starting-blast landlocked

Category: rantings

Rogers: We’ll take your money, whether you owe us or not.

I’m not a fan of rogers. Well, okay, scratch that. I’m not a fan of companies who put the screws to you over minor technicalities and expect you to take it with a smile. So, yeah, basicly Rogers. I take their cable services, because the alternatives may or may not actually work here and trying to find sports without a cable subscription is several layers of unfun–unless it’s hockey, but you know. And every once in a while, the company gives me a reason or two to significantly reconsider even giving them that much money. today, they give me 3.

Rogers doesn’t play around when you owe them money. Or when they think you owe them money. Not even when you’ve told them several dozen times you’re not the guy what owes them money. whether you owe them or not, you owe them. Proof? Why, they’ve got all the proof they need right here–and it’s currently sitting on your credit rating if you’re looking for it. Don’t you try playing the “I’ve never had service with you bastards in my life” card. We know you.

Former customers don’t get away unscathed either. Cancelled in Rogersees apparently doesn’t actually mean what you think it means. to you or I, cancelled means stop freaking billing me I no longer want your service. To Rogers, cancelled means sure, go on ahead and run up a bill for me to the tune of $1200 for a service I don’t want to use. It doesn’t look as though they’ve got any problem understanding the phrase PR nightmare, though. Somebody up there found themselves a dictionary when the bill hit the media. the bill stopped existing. At least until the next one.

And because it’s not a Rogers entry without a mention of exactly why I will never, as in ever, be a Rogers internet subscriber whether I go back to cable or not, I bring you phase 3: giving it to your current customers none too gently. Rogers may, or may not–depending on who you ask, the phase of the moon, the time of day, etc–actually be counting internal data transfers against your bandwidth. Not necessarily transfers that occur solely on the rogers network, like if you’re taking advantage of one of their own video streaming services (they’re doing that already), but rather, actual data you’re sending back and forth along the network in your own home. Streaming a movie from your desktop so you can watch it on your TV? Probably counted. Which also means you don’t save yourself any money doing all your backing up on the local network rather than a remote service. Which, in turn, also means Rogers may or may not be getting to bill your face off for a thing they didn’t have any part in actually letting you do, aside from maybe possibly providing you the router you’re using to do it.

On the other hand, I think I may or may not have talked myself into reinvestigating one of the alternatives. But if not, Rogers still won’t be getting any more of my business than I can get away with without causing other issues. But if a smaller provider wants to step into the cable space, I can write you a handbook on how not to make an impression on your customers…

For the hundredth time, enough of toronto’s walking circus already.

So for those of you living under a rock, toronto has its very own walking circus. That self same walking circus has decided it’s not done dragging the city down the pipes from a PR perspective, so it’s off to the races in its second shot at being mayor. And yet, the media doesn’t even really wanna talk about its second shot at being mayor. So instead, we get treated to things like its attendance at a Leafs game. Or when it decides to show up at a football game wearing the team’s jersey. Or when it gets told it’s not allowed into a lounge area–presumedly where there happens to be alcohol service–at the aforementioned Leafs game.

Granted I don’t live in toronto, so wouldn’t have a dog in this fight regardless. But let’s draw some comparisons here, if we can. Quebec’s got themselves an election tomorrow. Ontario may or may not have itself an election between now and 2015. Canada’s got a federal election coming up in 2015, whether the government likes it or not. What we’re hearing from all of those corners, with maybe the exception of the federal one (more on that in another entry later), is the beginnings of actual election platforms–and, in Quebec, the plank by plank dismantling of the same. But in Toronto, the majority of the attention is focused on the circus–and not even because the circus is dangling a platform in front of our noses. Hell, even in situations where there’s a potential person to carry on the supposed politics started by the circus without the, you know, circus, we’re hearing less of a platform and more of a “This is what you *shouldn’t* be doing if you’re Toronto’s mayor.”. Which just about anyone with an ounce of common sense already knows, which is why this post refers to him as the circus and not, instead, as toronto’s current mayor.

Okay, we get it. It’s a walking, talking, political bombshell. Some might even go so far as to say a public relations disaster if not a financial one. So why is the media (note: by the media, I don’t just mean the toronto Star–although they should probably be entitled to their own special place among the media by now) still eating all of this up? If the circus is at a hockey game, the media should be following someone like, let’s say, Olivia Chow around instead–and maybe somehow managing to coax something that vaguely resembles how she intends to pay for yet another local transit brainstorm. Or see if John Tory can give something for the opinion pages aside from his code of conduct. Like, you know, an election platform. I’d even settle, grudgingly, for more about Sarah Thomson, if I must. Just please, for the love of anything and everything sane, enough about the circus already. The reruns are killing me.

Taking weight loss to entirely legal levels.

I’ll admit to having had a temporary fascination with shows like Biggest Loser. It used to be a thing I did on a weekly basis–have the local relatives over, we’d do the supper thing, and because I was the one with the cable, there’d be Biggest Loser on in the background. Largely because it was an occasional source for a meal or two the next time we met up, but admittedly also because evening TV otherwise sucked around that time. No one actually expects the folks who do these types of shows to cling tightly to whatever weight they’ve lost after they leave, mostly because hey, life happens–you’ve got work, or school, you’ve got kids, you’ve got obligations or whatever, and can’t actually put in the time they do for these shows on strictly working out and the like. That was a thought I had, anyway. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the folks what run shows like this for quickly disabusing me of that notion.

Apparently, they have it in the contracts you sign with them that you’re not actually allowed to gain pretty much any of the weight back that you’ve lost while on the show, whether you can actually help that or not. Well, okay, you can, but if you do, you’re officially in breach of your contract. Yes, even if you put in 40 hours then spend another 40 chasing around a bunch of kids during an average week. And, if you’re Tara Costa, who apparently actually won one of these here competitions, that lines you up for a pretty heavy lawsuit on exactly those grounds. Because, you know, having gained at least some of the weight back you thought you’d nailed down before isn’t annoying/frustrating/headaching enough.

Look. I get the cover your ass mentality these companies need to come off with. I mean they’ve provided you with suggestions, tips, the occasional kick in the ass, whatever so that you’ll lose the weight. So naturally they have a vested interest in making sure the weight stays lost. But, and I’m not saying this applies to her specificly–the article I linked to doesn’t exactly go out of its way to get her take on it, if most people go through the trouble to lose it just to have some of it come back, my guess is they’re already giving themselves a kick in their own ass. Kicking them in the wallet for breaking their agreement with you isn’t exactly going to motivate them to straighten up and fly right, now. And my guess is there’s probably a few folks who’s minds just changed on signing up for a thing like this. Stick with training programs at the gym if you must. At least they won’t sue you for backsliding. And hey, you can actually figure out how to pull off the same damn thing while dealing with life. Most folks wouldn’t need a contract for that.

Screwing up our kids, one school policy at a time.

Maybe this is what happens to folks like me who tend to keep somewhat of a hold on some of our parents’ opinions while very slowly developing more of our own. I mean that’s possible, right? So when my parents taught me things like I don’t have to put up with it when some other moron’s being a jackass, and I passed that on to people I’ve had a hand in helping out here and there, that’s normal, you’d think. Well, I’d think, anyway. But then along comes the apparent trend in schools to take being a kid–and not just being a kid who’s parents had the good sense to give a backbone to–away from the kids, and suddenly some of my opinions on the outside looking in seem a lot farther from the politically correct standard than they maybe should be. Well. There just went my parent of the year award, if I can ever get to qualifying.

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, it was perfectly normal to spend recess, or even 5 minutes before the teacher came into the room, playing stupid little war games with nothing more than my imagination and whatever vaguely useful objects happened to be in reach–well, when we weren’t chasing each other around the playground, tackling each other, throwing snowballs at each other and just generally doing what, you know, kids’ll do. I mean if you’re 6 years old and bored enough, a cardboard box can just as easily become an airplane as it can a fort, so it could happen that a couple kids decide to have themselves a shootout with nothing more than pencils for guns, and imagination for ammunition. People thought next to nothing about it 20 years ago. And why would they? No one ended up hurt, and when it was actually time to get down to the business of being bored to death for the day, things–eventually–calmed down and the teacher had the class’s mostly full attention. Today, pencilguns are every bit as illegal as their much more dangerous, much more real counterparts, and a kid with a pencil and an imagination is a kid with a suspension from school for such extremely imaginary violence. Because kids today don’t think in terms of cowboys and indians, or cops and robbers, you see.

That, in itself, would be news to me. But trends don’t get to be called trends for staying still and not gradually moving from the stupid to the braindead. So let’s take the imaginary shootout situation, and stick it in a back corner of your mind for 10 seconds. A kid shows up to school with a very much not imaginary knife. He takes to bullying another kid, ends up pulling the knife on him. There’s a third kid, we’ll call him Briar MacLean, with a front row seat to the happening. Now, Briar’s one of these kids who’s parents had the good sense to give a backbone–remember I mentioned that earlier? So rather than do the stupid thing and ignore what’s going on and go about his business, or the expected thing and run away to tap the teacher on the shoulder who was on the other side of the room doing something that was not, in fact, breaking up a situation and beating the crap out of a kid dumb enough to bring a knife to school in the first place, Briar steps in and gets between the two. And for his troubles, he gets himself a nice little slap on the wrist and a don’t do it again. Not, I’m assuming, that he’ll actually listen to the warning considering it wasn’t his first, but that they’ll try, repeatedly, to train kids out of doing things like that should probably be seen as slightly more of a problem than the folks making the decisions seem to want to pay attention to. Telling a kid that putting your foot down is highly inappropriate and that they should instead be running and hiding behind someone else, who’ll be more than happy to put their foot down on that kid’s behalf, ends up creating adults who would much rather tattle to someone else and have them speak up rather than handle a situation on their own. Which, in turn, comes with a whole host of its own issues that the folks behind these zero-tolerence policies don’t seem to have been made very much aware of. And yet, they’re still popular.

Also popular, but not nearly as much yet–they’re trying, I’m sure–is the zero-tolerence policy from the other direction. take, for instance, a school who’s kindergarten class is not allowed any physical contact of any shape or form, at all. Holding hands? Not allowed. Playing tag? Nope. But at least no one’s being threatened with suspension for breaking the policy. that, as it turns out, is left to other schools–who have no problem picking the ball up and carrying it along. Which, as you’d expect, results in a 6-year-old being suspended for kissing a girl on the hand, or a highschool kid being tossed for giving his teacher a hug. All things that come extremely naturally to *most* kids, if they haven’t been given a very good reason not to look for such things before they’ve gotten to school–see also: every kid who’s ever had physical contact used against them. And the school’s saying not unless you want a kick in the ass.

So now, you’ve got kids not allowed to use their imaginations, or stand up for themselves–or anyone, really–or generally do things that any normal human being, be they a kid or otherwise, would do and expect the people they’re around to do. And folks wonder why kids, teens, young adults and the like grow up with some of the issues they do? It’s human nature to touch, and be touched. And I’m not even talking sexually–a pat on the shoulder, a hug, whatever. That’s normal, I always figured. And now you’ve got people in positions of authority telling your kids, if you touch this person, even playing, or even in comfort, you potentially get to sit out the school year–or, at least, a couple days of it. And you have it stuck on your record, as hand-kisser did, that you’ve been called out for sexual harassment. So now, the kid who’s done the deed has it in his mind that it’s inappropriate, even if the other kid is perfectly fine with it. And you’ve got it in the other kid’s mind that it’s not appropriate to want such things to begin with.

