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and things went downhill from there
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5th-Nov-2017 07:00 pm - Virtue Signalling
Burning Fur Mood
I responded to one of those Facebook memes yesterday, though I knew in advance that I was in a no-win position with my response. The person who posted it was just virtue-signalling, and she really had not thought through what she had posted, and had no desire to actually think about it critically.

The post was a bit hard to read because it was an image meme that had been passed around so many times that it was almost as much jpeg artifact as it was image by this point, but it said, "Please don't put up decorations until Nov 12th. Respect our Veterans!"

November 11th is a holiday up here called Remembrance Day when we are supposed to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of the soldiers who died in the first world war (and then each subsequent "war to end all wars" that came after). The holiday is meant as a cautionary day, when we set aside some quiet time in sombre contemplation on the horrors of war, and remember the people who died in it. The whole point in remembering is to understand that war should always be the last resort, not the first.

Unfortunately, it has since morphed into a day when people trip over themselves to show how much they love veterans in a form of weird, military-worship that has become frighteningly popular. Notice how they even capitalized the word veteran as if it is too important to use lower case, similar to how a religious person will capitalize words like "Hi" and "Him" when it is a reference to their deity.

I knew it was a losing argument, but I asked her, "How is putting up decorations prior to the 12th even remotely disrespectful to veterans?"

Her response was, " I was taught if it was not for the veterans we may not be able to celebrate Christmas,but again that is only my thoughts."

Because the Germans did not believe in Christmas... but let that one slide.

I replied, "We are able to celebrate Christmas because of the veterans, and we thank them by not celebrating Christmas?"

In fact, I think that if veterans had returned from a war where they fought for our ability to celebrate Christmas, rather than feeling disrespected if we put up lights, they would feel disrespected if we did not. Military veterans have weighed in on this topic over the years in some of the subs I follow on Reddit, and they almost universally hate this kind of deification of veterans. None of them seem to mind veteran discounts that many places offer (and why should they?), but they find the military worship a bit awkward and disturbing.

I may do a longer post about our recent vacation, or I might just leave you with a random assortment of photographs I took on it.

Wild child
A moment of colour

Finally, as I was writing this post, I heard about the latest mass shooting in the US. Deaths in the double-digits.

I really don't have anything to say about this. If a nation does not want to fix itself, it's not my place to preach.

I'm starting to become a bit numb to these events, other than to be grateful that so far they have not directly affected any of my friends or family.

Burning Fur Mood
While we were visiting Ohio on this trip, my in-laws took me to witness something that is apparently an annual event in these parts. It appeared to be a march, where various factions boisterously presented their colours.

When we arrived, people were already gathering in a manner that appeared to be partly organized, but mostly ad hoc. Most were lining the sides of the street, kept on the side walks by a light police presence.
Homecoming Parade

The main part of the march was preceded by a procession of modified cars, but soon it was dominated by marchers carrying banners bearing their colours, and the names of their affiliated groups. These were interspersed with more vehicles, many of them modified to allow groups to assemble and ride on open platforms. Some of the riders would occasionally reach into bags they had brought with them and throw handfuls of small objects into the crowd - especially if they saw children.
Homecoming Parade

Many of the grim-faced marchers carried instruments with them that were often as ungainly as they were loud. They used these to play the soundtrack of their march, keeping time for their steps with staccato blasts and the thud of drums. The police were ever present in the background.
Instrument of Choice

As is often the case at events such as this, the police swept in after the marchers in force to clear the streets and maintain order. After a brief, potentially awkward stand-off with this young bystander, the situation was quietly defused when he picked up what appeared to be a piece of candy from the street and then stepped aside to allow the police to pass.
Homecoming Parade

Apparently they call this a "homecoming parade" - a local tradition to welcome home participants in one of their athletic sports. It was all a bit surreal, but it ended happily enough for all involved.
2nd-Oct-2017 08:04 pm - Semagic and Dreamwidth
Burning Fur Mood
Semagic began giving me errors this evening when I tried to post my last entry. I use Semagic because I like the interface, and because it lets me simultaneously post to LJ and Dreamwidth so that I can keep both accounts going.

