starting-blast landlocked

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.

In which tech failures happen in 3′s.

Things have a tendency of getting all kinds of eventful up in here. Particularly when they don’t *really* need to be. If it’s not family making, breaking, remaking, switching up and then completely forgetting about plans in the span of 5 minutes, or things bouncing in just about every direction except the one you want them to go on the education front, it’s technology conspiring to do all manner of screwing with your head, and your whatever you were planning to use that technology for. And because epic failings must be had in 3′s for reasons no one can figure out, when the fun gets going, everyone gets a turn.

My warning was the laptop. I’ve had it for it’ll be 2 years about now, and the only problem I’ve ever had with it was a failing fan. I knew the fan was going for several months, but could never find a place where I had the time, the energy and the money at the same time so it could be delt with. When I had the time and/or energy, there were financial things needing to be shoved out of the way before they came round to bite us in the ass. I actually delayed my run at college by a bit in hopes I could put together all 3 in a reasonable amount of time, or that it’d sort itself out and we’d be golden in time for classes to actually start. It looked like it was gonna do exactly that, and things were falling into place for me to start the course I’m in the middle of now, so I was starting to breathe a little teeny tiny bit easier about it. It could hold out long enough for us to get hands on money, which should come just before the Christmas break, we were thinking. Which would have been amazing timing, if it had worked out that way. School’s out, send the laptop off for repairs, hopefully have it back maybe a week after school gets back in session in the new year. And just when I was comfortable with that plan in theory, the thing gave out completely. Two days before class started, and if I’m lucky I could get the thing to give me half an hour before it shut down to avoid overheating. Well now. There goes careful planning.

I should have probably taken that as a sign that I maybe aught to just back everything up on every machine I own, stick it somewhere central like, and hold out until I could replace the equipment wholesale. While I was dealing with the laptop, I was seeing signs my desktop, also known as the primary machine I use for pretty much anything heavy, wasn’t gonna be much longer for this world. It hasn’t gotten critical yet, but it’s inexplicably shut down on me a few times, I’ve seen pretty freaking unrecoverable blue screens more often than I’d like, and it’s having to work harder at doing things I know it could do without breaking a sweat not entirely all that long ago. This one, at least, I could more easily expect. It’s given me 7 years, and a lot of wicked heavy usage–most of this site was born out of that machine, for starters. It’s not completely toast yet, but I’m not liking its chances for seeing its 8th year. Plus, it runs Windows XP still and, well, let’s be honest–while the machine could probably easily run 7 instead (it shipped with Vista initially), I’d just be replacing it shortly anyway. So before it puts me in the same situation the laptop just tried to, it’s on its way out. Bright side: the machine I’m replacing it with actually has a little bit better specs. I’d be slightly jealous, if I wasn’t just told I could take it for myself.

I mentioned things happening in 3′s, and did they ever. The first sort of warning I got that made me think the desktop might be in slightly worse shape than it turns out it is had actually more to do with the external drives I keep connected to it. I do a lot of things with music, TV shows, movies and the like. So I keep some pretty large external drives around–unless you wanna get fancy, a lot of what I plan to collect won’t fit on your average internal drive. At one point I had 3 connected, and was talking about adding a 4th down the road. Across those 3, I had quite a few years of music, videos, backups from other drives, random things that I hadn’t gotten around to sort and put where they should be. So basicly a crap ton of stuff. Two of those drives flirted with failure of the highest order. And one of them needed two attempts before it finally just irreparably met its maker. I managed to pull most of what I needed off the drives before they went, and can get my hands on the rest once I figure out what needs to be gotten and then remember where I got it from the first time. But the way they were readying to go lead me to believe maybe the desktop was on its way out quicker than I’d like it to be. The drives would show up for a while, then either I couldn’t actually access one, or the other would disappear entirely. But I could plug them both into another machine and at least mostly do what I needed to. So that was a thing to deal with–particularly given if the desktop had went as quickly as I was expecting, I still didn’t have the laptop back and fixed so that might have slightly caused problems.

