plonq: (Kinda bleah mood)
I really feel like I should say something about [livejournal.com profile] takaza, but as usual [livejournal.com profile] atara has already said it more eloquently than I could. He was a wonderful individual who touched more lives than most of us would even hope to meet. He will be missed.

We returned earlier this week from a short vacation to Arizona, where we hooked up with [livejournal.com profile] atara's folks and uncle to take on some sights, and catch a couple of Cleveland Indians pre-season games. The weather was gorgeous for the whole trip, and the scenery in the parks we visited was lovely this time of year (much greener than I expect is the norm for that part of the country). We both enjoyed the trip, but we agreed that we are not in a huge rush to return to the land of god and guns1.

I took around 600 shots on the trip, but so far I've only procesed and posted about half a dozen of them. I took well over one hundred pictures up on Kitt's Peak, but so far this is the only one I have to show for it - a turkey buzzard circling over the desert.
Bird

This is an example of what I meant when I said it was surprisingly green. I took this picture by pointing my camera out the window of the car while we were driving ~80KMH, but that gives you some idea of how pretty the parkland was once you got outside of Pheonix.
Arizona

Down closer to Tucson, there was a desert museum that we took in. Big cats are not always the most cooperative subjects for pictures, but this lynx was being very photogenic.
Bobcat

For as much as we enjoyed the vacation, there were two definite low points. Obviously the first was the crushing news of [livejournal.com profile] takazas' death.

The other was a run-in with US Border Services. They had set up a roadblock on the highway to Kitt's Peak, and they were stopping all traffic heading back toward town. They had waved us through as we came the other direction, and we both assumed that we were probably white enough not to catch their eye. Sadly, when they asked where we were from on our return trip, we made the mistake of confessing that we were visiting from Canada, and that we were Canadian and dual-citizen respectively.

Tactical error.

The nice young man immediately demanded to see our papers so that we could prove our citizenship and show that we were in the country legally. We told him that we had left our passports back at the hotel because we had not anticipated crossing any international borders between Pheonix and Kitt's Peak. He lectured us about how they had every right to demand our papers, and he advised that we should carry them with us at all times. He managed to achieve a good mix of disparaging and magnanimous as he told us that, were he not such a kind person, he would detain us for not having our passports.

"Another guy, not as nice as me, would be perfectly within his right to roll you and hold you here for a few hours."

We'd mentioned to him that we were down visiting with our inlaws/parents who were travelling in the car behind us, but it apparently went in one side of his little head and out the other, because when he finally waved us through and they pulled up, one of the first things he told them after they self-identified as Americans was, "It seems you've got a car full of Canadians in front of you."

"Yes," said my in-laws, "they're travelling with us."

I love visiting the states, since I have a lot of friends and family down there, but the creepy "papers please" mentality that is sneaking into that society makes me a bit nervous about crossing the border lately.

1When we stopped at a viewing place on our way up Mount Lemmon, the sounds of nature had to compete with the stacatto crack and sputter of automatic weapons from a nearby shooting range. I was a bit nervous as we walked around the site and I noticed scars and pocks from stray bullets all around the nature viewing area.
plonq: (Challenging Mood)
Our CEO toured the office today. Our GM led him and his small entourage past my desk at a brisk walk, waxing poetic about the marketing guys who sit in our little area of the office as they passed. Just as they were about to round the corner she waved generally in our direction and said, "And these are IT people who do some kind of support stuff."

I don't suppose I am really offended by it, as ignorant and dismissive as it was. I am just as happy to fly under the radar of the top brass.

We knew that he was coming, and she reminded us twice last week when she stopped over and implored us to clear our desks of any evidence that they are used for real work. The CEO likes clean desks. I don't know how he'd have been able to spot a messy desk at the speed she was dragging him through the office, but I guess once you get to that pay level you can pick out a zen bamboo from a blur in passing (we're not allowed any kind of plants in the office, and those little bamboos were specifically mentioned). Curiously, they had them in the break room and washrooms when we first moved into the new office, but I guess word must have got back to the top brass.

