starting-blast landlocked

Category: oops

Rock bottom: charging $27 to install free software.

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

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

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

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

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

This is not the drug deal you are looking for.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, it was worth a shot.

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

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

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

hacked – idiots used default login/pass

u; admin
p; admin1

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

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

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

In which my former employer loses its mind. Again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right name, wrong number.

If you thought having a class full of Jennifers was hell when you were in school, try having a phone book full of, say, Marty Walshs. Now try having one of them end up elected as Boston’s most recent mayor. You see where this is going, right?

Folks as high up as the vice president were calling up mister Walsh to congratulate him on the election victory. Well, that is, they would have been, if they were dialing the right Marty Walsh. Instead, they congratulated a business executive with the exact same name for an election he didn’t even participate in–aside from, one hopes for the sake of his own safety, perhaps voting in said election.

The thing I can understand here is at least the guy the mayor was confused with lives–or, if not, works–in the city. Easy enough to do. So let’s fast forward to Olympic season. The US has taken to joining the digital world, so when the Olympics happened, this meant the folks they wanted playing for them were told by text message. Awesome. Unless your text message intended for, we’ll say, a Ryan Kesler ends up instead going to a 67-year-old from the wrong country who’s never played a game in his life. Apparently, Kesler had changed his number–and, I guess, forgot to fill out a form somewhere along the way, and the old one was reassigned in relatively short order.

So, you know, Canadian Grandpa gets himself an invite to Canada’s game on behalf of the US, and a CEO gets to run a city he didn’t even campaign for. The American dream at work. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go triple check my contact info–just in case, you know, I’m not the only James H hanging out in Ottawa. Or maybe I’ll just default most of my contacts to email…

Solving the province’s unemployment problem, one dumb criminal at a time.

The thing about people like Lloyd Charest is at least they have good intentions. Of course the down side about people like Lloyd Charest is they’re living, breathing, braindead proof that the road to hell is paved with said good intentions. Which may or may not have something to do with how he ended up in his current predicament.

Like far too many people ’round these parts, our buddy Lloyd has this employment problem. Specificly, he’s not employed–which, if you’ve got bills and whatnot that need paying, well, is a little bit of a problem. So he figured, okay, let’s show these folks what I can do.

Let me say up front I sympathize with the guy. No, really. I mean he and I are in sort of the same boat. Computer geeks with skills but no professional backing, on account of–well, no one’s hired us yet. So if I’m him and I’ve got skills, I figure okay, let’s show a company who could use my skills exactly why they need my skills. I’ll point out a website with an image file on it which is doubling as an encripted plan for a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant. Because, hey, that’s pretty freaking major stuff, right? Clearly they’ll slam me with all manner of praise, and commendations, and hey maybe even employment. That is, unless I’ve gone and faked the whole mess, at which point for the next 16 months I’ll have no reason to worry about my potential future employment situation on account of I’ll be in jail. Which is probably roughly about the point at which he and I would very likely start drifting away from each other. But hey, at least he’s done his part to nudge the province’s unemployment rate down just that little bit. Thanks for that, Lloyd.

I now pronounce you legally croked.

I can’t say as I’ve ever had to go cleaning up a government snafu of this variety, but two people in a short amount of time don’t get to be so lucky. In Calgary, Tamille Holloway showed up for a doctor’s appointment only to be told she wasn’t supposed to be breathing. No explanation on causes, theories, or exactly who’s ass would be in a sling for gumming up the works, but there it was. The flesh said she’s very much alive, the paperwork said not even.

Skip across the border and all the way to Ohio. Here, Donald Miller got a lesson in what happens when you decide to up and skip out on child support payments. And what happens, more or less, is the government–or your ex-wife–decides to up and have you declared dead. He was in court to try and untangle that hot mess, but as Murphy would have it, death declarations–at least in Ohio–have a statute of limitations and he’s apparently well past it.

