• 7 months and still a geek.

    So remember when I had all these plans for doing all this stuff and junk? Remember when that was going to be a thing? Yeah, neither do I. But apparently that was in August–7 months and 2 days ago, at least according to the last time I touched this website. So what’s kept me busy?

    The short version: Life sometimes sucks. The slightly longer version: I’ve been alternating between doing the job I’ve had since last February and getting my life something vaguely resembling back in order. It’s resulted in no shortage of doing everything at once and forgetting I’ve left half of it in the air, but that’s apparently how 2017-2018 me rolls. It’s only because I happen to have found half an hour while at work that I can even give this thing a poke here and there for old time’s sake. Perhaps this time around I’ll actually, you know, stick with it like I used to before it all went to hell.

    While I’ve been ignoring this thing, a bunch of stuff’s happened. Like Ottawa eventually at some point maybe possibly getting Lyft, assuming we ask nicely. And my hockey team actually looking like there might be a slim chance the next time it gains the playoffs it’ll do slightly more than roll over and play dead. And if this management’s worth more than the last one, it won’t do something braindead in the off season–like, for instance, deciding they can’t afford to keep Austin Matthews. I swear to chocolate, that is probably the one thing guaranteed to have me not watching another Leafs game. Not that I’ve been watching much hockey this year–yes, I know, I’m surprised too, but you’ll have that.

    The job itself’s going well, even if the pay itself isn’t. I’m still getting my hands dirty at every opportunity, and there’s been plenty–one of our customers is currently putting up with a pretty major outage, so I’ve been spending the bulk of the day poking around inside their equipment and waiting on other people from other companies in other parts of the country to get their asses in gear. I’m learning a lot about technology that I thought I knew about from school, only to find out they only slightly scratched the surface, which is both extremely nice and way freaky. For example, going into this job I assumed a router was a router was a router. Oh, I know business level routers and such are a hell of a lot more flexible than, say, the router that comes built into your ISP’s modem, but they get a lot more involved than that. In particular, if you can afford to set up a proper VOIP system, you’ve got separate connections for your voice circuits and your data circuits (read: your phone and internet run through separate lines). Apparently, there is such a beast as a router explicitly designed to handle voice connectivity. This I did not know until I started working at Nova, and only because at times like today’s major incident I end up needing to poke at one. So I’m getting paid, albeit not well, to take the things I’ve been paying to learn and spin them around a few times, occasionally spitting out something slightly more useful than I had an hour ago.

    Beyond that, though, it’s been pretty routine. Get up, go to work, come home, chill, try to find that social life–I’m actually figuring out how to use that again, and–oh yeah–replace a dead desktop–the thing was over 7 years old and finally gave up the ghost in October. That gave me an excuse to poke around inside the thing, which of course having nothing to lose I did in about 45 seconds. The long and short of that poking? Computer’s dead, hard drive’s perfectly fine. So one USB enclosure later and the data that was on my now retired desktop llives on one of my external hard drives. As for the drive that used to belong to that desktop? It has a new life now as someone else’s video drive–I already have 3 external drives, I did not need a fourth. The drive itself is maybe 3-4 years old, so has plenty of life left–it was the only part I ever had to replace in what was essentially a hand-me-down computer. And just as soon as I get my financial life in slightly more of an order, a desktop that is not a hand-me-down computer is on my shopping list.

    That’s life, if you’re me. There’s a bunch of other things too, but this post’s already longer than it should be. Perhaps hell will freeze and I’ll remember what this thing’s supposed to do. And perhaps I’ll land a job that wants to pay me $50k. Let’s see which one of these things is likely. While we’re seeing, let’s see if submitting this makes the site crash. Hey, you’d freeze and panic too if you ran into something you’d forgotten how to do–like, for example, tolerate my pointless rambling. There will be actual content. Just, well, perhaps not today. Mostly because chasing other people has fried my brain. A lot has changed, but sometimes, technology is still wicked evil.

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  • So life happened. It’s still happening.

    So a funny thing happened. I got all enthusiastic like about having some free time to do the geek things I’ve been putting off because academia. I even have, written down somewhere I’ve probably forgotten exactly where, very specific plans re: what I was hoping I might accomplish between the end of said academia and, uh, now. And then stuff happened and now suddenly it’s August and I need to relearn how to do basic things–like, you know, having a social life. Or tinkering with PHP without bringing the whole damned server down around my ears (that’s harder than you think when you haven’t touched it in an age). Or remembering the proper credentials for getting into a website I took great pains in securing after a complete rebuild before those security precautions locked the thing down to the point where it required manual, behind the scenes intervension. So basically it’s been a bit. But with good reason. See, what I wasn’t planning on was life deciding it was going to rather considerably pick up speed after I left school. Since it did, a bunch of crap happened, most of it good, some of it not so much, all of it in very short order.