After playing with it for a few minutes, I discovered that it would let me post to LJ, but Dreamwidth kicked me out with a redirect error. My suspicion was that DW may have disabled the non-secure connection, so I tried changing the settings on my DW connection to port 443, and enabled SSL.


If you are using Semagic to post here and having trouble with it, you might want to try the same fix.
2nd-Oct-2017 07:43 pm - Bang bang
Blah Mood
I've been so busy of late that I've been letting my journal lapse again.

I am still technically too injured to continue with training at work, though at the moment they have suspended the training program as part of their bargaining with the running trades unions, so my buggered ankle is moot at the moment.

I moved into the new office today. The other IT guys got there first and claimed the more desirable desks, but in the grand scheme of things, this office has a much better layout than the other one, and there are no bad desks. I really like the new office, and my new desk. We don't have windows on our side of the office, but I can stand up see out the large end windows by leaning over my partition. We have a view looking east up the length of the yard. Not exactly scenic, but it allows a lot of daylight in during the morning.

There was a hiccough or three in the move. The first was when I chose a desk and began setting up my workstation only to discover that both of its network plugs were dead. Rather than move everything immediately, I took my phone to the desk that was my second choice, and its connections were both dead too. Hm. One of the guys from Damage Prevention overheard what was happening, and he explained that they hadn't had enough free spots on the switch for every desk, so they'd picked a couple at random to leave unconnected.

I finally moved to the desk next to the east office which was, in retrospect, probably the best of the three anyway (not only because it had working network ports). Things were going well until I fired up my workstation and saw this:

I was a little miffed about this because I tore down the workstation when I got kicked out of my old desk, put it into storage, and performed the move myself, so I know that it was handled gently and (more importantly) not dropped at any point during the move. I had noticed that the post-it with my name had disappeared from the monitor while it was in storage, and now it is pretty clear that the not did not vanish; the monitor did. Somebody on one of the weekends or other off-shifts swapped out their broken monitor for mine and didn't bother to tell anyone that it needed replacing. Bastards.

The head IT guy in our office gave me the 24" off his desk and ordered a replacement for himself since he is still working out of the other office, so in the end it worked out.

Once I got the computers set up, I got busy taking care of the important things:
Nightmare Moon

I'd have worried about leaving this out in our old office, but we have a very small number of people working in this building, and most of the staff do not have a pass card to get in here.

On another front, we woke up this morning to the news of another mass shooting. I'm sad, but not surprised. It makes me think that there might be some wisdom in the idea of building border walls to keep out the crazies. Right now we share a very long border with a country whose citizens are content with regular mass shootings. We wouldn't even need a particularly sturdy or tall wall to be effective - we'd just need to line it with signs warning that there is socialized medicine and legal gay marriage on the other side, and it would act as repellent to the craziest of the lot.

The original of this entry was posted over at https://plonq.dreamwidth.org/. I will keep mirroring my entries over here for as long as LJ does not suspend or close my account.
15th-Sep-2017 10:09 am - Weird, work-related dreams
Burning Fur Mood
I had a weird, work-related dream last night.

At the start of the dream I wasn't actually working, rather I was just out with my younger brother and we happened to be down by the tracks watching them move cars. In this case, the cars were being moved by somebody who was obviously a contractor, because rather than a locomotive, he was driving a Semi that had been modified to run on rails. He was tied onto about a dozen cars, and was trying to back them around a fairly tight bend into what I assumed was a storage siding. The guy was having trouble getting the cars to move, and finally he floored it and they started to move. I remembered part of my training about the dangers of applying too much throttle when pushing around a corner, and even as I thought that, one of the cars in the middle of the cut jumped the rail with its trailing set of trucks and began bouncing along the ties.

I hopped of the car and ran toward the guy, frantically waving a stop signal at him with both arms. He stared at me for quite awhile, pushing this derailed car up the rails before he finally stopped. When he stopped, the slack ran out and the car hopped back onto the rails. Naturally he did not believe me about the derailment, even when I pointed to the trail of broken ties. He yelled at me about how I was killing his productivity, hopped back into his truck, and floored it again.

This time he managed to jackknife and derail the whole track; cars went everywhere.

