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Sep. 24th, 2016

01:14 am - Absurdist analogy

"Fox News offered former anchor Gretchen Carlson 20 million dollars and an apology after she spent years being sexually harassed by Roger Ailes, who looks like they tried to clone Alfred Hitchcock but the DNA was incomplete so they just filled it in with genetic material from a Basset hound, mashed potatoes, and the mumps, which they then stirred around in a Waffle House toilet after the toilet had just looked at the Ark of the Covenant."

---Chris Hardwick, host of @Midnight


Sep. 7th, 2016

11:35 am - The importance of a hyphen

In this article, Bill Harnsberger states
Number of states with no-texting-while-driving laws: 46
So, in how many states is it a crime to send a text while driving a car?  If you don't notice the hyphen shown in green above (nor the fact that 'laws' is plural), it seems there are 46 states that lack a texting-while-driving law.  With the hyphen, there are only four such states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, and [if you're over age 20] Arkansas).

The h-y-p-h-e-n is a very important punctuation mark!

Jul. 30th, 2016

11:47 am - Politics

I don't believe the polls that say Donald is leading.  The media need to create the illusion of a close race in order to sell their ads.  Actually, a vote for anyone other than Donald (or no vote at all) is a vote for Hillary because she has convinced everyone that the election is rigged in her favour and her coronation is now assured unless something catastrophic happens (such as Hillary spending 100× as much as Donald on TV ads, causing everyone to become sick to death of her and voting for him just as a protest).

But protest votes can be dangerous, as England and Wales discovered recently.  It was widely believed that the Brexit was rigged and the "Leave the EU" side would not be permitted to win, so there was no harm in voting for it as a protest against rigged elections.  But there were so many protest votes that "Leave" actually won — and then, unexpectedly, the government accepted the will of the people.  Something like that seems like the only way Donald could win.

I might be willing to vote for Jill Stein as a protest vote (she's pro-Bernie and not actually anti-vax but just anti-FDA/CDC corruption; also she lives in my boyhood hometown).  But Jill is not on the ballot in New Jersey and probably can't get on it by November because NJ is a party-machine state and the Greens have never won more than a schoolboard seat there.  So I guess I'll let Hillary win by not voting for anyone.

Here in Canada, the Liberals are using the American election as a fund-raiser.  This is perhaps typically-Canadian passive-aggressive behaviour in that if you don't know what's going on, it's not even clear that they're dissing the Yanks with this ad.  I would summarize this as, "You should donate to the Liberals because they don't make Canadians feel embarrassed about their country, unlike *some* parties on this continent!"

The improper use of the "success baby" meme is just icing on the cake.

Jul. 11th, 2016

03:53 pm - A speck of Chinese that actually makes sense

(This post probably won't look like much to shiver_raccoon.)

I don't speak Chinese.  I can't even read it.  One could say that "It's all Greek to me" but actually I find the Greek language considerably easier to read, even though I don't speak that one, either.  Via Unicode and the power of the Internet, I can look up Chinese words in a dictionary — but it is often quite unclear how a word could have ended up with the range of meanings that many Chinese words have.

Recently I was reminded of the concept of the Socialist Harmonious Society (和谐社会), which was a slogan of the Hu Jintao administration (2002-2012).  You see, when a Chinese person says something disharmonious, that utterance needs to be censored for the good of the country.  The people of China do not feel well about their government when they are reminded that it is corrupt and self-dealing, so it would be wrong to remind them of that.  Naturally, it is also wrong to remind people that censorship of news about corruption causes corruption to increase, so online posts about censorship must themselves also be censored in order to construct a Harmonious Society.  (Sort of like Obama's "the country will do well if everyone believes the government's lies about how well the country is doing".)

Without censorship there would be no art, so the Chinese have found various puns and circumlocutions for talking about the fact that there are things they are prohibited from talking about.  The word "河蟹" (river crab) has the same consonants and vowels as "和諧" (harmonious) but different tone, so it doesn't trigger the illegal-word detector (or didn't, for awhile).  If a message is deleted from the Internet in order to promote a harmonious society, you could say that that it "被和谐了" (has been harmonized).  Let's look more closely at that last phrase:

"bedding", "quilt"; (passive-voice marker)
和諧"harmonious", "harmony", "harmonize"
(perfective aspect); (change of state)

So you see, Chinese makes *perfect* sense!  You just take the base-word for ‘harmony’, put a passive-marker in front of it and a perfective-marker after, and voilà — you get the past passive participle for "to have been censored"!  Too bad the rest of the language is so difficult.

Jul. 4th, 2016

03:21 pm - I recommend InstantFox!

InstantFox is an add-on for Firefox that makes its address bar act like Opera's.  Now I can enter the fake URL
      w Boris Johnson
to look him up at Wikipedia, or
      m Wilmot ON
to see Google's map, or
      wk 時刻
to see Wiktionary's definition for this Chinese word.

Doesn't that just brighten your day? 🔆

12:58 pm - Emoji for Linux

Today, Rabbi Brian sent me a newsletter whose subject line was "Dealing with 💩 it.".  Obviously the subject is supposed to be a reference to excrement, but the U+1F4A9 PILE OF POO emoji was displayed as a box with hex digits inside, even though I had just upgraded my laptop to the latest Linux Mint.