    I’d planned to kick back and take it easy for a month or two after leaving the college. I should have known better than to plan anything, because the minute I did, the universe had other ideas. Not long after I was finished, I had a rather sudden family emergency to deal with. Certain members of my family are still dealing with the aftermath of that emergency, and out of respect for them we’ll not be delving into too many details, but I will say it’s been way too long since I’ve had any reason to throw everything I owned into a suitcase that fast. While we were dealing with that, I got a call back here in Ottawa for a job interview–this was, keep in mind, mid-February, so considerably quicker than I had any reason to expect.

    The interview was for a company I hadn’t really heard of until I’d applied for a position there. The position, which they’ve essentially generalized as network operations analyst, is pretty much exactly what my time at college was–some exposure to everything from a Windows server to the networking gear connecting it to the rest of the world. The interview took a bit, but was pretty much just your standard “How would you solve X problem in Y situation” type conversation. And in that interview, something else I wasn’t planning for happened. The conversation circled around for a bit, then the guy doing the interview–who, as it turns out, would also be the guy I would end up directly reporting to–walked out of the room to have a conversation with someone further up the food chain. 20 minutes later he was back and I was signing an employment contract. I walked out of that interview with a foot in the door for a paycheck.

    Since that was definitely not on the immediate agenda when I got up that morning, and since I had a week and a bit to get me settled before I started, that meant a lot of very quickly moving parts in very many moving directions and I spent more time on the phone in that week than I did the 6 months previous. By the time I stepped foot in the office for the first time as an actual employee, my head had been spinning for 3 days–and there was still a ton I had to do, most of it involving learning how to not break their systems. But it became official nonetheless, and I ended up the latest name on the Nova Networks roster.

    The next bit was essentially me learning exactly how they do things, which is still taking some getting used to and I’ve been there for a few months already. And while I was knee deep in that, I was also officially graduating from the college–with flimsy little diploma thing and everything, which they were thoughtful enough to mail to me ages before graduation, just in case I said to hang with it and hit the bar instead (it was tempting). It was a good excuse to catch up with people, and I discovered–not for the first time–I wasn’t the only one to land a job pretty much right out of college. A few of those folks actually landed jobs at the same company I did, but not necessarily with the same team, so there’s that. Honestly the alcohol would have been fun, but tying up loose ends seemed the marginally better choice. Besides the alcohol came later.

    With all that out of the way, I found the room to start getting the rest of my life back on track, so that’s been a thing. It’s a bit of a trick, particularly given it involves a wee bit of financial creativity in spots and as nice as the job is I’m not exactly rolling in finances with which to be creative, but barring a complete implosion the likes of which I haven’t seen in a number of years, it shouldn’t be too extremely painful for too extremely long. The only thing now is to remember exactly where I left that social life.

    It’s been crazy, and will probably get crazier, but I think I’m starting to get used to it. Which, more than likely, means I’ll find some other excuse to forget how to get back into this thing. That’s what happens when life happens. But who knows? With things becoming slightly more routine now and academia not sucking out my soul, maybe–just maybe–the rest of my old habbits will catch up with me. Or maybe I need another drink.

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  • Is the broken ODSP system finally hitting the mainstream?

    If you’ve spent any time on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), or its partner program for the mostly non-disabled (Ontario Works), you’ve very quickly become aware of two rather important–and probably unsurprising–problems. Problem the first: the Ontario Disability Support Program has a disability. And problem the second: Ontario Works, rather, doesn’t.

    Randall Denley, in a Jan. 5 column, argues that, in addressing the social assistance system, “The first thing is to get the welfare changes to one side and focus on the disability income shortfall.” However, the social assistance rates he cites suggest his conclusion is wrong.

    As he puts it, “Under the optimistically named Ontario Works welfare program, the most a single person gets is $706 a month. People with disabilities get a lordly $1,138.” Sure, $1,138 is too low, but should we focus on those getting that amount rather than on those getting $706?

