A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

24 December 2007

Merry Christmas 2007, From Metro

Metro probably qualifies as a curmudgeon. I'm cynical by experience rather than temperament.

But I didn't want to leave the post below as my final thought on the season.

I've had a hard time plugging in this Christmas. Christmas is a tough time for an atheist. I felt a spark of what might be called Christmas spirit even as I stood on stage mumbling "and god bless us every one"--syllables that are, in their lexical simplicity, meaningless to me.

The question I am forced to ask myself is, as Scrooge once phrased it: "And what reason have you to be merry?"

Why should I feel that Christmas is any damn different from the rest of the year?

Chinese toy companies still use slave labour to flood the market with dangerous, sometimes poisonous crap that most of us don't need yet buy for friends because we don't know them well enough to get them something meaningful.

Donations wash in to charities in smaller amounts as the largest economy in the world lists heavily to port, while governments refuse to provide even the basic neccesities to their citizens, much less basic human rights.

Many of you will receive clothing and goods this year that are worth a month's salary or more for the people who are ruining their eyesight and health making them, as the "economic engines" roar on, fouling land, air and sea in an effort to ensure that North Americans can still buy useless crap for next-to-nothing with their shrinking dollars.

Governments the world over continue to maraud, torture, and kill. Usually in the name of some cause we can all support ... access to oil ranks highly.

What hope is there in any of this?


Quite simply, I tend to believe that there are very few actually evil people in the world. Most of what passes for evil is simply the result of a cascade of decisions beginning with one or more people who make the selfish choice rather than one their hearts or consciences tell them they should.

And there's always hope that that will change. There's always the odd selfless act from the unexpected source.

Think about it, the wallet returned with $3000 still in it. The anonymous donor who offers an organ for transplant. The sudden change of heart on the part of a town council that leaves a low-income housing building renovated instead of demolished.

And that's something that can happen year round.

I believe that we are improved by the selfless choices we make, and that the selfish ones don't always diminish us.

If I had one wish, apart from the world peace thing, it would, I think, be that each of us might make one less selfish decision this year.

Failing that, I'll settle for decisions based in the long-term or rooted in enlightened self-interest.

Deep down, I love people, bless their black, greedy wee hearts, and I believe that enlightened self interest is a force for good.

So merry Christmas to us, to the bastards and bitches, to the mean, the vile, the low, the cunning, and all the other rotten devils with whom we share this planet.

And God bless us, every one.

21 December 2007

Merry £µ©λin' Christmas, From CIGNA Healthcare

Breaking the silence once again to bring you a happy little Christmas tale:

Another insurance company displaying the sort of behaviour that makes US health care the appalling misery it is. Doubtless they'll have to take the word "caring" off their pamphlets now.

A 17-year-old girl developed Leukemia. The odds of surviving are reasonable, given the availability of a marrow donor.

Well glory £µ©λin' hallelujah, there was one: the girl's brother. He donated.

Unfortunately the girl developed liver failure. At which point some @$$#0!3 with a slipstick for a heart decided that the insurance company's responsibility had ended.

Because while the odds of recovering and living a healthy life with even a partial-liver transplant are quite good, the best of American medical science can do nothing to help the patient whose money has run out.

The numbers men had spoken, the girl was to be treated like a used car that's outlived its warranty. "Happy Thanksgiving to you, our soon-to-be-former client and condolences to your family."

After some bad press and a protest outside their offices, the heartless ©0©λ$µ©λ3٣$ decided, in a move they no doubt considered bold and controversial, to act like human beings for once. At this point the patient had been a vegetable for six weeks.

On December 20th, the company reversed its earlier Scrooginess and magnanimously granted the girl the right to live. Unfortunately she died hours after the reversal.

That jolly old US medical system--still failing the folks who need it most. But at least it's not socialist!

The company's position on the reversal:
"Our hearts go out to Nataline and her family, as they endure this terrible ordeal," the company said in an e-mail statement before she died. "... CIGNA HealthCare has decided to make an exception in this rare and unusual case and we will provide coverage should she proceed with the requested liver transplant."
How kind, noble, and god-damned generous of them. Wonder what sincere statement they'll make now?

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19 December 2007

We Interrupt this Christmas Break to Bring You Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre!

Okay, okay, short break, yeah. But I couldn't resist.

