Wednesday, December 31, 2008

If Necessity is the Mother of Invention...

... then Mom's been good to me.

From my improvised MP3-ripping setup, my kludged together internet connections, and my cocktail skills, I am truly thankful for being blessed with my (creative) problem-solving ability.

Today was no exception.

Someone (the boss) forgot to buy sugar for the coffee yesterday... something I didn't notice until after I'd made a pot this morning and poured myself a cup.

Reaching for the sugar container, I realized it felt a little light... looking inside, I realized it was empty.

What to do, what to do...?

I set my mug down on my desk, grabbed a handful of peppermint candies from our candy dish, threw them in a parts bag, then proceeded to smash the candies into crystals with a hammer.

I put two teaspoons of the smashed candy into my coffee, along with a bit of coffee whitener and a small shot of Carolan's.

Wow - this mess is actually pretty good! My boss and inside sales cohort were both howling at my ingenuity.

Yes, as you may have guessed, it's a slow day at work today.

Happy New Year to all!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

Don't worry, I'm not posting about the coming New Year... not yet, anyway.

No, today I'm reminiscing about some old friends, the times we've shared, the fun we've had, and all we've been through together over the years.

I'm speaking, of course, about my music collection.

Ever since I bought my 4th-generation iPod a couple of years ago, I've slowly but surely been encoding my CD collection into a more portable digital format. Having amassed a sizable collection over the years (over 500 CDs), one can imagine the task is daunting, to say the least. Herculean, at worst. Not having a great deal of time to devote to this endeavour (us CSIS agents are kept busy these days), I usually select a few CDs at a time (say, 5 or so) every so often, prioritizing what gets ripped and when - from CDs I duly love, to CDs I bought for some unfathomable reason during a weird phase in my life. At the rate I'm going, affected proportionately by the rate my collection is growing, I should be finished sometime in the next eight years. Give or take.

What to do, what to do...?

"I know!", I thought, "I'll rig something up in the lab! Yeah, I think I saw a KVM switch somewhere while cleaning up! And a modem router!"

What really scares me is that I don't remember buying (or otherwise acquiring) half the stuff in my lab, yet somehow "know" that it's there and where to find it. I think it either "magically appears" there or that I'm acting under post-hypnotic suggestion, amassing electronics for some unknown but insidious purpose. It would certainly explain why I never feel rested after a night's sleep...

Anyway, back on track. My KVM switch allows up to four computers to use a single keyboard, mouse, and monitor (but not simultaneously), and coincidentally, my NetGear modem router allows up to four computers to share one modem connection (simultaneously). With me so far? Good.

The next step was digging out four PCs - lucky for me, there were several identical Pentium 133s at the back of the lab that I'd been trying to donate to a worthy cause. Well, my music collection is the cause du jour, so I powered 'em all up - all were fully functional, with then-fresh installs of Mandrake Linux 9.x (back before it became Mandriva Linux)...

After checking each system out, making sure everything was in working order (and that I had sufficient hard drive space), I piled a stack of ten CDs on each machine, then set about ripping and encoding CDs in each machine simultaneously, using the KVM to occasionally monitor progress, and using the modem router so that each machine could do a simultaneous CDDB/Gracenote lookup for each album I was ripping, ensuring the album, artist, track names, and order were all correct. After which, the tracks were fed via network to my Linux box in my home office for later burning to DVD.

Using cast-off goods that most people would have deemed useless and thrown out, I was ripping and encoding four CDs simultaneously. I did forty CDs in about two hours. How's that for efficiency?

Sometimes, I fucking scare myself.

--

Back on the topic of my "auld acquaintances", once I got going with my newly repurposed setup, I started delving deeper into my CD library. The memories came flooding back once I reached songs and albums I hadn't heard in years.

I started to remember my early adult years, when I was really into surf and surf-punk, which led to punk, thrash, and death metal when in my early twenties, the JPOP of my mid-to-late twenties, to the industrial, goth, and electronic stuff I listen to now, with a smattering of folk, lounge, and downtempo I've picked up along the way.

Most of these albums were uploaded to my iPod and, while on the bus to work this morning, I went back in time.

The songs?

Armageddon Dildos - Homicidal Maniac (video edit)

Rosetta Stone - Adrenaline (Mainline mix)
Leæther Strip - Strap me Down

Christian Death - Death Wish and Death Wish (Wishful Death mix)
Cassandra Complex - The War Against Sleep
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F1-11

Revolting Cocks - Da Ya Think I'm Sexy, Stainless Steel Providers, No Devotion, and Attack Ships on Fire
ClockDVA - The Hacker, Soundmirror, and Voice Recognition Test
Skinny Puppy - Brap, Smothered hope, and Glass Houses

I was in my glory for a full hour.

I can't wait to see what surprises the rest of my collection holds.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

... and now I'VE been tagged!

My blogging bro Cherenkov has tagged me in one of those viral tagging games that are going around (no vaccination for that, either)!

Now, I love questionnaires 'cause I get to show the world what a jerk I am my human side, so with that in mind...

”It’s simple. Just list all the jobs you’ve had in your life, in order. Don’t bust your brain: no durations or details are necessary, and feel free to omit anything that you feel might tend to incriminate you. I’m just curious. And when you’re done, tag another five bloggers you’re curious about.”
Let's see... the jobs I've had, in chronological order:

Inventory Clerk - counted parts for a local bus manufacturer on my summer vacation. Highlight: Making $15/hr when I was 16 (ca. 1989).

Restaurant worker - went from busperson to manager to line cook. Highlight: my coworkers and some regular customers.. plus working in a buffet restaurant in the North End meant there was never a dull moment.

Assembly line worker - my first union job at a local farm equipment manufacturer. Highlight: My coworkers - especially the time we built a potato cannon in the parking lot out of discarded pipe and fittings!

Technical Support person - briefly worked the help desk for a computer manufacturer. I lasted four hours before getting fed up with questions from the computer-illiterate and walked out.

Warehouse Worker - went from lowly warehouse grunt to warehouse supervisor to implementation co-ordinator (setting up other warehouses in the USA) for an American fastener company. Highlight: My coworkers, and picking on my boss a lot (in jest, of course!).

Warehouse Worker - Briefly worked at an international courier company (my second and final union job), unloading trucks, sorting shipments, and moving boxes. I lasted two hours before getting absolutely disgusted with the lack of work ethic (and care) of my coworkers and walked out.

Current job - started as warehouse worker, moved up to warehouse supervisor, later promoted to inside sales. Highlight: my coworkers, most of our regular customers, and the fact there's never a dull moment!
tagging:

Jim Jaworski
Priestess Yemaya
Wolfe-chan
The Arseholes
DeanK



Saturday, December 27, 2008

MoBlogging Advice Needed, Please!

It's not often I ask for help, but I could use a bit of advice from someone with actual (not theoretical/freshly googled) experience in the area of Mobile Blogging.

I'm going to be constantly on the go over the next few months, and as such will be in the market for a less cumbersome method of mobile blogging. My current methods of MoBlogging are getting to be a little, shall we say, ungainly... I don't want to be lugging my wifi-equipped laptop(s) or TRS-80 Model 100 (and acoustic couplers to attach to payphones) around everywhere, and would like something a great deal smaller.

My criteria are as follows:

1. Device must be small, easily portable, and wifi-enabled so I can use any of the free wireless hotspots at my usual haunts.

2. No cellphones or Blackberry-type devices. I'm not interested in them or their associated fees.

3. Device should be compatible with one or more of the following Operating Systems: Linux x86 or Sparc, Solaris 7,8,9, or 10 for Sparc, Mac OS 7.5.x - 10.3.9, OS/2 2.11 - Warp 4, or (ugh) Windows 98SE or Windows 2000 Professional.

4. Device must be relatively inexpensive (max $200 CDN).

5. Must be compatible with the Blogger API - would prefer something that has a native blogging app.

A tall order, to be sure.

I'm leaning towards buying a wireless-enabled PDA but am not sure where to start looking for info.

Any advice?

Hallelujah! It's Over!!

Another Christmas has come and gone.

For the first time in over a week, I can sit here in relative peace and quiet, secure in the knowledge that I don't have to do anything today!
But I will.

I'd planned to sleep in today, but after getting up at 6am to feed the cats and give Ethin his insulin, I couldn't get back to sleep. So, after running out half-clothed to the mailbox to grab my newspaper, I put the kettle on and read the daily news.

Of course, after being in the local forums and blogosphere a member of the Winnipeg Intelligentsia for so long, I find I can't "get into" the local newspapers anymore. Instead, I poured myself another cup of Dark Roast and fired up Nadia so I could peruse my favourite blogs.

