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and things went downhill from there
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27th-Nov-2016 01:57 pm - Facebook makes me want to cut myself
Cynical Mood
One of the problems with Facebook (note that I say "one of") is the volume of stupid memes I see posted there from friends and family. Mostly friends.

I won't get into the maths ones because I have ranted here about those ones in an earlier post. Today's complaint is about the plethora of slightly smug memes that I sum up as, "Them young whipper-snappers wouldn't understand this." They all follow essentially the same pattern involving a picture of obsolete technology, and an invitation to like if you know what this is, share if you have ever seen/touched/used/licked one. What they are really saying is, "Respond if you are an old fucker like me."

I had a few in my time-line today, one of which was a picture of a column shifter with the legend, "Like if you know what this is, share if you have ever used one." Mercifully, this one did not include the usual long string of stupid "laugh until tears" emoji. I neither liked, nor shared it because I am acutely aware that I am getting older, and I do not need constant affirmation from friends that they are as well. For the record, I have also used a top-loading VCR, I have used a Rolodex, a Mimeograph, a chest-style pop machine, a slide rule... I get it. We're getting older.

If some of my family members on Facebook did not have such sensitive sensibilities, I would start sharing slightly more interesting memes.

Facebook Meme

I don't expect that I would get a lot of likes or shares though.
25th-Nov-2016 11:24 pm - Some people take it very seriously...
Cheesy Grin Mood
And then there are the KarpersCollapse )
20th-Nov-2016 12:10 am - Driven
If I have learned one thing in the past year with all the time I've spent training at the head office, it is that Calgarian drivers are ... special. Any time drivers in a city can make me pine for driving in Winnipeg again, it should tell you something.

We set up a cat trap in the front hall using the box in which Amazon shipped my AAAA batteries. It was remarkably effective.

Every visit to IKEA seems to provide at least one surreal element.
17th-Nov-2016 10:30 pm - Tipping (not cows)
Cheesy Grin Mood
I like to think that I am a good tipper. Not generous, per se, but somebody who has managed to hone their gratuity skills to that magical balance that falls in the golden zone where it is just large enough to not be insulting, but just small enough to not look like I'm trying to impress somebody. At one time I used to reserve tips for service that exceeded expectations, but as service quality has slipped over the years, I have lowered my expectations. Do you have a pulse, and did you bathe within a reasonable time frame before work? That's worth a tip. Actually, the pulse is optional.

I can't always get a proper read for it though. I am never sure how much to tip the staff at at a hotel. I have stayed (not often) at places where the rooms go for $400 a night, and I don't know if I could bring myself to drop $60 on the desk for the cleaners. I think the de-lousers at that place where I stayed in Nashville some years back probably deserved a tip that size much more, even though it would have tripled the cost of the room.

I have been leaving $5 with a thank-you note in my room every morning since I started staying at this hotel. Most simply take the money without comment, but a few leave thank you notes of their own. One of the room cleaners left an interesting note though. He wrote his name, thanked me for my generosity, and expressed his desire that God should shower his bountiful blessings upon me and my descendants. He seemed genuine, but I could never shake the feeling that his gushing note was masking veiled sarcasm. "Oh, gee, five bucks. Thanks. I'll try not to spend it all at once."

I almost hope that he wasn't serious, because the thought that a $5 gratuity is such a rare treat is a bit depressing. It would not be the first time I had encountered hotel staff who had apparently never seen a gratuity in their lives.

14th-Nov-2016 10:06 pm - Don't kick the baby.
Derpy Mood
I sat through a one-day introductory course on emergency first aid. While the afternoon dealt with things like burns and amputations, the morning was mostly about how to perform CPR and use an AED.

We had two different practice dummies that filled the various roles of an adult, youth and infant. One of the key things you are supposed to do before jumping right into CPR is to test the person for responsiveness first. There are various ways to try and stimulate a response out of them before you see if they are actually breathing and begin compressing their chest.

We were told to test the baby for responsiveness, so I picked it up and shook it.
Apparently, that is not the correct way to test a baby for responsiveness. Now I know. That's why they teach courses like this.
Comparatively Miffed Mood
I am just waiting for atara to finish the last load of wash so that I can begin packing for my latest trip. I am heading off to Calgary again for two more weeks of training in the locomotive simulators. From people who have spent lots of time in them, and then spent time driving a real train, the consensus seems to be that they don't really prepare you for reality. They give you some good basics for handling, but once you get behind the controls of a real engine and feel the torque and forces bouncing you around, it is hard to get a true feel for proper handling. I guess I will find out soon enough because I am going to get scheduled on the Subdivision train at some point as part of my training.

