Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Things They Should Invent: website comparing hotel beds

I recently stayed in Marriott hotel, and I found the bed uncomfortable. The mattress was too firm for my liking, the pillows were not firm enough, and the covers weren't heavy enough (in terms of weight, not necessarily warmth - I feel more secure sleeping under a large, weighty duvet).

Because of this, I'd prefer to avoid staying at a Marriott in the future. However, I have no idea what hotels might have beds that are more to my liking.

There are some people in the world who travel extensively and stay in all kinds of different hotels.  Perhaps some of them have found the Marriott beds similarly uncomfortable, but have also discovered a hotel whose beds are more comfortable.  Or, conversely, perhaps some of them found the Marriott beds to their liking after experiencing another hotel where they thought the mattress was not firm enough and the pillows were too firm, so I could extrapolate from that to choose the hotel whose bed they disliked.

With a critical mass of bed reviews, travellers could enter their preferred bed criteria and find the hotel that best meets them, which would certainly make everyone's travel experience more pleasant!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Warning: there's a good chance you might have to face backwards on a VIA Rail train

I recently travelled outside the GTA for the first time in years, so I decided to indulge myself by taking the train. Trains are my favourite mode of transportation for many reasons, not least of which is that, unlike cars, buses and planes, I don't get motion sick on rails.  I can read to my heart's content on a train, whereas on a road or in the air I spend the entire trip fighting off nausea.

However, on the first leg of my journey, I was surprised to discover that my seat - and many others in the train car - faced backwards.

Riding backwards makes me nauseous even on rails.  I don't think I could have even made it to the next station without vomiting. Fortunately, a staff member promptly and cheerfully switched me to a forward-facing seat.  Unfortunately, I got the last forward-facing seat, so the poor lady behind me was struggling with her own motion-sickness for the rest of the journey.

I asked if my seat on my return journey would be facing forward, and no one on the train or in the station could tell me because they don't know until the train is actually pulled up to the platform what kind of configuration it has.

Fortunately I was facing forward on the way home, but if I hadn't been I would have had to literally get off the train, eat the cost of cancelling my ticket last minute, and find another way home.  If I were to fly, at least I'd only be fighting off nausea for one hour instead of four!

VIA Rail does not yet have the ability to specify a forward-facing seat when you book, but they've assured me on Twitter that they intend to implement this functionality by the end of 2017.

I hope they do, so whenever I next have to travel I can again enjoy a nausea-free trip.  But until then, beware if, like me, you absolutely have to face forwards.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I do not recommend Calvin Klein Ultimate Sexy Sheer Thigh Highs

I recently tried a pair of Calvin Klein Ultimate Sexy Sheer Thigh High stockings, and I don't recommend them.

One stocking stayed up fine, but the other simply couldn't stand up to walking. In the time it took me to walk to the elevator and across the lobby, it had fallen down below my kneecap, and when I tried to pull it back up it immediately got a huge run.

Unlike other thigh-highs I've worn previously, these had a sort of sticky adhesive in the top in addition to the elastic to help it stay up. This adhesive was uncomfortable on my skin, and didn't even make the stockings stay up for long enough for me to get out of the building.

I don't have enough recent hosiery experience to recommend a better thigh-high, but if you're in the market for thigh-highs, try something else.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Another way to improve any assisted dying legislation

A problem with attempts to legislate assisted dying is that they attempt to define in legislation what does and doesn't constitute a good enough reason to die, and thereby what does and doesn't constitute adequate quality of life. As life and death are infinite and complex, some things will almost certainly fall through the cracks.

At the same time, when legislation includes specific things that are considered acceptable reasons to want to die, some people who have those conditions or experiences but don't want to die sometimes take offence, as though society is telling them that they don't deserve to live.  And this push-back may lead legislators to be reluctant to include additional specific conditions, for fear of offending more constituents.

These problems could be mitigated with a single provision: if the patient wants to die because of the absence of a specific aspect of quality of life, and the patient does not have a reasonable chance of gaining or regaining that aspect of quality of life, the patient is permitted to die.

The advantage of this is it takes legislators out of the business of deciding what is and isn't deathworthy (or, depending on your perspective, lifeworthy). Each patient gets to set their own priorities.

In carrying this out, medical professionals should drill down and make sure they pinpoint the actual quality of life issue that's important to the patient, in case it could be addressed some other way.  For example, if a patient says "I want to die if I ever end up paralyzed," what exactly is it about being paralyzed that makes them feel it's deathworthy? Are they afraid of never having sex again? Are they afraid of being dependent on someone else to bathe them for the rest of their life? And are these things that actually happen if you're paralyzed, or are there workarounds that the patient doesn't know about?

