starting-blast landlocked

An audio test.

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.

Trigger Warning: In which I worry about an assisted suicide ruling.

Warning: I have no idea how triggers work, particularly related to depression and contemplation of suicide. I am your typical, undereducated thug in that department. But if any of this entry serves to trigger something, please know it was not intended, I apologise, and you can inform me of it privately if you so choose so I can change it accordingly. I’m not here to traumatise.


I’m more often than not a fan of any time the Supreme court of Canada wants to take a swipe at our government. The way things tend to come down the pipe now and again, it’s probably deserved more often than it’s not. But on assisted suicide in particular, the supreme court has gone too far.

The court ruled very recently that a law banning doctor-assisted suicide was entirely unconstitutional–and that the right to life, more or less, should include the right to death. On its face a logical ruling, if you can tie anything remotely akin to logic around an issue of when it’s considered legal to kill someone. The ruling allows for the possibility of assisted suicide for any incurable physical–or mental–illness. So, for example, someone determined to be dying of cancer can opt to have it done and over with quickly, as opposed to living out the rest of their however long knowing the disease will eventually kill them. that’s good, in theory. But so can someone dealing with depression. that’s not so much.

Already this happens in certain European countries–Belgium permitted the assisted suicide of two deaf twin brothers who were going blind and couldn’t handle it, for example. And the same procedure for chronic depression is surprisingly not uncommon in jurisdictions that allow it. Unless a bunch of folks are reading the supreme court’s ruling entirely incorrectly, there is ample room for the trend in Canada to follow that path–as, quite aptly, has been explained to death already.

But that is not what the Court has in mind. First, it is clear from the ruling that the “enduring and intolerable suffering” that would confer the right to have someone kill you (with your consent, of course) is not limited to physical pain, but also psychological pain — which, besides being a murkier concept by far, raises the question of how competent the subject really is. Nor is suffering defined further: it is enough that it is intolerable “to the individual.”

Second, nothing in the words “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” the court’s other requirement for the exercise of this right, suggests that death is near, or even likely. It is enough that the condition be incurable; it need not be terminal.

So. You’re on medication for life. It’s keeping you functional, perhaps even something close to healthy, but it’s still there. As a friend told me once, it never goes away–you just get better at ignoring it. You could decide that’s plenty good enough–for all intents and purposes, you’re as cured as you’re going to get. But if you–or your doctor–decide that no, being on medication isn’t good enough–that it doesn’t actually cure you, but just treats the symptoms, assisted suicide could–again, based on this ruling–be an option. In states where it’s already legal, it is an option.

Patients themselves say that the primary motive is not to escape physical pain but psychological distress; the main drivers are depression, hopelessness and fear of loss of autonomy and control. Dutch researchers, for a report published in 2005, followed 138 terminally ill cancer patients and found that depressed patients were four times more likely to request euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Nearly half of those who requested euthanasia were depressed.

In this light, physician-assisted suicide looks less like a good death in the face of unremitting pain and more like plain old suicide. Typically, our response to suicidal feelings associated with depression and hopelessness is not to give people the means to end their lives but to offer them counseling and caring.

I know people who suffer from depression. Even completely treated, it’s still there. But because people have been there to offer help, they haven’t decided on their own it’d be better to call it quits. Some of those are friends, family, people I am or was close to. Some of them didn’t speak up about it until they had but two options: get help now, or get out–and they’d already tried that second one. It’s very possible some of them still haven’t spoken up about it–to people, at least, who could potentially have done something about it. I can only guess at exactly how many of those people I’d know now if this were a more widely accepted option. I’d rather not guess at how many people I know would consider taking this path if it becomes a more widely accepted option.

It’s been said to me on more than one occasion. Once a depressive, always a depressive. The best you can hope for is to cope. This is not coping. We can do better than this. The supreme court has it wrong, and I sincerely hope someone in this government or the next puts some effort into correcting it. Even if I will never fully appreciate it, the people who need it most will. That’s what we’re here for.

I’d support a minimum guaranteed income law. Too bad one doesn’t exist.

