So life happened. It’s still happening.

So a funny thing happened. I got all enthusiastic like about having some free time to do the geek things I’ve been putting off because academia. I even have, written down somewhere I’ve probably forgotten exactly where, very specific plans re: what I was hoping I might accomplish between the end of said academia and, uh, now. And then stuff happened and now suddenly it’s August and I need to relearn how to do basic things–like, you know, having a social life. Or tinkering with PHP without bringing the whole damned server down around my ears (that’s harder than you think when you haven’t touched it in an age). Or remembering the proper credentials for getting into a website I took great pains in securing after a complete rebuild before those security precautions locked the thing down to the point where it required manual, behind the scenes intervension. So basically it’s been a bit. But with good reason. See, what I wasn’t planning on was life deciding it was going to rather considerably pick up speed after I left school. Since it did, a bunch of crap happened, most of it good, some of it not so much, all of it in very short order.

I’d planned to kick back and take it easy for a month or two after leaving the college. I should have known better than to plan anything, because the minute I did, the universe had other ideas. Not long after I was finished, I had a rather sudden family emergency to deal with. Certain members of my family are still dealing with the aftermath of that emergency, and out of respect for them we’ll not be delving into too many details, but I will say it’s been way too long since I’ve had any reason to throw everything I owned into a suitcase that fast. While we were dealing with that, I got a call back here in Ottawa for a job interview–this was, keep in mind, mid-February, so considerably quicker than I had any reason to expect.

The interview was for a company I hadn’t really heard of until I’d applied for a position there. The position, which they’ve essentially generalized as network operations analyst, is pretty much exactly what my time at college was–some exposure to everything from a Windows server to the networking gear connecting it to the rest of the world. The interview took a bit, but was pretty much just your standard “How would you solve X problem in Y situation” type conversation. And in that interview, something else I wasn’t planning for happened. The conversation circled around for a bit, then the guy doing the interview–who, as it turns out, would also be the guy I would end up directly reporting to–walked out of the room to have a conversation with someone further up the food chain. 20 minutes later he was back and I was signing an employment contract. I walked out of that interview with a foot in the door for a paycheck.

Since that was definitely not on the immediate agenda when I got up that morning, and since I had a week and a bit to get me settled before I started, that meant a lot of very quickly moving parts in very many moving directions and I spent more time on the phone in that week than I did the 6 months previous. By the time I stepped foot in the office for the first time as an actual employee, my head had been spinning for 3 days–and there was still a ton I had to do, most of it involving learning how to not break their systems. But it became official nonetheless, and I ended up the latest name on the Nova Networks roster.

The next bit was essentially me learning exactly how they do things, which is still taking some getting used to and I’ve been there for a few months already. And while I was knee deep in that, I was also officially graduating from the college–with flimsy little diploma thing and everything, which they were thoughtful enough to mail to me ages before graduation, just in case I said to hang with it and hit the bar instead (it was tempting). It was a good excuse to catch up with people, and I discovered–not for the first time–I wasn’t the only one to land a job pretty much right out of college. A few of those folks actually landed jobs at the same company I did, but not necessarily with the same team, so there’s that. Honestly the alcohol would have been fun, but tying up loose ends seemed the marginally better choice. Besides the alcohol came later.

With all that out of the way, I found the room to start getting the rest of my life back on track, so that’s been a thing. It’s a bit of a trick, particularly given it involves a wee bit of financial creativity in spots and as nice as the job is I’m not exactly rolling in finances with which to be creative, but barring a complete implosion the likes of which I haven’t seen in a number of years, it shouldn’t be too extremely painful for too extremely long. The only thing now is to remember exactly where I left that social life.

It’s been crazy, and will probably get crazier, but I think I’m starting to get used to it. Which, more than likely, means I’ll find some other excuse to forget how to get back into this thing. That’s what happens when life happens. But who knows? With things becoming slightly more routine now and academia not sucking out my soul, maybe–just maybe–the rest of my old habbits will catch up with me. Or maybe I need another drink.

Academia says goodbye, all the crazy says hello.

TLDR: I need to do this more often, I’m out of practice, and still brain fried by academia. I also may not be finished.

So I thought things would slow down once I was done with college things. And then I was done with college things, and haven’t stopped since. Which may or may not explain why the last time I did more than keep this site online was before the semester started–and why I’m just now making a vague attempt at solving that problem now.

It was 3 years in the making, but on the 15th of this monthI sat down to write the last ever exam in the last ever course of the last ever semester of my college program. And right on schedule, I walked out of that exam room and straight into the job market. No, there were no offers of crazy high paychecks yet, but since finishing my course I’ve already tossed off half a dozen applications–and half of them have already poked at me, soI’m officially on notice to be available when the calendar turns over. From September to December it’s been a healthy dose of crazy topped with insane and lightly sprinkled with chaos. In other words, perfect. And somehow, despite its best efforts, it did not kill me.

I traded one crazy in for another when exams were over. On top of applying for jobs, I got the hell out of Ottawa. For reasons both related and not to academic things, I needed a vacation. So I’ve been doing the small town thing–which, naturally, means we haven’t stopped since I got here.

I’ve always said I couldn’t live here, despite the fact pretty much my entire family’s essentially right here. Places like this just really aren’t my thing. But that makes my occasional ventures into Crazyville and all the holy hell that comes with just that much more enjoyable (*). And doing it over Christmas basically means close your eyes, hold your breath and dive in, because once we start we do not stop until the guy doing the driving hits the floor. And then that’s only so the next in line can take his place. In the weirdest possible way, quite probably entirely to blame on how I was raised, visits like this end up helping me relax despite the fact they should just about kill me. But, when I return to Ottawa, I’m pretty damn sure I’ll sleep for a week.

I’ll probably do a 2016 in review post one of these decades, but suffice it to say it’s been just a wee bit all over the place. I don’t expect it to get a whole lot calmer in 2017, though I do expect it to get slightly more affordable. That by itself will make inflicting that kind of brain damage on myself more than worth it. Which, in turn, will probably motivate me to take another stab at doing the academic thing next year–I’ve been informed in no uncertain terms that having taken this program just made a few other things about ten times easier for me, and since I like easy, yes please. The end of my academic plan, if it goes the way I’m hoping, essentially guarantees me a foot in the door just about anywhere. Useful, when you’ve got people suggesting places like, say, Edmonton are good for you.

