The Canadian justice system hard at work. Or not.

Until a couple days ago, I had no idea if you were a member of the RCMP, you were entitled to use stress as a defense against an assault charge–even if the assault charge was because you pounded on an innmate. Apparently, if you’re an RCMP officer in Alberta, that’s the defense that keeps you out of jail. An RCMP officer, after admitting he did a number on an innmate who’d already gotten whacked one in a bar fight, blames the stress of having been one of the officers called to the scene after the murders of 4 police officers.

Now, before folks jump all over me for being a cold and uncaring bastard, I get that it’s a mental kick in the teeth dealing with something like that. Obviously he worked with and was probably friends with those people, so yeah it’s going to be hard. I get that. But if you’re still bothered/stressed over that kinda thing, the absolute last place you should be is right back at work–particularly work wherein you’re dealing with other people. And the absolute last thing you should be doing is leaning on that as an excuse for having lost it and pounded the crap out of some shmuck you brought in on charges of his own. And yet, that’s precisely what this officer did, and then walked away from it.

Maybe I’m a nutter over here, but if average Joe who’d just been handed a craptacular week or two, complete with losing a family member, friend, coworker or whatever, haulled off and let some other average guy have it, he’d be sitting in jail right now for–oh–we’ll call it a year or two. This guy? Nope not so much. Six-month conditional sentence, 3 of which spent under house arrest. Barely a tap on the wrist–and still nowhere near the 6-9 months in jail that was asked for. And all because of stress. Guess it really does pay to be in law enforcement. Where do I sign up?

I’m about to complain about the TSA. Somebody call the FBI.

This entry is about to get me added to the Transport Security Administration’s suspicious character list. Along with everyone else who’s ever had a small problem with the way they do things. From the “reasons I won’t fly” department, the absolute best justification for ever having had to grope a 6-year-old kid, of all things. And by best, I mean Worst. justification. ever. “It’s standard operating procedure.” Really, TSA? That’s the best thing you guys could come up with? Did you even try? Parents teach their kids to throw a major fit when random people they don’t know try touching them in places they shouldn’t be, and you give us… that? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–if you’re going to come up with a line of bullshit, at least make the damn thing reasonably good. On the bright side, we’ve discovered more than just their security scanners are shamefully useless. Now. Where’s this open government Obama was so big on for the last, oh, forever?

The myth of online privacy, or why the ODSP’s activities fail to surprise me.

I wrote last Friday that the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has taken to threatening law enforcement action were I to show up at the meeting that was supposed to have taken place on Monday morning. Yeah, that one that was scheduled for a teleconference later on that same afternoon–more on that in another entry. They’re threatening law enforcement action over a single sentence in a previous post that made clear in no uncertain terms the professional damage that may or may not have resulted from this meeting were the level of incompitence displayed so far by my caseworker to actually go unaddressed. I was, rightly so, more than a little pissed with what’s been happening the last few months on that file, and more than a little irritated someone decided to focus more attention on a single sentence in a blog post than on the actual issues that provoked the afore mentioned blog post. Irritated, but not surprised.

Related:

It’s been a common trend in the last few years, though more so in the last year or so, to see how far government agencies and potential employers can shove even the pretension of online privacy out of the way under the guise of performing a more thorough background check. From the Maryland department of corrections asking for social networking passwords as a part of their certification/recertification process, to a New Jersey police chief who seems to have no problem telling parents to hack their kids’ online passwords–and even shows them how complete with spyware, that’s becoming the cool thing to do. And I’m not even touching the most recent instance of online content overreaction in Canada involving two teenagers, a Facebook photo and a conservative political ralley. yeah, those two teenagers.

Part of me expected this exact response, pretty much as soon as I started to push back against what ODSP was up to. And, indeed, it was even while expecting that response that I still wrote the exact post I did, in the exact context I did, and later ran into the exact result I did. So why wouldn’t I change my writing accordingly, people have asked? Put in the simplest of terms, because I’m not that dishonest. No, this isn’t Facebook and people don’t need my password to see 90% of what I write here. Yes, this blog is perfectly and completely public, and yes, I’m very well aware of this–I made it that way for a reason. But, much like the Facebook photo incident of this past week, the only reason anything on this site became an issue at all rather than the, in my opinion, more important priority of getting to the bottom of the mess at least one person made of the last 3 months’ mountain of paperwork is because someone actually had time, and may have been getting paid for said time, to have a sit down and throw something into Google that landed them on the blog.

I’d be a freaking liar if I said I didn’t enjoy taking a look at who’s been checking this place out and from where. I’d be lying if I said I do this solely for my own benefit–Microsoft has an incredible word processor for that if I really really need something like that. But yes, primarily, this is my thing. Sometimes, my thing includes something others will find semi-useful and/or interesting–that’s what search engines are for, after all. but I have a significant problem when people actually devote time and resources to scanning this blog, or any other that I help to maintain, looking for dirt–be it on me, on friends of mine, on family, on my friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s mother’s cat. I’m not in the business of slinging mud. for that reason, you’ll find no mud on this blog to sling–be it at me, or at anyone I happen to know. I’ve called people and/or government and/or corporate entities out on this blog. I will continue to call people and/or government and/or corporate entities out on this blog, if the said people and/or government and/or corporate entities continue to screw people over on the same, consistent basis. And if the only thing certain entities can find in their obviously too much spare time to make an issue of is one line in an otherwise mild–for me, anyway–expression of general overall fed-up-ness, I must be doing something pretty damn right.

No, I’m not surprised in any way, shape or form that at least 3 ODSP locations–Kingston, Ottawa and Cornwall–have been scouting out my blog. In fact, I’m really kind of flattered that a small-time blog like this one manages to make it onto ODSP’s radar, even if it’s over what amounts to trivialities that in 6 months won’t make a whole hell of a lot of difference. But not being surprised by it doesn’t mean I agree with the fact that a government entity who has until this past week had no interest whatsoever in actually giving me a response has decided, on the public dime, to devote time and energy to looking for the smallest hint of an almost problem and trying desperately to turn it into a major issue. That’s crossing at least one line, and with very little in the way of justification for it–last week’s teleconference didn’t exactly reveal much in the way of straight answers about it. I’m still waiting. Perhaps the next time one of ODSP’s people drops in, they’ll leave a comment behind or otherwise drop me a line. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll include their justification for doing so. But if it doesn’t, on that, I also won’t be surprised.

ODSP decides they don’t like me after all, threatens to have the police meet me.

Seems them what run the disability support system around here haven’t gotten done having fun with me yet. At the eleventh hour, escentially, with an hour left in the actual business day and therefore not a whole lot of time to actually work around their latest curve, ODSP decides they’d like to go another fun-filled round. We got on the phone with a manager this morning, due to the fact one of us can’t trust our caseworker half as far as we can throw her. Explained the situation, got told she’d look into it and get back to us by the end of business today. So I’m helping Jessica get set up for a project we’re contemplating starting work on, and the call comes in from the manager. I figure okay, she’s got answers for us. We can get part of these issues resolved hopefully before Monday, if not try and prevent the need to go in there in the first place. Not so much. Seems in their spare time, Ontario Disability Support Program employees run random Google searches on folks in the hopes of hitting on something potentially scandalous. One such employee–wouldn’t surprise me if it was the very manager we spoke to, honestly–comes across my blog. There are several pops for people showing up here using keywords related to ODSP and/or Pembroke, so that wouldn’t surprise me. She, or someone working for her, decides to take offense at one or two sentences in a post published here earlier this week. Specificly, this post published here earlier this week. They’ve decided, based on the fact they have plenty of free time and can very easily spend it on Google, that they’re not going to permit me to show up for Monday’s meeting. Taking it a step further, they have apparently decided that my showing up on Monday will constitute a perfectly good reason for them to have the police involved.

