Tuesday, May 27, 2008

... and further still...

So, the Manitoba government has decreed that, by 2011, any automobiles older than the 1994 model year must be taken off the roads, unless they meet stringent emission control standards.

Being a former gearhead, I naturally have an opinion on this...

(which I'll share once the phones stop ringing here at work...)

** EDIT 06/02/08 **

Gotta do a bit more research on this one as my reliably unreliable sources (in this case, my boss) weren't sure whether this was a bill to be tabled or a law slated to take effect soon.

Will delve further into the subject in my podcast.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Faith in Humanity drops slightly...

What a stupid week.

I had to deal with more than a couple potential catastrophes at work, by people who really should know better.

Some examples:

"What do you mean duct tape can't handle 4000 PSI? I used half the roll!" - customer (a hydraulic mechanic) who was wondering why the damaged hydraulic hose he brought in wasn't holding pressure and was leaking everywhere.

- or -
Customer: "Oh, nobody makes these sewer cleaning nozzles anymore, so we just reuse them. The nozzles are virtually indestructible, but the female couplers they screw into haven't been made in years, so we just buy something that's close to the same size."

Me: "The female coupler is not only an eighth of an inch too big for the nozzle, it's also the wrong thread pitch, and a completely different style altogether! It ain't gonna work!"

Customer: "No problem there, we just use lots of teflon tape and sealant until it holds!"

Me: "At 3000PSI? And nobody's been killed?"


And these are the people we trust to operate and maintain heavy machinery.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Well, it's been a banner weekend for me.

First off, I've been sick over the entire long weekend. Got a touch of the flu that's been going around, giving me near-constant nausea and splitting headaches.

Didn't stop me from getting out, though. I hit Computer Boulevard Saturday morning for a new 80Gb hard drive for Cinq, my Sun Ultra 5, figuring I'd spend the rest of the weekend at home resting, and to pass the time I'd install Solaris 8 on the new HD.

The install went well, even managed to get the SunPCi card going (the SunPCi card is essentially a separate 400MHz PC on a PCI card), so I can run Windows 2000 in a window on my Solaris 8 desktop!

I spent much of yesterday tweaking the install and adding a few things (like SSL) to Cinq, and had planned to finish the job today (Monday).

That is, until my cable modem died.

At first, I thought it was just my hub, so I connected one of my spare
Unix boxes directly to the cable modem - no go.

So, I have to wait until later this week to pick up a new cable modem from their office.

Since I no longer have a dial-up internet account, I'm "stuck" using my wireless internet account at the various MTS hotspots around town, or using one of my older computers (such as the TRS-80 Model 4p I'm using right now) to access my shell account at sdf.lonestar.org...

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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Cycloptic Dilemma Prolonged

So, nearly a month after my little incident, my replacement contact lenses arrived.

They were the wrong damned prescription. Turns out, the lab sent the wrong lenses to my optometrist, and someone else apparently got mine.

So, I get to wait another three weeks for new lenses. At least I'm getting a discount, which is a small consolation. My head's been killing me for a month from the resulting eyestrain (one eye has a contact lens, the other doesn't).

The worst part is - hangovers seem magnified tenfold!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Podcast delayed until 6/01/08

I'm sorry to have to announce that the inaugural edition of Spirited Lethargy will be postponed until the beginning of June, owing to software issues.

The apps in question (Soundedit 16 and Deck II) simply refuse to run on any of my Macs, be they older 68K machines or newer (ok, less old) PPC machines. I enlisted the aid of a lifelong Mac devotee and even he's stymied.

So, until we get this resolved, I'm working on a back-up plan involving Quicktime Pro on Monaco (my iMac DV400) - but only as a last resort - just to make sure my "new" deadline is met. (EDIT: Turns out, Monaco doesn't like my microphone, the same cheap microphone I bought at Staples on clearance. Guess I'm gonna have to spend a little money...)

Unless any of my readers know of a multi-track editing app for Linux or Solaris 7, 8, 9, or 10...?

Or has a working Toccata card for my Amiga 2000...?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Got the tar and feathers ready?

Just caught this on the CBC's website.

To sum up the article as I see it:

Some guy walks away with $1200 or so in Visions gift cards after signing up a bunch of poor people (at an inner-city Mission) for "free" cellphones.

