So this is what free time looks like…

It’s amazing what happens when you’re having to do all the things. Like, for instance, you’re undoubtedly going to realize you’re running out of room for things. That is my academic life. So when the end of April hit and another semester ended up falling away behind me, this meant all the things that were put off because lack of time during the school year… well… now get to show up front and center and in a big way. so while the time off school’s been nice, today is the actual first day in which I’ve been able to say–and mean–I’m on vacation.

The thing about academia is even when you’re done, you’re not really done. I had exams the last week of April–which clearly did not hurt nearly as bad as I thought they would, but even while that was underway I was fielding questions about my next steps. Would I be coming back for the spring semester? How about the fall? If I’m coming back in the fall, what services will I need access to–hint: exactly the same as I just got finished using. And now that I’ve had time to catch up on all the non-academic things, I’ve geared up to start that whole process all over again. Why? Because clearly, I am insane.

The official last bit of final semester (*) paperwork was submitted this afternoon, in the form of the application to have the government continue to pay for said final semester. That officially signified that the vacation, if you’re me, now has clearance to actually do something useful. Oh, there’ll still be trips back and forth to the college over the next few months I’m sure–it may be 2016, but folks still have this thing with doing as little possible online–but the actual work part of all of this can now sit and spin until I’m good and ready to care about it. And that will be… ahem… a while.

While I’ve got the time, this means some overdue personal projects can finally get some attention. Like the overhauling and updating of a resume that hasn’t seen much of an update in a few years. And the casing out of places that might could possibly want to hire me. And somewhere in there, because I have been informed that failure to do so may result in my head becoming detached from my shoulders, there will be trips to see people–mostly because I was informed either they’d pay for my way down there or they’d come and get me, and you don’t generally back away from choices like that if you like breathing. Since I’m rather fond of breathing, as soon as paperwork and other people’s loose ends are squared away, I have travel plans. Considering the year I’ve had, they’re not entirely unwelcome.

Between that, and the fact I’ve still got a fair bit of unpacking to get done post-move, I fully expect I’ll still be far too busy for my own good. But, this is the kind of busy I can live with. And in the meantime, I can maybe possibly become aquainted again with what free time looks like.

Not entirely unrelated: If you know anyone who needs a geek and will pay well, I’m available…

(*): Yes, it took me long enough, but September of this year marks the start of my fourth and final semester in this program. There’s an optional cybersecurity extension program I can go for if I qualify, but I will be finished the program I was aiming for–and therefore significantly more marketable than I was even 10 years ago, and I was pretty freaking marketable 10 years ago. Now there’s just the matter of the upside down economy, but, you know, small progress and all that.

Why you could not pay me enough to use Ottawa’s Para Transpo.

Having at one time been responsible for helping someone who essentially depended on Para Transpo if conditions were severe enough that she couldn’t get around on her own, I had more than enough reason to become far too familiar with the system’s inner workings–which had the added benefit of being supported by information I’d obtained from other people with first or second hand experience before me. What it largely comes down to, then, is how in this or any other parallel universe are people expected to function with something that broken?

A little background, for the curious. Ottawa’s bus company, OC Transpo, does its best to make the majority of its mainline bus routes accessible. And more often than not, barring a driver who’s had the misfortune of being born dead from the neck up, they get it right. But even they can’t always help road/sidewalk conditions. So if it’s been a particularly nasty winter, which living in Ottawa we see an aweful lot of, people who are a lot less mobile than me have one of two choices. They can fight with Para Transpo, which OC Transpo also runs when they think of it, or they can stay home. And if you’re being paid not to stay home, your only real option then is that first one. Which makes stories like this one always the fun sort to read.

A disabled woman whose scheduled Para Transpo rides have been suspended for a week says the service should allow more flexibility for riders.

Ginette Bastien is a public servant who relies daily on the service to get to work. Para Transpo suspended her scheduled daily trips because, Bastien says, the service feels she cancelled her pickups at the last minute too many times.

During the suspension she must call each day to request a ride, and hope one is available. Unlike regularly scheduled trips, she will not be guaranteed a ride.

Now, in theory I can sort of see where Para Transpo’s coming from. In theory. However, also in theory, I can sort of see where communism’s coming from as well–and, well, we know how well that worked out. People get sick. It’s kind of a fact of life. And if you happen to be a disabled people, you’re probably going to be sick a little more often than most. That’s the way of life, sucky as it is. And sure, it would probably be absolutely wonderful if you could plan for such a thing in advance. But anyone who’s ever woken up in the morning and felt like something the dog dragged inn, chewed on for 5 minutes then left hanging knows better. Except, apparently, the folks at Para Transpo.

Now, I will say this much. On the occasions where the system works, the system works relatively well. However, to make the system work, you essentially have a minimal amount of room for actually having an honest to goodness something that vaguely resembles a life. From the article:

Scrimgeour added those suspended from regular bookings can book Para Transpo’s services a day before or use Para Transpo’s Taxi Coupon Program. Regular OC Transpo’s buses are also accessible to Para Transpo customers who can travel independently, he said.

Which is true, provided the stars align in such a way that:

  • you call early enough the day before, the definition of which changes depending on how many other people need to be doing exactly the same thing you’re doing,
  • they can find room in the next day’s on-demand schedule to slide you in in such a way that you can get where you’re going and back without being required to be out for 6 hours for a one-hour appointment,
  • the driver you get assigned to knows 1: where he’s picking you up from and 2: where he’s dropping you off (you’d be surprised how many drivers don’t actually know their way around the city),
  • and

  • you don’t mind your ride potentially getting you there late for your appointment and, assuming you’re not waiting 6 hours for your return trip, showing up early to pick you up–then potentially leaving because you weren’t ready.

Most of this I’ve either seen or experienced or, in some cases, had relayed to me. Plus fun things like dropping a person in a wheelchair at entirely the wrong building, while the attendant meeting said person is waiting at the correct one with no idea what’s up (this was before everyone and their cat had a cell phone). In short, you’re probably slightly less likely to develop a migraine if you schedule all your trips on a regular basis, usually several weeks in advance, and almost never have to cancel for any reason beyond things like weather. However, to do that, you’d pretty much have to give up on ever deciding to do something like, for instance, have any kind of actual social life outside of your job, or medical appointments, or what have you. Where someone can call up John Q. Person at half past after-hours and see about meeting him somewhere for coffee, unless Jane Q. Wheely’s having a day where she can actually do something on her own, that same conversation’s going to involve picking a hopefully not entirely too obscure time for the day after tomorrow, then hoping she’s on the phone early enough (they still haven’t figured out online booking) that the time she said she’d meet said friend for coffee isn’t already occupied by someone who forgot to schedule the doctor’s appointment he knew about for 6 months. I can’t imagine there are a lot of Para Transpo users who are overly enthusiastic about that system. Which is precisely why I need to resist the urge to snark on the occasions someone’s been surprised by the fact I both don’t and won’t use it.

In fairness, it’s entirely possible they’d accept someone like me if I bothered to apply. And a few years ago, not knowing then what I know now, I considered applying. But seeing how they work in practice and the criteria they base that practice on (PDF), I have a very strong suspicion that one of two things would happen. Either I wouldn’t be accepted on account of I’m what they’d consider too independent–which, for the record, would be the first time that’s ever worked against me–or they’d accept me, but I’d end up giving up on them because my daily routine–particularly when I can manage to afford to do more than sit at home–can’t be appropriately pigeon-holed into some kind of narrow scheduling margin they can work with. Very likely, however, it would be that first one.

“Persons with a disability would generally be considered eligible for Para Transpo if by
attempting to use OC Transpo’s regular fixed-route transit service, their health would be
severely endangered or the attempt would likely lead to bodily harm”.

While I may not always do things the supposedly safe way, I would probably rule myself out of this part of their criteria in approximately 10 seconds, provided they didn’t catch me on an off day wherein I’ve been drinking for a day and a half already. I’ve been told I can handle myself better in some ways than a fully able-bodied sighted person, though I’m not entirely sure how much stock I’d necessarily put in that. Still, it would be more than enough that they wouldn’t touch me. The second part of that criteria, however, is a maybe.

It goes on to say
“A person with a disability, who does not qualify for Para Transpo’s door-to-door service
in the summer months, may still be eligible for service during the winter”. An example
of a person who would be eligible for Para Transpo on a winter-only basis may be a
person who is visually impaired who can navigate the regular fixed-route service except
when there is ice and snow on the ground.

A case could probably be made, if I wanted to push it, that that would apply to me. I can do it, sure, and have done it pretty much effortlessly for as long as I’ve lived in Ottawa, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to get someone to see the possibility that blind geek plus Ottawa winter equals not necessarily the safest thing in the history of ever. But here’s why I don’t push that.

