Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lentils and lenses

The German word Linse means both "lentil" (as in the legume) and "lens" (like in a camera).

The French word lentille means both "lentil" and "lens" as well.

But English has two different words and they don't overlap at all!!!

Guiding Stars

The new Guiding Stars nutrition program at Loblaws has been useful to me, but I wish it had more stars. Nearly all fruit has three stars (the highest rating), but surely some fruits are more nutritious than others? On the other end of the scale, the lowest possible rating is zero stars, and the sample ratings on their website give goldfish crackers as an example of a zero star food. But the nutritional content of goldfish crackers isn't particularly bad, it just has no redeeming qualities. There are products on the shelves that have like 40% of your RDI of sodium or fat in a single serving (and that's a serving according to the black and white nutrition label, which is usually smaller than we'd normally eat in one sitting.) Surely those deserve a significantly lower rating than something that's simply empty calories?

I think the system would do better with a seven point scale, or even percentages. The three star system is a decent start, but it needs more nuance so as to not just tell us what we already know.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How did networking even become a thing anyway?

I've blogged before about how annoying networking is from the point of view of a job seeker. I recently experienced it from the other side, and it's just as irritating.

I'm not involved in hiring, but I still got a request from a student of my acquaintance for what I as a lifelong job seeker recognize to be an informational interview with the hopes of talking their way into a job. I treated their request as reasonable because I recognize that most job-seeking advice acts as though this is standard operating procedure. But it's an irritant. It takes up my time and doesn't offer me anything in return. I already know this person exists and wants a job, I have a sense of their abilities, but I (and my employer) don't have any jobs to offer. I'd very much prefer that this dance didn't exist.

This makes me wonder why this whole networking/informational interview thing became commonplace in the first place.

The person who was trying to network with me was very good at it and not at all pushy, but I still found it a bit irritating. If it weren't already a standard form, I wouldn't have permitted it to happen. But once upon a time it wasn't a standard form. Which means that, once upon a time, some employer got contacted by some job-seeker with an offer of coffee, an imposition on their time, and a barrage of questions, desperately not saying "Please give me a job, please please please!" This was completely unprecedented at the time, and the job-seeker didn't have the excuse that they're following standard form. But, for reasons I can't fathom, this employer responded by giving the job-seeker a job. And this happened often enough that it's become a standard part of advice to job-seekers.

Who are these employers? Why did it work on them? If circumventing their standard hiring procedures worked on them, why did they make their standard hiring procedures what they are? I just cannot imagine why a person who imposes upon your time and tries to circumvent your procedures would be considered a better candidate than someone who takes you at your word and respects your time?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Springsteen braindump

If this was in fact real life that just happened, I think I just went to my very first Bruce Springsteen concert!

- Highest density of white people I've ever seen in one place! Yes, I grew up in a nearly all-white community, but there were more people in skydome than in the whole town.

- I've never been in skydome before (for a concert or anything else) and it was bigger and louder than I expected, but I like the washroom and concession setup. You can still hear the performance while you pee.

- Thank you to the guy behind us for being such excellent DVD commentary for us n00bs!

- I can't believe how many times the pit cameras caught people filming Springsteen with their phones when they could instead have reached out their hand and actually touched him!

- He took someone's beer and then dribbled most of it down his shirt while acting like he was drinking. Waste of beer!

- Jack of all Trades + Murder Incorporated = Dude can't find a job so becomes a hitman

- The little girl who sang along with Sunny Day was entirely too confident, which made that bit of business less charming for me. However, My Favourite Little Person is totally going to grow up to be her.

- The crowd collectively knows the harmony lines to Badlands, Thunder Road, 10th Ave. and Glory Days.

- Normally, I actually do sing the harmony lines because I have a shamefully narrow vocal range and nearly all Bruce Springsteen songs are in a bad key for me. However, in this loud stadium in this giant crowd, unable to hear my own voice, I was able to sing the melody line and hit notes (mostly low) that I've never been able to hit before. I couldn't hear myself, but I have enough training to tell that I hit them by feel. Not sure what happened there.

