NaBloPoMovember: Day 22

Crap.  Blew right through yesterday.  Forgot all about it until I was drop-dead exhausted.

It’s cold here in Vancouver, which is rare. We’re not used to it.  Okay, *I* am not used to it.  I’m getting over a cold-ish-eque thing I had starting Thursday afternoon.  I’m *mostly* over it, I think.  Never really turned into a cold cold, but was one of those ones that was going to drag me into the abyss for a good week or so.  Still need to be getting more sleep than I have been, but I’m working on it.  Arwen’s got something now, but we suspect it’s just migraine (“just” I said, like it was no big deal).

Some friends came over last night who’re working on having a baby.  It was easy for us, but for them?  It’s work, and money, and time, and heartbreak.  Here’s to hoping they do okay this time around.

Craig Fergusson is currently having a nicely frank (and yet utterly uncomfortable/hilarious) conversation with a Doctor.  He just yelled “You can BREAK your penis?” a few times in a row, which is funny, and I’m really glad CBS lets him push the limits of what you can/can’t say on the air.  I don’t know whether or not CBS actually cares, but I like that for all the sexy flirting and stuff Craig does on the show, he was equally fascinated and alarmed by the conversation.

Oh wow, been listening to the audio book William Gibson’s Zero History and it’s been bending my head.  He writes in a world that I’m equally afraid exists and yet hope is there ’cause it makes walking down the street so much interesting when you’re in a metropolitan space like Vancouver.

Last week, the kids and I were trying to get the PVR going (it’s a hard disc recorder with a DVD burner in it, which comes in handy when you wanna take that tape of the kids singing in the xmas concert and turn it into a DVD for others to watch, AND you wanna be able to record Glee for when your wife’s out…  That’s handy.  Also handy for those “Oh hey, this thing is on TV, and the kids would like to see it, I bet.”

That was the case with some live concert footage of Bobby McFerron from a few months ago.  I’d totally forgotten I’d recorded it, (it’d been on PBS at 1am or something) and when I hit play on it, the kids both went from giggling to literally sitting slackjawed, flabberghasted by what was happening onscreen.  Sure, if you grew up in the 80s and were pummeled by overplay of D0n’t W0rry Bee H@ppy, then hearing McFerron might cause dread.

Watching with the kids gave me new ears, and gave me some new stuff to try next time I’m waiting for the service elevator to arrive at work. Seriously.  Awesome room.  Cement walls, square, 13 foot ceilings.  I get in there and beatbox, and the reverb in the room is RIDONCULOUS.  I’ll have to get a recording of it some time. I can actually get a nice echo loop going along the lines of the Future Sound of London Deseo remixes.

The Future Sound Of London – FSOL Deseo Reconstruction #2 (Radio Edit) – The Deseo Radio Mixes

So, look forward to that.

Also, new picture of me up on the Mo’10 page tonight.  ALSO I need to upgrade some pics from the camera for NON-moustache purposes.

g’nite.  Stay warm.  Hope your lights stay on.

Field Report: My mom in the T-dot today

Since yesterday’s field report was from someone other than me, I’m going to keep it going with one from my mom, who’s in Toronto today:

I am glad I had already changed my plans to travel to Kingston, as a result of the rail strike called for Sunday and Monday, because I wouldn’t have been able to get to Oshawa to get the train today anyway. The Go Trains and the subway and the buses stopped running at about 1 pm. No one in, no one out, as my mother used to say.

Things were going along fairly peacefully, and I was following the protest on Twitter. I decided, at shortly after 1 pm, to return to Eaton Centre, at Yonge and Dundas to go to Sears. I went there last night, and bought a skirt. The clerk did not remove the security tag, so I decided to head over to Sears to get the skirt detached from the ink-shedding security tag. Because you just never know when you’ll need to wear your brand new skirt.

All was calm, actually almost deserted, with bunches of security people around but not very many shoppers and strollers, and no police. The Twitter feed told me the demonstration was ‘peacefully’ headed down University toward the security fence, and the Canadian Federation of Labour was keeping everyone in line (no kidding).

