starting-blast landlocked

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?

The day kindness stopped being politically correct. Or: What are you smoking, Calgary?

We’re heading for another winter that’s supposed to suck, according to folks, in a few ways. So it seems vaguely appropriate that this happened at the end of last winter, which also ended up sucking in a few ways. A Calgary school bus driver ended up running into a problem way too many vehicle owners get to deal with when it’s minus freezing outside. Specificly, her bus decided it’d quit with this whole starting business. Twice. The first day it happened, she shrugged it off and trusted the company she works for to send another bus. Didn’t happen, so kids were either late for school or, well, didn’t show up. So the second time it happened, she decided to show a little initiative.

Kendra Lindon, who drives for First Student Canada, said her bus wouldn’t start on Feb. 11, and dispatch told her someone else would be sent to drive the route. That never happened, and the kids were left stranded — they either missed school or were driven by parents.

When her bus failed again the next day, she was skeptical when dispatch again promised a replacement. Several other buses had also failed, and she was covering several routes, and she worried about the students waiting in the cold.

So Ms. Lindon asked another bus driver to pick up some of the students, and then took her 2005 Cadillac Escalade to pick up some others.

She picked up five kids, although she had only four seatbelts. Then she picked up another boy, one she’d known for a long time, on crutches with no hat, no gloves and just runners on in what Environment Canada confirms was -26 C wind chill. To make room for the injured boy, two of the other boys jumped into the back of her SUV, where there are no seatbelts.

Good on her, you’re probably thinking. Give the girl a raise, was roughly what I was thinking. What I wasn’t thinking, but clearly what folks over in Calgary were already heading for, was to hand that girl a good solid firing.

Look, I know there are rules for a reason. And for the most part, I agree with it. I mean I still think some of them are just plain meant to be broken, but I know the general logic behind it–not to mention, you know, a few that are just common sense. But for every rule, there has got to be at least one exception. Preferably more, because hey, rules that can’t bend are the very first to break. But here’s the thing. If I’m in her position, and I know the company didn’t actually send someone to cover my ass the last time it happened, I’m not going to be altogether inclined to just kick back and trust the company to cover my ass this time–particularly if the company already has me covering off for someone else. Okay, so they have a policy against using your personal vehicle for transportation on your regular bus route. Fine and dandy. But -26 degrees should *probably* be an exception to that rule, more or less.

After the new bus arrived, the kids thanked her profusely and Ms. Lindon drove back to her school bus, which a mechanic was just getting started. She then picked up her usual group of elementary school kids — including her son Cody — and went to her job at the school he attends, and where she works as an assistant.

While at the school, Ms. Lindon received a call from the school bus company and was told to come with her bus to the headquarters “as soon as possible,” where she was fired, because it was against company policy to pick up children in a personal vehicle. She said no one had ever told her that.

Not sure how far I’ll trust the idea that no one told her it was against policy, but hey, we can run with that for lack of anything else. Even if it was, and someone did tell her that, she’s hardly the first person to decide freezing ass cold is a valid exception to the rule against that. Hell, I’ve had bus drivers around here who’ve missed my stop completely by accident drop everyone else off where they needed to be, then drive me pretty much straight up to my front door because it was freezing freaking cold, and I’m pretty sure that’s against the rules as well. But in that case, the driver screwed up, and while I could have easily found my way back home from wherever, he decided it wasn’t worth freezing to do so. In Calgary, he very probably would have thought about that twice. But, you know, at least he didn’t use his personal vehicle. What are you smoking, Calgary?

I’m… too ‘Sexy’ for my name.

People who decide they absolutely despise their given ame aren’t exactly uncommon. Hell, people who decide to do something about it are equally not entirely all that uncommon. But some of the choices folks will come up with kind of makes you wish it were. Take Sheila, for instance. She absolutely hates her name. She’s going to court to have it changed. Her preferred one? Sexy.

“I wear Victoria’s Secret clothes all the time,” she said. “I was like, ‘Shoot, I’ll just go for Sexy.”

If that doesn’t work?

“If it’s not Sexy … then I might go for Sparkle,” Crabtree said.

