Saturday, March 11, 2017

The notion of prayer is weird

Within a paradigm where there is a deity who is capable of answering your prayers but does not always choose to do so, the very notion of praying doesn't make sense.

A deity, being omniscient, would already know what you want, and how badly you want it, and the arguments for giving it to you, regardless of whether you go through the motions of praying. The only scenario in which praying would make a difference is if the deity is not just, and is so insecure in its own divinity that it wants its ego stroked by people getting down on their knees and begging. But shouldn't any remotely competent deity be above that sort of thing?

***

As I was writing this, I found myself wondering if there's some correlation between capacity for religion and capacity for emotional labour.  Religion (or, at least, the subset of religion to which I have been exposed) requires not just having certain feelings, but  performing those feelings, often publicly. (Or, if not truly publicly, then at least so it can be seen by your family or your religious community or your religious leadership.)  I wonder if being able to and willing to do that that might correlate with being able to and willing to perform emotional labour?

I don't think it would be outright cause and effect (in my case, I have far more desire to perform emotional labour than to perform religion, but far less ability), but nevertheless I do wonder if it correlates.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Warning: Charmin Essentials Soft toilet paper is NOT the same as Charmin Ultra Soft

I have brand loyalty to Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper.  It is the most comfortable toilet paper I have ever experienced, so I use it all the time as a small daily luxury.

Last time I went shopping for new toilet paper, I saw this package with the great big word SOFT, so I figured it's my usual Charmin and they've changed the package as they do from time to time:

However, once I got it home, I quickly realized it isn't anywhere near the same toilet paper - it feels like sandpaper on my pampered anatomy!

It turns out Charmin Essential Soft is a rebranding of Charmin Basic - the less comfy discount brand!

Charmin Ultra Soft is still called Ultra Soft, and its packaging looks like this:


So if you're picky like me, don't be fooled by the word "soft"; the word "ultra" is important.

Mnemonic: yellow packaging = yellow flag

Saturday, March 04, 2017

What I didn't expect about living in a concierge building (#FirstWorldProblems)

I knew that one of the services a concierge provides is that if you receive a package when you're not home, the concierge will sign for the package for you.

What I didn't know is that even if you are home, the delivery person will still leave the package with the concierge.

I guess it makes sense from the delivery person's point of view - I'm sure they're on a schedule and otherwise evaluated for speed and efficiency, and they'd much rather just dump everything at the concierge desk than buzz or knock on the door of each apartment that has a package on the off chance that someone is home in the middle of the day. And I'm sure that if I asked my concierge to send a particular delivery person up to my apartment (for example, because the package is large and unwieldy) they'd do so.

It just never occurred to me that living in a concierge building would put an extra step between me and my deliveries.

Friday, March 03, 2017

"It doesn't matter as long as people can understand you"


There are people who say that it shouldn't matter whether something is written properly as long as the audience understands it.

I've heard this said about things that aren't "correct" English per the prescriptivist definition (like "ain't"), and about spelling and grammar errors, as well as things like slang and txtspeak, which aren't the focus of today's post.

I have also found myself in situations where these things make it difficult for me to understand the text. For example, if the "incorrect" English or spelling or grammar error shifts meaning, I interpret the text literally, not realizing that the person meant something else.

And sometimes in these situations where I'm having trouble understanding because I interpreted an erroneous text literally, I'm accused of being pedantic, as though I'm not understanding on purpose as a judgement of their poor writing skills, with tone and delivery hinting that I should stop being difficult and just get along and understand it like a regular person.

This makes me wonder: do people whose English skills lead to spelling/grammar/usage errors that shift meaning find it easier to understand other people with similar English skills?  Do they not see the shift in meaning, or somehow instantly see what was intended?

(In this post so far, I'm talking about people whose first language is English, although it could certainly also happen with people whose first language is not English.)

