Monthly Archives: October 2007

Raccoon’d!

I have raccoons.

At least one raccoon has taken up residence under my porch. Taking the advice of the Humane Society, I’ve spread cayenne pepper around the opening, wadded up balls of paper towels, soaked them in ammonia and stuffed them in the opening, set up a halogen light in front of the opening and bought a battery-powered radio and turned it to an AM talk station and stuck it in the hole.

He’s still there. I’m pretty willful, but I think that sort of treatment would’ve convinced me to leave by now. The raccoon has out-willed me, it seems.

I think the next step is probably going to be to call a humane wildlife control company. I’m willing to take suggestions.

Laptop angst

My laptop–a lovely G4 iBook–is nearly four years old now. I didn’t get it for its power or anything, but it’s always disappointed me a bit in how it handles things like Flash-driven web pages and video. And four years is absolutely elderly for any sort of computer, laptops especially. I’ve lusted after the Intel MacBooks since they were released and have told myself that as soon as Leopard comes out, I’ll get one.

That was what? A year and a half ago? Leopard comes out today. And I’m faltering.

Apple’s been a miserable douchebag the last few months. They’re doing more and more to make sure people can do less and less with their own property. I hate that. I hate that a lot. General purpose computing means a lot to me. It’s my life and livelihood. They haven’t shown any evidence of trying to cripple Macs, but should I really be giving these people my money?

I actually use the laptop far more than I use my desktop machine these days. It’s not quite the useless toy I originally expected it to be. I’ve switched over to using Ubuntu on the desktop, but I haven’t actually been using it very much. Ubuntu’s been coming along rather well, and I’ve been thinking maybe I should standardize.

Dell is selling laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed and pre-configured. That would be awesome, except they aren’t selling them in Canada. The nice thing about getting someone to pre-install Ubuntu on a laptop is you’re pretty sure the hardware support is there. I’ve been able to find only one Canadian pre-install company, and I’m not all that keen on their (refurb) hardware.

I could buy a Windows laptop and put Ubuntu on it, but I could do that with a MacBook, too. And I like MacBooks, being small and light with the decent trackpad and stuff. So I’m still torn. I do like my Mac and I still like Mac OS X (and all the cool software written for it). It’s just Apple that’s pissing me off right now.

I’m gonna have to mull it over some more.

Why are my pants wet?: A lesson in cultural sensitivity

I have this weird habit where I check myself out in the washroom mirror while washing my hands. I don’t know what I’m looking for–probably just making sure my hair’s okay and I don’t have a giant booger on my face or something. I’ll lean forward towards the mirror and gaze deeply into the eyes of my mirror self.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been finding that when I do this at work, I’ll get back to my desk to discover that my pants are soaked through in socially compromising areas. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t… leaking. I’m not quite old enough to have to resort to diapers. So I went back to the bathroom and checked the sink. Sure enough, the entire sink counter was flooded with water, held there with the magic of surface tension.

At first, I was angry. I hate having to use communal washrooms to begin with, but this was adding insult to injury. I was tempted to put up a post-it with one of those passive-aggressive sorts of notes you see in offices telling the slobs to clean up after their damn, lazy selves. I mean, how hard is it to wash your hands without making a mess? Seriously!

Rather than resorting to futile anger, however, I kept my wits about me and observed.

I noticed that people were doing something at the bathroom sinks that I hadn’t expected: they were washing their face. Face-washing can conceivably be more messy than hand-washing. But isn’t that level of facial cleanliness a little obsessive? I’m usually good with a shower in the morning. It’s not like we’re working in a coal mine.

I know I shouldn’t make snap judgements, so I continued to observe. The people washing faces seemed to be the same dudes who I’d noticed trying to scope out quiet places to pray at work. And they happened to say something I didn’t catch before they started. And I also noticed that it was (at the time) coming to the end of Ramadan.

Wudu is the act of ritual washing in preparation for prayer. It is a religious duty in Islam.

So I’m kinda glad I didn’t kick up a fuss or anything. That would’ve been really embarrassing. I’ll just have to be more careful about my pants.

Election Conclusion: Vote MMP

The title of this post is a spoiler, but I’ve run out of time to keep being coy about it.

