Monday, December 15, 2008

Wow...

I haven't posted in a while. It's not that there hasn't been anything to rant about, it's just that there has been TOO much to rant about.

So, let's recap:

1. A bunch of people who were obviously unqualified have been making financial decisions for years. In fact, these idiots were also the ones other people went to for financial advice. As you know, they were more than idiots...they were criminally stupid. The end result is the current recession. Here's my feeling on it:



Then the US government has the flat-out balls to bail out these fuckers, with NO conditions attached to the money.

2. A bunch of people who were obviously unqualified tried to form a coalition with the separatist Bloc Quebecois to usurp power from the duly elected, albeit minority, Conservative government.

3. A bunch of people who were obviously unqualified have been running the crappy car industry giants Ford, Chrysler, and GM which are failing miserably and are screaming for government handouts.



I could rant about the three above, but really, I have lost the energy. Besides, it will all even out when the Zombies take over...



(From: http://shop.cafepress.com/design/13764376)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ovechkin

Over the past few years, I have tired of sports in general. From hockey, to baseball, to football, to the Olympics...I just don't care anymore. The superstars of these sports turned me off of them. Prancing boors with more money than brains and terrible work ethics: how many times have you seen a player sign a huge contract, and then slack off?

But, even if you aren't a fan of hockey, there is one player that should make you stand up and take notice. Alexander Ovechkin, who plays for the Washington Capitals, is not the typical sort of superstar. Here's man who signed the richest contract in NHL history - something around $100 Million dollars - and who lives with his parents. This is a guy who, on his birthday, in the preseason, skated hard during an optional practice, when he could have been home relaxing. This guy ENJOYS his sport. Last season, he became the first player to win all of the following trophies in the same year: The Hart (league MVP), the Lester B. Pearson (MVP voted by other players), the Maurice Richard (most goals), and the Art Ross (most points).

In January, during a game against Montreal, he broke his nose, split open his lips, and simply score 4 goals, including the overtime winner. Every goal he scores, he celebrates with an exuberance you have to see to believe. Youtube him. Trust me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spore and iPhone/iPod/iCrap

I can't help but see similarities between the latest PC Game fiasco Spore and any flavour of "i"Anything from Apple.

Spore has come packaged with a terrible DRM application called SecuROM. In a draconian measure, EA (Electronic Arts), the publishers of the game, forced this app on unsuspecting users - that is, nowhere on the box does it say this crap will be installed along with the game. Among other things SecuROM enforces a 3-install limit...which means if you rebuild your machine, you have used up an "install". If you rebuild your machine (or add a harddrive), you have used up an install. After the third time, you will be forced to call EA to plead with them to get another install key. Fun, eh? The idea was this was supposed to end/limit piracy. Laughably, the game was available, DRM free, almost a week before the game hit the shelves.

People have reacted to the DRM and have given Spore a terrible rating on Amazon.

I won't ever install a game onto my PC with this kind of crapware on it. Ever. I will pirate a game first. I hate doing that, since it doesn't support the developers, but I will not cripple my PC with that shit.


How does all that relate to iCrap from Apple? Well, what would you say if I told you that I created an MP3 player that needs propietary software to load music onto it. That this software, while residing on your PC, will take up resources even if you are not using the device and there is nothing you can do about it short of uninstalling the whole application? Would you buy that? Well, if you own any piece of iCrap, you have. I bought my son an LG MP3 player. You plug it into a USB port and it pops up like a removable drive. That's it. Copy the files over and voila. Done.

iCrap is like DRM. Anything that makes your PC more difficult to use is something you should avoid. Anything that requires some convoluted method to get to work, is something that should never have been created.

Monday, August 18, 2008

American Date format

As a developer, one of the things that piss me right off is the ridiculous default date format used by Microsoft's OSs. When you choose to use the English (US) format for dates and numbers, you get, as the default the following date format: mm/dd/yy (or perhaps you get mm/dd/yyyy which is only marginally better). The international date format is yyyy/mm/dd, and there is an excellent rationale for always using this.

Take today's date: 2008-08-18. In the default setting it would read 08/18/2008. Let's pretend that we are developing a report and need to extract information from a database. If we have the following dates, in the mm/dd/yyyy format and we decide to put it into a character field (for instance, we shove it into a Word document table and the column is set as Text), how would you expect it to sort?

08/18/2008
08/17/2008
08/18/2009
08/19/2008
08/17/2009
08/19/2009


You would think it would sort in proper date order, but you would be wrong. It ends up like this:

08/17/2008
08/17/2009
08/18/2009
08/18/2009
08/19/2008
08/19/2009


Now, you could set it as a Date column, but there are many times you have this in a CSV format and you import into an app that just dumps it into a Text or Char field. Then you end up with this issue. If the dates had been formated correctly: yyyy-mm-dd then it doesn't matter if the data is stored as Text/Char or Date. It would sort correctly no matter what:

2008-08-17
2008-08-18
2008-08-19
2009-08-17
2009-08-18
2009-08-19


There is a much greater problem when the date is stored in the format mm/dd/yy (that is, with only a two digit year). If you get a date that looks like this 04/05/07 how do you know what it is without first knowing the exact format that was used? That could be yy/mm/dd...hell, it could even be dd/mm/yy. An application may not convert the date to its date format correctly at all. If I were to import that into my database, it would become 2004/05/07 and NOT 2007/04/05 as was the intention (mm/dd/yy).