So now, the laptop’s mostly working as it should, the desktop’s on its way to being replaced and I’ll be needing to rebuild my video library. Again. All told, not entirely too bad for a season or two in the life of a semi-crazed geek. And I should be relatively clear of tech issues for a good while. I wouldn’t say no to another 7 years of mostly smooth operation. And hey, maybe by then I’ll be doing something that actually allows me to pull a wad of cash out of my wallet and emergency replace pretty much everything that has ever come apart on me on 24 hours’ notice. Hey, a geek can dream, can’t he? But in the meantime, I suppose I should go reformat my brain. This forecasts to be another intensely crazed week on the education front–which I should probably actually write about before I’m completely done with it. Eh, maybe in the spring.

Canada is golden!

I’ll freely admit I haven’t been a very good sports fanatic this olympics. I was all over it in 2010, to the probable irritation of 5 of the 6 that read the thing. But largely, I was all over the fact it was in Vancouver, and I actually had the time, the energy, and the motivation to watch. Or, at least to keep up with the things I couldn’t watch. This year, not so much. But I’ll be damned if I was going to miss a gold metal hockey game. So, bright and early on a day when just about anyone–okay, including me–would consider getting up before 9 when you don’t have to an act of borderline insanity, I was at the computer, headphones on, and my twitter feed in full on hockey mode. And for a change, I could cheer for the same team as most of the people on my twitter feed. And we owned the hell out of it, to the tune of 3 nothing. We are winter indeed, Canada. Best early Sunday morning I’ve had in a while. If this does turn out to be the last olympics the NHL participates in, it was well worth it.

PS: On the topic of the NHL, sorry boys. I’m still not a habs fan. But, you know, if Toronto ever gets around to signing Sid the kid…

Criminology 101: some DIY required.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In canada Post land, no means yes.

Just about everywhere else in the world, noteably in places like the UK, the government’s gotten itself the hell out of the mail carrying business. In Canada, the government *is* the mail carrying business. And that business is bleeding money from just about every open wound in existence. Rather than do the sensible thing and get out of the business altogether, like everyone else, it’s decided now’s a mighty fine time for getting creative. Said creativity results in things like sending junkmail to the folks who’ve requested they not get junkmail explaining why it is they need their junkmail.

“Your address is part of Canada Posts’ Consumers’ Choice database as a result of having a ‘no flyer’ notice on your mailbox,” read the letter. “You are currently not receiving unaddressed mail delivered by Canada Post that your neighbours are receiving. This includes mail that can save you money and keep you connected with your local community.”

What they don’t do is explain exactly what part of my local community’s responsible for sending me those preapproved Capital One creditcards that somewhat occasionally show up in the stack–probably because they figure at least one member of the community’d be fixing to punch the source in the kidney. Those, the random menus from local restaurants, the even more random advertisements from stores I’ve never set foot in, all end up collecting in a bin by the front door until we get around to sorting, sifting and tossing. And for the privilege of having a bunch-o-mail® taking up space that might be better served being taken up by honest to god legitimate mail traffic that might actually get read before next Christmas, these companies pay Canada post. Fewer places to dump the junk, smaller payments from the folks wanting it dumped, shorter stack of cash from which to be paying out all those nifty government pensions. Mix it all together and you’ve got Canada post saying “I know you said no, but please?”. You know, come to think of it, on the internets I think there’s laws for that…

I’m, too sexy for this job.

I’ve heard of a lot of people who’ve left a lot of jobs for a lot of reasons. Some of them common sense, some of them a little out there, but vaguely inteligent. And some of them just plain out there, full stop. but the award for most origional excuse for leaving the workforce goes to Laura fernee, who has decided she’s just too damn good looking to be doing that whole working thing.

Laura Fernee told the Daily Mail her most recent job was in medical research, which she started in 2011. Fernee has a PhD in science and started in the workforce in 2008.

“The truth is my good looks have caused massive problems for me when it comes to employment, so I’ve made the decision that employment just isn’t for me at the moment,” the 33-year-old told the paper.

Her solution? She’ll just exit grasefully, and let someone less attractive fill her spot while she focuses on, uh, being just that damn good, I guess. I wonder if the Daily Mail caught up with her parents at all. If they had, perhaps they might want to ask how they feel about supporting their way too amazingly gorgeous daughter’s $2000 designer clothes habbit, among other things. And if ever they get her or them on TV, they might want to run the interview by some background music. Because really, every supersized ego needs a theme song.

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

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

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

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

2013 in review.

