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.


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)
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)

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:

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.


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
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".
plonq: (Somewhat Pleased Mood)
One of the hardest things for me in moving from Livejournal to Dreamwidth has been giving up the bulk of my user avatars. That's not to say that I have bailed on LJ. I thought about it, and to my mind, the worst case is that they end up nuking my account. The vast bulk of my posts there were public postings, so if the new Russian owners decide to scan my journal for their own purposes, there is little they will find there that they will not also find here, or on a Google search of my on-line handle.

But I digress.

The point of this post was to whine about how I only have fifteen avatars available on a free account here. That's enough, or at least it should be enough. I think that I am spoiled from having close to 150 of them available at my fingertips over on the other journal service, even if I only used a dozen of them regularly. It was nice having the weird ones available, like when I wanted to post with the avatar of a baby smoking a cigarette, or a plastic nun with sparks shooting out of her mouth.

I have read that people can become paralysed by too much choice. [personal profile] atara and I became gripped by this phenomenon when we were shopping for a new television, and we spent months researching the best set before heading down to the store and staring helplessly at a wall of screens with such minuscule differences in specifications between them as to effectively be the same model over and over. We were intimidated into inaction by the illusion of too many options in a situation where there were very few choices of consequence.

I guess what I am saying is that I want to have the option of poring over a sea of avatars before picking one of the usual three that I tend to use.

I might buck up for a paid account here.
plonq: (Hipster Mood)
There is this disparaging, ironic term that used to get tossed around a lot a few years ago, but has fallen a bit out of fashion; first world problems. I encountered one of these in the wild today on a sous vide forum.

A user in the forum posted the sad saga of how his iPhone keeps disconnecting from his Anova cooker, and he has to switch to his iPad if he wants to use the remote app.

Oh no. Of all possible things, this is the worst … thing … ever.

For those who are not familiar with the process, an immersion cooker is a (usually) small appliance that cooks food in a slow, precise way. Typically you vacuum seal the food in a bag, and then immerse it in a temperature-controlled water bath for a few hours. It is the very essence of "set and forget" cooking.

There are a myriad of important uses for an iPhone app connected to your immersion cooker. It can tell you if the cooker is turned on, and if it is maintaining the temperature to which you set it. This can be very important if, say, you forgot that you turned it on, or at what temperature you set it, and you happened to fire up the app on a whim and were all like, “Oh no, my immersion cooker is turned on and its holding the temperature at 145°. How could this have happened?”

I suppose it would not hurt me to spare some sympathy for somebody who can’t use a (mostly) pointless app – though the fact that it works on his iPad hints that the problem might not actually lie with the appliance. I should check the shoes forum to see if anyone is complaining that their iLaces app keeps losing connectivity with their shoes, and they are tripping because it does not warn them that their shoes have come untied.
plonq: (Trying to be cute)
I was filling in some details on a data dictionary for a co-worker for whom I’d built a data extractor. For the most part that just involved going down the column names, identifying the data types, and giving a brief explanation on what the data represented.

While I am used to a lot of our industry acronyms (SCAC, FSAC, SPLC, etc), I took the time to expand them out for her in the explanations (“Standard Carrier Alpha Code”, “Freight Station Accounting Number”, “Standard Point Location Code”, etc). All was well until I got to a number that we use internally for referencing trains within our integrated operating plan.

The number has always had an odd name, and I have always assumed that the name was an acronym for something. The system that uses it has been in place for the past 25 years ( remember when it came online back in ’92), but even though I have always known what the number was for, it occurred to me that I never knew what it was short for.

As I started asking around, it became clear that nobody else know either.

It may be that the only people who could tell us if this was an arbitrary name, or an acronym are either retired, or dead. I have a couple more long-shots that I am going to pursue on Monday to see if they can answer the question, but I have a hunch this will remain a mystery until the day I retire. Technically I’ve become one of the old-timers at the railway who is supposed to know these kinds of things.

And I don’t know. I guess this gives me the opportunity to make something up…
plonq: (Omgwtf)
It is possible that I have spoken of this in the past, but [personal profile] atara has accused me of repeating myself on more than one occasion, so if this is a repeat, then know that it comes naturally to me.

Any time I get sucked into a community, I invariably get sucked into the writing side of the community. At various points over the years I have written stories based on Dungeons and Dragons, Star Trek, The Lion King, Furry, and My Little Pony. Since I consider myself to be a moderately better-than-average writer, I will sometimes roll up my sleeves and jump in to help other writers who are still learning the craft. This can take the form of giving helpful critique, all the way to actually doing rudimentary editing for somebody if they are especially receptive to help, and are taking the assistance to heart.

I have my biases, but I try to avoid steering people toward the way that I would write something, and just stick to steering them away from stylistic pitfalls and rookie mistakes.