One thing I've learned in my translation career is that Anglophones and Francophones make different kinds of mistakes in French.  An Anglophone who learned French in school wouldn't confuse manger (to eat) and mangé (eaten), or ses (his/her where the noun is plural) and ces (these) on the grounds that they're completely different parts of speech, but these are among the most common mistakes Francophones make on the grounds that they're homophones.  (I was so proud of myself the day I almost sent out an email in French with an infinitive where a past participle should have been! Finally thinking in French!) 

Meanwhile, a Francophone would never say il faut que je vais (indicative , where the subjunctive il faut que j'aille is correct), but this is one of the most common mistakes Anglophones make because subjunctive isn't as intuitive for us.

A French text written by an Anglophone with poor French skills is very easy for me to understand. A French text written by a Francophone with poor French skills is perilously close to impenetrable for me.

I wonder if the same phenomenon occurs with texts written by people with similar skill levels in English, even if English is their first language. Do people who are prone to make errors in English understand error-prone English better than people who have a better handle on spelling and grammar?  If so, I wonder if they can understand error-prone English better than error-free English?

(Aside: I'm quite sure the gods of irony will have inserted a few errors of the sort that I don't usually make into this blog post.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

How Reitman's lost my loyalty and broke my heart

I have had brand loyalty to Reitmans for my entire adult life, ever since I discovered their Comfort Fit pants.  These are these only pants in the world that don't gap in the back when I sit down, which is particularly important because I have a desk job.

There were also Comfort Fit jeans, and they were a revelation!  The dark wash boot cut style not only fit comfortably, but was perhaps the single most flattering garment I've ever owned.  I look tall and toned and fierce wearing them, and feel bad-ass walking down the street!  In recent years they've been using a lower-quality denim that wears out faster (and, inconveniently, seems to wear out in the crotch first), but no biggie, I can just pop in and buy another pair of the same.

But this time, I couldn't.

There are zero boot cut comfort fit jeans, and zero dark wash.  There was a straight leg style, but it wasn't a true straight leg - the ankle was skinny and I could barely get my feet through. They looked exactly like the hideous cheap fake jeans from Biway that the kids on welfare wore in my preteen years.

Which means there are now zero jeans in the world that will fit me comfortably and make me feel good about myself.  And my old ones got a hole in the crotch, so now I don't even have the option of wearing jeans.  At all.  Ever.  An entire baseline category of clothing is unavailable to me.


***

This has been happening to me more and more often. Clothes that make me feel good about myself are taken away, and no workable replacement manifests itself. Victoria's Secret changed my underwear, and I still haven't found an alternative that's as good. Smart Set made shirts that were flattering to me, then they closed down. I normally adore Fluevog shoes, but everything this year has pointy toes and I don't think my black ankle boots are going to hold out long enough for their silhouette to evolve again. Lord and Taylor made cashmere gloves that actually fit me (even though they were a bit too delicate and I only got a year's wear out of them), but then this year they didn't make them any more.

Despite my best efforts to take care of my clothes (even my mother thinks the extent of my air-drying is ridiculous!), they're wearing out.  And I'm afraid once I lose the clothes that make me feel good about myself, I'll never be able to find a replacement and I'll never feel pretty again.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Books read in February 2017

 New:

1. Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel
2. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
3. Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette

Reread:

1. Reunion in Death
2. Purity in Death
3. Brotherhood in Death

Things They Almost Invented: pre-sliced frozen pizza

I previously came up with the idea of pre-sliced frozen pizza. You can't cut a frozen pizza, but a whole frozen pizza is more than one person should eat in one sitting. And pizza loses a significant amount of yumminess when you reheat it. (And single-serving mini pizzas have too much crust for the amount of toppings/too little toppings for the amount of crust.)

Today I found something that can fulfill the same function: Dr. Oetker Ristorante Ultra Thin Crust pizza.

It isn't pre-sliced, but the crust is so thin I could easily snap it in two with my bare hands! It's not as precise as cutting it in half, but it's certainly a workable way to not have to heat up the whole thing.

If you're in the market for frozen thin-crust pizza but don't want to eat the whole thing or reheat the rest later, I recommend giving it a try.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I would never think of borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbour. Here's why that's a good thing.