Part I

Part II

I think they deserve the Oscar, I really do.

We Interrupt This Blog to Bring You Christmas 2007 and 1843

I haven't been getting out much lately. As some Avid Fans know, I'm involved in two stage productions right now. The first starts tonight and runs virtually until Christmas Eve. The second starts in the first week of the new year.

So we're down to the wire. Dress rehearsals occupy most of my laughably-mis-named free time. In between, my hours are consumed with work-related issues; Amazing how earning a living seems to get in the way of actually living, eh?

So I have been unable to circulate among the blogroll. I regret this, and I miss you all.

Furthermore, my workplace is on the move, and with the move comes one unfortunate change: the Mothership.

The Mothership is the internet-regulating server that we will be connected to. It will restrict access to the net and watch over traffic. I presume it will also alert my employers to time spent at "non-productive" sites.

What this means is that until further notice I intend not to post from work, which will cut down on my output a bit. I will also have to stop playing Desktop Tower Defence and checking social networks on my breaks.

On the other hand, I expect to have more time for reading at work. What do they expect me to do? Increase productivity? Oh my achin' back!

So I'm probably going to take a little break from now until approximately New Year's. I'll drop the odd post in if possible, but I ain't optimistic.

"But Metro!" I hear the Avid Fans cry, "How shall we both fill the void in our suddenly dull, hum-drum lives? How can we face the year 2008 without your occasionally amusing, sometimes-cogent commentary on politics, society, and all manner of things we could not possibly understand without your razor-keen insight?"

I would like to take this opportunity to point you towards the blogroll over there on the right. It is from many of these blogs that I steal what become some of my best ideas.

Alternatively, I invite you to play some games of Desktop Tower Defence. Oh, and watch the video. Why not?

I wouldn't kick her out of bed for dancing. Or indeed anything short of attempted manslaughter ...

Too saccharine for you? Try this one:

So a Merry Christmas, and all the best. If I don't talk to you sooner, see you next year.

17 December 2007

So Much For "57 Channels and Nothin' On"

For the uninitiated, "57 Channels and Nothin' On" is a Springsteen track from 1992.

Well today, of course, there are a few more than 57 channels available. No matter how old, how desperate for entertainment, or how jaded you are, there's something for everyone. And the number of channels continues to multiply into ever stranger niches. There's a channel for gearheads, aquarium TV, and even a Panda Channel. All trying to win their fair share of loyal followers back from the black abyss where time dies, otherwise known as the internet.

Mind you, for sheer mindless bandwidth waste--nothing, but nothing tops the 'net. There is a channel on which you can watch cheese rot. The star of that channel is called "Wedginald", and the channel has both a MySpace and FaceBook page.

There's an internet site on which you can watch people rot. And that's before the dubious delights of sites such as (find it yourself, I don't go there anymore).

But back to television:

Pushing the boundaries of television, dignity, and good taste, a German "entrepreneur" has ventured out with a channel called "Etos". It is the first all-obituary channel.
"Everybody in Germany, or the world, should have the chance to get an obituary on the TV," says Wolf Tilmann Schneider, the media entrepreneur behind the idea.

"Every year in Germany we have 830,000 dead people. You have to multiply this by four," he says.

"So we are talking about 3.2m people who every year have something to do with a relative who has died.

Not to mention the enormous and underserved zombie population, who of course are already watching TV. Of course, it seems likely they're watching FOX. For that blend of unreal-world perspective and porn that zombies crave.

Call your cable provider today!

14 December 2007

Oh, And While I'm At It, Here's a Little Incentive for You

I highly reccomend the Kelsey Grammar version of "A Christmas Carol" that I linked to at IMDB in the post below. Particularly the appearance of the luscious Jane Krakowski as the Spirit of Christmas Past.

This is Jane Krakowski. She is one of the finest talents you've never heard of, and unlike many if not most of the others, she has class.

Personally, I think she'd make a fine Christmas Present. Anyone want to wrap her in ribbon and send her my way?

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What a good time

What a fine day
Giving the poor a coin or two
Charity's what we wealthy do on
Christmas eve

From the musical "A Christmas Carol"

So I said last post that I would give a bit of detail on our charitable saleslady.