Short dates should be stored as yyyy-mm-dd (I don't care if you use a "-" or a "/", but with a backslash, if you were to use the date in a filename it would give you an error since filenames can't include "/". It means you would have to strip out the "/"s before creating a file. Small thing I know, but still, an extra step is an extra step). This format should be used internationally.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The R-Word and the Olympics

First...

Are you kidding me? Some people are upset at the use of the words "retard" and "retarded" in the new comedy Tropic Thunder by Ben Stiller.

Any word can be hurtful, depending on its context. How many more perfectly legitimate words are we going to lose to political correctness? What about "bastard"? Will organizations populated by people who were born to out-of-wedlock mothers rise up in ire? If I call someone a "moron" will I be chastized by groups representing the stupid? This is freaking retarded.

Second...

What the fuck gets everyone excited about the Olympics? Men's Synchronized Diving...are you for fucking real? Canada, as of this post, has won NO MEDALS...and some are saying that the lack of support for Canada's swimmers, divers, and pool dancers (oh, sorry...synchronized swimmers) is the problem. That in non-Olympic years, no one gives a shit. Well...newsflash...why should we? Seriously.

Michael Phelps could win 8 gold medals...wow...he's a hero. With that and several years at Harvard Medical, and more sweat and toil he could ever encounter in the pool, he might do something important...like find a cure for cancer.

Now people, re: morons (see above...hope I didn't offend the stupid) want to increase PUBLIC funding of amateur athletes...see...this is the problem with morons:
a government's first responsibilities are to things like Health, Education, and Security...not funding athletes and the arts...not at the expense of those more important responsibilities.

Monday, July 21, 2008

GM Struggling to survive...its own stupidity

I know I use the words STUPID or STUPIDITY quite often in my blog titles, but this is an apt description of GM....

From an article by the Associated Press entitled "GM in struggle to survive"

General Motors Corp., struggling to survive, will slash jobs, cut production, sell assets and suspend its dividend for the first time in 86 years as it tries to ride out an unprecedented collapse of its core U.S. market.


This is entirely self-inflicted. In the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car, the filmmakers outlined the issues surrounding the EV1 and how it got "killed" by combined stupidity. GM published comments disputing the findings of the film and stated that there was a limited market for EV1s...and then pursued the manufacture of gas guzzling SUVs and trucks in increasingly greater numbers. This action was, of course, incredibly short-sighted, given the state of the oil industry today.

Short-sightedness is a common factor in the fall of many companies, and GM should not be immune to it...that is, NO government bailouts should ensue. What GM meant to state, in their critique of the findings of the film, is that there was no huge short-term demand for the electric car, and most companies only care about short-term gain...to their detriment.

Successful companies need to look further into the future than the next fiscal shareholders' meeting. It needs to look beyond the current economy and focus on what will most likely happen in the next 10 years. It didn't take a genius to figure out that, with the invasion of Iraq in early 2002, oil would start a new rollercoaster ride...and from that event, GM should have begun planning. They didn't.

Toyota did. So did Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Kia, and on and on...just not the big 3 in the States. Stupidity.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Zombies!

I have come to the conclusion that any movie would be made better by the inclusion of zombies! Any movie!

Take the Titanic, for instance. What if the reason the crew was distracted and ran the ship into the iceberg was because they were busy fighting off the zombie hordes? That would rock.

A movie like Gigli, arguably one of the biggest flops in recent years, would probably have been a great hit had the plot changed from:

The mob tells hitman Gigli to kidnap the mentally handicapped brother of a California DA from a mental hospital. While holding the mental patient in his apartment, Gigli starts to fall for Ricki, a "lesbian assassin", who is sent to assist him.


To:

The mob tells hitman Gigli to kidnap the mentally handicapped brother of a California DA from a mental hospital. While holding the mental patient in his apartment, a zombie outbreak ensues, first engulfing the city then the country. Ricki, a lesbian assassin sent by the mob to assist Gigli, makes it to the apartment in time. The three of them attempt to fight off hungry zombies and try to find a way to survive.


Come on, you telling me you wouldn't PAY to see that?

I guarantee that I can make any movie...ANY movie (Disney cartoons included) into a better film idea by adding zombies! Test me!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ribbon Bar - Office 2007 and up - Total Crap!

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of helping someone with a Word document. Unfortunate, because the person had Office 2007 on their machine. All she wanted to do was PRINT. That's right...here's what the screen sort of looked like:



So...how do you print? If you were a first time user and you opened a document and this is what the interface looked like, what would you do?

Thrash around for a few minutes getting more and more frustrated until you want to grab Bill Gates by the ears and smash his head through your monitor? No? Maybe that's just me.

How about searching vainly, avoiding Help because, frankly, it should be FUCKING OBVIOUS!

Do you think it's in the View bar? Page Layout? Nope, and nope.

See that colourful little ball in the top left of the screen. Yup. You click THAT and this opens:



Then you select Print, then click one of the Print options. Wow...how intuitive.