So now, not only do we have Wingnut deciding to play the privacy game only if and when it suits her, but higher level management is apparently deciding that I’m a threat to the security and safety of employees of the ministry of community and social services. Instead of me showing up there, they have proposed instead that they call at 9:00 AM on Monday morning–the smart money’s on that phone not ringing at 9:00 AM on Monday morning, just sayin’. We’ll supposedly be holding this meeting via teleconference on that day at that time with all parties involved.

So if I have this straight, and in all likelyhood I may not actually have this straight, potential privacy issues and general incompitence takes a back seat in this ministry to looking for and possibly attempting to make use of some incredibly trivial part of a blog post expressing more than a little tiny bit of frustration with the offending ministry. Really. And the tax dollars of people who actually don’t have a problem finding work are paying for this? That must go over insanely well.

I have not received any notice, written or otherwise, legal or otherwise, requesting and/or requiring me to take down or modify the offending post. Anyone who knows me probably knows just how far such a request would actually get them. The request to not show up on Monday also didn’t come in writing, legal or otherwise. The only reason I’m not seriously considering just showing up there anyway? I’m not *looking* for problems–they’re handing me enough without me helping them along with the process. This meeting will happen. This meeting will happen on Monday. And if this meeting doesn’t happen on Monday, at least one of us, probably both, will be on the next vehicle moving in an officeward direction. Oops–probably shouldn’t of said that. I’ll expect the Ottawa Valley detachment at my door Tuesday morning. Well, if you folks from the offices of the ODSP are going to spend this much time tracking what gets tossed up here when I’m not over my head in job searches, least you could do is drop a comment once in a while–say hi to that guy you’re trying to dig up some dirt on. Wait, no, nevermind–it’s much more fun to yoink lines from a random post completely out of context. My mistake. I’ll know better next time.

Schooling ODSP in the art of numbers.

So as any of you who’ve been reading this thing since December are aware, it’s been somewhat of an uphill fight between the Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP), Shane, and myself. We’d go a round or two, find a clue, offer it up and have it escentially kicked across the room by someone in government who thinks they know better. We’d find more information, offer it up, complete with the math that lead us to the result you’d expect to see if you actually follow their own rules, and get summarily told we were using the wrong math. Lovely. Except in every which way that it’s not. And oh, let me count the ways. So the four of us–Shane and I, and our respective caseworkers–go several rounds about that over the course of the last month or so. And in the process of doing so, come up with the fact that not only were we using a completely different math system from what our caseworkers were, but apparently our caseworkers were using completely different systems from each other–thus resulting in completely different results being pried out of completely identical documentation. Yeah, I don’t get it either. That’s government for ya.

So we spend the better part of the last month trying to work around that, and hit one very problematic road block. Both caseworkers are clinging to privacy laws like they’re on life support. In spite of the fact half the time when we call, Shane and I are 3 feet away from each other and can get a good enough idea what the conversation’s going to end up revealing just based on one side of it. And picking up the phone and saying “by the way, you have my permission to access my case file and compare with his case”? Yeah, not good enough, apparently.

In her defense, Shane’s caseworker is at least in possession of a low-level clue. Enough of one that I don’t think her information’s the source of half our problems. Mine, on the other hand, could probably benefit from some retraining in a few key areas. In theory, I could probably have told Shane’s caseworker to go ahead and look up my file and she might have. Mine? Nope. Can’t. Privacy laws. Permission doesn’t matter. So, fast forward to Monday. Shane has to be in to see his caseworker anyway for an unrelated matter, so I bounce it off him and the wheels on the way back that we find a brand new way to tackle this small little tiny minor issue. Both caseworkers, both of us, one room, A S A fuckin’ P. So we make the call Monday afternoon. Shane’s worker, we’ll call her Clue, has absolutely no problem with it. Oh, you want a meeting? Awesome. James is coming too? Okay. He’s dragging his caseworker in as well? Hey, that works. 9:00 AM? Why not? My worker, on the other hand, we’ll call her Wingnut, takes a little more twisting, turning and kicking to get her into the same meeting. Oh, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it. We can’t have a joint conference–the other party has to be perfectly fine with it. Oh, er, he is. Well. Um. I’ll have to check with his caseworker. Oh. You did. Well, er, let me see if I’m available. Oh, crap–entire morning’s free. 9:00 AM, you say. Can I ppossibly get away with calling in sick? (Note: she didn’t actually say that last part, but you know she thought it.) Fine, fine. But I probably won’t change anything anyway.

After she ran out of excuses, we finally dragged Wingnut into the meeting schedule with the three of us. This coming Monday, sharp at 9 barring natural disasters, I have a sneaking suspicion somebody’s going to get an education in just what the hell their job involves–a little hint for those of you keeping score, it doesn’t actually involve trying your hardest to pull a fast one. So bright and early Monday, me, Shane, Clue, Wingnut, a pair of eyes of our choosing, and a small mountain of already submitted documentation will all pile into a conference room down at the place what employs ODSP peoples. A well-timed phone call could, if the need should present itself, also see she whom Wingnut and Clue report to showing up for that very same meeting.

It’s one thing for us to end up getting different results from the government. That’s kind of expected–if they can find some way to sneak it in that you don’t actually get your hands on everything you should, they’ll do so. If you don’t expect it, well, sorry. But when two government employees, handling two different case files, get slapped with the exact same supporting documentation for both case files and come up with completely different results, even from one another, Houston, we has a problem. When we can take a look at the inner math supposedly behind both cases, even after having said inner math explained to us, and still end up being sent for a loop thanks largely to the fact the results don’t even look like they *should* be close, yeah, say hello to the red flag, ladies and thinggies. Somebody’s not giving us the goods, and I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not Clue. I have an equally deep suspicion the problem will be solved, or unemployed, before this issue’s fully delt with. I hate being screwed with.

Oh, and miss permission doesn’t bypass privacy laws? Turns out that only applies if you’re not Wingnut, apparently. According to her, she and Clue had a conference re: this issue in which both our cases were discussed. Neither Shane nor I were informed of such a conference, as we would have needed to be in order to be fully in compliance with privacy laws. Clue, naturally, didn’t exactly confirm they held a conference re: our respective cases, so once again, somebody’s either lying or violating those same privacy laws she has no problem slapping us in the face with. That gets added to the list of, shall we say, topics on the agenda for Monday’s meeting. This, combined with the few months of back and forth that haven’t really gotten us anywhere, combined with the fact 90% of this issue could have probably been cleaned up if they’d either 1: actually compared notes or 2: applied just a little bit of consistency to their own procedures, is going to make for a quite interesting morning. I have a sneaking suspicion one of us is going to come away bloody. And I’ll be quite damned if it’s gonna be me.

Bell tries screw the consumer 2.0, Netflix points it out–again.

It’s no secret the CRTC has spent most of this year failing at this whole keeping the big 3 ISP’s in Canada at something vaguely resembling in line. They decided nearly two months ago that unlimitted internet didn’t actually exist, and kind of stuck to that until escentially told not to be–Shane’s take on how that ended up playing out is over here. Then, they decided it might be in their best interest to put the idea up for a review and get back to it in 60 days. I thought they might take advantage of the election to change their mind again, but before they could, Bell Canada–one of the big 3 who’re sitting comfortable behind usage-based billing (UBB) decided to get crafty.