Winters up here in general, and this one in particular, can’t be planned for in advance. By the time there’s the potential for possibly unsafe weather, the service would do me absolutely no good. A situation where the service might possibly have been an option for me came up last month. In the span of a day, Ottawa was subjected to 50 CM of snow. By the time we had word it was coming, and quickly, it was well past the latest possible time I could realisticly expect to arrange a ride home and not have it take 6 years to happen. And at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have done me any more of a favour than what I ended up doing instead–I took one look outside when classes were over that day, then got hold of Uber for my lift home–and still beat the worst of it. It cost me $9, but I knew where my ride was, I knew when my ride would get here, and more importantly, I didn’t need to be able to predict the near future to obtain it.

In short, Uber filled the role Para Transpo thinks might be adequate for me better than Para Transpo has for probably anyone. And there are people who need Para Transpo to fill that role a whole lot more than I do. If Para Transpo can’t do it for them without provoking small migraines, and this is supposed to be their primary customer base, you could not pay me enough to use them. Not even if you somehow managed to collect the money Para Transpo’s saying they’re owed.

New: ReCAPTCHA now exists where it didn’t before.

It’s common knowledge I hate spammers. It’s equally common knowledge I hate captchas. Enter reCAPTCHA. Yes, it’s still a captcha, but it virtually eliminates any and all of the reasons I hate captchas. Particularly, the thing is perfectly accessible–at least insofar as my testing goes. And now, it runs live on this website. Which, at end of days, means I should start seeing a significant decrease in the number of spam hits to this often neglected thing–without, as it happens, impacting the 2 of you who comment on every 500th thing I toss up here. In short: Where’s this been all my life? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go coax a Windows VM to do what it’s supposed to.

Update: I win at captchas. I fail at HTML. And this is why I shouldn’t geek while distracted.

Toronto schools figure out kids can get hurt, move to ban it.

Ah, Toronto. That lovely little nowhere place where bad ideas go to get themselves one last kick at the can. That place that brought us joys like, you know, rob ford, and the idea of separating the city from the rest of Ontario–it never was actually explained, by the way, how one would go about separating a city from a province while said city resided rather firmly within the geological vicinity of that province, but as we learned from Quebec, such details are pithy little things that needn’t concern the gods who declare it so. And now, Toronto’s back with another brilliant brainchild.

You see, while the rest of us were busy living our lives and handling things that matter while avoiding the clumsy hand of good intentions, Toronto schools were coming to terms with the fact that kids will play at recess. And during that play, kids will undoubtedly end up hurt. And as it has become politically correct to do, one school has applied an opposite overreaction to what it believes to be a problematic action. Kids playing tag leads to kids getting hurt, you say? Then by all means, ban tag.

A Toronto Catholic elementary school is under fire for its decision to ban kids from playing tag.

The downtown school put a stop to the popular chase game — and any recess rough housing — after several several injuries. The Toronto Catholic District School Board defended St Luke’s decision, saying some injuries resulted in bleeding and this was no ordinary game of tag.

Yes. Kids will get just a little overenthusiastic. It happens. Kids will also get hurt when being a little overenthusiastic. Again, it happens. You know what also happens? They learn that maybe they might not oughta have done that. This is also, I thought, what they had staff assigned as recess monitors for–that and making sure little jimmy doesn’t turn around and pop someone in the nose for stealing his favourite swing, but that’s a whole other issue.

Look. I get the theory behind the idea. And as theories go, it’s about as good as any other I’ve come across. But unless we start mandating we put kids in bubble wrap until they turn 18, policies like this aren’t going to accomplish much. The kids who are going to do it will do it when they’re away from school–and hopefully where their parents can keep a closeish eye on them just in case. And the rest probably won’t care as long as it’s not aimed at them. In the meantime, Toronto needs to find a more creative way to deal with kids being kids. Like, maybe, explaining to them why maybe it might could not be the hottest idea in the world to run full-tilt into the kid you’re chasing. Unless of course that would take too much effort.

In which I discover that sleep really is overrated.

There are moments, often far too many, wherein I don’t sleep much. some call it non-24. Some call it me just being weird. I don’t care enough to call it either way–I call it mostly powered by caffeine instead. And now I discover a likely explanation for how I ended up like that and, rather, why it doesn’t necessarily suck if you’re me.

I always feel like I’m being more productive on days where I don’t get all that much sleep. There were a few times in the last couple months where I’ve decided to put sleep on the backburner because I had this or that project that needed doing instead. Now, granted they were projects that weren’t yet expected to be done with, but you know. So because I’d be up anyway, I’d often decide to hell with it, stay up, do that, then get some other junk done around the house while I was already up far too late to be healthy. Apparently that’s not abnormal. I don’t know necessarily that the whole of the article applies to me, of course, but there were a few things that I’ve had people closely associate with me.

According to an article by the Wall Street Journal people who sleep less show some interesting characteristics, “Not only are their circadian rhythms different from most people, so are their moods (very upbeat) and their metabolism (they’re thinner than average, even though sleep deprivation usually raises the risk of obesity). They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.” People who sleep less tend to go on the fast lane, they talk fast and are always on the upside of life. They have a different attitude towards getting things done.

The high pain tolerance thing is interesting–and definitely applies to me, much to the dismay of a few I’m reasonably sure. To listen to my family, so does the talking fast. The rest I just chalk up to not really giving a damn. Except that being thin thing–that’s one that I’m assuredly not, though you’d think I would be given how much not staying in one place I’ve managed to accomplish.

So. For all those times people have heard me insist that sleep is highly overrated and thought they’d like to have whatever it is I’m smoking, now you know. And now I should probably go about the business of disinfecting my apartment while I still have the energy. And while I do, a relevant video–which apparently doesn’t allow embedding, go figure.

sleep? who needs it?

Education: 1 James: 0

Up side: It hasn’t been 4 months since the last time I looked at this thing. Slightly less up side: Academia and I have become incredibly close over the last couple months. to the tune of I may have to tell the next person I’m dating that I can’t marry her on account of I’m married to the college.

I’m in semester 3 of a 4-semester program, and it’s not slowed down for more than 5 minutes since I started. Which is awesome, if you’re me, but slightly less if you’re other people who may want to hear more than the occasional 4 words from me. But on the bright side, I’ve discovered exactly why I wanted this program in the first place–they grade me on my ability to do sysadmin related things. Which, well, I may or may not have had a small amount of experience with before my webfaction migration. Professor says make me an email server, to which my almost immediate answer is give me 5 minutes with Postfix. This is probably the most fun I’ve had at any level of schooling ever–and this stuff people actually want to pay me for. Since when is that a thing?

My time not spent in class is spent toying around with Ubuntu, usually for something exceedingly school related–like, say, the above mentioned mail server, or messing with windows Server 2008 because apparently someone somewhere thinks I want to get paid to set up and fix MS Exchange servers for a living. And that’s the way it goes until April, after which everything becomes optional until September.

Things I’ve had reinforced since this semester started, in no particular order:

  • If you thought being a Windows user was an exercise in headache, spend an hour as a Windows sysadmin. Particularly spend an hour sysadmining a new Exchange server. I have not seen something fail so hard in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of fail. And when it fails, you are not fixing it with a reinstall–unless you’re reinstalling your OS. In short, pray it doesn’t fail. You’ll thank me later.
  • Thoroughly tested does not necessarily mean working. If you’ve tested the hell out of your VM networking setup at home, then bring it into the school environment having passed all your tests, it *will* implode. And sometimes, it’ll look pretty while it does it. Go in with a plan C, because plan B will probably blow up right after plan A did.
    • This is doubly true if you’ve got multiple network cards to play with–VMWare likes to break them both if it disagrees with something you’ve done to one. Then good luck figuring out which one.
  • There are 80000000 ways to accomplish the exact same task. If you decide to do it the overly complicated way, there are 80000001. But if you break something doing it the overly complicated way, there are about 45000000000 possible points of failure.
    • Things you should not do if you get to that point: send your lab partner an email that just says “I broke it”. Your lab partner is very likely to congratulate you and keep working on what he’s doing. Particularly if your lab partner is me.
  • The world really and truly does run on caffeine. I thought it was a myth, even when I was working night shifts handling my 7500th call because the latest Windows update tanked something. Then I came to college. Nope, definitely not a myth. There be people there who consume far more caffeine than I ever have, and I thought I had a lot. Some of it’s justified–the workload will kill a lesser being, and some of these people have families, jobs, and actual social lives to attend to when they’re done. And some of us just don’t sleep. Ahem. *cough* Hi.
  • And lastly: Whatever you do, however and wherever you do it, do not ever dev on the prod box. It is going to break, and break horribly, and when it does, they will hear your frustration down the hall. And some of us, having warned you it would happen, will probably be laughing as we head off to refill our caffeine.

