starting-blast landlocked

In which my former employer loses its mind. Again.

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

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

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

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

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

Always read the fine print. Or the whole print.

It’s nearly (yes, okay, I know–still 4 months away) Christmas time again, so time to break out the vaguely Christmas themed posts. And by vaguely themed, I mean this little bit happened in December of last year–but, you know, life and things. A teenager in the UK was doing a little online shopping. He had his eye on an Xbox, and his mind on tossing up 450 pounds for it–just under $750 US at today’s exchange rate. Which would have been absolute awesomeness in a can, considering how quickly they were flying off the shelves at the time. Just one problem, though. The Xbox he paid for wasn’t the Xbox he received.

Despite the listing stating it was a photo of an XBox One Day One edition console, Mr Clatworthy said he’d expected to receive the console as it was listed in the video games and consoles category on eBay.

He instead received the photo in the post on Monday, with it having ‘thank you for your purchase’ written on the back.

Remember all those times people warned you to always read the fine print? Yeah. … About that. It could probably stand a few more repetitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the department of things that no longer surprise me: Professional cuddling?

Okay, I get the basic idea behind it. Seriously, I’ve always been of the opinion that there’s nothing overtly sexual/dangerous/whatever about two people cuddling. It’s all about limits, things like that–and really, if every second or third person had someone to cuddle with (or, hell, someone to have any kind of physical contact with at all) there’d probably be a few less problem children wandering about. But I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that people will actually pay for that.

– Wisconsin’s ultra-liberal capital city is a place where just about anything goes, from street parties to naked bike rides.

But city officials say a business is pushing even Madison’s boundaries by offering, of all things, hugs.

For $60, customers at the Snuggle House can spend an hour hugging, cuddling and spooning with professional snugglers.

Okay. Again. Get the idea in theory. Have said before that people in general *need* physical contact of some sort. Have emphasised, at least once, from the perspective of kids but hey, it’s the same way for most adults–why not? And I suppose, if folks aren’t getting it–again, like certain significantly more intimate forms of physical contact–from the people they want/need it from, I can see them maybe looking elsewhere for it. That would probably be slightly more socially acceptable than sleeping with someone on the side or whatever if folks weren’t raised to view physical contact in general as highly inappropriate.

But I can safely say paying for it never quite struck me as a thing that happens. I mean how desperate for attention, physical or otherwise, do you have to be before that looks like an option worth considering? And the ones doing it professionally–clearly it’s not anything close to the same for them as their probably significantly more sexual counterparts. That’s not something you do, I’d like to think anyway, if you’re just barely trying to get by, or if you’re desperate to support the drug addiction you just can’t shake off.

As odd as I find arrangements like that though, it doesn’t really end up doing a whole lot to surprise me. People will pay for damn near anything. People will accept money in exchange for damn near anything. I just didn’t figure damn near anything went as far as, you know, things that should be common sense. Welp, that’ll learn me. Clearly, like the book says, it takes all kinds.

Disorderly conduct or temporary insanity?

I honestly have no idea how to start a post like this, which is part of the reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long. Of course the other part is sheer unadulterated shock at the amount of crazy that must have been required to eeven entertain the thought.

Serge Vorobyov was apparently going through a bit of a rough time. And by rough, I mean he may or may not still be picking up the pieces. He and his wife had just divorced, and he clearly wasn’t quite ready to call it a done deal yet. So in a desperate attempt to both win her back and prove he’s not exactly the kind of man I’d consider lending a thousand dollars too, he thought it might be fun to provide a little background entertainment at the Mall of America. So while a choir sang Let it Snow, he lobbed a thousand dollars over a fourth floor railing. Then, kept tossing money on his way down.

Vorobyov had stamped the bills with his YouTube address and on his Facebook page he called the event a publicity stunt. When asked why he wanted the publicity, he said he wanted his cat back from his estranged wife.

Why do I get the feeling he’s now got his hands on more than one cat at a price of significantly less than a thousand dollars? Why do I also get the feeling he’s skipping out on a psychiatrist appointment? Some folks just can’t let go.

Win A Jailhouse Wedding!