And when these kids hit their teens, and start doing all the things teens do that everyone knows teens do and no one knows how to stop, these same people get concerned when little missy so and so decides screw you, he looks cute and I’m damn well gonna sleep with him. Or you’ve got someone putting a hand on someone else’s shoulder, like you do for support and all that, and the touchee turns around and screams sexual harassment (could happen). And this is somehow the fault of either the person doing the touching for expecting things to be just fine, or the person being touched, for flipping out–when in all likelyhood he/she has been taught to do exactly that.

Kids grow up with anxiety issues, social disorders, whatever. They grow up desensitised to things that any normal person would consider, well, normal. Natural, even. And they take it to either one extreme–it’s only sex, it’s not like I want a relationship with him/her–or the other–don’t touch me, don’t hug me, don’t come near me, don’t put yourself anywhere near my personal space–and the natural instinct for these people is to shame the first extreme or slap around the person who unintentionally happened to offend a person sitting on that second extreme. It’s not, say, to maybe take a look at where these ideas would come from, or how a kid could come to the realization that any amount of physical contact, be it intentional or otherwise, is somehow supposed to be offensive to the sensibilities. Instead, people create policies that enforce ideas like that, and then are shocked–shocked, I tell you–to learn that the kids who were most likely to run into that rule are probably now the adults most likely to develop at least a small handful of issues in at least a small handful of the areas those rules hit on. The idea of someone you’ve known for years hugging you is uncomfortable? Probably goes back to something you were trained out of as a child–unless that person happens to be a grade A creeper, but then you probably wouldn’t have known them for years. You have absolutely no idea what to do with a physical, slightly intimate but nowhere near sexual connection? Probably because you’ve had your hand slapped growing up for even daring to entertain such horrid thoughts.

Physical contact is normal. Perfectly so. Hell, they didn’t pull the thing about Italians giving even friends they haven’t seen in a while a kiss on both cheaks out of thin air, you know. People cuddle together for warmth and survival in emergencies, sure, but also because, hell, it’s more comforting than just wrapping yourself up in a blanket to stay warm if you just so happen to have the option. It’s human nature. And when there are no rules, when there are no expectations that people know how to turn that off, where there’s no one playing monitor to make sure all of that stays as far away from the situation as possible, those behaviours are going to show up. It makes no difference who disapproves, or how many school policies come to play and try to shut that off. All those policies do is screw up our kids. And when our kids grow up to be equally screwed up adults who wouldn’t know what to do with a significant connection to another person if you handed them an instruction manual, policies like that–in schools, in workplaces, in society in general–will more than likely be the reason. Not, as it turns out, that it will prevent people who figure they know better from pushing for more and thus proving my point.

We all screw up our kids in our own, unique ways. This is true. But I’ve yet to hear a parent giving their kid hell for hugging his/her sister, or friend, or cousin, whichever until they’ve stopped being upset. I’m actually surprised I’ve not seen anything yet about a school suspending a kid for doing the same–again, with their sister, or a friend, or whoever. But the way things are heading now, I wouldn’t expect it to take all that long for something like it to show up. And that, more than just about anything a parent can legally do, will screw the kids up but good. And all of that, in the name of political correctness. Score one for the good guys. the rest of us, however, will be over here picking up the pieces if you need us.

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?

An open letter to Justin Trudeau.

Good evening, Justin. Can I call you Justin? It didn’t take long for you to go all high and mighty so far as the senate kerfuffle’s concerned. And why wouldn’t you? I mean–if a word of what Mike Duffy–nevermind those other two–came up with this week is even remotely true, I’d probably be right there agreeing with you on Twitter. And why not? This is a soap opera of Stephen Harper’s making, so naturally, it falls to him to claim it as his own, right?

Why, of course he does. He made the bed, he might aughta think about getting nice and comfortable–and securing himself a halfway decent lawyer if this thing does, as I know you’re hoping, end up going to trial. You get no argument from me there either. But here’s a thing what interests me.

You’re up in arms about something Stephen Harper, a conservative, may or may not have had a direct hand in setting a blaze based on the word of Mike Duffy, another conservative. And, as I said, that in and of itself is fine. Meanwhile, 5 hours away from you, your provincial counterpart’s in a mess of her very own–one that she and Dalton Mcguinty each had a hand in making, albeit the latter’s finger prints were probably all over a lot more of it than hers. And let’s maybe not drudge up, again, the entire reason the liberal party’s a teeny tiny little bit of a mess federally, yeah?

So I’m just kind of wondering. Did Kathleen Wynne, just for a start, get something similar from you? Maybe in a private email? Since, you know, if she ends up finishing the tank job Mcguinty started on the liberal party in Ontario, you can’t honestly tell me that won’t come back and hurt the liberals federally.

And let’s talk about Mcguinty for a second, speaking of taking responsibility and showing leadership. Telling folks to escentially go screw themselves they were getting a gas plant, then cancelling that gas plant when it actually occured to him that hey, these people vote liberal. And doing it twice. Then ducking and running when it looked for 10 seconds like he might just be sunk. He didn’t tell the media what he knew and when he knew it either. He sat on documentation that could have and eventually did shoot his entire narative in both feet with a smile for as long as he possibly could. Then he prorogued the legislature–a no-no in your book, apparently–and resigned before anyone could nail him to the wall for it. He’s at harvard now, if you’re curious. Are you thinking maybe he might also aughta come on back and testify under oath to what he knew and when? Considering, I mean, there’s a lot more out in the open that points directly at him–and a Mike Duffy wasn’t really all that required, by the way.

Somehow I’m pretty sure that consideration hasn’t really entered your mind, either publicly or privately. Actually I’m pretty sure you are and were fairly immune to that consideration, if we’re being entirely honest. Which begs the question. Is there a different set of rules for members of your own party, or did these just kind of slip your mind on account of they have no direct baring on whether or not you eventually become prime minister–I mean outside the fact if the liberals are sunk in Ontario that’s probably an added complication you’d rather not actually have to deal with.

I get that most politicians are the sort with a rulebook for me and a rulebook for thee. That part doesn’t really surprise me. But you’re supposed to be the different one, here. Doing politics differently, you’ve said a few times. From where I’m sitting, this part’s looking pretty close to business as usual to me. Not all that great if actually trying to get folks my age out to vote’s a thing you’re aiming for, Justin. A little consistent honesty–hey look, another different kind of politics–wouldn’t hurt either. But I’m guessing you’re not quite ready for that yet. Damn shame, that.

I won’t be one of those folks who decide to go after you on account of the only thing on your resume’s the fact you were a drama teacher. that’s been done to absolute death, and really, we’ve all seen what happens when a true academic grabs hold of the wheel. Not pretty, kids. But you can’t sit there and call someone on the carpet for pulling a stunt or 5 you’d otherwise have no problem with if you and he sat on the same side of the house. You especially can’t be doing that if the whole aim of your leadership campaign and gearing up for 2015′s election is that things would be different under prime minister Justin Trudeau. Well, you can–but I’d not want to be in the same room with you while you tried pulling off the mental gymnastics that would give a thing like this a remote chance of sounding like something that maybe might make a little sense if you just let it sit long enough.

So, mr. politics done differently, can we have some different politics please? For a start, a little consistency–particularly with members of your own party who wind themselves up on camera having shoved their hands up to the wrist into the cookie jar? Failing that, could you perhaps restrain yourself from openly supporting people for federal office who most of your potential voters would rather see in jail–even if they fly the same banner you do? Could that be a thing? If you could give that a try, that might actually be something I could call kind of awesome. And hey, if it ends up being something you don’t need to lie about, that’d work too. I mean you still wouldn’t be someone I’d vote for, but it’d be an improvement. Maybe someone more in your circle can work with that and I don’t have to entirely dismiss the political class. I’d honestly love to be able to say I voted for a change. Right now, I can’t. Make me, and we’ll have something here. But until that happens, I’d settle for a raincheck on the hipocricy. Really, that’s not doing you any favours anyway.

Silly cyclist; bikes are for roads.

I can neither drive nor safely and independently bike from A to B, so for the longest time the cycling debate that shows up every so often here in Ottawa hasn’t caught my attention for the simple fact of it can’t and didn’t involve me. A couple folks on bikes wanted to change that yesterday, it would appear.

So I’m waiting for a bus to go get a couple things done before May took off out of the country last night, and a couple folks on bikes decided the road was much too busy for their tastes. So up on the sidewalk they went. The first one was at least moderately inteligent enough to put that stupid bell some of them have to some halfway decent use, so I was able to get across the sidewalk and out of his way. And yet, he still came within a couple inches of taking me out. The second was a while later, and I think at a different bus stop, but I can’t entirely be sure–after spending the majority of the day running around like a headless chicken, the minor details tend to sort of run together like a bad paint job. He didn’t give any actual warning, but I still managed to pick up on his arival and subsequently managed to just miss the thing’s handlebars coming from the opposite direction. Meanwhile there was maybe one or two cars on the road at the time, and they weren’t in much of a hurry to get anywhere–and were doing it on the opposite side of the road to boot.

So both these fools decided to sidewalk it because they could, and nearly got themselves clotheslined because they could. Because I’m the curious sort, on the way back we ended up being passed by a third cyclist. This one I at least knew he was coming before I had to duck and cover, but also interesting was this one actually stayed his ass on the road. It was in the same general area as one of the other bikes from the trip earlier, so that ruled out my admittedly not well tested theory that the road wasn’t suitable there for biking. Which left the only other option being the two that played chicken with me figured cycling laws were for chumps. No, my environmentally active friend, cycling laws are for cyclists. And bikes are for roads. Try and remember that the next time some guy standing at a bus stop considers clotheslining you for trying to make the pedestrian life much more interesting than it really needs to be. That is, after all, what we have OC Transpo for. Of course I suppose next time I could just clothesline me a sidewalk chicken. That might prove slightly more educational.

More ODSP slight of hand. So long, community startup benefit.

I actually had to go looking for this one, after a reader of this thing up and tipped me off. January’s cost cutting that saw the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) kill their medical transportation funding on no notice wasn’t their only attempt at trimming the budget at our expense–it was just the only one I took immediate notice to. As it turns out, they’ve been quite slash happy, our beloved provincial government.

A little background. As I’ve said before when discussing this topic, you can’t do much to find work and thus get off ODSP if you’re living in a teeny tiny town who’s bus system consists entirely of one bus going from a mall at one end of the town to a second mall at the other, picking up and dropping off along the way (yes, I lived there). Which is going to necessitate a trip, with permanent residency in mind, to yonder larger than life city (Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener, pretty much anywhere that isn’t the middle of nowhere). Rent in most of these cities hits ya pretty hard on a good day, to the tune of you’re either getting a roommate, or paying way too much to share a corner of someone’s basement with a bunch of other folks who can probably only slightly better aford to pay too much for the same corner. On what ODSP gives you, even managing that can be a little tricky if you’d still like money left over for things like, you know, food. Or clothing. Or well, pretty much anything that isn’t putting a roof over your head. Coming up with first and last month’s rent so you can move in to the place that’ll suck up most of your money for the foreseeable future, until something vaguely resembling a break falls into your lap? Not happening without a serious amount of external help. That’s where the community startup benefit came in. Or did, until January of this year.

The way this particular system worked was actually fairly simple, if you paid attention. Every two years, you were eligible for up to $800 to be put towards things you actually needed to get your hands on. Like, say, go buy a few halfway decent outfits. Maybe get caught up on a few bills that have had to wait a month or two longer than you’d like on account of some fool jacked up your rent and you’ve had to rebalance things. Or, and this is the use I most often heard it being put towards, paying for at least most of your last month’s rent so you can manage to get yourself out of the less than helpful situation, and into a spot where you can stand a chance at finding work and getting the hell off ODSP. I used it for that last one myself–and that first one before that (I put my first ever benefit money towards clothes, because I was only a few weeks from employment and getting off ODSP myself, for what that turned out to be worth). It meant you could not only secure yourself a better living situation, but could still aford to actually get you and your belongings there, and still have something left over for all the fun things that come with postmove chaos–like discovering that pretty much everything has an activation fee, and the basics really are cheaper in a small town, even if you make up for it in gas to pick them up.