Never let it be said that governments and exes can’t team up to put a right royal screwing to your life. We should probably aughta rewrite the expression. Hell hath no fury like a government with amnesia or an ex with a grudge. I just hope if it ever happens to me they’ll invite me to my own funeral. I mean, they’re not gonna get much out of me for benefits, so they may as well let me mourn alongside them.

Here’s your sign, the sequel.

Remember me? You know, the guy that says he’s done with this whole radio silence thing and then falls off the blogging cliff for half of forever? Yeah. Hi.

Remember her? If not, I’ll remind you. She thought it might be fun to take the sidewalk in order to bypass a school bus. The judge she ended up in front of, well, didn’t. And for her efforts, she was handed an idiot sign.

Fast forward a good while. That self same judge is still doing his thing over there in Cleveland. And along comes Richard Dameron to take his turn at it. This particularly pleasant fellow called 911 with threatening the cops in mind. So as a repayment, Judge Awesome ordered him to park himself outside a police station carrying his own idiot sign.

“Actually, I didn’t want to do it,” Dameron told Fox. “But the judge said to do it, so I am going to be the man and stand up.”

Dameron was convicted of threatening officers in 911 calls.

“I was being an idiot and it will never happen again,” says the sign.

I’m long past having any hope this’ll set an example for the next one–I think I sort of thought that about little miss sidewalk, too. But I’m willing to take bets on whether Lugnut over there picked anything up on it. Although, reading that someone’s managed to put together a collection of these might be moderately more entertaining…

The only Heartbleed left now is the NSA.

So pretty much everything exploded this week. If you were paying attention, you were probably warned not to go near things like your online banking site, or pretty damn near anything that advertises itself as having a secure connection. This is because of a pretty lethal bug in the software that provides that secure connection, in several cases, that pretty well rendered your secure connection worse than no security at all. There’s a pretty nice, if a little technical, explanation for it written up by the guys I’m paying for the use of this server, but the cliff notes version is the hole’s a few years old, and can provide someone who knows what they’re doing with access to pretty much any information stored in the memory of a server with the buggy software. So if someone knew how to take advantage of that security hole, they could potentially have access to usernames, passwords, creditcard numbers–basicly anything that happened to be in that server’s memory at the time.

There’s an updated version of that software in the wild now that plugs this security hole (note: not that anything on the server uses secure connections at the moment but I’m running that updated software now anyway), so as people get around to applying it that should be much less of a holy hell what in creation have I done kind of problem. Which is awesome, for guys like you and me. A little less awesome, though, for guys like the NSA.

The internet is still reeling from the discovery of the Heartbleed bug, and yesterday we wondered if the NSA knew about it and for how long. Today, Bloomberg is reporting that the agency did indeed know about Heartbleed for at least the past two years, and made regular use of it to obtain passwords and data.

While it’s not news that the NSA hunts down and utilizes vulnerabilities like this, the extreme nature of Heartbleed is going to draw more scrutiny to the practice than ever before. As others have noted, failing to reveal the bug so it could be fixed is contrary to at least part of the agency’s supposed mission:

Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda, Maryland-based cyber-security training organization.

“If you combine the two into one government agency, which mission wins?” asked Pescatore, who formerly worked in security for the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service. “Invariably when this has happened over time, the offensive mission wins.”

So when the smoke clears, the NSA will have at least a little bit less access to John Q. User’s data–at least until they end up mandating another hole in some other layer of security software. But until then, it looks like the fine folks at stalker central will end up being the only ones dealing with a case of heartbleed when it’s all done and dusted. Now if it was only that easy to switch off the exploits they helped introduce.

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…

Fifty shades of gone.

So I take an age and a half off blogging, again, and that’s the best thing I can come up with? See also: why I shouldn’t take an age and a half off blogging. But since I did, and then I came up with this, I might as well do something useful with it. How about highlighting why it is you shouldn’t take seriously everything you read? Because clearly, taking everything you read as seriously as people in London clearly do results in a call to the fire department because you wanted your very own Fifty Shades of Grey award. The fire department, however, strongly recommends that maybe you should just not.

