Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bless this mess

I woke up this morningafternoon to discover someone has been in my apartment. I discovered this as I got up to go to the living room. While I had already started this blog post in my head (save for this intro) during that time between waking up and getting up, as I walked into my living room I was instantly shocked by something wrong with my furniture.

I wasn't worried about any furniture having been moved; none was. Nor was any damaged or removed or replaced.

The shocking thing about my furniture was that I could see it.

You see, for the longest time my living room has been covered in stacks of papers from various meetings or newspaper clippings that I'd been meaning to file. The default filing method was simply to stack it up. After a while, I started using a motley of cheap plastic stacking trays (one stack shown here beneath Three Hole Punch), though many unsorted stacks remained.

Also for the longest time, it had been on my list to tidy/file/archive these documents, but the sheer volume made it too daunting to even know where to start. As is usually the case with these large projects, once you break off a piece of it into a small project, you get a better understanding of the rest of the problem and the attack plan is easier to see. It's like getting your foot in the door. But getting that first bit started is very hard.

A couple weeks ago, I'd gotten through a few stack-inches of newspapers, clipping out the articles I had kept them for and discarding the rest. The newspapers, while mixed in with the other documents, were a distinct project. I already had files for various categories of newspaper clippings, so this wasn't so bad. The plastic trays, however, were closest I had for a filing system for my other documents, and those trays are the very things I'm trying to get rid of.

I knew the solution would involve hanging files (I'd even bought a nice wooden file cabinet to facilitate this), because if I didn't file things in a way I could find them, I'd be no better off than throwing them all out. I also knew that once I started filing, whatever system I used to organize the documents couldn't be changed mid-stream; I wasn't going to be going through the files on a lazy afternoon weeks from now looking for files that could be sorted further. The whole point of putting things away is to put them away. But that was pretty high-level. I still had no starting point.

But last night.

Oh, last night...

Last night I'd sat down early in the evening intending to hack away at the pile by filing some more newspaper clippings. A couple of days ago, I'd cleaned up enough to get my place to the point that I wouldn't be embarrassed to have company over, and this evening I wanted to build on that. Instead, I diddled the rest of the night away with a heavy dose of Internet. It is the holidays after all; I wouldn't want to get too much stuff done.

Knackered at 3 a.m., I glanced at the stacks of papers on my desk next to my laptop and decided they could wait for some other day. I went to bed, tapped out the last remaining bit of energy by reading and doing some puzzles, and finally put my head down to sleep. As I laid there, without anything to distract me, my mind was free to wander. Unfortunately, the very act of putting my book away and turning off the light woke me up just enough to give my mind some fuel for wandering.

It wandered over to those stacks of paper and started to file them. I was following my mind as it did this, and I realized that what it was doing made a lot of sense. It had found the keystone--the one weak spot in the pile that, once felled, would cause the rest of it to follow.

Despite my attempts to ignore this clever little suggestion and go to sleep, it kept bugging me.

I wasn't going to remember this in the morning, was I?


So I got back up and started on it. I filed, and filed, and filed some more. When I got through the stacks that were already sorted, I went through the stacks that were not, and sorted those too. I even ran out of file folders.

I got about five inches of papers put away, and I'd sorted much of the rest into broad categories, resulting in the collection in the trays shown above. I still had five assorted inches of what I suspect are mostly related files, three inches of small newspapers, and two inches of "miscellaneous" (in the technical sense of "that which does not fit into any other category"), the last of which was left over from the previous round of sorting.

Five in the morning and I felt I'd accomplished enough for one night-morning.

Can I go to bed now?

No. No, you can't.

Damn again.

Having made sense of the piles of paper, the little things scattered around the living room now stood out. Now they were nagging at me. I'd done so much tidying, yet the living room didn't look tidy like I'd always imagined it would after this much work. I wanted the satisfaction of seeing the results of my efforts. If I left it like this, what I'd take away from it is that it's futile to try to clean because no matter how much you do it will still look like a mess.

Since I'd already brought my place to a certain stage of tidiness, it was only a few things here and there that needed putting away (or at least consolidation into yet another pile) keeping me from this goal. I put some things away. At this point, I was so tired I was starting to feel sick.

No. It still doesn't look right.

You can't sleep yet.

Well, by this point, it was getting downright weird. I wanted to go to sleep, but something inside of me wouldn't let me. It was past putting things away, now I was at the point that the stuff that is meant to be left out had to be arranged right. The pillows had to be arranged symmetrically on the sofa, the square coasters had to be aligned with the edge of the table, that sort of thing. I did this.

I sat on the sofa for a couple of minutes and finally concluded there wasn't anything else I could do without it becoming another project. I scribbled those projects onto my to-do list, and finally was able to sleep.

So when I got up today and walked into the living room, even though I was thinking about the previous night and composing this blog post in my head, it was a foreign sight to see surfaces of things that usually had piles of paper on them. I wasn't used to seeing the furniture. And thus, I was shocked.

It was as though my living room was cleaned by someone else during the night.

I'd had this late-night organizing impulse before, back in February, when I completely rearranged my cutlery drawer at 2am.

The thing is, it's not illogical. The reason it takes me so long to tidy things is that I want to do it right. I remember in the first episode of M*A*S*H that featured Charles Emerson Winchester III, he said during surgery, "I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on."

For me, tackling this kind of project is a real commitment. I know that when I start I'll want to keep going until it's finished, no matter how long it takes (heck, this blog post has taken me three hours to write and I haven't even had breakfast yet!). If I do something halfway, like putting my papers into piles to "tidy" my living room, the problem just comes back because the root of the problem--no proper resting place for the papers--hasn't been dealt with. And I also know that I might not have the time, energy, patience, or motivation to finish it if I stop partway through, at least not before it reverts to its original scale.

If instead a project is done right, done methodically, and done completely, the system used in so doing can be easily maintained and it will stay "done".

This is how I rationalize it, at least. In the end, I probably spend more time worrying about projects--and worrying that I might have to do them over if I don't do them right the first time--than it would probably take to just do them. I have a similar pattern at work.

But here's the thing: I'm right. I just now pulled open my cutlery drawer and took a picture.

It's still sorted, nine months later.

And that's my light at the end of the tunnel.

The only other worry is whether I'll still be able to occupy my time once everything is clean. Or, as expressed in another saying of which I'm fond (source unknown):

"A neat house has an uninteresting person in it."

- RG>

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bike tip: Safely stowing the air horn

You know how annoying it is to work on your bike and accidentally set off the air horn? Bike mechanics like it even less because it's not even their bike. Many mechanics ask you to disarm your air horn before bringing it in. This has the unfortunate consequence of needing to remember to reinflate the reservoir before leaving the shop.

So do this:

A simple Shraeder valve cap will stick on top of your AirZounds air horn. It doesn't actually screw on, but when you push the button back down, it can't activate the horn, and the cap doesn't fall out.

Your greasemonkey can safely operate on your bike while you can ride home knowing you can scare the shit out of any pedestrian who walks into the street without looking first.

- RG>

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Physics Wins Every Time

A blog post by the Incidental Cyclist about idiot newspaper article commenters inspired quite the mental image, approximated here:

"Cars and bikes don't belong on the roads. Physics wins every time!"