It was an extremely useful system, and one of the few things during a move I didn’t used to need to step on somebody for. Which matches the Ontario government’s criteria for things what get the axe. So, on January 1 of this year, it got the axe. The page that used to contain information related to that benefit has been removed, replaced instead with a statement confirming the removal.

9.2 – Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit
Removed effective January 1, 2013.

And that’s all she wrote for that program. There are vague mutterings about that program being downloaded to the municipalities, or something else coming out to take its place, but at the moment they’re only vague rumours–the ODSP website’s got nothing, and by the looks of things, neither does anyone who might have an inside track and feel like sharing. So the Ontario government, who spent a good while explaining to me all the wonderful things they’re doing to help us folks on ODSP, has turned around and taken another chunk out of ODSP with nothing to replace it. And once again, the only documentation I can find on it is an obscure corner of their website–the corner linked above–which is more than can be said for their change of heart re: other cost cutting measures, for what that’s also worth.

Like I said before. I get we’ve got a budget situation to deal with. I’m not about to disagree with that. But here’s the thing. This government spent so much time criticising the conservatives for stripping anything and everything they thought they could from ODSP in the 90′s. They spent the majority of their first term and a good chunk of their second making like they were about to up and fix that–they didn’t, naturally, but they do get a B- for effort. Now that the money’s tight (a couple canceled gas plants’ll do that), and folks on ODSP are trying to stay ahead of the small implosion anyone with half a brain knows is coming, the government decides–hey, we don’t need all those extra dollars, so thanks much. Meanwhile the message coming out from all levels of government is the economy’s not back to where it should be yet, so save as much money as humanly possible. I’ll get right on that, government boys. Just as soon as I can properly time things to duck the axe. If you could keep your hands out of my pocket for a year or two, that’d be awesome too. Not happening? Well, I tried.

A 3-strikes blog post for global 3-strikes copyright systems.

It never ceases to amaze me exactly how tightly folks will cling to the very same logic that blows up in their collective faces within about 6 months of it being deployed. Perhaps not entirely without some degree of amusement, you see it most often in the two worlds who could use a wake-up call the most. The entertainment world, and the political world. Between the two of them, they’ve managed to piece together a mamoth bad idea on a global scale–and one that could have been predicted to implode before it even got off the ground–in the form of a 3-strikes copyright policy (6 if you’re in the US). In keeping with the entertainment and political worlds’ tradition in this arena, my own 3 strikes system–3 epic failures anyone who used their brain could have seen coming.

Strike 1: File who?

I’ve mentioned it in passing before, but it gets its very own special mention here because, uh, this suddenly isn’t exactly a unique situation. Person happens to be the account holder, but may not necessarily be the most technical case on the block. They likely have the internet for email, Facebook, school and if they’re into that kinda thing and have a brain cell to spare, maybe a little Twitter, but that’s the extent of their internet usage. Not so much, perhaps, for that person’s roommates, but the laws as they stand now don’t really go for that kinda thing–you own the internets, therefore you get the nail. It results in, rather irritatingly if you’re the do your homework check your email go to bed type, needing to have the basic idea of file sharing explained to you before the industry tries a nd fails to sue the everloving pants off you. Win or lose, the New Zealand industry got what they wanted–regardless who did the sharing from where and when, the account holder they went after turned around and cancelled the account–thus probably creating a brand new issue for herself in the process where her education and the like’s concerned. But, hey, there’s no more of that nasty file sharing coming from that address now is there?

Strike 2: Not our material? You’re still guilty!

I enjoy laughing my ass off at the DMCA. Not so much at the folks what get slapped by it–I myself was indirectly and falsely slapped by it not all that long ago–but at a majority of the folks doing the slapping. And with the onset of the US’s 6 strikes policy, all it takes is someone sending you–or rather, your ISP–a DMCA notice (whether it’s an accurate one or not) for you to start heading down the path towards a very rocky internetting experience. The system they’re using to track, identify, process and send those notices for this 6 strikes system? Well, that would be the same system that became highly confused and decided that a mod for Guild Wars, a computer game, was actually a copy of at least one NBC TV show, none of which remotely resemble computer games or mods thereof. No info on whether or not this is court bound, but were this actually to fall under their 6 strikes system (and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t) the accusation may be all that’s necessary for the ISP to be required to start taking action. For TV shows that weren’t being shared and may not have even existed. Go copyright!

Strike 3: Serving your country is not a defense.

Back to New Zealand for strike 3, and perhaps the more ridiculous of the 3. Where at least the other 2 the argument, if shakey and pretty much unproveable, hadn’t completely entered the realm of being entirely out to lunch, this one left the ball park–and, arguably, the country. Again we have a multiple roommate situation–this one, they’re all in the millitary. The guy who’s name the account’s in, and thus the one who ended up fielding the accusation, was in Afghanistan during the time the industry’s precious copyrights were being violated. The others in the house were apparently deployed in various locations around New Zealand at any given time, so figuring out who did what and when was more than a little bit of an issue. But far be it for the industry to let a little detail like that get in the way. So when the account holder was back from Afghanistan, he had that to deal with. How did he deal with it? Well, see, the thing about serving in a permanent war zone–so I’m told–is you don’t really have a lot of time for stupid when you get back, what with getting used to the fact you’re no longer serving in a permanent war zone and all that junk. So rather than very likely have to drag it out in court, all for events that couldn’t be proved and couldn’t be connected to him by more than an IP address tied to him just based on lack of proximity alone, he paid up. And somewhere, in a press release yet to be written, he’s about to be added to the “file sharers we caught” list. And there just went getting shot at in defense of democracy as a legal defense against copyright.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in some of the rooms where conversations like these happen, if only because I can’t even guess at the mental and verbal backflipping that goes on to make anything remotely like this sound like something that doesn’t smell entirely of overdone crap on an underdone cracker. Somebody somewhere has to have spoken up and pointed out to these folks that maybe, just maybe, there’s a better option out there other than trying to kill a mosquito with a bazooka and hitting their own feet instead. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just one of those online folks the industry doesn’t wanna hear nothing about or from. Then again, maybe that’s their problem…

Friends don’t let friends rent from Paramount Properties, part 2: this is not the apartment you’re looking for.

This is the second in a series of posts on why Paramount Properties in general, and Greenbank towers in particular, is bad for you. If you’re contemplating a move to Ottawa, or moving from somewhere within Ottawa, this company should be avoided at all costs. For more information, beyond what will be in these entries, just ask.

Moving into a new place is hardly ever fun. there’s the making sure you didn’t leave anything behind in the old place–I’ve done that about half a dozen times already, the making sure you’re not having to chase half your services all over the countryside and then some, the criss-crossing–and, subsequently, the uncrossing–of just about every scheduling wire known to exist, and all this before the first week of your move is over with. The last thing most people want to be adding to their laundry list of moving related foolery is the nailing down of your property manager so you can therefore nail down an equally lengthy list of problems with the new place that need to be addressed–especially when most of it was supposed to have been addressed, or scheduled to be addressed, already. That was us, at around the beginning of October.

the fun actually started before the official moving day, although most of that fun was–surprisingly–out of the property manager’s hands. Before we could move in to the new place, the guy what lived there needed to get his crap and get out. Problem: he had no bloody idea when he’d be doing exactly that. He’d give the manager one date, then change his mind a day or two later. So actually finalizing things was a bit of an exercise in migraine. Still, we knew there’d be problems with the apartment–mostly because we were warned the guy what lived there before us had absolutely no problem whatsoever with not, you know, looking after the place.

When we went in to see the place, to say it was a bit of a war zone was putting it nicely. The door to our storage room was off its frame, and leaning against the wall inside the storage room. Several–meaning most–of the light switches were missing outright their fixtures. there was a hole in the wall of one of the bedrooms. Closet doors were damaged. The screen to our patio was off. The place needed desperately to be painted (that part they told us before we moved in). The list goes on. We were told, before we even moved in, that either before we moved in or shortly after, the property manager would get someone in there to fix things up. Promised, even, that yes, manager lady knew it’d be a wicked hot mess, and it’d be taken care of pronto. It’s why we had no problem signing paperwork, and making arangements so that when, finally, the place was actually vacated, we could move our crap in.

Due to the nature of how things ended up happening, we didn’t get moved in until the day before someone else was scheduled to move in to the old place. So naturally, they didn’t have a whole heaping helping of time to go on a fixy fixy binge before we got our hands on the place. Not helped by anything was the fact when the guy what used to live there took off, he took the keys for the place with him–so priority numero uno became let’s make it so we can actually, you know, lock the place when we leave. That part, at least, we didn’t need to go chasing a fix for–swap out the locks, bring the lock from the old apartment down to the new one, replace the lock on the old unit, bing bam boom have a lock see ya later. It was the rest of it that we got to go fishing for.

The day after we moved everything in, I went to the rental office myself. Here’s the laundry list, in its finalized form. You said it was bad, you were right–this is how bad. They’d get someone in this week, manager lady told me. As soon as humanly possible, but we’ve had a lot of moves, she said, so you might need to wait a bit. We waited a bit. The week, if we’re being honest. No one came knocking. we still had a hole in the wall. We still had no storage room door. Oh–and we found a couple more surprises to add to the list, which was done when I went to ask manager lady why that list hadn’t been touched yet. I got much the same, complete with an I’m sorry I thought it was done already, and she’d have it taken care of this week, as soon as possible but definitely this week. Not holding my breath, and the thought starting to nibble at the outer edge of my mind that we’re kind of pushing the boundaries of legal territory (keep in mind, by this time we’d started speaking with a lawyer due to the last episode), we were prepared to have this drag out until we found somewhere else to move to–we’d started looking pretty much by this point as well, largely as a result of part 1. The money we paid into that place, and it looked almost like someone decided to throw a going away party, then went away before the cleanup crew got there to bill them.

A second week went by. No repair person. No phone call about a repair person. Supposedly the repair person was telling folks he’d been by, but the state of the apartment said no he damn well hadn’t. This time, manager lady was prodded in writing. We got the same general response back. Now, this *was* getting into legal territory. Legally, the landlord has about 2 weeks to address any concerns or issues with the apartment after a move. They were pushing three. And in writing, that was pointed out to them. Once again, repair person would be by this week, as soon as possible. No, that wasn’t going to work. Not unless there was going to be issues upon issues. Repair person was going to be by no later than the next day, or holy hell would there be issues upon issues.

Repair person indeed *was* by the next day. And, much to my shock and amazement, most of what was there actually did get fixed. Somewhat. We had a door to the storage room again. We had working closets. He had to replace the screen for the patio–but we had a screen for the patio. We still had a hole in the wall, but he did come back later on to fix that. Oh, and proper light switches for a change. Well, mostly. He ended up not fixing a few of them, as we’d find out later on, but by then we’d just given up on the whole idea. The place still hadn’t been repainted, which was the one thing they wanted to do shortly after we moved in–because, they told us, this is what they do with all their units in between tennants and if they had the time, it would be done already. And there were still a few things on that list that just generally went untouched, but again, we’d given up with chasing them for it. We were done with this hot mess, whether it was done with us or not. As it turns out, that was probably the smartest move we’d made since this entire soap opera started–we’d see proof of that shortly after we’d moved everything out of that unit.