A while back, a politician said that she moved out of Toronto because she felt it lacked community, citing as an example “I would never go next door and ask my neighbour for a cup of sugar. It just wouldn’t happen.

This led to a brief flurry of journalists attempting to borrow sugar and documenting the results, but I didn't give it much thought, until it bubbled up in my mind in the shower today and it occurred to me:

I would never, ever even consider knocking on my neighbour's door to borrow a cup of sugar, literally or metaphorically. It just wouldn't happen.

And the reason for that has absolutely nothing to do with my neighbours. And absolutely everything to do with my neighbourhood.

I chose my neighbourhood because it's easy and convenient. And part of being easy and convenient is having stores that sell and services that provide nearly everything I might ever need all within the immediate neighbourhood.  I can get a boxspring, a biopsy and a bridesmaid dress all within easy walking distance.  And, more importantly, I can get sugar - or any other foodstuff I might need - within a two-minute walk, 24/7/365.

Many urban neighbourhoods - especially high-density neighbourhoods - are like this.  There's no need to bother your neighbours because the neighbourhood infrastructure and amenities meet your needs.

That's a sign of a successful, functioning community, where people can get what they need through the normal mechanisms and infrastructure, without having to even consider imposing upon the kindness of - or being at the mercy of - those who happen to be in the vicinity.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Profiled

Last spring, I experienced thigh chafing for the first time in my life.

Due to my disproportionately long inseam and dislike of the current trend of tight pants, it turns out that on most of my pants the gusset fell below the bit at the top of my thighs that was chafing, meaning that the legs of my pants couldn't serve as a barrier to protect me against the chafing. What few pants I owned that did have a high enough gusset were made of unpleasantly rough or unbreathable material, which may have even made matters worse.

I clearly had immediate need of softer pants, and they probably needed to be more fitted so the gusset would stay right at the very top of my thighs and protect the area being chafed. But the last thing I wanted to do when every step was painful was go pants shopping!  So I went to multiple websites with generous return policies and ordered multiple pairs of yoga pants, one of each plausible pair in my usual size and one a size smaller.

Over the next few days, a wide selection of yoga pants arrived at my door. I tried them on and kept everything that worked for me.  It turned out my idea of going a size down was unnecessary (I hadn't bought new yoga pants in years and they're more fitted now than they were last time I shopped for them), so I returned everything in the smaller size and some of the things in the larger size.

Shortly after that happened, I started getting coupons and offers and recommendations for maternity wear.  I guess I triggered an algorithm somewhere - frantically shopping for yoga pants and opting for the larger size in every case is totally something a pregnant lady would do! 

This was all about nine months ago.  And now I'm getting coupons and offers and recommendations for baby things!  Even though I haven't bought yoga pants or maternity wear or anything comparable in the meantime, apparently online shopping algorithms are the kind of people who count months.

I wonder how long this will persist for? Will I be getting offers for toddler things for a few years, followed by back-to-school offers and high school graduation offers?  Will they start trying to sell me those conception monitors if I don't shop like a pregnant lady for a few years, on the grounds that my non-existent child should have a sibling?

Maybe I should use Privacy Mode when googling for baby gifts just in case...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What if different kinds of lies were like apples and oranges?

Conventional wisdom is that politicians lie.

But when we say this, we usually mean "They don't keep their electoral promises." They say they're going to do something and then they don't, or they say they aren't going to do something and then they do.

But sometimes politicians lie about objective, observable facts.  And this is a problem, because they aren't just stating objectively incorrect information, they're also using the objectively incorrect information as a basis for questionable policy.

For example, a politician says there are more libraries than Tim Hortonses in their area, and therefore libraries should be cut. However, the fact of the matter is that there are more Tim Hortonses than libraries in their area.  And even if there were more libraries than Tim Hortonses, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. And even if the ratio were a problem, perhaps the solution would be more Tim Hortonses.  And maybe the ratio is even a problem the other way - maybe there aren't enough libraries.  One possibility is that there are more libraries than Tim Hortonses but still not enough libraries (for example, if there were two libraries and one Tim Hortons, that wouldn't be enough libraries for the entire city.)