And that right there is what’s wrong with the world today, kids. When you’re 15-year-old daughter, who you’d expect to be the more likely source of an idea like that, comes out and says she doesn’t have a clue what the problem is, you know someone’s taken a left turn at loony. Oh, and just in case you thought there might have been some hope for salvaging the situation… nope.

An Ohio lady legally changed her name from Sheila to Sexy in court just after 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“That was the last piece I needed for my life to feel complete, kind of like a puzzle,” Sexy Ranea Crabtree told the Daily News. “That’s all I needed, to get rid of that ugly name — thankfully I’m rid of it for good!”

The world just got a little bit more braindead. Is it too late to get off?

Precrime preorder.

Most folks figure, you know, they’ll wander into a video game store, grab a bunch of whatever’s handy, make a break for it. Maybe they’ll get lucky and the junk they grab will mostly be stuff they won’t want to toss on the side of the road just to decrease the suck factor. Only a special few will plan to show up with the explicit goal of grabbing specific items fitting specific criteria and pulling off the same sort of escape in which they pray to $being that’s the day the security cameras go on vacation. But it takes a special kind of someone not very sneaky to call the store, explicitly reserve what they plan to steal, then show up to do exactly that. That was either really smart, or really freaking stupid. And that will depend entirely on whether or not he’s currently sitting in jail, Xboxless. But, judging by what I’m not finding, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s that first one…

Games you should probably not play on the internet: “Name My Baby”.

Okay, I get it. I really do. The internet is an absolutely amazing resource, most of the time. Hell, I’ve done many a research paper/essay/general futzing around project with all kinds of help from the internet. But there are just some things you don’t want to leave up to a mess of people you don’t know. Like ever. Well, unless you fancy the kind of folks who find it hillarious to send a relatively (*) well-known rapper to a Walmart in Alaska. One of those things, probably *the* thing, you may not want to inflict the internet on is the naming of your kid–see also: previous disclaimer re: if you’re a fan of those types. On the up side, at least the dad behind the deal kind of knew what he was getting into. On the upper side, the selection of names that were suggested could probably be worse. Rather, it could have very probably flopped spectacularly. It didn’t, which is absolutely freaking awesome. Yes, even if the names they chose for her turned out to be a mouthful. I really hope they’re not the type of parents to bust out the full name when she ticks them off–or, you know, that she learns not to do that quite so much. Getting your tongue around that can’t be doing your irritation levels any favours…

This is not the drug deal you are looking for.

Payment for services rendered has a whole variety of meanings depending on the people involved and the situation in question. Probably depending exactly on the services rendered, if we’re honest about it. In certain parts of Oregon, payment for services rendered apparently means you feed me, and as part of your payment, I slip you a little meth on the side. Somewhere along the way, it was a little bit, well, lost in translation. So taking a shot at fixing that, the waitress who was paid in full took it as a confession. You… can probably take a stab at what happened next.

The Daily Astorian newspaper reports the Oregon waitress contacted police Friday after a couple included the envelope while paying for their drinks.

The responding officer identified the substance and arrested 40-year-old Ryan Bensen and 37-year-old Erica Manley.

Somehow, I don’t suppose their tip money was in the other envelope. You know, the one back at the hotel room.

Police said they found more of the drug when searching Manley’s purse and the couple’s motel and vehicle.

Well, it was worth a shot.

Once more with feeling: Default passwords are bad. Not kidding.

If you’ve been reading this thing for any amount of time, you’ll probably notice I tend to come up with all manner of very strongly worded opinions. Particularly in the neighbourhood of geek things. Like, for instance, when it comes to folks who set up a piece of hardware–like, say, a router, or a server–and decide to leave the default password in place. So your state-of-the-art Lynksys router, which you’ve had for all of 24 hours, has become a hot spot for the local script kiddy and the mass amount of software he’s employing even as I’m writing this so he can expand his porn collection–and all because, well, you didn’t follow the first rule of basic security. Change the goddamn password. That goes double if you run a website for a school district, and its default login credentials are, uh, well, only slightly above no login credentials at all.

