starting-blast landlocked

Ottawa out in 6: #ChokeFest2015

So I’m a few days behind the times and Montreal’s already behind in the series. Awesome. Also oh well. Ottawa has basicly never, and I do mean never, done much as far as the playoffs go. Ignoring 2007, when the city very nearly exploded, they usually cruised their way into the playoffs, then promptly rolled over and played dead. And let’s not discuss those times when they went flat in the first round–er, well, kind of like now.

I would have preferred an obscure rule violation that ended up disqualifying both teams on sight, but hey, this works too. Now, if Tampa would be so kind as to handle the rest of it, that would be perfectly okay with me. Calgary’s Canada’s team anyway.

Vancouver out in 6: Is that all?

I didn’t have much of a dog in this fight, really. Haven’t had much interest in either team–aside from I know someone who knows someone who plays for Calgary, but you’ll have that. Vancouver had this series, though. Hell, they had the game yesterday. right up until they didn’t. Up 3 nothing, just to lose 7 4? You guys have been watching Toronto haven’t you? Knock it off with that. No, seriously.

On the up side, holy hell Calgary where’d that come from? I mean not that I’m complaining, but it wasn’t that long ago folks were asking if you were even going to be playing this week. And now you’re going to make me start flipping to hockey games again just because Canada. I both love and hate you for that. Now about that obscure rule violation in that other Canadian series…

In which I contemplate a redesign. Again. This too shall pass.

This thing has been running, off and on, for just about 10 years in various forms. In that time, it’s gone through two major and complete redesigns–both times even swapping out the underlying platform. But I haven’t done anything major with the site since 2009. With school being out and my free time actually somewhat existing, I’m giving thought to putting that stretch of time to bed. I’ve even tossed around changing the sites’ name and finding it a new, less obscure domain name.

When I started this site in 2006, I knew very little about web development and even less about what we’d later call blogging. And absolutely nothing about what I’d way later than that discover was branding. I just knew I wanted my own space, and something that wasn’t myfullname.com as the address for said space. It was freaking 2006, so the trend of buying up every domain name under the sun and only using one of them hadn’t entirely caught on yet. Which, escentially, meant if I’d given it considerably more thought than I had, I’d probably have snagged insertcreativenamehere.com before it went up for auction for $5000.

Now, nearly ten years later, I know slightly more about web development and may or may not have picked up a thing or two about other, related ventures along the way. Just in time to potentially make transitioning to better website 2.0 slightly challenging. Which is probably precisely why I’m considering taking part of the summer and just having at it. Which… sounds an aweful lot like something I’ve said before.

See, I get these ideas I’d like to try out every so often. So I take a snapshot of the site as it is right now, plop it somewhere useful, and hack away at it without breaking the actual production site. Then life happens, or something more involved crops up, and I’ve entirely forgotten where I was going with the idea. The server’s very likely full of projects exactly like that (note to self: clean some of those up already). Bits and pieces of older versions of the site, or code snippets I meant to incorporate and then just didn’t, scattered in amongst this or that theme I’m pulling out to test and see what sticks.

One of these days, I may even go back and look at some of those. Or start something new. And that too will probably pass. But just in case it doesn’t, at least this time I’ve got something that vaguely represents a starting point. So in 6 months when I’ve forgotten all about this post, if you happen to be looking for a name for your new website, I’ll probably have a couple suggestions…

Relatedly: Some trivia about the current website name. When I moved myself and everything I’d written to that point away from LiveJournal, and pulled the older stuff off a really old version of Movable Type and onto the WordPress system I’ve been using since, I gave the site the title of “Welcome to Nowhere”. It was meant to be a temporary name until I got around to thinking up something mildly more creative. That temporary name, needless to say, has lasted about 6 years. There is still, for those of you keeping score at home, the distinct possibility it will last 6 more. If it turns out it does, well, I tried. Now where’d I put that list of alternatives…

Jets out in 4: We barely knew ye.

I gave up on my team having a spot in the playoffs when the bottom fell out in January. Which, when you combine that with me doing the school thing, probably explains why there’s been a grand total of 0 posts on the subject since who knows when. But that doesn’t mean I’d entirely lost interest in the thing.

I’d been passively keeping an eye on the Winnipeg Jets since the start of the season, largely because–hey, one more Canadian hockey team so why not. It was their first year, and I was curious if they’d stick. Clearly they have so far. But I was particularly interested in this year’s playoffs because in their first season as an NHL franchise, they managed to slide into the top 8.

I wasn’t figuring they’d go all the way, by any means. But that they managed to get that far on their first try was worth some attention. So I followed the series online, caught pieces of games here and there, and generally hoped Anaheim would slip up just a little, just once. They didn’t. If that one series is any indication, though, Winnipeg will explode if the cup ever ends up there. Next year, if you’re lucky. And I’ll be in your corner then, as well–at least until the Leafs do what they haven’t done in a decade. Bright side: I can go back to watching Montreal step on Ottawa, then line up to have the same done to them in return. It’s gonna be a nifty playoff.

So long, Jets in 4. We barely knew ye.

Link Dump 2.0

I have exam brain, and there’s a back and forth happening re: one of my courses and accessibility related shinanigans. It’s fun, in that way that leaves me with far more content than I have brainpower on a Sunday morning. The result? Link dump. Enjoy, and if it breaks, you can keep both pieces. I promise something vaguely resembling content will show up here eventually.

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I’m an on-again-off-again fan of Wikipedia. It’s a useful springboard, and it’s wicked easy to see why people prefer that over the more traditional ways of doing the do. It’s just as easy to see why people would rather you didn’t. What I’d still be interested in seeing is a better alternative. Any takers?