    We got to the size of the gap between the two programs when Mike Harris, premier at the time, cut Ontario Works rates by 21.6 per cent. Since the Liberals have been in government provincially, they have only increased the dollar gap by making increases for the two programs on a percentage basis (with a minor exception: when Ted McMeekin was the minister in charge, he added a small amount to benefits for singles on Ontario Works).

    Denley also buys the line peddled by Ontario governments of all stripes – Liberal, Conservative and NDP – that Ontario Works (OW) is a program for people temporarily in need of financial support. But for the 2014-15 fiscal year, the average time on OW was 27 months. Half were on it for more than 15 months. When I was a welfare supervisor in Ottawa in the 1990s, I saw many files going back 10 years. I even saw some going back 20 and 25 years. Short-term, my eye.

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It should. The systems are interchangeable In one way, and one way only. Neither system is sufficient to allow a person to be entirely independent, let alone survive long enough to actually find away to get themselves off that system. The key difference? ODSP tries–and fails–just a little bit harder.

    I’ve made mention of the gap between the two systems before. I’ve said they both needed a good solid fixing before. But now, I’m not the only one who’s at least paying lip service to the problems. Several places in Ontario are now tossing about the idea of introducing a basic income to solve most of the problems caused by the two systems, as well as a few the two systems aren’t designed to either cause or deal with. No one seems to have any idea the form this pilot project will take, if it takes any form at all, but there are no shortages of ideas or things people would like to see.

    The Green Wood Coalition’s paper on a Basic Income Guarantee in Ontario was to be presented to a Social Services Ministry consultation event in Cobourg Wednesday evening.

    Written by spokesperson David Sheffield, who also was scheduled to make an oral presentation, it supports Senator Hugh Segal’s recommendation that “the Government of Ontario immediately raise the Ontario Works rate for a single individual to $1,320 per month and raise ODSP rates by at least $500 per month.”

    At this time, a single person on Ontario Works gets $720 monthly (and this just went up) and someone on the Ontario Disability Support Program typically gets just under $1,200, Sheffield said in an interview prior to his presentation.

    “It is the position of Green Wood Coalition that eliminating poverty is an urgent health, human rights and social justice issue that requires action on the part of the municipal, provincial and federal governments. As a street-level, charitable organization that uses a community model of caring to walk alongside people living with poverty, mental illness, addiction and other disability, in Port Hope, Green Wood Coalition has observed, first hand, the detrimental effects of poverty on individuals and families.

    Of course, what isn’t mentioned in this or any of the other articles is that about $500 is very close to the difference between what a person on ODSP gets now and Ontario’s current minimum wage–a wage that was just increased this year because, according to Ontario’s government, living costs too much. They’re right, and if they implement something even remotely like what’s being discussed here, that will put a very large dent in a lot of people’s problems. Taking care of the lower classes is supposed to be the new lliberal thing these days, at least if Ontario’s liberals take their marching orders from our new Prime Minister (he’s borrowing some of her staff, so they ought to), and this would go a few miles towards handling that. Which is why I’m surprised this government’s even talking about it, given they’ve been rather not at all interested in doing anything about it before now.

    Equally surprising is the fact this is getting media attention. It should, of course, but lack of interest from the people who matter means not a whole lot for the media to cover, unless they’d like to cover a protest that doesn’t end up accomplishing much. It’s a very nice change, and if it keeps the issue from being swept under the rug as previous incarnations of this same government have also been known to do, I’ll drink a shot of cheap alcohol in their honour–I can’t afford anything with actual class, sorry.

    I’m trying not to be too hopeful here, but initial signs are that ODSP’s broken might actually be trying its best to enter the mainstream. If it gets there, it’s about damned time. If it stays there, amazing. And if it fixes things, there will be no one happier than me–yes, despite the fact I’m still trying my best to get the hell off this program as quickly as humanly possible. So I’ll thank the government kindly if they don’t break everything in the attempt. That would be just a little bit awesome. Now, let’s see if they’re up to it.

  • Long overdue changes: CAPTCHA goes away, proper email notifications happen.

    This will please some of the more accessibility-minded folks who come across this thing for reasons known only to them. For ages, since the reinstall of 2014, I’ve run this site with several antiproblem features in place–up to and including CAPTCHAs on just about anything where user input might be expected. This came with its own set of problems, and that was meant to be a temporary fix while I made damn sure the issues that caused the reinstall of 2014 didn’t reoccur. I figure just about 3 years is temporary enough. And so, with the issues of 2014 well behind me, I pushed the CAPTCHA be gone button. It’s been running sans CAPTCHA for a stretch, now, and nothing’s broken, so we’ll just be staying away from that for the foreseeable future.