So I got the button removed from my skirt, and slowly (I have a very bad leg at the moment) hobbled to the exit. The revolving doors aren’t.

I go out the remaining door and onto Yonge. Ever get that weird feeling something has gone terribly wrong? The streets were filled with people, no cars anywhere, and … no cops. No one seemed to be doing anything too bad, but … I got up Yonge a block to – yes – the Pickle Barrel – and turned back to see what was going on behind me on Yonge toward the security zone.

Only about a gazillion black hooded people rushing – it seemed to me – toward ME. I leapt into the Atrium right beside the Pickle Barrel and stood in the entrance with the security guy. None of the shops were open, but no one seemed too upset, so I did what any good Canadian would do under the circumstances, went down to the food fair and bought a coffee. Fortunately for me, I don’t have a thing for Starbucks.

Almost all the shops were closed, but the Pickle Barrel was open and I could see people having lunch. The music was playing in the food fair and I drank my coffee and wondered how far it was to Winners. Since I wasn’t going anywhere else anyway.

Twitter: Police car on fire (people should be required to say WHERE when they tweet this. They had enough letters)
Twitter: Eaton Centre in lock down (this is less than a block from where I’m sitting)
Twitter: windows are being smashed at Yonge and Dundas (guess where I am)
Twitter: Delta Chelsea is in lock down (about two blocks north on Yonge)
Twitter: second police car on fire (CAN NO ONE tweet DIRECTIONS???)
Twitter: American Apparel store windows smashed (roughly about twenty feet up the road from the Atrium)

The weird thing is I heard nothing. Could hear nothing but the tinkly music and the sounds of staff in all the food fair shops. People buying food from the Thai fast food folks. A & W french fries ordered. The whirl of the juice bar.

I sat in this Blackberry fueled limbo for about half an hour and then – went up the escalator to street level. The street was jammed with people walking north toward Bloor, but no demonstrators. Just – people walking in the middle of the road because there was glass all over the sidewalks. No one seemed particularly upset, and people were taking pictures of each other posed in front of these smashed store fronts.

About ten of the stores I had just walked past were windowless. I didn’t have the heart to look to see if the World’s Biggest Bookstore had been done in, because I was trying to figure out how to cross Yonge to get to my little alley that lead onto Gould Street and the Ryerson University Campus.I could see my little alley but … now I know how obstinate salmon must feel when everyone else is going up the river and I wanted to go down, or across.

Did I mention the bum leg? Next time, I’m taking a stick … although the cops were taking canes away from folks they determined didn’t need them. But that’s another story.

No cops anywhere but thousands of people. I don’t know if they were following these Black Bloc anarchists or what, but the street was packed. So I did what we Canadians do best: clutching my Sears bag and my shoulder purse to my chest, hoisting my fuschia umbrella, smiling gamely, I hobbled out over the glass, stepped down into the street and “Excuse me”d across the street. Ten feet down the little walk way and ta da – I was in the green splendour of Ryerson’s central common. Ten minutes or so of shuffling along with my best impression of “Knee? What knee?” I reached the International Living Learning Centre (am I the only one troubled by the lack of comma?) where no one even knew what was going on.

This must be what tornado aftermath is like. The destruction was horrendous, and yet – it all happened so fast. I see from the twitter feeds that the city is in chaos tonight; but outside my window, looking onto Jarvis, you’d never know the police are chasing the demonstrators and the demonstrators – the few nasty ones – are chasing the police all over the city core.

I sure hope those G20 folks are having a good meeting. They probably didn’t have to go to the Metro all night store, that closed at 7 pm, to get their dinner.

Even if I could have got to Kingston, I couldn’t have, as all transit was shut down until after six and the Bloor and Yonge stations keep opening and then closing.

On the other hand, this was my first experience using Twitter and the Web to get importance information about the situation. Although – I suppose if I had used the information AND my common sense, I wouldn’t have decided to return to get the plastic thingee off my new skirt in the first place.