Bell, in a submission to the CRTC yesterday, dropped its usage-based billing demands of the third-party ISP’s, one of which I’m currently a customer. Well, they sort of did. They replaced it with agrigated volume pricing (AVP), also known as UBB 2.0. Rather than charging ISP’s for what they’ve used after they’ve already used it, Bell is now looking at the possibility of having them purchase a certain amount of bandwidth from them, and god help them if they underestimate how much they’ll need. Yep, download cap 2.0, kids. Officially screwed? You betcha. And Netflix knows it. In direct response to the fact their Canadian branch is among those being targetted by these measures, Netflix Canada has officially lowered the quality of its video streaming service. Oh, yeah, and they kind of pointed out what I’ve been saying for at least the last month–the only ones benefitting from it are the big 3. Oh and, guess what? Here’s the kicker–Bell’s customers still get the pleasure of dealing with UBB while they slap us in the face with AVP. Forget officially screwed. We’re heading straight down the road to officially ripped the hell off.

Sexual assault is a crime, unless you’re with the TSA.

That’s the message being broadcast by the Transport Security Administration, at least, in the very latest, erm, episode. A woman at Laguardia Airport had been cleared through the scanners, and was well on her way to catch her flight. She was stopped by a TSA agent, and informed she was to be given an on the spot pat-down. she was ordered to assume a spread-eagle position and proceeded to have her breasts, thighs and, well, other places grabbed by the agent. So, according to information, did two other women in that area. Suddenly, it’s not just about finding reasons to feel you up at the checkpoints or seeing how much of passengers’ money you or the folks you work with can walk away with anymore. Yeah, that makes me feel real safe in flight. Where’d I put my bus ticket?

Hey look, it’s another election! yippy!

I have a thing for politics. Call it a hidden streak of sadism. Whichever. I’ve kept a relatively close eye on it since highschool. which, quite surprisingly, meant I got to play witness to nearly an average of one election every two years since shortly after I got out of college. In 2004, our majority liberal government under former crook–er I mean Prime Minister–Jean Chretien shrunk to a minority liberal government under former partner in crime–er I mean Prime Minister–Paul Martin. In 2006, we kept the minority but switched parties, and ended up with the conservatives and Stephen “accountability” Harper. In 2008, we landed the exact same government in the exact same position–huge thanks to Stephane “green shift” Dion. And in 2011, we get treated to another one with the help of Michael “No coalition, maybe” Ignatieff. I’m not even bothering to comment on the role Jack “your money for everyone” Layton or that member of provincial parliament from Quebec played in any or all of them, simply because, well, nobody but they really care about it.

I voted in the 2004 election. I even voted in the 2006 election. When 2008 rolled around and we went for a third straight vote in 4 years, I didn’t bother. The platforms were the same. Most of the major players were the same. My local representative remained the same–mostly because the alternatives to him remained pretty much the same. And truth be told, I’d much rathered be at work than standing in line for an hour and not getting paid for it. I will not be voting in 2011. Why? See my reasoning for 2008, minus the whole being at work thing. It’s been 3 years since the last election, and for the better part of 2 of them, they’ve been talking about the next one. Hi, really really old Michael Ignatieff quote. Nice to see you. And of course, surprise of surprises–here we are again. I can has stability plz? No, somehow, I didn’t think so.

OC Transpo flips off the community, doesn’t want you to actually find your bus.

Now this is new. Apparently, an Algonquin College student came up with a mobile application, available at whereismybus.ca, that uses GPS data to determine in realtime where your particular bus is. That data was apparently publicly available from OC Transpo. Was, at least, until a few days after the application was released. OC Transpo then rather quickly said thanks, but no, and yanked the GPS data–thus pretty much killing that application. Awesome. So now not only are they talking about cutting services and tweaking their brand, but they’ve decided you don’t get to actually find out about the services that aren’t being cut and how long it’ll take for them to actually get to you. Nice work, OC Transpo. Way to justify increasing user fees. Yeah, I feel like taking up riding again.

Another news story points out legislating common sense doesn’t work, misses its own point.

In the year since laws were put in place here in Ontario banning texting/doing anything with technology while driving, conditions on the road and driver behaviours haven’t changed a whole lot, if at all. No one who isn’t in government really expected it to, but those laws still exist. An analysis of statistics gathered over the first year of the law’s existence reveals a total of 46000 or so tickets issued for texting while driving, averaging roughly 100 per day in that time. And yet, the majority still do it nearly every chance they get. And people still bitch about it every chance they get. The article goes on to point out–in rather obvious fashion–that the law forbids use of anything from your iPod to your laptop to your iPhone while driving, but law or no law, it’s done very little to actually curb the act.

It’s hardly just an Ontario/Canadian thing. Just about everywhere, on both sides of the border, people are coming to the realization that laws banning texting while driving don’t do anything but make governments money. And yet in most if not all places affected, those laws still exist–and some are getting a little more strict about it. Accident rates haven’t dropped, people aren’t any more likely to pay attention to the law unless there’s a cop tailing them, and it’s just one more thing to not be very easy to actually enforce.

Yes, in theory, the laws were a good idea–in most cases, phone in hand plus moving vehicle equals generally not recommended. You get distracted doing what you’re doing, and not paying attention to what’s going on outside the vehicle, and problems come up. But you can’t legislate inteligence and/or common sense into people. Most of the same people who do that are more than likely the same ones who apply their makeup in the car, or end up playing with the radio while going down the highway–both also things very likely to cause you and people around you problems if you’re paying more attention to that than the road. Unless these governments are about to start expanding current laws to include disallowing that, it’s probably about time for them to maybe start to clue in to the fact laws like this aren’t generally good ideas. Well, that is, unless you like periodically reading headlines about bus drivers getting caught breaking them. Which, I suppose, works if you’re looking for an excuse to get pissed. But if you actually expect things like this to do anything more than that, you’ve probably been disappointed the last year or so. Sorry to say, but unless the government invents a common sense pill, things aren’t looking up for you on that front. No thanks to texting while driving laws.

Senator Joe Lieberman gets flipped off by the Canadian government. Again.

The US department of homeland security must really think us canucks are some bunch of evil. Every so often, somebody from that wing of the US government will float the several times over debunked myth that the Canada/US border is actually a weak point re: US security–hence why the 9/11 terrorists, according to many of these same people, were able to enter the US via Canada (they weren’t actually). The latest idea to be floated by this wing of the US government is a one-off thought that the US should require Canadians visiting to first apply for visas. The idea was floated on the US side of the border at the beginning of the month, and was very quickly–and rightly–poopooed by the Canadian immigration minister. And, surprisingly, by the liberal foreign afairs critic–who never actually agrees with any conservative government official on anything.

We already have to apply for a passport before we even think about crossing the border, which is bloody expensive enough–hi, at least $75 and that’s only if you don’t mind waiting a few weeks to actually receive it. And even that was a tiny bit of a pain in the ass to get my hands on. The wait times for those are even getting a little up there, along with some of their fees. Visas to get anywhere else generally take longer than that, and from what I hear, cost more–suddenly not so worth it if you’re only coming down here for a week or two.

Little things like this tend to escape the twitchy parts of the US government, like senator Lieberman. Fortunately the Canadian government isn’t quite so twitchy. Now, perhaps someone over in Washington will provide this unfortunate senator with a little education on just how the real world actually works. Hey, one can dream. In the meantime, keep this man away from anything to do with border security. Clearly, he know not what he do.

Another bright idea out of Quebec. I should stop being surprised.

This one, also not surprising, involves slapping yet one more tax on anything they decide is bad for us. This month’s target of choice, soft drinks.

A Quebec coalition wants the federal government to impose a new tax on soft drinks and energy drinks to help pay for the fight against obesity.

