Friday, April 30, 2010

The value of using cognates in translation

Everyone knows the argument for not using cognates. Even people who don't speak Spanish know that embarazada doesn't mean embarrassed. And I'm certainly not saying you should use cognates blindly - they're called faux amis for a reason.

However, there is some value in using cognates. It makes it easier for partially bilingual people reading in their second language to understand, and it makes it easier for partially bilingual people to land on the right word when speaking or writing in their other language. If packaging or objects have to be physically labelled, it saves valuable space if the name is the same in both languages.

From the reviser's point of view, departing from the cognate to something that doesn't work as well is far worse than using cognates when there are better words (or even mistakenly using faux amis). Unless the translator is a student or a trainee, the reviser doesn't always necessarily look at the source text and the translation side by side (nor should they have to when revising the work of a fully qualified translator). They're more likely to review the translation on its own merits, and refer to the source text when they feel it's necessary. As trained and qualified translators, revisers can quickly recognize calques, faux amis, and other common traps that arise from the overuse of cognates. These are errors, but they're easy to fix because the reviser can see exactly how you got there.

However, if you depart from the cognate in a way that ends up not being quite right, I might not recognize it. It won't ping as an error. I'm more likely to assume that was the concept used in the source text, and I won't even think to go back and check. Furthermore, if you depart from the cognate to something worse than the cognate, then I can't trust any of your word choices. The mistakes and suboptimal choices you are making are difficult to see and may even be invisible, so now I have to read the whole text side by side, which takes quite a lot of time and raises my frustration level. (Intellectually I know that I should be all zen and not let my frustration level affect my evaluation of a text or the product to client, but realistically I'm just not strong enough to do that.)

To use rather simplistic examples (because I can't think of perfectly analogous fake examples and I don't want to pick on any real translations), if the source text says ministère and the translator translates that as "ministry" for a jurisdiction that uses "department", I can see exactly what the translator did there and it's easy for me to fix (and easy for me to give them clear and specific feedback to prevent it from happening again). However, if the source text says Président and the translator translates that as "Executive Director" but the person's actual title is "Chair" (or, worse, "President") then I have to double check every. single. term. because I can neither trust or predict the translator's word choices.

So what's the solution? You need to be able to justify every departure from the cognate. Every time you choose not to use an available cognate, you must be able to explain "I departed from the cognate because ________". "Because it's a cognate" is not a good enough reason. "Because it's a faux ami" is. So is "because it's the proper terminology", "because the cognate is unidiomatic in English", "because the cognate is not the best word to express what the source text really means", and "because the cognate made my inner 12-year-old snicker". If you can't justify your departure, stick with the cognate. Even if it's wrong, it's wrong in the most painless way possible.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

This is one of my favourite lyrics

I build each one of my songs out of glass
So you can see me inside them, I suppose
Or you could just leave the image of me in the background, I guess
And watch your own reflection superimposed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eddie Izzard's latest astounding achievement

The Globe and Mail published a fluffy little promotional interview with Eddie Izzard. This article has been on their website for at least 24 hours now, and spent most of the day headlined (and some of the day featured with a photo) on the front page. It has therefore received comments.

As of right now, every single comment is positive. Every. Single. One. No one is dissing Eddie or the author, no one is going off on their pet political tangent, no one is complaining that the G&M calls itself a national newspaper but this particular article doesn't cover their part of the country, no one is dissing other commenters, no one is posting "So who cares?" There are people going YAY Eddie, and there are quotefests. (And no one is even posting to complain that other posters are indulging in quotefests!) And on top of all this, only thumbs-up ratings have been given. No thumbs-down whatsoever! And this in a Globe & Mail comments page!

This might be even more miraculous than the marathons!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Things They Should Invent: "just one little thing" limit

So many pieces of advice you hear are presented as "just one little thing" - a "quick and easy" "manageable step" you're supposed to do every day and then your life will be flawless.