So, let’s say you’re Vincent Condron. Let’s say you’ve been ducking under the legal radar for the better part of six years, on account of there’s a warrant out to have your ass in handcuffs because you went off and did something braindead stupid. Now let’s say you played it smart the last several years. Laying low, keeping quiet, straightening yourself out, and just generally–well, you know–keeping yourself the hell out of trouble. Or, failing that, out of the country. Now let’s say someone from Britain, who just so happens to be the country having the warrant out to arrest your ass, catches your eye. You probably aren’t going to put yourself and your new fiance up for public enjoyment in that country and lead the cops pretty much right to you, right? … Please note: if you agreed with this, take a bow. Then, consider yourself smarter than Vincent, who apparently won himself a wedding and proceeded to land his mugshot in the local paper. Which landed him in handcuffs. The good news, for him and his new bride at least, is they decided not to actually lock him up–apparently, ho hum, he’s a changed man, now. The bad news? If he’s not a changed man, somebody just bought them a jailhouse wedding. I’ll let you consider that for, oh, just a moment. Okay, time’s up.

Right name, wrong number.

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

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

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

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

Leave it to Cracked to be mostly accurate about the blind.

I should seriously devote more time to reading sites like Cracked. Not just because, hell, some of what they toss up there is freaking hilarious. But because in a lot of cases, some of what they toss up there is freaking accurate. Take an article they wrote on how the rest of the world pretty much makes it harder on blind folks than it oughta be. That isn’t to say, naturally, that it’s open season on the world and bring on the pity party, but let’s be realistic/honest here. We might still have our problems, but we’d probably have less of them if the people we have to deal with on the regular would exercise their right to be braindead a little less frequently. I may go into detail a bit more in other entries, but with the exception of 5 (and I’ve been around quite a few with varying levels of vision and haven’t noticed much in the way of accusations of faking), the article pretty much looks like an almost exact duplication of my own observations. That isn’t to say there aren’t more than a few blind folks out there with a nack for making complete and utter dicks of themselves for no real good reason. But for the rest of us, we spend most of our time dodging headaches that aren’t of our own devising. Which, I think, is part of what makes those of us who actually want something to happen probably a little more likely to get it. But that’s just me. The guy next door may brand the whole thing a conspiracy against the teeny tiny blind population in both the US and Canada. At which point, I suppose I can’t really blame some folks for deciding to exercise their right to be stupid. In some cases, it’s probably deserved. But in most, you’re just creating headaches because it’s cool. Knock that off, would ya?

Putting priority back in priority seating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New life goal: Blake Shelton in concert.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m huge on country music. Always have been–I grew up on the stuff, after all. My music collection and related tastes have expanded significantly over the years (related: note to self: Replace some of the crappy quality music you own, you fool.), but I always end up falling back on country eventually. No freaking idea why, other than it’s there, I’m there, it’s what I’m used to, so yeah. Top of list will always be Garth Brooks, for reasons–largely related to the fact he was I think the first actual concert I went to, and though a couple have come close, he still threw the best one I’ve seen. But after that, it’s pretty wide open. Blake Shelton, though, has made my must be seen list.

A lot of artists, I find, tell you what the songs they put out are supposed to capture, or signify, or whatever. I remember listening to an interview in between tracks on one of those radio shows where they’ll play an entire album from beginning to end, and the artist (I can’t remember which one this was) spent a good 5 minutes explaining the background for one of his songs. Was probably a good thing he did, because I’d have never picked up on what he was trying to get at if they’d just, you know, played the song and been done with it. Garth Brooks didn’t necessarily need to do that. He still did on occasion, but you could probably figure it out if you just listened to the thing. Just about all of Blake Shelton’s music’s like that. And it has the added advantage that some of it tends to sort of accidentally fall into my thought process at times–I’ll hear a song, and instantly fit it into something I’ve had happen, or relate it to someone I know, or something else entirely. And of course it helps that some of them just, you know, end up sticking in my head and before I know it I’m murdering the poor things in the shower, but you’ll have that.

