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and things went downhill from there
(a desperate plea for fish)
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17th-May-2017 09:35 pm - You hoped we wouldn't notice
Emo Luna Mood
Our VP was in town today. Actually, he's been in town for the last couple of days, but today was when he was supposed to come through the office to check on how things operate here. Everyone made sure to be in the office today - on time, and wearing collared shirts even - but in the end he never bothered to show. I guess he had lots of important things to do and we just weren't worth a few minutes out of his important day. I suspect that ultimately he blew us off because he didn't think that we knew that he was in town.

But we knew.

This is not a large department - the company has seen to that through years of deep cuts - so it is hard to keep secrets. He'd been given an edict by the CEO to get out and actually make a physical presence at some of our remote locations in order to meet the people who work for him, and get a hands on feel for what they actually do. Our new CEO does not take kindly to underlings who hide in the safety of the the head office, and he has been leaning on other VPs to get out and mingle. I suppose I can cut our VP a bit of slack, since this is the first time in his entire tenure that he has stepped out of the head office.

It can be a bit daunting to actually meet real people when you have only been surrounded by the other bobble-heads on the lead team, so I can understand his desire to coward out on us. He certainly went out of his way to try and make sure we didn't know he was in town. If it was not for a couple of our guys having deep-throat moles in the head office, we might not have known of his visit. Brushing us off - even if he thought we didn't know he was in town - is weak leadership. Sadly, it does not surprise me. I have never been blown away by this guy's leadership skills.

Our previous VP may have been a hatchet woman, but she would never have pulled a stunt like this. I didn't really like her, but unlike our current VP, at least I respected her.
13th-May-2017 11:49 am - Toast
Trying to be cute
I just noticed that I've got about 70 different remixes of Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" in my music library. I like the song, but not that much. I've no idea where those came from - probably a Perry bomb delivered by one of the Asian midget bondage porn sketchy sites that I visit from time to time.

We had avocado toast for brunch this morning along with coffee (for me) and tea (for her). It is a remarkably simple thing, and I find it to be a great accompaniment to a lazy Saturday morning. If you haven't heard of it, I'll post the recipe here.

Avocado Toast (Serves 2)
Ingredients:
4 slices Bread - your choice of style
1 large Hass avocado
A pinch of kosher salt
A splash of lemon juice

Optional Ingredients:
2 large rib-eye steaks
2 large potatoes (any kind will work, but Russets are pretty popular)
Butter (for potatoes)
Sour Cream (for potatoes)
1 ½ cups kernel corn (frozen will work)


Instructions:
Put the bread in a toaster. If you don't have a 4-slice toaster, you may wish to purchase one now. We have a toaster oven because we try to avoid uni-task appliances. While the bread is toasting, remove the peel and pit from the avocado, or remove the pit and scoop the flesh out of the skin - which ever you find easer. Roughly mash the avocado in a bowl using the back of a fork, or a dedicated avocado-masher if you are the kind of person who also has a 4-slice toaster. Add a pinch of kosher salt (or non-kosher if that's the way you roll) and a splash of lemon juice. You can use fresh lemon juice for this, but those little lemon-shaped plastic bottles are so cute, I don't know how you could resist buying one.

Ding! Toast is done.

Remove the toast from the toaster, or toaster oven, being careful not to burn yourself again. Seriously, that hurts. Don't burn yourself on the edge. Distribute the mashed avocado evenly on the four slices of toast and serve while the toast is still warm, and the avocado still chilled. This makes a satisfying brunch on a lazy Saturday, and a filling meal if you include the optional ingredients.
Burning Fur Mood
After coming up clean for years, the hygienist found two cavities on the x-ray during a routine cleaning last week. The dentist came in at the end of the cleaning, double-checked the x-ray and then poked around with a probe and confirmed that I had the beginnings of two small cavities - one on the lower left side, and the other on the upper right - that would need to be addressed. They made a follow-up appointment for today to get them both drilled and filled.

On the one hand, I was glad to be getting them both out of the way at the same time. On the other hand, when you are getting fillings on both sides of your mouth, it makes it hard to pick a side to chew with during the recovery period.

I have bad teeth, which are worse for years of neglect before I got into a good cleaning and brushing cycle again. Having to get two of them extracted turned into a wake-up call for me, and I started taking better care of them again after that. I won't be growing any more teeth as I lose these ones, and I don't want to enter my later years wearing full a full set of dentures like my mother. I inherited my rotten teeth from her side of the family, and I don't want to inherit dentures from her side as well.

