Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dear Blogger: stop redirecting me to a profile creation page when I'm logged into a non-Blogger google account

I have more than one Google account. One of them I use for this blog, the others I use for other purposes. My other Google accounts don't have associated Blogger accounts because I don't use them for blogs.

Lately, when I go to while signed into another Google account, I get this page (click to embiggen:

This page wants me to create either a Google+ account or a Blogger account associated with my other Google accounts. It doesn't give me an option to log out and log back in as my Blogger identity. To do that, I have to go back to and sign out.

But it gets worse.

When I try to read blog comments, I'm also getting redirected to the account creation page. This includes comments on my own blog, which I quite deliberately permit people to comment on without being logged in. While the radio buttons for commenting anonymously still exist, it won't let you get as far as the comment field without having a blogger account. (Readers with non-blogger Google accounts: you can still view the comments by clicking on the permalink in the post time at the bottom of each post.)

But it gets worse.

The cookies Google/Blogger are using are too persistent, even within the internal logic of this new strategy. When I try to go to logged into the wrong account and then go back to to log out, doesn't remember that I've logged out and takes me back to the account creation page. I have to go to, log out, log into the Google account associated with my blog, and then go back to

And this last time that I logged out to get the screenshot above, even that didn't work. I logged out on, logged in to my Blogger account, went to, hit the account creation page even though I was already logged into an existing Blogger account, and ultimately had to go to my own blog and click on the Blogger icon on the top left to get into my Blogger dashboard. WTF?? Once I hit this horrible account creation screen, it starts popping up everywhere and hindering useability.

So, Blogger, here's what you need to do:

1. When people hit something they need a Blogger account for, like logging into, give them a page where they can log in OR create an account.

2. When people hit something they don't need a Blogger account for, like viewing comments, don't try to make them to log in or create an account.

3. Make this screen less persistent, so it doesn't keep popping up illogically just because the user it it once.

This is hindering useability. It's a struggle to log into my own blog. Please fix it now.

Update: Now the same problem is happening with the "Sign In" link at the top right corner of my blog. I'm not signed in, I click on it to sign in, and it doesn't let me sign in, instead trying to get me to create an account under the other google identity I have logged in. #FAIL

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Buying happiness: summer skirts and dresses

I always feel frumpy and gross in shorts, so every hot day for my entire adult life I've been wearing skirts and dresses exclusively. They have many advantages:

- They're cooler. The breeze can blow up in between my thighs (right up to my ribs if I'm wearing an empire-waisted dress). I can be fully covered with less of the material actually touching my body. This is the best-possible balance of all of the advantage of being naked and all of the advantages of being clothed.

- They're attractive and femme. When I was a kid, and our summer vacations had us playing tourist in cities, I always felt particularly awkward and out of place in my suburban tourist shorts and t-shirts and running shoes. But I always feel like a proper grown-up city lady in my summer skirts and dresses.

- They make it very easy to look pulled together. In almost any of my summer outfits (with the exception of my long cotton hippy skirts), all I have to do is put my hair up (default for the summer anyway), choose a pair of shoes with heels (which I almost always wear anyway), put on big sunglasses (which I always wear outdoors in the sun anyway) and I look very close to glam. My "It's hot out and I feel fat" dress would fit right in at a wedding with the right hair/makeup/accessories, but it also wouldn't look out of place walking down the beach. I even wore it the second time we saw Eddie Izzard, after discovering at the last minute that I was too bloated to comfortably wear the outfit I'd originally planned, and I felt confident that I looked Eddie-worthy. None of my cool-weather outfits are that versatile!

- They're FUN! Skirts twirl and blow around in the breeze, and I can comfortably carry off flower prints in skirts and dresses that I'd feel frumpy wearing on a blouse with pants.

I've learned that I don't get tired of skirts and dresses (I'm still regularly wearing the skirts I bought when I first started my current job nine years ago), so whenever I see one I like, I try it on, and if it's reasonably flattering I buy it. My skirts pair nicely with plain fitted t-shirts and camis in solid colours, and the look is classic enough that I don't need to worry about any one piece going out of style. I still hate hot weather, but I never feel ugly and gross any more thanks to my summer skirts and dresses.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Analogy for my non-thankfulness philosophy

I previously blogged my theory that we should not feel thankful for basic human rights or basic standard of living, instead feeling entitled to such things and taking them for granted.

Today my shower gave me an analogy:

Suppose I'm about to get married, and you ask me why I was going to marry that particular person. Starry-eyed, with little hearts circling around my head, I answer "Because he never hits me!"

That's not a good reason, now is it? Of course, it is something one should expect in a spouse. But it's so baseline that we should be taking it absolutely for granted and not even noticing it.

Now let's suppose I'm so genuinely thankful that my husband doesn't hit me that I express this at the slightest provocation. My husband might start to develop the sense that he's doing me a great favour by not hitting me, so he might feel less inclined to do me other favours like not flushing the toilet when I'm in the shower, or wearing headphones if he's going to stay up gaming on a night before I need to get up early for work the next morning. If a friend asks me for relationship advice, I might say something like "Does he hit you? No? Then what more can you ask for?", completely disregarding the fact that she's more comfortable and relaxed when she's alone than when her man's around. If I have a child, I might try to instill what I consider good relationship sense in her by talking about how thankful I am that my husband doesn't hit me and how important that is in a relationship. And, by doing this, I might be making her feel like she's being too picky for rejecting a prospective spouse whose life goals are incompatible, because she feels like she should just be grateful he doesn't hit her.

In short, what influence I have would be lowering the expectations of the people around me, encouraging them to accept lower standards. Whereas if I take for granted that he doesn't hit me, I'll instead be gushing starry-eyed about how how he's the best friend I've ever had and how I'm a better version of myself when I'm around him. What influence I have would encourage those around me to seek out similar compatibility in their relationships. And my hypothetical child, having grown up in a context where being hit by one's spouse is unheard of, would react with utter disbelief the first time she hears of such a thing. "He HIT you??? WTF? People just don't DO that to people they love!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

While The Men Watch is a flawed concept

Recently in the news: something called While The Men Watch, which purports to be sports commentary for women who aren't into sports.Some argue that it's sexist because it assumes that men are watching sports and women aren't, but there's an even bigger flaw in its core concept:

The flaw is the idea that you need special programming just because your partner has appointment television that you're not interested in.

Most people are competent adults with more than enough things that they have to do and want to do. If your partner is watching something on TV that you're not into, it's not like you're sitting there twiddling your thumbs. All the things that you have to do and want to do still exist.

For example, yesterday after work I made some very yummy pasta with asparagus and alfredo, watched a couple episodes of HIMYM (I'm catching up on the series lately), read the newspapers, caught up on my twitter feed and my google reader, sent a message of support to Eddie Izzard and checked out what kind of press he's getting after having to abandon his latest marathon challenge, watched the new Springsteen video, chatted with a friend and admired her latest baby videos (My Favourite Little Person, who is now six months old, can eat corn on the cob despite not having any teeth!), stripped the bed and washed the sheets, indulged in some fanfiction, enjoyed a few chapters of the Eve Dallas book I'm currently rereading, and played Sims a bit. No big deal, just a regular at-home evening, unwinding from the workday.

And all of that is exactly what I'd be doing if I had a partner watching a hockey game in my living room. And all of that is perfectly targeted to my needs and interests. Why do they think they can do better? Why do they think we think we need them to?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Opposition to a casino in one's own neighbourhood is a public space issue

In the news today: a poll showing that people are more likely to oppose a casino if it's in their neighbourhood.

The media is generally interpreting this as either NIMBYism, or as a sign that people don't want gambling to happen near them.

But I don't think that's the whole story. I think it has more to do with the physical structure of a casino and its interface with the streetscape.

I have the impression that the casino they're talking about is meant to be rather large, to draw tourists from all over and also to host live performances. Casinos are traditionally designed to be windowless, so gamblers are less aware of the passage of time. So this has me (and, likely, your average citizen) picturing a big windowless box with a giant parking lot - a dead zone without eyes on the street replacing what is currently a bustling street full of shops and patios.

That sort of thing doesn't fit in most Toronto neighbourhoods. Most of our streets are already full of homes and businesses where people live and work and shop. When we picture a casino in our neighbourhood, we wonder what healthy, thriving buildings that we use every day would have to be torn down. I blogged before about how I find myself hating a development that plans to tear down businesses that I use all the time, and this is for a developer who's building a condo in my neighbourhood - exactly what I'm in the market for! Imagine how much more opposition would come to tearing down things people use all the time to build a casino, which most people use very rarely, if ever.

The locations being discussed for a casino (Ontario Place, Woodbine, etc.) are already separate from the streetscape and the day-to-day functioning of neighbourhoods. Either there's enough space to build it without tearing anything down, or they'd be replacing one tourist-magnet entertainment complex with another tourist-magnet entertainment complex. It has no impact on most people's day-to-day lives.

But if you take the hypothetical scenario into the respondent's neighbourhood, suddenly an implicit part of the question is "Do you want to replace some existing functional aspect of your neighbourhood with a casino?"

Asking people if they want a casino in their neighbourhood is akin to asking if they want a racetrack, or an amusement park, or a zoo, or a football stadium, or an airport, or a large hadron collider. If you say no, it isn't necessarily because you're opposed to any of these things as general concepts. It may well just be because you're already full.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why does textspeak still exist?

My cellphone is five years old, and it still has predictive text (T9). Today's phones are equipped with full keyboards and autocorrect, which is even better. These technologies both make it easier to write real words than to write fake words. If you type a real word, it will guess the word for you and you don't even always have to type all the letters. But if you want to type a fake word, you have to teach the device the word.

More and more communications are being typed on phones as opposed to keyboards, which means that more and more communications are being written with a device that makes it easier to type a real word than a fake word.

So what's up with people who still use textspeak for everything?

I know that sometimes you need to shorten things to keep it under 140 characters for platforms like twitter or SMS, but on sites like Failbook or Damn You Autocorrect I keep seeing people who are using textspeak systematically, for everything, even on platforms that don't have a character limit.

Why are they putting in all the extra effort?

Things They Should Invent: require advertisers to make good on any offers they spam you with

From time to time I receive a flyer in my mailbox from my telecommunications provider, promoting a service I already use at a lower price than I'm currently getting. The fine print says this offer is only available to new customers.

I think this should be illegal. I think, because they arranged to have the offer put directly in my personal mailbox, the offer should be available to me personally. Any company that contacts you directly (by mail, phone, email, direct message, or any other medium) with an offer should be required to give you that offer.

This wouldn't necessarily have to apply to mass media advertising, like on TV or in newspapers. But if each individual has their own copy of the ad that has been sent directly to them personally and landed in physical or virtual space that is under their personal control or their household's control - so that you can say "This is my copy of this ad" - the advertiser should be required to make good on the offer.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Questions Downton Abbey needs to answer

I'm finally caught up with Downton Abbey, and there are some things I'm wondering.

1. How is Ethel supporting herself? Ethel was fired from her job as a housemaid when she was caught having sex with one of the soldiers. She and her baby are shown living in a tiny, dingy cottage and being brought food from Downton Abbey by Mrs. Hughes. She's clearly shown as impoverished and unemployable, so how is she even still living? We have seen hints of mechanisms for people to receive food, clothing and toys through charity, but how is she paying her rent? Who is her landlord who agreed to rent a house to someone unemployable, and why?

2. What's Sybil's day-to-day life now like? The Christmas Special mentioned that Sybil had married Branson and is now pregnant, which also means she's living at best a middle-class life after having grown up in the manor. How is she adjusting? Even though she learned some basic cooking and housekeeping when she trained as a nurse, there must be some things she wasn't expecting or wasn't prepared for - a Sybil equivalent of the Dowager Countess's "What is a weekend?" moment.

3. When are the maids going to get new dresses? In one of the post-war episodes, the ladies mention that more recent fashions (shorter skirts, less fitted bodices, corsets irrelevant) are more comfortable and better for moving around in than old fashions. "The old clothes were all very well if one spent the day on a chaise longue, but if one wants to get anything done, the new clothes are much better." But the maids' and the nurses' uniforms are still the old dress, with the full skirt and the hourglass figure designed with corsets in mind (even if they aren't actually wearing corsets underneath). I know that people didn't just replace perfectly functional clothes back in those days, but it does seem rather foolish to have the people who have to actually do physical labour wearing less practical clothes than the nobility.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why are we resistant to the idea that we might have privilege?

Reading Scalzi's Lowest Difficulty Setting and the follow-up got me thinking. People are generally quite resistant to the idea that they have any sort of privilege. Their (and my) automatic, knee-jerk response tends to be "What? No I don't!"

But why is this?

I can tell you why I'm resistant to it. I'm resistant to it because for the vast majority of my life I was being given the message that I'm lucky about and should be thankful for things I didn't care about, many of which I didn't even like. For example, my parents would take us on stressfully long family vacations - whole summers lost to fighting off carsickness while having zero privacy - and tell me that I should be grateful that I get to travel. When we were travelling, my parents tried to save money by never eating at restaurants, instead taking us to a supermarket and telling us to pick out what we wanted to eat for dinner. But we never had a fridge or a stove or a microwave (and often not even a kettle), or even dishes or utensils. I'd ask if we can go to a restaurant because I'd been yearning for days for a nice big salad and a steaming plate of pasta, and they'd tell me I should be thankful we have food at all. My father went through this phase where he calculated that if they hadn't had kids they could drive a Mercedes instead of a Honda so he told us that we should be thankful they made that sacrifice and decided to have us. But, on top of the fact that I'm intrinsically nihilistic, this was during the worst of my bullying; I, and everyone else involved, would have been far happier if they'd gone for the Mercedes instead. (Even now, if I hadn't been born I obviously wouldn't be around to care, and I seriously doubt my parents would be postmenopausally regretting not having an overly-introverted, socially-awkward daughter with a non-lucrative career path and a lifestyle that rejects their values.)

So, because of all this, any sort of hint or insinuation that I have some sort of privilege or advantage or some other thing I should be thankful for evokes this feeling of all this stressful shit that I didn't even want to deal with in the first place piling up my tetris blocks and if they'd just left me alone I could go be alone in my room with a book and be much happier.

But these are all my own personal neuroses, stemming directly from specific feelings and experiences in my own life. None of this is broadly applicable to the general population.

So where's it coming from for everyone else?

Plot hole in my childhood

All too often, my parents dragged us along to do boring grownup stuff like shop for new windows for the house or pick out appliances. There was nothing for us to do - we wouldn't have known how to participate even if we'd wanted to - so we just had to stand around for hours and hours while they had boring conversations we didn't understand about stuff we didn't care about.

So why didn't they tell us to bring a book?

You've got two kids who don't get along with each other, being dragged along for time-consuming boring grownup stuff, both of whom are voracious readers. We would have been quite content to sit quietly and read. In fact, the reason why I resented being dragged along so much is because I really just wanted to be alone in my room with a book.

What is gained by having your kids be bored rather than quietly amused?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wherein visualization works for me for the only time in my life

A few weeks ago, I saw an absolutely disgusting image on TV. It caused me to switch off the TV, curl up in a fetal position, and stim. I'm tense and wringing my hands just writing this. The image was burned in my brain, and I knew it would be there forever. I knew it would sit there haunting me as I tried to fall asleep and it would come to me in my dreams for years to come.

This was the worst possible time for this to happen. It was during the few days when I thought I was going to be buying a condo and was nervous about doing something so big and important and completely unknown to me, which also coincided with the busiest time at work when everything absolutely had to get done by the day before Condo Day. I was carrying an unhealthy amount of stress and nerves as it was, and literally didn't have room to handle this disgusting image.

I had to do something, but there was nothing to be done. So I did something that I knew would never work: picturing the image as printed on a piece of paper, I reached out with my hands, mimed crumpling up the piece of paper, and threw it away over my shoulder.

It worked. Temporarily.

Then it came back.

So I crumpled it up and threw it away again.

I had to do this maybe half a dozen times, but I was eventually able to fall asleep without the image haunting me or invading my dreams.

The next day and the days that followed, the image kept popping into my head. I kept crumpling it up and throwing it away. It never stayed away permanently, but it always went away for a little while. After some time passed, the image had faded somewhat. It's still present (I never, ever, ever forget things that are visceral or emotionally-laden) but it has faded far more than I would have expected it to by now.

The visualization shouldn't have worked. I don't even believe in visualization. But it worked.

But I don't think it will work again unless I'm in similar distress. I read a while back about a concept called a "psychological immune system", where your brain protects itself against things that are just too much for it. That's never happened to me before, but I think that's what was happening here. But, for some bizarre reasons, it worked this one time. Freaky.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I'm filling out a customer satisfaction for a grocery store, and it asks me how likely I am to recommend the store to family or friends.  And, of course, the answer is "highly unlikely".  Not because there's anything wrong with the store, but because why would I recommend a grocery store?  I go there because they're near me and sell groceries.  If you're nearby, I'll say "That's where the nearest grocery store is."  If you're not nearby, I'll assume you want to go to one of the multiple comparable stores that's closer to you.

A website that sells undergarments contains very detailed descriptions of its bras, and solicits user reviews. The reviews include a checkbox for whether you'd recommend that bra to others.  But why would I recommend a bra to others?  Even if it works fantastically for me, that's meaningless to other people.  It's such a person item that I would never presume that my experience is in any way applicable to others, or vice versa.

This is something I've been noticing an awful lot lately - reviews and feedback asking you if you'd recommend the thing in question to others, without any regard for whether recommending that genre of thing is even appropriate or relevant.  What's up with that?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

False goals

One bit of conventional wisdom that has been omnipresent since I first heard of it in middle school Guidance class is that you should set goals. They gave us a worksheet where we had to write down five short-term goals, five medium-term goals, and five long-term goals.  So I dutifully wrote down things like completing my science project, passing my next piano exam, and graduating.

But those weren't actual goals.  Those were just things I was supposed to be doing at the time.

For most of my life, I haven't had actual goals.  I wanted to finish high school and go to university because...that's what people usually do at that age, and I couldn't think of anything better.  I wanted to get a job because...I didn't have one.  The vast majority of things I could have described as goals were just following the script.  I achieved these goals, of course, but that's because I basically took something I was already going to achieve within an appropriate timeframe by proceeding through life normally and thought of it as a goal.

It's not like I'm following the script at the expense of my real goals either.  Most of the time there isn't actually anything there.  For most of my life, there's been nothing on my bucket list.  There's nothing on it now.  There have only ever been two things on my bucket list, and no more than one has ever been on the list at a given time, with large gaps before, in between, and after. (The two things were losing my virginity and seeing Eddie Izzard - which points to another problem: my genuine goals are rather more dependent on the cooperation of others than typical goals are.)  Most of the stuff that I might put on a goal list (buy a condo? get promoted?) is stuff where it wouldn't hurt if I didn't achieve it.

Right now I'm reading a book on success factors (which I might blog about once I'm done), and it talks about how people who are highly goal-oriented tend to be more successful than people who are less goal-oriented.  And when I googled some terminology found in that book, the entire first page of google results was articles talking about how you won't ever be successful in life unless you very deliberately set goals and then work to achieve them.

But what if your goals aren't even real?  How does that fall into this goal-setting philosophy?

Friday, May 11, 2012

How does the Crown have access to people's mental health diagnoses?

A series of cases occupying the country’s highest courts has cast a spotlight on Crown attempts to probe the personal backgrounds of prospective jurors, potentially undermining the sanctity of the jury system.


The most contentious case involves a 2007 murder trial in Barrie, Ont., where the Crown was privy to private, background information about the mental health, age and driving records of many of the 280 citizens in the jury pool.  
Important question: how did the Crown come about information about people's mental health? That's medical records.  Does the Crown also know that I have GERD?  Does it know that I had strep throat at xmas?

And here's why everyone should be worried about it, even people who have never sought mental health care: in my experience with mental health care, I didn't just talk to my mental health care provider about the specific issues that are in the DSM.  I also talked to them about my parents' personality traits and my partner's sexual proclivities and the pros and cons of being friends with my friends.  So if mental health information is somehow available to the Crown, any information about your interpersonal relationships with anyone you might know who has sought mental health care should logically be available by the same means.

Monday, May 07, 2012

False savings

For consumable products that I use regularly, I tend to clip coupons and watch for sales. However, I've noticed that a lot of coupons (and even some sales) are useless, because the products in question are regularly on sale for significantly less.

For example, I recently had a coupon to save a dollar on a multipack of kleenex (not necessarily Kleenex-brand kleenex, but some brand or another). However, even after the coupon, the price came to approximately a dollar a box. Meanwhile, between the two grocery stores and two drug stores I frequent, there's always some brand of kleenex on sale somewhere for 49 cents a box.

Today I saw a beauty product I use on sale for $8.99, so I bought three.  The receipt told me I'd saved $12, since the regular price at that store was $12.99.  However, the regular price of the same product at a different store is $9.99.  So while I did save money and it was the right time to stock up, I only saved $3.

I'm always finding coupons to save a few dollars on certain brands of make-up that I use.  And those brands of make-up are always about half price on ebay.

I don't go out of my way to comparison-shop, I just happen to live and work in high-density neighbourhoods containing several stores that sell things I regularly buy.  But even then, it took me about seven years of living on my own before I started noticing these patterns.  I can imagine how people in lower-density areas or people with children to take care of in addition to doing their job will be even less likely to notice these patterns.

How much extra money are stores making because customers fall for these false savings?   And what other false savings might I not be noticing?

Sunday, May 06, 2012

My child-self's problem with princesses

Some people think the presence of princess characters in children's media are problematic, thinking that they might lead kids to value being pretty and waiting around to be rescued by Prince Charming.  For me they were problematic for other reasons, but I couldn't articulate it until I read a blogger's experience interviewing Julie Andrews about princesses in children's media.

And so I asked Julie Andrews (JULIE ANDREWS!), and Emma, who happened to be there with her own young daughter, how we raise strong, confident independent girls in a culture that’s so saturated with princesses.
I asked really nicely, I promise.
And their answers were terrific.
Because they didn’t talk about tiaras. Or even princes. They talked about values.
-Princesses are involved in charitable causes
-Princesses are kind
-Princesses are patrons of the arts
-Princesses make their friends feel good about themselves.

This was problematic for me when I was a kid. When I was very young, I didn't perceive the key characteristics of the Disney princesses and other similar fictional characters to be that they were pretty or that they were rescued by their prince.  I perceived it to be that they were Very Very Good.  The general moral that I got from the stories is that girls who are Very Very Good - they were patient, they were cheerful, animals loved them, they were proactively helpful, they never lost their temper - got to live Happily Ever After.

And this made me feel bad about myself because I'm not Very Very Good.  I'm not terribly cheerful - usually the best I can do is copacetic. I try hard to be good, but sometimes I lose my temper.  I don't know how to make people feel good about themselves.  I'm not good at seeing ways to be proactively helpful.  I'm not bad and I'm not mean, but the best I can do is just quietly stay out of everyone's way and not hurt anything.  I'll never have what it takes to be Very Very Good.  So I'll never get to live Happily Ever After.

On top of that, it wasn't just the princesses who were Very Very Good. Most, if not all, of the female protagonists I encountered at a young age were Very Very Good.  Since I'm not Very Very Good, that made me feel insecure in my femininity.  As I've blogged about before, I take after my father, I'm not very feminine-looking and was even less so without the benefit of puberty and makeup, and before I grew my hair long I was constantly mistaken for a boy.  My parents discouraged me from wearing skirts and (in a way that's rather similar to today's parents hand-wringing about princesses) tried to encourage me towards less girly pastimes and media consumption.  This led me into this weird cycle of self-loathing where I thought my parents didn't want me to do girly stuff not just because I'm not pretty enough but because I'm not Very Very Good, and I also thought I was going to turn into a boy because I'm not pretty enough and because of other misunderstandings of how human anatomy works, and I though that my inability to be Very Very Good was a sign that I must really be a boy.  But I didn't want to be a boy, I want to be a girl!  (And for those of you just tuning in, I'm female-born and cisgendered.)

Unfortunately, I don't think this trend of Very Very Good protagonists is going to go away.  Adults want kids to be good, so it makes sense that they'd keep producing children's media where Very Very Good = Happily Ever After.

But children's media could help produce more children who are closer to Very Very Good by teaching kids how to be Very Very Good, perhaps by showing characters who are working on it.  How do you make your friends feel good about themselves?  How do you be patient and never lose your temper?  How do you be proactively helpful? The stories I read as a kid portrayed these characteristics as innate, but they're actually things people can learn and work on.

There's recent research (I'm pretty sure I read it in Malcolm Gladwell, but the specific source escapes me) that kids who think good grades are the result of hard work get better outcomes than kids who think good grades are the result of innate intelligence. I think something similar could happen if virtue were presented as the result of work rather than as innate, as something you have to think about rather than something that comes automatically.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Teach me about the Canadian Forces drug plan

Reading this article, the following description of a drug program the Canadian Forces is considering cutting struck me as odd:
Within government, officials have expressed concern for years about the rising cost of the wildly popular Viagra program, which saw members limited to six of the little blue pills a month — at a cost of between $15 and $22 per pill.
The article gives the impression that the Canadian Forces have a Viagra program that is separate from their ordinary drug plan.  Is this actually the case, or are the numbers quoted above just what happens when you apply the ordinary drug plan to Viagra?

In any case, I think it's inappropriate for Viagra (or any other drug) to get special treatment.  It shouldn't have a special program, it shouldn't be specifically cut back.  Choices of specific medications should be between doctor and patient, and drug plans should cover what the doctor prescribes.  To prioritize or pick on specific drugs because they make someone's inner 12-year-old snicker makes you no better than Arizona

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Things They Should Invent: give the collections of closed government libraries to Google

Apparently they're closing government libraries.  Which is a problem in and of itself, but more distressing is that some of the collections might get thrown out:
Transport Canada's library is now closed, too, with seven workers informed Monday their jobs are obsolete. They will now spend months packing up and told CBC News much of the collection will soon be in the trash.

Some archives are being tossed because there is no central library and so many departments are closing their libraries.

Solution: any materials that would otherwise be thrown out should be given to Google. 

Yes, giving public assets to a private corporation is generally not a good practice.  However, if they are otherwise going to go into the trash, giving them to Google will at least preserve the information.  It won't be properly catalogued like in a library, but they can scan and index it like they do with Google Books, and at least it will be searchable. 

They could also probably be convinced to index the English and French versions of documents in parallel, since that will add to the corpus they use for Google Translate (which definitely needs the help - I recently saw it translate "Bill Cosby" as "projet de loi Cosby"!)

From the point of view of Google, this would be a major donation, so I'm sure the government could negotiate an agreement whereby in exchange for the donation Google commits to indexing it and making it searchable and accessible to everyone.  It would cost nothing, and protect our public assets rather than destroying them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Queen's hats

When I was younger, I thought the Queen looked disproportionately frumpy, by which I mean that, even taking into account her age and the styles of the day and her need to dress conservatively, she looked frumpier than she should given all these factors.  But in the past decade or so, I stopped thinking this.

Looking at this retrospective of her hats, I realize why.  Brimmed hats are much more flattering on the Queen than brimless hats, but it seems she's only started wearing brimmed hats in the past decade or so.

Based on what I've read of the Queen's fashion strategy, this is probably for utilitarian purposes. She wants people to be able to see her, and a brimless hat shows her face much better.  Unfortunately, it also adds a dozen years and makes her look mean.

However, in the past decade or so, the royal milliners seem to have solved the engineering problem of designing a brimmed hat that still shows enough of the Queen's face so she can be photographed.  Well done, but I'm kind of surprised that it took 50 years to achieve that.