My company has "adopted" a pair of "Christmas families". One is an elderly woman living alone, the other a single mum with a seventeen-year-old son and twelve-year-old daughter, whose family has apparently been stricken by illness.
I'm of two minds about this. I think it's a fine thing to support your community, but feel that really time is the best donation one can make (although I'm hardly at the forefront there). I also wonder whether it's really worth supplying people who have a roof over their heads and food to eat with, from the lists supplied:

Speakers for a laptop. The poor have laptops?
Two new pillows. You're telling me they can't plump for $12 at Zeller's?
A one-month gym membership, snowboard pants ... ?

I haste to point out that these families are asked to provide these wish lists by the agency concerned, so it's not as though they're turning their noses up at anything less. This is a wish list in the finest sense of the term.

Still--they seem to be fed and housed (itself no mean feat in our little town with its vacancy rate of 0.001 or so*). So the situation is presumably fairly stable.

Yes, charity at home is important too. Still, there are people in this world who aren't fed or housed, and I tend to feel they should get priority. Mme and I are making donations through UNICEF's "Gifts of Magic" programme, and we encourage anyone to do the same.

Unlike the Xmas family thing, the GOM gifts come with a tax receipt, for one thing.

Still, while I was attempting to decide what to buy for the Christmas family, or whether to give cash, we received several prodding messages from the boss' "executive assistant".

Then came "Comet". Comet wrote (I paraphrase):
Hey you guys! Come on! We can do better than this!

I'm going to buy:
{List of roughly $250 worth of stuff}
For our Christmas families.

I challenge each and every one of you to do the same.
I wonder what effect she thought that was going to have? You see, Comet works in sales. She just closed an enormous deal, for which she earned a bonus of roughly one-third of my annual salary. The gift list above represented about two percent of that bonus.

What she sold them was a package of printed and electronic media written by yours truly and his co-drudges. We live in the magical black box in the sub-basement that is the writing department, and like magic elves we take orders and turn them into words. Without us, Comet would have had nothing to sell. The entire frigging company rests on our skinny shoulders, dammit!

Last year there were discussions about whether the writers would get bonuses. We haven't, largely because management sees bonuses as a stick, rather than a carrot, and disapproved of us saying we'd like to see the money distributed equally to all. They seek to use money to divide us and drive us to work ourselves as near to death as possible while still turning out product. But the collaborative nature of the work we do means that the interpersonal relationships are important. Possibly even more so than money.

So, no bonus.

The along comes Comet and rubs it in our faces? Thanks a bunch ... ! I almost wrote her back:
Dear Comet:
I hereby pledge to match the percentage of your bonus that you contributed to our Christmas families with an equal percentage of mine. Thanks for the gracious reminder.
This, in a company that forces employees to work the Remembrance Day holiday in exchange for Boxing Day (which is in fact not a federal holiday, is a holiday in every other province, and is unofficially recognized by most workplaces here), is just the cherry atop the whipped cream on a horseapple sundae.

Oh--and it's worth mentioning that the boss gets an envelope with his name on it pointedly left in every department along with the broad hint that contributions are encouraged. My department, which consists of five people, gets one all to itself. So do the thirty people in telephone sales. So the executive assistant knows which department the skinflints are in, I suppose.

I am left with only one appropriate remark:

Bah! Humbug!

I love my work, but the company sometimes comes perilously close to self-parody.

*And while I'm on the topic, if any Hometowners know of a small apartment or suite suitable for a woman with a five-year-old daughter and renting for $650 per month or less, available in February, please contact me.

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13 December 2007

Do You Want to Quit Your Job and Play Internet Poker for a Living?

Well believe me, you ain't alone.

Work has been chewing at my ass this week. I've got half-a-dozen things to finish writing, and then I have to pack my desk because we're moving at the end of December. And I can't get motivated.

I don't know when work started to be a major crimp in my day ... don't get me wrong, I still love the fact that I'm getting a regular paycheque to write for a living, and I take a small solace in the notion that someone reading something I wrote might save themselves a workplace accident that could kill or cripple them.

But those of us who write for this outfit have been feeling like the appendix of the company lately. It doesn't help that I just learned I have to share a desk with the gloomiest bugger in the company ... oh, I forgot. It's not a desk. It's a "work station".

Instead of a 6'-2.5' flat surface, I get to share ten feet of flatness and a half-wall, just high enough for management to poke its inquiring nose over, with the gloomiest and messiest bugger in my section. Merely being in his presence seems to give me a sort of cancer of the morale, and the fact that management are complicit in this makes it stupider.