This semester’s not done yet, and I’m already starting to formulate vacation plans and junk for when it is, but it’s things like this that are why I picked this program. It’s also things like this that are why other people tend to hear a whole lot less from me when I’m in the midst of said program–or, in terms of last summer, recovering from having been pasted to the wall by this program. Education is kicking my ass. But if I come out of this mess with even a little more than I had when I went in, it’ll be worth it. Now, about this caffeine thing…

The road to hell is paved with helpful people.

We’ve all seen it, whether we’re blind or otherwise disabled or not. We’re in the middle of something, and all of a sudden we’ve got an extra pair of hands–or sometimes two–we weren’t planning on. Some well-meaning soul has decided we could use that extra pair of hands, for reasons known only to them, even while things wouldn’t go anymore perfectly if you paid them. You almost feel bad about turning them away–after all they were, as they’ll tell you if you’ll let them, “only trying to help”. But if you don’t, you’ll have a whole new problem to deal with–these same well-meaning people guessing at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and in the process, that thing you thought should only take you 10 minutes is now making quick work of the better part of half an hour.

This, I think, becomes even more noticeable if you happen to also be blind and trying, for instance, to avoid small armies of people while getting yourself from A to B. At least, it’s more noticeable if you’re me. To the tune of this happened at least three times throughout the course of yesterday–when all I was doing, as it happens, was going to and from class… Which I’ve done for ages, now.

It’s the first week back to class for most people, so naturally everything gets several different flavours of chaotic. And my schedule this term has me either coming or going right when the not quite so organized chaos is potentially at its worst in some places. But because I’ve been doing this for ages, the fact that there are more people trying to squeeze themselves down every hallway in every direction than should even be possible doesn’t overly concern me–provided, that is, they’re not standing in the middle of that hallway staring at their phone and therefore oblivious to the fact they’re about to be warned of my approach by way of a stick across the knees. On my way to class, I had two particular very well-meaning people stop me for the sole purpose of asking 1: if I knew where I was going, 2: if I knew how to get there, 3: if I needed help to get there, and 4: if I was really, really sure I didn’t need help to get there–this after one of those people kept themselves a few feet behind me and called out directions to the door of the building, which… Well… I was rather already heading for, though perhaps not exactly how he invisioned it. One of them even offered to guide me directly to where I was going, just in case. Which I suppose seemed like a good idea at the time, right up until they needed to ask someone else for directions to an area I conveniently enough have to walk right past to get to my classes. They meant well, and I didn’t end up late for class, so in that respect even if they couldn’t help, they didn’t hurt.

The problem shows up, though, when people skip the asking and get right to the helping. Now, I like to think I know my way around campus enough that I can hit most places fairly easily. There are a few tricky spots, mostly on account of I rarely go there, but for the most part I’ve ended up being the one giving directions. Still, when it gets chaotic, I occasionally need to find me a spot out of the way and wait–not necessarily for people to get out of the way, but so I can figure out more accurately where exactly people are. Let me explain largely how I work for travel purposes.

Everything, if you’re me, becomes a reference point. And I do mean everything. Walls, furniture, rooms I’m walking past, people–if it’s there, I can probably use it. If you’re coming out of a hallway behind me, I can easily use the direction you’re heading in to figure out where I should be going. And I’ve done this thing too many times to count–to the point now that I almost do it subconsciously, and have probably done it more than once without realizing. So if I’ve decided to occupy a spot out of the way for half a second, it’s probably because in a section of the campus where there are something like 2 or 3 very closely aligned hallways, I’d prefer not to have to guess at which one and spend the next 5 minutes undoing what I just did because I guessed the wrong one. I don’t need to do that very often–I can usually cruise right on through without breaking stride, but there are days.

On one of those days, it was slightly busier than usual–I think the college was doing some sort of open house session, possibly. There were probably three times the people there that there’d normally be. Again, no big thing–I do it so often now that people are just another indicator of where I am and where I’m going. But there’s one particular place at the college where there are two almost identical hallways that will take you to very different parts of the campus. Those hallways are at a slight angle from each other–you could come out of one, lean a slight right turn, and end up down the other while being half asleep. So if you’re approaching that spot from another direction, it’s very easy–and I’ve seen too many people do this just by not thinking–to aim for one hallway, miss, and end up down the other–only realizing it when they actually stop talking long enough to look at the rooms they’re passing. On this day, that spot on campus was rather full of people doing it didn’t look like much. Most of them were trying to push past the rest of them, who were seeming to be content with just taking up space. I was doing my usual navigational trick, ducking in and around small clumps of people wherever I could invent me a hole. Some kind soul thought they’d do me a favour and direct me out of the majority of that group of people and toward the other side of that intersection. There was just one very small problem, and it took me a stretch to realize it was staring at me. The hallway he directed me to and the hallway I actually needed to find were two entirely different–and, arguably, completely unrelated–things. So I get to where I know my classroom should be, come to find out instead I’m walking into a small cafeteria (bright side: I now know where I can go to hide if I want food and no one to find me). Then there’s the small matter of the obligatory few minutes figuring out where in the hell I am and how in the hell I got there. Eventually, I managed to answer both questions, then figured out how I’d be getting back to where I needed to be–which was easier this time, given I was already in the same general area, and the majority of the people who would have been otherwise in my way the first time had cleared out, so that was the end of that. Again, I didn’t end up being late for class–though in this case, that may have had more to do with the fact the professor was, but if that had been my first actual exposure to campus, things could have probably ended up going a lot differently and very quickly.

There’s a rule I like to toss at people when they get surprised their help didn’t produce the expected results. For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. If you already know exactly what you’re doing, or where you’re going, and someone comes along to offer help, things get complicated before either of you catches on–mostly because they know what you’re trying to do, but if they can’t wrap their head around how you’re doing it, they’re going to do it their own way–and their own way is going to probably not give you the results you’re after. And this is why, as much as it gives some folks I used to run with a headache, I don’t often opt for accepting the volunteered help–whether or not they’ve asked first before volunteering. I know where I’m going. I know how to get there. You might even know the same thing. But I know the way that gets me there in about 5 minutes. If you take a different way because, for whatever reason, you don’t know mine, I may not have any idea where we’re going–it depends on how creative I’ve been with my wandering the place ahead of time. Which also means if you decide that no, you actually don’t know how to get where we’re going, or if it turns out the way you know doesn’t work out for any number of reasons, not only have you actually not been helpful–but I may not necessarily be able to undo it and get back to doing what I know eventually works. It’s no slight against the helpful–sometimes, it’s actually incredibly useful. But often, some might say far too often, the road to hell is paved with helpful people. And if you’re already having a day, it’s an incredibly short drive.

That’s one way to fix a housing chrisis.

So if you’ve been paying any attention to the news in certain parts of Canada, at least, you’ve become aware the price of your average decent-sized house has rather, well, exploded. In Nova Scotia, they’ve discovered a solution. If you can prove there are aboriginal artifacts on your property, and that there’s the potential for an aboriginal group to make a land claim against your house (they do that up here every so often, apparently), you can convince the Nova Scotia government that your property is worth a whole dollar.

Normally, a brand-new seaside home on the outskirts of Antigonish, N.S. could easily fetch as much as $400,000.

But after homeowner Mike MacDonald stumbled upon a Mi’kmaq axe on the two-acre property, he was quickly able to convince the Province of Nova Scotia that his new home was now effectively worthless.

“Such a property would be considered very valuable under normal circumstances,” reads a decision by a Nova Scotia appeal tribunal.

But with the artifacts throwing the property’s future into limbo, “the value will be set at $1 until the future use of the Mi’kmaq artifacts is determined,” it read.

The rock-bottom assessment — which MacDonald only obtained after several appeals — frees him from paying any property taxes on the beachfront land.

Well now. That’s the housing crisis solved–at least in Nova Scotia. Who says the aboriginal people don’t do us any favours?

Support for windows 8 ended on Tuesday. downgrade to Windows 7 now.

Microsoft does this far too often to be healthy. They’ll release a halfway decent version of Windows, give it a year or several to run its course, then push out a flopper as a replacement. The flopper goes flop, Microsoft realizes perhaps they might not oughta have done that, so they come back with a slightly less floppy version. Meanwhile, they’ve pulled support for the not-so bright idea, while the version of Windows it was supposed to replace… goes on relatively untouched for a while yet. It happened with that thing that came out before Windows XP–yeah, you know the one. It happened with Vista. And now, it would appear, it’s happening with Windows 8. Effective this past Tuesday, Microsoft killed it. So if you were running that in the hopes of holding out until windows 10 fixed its multiple issues, you’re out of luck. Bright side: they’ll still support Windows 7 for the time being–and that, at least, lacks some of the things Windows 10 needs fixing. Not-so-bright side: you didn’t have plans for this weekend, did you?