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Oh, Ontario. Just when I thought you couldn’t get any more braindead you had to go proving me wrong. Again with the “distracted driving is wicked evil cruel and must be legislated” kick? For real? Yeah, not gonna say another word. Of course I’ve said that before. that’ll learn me.

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Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge? sure you do. Stupid idiot gets challenged to either donate money for research or pour a bucket of ice water over his head on video, but preferably both. Stupid idiot accepts challenge. Stupid idiot gets iced. Stupid idiot posts the video online, possibly challenging someone else. Stupid idiot gets arrested for being a stupid idiot and broadcasting his location to anyone who wants it–while there’s a warrant on his head. Wait what? Yeah, I’m quitting humanity.

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The NHL’s toying with me again. First it was relocation (welcome back to hockey, Winnipeg), now it’s expansion. And Toronto still doesn’t get a real alternative to our poor Leafs, I’ll put money on it. relatedly, who plans for a hockey team in Vegas? Seriously, I know people who know people who want to know.

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Keurig invents new coffee maker. Keurig locks down new coffee maker. Keurig sits back and watches everyone else unlock new coffee maker. You saw it coming. I have nothing more to say.

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And lastly: What do the NFL and the typical highschool education have in common? If you said absolutely freaking nothing, you are probably at least twice as smart as whichever genius dreamed up the idea of teaching fantasy football in school. Seriously, where do they find these people and why am I still unemployed?

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And that’s the end of that, at least until it’s not. Now, about those accessibility shinanigans…

I have links and little actual content. So, link dump.

Also because I haven’t done an explicit link dump in… oh… since well before this version of the thing existed. I’ll think of something constructive to put here later.

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If anyone’s got a little extra money to burn, there’s a family in texas with a how-to guide on doing it efficiently. Or, you know, you could just hand me that money. That could work too. Probably be moderately more productive.

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Facebook figures you could use a hand with your sarcasm/snark filter–which you don’t, presumedly, unless you’re this guy (that’s sarcasm, by the by).

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I hate the word “selfie” with the passion of a thousand suns. It’s braindead, it’s stupid, it’s immature, and it passed ridiculous about a week after I first heard it. Which is still doing better than some of the folks who use it. Somebody please restore my faith in humanity. Please? I’m waiting…

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On second thought, nevermind. Humanity’s screwed. But at least this one has no shame. Should probably make arangements to find some, though.

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Well. That’s better. Now, where’d I actually put the thing I wanted to write about…

Is it spring yet…?

Ottawa winters can usually fall into two categories. “Six layers required” cold, or enough snow that the first step of getting out of your driveway is, well, finding your driveway. This winter, Ottawa has decided hey, let’s go for the best of both worlds. So, because it’s either holy crap cold or holy crap snowing and I’m not looking forward to stepping out into either, have a half-assed version of a not even close to official spring countdown entry. And because I’m still not quite awake, have it in a list format version of things I’m, well, pretty much done with until next year.

  • Before Christmas, my hockey team was… well… was. Not perfect, but not crap. I wasn’t on the “we’re going to the freaking cup” bandwagon, but hey, not being in last place is an accomplishment. I’d have accepted that. Yeah, about that. Go Leafs go, and all that.
    • Yes, we beat Edmonton last night. But a wet noodle could have beaten Edmonton last night. Talk to me in a week.
  • I mentioned we go one of two ways most winters–extreme cold or extreme snow. I’m staring at -28 degrees c. It’s been as cold as -35. And they don’t list “you’re fucking nuts if you think I’m walking outside in that” as a valid reason to skip class. Related: get on that, Algonquin.
  • Related partly to the point above: There has been snow removal equipment doing the rounds since last night. There is still snow equipment doing the rounds. Which pretty much means, well, if and when we decide to venture out in that mess, it’s probably going to suck a little. Not cool, winter. Not cool.
    • Oh look. It’s snowing again. That was not a challenge, dammit.
  • Anything wintery causes pretty much a citywide shutdown. People forget how to drive. Buses are delayed. And the place where I love to live gets just a little bit annoying. And that’s before some jerk decides he doesn’t want to be stuck behind a snowplow. A ten-minute trip by bus can very easily take closer to 45 minutes–unless you’re smart, at which point these guys will probably get you home in 15.
  • I absolutely love having the windows open pretty much any chance I get. And in this apartment, I can do that with some pretty nifty results. Just… not particularly, uh, right now (see also: -28 degrees c). I love fresh air. Just not quite, well, that much.
  • And probably the thing I’m most done with this winter: the Ottawa freaking Senators. Not kidding. Anywhere that happens to have a radio on (yes, surprisingly, there are still people who listen to the radio in 2015) is guaranteed to put up with a Sens advertisement in one form or another at least twice while I’m in earshot. Look, guys. I get the whole team spirit thing. Trust me, I do–I’m a Leafs fan. Our team spirit’s through the freaking roof (for better or worse). But see, here’s the thing. You’re in the tank. You know you’re in the tank. Well, okay, maybe you don’t–but the NHL does. Chill, already. You’re making Toronto look good.

So yeah. About that spring thing…

Attention all disabled people. You officially oppose net neutrality. Thank you, Verizon.

So stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You walk into a place, $guy you don’t really know proceeds to play twenty questions with you. Then, when it comes time for you to get yourself some service, $guy figures it’s his turn to speak up on your behalf. Now, if you’re like most people, the difference between the service you expect to receive and the service $guy thinks you’re after is approximately the difference between Sarah Palin and an honest to god university graduate. Problem is, $guy figures you won’t mind in the slightest–I mean after all, he’s just doing you a service, right? Meanwhile you get to spend the next while undoing his help, then actually making the arangements you were planning to make–entirely independently, and quite probably while $guy looks on like you’d just kicked his dog down two flights of stairs.

