• Ways to excuse yourself from jury duty, number 9000.

    They’ll probably still be cleaning up the freedom convoy mess in 2030, but at least they’re making progress with it. Apparently, some of that progress is boring and paying attention is a bit of a challenge.

    One of the jurors hearing evidence in the murder-conspiracy trial surrounding the border blockade at Coutts, Alta., has been dismissed for falling asleep in the courtroom.

    Court of King’s Bench Justice David Labrenz told jurors Friday he became aware the female juror was nodding off during testimony in the trial of Anthony Olienick and Chris Carbert.

    “The juror had difficulty remaining awake and had been observed on several occasions to have been dozing during the evidence,” he told the panel.

    Look. The convoy was 2 years ago. Corona hasn’t been a thing for nearly a year (no, that doesn’t mean we’ve eliminated it before someone decides to correct me). And yeah, as someone who has sat through court proceedings another lifetime ago (that’s a story for much, much later), court proceedings are boring as hell. But this was very probably not a super smart idea. As ways to get yourself excused so you can get back to your life, though? A+ for effort. Being entirely honest I’d have very probably done something very similar in this position–my perspective of the court was not as a juror, so I didn’t get to exercise that option. Perhaps in this former juror’s next life they’ll consider the possibility of caffeine pills. Or, you know, paying attention.

  • The LCBO would like you to pick up your booze in Quebec, please.

    To start off the Canada Day weekend (which was actually a good weekend, really), every LCBO store in the province of Ontario shut its doors due to strike action, indicating that they’d prefer your booze money goes out of province or to smaller businesses rather than to the liquor control board. Which, I mean, Quebec is a20 minute drive from where I’m currently staying so… okay.

    More than 9,000 Ontario liquor store employees are on strike after bargaining talks broke down between their union and the LCBO.

    Leaders of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents the workers, blamed the strike on Premier Doug Ford. The strike deadline set by the union was 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

    “LCBO workers are ready to make history,” Colleen MacLeod, chair of OPSEU’s liquor board employees division bargaining team, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday evening. “Tonight, Ford’s dry summer begins.”

    OPSEU president J.P. Hornick said the workers want wage increases, more full-time jobs and language in their collective agreement that would protect existing jobs and the future of the LCBO. According to the union, part-time positions make up 70 per cent of the LCBO workforce.

    Asked how long the strike could last, Hornick said: “We have a very healthy strike fund… and we can weather a strike as long as necessary.”

    I get it that the staff there wants higher wages. And yeah, living in Ontario is fucking expensive these days. But somehow, I don’t think suggesting we buy our booze out of province is going to accomplish that. Neither is blaming Ford, who gets the blame for everything from the health care system having been broken for as long as I can remember to the housing crisis. And okay, Doug Ford’s a screwup. But if he didn’t care about the LCBO workers before they went on strike, I doubt he’ll care much about them after he legislates them back to work. In the meantime, I wonder if Quebec sells BC wine…

  • Keep it classy, Canada.

    It’s no secret that Ontario hates the disabled. Most provinces do, but I’ve had particular opinions about how Ontario’s brand of hatred looks. So it surprises me not at all to learn that Canada equally as a whole hates the disabled, and would prefer to see us poor than successful. At least, I hope that’s all it is and not that our government has chosen to completely flake out on learning what people with disabilities actually need to survive.

    The War Amps has followed the course of the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), participated in consultations, and awaited details with hope that this program’s purpose of reducing poverty and supporting the financial security of working-age people with disabilities would be fulfilled.

    So, it came as a shock when federal Budget 2024 set the maximum amount of financial assistance at $2,400 per year. For people with disabilities who can’t work and face serious poverty, a contribution of $200 monthly is nothing short of appallingly inadequate.

    Across the country, disability support programs are painfully insufficient. The disability program in Nova Scotia provides up to $950 monthly; in Saskatchewan, up to $1,129 monthly; in British Columbia, up to $1,535 monthly. As a “top up,” the CDB has the potential to bridge the gap of poverty for the most severely disabled population, but it will take much more than $2,400 to do it.

    To lift Canadians with disabilities out of poverty, the CDB would have to provide at least $14,356 annually, according to the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer — almost six times the committed amount.

