A little something I threw together today…

Laid off again…

I was laid off from my job recently.

Apparently I have lots of company there. The big tech giants all decided to spontaneously lay off thousands of people at once, so that there is now a surplus of roughly 250,000 IT professionals who “became available” all at once. Frankly if the IT industry as a whole was trying to make sure to fuck over these people as hard as possible, well, they could hardly have done better.

In previous layoffs I’ve been fairly stoic. In most cases it was easy  to see things coming — in one case I was working for a company that everyone knew was slowly but surely going out of business. In another a company I worked for was bought by a venture capitalist firm that didn’t seem to have much idea what we did or what to do with us. But this time is different. I’m not so stoic. There really was no reason to have layoffs, and the company I was working for, Microsoft, is not dying or even losing money.

In short, there was no reason for these layoffs. Microsoft just went ahead with it because other companies were doing it too.

To be honest, I feel betrayed. Only a few days before the axe came down the team I worked for was told that these layoffs were something we “didn’t have to worry about”. Well, that was clearly bullshit. It seriously leaves me with the feeling that in this last job I ended up trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted. People whom I thought had my back. Guess I was too naive to realize that they were holding knives behind theirs.

Anyway, I guess the lesson to be learned here is that IT is an industry that’s now well within the hands of parasite capitalists, amoral beasts who justify every action in terms of share prices. Employees? who cares? they’re just “human resources”.  Cannon fodder. Nothing more.

Twitter: a post-takeover poison pill

When a company is about to go through a hostile takeover, the stakeholders in the company have this strategy that’s available to them called a “poison pill”. The idea of the “poison pill” is that the shareholders, worried about the effects of the takeover on the long-term health of the company, will artificially depress the stock price of the company so as to make it unattractive for a takeover.

This is obvious *not* quite what’s taking place at Twitter right now.

@elonmusk‘s offer was so much over the realistic valuation of the company that the shareholders just saw $$$$ and went with it. However Twitter isn’t a traditional company. Twitter is a social network. Its technology stack is robust but it’s not particularly outstanding. It works, it doesn’t have a huge lot of features, but it can handle the traffic. Its real value is in the users and the connections it brings to the party. To remain at its baseline of “value” compared to before the takeover, it has to retain its userbase. If users leave, the site’s value is diminished. And this is something that @elonmusk
doesn’t grok.

While he doesn’t get it, users do get it. And their response to Musk’s “comedy of errors” tenure ever since he took over the site is to look elsewhere for a new social network to spend time on, because it’s become clear that Musk wants to take this site and turn it into his personal sandbox. I wouldn’t pay $44 billion for a sandbox, but then I don’t have the sort of detachment from reality that being the world’s richest man engenders.

However for a couple of weeks now we’ve had a look at what @elonmusk considers entertainment for himself, and we’re all pretty much horrified, from Nazi imagery to petty personal fighting to non-stop lying by Musk himself. And that’s why, sadly, now is the time to ditch this platform. Because remaining a part of it at this point is to risk immeasurable personal reputational damage. Think the repercussions in your life if it came out that you were a user of “stormfront” (or whatever KKK-affiliated web site exists out there). This is what Twitter will turn into in the hands of a spoilt man-child with highly questionable morals and a reputation as a con man who has no board to answer to and in time is growing more and more embittered that he can’t just buy a positive image for himself. Or friends.

And if that sounds like I’m describing Donald Trump, it’s not a coincidence; both Trump and Musk are trust fund babies whose lives are led by their malignant narcissism. 

So there’s an understandable urge to leave a platform that’s devolving into a giant cesspit of xenophobia in all its diseased forms, because users don’t want the taint of it.

It’s probably a bad idea to deactivate one’s account, however. All this will do is leave your handle open to a malignant actor taking it over and attempting impersonation. A much better approach is this: make sure you set multi-factor authentication on your account, and then log off. This way no one can use your handle, and you are protecting your reputation.

There are many alternate social networks out there that don’t belong to snake-oil-selling egomaniac billionaires, such as mastodon, counter.social and tribel. Check them out and give them your time and eyeballs instead of watching someone who should know better tank a platform to flatter his own malignant ego.