No go.

Seems Nadia has fallen victim to the dreaded sleep disorder particular to her model of G3 Powerbook. No biggie, when I have a few minutes later today, I'll have to "snap her out of it". In the meantime, I've fired up my iMac 400DV, only to find that my elderly neighbours have finally secured their wireless router ;)

So now I'm falling back to my unix account at SDF - luckily, in addition to my shell account, they've partnered with a few other providers and can now offer dial-up PPP access via a local (Winnipeg) number.

Slow going, but hey, you get what you pay for!

--

Anyhow...

Seems as though most of my local blogging compatriots are taking a break for the holidays, and as such, catching up on the latest posts took all of five minutes. That said, I'm going to finish my cup of coffee and the box of strawberry Pocky I've been eating, head out to Sal's for some "food", afterwards spending the day downtown.

The malls shouldn't be too bad today - I think, for the most part, the more materialistic of Winnipeggers were out in force yesterday - running around the malls and retail outlets, ready to pounce on bargains like horny, starving jackals and taking advantage of the annual Boxing Day sales (our own honest-to-God "Black Friday").

All the same, I think I'll avoid the big retailers and concentrate on my favourite small independents...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the Ghosts of Christmas Past

I've been soooo busy these past few days, running around, taking care of the usual Christmas-related concerns, that I've been neglecting my housework.

It snowed a lot over the weekend, and I think the lion's share of Winnipeg's snowfall ended up in my front yard. Rather than wait for our friendly neighbourhood Postie to leave me a snotty letter like he did last year (or the 10-year old papergirl to leave accidental snow angels on my lawn), I figured I'd better tackle it immediately.

It IS Christmas, after all!...

(...and I'm waiting for a few Christmas gifts I bought on eBay to arrive!)

So, armed only with my shovel and fortified with a big mug of coffee-laced rum, I attacked the encroaching fluffy white mass. And by "fluffy", I mean "packed as hard as concrete".

Realizing that finesse and a logical approach would get me nowhere, I gulped down the mug of rum, let out a gutteral battle-cry that scared the neighbour's kids (and would put a Klingon to shame), and did my best impression of a bulldozer.

I was done in five minutes, including the time it took to recover from my accidental pole-vault when, charging at full speed, I hit the seam between sidewalk blocks with the shovel...

Congratulating myself on a job well done, I headed inside to tackle my dishes.

I put the kettle on again for some coffee, and set upon the mountain of dishes on my counter. An hour later, I was done and in the clear!

I decided to reward myself with some "video game time".

I headed into the living room, sat down on the couch, and fired up the console that was hooked up to the TV - my good ol' Sega Genesis!

I'd dragged the Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X out a few weeks ago, when my brother paid me a visit. We were on a nostalgia kick and, me having just bought a few rare games for the unit, fired it up.


Ghost of Christmas Past, Part One


Brad and I received our Genesis for Christmas back in 1990, and it saw near constant gameplay over the next few years, edging out its predecessors - our venerable Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System...

I played with the unit for a few hours, reliving my late teenage years (and early twenties) and grumbling how "they don't make 'em like this anymore"! I thought back to the mid-90s, when the Sega 32X add-on had just been released. The game to have, the "killer app", was Virtua Fighter.

Ahh, Virtua Fighter... In the arcades barely a year when it was released for the 32X. It wasn't a bad port (apart from the audio), but never really got the recognition it deserved, much like the 32X itself.

Now, I know you're not really wondering why, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

See, around the time the 32X was released, Sega was rushing to put the finishing touches on their next-gen game system, the Sega Saturn. That's right, Sega released a game system (32X) knowing full well it was about to release another new system shortly thereafter.

The 32X, it was envisioned, was to be a modular upgrade to the Sega Genesis and Sega CD, theoretically enabling the installed Genesis/Sega CD userbase to upgrade to the Sega Saturn by using their existing hardware and without shelling out a pile of money for a new console. Sounds fair, doesn't it?

Too bad it didn't happen that way.

Nope, Sega gave us all a big "Fuck You" next Christmas when it was revealed that no, the Sega Saturn and games would be incompatible with the old Genesis/Sega CD/32X combo, and vice versa. Thanks a fucking lot, Sega!


Ghost of Christmas Past, Part Two


Christmas 1994 - what should be under the tree, but a brand new Sega Saturn? (with pack-in game Virtua Fighter to boot!)

Our parents had asked Brad and I what we wanted for Christmas. Now, I'd already been working full-time for a few years and as such had pretty much everything I wanted, but I thought of my brother and what he wanted. And he wanted a Saturn.

"Good choice," I thought. At the time, the Saturn's only REAL competition was the new offering from Sony, the Playstation. Not wanting to take a chance on an unproven console from a company that were relative newcomers to the North American console market, and with Nintendo's new console delayed another year, as dyed-in-the-wool-yet-masochistic Sega fans, we went with the name we knew. (Of course, we all know which company won that console battle!)

Brad and I spent a lot of happy days playing on our Saturn, which was one of the last Christmas presents we shared, as I moved out not a year later.


--


In the nearly thirteen years or so since that happy scene, I've grown up (somewhat), found meaningful employment, loved and lost, bought a house, and have amassed a rather large collection of video games and consoles both domestic and imported, including the Playstation, Nintendo 64, PC Engine/Turbografx-16, Sega Dreamcast, Playstation 2, etc, and the hitherto unknown (on these shores) Bandai Wonderswan. I even bought a couple of Sega Saturns (one import, one domestic). I've had a lot of fun over the years, collecting games & hunting down rarities, and playing games that I never thought I'd play.

But you know what?

They'll never hold the same memories as did the ones that were under the tree on Christmas morning. No mad dash to the nearest TV, no furious gaming sessions while Mom and Dad get the place ready for Christmas dinner... nothing will ever recapture that magic. That is, until I have kids of my own...

I want to dedicate this update to my brother Brad, to the good times we've had, and to those long-forgotten and long-obsolete gifts all of us have received over the years - the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Merry Christmas from C&S!

-CJ

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Don't Worry, CJ, You'll fit right in!"

So, there I was, sitting at my desk at 4pm this afternoon, fielding calls from customers who left everything to the last minute and are subsequently in a panic to get everything done by Friday morning, when the phone rings yet again.

My fellow inside sales guy is out back helping the warehouse guys get caught up, and the boss is on the phone dealing with whatever the Hell he deals with, so I stop what I'm doing to answer it.

The voice begins, "CJ, my customer left everything until the last minute and is subsequently in a panic to get his work order done for Friday morning! I need a fuel hose repaired!"

CJ: What needs to be done?

BC: I need new ends put on the hose.

CJ: Size? Application?

BC: Inch-and-a-half Scovill ends.

CJ: Lemme check stock (does so)... yup we have the ends. Bring it down.

BC: Be there in five minutes.

Twenty minutes later, the hose arrives. It's a 100ft length of arctic fuel hose. His instructions were to cut the defective end off, replace it, then cut the hose in half and put new ends on, making two 50ft lengths.

Long story short - the guys were way too busy getting all the other orders done to work on the hose, so they asked if I could do it. No problem, I've made thousands of these hoses in my career. There was just one problem...

Our customer's customer neglected to drain the hose first. So we had a hundred foot hose, 1-1/2" inside diameter, full of diesel fuel. Which was now on the floor of the warehouse.

Took all the Zorb-all we had to contain the mess on the floor, but the fuel still inside the hose was the more pressing issue. Not having an appropriate vessel for the fuel, we dumped our Rubbermaid garbage can into a dumpster, then proceeded to fill the can with the diesel. What the Hell, it was a 30L can... half of which was full when we were done. One problem solved, then another rears its head...

Turns out, it wasn't our hose. It was a competitor's product, and our hose ends wouldn't fit. At least, not without a modicum of effort...

Mr. Customer caught a blast when he showed up to pick up his hoses.

So, there we were, 4:55pm, five minutes before we closed, and we still hadn't even started on the hoses. But, between myself, Mr. Customer, and two of the warehouse guys, we were able to get everything done in about 45 minutes. He was happy, and all four of us smelled like diesel.

One of the guys piped up, "Damn, I'm gonna have to get my mom to drive me home so I can change.. she's here now, and we were going to go out for supper right from here..."

"Imagine how I feel," I laughed, "I have to take the bus downtown so I can do some shopping before I head home. Now I fucking reek of fuel!"

"Don't worry, CJ! ", he smirked, "You'll fit right in!"

"Yeah," pipes up Mr. Customer, "If I were you, I'd be afraid of all the bums and sniffers that'll try to mob you!"

