Quotulatiousness

April 12, 2015

Unprintable words about printers

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

It’s coming up to the deadline for getting our tax returns in to the CRA, so I’d asked my friend Clive to come over this weekend to do my books in preparation for taking all the paperwork in to my accountant. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward thing — all I had to do was to print off all my various invoices and other documents for which I didn’t already have a hard-copy.

But I had somehow forgotten about the Satanic nature of printers.

Elizabeth and I each have a printer attached to our respective computers, so even if one failed to co-operate, we have the other one to fall back on. And this turned out to be a good thing, as the HP Officejet 6310 printer I use with my laptop started having paper feed issues on Saturday. As in, it couldn’t manage to pull even a single sheet of paper out of the stack. Well, damn, but at least there’s Elizabeth’s Canon printer I can use instead.

I disconnected the HP and moved her printer over to my workspace (the kitchen table, actually). But first I had to download the drivers for it. Having downloaded the drivers, I prepared to print the first of the documents I needed … and the damned Canon developed a similar paper feed problem. It just would not feed paper from the paper bin to the print-head.

A couple of hours go by, as I frantically try to fix one or the other of the two busted printers. It’s now after 5, and I’m running out of options and patience. I decide to go down to our local Staples and buy a new printer because that tax return deadline is looming.

In Staples, I vent a bit of my frustration over printers to a staff member, and she agrees that one of the few genuine pleasures in life is hoofing a printer out the window. After we compared notes on distance and impact zones, I asked for her recommendation for a cheap printer that would at least let me print off what I need for Clive to work with today. She warned me against my first choice, as it only came with “starter” ink cartridges, while a slightly older model using the same cartridges comes with full-sized ones instead … and was $30 cheaper, to boot. She made the sale.

I got the printer home, set it up and … discovered that the printer’s display panel didn’t work. And it was now too late to get the unit back to the store for a replacement. So, early Sunday, as soon as the store opens I’ll be on their doorstep with the faulty printer. I hope the next one will at least print something.

December 31, 2014

What I was reading in 2014

Filed under: Media,Personal — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

Another year of reading done … and I have to admit that between blogging, gaming, and other non-reading uses for free time, I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to. Not counting re-reads of old favourites (Conan Doyle, Heinlein, Bujold, Tolkien, and Pratchett among others), this is all I managed to read during the course of the year:

(more…)

The (awful) people of Whole Foods

Filed under: Business,Health,Personal,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Many years ago, when we lived on “the Danforth”, we were occasional patrons of “The Big Carrot”, an early retail store for the self-consciously “alternative” set. If you wanted gluten-free, or dairy-free, or fair-trade, they were almost the only game in town in the late 80s and early 90s. The selection may not have been great at times, but they did try to provide a variety of foods that you couldn’t get at the mainstream supermarkets of the day. The employees seemed to be mostly good, helpful folks, but almost to a person the customers were incredibly self-centred, self-righteous, arrogant, and intolerant. I don’t know how the staff put up with the constant childish antics and unending whining from the customers. Whole Foods is a much bigger enterprise than Toronto’s Big Carrot … and they seem to have attracted exactly the same customer base:

The problem with Whole Foods is their regular customers. They are, across the board, across the country, useless, ignorant, and miserable. They’re worse than miserable, they’re angry. They are quite literally the opposite of every Whole Foods employee I’ve ever encountered. Walk through any store any time of day—but especially 530pm on a weekday or Saturday afternoon during football season — and invariably you will encounter a sneering, disdainful horde of hipster Zombies and entitled 1%ers.

They stand in the middle of the aisles, blocking passage of any other cart, staring intently at the selection asking themselves that critical question: which one of these olive oils makes me seem coolest and most socially conscious, while also making the raw vegetable salad I’m preparing for the monthly condo board meeting seem most rustic and artisanal?