A Texas school district is learning the hard way about website security basics. If you’d like to keep your site from being compromised, the very least you can do is reset the default login. According to a post at Hackforums, the Round Rock Independent School District of Austin, TX was using the following name and password for its admin account. (h/t to Techdirt reader Vidiot)

hacked – idiots used default login/pass

u; admin
p; admin1

Needless to say I’m not exactly world’s most qualified hacker, and if it were me on the delivering end of all of that, I figure it’d take me about a minute to gain access. Provided I was 1: doing it manually and 2: not trying very hard. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb, here, and disprove the theory that you get what you paid for. Whatever the school district paid the folks what set up and apparently didn’t maintain the website, I’m making the offfer right here–not, you know, that I figure it’ll go anywhere, but hey. Take the amount that supposed third-party company brought in. Divide it by 2. Now, write me a check for that amount. Stick it in the mail. Upon receipt, I’ll hand you a website infinitely more secure/stable than that hot mess. No? Well, I tried. In the meantime, for the love of all things holely somebody please provide SharpSchool with a better selection of passwords. Because clearly, they’ve got approximately nothing.

When performing evasive maneuvers, it’s probably best if you maneuver your vehicle…

And not do, say, what the pilot of a 747 decided to do when he thought he up and saw himself a UFO. Rather than pull his plane out of the way of a possible collision with another vehicle, the pilot pulled himself out of the way of said possible collision–by ducking. Fortunately for pilot and passengers alike, if there was a UFO in the area, it missed them. Unfortunately for both 34000 feet in the air is quite probably not a very good time to find out your pilot’s losing his goddamned mind. Next time, might I suggest the bus?

911, what is your stupidity?

I’ve heard folks calling 911 for some pretty stupid reasons. A cold that hasn’t gone away for like 3 days, for instance. But some of the reasons on this list make those seem just a little bit more on the intelligent side than maybe perhaps they ought to. Which, come to think of it, is probably why they ended up being saved for a “top list of” headline. Just goes to show, some folks will always maintain a certain level of job security just to counteract the stupid.

1. A man called police to help him retrieve his personal property. The man had gone to his girlfriend’s home and taken out his glass eye. He was upset that she hid his eye and refused to return it.

5. It would be expected that a person would call police to report a $90,000 fraud. However, it’s not common that the caller names Sen. Mike Duffy in Ottawa as the accused.

6. A man called police because rain water from his neighbour’s roof was falling on his property.

My absolute favourite off that list, though, has got to be this one. Because really.

4. A squirrel jumped through the open window of a car, causing the driver to accelerate into a ravine. Luckily the driver was not injured and the squirrel now looks before leaping.

For those of you keeping score at home, that rates about a 6 on the amusement scale. And probably the lowest out of all of them on the stupid scale. You decide what that says. Me? I’ll be over here thanking all things sane there are still people with a talent for giving other people job security.

2013’s most annoying words, still annoying in 2014.

So at the end of 2013, a school in Michigan produced a list of that year’s most annoying words. Not surprisingly, “selfie” and “twerk” topped the list. Equally not surprising, nearing the end of 2014, at least one of those words is still freaking hanging on. Specificly, if I ever hear the word “selfie” again, it’ll be way too damn soon. Now, I’m not necessarily saying there’s anything wrong with people who use it–I’m not that large of a language snob. But if you’ve just spent the better part of 5 years in university, where things like essay writing and the such are pretty much bred into you whether you like it or not, you clearly have the ability to do a little better than “selfie”. My few remaining brain cells will thank you profusely for trying. Extended vocabularies aren’t just for nerds anymore, as long as the definition of “extended” rules out the use of that damned not-a-word. Bonus points to pretty much anything we can use instead to replace it. I can’t afford enough vodka to make it tolerable otherwise…

In which my former employer loses its mind. Again.

Every once in a while, I actually miss working at Dell. Not necessarily because I could see myself still doing that exact same job 7 years later, but for what it was, the job was something useful. Besides, I got a ton of free software out of the deal, which never hurts. But I have a pretty good feeling if something like ended up on my desk, I probably wouldn’t be doing much in the way of, you know, working there for much longer.

There are times when big brands with “social media people” might want to teach those junior level employees to recognize that using one of the standard “scripted” answers might be inappropriate. Take, for example, if you’re Dell and a new report has come out suggesting that the NSA has pretty much compromised your servers at the BIOS level with spy bugs, then, when someone — especially a respected security guy like Martin Wismeijer — tweets at you, you don’t go with the standard scripted “sorry for the inconvenience” response. But, apparently, that’s not how Dell handled things this time (thanks to Mike Mozart for the pointer).