I am not a fan of getting dental work done - any dental work, including scaling and cleaning. Fillings and root canals are the worst though. It's not the drilling that bothers me, it's when they inject the Novocaine. I hate getting needles - especially in the mouth. The first couple of times I needed to get injections in the mouth for dental work at my current dentist, I came very close to fainting in the chair. I felt a little silly about it at the times, because my current dentist is actually very skilled; I can barely feel it go in, and there is virtually no soreness when the numbing comes out.

I think I am still traumatized by the dental work I had done on me when I was young. Dad was notorious for sniffing out details. He found a barber who would cut our hair for free, and he took us to him every time he felt we needed a trim. This guy should have been long retired, but he had a dusty old shop set up in the front of an old hotel in Victoria where he would put his blunt razor and old-time hair tonic to good use. Seriously. He hacked off our hair using only a comb and a straight razor, and he had bottles of hair tonic all around his shop.

Anyway, I think he found a deal on a dentist. This guy would do the work for cheap, as long as nobody started asking any awkward questions. The worst thing with him was the needle. My memories are probably clouded by trauma, but I clearly remember it looking like this:
Pain

It was huge. You could hear and feel the pop as it pierced the inside of your mouth, and it hurt like heck in spite of the fact that he'd swab on a topical numbing agent first. Almost worse was that he would just blast the Novocaine into you and the yank the needle out again in order to get the process over with as quickly as possible. I remember some of the injections hurting for more than a week after I'd had the fillings done. I also sometimes wonder if he watered down the anaesthetic, because I don't remember having things go as numb as they do when my current dentist performs work.

I am probably being unkind to the man, who probably prided himself in his work, but in my memories of him he was a butcher. One of the teeth I lost in later years was partly due to nerve damage he did with on of his over-aggressive fillings. The bridge that I have there now is part of his legacy. Another part of his legacy was instilling a deep fear of needles into me. It is only in recent years that I can finally get a flu shot without breaking out in a cold sweat and swooning.

One thing I can say with certainty is that if my current dentist had been the one treating me back in my youth, I'd have been more vigilant about keeping up visits as I got older.
7th-May-2017 03:59 pm - Frustration
Please Sir May I have Some More
The basement file server has been driving me to drink lately. It was rock solid when I was running it under Windows 7, but when I upgraded it to 10 (to try and address some network issues between it and the upstairs machines), it became unreliable. The networking is rock solid now, but the basement machine has issues.

It would run for about a week at a time before locking up and requiring a power cycle. I did some clean-up and repair, and got it to the stage where it could go for about two weeks at a time, but unless it was restarted in that time, it would eventually die again.

One of the last fixes I did was to set up a reboot script to restart the machine every Sunday morning. Yesterday the machine was working fine, and this morning I had to trek down to the basement to restart it. When I checked the logs, I saw that it had not restarted this morning like it was supposed to. I checked the schedule I had set up, and I caught my mistake there - I had not given it sufficient permissions to run when nobody is logged into the machine. I changed the settings, and I'll look in on it again next Sunday.

The issue seems to be one of resource exhaustion. A small handful of services are slowly chewing up the system resources until it does not have enough left to create a login session. I did a bit more Googling this morning, and I discovered that the swUSB process I had assumed was a Windows process is actually part of the drivers for the RealTEK LAN device I'd had hooked up to the machine when we first set it up. I was using that device until sometime after the swap to Windows 10, and I am thinking its drivers did not like the update.

I replaced it with a better ASUS device awhile back, but I guess I neglected to uninstall the RealTEK drivers. A couple of sources I read mentioned that their driver had a serious memory leak, and since it is one of the culprits that always comes up when the system runs out of resources, it was an easy hit.
Resource Exhaustion

Another process that keeps coming up in the list of resource-hogs is SMSvcHost.exe. It is a legitimate service (I checked to make sure it hadn't been replaced by a Trojan), but when I poked around at what it does, it did not seem especially critical. I have disabled the service for now to see what kind of an impact that has, but so far I have not noticed any difference. If I start seeing errors and warnings in the system logs about it, I'll turn it back on.

On a completely unrelated note, while I was puttering around the house this morning, I got to mulling on old friends I had in the Lion King fandom community back in the day, and it occurred to me that I have lost touch with all but a few of them. Some of them were very talented writers, and we would often bounce our stories off each other for comments and critique. One writer was a giant in the community, whose fan fictions spawned a whole genre of fan fictions of their own. When I say "he", it was actually a collaborative team. This one writer did most of the work, but he often paired up with others in the fandom to produce the stories.

