Sunday, September 30, 2012

Holding babies

If you have a baby,  it is, quite literally, the most valuable and precious thing in the world to you.  Babies are also very breakable.  Especially when they're newborns, clumsiness could kill them.

This is why, if you think about it, it's surprising that parents let people hold their babies.

Not all parents let people hold their babies, of course, and not all babies tolerate being held by randoms.  But if a friend or relative or immediate co-worker has a baby, it's certainly not unreasonable to think that they might let you hold the baby.

It almost seems to be part of the normal introduction process.  If the parent expects you to be a long-term presence in the baby's life, they'll hand you the baby to hold so you can get to know each other.  But I've also had people let me hold babies because I thought the baby was cute.  I've had people let me hold babies because the baby keeps staring at me. I've had people hand me their baby because they know I'm childfree and want to see what happens when you make the CFer hold a baby (answer: baby holds onto my hair like a little monkey and/or starts crying, I babble like an idiot and/or stick out my tongue). There even a picture of me, not yet three years old, holding my newborn sister for the sole reason that my parents thought it would make a cute picture.

All of this works fantastically as a social lubricant, but, if you think about it, it's really rather high stakes.  Is there any other social lubricant where you surrender your immediate ability to protect what is most valuable and precious to you?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Post your Sitemeter alternatives here

My Sitemeter hasn't been working for weeks, my email to them hasn't been answered, and I can't find any status information.  So I've decided it's time for an alternative.

I'm looking for not just a hit counter, but something that gives me link and search engine referrals.  Anyone have any recommendations?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is it legal to steal back something that was stolen from you?

Recently in the news: a guy finds his stolen bike and steals it back.

I wonder if that's legal?

He accosted the guy who was riding the bike and demanded that he hand over the bike.  I think, technically, that's mugging. If the guy riding the bike wasn't actually the thief and had just bought the bike on craigslist or something (he said his friend gave him the bike), he might have no idea it was stolen. And suddenly some guy drives up in a car and insists that he hand over his bike?

In this particular case, they were certain that it was the right bike because the serial number matched the police report.  But if he hadn't been certain, if he hadn't been able to check the serial number immediately, this could have been a mugging.

In the article, the police say he shouldn't have approached Bike Guy and should have called the police instead, citing personal safety.  But what's the actual legal status here?  Is it legal to steal back something that was stolen from you?  Is it legal to coerce, intimidate, or threaten someone into returning something that was stolen from you?  What if you break into someone's home to steal back what is rightfully yours?  And what if the guy on the bike wasn't the thief?  What if he had actually bought the bike on craigslist or something?  Is it illegal to have stolen property in your possession even if you didn't steal it yourself?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Ahh Bra is good for sleep, but not recommended for everyday

At the more sensitive parts of my cycle, I like to wear a bra to sleep.  I'd always used old sports bras for this purpose, but they've gotten stretched out enough that they're useless even as sleep bras.  So I was once again in the market for something wireless and not too confining, but also not too expensive.  I saw the Ahh Bra advertised on TV and thought it was basically the right idea, and I was able to find one on eBay for under $5, so I decided to give it a try.

It is extremely comfortable and holds everything reasonably in place without being too confining, so it's ideal for sleep.  It fulfilled the need for which I purchased it and I certainly feel I got my money's worth given the very low price I paid for it.

However, I do not recommend it for everyday wear.  I didn't feel sufficiently supported in it for daytime wear (my first instinct was to fold my arms under my breasts), even though my breasts didn't end up moving as much as I felt like they were going to.  It also does nothing for my figure.  I don't know if it compresses the breasts or if it's just the shape they land in, but my bustline certainly looks smaller than it does in a regular bra or even without a bra.  I also found that the material of the cups is too thin to disguise the nipples in a white shirt, which is the whole reason why I started wearing bras back when I was 11 in the first place.

I should add, as context, that I like wearing a bra.  Based on the advertising, the target audience of the Ahh Bra seems to be people who find it irritating to wear a bra.  It might still be a useful product for the target audience because it is, quite literally, better than nothing.  It provides some support, and it has none of the characteristics that, the commercials claim, make bras annoying.  It would be comfortable enough for my 11-year-old self, who absolutely hated having a band around her ribs, although it doesn't obscure the nipples enough to meet her needs.