Paramount Properties, and Greenbank Towers, talked up a good game. But where it came time to translate that into actually getting things done, they passed the buck, dragged their feet, and generally just put off what, at the end of the day, we were paying them for. If they even had documentation that said we were in there to have these things addressed, almost no one read it–confirmation came again after we moved everything out, and will be explored in another entry. They’ll tell you what you’re hoping to hear, show you a sample of the things you’re looking for. But after you sign the papers and everything’s settled, Paramount Properties is not the apartment you’re looking for. In a future entry, Paramount finally starts to show us what they’re all about, for real–and we get the feeling we’re not *really* as welcome as they tell you you are. But as for now, two very good reasons to maybe bump Paramount Properties down a knotch or 5 on your list of possible living arangements. You can, and should, do much better. I’ll even give suggestions, if asked. No one running a business this shot deserves your, or anyone else’s, money. Not even sweet-talking ones.

Friends don’t let friends rent from Paramount Properties, part 1: The Rent Kerfuffle.

This is the first in a series of posts on why Paramount Properties in general, and Greenbank towers in particular, is bad for you. If you’re contemplating a move to Ottawa, or moving from somewhere within Ottawa, this company should be avoided at all costs. For more information, beyond what will be in these entries, just ask.

I’ve been around the block a time or three when it comes to apartment shopping in Ottawa. Almost always, the top 5 includes at least one building from Paramount Properties. Everything about them from the outside looking in sets off at least a dozen awesome alarms. The places are usually fairly decent, the staff will usually let you play 20 questions, it’s kind of like you’re dropping in to say hello to a friend. Then you go and move in.

Due to situations with the former roommate, I had to go on a hunt for an apartment in July of last year. Due to some very interesting cock-ups by that self-same former roommate after becoming my former roommate, there suddenly became an opening. It was sharing an apartment in Greenbank towers, a property owned and maintained by Paramount. I moved over there, with May, at the end of August. We’d already made arangements to move at the end of September into a larger apartment (she had a one-bedroom at the time), and the folks over there seemed perfectly fine to go about the idea. About a week after I moved in, things got nifty.

Paramount Properties allows you, like most places do, to set up preauthorised debit for your rent–the better not to have to chase down your landlord with your hand out and beg them to find 2 minutes to take your money, my dear. For 3 months, that system worked as designed. From June, right through August (remember, May had this place before I moved over), there be no problem. Come time for September, there be problems. Rent is due on the first, and usually comes out by then. It being we were dealing with a weekend and labour day and the like, we expected to maybe see it come out a little later. So by about September 6, it still hadn’t come out. We go tap on the property manager–the second one in a year, but I’ll get to that in another entry. “Hey, manager lady? Take your rent, please.” “We’ll take it,” she tells us. “Holiday and whatnot. It’ll come out, promise.”

We give it until around the 10th or 11th. Tap tap tap. “Hey, manager lady? You still haven’t taken our rent.” “It’ll come out. Give it a bit.” “Look. We have it. It’s like right here. Paying you will take 45 seconds. Then it’s done.” “We’ll take it out. Just what with the holiday and all. Give it a bit longer.”

It’s the 15th of September, by this point. Legally, we’re now officially late with the rent. Not a good place to be, if you’re us and in the middle of a lease and not planning on packing up and moving right the bloody hell now and three quarters. We’re getting a little bit twitchy. We go back to the rental office. “Okay. Look. It’s been two weeks. We’re staring at the prospect of being branded late. Take. Our. Goddamn. Rent.” “Yall have automatic debit. It’ll happen. Put your bank card away–we’ll take it. I’m on the phone with the guys what handle that today.”

By this time, we have school things starting up, so our time, energy and money is about to be diverted to much more fun and interesting prospects. Of course, by this time, tuition money hasn’t come in just yet, so part of that diverting is to invent varying degrees of financial creativity so as not to end up needing to slap a deferral on top of everything else education. We gave up trying to prod the landlord at this point. They’d either take it, or they wouldn’t. And if they didn’t, it would become part of the diversion–they’d just have to wait their bloody turn, now. We had things to do, and just ran out of time to sit on a property manager. So we up and went about our business for the rest of the month. No word from Paramount. We paid what needed paying at the beginning of October. We paid the rent on the new place in the beginning of October–I’ll get to the issues with the new place in yet another entry. We didn’t set the new place up for automatic debit, given the issues we ran into in September–which hadn’t yet been resolved by then, so to avoid a double payment coming back to bite us later, just no thank you please. That was done. No mention of the rent for September, which we still didn’t see come out. We weren’t bringing it up again, and neither did they. So the rent money went temporarily to tuition.

First two weeks of October, we didn’t hear a word. We were getting things sorted out for school, and getting ready to head out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend. Chasing a landlord who we’d previously offered to pay was not exactly up there on our priority list. So we did what we did and would circle around to that hot mess later. Except they circled around to us first. And, on the 15th of October, they started making noises about rent we hadn’t paid. Not rent we’d offered to pay and they’d asked us to wait on–but rent we hadn’t paid. The back and forth went on over the phone initially, with Paramount deciding on the 15th that yes, we owed rent, and yes, we’d pay at least half of it right then and there. Being not made of money, being that the month was half over, and being that we had school to pay for, oh–and being that we’d already made several attempts to pay them, we didn’t have that money handy right then and there (see: schooling, paying for). And this is around when we learned our property manager had amnesia.

The conversation started out innocent enough. Just calling to let you know we don’t have your rent for September, all that lovely stuff. We asked what happened to Paramount taking it out of the account. They tried and couldn’t, says manager lady. Maybe we should get hold of our bank, just in case something went sideways on their end. Hey–it’s happened before, so I was willing to give Paramount the benefit of doubt. That, was a mistake. In the span of about 10 minutes, we learned 3 things. Thing the first: your bank logs *everything* under the sun–whether it’s a successful something under the sun or not, so if John Q. cheapy says he up and tried charging your face off, and he did actually up and try charging your face off, the bank can usually tell you he tried–and why he didn’t succeed. Thing the second: The folks over at Paramount aren’t very good liars–they didn’t do a damn thing, and it showed after the afore mentioned 10 minutes (to cover our asses, we called a second time with pretty identical results). Thing the third: It’s been an aweful goddamn long time since I’ve had to, but I can still call someone out left and right if and when I need to–especially if you’re gonna decide today’s an awesome day to screw with me.

So it’s back to Paramount we went. Hey, lady? Yeah. About that problem at the bank. Feed me another one. Then, it got interesting. She still insisted there was a problem taking rent out in September. I should probably point out none of the info changed since August–when they were perfectly capable of making money disappear. She still insisted that we pay at least half of it right then and there (see also: money, not made of), and wasn’t entirely all too excited about the prospect of backing down from that–or being told that she’d get rent money whenever we get tuition, since the former had to go to cover the latter and, since they weren’t altogether too concerned with taking the former when it was due, they could damn well wait now. But the really fun part’s what happened next. Like it was a thing she practiced in the mirror that morning, and completely with a straight face, she said we should have made alternate arangements to have rent paid in September. Now, I’m gonna let you stop right here and go read a couple paragraphs up. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

May and I both thought she might have been smoking something. We both explained to her, more than once, that we tried paying the thing directly–in bloody september. And, taking care that our poor manager may be suffering the early onset of amnesia or something, we reminded her that we approached her in september on a few occasions to pay the thing manually. We reminded her that she up and said no. repeatedly. We reminded her we persisted. And, we reminded her she still said no. She was highly uninterested in hearing any of it–going so far as to say we knew this needed to be paid, and this was our responsibility. Uh. Yeah? Whatcha think we were trying to do, here, chicken little? We certainly tried not to keep our money.

It got to the point where property manager wanted a sitdown with myself, May, her, and her manager. Both she and her manager were still under the mistaken impression they’d be getting money from us. Since now we were over a month late, and we weren’t overly large fans of what we were apparently heading into, before we did anything else we decided to go legal. Not full on legal, per say. But lawyers were contacted, advice was saught, and decisions were made. We put everything in writing, in an email to the folks at Paramount–specificly, to the property manager with a copy sent to her manager. We explained this is what we were told, this is what we responded with. We were told to wait, we offered to pay it manually, and we were still told to wait. Repeatedly. And it was explained to them that, on the advice of a lawyer, we wouldn’t be attending that there sitdown meet and greet. Oh, and by the way, you’d still be getting your rent money as soon as tuition funds come in and not a minute sooner, but thanks for trying.

They backed down almost immediately after getting that email–only mentioning the outstanding rent once, at the beginning of November, and being pointed right back to the email we sent them (see also: amnesia, suspected). And, when tuition funds came in later on in November, we gladly went back down to the rental office, and this time, manually paid the damn rent. But by then, they’d cluster fucked the situation so badly that we weren’t entirely sure they wouldn’t pull something similar in 6 months. Any trust, any professional level of respect, that might have been there beforehand was shot. They got crooked, and when they were called on it, they got greedy. And when they were called on that, they doubled down–there was no room whatsoever for the possibility they screwed this one. They flopped, then tried pinning the blame for the flop on us.

That wasn’t all that lead to us deciding not only to never rent from this company again, but to make as many people aware of this company’s business practices as humanly possible. But, it was a mighty fine start. And by the time anything else happened, we’d already decided we weren’t sticking around there any longer than we had to. In the next, hopefully not quite as lengthy entry, another significant contributing factor. How to ruin a professional relationship in 30 days–by not actually dooing your job.

Note to windsor: Chihuahuas are only dangerous if you’re prone to migraines.

I’m probably the exact opposite of a fan of chihuahuas. They’re annoying, they’re yappy, and if you’re not paying absolutely insane amounts of attention you can easily and quite by accident send one spinning across the room. As Jeff Dunham would say, anything I can drop kick over my back fence (Author’s note: hey–I actually have a back fence now!) is not a dog. But I’d hardly classify the things as dangerous. Well, unless you’re already at risk of developing a migraine–good lord but those barks can be lethal on the ears. But apparently, if you live in Windsor, Ontario and own one of these things, and if for whatever reason the thing somehow gets hold of someone (I’m not entirely sure exactly how something that tiny can get a decent hold on someone to begin with), it’s a dangerous dog. And, because it’s a dangerous dog, you’re expected to plaster warning signs on your property and muzzle the thing if it spends even 5 minutes outside–which poses a very interesting question: do they make muzzles in size microscopic?

The snicker-worthy thing about it is, the person in the article who was bitten (a mail carrier, naturally) wasn’t even aiming to have the thing labled.

The mail carrier was shocked to hear about the”dangerous dog” designation, according to Postmedia News. She said she is required to reports such incidents to her manager, who then told her to report it to police.

And presumedly, it was the police what up and decided teeny tiny microscopic thing that is not a dog is lethal. As in, pitbull lethal. Which begs the question: in what universe?

Like I said, I’m no fan of the things. I’ll never own one. I kind of feel sorry for the folks what do. But to put them on the same level as a dog that has a reputation–deserved or not–for going out of its way to attack and/or kill people and other dogs? Yeah, there’s a problem. That no one with the authority to actually solve that problem has had time yet to get around to the common sense chapter of the handbook that should come with having that authority is, well, not surprising, but a little disturbing. I’d be more worried about the damage either one of our dogs could do to a mail person were they inclined to get that idea in their heads–fortunately neither of them get the opportunity to consider proving me right. And yet these breeds in general, and these dogs in particular, would never be considered for being listed as dangerous–hell, one of them’s a guidedog. But they’ll list a miniature football?

The mail carrier, for her part, did what any decent person would do–she got herself to the doctor and got hold of some antibiotics, then went about her day. And the owners of the dog more than likely keep an eye out for her now–and keep the dog inside until they know she’s passed. Or maybe that’s just what I’d do, and have done. As for the city of windsor? I’m keeping eyes open for a chihuahua ban. Because–hey, why stop there when you’ve already jumped off the logic train?