Nope, instead, a complaint that your server’s been bugged by the NSA before Dell handed it off to you nets you this response:

Thank you for reaching out and regret the inconvenience. Our colleagues at @dellcarespro will be able to help you out.

Okay, now, granted the only server I deal with is the one this site’s sitting on, but somehow, I’m pretty sure the guys getting paid to deal with servers for way more important reasons could probably do without the standard punt script to the Twitter version of India’s tech support queue–who very likely won’t actually be able to help anyway, and that’s if they’re even allowed to do anything other than deny the existence of any kind of NSA involvement whatsoever in the first place. But, on the bright side, no innocent customer pictures were publicised in this customer service manglement scheme…

Always read the fine print. Or the whole print.

It’s nearly (yes, okay, I know–still 4 months away) Christmas time again, so time to break out the vaguely Christmas themed posts. And by vaguely themed, I mean this little bit happened in December of last year–but, you know, life and things. A teenager in the UK was doing a little online shopping. He had his eye on an Xbox, and his mind on tossing up 450 pounds for it–just under $750 US at today’s exchange rate. Which would have been absolute awesomeness in a can, considering how quickly they were flying off the shelves at the time. Just one problem, though. The Xbox he paid for wasn’t the Xbox he received.

Despite the listing stating it was a photo of an XBox One Day One edition console, Mr Clatworthy said he’d expected to receive the console as it was listed in the video games and consoles category on eBay.

He instead received the photo in the post on Monday, with it having ‘thank you for your purchase’ written on the back.

Remember all those times people warned you to always read the fine print? Yeah. … About that. It could probably stand a few more repetitions.

System administration. Because the vodka industry needs some love, too.

Warning: the below post is probably long, and definitely geeky. You’ve been warned.

I’ve had this blog and several others hosted on a server I run and pay for since around the neighbourhood of 2010 or 2011. Naturally, this means I go beyond the whole finding random things to post about idea and dip into the territory of the sysadmin. Awesome, insofar as experience goes–not, mind, that said experience gets me any closer to being employed, but you’ll have that. But the more I play around with it, the more I think it gets me ready/comfortable with the idea of actually doing something like this and getting paid for it. Besides, I like a challenge.

So I’ve been running this particular server since August of 2012, or thereabouts. And in that time, yeah there’s been just a tiny little bit of broken here and there. But I usually had some warning or could guess that, hey, what I’m about to do will very likely end in spectacular fashion with me spending the next week and a half picking the pieces off my floor. This time, not so very much.

I maintain a small platform where I can stick random bits of info, like documentation for things I’ve figured out about otherwise less than stellarly documented programs. Or, you know, random things that just might turn out to be useful to me a year and a half later. That platform is powered by MediaWiki, who’s probably best known for being the thing used by Wikipedia. So you know, it’s been poked at, prodded at, tested the hell out of, and generally considered stable enough. Well, that or Wikipedia is partially owned by MediaWiki, but hey whichever. So I figure, why not? It’s scaleable, so my small little documentation platform oughta be no sweat. Which is largely true, until it breaks.

I’d never actually bothered digging into the code, if I’m being honest. I figure eventually I’ll get to it, then things happen, and it doesn’t really get gotten to. You know the deal. Fixing the broken, though, necessitated a quick little dig through the surface layer of code. The bright side: now I know why it’s relatively light on database usage. Can I trade, now?

Here’s a little bit of a primer, if you’re one of those folks who’re on the border of techy but not quite ready to slide across it yet. Most software, like wordPress for instance, pretty much leans on whatever database you’ve set up for it. Everything hits the database, no questions asked. Unless you run some kind of a caching plugin (I do), even the basic trying to access the website hits the database. Database goes down, site goes down. MediaWiki does that, to a point, but there are enough layers between the database and you that it’s not entirely obvious. One of those layers is the extensive use of regular expressions for damn near everything. Almost nothing in the software is actually pulled from the database after, perhaps, the first initial load. Exceptions might be made for things like menus, but that might also be stored in the code itself somewhere and I just haven’t bothered finding it yet. But everything else, like for instance the actual page content? Cached somewhere on disk, then hit with a regular expression. Awesome, in theory. Works perfectly, again also in theory. Until theory goes out the window and they release a server software update that pretty much breaks the place. I applied that server update. Had no idea anything was broken–because barely anyone uses what I’ve set MediaWiki up for, and nothing else went sideways. So all was right in the world. Until my documentation actually needed to be flexed.

