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4th January 2017

5:46pm: Dumb user experience
I seem to have become curmudgeonly as I age... (become curmudgeonly?)

I'm annoyed with Staples, the office supplies and copy/print place. A couple of weeks back, I was looking for a specific organizing calendar, by request from a friend of mine. This calendar apparently comes in three different variants; I'd found two but wanted the third.

There is a big fancy customer-usable screen/keyboard/mouse setup by the cash registers, inviting one to search for stuff that could be bought. Fancy splash screen, bright red design, kinda cool looking. Neat!

I walked up to it and pressed the Enter key on the keyboard. Nothing happened. Did it again, same result. Waggled the mouse, nada. Waggled further, further nothing.

Well, it turns out that the screen is a touch screen. One must poke the screen to get any sort of response from the system. Seems counter-intuitive to me; shouldn't a user action get some sort of response from a system that is designed to attract user action?

Anyway, got to the search screen.

So I tried to look up the calendar. The system claimed that one of the two calendars that I had in my hand was the only one that existed. The other that I had in my hand, and the other (that was shown on the fancy in-store display) did not appear.

So I went and found a Staples employee, who went and looked in the back to see if they had any of the one that I wanted. Seems to me that the customer-usable computer should have made that step unnecessary, allowing the employee to do other things.

And then...

I tried to place an order for business cards at a Staples store last week, and it was a disaster. The person at the counter was pleasant though not terribly knowledgeable, but the process was ridiculous. We had to switch back and forth from one computer to another (bolted down on opposite ends of the counter) to see pricing, find options, and be able to upload my design. I was quoted one price (regular delivery) but attempted to be charged another (same day service, although same-day service was not available). Uploading my design from my USB stick to the computer in the store took several minutes (c'mon, folks, it's a two-colour business card) and had to be repeated every time we made a change or fixed an error, and to add insult to injury, Staples charges to allow me to supply my own design! After what seemed like forever but was likely only about 30 minutes, I gave up.

When I tried to do the whole thing at home on the Staples Copy and Print website, which by-the-way is not available from the Staples website, I was not able to upload my design. The Staples website requires Adobe Flash, which I do not use on my computer. More annoyingly, when I clicked on the "I can't see your Flash animation" (well, words to that effect) on the initial page, it took me to another page which displayed everything just fine, except that I needed Flash to be able to upload my design to their system. And they would then charge me extra to use my own design.

By comparison, uploading to an online service and sorting out my details took under five minutes from deciding which provider to use to getting my receipt mailed to me. It took under ten seconds to upload my design on my home residential internet connection.

It seems to me that Staples is trying to minimize costs and maximize profits at the cost of customer satisfaction with the user experience.
Current Mood: cranky

12th January 2016

9:27pm: Grammar *can* change!
If people like my Grade 4 grammar teacher hadn't loused up peoples' perceptions of singular vs. plural vs. masculine vs. feminine vs. neither/both, they wouldn't have to write an article like this:


19th February 2014

12:05am: Well, *that* was an interesting weekend...
I'd pretty much recovered from my whatever-it-was, and was looking forward to a quiet evening at home. Heidi, her mother, my mother, and Heidi's sister Ellen were going to have a "Girls' Night Out" and have dinner together. My mother is just about to move to a retirement residence, and I think this was a sort of celebration of not having to cook any more.

Heidi went off to pick up my mom, and was then to pick up her mom, then the three would meet Ellen at the restaurant. My sister Judy and her two daughters had dropped by to visit, and were leaving when Heidi arrived. So far so good...

Then about 4:30 or so I got the first phone call: "Your mother slipped and fell on the ice, and seems to have hurt her leg. I'll let you know what happens."

Okay, if there's anything that can be done, Heidi can do it, no probs.

Then the second phone call: "It seems to hurt quite a lot, so we're going to the hospital."

Okay, I guess I'll pick her up at the emergency dept., I can handle that. There goes my thought of climbing into my jammies and an Ian Rankin novel.

Then: "The ambulance is here, we're off to the Civic."

Dang! Oh well, the book will keep. I called and let Heidi's mother know that Heidi and mom would likely not make it to dinner.