The Hypocrite Party of Canada

The Hypocrite Party of Canada (formerly known as the Conservative Party of Canada) has been clutching its pearls since yesterday about a tweet by Dale Smith that referred to Pipsqueak’s speech saying “when a horse is that lame you shoot it”.  By being willfully obtuse the Hypocrites are shouting from the rooftops that Smith “threatened violence on an MP”, which doesn’t nearly pass the laugh test, and want Smith to be expelled from the press gallery.

It’s funny, I can’t recall that much outrage back in 2019, when a Tory Senator spoke to a group of protesting truckers and told them to “roll over every Liberal left in the country”.  The name of the Senator is David Tkachuk, and this was actually reported at the time: https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/david-tkachuk-united-we-roll-ottawa-convoy_a_23674517

And Senator Tkachuk double down when he was asked to apologize: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/conservative-senator-won-t-apologize-for-telling-protesters-to-roll-over-every-liberal-1.4307250

There is no record of the Hypocrite Party of Canada ever taking any measure in response to this, or even issuing any kind of statement whatsoever to put pressure on the Senator.

If the Hypocrite Party of Canada want to play this game, we’ve got receipts.

How I am Better than Donald Trump

I managed to get put in Twitter jail for saying that a politician in the USA who falsely claimed to be a combat veteran “rode into town on Stolen Valor and should be railroaded out with tar & feathers”. Anyone with two or more working neurons would take that to mean “he tried to capitalize on lies about military service and he should be roundly shamed and ridiculed”, but clearly Twitter’s staff does not have such a luxury of neurons.

Donald Trump basically had to completely ignore the service’s ToS and repeatedly violate it for years to get such treatment, and I did it just by making a simple joke while sitting at home. That’s how I am better than Donald Trump.

Of course there’s also the whole thing about me not being a misogynistic, racist con man with a history of defrauding charities, *very* close friendship with sexual predators and over 30 sexual assault allegations. But today I’m just concentrating on how I’m better at getting my Twitter account suspended.

Life imitating art — but it’s “Triumph of the Will”

Donald Trump had one of his rallies on Saturday but a lot of people are saying that the former president has gone too far at this latest event. I didn’t feel like actually listening to Trump speak for 10 seconds, let alone two hours, but then this photo taken at the event started circulating. See if you can tell what makes this photo interesting, it’s very subtle…

Trump rally salute
Trump rally salute

Hmm… let’s go to video, that’s the Newsmax feed. Newsmax was one of very few stations to broadcast this event. Even Fox News gave it a miss. Check out the second video in this tweet:

It’s not just Trump either, this video was taken at a rally for the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania held on the next day:

This is getting pretty creepy.


21 Years On

Today is September 11th 2022, the twenty-first anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington by a number of Al Qaeda associated terrorists. One of the questions asked on social networks today is, how do you mark this momentous day?

As someone who lived in the NYC area at the time and saw the towers collapse not on television but with my own eyes, I don’t mark the day in particular.

The trauma of the events, the heroism of the first responders, the sorrow of knowing how many lives were extinguished in the collapse, seeing people come together, neighbors helping neighbors… these are things that stay with me all the time. They don’t go away the other 364 days of the year.

But every year on the day I’m reminded of how the right-wing stole the day and used it as an excuse to start a war of choice in Iraq that’s completely destabilized the region and lead to millions of deaths as well as the establishment of a ultra-fascist state (ISIS) that no one has been able to fully eradicate, and ultimately the start of the downward spiral in which the United States finds itself now where it feels like 30% of the country have become radicalized white supremacists as a result of the power hunger of the Republican Party.

In a very real sense 9/11 was the beginning of the end of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and it should have been recognized as such. It was a desperate operation that was meant, in the planners’ minds, to “wake up America” and cause it to rebel against their leaders for their historical hubris, and resulted in the opposite. That’s the real goal of what are intended to be “revolutionary actions”. The only thing it showed is how much Al Qaeda’s leaders had their heads up their own asses. In America the right-wingers started the battle cry and the others followed in response to the trauma of the event. How people who had renounced any national alliance and instead chose to live in literal caves in Afghanistan thought that they knew how Americans thought would be pretty comical if it hadn’t lead to so much death.