If you are a normal human being, when you come upon a person like this in the aisle you clear your throat or say excuse me, hoping against hope that they catch your drift. They don’t. In fact, they are disgusted by your very existence. The idea that you would violate their personal shopping space — which seems to be the entire store — or deign to request anything of them is so far beyond the pale that most times all they can muster is an “Ugh!”

Over the years I have tried everything to remain civil to these people, but nothing has worked, so I’ve stopped trying. Instead, I walk over to their cart and physically move it to the side for them. Usually, the shock of such an egregious transgression is so great that the “Ugh!” doesn’t happen until I’m around the corner out of sight. Usually, all I get is an incredulous bug-eyed stare. Sometimes I get both though, and when that happens, I look them square in the eye and say “Move. Your. Cart.” I used the same firm tone as Jason Bourne, with the hushed urgency of Jack Bauer and the uncomfortable proximity of Judge Reinhold. From their reaction you’d think I just committed an armed robbery or a sexual assault. When words fail them, as they often do with passive aggressive Whole Foods zombies, the anger turns inward and they start to vibrate with righteous indignation. Eventually, that pent up energy has to go somewhere, and like solar flares it bursts forth into the universe as paroxysms of rage.

December 20, 2014

Repost – Induced aversion to a particular Christmas song

Filed under: Business,Cancon,Media,Personal — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Earlier this year, I had occasion to run a Google search for “Mr Gameway’s Ark” (it’s still almost unknown: the Googles, they do nothing). However, I did find a very early post on the old site that I thought deserved to be pulled out of the dusty archives, because it explains why I can — to this day — barely stand to listen to “Little Drummer Boy”:

Seasonal Melodies

James Lileks has a concern about Christmas music:

This isn’t to say all the classics are great, no matter who sings them. I can do without “The Little Drummer Boy,” for example.

It’s the “Bolero” of Christmas songs. It just goes on, and on, and on. Bara-pa-pa-pum, already. Plus, I understand it’s a sweet little story — all the kid had was a drum to play for the newborn infant — but for anyone who remembers what it was like when they had a baby, some kid showing up unannounced to stand around and beat on the skins would not exactly complete your mood. Happily, the song has not spawned a sequel like “The Somewhat Larger Cymbal Adolescent.”

This reminds me about my aversion to this particular song. It was so bad that I could not hear even three notes before starting to wince and/or growl.

Mr. Gameways' ArkBack in the early 1980’s, I was working in Toronto’s largest toy and game store, Mr Gameways’ Ark. It was a very odd store, and the owners were (to be polite) highly idiosyncratic types. They had a razor-thin profit margin, so any expenses that could be avoided, reduced, or eliminated were so treated. One thing that they didn’t want to pay for was Muzak (or the local equivalent), so one of the owners brought in his home stereo and another one put together a tape of Christmas music.

Note that singular. “Tape”.

An ad from the year of Trivial Pursuit (via OSRcon)

An ad from the year of Trivial Pursuit (via OSRcon)

Christmas season started somewhat later in those distant days, so that it was really only in December that we had to decorate the store and cope with the sudden influx of Christmas merchandise. Well, also, they couldn’t pay for the Christmas merchandise until sales started to pick up, so that kinda accounted for the delay in stocking-up the shelves as well …

So, Christmas season was officially open, and we decorated the store with the left-over krep from the owners’ various homes. It was, at best, kinda sad. But — we had Christmas music! And the tape was pretty eclectic: some typical 50’s stuff (“White Christmas” and the like), some medieval stuff, some Victorian stuff and that damned “Drummer Boy” song.

We were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts over the holidays (extra staff? you want Extra Staff, Mr. Cratchitt???), and the music played on. And on. And freaking on. Eternally. There was no way to escape it.

To top it all off, we were the exclusive distributor for a brand new game that suddenly was in high demand: Trivial Pursuit. We could not even get the truck unloaded safely without a cordon of employees to keep the random passers-by from trying to grab boxes of the damned game. When we tried to unpack the boxes on the sales floor, we had customers snatching them out of our hands and running (running!) to the cashier. Stress? It was like combat, except we couldn’t shoot back at the buggers.

