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April 30, 2003

Spam and eggs! Spam and hashbrowns! Spam and Spam!

Why am I getting all this spam? The Center for Democracy & Technology Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report.

August 13, 2003

I want to sex0r you up.

Surprisingly work safe. It was while reading this WashPost article that I first discovered the joys of professional Sexing. Sexing work used to be a job for independent workers, but it is increasingly organized. It's still a fun hobby, though. Choose your keywords wisely when googling for more information.

January 1, 2004

I like Big Books and I cannot lie...

Big Books Not exactly made for curling up in bed, big books are an interesting twist in publishing. From Bhutan to Antartica and Sumo to Boxing, these are more likely to be the size of your coffee table than to be on it. They probably cost rather more, too.

April 23, 2004

Because the pen really is mightier, I guess...

A sad story of self-interest and political naivete. A Washington Post feature about a small group of Chinese students and the government reaction to their political discussion group.

May 27, 2004

I tried to use some funny street slang here, but then I remembered I'm just not street...

Prime Suspects. Providing actors, extras and consulting services to the movie and TV industry, Suspect Entertainment is Hollywood's best source for street cred.

September 14, 2004

Ghost town for sale, bring your own ghosts

Ever wanted to get away from the neighbours? Any neighbours? Phelps Dodge, a mining company, is selling off Kitsault, BC, a remote company town built in the early 80s to support a mine that later went bust.

My mother grew up in a town that was extremely remote (it wasn't possible to drive there, you had to float plane or sail in) that existed to support a pulp and paper mill. When the only major employer closed down, so did the town. What was once a community of 10,000 now has a population of about 60 people, either running fishing lodges, or retired there because the housing is so cheap.

Because of that history, I find stories of towns like this fascinating. They're so single purpose and remote, that they can just empty out in a flash when the purpose goes away.

September 27, 2004

Rambling thoughts on country music and small town life

Every once in awhile, I hear a song that really sets me to thinking about life, the universe, and everything. Mostly about my life, mind you, and my corner of the universe, which is a pretty limited definition of 'everything' but it'll have to do. P2 is the most likely to be on topic of the various lists I read, so you get to be the victims of my latest narcissistic self-examination. Sorry about that, eh.

The song in this case, is Farewell Ball from Mark Erelli's Hillbilly Pilgrim album, a song about a town that's going to disappear because of a dam project - I'm a little unclear on whether they're building or tearing it down, but the town is going to be flooded out in any case. You can hear a clip of it on Mark's website.

My family has a bit of a history of ghost towns and relocation in its past.

My father grew up in a part of Germany that wasn't Germany before, and isn't Germany again, so as Germans, they were moved out when it was ceded back to Poland after the WWII.

My mother grew up in a town called Ocean Falls, on the coast of BC, a town so acutely remote that it was accessible only by boat or float plane. There was a hydro electric dam there, and a pulp and paper mill, and with 10,000 people, a fairly thriving smallish town. But the mill shut down, as mills are inclined to do sometimes, and the town, what little of it is left, is mostly run down buildings and fishing lodges. You can still only get there by boat and float plane, but there's not much of a reason to bother anymore. Like the man in the song, she went back home a few years ago for a reunion and explored the old buildings and remembered what was.

Once they were married, they started out by living in a "town", and I use the term quite loosely, called Anzac. It was rather more a logging camp than a town, really, and when the mill moved, the people moved with it. All that's left of Anzac is a big pile of wood chips and two old telephone poles (chemically treated to last 30 years, you know!). Good fishing up that way, so we'd stop by and visit the old lot sometimes, and Mom would tell the story of the day the bear got into the house.

The town they moved to after Anzac, the one I grew up in, Bear Lake, faced it's own mortality last year. The government was threatening to close the grade school there, and a town without a school is no town at all. Parents would rather drive to work at the mills themselves than send their 5 year old children on a run-down bus for an hour to kindergarten, so the town would have slowly asphyxiated. To outsiders, that would hardly be much of a loss; it's only a pit stop on the highway to Alaska, after all; a place to buy gas and greasy hamburgers. But to a few hundred people it's also a place to call home. There was a 40 year reunion for the grade school the same week as the school board vote on its future. It had the feeling of the Farewell Ball in the song, with people wondering if they were saying hello again, or good-bye for the last time.

It was an oddly conflicted time for me. As long as I lived in Bear Lake, I professed only hatred for it. I rode out of town on my high horse after a public promise never to return again. The people were uneducated, uncultured and small minded with few dreams and fewer goals. I couldn't get far away fast enough. I moved first to Brazil and then to Toronto in an effort to distance myself physically, socially, culturally from Bear Lake and all it represented. But a funny thing happened to Bear Lake as I got older - it must have happened to Bear Lake, because surely it couldn't have been me that changed - those memories began to seem less like nightmares and more like nostalgia. The people are still close minded, but they've been quite accepting of the gay couple that moved in. They're still uneducated, except for the university graduates and the masters candidate. They are still uncultured, except that country music they listen to seems somehow more relevant and important than it had before.

I've long maintained the conceit that my interest in country music in all its forms had little to do with my rural upbringing. The music spoke to me because it was about life and universal themes, I'd argue, not because it had any special connection to my people and my past. But songs like this one remind me that that's not quite true. Towns that blow away on the wind are a uniquely rural, blue collar experience. Company towns go bankrupt with the company that owns them, farm towns dry up in the drought, but big cities are forever. The city girl I've long since become can listen to this music and appreciate it for its wisdom and its charm, but sometimes only the country child I was can feel it in her heart.

September 28, 2004

Despite the 'porn' section, entirely safe for work.

Biro Web. I'm not really sure what else to say.

February 7, 2005

Daughters of Freya

I've been reading Daughters of Freya for the last couple of weeks. It's a mystery; not a novel, really, but a story that's played out across emails to and from the main character. You get these emails in your inbasket a few times throughout the day over the course of about 3 weeks.

It has, thus far, been an absolutely fascinating experience. The writers have done a few things exceptionally well.

