Unforeseen consequences

One of the best things about not having a blog anymore, and not really paying attention to blogs that aren’t jwz and USS Mariner, is that I have no idea what’s going on in the world. It’s very liberating — my blood pressure is much better, and I don’t get worked up about dumb shit anymore. I’m much calmer and much happier. s’great, actually. Highly recommended.

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of not paying attention is.. not paying attention. So major events pass me by. Not things like Pope Deathwatch or anything like that, but things like the electoral reform issue on the ballot on the 17th in British Columbia (I don’t know what STV is, and I’m not sure I want to find out). And things like the latest developments in AdScam. I knew there was an inquiry on, but had no idea what was happening until fairly recently, and I still don’t have a clear picture. Government throws money at problem, money ends up in hands of cronies. Got that. Not sure what to get worked up about, since we knew the Liberal Party was full o’ crooks years ago. But something happened in the past couple of days, the outrage has hit white-hot levels of intensity, and the PM addressed the nation last night to deal with it, promising an election within 30 days of the Gomrey Inquiry’s final report.

I have no real desire to go back to the polls anytime soon. I won’t vote for the Liberals, I can’t vote for the Conservatives (notwithstanding my qualified support in the last federal, they’ve lost me with their dumbshit position on same-sex marriage), I categorically refuse to vote NDP, and oops, that’s it. I’d vote Green, since they seem to be best aligned with me on the non-major policy issues, but I can’t shake the feeling they’re.. well.. hippies. And we know what happens when you give hippies power. (Nothing. Which actually.. might not be such a bad idea. Anyway.)

What’s funny about the PM’s statement is the reaction from the other parties to it. And the hell of it is that the reactions had almost nothing to do with the actual issues; you could have predicted it going in. Both the Conservatives and the Bloc are chomping at the bit, unable to contain their glee that an election is looming. They stand to win big from AdScam, so they have the most to gain, and they can’t really lose — voters pissed off at the corruption will vote for Someone Else, and that someone else, in many relevant parts of Canada, is going to be the Conservative candidate. For the Tories, they want to know whether they’ve managed to pick up enough pissed off former Liberal supporters in Ontario to form a government, majority or otherwise. I doubt it — the Liberals will have their lead cut by the Bloc, but I suspect those Ontario voters who could be persuaded to vote Tory would have done so already, and so the bulk of the support is going to shift to the NDP. (This is a well-documented trend in much of the country, where the second choice of Liberal voters tends not to be the Conservatives, but rather the Dippers.) To explain the Bloc’s reaction, replace “Conservative” in this argument with “Bloc,” and “Ontario” with “Quebec.” The irony is tough to swallow: A program that was designed to quell separatist rhetoric in Quebec may end up enhancing the profile of a separatist party in Parliament. Who knew?

(Diz-claimer: I don’t honestly believe most of the Bloc’s voters are itching to separate. That ship, it seems, has pretty much sailed for the current generation. I have no evidence of this, but that’s how it feels to me; the Bloc’s popularity right now is more a function of Liberal stupidity and Quebecois self-interest. It’s no different from westerners voting Reform.)

The Liberals’ reaction is easy to predict, too. Of course they want to wait. They want to see if they can ride it out and regain support in the next half-year or so. The NDP reaction was even more predictable: They’re the only other party with a vested interest in making sure that the government doesn’t fall. See, the problem is that if the government were to fall tomorrow, we’d probably end up with a minority again, but with the Conservatives holding most of the cards. You think a minority government under Harper is likely to cut deals with the NDP to advance a legislative agenda? You think they’d be willing to cut a deal with the Bloc to advance an agenda? (Now that I think about it, this might be kind of funny to watch.) Not likely. While the NDP is likely to pick up seats, their influence in the next minority government is probably going to be diminished. At the moment, Layton can play the role of negotiator, holding Martin’s feet to the fire over various issues in exchange for Parliamentary support. I can’t see Harper doing the same thing.