    Furthermore, the budget for the CDB is set to support 600,000 Canadians. However, Canada is estimated to have more than 1.6 million Canadians with disabilities living below the poverty line. If more than 600,000 people qualify for the CDB, will they receive even less than $200 monthly?

    On top of this, the CDB fails to factor in the high costs of disability, including the costs of assistive devices such as artificial limbs for amputees. Canadians would be shocked to learn that if you lose a limb, current provincial and territorial funding does not adequately cover the cost of the artificial limbs needed for everyday activities.

    You don’t say. So Canada’s government, bringer of such wonderfully enlightened policies as the downloading of social services costs to the privinces in the 90’s, has wofully underfunded a benefit that is intended to correct for the malfunctioning/nonfunctional systems created by said provinces? Colour me shocked and surprised. Or, you know, don’t.

    This was supposed to be the system that fixed ODSP and other benefit programs. How’d we do with that? And this, right here, is why Ontario can continue to do what it does best–because they know, and this provides them with all the proof they need, that the disabled in this province aren’t going to get help from elsewhere unless that elsewhere is a rich uncle.

    Thanks, Canada. Stay classy, if you can.

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  • Finally, a good excuse for wearing headphones all day.

    It’s the new craze for everyone to be wandering around living life with headphones/earbuds on. And now someone actually has a logical reason for doing it beyond simply wanting to tune the world out–which is absolutely valid, but you probably won’t get much done that way.

    Before he got his new brain implant, 13-year-old Oran Knowlson’s whole life revolved around his seizures.

    The British boy has a rare, medicine-resistant form of epilepsy that caused him to have hundreds of seizures a day,  putting him at constant risk of injury, and making it impossible to participate in the same activities as other kids his age.

    But since his surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children in London eight months ago, Oran has seen his seizures reduced by 80 per cent, according to his surgeon. As a result, he’s taken up some new hobbies — including horseback riding.

    “It’s absolutely lovely,” Dr. Martin Tisdall, the pediatric neurosurgeon who led the surgery, told As It Happens host Nil Koksal. 

    “The family are really putting their trust and their faith in you, and so it’s incredibly pleasing to see the positive benefits it’s had on his quality of life.” 

    The device, which sends electrical pulses to the brain to block seizures, is the first of its kind to be embedded directly into the brain, and Oran is the first patient in the world to have one implanted, as part of a clinical trial in the U.K.

    This type of electrical stimulation has been used to treat epilepsy patients before, and usually involves placing a device inside the chest that needs to be replaced every few years. But Oran’s implant is nestled under his skull, and he can charge it from the comfort of home, just by wearing a special pair of headphones. 

    If it continues to work well with Oran and in subsequent trials, doctors say it could be used more widely to help children with medicine-resident epilepsy, without forcing them to undergo repeated surgeries all their lives.

    I am absolutely in love with developments like this. Give the kid a healthy, medically beneficial reason to be doing the thing he’s going to end up doing anyway. And hey, if it results in even one fewer seizure for the kid, even better.

    I’ve had friends who’ve dealt with seizures all their lives. It’s the exact opposite of fun, and that’s putting it nicely–it’s not fun for the person seizing, and it’s not fun for the person or people supporting. I love to see tech that solves an honest to goodness practical problem. And hey, if the headphones look cool, he’ll fit in just fine if he needs to give his implant a charge while he’s on the bus/train. Everybody wins.

    Things like this are why I have such the interest in technology that I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong, computers are fun, the smart phone has its place, and AI is… well… we’ll learn to work with it. But this, right here, this is technological progress at its best. For all the geek skills I have, and all the time I spent deep diving into all of the things, I kind of hope my next job has me working with something like this. Of course I’ll probably end up doing a shitty IT job for nearly minimum wage again instead, but a guy can dream and this is mine.

  • Ottawa: The City that Told Fun to Get Off Its Lawn

    We’re known as the city fun forgot, but fun didn’t forget us. We drove it away with a shotgun and a bottle of cheap beer. Every now and again fun tries to show up, but we’re quick to tell it to get off our lawn.