So I installed the EmojiOne font, which includes colour drawings for the emoji.  It uses the new “SVGinOT” font-type which is supported only by firefox and thunderbird, which just happen to be the programs I use. In other programs (such as gnome-terminal), the emoji are monochrome.  In weird programs such as emacs, the emoji still appear as boxed hex digits.

There is also an EmojiOne picker app, which is for Ubuntu but says it mostly works with Cinnamon except for the long menus.  I haven't installed it.  Instead, I downloaded the Unicode 9 NamesList.txt file and then altered it so each line begins with an example of the character being named.  (This replaces my previous copy of the Unicode 3.2 names list that I downloaded back in 2002.)

Jul. 1st, 2016

04:18 pm - Upgrade log

(Hi, porsupah!  Thanks for stopping by again!  You are the only person who has commented on my journal this year.  In previous years, xolo was often the only commenter, but he seems to have left LJ now.)

I decided in April that my Dell D620 laptop needed an OS upgrade.  The major issues were:

Now it’s time to say So long! to Linux Mint Debian Edition with Cinnamon 201303 (“Jessie”) and say Hello! to Linux Mint 17.3 with Cinnamon (“Rosa”).  I’ve been down this road before, so my hard drive is already partitioned into “/home” for files that should survive an OS upgrade, “/” for the OS, plus “/windows” for my dual-boot Windows 7.

April 28th: Finally get around to it: repartition /home to be 13 GB smaller, download Linux Mint 17, write it to a USB stick, boot it up, then let it install itself onto the new partition.  Then reboot back to the familiar old system.

June 5th: Boot up the new “Rosa” system for the first time, after first saving copies of all the dot-files in my home directory (since Rosa will upgrade them and then Jessie won’t understand them anymore).  Install some of my favourite Linux packages (emacs, wget, etc) and remove a few I don’t need (hplip, cups, bluez, etc).  Then back to the old “Jessie” system, which still has those three problems forcing me to upgrade.

June 23rd: Time to get serious.  The laptop’s FN keys for controlling volume and backlight do not work when logged in to Rosa/Cinnamon as ‘root’ (which I always do but it’s been deprecated for years).  I futz around with it for a bit, but eventually decide to “act normal” and log in as an unprivileged user (this means that I can’t use my main Emacs session to edit system files).  Firefox 47.0 works better with Reditr, although memory leakage is still excessive.  Thunderbird cannot see my mail archives and Opera has lost my RSS feeds, but I decide that Rosa is good enough to use for now.

June 26th: Opera 38.0 is not very good.  It has a wacky multi-level menu system that can no longer be turned off, making bookmarks much less accessible than they used to be.  Also it seems that all support for RSS feeds has been removed.  Looks like Opera will need to be demoted to my “backup browser”, even though Firefox does not have good support for search accelerators (with Opera I could type in the address “w Boris_Johnson” and instantly get a Wikipedia bio on this famous person, or type “e ProScan” to get eBay listings for matching products).
      I can’t figure out how to pull the list of RSS feeds from Opera’s data files, so I boot up Jessie (after switching my home directory to the saved dot-files) and start Opera to export the feeds as an OPML file.  Back in Rosa (switching dot-files again), I start manually adding feeds from the OPML file to Thunderbird, then discover a poorly-documented feature Edit → Account Settings → Feeds → Manage Subscriptions → Import, which just happens to accept an OPML list of feeds to add.  Those manually-added feeds are now duplicates, so I delete them.
      Firefox has a tool called “Subscribe” (it’s hidden by default).  It strongly promotes the use of Live Bookmarks for RSS feeds, but once you tell it to use /usr/bin/thunderbird instead then it Just Works™.  Clicking on a link in Thunderbird opens the web page in Firefox, so these programs seem adequately integrated for my needs.

June 27th: Merge the old email archives into Thunderbird 38.8.0.  This is a royal pain because disk space is now very tight on /home and so I can move only a few emails at a time.  I delete the saved dot-files, which frees up a lot of space, but means I can no longer go back to Jessie.  While I’m at it, I clean up the email archives for my seven years at Company 𝔾.  It feels good to put that thing to bed, although it would be better if I had managed to find a replacement job by now.

June 28th: Java no longer works in the browser.  This has been deprecated for months, but I have IcedTea installed and it clearly does start, but then a blank screen appears instead of the Java app.  Same behaviour in both Firefox and Opera.  This is a problem.  I use StreetSmart.com to put trailing-stop protection on my stock trades, but it’s written in Java and is now obsolete.  I can still use Schwab.com which is mostly plain HTML, but that is for “investors” rather than “traders” and doesn’t offer trailing-stop orders.  I could use StreetSmart Edge®, which is a .net app, but then I would have to reboot into Windows any time I want to do something with the stock market.
      But wait!  One of the advanced new features of Linux Mint 17 is supposed to be improved support for VirtualBox.  Maybe I could run StreetSmart Edge inside a paravirtualized Windows system inside a GUI window under Linux, just like all the cool kids do nowadays!  It’s never worked for me before, but I try installing VirtualBox.  It needs a Windows installation disk, so I download the Windows 8.1 evaluation as an .iso file, then write it to a USB stick.  VirtualBox cannot reuse my /windows partition and needs several GB to create a simulated hard drive for windows, so I delete the .iso file to make room.  Then it turns out that VirtualBox cannot use the USB stick and wants to simulate the installation disk using the .iso file, so I download it again.  But Windows 8.1 refuses to boot inside VirtualBox, because my CPU is an old Centrino Duo which doesn’t have the VT-x instructions that Windows 8.1 requires when running in paravirtualized mode.
      So I download the Windows 7 Starter .iso from this slightly-shady site, figuring that I’ll reuse the product key from my dual-boot Windows.  But my officially-licenced product key is not accepted because it’s for Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Windows 7 Starter.  So I get a key from this rather-shady site, which is accepted.  But Windows 7 won’t install itself because it insists that the simulated hard drive needs at least 6 GB of space.  (I remember when operating systems would fit on a single floppy disk!  I used to use a computer whose entire hard-drive capacity was only 0.005 GB!  So get off my lawn!)  I decide to free up some space by deleting old Company 𝔾 stuff.  The most useless stuff is non-final versions of slideshows for conference sessions, which surely I will never look at again (nor will anyone else).  I try using an Emacs keyboard macro to select the non-final versions from a list of all conference-data files, but the list is long and the macro runs slowly.  So I write a Lisp function to prune the list, which runs in an instant.  It occurs to me that this is the first “computer program” I have written in many months.

