Trump…

A part of me wants Trump to win.  The part that is saying that the comedy from the comedians will be outstanding and that part that wants to see what method Trump will use next to shove is foot in his mouth.  However the rational side of me is melting inside on the sheer dread that this guy may be the next POTUS because of the complete unthinking, nonsense that is spewing from that same mouth that is occupied by which ever foot is currently being munched on.

Makes me wonder at what point will Trump followers realize that Trump is an utter embarrassment to the country.

I applaud the GOP representatives like Cruz who had the balls to not ‘endorse’ this buffoon.  The vilification from the rank and file to Cruz and others, the assertion that if you are republican you MUST support the chosen one no matter how much a fool he is, reminds me of the brain washing the Chinese did during Mao and similar communist regimes, or dare I go there, the Nazi regime.  It seems the political parties in the US; ok not just the US but it’s the US politics I’m talking about today; have forgotten about their freedom of speech.  Cruz and others have the right to voice dissent.

I hope people will eventually forgive Cruz and other and realize Cruz and others were actually right in their opinions.  Mind you, this is not saying I like Cruz and some of the others either.  They are crazy in their own way.

15% Foreign Buyer Tax…

Just recently BC instituted a 15% tax for foreign buyers of property purchases.  And now you have the predictable reaction from real estate agents that it has suddenly become much harder to sell.

For one, that might be true but it is way to early to tell what the long term effect of the change will be.  All the belly aching that is happening now is just a knee jerk reaction to the new situation.

I do agree that the ‘retroactive’ nature of the new tax is a bit of a dick move by the government.  Any deal that was in negotiation should have been grandfathered in.  For something that costs this much money, suddenly having to add 15% to your already stretched budget is not going to go over well.

However, will this 15% tax really have that much an effect?  Maybe.  Hard to say at the moment.  Until other provinces adopt the same sort of tax Vancouver may see a decline in housing prices.  The problem is, is 15% loss in money a big enough deterrent for these buyers.  Vancouver is hugely Asian so there is still quite an attraction to owning here for that foreign market.  We will lose some sales to Toronto but I think we will still be influenced by the Asian market even with the new tax.  They will just factor the new tax into their pricing and we still end up with a spiraling market again.

A lot of these buyers are trying to put their wealth offshore, out of reach from their local government.  They are already losing some of that capital in our market before the tax, so buying in our market after the tax is just a different sort or loss.

My guess is that the prices here may drop to less than 15% from other markets.  Then at least the benefits of buying here versus there are about the same.  The loses will be about the same.

So a place that used to cost 1,000,000 here before the tax may sell now for 850,000 instead.  Which is still utterly out of reach for a lot of people.  However I figure that if Toronto had a similar place for 1,000,000 then the place in Vancouver would still fetch over 900,000 for the same buyer due to Vancouver’s higher attraction for said buyer.

Will this change things?  A lot of people are hoping it will.  I am one of them but the pessimist in me is saying do not count on it.

Automatic billing…

I find automatic billing to be annoying.  Yes there are services that I find that automatic billing is important.  My internet connection, my phone, stuff that I use everyday for years on end.  I will call these ‘non-optional’ services.  But when it comes to optional services, services that I do not need or will not use 365 days a year, it does not make sense.

Some time ago my company has asked us to start taking courses, whether it be online or from some university or college.  Ok, fine, lets leave out the fact that it has to be done on ‘our’ personal unpaid time and not done on work time, which is another gripe.  So I have been looking around at some of the sites.

I have actually taken a few courses at Coursera.org.  So far it has been generally positive.  The courses are free unless you want some certificate of completion and then you pay for the course.  You pay per course.  Brilliant!  I like that model.  Pay for what I want.  I will be continuing paying for courses with them.  The courses are not that cheap but it looks like the instructors do make an effort.  Coursera.org has been hit and miss though.  One course was incredibly poorly run where the instructor was not even following his own course timeline.  I felt bad berating him to keep him honest.  There were many students who were missing deadlines and getting zeros because of it.  The software has been changing a lot as well.  Some growing pains in all.  Their customer support seems to be pretty good.

At work a manager suggested Pluralsight.com.  Pay a subscription fee for unlimited access to all course material.  Sounds like a deal except that you will be automatically billed every month if you use the service or not.  Hrm…  The cost is way more per month than Netflix and if I was subscribing to Netflix I suspect I would use it way more than Pluralsight.  The good news with Pluralsight is that with an MSDN subscription at work I get free access to 30 ‘tutorials’ (I hesitate in calling them courses since all a course is, is a collection of videos) for about 30 days or a year.  Conflicting information.  No need for adding my credit card information and such.  So this trial is giving me an insight on how good the tutorials really are at Pluralsight.  They are pretty good the ones that I have seen so far.  The interface is a bit annoying.  In order to get to the free courses via MSDN I have to go to my account settings to find them.