- RG>

Monday, November 28, 2011

RG's Workshop: Projector and screen mount

A few months after buying my LCD projector in an agonizingly long and painful process (the recounting of which is probably equally long and painful to read), I realized I could use it for entertainment, and not just for meetings.

To do so, I needed a blank wall or screen, and somethingorother to hold the projector in the right place. This is the story of that somethingorother.

Projectors have little threaded holes on the bottom specifically for mounting them. I strategically stuck two decorative shelf brackets on a board they came on, and on the part that sticks out from the board, I drilled a second hole into the end of one of them to line up with the hole on the other (the mounting spots on the projector are not lined up, so it took some finagling). You can see that in the background of the picture below; the part that goes against the wall is lying flat. I happened to have some small bolts with the same size threads.

The trick was finding a way to get that board onto the wall. I still needed the projector for meetings, after all, so I would need an easy way of removing it.

I cut a solid steel L bracket (above) in two, and temporarily held the two ends together with a bolt to keep them aligned as I cut a slot into them.

I got lazy and wrangled the tabs out from the photo above instead of finishing the cut, resulting in what we see below. Unfortunately, much filing and fidgeting was required to obtain sufficient clearance for my desired goal.

That goal is to use these metal bars as hooks to latch onto screws that will be embedded into something else that is permanently mounted to my wall. In this photo, I'm measuring where to put the screws. The trick is not putting them too high; you need clearance between the two boards to lift the projector mount up to get the hooks on the mounting screws.

Like so. Two drywall screws with a nice smooth bevel under the head. Keep them loose enough. Note: the screws holding the the plates to the projector mount backboard need to be short (so as not to poke through) and kept a bit loose so the plates can spin freely. If I were doing this again, I'd have put them just a bit closer to the top of the board, because there isn't enough clearance for the left one to fold down for storage (i.e. 180 degrees from the currently shown position). Also if I were doing it again, it would be much easier now that I have a Dremel® rotary hand tool.

I also discovered after-the-fact that I had a very tight clearance for the monitor cable, so I chiseled out a little channel for it. If I were doing this again, I would probably cut a whole slot out of the side of the board before attaching anything to avoid crimping the cable.

Phase one complete. Now to get something to project onto.

As luck would have it, someone was throwing away a couple of screens. It's actually not that rare an item at the curbside; I've found at least four, all in working order. When planning your projection setup, make sure your screen is big enough for the image being projected. You may have to mount it on the ceiling a foot out from the wall, for example, if you have a smallish screen and a projector with a wide throw angle like mine.

My screen is not small-ish, and the spring-lock mechanism depends on this flat bit sticking out of the end. I had a bunch of these little brackets kicking around that I'd found a few years ago, and they were perfect for it (I even made a set for Allison and Chris). In retrospect, I should have flipped the screen around the other way so the screen is further from the wall, in order to clear the lintel (also projected, albeit in a different way) over the window.

Again because I was lazy and didn't have a rotary hand tool, I drilled three holes in a row and forced a screw into the holes to open them up.

Then I crawed the opening wide enough with a flathead screwdriver. Crude, but functional. Nobody's going to see the jagged edges anyway.

The other end was easier, it was just a round peg. The peg plunges down so you can fit it the screen between two fixed mounting points. (Be very careful to leave enough clearance to get the peg in, but not so much clearance that the screen falls out!)

The best thing about this setup is it rolls up to be out of the way when not in use...

...or pulls down to take whatever image you throw at it.

And the projector sits on the opposite wall underneath the hat rack, easily removed with the two hooks (and a Roberston screwdriver to detach the projector itself from the mounting bracket)

Like many of my creations, it's based on the spare things I have available, so the combination of things you have kicking around probably won't let you recreate this setup exactly, but you'll find your own somethingorother to whip up. This post should at least give you some ideas.

I can just hear you now: "Hey, I have an idea: RealGrouchy is a clever guy!"

- RG>

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I'm on the toilet, you twit!

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging lately. I sure have. Lots of stuff going on keeping me busy and otherwise preventing me from doing so.

After a very thorough thinking-about-it-for-a-couple-of-minutes that involved talking to a wide variety of nobody, I impulsively decided that getting onto Twitter will help me get back into blogging. Impulsively is, of course, the only way to open a Twitter account; I can't imagine anyone dedicating a few days of their time toward deliberating on whether or not to begin to tweet. Any medium that is so accessible as to make announcing one's bodily functions seem noteworthy is obviously designed with the impulsive in mind.

Who knows, after I might even "get" Twitter (and the jokes that the Oatmeal makes about its users' habits). At the very least, it will allow me to share some of the random shit that comes into my head. They let you swear on Twitter, right?

So just to reiterate: if you hear anyone say that "RealGrouchy once said he'll never, ever, create a Twitter account," well, they had the right sentiment but obviously heard wrong.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go visit the bathroom so that I may tweet about it.

- RG>

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A very strange taxi ride

I don't take taxis a lot. Partly because I'm cheap, partly because I don't often need to go very far, and partly because a lot of them are jerks.

Last night, I had occasion to take one, and it was a rather surreal experience.

As I got in and told him the landmark nearest where I wanted to go (not very far, actually), his reaction reflected a quantum superposition of knowing and not knowing where this was. I'd quote him, but I was a bit distracted from hearing his exact response because I was having difficulty buckling my seatbelt.

I told him I'd be paying cash, but I wanted a receipt. He replied, "we don't take cash... ... ... only jewellery." I didn't know what the hell that meant either. I mean, I could tell the jewellery part was a joke, but the pause was too long for me to tell whether the whole thing was a joke, or just the part about the jewellery. I put away my cash and readied my credit card to be on the safe side.

Throughout this peculiar exchange, an annoying beeping was coming from the dashboard. I leaned forward and saw over the driver's shoulder what looked like the "fasten safety belt" indicator flashing in time with the warning. I looked over next to the driver's seat, and the seatbelt was snugly holstered. He was probably keeping it in its original packaging so he could later trade it to a collector, still in mint condition, for some jewellery. After getting more frequent and annoying, the beeping eventually stopped and the light just flashed silently for the rest of the otherwise brief ride.

This was good, I thought: This guy must drive so safely that he knows he doesn't need his seatbelt. My faith in this hypothesis waned, however, as he crept the nose of the car past both lines of the crosswalk while the crossing traffic still had a green light. At least *I* was buckled up. I ignored the traffic signals and just looked both ways as we crossed for indications I should brace myself for a collision.

Finally, we got to our destination (double-parked, of course), and I handed the driver my credit card. He stared at me. He looked down at the credit card machine in the front seat. "I'm sorry. Were you kidding about the cash thing earlier?" I asked. He explained, vaguely, that the credit card machines were new and he wasn't yet very familiar with their operation.

I put my credit card away and pulled out a US $20 bill that I'd been trying to get rid of since I returned from a trip a few months ago. "Is US cash alright?" I asked. "It's not alright, but I'll take it" he said, again, cryptically. Go ahead and quit your taxi job, guy, but please don't think you'll make it a comedian.

As I unloaded my bags onto the sidewalk (made more awkward by the line of parked cars separating the sidewalk from the car door), the driver prepared a receipt for me. By the amount of time it took him, I figured he was trying to get the machine to prepare it for me, but it turns out he was just taking an unusually long time writing a couple of numbers onto a small card.

