Resolving Timeline Issues

Archive for August 2008

Two things to ponder this Labour Day Weekend:

1. New Orleans is Sinking…again

Hurricane Gustav is projected to make landfall tomorrow morning as a Category 4 Hurricane.

Folks, almost exactly three years ago Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as a Category 3.

Can’t these people just catch a fucking break?

2. Bree Van de Kamp Hodge – I mean, Sarah Palin

I was sitting in my parents’ living room, minding my own business, when Mom flipped the TV to CBC Newsworld. They announced the presumptive Republican Presidential Candidate had picked someone named Sarah Palin as his running-mate.

Oh, I thought to myself. A woman; I wonder who she is? Hm, probably just trying to grab those PUMAs who are now voting republican because Hillary didn’t win. (yes, I think semi-colons sometimes).

So I fired up my laptop, got into dad’s wireless and asked Google who this mystery woman was.

And was promptly scared out of my skin.

I wrote earlier how I was, at the end of the day, disappointed that Hillary Clinton didn’t win – at some fundamental level, I really hoped a woman would become President. Vice-President then? It would have been bad for Obama’s legitimacy to have her as a running mate, so okay.

But Sarah Palin scares the bejeezus out of me. She is, in my (not-so) humble opinion, the kind of Republican that gives Republicans a bad name. She seems to be the Bree Van de Kamp Hodge of Alaska (read: Republican, member of the NRA, and a story on the DailyKos reads like a story from Desperate Housewives)

The MOMocrats have a good primer on Governor Palin. I’m going to leave aside the environmental concerns and the tax issues. What alarms me is the “pro-life” moniker.

Lets just get something straight: the debate on abortion is between “pro-life” and “pro-choice”; I imagine there are very few people out there who are “pro-abortion.” And if you are pro-life, great. The world needs people like you. But your values are not my values – and I value having the choice that cases like Roe v. Wade have given.

Governor Palin’s version of pro-life is to be anti-abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.

So lets get this straight: a teenager is raped, becomes pregnant and is forced to have the child and make a decision whether to give the child up for adoption or raise it herself.

Sure, there’s a choice there – a life altering choice no teenager should have to make. And you’ve put two lives in danger.

Or a pregnant woman with severe pre-eclampsia is admitted to hospital after fighting for a long time just to get pregnant. The doctors can’t control it and if they don’t terminate, the lives of the babies and the mother will be lost. One of the babies has already died, the other is struggling, and the mother is in severe danger. Take away the choice to terminate and you end up with three deaths instead of two.

On the flipside, there’s the whole issue of choice. Many women have fought long and hard to be seen as equals/near-equals to men when it comes to governing their own bodies. And it is a quick slippery slope down to reverting to a time when women had no choice.

So think about it: do you value your “fundamental freedoms” (i.e. choice) more than you value the right to life?

But she’s only set up for the Vice-Presidency. She’s basically an advisor, say those who may not agree with me.

Well, yes. And no. John McCain is 72 with a history of health problems including being in remission for cancer. If anything happens to him, she’s the one in power. She sets the agenda (*gulp*).

Are you willing to have your right to choose – not just over your own body, but over everything that women have engaged in a hard-fought, long campaign for? Are you willing to run that risk?

As Hillary Clinton said, its about policy, not personality. But its also about values. Policy, at the end of the day is about the collective values of a society. Again, those come back to democracy. The fundamental tenet of democracy is about choice: to vote (or not); to pick between candidates; to choose different candidates for different bodies.

The pursuit of happiness is vested in choice.

And those values that take away choice are simply not acceptable in a democratic country.

This post is related to the MOMocrats‘ “Palin in Comparison” series, which starts tomorrow. Go over there to read.

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over him.

I took a break from cutting down a rather large box, to watch part of the Democratic Nomination process. I knew what was going to happen: at some point, someone would move to suspend the rules of the convention and nominate Barack Obama by acclamation.

Then California passed. I was madly twittering about this, trying to figure it out when Julie over at the MOMocrats posted the reason: because they didn’t want to skew the votes so that everyone would have the opportunity to have their votes count – a largely symbolic thing, but symbols matter. They often matter more than people realize. But that’s a subject for another post.

I went back to my box cutting. And Illinois passed. I madly twittered about this to no response.

And then a funny thing happened. When they got to New Mexico, Obama had just over 1500 votes. And New Mexico yielded the floor to Illinois. And the cameras panned to Hillary Clinton coming in. I dropped the knife I was using and came over to the TV. And I started welling up.

Illinois yielded to New York. And when New York had its moment, Senator Clinton made the motion of her life:

“With eyes firmly fixed on the future in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and country, let’s declare together in one voice, right here and right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president,” Mrs. Clinton said.

“I move that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”

(Quote published in The New York Times)

And then my tears really started streaming. Hope and joy…and a bit of disappointment. And I finally understood Joanne over at PunditMom, who’s been having a hard time with Senator Clinton not winning. To be blunt, I finally get that for a lot of people, the choice between two men is often the choice of the lesser of two evils.

I think it was sometime around the age of 8 or 9, I asked my Mom, “Why are all the Presidents men?” I don’t remember what she said, but I remember not being satisfied – thinking there was something fundamentally WRONG with the fact that no woman had ever been leader of the United States (or Canada) for that matter. That formed some sort of basis in me: that women have good ideas, are equal, and deserve political, economic and social equality and equity.

And although I like Senator Obama – I like him a lot – on some fundamental level, I was really looking forward to having a woman in the most powerful post in the world.

Not. This. Time. And Senator Clinton’s motion for acclamation made it real. It was the best thing she could do for the sake of the party: a call for all Democrats to come together, right now, over Barack Obama.

Then the “ayes” came – one unified voice behind the Democratic Candidate for President. And the power of that

Democracy, at its base, is the will of the many. Although I cannot vote in the US elections, I would encourage my neighbours to the south to think about the good of the many before they vote – whatever your personal status, look at your neighbours, your towns. Then think about it.

Then vote. And even if voting for the good of the many means for voting for the lesser of the two evils for you personally, consider it. Come together.

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Friday after work we went and bought a new TV. Happy birthday, Darren. Its lovely. Getting it here was sort of difficult.

We paid for delivery so that it would be delivered to our house on Saturday.

So Saturday while I was at work, Darren played musical televisions (bedroom TV to the den, living room tv to the bedroom).

By 9pm the TV hadn’t arrived so we trucked off to our neighbour’s housewarming party where we met her (Republican) friends. I was well behaved, they were well behaved and there was wine.

On Sunday, Darren phoned Visions, where we bought the TV.

The service manager HIMSELF put the TV, speakers and TV stand in his OWN PERSONAL VEHICLE and drove it out HIMSELF from Burnaby to Maple Ridge.

Yowza. Shop Visions, people.

Over the weekend it hit almost 40 degrees out here. It was really hot.

On Monday, the winds picked up, blowing all over the place.

On Tuesday morning, there was only a little wind and it was substantially cooler. At about 11:30am, a fire started in my townhouse complex.

The flames were 50 feet high – high enough for the fire fighters to see from the fire station. They were on their way even before the emergency calls went in.

Two units are gutted. A third has smoke and water damage. That third unit is directly across from us.



If it hadn’t cooled off…

If the winds hadn’t quit…

If the flames hadn’t been that high…

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  • In: 42 | WTF?
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Step 1: go to the gym at lunch. Work harder than you have in weeks. Perhaps months. Shower and change.

Step 2: get back to the office. Pick up voicemail from neighbour that says, “There was a HUGE fire at the townhouse complex today, but your unit is JUST FINE.” Think, “Oh. My. I should phone Darren” and “Well, neighbour is more Type A than myself and is prone to hyperbole.”

Step 3: Phone Darren. Tell him about fire and that you’ll try to hop an earlier train. Attempt not to hyperventilate. Phone insurance company that called you on the 16th to remind you that your house insurance expires on August 23. Give them credit card number. Attempt not to hyperventilate.

Step 4: Negotiate usage of banked overtime with boss’ boss because the manager is in the bathroom. Do this without hyperventilating. Tell last remaining coworker you need to leave early because of, oh, FIRE; coworker notices you are beet red. Hop bus to train, hop train. Answer Darren’s phone call (who is now home) saying our unit is fine, but two of the three units across the way are badly damaged and a third has smoke and water damage. Attempt not to hyperventilate. Notice the air circulation and air con on the train has gone out. Phone Darren two stops before mine for a ride.

Step 5: Debark, hop in car, and drive home. Park 2 blocks away because entrance to complex is blocked by a firetruck (and firemen, of course – which is always nice, and there was even a lady fireperson for the boys) and the restoration people. Notice that 2 of the 3 damaged units are COMPLETELY GUTTED.

Step 6: Notice neighbours have set up outdoor bar. Help self liberally to wine. Order pizza. Eat. Join neighbours again at outdoor bar. Watch firemen looking for hotspots. Inform firemen who remain that if they need the bathroom your door is open.

And if you want some video, it made the local news here.

I think I may go in late to work tomorrow.