I made it to the Civic Hospital (well, the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital, but that's a lot like calling Hull "Gatineau"). Into Emerg (sorry, the Emergency Department), and spoke to a lovely woman who told me "Yes, follow the green dots, she's in Bed 18."

The green dots on the floor took me to the Observation area, and Bed 18 was easy to find; it was the one with my mother lying in it, with Heidi and my sister in attendance. There sure was something wrong with mom's ankle; the ambulance attendants/paramedics had splinted the ankle, the pain was bearable, but her right ankle was badly swollen. We settled into waiting to get x-rays done and a doctor to visit and stuff.

Eventually that stuff happened, and it was determined that mom had broken her ankle. My mother, not being one to do things by halves, broke her ankle in three places: where the tibia hooks into the talus, where the fibula hooks into the talus, and somewhere on the back of the ankle as well. This all makes the ankle completely unstable, and so screws and plates are required to hold everything together, and to put this stuff in means surgery.

So she got a splint, a sort of temporary cast (we got word today that she goes into surgery tomorrow morning to have some amount of hardware installed).

I made it home about 5. Saturday morning. For those of you in the know, you can see where that leads.

Saturday's Dates

Saturday was the second day of the Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, and I was doing sound for two events: Michael Occhipinti's Sicilian Jazz Project, and the John Abercrombie Quartet. The venue was the Library and Archives Canada theatre, a very good-sounding room that I've done zillions of shows in.

That meant picking up a complete sound system and getting it to the theatre and installed. My good friend and esteemed colleague Mike Kay had arranged to meet me at the rental shop at 10AM. Load-in was set for noon, sound checks were at 2-3 and 4-5PM, showtimes were 7 and 9PM, load-out afterwards.

The setup and sound checks were straightforward and uneventful, pleasant even, except for dealing with a bunch of minor equipment failures (and people wonder why I travel with a van full of spares (though none of the failures were my equipment :-) ). The shows, however...

The shows were magnificent! The Sicilian Jazz Project was fascinating, musically rich, and technically marvellous. And John Abercrombie and friends were obviously having such a good time that one couldn't help but be drawn into the fun. Both bands brought good music, great attitudes, and smiles to all involved.

My goodness I'm tired. But it was worth it.
Current Mood: jubilant

15th September 2013

11:18pm: Where can I send him?
A friend of mine is in a difficult situation at home (not physically dangerous, I think) and he's looking to get out. Any thoughts on places he could go for a few weeks or a month that are essentially free?

30th June 2013

2:16am: An intellecshul joke
Stolen from slate.com who lifted it from reddit.com:

“A biologist, a chemist, and a statistician are out hunting. The biologist shoots at a deer and misses 5ft to the left, the chemist takes a shot and misses 5ft to the right, and the statistician yells, ‘We got ‘im!’ ”

Why it’s funny: Because it’s mean.
Current Mood: amused

10th April 2012

11:55pm: For the gamers who might read this
You know who you are...

Image By Silver Oak Online Casinos

Edit:Fixed a busted tag.
Current Mood: mischievous

29th February 2012

10:01pm: On invisible disability and "passing".
Originally posted by full_metal_ox at On invisible disability and "passing".
Welcome todungeonwriter's neurotype issues:

Passing means being terrified to ask for help because you will have to identify yourself as disabled

Passing means people complimenting you for being so normal when you do disclose

Passing means taking that as a compliment, even if it hurts.

Passing means people will say vicious things in front of you and not understand why your laughter seems forced

Passing means having a terror you will regress and you will lose your wonderful passing privilege

Passing means people refusing to accommodate you because you’re just so normal

Passing means not fitting in in the disabled community or the mainstream community

Passing means feeling guilty because you can pass but feeling so very relieved when you see the freedom it gives you

Passing means pushing beyond your limits every single day, no matter what health problems it causes, because “you can beat it, damn it.”

Passing means that everyone calls you inspiring and begs to know how you were cured.

Passing means looking into the tearful eyes of parents who tell you they would happily die if their kid could be as “normal” as you and wishing you could help them see that there's so much they don't see

Passing means you are disabled and abelist at the same time.