After taking my chances riding in a taxi, I was relieved to be at my destination, in one piece. I hope his other passengers will be able to enjoy that relief, too.

- RG>

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hey buffleheads! It's National Grouch Day!

Oh, sure. You're celebrating Zoom's birthday today.

You're even celebrating National All Bufflehead's (sic) Day.

But are you celebrating National Grouch Day? You know, Oscar the Grouch's birthday?


You probably wouldn't even have noticed the apostrophe if I hadn't sicced Latin annotations on it.

- RG>

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Dear Mr. Quebec car driver

Dear Mr. Quebec car driver,

I appreciate—and even share—your desire for you to get the hell out of my neighbourhood, but I would appreciate it if you didn't treat the other direction's light turning yellow to mean that you can proceed from the red light at full acceleration.

I see the blast from my bike's air horn brought this reminder to your attention, as you came to a stop just after your rear bumper passed the stop line and you waited patiently for the green light in your (and my) direction.

I hope you noticed and were ashamed by the "slow clap" from the hipster pedestrian at the corner. Were it not for the scorn and ridicule from him and the other pedestrians at this intersection, I would have considered reporting your behaviour to the authorities; however, no punishment available to the police would be as severe, nor as immediate, as that hipster insult you have already encountered.

In closing, I particularly hope you achieve that desire of getting the hell out of my neighbourhood, and that this desire never again goes unfulfilled.

But please do it safely.


- RG>

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Pink irony

There were a few articles in the news lately about "pinkwashing": slapping a pink Breast Cancer Awareness Month ribbon on a product to make it sell better. One story in the Ottawa Citizen, Pink Fatigue describes the difficulty some groups face with the many caveats placed on the amounts given in these campaigns, and that money needs to go towards prevention, not just treatment. It's a controversial topic that I won't wade into too deeply.

Except to post this photo of the same issue covered last year.

I wonder if there was any effect on Telus' "Go Pink" campaign after the ad was placed right next to an article decrying just those types of ads!

- RG>

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Accented characters in domain names are a terrible idea

Normally I ignore the various e-mails I get from CIRA (the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which oversees .ca domains). This includes requests to vote for CIRA boards of directors, and other stuff that I don't remember because I ignored it.

However the current consultation on internationalized domain names for .ca domains is worrisome.

At the consultation home page you can follow the links to the (relatively straightforward and plain-language) proposal, and provide feedback on how they should implement it (not whether it's a good idea).

There is also a discussion forum that discusses four questions. The first three are variants on "isn't this such a great idea?" and the fourth is "any other comments?"

There are some recurring themes--almost entirely emphatically opposed to this idea as proposed--and I submitted the following comment to the thread (note: my questions are literal, not rhetorical. The intent is for the consultants and CIRA to consider those issues; I don't need to know the answers myself).
I've read through the entire thread and I have a number of comments:

I am one of those Ottawa-dwelling folks who spends a lot of time thinking about how to properly deliver services to my members, clients, and correspondents in the language of their choice. I hope the consultants thank CIRA for the big paycheque and tell them how bad an idea this is.

The logical decision would go like this:

1. It is fair to allow people to register accented domain names.
2. In order to prevent abuse, "Names that differ only in accents should not be allowed to be registered to different organizations." (as worded by ahooper in comment 60)
3. This would require considerable resources to implement.
4. To pay for this implementation, either domains will have to get a lot more expensive, or CIRA and/or DNS operators will have to take a big hit and allow all variants to be registered to the same user for the current price
5. If the goal of the policy is fairness (point 1), it would be unfair if the policy reduced the accessibility of domain names to individuals and organizations with limited finances.
6. Similarly, it would be unfair to require DNS operators to absorb the full cost of this implementation
7. Therefore, the benefits of the proposal are far outweighed by the costs of implementing it.

Other new comments not already raised:

I have experienced problems with automatically-generated usernames based on the user's name (e.g. FirstnameLastinitial). For StéphanieR, there are some OS/Browser combinations where she will not be able to enter her username; the system will interpret it as StÈphanieR and reject the user. I've experienced similar problems with database exports that have similar errors if they aren't opened in Windows. What will CIRA do to ensure that input from all browser/OS combinations will be correctly interpreted by the DNS?

The company I work for recently received its registration certificate for a couple of its French trademarks. The name on the government-issued certificate was spelled IN CAPITAL LETTERS with obvious accents omitted (i.e. MON NOM REGISTREE). How would we be able to enforce our rights to the domain monnomregistré if even Industry Canada is ambivalent to accents? (My mind is further blown to learn that CIRA operates under the auspices of Industry Canada)

People need to recognize that not every domain registrant is a corporation with millions of dollars of annual revenue. It is not so simple for some organizations to register the variants. I am involved with some community groups whose annual income is in the tens of dollars, and the domain registration is one of the few expenses. While they are all Anglophone groups, there are likely Francophone groups in the same situation who cannot afford both mé and (not to mention mè and mê Fredjubs' suggestion in comment 71 (that business information sugh as a GST number be required for domain registration) does not work for individuals nor for non-incorporated organizations (like many community groups). Further, there are (or at least there should be) privacy implicaitons if more and more information (passport number?!?) is required just to register a domain name.

Are accented characters case-insensitive, as unaccented characters are in DNS?

Elaborations of and rebuttals to other comments:

Elaborating on other comments: I'm offended by those who think that the only people who speak French are in Québec. There are many Franco-Ontarians (including many towns, like Sudbury, where many do not speak English), Manitoba was the first province to be officially bilingual (though it isn't any longer), and New Brunswick is recognized as being officially bilingual in the Constitution. So any solution based on "only for domains" is entirely insufficient. I don't consider myself to be one of these people, I'm merely offended by the total ignorance of those who make this suggestion.

Reiterating cbehnke's point in comment 53: When I give a website over the phone, and I say pré (in French), it will be very cumbersome for me to specify to the message recipient whether or not the domain has an accent, especially if the person is not french speaking.

Entering accented French characters is not a "solved issue":

As mentioned elsewhere, IDN is fine in countries like Germany or Spain where the entire population is expected to know how to speak and type accented characters in the dominant language of the respective country. However, since many, if not most, in the Internet-using population that corresponds to .ca domains do not normally speak and type accented characters, I believe this will become a net obstacle to universal access to the internet, not an enhancement.
- On macs (and apparently on Linux) it is easy to do. However, you must know how to do it. Those who generally correspond only in English (including with bilingual francophones who have domains with accented characters) will not know how to use it.
- On Windows, you have a few cumbersome options: if you have French installed, AND you have activated the desktop/menu bar icon for fast keyboard switching, AND you alreay know what keys to use to enter accented characters, then it's easy. If you don't, then you can use Character Map, which I'm sure a vast majority of users wouldn't even know where to look for it, if they knew it existed, and even then it is not simple or convenient.

User Laplante in comment 52 linked to a Microsost KB article on international keyboards. First, a user shouldn't need an FAQ to type a simple domain name. Second, how will a user know to visit that article when they discover they don't know how to type an accented domain name? You could put a link on the homepage of the domain name, but the user won't be able to go there! Catch-22!