Representatives of the Coalition Quebecoise sur la Problematique du Poids made their demand Thursday in front of a Parliamentary committee on health.

Coalition director Suzie Pellerin said that a tax of, for example, one cent per litre on these products would put about $36 million into government coffers.

According to the coalition, this revenue could then be invested in preventative projects related to health.

Pellerin said the tax would allow for the “denormalization” of these products by clearly identifying them in a way similar to alcohol and tobacco.

Is this a bad time to point out to these folks that neither alcohol nor tobacco have exactly been denormalized by any of the taxes etc that have been slapped on them? Yeah, I kind of thought it might.

I know this is Quebec we’re talking about, but what ever happened to individuals being perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what is and isn’t good for them, or whether or not doing x is a contributing factor to their eventual downfall into uncontrolable bouts of insanity? We do not need government entities, or people wishing to shove their own opinions in the laps of government entities, slapping a naughty naughty tax on anything with any kind of remote trace of something sugar-based just because they don’t think we should be allowed to have it. I can’t speak for the majority of Canadians, by any means, but I’m perfectly capable of determining for myself whether or not something will eventually kill me. And if I determine, or have determined by someone with a clue in more than just asking governments for new taxes, that something’s going to eventually kill me, I’m not stupid enough to keep doing it. I don’t need yet another organization from Quebec deciding for me in Ontario that this is a bad thing.

Folks, even if there were a valid point here, and I’m questioning whether there actually is, the answer is hardly to drive the price up with what amounts to our own answer to the sin tax. If you really must drive your point home and want people to actually take it seriously, give education a try. Give advertising a try. Give researching what you’re trying to fight against a try–most soft drinks, for example, don’t actually use straight sugar as the current demand would have folks believe. But it’s just generally easier to say “sugar bad, sugar tax” and be done with it. Which is why I’m not surprised this came out of Quebec. Now, please for the love of cheese, send it back there.

A year later, Quebec still hasn’t let go of the olympics.

After the opening festivities of the olympics last year, my take on which can be found in its asociated category, the Quebec language police were up in arms because almost no french was actually used in the event. Neverminding the fact that if it had been, it would have gone pretty well not very understood by the majority of people actually there. That was around this time last year. Here it is February 2011, and wouldn’t you know, they’re still at it. And once again, they’re ignoring the fact that the rest of the world, with the exception of Quebec, pretty much speaks english and some other language that isn’t french. And that’s assuming they speak more than one language at all. Personally, I rather enjoyed the fact I could actually understand most of what went on at a Canadian event for a change.

Okay, I get it–everything that may remotely involve Quebec must be completely bilingual, french first, and must shine a light on just how wonderful and glorious Quebec is. Yes, even if it’s a factual account of Canadian history–can’t have Quebec coming out like the spunge it is, after all. But really, now. This was 2010 when it happened. And it was one evening. That Quebec is still to this day going on about it, I think, says more about Quebec than the events they’re complaining about. Thankfully I’m no longer surprised the ones doing the complaining are the pro-Quebec, anti-Canada political parties currently in opposition in Quebec’s “national” legislature. But still, you’d think they’d glom onto an issue to beat dead that’s a little newer than this. After all, regardless to who’s side holds the more truth, if any of them actually do, you can’t undo the cerimony. It still happened the way it happened. And hey look, Quebec would still be complaining about it. And the rest of Canada’s tax dollars are paying for the complaint. Only in backwards Quebec.

In which I get an introduction to ODSP math.

I’ve been on ODSP’s case for, like, ever about not escentially drumming us out of the running financially, for what little my being on them’s managed to accomplish. For those just tuning in, ODSP is the Ontario Disability Support Program, also known as those folks what pay me because no one likes to hire the blind guy and I still have bills to pay. I’ve done everything from harass folks locally to write the folks who actually make the decisions, most of which eventually ended up documented on this thing calling itself a blog. Adding to my reasons for harassing folks at both ends of the food chain, my recent attempt to save money has prompted ODSP to attempt to save a little on its end. Thus, not doing a whole lot on mine to make actually saving money worth my while.

Let me bring you up to speed. I live in a fairly cheap apartment, rent-wise. It’s $550 a month, plus your electricity. For most places, that’s cheap. For Pembroke, I’m surprised it was even vacant. I’ve lived there since 2009. At the end of 2010, I decided it would be in my best financial interest to do the roommate thing. Yeah, that would eventually require a bigger apartment, but two bank accounts are almost always better than one, so the math should have worked out. Then I got a phone call. I’d forgotten there was actually two different types of math at play, here. There was actual math, as in that stuff you were forced to sit through before they’d let you get out of highschool, then there’s ODSP math. That, apparently, follows an entirely different, much more nonsensicle, set of rules.

We ran the math out, figuring we could probably manage to free up an average of roughly $250 between the two of us, which could easily be realocated into bills we otherwise would have had a difficult time paying had we decided to be stubborn about it and forego the whole idea of a roommate. Those numbers in hand, we actually planned our month of January figuring if things changed, they wouldn’t change by a whole heaping lot, so we could optionally minus 50 from here or there if we needed to in order to cover off something else. We played with it until it didn’t hurt our heads, then left it there. The month rolled over, and shortly after, the phone rang. It was ODSP. They’d decided they’d be cutting a nifty little slice off each of our monthly allowances, to the tune of very nearly what we were figuring we could just end up reusing. On top of that, a letter showed up in my name 3 days after that wonderfully heartwarming conversation, escentially telling me they believe I was overpaid for the month of December and they’d be collecting that back, kind of now like. And they did it in the form of slicing off what they were going to, plus what they thought would be an awesome magical number to just sort of start at for repayment. Yeah, just how I wanted to start my 2011. While dealing with that, we were also looking at the possibility of said larger apartment, and trying very hard not to laugh at the prospect of them arguing with us about our attempt to save money just long enough that they wind up being forced just by way of our expenses to reverse themselves anyway, and we’d still wind up not having actually managed to come out any further off the financial ropes.

Since I hadn’t yet figured out exactly how much they’d be snagging from me each month to compensate for having paid me more than they’ve decided I’m worth, I went with their usual practice and left things as they were for the time being. Then the roommate fled to see his girl, and I came down here. I wouldn’t find out until a few days later, when I both had time and wasn’t at too much a risk of losing a lung to actually do the month’s finances on my end–belatedly, but hey, they got done. Their definition of a repayment plan leaves me with less money at the end of it than I had pre-roommate. All told, I actually ended up losing most if not all of what I was kind of aiming to put towards the actual paying of bills.

Look, guys, I get you’re cheap. Really, I do. I get you measure your $10 annual increases in the context of millions of dollars combined. Again, I really do. But not even you can comprehensibly wrap your heads around this attempt at math, as evidenced by the fact no one I’ve spoken to on this file’s come anywhere near close to an explanation that doesn’t try very hard not to trip over itself and fall flat on its face. Just what actual sense does this make? Seriously? Not only does ODSP want to not actually give you more money, but if you actually try and save yourself some of the money they do give you, that only serves to invite them to claw it back whether they actually should or not. And of course, the system is designed in such a way that they decide you can live on this amount, and you get to provide them 80 metric tons of documentation on why you can’t, then wait for them to maybe or maybe not–usually not–change their minds.

ODSP is here to foster independence and help recipients to actually function on their own without needing to spunge off family/friends. Just don’t actually try and avoid spunging. Turns out ODSP math doesn’t allow for it.

The CRTC snaps its fingers, and unlimitted internet no longer exists.