Long story short: I am officially no longer a geek in training. However the first person to declare me an expert is going to receive an essay on why there are, in fact, no such things as experts–particularly in all things geek. In the meantime, if some aspiring project wants to hire me and is willing to actually, you know, pay me…

(*): I always find visits with family to be enjoyable, though usually after I’ve had a few days to recover back in Ottawa. It may or may not be related to the fact that by the time we stop, we’re all about 45 seconds away from passing out where we’re standing, at which point 5 hours of sleep feels like about 5 minutes. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing–but in the new year, I’m gonna want a vacation from my vacation.

So how did you spend your summer vacation?

I’ve managed some kind of personal best–three months or so without having done more than respond to a few comments over here. Well, that and do the usual updating for security reasons and, um, malware prevention reasons. So why have I been quiet? Simply put, I need a vacation from my vacation.

College kicked my ass. so much so that I’ve lined up to do it again in a week and change. so I thought I’d take the summer off and let my brain recharge. apparently, if you’re me, that means you get a poke from a long-time friend a week or so after the dust settles who asks if you happen to by any chance know Linux. I tell her I may have heard of it, and she lets me in on a possible something I might be interested in. This possible something, as it happens, involves setting up an Asterisk phone system for a small startup based in the US. That project ended up branching off into a few other areas of Linux administration, primarily for the same company, and it’s kept me largely out of trouble. Needless to say I’ve had my hands full, and every minute of it has been essentially exactly what I just finished doing the month before I started. And now they’re talking about the possibility of developing a system based on exactly what I just set up that they can potentially sell to businesses who could use a halfway decent system without being whacked over the head by a price in the millions and a contract with Microsoft. So that’s apparently a thing.

When I haven’t been busy with that, which hasn’t been very often, I’ve been busy catching up on all the things I couldn’t catch up on because I pretty much lived at the college. Things like, say, a social life. I’ve been to see the family a handful of times, been actually managing to meet up with some folks I’ve been meaning to do that with for a while, and started sort of reconnecting with one or two people I’ve had to let go of for life reasons. And in and around all of that, I’ve gotten myself mixed up with a completely different sort of project locally–you can sort of see what it looks like over here. That project’s still very much in the initial stages, but the brains behind the operation has plans, so this has the potential to be either incredibly amazing or wickedly embarrassing–and I’m having just a wee bit of difficulty figuring out if I care which. So basically when college does start up again I may just be looking slightly forward to the break.

I had plans for this summer. They mostly involved being lazy. Instead I’ve been up and all over the place. and this is why I just about never make plans. It’s been fun, and I’d do every minute of it over again in a heartbeat, but now I need a vacation. So how was your summer?

I read the comments. I have no shame.

So. Comments all over the place used to be all the rage. Still are, if you’re in to posting pictures of the not quite so fancy dinner you’ve thrown together in 5 minutes and figure someone might take half a minute to complement you on how amazing the arrangement is or something. But actual, constructive and worthwhile comments are going out of style in a hurry.

Take a lot of news/current events sites as an example. On its face, with the exception of your various opinion columns, if you’ve read a newes story somewhere you probably won’t find anything new or interesting reading the same story somewhere else. For the Canadians who trip and land on this thing by accident, the crack Ford story comes to mind as a perfect example. In case you’ve forgotten, either because you’ve been busy or what’s the point, the Toronto Star was the first actual news place (insert snarky comment about the Toronto Star and news not belonging in the same sentence here) to actually come up with the story of Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor. Everyone else, regardless of their opinion on the topic–or the man at the center of the topic–was basicly reporting on the Star’s having reported on the story. The differences, and they were minor, had to do with the particular tilt that additional reporting took–oh, they might have found one or two people who were willing to talk to them and not the Star (see previous snarky comment), but the meat of the story stays the same. The major differences came when you got to people’s reactions to the story.

Sometimes, largely depending on the story being written, the most interesting and often times informative part of the article I’m reading wasn’t actually the article, but the comments that went with. Sure, there were the usual trolls, but more often than not they were either ignored or backed into a corner courtesy people who have even less of a tolerance for BS than I do. Which again, made for interesting reading at the end of the day (I can already hear at least one person who much prefers books to current events snickering in the corner… and I know where said person lives).

For the sake of being honest, I’m about as lazy as they come. If there’s a way that I can accomplish a task while having one less window open, I’ll find that way. I also follow a lot of these news sites by way of RSS feeds–multiple websites, one interface, easy scrolling. Which makes it either really freaking easy or really freaking annoying to stay relatively on top of things. And if the sites I’m following do what a lot of sites are starting to do now and put the full content of their various articles into the RSS feed itself, that’s even better for a lazy geek who is lazy. Of course the down side to doing that, then, is you’ll need to give the lazy geek a reason to click over to the site and see what else you’re holding out on me for. Hence, comments.

All that having been said, there are still some news sites (I’m looking at you, CBC and CTV), who decide nah, let’s require people drop by to have a read of the same article they’ll probably find somewhere else because hey, we got it from the Associated Press. which meant that, sure I’d click, and I’d even read the article if I hadn’t seen it posted somewhere else first, but then I’d stick around to see if I was the only person who thought braindead politician of the week could use a gag until he finds his filter. And that’s how I’d spend an hour or two–more, if I was bored and otherwise behind because life can be cruel that way.

At some point recently, the CTV in particular decided to say nope to comments. I’m not sure if that also means they’ve scrubbed previous comments, but that would just about be standard operating procedure. The reasons are usually just as standard–trolling, people are using Twitter and Facebook more, etc–but usually boil down to the sites would rather not have to deal with people who disagree with the news story they posted, so here, go vent your everything on Twitter for people who haven’t even read the story to see.

Again, from a strictly content-related perspective it makes no nevermind one way or the other to me. Whatever they’re posting I’ll probably read in the National Post, or the Ottawa Citizen, or any number of places who actually want their content to be read and don’t much care how they do it. But every time I see an article about this or that site shutting down comments, especially when they immediately throw out the usual reasons listed above, my first thought is usually along the lines of why would you give people a reason *not* to read your particular version of that article?

Yes, comment spam is a problem. In just the short time since this site’s been with its new host there were over 100000 spam comments attempted. Yes, okay, trolling can be a problem–one of my most popular posts, now over three years old, has had its share of trolling. It’s what you do about it that matters–very often, ignoring and/or deleting it is enough, since the offending trolls probably won’t come back after they’ve vomited in your shoe. slamming the door shut and bolting it until the bad people go away just seems like a not entirely thought-through reaction based more in the mindset of people aren’t agreeing and we don’t want to interact with them.