And that’s me – live – from just off Yonge and Dundas. Over to you, Peter.

love you all

Glad you are not here
Wendy/Mom

Oh hai.

So, today the phone rang, and it was my mom, sounding a little shaky, and she said “I’m homeless.”  I had visions of the roof of the house in Chilliwack collapsing or something.  We had a conversation like this once years ago when the University building she was staying in caught fire and she (while still not really awake yet) figured she needed to buy a computer, now, this instant.  I could hear the sirens in the background.  So when a conversation with my mom starts with “I’m homeless,” you take notice.

Turns out she was just between hotel stays with a checkout at Noon and the next checkin at 5 or somehing (geez, don’t DO that), and was looking for a place to kill a few hours, so we all got a free random visit, and a slideshow of elephants, giraffes, and South Sudanese folks in combat fatigues.  Yeah, really.

My mom’s become this total globetrotter, and she’s not doing the jetsetting “what a lovely hotel” thing, at least, she’s not setting out to do that during any of her trips.  Instead, she’s going to places like the South Sudan (Juba) and Bangladesh.  Who’da thunk it?  This teacher from Chilliwack zooming around the world.  Parents can be pretty surprising, given the chance, I guess.  I wonder if my kids’ll ever find me that surprising.  I sure hope so.

Her job now also means that instead of teaching some of BC’s natives to be teachers (so kids stop getting squeezed out before grade 12 because nobody understands why the spirit dancers get a little jumpy at certain times of the year), or teaching basic life skills to guys in prison (she had to convince herself they were all there for cheque fraud) she’s out teaching guys who have been soldiers for most of their adult lives.

That’s using the term “adult” loosely, as many of these guys were in their mid-teens when they were handed a gun (or had to get one because destabilizing forces were terrorizing their villages).  The stories she brings back home are beautiful and sad and uplifting and near-painful when you realize how much more work there is to do there, and that you can’t just throw money at the problems there, ’cause it’ll just be taken away from them.

You can’t take an education away from people, though, so that’s what she’s trying to help them do.  Educate themselves, and rebuild.  Civil war is totally alien to us here in a place like Canada.  Like North America.  Like a decent education and health system.

Like not being shot at, or threatened with death of your entire village.  Like not losing siblings and parents to violence before you’re old enough to go to a school, even if there was one to go to.

On a lighter note…

Nope.  Not so much with the lighter notes tonight.

Peddling my butt around town. Month One.

So, we moved.

We told you that, right?  We didn’t?  Well, we moved.  4 bedrooms instead of two (one for each kid).  Front and back yards.  Washer & dryer (drier?).  Dishwasher (which isn’t hooked up – don’t ask).  Something called “Laths and Plaster” or something like it, which means that hammering is a very dangerous thing.  Drilling, doubly-so.  For less than the increases the folks at Mole Hill were calling “fair.”  I won’t go into it, ‘cause Arwen did it better than I did.  Still on the board though, which should be interesting after the upcoming AGM.

It also is about, oh, let’s call it… 80 blocks away from our old place.  Which was, I think I’ve mentioned, about six blocks from work for me.  This means my morning commute is no longer downhill at idiotic speeds for four minutes, it’s now about 20 minutes of uphill followed by 15 minutes of downhill, with flat bits at the middle and end.  The flat bits and NON-nonstop uphill are all thanks to the utterly faboo cycling maps provided by the good folks at UBC’s Cycling Metro Vancouver site.  I highly suggest using the Restricted Maximum Slope feature, which’ll use the topographical information to suggest a route that’ll stop you from having to pull over and yarf into someone’s flowerbed.

Right, yeah, so I’ve been using a new cycling computer I bought at Mountain Equipment CoOp, and tracking my time, average speed, and distances since I started doing this crazy ride.  Well, since August 5th, at least.