“I don’t know whether it’s the Fifty Shades effect, but the number of incidents involving items like handcuffs seems to have gone up,” said Third Officer Dave Brown. “I’m sure most people will be Fifty Shades of red by the time our crews arrive to free them.”

Since 2010, London firefighters have treated almost 500 people with rings stuck on their fingers, nine with rings stuck on their penises, and one man with his penis stuck in a toaster.

Rescue crews also helped five people with hands stuck in shredders and 17 children with their hands trapped in toys.

And now we know where today’s education system has lead us. For future reference, when the general rule is “do not try this at home”, they’re probably not kidding. Then again, I suspect neither is the guy with the toaster wang–anymore. Any guesses how many shades of gone in the head you’d need to be to consider some of these an option? I’ll give you 50.

Bad idea: coming away with $20000000 worth of tax fraud success. Worse idea: advertising it.

If it wasn’t for people like Rashia Wilson, I would have a very boring Sunday. Or at least I’d have one less reason to be sitting here snickering. She was probably Tampa’s most successful tax cheat, draining enough money from the government that throwing a $30000 birthday party for her daughter, who wasn’t even old enough to really appreciate it I’m sure, was as trivial to her as running off to the store and buying a case of pop would be to anyone who actually made money the somewhat honest way. Or at least she was, until she stood atop Facebook and declared herself officially the queen of tax fraud. Her highness was granted a reception more than befitting her status, and 21 years of solid servitude. Funny thing, that. Seems no one told her it’d be her doing the serving. But I’m sure that was a minor oversight.

Ottawa loses its mind. Again.

One of the things I miss when I’m behind on things is local braindeadness. Particularly local braindeadness to the tune of let’s screw with traffic more than normal because speeders. So I missed it when Ottawa’s council decided it would be a mighty fine idea to experiment last summer.

People don’t like to slow down in residential areas. This is a problem not just in Ottawa by any means. But Ottawa has decided to take it to new, interesting and quite probably moronic levels. Rather than posting signs warning of the speed limit on residential streets on, you know, the side of the road where–really, who knew–signs of any variety belong, they’ve decided they’d be more beneficial if they were right smack in the middle.

Now, I haven’t seen any major headlines of massive pile-ups on some of these streets where that was going on, but I’ll let you just rifle through any number of the several million possible scenarios wherein this proves to be an absolute dog of an idea. The signs were supposedly spring-loaded, so they could right themselves should a driver end up running them down, which tells me they’ve at least entertained the idea of one of those scenarios already. And yet, this is still a thing.

They say if the experiment goes well, they’ll make a return to doing exactly that starting this spring and on more streets. I love this city, don’t get me wrong, but christ jesus could we maybe talk about something that takes a tiny bit more thought? Like, let’s say, an actual police presence on problem streets? You know that expression there’s never a cop around when you need one? For validation of this expression, consult this brainstorm. Although I suppose if an accident is born out of some driver not expecting a sign to be straight in his path, that’d be one way of solving that problem, at least. But I kind of figured our government would be slightly better at not just replacing that problem with a higher priority one. That’ll learn me.

Criminology 101: some DIY required.

I often wonder if some of the folks who end up doing the kind of things what land them in handcuffs actually have people they go to for, you know, learning’s sake. I mean things like how to get in, get the junk and get out without being stupid enough to get yourself caught. And then I get to wondering, if there were an actual, honest to god educational course on the subject, what would it look like?

If the name wasn’t taken already, I’d think they’d hand it something along the lines of criminology. Hell, some places still might–I mean it’s the study of criminal activity, right? So does it matter much if it’s to study how to counter the activity, or how to pull it off relatively seemlessly? Or maybe they’re kind of one and the same–if you’ve taken the course, you probably know what not to do, so presumedly you wouldn’t be stupid enough to actually do it. Presumedly.