Looks like Microsoft pulled support for Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10 at the same time, but you weren’t running that anyway, right? Right. Carry on. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be over here not upgrading my OS.

For $294 million, ODSP gives us… business as usual.

The Ontario Disability Support Program ((ODSP) and I haven’t been on friendly terms for as long as I’ve been barely living independently on what they toss me. The reasons are plenty and exceedingly detailed, but can probably very easily be boiled down to a few somewhat key factors. And those can be summarized approximately this way. The Ontario disability Support Program has itself a disability.

When you approach any government at all with the expectation that they might actually be able to do something semi-useful to help you, it’s almost a necessity that you make ready with a plan B, C, D and E just in case–because assuming that help actually comes in the form of something you can do decent things with, getting it to you is going to take far too long, be far too complicated, be far too little and come attached to far too many restrictions to end up doing you or them any amount of actual good in the long run. Unless they decided instead that nope, at which point it gets even more fun if you’re you.

ODSP finally has madness like this down to a science. And it’s all brought to you by the brand spanking new case management system that does pretty well nothing you expect it to do and not very well while it’s at it. For the $294 million price-tag their new system comes with, we have a front row seat to all manner of disfunction from all manner of levels. This new case management system, the money for which could have probably gone and done some good in just about any number of far more productive ways, now makes it possible for the fine folks over at ODSP to do the following things even better than they have in years previous.

  • Babysit an entirely dependent woman’s bank account while communicating as little as possible with her caretakers, then cut her off completely when they think she’s socked away too much money
  • Knock a significantly less dependent woman off ODSP for daring to do a little work for herself
  • Force recipients to repeatedly prove, by way of medical documentation–even for conditions that won’t be changing any time soon, that yes, they’re still broken and yes, they still qualify for support and yes, you should still pay them–and then manage to screw up the review process
  • That is, when the system–or the staff who run it–isn’t accidentally making the payments you keep having to requalify for disappear for reasons no one seems capable of knowing

And all it cost the province–translation: people who actually work for a living–for the pleasure was over a quarter billion. Not bad, if the government says so itself–which it does, as often as it can get away with. But on the bright side, we now know why people on ODSP don’t get to afford pithy little things like, you know, paying the rent. I wonder where a disabled program that could really use a little extra money could pull it from. For that kind of cash, we could use something a little bit better than business as usual.

Geek training, now with actual geek tools.

College is awesome, if for no other reason than while I’m not being paid, I’ve still got plenty to keep me occupied during a day. And now, the stuff I have to keep me occupied just became a whole lot more relevant. I’ve been taking this program for pretty much exactly a year, now, but the thing about this program is it’s taken that long just to get to the parts most people who go through it are more likely to use once they’ve found someone who’ll pay them. Not necessarily by choice, but definitely by design–there’s just that much actual background material that needs covered before you get there. You can’t, for example, throw up a web server on a Linux machine if you don’t know how to make Linux do your tellings. Well, you can, but I’m not supporting you. So the first year and change was pretty much this is how you make the things go. Now comes what I like to think of as play time.

The entire reason for me taking this course is to put the skills I already have on paper. I’ve done the Linux administration thing. I’ve done the website maintenance thing. I’ve done the hosting thing. But that’s been a thing I do when I can find both the free time and the spare money–both of which have rather recently come into some shortish supply. So the first half of the program was spent largely covering ground I’ve already covered on my own time and fighting with the occasional professor for reasons far too well known to anyone who’s done the college thing from the perspective of someone with a disability. It’s been fun, but not quite what I signed up for. From this semester onward, though, it gets interesting–and, very likely, significantly easier if you’re me, considering the difference between me and a certified geek is, well, not much.

For instance, one of the courses I’m taking this year is rather self-explanatorily called PC Troubleshooting. Essentially, while there’s a relatively small theory component to the course (there’s only one two-hour lecture a week), the entire point of that course is you walk into the lab, the professor hands you a computer, and your task is to 1: find out what’s wrong with it and 2: fix the damn thing. While all the while being very thankful your professor isn’t quite mean enough to make you nearly relive one of the stereotypical tech support experiences in the process. If you’ve been reading for half as long as the site’s been online, 1: congratulations–I’m impressed, and 2: you probably know on some level this used to be that thing I’d get paid to do, only not in the hands-on sense quite so much–I’d do the finding out what was broken, but then I’d usually be sending someone else with the parts to fix the broken (call center work has its advantages). So this has the potential to be very similar, minus the paycheck.

In another instance, this semester’s Linux course has a component that will involve you setting up and configuring web and email services. Now, I wouldn’t call myself an expert in the area, but I’ve rolled my own in both cases. I’ve also handed a large portion of that rolling to legitimate hosting software when I’ve needed to–see also: 4:00 AM phone calls because person A needs a new email address. I’ll probably learn something, but I’m expecting this to largely just be that thing I’ll do while half awake and walk off with a decent enough grade to matter. Which means I can give just a little more attention to that component of the program that requires I be able to do the same thing on a Windows server. Because, you know, Windows is precisely what I’d want running my business resources.

We’ve sat through the geek training. And while I’ve discovered not for the first time I suck at the theory portion (this is why me and school weren’t on speaking terms for several years), it’s the practical aspect that will probably concern an employer more than anything else–and I’ve got that covered. Now, we get the actual geek tools. And this, right here, is exactly what I came for. Now, about plans for summer…

Dear CBS. Don’t you dare break my Trek.

I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I have no idea when. Too young to have seen the original series on its first run, I could never get into it on any of the other times I saw it–dear lord but I tried. But since the launch of “The Next Generation”, I was kind of a little bit all over it. I think that got me interested in the kinds of things that now interest me–technology, space travel, that kind of thing.

some of the later series started to lose me, mind–I couldn’t get into “Voyager” until nearly halfway through, and let’s not even discuss “Enterprize”. The more recent movies, though, didn’t even warrant more than one viewing–I’ll rant about that when I’m feeling more ranty and have the brainpower to go with it. Still, every new series or movie gets at least a quick look from me, because–hey, that’s my thing. Which is why CBS saying they’re starting up a series of their own caught my attention.

Of course they won’t release any actual info on that series yet beyond who might be involved (Can we get a hint, guys?), but a guy can hope, right? And what I’m seriously hoping for is they don’t break the series in the same ways they broke the newer movies. There are way too many things I really hope they don’t go overboard on in this new series (hint: special effects should be the background, not the entire point of the show), and there’s a metric ton of potential for the whole thing to implode on itself, but like any good Trek fan, I’ll probably watch the thing anyway. At least until it threatens to cost me sanity points. In the meantime, CBS, don’t even think about breaking the series. It may be 50 years old this year, but you don’t water down a good thing. No matter what the movie producers tell you.

And speaking of movies, I think I may consider giving this one a pass. If only because again with the special effects before the plot. I keep saying it wasn’t broken, guys…

In which education kills brain cells and eats sleep schedules for lunch.

So. I might have mentioned it’s been wicked crazy if you’re me. I might have also mentioned that I rather love that it’s been wicked crazy. The problem with education getting wicked crazy, though, is it tends to pretty much force everything else to the back burner. If you’re me and it’s getting pretty near the end of the semester and you’ve still got a nifty little stack of things that need sorted through, doing or just handing in because you’re an idiot and neglected to do so, that kind of eventually starts to include things you’ve been relatively good at holding together–or, at least, faking it ’til you make it in any event. Which, conveniently enough, is how I ended up turning in a paper I’d written in 3 hours… at 6:30 this morning. It’s a hell of a ride, and I’m definitely going to need the 3 weeks I’ve got coming to me after tomorrow’s exam, but this course is exactly where I need to be. I’ve always considered myself mostly a geek in training, though not in any real way that would have ended up with getting me paid–not for lack of my grasping at any straw going. But these classes are a halfway decent excuse to put that training into something that vaguely resembles real practice while adding to it with a logical end goal of an actual paycheck. Even if that process accepts payment in student loans, brain cells and what’s left of my already not quite together sleep schedule. Still, the only loose thread I have to tie up on this semester is tomorrow’s exam, so that’s a thing. I’ll take it. Now about that vacation…

So what’d you do over the summer? Oh, you know. Relaxed, took it easy, discovered a planet…

For about 5 minutes, I would sincerely love to trade all kinds of places with this kid.

Tom Wagg was 15 when he spotted a tiny dip in the light of a distant star during his week-long placement at Keele University. After two years of further research, astronomers have confirmed that he witnessed a mystery planet passing in front of the star.