    And since I was in here messing about with things anyway, two more very minor things have happened.

    • The old daily email notification system has been retired. The page was horribly broken anyway, and my own testing showed it fell over more often than it did what it was supposed to. The 3 of you using that system will still get your emails, but that’s all she wrote.
    • In its place, I’ve fixed and reimplemented the ability to receive individual posts by email–just in case, you know, folks still aren’t entirely sure what this RSS thing’s all about. For those who know and would prefer it, the RSS feeds are a little bit more noticeable now.

    In short, stuff was broken. It now, probably, isn’t. Unless I need more caffeine, at which point oops. And just like that, this thing that sucks probably sucks a little bit less. Next time, perhaps I’ll look twice before I hit the red button.

  • A job for me, but not with thee. Or, how to guarantee you don’t see my resume.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve done the job market thing. Since leaving college, I’ve pretty much lived there. That’s brought back some things that used to annoy me about job searches. Admittedly this isn’t most employers–and so far, I’ve not seen it from any of the supposedly average to good employers, but for the ones who I’ve seen it from, I’ve put together a few things I strongly recommend you don’t do if you expect me to actually do more than toss your job advertisement in the trash before I get past the second line. And because it’s what I do, have a thing in list format–because 3:00 AM is not the time for an essay.

    1. Gmail. Don’t bother. No, seriously. You are a professional employer, presumedly. This means you have something that vaguely resembles a professional working environment. If you can afford to pay me to do your IT work, you can afford $10 for web hosting. Most of that web hosting comes with at least one @companyname.com email address. There’s no excuse for company2473@gmail.com on a job ad.
      • If you’re using Hotmail (now outlook.com) instead, just don’t bother posting your job ad. Seriously, you need more help than I can provide.
    2. Know the language. Or, if nothing else, hire someone to proofread you that knows the language–if you need suggestions, I’ve got a few. I’m not suggesting you suddenly develop a university level degree in English. But if I need to read your ad to get the point, then read it again to make sure, you’re doing it wrong.
      • This becomes significantly more important when one of your requirements is that your IT geek know the language. I’m your IT geek. I’m not your editor. If you need an editor, I’ve got names.
    3. Be specific. “IT Help Wanted” is an awesome title for a job ad. It’s also very probably the most generalized request you are ever going to see in the history of ever. What kind of IT help do you want? Tech support? Someone to handle your sysadmin stuff? Or do you just need a guy what knows what a gigabyte is so you don’t go buying an external hard drive when what you actually need is a better machine? Seriously, the possibilities are endless and I’m qualified to do most of them, but I’m not going to apply without a bit more info.
    4. Stay off of Kijiji. Not kidding. Qualified IT people, if that’s what you’re looking for, don’t hang out on Kijiji. The reasons may or may not have something to do with the first two points above. I lived on Kijiji before I started college, and most of what I’ve seen are people who know just enough to know they want to pay someone. which is awesome. But you’re looking for me. I’m not looking for you. And you won’t find me on Kijiji because see points 1 and 2 above.
    5. wording is everything. You’re not looking for a rock star, or you wouldn’t be posting to a job site. I’m not looking to become a rock star, or I wouldn’t be looking on a job site. Remember my “It Help Wanted” example from earlier? Use that. It’s not perfect, but I’ll read that before I’ll read your “Rock Stars Wanted!” posting. Especially if you have no idea–or, at least, you don’t give me the impression you have an idea–exactly what you’re expecting me to bring to the table.
    6. Know your market. Okay, so you want someone who can handle all the Linux things because holy scary as hell and the guy you had left on no notice. I get that. I’m qualified to do that. Call me. Unless, that is, you’re offering minimum wage. Then, I’m sorry, I’d love to help, but I’m just too gosh darned busy. I’m a believer in the often proven theory that you get what you pay for. If you can find someone who’ll do the things for you at minimum wage, congratulations. I’m happy for you. And if it breaks, you get to keep both pieces.
    7. Lastly, please, please, please for the love of all things holy, get a website. At least get a domain name. It’s 2017. You’re looking for people who presumedly know how to do a few things online. I can’t speak for John Q. Techy, but if I need to show up at your door with resume in hand, I’m probably going to slide you down to the bottom of the list after the half dozen other jobs I need to review and possibly apply to who’ll let me do that online. And then I’ll very probably get busy with something and you’ll be forgotten. That’s just how I roll–because, to borrow a phrase from everyone’s favourite Prime Minister, it’s 2017.