I was never a huge fan of his work, but I was also not his target audience. They were very popular with the 13-21 age group, in part because each of his stories was as much an emotional roller-coaster as it was a tale. While I admired his work, and never really begrudged him his popularity... well, ok. Maybe a bit, but who isn't a bit jealous of the popular kids now and then? Anyway, I always felt that his writing was top quality, but I also found it to be somewhat manipulative. He was a master of wresting emotion out of his readers.

Anyway, he started on a fairly ambitious writing project with a mutual friend, and as he went, he often sent me chapters to review. For some reason he respected my opinion. For the most part I did not have much feedback, other than pointing out areas where the prose became a bit too purple, or minor issues like confused attributions and the like.

Then there was the chapter.

He sent me several chapters to read through, and I dutifully read through them, making minor notes, suggesting small revisions, and rolling my eyes at obvious emotional tugs here and there. Then I got to the chapter where he excruciatingly killed off one of the main characters in a very long, emotional orgy of sadness. I could tell that he had poured a lot into this chapter, because it really stood out from the others he had written. He had obviously given it a lot of thought. It looked like the chapter he had been waiting to write.

The problem was that it did not fit. It seemed to have no place in the story other than to make the readers sad. Other than that character falling out of the story from that point forward, nothing changed. It did not inspire any action on any of the others in the story, nor did it even affect the overall plot. Everybody else in the story continued on as if nothing had happened, other than expressing their sadness that the character's passing once or twice in the next couple of chapters.

When I gave him feedback, I fear that I may have been a bit too ruthless. I told him that the chapter was wonderfully written, but that it was just an interlude of pointless pathos. I asked him to explain its purpose in the story, and pointed out that if the chapter did not exist, the story would not actually change at all. He offered up some justifications for the chapter, and I pulled out the passive-aggressive card and said, "Well, it's your story; include or exclude it as you choose. You asked for my opinion, and I gave it."

In the end, he removed the chapter, but I think it hurt him to do it. I do feel a bit bad about that in retrospect, since it didn't really hurt anything by being in there, and I can't help thinking that I overstepped a bit by calling him on it. He stopped sending me stories for feedback after that. I guess I can't really blame him.
6th-May-2017 10:52 am - Winnipeg Rye
Masturbatory Mood
Somebody posted a question to a local forum recently, asking why rye bread is so popular in Winnipeg.

I had not given it much thought, but it occurs to me that I eat far more rye bread now than I did before I moved here. In fairness, the most popular form of rye bread here is not the type of bread that I associated with it when I was growing up. I always pictured rye bread as something close to pumpernickel, with caraway seeds in it. Winnipeg-style rye is actually very light, and baked in a manner that makes for good toast, but awkward sandwiches.

Winnipeg Rye

One poster in the forum suggested that sandwiches made with rye bread are popular here because folks wouldn't live in Winnipeg at all if they did not like a challenge. It's hard to argue with that.

The population here is anecdotally divided along cultural lines when it comes to their choice of rye bread as well, with the Jewish community favouring it from one bakery, and the Ukrainian community preferring it from another. There is a third major bakery in the background jumping and waving and calling, "hey, we make it too!" Other than the shape and size of the loaves, I cannot tell much difference between the bread produced by the three major players here, though I was not born here, so my opinion on the matter is tempered by being a recent arrival versus people born into the rye situation.

While Winnipeg rye is the predominant player in the market here, there are obviously other styles available as well. Many breakfast places will give you marble rye if you order rye toast in the morning, and some of the fancier restaurants will sneak dark rye into the complementary bread plates they serve before a meal. One long-established steak house has their own in-house dark rye with a salted crust that [personal profile] atara and I both really like.

On a broader note, Winnipeg has a few cuisines that - while not unique - are an integral part of the local dining experience. If I was going to list five foods that I consider integral to the Winnipeg culture, just off the top of my head I would list:
Winnipeg Rye
Perogies
Bagels
Koubasa
Honey Dill Sauce

As a fun footnote, if you happen to visit Winnipeg and want to get a group of people into an argument, ask them how to spell "Perogies" or "Koubasa".
3rd-May-2017 10:55 pm - I may have to dust off my wallet
Somewhat Pleased Mood
One of the hardest things for me in moving from Livejournal to Dreamwidth has been giving up the bulk of my user avatars. That's not to say that I have bailed on LJ. I thought about it, and to my mind, the worst case is that they end up nuking my account. The vast bulk of my posts there were public postings, so if the new Russian owners decide to scan my journal for their own purposes, there is little they will find there that they will not also find here, or on a Google search of my on-line handle.