A bunch of people on social assistance have brand new cellphones that they likely can't afford to keep past the four month trial period.

A cellphone company is likely gonna be out a tiny bit of money.

My initial reaction when I first read the article was to grab a length of pipe and beat the living shit out of this guy for taking advantage of people I described (before I edited this post) as "our city's most vulnerable".

Well, on the way home from work, I thought about it some more... nobody forced these people to sign up for the cellphones. Nobody held a gun to their heads.

So, do I still feel sorry for these people for being "taken in" by a scammer? Not really. I'm sure a few of them may have been led into the scam naively believing they were getting something for nothing, and still others were just going along with the crowd.

For most of the "victims" however, I believe it was the novelty of having something they never thought they'd have that led to their acquiescence in the scam. (How can you pay for a cellphone when you're eating your meals at a soup kitchen? Where do you charge the phone?)

As for the people at Visions... I think the manager hit the nail on the head with his comment "It's tricky for us. It would be wrong for us to just start judging people.", and he's right. You risk opening up a big ol' Can o' Worms when you start to discriminate... "I can't sell to you 'cause you're poor" wouldn't fly, the bleeding hearts would be all over it and next thing you know, you're embroiled in a human rights case.

(*** NOTE: I'm still trying to figure out what kind of responsibility (or culpability, or moral obligations) Visions has in the matter, whether credit checks should have been done, etc. Perhaps my readers or visiting New Winnipeggers can help out?)

As for the scammer... well, my feelings haven't changed. I'd still like to tar and feather the bastard.

EDIT 5/13/08
Upon further reflection, I'm of the opinion there were no "real" victims in this case. A few people took advantage of a company that would normally be taking advantage of them.

The only real sucker here was ME, for believing someone was preying on the downtrodden, which was what brought this post about in the first place.

That's what I get for caring.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On Overanxious Homeowners and Winnipeg Weather, part two

The voles did it.

While visiting my parents today for Mother's Day brunch, my dad showed off his dead front lawn. Turns out, both his front and back yards fell victim to voles over the winter. Killed it dead. Ate the grass roots and now nothing will grow.

He'll spend his evenings this week seeding the lawn and doing what yardwork he can do.

Me? I'll play it by ear. Ordinarily, I wait until after the Victoria Day long weekend to start my yardwork, but this year, I may start a week or so early, weather permitting...

This year, I'm planning to:
Tear up my patio

Dig up the car port and extend the fence to the back lane, laying sod both here and on the patio

and in a couple of years' time, tear down the garage in favour of an above-ground pool and deck.

Today, however, I'm taking advantage of the nice weather by blogging from my front yard.

Happy Mother's Day!

Yes, a big Happy Mother's Day to my mom, and all mothers out there!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Downtown Freak Show

While returning home from my little MoBlogging excursion this morning, the Downtown Spirit bus I was riding in passed by a protest at the corner of Portage and Garry.

A few people were holding up anti-Scientology placards and signs, so I figured "This bears looking into..." and made a mental note to return as soon as I could.

Got home, dropped off Nadia and my digital camera, and, anticipating some degree of ugliness, strapped on my workboots, and grabbed my older digital camera.

I hopped on the next bus and headed back to the scene of the protest. There were probably about twenty people in all, each one dressed in a silly costume, obscuring their identities from those big, bad, free-speech repressing, litigation-happy Scientologists whose office is a couple of doors away from the scene of the protest.

I circled the block a few times on foot, and decided to listen in as I walked past... and ultimately decided against "interviewing" any of them, much less photograph any of 'em...

Now, I'm not a Scientology fan by any stretch of the imagination. Any sane person should question the basic tenets and precepts of a "religion" founded by a writer of bad cheques and worse science fiction. However, I also found it difficult to take the protestors, dressed as court jesters (among other things), seriously as well... so their message, however well intentioned, will forever go unheard by me...

After lamenting the ten-or-so minutes I spent observing this costume party cum protest, I headed west a few blocks to Portage Place, where I wandered smack dab into a costume party of another sort.

Turns out, on May 9th and 10th, Portage Place was hosting the 2008 Panache International Model Search.

