Questions About Lasqueti Island

Published at 22:31 on 30 May 2022

I just got back from a (quickie, not nearly enough time) trip there, and it begs a number of questions. Namely is it a paradise or a Potemkin village, a model or a cop-out?

On one hand, the general vibe there is amazing, even if the place is more developed and technologically-impacted than I had imagined. Yes, there are more cars and roads (which, although almost entirely unpaved, are wider and better-travelled by motor vehicles than I had imagined), but it is still a beautiful place with an amazing aesthetic.

On the other hand, there is basically nothing definitive to rule it out being Santa Cruz North. (The latter is a small coastal city just south of San Francisco that has huge pretensions about being some sort of alternative and model for the rest of the country, but the reality beneath the veneer is that most of the worst dysfunctions of American life remain, in spades, and are largely not being challenged by its residents. The overall pattern is more of escapism and self-delusion than of an alternate model.)

There are, in fact, some worrying signs, first and foremost amongst them the growing proliferation (the structures are mostly new) of “snob gates” — very fancy gates across driveways on the main road, gates that do far more than just demarcate a private road to a private home. These are gates that literally scream “You may not be able to see my fancy house, but you better believe I have one behind those trees. Look and me and give my owner the social status his money entitles him to!”

The reaction of the one Lasquetian I pointed the gates out to on the ferry ride back was also troubling. He seemed taken aback about my very use of the term “snob gate;” it all gave me the distinct feeling I had committed a faux pas by traducing his blessed island. He evidently could not perceive the troubling trend.

The choice to use the term accidental Eden in the book I read while staying there (plus the largely self-congratulatory close to that book) could also be troubling. It all mirrors a lot of how Santa Cruz residents see themselves.

As one of my travel partners pointed out, it’s also all White people there. At least, all the people we saw were White.

Ultimately “back to the land” can be a sell-out. It can legitimize using one’s racial and class privileges to disengage from a world that desperately needs engaging (and changing). It is not enough to merely “live by example” (and what sort of example does an almost total lack of racial diversity say)?

Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about building hippie havens… if they are somehow used as a base with which to engage the world. This can, at its simplest, be merely to function as a refuge from that wider world where those in need of such can recuperate and repair. But the danger of refuges is that they can very easily lead to escapism.

So far, however, the jury is out. To reiterate, it was a quickie trip. There just wasn’t enough time to do the sort of investigating to see which attitudes and trends predominate.

So Far, So Good

Published at 11:30 on 18 February 2022

The crackdown is in process, and perhaps “crackdown” is something of an exaggeration, since so far I haven’t heard any stories of heads being cracked. Arrests, yes, but they were only to be expected.

It was, after all, a protest that chose to use illegal tactics. Camping on a public street is not allowed in most all cities. And pretty much every place has parking regulations that do not let you store a vehicle on a downtown street indefinitely. Not to mention that parking your vehicle in the middle of a traffic lane and blocking traffic is unlawful even on the most minor of side streets.

Now, protesters commonly choose to use illegal tactics. The reason is rather simple: such tactics are an effective way of attracting attention, and attracting attention is the chief motive for any protest. I have myself been part of such protests, and helped in the planning of them, including the choice of illegal tactics.

The rub is that illegal tactics are still illegal and as such those who choose to use such tactics should expect legal repercussions. It is up to you as a protest participant, and particularly as an organizer, to decide whether or not the likely consequences of the repercussions are a price worth paying for the increased attention. Perhaps more importantly, it is also your responsibility to reflect on how your chosen tactics adversely impact others, and whether it is reasonable for you to exact such an impact on others. And, guess what, the protest planning I have participated in did quite openly ponder all these issues.

When the crackdown comes, it makes for good propaganda as an organizer to then adopt a “those jack-booted thugs are oppressing us” line when the inevitable repercussions materialize, but that’s just propaganda. It is not actual fascism if a deliberately illegal protest gets dismantled by the authorities. As much as you might passionately agree with the cause of the protesters, it is important to keep this in mind.

All that said, never was I part of a protest where the plans were to occupy a downtown core and to expect to be allowed to do so for weeks on end. All of the illegal protests I helped plan got broken up within six hours of their onset. There has definitely been a different standard applied for these protests.

What sticks out, therefore, is not the use of force on the part of the authorities to end the protest, but how reluctant the authorities were to use such force in the first place.

This is, in fact, part of the reason behind the national state of emergency. It would not have been necessary if action had been taken earlier, before the occupations had gotten so large and so entrenched. (None of the protests I helped organize resulted in even a local emergency declaration.) This, and not the mere use of the police to disband an unlawful protest, is the real scandal behind the invocation of the Emergencies Act.