If you’ve spent any amount of time out of work, whether you’re disabled or not, you know it hurts. It hurts twice if you’re out of work with any kind of disability–particularly as you’ve already got at least one strike against you. Governments think they’re helping, usually–when they’re not actively trying to do everything but, but more often than not the services most people have access to equate approximately to barely covering the rent if you happen to ask nicely. There are probably a few exceptions, depending on your definition of exceptions, but for the most part it goes approximately like this:

  • Step 1: Pray like nothing else your disability/welfare deposit comes in on time and for the correct amount. Optionally curse a blue streak when it doesn’t.
  • Step two: Try and ring up your caseworker, pray she’s in her office, pray she’s awake, pray she’s not currently mid-moodswing, and pray twice she’s not stuck using what escentially amounts to barely tested beta software (I’m looking at you, Ontario).
  • Step 3: Quite probably curse as at least one of those nested if statements turns false before your eyes. If you’re lucky, it may only be 1.
  • Step 4: Explain, probably twice, and a third time for good measure, that yes you’re broken again and could she kindly fix you and damn well mean it this time.
  • Step 5: Spend the rest of the month catching up on barely paying for the things you meant to pay for before your deposit went pair shaped.
  • Step 6: Repeat steps 1-5 as needed.

If the system works perfectly, you can likely skip that whole dance–and still have enough money left over for perhaps a cup of coffee if you haven’t gotten real good at getting real creative real fast. Which is still a problem, but it’s not necessarily the one problem with the potential to be your complete undoing. The problems that could potentially be your complete undoing are pretty much all administrative, mostly unnecessary and usually avoidable if the people handling the files would demonstrate a collective IQ above about 2.1.

I’m going to bash on Ontario, specificly the Ontario disability support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW), for two very simple reasons. Reason the first: I’m far too familiar with the system here for my own good–and have written way too much about them to be healthy. And reason the second: It’s not all sunshine and roses–and people who show up here looking for info on what they offer (this has happened) need to see that.

ODSP and OW come from a very similar set of procedures, slightly tweeked to account for the intended difference in clients. Which also means they come with the same, or close to the same, set of problems. Specificly, the process of actually providing the services hangs them up and they’re left spinning their wheels while figuring out how to actually provide the services–when they’re not taking their sweet time not approving you, anyway. So you’re left with a wheelchair user having to pay out of pocket to sort out complications ODSP was explicitly designed to cover, because ODSP has dropped the ball. Again.

It’s not *entirely* the fault of ODSP/OW for the way the system’s been bent out of shape. They’re covering their respective asses, more often than not–and that covering process tends to trip them up. It’s not a complete excuse, but when you’re alternating between people who’d rather be on ODSP than working and a system that seems set up to both allow and encourage it, you can kind of see why a little coverage is required.

There is a possible way around problems like this, and we largely have systems in place already that would be capable of handling it if a government were so inclined to develop enough of a spine to put it in place. Rather than an overcomplicated system of disability/welfare payments that seems to depend more on the phase of the moon than your medical condition, why not just move to a system of guaranteed annual income and be done with it? Take the payments out of the hands of social services, which comes with enough of its own stigma as it is, and hand it over to either provincial or federal tax authorities, say–like they already do in some jurisdictions for assessing things like your HST rebates, for those who get them. Or child tax, if that’s mildly more relevant for context purposes. The only requirement for determining whether or not you qualify for this particular benefit, then, would presumedly be your income tax filings–which you should be submitting if you’re not working anyway because potentially helpful.

The trend is to increase the minimum wage instead–Alberta’s government was considering a $15 minimum wage at one point, which would help, but only if you happen to be already working–and only then if your employer hasn’t decided the increase is going to cost too much and your particular job isn’t worth what they’re expected to pay. But there are more than a few good reasons to change that trend, which at least some parts of that same government are making vague-sounding rumbling noises about.