June 29th: Windows 7 installs successfully inside the simulated computer, but it cannot access the Internet.  Google finds many people with similar problems, but most of their “solutions” don’t work.  It turns out that the default networking settings for VirtualBox are not compatible with Windows 7, even though there’s a drop-down menu with “Windows 7 (32-bit)” selected so VirtualBox will know what kind of OS it’s supposed to be supporting.  The correct answer is to tell VirtualBox to use the ”Bridged Adapter” methodology and simulate the ”Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop (82540EM)” type of networking device, which is so old that even Windows 7 knows how to deal with it.
      StreetSmart Edge installs successfully and runs well.  The “Live Chart” function correctly updates once per second to show the latest prices on Wall St.  But the rest of my system lags a lot while VirtualBox is running.  I improve this some by telling VirtualBox to simulate a computer with only 0.75 GB of RAM.  (I spent most of my career writing software for computers with only 0.00003 GB of RAM, although those programs couldn’t do any fancy graphics.)  I only have enough hard-drive space to store one “snapshot”, so I set it to resume to the moment when StreetSmart Edge asks for my username and password.  I’m getting warnings that there’s *only* 1 GB of space available, so I invoke the wizard command “tune2fs -m 2” (kids, don’t try this at home), which reduces the /home partition’s safety margin from 5% to 2% and frees up another 2 GB of space.

June 30th: Begin writing up this document, which requires examining the log-files from the old Jessie partition.  Some of the ”facts” documented above might be inaccurate because I didn’t keep careful records as I went along; sorry.

July 1st: Time to get rid of the old Jessie partition to free up 12 GB.  To move partitions around on a hard drive you must boot from someplace else, but my usual USB stick was overwritten with Windows 8.1, so I download Linux Mint 17.3 again (meanwhile, Linux Mint has released version 18.0).  Write it to the stick and boot it up.  Remember that I haven’t set up Rosa to act as its own web-server yet, so save a copy of Jessie’s /etc to Rosa in case I need it.  Then use gparted to delete Jessie, make /windows be 1 GB bigger, and put the rest of the released space into /home.  This requires moving 21 GB from one spot on the hard drive to another, which takes half an hour.  Despite all the warnings that this could make my hard drive unbootable, Rosa boots up just fine.  Windows also boots correctly, after first spending a lot of time on chkdsk which finds no problems.
      So now all that’s left is to remove Jessie from the boot menu, since that menu item no longer points anywhere.  I use the wizard command “grub-mkconfig” for that.  All done!  Happy Canada Day!

Jun. 25th, 2016

01:21 pm - A furry video


Jun. 21st, 2016

04:28 pm - My photo has become "part of the movement"

Last Saturday, I walked around west Kitchener, knocking on doors and asking people how they felt about their new-ish Liberal Government.  This was part of the kickoff for a national campaign in which Liberal Party operatives walk around neighbourhoods, entering people's responses into an app on their smartphones.

One result of this effort is a collection of tweets showing photographs of the groups of canvassers.  If you knew anything about local politics (which of course you don't), you could determine that one of these tweets came from the only Liberal candidate for Parliament in Waterloo Region last year who *didn't* win.  Clicking on the pic.twitter.com link within that tweet takes you to a photo.  I am the bearded guy with the poorly-parted hair.

It is clear that the Party puts a lot of effort into keeping track of who volunteers for these events and how much time they put in.  Presumably such hours count as "brownie points" within the Party.  What is less clear is the set of prizes for which these brownie points can be traded.  It is perhaps like a Chuck E Cheese restaurant where the prizes are hidden and unadvertised and the only way to trade in your tickets is to ask whether a certain prize might be available.

Jun. 20th, 2016

07:11 pm - Random walk around the Internet

Every day I surf the web and collect links, then send them out via private email.  Maybe I should post them here.  Most links come from Reddit via Imgur.  The most common type of link is a puppy-photo, because that goes over well with my email audience.

    Fedex was targeted by the DEA for two years, apparently for refusing to pay the bribes that UPS did.

    "Loch Ness woofer".

    We're out of dog treats? How could this happen???

    Time is an endless 3-hour loop!

    It gets better around 0:53.

    Father's Day breakfast, made out of the most dangerous objects in the house.

    Father's Day present from Potter fans.

    Presumably this requires lemon juice to keep it edible.

    A bird.


    A cat.

