Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Vampire Machines

I donated blood for the first time ever on Saturday with Rachel. So happy I didn't pass out like I nearly did that one time as a kid. I got to wear a sticker that said "1st Time Donor" so that all the staff knew to treat me extra nice so as to not frighten me off from ever donating again.

I love my pink bandage!

It was pretty easy going, for the most part. I had to answer a bunch of questions like whether I had ever handled the bodily fluids of monkeys (which I have not) and got my finger pricked to check my iron levels, which I only passed on the second try. How odd. I always assumed I had lots of iron, because I don't know how else my teeth can be magnetized to the ground.

At any rate, they laid me on a bed thing and stuck the needle in my arm and asked me whether I had come with a friend. This is the point where I noticed that Rachel was missing. If you want to know where she went, you can ask her. Suffice to say, as my big blood buddy, she did a good job of hiding her nervousness from me.

I laid there for a while, draining my blood and texting a friend that had seen me come in while she was donating herself. And then Rachel eventually reappeared and got hooked up to a machine herself. So all was good. Until, that is, a staff member saw me from across the room, walked toward me and started asking me whether I felt ok. "Yes," I said, genuinely feeling almost as normal as ever, but with a needle stuck in my arm. Then she wanted to know if I felt at all weird. "No," I said. Then she asked whether I was feeling faint (no), dizzy (no), light-headed (no), in pain (not really) or warm (not particularly). She readjusted my pillow and glanced at the counters on my machine. By now I was getting nervous, so I asked her whether I looked pale or like I was about to faint or something. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "You look perfectly healthy! I just wanted to check." So then I felt better again.

After my blood bag was full and I was done, they wrapped me up in that cool pink bandage thing and a nurse person told me to try to keep my arm straight for a while so as to avoid breaking the clot. So both Rachel and I left walking around with limp zombie arms, despite the fact that there was no pain. When we were in Co-op half-an-hour after donating, my hand suddenly felt a tad odd, so I looked at it. It looked odd, too - kind of like it does after I squeeze my hand into a fist and pinch off the blood vessels in my wrist to do that funky little "electricity coming out of my hand" trick. I pointed it out to Rachel and she started freaking out, threatening to make me sit on the floor of the grocery store if I felt the slightest bit weird. But I shook my hands around a bit and stopped being so zombie-ish and then my hands fixed themselves.

After that, Rachel and I went home and watched Batman. It was a successful day. If you haven't given blood before, you should do it. You get free snacks!

Henri Ducard: Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.
Bruce Wayne: That's why it's so important. It separates us from them.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Unmanly Movies for Everyone

My sister and I went to see Miss Representation a while back, and the documentary brought up an interesting point: how many movies can you think of that have strong female leads? Where the primary plot point isn't romance? And where's she's not just a "fighting sex-toy", either? (Catwoman and Lara Croft, I'm looking at you).

By "strong" character, I don't mean a character that can roundhouse kick in tight lycra or that can make a man cry with her sharp tongue. I mean a character that's got depth and is relatively stable mentally and emotionally. Who is active in the story, rather than someone who is acted upon. There are some movies that have strong female characters whose primary story isn't love or dating - for example, Batman. A Few Good Men. Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum. How about Despicable Me? But the females here aren't the lead characters.

Lots of movies do have female leads. Name a chick flick? But how many have a female lead that doesn't put an emphasis on relationship status? They're pretty scarce, as if the only story worth telling about females are love stories. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about love stories, I'm just disappointed that you can hardly find anything else. Still, I thought I'd try to make a compendium for people who would like to see women do and feel other things. Not that I'm a great movie connoisseur. Let me know if there's something major that I missed on this list, and I'll love you for giving me something else to watch.

The Blindside - I'm not a big fan of inspirational sports stories, and most of Sandra Bullock's characters seem the same to me - hard-nosed and outspoken, not terribly three-dimensional. But this movie still makes the list, if only because she's the one pulling the male out of the mire and not the other way around.