This site has always had comments. They’ve rarely been used, but that doesn’t necessarily mean tomorrow I’m going to decide hey, that was fun, but see ya later. Why? Because sometimes, even the ranblings of an internet nobody who does this thing less and less often lately are worth an opinion–and people are full of them. Also, because probably against the advice of just about everyone on the internet, even if I don’t actually respond to a comment I read every single one–probably easy to do given I don’t exactly get that many. Because as much as I started this thing for me, if I wanted it to be for me and me alone I’d hardly have started it on a public-facing platform. Most of what gets posted here is probably useful to perhaps 1 other person. That one other person may drop a comment saying so. On the other hand, the extremely technical post that took me two hours to write–if we include testing, because I probably hadn’t done it before until just before I wrote the post–might catch the interest of a surprising number of people who don’t comment directly on the post, but who’ve read it, probably posted the link elsewhere, and therefore started a discussion–and probably brought more eyeballs to the post itself. Either way, I–and the people doing the discussing–win. I’m not going to close off one possible avenue of discussion because you decided instead of dropping a comment you took the link and circulated it to your mailing list, or posted it to Facebook, or whatever.

Do I think it’s awesome when people show up and call me out because I dared to question their favourite politician’s intelligence? Damn right. And if they do it in a way that doesn’t scream troll, or “please institutionalize me before I hurt myself”, they might even earn themselves a response that’s slightly more than mocking the nutters. Because that’s how things get done, even in 2016.

If you don’t want to be criticised, then don’t do something worth criticising. Or at least, if you’re going to, don’t do it in public. And if you write an article that people disagree with, show up and explain why you wrote the way you did–provide backing evidence if you need to. What you don’t do is stick your head in the sand until it blows over, then decide okay, that’ll be enough of that whole people having opinions thing. Because people are still going to have opinions. the difference is if they want you to see them, they’ll email you (I’ve done this). And if they want other people to know your facts are fiction, there are more than a few ways for them to do so–and most of those ways, to the surprise of no one, you’ll have even less control over (also to the surprise of no one, I’ve done this). Being part of the conversation is great, but you’re not part of the conversation if you kick the conversation off your lawn. And hey, maybe if the people behind the articles would spend more time reading and engaging with their audience, comment sections might not suck as bad as some of them do. There’s nothing wrong with reading the comments. I’ve done it for years, on this site and others, and for that I have no shame. The shame is reserved for the folks who instead decide to flip the off switch. They can do a whole lot better.

So this is what free time looks like…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In which I discover that sleep really is overrated.

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

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

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

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

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

sleep? who needs it?

Education: 1 James: 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

The road to hell is paved with helpful people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On putting the dis in ability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In which life happens and leaves me behind. again.

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

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

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

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

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.

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…

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…

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.

Putting priority back in priority seating.

I haven’t the slightest idea if this is a thing unique to Ottawa or what, but I’ve noticed no matter what the actual intent of priority seating was supposed to be, it almost always defaults to whoever someone else thinks needs it. A run I took a few days ago put this back in my head, where it sat because I’ve probably gone over it before. But it hasn’t managed to convince itself to go away yet, so here’s me.

An up front disclaimer: I’m not opposed to the idea of priority seating–I’ve taken advantage of it myself, whether it was entirely justified or not, because it’s a lot less time consuming than wandering around the back of the bus looking for a seat that already doesn’t have a butt in it. But that’s a fairly far cry from insisting I need/deserve/am otherwise entitled to it, which is not what this is about to be.

I’ve always believed priority seating on buses should be, without question, reserved for people who either can’t be standing on a bus while it’s moving or, for whatever reason–pregnancy, for example–probably shouldn’t be standing on a bus while it’s moving. Somehow, in the eyes of a lot of people, blindness ends up equating to one or both of those categories–exactly how that happens to this day still escapes me, but it happens. But I’ve had more than a few cases of people who probably have a valid reason for sitting there getting up and either moving, or clinging on to something to avoid them possibly losing their balance, just to let me have a seat. Which, usually results in a conversation not entirely unlike this.

“Really, you don’t need to get up–I’m only going a couple stops.” “Yes, but you need this more.” “I’ll be fine for a few blocks. The eyes don’t work. The legs do.” “But you shouldn’t be standing in here–you can’t see.”

And it goes through variations of that every time. Usually, unless I literally am only going like one or two stops, I end up taking the seat just to avoid a potential argument. Or, you know, possibly offending someone who thinks they’re being nice–occasionally, I do think things like that through. It just doesn’t happen all that often. But every time, I go back to wondering who comes up with the seating rules? Who actually has it decided somewhere that, say, a 50-year-old with a little trouble walking but not enough that they require something like a walker has to hand over his seat to me, just because I showed up? Perhaps more importantly, where’s a guy supposed to line up to secure his copy? Because clearly it will help in my quest to at least pretend to be something other than “that asshole next door who just refused my politically correct gesture of good will.”

I get, I suppose, why people lean more towards that–they see, not entirely incorrectly, that it’s largely reserved for the disabled. The problem comes in, though, when it gets down to your definition of disabled. It’s a given, for instance, that when someone shows up in a wheelchair, they’re getting a priority seat. Common sense, and all that. But beyond that, it gets a little blurred. A pregnant woman, for instance, may not necessarily be disabled. But should she still give up her seat to someone who just has, for whatever reason, general and overall balancing issues? And should that person give up his seat to someone who can’t see? I honestly can’t say I know the answer to any of that. But I do know on the list of people who ought be entitled to priority seating, I shouldn’t be a priority. Which is why, where it’s at all practical, I’ll keep having that conversation I summarized earlier. Because there are people who deserve and need those arrangements a lot more than an otherwise able-bodied geek. In the meantime, I’m serious about finding a copy of those rules. If I’m going to start trying to rewrite them, I may as well have a comparison.

How I ended up firing Windows XP.

So for anyone who happens to be paying attention, april 7th is XP dies a death day. Microsoft has decided after what’s probably shot past the 10 year mark to drop support for the OS. Which, escentially, means if you’re still running that version of Windows, you’ve just officially volunteered your machine to play host to all manner of new and interesting malware creations–you have probably also had your spamming ass slammed by my oversensitive firewall, but that’s another story. Because it’s me, and because I never turn down an excuse to see how far I can stretch things until they break, my finally tossing XP wasn’t entirely a conscious “this needs to happen” type decision.