    A dog.


Jun. 10th, 2016

02:09 pm - Liberal news

My membership card arrived today!  I am now a "card-carrying Liberal".  And I still have my membership card for the Free Software Foundation, so I remain a "card-carrying Communist".

At this month's meeting of the riding association, they voted me onto the board of directors!  Since we're now in the off-season for Canadian elections, becoming a director is simply a matter of showing up repeatedly for meetings.  Problem: now I'm supposed to help them raise money for the 2019 election!  I have no experience whatsoever in fund-raising, but I guess I have to do it to get some cred with this Old-Boy Network that I'm still hoping will someday get me a cushy job as a part-time software engineer, hopefully before all my remaining cash runs out.

Next problem: modern fund-raising requires a smartphone, which I don't have (and don't particularly want to get because the fonts are so damn small).  Everyone is supposed to be running an app called MiniVAN to record the results of the voter-contacts.  Maybe I can borrow Wifey's tablet and run it on that?  Or maybe use WebVAN on my laptop?  I'll find out at the upcoming fund-raising training workshop at the riding-president's house.

Another problem: who am I raising this money for?  Some of it is for the national party, which needs it to support the riding associations, buy TV ads, and fly the Prime Minister around on a private jet.  But much of it is supposed to go to the 2019 election fund.  Who will the candidate be?  If nothing changes between now and then, the riding association intends to nominate the same guy as last time (who didn't win).  He seems like a nice and hard-working fellow.

But something is *supposed* to change.  Justin Trudeau promised that 2015 would be the last time that Canada used a first-past-the-post winner-take-all election like the Americans.  Switching over to a proportional-representation system will require either making Parliament 30% bigger or making the electoral districts 30% bigger, which seems to be the preferred option.  Suppose the new district boundaries are drawn so that our candidate is in one riding and the money we raised for him is in a different one.  What happens then?  My guess is that no one really knows yet.

May. 31st, 2016

07:11 pm - On a happier note

Last weekend, both the Liberals and the Conservatives held party conventions in Canada.  Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his retirement, so current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him some bon mots:

“We need to remember that even though [the Conservatives] may be our opponents, they’re not our enemies. They’re our neighbours and our friends.”

“I can tell you, even if you weren’t a fan of his politics, there can be no doubting Stephen Harper’s commitment to our country.”

Of course, party rivalry being what it is, the main news item from this event was former Liberal leader Bob Rae pretending to throw up at the idea of praising Harper.

Years ago, people used to compare Stephen Harper with George W. Bush, but really this was hyperbole.  Harper wanted his country to do well.  Bush wanted his country to be weak enough to drown in a bathtub.  They sometimes agreed on means, but never on ends.

I joined the Liberal Party of Canada about a month ago, thinking maybe it could help me get a job.  The constant barrage of fund-raising emails has been disheartening, including the ones from the P.M.  But then sometimes Justin puts on his "statesman" hat and I wish everyone else in his party were just like him.

07:11 pm - Reply to rabitguy

Thank you for your words.  It's great that you have found a candidate to believe in.  Please enjoy the feeling that there is a candidate out there who actually *deserves* your vote.  But please also do keep in mind the fact that your preferred candidate has feet of clay.

> Please explain to me just one single possible fraudulent criminal act that you think Hillary is guilty of.

Hillary personally accepted a bribe of $675,000 from Goldman Sachs, an enemy of the Free World that some call the vampire squid because of its desire to install Manchurian candidates in most every national government.  The money was supposed to be for “speeches” but Hillary is unable to produce even redacted transcripts for those speeches, nor has anyone come forward to say they attended, likely because the speeches never actually happened.  Of course, Hillary is quite capable of giving actual speeches, so she didn’t *need* to lie about what the money was for, but she lied anyway.  This “cheating for its own sake” seems to be a repeating pattern with her.  Anyway, selling speeches and then not delivering them is fraud, and it is a crime to take a bribe in exchange for protecting banksters from the jail-time that they deserve.

Hillary did not *need* to cheat in order to win Nevada.  She certainly didn’t need to have “her” people, supposedly-neutral party apparachiks, blatantly treat the delegates differently based on whom they were pledged to.  There was no need to bring in police to protect her cronies from the nonexistent violence of those whom they had just wronged.  There was no need for the police to all be dressed in brownshirts, as if the Democratic Party were comprised of Nazis.  There was no actual need for any of this; it was all for show.  “Vote for me because I’m a corrupt politician who cheats and gets away with it.”  There are apparently Republicans who find this behaviour attractive, but I don’t.

Voting in Phoenix was so bad, we cannot know how many delegates Hillary truly deserves.  Hillary could have made a show of tut-tutting the people who did this, insisting that everyone should have the right to get their vote counted in this free country.  Al Gore might have refused to accept the votes of tainted delegates, but Hillary is not Al.

The City of New York is auditing the Board of Elections because it deleted 126,000 people, overweighted with college students, from the party rolls at the last minute, without notice or explanation or reason, apparently for fear that some of them might possibly vote for Bernie.  This is not what one might call “a free and fair election”.  This is just as wrong as when Republicans delete Blacks from the voter rolls for fear that some of them might vote for a Democrat.  Again, Hillary could have made a statement that what happened in NYC was wrong.  She did not.  How many delegates from New York does Hillary actually deserve?  We don’t know, and Hillary seems perfectly okay with that.  I’m not.  This is election-tampering.  It doesn’t matter that Republicans do it too; I expect better of Democrats.  It doesn’t matter that nobody ever goes to jail for it.  Interfering with elections is still a crime.  Did Hillary give the order to delete those voters?  What did she know and when did she know it?  If the USA were a free country, we would have the right to expect an investigation.  Maybe it was the local office acting on their own initiative, hoping to curry favour with the Clinton-leaning national party establishment; or maybe she’s guilty as sin.  I don’t know.