He was in town to hold a town hall. It was halfway across town, so I did not bother to attend. I had too much work to do, and I figured I could get the condensed version of it from all the folks around me who drove out to hear him. All I know of the meeting so far is that there was a fair contingent of unhappy folks from operations who were directing a lot of very pointed questions at him. Many of the questions centred around the systematic bullying and harrassment happening in the company at the moment, but the guy who was describing the events does not speak English as a first language, so it was hard to get a good description from him. I'll squeeze the others for more details when I see them tomorrow.

One of the marketing guys just got back from a stint of inspecing and repairing railcars (yes, they are forcing managers into doing that as well as being conductors and engineers). Thanks to the deep cuts by our previous CEO, we are desperately short in a lot of departments. He said that while he was out there, he was chatting with one of the mechanical department heads about the situation. They are trying to address the shortage, but word has gotten out about what a wretched place we are to work.

They put out calls to twenty applicants for interviews, with the idea of hiring 5-6 of them.

Only one person actually showed up.

I got curious, so I checked a couple of online listings where people can read about prospective employers. Our company had comments about it like, "The pay is good, but the morale is abysmal."
plonq: (Somewhat Pleased Mood)
No more 2 performances at Anthrocon. Not surprised.

I really liked his earlier stuff, because he was that sharp-tongue, mildly abrasive guy who said what we were all just thinking. He's still that same guy, but now he says what other people are thinking.

He's a very talented individual, and he's done some good things for the fandom. I'd like to think that he'll take this as an opportunity to shake up the tired schtick and turn that talent in a new direction.
plonq: (Comparatively Miffed Mood)
I would like to say that I am reminiscing about a time when the internet was not useless for learning important information, but I would be lying. That is not to say that one cannot find good answers on the internet, but there is so much useless noise, it can be hard to find a good answer.

In past, there were a couple of wonderfully pointless results that would clog up my searches. I would search about an issue that should be easily resolved with a simple, one-line answer.

Scenario 1:

Q. Hi, I am getting an "impacted string error" when I try to join two tables in Product X.

A. What are you trying to do with these joined tables?

Q. I am trying to build a heat map of user engagement by cross-referencing these two values.

A. Why are you using Product X for this? Enterprise Product Y is better for that.

Q. Our company doesn't have Enterprise Product Y, it has Product X. Product X should let me do this.

A. You shouldn't be using Product X.

This topic has been marked as closed.

Scenario 2:

Q. Hi, I am getting an "impacted string error" when I try to join two tables in Product X.

A. Have you tried adding more fish to your diet?

A. That was already answered here --> http://404ErrorNotFound

Q. Thanks everyone, I got it working.

This topic has been marked as closed.

Scenario 3:

Q. Hi, I am getting an "impacted string error" when I try to join two tables in Product X.

A. I don't understand what you are trying to do. Can you please send me the source code?

Q. I am trying to link these two tables on this field.

A. I have no blessed clue what you are talking about. It's like English has stopped working for me. Send me the query.

A. OK, I see what you've done wrong, and I've sent you a private message with the fix.

Q. Thanks, that fixed it!

This topic has been marked as closed.

Now though, when you search for something that should be easily answered in one sentence, you find a list of 10-minute Youtube videos.

The first thirty or fourty seconds are music and graphical overlays, with swooping text and fade-in effects.

The next minute and a half:

"Hi, my name is Abdul Alhazred, and I am a professional [user of Product X] with over fifteen years of experience using [Product X that has only been out for ten years]. I have worked for blah and blah blah blah..."

The next minute:

"I hope you will find this tutorial useful. I also have other tutorials on tangentially-related subjects. Please like this video and subscribe to my channel for blah blah blah..."