First of all, they've crafted wonderful voices for the characters in their emails. Journalist Sam's emails are tightly written and grammatically correct, but a little more casual when she's talking to her husband than when she's talking to her publisher. Publisher Jane's emails are business-like, even when they're personal. Son Max's emails are written in lower case and lack a lot of basic punctuation. Sam's mother's emails are written like letters but suggest just a hint of inexperience with computer things. There are even some interesting research results that are as badly formatted as every electronic plane ticket you've ever received. And then there are the mysterious brown backgrounded emails that are short and opaque but must be important.

Secondly, they've created a sense of tension and momentum. Because the emails come periodically, and on their timeline, you can't jump ahead in the story. Want to find out how it ends? That's really just too bloody bad, isn't it? You'll get the end in another week and a half. As someone who instituted a 'no novels on work nights' rule because I couldn't restrain myself from staying up all night to find out how they end, I find this both frustrating and fascinating. I have a few friends who subscribed at similar times and are reading along with me. The waiting and chatting and speculating, coupled with the joyous IMs of 'New Freya!' whenever we get one of the precious emails, make a communal experience out of something that is ordinarily a very solitary activity.

Additionally, they've worked in sub-plots nicely. It would be easy in this format to have the story stay strictly focused on the mystery at hand, ignoring the sub-plots that give a normal novel texture and heft. In this case, sub-plots about the relationships amongst the various players are woven into the fabric of the story. Some gradually gain importance and actually become central to the plot, and others, at least until now, have remained on the sidelines only.

They've also supplemented the emails nicely with other information. Links to websites with more information, the text of the stories that Sam has written, photos of the participants are all included. Most importantly, however, they're included in a natural way. A friend passes on a picture she took at a reunion lunch. A source throws in a link to some more information on the web. They don't have that 'click here' sense of being extraneous information that was rushed in on the side. The details on these is well crafted, as well. Sam's credit card bill contains not only things which are germaine to the case, but extra bits. She shops at a real high end grocer in Toronto, she has her recurring broadband internet charges on her statement.

Daughters of Freya is well worth a read for anyone who enjoys mysteries or just wants to get more email amidst their spam. At CAD$10, it's less than the price of most novels, and a great deal more fun.

March 24, 2005

Winninated!

One of the most important aspects of the Toastmasters experience is evaluation. Every formal speaker receives both written and verbal evaluations for their speech from another member, to help them improve their skills. But providing the evaluations is also a skill. The goal is to be positive, and supportive, while still offering concrete ideas on how to improve, and it's a tough task to listen to the speech, do your analysis and provide your evaluation, all in a span of minutes.

Every spring, Toastmasters has a contest set for Evaluation. Like the other contests (International Speech, Humourous Speaking and Table Topics), you start by winning your clubs nomination, then go to an area contest, amongst 4-6 clubs, the winner of that goes to a division contest (amongst 8-10 areas), while the winner of division goes to district (our district is all of Ontario except the Northwest, and East).

The Evaluation Contest is an interesting structure. They have a single speaker from outside the Area go up and give an original 5-7 minute speech. Often these are speeches that the speaker is planning to use in the International Speech competition for their own Area. Then the Evaluation contestants leave the room. They have five minutes to make whatever notes they might like on the speech, then their notes are taken away. One by one, they return to the speaking room and present their evaluations. Judges in the room judge the evaluations.

Last night was the Area 1 contest and I was there competing on behalf of the Big Blue Toasters. I pretty much knew I'd make it out of my club, because I had to cajole other people into even competing. But our area is full of pretty enthusiastic clubs, so knew I'd be in tough for competition there. I'm proud to say I won the competition (and the big tacky trophy that goes with), which means I will be competing in the Division B contest on the 31st. I don't hold out much hope for winning Division, but I've never competed in these contests before, so I'm pretty excited just to get the chance to move up one more level.


Relevent Links:
Toastmasters International
Toastmasters District 60

March 28, 2005

People who can't read shouldn't write

Have you heard of freecycling? It's a gifting concept managed by mailing list, where people who have things they no longer want give them away instead of throwing them away or trying to sell them.

I have a whole bunch of stuff in my house that I want to get rid of, some of it that might be worth a few bucks if I were to sell it, but most of it would go for a dollar or two at a garage sale. I decided to post the whole shebang on freecycle and offer it to people who could come pick it up on Wednesday night; specifying the time of pick-up was to keep me from having to endlessly negotiate pick-up times with people.

I gave a few details about the items in my post (like that the computer doesn't work and isn't fixable, but has parts that are salvageable), to ask for items by lot number, and that I wanted people who could pick-up Wednesday evening. I got a lot of email back about the items, and oh so very many of them assumed the computer would work or offered to pick things up on Monday or right away or whenever I wanted. I said I wanted pick-ups Wednesday night between 8 and 11, that's what I wanted. I also got lots that said things like 'can I have the CD stuff' when I posted four separate lots of CD related items. Did they want some of them? All of them? That's why I wanted requests by Lot number.

Because finding my house is tricky, I *need* people who can follow instructions. It's not that hard to find, exactly, but I live in half of a semi-detached, and a lot of people don't seem to be able to tell the difference between 61 (my house) and 61A (the other half). Plus, I live in the basement, and use a different doorbell from my landlady, who will be in bed by the time these people start coming over and will be very aggravated if she gets woken up repeatedly by them. So I need to know that they'll read those instructions and follow them, as well.

In the end, that's basically what it came down to in making the choices between the 30 or so people who wanted some of the items. Which of them had sent me email messages that reflected that they had read my instructions?


Relevent links:
Freecycle
Freecycle Toronto

March 31, 2005

Loser

I competed in the division contest for Evaluation tonight, and I didn't even place, which was a serious disappointment.

On the other hand, if the speeches that won the speech side of the contest are an indicator of the quality of the judging happening there tonight, not placing is probably a sign that I gave the best evaluation of the night.

The winning speech told a long, drawn out, and ultimately quite boring story all in the third person. 'The man did this, the man did that, blah blah blah.' And then at the end it turns out that the SPEAKER WAS THAT MAN! WOW! I never saw that coming! Who'd've thunk it!

