Waste / Waist

Note: I originally posted this a year ago and then deleted it. It's worth re-posting, I think.

Funny story. It involves homophones.

Today an acquaintance and I were talking about our various little strategies for maintaining our weight. I said, "I eat an egg every morning!" She said (or rather, I heard):"I measure my waste every day."


For four hours, I believed that this woman scooped her waste out of the toilet and either laid it down along a ruler or weighed it on one of those little scales. Do people really do this?? And if they do do it, do they mention it casually to an office acquaintance? It was only when I got home and was telling the story (with relish, I confess) to my husband that I realized my mistake. As soon as I heard the words leaving my own mouth, I understood what this woman had said:

"I measure my waist every day."

Still a bit over-diligent perhaps, but A Lot Less Weird.


Margot Hanington Obituary Notice

This will appear in tomorrow's newspapers in Vancouver BC, Victoria BC, and Halifax NS.

Hanington, Margot (Wallace)
Margot Hanington passed away swiftly and gracefully in Victoria B.C. on Sunday, June 15. A resident of South Surrey, she was born in New Brunswick in 1923, and grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Pre-deceased by her husband Rear Admiral Daniel Hanington, she leaves four children: Gillian (Bobby Korpi) of Ajijic, Mexico; Mark (Gloria Garvey) of Kailua, Hawaii; Brian (Deborah Johnson) of Ottawa; and Felicity (Larry Dawe) of Texada Island, as well as 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. She also leaves one brother, Lt. Cdr. Howard Wallace of Ottawa, Ontario and two sisters: Rosemary McDonald and Isabel Wallace, both of Halifax, N.S. Also surviving is her partner Robert Welland of South Surrey, B.C. and his sons, daughter and their spouses, all dear to her as well. The funeral service will be held at St. Paul’s Church in Esquimalt B.C. on Thursday June 19 at 2 p.m. Reception following at the Union Club, Victoria at 4 p.m.

Two Boasts

Two boasts about my relations' recent press:

My sister, Kyla Hanington, on CBC's The Sunday Edition. Listen to her amazing essay, Making Muffins.

A review of three pieces by my cousin, Crystal Pite, that were performed at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as part of the Canada Dance Festival. The review appeared in today's Ottawa Citizen (June 16, 2008). Crystal appeared on CBC's The National on Friday, but I can't find a digital clip of it to share.


Atheist Game

Have you seen this game by Zefrank? Cute.



My nearly-6-year-old son loves the A-word. My fault, really, for teaching him and his sister Miss Susie Had a Steamboat:

Miss Susie had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
The steamboat went to Heaven
Miss Susie went to...

Hello operator
Give me number 9
And if you disconnect me
I'll kick you from...

Behind the 'frigerator
There was a piece of glass
Miss Susie fell upon it
And broke her little...

Ask me no more questions
Tell me no more lies
Miss Susie's in the kitchen
Making her mud pies

I love that song, and was relieved recently to see it reproduced in The Daring Book for Girls. Now no one will know it came from me.

Other than that, so far the only curse in my children's lexicon has been the I-word: I'm telling.

My daughter told me today, however, that the French word for seal is rather bad in English. This was the rumour on the playground, at least. My French is ghastly, so I just looked it up myself on Bablefish. A little trial and error was required to communicate the correct definition of the word. (I really need my old-fashioned paper-bound French-English dictionary.) I finally tried:

seal (animal)

.... and I see what she's getting at. But I can hardly forbid them to say the French word for seal, can I? I can already see them trying to work it into conversations. Soon they'll want to head to the harbour for "no reason" or make lists of the "cutest animals that swim."


Stephen Fry reading "The Letter"

Just look what I found on YouTube. It's a baby Stephen Fry. What joy!

Some of my favorite lines:

I tipped the delivery boy out of the window with more than ordinary generosity.

Prudence had demanded that I leave her behind, so I was alone.

Of all the hideously disfigured spectacles I have ever beheld, those perched on the end of this man's nose remained forever pasted in the album of my memory.

Walking with a pronounced limp -- L-I-M-P, pronounced "limp."

And my favorite:

I asked him the nature of the Count's business but he made the sign of the cross and said nothing. I asked him why there were no mirrors in the castle, but this time he made the sign of the very cross indeed and spat.


In stuck chins

My daughter is in Grade 2. Today I see that she's written this in her notebook:

In stuck chins for cheese pizza
1. Make the doe
2. Put it in a cercle shape
3. Put the soss on
4. Put the cheese on
5. Put in the oven

Does technical writing run in the family?
I used to write in stuck chins all day long.


Floral delivery

Someone died on my street last year. I saw the makeshift shrine appear on the telephone pole the day after the car accident: flowers, photos, messages, a cross. Over the next couple of weeks the flowers died and the photos became water-stained. One day, as I waited at a bus stop across the street, I saw a Volkswagen beetle with a florist's logo pull up beside the telephone pole. The driver got out with a delivery of fresh flowers. I saw him stop and look at the address on the label, then at the telephone pole, and again at the label. He'd been asked to deliver flowers to a telephone pole.