Usually this is followed by a couple minutes of shaky camera and mouth breathing, followed by a minute or so reitterating the problem that brought you there in the first place. Uh, right, because I didn't find this video by searching for that specific problem in the first place.

There usually follows a couple more minutes of mouth breathing and shaky camera while he painfully mouse-clicks his way through things that would be simple keyboard shortcuts to anyone else.

Finally the video gets around to the answer, which may or may not be the one you actually needed. This is followed by another minute of...

"I hope you found this video useful. Please remember to like and share this video if you found it useful, and subscribe to my channel for more tips and tricks on blah blah blah..."

The ideal solution:

Q. Hi, I am getting an "impacted string error" when I try to join two tables in Product X.

A. Go to Tools/Options/Extras and ensure that "Allow me to link tables" is selected.

Purple Pie

Jan. 29th, 2017 10:04 pm
plonq: (Bork Bork Bork)
The weather took a turn for the cooler this weekend. Not bitterly cold, exaclty, but cooler than it has been. They reopened the river walk on Saturday after closing it during our freakish warm snap, and since we are still in a period of unseasonable warmth, we bundled up and took advantage of the weather and opportunity.

The last time we did the river walk, it was nigh overrun. This weekend it was busy, but not swamped - though the volume was picking up substantially as we left.
River Walk

I got the itch to make sweet potato pie for the first time since before I was married. As I was picking out some appropriate yams, the purple yams caught my eye, and I wondered how they would be in a pie.

Now I know.
Sweet Potato Pie
plonq: (Crashing Mood)
If there is one consistency in my life it is that I was born clumsy, and clung to it like it was a virtue. I have fallen many times in the ice and snow, but the spill I took a week ago Friday was the roughest one yet. I skipped the morning at work to go into town for a scheduled dental appointment, and the mishap happened on the way home. I knew that the walks and streets were slick because I was slipping and flailing all the way from the dentist's office to the bus stop.

It was tough slogging down the sidewalk at this end of the bus trip because the folks at the Main Street end of our road had not bothered to clear the walks in front of their houses. I trudged through the snow for the first half of a block and then decided that the street looked much more passable because at least it had been plowed. The moment I stepped off the curb, I discovered that the street was not quite as benign as it had appeared. What looked like hard packed snow was actually hard packed ice that sloped away from the curb, and both of my feet shot straight out from under me before I could even even muster a pretense of reaction.

I landed hard on my elbow and hip - hard enough that at first I thought I had shattered the elbow. Had I not been wearing as many layers, I think that it is likely that I would be in a cast right now. My elbow and hip were remarkably sore for a couple of days, and the elbow is still tender to the touch a week-and-a-half later. Last Monday I woke to a sore, stiff neck. At first I thought that I had slept wrong, but over the course of the week it became progressively worse and spread to the shoulder before I finally made the connection with my fall a couple of days before.

It was very painful all day yesterday at work, and I made myself a promise that if it was that sore again today I would skip the morning and head up to the local walk-in clinic to get it checked. Yesterday evening [livejournal.com profile] atara applied an icepack to it, and followed that up with a hot pad. It helped at the time, but this morning my shoulder was on fire again as I was getting up from bed. This evening I am almost feeling normal. Maybe the ice and fire treatment was just what I needed.

A walk in the park

Late last week our CEO announced rather abruptly that he is leaving. He was supposed to be around for a few more months, and had planned to stay on as a consultant for another three years after his retirement. It seems tha the has decided to sever ties with us and head off to fuck up a different railroad. If he gets his way, the CSXT can expect to be ruthlessly gutted. Good for the shareholders, but not so good for the railway. He slashed 40% of our workforce in the five years that he was with us.

Most companies have a certain amount of fat that they can trim, but almost no company can afford to lost 40% of its workforce and expect to continue operating normally. One of the ways they are making up for the shortfall is forcing managers into pulling double duties (like running trains, repairing cars and the like).