I’m not one for capped internet connections. Never have been. Not even if I’m only checking email. I took full advantage of one ISP on my way out for reasons of capped bandwidth/traffick shaping policies–that they’re still continuing with, last I’d heard. I ripped into another for offering its own customers an on-demand streaming service a la Netflix and deciding hey, our internet customers don’t actually need a reason to use our service over torrents, so we’ll just count it against their bandwidth cap. I went at them again, this time for lowering their already ridiculously low caps in response to the launch of the offending Netflix in Canada. At the time, while none of the big 3 ISP’s (Rogers, Bell and Telus) were offering unlimitted internet services, the smaller ISP’s TekSavvy, Primus) were. And life was great. I ditched Bell for TekSavvy, who I ended up leaving for other reasons over 2 and a half years later–but that’s been beaten to death over here already, and avoided both issues. Bell decided not long after that that they didn’t much like us playing that game. So they wined to the CRTC. As did Rogers, as did Telus. Because, you know, competitive advantage in Canada just shouldn’t be allowed to exist. This past week, the CRTC agreed. Now, as of February first, even the smaller ISP’s are mandated to piss off their customers by charging them for any and all usage that takes you beyond 25 GB. After 25 GB, your options are to pay $x for every gig over that amount, or pay another price–usually only slightly less–for blocks of bandwidth, some companies (hello, TekSavvy) are calling it insurance, that you may or may not actually end up using for a month–more than likely, you’ll end up using.

As a general guide, let me let you in on a little hint as to just how ridiculously tiny 25 GB is. If you’re into the whole online gaming thing, even if it’s just one of those games you find on Facebook to kill half an hour on your coffee break, you can blow through 25 gigs easily in a month. If you’re doing anything more demanding than that, for example playing World of Warcraft, even if it’s not for very long at a stretch, 25 gigs goes by pretty quick. Get a lot of email? Use a fair bit of Twitter? Decide you want to install your favourite OS on a spare computer? Or virtually? Do pretty much anything that isn’t your typical half-hour of internet usage a day for checking email/paying bills? Your 25 gig cap waves goodbye in an aweful goddamn hurry. Yep, you guessed it. Youtube, streaming music, random TWAudio or Q-audio things, they hurt too. And don’t even get me started on what any even moderate amount of file sharing of any kind, legal or otherwise, does to the bandwidth cap–which would be the entire reason for the cap in the first place.

The major players in the Canadian market have been calling the shots pretty much since the advent of the CRTC and the granting of regulatory authority to the CRTC over our portion of the internet. Bell, Rogers, Telus all started throttling traffick, manipulating things in such a way that traffick that fell into specific categories was slowed or otherwise given headaches–we call that throttling, or traffick shaping. The big push from the smaller ISP’s at that time was “we’d never do that to you!”. And, ironically, they were right–they usually never did. So shortly before I officially was to switch ISP’s from Bell to Teksavvy, Bell thought they’d extend a favour to the smaller ISP’s, and do the traffick shaping for them. Nice, no? Naturally, the CRTC was perfectly fine with it–prompting at least two complaints and a petition that didn’t actually end up getting a whole lot of anywhere. And voila, one third-party throttle, served monopolistically. It’s been that way escentially since. Same with the newest issue of usage-based billing.

Bell and Rogers began instituting, and later lowering–hence those first few links at the top of the entry–bandwidth caps. They started out mildly reasonable and didn’t hang around there long. Instead, prices went up, bandwidth went down, and–at least on DSL–speeds escentially stayed the same. Suddenly, we weren’t getting what we’d call our money’s worth. Once again, up comes the smaller ISP, this time with an unlimitted bandwidth offering and a promise of “We wouldn’t do that to you!”. And, once again, they’re usually right–they, specifically, wouldn’t do that to their customers. And once again, Bell, Rogers and Telus, who the smaller ISP’s have little to no choice but deal with if they want to be able to offer internet service, volunteered to do them the favour of instituting bandwidth caps for them. And once again, they did it with the complete backing of the CRTC–poof, usage-based billing is born, the unlimitted internet is dead. As before, there’s a mass amount of appeals underway to try and convince the CRTC to see reason, but so far, it hasn’t done much but take up space in the news. And once again, the CRTC is stuck in 1995 or 2000, in the land of the barely above 56k. And just like that, like the land of barely above 56k, the CRTC snaps its fingers and unlimitted internet no longer exists. Now if we could just see *improvements* to our internet services come through as quickly as hinderences. Well, can’t have everything. At least someone’s seeing some quick progress.

Canada Post gets a hard lesson in accessibility. And they’re about to get another.

Carin over at the Vomit Comet already laid good into Canada Post for this one, but since I’m procrastinating with this whole packing thing anyway and a little backup never hurt anyone, they get a friendly little reminder from me.

In December, I decided I had 30 seconds between the other 80 million things I was trying to get done that last week or two before Christmas to actually fire off some cards to family and a couple friends. You’d think an effort that’d take a grand total of 30 seconds, right? Last year, yes. The year before, definitely. This year? Yeah, no. What should have taken 30 seconds instead turned into a moment of temporary oh shit.

As part of their move to supposedly “improve the customer service experience”, Canada post had at some point late last year decided it might be fun to go all touchscreen, all the time. Their reason for doing so? It’s a requirement to deal with the new chip-equipped debbit cards. Much like Carin in her experience, postal chick and I went a round or two over that one. Not only could they have easily gone with another, more accessible model, but–in my case in particular–the unit I was staring at was stuck to the counter, which was roughly chest height for me (I’m 5’11 or so). Which meant, in simple terms, not only could the blind/low vision not do anything whatsoever with it, but lord help anyone who came rolling on up in a wheelchair. I’d of loved to see just how the local post office was going to handle that one. They weren’t doing a whole lot to handle this one, in any event.

Lucky for me, as you quite literally can’t get to 90% of what’s available in this town without wheels, I just so happened to have a pair of eyes handy. Equally lucky for me, they’re eyes I actually don’t mind knowing my PIN–hey, sometimes stuff has to get done and I’m busy. But I’d of been in much the same boat Carin was otherwise. And the explanation of such to the postal employee? Prompted the much anticipated and not at all favourable–for her–standard responses of, “You’ll just have to make sure you bring someone with you, I guess.”, and, “Well, there’s an ATM not far from here. We still accept cash.”.

As if she didn’t probably already figure she maybe shouldn’t have said that–I probably should give her a tiny benefit of doubt, here–she got a good dose of education from both myself, and my wheels. There was no actual reply, and we went on business as usual.

On my return home, I’d put together a little something and sent it via Canada Post’s less than well-organized website into, what I’m going to guess, is their customer feedback black hole. As of yet I haven’t heard or seen anything resembling a response, and when the roommate and I went to fill out a money order for the apartment that wasn’t (more on that in another entry, if I remember), things hadn’t changed. Of course, anyone who’s done this dance knows exactly what comes next–a longer letter. Which will more than likely get dropped on someone once I touch down in Rochester. And hey, this time, I’ll have a month to go find regulations with which to beat postal people around a bit. One would suspect I had too much fun doing this. And yeah, they’d be right.

The moral of the story? for the love of cheese, get with the accessibility program already. You’re a federal agency, bound by federal laws. This includes federal accessibility laws–which, I’ll admit, the actual government’s having a hell of a time following but that issue’s already been beaten to death on every blog but this one. Get your shit in order. Or, hell, better yet, hire me and Carin–we’ll do it for you. I expect this from the private sector–rant on that coming probably when I hit Rochester. After all, they don’t make much money off us blind folks. But really? Canada Post? They don’t make much money, period. Let’s half some equal playing field up in here, and maybe they’ll make a little more. In the meantimie, where’d I put my regulations?

Yet another study states the obvious. Private rooms in the ICU can reduce infection.