> Trump beat his wife, grabbed her hair and forcibly raped her.  And Hillary is worse?

Why no, actually.  Donald is a racist sexist pig and I certainly wouldn’t want to be a member of his household.  There are reports that Hillary’s mean streak is a mile wide, so maybe her household isn’t a nice place to be, either.  I don’t think I would want to have a beer with either of them.  But we were talking about which person would make better decisions as president.

> E-mail server? No crime there. If it were, Colin Powell would be under investiation.

You cannot conclude that something isn’t a crime just because a Republican is observed to get away with it.  Hillary’s private server was illegal, just like Colin’s.  But no one is claiming that Colin ran a deliberately-insecure server that allowed foreign governments to steal classified information.  Hillary’s two excuses for this behaviour are basically that she’s ”often confused” (≈ McCain’s “senior moment”?) and also she ”doesn’t know much about computers”.  Either of these excuses would explain why the server was insecure when originally set up, but neither explains why it stayed that way for four years.  Lots of people tried to get her to fix it, but she told them to never speak of the Secretary’s personal email server again.  This is not the behaviour of a person who doesn’t know much about computers and becomes concerned when someone tells her she’s using them wrong.  This is not a person having a brief senior moment and then coming to her senses when the next person brings up the same issue.  This is a Manchurian candidate who *wanted* the server to be insecure.  So who is she working for?  Maybe I’m naïve, but I just can’t imagine Hillary as a secret agent for Russia or China.  Maybe Saudi Arabia, but most likely Goldman Sachs.

Read more...Collapse )

Feb. 24th, 2016

04:19 pm - I got a call from the government!

I got a telephone call yesterday.  The caller ID said "GoC–GdC".  I know who that is!  That's "Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada".

This is at least the third time they've called me this year.  I did not pick up the phone the previous two times because I did not want to talk to them.  The message on the answering machine asked me to pleeeease call them back to talk about my tax situation.  But I had nothing to say.  Last fall they mailed me a "Request to File an Income Tax Return" for 2014, followed by a "Second Request to File an Income Tax Return" for the same year, along with a deadline of December 20th after which they would get mad at me.  But I didn't file.  I have no excuse, other than that I did not make enough money that year to be eligible for income tax and I wasn't looking forward to grinding through the paperwork to show them in detail just how bad my year was.  (And 2015 was actually even worse in that regard.)

But yesterday I decided to pick up the phone.  The agent went through the familiar identity-check stuff (I've gotten these calls in previous years).  And then, just before beginning her harangue, the agent checked my current status.  "Oh!  You just eFiled last week!" she said.  Yes, I did that.  "You should not have been called.  I'm sorry to bother you".  So I told her I was sorry that the return was so late — it was all so Canadian!  So now I am officially off the government's shitlist.

I still have to file a business tax return for 2014 (I'll get a minuscule refund), and a US income tax return for 2014, plus Canadian and US returns for 2015 (but no business return because my Company 𝔾 consulting business was officially closed in 2014).

Still, it's good news!  I had told the accountant at H&R Block that I wanted to eFile on Friday because I didn't know how much time I had left before CRA made their next move.  Well, their next move was Tuesday and I was ready for them!  What a stroke of luck that I got it done just in time!  I used to get lucky breaks like that all the time, but these last few years it has seemed that my luck had run out.

* * * * *

I went to a job interview recently.  They looked good on paper — they wanted lots of things that were on my résumé.  But the interview didn't go well.  It began very nicely with a discussion of how everyone at the company likes Liberal politics and WTF is up with Trump down in the States???  But the guy who does their C++ work is very possessive of his code, while their guy who does Python and SQL is going on sabbatical and needs to be replaced.  The company is 7 years old and still having trouble making payroll consistently.  Of course, they want 60+ hours a week like everyone does nowadays in Software.  I told them I couldn't offer more than 20 hrs/wk so that was the end of it.

Now that the government is feeling better about me, perhaps I should join the Liberal Party of Canada and try to get a job through the "old boy" network.  It doesn't seem that there is any other possible way to get a part-time programming job.  The inheritance from my mother-in-law is almost half-gone already.

Current Location: Canada, eh?
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Dec. 24th, 2015

09:27 pm - Merry Christmas!

Well, you *knew* I wouldn't let this "warmest Christmas Eve in recorded history" go by without a comment, right?  Every place I've been over the last ten years is in the part of this map that's been described as "the molten inside of a Hot Pocket", which represents temperatures 18°F to 36°F above normal for the day.

Some people claim that Global Warming will kill a billion people, or 14% of the planet's human population.  That's almost big a reduction as the 17% that the planet got from the Black Death.  And, you know, after the Black Death the relative power of Labour vs Capital was improved considerably!  So if you think that people have no power and corporations own everything, just wait until you're negotiating your next raise while all your co-workers' bodies are rotting in the streets!  (Disclaimer: this refers specifically to Europe, where half the people died of plague; fatalities from Global Warming are expected to vary widely across the planet, affecting outsourced programmers in Bangladesh much more than those in Ukraine).

