The town in which I live

I’ve gone so far as to look up the difference between a city and a town, and the Wikipedia entry for City unhelpfully states, “there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings.”

Would a population of 83,000 make one think of a city? Perhaps, but I don’t think I live in a city. Look at today’s front page:

0728_newspaper

Aretha Franklin is performing in Lewiston, New York tomorrow but she stayed here last night. She went to Johnny Rockets and was told that since she ordered her meal to go, she couldn’t sit in the seats provided for those who ordered an eat-in meal. Of course it’s completely silly. The restaurant is falling all over themselves to apologize, to the point where the restaurant CEO hopped aboard a plane to come and personally take care of damage control. The employee is 15 years old and she’s been on the job for just a week, so she can probably start looking elsewhere for work.

Still, this kind of stuff happens everywhere all the time. The only reason it’s news this time is it happened to a celebrity. But here, it’s front page, above the fold news because it’s the biggest news in town!

See what I mean?

Posted in celebrities, customer service, me | Leave a comment

Destiny beta, complete

My progress after five days of fun.

My progress after five days of fun.

Ah, good times. The only problem is that with all good times…namely, they must come to an end. Bungie shut down the servers and they’re off to make things better for the Destiny release on September 9. I can hardly complain as they opened the beta to the Xbox players six hours early, and kept it going a day longer than planned.

So far, I’m quite pleased. I didn’t come into this pleased as it seems that the PlayStation 4 is getting all the perks and advantages. I’m sure they have their reasons, but it makes me feel like a steerage passenger, you know? Despite that, I’m feeling positive about Destiny.

It’s definitely not Halo, but its pedigree is obvious. It’s different but also comfortable. I’m hoping this impression carries over to the release version of the game.

One thing I am not impressed about is that even though the game is available for the newest generation consoles, the Xbox One and the PS 4, and the previous generation consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PS 3, but no multiplayer gaming is allowed between console generations. I wouldn’t normally care, but the two people with which I want to play are still using the Xbox 360. I’d feel silly buying a game for the 360 because I have a better console now, and I also would feel silly not playing with them because I bought the version for the Xbox One. And before you suggest it, I’ll also feel silly if I buy both! Happily, this is a very first-world problem.

So here’s to a quick arrival of September 9!

Posted in games, me | Leave a comment

That word ‘ever’

I was watching The National last night and one of the stories was about air safety. With the July 24 crash of Air Algerie Flight AH5017, the July 17 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, it’s been a bad year for air safety. The story really got my attention when the reporter, Peter Armstrong, said that 2013 had the lowest number of air passenger fatalities ever. Ever! 

Even if you ignore all the years before commercial air travel, what about the early years of passenger service in which the number of fliers were so few as compared to today? He specified no start date, so were there fewer fatalities last year than in 1919 when Aircraft Transport and Travel started flying military biplanes modified to carry two passengers each between London and Paris?

It could be that last year was the safest year on record in terms of the number of fatal commercial airline crashes per people/miles flown. Wikipedia claims that the worst year by that reckoning was 1929. During that year there were 51 fatal commercial airline crashes killing a total of 61 people. Figuring in the distance, it works out to one fatal crash for every 1,000,000 miles flown. With today’s volume of air travel, an equivalent rate would mean 7,000 crashes annually! And do note that the 61 fatalities from 1929 is fewer than the 210 fatalities from 2013.

Maybe this is what Armstrong meant, but it is certainly not what he said. Come on CBC, you’re better than this.

I sent a query to the show about this. If I hear back, so will you.

Posted in numbers, transportation | Leave a comment

Destiny test

After a day and a quarter. Three to go.

My progress after a day and a quarter. Three to go.

Bungie’s much anticipated game, Destiny, is in the midst of a public beta. For the Xbox, it started Tuesday evening and ends on Saturday. To be a part of it, you have to pre-order the game.

So far? It’s really good. Remember that this is merely a test, so the available missions, one’s progression, and the available maps are all very limited. It’s funny because I approached this game with more than a small amount of trepidation. I’ve been looking forward to both Destiny and Titan Fall. Happily, Titan Fall had an open beta that didn’t require pre-ordering the game. Happily because, to my great surprise, I didn’t like it at all. I like multiplayer just fine, but when there are no single player missions, and the whole game is based on death match playing, it’s not a game for me. Like Titan Fall, Destiny is entirely on-line, but there are still missions, and you can complete them yourself, or co-operatively with others. There is a death match portion, but it’s entirely separate.

Like Cortana in Halo, Destiny provides you with a disembodied electronic companion. For hours, the voice sounded familiar despite it being obviously electronically manipulated. Then it hit me. It’s Peter Dinklage! As good as he is, I dearly miss Jen Taylor.