I’ll freely admit I put off switching operating systems until almost the last minute. Largely it was lazyness–I have a crap ton and a half of stuff that needs moved from one OS to the next, and when the thought crossed my mind initially I was in the process of throwing together a multiple-part archive of pretty much all of it so the machine I was using at the time could be wiped for the upgrade. But other parts included things like I wasn’t entirely sure I wouldn’t be replacing the machine I was using a ways down the road, or I couldn’t 100% guarantee Windows 7, which is where I was planning to migrate to, would run on that machine–I figured it would, because the thing originally shipped with Vista, but Vista was also 7 years ago so that wasn’t exactly a very stable benchmark either. So I was alternating between holding out until I could find a new machine, and doing the occasional bit of digging to see if my machine would collapse under the OS or not.

Things kind of happened in fairly short order after that. Plans developed that saw May getting herself a new machine, so the Windows system she was using–which at the time ran Windows 8 (don’t get me started)–sort of stopped having any actual use. My machine had started showing its age, and there was a point that I actually wasn’t entirely sure it’d last long enough for me to do what needed doing with it to keep my various crap from falling into system failure oblivion. Fine time for me to start experimenting with new backup systems, right? So I played around with that (that’s another entry), and managed to get things to a point where if the system spontaneously caught fire it wouldn’t do anything more than torch my corner of the office. Which, okay, would have sucked royally, but my stuff was safe.

Okay. So that’s one headache down. Now I was comfortable enough that if the system decided to fry every circuit going, or if Microsoft decided to change their mind, pull support early and launch an update that escentially disabled every system in the place still running that OS, I wasn’t gonna be hurting too horribly bad. That made the next steps very nearly natural. Since May’s new machine was here and set up, May’s Windows machine became my Windows machine. Since I will never willingly use a Windows 8 machine for anything other than something new to put Windows 7 on, my next project became wipe the machine, and toss on an OS that doesn’t make me want to consider buying stock in migraine medication. I spent the next couple days manually rebuilding the machine, including hunting up wireless network drivers that I could have swore Windows 7 had built in when we bought that damn card. Then it was take a better part of the next week or so downloading and restoring the backup from the old machine, and my eventual turned emergency OS swap ended up happening with only the removal of a couple strands of hair.

And for the last couple months or so, well before Microsoft flipped the switch what turns all your XP into hacker heaven–yes, this apparently may or may not include most ATM’s, I fired XP and haven’t looked back. I may kick myself for it in 6 months when I go looking for something I knew I had on the old machine and poof, it forgets to exist, but you’ll have that. And in future, I do believe I’ll start the upgrade process well in advance of potential catastrophic implosions. On the other hand, that was kinda fun. Perhaps I’ll do it again…

In which Star Trek becomes a little less like science fiction. You saw it coming.

With the exception of the origional series–well, and the damage they started doing to the franchise with the last couple movies they turned out, you might say I’m a bit of a Star Trek fan. Well, okay, probably more than a bit–days like today would be mighty fine use cases for transporter technology, if we’re being completely honest. So I keep an eye on things that look like they might have been slightly inspired by the land of full-fledged civilizations dotting the final frontier. Which means my interest is a little bit increased when I read about a researcher that has developed the capability of 3D-printing a nearly completely plastic handgun, or the ones who’ve improved on that to put together, again using a 3D-printer, an honest to god pistol.

Okay, so maybe vaguely inspired projects that involve replicating new and interesting ways to kill each other isn’t the healthiest way to start off a Star trek inspired post. I mean hey, I’m screwed up, but not quite that screwed up–well, most of the time. So maybe let’s skip right to the “directly inspired from Star Trek” pile, then, yeah? For that, we skip across the border and land us in Canada, where a software engineering company has put together its very own attempt at a universal translator. At the moment, the goal is only to make the accents of those folks in call centers overseas seem just a little less like about half to three quarters of the problem in any customer service conversation since the dawn of customer service conversations. Having bin on the serving end of some of the conversations that have resulted from a few of those overseas accents, if I had the money handy right here right now, I’d be looking wicked hard at where to sign up. And hey, if it ever gets beyond the experimental stage, perhaps the folks behind it will be cellebrating by cracking open a bottle of an equally experimental and equally interesting present-day version of synthehol–complete with the ability for you to sober up quickly should you need to. You know, in the event your designated driver’s off in the corner drowning himself in the real thing, the fool, and you’ve just blown what should have been your cab money. Of course if this ever stops being experimental and goes mainstream, I wonder if designated drivers will still actually need to be a thing.

From the directly inspired by Star trek, we fly right on over to the directly pulled straight out of star Trek. And we land in North Carolina, where a city councillor there named David Waddell has submitted his resignation–in Klingon. “Today,” he says, “is a good day to resign.”. Not exactly a direct translation, but I mean what are you expecting from a 21st century non-Klingon? It beats the hell out of another politician deciding he wants to spend more time with his family, anyway. so, now, who’s gonna get cracking on this transporter thing? Anyone? I’ll wait…

Week made. And I had very little to do with it.

And sometimes, things just happen that make you take a step back and appreciate the fact that not everyone you pass is a walking advertisement for Toolsville. Take this past Tuesday morning. I’d left here to head off to class (that gets its own entry later), and was about 3/4 the way to the bus stop. A guy walks past me with his kid going the opposite direction, either back home or walking his kid to the school across the way–whichever. Kid sees me, sees the cane, and immediately makes with the 20 questions. It took a second for it to click that that’s what was going on, though, not because I was having a slow morning (I *did* remember to caffinate before poking my nose out the door), but because he wasn’t stopping to play 20 questions with me. Instead, he was playing 20 questions with the guy he was walking with (I’m assuming his dad, but I’ll be damned if I could be sure). The kicker, though? Dad wasn’t just answering for the sake of making the kid shut up–you know the type, you guess at the answer and kinda hope enough of it sticks that the kid buys at least part of it and moves on to the next distraction. No, this time, dad actually gave it an honest to goodness try. And the answers not only stuck, but what I caught of them didn’t border on giving me a migraine–I call that significant humanity achievement unlocked.