Passing means disabled friends resent you for fitting in and abled friends wonder why you’re just so weird sometimes

Passing means that the friends who speaking of social change are doomed because society is so much stronger than anyone of us are

Passing means hiding your tears until you’re alone and exhausted and so burned out that you are literally shaking and lying on the floor

Passing means the mask cracking and you can feel the disappointment because you just couldn’t handle it anymore

Passing means trying 110% and not having anyone notice because it’s expected

Passing means being afraid to be the person you are.

Passing means not knowing who you are.

Passing means being who they want you to be.

Context unlocked and QWP.
Current Mood: contemplative

17th March 2011

7:12pm: A St. Patrick's Day memento
For those of you who haven't seen it, you really should:

A true Irish standard.

Current Mood: happy

5th October 2010

12:48am: Phone upgrade fail

I attempted to replace my aged, broken Motorola i530 with a shiny new iPhone 4. Did the paperwork, was told it should be almost instant to switch the phone, but might be as much as a half-hour because I was changing networks.

It's now seven and a half hours later, and they're now saying it might be as much as 72 hours.

Sigh. And Telus had been pretty good up 'til now.

Current Mood: annoyed

3rd May 2010

6:09pm: New foodstuffs
Heidi has just invented popsquash.
Current Mood: amused

20th April 2010

12:19am: Some thoughts on self-identification

...sparked by a friend's posting.

FWIW, I don't particularly care how a person identifies or presents him/her/themself.

Are you a decent human being? If so, dandy, we'll get on fine.

I don't mean to belittle folks; I realize that for many people, identifying oneself as gay/lesbian/bi/trans/red haired/left handed/protestant/aboriginal/whatever persuasion is an important part of one's identity.  But to me personally, it really doesn't matter.  I've met nice people and jerks of every gender/race/persuasion. (Here I'm using "persuasion" to mean most any physical or social attribute, whether congenital, imposed, or assumed.)

Am I curious about people?  Absolutely, it helps me treat people better. Does one's persuasion (of any sort) help define who one is? Of course; every experience that one has builds the person.

But *TO ME*, identifying oneself as a member of a particular group is just that: an identifier. It makes as much difference to my opinion of the person as does whether they ate the left half of their potato or the right half first.

I hope that makes sense.

Current Mood: thoughtful

24th February 2010

11:41pm: At rest
Today at 10AM was my father's funeral mass, followed by interment, followed by a reception.

Many thanks to all who came out, who sent condolences, who thought about us. It all helped immensely.
Current Mood: peaceful

21st February 2010

4:56pm: Sad news
Saturday, February 20, 2010, Maurice O'Heare passed away; my father, in his 88th year. He had fought Alzheimer's Disease, a number of small strokes, and a variety of other illnesses.

His last hours were peaceful, surrounded by family.

Our deep thanks go to the staff at Longfields Manor and at the General campus of the Ottawa Hospital; in particular to Angie, Jody, Claire, and Ali on the nursing staff and to Drs. Beck, Smith, and Kravcik.

Funeral visitation at Kelly's, 2313 Carling Avenue, Tuesday February 23 from 2-4PM and 7-9PM. Funeral at Our Lady of Fatima, 153 Woodroffe Avenue, on Wednesday, February 24 at 10AM.
Current Mood: peaceful

29th January 2010

8:46pm: Sentences you never hear spoken
In today's episode of Sentences You Never Hear Spoken1:

"Be careful, dear, there's a crumhorn on the stairs."  

Stay tuned for more episodes of Sentences You Never Hear Spoken

1 Actually, considering our friends, this is a sentence that might well be spoken, and often. Hmm.

27th December 2009

6:29pm: Dave Barry gets it right, again...
In his "Year in Review" column, he writes:

"The big health story in April is the rapid spread of swine flu, a dangerous new virus strain developed by the makers of Purell. "
Explains a lot to us...


Current Mood: satisfied

24th December 2009

8:56am: "Tis the Season
Merry Christmas, folks.

I mean, if you celebrate something else, have a happy one of those, but from my point of view -- Merry Christmas.