I laughed, which later left me feeling a little guilty, as I encounter sniffers and solvent abusers on a daily basis, and know it ain't funny...

"Don't worry," the other warehouse guy (incidentally, my cousin), "I'll give you a ride home."

Mr. Customer was extremely grateful, and very apologetic. I still hit him with an environmental cleanup fee, and labour charge... then off we went, homeward bound.


... which is where I'm at now. I've got a bloody headache from the fumes. I've had two showers and I STILL smell of diesel (which has a very high flashpoint, so I don't need to worry about open flames from matches, candles, etc). Worst of all, the entire scenario has put me two hours behind schedule, so I've opted to do the last of my Christmas shopping tomorrow on the way home.

Think I'll fix myself a drink, and then order dinner in. Bloody Hell, my head hurts...

The Rules of Rural Manitoba

A friend and coworker emailed me this little missive earlier today, knowing that rural folk are some of my favourite targets of of derision (not Hutterites though. I love the Hutterites)... I typically mimic banjo music, punctuate sentences with y'all, ga-hyuck, etc, and make inappropriate jokes involving shallow gene pools, innuendo involving sheep and/or cattle, etc, before or after dealing with a rural customer.

Of course, it's all in fun. I find our rural customers are the most grounded, patient, and well-adjusted customers I have, who know what they need and (most importantly) are willing to wait if something's not in stock.

So, imagine my amusement when I read the following list of rules:

THE RULES OF RURAL MANITOBA ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Listen up City Slickers!

1. Pull your droopy pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Turn your cap straight, your head isn't crooked.

3. Let's get this straight; it's called a 'dirt road.' I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you're going to get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

4. They are cattle. They're live steaks. That's why they smell funny to you. But they smell like money to us. Get over it. Don't like it? Hwy 1 & 2 goes east and west, Hwy 16 & 75 goes north and south. Pick one.

5. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have $200,000 combines and hay balers that are driven only 3 weeks a year.

6. So every person in rural Manitoba waves. It's called 'being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

7. If that cell phone rings while an 8-point buck and 3 does are coming in, we WILL shoot it out of your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.

8. Yeah, we eat meat and potatoes. You really want sushi & caviar? It's available at the corner bait shop.

9. The 'Opener' refers to the first day of deer hunting season. It's a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.

10. We open doors for women. That is applied to all women, regardless of age.

11. There's little for 'vegetarians' on the menu. Order steak. Or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham & turkey.

12. When we set a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup.

13. You bring 'coke' into my house, it better be brown, wet and served over ice.

14. You bring 'Mary Jane' into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

15. Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Minor Hockey is as important here as the Maple Leafs and Montreal Habs, and more fun to watch.

16. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards -- it spooks the fish.

17. Colleges? We have them all over. We have Universities and Community Colleges. They come outta there with an education plus a love for God and country, and they still wave at everybody when they come for the holidays.

18. We have a whole ton of folks in the Armed Forces. So don't mess with us. If you do, you will get whipped by the best.

19. Turn down that blasted car stereo! That thumpity-thump crap ain't music, anyway. We don't want to hear it anymore than we want to see your boxers. (Refer back to #1).

20. 2 inches of snow & ice isn't a blizzard - it's a vacation. Drive like you got some sense in it, and DON'T take all our bread, milk, and bleach from the grocery stores. This ain't Alaska , worst case you may have to live a whole day without croissants. The pickups with snow blades and tractors with snow blowers will have you out the next day.


Now, I'm sure this list has been making the rounds for decades now, and probably started life as Rules of Rural Idaho, Rules of Rural Texas, Rules of Rural Sweden, etc, but I'm reasonably sure the "differences" between rural and city people are universal.

It's nice to know the rural folks have just as much fun at our expense as we do at theirs.

All in good fun, of course!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Cycloptic Dilemma, part III

Man, am I in agony today!

Yesterday, on my way to work, a gust of wind blew the end of my scarf into my eyes. Ordinarily, this would be a minor inconvenience - one would merely brush the scarf back into place.

Well, my luck being what it is, a small strand of cat hair that was on the scarf ended up in my right eye. It got behind my contact lens and managed to scratch my eye pretty bad... I tried eyedrops to soothe the pain, but it was almost as though I'd spilled lemon juice on a cut - it just STUNG!

Turns out, it WAS lemon juice. Damn my poor eyesight!

I thereafter resolved not to store my eyedrops in the fridge.

Seriously though, once I got to work, I cleaned the lens out as best as I could, but to no avail. The moment I put the contact back into my eye, it stung even worse. So, back into its case the lens went.

I've been working with one good eye since then, and it is SERIOUSLY fucking up my perception. Staring at this bloody LCD screen all day is giving me a headache...

I'm almost tempted to go back to wearing glasses... something I haven't worn in over a decade.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

... and the blogosphere went wild...

... abuzz with the news that, yes, Ikea is finally coming to Winnipeg!

The news has set tongues wagging and hearts aflutter in the blogosphere and mainstream media outlets, gushing that THE preeminent House of Scandinavian Style is coming to our cold little burg.

But not here at C & S. I could care less.

Seriously.

It's just a fucking store, not a miracle civic cure-all, not the magic bullet that'll solve all the city's woes. It ain't gonna bring in tourists - maybe a few shoppers from Gretna, Winkler, and The Pas (no offense intended) - and it won't affect life in the North End.

What can Ikea offer us apart from their colourful, cheaply made wares? A slight increase in tax revenue? Blog-fodder? A few dozen more jobs created? Free meatballs? Another retail development in the burbs? Polo Park-like traffic snarls?

Spare me.

However, in some people's eyes, having an international retailer such as Ikea* set up shop here represents a step toward being a "real" city. That strikes me as being particularily shallow, but I suppose anything that lessens our collective (civic) self-loathing can only be a good thing.

What do the rest of you think?

*Fine print: For the record, I'd have had this same reaction if it were an Apple Store or similar "big city" retailer coming to Winnipeg - my feelings in this regard aren't limited to Ikea.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eighteen Meme

Just caught this on (and summarily stole it from) my friend Yemaya's blog:

Eighteen Meme

"Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 18 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 18 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
(I'm too lazy to tag eighteen people..whoever wants to play, can!)"

My own 18 random facts:

1. Speaking of 18, I once wanted to name my first-born child "Eighteen". My surname is Wheeler. Do the math. Poor kid. (CJ's note: Before you ask - no, I am not Wheeler of "Wheeler and Hal" fame.)

2. I originally wanted to be a paste-up artist while growing up. However, as the course was dropped from Red River College shortly after I was accepted (circa 1991), I chose a different career path. I still have the desire to create, so I delved into graphic & web design as a hobby.

3. I rarely finish what I start. Everything's a work-in-progress. It's the journey that matters, not the destination.

4. I'm at my best when the situation is grim and the crises monumental. But minor little things cause me to freak out.

5. Thanks to twenty years of playing import video games and reading "manga", I can read and write simple Japanese. Just don't ask me to speak it.

6. Yes, as a matter of fact, most of the time I am trying to be a jerk.

7. I regularily use several different Operating Systems across many different computer architectures, but have no preference.

8. While my last two serious relationships ended badly, they made for great comedy!

9. I don't drive due to health reasons. Winnipeg drivers make me sick.

10. I have the uncanny ability to push buttons, envelopes, and my luck simultaneously.

11. I have gone to extremes to illustrate a point. If I feel I need to teach someone a lesson, they're damn well going to learn it the first time.

12. I don't like asking for help when I'm in a bind. I'd rather figure it out myself and learn both how to get out of the situation, and also how it can be avoided in the future.

13. I prefer to learn things "the hard way". Makes for better stories.

14. I believe in lifestyle changes and making sacrifices vs. extending my credit and going deeper into debt (Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go - I owe my soul to the company store).

15. Despite my complaining, I absolutely love my job - even if only for entertainment value!

16. I don't believe in justification. Justification is for people who lack conviction.

17. Being a temperamental sort, I'm rather violent when physically threatened. Needless to say, I reacted quite badly when unknowingly introduced to "Kick a Ginger Day", being a redhead and all...

18. At work, I routinely mix M&Ms and Skittles in the same bowl, just to fuck people up.

... and what are your eighteen?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page: 1923-2008

Pin-up icon Bettie Page has passed on.

(pic to follow - Blogger won't let me upload for some reason)

I've liked Bettie since the moment I set eyes on her. She had that clichéd "girl next door" look but was naughty as Hell - something I can only describe as "wholesomely unwholesome". Sure, she went kinda batty later on in life, but to me she'll always be the sweet, innocent girl with the whip.