Another option I am getting in my email is Lynda.com which is related to Linkedin.com.  “Try a 30 day free trial!”  Ok, sign up, get to step three which is asking for my credit card information…  WHY?  “So we can bill you after the free trial is over.”  They warn you but this but I still find this dishonest.  It is not exactly free.  You have to give up your payment information before you have a chance to evaluate whether or not they are deserving of that information.

Plus, who has ever signed up for a trial period with the reasonable expectation of not continuing with the service.  Meaning, you signed up to evaluate whether or not the service is going to be good for you.  I have, and as you may expect, I forgot when it was to expire and got dinged for it.  Usually with little or no warning by the service that, “hey, your trial will be up in X days.  Make a decision before then!”  Lynda.com.  Take your ‘free’ offer and shove it.  Seriously.  Be nice and not shaft people when they forget.  Just offer the free trial without billing information and just lock out the user until they are willing to pay.  It should not be that hard to program that up.

I will never sign up to an ‘optional’ service that auto renews a subscription.  Never.  Most magazines do not do that, although some have the option, it is ‘opt in’ not ‘opt out’ as in the case of Lynda.com and Pluralsight.com.

Prime Minister elbows someone…

The Prime Minister (PM) accidentally hit a fellow Member of Parliament (MP), and everyone is going ape over it.  So I decided to have a look at what actually transpired.  Having done that, I can only wonder why people are reacting so out of proportion to it.

From what I see of the video.  A Conservative MP was trying to navigate an aisle clogged by NDP MPs who were milling about there.  Look closely and you will  notice that one NDP MP is deliberately obstructing the path.  Making no effort to make himself ‘small’ to allow someone by.  From what I can tell it looks like Wayne Stetski of Kootenay BC.  Not many NDP men have gray hair and black glasses (at least from NDP’s web site.)  So the whole situation started life with an NDP, or potentially the lot of them clogging the aisle, being utterly discourteous to down right contemptuous to a fellow MP.

The PM seeing the plight of the Conservative MP comes up to help the MP being held up to navigate the aisle.  Unfortunately the PM didn’t do so as elegantly or with as much class as he wanted and the elbow happened.  However, looking at the group of NDP MPs that were obstructing the aisle, none of them made an effort to ‘move out of the way’ even when it became obvious that they were.  So it makes me believe that their behavior was completely intentional and that the above Mr. Stetski was being a bully, or dare I say, ass.  And because the NDP MPs made no effor to move, the elbow was almost inevitable.

It is true the PM should not have done anything in this case.  It is not his duty to keep order in the chamber but the person who’s duty it is to maintain order was either unaware or not doing his job.  Also the Conservative MP may not have appreciated the help either which I can understand as well but I see the actions of the PM partly in an altruistic sense even though it may be also in a selfish sense.

To me the only punishment necessary is an apology for his actions which I understand happened three times already by the PM.  But I would even go as far as making NDP MPs Stetski, MP Brosseau (who unfortunately got elbowed), and MP Thomas Mulcair (yup, that is the big guy at the left) to apologize for being very impolite to the Conservative MP and for not knowing better manners about blocking an aisle.  As I understand, they were asked to return to their seats for a vote an yet they seem to make no effort to do so.  An apology for showing contempt to the government or speaker who ever issued the request to return to their respective seats.

I feel ashamed for having supported the NDP if this is the ‘best’ way they can think of at being part of the ‘opposition’.  That is a thug tactic.  I would even say kudos to the PM for being a man of action to the embarrassing behavior of the NDP MPs.  Someone needs to call them out on their poor behavior.

What I also find a little embarrassing is Mulcair yelling in the PM’s face “You’re Pathetic!” multiple times…  Pot let me introduce you to kettle.

This is in no way to belittle the elbow that MP Brosseau suffered but she has to realize her part in the fracas.  She is not completely without blame here.

I cannot argue against his use of the crass language by the PM. But this looks like the PM showed the MPs who are offended the same amount of respect that they showed the Conservative MP.

I disagree with “the PM should be held to a more stringent standard.”

1. All party leaders had the potential to be PM. So they need to conduct themselves to the same stringent standard as the PM even if they are not PM at the moment or never expect to be PM. Not being PM does not excuse them from bad behavior.

2. All party members who are not the party leader also have the potential to be party leader. So even if they want or do not want to be Party leader, they should still conduct themselves to the same stringent standard.

As a result EVERY MP should be conducting themselves as if they were PM regardless if they are or not. There is no excuse to behave poorly. Moms should be embarrassed.

