Incoherent ramblings

Building a new BBQ drip tray.

July 3, 2017 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

My old BBQ drip tray was in really rough shape:

In exchange for coffees, the installer of our new energy efficient (and functional!) air conditioner gave me a nice new piece of sheet metal, so I’m traced out a new drip tray:

Here it is before any folds:

I don’t have a brake, nor access to a metal shop, but Sofia bought Lance a little vice a few Christmases ago, and I borrowed that:

I also found that a heavy ruler (one of the edges of my square), worked well to help with the bends

The very skinny bends were harder to do nicely, and I had to resort to some pliers to help coerce them into place, but the final result is pretty decent and a lot less porous:

It looks a bit out of place with all the rust in the remainder of the BBQ, but should help give the unit a few more years:


Political correctness

November 24, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , , ,

I saw an article on facebook about some recent idiocy at Queen’s university.

The idiocy isn’t what is being dubbed a racist party, but the fact that a costume party is dubbed racist.

A comment on this (Leon) that I thought summed things up nicely was:

“It is people who criticize a bunch of kids dressing as racists who make incidents of real racism greatly diminished.”

There is an alarming trend of perverting language in the political correct circles that is mystifying

  • A kiss without a contract, triple signed and witnessed, is now being called rape, or it’s seeming legal equivalent “sexual assault”.  There are concent posters all over UofT that outline the legalistic contracting required for sexuality in this PC age.  I was too inhibited when I was an undergrad to have had much sexual activity, but I’m glad that I’m not an undergrad now subject to the current guidelines.  It’s definitely not okay to take advantage of somebody who is drunk, but this has been flipped on its head.  Sex after consentual codrunkenness now appears to be sexual assult in some places.
  • Failing to use the “correct” gendered pronoun is now “hate speech”, and is perceived as, or at least mislabelled as, explicit violence.  I’m a firm believer that people should have complete freedom to engage in hate speech or discrimination of any sort.  Let people dig themselves their own social graves instead of trying to legislate speech.
  • Costume parties, even at halloween, are now being mislabelled racist.  Attempting to point that out at some PC universities resulted in so much PC backlash that resignations followed.

I keep hearing about instance after instance of such events.  It seems like most of the people who are pushing the political correctness agenda really desperately need dictionaries.  Just because you can label two things as identical, doesn’t mean that they are.  A perfect example of this is the use of “sexual assault” now instead of rape.  The two are now identified as identical, even though sexual assault is a much broader term that includes groping.

There was lots in the recent US election media circus about how Trump’s bragging of pussy grabbing and aggressive kissing, acts that were facilitated by stardom.  One of the debate moderators explicitly called that sexual assault.  I don’t like the phrase sexual assault, because it is ambiguous, and has connotations of rape, while not necessarily being rape.  It seems to be a phrase designed to have the emotional impact of rape, while being something lesser.

Whether or not that Trump was bragging about sexual assault is probably dependent on state law.  Ambiguous language identifies unequal events with the same weight, and seems to be a characteristic of political correct speech and activism.  For example, calling pussy grabbing rape would be an obvious example of the misuse of language.  That’s why PC correct speech uses sexual assault instead.  A side effect of such PC correct speech is that actual rape, a horribly abusive event, is trivialized.  The irony in the Trump case was that the media could have focused on actual rape.  For example, Trump and his pedophile buddy Jeffrey Epstein, are codefendents in an actual rape case (which I understand has now unfortunately been dropped due to technicalities).  Characteristic of many of the charges laid against Epstein, this one is also of a child, in this case a 13 year old.

Of his buddy Epstein Trump said

“I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

It remains to see if Trump is a sexual predator on par with Bill Clinton.  My gut feeling why pussy grabbing got so much attention, but Trump’s case with Epstein did not was because Bill is also a good friend of Epstein, and had been down to Epstein’s pedophile island many times.  Raising attention to that would have distracted from Hillary’s campaign (perhaps even raised the issue that she’d also “partied” there, in ways currently unspecified).

I digress.

How can political correctness be combatted?  One way is calling out explicit misuse of language.  Be very careful to use accurate words, and not to conflate things in order to push an agenda.

