starting-blast landlocked

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.

Case for designated driver? Made.

so. You’re driving down the road, minding your own. Your significant other is in the passenger’s seat. One or both of you’s been feeling the urge pretty much all freaking day. So rather than find a spot to pull over, or better yet wait until you’ve gotten where you’re going, you decide you maybe might aughta just take a little care of things right the hell there. I mean why not? You’re a relatively safe driver, right? You can multitask. right?

This florida woman figured that was about how it worked, anyway. And it worked pretty damn well for her. right up until she multitasked herself right into someone else’s house. Lucky for the house its occupants weren’t home–and neither passenger nor distracted driver were killed–but she drove through two rooms of the place before one or both of them clued in that, uh, this ain’t road anymore. I expect to hear of at least one road safety organization taking up the call and putting out an advertisement. “Be safe. Find a designated driver. Don’t dip and drive.” Thanks to these two, their case would already be made.

In which someone gets all offended by garlic ice cream.

You may or may not remember me making mention of a restaurant in San Francisco trying what I figured to be a questionable ice cream recipe. Not, you see, that I have a problem with garlic. But in ice cream, I think that might just be a little much for me. It was apparently way too much for one googler. Their solution? Well, you see…

Feb 18 2:58am: go to the stinking rose and shove all the garlic ice cream up my ass

One actually has to wonder if the one what landed here figured that would be an improvement. One also has to wonder if I should be keeping an eye out for potential charges of indecent offenses committed with an almost food item. Oddly, I’m not really any more likely to decide to get adventurous in the garlic ice cream department. I, er, wonder why…

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes sir.”

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

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

Fun with passwords. Or, why your 25-year-old sysadmin might be looking a little grey.

Default passwords are a thing, and for a fairly decent reason. Your crap needs to be relatively secure, even if you haven’t actually done anything useful with your crap since the start of its existence. Default passwords are also incredibly, incredibly bad for you. It’s why most actual corporations force you to change it from the default the first time you log in, whether or not they force you to change it on a subsequently frequent basis later on. Because not doing so can be a real problem for you, your content, and your sysadmin. Most of this, you’d think, would be pretty common sense–even if you’re not the technical sort. But, I’m putting it here, so you can safely assume it’s not as common as I’d prefer. This came pretty much full circle yesterday, and the only reason it didn’t get blogged yesterday is educational things have conspired to fry me.

As probably a few of you will figure out, I’ve run this site on a dedicated server for a few years. I also happen to have added a few people to the list of things running on this server in that time. In doing so, I use what I think to be relatively standard practices for security–you get an account, with whatever domains/services/whichever you need access to. You get a username of your choosing, and because I neither want nor need to know what your actual password(s) is/are, I give you a standard default password–and very strongly recommend, as in you really, really want to do this before I scramble the thing for you and hand you a generated one that’s at least 32 characters long, that you change the thing. Like now. As in before you even decide to turn around and install WordPress–which you should, because flexible. Because yes, the thing is secure. Mostly. But default passwords are usually three things. Easy to remember, short enough so as not to be overly confusing for folks who aren’t exactly up to trying to translate, commit to memory and not completely flub a 32-character-long password, and probably not difficult to figure out for your average script kiddy with a brute force program and some free time to devote to finding themselves a new machine they can borrow to spam the hell out of someone or someones. In other words, change it or you really do deserve to be slapped across the forehead with the clue stick. Gently, of course.

So I was on my way out the door yesterday with the half dozen things that usually follow me out the door when my phone pretty much blew up. I pull it out on the bus and find myself staring at a screen full of mail server failure notices. I’m talking very nearly a hundred of the freaking things. Well, I figure. This isn’t altogether too pretty of a thing to be seeing if you’re me. Did a server people are trying to send to decide to pick yesterday to suffer a fatal issue, or has something on my end gone and broke itself?