Even in tactical terms I’m certain the operation was pretty much a failure. In the famous video that was issued shortly after this Osama bin Laden expressed that the event had been “more successful than had been hoped”, which is something he would say, but what he betrayed there was that things hadn’t gone to plan. We now know there was supposed to be a fifth plane but the prospective pilot of that plane had been in FBI custody for a while. One of the four planes was brought down in Pennsylvania as a result of the passengers storming the cockpit, and the attack on the Pentagon had not caused nearly as much damage as had been hoped.

Personally I have always believed that what the planners thought would happen as a result of the airplanes hitting the towers was that the momentum would cause the towers to topple over. That would have been an absolute catastrophe for lower Manhattan. The towers site is very close to Wall Street and the NYSE was only a few blocks away. Had the first plane had its intended effect the NYSE and everyone in the building at the time would have become history. As it were yes, the entirety of lower Manhattan was covered by asbestos-laden dust as a result of the attack, but the actual heavy debris zone was confined to a surprisingly small area, extending past the footprint of the WTC site only by about one NYC block. One can’t overestimate how important that detail is in retrospect. The NYSE reopened less than a week later, which is pretty remarkable.

The fact that the towers pretty much collapsed into their own footprints is something that (in my opinion) OBL didn’t expect and didn’t plan for. As was the low number of casualties. These were the two largest buildings in NYC, a place full of natural go-getters who really don’t think that showing up to work at 7am is unusual. The city itself put in an order for 50,000 body bags in the days following the attack and that did not really strike anyone as being excessive at the time. That ultimately less than 3000 died was pretty amazing. Ultimately the terrorists had a “symbolic victory” at the expense of losing pretty much everything they had.

What America did to itself and the world as a result of 9/11 is something much worse. I won’t go through it here because, well, it’s 21 years of nihilistic Republican hubris occasionally paused by Democrats desperately trying to fix things while dodging GOP knives aimed at their backs. It’s just too long to go through. I’m left with the overwhelming sense that the USA I knew and loved before that no longer exists, with the fault of that not being the attack but the rabid and ugly nationalism that followed it. And for all the posturing and chest-beating the USA has steadfastly refused to hold Saudi Arabia responsible in any way for their part in the plot — which was just an extension of the usual Saudi policy of remaining willingly blind to terrorist plots as long as they happen outside the Kingdom. Most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and many of them had their rents in America paid by the Saudi Crown while they lay in wait for the signal to strike. None of this is new, everything’s in the official 9/11 report. But oil money speaks louder than corpses in the rubble.

So, every year at this time, that’s what I consciously remember. America responding to the last dying spark of Al Qaeda, by slowly but surely destroying itself and making a mockery of its own so-called principles.

Saying Goodbye

My 14 year old dog Judi has recently crossed the rainbow bridge.

Judi was 5 when she came into my life in 2012. She was my first dog, my first pet really. I had spent quite a bit of time in the two years prior researching dog breeds and I knew that I wanted a boston terrier, and then something happened that made me decide to “pull the trigger” on this, so to speak — I suffered a third degree burn while out for the Labor Day long weekend and had to spend almost two weeks in the burns ward. I found the experience particularly trying because once you’re let into the burns ward you really can’t leave until your skin graft is in place, due to the chance of infection. A third-degree burn basically causes a hole in your skin that just lets any pathogens in.

Once I left I figured that I should get a dog now, or forget about the whole thing. I spent a lot of time on Kijiji (it’s like craigslist for Canadians) looking at adoptable dogs. I didn’t want a puppy, I wanted to adopt a grown dog, which I felt was the best approach for someone with no experience. Somehow I knew that I wanted a girl, but didn’t really know why. But when I saw Judi’s ad I didn’t think twice and made arrangements with her current owner to pick her up that same day. The ad said free but the lady called me back and said that was an error and that getting Judi would cost me $200. That’s a bit of a joke given how much dogs cost nowadays.