Because the political correctness movement is anti-intellectual, I suspect that purely linguistic techniques to fighting it are doomed.  Are there active social techniques that would be effective?

I came up with one idea that I amused myself with.  Perhaps it is time to start hosting some explicitly politically incorrect parties, just to push back.  Imagine a Halloween party that you are not allowed into, unless you are offending some minority group.  Suggested costume ideas include Hilter, blackface, transvestites or red-indians.  If you aren’t insulting somebody, then you can’t come in.  If you don’t think that Hilter is offensive enough, perhaps the host would allow you in if you dressed as some other psychopathic killer like Kissinger or Churchill, but that risks turning the party into an political party instead of an anti-PC party.  Costume prize adjudication would be biased against those that are in a visible minority group, so you should get extra points if you are a cis gendered white male.  Bonus points to the hosts of the party should they hold it on a university campus.

Kiva, a fun alternative to standard charitable donations.

November 17, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , ,


This year, when I was still at IBM, I had opted out of the IBM Employee Charitable Fund (ECF) and chose to put cash into Kiva microloans instead.  I was tired of just blindly dumping money into some big charity like United Way.  I don’t really have any idea what United Way or any other charity is doing with the money I provide.

At the time I had no idea that I wouldn’t be working at IBM for much longer.  When I left IBM and started working as a contractor for LzLabs in the spring, having made this switch already made it easy for me to continue doing so.  The only change I made I was increase the amount that I was making for my monthly Kiva funds topups.  I’m now an employee of LzLabs Canada (3 of 5 at the time of the incorporation), but since we don’t have an IBM style employee charitable fund, I am still putting funds into Kiva that I used to put into explicit registered charities.

I quite like Kiva as an alternative to standard charity. For one, it isn’t straight up charity, since I can choose to fund people who look like they are trying to improve their condition.  That’s a sustainability difference that I think is very important, and part of the trap of the welfare system.  If you reward welfare recipients by providing it unconditionally as we do, you create the welfare state.  Most of my Kiva loans have specifically targeted individuals who have some sort of business venture that they are trying to improve.  My preference has been for people that want tools or livestock (example: a milk producing cow) that will continue to provide value long after the loan is paid.

Its fun to be able to specifically choose who my funds are going to, and when the loan repayments come in, I can often recycle those repayments directly into a new loan without even waiting for my next top up period.

I don’t think that the default overhead that Kiva wants for each loan is reasonable ($3 on $25), so I lower that significantly each time.  Note that if the loan that you try to fund doesn’t get the backers required, Kiva keeps that overhead donation amount.  When I recycled funds after such an unfunded loan into a new loan, I explicitly set the corresponding Kiva donation amount to zero.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get a Canadian charitable tax credit for the sort of permanently recycling Kiva loans that I am doing, but it’s fun enough to see my loan portfolio grow that I don’t care too much about the tiny little tax kickback Uncle Trudeau and Aunt Wynne “give me” in exchange for me financing their spending sprees.

Home office progress.

November 13, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , ,


We’ve had a giant cavity the room that that is now my home office space.  It had been cut into the garage by the previous owner of the house to mount a CRT TV in, made the garage a lot less usable, and also let in a lot of cold.  Last weekend we took it out completely:



and on Tuesday I framed in a new wall support, and got it into place:



Then sealed things up again:


I happened to have a sheet of water resistant board kicking around the garage, so used that:


and today I did the rough coat:


While I had some compound mixed up, I filled in a few other things in this space.  Quite a while ago I fished ethernet and coax cable into my home office space, so I got the box in place for these:



and did a rough plastering fill of all my fishing holes:



It will be nice to get this space completely in order, but we’ve now made some good progress on that front.

New book arrived in the mail today

November 11, 2016 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment ,

Usually, I’m really eager to open a package containing a book. This time I wasn’t so sure I actually wanted to open this mail item, since I knew exactly what it contained:


I’ve got work to do related to C, PL/1, and COBOL.  I don’t have the courage to buy myself any sort of COBOL book.  I saw COBOL once and my eyes burned.  My eyes are watering even thinking back to that day.  Unfortunately, at a glance, PL/1 doesn’t look much better than my nightmares of COBOL.