But I have digressed from my original point. So far, so good. I have heard no reports of violence. I hope it stays that way as the rest of the protest is ended. Whether or not it will is an open question, as so far the police have merely nibbled at the edges of the occupation. Things may well change if they encounter a core of more passionate and committed occupiers.

Immediate Crisis Over at Work

Published at 21:16 on 1 February 2022

It really does not look like I am about to get canned soon. They are starting to at least somewhat realize how impractical the whole onboarding process has been.

Work S.N.A.F.U.

Published at 19:01 on 14 January 2022

I have a performance review coming up at work next month.

To say I am pessimistic would be putting it mildly.

The root cause of the matter is that never have been hired at a position where I was expected to learn more, yet at the same time never have I been hired where management does less in the way of technical onboarding. I’ve basically been left to fend for myself while being expected to decipher terse assignments relayed in cryptic shop-specific jargon. And it tends to be like pulling teeth to get anyone to meet with me and explain what it is I am expected to do. Then, when I fail to deliver on a time frame commensurate with extensive in-company experience (surprise, surprise), the sense of disappointment is almost palpable.

Every other place I’ve been hired, there was much more onboarding for much less new position-specific knowledge. I’m at a loss to understand just what they expected to happen, given the general parameters of the situation they created for me. My best current theory is one of conflicting objectives: higher-ups wanting growth while my immediate manager is satisfied with the existing size and composition of his team. Result is an immediate manager under pressure to hire even though he does not want to. Solution is to hire someone but then engineer failure.

Now the question is what, if anything, I can do or say to prevent the coming performance review from being the corporate analogue of a Stalinist show trial with a pre-decided outcome.

That, and what this all will do for my current status in Canada under a temporary work permit.

A Quick Personal Update

Published at 09:20 on 11 September 2021

Not been posting here much recently because I have been preoccupied with the upcoming move to Vancouver, BC. Or should I say, the potential upcoming move.

You see, my potential employer had been operating under what I call “the child’s conception of NAFTA*.” Which is, upon hearing that the “FT” stands for “free trade,” to conclude based on its name alone that one knows all there is to know about the agreement. In this case, it means assuming cross-border hire is only very slightly more complex than hiring someone from another Canadian province. Just tell the hiree to apply for a work permit under that agreement, wait a few weeks for perfunctory approval, problem solved.

Um, no, that’s not how it works. Back in the day, I remember right-wing, ultra-capitalist libertarians whining about how NAFTA was false advertising because it really didn’t usher in complete free trade. Well, from their standpoint, they had a point, because it did not. National borders still very much exist and they still very much matter. Yes, there are easy-to-get work permits under that agreement, but they are limited to 63 quite narrow and precisely defined job categories, and a software developer is not among them.

So the intervening weeks have been a process of educating first myself, and then transferring that knowledge to my potential employer, who to this day remains of the general belief that they do not want to get super heavily-involved in the process. Which makes the outcome uncertain, because as Canadian immigration law is written, the employer basically does have to be quite heavily involved in my situation.

One can argue that this should not be the case, given the shortage of software people in Canada. That, however, is a policy advocacy position and not a statement of political fact. The fact is that hiring developers from abroad is not currently so easy or simple.

So this whole exercise may well come to naught so far as they are concerned. It won’t be a total loss from my standpoint, however, as going through it has enabled me to learn about which Vancouver employers are willing to be involved in the process of hiring from abroad (due to the software developer shortage, there is a motive for them to do so). Those are going to be my focus from this point onward, of course.

* And yes, the agreement is no longer officially called NAFTA. It is, depending on what country one resides, USMCA, CUSMA, or T-MEC. (Note how each acronym puts one’s own nation’s name first. But of course. Ah, nationalism. But I digress.) People tend to remember the fact that it’s basically a renegotiated NAFTA, however, and still judge the overall nature of the agreement by its original name.

I’m Back; Forget the Reopening

Published at 22:48 on 27 July 2021

I’m back from a road trip. Back a few days early, in fact: wildfire smoke cut it short. Not much point camping, hiking, and surveying rare plants if the air quality level is someplace between Unhealthy and Hazardous, with minimization of time spent outdoors recommended.

Regarding the border reopening, thanks to the Delta variant, forget it. Yes, Canada announced that it would reopen on the 9th of next month. That is merely a non-binding statement of future intent. Canada can easily renege, and in all likelihood will. This is even the more likely given that the USA has announced it will not reopen so early. Really, now, why should Canada extend to Americans a privilege the USA refuses to extend to Canadians? It would amount to giving up a bargaining chip for acting in the interests of its own citizens. No competent national government would do such a thing. On top of that, a strike is brewing amongst Canadian border guards and customs agents.