If they pinpoint that what the patient actually fears is being dependent on someone else to bathe them for the rest of their life, the living will would be edited from "I want to die if I ever end up paralyzed" to "I want to die if I ever end up in a condition where I'm dependent on someone else to bathe me for the rest of my life," which not only addresses the actual problem, but also includes situations the patient didn't anticipate where they might end up unable to bathe themselves.  It would also tell the patient's medical team where to focus, so they can make a point of trying everything to enable the patient to bathe themselves.

In interviewing the patients to drill down and identify their actual concerns, medical professionals would need to be extremely careful not to be judgemental. They'd need to make very certain to treat every concern as completely valid, and not try to talk patients out of it or even react negatively if the concern sounds petty or shallow or superficial. I know this would be difficult for some corners of the medical profession where people see the direst aspects of the human experience every day and would feel inclined to laugh in the face of "I want to die if I can never again eat recreationally."

But if we can successfully legislate and implement a system where patients choose which aspects of quality of life they see as lifeworthy and deathworthy for themselves with the guidance and support of an empathetic and knowledgeable medical team, that will eliminate many potential problems of mislegislation.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Tales from Grade 9 group work

Grade 9 science class. I was generally uncomfortable in this class. My friends all abandoned me at the beginning of the year and I hadn't made any new friends. There wasn't even anyone in this class with whom I casually socialized. I sat alone at one of those lab tables that's intended for two people.

I was good at science, but didn't have any particular passion for it. Because I'd spent the last three years being bullied for being a trekkie, I was worried that here, in Big Scary High School, I'd be bullied for showing any aptitude towards science. But this was a required course. I had no choice. So I kept my head down, quietly did my work, and pulled in low As, making a point of not putting in enough effort or enthusiasm to get high As.

One of our assignments was that we had to dissect a fish. This worried me. I'm a naturally squeamish person. Even the smell of the stuff the fish were preserved in (formaldehyde?) turned my stomach. I tried to think of ways to get out of it, tried to figure out if I could make an argument on moral grounds (I'd recently gone vegetarian, but my shoes were still leather - you can't be picky when you wear a size 11!), but I knew I'd never have the support of my parents and I didn't want to get in trouble, or to draw attention to myself if my attempt wasn't going to be successful. So I found myself there, in the nauseatingly smelly classroom, the day the fishes were being dissected.

I was grouped up with the two boys behind me. This worried me too. I didn't know them very well, but they seemed like the kind of people who would be mean to me. They got poor marks in the class, and had that unfortunate early adolescent male "might not necessarily have bathed within the last 24 hours" look. They wore faded heavy metal t-shirts, probably smoked, and would almost certainly know how to get beer. They used swear words in casual conversation (a habit I hadn't yet picked up) and called breasts "boobies" (which was more disrespectful than I was comfortable with at the time - not to mention that they talked about breasts in class enough that I knew what they called them). It was like Wayne & Garth meet Beavis & Butthead. I was afraid not only that they might be mean to me, but that they might use the bits of dissected dead fish to torment me, putting fish eyeballs down my shirt and the like. So it was with trepidation that I turned around to their table and huddled over the dissection tray with them.

To my surprise, the boys did not hesitate to pick up the scalpel and start cutting the fish open. I'd thought I was going to have to do it myself! Bonus! So I just sat back watching the proceedings. They get the fish open, and remove something from its guts using the tweezers.

"What's this?" they wonder. It's large and lumpy, didn't seem very attached to anything, takes of most of the fishy's belly, and doesn't look like anything in the diagram.

"Eggs," I blurt out. "The stuff in the diagram is probably still in there, underneath the eggs."

They look at me, pleasantly surprised. It makes perfect sense! They open Ms. Fishy up some more, and find stuff that looks more like the diagram in the book. The more artistic of the two boys starts sketching it, and the other boy carefully, fascinatedly, does the actual dissection. My job is simply to identify the parts and their function, which I could easily do without touching or getting too close to the dead fish. Whenever I identified a part, the boys would peer at the fish, fascinated, lightbulbs going off in their heads, and Artistic Boy would add it to the drawing. Then when we were done, Artistic Boy added a sketch of the eggs to the drawing, Other Boy cleaned up all the gross dissecting stuff, and I quickly knocked off the written part of our assignment.

