Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books read in December 2016


1. Birdie by Tracie Lindberg
2. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
3. The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
4. Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection edited by Hope Nicholson
5. The Idiot Brain: A Neuroscientist Explains What Your Head Is Really Up To by Dean Burnett
6. Belgravia by Julian Fellowes


1. Midnight in Death
2. Conspiracy in Death
3. Loyalty in Death

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Toronto Star:  
IF TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: This year you find that others count on you and want you to take the lead. Though you might need to adjust to handling what they ask of you, you will make it your pleasure to take on the responsibility. If you are single, romance will knock on your door. The person you meet through your work or a community commitment could become a long-term relationship. If you are attached, the two of you move to a new level of understanding. Both of you enjoy going out on the town together. LIBRA appreciates your leadership skills and would like to learn from you.
 Globe & Mail:
The lesson you need to learn over the coming year is that there is good and bad in everyone – yes, even in you. That does not mean you should never be judgmental but you do need to move away from the idea that some individuals are evil – they’re not

Sunday, December 18, 2016


When Eddie Izzard was running marathons across South Africa and periscoping his progress, I repeatedly saw people in the comments asking how he gets wifi way out in the middle of nowhere.

I've recently seen people call into question the authenticity of civilian tweets from Syria by saying that wifi couldn't possibly be working with all the war constantly knocking out power and infrastructure.

In both these cases, it's glaringly obvious to me that they aren't using wifi, they're using their data plan. They don't need a wifi hotspot (or electricity if their phone is charged), they're using...I don't actually know - satellites or towers or whatever it is that transmits cellular data.

My first thought was to wonder if people are now using "wifi" as a synonym for any type of wireless internet, even when it's clearly not actual wifi.

But another thing I hear about from time to time is the possibility of introducing free wifi in public places as a public service. And when I think about it, the number of places that offer free wifi as an amenity seems to be increasing - restaurants and stores and malls and even the TTC have introduced it, and the trend seems to be towards more rather than less public wifi.

All this time I've been assuming that everyone has a data plan (except me, because I'm frugal with my cellphone use). But could it be that far fewer people than I expected have data plans and far more people than I expected are dependent on wifi - to the extent that it doesn't even occur to them that people might have another method of connectivity?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Shitty relatives cannot be persuaded. That's why they're shitty relatives.

From this week's Savage Love (emphasis mine):
Perhaps you're not the best person to ask, being a cis white man, but as a queer woman of color, the election had an extremely detrimental effect on my relationships with my white partners. I love and care for them, but looking at those results has me wondering why the fuck they didn't do better in reaching out to their shitty relatives? I'm sick of living at the whim of white America. I'm aware this is the blame stage of processing, but it's left me unable to orgasm with my white partners. I'm really struggling with what Trump means for me and others who look like me. I know my queer white partners aren't exempt from the ramifications of this, but I wish they had done better. Respond however you like.

The thing about shitty relatives is they cannot be effectively reached out to. If they could be effectively reached out to, we wouldn't know them as shitty relatives because they would have been effectively reached out to (and therefore ceased to be shitty) long before we became politically aware.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that LW should continue to have sex with people she doesn't want to have sex with, regardless of the reason. (And Dan Savage also stresses this point in his answer.) If recent political events have brought LW to the realization that she's only interested in partners who can effectively persuade their relatives towards acceptable politics (or whose relatives all had acceptable politics to start with), that is entirely her prerogative.

However, my point here today is that some people cannot be effectively reached out to. (Can you? Could a straight white cis man* effectively reach out to you and change your vote?)  And if your partners' shitty relatives were people who could be effectively reached out to, they would have been effectively reached out to long before their relative's partners became aware of them, and therefore wouldn't have fallen under your mental category of "shitty relatives" in the first place.  In a world where there are people who cannot be persuaded on a particular point, I don't think failing to persuade should be seen as insufficient diligence.

*I didn't learn about the English order of adjectives until well into my translation career - and learned about its existence from my Francophone colleagues! But I'm still struggling to figure out what the order of adjectives should be in the phrase "straight white cis man". LW lands on "cis white man", which is counterintuitive to me, but I can't objectively assess which is right/wrong/better/worse.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What to do when you never have an opinion

An excerpt from a recent Captain Awkward question:
And now, here I am, 42 years old. My BF wants to know if I think our new bookcase should be dark wood or light? And guess what, I don’t care! It’s still a novelty that I can buy a bookcase! It could be puke green for all I care. So I tell him that he can pick, I have no preference. Or the ever popular “what do you want for dinner?” Who cares? It’s all food! As long as it’s not something I actively dislike, I don’t care what I’m shoving in my face.

This isn’t relationship-ending levels of stress, but I can tell it’s bugging him. He thinks that he is “getting his way all the time and I never do”. But I have literally had that happen to me, and trust me, this isn’t it. I’ve tried explaining that I’m going to be happy no matter what color the bookcase is, and I promise that I don’t secretly have a preference and one day 10 years from now I’m going to explode because I WANTED LIGHT WOOD YOU ASSHOLE!

So… How do I go about re-learning how to have opinions? Should I just fake it, and randomly pick crap and say it’s my “preference”? It feels like lying but if it gets the job done I suppose. What do you think?
(I recommend clicking through and reading the whole question with all the background before commenting on LW's specific situation.)

I have seen this sort of situation ("my partner asks what I think and I genuinely don't have an opinion") mentioned various times in various relationship advice forums, and I have an idea for how to handle it:

If you genuinely don't have an opinion on a multiple-choice question and, for whatever reason, you don't want to respond with "I genuinely don't have an opinion," pick the choice that is presented to you first.