But I digress.

The point of this post was to whine about how I only have fifteen avatars available on a free account here. That's enough, or at least it should be enough. I think that I am spoiled from having close to 150 of them available at my fingertips over on the other journal service, even if I only used a dozen of them regularly. It was nice having the weird ones available, like when I wanted to post with the avatar of a baby smoking a cigarette, or a plastic nun with sparks shooting out of her mouth.

I have read that people can become paralysed by too much choice. [personal profile] atara and I became gripped by this phenomenon when we were shopping for a new television, and we spent months researching the best set before heading down to the store and staring helplessly at a wall of screens with such minuscule differences in specifications between them as to effectively be the same model over and over. We were intimidated into inaction by the illusion of too many options in a situation where there were very few choices of consequence.

I guess what I am saying is that I want to have the option of poring over a sea of avatars before picking one of the usual three that I tend to use.

I might buck up for a paid account here.
2nd-May-2017 10:15 am - CONNECT ALL THE THINGS
Hipster Mood
There is this disparaging, ironic term that used to get tossed around a lot a few years ago, but has fallen a bit out of fashion; first world problems. I encountered one of these in the wild today on a sous vide forum.

A user in the forum posted the sad saga of how his iPhone keeps disconnecting from his Anova cooker, and he has to switch to his iPad if he wants to use the remote app.

Oh no. Of all possible things, this is the worst … thing … ever.

For those who are not familiar with the process, an immersion cooker is a (usually) small appliance that cooks food in a slow, precise way. Typically you vacuum seal the food in a bag, and then immerse it in a temperature-controlled water bath for a few hours. It is the very essence of "set and forget" cooking.

There are a myriad of important uses for an iPhone app connected to your immersion cooker. It can tell you if the cooker is turned on, and if it is maintaining the temperature to which you set it. This can be very important if, say, you forgot that you turned it on, or at what temperature you set it, and you happened to fire up the app on a whim and were all like, “Oh no, my immersion cooker is turned on and its holding the temperature at 145°. How could this have happened?”

I suppose it would not hurt me to spare some sympathy for somebody who can’t use a (mostly) pointless app – though the fact that it works on his iPad hints that the problem might not actually lie with the appliance. I should check the shoes forum to see if anyone is complaining that their iLaces app keeps losing connectivity with their shoes, and they are tripping because it does not warn them that their shoes have come untied.
28th-Apr-2017 04:52 pm - Enigma wrapped in a mystery
Trying to be cute
I was filling in some details on a data dictionary for a co-worker for whom I’d built a data extractor. For the most part that just involved going down the column names, identifying the data types, and giving a brief explanation on what the data represented.

While I am used to a lot of our industry acronyms (SCAC, FSAC, SPLC, etc), I took the time to expand them out for her in the explanations (“Standard Carrier Alpha Code”, “Freight Station Accounting Number”, “Standard Point Location Code”, etc). All was well until I got to a number that we use internally for referencing trains within our integrated operating plan.

The number has always had an odd name, and I have always assumed that the name was an acronym for something. The system that uses it has been in place for the past 25 years ( remember when it came online back in ’92), but even though I have always known what the number was for, it occurred to me that I never knew what it was short for.

As I started asking around, it became clear that nobody else know either.

It may be that the only people who could tell us if this was an arbitrary name, or an acronym are either retired, or dead. I have a couple more long-shots that I am going to pursue on Monday to see if they can answer the question, but I have a hunch this will remain a mystery until the day I retire. Technically I’ve become one of the old-timers at the railway who is supposed to know these kinds of things.

And I don’t know. I guess this gives me the opportunity to make something up…
Omgwtf
It is possible that I have spoken of this in the past, but [personal profile] atara has accused me of repeating myself on more than one occasion, so if this is a repeat, then know that it comes naturally to me.

Any time I get sucked into a community, I invariably get sucked into the writing side of the community. At various points over the years I have written stories based on Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek, The Lion King, Furry, and My Little Pony. Since I consider myself to be a moderately better-than-average writer, I will sometimes roll up my sleeves and jump in to help other writers who are still learning the craft. This can take the form of giving helpful critique, all the way to actually doing rudimentary editing for somebody if they are especially receptive to help, and are taking the assistance to heart.