- At the beginning, people were deliberately applauding Jake for (literally, I hear) filling Clarence's shoes, then partway through they weren't doing that so much so I was thinking the crowd got accustomed to it and that was good, then they started doing it again towards the end (triggered by Land of Hopes and Dreams).

- The video camera guys and the people who decide what to put on which screen when really know what they're doing! During any live performance, I watch what the people in the background are doing, and (as far as I could see from my half-assed seats, at least) the cameras didn't miss anything interesting.

- The anniversary couple is totally going to go home and have sex and both pretend the other person is Bruce.

- I'm surprised how many people had signs for songs that he was going to play anyway! Playlists are documented religiously! Why waste your sign on Rosalita?

- Unless their goal was to get their sign used rather than get a song that they actually want played.

- I still think Springsteen needs to cover Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Will Rock You, Fat-Bottomed Girls, etc.

- Apparently the way to get Bruce to play your song is to draw dirty pictures on your sign.

- (Maybe that strategy could be used to get him to play Fat-Bottomed Girls?)

- I'm surprised how many children they were, and how young some of them were. Especially since they (or at least all the ones that showed up on camera) were in the pit, and the internet tells me the pit people had to be there from like three hours before the concert started.

- Songs that made me happy that I can remember: Sunny Day, Thunder Road, Hopes and Dreams, Glory Days, Jack of all Trades, Shackled and Drawn, and at least two others that are slipping my mind.

- But, of all those songs, it's Rosalita, which I don't even like, that's stuck in my head.

- I managed to time my pee break so I didn't miss any songs that it would have made me sad to miss!

- Apart from being amazed at how much energy the band has to play over 3 hours and give absolutely 100% to every single thing (including moments where I was like "I can't believe he's putting so much into that one part when I really don't think anyone would notice or care if he did it calmly), I'm amazed that they can go so long without peeing!!! I also didn't see anyone drinking water (apart from the whole collapse/sponge/water physical comedy thing), although they must have at some point.

- I'm really surprised the whole collapse/sponge/water thing played out as well as it did and for as long as it did, although by that point people would have clapped for anything.

- From my perch far above, I saw two different people with whom I'm casually acquainted and who are most likely casually acquainted with each other on different parts of the floor. I don't think they saw each other.

- Before the concert started, we had enormous fun watching crew people climb up rope ladders and scaffold and speculate on what they were doing. (Conclusion: best tree fort ever!)

- I wonder how much it would have cost to make the CN Tower lights coordinate with the stage lights.

- I'm a total n00b who's just been studying these past few weeks (I hate going into a concert not knowing the songs) and there was only one song I didn't recognize (the slow piano solo one- update: the internet just told me it's called incident on 57th street). My friend (MFLP's mommy, who really needs her own blog name because she was here first) was even more of a n00b and didn't study at all (it's like raising her child is time-consuming or something!) and she reports that the concert was awesome for her.

- MFLP's daddy and I had a disagreement over how long it takes to walk between union station and skydome. I thought a short time, he thought a long time. Turns out it was a long time, but that's not because of the distance but rather the crowds. Tons and tons of people walking slowly in clumps in front of you, with the entire population of fanexpo coming in the other direction! It would take a short time if you were the only one.

- Things I learned about skydome/rogers centre: the gate on your ticket is important! We tried to walk in the first door we came to, and the guy made us go around to the gate on our ticket number.

- The only negative of the whole experience was Roger's Centre's bottle lid policy. I came in with a 330 mL sealed commercial brand water bottle in my purse. The purse searching lady said I could only bring it in if I gave her the lid. So then I was stuck with an open bottle. I drank some water, my friend drank some water, but an open bottle is a really inconvenient thing to have so I threw it out. Then I noticed the people walking up and down the aisles hawking water didn't confiscate the lid - which is such bullshit because the bottles they were selling were twice as big as the bottle I wanted to bring in! - and doubly bullshit since they sell beer in cans which are also bigger than the bottle I wanted to bring in and also made of metal and also explode if you shake them! - but I was too far from the aisle to attract their attention. However, halfway through the show I got thirsty, so I bought a bottle from one of the concessions (for $4.75!!!!) - and the guy confiscated the lid before he handed it over! So I was stuck with an open bottle again, and spent the vast majority of my very first Bruce Springsteen concert trying not to spill my water when I should have been uninhibitedly jumping up and down like an idiot! Dear Rogers Centre: you need to either give us water in cups with lids, or install cupholders on the seats, or let us bring fricking water bottles in like grownups! This quite seriously hindered my ability to uninhibitedly enjoy my very first Bruce Springsteen concert, and that's simply not acceptable!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Theme song to The Bubblies

The theme song from The Bubblies is as follows:

Come back, come back,
Come back to Bubbly Town
Seems like such a long time
Since you were around
While you've been away
We've waited for the day
When you'd come back, come back,
Come back to Bubbly Town

I can't find the theme online in English, but here it is in French.

I'm blogging this because, even though it's already answered on the internet, I couldn't google up the name of the show when I didn't remember the key word in the title.

I googled things like "Come back come back come back to * town" and "come back come back come back" "town seems like such a long time", and nothing came up. I wasn't sure whether it's "since you were around" or "since you've been around" and "while you've been away" or "while you were away", but no permutation produced the results.

Finally, @amyrhoda and @bwinton helped me figure it out on Twitter, so thank you to them! And now I'm blogging it in the hope of making it more googleable.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Anyone know how synesthesia works?

In one form of synesthesia, letters have intrinsic colours. I remember reading about a child with synesthesia learning her letters and having trouble with the fact that you can add a line to a P to make it into an R. She saw how adding the line changed the shape, but didn't understand how to turn it from a yellow letter into a red letter. (It turned out when she added the line, the colour changed automatically.)

The thing is, any written letters already have a colour, i.e. the colour of the font. The letters you're reading right now are black.

So are synesthetes blind to the colour of the font, or do they somehow see both at once? What if you change the colour of the font? Could you confuse a synesthetic child just learning to read by writing P in the colour in which they perceive R, or writing b in the colour in which they perceive d?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I was rather surprised how many people lauded Eric Idle's performance of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life in the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. I don't dislike it myself (and took childish delight in the fact that Eric used the word "shit" in the Olympics), but I always figured it had reached the status of cliché. It seemed liked it was hamming it up and expecting people to be delighted with it like a 12-year-old who has just learned to say "NI!" If I'd been in on the planning and someone had brought up the idea of including Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, my response would have been "The audience will never go for it. They'll just roll their eyes." But my entire Twitter feed and all the media coverage I saw were unanimously delighted.

I felt the same about the use of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life in Spamalot - and about Spamalot in general, actually. I went into Spamalot expecting a pastiche of Python that will make us smile and nod in familiarity, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was genuinely entertaining in and of itself, to hardened Python fans and Python newbies alike.

So it seems I think the general public has a higher threshold of entertainment than it actually does. Not sure what to do with that.

Although I still think the Olympics should have ended with the giant foot.

Analogy for gun people

I recently tweeted: "The weird thing about gun people is they seem to assume that the bad guys are less competent and more chicken than the good guys."

Much pro-gun sentiment seems to be based on the idea that if you have a gun and some bad guy starts doing something bad near you, you can threaten him with your gun and he'll run away, or you can shoot him to stop him from shooting people.

That line of thinking seems to be based on the assumption that the bad guy is likely to drop his gun if you point your gun at him, and/or that you're a better shot than the bad guy. Why would you assume that? His drawing his gun caused you to draw your gun. Why would you expect the opposite reaction from him? The argument for the good guy being a good shot is generally that people apparently practise shooting. So why would you assume the bad guy doesn't? He probably has more time to do so, since guns most likely are a bigger part of his life, whereas the rest of us have to spend time on all the business of being upstanding citizens.

This morning, my shower gave me an analogy for this concept:

I am smart. Therefore, if a bad guy ever does anything bad in my general vicinity, I'll just outsmart him.

Not that simple, is it?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why Rich Kids of Instagram surprises me

What surprises me about Rich Kids of Instagram is that there are enough people to sustain it.

These "rich kids" are a very narrow demographic. Economically, it's limited not just to people who are rich enough to afford luxury goods, but to people who are rich enough to let their teen/adult children play with these luxury goods. They don't just have a Ferrari and Dom Perignon, they have enough vehicles and alcohol that their kids can use the Ferrari and drink the Dom Perignon.

When I was growing up, my family had a car and usually had a few bottles of wine in the house. But I couldn't use the car recreationally because we had just the one car and usually someone else needed it, and I couldn't just grab a few bottles of wine to take to the bathtub or the lake because there wasn't that big a stash and my parents were likely planning to use them on a specific upcoming occasion. This wasn't parenting, this was simply because available resources were finite. We'd have had to be in a whole different socioeconomic demographic for me to have been able to play with the car and the wine, and, similarly, the rich kids of instagram have to be in a whole different - and most likely narrower - socioeconomic demographic than people who can "just" afford Ferraris and Dom Perignon for themselves.

But, at the same time, these "rich kids" must be sufficiently unaccustomed to this level of wealth that they feel the need to remark upon it. My parents drove a Honda Accord when I was growing up, so that's my baseline idea of "car". If I had access to a Honda Accord, I wouldn't feel the need to take a picture to commemorate the event. And it wouldn't even occur to me to tag it or caption it as "This is my Honda Accord". Because it is my baseline idea of "car", I'd just say "This is my car." This isn't noblesse oblige - we haven't even arrived at considering such advanced concepts as noblesse oblige. This is just my idea of what is remarkable and noteworthy, based on the baseline environment in which I grew up.

So the rich kids of instagram must be from the very specific and narrow socioeconomic demographic that has luxury goods in such abundance that not just the parents of the family but the teen and adult children can use them for recreational purposes, and must be new enough to this level of wealth that they aren't entirely accustomed to it and therefore feel it's worth photographing and commenting on. I'm rather surprised that there are enough people who meet these criteria to support a tumblr.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Insecurity in one's own humanity?

A lot of people seem very invested in the idea of a clear divide between humans and animals.

Once upon a time, I came up with a theory that humans are actually the least advanced species, because we need to modify our environment so much, and the most advanced species must be something like lichen that survive and thrive on some desolate piece of rock. I thought it was an interesting way to look at things differently. I never would have expected the reaction I got - quite a number of people were outright offended that I'd suggest that we weren't the most advanced species!

I've recently been reading a book about how veterinary knowledge might be applicable to human medicine (Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers), and it keeps talking about how conventional wisdom used to be that animals don't have emotions, or don't feel pain, or don't engage in non-procreative sexual behaviours - or whatever the topic of the chapter is - and conventional wisdom always seemed to assert that these things were uniquely human and served to distinguish us from the animals. As though they're really invested in distinguishing us from the animals.

But why is this? It doesn't make sense. Why wouldn't your internal self-awareness of yourself as human be sufficient? When I first learned about the theory of evolution, I found it reassuring. Being an animal who evolved out of other animals made so much more sense than humans being special. It makes me feel like we might actually belong on this planet. Why does this need to be more special than the other creatures rather than part of the ecosystem exist in the first place?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What if food bank clients could buy extra food via food banks?

Two pieces of common knowledge:

1. Donating money to food banks is more efficient than donating food, because they can use the money to buy food bulk and/or wholesale.
2. Sometimes food banks run low on food.

Suppose you're going to a food bank because you can't afford enough food to get your family through the month. And suppose this happens to be a time when the food bank is running low on food, and they don't have enough to give you (or they don't have enough of what you need to give you). And suppose you have a little bit of money, just not enough to get through the month. What if you could give the food bank what money you have, and they could buy food for you at much better prices?

Of course, it's debatable whether this is ethical. Letting people buy better treatment from food banks doesn't seem entirely consistent with the spirit of food banks. But, on the other hand, saying "If they have extra money they should be donating it when the food bank is short on food!" seems very nearly victim-blamey. Perhaps the solution would be somewhere in the middle - X% of clients' donations go to general food bank coffers, Y% can be used for the donor-client themselves. But that seems a bit paternalistic, like parents who dictate how much money their kids need to give to charity.

I don't have answers, but I think it would be interesting to study and do projections (if they haven't already), and perhaps do a temporary pilot project to see what happens.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Why do they make panties in so many different prints?

I have, unfortunately, been shopping for underwear lately. One thing that surprises me is, especially at stores like La Senza and Victoria's Secret, how many different prints they make panties in. I'm seeing well over a dozen prints available, often with three or more colours in the print, and sometimes a different set of prints for each different style of panties! And sometimes, despite the many many prints available, these panties are available in very few if any solid colours, and quite often not even in the expected prints like leopard print or zebra stripes or plaid or hearts. They're random splotches of multiple colours, or multicoloured variations on the brand's logo.

I wonder why they do this?

Some people, including me, care about the colour of their panties. We want them to achieve a particular look, ranging from blending discreetly under clothes to looking sexy without clothes. If you have a particular colour in mind, a print may or may not work. If you're going for discreet blending or an exact match of your bra, a print is useless. If you want something that looks good with your red bra, the red and white print of the brand's logo with bizarre blue accents might work, but certainly isn't the first choice that comes to mind.

The market for prints is people who don't have specific criteria for what they want their panties to look like, but also care enough about what their panties look like that they don't want plain panties like you buy in a multipack. They must also think prints are significantly superior to solids, for reasons I can't begin to speculate on. And these people must significantly outnumber those who have specific criteria combined with those who don't care at all and are willing to buy multipacks.

Apart from the prevalence of prints over solids, I'm also surprised at the sheer number of different prints available. If a store had maybe half a dozen prints (in addition to a reasonable range of colours), no one would be thinking "Why are there so few prints?" But instead they have dozens and dozens. Each new print needs to be designed by someone, which adds to production costs (albeit marginally).

So why do they do it? Why is it worthwhile to them? And why does it come at the expense of solids?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Mind blown: "I have never spent a single moment of my life in fear of being sexually assaulted"

Mentioned in passing by Corey Mintz in his Fed column with Stephanie Guthrie:

No one has ever paid me less because I’m a man, and I have never spent a single moment of my life in fear of being sexually assaulted.

This blows my mind. I have spent every moment of my life in fear of being sexually assaulted, starting the day that I was 9 or 10 years old, saw the word "rape" in a newspaper article, and innocently asked my mother what it meant.

Fear of sexual assault isn't the dominant emotion at all times, of course. Most often it's shuffled pretty far down the pile, underneath things like "What's the best way to manage this enormous project I've just been assigned?" and "It looks smoggy outside" and "What else was hidden in the omnibus budget bill that hasn't come to light yet?" and "I should call my grandmother" and "When are the Cortland apples going to come out?"

But it's always present. I'm always aware of it, like how you're always aware that you might get hit by a car or lose your job or get cancer. So the idea of someone having never spent a moment in fear of being sexually assaulted is as mind-blowing to me as the idea of someone who has never, even for a moment, worried about losing their job.

Gentlemen: does this reflect your reality?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tell me about PC Financial

I'm considering switching to PC Financial. Does anyone have any first-hand experience with them? Pros and cons? Reasons not to switch? Anonymous comments welcome. Comments from people monitoring for social media mentions of PC Financial will be interpreted as reasons not to switch.