If the other person objects, cheerfully go along with whatever they prefer.

If you find yourself viscerally objecting to whatever the first choice is, congratulations, you've just developed an opinion!

And if this is something that happens repeatedly within a particular relationship, the other party will eventually (consciously or unconsciously) start to notice that you always pick the first option, and will begin to (consciously or unconsciously) list their own (conscious or unconscious) preference first. Then they'll feel like you're both perfectly in sync and everyone will be happy.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The bizarro universe of new home construction

So when you buy a new home, the expectation is that there will be problems.  (They call them "deficiencies".)  I've had a number of them, ranging from the superficial (paint on a lighting fixture) to the more problematic (a draft caused by my balcony door being misaligned).

The developer has a system all set up to handle this. I report the deficiencies to this office, and they coordinate having people come in to repair them. Since I work from home, they just give me a ring to let me know when someone is coming, and a nice tradesperson swoops in and solves a problem for me, often answering any questions I might have along the way. (If I weren't home during the day, property management could let them in for me.)  Every individual I have dealt with throughout this process has been awesome, and no one has batted an eye at the number of things I have reported.

Everyone I know who has bought a new home (condo or detached) says they've gone through this.  Even my parents, who bought a new home back when I was still a fetus, went through this.  And everyone tells me it's normal.

What's weird to me is that it's normal!  Imagine in your own job, if you could turn in work with about at least a dozen mistakes!  I'd get fired for that kind of error rate! And imagine if this was considered fine and normal, to the extent that your employer had a whole infrastructure set up for your clients to report the mistakes you made, and then you'd resolve them in batches over the next several weeks. And your employer was considered a good service provider on the grounds that the mistakes were resolved promptly and cheerfully, and it would be completely unreasonable for your clients to expect you not to make mistakes in the first place!

And the bizarre thing is it's been like this for decades!  It was like this 36 years ago when my parents bought a new home, and no one has fixed it yet!

Don't get me wrong, I'd still rather have a newly-built home that only I have ever lived in than an older one that has the leavings of other people's different housekeeping priorities in it, but it blows my mind that for decades and decades this entire industry has just been okay with the fact that there are multiple deficiencies in the product delivered to the customer - especially when it's the biggest purchase of the customer's life and one that affects every aspect of their day-to-day happiness.

Friday, December 09, 2016

How I'm making my new home uninhabitable to anyone but me.

I blogged before about my filing system, where I sort things in order of when I received them after years of failing to sort stuff and just sticking it in the front of the file drawer.

As I've been setting up my new home and finding myself have to organize things, I've been coming up with more unique ways to organize things:

- I organized my desk drawer full of office supplies and other miscellany in order of "How likely am I to look for it?" Stuff I think I'm going to look for all the time goes in front, stuff I don't expect to look for goes in the back.

-In my file drawer, I made a folder for "stuff I can never figure out where to put and then can't find it and then panic". Now I'll never need to panic about not being able to find something again!

- In a bathroom drawer, I made a "stuff I use every day" section. Once I get drawer dividers figured out, I'll also add a "stuff I use regularly but not daily" section.

- My new place has a den. I'm used to living without a den and didn't deliberately seek one out (the suites that met my other requirements all came with dens). So I'm putting all the stuff that I can't figure out where to put it in the den, some of it in moving boxes, some of it in random piles.  I'm going to leave it like this for several months to see what makes its way out of the den, the I'm going to simply use the den as a storage room for everything else. In theory, I'll eventually acquire some kind of storage furniture or boxes that look more permanent than moving boxes, but who knows if this will actually happen in practice? Meanwhile, my desk is still in the living room like it's always been - previously because I didn't have a choice, but now because my den doesn't have windows and I don't want to spend the vast majority of my waking hours in a windowless nook.

In short, where my limited skills enable me to impose an organizational paradigm, I'm setting things up so they meet my own eccentric needs perfectly.  But, in the process of doing so, I seem to be creating a space that won't make sense to anyone else. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Things They Should Invent: computer program to automatically design custom-made organizers

There are all kinds of organizer-type products out there that purport to help you organize your clutter by putting it into compartments.  The problem I always find is that the compartments are never a good fit for my clutter.  For example, a drawer organizer might divide your drawer into nine tidy compartments, but I always end up in a situation where the contents of the drawer can logically be sorted into seven categories, one of which is too big for a single compartment, plus about 20% of the contents of the drawer are the wrong size or shape for any of the compartments.

As I've blogged about before, I own a beautiful wooden jewellery box full of tidy, velvet-lined compartments for organizing jewellery, and a significant portion of my jewellery doesn't fit in there because the shapes and sizes of the compartments don't correspond with the shapes and sizes of the jewellery. #FirstWorldProblems

It occurred to me that with 3D printing, people could make organizers that fit the actual stuff they're organizing.  I googled around the idea, and found that such a thing does in fact exist, except you have to input into a program the exact dimensions of the organizer you want to print.  For someone like me who's terrible at organizing tangible objects, that's very near impossible.

But that gave me an idea: what if you could input the dimensions of the items you want to organize and the space you want to organize them in, and a computer program would design the optimal organizer for you?

You could also input leeway for expansion, so the organizer will be able to hold items you might acquire in the future.  (In other words, your jewellery organizer would allow you the option of acquiring more jewellery in the future, as opposed to being 100% full and your whole system is stymied when you get another pair of earrings.)

Advanced option: you take a photo of all the items you need to organize and the space you need to organize them in, with some baseline reference item in the photo for scale, and the computer measures everything itself and designs the organizer automatically.