I’m stuck at level 8 because they’ve limited progress for the beta, and without progress, the appeal is somewhat diminished, but I’m looking very forward to the Destiny release on September 9.

Posted in games, me | Leave a comment

Nurses, MPs, and money

I had a bit of an adventure this afternoon. It started with the graphic you see below, shared on Facebook by someone I know here in town.

From a fairness point of view, all else being equal, it doesn’t leave me with a good feeling. Of course all else is not equal, but politicians lead us, and they should act like leaders. The situation as depicted in the graphic doesn’t put the politicians is a good light. And make no mistake, they control the light.

Looking purely at the numbers, it’s difficult to compare only percentages. There are 308 MPs in the Canadian House of Commons. Multiple sources on the web indicated that their 2013 salary was $160,200. An 11% increase is $17,622, bringing their salaries to $177,822, each. Multiplying the increase by number of MPs brings to total cost of their raise to $5,427,576. Turning my attention to nurses, the Ontario Nurses’ Association has a table in their FAQ that lists their 2011 and 2013 salaries based on their seniority. To keep things simple, I took a starting RN’s pay for 2013 ($58,831.50) and calculated that an 11% increase would be $6471.47. According to the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario, there were 127,611 nurses in Ontario in 2012. Multiplying the 11% increase by the number of nurses give us a minimum of $825,830,758.17. Coincidentally, the provincial government just released their budget, and the total amount the province will spend is $130.4 billion dollars. Deserving or not, it’s no surprise that the province isn’t rushing to spend more than one half of one percent of the entire budget on nurse raises. Not salaries, but only raises!

At that point I paused. I wanted some other confirmation of this 11% figure. My search took me to a Huffington Post article, “How Much Do Canadian MPs And Senators Make?” This article corroborated the $160,200 salary figure for 2013, but it claimed that their increase was 2.2% meaning their current salary is $163,700. What’s going on here? I looked at the graphic again and things started to fall into place. Notice how close the MPs are? That’s because they’re sitting on a bench seat. In Canada, MPs have chairs, while in the U.K., MPs sit on long leather-upholstered benches.

The graphic is telling us the situation in the U.K. and has nothing at all to do with Canada. So if Canadian MPs received a 2.2% salary increase this year, how did Ontario nurses do? The best information I could find was the FAQ from the Ontario Nurses’ Association. It’s already a year out of date, and it compares nurse salaries from 2011 and 2013. Still, it’s the best info I have so it’ll have to do. Here’s the table:

0715_nurse_salaries

I ran the numbers and the increase between 2011 and 2013 ranges from 2.736% to 2.764%. The thing is, the starting salary for example, increases from $57,252 to $58,831.50, which is 2.758%. But if a nurse starts at $57,252 in 2011, by the time 2013 rolls around, she’ll have risen to the 2 year 2013 salary amount, which is $60,684. That’s a two-year increase of 5.995%. Because of this, the two-year increases vary between 2.758% for those nurses with between 10 and 24 years of experience in 2013, and 15.686% for nurses with 8 years of experience in 2013.

Are Ontario nurses being treated as shabbily as the graphic would have us believe? I don’t know because the Ontario Nurses’ Association hasn’t updated their FAQ. Comparing MP salary increase this year and nurses salaries between 2011 and 2013, some nurses are doing a little worse than MPs, some nurses are doing better, and a small number of nurses are doing much better. Looking back at MP increases, the nurses did far better. Last year the MP salary increase was 1.6 %. In each of the three years before that, the MPs received no increase at all.

Where does this leave us? It leaves me understanding that one must sometime dig a little when presented with information.

Posted in money, politics, propaganda | 3 Responses

Antenna adventure

20140712-101555 5D3 4M6C2822.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 70-200mm 1:4L IS @ 70mm, 1/640, f/4, 100 ISO

My antennas, Mk. IV

I’m finally moving toward free television, again. The setup you see here is the fourth configuration I’ve tried here, and it’s still not right. Over-the-air television reception seems more art than science, with a generous dose of trial and error.

Previous to what you see here, things were dead-simple. I had a single antenna, which is the bottom one in the photo. It’s pointed directly at the Toronto transmitters, which are 68 kilometres away. I also want to receive the Buffalo stations, but those vary between 14 and 62 kilometres distant. Because most of them are very close, I was hoping to receive them despite the antennas not being aimed at them. In fact, they’re located between 120º and 150º off axis. The results vindicated my plan. The signals were easily strong enough, but the strength wasn’t the problem. I believe there was a multipath issue because without exception, the Buffalo stations were strong, but suffered a signal drop off every few seconds.

