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and things went downhill from there
(a desperate plea for fish)
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30th-Jul-2017 11:24 pm - My Left Foot
Crashing Mood
It has been a little while since I updated here, so I am trying to remember where I left off.

I think I mentioned the email I got that wanted me to show up for 3 1/2 months of intensive training on very short notice. The news on that is currently a holding pattern. The foot that I injured last year had been troubling me, and after pestering my doctor about it for months, he finally sent me off for x-rays. When I booked a follow-up appointment with him (to renew my prescriptions in case I got sent out of town, and to find out the results of the X-ray), he admitted that he is not an expert on feet, but that there was no obvious breaks or bone spurs. On the other hand, there were clear signs of swelling. He instructed his front end staff to refer me to a specialist.

The hemmed and hawed over it before finally recommending that I go to the Pan Am Clinic. It's a walk-in, first-come-first served clinic, though they prioritize by severity. They took down my details and gave me a number. Forty-five minutes later I saw a triage specialist who took down more detailed information, including the name of my family doctor. Then they told me to return in about four hours.

I had another two hour wait before I finally got in to see an actual doctor, though when I saw the condition of people who they were taking ahead of me, I did not begrudge the wait. He poked and prodded my foot and ankle, asked me a few questions, then called up the x-ray. When I described what had happened last year, he said that the x-ray confirmed it, and he then exactly described the symptoms that I would be having now because of it.

In a nutshell, when I pushed off with my left foot to straighten a draw-bar, the strain caused one of the small bones in my foot to dislodge and cross over one of the other bones. When I was flexing the foot a couple of days later, the pop I felt was the bone snapping back into place. In the process, it tore the tendon. I probably should have gone to see a foot specialist at the time, but it happened over the long weekend, and by the Tuesday, it was feeling much better and seemed to be on the mend.

The problem now is that when the tendon has suffered scarring, and it healed too short. As a result, I experience pain from walking, and shooting pains when walking on uneven terrain, navigating stairs/ladders, or otherwise pushing off from that foot. You don't want unexpected, shooting pains in your foot and ankle when you are working around large, industrial equipment.

Now that I have the formal diagnosis, I need to set up an appointment for physiotherapy where they will use ultrasound and lasers to essentially damage the tendon again and stretch it out properly as it heals. Does not sound pleasant. I also need to get some paperwork filled out for work to indicate that I am under a doctor's care until further notice, and will not be available for training in a safety-sensitive position.

ON ANOTHER FRONT

Over the winter I started buying instant decaf coffee to drink in the evenings. I used to buy ground decaf, but it always took me so long to go through a bag of it that it was invariably stale before I got to the end. With the instant decaf, the coffee is bad from the get go, so I can drink it at my leisure.

I have been trying a variety of brands in a quest to find the least awful of them. A couple of them were actually surprisingly drinkable, but the most recent one I bought was a German import that is vile. I had this misguided idea that Europeans know good coffee, so if it was from Germany, it must be good. I conveniently forgot that there are probably still old Soviet factories operating in some of the more remote parts of eastern Germany, and that this horrid product probably came from one of those. It tastes like coffee that was infused with despair and then had all the joy distilled out of it.

When I was out shopping last week, I found a coffee substitute in the organic food section of the store. It was a brand that I had never heard of, made from ingredients that sounded only vaguely familiar. I was both intrigued and repelled at the same time, so naturally I bought it. I made a cup of it the day that I brought it home and it's ... a thing. I tried it again the next day, making it slightly stronger, and adding sugar. It was a ... slightly stronger, moderately sweet .... thing. I can't really come up with adequate words to describe it. It's not what I would call good, but it's not really that bad either. I cannot claim that I enjoyed drinking it, but neither did I dread each sip.

I had a bit of a rough day today (had to spend a few hours dealing with work-related support issues), so this evening I decided to round out the awful with some decaf. I had the German crystals in my hand and briefly considered throwing them in the garbage, but on a whim I brewed up a cup with 60% of the German decaf, and 40% of the coffee substitute.

Oddly enough, the result was actually pretty good. I don't know what weird alchemy happened in my coffee cup, but apparently two wrongs can make a right if mixed properly.
9th-Jul-2017 11:02 pm - I may have got carried away...
OK...
When we signed up for Spotify Premium a few weeks ago, I thought it would be nice to put together a put together a few play lists for when I am at work, or relaxing at home, working in the yard, plotting revenge, etc.

Instead, what I ended up doing was just dumping every song I could think of that I like, or might like at some point into a giant play list of 3000+ songs.