    Bylaw Services received dozens of complaints about the noise and loud music coming from Escapade Music Festival this weekend.

    Some of the world’s biggest DJs performed at TD Place and at Lansdowne Park during the music festival. The third night of the event on Sunday was cancelled due to the heavy rain and thunderstorms in the area.

    However, Bylaw Services tells CTV News Ottawa they received 38 complaints about the noise this weekend from Escapade Music Festival.

    Some people on social media claimed they heard music from the event more than 7 km from Lansdowne, including in Orleans and Cumberland.

    One person responded to a tweet from Ottawa Public Health saying, “how about Ottawa Public Health looks at the excessive bass at this event for the second year in a row and how that affects people’s health.”

    It’s a music festival. It’s gonna be loud. That’s… kind of what music festivals do. You expect that when it’s a weekend and most normal people are doing things that aren’t working–like attending music festivals. Except, apparently, in “get off our lawn” Ottawa. I’d like to see our Night Mayor fix that.

    Also: As someone who lives 7 KM away from the festival, are the folks in Orleans high? I had the windows in this place open and didn’t hear squat. Damn shame, because it sounded like fun. I guess that’s why they were mad…

  • Welcome to the new Canada. Buckle up.

    I’ve had very little to say about most of Canada’s politicians over the last several years that was positive, and every new batch seems to find a new way to remind me that that’s probably an accurate way to view them. I mean, I mocked Steven Harper, I criticized Dalton Mcguinty and his replacement, in between lengths of time where I forgot this thing existed I’ve bitched about Doug Ford, and Trudeau practically mocks himself so even if I were writing about him daily I wouldn’t need to do much. But as low as my opinion is of most politicians and nearly all politics in Canada, even I didn’t expect the folks we pretend are actually qualified to run a country to be actively hostile to the development of that country. Colour me surprised, then.

    Businesses’ demand for temporary foreign workers has surged across the country in recent years, with employers given the green light to hire more than double the people through the federal program last year as they did five years ago.

    The program is designed to provide short-term relief to employers as a last resort, but has been scrutinized for its potential knock-on effects to the broader economy and the vulnerable position in which it can place workers.

    Last year, employers were cleared to hire 239,646 temporary foreign workers, about the population of Regina. That’s up from 108,988 in 2018, according to figures published by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

    The program’s growth coincided with the government loosening hiring restrictions to help businesses with post-pandemic labour shortages. Some economists criticized that move, saying it undermined healthy competition for workers in a market economy.

    “All we hear about are labour shortages, [but] we have to begin to recognize that this really is a self-serving narrative mostly coming from corporate Canada,” said Mikal Skuterud, a labour economics professor at the University of Waterloo.

    If we build it, employers will bring them. that’s the takeaway from this–and the current batch of politicians loves to see it.

    The pandemic was a once-in-a-lifetime event (the second or third such event I lived through, apparently), and yeah it caused problems. Supply tapped the breaks and demand floored the gas. Cool. That happens. So now we should be coming out of it, right? If your career depends on the answer to that question, then that is the wrong answer. Supply has taken its foot off the break in some areas, and is easing off in others, but we as a country are doing our level best to shove demand’s gas pedal through the floor. The end result looks kinda like this.

    New projections by Statistics Canada suggest the nation’s population could reach 63 million by 2073, with the number of people aged 85 or older set to triple.

    The agency says migration will be the key driver of population increase under all scenarios, while natural growth only plays a “marginal role” as the population ages and fertility rates remain low.

    It says the population will rise from about 40 million in 2023 to a range of 47 million to 87 million over the next half a century, with 63 million being the medium-growth forecast.

    We’re not building enough houses for the folks we’re bringing in. We’re not creating enough jobs for the folks we’re bringing in. We’re not building enough infrastructure for the folks we’re bringing in. Because we can’t (anti-paywall link). Our economy wasn’t built to support this kind of population increase–even if you ignore the fact that large parts of our economy appear to be tied up in real estate. And our politicians and the corporate ass kissers who love them are here for it.

    Welcome to the new Canada. If you weren’t in already, you’re out for good. Join the club.