Oh, and those were also the days that Ontario had a Sunday closing law, so we were violating all sorts of labour laws on top of the Sunday closing laws, so the Police were regular visitors. Given that some of our staff spent their spare time hiding from the Police, it just added immeasurably to the tension levels on the shop floor.

And all of this to the background soundtrack of Christmas music. One tape of Christmas music. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

It’s been over 20 [now 30] years, and I still feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck with this song … but I’m over the worst of it now: I can actually listen to it without feeling that all-consuming desire to rip out the sound system and dance on the speakers. After two decades.

December 2, 2014

Charles Stross on the symptoms of aging

Filed under: Health,Personal — Tags: — Nicholas @ 00:03

On his blog, Charles Stross talks about the mundane irritations and accumulated friction of a life lived past age 50 or so:

Beyond the obvious (gross physiological deterioration and pathologies of senescence), what are the psychological symptoms of ageing?

I tend to be somewhat impatient or short-tempered these days. Examples: getting worked up about people obstructing a sidewalk in front of me, or carelessly blowing smoke over their shoulder and into my face, walking while texting … you know the drill. This I put down largely to the chronic low-grade pain of the middle-aged body: joints that creak and pop, muscles that need an extra stretch, sore feet. […]

My memory, as previously noted, is a sieve. Partly I find myself living in a cluttered cognitive realm: I have so much context to apply to any new piece of incoming data. If middle-aged people seem slow at times it may not be because they’re stupid (although stupidity is a non-ageist affliction) but because they’re processing a lot more data than a young mind has on hand to digest. That shop window display? You’re not just looking at this seasons clothing fashions, but integrating changes in fashion across multiple decades and recognizing when this stuff was last new. (And if fashion is your thing, you’re trying to remember how far back in the wardrobe you hung it last time you wore it, all those years ago.) A side-effect of this: when experiencing something familiar through long repetition you forget it — you don’t remember it as a new experience but merely as an instance of a familiar one and (eventually) as nothing at all. (For those of you with a workday routine, this can cut in quite early: how well do you remember your last commute to work? If you do remember it, do you remember it only because it was exceptional—a truck nearly t-boning you, for example?)

An intersecting effect of the aches and pains and the difficulty retrieving information is that you have to focus hard on tasks — it’s hard to execute a day with six or seven distinct non-routine activities in it, because that requires planning and planning requires lots of that difficult mental integration. Planning is exhausting. Instead you focus on maintaining routines (get up, brush teeth, take meds, shave, use toilet, make coffee … check. Go to gym: check. Eat lunch: check. Work at desk: check …) and scheduling one or two exceptional tasks. Mental checklists help a lot, but you run into the sieve-shaped memory problem again: this is where digital prosthesis (or an overflowing filofax) come in handy.

Your perspective on current events changes. Take the news media. Everything new is old after a time: you see the large-scale similarities across decades even without becoming a student of history. Today’s invasion or oil crisis is just like the one before last. Our current political leadership are stuck in the same ideological monkey’s-paw trap as their predecessors the last time their party was in power. And so on. So you tend to discount current events and lose interest in the news until something new happens. (If you’re wondering why I’m obsessively interested in the Scottish independence thing this year, it’s because it’s a disruptive event: nothing like it has happened in UK politics for a very long time indeed. It’s fresh.)

November 8, 2014

I am apparently a “Right-Leaning Anarchist Isolationist Cosmopolitan Liberal”

Filed under: Personal,Politics,Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 09:28

Yet another of those “answer this set of questions and we’ll tell you what you believe” tests. According to 5 Dimensional Policial [sic] Compass, I am:

You are a: Right-Leaning Anarchist Isolationist Cosmopolitan Liberal

Collectivism score: -33%
Authoritarianism score: -100%
Internationalism score: -67%
Tribalism score: -33%
Liberalism score: 33%

H/T to John Donovan, who is a “Left-Leaning Anti-Government Non-Interventionist Nationalist Liberal”. Splitter!