It creates a stream of hypotheticals that the people least likely to be willing or able to stay fully informed are least likely to be willing or able to follow. If you focus on debunking the clear, objective lie (more libraries than Tim Hortonses), you're implying that the problematic logic that follows (that more libraries than Tim Hortonses would be a problem, that libraries should be cut) is not a problem. If you focus on the problematic conclusions, you're implying that the false premise is accurate and failing to call out the politician for a glaring objective falsehood.

But not enough people see this lying about objective facts as a massive deal-breaker problem that needs to be immediately and drastically nipped in the bud, because we're coming from this baseline conventional wisdom that of course politicians lie.

This makes me wonder how our political discourse would be different if these different kinds of lies were completely different concepts in our language and concept system. We can, of course, describe the different kinds of lies that exist using words and phrases, like I've done above, but they're all lies.  What would happen if they were different concepts, like apples and oranges? Yes, apples and oranges have things in common (they're both round and sweet and edible, they both fall into the broader category of "fruit" in our concept system), but they're clearly different things in our concept system.

If different kinds of lies were apples and oranges, no one would say "Of course that politician is oranging, everyone knows that politicians always apple." No one would say "Why are you calling out that politician for oranging but not that other politician for appling?"  People could be aghast that the politician oranged without even having to address the conventional wisdom that politicians apple, because they're two completely different concepts.

I wonder what our political discourse would look like then?

I wonder if there are any languages where different types of lies are completely discrete concepts?  I wonder if the cultures where those languages are spoken also have the conventional wisdom that politicians lie?

Monday, February 06, 2017

Things They Should Invent: platonic meetup app for women attending events alone

Sometimes it can be logistically inconvenient to go to events alone. It can be a lot easier to go as part of a group, so you can hold each other's place in a general admission audience or keep an eye on each other if the situation turns questionable. These inconveniences are felt particularly by women, what with dealing with purses and keeping an eye on your drink and getting home safely at night.

Sometimes when I'm at a place alone and I need a buddy, I form a temporary alliance with another woman who's also there alone. I'll hold your place while you go to the bathroom, then we'll trade. Would you join me in walking back to the subway after?

But you can't just blindly assume there will be someone there to serve as a buddy when you need one. So sometimes, when I'm uncertain about going as a woman alone and I can't find someone to go with me, I end up not going.

What if there was an app for that?

I envision two parts: one that's kind of like Meetup, and one that's kind of like Grindr, but both platonic-only and women-only.

The Meetup aspect (which doesn't have to be an app - it can and should function as a website) is for people who are considering attending an event but don't want to go alone. You click on "I'm interested", you see a list of other people who are interested, and you can get in touch and make plans. (Potential safety feature: you can indicate on the website who you're going with, so the website has a record. I'm not a superfan of facebook integration, but maybe your facebook friends can see who you're going with?)

The Grindr aspect (which has to be an app because it's location-based) is for if you're already at an event and you want a buddy.  Maybe the crowd is more of a crush than you anticipated, maybe the walk back to the subway is scarier at night than it looked on Google Street View, maybe you don't dare brave those portapotties alone. You sign into the app, indicate where you are and that you're looking for a buddy, and see anyone else present who's looking for a buddy.

Of course, as with so many things in life, the challenge is the creep factor.  How do you keep out people who are just looking for single women, either for a hookup or to find vulnerable people?

The only idea I can think of initially is a nominal membership charge (like Metafilter's $5) that has to be paid by a credit card with a female name on it. But, obviously, there are problems with that. How would whoever or whatever is responsible for determining if a name is female tell that Jean Augustine is a woman but Jean Charest is a man? What about the poor girl whose parents decided to kre8tively name her Bruce? It would also marginalize people who don't have credit cards, or aren't at liberty to use credit cards for this, which would include minors. If, for whatever reason, a 15-year-old girl is going somewhere alone and feels the need to reduce the risk or difficulty of doing so, she shouldn't be shut out of a tool for doing so because she's a minor.