He was livid. He started screaming at me about how this was all my fault for putting him behind, and how he was going to kill me and my brother. By this time I was back in the car (because he had at least cleared the crossing) and we both agreed that we should probably report this incident - not the least reason being that he was threatening our lives.

The dream transitioned to the office, where I was looking for somebody who might care about a contractor who had derailed a dozen cars and threatened to kill an employee and his family member. The office was mysteriously empty, but I finally managed to track everybody down in one of the large meeting rooms. One of our project leads was out from the head office, giving a talk about swearing in the workplace. The focus of the talk was not what I'd have expected though, focusing on how swearing has been shown to be good stress-reliever, and is a valuable tool when employed respectfully. She illustrated a respectful use of swearing.

"Our new director is a cunt."

Everybody applauded - well, in fairness I did not. I was a bit appalled, thinking, "That's not really very respectful at all, even if she used a fake Aussie accent when saying it. Our new director is actually very nice."

It was about this time that I began to suspect that it was a dream, and I woke shortly after.
11th-Sep-2017 10:09 am - Ergonomics
Burning Fur Mood
We bought a new microwave oven on the weekend to replace the one that died on Friday. On my list of exciting things to do, buying a microwave oven rates pretty low down the list. A microwave oven is not one of those fun appliances that you stand around and try different things with. Not any more. We all know what happens when you put an egg, grape, puppy (etc) in the microwave oven; it does not end well.

The old one was getting on 30 years old, but it was actually pretty fancy for its time. Many of the ones available at the time still had dials, but mine had push buttons, and pre-sets, and even a meat probe that I never got around to using. It also had a couple of clever ergonomic touches that I have always thought should be standard in every microwave oven.

We did a bit of research before both of us decided that a microwave oven does not require the same level of careful selection as a camera, or a car, or something else that is actually fun to buy. We drove up to Canadian Tire and picked up a free one using our accumulated points there. Our two main criteria was that it should be at least 1000 watts, and large enough to be useful, but small enough to fit the existing microwave stand. It's effectively the same brand as our old one (Panasonic versus Sanyo), so I hoped that some of the features of the old one would carry over.

My favourite feature did not.

The turntable in our old microwave oven always stopped in the same position as it started. If I put a cup of coffee in the oven and hit any amount of time, when I opened the door at the end, the turntable would have completed its rotation so that the handle was facing exactly where I had left it. This new oven behaves like all of the ones in our office (they have 3 different brands strewn about in the break room). When the cooking stops, the turntable stops.

I am left wondering if this was some patented action that Sanyo licensed very briefly and then stopped using it, or if I just happened to buy an oven that was designed by forward-thinking engineers who said, "This would be a really nice little ergonomic touch..." It was just one of those nice little things that one takes for granted until it is gone.

--- The original of this is posted at https://plonq.dreamwidth.org/
Burning Fur Mood
We had a very modest dinner this evening (a small, frozen pizza split between us) and I was in the mood for dessert. I suggested walking up to the corner shop for sundaes, but the other half of "we" in the equation was not interested.

I considered moping about it for awhile, but decided to be more productive and make myself a dessert instead. I've made those microwaved, coffee mug brownies in the past with good success, and that seemed like just the right amount to sate my dessert cravings.

It was a smashing success, right up to the point where the microwave oven died about 1/4 of a second after I hit the power button. At first I assumed I had blown the breaker, but further investigation narrows it down to the microwave oven itself.

I've had this oven for almost thirty years, so it really doesn't owe me anything. I guess we'll be shopping around for a new one this weekend (unless we discover that it's just a blown fuse in the microwave itself - we'll pull it out for a look on the weekend before we start spending money on a new one).

I never did get around to using the meat probe that came with it, though I will admit that the thought of cooking a roast in the microwave oven never crossed my mind in all this time.

In work-related news, my company released a notice to the press that they have signed a one-year contract with the T&E and Teamsters that will take them through to the end of 2018. The plus side for me is that it relieves a bit of the pressure off the company to cram as many people through their awful management conductor/engineer training program to have them in place for strike work next year.

