plonq: (Emo Luna Mood)
Dear Mount Hagen Coffee,

I purchased a small jar of your freeze-dried, instant, decaffeinated organic coffee because my experience with the three previous brands of instant coffees I had tried were disappointing, and also I have no self-respect. I can say with some assurance as I gleefully tossed the empty jar into the recycling bin this evening that the coffee therein was not disappointing. I daresay it vile to the point of being insulting. These horrid little crystals bore as much resemblance to coffee as the ashes of a dearly departed. Did anybody taste the product before it was labelled as coffee? I would suggest that a the consumer would be better served if this product was renamed to, "freeze-dried tragedy. Serve hot."

I would not serve this drink to my enemies, though I would venture to suggest that I might make a few by serving good folk this abomination.

If I could find a silver lining in this brew of putrescence, it is that it spurred me into dropping all pretence of coffee in the evenings, and made me seek out an alternative to decaf entirely. The problem is not that I dislike coffee, in fact I love it too much, and I drink it in all of its full-caffeine forms during the day. I would just like to enjoy the brew in the evenings without disrupting my sleep. I've had some mixed success with whole bean and ground decaf coffee, but I was hoping to get away from the fuss and mess of brewing coffee by lowering my standards a bit - a lot, actually - and and trying my luck with instant coffee.

Anyway, I blame you and the sheer repulsiveness of your product into rendering me susceptible to my next ill-advised purchase: Bambu instant organic coffee substitute.

The product caught my eye while I was shopping for other products, and I happened by the section of the store that offers products like Almond Milk, Flavoured Soy Drink, and other items that tend to serve as a ward people who do not hate themselves. I was intrigued by the label which showed a couple spikes of wheat, several whole acorns and half a fig flying gleefully into a swirling mug of foamy, brown liquid. I held the product in my hand in a state of detached, morbid fascination before I quickly tossed it into my basket lest somebody see me and misidentify me as a pod person. I mean, surely nobody would make a product like this as anything other than a trap to ensnare aliens trying to pass themselves off as humans.

"Hello, fellow humans. Would you care to join me in a cup of beverage made from nuts, grains, and a pulpy fruit normally used for making newtons?"

I had low expectations for this beverage, so nothing would delight me more than to tell you that it was delicious. But it wasn't. It was a disappointment. From the very first cup of hot, steaming, what the hell was I thinking, I knew that I had made a big mistake. I made another cup the next night, and tried adding enough sugar to mask the flavour. No amount of sugar helped. The second cup was naught but sweet regret.

I left both products sitting on the kitchen shelf, untouched for almost a week after that. I finally concluded that I was never going to drink either of them again, and though I am loathe to waste a product, I went out to the kitchen with the intent of pouring both into the sink and recycling their jars. It was when I had both jars in my hands that I performed an act that I can only attribute to temporary insanity, or suppressed self-loathing. I decided that they deserved a proper send-off, and I was curious if their awfulness was additive or multiplicative, so I scooped half a proper portion of each into my mug and prepared it as I would a regular instant coffee.

What I had not anticipated was that their union was neither of those, rather it was subtractive. The resulting blend was not simply not bad, it was actually pretty good. It would be like putting a pug and a shih tzu into a grinder and... well, actually we could stop right there and we'd still have a winning condition. But in this case, it would be like putting two yappy, snorty dogs into a grinder and having a border collie come out the end.

I finished the last of the Mount Hagen coffee this evening, and I have since purchased a brand that was more passable. I am hoping that it will play as nicely with this coffee substitute as its predecessor. I suspect it will. I remember years ago it was common for coffee companies to add chicory to their instant coffees, and it is the main ingredient in Bambu.

Feather

Return to Pinawa

Path of The Rock

Happy Birthday CanadaHappy Birthday Canada
plonq: (Entertain Me)
One of the things I plan to do after I retire is explore local restaurants. My goal is to venture out at least a couple of times a week to sample a wide variety of breakfast and lunch places, hopefully hitting a different one each time. A good friend of mine is retiring later this year, and when I mentioned this plan to him, he immediately said, "Sign me up!"

Ultimately I want to walk or cycle to as many of them as I can, or walk there and take the bus home again; the idea is to get exercise as well as a meal. My plan for my retirement years does not consist of sitting on my butt as I slowly fade away.

I know it's not a unique or new idea, but I am also planning to BLOG about the places as I visit them. I am torn between creating a public BLOG for it (maybe see if I can coax my dear wife to give me some space on one that she has already created), or just post it here.

I may experiment with a few formats before I settle on something consistent, so please bear with me. Also, don't expect a lot of entries on this until I'm actually retired in a year.

Name:
Relli's Breakfast & More
Home Style Cooking

Location:
Attached to the Green Brier Inn, North Main St, Winnipeg

Date:
August 11, 2017

[personal profile] atara and I spotted this new place when we were walking down Main Street a couple of weeks ago to hit up a local butcher shop. There have been a couple of other restaurants that have set up shop in the front of the Green Brier over the years, but each has looked sketchier than the one before.

At this point I should probably give some background on the Green Brier itself. This is a pub located in the north part of Winnipeg, with an attached liquor vendor, and (as I mentioned above) a succession of restaurants occupying the other street-front portion of the building. In fairness to the pub, I have only been in there once, and it was long before its renovations a few years ago. At the time when I visited, it radiated an unwelcoming, stabby kind of vibe that caused my friend and I to exchange an uneasy glance before we wheeled and walked out again by unspoken, mutual agreement.

The fact that there was drunken, off-key karaoke taking place at the time did not hurt our decision process.

When we passed this new restaurant (New as of June this year, as I later learned from the owner), I told [personal profile] atara of my plan to walk down there for breakfast at some point during my week of vacation. Yesterday I followed through on that.