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  • So this is what free time looks like…

    Getting the big thing out of the way first because that’s how I do, but for the first time in a long time I’m without a job. The long and short of it is I was managed out (I’ll go into more detail when I’ve put some distance between me and my firing), but that’s where I am. Which means I can now stop neglecting this thing–yes, I know, I’ve said that before and maybe I’ll stick with it this time.

    The thing about working the job I did until this week is I spent 8 hours/day fixing, posting to, or commenting on WordPress sites. Which, I mean, I enjoy doing–it’s why I created this one. But as it happens, after staring at WordPress for 8 hours for money, I found I didn’t have as much motivation as I thought I would for staring at this site for an hour or less. So there were brain dumps that weren’t dumped, rants that weren’t ranted, snark that wasn’t snarked, politics that weren’t mocked and little curiosity projects that were never poked at. Because all of my curiosity was taken up with doing the same thing on the sites what paid me. They don’t pay me anymore, so–at least for the next 5 minutes–I’m back to what I did before, albeit fleetingly.

    So what’s changed in my life? Not a whole lot. I learned a ton about how the internals of a company I had a lot of respect for worked, and in a lot of ways I got to see how the sausage was made. I found a couple of love interests but am very much still largely unattached. I’ve built more of the life I’ve wanted to build for myself–though that’s in a tiny bit of a holding pattern now while I fill the newly created income-sized hole in said life. I’m still back and forth to see the family as often as I can get away with. So in short, I’m still me. Still not much to look at. Still more comfortable beating a server into submission than conversing with people. And somehow, that still makes me stable.

    The last time I was semi-active as far as this site is concerned, pandemic lockdowns were a fresh wound in society’s consciousness. I’d like to think things have returned to normal since then and for the most part they have, but some of the twists and turns that new normal has decided to take I could do without. I’m 20 minutes from where the freedom convoy set up shop in Ottawa for 3 weeks, so not only did I get to read about it (wish I had time to mock it) on a daily basis but it was basically all the conversation if the conversation was a local one. I’ve seen weird weather, weirder politics, and Canada’s economy has largely gone sideways since then. So all in all it’s been fun, for various definitions.

    We’re about halfway through 2024 and I still don’t know where this year’s going for me. But if I can actually be consistent with posting to this thing again, maybe in 2025 I’ll be able to figure that out. In the meantime, let’s see how long it takes before I remember I wanted to do this again. Any bets on 4 years?

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  • China says it’s a lie. that’s all the evidence I need.

    I promised myself a minimal amount of Corona posts on here–unless we’re talking the beer. But I never turn down an opportunity to mock a crackpot, so I’ll make an exception this time.

    I’m not a conspiracy guy, most of the time. Largely because most conspiracies are 98% BS and 25 “if you give me money I can make it all better”. Even if the evidence is later disproven, I like to at least have an idea where in reality a thing came from. If I disagree with a thing, I want to be able to point to this specific thing and say “that’s why”. Usually. But I’m also happy to make exceptions to that rule–particularly when the crackpots responsible for way too many conspiracy theories call a thing a conspiracy.

    China on Friday attacked the theory that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated as a leak from a Chinese laboratory as a politically motivated lie, after the World Health Organization recommended in its strongest terms yet that a deeper probe is needed into whether a lab accident may be to blame.

    Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian also rejected accusations that China had not fully cooperated with investigators, saying it welcomed a science-based probe but rejected any political manipulation.

    He also reiterated calls for an investigation into “highly suspicious laboratories such as Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina” in the United States where China has suggested, without evidence, that the U.S. was developing the coronavirus as a bioweapon.

    So let’s see. We’ve got a World Health Organization with a… less than 80% accuracy rate now trying to figure out where they screwed up. And we’ve got the primary reason they screwed up calling it a lie and politically motivated–I’m not even touching the Covid as bioweapon theory. Of the two, even if I don’t trust either completely, I can pretty much tell you which one I trust more. Hint: it’s not China.

    I’m not saying the WHO is blameless for how we got where we got. They were hands off re: china for way too damn long. I am saying, and I’ll say it again, if China’s calling them out for lying… I’m now very interested in listening to what they have to say. Even if it ends up being useless, it’s got to be more useful than China.

  • If you own an M1 Mac, I’m a little jealous and a lot sorry.