To say things changed in a wicked fast way in 2013 would probably be a slight understatement. And it started pretty much right at the beginning. Before the new year actually showed up, May and I had gone and signed the lease for the place we’re living in now. We fell in love with the place the day we saw it, and are still in love with it nearly a year later–that does not mean we’ll be renewing our lease, sorry Minto. We actually took possession of the place at the end of January.

In february, I started the process of getting me back in school–and we started the process of getting us ready to bring a little one into the mix. Both processes ended up taking just a little bit longer than I’d have liked, and the school process required I bounce between colleges a while until I found one that actually, you know, bothered to answer me with a little bit more than a boilerplate “We’re looking into it.”. In and around all that, there were trips to see family, attempts to reconnect with friends, attempts to reasure some of those friends that I do, in fact, still remember they exist–even if I’ve half the time been too damn busy to say so.

For the first time in a few years, I can actually honestly say 2013′s the year I finally started to get my feet back under me. There was still the odd little issue with the folks we used to rent from, but that little controversy died off after a while. May and I got closer, if that’s possible, and learned a little bit more about how we both work. Sure, that meant some personal drama here and there, and we tested each other’s sanity probably more than either of us would have liked to admit, but I like to think we’re better for it.

I didn’t actually end up *starting* class until closer to October, sadly–the majority of that time was spent trying to beat an actual answer out of college people at the other end of the city. And it’s not quite where I was hoping to be at this point in my life, but it’s a foot in the door and getting me closer to where I’d like to be, so I’m not about to shake my head at it too much. The rest has pretty much been routine as usual–go do the thing, come home, relax, spend time with May, take a little time for family, do the hockey thing, that kinda thing. And in and around all that I somehow managed to remember I still have a website to post to. I’d still call it a pretty up and down year overall, but at least this time it’s been mostly up. Hopefully I can shove that along with me into 2014 and we can pick up where that left off–minus the way 2014 actually started. I’m on steadier ground now, with a mostly solid support system–again, minus how this year actually started–and it’s kept me relatively sane even when things were trying their hardest to blow up in my face. If that continues, I don’t think I’ll have any problem owning 2014. And that, right now, is exactly what I’m off to get a start on. Get onboard if you’re coming, because when this thing starts moving, I’m not touching the breaks.

In which life decides to happen all at once. And I fall behind again.

You know how you get all comfortable with a routine, you even manage to work your busted sleep schedule around that routine, then it all just kind of comes undone and before you know it you’re going 80 million different directions in the same 30-minute timespan? Yeah that. It was how I spent a few weeks here in December, after keeping things relatively quiet–periodic posts up in here notwithstanding–for the couple months before that. And somewhere in between there I still managed to remember to breathe. Actually that’s kind of how parts of 2013 in general went, but that’s a post for later. As for right now, life in a nutshell–or a somewhat rambling essay. Whichever.

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling…

The folks over here at Accora Village, also known as the neighbourhood we live in, threw together an attempt at a sleigh ride earlier in the month. Pretty sure it was maybe the second weekend of the month–late enough, anyway, that things like wind chills in the vicinity of -30 C were a definite thing. What we didn’t have quite yet–it would definitely come shortly afterwards, though–was the actual snow. So instead, it was a horse-drawn wagon. Was still fun, though, if a little chilly. It was also May’s first, ever, sleigh ride in spite of the fact she’d been in Canada for a decade. Clearly we need to get the girl out more. I’d been on quite a few of them, both here and in BC, but it was nice to actually see it from the perspective of someone who hadn’t–she posted that perspective on her own site if you’ve got a few minutes. Definitely something I’ll do again if I’m here for it. Hopefully next time on an actual sleigh.

Somebody call for global cooling?

I mentioned the -30 degrees C wind chill already. That made a couple more reappearances after, sandwitched in around some pretty significant snow events–winter definitely showed up all at once in Ottawa. It wasn’t even the official first day of winter yet, and already we’d had to have the walkway/sidewalk in front of our place cleared a few times. Walking to class was quite on the fun side. Not to mention damn cold. I actually need to get used to such evils again, it would appear–it’s been a while since I’ve actually not had much choice but to stick my nose out the door and pray it didn’t fall off before I made it to the freaking bus. And I was getting paid to do such monumentally stupid things last time. I stayed my ass home on the coldest of the wicked cold days, though, which… Actually turned out to be probably the smartest brainstorm I had all year. Because…

I did not authorize death bug 2013, thanks.