Follow the site for long enough, and you’ll pick up on the extreme geek factor. This includes a huge interest in science fiction, but also in both present-day and futuristic space discoveries. So I was a little tiny bit jealous, perhaps, when I read this. I always wondered if we’d actually see something akin to realistic space travel in my lifetime, and they sure as hell are trying to answer that question with a definitive hell yes. But in the meantime, you go, Tom. And if you ever want to trade places with a college geek, let me know. Now, about those theoretical real-life impulse engines

The easy as pie CPanel WebFaction migration guide.

for reasons of plenty, I’ve had to end up switching hosting away from the server I won’t be running for much longer. The host I picked, I did largely based on the fact they advertise themselves as being a host for developers–which, for me, translates as a host for geeks. And so far, it looks that way.

I’m coming from a vantagepoint of having full access to my server, so that was something to get used to. But WebFaction, my new host, pretty much lets me do most of what I could do on my own server with a minimal amount of problem–at least so far. The getting set up was a lot easier than I expected, and I expected it to be fairly simple to begin with.

A little background. My server runs cPanel, largely because some of the folks I host aren’t as technically minded as I am, so if they want to make themselves a brand new email address at 4:00 AM, I want to let them. The down side of that, of course, is CPanel likes to get in the way of most skilled sysadmins. I’ve learned to work around it for the most part, and push it out of my way where I can’t, but generally speaking I always hear of it being a fight to accomplish some complex task mostly because the folks at CPanel have a different idea of how things ought to be laid out than, well, most normal people. That said, it’s mostly working around CPanel’s general assumptions that makes migrating to any host in general, and WebFaction in particular, a little bit of a trick. If you’re used to it, then it’s a non-issue in about 5 seconds. If you’re not a sysadmin, then it gets even more fun–but I can probably help you work around that if you’re reading this.

The bulk of the steps will be carried out in your new host’s control panel of choice–WebFaction has a very nice one that takes a bit of getting used to largely on account of they have a different concept of how websites come together than most people are used to, but the basic principles should be relatively translateable. And if you’re considering WebFaction, their support times are trying very hard to compete with mine when I’m awake–no support request I’ve put in has been left longer than an hour.

When I moved May and I over, the steps were almost entirely the same–except, of course, that mine were a bit more involved on account of I’m also running the DNS infrastructure for the server I’m soon to be shutting down. Moving us over went largely like this:

  • Create the necessary platforms on the new host:
    • For May, that’s a couple domain names, a database, a couple email addresses.
    • Me was a couple domain names, a few databases, a few legacy subdomains, and all the necessary pointers to the old server so other people I’m hosting over there don’t break–and also because I haven’t yet migrated my mailing list over yet. Oops.
    • So the new host knows of canadianlynx.ca, the-jdh.com and related infrastructure before it even needs to be forced to use it.
  • Back up the necessary databases from the CPanel server
    • Log in to the CPanel box with SSH, if you have SSH access, and: mysqldump -u username -p database > database.sql
    • Where username is the login name you use to access the database (hint: check the relevant config files for, for example, WordPress to find it), and database is the MySQL DB you’re wanting to back up (again, check the relevant configuration files). This puts a copy of the database as it is right now in the root of your home directory–or in whichever directory you’re sitting in, if not that. It will ask you for your database password, at which point again, check your configuration files if you don’t know it.
  • FTP (or, preferably, SFTP) the .sql file from old host to new–for this, I use WinSCP, simply because I can connect to both old and new at once and tell the thing to pull from one and push to the other. And, well, since I’m lazy, that’s exactly what I do.
  • Depending on the size of your database(s), you’ll have time while they move to go back to your new host’s control panel and create the new databases if you didn’t already do that. You can create the user(s) for them as well, which helps. WebFaction is pretty flexible with DB names, which also means you can probably have the same database name, username and password you had on CPanel, which ought to prevent breakage. I didn’t take that route, but that was for largely OCD reasons.
  • Your database transfer should be done now. Taking the info you used to create your databases on your new host, SSH into your server (WebFaction provides you SSH access by default) and then:
    • mysql -u username -p database < database.sql
    • where username is the username you picked for your new database, and database is of course the new database name. Again, it will ask you for your password–give it the one you set for the new database, not the one from your old host, unless of course they’re exactly the same, or things will break. It’ll take a second or two, but then the contents of database.sql will appear in your new database.
      • Note: WebFaction runs its database server on the same server as your web stuff, which is defined by localhost. MySQL uses this by default, so this command will work. If you’re on another host, like for example DreamHost, they let you create a database hostname to reach a separate, shared MySQL server. To import your database into that, you’ll want: mysql -h database.host.name -u username -p database
  • We’re at a pause point here, as we can’t migrate any farther until we finish setting our infrastructure up on the new host. Right now, your new host knows your domain name exists, but doesn’t know what you’re planning to do with it.
  • On WebFaction, they divide the concept of web hosting into 3 categories–domains, such as the-jdh.com, which let you host your email and generally just point to the server, applications, which are what actually serves up your web content (think WordPress, or your forum software of choice), and websites, which essentially connect applications to domain names–so you can tell, for example, myblog.com to pull its content from the myblog application.
  • On other hosts, generally speaking as soon as you create a “website account”, or “web hosting account”, it gives you space on a server and doesn’t much care what you put in that space. WF tries to customize its environment for the application you’re running, if it can get away with it.
  • Either way, you’ll want to create that space now. On WF, create a static/CGI/PHP application if you’re running, say, WordPress. You could, if you felt like being creative, just create their standard WordPress application, but WF automaticly hands you a database with it then and generally makes more work for you in the long run, but that’s an option.
  • Connect the newly created application to your previously migrated domain name using a website record.
  • Now, return to your FTP client. Connect to your old host and download everything in the public_html folder of your account–that’s where CPanel stores pretty much all website data. Optionally, if your client supports it, tell it to upload it to webapps/appname on your new host, where appname is the name of the application you created above–you did create one, didn’t you?
  • Depending on how much you have up there, it could take a while–mine took a couple hours overall. Now is a perfect time to double check things, then do some preliminary testing. Some web hosts give you a subdomain you can use to test things before they go live. In WebFaction’s case, you get a subdomain in the form of panelusername.webfactional.com, where panelusername is the username you use to log in to your control panel. Configure the website you created above to accept connections from both your domain name and panelusername.webfactional.com, or your new host’s equivalent if not WebFaction. That way, you can access your web content before you actually switch your domain over.
  • Tripple check you’ve created all the email addresses you need while you’re in the panel. Once you change over your name servers, which is the second last step–and last step you’ll actually be able to perform by yourself, any email addresses you’ve neglected to create will stop working on account of they don’t exist on the new server, and you’ve told everyone to forget about the old one.
  • Now is the waiting game. depending on how long it takes for your content to be transferred, I’d advise you grab a coffee or several.
  • When that’s done, and before doing anything else, pull up your webfactional subdomain in a web browser. Make sure there are no errors or anything of the sort–if there, you’ll need to edit configuration files. Most commonly, the error you’ll see is related to databases. Replace all the database info in the affected configuration files with the info from the database you just created, and those problems should solve themselves.
  • Once you have everything working on the webfactional domain name, and are sure everything is set up for when you bring your actual domain name over, it’s time to make the switch. Contact your domain registrar, provided it’s not the same as your old host, and change your nameservers to be the following:
  • <

    • ns1.webfaction.com
    • ns2.webfaction.com
    • ns3.webfaction.com
    • ns4.webfaction.com
  • If your domain registrar is your old host, I’d recommend you transfer it first–I’ve had very good luck with Misk for all things domain. Then make the changes listed above.
  • And that’s all you can do on your end. Now, everyone else needs to catch up with you. It should take about 24 hours or so for everyone to realize you’ve moved–so don’t go cancelling anything on your old host just yet. Once the nameserver changes have updated globally, then you’re safe to cancel things. And at that point, you’re hopefully successfully migrated away from CPanel to wherever your new host is hanging.

I had a few more specialised tasks running, such as a Cron job for scraping the various RSS feeds I read, but those I pretty much scattered in amongst the larger tasks that required waiting for. And now, this site and everything that goes with it lives on a shiny new web server I’m not directly maintaining. If you’re hosted on the server I do maintain, you shouldn’t feel a thing.

Switching out really is that simple if you know exactly where to look. And if you’re lost at any point, Google is your friend–and so are the comments. Now, let’s go see if I need to finish breaking anything else on my new host before I get too comfortable.

There’s always next year, Toronto. And this time, saying it doesn’t feel forced.