Between the gaily painted window - which features a smiling portrait of (who I presume to be) the self-same Relli taking an order, and a grinning cup of coffee holding a breakfast sandwich - and the Venetian blinds inside, I could not see into the restaurant from the street. I dithered outside for a minute, trying to find a write-up about the restaurant on my phone before I finally admitted to myself that I was just procrastinating.

I opened the door and ventured into a rather pleasant, homey little diner. It had five tables in total, one of which was occupied by a family of four, and another by a young woman who was drinking coffee and reading the paper. It did not take me long to figure out that she is the owner's daughter, first when she offered me a menu and told me to help myself to coffee, and again later when I heard her complain, "Mom, I'm not even supposed to be working today."

Mother and daughter were both very friendly, and quickly defused any hesitation I may have felt about trying the new restaurant.

The menu selection was fairly limited - if memory serves me, they offered a maximum of five or six breakfast selections. I glanced over the options quickly before choosing the pork chop and eggs, as pictured below.

Breakfast

The coffee was fine, but not extraordinary. It tended toward the lighter and thinner end of the spectrum for my liking, but it was fresh thanks to the high throughput. If one was looking solely for coffee, I would steer them toward other outlooks first, but I would not actively discourage them from coming here.

I ordered the eggs with my meal sunny-side-up, and they were cooked to near perfection. Most place are pretty good when it comes to eggs, but it is nevertheless a nice treat when they nail it. The potatoes were also handled well. The breakfast potatoes are usually the things I dread most when I try a new place, but these had just a nice amount of crunch where they were browned, and just enough onion mixed in to give them a good flavour. It's possible that they were cooked from frozen, but I'd still rate them around the same level as what you will usually get from one of those family-style chain restaurants.

The rye toast could have been left in the toaster for another minute in my opinion, but I will take slightly light toast over burnt any day. The toast was buttered, but not saturated as some places are wont to do. When I say buttered, I think it is more likely that it was margarined - at least, that's the impression I was left with from the taste and texture of the spread. They offered no sides (jam, jelly, peanut butter), and I did not see any readily available for patrons. They probably would have brought some if I had asked, but I was satisfied to dip the toast ends into the egg yolks and enjoyed it that way. Still, next time I will ask for peanut butter.

The only real disappointment with the breakfast was the pork chop. I have seen some thin cuts of meat in my time, but it takes real skill to shave off a chop this thin. It's not like I think the breakfast needed a thick chop - it was quite filling, and the chop was more for flavour than anything else, and I understand that a thin chop cuts the cooking time during the busy breakfast hours. It was well-seasoned and flavourful. My issue with the pork chop was that it was overcooked. It was not quite reduced to jerky, but it was tough and chewy. One does not want to serve raw pork, but this one would have benefited from a minute or two less on the griddle.

The slice of strawberry and summer melon were a nice finish, but in a small enough portion that I would almost classify them as garnish rather than as part of a meal.

Overall, I would rate the meal as good, but not great. The diner was clean, and the atmosphere was friendly. The food was about on par with what you would expect from a little family-run diner.

I won't actually give a review-style rating for the place since I have only been there once, and I like to return and try other dishes before I actually do a review, so I'll finish with a tentative rating of will return.
plonq: (Masturbatory Mood)
The fencing guys were supposed to come by yesterday, but when we woke to pouring rain in the morning, we were not surprised when they called mid-morning to announced that it was too wet to work. He said that they had another job to finish today, and that Friday was iffy, so we likely would not see them until "early next week".

He did not say what caused the change-up today, but he called at 6:50 this morning and said, "I can be there in 20 minutes."

This is a picture I took in early July, a couple of days before the landscapers were due to arrive.
Before

This is what it looks like now, an hour after the fencers left for the day. )

The fence looks better than we were expecting, so we're willing to forgive them the delays.
plonq: (Trying to be cute)
I have always considered [personal profile] atara and me to be middle-class, if perhaps living a bit below our means.I really don't have much to add on that front, other than to use it as a segue into something I saw on Reddit a few minutes ago. Somebody in /r/AskReddit asked, "What is the most middle class thing you can think of?" I have a feel for how the hive-mind works, but sometimes it surprises me. In this case it was the second highest response in the thread. "I'm really confused, some people are likening middle class to being poor, while others are comparing it to being wealthy. I guess that's why it's middle class."

I found it an interesting response, because I have heard of this before, and it is something that politicians use to pit classes against one another. People who fall below the threshold of middle-class consider themselves to be middle-class because they don't like to consider themselves as poor, and people above the threshold don't feel like they are rich enough to be considered well-off. It is also a symptom of the shrinking middle class. Wages are becoming more and more polarized, but since everyone identifies with the middle class, it's creeping up on us without a lot of notice. Politicians use it by accusing their opponents of waging war on the middle class, and since everybody considers themselves to be middle-class, they feel like the politicians are on their side.

The truth of it is that the fabulously wealthy are waging war on all of us, but they have convinced us that our problems are the fault of the poor. Everyone wants to be middle-class so that they can have somebody to look down on. Nobody wants to be part of the problem. The poor certainly aren't getting any richer, and if the middle earners are getting poorer, that kinda suggests where the money is flowing.

Speaking of middle-class things, after talking about it for years and having at least one contractor flake out on us, we finally got the back yard landscaped into something useful. It had a trashy garden that we had not used in the past three years, and a patch of weeds where a tree stood at some point before I bought this house. Now we have a stone patio, chips, and a small patch of turf in what used to be the spot that served as a patch of weeds surrounding a herb garden.