Million Dollar Baby - I didn't love this movie, again, solely because I'm mostly apathetic towards sports, but it does have a strong non-romantic female lead.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days - based on a true story. Female lead. No romance. Actually, I find it interesting that Sophie is the most well-known member of the White Rose, seeing as it was her brother and his friend that actually did most of the work. Still, she's a very strong character.

Nim's Island - I actually don't remember much about this one, but I love Abigail Breslin and Jodie Foster. Romance enters the story, but it's hardly the point.

Flightplan - Speaking of Jodie Foster, the character here starts off in a tailspin due to her husband's death, but pulls herself out of it when something more important comes up.

Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton) - Strong female lead and a definite lack of romance. In fact, it's so unromantic that we've got a declined marriage proposal. I suppose that Disney's Alice in Wonderland would probably make this list, too, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it.

Thirteen - Both the girl and the mom have major issues, and romance (or at least sex) is one of those major issues. No one could say that they're stable, but the whole point of the movie is that the mom finally realizes what happens, smartens up, and vows to do what it takes to help her daughter. And it looks like the daughter is willing to let herself be helped. No men galloping to the rescue, here.

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - a bit of a fairytale, but what's wrong with that? I love Mahoney.

And in the realm of animation:

Hoodwinked - Yes, it's a cartoon. And yes, it's based on an old fairytale. But Red isn't out searching for a guy. Granted, in the original story she gets eaten and then saved by a woodsman (damsel in distress, much?) but in the movie she's as active a character as the boys. If anyone saves her, it's her grandmother, which you really aren't likely to see anywhere else.

Mulan - Yes! I'm not sure why this is tagged a princess movie, because Mulan is neither a princess herself nor becomes one when she gets married (which she doesn't, in the first movie - she doesn't even get kissed!) In fact, this one's main question is, "Can a woman bring honour to her family without marrying?", which it answers with a resounding, "Yes!" And neither is she a fighting sex toy. That distinction falls to Li Shang, if anyone.

Honourable Mention: These movies failed to make my fairly stringent criteria, but still feature strong female leads, despite the romance.

Pride and Prejudice - It's definitely based on romance, but given the context of the story (eighteenth century England), it's about as feminist as you could hope to get. In addition to not being a silly flirt, Elizabeth turns down two offers of marriage before Darcy wins her over by being a genuinely decent guy (no "tricks" or "stealing her heart" involved).

The Village - The Village twists around, so it's hard to know whether Ivy is the lead or shares the lead, but she's definitely a strong character. She is in love, but the main point is that she's the only one with guts, not that she needs a husband. The romance is pretty much the means to frame the story, not the point of the story.

On the flipside, these movies have non-romantic female leads, but they're not necessarily strong characters:

The Interpreter - She starts off as a strong character, but kind of falls apart in the end and is only stopped from shattering altogether by the male. Still worthwhile to watch, because at least the stuff that makes her fall apart is actually serious and the male is only able to patch her together using her own rhetoric, since she helped him start pulling himself together first.

Lady in the Water - Another fairytale, with a theme of not letting other people define you and the dangers of stereotyping. But Story is way more passive than active, and though she's top billed, the action is all left to the man.

What else should make this list? Please add!

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels." Faith Whittlesey

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Coffee Making Curriculum

All of us over at Timmy Ho's have been handling the new 24 ounce XL size fairly well. It's not really that confusing, in theory. Even four-and-a-half-year-old habits aren't that hard to break so long as you have a multitude of visual reminders strategically placed in every nook and corner.

There really is a kind of order to our thinking, but thanks to the fact that our store is only partially through the process of upgrading to resized paraphernalia, and has always been a bit of a malfunctioning ghetto, we aren't currently able to express that ordered thinking in standard Tim Horton's lingo. We function just fine, but suppose we suddenly got a newbie with no prior Timmy's experience?

His name would be Franz (like one of those five babies from 2010. Not like the one from Fire Emblem). Suppose he's an eager-to-please high schooler with blond hair and big, wide blue eyes. It's his first day on the job.

Customer: I'll have a large double-double and a medium hot chocolate with one-and-a-half milks, please.