I have my biases, but I try to avoid steering people toward the way that I would write something, and just stick to steering them away from stylistic pitfalls and rookie mistakes.

One mistake that is surprisingly common among beginning writers is changing tense during the story. Their narration swings between past and present tense without it being relevant to the story. Most writers seem to be surprised when I point it out to them, often claiming that I was the first to notice it. How could one not notice? Another common mistake is switching speakers in mid-paragraph, often without changing attribution. Maybe the rules have changed since I was taught, but I learned that any time the speaker changed, you started a new paragraph. One of the benefits of this is that even if you did not attribute the new speaker, the paragraph break gives a clue that it may have changed. Finally, there are writers who switch the narrative voice throughout the story. They will jump from first person to third and back for no reason other than that they forgot which voice they were using between writing sessions.

Does nobody ever go back and re-read their own work?

Stylistic pitfalls are a messier subject, because that starts to tread into the territory of, "This is just how I write." While there is nothing technically wrong with some of the styles, I have noticed that they are often popular with novice writers. I recognize some of them from my early writing, and I owe a debt to a friend who helped break me of some of the habits.

One that I see often is staccato writing. The author uses really short sentences. The sentences are all grammatically correct. They are all strung together into a story. The story will have a character. He walks to the table. He picks up a book. He reads the book. He puts it back. He walks to the door. He opens the door. He goes outside.

I think you can probably see the problem. The story never gets a chance to develop much of a flow, and it becomes fatiguing to read.

Another style that I see fairly regularly is what I call the witness testimony style of writing. This happened, and then that happened, and then they went over there, and then that happened, and then he said this, and then he did that, and then... I started counting the uses of "then" in one story, and hit fifteen by the end of the second paragraph. As with my first example, it is not technically wrong, but it flows badly, and is very dry to read.

Two more styles that I often see with beginning writers are where every line is a combination of dialogue and action. Usually the story alternates between each of the characters in the scene, with each one taking a turn to say something, and then do something. The other style is what I call the Superman narrative. Virtually the whole story is told through narration by the characters. It's a style better suited to old radio plays than a written story.

"Why are you walking over to that table and grabbing the gun?" said the professor.
"I plan to shoot you, of course. See? Look at how I am pointing it at you and pulling back the hammer," said the mobster.
"Are you mad? Can't you see that I am just sitting here at my desk writing down formulas and smoking a cigar? Clearly I post no threat to you," said the professor.
"And now you pose even less of a threat as I have unloaded three bullets into you," said the mobster.

Finally, there are the writers who combine many of the above with a need to find their own voice by playing with conventional style.

"I am going to write my entire story in future perfect tense!"

The problem with picking a weird tense (even present), is that writing in past tense just comes naturally, and the writers invariably slip in and out of past tense as they are writing. My advice to them is usually to try and master the easy stuff before they start trying to stretch their skills.

I think the worst are the ones who decide they are going to write in second person. I don't know why anybody would write in second person other than when they are writing an instruction manual, or a "build your own adventure" story. Yet in my experience in some writing circles, this is a strangely popular thing among younger writers, and goes over remarkably well with some of the younger readers. I do not find second-person stories to be the least bit immersive, and in fact they often come across to me as slightly insulting. I don't appreciate a story that tries to tell me what I am doing, or thinking, or feeling.

My response to the author boils down to, "You seem to think you know me, but you don't. Please stop writing with the misguided conceit that you do."

A lovely day to get out in #winnipeg. #kildonanpark was busy.
9th-Apr-2017 10:43 pm - Moving in slow motion
OK...
Unless I have buggered up the settings again, this post should automatically cross-post to both LJ and Dreamwidth. I will keep posting to both for as long as my LJ account remains active (I don't tend to delve into the kind of politics that would get my account banned by their new TOS), but DW is my new backup plan, and probably my long-term future plan as well. Once I start building up a bigger network of friends over there I am probably going to spring for a paid account.

I have about a half-dozen posts to just LJ that I thought were posting to both sites, but I derped the settings in Semagic. I've fixed that now. I think. This is my test post to check that theory.

If you are still reading me here, and want to follow me over to DW as well, you can find me here.

I went for a walk last week and caught a couple of post-melt pictures. Other than some of the larger stacks, our snow is effectively gone now.
suoıʇɔǝןɟǝɹ

As I was walking past the cemetary, I barely spared it a second glance before I backpedalled a quarter of a block to capture this shot.
Watery grave
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