One mistake that is surprisingly common among beginning writers is changing tense during the story. Their narration swings between past and present tense without it being relevant to the story. Most writers seem to be surprised when I point it out to them, often claiming that I was the first to notice it. How could one not notice? Another common mistake is switching speakers in mid-paragraph, often without changing attribution. Maybe the rules have changed since I was taught, but I learned that any time the speaker changed, you started a new paragraph. One of the benefits of this is that even if you did not attribute the new speaker, the paragraph break gives a clue that it may have changed. Finally, there are writers who switch the narrative voice throughout the story. They will jump from first person to third and back for no reason other than that they forgot which voice they were using between writing sessions.

Does nobody ever go back and re-read their own work?

Stylistic pitfalls are a messier subject, because that starts to tread into the territory of, "This is just how I write." While there is nothing technically wrong with some of the styles, I have noticed that they are often popular with novice writers. I recognize some of them from my early writing, and I owe a debt to a friend who helped break me of some of the habits.

One that I see often is staccato writing. The author uses really short sentences. The sentences are all grammatically correct. They are all strung together into a story. The story will have a character. He walks to the table. He picks up a book. He reads the book. He puts it back. He walks to the door. He opens the door. He goes outside.

I think you can probably see the problem. The story never gets a chance to develop much of a flow, and it becomes fatiguing to read.

Another style that I see fairly regularly is what I call the witness testimony style of writing. This happened, and then that happened, and then they went over there, and then that happened, and then he said this, and then he did that, and then... I started counting the uses of "then" in one story, and hit fifteen by the end of the second paragraph. As with my first example, it is not technically wrong, but it flows badly, and is very dry to read.

Two more styles that I often see with beginning writers are where every line is a combination of dialogue and action. Usually the story alternates between each of the characters in the scene, with each one taking a turn to say something, and then do something. The other style is what I call the Superman narrative. Virtually the whole story is told through narration by the characters. It's a style better suited to old radio plays than a written story.

"Why are you walking over to that table and grabbing the gun?" said the professor.
"I plan to shoot you, of course. See? Look at how I am pointing it at you and pulling back the hammer," said the mobster.
"Are you mad? Can't you see that I am just sitting here at my desk writing down formulas and smoking a cigar? Clearly I post no threat to you," said the professor.
"And now you pose even less of a threat as I have unloaded three bullets into you," said the mobster.

Finally, there are the writers who combine many of the above with a need to find their own voice by playing with conventional style.

"I am going to write my entire story in future perfect tense!"

The problem with picking a weird tense (even present), is that writing in past tense just comes naturally, and the writers invariably slip in and out of past tense as they are writing. My advice to them is usually to try and master the easy stuff before they start trying to stretch their skills.

I think the worst are the ones who decide they are going to write in second person. I don't know why anybody would write in second person other than when they are writing an instruction manual, or a "build your own adventure" story. Yet in my experience in some writing circles, this is a strangely popular thing among younger writers, and goes over remarkably well with some of the younger readers. I do not find second-person stories to be the least bit immersive, and in fact they often come across to me as slightly insulting. I don't appreciate a story that tries to tell me what I am doing, or thinking, or feeling.

My response to the author boils down to, "You seem to think you know me, but you don't. Please stop writing with the misguided conceit that you do."

A lovely day to get out in #winnipeg. #kildonanpark was busy.
plonq: (OK...)
Unless I have buggered up the settings again, this post should automatically cross-post to both LJ and Dreamwidth. I will keep posting to both for as long as my LJ account remains active (I don't tend to delve into the kind of politics that would get my account banned by their new TOS), but DW is my new backup plan, and probably my long-term future plan as well. Once I start building up a bigger network of friends over there I am probably going to spring for a paid account.

I have about a half-dozen posts to just LJ that I thought were posting to both sites, but I derped the settings in Semagic. I've fixed that now. I think. This is my test post to check that theory.

If you are still reading me here, and want to follow me over to DW as well, you can find me here.

I went for a walk last week and caught a couple of post-melt pictures. Other than some of the larger stacks, our snow is effectively gone now.

As I was walking past the cemetary, I barely spared it a second glance before I backpedalled a quarter of a block to capture this shot.
Watery grave
plonq: (Kinda bleah mood)
I really feel like I should say something about [ profile] takaza, but as usual [ 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 [ 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.

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.

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.

For as much as we enjoyed the vacation, there were two definite low points. Obviously the first was the crushing news of [ 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 [ 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


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 ... [ profile] plonq.



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.

plonq: (Christmas Mood)
We kept a very low-key Christmas this year, though unlike last year, we decided to exchange gifts. I gave [ 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:

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.

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