Worse yet, the window I was so looking forward to having will be of little use. These "workstations" (if the train stops at the train station, and the bus stops at the bus station ...) are walled on three sides. Looking from above, one would see a long side--the "back"--and two short sides. I am reminded of a cattle chute.

To top it off, my boss shoved us into the new space back-to-back with another writer and "guest" (since management would rather spend money on new furniture than another proofreader, for example). So the gap between the two walls will be where the light comes from, and anyone turning around may be able to see what I am displaying on my screen.

Mme says that's par for the course and that I should expect it. Hell, they're apparently going to start monitoring internet use too ... Can you say "spying."?

I resent being treated like a thirteen-year old. I produce my products, they're publishable and readable. And I do it for a modest salary. So what business have they snooping on me if I do my job and no-one complains?

To compensate for this abuse, we're getting twice the bonus money we got last year. If we got zero dollars last year, what is that this year? And to cap it all off, a cheery saleslady decide to get charitable on us this week. I'm posting that separately.

I've been playing internet poker lately. I'm about $200 up right now, playing on the odd hour I get between rehearsals, work, and facetime with Mme. Based on my current rate of return, I could potentially make more in an eight hour day at poker than I do per day at work.

And some days lately I have to list my reasons for not doing it.

I have no idea why I'm so steamed today. I feel like kicking a crippled orphan's crutch out from under him.

Just think--Rush Limbaugh, Micheal Savage, Anne Coulter and their friends probably feel like this all the time. What a horrid existence!

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12 December 2007

From BoingBoing Today

Terry Pratchett has addressed an open letter to his fans (on Paul Kidby's Discworld News) with some genuinely awful news -- he has a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's. His note is incredibly brave and chipper. The man's a real inspiration -- incredibly prolific, brilliant and talented, friendly and clearly as happy as anything with where he's found himself.

Why is it always the good guys?

11 December 2007

Playing Along With SttD

Slave to the Dogs has come up with a great idea:
The game is to invent a disgusting drink (alcoholic preferred but non will do) and come up with a name for it. This should provide loads of easy entertainment for simple-minded people like me.

I'll start.

Double Fountain - prune juice & tequila

Metro's off-the-cuff idea? Dish detergent and absinthe: a Bubble Vision.

Spew your ideas all over her comments. Or mine. After a couple of BV's who cares, eh?

10 December 2007

So Metro hops over the intertubes to the Washington Post, 'cos he's like, international and all that. And what to his wondering eyes doth appear but a fine piece of humour.

This little item graced the far-right fringe of a page containing Eugene Robinson's interesting column on whether Barack Obama is black enough/too black/transcending race.

Doubtless this comes from the fine folks who brought you the Josef Mengele Medical School, the Ann Coulter Humanities Associate Degree, and the Larry Craig Plumbing School.

Changed My Mind--I'm Kinda Fretted About This

Okay, so this government is supposed to be anti-crime.

So you'd expect that they'd want to introduce meaningful anti-crime legislation, something with a little teeth in it, right? Something that'd protect the Canadian public, maybe?

Sadly, no.

The "crimes" this government wants to tackle are often not really crimes at all. In recent months this government has:

1) Tried to raise the age of consent for sex from 14 to 16. Doubtless this will clear lover's lanes around the country.

2) Introduced "anti-dealer" legislation and asset forfeture without considering the legalization or decriminalization of offences such as simple posession.

3) Made moves to scrap the gun registry, allowing more unlicensed, untraceable firearms into Canadian communities, over the objections of a majority of Canadian police chiefs.

Let's see: Morality by decree, a War on Drugs, and no gun control--can Canadians think of another country with this sort of stupidity going on? I can. And Stephen Harper thinks it's a place he wants to live. However, rather than move to that place he's decided to try and recreate Canada in its image.

Witness the latest "anti-crime" bill popping up on the radar: the US-style (Canadian) Digital Music Copyright Act.

Canadians already pay a hefty tax on blank media. The "blank media levy" is applied to digital content and devices no matter what you're going to use them for. So if I buy a CD-R to back up the content I myself have created, a fee is charged--theoretically to compensate content creators for digital piracy.

A side note: Thus far I have received no payment. I wonder how many other artists have?