When we got our assignment back, we'd gotten a perfect mark, plus bonus points for identifying and dealing with the eggs without assistance from the teacher. The boys were quite impressed - they never got perfect marks! - and I was rather pleased to have gotten through the assignment without puking or getting fish eyeballs down my shirt or even having to touch a dead fish! We each came away feeling like we'd done the easy part or the fun part and the other people had done all the work, but the result was better than any of us could have achieved alone.

It would never have occurred to me that I might have something that smoking, drinking metalheads - boys who looked scarier than the boys who used to bully me - could use. And it certainly would never have occurred to me that they could have something I could use. We didn't become friends - I never saw them outside of that class, and don't even remember their names. But we were cordial neighbours who occasionally helped each other out in science class using our respective talents. While this all seems perfectly innocuous now, it was a new concept to my 14-year-old self who was still skittish from years of bullying, and it worked far better than I ever would have imagined.


This should have been revelatory. It should have led me to seek out people with complementary skill sets for group projects, even if they aren't the kind of people I would seek out as friends. It should have led me to see the value in what I can contribute and what others can contribute and how this can all be combined to make a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

But, unfortunately, soon after that came the health class project.


I forget exactly what the health class project was, but what's relevant is that it needed a written report and several medical diagrams.  I was paired with a girl who was cooler than me, whom I very much wanted to befriend. As we looked over the assignment and planned out what we needed to do, I found myself most intimidated by the diagrams. No way could I draw these complicated medical diagrams!  Fortunately, the girl I was paired with could draw, so she started by doing the diagrams while I knocked off the written part of the report.  I'd done about 12 pages of writing to her 3 pages of drawing, but it took us the same amount of time and we each felt that we'd done the easy part.

Unfortunately, the way the health teacher marked group projects was by asking the group members how much they'd each done, and distributing marks accordingly.  And because my work took up so many more pages than hers, I got a better mark.

My 14-year-old self wasn't assertive enough to argue the point to the teacher, pointing out that we'd spent the same amount of time and that my classmate had made the invaluable contribution of doing the work that I was terrible at.  So I walked away with the higher mark and she walked away with the lower mark.

We never became friends. (I just googled her, and she's even cooler now.)  And my nascent inspiration to seek out complementary skill sets for group work were was squelched for the rest of my academic career.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Books read in September 2016


1. The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet's Pride and Prejudice by Jennifer Paynter
2. Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film by Glenn Kurtz
3. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany


1. Glory in Death
2. Immortal in Death
3. Rapture in Death

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Things I want to know from history but can't seem to google up properly

How were multiple brothers with the same surname addressed?

In the early 19th century (and probably some adjacent eras as well), the oldest unmarried daughter in a family was addressed as Miss [Surname], and her younger sisters were addressed as Miss [Firstname]. For example, the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice are addressed as Miss Bennet, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Mary, Miss Kitty and Miss Lydia.  In Little Women, Meg and Jo receive an invitation to a danced addressed to "Miss March and Miss Josephine".

My question: what about brothers?  If there were multiple adult brothers, how were they addressed?

Which way did the buttons on lady's maids' dresses go?

Conventional wisdom says that men's clothes and women's clothes button on opposite sides because men dressed themselves and women had help getting dressed. (I question that, because upper-class men had valets just like upper-class women had lady's maids, but that is what the conventional wisdom says.)

But, within that reasoning, what about the clothes worn by lady's maids and other women who helped upper-class women get dressed? Did their buttons go in the same direction as men's, or did they emulate the fashions of upper-class women?

I've been dressing myself in women's clothes since I developed the motor skills to do so, and, as a result, I find it awkward and counterintuitive to button up a men's shirt on myself. I once bought a set of men's pyjamas when I was having trouble finding a pair of straightforward cotton pyjamas in the women's section, and I find the backwards buttons so irritating that I leave them buttoned up all the time and put the top over my head like a t-shirt. Surely any advantage of reversing the buttons would be negated by the fact that the lady's maid is accustomed to dressing herself...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jason from Iowa who lived in the last trailer on the right and was born on the 4th of July

The Ani DiFranco song 4th of July, which tells the story of a child she met while driving through Iowa, contains the following lyric:
He says his name is Jason
He lives in the last trailer on the right
And he'll be seven
On the fourth of July
This song is from Ani's 1993 album Puddle Dive, which means that, if Jason is real, he was at least 6 years old in 1993.

That means he's at least 29 years old now.  And every time this song comes up in my playlist, I wonder what happened to him.