I am not volunteering my time though - I am letting them come to me and tell me where to go next. This is all being done under protest.

At atara's suggestion, I went out and fired up the snow blower while the weather is still pleasant. If I can break the seal now, it will make it much easier when I need to start it in -30 weather sometime in the winter. It fired up comparatively easily this time around. I added a bit of fresh gas to it, cleaned the spark plug and primed the heck out of it, and it actually fired up on about the sixth try with nary a backfire. It remains to be seen if we will need it this year. Snow tends to come in small "screw you!" doses in this part of the world - enough to need shovelling, but not quite enough to warrant the pain of fighting with a snow blower.

Not surprisingly, two of the other things that I really miss when I get sent away on business (atara is just a given) is our cats. Belladonna always curls up and sleeps on top of me when I go to bed at night, and usually Merry hops up and cuddles with me for the first while after I retire. Having a cat curled up on me while I sleep is actually kind of comforting, and I find that I don't sleep as well when she is not there.


After years of playing her, I have relegated my priest to an alt role in WoW. I was away on training during the critical phase of this expansion when I could be running things with the guild to gear her up and secure a raid spot. We had a healer who quit the guild during Pandaria come back and grab a spot. We've had a couple of other people join the guild with healers, and suddenly there is no room for another. We are literally tripping over healers. Even then, I figured I might keep gearing up so that I could serve as an emergency backup, but that would mean pugging content, and I'm not really a fan of that. Can't get into any guild runs because all of our guild tanks have pocket healers, so there is no room for a slightly under-geared priest.

On the plus side, I am having a lot more fun playing my druid anyway. I could have geared up my priest's shadow gear to get a DPS spot, but I am completely unenamoured with the shadow play this expansion. Part of that is the insulting design that requires you to take a self-destruct button in order to put out competitive damage. I toyed with the spriest until it just became too aggravating to keep going, and then I switched to my druid. I am doing the daily world quests on my priest, and continuing to upgrade her weapon, but I am not going to invest a lot of time in the character this expansion I think.

I was a bit underwhelmed with my druid during Warlords, but they've juggled things around a bit, and she is actually a pleasure to run on world quests. Depending on the quest, I can either grind my way through them as an nigh-indestructible bear, or nuke things with my death chicken. While the chicken does not have the same potential damage maximum as my shadow priest would, she also has no ramp-up time, and wonderfully satisfying burst damage. There is something satisfying about 1-2 shot kills.
10th-Nov-2016 11:15 pm - Aftermath
Disapproving Luna Mood
I won't go into a huge amount of detail here, but I'm going to make a few observations from the perspective of an outsider looking in on this week's election.

First, I don't think it needs to be said, but this was not so much an election that the Republicans won, but an election that the Democrats actively lost. Trump was never (or should never have been) a serious candidate, and he should have been easily beaten. He wasn't, and while its trendy to point fingers at people who voted third party, or didn't vote at all, the fact is that the Democratic party is to blame for this.

First, they nominated an unpopular candidate. Fairly or not, Clinton has been dogged by investigations, accusations and insinuations over her handling of Benghazi, and her private email server. The first had no real substance to it, but the Republicans got a lot of mileage out of it anyway. It was baggage that a candidate did not need. The second should not have been an issue if she had just been honest about it. First she lied about it, and lied about deleting emails before finally owning up, but in a smug and dismissive manner as if she regarded the whole thing to be beneath her. It did not give the impression of an honest or reliable person, let alone presidential material. It should not have been a problem, but she let it fester into one.

The primaries were biased and rigged. We know that they were rigged because it seems that Democrats have a problem with securing their email servers. Even without their party chair actively working against Clinton's main adversary, the whole process is set up to allow the party to appoint the candidate of their choice. The voting process gives a pretence of power to the party members while their cabal of elite super delegates ensures that the candidate that the party actually wanted is the one who gets picked. Yes, I know that it is a private organization and they can run it however they want, but it makes a mockery of choice, and does not speak well to the principles of the party.

At least Trump was fairly elected by his party.

When Debbie Wasserman Schultz's little web of corruption was exposed in the email leaks and she was forced to resign, that would have been a good opportunity for Clinton to express fake shock and outrage, and to distance herself from the process. Instead she heaped praise on Schultz and immediately hired her for her campaign. It was an amazing display of hubris and cronyism on Clinton's part, and showed how little regard the party insiders had for their members. I heard a wonderful quote a few days before the election, from an undecided voter who lamented, "Clinton represents everything I hate about politics. Trump represents everything I hate about Americans." Clinton demonstrated that she would reward bad behaviour as long as you were a friend.