So needless to say, if not this year, then in the not entirely too far away future, I will be attending a Blake Shelton concert. I have absolutely no idea when, or where it’ll happen. But it’s on my list of things to accomplish before either I kick the bucket or he retires. It probably says something that he’s only the second person I’ve explicitly wanted to make a point of seeing live–I made a point, twice, of seeing the Bare Naked Ladies in concert before they lost a man. There’s been local entertainment here that sure, it might have been nice to go see. But I will rearrange plans if I hear he’s got a show local enough to pull it off–because if the recorded version of his music’s that good, the live version’s got to be amazing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d die to go see a performance, but I do believe it’s just become one of my next life goals. So, uh, if anyone sees this and happens to know him somewhat personally, send congratulations his way from me. Or just laugh and move on. That works too.

In which I try sidestepping my way into college.

So. This thing got forgotten about again. Largely because math was killing my remaining brain cell. But math is pretty much done with now, so there can be broken. At least until I go back to procrastinating.

So how’d I do with the math course overall? Well, I’m not done as in done, as in completed. I’m done as in I’ve been informed I could have avoided taking the last part of the course, the graphing/extrapolating/brain twisting part of that course, by just sitting down and taking a placement test instead. I found this out escentially two months into the last part of my course. So now, I kick back and cool my heels while the stress of the last year or so goes that-a-way, and set me up to take a placement test. Assuming the placement test doesn’t trick me with misleading sample questions, this oughta go a step towards confirming I’m definitely getting the hell into my geek program in January. Which means this thing can get back to what I was hoping to use it for when I started this version of the site–geek things. Well, okay, and political rantings and God knows what else, but you know. It’s a long way around to get to where I need to be, but I think I can see it now. That’s something. I’ll let you know when I know what that something actually looks like.

People really will eat damn near anything.

surprisingly not from the same folks who up and brought you garlic ice cream, we have more cruel and unusual punishment as inflicted on an already occasional enjoyment. Of the glowing in the dark variety.

Folks have apparently found a way to synthesize jellyfish proteins, which they use to give the ice cream the on-demand glow. And by on-demand, they mean it glows when you lick the thing. Now, I’m all for trying new things. Even on the rare occasion when I’m up for ice cream. But I’m not entirely sure how I’d feel about my cone, or sunday, or whichever, actually lighting my way to the car if we decide to go for a late-night grab of DQ. Not that I’ll need to do much worrying about it at $200 US a scoop, but y’know. Just goes to show, clearly folks’ll eat just about damn near anything. Better you than me, bud.

Never let it be said that Britney spears doesn’t have some talent.

She may be virtually incapable of actually carrying a tune, and she may not be able to write her way out of a paper bag if she was handed an instruction manual on exactly what not to do when trying to be lyrical. Hell, she may or may not even be a borderline mental basket case who really aughta be in an institution rather than a tour bus. But clearly one thing people who can’t stand her existence don’t get to say is there’s not some degree of talent there. After all, her music was chosen as Samali Pirate Defense.

The tactic is used when suspected pirates ignore initial instructions to move away from cargo ships, and the pop princess’ songs were chosen as research showed she is the marine bandits’ least favourite singer.

British Merchant Navy officer Rachel Owens, who guides ships through the dangerous seas, tells The Sun newspaper, “As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney they move on as quickly as they can. Her songs were chosen by security accompanying tankers because they thought the pirates would hate them most.”

Other than potentially being a human rights violation, and other than the crazy chick still gets air time–but for a good cause, of course–I’m not seeing much in the way of problems, here. No one dies, Britney’s presumedly being well paid for her services, and someone who isn’t me gets to put up with the junk on repeat. everybody wins. Well, except maybe the Samali pirates who’d have probably just preferred they were shot and done with, but eh. Nothing’s perfect.

The next time you die of cancer, do it in French, oui?

Quebec’s got problems. So says just about anyone who doesn’t live in Quebec and a significant number of people who do. Kicking out the separatist party as they did earlier this year solves a chunk of them, but there’s still the niggling little issue of language. Specificly, Quebec’s insistence that there can be only one. It’s lead to some very interesting conversation topics. Like what, exactly, the french word for pasta is. Or exactly how large the writing on a package of spoons aught to be before it’s offensive. Or whether or not one should rearange their request for hospital care so it sounds pretty in French before you can consider yourself an equal among cancer patients–wait, what?

An agitated orderly at a Hull hospital demanded that an anglophone family — still reeling from a cancer diagnosis — address him in French in the emergency ward because he was “Québécois” and “c’est le Quebec,” the family has complained.