Now, take that scenario, stick the internet in front of it, and pretend $guy is a placeholder for someone like a Verizon. Then, pretend you’ve rolled out of bed and discovered that you’ve been positioned, thanks largely to Verizon speaking on your behalf, as being entirely against any kind of notion of the FCC being able to tell companies–ahem, like Verizon–not to break the damned internet. See, the difference here is we’re pretending. PRoblem: Verizon isn’t.

Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea. But groups representing disabled Americans, including the National Association of the Deaf, the National Federation of the Blind, and the American Association of People with Disabilities are not advocating for this plan. Mark Perriello, the president and CEO of the AAPD, says that this is the “first time” he has heard “these specific talking points.”

Considering the NFB is usually the first in line to scream bloody murder if something’s not exactly on the level insofar as blind folks are concerned, you can probably figure out approximately how much actual input from blind, deaf and disabled people Verizon actually heard before crafting that memo. But like $guy in my example, Verizon figures you won’t mind–they’re just doing you a service. Now just pay no attention whatsoever to the fact that service may or may not boil down to their own interests, but you know…

In which I sincerely hope I never move again.

I’m no fan of moving. Haven’t been a fan of moving since, well, the first time I did it. More often than not, it ends up turning into a headache which then leads to stress and confusion, which then leads to more headache, and the circle goes round. This move wasn’t quite as migraine inducing as some others (I’m looking squarely in your general direction, Bell), which is a thing that works in its favour. But yeah, if it’s all the same to you, I think the next time the possibility of moving comes up I’ll just, er, not.

The move itself went quicker than anything I’ve seen in approximately ever. May and I had a ton of help (thanks by the way, guys, times a million), so the actual moving process didn’t take nearly as long as I was figuring–everything was loaded at one end, transported, and offloaded at the other in a little over 2 hours. Coordinating the administrative end of it all, though, was a large part of the exercise in patience, tolerance and general–well–restraint. Did you know, for instance, that if you’ve got your phone through someone like Bell Canada and your internet through someone like TekSavvy, to get both services switched over requires a remarkable skill in fancy dancing? Yeah, neither did I.

Either TekSavvy or Bell (my money’s on Bell, personally) requires your phone service to be on at the new place for at least 5 days before they’ll let anyone touch your internets. I suspect this is a Bell idea largely because I’m pretty sure if we’d gone back to their Sympatico service there’d be no such foolery, but you’ll have that. May and I are both in school, so 5 days with no internets during approximately now is kind of a big deal–more so for me, given the nature of the program I’m involved in. Several phone calls and some numbers fudging later, it was still mildly annoying–but fixed, and with a minimal amount of bloodshed, but the time between mildly annoyed and fixed was just enough to remind me why if it were entirely up to me and US long distance requirements weren’t a consideration, there would be no Bell in relatively short order.

The place itself is kind of awesome. Three bedrooms, two of which are currently playing partial temporary storage for the long list of crap we’ve yet to unpack, sort through and optionally get rid of, plus an overall not crappy living space. The living room area, for example, is large enough that I can sort of turn part of it into a defacto office–this will become useful if/when I end up needing to decide between homework and hockey, but y’know, priorities and all. We lose our back yard, but the currently half-snow-covered balcony will make up for that–just as soon as I get around to acquiring things that belong out there. And then, well, find the energy to clear the thing off so they can belong out there. They lock the laundry room here at night–oh, yeah, and relatedly we actually need to leave the place to do laundry again–so there goes our waiting ’til half past dark on the day we need to leave for somewhere useful before we decide it might be in our best interest to actually, you know, leave with clean clothes. But we’re back to a secure building, which is always a plus–particularly when family decides they feel up to dropping in and you’re not even close to awake, nevermind dressed yet (yes, this has happened before).

This apartment’s laid out similar to another I used to live in–and, actually, is owned by the same company, so moving in here I kind of knew what to expect already. Still, the level of awesome was just a tiny bit surprising–I’ve met and had actual conversations with more folks in this building than at most others, for one, which could potentially be positivity material. And they seem quick to react to issues as they crop up, which–yeah, some other places could probably stand to learn from (note: intentionally not naming names, but the info’s out there), so there’s at least that. And holy crap on toast the amount of stuff we’re actually able to walk or bus to without needing to aquire a degree in creativity. It’s almost like the place I lived in when I first moved to Ottawa in that respect–all kinds of places a minimum of a few minutes’ walking and a maximum of 1 bus away. Or two, if you need to stretch it because there’s just no other way. Unfortunately it’s like where I lived when I first moved to Ottawa in that I also don’t right now have a whole lot of time for actually, you know, figuring out the best way of getting me from here to most of those places–back then it was working, now it’s school. Go figure. But when I’ve got the time for it, this place is going to turn around and probably be completely perfect–or, you know, as close to perfect as you can probably have for what they expect from us in rent per month.

I can’t stand the idea of moving to save my life. But since I’ve kind of, well, done it, I suppose I could have picked a far worse place to move to. And hey, if the trend of apartment living continues, I might actually have to start taking notes again–my last few places provided nearly as much blog material as I could come up with on my own. Because, you know, other people and other people’s problematic problems, but you’ll have that.

