A gift of the fae folk, I assume?

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What is this thing?

What is this thing?

I tried to go to the Snowden talk at McGill a couple weeks ago. The lineup was too crazy huge for us to get in, so we went to Thomson House, the McGill grad students’ pub, and hooked a laptop into a TV there to watch.

Seriously, what?

Seriously, what?

On the way back, in a pile of stones upturned by the construction between the Leacock and Brown buildings on the McGill campus, I found a little medallion marked with strange symbols. It has a pentagram on one side and Death on the other.

I don’t know what to make of it. I assume it was left for me by the fairy folk, and that it’s a good omen?

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2016-4763,
    title = {A gift of the fae folk, I assume?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2016-11-14,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2016/11/14/a-gift-of-the-fae-folk-i-assume/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "A gift of the fae folk, I assume?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 14 Nov 2016. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2016/11/14/a-gift-of-the-fae-folk-i-assume/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2016, Nov 14). A gift of the fae folk, I assume? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2016/11/14/a-gift-of-the-fae-folk-i-assume/


My default typed greeting changed since I became a Dvorak typist

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In 2007 I switched from QWERTY to Dvorak. I’m agnostic about which one is more efficient. I like Dvorak because I feel like I move my hands less. Also it’s great for the entertainment value (“What is wrong with your keyboard?”), and because it makes it that much harder for someone looking over my shoulder to guess my passwords.

Before I switched, my default greeting when chatting with someone was “hi.” It was two letters and it could be typed with one hand, which made it faster than “hello,” which required hand-switching.

Since I have converted to Dvorak, I noticed that my default typed greeting became “yo,” and I think it’s for the same reasons—in Dvorak, you can type “yo” with one hand, but you can’t type “hi” with one hand.

Just weird is all.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3561,
    title = {My default typed greeting changed since I became a Dvorak typist},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-05-26,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/05/26/my-default-typed-greeting-changed-since-i-became-a-dvorak-typist/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "My default typed greeting changed since I became a Dvorak typist" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 26 May 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/05/26/my-default-typed-greeting-changed-since-i-became-a-dvorak-typist/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, May 26). My default typed greeting changed since I became a Dvorak typist [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/05/26/my-default-typed-greeting-changed-since-i-became-a-dvorak-typist/


How doing your taxes is like a singularity

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One of the main projects of the natural sciences is to try to formalise complex physical systems in such a way that they can be used to make predictions about the future. For example, if you apply a force of x N to an object of mass y kg on a frictionless surface in a vacuum, the object in question will achieve a certain acceleration (x/y), and this will happen with predictable regularity. The discovery of such laws is one of the great aims of science, and some of the highest triumphs of the scientific age can be expressed in these terms.

In the natural sciences, the word “singularity” is used to refer to a point in a physical system after which the behaviour of the system cannot possibly be predicted. Stephen Hawking describes a singularity like a point in space-time where what follows “will not depend on anything that may have happened before.”

I feel like this accurately describes certain bureaucratic experiences I have encountered. Let’s take doing one’s taxes as an example. I feel like every year at tax time, something surprising and terrible happens, and I can never predict what. A year ago, I went in to get my taxes done by someone, and I figured I would get a generous amount of money back, as I did the year before. My personal financial situation didn’t change very drastically, I was still a student, and so I figured that at the least I would break even.

That didn’t turn out to be the case. I had to go to my financial institution and send a hefty cheque to the government. The explanation offered by the person doing my taxes was something along the lines of, “Well, you made a bit more money in the year previous, which triggered a whole lot of tax benefits, which resulted in a refund.”

I accepted that explanation, even though it doesn’t make too much sense on the surface. I would have thought that people who make more money would have to pay more tax, but that might just be me being naïve. These days, I’m convinced that there really is no way to predict beforehand what will happen, come tax-time. I’m pretty sure that even if you were to somehow produce a micro-physical duplicate of myself, with an identical financial history, we would both come out of the accountant’s office with a different result on our taxes.