Another pundle:

Note that the sad crappiness of the drawing is not significant — at least, not to the solution. I'm using the AMC Gremlin* of drawing tools: MS Paint.

* I once had a boyfriend who drove one of these. I'm not as old as that makes me sound!



Thanks to Jeff for passing on a link to this post:


Read it and smile. But then ask yourself: who are these midwestern police officers who remove atheists from movie theatre line ups?



My friend Richard put me on to Jasper Fforde. I'm halfway through his second book in the Tuesday Next series, Lost in a Good Book, and am just loving it. Watch this space for a thoughtful review—but make sure you set a timeout interval or you're liable to expire before one appears.

For now, let me just say that I've seen comparisons to Terry Prachett and Douglas Adams, but neither seems quite right to me. These books are meatier. They are full of literary allusions; I'm madly taking notes of things I should read or re-read or research to see if they're real or made-up as I work through them. Right after reading The Eyre Affair, I beelined for a copy of Jane Eyre in the bookshop. I meant to buy it and read it, thus filling one of many embarrassing (but not unexpected) gaps in my literary education, but I'll sheepishly tell you that instead I just flipped straight to the end to see whether or not Jane actually ended up with Rochester. (She did! Hoorah!)

I'll do my best to marshall my thoughts about these books into something sensible for my next post.


Begging the Question

T-rex always puts it so much better than I can. Awesome.


"I select you"

A day late....

skepchick has posted some Darwinian Valentine's Day cards. Things like: Your secondary sexual characteristics bring all the boys to the gene pool. Have a look; it's a cute idea. (But they're not nearly as funny as I'd hoped!)

Ever better is G. Pullum's Language Log post from last year: The Prescriptivist Valentine. ("And remember, when a grammarian kisses you, you stay kissed").


6 Matches, 4 Triangles

Use 6 identical matchsticks to create 4 equilateral triangles. The solution does not require you to break any matches.


Dinesh is Freaking Me Out

Dinesh D'Souza's blog is freaking me out. A couple of his recent articles, "How Atheists Celebrate Christmas" and "Why Atheists Are Such Lousy Debaters" are full of slanderous (at worst) and silly (at best) ad hominem attacks:

Drunk: "... Hitchens reaches for his glass with the same alacrity* that fundamentalists reach for the Bible."

This undermines Hitchens's arguments.... how, exactly?

Drunk and silly: "...[an atheist Christmas is] bitter guys making sophomoric jokes and staggering out of the room inebriated."

That's why I like it so much. I can't think of a better combination than bitter guys, sophomoric jokes, and inebriated staggering! No matter what time of year!

Scared: "... these guys are scared to debate me."

Scared? Umm, no; I don't think so. In The Devil's Chaplain, published a few years before The God Delusion, Dawkins includes a series of letters that he exchanged with the late Stephen J. Gould. Although those two didn't agree on everything, they did agree on this: debating creationists gives creationists an undeserved legitimacy. News for you, Dinesh: Dawkins was quite settled in this position long before you started tugging on his shirtsleeve. Here's an excerpt from a letter that Gould sent to Dawkins in 2001 (boldface mine):

...we have the advantage [over creationists] that evolutionary scientists don't need the publicity that such debates can bring. In the unlikely event that a significant argument should ever emerge from the ranks of creationism/'intelligent design', we will be happy to debate it. Meanwhile, we shall cultivate our evolutionary gardens, occasionally engaging in the more exacting and worthwhile task of debating each other. What we shall not do is abet creationists in their disreputable quest for free publicity and unearned academic respectability.

* Good word though. "Like it, centurion; like it, like it."**
** D'Souza thinks Monty Python is sophomoric. And not in a good way.


"Can Atheists Be Parents?"

Did you see this article in Time magazine recently? Very chilling. An atheist couple in New Jersey adopted a baby though an agency, brought her home, and expected the required final approval from a judge to be a formality. Not so:

In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes' right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes' "high moral and ethical standards," he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience." Despite [the baby's] tender years, he continued, "the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being."

The Burkes were ordered to send the child back to the adoption agency. The case is headed for the New Jersey Supreme Court.

I'm on tenterhooks.

Thanks to Mittal for the link.

[Update 2008-02-15: Darren has pointed out that this story is, um, 37 years old...just like me!! You'd think I'd be old enough to check the date of an article before mindlessly passing it on, wouldn't you? Oops!]


Here's a puzzle that my friend Kevin sent me.*

You have five jars of pills. All the pills in one jar only are contaminated. The only way to tell which pills are contaminated is by weight. "Good" pills weigh 10 grams while "bad" (contaminated) ones weigh 9 grams. You are given a scale and can make just one measurement with it. How can you tell which jar holds the contaminated pills?

Here's the answer to a follow-up question I had; it may help you:

Q: Is the scale a balance scale?
A: No; it's a regular kitchen scale that tells you how many grams something weighs.

* Kudos to Mark for solving this in about 30 seconds.