I only grow a major, major health issue maybe once a year, if that. When I do, though, it’s quite the impressive one. This year’s episode came with everything but the kitchen sink–and the major inability to keep food down. Dizzyness, fever, wicked nifty cool cough, and a perfect combination of all of the above to pretty much guarantee my ass stayed itself at home, if not in bed, for the better part of 24 hours. And because I can never seem to develop these things any other way, it came perfectly timed to keep me off my feet a day before a test I was hell bent I was taking before I left for Christmas vacation, because like hell I was leaving that out there to be delt with in the new year. New year, new chapter. Besides–what the hell else was I gonna do on my last day there other than drag my feet? So instead, I stayed as close to comfortable as I could manage with a temperature, and just bounced what I needed to off my instructor from the comfort of the home office and college email–I do love that about this college, if we’re being honest (more on that in yet another entry). And the next day, not quite at a hundred percent yet but definitely better than I was, I went in and tossed off that test in about 15 minutes. Might have been 10, but like I said not quite at a hundred percent yet.

Death bug 2013, the sequel? Well crap.

I was getting over it just in time for May to be catching pretty much that same thing herself. So after dealing with college things on Friday, and then dealing with unplanned, unexpected and uninvited financial things after that, it was off to do 4 different flavours of running around in preparation for getting her well enough to travel and tying up the few loose ends that were left before we did so, which ended up being pushed back a couple days on account of a combination of she was nowhere near well enough (she caught it worse than me), and round 45 of let’s throw as much winter as we can at pretty much all of Ontario–at least this one waited until the first official day of the season before it nailed us but good. She was off her feet for pretty much the weekend, and part of last week while she kicked what was left of it. Though we did actually manage to leave the city for Christmas, I don’t imagine doing so was overly comfortable for her. We tried, though…

All your travel plans are belong to winter.

In a way it ended up being a good thing we weren’t ready to travel on the weekend before Christmas. Because right around the time we were thinking maybe it might be smart-ish to stay ourselves right at home for a day or two longer, weather was fixing to make sure we did exactly that. Major snow storm Friday and into Saturday, then apparently a wicked major ice storm in parts of Ontario (I’m looking at you, toronto) on about Sunday. Ottawa didn’t see a whole lot of the actual ice storm, but we did catch enough of it that roads got interesting for a majority of the day from what I’ve been hearing. We’d pushed our travel back to the 23rd of the month for health reasons, and that turned out to be the second smartest decision I was involved in of pretty much the entire year–look above for the smartest. By the time we got moving, things had cleared up at least enough that I wasn’t seeing news of delays, accidents and general traffic crappery every 5 or 6 minutes. So now all we had to do was beat our schedule into submission–not an easy thing to do when your schedule’s primarily out of whack because you’re out of whack, and you still haven’t quite corrected that malfunction just yet. But, hey, when you’ve been brought up in my family, you tend to develop the ability to take a messed up tangled up mangled up routine and turn it into getting where you need to be ahead of when you need to be–either that, or you get run over and left behind by the folks who know what they’re doing. That first thing sounds better, so we somehow went with that.

I’ll be home for Christmas…

On the Monday, we did actually manage to leave the city. As said it took some scrambling, because we were both running a little slow still what with neither of us being entirely over what ran us over the week before yet, but we managed to hit the bus station with more than enough time to get things situated so we could actually leave relatively on time–not bad for leaving the house a few minutes behind schedule. Which worked out just fine for us after all, since we gave the bus the room it needed to not actually pull out of the station until a bit after we were supposed to, and we still got to the other end about an hour after we were supposed to–a thing we, surprisingly, were both somewhat okay with and not a bit responsible for (Go us!). Pretty sure it was a combination of we were still in recovery and generally dealing with being tired from the trip, but travel day at the other end was pretty much spent barely conscious once we got situated, fed and made the people who needed to know aware that we were in approximately 1.5 pieces, but we made it. I… Don’t actually remember much more about that day aside from we made it. Which I suppose is really all that counts. Well, that and I was warned to expect a nephew ambush. Good thing one of us was mostly mobile…