After Sanders lost what many of his followers felt was a rigged nomination process, Clinton's followers almost seemed to go out of their way to antagonize and alienate the Bernie Bros. I cringed a bit at the patronizing tone I saw flowing from her camp. "There there, we're sorry that your candidate lost. Now be good little Democrats and vote for our person." I think what's worse though is that her camp just assumed that they would flock to her once he was eliminated. She made a few token promises with regards to progressive policies, but I never really got much sense of conviction out of her that she would honour any of them once she got elected. I suspect a lot of them felt the same way.

Speaking of taking things for granted, she ignored an important part of her base. While Trump was off talking to the working poor and promising them all sorts of things he will never deliver on, Clinton was off holding secret meetings with elites and bankers and taking bribes accepting "speaking fees" from them. The optics of it were not good, as it gave her the appearance of a bought candidate. What kinds of promises did she give to the Wall Street crowd in her meetings? We don't know because in spite of her assurances that she would release the transcripts before the election, she still hasn't. Her speeches to the money lenders were for her what Trumps tax returns were for him. Again, it brought her honesty into question.

She picked a dud for a VP. Maybe she was afraid of being upstaged, or embarrassed if she picked a progressive running mate, but a house plant would have been just as effective.

Ultimately though, she was simply unpopular. One can argue all they want about all of the reasons whe she should not have been unpopular. One could cite sexism, or any other number of isms, but that does not change the fact that a lot of people did not like Clinton. The Democratic party knew this - there had been many polls during the primaries that showed this quite clearly. Worse, when Clinton, Sanders and Trump were the only fish left in the pond, there were polls that showed that she would lose in an election against Trump.

The Democratic party chose to ignore the polls and anointed her anyway. They knew that she was fairly widely disliked, but they were steeping in enough hubris to assume that people would vote for her anyway because Trump. It was a gamble, and it failed. They subverted the democratic process in their own party, alienated potential supporters, ignored other supporters, hopped into bed with Wall Street and rewarded bad behaviour. It's like they wanted to lose. When you look at the voting results, Trump pulled in less people than Romney did in the last election. The big difference was how much lower Clinton's numbers were than Obama's. Democrats stayed home in droves.

In the end, it turns out that people disliked Clinton more than they feared Trump.

Oh, and they effectively siphoned money away from downstream races to put all of their eggs in the presidential race. You can see how well that strategy worked in the house and senate. One would hope that the Democratic party would learn from this, and do some housecleaning before the next election.

They won't.

And then Leonard Cohen died today. This has been a crappy week all around.


We get interesting sunsets on the prairie.
9th-Nov-2016 10:10 pm - We're not your consolation prize
Crashing Mood
Last night as the results of the US presidential election was starting to become inevitable, the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration web site crashed. It was essentially hit by a DDOS by people looking for an easy escape from the disaster that was unfolding.

It has become a common refrain in almost every election of late. Regardless of who is running, persons on the other side of the spectrum declare that they are "moving to Canada" if the results do not go their way. It's not that we would not welcome immigrants here - we have a fairly generous immigration policy, especially when it comes to people with marketable skills. The thing is that it's not a simple matter of loading up the car with the kids and driving up here to a new life.

Given the casualness with which people toss this out every time there is a domestic crisis, one gets the feeling that they think it involves the same kind of logistics as moving to the neighbouring county to get away from a new school tax. I know that the vast majority of people who say they are going to move here when they don't get their way are just venting, and only a few actually even bother to investigate it. Well, enough to bring that department's web site to its knees last night.

Of the ones that investigate it, most never pursue it because of the cost and work involved, or because they find out that they might not even qualify.

I suppose on the one hand it is slightly flattering that so many people think they want to move here, but on the other hand, it's a bit insulting that people assume we will just welcome them in because they're not happy with their election results. It's like having the guy across the hall assume he can just march across to your place and flop on your couch if he has a fight with his roommates. I mean, if he's in real danger then only a heartless person would refuse him refuge, but nobody wants to have him barge in your front door every time his buddy squeezed the toothpaste from the middle rather than the end.

Obviously I am not comparing the electoral disaster to a minor roommate squabble, and I don't mean to make light of the the true fear and despair that people are feeling right now, but when your house is a mess, you need to clean it up. Don't just assume you can move in with the neighbour.

The implied notion that we are some kind of consolation prize for people who did not get their way gets a bit old. It may surprise them to learn that we're not just another state that they can pack up and move to. We're a sovereign nation with our own, Byzantine laws governing immigration and refuge. We have our own politics; we're socialists. We have our own culture (it may not seem like it because we look and act so much like you, but atara will attest to the fact that we are actually different). A good percent of us actually speak another language from you.

