Don't see that every day

METAR CYYJ 210100Z 30006KT 10SM TS FEW025CB SCT036 BKN064 BKN092 03/03 A2952 RERA RMK CB2SC2SC2AC2 SLP996=

And more specifically:

WSCN31 CWEG 210058
SIGMET M1 VALID 210100/210500 CWEG-
WTN 10 NM OF LN /4917N12329W/15 W VANCOUVER – /4825N12256W/15 E
VICTORIA.
BKN LN TS OBSD ON RDR/LTNG DTCTR TOPS 260. LN MOVG NEWD 20 KT.
TS INTSFYG.
END/GFA31/CMAC-W/TSG

I miss thunderstorms, but only from the ground.

(For those of you who don’t speak aviation weather: the first is a METAR, or a current summary of local conditions, that shows a thunderstorm observed at Victoria International with 10 miles of visibility. The second is a SIGMET, a warning of significant weather affecting the safety of flight, describing a line of thunderstorms moving east of Victoria, intensifying as it moves.)

This oughta be fun

My Blackberry went for a bit of a swim — well, more like a wading session — early this morning when I tried to answer it but knocked it into a glass of water. It worked fine when I talked on it (“I’m sorry, you sound all garbled and confused!” “That’s because I’ve been asleep for two hours!”), but the keyboard is, as would be typical with any electronic device like this, kind of… non-compliant. So it is now sitting on my balcony, in the sunshine, in a plastic bag full of rice, my stash of dessicant packs apparently having been lost in the recent move.

We’ll see how this works. We’re scheduled to go away for the weekend, and leaving my phone at home unplugged in a bag of rice might be a therapeutic thing for me; I’m not sure. Unplugging is a strange thing when I do it during travel; it’s doubly strange when you’re nominally at home.

If I owned a ski resort, this would be paradise

If living on the prairies taught me anything, it’s that it’s far better to shovel 2″ of snow twice rather than 4″ of snow once. So in that spirit, I attacked the driveway here at 2100, clearing the roughly 3″ that had accumulated since Snowpocalypse, Round III began at ~1700. I then went and did other things for 4 hours, only to come back to five more inches — thank you, increasingly heavy snowfall! That took an hour to clear. There’s now enough snow around that I’ve run out of places to put it; my neatly-constructed piles are avalanching themselves, and I can’t seem to keep anything in place. I have given up trying to keep the sidewalk clear — I can’t even find the sidewalk anymore. Unshoveled areas feature suicidally high cliffs of snow, and I am dreading daybreak.

This is crap.

Life sucks. Work is a mess and won’t get better any time soon; if the administrative crap hasn’t been enough, I’ve had a couple of tough cases lately, and they’ve been bugging more than they should. I’ve gained a bunch of weight, nothing is really interesting anymore, and it’s tough to find reasons to stay motivated in my chosen profession.

The weather here’s been miserable. It rained today, for the 8,152nd consecutive day, and it was rock-you-like-a-hurricane windy for what was probably the 436th consecutive day. And then there’s this:


Tonight... Rain showers or wet flurries and small hail changing to flurries near midnight. Snowfall amount 2 cm. Windy. Low zero.
Wednesday... Flurries ending late in the morning then cloudy with 40 percent chance of flurries. Amount 2 cm. High plus 4.
Wednesday night... Clearing near midnight. Becoming windy in the evening. Low minus 5.
Thursday... Sunny. High minus 1.

But wait! There’s more!


4:12 PM PST Tuesday 9 January 2007
Wind warning for
Greater Victoria continued

West to northwest winds of 60 to 90 km/h easing later this evening.

This is a warning that damaging winds are imminent or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

An intense cold front crossing the south coast is producing strong west to northwest winds of 60 to 90 km/h over much of the south coast early this evening. The strong winds will gradually ease this later evening as the front moves well east of the region.

In the wake of the front flurries are being reported in many coastal. Locations and snowfall warnings remain in effect for northern Vancouver Island the central coast where an additional 5 to 10 cm is expected tonight. Flurries will extend across the Fraser Valley overnight where 5 to 10 cm is expected by Wednesday morning.

I’m sorry for saying, but: FUCK. THIS. SHIT. I’ve had enough of it. If anybody needs me, I’ll be over here. Since I gotta wait for things to suck less, I might as well wait on a nice beach.

NOT. FUNNY.

I guess this is our annual taste of winter:

Greater Victoria
3:19 PM PST Saturday 25 November 2006
Snowfall warning for
Greater Victoria continued

10 cm of snow expected for the Queen Charlottes and 20 to 30 cm of snow expected for the other regions by Sunday evening.