On the plus side, it means I can hit shuffle and have a personal radio station of just music that I like. The down side is that it's like having a personal university station, where Tommy Dorsey might cross-fade into Killing Joke.

Megamix

That said, I enjoy the eclectic mix. I don't need to worry about getting bored with Pantera when, likely as not, Michael Bublé will be on next.
6th-Jul-2017 11:29 pm - Temporarily dodged a bullet
Burning Fur Mood
I got an email late Tuesday instructing me to board a plane the following Monday (a holiday up here) to fly out of town for an intensive 3 1/2 month training program on operating locomotives. if you do the maths, you will notice that they were giving me three working days notice for a 14+ week absence from home.

Sure. Fine. I'll just open 14 weeks worth of cat food and let them fend.

I told them to get stuffed - though in politer terms. I said that it was a ridiculously short notification, and left me no time to renew critical prescriptions, nor handle other pending issues. One of the issues being the foot that I injured during training last year that has been giving me increasing grief of late - long before they dropped this last minute bombshell on me. I got the results from my doctor on the x-rays he ordered for it, and though there are no visible fractures, he said there is definitely visible swelling. He has advised me to see a podiatrist, or or somebody who specializes in soft-tissue injuries.

When I advised the training department that there was not a chanced in Hell that I would be on a plane to the training centre on Monday, they responded by sending a passive-aggressive missive to my boss about how they had expected to find me "fit and ready" when the call came. He forwarded that to me, and if I had been angry with them before, I was even more angry with them. It appears that all of their communications have been with him - cutting me entirely out of the loop until they could drop a last-second demand on me to show up for training. The only reason I know about their snot-o-gram is because he forwarded it to me and asked for my comments.

I may have been a little acerbic in my reply, and pointed out that they were making some pretty broad assumptions about my immediate health and availability when the note they sent me last week was their first contact with me at all since October of last year. I have still not been directly advised by either my boss, or the training group that I was not expected out there on Tuesday. The communication in this whole management training program is bad beyond the point of farcical.

Something else I have raised a few times, but seems to be falling on indifferent ears, is the fact that I have about 290 working days left until I reach full pension. This means that if they force me into the 14+ week program, and I come out of it qualified as an engineer, I will still have a few months of familiarization and OJT before I am ready to start running trains. They are looking to spend a bucket load of money training me up for, at best, 150 working days of productivity.

As a shareholder of the company, I am appalled by the waste. Then again, this program is as much a social experiment as anything else. The CEO who brought it in here first set it up at our competition when he was running that company. Their board eventually pushed him out the door, and the company immediately began ramping the program down as an expensive a flop. One of the reasons they are still pushing hard to try and shove managers through this program is because of the alarming attrition rate. I don't know the actual figures, but from the results I've been seeing, for every ten people who they force through the program, two become medically disqualified shortly after they complete it, two go on long term stress leave, and another one quits to find work at a company that sucks less.

Go figure.
26th-Jun-2017 11:29 pm - Rage
Somewhat Pleased Mood
I did a rage uninstall on my phone today, and left an indignant one-star review on Google Play. It is the first time I have been moved to post a review, but these developers are particularly sketchy.

The strange part of it is that this was in response to a game that I've had for a couple of years. This was one of those typical jewel games where you flip the positions of coloured stones to create rows or columns of the same colour in a race against the clock.

The game has always been an ad-supported, but I've avoided installing ad-blockers on my phone because I can tolerate a few ads to support developers. Originally the ads were pretty unobtrusive, consisting of a small banner at the bottom, and the occasional full-screen ad after clearing a few levels. Over time, the ads became more frequent - usually after clearing 2-3 levels. For a brief span they had ads that would automatically bounce you to the download page for one of their other apps on the Play store, and I came close to dumping the game there, but they reverted that quickly after user complaints.

I did not play the game very often - and usually when I played, it was on long plane trips where I did not have net access, so their ad service behaved itself. Even so, whenever I played the game more recently, I noticed that it was up to popping an ad between every level clear, and then interrupting game-play to display full-screen ads. Again, after users pushed back, they scaled it back to ads ever 2-3 levels, and stopped interrupting in the middle of a level clear.

Today their game hijacked my lock screen with an ad. My phone had got an OS update earlier in the day, and at first I thought that Google had finally gone off the deep end. I closed the ad, and moments later it appeared again. I quickly realized it was tied to the Jewels Star, and I jumped to the play store to see if there were any comments. Sure enough, there was a flood of 1-star reviews by angry people who had encountered the same shenanigans.