Then I took it a step farther in my internal buildings of the unofficial law breaker’s handbook. If there was an actual course geared towards helping people to be better, less braindead criminals, what kinds of things would it teach? What kinds of things would you already need to possess to actually get into the course? Presumedly you’d need to be the do-it-yourself type, at least for the most part and on at a minimum a basic level. You know, know how to cover your ass at least until you’re away from the place you just robbed and you can slap a bandage on the cut you walked away with after breaking in. Things like that. Some common sense might also be a pretty basic requirement for a course like that–for instance, if injury is obtained during the performance of the following activities, proceed immediately to an authorized–non-law-abiding–medical facility. Do not call 911. Calling 911 will result in your immediate arrest and withdrawal from the program. On the other hand, I suppose the folks what might have developed that idea are probably finding it a little tough to nab some of that there government funding…

Honest officer, I’m not growing weed. Smoking it, however…?

I’m starting to think maybe Tim Marczenko would have had an easier time of it if he’d just admitted to going for a stroll through a Durham area forest to check up on how his pot plants were doing. Sure it might have landed him in maybe a little stretch of legal hot water, but it probably wouldn’t have made him come off quite so much as though he’d maybe been enjoying a little too much of the end result. Instead, he took a sort of different path. He played the searching for Bigfoot card.

A Toronto man claims he was harassed for walking through thick brush in Durham region by a police officer who accused him of being a pot grower.

Tim Marczenko denies the claim, saying he wasn’t growing dope, he was investigating sightings of Bigfoot.

“He asked me, ‘What are you doing out here?’ I told him I was investigating a Bigfoot report and he said, ‘Wow, you’re a terrible liar,’ ” said Mr. Marczenko. ” ‘I know it sounds crazy but I’m not lying about it,’ I said. He kept telling me I was lying about the situation.”

Funny thing, that Bigfoot line, Tim. Couple guys used that one before you. They’ve probably got court dates coming up here shortly if they haven’t had them already. It’s almost like you folks up and got your fix from the same place…

That’s what ya do with a drunken traveller… (*)

So. I get all ready to mock the hell out of another city’s politicians for doing something absolutely braindead stupid, and instead they go off and throw some common sense at me. I mean what’s with that, anyway? Aren’t they all supposed to have given that up as a prerequisit for, uh, being politicians? So what’s the occasion? As it turns out, cab companies in Woodstock get an aweful lot of, shall we say, less than sober passengers on weekends. Who knew? Could probably say the same thing for, say, Toronto. Or Ottawa. Or Kitchener. Or pretty much anywhere that has bars and taxi services. Some of these passengers don’t necessarily have the ability to keep all the booze they’ve slammed before calling their cab where it belongs. Or, for that matter, keep just about any other fluid that doesn’t belong in the back of a taxi cab from, you know, being in the back of a taxi cab. According to folks that are pushing for this, it costs about $120 to have a cab professionally cleaned after one of these alcoholicly fluid-filled episodes. The city’s solution? You break it, you buy it.

The City of Woodstock is looking into imposing a $120 charge on anyone who vomits or leaves other bodily fluids in taxis.

Taxi companies in the southwestern Ontario city have been complaining about an increase in intoxicated passengers on Friday and Saturday nights.

A taxi industry representative recently told council that vomit and other body fluids must be dealt with as a bio hazard and the affected cab must be taken off the road until it is professionally cleaned.

That costs about $120.

The city plans to consult with its solicitor, police and bylaw enforcement officials before coming up with a report on how to deal with the issue.

Of course I wouldn’t place any money on not hearing about this again because someone’s taken the idea to court, but hey, if more cities did this they’d probably not need to be charging the responsible folks so damn much for, you know, being the responsible folks. Yeah, I know–I really aughta stop with this whole thinking thing. But since that’s not gonna happen…

(*): for maximum effect, sing the title of this post to this song and enjoy. Then, see if maybe your city does something similar. And for the love of all things sane if the answer is no, ask them what the hell they’re not thinking.

H2O is wicked evil dangerous! Related: the US education system strikes again.

