• It’s Christmas in the valley.

    It’s that time of year, and I’m where I pretty much always am when it’s that time of year. My family has a tradition–it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, we’re all home for Christmas. And home has pretty much always been the Ottawa valley–with only a few exceptions (me included), they all live here and very few of them have actually left here for any real length of time. So partly because it’s tradition, and mostly because it’s the one time I’m guaranteed to see them all in one place, I’m back in the valley for a few days.

    ONe of our family traditions is the Christmas music in the background of just about everything we do. Even in situations, like when we’re having dinner, where we don’t usually have music of any kind onb–usually there’s something. The radio, a CD, somebody’s Spotify playlist, whichever. That’s pretty nearly a central component of the day if you’re us.

    One of the songs I end up hearing at least once every year is “Christmas In The Valley”. IF not the original, then it’s because someone’s pulled out the guitar and we’ve decided to sing the thing. It’s almost become a staple in at least one Christmas playlist. So, because someone in this house will play it today, I’ll leave it here today. And, you know, if you’re ever in the Ottawa valley on or around Christmas…

    Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, happy holidays to those of you who are either just thankful to probably hopefully have the day off or are waiting for December 31, and happy weekend to everyone else–the, like, 3 of you who actually read this long-neglected thing. In 2022, perhaps I’ll decide to do something productive. Or at least, if not that, then do whatever this is before halfway through December.

  • Om-nom-nomicron eats hockey. It should snack on the olympics next.

    I have two weeks off work. When I scheduled this two weeks off work, I fully intended to spend it either in front of the TV watching professional hockey, or in a local arena watching nephew hockey. And this is why I don’t make plans–they change. This time, om-nom-nomicron changed them.

    the local hockey season’s on hold or cancelled as of about a week ago, the NHL’s on hold in many places–including both toronto (damn) and Ottawa (Can we make that permanent?), and the NHL has officially bowed out of the olympics this year–which, essentially, means I’m bowing out of the olympics this year. Now if the trend didn’t stop there.

    I don’t mind the olympics most years. I mean, not just because that’s the one time I’m not the only one sitting in front of the TV watching hockey. But I wouldn’t lose sleep at all if they pulled the covid lever and bailed out of the whole thing. They won’t, but it would be nice if they did.

    I’m not going to mention the location they’re holding it this year, because neither the olympics nor the country deserve that much attention. Plus, if you don’t know by now you can know in about 5 seconds with Google’s help. But I will say the government of the country in question is of the opinion that rights, even for its own citizens, aren’t worth the paper they’re not actually written on in that country. And if you happen to 1: not be a citizen of that country and 2: useful as a bargaining chip in a diplomatic game of chess with another country, you have even fewer rights than their citizens. Personally I’d rather my country, or my country’s athletes, didn’t condone such behaviour. I’d rather the IOC didn’t either, but I gave up on them years ago.

    I can live without the NHL for a few weeks, or the rest of the year, for health and safety reasons. I’m a little bummed I won’t be watching my nephews play. But I will throw a freaking party if Covid becomes the reason there is no olympics this year. Human rights are a wee bit more important. And screw the IOC if it disagrees.

    Sure, I’ve had about enough of Covid, with or without om-nom-nomicron’s help contributing to the fed-up-ness. But if it grinds this year’s olympics to a hault, then to hell with it–I’m on Covid’s side. Perhaps if they can use Covid as cover, our politicians will actually do something respectable. Probably not, but I mean a guy can dream.

    Om-nom-nomicron made a meal out of my hockey life. If it’s still hungry, the olympics would make an excellent snack. Eat up, then die off, pretty please and kindly thank you.

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  • 11 years late, but I now work from home. Or anywhere else I feel like.

    I’ve always told anyone who’d listen that given the choice, I’ll always take–at a minimum–the option of working from home over shlepping to and from the office 5 days/week (or 4, per my last job). I’m not anti-office. Not even close. But I’m way, way more productive at home. And I never saw the point in your options being go to work because you feel like trash but can still work, or stay home despite the fact that your feeling like trash doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t be working.