TPP sales pitch from Bob Saroya, my “representative” in parliament.

November 2, 2016 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , , , , , ,

My “representative” member of parliament, Bob Saroya, is busy wasting my money my sending out TPP sales propaganda, apparently believing that I’m stupid enough to fall for this bit of fear mongering.


My response was:

I received your TPP sales pitch.  I’m not surprised to see a member of parliament attempting to sell Canada to unaccountable corporate tribunals, using a misleading attempt to disguise this as a “free trade”.

This is of course the function of government “representation”, to take resources from people who actually work for them, and channel them into the hands of power elite.  Your letter demonstrates that you are serving this purpose admirably!
Of course there’s a chance that you are just spouting the party line without actually believing or understanding what you are writing.  Even if that is the case, it is disappointing and frustrating to see taxpayer resources wasted on such empty propaganda.

Interesting tidbits in a Hillary Goldman Sacks wikileaks transcript.

October 16, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s some notes on a read of the first of the wikileaks transcripts of the Hillary Goldman Sacks talks.  There are three transcripts in total:


The main takeaway is that the State deptartment role is certainly not about diplomacy.  There’s lots of mentions of stirring up crap as part of the routine game.  Chaos is a desired end goal, so long as it’s controlled or directed.

page 7: North Korea:

We don’t want the North Koreans to
cause more trouble than the system can absorb. So
we’ve got a pretty good thing going with the
previous North Korean leaders

What an interesting statement.  The corollary seems to be that they do want North Korea to be stirring up trouble.  It serves to distract and limit China for example, a point made in other parts of the speech.

page 13: Syria:

So the problem for the US and the
Europeans has been from the very beginning: What
is it you — who is it you are going to try to arm?
And you probably read in the papers my view was we
should try to find some of the groups that were
there that we thought we could build relationships
with and develop some covert connections that might
then at least give us some insight into what is
going on inside Syria.

It is well known now that the US has been arming the “Free Syrian Army”, funnelling weapons in through Turkey via the Saudis.  Here Hillary is discussing exactly this process.  She actually expresses regret that the US isn’t as good at this discrete covert warmongering as they used to be.

page 14: Libya:

In Libya we didn’t have that problem.
It’s a huge place. The air defenses were not that
sophisticated and there wasn’t very — in fact,
there were very few civilian casualties.

A psychopath in action.  I hear of Hillary’s carpet bombing of Libya discussed as one of the most brutal and destructive campaigns in near history, and she describes it as “very few casualties”.  I don’t actually know the numbers, but it’s certainly interesting to see how casual she is with respect to the death of civilians.

page 15: on Iran? (or perhaps Syria):

Well, you up the pain
that they have to endure by not in any way
occupying or invading them but by bombing their
facilities. I mean, that is the option. It is not
as, we like to say these days, boots on the ground.

Causal talk of bombing other countries is so disgusting.  Notice how the word facilities is very vague.  Decoding this a bit, if you are simultaneously talking about “upping the pain” and bombing facilities, this is probably theorizing about bombing targets that have the most terror inducing and hardship effects on the civilians (water processing, energy production, schools, hospitals, …).  But that’s okay so long as it isn’t perceived as “boots on the ground”.

page 36: Russia:

And finally on Afghanistan and Russia.
Look, I would love it if we could continue to build
a more positive relationship with Russia. I worked
very hard on that when I was Secretary, and we made
some progress with Medvedev, who was president in
name but was obviously beholden to Putin, but Putin
kind of let him go and we helped them get into the
WTO for several years, and they were helpful to us
in shipping equipment, even lethal equipment, in
and out of out of Afghanistan.

Russia was a useful ally when they helped with covert wars.  Now that those covert wars are knocking on Russia’s door, the relationship has soured.  It’s hard to imagine why that relationship has deteriorated.

M.Eng survey remarks: rant on exams in grad studies

August 28, 2016 Incoherent ramblings No comments

I was asked to rate my satisfaction of aspects of the M.Eng program I’m taking, so took the opportunity to rant about the insanity of exams:

“As a professional, I find that Exam based courses are very artificial, and not terribly meaningful. As an undergrad I did not question this practice, but had forgotten about those days. It was a rather rude shock to see this dark ages practise still in use for graduate studies.