I didnt know we still needed scientific studies to confirm what common sense usually tells us, but in this case, I guess they figured it couldn’t hurt. From the McGill University Health Center, research that’s been on-going since 2000 into whether or not private rooms in the ICU, as opposed to their multiple bed equivalents, might contribute to a reduction in hospital-aquired infections. And, no surprise to anyone who isn’t part of that research team, they do.

For the study, Dana Y. Teltsch, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University, led a team who compared the rates of patient-acquired infections before and after the change from multi-bed rooms to private rooms.

As a control group, they also used data on patients at a similar multi-bed facility at a second university hospital. The authors then compared infection rates of a total of 19,343 ICU admissions at both hospitals between 2000 and 2005.

Rates of infection were reduced anywhere from 43 to 54 percent at the hospital with the private rooms during the study. In addition, patients in those private rooms were in for shorter stays than those still in the multi-bed arangements. And again, the only people who might have expected different results were on the research team.

Yes, private rooms are likely to cost more–at least if some of our hospitals and/or health insurance companies have anything to say about it. But you’re not then spending your time in a state where your immune system’s already pretty much broken sharing a room with 4 or 5 other people who’s immune systems may also be equally broken, some of whom may have been broken by default. Granted, my immune system works quite well–too well, some might say, but even for non-intensive care, if I can get away with it, I’ll stick myself in a private room. It’s not that I’m antisocial–well, okay, that might be part of it. But I’m in a freaking hospital overnight. There’s a reason for it. That reason likely has something to do with the fact I’m in no shape to be dealing with whatever other people happen to be carrying in with them. Nor would I want to be carrying something, knowingly or not, and risk handing it off to someone else while there. That, to me, is the height of asshole. Yeah, even if the assholes are the insurance folks who say you can’t have a private room because they’d really rather not pay for it. Common sense should, by all accounts, dictate that if you’re in a hospital, you should probably be in a private room if they can manage to spare one. And now common sense has a scientific study on its side. Now comes the fun part–watching to see if anyone actually does anything about it. In the meantime, I’ll stick to requesting my private room if ever I end up needing a room in a hospital at all.

The catholic school board’s IT department is *not* smarter than an 8th-grader.

From the department of IT Security 101, courtesy the Peterborough Catholic district School Board, comes this real life lesson of what happens when you don’t tripple check your security. you end up hacked by one of your own students.

John Mackle, education director at the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board, said the Grade 8 pupil at St. Anne’s School in Peterborough’s north end found his way — via his laptop, a piece of downloaded software and the board’s internal network — into a board file server containing provincewide test results.

“To be honest, I don’t know that he would have understood what he was seeing,” Mackle said.

“The information that he was able to see wouldn’t have made a lot of sense to him.”

Mackle said the incident occurred when the server in question, which isn’t located at the school, was turned back on after undergoing a service upgrade.

“We normally have two levels of security,” Mackle said. “In this case, level 1 was turned back on, but level 2 was not. This allowed the boy to gain access.”

Security for all servers has been upgraded in the wake of the incident, he added.

By “upgraded”, does he mean “reenabled”? And, really, just what kind of security do they over at the Peterborough school board consider to be level 1? Inquiring minds want to know. If the system was secured, the kid shouldn’t have been able to access it. On second thought, I’ve come to understand the school board’s definition of secured and the rest of the world’s definition are usually two pretty different things. If given enough time to work at it, most school board security systems–at least up here–could probably be compromised with a minimal amount of effort, if someone with a problem with that school or the board really wanted to.

Let this be a lesson for aspiring IT people. Secure your shit. Twice. And for the love of chese, if you’ve got a system installed, tripple check that it comes up when the server you’re trying to protect does. I should not have to point that out.

OC Transpo is playing around with reverse economics again.

For the fourth year in a row, OC Transpo, better known as that thing what used to get me to work anywhere from 10 minutes early to 15 minutes late, has decided to increase fares. The reason? According to the current chair of the OC Transpo commission, low ridership is to blame. So to offset the lack of revenue prompted by dropping ridership numbers–which probably wouldn’t have happened if the city and OC Transpo union hadn’t screwed us all over the place re: that bus strike, the remaining riders will be given a very good reason to look elsewhere for their rides–higher prices. A monthly bus pass now costs about $91. And for their increased fees, they get the privilege of riding buses that just so happen to be a little more empty. Reverse economics has hit Ottawa in 2011. And just in time for that other city what perfected the art of reverse economics to cancel its own fare increase. Impressive, Ottawa. Except for that part where it’s not. Please to be leading by example. Oh, wait–I forgot who I was talking about. Forget I said anything.

TekSavvy proves even the little guy could use a drop kick. Again.

The big draw for TekSavvy used to be they were local, open, and just small enough to still care about customers. That was a few years ago–when things like this would have meant half the company goes into full defend the customer mode.

My parents have TS home phone, their place got flooded, and I needed to see if their home phone number could be call forwarded to their cell while they’re out of their place. Several medical folks have their main number as their contact number, and it’s just way easier to call forward than to go about the process of trying to get my parents to remember all the numbers that might need to call them on the main line. I called support on Sunday night and held for 18 minutes before giving up. I recall that Rocky had been saying over and over that they were working on the wait times issue. I believe that was 18 months ago. I finally got someone on the phone today. I asked them if they could expedite the process of getting my parents’ cell as the forwarding number. The rep I spoke to said it wasn’t ‘fair’ for other customers who were in line ahead of my parents. I said that this is a matter of two elderly people who got flooded out of their home and need to have a connection to their main line for medical reasons. Rep said ‘I don’t care. We’re not going to bump someone out for you’. I asked ‘So you could do it, but you won’t’? Rep said ‘That’s right’. I wish I could convey to you guys the tone in which he said ‘That’s right’. Like he was proud of it, like he was enjoying saying it to me. Pathetic. Please note – this isn’t an exaggeration for dramatic effect. That’s exactly what he said to me. Avoid this company at all costs. Their competitive advantage has eroded and their staff have developed a ‘screw you’ attitude.

The TekSavvy of 2008 would have very likely put their foot to the floor on this process, and gotten this customer’s parents their forwarder without much fuss–the whole emergency circumstances thing, and all. The TekSavvy of 2011? No chance. Every time I see one of these, I’m very glad I’ve abandoned this company for similar reasons It’s always bad when a good company goes to shit. It’s worse when even 6 months ago they’d of come highly recommended. Now? I’d recommend anything else. And this doesn’t improve the situation.

Hey, Ottawa? Don’t borrow this idea from Calgary. Kay?

Apparently, cab companies in the Calgary, Alberta area are considering the possibility of charging people a “late ride fee” for the need to get somewhere via taxi between 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM. They say it’s to pay for vehicle upkeep/maintenance etc. I think I’ll just call bullshit right about now. After about midnight, at least in Ottawa–note I’ve never lived in Calgary–bus routes tend to get themselves shut down for the night. After about 1:00 in the morning, if you ain’t got a ride home from a coworker, or a wickedly awesome family member who doesn’t mind coming to fish your ass from work and dumping you in your driveway at half past dark, you ain’t got a ride home. Unless you feel like coughing up the $30 or so to get yourself home at half past dark in the morning. They start thinking about increasing their fees just during those hours, and I’m going to once again start questioning why on God’s green and blue planet OC Transpo still doesn’t run 24 hours.

Now, granted I don’t know what the transit situation’s like in Calgary, but if it’s anything like Ottawa, the cab driver’s probably your best friend after about 11 in some places, 1:00 everywhere else. Or, if you’d prefer, no bus fair plus no driver’s license equals no real choice–whichever you rather. And you probably already have to get creative to be able to aford to get yourself home from work after the place closes down at 1:00 in the morning–oh yeah, that was fun. Really. And along comes a “late ride fee” of an indeterminate amount to be slapped on your bill along with whatever’s charged on the meter? Yeah, I think not.