The really insulting thing about it is that the developers are responding to the reviewers with a boilerplate response:

"ITREEGAMER June 26, 2017
Hello dear customer, thanks for your feedback and sorry for causing you this problem. We designed this lock-screen in order to make your screen more beautiful and protect your battery while charging. You can close it any time by pressing the button on the top-right corner of the lock screen."

The developers know that they have stepped over a line with this move, but based on their responses, they don't appear to care. I have a niggling suspicion that the company that developed this game may have changed hands at some point, because in spite of their irritating ads earlier, they were at least moderately responsive to the user comments. Now they are nudging the line between irritating and outright malware.

I'd recommend avoiding anything produced by these developers.
21st-Jun-2017 11:14 pm - Down the rabbit hole once again.
Trying to be cute
Spotify has become a rabbit hole for me lately.

CBC played a song earlier this evening, and though I tried to get Soundhound on my phone to recognize it, I guess it was too obscure or Canadian or something for the app.

At the end they identified the artist as Buffy Sainte-Marie. I went searching, but had no luck until some dedicated Googling revealed that it was actually a song she'd done with Tanya Tagaq.

Sadly, the song is not on Spotify.

No matter. I added a different song by her that I liked, and grabbed a couple by Tanya Tagaq while I was at it (she's one of those artists whose name I can never remember on demand. "You know - that lady who does the throat singing.")

I knew I had been spending enough time on Spotify when, ninety minutes later, I found myself adding Meat Puppets to my playlist.
Emo Luna Mood
Reddit has taken a sharp turn toward the lower end of the Int rolls since school got out for the summer. I don't know if we've been feeding this current crop of kids a steady diet of lead paint chips, or if 4Chan has sprung a leak, but it has been some time since I have seen such a big influx of herping and derping.

It's not the stupid that bothers me as much as it is the ignorance, and not even so much the ignorance, but the perverse pride that the ignorant take in their own ignorance. People proudly wear their lack of knowledge like it's some kind of achievement badge they earned for drinking the most turpentine without quite dying.

I understand that there are some subjects that will never interest some people. If somebody tells me that they have no interest in learning about a certain topic because it does not interest them, I will take them at their word and try to refrain from being judgemental, even if it is a topic in which I have a great deal of interest. I may consider them a dullard at that point, but I will cede their right to be one. There are matters out there that hold no interest for me, and I am sure that there are people who consider me a dullard for having no interest in learning about their passions.

On the other hand, I hold people in much lower esteem when they preface their statement ignorance with, "I am proud to say that I know nothing about X..."

That declaration can be implied, by expressing ignorance in something that could be figured out with a modicum of critical thinking.

A special lad posted a picture of a carton of Ice Milk today and said, "wtf is ice milk?"

I snarked at him that ice milk is exactly what it says it is.

There was a picture of the product on the carton. His picture included the ingredients list. A moment of critical thinking might have led one to conclude that ice milk is the same thing as ice cream, but with less fat content. Or, you know, just made with milk.

It's not rocket surgery. It just required thinking from somebody with an aversion to thinking.
11th-Jun-2017 10:16 pm - Cultural Appropriation
Somewhat Pleased Mood
A couple of weeks back the CBC morning show was giving some air time to a young woman who was talking at some length on the topic of cultural appropriation. The concept is not new, as it reflects the natural flow of memes and influences across different cultures when they meet. Our western culture is a result of millennia of intermixed religions, cuisine, traditions and language. English is a bastard child of almost too many different languages to count.

Lately - especially among the Tumblerina crown - there is a growing use of the term Cultural Appropriation in a negative light. The suggestion is that people gain a kind of inherent copyright on their language, style of dress, food, music and other things that fall under the shroud of their cultural aegis. This girl had made it her life goal to publicly shame people - mostly those with a higher profile in the community - whom she considered to be guilty of engaging in cultural appropriation.

I don't know what goal she pursues with her end game, but I imagine it's that she wants every culture carefully socked into isolated silos, with no cross-blending of ideas. While I am pretty sure she presents herself as a champion against racism, she seems to be chasing a means to encouraging the kind of isolation and ignorance that leads directly to it.

I think that the concept of cultural misappropriation is one of the dumbest things to come out of this century so far.

On another front, every time I start to think that maybe I'd like to keep working past my earliest retirement date, my company gives me start reminders of why I want out. I will miss the people, and I will miss the feeling of being part of a larger thing. I love being one of the old timers who has forgotten more than most of the newer folk have learned. I was joking with one of the others in my seniority group about how the top three of us had about 110 years of experience between us. Also, my director has made no secret of the fact that he's a bit scared of losing any of the three of us. We are not as technically skilled as the newer folks who have more schooling, but we have a very deep business knowledge, and we actually understand what the data we work with represents.