The only thing missing was a fence. We have the remains of a chain link fence that enclosed the yard when I bought the house. We replaced the front part of it with a black metallic fence, with the intention of replacing the rest of it down the road. When we booked the landscaper, we asked him if he could suggests a fence installer, and he recommended a company with whom he has worked in the past. He said they would coordinate their efforts for efficiency. Then, as one might expect, things started to fall apart.

First, the landscaper seemed to lose our number. We only knew that he had not forgotten about us because one of [personal profile] atara's co-workers knows him, and she let us know that he had run into delays on a couple jobs ahead of ours. In the meantime, the fence installer forgot the part about coordinating with the contractor, and he phoned us to let us know that he was ready to begin work about three weeks after we had first expected the landscaper to show. I let him know that the landscaper had not shown yet, that they were going to be grading the property as part of their work, and that they had specifically asked us to keep a clear path to the back alley. I reminded him that he was supposed to coordinate with the landscaper.

The next day, the landscaper called and said, "Hey guys, sorry it took so long. I'm ready to start now!" I called the fence guy back and advised him that the landscapers were starting their work the next day, and he could come in any time after they were done. He asked us to get details on any underground utilities, and that once that was done, he would let us know when he could start. We got him what he needed, and by that time the landscaping was done, so we told him he was free to start at any time. His response was, "Great! I'll start on it next week."

That was July 12. Next week came and went, then another week. [personal profile] atara contacted him to ask if everything we'd sent him was in order because we were eager to have the fence completed. He confirmed that everything was good, and he'd be starting any time. Then another week went by.

I phoned him this morning to get an ETA on when he would be getting to us, and he said that he was still waiting to hear from the contractor to let him know that he was done.

"..."

We told him that. Twice.

He was very apologetic, and promised to start work tomorrow. It should only be a one-day job - weather permitting - so with any luck we will finally have some privacy to go with our new back patio.

I can't shake the feeling that he was intentionally playing dumb to work on higher-paying job sites before he got around to ours, but I'll just be happy to have the fence done and be finished with contractors for the nonce.

Finally, in other news, I have my first appointment with the physiotherapists on Monday to attend to my foot. I asked them about the Functional Ability Forms from work, and the impression they gave was that they are in a position to fill those out for me. The other alternative is to try and get in to see my regular GP again. I'd prefer if these guys could just file them for me - I'll even pay the $25 out of pocket for it if they have trouble direct-billing my employer.
plonq: (Crashing Mood)
It has been a little while since I updated here, so I am trying to remember where I left off.

I think I mentioned the email I got that wanted me to show up for 3 1/2 months of intensive training on very short notice. The news on that is currently a holding pattern. The foot that I injured last year had been troubling me, and after pestering my doctor about it for months, he finally sent me off for x-rays. When I booked a follow-up appointment with him (to renew my prescriptions in case I got sent out of town, and to find out the results of the X-ray), he admitted that he is not an expert on feet, but that there was no obvious breaks or bone spurs. On the other hand, there were clear signs of swelling. He instructed his front end staff to refer me to a specialist.

The hemmed and hawed over it before finally recommending that I go to the Pan Am Clinic. It's a walk-in, first-come-first served clinic, though they prioritize by severity. They took down my details and gave me a number. Forty-five minutes later I saw a triage specialist who took down more detailed information, including the name of my family doctor. Then they told me to return in about four hours.

I had another two hour wait before I finally got in to see an actual doctor, though when I saw the condition of people who they were taking ahead of me, I did not begrudge the wait. He poked and prodded my foot and ankle, asked me a few questions, then called up the x-ray. When I described what had happened last year, he said that the x-ray confirmed it, and he then exactly described the symptoms that I would be having now because of it.

In a nutshell, when I pushed off with my left foot to straighten a draw-bar, the strain caused one of the small bones in my foot to dislodge and cross over one of the other bones. When I was flexing the foot a couple of days later, the pop I felt was the bone snapping back into place. In the process, it tore the tendon. I probably should have gone to see a foot specialist at the time, but it happened over the long weekend, and by the Tuesday, it was feeling much better and seemed to be on the mend.

The problem now is that when the tendon has suffered scarring, and it healed too short. As a result, I experience pain from walking, and shooting pains when walking on uneven terrain, navigating stairs/ladders, or otherwise pushing off from that foot. You don't want unexpected, shooting pains in your foot and ankle when you are working around large, industrial equipment.

Now that I have the formal diagnosis, I need to set up an appointment for physiotherapy where they will use ultrasound and lasers to essentially damage the tendon again and stretch it out properly as it heals. Does not sound pleasant. I also need to get some paperwork filled out for work to indicate that I am under a doctor's care until further notice, and will not be available for training in a safety-sensitive position.

ON ANOTHER FRONT

Over the winter I started buying instant decaf coffee to drink in the evenings. I used to buy ground decaf, but it always took me so long to go through a bag of it that it was invariably stale before I got to the end. With the instant decaf, the coffee is bad from the get go, so I can drink it at my leisure.

I have been trying a variety of brands in a quest to find the least awful of them. A couple of them were actually surprisingly drinkable, but the most recent one I bought was a German import that is vile. I had this misguided idea that Europeans know good coffee, so if it was from Germany, it must be good. I conveniently forgot that there are probably still old Soviet factories operating in some of the more remote parts of eastern Germany, and that this horrid product probably came from one of those. It tastes like coffee that was infused with despair and then had all the joy distilled out of it.

When I was out shopping last week, I found a coffee substitute in the organic food section of the store. It was a brand that I had never heard of, made from ingredients that sounded only vaguely familiar. I was both intrigued and repelled at the same time, so naturally I bought it. I made a cup of it the day that I brought it home and it's ... a thing. I tried it again the next day, making it slightly stronger, and adding sugar. It was a ... slightly stronger, moderately sweet .... thing. I can't really come up with adequate words to describe it. It's not what I would call good, but it's not really that bad either. I cannot claim that I enjoyed drinking it, but neither did I dread each sip.