Vision two weeks ago today: 20/600

Vision last Tuesday (5 days post-op): 20/30

Vision today (2 weeks post-op): 20/20

So I am having a beer.


On Thursday, when I went into surgery, my lense prescription was about 20/600 (-4.75 diopters).

On Tuesday, when I went in to have the temporary contact bandages removed, my vision was 20/30.

And its just gotten better every day. Unfortunately, for the state of California, it hasn’t.

See, a couple of weeks ago, the Governator wanted to cut all public servants in the state of California back to $6.55 an hour. There are a bunch of problems with this, which you can read about here and more recently, here.

That last post is from Cynematic who interviewed the state comptroller (or is that controller in the US?), who told her he couldn’t violate the Fair Labor Act. Great.

But there’s a bigger problem, which Darren spoke of and I put in a comment on the MOMocrats (who are divine, goregous and brilliant):

I get the legal/social side of this, but uber-geek Darren has another perspective on this.

Apparently there’s an article on Infoworld ( about it.

What it boils down to: the State of California’s system is based off an ancient programming language called COBOL. Back around the turn of the century, most states got rid of their COBOL programmers – who have moved on to bigger and better things.

The result is that any changes, including changing pay rates for people, have to be entered manually rather than through the programming – because nobody programs in COBOL anymore. Now, if someone goes up a pay grade or whatever, fine – that’s just one person.

But the entire California public service? HA!

From the article: According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, Chiang testified before the state Senate Committee on Governmental Organization that the software updates needed to facilitate the 200,000 cuts would take at least 6 months. Furthermore, Chiang said, when the pay cuts are eventually reversed, rolling back the changes and delivering back pay to those workers would take another 9 to 10 months.

The option, of course, is to contract out the COBOL programming. Which would probably exceed the savings since its damn near impossible to find a COBOL programmer these days.

The SacBee article is here:

Yes, I ROFL’d. Lack of foresight in government – NEVER. 🙂 (and I am a public servant)

Of course, there is a plan to modernize the system – which due to delays is now at a cost of $177 million.

Makes you wonder – is California just the tip of the iceberg? Darren’s rumours from the info/tech sector say New York, Philidelphia and Texas are all on the line because of this too.


And although I scooped Cynematic on this, she doesn’t seem too upset by it. 🙂

The problem is, any changes involve large amounts of money. Any non-changes also involve large amounts of money. As it stands, California can:

  1. Bring COBOL programmers out of retirement/bribe them to come back (at considerable cost) to do all the reprogramming; or
  2. Enter changes manually and fuck over public servants for the next 18 months; or
  3. Bring COBOL programmers out of the retirement/bribe them to come back (at considerable cost) to train existing employees to program existing databases; or
  4. Start the migration to a new system which will involve considerable costs in terms of programming, retraining, and ultimately screw over public servants for awhile. Hence the $177 million pricetag.

And Canadians, don’t think we’re immune. COBOL was invented in 1959 and popularized in the 1960s and the 1970s. A lot of agencies and organizations use it to manage various systems. And nobody programs in COBOL any more.

Migrations are problematic. What you have to do, according to Darren (who actually went a bit pale when he was telling me about this) is you have to set up a new, empty system while you’re still running the old one. Then you have to get a program to translate the old data into a format the new system can understand. Then you migrate it and lock the old system so its read only. Its not reasonable to have two live, parallel systems because people will make changes in both and then they won’t match up.

BUT (and this is the big one where technology and sociology collide), you haven’t trained anyone on the new system because you can’t until its live.

So you bring in people to train the people (accountants, human resources, purchasers, etc.) so that the new system can be used. And people might get their paycheques on time.

There’s a term in the technology sector for this: clusterfuck.

So, if you know COBOL or are otherwise a legacy systems archaeologist, the state of California may be interested in talking to you.

Cross-posted at Wet Coast Women.

And not just because the rain is gone from Vancouver – in fact, it is. Its brilliant, and warm out.

No, the reason I can see (almost) clearly now is because of the laser surgery. There’s still a slight bit of blurring, but I think that’s more because I’ve had to wear temporary contact bandages for the last 4 days, and like any contact lenses they’re getting a bit foggy despite the 80 different kinds of eyedrops I’m putting in a billion times a day.

And now, detailed reminiscing of the last 4 days (below the fold for those who really want to know how it works):

BEFORE YOU READ THIS: there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour here. Overall, it was an awesome experience (probably because of the ativan).

Read the rest of this entry »

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I had my eyes lasered on Thursday. Things are rather blurry and will be until Tuesday when I get these temporary lenses out.

August 2008


Places you should visit and things to click on

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