The hell of it is that that scenario — a Conservative-lead minority government, forming a coalition chiefly with the Liberals — might be in everyone’s best interests. They’re necessarily going to rely on consensus and deal-making in order to get anything done, and so you’d probably see the influence of the socially conservative wing of the Conservative party diminished significantly. They could do some pandering, of course, but how effectively can you pander when you can’t actually get anything done? It’s doubtful the economic policy would change significantly, and we might actually be able to have the Important National Conversations about health care that we really really need to have under a Harper government. Will I support it? Not a hope in hell — like Jay Currie, I’ve lost my patience with the Tories and I cannot in good conscience ever support a party that is willing to make principled arguments about why it’s OK to discriminate against a particular group of people. But it’s interesting to think about.

‘kay. I’m done writing unsubstantiated punditry for the next four months.

That's good/that's bad: An object lesson

RJ45 jack on Lappy broken. That’s bad.

But it’s under warranty, so Dell will fix it. That’s good.

It has to go to Newmarket, Ontario. That’s bad.

But Dell will pick up all the costs associated with shipping! That’s good.

It will take up to 1.5 weeks for the repair to be completed. That’s bad.

But it actually came back today (Friday), after being sent out on Wednesday! That’s good.

Unfortunately, it came back even more broken than it went out. That’s bad.

I give Dell props for fixing it fast. We’re talking about a sub-48 hour turnaround time; my box made it to Newmarket at 9:44 on Thursday (according to the tag on the machine), and Purolator had it again nine hours later according to the tracking information. Apparently, since it’s been a long time since I moved anything by air courier services in this country, I had forgotten how frickin’ fast these things can be. (And, let’s face it, getting something from Victoria to Toronto is not like getting something from Victoria to, I dunno, Inuvik or whatever.) So that’s pretty cool. But somewhere along the line, something didn’t go quite right — a cable got banged loose, the LCD got jostled, something happened that made Lappy arrive dead. Well, not exactly dead; I am, after all, typing this entry on it. But the LCD will glow as though someone has applied power, but will not actually display an image. When it does display an image, it flickers, like the cable’s not seated properly. But the cable is seated properly, because I checked (it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a phone tech and a screwdriver). So back to Newmarket it goes.

I have high hopes that this will fix the problem in a suitably speedy manner, and that I will get my machine back by, oh, say, Wednesday next week. Because that would be sweet. Because I’m going away on Sunday next week, and then I’m going to have to play follow the package, and that’s never fun. So there’s always hope. In the meantime, it’s nice to have Lappy back, even if I have to use an external monitor (thus more or less rednering the whole point of having a laptop, um, moot).

Have I mentioned I hate computers lately? I do. I really, really do.

The Man

Evolution of Ichiro:

The fourth version of the Ichiro Suzuki bobblehead doll was unveiled to its living likeness last night, and the Mariners’ star right fielder was none too impressed.

Striking a pose with his cap doffed, the new bobblehead will be given out tomorrow night to the first 25,000 fans through the gate, to commemorate Ichiro’s record-setting 262-hit season last year.

Fixing a glare at the doll in the dugout before batting practice, Ichiro pushed its head so it was shaking back and forth instead of up and down. “I say, ‘No, No, No,’ ” Ichiro said. “I don’t say, ‘Yes, yes, yes.'”

Ichiro cracks me up.

Life in the big city

Thieves removing gas from vehicles:

Police are warning motorists to lock up their gas tanks.

The recent boost in gas prices, now over $1 a litre at many Greater Victoria gas stations, has prompted thieves to target unwary car owners by siphoning gas.

Saanich police report that gas thefts have been reported in the Ker Avenue and Glanford Avenue areas.

They urge motorists to invest in locking gas caps to deter thieves. Police also suggest car owners park as close to their homes as possible.

It’s a crime spree!

Well, how about that?

So as a temporizing measure to solve my network connectivity problems at home (the Lappy will, as expected, have to go into the depot in Newmarket, fucking Ontario, for servicing — more later), I went out this afternoon and bought a D-Link DI-524 wireless router. I didn’t really need another router — I really just needed an access point — but I’m cheap, and it was on sale (with a rebate that makes it less than $50 at the local Electronics R Us). Given how much fun I have when I configure consumer grade networking gear I was expecting a fight.