To figure out how this applies, let me summarize roughly what happens when you try and send someone an email. Your machine, through Outlook or some other program, sends the mail you’re working on to a server–either owned by your ISP, or your website provider, or the company you work for–with instructions that basicly says “This needs to get to person@place.com”. Your mail server, then–that’d be the thing Outlook just got done talking to, flips through the internet equivalent of a phonebook to figure out which other servers are accepting mail for place.com. When it finds one or several, it tries to contact them. Assuming it gets an answer from one, it asks two questions. “Do you actually accept mail for place.com?” And, if the answer to that question is yes, “Does person exist in your info on place.com?”. Assuming both answers are yes, one of two things happens. Ideally, your mail is then sent to the receiving server, who then tells your mail server, “Okay, I’ve got it. Thanks for dropping by.” and that’s that. Transaction complete. Or, slightly less likely, the server’s experiencing problems–or one of the servers it relies on is experiencing problems–and your mail server is told to escentially try again later. Which it will, repeatedly every so often, until either the mail is delivered or it just plain gives up on account of the destination’s well beyond broken. If the answer to the second question comes back a no, the receiving server escentially tells your server, “I don’t have anyone named person here.”. Okay, so that’s a problem. And it’s a problem you should probably know about so you’re not trying to repeatedly send mail to person@place.com and wondering why in the sam hell that rat bastard hasn’t gotten back to you in 6 months. So your mail server turns around and automatically sends you a quick email saying basicly “I tried to send your mail to person, but the folks at place.com don’t know who that is. Sorry about that. Oh and by the way, you should probably tell person his place.com address doesn’t exist–or make sure the sneak gave you the right one already.”. Okay so maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.

When my server sends people the “place.com doesn’t know who person is” email, it also copies that email to me. Not because I feel like snooping in on the juicy details of the morning’s gossip that you’ve accidentally sent to the slightly mistyped but still mostly correct address of the chick you usually have coffee with after work, but because in the event this kind of thing happens consistently, there’s either something wrong with the receiving server–which I may need to yell at someone about, or work around temporarily–or there’s something wrong on my server’s end, either with your account or with the server in general–which I need to fix, or prod you to fix, in order to prevent further much larger problems. So when an account on my server started generating several emails to random addresses that didn’t exist, the server got several “this person doesn’t exist here” notices from servers it was trying to deliver to. As a result, I got several copies of “I tried to deliver this, but they don’t exist” emails. And because it’s 2013, I’m a geek and there isn’t a smartphone alive today that doesn’t let you, I got to handle most of those on the way to class–and discover that those emails were coming from entirely random addresses on my server that *also* didn’t exist. Well then. Don’t we have us a situation. I couldn’t do entirely too much about it at the time except diagnose on account of I was mobile, I was on 3G and I wasn’t in one place long enough to haul out the laptop and make things happen, but at least now I knew there was something amiss in techville.

When I got where I was going, I had a bit more time to play find the hole. And what I found was the mail traffic was being generated by an account that hadn’t actually been accessed since it was set up and the person who owned it installed a version of WordPress. Since then, that account had escentially been sitting there doing not much. Unfortunately, because it hadn’t been accessed except the one time it took to install WordPress, that also meant its default password was still its current password. And, as a quick check would tell me when I got back to a network I could actually use without the restrictions of a not very well set-up firewall, it was that default password stil being set for months on end, on a public-facing system, that lead to the account being accessed by places and in ways that it might not aughta be. Having no idea at the time, though, my priority was escentially turn off the tap. So I disabled that account before class started, and it sat there being disabled until I could get a look at it when I was free–see also: when I confirmed that yes, in fact, the thing was accessed in ways it shouldn’t have been by a password that should have had a lifespan of 5 minutes.