    since exiting from the college scene, I’ve fired off a lot of applications. If a few more people had done some of these things here, I’d have very likely sent off a couple more. What it boils down to is my impression of you and your reputation. If my impression of you is you haven’t put a whole lot of thought into your advertising, I’m not putting a whole lot of thought into letting you know I’m here. And if you’ve developed a frequent history of doing this thing, I’m very likely to skip over your job ads. Since that doesn’t do either side of the equasion a whole lot of good, someone had best make sure their HR person has a look at this. In the meantime, I think I hear another job ad calling.

  • In which I’m not completely turned off of hockey. Leafs, don’t kill it.

    I’ve been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan for ages. Don’t ask, because I don’t know. I grew up watching the games–you know, back when the team had names like Clark, or Sundin, or Tucker on the roster. I’ve seen them play actually good postseason hockey. Hell, I’ve seen them actually make the postseason. But in recent years, I quit the team by about the end of January. Why? To make a long story short, we suck. But this year, despite the fact I haven’t been able to watch much hockey by virtue of academia pretty much owning my life, I find myself not just staying interested but actually trying to coordinate my schedule so I can catch 10 minutes of the game just for kicks.

    It completely baffles some folks when I tell them. But I do it mostly because we might actually make something of this band of rookies this time around. Do I think we’ll make the playoffs? Hell no. We’re good, but not that good. Not yet. But provided things don’t fall apart between this year and next, we could potentially get that good. And that’s where Leafs management comes in.

    Every general manager in recent years–and by recent, I mean 2004–has come in with an idea. They test out that idea for a season or two, get bored with it, rip it apart and start over. Then they either leave or are told to leave because the team’s imploded, someone new takes over, and the old GM’s efforts are blown away and the process starts from square 1. And the end result of all of that tinkering and reshuffling is we’ve only made the playoffs once since 2004, it was in a shortened NHL season, and Boston dropped us out of the playoffs in 7 games. In short, we suck.

    This year, though, we actually have a team I don’t mind watching on game 82, even if that game 82 won’t be pretty. Yes, we should be doing better than we are. Yes, we probably could have won an extra game or two if John Q. Player had been where he should be. But when half your lineup is playing its first or second full NHL season, you’re going to have those moments. I’ll complain, and loudly, if these same things happen with the same players in another year or two. But for right now, I’ll take it.

    This Leafs management seems to have a clue or two. They’ve put together something with more promise than I’ve seen in Toronto in way too long. Besides, they got us Austin Matthews. But I’ve seen this act before. The challenge will be if these same people are still here in a year or two, and if they’re still not bored with what they’ve got. Translation: they built it, but let’s see how long before they break it.

    For the first time in several years, I’m actually interested in hockey beyond the first few months. For the first time since 2004, I’m actually interested in the Maple Leafs beyond the first few months. I like this feeling. I like this team. Leafs, please, don’t kill it. You’ve done that enough already.

  • 2016, reviewed.

    You’re supposed to do this on the last day of the year, but I’ve never been one for following the rules. Which probably partly explains how it is I’ve never been married–well, aside from the fact that just no. Still, it’s over, it’s done with, and I’m still breathing, so let’s see how I did.

    The major thing in 2016 was already written about, though due to things related to web hosts that I’ll write about later it might have snuck under the radar–I survived college. I walked out of my geek in training program having successfully put skills on paper, and walked right into the job market. I submitted more applications for jobs in 16 days than I submitted in pretty much the entire 3 years before that. At least one of these things is probably going to pull me in. In the meantime, 2017’s got a few more that might just interest me.

    I finally started getting the rest of my crap together after the way 2015 ended. Ending the year single sucks, but it didn’t kill me. And actually, it made putting the boot to the rest of what needed to happen just a little bit easier. Reconnecting with people I let slide because of academia and relationship complications happened, which pretty much guaranteed the summer of 2016 looked a hell of a lot prettier than the summer of 2015, and opened the door to meeting a few people I wouldn’t have met had things stayed pretty much the same. Whether or not some of those meetings end up being bad for people who aren’t me is still very much to be determined, but that’s what 2017’s for.