Most of the time, I freely admit this is my own fault. I’m too damn stubborn to read the idiot manuals, and I figure I ought to be able to plug it in and have things work, or at least be able to hack around the “user friendly” components and make it do what I want it to do. For instance, like I said, the DI-524 is a router. I already have a router on my network. It works very nicely. I suppose I could rip it out and replace it with the DI-524, but I don’t want to do that; my network works just fine, and the less time I spend screwing around with my configuration, the happier I’m going to be (since it’s less likely to break that way). I fully expected the DI-524 to fight for gateway control, and start arguing with the other hosts on the network that provide DHCP service for the entire environment, and make me figure out how to talk directly to it to disable the dumb shit through its inevitably craptacular Web interface.

But much to my surprise, when I plugged it in, it found there was already a local DHCP service operating. And, moreover, that said local DHCP service would assign it an IP address without having to do any stupid negotiating. And, moreover, that it already had a non-standard subnet (I don’t, for historical reasons, use as my internal netblock), and so it should just grab an address in that /24. And that it should probably pass DHCP requests from clients on to my original DHCP server. So when Lappy’s list of wireless networks was refreshed, and it connected automatically (we’ll have to do something about that), the request for an address and routing information went straight to the network’s DHCP server, and everything is sweetness and light.

It might be the first time I’ve ever had any piece of networking gear Just Work right out of the box. Hot diggity damn, I love this thing. Did I mention it’s 802.11g? Yeah, it’s 802.11g. 0wned.

Thought for the day

I’d really like it if we could get to a form of civic discourse where the reasonable — and perfectly understandable — response to someone’s idiotic blathering were not simply to say, “Fuck you,” and walk away.

Whether that would come because the discourse got better, or because the response got better, I’m not too picky about. I’d just like to get to that place.

Life (France) imitates art (Simpsons)

3F04. Fiction. 1995. It looked like this:

Kirk Van Houten: Er, I, for one, would like to see the cafeteria menus in advance, so parents can adjust their dinner menus accordingly. I don’t like the idea of Milhouse having two spaghetti meals in one day.

Few other events in the Simpsons universe so perfectly captured the essence of Kirk Van Houten. I love that line, coming as it does in the middle of a wholly unremarkable Treehouse of Horror episode. It was the fabulous combination of being true to a character and being entirely nonsensical in the context of the real world — the sort of thing that the Simpsons used to excel at.

France. Real life. 2005:

Menus for the week are posted on school notice boards so parents can plan appropriate evening meals; many town councils also put them their website.

I guess Kirk was French.

(What do French kids eat? They eat like this. Wow, I don’t eat that well.)

What to do, what to do…

So the Lappy’s Ethernet port is.. kinda br0ked. It’s not totally fux0red, mind you, just fux0red enough that it can make talking to the home network a bit of a pain in the ass. It usually takes a good four or five minutes of wrangling to ensure the cable has good contact with the connectors inside the port, and/or the connectors themselves have good contact with the Magic Voodoo Bus. I have in the past found the balloon pop-ups in XP to be endlessly annoying (especially the one that pops up every time I start the machine without a wireless connection that says “Wireless connection unavailable” — no shit!), but I have come to have a love-hate relationship with the balloon that says, “A network cable is unplugged.”

The first thing I think is, “Oh, good, I know that when my network requests fail, I’ll know why.” The second thing I think is, “oh, fuck, now I have to mess around with the cabling for a while.”

I had high hopes that this problem involved cabling. Most of my Cat 5 cable in my place is stuff I cut and crimped by hand, so there were thoughts that it might be, um, my own damn fault that I couldn’t get a good connection to the LAN. Maybe the connectors were cracking, or the pins inside flexing, but, alas, no: The cables are just fine (I tested them). It’s the Lappy, and in particular it’s a part of the Lappy that is probably (a) not cheap to fix and (b) not likely to be field-fixable.