That account will more than likely end up deleted, on account of it was never actually used and so really, nothing’s being lost by killing it. Which also means I don’t need to send an actual user an email basicly saying “by the way, because you fail at security basics all your crap is now compromized. Thank you.”, which works just fine for me. But this is a thing that could actually happen to a system or service you would probably much prefer it didn’t. think of everything that comes with a default password in place already. Routers, any modem purchased in the last maybe 5 years, university or college email/network accounts, the afore mentioned actual work related systems, the list goes on. They don’t come with default passwords because they’re worried about John Q. User developing amnesia and not having the slightest idea what their password is. They come with default passwords because they’re usually set up automatically, usually in batches, usually for several dozen to several thousand people at once. This also means if you feel like giving it a couple months, that common, default password can and will be found on Google. Which means anyone with 5 minutes free who knows the service exists and you have access can easily also have access. Which in turn means if they decide to use that access for less than legal purposes, or less than insanely irritating purposes, it’s not them that catches hell for it–it’s your access, therefore it’s your problem. Changing that default password, preferably the second you sit down in front of the system in question and access it for the first time, significantly reduces the likelyhood of it becoming your problem. It also just so happens to be exceedingly smart thinking, since in the case of people who maybe used to have access and shouldn’t anymore, it prevents them from deciding to borrow your access to try and get back at whoever decided they no longer needed it. And you’ll have just prevented, at least temporarily, your friendly neighbourhood sysadmin from developing a few of those grey hairs. That gets you bonus points somewhere. And hey, if it’s a thing I have anything to do with and you’ve just prevented me from having to piece together a working copy of your account long enough to beat you with it before telling you you should probably change your password, I swear I’ll be your best friend for life. Which will be a lot easier if you’ve also resulted in me having one or two fewer heart attacks. Now if the rest of the world would just come along quietly we’ll have it made.

If you don’t quit drinking and driving, I’ll threaten you again.

I meant to do something with this forever ago. then life happened. So, uh, have this now.

Say what you will about the way the US handles DWI laws. Oh, please, by all means, say what you will. But before you do, consider this. It’s 8:45 AM on a Sunday morning. You’ve been drinking more than enough to put you over the legal limit. You’ve been drinking exactly enough to actually double the legal limit. And you’re officially out of booze. Now, there’s a couple ways you could handle this. You could actually decide it might be time to go sleep off your very near future one hell of a hangover. You could, assuming you’re not drinking alone, try and find yourself someone sober who wouldn’t mind making a run to the grocery store for beer–I’m still a little jealous you folks in Quebec can pick up your beer when you pick up a bag of milk, I’m just saying. You can get creative and try walking to your nearest grocery store for the offending beer run. Or you can pour your drunk ass into the driver’s seat and head off to help yourself.

If you picked that last one, congratulations. Odds are you are the next Maurice Larrivee. Odds are also that you will be intercepted by well-meaning grocery store employees who valiantly attempt to talk some sober second thought into your alcohol-hazed brain and try to get across to you that you don’t, in fact, want to be driving home in your way past “I only had one or two” condition. Odds are you’ll dismiss the caution, because hell, you got here just fine didn’t you? And odds are you’ll drive yourself straight into your 17th arrest for drunk driving. But you can rest safely in the knowledge that you won’t actually see much if any jail time. And, hey, if you play your cards right you might just be back in a position to take a run at arrest number 18. Because worse than the fact some of these folks haven’t yet stopped by the clue shop on their way home is the fact there’s not a whole lot the police can actually do about it. Well, unless you’ve gone and killed someone before they managed to arrest you for driving while sloshed beyond belief.

sure, the police can take your car, or suspend your license–and they have. But you can–and often times do–eventually get one or both of those back before entirely too long. Meanwhile the police are kind of left with escentially wagging a finger at you and saying pretty much “don’t do that again, or else.” Or else what? Well, or else they’ll tell you not to do that again. Because, you know, that worked so well the first, second, third and sixteenth times. But hey, one can always hope 17′s this one’s lucky number. And somewhere, someone with at least as many convictions just drank to that.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you find what you were after?

The search engines have conspired to ruin me. Or at least screw with my head. I was just beginning to gloo together a post on how since SSL encription became the standard with places like google, keeping an eye on stats for amusement reasons has become just slightly less amusing. And then along comes our friend the sexual deviant from India. And our sexual deviant friend from India drops this into the mix.

Oct 20 11:27am: water fuck

I don’t even know where you were trying to go, pal. Really I don’t. But I hope you got there. Just please remember to at least pretend to use protection. Fake it if you have to. In the meantime, remind me never to think about accusing the search engines of conspiring to deprive me of amusement again. Well, at least until 2014.