Here’s how I’m doing so far (not bad for an old guy like me, who hasn’t done any REAL riding in about 20 years).  I just looked up my commute from 12th and Commercial to my first ever real techie job, out near where Coquitlam’s Ikea is, and realized it was 19.5km and took about 1hr15min based on 15km/h.  And I’m winded by my new 11.5km?

Anyhoo, looking at my latest data (yes, I’m using a spreadsheet, nerdz), here my stats:

14 Trips (Been only going to or from work in a given day, no round trips, YET)
17.3km/h Average Speed
10.9km Average Distance (mostly due to some idiotic navigation moments)
0:38:02 Average Time

Not too shabby, for an old fart like m’self.

Oh, and IF your particular reader can cope, here’s a little playlist of the sorta thing I tend to wake up to when cycling. That first track? I swear my muscles don’t have a *chance* to whine when I hear that.

“Aggressive Panhandling” or Failed Mugging?

Triggered by something over at MonkeyPants, and realized her comment system would probably explode if I wrote my diatribe into there, so I put it here, instead.

Working in the business district downtown, you get a lot of the guys who’re “from outta town who just need enough to get to SomewhereElse for a job that starts in three days.”  They usually open with “I thought Vancouver was supposed to be *FRIENDLY*” or “can’t you help out a guy from the East coast, laddie?” and then launch into their schpiel if you make eye contact.

I’ve heard the stories a bunch of times, and they usually have it down pretty good after they’ve been doing it for a while (and tend to really ham it up, if they think you’re a tourist off the cruiseships at Canada Place, two blocks away).

I will often cut them off mid sentence and paraphrase Flava Flav “I can’t do nothin’ for you, man.”  I’ve had a few get tense with me because I’m allegedly calling them a liar, to which I usually respond that while THEY might not be lying, the other FOUR GUYS I’ve heard the story from in the last month certainly were.

Now, I’m also a well-fed, English as a first-language male just shy of six feet tall, wide-shouldered, weigh 240 pounds and look fairly un-fuck-with-able when I get my grump on, and you can see my Blackberry on my hip, which means I have a cel phone and a camera, so it doesn’t really go past that, usually.  Besides, who’re the cops gonna believe if some physical altercation takes place: “Guy with wife and two kids heading to work?” or “Guy scamming tourists for booze money?”

But I always feel bad for the tourists (or the new Vancouverites) who don’t realize that these guys have no problem telling you about their starving kids or pregnant wife trapped in a broken-down car somewhere, breaking into tears (and trying to get you to, too) if it means you might part with five (or twenty) dollars.

They’ll also happily yell/swear at you if you just tell them no.  There was a guy a few weeks ago that was *slapping* people (mostly women) after really aggressively trying to get money.  He was tracked on video cameras near SkyTrain stations, and picked up the same day his face was on the cover of Vancouver Sun’s website.  It started out as an “aggressive panhandler” story, but quickly was rebranded as a “serial mugging” instead.  I think anyone who gets up in your grill is heading into that same territory, and should be dealt with accordingly.

A bullshit story is one thing, and guilt is just part of that, but making anyone feel physically threatened in order to get anything from them is simply illegal.  We like to think Vancouver is crime free for the most part, but mugging is what’s happening in those cases, successfully or not.

But the “binners” who look for returnable bottles in the lanes and alleys of Vancouver?  Most of those people work harder than *I* do.

Ny Fangers Are Spre.

Warning, geekery ahead, and not the fun “hey, press this button and blow up your computer” kinda way that I often think about, but just some nuts & bolts thoughts about New Jobs, and Units of Work, and Things.  Rambliness.

So, we’re into week four of the New Job (or is it week five?) and after a few weeks of moving heavy cardboard boxes around, and shoving network racks around, we’re now into the cabling portion of our broadcast, in preparation for a whole schwack of people moving from Broadway and Maple to Pender and Bute.

I’ve been seeing a lot of ghosts over the last two weeks, ’cause a lot of the gear we’ve got for the new office came from Nexon, where I worked for six months with some of the greatest crazies in the games business.