Recently I heard that jobs for computer programmers in the USA are expected to drop by 8% over the next decade, while jobs for software developers (previously called "Programmer/Analysts") will grow by 17%.  Of course, these estimates assume that current off-shoring trends will continue unchanged, but the one thing you can be certain of about trends is that they eventually change.

Happy ChristmaHanuKwanzaakah!  We celebrated our tradition with a Christmas Eve visit to a Chinese restaurant, like all the other Jews.

Did you know that "kwanza" is the unit of currency in Angola?

Oct. 18th, 2015

05:20 pm - Poll: is anybody there?

My recent series of posts about the trip to Disney World did not get as many comments as I had desired.  This of course is my fault for writing a bad story and posting it on an inappropriate platform.  Anyway, here is a poll so y'all can enjoy clicking or tapping on things.

Poll #2025287 Poll: is anybody there?

I am

a fur
an engineer
a professional computer programmer/software developer/sysadmin
a native speaker of English
married and/or a parent
(I have something else in common with Pyesetz)

Of the recent “Disney World 2015” series of posts on this journal, I read

None of them
All of them
More than all (I Googled additional info)

The “Disney World 2015” trip report would have been better if...

Less wordy
Shorter posts (break up the vacation days into multiple LJ-post days)
Less minutia of places/times/prices
The characters in this story actually had names (rather than “a cast member” or “a store clerk”)
Less racism/sexism/capitalism commentary
Less anti-USA/pro-Canada sentiment
More fur
More sex/drugs/rock-n-roll
... they had never been written
Less “I am getting old” shit
Fewer pictures
More pictures
More pictures I actually took

If 1 is “yucky” and 5 is “great”, the Disney World 2015 trip report should be graded as

Mean: 4.00 Median: 4 Std. Dev 0.82

Which of the following phrases appear in the trip report?

“our kids are just too old for a giant sandbox”
“the arrest of the fursuiter who exposed himself”
“the searing heat of Central Florida in September”
“the TSA agents are less nasty”
“his Islamic fundamentalism wasn’t too bothersome”

Oct. 11th, 2015

12:00 pm - Disney World 2015: Summary

Here is the complete trip report, in chronological order.  If for some reason you should want such a thing, here is the report as a PDF.

Oct. 10th, 2015

12:00 pm - Disney World 2015: Conclusion

Day 14: Drive from Ohio to Ontario

Meijer (Maumee OH, 3:08pm, pronounced /ˈmaɪ.ər/).  Our usual grocery-shopping-in-the-States before driving across the border.  $234.80.  The same candy bars we got for our “up to $5 snack credit" at Disney are being sold here for 82¢.

Kroger (Roseville MI, 4:21pm).  Try to get some lunch here, but their to-go section isn’t all that great.  $22.11 for a submarine sandwich for Wifey and some more groceries we forgot to get at Meijer.

Tim Horton’s (Roseville MI, 4:26pm).  In same shopping plaza as Kroger.  $8.26 for turkey sandwich on ciabbata (for Kid #2) and cinnamin-raisin bagel + cream cheese (for me).

Some convenience store (Dundee MI; no receipt).  We get off the highway for Tim Horton’s, but no one wants a washroom.  There is a Walgreens next door, and Wifey remembers that she hasn’t played the lottery yet on this trip, but the Walgreens has no lottery display.  We head the other way down the street, since there is a Kroger’s sign pointing that way, but we can’t find it.  Finally stop in at a convenience store.  $1 for a scratch-off ticket that wins $1, so it was a “free” play.  $1 for a PowerBall ticket that doesn’t win.

Blue Water Bridge (Port Huron MI – Sarnia ON).  Toll = $3.00.  The border guard seems to know a whole lot about Wilmot ON, considering that he’s never been there.  He asks about the Blue Moon Hotel (which is mainly a restaurant now; I've never been inside).

Tim Horton’s (Strathroy ON, 6:28pm).  Washrooms.  $2.39 for a blueberry muffin and a Boston cream doughnut.  Kid #2 uses a gift card to get another pretzel bagel.
      Here in the Southwest Ontario countryside, the leaves are turning.  It is much cooler than in Florida.

Our house (8:00pm).  We’re home!  Trip complete with no major disasters!
      Our house is much more dimly lit than anything at Disney, giving it a surreal feeling: this is where we *used* to live, a long time ago — but it was only two weeks!

Disney World 2015, day 15: Dog kennel

Wag ’N’ Train.  $299.17 for two weeks at the kennel (using the $50 off coupon we got as a raffle prize on orientation day).  The dog has apparently lost 5% of his body weight and is now trim and more able to use his arthritic leg.  The bathroom scale says all other family members are within 1% of their pre-vacation weights, despite the running-a-marathon-in-a-sauna feeling of Disney World in September.

Disney World 2015, day 17: UPS / High Holiday

Our house (2:05pm).  The boxes from Florida arrive.  Although there was no import duty when going to the States, the Canadian UPS wants $188.77 for their “brokerage” services, thus doubling the shipping cost and making it totally unworthwhile to use UPS instead of Allegiant.  The delivery driver refers to his own employer as “pirates” and suggests that I call UPS headquarters and complain.

Our house.  It’s Erev Yom Kippur.  Kid #2 makes the dinner.  Our fast is uneventful.