When we last left our hero, he had decided that he would forsake the two parties that had any hope of getting a candidate elected around here, thus “throwing his vote away,” as it is said in the popular parlance. He still has choices, though.

Catherine Fife (New Democratic Party)

You know, this is probably the first time I’ve been even remotely tempted to vote NDP. Out of all the parties, they are the only ones that have any sort of plan to get money to cities. And I share Howard Hampton’s frustration with how this campaign’s been going.

Catherine Fife’s a really strong candidate, too. She’s a good speaker and passionate about the issues. It’s just too bad she doesn’t have a hope of winning. Maybe if the damn students bothered to vote, but that will never happen.

I have a hard time seeing myself vote NDP, though. I’ve never felt that they represented me at all. Case and point is their plan to immediately raise the minimum wage 25% to $10/hour, which I’m pretty sure would be disastrous to the economy and would put those hard-working single mothers who “deserve” a better wage out on the street. Maybe they’ve run the numbers and created the models and the fallout would be minimal, but the more likely answer is the $10 minimum wage (like a lot of their platform) is pandering to the ignorant and self-interested and doomed to fail.

To vote for them, I need some assurance that they know what they’re doing and I never get it.

Judy Greenwood-Speers (Green Party)

I’ve said for ages that if I couldn’t vote for the Liberal candidate, I’d vote Green instead. There’s a lot in their platform that I like, including a strong shift to consumption taxes (especially a carbon tax, which we needed yesterday), farm policy, land use policy, cities and so forth. I don’t really have time to go on.

Judy Greenwood-Speers is definitely flamboyant and would certainly be a more fun MPP if she ever had a chance of being elected. If she did, I wouldn’t mind her representing me at all. So I’m going to vote for her.

There is definitely stuff I don’t like about the Greens, like, in a fit of one-upsmanship, they declared they’d raise the minimum wage to $10.25, which annoys the crap out of me. I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that. It’s not like they’re going to form the government anyway.

Conclusion: Vote MMP

The other thing that’s going on in this election is, for the first time in 70-some years, Ontarians are being presented with a referendum. Proposed is an alternative to the First-Past-the-Post system I’ve been describing in the last few posts.

FPTP has been how Upper Canada has voted since the 1700s and, frankly, it’s showing its age. I’m a programmer and, as such, can never leave well enough alone. I’d fix something just for the sake of fixing it. However, FPTP has some serious problems that really need to be addressed, namely among them being that minority views that are evenly distributed get absolutely no airing in our parliamentary system.

The proposed alternative (and we don’t get to pick from a buffet of choices, the Citizen’s Assembly chose for us) is called “Mixed Member Proportional,” and works rougly like this:

Under MMP, you’re presented with two seperate ballots. The first ballot is pretty much the same as the one you’re voting on today: you pick a representative for your riding who may be affiliated with a party. The second ballot asks you which party you support.

Representatives are elected and get seats in parliament. The difference is there will be additional seats set aside to make up for the discrepency between the number of votes in the house and popular support for the parties as demonstrated by the party vote.

So perhaps I could vote for Judy but throw my support behind the Liberals. Or vote for Catherine and support Green. Or throw the full weight of my vote behind the Green party.

I don’t know exactly how this system would change the political landscape. It’s kind of like when developers create an online game like Quake. For the first little while, maybe, it goes pretty much like they expect, and then people figure out strange, game-breaking tricks like missile jumps. This is kinda like that. Strategic voting would change drastically. And one thing’s for sure: we’d almost certainly never see a majority government again.

But that’s okay. I don’t have a problem with any of that. This system is roughly similar to the system in place in New Zealand, Germany and other places.

It seems like it better reflects what people really want to do–namely, vote for a party–and maybe they’d take more time to think about who represents them. All in all, I think it’s a good thing and I think you should vote for it. Like right now. The polls are open.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll take a break from politics to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. I’m a bit too bloated right now to contemplate the NDP anyway.

I’ve spent way too much time this weekend just sitting around playing Jeanne D’Arc. I’m a sucker for a turn-based tactical combat RPG, and it’s a good game. My intention was to sit around at home and relax this weekend, and that’s pretty much what I’ve done. So I’m happy.

I’m headed back early tomorrow afternoon. I have leaves to mulch when I get home and a cat that misses me. Or wants to be fed. One or the other.