"Just make your lunch the night before, it only takes a few minutes!" "Just get off one bus stop early and walk the rest of the way!" "Just follow this quick and easy four-minute workout every day!" "Just spend 15 minutes a day decluttering!" "Just add a cup of green tea and a handful of lentils to your meal!" "Just budget a dollar a day!" "Just take a few minutes to write down everything you eat in your journal!" "Just shine your sink before you go to bed!"

And if you ever decline to follow the advice, the purveyor of the advice is all "What's the big deal? I don't see what your problem is! It's only a few minutes/a dollar a day/a tiny bit more effort!"

There needs to be an official limit. They need to get together a group of authoritative experts and legislate the maximum time/money/effort a person can reasonably invest in "just one little thing". Then when you've reached your official limit, you can just say "Nope, I'm at my limit. No more just one more things!"

Monday, April 26, 2010

So why aren't you married?

From this week's Ethicist:

I am a 65-year-old gay man who teaches adults English as a second language. Many topics besides grammar come up in a three-hour class, and it’s not uncommon for a student to ask if I’m married and then ask the follow-up “why not?” Is it appropriate to answer at all? To tell my students that I’m gay and that I’m not married “because it’s not legal in this state?”

The gentleman who wrote this letter is a rare situation where he actually has a simple, straightforward answer to the question "Why aren't you married?" He might be hesitant to share the reason, but there is one single, simple, straightforward reason.

However, this is very rarely the case. As we all know, to get married you have to have met a suitable mate under mutually suitable circumstances. If you're not married, it's because this convergence hasn't occurred. There aren't always reasons for the convergence not having occurred, and when there are they're often very complex, very personal, sometimes include very personal information about third parties, and not really appropriate for friendly social small talk. In general, in the rare cases where there is a reason for the convergence not having occurred, anyone in whom it is appropriate to confide the resulting personal drama is already close enough that they already know the personal drama.

So what I'm wondering: what kind of answer are people expecting when they ask people why they aren't married? Because I can't imagine any possible response from which any good could come.

Things They Should Invent: anarchy island

There are a number of very loud people in the world who seem to be opposed to any form of government whatsoever.

They should get their own island.

Determine approximately how many people fall into this group, find an island of suitable size that's reasonably inhabitable (i.e. more like Salt Spring Island than Baffin Island), buy out any current inhabitants at a generous price, and let anyone who doesn't want government to go live on Anarchy Island. Relocating to Anarchy Island would be made as easy as possible (perhaps even a modest grant for cases where money's a problem, if anarchists would be willing to accept a grant) but there's no help whatsoever if you want to leave.

Then once this gets off the ground, all the anarchists will be out of the way and those of us who want to live in a society can continue to do so without having to constantly justify the fact of society.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Things They Should Invent: bag-lady syndrome insurance

I have a bad habit of keeping things "just in case". I was just cleaning out my closet, and I found like 20 shopping bags from various stores that I saved "just in case" because they're good quality bags and/or cool-looking. I haven't reused any of them! I have bungee cords and a sand-castle bucket and the cable box thing from my previous cable provider (I seriously have no idea what I should even do with that) and the red bedsheets that I don't like any more because they've faded to kind of orangish, and I'm hesitant to throw any of this stuff out because it's still perfectly functional, and what if I lose my job one day and run through all my savings and then desperately need a little plastic bucket and can't afford one?

I'm not the only one who has this problem. I've heard it described as "bag-lady syndrome", and I know a number of other people for whom it's a barrier to staying reasonably organized.

They should invent insurance for this. You pay a very small premium (like a dollar a month), and whenever you get rid of something that's perfectly functional, you add it to a list that the insurer keeps for you. You can add to the list easily, through a simple online form. Then if you ever lose your job and run out of money and need something that you've gotten rid of in the past, you notify the insurer and they send you or compensate you for a new one.

The premiums could be kept very low because realistically it's unlikely that many people would lose all their money and suddenly need a new one of whatever little tchotchke they once got rid of when spring cleaning. Because most of the things being gotten rid of/potentially replaced are of so little consequence, it's also unlikely many people would go to all the trouble of filing an insurance claim. So the insurer would have a modest income with hardly any work to do, and the insurees could have peace of mind with hardly any outlay.