So I drive over and pick up my little dog. She clearly hadn’t been there that long. The lady said that Judi and her other dog, a toy poodle, weren’t getting along — probably because, as I figured out soon after, both dogs were intact females probably used for breeding. Mind you, such was my inexperience that I had no idea that Judi had recently had a litter of puppies, I learned that from an employee at a pet shop. Her claws were in pretty bad shape, no one had trimmed them for quite a long time. But she wasn’t going to be neglected anymore, not now that she was with me. For about a year I became a dog dad, going on long walks all over Montreal with Judi.

Judi moved to Halifax with me in November of 2013 and became part of the merged family I formed with Lucie and Geneva, not without a few hiccups of course, but we hit our stride. Then along came Beatrice, whom Judi seemed to fear at first, but later warmed to.

Judi seemed to especially enjoy the first apartment I moved to in Halifax. It had a fairly large backyard and we liked to give her the run of it, with our rear door open so we could monitor her. She was well-liked by the other people of the building. She wasn’t so keen on other dogs; indeed her reaction to another canine was always a toss-up. Whenever I saw another dog coming towards her I took her in a different direction. You’d be surprised how often other dog owners completely disregarded this, however. I remember being in Montreal on a grassy knoll when I spotted another dog owner walking his dog, and so I was taking Judi to another place and not being even remotely subtle about it, but the guy was probably a little thick and insisted on having his dog meet mine, and Judi snapped at the poor canine. The other dog owner asked “why did he do that?” and the explanation going way over his head. Yeah guy, your dog is friendly, but my dog isn’t, and that’s why I was trying to get away. But sadly it’s a very contemporary trait of people that they just refuse to see reality even as it unfolds before them.

It’s hard to tell whether a dog is truly happy. I hope that Judi was, although as things progressed it was clear that I could no longer give her as much time as I previously could, as I now had to take care of the humans in the house. We moved to Bedford in 2015, which Judi didn’t enjoy as much. I think she enjoyed playing with the other building tenants before that, and now she was in a place that had a postage-stamp-sized yard and only the family for company. Of course she was 9 by then and slowing down a little bit but still spry and energetic.

In 2018 we moved to our current house, a place which was (and is) full of potential, but TBH hasn’t lived up to expectations. We now had a yard… 90% fenced in but not closed, so Judi never took to it much. We lived in a dog-rich neighborhood, but Judi had started developing some problems with her hearing which left her deaf about a year after we moved, so she was not as interested in walking about as she had been before, and whatever interest she had mostly disappeared after she started getting vision problems as well. By that time I was the only one in our house actually taking her outside.

About a year ago we started noticing that she had some problems with her back legs, they weren’t working right anymore. It was fairly serious arthritis. Her muscles started wasting away. Her eye problems got worse and one of her eyes was bulging and had a broken blood vessel inside; then she started having seizures periodically where she would either slip on the floor like her four legs had no strength left, or fall over to one side. Vets didn’t have any answers for her problems. I noticed that she was sleeping more and more deeply during the day. After much soul-searching and discussions we decided that it was time to stop Judi’s suffering. We had a vet from a service called Forever Loved come to our house and help Judi cross the rainbow bridge.

It was very hard on the kids, particularly Geneva. She and Judi had become particularly close. However Judi was clearly in pain and we did not want to prolong her suffering because we weren’t ready. I don’t know what it’s like to have a pet put to sleep in a vet clinic, but it seemed to us best to do it at home, in an environment Judi knew and loved.

I think I’ll always remember bringing Judi’s body to the vet’s car. Judi hated getting picked up, even when it was needed — to get up on the couch in her last weeks, for example — but she felt so much heavier now that she was no longer struggling to get away…

It has been a little over two weeks now.

All four of us miss Judi. When you spend years and years sharing your everyday with a little creature like that they’re not “just a pet”, they’re a non-human person, they’re part of the family. We all miss her in different ways, and it’s a very personal process for each of us. We like to think that in situations like this, when we have a lot of time to prepare ourselves, we will know grief when we feel it. But we delude ourselves, especially by thinking of “grief” as something objective. It is not. It is like love in the sense that it reflects both the grieved and the griever.