But if there was a way to keep the creeps out, it could be incredibly useful.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

How Google can solve the "post-truth" problem in one easy step

Google searches contain the option to refine results time posted. On the results page, click on "Tools", then click on the little drop-down arrow next to "Any time".

This means that Google maintains "last updated" metadata for the pages it crawls.  Which means that Google can sort results by date.

Google can use this power to combat the "post-truth" problem with one easy step: allow users to sort search results from oldest to newest.  That way, the very first instance of a particular combination of keywords will be right at the top.

This will make it a lot easier to see when a story or an alleged fact has been fabricated out of whole cloth, because the first result (or, at least, the first result that actually refers to the thing in question) is very recent and originates from the person making the false statement.

It would also be an incredibly useful feature to have in Google's Reverse Image Search. Often I do a reverse image search to find the origin of an image that's circulation, but the fact that even Google's relevance algorithm tends to favour novelty means I get pages and pages of results from social media. If we could easily show the oldest instances of an image first, we could quickly identify cases where someone is posting "This is what's happening right now" when really it's an image taken in a different country several years ago.

Google already has this data, as evidenced by the fact that it allows you to refine results by time posted. Any computer can sort by date. All Google has to do is put an "Oldest First" option on its interface, and everyone will be able to fact-check with a single click.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Advice for "Too Stressed For This" from Captain Awkward

Hey, Captain. I’ve got a bit of a social conundrum and would appreciate any tips/scripts to help me deal with people I don’t want to talk to at all.
Short back story: My husband is a youth minister at a church. We have been living in the church parsonage rent-free for the past 8 or 9 years in exchange for monitoring the property, and him not getting a pay check. Over Christmas, the church burned down. A week later, the pastor and a deacon came to us an explained (very poorly) that due to state building codes, the church cannot be rebuilt in the original location, and the only other property the church owns for building is where the parsonage sits. They told us they would like to start removing the parsonage by March; but please don’t tell anyone about this because they hadn’t decided how to tell the church body, or even when to tell them-they seemed to think that two months is sufficient time for a single income (me) household with two children and a person who is a wheelchair user (my husband) to find a new place to live (it isn’t, we’re still looking).
Current problem: While my day job sometimes schedules me for Sundays, there are still weekends I have off, and due to not being right next to the church, if my husband is to perform his duties, I have to take them to church. Our girls also like going to church. I do not. I am feeling a lot of anger and bitterness, as well as depression, because this couldn’t have come at a worse time. Now, when I am at church, I find myself needing to act like I enjoy being around various groups of people who are a) willing to give a family a bare two months to move, and b) are exhibiting more ideological differences with each passing day (I’m sure given the current political climate, most everyone can guess why) that I find more and more difficult to deal with. I have already left off social media outside my online bookstore owner persona, but I can’t leave my husband and kids to always go to church alone-then my husband has to deal with people commenting on my having to work (it’s so dreadful) or asking where I am and if I’m okay (I’m not, but they don’t want to hear that anyway).
Any ideas/scripts how I can politely tell them to leave me alone and give me space because we are not on the same page, when I’d really love to have an epic breakdown and tell them exactly where they can all go?
Thanks bunches
Too Stressed For This
(she is fine as pronoun)

Dear Too Stressed For This:

Until you are comfortably settled in your new home, your excuse for skipping church will always be that you have to move.  When people ask your husband where you are, he should always answer "She couldn't make it - there's so much work to be done because we have to move in March." When people comment to your husband on your having to work, his response should be "Yeah, what with the expense of having to find a new place to live, she has to get all the hours she can." When people ask you "How are you?" your response should be "A bit stressed about finding a new place. You?"

Basically, the goal is to get out the message that you have to move and haven't found a place yet (not to mention all the work and expense). The reason for this is in some churches people help each other, and in some other churches they like to believe that they're the kind of people who help each other. On top of that, a church is a network.  There might be someone in the church who has a home for rent or knows of someone who does.  If they don't know you're going through this, they can't help you.  But if they know that you're going through this, they might help you.  (Given what you hint at about their politics they may well not be helpful people, but if they don't help you you're no worse off than you were before.)