On the plus side, the scuttlebut around the office is that our VP of IT is likely going to be departing sooner rather than later as well. He was one of the departing CEO's hand-picked sycophants, and folks in the head office say that he does not see eye-to-eye with our new CEO. His long term goal for our IT shop seems to have been to turn it into a micromanaged sweatshop, so there are few who will mourn his departure if he goes.

All I can say is that unless things turn around quite dramatically in my company, my only goal at this point is to try and hold out until my earliest retirement date.

A walk in the park

Dreamwidth

Dec. 31st, 2016 10:41 pm
plonq: (Crashing Mood)
I have noticed a few people here have mentioned that they are moving over to Dreamwidth, or at least mirroring their entries over there. I gave it some thought and decided that's not a bad idea. I created an account over there years ago, and Semagic makes it very easy to mirror my posts on both sites.

I am not looking to abandon LJ yet, but going forward I am going to start mirroring my posts on both sites. If you are looking for me over there, I am on the site as ... [livejournal.com profile] plonq.

20161231POTD

Dreamwidth

Dec. 31st, 2016 10:41 pm
plonq: (Default)
I have noticed a few people here have mentioned that they are moving over to Dreamwidth, or at least mirroring their entries over there. I gave it some thought and decided that's not a bad idea. I created an account over there years ago, and Semagic makes it very easy to mirror my posts on both sites.

I am not looking to abandon LJ yet, but going forward I am going to start mirroring my posts on both sites. If you are looking for me over there, I am on the site as ... [personal profile] plonq.

20161231POTD
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
We kept a very low-key Christmas this year, though unlike last year, we decided to exchange gifts. I gave [livejournal.com profile] atara some new slippers and headphones for work (the latter are for work), and she gave me a wooden bow tie, and one of these:
20161227POTD

We have toyed with the idea of buying one of these for a few years, so she solicited suggestions from those who already own such devices and ended up ordering this one.

We picked up a couple of steaks yesterday and tested it out for dinner. It worked well, but I definitely took away a few lessons for the next time we use it (possibly this coming long weekend).

In terms of lessons, the first change I will make is to get steaks that are smaller, but thicker. I might lower the cooking temperature a couple of degrees as well, but I think 58C would have worked fine if they had been a thicker cut. I seared them in a cast iron pan after they came out of the water bath, and it pushed them past medium-rare into medium/medium-well territory.

We've already decided that we are going to try chicken next. I've head wonderful things about chicken breasts cooked by this method.
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
Several of my co-workers got deployed to work as engineers, conductors or car mechanics over Christmas. Fortunately I am not qualified yet, so I get to spend Christmas at home.

There has been fairly wide-spread discontent in the ranks for awhile over this program, but this stunt over Christmas is pushing a lot of the staff close to rebellion. At the very least we've had a few people up and quit recent - though I guess that falls into the "reduce through attrition" thing they've been promising the shareholders.

We are having a quiet Christmas at home this weekend, and as modest as our Christmas dinner is going to be, we've been arguing over discussing the menu. I thought I might just put it up here for a crowd-sourced vote and let the internet decide.

[Poll #2060137]

20161220POTD
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I found a cute little quiz buried in the middle of an article that my brother shared on Facebook last night.

As we slide into the last week of the long Christmas celebration, two pressing questions come to mind. The first one is, who thinks that it is a good idea to give frankincense and myrrh as baby gifts? I'll bet Mary would have been way happier to receive things like diapers, baby clothes, and maybe a proper crib.

The other question is, how well do you know your Jesus? Since this coming date has been arbitrarily chosen to celebrate his birthday, I think it behooves us to know a bit about him while we're engaging in the excesses of the holiday season.

Here is a quiz about his life and death. Don't be disappointed if you get some wrong, I missed a few as well.

20161215POTD
Nothing says "Happy Birthday Jesus" like a fake tree covered in pagan decorations.
plonq: (Christmas Mood)
I braved cold and traffic to try and do some Christmas shopping this evening. We're not doing a very ambitious Christmas, so I only had a few things on my list for [livejournal.com profile] atara.