So this year, I’m going into it entirely agnostic about what the outcome will be. If anyone asks if I’m expecting a big tax refund, I will explain to them that no one can know what will happen on the other side of the singularity that is doing one’s taxes.

Here are some other things that also constitute bureaucratic singularities:

Can you think of any other ones?

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3252,
    title = {How doing your taxes is like a singularity},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-02-20,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/20/how-doing-your-taxes-is-like-a-singularity/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "How doing your taxes is like a singularity" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 20 Feb 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/20/how-doing-your-taxes-is-like-a-singularity/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Feb 20). How doing your taxes is like a singularity [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/20/how-doing-your-taxes-is-like-a-singularity/


Review of “The Sisters Brothers”

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The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers

I borrowed this book from the library earlier this month. I wanted to read it in the first place because it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and it won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2011. I was excited when I downloaded the book. It was even the book that was featured on the Kobo in the big full-window advertisement at the Indigo downtown.

Some specifics

  • I was about halfway through the book when I realised (by reading the book’s synopsis) that it was supposed to be a comedy. In fact, it won the Stephen Leacock Prize in 2012. That’s very surprising. I suppose my sense of humour is different from the author’s.
  • There was a lot of discussion of dental hygiene, which I thought was strange and distracting. Maybe this was supposed to be a part of the funny stuff that I didn’t get.
  • The story sort of rambled for the first half. I guess it was supposed to be establishing the characters.
  • Again, this might be something that was supposed to be funny, but there was just a lot of awkward description of the Sisters Brothers’ erections.

Overall impression

It was short, and it was okay. I’m glad I borrowed it from the library rather than paying for it with real-people money. It was a good distraction for reading on the metro, though.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-3079,
    title = {Review of “The Sisters Brothers”},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-10-25,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/10/25/review-of-the-sisters-brothers/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Review of “The Sisters Brothers”" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 25 Oct 2012. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/10/25/review-of-the-sisters-brothers/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Oct 25). Review of “The Sisters Brothers” [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/10/25/review-of-the-sisters-brothers/


Weird thing to find in my readings for “Health and Physical Assessment”

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My textbook for “Health and Physical Assessment” is called Physical Examination and Health Assessment (first Canadian edition) by Carolyn Jarvis. I’ve only done two readings from it, and it’s mostly what I expect. Largely, it’s written in a very scientific tone. It’s a textbook about anatomy, some common forms of illness, and techniques on how to assess a patient.

What’s surprising is something I found right in the middle of chapter 18, (thorax and lungs). The author uses an emotive, almost poetic voice to describe the baby’s first breath:

Breath is life. When the newborn inhales the first breath, the lusty cry that follows reassures anxious parents that their baby is all right.

(Jarvis, C. Physical Examination and Health Assessment. First Canadian Edition. p. 442)

The chapter continues immediately afterward in its characteristic, professional manner for the rest of the chapter, as if nothing happened. I read it, and had to go back to make sure that I didn’t imagine it. I don’t even know what they’re trying to get at with the whole “breath is life” thing. It’s almost philosophical, but then there’s no content there.

Just weird, that’s all.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-2675,
    title = {Weird thing to find in my readings for “Health and Physical Assessment”},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-01-18,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/01/18/weird-thing-to-find-in-my-readings-for-health-and-physical-assessment/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Weird thing to find in my readings for “Health and Physical Assessment”" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 18 Jan 2012. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/01/18/weird-thing-to-find-in-my-readings-for-health-and-physical-assessment/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Jan 18). Weird thing to find in my readings for “Health and Physical Assessment” [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/01/18/weird-thing-to-find-in-my-readings-for-health-and-physical-assessment/


My computer is messed up

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Computer is messed up

Computer is messed up

Meet my computer, Fermat. Fermat is an old computer. I bought it in 2006, and it’s been through a lot. I’ve started to notice a number of funny things that it does. I like to think of them as quirks of old age, rather than as bugs.

For example, I noticed recently that the green light that normally indicates when the camera is on sometimes turns on even when the camera is off. In fact, it will stay on even though I restart the computer in an effort to turn it off. See attached photo.