For fun, go to google and search for "how do you print in word 2007" (try it without the quotes, otherwise you are looking for an exact string). Now, when people have to ask how to PRINT in a Word Processing application, time to go back to the drawing board.

Oh, the wanks and apologists will tell us that we just need to "leeearrrnnnn" it and all will be well. Take a course to learn how to PRINT. Brilliant.

You voluntarily bought this piece of shit...you're an idiot.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Starforce and the stupidity of copy protection

Many games use a copy protection scheme called Starforce. Essentially, this program installs drivers onto your machine that will not allow you to run an application, in this case a game, without the proper disk. It is incredibly intrusive, though apologists will claim that it helps stop piracy. I doubt it. Very few of these games stay protected for any significant length of time.

Now, for fun, especially if you are a gamer of sorts, take a look at that list of games. Notice anything? Most are nameless crap that no one really ever bought. Was that because of the copy protection. I think it could be...here's my argument:

Many times I have bought a game and when I started playing it, found it sucked. Like Prey, for instance. Graphically beautiful, Prey gets dull really, really quickly. Of course, I haven't played it since I first picked it up, which means I am out $60. What I usually do is get a "cracked" copy of a game I am interested in, try it out, and if I like it, I buy it. F.E.A.R was one, I liked it enough to buy a copy (though it was on sale :) ), and, more significantly, Morrowind. Played it for an hour or two, then raced to the store to get a copy. Brilliant game. Could I have gotten the same thing with a demo version, probably. But, I had a copy, tried it, and liked it.

I have since bought all the expansions and the newest in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion. Would you consider that a net gain, or loss for Bethesda (publishers of the games)? Net gain, I would say, and a considerable one at that. The only thing I do download, still, is a No CD crack (for every game I buy). This is so I don't have to constantly put the disc in the drive each time I want to play. I hate that.

I recently purchased a game I found in the bargain bin of a Giant Tiger: Rush for Berlin. I only paid $3, so no big deal. I was going to give it to my Dad, who has been looking for a good WWII strategy game. I got it home, and read through the EULA. One section caught my eye:

...might install software alleged to interfere with your installed software or hardware...uninstalling the game will not remove Starforce...


I couldn't believe it, but really shouldn't have been surprised. I thought, however, that given the sale price, and the fact that the game was 3 years old, that they would have released a patch that does away with Starforce...many games do that (once everyone who really wanted a copy has one). Nope.

I will not EVER install something with this kind of copy protection. This only penalizes the legitimate buyer, not the pirate. Starforce has been known to screw up optical disk drives to the point that they can no longer function. Fun, eh?

The frightening part is that bill C61 was recently tabled in Canada, which makes the US DMCA look like a wimp. One part talks about making it illegal to circumvent copy protection, even if for personal use (such as the No CD crack)! Excuse me? This is insane.

This will drive me to pirate shit, just to piss them off.

Yes, stuff will get pirated, and that sucks. However, not every pirated game, or any kind of software for that matter, is a lost sale to the publisher. You cannot make a one-to-one correlation. Too many times games are pirated that the person has no intention of buying, not because they are cheap, but because they either can't afford it (Microsoft Office, anyone) and/or because they wouldn't have bought it in the first place (Prey comes to mind...if I had pirated it first, I wouldn't have bought it) :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I just want a phone!

Wow...Apple has announced details on their new iPhone 3G which, among other things is cheaper than the original iPhone (which makes the early adopters look like morons...but I digress). According to Steve Jobs...

The new iPhone, sporting a thinner and sleeker look, will support faster 3G (third-generation) broadband wireless networks and come with built-in GPS (Global Positioning System) capabilities, Jobs said. Support for 3G networks will enable the new iPhone to download data up to 2.8 times faster than the earlier model, Jobs said. Built-in GPS will make it easier for users to navigate roads.
Don't Miss!Read the latest WhitePaper - Troubleshooting Remote Site Networks - Best Practices

The iPhone 3G will come with a 3.5-inch screen and have better battery life, with talk time of five hours, stand-by time of 300 hours, six hours of high-speed browsing time, 20 hours of audio and seven hours of video, Jobs said. Some who had previously bought iPhones complained about its battery life and that was a problem that Apple needed to solve with the new iPhone, Jobs said.


It will probably cure cancer, except the brain cancer you will get from using the damn thing all the time, do your laundry, and balance your checkbook.

Here's my problem: I just want a phone. A simple, freaking phone. The only "option" I want is Text Messaging. That's it. Just a phone. Only someone who is extremely busy needs something like this. I never want to be that busy, or that fucking dorky.

Please, does anyone just make a cellphone anymore?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sex and the City

All spring I have been seeing list of the most anticipated movies for this summer, and somehow, inexplicably, Sex and the City kept popping up on that list (see Yahoo Movies for an example). Apparently, there is a lot of buzz going around Hollywood that this movie might be huge and do some really big box office. Why is that, you ask? Well, Harry Medved from Fandango, the online movie ticket site said:

"We can't remember the last time a movie has created so much anticipation among female moviegoers from their 20s through their 40s."