I echo amadha's analogy in comment #45 about bilingual names vs. English and French names. Instead of typing "", I have to type "", which is much more cumbersome, and harder to remember, even as a bilingual person. The point of the analogy is that it's intended to be more fair but ends up being more confusing. in comment 86 suggests that two names with similar names will have already addressed the issue with their corporate registrations. This is a false assumption: for example Apple Computer and Apple Records both operate under the name "Apple" (not to mention numbered companies). And while accents aren't usually used with them, acronyms are often shared among many organizations.
If you have additional comments, or just want to give your "no" vote, I suggest you head on over to the IDN Consultation website and speak up before we all get inundated with spam messages from ínfÒ@vÌ4grá.ca.

- RG>

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coffeeshop toilet humour

At the coffeeshop the other day, the two people at the next table got to talking about "best before" dates and food safety. I, of course, pretended I wasn't listening to them as I did stuff on my computer, while listening to the interesting bits of the conversation, which was essentially all of it.

One point that stuck out was along the lines of "just because it says 'best before' doesn't mean it's 'worst after'". In other words, food isn't necessarily bad past the expiry date, just not at its best. Yogourt, for example, can last for months.

The man went on to talk about how eating food after the best before date is about making an informed decision. Unless there's a flaw in the manufacturing process, he posited, anything you can get from food (aside from meat) that isn't obviously spoiled isn't going to be very dangerous. Or as he put it, "at my age, I can afford to spend an extra 25 minutes on the toilet if I end up eating something that's a little off." I grinned behind my hand, on which my chin was resting.

The conversation continued to spiral downhill from there, still with me pretending that I didn't have an ear on them. Eventually the woman leaned over to me and said "you're going to have quite the stories to tell your friends about what you overheard today, aren't you?"

I did not miss a beat. I replied drily, "oh, I've got a laptop. I can sit on the toilet all day if I have to!"

A few minutes later, she stopped laughing.

- RG>

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Joseph A. Belanger research institute suggests returning to paper $1 and $2 bills

I established this blog many year ago in part to rant about the stupid stuff I read in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, and this letter to the editor by Joseph A Belanger certainly fits the bill. He provides an irrefutable argument that Canada should scrap the $1 and $2 coins and return to paper money.

You see, metal coins aren't recyclable, but paper money is. "Really," you ask? Metal coins can't be recycled? Well, Belanger suspects that they can't, so, he concludes, it must be true. It's not like they're all made by the same organization or have dates on them to help suggest what materials were used in their manufacture. And metal is such a new substance, we still don't know how to recycle it. Will it melt down if you heat it enough? John A Belanger doesn't know, so it's safest to assume it would just crumble. You probably also can't wash them in the laundry machine.

Besides, there are practical benefits to Canadians. To make the transition back to paper $1 and $2 bills even more convenient, you'll no longer have to lug around heavy coins in your pocket. You'll just have to go to a coin-dispensing kiosk somewhere in the city to find coins to feed the parking meter (another expired technology Belanger must also want to reintroduce).

Never mind that the Royal Canadian Mint and the federal government spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on the production of circulation currency and likely have a pretty good idea of whether paper or metal money has more efficient lifecycle costs. Even if their research says that paper money lasts a fraction of the time in circulation than coins, paper money is recyclable, and recycling doesn't cost any time, energy, or money, right?

- RG>

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beat the heat with RG's Purple Slush Drink

It's possible that you don't live in Ottawa, or you're reading this in December, or you're one of those people who goes from their air-conditioned house to their air-conditioned garage to their air-conditioned car to their air-conditioned office garage to their air-conditioned office (in which case, that's real weak). Otherwise, you'll likely know that it's fucking hot outside, like 37 degrees not counting the humidex.

During the previous heat wave, I had run out of my soft drink of choice, and either it was too late or hot or I was too lazy to go to Bridgehead for my favourite slush-based drink. It occurred to me that I had purple stuff mix of a certain vintage, allowing me to make the next best thing.

Here's what you need:

  • Drink Mix (can be Gatorade powder or sugary drink mix or try out something else--on a per-drink basis the stuff is dirt cheap)
  • Blender
  • Mason Jar, or County Fair Drinking Jar (with screw top)--I've seen them at Canadian Tire
  • Ice
  • straw (at least 0.5cm diameter; not pictured)
The amount of ice I used in this sample was not enough. It should come loosely to the shoulder of the jar, or about 3/4 full. Too much and there's no room for it to blend; too little and the drink is too watery.

Add the Purple Stuff mix (2 heaping tablespoons tingles my sweet tooth just right, though you might want less)

Add water to the shoulder of the jar. Again, this is a bit too low. You might want to put the water in first to make sure the mix doesn't stick to the bottom.

Unscrew the bottom of the blender jug and reattach it to the jar. This makes for one less thing to have to clean afterwards. Don't tighten it too much! If you do, it is a bitch to unscrew it. The rubber seal works well.

Put the jar with the blender attachment on the blender. Yes, it feels weird turning a container full of drink upside down. Get over it.

Once again, this doesn't have nearly enough inside to blend properly. Here's one I did during the last heat wave that blended much better:

I had to add more water to this one, which made for a poor ice-to-water ratio. This shouldn't have layers like this; it should be more homogeneous.

Either way, it's an iced drink, and if you used Gatorade powder, it has electrolytes too. Pop a straw in and drink! Drink it without a straw at your own risk!

So there you go. It's easy, cheap, and fast.

Unless, I guess, you don't have a blender or a compatible jar or glass. In that case, you'll probably have to buy air conditioning, which is probably not easy, cheap, or fast.

- RG>

Saturday, July 02, 2011

RG's Workshop: RG's Laptop Box

Last year, I bought a new laptop after the audio jack was irreparably damaged on my previous one from being bumped around in my bike panniers too much. (The one before that got a broken screen from the same thing)

Since I didn't want yet another laptop to start breaking up on me, I'd known before I even bought my current laptop that I wanted to build a box for it. So within days of receiving my laptop, I built myself a box, custom-sized for my brand new laptop:

I'd spent the previous few weeks keeping an eye out in trash piles for just the right type of particle board to use. I didn't want it to be too thick, but I wanted it to be strong enough to sit on. You see, the benches at Bridgehead are a couple too inches to comfortably use for typing or writing, and I'd wanted to build myself a laptop box to serve this alternate purpose. Knowing I'd be buying a new laptop soon, with different dimensions, I had to wait until I'd bought (and received) the new one. The old laptop was already busted, so why bother trying to protect it with a box?

I didn't take any photos of the initial construction, but it was almost entirely used materials, including these antique hinges from a cabinet door somebody was throwing out. The side pieces were cut from IKEA Lade bed boards (featured in the 90-minute glove rack) sliced down the middle. While attractive, functional, and perfectly sized, the hinges were a bit loose, especially since they were going in the end of the particle board. I glued the screws in to keep them tight:

The finish on the board I'd chosen had some water damage in some places and was peeling, but there was enough undamaged wood to use for the box.

This was a feature, not a bug, as I was able to use it to veneer the ends of the side boards.

The box was quite oversized for my panniers, threatening to rip them open, but inspiring further creativity in its repair (my 15" screen was a size or two too big with the box wrapped around it).