Open Letter to Blogger

Dear Blogger:

I would like to suggest a feature. You used to have a form to let me do this, but all I can find now is this publicly-viewable forum.

I don't want to post my feature suggestion in a public forum in case people laugh at it. I'm shy and insecure that way. I just want to be able to send it to you quietly, and if you laugh at it you'll do so where I can't see you.

I don't require support, I don't require a reply, I just want a way of getting my feature suggestion in front of the eyes of someone who might be able to do something about it, without having to show it to the whole world.

Please bring the form back so I can do just that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Things They Should Study: do kids see parent-child relationships as typical of all relationships?

A recurring theme in my relationship with my parents and how that affected my social skills is that as a child I took how my parents treated with me as an example of how I should treat others. To use one of the milder examples, if I didn't say "please" when asking for something, my parents would say "What do you say?" Therefore, in the rest of life, if someone asked for something without saying "please", I'd say to them "What do you say?" Not so very good for general social interaction with peers or elders, but I truly thought that was What's Done. When I first read Miss Manners in my early 20s, I was quite genuinely surprised to learn that it's rude to correct other people's manners. It would never have occurred to me.

This has come up in conversation with other people who happen to be parents (haven't discussed it with my own parents) and they all seemed surprised that it wouldn't occur to me that parenting is an exceptional circumstance. But I can't imagine how it would have occurred to me. That was life as I knew it, that's how the world had been every day of my whole life.

It would be interesting to study a bunch of children and see how many of them see parent-child relationships as typical of all relationships, and how many of them see them as exceptional.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My nomination for our next Governor General

Why not James Bartleman?

We haven't had an Aboriginal Governor General yet, and it's high time. (Because it's a symbolic position, we can afford to think primarily in terms of symbolism.)

Traditionally we alternate between Anglophone and Francophone, and since Madam Jean is Francophone it's reasonable to look at Anglophones for the next appointment. (I'm pretty sure Mr. Bartleman is bilingual, but I can't seem to google up confirmation.)

He's non-partisan, has diplomatic experience (which will likely come in handy in this era of minority governments) and has already done a laudable job as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

I freely concede that there are likely other suitable Aboriginal candidates, but James Bartleman is who came to mind for me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Things They Should Invent: camera jammer

They should invent a small hand-held device that will temporarily disable any camera that's pointed in your direction. For those annoying people who feel the need to take pictures of everyone against their will.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Entitlement threshold is defective

(If you're just tuning in, here's what I mean by Entitlement with a capital E, and here's why it's important.)

I have been exercising Entitlement more, with a major help from increased job responsibilities that make it far more necessary, because I'm currently the only one in a position to do the stuff I have to do, and if I don't do it then the end product to client suffers. I still fail at it about half a dozen times a day, but it's starting to become something of a reflex.

The problem is that a few times recently I've overdone it, and I can't tell why. The only reason I can tell that I've overdone it is my interlocutor has been kind of WTFish and rather trying to discourage me from pursuing my line of inquiry or my request for adaptation. But I have literally no clue what makes these particular inquiries get a negative reaction. As far as I can tell, they are perfectly equivalent to my other, acceptable inquiries.

I know it's very common to overshoot when learning a new skill. In translation training, we call it the pendulum - you swing too far one way, then you swing too far the other way, and eventually you find equilibrium. But in this case the problem is my Entitlement threshold hasn't evolved along with my Entitlement reflex. On a scale of 1-100, the level of Entitlement that triggers my "Shh, you're overdoing it!" feelings has always been and continues to be down around a 25. The ideal level of Entitlement for functioning in the world is in the 40-60 range, and I seem to have on occasion roamed closer to 65 or 70. But my sensors are still calibrated for 25, so I really can't tell where I am at all, and I don't know how to recalibrate.