ODSP cuts costs again, figures you’ll make it up out of pocket.

It’s been a long time since I got to do one of these, largely because while things haven’t really improved a whole lot, they’ve not done much in the opposite direction either. That apparently changed at some point in January. I needed to hit the hospital this past week to bring May home after a minor procedure that required she be overnight. No big thing, really–I could get me there. The hospital wasn’t entirely too far away, to the tune of about a $25 drop each way. I’ve handled worse.

Here’s the thing, though. The Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP) entitles the patient–note: not the one showing up at the hospital with the patient’s belongings–to a lift home from the hospital, or any other medical appointment, with the appropriate level of proof provided (usually confirmation from one of the medical staff that says you’ve been there, you’ve been seen, you need to get home). Because we’re not all Blindy McBlinderson with 24/7 access to a person with both a pair of working eyes and a driver’s license. Also I’m not sure I’d have wanted to wake mine up at 5:30 in the morning if I had that kind of 24/7 access–yes, they might be my sighted servant bitch, but I’m not that cruel.

As I’ve mentioned before, ODSP doesn’t exactly shower us with cash over here. So while it can be afordable getting patient’s things to them, then getting patient home, more often than not it’s afordable at the expense of something else–like I really was hoping I didn’t have to pay to have the prescriptions we were sent home with filled (I didn’t, thank Christ). So I was a teeny tiny bit surprised when, while trying to make arangements to get May and myself home with ODSP’s help, I was informed that as of January of this year, ODSP has stopped offering that service. This according to the folks at the city of Ottawa line that handles requests for such foolery. Again, fortunately for us I didn’t end up needing to pay for prescriptions, but the creative mental tap dancing on the way home would have been impressive were it not to do with figuring out which bill wasn’t getting paid for a couple weeks.

If you’ve been following the ODSP episodes since around 2010, or even if you’re yourself on ODSP, you’re probably very familiar with the extreme difference (note: 2010 figures used) between what folks on ODSP get versus what even folks making minimum wage get. That hasn’t changed much in 3 years–there’s still quite the gap between ODSP payments and minimum wage payments. But ODSP did, at least, have the supports for getting people home from the hospital who otherwise couldn’t get themselves home due to a lack of license, a lack of servant with license, and a lack of public transit service when the discharge order comes in at half past dawn going for it. As of January, they don’t anymore. And they figure it’s perfectly fine if you have to make up the difference out of pocket. Because really, you weren’t gonna buy groceries with that money anyway.

I’ve always said if I had half a choice, I’d leave ODSP in the dust and never look back. I’m still staring down the prospect of giving me half a choice. I get the province is about $25 billion short insofar as the budget goes. I get that they need to trim expenses. I get that they figure we’ll manage to cover it if and when. But I’d be interested in seeing the mental gymnastics that lead to the conclusion that we actually can. Oh, of course–that’s for us to work out. They’re hands off now. Government cost cutting at work. So. About that next election.

PS: You’d figure we’d have gotten a notice from ODSP insofar as they’ve made changes to the service we’re entitled to receive from them. So far as I’ve seen, not so much. Rumour has it that was caught in the cost cutting as well. Damn shame, that.

Edited to add: I originally wrote this entry by email. Apparently when I did that, a link up and broke itself and didn’t get caught by my usual checking and rechecking of things. Go figure. Have a fixed link. Just in time for me to find something else to post about.

Dear #EMI: I’m a pirate, and it’s all your fault.

Let me give you a bit of a refresher on how I work. I’m not one of these folks who’s first instinct is to find the nearest regulation and see in just how many pieces I can break it before it turns lunch time. Actually, where I can, I tend to do the exact opposite–then help folks who would like to do the same to be able to do so. But see, there’s a small problem at times with that logic. And you guys over at EMI just ran smack into it at full speed.

There’s a song by country singer Dierks Bentley that’s apparently been out since October of last year. I only just heard it last week. I wanted to see if I could find the music video for it. Partly, because I’ve yet to see it, and partly because short of lining myself up for one of those “pay us $4000000000000000 and we won’t sue you for $100000000000000000″ letters, that’s the only way I’d be hearing the song without deciding to park myself in earshot of the radio or TV until it comes on–for the record, when you’ve got things to do, that just doesn’t happen. Sorry, EMI. So I did what any legal-minded person with 10 minutes free to do it would do. I hit the interwebs for the official video. And what’d I find?

This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

Yep. A music video, that I was perfectly willing to listen to legally, I’m not actually legally (by EMI’s definition of legally, anyway) allowed to listen to. So I did what any legal-minded person who doesn’t have the time or the spare brainmatter to park himself in front of the TV until the thing decides to come up in the rotation would do. I went to a few of those *other* sources on the interwebs. Yeah, you know the ones. And if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know the rest. those *other* sources, in no uncertain terms, told me they had exactly what I was looking for, and I could have it in as long as it took for the thing to download. so, following my own logic, I thought about it for about 5 seconds, then tried a few more legal avenues. Got told in very diplomatic–appologetic, even–terms to please to be shoving off now, EMI doesn’t want me seeing it, and thanks kindly. So I went back to my other sources. And, hell, I hit download.

In that very instant, and not for the first time, I became a statistic–the kind of statistic that companies like EMI hold up and wave around while all the while screaming “More copyright! More enforcement! Because piracy!”. And, like so many times before, it won’t trouble my sleep any. Why not, some back office executive’s likely wondering–assuming back office executives even read stuff like this, which is probably more evidence I should be considerably more awake–or caffinated–than I am at the moment before writing this. Because, to put it simply, I followed the law, and the law tried to lead me off a cliff.

To be clear, I wasn’t even planning on downloading the bloody song. It’s good, but not so good that I just had to have it right the hell now. I’d of even, were I intent on grabbing the song for my own personal use, coughed up whatever the going rate for the thing is on iTunes–assuming 1: iTunes had it and 2: EMI let them sell it to me without the same brainless geographic restrictions (neither of which I checked, because again, wasn’t interested in *downloading* the song). I’d of listened once or twice, then poof, off to do whatever the hell else I was planning to do–like move nearly 1 TB of crap from one drive to the other so I can reuse the first one for fun things. EMI had other plans for me, clearly.

So, as of this morning, also not for the first time, I am James, the pirate. And it’s all EMI’s fault. I should probably be expecting one of those letters soon.

How to be convicted of rape in 5 minutes: try and subpoena the victim’s computer records.

I’ve always believed there’s a special place in hell (note: no, not that hell) for anyone who’d mistreat a woman, be it physically or otherwise. You could be all around the nicest person I’ve ever met, but if you’ll raise a hand–or anything else–to the woman you’re with, you and I are gonna have a problem or several. And if you’ll pick someone up off a dating site, spend 5 hours escentially torturing them, then in your defense try and blame them for it, I take out a membership in the “bring back the death penalty” camp.

That was the tactic employed in the rape defense for thomas Bray, who met Jennifer Bennett through an online dating site and spent a good 5 hours ruining her life. At trial, his lawyer tried subpoenaing Jennifer’s Facebook records,, email, search engine history, and god only knows what else. They wanted the information from a month before she was attacked to a month after. Just in case there’s a something, you know, that could be vaguely interpreted to say she pretty much asked for it. It flopped. Instead of unsensored access to Jennifer’s–okay, public–personal life, the judge traded him the subpoena for 25 years in jail–where he’ll very likely spend a lot more than 5 hours on the receiving end of that torment. Consolation prize: it’s still longer than he’d have probably been handed if he’d just pled guilty. Yeah, that doesn’t do much for me either.

The Sun News issue, from a sports fan’s perspective: what gives, #CRTC?

You can be forgiven if you’re only now remotely aware there’s a thing called Sun News, nevermind that it has an axe to grind with the CRTC. Its issue, which is a fair one insofar as there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell the playing field will change in the near future, is it’s not on the list of TV stations that are required carried on basic cable. Other all news stations, however, such as CTV News Channel, have been required on basic cable for years. Sun News would like to have that fixed. Level the playing field, they’ll call it. Which is accurate, if in the wrong direction.

To be completely fair, I’ve never watched Sun News. I don’t even know if the service I’ll be getting next month would entitle me to watch Sun News–although, more than likely not. So I wouldn’t know if its content would or wouldn’t be worthy of being required carried on basic cable–whatever that means these days. but I do know we shouldn’t even need to be having this conversation. because there shouldn’t need to *be* required carry channels.

Let’s look at it through this lense. I don’t watch that much TV–even when I do actually pay for the service. My honest to goodness TV watching consists of Hockey Night in Canada (except for this year) on CBC,, flipping to TSN, or Sportsnet. Occasionally, I’ll swing past CTV–if, as is sometimes the case, they’re airing something I haven’t gotten my hands on yet by way of alternate means. But more often than not, if I’m watching TV, I’m not sitting in front of my TV to do it. Political stuff, when I decide to watch a debate or somesuch live, I can usually get online. Movies, TV shows and the like–well, uh, yeah. Got it covered. If you have to guess how, still, you need you some rereading of older posts. It’s just the live sports content that keeps me glooed to cable. for 3–or 4, if you want to push things–channels, Rogers wants to charge me at least $50. And that’s before you add in anything interesting, like the Gameshow Network–which we’ll need to be adding for the other one what lives with me now. And $50 is probably lowballing, only because I don’t have actual exact numbers staring me in the face. Still, $50. For half a dozen channels. Do explain?

The only reason I stick with cable for live sports is really, if we’re being realistic, even at $50 for half a dozen channels it’s still far cheaper, and far less restrictive, than the halfway offerings by the leagues themselves–which, given I follow both baseball and–maybe again in the future–hockey, would work out to costing me nearly twice as much just for those two. And again, because they like to do this to their fans, you run the risk of not being able to actually tune in the *local* broadcast of the games to boot.

In the entry linked above, I called out the leagues-with help from a writer over at Techdirt for what they’re offering–or rather, what they’re not offering. But when I flip through doing the kind of math that leads me to my cable bill for the month, even that starts to look good. When I also factor in that outside of Hockey Night in Canada, there’s not much on some of the channels I’m forced to accept in order to get the 3 or 4 I do, I really can’t help but have the very wee small suspicion that maybe I’m being just a little teeny tiny bit ripped off.

The incredibly sad part about this mess? If the CRTC was interested, they could stick a fork in debates like this with one decision. Eliminate the entire concept of channels required to be carried on basic cable. Eliminate the entire concept of cable packages–basic, or otherwise. If John Q. Busy only ever has time to flip on CTV Toronto for the news while he has himself a supper, then let John Q. Busy pay for CTV Toronto out of pocket. Does he really need TSN, YTV, Fox and the like to go along with it? It’s not like he watches them, after all. On a more personal front, I had a couple TLC channels on a package I used to have, back when I used to watch more TV. But I never watched them. In fact, I forgot I had them until somebody what had working eyes was scrolling through the channel guide one afternoon. If I’d known a friend of mine who does watch them fairly regularly back then, the outcome would have been different. But as it was, when my company left I called up the cable guys, figured out which package threw those channels at me and very nearly tossed it–until I heard it included Sportsnet. Then I asked the poor sap on the other end of the phone who in their right mind puts a Sportsnet in the same package as a TLC in the first damn place. At least make them vaguely related, guys.

Cable and satelite companies have channels you can purchase individually already. NHL Center Ice is one such. The NHL Network, which I’m pretty sure has a couple of channels, is another. Your favourite sports team probably has one. They’re not part of any package. You make a phone call, you say I want $channel, and on your next bill the $2 or $3 it’ll cost you for $channel for that month says hello. They have the technology. So why are we still paying $50 for half a dozen channels? And why is the CRTC so scared to fix that? I’d be interested in the answer to that million dollar question–preferably, without the political talking points. I’d also be interested in a lower cable bill. So, CRTC, what gives?

