize that in adult life, if you just quietly do your thing, no one's going to judge you or try to stop you. People simply don't care if you're reading The Big Penis Book.

And that's where Adam Giambrone made his mistake.

We're an open-minded lot here in Toronto. No one would care if Adam Giambrone didn't have a partner by his side. How many people can recognize, or even name without googling, David Miller's wife or George Smitherman's husband? The only people were actually interested in Adam Giambrone's relationship status were those who think he's pretty. In any case, especially when you eliminate the demographic who wouldn't consider voting for him because of his age and/or politics, no one would care if he didn't have a partner. No one would care if he was single and enjoying "casual encounters" as they say on Craigslist. A 19-year-old girlfriend would have briefly raise a few eyebrows, but ultimately we'd shrug and go "Meh, they're all adults." No one would especially care if he were poly or in an open relationship with honesty and consent by all parties. Even if he danced down Yonge St. during Pride in a leather harness and fishnets, we'd just applaud and wolf-whistle and gloat about it when comparing ourselves to other more uptight cities in the world. But the fact that he had a long-term relationship, publicly presented himself as part of a long-term relationship - and this in a context where no one would have batted an eye if he didn't have a partner beside him - and then ended up being a cheater was the nail in his coffin.

It's like if he had announced, a propos of nothing, that he's working his way through the complete works of Tolstoy. The press never asked what he's reading, the only people who've asked what he's reading are people who are trying to flirt with him, but he tells people he's working his way through the complete works of Tolstoy. He also makes it known that he keeps a copy of War and Peace in his briefcase, perhaps seeing to it that he's photographed reading War and Peace on the subway. Then someone discovers that, inside the War and Peace cover is not Tolstoy's masterwork, but rather The Big Penis Book.

No one would have expected him to be reading War and Peace in the first place, it would never have occurred to anyone to think less of him for not reading Tolstoy right this minute, and no one would have particularly cared if he was seen overtly reading The Big Penis Book. But the subterfuge is the problem. It's what teenagers do when they don't want to get caught reading The Big Penis Book, and it's unbecoming an adult who would presume to be mayor of a city of millions, especially when the major barrier to his candidacy is seen as his relative youth.

It isn't about lying per se and it isn't exactly about the adultery (although I, personally, do find that distasteful and it is a large mark in the minus column). It's more about the choice to have an elaborate cover-up (i.e. camera-ready long-term partner brought into the spotlight as part of the campaign) of something that doesn't need covering up (i.e. multiple casual relationships).

All of which is terribly unfortunate, because this campaign is already skewing further right than I'm comfortable with.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Question Ugly Betty needs to answer

What happens to Hilda's fetus?

They had an ultrasound that found the baby didn't have a heartbeat. So no baby for Hilda. But there's still a dead fetus in her uterus. What happens then? Does it come out by itself? Do they need to D&C it out? Even if they don't show this on screen, they should at least mention it in passing, because it's a great big question mark for people like me who have no experience with pregnancy.

(Also, Betty, Ignacio, and Babydaddy (I forget his name) were all in the ultrasound with Hilda, and the ultrasound technician makes some comment to the effect that she's never seen that many people in the ultrasound room before. Surely it's not THAT uncommon for a patient to bring in her babydaddy and her own parents (and maybe babydaddy's parents too) to get a first look at the baby? Or for the patient to bring the baby's biological father and the baby's future adoptive parents? Or her spouse and children? I mean, I'm sure in most cases it's just the baby's bio-parents, but I seriously doubt three support people is so uncommon that a tech would never have seen it before and would feel the need to common on it.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Worst. Poll. Ever

Today's Globe and Mail poll question:

Is this the worst U.S. Congress ever, or is the system working as intended?

I haven't been following US politics especially closely, but surely there's a strong possibility that the correct answer is somewhere between the two extremes?

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Not a real sport"

Some people like to accuse various sports of not being a "real sport".

Why does it matter? Spaghetti isn't a real sport and I still enjoy it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Outstanding customer service from Beddington's

A week ago last weekend, I bought a beautiful new duvet and duvet cover from Beddington's (Yonge & Eg location). I love them! The duvet is fluffy and warm and I feel secure like a swaddled baby wrapped in it, and the duvet cover feels good to the touch and is high thread count and matches my existing sheets perfectly.

Unfortunately, last weekend - only a week after I bought it - the zipper on the duvet cover broke. Part of the actual slidey thing broke off, so the teeth of the zipper would no longer stay inside the slidey thing. This had the unfortunate effect of rendering the entire duvet cover useless, because with the zipper open the duvet slides right out in the night and I wake up covered in basically a sheet with the duvet on the floor.

However, I am very happy to report that, despite the fact that this was a final sale item and linens are as a rule non-returnable (understandably - no one would want to buy used sheets!) Beddington's promptly, cheerfully and without drama allowed me to exchange my duvet cover for another one. Furthermore (and important to a shy and insecure person like me), I didn't need to be assertive or negotiate or anything. I just walked in, asked politely, and got the best possible outcome, being treated like my request was eminently reasonable and no imposition whatsoever the entire time.

It is very refreshing to see a retailer (especially one at a reasonable price point!) stand behind the quality and workmanship of their products. I originally went to Beddington's because they're geographically convenient, but they've just won themselves a loyal customer.

Perhaps I've been reading The Onion too much

Actual Newspaper Story or the Onion Headline?