    Every now and again, I consider either stealing a friend’s Mac for dinking around purposes or just buying my own–the latter option because hey, if I bust it, I own it. I’ve never been a huge fan of Apple’s walled garden approach, but I’ve also been an iPhone user for way too damn long so you’ve got an idea how much of a deal breaker that might be if you’re me. If I owned one, it almost certainly wouldn’t be my primary machine–often for two equally concerning reasons. Accessibility, and security.

    Yes, yes I know, Apple’s on top of the accessibility game. VoiceOver’s great, and all that. Sure. Except when it’s not. I do a lot of work within WordPress–this site runs on WordPress, and I get paid by the WordPress people. So I need to run circles around that software–and my employer’s particular modifications to that software. It’s… there, but could be better. There are proposed solutions on the WordPress side of things, but some of that responsibility also needs to fall on Apple. They’ve managed to figure out how to make remapping gestures on your phone/iPad be a thing, so they’re aware it’s an issue. On the Mac, they’re not there yet. For the guy with a personal site who maybe only updates once every couple years (Hey that’s me!), maybe that’s not a huge issue–I’d fight with it once or twice to update this site. But for the guy who interacts with user sites on a daily basis (Hey that’s also me!), I want it done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Even if the Mac was my primary machine, doing this would be neither quick nor efficient. So while I’ve considered owning one and probably will as a test device, I can’t say it will solidly be my work/productivity machine. Now, if they fix these issues, then that’s one problem solved. My other hesitation is security.

    The Mac’s big thing is it’s supposedly more secure than Windows or Linux because reasons. Usually those reasons are around malware/viruses/whatever, which by itself is a questionable assertion to make given they’re starting to outpace windows in infection frequency. But the thing about a supposedly super secure OS is when someone discovers a security vulnerability, it’s usually a big one.

    Apple’s M1 chips have an “unpatchable” hardware vulnerability that could allow attackers to break through its last line of security defenses, MIT researchers have discovered.

    The vulnerability lies in a hardware-level security mechanism utilized in Apple M1 chips called pointer authentication codes, or PAC. This feature makes it much harder for an attacker to inject malicious code into a device’s memory and provides a level of defense against buffer overflow exploits, a type of attack that forces memory to spill out to other locations on the chip.

    Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, however, have created a novel hardware attack, which combines memory corruption and speculative execution attacks to sidestep the security feature. The attack shows that pointer authentication can be defeated without leaving a trace, and as it utilizes a hardware mechanism, no software patch can fix it.

    The attack, appropriately called “Pacman,” works by “guessing” a pointer authentication code (PAC), a cryptographic signature that confirms that an app hasn’t been maliciously altered. This is done using speculative execution — a technique used by modern computer processors to speed up performance by speculatively guessing various lines of computation — to leak PAC verification results, while a hardware side-channel reveals whether or not the guess was correct.

    What’s more, since there are only so many possible values for the PAC, the researchers found that it’s possible to try them all to find the right one.

    Suddenly if Apple ever solves the accessibility issue, I don’t think I’ll be using a Mac for work purposes–at least not work purposes with international travel implications. At least, not one of their newer models–give me a non-M1 Mac all day long at this rate. Which is a damn shame, because I want that hardware.

    I will never be an Apple superfan, I’m fairly sure–they do an awful lot of things I’m not a fan of, but I’m not on the anti-Apple pro-Google (or even just anti-Apple) train either. I want to use them as part of my toolset, not entirely unlike I currently use Google as part of my toolset (not originally my idea, but that’s another post). But they don’t make it easy. I’m lazy–I like easy.

    I love the idea of where Apple wants to go with its hardware. Not so thrilled that Apple needs to make virtualization harder to get there, mind, but you can’t have everything. For accessibility reasons and security reasons, I don’t know how open I am to taking that ride directly. For security reasons, if you’ve already taken that ride, I’m very sorry.

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  • I would absolutely love a self-driving car. It won’t happen in my lifetime.

    As a blind guy, and sometimes the only blind guy in the room, I get it a lot. “I bet you’re looking forward to the self-driving car.” And I mean I get it. I really, really get it. But my answer is always “yes, but no”.