To make matters worse, the patient, John Gervais, 77 and a Canadian Navy veteran, is a longtime resident of Aylmer, Quebec and, though too weak to speak, is fluently bilingual.

Bilingualism in Quebec? Off with their heads. It’s French or nothing, and everyone knows. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood orderly, after he’s done with his suspension with pay and… er… that’s about it. Clearly the family has learned their lesson, I’d imagine. The next time one of them ends up with cancer, they’ll do it in French. Or, you know, they’ll just pack up and leave Quebec, but you’ll have that. Canada, you’re awesome, but you’ve been broken since at least 1982. And it’s all the fault of bilingualism–except in Quebec. Only in Canada…

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

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

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

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

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

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

I now pronounce you legally croked.

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

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

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

Ontario votes tomorrow, for what it’s worth.

I may be just a teeny tiny bit synical. I’m surprised I wasn’t flat out called that during a conversation I had with someone on Twitter with regards tomorrow’s election. But sitting here right now, I’m not seeing much in the way for potential for change when the smoke clears. For the purposes of full disclosure, I’m slightly partial to what I’ve heard from Tim Hudak in recent weeks–not partial enough to skip class and go vote for the man, but partial in the sense that we know what we’re getting if Wynne or Horwath end up on top when everything’s settled.

The interesting thing isn’t particularly what will or won’t happen if the right or wrong person ends up elected premier, depending on your perspective. The interesting thing is what an opinion on who might be worth handing a fair shot to will get you if you offer it up to the wrong crowd.

I made the mistake of mentioning in a Twitter conversation that if I were actually inclined to vote tomorrow, I’d give serious thought to letting Hudak have at it. Not because I think he’d be the best fit for governing Ontario, but because I know what I’m getting with Wynne or Horwath–and that’s not the best fit for governing anything. specificly from my perspective, Hudak can’t do any more or less damage to me financially or otherwise than the current setup already has. And yet, saying that gets me a free ride to the unconditional supporters list, from at least one journalist on the “Hudak will ruin your life” bandwagon.

When I mentioned I’d go for Hudak if I went for anyone at all, based on the fact he couldn’t do any worse with things from my perspective, journalist Lorraine Sommerfeld decided I needed an education. when I did the math for her, showing that people on ODSP were pretty much an afterthought by both the liberals and NdP, her response was to shift the conversation to what the Harris conservatives provincially, or the Harper conservatives federally, have historically done–that is to say, she didn’t actually counter what I mentioned at all, but chose to back up her point that I’m significantly in the Hudak camp. The more I tried to disabuse her of that idea, the more convinced she was that she had me pegged spot on. And in so doing, she confirmed what has escentially been my reason for not voting in the first place.

Whether or not we wake up with a conservative government come Friday morning, it’s going to do all kinds of hurting between now and the next election. That’s no secret. Expenses are going to need to be cut. Either that, or taxes are going to need to be raised. That means either things like ODSP are going to get trimmed back (the supposedly guaranteed result if the conservatives win), or more of our limitted–and fixed–income will be going towards taxes, fees etc to cover off what anyone who knows even the basics of math will tell you is a significant gap between funds required and funds available. It doesn’t solely affect people on ODSP, but people on ODSP will feel it more–because if the government (any government) decides it needs to dial back on expenses, the cost of keeping us afloat will easily make the list.

But the fact that it’ll hurt just as much whether we wake up with a liberal, conservative or NDP government is secondary. The problem with the vote, at least insofar as this election goes, is it’s purely a partisan thing, end of story. You’re not, necessarily, picking the best candidate for the job when you’re out to vote. You’re picking the candidate that closest matches your preferred party, for better or worse. Actually looking at the candidates, the platforms, the talking points–that’s apparently the exception rather than the rule. So is, clearly, explaining why you’re at least willing enough to talk about it if not vote for it–that’s a thing you just don’t do, you see.

So rather than get some kind of an explanation as to why in creation Lorraine would vote for the liberals or NDP, I instead get a historic explanation of why I aught not to vote conservative (neverminding that I said I wouldn’t be voting anyway). And a gentle pointer to her Monday column in which I’m treated to more of the same.