    No one’s enjoying the last two years or so, but for better or worse, I had the opportunity to test my theory. when the government decided those of us who could be were now remote employees, I could not have been more thrilled. You mean I’m not tied to one specific place because that’s where my money comes from? What pure bliss is this? I could work from my parents’ place, or my bed, or–when they were open—-the restaurant I decided I’d be having dinner at. If their schedules allowed it, I could go watch my nephews play hockey in the afternoon and still get back in time for work. I could have, you know, a life outside of my job.

    That pretty much sealed the deal for me. If I went back to the office, it wasn’t going to be full time. Now, this put me at odds with my employer at the time, who was essentially looking to bring us back to the office at the earliest possibility. So, in a rather surprising–for me, anyway–turn of events, I changed that situation. And my employer. And now I am permanently working from home.

    When I’m a little more sure I’ll still be there in a few months (you know, typical new job stuff), I’ll go into more detail on what working for this particular company remotely means. But they have no offices, so everyone’s remote from the newest employee up to the CEO–who is awesome, just for the record. Which means when I decide I’m ready to go back to the office (hint: not even close), it will be an office I’m paying to rent as part of a coworking arrangement and not, as I’m used to, owned by or rented to the people who pay me. And that, I think, will be the perfect compromise–from home when I want/need to, from the office otherwise.

    It only took me 11 years, but I finally ended up largely where I think I wanted to be. Next on my list, a work from home apartment.

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  • The government really did not think this through. … Or they did, and that’s the problem.

    So we’re under a new Covid thing again. That thing, because otherwise Covid will bore the hell out of me, shall be known when I write about it as om-nom-nomicron. Naturally this means we’re also under a new Covid benefit again. I say “under” rather than “entitled to” because, well, there are no entitleds.

    The federal government has established a new COVID-19 support benefit, but it can’t be accessed because no one in the country meets its eligibility criteria, prompting criticism of the support. The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit (new window) (CWLB) officially came into existence last Friday. Like its predecessors, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), it’s designed to provide temporary income support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike those programs, it’s only available to workers who cannot work due to a local lockdown designation, but no region is officially under lockdown.

    So. Basically.

    • 1: Create a benefit to help out during a pandemic (good).
    • 2: Slap some restrictions on that benefit so the guy making $100k who’s job hasn’t been affected by the pandemic doesn’t qualify (good).
    • 3: Allow the provinces to do, well, what the provinces will do, and shut down places that will contribute to Covid exploding–in Québec, this apparently means schools, gyms, bars, etc (good).
    • 4: Deny the newly unemployed access to the benefit you just created because their region’s not under lockdown yet (WTF, gov?).
    • 5: Profit, I guess.

    I mean I’m not an expert here by any means, but did somebody miss a memo? Yeah, the first round of Covid benefits were way too freaking unrestricted. I could have applied for them and my job wasn’t impacted in any way by Covid other than, you know, that whole being ordered to work from home thing. But methinks somebody might be overcompensating just a little much. either that, or we’re headed for another Christmas lockdown in Canada (note: ford, that is not a suggestion). I’d like to know what Ottawa was thinking, but I’ll settle for knowing *if* Ottawa was thinking. Or perhaps that’s the problem.

    Update: Looks like that memo arrived a little bit later than planned.

    The federal government is expanding access to pandemic financial supports, as much of the country grapples with surging COVID-19 infections and new restrictions are implemented across the country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the measures in a news conference Wednesday, in which he appeared virtually. Trudeau said he was following local public health advice after six members of his staff and security detail tested positive for COVID-19. “For the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit and the Local Lockdown Program, you’ll be able to apply if you’re subject to capacity limiting restrictions,” Trudeau said.

    Think, then do, guys. The other way around never works. Let this be a lesson… that you’ll probably ignore.

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  • No one reads the terms and conditions. Or the anything else. Yeah, that includes you.