In fixing the broken, I learned exactly two things, real quick. Thing the first: Even on non-Windows systems, updates still break pretty–I knew that already, but it’s occasionally nice to have that confirmed once in a while. Especially when you know a few people who’ll gladly insist they’ve never had an update problem with $OtherSystem like they’ve always had with Windows. And thing the second: If you release an update to a pretty significant piece of software that breaks compatibility in new, interesting and creative ways, and pretty much no one sees it coming, you’re doing it wrong.

Let the record reflect I still love the sysadmin gig. Let the record also reflect I’d still love to be paid for the sysadmin gig. But I’m kind of wondering now how many paid sysadmins are sitting in an office wishing they could fire themselves a developer. Other people’s broken is never a fun thing to come home to. Now, I speak from experience.

From the department of things that no longer surprise me: Professional cuddling?

Okay, I get the basic idea behind it. Seriously, I’ve always been of the opinion that there’s nothing overtly sexual/dangerous/whatever about two people cuddling. It’s all about limits, things like that–and really, if every second or third person had someone to cuddle with (or, hell, someone to have any kind of physical contact with at all) there’d probably be a few less problem children wandering about. But I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that people will actually pay for that.

– Wisconsin’s ultra-liberal capital city is a place where just about anything goes, from street parties to naked bike rides.

But city officials say a business is pushing even Madison’s boundaries by offering, of all things, hugs.

For $60, customers at the Snuggle House can spend an hour hugging, cuddling and spooning with professional snugglers.

Okay. Again. Get the idea in theory. Have said before that people in general *need* physical contact of some sort. Have emphasised, at least once, from the perspective of kids but hey, it’s the same way for most adults–why not? And I suppose, if folks aren’t getting it–again, like certain significantly more intimate forms of physical contact–from the people they want/need it from, I can see them maybe looking elsewhere for it. That would probably be slightly more socially acceptable than sleeping with someone on the side or whatever if folks weren’t raised to view physical contact in general as highly inappropriate.

But I can safely say paying for it never quite struck me as a thing that happens. I mean how desperate for attention, physical or otherwise, do you have to be before that looks like an option worth considering? And the ones doing it professionally–clearly it’s not anything close to the same for them as their probably significantly more sexual counterparts. That’s not something you do, I’d like to think anyway, if you’re just barely trying to get by, or if you’re desperate to support the drug addiction you just can’t shake off.

As odd as I find arrangements like that though, it doesn’t really end up doing a whole lot to surprise me. People will pay for damn near anything. People will accept money in exchange for damn near anything. I just didn’t figure damn near anything went as far as, you know, things that should be common sense. Welp, that’ll learn me. Clearly, like the book says, it takes all kinds.

Disorderly conduct or temporary insanity?

I honestly have no idea how to start a post like this, which is part of the reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long. Of course the other part is sheer unadulterated shock at the amount of crazy that must have been required to eeven entertain the thought.

Serge Vorobyov was apparently going through a bit of a rough time. And by rough, I mean he may or may not still be picking up the pieces. He and his wife had just divorced, and he clearly wasn’t quite ready to call it a done deal yet. So in a desperate attempt to both win her back and prove he’s not exactly the kind of man I’d consider lending a thousand dollars too, he thought it might be fun to provide a little background entertainment at the Mall of America. So while a choir sang Let it Snow, he lobbed a thousand dollars over a fourth floor railing. Then, kept tossing money on his way down.

Vorobyov had stamped the bills with his YouTube address and on his Facebook page he called the event a publicity stunt. When asked why he wanted the publicity, he said he wanted his cat back from his estranged wife.

Why do I get the feeling he’s now got his hands on more than one cat at a price of significantly less than a thousand dollars? Why do I also get the feeling he’s skipping out on a psychiatrist appointment? Some folks just can’t let go.

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