Calgary, if you’re smart, you’ll give this idea a second thought. Then promptly toss it under the bus where it belongs. Ottawa, for the love of chese, pretend you don’t actually see this idea. Trust me, it’s not a very good one. Now if only that served to convince me you wouldn’t go on ahead and run with it. What I wouldn’t do for a 9:00-5:00 job now.

PS: This could also serve as a kick in the ass to make OC Transpo 24/7. Also not holding my breath on *that* idea, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Rogers, you and I need to talk. Again.

Yes, I know it’s your mission in life to make dealing with you as overly confusing and all around draining as humanly possible. I get it. I can appreciate that. Hell, I don’t even mind being part of it–especially if it means you pay me and my cell phone bill goes down by roughly half. I like this idea. What I don’t like is the idea that a simple phone replacement ends up becoming way too convoluted for our own goddamn good, and on top of it, takes 9 phone calls and just about exactly a month to actually resolve. And that includes running over at least two managers to get it done. You sent us a phone we can’t use. We asked you to replace the phone. We told you what phone to replace it with. We were even more than willing to pay the $10 to buy the thing–even though that made me kind of cringe a little inside. So why’d it have to go and be all manner of difficult after that point?

You had to provision us a third line in order to send out the phone. Okay, we get that. You were more than willing to cancel one of the lines when we received the phone and let us return the old one. We get that, too–thanks for that, by the way. That was almost too easy. Which, I suppose, should have given me reason to start developing that nervous twitch I get right about the time things start going to shit. It didn’t. My mistake.

We sent back the phone, as agreed. We sent back the third line’s sim card as well, simply because you shipped it to Petawawa with an Ottawa number. Yeah, brilliant. Really. We then got the pleasure of playing hell for the month of December trying to get that line cancelled. By the way, do you have any idea how difficult it is to clue someone who doesn’t appear to be overly enthused about actually doing that whole listening thing? Neither did I until now.

Just this morning, after bouncing right over yet another customer service agent’s head and speaking to–and cluing once again–yet another manager, the Ottawa number is *finally*, I hope to hell, deader than dead. But that really didn’t need to take this much arm twisting to accomplish, Rogers. No, not even if the first 7 agents I spoke to were brainless. Work on this. For serious. Because the first time someone else comes out with a phone I don’t have to bastardise to get to actually speak to me, I’m running like hell anywhere else. I pay you guys way too much to have to do this dance.

PS: By the way, thanks for the $56 credit on the account. It’s the least you could do, considering I had to go chasing after my scheduled callback. Let’s not do this dance again.

Just say no to bad parenting.

It’s no new thing to hear about some parental advocacy group, children’s rights organization or whatever kicking up a fuss over the government not having stepped in to bubble wrap our kids. It’s not even a new thing to hear about it happening in the form of a lawsuit against Mcdonalds, for having the nerve to sell those ridiculous little toy type thinggies with their happy meal. The reason for it, though? Yeah, that’s new.

In the latest round of the campaign to protect us from ourselves, the ultra-meddlesome Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s on behalf of a California mother of two. The suit alleges that the burger chain’s Happy Meal — which comes with a small toy — is deliberately marketed at small children so they will pester their parents to bring them in to the fast-food restaurants.

D’uh.

The lawsuit states, “Children eight-years-old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising. Thus, McDonald’s advertising featuring toys to bait children violates California law because it is inherently deceptive and unfair.”

Okay. Maybe. If the kids didn’t have parents.

And there’s the main point against such insanity right there. It’s not local, state and/or federal governments’ jobs to parent your kids. If you don’t want your kids eating at Mcdonalds, then for the love of all that is holy, please to be not taking your kids to Mcdonalds. It really isn’t hard. They do have one very small point, I’ll grant them–kids don’t generally know better. But that’s *why* they have parents. Granted, not every parent bothers to actually take the time to teach them any better, which falls on the parents more than anything else–but that’s still no excuse to have governments at any level stepping in with one-size-fits-all type rules. Particularly considering there do exist some parents who see absolutely nothing wrong with an occasional trip to Mcdonalds, or wherever else folks want state/federal legislation in place to say is universally bad for kids–yes, my parents were of that mindset and I turned out just fine. Also from the article:

When our kids were eight and younger, they didn’t have the cognitive skills to understand it was a bad idea to run out onto a busy street — an activity inherently far more immediately dangerous than eating a burger or nuggets and fries. Did I sue our city government for failing to make its streets less attractive to naive pedestrian toddlers? Of course not, I taught our kids to check both ways before crossing the road.

Should manufacturers of stovetops be sued for making the elements such an attractive red colour when they are turned on “high”? After all, young children lack the developmental maturity to understand that if they touch the pretty burner they’ll get, well, burned. Or is it, perhaps, up to parents to teach their kiddies this valuable no-touch life lesson?

When I was growing up, it was up to the parents–and the decent ones actually did what they were supposed to. But that was also 20 years ago. The lawsuit hadn’t become as popular an option then–it still isn’t quite so popular in Canada, but they’re trying. The requirement to actually raise your kids hasn’t vanished simply because, also at least 20 years ago, Mcdonalds started marketting toys with happy meals as an advertising gimmic. As long as you have kids, the requirement to actually be a parent sticks. Or should, if you actually give a damn. This reasoning from the lawsuit currently in progress, though? Smells of not really giving a damn.

Monet Parham, the 41-year-old Sacramento woman who is the subject of the CSPI suit, explains that, “busy working moms and dads know we have to say ‘no’ to our young children so many times, and McDonald’s makes it that much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”

Oh my stars. What ever would we do without the Monet Parhams of the world looking out for our children? Pray tell, will she also save us from the parels of crazed teenage run-ins with drugs, sex and alcohol? Oh please? Tell you what. Instead of me snarking at her yet again, have this, also from the article.

Life is inherently deceptive and unfair. It is, therefore, our job to teach our kids, ourselves, to avoid those pitfalls they can and to adapt to those they cannot. Indeed, while it’s one of the toughest challenges of parenthood to train our kids to know right from wrong, good from bad, healthy from unhealthy, it is also one of the greatest satisfactions. What kind of achievement would it be if our job as parents consisted solely of having advocacy groups pester the government on our behalf to enact laws and regulations to do our child-rearing for us?

And yes, what about those parents who have no problem with letting their kids have a little fun, but at the same time have absolutely no problem with telling kids absolutely freaking not when it needs to be said? Or should the default answer just be to sue the government for providing the option in the first place?

Suggestion for Ms. Parham. Don’t say no to the happy meal. Just say no to bad parenting. Then go fix yours. You’d be doing your poor kids many more favours.

So long, TekSavvy. It’s been fun.

I used to be in love with TekSavvy. I recommended the thing to anyone looking to escape the clutches of Bell Canada. Their plans were awesome, their service rocked my world, the lack of bandwidth restrictions made my geek heart do the happy dance. And on the rare occasion I had to deal with tech support, which wasn’t very often or for very long, they were rock solid beyond anything. I delt with their other departments only a tiny little handful of times, but even those were mostly all aces. The love afair ended a week and a half ago.

I’ve recently taken in a roommate. The afore mentioned roommate also used to come with TekSavvy. We’d planned to keep both services running, and attempt to combine them in such a way that internet speeds would go from borderline awesome to wicked awesome in 3 seconds flat. We called at the beginning of November, roughly, shortly after we’d escentially decided to give this whole roommate thing a try. It went back and forth between yes we can and no we can’t, and some very odd and less than amusing combinations of the two. We spoke each to several different people when we got our hands on these interesting combinations.