If you want lift, shape, support, or modesty for everyday wear, this is not for you.  If you want a sleep bra without regard for appearance, or otherwise want to limit your breasts' range of motion without wire or tight elastics, this may be for you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New Rules: natural consequences edition

1. People who talk about marriage as though it's something a person can do unilaterally should be forced to marry the last person they dumped. If they haven't dumped anyone, they should be forced to marry the last person they rejected, even if it's that homeless guy who shouts crude suggestions at everybody.

2. Everyone who says "can't you take a joke?" is deducted one good laugh from their life for every time they utter that phrase.

3. People who disparage others' preferences with "it's only a phase" are banned from indulging their own equivalent preferences until the alleged phase is over. For example, someone who says that your being childfree is only a phase is banned from having children until you do (or, if they already have children, they're banned from having grandchildren). Someone who says that my being vegetarian is only a phase is banned from eating meat until I do. Someone who disparages their kid's taste in music is prohibited from listening to their own favourite music until their kid's taste changes.

4.  People who state as a given that something exists without providing a suitable concrete example are banned from using their equivalent of the something until their interlocutor gets the promised something.  For example, someone who says "There must be plenty of jobs for someone with your skill set" (or even someone who says "Just get a job" as though you can just get a job) is banned from enjoying the financial and social benefits of having job until their interlocutor finds a job.  Someone who says of their friend's relationship "You can do better" is banned from having any sort of sexual or romantic relationship until someone enters their friend's life who is better (by the friend's definition) and is interested in a relationship with the friend.  The people who criticized It Gets Betters that advised moving to the city are required to live with all the hell of adolescence until the it gets better for the rural kid who's reading It Gets Better.

5. Adults who refer to kids as "little" when the kid doesn't want to be referred to that way are to be treated with exactly as much respect as they have for the child in question for the next 24 hours. (This was inspired by a relative who referred to her children's friends as "their little friends" even when the friends in question were all in their teens.)

Things They Should Invent: teach emergency response in school

Every once in a while there's a newspaper article saying that not enough people know CPR.

So why don't they teach it in school as part of required health classes?

I learned mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in swimming lessons.  I learned some first aid, some fire safety stuff including the theoretical part of how to use a fire extinguisher and some stuff about calling 911 in a baby-sitting course I took when I was 12 (and you had to be at least 12 to take this course).   I learned RICE and such for sports injuries in one of my middle school health classes. I took first aid and CPR training when I was 17 (and you had to be at least 17 to take this course).

But why not teach all this stuff in Grade 7 or 8 health class, at a point in the school career where everyone is still required to take the class?  I don't know why you have to be 17 for formal first aid courses (or had to 14 years ago) - it seems well within the reach of a young teen.  So teach everyone first aid and CPR, how to use a fire extinguisher and what you should and shouldn't to do put out a fire if you don't have a fire extinguisher, things you  need to know about calling 911 (What information do they need in what order?  If I'm out of town and call 911 from my Toronto cellphone, do I get connected to the local 911 or to Toronto 911?  If you don't speak English, what exactly should you say or do to get them to connect you to an interpreter?), what to do if you're in a car accident (even as a passenger), what to do if someone ingests poison - basically all the helpful information people need to know to handle emergency situations.

If everyone learned all this early on, we'd have a whole society that knows how to respond in an emergency.  Surely this is more useful than all the naming of parts that we had to do in middle school health class.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Plot hole in the 6th season of How I Met Your Mother

I've just finished catching up with Season 6 of How I Met Your Mother, and there's a major plot hole in the whole season.

In Season 6, Episode 5, Architect of Destruction, Ted develops a crush on Zoey, who is protesting the new building he's designing because it will require tearing down the Arcadian.  So Ted comes up with a design that incorporates the Arcadian's facade.  Then, when he learns Zoey is married, he throws out the design that incorporates the facade.