A minimum guaranteed income would accomplish the one thing no social services system has been able to actually do with any degree of success, if it’s executed properly. Get people off social services, and living moderately independently while they try and hopefully succeed at getting their feet under them. Unfortunately, and this is more than likely precisely why it’s not a thing that’s anywhere close to happening yet, proper execution is far from guaranteed–and getting there will be far from popular in just about any jurisdiction.

First, the receiving end of the spectrum. We’re assuming the idea behind a system like this is to give people just that little boost closer to the poverty line–the general assumption that was supposed to be the intent of social services, before it wasn’t. That means we’d need to see a minimum guaranteed income in or around the $19000 per year range to be considered closeish to the cutoff line. Doable, perhaps, but not easy–and it still won’t be entirely equal, though it would be more equal than the current system.

This is the part where I start to throw numbers at you. So if you’re the type that goes crosseyed at the prospect, 1: I know the feeling and 2: I warned you. Ontario’s minimum wage is about $11.25 as it stands right now. Crunch a few numbers based on a 40-hour work week, and you come out with $23400 in before-tax income on the year. Assuming they set the cutoff for this new guaranteed income plan at $19000, the actual hourly rate would be just slightly over $2 cheaper (at $9.13, based on that same 40-hour work week). So anyone who can’t find a job for more reasons than I feel like ever writing down in an entry would still lose out, but not by all that much in the grand scheme of things–and by a whole lot less than what they do now. Contrast this with the maximum you’d be entitled to on a system like ODSP, without the extras for things like special dietary requirements. Based on that same 40-hour work week, an ODSP recipient who’s actually entitled to the maximum allowed would earn $13176 on the year, or $6.33 per hour. Nearly half what Ontario’s current minimum wage is at present. And with the insentives against going out and finding work (see above), which would only end up hurting you long-term unless you found work at a rate of pay significant enough that it cancels out your ODSP entirely, the situation doesn’t end up actually doing a whole lot of helping you–and even if it does, the extra paperwork it requires, and the multiple opportunities for that extra paperwork to grow legs and wander off somewhere, don’t make it something most people look forward to actually doing.

Contrast that to the process for either reducing or getting completely off the minimum guaranteed income list–or getting back on it, if somewhere down the road your prospects take a turn for the nonexistent. As I said elsewhere, presumedly you’re filing your income taxes whether you’re working or not, particularly if you’ve got student loans–as keeping track of that becomes slightly easier at that point when it comes time to figure out how much of those loans you can claim credit for paying back. If the system is set up properly, meaning tied to your income tax filings similar to some other benefits you can claim from the government, then your eligibility for the minimum guaranteed income is either validated or revoked by virtue of the very same process you’d be going through anyway. So our person making minimum wage above, while maybe not flying in style, would be able to get himself off the minimum guaranteed income provision just by indicating he now has a job that pays him that minimum wage. If yearly income is more than minimum income threshold, minimum income doesn’t apply. If he later ends up losing that job and taking employment insurance, then the next time he files his taxes he’ll likely come in at or below the theoretical $19000 income cutoff. There’s probably a lot of room for maneuverability and all sorts of fun and games to make the system a little more fluid than the example I’ve just described, but given it’s a thought bubble at worst at the moment and a working theory sitting on some government staffer’s stack of paperwork at best, I’m using what I have to work with as a loose baseline. It will probably be challenged. Please do.

And now we get into the not so fun part of all this, and the reason I don’t expect to see one–not even one spearheaded by Alberta’s new NDP government–in the foreseeable future. The fairly significant matter of funding this provision. From the opinion piece on minimum guaranteed income linked earlier on:

But notice how it works. The benefit is a social obligation; thus, it is socially financed, i.e., through the tax and transfer system. Everybody pays for it (though the more you make the more you pay) and everybody is eligible for it (though the more you make the less you receive). It is available whether you are in work or out, and has no impact either on the willingness of workers to supply their labour or the willingness of employers to demand it.