Rest in peace, Bettie!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Inattentive Transit Operators, part II

A few months ago, I complained about bus drivers and the frequency of missed stops.

It's getting worse.

On the way to work yesterday morning, on four separate occasions, the bus driver failed to stop to let people off the bus. FOUR TIMES! He even managed to miss one guy waiting at a bus stop... come to think of it, it was the exact same guy I mentioned in the last transit-oriented rant!

Granted, shit happens. The drivers are only human, too, and have a lot to deal with from us ingrates who bitch when the bus arrives a minute late (or early). But events such as these seem to be increasing in frequency...

Sooooo..... guess whose turn it was today?

That's right. The driver missed my stop today. So naturally, I voiced my displeasure...

CJ: Oi! Matey! You missed my stop.

TT: Huh? Sorry. Where did you want to get off?

CJ: Back there on (cross-street).

TT: There's no stop at (cross-street).

CJ: Mate, I've been getting off at that stop for eight years. Don't tell me there's no stop there. Check your route map.

TT: (checks) Oh, sorry. I didn't see the sign. (Stops bus and opens door)

CJ: Lot of that going around lately. (exits bus)


In the grand scheme of things, it's not such a big deal.. so I had to walk a whole extra block (into a biting North wind, uphill both ways, carrying the warehouse employees on my back) to work this morning, big deal. But I'm an able-bodied guy. What would people think if this had happened to an elderly person with a walker? Or a mother with small children? Or anyone with a disability? Or a morbidly obese person who may have a heart attack and DIE if they had to take a few extra steps?

Geez, think of the fatties, for God's sake!

Monday, December 8, 2008

On Ennui and Aggression, part II (language warning)

So, a couple of days ago, I mused that I needed to find a better outlet for pent-up aggression.

Today, I'm thinking I'd better find one sooner rather than later.

Why?

Well, I'm glad you asked because, as usual, I have a story! Whilst writing the previous update earlier today, I received a frenzied call from a customer.

Cust: CJ! This is (customer) from (business) out in (Province to my immediate East)

CJ: Hi, (customer), how we doin' today?

Cust: Lousy! Where the fuck is my quote?!

CJ: (puzzled) Which quote was that?

Cust: (angry) Don't you check your fucking email? I sent it to you yesterday, for fuck's sake! The one that says "Please quote before Noon!" in the subject! (CJ's note: Yesterday was Sunday)

CJ: (smirking) Well, there's your first clue, we don't work on weekends. What did you need?

Cust: What do you mean you don't work weekends?

CJ: We're a Monday to Friday, 8am 'til 5pm operation.

Cust: (yelling angrily) Listen, I'm a 24/7 operation! If you want my business (CJ's note: which, admittedly, could be worth a lot, say a half-mil a year), you'll be in when I need you!

CJ: Alright (customer), listen... I'll make you a deal...

Cust: (subdued) Okay, what kind of deal..?

CJ: (cheerfully) Tell you what, if you're willing to come into Winnipeg every weekend; pick up my wife, kids, and mother-in-law; and haul them around town shopping, to hockey games and such all weekend, while I sit in my nice, quiet, comfy office working on your quotes, then (customer), you have yourself a deal!

Cust: (stunned silence) grumble grumble (phone goes dead, then dial tone comes on)

CJ: Guess that's a "no"?




UPDATE: Just received a call from our rookie Outside Sales rep - the one who services (customer).

Rep: (snarky) So, had a run-in with (customer), did you?

CJ: (proudly) Yup.

Rep: (annoyed) Yeah, he called me about it.

CJ: (muttering) That didn't take long...

Rep: So what exactly did you say to him?

CJ: (relates story verbatim)

Rep: Do you always talk to customers like that?

CJ: No, (Rep), only when they annoy me.

Rep: (nervous laughter) Yeah, that guy always gets under my skin. I've been after his business for a while now. He has the potential to be a half-mil a year account, and he knows it.

CJ: So let me ask you this: How often does he pull this shit with you?

Rep: Daily.

CJ: ... and, how much of your hard work has translated into actual sales, and not bids or quotes?

Rep: Little to none.

CJ: Then he's just fucking with you. He's making you jump through hoops, pushing your buttons, and sending you on wild goose chases just to see how far you'll go to make him happy.

Rep: You think?

CJ: Yes, I do.

Rep: What would you do if you were in my shoes?

CJ: I just did what I'd do.

Rep: What's that?

CJ: Demonstrate to him the unimportance of self-importance. Lines must be drawn and respect must be established, otherwise (customer) will just keep you running around in circles for nothing.

Rep: How do you know all this?

CJ: Experience. I live in Winnipeg, where "it's always cheaper, better, and faster" somewhere else...

Rep: Well, I'm kinda new to all this, can I call you for advice?

CJ: Door's always open.

Rep: Thanks. So, I pretty much have to be a smart-ass?

CJ: That's pretty much it. It also helps to be a bit of a fibber as well - and to make the fibs plausible.

Rep: Oh? How so?

CJ: Remember what I said to (customer)?

Rep: ... yeah...

CJ: I ain't married, and I don't have kids.

Rep: (howls with laughter) You bastard!

CJ: Yup. Just gotta make it sound convincing.

Rep: (laughing) You definitely have a future in outside sales!

CJ: I'll pass, thanks!



So, there you have it. I'm starting to think my current outlet is likely the best outlet!

On Holiday Gift-giving

So, I'm out and about on Saturday afternoon, minding my own business rallying for democracy, when I overhear an older couple (obviously parents of a teenager) talking about buying Christmas gifts...

Mom: But we have to get her this phone!

Dad: Why? A phone's a phone! Aren't they all the same?

Mom: No, she wants this specific phone...?

Dad: Why? What's so big about this one?

Mom: Er, I don't know - it's the one she wants! It's got more gigs or something...

Dad: (sighing) All right... I hope this one lasts until she's thirteen...


Let me see if I have this straight... you're busting your ass, wandering all over Hell's Half-acre (downtown) in the freezing cold, trying to find a store that has a specific (and naturally overpriced) multi-function security blankie cellphone for your ungrateful little princess?

Call me old-fashioned, but to me, it's a gift and not a fucking obligation! Tell her she'll get what she's given and like it, or she can get a job and buy her own fucking phone!

/end rant

Friday, December 5, 2008

On Economic Insanity

Just caught this on the CBC website.

If you're too busy/lazy to read the full article "Meltdowns Everywhere You Look", the CBC's Don Newman attributes the many political and financial crises worldwide to a disused psychological condition known as Neurasthenia.

Neurasthenia, also known as "Americanitis", is typified by depression and increased anxiety which, according to its "discoverer" George Miller Beard, hit the intellectual and upper classes hardest "because of the pressures generated by an uncertain and competitive business environment".

Sounds like a logical, nay, fairly likely explanation for the current states of affairs, eh?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On Ennui and Aggression

I'm really getting tired of things, from the bullshit political climate here in Canada, the increasingly materialistic Christmas season, and life in Winnipeg in general. So tired in fact, it's been negatively impacting my mood, leaving me more cynical and temperamental than usual, which has the unfortunate side effect of negatively impacting my work. Given that I'm in a customer service role at work (Inside Sales/Order desk), this means that CUSTOMERS bear the brunt of my aggression. I don't go out of my way to be rude to people, but I have demonstrated a distinct lack of patience with stupid questions or requests ("Whut do ya mean I can't use your red air hose for propane?" or "Why can't you use gear clamps on 6000psi hydraulic hose?")... and a distinct lack of courtesy to people who are plain ignorant from the get-go.

Soooo... in order to keep my job, teeth, kneecaps, and sanity, I figure I'd better find a better outlet for my frustration and aggression.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rest in Peace, my friend...

This update is dedicated to a brother-in-arms who lost his life this morning.

http://money.aol.com/news/articles/_a/bbdp/wal-mart-worker-trampled-to-death/262342?icid=100214839x1213478608x1200926539

As someone who has worked in a customer service position for over half my life (first as a restaurant employee, then manager, and now an inside salesman in the Industrial & Hydraulic hose & fittings industry), I know full well the things that face those of us who serve the public.

My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of the American Wal-Mart worker who was trampled to death this morning by a throng of bargain-crazed idiots who cared more about buying a cheap big-screen TV or being first in line for the "great deals" than about the life of a man, or even about giving the paramedics room to work on the man after they trampled him.

Equal blame and scorn should go to Wal-Mart as well, for not immediately closing the doors and stopping people from coming in (calling police if necessary to control the crowd) so paramedics could save the life of their employee.