One of the dangers of buying a laptop, as I’m sure almost everyone knows, is that it lockes you into a relationship with a vendor. I’ve been hacking too long to have anything but the dimmest possible view of vendors; when I have component-level failures, I want to be able to replace the component with another one, preferably made by someone whose products don’t suck (or which, at least, suck a lot less than the vendor whose product failed). Meaning that if my 3Com NIC decides to pack it in, I can simply swap it out and shove a new one in (probably another 3Com, since I like the damn things so much, and they don’t tend to break, period). Severing the vendor tie was and is one of the most wonderful things about PC ownership.

Arguably it is also the only wonderful thing about PC ownership, since it forces you to take responsibility for the entire machine. If you’re rich or value your time, having a vendor relationship is great because you can get them to take responsibility for your system from start to finish. Machine won’t boot? Here comes field circus. Hard drive craps out? Here comes field circus. I’ve been hacking too long to have anything but the dimmest possible view of field circus guys, too, but it’s tough to explain to some clueless VP (or spouse) that you’re going to toss your new-ish machine into a swamp because fixing it is too much of a pain; far better to have the Man From Maytag tell you you need a new washer than your idiot husband.

Owning a vendorless PC is possible, even preferable. Owning a vendorless laptop is not. While I’m currently on my second Dell (not because the first one broke, mind you, but because I sold it to someone else and used a loyalty incentive to get myself a much nicer machine), I’ve never had to deal with them once I finished shoving money at them at the end of the initial transaction. I tell people who buy laptops to invest in the extended service plan simply because component replacement is hard, and if it fails, it’s going to fail big — I have a friend who is on (I think) her third or fourth Compaq, and I shudder to think what the replacement costs would have been like had she not had the warranty options she does. (I also don’t think she’s likely to buy another Compaq, but that’s neither here nor there.)

But now, with Lappy’s Ethernet port failing, I am about to embark on a trip into the depths of Dell’s customer service department. Will this be fixable easily? Will Lappy have to go on a plane ride? How much is it going to cost me, if anything? How long will I be without Lappy? Will my data be safe? (We’ve reached the point where backup strategies are t-o-u-g-h to implement, so be judicious about it.) How much fighting am I going to have to put up with in order to make this work? I don’t know, and I’m afraid to find out.

This may be why I’m seriously considering door #2, which is to simply go and buy an 802.11g AP and stick that in here instead. Why fix the damn Ethernet port when you can hack your way around it? (Answer: because sometimes you can get Cat 5 connections but can’t get wireless ones. Potential solution: Buy an AP that’s portable enough that you can bring it with you. I know these exist, because I used one in Japan (not that it worked, mind you), but have yet to encounter any in North America. Any tips for me, Lazyweb?)

Lyric of the moment

She told me her name was Cymbeline
I met her at the corner of Church and Queen
She was selling lies and other patined things
I hardly even noticed when she touched my ring

She sold me a camera for a song
A silver instamatic made in Bonn
Careful with my heart, it’s not very strong
She wrote that on the border when I was wrong

She said that she’s going home
And she won’t be long
She said that she’s going home
And she won’t be long
Half a mile from Texas, she looked at me and said,
“Everybody loves you when you’re dead.”

I can drive for hours when I’m wrong
She said it like a preacher before the throng
Careful with your life ’cause it’s not very long
We stumble for a moment and then we’re gone

She said that she’s going home
And she won’t be long
She said that she’s going home
And she won’t be long
Half a mile from Memphis, she looked at me and said,
“Everybody loves you when you’re dead.”

I think I’ll take her bishop with my queen
The glass is nearly empty and she’s asleep
Somewhere in my mind I think I see her weep
Perhaps I’ll check the silver before I leave

She said that she’s going home
And she won’t be long
She said that she’s going home
And she won’t be long
Half a mile from Paris, she looked at me and said,
“Everybody loves you when you’re dead.”
–The Wild Strawberries