You say that your pastor and deacon told you not to tell anyone that they plan to remove the parsonage. You don't have to tell anyone that. You just have to tell them that you have to move.  If pressed, you can say "We aren't authorized to discuss it yet - the pastor should be making an announcement soon."  Best possible outcome is that there's pressure from the congregation for the pastor to disclose, and, after they've disclosed, to take better care of your family. Worst case, the pastor is mad at your family.  But, as one of the Captain Awkward commenters mentioned, what are they going to do? Not pay your husband for his work and leave your family homeless?

Yes, you don't want to deal with these people at all. You want them to leave you alone and let you get on with your life.  But the members of this church might be a resource to help you solve your current problem. Since it's the church that created this problem, you should take full advantage of them.  Then, after you're settled in your new home, you can cut them off and/or work on finding a new church and/or work on your husband finding a new job.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Books read in January 2017

New:

1. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
2. Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
3. A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh
4. The Secret Path by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire
5. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson and David Shannon 
6. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin 
7. Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence
 

Reread:

1. Witness in Death
2. Judgment in Death
3. Betrayal in Death
4. Interlude in Death
5. Seduction in Death

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How do people on the wrong side of the confidence gap perceive other people's abilities?

I blogged before about the notion of the confidence gap, where some people are loudly overconfident about their own abilities.

I wonder how these people who overestimate their own competence assess other people's abilities? ("Competence" is actually a better word than "abilities" for what I'm trying to express here, but the post rapidly became ridiculous with the conflation of the similar-looking and -sounding words "confidence" and " competence")

To make it easier to give examples, let's pretend that abilities can be measured in Ability Points.  Does a person who actually has 50 Ability Points but is overconfident enough to think they have 70 Ability Points perceive someone with 60 Ability Points as more competent or less competent?

Or do they equate loud overconfidence with ability, and so can't recognize that the quietly-competent person in the corner easily has at least 100 Ability Points, but the loudmouth down the hall only has 40 Ability Points on a good day?

I suppose you could also look at this from the other side: how do people with imposter syndrome perceive other people's abilities?

I can't tell you for certain that I underestimate my abilities, but both anecdotal evidence and other people's comments to my younger self suggest that I have done so in the past. (I'm too close to the present to accurately assess it.)  And during that time, I simply assumed that other people had the level of awesomeness that I myself felt subpar for lacking.  For example, I thought I had 50 Ability Points, and assumed that others had 100 Ability Points, when in fact they were within 10 Ability Points of me. (I'm too close to the situation to tell you objectively if that meant we both had ~50 Ability Points or ~100 Ability Points or some vastly different number.)

But that's when comparing myself to other translators in the realm of translation.  In other areas of life where I very clearly don't have particular expertise, if someone who is supposed to have particular expertise doesn't appear to be vastly better than I am in a way I can clearly perceive, I feel betrayed. If I'm right about something and my doctor or lawyer or realtor is wrong, I don't feel I can trust them. I have no idea if this is representative or just one of my personal neuroses.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A solution to the bringing kids to demonstrations dilemma

I've always had mixed feelings about bringing children too young to develop an independent opinion on the issues to political demonstrations.

On one hand, bringing your kid to a demonstration is modelling political participation, just like bringing your kid with you to vote. And a demonstration is also a part of regular life, like taking your kid with you grocery shopping.

But, on the other hand, participating in a demonstration (especially if you're holding a sign, chanting the chants, etc.) implies having a certain opinion on a certain issue, and some kids are simply too young to have developed an opinion.

On top of that, children tend to make for good pictures, so there's a high likelihood that kids at demonstrations will end up with a photo of them on the internet holding a sign that may or may not reflect the opinion they develop independently once they become savvy enough to do so.

So far, the best idea I've been able to think of is that kids at demonstrations shouldn't be photographed, which helps contain the issue but doesn't completely address it. (Although I have no objection to any policy that protects kids - or people of any age, really - from having their pictures posted on the internet without their informed consent.)