I know, old story is old. But on April Fool’s Day, the last thing you probably want to be known for is being a town full of fools. Which probably means the last thing you want to do is flip your everloving lid when a couple of morning show DJ’s make the announcement that dihydrogen monoxide has been reportedly leaking from area taps and residents should use caution. And yet, in fort Myers this past April, the locals up and did exactly that, with the station they were on immediately and indefinitely suspending the DJ’s in question for broadcasting that water has been detected in the city’s water supply. And there was at one point discussion of possible felony charges for calling in a false water quality issue–further cementing that the administration in the fort Myers area is officially no more qualified to run the city than any of the folks happening to have called the thing in. Folks, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Yes, even people who’ve been put through the US education system. And then some fool or fools go off and pull one of these and all that doubt just kind of takes off in that there other direction. I mean I get these two got all technical fancy on you. And sure, okay, they maybe aughta not do that, or maybe be a little more gentle about it–you’re new to all this, I can see. But isn’t that why folks like the guys at Google invented things like, you know, Google? When in doubt, look it up. Or better yet, take 5 seconds and glance at the calendar already. And for the sake of all things sane, don’t dare let any of that dihydrogen monoxide get anywhere near you–it may very well impair what’s left of your otherwise amazingly good judgement, and well, we just can’t have that. You’ve already been doing so well.

It runs in the family.

Things you probably wouldn’t want to be admitting you come by honestly from the parental units may or may not include some of the obvious things. Like, for instance, your inability to bring in a steady income that didn’t come in on a wellfare check. Or an impressive inability to keep your mouth shut when the best possible thing you could do to save yourself, your friends and what little reputation you might possibly have left is to keep your mouth shut. That list may also include a tendancy to put yourself behind the wheel of a vehicle after having had a few too many. If you’re a 27-year-old from Innisfil who’s just been brought up on DUI, you’re probably not thinking you should probably give your mom–who would likely also be brought up on a DUI charge if she were on the road–a call to come bail your ass outa the clink for that very reason. You are therefore not, in fact, this guy. And I have that much more respect for you on basic prinsiple for it.

Police say it started when an officer pulled over a speeding vehicle in Innisfil, Ont., just before 1 a.m. Sunday.

Investigators say the driver, a 27-year-old Newmarket, Ont., man, failed a roadside screening test and was taken to a police station north of Toronto, where he was charged with impaired driving.

Police say when his 53-year-old mother came to retrieve him a few hours later, the same officer smelled alcohol and made her take a breathalyzer test.

They say she failed the test and has been charged with impaired driving.

I don’t imagine the “what were you thinking” conversation comes off altogether that authoritatively from the cell across the hall, mommy dearest. But, A for effort? My money’s on next time he’s on his own. In the meantime, at least he can say he got this one honest.

In Terrorland, quoting Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a problem.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten around to mocking the US’s nervous twitch when it comes to anything that has the slightest potential to come within a solar system of terrorism. Thank you so very much, Techdirt, for saving me from withdrawal and giving me this.

First, from the increasingly stupid United States of America, a story of how a teen’s life got flip-turned upside down. You see, he was just on the playground where he spent most of his days, minding his own business. You know, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and sometimes with this friends he liked to be shooting some b-ball outside of the school.

WAIT. DID HE JUST SAY SHOOT AND SCHOOL IN THE SAME SENTENCE? ARREST HIM! Once you’re done laughing, know that that’s exactly what happened to 19-year old Travis Clawson because a doctor’s office called his voicemail to confirm an appointment, heard the above line, thought he was shooting people outside the school and called cops. Who arrested him first, then spent the 20 seconds it takes to realize it’s the theme song from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. No word on whether Carlton showed up to dance and everyone laughed at him.