But, it's astoundingly easy to play "WHAT IF?!" from several thousand kilometres away. I wasn't there to see the incident, so for all I know, the Wal-Mart staff and management tried valiantly to fight off the aforementioned throngs of materialistic, simple-minded, bargain-obsessed sheep.

However, I highly doubt it. Perhaps more info will trickle in proving me wrong. More than likely not.

** UPDATE **

I am very happy to report that, yes, I was wrong. According to the latest update on this story, the staff at Wal-Mart did indeed close the store while the paramedics and police did their best to save their (Wal-Mart staff's) fallen comrade. Good on them, and I will happily retract what I said in the previous commentary. My faith in humanity (BUT NOT SOCIETY) is restored, somewhat...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ikea! Ikea is coming!

That's all I've been hearing from a few of my female friends, and quite frankly, I AM FUCKING SICK OF HEARING ABOUT IT ALREADY!

Ikea is NOT coming per se, they're merely looking at the market and seeing it has potential. (Original Winnipeg Free Press article). So don't get your hopes up until you see the building actually being built.

I'll admit I'm not a fan of Ikea. I've been (dragged) to a few stores in the 'States and don't see the big deal. I've helped assemble some of their furniture and felt it was rather poorly made considering how much some of it cost. Don't get me wrong, some of their products do look rather nice and would liven up my rather dreary West K house, but I've always felt Ikea offers poor value for the money. 'Sides, when I want faux-Scandinavian goods of dubious quality, I'll shop at Jysk.




Speaking of my dreary West Kildonan abode, I've been bitten by the home improvement bug again (still no fucking vaccination available).

I've been clearing out the Lab, getting rid of clutter and making room for Project Torquemada (my rack-mounted Unix server) which should be online mid-2009. Figured I'd better get Torquemada up and running to coincide with the renovations I plan to inflict upon my living room, which involves moving a few electrical outlets, installing network ports (still don't trust wifi), installing a new ceiling fan, and partially knocking down a wall to make a lunch counter/bar between the kitchen and living room... ugh, and replacing the flooring... and repainting...

Of course, by knocking down a portion of the kitchen wall, I'll have to move the cupboards that were previously there, and if I'm gonna do that, I may as well replace the fucking lot of 'em, as they're uglier'n sin... of course, that means I may as well repaint the kitchen , too, and while I'm doing that, replace the peel 'n stick crap on the floor with real ceramic tile...

Hmmm, then why not replace the exhaust hood over the stove with a nice new stainless steel one...? - with a nice new stove to match, but then I'll have to buy a similar stainless steel fridge, and if I'm doing that, I may as well pick up a stainless steel ceiling fan/light fixture too...

Christ, at that point, I'll be supporting the economy almost singlehandedly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SLP Heaven: The Continuing Saga

Some of you may remember my abortive little work-in-progress entitled "SLP Heaven" from a year or two back. Those of you who don't remember or aren't aware, don't worry... you'll soon know.

I'll spare you the synopsis, bile, and backstory, as I plan to have the project back online in the New Year, complete with new material.

(SLP, for those not familiar with the abbreviation, stands for Surface Level Parking)

Why the sudden interest in an old, shelved project?

Because, once again, a piece of Winnipeg history is facing the wrecking ball to make way for yet another surface-level parking lot.

If, like me, you're sick and tired of losing our city's heritage bit by bit to make room for modern "conveniences" , ill-advised "modernization", and to pander to the automotive/sprawl advocates, I implore you to join the Save Kelly House Facebook group.

Photo Copyright © 2008, Conceited Jerk Creative Media

If you're wondering what the big deal is about "some old house sitting alone in the middle of a warehouse district", check out everyone's favourite local historian for the full story!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayer

Here is irrefutable proof of the existence of God, and that He has answered my prayers.

Well, sort of. While it wasn't the paralyzing stroke or debilitating aneurysm I'd been wishing upon her, the fact they've wired her jaw shut will do nicely.

Extreme Right be damned!

Hallelujah!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You Read it Here First!

I've hit the big time!
One of my drink recipes, in reality my bastardization of an existing
recipe, has been published on Drinksmixer!
I'm going to celebrate by having a nice cup of hot chocolate.
CJ's Mint Hot Chocolate

2 packets Carnation Rich Hot Chocolate
350ml boiling water
1oz Meaghers Creme de Menthe (green)

Now, if only I could get into Modern Drunkard...
Cheers, folks!
-CJ

sparcipx@sdf.lonestar.org
SDF Public Access UNIX System - http://sdf.lonestar.org

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Pleading Poverty

*** EDIT *** Under advisement from the Conceit and Sociopathy legal department, I have edited out the name of the payroll company in question. They will be known hereafter as "That Fucking Payroll Company". -CJ



So, thanks to the wonderful folks at the payroll company my employer uses, I am without money this weekend.
Today was supposed to be payday.
The day began as all previous paydays began. I got up fifteen minutes early, followed my usual morning regimen, and headed to the nearby Mac's store, where I grabbed my usual large "Seattle's Best Fair Trade
Organic" coffee. I walked over to the ATM, so I could withdraw money for Grant (our coffee truck driver) in order to settle my tab. Put my card in, told the machine to withdraw "x" amount of money, and...

"THERE ARE INSUFFICIENT FUNDS TO COMPLETE THIS TRANSACTION"

"OK, it's not the end of the world," I thought, "This has happened before. The money will probably be there by the time I get to work. Fucking direct deposit..."
Luckily, I had enough change in my pocket to pay for my coffee. I soon cleared my head of my apparent lack of funds. I got on the bus (with yet another rookie driver), hit PLAY on my iPod, and soon forgot about everything.
I arrived at work five minutes late (again, rookie bus driver), and the first thing anyone said to me was "CJ, did your cheque go through?". I recounted my trouble at the ATM this morning, checked my bank balance online, and soon found that NONE of us got paid today.
I'm a tad miffed at this point, because I realized the problem isn't limited to me and/or my credit union - it's affecting all of us at the branch, and therefore a rather large issue.
When the boss arrived, we informed him of the situation, and he promised to look into the matter when our head office opened up in the next hour. He managed to get ahold of the lady who looks after our payroll and, sure enough, she'd been fielding calls from all our branches. Seems none of our staff nationwide were paid. She told us she was on the blower to That Fucking Payroll Company and hoped to have a definitive answer for us soon.
She called back a little while later. Turns out, our good friends at That Fucking Payroll Company had fucked something up (having the fucking gall to blame Rememberance Day), and our cheques would be deposited either late today or early tomorrow. "Of course," I thought, "this HAD to happen this weekend, of all weekends." This weekend, my credit union is changing their system software, so any transactions will be delayed until Monday or Tuesday, so if my paycheque hadn't cleared by 5pm this afternoon, I would be broke until Tuesday.
Suffice it to say, we were constantly checking our bank accounts this afternoon. By the time we left work at 5pm, none of our cheques had cleared. I don't need to tell you that we weren't exactly thrilled with our pals at That Fucking Payroll Company, or with a certain coworker who loudly proclaimed "This is why you should always have at least a month's salary in the bank at all times, just like me!" - a certain coworker who, I might add, is damn lucky he can run faster than myself, as the smarmy little fucker was about to "meet with an accident".
In a sense, he was right. In theory, always having at least a month's salary in the bank is just sound financial advice. In practice, however, it's not always that easy in this day and age. I've been trying to do just that, which is why I cancelled my high-speed internet and digital cable last month, and liquidated a few pieces of electronic equipment I no longer use. It's an uphill battle some days, but, meh, I'll survive.
So, my credit union has assured me that any NSF or late fees will be reversed, which is a good thing, and my boss lent me $20 for cat food, so my kitties are looked after. No thanks to That Fucking Payroll Company, whose nonchalance in the whole matter ( "Oh, it should be there today or tomorrow. If not, you'll have to wait until Monday. But I can't really give you a definitive answer on that") was not appreciated.
Alright, I know sometimes these electronic glitches happen and sometimes people get screwed. I can understand that. What I DON'T get is why That Fucking Payroll Company chose to lay the blame on Rememberance Day. I mean, our payroll has never (in the fifteen years I've dealt with That Fucking Payroll Company) been affected by holidays before... even when a holiday has occurred in the middle of the week. So why now?
Methinks someone's fucked up royally and is trying to cover their ass. That's what has pissed me off about the whole thing.
Fuck, it's going to be a lean weekend...

sparcipx@sdf.lonestar.org
SDF Public Access UNIX System - http://sdf.lonestar.org

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

10ft long, 3ft wide, 4 tons, you can't miss it!

