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28th-Nov-2017 11:34 pm - In a dark place
Burning Fur Mood
As I was getting ready for bed last night, CBC was playing an interview with one of the authors of the Goosebump series, and something he said triggered the memory of a nightmare that I had when I was - at most - in my mid to late teens. It was not the first (or, arguably, worst) nightmare I had ever endured, but it had the right mix of surrealism and stark realism that it (obviously) made a lasting impression.

It was not actually a singular nightmare, but a series of them strung together through a common theme. I remember that there were at least five of them in the chain, but the only two I remember are the first and last of them. Serial nightmares are not common for me, but neither are they unusual. In fact, I often find myself revisiting familiar locations in my dreams - both good and bad.

The strange series of nightmares started off abruptly when I found myself sitting alone in the cloak room of my grade 5 classroom from elementary school. I was sitting on the floor, with my back against the wall and both of my hands palm-down on the floor. It was obviously the middle of the night, because the only light in the room was from a single, incandescent ceiling light overhead.

The cloak room was at the back of the classroom, and was actually just a walled-off area rather than being a true room unto itself. The ceiling-height wall extended most of the width of the classroom, with open entryways at either end opening into the classroom. It had hangers on both sides, and shelving across from me for lunch boxes and muddy boots. The light overhead was one of those round, single-bulb ceiling fixtures that were popular in schools of this vintage. In retrospect it is probably the fact that I took notice of the lighting fixture at all that lent a lot of realism to this dream; usually the lighting in my dreams tends to come from ambient, unimportant sources. What made this light notable was its sheer normality.

Everything in the dream was unnaturally real, in fact. The floor was cold, hard, and slightly gritty under my palms, and my back was slightly stiff as if I had been sitting against the wall for quite some time. Even in my nightmares, there is always a certain dream logic that kicks in to explain the situation, no matter how convoluted that logic twists itself. In this instance, I was aware of exactly where I was, and puzzled over why I was there, or how I had arrived there. The initial scare in the dream was the fear over finding myself in a mundane place with no knowledge of how I got there.

Then things started to get strange.

As I sat there with my back to the wall, considering if I should just leave, or look around for some clue as to how I had got there, I began to notice just how quiet and dark the school was during the night. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was not just dark and silent, but preternaturally dark and silent. There was a door to my right that led into the hall, and it may as well have had a square of black paper in its frame as glass. Also, the light in the cloak room should have been spilling out into the classroom, but it ended abruptly at the openings on either side of the wall. At first I thought it a bit odd and creepy, but the longer I looked at it, the odder and more disturbing it became.

I realized that the light did not project out into the classroom because the darkness was projecting into the cloakroom. It scintillated shadows around its edges, and as I watched, the ends and floor of the cloak room slowly dimmed. I realized that the light overhead was the only thing holding it at bay, and it was slowly overcoming that. And it made noise - sort of. I could feel pressure on my ears as it encroached on the cloak room, though there was no whisper of a sound other than my own breathing.

Then I woke up. Except that I didn't. I dreamt that I awoke, and everything seemed normal until the darkness reappeared. Then it happened again, and again. After four abrupt dream transitions, each one ending with me waking up in a different place, I finally awoke again, lying on the sofa in the living room. I awoke with a start, heart pounding with an adrenaline rush.

The TV was on, with the sound turned low, and the orange spun-glass swag lamp was lit. I vaguely remembered sitting down to watch TV earlier, and realized that I must have fallen asleep in the middle of whatever I had been watching. My parents' bedroom door was about six inches ajar (they always left it slightly cracked when they went to bed - presumably so they could hear if any of the kids were up and about), and I was curious why they had not woken me and chased me off to bed before they turned in for the night. I found that a bit strange, but now that I was awake, I decided to head off to bed under my own volition.

As I was about to stand up and head off to bed, I was struck by how quiet it was in their bedroom. They were not quiet sleepers (dad's snore could shake the house), but I could not hear them breathing. Also, it was very dark through the crack in the open door. Very very dark. As I watched, wispy tendrils of darkness crept around the edges of the doorway and caressed their way into the living room...

I finally woke in my own bed. For real this time.

I think.