It's the thing I dislike most about Toastmasters competitions. Tired cliches and cheesy framing devices get rewarded. Speeches that are interesting and different get left behind, and instead another rant on the subject of believing in yourself and making your dreams come true gets voted through. The reality is, these speeches are the ones most likely to win the next level of the contests, as well, because this is a problem at every level of the competition, but ugh, it drives me crazy. If there was an original idea expressed in any of the winning speeches, I didn't hear it.

And no, I'm not just bitter. Don't get me wrong, I'm bitter, all right, but I'm not *just* bitter. I've disliked these aspects of TM since long before I ever competed in a contest.

April 4, 2005

Only in Canada...

I'm watching a repeat of the Canada / Sweden game from this afternoon at the Ford World Curling Championships. That's an only in Canada moment in and of itself, I imagine, but one of the Canadian team members just asked their vice to bring their broom, and a moment that I can only imagine happening in Canada followed.

'Grab my broom, Dave.' one of the players yelled.

'Grab my broom, Dave, please.' the commentator corrected his lack of good manners.

Only in Canada are we quite that polite.

May 12, 2005

Goosies!

Nothing brings me greater joy than hatching season here at 14th Avenue. It's the only thing about working in this building that I don't hate, despite knowing that 3 months from now, those are going to be grown up geese and I am going to be afraid of them.

Little, itty, bitty, baby, fluffy, puffy, yellow geesies. They're so cute. There's a third nest of them up and about since yesterday, which brings the total to 11. The first nest of 4 is already getting big, and starting to darken up. When I first saw the group of 3, I thought maybe one of the two nests of 4 had lost one, and I was sad, but then I went around the corner, and there was the other nest of four.

Now all we have to do is stop Apple from stealing our geesies like they did last year. Hrmmph.

May 16, 2005

Sad Goosie update

One of the flocks of four goosies is down to 2, and the flock of 7 is down to 6. One of the fours was missing entirely this morning, but I suspect I just didn't see them. We were up to 19 little baby goosies on Friday, but it looks like probably 16 now.

May 18, 2005

Mean Goosie Update

The little goosies were all nowhere to be seen this morning, but the big geese were out and about, and in a cranky sort of mood. Two of them were trying to run another pair off of the grass strip between one of the parking lots and the road. Much hissing and flapping and chasing and flying ensued, unfortunately, while I was trying to walk by on the road.

I'm scared of the big geese. I like the little cute fluffy ones, but the big ones are just big, mean birds and they frighten me. When I was 7 or 8, I got attacked by one of my uncle's roosters, and there was blood and trauma and it was horrible and then we cut its head off so there was more blood and more trauma, and now I just don't cope well with very large birds. Especially not very large birds that are agitated and in full on attack mode only a few feet away from me.

May 22, 2005

I do not know why I do these things to myself...

I have an overactive imagination, and also a social anxiety over talking to people on the phone. Between the two, I can create a great deal of angst where none has previously existed.

Take for example, my hotel reservations for Twangfest. I called and booked a room, a double room, as it happens, because they didn't have any other kind set aside for attendees. That was fairly traumatic, because I don't do phones, but I managed to deal with it at a point where not having reserved and paid for travel plans was probably going to result in the cancellation of my vacation.

Then I went and found myself some roommates, because, after all, I don't need a whole double room all to myself, and I'd rather not pay for it, either. I knew I needed to phone (social anxiety alert!) and add all of those names to the reservation so that they could check in if they got there before me, but somehow I took a small throwaway comment I made on the first phone call - about really only needing a single - and (overactive imagination alert!) built it up into a nightmare scenario in which they had moved me to a single without telling me and there wasn't room for all of the people I'd promised space to. I'd even imagined in my head all the things I would have to do (and they all involved more phone calls) to get them reservations in other hotels, and the tearful, apologetic emails that I would write to them trying to make up for my screw-up. The more I put off the dreaded phone call, the worse the scenario I was imagining became, thus encouraging me to put off the phone call even more.

I finally phoned this morning, and, of course, everything was perfectly fine, they added the names to the reservation, and other than the operator apparently being either deaf or stupid, all went well.

So, basically, I've been stressing myself out for three weeks over problems that I made up in my head. Because, apparently, I don't have enough problems in real life to worry about.

May 25, 2005

Goosies on parade!

I came into the back of the office around 2:30 this afternoon because I'd been at the other office for a meeting, and saw that the grounds crew was out mowing around the pond. Figured I'd be out of luck on geesie sightings because no doubt they'd have been driven away by the crew.

But then I drove around the corner of the pond and they were *all* there, wandering across the parking lot towards the grass between the warehouse modules. A whole little line of baby geesies. It took them 2 or 3 minutes to cross the street, and I couldn't get past them, so I got to just sit there and watch them be cute.

The first ones were the oldest four that were born nearly a week before the others, and they are pretty much entirely grey now. Then there were a couple more families all strung out in a line, and at the end, the family with 6 geesies (used to be 7). One of the remaining 6 is a clear runt of the litter. While the others are growing pretty well, the last one is only half the size they are now, and doesn't appear to have grown at all since last week. I feel bad for the poor thing, since I have no doubt at all that it's not going to make it. It's the smallest, fluffiest and cutest of the bunch right now, and I'll probably cry the day I come in and its gone.

More Goosies!

When I left the office today, there was a brood of 8 baby geese with 2 adults sitting just outside the door of the office. I can't figure out where the 8 could have come from. The group of six, one of four and the three were all on the middle lawn. That leaves only five others, so it couldn't have been a mix of two groups.

I suppose they might be new, they were pretty young. 8 new goosies would be nice!

May 28, 2005

If pride is a sin, then I am a sinner...

15 years or so ago, I joined a Toastmasters Youth Leadership program - a public speaking and communications program aimed at high school students with potential. It changed a lot of things about my life. Learning to speak in public, and to be confident about expressing ideas and opinions was a real gift, and it opened up a lot more opportunities for me. I fully attribute the year I spent in Brazil to my Toastmasters experiences. It was my confidence in the interviews and speeches that won over the Rotary selection committee that sent me (err, and my nepotistic friendship with most of them, but I like to think it was my qualifications).