I was wondering why there were so many young girls (well, more than usual, anyway) wandering around all tarted up. Looks the modelling houses are in town looking for new meat to prostitute/exploit... and from the size of the crowd, there were a number of young girls willing to give up their dignity for fifteen minutes of fame... just as bad as those bloody Canadian Idol auditions they hold at Portage Place every so often.

You know you're getting old when you just don't get young people these days...

On Mobile Blogging

So, my second "moblogging" experience with Nadia has been a tad, shall we say, pedestrian.

Armed with Nadia and my digital camera, I set out for Sal's sur L'Esplanade for breakfast this morning. I planned to sit back, enjoying a marginally edible breakfast and passable coffee, snapping a couple of pictures and uploading them live to my blog.

Didn't quite turn out as I'd planned.

First off, I left the camera's USB cable at home. Secondly, I don't have much of a view (apart from cloudy skies and leafless trees). Third, the place is packed, so getting out of my seat to take a few pics is out of the question.

Ah well, better luck next time. There's always next week.

On the subject of "moblogging", it's been nearly a year since last summer's Retrochallenge! Last July, I used my old Tandy Model 100 as my main portable computer, and used it on one occasion to blog on the go. I called it "RetroMoBlogging"... While sitting at Pastry Castle, I wrote my update in the Model 100's text application, then walked over to a nearby payphone, hooked up the Model 100's built-in 300 baud modem via a pair of ancient acoustic couplers, dialled into my Unix shell account via a phone card, and uploaded the text file to my home directory... from whence I posted it via PINE to my blog.

It was slower than Hell, but it worked. Gathered a crowd of curious onlookers, too.

This year's Retrochallenge is only a month and a half away, but I may not be able to participate as I'll be out of town on business for a week in mid-July. I was recently designated our branch's "Go-to" guy for all computer and systems training, and in my capacity as such, I've been scheduled to fly out to Edmonton for a week to attend a training seminar... Maybe I can work that into the Retrochallenge somehow...?

Also, with much of my time to be devoted to my creative endeavours such as this blog and my new podcast, I may not have time to participate this year... unless I work that into the plan as well...


Ideas, Ideas, Ideas...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On Misguided Practical Jokes

Every once in a while at work, we like to play little jokes on the newbies.

Today, one of the sales guys sent the new (and inexperienced) kid out to a supplier for both a "left-handed wrench" set (for both Metric and SAE wrenches) and a "hydraulic hose stretcher".

Neither of which exist, of course...

The lad wasn't too impressed with our time-honoured hazing ritual...

So, while sitting around the lunchroom today, we talked about the best (worst) practical jokes we've ever pulled off.

While few of theirs amounted to anything more than Hallowe'en pranks, mine (as always) took the prize:

1. While at a party (sometime back in my early twenties), I replaced the contents of the candy dish with bath beads I'd coated with icing sugar. As most people were half-drunk when I'd made the switch, nobody noticed until the next morning (lots of Pepto Bismol bought that morning!). Punishment: see below...

2. Again, back in my early twenties: Filling an ex-girlfriend's shampoo bottles with depilatory foam. No punishment.

3. Late twenties: Replacing a birthday cake with an identically iced and decorated cardboard box. Punishment: angry girlfriend = no sex.

4. Mid-twenties: Finding an old package of Ex-Lax from the late 70's, the kind that looked like a chocolate bar, at my grandmother's house. Then taking it home, melting it down with regular milk chocolate and white chocolate, pouring into Valentine's Day themed chocolate molds, and sending it to my cheatin' ex-girlfriend for Valentine's Day, care of a "Secret Admirer". (OK, so this one was a bit extreme). Punishment: Deservedly got my ass kicked by her boyfriend, her father, and endured social ostracism for about a month.

5. Grade 12: While waiting for our English 300 class to be opened, I remarked to the kids in the ESL class across the hall that their final mark rested upon their knowledge and understanding of the poem "Jabberwocky", and that it'll be on the exam (What means this word "frumious"??). Punishment: Giving a two hour presentation to the same ESL class on humour, irony, and puns, and answering all questions from the bemused students. Much to my English teacher's, ESL teacher's, and Principal's chagrin, I had a lot of fun and ended up tutoring a couple of students after school for a while. Briefly dated a cute Polish girl, too...

So, yeah, I've pulled my share of mean spirited practical jokes.