… Please bring caffeine, and medication, and food, and…

The warning of a nephew ambush was not unjustified. As in at all. As in adoreable overload–again. The oldest was more than a little testy, but when he wasn’t pushing just about every limit his dad didn’t actually set down, he was pretty freaking adoreable. His brother, on the other hand, pretty much didn’t know how to be anything else but. Which worked out sort of well in our favour, given they stuck close to May and I every chance they got. When we weren’t having a nephew afternoon, or morning, or evening, or everything, there was plenty of good things to be had. My mother knows me and May both too well, so the caffeine was stocked. And because it’s Christmas and she can never resist doing it on Christmas, there was more food of more varieties than you can shake a cat at. Baked goods, healthy goods, grab some to munch on the way by goods, you name it it was out there. If you went hungry in that house, there was seriously something wrong with you. And just in case death bug 2013 followed us from Ottawa, or the kids left you with a migraine, she stocked up on medication. Because it’s not a Christmas vacation without someone needing at the very least to pop a tylenol or two. Of course it could also just be that she worries too much, but whichever. We came ready for christmas, and probably ate enough to see us through to, well, newyears.

It’s beginning to look a lot like giftmas.

Christmas morning came and went, and when it was all done and over with, the kids came out well ahead of the rest of us. Santa was at mom’s place this year, so for the first time since probably we were growing up, the tree was quite a bit on the full side. It didn’t last long, though, once the kids actually got up–maybe an hour or two, and all the evidence of a productive Christmas morning was all over the living room floor. The adults all pretty much got things they needed, or things that we figured would go right along with what they already had. I got to scratch a few things off my 2014 shopping list, which is never a bad thing if you’re a guy what can’t actually stand shopping. From a concert May got to go see in November (I’m still mad at you about that, by the way), mom got a CD from the two of us–she’d mentioned being a fan of the group, so that worked out quite nicely. No one went over the top this year, really. Well, except for things for the kids, but you can’t really not spoil the kids–it’s really their day, after all. But I think we all had a hole or two in our personal inventory filled. Or if nothing else, a little something extra that might could come in handy later.

One food coma, please.

As always, Christmas dinner was a stuffed afair. Turkey, potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, a couple different vegetables and of course a wicked selection of desserts. I think I may have gained a few pounds just in that one evening. One of my sets of aunts and uncles dropped in for a bit, which also meant we didn’t have to coordinate trying to find them while we were doing our visiting later. Which also had the advantage of meaning May and I didn’t need to go visiting later, as we’d already seen my grandparents the day before–so when it came time for food coma, all we had to do was waddle down to where we were sleeping and pass out. Which we had no problem doing. There’s something to be said for just shutting down for the evening while you try and find more room for that second piece of pie you couldn’t quite fit in earlier–which, I have no shame in admitting, I so very much did. Oh, and there may or may not have been a Big Bang Theory marathon tossed in there as well. Not entirely sure how much of that I actually saw after supper–see also: food coma, victim of. But it was there, and it was seen, so it counts. Mostly.

I need a vacation from my vacation…

As fun as christmas was, I think we were both pretty ready to come home, Or at least ready to be free of tiny things under the age of 10 for a little while. So after we took boxing day to pretty much recover from Christmas, we packed our crap up and my brother drove us back to Ottawa this past Friday. I took the weekend to relax, catch up on things I fell behind on while I was gone, and generally enjoy the piece and quiet. And at the same time I tried to pretend that us coming back home didn’t mean it was nearly time to get back into the same old usual routine. That part didn’t work so well. As I almost always do, I really enjoyed the Christmas vacation with the parents. I think I enjoyed it more this year because we weren’t piecing together a plan for how to handle things over the vacation about 5 minutes before they needed to be handled for a change. My only actual complaint is I freaking missed hockey in my absense. But in 2014, I will correct that. And hey, since I don’t have anything planned for tonight… I think I may just start right about now. Okay, so maybe getting back to the usual routine won’t suck entirely too horribly after all.

Copyright strikes again. Same guy, same download, 3 lawsuits. Who’s taking bets?