At no point did I make mention to the fact she shouldn’t be voting for Wynne or Horwath. It’s her vote, she can park it where she pleases. But where I was looking for an idea why, with everything we now know has gone on with the liberals in charge and the NDP smiling and nodding alongside, she’d be willing to continue to park her vote there, she had no interest in actually talking about it. You either agree with her that Hudak is evil, or she’s got no time for an actual conversation about why the other two are more deserving.

I don’t care enough about politics on a municipal, provincial or federal level to take it to partisan levels. The positives look the same whether a liberal, conservative, NDP or Green candidate’s putting them on display. And so do the negatives. I’ve come up with my own impressions and ideas on the various platforms, for whatever that might be worth later on. But if a majority of the folks who come out to vote tomorrow adopt the attitude Lorraine’s showing here, even if they don’t necessarily adopt her party, voting stops being something we do because it’s our right. It stops being something we do for the good of the city, province, country, what have you. We line up with the party who’s leader we like, and fall in behind him or her all the way to the polling station. And when the dust settles, the numbers are worked out and whoever has managed to get more of their own true believers out to vote wins it all. And for what? For the good of democracy, perhaps. But for the good of the province remains a little questionable. Too bad there are folks who won’t hear the question.

In which I learn, again, why math is bad for me.

So I’ve been doing the college thing the last while. Well, sort of. It’s more like I’ve been doing the prerequisit education before I can do the college thing. And that’s meant several months of pretty much all math, all the time. Because until I’ve nearly melted my brain with numbers, letters, and letters that try and become numbers, I won’t be getting through the door into something slightly more useful. And what I’ve discovered when trying to avoid completely frying my last brain cell–at least until I’ve managed to put this hot mess behind me, at which point it can do all the frying it likes–is, quite simply, I was not built to tolerate highschool math.

Well, okay, that may or may not be entirely fair. Probably more accurate is I was not built to tolerate all highschool math and nothing but highschool math. But either way. The way this course is laid out, one of two things is pretty much guaranteed to happen. Either I’m going to find myself exceedingly bored, and still come away with decent to high marks on a huge pile of junk I’ve done before even if I don’t straight up remember it right away–this is how I spent most of my time with this course, or it’ll sit there waiting until I’ve turned my head for 3 seconds and suckerpunch me in the face with something obvious that sends me around the twist for an hour or so while I attempt to figure out how it is, exactly, a thing that made sense 5 minutes ago became a tangled mess of what in creation was I thinking–this has been a more recent development.

Needless to say I’m discovering, sometimes the hard way, my own limitations in translating all manner of equasions that are supposed to represent actual, visual shapes into something moderately useable in an honest to goodness math problem. And, at the same time, discovering–probably not for the first time–exactly why it is my first instinct when I was actually, you know, in highschool was to get me the hell out of dodge and find a way up that didn’t mean staring at a graph and trying to figure out which of the 80 million points the thing represents is actually supposed to stand in for x.

On the positive side, at least, the people are awesome. Not quite so enthused about the new instructor (*), but you’ll have that. And the material, for the most part, at least tries to be vaguely useful. If math was something I had an interest in in the first place, like for instance if I were actually planning on doing something I knew would heavily depend on it, I’d probably be a little quicker with actually catching it. But since math and I were never on speaking terms, and the program I intend to get into doesn’t actually look like it has a whole lot to do with math beyond the first semester, I look away from the thing for 3 seconds and suckerpunch. So that’s been just distracting enough to keep me out of trouble, and is probably partially contributing to my continued descent into chaos and madness. It may or may not also be partly to blame for a virtual lack in, well, pretty much anything else that requires any kind of creative energy. maybe not, but it gets the blame anyway.

I do like how they’ve set the program up, though. You’re escentially supervised, but can largely go at your own pace (**). There are expectations, naturally, and fairly loose deadlines. You’re not really handing in assignments or anything–the only things you’re actually graded on in this program are your tests. It’s sort of like a correspondence course meets an adult learning center, or something along those lines. Which works for me, for a couple reasons. It gets me out of the house for a few hours a day, which isn’t a bad thing. Plus, because it’s largely a DIY deal, you’re not spending your entire class time listening to the instructor drone on about the finer points of graphing a polynomial function–which, just for the record, is only slightly higher on the snore scale than actually attempting to graph the offending polynomial function. Which has the added benefit of you can use said class time to, well, actually do the work. Highschools could probably learn a thing or three from this program overall, I’d imagine.