Nowhere in a professional context does it make sense to try to memorize enough content that you can barf out half-ass material sufficient to pass examination questions, or attempt to gain maximum marks in a minimum amount of time. Professional work needs to be complete and accurate. Mistakes cause millions of dollars, and get people fired.

It makes no sense to take any examination, and not be given the opportunity to see the marked exam content. One ought to have the chance to review that material, correcting all deficiencies in one’s understanding. If mistakes are made in a professional context, there is a feedback cycle, where root causes are addressed. This is completely missing from the brain dead process of final exams.

Thankfully, not all the graduate courses I took still used the childish approach of grading based on examinations, but enough did that it was annoying. The aim should not be to produce a mark, but to produce full understanding of the subject material, and demonstrate the ability to apply that material.”

Shipping with DHL. They will screw you, but not quite as bad as UPS.

August 27, 2016 Incoherent ramblings, Uncategorized 1 comment , , , , ,

I previously complained about UPS customs clearing charges that I was slammed with receiving back some of my own goods.

Basically, the Canadian government grants shipping companies the right to extort receivers at the point of customs clearing. Canada might add a few cents or a buck or two of tax, but the shipping company is then able to add fees that are orders of magnitude higher than the actual taxes.

I actually stopped buying anything from the United States because of this, and have been buying from Europe and India instead, where I had not yet gotten blasted with customs clearing fees for the items I’ve been buying (usually textbooks).

However, it appears that my luck has run out.  Here’s the newest example, with a $15 dollar clearing fee that DHL added onto about a dollar of tax:

IMG_20160827_095043195 (1)

Note that I did not pick the shipping company.  That was selected by the book seller (one of the resellers).

For $1.17 of taxes, DHL has charged me $14.75 of fees, all for the right to allow Canada revenue to steal from me.  To add insult to injury, DHL is allowed to charge GST for their extortion service, so I end up paying an additional $3.09 (close to 3x the initial tax amount).  The value of the book + shipping that I purchased was only $23.30!

Aside: Why is the GST on $14.75 that high?  I thought that’s a 13% tax, so shouldn’t it be $1.92?

I’ve found some instructions that explain some of the black magic required to do my own customs clearing:

One of the first steps is to find the CBSA office that I can submit such a clearing form to.  I can narrow that search down to province, but some of these offices are restricted to specific purposes, and it isn’t obvious which of these offices I should use.  For example the one at Buttonville airport appears to be restricted to handling just the cargo that arrives there.

I wonder if there are any local resellers that import used and cheap textbooks in higher quantities and then resell them locally (taking the customs clearing charge only once per shipment)?

Note to IBMers re: LzLabs employment.

August 22, 2016 Incoherent ramblings 2 comments , ,

When contemplating the decision to leave IBM for LzLabs, I found it helpful to enumerate the pros and cons of that decision, which I shared in a Leaving IBM: A causal analysis blog post after I’d formally left IBM.

Who could have predicted that a blog post that wasn’t about programming arcana, physics or mathematics would have been my most popular ever.  There’s no accounting for the taste of the reader;)

In response to that blog post, I’ve been contacted by a few IBMers who were interested in potential LzLabs employment.

Please note that I left IBM with band 9 status, which means that there is a one year restriction (expiring ~May 2017) against me having any involvement with hiring, or recruitment of IBM employees.  An IBM lawyer was very careful to point that the band 9 contract I signed in 2006 has such a non-solicitation agreement.  I don’t think that anybody told the IBM lawyer that IBM appears to be trying really hard to throw away technical staff, but that does not change the fact that I am bound by such an agreement.

If you contacted me, and I was to respond, it could probably be argued that this would not count as solicitation.  However, I don’t feel inclined to pick a fight with IBM lawyers, who I imagine to have very sharp teeth and unlimited legal budgets.  So, if you are working for IBM, and asking about LzLabs employment, please don’t be offended that I did not reply.  I will try to remember to respond to you next spring, when the sharks are swimming elsewhere.