I think another part of the problem is this is a skill I should already have, and people expect someone my age to have a fully-formed set of interpersonal skills (especially since I tend to travel in contexts that skew somewhat older). So a misfire isn't seen by my interlocutors as a simple misfire in part of a broader learning arc, it's seen as poor interpersonal skills in a person who should know better. But it's not like I can exactly go around telling everyone what I'm working on here - even if nothing else, it's self-absorbed and boring!* So I've also got the disadvantage that I'm not predictable to other people. People are probably expecting a constant level of Entitlement, not one that wildly swings back and forth.

Just today in Judith Timson's column, I read:

As a friend who often gives advice to grads says, “I tell my own son that when you’re in your 20s you can ask anyone anything and they will answer. Not so much if you’re 30. So he’s got the better part of a decade to find out what he needs to know.”

I think that's what I'm running up against here. I'm nearly 30, and the roles in which I'm exercising Entitlement tend to be older than that. But I only just learned a few months ago that you actually can and probably should ask anyone anything, so now I'm frantically trying to catch up.

*Eddie Izzard always comes up with quick and clever ways to tell people in one or two soundbites what he's trying to do and get them onside. (e.g.: "total clothing rights") What would Eddie do?

More information please: why do farmers need guns?

Michael Ignatieff is accused of turning his back on farmers by supporting the gun registry. This is common conventional wisdom - farmers need guns. It's such common conventional wisdom that I've never questioned it. I've even been inclined to independently come up with "But what about farmers? They need guns."

But I just realized I don't actually understand why. And when I start thinking about it critically, it doesn't actually make sense to me.

Farmers produce food. Guns are used to shoot stuff. I don't see the common bond. What are they shooting? To what end? And how is it related to producing food?

My experience with producing food is limited to having grown up in a gardening household, and from that experience I'm unable to extrapolate or imagine any circumstances under which the ability to shoot stuff would help. What am I missing? Help me understand.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

More information please: what else do pharmacists do?

If I am understanding the pharmacies' position correctly, dispensing fees are necessary to cover the cost of dispensing the drugs, and professional allowances are necessary to cover the cost of the pharmacists providing advice and assistance to patients. As it happens, these are the only two things I (and I'd assume many ordinary customers) have ever seen pharmacists doing.

In every job I've ever had and every workplace I've ever worked, the act of getting the product from the back room into the customer's hands, and the act of answering any general questions from customers/clients about the products and services we provide, have been an integral - and often marginal - part of the job. This was budgeted for as part of the cost of running a business. Whoever was on duty just did it. Even now, when my job doesn't officially involve dealing with clients at all, I still answer any question my clients might have about my team's translations, and the employer just swallows the lost translation time. It's part of the job, and rather marginal in terms of expense or time investment. In cases where it isn't a marginal time investment, front-line staff are hired for that specific purpose.

So what I'm seeing from my position as an ordinary customer who has never worked in a pharmacy is that they charge a separate fee for what looks like the majority of their job, and they get money that looks very much like kick-backs from suppliers for what looks like the rest of their job, and they're talking about these only two duties I ever see them doing as though they're huge extra pricey impositions.

If the pharmacies want to get me onside, they're going to have to explain to me what else it is that pharmacists do that the only things I ever see them do are actually extras. They're going to have to explain to me why their business model doesn't automatically incorporate the only tasks I ever see pharmacists do, and why these tasks are so very pricey to deliver when everywhere I ever work they've been marginal.

What if TTC workers stopped enforcing fare collection?

I've only had two outright negative TTC experiences, and in both cases it was getting very loudly and publicly yelled at by a TTC worker trying to enforce fare collection when I had just made an honest mistake. In one case, I boarded a bus on the first day of the month, confidently waving my previous month's Metropass (i.e. the same one I used just the day before) at the driver. I did have the right one in my purse, I just grabbed the wrong one of the two. In the other case, just a few days after moving to Toronto and my first time ever in Eglinton station, I misunderstood how the choreography of how the (now defunct) bus bays worked and walked somewhere I wasn't supposed to. In both cases, the bus drivers yelled at me, in public, in front of people, without even taking a moment to calmly explain to me what I had done wrong, so I had literally no idea why I was being yelled at. In both cases, it made me cry (in public, to the extent that I couldn't see well enough to walk around) and broke me for the day.