    So, I’ve been in tech for years. Whether it’s tech support, or IT, or just generally dicking around with whatever project. I’ve seen more terms of service pages than I have hairs on my head. And I’m fairly sure I’ve read a grand total of maybe 2 of them. Here’s the thing. So have you. Here’s the other thing. It’s not just the T&C’s.

    People don’t like to read, even if reading turns out to actually be good for them. And in one case, had just one person actually–as a Linux professor of mine put it–read all the words, that person might have found themselves $50 richer.

    Kenyon Wilson is the associate head of performing arts at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and decided to put an Easter egg in the syllabus for his music seminar class this past semester. The hint read: “Thus (free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five), students may be ineligible to make up classes and …” This would have led students to a locker that contained a $50 bill, free to the first student to claim it.

    It would have, except–yep–no one read the T&C’s. So that $50 sat in a locker for the semester, and the only one who knew it was there was the guy who put it there. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn he’s also the only one he knows who actually reads all of the words.

    So if you know a guy who tells you he reads the rules, you know a guy who’s lying. But be gentle. He’s just trying to be like everyone else.

    PS: Professor Allen, thank you for not doing something similar just to make sure we were reading all of the words on your final exam. I’m not thanking you, however, for your final exam–that was kind of brutal.

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  • Some job perks are priceless.

    I’ve been rocking a new job lately (more on that somewhere else down the line), which actually comes with a surprising amount of awesome benefits–not to mention being significantly less soul sucking than the job I traded in for it. But not all the benefits I enjoy come from my employer. Some of them come from the people I help, and are made of awesome.

    Full disclosure: The new job is WordPress related, which is only a partial motivation for reviving this site–and hoping, this time, I actually stick with it. The new job is also tech support (sort of) related, so there’s a window into the kind of help that would have netted me what it did.

    I’m a huge space nerd. More appropriately I’m a huge science fiction nerd, but there’s a lot of space in my science fiction. So I’m drawn, even if I don’t have the kind of time to sit and watch it all the time, to what they’re up to with our modern day space program. I was super stoked a Canadian became the commander of the International space Station. I was… notably less stoked when another Canadian space name became our Governor general and turned out to be absolutely bonkers, but eh, you can’t win it all. But mostly I’m stoked there’s a space station floating around above us–my brain did not at all connect this to DS9. Nope. Not at all.

    Here’s essentially what happened. I was doing what I do, and a user–we’ll call him Bob–had accidentally done a thing that resulted in pretty much all of the content disappearing from his site. The content was still there, it just wasn’t directly visible. This resulted in a mild bit of panic, naturally, and he was convinced he’d broken essentially all the things. He didn’t, and the actual fix took all of about 10 seconds, but that was the longest 10 seconds of his life (his words, not mine).

    His thanks for fixing his issue was to share with me a documentary he’d been involved in working on. That documentary, which I’ll link below, is basically all of the space nerd things in the span of 2 hours or so. So, more or less, exactly how I wanted to spend an evening after a long week.

    Sometimes, the customers make my day in a way the employer can only hope to. And sometimes, I look forward to sitting at home and watching TV.

    If you’re wanting to see what I saw as my thank you present, here you are. It’s completely available on YouTube, is in two parts, and if you like nerdness, this is you. Here’s part 1, and part 2.

  • Ottawa’s LRT finally charges what it’s worth–for a month.

    I’m a little late to this party–in that the month is almost over, but this seems like as good a reason to pick up the habit again as any. Ottawa’s LRT is finally worth riding.

    No, the service hasn’t improved a ton. Or at all, really. And we’ve yet to see a major dumping of snow, so I mean the service hasn’t degraded beyond its usual either. But as an apology for the LRT’s crap service being, well, crap service, the city has decided for the month of December (like I said, I’m late to this party) that LRT ridership should now be completely free. Or put another way, you should now pay what the service is worth–squat.