After my first couple of stops though, I began to suspect that I may have left my shopping until too late in the season. Each store was like that cheese shop in the famous Monty Python sketch.

"Sorry, we're fresh out of those. Oh my, it looks like we had a run on those too."

Even so, I managed to come away from the ordeal with a couple of items to put under the tree. Right now all we have under the tree at any given time is cats.

20161214POTD

There is an ugly rumour circulating at work just now about how they plan to handle training in the new year. There is talk about them shipping anyone who is in progress out to Calgary and hold them there until they are qualified engineers or conductors, whether that takes seven weeks or twenty. I guess we'll find out in January.
plonq: (Wolfish Mood)
Our garage windows always turn very pretty with the first deep cold snap of the year.

20161210POTD

Cough

Dec. 8th, 2016 10:32 pm
plonq: (Trying to be cute)
Human rhinoviruses occur worldwide and are the primary cause of common colds. Symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and cough; sometimes accompanied by muscle aches, fatigue, malaise, headache, muscle weakness, or loss of appetite. Fever and extreme exhaustion are more usual in influenza.

Our first big snowfall of the winter timed itself to arrive with my first cold of the winter. I've had worse colds in past years, but this one has decided that my chest seems to be a good place to park itself. If past experience with chest colds has taught me anything, it is that I will probably still be hacking a couple of weeks from now. Apparently my chest is a very hospitable place for cold viruses.

I took my phone out with me when we shovelled the walks during the first night of the blizzard. It does not look like a lot of snow in this shot, but I can assure you there are cars stranded all over the city, with some of the side roads and parking lots still barely navigable. Ah, the joys of living in a cold climate. Now that the storm has finally passed, we are settling into a deep freeze. The words "polar vortex" have been tossed about in the news this autumn, which means we can expect a very long, hard, cold winter this year.
20161206POTD

The cats, for their part, are oblivious to the inclement weather. They curl up under warm lamps after dinner and dream of sweet revenge against their oppress... oh, hey, I need that lap!
20161205POTD
plonq: (Masturbatory Mood)
Plonq sat hunkering alone in the dingy corner with his muzzle buried in a two-page plastic laminated menu. The waiteress, alerted by the little snow leopard's furtive glances over the top of the menu, scurried over with an order pad.

"Whadda ya want?" demanded the shrew around a pencil stub that dangled from the corner of her mouth like a well-chewed, surrogate cigarette. The snow leopard sighed.

"I'm not sure," he grumped. He stabbed the menu with his stubby index finger. "All of your things have weird names, and the descriptions aren't much help. You have a drink here called Self Loathing that the menu describes as a shot of Uncertainty with a splash of Depression.

"That one is very popular in here," said the waitress in a gravelly voice that suggested she was not one to shun a cigarette, "especially with guys who drink alone." She picked up a loose leaf from the table and slid it down into the menu.

"If you look at our specials, we have a deal where if you get Self Loathing with a chaser of Underachievement and you get half off a plate of Fried Expectations."

"What are Fried Expectations?"

"Not what you would expect," said the waitress with a shrug. "An acquired tasted, but you get used to it. I mean, they're half off."

"Eh, I'm not feeling that adventurous," said the snow leopard. He scratched the side of his muzzle in thought. "I'll take the Wasted Potential, hold the Satisfaction and a Dead End Career on ice."

I caught a picture out the window of the plane as I was leaving Calgary for (what I hope is) the last time this year.
20161126POTD

Since I was home this weekend, [livejournal.com profile] atara wanted to put up the tree. Merry ... "helped." We put up the tree on Sunday, and when we got home from work yesterday, we found three ornaments on the floor and the skirt all bunched up. Ah, cats.
20161127POTD
plonq: (Cynical Mood)
One of the problems with Facebook (note that I say "one of") is the volume of stupid memes I see posted there from friends and family. Mostly friends.