However, Zoey continues to cause trouble for Ted's client throughout the season, getting them bad press and putting the completion of the building at risk.

So why doesn't Ted ever offer his client the design that incorporates the facade?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Things They Should Invent:

I've been making very good use of Google's reverse image search function lately.  It comes in handy not only when people post unsourced  funny photos whose backstory I'm curious about, it's also useful for my work.  If a text to be translated includes an uneditable diagram of some commonly used model or schema (like Maslow's pyramid or that circly thing from Six Sigma), I can sometimes run it through reverse image search and find an English equivalent that I can then paste into the document I'm translating. Plus, every once in a while, (this function is still rudimentary) I can run a picture through it to find out what the thing in the picture is called, which comes in handy for things like mechanical parts where you can translate them without fully understanding as long as you have the correct terminology.

I'd like someone to invent the same thing for fonts.

Sometimes I receive texts that are faxed or scanned.  I'm supposed to duplicate the formatting of the original down to the font, but I can't always recognize which font is being used.  When I'm translating a powerpoint with an uneditable diagram that contains texts, I sometimes put textboxes over the text in the diagram and type my own translations in there.  However, if I can't tell which font is being used in the original, I can't duplicate the exact look.

I'd like to be able to input an image of some text, and have the computer tell me which font it's written in.  OCR technology can already recognize all different fonts.  Maybe they could reverse that somehow to tell me which font it's recognizing?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clothing and harassment

Krista Ford's unfortunate tweet got me thinking about the clothes I wear and creeps' reactions to them. I've never been raped, but, like everyone, I receive a fair amount of street harassment. After thinking about it some, I noticed a clear pattern in which clothes correlate with more harassment, but it isn't what you'd expect.

The one outfit that has correlated with the most harassment is a white sleeveless t-shirt, a long flowered hippy skirt, and off-brand birkenstocks. It has no redeeming qualities except that it's completely comfortable on a hot day. Only my arms, face, and toes are showing, the shoes make my feet look manly and my ankles look fat, the shirt is a size bigger than I'd normally wear so it does nothing for my figure, and the colour makes me look like the undead.

Number 2 on the list is my now-defunct green sundress. It's one of those hippy-style dresses from the 90s that you'd crumple up and tie in a knot after you wash it to make it all crinkly. The colour was flattering, it was incredibly comfortable on a hot summer's day, but the shape was, quite literally, like a burqa with the arms and head exposed, falling all the way to the ankles and doing nothing for my figure. It started getting holes around the seams so I had to stop wearing it, unfortunately. I do miss it, but I did get yelled at by men in cars an awful lot when wearing it.

Number 3 on the list is my black trenchcoat, which is also notable for its shapelessness. It's a giant shroud of black that falls to mid-calf and reveals no hint of my curves. I wear it when my bright fucking red raincoat (which is so bright fucking red that the profanity is in fact necessary) is inappropriate. Its only redeeming qualities are that it's a raincoat and it isn't bright fucking red.

Number 4 is a black pinstripe jacket that was originally my mother's before it got handed down to my job-seeking, office-clothes-lacking university student self. I received it 10 years ago, it was in my mother's closet for years before that, and she was middle-aged when she bought it, most likely at an age-appropriate store. It is not unflattering, but its style betrays its era and target audience. I wear it because there's a narrow window in the fall when, despite my best efforts, no other article of clothing I've acquired in my life does the job nearly as well.

All these clothes reveal less of my figure than my usual clothes. All of them are older (both in objective age and in age of the target wearer) than my usual clothes. I'm usually wearing low necklines and high heels and fitted tops. On non-work days when it's hot out, I wear camis with spaghetti straps. Most of the summer I'm wearing skirts that fall to the knee and show my legs to their best advantage. The vast majority of the time, including right this minute as I sit here typing a blog post with a cliché gunky green mask on my face, I'm dressed significantly sexier than any of the outfits described above. I wouldn't look at myself twice in these clothes, but the creeps always do.