Kid seemed very interested in how it is I managed to get where I was going. So dad explained about the cane (he called it a stick, but I can forgive him that infraction), and he actually got the general idea of what it was supposed to be used for. But as they were leaving earshot, he took it a step further and went into an explanation of how we as blind folk use that in step with what we can hear around us to figure out where we are versus where we’re going. Naturally he didn’t nail all of it, but hell, for a guy who I’m going to assume has had very little if any dealing with blind/visually impaired folks, he didn’t do all that terrible a job with it–I’ve heard much worse attempts at it from people who’s job it was to actually handle blind/low vision folks. And from what I could tell, the kid seemed to be hanging on to what he was being fed. Which, okay, could have just as easily meant the guy could have fed him a line of absolute crap and he’d have taken it, but you know. However it is the rest of my week ends up, this just pretty much escentially stuck it in the awesome category. A few more people like dad over there, and the universe will have just made my month. And if it sticks in that kid’s head when he gets older, that will be a new brand of wicked. And that right there makes spending the next couple hours bored out of my head just a little bit more worth it. My week, made. And all I had to do was not much.

CTV gets a bright idea. Bet it won’t happen twice.

So remember all that rambling I did about the CBC and its inability to actually put together anything resembling good canadian content outside of HNIC? Yeah, about that. I wrote that entry, having completely forgotten about another brilliant idea CTV latched on to a bit ago. They’ve launched a show for weekday afternoons they’re calling The social. It’s supposed to be escentially another news talk show with cohosts, live audiences and all manner of interaction. This one’s huge selling point? They’re even interacting on Twitter. So now we’ve got a show that talks about current events and the like, not unlike any number of shows that already do such a thing, only this one wants to throw Twitter into the mix–presumedly they’ll be reading people’s tweets to them on the show, I’d imagine? And they’re airing the thing at a time when it’s very likely the only people who’ll be home to watch it are people who have much better things to do than to also be attached to Twitter–like, say, any number of things people do while they’ve got the TV on in the background. And because this is how we do it up in Canada, they’re calling this new show idea of theirs The Social. Folks, I rest my case. We totally suck at content. Although, I suppose it’s a little better than some other US idea we’ve copied and stuck Canada on the end, but you know. If it wasn’t for sports, I’m pretty sure we’d find ourselves up a creak…

If the CBC collapses and nobody notices, did it really happen?

I mentioned a bit ago that Rogers pretty much bought off the TV rights for anything NHL that happens to involve a Canadian team. They probably walked off with a whole lot more than that, but that was where I stopped reading. One of the main stories people keep coming back to is what this means, escentially, for the CBC after next year–when this agreement actually takes effect. Apparently, one of the casualties of this deal was that CBC pretty much loses any control over Hockey Night in Canada–but they still get to actually broadcast that show, at least for the next 4 years or so. So the question’s been asked, sometimes repeatedly. Without hockey, what’s next for the CBC? To which I have a counterquestion. What has the CBC offered in the last several years aside from hockey?

I’ll freely admit I never did get a whole lot out of CBC, either growing up or now. I mean let’s be honest–most of the content that network produces insofar as TV series goes is, well, less than quality. I can’t name an actual series CBC still runs aside from Little Mosque on the Prairy, and I was turned right off of that after about 3 episodes. I have several sources I go to for news, most of them online, some of them redirecting occasionally to the CBC–but none of them are actually the CBC itself. On the very rare occasion where I’ll listen to radio in the traditional sense (well, in as close to the traditional sense as I possibly can without actually owning and setting up a proper radio), I do it primarily for sports, secondarily for news while I’m grabbing something to eat. So the only actual time the CBC plays a role over here is if I happen to be in front of the TV on a Saturday wherein the Leafs just so happen to be playing–and that only if I decide I need a break from the computer for a couple hours. Even the CBC itself says they get the majority of their decent ratings, and as such their advertising dollars, from Hockey Night in Canada. Which to me is an indication there’s more than a few people who, like me, would have no reason to bother with the CBC without hockey.

With that out there, I’m wondering just slightly if maybe now’s a fine time for the CBC to be skaled back significantly, if we even still need it at all–and it should probably be asked, if the CBC was to go the way of the rotary phone in a few years without HNIC, who would actually miss it? I’m not saying it didn’t serve a purpose at one time. And maybe in some areas it still does–just not necessarily a major place like an Ottawa or a toronto. But do we need a publicly-funded, escentially government-supported TV network who’s best material outside of hockey doesn’t even come close to reaching the eyeballs of a majority of the people who pay for the service by virtue of not withholding their taxes?

For the most part, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves over here, we suck at content. And I mean totally suck at content. Rick Mercer notwithstanding, I don’t know of anything semi-decent that’s come out of Canada in the TV space in a halfway to longish time. And for that, the CBC gets a pretty nifty little chunk of our tax dollars–that’s, like, a third of that 3.1 billion dollars everyone’s so hung up on the government misplaced even though the folks what look into that kinda thing say it’s placed exactly where it should be. That’s a whole heaping helping of Mike Duffy’s illegal–or at least unethical–dipping into the pot to pay for a house he’s owned in Ottawa since before he was a senator for Prince Edward Island. That’s an aweful freaking lot of money just to keep Hockey Night in Canada on the air, as good as it… Well… Was. Since the CBC’s losing HNIC anyway, would very many people actually notice if the rest of it drifted off into the sunset? I’d be slightly inclined to think maybe not. And for the money we’d save, I can’t say that’s a bad thing. Which is probably why they don’t let me make that decision.

On Wikipedia as research method: why not?

The class I take–as in, the one I should be focusing on at the moment rather than doing exactly what I’m doing right now–is sandwitched in between two presumedly highschool level English classes. During one of those classes, I walked in on the tail end of a discussion between the instructor and a student on a research project she was working on. I don’t recall if I heard exactly what she was researching, but the student seemed to be having some issues with coming up with material for that project–particularly online material. Apparently, the only semi-solid resource she was able to track down online was Wikipedia. To which, I could pretty much tell the instructor was doing all manner of shaking her head. that was pretty much confirmed when she escentially advised the poor girl to back away from pretty much anything to do with online material so far as research goes, on account of just about anyone can edit and/or create the material and so there’s no actual honest to god verification of that material. She meant it specificly in Wikipedia’s case, but the impression I got is it could be just as valid for, say, a website/community blog that focused specificly on one specialized subject–like, say, some of the sites hanging out in the sidebar over there. And it kind of got me to thinking. Isn’t that the point?