I had a bit of a rough day today (had to spend a few hours dealing with work-related support issues), so this evening I decided to round out the awful with some decaf. I had the German crystals in my hand and briefly considered throwing them in the garbage, but on a whim I brewed up a cup with 60% of the German decaf, and 40% of the coffee substitute.

Oddly enough, the result was actually pretty good. I don't know what weird alchemy happened in my coffee cup, but apparently two wrongs can make a right if mixed properly.
plonq: (OK...)
When we signed up for Spotify Premium a few weeks ago, I thought it would be nice to put together a put together a few play lists for when I am at work, or relaxing at home, working in the yard, plotting revenge, etc.

Instead, what I ended up doing was just dumping every song I could think of that I like, or might like at some point into a giant play list of 3000+ songs.

On the plus side, it means I can hit shuffle and have a personal radio station of just music that I like. The down side is that it's like having a personal university station, where Tommy Dorsey might cross-fade into Killing Joke.

Megamix

That said, I enjoy the eclectic mix. I don't need to worry about getting bored with Pantera when, likely as not, Michael Bublé will be on next.
plonq: (Kinda Bleah Mood)
I got an email late Tuesday instructing me to board a plane the following Monday (a holiday up here) to fly out of town for an intensive 3 1/2 month training program on operating locomotives. if you do the maths, you will notice that they were giving me three working days notice for a 14+ week absence from home.

Sure. Fine. I'll just open 14 weeks worth of cat food and let them fend.

I told them to get stuffed - though in politer terms. I said that it was a ridiculously short notification, and left me no time to renew critical prescriptions, nor handle other pending issues. One of the issues being the foot that I injured during training last year that has been giving me increasing grief of late - long before they dropped this last minute bombshell on me. I got the results from my doctor on the x-rays he ordered for it, and though there are no visible fractures, he said there is definitely visible swelling. He has advised me to see a podiatrist, or or somebody who specializes in soft-tissue injuries.

When I advised the training department that there was not a chanced in Hell that I would be on a plane to the training centre on Monday, they responded by sending a passive-aggressive missive to my boss about how they had expected to find me "fit and ready" when the call came. He forwarded that to me, and if I had been angry with them before, I was even more angry with them. It appears that all of their communications have been with him - cutting me entirely out of the loop until they could drop a last-second demand on me to show up for training. The only reason I know about their snot-o-gram is because he forwarded it to me and asked for my comments.

I may have been a little acerbic in my reply, and pointed out that they were making some pretty broad assumptions about my immediate health and availability when the note they sent me last week was their first contact with me at all since October of last year. I have still not been directly advised by either my boss, or the training group that I was not expected out there on Tuesday. The communication in this whole management training program is bad beyond the point of farcical.

Something else I have raised a few times, but seems to be falling on indifferent ears, is the fact that I have about 290 working days left until I reach full pension. This means that if they force me into the 14+ week program, and I come out of it qualified as an engineer, I will still have a few months of familiarization and OJT before I am ready to start running trains. They are looking to spend a bucket load of money training me up for, at best, 150 working days of productivity.

As a shareholder of the company, I am appalled by the waste. Then again, this program is as much a social experiment as anything else. The CEO who brought it in here first set it up at our competition when he was running that company. Their board eventually pushed him out the door, and the company immediately began ramping the program down as an expensive a flop. One of the reasons they are still pushing hard to try and shove managers through this program is because of the alarming attrition rate. I don't know the actual figures, but from the results I've been seeing, for every ten people who they force through the program, two become medically disqualified shortly after they complete it, two go on long term stress leave, and another one quits to find work at a company that sucks less.

Go figure.

Rage

Jun. 26th, 2017 11:29 pm
plonq: (Somewhat Pleased Mood)
I did a rage uninstall on my phone today, and left an indignant one-star review on Google Play. It is the first time I have been moved to post a review, but these developers are particularly sketchy.

The strange part of it is that this was in response to a game that I've had for a couple of years. This was one of those typical jewel games where you flip the positions of coloured stones to create rows or columns of the same colour in a race against the clock.

The game has always been an ad-supported, but I've avoided installing ad-blockers on my phone because I can tolerate a few ads to support developers. Originally the ads were pretty unobtrusive, consisting of a small banner at the bottom, and the occasional full-screen ad after clearing a few levels. Over time, the ads became more frequent - usually after clearing 2-3 levels. For a brief span they had ads that would automatically bounce you to the download page for one of their other apps on the Play store, and I came close to dumping the game there, but they reverted that quickly after user complaints.

I did not play the game very often - and usually when I played, it was on long plane trips where I did not have net access, so their ad service behaved itself. Even so, whenever I played the game more recently, I noticed that it was up to popping an ad between every level clear, and then interrupting game-play to display full-screen ads. Again, after users pushed back, they scaled it back to ads ever 2-3 levels, and stopped interrupting in the middle of a level clear.

Today their game hijacked my lock screen with an ad. My phone had got an OS update earlier in the day, and at first I thought that Google had finally gone off the deep end. I closed the ad, and moments later it appeared again. I quickly realized it was tied to the Jewels Star, and I jumped to the play store to see if there were any comments. Sure enough, there was a flood of 1-star reviews by angry people who had encountered the same shenanigans.

The really insulting thing about it is that the developers are responding to the reviewers with a boilerplate response:

"ITREEGAMER June 26, 2017
Hello dear customer, thanks for your feedback and sorry for causing you this problem. We designed this lock-screen in order to make your screen more beautiful and protect your battery while charging. You can close it any time by pressing the button on the top-right corner of the lock screen."