Does he still live in the trailer park? Did he get married? Did he have children? Did he join the military and get PTSDed in Iraq? Did he go to university and become a professor of comparative literature? Has he ever heard this song? Does he know it's about him?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The first chair

Every once in a while, I see an article about how sitting is apparently terrible for our health, which makes me think about why and how it came about that we sit.

Humans sleep lying down, so you can see how we would stumble upon the notion of sitting as a transition point.  Early fires would most likely be built on the ground, so you'd have to sit to tend to or use or enjoy the fire.

When you visualize people sitting around a fire, they're often sitting on rocks or logs.  And you can see why a person would rather sit on a rock or log than on the possibly-damp probably-dirty ground.

And before we had furniture of any sort (including tables), it was probably more convenient to sit on the ground to do things like make clothes or butcher animals than it would be to stand up.

But then someone thought of tables for whatever reason (maybe things were cleaner when not at ground level even if people hadn't invented cleaning yet? Maybe vermin and animals couldn't get at stuff as easily if it was up higher?)  And then someone thought of the idea that it would be more comfortable to sit when working at the table than to stand, and figured out how to build a device to make that happen.

This has me wondering what the ratio of time spent sitting vs. standing was before we had furniture.  People had to stand to hunt or to farm, although they probably sat for things like meal preparation and making tools.  Which did they perceive as the default?  Did they make chairs to use at tables so they could sit like they usually did?  Or did they originally feel that table use was standing like they usually did and then make chairs for some other reason?

Or did they first make non-table chairs (whatever the early equivalent of couches or armchairs was) and then come up with the idea of using chairs at tables (or even the idea of tables) later?

Have there ever been any cultures where people didn't sit, at all, ever?  Have there ever been any cultures where they sat but didn't use chairs?  (I have the probably-stereotypical idea absorbed from the ether that they tended not to use chairs in Japan before Western influence.)

I also wonder if there have been any cultures with different postures that had their own furniture (i.e. not sitting, standing, lying down, kneeling, anything we have a verb for in English) but are now lost to history.  Or maybe they're not lost to history, I'm just ignorant of them.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In which I fall for a practical joke perpetrated by a baby

I'm waiting to cross a street, and this guy pushing a baby in a stroller is waiting next to me. I can't tell how old the baby is - I'd say more than 8 months but less than 2 years.

Suddenly, the baby points skyward and looks up, as though he sees something interesting.  For some reason the father doesn't respond, but I look up to see what the baby's looking at.  However, I don't see anything.  No airplanes, no balloons, no clouds, no birds sitting on a wire, nothing.

So I look back at the baby and say "What do you see?"

And he looks me in the eye and bursts out laughing.

He totally tricked me, and I totally fell for it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The first cleaning

Someone, at some point in human history, was the first person to clean.  Someone was the first person to discover that water washes dirt off (probably when a dirty person went for a swim or fell into some water, or got water on themselves in the process of drinking water), and then someone was the first person to do that intentionally.

Which means someone was also the first person to come up with the idea that having no dirt on something was superior to having dirt on it.  (It's also possible that someone came up with this idea before they figured out that water washed dirt off, so they were just thinking "Man, this situation would be way better if there was no dirt on this thing!" but couldn't do anything about it)  Possibly the situation that led to this thought was something drastic, like their food fell into a pile of woolly mammoth poo, but it's also possible that, in a world where it had never before occurred to anyone that food would be better with no poo on it, no one would perceive that as a drastic situation.

Before it occurred to anyone to bathe, everyone must have smelled. Which means that they were probably immune to the fact that everyone smelled.  So imagine the first person to bathe thoroughly enough to wash off their smell. Could they then smell everyone else?  Did they think "OMG, everyone smells!" or did they think "Man, I'm never using water to get the dirt of me again, because doing that makes everyone smell"?  Or did the dirty people think the clean person smelled?

And let's talk about soap!  Soap is made of fat and lye. Lye is made by leaching ashes. Who on earth figured that out??  And imagine trying to explain to other people that really, this will eventually make stuff cleaner!  Did they have other soap-like things before that are now lost to history because they were less effective?

When people lived outdoors or in caves, their floor was, obviously, dirt (or whatever the surrounding environment was made of - the floors of igloos might have been made of snow, for example). And then in the first human-constructed shelters, the floor would have been made of dirt as well. So someone was the first person to think of building a floor out of wood or whatever, and then someone else was probably the first person to think of cleaning the dirt off that floor!

