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Happy birthday Christopher!

Hey Christopher,

Back to being late as usual! 🙂 Hope you had a good birthday. Big milestone for you!

Love, Uncle Craig

man page humour

Found this little nugget in the “find” man page recently:

A ‘%’ character followed by any other character is discarded, but the other character is printed (don’t rely on this, as further format characters may be introduced). A ‘%’ at the end of the format argument causes undefined behaviour since there is no following character. In some locales, it may hide your door keys, while in others it may remove the final page from the novel you are reading.

Reminds me of a T-shirt I have:

$> man woman
$> Segmentation fault (core dumped)

Feedback sent to Staples

Staples makes my head square and my face red! Art by SumiTomohiko: https://openclipart.org/user-detail/SumiTomohiko

Staples makes my head square and my face red!

I’ve been using Staples more than usual for about the last year for various reasons, and one of the things I’ve been doing is making signs for a noticeboard. For this I generally want something printed in black ink on coloured paper; nothing fancy, but not plain, white paper. However, unsurprisingly (I suppose) Staples doesn’t offer coloured paper on their self-service machines, so of course I go to the desk … for which I do expect to pay a bit more, considering I’m dealing with a paid employee.

However, what I don’t expect is a bureaucratic nightmare! Below is what I’ve just submitted to their survey system, although (to rub salt into the wound) I don’t qualify for their freebie draw because my order total was less than $20. (However, I had to scan the fine print to catch that.)

In order to get three copies on coloured paper your employee had to do four pages of paperwork that took more time than it would have taken to do the job. I realise you can’t have as many employees as you have customers, but the bureaucracy involved in your typical “quick” job would make a government bureaucrat blush with envy.

On top of that my “express” job couldn’t be done right away, and I was told it would take an hour and a half! However, within five minutes of my arriving back home a few minutes later I got a call saying my job was ready. If I had known it would only take that long I’d have returned after doing my other errand in the area.

And further, your employee told me that the express charge was an additional 30%, but when I showed up to collect my order it turned out the express charge was 2825% — yes, two thousand eight hundred and twenty-five per cent — of the base charge!

This is not my first experience like this. It’s always like this with simple orders, but I’ve had enough and decided it’s about time I said something.

SIMPLY PUT, you need a better way of dealing with orders that take less time than it takes to do the paperwork. This is just bloody stupid.

Bloody ridiculous indeed! I did time the process on a previous occasion and I think it literally took two minutes — 120 seconds — from the time the employee started talking to me to the time I walked away with my paid-for copies. But if they screw around with four pages(!) of paperwork it of course takes much longer, and so it’s no wonder they can’t do small jobs right away and have to charge an “express” fee. I went into Staples late one evening a few months ago, interrupted the kid checking her social media, and still had to pay an “express” fee! (I believe that was the occasion on which I timed the whole process.)

Staples, train your employees to differentiate between small jobs that can be done in a matter of seconds and stuff that will actually take longer to do than it takes to do the paperwork. It’s not that hard. People with small, quick jobs like me will be happy to be out of your hair in minutes, and the guy over there waiting for his thousand copies won’t have any reason to complain if the employee is off at another machine doing my three copies while his are still printing.

The last days of robert mugabe

Interesting article by Martin Fletcher, yet another about the “coming cataclysm” that will happen when mugabe’s “portrait falls off the wall” — a rather amusing euphemism I’ve just learnt that Zimbabweans use to refer to mugabe’s oft-predicted “imminent” death.

I’m in no position these days to agree or disagree with much of what he predicts, although it’s certainly interesting. As he points out, muggers is only 93, while his mother lived “beyond 100” so we could be in for another decade of his misrule, murder and mayhem, not to mention ongoing predictions of his death. If only there was someone in Zimbabwe with a complete set of testicles.

Anyway, being the picky bastard that I am I feel it’s my job to point out contradictions. Evoking images of Dresden, Fletcher inaccurately states that by 1980 Rhodesia “had been destroyed by 15 years of war and sanctions”, and then later in the same article states, “[m]ugabe inherited a country that, for all its faults, was blessed with fine infrastructure [and] functioning institutions …. Today it is a failed state in all but name”. When I boarded a plane leaving Salisbury on 6 June 1979, the country (Zimbabwe Rhodesia) I left behind was in no way “destroyed”. Yes, the West and the Communist World had banded together to destroy any hope of Rhodesia managing its own affairs and an orderly transition to majority rule, but my airliner did not overfly the barren, bombed out, smoking wasteland evoked by Fletcher’s first statement.