Two things I’ll just kind of drop here that I picked up on in, say, the first week of us being here. Thing the first: we are not the only blind folks in this building–I literally ran into one on my way to class this past Monday. And thing the second: Apartment-level blogging more than likely won’t include the third rendition of the weed basement. And for that I say, freaking thank you. Now, I suppose I ought go unpack something…

Bank of Montreal learns the gentle way why default passwords are bad for you.

This post could have also been titled: BMO is not smarter than a ninth-grader.

It will probably surprise all of no one that there’s at least one version of your typical ATM’s user manual floating around the internets. It’ll probably also surprise all of no one that–at least as of last check–a lot of them are still running Windows XP, which presents its own security issues by itself. So fast forward to the year of the adventurous teen, and what you run up against is exactly the kind of thing that would land you in federal jail on the wrong side of the border.

Matthew Hewlett and Caleb Turon were bored on a lunch break. And, as anyone who knows kids can probably figure out, lunchtime boredom plus access to the internet equals this can only end badly. In this case, it ended with a copy of an ATM user manual. So, the kids did what kids do best–they decided, hey, I wonder if any of this junk actually works. So they show up at a grocery store with a Bank of Montreal ATM, flip open their copy of the manual, and start testing things. They manage to bypass the standard program John Q. Customer sees when he wants to yoink money from the machine, and get into the actual machine OS. Well, or rather, they get to the point where the machine asks them for the OS password.

Now, if these guys are security conscious, the story ends here. They probably guess at a couple different passwords, get told to buz off, and away they go back to class with nothing having been upset. But that would be boring, and if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that major corporations don’t do boring very well. In this case, major corporations also don’t do security very well.

The manual had a list of possible default passwords for the machine. The kids, because hey, they got this far, decided it’d be fun to just cruise on down the list. And wouldn’t you know, on that list of default passwords would be–surprise surprise–the very one that gave them access.

“We thought it would be fun to try it, but we were not expecting it to work,” Hewlett told the Winnipeg Sun. “When it did, it asked for a password.”

They managed to crack the password on the first try, a result of BMO’s machine using one of the factory default passwords that had apparently never been changed.

They took this information to a nearby BMO branch, where staff were at first skeptical of what the two high-schoolers were telling them. Hewlett and Turon headed back to the Safeway to get proof, coming back with printouts from the ATM that clearly showed the machine had been compromised.

The teens even changed the machine’s greeting from “Welcome to the BMO ATM” to “Go away. This ATM has been hacked.”

Give BMO credit, though–this could have ended a lot worse than it actually did. Rather than, say, jump the gun and haul both kids before a judge (I’m looking directly at you, about 95% of US corporations), they did the smart thing–though perhaps not as smart as, say, changing that damned default password.

The BMO branch manager called security to follow up on what the teenagers had found, and even wrote them a note to take back to school as explanation for why they were late getting back to class.

According to the Sun, the note started with: “Please excuse Mr. Caleb Turon and Matthew Hewlett for being late during their lunch hour due to assisting BMO with security.”

BMO has apparently learned from a couple 14-year-olds exactly how important being allergic to default passwords actually is. And from the looks of things, they may or may not have actually done something useful with it–at least one would hope, since given people know this kind of thing’s out there, it’s only a matter of time.

So if your local geek, geek for hire, or tech support employee is standing in the room glaring daggers at either you or your computer monitor while potentially contemplating the quickest way of separating you from your career without getting his hands dirty, stop for 5 seconds and think. “Did I change that standard issue password?” Because odds are pretty freaking good one of you already knows.

And sometimes, law enforcement is an ass.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a one of these. So clearly, somebody somewhere’s due, right? Right. IT’s time to pick on a combination of the US education system and US law enforcement again.

Pennsylvania’s probably an awesome place to visit. Hell, it might even be a moderately decent place to live. But if you’re not the popular kid in school, one wonders how decent a place it is to grow up–particularly when your attempt at doing something about the local schoolyard bully ends with you being the one in possession of a criminal record thanks to wiretapping and disorderly conduct charges.

A Pennsylvania teen, who claimed to have been bullied constantly (and ignored by school administration), made an audio recording of his tormentors using a school-supplied iPad. He brought this to the school’s attention, which duly responded by calling the cops… to have him arrested for violating Pennsylvania’s wiretapping law.

From the source article:

[The student’s mother, Shea] Love says that upon fielding her complaint, Principal Scott Milburn called South Fayette Township police Lieutenant Robert Kurta to the school to interrogate her son in the presence of Associate Principal Aaron Skrbin and Dean of Students Joseph Silhanek. The defendant testified before Judge McGraw-Desmet that he was forced to play the audio for the group and then delete it. Love says by the time she arrived at the school, her son was surrounded by school officials and the police officer and was visibly distraught. She says Milburn defended the teacher’s response to the classroom disturbance.

So, for those of you keeping score at home. Kid’s getting picked on. Kid tells mom. Mom says “record it, bring it to the folks in charge”. Mom hands kid a recorder, then calls the school–because, hey, yall have a problem. School gets the cops involved, kid ends up arrested for–as it turns out, following the expected procedures.

“Normally, if there is — I certainly have a big problem with any kind of bullying at school. But normally, you know, I would expect a parent would let the school know about it, because it’s not tolerated. I know that, and that you guys [school administrators] would handle that, you know […] Because it’s not tolerated, but you need to go through — let the school handle it. And I know from experience with South Fayette School that, you know, it always is. And if there is a problem and it continues, then it is usually brought in front of me.”

Yep. And it was. Just one problem. They done brung you the wrong kid. Now who wants to tell me the system’s not broken? I’ll wait…

Why I will be a #Uber convert for as long as they’ll let me.

