Friday, June 30, 2017

Books read in June 2017


1. Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard
2. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah


1. Divided in Death
2. Visions in Death

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How to set up your friends

 From Captain Awkward:
Hello Captain,
My distant friend Sally and I went out to dinner and she started asking me about my past relationships. I’ve known Sally for over a decade and she’s never pried into my dating life. I told Sally I wasn’t interested in dating anyways as I am looking for a job and like to online date or meet people through work. She tried to reason me out of all of this which seemed troubling.
A couple weeks ago Sally had a birthday party. She had put the event on Facebook. After our dinner, Sally texted me that her friend John saw me on the invite list and became “interested” in me. She said he might hit on me at the party ( he did not show up). This made me uncomfortable as I hate flirting with strangers. It’s odd but I’ve never even flirted with someone who’s become my boyfriend.
I also don’t trust Sally’s judgment at all. To be blunt I’ve met her friends and they aren’t horrible but they’re the “I don’t suffer fools gladly” type.
John has also been asking Sally about me. He wants to know when I’ve found a job and want to meet him. I have never indicated I want to meet John. I’m refusing, there’s something odd about a person in their late twenties being this invested in someone because of their FB profile. I rarely if ever post on FB. He is also asking me out through my friend which seems manipulative.
Do you have script suggestions?
– No thanks stranger ( female pronouns)

This is completely outside the scope of advice to LW, but my brain immediately responded with advice to Sally on how to set up your friends better:

Dear Sally,

The first thing to do is tell LW "My friend John saw your facebook profile and would like me to introduce the two of you." Then show John's online presence to LW so she can get to know him a bit.  If LW has any questions about John, answer them as comprehensively and truthfully as possible.  Give LW as much information as she wants.  And then, if she's interested in John after having all available information, facilitate the introduction.

Note that your job as a matchmaker is not to convince or coerce these two people into dating. Your job is to make a good match, which means setting up people who are compatible with each other.  If one person sees a reason for incompatibility, accept it and don't force them into a bad match.

And if LW just has no active interest without seeing any particular incompatibility, the best thing you can do is leave it be.  She knows that John is interested, she knows where to find him.  There's a small chance that if you leave the idea to stew for a while, she might warm to it.  But there's a large chance that if she feels too pressured, she's going to find the whole thing creepy and want nothing to do with him.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Do cell phones affect smoking rates?

The following is (a tangent) from Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard. As usual, any typos are my own:

In the old days we had cigarettes, so if you wanted to hang out somewhere looking relaxed, you could just light a cigarette an lean against a lampost and smoke it. You could lean against a wall in a station, or sit in a chair or on a bench. You could hang out anywhere with a cigarette. Now most of us have given up cigarettes, but we've got our mobile phones, which we can use much in the same way: we stand somewhere or sit somewhere while doing almost anything - reading a book, sending an email, checking our texts - on our smartphones.

This makes me wonder if the rising prevalence of cell phones and smart phones and texting and apps has resulted in a decline in smoking rates?  Perhaps not the percentage of smokers in society, but perhaps the number of cigarettes smoked.

Your phone gives you something to do with your hands when you have downtime, so you might not automatically reach for a cigarette out of boredom.  It also gives you something you want to do with your hands when you have a moment, and it might be harder to light a cigarette with a phone in your hand, or harder to text with a cigarette in your hand.  (I'm sure innovative people can find a way, but it would be an additional inconvenience).

I once read a theory of addiction that to cure an addiction, you have to replace it with something else, because the patient needs . . . something.  Maybe the phone could serve as that something?

I don't know if this could be studied, because there have been numerous efforts to decrease smoking rates for public health purposes before and during the advent of the cell phone, so I don't know if you could separate the effect of cell phones from other factors.  I know that in Europe in the 90s smoking was more widespread, and I know that Europe took up texting before North America, but I have no idea what else was happening in the interim that might have affected smoking rates.

I wonder if there's somewhere in the world where people do smoke, but there haven't been anti-smoking measures, and cell phones have also become increasingly prevalent.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why do politicians want people to telephone them?

Recently, a greater than usual amount of instructions for political activism has been reaching me, and a common theme seems to be to telephone politicians. The instructions are to tell the person who answers the phone that you would like the politician to take or stop taking a particular action, and tell them any personal stories that support this request.

But why on earth would the telephone be the optimal medium for political activism?