There's the key demographic you look for in a summer flick, no?

I have asked female friends of mine, quite a few really, and none even watched Sex and the City when it was on TV. In fact, none are "anticipating" the film with any degree of enthusiasm.

This is my prediction: a moderate opening weekend, simply because there's really nothing else opening up against it, and then it will fizzle.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dennis Julien

Last Monday, a guy I used to hang around with, but who I haven't seen in a couple of years, passed away. I was a regular reader of Dennis' blog (dennis.ca - see my list of links), and have always been amazed at his incredible photography. I think his site is down now, which is a shame.

Several years ago, we shared a room in Vegas when a bunch of us went down - the excuse that time was a double bachelor party...though the guys have never needed a reason. It was on that trip that I got to know him better than the few years we worked together.

Back home in Ottawa, he told me about the day his sister died. I don't think I will ever forget it. I don't know if he ever told anyone else, though I am sure he did. He asked that I not mention it, so it's not like it ever came up in general conversation.

The story was heart-wrenching, and I think he told it because he had to. I remember mentioning that he should write it down, perhaps post it on his blog. He said he might, one day. I don't know if he ever posted something about it on some other blog he might have had, or perhaps he has it written down somewhere, but never had the strength to publish it.

So most of us will remember Dennis as the big guy sitting at the Morley, beer in hand, cracking jokes and defending the Leafs. We will remember him as incredibly smart, and a fantastic photographer...and if I recall, a terrible gambler (hey, he rooted for the Leafs!).

I will also remember him as a guy who told me about his most painful moment...about every emotion he experienced on that day, and how it still affected him. Before that, he was just one of the guys, someone I knew through work, and the Vegas trip. After that story, though, he became...well...Dennis.

Cheers, buddy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stuff

Just a short-story (somewhat dated) I wrote a while ago...hope the 2 or 3 readers of my blog enjoy it :)
*******************************

I remember everything like it was yesterday. Well, actually, it was yesterday. I figured I had better write this all down before I forgot most of it...or all of it. It was cold out, below freezing. The frost clung tightly to every metal post and window pane in town. Odd for mid-July, I thought. Damn strange really, and not the least convenient since I had prepared for a lovely summer day by hastily donning my swimming trunks and a t-shirt, and had already began walking to the beach. I was halfway there before I realised that the reason I was shaking was NOT due to an adrenaline rush of anticipatory excitement. And, besides, my legs had turned a bland shade of puce-blue.

Now, usually I'm not one to complain. I mean, weather does as weather does, and any attempt to truly predict it is futile at best, but this was more than a little annoying. To whom should I have directed my complaints? The government could be blamed for a lot of things, but the weather was outside of their jurisdiction (fortunately, since that meant they were unable to tax it). The only person I thought could be held liable was God Himself, or Herself depending on your political-correctness.

So I hauled my shivering tukus over to my local RC church, whereupon I began berating the nearest religious icon for a most annoying bout of unseasonable weather.

“Okay God!” I said, rather presumptuously I thought. “Okay. I know You have got to be busy with running the entire universe and all, but I think You had better give some thought to the weather down here. Things are going haywire! Hot and sunny one second, freezing cold the next. Hey, I’m on holidays PAL!” By now my voice had risen to an almost deafening whisper, and since my courage was bolstered by the fact that I hadn’t been turned into a pillar of salt or zapped by a bolt of lightning, I began to speak even louder. “So..so...I think you had better get Yer butt down here and fix a few things before I get angry!”

A Priest, overhearing me, began to, in turn, berate me for my altogether sacrilegious and blasphemous display. When I surreptitiously pointed out the startling weather by grabbing the Priest by the front of his robes and slamming his head outside an open window, the Priest took one look outside, excused himself and stepped out the main church doors. Roughly three seconds later the Priest returned, a look of mixed disbelief and consternation on his face, and began whispering some unpriestly comments to the religious icon he had just accused me of practising heresy upon.

Figuring that a necessary scolding of the powers-that-be was well under way, by a source much better designed than I for such an undertaking, I hightailed my now warm patooties back to my apartment for a quick change of clothes. Several minutes later, winter boots and all, I proceeded out my front door once more right into a heat wave of noticeably more July-like conditions. By now I was becoming slightly bemused, as had several of my neighbours, some of which stood statue-still outside dressed in a hybrid combination of beach wear and ski suits.

I promptly retreated back into my abode, stripped naked, and sat my bare butt down in front of the television, determined to hear the official version of the events taking place; however, The Weather Network was a scene of uncontrolled chaos. Three weatherpersons had hanged themselves in desperation and the crew was playing chicken with the cameras. While somewhat amusing, I was determined to discover the wherefores, howtos and suchwhys about the recent, transitory weather patterns that plagued my otherwise dull and uninteresting life. I flipped it over to the All Religion Channel, to get a spiritual perspective only to be presented with another chaotic sight.

A Catholic Priest was quite busily defending himself with a candlestick while an old, bearded rabbi circled him warily. In the background, a Muslim smiled craftily, waiting for a chance to jump in. It seemed that each faction had accused the other of being the cause of this calamitous climate - something to do with the blasphemy of unbelievers. Just as the Catholic priest gained the upper hand by ramming the candlestick into the unprotected eye of the rabbi, a stray bolt of lightning turned the three combatants into crispy tots where they stood. The All Religion Channel, of course, cut immediately to a commercial for Depends undergarments.