October 25, 2014

QotD: Hugging

Filed under: Humour,Personal,Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Part of the problem with hugging is that it has become a social convention, rather than what it once was, which was an expression of genuine emotion.

There are some times when a hug is appropriate. Those times are when there’s a marriage proposal in the air or a body in the ground.

Hugging is for celebration, or comforting someone who’s had a setback. Hugging is not for noting that two people have both managed to meet at Chili’s after work. Being at Chili’s is not a cause for celebration, and nor is it quite dire enough to require comforting.

An even more important rule is Men don’t hug. The only time men should hug is when male family members are observing a major life milestone, such as a major promotion, the safe return from overseas deployment, or noting a witty observation in the commentary audio track of Die Hard.

The only exception to these guidelines if a man tells another man, “Boy, I could sure use a hug.” But he won’t say that, because he’s a man, so just stop with the male-on-male hugging.

To be serious, if I could: There are rules of physical distance, and there are meanings to breaches of those rules.

People of course do occasionally touch each other. But those touches have important communicative purposes precisely because of the general rule that we don’t touch each other.

[…]

There’s something a little child-like about hugging, too. It’s an innocent gesture — it’s intended to be so.

But it sort of ignores the adult-world meaning of intimate touching.

So I wonder if it’s somehow connected to a growing preference for Child World rules, and an increasing rejection of Adult World rules.

Ace, “Arms Are Not Made For Hugging”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2014-10-10.

October 24, 2014

The joys of public transit

Filed under: Personal,Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:53

As you may have noticed, the pace of posting here on the blog has gone down a bit this week, as I haven’t had as much free time in the morning as usual: I’ve been commuting into Toronto. The good part is that my destination is quite close to Toronto Union Station, so I can take the GO train in rather than driving.

Yesterday, I just missed my train:

That's my 08:31 train departing the platform. I got to the head of the stairs just as the doors closed. Fortunately there's another train not long afterwards (although it's not an express, so it takes longer).

That’s my 08:31 train departing the platform. I got to the head of the stairs just as the doors closed. Fortunately there’s another train not long afterwards (although it’s not an express, so it takes longer).

September 25, 2014

Roll of Honour at the Tower of London, 24 September, 2014

Filed under: Britain,History,Personal — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:57

Roll of Honour at the Tower of London

Roll of Honour 24 September 2014

Private William Penman who died in 1915 at Le Touret (25 years old) was Elizabeth’s great uncle. Private Walter Porteous who died in 1917 at Passchendaele (18 years old) was my great uncle.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for submitting a name for the Roll of Honour at the Tower of London. We are delighted to confirm that your nomination will be included at the ceremony on the 24th of September.

The list of 180 names will be read from the poppy-filled Tower moat at sunset, starting at 7:25pm (19.25). The names will be read the order in which they were submitted and validated.

We regret we are unable to make changes to the reading lists.

At the end of the reading, which will take about 20-30 minutes, an Army bugler will play the Last Post.

If you would like to watch, you can get a good view from the area in front of the Tower ticket desks on Tower Hill.

We will be filming the ceremony and posting the video online. This site is currently under construction, we will let you know when it goes live.

We are also adding the lists of names being read each night at http://rollofhonour.tumblr.com/ so that they can be seen and remembered from anywhere in the world.

April 10, 2014

I may have to pay attention to the Masters this year

Filed under: Personal,Sports — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:04

Garrick Porteous at the 2014 Masters

Garrick is a cousin of mine (on my mother’s side). We’ve never met, but that’s true of a lot of my distant relatives … the pond does get in the way of regular visits.