The problem, roughly summarized, is that everybody pays. So the people who would have an issue with handing over their money for social assistance funding would very likely still have an issue with handing it over for this fund. The difference is, on a more technical level, they’d be as eligible to receive the benefit as, say, I would–though perhaps, depending on their particular situation, they might not see it that way if they’re paying in more on balance than they’re technically getting out of it. The trick, then, would be to frame that discussion in such a way that it’s not so much a net loss to the ones doing most of the paying. Which, incidentally, is precisely why I don’t particularly see it happening any time soon.

governments of just about any stripe, on principle, mean well–at least when they initially take office. They have their ideas, their pet projects, their whatever, but at the end of the day, they ran on something they thought would improve the situation. They were elected on that something. Then they get into the details and one of two things happens. either the government decides–truthfully or not–that the thing they ran on is quite a bit more involved to put in place than they figured, so they try to dance around it without being run over by the train of broken promises let loose by the government they just replaced, or the details of what they’re looking to implement are–mostly–released to the public, who decides that wasn’t what they signed on for in the first place, and that thing that got the government elected isn’t quite as popular now as it was on election day. Either way, like so many other potentially decent ideas, the details get hung up on how it’s being paid for, who’s paying, how much and why isn’t $GroupOfTheWeek exempt from these new taxes. Enter the problem with getting something like this minimum income provision approved. If any government with this kind of a brainstorm doesn’t articulate it exactly right, and I haven’t seen a government yet with that particular ability, the media will be pumping out headlines to the tune of “$government introduces new employment tax” and that’ll be the end of that in incredibly short order.

I would love, absolutely, to see a system of minimum guaranteed income put in place. I’d openly support something like that–and might actually be convinced to vote for anyone who’d willingly step up to the plate with an idea like that. It’s a sad, sad shame such a beast doesn’t exist.

I have more content than I do brain power. Ergo, link dump.

I keep meaning to post here semi-regularly. I keep not posting here semi-regularly. You’d think I’d learn. since I haven’t, have a small list of the junk I’ve been collecting that I’ve planned to do useful things with and haven’t. there is going to be an actual entry up here eventually. With actual content. And opinions. And probably some mockery. … This is not that entry.


Kids these days. So entitled to all the things. You’d swear they get it from their parents. And when you have parents who’re perfectly fine with billing a kid $24 because his family had plans that kept him from showing up at a birthday party, you’re probably not wrong. Yeah, sorry. turns out I won’t be able to make next year’s party either.


This is why I would make a particularly crappy criminal. Ideas like breaking into a store through the roof just sound on basic principle like the kind of thing that can only end not good for you. Particularly when you’ve already provided enough warning that the police are, well, waiting for you. I’m no expert, but that probably could have been better executed.


I may mock Alberta for many things–like, say, its recent choice in government–but in some cases I can only give them points for common sense. In this case, if you happen to be a teenager driving like an absolute braindead idiot, the local police can and will call your mom on you. If his parents are anything like mine, I’m laying odds he still can’t sit down. I’d hope it helped, but something tells me I know better.


And lastly: It’s never worth all that effort to bust into a cacino and try walking off with an ATM. the risk is almost always not even worth the reward. Particularly when the offending ATM is, well, quite empty. I wonder if they looked as stupid on the surveylence video as they felt when they got the thing open.


And now for something completely different. Things that aren’t links, but hardly warrant entries of their own–particularly now, when they’re considered pretty much footnotes anyway. In list format, because duh.

  • Montreal got the boot from the playoffs. Yay woo. I was getting tired of hearing about them after a week.
  • Calgary got the boot from the playoffs. That… was moderately surprising. Shouldn’t have been. But they had a decent run. Still doing better than Toronto. Or Ottawa. But no one cares about Ottawa.
  • Alberta’s considering either a minimum wage or a minimum income, or both. I hope they give that first one a try. I also hope it works. That gets its own entry when I get to it. whenever that is.
  • And in obvious news, quebec politics is once again being Quebec politics. but at least Gilles Duceppe’s back. I was due for something slightly more consistent to snicker at.

Next time, there might actually be content. Unless I get lazy again. which is probably slightly more likely. But we’ll pretend I don’t ever do that kind of thing.

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 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 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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

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.

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).

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…

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

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.

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