I’m a Toronto sports fan if I’m a sports fan at all. It’s how I grew up and I haven’t evolved much since then. For hockey, it’s always been the Leafs–yes, even though the last time they won it all my parents were in grade school. For baseball, it’s been the Jays–even though the last time they won it all *I* was in grade school. It’s meant I’ve gotten to see some really good years. And, uh, some incredibly bad ones. This year was the best by far–I don’t actually remember much about 92-93. But from the beginning of the baseball season, something about this Bluejays team felt different. I made a point to catch as many games as I could get away with–which wasn’t usually something I did for baseball–this time around simply because the whole thing felt different. Then the July trade deadline happened, followed closely by league domination. Then the postseason happened, and anyone with a pulse lost their collective everything. They packed the Sky Dome, which didn’t used to happen for a baseball game. They got musical, albeit now a lot of those names aren’t exactly front and center, which used to be that thing they only did if they were mocking something. And for the first time in 22 years, Toronto’s favourite sports cliché might actually have some meaning behind it. There’s always next year. And this time, saying it doesn’t feel like just the routine. If they don’t break the team over the winter, we might actually do it next time around. And that, just for the record, is nearly as awesome a thought as if we’d done it this year. Suddenly, being a Toronto sports fan sucks a little bit less now. thanks, Jays.

Marriage: Not just for people in love anymore.

Depending on who you ask, marriage hasn’t meant what it used to for years already. In Austrailia, if you’re one couple in particular, it means even less now.

You may or may not be aware that same-sex marriage is a thing. In Austrailia they’re becoming aware of that. And as a result, at least one “traditional” couple has decided if same-sex marriage becomes legal, they will become divorced. Because nothing quite defines your own marriage like someone else’s definition.

I’m hardly one to compare opinions on marriage of any kind–I’ve always seen it as just a piece of paper, really, entitling you to no more benefit than if you’d spent the rest of your lives living together without the whole deal–the difference between a legal marriage and not, in most cases, is the ability for one of you (usually the one who earns more) to claim the other on your taxes. I don’t need that piece of paper to prove I plan on sticking around a while any more than I expect that piece of paper to be a reason to stick around longer than I would otherwise. But if you’re going to go through the whole deal, it might not be the worst idea in the world if you meant it. I’m pretty sure whatever the traditional meaning of marriage–between either sex (or sexes) was, it did not include phrasing to the effect of “unless political expediency requires otherwise”.

I’m not saying marriage–of either kind–is wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily do it, but that’s either personal preference or a fantastic misunderstanding of the legal definition of marriage (I’m pointedly ignoring the religious one). But if you’re going to go through it, mean it. And if you’re going to mean it, keep it away from politics–especially *that* politics. Doing otherwise guarantees whatever value marriage–either the “traditional” or “modern” type–had is lost in the argument. As for this couple, whether or not the divorce actually happens, they’ve just proved the point to those of us who don’t see the idea of going through with it–it’s not just for people in love anymore. But then, perhaps legally, it never really was.

Congratulations on the new government, Canada. I give it 6 months.

It should be said right up front that if someone had told me a couple years ago I’d be referring to a Prime Minister Trudeau in the present tense I’d be questioning their sanity. But, here he is and here we are. So sure, that plus the fact the liberals went from third to first in the span of an election is impressive. Sadly for Canada, though, the Trudeau fandom won’t last longer than about 6 months–and for many of the reasons, I suspect, that it was apparently extremely necessary to give Harper the boot in equally impressive fashion. Politics just doesn’t know how to do anything else, and neither do most politicians–including, as we’re about to find out, Trudeau.

Let’s start with the most obvious, because why not. Bill C-51 is, if you ask some people, the culmination of everything that was wrong with the conservative government. Shoved through with little debate, probably unconstitutional, treats dual-citizens as second class, yada yada we’ve heard it all a million times now. The vote for Trudeau–or, to put it in rather more appropriate context, the vote against Harper–was supposed to be a rejection of C-51. And it probably would be, if Trudeau hadn’t already decided he supported it. So, awesome. We ditch the bill’s authors, but we’re keeping the bill–at least until the eventual supreme court challenge, at which point we’ll see. Majority rules, and all that.

Slightly less obvious, unless you’ve had your ear to the political ground for a while, was another something Trudeau–and Mulcair, for what that was worth–used to beat Harper over the head with. Openness/accountability in government. To contrast himself with how Harper ran things, Trudeau flat out said he’d let each riding handle their own nomination process and his people would stay out of it. And then, his people got involved and there went the open nomination promise. He could have explained himself. He should have explained himself. He blamed the other guy. And there just went accountability.

Less into the politically obscure and more into the mainstream conversation, ask anyone who voted against the conservatives why they voted against the conservatives. I’d put money on one of the reasons for it being the conservatives are in bed with big oil–if I had money, anyway. Whatever the expansion, it was always assumed the conservatives would shove through any legislation that was required to approve the thing and damn the consequences. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if folks in some corners accused the conservatives of taking their legislation straight from the mouthes of the oil execs. They might even be right for all I know–I’ve never had the influence or a reason to know one way or the other. But one thing I can about guarantee is if one of Harper’s advisors had been found giving advice to the oil companies, there’d be screaming from all corners demanding to know what Harper knew, when he knew it, and why the advisor wasn’t outright fired on the spot. And somebody would probably be calling up the RCMP this morning. Not so much for Trudeau.

I’m no fan of Stephen Harper, by any means. Well, if I’m being completely honest I’m no fan of the whole damn mess, but let’s put that out there up front. But I’ve been around long enough to know how this usually ends up going. The liberals held office for 13 years, until people got tired of them and then they didn’t. Harper got himself elected on a platform of openness, accountability, transparency, and generally not sucking–and then proceeded to forget about 90% of that platform. He’s just an MP from Alberta, now. Trudeau promised to be, escentially, not Harper–and then proceeded to borrow some of Harper’s tactics before he even won the election. Aside from that, this election in particular, the platforms weren’t entirely all that radically different from each other. They both treat the supposed middle class as something delicate and special without actually defining what the middle class actually is–I still don’t know, for instance, if I’d fall into that category (though probably not, for myriad reasons). both are all about tax breaks for the middle class. Both are all about fiddling with tax rates for other people–the conservatives, supposedly, lowering corporate tax rates and the liberals increasing taxes on people who make enough money to actually get ahead in a crap economy. Neither is willing to go into a whole lot of detail on what they plan to do with that extra money, beyond vague sort of halfway nods towards helping out the middle class. In other words, there’s no real reason to vote for one party platform over the other–and with the liberals having borrowed ideas from NDP platforms past, there’s no real reason to vote for the NDP over the liberals or vise versa either. All that leaves us is reasons to vote against the other guy–and in this case, that means Harper. So out come all the things $voter hates about Harper, the current government, its current policies etc, and they latch on to the most likely party to replace them not paying much mind to the similarities. So the less than open, unaccountable conservative authors of bill C-51 are handed the boot in favour of the slightly less than open, unaccountable supporters of bill C-51 and not much ends up actually changing. And once the anti-harper feelings go away and people actually look up to see what they’ve done, I get the sneaking suspicion they’ll latch on to that fact in fairly short order–the average voter isn’t stupid, though they tend to be easily seduced by the mob mentality. And when that happens, I don’t think I’ll be the only one drawing similarities between this government and the one it replaced. I figure that should take about 6 months–or, failing that, the minute Trudeau doesn’t bring parliament back in session right when someone thinks he should. And in a term or two, provided the conservatives get their feet under them in time, we’ll be right back where we are now–only voting against the liberals instead. And then, just like Trudeau won by virtue of not being Harper, the next one will win by virtue of not being Trudeau. Unless, of course, someone surprises me and actually gives us something to vote for rather than against, but let’s not hold our breath. We might hurt ourselves.

On putting the dis in ability.

The fairly new thing now is what folks are calling transabalism–the act of a perfectly (or, at least, mostly perfectly) able-bodied someone explicitly wanting to make themselves in some way disabled. The most noteable of these, of course, is Jewel Shuping, who very recently blinded herself with the help of a psychologist using drain cleaner. I won’t go through that entire affair again, mostly because I wouldn’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said already and better. But I’ll ask the question in more general terms, because I honest to god cannot wrap my head around where that comes from.

What would make a perfectly able, some would say functional, person decide to damage perfectly working eyes, or cut off a perfectly functional limb? It’s a way different beast from, say, deciding you should have been born the opposite gender–if only because you can still, I’d argue relatively easily, live a perfectly normal (*) life while your body learns to function as, and you adapt to being, that opposite gender. But with very few exceptions, so few in fact that I’d be hard pressed to think of any right off the top though I’m sure they’re out there, the same can’t be said for learning to live with a disability–even if, as Jewel has apparently done, you do things that would ordinarily be associated with that disability. The way of life in general changes–sometimes pretty freaking dramaticly, and you can’t really compensate for that by closing your eyes or sliding on a blindfold, or making a conscious effort not to use the problem limb you’re hoping to some day do without.