This does not mean that I won't get forced into the program again once my ankle is finally fixed, but it increases the odds that by the time they push me back into it, I'll be so close to retirement as to make it pointless for both of us.

I was chatting with a co-worker last week who is in the management conductor pool, and he mentioned a curiosity that he has noticed on the list of people on call for it. He said, "It's weird, but for all the people the are cramming through the program, the number of people in the call pool is not getting any larger."

Actually, it's not that weird at all. Most of the people they are forcing into the program are older employees who they consider less of a flight risk; that is, people who have enough time invested in their career that they will deal with the hardship rather than throw away 20+ years of pensionable service. The problem is that these are mostly people like me, who have been working sedentary desk jobs for decades. Also, the way they treat qualified people in these positions is abominable, often sending them off to remote locations on same-day notice.

"Hey, pack your bags and fly out tonight for ten days in Cousinlove Saskatchewan, where you get to work in a stressful situation with people who resent you."

"Sure thing. The dog and kids can take care of themselves."

Anyway, it turns out that for everyone who qualifies, another one either gets injured, gets medically disqualified (arthritis flared up, heart condition, bad back - you know, the kinds of things that can happen to older, sedentary people who are suddenly thrust into outdoor manual labour around heavy equipment), goes on stress leave because of the awful conditions, retires, or quits.
4th-Sep-2017 04:38 pm - Spectacles
Burning Fur Mood
How is it that I have never before seen this video?!

I purchased this on vinyl many years back when that was still my main means of playing music. At the time, I was just beginning to collect earlier works of Jethro Tull after being introduced to them by way of their Broadsword LP. The album that I purchased came in a plain white sleeve, with the words "NOT FOR RESALE" clearly printed on the cover. The used record shop obviously felt that the warning only applied to new copies.

I really liked a couple of the tracks on first listening, but the rest of the album grew on me over time. This was always my favourite track.
27th-Aug-2017 07:18 pm - Iron Pen
Burning Fur Mood
I entered the Iron Pen contest again this year at Furry Migration, and I finished down in the pack again for the second year running. On rereading this one, I can see why I fell short again. I can also see a few mistakes that sneaked into it when I was madly editing it to bring it into the allowed word count (not over 1000 words). My first draft was 1128 words, so I had to do some significant editing.

I would do some clean-up if it was going to go into the con book, but that honour goes to [personal profile] atara for the second year running. She has been on a writing tear of late, and I have always told her she is a better writer than I am. Maybe she will start to listen after trouncing me two years running in this contest.

8<---- losing entry below ----

The beaver could not suppress his giggles as his friend led him, blindfolded, toward what he presumed was the basement of the house. "All I'm saying," he said between chuckles, "is that slapping a blindfold on your best friend and then leading him to the basement seems a little risqué is all."

"It's because it's a surprise," said the goose. "If you could see then it wouldn't be a surprise."

"I could just close my eyes."

"You'd peek. I know you."

"I could peek now," retorted the beaver. He tilted back his head to show the gap between the blindfold and his muzzle. "I see you, Tommy…" he said, peering at his friend under the blindfold. The goose honked angrily and clapped a wing across his friend's face.

"No peeking!" The beaver continued giggling, but he complied with the order while the goose led him carefully through the house and down the back stairs to the basement. Finally, he gently tugged the beaver to a halt and dramatically announced, "Welcome to my secret lab."

"It smells like your bedroom," said the beaver, wrinkling his nose.

"It's multifunctional," said the goose primly. "You may now remove your mask and be amazed on the count of three. One… two…" The beaver whipped off his mask. "Todd!" said the goose with another wrathful honk, but he could not stay angry when the beaver emitted a squeal of delight.

"Omigod that is so cute! Dude, you got a dogbot!" The beaver dropped to his knees to get a closer look at the little dog standing in the middle of his friend's bedroom floor. In truth, it would have been hard to miss the diminutive mechanical beast as it was in a small oasis of clear floor, surrounded by a ring of discarded clothes, snack food wrappers, and other knickknacks that tended to accumulate in an unkept room. "I didn't know your family was rich. How did you afford this little guy?"