It’s kind of creepy, like Fermat is watching me, even though I tell it not to.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-2615,
    title = {My computer is messed up},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-01-2,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/01/02/my-computer-is-messed-up/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "My computer is messed up" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Jan 2012. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/01/02/my-computer-is-messed-up/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Jan 02). My computer is messed up [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/01/02/my-computer-is-messed-up/


Visions of sugar plums

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Last night I dreamed I was a student nurse in an acute care hospital and discovered a velociraptor outbreak cover-up but no one believed me because I was just a student.

(By the way, Pickles says that “velociraptor outbreak coverup” are the three words that every nurse hopes she never hears together.)

“Mike! The dinosaurs will eat you for sure! You’re so tall!” And the next thing I remember is holding a crying classmate.

It was pretty vivid. I still remember the moment when the head nurse suspected that I knew what was up. “Hey, these bites sure don’t look self-inflicted.”

After that, it was all running and hiding in the hospital. This is what nursing students dream about on Christmas Eve, apparently.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2601,
    title = {Visions of sugar plums},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-12-25,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/25/visions-of-sugar-plums/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Visions of sugar plums" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 25 Dec 2011. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/25/visions-of-sugar-plums/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Dec 25). Visions of sugar plums [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/25/visions-of-sugar-plums/


Antibiotics and antivirals

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More and more often these days, I come across articles about new anti-viral drugs that look really promising. Further, I’m sure we’ve all read or heard about the phenomenon of antibiotic resistance—strains of bacteria who acquire the ability to survive treatment with antibiotics which would otherwise kill the bacteria and cure the patient.

Since the discovery of antibiotics, bacterial infections have been relatively easy to treat, whereas viral infections have been something that can’t be treated directly. The treatment for a bacterial infection is penicillin, but the treatment for the common cold is bed-rest.

What I find interesting about these developments is that we may be entering an age where this is reversed: Bacterial infections may become difficult or impossible to treat directly, while viral infections can be simply and easily cured with drugs.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2590,
    title = {Antibiotics and antivirals},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-12-22,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/22/antibiotics-and-antivirals/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Antibiotics and antivirals" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 Dec 2011. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/22/antibiotics-and-antivirals/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Dec 22). Antibiotics and antivirals [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/22/antibiotics-and-antivirals/


Ask a Québécois(e)!

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Foosball

Foosball

Next time you have the chance, ask a Québécois(e) to tell you the name of the popular game pictured to the left in this post.

In English, we call it “foosball.”

In French it’s called “baby-foot.” I’m not saying that a literal translation of the French term for “foosball” would be “baby-foot”—the French don’t call it “pied de bébé.” The French say the English words “baby-foot” as their word for “foosball.”

I’m not sure why I expected the French word for “foosball” to make sense. The English word is confusing to me as well.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2564,
    title = {Ask a Québécois(e)!},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-12-19,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/19/ask-a-quebecois/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Ask a Québécois(e)!" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 19 Dec 2011. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/19/ask-a-quebecois/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Dec 19). Ask a Québécois(e)! [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/19/ask-a-quebecois/


Strange text message last Thursday

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Strange text message

Strange text message

On Thursday, while working on a group project, I received a funny text message, of which I took a screen capture—the one attached to this post.

I removed the number, which I didn’t recognise, although I was sorely tempted to leave it in and see if one of my readers knows Jason and Britney.

When I sent it to Pickles, she remarked that it was like a spam email, but through text. This reminds me of a thought I had in February: can you call something “spam” if it comes through a medium other than email?

The next message I sent was the following:

Can you settle something for us? We’re trying to figure out what was meant by “single get 2gethers.” Would you care to clarify?

Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard back from them.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2517,
    title = {Strange text message last Thursday},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-11-29,
    url = {http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/11/29/strange-text-message-last-thursday/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Strange text message last Thursday" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 29 Nov 2011. Web. 20 Feb 2017. <http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/11/29/strange-text-message-last-thursday/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Nov 29). Strange text message last Thursday [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/11/29/strange-text-message-last-thursday/


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