A strengthening Arctic ridge over the British Columbia interior is pushing cold Arctic air up against the east slopes of the north and central coast mountains. Strong outflow winds have developed through the valleys and inlets as the Arctic air rushes through the gaps towards the coast. As the high continues to strengthen winds will increase and temperatures will continue to fall resulting in windchills in the minus 20 to minus 30 range. These conditions are expected to persist for several days.

The Arctic air is making its way through the valleys of the south coast and will arrive in the Lower Mainland by Sunday morning. An intensifying low over the pacific will approach Washington state Sunday morning. The moisture associated with the low will interact with the Arctic air giving significant snowfall for much of the south coast beginning tonight. 10 cm of snow is expected for the Queen Charlottes and 20 to 30 cm of snow is expected for the other regions by Sunday evening.

The snow has changed to rain in the West Vancouver Island region and as a result the warning has been ended.

Awesome. Thank god tomorrow is Sunday and therefore it will be OK for everyone to stay home. Which people actually do in this town without any actual advice from the Authoritahs — unlike back in Alberta, where the RCMP would say “travel not recommended,” and people would immediately pile into their cars solely to show that they didn’t listen to the RCMP advisories. They were, for the most part, right — except when they weren’t, and one ended up in the middle of a farmer’s field on the other side of an unbroken fence. I’m just saying, is all.

On an equally not funny note: Nooooooooooooooo!

Frick on a stick

Following up on my post below– it turns out that indeed my warranty has lapsed, and I am therefore SOL. (Duuh-oy! I bet you didn’t see that one coming!) Dell doesn’t seem to think the existence of parallel problems in 5150 models with exactly the same power adapter is grounds to look after me and my problem, and they’re not convinced that the problem is in the power adapter anyway, so that’ll be $249 to ship the out-of-warranty machine back, and, if it turns out the power connector is shot, it’s another $499 for a new mainboard as well. I know I said this last post, but, YAY. So I guess now the trick is finding someone who has a multimeter I can borrow and test the adapter to see if it’s putting out the requisite power, since (a) I’m not willing to spend $90 on spec on the off-chance it’s the adapter and (b) I’m really not willing to spend $249 on spec if it’s not the adapter.

On the other hand: a Hmm Moment. If it’s not the adapter, the math starts to look a lot like $249+$499+$PITAT*=new machine. It’s not that I don’t like what the results of this math imply — I always like the idea of a new machine — it’s that I don’t want to spend the money on a new machine. Nor do I think I should have to — it’s not like there’s anything wrong with the existing one, save for the fact that the power adapter doesn’t want to work, it’s kinda heavy, and it might not be ready for Vista (oh no; I’m only half-kidding since I really want to play Halo 2 and suck hard at FPS on the Xbox or any other console).

Aggh. If it’s not one damn thing, it’s something else.

* PITAT: “Pain In The Ass Tax.” This is the amount, sometimes trivial and sometimes not, that you could, in theory, save if you were willing to put in the effort in a given situation. Sometimes it requires a lot of effort to save not-a-lot of money, and so this rhetorical device allows you to quantify the premium you’re willing to place on your time and effort. The PITAT in this case consists of the efford I have to put in to get the box to the shipping company and ensure I’m around to receive it, as well as the time I will be laptopless, as well as the inevitable frustration that will come with dealing with a technical support operation on this issue. To be sure, the PITAT in this case is a non-trivial amount of money, but we’re already into non-trivial amounts here anyway. One could easily argue the PITAT value of replacing is less than the PITAT value of fixing (though one could easily argue the reverse, too).

Put another way — the brutally honest way, I mean — it is in some cases a way of measuring how lazy you are, and how much more you’re willing to pay in order to support your laziness. I don’t think of it in those terms, of course; I think of it in terms of “how much of a premium am I willing to pay in order to not put up with whatever is likely to piss me off if I pay less.” Hence the Pain In The Ass Tax, not the Lazy Tax. (We already have one of those.)

This is my new favorite shopping argument “tool.” It effectively kills any discussion with your significant other over whether you’re a chump for paying more for something. “$8 for cheesecloth? We’ve got to be able to find that more cheaply.” “Lookit, I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I need to make the frakking coulis tonight, so I’m buying the damn cheesecloth and we’re going home. PITAT.” Bah-dum-dum.

Note to self: Stop posting after your nights and go to bed instead, idiot.