Sitting on that stage today, watching those kids, thinking back and looking forward, I was nearly in tears. I was so proud of the things that they had accomplished in just a few short weeks. I'm so proud of the things that I know they *will* accomplish, because they are all shining kids, destined to do brilliant things in their lives. And I'm proud of the things I've accomplished, as well.

I only wish there was an opportunity to see them all again, to know that they've taken the gift and used it. I know they will, but it would sure be nice to know they did.

June 20, 2005

Goosies!?!

I don't know where the Goosies have been for the last 3 weeks (probably at Apple, those bastards), but they're back, and the large majority of them have moved past the cute, cuddly, fluffy stage and into the 'slightly smaller than a normal adult, but just as scary' stage. Given that there were a couple dozen of them wandering around the door to the office today, it was a less than pleasant walk in from the parking lot. Scary, scary goosies.

July 4, 2005

Jacquilynne 1, Google 10^100

I win!

Ha!

A long time ago, in a University not so very far away, I wrote a web journal entry about a friend's fiancee (who shall remain nameless to avoid a repeat of the previous fiasco) and a conversation we'd had about the slightly risque subject of strip clubs. It was a very funny conversation, and a reasonably funny journal entry and people laughed and that was the end of that.

At least, that was the end of that until late last year, when said fiancee (by then, long since husband) got a new job, with a new boss who was both very slightly web aware and a bit of a prude. Googling on the name of his new employee, what did the boss discover but that the second entry on Google was my journal entry. About new employee and strip clubs. Well, new boss was very concerned about the image this might present to clients and asked that it be removed.

Easier said than done, I'm afraid.

The journal was hosted on geocities, on an account I no longer used, which was tied to an email address I no longer had access to. I did eventually manage to recover the password and deleted the site as a whole. Unfortunately, I had failed to account for Google's peculiarities - namely that pages which disappear are not de-cached or de-indexed, but assumed to be merely missing for awhile.

Fine, I thought, I'll ask Google to re-index the page so they can see that it's gone. But I can't do that without having an actual page there. So I go in and recreate a blank page, not enough. I go in and recreate a page with actual content, link to it from somewhere else, and ask Google to re-index it. Finally, after about 6 months of trying, Google has cleared their cache of that page and stopped returning it as one of the primary results.

How long is 6 months in internet years?

July 5, 2005

Nifty!

Book!

He even spelled my name right in the acknowledgements.

November 1, 2005

Helpful

The provincial government has these very helpful electronic signs up on the highway. They tell you how traffic is, and if there are any road closures, and when not otherwise needed, remind you to buckle up and not drink and drive, and such.

Last night, the road sign on the 404 just before the exit to the 401 was helpfully pointing out that one lane was closed in the 401 express beyond Yonge. "Great!" I thought, "I'll have to take the Collectors then."

What the very helpful sign was neglecting to mention, however, was that the entire exit from the 404 to the 401 was being repaved, and thus it wasn't even possible to get from where I was to where the lane was closed.

By the time I discovered the exit closure, it was too late to take a different, more useful exit, and ended up having to go a couple of exits south, drive around on the city streets for 10 minutes to get back North and only then get on the highway, well past the point where the lane was closed.

Helpful.

December 5, 2005

In Defense of Jargon

Jargon and its ills has been a hot topic of conversation lately, for a variety of reasons, and I feel the need to speak up in defense of jargon. Not the kind of pointless business consultant speak where you replace one word with another meaning exactly the same thing but using 6 times as many letters - that's just annoying - but rather, the kind of specialized language that allows us to communicate quickly and accurately with those of common experience.

Let's take a couple of examples out of some very different aspects of my life:

The greenie booched carp, so the Imps maxed us and took our booty.

Nuke the cooties on Outer and post a phone home for the user.

ASCA requires that all sev 2s are resolved prior to the end of UAT.

All relatively short sentences, all relatively opaque to people who don't participate in those worlds.

The first comes from an online game, and translates roughly as:

The inexperienced player failed at the carpentry puzzle, so the particularly difficult enemies were able to cause us the maximum amount of damage allowed in the game, and then win the swordfight, taking a share of the in-game currency that was aboard our ship.

The second is from a website I help out with and translates as:

Delete the post about someone finding bugs in their food on the Outer Boroughs board, and then post a message asking the user who posted it to please email us so we can explain why we had to delete the post.

The third is from work, and it maps out as:

Our internal business controls rules for application processing say that all problems which affect a significant sub-path of a changing system must be fixed and retested or determined to be working as designed prior to the end of the end user's business process testing and application testing or the application can't be released into the active environment used to run our business.

Making these same points without the jargon inherent to any sub-group is tedious and slow, at best. At worst, it loses the shades of nuance that are built into the words.

Take for example, something like 'resolved'. It has a very specific meaning when used in relation to software testing problems. It could be easily translated as 'fixed', but that would lose the full sense of the word - which recognizees the possibility that the problem that was raised was not, in fact, a problem at all. The word 'greenie' in the first example also has subtle shadings to it. 'New player' doesn't resolve the amibiguity. 'New guy in the crew'? 'Most recent person to join this particular trip'? 'New player to the game as a whole'? It means the latter, but could easily refer to either of the former.

Using Jargon inappropriately *is* annoying. If you're in a mixed audience setting, whether it's talking shop over dinner or presenting to an audience of both developers and clients, you have to be conscious of your use of jargon, and ensure you bring the level of jargon down to one that everyone present can understand. But attempting to eliminate jargon from your vocabulary entirely is a waste of time - a waste of your time, a waste of the time of the people who have to read lengthy explanations of things they already know, a waste of the time of the people who have to fix mistakes made because those lengthy explanations were imprecise.

January 30, 2006

Huh. Who'd've thunk?

I had to deal with 3 different kinds of tech support today.

First, I needed Bell to fix my phone lines, which have been broken since yesterday.
Second, I needed D-Link to help me configure my new wireless router, which wasn't connecting to my DSL provider.
Third, I needed IBM's internal help desk to help me configure my VPN client to work over the wireless connection.

All three service providers proved eminently competent, fixing the problems without making me feel stupid or annoyed at any point in the process.