To economize on space, I cut a notch out of one of the side boards for the laptop's protruding battery case to slim down the box's profile. I also, unfortunately, had to angle the top ends of the side boards, cutting off the DIY veneer in the process. You'll also notice a little metal plug next to this notch (the kind used for adjustable shelving units), which keeps the top aligned and thus solves the loose hing e problem.

In addition to a laptop protective box and a booster seat, the box serves many other purposes. It provides a hard flat surface to rest your drink when lounging on a couch, a writing surface, and, shown here, a laptop lifter to bring the screen to a more comfortable viewing height when, say, watching videos of the masturbating Santa Claus:

A few months later, I calculated that a well-placed 1/2" hole...

...lets me plug in the laptop to charge it while still in its box.

It's the laptop box!

Want your own? Want the plans? Too bad. Figure it out and make your own fucking box!

- RG>

Friday, June 17, 2011

RG hears a what?

Superhuman hearing can be a curse at times.

So I'm sitting in my living room, watching a TV show about explosions on the internet, when I become aware of a beeping sound. It sounded a bit like a busy signal; a low noise with a constant, slow rhythm. After sitting through two commercial breaks with the sound still going, I figured I should check it out more closely.

At first I thought it was my stereo speakers (through which I wired my laptop's sound), since they can often pick up sounds from the radio. Nope, wasn't that.

Then I thought it was the relatively new (to me) and relatively expensive printer, which prefers sleep mode to being turned off. Maybe it was throwing an error. Nope.

It was louder in my living room than in the room to the left, and it was louder than in the room to the right. But I could hear it out of the window at the front of the house. It still sounded louder from my living room window. It must be outside.

I could hear it outside, not much louder than I did before; the sound would be obscured if a car went by or a squirrel farted. My living room window is just above the hydro meters on the side of the house, but it wasn't those, and it wasn't an alarm (or a phone off the hook) from the unit downstairs.

I followed the sound across the street and down two or three houses, and narrowed it down to one of two middle units in a rowhouse. The volume subtly adjusted with the subtle variations in the wind. Maybe it was a smoke or CO2 detector going off, or maybe old lady Fletcher has fallen and can't get up again.

It didn't look like either one had been broken into, and there were no signs of fire. I narrowed it down to one unit, but couldn't tell if it was the basement, (raised) ground floor or upper floor.

The ground floor window was open, and I was able to close it from the outside, but this had no effect on the volume of the sound. Looking in the front door yielded no further clues, though it did look like the place was unoccupied. I didn't want to knock on the door yet, since I wouldn't exactly want to startle a burglar who might have broken in the back door.

I also didn't want to yell out if someone was in need of help. I seemed to be the only one who could hear this noise, and I'd rather not draw attention to the drunk guy on the second floor patio two doors down, yelling out slurred approximations of partial '70s song lyrics. I also wouldn't want to challenge his title of craziest guy on the block. I could imagine people reacting to my calls: "Drunk? Sure, but that guy who hears noises? He takes the cake!"

So instead I went around back to see if it could yield more clues. As I approached the rear of the row, I saw it was fenced off and could block my vantage point, but to my fortune, there were a couple people on the rear patio of the unit in question. I called out and asked if they could check on the beeping that I heard.

Then I waited as he went in.

And waited.


Finally, he came out and confirmed that someone had left an alarm clock on. Presumably the higher frequencies were muffled by the windows and/or doors, leaving only this quiet, low beep that only I was obsessive enough to notice or care about.

I promptly thanked him and walked back home, trying my best to ignore whatever else he was trying to say about why the alarm had gone off (probably trying to ensure the blame would not fall on him).

I was reassured once again that I am not crazy.

Now to get someone to turn off the attempted singer!

- RG>

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Great Glebe Garage Sale Song!

"Normal" people go to garage sales, and the biggest one around is in the Glebe. It's fucking crazy (for example, this is at Lyon Street, a full block away from Bank Street, the main street through the Glebe, which is even insaner)

People like to share stories about the best thing they've gotten at the Great Glebe Garage Sale. The 25th anniversary of the sale is this Saturday, and in honour of the occasion I've recorded a hokey little song called "I got you in the Glebe". It's about going to the Garage Sale and finding something special. (Lovey songs, you see, are not only the hokiest, but also the easiest to write, despite the difficulty of fitting "Great Glebe Garage Sale" into a lyric. I also write songs about things I don't like.)

Despite my musical training, I'd never really properly learned to play guitar or sing, or recorded a song, or mixed one, or uploaded one. So I had to find a microphone, buy some hosting space, etc., but the half-assed result is here: Listen to and/or download "I Got You In The Glebe"

I trust you will find that the song itself, like the Glebe Garage Sale, is nevertheless great.

If you want tips on how to navigate the GGGS, I'm not going to try to duplicate David Scrimshaw's guide to the GGGS. Ottawa start apparently has one as well.

Personally, I much prefer curb shopping for free treasure on garbage night or moving days when there aren't zillions of people and vehicles. The best stuff is free, and usually harder to find.

- RG>

Friday, April 29, 2011

Technology *is* great (when it works)

I'll part from my usual rants about what essential gadget of mine is broken to write about what happens when gadgets do work.

Every now and then, I get a little reminder that I do live in the future, and sometimes I take it for granted.

Like Star Trek for example, just because it's an easy one.

In Star Trek (from TNG onwards, for the sticklers), you had a little communicator that you could tap, say the name of who you wanted to talk to, and then talk to them. We have that now. Many smartphones, when you press and hold the button on your hands-free headset, will automatically recognize your voice and match it to the name of someone in your address book, and call them. My previous non-smart phone even had a similar option, where I could record up to ten or twenty names to associate with people in my contacts.

In Star Trek, there were doors that open automatically for you. Okay, that's old hat. Supermarkets have had those for a long time.

But they also had fancy ways of turning on lights. Like by yelling "lights!" when you walk into a room. I don't even have to do that. In my office, if I walk into the hallway, a sensor will detect my movement and automatically turn on all the lights in the hall. If I walk into the washroom or kitchenette, I get the same thing, except all the lights were off. I no longer have to remember to turn the light off when I leave a room, and I'm almost at the point where I've overcome the instinct to think about turning the lights on when I enter them. Meanwhile, the building owners save money on electricity.

Those are the ones that I notice most, but laptops and tablet computers also have their Star Trek equivalents. Skype allows video conversations, and YouTube and the internet let people record their own daily log, blog, and vlog. (Qaplog!)

And while it's not quite the same as a replicator, when I walk into Bridgehead, the servers know that what I want is a Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.

- RG>

Saturday, April 23, 2011

For a free press, you must abandon your privacy

I tried commenting on the Ottawa Sun's new website, where they use this assheaded "Disqus" platform that tries to be a hell of a lot more than it is.

After typing my comment, I clicked on the "post as" button. Up came a dialog asking me to sign in using my Facebook, Twitter, Google, OpenID, or other account. I tried to sign in with my RealGrouchy google account, and it asked me if I wanted to remember this authentication (i.e. Google account with Disqus) or just do it this one time. It displayed "[name]" and I clicked "OK" expecting it to take me back to the comment form to customize how my name will appear and preview my comment.