Once you’ve had time to properly reorient your brain, I’ll let you consider this for a minute. Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, the receptionist what made the phone call was… how can I put it… TV stupid. Let’s also assume, being that she’s TV stupid, she’s not once even by accident overheard that damn theme song. Can probably also assume she’s got a bit of a hearing issue, but I’ll let you decide to make that leap all by your lonesome. The Techdirt article takes the position that this could have probably been resolved by about a minute and a half of questioning. I’m going to take things slightly further–say, saving the cops the driving time. Receptionist has this guy’s phone number. gave the info to the cops, obviously. So, uh, rather than lock down an entire school district to find one innocent 19-year-old who *isn’t* TV stupid, why not just call the kid’s cell? You know, actually hear–and maybe record–the voicemail greeting for yourself. Then you, without having to leave the comfort of your own office, can decide he’s quoting TV theme song lyrics and that’ll just be that right quick. Of course this is probably also why I wouldn’t cut it in law enforcement, the blind guy thing notwithstanding.

Also: 3 hours to search a locker? Tell me it required congressional approval and to take the kid to a secure facility so he can hand out the combination code. Please?

Student descression is advised.

Being an academic is a drag. I can see that. I mean I’m just getting back into the whole thing from a student’s perspective and it’s threatening to give me a headache. I can only imagine the level of frustration your average professor must be dealing with. Physical stress, emotional, hell probably even sexual frustration–all that time spent on research instead of taking the politician’s way out and nailing your secretary after hours and praying to god she didn’t stick a camera in the corner. See? I get that. So naturally you might be looking for a little bit of a… how do we say it… sexual release. Naturally, being the only one in the classroom and, well, a long way from home–this one was from Belgium and visiting a Dutch university, you’d resort to the source most commonly tapped by people with lots of time on their hands and access to the internet–you’d go for the porn. Just, in future, you might want to possibly consider disconnecting your porn machine from the projector you were using for your lecture. I mean, it’s just a suggestion. but I figure if you’d rather the folks watching the lecture online didn’t actually stick around for the encore, that might have been the smartish thing to do. At least, it would have resulted in far fewer people getting themselves a free copy of that encore via one quick spectator taking and publishing a screenshot or two. But hey, at least you can say you’ve already got a new job lined up if this thing ends up costing you in Belgium. Or perhaps the employee of the porn site he was presenting who reached out to him was just suggesting an alternative means of releasing some of that frustration…

It’s time for another bad idea, worse idea.

Bad idea: getting cute with the judge for only setting your bond at $5000 when the reason you’re in court in the first place is for possessing xanax bars–related: xanax bars are a thing? Dear lord. Judges don’t usually much like the snark, unless they’re the ones wielding it or they really, really like the idea of your side of the story–hint: that’s not you, Penelope Soto, or you wouldn’t actually be tied to a $5000 bond. Judges actually tend to figure you’ve decided that’s relatively painless. This one decided since she isn’t too concerned over $5000, it’s now going to be $10000. Oops.

Worse idea: stepping it up a knotch or two and flipping off your judge on your way out.

Rodriguez-Chomat called her back and upped the bond to $10,000. Soto, looking a bit stunned, asked him if he was serious (“I’m serious, adios”) and she walked off, again, giving him the middle finger offering a her profane farewell.

He called her back to the bench. “Did you tell me to f— off? Did you say that?”

“Yes sir.”

She got 30 days for her efforts and melted after a week. One appology later, she’s back to being free on bail and hopefully a little less like those kids you see in shopping malls that make you kind of wish a parent had spent just a little more time parenting and maybe a little less on Facebook. but, you know, just in case I’m wrong…

the court case that put her in jail apparently has video. It’s apparently not all that great quality, but if you’d like to find yourself amused, it’s embedded below. RSS/email reading folks will have to flip over to the site if you want to watch–blame the technology. Also: is it bad that I watched this video and my first thought is “Hey, I know someone just like her…”?

Death of a 5-year weekend. Or, an epic crash course in college mobility.