I expect the fourth horseman will be along shortly.

February 3, 2006

Too Good to be True...

I knew it wasn't possible that I could have successfully dealt with three different helpdesks in one day. Bell's repair service really fucked up our phone lines. They're supposed to send someone out today to fix it.

Here's the note I'm leaving for them:

Dear Repairperson,

Sorry, I can't be there as I have to be at work. If you have any questions which Rosa can't answer, please call me on my cell at 416 389 8718.

I'm not sure if they'll give you the background on our situation, so here it is:

On Sunday of this week, our phones stopped working completely. This came to our attention when our alarm system helpfully dialed 911 on our behalf.

We had a repairperson come on Monday to fix the lines, but today we noticed a problem.

Prior to Sunday, we had this configuration of floors and phones:

Bedroom level - unknown (to me) number of jacks - all on Rosa's number
Living Room / Kitchen level - 2 jacks, both on Rosa's number
Family room level - 1 jack on Rosa's number
Garage level - 1 jack, plus the alarm system, both on Rosa's number
Basement - 2 jacks, bottom on Jacquilynne's number, top unknown

Today we have this:

Bedroom level - unknown (to me) number of jacks - at least one on Jacquilynne's number
Living Room / Kitchen level - 2 jacks, both on Rosa's number
Family room level - 1 jack on Jacquilynne's number
Garage level - 1 jack completely dead, plus the alarm system, unknown
Basement - 2 jacks, top on Jacquilynne's number, bottom unknown

If you could please return our line configuration to the way it was before - one (or possibly 2) jack in the basement on Jacquilynne's number, and all other lines and jacks in the house on Rosa's number, we would be quite pleased.

Thank you,

February 5, 2006

Le Sigh

Bell just didn't bother to show up on Friday, and closed our service ticket. This morning, I have even less phone service than usual, as there is so much static on the jack in the basement and the level above me that they're unusable. This also takes out my DSL connection, so GRRRR.

I had to come in to work today because I have a few things to do (some of them work related) that require internet access and no internet access to do them with.

February 9, 2006

The saga continues

At 8AM this morning, a Bell tech was ringing our doorbells and pounding on doors to try and get our attention. Apparently he had a work order indicating we needed some new jacks. So, the running tally on Bell is:

1. Service visit that leaves our service only slightly less screwed up than it was before, but in new and wonderful ways.
2. Non-service non-visit, in which they promise to send somebody who never shows up.
3. Good service visit from nice Bell man who fixed our problems.
4. Non-service visit, in which they send someone over to do some work we never requested.

On the good side, yesterday, I sent them a letter of complaint, bitching about the crappy nature of the service we'd received and requesting credit for the time we were without phone service. I got an email today indicating that they were crediting a month of service time, which is nice. It also indicated that their service agents are located somewhere in Outer Monrovia and speak minimal English since the email showed basically no grasp of what I had actually said in my complaint. But I'm getting a $40 credit so I don't care that much why they think they're giving it to me.

February 14, 2006

Apologists r' Us

Posts from Ghoti reminded me that Olympic curling has started, and thus it's time for my preemptory quadrennial Olympic curling apologia on behalf of Canada.

Canada, historically, hasn't done stunningly well at Olympic Curling. We find this disturbing on the grounds that there are more sheets of curling ice in the average Saskatchewan farmining community than in most the rest of the world combined. Seriously, there are a million and a half active curlers in Canada. No other country has even 50K active curlers.

Canada could send any one of about 50 high level teams and be significantly competitive at the Olympics, while most countries only have 2 or 3 internationally competitive rinks. That's why you see the same names over and over again - Pal Trulson, Markku Uusipaavalniemi, Jackie Lochart, Rhona Martin, Dordi Nordby, Anette Nordberg, Peja Lindholm - in International competition. Those countries only have a few rinks that can cut it at that level. In addition to these competitive names, the Olympics brings in a bunch of rinks from basically non-curling nations, many of whom have never even played on proper curling ice, and puts them in the competition to be slaughtered by the best.

The net result of this is that the Canadian Olympic Trials, which take the best of the best Canadian curlers, are actually the single most competitive tournament in an Olympic cycle. (Similarly, the Brier and the Scott are far more competitive than the World Championships that they lead to.) Canadian curlers play for 2 years with their focus on making and winning those Canadian trials. The actual Olympic competition is secondary to making it to the Olympics in the first place.

Basically, the reason Canadians don't have every gold medal in Olympic history is that they peak too damned soon, get cocky, and forget that there are good teams in the rest of the world, who can beat them. So, yeah, they've beaten the 50 of the top 60 teams in the world to get where they are. But 10 of the top 60 teams in the world are still lined up against them, and those 10 have more international experience (because Canadians never need to leave Canada), more familiarity with the other teams at the Olympics (because Canadians never need to leave Canada) and more on the line (because Canadians care far more about a Brier win than an Olympic one).

February 24, 2006

Co-Ed Curling

Someone on MetaFilter asked why curling has separate events for men and women. He's being a bit of a dork in the thread, but the question was an interesting one - not so much in the case of 'why is there?' but 'why, in the future, might there not be?' This is what I wrote in response (somewhat edited for spelling, etc):

There are significant historical differences in the men's and women's games. Those factors are, in my opinion, decreasing as years go by, but they still exist. I'd say the two key factors in the decreasing difference are ice conditions and the four rock rule (and its predecessor, the three rock rule).

The improvement in ice conditions (especially arena ice, which was traditionally crap) have made it possible for both men and women to play a finesse game very successfully. For one thing, ice has a lot more curl now than it used to (except in fricking Torino, where it blows), so there's a lot more options in terms of come around shots. Typically, in the past, men played up-weight take-out games, while women were forced into a more finesse style because they couldn't throw the up-weight needed. The finesse style wasn't as workable though, because the ice didn't have the movement it does now. The fact that everybody can now succesfully play a finesse game favours equalization - though it also emphasizes sweeping which pushes things back in favour of the men a little.