CBC Newsworld was covering a press conference by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, who were demanding more federal funding and whining that this was all a white-male plot designed to usurp the rightful control of females over the world. In the background, one of the gray-suited, gray-haired feminists could be seen giving a salutary “Sieg Heil”.

So then I figured that CNN would be the best choice, but discovered them still covering the Impeachment Trial of William Jefferson Clinton, 3142 day. Unfortunately, the Senate was slow to realize that Bill Clinton hadn’t been President for several years, and that, in fact, he had died not long after after his second term ended, after Hillary beat the crap out of him. His daughter, Chelsea had long since changed her name and was working as a professional Roller Derby queen/stripper named Monica Lewd-insky.

At that point, my phone rang, and I reached over to answer it.

“Hello” I said, not surprisingly.

“Hello, this is the operator, I have a long distance call from Acturus Prime Central Commander Poof’lie, will you accept the charges?”, intoned the voice of the operator. Now, normally, I would assume that I was the brunt of a weird joke from one of my equally weird friends and would hang up the phone, but given the rather odd events of the day, I decided that I had better accept this call.

“Er...yes, okay. I will accept the charges. Thank you operator.” I answered. There was a momentary click, a mumble from the operator, and then a voice boomed through the speaker of my phone.

“EARTHLING! WE ARE IN ORBIT AROUND YOUR EARTH AND ARE EVEN NOW CONTROLLING YOUR WEATHER. SURRENDER TO US OR WE WILL ANNIHILATE YOU!” Unfortunately, I only heard the word EARTHLING, actually, just part of the word…the “ER” sound. The volume of the voice was such that I was sent rocketing across the room only to crash into my mural of jungle cats. After the ringing in my ear, and the spinning of the room, stopped , I picked up the phone to hear....

“...Hello...hello...pitiful earthling? Are you there? We apologize for the volume, we have now since turned it down. We are waiting patiently for your surrender.”

I was a slightly bemused by the proceedings and still hadn’t fully recovered from being turned into a wall-hanging, but attempted to respond anyways.

“YEAH, I HEAR YA. BUT I THINK YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG NUMBER. MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY THE PRIME MINISTER OR SOMEONE LIKE THAT.” I yelled. I had to wait several seconds before I could hear someone, or something, shuffle itself off of a floor and return to the phone.

“Oh, sorry about that” The alien said “Would you happen to have this prime minister person’s number?”

“Um...no. Not quite. But you could try directory assistance at 411. They could probably help you out.” With that, the self-proclaimed Central Commander mumbled a few quick apologies, and sullenly hung up.

Suddenly, I felt in need of a very long, hot bath. In a surreal state of consternation, I shuffled myself over to the bathroom. Roughly twenty minutes later I was able to figure out the knobs and run myself a bath. My jumbled mind had finally settled down to something at least approximating hysteria, and I was just about to tootsie-test the steaming bath water, when the phone rang yet again.

Cursing the gods who toyed with me constantly, I went to the phone, noticing in passing through a window that the weather had seemed to turn back into winter.

“Hello?!” I said, curtly and with definite authority.

“Umm...hello...earthling? This is Acturus Prime Central Commander Poof’lie. Umm..earthling, I hate to bother you again, but I seem to be unable to reach this prime minister person. The being you call directory assistance was singularily unable to provide me with any assistance. Perhaps I could impose upon you yet again?” The being asked somewhat sweetly.

“Why should I help you?” I asked. “You want to take over my planet and subjugate the billions of inhabitants, turning them into your personal slaves.”

“Yes, I guess that’s true...however, we could make it...um...excuse me...did you say Billions?”

“Er..yeah...the population of the Earth is something like 5 Billion or so. Why?” I asked.

“Excuse me for a moment” With that, the being seemed to put down whatever it had been speaking into, and barked a series of outlandishly gutteral commands to what I could only assume was a subordinate. I heard a few thumps, a pitiful squeek, and after a few seconds Central Commander Poof’lie returned to the phone...or whatever.

“Umm..Earthling...we wish to offer our gravest apologies. It appears that the late former First Class Planet Examiner Perf’ril made a slight error estimating the population of your planet. His excuse was that he couldn’t imagine a paltry, little backwater marble of a planet harbouring that many semi-intelligent inhabitants, and thus arbitrarily took off a few zeros from his calculations...well...five zeros, actually. We...umm..well...we are unprepared at this time to continue with the planned invasion of your Earth. Please, disregard the preceeding comments...in fact, disregard the entire conversation. Thank you for your aid. Good-bye.”

With that, he/it hung up. I only remembered to hang up the phone several hours later when my hand cramped up and the blood drained from it. It took several more minutes to actually pry my stiffened claw from the receiver. After that I poured myself a stiff drink, flipped on the tube, and hummed along with the opening theme of The Simpsons….