Also, someone was the first person to think of dusting. Once indoors had been invented and material possessions that are kept indoors over long periods of time had been invented (which is a whole other thing, isn't it? The first clutter!), stuff started getting dusty. (Why doesn't stuff that's outdoors get dusty?)  Someone was the first person to realize this was a problem, and to think of wiping stuff down to remove the dust.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition XII

If you do something assholic out of ignorance, you have to read a book or article or watch a movie or otherwise consume a piece of media chosen by the victim of your assholicness.

The victim doesn't have to assign you your reading right away. They retain the option of assigning you reading at any point in the future, or not at all.  (The purpose here is to avoid imposing upon the victim the additional burden of figuring out how to educate you, while leaving the door open for if they ever stumble upon the exact thing that would address your ignorance.)

Possible variation: if the total time the victim is affected by your ignorant assholicness exceeds the amount of time it takes you to consume the media, they are permitted to assign you multiple pieces of media to consume, with a total consumption time equal to the amount of time they were affected by your ignorant assholicness.

Another possible variation: the victim can appoint a proxy to assign you your reading.

The reading can, of course, include anything the victim has written. I'm also open to it including a face-to-face conversation, but the interpersonal dynamics of a face-to-face "This is why what you are doing is wrong" conversation can be difficult and put the person whose behaviour needs to change on the defensive.

I know that when I, personally, do something assholic out of ignorance, I want to learn how to do better. And I know that it is a burden to ask people who are already suffering from my ignorance to do the additional work of educating me. If they could just give me something to read, whenever they happen to stumble upon something that would do the job, that would relieve the burden from both of us.

And, as an added bonus, people who are being intentionally assholic but claiming innocent ignorance would come away with homework.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Things They Should Invent: put the sidewalk on the shady side of the street

Some streets (usually small side streets) have a sidewalk on only one side of the street.

There should be a rule that, in cases where they only have one sidewalk for whatever reason, the sidewalk has to be on the side of the street that's shadiest on summer afternoons.

Shade on hot days contributes more to pedestrian comfort than sun on cold days, and summer afternoons are the time of day and time of year that's the hottest.  This can also be a quality of life factor for the most vulnerable people, like the very old, the very young, and those with health problems.

Pedestrians shouldn't have to choose between being safe from cars and being safe from sunstroke. There needs to be some basis for deciding where to put the sidewalk in cases where they don't put one on each side of the street, so why not put it on the side where it will best contribute to quality of life?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Books read in August 2016


1. Devoted in Death
2. Wonderment in Death
3. Brotherhood in Death
4. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
5. The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
6. Citizen: Am American Lyric by Claudia Rankine 


1. Obsession in Death
2. Naked in Death

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Things They Should Study: do political positions correlate with attitudes towards politically-incompatible celebrities?

Sometimes the celebrities I follow on Twitter get people telling them to shut up about politics and stick to entertainment.

This is something I find difficult to understand. 

I do see why someone might not want incompatible political opinions turning up in their Twitter feed.  But what I don't understand is why you'd want to keep following someone once you know that they hold these incompatible opinions.

When someone has incompatible politics (by which I don't mean simply that I don't agree with them, but rather that I see their position as outright harmful and/or cruel) I'm not able to respect them enough to be a fan of them. I cease to be interested in their day-to-day life and thoughts, and most likely in their work as well.  Even if for some reason I do maintain interest in their work (for example, perhaps if one member of an ensemble cast for a major fandom has incompatible politics) I no longer have any desire to hear from them as an individual, just to see the finished work.

It would be interesting to study this on a broader level.  Are there any patterns of the political opinions or affiliation of people who want to continue following politically-incompatible celebrities but not hear about their politics, as compared with people who lose interest in politically-incompatible celebrities, as compared with people who can cheerfully continue following a celebrity without regard for their incompatible politics.

They could also study whether there are patterns in real-life relationships as opposed to celebrity-fan relationships, but I find the celebrity-fan relationship particularly interesting because it's unidirectional. If a parent holds political opinions you consider harmful, there's an element of "How can you bring a child into the world and then work politically to make the world a worse place?" But the celebrity has no loyalty or attachment to the individual fan and the fan adores the celebrity, so it's an interesting and unique dynamic.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why can you mail packages in street mailboxes?

Mailing a package in a Canada Post mailbox
Mailing a package in a Canada Post mailbox
Those red Canada Post mailboxes you see on the sidewalks have a small silver flap into which you can put individual letters, and a larger pull-down door into which you can put packages, as shown at right.

Mailboxes have been like this for as long as I can remember.  Even when I was a child in the 1980s, ever mailbox I saw (some of which, I'm sure, long predated the 1980s) had the large opening for packages.