So it seems the creeps do have some kind of clothing preferences going on there, but it isn't dressing like a whore, and it isn't even dressing sexy. It seems to be shapeless and frumpyish clothes that looked like my mother picked them out (and, in some cases, that my mother actually did pick out.)  I can't imagine what they might be thinking, but it doesn't seem to be anything that outsiders can predict.

Have you noticed any patterns in your own life of which clothes correlate with more street harassment?  Are these patterns at all predictable?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solving ethical dilemmas with helpful kitchen tips

I recently had a party and afterward had quite a few large bottles of leftover wine (they were opened and wouldn’t keep). There is a particular corner in my neighborhood where benign “drunkards” hang out and drink. They have done so for years, and everyone accepts this as part of our neighborhood. My question is, Should I drop this mother lode of wine off on their perch for them (because who am I to judge their choices?), or pour it down the drain (which would be a “waste”)?

Solution: pour the wine into ice cube trays and put them in the freezer. Then you can defrost it in easy and manageable portions next time you want wine. If the wine is red and the idea of drinking red wine that has been cold offends your delicate sensibilities, you can use it to make sangria. (Or to cook, of course, but I'd assume that people who are savvy enough to cook with wine would already do so as a solution to leftover wine.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On the death of a TTC worker

This is what I blogged after a TTC worker died on the job in 2007. I think it still applies today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Things They Should Invent: electrical outlet covers that give you a tiny little zap

My Favourite Little Person recently started crawling, which means that, among many many other things, her parents had to put covers in the electrical outlets. Of course, she immediately started showing interest in the outlet covers and trying to pull them out. Her parents told her "No!" and she seems to understand that they don't want her touching them (which completely blows my mind, BTW. I didn't know kids could understand that at such a young age!), but she has no concept of why she's not supposed to touch them. They look benign, they do nothing that's readily apparent, so why are they a "No!"? This is such a mystery that she's tempted to touch them just to figure it out. Her parents have caught her staring at the outlets in curiosity, shaking her head "No" as though trying to convince herself not to touch them because she's not supposed to (which, again, blows my mind! There's already a conscience in that little brain of hers!). They wouldn't be nearly so tempting if she understood why they're a "No!"

Solution: electrical outlet covers that zap you, just the tiniest little bit. It wouldn't be anything harmful, just a very small, carefully measured jolt of static electricity, like you get from shuffling your socks on the carpet on a dry winter day. That way, little fingers will quickly learn why they're not supposed to touch the outlets, and temptation will be eliminated.

Of course, it might be inconvenient to have zappy covers in your outlets at all times. If you frequently have to uncover the outlets to use them, it would be annoying to get zapped every time. If you have household pets that are smaller and stupider than your average baby, they might get hurt. So maybe the zappy covers could come in a set with identical properly-insulated covers. You can put a zappy cover on, let the baby learn their lesson, and then (when they're not looking) replace it with an insulated cover and proceed with life normally.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thoughts from advice columns: take a number

Returning my cable box at the Time Warner store, I arrived to find 30 people ahead of me in line. Begrudgingly, I took a number (as you do at the deli counter) and waited. A woman turned around and told me she could no longer stay. She offered me her ticket, five numbers away from being called. At first I said no — it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else who was waiting — but she insisted. I took her ticket, returned my cable box and walked out of the store while everyone else kept waiting. Was it right to take the ticket?

The ethicist says he shouldn't have taken the ticket, but I disagree. What LW should have done is accept the number from the lady, then passed his number on to someone with a higher number. That person would then, in turn, pass their number on to someone with a higher number, and there would be a ripple effect throughout the entire line.

No one person would be any worse off than they were going in (if you have #47 and no one offers you a lower number, there are still 46 people in line ahead of you), and a bunch of people would come away from the situation with their day brightened, feeling like they've gotten a stroke of good luck AND feeling like they've been charitable to someone else.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Excellent customer service from Reitmans

I've been shopping at Reitmans for over a decade, and in all that time their size small shirts have always fit me perfectly. (Q: Small? WTF? A: I have narrow shoulders, and the shirts tend to be stretchy enough to accommodate the rest of me.) So I did something perhaps a wee bit irresponsible: I bought a lovely new blouse without trying it on. Then I did something even more irresponsible: I removed the tags before I put it on. My only excuse is that I had 10 years of empirical evidence that it would fit perfectly, and I was fully expecting that I'd put it on and wear it to work that day. But I got my comeuppance: it didn't fit as well as it should have. It was roomier than usual, and I find a slimmer fit more flattering.