The disadvantage to a Wikipedia, according to instructor lady, is just about anyone who thinks they know something about a subject can drop an edit on a page related to that subject and have it reflect as part of the “official” record on that subject. I didn’t jump into that conversation, but I was thinking–and apparently I’m not alone with that thought–that that’d be probably one of wikipedia’s strongest advantages, if you were the type to give a thing like that an advantage. I say that knowing for every mainstream subject with 40 or 50 people who actually know their stuff, there’s another 60 to 100 who love the opportunity to theorize, criticize and just generally let it be known they consider themselves experts in the same. Which was probably what the instructor was referring to. But here’s the thing, and this is what I find nifty about a Wikipedia-like environment. More often than not, the fringe folks who can’t actually back up what they’re tossing on an otherwise mainstream page will find they’ve been escentially outvoted and the completely whacked out edits don’t usually last long. Equally usually the actual, solid material is more often than not verified by linking to places where John Q. User can’t create an account for the specific purpose of scraping the record clean. So even if you wouldn’t quote directly from Wikipedia (who would, given the particular passage you quote might not be there tomorrow), you can usually use it as a springboard to move you to places who’s exerpts you borrow will probably still be there in 4 or 5 years, barring a situation wherein the whole damn site blows up.

There’s actually a not entirely objective reason why I’m in the pro-Wikipedia-as-research-method camp. It dates back to before the average person knew what the hell a Wikipedia was. As a research project of my very own when I was doing the highschool thing, I did a profile type deal on what hockey was like in the days of gordie Howe, and ended up overlapping it with a transition to the days when Gretzky pretty much owned the place. The internet was still new enough that the trend of slapping “cyber” on a word and adding it to the criminal code with tripple the sentence hadn’t quite started to become a trend yet, but old enough that places like encyclopedia Britanica were starting to see the light and putting up at least some of their info for online consumption. I actually sort of wish I’d kept a copy of that paper around just so I could remind myself exactly which online sources I scraped for it, but that was several computers and a couple floppy disks ago. But I do remember the traditional dance of hit the library, come back with an armload of textbooks, flip through them, curse and do it all over again was escentially supplemented with stops at magazines with online archives, NHL related stats and history websites, and other people’s biographies of the man in between trips. And every internet source had a URL, exactly like every textbook source had page/chapter numbers and all that jazze. As I recall, even though most people were still trying wicked hard to wrap their heads around this whole internet thing, no one flipped their stack on account of online means somehow less verifiable than an actual, physical copy of the exact same material.

And yet I sat pretty much where I’m sitting now and listened to that conversation wondering if, assuming I’d had her as my English teacher in those days, I’d have passed the class considering my own methods. Surprisingly fewer people actually live at the library these days for research type things, unless they’ve established they can’t pull what they need for material from, well, anywhere else. Why? The simple answer is it’s freaking 2013. there’s internet access pretty well freaking everywhere. And with projects like Google Books having been ruled not in violation of copyrights–suck it, authors’ guild–there’s increasing likelyhood the exact material you’d have gone to the library for a few years ago will relatively soon be searchable, if only in small sections–which would probably suit quoting for research purposes just fine to begin with. That, combined with something like a Wikipedia to potentially get you started with at the very least links to more solidly verifiable–and, apparently, research-appropriate–material, can’t do much but be a huge favour to someone with a nack for finding pieces and fitting them where they go to get across a convincing position. And the only thing I can actually think is where would the harm be in that? Instructor lady figures it’s all over the place. Part of me hopes she runs into this–I wouldn’t mind seeing her show her work.

On OC Transpo’s public disservice announcements.

I’ve mentioned the automated bus stop announcements they’re now using up here for OC Transpo. They were a long time coming, and it’s actually nice to see they work really quite well–so long as the system’s been appropriately kicked into gear, but I expect that these days. On recent trips, though, I’ve noticed they’ve become somewhat less effective in actually keeping up with announcing stops. I’d like to say it’s the fault of the technology–either the GPS is off, the software needs a tweak here and there, whichever. But actually the problem has more to do with administration than the platform being administered.

I’m not exactly sure when it started–I want to say somewhere just before the official (finally!) rollout of their Presto system, but they made a change to their automated system such that every so often now, the same guy what announces the next stop will come on with a tip, or safety instructions, or something. I’ve heard him talk of how you can lend your Presto card to someone in your fare class if you’re not planning on using it–though he doesn’t actually explain what a fare class is. I’ve heard him more than once advise people, in both official languages, that the seats at the front of the bus are for people who have difficulty standing (related: I still don’t quite see how that translates to a guy that has difficulty seeing), and so they should move to the back of the bus when someone requires one. And just this morning I heard him remind people to “Let’s help keep each other safe.”, and to report any suspicious activity to your operator (interestingly, in french he says driver instead, but I’m knitpicking). All well and good. Common sense things that people maybe aughta know, but common sense not being so common these days, good on OC Transpo for including them. Except when they get in the way.

This morning’s trip, which is actually what reminded me, cut it close to getting in the way. There are a couple of pretty near back to back stops on my route home from the college. One such stop is, conveniently, the stop right after I get on the bus. So if someone who maybe isn’t as familiar with the route happens to be on the bus and needing to get off at, say, Baseline station, it’d be somewhat important if that person actually have a bit of warning before pulling into–and, on the off chance no one needs to get on or off there (it’s happened), pulling right back out of–the station. Some of these announcements, I’m not sure if it’s the timing or the fact the guy making them likes to–or is required to by some municipal regulation or another–take the long way around to get to his point, but by the time he gets there the system’s needing to play catch-up. So you’ll have it doing its PSA dance, then shift gears right into announcing the next stop–if you’re lucky, before you go flying past your next stop. This doesn’t happen insanely often, thank whichever divine creature’s got a hold on that, but when it does happen, it can potentially be problematic. As I said, this morning was a fine example. I’d just gotten on the bus leaving campus. We’re about halfway between stops, and his “keep each other safe” PSA comes on. Now, I’ve done this route often enough that I can recognise where we are by more subtle things, like turns in the road and things like that. So if I needed to get off at Baseline station for one reason or another, I myself wouldn’t be completely screwed–this time. The PSA does what it does, and when it’s done, we’re about ready to make the turn into Baseline station. It announces Baseline station as we make that turn.