December 23, 2013

Induced aversion to a particular Christmas song

Filed under: Business,Cancon,Media,Personal — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Earlier this year, I had occasion to run a Google search for “Mr Gameway’s Ark” (it’s still almost unknown: the Googles, they do nothing). However, I did find a very early post on the old site that I thought deserved to be pulled out of the dusty archives, because it explains why I can — to this day — barely stand to listen to “Little Drummer Boy”:

Seasonal Melodies

James Lileks has a concern about Christmas music:

This isn’t to say all the classics are great, no matter who sings them. I can do without “The Little Drummer Boy,” for example.

It’s the “Bolero” of Christmas songs. It just goes on, and on, and on. Bara-pa-pa-pum, already. Plus, I understand it’s a sweet little story — all the kid had was a drum to play for the newborn infant — but for anyone who remembers what it was like when they had a baby, some kid showing up unannounced to stand around and beat on the skins would not exactly complete your mood. Happily, the song has not spawned a sequel like “The Somewhat Larger Cymbal Adolescent.”

This reminds me about my aversion to this particular song. It was so bad that I could not hear even three notes before starting to wince and/or growl.

Back in the early 1980’s, I was working in Toronto’s largest toy and game store, Mr Gameway’s Ark. It was a very odd store, and the owners were (to be polite) highly idiosyncratic types. They had a razor-thin profit margin, so any expenses that could be avoided, reduced, or eliminated were so treated. One thing that they didn’t want to pay for was Muzak (or the local equivalent), so one of the owners brought in his home stereo and another one put together a tape of Christmas music.

Note that singular. “Tape”.

Christmas season started somewhat later in those distant days, so that it was really only in December that we had to decorate the store and cope with the sudden influx of Christmas merchandise. Well, also, they couldn’t pay for the Christmas merchandise until sales started to pick up, so that kinda accounted for the delay in stocking-up the shelves as well …

So, Christmas season was officially open, and we decorated the store with the left-over krep from the owners’ various homes. It was, at best, kinda sad. But — we had Christmas music! And the tape was pretty eclectic: some typical 50’s stuff (White Christmas and the like), some medieval stuff, some Victorian stuff and that damned Drummer Boy song.

We were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts over the holidays (extra staff? you want Extra Staff, Mr. Cratchitt???), and the music played on. And on. And freaking on. Eternally. There was no way to escape it.

To top it all off, we were the exclusive distributor for a brand new game that suddenly was in high demand: Trivial Pursuit. We could not even get the truck unloaded safely without a cordon of employees to keep the random passers-by from snatching boxes of the damned game. When we tried to unpack the boxes on the sales floor, we had customers snatching them out of our hands and running (running!) to the cashier. Stress? It was like combat, except we couldn’t shoot back at the buggers.

Oh, and those were also the days that Ontario had a Sunday closing law, so we were violating all sorts of labour laws on top of the Sunday closing laws, so the Police were regular visitors. Given that some of our staff spent their spare time hiding from the Police, it just added immeasurably to the tension levels on the shop floor.

And all of this to the background soundtrack of Christmas music. One tape of Christmas music. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

It’s been over 20 years, and I still feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck with this song … but I’m over the worst of it now: I can actually listen to it without feeling that all-consuming desire to rip out the sound system and dance on the speakers. After two decades.

December 16, 2013

It was thirty years ago today

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:27

York County Court HouseElizabeth and I got married in Toronto on this date in 1983. It was a bit of a race to get to the courthouse on time — my so-called best man decided that he had to go back to Mississauga “for a shower” that morning, and was quite late getting back into Toronto. Trying to get a cab to hurry in downtown Toronto traffic was a waste of effort, so I very nearly missed my own wedding. Elizabeth was not pleased with me holding up the show (even though I could rightfully claim it wasn’t my fault). The rest of the day is rather a blur to me now.

Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara-on-the-LakeWe had the reception that evening at a lovely house in the Playter Estates (during which my father tried to pick a fight with Elizabeth’s uncle), and then set off for our very brief honeymoon in Niagara-on-the-Lake the next day. We could only afford two nights at the Prince of Wales hotel, and because we got married on Saturday, we were in NOTL for Sunday and Monday nights. Back in 1983, Ontario still had fairly restrictive Sunday closing laws, so there was very little to do — almost everything was closed. (And that was probably for the best, as we had almost no money to spend anyway…)

Chateau des CharmesOne of the few businesses we found open in the area was the original Chateau des Charmes estate winery (not the huge, imposing facility of today: a small industrial-looking building a few kilometres away), where the only person on duty was Mme Andrée Bosc who gave us an exhaustive tasting experience and showed us around the winery. Neither of us were experienced wine drinkers, so this was wonderful for both of us. I’d love to say that we started our wine cellar that day, but that would only be partially true: we bought about a dozen bottles of various Chateau des Charmes wines, but we couldn’t afford to restock after those had been opened. We visited the winery every year on our anniversary for about a decade, until we got out of the habit of going back to NOTL (which was around the time our son was born).

After our brief honeymoon, we both had to go back to our jobs. Very shortly after that, my employer (the almost-unknown-to-Google Mr Gameway’s Ark) went bankrupt, which was financially bad timing for us, having just spent most of our tiny cash hoard on our honeymoon.

September 16, 2013

Day-late dog photos

Filed under: Personal — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:06

A few weeks back, we said goodbye to our older dog, Buffy. Yesterday, we welcomed the newest member of the pack, Maggie:

Maggie and Xander on an introductory walk before we adopted her

Maggie and Xander on an introductory walk before we adopted her

Maggie is a rescue dog from Oklahoma. She’s part Corgi and part Basset Hound (the original rescue group noted her being a “Basset Mix”). We were told she’s about two years old, but she seems younger to us. She’s had at least one batch of puppies but has now been spayed.

Maggie and Xander got on well during our introductory walk at the rescue group, and they’ve played very well together since we picked her up yesterday. The rescue group has a minimum 24-hour cooling off period after you agree to adopt one of their dogs … I guess they had too many people changing their minds very soon after taking on a dog.

After we picked her up yesterday afternoon, we brought her back to the house and then took both dogs for a long walk around the area. Both of them were eager to walk and didn’t object to the other one being along for the experience. We got home and Xander came in first, followed by Maggie, then it was out to the back yard for exploration and some rough-housing. She’s very affectionate and moves very quickly, so getting a clear photo of her was a bit of a challenge … here she is just having come up for a quick petting before she goes and chases Xander again:

Maggie in the backyard 20130915

One of our key concerns about getting another dog was that any new addition would have to be able to cope with Xander’s combination of high energy and occasional fits of idiocy: Maggie already seems to have his number and plays with him very well indeed. It helps that she’s nearly as heavy as he is, but built closer to the ground: she can push him around when she really tries. I think he’s enjoying having another dog in the house again, and he almost certainly needs the exercise!

August 26, 2013

The worst part of being a pet owner

Filed under: Personal — Tags: — Nicholas @ 13:34

Saying goodbye. Goodbye Buffy.

Buffy 1999?-August 2013

Buffy 1999?-26 August 2013

Buffy was a rescue dog we adopted in July, 2007 as a companion for our first dog Xander. Xander accepted her immediately as the top dog in the pack. She’d had a very rough early life, including being used as a breeder dog in a puppy mill and had clearly been abused (the pet rescue organization said she’d been thrown from a moving vehicle on an interstate highway in Ohio). She was blind in one eye (which we had to have removed shortly after we adopted her) and had only minimal sight in the other eye. In spite of her injuries and the increasing debility of age (Cushing’s Disease and diabetes), she was a very dignified dog … and other dogs almost always gave her the space a dog ten times her size would command.

We like to think we gave her a happy home.

June 4, 2013

Email issues

Filed under: Administrivia,Personal — Tags: — Nicholas @ 07:43

I’d just sent an email to Jon, my former virtual landlord, thanking him for sending me the last item I posted when my email client UI was replaced with this:

Yahoo mail outage

So, if you are expecting me to respond to an email, it may be a while before I can do that…

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