Instead, it posted my real name, which was linked to I do not associate my real name with RealGrouchy; it is an alias. I have plenty of other accounts to which I associate my real name, and if I wanted to use my real name I would have used one of them. The Ottawa Sun's "Sun and the City" blog (managed by Sue Sherring and Jon Willing) has posted comments before signed as RealGrouchy and linking to this blog, as has Citizen blogger David Reevely and even Ken Gray. This is because RealGrouchy has a reputation for making cogent (if sometimes aggressive) comments about relevant matters. I can be contacted to defend my comments, just as can those who sign with their real names. Sure it's an alias, but I could just as well have used an alias that looked like a real name and people would be none the wiser (actually, they'd be actively deceived).

Getting back to the Ottawa Sun/Disqus/Google website comments, I couldn't even access "" to change these settings because Google thinks my browser isn't new enough (it uses the same fucking engine as Firefox 4). When I am finally able to log in with Internet Explorer, if I change what name is associated with my account it doesn't change the previous comment. I can't customize any settings for my "google profile" account because it says I have to create a public profile to even access the settings, and I doubt it will help.

I've edited the comment, and sent a message to the Sun through their feedback form. That also doesn't appear to be working right, so I sent an e-mail to a couple people too explaining the situation and the nuances that should be investigated to improve the integrity of the system (I managed to temper it down to what I think was a rather polite message, from an angry "fuck you and your stupid comment system" type of thing, which wouldn't really help to encourage them to help me).

The Sun seems to be opening itself up to liability here, since it is allowing private contact information to be posted on their site without express authorization from the individual. That is in direct contravention to Canada's privacy legislation. Even if Disqus and Google aren't Canadian companies, it's still being published on the Sun's website.

The irony is that they instituted this comment thing to protect themselves from liability. Remember how Ken Gray always harps on about 'not being able to verify the identity of every commenter'? The Citizen also now requires you to log in to comment on their site, so I have ceased contributing to discussions on their site. Had they had a simple form that asked for name, required (but promised not to publish) an e-mail address, and offered the ability to add a URL, I could have commented and attributed my comment precisely as I wanted it to be published.

While I'll give the Sun the benefit of the doubt, since their new website is only a few days old and still in "beta", the way things are moving it seems that the mainstream, corporate media not only wants to store all sorts of information on your computer in the form of cookies (who knows how much information it tracks about you), but it also wants to take what information it does know about you from shared services and publish it against your will.

In essence, you must sell your soul and waive your right to privacy in order to participate in the information economy.

No wonder the comments sections on news sites are filled with posts by fucktards.

- RG>

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Why do I even bother not stealing movies?

It turns out my issues with the fucks who decigned Dexter DVDs were grander than I thought.

Microsoft's insidious collaboration with the movie industry has finally hit me. I've kept Microsoft from installing WGA on my computer (I don't need a tool to know that I purchased this copy of Windows XP fair and square, or to keep me from using it once Microsoft's servers stop responding to WGA's requests), and I've stuck with Windows XP because of the DRM inherent to the more recent versions of Windows.

I just rented two DVDs from the video store--you know, instead of simply pirating them which would actually be easier and cheaper--and neither of them would play in Windows Media Player. They wouldn't open in the other program on my laptop, and they crashed my old laptop when I tried any of the three DVD players installed on it.

After over an hour of troubleshooting, my guests and I instead watched TV shows online.

This morning, I called Dell and asked them for help. The guy I spoke with essentially said, "oh yeah, some rental DVDs don't play on computers due to rights somethingorother" (he didn't say "somethingorother" exactly, but he sure didn't know it by name). At least I didn't have to go through dozens of prompts or wait on hold for hours to get this response.

He said the solution is simple: "when I get that problem, I just pop the DVD in to the DVD player and watch it on the TV." Well fuck you. I don't have a DVD player or a TV, and I'm not about to buy one knowing that the industries behind them are out to prevent me from paying for and watching their content.

Of course, the irony is that I specifically rented the videos out of some latent guilt about downloading (thanks to all sorts of fearmongering and propaganda from the movie industry), yet the movie industry itself is behind the restrictions that prevent me from watching these legally-obtained borrowed copies of the films. Not that this is news to anyone, especially me: anyone who follows slashdot has heard all the latest tricks of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), collectively and pejoratively referred to as the MAFIAA.

After my failed tech support call to Dell, I did a quick Google search, which returned VLC Player a free, open-source, cross-platform video player that is a project on, a sister-company to Slashdot that hosts open-source development.

VLC player is able to play my DVDs flawlessly. I wish I'd found it last night when my friends were still here!

Anyway, I've learned my lesson about paying for copyrighted content. I'm going to go download some Bittorrent software and start getting my movies from the pirates, who are more trustworthy than the film industry.

PS: The Conservative party wants to facilitate this process of screwing media consumers and make the punishments stronger--their failed bills would have given Canada one of the most restrictive copyright regimes in the developed world. They scare you by saying the Liberal party will institute an "iPod tax", which is essentially what we already have, and which makes filesharing quasi-legal in Canada. If the Pirate Party has a candidate in your riding in the current federal election, go listen to what they have to say about copyright restrictions. They're not a joke party like the NeoRhino party, they're a serious one-issue party like the Marijuana party.

- RG>

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taxes: check

After catching up on my finances last night, I completed the first draft of my taxes tonight (ending around the same time... one of these days I'll get sleep).

I was pissed off to find out a rather significant RSP contribution wasn't processed by my bank prior to the deadline (and I don't know if they ever even received it!).

Claiming Ontario tax credit for renting is a lot more convoluted this year than it was previously. On top of the Ontario Credits form, you have to fill out the ON-BEN form at the back of the book (which isn't colour-coded pink like the other Ontario forms) whose goal is essentially to write the same numbers, without any arithmetic manipulation, that you then write again in the Ontario Credits form. (there's no addition of the numbers). On the Ontario Credits form, you then have to complete the "occupancy cost", "energy component" (for "long term care home and home energy costs on a reserve"), and "property tax component", even if, for example, you didn't pay property tax or live on a reserve.

It was sort of similar last year, but much more straightforward. Instead of being on two sheets at opposite ends of the forms book, it was all included in the Ontario Credits form, and in the "property tax credit" section it clearly asked you to enter "Rent paid in Ontario in 2009", so you wouldn't have to wonder, as I did, I didn't pay property tax; do I still have to fill out the "property tax component"?. And even though the ON-BEN form is now on a separate page, it still only gives you two lines to fill out residence information. (Not that I've had to use more than one for many years, but I've bounced around in the past).

I guess it's the bottom line that matters. I'm getting a refund, and it's not too much smaller than what I got last year, despite making more money and having fewer credits to claim. It'd have been even bigger if I tended to donate money to groups with charitable tax status, instead of contributing time and money mostly to groups that are too small (efficient; less red tape) or advocacy-oriented to qualify for status.

And with my finances and taxes done, and their respective piles of paper cleared from atop my desk, I can move on to the next pile of things to file.

- RG>

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Le fin

I did it! I finally got caught up on my finances!

I'd been months behind for the last year or so. When I did my taxes in April 2009, I remember I only did my finances as far as December 31, 2008, and I didn't really do much to get caught up since then.

In the last month or so, I've been whittling away at it, taking bigger and bigger bites out of the pile, and now I've finished!