The other huge factor in equalization is the introduction of free guard zones rules. Back in the bad old days, curling games made football (that is, soccer) games look like scoring extravaganzas. It wasn't entirely unheard of for 10 ends to go by with no score at all, because the two teams would just pick rocks off until someone fucked up. That sort of game, with lots of up-weight take-outs decidedly favoured the men. But with the advent of four rock rule, where they *can't* take out initial guards, the kind of come around, tick shot, finesse play that women have always favoured is much more important and prominent. See above for how this plays out in terms of equalization.

Strength and conditioning are significant factors. It is a sport, despite the jokes, and as with most sports, men are just more physically built to deal with those aspects. They will always have more options open to them because of the up-weight abilities that they have, and thus will always be at least marginally better than equally skillful women's team.

Combine that with the fact that curling is a *not* a new sport, and has a great deal of history, and you get separate events. I mean, curling was first an Olympic sport in 1924 or so, and has national and international competitions since long before the idea of men and women competing together was seriously considered.

An additional factor that I wouldn't entirely discount, either, is the same sort of thing that face women in the workplace. A lot of great young female curlers get married, have kids and give up competitive curling. As a sport, the demographics skew older than most. The people out there curling aren't 16 year olds or college students. Most Canadian curlers have day jobs (unless you're ultra-elite, it doesn't pay the bills), and they dedicate weekends and vacation to major tournaments. It's tough to do that and raise kids at the same time.

March 20, 2006

Bingo, Donkey, VEGAS, BABY!

I should probably do a Vegas post, eh?

My flight to Vegas was horrifyingly jammed full of people, but at least it was a WestJet flight, so it there weren't another 10 pissed off people who didn't get on the plane. I expected serious traffic since it was a Friday, and there'd been a couple of major accidents already by the time I was on my way home from work, but they were all in the other direction from where I was going, and apparently kept enough traffic back behind them that the highway was clear to the airport. So I was at the airport close to 2 and a half hours before my flight. That was okay, though, because I'd expected a seriously busy airport since it was a) Friday night and b) the last day before Spring Break, but then there was almost no one at the WestJet counter (and the few who were there disappeared when I pointed out it was for US check-ins only), and absolutely no one at all at Customs. It was a non-line, a negative line, there were customs and immigrations agents sitting around *waiting* for people to come through. So, after the briefest airport check-in/customs/security run ever, I had a little over 2 hours to kill before the flight. Thank heavens for knitting. Knitting and $12 sandwiches.

Got to Vegas fairly late, and was worried that I might be holding up Jan and Sal but they were still waiting for their rental car, so I walked over to the other terminal and found them ... still waiting for their rental car. Then Jan wandered off and found the twin cities contingent and brought them back to where Sal was ... still waiting for their rental car. After that, we stood around and chatted ... still waiting for the rental car. Finally they came up with a rental car and we shlepped off to the lot with the the surrealist rental bus driver.

A circle or two around the rental car lot finally led us to where we needed to go - Cameloot West. I didn't stay long as I was staying in Satellite of Love(I prefer to think of it as Fort Majeure) which was lined up for whatever old fogies didn't want to be in the all night party place. That turned out to be just me and Ghoti, but hey, whatever, I'm a party-pooper and I know it, clap your hands.

Saturday morning was breakfast catered courtesy Ghoti and Burr, followed by an afternoon that seemed to mostly be spent deciding where to have dinner (all really good vacations consist primarily of deciding where to eat next). We ended up at the Bellagio buffet, which was hit and miss in that buffet sort of way, but more hit than miss.

I had a total moment of braindeath when Zylphryx arrived at buffet. He looks soooo much like Penn it's scary, and I was all like 'Wow! A celebrity!', apparently having forgotten meeting him the night before.

After dinner was Tom Jones, the sexbomb himself. There was much screaming and throwing of underwear (but not mine, I was wearing the YHY undies and throwing them would have been a sacrilege). It was entirely too Vegas for words.

Sunday and Monday were a bit of a blur in terms of what we did during the day. I know the guys went and played Poker one day (Go Barrister! It's your Birthday! Okay not really! But it was Burr & (uh, I'm not clear what we are/were supposed to be calling Jeff)'s Birthday!), and I watched Leeeeeeemur and Fish play craps for awhile. And wandered around NYNY with Burr and Rose and Barr. Also, there was Sushi on Monday night courtesy of Zyl and Barr and their winnings. Such surrealist rolls as Tastes Like My Ex-Girlfriend made an appearance and were consumed, along with mochi ice cream that was divine. Also we drove out to Red Rocks and founded the Cult of the Red Mountain one day. Monday? Maybe?

Then on Tuesday, we hung around Luxor and Mandalay Bay for awhile after we checked out of Cameloot-West. Everybody left before me, except Rose & Burr who had tickets to Zumanity so were busy. That left me with a free evening by myself, so I figured it was high time to get rid of the dead hooker. A short cab ride off the strip and that was taken care of, and then all there was left was to throw my last USD12 into a slot machine at the airport and make the trip home. It was a red-eye, so I spent all day Wednesday sleeping.

I'll probably get my sleep patterns resorted back to normal any day now.

May 5, 2006

It's that time of year again...

Geesies!

My first baby geese sighting of the year was after lunch yesterday. There was a troop of them headed for the pond in the parking lot of the restuarant. Then, on my way out of the office on the way to happy hour, I noticed that some of the geese that live in our back parking lot had hatchlings. Just two so far, but I'm sure there will be more. Finally, on the way home, traffic on Sheppard was at a standstill by Keele, because a family of geese with two fluffy, puffy baby geesies was jaywalking.

August 20, 2006

Conversations from my Driveway

(Our next door neighbours were having a garage sale)

Me: Hey! Hey! You're parked half blocking my driveway! Can you move please so I can get out? I don't think I can make it without hitting your car!

Him: (something into his cell phone in another language)

Me: Excuse me, sir, I know you're talking, but I need to go, and you're blocking my driveway. I don't think I can get out without hitting your car. Can you move it, please?

Him: (into cell phone) Momento, a puta esta gritando sobre o carro.

Me: Gritando? Nao. Mas estacionamento e proibido nessa lado da rua, e estacionamento e proibido em frente de mia entrada. Preciso que voce move seu carro.