Me: Franz, please make us a large double-double.

Franz: Right away.

Me: Use the second largest cup.

Franz: And I put in two sugar and two cream.

Me: Yes, except you put in the wrong amount of sugar.

Franz: I hit the button for the second largest portion twice.

Me: I know, but the machine disagrees with your reasoning. To make a large with two sugar, you actually need to use the button for the one that looks like an extra-large portion twice. If you were making an extra-large, then you'd use two small and two medium shots of sugar, which are labelled as medium and large on the machine.

Franz: Oh. Then why do you call them small and medium?

Me: Because that's what they are. But not with the cream. For the cream, you use the second largest portion, unless you're using the machine for counter. Then you use the largest potion for a large and two each of the second largest and second smallest, which you can call either small and medium or medium and large.

Franz: Um... ok. Start again, please. What do I use?

Me: I'll show you. Since we're standing at the drive-thru, for a large double-double, we use two of the apparently extra-large sugars, and two large creams.

Franz: Isn't the second largest cream for the large coffee?

Me: Yes.

Franz: Then why did you use the middle one and the largest one?

Me: Because I hit the wrong button first, so I offset the smaller size by using the largest.

Franz: Oh, this helps me be not confused.


Franz: No need to yell, Carla.

Me: Sorry.

Franz: So here it is? One large double-double? Now it needs to be stirred.

Me: Good. And put a large lid on it.

Franz: It won't fit.

Me: That's because you need to put a lid that says "XL" on it.

Franz: Doesn't that mean "extra-large"?

Me: It used to, but now it means just large. The smaller ones that don't say anything are the true extra-larges.

Franz: Go figure.

Me: And now the medium hot chocolate with one-and-a-half milks.

Franz: That's the medium sized cup, right?

Me: Of course. What else would it be?

Franz: Is the milk as complicated as the cream?

Me: No. Just one medium milk, and then one extra-small milk. Unless you're using the counter machine. Then you don't use the machine.

Franz: How does that work?

Me: You just eye-ball it.

Franz: Ok. How's this?

Me: Too much.

Franz: This?

Me: Too little.

Franz: Now?

Me: Too much.

Franz: Arrrgh!!

Me: Just a smidgen less, really. Don't get upset.

Franz: I am so not getting the hang of this.

Me: But you're almost done! Just fill it with hot chocolate, now.

Franz: This hot chocolate looks funny.

Me: Oh yeah! I forgot to tell you that to get hot chocolate you need to dispense from the English Toffee machine.

Franz: What?!

Me: You get English Toffee if you dispense from the hot chocolate spout.

Franz: Who decided that?! You mean I have to make it again? *begins to sob*

Me: No, no, Franz! Don't cry! I'll do it for you. Here, just mark me a medium lid.

Franz: *sniffs* Fine.

Me: Um, that's a small.

Franz: *wails*

Customer: Oh, wait! I meant a medium coffee and a small hot chocolate!

"If you put sugar in my coffee, I will throw it in your face!" Nasty Lady at Tim's today

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Baby Naming Girls

Here is the girl-baby naming data from Alberta 2010. As a general rule, the girl names seem to follow a pattern: 1) find perfectly good name 2) add something that sounds like "ee", "lee", "lynne", or possibly "ann". Take a look at the list if you dare. You will never want to see lyn or lee tagged onto the end of a name ever again.

In the end, girl names in general tend to be a mass of cloyingly sweet mix-n-match variations of a few names, overdone with vowel sounds. Naturally, with so many similar names they're mostly quite forgettable, but also generally a little less patently absurd than some boys names.

For example, there were fourteen babies named Rose in 2010. Then there were also four named Rosalie, two named Rosaleigh, one Rosalyn, one Rosa-Lynne, four Rosannas, two Rosannes, and one Roseanne. There was also one Rosia, two Rosies, one Roslyn, and one Rosslyn. In this case there was also one Rosaline, one Rosaleeta, one Rosalia and several variations on Rosemarie. This is a name that's traditionally adaptable, so it's not half bad, but it's pretty much the pattern with most girl names now.