Here's a bit of cheery news to brighten your day (in an 18-Megaton kinda way)!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7720049.stm
The fact that this thing is still unaccounted for after forty years is rather disconcerting.
I'd like to think that the view that the radioactive material had dissolved was correct, but what if they're wrong, and this thing spontaneously goes off one day?
Someone's gonna have some 'splainin to do, when the glacial ice on Greenland suddenly melts.

(Hey ma! Git a load of that thar three-eyed seal! Ga-hyuck-hyuck-hyuck!)

sparcipx@sdf.lonestar.org
SDF Public Access UNIX System - http://sdf.lonestar.org

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Better Living Through Constant Upgrades, or Ooops, fell off the treadmill!

Well, I "sorta" have internet at home again...
I'm online via my dial-up shell account at SDF, which I can access with all the computers I have here - from my lowly TRS-80s to my 2.8GHz Linux box. Of course, it's slow going, considering I only have a 28.8K external modem at the moment.
But hey, what do you want for free?
I haven't yet received the replacement PSU for my Sun Ultra 5, meaning I'm still hamstrung as far as my major project is concerned. In the meantime, I've been testing a few bits of hardware I've bought over the last year or so, as well as a few pieces I've had sitting in the lab for ages.


One of the more important pieces of kit that needed testing was this USB-ethernet transceiver that I bought for my Ultra 5's SunPCi card (a 400MHz PC on a PCI card!). Of course, I can't use the SunPCi card as it's in my "dormant" Ultra 5, so I hooked the USB-Ethernet transceiver up to my aforementioned Linux box, and was able to connect to the other Unix machines on my network. If nothing else, I know the transceiver works.
OK, so I'll have ethernet capabilities on my SunPCi card when the Ultra 5 is resurrected. I dug out my Windows 2000 cd, so I'll have a supported OS for it. Problem is, the SunPCi card only has one USB 1.0 port, meaning I can't use any other USB peripherals whilst the transceiver is in use. Unless, of course, I can find a USB 1.0 hub somewhere...
Guess what I found at the back of my "loose parts" cabinet?


Yup, my friend Slam's old ADS USB hub. He got the thing in a bulk lot of computer junk he bought on eBay many moon ago and truth told, we never got the thing to work, owing to lack of drivers. Out of morbid curiosity, I hooked it up to my Linux box, and the damned thing WORKED!

Son of a bitch!

NOW my interest is piqued... let's put it through its paces, shall we?  I took the USB-Ethernet transceiver out of the Linux box, and plugged it into the hub, fiddled with the ethernet settings, and was able to connect to another computer on my home network in seconds!

OK, how does it perform with a couple more devices? Plugged in my Bluetooth adapter, and my bluetooth mouse was detected almost instantly! So far, so good. Now, let's plug in my new USB 2.0 card reader... and now a 512Mb Compact Flash card, a 512Mb Secure Digital card, and a 64Mb Smartmedia card... Holy shit! All three cards opened up immediately in their own separate windows on my Linux desktop.





Ain't that neat?
I am summarily impressed. However, I'll wager I can wring even MORE performance from this ol' hub... it may only have three USB 1.0 slots (which I've just filled), but it also has serial and parallel ports!
The final test for the evening was to hook my 28.8K modem up to the hub's serial port, and use it to dial into my SDF shell account so I could write this update via email (which was obviously successful or you wouldn't be reading this). I mean hey, ya gotta do something to while away the hours on a cold, blustery evening - Winnipeg is experiencing it's first winter storm of the season!
It never ceases to amaze me as to what these ancient bits of hardware can be made to do, with a little ingenuity and a dose of good ol' fashioned curiosity. That's the true hacker spirit!
(Incidentally, until I restore my "real" home internet sometime next year, I can be reached at the email address listed in the tagline below.)
sparcipx@sdf.lonestar.org
SDF Public Access UNIX System - http://sdf.lonestar.org

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Rise and... Fall?

While sitting, surfing, & sipping a coffee at a certain downtown cafe this evening, I browsed on over to catch the latest post on The Rise and Sprawl, and I have to say, I am a bit disheartened.

While it was my Geography & Urban Geography teacher (and one of my heroes), Fred Headon, who first got me interested in cities and how they worked, it was the Rise and Sprawl's author, Robert Galston, who really got me interested in urbanism. His blog and his affiliation with TRUWinnipeg are what really made me care about this city, its inner workings and petty politics, mass (rapid) transit, and threw fuel on my already-smouldering hatred of surface level parking lots and big box retail.

Despite never having met him, Rob has had a large influence on my attitude toward urban issues, both directly and indirectly (I discovered New Winnipeg and my pal Jim's TRUWinnipeg while looking him up on Google). So to hear him admit that "he doesn't really like Winnipeg" came as a bit of a surprise. Not a huge surprise, mind you - I've always detected a subtle undertone of disgust in his posts, but in my book it was usually a well-founded disgust (half-hearted "renewal" efforts, city hall buffoonery, demolition by neglect, etc).

"So your hero doesn't like your city", you may ask, "Who fucking cares?"

Well, first of all, you're an insensitive little bastard for even asking me that question. Give your fucking head a shake!

Secondly, everyone should care. Unlike some armchair urbanists who probably live in the 'burbs and drive their SUVs to work, Rob actually bought a house in an oft-maligned area of the city (Point Douglas), wrote (writes?) an op-ed column in the more "respectable" daily newspaper (and authors a well-read and respected blog), and even ran for city council. In other words, he has tried to make a difference in this city!

So, when someone who has done all that says something like "I decided that I do not really like Winnipeg", we should all be concerned, and not simply dismiss it as typical Winnipeg whining.




But enough hero worship/the sky is falling reactions for now.

Having thought about it, sometimes I really don't like Winnipeg either, feelings that run deeper than low-IQ/low-sloping-forehead types who cowardly hurl projectiles and insults from the relative safety of their (probably stolen) vehicles.

Well, it's not that I dislike Winnipeg per se, it's more appropriate to say that the "average people" of this city really piss me off. I get tired of hearing about "how much our city sucks", that the crime rate is too high, that we're the auto theft/murder/child poverty/crumbling infrastructure/mosquito capital of the country, etc, and not hearing any constructive solutions for any of these perceived failings.

We seem to be destined to wallow in our own muck, living in a perpetual state of disillusionment and self-pity, with little motivation (and less resolve) to improve ourselves as a city. We elect people who seem to be more interested in giving their pals a piece of the action than effectively running (and fixing) the city. They allow their developer pals to tear down our history in favour of parking lots or buildings that don't fit their architectural surroundings. We allow (even encourage) the city to sprawl outwards instead of renewing its core, shoot down any LRT plans, then complain about traffic being tied up when lanes on our major thoroughfares are closed for construction/repair.

This city really pisses me off.

But it's because I care about it.

And I care enough to do something about it.

Watch this space, you may be in for a surprise.

EDIT: Damn, Mr. Christian beat me to it by a few hours. Curse my lack of home internet! For a well-reasoned and infinitely more focused take on this subject, check out his latest post.

On Making a Little Instability Go a Long Way

Life's been dull since I killed off my home internet account.

In an effort to save a few bucks here 'n there, I cancelled my Shaw account - so no high-speed internet or digital cable television for CJ.

Meaning no soccer coverage, no Wikipedia, no forums, nothing!

Theoretically, this should free up a lot of time for working on my pet project, or so you'd think. Truth is, I've been slightly less motivated since my development box, a Sun Ultra 5, exploded.

Well, it didn't explode per se, rather the power supply failed quite spectacularily - with bright blue sparks and everything. So, until I pick up a new PSU, I'm kinda hamstrung.

With my pet project on ice for a week or so, and with no internet connection at home, I've been putting my Amiga 2000 to good use - such as superimposing (I fucking loathe the use of the word "photoshop" as a verb) a customer's face onto a large pink bunny costume, printing it out, and showing it off to my co-workers...

There's nothing quite like a bit of irresponsibility to liven up one's day!

With that in mind, I am arming myself to the teeth with ImageFX and Pagestream and dedicating the next week (or until I replace that PSU) to gathering source material and drawing up a few nasty but inoffensive pictures and, in a premeditated bout of poor judgement, leaving them in strategic public places for the unwary to see.

See you around (possibly sooner than you think),
CJ

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Absenteeism

I'm swamped with work from my day job, my new project(s), and demands of my personal time, but rest assured, I shall return in the near future - right in time for some holiday "cheer"!

-CJ

(I may even finish my Blog Action Day post...)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Poverty : Blog Action Day

"When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the poor have no food, they call you a communist." - Archbishop Helder Camara

I spent part of the last week out and about in Winnipeg's downtown, taking pictures of the homeless and downtrodden for my Blog Action Day update. I took detailed notes on what I saw, the things I heard, and quotes from the people I talked to.