The dreams felt very real - that's what made them frightening at the time. Each false awakening made me realize that the nightmare was just toying with me. I am pretty sure that I am awake now, but there is that little nattering of doubt in the back of my mind telling me that it is just playing the long game this time. If you see me hesitate before stepping into an unlit room, you know why. It's just my subconscious brain momentarily flinching, wondering if the darkness has returned.
22nd-Nov-2017 09:44 pm - bl­üd
Burning Fur Mood
­Tonight's journal entry is brought to you by Tommy Wiseau's brilliant movie The House That Drips Blood On Alex.

It's like The Room, only more self-aware.

I returned on Friday from two weeks at the head office. This time it was not for training though - they wanted to get me out there for project work. My boss has a sizeable number of reports that need to be moved off of stand-alone lab machines into a more stable and supported environment. You can't see me rolling my eyes in the last part of that previous sentence, because when I say "supported", that is with the caveat they are all probably going to be moved to another platform next year. Why would we move them now, rather than wait until the new, even more stable and supported platform is ready?

That's a good question.

Our CIO has decided that he does not like MS Access, and he has mandated that it will be gone by the end of the year. Since these reports all run out of Access, we need to move them before the end of the year. Sadly, the scary number of machines running outside of IT that are processing large volumes of business data through MS Access are not being migrated. Our CIO has no idea how much information that is critical to the business is being processed by the business itself because IT has cut itself too thin to do the work for them. The new year is going to be ... interesting.

My counterpart from Toronto was also out at the head office, so even though I was not keen on flying out there for two weeks, I was glad for the chance to hang out with him again. We've worked together for years, but the last time we got to meet in person was almost ten years ago. I must say he is ageing better than I am. The trip was fun, and educational, and productive, and very, very tiring. They decided that since we we (that is, me and my counterpart, but nobody else) should work through the long weekend to make it worth the expense of flying us out there. After twelve straight days in a row, getting up at 5:30 every morning starts to get a bit old.

My director took me for coffee one morning on the second week, and he had a number of interesting things to say. Some of it was probably slightly privileged information, but I have a knack for seeming reliable, so all of my managers have tended to share secrets with me. By far the largest part of the coffee chat though was him finding different ways to paraphrase, "Please, please please don't retire next year." He was all-but begging me to consider sticking around a couple more years. He and my direct boss have both confided in me that they consider me their top developer, so I can understand why they might be concerned over the thought that I want out.

This is doubly so when they know they are also losing two other very senior developers to retirement next year as well. What they don't know is that they are also probably going to lose their best system administrator as well, because he's got a job lined up with another company in the new year. We are bleeding people and knowledge at an alarming rate right now, and I don't see the flow stemming any time soon as long as our current CIO is at the helm.

I admit that I am torn over the idea of leaving. This company has been a big part of the larger part of my life, and I'm not really sure what I will do with myself when I retire. I love the challenge, and I like the work that I do. I like the people I work with, and I appreciate being appreciated. Unfortunately, that's all wrapped in the layer of this toxic department that our CIO has created.

Also, with the possibility of a strike in the running trades looming next year, I foresee them pushing me back into the engineer training program sooner rather than later. It's not that I don't want to learn it, but I don't want to cope with the misery they have been inflicting on other managers who are qualified in the running trades. My boss said that he would do everything in his power to keep me out of the program if I agreed to stay, but he admitted that it might be out of his hands. Nice of him to promise something that he knows he likely can't deliver. I guess the thought is there.

On another front, I took Monday off to make up for one of the days I worked through on the long weekend. I'd had a mental list of things I wanted to accomplish that day, but in the end I just went over to the clinic to get some blood sucked out of me and then came home and vegetated in front of my computer. I was still a bit burnt out from my trip.

The blood work was interesting. I am not a fan of needles at the best of times - in fact, I daresay I love them like Superman loves Kryptonite. They are the acid to my base. The beef gravy to my vanilla ice cream. When I started counting how many vials the nurse pulled out as I sat down, I knew I was in for a rough time. Fortunately I seem to have finally got past the part where I come close to fainting every time I get a needle, but I had to work hard to stay in my happy place this time.

It wasn't so bad when she first stuck in the needle. I was also still holding up as she filled the first two flasks. What almost did me in was when she decided that the blood was not flowing fast enough, and she started readjusting the needle in the vein, pushing and twisting it around a bit until she found the sweet spot again. After six subjective hours, it was finally over. I escaped with my life again this time, but someday I may not be so lucky.
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.
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