How about another name? I still like this name in theory, but it's been so overdone I hardly want to hear it anymore:

3 Shay
1 Shaye
1 Shayanna
1 Shay-Linh
1 Shaye-Lynn
6 Shaylee
2 Shaylyn
1 Shaya
1 Shayelle
26 Shayla
1 Shaydance
2 Shayda
1 Shayla-May
1 Shayla-Rae
4 Shayna
1 Shayma
1 Shaynah
2 Shayne
1 Shazia
3 Shea
1 Shea-Kaya
1 Sheala
1 Shealyn
1 Shada
1 Shadae
1 Shadayia
1 Shaden
1 Shadlin
2 Shae
1 Shaela
1 Shaelin
5 Shaelyn
1 Shaelynn
2 Shaelynne
1 Shae-Lynne

It really does seem that people think that just adding a cute suffix-name to the end of something else makes it a perfectly respectable girl name. But unfortunately some names just aren't quite so conducive to the mixing. How about Scottlynn? Seantyanna? Maybe Drazzlyn? Elektra-Lee? Harllie-Lyn? How about Clementine-E? I don't know what's with this cultural "ee", "lee", and "lyn" fixation.

It's even worse when they add kre8tiv spelling on top of it all. For example, one little girl was named Heavenly. Except she's Heavon-Liegh instead. Jaydyn-Lyn? Someone liked the letter y. And after all those x-lyn names, we have exactly ONE plain Lyne and ONE Lynn. No Lynne at all, and one Lynnette (which is pretty much the only version I like).

On the less cloyingly sweet side, I'm surprised by how popular Addison is for a girl (there were 104, not counting kre8iv spellings). And also a bit disappointed. The more popular they are, the sooner they'll be "lynn and lee-ified" and then I'll get sick of them. Still, Addison so far has remained a favourite of mine (but only spelled "Addison").

Even less sweet, there were six babies named Agatha. I thought that name was far in the distant past.

I'm intrigued with the 16 named Ember. I've played with this one in my head for quite a while, as an alternative to Amber, and I've liked, but I didn't really expect it to "take off".

And yes, girls are named strange things, too. How about Feather? Finnaveer? Gooday? Icey? Imunique? Has that one seriously not been done? What the heck is Learnie? Two girls named Navy. Notoria? You WANT your kid to be Notoria? And Phallika? Oh, dear me... Serenirty (that's not my typo). We also have Serenedy and Serennity-Lynne. I'm not sure what to make of Landry, which made the boy's list, too. It's probably pronounced with a Lan like Can, but it looks so similar to Laundry that it just can't be worth it. Five baby girls were named Princess, and one Princes. I assume that was a typo on the parents' part. Psalm is interesting. And Real must be a protest against Cosmic Humanism and the New Age movement. I think Rea-Lee could be pronounced Rhea-Lee (either Raya-lee or Reeya-lee), but I wouldn't bet on it.

Rolica sounds like a fun baby. Maybe she's Stoic's sister. How's Maxophena for pretentious? Pemberley (Mr. Darcy, anyone?). One Scout (yay Harper Lee!)

There were two girls named Alberta. Maybe they're the twin sisters of Canada and Kanada. At least Alberta is a genuine person-name. After places, there were also two named Bethlehem (and one Ephrathah). Hmm... say what you will, I kinda like those.

Hagley, on the other hand, I think is just awful. Depending on how you pronounce it, it starts off with either "hag" or "hog", and if you pronounce it with a soft a, it rhymes with "ugly".

And we have another few couples that just couldn't make all the in-laws happy. Louisa-Nora-Ivette, anyone? Isabella-Coral-Tiana? Oh, yeah!

Forty-two were named Brianna exactly (my sister), and 3 were named Carla (and 4 Karla). Two were name Kiki, like my gerbil. Thankfully I didn't find any named Scamp, after my sister's gerbil.

And the single longest un-hyphenated name of either gender? Kamakaleiimalamalamaiaikanaau. I'd love to know what it means.

No baby Sibylla anywhere. :-( Not even a Sibylla-leigh!