The End.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Political-correctness stoops to new low

News from about a week ago, but just getting to blogging about it now. An 8-year old boy in Westminster, Colorado was suspended from school for 3 days for sniffing a SHARPIE. That's right. He liked the smell of the pen and sniffed it, and the teacher told the principal, who then suspended him. For sniffing...a sharpie.

This from the article:

Dr. Eric Lavonas says non-toxic markers like Sharpies, while pungent-smelling, cannot be used to get high.

"I don't know whether it would be possible for a real overachiever to figure out a way to get high off them," Lavonas said. "But in regular use, it's just not something that's going to happen."

"If you went to Costco and bought 50 bags of Sharpies and did something to them, maybe there's a way to get creative and make it happen," Lavonas said.

Adams County School District 50 leaders were unfazed by the poison control center's medical opinion.

"Principals make hundreds of decisions everyday based on our best judgment. And in that time, smelling that marker, I felt like, 'Wow, that's a very serious marker,'" Benisch said.

Despite the medical evidence, Benisch promised to draw an even clearer line on markers.

"We've purged every permanent marker there is in this building," he said.


Behold the face of stupidity bordering on pure fucking bureaucratic evil, one Chris Benisch:



Probably small-dicked and picked on most of his life, Benisch more than likely became a teacher, then principal, so he could mold the minds of children and hold power for once in his soon-to-be-an-internet-laughingstock life. If I was a parent of a child in his school, I would either be demanding this fuck nuts resignation or outright firing. At the very least, I would kick his fat ass in the parking lot.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Ottawa Senators and Mediocrity

I occasionally check out and contribute to a website called Hockey Trade Rumors (careful, there are a lot of popups if you are using IE6/7...and they spell Rumours that way, not me :) ). Back on February 26th, after the NHL trade deadline, I commented on a thread and wrote:
My prediction is a 7th seed going into the playoffs and a quick exit in the 1st round. I don't see this team pulling together and rising above their current mediocrity to avoid this fate.

I am a Sens fan, by the way.


When I wrote this, the Sens were still in 1st in the Eastern Conference. I later added:
The Sens have NOT played well since their 15-2 start. In fact, they are below .500 since that start.

At this rate, I will revise my prediction of a 7th place finish and actually predict them to be OUT of the playoffs altogether. This team has never shown the fortitude to pull out of slides...ever.


Ok. So I was ONE WIN wrong about this. In fact, had Carolina won, Ottawa would have been out of the playoffs altogether.

I bring this up because of the slew of articles decrying fans in Ottawa. In particular, Kelly Egan of the Ottawa Citizen wrote a column entitled: O Sens Army, where art thou?. He goes on to scold the fans who have seemingly deserted the team...fans who last year proudly stuck Sens flags out the windows of their cars in the thousands. He wonders "...whether the city has, under its pallid, bureaucratic exterior, a fickle heart." He later goes on to write:
In any professional sport, really, there is one champion; everyone else loses. Yet there are millions of fans. Why?

Because the plight of the fan is to make peace with losing. The fun part is to not look beyond one game, or even one period. Because sport and sport-watching, is the moment, not the end.


I would put it to Mr. Egan that the heart isn't fickle...it is both discerning and realistic. I didn't pick the Canadian's Men hockey team to win ANY medals at the last Olympics. Not because I wasn't a "fan", but because I understand that the team that was chosen was old and slow and couldn't compete at the Olympic level. I was right. Doesn't make me "fickle"...it makes me smart. I always wonder at the legion of fans of teams that do not have a chance at winning much, if anything. Take Major League Baseball, for instance. Why would "fans" of a terrible team (take the Detroit Tigers...as of this post, they are 0-7), teams that have no hope of ever winning because they cannot afford the astronomical salaries, bother going to or watching a game? What is the freaking point? The joy of the sport? Who likes to lose on a nearly constant basis? Well, except for fans of the Maple Leafs.

I must contradict Mr. Egan when he writes that "..sport and sport-watching, is the moment, not the end." It most certainly IS about the end, otherwise there is no point at all.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Government waste

If you want further proof that government bureaucracies are incompetent and mishandle millions of dollars of tax payers' money, then read this:

As a consultant with the federal government, I design customized Help Desk and Asset Management solutions using an application called the Action Request System (aka Remedy ARS). Without getting technical, and in simple terms, it is a development environment that provides a layer on top of a database. Using this tool, I design forms and code to store information and process business rules. There are two approaches to providing a client with a solution: fully-customized or out-of-the-box. Fully customized applications can cost a lot in the short term, as the client has to pay for the development, from the ground up, of a full-fledged application. However, once developed, there are no licensing fees other than for the ARS layer which can be about $50,000 a year (including the licensing fees for the database). The out-of-the-box solution seemingly has one advantage, that is you can install it and work away. However, there are significant yearly licensing fees for the applications, broken into modules, as well as the ARS layer itself. These costs can be as high as $250,000 a year!

Fully-customized solutions can be problematic if there has been no proper development process. The application usually ends up looking like a patchwork of old, out-of-date code coupled with newer code...a series of bandage code holding it all together. However, every piece of it can be modified and cleaned up as per requirements, and an organization's business rules can be incorporated as they see fit. Some division needs a certain set of fields on this form to track specific asset data? No problem.