Yes, I will concede that the PM probably was not trained up enough to be an MP or PM and that shows an issue with how we prepare the MPs for the role. This does not excuse ‘career politicians’ for lashing out insults and who probably have gone through the ‘training’ a number of times. They should know better.

I will say the PM should be asked to take another course or training in being an MP and in ethics issues. He has already apologized so that part of the requirement is already done. More than this is not really warranted in my opinion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BVN5QzzaLI

Game Controllers

I do not play too many games but there is one on the windows machine that I recently got that has me hooked.  Although it needs a controller.

I have a USB game controller from Logitech but it is horrible.  D pad likes doing diagonals when I want to move in one direction.  The analog sticks are not balanced, when the sticks are centered, windows reports they are off center, and I cannot seem to fix that.

I also have these lovely PlayStation 3 Dual Shock 3 controllers that are mostly sitting idle.  I thought it would be a fairly simple matter to get these hooked up to and running on my Win 7 64Bit machine.  A good bunch of hours later and I’m giving up.

Sometimes as a programmer I wish I knew a bit about device driver programming.  Maybe I could figure out what the deal is with these controllers.

Computer Woes

The problem does not happen often but every now and then it happens.  The computer cannot find the boot drive.  Huh!?  Why?  I honestly do not know.  The bios simply forgets that the boot drive is an SSD drive on the SATA3 connections.  It defaults back to one of the Regular HD drives on the SATA2 connections and predictably boot fails since this drive is not a boot drive.  Fairly simple fix…  for me.  When Denise wanted to use the machine she was stuck.  And there was no way I was going to successfully talk her through the procedure to get into the bios and reset the boot drive sequence.  So as a result.  Denise could not use the computer which had her most recent work on it.

This brings me to a bit of a gripe.  The SSD and the HD drives in question are all SATA3 rated.  However the SSD drives simply refuse to work on the SATA2 ports.  I do not know if this is the SSD drive’s fault or if it is something to do with the motherboard’s chipset not knowing how to handle the SSD drive properly.  Initially I was thinking of putting the SSD drive on the SATA2 ports and leaving the HD drive on the SATA3 port.  SSD on a SATA2 port would have been more than fine since all it is really doing is being a boot drive an not much else.  But that plan was scuttled because of the above problem.  So now I get this boot sequence issue every now and then.

I would not doubt it is the motherboard.  I bought it when SATA3 and USB3 was just starting to get popular so it is possible that the chipsets are not 100% with newer drives like the SSD.  However I did not expect the SSD to fail on something that should have been more solid and standard like the SATA2 ports.  All in all, pain in the ass.  Stupid computers.

This is not the first incompatibility I have hit so far.  I have a Thermaltake BlacX5G USB SATA hard drive device.  It does not like dealing with certain hard drives.  I have a HP 1536 multi-function printer, it does not like certain USB ports on the computer.  Lots of frustrating hours lost trying to figure out these problems that really should not have been an issue.

SSD drive is a Samsung 850 EVO, HD drive is a Western Digital WD6402AAEX, Motherboard is an ASUS Sabertooth X58.  ASUS has been pretty good all in all but I have found, when thinking about it, that they have always caused some subtle problems for me.  Nothing ever serious that makes the computer totally unusable or a pain to use but still, minor nigglies that can sometimes annoy.

Failed drive.

When I was away in Hong Kong we had a particularly nasty black out.  This caused one of the drives in my Qnap to develop bad blocks.  Not a problem really because I bought the Qnap with 4 drives in total to replace the drives in the machine when they go belly up.  The Qnap only uses 2 at a time.  I thought the procedure would be difficult.  It is not.  It is brilliantly simple.

Without turning off the machine, pull out the bad drive.  Remove the old drive from the tray.  Install the new drive onto the tray.  Toss it back in.  And you are done.  The machine takes care of the rest.

Brilliant!  The easiest drive failure change I have ever done.  I am glad I have the Qnap.

Walking in Hong Kong…

I have recently returned from Hong Kong, visiting my wife’s family and friends and doing a little sight seeing.  You would think with a city that has that many people in it, the people would know how to walk about efficiently.  My god, I am really surprised there is not any ‘walk rage’ in this city.  No one knows what to do and you are constantly walking right into someone else.

In Canada it is basically following the road rules a bit.  Keep right unless you are passing.  Japan it is generally the opposite because they are the British system when driving.  This applies to the escalators as well.  Stand on the right (or left if British system) and walk on the other side.

But in Hong Kong!  British system for driving.  Escalators you stand on the right (not the left) and walk on the left.  Huh?  Then to add insult to injury, in high traffic areas they have arrows on the walls and ground to indicate the direction the people should walk (which is a good idea because no one there would know otherwise) which is, for the most part, keep left.  Problem is when you get to the escalator you have crossing streams of traffic of those who do not walk the escalators and those who do.