"I built him," said the goose with affected humility. He buffed his chest with the tip of his right wing. "That's why I was working two jobs all summer. I saved up every credit until I could afford to download a kit from Earth." He called to the dog. "Watson, speak!"

"Hello, my name is Watson," said the dog in a tone and accent that seemed to be as neutral as one could design.

"Wow, you're already teaching him tricks," said the beaver in hushed wonder. "Is he friendly? Can I pet him?" The goose nodded, and the beaver gently patted the robotic dog on the fake fur between its ears. It responded with a faint whir as its tail activated and thumped rhythmically on the floor. "Did you get him at Dogmart?"

"Got him from Fidonet," said the goose breezily, "and I printed him at the library. I could only print a couple parts at a time, but it was cheap."

"Fidonet?" said the beaver with an incredulous slap of his tail. "You pirated a dog?"

"Do you know how much the bandwidth cost to download this dog?" demanded the goose defensively. "I paid more than what he'd have cost in downloading him. Totally worth it though because he's one of the premium kits. This is Corgi_V2 Model_7, three-time winner of Best in Show at the Kiev dog show."

"Wow, best in show…" said the beaver. He drew it out into a long sigh, and reached out to pat the dog again. He paused with his hand an inch above the mechanical beast's head, and his expression changed. His muzzle scrunched up in thought. "Wait, did you say corgi? I've seen pictures of dogs, and this ain't no corgi. This is, like, a schnauzer."

"What?" demanded the goose. He snatched his tablet off his bedside table and quickly tapped and swiped through a few screens before turning it to his friend with a triumphant sweep. "Well, I've got an assembly manual that says otherwise. Look here, it says Corgi_V2 Model_7." The beaver looked unconvinced. "Fine," said the goose with an exasperated puffing of chest down, "Let's ask him. Watson, what dog breed are you?"

"I'm a mechanical dog," replied Watson unhelpfully, thumping the floor again with its tail. "Shall we play fetch?"

The beaver pulled a phablet out of his coat and held it up. "Computer, show me pictures of schnauzers," he said. The device complied, and the beaver reluctantly turned it so that his friend could see. He felt a pang of sadness when Tommy's feathers flattened and wings sagged as he glanced between the pictures on the phablet and his new mechanical pet.

"They ripped me off," he wailed. "They sent me a bad dog."

The mechanical dog's ears immediately drooped in response to the words. "Disciplinary speech pattern detected," it said in as contrite a manner as its neutral tone allowed. "Please identify my errant behavior so that I may recalibrate my network to avoid this action in future."

"It's nothing you did," said the beaver, patting the forlorn-looking mechanical schnauzer on the head. "It's more of an, uh, existential kind of bad." The little dog's mechanical ears pivoted while it absorbed this new tidbit of information.

"This model is not programmed to contemplate on deeper philosophical matters," it said. "I require additional data on the objective criteria that differentiates conceptual good from bad. How does one calculate a concise measure of bad?"

"Would you bite my sister?" said the goose.

"I programmed not to bite except in defence of my master," replied the robotic dog.

"Would you bite her if she was being a total goober, and I asked you to bite her?" The dog's ear's rotated in thought.

"Yes," it said, "I would bite your sister if she was being a total goober."

"Well you may not be a corgi, but you are a good dog," said the goose. He bent down and patted the little mechanical dog's head with the tip of his wing. "Good dog."
27th-Aug-2017 03:41 pm - Furry MIgration
Burning Fur Mood
We likely won't be making it to any of the larger cons this year due to scheduling conflicts, but we drove down to Furry Migration again because we really enjoyed it last year. We like the larger conventions, but there is a certain appeal to the smaller ones as well. With the more intimate venue and lighter schedule, there is a much greater chance of encountering people you know, and more freedom to organise outside activities.

We would like to come back to this one again next year, but it comes so close to my projected retirement date, there is a good chance I will be completely consumed with work activities around the same time as the convention.

The weather was much nicer last year, but we did not allow the cool, damp conditions to put a chill on our activities. We managed to see all of the people we wanted to see, and to go all the places we were hoping to go.
Gloomy weather

Somehow my camera just knows how to pick out the snow leopards in the crowd.
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