The grief I feel constantly since her passage is that I feel I was not taking care of her and spending time with her as much as I should have in her last couple of years. I have suffered from major depression for decades now, and in the last few years the pressure on me has just ratcheted up to the point where I’m just dead tired by the time I’ve put the kids to bed — largely because I’m also the first one up in the morning to get them to school. I remember all the times that Judi came downstairs to see me and I was sitting in front of my monitors with a thousand-yard-stare, and just had no strength to do anything. A few pets as she came by, and that’s about it. I had no idea I would miss these little visits so much, or feel so damn guilty about them.

It’s also said that all dads should have a dog because at least it ensures that someone in the house will be happy to see them when they come home. That resonated strongly enough with me that I often told Judi that when she was visibly excited to see me; I knew she was deaf and couldn’t hear a damned thing, and as a dog she wouldn’t have understood what I had said anyway, but I never got out of the habit of talking to her. Well now I don’t have that.

I also miss her in a different way. When I came to Halifax I had already seriously reduced the amount of stuff I had (I used to have way too much stuff really). Since then I have also ditched a whole lot more things I owned; I got rid of about 95% of the physical books I had retained, almost all the DVDs I had collected over the years, most of the clothes I brought with me are gone or as good as gone (by which I mean I no longer fit into them and I’m not deluded enough to think I will ever do so again). So there’s little I still have that came with me on the 2013 move. In March 2020 the timing on my car failed — just in time for the first COVID shutdown — and since then I’ve had it towed to my house and tried to fix it, but I just don’t have the time or know-how. I remember how keen I was to get my hands dirty and fix that thing… but due to other engagements I could never give it the time I needed to give it, and now it just sits besides the house like a monument to my personal failures. I always go out the side door and can’t really ignore it.

In the 18 months it’s been sitting there I’ve come to accept that much, but many a time it struck me that Judi was the last reminder of my life before I made the decision to change it to whatever it has become now. And now she’s gone, and she’s taken a part of me with her.

Finally the grief is also, in a more general way, a statement on mortality. When I took Judi for her last walkies outside I knew it was the last time we would do this and it hit me like a ton of bricks. And earlier this week when I dropped off my daughter at school I watched her walk from the car to the school’s door and the thought struck me — one day it will be the last time for that too. As far as I know no one’s seriously ill in the family but death is the one thing that is guaranteed to all. I’m far from young, far from fit, and on the inside I often find myself consumed by anxiety, depression, anger and frustration. I don’t have any illusions that I’m going to live a very long life. That’s not my current trajectory, anyway.

So, goodbye Judi. You were loved, and you’re missed more than you could imagine.

Then and now

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau

You may recognize this rather famous quote. It’s from Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. I read that book as a young man, as part of a philosophy class. I remember how smug I felt at the time about that statement. I was never going to be one of those people. I was young, very well-read, and I was going to do great things in life…

I trust you can see where I’m going with this.

I don’t even know exactly how I came to think of that quote, but think of it I did. And I came to realize that, at 50, it sums up the life I lead now.

OK, “swore to destroy” is an extreme way to look at it, but back then I really felt like I didn’t want to end up like, say, my boss at the accounting firm where I worked one summer. That seemed like the worst thing. Yet when I look at the situation objectively, his situation was not exactly bad… his house was probably paid off, his minivan actually worked. It’s always hard to know these things in retrospect but as a partner in his firm he was probably quite wealthy. Partners at large accounting firms are well paid

Well, the joke’s on me. Career wise things haven’t so far gotten me where I would want to be. My car has been sitting still in my driveway for over a year now. And while my old boss probably flew down to the DR a couple of times a year for a week of R&R, it’s just not the kind of vacation schedule I can think of as realistic. Not for a while.

So, as I thought about that, I must admit that my pride took a hit.


I’ve been looking for a book on parenting and this one stood out from the others.

%d bloggers like this: