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Nov. 21st, 2016

01:15 pm - People are still really mad about the US election

Wil Wheaton is depressed.  His preferred candidate did not win the election.  That's understandable.  The election told him things he didn't want to know about the people of the country he lives in, so now he is caught in a whirlpool of lies he tells himself that make him feel bad while avoiding the real issues.  Having studied his affliction, he is only too aware that the things he says to himself are not true (such as the climate of Los Angeles, which actually gets an average of 35 rainy days each year) but his self-knowledge that he is in a whirlpool of his own making does not cause the waters to recede.  There are things I could say to him, but they would not make him feel better, so I'll say them here instead.

Star Trek: The Original Series was a fantasy.  It wasn’t *really* an egalitarian paradise, it just *said* it was.  The Federation *said* it came in peace, but Captain Kirk & crew were constantly starting wars with planets whose only real crime was disagreeing with them about the proper philosophy of government.  The Federation were a bunch of self-righteous bullies, much like the Americans of the 1960’s and the Hillary-voters of today.  Sometimes it seemed the only reason the Federation fought with the Klingon Empire was because they were in constant need of some enemy to fight in order to justify their militaristic society; this also seemed to be Hillary’s only reason for picking a fight with Russia.

American presidential elections are morality plays: the lesser-evil candidate wins.  The candidates spend the entire election lying about everything, trying to create the impression that they are evil enough to deserve mega-donations yet somehow good enough to deserve votes.  You can’t believe a word that either of them says about anything.  If you allow yourself to believe the hype, you’ll get a post-election depression even if your preferred candidate wins.  I remember when Barack Obama won, and started doing stuff that did not match his campaign rhetoric.  The phrase “hyperdimensional chess” was briefly popular among Democrats.  You see, Obama must be playing a game in which he pretends to be evil in order to better position himself for doing good things later.  But “later” never came and eventually people realized that Obama is just another corrupt politician like all the others.  I like to think that Barack does actually *want* to do good (such as the ACA), but most of the time he just can’t because of the constant overriding need to suck up to Wall St in order to have any ability to get anything at all done.  The presidency does not have as much independence of action as many people like to think.  Our current president is Black but still life sucks for ordinary Black Americans; the president-elect is a White supremacist but I expect that life will continue to suck for ordinary Whites (though less than Blacks).  We are in year 16 of what will probably be a 20-year global economic recession and there isn’t much that a president can do about that.

I found Hillary’s campaign rhetoric to be extremely offensive.  Donald’s misogyny makes him completely unfit for the presidency, but Bill Clinton’s very similar misogyny was — shut up, don’t talk about my husband!  Hillary’s actions in Ukraine and Syria probably amounted to war crimes, but — Shut Up!  Hillary has NEVER done ANYTHING wrong EVER!!!  Hillary’s adamant refusal to secure her email server showed appallingly bad judgment and probably should result in her being banned from having a security clearance — SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP DONALD IS A POOPY HEAD THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.  But you can’t win an election by telling people to shut up all the time.

Oct. 31st, 2016

05:02 pm - That Hillary-alternate-universe meme

(Brown text = post-election edits.)

It’s been almost six years(!) since the last time I linked to the blog of my American friend and colleague, Dr. J.  Gotta cross-link to your homies to keep our Google rankings up!  Anyway, Dr. J works for the US gov’t, so he may be obligated to write political tracts in support of the incoming Stalinist dictator Constitutionally-limited president.  He published this tract on a Sunday, perhaps to hide the fact (if it is one) that he was required to write it on paid government time.  There is a law against that, but it’s widely ignored like most good-government laws in the USA.

The didactic form that Dr. J chose is the “in an alternate universe, Hillary is actually guilty of something” meme, which isn’t bad as propaganda styles go.  Certainly it is less objectionable than the style chosen by Dr. Phil Plait, who basically starts from the reasonable “Global Warming is the most important issue” and the unreasonable ”politicians do not lie” and somehow manages to conclude that Hillary is the best candidate — even though she is pro-WWIII and Donald is against it and the world wars show up as spikes on the historical temperature chart.  So I guess I could perhaps join in on this fun, although personally I endorse Jill Stein because she tells the fewest lies.

Before we begin, I should note that Dr. J’s piece is actually funny, which is probably more than I can hope to achieve with my own work.  His Churchillian grammar reference is excellent and I found myself agreeing with the imaginary crowd furious at Hillary’s misquote.  It’s “shall not”, I say!  Yet even in an alternate universe, it is still the anti-Hillary forces that are correct.

 
Alternate Universe № ❰∞,∞,∞,26,∞,0,19,∞̅…❱ (see supernatural numbers, which I don’t actually believe in because ∞ is a figment of the mathematical imagination; Objective Reality probably doesn’t contain any numbers larger than around 10⁸⁵ or so).
      Conceit: In this universe (which we can never locate because its ID number is transfinite), Hillary actually had a legitimate reason to operate her honeypot email server that provided live feeds to Russia and Al Qaeda and Goldman Sachs containing the classified info that she received.
      Resulting difference: Not much, really.  The Espionage Act of 1917 says it applies to everyone, including the president.  It does not offer any exemption for politicians who possess a legitimate national-security reason to burn an agent’s cover; if that action results in another agent’s death then the politician is supposed to get the electric chair.  So Hillary Clinton is basically in the same category as Dick Cheney.
 
Alternate Universe № 5.2761 (but keeping in mind that fractional numbers which are not ratios might not actually exist; they might instead be mere measurement conveniences arising from the enormous gap between human-sized units and physics-sized ones).
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary actually still has a shred of decency left in her, so she does not make a big deal of Donald’s misogynistic ways.  Because, you know, her husband Bill has done most of the same things — except only Donald dared to talk about it when he knew the mic was on, thus showing that Donald is an idiot.  And Hillary has insisted all along that absolutely nothing Bill has ever done was actually wrong, so therefore (for her) those same things should also not have been wrong when Donald did them.  Donald's contemptible attitude toward women could certainly be criticized by other Democrats (such as Huma Abedin, who divorced her own husband for less) but this would lead to questions about Bill that Hillary doesn't want to hear.
      Resulting difference: None.  It doesn’t matter which acts of muck-raking Hillary decides are beneath her (if any).  Barack Obama has already announced that the winner of the election shall be Hillary.  He has also hinted that if for any reason the vote-counting machines ring up “Donald” as their answer, that could only mean that the machines were hacked by the Russians because the American people do not have permission from their president to vote for Donald.  HeilHillary!  It outta be a crime not to love her!
 
Alternate Universe № 3141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375110⁴⁹.  (This ratio *might* be the true value of π, if transcendental numbers do not actually exist.  In any event, because our home universe is quantized, there is probably no physical experiment that could ever be performed which would prove that this *isn’t* the true value of π.)
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary is openly working for Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid that wants to RULE THE WORLD by installing its Manchurian candidates as the leaders of all major governments.  None of the policies she espouses on the campaign trail have anything to do with her actual plans for her presidency, which consist of transferring all remaining wealth from Main St to Wall St while waging a causeless war against Russia in order to bring about the Nuclear Apocalypse, thus ensuring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ among the poor bedraggled survivors on a burnt-out planet.
      Resulting difference: Um, there seems to be a technical glitch in our Inter-Universal Counterfactuality gizmo.  Apparently the ID number for this “alternate universe” is actually a synonym of our own.  Anyway, by the Reflexive Property, there cannot be any difference between two universes that differ only in name and not in character.

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

(via)

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

Tags:

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.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/prosecutors-drop-drug-trafficking-case-fedex-39945630
    Fedex was targeted by the DEA for two years, apparently for refusing to pay the bribes that UPS did.

http://imgur.com/JWqceCx
    "Loch Ness woofer".

http://imgur.com/DIF4pZb
    We're out of dog treats? How could this happen???

http://66.media.tumblr.com/9dfb50a2a8f541b37e67df4f5474e390/tumblr_nmmpz5F28N1tj59g2o2_r1_500.gif
    Time is an endless 3-hour loop!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTUP4ET2IE0
    It gets better around 0:53.

https://twitter.com/joeheenan/status/744435423812923392
    Father's Day breakfast, made out of the most dangerous objects in the house.

http://i.imgur.com/PO746De.jpg
    Father's Day present from Potter fans.

http://i.imgur.com/xdZ7GxG.png
    Presumably this requires lemon juice to keep it edible.

http://imgur.com/bWXuUBV
    A bird.

https://i.reddituploads.com/b148c4b8180f4149953369f82fbc1140?
fit=max&h=1536&w=1536&s=5a64643c0eae45502de7961af96be22c

    A cat.

http://imgur.com/O76DLjA
    A dog.

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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.

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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
4(16.7%)
an engineer
2(8.3%)
a professional computer programmer/software developer/sysadmin
3(12.5%)
a native speaker of English
6(25.0%)
married and/or a parent
3(12.5%)
liberal
4(16.7%)
(I have something else in common with Pyesetz)
2(8.3%)

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

None of them
0(0.0%)
Some
1(16.7%)
Most
0(0.0%)
All of them
3(50.0%)
More than all (I Googled additional info)
2(33.3%)

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

Less wordy
1(5.6%)
Shorter posts (break up the vacation days into multiple LJ-post days)
1(5.6%)
Less minutia of places/times/prices
4(22.2%)
The characters in this story actually had names (rather than “a cast member” or “a store clerk”)
0(0.0%)
Less racism/sexism/capitalism commentary
1(5.6%)
Less anti-USA/pro-Canada sentiment
0(0.0%)
More fur
1(5.6%)
More sex/drugs/rock-n-roll
2(11.1%)
... they had never been written
0(0.0%)
Less “I am getting old” shit
2(11.1%)
Fewer pictures
0(0.0%)
More pictures
3(16.7%)
More pictures I actually took
3(16.7%)

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
1
0(0.0%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
2(33.3%)
4
2(33.3%)
5
2(33.3%)

Which of the following phrases appear in the trip report?

“our kids are just too old for a giant sandbox”
5(33.3%)
“the arrest of the fursuiter who exposed himself”
0(0.0%)
“the searing heat of Central Florida in September”
5(33.3%)
“the TSA agents are less nasty”
5(33.3%)
“his Islamic fundamentalism wasn’t too bothersome”
0(0.0%)

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.

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