Notes and pictures that I eventually scrapped, along with my initial plan.

I thought about it for awhile and decided I couldn't, in good conscience, cynically trot these people out like some sideshow just for the sake of a few extra hits on my blog.

Everybody knows poverty exists everywhere, I don't need to throw out a bunch of numbers, statistics, and percentages to tell you that. Poverty is not necessarily confined to one geographic area. It's in the little-travelled alleys and on our major thoroughfares. It's in Third World countries as well as in your backyard. It's in the downtown of every booming metropolis and on the outskirts of every backwater town. In the suburbs, the trailer park, and the refugee camp. Everywhere.

So, what's to be done? What are we doing to help? I asked myself this over and over during my little outing - thinking that we obviously aren't doing enough. That is, until I retraced my steps...

I swear, I must have passed by the offices of two dozen social service agencies dedicated to helping the poor and indigent... from soup kitchens/missions to NGOs.

Which again, got me thinking... on an international level, there are dozens of aid agencies dedicated to helping the poor and needy - Government agencies, Non-Government aid groups, religious/faith-based organisations, philanthropists, etc. We have UNICEF ("For the Children!"), OXFAM, and the Salvation Army, to name but a few.

So, I have to ask the question - with all these people or groups (armed with funds from donations and grants) fighting to help the needy, feed the poor, and eradicate poverty - why hasn't poverty been eliminated?

Naturally, I have a number of theories based on what I've seen.

It seems to me that a lot of the money donated to these various NGO/NPOs and faith-based groups are eaten up by administration costs - it costs money to rent/lease your Bricks & Mortar, and more to buy advertising to get the word out. One wonders how much of every donated dollar actually reaches the poor?

Not trying to belittle or bemoan the good work these groups do, the costs are part of today's harsh reality - the cost of doing business, if you will.


(to be continued throughout the day until midnight CST)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On the Things One Finds While Tunnelling Underground

As most of my regular readership are aware, I'm an active participant in a number of internet forums around the world. I've seen more than my share of petty rivalries between forum members (and in a few cases between forums themselves) over the years, and it really takes me back to my BBS (and Fidonet) days in the 80's.

So, imagine my bemusement when I stumbled upon this little blast from the past while exploring gopherspace, which I present verbatim:


><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
the glue ball bbs----------312-465-hack
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barney badass's b-files
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//////////////b-file #1////////////////
the code of the verbal warrior,or,
barney's bitch war manual


so you log onto a board and make a bee-line for your favorite
sub-board.some people love pirate boards,some people like phreak boards. my
passion is the trusty old standby,the bitch board.

so you get in the 'argument den', or 'discussion board',or'nuclear bitch-
fare'and start looking around for someone who you think you can out-rank.you
know,insult,cut down,and generally verbally abuse. and so you post,and,next
thing you know,somebody appears to hate your guts. you've got an enemy. now
what?

the main problem with 85% of all bitching that goes on on boards today, is
that people just don't know how to handle the answer to that question. now
what? do i keep it up? do i give up? do i insult his mother?

barney's bitch tip #1------- make up yor mind. either take the bitching
completely seriously,or do not take it seriously at all. if you find yourself
grinning at insults thrown at you by your opponent,then either cut it out
immediately,or try grinning even wider when you're typing your reply. the
benefit of this is that you can't be affected one way or the other by any thing
that your opponent says.if you're taking it seriously,then you just keep glaring
at your monitor,and remain determined to grind the little filth into submission.
if you're using the lighthearted approach,then it's pretty dif- ficult to get
annoyed by any kind of reference towards your mother/some chains/and the family
dog,because,remember,you're not taking this seriously!

barney's bitch tip #2-------- make damn well sure that you're not falling into
a trap. what's a trap? well,a trap is something that someone in a position of
power(usually a sysop) sets when he/she thinks you need to be 'put in your
place'. i could not tell you about this if i had not experienced it myself..so
learn from my own mistake --lord chaos,sysop of utopia bbs is not to be trusted.
probably no sysop who is under the age of 18 and starts their name with 'lord'
is to be trusted,but that's a different story. (nothing per- sonal,pat.) more
on traps later.

barney's bitch tip#3-------- to bitch effectively and with class, you need a
certain talent. you either have it or you don't,and that talent is the ability
to write. think of it this way-if you don't think that you could write
something like...well,let's see-well,something like a g-file,then chances are
you are going to be made to look rather silly. a general rule of thumb
concerning bitching is,the better the command of the english lan- guage,the
better the bitching. and i'm not talking about the infamous john- athan lewin
school of saturate-the- enemy-with-3.8-metric-tons-of-extreme- ly-long-words,but
rather the instinct to know when to be direct;ie-'so-and-so ,eat shit and
die',or to be a bit more clever like:'what does so-and-so and the male sex organ
have in common? they're both dicks!'. not the best ex- ample,but you should be
getting the point.

barney's bitch tip#4------- this is tied in with tip #3--well-pol- ished
writing skills are a must,but almost equally as important is the ab- ility to
spell. for myself,nothing assures me of victory more than seeing the misguided
fool who took me on spell like a romper room dropout. the most common screw
ups(and the most sick- ening) are along the lines of spelling you're,'your',and
other such blatant gaffes. 3 lines into a message and you can tell immediately
if you are deal- ing with an idiot. but,in the same vein ,be careful at how
quick you judge-- typing errors are different than spel- ling errors...even i
stopped editing my msgs.(except in real extreme cases) months ago. the key to
looking good when bitching is to know your oppon- ent's weaknesses. if spelling
is one, then exploit it mercilessly. but you'd better make damn well sure that
he doesn't catch you doing the same thing.

barney's bitch tip#5------- *the advantages and disadvantages of multiple
wars.*

when bitching with victory in mind,it is vital that you retain control in the
exchange-i.e.;make him respond to you more than you respond to him,get and stay
in the position where you can con- sistently talk down to your opponent, things
like that. control is the key. lose it,and you're in trouble. an efficient
way to keep control on your side,is,of course,thru having al- lies(if the
opponent is particularly tough). my word on this is as follows; when bringing
neutrals into a 1-on-1 war,you'd better make damn well sure who you're dealing
with,just as you should know the ins and outs of your opponent. bbs'ers are
fickle,fickle people. ------------------------- ------

the reason i underline this is because i can't possibly stress this enough.
in other words,a little paranoia never hurt anybody--trust practically no-one.
when assuming this attitude,you can save face if a verbal dagger flung from the
keyboard of a once-ally hap- pens to find its way to your back.
unfortunately,there's nothing much even the best bitcher can do when dealt odds
stacked by the bitchers most cov- ert enemy:the sysop. the sysop and the sysop
alone has the power to set the trap that no hi-egoed verbal soldier can escape
from...if he/she feels like it,the target could find himself facing;
mysteriously disappearing messages a strange and sudden lack of allies and,an
army of new opponents,never seen or heard of before.... these tactics,are,of
course,the trap that i referred to back in tip#2-- using this method,the sysop
and his cronies(the new opponents,a few of which are undoubtedly the sysop him-
self),once you,as the bitcher have taken up the false challenge,proceed to flood
the bitch board with messages ,and while yours mysteriously go bye- bye,wow!
you've 'lost'! it is this type of'loss'that is inesc- cpable. if you're good
enough,you can figure out the scam before you look too stupid,but your rep(if
you have one) is damaged.know your sysop like you would know your enemy! he may
be your enemy! --

barney's bitch tip#6--------- using the above methods,you should now be able
to definitively tell the class of your opponent. but you should also know the
class of the conflict you are in. in my experience,there are 3 types of
conflicts. **gee,barney,what are those 3 types?** well,i'm glad you asked
that-they are; discussions,arguments and wars

discussions usually are free of any hate(real or simulated),and usually center
around relatively minor topics. a good example of a discussion would be
something like;'does big business des- erve the millions of dollars damage we
hacks and phreaks cause it every week? well,we all know the answer to that,but
it's still a good example of a pot- ential discussion.

an argument is something like the clas- sic oct-nov '84 greek inn bbs election
discussion--is ronald reagan extremely dangerous or just incredibly stupid? as
you can tell,something like that is bound to bring about some strong verb-
age,but usually not directed against one specific user of the board from an-
other user.

wars are the exchanges where you find out such interesting things as'your mom
still owes me money for the 10 minutes of heaven i gave her last night',or,
'your dad told me to tell you that he can't find the whip,so you can't sleep
with him tonight',or similar 10-year- old level sickening drivel.when you hapen
onto a war like this,just do your best not to parachute down to the level that
most bitchers are on,and carry on in the tradition of wit,not shit.good,fun,and
funny wars have in- telligent bitchers. be one,don't just watch!

so that about ends this b-file #1-my personal war manual. hope you found it
ever-so-educational....look for fur- ther b-files in the coming weeks. oh, and
just so you know,these are the verbal warriors of chicago--the ones to beat;

myself,vid kidz,scarlet armadillo,rum runner,and radical rick. good day.
======================================= barney badass's b-files////b-file#1 nov.
1984 ======================================= call the university bbs- check bbs
list for #

(if you dig these b-files,and want them for your board,or perhaps wish to con-
tact me,leave feedback on the : glue ball bbs->->312-465-hack

barney.