The developers know that they have stepped over a line with this move, but based on their responses, they don't appear to care. I have a niggling suspicion that the company that developed this game may have changed hands at some point, because in spite of their irritating ads earlier, they were at least moderately responsive to the user comments. Now they are nudging the line between irritating and outright malware.

I'd recommend avoiding anything produced by these developers.
plonq: (Trying to be cute)
Spotify has become a rabbit hole for me lately.

CBC played a song earlier this evening, and though I tried to get Soundhound on my phone to recognize it, I guess it was too obscure or Canadian or something for the app.

At the end they identified the artist as Buffy Sainte-Marie. I went searching, but had no luck until some dedicated Googling revealed that it was actually a song she'd done with Tanya Tagaq.

Sadly, the song is not on Spotify.

No matter. I added a different song by her that I liked, and grabbed a couple by Tanya Tagaq while I was at it (she's one of those artists whose name I can never remember on demand. "You know - that lady who does the throat singing.")

I knew I had been spending enough time on Spotify when, ninety minutes later, I found myself adding Meat Puppets to my playlist.
plonq: (Emo Luna Mood)
Reddit has taken a sharp turn toward the lower end of the Int rolls since school got out for the summer. I don't know if we've been feeding this current crop of kids a steady diet of lead paint chips, or if 4Chan has sprung a leak, but it has been some time since I have seen such a big influx of herping and derping.

It's not the stupid that bothers me as much as it is the ignorance, and not even so much the ignorance, but the perverse pride that the ignorant take in their own ignorance. People proudly wear their lack of knowledge like it's some kind of achievement badge they earned for drinking the most turpentine without quite dying.

I understand that there are some subjects that will never interest some people. If somebody tells me that they have no interest in learning about a certain topic because it does not interest them, I will take them at their word and try to refrain from being judgemental, even if it is a topic in which I have a great deal of interest. I may consider them a dullard at that point, but I will cede their right to be one. There are matters out there that hold no interest for me, and I am sure that there are people who consider me a dullard for having no interest in learning about their passions.

On the other hand, I hold people in much lower esteem when they preface their statement ignorance with, "I am proud to say that I know nothing about X..."

That declaration can be implied, by expressing ignorance in something that could be figured out with a modicum of critical thinking.

A special lad posted a picture of a carton of Ice Milk today and said, "wtf is ice milk?"

I snarked at him that ice milk is exactly what it says it is.

There was a picture of the product on the carton. His picture included the ingredients list. A moment of critical thinking might have led one to conclude that ice milk is the same thing as ice cream, but with less fat content. Or, you know, just made with milk.

It's not rocket surgery. It just required thinking from somebody with an aversion to thinking.
plonq: (Somewhat Pleased Mood)
A couple of weeks back the CBC morning show was giving some air time to a young woman who was talking at some length on the topic of cultural appropriation. The concept is not new, as it reflects the natural flow of memes and influences across different cultures when they meet. Our western culture is a result of millennia of intermixed religions, cuisine, traditions and language. English is a bastard child of almost too many different languages to count.

Lately - especially among the Tumblerina crown - there is a growing use of the term Cultural Appropriation in a negative light. The suggestion is that people gain a kind of inherent copyright on their language, style of dress, food, music and other things that fall under the shroud of their cultural aegis. This girl had made it her life goal to publicly shame people - mostly those with a higher profile in the community - whom she considered to be guilty of engaging in cultural appropriation.

I don't know what goal she pursues with her end game, but I imagine it's that she wants every culture carefully socked into isolated silos, with no cross-blending of ideas. While I am pretty sure she presents herself as a champion against racism, she seems to be chasing a means to encouraging the kind of isolation and ignorance that leads directly to it.

I think that the concept of cultural misappropriation is one of the dumbest things to come out of this century so far.

On another front, every time I start to think that maybe I'd like to keep working past my earliest retirement date, my company gives me start reminders of why I want out. I will miss the people, and I will miss the feeling of being part of a larger thing. I love being one of the old timers who has forgotten more than most of the newer folk have learned. I was joking with one of the others in my seniority group about how the top three of us had about 110 years of experience between us. Also, my director has made no secret of the fact that he's a bit scared of losing any of the three of us. We are not as technically skilled as the newer folks who have more schooling, but we have a very deep business knowledge, and we actually understand what the data we work with represents.

I got a call at 4:20 this morning from my immediate manager who had a bit of a panic attack over whether one of our key jobs had run properly (it had). At around 10 this morning I got another call because we'd had some issues with a patch on one of our Linux servers (always give us more grief than the Windows servers) and it caused the revenue numbers on our morning dashboard to be low. I was on and off the phone for the next six hours before they finally released me.

I have to be back on again at 1:30 tomorrow morning for another four hour stretch to monitor everything that runs because they're having fainting spells over the idea that the same problem might recur.

For most of those four hours I'll just be listening to the phone and levelling up my rogue in WoW. Time better spent sleeping, IMO.

On that note, I'm off to bed to see if I can catch a couple of hours nap before the long night begins.

This is something I won't miss after I retire.
plonq: (Yarr!)
I fell down the Spotify rabbit hole the past couple of nights, and started building myself a big playlist. I still have a couple more hundred songs to add to it before I am done with this round of additions, but it's coming along.

I will probably break out a few smaller, themed play lists (travel tunes, etc), but there are a lot of prefab ones out there that fit that role nicely. This is just an all purpose list of songs that I like, and add when they come to mind. For the most part Spotify has a very comprehensive library to pick from, but I have been disappointed by the lack of anything by Peter Gabriel, or the strange inclusion of just about every song by Nina Hagen except for the one that I want.

Spotify playlist
plonq: (OK...)
I cut up some dry salami and applewood-smoked cheddar into small cubes last night and put them together in a container for today's lunch.