It’s a way too familiar story if you live pretty much anywhere. Your options for getting from A to B if you don’t feel like driving are limited to friends with cars, public transportation, or a handful of taxi companies who all charge very similar prices, take way too damn long to get to you, may or may not actually know where you are or where you’re going, and definitely don’t speak proper English. If you live in Ottawa, at least, you have the “advantage” of those same taxi companies working out of the same central office where the same half-awake souls may or may not properly take and pass along your request for a ride. And pretty much no one, without a significant amount of arm twisting, can or will tell you where the hell your ride is when it’s been an hour and a half after they told you 15 minutes. Uber takes all that headache and makes it run away.

My favourite Uber story to this day is still from the early days with the company. May and I were going out for an evening, just because–well, let’s be honest–we were due. Our first instinct was to call for a taxi. Uber was still new, and though we’d used them before we hadn’t entirely settled on them yet. So we called our cab, got the standard 5-15 minutes and it’ll be here. Awesome. Cool our heels for 15 minutes or so, we’ll be on our way. Out of curiosity, we popped up the Uber app. The app told us there was a driver sitting 4 minutes away from our house. Just for background, 4 minutes away could be just down the street for all we know–there’s a shopping mall that’d be maybe a 5 minute drive from our house if I feel like exaggerating.

Half an hour passes. No cab. We call to check. “Oh, it’ll be just another 5 minutes. He’s on the way.” Another 15 passes. Another phone call. Still on the way. In all, an hour and 15 minutes pass–no cab. That Uber driver’s still 4 minutes away. My next phone call to the taxi company is to cancel the ride. We went with Uber instead–both to where we were going, and back. And what I found was amazingly surprising.

Not only did the ride cost significantly less than a traditional taxi, but the app wasn’t kidding. When the thing says 4 minutes away, you’d best be putting your shoes on and grabbing your keys, because he’s out front in approximately 4 minutes. The driver knew exactly where he was going. There was proper freaking English. And the icing on the cake: I didn’t have to whip out my user manual for taxi drivers. We call that epic win in my book.

And this right here is exactly why I will stick to being a Uber convert for as long as it sticks around. If they don’t collapse, and if Ottawa doesn’t force them to implode, the local cab company is going to be hurting for my business–unless, of course, they can compete with Uber on at least price. However, since that’s not exactly happening…

I hate moving. In other news, we’re moving.

Every few years, almost as a matter of routine it seems, it comes around to a point where for whatever reason a pack up and move operation needs to happen. I moved to Ottawa nearly 10 years ago to take a job. I moved to Petawawa 2 years later when that job went south. I moved back to Ottawa because Petawawa’s job market sucks. I moved 3 times in roughly 6 months within Ottawa until I ended up where I’m living now. And next week, due to things we can’t control, May and I will be moving yet again.

The rent we’re paying here isn’t cheap by any means. The tradeoff, though, is the place we’re in is freaking awesome. There’s enough in walking distance that if we really needed something to do it could happen. The bus routes aren’t perfect–okay, so on weekends we tend to avoid taking the bus, but who’s counting–but during the week, it’s hard to blame them for not getting us from A to B. Not getting us from A to B on time, on the other hand, is another story–but that’s an entry for when I’m not actually, you know, killing time between classes. The problem with the current situation is a simple one. It’s a math problem, surprise surprise.

If we’d stayed where we are now, at the end of this month our rent would pretty much max out our price range. Factor in that we pay for our electricity here too, and just keeping a roof over our head and heated gets just a teeny tiny bit, well, expensive. So we started the usual routine of wander the neighbourhood, look for a place, slap our name on it.

The good news: the bank, it is not broken. As of next week, at least for the next two years anyway, I won’t be having dreams of my bank account being taken to the side of the road and beaten at midnight by my landlord. And by the time that two years is up, well, it’ll be just in time for this routine to start all over again–so, you know, business as usual and such.

The bad news: Say hello to the return of apartment living. We’re in a two-story house right now. Awesome place. Plenty of space, fenced-in back yard, hardly a disturbance from the neighbours, the works. The last time I spent any amount of time actually living in an apartment, the basement spelled decidedly of weed on an almost regular basis. It’s just a little tiny bit of a downgrade. But, it’s a company I’ve been with before, and we’ve got decent history, so there’s that.

Most of the place is packed, except what’s being used. We officially get the keys next week. After that, all hell officially breaks loose. This on top of school means holy crazy freaking busy if you’re me. Geek in training? Try geek on marathon. I love it. Now, about that 5 minutes I need to breathe…

In which I actually learn things. Who knew?

This thing’s due for an update. I have a couple minutes free in class. Therefore, update. And it’s a something.

Last week, I officially started what I term my geek training. 6 eternities and a forever later, I walked into the first class of a computer systems technician program at Algonquin College. And in that first week and a half, I actually learned something useful–including a couple different keyboard shortcuts for Linux I didn’t actually know existed. Considering how much time I spend in Linux, that’s a something on its own.

The thing I think I’m going to absolutely adore about this program, though, is it’s almost entirely hands-on. For instance: I’m sitting in a Windows course right now. There’s a theory component to it, which is why I’m sitting here writing this (it helps that he’s talking about things I already know), but then there’s a hands-on, lab component to it–where I get to install Windows in a VM, play with it, break it, and generally prove I know how to do the things we just talked about in theory. The same thing applies for the course I’m taking on Linux–which falls right into part of where I want to be anyway, so that works. Our theory classes, plus our lab work, involves connecting to a Linux server on campus–the server runs an instance of Ubuntu, if you’re curious what I get to play with a couple times a week.