Update: He searched for water porn, and instead discovered my no hot water rant. From 2007. And folks said google didn’t have a sense of humour.

You know your skills are in demand when…

So. I mentioned once or twice my end goal being putting the geek abilities that result in, among other things, the existence of this website on paper. Someone asked me once what I’d use as an indication the skills I’m looking to prove I have and expand on are ones that would be in reasonably–meaning reasonable enough to pay for–demand. Until recently, I wasn’t entirely sure–beyond the fact that just about every organization of just about every size needs IT help these days, even if some of the smaller ones tend to outsource those needs to someone not actually covered by them. And then, the media handed me a benchmark. Thanks, Dawson College.

A student who used to attend that school found a bit of a flaw in their information portal. That flaw made it possible for anyone who’s anyone to get their hands on student information that didn’t need to be gotten hold of by anyone who’s anyone. The student brought it to the attention of the school and the company who developed the software they use. As thanks for his efforts, the school expelled him. contrast that with the folks what developed the software–who had the option of charging him for trying to hack their software, and instead offered him a job. Measurement of demand established. That it had the grannies over at the Globe and Mail sticking their necks out so the folks over at Techdirt could lop it off at the shoulders is what ya call an added bonus.

My end goal is to walk away from my education with the ability to do escentially what this student accomplished. It helps that the college I’m staring at seems to be a little more with the times–hell, their website is entirely powered by wordPress. And if the job postings that end up landing in my lap aren’t evidence enough I’ll be able to at least get people to talk to me when I can put this junk on paper, the fact the guys he supposedly broke the law to help out didn’t see it that way and wanted to pay the man just about solidifies it. If nothing else, it decreases the likelyhood of my being expelled for trying. That counts for something, at least…

How to confuse the automated bus stop announcement system: fall hopelessly behind schedule.

If you’ve spent any time in Ottawa at all, you’ve probably had reason to step foot on its public transit system. If you’ve done so at any point since somewhere around 2010, you’ve more than likely gotten to experience their automated stop announcements. Occasionally, as good as the system is, it’s been known to take a day or two off. At first, I just figured it was temporarily being unstable. Tap the driver on the shoulder, tell him/her it needs a swift kick, it eventually sorts itself out. Now, I’m thinking maybe a small part of the problems might be related to a tiny handful of confusion. Specificly, I sincerely wonder if maybe the system just hasn’t got the slightest idea where the driver is in relation to where he should be and eventually just says “Screw you, bud. You’re on your own.”. After tonight, if someone from OC Transpo were to hand me that kind of explanation, I’d probably buy it.

We were coming back home from grabbing a couple things. One of the buses we were supposed to catch was supposed to be to the stop we were at by a little after 6. We’d planned our trip home escentially with that in mind, figuring okay, a little over maybe 45 minutes later and we’d be home and have most of the crap we brought with us put away. Awesome. That still gave me time to catch the start of hockey–priorities, you know. The bus that was supposed to show up at we’ll call it 6:10 didn’t show up at 6:10. It did, however, show up at 6:30. Also known as about 9 minutes before the one we’d pretty much resigned ourselves to waiting for. Annoying, but you deal. We caught it, got comfortable, and crawled our way away from the stop at something a little bit more than a snail’s pace.

We’ve suffered slow drivers before. Not quite 20 minutes late slow drivers, but definitely the slow type. That’s nothing entirely too irritating on the surface. May and I noticed the stops weren’t actually being announced. Okay, a little more annoying, but the system’s been known to sort itself out after a while. Besides we were stopping so damn often we both had a fairly accurate read on where abouts we were to begin with. Still not entirely too concerning. About 3/4 the way to where we needed to get off, I got up and tapped the driver on the shoulder. Told him the system needed a swift kick.