He also states that in 1980 mugabe “built schools and hospitals for black Zimbabweans and encouraged agriculture.” I have to laugh at that last part, as if people interested in self-preservation need to be “encouraged” by a dictator to grow food to feed themselves. But it is ironic that Rhodesia’s detractors in one breath accuse us of apartheid and building separate educational and medical facilities for blacks and whites, are then accuse us in the next breath of not building schools and hospitals for black people at all! Such is the nature of hyperbole.

After pointing out what fine infrastructure and institutions mugabe inherited, Fletcher goes on to give a decent — but of course woefully incomplete — summary of how mugabe has fucked Zimbabwe:

“Today it is a failed state in all but name: a nation of hawkers, foragers and scavengers. A quarter of the population has left; in other words, more Zimbabweans now work overseas than at home. The average monthly household income is $62. Life expectancy is 55 years, one of the lowest in the world. Four million of Zimbabwe’s 14 million people [30%] survive on food aid, and a quarter of its children are stunted by malnutrition.

“The country’s hospitals can no longer afford painkillers for major operations. Its embassies cannot pay their rent and utility bills. Its national airline can no longer fly to Heathrow, because of outstanding debts. It sells its elephants, giraffes and other wildlife to China. Beyond its urban centres, the country has reverted from tractors to ox-drawn ploughs, light bulbs to candles, the wheel to foot, cash to barter.

“It is also corrupt from top to bottom, ranking 150th out of 168 in Transparency International’s global corruption index. By [m]ugabe’s own admission, its leaders have siphoned $15bn from the Marange diamond fields in the east since 2008 — four times Zimbabwe’s annual budget. Several times I was stopped at police checkpoints whose purpose was not to enforce law and order but to fleece motorists. I was fined once for not having honeycomb reflectors on the front of my rental car, and a second time for not coming to a complete stop at a junction. ‘The whole system is infested with leeches sucking the remaining blood from the rotten corpse of Zimbabwe,’ a white businessman told me.”

And the West wonders why it is being inundated by refugees from Africa! I’d want to leave too. But Zimbabweans got what they wanted when they voted mugabe into power in 1980 … thirty-seven years ago! Any arriving these days on the coasts of Italy and Greece should be sent back to fix the mess that they got themselves into, not take up residence in a country ruled by the people they kicked out of theirs! And if you think it’s a mess now, wait until mugabe finally kicks off. It won’t just be a “cataclysm”; it will be a bloodbath.

Happy birthday Elizabeth!

Dear Elizabeth,

I’m on time for a change! 🙂 Hope you have a good birthday today.

Love, Uncle Craig

Happy birthday Melissa!

Dear Melissa,

Hope you had a good birthday today. Ask your dad what I was doing on my same birthday 38 years ago! 🙂 Hint: It was about 36 hours long!

Love from, Uncle Craig

Happy belated birthday Sandra

Sandra Davison, Christmas 2002.

Dear Sandra,

Been a lot going on this week. Sorry I missed it.

Happy birthday.

Love, Craig

Happy birthday Christopher!

Dear Christopher,

Happy birthday. I’m on time for a change. 🙂

Love, Uncle Craig

“Shedule” versus “Skedule”

Having been challenged about this yet again recently and still not having much more to offer than the stunning revelation than that the English language is full of exceptions to rules — because, really, it’s not a surprise or a big deal to me that different people in or from different parts of the world pronounce things differently — I decided to do some research.

The tired old comparison is to the word “school”. “Why don’t you pronounce it ‘shool’?” goes the typical witty refrain. Really? That’s your best argument for why I’m supposedly pronouncing the word “schedule” incorrectly? Why are there two pronunciations and three meanings of the word “desert”? Why ask me? Who died and left me in charge of making the rules of the English language and ensuring that every word conforms without exception?!