I can’t even laugh at Comcast for this, because surprisingly, while it’s definitely a broken, broken thing, it’s not actually *their* broken, broken thing. For a change. A copyright monitoring agency (or, as I like to think of them, undiscovered copyright troll) discovered the IP address of a Comcast customer was attached to a torrent they were spying on. So they turned around and sued the as yet unknown owner of that IP address for copyright infringement. Then, because why not, they sued him again. And again, for good measure. Because the same IP address showed up 3 times, somebody decided there aughta be just as many suits. Or, as the still unidentified defendant in the things figures…

Torrent Freak and the defendant speculate that he was sued three times in the hopes nobody would notice, thereby increasing the chance of getting a subpoena from at least one of the three Judges.

Sorry, DSL Reports, but had to minorly edit the section I quoted—-the plaintiff was probably speculating, but more likely on how to screw the unknown sucker over a little more. Oh, and, should probably appologise to the plaintiff too while I’m at it–all 3 suits ended up before the same judge. If any one of them had a chance on their own, the 3 of them together more than likely pretty much just sunk. Unless the judge is a completely brainless idiot, which now that I think about it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Okay, forget I said a word. Sooner or later, I’d like to think, copyright folks will learn…

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

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

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

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

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

That costs about $120.

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

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

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

Wonder if he’s still waiting?

I’ve heard of praying for a better break in life. Hell, I’ve heard of just praying for the mysterious discovery of a qwerky rich relative who just so happens to have $40000000000000000 sitting around they don’t plan to do a whole lot with. Somebody’s apparently decided to hell with this mess and is cutting out the middle man. By way of google. And it gets me this.

Apr 26 6:06am: Jesus could you please deposit

I wonder if our poor lost soul’s still waiting on that check…

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

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

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

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

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

It runs in the family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In which rogers buys out the NHL. In other news, I’m still stuck with the Senators.

So while life was happening to me, the NHL was selling off its broadcast rights to my current and/or former and/or maybe cable company. Starting next year, if there’s a game involving a Canadian team being played, odds are pretty damn good it’ll be played on a Rogers-owned TV station. Noteable exceptions are still for some Saturday games, which they’re letting the CBC hold onto along with Hockey Night in Canada–at least until Rogers gets bored of the crew. Since I swear to god the Leafs pretty much come packing their own broadcast staff to begin with I’m not entirely bothered by the possibility of, say, one of the guys that barely comment on a baseball game jumping in front of a mic to do a worse job with a hockey game. I mean, Ottawa’s kind of had that for half an age and they seem to be doing alright, but if Toronto can avoid it I’m good. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what this’ll end up meaning in terms of overall Leafs coverage on TV if you’re not living in what the NHL and/or Rogers decides is Leafs territory–except that I’ll probably spend nearly as much time next year tied to the internet for my Leafs fix. But I’ll make a 2014-2015 prediction anyway, even if the 2013-2014 season’s not even half over yet. Whatever the new arangement ends up meaning in terms of access to more games from more teams, I’m still pretty much primarily gonna be served up an oversized helping of below average senators hockey, whether I want it or not. So in advance, thanks Rogers. I knew you’d screw it. I’m also ready to be proven wrong right about now. Still waiting…

On Wikipedia as research method: why not?

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

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

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

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

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?

On OC Transpo’s public disservice announcements.

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

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

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

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

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

Student descression is advised.

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

Rob Ford gets the remix treatment. I may or may not still be snickering.

So. When you’ve escentially been cornered and forced to admit to smoking crack by way of every single one of your denials blowing up in your face, you pretty much can’t go any lower, right? Of course not. It’s when your public life, scandalous as it might be, becomes the very material worthy of a snerkwhile remix that you pretty much can’t go any lower. See also: Rob Ford yesterday, versus Rob Ford today. Very quite probably the best kind of spin ever put on a Rob Ford the Crackmayor story. And I didn’t have a damn thing to do with it. It’s not embedded, so RSS and email types should have no problem grabbing it. stream and/or download the thing at will–I don’t think it’s covered under copyright.

Hat tip to KiSS 92.5, who actually put this thing together. I only wish I coulda been there for the mashing.

Update: And right on the heels of this one, a remix of Ford’s crack confession hits Youtube. This one’s an embed, unfortunately, so if you’re reading this by way of RSS or email you’ll need to click over to the site and smack play. but it just might be worth it. You may suck as Toronto’s mayor, but you’ve got a future in what passes for modern music, Rob old chap.

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