If you’re a bus driver and you’re reading this, here’s a hint from a guy that sometimes relies on the automated stop announcements. When a guy that sometimes relies on the automated announcements taps you on the shoulder and lets you know the automated announcements aren’t actually announcing, the correct answer is not, in fact, “they’re coming through just fine.”. Yes, the guy we had behind the wheel here tried that. He got the snarky equivalent of no not really. I’m not entirely sure what if anything he actually did, except whatever he did made the announcement system repeat what it thought was the stop the bus was coming up to. Only one problem. The stop it announced was both very much behind us and at the very beginning of this bus’s route. And that was the only time we heard the system go off for the rest of the trip until we changed buses 20 minutes later (it should have taken 10).

Buses that were running the same route we were on were passing us like we were standing still. I can’t be entirely sure the driver ever actually managed to not be behind schedule even after we got off. I can be slightly more sure we just found an easy way to accidentally confuse the hell out of an automated system. And all it took was falling hopelessly behind schedule. Somebody somewhere really aughta file themselves a bug report…

You missed one, pooch. That’s fine; so did I.

Training a dog for explosives detection can’t be easy, by any means. Particularly if the dog can figure out what he’s being trained to find–there’s a bit of a self-preservation thing that kinda comes in to play, I’d imagine. so it stands to reason the dog will probably miss one or two of the training devices, especially if he’s new to the job. You’d think, though, that the guy doing the training would maybe do just a little bit better. You’d be wrong.

The device was missing for two days before the dog handler noticed and by the time Air Canada security was advised of the loss, the plane was on the ground in Toronto.

Most of the documents, obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, contain a series of memos between RCMP and the B.C. transit police outlining what was done to find the device.

Dog in training: 1. Dog trainer: 0. And the win goes to Airport cleaning staff. Maybe the BC transit police will invite them to their next session? Hey–it was a thought.

20 absolutely ridiculous government shutdown pick-up lines.

I’m as much a fan of poking a government on its way off a financial cliff in the eye as the next guy. It’s actually a personal hobby of mine. So I was about knee-deep in all manner of government shutdown tweets. Most of them were snarky. Some of them were even funny. None of them were nearly as left field as the Ottawa Sun’s 20 government shutdown pick-up lines. I’ve omitted the “funny” from their title. Because no.

Aside from actually somewhat improving the song, I got nothing. There’s 19 more just like that one in the article. You’re trying too hard, Ottawa Sun. You went for funny and came back with ridiculous. but, A+ for effort. Cash it in somewhere special.

Back to school, the hard way. Or, who’s bright idea was math anyway?

So let’s see. The last time I thought about educating myself, I ended up chasing Everest College around in a near to endless circle and wound up right back where I started. That is, no closer to being educated and no further ahead with working with the school on making things workable so I could get me educated. The entire point? I wasn’t entirely impressed with the way Algonquin wanted me to go about getting escentially the exact same education. I’m still not overly impressed, but given I’ve been in neutral for the better part of too long already I’ve about run out of options.

I’ve been looking for a way to take the skills I’ve already got in the sysadmin realm and put them on paper, more or less professionally, while at the same time probably picking up a few things I don’t already know. Like, say, why anyone in their right mind would choose to run a corporate website on any version of Windows Server, but you’ll have that. Both Algonquin and Everest offer escentially the same course, with at least moderately close to the same results. The key difference–and it’s a difference I’m still having more than a little difficulty wrapping my head around–is the course at Algonquin not only has a math prerequisit, but also runs a single, solitary math course in the first semester of the program. To what end I haven’t a clue, but beyond the first semester I’ll very next to likely never open a math textbook again in my life. That is–unless I plan on following through on my threat and adding some variation of programming skills onto what this program wants to teach me (Can we say professional student, anyone?).

When I brought up that situation with the guy what ran the course at Everest, even he seemed a bit confused by the requirement–you’re not designing the circuitry, for crying out loud, you’re just piecing what’s already been designed together and making sure component A plays compatibly with operating system B. Escentially a more hands-on perspective of what I used to get paid to do, more or less. And I sure as hell didn’t need math to do it then. But, Algonquin seems to have a different opinion on what it takes to be the guy what fixes their equipment, so we do the dance and hope for the best.