I won't get into the maths ones because I have ranted here about those ones in an earlier post. Today's complaint is about the plethora of slightly smug memes that I sum up as, "Them young whipper-snappers wouldn't understand this." They all follow essentially the same pattern involving a picture of obsolete technology, and an invitation to like if you know what this is, share if you have ever seen/touched/used/licked one. What they are really saying is, "Respond if you are an old fucker like me."

I had a few in my time-line today, one of which was a picture of a column shifter with the legend, "Like if you know what this is, share if you have ever used one." Mercifully, this one did not include the usual long string of stupid "laugh until tears" emoji. I neither liked, nor shared it because I am acutely aware that I am getting older, and I do not need constant affirmation from friends that they are as well. For the record, I have also used a top-loading VCR, I have used a Rolodex, a Mimeograph, a chest-style pop machine, a slide rule... I get it. We're getting older.

If some of my family members on Facebook did not have such sensitive sensibilities, I would start sharing slightly more interesting memes.

Facebook Meme

I don't expect that I would get a lot of likes or shares though.
plonq: (Cheesy Grin Mood)
And then there are the Karpers )

Driven

Nov. 20th, 2016 12:10 am
plonq: (Omgwtf)
If I have learned one thing in the past year with all the time I've spent training at the head office, it is that Calgarian drivers are ... special. Any time drivers in a city can make me pine for driving in Winnipeg again, it should tell you something.

We set up a cat trap in the front hall using the box in which Amazon shipped my AAAA batteries. It was remarkably effective.
20161119POTD

Every visit to IKEA seems to provide at least one surreal element.
20161117POTD
plonq: (Cheesy Grin Mood)
I like to think that I am a good tipper. Not generous, per se, but somebody who has managed to hone their gratuity skills to that magical balance that falls in the golden zone where it is just large enough to not be insulting, but just small enough to not look like I'm trying to impress somebody. At one time I used to reserve tips for service that exceeded expectations, but as service quality has slipped over the years, I have lowered my expectations. Do you have a pulse, and did you bathe within a reasonable time frame before work? That's worth a tip. Actually, the pulse is optional.

I can't always get a proper read for it though. I am never sure how much to tip the staff at at a hotel. I have stayed (not often) at places where the rooms go for $400 a night, and I don't know if I could bring myself to drop $60 on the desk for the cleaners. I think the de-lousers at that place where I stayed in Nashville some years back probably deserved a tip that size much more, even though it would have tripled the cost of the room.

I have been leaving $5 with a thank-you note in my room every morning since I started staying at this hotel. Most simply take the money without comment, but a few leave thank you notes of their own. One of the room cleaners left an interesting note though. He wrote his name, thanked me for my generosity, and expressed his desire that God should shower his bountiful blessings upon me and my descendants. He seemed genuine, but I could never shake the feeling that his gushing note was masking veiled sarcasm. "Oh, gee, five bucks. Thanks. I'll try not to spend it all at once."

I almost hope that he wasn't serious, because the thought that a $5 gratuity is such a rare treat is a bit depressing. It would not be the first time I had encountered hotel staff who had apparently never seen a gratuity in their lives.

20161117POTD
plonq: (Derpy Mood)
I sat through a one-day introductory course on emergency first aid. While the afternoon dealt with things like burns and amputations, the morning was mostly about how to perform CPR and use an AED.

We had two different practice dummies that filled the various roles of an adult, youth and infant. One of the key things you are supposed to do before jumping right into CPR is to test the person for responsiveness first. There are various ways to try and stimulate a response out of them before you see if they are actually breathing and begin compressing their chest.

We were told to test the baby for responsiveness, so I picked it up and shook it.
20161114POTD
Apparently, that is not the correct way to test a baby for responsiveness. Now I know. That's why they teach courses like this.

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