Fortunately, I both know the route and don’t actually need to take advantage of that, and to my knowledge this particular trip didn’t have anyone who didn’t know exactly where they were going and when–or anyone who didn’t have the ability to actually look out for the stop they need, so this wasn’t as much of a problem on this trip. But if I’m taking a route for my first time ever–let’s say I need to figure out where I’m going because I’ve got a job starting in 2 weeks and, well, it involves places I haven’t had any reason to go prior to now and so didn’t bother to just get up and go out of sheer boredom, this poses a bit of a hang-up. If I’m a blind shmuck with no idea where I’m going and still need to get there in a reasonably not quite late fashion, I need to be able to somewhat accurately judge where my required stops are. If I’m doing this thing on a daily or even monthly basis, that’s less of a problem–once I get used to it. But if I’m just figuring out the workings of this new place I can’t very well look out the window to spot, I actually pay attention to what the automated system’s trying to tell me–as opposed to doing it just so I can scan the thing for issues that could be problematic to me or some other poor sop that might actually need to use it on some regular route of mine. When a public service announcement shows up the way these do, even if it doesn’t happen necessarily all that often, it throws off the automated system–which in turn throws off the people using it. That results in missed stops, which results in mobility complications–trying to find your way back to where you should be, either by walking back and hoping you don’t blow right by it, or locating the bus stop going the opposite way and hoping you don’t get to wait an age and a half for a bus you later learn doesn’t actually stop where you need it to. And that results in awkward phone calls on your first day of work wherein you get to explain to a guy who’s probably never heard of automated stop announcements that your bus made you late. Yeah. Career boosting move right there.

I’m not sure if they can improve the timing of these announcements or even just shorten them by a bit. I honestly don’t know how much if at all doing either one would help. But as it stands right now, OC Transpo’s public service announcements, which on the surface I support, are turning into public disservice announcements at the moment. And in so doing, they’re actually hurting the effectiveness of what I think is otherwise an awesome–and yes, much overdue–system. They’re useful, and a halfway decent substitute for a lack of common sense, but sooner or later, somebody’s going to miss their stop because it wasn’t announced on account of one of these PSAs. I’m not sure I’ll want to be anywhere near OC Transpo management when somebody makes that an issue.

The government wants you to pick your TV channels. Here’s why it won’t happen.

So around the middle of last week or so, there was a big to-do around the speech from the throne–that’s the kickoff to the new legislative session, for those folks what read this who aren’t up on their Canadian politics. The government’s decided, what with it being 2 years before the next election and all, that now would be the absolute perfect time to go all consumers first on us. Taking aim at cell phone bills. At the trend of selling 75 tickets for a 60-seater airplane. At those fees you cough up for the privelege of being able to pull cash out of a bank machine on the rare occasion in freaking 2013 where you actually still need to pull cash out of a bank machine. But my absolute favourite part of the throne speech was aimed squarely at folks like Rogers, who I’ve gone back and forth and back again with a few times for pulling the stupid out of thin air. It’s my favourite not because I expect it to actually have a chance in hell of happening, but rather because there are too many wicked obvious reasons, just taking into account the TV viewing habbits in this house, why it’s got every chance in this world and the next of not happening.

Our Government believes Canadian families should be able to choose the combination of television channels they want. It will require channels to be unbundled, while protecting Canadian jobs.

Don’t get me wrong. It sounds awesome. And if it actually happens, I’d absofreakinglutely love to be proven wrong–I’ll take those words with a side of fries and a coke, please. But it’s not happening, or it’ll be a long freaking way off if it does. An explanation, in list format, based on viewing paterns here in the last year or so. Because lazy, efficient, and why freaking not?

  • The most regular watching that’d be happening now, if Rogers and I were on speaking terms not related to arguing over their various levels of broken, would be hockey. And very little of that, unless I wanted to watch the Senators ruin what’s left of their season.
  • I’m in Ottawa, so Leafs TV isn’t happening. If you’re local, go ahead and call your provider to ask–it won’t exist for you. Thank the Senators in particular and the NHL in general.
  • Even if a chunk of the games wouldn’t be broadcast on Leafs TV, living in Ottawa means I get the local feed of stations like, for instance, sportsnet Ontario. I’ve yet to find a workaround for that. So if Toronto and Ottawa are playing on the same night and broadcasting on the same channel, I get Ottawa. Which is awesome, except I’m not looking to *watch* Ottawa.
  • That leaves the CBC, and Hockey Night in Canada. Fortunately there are enough of those channels that at least one of them will be broadcasting the Leafs game even if Ottawa’s playing on the same night. Of course the CBC also has HNIC online for streaming or on-demand purposes, so I technically need not even be concerned with that necessarily. Not to mention several radio stations will stream the games–it’s how I can follow even the ones the NHL won’t let me watch on TV in the first place.

Second on the list would be baseball, unless the Jays actually manage to outsuck themselves next year.

  • Most of those games are on one or the other of TSN or Sportsnet, so if I absolutely had no other option but TV I could still watch pretty much all of those.
  • Again, they’re also carried on several dozen radio stations, one of them local, so if I had to there’s that option as well.
  • Plus, Gameday Audio. Which, let’s be honest–for the price you pay it would almost be worth cancelling cable for the summer anyway. I mean unless you’re a fan of reruns but I address those below.

Trailing behind both of those, but not by much, is the occasional tuning into CPAC–that’s Canada’s answer to CSPAN, for you US political folks. Because while it can be interesting to read about political events unfolding, depending on the event it may be more interesting to actually watch it live. I mean I didn’t tune in to listen to the whole damn throne speech, but I’ve had question period on in the background while I’ve done things around the house–it’s a thing to do. That’s also streamed online, so again if it were a thing I needed to watch for reasons, that would hardly be problematic by any means.

Game Show Network. That gets watched every now and again, mostly if May and I happen to be downstairs at the same time with little else to do. I haven’t yet found an alternative to requiring a TV for that, but I also wouldn’t lose sleep over it if I never had that channel on again. There are probably several less than legal ways to catch hold of at least most of those shows, but again, doesn’t really bother me enough to go wandering about looking.

All things wrestling, but mostly of the pay per view variety and primarily for May’s benefit rather than my own. Again, most if not all of those are probably available online if you’d rather not cough up the cash and don’t mind waiting a day or two for them to come available, but if you’d actually like to know what’s happening before John Q. Fanatic with a cable package and a pay per view order in decides to get on Twitter and advertise it, you’re ponying up the dollars. But you’d be doing that anyway whether or not you paid for 900 other channels of which you may only watch 2.

Local/national news. This one used to be huge back before things like RSS feeds and Twitter took right the hell off. Part of my routine was come home, fix me something to eat, flip on the news then flip over to hockey or baseball or whatever after. Now, I can’t recall the last time I actually had a news station on for specificly news related purposes. This includes both the TV and radio versions. I mean sure, I’ll flip on an all-news radio station once in a while. But nine times in ten I go back to the computer after on account of I’ll find more info online on whatever story I’m following. And the rest of the time that particular all-news station’s broadcasting the Jays game, so we’re good.