And that’s pretty much why, barring a complete failure of just about everything between me and the college campus, on October 15th I get in line for my very own generous helping of brain damage. The first step is to go through their academic upgrading course, because not thinking I’d need to see myself going back to school 10 years after leaving highschool and not figuring the world would escentially implode economically speaking, taking my job right along with it, and knowing you pretty much didn’t need a whole huge heaping helping of extra education beyond a decent ability to learn quickly while sidestepping from one problem to the next meant I got the hell out of highschool at the first chance handed me. It also meant I didn’t see a need to take a math course in my final years–I took an extra English instead so I could graduate when I was supposed to. Awesome decision then. Probably not so much now.

So I finalize things for my upgrading this week. Then, it’s the sit back and wait game until my course actually starts. And between now and then, I’m sure the idea will hit me at least twice. Who’s bright idea was math anyway?

Death of a personal lockout.

During pretty well all of what was left of the NHL season last year, I didn’t turn on a hockey game. I didn’t even watch minor hockey last year–not that I did much watching of minor hockey before that. Even when Toronto actually managed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, I counted down the hours to first pitch of what would turn out to be a tanker of a baseball season. The NHL had locked out its players for the second time since the cancelled 2004-05 season. And so, for the remainder of last season after the lockout was lifted, I locked out the NHL.

I had no interest in the Leafs’ best season in a while. I had very little interest in the 7-game playoff series they could have had until they didn’t. I was done. I couldn’t even tell you who exactly the team was by the time playoffs came around. But that was a year and a soap opera ago. Now, it’s a little less than 36 hours to the first official puck drop of the 2013-14 NHL regular season. Now, I’ve kept an ear to the training camps. I’ve even had preseason hockey in this house for the first time in several years. I wouldn’t necessarily say all is forgiven. But from where I sit, it’s looking more and more like the death of a personal lockout. Welcome back, hockey. Don’t screw it up.

And sometimes, politicians and their staff amuse me.

Could also have been titled: This is precisely the snark I was looking for.

I mock politicians and the folks they hire on a semi-regular basis. On the blog, on Twitter, in person, you name it. But every so often, I have to give them their due. It’s a little late–and by a little I mean pretty much half a year, but I just got round to reading and doing something about this. Someone, apparently with a hugely awesome amount of time on their hands, actually petitioned the US government to build a death star for national defense. That self-same person got over 30000 other people with awesomely huge amounts of time on their hands to sign it. The result? The White House was legally required–this was before they raised that requirement to 100000–to respond to that petition. And respond, they did. Oh good lord did they ever.

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO
Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

.The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
.The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
.Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship? However, look carefully and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky – that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts – American, Russian, and Canadian – living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs – one wielding a laser – roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo – and soon, crew – to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White Housescience fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

You know, if they’d put the money they’re sinking into things like the NSA into stuff like this instead, we might actually have something here. And to think–the only folks who may or may not have been mocked to write this thing are, well, the folks what gave that petition legs in the first place. Now, if they’d just get on with providing federal funding for the development of a replicator a la Star Trek, good things just might happen. Like the ability to download a pizza. Hey–I’d download a pizza.

At least the NSA knows where its info is. Human Resources Canada? Not so much.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware the NSA’s having a heart attack over Edward Snowden and what he’s already handed over to reporters–nevermind what he could still hand over to reporters now that they and the UK have stepped things up a knotch. Whether you agree with Snowden or the NSA, at least you can give the NSA that they know exactly where their info is, who’s got access to it, and what they’re doing with it. Our federal human resources regulators, on the other hand? They know it’s out there somewhere.

A lost USB key may have potentially exposed the personal information of about five thousand canadians.

An employee at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada lost the memory device back in November.

The department says there’s no hard evidence that the USB stick had been used for any fraudulent purposes.

The federal privacy watchdog is investigating.

Personally I’d almost rather it be our version of the Snowden soap opera, but hey, whatever works. Of note, though, I don’t see anyone standing up to charge the former owner of that USB key with aiding the enemy, or any other brand of treason under the sun. I do have to guess someone’s officially got a new job by now, however. Hopefully not working for RBC.

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