An out-of-the-box application is only grudgingly modifiable, the idea being that the client should follow the application's business rules, rather than the other way around...and heaven forbid if the organization wants to update to the latest version...any customized work will have to be reapplied, usually painfully.

But the out-of-the-box application can work if there is a proper business analysis performed and if every section of the organization buys into it. If not, it will be hell. This is where government bureaucracies have serious issues.

I have been developing in Remedy ARS since 1998. I have seen dozens of "solutions" and implementations. Some were abysmal failures...most middling so. The common element amongst the failures was the inability of the client to actually understand their role in the process. Governments are famous for this.

For example, a series of upper-level managers (Director Generals and Assistant Deputy Ministers) will sit in a room and discuss what they "need", without actually understanding the "need" since they are so far removed from people who actually DO the work, that their concept of "need" rarely translates into the needs of the department. What these managers need is something to make them feel that they are relevant. So, some smartasses come up with something called ITIL (The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of concepts and techniques for managing information technology (IT) infrastructure, development, and operations). This money making scheme...oops...I mean concept...was created, of course, by one of the most bureaucratized countries on Earth...the UK. ITIL is simply a common framework for IT management...it is supposed to be a starting point for managers to restructure they way they provide IT services to their clients. However, as with all things IT, it has become a buzzword which has excited managers. You say ITIL to a group of managers, and the collective saliva drooling from their mouths could create a new oasis in the Sahara.

Managers in the government love "shiny" things, and since they are not spending any of their own money directly, have no qualms about pissing it down the toilet. They will never be truly held accountable, so they don't care. Sales people know this, and will happily provide rigged demonstrations of their "products" (rigged in the sense that there is only a bit of data...so the application runs smoothly...and no one else is working on the app at the same time...which makes everything really, really quick). Then they flash some nice pie charts, a view fancy reports, some other useless bells-and-whistles, and they will have successfully distracted the managers who, at this point, only see the shiny things. One of the shiniest parts of the out-of-the-box solution from BMC (BMC Remedy IT Service Management 7.x: Application) is their CMDB (Configuration Management Database...from Wikipedia, Configuration Management (CM) is an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) IT Service Management (ITSM) process that tracks all of the individual Configuration Items (CI) in an IT system which may be as simple as a single server, or as complex as the entire IT department). A BMC technical rep gave a demo before which he mentioned that to successfully implement a CMDB, there should be months of business analysis. Roughly an hour later, a government manager asked when it could be installed. The BMC sales rep, also in the room, almost fainted he got a hard-on so quickly.

As a sop to proper business analysis, they are now paying some out of town firm $1000 a day to do a 21 day gap analysis. 21 days. Amazing.

This is what will happen: after spending several hundred thousand dollars, if not millions when you take salaries into account, the application will be put into production. People will complain that it is too slow, especially those in missions, like some countries in Africa which still use 56K lines; tons of customizations will be made; the application will only be partially used, not at all justifying its expenses; and then the managers who perpetrated this fiasco will be reorganized out, suffering no penalty for their stupidity. The team responsible for maintaining the app will take all the shit. Then they will have to upgrade to the newest version of the application, since the old version will no longer be supported. They will have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more to reapply the customizations...and the circle continues.

****************Update March 17, 2008****************
The consultant brought in to do the gap analysis is already 2 days behind the original time estimate of 21 days. He's been here for 4 days :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just let 'em die

The more I hear and read about the US health care....um..."system(?)", the more I believe it is an exceptionally sound and viable model which should be adopted by the rest of the world. I mean, what other country has the balls to tell its middle class "Fuck you, you can't afford health insurance, you die. Too bad". That's some refreshing attitude to take towards the bulk of your citizenry. Soon, there will only be two classes of people in the US: the rich who can afford, well, anything; and the poor who exist on the largesse of the government through programs like medicaid and food stamps. Since the poor are much more easily controlled, this will allow the government to do what it wants, without fear of reprisal. The "unwashed masses" will be just that.

With most of what and how they think controlled by the media, Americans are unable to rationally resolve any issue that they face as a country. The media needs crime and wars to entice viewers, so no matter how ridiculous the claims made by government as a reason for going to war, for instance, they will be championed by the media because "It sells". Think I am being cynical? How many intrepid reporters delved into the reality of WMDs in Iraq? So, now that the media is so closely tied to the corrupt and incompetent governments which they were originally a check against, they will not report fairly on any issues to which the government is opposed. This includes health care, of course.

But, as far as Mr. and Mrs. Joe Average is concerned, as long as their televisions spew WWF and some evangelical bullcrap on a mostly daily basis, they don't care.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

She Amazed Me redux

This is a follow-up to my previous blog entry regarding the nonsensical song "She Amazed Me" from the Dilbert Blog.

This song was put together from random lyrics submitted by people from around the world. Okay, someone painstakingly went through the 600+ comments and pulled out what they felt were the best lyrics, and I can only assume that they were attempting to provide some sort of cohesiveness to the lyrics, but still..."She Amazed Me" has got to be the first OPEN SOURCE song in history. What does that say about songwriters? I mean, someone still had to put music to it, and that takes talent, but the actual words ...come on...you can stream crap together, put a catchy beat to it, and belt out a hit. This song isn't a hit (yet?), but would it be if it had been recorded by someone famous? I think it might be.