New episodes of current shows, and reruns of older ones. I honestly just about snickered writing this, but it’s still a thing. The only time I actually sit down to watch a CSI or Big Bang Theory or something like that on TV now is when I’m at my parents’. Because being realistic over here, they’re not all that technical enough to be going out and scraping the interwebs for the same damn thing. Besides–it makes for fairly good background noise while we sit down to supper and talk about taking the backroads to get out there by way of greyhound. But other than that, I’ve got an external HD full of TV crap and the ability to glom onto more if the need be.

Looking at that list, there’s actually nothing on it that’s really up in the “must have it” category. I mean sure, GSN would be nice occasionally, but unless Rogers and friends decided to start massively overcharging on a per-channel basis (ha), it would almost cost more in extra service fees and crap they’d no doubt tack onto the bill than it would for the actual channel. Assuming the price for pay per views don’t do some massive skyrocketting as a result, and assuming a per-channel rate of we’ll call it a generous–in my opinion, anyway–$10, the highest bill for cable services we’d see around here for our one channel and maybe a pay per view, before any additional service charges and the like, would run about $70 or $80. That’s on the outside. Assuming the cable/satelite providers stuck to the theoretical $10 per channel model, and assuming the average subscriber watches more actual TV than we do here, that can add up amazingly quickly–to the tune of roughly what we pay for the package we’ve got now, most of which neither May nor I have bothered actually watching, for maybe 6 or 7 channels. That before you factor in any of the pay per view goodness. And this assumes they decide to do the flat rate thing re: that per channel fee–a mighty fine assumption, given who I’m talking about. Suddenly things look a lot less like the consumers first picture the throne speech painted for us. Which is why I’m not holding my breath when it comes to actually seeing this become a thing. It’s a wicked nifty cool idea, in theory. The problem with theory, though, is it dies a death just as soon as it meats reality. Putting this kind of thing into practice will be a right royal hot mess. And in the meantime, I’ll be over here watching the Leafs online. But hey, thanks for trying, guys. I owe ya one.

Is this thing on? … And other asorted bits.

So I meant to do this thing more often and yada, yada, yada. Now I’ve got a nifty little empty where most of July’s random bits of I have no idea what should be and absolutely nothing to put there–except, well, more random bits of I have no idea what. Story of my life. And a play on a thing in a game I started not really playing–but that’s another entry, if I can ever remember to get to writing it.

I’m starting to get back into things I used to do somewhat regularly, including that whole school thing. Or rather, chasing people around with regards that whole school thing. It seems if one wants to take an online class in geekery from a school explicitly set up for teaching that material to the visually impaired, the door’s wide open. If you instead want to take that self-same course, regulated by the self-same company, but at a local college and still in a somewhat accessible format, step 1 is build your own door. It’s what a geek gets for wanting to actually be out of the house a while to get shit done, but you’ll have that. So I’ve got emails in with people, who’ve got their own emails in with people, who’re having a meeting or two with other people, who’ve got emails in with other people, and yada yada where’s my vodka. It’s kind of fun, if you don’t mind the occasional migraine. I’m used to it, so whichever. Just educate me already.

On top of that, I’m still tossing stones into the job market just to see what hits. So far, I’ve gotten a handful of automated “thanks for your application” emails, and… That appears to be about it. Well that was productive. I’d probably get a little farther if I had something to toss on a resume that was a little more recent than, say, 2008. Which I’m working on. Also: see above.

I’ve been back and forth to Pembroke a handful of times over the last while. And Pembroke’s come to me a few times, which is always nice. Still not even close to used to living in this house, and I’ve been here since the end of freaking January. The fact that I haven’t actually lived in a two-story house since I was in highschool might have a vague kind of something to do with it. And the fact it belongs to me–well, in about as much as a thing you pay rent on belongs to you–might be something else. I’m used to apartments. Namely, the ones in which you can throw a rock from the front door and, if aimed right, can hit your footboard. Which was every apartment I’ve ever actually paid rent on up until about last year, so this is a thing that needs adjusting to. On the bright side, it doesn’t toss me for a loop quite as much when I end up spending a couple days at mom’s. My only complaint with this place is it doesn’t come with AC. Of course the fact we’re not paying extra for heat easily cancels out that complaint, particularly in about mid-February when the very thought of going outside is enough to make you wrap the blankets around you and forget you had plans for the day. It’s a nice place, and I don’t see me leaving it any time soon, but good lord does it take getting used to. Apparently it also takes an age to properly furnish, but you’ll have that. It’s not like we’ve got a use just yet for the rooms with nothing in them anyway, so this works. Related: I have my entertainment room! Now just to add the entertainment.

Other things have happened that I could have probably mocked, but then promptly forgot I was going to. Let’s see. List format? Why, sure.

  • Remember all that talk from Toronto on how this was the year for the Bluejays, and they were heading for at the very least a .500 season, if not some postseason activity? Remember how they tossed all this money into a rebuild during the offseason, got a bunch of people with decent to good numbers, stuck them on the team and said “Go own the damn field”? Remember how in May people were saying it’s too early to write the team off yet? Yeah. Is it still too early?
  • Dear 16-year-old me. For reasons of integrity, dismiss any and all thoughts of entering politics. Better yet, add any and all thoughts of entering politics to your personal blacklist. And for crying in the sink get back to figuring out where the school network’s single point of failure actually was. Hint: you were close when you traced the connection to a router in the basement. Hey–it could be worth something someday. And by something, I mean probably more than $90000 from Harper’s chief of staff.
  • I now have positive confirmation. It’s not other people’s children I have a problem with. It’s other people. There’s an entry on that floating around amidst a tangled wire or two. I’ll go find it and get back to you.
  • The more I read, the more I’m convinced not actually moving to the US when I was being told things were much more stable/flexible than they are up here was probably the smartest decision I ever made. Well, okay, second smartest. The smartest has me right where I’m at now. The more that slides across my desk, the more convinced I am that the US constitution, by both major players, is just a thing they toss out to shush the masses. And they say our government’s whacked.
  • Related to the last, but still somewhat separate. The NSA’s still lying, still spying, and still lying about spying. And every word of this blog post has probably just been copied to that datacenter they’ve got going on in Utah. Hope yall enjoy the read, folks. Do drop by and say hello once in a while, yeah?

So that’s life and mockery if you’re me. Now. Where’d I put the essay I was working on for those college professorial types?