If you telephone an elected official's office, someone has to answer the call. If you tell them an anecdote, someone has to write it down.  If they have a case tracking system, the person who answers the phone has to enter their notes into the case tracking system. The whole process moves at the speed of human speech, and is subject to transcription errors on the part of the person answering the phone, and dictation errors (as well as general human error and any lack of preparedness that's borne of inexperience) on the part of the person making the call. This is especially egregious because less-experienced phone-callers have to write up a script for themselves, which they read to the phone-answerer, who transcribes it into whatever system the political office uses.

But if you send them an email, the message will reach your political official (or enter their automated system) in your own words, either by copy-paste or through an automated algorithm. No human intervention, no possibility of human error, and also no staffing expenses to deal with your inquiry. It's faster for political staff (reading is faster than typing) and might also be no less slow for the citizen if - like me - they'd have to write up a script before making a phone call, or - like me - they can type at the speed of speech anyway. There's no human error, because your very own words either reach the politico directly or are entered into the automated system. From the point of view of the politico, they can get their constituents' POV straight from the constituents' mouth, and/or get their constituents' POV without having to pay the salary of political staff who run itnerference.

So how did it come about that a telephone call is considered the most effective way to reach politicians?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

City Shoe Repair in Eglinton station has moved to 2200 Yonge St., 2nd floor

Looking for the awesome shoe repair place that, until very recently, was in Eglinton station?

They've moved to the 2nd floor of the Canada Square building at 2200 Yonge St.

If you're standing in front of their old location, go up the stairs to the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton, then up the next set of stairs (or the escalator) into Canada Square.

Then keep walking south through the building (parallel to Yonge, away from Eglinton). Go past the little stairs that go down to the lobby, past the elevators, and keep going. It's, on the left side (closest to Yonge St.) about three storefronts past the point where you start thinking "Did I miss it?" You can see the big red boot through the store windows. If you reach TPH The Printing House, you've gone too far.

The nice people at City Shoe Repair have saved my ass and my shoes multiple times, including when my shoes literally fell apart while I was walking down the street and when my boot wouldn't unzip leaving me stuck inside it.  So hopefully I can use my googleability to help people find them now that their new location has less foot traffic.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Childfree for Dummies: Part VI (plus: help write the analogy!)

Sometimes medical professionals insist on taking measure to protect the patient's fertility even when the patient is childfree and doesn't want to be fertile.  And sometimes, if you complain about this, people will counter with "But he's just looking out for your health."

But unwanted fertility is not part of health.

Fertility is a thing my body does that I don't want it to do, much like acid reflux or gaining weight or sweating profusely.  It has no benefit for me and adds nothing to my quality of life. On top of that, unlike acid reflux or gaining weight or sweating profusely, fertility could have the most severe negative consequences possible - both for myself and for innocent others.

Therefore, fertility is not an aspect of my health, but rather a chronic condition to be managed.  And managing it is the top priority of my life. The vast majority of the medical care I receive is in service of managing this chronic condition. If it were not possible to receive the medical care that permits me to manage this condition, I would take drastic measures - up to and including breaking the law, risking my personal health and safety, and relocating to another part of the world - to keep it under control.

So when medical professionals disregard the fact that a patient is childfree and give them treatment that preserves their fertility in cases there are also options that may reduce or even eliminate fertility, they're basically refusing to cure the chronic condition that overshadows every aspect of the patient's life.


I'm trying to think of an analogy for this concept, but it's not working out as well as I'd like. Here's what I've got so far.

Analogy: imagine you're a pre-op transman, and you're diagnosed with breast cancer. One possible treatment is mastectomy. This would not only eliminate the cancer and either vastly reduce (or even completely eliminate) the likelihood of its returning, and vastly reduce (or even completely eliminate) the amount of follow-up care you'd need, it would also remove the breasts that you don't even want (and, depending on their size, may cause you day-to-day discomfort).

But the doctor refuses to give you a mastectomy, and in fact says they will make every effort to save your breasts.  Because most women want to keep their breasts. When you point out the unfairness and very near cruelty of the doctor making you keep your unwanted breasts when removing them would be an effective treatment to everything that ails you, people counter with "But he's only looking out for your health!"

Of course, the problem with this analogy is it's likely ineffective to the people who need it. People who aren't able to imagine what it would be like to not want to have children ever are also likely to have difficulty imagining what it would be like to be transgender. (Unless there are transfolk who can't imagine being childfree, which would be an interesting combination of characteristics.)

Can you think of another comparable analogy that would explain the concept more effectively for the target audience?