Barring a natural–or mental–disaster of one variety or another, I figure I’ll be well on my way to finished by late July or hopefully early August. That’ll give me a few months to recover and focus on getting me ready to start the actual program–I applied a couple weeks ago now, but I probably won’t actually be accepted until August anyway. If all goes well, that whole process should end up being a formality. Then, I can start getting right back to handling things I didn’t think need handling when I was mucking about with junk the first time. And even if this program ends up giving me a headache, actually being able to say that for real, and mean it, sure as hell won’t suck. I just may be required to singlehandedly keep the caffeine industry afloat until then. I don’t mind if they don’t.

(*): It’s a do it yourself deal, so there’s not really a whole lot of actual instructing going on. She’s more like a supervisor. Babysitter, really. Making sure everyone who’s supposed to be there actually, you know, shows up there, that kind of thing. You can usually bounce things off her if you’re stuck, so I guess to that end the instructor label fits. But pretty sure it’s a stretch.

(**): The government usually has an idea of how long it should, under ideal circumstances, take you to finish a course or section of a course. So the program uses that as kind of a benchmark to figure out if you might need a little nudge or two to get yourself back in gear. But for the most part, if you’re not seen to be falling behind that benchmark, they tend to leave you alone about deadlines and junk. Or, at least, they do if you’re me.

Here’s your sign, the sequel.

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

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

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

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

Dameron was convicted of threatening officers in 911 calls.

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

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

The only Heartbleed left now is the NSA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stick a fork in this one. He’s done.

I can’t honestly look in the mirror and say I’ve heard it all, but I can at least say I’ve heard a goodly chunk of it. I don’t think, when the expression “stick a fork in it” was invented, the folks doing the inventing particularly had their minds all that close to the gutter. I mean, I could be wrong–sexual twists have been around for probably very nearly as long as sex, so it’s entirely possible. Or, at least, if it wasn’t before, it is now.

An elderly Australian man ended up in hospital after he jammed an entire 10 cm fork inside his penis for “sexual gratification.”

The bizarre medical emergency at Canberra Hospital was outlined in a paper in the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports.

“A 70-year-old man presents to the emergency department with a bleeding urethral meatus following self-insertion of a fork into the urethra to achieve sexual gratification. Multiple retrieval methods were contemplated with success achieved via forceps traction and copious lubrication,” the paper reads.

I’m trying to figure out which is more disturbing–that this actually happened, or that he wasn’t the first or only one to wander down that road the really, really wrong way. I’m also trying to imagine exactly how something like that could do anything other than, you know, hurt like hell. But then, some folks are into that kinda thing, so whichever. This particular folk, though? Yeah, he’s done. But hold the fork.

How I ended up firing Windows XP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally. A solid test case for the ‘Stupid Tax’.

When I actually had a job what paid me, part of that job involved charging people who didn’t have the support plan they needed for me to actually, you know, support them. My manager at the time, in some of those cases, called it a stupid tax. Not necessarily because folks were stupid to pay it, but because 9 times in 10, the reason they were calling in was a direct result of their own stupidity–like, say, let’s click on this random Facebook link from a guy who never talks to me, because viruses are pretty. I thought the only people who employed such logic were the folks I worked with. Nope, apparently not. It’s also a thing if you happen to be a debt collector of the drug variety.

While the outcome of the confrontation was one man dying in a parking lot and two suffering bullet wounds as bystanders ran for cover, a notebook found at the scene reveals the collector’s odd street code of conduct.

He kept a handwritten tally of debts, grievances and fines like a principal tracking schoolyard discipline: One cohort was charged $1,000 as a “stupid tax” and fined $1,000 “for having that chick stop by.” A debt was increased for “pissing me off” and fines were “double when you don’t pay or couldn’t do your job,” the notes said, as detailed in a court ruling this week.

And in reading half of that, at least one person will ask. Did this guy happen to know a one-time roommate of mine? So now we’ve got probably the first ever solidified test case for the implementation of the stupid tax. I wonder if he ever actually had it paid…

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