But the other day, my Twitter feed gave me a much better idea:

Kids participating in demonstrations must write their own signs, without any adult input about content or messaging. 

I'll allow adults transcribing the kid's message (only at the kid's request) if the kid's printing and spelling skills haven't caught up with what they want their sign to say, but the content of the sign must be entirely the kid's idea, and the kid must be permitted to use their own sign regardless of whether it's consistent with the demonstration's messaging.

Here are two delightful examples of this phenomenon that were tweeted into my feed. They can also been seen on imgur here and here.






As you can see, the kids are clearly expressing their own ideas rather than mindlessly regurgitating what the adults around them are saying. But they still get to proudly participate in the social and cultural experience of a demonstration, even if they don't have independent understanding of the issues, without expressing any ideas that they wouldn't if they had independent understanding of the issues. And, despite the fact that they're off-message, they don't take away from the message of the demonstration, and, in fact, add to its credibility by making it look like an inclusive family event.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Things They Should Invent: bottled flat ginger ale

A common home remedy for an upset stomach or nausea is to drink flat ginger ale.

This is less easy than it could be, because ginger ale only comes carbonated, so you have to open it and pour it out and wait for it to go flat.

Solution: sell ginger ale that's already flat. If ginger ale can't be manufactured without first making it carbonated, then they should let it go flat before bottling it, and bottle it like water or juice or similar flat beverages.

The market for this: airlines (and, perhaps, other modes of transportation that provide food service and where people might get motion sick, like trains where you might have to sit backwards). Wouldn't it be convenient to be able to offer one of the standard home remedies for motion sickness in your standard drink selection?

Some parts of the internet suggest that flat ginger ale doesn't actually help with motion sickness, but I'm not sure that that matters. Other parts of the internet are convinced that it's panacea, so the demand does exist.  And if you're stuck in a plane for hours and fighting off airsickness with nothing but a basic drink selection to help you, wouldn't you choose the common home remedy just in case it helps? Even if it's a placebo effect, it might still bring relief, or, at a minimum, the comfort of feeling like you're doing something for your motion sickness. And if it does in fact work for some people, even if just as a placebo, all the better!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Things people say

People (specifically Canadian Anglophones) are often surprised that I learned French in regular public school (as opposed to going to French immersion or growing up in a household where French was spoken) and went on to have a career where I use French every day.  It's like they see it as impossible to learn French in school.

In my previous job in tech support, people (specifically non-techy end-users) were surprised that I didn't study computers in school, and instead picked up what I needed from personal use or everyday life or people around me or the internet. It's like they see it as impossible to learn computers without doing so in school.

***

I'm not very good at convincing or persuading people.  But when I say that out loud, people say to me "Don't be silly, of course you are!"

Even though I have literally just failed to convince/persuade them that I'm not very good at convincing/persuading people.

***

I've noticed a significant overlap between people who react to the fact that I've bought a condo as though it's exciting and people who believe that money can't buy happiness.

If you think it can't buy happiness, why do you think it's exciting?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Did you need an invitation to join the French Resistence?

This idea occurred to me when thinking about the French Resistance during World War II (at least as portrayed in fiction), but I'd imagine it would apply to a wide range of resistance movements past, present and future.

A movement resisting tyranny wouldn't be able to recruit openly, because the very tyranny you're resisting would use this to identify who and where you are and eliminate you.

This would mean that if you want to join the resistance, you'd need to be invited, or know someone, or know someone who knows someone.

Which means that there might be perfectly competent - and perhaps even highly useful - people who want to participate in the resistance but can't join because they don't have the right connections, or because the resistance doesn't know about them.

And when there are highly competent (or highly enthusiastic) who want to join the resistance but can't get an in, they might start their own resistance. (Especially if the resistance that they can't get an in to join is particularly good at its secrecy - the would-be resistance members might not even know that it even exists.)

I wonder if there were ever multiple and competing resistance movements? (Like this scene in Life of Brian

I wonder if tyrants were ever able to play one resistance movement off another?