Something dark is coming

Allors, there is a problem with hallie the notebook. It complains that it does not recognize the AC power adapter type and petulantly refuses to acknowledge that it is plugged in — thus leaving me running on battery power. Needless to say, I didn’t recognize this until I went to plug the machine in because, of course, the battery was getting low. So now I have a machine with no power and no easy way to get my files off it so I can at least work on them on elissa or some other machine.

Naturally, this happened on a long weekend.
Naturally, this happened after EST-based tech support reps have gone home anyway.
Naturally, I own an obscure type of laptop that cannot be powered by the usual Kensington or Belkin universal notebook power adapters.
Naturally, the power adapter I need isn’t easily acquired locally; I have to order it over the net. (See previous “naturally” clauses for emotions that flow logically from this last position.)

The worst part is that I don’t even know if it’s the power adapter. I’d love to be able to find something that could provide at least some power to the machine so I could figure out whether I need a new power adapter or whether I need a new power jack on the back of the machine. I want to believe it’s the power adapter, since (a) that’s easy enough to replace and doesn’t involve sending the machine away and (b) the cord is awfully twisted and the plastic reinforcing against the brick is torn and ripped.

Now. Studies of Google suggest that this is a Known Problem with the Inspiron 5150/5160 line, and that the fault may lie in either the adapter or the mainboard, so YAY, that’s great, and it really narrows things down a lot. On the (bright? other? flip?) side, someone apparently launched a class action lawsuit against Dell for this precise problem and Dell settled, though only in the United States. Not, mind you, that this should make a difference from a corporate perspective — Dell is Dell, the problem is the problem, and one would hope that they’d have the good sense to replace my power adapter for free if they’re doing it across the border, too. But what do I know? I’m just a guy with no access to his files.

Note to self: This might be a good time to look into finding some kind of temporary enclosure for notebook hard drives, so I can at least do a rescue and get the useful stuff off the damn disk before I have to send it back and/or spend multiple days with a dark laptop. Grr.

How is this news?!

I’d have a lot less trouble taking journalism seriously if it stopped putting idiotic things in my newspaper:

BERLIN (Reuters) — Two German women complaining on office e-mail about their partners’ poor sex drive found the details of their private lives broadcast to thousands after one of them hit the wrong button, Bild newspaper reported Saturday.

“Everyone stares at us now and whispers behind our backs,” Anica G., a 21-year-old worker at the Federal Labour Office, told Bild.

The e-mails between Anica and colleague Christina S., with descriptions on how the women try but fail to arouse their partners, were first sent by accident to other colleagues in their department at the labour office.

They were then forwarded to thousands throughout the office and other government agencies and widely distributed across Germany.

That’s the story in its entirety. Private e-mail ends up suddenly public; two unknown and pseudonymous individuals suffer red faces as a result. Goddamn film at friggin’ 11. I know it’s a slow news day, and that it’s been a slow news cycle, but couldn’t you have filled that space with, I dunno, an ad?

This is a security system?

I locked myself out of my online banking application the other day, the result of having flunked its “are you really you” verification system twice. It was asking me, after having punched in my giant bank card number and my password, what my favorite author was. You know why it does this, of course. But I was thinking that it might be kind of pointless.

The challenge-response system of security is great as an additional level, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably the weakest part of the system. Weirdly my banking password is stronger than any of the challenge-replies I could think of, inasmuch that it would be much harder to break my password than break any of the challenges. If you could guess my password, the odds are really good you could guess the answer to any challenge-response system out there on the Internet. Obviously this is entirely dependent on you knowing me, but consider the number of people in the world who know

  • your mother’s maiden name…
  • what your first pet’s name was…
  • who your favorite sports team is…
  • where you were born…
  • what year you graduated from high school…
  • what your first job was…

… among many others. OK, so the list is basically confined to your mom and your spouse and maybe some other family members, but the point is still the same: this kind of attack is trivial if you know anything about the person who owns the account you’re trying to compromise. And you may only need to know one of those things, depending on how broken the system is. Arguably, the dumber you are, the easier it is (though in fairness it should be pointed out that this kind of system may or may not have played a role in the break, not that this excuses anything).

There’s an obvious fix for this — let users craft their own questions — but I’m not sure why it isn’t more widely deployed.

And why did I manage to lock myself out? Because I couldn’t remember who my favorite author was. Was it author C, who’s been on my mind a lot lately? Was it author O, who I used to like a lot and haven’t read much of lately (okay, she’s dead and I’ve read everything)? Was it author F, who I use when I’m trying to sound smart and sophisticated (what, was I trying to impress the security robot)? Was the answer case-sensitive?

I never found out. The bank gave me two strikes; I blew it both times, and that was it.