What I am saying is that you are welcome to come here. We are accommodating and friendly. But unless you are fleeing for your life, then make sure you are bringing something to the table when you come. Show us that we have a reason to let you move in. "My roommates are jerks" is not a good enough reason.

Here is one of our modern, socialist medical devices.

Behold the glory of a socialist sunset. All hail the balance of colours.
6th-Nov-2016 10:08 pm - A walk in the park
The Goggles Do Nothing
The weather was freakishly nice here today, so we put down the top on the convertible and headed up to the park to collect some Poké Balls.

The weather was absurdly nice yesterday too, but I spent the better part of the day on and off the phone, logged into my work machine because they pushed out a new executive dashboard this week. They as in not me. Even though I volunteered to help more than once over the months1 that this thing has been in development, I and my co-worker (who both know the business rules that drive this thing inside and out) were shunted aside so that the star programmers could work on it.

When the report went gold on Thursday, the business immediately complained that one of the key metrics was wrong by almost a factor of two. During all this development time, none of them had thought to run these numbers by the business for validation. Mind you, my co-worker had mentioned to them on many occasions that their numbers were wrong - until they politely told him to stuff a sock in it. They insisted that their numbers came from a different source, and would naturally differ slightly.

Or, in this case, by about twofold.

Fortunately, I produce these figures in another dashboard that is related to, but not part of this one. My numbers are right. I spent a good part of yesterday working with the our director and the business to pull the numbers from the back end of my report and feed them to the new one.

Speaking of work, I got an email on Friday instructing me to report to the head office for another two weeks of simulator training, starting on the 14th. I guess I had better book my flights and hotel tomorrow.


1By months I mean close to two years.


There were a bunch of these set up in the woods by the river when we were walking through the park today. I like the slight haze that this shot captured (sunlight off the lens I think) because it adds an air of mystique to the shot.

All of the summer plants are long gone from the Leo Mol gardens, but they've left in the fall vegetation for now.

The years have not been kind to Queen Victoria in this bust. That, or too many years in Winipeg have driven her psychotic. That will happen.
5th-Nov-2016 10:59 pm - AAA ... Eh?
Wolfish Mood
I have noticed lately that the pen for my Surface has not been especially responsive. After a bit of experimentation, I came to the conclusion that the battery is dying. I took a spare AAA battery to work on Friday with the intention of swapping out the battery once I got it set up. I unscrewed the top of the pen, removed the battery, and made a very important discover. I was wrong. It does not take an AAA battery.

It takes an AAAA battery.

Don't feel bad if you have never heard of those. I had not heard of them before Friday, and based on my experience while shopping today, I am in the majority. This conversation was repeated several times today (to atara's amusement."

I would wander around in a store, looking like I had just emerged from my alien birthpod and had never seen the inside of a human store. I found that this was a good look for attracting the attention of sympathetic store employees. The dialogue usually started with a salutation, followed by, "Is there something I can help you find?"

"Yes. I am looking for a quadruple-A battery."

"Triple-A batteries? All of our batteries are up at the front. Let's just go have a look."

"No," I'd say again, holding up four fingers. "A quadruple-A battery." Usually this would net me a blank stare, and a couple of quick blinks as their brain alternately tried to parse the request and gauge the depth of my insanity.

They would humour me and lead me to the front where they would make a show of looking for my unicorn battery before declaring the futility of the search in a tone that said, "You know that such a thing does not exist, don't you?"

There was a glimmer of quickly-dashed hope in Best Buy when we approached the front with our doubting guide. A co-worker must have noticed his distressed expression, and he asked what we were looking for. Our guide quickly signed what I assume was the symbol for, "These people are insane and possibly dangerous," but out loud he said, "These folks are looking for some quadruple-A batteries."


"Quadruple-A," I said, holding up four fingers.

"Oh," he said. "Ooooh. You've got a Surface pen, right? Ya, uh, no. You may as well just order one online because nobody in this town carries those."

We checked a couple more places, and it seems that he is right. Even a place called The Battery Man doesn't carry them.

A couple of weeks ago I had my first glass of scotch for the year. Even though I have learned that my prescription medication is OK with moderate amounts of alcohol, I have nonetheless curtailed my drinking significantly since the start of the year. My average intake these days is about one beer a week. I miss alcohol, but I don't exactly crave it. I think I was drinking more than I should anyway, so it does me no harm to have cut it back like I did.

I've missed a couple of days this year, but so far this has been my most successful attempt at doing a picture every day of the year. I even added the extra challenge of making myself take and post the picture on the same day. I am also trying to avoid taking pictures of the same things over and over (though the cats get a pass in that category), so that means I'm snapping shots of anything that catches my eye some days in hopes of salvaging an interesting picture out of it.
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