That was a problem, I think, in school environments I was in before–my first run at college, and then the upgrading I did last year to get into this program. That was almost all theory, so you had people going on and on about junk and you just got to sit there, kick back, listen and try your damnedest not to fall asleep. Now, they let me play. And they test me on what I’m playing with–so I break all the things, fix all the things, and get graded on it. Only thing it’s missing is getting paid for it. But, I’ll take it. And now, I suppose I ought get back to paying attention to this professor’s droning…

There will be a better entry eventually. But hey, first time since October. Work with me some. College geek is in college.

More posts by email things.

So a way back when, I found something that sort of did the trick for receiving posts by email. Mostly, except not really. It sent you your posts by email, but you got one email with anywhere from one to who knows how many posts depending on how active I decided to be when posting. I’d experimented with ways to solve that problem before, one of those ways being what lead to me needing to rebuild this website (more on that in another, later entry), but they ended up not quite being what I was looking for. Welp, problem solved.

As of shortly before the actual rebuild process for this place finished, when you decide to sign up for posts by email, you’ll be given the choice. Get one email per day containing however many posts I toss this way during that day, or let the system email you every time I post something new and vaguely useless. It may very well end up being that the individual emails prove slightly more popular–I hardly do the 5000 posts per day thing these days, plus it may be moderately easier to actually make changes if I need to. But for now, both options are there, and both options are still working.

for my next trick: further twitter integration. Because hey, all the cool kids are doing it.

College. Finally.

So it’s taken approximately three quarters of forever and a small portion of eternity, but effective just as soon as the financial details are sorted, this geek goes back to school–for real, this time. I’d been doing the academic upgrading thing over at Algonquin since last year as just one of the many significant hoops I had to crawl through to actually get into my program. That, at least, ended up being wrapped up in August in a very anticlimactic way. It was a math course, which–as I may or may not have said once or twice–seems mildly pointless considering how much the program I’m heading into doesn’t actually have to do with, you know, math. But it was required, and after completing most of that course then taking an assessment test to kick myself out of the rest of it, I was pretty much in the clear. So as soon as I discovered I was pretty much in the clear, through the door and into the world of college applications I went at breakneck speed.

I’d done this dance, at least, before–albeit it’d been a decade and there were a few new twists I needed to introduce this time around, so in a way it was sort of getting back to the familiar. But with the majority of my headache being out of the way, getting it done and handed off this time did amazing things for my stress levels. That leaves the waiting game, but amazingly enough that’s probably easier than what I just shoved out of the way to get this far.

I took the long way around for a shortcut, largely because I freaking had to, but after way too freaking long, my geek has the potential to wind up showing up on paper. One step closer to making me marketable again, and three steps further from going completely nuts. That second one may change at around approximately March, but I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, it’s about freaking time.

WTN v 2.0, now with less breakage.

So there is news on the personal front that I’ll get to eventually. But at the moment, I’m up to my eyeballs in geek. The simple explanation why is actually to Google’s credit. The site fell victim to an apparent run-in with a significantly tricky spot of malware. It came in courtesy an exploit in a plugin I no longer use on this site, about a day or two before that exploit was supposedly patched against. It resulted in fun times with google, as they got twitchy about the site any time someone dared come within five miles of it. I took my time with removal, but the thing with a problem like that is once it’s in, it’s in. So every time I’d find something to clean, it would come back somewhere else.

I eventually ended up scrapping the platform entirely, backing up the data (here we go with me being paranoid about backups again), and starting over from the ground up. And now, 8 years of blog posts, comments, and random mockery lives in version 2.0 of this significantly less busted platform. I’ll go into more detail on exactly what plugin is to blame and why you should run far, far away from using it if you’re a WordPress user later. But for now, suffice it to say all things have been cleaned.

Things you’re likely to find in version 2.0:

  • Hopefully slight increase in loading speed. I’m told the site was slower to load than it should be previously. I think I’ve found and killed the cause, but I’ll be keeping an eye.
  • An online calendar, for things I’ll be up to in the near to way far off future. Because sometimes things happen that don’t get posted about. And sometimes I just need a reminder to stop freaking being lazy.
  • Several fewer plugins attached to the site. There was a bunch of extra, useless code kicking around the old version that I haven’t touched in probably a couple years. It was taking up space, and I hate things that take up space. It no longer exists.
  • Probably not noticeable to you, but I’m sure appreciating: a much smaller database. The old database was 120 MB when it was retired. The new one? Try 21 MB all told. That probably won’t last for too long, but it’s nice while it does.
  • And lastly, the option of receiving each individual post by email, rather than just the daily updates. Because on the rare occasion when I post something, it almost doesn’t seem worthwhile to wait for the single midnight update to send it to the folks what read this thing. You’ll still have that option if you want as well, but now, it doesn’t have to be the only one.

I’m still finding the occasional kink, like duplicated content that shouldn’t be duplicated. But, everyone’s here, and no one was lost in the kerfuffle, so I’ll take the duplicated content. And if it breaks too horribly, I do still have the old site on an out of the way strip of hard drive where it can’t be easily located, and it’s healthy enough to survive long enough for me to pull off whatever’s missing. All told, this has been a mighty fine way for me to flex skills I’ll need in the near future. And that leads me into my spot of personal news–which will be an entry later. For now, I’m off to sleep so’s I can finish unbreaking WordPress. But we’re up, we’re online, we’re malware free, and as soon as Google catches on I won’t have to stare at the reminder in Webmaster Tools. Now, where’d I put that other piece of code…

Here’s your sign, v3.0.