I’m completely open to the possibility that my perception is based on my own thoughts about a chance to gain at least part of the sight I never had. I’d have as much an idea what to do with sight as I would what to do without an arm or leg. By that, of course, I mean absolutely none. Which is why, to an extent, I can understand some able-bodied people’s reaction to the movement as a whole. If you have yourself convinced it would absolutely be hell on earth if you were confined to a wheelchair, then you’d be more likely to assume anyone who is, whether they’re there by choice or not, must be going through the same–and you’d therefore be more likely to wonder why anyone would willingly want to be put there. I’ve certainly wondered that a time or two, and I know people who’ve functioned perfectly well in that position–though again, that’s largely on account of they didn’t have the option. Now, let me slip into my disabled person roll for a minute.

I’m 32 years old. I’ve had that long to learn how to be a disabled person in a largely able-bodied world. I’ve had that much time to adapt parts of that world to what I need, and to adapt myself–with varying degrees of success–to the parts of that world I can’t. I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. One would after doing it for 30 years, after all. And a lot of that comes from not knowing or really caring that things could–or, in some people’s estimation, should–be any different. My blindness is as normal, as natural, for me as the exact opposite is for most other people. Would it still be that way if I lost my site in my teens? My twenties, maybe? Probably not–for exactly the reasons I wouldn’t imagine anyone would want that to happen by choice. In short, I’d have to relearn how to do escentially everything. Reading and writing. Travelling. Interacting with people. Basicly, living. I rely on things, be they environmental queues or things I pick up on from other people, that someone with a perfectly working pair of eyes wouldn’t need to. And they, in turn, rely on things I don’t necessarily care about on the not entirely unreasonable grounds that they’d just go right over my head anyway. Even if you’ve decided one of these things just doesn’t belong, your brain’s gotten used to the idea of it being there. You close your eyes, you’re still open to receiving and processing the information they’re sending–you’ve just told them not to send any. You make a conscious effort, say, not to use one arm, and that might actually work to an extent–but again, it’s still there, and it’s going to be a near constant effort to actually restrain yourself from using it.

By willingly cutting off that arm, or damaging your eyes, you’re escentially short-circuiting that connection. I’d imagine, on that level at least, it would be equally as traumatic as if you’d become disabled in the same or similar ways through no fault of your own (the onset of something like MS, for instance). You’d still, in ways you very likely hadn’t thought of previously, need to pretty much reteach yourself how to do things. At the very least, it’s now become a full-time job reteaching your brain how to process everything around you in entirely new and hopefully interesting ways–much like, were I to wake up with sight tomorrow, I’d almost immediately be putting my life on hold for the sole purpose of figuring out how to filter out, then process, an entirely new stream of information I haven’t had the means to get hold of or a reason to use for 30 years.

Add all of these complications on top of the usual routines the disabled go through on a regular basis (discrimination, both intentional and not, or the magnification of even the smallest every-day task into an act of inspiration, or being the latest political victim of choice just to name a few), and I don’t think it’s too far reaching to ask why someone would willingly want to put themselves through that if they had a choice not to. Does that make what people like Jewel are doing wrong? I haven’t got the faintest idea. But it does make it, at the very least, curious–and maybe, just a little bit, concerning. Being the way I am now, I wouldn’t want anything to do with a surgery, or treatment, that could give me my sight. I’m equally sure if I had it already I wouldn’t want to lose it. I can only guess at why someone else would–and I, very likely, wouldn’t even be close.

(*) In as much as anything these days can be considered normal, the definition of which if you asked three people you’d hear three different versions–just about none of them remotely the same.

On October 19th, vote Bluejays for American League champion.

If you live in Canada and haven’t been living under a rock, you know there’s an election on. You could be forgiven for thinking that election has anything remotely to do with picking the faces who will cover over what’s left of your federal government. But you have a much more important decision to make tomorrow evening. On Monday night, you will be left with the decision of whether or not to cancel your evening plans, crank up the TV, and settle in for a couple hours of postseason baseball. For the first time in 22 years, the Sky Dome (*) will play host to an American League Championship game–and a chance to turn that, and the next two that follow, into a possible setup for World Series entry. You could decide you have way more important things to do. Like, I don’t know, watch a Senators game (**) for example. I hope you don’t. Because we may not see something like this for a good long while afterwards–and you’re not going to want to be wondering what the hell everyone else in the office is talking about Tuesday morning. So on October 19th, cut out of your evening shift early. Stick a set of headphones in your phone and pull up the game while you’re studying. Follow all the things on Twitter while you’re at evening classes. Vote Bluejays. Because no matter which way your political leanings go, nothing will make you happier. And no one who’s anyone can say no to a moment like this.

(*): I have never, will never, call it the Rogers center. Rogers couldn’t pay me enough–unless they threw in Bluejays tickets, and even then I’d probably want a discount at the consession stands.

(**): I dunno. Some people have wickedly messed up priorities. I don’t judge. I’m a Leafs fan when the Jays aren’t playing, after all.

And now, the obligatory “where the hell did these come from” link dump.

One disadvantage of forgetting you put this thing up here so you can write and/or be snarky in your own space on your own time is running out of that second one and forgetting you still have that first one. The end result, besides the fact that I almost always end up neglecting to post just about everything, is I have a fairly large stockpile of things I keep meaning to throw down over here and my list of things to do (TM) never gets that far. And this is how we discover the art of the link dump.

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When not even a doctor’s note is enough. A Michigan catholic school dismissed a 12-year-old girl for not meeting their attendance/academic requirements–in spite of the fact she was in line to pass anyway. Her excuse for not attending classes? recovery from cancer. clearly that doesn’t fly in Michigan. do better next time, or else.

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When academia goes snap. Teachers put up with a lot of BS. My networking professor, finally, got fed up and warned a section of our class yesterday that if they didn’t kindly shut the hell up while she was talking they’d be removed–she used nicer phrasing, naturally, but they got the point. That doesn’t work so well in Texas, apparently. To the tune of one university prof failing the class on principle. How bad do you have to screw up to get an F for participation at the university level?

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Some people’s parents. a Columbus mother decided now would be a fine time to teach her son a little respect. So she had him arrested. Now she’s a pushover and he’s either afraid of or distrusting of the cops. Good call, mother of the year.

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They don’t make them very bright in Montana. Police in that state post a mugshot on Facebook. Owner of said mug clicks the like button. Owner of said mug gets arrested. And that’s what we call a routine day at the office.

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Rental ramsacking. I’ve said it before, though probably not here. I don’t mind renting. I like it more than I’d like owning my own house, if I’m being entirely honest. But if I can get away with it, I will never rent a basement apartment–or, for that matter, any apartment–attached to someone’s house. The reasoning for it is simple. They decide to move out and sell the place, you’re screwed. And if they decide you’re not moving out fast enough, they’ll help you in the most expedient way possible–and you’re screwed times two. Stick with a rental company instead if you value what remains of your sanity–though maybe not this one.

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And finally: What happens when the jailer takes a nap? Anyone who’s anyone’s probably heard of Megaupload. They’re in, let’s say, a wee bit of legal trouble at the moment. So much so, in fact, that the US government took control of their various domain names. Which you’d think should be game over. Except somebody fell asleep at the switch. The Megaupload domain names are now, shall we say, slightly suspect–and not because of any proven or otherwise piracy. Hey, DoJ guys? I’m available and my rates are reasonable. Call me. The NSA has my number.

In which life happens and leaves me behind. again.

Not for the first time and not for the last time I’ve gone a small age without actually touching this site. Fortunately this time I’m not coming back to the thing in time to deal with a potential malware infection–I don’t think. Long story short: everything is happening. And because not everything requires a full paragraph’s explanation, coupled with the fact I’m still as lazy as ever, have a thing in list format. Because sure.

  • College: Holy hell on toast the busy. I started my second semester in September. It’s now mid-October. And I just now think I might have a sort of handle on how my schedule looks. In short, I expect to have no social life to speak of between now and approximately 2017 barring complications of the unforseen variety. Love the courses, though. I even love the courseload. Could do without the schedule. In particular, doing the lab work for stuff we haven’t yet spent any theory time on is all manner of fun–particularly when the courses, rather, don’t necessarily come with textbooks.
  • Personal: What hit me? It’s been a very interesting/eventful summer/early fall. Without getting into details that aren’t fit for public consumption, everything is changing and will just keep right on changing. There is yet another move in my near to immediate future. I’m still staying in Ottawa, mind, and will hopefully still be in this end of Ottawa, so there’s that. But, uh, that’s a thing to be planned around. It’s gonna get interesting before it gets stable–hey, kind of like just about anything I touch so far as code’s concerned.
  • Baseball: What the actual? The last time Toronto had a team that was anywhere near the postseason of baseball, I was 10. That year, they won the world series for their second time. Now, we’re playing in the ALCS–and just lost one, but I’m not overly concerned. I say again. What the actual?
  • Related: Hey guys? You picked the wrong year for the #LoveThisTeam hashtag. #ComeTogether is just so very much overrated.