Oct. 9th, 2015

12:00 pm - Disney World 2015, day 13: Fly from Florida to Ohio

Landscape of Flavors (10:06am).  Kid #2 goes by himself to the food court to exchange all remaining food credits for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  The cashier remembers him as the guy with the 10 rolls of Oreos, but is resistant to allowing him to convert the dinner-credits, so he just gets 13 Reese’s with the remaining snack-credits.

Our room.  Disney housekeepers are one of the lowest classes in a very class-conscious company.  We have heard that they often don't get to keep things left behind for them by guests, unless a note specifically states that the housekeeper is the intended recipient.  So Wifey writes a note listing our unopened leftover foods and beverages and stating that Venette should get them.  She specifically mentions the bottle of wine, that we never got around to drinking because Disney World is just so exhausting.  I hope Venette gets to keep that wine.  Yesterday, when she came to clean, Wifey slipped her a $20 bill, to ensure that she would get *something*.

Landscape of Flavors (11:20am).  After we check out, Wifey goes back to the food court while the rest of us wait in the car.  She engages in an activity that some people online call “pixie dusting” (but don’t Google that, it means many other things).  She finds six people who are not on the dining plan and buys lunch for them to use up our remaining credits.  They are shocked, amazed, and happy with their luck.  It is probably a more enjoyable activity than eating all those candy bars.

Alamo Rent-a-Car (12:33pm).  Very quick!  The attendant scans the car’s ID tag, records the mileage and gas, then I’m on my way.  $40.17 for the return-with-empty-tank feature.  I drove 557 miles and used up almost the entire tank.

Orlando-Sanford Airport TSA screening.  They seem annoyed that we have so many carry-on bags, but we get through it.  No pat-downs for me!

Some little café (at Sanford Airport).  The attendant wants $3.21 for a bottle of Coke, that cost $2 in Toledo!  But the café is conveniently located next to the waiting area for our flight, so I pay it.

Allegient Airlines flight 794 (Sanford FL – Swanton OH).  Flight takes off 15 minutes late (3:20pm) because of a “discrepancy” in the cargo manifest.  Uneventful flight; no cougher.  Laptop use: write up my notes for day 10.

Toledo Express Airport parking (6:10pm).  $91 for 11 days of parking.

Staybridge Suites.  Check-in.  They didn’t screw up this time, so we don’t get a free upgrade and have to make do with the two-room suite (living room with fold-out couch, bedroom with king-size bed; the bathroom is off the bedroom so the kids have to keep coming in).

Barney’s Convenient Mart (Maumee OH, 7:34pm).  On my way to pick up Chinese food for dinner, I pass by a gas station.  It’s cheap, so I put in 10 gallons for $23.99 to prepare for tomorrow’s drive home.

Fiona’s Happy Rose (Toledo OH, 7:42pm).  $29.75 for Chinese take-out.  It’s pretty good.  Kid #1 gets American-style sweet-and-sour chicken without the sauce, replacing the Yak & Yeti meal that she was supposed to have on day 5 (and then couldn’t have on day 11).  Canadian Chinese restaurants use a different recipe.

Oct. 8th, 2015

12:00 pm - Disney World 2015, day 12: UPS / Epcot (again)

Our room.  Kid #1’s attempts to avoid getting sick on this vacation have *mostly* worked, but she seems to be coming down with something now.

UPS store (Celebration FL, 11:09am).  $5.89 for a 12×12×20 box to contain additional stuff to be sent home that does not fit in the 18×18×18 box that we sent down here.  This is our estimated amount of additional space needed (in cubic inches), based on a variety of “test packs” of the old box with various combinations of the items to send home.
      Celebration is an unincorporated city (pop. 7,427) which started life as a Disney company town where they sold timeshares.  It has since been disowned and is now a mostly-separate entity (Disney still provides electricity and telephone services.)  My understanding is that the UPS store does not pay rent to Disney, but it’s hard to tell.

Landscape of Flavors (11:30am).  Skim milk (it’s a “snack”) for Kid #2’s breakfast cereal in our room.

Our room.  Final pack of the two boxes.

UPS store (2:45pm).  $187.83 to mail both boxes back to Canada.  Kid #2 carries the old box (all clothing), which is 46 lbs and awkward; some of the clothing is packed into Vacu-Seal bags and is very dense, while other bits of clothing are just thrown in loosely.  I carry the new box, which is 30 lbs.  I tell UPS that half the new box is new souvenirs and snacks, half Canadian-origin stuff, while the old box is entirely Canadian-origin material.  Estimated shipping time is four business days.
      It’s hard to tell for sure, but I think that the old box (which is overweight) would have cost $95 to have Allegiant fly it up with us, while the new box would have cost $45.  So in total we paid about $48 extra to avoid the checked-baggage hassle and to get $1000 of insurance on the box of clothes.

Epcot.  Our last day at the parks.  This second visit to Epcot was planned for day 9 but had to be postponed.  The original plan for today had us visiting the the Magic Kingdom yet again, but we’ve been there, done that, got the fridge magnet.
     Attractions visited today: Club Cool, a ferry, Tangierine Café (Wifey and Kid #1, lunch 4:17pm), Katsura Grill (Kid #2 and I, lunch 4:20pm), Karamell-Küche (take-home, 5:14pm), another ferry, Gran Fiesta Tour, ImageWorks (just Wifey, take-home 6:43pm), Northwest Mercantile (except Wifey, souvenirs), Journey into Imagination, and Soarin (Kid #1 and I).  We had hoped to go on Spaceship Earth again, but are just too tired.  There is a cast member at Living with the Land who confirms that it is scheduled to reopen tomorrow, and we have unused park tickets, but the effort required seems excessive (get back here for just one ride, then make our plane flight).
      Club Cool used to be Ice Station Cool which had a dirty-and-wet igloo you walked through to get to the Coke-branded tasting station.  Now you just walk into the station.  I try the pineapple soda, which is as good as I remember, and also the guarana soda which does not sit well in my stomach — maybe I drank it too fast.  Guarana is often used in energy drinks.
      The first ferry takes us to the Moroccan pavillion.  It has a female pilot (who is actually in control of the boat, which is not on a track) and a male “captain” (who just reads his lines to the passengers).
      At Katsura Grill, I note that the waitstaff are all Japanese nationals as expected.  But the cookstaff (actually making the Japanese food) are all Black Americans.  Is Japan trying to show off how racist it is, or is this just Florida (which remains part of the Confederate South)?  Anyway, the food isn’t great.  My dessert is strawberry+adzuki ice cream, which tastes halfway between a fruit and a bean.
      Karamell-Küche is obviously sponsored by Werther’s caramel company of Berlin (although they also offer some fresh-baked stuff).  Wifey spends a snack-credit on a bag of caramels to take home.
      We take a second ferry from Germany towards Mexico (the park layout does not match the geography of the Earth).  We have to wait at the dock for a shift-change.  I note that both old and new crews consist of a female pilot and a male “captain”, so I guess these roles specify required genders for the cast members.
      The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros is awful.  What it looks like to me is that Mexico stopped sponsoring the pavillion, so Disney took vengeance upon them by replacing El Rio Del Tiempo (which was basically an ad for the Mexico Tourist Board) with a ride in which Donald Duck makes fun of Mexican stereotypes.  Let this be a lesson to you all: this is what will happen to your country if you ever stop giving the benjamins to DisneyCorp!
      At ImageWorks, Wifey gets another box of mints to use up a snack credit.
      It’s a long walk to the Canada pavillion, so Wifey sits on a bench at the Showcase Plaza.  At Northwest Mercantile Trading Post, Kid #1 thinks the selection of products is much like any tourist trap back home; she buys a Mickey-in-Canada pin for $9.54 (says Disney in their final-accounting email; missing receipt).  Kid #2 uses a penny-squishing machine for 50¢ (plus 1¢ for the penny).  The machine embosses an image of the Epcot Canada pavillion, but on the other side you can clearly see that the penny had been minted in Canada in 1968.  “It’s Canadian on both sides,” he says.  We generally think of Kid #2 as the most “normal” member of our family, but is it normal to decide that the best use for your 47-year-old penny, no longer legal tender in its country of origin, is to squish it into a souvenir?
      The cast member who is staffing the Trading Post wears a nametag that says she is from Etobicoke ON, so I ask her if the ‘k’ is pronounced.  “No, it is /ɛ.ˈtoʊ.bɨ.ˌkoʊ/,” she says, clearly annoyed with the number of mispronunciations she hears.  It turns out that this is her second stint at Disney World; for her first stint they gave her a nametag that said “Brampton ON” (where she lives) but this time they are making her wear Etobicoke (where she was born).  Kid #1 says it’s a good thing that our 15-year-old nametags don’t give our places of origin, because we moved to Canada after getting them.  The cast member says she saw someone wearing one of these old nametags at a D23 event.  I tell her that, of the 65,000 cast members at Disney World, she is the first one we’ve run into who has *ever* seen one of these things before.  (I am fairly sure that neither of my children has any idea what D23 is, nor have they ever been to Brampton, nor gotten off the highway when they were passing through what used to be Etobicoke, which was dissolved in 1998 and amalgamated into Toronto.)  Anyway, a pleasant enough conversation with a homie.
      Journey into Imagination stars Eric Idle.  There is a picture of Robin Williams on the wall, but he has no lines.
      At Soarin, I note that the dark splotch does not seem to be in a specific place on the screen, but depends on where I am looking.  Perhaps it is actually a blind spot in my eye and not a defect in the ride?

Everything Pop (at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, dinner 8:45pm).  I haven’t been too pleased with our own resort’s food, so we try the Pop Century resort down the street, but things keep going wrong.  I try to go through the automated entry-lane for the parking lot, but my credential is rejected (apparently this resort restricts the automated entry just for guests staying at Pop Century, not for all current guests like elsewhere).  I have to back up and go through the staffed entry; the cast member’s handheld reader makes a happy noise when scanning my wristband, so he lets me in.  I try to get a tuna sandwich, but the line I select does not move — everyone is getting create-your-own salad.  Finally I get the sandwich and go to a checkout line, but it does not move — the cashier is having an extended conversation in Spanish with some other guests.  When she finally gets to me, she wants to have an extended conversation in English, but my family is sitting on a bench outside the food court so I just wish she’d hurry up.  By the time I finally get the food back to our room, I don’t feel like eating it, so it sits in the fridge until tomorrow morning.

Ink and Paint (9:08pm).  Wifey pays $23.27 for a scarf, plus $2.12 for an Animal Conservation button.

Landscape of Flavors (dinner, 9:15pm).  Create-your-own pasta for Wifey and the kids.

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