“I don't care what you say about me. Just be sure to spell my name wrong.” Barbra Streisand

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Baby Naming Boys

Here is the boy-baby naming data from Alberta 2010. You may be interested in some of the more... interesting... names.

Someone in Alberta just over a year ago named their baby boy.... Baby. Now, there are plenty of parents that call their baby "Baby". Hey, I even call people's babies "Baby", regardless of whether I know their names or not. But I have never heard of someone naming their baby "Baby". Maybe nine months just wasn't enough time for the parents to find a name they liked.

The parents of Elmer-Charles-Rylee must have had the opposite problem. They couldn't figure on a name they didn't like. I wonder how many middle names this little bopper has.

Moving on six babies were named "Corny", which is doubtlessly a diminutive of Cornelius, but STILL, people, please. Next you'll be naming him "Cheesy".

One baby was named Barabbas. Yes, after the murderer in the Bible, I assume. And somebody had the guts to use "Zerubabel". (And my relations think I have crazy biblical name tastes. At least I make an attempt to spell them correctly.)

We also welcomed into our midst a little Beowolf. No, not "Beowulf", but "Beowolf". So much for coming off as educated literature geek parents.

There's also a Ding, Bing, Bang, and Boomer born among us. The first three could quite possibly be ethnic names, but I still find it interesting. Actually, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between perfectly respectable ethnic names that just sound goofy to an English speaker and names that are genuinely bizarro-weird. Yet I'm pretty sure that "Gixxer" falls into the latter category.

A lot of baby boys were given noun name. The most patriotic of these was Canada (and one Kanada). There was also a Dragon (and Dragan), and a wee little Leviathan. Maybe he was such a fat baby that his mother was convinced that's what he was as she delivered him. Also, Duramax and Dynamite. But besides Coven being a pagan name, isn't Wicca also primarily a female religion?

The two little babies named Coy were offset by the one named Courage. And how about Stoic? Lots of parents name their baby after a trait they hope the baby to show, but I guess these parents must really have been hoping for a quiet, easy baby. On the other hand, the parents of the 3 babies Tiger were probably hoping for something else. I'm not sure what the parents of Daedric were wanting, except more time to play Oblivion and Skyrim.

And then someone named their son Hades. WHAT THE? Sigh. There's Riddick, too, which isn't QUITE as bad as Hades, but leaves more room for teasing. Riddick-ulous! And Heartheaven? Mydnite? Despite naming your kid a sentimental noun like Midnight, it's still not unique enough that you have to do it with a kre8iv spelling?

There's less kre8iv spelling going on with the boys than with the girls, but there's still enough to make you shake your head. "Jheirred" for "Jared"? So what if Jared is popular? If you love it, use it, but I assure you that randomly altering the name to make it impossibly difficult to spell will not garner your baby any more respect from anyone. At least Xzavier and X-Zavier leave no question as to their pronunciation.

And dare I ask what was the purpose behind the 11 babies "Trystan" and "Trysten"? We do not need double entendres in baby names, thank you. I don't understand why the letter Y is so popular with parents right now.

On the slightly less aggravating side, someone used Strider (yay, Lord of the Rings!), plain V (V for Vendetta, anyone?), and Valen (Babylon 5, yes, yes?)

I like Augustus, but it may sound too pretentious in our culture. Still, I'm happy to see it used. I was intrigued by the 6 named Orion. I've been contemplating this name for quite a while, but I'm not sure I could ever use it.

For my personal favourites, there was unfortunately only one Ephraim (and one Efrem, but that barely counts). There were also 5 Enochs (and one Enock), 4 Gideons, and 2 Corins. And a full 25 named Griffin.

Fifty-six boys were named after my brother, Justin, and 5 after my dad, Arthur. Four were named Heinrich (plus a few others of various Heinrich/Hendrick composition).

I know I've used this before, but it's just so pertinent:

"Even the most obedient and adoring of Nazis might have had difficulty saluting his Fuehrer with a crisp 'Heil Schicklgrober!'" The Concise Biography of Hitler