22nd December 2009

11:57am: Things that make you go "Hmm..."
On the way to work today, we spotted a vehicle covered in advertising for one of the local Yoga places. Not such a big deal, lots of places have vehicles associated with their businesses. But this was a full-sized pickup truck. What in the world would they need THAT for, I wonder? "Oh dear, Mrs. Thing tried the Padma Bhujangasana again. We'll load her into the truck and take her to the hospital, get her untied." (On an unrelated note, I'm going to try to update things here more often. Don't hold your breath.)
Current Mood: curious

2nd June 2009

2:14pm: Excitement, lessened
For those who were wondering:

  • Heidi's mom did have a small stroke. She was home later that afternoon (!), and is recovering very well. She has essentially no mobility or speech problems, and the doctor has said that her prognosis is very good. She can't drive for three months, though; that will put a bit of a crimp in their lifestyle.
  • The actor in the Oz play did not have a heart attack. It turned out to be a strained diaphragm muscle. He was back the next day, looking better than he had before, and is going to take a month off now that the festival is over.

And I'm nearly caught up on my sleep, I think.

Current Mood: cheerful

29th May 2009

11:13pm: Far too much excitement today
First, found that one of the actors in Oz was taken to hospital with chest pains and arm pain.

Then got word that Heidi's mom had had a stroke, and was in hospital.

Some time later, got word that the stroke wasn't completely debilitating. Shortly after that, got word that she was going home.

So, Heidi's mom is home. It was a small stroke, and prognosis is very good. She and Heidi's dad live in a seniors' apartment building, with nursing on-site and so forth.

I have had no word on the actor yet. It axed the play, though; a two-person cast doesn't work well with one person missing.

Current Mood: relieved

16th April 2009

8:26pm: Fantastic Fiction with Ursula K. LeGuin
For those who are interested in this sort of stuff, here's the info from the poster for the last night of the International Writers Festival here in Ottawa.

Disclaimer: I'm the technical guy/sound technician for the Festival



with Mike Carey, Jo Walton, and Kelley Armstrong
Saturday, May 2, 2009


6:00 PM - Fantastic Fiction: Mike Carey, Jo Walton and Kelley Armstrong on World Building

Mike Carey Jo Walton Kelley Armstrong
(Mike Carey photo by Lin Carey, Kelley Armstrong photo by Curtis Lantinga)

Three gifted storytellers delight in showing us worlds almost our own, each with a twist that transforms the mundane to the fantastic.
(Tickets $15)


8:00 PM - Global Encounters: An Evening with Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin by Marian Wood Kolisch
(Photo Copyright © by Marian Wood Kolisch)

We close the Spring Edition with one of the world’s undisputed literary masters. Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and National Book Awards and eighteen Locus Awards, she has inspired generations of readers. Don’t miss a rare appearance by one of America’s most profound thinkers and authors.
(Tickets $20)

Saint Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
314 Saint Patrick (at Cumberland)
Tickets and information: 613-562-1243 OR www.writersfestival.org

Current Mood: excited

27th January 2009

10:58pm: Hearing testing?

I'm about to go shopping for a hearing test, and am wondering what I ought to be asking for.  I intend to call up the doctors that do that sort of thing, and ask detailed questions.
I know that many, maybe most, tests simply check response in octaves, and don't test above 8kHz or below 250Hz (I think that's right). I'd like to know the correct names for the sorts of tests that go beyond those ranges and test with finer gradations.
I'd also like to know what other specific things I should ask about, and what sorts of things to avoid.
FWIW, I'm in Ontario in Canada, so I'm not quite as worried about HMOs and insurance stuff as I would be if I was in the US.
(And no, I'm not really worried about my hearing degrading.  Well, I do worry about it, but that's not why I'm looking for the info.  I just want to make sure that I'm still hearing as well as I think I am.)

9th January 2009

11:40pm: The new ride
Well, new to us, anyhow.

It's a 1988 (yep) Dodge Ram 150, V6, in astonishingly good shape.

More later, but the insurance company, Ottawa police, and all sorts of other people were terrific about the whole process of dealing with a stolen and damaged car.

The Ministry of Transportation, on the other hand, required me to provide an appraisal of the value of the vehicle before they would transfer the ownership. So I traded on a friend of a friend's generosity, and got his boss (at Import Auto on Merivale Road in Ottawa) to provide the appraisal (which requirement he called "ridiculous" -- I have other words).  Go buy some cars from them, okay?