What you see here is my answer to this problem. The big antenna is taking care of Toronto, and a smaller antenna attends to Buffalo. It was a good idea, but it brought another problem. The second antenna made short work of the Buffalo stations, resulting in a signal strength and stability I’ve never seen before. The problem is that the smaller antenna receives enough of the Toronto signals to interfere with those signals from the other antenna. I believe it’s a phasing issue in which one signal subtracts from the other, resulting in a far weaker signal. I believe that there are two significant causes. One is that I combined the signals from both antennas and brought them into the house on the same cable. This allows them to interact with each other, in either good or bad ways. The other is that the antennas are different. When combining signals, the general rule is the antennas should be the same.

There are two remedies I can try. I can replace the big antenna with a twin of the smaller one. This could clear up the problem but I really doubt it will. My reasoning is that the big antenna, a ChannelMaster 4228, is simply a melding of two of the smaller antenna, a ChannelMaster 4221, side-by-side. The other option is to separate the signals. If I bring in the signals from each antenna on a separate cable, the signals can’t interfere with each other. I know the Toronto signals can come in just fine, because they did before I added the second antenna. I already have the cable, but I do need another signal pre-amplifier. The Toronto signals are weak to begin with, and tuner is at the other end of a 20 metre co-ax cable. A pre-amp is required to the tune of another $70.

I started pursuing over-the-air reception when I lived in Ottawa because of my absolute loathing of cable television and the companies that offer it. The loathing is still there, but I’m even more eager now because of the plethora of available stations around here. This is what I can expect to get when I’ve got everything just so:

2.1 – NBC, Buffalo
2.2 – Weather Nation
2.3 – Retro TV
4.1 – CBS, Buffalo
5.1 – CBC, Toronto
7.1 – ABC, Buffalo
9.1 – CTV, Toronto
11.1 – CHCH, Hamilton
17.1 – PBS HD, Buffalo
17.2 – PBS Think Bright
19.1 – TV Ontario
23.1 – CW Network
23.2 – Bounce TV
25.1 – CBC French, Toronto
26.1 – Trinity Broadcast, Jamestown
26.2 – Trinity Broadcast, Jamestown
26.3 – Trinity Broadcast, Jamestown
29.1 – FOX, Buffalo
29.2 – ZUUS Country Music Videos
35.1 – CTV Two, Hamilton
36.1 – CTS, Hamilton
40.1 – OMNI 2, Toronto
41.1 – Global HD, Toronto
47.1 – OMNI 1, Toronto
49.1 – The WB
51.1 – ION, Batavia
51.2 – QUBO Kids, Batavia
51.3 – ION Lifestyle, Batavia
51.4 – ISHOP Network
51.5 – QVC Televised Shopping
51.6 – Home Shopping Network
57.1 – CITY TV, Toronto
67.1 – ME TV
67.2 – THIS TV
67.3 – ME TV
67.4 – Daystar TV, Religion

Frankly, much of that lineup is of little interest to me. The shopping, kids, weather, religion, French, and country music stations will likely not make it to my final line up. Still, all the major networks are there, and the monthly costs are exactly $0. To me, the loss of the cable speciality channels more than makes up for not having to pay the monthly fee for cable.

Posted in me, television | 6 Responses

1741

That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.

Emily Dickinson
From Poem Number 1741

Posted in poems, quotes | Leave a comment

The SCoC, and then more

The week before last, on June 13, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a ruling that took me completely by surprise.

The case involved Matthew David Spencer. Police saw him downloading child pornography, though they didn’t know it was him. All they knew was the IP address from which the files were downloaded. They traced the address and went to the ISP to whom it belonged and did what they’ve done so many times in recent years. They simply asked the ISP for the name and the street address of the person who was using the IP address when they saw the child pornography being downloaded. No harm, right? The police simply asked, to save time. If the ISP refused, they’d go through channels to get a warrant. If the ISP co-operated, they’d save the time and trouble of getting a warrant.

The ISP did co-operate without a warrant, and as a consequence, police arrested Spencer and the court convicted him. The ISP’s simply handing over his name and address didn’t sit well with him so Spencer appealed his judgement. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal affirmed his conviction stating that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for basic subscriber information. Spencer took it to the Supreme Court of Canada and they ruled unanimously in his favour, which has enormous implications for all of us. I have no doubt that Spencer is disappointed because the Court let his conviction stand, stating that the police acted in good faith, and justice would not be served if they reversed the decision.

According to Michael Geist’s post, “Supreme Court Delivers Huge Victory for Internet Privacy & Blows Away Gov’t Plans for Reform,” the Court stated,

in the totality of the circumstances of this case, there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the subscriber information. The disclosure of this information will often amount to the identification of a user with intimate or sensitive activities being carried out online, usually on the understanding that these activities would be anonymous. A request by a police officer that an ISP voluntarily disclose such information amounts to a search.