Senderbase.org, 5 months later.

So. Here’s a thinggy for long-time readers. Remember the epic server move of August of last year? You know, the one where everything and its asociated user had to be shuffled off a server I no longer had any actual stake in inside of 5 minutes–and where I was met head on by an email blockage issue? Sure you do. But I’ll let you refresh yourself just in case you don’t. In the meantime, I’ll catch things up–because the stats tell me I’m not the only one with the issue.

In August, when I fired up this server, I was slapped with an IP address–well, several IP addresses, actually–that had a poor reputation, according to senderbase.org. Here’s the problem with that. Because they decided my reputation–which they don’t really tell you a whole lot about–was poor, several major ISP’s and a few smaller ones were permanently rejecting email sent to them with the ever so helpful message that if I believed this message was rejected in error, to please contact the recipient using alternate means. Helpful, but not really. I fought with it for a few weeks and got pretty much nowhere. Senderbase doesn’t actually have any way to contact them. No support address, or any real contact page, and the information I was able to piece together on a possible contact got me pretty much no response. A back and forth with the guys running the datacenter this server’s sitting in told me they have just as much luck with these folks. So figuring I’d deal with it later, after I finished ironing out the kinks that came with a move of this variety, I was handed a new IP address from a different block entirely. This one, at least, had a neutral reputation when I got it–and it’s supposedly only improved from there, but again, I have no idea according to what metrics.

So I set email to go out using only that IP address and pretty much forgot about it. Because it worked. so I saw no need to continue aiming guns at heads. ISP’s that used to take one look at the server and laugh their asses off now accepted email from that same server as though there was nothing at all wrong in the world. I was a happy geek. Still am, but largely because the damn thing still does what I told it to. So fast forward to this week. I’m doing a check on other things, just to make sure I don’t need to go behind the scenes and do some sort of wicked nifty cool brand of tweeking. Which, okay, is major amounts of fun–but only after generous amounts of caffeine and nearly as generous amounts of vodka. Or a vodrumoke, if one would prefer (all of 3 people might actually catch that reference, including the one what said it). So it’s during this routine scan for breakage that I decide, hey, let’s take the server’s primary IP address and run it by those bastards at Senderbase. Let’s see if they’ve wised up any. Hint: if you thought for even 2 seconds that they might have, I’m going to have to revoke your license to read this blog.

Not only did they decide the primary IP address of this server still has a “poor” reputation, but they escentially also decided to forget that I used that IP address for pretty much anything. Where before, I could get an idea of how much email has been blocked by Senderbase, so far as it’s concerned now, I’ve got nothing. Senderbase lets me ask it about my server’s IP, then sneers at me and says “Look, bud. I don’t actually know the guy, but I hear he’s no bloody good. Hey–that’s just what I hear, alright? Whatcha want?”. It can’t even tell me what the IP’s DNS reverses too, which is–well, odd and quite doable using the good IP, but hey, whatever. I just find it highly interesting that, 5 months on, it’s forgotten pretty much everything about this server except its reputation–which supposedly improves over time, but I’m still waiting. In the meantime, if you run your own mail server and actually rely on Senderbase to handle even part of your antispam policies, you’re an idiot. And if I can find some way of getting email to folks what use you and not actually have to go through you, consider it done. Now. About that vodrumoke.

Beware corporate spying from China! … Or maybe not.

I’m going to blame the fact everything these days seems to be political when coming out of the US, even if it really doesn’t need to be. Because honestly, that’s about the only reason I can think of for a congressional committee, based on not much other than it wanted something to generate headlines, to go into an investigation having decided two Chinese telecom companies were involved in some high level spying–and improvising a report to say as much at its conclusion. The committee, investigating companies Huawei and ZTE, pretty much said the two companies were allowing the chinese government to use their equipment to hide trojan horses (escentially, software and/or hardware backdoors) that would allow the government to gain access to sensitive information, or to use that hardware to launch a cyber attack–basicly, bring down any service or website they so choose. Rather than coming up with some veriety of proof on their own, it was left to Huawei and ZTE to escentially prove they weren’t.

Leaving alone the fact it’s virtually impossible to prove the nonexistence of something–people have been trying to do that with religion for an age, and leaving alone the fact that not long after the release of this report, the whitehouse came out with its own and cleared the company, the question has to be asked. Did anyone on this committee happen to maybe consider that pretty much everything tech these days has spent at least some time in China before making it to wherever it’s now being used? Did no one maybe bring that up to the committee before they got the idea to hey, let’s go ahead with this investigation and see what sticks?

Of course it may be that, you know, being vaguely technical-minded that explanation comes far more natural to me than it would to, say, a career politician in his 50′s. But you would think that, you know, if China was actually on the lookout for ways to accomplish something like that, there’d be ample opportunity for them to do so without needing to expect that of one or two of their own companies who happen to have a market in the US. And you’d think at least one of these politicians, in their 50′s or no, would have somebody vaguely technical-minded on their staff who’d speak up about it. Of course the fact that they might not may very well be why we have things like this in the first damn place. at which point, look for one of those folks to be made aware in the near future that Apple makes pretty much all their iThings in China–well, until some point this year, anyway. I wonder how long it’d take for that investigation to unfold. Oh, wait–US companies with Chinese interests good. Chinese companies with US interests bad. I forgot that’s how these things work these days. Silly me. Oh well. The thought was fun while it lasted.

Guns, CSI, murder novels good. World of Warcraft bad. got it?

Oh, I wish I could have come up for air long enough to snerk at this when it actually happened. But I was tailspinning all over the place trying to catch up from previous tailspins all over the place. So I completely missed–or rather, set aside and completely forgot about–the ascertion by the Maine republican party that, uh, playing World of Warcraft is evil.

The republicans trotted this one out against democratic senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz, and backed up their attack with comments they pulled off a forum –presumedly for world of Warcraft players–from a few years ago in which she said she liked to poison and stab people. So suddenly, according to the republicans, they were running up against potentially the next psychopathic mass murderer–because, you know, every mass murderer has at some point played a game not too dissimilar to World of Warcraft. And here’s the snerk factor.

The republican party, when they’re not championing all manner of constitutional rights violations (Warrantless wiretapping, anyone?), is only slightly less ridiculous a defender of the second amendment than the NRA. It’s why John Q. Crazy can and has gone to the nearest gun show and come home with a semi-automatic. Couple that with the fact we’ve got shows like CSI. Also add the fact even kids’ shows now are considerably more violent–or, at least, more graphic about that violence–than they were, let’s say, 20 years ago. And, just because it’s there, let’s add one more thing. Murder novels and the like–who’s violence can be as detailed in text as any violence in, say, WoW can be in graphics. If you’re of the right mindset, some of the going reading material out there could serve a dual purpose–an entertaining/interesting novel, and a how-to manual on creatively causing all manner of damage. But World of Warcraft is wicked evil cruel and all manner of generally not recommended. Clear things up any for ya? Even if the NRA would very likely be in agreement? Well, okay then. They tried. And as for that election? Yeah, uh, about that. Clears things up for me, if nothing else. World of Warcraft good. Maine republicans bad. Yeah, that looks much better. Now, I think I’m missing CSI.

Handing a 0 to no 0 policies.

When I started this blog, back when I didn’t know this blog would become, well, this blog, I swore to myself I’d never have a reason to start off an entry with “this might be showing my age”. And then, just like that, I had a reason to start an entry exactly like that. And it’s all the fault of the non-education system.

This indeed might just be showing my age, but when I was in school, the absolute worst thing you could ever have happen to you from an academic viewpoint was to miss a due date. Not because people back then suddenly found themselves incredibly devoted to getting their homework done–far from it. I’m pretty sure there’s always been that cluster of people who had so much better things to do than homework. They were usually the ones seen in the middle of a massive heart attack about 2 days before the exam when they were in danger of having to repeat the class, or worse, the year. They were the ones, most of the time, who insisted they didn’t fail a grade–they were just “held back”, while all the while consistently showing off their definition of “held back”. And then things started happening. Graduation rates fell, dropout rates increased, kids were doing absolutely craptacular in testing. Piled on top of that were, at least in Ontario, several strikes by either the teachers or their support staff–kind of like what’s going on now, except there was no bill 115 for them to be upset with.

When I left highschool, the cariculum at least in Ontario was being turned inside out. Standardised testing was implemented, which didn’t do very many people very many favours. A lot of the courses that were supposed to prepare you for university were either stripped out, or pared down so they weren’t as intimidating for the majority of people. Ontario used to be one of the only, if not the only, province that had a grade 13–the extra year kids could take if they needed additional credits for a college/university course, or if, as was often the case, you needed that university level math, english and whatever else because grades 11 and 12 didn’t have the room for it–and most universities wouldn’t look at you if you didn’t have at least that.

When they killed grade 13, they started softening up on things in general. For instance, around that same time was when I’d first heard of schools getting away from handing out a 0 for incomplete work. Folks who went to the same highschool I spent most of my time at became very familiar with the phrase “I can’t mark air”. Which usually carried with it the pretty straightforward implication that hey, you can put off doing $asignment at your choosing, but don’t look past the end of your nose when it shows up on your report card. Shortly after I was done with highschool in general, that went out the window–around, most likely, the same time as the teacher who invented that phrase was either fired or encouraged to quit or otherwise found herself not working at the school. Then the government changed, attitudes on failure changed, the idea that maybe they were too hard on the kids was taking hold, and we somehow twisted and turned our way to a teacher in Edmonton getting fired for daring to hand out 0′s.

This conversation comes up every so often between myself and quite a few people, usually around the time someone discovers the world outside of highschool is more than a little tiny bit different. It’ll no doubt come up again, after the resignation of the director of toronto’s school board for plagiarrism to the 80 millionth degree–particularly given that the offending director didn’t see anything wrong with it. And indeed, the way things are right now with schools being strongly discouraged from failing kids for not doing their work, or worse–copy/pasting someone else’s work and calling it their own, they’re escentially saying there’s nothing wrong with it. Kids are told to just do the work, or in the case of a plagiarised asignment, to redo it, and often times that’s the end of it. And that’s if the asignment is even investigated for plagiarism at all–which, if we’re being realistic, would have likely meant Toronto would have had a different director for its school board if that actually happened.

governments, at least up here, are big on not being hard on the kids. On making sure the kids are comfortable and not intimidated or stressed or whatever while in school, and on escentially making sure the kids graduate. Which, on its face, is something to be all for. And I’d love to be. But when they do it at the expense of the kids actually learning something, Houston, we have a cluster. In life, especially if you decide to go through university and the like, you’re going to have more than a few scrapes with deadlines. You’re going to have more than a few close calls. You’re probably going to fail, or come close to failing, at least once. It’s not supposed to be easy. Neither is the world outside the university bubble. So why does that not apply to highschool, which is supposed to be prepping you for life in, and after, college/university? Why, instead, are kids shielded from the reality of what happens if they decide to wait until the day of the exam before they go off on a mad dash to hand in the asignments that were due a month ago? If I didn’t know better, I’d be inclined to think the folks who dreamed up this idea were on the business end of a few 0′s in their lifetimes.

Look. No kid at any age *wants* to go to school. I didn’t. Most if not all the people I know didn’t. And we weren’t the biggest fans of homework either. But we did it, even if we bitched about it for an hour and a half afterwards. That’s life. Except now, that part of life is escentially optional. Look, guys. I get it. You want more kids graduating. I can get behind that. I’d love to see more of the younger folks I know graduating. But guess what? Graduating them like this just shoots them in the foot. Sorry, folks. But on this one, I give yall a 0. You can do it over, but now you’re late. Have fun.

Please, by all means, be idle no more.

For anyone not living in Canada, or anyone living in Canada who’s decided now would be a fine time to secure themselves under a rock, it might have gone missed that, for lack of a better way to put it, the natives are getting restless. They’ve started a series of protests, blockades and the like, that they’re calling “Idle No More”, which supposedly is meant to express several things all in one movement. If you ask Theresa Spence, a native chief who’s been on a hunger strike of sorts since before the official birth of this “movement”, it’s to protest the condition of native reservations, one of which has–well–its own problems independant of whatever the government may or may not have decided to do, or not (note: Spence is the chief of the reservation referenced in the linked article). Apparently, same goes if you ask any of the chiefs that support her–yes, still, even though she’s already moved her own goal posts several times in the span of a couple weeks. When they’re not also still smarting over the violation of a treaty their great great grandparents signed with mine (*), they’re insisting on a greater share of any and all resource-based industry that passes anywhere near, on or around what they believe is their lands–industry they aren’t even willing to approve anyway (see: northern gateway, keystone, etc). But, see, here’s the thing that passes me by. They want to be self-sufficient, which is completely and entirely reasonable–and they should be. But they want to do it by relying on their traditional way of life–hunting, fishing, escentially living off the land, as I’ve seen a few folks put it. That’s great too. I’d never presume to deny someone the right to live their life as they please. But I’ve never seen it actually explained how, in 2013, the natives who take up issues like this one plan to go about doing that.

In fact, I’ve seen it spelled out rather nicely exactly how, assuming the government agreed completely with those demands and gave them complete self-governance, complete with allowing them to go back to their traditional ways of life, it would very quickly fall apart. In short, from the day the treaties were signed, the natives’ hunting days were numberd.

It’s important to emphasize that these Treaty commissioners were not anthropologists or do-gooders. Notwithstanding their respect for the Cree, they came with a very specific mission: to set the stage for white commercial development in these territories.

For instance, the commissioners reported a meeting in Fort Hope, on the shore of Lake Eabamet, with a certain well-regarded chief named Moonias. At one point, a local Indian named Yesno (“who received his name from his imperfect knowledge of the English language, which consisted altogether in the use of the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’”) told the commissioners that the terms of the Treaty should ensure that natives in the area receive “cattle and implements, seed-grain and tools.”

This horrified the commissioners, who evidently wished to guard against unfulfilled expectations: “As the undersigned wished to guard carefully against any misconception or against making any promises which were not written in the treaty itself, it was explained that none of these issues were to be made, as the band could not hope to depend upon agriculture as a means of subsistence; that hunting and fishing, in which occupations they were not to be interfered with, should for very many years prove lucrative sources of revenue. The Indians were informed that by signing the treaty they pledged themselves not to interfere with white men who might come into the country surveying, prospecting, hunting, or in other occupations; that they must respect the laws of the land in every particular, and that their reserves were set apart for them in order that they might have a tract in which they could not be molested, and where no white man would have any claims without the consent of their tribe and of the government. After this very full discussion, the treaty was signed, and payment was commenced.”

What I am quoting here is the commissioners’ Nov. 6, 1905 report, not the actual text of the James Bay Treaty (which is brief). But it expresses the real nub of the intended treaty relationship: The natives would continue hunting and fishing for sustenance and trade, and receive annual payments from the government (four dollars, to be exact), while white men would have the right to put down their train tracks, mines, forestry operations and settlements. Some reserve lands were stipulated in a schedule to the treaty (“not to exceed in all one square mile for each family of five”), but the exact location of such lands was not then considered as important as it is now. That’s because the local Cree were semi-nomadic, and came and went with the hunt. (At Lake Abitibi, for instance, the commissioners reported: “We did not expect to find many Indians in attendance, as they usually leave for their hunting grounds about the first week in July.”)

As the article goes on to say, it’s that treaty, and the creation therein of this type of reserve, that’s still today being held over our heads–over a century later. The problem? We tried to bring the natives into what was then modern society. We just, well, only did it about halfway. oh, right–and by “we”, I mean the about, we’ll say, 1930 or so “we”.

Cree men such as Moonias and Yesno, were they still around, would be absolutely appalled by this state of affairs. They apparently believed they were negotiating Treaty terms that would permit them to continue to provide for themselves as rugged hunter-gatherers (and possibly farmers). The notion that the white man eventually would put them up in permanently subsidized year-round housing that allowed them to abandon hunting and fishing — the very heart of their culture — would have seemed alien and unexpected.

That move from semi-nomadic to settled life, which was seen in part as a humane gesture aimed at bringing natives into modern civilization, is the real “cultural genocide” we keep hearing about. It’s not a Stephen Harper plot. It’s something that happened mostly before Harper was born.

So wheres the halfway point? well, that would be right around this part of those self-same treaties.

Yet the altogether worst aspect of the James Bay Treaty is that, like other treaties, it ensured that reserve land “shall be held and administered by His Majesty, for the benefit of the Indians,” and that “in no wise [sic] shall the said Indians, or any of them, be entitled to sell or otherwise alienate any of the lands allotted to them as reserves.” This was basically Soviet-style communism, avant la lettre. To this day, this system of communal land ownership ensures that reserve-resident natives are the only people in Canada who are systematically denied the right to buy, sell, lease and mortgage their land.

This is the single most awful thing we ever did to the Indians: bring them into a settled, capitalist society, and then deny them the basic tools to generate capital. Yet, perversely, it is the one aspect of native policy that is consistently championed by left-wing native-rights advocates, who see in it a sentimental vindication of Marxism despite its European failures.

And this, combined with some one-time assistance to actually see to it the people on those reserves aren’t swept out to sea by the changes, is exactly what the people involved–be they native or not–should be pushing to be changed. At the moment, natives living on reserves have no actual attachment to the property they occupy. Nor are they actually allowed, legally, to have any attachment or place any value on those properties. Which is why, in communities like Attawapiskat, they made headlines when it became clear just how bad the housing situation was actually getting. And when they made headlines, they still had to wait for the government to do something about it–as opposed to anyone else, who can pretty much make any changes they please to their living arangements–including deciding to forget about paying rent and go buy a house across town. And it’s these remote, mostly fly-in communities, that protesters are saying should be allowed to do their own thing, their own way, in compliance with those self-same treaties. It’s those self-same communities that folks like Theresa Spence are saying the government should hand more money to, for presumedly very similar results. But complying with treaties from over a hundred years ago and giving natives their self-sufficience are mutually exclusive.

Ms. Spence and her Idle No More supporters are absolutely correct to say that the James Bay Treaty made provisions for Indians to get land, cash payments, and even some measure of autonomy. But ramping up those perqs won’t do anything to change the fact that the whole basis of the treaty was destroyed as soon as traditional native hunting life came to an end.

This is the fundamental reason that the Idle No More message on treaties is irrelevant: The great challenge of native policy in the 21st century will be to integrate natives into the larger economy that is based in Canadian population centers.

Remote fly-in communities such as Attawapiskat, on the other hand, are doomed: You can’t turn he clock back to 1905, or even to 1930.

And as much as that means folks like Theresa Spence would have to be out of a job, that has to be the simple reality. That should have been the reality years ago, but a combination of the government mucking it up and the natives fighting it lead to, well, the exact opposite. If being idle no more means fixing this system, and giving native people the ability to make themselves sufficient and get them off the government take, then by all means, please do be idle no more. But if, in seaking these changes, the natives can’t accept the fact that some traditions–some aspects of their culture–they want so badly to hold onto simply cannot survive a transition like that? To continue to hold to that expectation, and to insist the rest of Canada work around that expectation, will only continue to end up in situations exactly like this one. And really, honestly? I think we’re all getting a little tiny bit tired of reading headlines that start off with “Native Group Protests”. Just tossing that out there.

*: I can’t be a hundred percent sure how accurate that statement actually is, as I have great great grandparents on both sides of the issue. Pretty sure that puts me in a bit of a conflict of interest when writing a post like this. But, then, I never did give much thought to that kind of deal.

Things to note when taxiing a blind dude, in list format.

I do a fair bit of cabbing from here to there, as does any person who doesn’t quite know how to shuffle the bus system from A to Z. Since I’m hardly the first to do it, and hardly the first blind fool at that, I thought it might be useful to toss together a little reference something that maybe some enterprising cab dude can read while he should be paying attention to the road. I’m even croudsourcing this one, so if someone somewhere thinks a thinggy or three can be added, it will probably be added. And because I know some fool somewhere will read this while driving, and because I’m all for minimising distractions while driving, have it in list format. Also because lists are lazy, and lazy is win, therefore lists are win. So. Without further BS, the taxi guy’s reference guide–what not to do, blind guy edition.