Hockey: don’t–just don’t. My Leafs are rebuilding. It, uh, shows. I’ll watch when I think of it, but let me let you in on a little something. IT doesn’t hurt any less when you know that’s the plan.

Like I said. I probably forgot or skipped past more than a few things. That’s what happens when you just now remember that yes, you can actually do more than check the thing for signs of broken. With a little luck and a lot of miracle, it won’t be 2016 before I remember to do this again. But who am I kidding? It’s what I’m good at. Well, that and coming from behind in the world of academia. Speaking of, ahem… Excuse me.

Your password or your freedom, Canadian version.

It’s pretty common knowledge. You cross the United States border with your laptop, mobile phone, whatever, and you run the risk of some customs person deciding that’s a nice piece of equipment you’ve got there and he’ll just be taking a closer look at it if you don’t mind. Courts have been okay with this for the most part–part of the reason I haven’t lost much sleep about returning to the US any time soon. And now, like so much other American culture, the practice is moving north.

I’ve traveled to many different countries in my life and the only time I’ve ever had any trouble at all at a border crossing was flying into Canada for a conference one time. I was pulled out of the line and sent to a special side room where I was quizzed about the real reasons I was coming to Canada. They couldn’t believe I was speaking at a conference, because I didn’t have a paper invite, and had to dig through my emails to show them it in email (thankfully, I stored my emails locally and didn’t need internet access). When I tell that story it shocks some people, as Canada has always had a reputation as a fairly easy border to cross — especially for Americans.

But apparently the Canadians are stepping up their crazy antagonism at the border. The latest story involve Alain Philippon, a Canadian citizen who was returning from a trip to the Dominican Republic. Upon landing in Halifax he was ordered to cough up the password to his smartphone, and upon refusing, was charged with obstructing border officials.

The charge has the potential to carry up to a year’s jail time–all for not turning over access to his phone to a guy with no reason to have it. Now, I’ve had my share of overly nosey border patrol folks. You know. Playing twenty questions just because you kind of don’t have much choice but to sit there and put up with it if you plan to actually get into the country–where are you coming from, where are you going, for how long, who are you meeting there, how much do you make a year (yes, I was asked that), etc. It’s become pretty standard operating procedure even before everyone got all security paranoid after 9/11. But seriously, if I wanted to sneak something across the border and didn’t want the US (or Canadian) agents there to find it, the last place I’d store the thing is locally on the laptop, phone, tablet, whichever. I’m trying *not* to get caught, remember. So odds are good I’ve stashed whatever I need on a remote server somewhere they don’t know exists and therefore couldn’t ask me for its password, deleted my local copy of that thing, and the only thing they’d see on a scroll through my phone are emails/text messages to my girlfriend on my way out, and quite probably a whole heap of sports notifications. Not exactly crossing a legal line, here, but at least partially crossing a privacy one. And for that, they’d need to do a lot more than ask me for my password. Or, you know, they could at least say please–it’s the Canadian way.

“We’ll reform the voting system! For really real!” … and other reasons I’m not voting this year.

So if you’re in Canada, there’s an election coming up in October. And if you’ve been paying any regular degree of attention to it, you probably have a general idea of what you’ll be voting on–hint: “yes or no on throwing Stephen Harper out on his ass” isn’t it. If you’re voting, you’ve probably already decided on who–or, in the case of a small minority, against who. If you’ve decided to stay home, odds are pretty good you’ve decided–not inaccurately–that it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference who comes out ahead in any eventual election.

My thoughts on voting in general, at least insofar as Canada goes, aren’t secret. You get a lot of hot air for a lot of partial reasons, then the individual political parties let their diehard supporters loose on each other until voting day–at which point somebody wins and not a whole lot changes. We went through it last year in Ontario and have been paying for it since. We went through it several times federally and have been paying for it since (note: That is not a dig at Harper. Relax, conservatives.). It’s too soon to offer an opinion on Alberta’s election, but if history’s any guide, I’ll be reevaluating that notion in about a year or two. And now, we get a chance to do it all over again federally to the tune of a very similar song and dance as we saw last time around. So with that in mind, the reasons I won’t be voting in this year’s election–just like I didn’t vote in last year’s.

We’ll reform the voting system!

This one I hear about every so often. I have no idea why, as it never seems to go anywhere, but it gets people through the night I suppose. Ontario talked about it last year. This year, they’re sort of doing it, if you loosely define “doing it” as updating their regulations to match the federal equivalent. More recently, the federal liberals have been musing about the prospect of some kind of new system within a year and a half of winning office, which should give you a general idea of the likelihood of its success. But what Justin Trudeau doesn’t mention–and Harper didn’t either when he jumped off the election reform bandwagon after, you know, winning one–is the only folks who seem to contemplate these notions are folks who aren’t currently benefitting from the broken system at the time. File this under “I’ll believe it if I see it” and let’s move on.

Kill the Senate and Harper with it!

To hear pretty much anyone not currently in government tell it, the senate broke the second Harper started appointing people to it. Unless you’re Harper pre-2006, then it broke the second Cretien/Martin started appointing people to it. either way, somebody somewhere usually calls for either reform or outright elimination of the senate and usually that’s as far as it goes. Why? Because outside of the NDP, no one particularly fancies opening the constitution. And if the NDP gets a shot at it, it may be the next election before it gets anywhere meaningful. But that’s a thing to beat the government over the head with, so “Die, senate, die!: or something.

I have no idea who the middle class is, but I will defend you!

spend 5 seconds on Google looking up any news article related to “the middle class”. go ahead. I’ll wait. Everyone says it. The conservatives say they’re looking out for it. The liberals say it’s hard done by and needs help. The NDP says business is screwing it over. None of the above can seem to explain exactly who would be covered under “the middle class”. Would the guy who works minimum wage at McDonalds? What about the high school English teacher down the road? Would you? Would I? No one’s saying. But whoever it is, clearly they’re crying out for help. So vote $party, and it’ll be business as usual for another 4 years because really, what can you do?

The scandal! The impropriety!

This one’s probably my favourite. The conservatives haven’t met an election they couldn’t be accused of cheating to win. The liberals were booted from office thanks largely to their own legal and financial shananigans. And let’s not leave the NDP’s own money troubles out of the mix. Because guilty as the other two are, they sure won’t. “We’re not as corrupt as they are” is starting to hold less and less meaning here, guys.

It may be my God-given right to vote. But if I’m expected to exercise that right, please for the love of that god give me something worth exercising it on. At the moment, options include bad, bad, slightly less bad and where the hell did you come from. Mandatory voting won’t change that–I’ll just take the fine for not bothering to waste my time picking from the better of three coruptions. Preferencial voting won’t change that–you’ll just have your pick of any three godaweful choices, each with a platform they’ll stick on a shelf when the election’s over. lowering the voting age won’t change that–if you can’t convince somebody in their 30’s to get out and vote, and they have arguably more of a dog in this fight than a high school student, you’ve got bigger problems than shaving a couple years off the voting age. In short: fix the options, or the method for picking those options won’t matter worth a damn. Give me a reason to vote, and stop it with the reasons not to. Until that happens, I’ll be withholding my vote. And Trudeau, if he actually follows through on something as potentially significant as electoral reform, can fine me for it until the cows come home. Who knows? That might be the proof I need that someone up there actually means it.

I see you paying me for spam in your near to immediate future.

Getting anything but a higher bill out of companies like Rogers is often times an exercise in futility. But for a guy in Edmonton, that was only half his problem. The other half was not actually signing up for some of what Rogers had decided to bill him for.

Andy Pearcy is probably like most people. You’ve got 80 million things on the go, so when the end of the month rolls around, you take 20 minutes or so, stare at your bills long enough to figure out what the final number is, then fire that final number in the required direction so you can move on with your day and they can’t call you about it tomorrow. The problem if you’re Andy, though, is $10 of that final number was going to a fortune teller he didn’t sign up for. In exchange for the money he didn’t know he was paying, they sent him occasional text messages he thought were your run-of-the-mill spam you just shrug off, delete and forget about in 5 minutes–since, you know, he didn’t sign up for the things.

Naturally, when he found out, he called rogers. Naturally, because rogers, they said he ought to call the guys sending him the text messages–because Rogers and refund are mutually exclusive terms, you know. And naturally, Andy had no interest in asking a company he didn’t sign up with who wasn’t doing the actual billing to stop taking his money. The rest, as they say, is pretty business as usual. I’m no expert here or anything, but I’m thinking perhaps if Rogers had done a little fortune asking of its own, it could have quite possibly avoided a headache. But then, Rogers not asking questions might be a small contributing factor to its picking up half the bill for itself. Yeah, I see a not very smart executive promotion in somebody’s near to immediate future.