I wrote about the closing of Nexon Vancouver before, so I won’t go into that, but I’m not sure I can fully capture how mind-boggling weird it is to see things like the Nexon server racks show up, with their tags still on them that Briggs applied, or the spring-loaded racking bolts that I know either myself, Joe or Briggs put in only a few months ago.

That was pretty weird, but I didn’t know the chairs were coming.  The weird custom-green stackable meeting room chairs, or the adjustable chairs with the squishy armwrests, or the rolling whiteboards, or the cool pull-this-and-flip-the-table-up tables.  I know all that stuff was going to auction, but I didn’t think it would end up where *I* am.  I think some of the stuff went to Joe at his Uther job, so that’s gotta be surreal for him, too.

Okay, all that aside, I’ve spent the last month with the construction crews (the mom of the crew boss makes a butter chicken that is to die for, although we do refer to it as being “cursed” because the day we were brought some just for the three IT guys, the giant purple network switch decided to freak out), the painting crews (seems like they all bring iPods and various speaker systems to hook up to them) and the electricians (who are obviously brilliant beyond the basic “don’t get your arm blown off by crossing these two wires” needs of the job).

The electricians always have 99.3 TheFOX radio blaring, but I don’t think they actually listen to it.  It reminds me of working for the glass/window place in North Van ‘lo these many years ago, where 99.3 was always on, but everyone I talked to about music had tastes that ranged far beyond CFOX’ top 40 classic rock of the 60-through-90s.

The crew boss for the electricians?  Big bear of a guy who listens to epic techno on his laptop whenever nobody else is hanging near where he’s working.

All really nice people.  Funny.  Bright.  Building things. Creating, even in these “difficult economic times.”  I don’t know why I thought they would be more surly.  Maybe the crew(s) at Blackbox all these years ago were seemingly grumpier ’cause EA was giving them a hard time about money and speed?  I guess Blackbox is shutting down pretty soon.  Wish I could be there to watch it go dark.  Wonder who’s going to take it over?  Microsoft?  The execs could all have their old offices back again, and I bet the feng-shui wouldn’t even have to be redone.

So yeah, everything’s coming together.  Carpets are in.  Rooms are painted.  It’s starting to look more like an office, and less like a paintball arena.  The Very Large Number of rendering slaves are in the racks, imaged, and (mostly) renamed and ready to go.  Every one of those pizza-box-style systems has a custom-cut cable to avoid having a networking cabling nightmare (go Google “cabling nightmare” if you don’t instantly know what I’m talking about).

Today though?  Today kicked my butt.  I didn’t get a case of the Mondays, I got a truckload of the Mondays.  With coupons.  Got my butt kicked by making custom cables using Category 6e spool, which have a little pastic “spine” in them to help keep the four pairs of wires from getting tangled (and thereby reducing cross-talk on the cables) and they’re a little more stiff than normal “household” cables, and that’s all fine and good but oh my GOD do they hurt your hands to crimp into the plastic clips.  I think I’m fighting a little bit of a cold, too, or something, ’cause I got to the site at 8:45am and by Noon I’d put 12 cable ends on. 

ENDS.  That’s SIX FREAKIN’ CABLES @ 30mins each.

I was a mess. Wasn’t measuring properly, kept having to re-crimp stuff because ONE of of the eight possible wires inside the clip wouldn’t pass a simple continuity test, and it takes a bit to figure out which end of the cable is at fault (there’s no way for us to test one clip until the other one’s been crimped on, and there’s no way to re-crimp or un-crimp, so it means cutting the clip off and starting over again, AFTER figuring out which end is the likely culprit).

When my manager appeared next to my elbow and said “You look haggard.  Go for a break for a bit” I damn near hugged him.  It was 3pm, and I’d just realized that the “smart shortcut” I’d tried to take had just cost me about 20 feet of cable, and meant I’d be able to make ONE patch cable instead of two, and that I’d be having to crimp the cable at a height of six feet, in low light in the server room.  There’s no technological shortcut for doing this, and I’m a big fan of techie shortcuts.