    2016 wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though–and no, we’re not discussing the racist sexist they elected on the dark side of the Canada US border (by the way, brilliant move, guys). Small parts of it sucked on a personal level as well. Specifically around the end of October. That would be when, after coming back from celebrating a friend’s birthday, I ended up having my ID among other things stolen from me. Neither I nor the friend who was with me were hurt, and the guy responsible probably had a headache when he woke up the next morning, but I’m still working on replacing things that had gone missing that night. To protect the innocent, details are being kept out of the public eye, but people who should know already do.

    I moved, again, in 2016–out of the apartment I was sharing with my now ex-girlfriend, and into a nice little apartment within walking distance of places that could potentially be useful. Places like a local beach, which also has the advantage of being connected to at least one hiking trail–this proving to eventually be a good thing, on account of in an effort to further improve the summer of 2016 over that of 2015, me, my cousin Trish, and her husband Roger officially launched Trail Trio. That’s been eating up the time that wasn’t already being stolen by academia, and I wouldn’t have it any different. It’ll be much more interesting now, seeing as we haven’t been out doing much since before Ottawa was whacked with the snow stick, but I see us testing winter in the not too distant future.

    Lots of other, little things happened in 2016, but I’m fairly sure these are the important pieces. As for 2017, this is the first time in a while I can safely say I wouldn’t mind a little bit more of the same. I saw some doors opening near the end of 2016, and they look promising. I’m planning to give a few of them a shove in 2017 and see what waits for me on the other side. And barring complications, I’ll actually remember to note the things down somewhere this time.

    By no means was 2016 perfect. But overall, I have to say 2016 was a good year for me, and significantly better than was 2015. If things are half this good the next year or so, I don’t know that I’ll have much to complain about. Which I’ll take, because I really need to spend more time mocking other people.

  • Ontario pats itself on the back for $18.

    Things have been happening while I’ve been drowning in academia. Some of those things have been awesome. Some of them have been questionable. And some of them have just been sad. The sad is brought to you buy Ontario’s government, who’s spent the better part of 13 years taking sad to entirely new levels.

    I won’t recap the far too many problems with the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), mostly because it’s already been done several times. And every time, there’s a new one to add to the list while the old ones are hauled out into the spotlight for the province to proudly announce that some day real soon, now, we’ll get it done. In this year’s edition of some day real soon, now, Ontario would like us to be thankful for an extra 18 bucks.

    Ontario is increasing social assistance rates for people receiving support from Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

    This fall, new rate increases announced in the 2016 Budget come into effect, including an additional:
    •$25 per month for single adults receiving Ontario Works
    •1.5 per cent for families receiving Ontario Works
    •1.5 per cent for individuals with disabilities who receive ODSP.

    The rate increases come into effect in September 2016 for ODSP and in October 2016 for Ontario Works.

    Which, for those folks fortunate enough to be told they don’t need to rely on their parents to pay 95% of their rent, works out to a very impressive $16.65–which, in keeping with the spirit of generosity, the government rounds up to $18. A gold star moment, if you’re Helena Jaczek, who has some incredibly low standards to live down to in that department.

    You might notice that the $18 we get on ODSP is slightly less than the $25 a single person walks away with if they’re on welfare instead. You would be forgiven for thinking that’s part of the problem. It’s not. A single person on welfare receives significantly less than a single person on ODSP, so the $25 actually works out to be slightly more effective than the $18 handed out to ODSP recipients. The problem is that in both cases, at the end of the day, the increase amounts to a very generous pile of not a whole lot.

    Welfare isn’t designed to allow people to get away with not working. The intent of the system, the success of which can be debated for the next 20 years with absolutely nothing settled, is to be a temporary stopgap for people who’ve fallen on hard luck and need something to tide them over while they get themselves back to work. ODSP, however, is primarily for people who can’t work–or, at least, probably shouldn’t be working–because they have an actual, honest to goodness disability, and holding down a job just isn’t adviseable. There’s some debate over what constitutes a disability, but regardless, that’s what ODSP’s for. Secondarily to that, and something they could use to improve on, they’re there to help those disabled folks who can work to actually find something that vaguely resembles gainful employment. In either situation, the program is supposed to be there as a way for the disabled to gain some version of independence–to get their lives on track and, if at all possible, get to a point where they can be relatively productive. The program falls short, and has fallen short for years. The extra $18 doesn’t change that fact.