Question: what do you get when you pack salami and applewood-smoked cheddar together in the same container and leave them in the fridge overnight?

Answer: Salami, and salami-flavoured cheddar (with hints of applewood).

As I was cutting up some more tonight for tomorrow's lunch, I was pondering on whether to pack the cheese separately when I remembered that we bought some Trappist cheese on the weekend.

It would take a lot to overpower the smell and flavour of this cheese. In a battle of cheese and dry salami, I don't know which one would win.

But I guess I'll find out tomorrow.

On an unrelated note, they had a local news story on CBC radio this morning, where they kept referring to the LGBTTQ community. I thought it was a mistake the first time, but they repeated it a couple more times. I finally had to get [personal profile] atara to explain it to me because she is more in tune with the Tumbler culture. It turns out that the second T is two-spirited - which is not the same as B, or the first T. Wait, so is it kind of related to being gender-fluid? Apparently not. I guess it won't be long before it's the LGGBTTQ community.
plonq: (Trying to be cute)
We recently bucked up for a family account in Spotify Premium. [personal profile] atara was going to sign up anyway, and when I learned that it was only $5 extra to sign us both up under a family deal, I figured it was worth a shot.

I'd had Spotify on my phone and Surface earlier, and removed it from both for reasons that elude me now. I probably complained about it in LJ at the time, so I'm sure I could go back and revisit my reasons. So far I am liking it a lot, so it is possible that the free version included annoyances that I am not seeing in the paid version. I do know that it had a habit of spamming me with celebrity birthday in the phone version, but that was something I could easily shut off, and does not seem like the driving force behind a full system purge.

Right now I'm looking to build myself a good play list for it. I'd love to mirror the one on my old iPod, but that would involve either manually replicating it song by song, or installing iTunes again. I'd rather not do either, but I guess the process of producing a new play list will give me a chance to add in some newer music, and revisit some of the songs that I've been meaning to remove from the list.

On the subject of iTunes, does anybody know of a good alternative I can get for Windows? I want to update the play list on my old iPod, but after my last experience with iTunes, I'd rather not expose my current install to that bit of malware.

iTunes needs to install updates. Please click "accept" and pay no attention to the details. Trust Steve.

Oh, hello, I see you have added Safari to the list of automatic "updates" again.

Fortunately, it sounds like they mercifully discontinued the Windows version of their browser, so at least I could scratch that off the list of concerns.

I like the convenience of the iPod when I am travelling, but I hate the inconvenience of trying to update its play list. It would be nice if I could just update the play list by dragging songs in or out of the folder - like on every other media device I've ever owned - but I understand that Apple does not play that way. So if anyone has suggestions for a good iTunes work-around, I'd appreciate any help.
plonq: (Entertain Me)
[personal profile] atara made us avocado toast for brunch today - one of the luxuries we afford ourselves when they are in season and (comparatively) inexpensive. We usually don't have it with a fried egg on top; that kind of decadence is reserved for weekends and holidays.

Who knew that homelessness could be so delicious!

There is an Australian millionaire who made a stir when he suggested that millennials cannot afford to buy houses because they squander their money on avocado toast and lattes. I understand the point he is trying to make, but I believe he is conflating cause and effect.

I think that millennials are spending money on luxuries like avocado toast, electronics, and fancy coffees because they've resigned themselves to the fact that they are unlikely to ever own a house in the current market unless they inherit one.

Our house is comparatively cheap compared to the same house in other markets, but even so its value has quadrupled since I bought it back in '95. My wages - heck, our wages combined - are not quadruple what I was earning back then. The truth is that the price of a home in many of the prime markets is rapidly outpacing the growth in wages in those same areas.

To his defense, this guy only started with an inheritance of a few tens of thousands, versus the millions inherited by many millionaires that live in that kind of a bubble. As such, he is largely self-made and has some room to be preachy about it.

Also, there is a good point hiding in his hubris.

If you can afford to regularly treat yourself, you can afford to treat yourself about 30% less and put some of that aside. It may never amount to a house, but emergency savings can be a life saver.

I guess if it came down to pointing fingers on the matter, I'd have to put much of the blame on the parents who never taught their kids how to save. My parents did their part, even if it took nearly 30 years for the lesson to properly sink in.
plonq: (Emo Luna Mood)
Our VP was in town today. Actually, he's been in town for the last couple of days, but today was when he was supposed to come through the office to check on how things operate here. Everyone made sure to be in the office today - on time, and wearing collared shirts even - but in the end he never bothered to show. I guess he had lots of important things to do and we just weren't worth a few minutes out of his important day. I suspect that ultimately he blew us off because he didn't think that we knew that he was in town.

But we knew.

This is not a large department - the company has seen to that through years of deep cuts - so it is hard to keep secrets. He'd been given an edict by the CEO to get out and actually make a physical presence at some of our remote locations in order to meet the people who work for him, and get a hands on feel for what they actually do. Our new CEO does not take kindly to underlings who hide in the safety of the the head office, and he has been leaning on other VPs to get out and mingle. I suppose I can cut our VP a bit of slack, since this is the first time in his entire tenure that he has stepped out of the head office.

It can be a bit daunting to actually meet real people when you have only been surrounded by the other bobble-heads on the lead team, so I can understand his desire to coward out on us. He certainly went out of his way to try and make sure we didn't know he was in town. If it was not for a couple of our guys having deep-throat moles in the head office, we might not have known of his visit. Brushing us off - even if he thought we didn't know he was in town - is weak leadership. Sadly, it does not surprise me. I have never been blown away by this guy's leadership skills.

Our previous VP may have been a hatchet woman, but she would never have pulled a stunt like this. I didn't really like her, but unlike our current VP, at least I respected her.