Which raises the question: why would anyone put a package in a street mailbox? Correct postage for a package varies depending on size and weight, and, even if you could reliably calculate the postage at home, people rarely have a wide selection of different denominations of stamps that would enable them to affix correct postage.  Under normal circumstances, you'd have to go to a post office.  So why would a person ever put a package in the mailbox?

Of course, in the 21st century, the answer is ecommerce. When returning a product from a website with free returns (and perhaps under other circumstances of which I'm unaware), sometimes you get a shipping label that you can stick on a package and pop it right into a mailbox without having to go to the post office.

But mailboxes were designed to accommodate packages long before ecommerce was a thing!  Why?  Under what circumstances did people mail packages in street mailboxes back in the day?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Late-breaking story on the CBC

I know this has already been thoroughly commented on in many, many places, but I feel the need to post it here for the record:

The CBC's coverage of the Tragically Hip's final concert was an outstanding example of our public broadcaster meeting the needs of Canadians.

We had a need that could be met with a television broadcast.  But, at the same time, this need was not super compatible with the conventions of television broadcasting.  The format required it to be commercial-free, despite the fact that it was in prime time and had a huge number of viewers.  And it happened to be during the Olympics, for which the CBC held broadcasting rights.  It was of unpredictable duration.  The content would likely contain some swear words.  Canadians abroad needed to be able to see it just as much as Canadians at home.

And the CBC overcame all these obstacles to make it happen, prioritizing the needs of Canadians rather than bureaucratic or penny-pinching requirements or the need to put commercials in front of eyeballs.  They could just as easily (actually, far more easily) have shrugged their shoulders and said "Sorry, we're committed to the Olympics", or "Well, we have to run commercials to earn our keep," or "You can't say 'fuck' on television!" or "Broadcast only available in Canada" and we wouldn't even have noticed. But instead they stepped up, figured out a way to make it work, and served a huge number of Canadians - more than twice the number of Canadians who voted for the winning party in any election in my lifetime!

Many people noticed and appreciated this, and I hope that creates and sustains the political will to give the CBC the resources it needs to keep meeting our needs in the future, even when they don't correspond tidily with the conventions of broadcasting.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

New rule: don't hold a glass door open unless your hand is on the handle

Glass door with vertical handle
Many of the doors I pass through in my day-to-day life are made of glass with a single vertical handle on the side opposite the hinge, like in the image to the right (click to embiggen).

Often, as with other kinds of doors, the person in front of me will try to hold the door for me even after they've taken their hand off the handle, by putting their hand on the glass part of the door.

The problem with that is it leaves fingerprints on the door, which some poor cleaning person will have to clean off!

Barring extenuating circumstances, cleaning fingerprints off glass is far harder than opening a door! By holding open the door with your hand on the glass, you're making a net negative contribution to other people's ease and comfort, not a net positive contribution.

Therefore, I propose that putting one's hand on the glass of the door should be considered rude, and doing so in the course of holding it open for someone who is perfectly capable of holding it open themselves should not be considered polite enough to outweigh the rudeness.

(Holding the door for someone who is genuinely unable to open the door because their hands or full or they're not strong enough or something is polite enough to outweigh the rudeness, but we should nevertheless endeavour not to touch the glass.)

And if you really feel that you would be perceived as rude if you're not seen holding the door open for someone, all you have to do is keep your hand on the handle for as long as possible as you walk through, ending with your arm stretched out all the way (and perhaps looking expectantly back), like this gentleman.

(Although the optimal way is still to be completely on the outside of the door, like this gentleman.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Another analogy for being incapable of faith

Some clever internet person once said atheism is a religion like not playing golf is a sport.

As I've blogged about before, I'm an atheist because I'm congenitally incapable of religious faith. Today my shower tweaked this analogy to apply to the kind of atheism that results from congenitally incapable of faith.

Think about Olympic weight-lifting, where they have those ridiculously huge weights and lift them over their heads while making an enormous amount of noise.

Imagine you can't lift those weights. Even if you take them apart, you can't lift the individual components.  Furthermore, you were raised to think that being able to lift the weights was morally imperative, so you spent several years diligently engaged in a regime that, to the best of the knowledge available, would maximize your chances of being able to lift the weights.  But you never developed the ability to lift the weights.

So, atheism is a religion like not being able to lift the weights is a sport.

And faking religion despite being an atheist would be like claiming to be a weight-lifter, talking loudly about your training regime, making sure you're seen at the gym, but still not being able to lift the weights.