Score: 100% (12 out of 12)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In the great tradition of blogging about why I haven't been blogging

One of the boilers in one of the hot water tanks in my building is broken, so hot water has been sporadic these past few days (and I'm just not fit for human consumption without a hot shower in the morning). Property management was very responsive (I sent a WTF email right after I got out of the shower, and by the time I got home in the evening there was signage explaining the problem and with an ETA for fixing it), but it doesn't negate the crankiness caused by unreliable hot water.

The zipper on the beautiful new cover for my beautiful new duvet completely broke, rendering it useless only one week after I bought it, so I have to go back to the store and convince them to do something for me about that even though linens are (understandably) non-returnable. I will be blogging about the customer service I receive, either way.

In the process of dumping my coffee grounds in the garbage like I've done every day for the past decade, I somehow managed to throw the whole filter basket in the garbage (rather than just inverting it and dumping the filter). Without noticing or realizing I did it. And I threw the garbage bag down the chute. And didn't notice until the next morning when I went to make coffee and the filter basket just wasn't there. So now I have to replace my coffee maker. Anyone know where I can get a small (4ish cup) coffee maker with a timer?

I just found out that RRSP deadline is March 1. I thought it was March 31. I'm scheduled to diversify this year, so now I have to educate myself and set up a whole new RRSP within just a couple of weeks.

The writers are consistently under-estimating how long it will take them to finish the texts. The printer deadline is inflexible. Guess who has to do frantic, panicked overtime? I can't produce work that I can be proud of under these conditions, but it's more important to the client to have something suboptimal by deadline than something perfect after deadline. So I braindump as fast as I can type, turning around an hour's worth of work in 10 minutes, and come out of it sounding like a total n00b who hasn't yet mastered when to depart from the source text. In print and readily googleable. I am SO glad my name isn't on it!

I spilled pickle brine all over my kitchen floor yesterday. Now my floor needs hardcore scrubbing.

Plus I hate all my clothes, the rate at which new wrinkles are appearing on my face is faster than the rate at which I can adapt to and gracefully accept them, and my fridge smells and I don't know why.

And Mercury isn't even in retrograde!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The smile's returning to the faces

Today, for the first time this year, there was one last hopeful pink ray of sunlight still peeking over the western horizon when I left work.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

How to end Ugly Betty

1. Betty hooks up with Claire Mead's adopted-out son
2. Claire Mead hooks up with Betty's father
3. Connor Owens is Amanda's biological father
4. Marc and Cliff get back together
5. Justin becomes Daniel's new assistant.

Add your own!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Things They We Should Invent: Union of Post-Boomer Workers

Conventional wisdom is that there's going to be a talent shortage after the baby boomers all retire. I'm not sure whether I believe this, but in case it is true, we, the workers who will remain, need to think about how we're going to leverage this. If it's going to be a workers' market, it would be the perfect opportunity to restore labour standards to pre-90s-recession levels. Job security. Pensions. Benefits. No contract hell unless you're really into that sort of thing. My grandparents could take an unskilled or semi-skilled job, work hard for decades, make enough to support their family, and retire in their 60s. We should take this upcoming opportunity to create a world where we (and future generations) can enjoy the same quality of life. I have no idea how to do it, but it has to get done.

(Added bonus conspiracy theory: what if the powers that be created the current economic crisis in anticipation of this very worker's market, to create an environment where Good Jobs are seen as asking too much?)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

This must be an analogy for something, I just haven't figured out what yet

I'm currently reading the official biography of the Queen Mother. It seems when the UK was working on creating their National Health Service in the late 1940s, the Queen Mother (who was at that time the actual Queen of England) was opposed to it. Why? Apparently before the National Health came in many hospitals were charity-run, and Her Majesty felt that if the government provides this essential service to everyone who needs it, British subjects might not feel that it's as morally imperative to exercise the Christian virtue of charity.

Overall and in general, she seems very much full of noblesse oblige and not at all an upper-class twit. There have only been two things in the book that made me go WTF (which isn't so bad because it's a big fat book in a completely Other setting and so far all the action has taken place in the first half of the 20th century, when values and attitudes and practices were much different.) But that one just came a slapped me in the face and made me do a triple take.

It must be a useful analogy for something, I just haven't figured out what yet.

"helped me alot in my college assignement"

In a recent post about the Star's apparent inconsistency between print and online as to standards for what constitutes graphic content, I received the following comment:

Anonymous said...

Good fill someone in on and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Gratefulness you on your information.

"Interesting," I thought, "that must be why every college program I've ever looked at has a mandatory English communications course." I then proceeded to continue going about my life normally.

Then, a bit later, on a post containing nothing but an inconsequential analogy, I received the following comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice dispatch and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information.

"That's odd," I thought, "there's no possible way that post helped anyone with a college assignment." Then I realized that that comment sounded kind of familiar. So I went a-googling, and found 155,000 hits for "helped me alot in my college assignement."

Based on the first few I clicked on, all of them are anonymous comments, none of them link to anything. What kind of spam is this?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Question I wish I could ask my parents

When I was a kid, my parents often said to me "Life isn't fair," as though that's somehow reassuring.

Here's what I don't get, and I wish it was possible to have a frank and honest conversation with my parents to figure it out: If you don't think life is fair, why would you bring a child into life? As in, what redeeming qualities do you think life has to so counterbalance this inherent lack of fairness to the extent that it's worth making a specific effort to bring in more and innocent people?