I went back on to the store and tried on an extra-small, which fit me perfectly (which is seriously WTF - I am not extra-small by any possible human standard). So I asked to exchange the one I'd bought for the extra-small.

Reitmans doesn't normally do exchanges if you'd taken the tags off, but, fortunately, the saleslady made an exception for me. This made me very happy. I've had other stores be assholic to me when I'd made an honest mistake, so it made me feel good and safe and welcome that they understood that I'd made an honest mistake. The fact that Reitmans permits its sales staff to use their judgement in these kinds of cases creates a much more positive environment for customers, and is an excellent way to get repeat business.

Meanwhile, the moral of the story for customers is try on shirts at Reitmans this season, especially if you prefer a slimmer fit.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Were adults more boring in the 80s?

A For Better or For Worse strip that recently appeared in the paper, originally published in the early 1980s.

This is a common trope I saw in media when I was a kid. The protagonist (often, but not always, a child) does something mildly wacky (in this case, running through some guy's sprinkler) and the bystanders - nearly always adults - would be baffled and bemused. This seemed like the natural order of things to me at the time.

But now I'm looking at it from an adult perspective, and I realize that, as adults, we understand why people would run through sprinklers. We did it when we were kids, it's hot out for us too, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who runs through the sprinklers I pass on hot days when my schedule and my outfit allow me to get wet. I've even seen an elderly lady in a walker deliberately walk closer to the grass so that the sprinkler would sprinkle her.

But in this comic strip, the homeowner is scratching his head as though he's utterly baffled that someone would run through his sprinkler. Why doesn't he get it? Were adults in the 80s more boring than adults now?

On one hand, the author of the comic strip was an adult when she wrote it, so she must understand why people would run through sprinklers. On the other hand, she also wrote the idea that the homeowner would be baffled, which means that it seemed like a plausible reaction to her. FBoFW was far from the only medium of my childhood that portrayed adults baffled by childish whimsy that my adult self (and the creator's adult self) would totally understand. What was going on there?

Monday, September 03, 2012

What I wish I could include in my complaint to Rogers Centre

I just emailed Rogers Centre about how their bottle lid confiscation policy hurt my Bruce Springsteen experience. I told them about how having an open bottle made it difficult to dance, wave, clap, and otherwise fully immerse myself in the concert experience. I told them about how my ticket was ruined and my ipod had to be replaced a cost of nearly $200.

But the part I couldn't explain to them in my email is that getting my ipod wrecked also messed up my emotional arc.

My major fandom experiences come with a clear emotional arc: a period of anticipation, the experience itself, and a sort of emotional come-down phase that happens in the hours and days afterwards. I never know going in what's going to happen in the come-down phase. After Eddie Izzard, I cried like a Beatles fangirl and wrote epic theoretical translation strategies. After each Harry Potter book, I drank a lot of tea and walked down the street utterly baffled that people were going about their lives normally after [universe-changing plot point] had just happened.

During the come-down phase, I have particularly interesting dreams and a period of high creativity. Sometimes other areas of life are affected, like my daily routines or my speech patterns, and occasionally these changes are permanent. I'm less emotionally involved with Bruce Springsteen than with my other fandoms but the concert experience is also more physical than my other fannish experiences, so I was very interested to see how this would affect the come-down stage. What would happen to me? What would I do? What would I make? What would I become?

But instead of getting to enjoy the ride, I instead had to solve the very practical problem of a wrecked ipod. I had troubleshoot and research and budget and comparison shop, all while dealing with the fact that life is overstimulating without my music in my ears. I was supposed to be in prime self-actualization territory, but I was stuck on a lower level of Maslow's pyramid by niggling practical problems that could have been easily avoided.

All of which is disappointing, but not quite something you can put in a complaint letter.