Stupid people doing stupid shit will never, ever end. Here’s hoping stupid people being told to advertise their stupid shit by way of a stupid sign lasts even half as long. In the latest episode, we’ve got us a moron from Ohio who thought it’d be fun to mock one of his neighbors and her disabled kids. For his efforts, the judge in the case slapped him with a stupid sign.

An Ohio man is sitting on a street corner with a sign declaring he’s a bully as part of his sentence for harassing a neighbour and her disabled children.

A judge ordered 62-year-old Edmond Aviv to display the sign for five hours Sunday. It says: “I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.”

The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports that Aviv arrived at the corner just before 9 a.m., placing the hand-lettered sign next to him as he sat in a chair. Court records show Aviv pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge.

And the trend continues. At least this shmuck had enough smarts to, you know, not bother fighting the thing. Proving once again that even for the stupid, there’s still hope. Until that hope does something productive, however, here’s your sign.

The Rob Ford defense: a practical demonstration.

Remember all those times when folks kept on telling you there are just some types of people you probably ought not to look up to? they’re not wrong. And when one of them’s a crack smoking mayor with an incredible ability to fud all over reality at the drop of a hat, interesting things happen. Like, say, this video for instance. Folks in the RSS and email world will likely need to slide on over to the website itself to have a watch–blame the technology, sadly.

Tons of credit goes to the dad, who–I hope, anyway–rehearsed this with her more than twice. Of course, if I’m wrong and this was entirely on her own, Toronto’s in trouble in about twenty years. Better them than me…

HT to Steve and Carin, who originally found this thing–a small age ago, but I’m a little behind. sue me. Now. Odds on a Fordian defense being employed in the legal system? I’m open…

It’s official. Charity is insanity.

If you were to suddenly come into a bit of extra money, odds are pretty good you’d consider–at least for 5 seconds–giving some of it to the homeless, or some officially recognised charity of some sort. That is, provided it didn’t all go towards paying off this or that bill or whatever. If I guessed even remotely right, congratulations. You’re officially mentally ill. That’s the logic employed in Prince Edward Island, where a man was hospitalised and forceably medicated because he handed his extra cash to folks he thought could use it more than him.

Chelsey Rene Wright said her father Richard Wright was arrested by RCMP.

“They think he is sick and has mental issues, but I know he does not,” Chelsey Rene Wright wrote on her Facebook wall, saying her father is being force-fed medications.

Wright says her father was told March 19 he would be held for 28 days for evaluation.

She said her father “had some extra money so he decided to share it around with some homeless and needy people in Halifax” last week.

Yep, clearly the man’s lost his everloving mind. Lock him up but good. Or, you know, don’t. That can be a thing too. Love ya, RCMP.

In which ODSP passively approves of sheltered work shops. Who’s surprised?

I have plenty more to say about the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in the other direction (thank you, Toronto Sun), but this has been sitting here for a while and I figure now’s as good a time as any to get to it.

A few months ago, there was a human rights case underway in which a packaging company, now probably (hopefully) out of business, was paying its fully able-bodied employees minimum wage at least while its disabled employees received significantly less. The article, by Christie Blatchford, focuses on the sad fact that at the end of this legal mess, the company is out of business completely and at least one of its employees hasn’t managed to hold a steady job since then.

Garrie and her mother told the tribunal that while Garrie and other disabled workers were paid between $1 and $1.25 an hour, the able-bodied who worked beside them, including the mother and another of her daughters who was also able-bodied, earned minimum wage.

The mother said she and her husband were uncomfortable with the pay differential, but didn’t complain because their daughter so enjoyed her work, the socializing it provided, and besides, Szuch “treated her [Garrie] respectfully.”

Szuch, in her late response, elaborated on that, and said the disabled workers didn’t have to punch in, and were allowed to play cards and make crafts while ostensibly on the job.

Strike 1: People who clearly weren’t expected to actually perform the job they were supposedly being paid for, hence the permission to play cards and such while supposedly being paid for it, being allowed to work there in the first place. These are the types of people ODSP, in as much as ODSP does anything like it adequately in the first place, is supposed to be capable of supporting fully–explicitly because they’re not expected to do much insofar as employment goes. And instead, with a smile and a nod, they looked the other way while a company pretended to hire people for work. That’s mostly on the company, who probably should have known better, and the mother turned supervisor, who if she was half as uncomfortable as she said she was wasn’t doing her daughter any favours with this arrangement either. But the kick in the head, as almost per usual, comes from the ODSP itself.

But in her response, Szuch said the company never provided what’s called “supported employment” for disabled people, but rather offered “volunteer trainee” placements for them, with far fewer responsibilities, for which it paid them an honorarium.

And, the response said, all of this was done on the up and up — with the honorariums duly declared to Garrie’s worker and the other disabled trainees’ workers and to the ODSP.

Evidence of that was the fact that while the ODSP occasionally “clawed back” over-payments because of the honorarium, for the most part it was so modest that claw backs weren’t common.

As Bhattacharjee wrote, “I find that the respondent [Szuch], likely with the agreement of the parents of workers with developmental disabilities, intentionally set the honorarium level just under the threshold for claw back of ODSP payments in order to maintain the receipt of such payments from the government.”

ODSP knew, and had no problem taking back their own money if the company paid too much, but here’s a question that isn’t asked in the article at this point–or pretty much ever. The article points out that the ODSP provides income and employment support for disabled people, but where was the employment support part of that arrangement in this situation?