  • Let’s clear one thing up right off the bat. Blind. Kay? Means unable to see. Cannot eyeball. You wave randomly in my general direction, a lot of people are gonna wonder what the hell kinda meth you’re on. And I’m going to ignore your face. Mostly because I can’t see your face–again, blind. Follow so far?
  • Related to number 1, but also critical: Honking. Yeah, just don’t. Especially if you’re in a parking lot with at least half a dozen other vehicles. That happens fairly often in this building–and let’s be honest. Not every car that pulls in here’s a cab. Not every car that pulls in here and honks is a cab. I’m not going to assume you’re a cab if all you’re doing is honking. Especially if I’ve told you before to knock that noise right the hell off.
  • this one’s simple. If you make with the grabby, I get to make with the stabby. I’m capable of navigating from door to vehicle, provided I 1: am familiar with the area from which you’re picking me up and 2: it’s relatively straightforward-ish to locate your vehicle–for instance, if we’re outside this building and your vehicle’s the only one in front of the door running. If I’ve been to an area before, same goes from vehicle to door–provided you haven’t found somewhere completely ass backwards to park us. That I’ve started to move does not mean grab me by the shoulder, the arm, the hand, the wrist, the cane, or any other extremety or implement secured to or belonging to my person. Unless, of course, you don’t mind a cane in the eye. I’m quite obliging when asked.
  • This one might be vaguely obvious, but it still gets missed a lot. Pay the fuck attention, dude. Seriously. You’re asking a blind guy how to get from A, to B, to C. Last I checked, that was kind of what I was paying you for. Yes, okay, I do know my way around at least most of this end of the city. But I don’t know precisely where we are when you ask me, “So it’s just up here and to the right, yeah?”. Know your shit, or use your GPS if you absolutely must–even if those things have a nasty little habbit of occasionally being both dead wrong and all in favour of me paying more. Or be prepared to answer at least 3 questions having to do with exactly where the fuck “just up here and to the right” is. Failure to do either of those gets you this point in lecture format from the back seat. I’ve done it.
  • The answer to the question, “where’s the door?” is not, “Just go straight.”. That particularly is the exact *wrong* answer when one is still sitting in the car, having not yet gotten out because he’s waiting on your slow ass debit machine to get around to approving his transaction. Providing that answer will result in at a minimum an angry stare, and at a maximum a very detailed explanation as to why exactly that is perhaps the most wrong answer you can provide, next to no answer at all. Hint: you just read it.
  • This should be common sense in some places, and simply not breaking the law in others, but it takes on a bit more importance when driving a blind guy. Get the everloving hell off the phone, for the love of pepperoni. Not only does yacking on the phone prove you’re not really paying attention to where the hell you’re going, or what the hell the passenger(s) is/are saying to you, but especially in the context of blind passenger, you will more than likely miss something vaguely important–like, for instance, the afore mentioned request for the location of the door. If you’d put down the phone for at least the duration of the ride, you’d have an increased chance of actually hearing your passenger–be they blind or otherwise–tell you that they’ll be paying via your slow ass debit machine. At which point, that transaction can be slightly less slow as crap, because you’ll–preferably–have taken a couple minutes while finding somewhere to park to get the machine ready to actually process the transaction.
    • Exceptions can be made for things like, for instance, asking for directions. But pull the hell over if you’re gonna. That’s not so much because blind dude. That’s because, well, legal. At least if you’re an Ontario cab driver. I have my own issues with distracted driving laws, but they’re still there. And if you’re gonna get yourself slapped for not following them, I’d prefer to not be in the cab when it happens.
  • Blind guy is not new guy, okay? Odds are, even though I’m cabbing it there, I have a fairly decent idea where there is. I just haven’t yet figured out exactly how to translate directions into useable by blind person on foot information. So when trying to get from A to B, especially if you’ve already started the everloving metre (that’s another rant for another day), let’s not waste us some time by sitting in the driveway arguing about how to get from here to there. Especially if you’re going to throw it in your GPS and have it tell you exactly the same route I just freaking told you. That’s an incredibly quick shortcut to a free trip if I’m feeling particularly challenging that day. And since neither of us knows when that’s going to be, I’d suggest maybe not poking that switch.
  • speaking of slow ass debit machines, they may be incredibly slow at times, but for the love of everything sane, get you one. Believe me, they’re not just for blind folk anymore. This couldn’t have been made more clear when I lived in small town Ontario. The guys over at the Vomit Comet ran into it too, and they’re in bloody Kitchener for crying out loud. If you’re new, or hell, ya just don’t show up in town all that often, you’re not going to know where $place is, nevermind how far away it is from where you’ve been scooped. Leaving aside the fact that it’s bloody 2013 and no one caries cash in bloody 2013, guessing at how far you need to go at the going rate for that city just to reach a rough estimate of how much pocket change you should be carrying with you can be and has been an exercise in migraine. Guys. Even the pizza delivery guy has those wireless debit thinggies, kay? They can’t be too expensive. And with some of the rates municipalities let yall charge us, they can’t be entirely all that unafordable. Get you one. Or two–because hey, sharing is caring. Forget making things convenient for us. You wanna get paid, yes? This guarantees you do. Well, or at least guarantees that if you’re not up and being a tool about the rest of the trip, we’ll be that much more likely to get you paid. make sense?
  • further to points re: pay the fuck attention: your GPS is yelling at you. Meanwhile, you’re panicking because you haven’t the slightest idea where you’re going. Pro tip: even if you haven’t the slightest, your GPS has at least that much. Stop, look, listen. Or at the very least, shut up so I can–and maybe then *I* can figure out where the hell you’re going.
  • I hear about this way too often to be healthy. You’re called to pick up person and guidedog. That does not mean offer to pick up person, then bitch about picking up guidedog. This is one of those situations wherein the law trumps everything except fatal alergies–including your freedom of religion. Don’t approve? Behind the wheel of a cab is not for you. Don’t approve and voice said disapproval loudly? In front of a cab works just fine.
  • that thing I’m holding? Yeah, that thing. It’s a cane. It’s not a magical locator beam. It won’t randomly lift off and shoom its way to your vehicle the second you hit the breaks with me holding the other end. fortunately, if you’re me, as these things aren’t very good independent navigators. Since this thing isn’t programmed to find you, you’re just gonna have to hop your happy ass outa the vehicle and come find me. I’m sorry. But hey, if you do it right, you’ll get paid. Call it corporate motivation. Hey–it worked when I had a thing with a paycheck.
  • Here’s a thing for the thought mines. There are two people standing on the front steps of a house, in front of which you’ve just parked your happy ass. Both are holding those things that are not locator beams. Both are clearly visible, as evidenced by the fact you’re parked pretty much in throwing range of the front door. It’s a very short walk to the front door. It’s also in earshot. Staying in your vehicle and calling the house to let us know you’re here, therefore, is a teeny tiny bit counterproductive. It’s also highly likely to get you mocked in a “how not to taxi a blind guy” entry. Don’t. Just don’t. Because no one will answer, and you’ll be waiting for us, and we’ll be waiting for you, and only one of us will come out looking like an idiot. Also it’s just plain uncool.

There will probably be more added as they’re thought of, or sent to me. In fact I’m pretty sure there will be. But in the meantime, if you know a cab driver who’d find this somewhat useful, by all means slap the link in several dozen places with a strong suggestion to read it. In fact I’m thinking of printing this off for a couple drivers we get around here regularly. In the meantime, happy cabbing. And remember, just because I can’t see doesn’t mean I can’t slap you for being an idiot. Let’s not make me prove it.

Probable cause is so 2000, y’know?

Every couple months, something new and interesting crops up that makes me quite glad I’m not actually a US citizen. A recent example, following the federal trend, comes out of California–who’s governor has vetoed the hell out of a bill that would have required law enforcement to actually, you know, have a reason–and a warrant–to obtain information such as the location information that’s now stored on pretty much any smartphone in existence. What that means, escentially, is that California cops can get a hold of your cell provider, and request a history of everywhere that cell phone has been detected. For no reason other than, uh, they can. Oh yeah, and terrorism. I guess I shoulda listened to the guy who called me at Dell at 4:30 in the morning just to talk to me about how the government’s watching everything he does so he has to be careful who he talks to–he might have just been onto something. Oh, and the next time some lawyer friend of yours starts talking about probable cause, just smile, nod, and walk away. The government don’t need no stinkin’ probable cause.

Documentation is key. so where the hell is yours?

I’ve been known to get my hands dirty with this or that random project. Occasionally, resulting in the consumption of something a bit stronger than the coke I often keep nearby. Sometimes, I do it pretty much by the seat of my pants–this looks like it goes over here, so let’s see what this does. And sometimes, either by choice or by force, I’ll actually have to go hunting for documentation. Occasionally, the hunt points me to the developer’s website, the developer’s twitter, the developer’s blog–but not, in fact, the developer’s documentation. Or any documentation, for that matter. A user manual? A half-page thing on someone’s personal, but publicly accessible, WIKI? Yeah, no.

admitedly, I occasionally have that very same problem with my twitter app of choice, but in this case there’s documentation, it’s just not in English. So it *could*, if it was absolutely needed, be translated. Awesome. Useful. I should get on that, eventually. But in cases where there’s no documentation, as in whatsoever, for this or that program, script, basic language or other such extra utility, it has to be asked–and Slashdot asks it–what the hell are you thinking?

You want your program, script, language, basic little utility to be used, yeah? And not solely by geeks with little else to do between job searches and family things but to try busting things, yeah? Yeah. thought as much. So, uh, how about manualing the hell out of it? Nothing says “oh crap” more than smacking the help option and being directed to a website that tosses me a 404 error instead of something useful, like a FAQ. And, if I don’t feel like playing a guessing game–usually because I’ve got 80 million other things to do as it is–nothing convinces me to toss your program in the maybe later pile faster. And probably increases the likelyhood of me forgetting I have that program, simply by virtue of its presence in the maybe later pile. I’m not averse to doing a little RTFM every now and again. Hell, maybe I’ll catch something obvious that gives me an excuse to redo something and easily waste away an evening I can’t spend watching hockey. But by all means, couldja maybe pretty please try and WTFM–write the fucking manual? It helps, I promise. Or, at least, it makes you immune to entries like this one. Which is always good.

The dog phobia days of apartment living.

I’m a huge dog person. Always have been. I grew up with and around them, raised and trained one of my own from 6 weeks, and now am raising a second with May–who also happens to be a huge dog person. So this apartment building was, in that respect, a perfect fit for us. Very relaxed pet policy, and no shortage of places to take the pups for walks or other reasons. The people? Could use some relaxing.

I took Lacey on one of those afore mentioned walks for other reasons yesterday, and both leaving and coming into the building, I must have ran into at least 6 people who have a decidedly very large issue with my admittedly a little hyper, but ultimately harmless, dog. There’s a family with a rather large dog issue on this floor–actually, pretty much across from the elevators. Which, escentially, means especially in the mornings, we try and time our taking the pups out to avoid them. Because not doing so produces a reaction not entirely dissimilar to one you’d see on, say, Nightmare On Elm Street. If the dog even looks in their direction, they wig out. Backing away, occasionally screaming, and generally proving that not every grown adult is physically capable of actually acting like a grown adult. Also somewhat amusing in that even if I make the dog sit, the very act of whichever dog I’m walking doing exactly that prompts them to hit the cieling. If they and we are destined for the same elevator, I’m expected to hold the dog back until they get on the elevator, and–if they can get away with it–to wait for the next one. I’ve decidedly been doing a significant amount less of that, however, simply because–hey, pet friendly building. Dog who’s most deadly weapon is occasionally her morning breath. Chill.

While that’s the most consistent example, it’s not the most recent–or the most amusing. As I said earlier, I ran into a few while taking Lacey on one of our little walks yesterday. One of them was already on the elevator when it got to my floor, and it was heading for ground level already. We got on, as we normally do, and this lady backs herself into the corner of the elevator opposite where we are. She stands there, sounding like she’s about to burst into tears right there on the spot, while I make sure this particular elevator is, actually, going to drop me off where I need to be dropped off. It was, which only confirmed she was going my way. So logic would dictate since we’re only another 5 floors up that she just stay put, right? Of course if she did that, there wouldn’t be a need for mockery–so we’ll just leave our logic at the door, kay? Kay.

No sooner am I away from the door and getting Lacey into a don’t you dare move because I’m not extracting your nose from the door position, then does this ladey make a run for it. Out the door and across the hall just before the door’s about to close. Pretty sure she didn’t actually go into the apartment across the hall with the rest of the phobia clan, as we were just heading downwards when the elevator next to us opened. So she very likely ended up on the main floor at the same time as me and the dog for about 5 seconds anyway. Objective, failed.

Now, I get that people have their reasons for being afraid of dogs. Even to the point of going out of their way to avoid them. I don’t question that–hell, to each their own, I say. But here’s the thing. You live in a building with over a hundred other people. Quite a few of them, if our occasional nosing around the building is any indication, are dog owners. Said dogs, unless they can fit in the palm of your hand, will likely need to be making regular trips outside. That, unfortunately, means you’re likely going to be sharing some common ground, at least temporarily, with something that goes woof. Knowing this as you likely, hopefully, do, why would you 1: act all surprised/shocked/horified/traumatised every single time a dog gets within 20 feet of you, and 2: put yourself in a situation, in this case a building, that pretty much guarantees 1 is going to happen with some degree of regularity? And why would you, having put yourself in that situation and knowing precisely what that situation is, expect the people with the dogs to go out of their way to make sure you’re not put in that situation?

I can be accomodating. I can, out of respect, minimise the dog’s interaction with you–yes, even if the said interaction would usually be limited to trying to lick you to death anyway. what I cannot do, or rather will not do, is shift my entire routine–and the dog’s with it–so as to avoid you even having to tolerate that minimal or nonexistent interaction between you and dog. I have a problem with 10-year-olds that think it’s funny to send random elevators to just about every floor in the building–especially if one of those elevators happens to be requested to take me somewhere, like to ground level with a dog that needs out–but I’m not going to insist you keep your kid on a short leash until I’m safely on the main floor. to do that would be absolutely ridiculous, and I’d expect no less than half a dozen people to call me on it for that very reason. People’s reactions, in this building at least, to having to breathe the same air as a dog for as long as it takes to drop a few floors are equally ridiculous. You are in a pet friendly building. That means there are pets. Probably lots of them. If you don’t approve of this, then pick a less pet friendly building. Your right not to be traumatised does not trump my right to do as I please freely, with or without something firry attached to my wrist. You do have the right not to be offended, but please, don’t be offended somewhere else. There are things that need doing and you’re kind of in the way.

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