    In 2009, there was a campaign put on by disability advocates and local politicians, encouraging regulators to do the math and determine if they could live on what was then the current going rate for welfare and ODSP payments. Members of the provincial legislature did so, and were surprised–surprised, they’ll tell you–to learn they very probably couldn’t. In 2010, I did a very basic version of that math based on what was then current information for both ODSP and Ontario’s minimum wage. I shared it with the provincial government, who wasn’t entirely all that interested in hearing it–or doing much about it at the time. In 2016, I did that math again. The result is a nearly $600 difference between what a person making minimum wage earns and what a person at the top end of ODSP earns ($1710 versus $1128). What this breaks down to is, based on a 37.5-hour work week, $11.40 per hour for a person earning minimum wage (as of October 1, 2016) versus $7.52 per hour for a person on ODSP. That’s factoring in the Ontario government’s extra $18.

    The government’s all too happy to shout from the rooftops when they think they’ve hit on something that might buy them a few votes next year. And with the politically correct croud, being seen to be doing something for those poor disabled folks might just be enough to do it. But before they pat themselves on the back too much for their generosity, someone might want to point out to them that even relatively thrifty-minded disabled folks are still hitting food banks, or borrowing off parents who can’t afford to support two households, or foregoing groceries because paying for electricity in freaking December is just a bit more of a priority. Whoever replaces Helena Jaczek as minister of social services next year may want to put that on a post-it note in their office for the next time someone suggests congratulating themselves on squeezing out an extra $18. And Helena may want to dig up some better excuses than I’m used to receiving.

  • Academia says goodbye, all the crazy says hello.

    TLDR: I need to do this more often, I’m out of practice, and still brain fried by academia. I also may not be finished.

    So I thought things would slow down once I was done with college things. And then I was done with college things, and haven’t stopped since. Which may or may not explain why the last time I did more than keep this site online was before the semester started–and why I’m just now making a vague attempt at solving that problem now.

    It was 3 years in the making, but on the 15th of this monthI sat down to write the last ever exam in the last ever course of the last ever semester of my college program. And right on schedule, I walked out of that exam room and straight into the job market. No, there were no offers of crazy high paychecks yet, but since finishing my course I’ve already tossed off half a dozen applications–and half of them have already poked at me, soI’m officially on notice to be available when the calendar turns over. From September to December it’s been a healthy dose of crazy topped with insane and lightly sprinkled with chaos. In other words, perfect. And somehow, despite its best efforts, it did not kill me.

    I traded one crazy in for another when exams were over. On top of applying for jobs, I got the hell out of Ottawa. For reasons both related and not to academic things, I needed a vacation. So I’ve been doing the small town thing–which, naturally, means we haven’t stopped since I got here.

    I’ve always said I couldn’t live here, despite the fact pretty much my entire family’s essentially right here. Places like this just really aren’t my thing. But that makes my occasional ventures into Crazyville and all the holy hell that comes with just that much more enjoyable (*). And doing it over Christmas basically means close your eyes, hold your breath and dive in, because once we start we do not stop until the guy doing the driving hits the floor. And then that’s only so the next in line can take his place. In the weirdest possible way, quite probably entirely to blame on how I was raised, visits like this end up helping me relax despite the fact they should just about kill me. But, when I return to Ottawa, I’m pretty damn sure I’ll sleep for a week.

    I’ll probably do a 2016 in review post one of these decades, but suffice it to say it’s been just a wee bit all over the place. I don’t expect it to get a whole lot calmer in 2017, though I do expect it to get slightly more affordable. That by itself will make inflicting that kind of brain damage on myself more than worth it. Which, in turn, will probably motivate me to take another stab at doing the academic thing next year–I’ve been informed in no uncertain terms that having taken this program just made a few other things about ten times easier for me, and since I like easy, yes please. The end of my academic plan, if it goes the way I’m hoping, essentially guarantees me a foot in the door just about anywhere. Useful, when you’ve got people suggesting places like, say, Edmonton are good for you.

    Long story short: I am officially no longer a geek in training. However the first person to declare me an expert is going to receive an essay on why there are, in fact, no such things as experts–particularly in all things geek. In the meantime, if some aspiring project wants to hire me and is willing to actually, you know, pay me…

    (*): I always find visits with family to be enjoyable, though usually after I’ve had a few days to recover back in Ottawa. It may or may not be related to the fact that by the time we stop, we’re all about 45 seconds away from passing out where we’re standing, at which point 5 hours of sleep feels like about 5 minutes. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing–but in the new year, I’m gonna want a vacation from my vacation.