I haven’t had a job or anything like it since the recession sent mine overseas. That was in 2008. Since then, I’ve been telling folks I’ve been on one continuous long weekend. Oh, sure, I’ve had the occasional interview that may or may not have resulted in a “don’t call us, we’ll call you”, but then it usually kind of just sat there looking pretty and that was pretty much that. There were education related things tossed in there as well, but they usually fell apart for one reason or another–I’m staring directly at places like Everest College. So since 2008, it’s been weekend.

Effective as of this past Monday, that weekend officially died a death. And my brain went right along with it–did I mention I despise math with the passion of a thousand suns? But the death of a 5-year-weekend was only part of the fun that was getting things started. The rest of it came about when I went to untangle exactly where it was I was supposed to be showing up to kill this 5-year-weekend. As it turns out, you’re not officially a blind college student until you’ve obtained, in your first couple hours on campus, an intense familiarity with the layout of the said campus.

Some background, for background’s sake. Algonquin College is awesome, for the most part–aside from their still unexplained requirement for a math. They’re also, at times, awesomely confusing. So much so that even the fully sighted have been known to admit defeat and occasionally just follow the crowd in the hopes the wall of people in front of them is going roughly in the right general direction for them to just kind of let go and be dropped in front of their classroom. So when I got a phone call last Friday what said I’d be tromping pretty much across campus from where I thought I’d be to actually get to class, I was prepared to do some early morning mapping. My class was at 10, which meant if I could get away with it, I was going to be on campus and trying to see how lost I could get by 9. so I show up at 8:30 to finalise things–apparently, spreading paperwork out so you’re finishing it the day you start classes is not actually unique to an official college program. And I’m told when I get there that no, the person who told me I’d be campus hopping was wrong and that I’d be going this other direction and finding this other room instead. Well. Okay, then. I mean annoying, but at least this other room’s in the same building–so no trompings to places in which one could become mildly confused just trying to aquire the general vicinity, nevermind the specific classroom. Awesome. So I’ll have some free time, says I, to go grab coffee and maybe see if other people are in so May and I can pick brains before I go to class and she does what she does. So I go and I find what I’m told is the new classroom. Not difficult to get to, thank christ. And away I go to get other things done so when the class is over the only thing I need to accomplish is get my ass the hell home and give my brain a rest.

So that gets done, we go about the business of finding and picking at other people to make sure things are in place so 1: I can take this course without falling on my face and 2: May can start her course later on without it blowing up in her face. We manage to mostly do that, then figure it about time for me to show up at class. Give me a few minutes before the start of class to actually have a hi how are ya with the instructor and figure out how we can make this thing happen in a way that ends up being doable for me and not migraine inducing for her. For the record, my instructor is a box of awesome, but more on that in probably a less novel-like post. So it’s back over to that section of the campus so I can get set up, start actually getting my work and yada yada blah. And doesn’t the person I spoke to when I got there catch me. “James,” she starts, “I’m so terribly sorry. It looks like you’ll be going over to this other room after all. Oh but don’t worry, you just go down this hall, make a left, then a right, then straight, and a left, and you’re there.” If I had more than 20 minutes to actually find the new class, I’d have very likely used some of it to throttle the right royal hell out of her. But I didn’t, so I didn’t. I did turn around and bail it the hell out of there before it got too tempting–and also because I only had 20 minutes in which to find a less brainmelting way to find my class and do any interesting little workarounds that need doing to make it happen.

So. I planned an hour for tromping across campus in the event I got my ass lost. I ended up with 20 minutes for trompings and no getting my ass lost room. And I still had little to no actual idea where I was going. Awesome. Okay, time to cheat a little. May knew most of the building the new class was in, just not the specific area my class would be. So, fine. So between the two of us, we got at least to the general vicinity. Then it was ping a random and have it point us in the general direction of the specific room. Fun times all around. And it somehow happened with about a minute to spare. Don’t ask–I have no idea. But before I even started class, my brain was twitching like a crack addict on a cold streak. Not bad for a Monday. Now, let’s have at the rest of this thing. Just, er, hold the general failure, deal? Well, I can dream.

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