    The bright side is I’ve actually been tempted to take the thing by choice, despite the fact not going anywhere is quickly becoming the medically smart option again. Of course the catch is it’s an apology for the service sucking, rather than an admission that it’s not going to improve, so come January I’ll be willingly and by choice giving my money to Uber. But, I mean, you can’t have it all, right? At leas tnot if you live in Ottawa.

  • I no longer buy the financial arguments against a basic income.

    I used to be somewhat skeptical we could afford, as either a province or a nation, to experiment with what a basic income would actually do. Mostly because I don’t like borrowing, and am fully aware that the more we borrow, the more we’ll be paying back through taxes–at least, if the government is borrowing responsibly. If the current global situation has done anything positive, if one wants to call it positive, it’s served to disabuse me of that idea. Mostly because we’ve spent more as a country in the last month or so than it was believed a federal basic income system would cost per year over 5 years. I’m an evidence guy. I’ve always said that. And as much as math and I are rarely on speaking terms, math is still evidence. And that evidence has me reevaluating how I understand social spending.

    If the federal government wanted to implement a basic income system a la Ontario’s cancelled pilot (*), it would cost Canada as a whole about $80 billion a year, to keep it simple. Less if, as a part of that system the government cancelled other social safety net programs (not likely), or teamed up with the provinces (slightly less likely) to implement it. By contrast, it’s been a month and the federal government’s already earmarked $107 billion to keep people as close as possible to financially afloat while we try and flatten the curve. Again, math and I are rarely on speaking terms. But $107 billion in a month or so–with presumedly more coming besides–is a lot bigger than $80 billion over the course of a year. The government didn’t bat an eye at doing this, therefore in theory, it shouldn’t be batting an eye at looking at basic income when we get through the other side.

    I’d like to say I’m all for it, but my skepticism involves a lot more than financial concerns–which is why the Ontario experiment the report above was based on should have been allowed to continue (thanks, Doug). Everyone knows someone on welfare or disability who easily couldn’t be, but would rather be there than actually do something. If you yourself are on welfare, you’re more likely to know someone who fits that description. In my case, I’m related to it by a former marriage (not mine). That doesn’t mean they’re the majority, or even a significant minority. But that does mean they exist. Say that number right now is 10%. Assuming a basic income system went live, it would apply to a lot of the same people. Would that number still be 10%? Would it drop? Would it increase? And in answering that question, we’d answer another–how many of these people are that way because they can’t afford not to be, versus this is an honest to goodness choice they’ve made? I’d have liked to see actual data to support one way or the other. There are studies that suggest it might have actually worked out that way if it was allowed to play out, and I’m liking what I see here. Which is why I’d also be perfectly okay with this experiment running federally–unless we’re running it right now, at which point screw it, we’re good.

    Ontario’s experiment cost $150 million. If we skipped the experiment and just rolled it out federally, it would cost $80 billion. Clearly, we can afford it. And if we’d stop playing with the tax code to win elections, we might actually have less difficulty affording it than even the PBO report tries to point out. However we do it, if we do it, I don’t buy any longer the excuse that we can’t afford it. We’ve already spent this year’s basic income money and nearly half of next. If we don’t consider actually letting a basic income experiment play out so we have actual honest to goodness results to rely on, the reasons will be just about entirely political at this point. I know what an NDP voter will tell me re: a basic income. I know what a Liberal voter might tell me re: a basic income–depending on whether their second choice is Conservative or NDP. I know what a Conservative voter will tell me re: a basic income. When the dust settles, and we can all stop our heads from collectively spinning, it’s time to put up or shut up. If I know anything at all after all this, “we can’t afford it” no longer works. New arguments, please.

    (*): If you voted for Ford based on his promise to not touch the basic income pilot, you no longer get to mock Trudeau voters for “this will be the last election under First Past the Post”. And if you voted for both of them, please stop. Just stop. You’re not helping.

  • Piss poor planning prevents proper performance. Or, this is not how you reduce a deficit, Ontario.