But now lobbyists filling the plates and pockets of Members of Parliament have managed to get industry minister Jim Prentice to step forward and have a third shot at this. The previous minister, Bev Oda, lost her post, possibly because of backlash from the discovery that she was being fed both calories and cash by the Music Producers Association of America, or the nearest equivalent, to push this crap at us. Check the field of links at the bottom of that post to see the whole sordid story.

I wonder what Prentice is charging for his services?

Again, the Conservatives seem to be moving toward the US-style legislation on this: toward laws that treat people who buy expensive digital junk as criminals. You think I'm joking, O Avid fan? Go buy yourself a $30 legal Napster card. You remember Napster? They used to be a gang of thugs and criminals enabling music piracy until they figured out they could make money selling crippled songs to their customers.

Mme Metro last year used a Napster card to download some audio stories and music from their online store.

She had to install their crippleware on her computer, in order to play the memory-sucking tracks in some proprietary format.
She was required to "register" every portable player she meant to put them on, which meant installing said crippleware.
When the "three month subscription" ran out (it wasn't), everything stopped working. And Napster refused to respond to any attempts at contact.

In other words, Mme paid $30 for music in digital form. Had she spent $30 on CDs it would still be playable. But instead, she has nothing, because Napster is a big fan of "digital rights management". Guess whose rights they're managing?

And as far as I can tell, that's just the way the conservatives want it. And they DO NOT want public participation. The CBC compiled a list of 250 questions for Jim Prentice, who refused to answer any of them.

I ask any Canadian Avid Fans to write your MP--just a short polite note, asking them not to support US-style "command-and-control" digital rights legislation.

BoingBoing's latest post on this.

Online Rights Canada (ORC).

The CBC program Search Engine posted a list of 250 questions for Jim Prentice

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Tim Hawkins' Damn Good Advice

Because I'm up to my collective in work, rehearsals, and other minutae of daily existence.

03 December 2007

Recruiting Video Of the Day, Possibly the Decade

As former military personnel, I find myself forced to agree.

01 December 2007

"Don't Be Evil"--Anyone Over At Der Google Remember That One?

At one time, the people running Google wanted a folksy, friendly, homey appearnace. They wanted to be the sort of smiley faces you might like to see first thing in the morning.

So they hit upon what is probably the best, yet least-remembered slogan in corporate history. Mission statement and ethical posture all in one:

"Don't be evil."

Then, as we all know, came China. Faced with a choice between profit and principle, Der Googlag decided ...

"Don't be evil ... mostly."

Now that they own 90% of the intertubes, Der Gougel is starting to behave like any other corp. Witness now the sight modification they've made to Blogger.

In the blogosphere, connections are important, the free flow of information and opinion is what the damn thing is based on. You go to someone's blog, read it, and drop an well-informed and incisive comment on their comment thread. They follow you to your blog and, in their turn, rant incoherently on yours.

At least until now. Presumably as some sort of "public service" similar to the "public service" they're performing in China, and for the same rea$on, they've decided to screw with Blogger.

Now non-Blogger bloggers can't get a formatted link in their comments. So rather than simply post and go, they have to take the laborious few seconds to format it themselves. Okay, the Srebenica Massacre it ain't. But it IS a profit-motivated, corporate-driven act of restriction designed to force everyone to get a Google account. And no matter what they slogan at us, yes, it's evil.

It happens I'd had a Gmail account before Blogger forced everyone to "New Blogger" (read: "Der Göoglebloggenschrieber". But I didn't like that move either.

("Don't be evil.")

Now my friends can't leave a link to their blogs, presumably because poor old Google would lose so much traffic from the ten or twelve hits a day that go from my blog to non-Göogleanfangscribbleren blogs.

Wordpress is looking better all the time. But of course it's pretty difficult to move a blog, especially one with eight hundred or so posts, and especially from Blogger. One might almost think they'd tried to make sure it stays that way.

In Orwell's Animal Farm, the phrase was "All Animals Are Equal."

Google is falling victim to its own success. The things that made them the leading internet corp are falling away, and they've become another horizon-blocking monolith.

I tried to contact Der Google about this issue. Anyone know of an email address that can penetrate the indifference? Try finding one. I had it in mind to submit a new slogan for Blogger as run by Google:

"All bloggers are equal, but some are less equal than others."