Worse, those arrows I spoke of, are not consistent everywhere!  In some cases it is keep right!  And of course there are people who just do not follow the rules and walk against traffic anyway.  Even worse, I have seen a pair of escalators where going down is on the right and up on the left, then on the next floor they are swapped.  So they have engineered a traffic mess on purpose where down traffic has to cross paths with up traffic!

Side walks, and places without the direction arrows are just chaos.

Walking in Hong Kong is just a big mess.

Canadian Election 2015: Niqab

Now I know this may garner me a little bit of flack but I am going to risk it.  I do not often agree with the Conservatives but I do agree with them about their stance on the Niqab.  The full face covering that some Muslim women wear. The Conservatives are against the use of a Niqab.  NDP recently mentioned that they support it.  I do not know what the stance of the other parties are on this matter.

The argument being made by these women is that it should be protected by their freedom of Religion.  And this is where I have a problem.  They may believe it is mandated by their religion but a lot of Muslims will disagree and say that it really is a cultural mandate and not a Religious one.  Some may say I or we are splitting hairs but, I will admit if I am wrong, Islam teachings specify a ‘conservative’ dress code and not the over the top dress code you would get with a Niqab.  That was dictated by men in those regions of the Middle East due to whatever cultural reason.  In Canada, there is no cultural reason for a Niqab and so it should not be allowed.  Note, I am saying cultural not religious.  I believe the Niqab is cultural and not religious so it should not be protected under the Freedom of Religion laws.

Plus I would support Banks and Corner Stores who mandate that no face covering of any kind (Helmets, ski masks, Guy Fox masks, Niqabs, etc.) are allowed.  They do that to make it harder for robbers to hide their identities.  It happens in the Middle East where wanted men would hide under women’s garb to avoid capture and detection.  Who’s to say it would not happen here.

I understand it might be a cultural shock for the women to leave the house without one but it is something they should be encouraged to do here.  Canada is a pleasant place to live without bringing it down with oppressive cultural artifacts from less pleasant places.  And yes, it is an oppressive cultural artifact.  Anyone who really argues against it really never grew up in a freer society like Canada.

I actually find it rather sad for those Muslims who dictate a public dress code for their women.  I see quite a few near my work where they have a head scarf and their long…  I do not know the correct name but I will call it a “Moo Moo”.  I see their little girls and boys in normal clothes and cringe that eventually those little girls will be forcibly told they will have to dress like their mom one day and if not, there will be consequences.  This will bring a lot of confusion and heart ache for these girls as they see their brothers not having to abide by any similar nonsense.  It makes me worries that these families will eventually force their girls back to the Middle East to get married and fall in line with their “Culture”.  It is a cruel fate for them if that happens having lived in a society like Canada and then send to a place where their freedoms that they enjoyed here are next to non-existent there.

That is my stance.  It may not be a popular one but I just think that when “Religion”, or more correctly, “Culture” is dictating an unfair disparaging dress code and rules specifically for women, we should not stand for that.

Canadian Election 2015: POT!

Like the last point Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (JT) was getting a knocked by a Conservative attack ad about “Not being ready” partly for saying he would legalize pot.

Let us think back for a while, or not.  Sleeman’s does plenty to remind us of the prohibition era and how we once had a similar thought about alcohol.  Now it is legal, taxed, and enjoyed responsibly by millions.  There are a few that are not as responsible but then, all those tax dollars come in handy to fund the programs that deal with substance abuse and such.

But then there is also the medical benefits which municipalities are finally wising up to and are now allowing medical pot to be sold for those who suffer from cancer and other ailments that prevent them from properly eating or living.

Yes it is more serious a drug than nicotine but I would probably put it on par with over indulging in alcohol.  Both are equally bad when consumed irresponsibly.  But since we have alcohol, pot is not that different.

So legalizing it, we tax it.  Those taxes will help pay for the substance abuse expenses the government pays for already.  Police will no longer have to deal with the crime freeing them up to concentrate on more serious crime.

In the end, is it really such an out in left field thought?  Have Police, Hospitals and Doctors, and the sick indicated anything that this is such a bad idea?  Or is this just old fashioned prudish thought at work that “we just can not have that in our society!”

To me, it is not a small issue.  Legalizing pot could have a huge positive impact on our society.  Granted, I hate the smell, that would be the only reason I would ban it.  Which is pretty pathetic as a reason.

Disclaimer: I am not Canadian, so I cannot vote in the upcoming election.  That attack ad just irks me and makes everyone in that ad look like a glib idiot.