In my time working customer service, every time I provided suboptimal customer service, it was because I was trying to meet corporate goals. For example, when I worked fast food, we had a timer measuring how long cars were in our drive-thru window. The average time at the window was supposed to be under a minute. The problem was that many customers didn't want to be out of there in under one minute. They wanted to find exact change to pay me with. They wanted to get themselves settled, put a straw in their drink and ketchup on their fries. This generally took over a minute, and then I'd get in trouble for not meeting service time goals. I once even snapped at a customer who had a habit of order food that needed to be cooked to order and then waiting at the window for it to be done (instead of pulling forward to the waiting space). His refusal to pull forward when I asked him to had him at the window for three minutes, which made it absolutely impossible for us to meet or even approach our service time goals for the rest of the day, and got me in trouble. I wasn't even able to start thinking of it in terms of his convenience, because I was going to get in trouble for the number on the clock. The things I got yelled at and nagged about and evaluated on by management were service time goals and upselling, with no thought to customer experience unless a customer complained. When I started that job I didn't upsell because as a customer I didn't appreciate it, but my manager marked me down for it in my performance review, specifically telling me to do it even though I didn't think it was good customer service, because it was corporate policy. How can you provide good customer service in that context?

Another bad TTC experience happened when boarding a Spadina streetcar at Spadina station. The driver started telling people over the PA to get off the stairs so he could close the doors, getting more and more frustrated that people were on the stairs. When he finally pulled out of the station, he said all snarky "Thanks for making me late!" But you know why the people were on the stairs? Because they were in the process of boarding the streetcar! More and more people kept coming from the subway to the streetcar and boarding the streetcar (standing on the stairs in the process) because that's what happens at Spadina station.

Obviously the Spadina streetcar driver had been handed down word from on high that he'd damn well better stay on schedule. And obviously the drivers who yelled at me for accidentally showing the wrong metropass and for entering the bus bay wrong had been instructed to prioritize fare enforcement. And obviously they were getting static from management when these things didn't work out, even when it wasn't entirely the driver's fault. But the result is bad customer service. People get yelled at by a streetcar driver for boarding a streetcar. A passenger gets treated like a criminal for grabbing the previous day's pass out of her purse. A newly-arrived teenage girl just learning to navigate the city gets publicly humiliated for not being fluent in the choreography of a subway station she's at for the first time in her life.

In my food service days, my performance was measured almost entirely quantitatively, by service times and by average price per order on my receipts. Despite all the pretty words in our policies about customer service, actual customer service only came into play if there was a complaint. Otherwise, it was all about the numbers.

With the TTC's new focus on customer service, they need to make sure they aren't creating a similar situation. Don't manage things in a way that gives drivers more motivation to prioritize things other than customer service. Tell them "Your primary mission is to get people where they need to go, and help people who need help. You are empowered to do that." Yes, your route should be on time, but not at the expense of pulling away from someone running for the bus. Yes, you should enforce fares, but not at the expense of holding up the whole bus for someone who boarded with yesterday's metropass. Make sure they aren't creating a culture that favours performance indicators over actual customer needs, and just focus on customer needs for a while.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Question for grownups (or anyone who can answer)

Normally I'd ask my parents, but they've got a lot going on at this point and I don't want them worrying about my plumbing.

The internet tells me the o-ring in the ball joint of my (hand-held, if that's relevant) showerhead needs to be replaced. (It is my showerhead, not the one that came with the apartment, so it is my responsibility.) I don't know where in this thing the o-ring is or how difficult it is to replace it.

Should I take the thing down (which I know how to do), take it to a hardware store, and get them to find me the right part and tell me how to put it in? Or should I just buy a new showerhead? (My current one is seven years old)

Either way I'll be needing advice. If I should be replacing the o-ring, I'll need help finding the right part and instruction on how to install it. If I should be replacing the whole showerhead, I'll need a knowledgeable employee to help me pick out one with good strong flow, because the low-flow showerhead that came with my apartment needs viagra. Should I go to Home Hardware or Canadian Tire for this? (Those are the only two options, unless you know of somewhere else at Yonge & Eg that can help me with this, or another superior source that's located on the subway).