Sometimes it amuses me the number of Canadians who simply don’t realise the extent to which they are influenced by American English, even when the closest thing we have to an official guide north of the border — the Gage Canadian Dictionary — goes against American wisdom and sides with British norms. It’s a sad result of our proximity to the States, Hollywood, and American dominance in certain other areas — such as the default settings for spellcheckers in software created by American companies, not the least of which is Microsoft. (Although, maddeningly, my copy of Mozilla Firefox keeps reverting to United States English unbidden!) But distance does not save even the British themselves — and others like South African, Indian and south Pacific speakers of English — from the grubby hands of “Pax Americana”.

You may or may not be aware that the English language contains a vast number of loanwords. According to a couple of impeccable sources (one an answer on the collaborative English Language & Usage “Stack Exchange” addressing a bizarre question about class in the UK, and the other a British blogger living in the US), the British “shed” pronunciation is influenced by either French or German, while the American “sked” pronunciation is influenced by the Greek origin of the word. A slightly more impeccable source is the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, which lists both pronunciations with a preference for “shedule”, and indicates that the word comes to us from Greek via Latin and French. (No mention of German.) There you have it; foreign influences in our pristine, flawless, rule-bound English language! Who would have thunk it?! (Don’t tell the morons responsible for this nonsense!)

OK, now that you’ve taken in the enormity of the difficulties involved in adopting foreign words into “our” language, learn to accept that there are understandable regional differences in spelling and pronunciation. My background means that I often pronounce and spell words the British way and pepper my speech with Afrikaans loanwords, but put me in the company of people who are from the places where I grew up and they’ll tell me that I have an “American” accent and use “weird” terminology. I can’t win. And actually, I like that. I’m not one who wants to be like the rest of the crowd. I’m almost tempted to use “skedule” in their company!

Speaking of which, in my dim and distant past when I briefly worked towards a career in the aviation industry, I did actually occasionally refer to a “sked”, aviation argot (another loanword pronounced as the original French) for a “scheduled flight”. Referring to one as a “shed” would have just been weird.

Anyway, getting back to the aforementioned Gage Canadian Dictionary, it offers both “skedule” and “shedule” as correct pronunciations of the word, in that order. And in case you’re so unimaginative that “school” is the only comparable word that you can come up with, my Concise Oxford Dictionary lists 86 words that start with “sch”. Some of those are compound words and phrases, but here are a few that are unquestionably pronounced using “sh”: schist, schlep, schlock, schlub, schlump, schmaltz, schmear, schmo, schmooze, schmuck, schnapps (yum!), schnauzer (woof!), schorl and schuss.

Now, how did you learn to pronounce those in shool?

HeidiSQL and MySQL: Can’t connect to MySQL server on ‘127.0.0.1’ (10061)

HeidiSQL can't connect to MySQL.

HeidiSQL can’t connect to MySQL

I installed XAMPP and HeidiSQL (the latter running under Wine) on my local Xubuntu 14.04 (LTS) system sometime in the last year or two. I’d used both before when I used to use Windows, and have had no problem using HeidiSQL to connect to external MySQL servers. However, I have had no success connecting to my local installation of MySQL. Not having time to deal with the issue (what seemingly inexplicable computer issue is ever resolved in a matter of minutes?!) I just left it and used phpMyAdmin that comes bundled with XAMPP, which is up to the job but which is a pain to use once you’re used to a native application like HeidiSQL.

Well, yesterday was the day to get to the bottom of the problem, and predictably it took me several hours to figure out.

I found a number of articles that referred to user privileges, client bugs, binding MySQL to the localhost IP address, some guy who was doing it wrong, another guy who must have been using machine translation to try to get his point across (I don’t envy the poor guy), and a guy who seemed to have the same problem as me (but didn’t).

I found the clue that solved my problem in the Navicat knowledge base (“2003 – Can’t connect to MySQL server on xxx (10061)“) that linked to the MySQL reference manual (“B.5.2.2 Can’t connect to [local] MySQL server“). Looking at the default XAMPP MySQL configuration file at /opt/lampp/etc/my.cnf I noticed the following:

# commented in by xampp security
#skip-networking
skip-networking

I’m guessing that the XAMPP-provided script that I recall XAMPP suggesting you run after installation to plug a few security holes put that there. After I once again commented out “skip-networking” and restarted MySQL, HeidiSQL was able to connect. Considering I generally only run the local MySQL server for brief periods I don’t expect this to be a major security issue.

I am a happy camper once again. Hope this helps you too.