I made a couple of interesting observations:

- Over the last year and a half, I've had three mysterious withdrawals for which I don't have the bank machine slip. I always take the slip, so this is strange. Also strange is that these are only at the Somerset and Bronson bank machine. There's no conclusive evidence to conclusively say that I did or didn't make these withdrawals. I checked my e-mails, my photos, my Blackberry calendar (including backups of my tasks, notes, and appointments), and my known cash expenditures between the previous and next withdrawals, but nothing conclusive.

- Adjusted for contributions, my RRSP fluctuates each month as much as the equivalent of a plus or minus 20% APR (and as much as +47% in one month, if my math is right).

- I have not yet made any credit card purchases on a Saturday this year.

Of course, things are never always done. I have yet to do my taxes, and seeing as it's 2am and I have a couple other things to do, that can wait until closer to the April 30 deadline.

- RG>

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's that hour again...

Well, it's time for my fourth annual Earth Hour-bashing post. As I've said in past years, I don't like to celebrate events that consider it special to turn the lights off for an hour; it's something I do for many hours every night. Twenty-four hours for Earth Day is enough in my books.

Some self-promoting environmentalists are promoting a candlelight vigil on Parliament Hill. Of course, candles are a much less efficient way to convert energy into light than electric lights are, and paraffin candles, being pure hydrocarbon, produce considerably more CO2 emissions than whatever the hell was burned to power that light you turn off. I'll laugh if some people end up driving downtown to get to the vigil.

So then people use beeswax candles, which they claim are 'carbon neutral' because it's from honeybees instead of million-year-old dinosaur bones. Notwithstanding that honeybees are producing less and less each year, if you want to reduce your CO2 emissions, you'd toss the beeswax candle into the trash. Once it gets to the landfill, its carbon will be stored and sequestered, which is much better than releasing it into the air by burning.

Then there are those who turn off the lights but still watch TV in the dark, because they're so superficially environmentalist that they can't even peel their arses off the couch for an hour to spend some time with the kids. Or there's the people who use battery-powered flash lights or unplug their laptops--apparently oblivious to the fact that they're simply using the electricity (converted and stored less efficiently in batteries) merely at a different time. These ones are the worst because they don't even get the theoretical message the Earth Hourers are trying to spread with this overhyped event. Does Jim Watson really need yet another event to pack into his agenda?

Speaking of the hype, I wouldn't be surprised if the energy "saved" by people turning off their lights is less than all the energy that goes into producing all the advertisements, posters, candles, publicity events, and three-fucking-storey-tall banners (below), plus the hot air from those of us pointing out how inane it is to celebrate a holiday that lasts only one hour. People are so disconnected from reality that the greenwashers have them convinced that electricity is the only form of energy that counts toward CO2 emissions.

In previous years, Earth Hour has gone by so quickly I didn't even get a chance to turn on all my lights and appliances in protest. This year I've got plans outside the house in the evening, so instead of leaving my house dark as it normally would be when I'm not inside it, I'll have to leave my lights on all day to make sure they'll be on during Earth Hour.

I wouldn't want someone walking by to see a dark window and think I'm an Earth Hour sycophant.

- RG>

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

I'm on a new drug (which hopefully does what it should)

So after I wrote the previous post in which I 'came out' as depressed, I learned why most people hide depression.

The Oatmeal summed it up nicely in his explanation of the worst thing about Valentine's Day: people say they don't celebrate/recognize Valentine's Day, yet they won't shut up about how they don't celebrate/recognize Valentine's Day.

The analogy doesn't translate perfectly, but essentially many people hide depression in order to carry on somewhat with social activities. When you make it known that you're depressed but that you're working to get over it, people feel all sorry for you and shit. "Oh, yes, RG! I've suffered from depression, too! Was your form of misery similar to mine? Let's talk about how miserable you are some more and focus on that." So you end up engaging in fewer social activities because everyone treats you like you have a terminal disease instead of partaking in the social activity that you're trying to do in order to feel better.

I'll have to edit the list of advice from the previous post:

If you are also depressed, what you choose to do with this knowledge is up to you:

- buck up and stop acting depressed

- take solace in knowing that you're not as alone as things might look

- realize that maybe your depression isn't prominent in others' eyes

- for god's sake keep it to yourself (and your doctor)
As for the meds my doctor put me on, at the 4-week checkup we decided to change drugs. I was on a fairly low dose and my doctor hadn't encountered itching as a side effect.

I also raised the prospect of ADHD, fearing my doctor would instead diagnose me with hypochondria, and to my surprise my doctor didn't dismiss the idea. They're all to do with something wrong in your brain, and the names we give them aren't black-and-white.

So we split the difference: she put me on something else that isn't as strong on depression, but has an off-label use for ADHD. Without the side effects, I could at least bullshit myself into a psychosomatic recovery. Being a mechanically-oriented person, I have a hard time grasping how a drug can affect your mood (or the concept of "mood" to begin with), so I was hoping that at least my subconscious would fall for the placebo effect.

I think the new drug (or the placebo effect) is working. Or maybe I feel better because the absence of the first drug's side effects makes me feel better.

I do notice that I've been more productive at work and at home, and I've had a natural urge to get many things done, instead of simply feeling guilt for not getting it done. When I would previously put something off to the next day, I've found there are more instances when I just do it and get it out of the way. That's been coupled with a few good days where I thought or feared that it would be a pain in the arse, but things went smoothly or something I didn't want to do was cancelled.

I actually woke up in the morning last weekend, instead of staying in bed.

As for the ADHD thing, I don't know too much about it, and haven't even read up on it on the web (which my doctor suggested. Fancy that.). It's hard to know if I'm feeling "worse than normal" because my lifestyle is too all-over-the-map to have a sense of what "normal" is supposed to feel like.

But what I do know is that I have a tendency to start big, ambitious projects and leave them very shortly thereafter. shorter projects are more likely to get done. It's a miracle I still blog instead of Twittering.

Also, I might be confusing ADHD with OCD. When I do get onto something, I often can't stop in the middle of it. That's why there are so many gigantically long posts on my blog posted in the wee hours of the morning (which, in my book, is anything before 9am). Like the first post in the Ken Gray series. I woke up at 6am and couldn't get back to sleep until three hours later after writing out the blog post. By 11am that day I was very tired. Or how a quick impulse purchase of a digital projector turned into a month-long bout of depression.

A couple of nights after switching to the new pill, I reorganized my cutlery drawer. See?

I was up until 2am doing it and two of the other kitchen drawers. I'd have vacuumed, too, if I knew it wouldn't disrupt the neighbours. My latest theory (which I propose tongue-in-cheek) is that I must have had underlying OCD, but the depression was keeping it at bay because I could never motivate myself to bother.

More rationally, the new drug isn't supposed to have an effect until 4-6 weeks in, so I assume the different behaviour is either from withdrawal from the first one, or from the placebo effect, or possibly from the first drug no longer making me feel worse.

What's the point in all this? I dunno. Maybe you find it interesting. Maybe it's just to spite Ken Gray by pointing out I don't give a flying fuck if my blog posts are so long that nobody in their right mind would read it (helps that most of my friends are crazy). Or maybe it's to say that there's a very real possibility that RealGrouchy's back.