Things They Should Invent: vocabulary-measuring blogalyzer

Some people used hardcore statistics to measure how many words Shakespeare knew based on how many words he used in his works.

Surely the same method could be used to analyze a person's blog and extrapolate how many words they know. Someone should invent an internet quiz that does that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Posted without comment

Wil Wheaton tweeted that he likes Canada. Reading this, it occurred to me that people quite often say that they like Canada after visiting us. This led me to google Does anyone not like Canada?

First result was the National Post.

(Screenshot below, click to embiggen)


Monday, April 12, 2010

Why do drugstores sell non-pharmacy stuff?

Apparently recent provincially mandated cuts to the prices of generic drugs have hurt Shoppers Drug Mart so much that their share price is going down and they've had to cut worker hours.

If, like most people, you've been inside a Shoppers at any point in the 21st century, you'll know that they sell all kinds of stuff. Make-up, personal health and beauty products, food, household goods, supplements, seasonal tchotckes, greeting cards, books, magazines, lottery tickets, post office, photo finishing, DVDs - huge range of stuff.

But, since a cut to the retail price of generic drugs has such a strong impact, it would seem that their margins on all this other stuff - which takes up 90% of the store - is negligible.

So why sell all this other stuff then? And why do they keep getting bigger and selling more and more non-pharmacy stuff? The Shoppers near me recently bought the storefront next door and expanded into it, filling all the new space with non-pharmacy stuff, mostly cosmetics and a new post office. Why pay for more real estate (which is hella expensive) and cosmeticians and post office staff (when labour costs are typically the greatest operating expense of any organization) if your profits are all in pharmacy? Why not just do pharmacy?

Today I am invisible

A slow group of people is walking in front of me. When I move off to the side to try to pass, this one guy in the group keeps moving off to the side as well, or flinging his arm out, or otherwise getting in my way so I can't pass.

I'm crossing a crosswalk. This one lady walks kind of diagonally from behind me to right in front of me, forcing me to either stop walking in the middle of the street or step out of the crosswalk into traffic.

I'm in a crowded elevator. Since I'm the last one off, I stand in the back corner. This golf shirt man stands in front of me, chatting with his buddies, just a little too much in my personal space. Then he takes a half-step backwards, crashing right into me as though he didn't see I was there.

I'm in line at the grocery store, at a cashier with a short conveyor belt. The guy in front of me is standing about halfway along the conveyor belt with his food. Because I have a buggy in front of me, I can't yet reach to get my food on the conveyor belt. Then the guy in front of me's food starts getting scanned, but he doesn't move forward, and instead completes the transaction from his place by the conveyor belt, thus preventing me from unloading my cart.

Every once in a while this happens - I have a day when multiple people seem not to see me. It always happens in clusters on the same day. About 90% of the people who don't see me are men - I don't know if that's significant.

I haven't noticed any particular patterns in dress or appearance on days I'm not seen. I've even had it happen on more than one day when I was wearing my bright fucking red raincoat that's so bright fucking red the profanity is in fact necessary. I'm not a small person (plus I almost always wear heels) and the people to whom I'm invisible are rarely significantly bigger than me (and sometimes are smaller than me). I do present as an adult now, I'm almost always standing tall and doing eye contact, I walk almost aggressively, I have noisy joints that snap crackle pop of their own accord and I probably smell a little more than I should. So why am I invisible some days?

Teach me Ebay etiquette

An ebay shipper used a very inconvenient courier (Canpar? WTF?), and I had no indication from their posting that they were going to do so.

I have no complaints about the transaction itself, but I would have liked to know going in that they were using Canpar instead of regular mail.

Is it appropriate to mention in the feedback (for the benefit of other buyers) that they shipped by Canpar? Is it appropriate to send them a message mentioning that I would have appreciated knowing how they shipped?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Who are these people and why do they want to hurt us?