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  • Hell has frozen. #ODSP has employed logic.

    Every once in a while, the stars align in such a way that somebody somewhere actually gets an idea that doesn’t completely suck. It’s not very often that happens with the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), so when it does, it ends up being somewhat of a historic occasion. In this case, they actually might have done something that could possibly be called logical–I know, I know, but please try to hang on to your everything.

    For literally years, people on ODSP have received a monthly drug/dental card when they’ve received their other, albeit not entirely significant, benefits for the month. This card covers certain dental care procedures, as well as some prescription drugs (*) to deal with other issues. The problem with the system, and the thing that didn’t make sense to me, is the prescriptions these cards covered were virtually entirely governed by the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP). OHIP, for the painfully curious, is Ontario’s healthcare option for people who otherwise don’t have their own health insurance (Yes, healthcare idealists, we can still purchase private insurance if we can aford it. Deal with it.). It’s far more restrictive than most other insurance packages, but when you’re flat broke, poor, unemployed or otherwise unable to make off with something better, it gets you through in a pinch. But the two systems sort of semi-working together creates just a wee bit of nonsensical confusion and, well, the poor saps stuck sorting it out are usually the people who need the drugs.

    Problem the first: These drug cards only last a month, then they expire–usually on the day you’re expected to get your hands on a new one. Which is awesome, until you end up dealing with–let’s say–a Canada Post strike, at which point you and the poor suckers who work the ODSP offices get to perform an emergency backstep because suddenly you’re out of benefits. Every office, at that point, tends to come up with their own way of handling it–some offices will require you go pick them up, which is awesome if you can get there. Some will just decide your benefit card from the previous month is still valid–at which point you hope like hell you or they can manage to communicate that to the people who need it communicated with (good luck, at least in Ottawa).

    Problem the second: Some places like to hold on to your drug/dental cards. Let’s say you’ve done the prescription thing for whatever reason of the week. You wander off to the pharmacy to scoop them up on your way to do the life thing. Awesome. Pharmacy decides now would be a fine time to let you know that by the way they’ll just be holding on to your drug card for you. Good idea, right? Sure, as long as you don’t use any other services that require you present it. And then there’s the matter of the afore mentioned Canada Post strike, or potential for the same. Assuming you’re one of these people who’s ODSP office has decided your card for last month is still valid because mail stoppage, that does you no good if your pharmacy is holding the card from last month and you need it for a service you’re starting up this month. Of course if your ODSP people have no clue what they’re doing it does you no good anyway, but you know, can’t plan for everything.

    So the solution they come up with–and as usual with Ontario’s government, public details are just a tad nonexistent–is to tie the benefits you receive directly to your health card. Awesome. Awesome, and way the hell overdue. The devil, of course, is in the details, but if it eliminates the need for people to sift through more paperwork at the start of every month, and if it can even cut down just a touch on the supposed administrative costs ODSP would like to have us think are bleeding the system dry, it can only mean good things for us. And tying the thing to the Ontario health card means–again, in theory as there’s nothing publicly available on the subject–that the problem of the monthly renewal dance is potentially a thing of the past. In theory, as long as your health card hasn’t expired, then neither have your benefits. And since prescriptions aren’t actually covered by anything attached to ODSP anyway, but are instead covered by the same people who issue you a new health card every so often, this makes my head hurt just a little bit less. Who knew ODSP could actually find a strand of logic under all that nonsense. I think the temperature in hell just dropped a couple degrees. Now if they can just avoid screwing it up the second the system changes, that would be amazing.

    (*): If someone could actually explain OHIP’s prescription covering process to me, that would be wonderful. They’ll cover brand names for certain drugs, but not the generic versions. They’ll cover the generic versions of other drugs, but not the brand name. And they don’t necessarily cover all of the types of drugs that would make sense–certain types of, let’s say, more effective migraine medication as an example. I don’t get it. which, I suppose, is why I don’t work in–or do any work whatsoever for–government. Now if government in general and OHIP in particular would just decide it’s in their best interest to work for us, that would be amazing. Hey, ODSP’s trying–clearly, miracles do happen. sort of.

    PS: ODSP, do not make me regret that last sentence. Please? I don’t have nearly enough vodka.

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