The point being that a police search without a warrant is a definite no-no, and one does have a reasonable expectation of anonymity going about their business on the Internet. Because that expectation is entirely short-circuited by an ISP connecting an IP address with a user on request, police require a warrant. This flies in the face of what law enforcement and the Conservative government have been telling us. They’ve stated that subscriber information is not in any way private, and therefore should be available on request, if the ISP co-operates.

The timing of this Supreme Court decision is fortuitous. Not only has the Conservative government been telling us that police should have easy access to this information, but they have two bills they seem desperate to see made laws: Bill C-13, which is intended to crack down on cyberbullying, and Bill S-4, to be known as the digital privacy act. In particular, bill C-13 would make it legal for companies to release customer information to police or government representatives simply for the asking, and protect those companies from any legal reprisal. Clearly, the Supreme Court decision states this is unconstitutional.

So given that their two bills are in a shambles, what does the Government plan to do? They seem to plan to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision. Minister of Justice, Peter MacKay, said,

The Supreme Court’s decision actually confirms what the government has said all along, that Bill C-13′s proposals regarding voluntary disclosures do not provide legal authority for access to information without a warrant.

Yet bill c-13 states,

487.0195 (1) For greater certainty, no preservation demand, preservation order or production order is necessary for a peace officer or public officer to ask a person to voluntarily preserve data that the person is not prohibited by law from preserving or to voluntarily provide a document to the officer that the person is not prohibited by law from disclosing.

(2) A person who preserves data or provides a document in those circumstances does not incur any criminal or civil liability for doing so.

It is true that ‘the person’ in question here is under no legal obligation to provide the information, but this is certainly splitting hairs. Telecom companies currently do provide this information on a vast scale. Legislating that they are able to do so without liability will only encourage them to do so more freely. And further, the current law states that this information may be requested by a

peace officer or public officer enforcing or administering this or any other Act of Parliament

In other words, police may request this type of information for the benefit of a police investigation of violation of the Criminal Code or any other federal law. Bill C-13 removes this stipulation entirely.

The government is wasting their time and your money by pushing ahead with legislation that will, if passed, be struck down the first time it is challenged on constitutional grounds. Why? I really don’t know. Certainly Prime Minister Harper is accustomed to getting his way, and he doesn’t react well when he is denied. Make no mistake, in this case, he will be denied.

The Supreme Court is not the only dissenting voice. Earlier this week, Forum Research released the results of a poll detailing how Canadians feel about Bill C-13. According to Techvibes,

The poll shows that 73% of Canadians oppose C-13, with just 15% approving a ratio of nearly 5 to 1.

and,

opposition spans every age group and is strongest among 18-34 year olds (78%) and 55-64 year olds (74%).

Harper will find no support among his own, either. Openmedia.ca reports,

Notably, the poll reveals that just 24% of Conservative voters support the bill, with 62% opposing it.

It’s time for the Conservatives to put these two bills to bed. They’re past being stubborn about it, having clearly shown that whatever agenda they’re working on has nothing to do with protecting Canadians.

Posted in crime, Internet, law, privacy, rights | Leave a comment

Connected hot tub

Yea, you know what? I have no idea.20140605-113542 5D3 IMG_0472.jpg: iPhone5s, back camera @ 4.12mm, 1/3700, f/2.2, 32 ISO

It makes no sense. Why would you want your hot tub to be a wi-fi hotspot? The amount of extra money you’d pay for that would certainly be far more than simply buying a general purpose wireless router that you could simply configure as an access point. You could even use it apart from the hot tub and move it anywhere you want. Imagine!

So like I said, I have no idea.

Update

This seemed so silly that I had to look further into it.

This wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last, that I completely misunderstood. The hot tub doesn’t serve as an access point. Rather, it’s a wi-fi client connected to your existing wireless network. The benefit of this is that you can use your phone or tablet to ‘configure’ the hot tub. Do you want to crank up the water temperature and turn the pumps on from the comfort of your chair? No problem!

What I find completely bizarre is that one particular manufacturer believe that when they list “wi-fi connectivity” on the spec sheet, you’ll know exactly what it means. Indeed, that’s all they say about it on their web site. You have to read the product manual to understand what it really means.

It still seems ridiculous, but at least it makes sense.

Posted in electronics, Internet, silliness | 2 Responses

See? Sex isn’t so great

Of all escapes from reality, mathematics is the most successful ever… All other escapes—sex, drugs, hobbies, whatever—are ephemeral by comparison.

Gian-Carlo Rota (1932-1999), mathematician
Quoted from: Edward Dolnick, The Clockwork Universe, 2011

Posted in quotes, science | Leave a comment