Apparently the PMO received a shitload of emails protesting their move to make the national anthem gender neutral.

Who are these people??? Why do they want so badly to exclude us from our own anthem? Are they lurking around in real life?

I was born here - my ancestors went to great trouble and sacrifice so that, decades (in some cases centuries) later I could be born here. I've lived here all my life. All my professional training and experience has been dedicated to serving the unique conditions of the Canadian market. I'm just quietly being a good girl and not hurting anything. So why do they want to hurt me? Why do they want so badly to exclude me from the only country that I can claim as my own?

Why do they care if I've emailed my elected representatives?

More than once, I've seen activism campaigns not only encouraging us to contact our elected representatives about the issue in question (which is perfectly reasonable) but also asking us to then contact the organizing campaign and tell them that we've contacted our representatives. Why? Why do they care? What do they do with this information?

And why do they think it's any of their business? I kind of see the communication between myself and my elected representatives as a private matter.

And when I do see people in facebook groups etc. saying that they did email their elected representatives, it comes across as wanting a pat on a head. "Look at me! Am I a good girl?"

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Note to anyone buying tickets for Eddie Izzard at Massey Hall

You can get far better seats through the Massey Hall website than through Ticketmaster. Also, there are more dates for Toronto: May 30 and 31. Promo code = BEES

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Has Ellie Patterson always seemed old?

Before they rebooted For Better Or For Worse, Ellie Patterson was the same age as my mother and Elizabeth was the same age as me.

My mother was a year older than I am now when I was born (which is hella weird in and of itself! I don't feel a year away from being as much of a grownup as my parents!), and the rebooted Elizabeth seems to be about 1 or maybe 2 years old, so that means that the rebooted Ellie is very close to my age. I'm 29, and Ellie's no more than 32.

But she doesn't seem to be close to my age at all! She seems like a cranky get-off-my-lawn-type middle-aged woman. Without context (i.e. the fact that she has a one-year-old child) I'd place her as well into her 50s.

Did Ellie seem age appropriate to her contemporaries the first time around? Does she seem age-appropriate to women my age who have children? The youngest mother I know well enough is about five years older than me, and she doesn't seem anywhere near as old-ladyish as Ellie.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Things They Should Invent: unidirectional window screens

There's a housefly in my apartment. Right now it's on a window screen, trying to get out. Unfortunately, it's not a screen that can open. So while I do appreciate that my unwanted visitor is trying very hard to do the right thing through the most logical means possible, it's still going to die a rather unpleasant death. Which really isn't fair at all, but I'm incapable of compassion or decency towards anything with more than four legs.

But wouldn't it be awesome if the screen could let it out, without letting anything else in? If they could invent a screen that would open a little tiny bit if something on the inside tries to get out while not letting anything from the outside in. Then bugs could just leave if they wanted to!

Unidirectional valves exist, unidirectional doors exist, so why not?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Journalism wanted

Unlike most articles about the "$100,000 club", this one actually acknowledges (in the last couple of paragraphs) the fact that the value of $100,000 has changed over the years, so the absolute number of people earning over $100,000 isn't fully informative.

But it would be great at this point if they could do the research and analysis necessary to make the data fully informative.

What would the threshold be if you indexed it for inflation? How many people would be above the threshold then? What percentage of the public service is over the threshold, and how has that number evolved over time? How does the growth in the number of public servants over the threshold compare with population growth in Ontario as a whole? How does it compare with the number of people in the private sector over the threshold? How does it compare with the number of people below the poverty line?

I'll get you started. Public Sector Salary Disclosure was introduced in 1996. According to the Bank of Canada inflation calculator, $100,000 in 1996 dollars is equal to $131,214.53 in 2010 dollars. Of the first 10 names on the first list, only 3 earned more than $131,214.53.

Based on this initial, unskilled perusal, it seems like a more in-depth analysis may well be informative. It would be really helpful if some journalists, who no doubt have the ability and resources to find and contextualize all the data, could make sense of it all for us.