Bad karma? You bet! But in the spirit of fair play, I gotta tell you about my favourite practical joke played upon me!

In retaliation for the "Bath Bead Incident", the girls who hosted that particular party invited me over to their next party and got me good and loaded. I don't remember much from that night, but remember the next morning quite vividly, as I spent much of it puking up pink stuff that tasted like perfume... (and this was before I discovered the beauty that is Campari!)

From what I was told later (by one of the hostesses whom I later ended up dating for a few months), in the wee hours of the morning, they asked me if I wanted breakfast. Knowing I was into European stuff, they offered me a bowl of Kellogg's Mueslix, which I apparently ate with a big smile on my face (pictures to prove!).

Except it wasn't Mueslix.

It was a packet of potpourri, with a few raisins thrown in for good measure..

Ah, memories...

Monday, May 5, 2008

On Software Upgrades

I tried to install the latest ImageFX on my Amiga today.

No go.

Looks like whomever mastered the cd mastered it in ISO9660 and didn't use Joliet extensions, as the filenames on the CD are truncated to the old DOS 8.3 standard. Grrr...

The truncation also buggered up the file attributes, so nothing is "executable", thereby rendering the files useless.

No biggie, I'll just have to copy all the files from the CD onto my work partition and try to rename the files accordingly. Will take a little trial and error, but I will prevail.

Perhaps I should have bought the latest version of ArtEffect instead? Suppose I still can...

I've also found a couple of other handy graphics utils for my trusty ol' Amiga 2000: an EXIF tag editing tool (for my digital camera images) and a steganography tool for hiding data in graphics files... such as a copyright text ;)

Also found an Amiga iPod application suite, but I'll wait until I pick up the Subway USB card and a larger HD before downloading that...

(By the way, any comments telling me to upgrade to a "real" or "modern" computer will be deleted, so don't waste your energy. If I didn't heed that advice a decade ago, I sure as Hell ain't gonna do it now!)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

On Overanxious Homeowners and Winnipeg Weather

In a word: DUH!
Anyone living in Winnipeg should know better.

Never, EVER start your yardwork before the Victoria Day long weekend. God knows, I never start mine until June.

If you're one of my foreign (ie non-Winnipeg) readers, I'll explain it thus:

Picture 1
Looking east down my backlane
Picture 2
My lawn as viewed from the front steps

Picture 3
Looking west down Kilbride Ave.
Picture 4
My lawn
Picture 5
View from the sidewalk


Just yesterday, on my street alone, I saw a number of people with their lawn sprinklers going full-bore, or power raking their lawns, planting or tending their gardens, etc. In fact, one of my neighbours was planting seeds and transplanting some bulbs into his garden when I got home from my rounds. I asked him if that was a wise thing, given our weather. He laughed and said "It's the beginning of May! Tomorrow's supposed to hit 19°C, so I have nothing to worry about". This from a guy who's lived in Winnipeg for most of his 65 years...

Well, my good friend, I'd say you DID have something to worry about, judging by how quickly you were in your garden this morning ;)

Meteorology isn't an exact science. Things can change at a moment's notice. Common sense should dictate (and historical Winnipeg weather should attest to) that.

A word to the wise

Day-old Jäger-bombs taste horrible.

Should you find one (or any other beverage) lying about after a previous evening's gathering of friends, POUR IT OUT! Ugh.

Had a few friends and acquaintances over last night for our bi-monthly drinks mixer. Looks like I have a couple of people interested in helping out with (or contributing to) my podcast. But, as always, we'll see how it goes (wish they'd offer to help while sober).

My projects are shaping up nicely. Spirited Lethargy is a go (eleven more days!!), SLP Heaven is still in the pre-planning stages, and Postcards from Winnipeg is also coming along nicely (just a matter of sorting through over a thousand pictures).

I have a few more things in the works, but I'll elaborate later.

All I can say is "It's gonna be an interesting summer".

In other news, today's weather is... rather unpleasant.

According to Weatherdock, it's -2° Celsius. A quick look out the window tells me it's snowing outside.

So much for walking around outside today. Ah well, nothing left for me to do today but stay home, listen to my iTunes, blog, and drink.

Probably would have ended up doing that anyway, so... ;P