It's been a couple of weeks, and I am still getting a huge chuckle out of it.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

She Amazed Me

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has a blog and recently asked his readers to participate in an experiment. His idea was to have "...nonsense lyrics that could be combined into a hit song, under the theory that many hit songs have nonsense lyrics, so writing them can't be that hard." Each poster was to have written two lines that sound profound but really weren't. I threw in a couple of nonsense lyrics myself.

In a follow-up blog entry, The Hit Song You Wrote, he mentioned that a German band by the name of Rivo Drei took the best of the lyrics and put them into a song which they recorded called "She Amazed Me".

She Amazed Me
------------------------

She had runaway eyes and marshmallow kittens.
My heart heard a dream like ten thousand mittens.

A tear in her hand
She spread deja-vu all across the land.

br:
She spinned round and round with a frog in her ear
Whispering fountains and rocks she couldn't hear

ch:
Oh, she amazed me!
With her love, she tazed me.
Oh, she amazed me!
And it escapes me
how she outer spaced me.

Too many times I have seen the thunder
Flashes of sound, soul-rending sunder

A letter colored blue...
Now the nine bells are ringin' and singin' it too

br:
She spinned round and round with a frog in her ear
Whispering fountains and rocks she couldn't hear

ch:
Oh, she amazed me!
With her love, she tazed me.
Oh, she amazed me!
And it escapes me
how she outer spaced me.

br:
Little did she know they were coming too soon,
Both those kittens ran off to the moon

ch:
Oh, she amazed me!
With her love, she tazed me.
Oh, she amazed me!
And it escapes me
how she outer spaced me.
Oh, she amazed me!
With her love, she tazed me.
Oh, she amazed me!
With splendid reprisal, she took to the sky.
My tear drops asunder. No shadow. No cry.
Apple core ostriches dancing like fairies.
And it escapes me
how she outer spaced me.


The interesting part, and this is entirely me tooting my own horn :), is that the band selected my two lines :) Just go to the first Dilbert entry I have linked to above (the word "experiment") and do a search for the word "thunder". :) Note the name in red underneath that entry....yay...it's me :)

AS I write this, there are about 300 google hits for this song :) The number has increased from 65 entries yesterday. Too funny.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Teenager learned her lesson?

Interesting story out of Victoria, B.C. about a 15-year old girl who was tethered in a padded cell at a police station for four hours. On the surface, you might be disgusted by the image of a prone 15 year old girl lying, alone, in a padded cell:



Terrifying, isn't it? Or is it really? Let's analyse the story. First, she was drunk and causing a disturbance...
[the]...girl was drunk, swearing at officers, had to be forcibly removed from a police car, was kicking the door of the cell, and grabbed one officer on the arm.
. Here's a girl who is obviously out of control. The police found her stumbling around after being unable to enter her house because she had lost her key, which implies that her parents weren't home. Where were they? Who lets their 15 year old daughter out past midnight?

You can call the treatment at the hands of the police a bit cruel, but I guarantee she learned some sort of lesson. Now, of course, her parents might sue the police. Typical. Your daughter was stumbling drunk, abusive, out-of-control, but the police need to be sued. The parents should be charged with being incompetent...too bad there isn't such a law.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Life is funny and surprising

It's strange how life works. I mean, most of us live day-to-day with a belief that we have some purpose and direction. Even those of us who are not particularly focused seem to have goals, even if they might seem rather unambitious to others. But life has an odd way of throwing situations at us that force us to transform. The trick is to not try to fight things we do not have any hope of changing; to understand that life is like a river, and at times we are swept along the current. I know that sounds counter-productive. I know that there are tons of books out there written by people with purportedly more credentials than I that tell us we must always strive and fight for what we want. You know what, anyone who has actually LIVED understands that single-mindedness is ridiculous...and ultimately destructive. Those who do not learn to allow life to happen sometimes, are usually doomed to suffer a major shock when their world twists around them. Britney Spears is a perfect example. Life threw something at her she didn't expect, and to quote The Hives

Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick … Boom!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah
I was right you were wrong
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Going, going you’re gone!
I saw you yesterday, waiting too much
Till it slipped through your hands
And then you stagger to your feet and out the door
‘Cause there’s no second chance!


Her ordeal is, of course, an example of a life gone awry. It isn't all doom and gloom. Sometimes life grants, not so much throws, you something unexpected that could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Oh, it can fundamentally change everything, and like any change, can have repercussions that cause you or people you care about some pain, but pain is not always a bad thing. It is how we deal with the pain that can be the problem.

Personally, I acknowledge that I have made stupid decisions and choices in my life. Some that have caused pain to me, and certainly others. But I believe I have learned from each and every one of them. If not, then I am not as smart as my ego has allowed me to think I am.

I think life has granted me something recently that might fundamentally shift my life. I am not sure what will happen, but I think I will just lay back in my boat, cradle my head in my hands as I stare upwards, and let the current take me where it will. I think I will enjoy the ride for once. Just in case, though, I better bring along a life jacket.