    In theory, absolutely yes. I could move back to small town Ontario with the rest of my family and not have to rely on said family to get me from A to B. Or, if I didn’t feel like moving back there for any one of a number of still very true reasons, I’d have the option of deciding on a whim that hey, it’s the weekend–let’s do a road trip. I mean I’d still play the lazy card where possible and have groceries/food delivered, because it means I don’t have to deal with other people, but I’d have a lot more direct control–and, I mean, let’s be real that includes of where the money spent goes. I have 0 problem paying for an Uber, or otherwise putting money in someone else’s gas tank. But if you give me the option of putting it in my own instead, I take that option every time. Plus my hypothetical self-driving car won’t be unavailable at 11:00 at night if I decide I want to start paying to rent a space to work from and need a ride home.

    All that being said, in practice… that’ll be a no. A few immediate reasons spring to mind, but a couple stand out. First, GPS is still not as accurate as I’d like–in certain parts of Ottawa, if I want to navigate to a specific address, the GPS will often stop me a block or two away from that address (fortunately I 1: know that area well enough to know I’m not actually at that address and 2: no longer have a reason to bother going anywhere near that address, so that’s not a current issue but still an issue). Second and on a similar thread, I mentioned small town Ontario. Some of those small towns don’t show up very well on GPS, if they show up at all–I’ve driven through small towns that every navigation system I had access to wanted to tell me didn’t exist and that I was really in $MajorCity. I mean, I was about half an hour away, which if we’re talking GTA might as well be Toronto, but I promise I was definitely not in $MajorCity. If the GPS was driving, I would be.

    Speaking of if the GPS was driving, vehicle autopilot systems are… eh. Not great. Uber’s attempt at self-driving cars had so many issues they ended up selling the business just so it didn’t choke them. And if Tesla is supposed to be the gold standard, well… we’re in trouble.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday that it is upgrading the Tesla probe to an engineering analysis, another sign of increased scrutiny of the electric vehicle maker and automated systems that perform at least some driving tasks.

    An engineering analysis is the final stage of an investigation, and in most cases NHTSA decides within a year if there should be a recall or the probe should be closed.

    Documents posted Thursday by the agency raise some serious issues about Tesla’s Autopilot system. The agency found that it’s being used in areas where its capabilities are limited, and that many drivers aren’t taking action to avoid crashes despite warnings from the vehicle.

    The probe now covers 830,000 vehicles, almost everything that the Austin, Texas, carmaker has sold in the U.S. since the start of the 2014 model year.

    NHTSA reported that is has found 16 crashes into emergency vehicles and trucks with warning signs, causing 15 injuries and one death.

    The whole idea of the blind guy getting into a self-driving car is so that he doesn’t cause an accident–or, more likely, contribute to one–by, you know, driving while blind. If the car (keep in mind, this is with a human supervisor who can see) ends up causing or contributing to the accident instead, there just went any motivation I had for doing the self-driving thing. I may as well drive it myself.

    I’m not saying self-driving cars are an absolutely terrible idea. If someone can pull off a miracle and make one that 1: works and 2: doesn’t require a human supervisor with vision to come with it–thus defeating the whole idea of the blind guy using a self-driving car, provided they don’t end up selling for a million (okay, it will probably be two million), I’ll be all over it. I’m a man of convenience, and having a vehicle I can drive–or, rather, direct where to drive me–without needing to wait for a vehicle and its driver to become available would be convenient. I’m also a realist. And realistically, we’re nowhere near there yet and very well won’t be in my lifetime. At least not to a degree where it will be practical.

    I want to be proven wrong. I know several people who want me to take a random road trip to come see them who want me to be proven wrong. But here’s the thing. My insurance rates would probably be tripple anyone else’s just by virtue of the fact everyone loves a blind guy tax. They don’t need to be taken higher because my car can’t drive any better than I can, thank you kindly. And on the day if and when I am 100% proven wrong, I will happily sit there and let everyone tell me they told me so. Then I’ll start the GoFundMe to raise the million I’ll need to buy one. It… just probably won’t be a Tesla, and not because its founder and CEO is a raging moron–though if I were employed by that raging moron I might have some concerns.

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