I also had to fight with the person in the office to transfer the ownership when "the system" would not allow her to do so. She was trying to renew my plates using an emissions test that was going to expire before my birthday, instead of simply transferring the ownership to me. "The system won't let me do it." Not my problem -- certificate's good for a year, it's less than a year old, make it work.

Current Mood: tired

29th December 2008

11:44pm: Dave's missing gear
As I mentioned, our van was stolen on the morning of Christmas Eve. The van itself has been found, and is in an impound lot waiting for the insurance appraiser to look at it; the musical equipment that was in the van is all missing.

But being me, I have made a list of the equipment that is missing, with serial numbers when I have them (yes, I should have ALL the serial numbers, but I don't).

If you find any of this gear, please inform the Ottawa Police at 613–236–1222x7300, and refer to report #08–357933.

Musical equipment missing includes:

  • Targus laptop case with
    • Behringer MXB1002 mixer, with AC adapter, ser# N0213928122,
    • FMR RNC audio compressor, with AC adapter,,
    • Lexicon LXP-5, with AC adapter, ser# V1292-44861,
    • 4×dual 1/4" cables,
    • 2×1/4"-XLRm cables
  • Multi-Caisses Road Boss 4 rack case with
    • Marshall 8008 power amp with broken power switch,
    • Denon 2000F MkIII cd player,
    • Apex AMX61 mixer ser# 20044492;
  • 2×Yorkville speakers NX35;
  • 2×Yorkville speaker stands, in padded nylon carrying case;
  • 2×Plano pistol cases with:
    • Sennheiser Freeport handheld wireless mic sets ser# 1510410930 1510410805
  • 2×K&M model 252 microphone stands, in padded nylon carrying case
  • Flambeau 3501 fishing tackle box with audio adapters:
    • 4×XLRm gender changers,
    • 4×XLRf gender changers,
    • 4×XLRf-2m y-cables,
    • 2×Shure A15AS XLR pads,
    • 2×VGAm gender changers,
    • 2×VGAf gender changers,
    • 4×XLRm-TRSm,
    • 4×XLRm-TSm,
    • 4×XLRf-TRSm,
    • 4×XLRf-TSm,
    • 4×1/4 in TS (F) to Dual Banana
    • 8×RCAf-TSm,
    • 2×3.5mmf-TRSm,
    • 2×Shure A95UF transformers,
    • 2×IEC to Edison adapters
  • black Pelican 1510 Laptop Carry On Case with
    • Apex headphones,
    • Shure SM58-S,
    • 15' XLR cable,
    • 6' XLR cable,
    • 2×3.5mm-2 1/4" male cables
    • boxes of
      • 12×9V batteries,
      • 24×AA batteries,
      • 24×AAA batteries,
    • Studiomaster Diamond 4-channel mixer (4-channel battery-powered mixer with XLR inputs),
    • Behringer CT100 cable tester,
    • Philips portable CD player
    • a couple of rolls of Permacel gaffer tape
    • the usual junk that accumulates in a briefcase,
  • plastic crate with
    • 2×Furman SS-6B power bars,
    • 3×10 meter black power extension cords,
    • 4×50' speaker cords,
    • XLR cables (2×10', 2×25', 1×50');
  • Manhasset Model #48 music stand;
  • Shepherd flatbed cart

26th December 2008

8:52pm: Abandon hope, all ye who...
Well, maybe not all hope, but the police officer that took my initial report said that the van would likely be found in 48 hours, or not at all.

It's been more than 48 hours, but then it's also been Christmas and boxing day and Christmas Eve and such. There's still some hope, but not a lot.

Thanks for the sympathetic comments, folks; they've helped a lot. The van and the gear are all fairly anonymous and straight off-the-shelf stuff.

One thing I neglected to mention, and an important thing, is how nice everyone has been that I've talked to. The police, the insurance folks, the car rental people1, everybody. They've all been calm, and sympathetic, and businesslike, all of which made the dealings much better for me.

1 We did get a rental car, btw. And from a rental place that was quite close to home.
Current Mood: calm
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