Him: (silence / moving of car)

Really. If you're going to call someone a whore to their face, it's probably best not to assume they can't understand you.

September 28, 2006

Oops

There was totally going to be an entry here today about the Corb Lund show I saw on the weekend. Except I never wrote the entry about the Corb Lund show that I saw on the weekend that was totally going to be here today.

Because I was supposed to have a review of the new Ginn Sisters CD done 55 minutes ago, and I'm still 58 words and one wrap-up paragraph short of finished.

February 6, 2007

A Bit of Wisdom

People who threaten to call their lawyers do not actually have lawyers.

February 7, 2007

Pointless College University Stories

Stealing from the gang over on Livejournal, I present a Pointless University Story (college is a whole other thing up here):

I studied computer science in University, and while we were all computer geeks, we weren't all particularly talented computer geeks. One day in first year, as we were working on an assignment on collision detection, one of my friends called me over to her dorm to help her figure out why her code wasn't working properly.

It was supposed to read starting positions and velocities from a file for two objects and detect whether they collided or not. No matter what she put in the file, or what file she provided as input, she was getting exactly the same result, and it was frustrating her madly.

We did about 90 million different things to the data sets and file names and code and stood around pensively discussing the ever increasing possibility that the computer was just frigging haunted. We tried turning the computer on and off in case there was something nutty in the memory that was screwing us up (that she was probably dialed into the university unix servers made that step especially pitiful, but man, at that point, we'd been at it for like two hours, and we were getting punchy and stupid).

Eventually, we sat down for about the 9th time to pour over the code searching for the problem. And finally, I noticed one rather innocuous little line. That was hardcoding the name of the input file--rendering all of the files that we were creating and passing from the command line completely pointless. Also rendered pointless were the times we'd tried hardcoding a different filename, since we did that in the main program, and the one we didn't know about it was in the file reading function where we weren't looking.

D'oh!

Almost but not quite as annoying was the program I wrote that would segmentation fault if the first line wasn't a printf statement, but was fine as long as it was.

February 8, 2007

Pointless University Stories II: The Ten O'Clock Yell

I lived in Calumet residence, which was an apartment style residence (we had suites and kitchens rather than singles/doubles on a floor with central washrooms) built in four stories around a central courtyard. It was traditional during quiet weeks (the weeks before and during winter midterms and spring finals) that at 10 o'clock each night, everyone would hang out the windows of their suites and yell as loudly as they could to burn off stress.

One particular midterm year, a fire alarm went off just as the 10o'clock yell started. (Fire alarms were a weekly occurrence in Calumet, because our heat based fire detectors were inconveniently located directly above our toasters.) People were forced out into the courtyard to wait for the fire department to clear the building as being uninflamed. Given the freezing rain at the time, this was a particularly miserable experience, and we all huddled miserably together and under whatever shelter we could find that didn't involve trying to get up the incredibly slippery 26 steps that would have taken us over to one of the other dorms.

Once we got the all clear, we made our way back into our suites, where we discovered that we should have left the building a little more slowly--and maybe closed our windows on the way out. Almost every suite had at least one window that was now frozen open by the rain. It was a damned cold night in Cal that night.

February 9, 2007

Pointless University Stories III - Naked Guy

As mentioned previously, I lived in a suite-based dorm. We had four single rooms and a double room, two bathrooms and a kitchen/living room area in an enclosed unit. They were stacked four high in a low-rise building, with stairwells on both ends of each unit. In second year, we were living in one of the end units, on the top floor. The bottom floor of the same stack was the guest suite (you could rent it for cheap to put up out of town friends or visiting parents), and one of the suites on it was the one they reserved for moving in people who ended up hating their suitemates, so only one person, the RA for our stacks, lived in it at the time. Our second stairwell was rarely used since it wasn't between two stacks, and two of the suites on it were empty, and you could only go out the door on the ground floor, not get back in it. A couple of the guys in my suite used the landing of that back stairwell as sort of extra storage for their bikes and such, since it was so rarely used, and they often didn't even bother locking that back door. All of this is relevant to the story, I promise.

One morning, I got out of bed to go to my 8:30 lecture (getting stuck with 8:30 lectures was a specialty of mine, sadly) and there was some guy sleeping on the couch in our living room. He had a blanket. That was it. No sheets. No pillows. No clothes. And the blanket wasn't acting as a particularly good substitute for the latter.

I wasn't exactly offended--nothing I hadn't seen before, but nothing I wanted to see at 8:15AM on my way to NATS1010, either. But I was late for class, so I threw Naked Guy's blanket over him a little more judiciously, started mentally composing the screaming match I was going to have with Pete and/or Red later when I figured out which one of them Naked Guy belonged to and went to class.

When I got home 4 hours later, one of the froshies from our double, Wendy was in the kitchen and Naked Guy was not in the living room. She was kind of a quiet, shy kid, super nice and smart, but definitely not an extrovert. She tentatively asked me if I had seen anyone in the living room when I left. 'Oh, yeah, Naked Guy,' I said. 'I saw him, I figure he belongs to Pete or Red.'

'I don't know,' she said. 'I was surprised to see him, and I sorta screamed and ran back into my room. When I came back out he was gone, but I haven't seen Pete or Red.' Apparently it was something Wendy hadn't seen before. Oops.

So we called our RA, Rob, and had him come up to the suite. He woke up Pete and Red, who disclaimed any knowledge of Naked Guy. We checked with Cindy and Karen, too, but never really imagined that they would have anything to do with Naked Guy, and indeed we were right. So now we had a bit of a mystery on our hands. A missing Naked Guy with no discernible connection to our suite.

Security was called, plus the Senior RA, etc, etc. Descriptions of Naked Guy were given again and again. Nobody had any idea who Naked Guy was. Until, at one point, Wendy looked out the window and saw a bunch of people loading out of the guest suite. 'That's him! Naked Guy!' she yelled, and everyone ran to the window expecting to see, well, a Naked Guy.