Toast

May. 13th, 2017 11:49 am
plonq: (Trying to be cute)
I just noticed that I've got about 70 different remixes of Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" in my music library. I like the song, but not that much. I've no idea where those came from - probably a Perry bomb delivered by one of the Asian midget bondage porn sketchy sites that I visit from time to time.

We had avocado toast for brunch this morning along with coffee (for me) and tea (for her). It is a remarkably simple thing, and I find it to be a great accompaniment to a lazy Saturday morning. If you haven't heard of it, I'll post the recipe here.

Avocado Toast (Serves 2)
Ingredients:
4 slices Bread - your choice of style
1 large Hass avocado
A pinch of kosher salt
A splash of lemon juice

Optional Ingredients:
2 large rib-eye steaks
2 large potatoes (any kind will work, but Russets are pretty popular)
Butter (for potatoes)
Sour Cream (for potatoes)
1 ½ cups kernel corn (frozen will work)


Instructions:
Put the bread in a toaster. If you don't have a 4-slice toaster, you may wish to purchase one now. We have a toaster oven because we try to avoid uni-task appliances. While the bread is toasting, remove the peel and pit from the avocado, or remove the pit and scoop the flesh out of the skin - which ever you find easer. Roughly mash the avocado in a bowl using the back of a fork, or a dedicated avocado-masher if you are the kind of person who also has a 4-slice toaster. Add a pinch of kosher salt (or non-kosher if that's the way you roll) and a splash of lemon juice. You can use fresh lemon juice for this, but those little lemon-shaped plastic bottles are so cute, I don't know how you could resist buying one.

Ding! Toast is done.

Remove the toast from the toaster, or toaster oven, being careful not to burn yourself again. Seriously, that hurts. Don't burn yourself on the edge. Distribute the mashed avocado evenly on the four slices of toast and serve while the toast is still warm, and the avocado still chilled. This makes a satisfying brunch on a lazy Saturday, and a filling meal if you include the optional ingredients.
plonq: (Kinda Bleah Mood)
After coming up clean for years, the hygienist found two cavities on the x-ray during a routine cleaning last week. The dentist came in at the end of the cleaning, double-checked the x-ray and then poked around with a probe and confirmed that I had the beginnings of two small cavities - one on the lower left side, and the other on the upper right - that would need to be addressed. They made a follow-up appointment for today to get them both drilled and filled.

On the one hand, I was glad to be getting them both out of the way at the same time. On the other hand, when you are getting fillings on both sides of your mouth, it makes it hard to pick a side to chew with during the recovery period.

I have bad teeth, which are worse for years of neglect before I got into a good cleaning and brushing cycle again. Having to get two of them extracted turned into a wake-up call for me, and I started taking better care of them again after that. I won't be growing any more teeth as I lose these ones, and I don't want to enter my later years wearing full a full set of dentures like my mother. I inherited my rotten teeth from her side of the family, and I don't want to inherit dentures from her side as well.

I am not a fan of getting dental work done - any dental work, including scaling and cleaning. Fillings and root canals are the worst though. It's not the drilling that bothers me, it's when they inject the Novocaine. I hate getting needles - especially in the mouth. The first couple of times I needed to get injections in the mouth for dental work at my current dentist, I came very close to fainting in the chair. I felt a little silly about it at the times, because my current dentist is actually very skilled; I can barely feel it go in, and there is virtually no soreness when the numbing comes out.

I think I am still traumatized by the dental work I had done on me when I was young. Dad was notorious for sniffing out details. He found a barber who would cut our hair for free, and he took us to him every time he felt we needed a trim. This guy should have been long retired, but he had a dusty old shop set up in the front of an old hotel in Victoria where he would put his blunt razor and old-time hair tonic to good use. Seriously. He hacked off our hair using only a comb and a straight razor, and he had bottles of hair tonic all around his shop.

Anyway, I think he found a deal on a dentist. This guy would do the work for cheap, as long as nobody started asking any awkward questions. The worst thing with him was the needle. My memories are probably clouded by trauma, but I clearly remember it looking like this:
Pain

It was huge. You could hear and feel the pop as it pierced the inside of your mouth, and it hurt like heck in spite of the fact that he'd swab on a topical numbing agent first. Almost worse was that he would just blast the Novocaine into you and the yank the needle out again in order to get the process over with as quickly as possible. I remember some of the injections hurting for more than a week after I'd had the fillings done. I also sometimes wonder if he watered down the anaesthetic, because I don't remember having things go as numb as they do when my current dentist performs work.

I am probably being unkind to the man, who probably prided himself in his work, but in my memories of him he was a butcher. One of the teeth I lost in later years was partly due to nerve damage he did with on of his over-aggressive fillings. The bridge that I have there now is part of his legacy. Another part of his legacy was instilling a deep fear of needles into me. It is only in recent years that I can finally get a flu shot without breaking out in a cold sweat and swooning.

One thing I can say with certainty is that if my current dentist had been the one treating me back in my youth, I'd have been more vigilant about keeping up visits as I got older.

Frustration

May. 7th, 2017 03:59 pm
plonq: (Please Sir May I have Some More)
The basement file server has been driving me to drink lately. It was rock solid when I was running it under Windows 7, but when I upgraded it to 10 (to try and address some network issues between it and the upstairs machines), it became unreliable. The networking is rock solid now, but the basement machine has issues.

It would run for about a week at a time before locking up and requiring a power cycle. I did some clean-up and repair, and got it to the stage where it could go for about two weeks at a time, but unless it was restarted in that time, it would eventually die again.

One of the last fixes I did was to set up a reboot script to restart the machine every Sunday morning. Yesterday the machine was working fine, and this morning I had to trek down to the basement to restart it. When I checked the logs, I saw that it had not restarted this morning like it was supposed to. I checked the schedule I had set up, and I caught my mistake there - I had not given it sufficient permissions to run when nobody is logged into the machine. I changed the settings, and I'll look in on it again next Sunday.