    Cuts hurt. This is not news. It wasn’t news when Ontario was a Liberal province, and it’s even less so now that it’s trying to be a Conservative one–though not trying too hard, given we elected a guy who wouldn’t know what the word Conservative actually meant if you handed him a dictionary. And when you have to turn around and give 80% of the money you cut right back the next year, cuts hurt like hell. Enter our premier.

    In last year’s budget, he knocked $25000000 off the health policy and research budget. Yesterday, he gave $20000000 of it back so the fine folks who know what they’re doing can hopefully find a vaccine for the mess we’re in. Because that’s apparently how we role in 2020.

    Now, the argument could be made that they’re still $5000000 short of where they should be, but that’s not the argument I’m making. Because it’s not an argument. Let’s assume just for kicks that Ford used his head for more than a hat rack. Say he left that money untouched last year. OR reallocated it to some other health initiative–like, maybe, say, an initiative to make more masks and respirators available in hospitals so we’re not, you know, reusing. Basically, anything other than what we ended up doing. How much of a difference would that have made today?

    If reducing the deficit was actually the goal here, ignoring the fact for a second that we’re still spending more under this government than we were the last one, we missed. Of all the cuts, that one has to sting the most. Too bad confidence is low they’re smart enough to feel it. So much for Ontario’s Conservative government. If you’re not going to help, at least give us something to show for it. This… is not that.

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  • This was not what I meant when I said I wanted to try Corona.

    If there’s one good thing that’s come out of this whole Covid-19 mess, besides me having time to actually do moderately useful things with this platform, it’s that I finally get to see how I’d do if I had a mostly working from home job. It helps that nothing about my job requires I physically be in the office to begin with, but it’s nice to be able to quantify what that means. That being said, I was kind of hoping my first Corona would be just slightly different–and, ideally, not result in the ruining of anyone’s life but my own.

    I don’t know if the fact this mess came on so quick scares me more, or the fact most places still have no clue what to do with/about it and we’re a month into this thing. Surprisingly, neither our provincial nor our federal government have entirely gummed up the works yet, but there’s still plenty of time for one or both to trip over themselves–and both Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau are shockingly good at tripping over themselves at inopportune times. But right now, I don’t feel like slapping either of them. That’s a first.

    I haven’t touched this thing in over 2 years, which I think is the longest I’ve gone without at least making sure it was still breathing. Note to self: this was a good habit to get into–stay there this time. Unfortunately, me not touching this thing for a couple years didn’t do this place any favours. Code that hadn’t seen an update since 2015 was still floating about like it had a place to be. So a quarantine project of mine has been to clean that up. Half the junk that was here I’d forgotten I put here, so that’s a thing. Now, at least, when I remember to use it, the platform should run slightly faster. Or it’s fired.

    Life’s been pretty much turned up side down everywhere. Except probably a couple places in the US that are up for nomination at this year’s Darwin awards. If I had a routine of any sort, the province’s not quite a lockdown would have probably torn it to pieces. As it is, I’m noticing even the small things I would normally do just because they were handy have gotten complicated. Going for a walk to the convenience store next door just for an excuse to be somewhere else, for example. And coming back with a couple slices of really good, really cheap pizza because I might as well seeing as I was already there. Stuff I don’t notice I do semi-regularly until it becomes no longer an option.

    I’m not sure if I’ll like where we’re going once we come out the other side of this thing. Mostly because I have no idea what the other side will look like. Will there be more working from home? Will talk of a basic income actually go places? Will I land somewhere that wants to do more than pay peanuts for a metric ton of work? I have no clue. A bunch of people who are presently working from home would like to think this is the new normal. The way the government’s spending money now on an emergency response to Covid-19 than any level has ever spent on a social safety net in as long as I’ve been breathing, and there’s a bunch of people who don’t currently qualify that are hoping this becomes the new floor. I got an email from an HR person saying they want to talk to me after the dust settles, so I’m semi-hoping there’s a job offer attached to that conversation. But I have absolutely no clue. The only thing I know for certain, this was not exactly what I meant when I said I wanted to try Corona. Yall can have this back, now.

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