I gotta tell you, I really miss the BIX punchdown walls at EA and Nexon.  No crimping involved at all (well, no crimping by IT folks).  Costs more, yes, probably quite a bit more, BUT if you have the room in your network closets/rooms (we don’t), and can possibly pull it off from your budget, DO IT.  Save your technicians from muscle fatigue and having them wonder if that sudden sharp pain in their right bicep is a cramp of some sort, or if they’re going to die of a heart attack because the tester shows that pins 3 & 4 are mashed (both light up at the same time instead of individually) and pin 6 doesn’t light up at all.

Why, yes, I am whining, thank you for noticing.

Thought about calling Arwen for some words of encouragement (that was literally what I was going to call her and ask for), but knew she would be picking up Ripley at school, and would be juggling stuff at home shortly.  Decided I needed some food.  Badly.  Had some lunch, drank one of those gigantic 99cent cans of iced tea, and felt my soul slide back behind my eyes a little again.  Another ten minutes of watching people shop and eavesdropping on someone’s iPhone-conducted business at the new Urban Fare and I was ready to go again.

Finished the next 90 minutes of work without incident.  Bit of a blur, really.  Don’t think I broke anything, but it wasn’t exactly a case of “any well-executed technology tends to look like magic” either.

I rode home (the blocks are short, but uphill, and there’s some sorta “red wave” with the lights going on), had some yummy dinner, and then slept for about an hour.  Arwen put the kids to bed.  Don’t think I really said more than five words to either one of them before I crashed out.  Woke up, wandered around the house for a bit.  Asked the manager if he needed me to come back in tonight to get some more stuff done (the list of what was needed to be done today was long, and I got exactly NONE of it done), but since he said no, here I am.

Left my stuff at the office, so I can’t fill out the evaluation thing for the Mole Hill board I’m supposed to have done for tomorrow at 6:30, so that’s my lunch hour gone, and I don’t even wanna get into the drama around housing here at the Hill again.

But that’s tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another day.

Hey Vancouver School Board: Need A Hand With That Virus?

Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy chasing viruses through the darkest recesses of a workstation, and learning what weird and wonderful new way things are hiding themselves (or reinstalling themselves), and I know it can go sideways and get scary really really fast.

And then you move up and up in the ladder of technicians, across the line into guru or mad scientist land. You start pulling craziness from the magician’s hat, only it’s not always a cute little bunny you pulled out of that hat, like people might have expected you to. It’s this horrifying multi-legged gibbering *thing* that came from the deep blackness of the net, and it might eat every machine in a 50-foot radius if you don’t handle it properly. And nobody knows how to handle it properly, and everyone who knows enough about such things knows enough to be a little scared.  –  JBurton

Was reading a post over at Pelalusa that the virus/malware that ripped through VSB’s offices and classrooms faster than pinkeye is still a problem, even though it’s been four weeks since initial infection.  This is a known piece of malware, and I’m assuming it’s viral (spreads by itself, using a known vulnerability in Windows).

So why can’t they get rid of it?

Continue reading “Hey Vancouver School Board: Need A Hand With That Virus?”

Don’t eat molten lava (even if it does contain pepperoni).

This post triggered by SuperSecretVault, so don’t tell anybody.  Not to be confused with SuperSpecialQuestions.  Oh wait, is there a SuperSecretAnswers.com?  Maybe I should grab THAT.

When I was a young buck, having just migrated across Canada in a two-toned yellow Datsun 210, I got a delivery/driving job in a pizza place (Smitty’s Pizza of Kingston, proudly delivering sans-muffler and plus-BC-plates).  Every day, around 6:30 or so, we’d make a pizza for dinner for ourselves.  Every teenage boy’s dream:  Paid to drive around army bases like a pizza-scented idiot.

Continue reading “Don’t eat molten lava (even if it does contain pepperoni).”