I got a call at 4:20 this morning from my immediate manager who had a bit of a panic attack over whether one of our key jobs had run properly (it had). At around 10 this morning I got another call because we'd had some issues with a patch on one of our Linux servers (always give us more grief than the Windows servers) and it caused the revenue numbers on our morning dashboard to be low. I was on and off the phone for the next six hours before they finally released me.

I have to be back on again at 1:30 tomorrow morning for another four hour stretch to monitor everything that runs because they're having fainting spells over the idea that the same problem might recur.

For most of those four hours I'll just be listening to the phone and levelling up my rogue in WoW. Time better spent sleeping, IMO.

On that note, I'm off to bed to see if I can catch a couple of hours nap before the long night begins.

This is something I won't miss after I retire.
31st-May-2017 11:26 pm - A work in progress.
Yarr!
I fell down the Spotify rabbit hole the past couple of nights, and started building myself a big playlist. I still have a couple more hundred songs to add to it before I am done with this round of additions, but it's coming along.

I will probably break out a few smaller, themed play lists (travel tunes, etc), but there are a lot of prefab ones out there that fit that role nicely. This is just an all purpose list of songs that I like, and add when they come to mind. For the most part Spotify has a very comprehensive library to pick from, but I have been disappointed by the lack of anything by Peter Gabriel, or the strange inclusion of just about every song by Nina Hagen except for the one that I want.

Spotify playlist
29th-May-2017 09:33 pm - They just keep adding letters.
OK...
I cut up some dry salami and applewood-smoked cheddar into small cubes last night and put them together in a container for today's lunch.

Question: what do you get when you pack salami and applewood-smoked cheddar together in the same container and leave them in the fridge overnight?

Answer: Salami, and salami-flavoured cheddar (with hints of applewood).

As I was cutting up some more tonight for tomorrow's lunch, I was pondering on whether to pack the cheese separately when I remembered that we bought some Trappist cheese on the weekend.

It would take a lot to overpower the smell and flavour of this cheese. In a battle of cheese and dry salami, I don't know which one would win.

But I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

On an unrelated note, they had a local news story on CBC radio this morning, where they kept referring to the LGBTTQ community. I thought it was a mistake the first time, but they repeated it a couple more times. I finally had to get [personal profile] atara to explain it to me because she is more in tune with the Tumbler culture. It turns out that the second T is two-spirited - which is not the same as B, or the first T. Wait, so is it kind of related to being gender-fluid? Apparently not. I guess it won't be long before it's the LGGBTTQ community.
28th-May-2017 04:03 pm - The songs of your life
Trying to be cute
We recently bucked up for a family account in Spotify Premium. [personal profile] atara was going to sign up anyway, and when I learned that it was only $5 extra to sign us both up under a family deal, I figured it was worth a shot.

I'd had Spotify on my phone and Surface earlier, and removed it from both for reasons that elude me now. I probably complained about it in LJ at the time, so I'm sure I could go back and revisit my reasons. So far I am liking it a lot, so it is possible that the free version included annoyances that I am not seeing in the paid version. I do know that it had a habit of spamming me with celebrity birthday in the phone version, but that was something I could easily shut off, and does not seem like the driving force behind a full system purge.

Right now I'm looking to build myself a good play list for it. I'd love to mirror the one on my old iPod, but that would involve either manually replicating it song by song, or installing iTunes again. I'd rather not do either, but I guess the process of producing a new play list will give me a chance to add in some newer music, and revisit some of the songs that I've been meaning to remove from the list.

On the subject of iTunes, does anybody know of a good alternative I can get for Windows? I want to update the play list on my old iPod, but after my last experience with iTunes, I'd rather not expose my current install to that bit of malware.

iTunes needs to install updates. Please click "accept" and pay no attention to the details. Trust Steve.

Oh, hello, I see you have added Safari to the list of automatic "updates" again.

Fortunately, it sounds like they mercifully discontinued the Windows version of their browser, so at least I could scratch that off the list of concerns.

I like the convenience of the iPod when I am travelling, but I hate the inconvenience of trying to update its play list. It would be nice if I could just update the play list by dragging songs in or out of the folder - like on every other media device I've ever owned - but I understand that Apple does not play that way. So if anyone has suggestions for a good iTunes work-around, I'd appreciate any help.
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