- RG>

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Ken Gray comeback tour

[Edit: added Ken Gray image. How could I forget!]

Beware of the Bulldog. He's a Serious JournalistKen Gray has returned from retirement. Last week, the 33-year veteran of old media announced that he was done with telling bloggers how not to blog.

He reiterates the old hyperbolic themes in this latest single, Truth through the mob. Read it now while it's still there!

This makes it awkward for the Ken Gray cover blogger (Ken Gray, an Ottawa citizen), who nevertheless appreciated the paranoid shout-out.

Me, I'm still working on sorting out the various different things said by Ken (and others), in order to write up at least 5 posts (so far) pointing out the many uncorrected (and certainly unapologized-for) errors, contradictions, ironies, and dare I say it, lies by Ken Gray.

At the moment, my screen looks like a web browser equivalent to this:

Once I get all the arguments sorted out, the jabbing puns put in the right place, and the references properly cited (something that Ken Gray says bloggers don't do), I'll post them up.

I've also been saving backup copies of all of Ken's posts and the comments thereon, lest some of them mysteriously disappear...

Unfortunately, I've been pretty busy lately at work. You see, I deliver little baggies of bulldog poo to mailboxes citywide, and lately there has been a mysterious increase in shipments... So I'm just squeezing out this little update in my lunch break.

- RG>

Saturday, February 26, 2011

RealGrouchy upgrades again

(Yes, the timestamp is accurate. I've been somewhat awake since I started the previous post at 6am on the 25th) After I finished the previous post, I read it aloud to myself and liked how it flowed. I wanted to podcast it.

The resulting efforts have resulted in the biggest change since in 2006, when I rebranded the blog. (Which is to say that the template is still the same old off-the-shelf one I picked in 2004, and a couple of details here and there were tweaked.)

After some digging around discovered I'd need some hosting space of my own for podcasts, and of course a domain. With being taken by some squatter in Virginia, I registered I used which I've had experience with and I know their services are versatile. That said, I just looked at configuring it so that Blogger publishes on and it looks too complicated, so I just set it to redirect to the ol' Blogger blog.

I also set up a RealGrouchy WordPress account, to make it easier to subscribe by e-mail to comments on people's WordPress-based blogs. It used to be that you just click the checkbox. Then you had to click a link in a confirmation e-mail (missing out on any comments that were posted before you next checked your inbox). Now, and for the last few months, it has required you to follow a link in an e-mail, then click a confirmation button on the other side of that link.

I also set up a GRAvatar (globally-recognizable avatar, IIRC) with my usual RealGrouchy icon (though it wanted me to crop the photo down, chopping off the top and bottom; it wouldn't let me expand the box, so that took more time, making the avatar square in GIMP). Creepily, WordPress automatically associated all my old comments with my new WordPress account and added in my new GRAvatar and blog link.

That's better than LiveJournal, I guess. A couple years ago, I went to register the RealGrouchy handle on LiveJournal to comment on the OC Transpo livejournal, only to find that was publishing a carbon copy of my blog, without my permission, using what they call a "syndicated account". They promptly deleted this copied blog, but told me that syndicated accounts can't be converted to regular personal accounts. Instead, they can delete the account, I can create a new one under a different username, then get them to move the RealGrouchy username for a $30 fee. How nice of them to charge me $30 for stealing my content. I declined, and it's probably just as well that I don't waste time trying to talk sense in the OC Transpo LiveJournal forum.

As for the podcasts, I didn't really have time today to prepare a podcast, much less preparing a podcast and setting up all this hosting stuff.

But the next time I feel the urge to podcast, I'm already a third of the way there (step 1: get web space, step 2: figure out how to podcast, step 3: record and edit the actual podcast for posting).

- RG>

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ken Gray wants you to stop blogging

Beware of the Bulldog. He's a Serious JournalistKen Gray is a Serious Journalist. Like other isms (think "sexism" and "racism"), "journalism" in the way Ken Gray practises it means he doesn't like it when other people keep journals.

In other words, Ken Gray doesn't want you to blog.

Of course, he can blog, but that's because he's a Serious Journalist. Gray's blog is called "the Bulldog", at (I post the link reluctantly, because I really don't like driving traffic to him). Living up to his name, a lot of what he says about blogging and social media is bull.

The latest round of his drivel about bloggers started with the post "Pity the poor blogger", in which he compares his Well-Visited Blog to the lesser citizen journalists who resort to Twitter because they are ashamed of how few people read their blog.

You can also follow Ken Gray on Twitter at @KenGray.

The self-appointed Minister of Truth followed up that post with "Blogging and the law: let the bloggers beware," in which he asserts that bloggers (and tweeters) shouldn't be trusted because they don't always get their facts right.

I'm not going to waste my time arguing with Ken Gray on the topic, but if you want to get into that discussion, I recommend this post by Twitterer Keenan Wellar and the comments to Ken's posts linked above. He's actually approved a couple of them that make decent points, and Ken graciously inserted his own comments into their comments instead of replying in a separate comment. It's like a Ministry of Truth certificate of inspection.

If you're really lucky, like me, Ken Gray will keep your comments all to himself. You see, Ken Gray upholds standards of Truth, and will only approve comments on his blog that are True, because as publisher he can be sued for libel. For example, one Truth is "Ken Gray is not a Hypocrite". I suspect it must be libelous to say otherwise, or to point out clear examples of hypocrisy by Ken Gray, as he will often not approve comments where you do so. I guess he's afraid that Ken Gray might sue the Citizen for defamation if the comments are allowed.

As a concrete example (which are definitely not allowed on the Bulldog blog when referring to Ken Gray being a hypocrite), the following comment must be libelous, because Ken Gray did not approve it when I posted the comment on his aforementioned post, "Bloggers and the Law: let the Bloggers Beware":
"I thought journalists were in favour of the widespread sharing of information; not restricting it to a select few approved by authorities. Of course, that assumes your oft-repeated definition of journalism applies to you.

And you even admit you yourself make factual errors once in a while (an understatement, I must say), yet you contradictorily seem to think that people should not blog unless their posts are entirely without errors. You also lump all bloggers together, insulting an entire community en masse, including people who mostly write about knitting and pets.

Don't worry; I don't expect you to approve this comment. I've saved up a collection of my comments that you have censored, and your latest set of posts about bloggers has rekindled my urge to post them all on my own blog, where Ken Gray, self-appointed Minister of Truth can't veto them."
Well, Mea culpa. A couple of years ago when he went on one of his tirades about the anonymous ZeroMeansZero blog, I naively told him about the Streisand effect, and pointed out that by talking about ZMZ he was broadening its viewership with free advertising.

And as the ZMZ example illustrates, this is by far not the first time the Bulldog has come out at full bark on bloggers, or boldly expounded his virtuousness while cowardly concealing his foibles. Ken Gray's style is to make sweeping generalizations about groups of people or things when he doesn't agree with one or two members of those groups, and "bloggers" is perhaps his favourite group to talk about in this way.

I've got lots more to say about how Ken Gray is a liar, a coward, and a hypocrite, but for now I'll just say that people should follow his advice to not pay attention to blogs, starting with his.

To keep up with my upcoming series Ken Gray exposées, follow the ones that are tagged KenGray.

- RG>