One thing lead to another, we wound up bouncing to the manager queue. Or rather, we thought we were bouncing to the manager queue–more on that later. Finally, we were getting something vaguely resembling consistency. We got sent to Elizabeth, who told us she was a supervisor in the sales department. Suddenly, we saw things get cleared up, straightened out, and appropriately beaten into submission. Bell got told they’d be doing what we wanted, when we wanted, and not to ask questions. We were ready to go, and all we had to do was show up on the day of the changeover. Except no, not really.

About four days before the day services were supposed to be switched over, and the day before Shane was due to jump a bus up this way, I wake up to a message on the answering machine. This message, from Alexandra, escentially undid what we’d just gotten everything but written confirmation was going to happen. Naturally, it involved a callback. And that’s when things got a little more interesting.

Apparently, not only was Bell not, as we were previously told, going to do what we wanted–on account of this was to do with an install that has nothing to do with any of Bell’s services, but for the last two weeks before this, we hadn’t, in fact, been speaking to a supervisor in the sales department. I still don’t think we were speaking to anyone managerial when we got the callback, though she claimed to be more senior than Elizabeth–whatever the hell that means. Needless to say, we were significantly less than enthusiastic to be having that conversation. We promptly canceled both our services right there in favour of Primus, who I’ve had dealings with before and left because I had a better offer.

Apparently we’re not alone on the list of folks who’ve run up against the Elizabeth issue. She’s told at least one other customer she was a manager as well, and made claims similar to that which she made to us–this customer has also, since, been corrected by someone else, including on Elizabeth’s managerial status. While I can’t say whether or not that customer’s contemplating the big switch, but it’s acts like this that ended up turning what I saw as an absolutely perfect service into something from which I wanted to run, quickly, in the opposite direction.

So long, TekSavvy. It’s been fun. In this case, you can thank your own customer service folks for the bad taste in my mouth. I do. And as of tomorrow, I won’t even have that.

My creditcard issuer has creditcard issues.

I have the good fortune, or not–depending on your perspective, to be in posession of a creditcard. Up until last week, the card worked pretty well flawlessly for anything from ordering pizza to paying the occasional bill online, in the event I’m too damn inpatient and/or lazy to bother with the slightly more traditional internet banking transfer. However, the last week or so, it’s decided to rather summarily flip me off. Randomly, it decided the CVV code I was using since I got the card–I only got the thing maybe last year or the year before–the code I’ve been using to make 90% of those purchases was no longer as valid as it was 5 minutes before I decided to use it. So I’ve been going through a pretty interesting little roundabout dance with Royal Bank, also known as them what issued my card. Their system, as much as they won’t actually admit it, appears to have ate my CVV code. This is more of a record of what’s going on for my own purposes, and well, in the event some other poor fool winds up with a similar problem. As things happen, I’ll probably come back to this post. My 7 days of fail started pretty much exactly a week ago. In list format, because. Lazy.

  • After much arm twisting, teeth pulling, and generally screaming at folks, I got the fundage to purchase the screenreader I need from Frontier Computing
  • Called them up and, after a bit of phone dancing, landed the purchase $1100 and some change later
  • Fast forward to last Friday, we’re trying to throw money at things down on that other side of the border, requiring I change the address on the card temporarily to a US one–a thing I’ve done a few times before
  • Change the address, go to make the payment, get declined due to CVV issues
  • CVV is correct, and was entered multiple times by both myself and Shane just to be on the damn sure side
  • Call up the bank, WTF at them for a few minutes, get told the CVV’s correct–well, yes, I had a feeling–and to call the merchant
  • Rather than beat our heads against that right then, we try throwing a payment in the general direction of AT&T
  • Once again, incorrect CVV, once again, we call the bank, once again, CVV is correct
  • Make that payment to AT&T via a telephone rep, who *didn’t* ask for the CVV, and it goes through no problem
  • Try to find a payment for our first attempted US payment over the phone, no luck
  • Try online again, get summarily flipped off, call the bank and, yep, everything’s correct–it’s the merchant’s fault
  • Switch back to the Canadian address, and we decide to finally find a use for one of my Tim Hortons gift cards–why in the hell I had two of them, I’ll never know–so it gets handed off to Shane, and we try to throw a few dollars at it via the card
  • Once again, we get summarily flipped off because of the CVV, and once again, RBC blames the merchant–this is the third one who’s flipped us off re: the CVV, so now I’m a little less open to that possibility than I was before
  • Saturday, we escentially get into hockey mode–which, of course, means pizza, which means ordering via creditcard on account of the bank machine’s over there and we’re not
  • That, of course, goes through no problem–of course, they also don’t ask for the CVV either (Hey, I thought they should; not doing so was their idea.)
  • Monday, we find out we have approximately 4 days to get paperwork into government offices, and not exactly world’s likeliest chance at being able to physically deliver it to the offending office–sometimes, not being able to drive and living in a small town gets to sucking hardcore
  • We decide on a whim, since most if not all of what’s needed is available online, we’ll pull it to the local machine, sign up for a fax number (hello, MyFax), and fire it off to the office that way
  • Assuming, since we know it can’t be the merchants all at once having issues it must be RBC that’s broken, and hoping against hope they’ve fixed it, we give signing up for it a try–and, once again, are summarily flipped off
  • Now, I’m about irritated and decide screw it I’m going to bed–this was kind of squeezed in between and around various phone and other exchanges with people who generally couldn’t seem to find their way to a clue
  • I give MyFax a try again several hours later, no go, Idaho–so again, decide to put it on the back burner until I figure out where the problem’s hiding out
  • Rogers, in its infinite wisdom, decides to then pick this morning as the absolute perfect time to decide the money I threw in their general direction isn’t getting to them fast enough, so they flip the switch what puts an end to our phone service
  • Not thinking, because why would I want to do that at 5:00 in the morning, I decide–hey, James, let’s just take care of what they say you owe them now and when their money catches up to them, they can just count that towards your next bill
  • Of course, the broken that is my creditcard escapes me at this point, so I call in, go through the routine, get summarily flipped off again thanks to bad CVV
  • Once again, call the bank, go a few rounds with the phone rep, who promptly blames the merchant–also, once again
  • Walk all over this rep, then summarily flip him off
  • Take a break from dealing with this, call Rogers directly, apply the appropriate clue that says they will get their money when I have it and not a minute before, then take care of some highly unrelated business before tackling this again
  • Call back to RBC, get a rep who’s first response isn’t quite so much to blame the merchant or, for that matter, RBC’s second favourite thing to blame throughout this issue–me
  • He does, at least, confirm no, the $1100 and change purchase didn’t likely set off alarms that, in simplest of terms, broke my card
  • Go a round or two with him, he also confirms the CVV does what it’s supposed to, decides something about the card’s dead–no, really?
  • Sends me out a replacement card, different card number, different CVV, same lovely little creditcard balance–but at least I got a shiny new interest rate out of it

So far, we still have absolutely no freaking idea what made my card go sideways. RBC blames the people I’m giving the info to, or me for entering the wrong info. Everyone I give the info to blames the bank for not confirming it, or me for giving them the wrong info. The bank is able to varify my info, shooting holes in half of both their theories. And I still sit here confused. This thing, whatever it is, isn’t over yet–not, I suspect, by any means. The post will probably be added to as things develop. I should have the new card in about a week or so, and if it’s just as broken, RBC and me will go yet another round. Sometimes, I love banking breakage. Only not really.