ODSP’s primary goal, aside from income support–which at least they largely got as close to right as they ever do, is supposed to be providing a way for people with the skills to work to get the hell off ODSP. Clearly, ODSP thought these folks had the skills to work, based on the fact they had no problem with these folks working–albeit for what amounts to coffee money. So find them adequate work for adequate pay, and get them the hell off ODSP properly. It may not mean they’re fully independent–at least in terms of, you know, being able to function on their own without parental intervension–but if they’re considered independent enough that they can be shuffled off to work in the morning, then they can damn well be considered independent enough to get paid as much as the person they’re sitting next to doing exactly the same work.

Blatchford writes:

But a closer read of the 33-page decision in fact shows that if the company discriminated against Garrie, it did so with the consent of her parents and likely the complicity of the government.

The company did discriminate against Garie, and the others she worked with. And they did so indeed with the approval of her parents and the government. Stacey Szuch, the former owner of that company, deserves to be ordered to personally pay off every cent she didn’t pay off when she had employees to rip off. Terri-Lynn’s parents ought be slapped with a clue for willingly and knowingly extremely undervaluing whatever work their daughter was obviously skilled enough to do. And I sincerely hope the ODSP case worker who oversaw the ripoff no longer has a job with the ODSP, though I also sincerely doubt it.

The ODSP passively approved of a sheltered work shop for disabled people. Even knowing said sheltered work shop was paying well below the minimum wage–and being aware of it enough to take back any money that was overpayd to workers as a result of it. And the people who should have known better went along with it for kicks. And folks wonder why it is I have difficulty drudging up enough respect for ODSP on a good day.

Rock bottom: charging $27 to install free software.

My former employer gets a little loopier every few months, I’m pretty sure. This time, the loopy shows up in the UK, in the form of a nearly $30 charge to install Firefox on some of their business level machines. Now, I’m not above charging someone for basic services–I used to willingly charge people for virus removal, and that became second nature to me after about 6 months. But the difference there is they called me, and their machine really needed help. This is a configuration option the customer had access to when purchasing their new machine. They don’t do such fullishness anymore, but yeah, I can see that maybe creating an issue or five down the road. Guys, you’re losing it…

Nothing escapes the #CRTC’s content regulations. See also: porn.

I’ve mocked the CRTC before, for reasons. But I can safely say, uh, I never quite saw this coming. One of the things the CRTC handles is making it mandatory that radio and television stations must broadcast a certain percentage of Canadian content–that is, crap actually produced in Canada. This rule, apparently, has no exceptions whatsoever. So when the porn industry falls behind in its broadcasting of Canadian sexploits, the hammer comes down.

Wednesday, the CRTC issued a broadcast notice saying AOV Adult Movie Channel, XXX Action Clips and the gay-oriented Maleflixxx were all failing to reach the required 35% threshold for Canadian content.

Based on a 24-hour broadcast schedule, that translates to about 8.5 hours of Canadian erotica a day.

Not broadcasting those 8.5 hours of Canadian kink films means the porn channels in question lose their broadcast licenses.

Here’s a question, though. Exactly how are things like this actively monitored? Wait, no, don’t tell me–I already know. Where do we think the UK gets it from? Canada, I worry for you at times…

Quick! Set up a porn filter before I–oops.

The secret’s out. The reasoning behind porn filters has been exposed, at least in the UK. It’s not to protect the children, as is repeatedly and all too frequently tossed out there as a way of silencing the masses of folks wondering just in which parallel universe such a beast would actually prove effective. Nope, turns out the porn filters are entirely designed to help addicts in the government break their habbits. To the surprise of absolutely no one, it didn’t do very well there either.

Given this righteous attempt to legislate morality, it’s a bit ironic then that a scandal has broken out in the UK after Patrick Rock, a top aide to Prime Minister David Cameron and a chief architect of the country’s porn filters, was arrested for possession of child pornography. Cameron himself is taking heat for keeping the February 12 firing quiet, and for the fact that Rock appears to have gotten some advanced warning of his arrest.

Ironic, yes. But probably not very surprising. And as the article says, I wonder if John Q. Citizen would be given that much room to duck and cover before the jail hammer drops. Either way, someone had better double down on their porn filter efforts–at least when it comes to government internet access. Perhaps they’d have seen this whole Scottish independence thing coming, then. Well, or not, but it’s something–and a far better reason than, you know, for the children. Someone please save the government from itself already.

Does anyone else remember cherry coke?

Largely back when I was in highschool, and I think for a while after that, you could almost never walk into a store and not find either cherry or vanilla coke on sale. Usually for cheaper than the regular stuff–which worked well enough for me, on account of I actually preferred that over the regular stuff. Couldn’t tell you why, but there you go. Both were discontinued in Canada several years ago, for reasons I can’t even remember now, but you can still get both pretty near any time you want from the US. So when I decide I’m in a mood to, I’ll bribe someone coming across the border to throw a case or two in the back of their vehicle and make it appear at my front door. Or, you know, if you’re May and will be in the states anyway, just stick some in the suitcase and back you come with it.

Very few people I talk to even remember we had it up here, though. Which, considering their reaction to the idea of it, comes off as surprising–I’ve heard things to the tune of “Hey, that’d be an awesome combination” and the such. So I got curious. Was it just mainstream enough that I managed to catch it, but obscure enough that pretty much no one else gave it a run? Or do folks just need to get out more?

I wouldn’t be disappointed if they decided to start bringing things like that back again. And considering they’re at least talking about bringing back drinks I hadn’t even heard of, I don’t think it’s entirely out of the realm of possibility. In the meantime, though, anyone on a return trip from the US feel like taking a stopover in Ottawa?

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