Naked Guy was dressed at that point, but Wendy had apparently managed to remember some of his less delicate features well enough to spot him. It turns out, he was a member of one of the bands that had played the college pub the night before and he'd been staying in the Guest Suite. But the suite was so crowded that there wasn't really room for everyone, so he'd just wandered off looking for somewhere else to sleep, assuming Cal was like a normal dorm with common rooms and whatever. He'd eventually made his way up the back stairs to our suite, where the door wasn't locked because those stairs were so seldom used, and found our living room and our couch and decided it was a great place to sleep. The fact that he was naked all the while apparently didn't both him much.

After that, they put automatically locking doors on all the suites.

February 12, 2007

When can we get this here?

It would certainly make my job a lot easier if we could have the shills arrested.

February 19, 2007

Pointless University Stories Part IV

At one point in University, I think while I was working at IBM and going to school part time, Lorilee, Jenn and I decided to go to Montreal for the weekend. We decided to take the train since we didn't have cars, and flying would be more expensive and annoying, plus trains are amusing. VIA Rail offered a student fare to university students, rather than just high school students, which was an added bonus, so we booked our tickets and off we went.

While sitting on the train, the conductor came around to check our tickets, and we all handed them over. He asked me for my student ID, since I was traveling on a student ticket so I dug it out. "Oh, do you need to see our student cards?" Lorilee said, reaching into her bag.

"No," the conductor replied. And then, pointing at each of us in turn, he added.

"I believe she's under 18." Pointing at 24 year old Jenn.

"And I believe you're under 18." His finger turned back to 22 year old Lorilee.

"But I don't believe she's under 18." He waved his thumb in my 21 year old face.

It was a running joke for the rest of weekend, especially when Jenn, who was the oldest amongst us, got carded again at the entrance to the Casino du Montreal by a security guard who read her ID and said, and I quote, "Oh my god, you're older than me."

March 28, 2007

Organizational Knowledge

You probably know, since I talked about it incessantly, that I recently had my house professionally organized. (By Isolde from Getting It Together Organizing, in case you're looking for your own organizational professional. She was great.)

I never really felt like we did anything that I couldn't have done on my own--it's not that I can't put my stuff away, it's that I don't--but having someone else to help, and impose deadlines made it actually happen. There were, however, a couple of really interesting insights that I think will help me actually stay organized, and they were a little bit counterintuitive.

The first is that it's not all about simplicity. Most organizing books and websites talk about simplifying things and making it all easy. As Isolde noted, that's not the right path for everyone. I like complexity. I like my things tediously sorted, preferably categorized in obscure ways and then filed alphabetically. It wasn't a matter of finding an easy way for me to just shove my CDs away somewhere--I need the value created by having them truly organized to make it worth even bothering to put them away.

The next is that you have to fill spaces deliberately to prevent yourself from filling them accidentally. This is probably what all those zillions of people who buy knick-knacks already know, but it came as a surprise to me. I always figured the ultimate goal was a house where nothing was visible--everything was put away in its place, and all your countertops and bureau tops and everything else were pristine, clean, flat surfaces. But that's not maintainable. If you've got a nice flat surface with nothing on it, it's a magnet for stuff. If you've got a nice flat surface with a vase and some candlesticks on it, you can't throw your purse down there, because, hey, there's already something there. Vases aren't really for decoration--they're to keep you from putting something else where they are.

The last is that you have to recognize appropriate limits for clutter. You are not going to immediately put away everything the second you use it. And some things really do belong in the junk drawer. In my case, this has mainly manifested itself in little tricks to handle some of my ongoing trouble spots--mail, CDs and books.

I tend to toss mail in a zillion random places and it builds up until I get sick of it and throw it all away. Now I've got a little five slot mail sorter. When the sorter is full, I have to take something out--deal with it, file it, throw it away, whatever--to put something new in. My mail isn't piling up, because it's limited by the rack, and because the rack keeps it in one place.

Similarly, I get a lot of new CDs, some I buy, some I get to write about. They tend to accumulate around my house until I finally get sick of it, and spend the time needed to break them down and file them away. But the 'sick of it' point is too far down the path of disorganization, so we created an artificial limit that's a little more reasonable. I have a 20 slot CD rack sitting on my desk. As I buy CDs or pull them out to check liner notes or whatever, I pop them into the CD rack when I'm finished with them. When the rack is full, it's time to break them all down and file them.

Books I buy a lot of, and then read slowly. They tend to wind up all over the place, and I'm never entirely sure if I've actually read all of the books that I own. There's a shelf in my bedroom specifically designated for books I've purchased but haven't read yet. It's a limited space, so once it's full, I know to stop buying new books. But I also know exactly where to find all the books I haven't read yet.

These things seem a bit disorganized--piles of books sitting on a shelf don't look like they're 'put away', but the pile has a purpose, and it has a limit, and that makes it good, not bad organization.

November 14, 2007

Useful Advice

Someone once gave me some very useful advice that I was reminded of earlier today. I was freaking out over some bureaucratic snafu that I couldn't immediately resolve. I think it had to do with my driver's license.

He said, "Imagine for a moment, a world in which this has happened before."

And I replied, "What, are you kidding? Of course this has happened before."

And he, sage man that he was, said, "Exactly."

March 31, 2008

Kiva Loans

June 24, 2008

Hag Days

So, despite my request, someone asked me to explain Hag Days. I'm going to try, but I think it's possible that Hag Days might actually be inexplicable.

Hag Days was an annual event in Bear Lake, and it was a strange town festival, the sort of thing you might have expected to see in Stars Hollow, except so totally politically incorrect that it couldn't possibly have happened in Stars Hollow.

The core of Hag Days was a competition amongst teams. They all wore funny costumes, and one particular person per team would be 'The Hag' -- dressed in the funniest, ugliest, batty old lady costume. Teams would participate in a variety of vaguely embarrassing, quasi-sexual, semi-athletic events and at the end of the day, one of the teams would win. For certain values of win that include 'managed to humiliate themselves faster and better than all the other teams'.

For non-competing people, there'd often be a children's fun fair, a potluck dinner or a pancake breakfast, and the general joy of watching people humiliate themselves in public. It was like a Japanese game show crossed with a Fourth of July picnic.

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