=/=/surfware/=/=/=
=/=/=/defoliants/=/=/=/=
v e r b a l


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_ ___ _ the _ _ __ P>rogressive U>nderground
And as this textfile | ||__ \ | | | | | ||_ \ D>issidents
rolls off the screen, | | __) )| | | | | | \ \ 3 1 3 - 4 3 3 - 3 1 6 4
you realize instantly | ||___/ | | | | | | ) ) 300/1200 Baud
the place to get more | | | |___| | | | _/ / 20 Megs of TextFiles
like it.. |_| \_____/ |_||__/ SysOp: Mr. Pez

.



Credit to the original author.

See kids? This is what we did back in the 80's, before the Internet became a household appliance word.

BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) were our forum, and text-files were our blogs.

Durned kids. Get off my lawn!

Incidentally, if you're interested in exploring Gopherspace, check out the Overbite plug-in for Firefox!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We interrupt this hiatus to bring you this important bulletin...

... and by bulletin, I mean drink recipe.

This one was soooo good, I had to share.

I built it off a number of similar drinks (but mostly the Russian Cadillac) that were essentially the same drink across the board, just with different measurements concerning the ingredients.

I found the Russian Cadillac to be the most palatable (if a little too chocolaty), but even then, it wasn't quite to my liking, so... true to my hacker spirit, I tweaked the recipe until it met with my own exacting standards, even going so far as to add a new ingredient.

With that in mind, I give you:

Russian Cadillac Redux

3/4 oz Stolichnaya Vodka
1/4 oz Absolut Mandarin Vodka
3/4 oz Galliano Herbal Liquer
1/4 oz Bol's Creme de Cacao (white)
1 oz Lucerne 18% Coffee Cream

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker half full of crushed ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dignity or Albatross?

Conceited Jerk Dot Com is no more.

I finally pulled the plug on my website.

I let the domain expire, and summarily deleted all the online content.

It's all gone now.

I had to ask myself some tough questions lately - am I ever going to finish the work I started - all those GIF animations, picture galleries, articles, commentary, etc, I had yet to upload? Is my site ever going to relive its early turn-of-the-millenium glory days, or will it constantly be a digital albatross around my neck?

Ultimately, I decided to let the site die with some degree of dignity.

I'm a little saddened, as it was my "baby" for many years, a labour of love that garnered hits from all over the world (but mostly from my usenet and ICQ friends). But, over the last year or so, I realized the site would never regain its momentum, and its moment had passed. It's time to move on.

RIP
Conceited Jerk Dot Com
aka
"Welcome to the Darkest Corners of my Mind"
2000 - 2008


Service will be held at conceitedjerk.blogspot.com on September 26th, 2008 at 8pm. Wake to be held immediately thereafter. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation of patronage to your favourite watering hole.

Note 9/28/08: conceitedjerk.com was a separate site altogether, and had nothing to do with this blog. This blog will continue on unabated, so quit celebrating.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Has it been a year...?

Where does the time go?

I'd like to take a quick break from my hiatus to belatedly congratulate Cherenkov on The Peanut's first anniversary!

Now raise your glasses for a toast:

Here's to Cheren - may he always have something to write about!

(clink!)

Friday, September 19, 2008

On Shifting Priorities

I've finally found my calling.

It's something I've been involved with in the past, and have only just realized I have a real future in this particular field (even with my current employer!). It involves a few of my interests, a few of my marketable job skills, and more than a couple of my personality traits... plus I get to use my brain and manipulate other people, which is always fun. It also doesn't involve being an IT drone, either, which is a definite plus!

However, I won't go into specifics just yet ;)

With that in mind, I'll be going on hiatus for the next month or two, as I have a lot of research and planning to do. Meaning I won't be blogging, surfing, or visiting the many forums I frequent.

Excluding Blog Action Day, of course! I plan to be around for that!

See you around!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008/09 Football/Fußball Predictions

So, the new football season has started, and this time - even though it's waaaay too early to tell - I've decided to make a few unqualified predictions as to who'll meet whom in the finals, and the eventual winner. (Note: These predictions are for leagues I actually follow)

English Premiere League:
Arsenal v. Liverpool (Liverpool)

Bundesliga:
FC Bayern v. Schalke (FC Bayern)

La Liga:
Barcelona v. Sevilla (Barcelona)

UEFA Champions League:
FC Bayern v. Barcelona (FC Bayern)


These predictions are subject to change in a few months, as the seasons progress. Of course, don't put any money on my predictions, you'll likely lose your shirt as I have absolutely no expertise in this regard!

Luxembourg Wins One!

Image Copyright © Getty Images

The Luxembourg national team have won a World Cup qualifying match during my lifetime! Woohoo! Details can be found at the UEFA website here.

Good luck, boys! I know it's a longshot, but I hope to see you in South Africa in 2010!

Subtle Hint



I've opened my big mouth and said more than I should have to certain people, and have gotten myself involved more than I want. Most of you know what I mean. So before I help make matters worse, I will apologize and am now declaring neutrality. Don't bother leaving comments on the matter.

Good day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On the Deghettoization of Downtown Winnipeg

According to a recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Radisson Hotel has been sold.

To someone who'll do something with it. To someone who'll turn this oversized ghetto hotel into a bonafide destination. To someone who cares.

Now, I'm aware the "ghetto hotel" comment will no doubt upset some of my regular readers and friends - as by own admission, the hotel is rather nice inside - but hear me out.

The Radisson is probably the most prominent hotel (if not building) on the strip, meaning it's a high-visibility building. With me so far? Good. So, when your most prominent buildings look like this:







Photos Copyright © 2008 Conceited Jerk Creative Media

What does that say about your downtown? What does it say about your city in general? To an outsider? To someone who lives here? I'll tell you what it would say to me upon first impression: We don't care about our downtown.

Of course, we all know that's not true. Our downtown has generated a lot of interest of late: a few new businesses have opened, there has been some new development (Hydro building, etc), and it seems to me that more people are coming downtown. Heh, and people other than myself are complaining about the amount of surface-level parking lots!

But we live here. How would someone from out of town, who has made all his/her accomodation arrangements online (at $130 a night minimum) react to the boarded-up or missing parkade windows in what is supposed to be a business-class hotel? I'd turn around and find other accomodations - the Fairmont, for example.

The Radisson may be nice on the inside, but on the outside, the place is an eyesore and a disgrace (or, for the benefit of those whose pants are hanging off their asses, it looks all "ghetto 'n shit"). Granted, it's "just the parkade", but appearance is everything! It's been over a year since a windstorm knocked windows out all over Downtown, yet somehow all other building owners managed to replace them. The City and/or the Downtown BIZ should have been all over the Radisson's management to repair the windows and clean the place up, because the boarded up look helps bring down the area.

Sorry for rambling - "Downtown" has always been a touchy subject with me. But I digress.

If Leo Ledohowski's track record is anything to go by, I think we're in for something great. I used to love going to the Northstar Cinema (used to be in the lower level of the hotel) back in the day, and would love to see the hotel become a destination again. Link it up with CanadInns' other ventures nearby and you'll accomplish just that.

I can't wait to see what's in store!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years On

September 11th, 2001



Image taken from The Black Day

In memory of all the lives lost in this tragedy.


Conceit and Sociopathy would like to advise that any "9/11 Truth" or comments about conspiracies will be deleted.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Falling Productivity

Just caught this on the CBC website:

"Canadians were less productive in the second quarter of the year, the third consecutive quarter of negative growth and the worst performance in 18 years, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.
Canada's national statistical agency said the country's productivity shrank by 0.2 per cent in the April-to-June period. The weak performance represented the third straight negative quarterly showing for this key economic indicator."
So, on a whole we're less productive, eh?

In my own case, I attribute a downturn in productivity to one thing or another, some days I spend more time there than I do actually working!

'Cause, hey, ya gotta have priorities!