The issue seems to be one of resource exhaustion. A small handful of services are slowly chewing up the system resources until it does not have enough left to create a login session. I did a bit more Googling this morning, and I discovered that the swUSB process I had assumed was a Windows process is actually part of the drivers for the RealTEK LAN device I'd had hooked up to the machine when we first set it up. I was using that device until sometime after the swap to Windows 10, and I am thinking its drivers did not like the update.

I replaced it with a better ASUS device awhile back, but I guess I neglected to uninstall the RealTEK drivers. A couple of sources I read mentioned that their driver had a serious memory leak, and since it is one of the culprits that always comes up when the system runs out of resources, it was an easy hit.
Resource Exhaustion

Another process that keeps coming up in the list of resource-hogs is SMSvcHost.exe. It is a legitimate service (I checked to make sure it hadn't been replaced by a Trojan), but when I poked around at what it does, it did not seem especially critical. I have disabled the service for now to see what kind of an impact that has, but so far I have not noticed any difference. If I start seeing errors and warnings in the system logs about it, I'll turn it back on.

On a completely unrelated note, while I was puttering around the house this morning, I got to mulling on old friends I had in the Lion King fandom community back in the day, and it occurred to me that I have lost touch with all but a few of them. Some of them were very talented writers, and we would often bounce our stories off each other for comments and critique. One writer was a giant in the community, whose fan fictions spawned a whole genre of fan fictions of their own. When I say "he", it was actually a collaborative team. This one writer did most of the work, but he often paired up with others in the fandom to produce the stories.

I was never a huge fan of his work, but I was also not his target audience. They were very popular with the 13-21 age group, in part because each of his stories was as much an emotional roller-coaster as it was a tale. While I admired his work, and never really begrudged him his popularity... well, ok. Maybe a bit, but who isn't a bit jealous of the popular kids now and then? Anyway, I always felt that his writing was top quality, but I also found it to be somewhat manipulative. He was a master of wresting emotion out of his readers.

Anyway, he started on a fairly ambitious writing project with a mutual friend, and as he went, he often sent me chapters to review. For some reason he respected my opinion. For the most part I did not have much feedback, other than pointing out areas where the prose became a bit too purple, or minor issues like confused attributions and the like.

Then there was the chapter.

He sent me several chapters to read through, and I dutifully read through them, making minor notes, suggesting small revisions, and rolling my eyes at obvious emotional tugs here and there. Then I got to the chapter where he excruciatingly killed off one of the main characters in a very long, emotional orgy of sadness. I could tell that he had poured a lot into this chapter, because it really stood out from the others he had written. He had obviously given it a lot of thought. It looked like the chapter he had been waiting to write.

The problem was that it did not fit. It seemed to have no place in the story other than to make the readers sad. Other than that character falling out of the story from that point forward, nothing changed. It did not inspire any action on any of the others in the story, nor did it even affect the overall plot. Everybody else in the story continued on as if nothing had happened, other than expressing their sadness that the character's passing once or twice in the next couple of chapters.

When I gave him feedback, I fear that I may have been a bit too ruthless. I told him that the chapter was wonderfully written, but that it was just an interlude of pointless pathos. I asked him to explain its purpose in the story, and pointed out that if the chapter did not exist, the story would not actually change at all. He offered up some justifications for the chapter, and I pulled out the passive-aggressive card and said, "Well, it's your story; include or exclude it as you choose. You asked for my opinion, and I gave it."

In the end, he removed the chapter, but I think it hurt him to do it. I do feel a bit bad about that in retrospect, since it didn't really hurt anything by being in there, and I can't help thinking that I overstepped a bit by calling him on it. He stopped sending me stories for feedback after that. I guess I can't really blame him.
plonq: (Masturbatory Mood)
Somebody posted a question to a local forum recently, asking why rye bread is so popular in Winnipeg.

I had not given it much thought, but it occurs to me that I eat far more rye bread now than I did before I moved here. In fairness, the most popular form of rye bread here is not the type of bread that I associated with it when I was growing up. I always pictured rye bread as something close to pumpernickel, with caraway seeds in it. Winnipeg-style rye is actually very light, and baked in a manner that makes for good toast, but awkward sandwiches.

Winnipeg Rye

One poster in the forum suggested that sandwiches made with rye bread are popular here because folks wouldn't live in Winnipeg at all if they did not like a challenge. It's hard to argue with that.

The population here is anecdotally divided along cultural lines when it comes to their choice of rye bread as well, with the Jewish community favouring it from one bakery, and the Ukrainian community preferring it from another. There is a third major bakery in the background jumping and waving and calling, "hey, we make it too!" Other than the shape and size of the loaves, I cannot tell much difference between the bread produced by the three major players here, though I was not born here, so my opinion on the matter is tempered by being a recent arrival versus people born into the rye situation.

While Winnipeg rye is the predominant player in the market here, there are obviously other styles available as well. Many breakfast places will give you marble rye if you order rye toast in the morning, and some of the fancier restaurants will sneak dark rye into the complementary bread plates they serve before a meal. One long-established steak house has their own in-house dark rye with a salted crust that [personal profile] atara and I both really like.

On a broader note, Winnipeg has a few cuisines that - while not unique - are an integral part of the local dining experience. If I was going to list five foods that I consider integral to the Winnipeg culture, just off the top of my head I would list:
Winnipeg Rye
Perogies
Bagels
Koubasa
Honey Dill Sauce

As a fun footnote, if you happen to visit Winnipeg and want to get a group of people into an argument, ask them how to spell "Perogies" or "Koubasa".

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