Remember what I wrote in my prediction of a reopening:

This assumes no unexpected developments (such as a new, vaccine-resistant COVID variant emerging), of course. If such things happen, all bets are off and the border closure may truly become a long-haul thing [emphasis added].

Vaccinated!

Published at 19:58 on 9 April 2021

I had sort of been keeping an eye on possibilities for registering to get on wait lists as soon as I become eligible for the vaccine on the 15th, so any vaccine-related threads on the local Reddit group immediately get my attention. Yesterday morning, rumors were circulating that three tribal clinics in the area had excess supply and were letting any adult, regardless of age or tribal status, receive the vaccine.

Two of the three rumors got promptly shot down in flames. But people kept insisting that the third one was actually a possibility. I went to the web site for that clinic, and sure enough, hundreds of vaccine doses for that afternoon were yet to be claimed.

Could it be? It sounded too good to be true. The clinic in question was in the next county and almost an hour’s drive away, and I didn’t want to make the drive only to be turned away, so I called them to verify. It was indeed true: they had a surplus of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and any adult, regardless of tribal status, who made an appointment and showed up could claim a dose.

Everything was handled outdoors in the parking lot of the Swinomish Casino. I did not even have to leave the cab of my truck. I waited less than five minutes to get my shot. It all seemed surreal, what with how so many people are scrambling merely to get on waiting lists. It still seems surreal.

But I have a piece of card stock to prove it was all very real.

Back from a Long Camping Trip

Published at 15:19 on 2 September 2020

Well, long for me. I don’t normally go camping for more than a couple days at a stretch, particularly not since the pandemic has made travel increasingly risky.

However, the condo complex I presently reside in is having every building re-roofed this summer, my building’s turn had come up, and the idea of living in a construction zone really does not appeal to me. So a camping trip it was.

I had been confining my camping to about a 50-mile radius this year, but the urge to visit the dry east side of the mountains had gotten just too great to resist, despite the risk. Part of it is that most of the free camping within 50 miles of me is at higher elevations, and these areas can be surprisingly chilly, even in the summer. I even had frost overnight one time last month. So Okanogan County it was.

I figured (correctly) that if I brought the right mix of perishable and non-perishable foods, my ice would last long enough to get me through most of the trip, and the last day or two I could get by well enough on dried and canned things.

That left buying gasoline for the trip home as the only business transaction I would have to make in what is one of Washington’s more infected counties on a per-capita basis. I would just pay at the pump and sanitize my hands afterward. No entering of public indoor spaces at all required.

It all worked out pretty much as planned, and it was nice to be someplace where it actually felt like summer at my campsite. It was very dry; many things were literally dried to a crisp. Not surprisingly, there was a strict burn ban on. Pleasantly surprisingly, I saw no idiots trying to flout it.

Then I return home, only to find that it was taking significantly longer than anticipated for my building to be finished. So I ended up making another, more hastily-planned, trip to a location much closer to home.

The first night of that second trip made for a nice counterpoint to the warmth and dryness of the east side, beginning as it did the same day a weak front brought some showers. The mountains make their own weather, so those showers ended up being a significant overnight rainfall at camp.

It had been some time since I camped in rainy weather, several years in fact, so it was actually nice to experience it again. Camping in the rain is no disaster if one is prepared for it, as I was. It was quite meditative to gradually fall asleep to the pitter-patter in the deepening dusk.

It ended by meeting some friends from Seattle for a short alpine hike near Mt. Baker, which doubled as a blueberry-harvesting trip. There wasn’t the bumper crop of berries that there was last year, but it was still easy enough to come back with enough berries to make a batch of jam (which I will be doing later today).

My Experiences with the Bellair Airporter

Published at 18:33 on 13 February 2020

I’ve noticed their buses on I-5 for decades, so I presumed that, given this is a well-established business, it was a reliable option for getting to Sea-Tac. Given that the only flight to my destination originating from the local Bellingham airport left at 5:00 am, it was a relief to know I could take the bus to Seattle (at a sane hour of the day) instead of flying down and changing planes there.

So I go online and make my reservation. Their web site was a little dated-looking, but it seemed to work fine. I promptly got a message saying my reservation was confirmed.

Then I get another e-mail a few minutes later saying there was a problem with billing my credit card and to call customer service. So I call customer service. They can’t find my reservation at all. They make another reservation for me.

Then I notice that there are not one, but two charges from them on my credit card. So I have to call again to straighten that mess out.

The day of my trip comes, and I arrive early at the bus stop. The bus doesn’t show at the appointed time. Having learned the hard way how lacking customer service and quality control tend to be in American business, I call them and ask if there’s any problems.

“We didn’t even send the bus to that stop because there were no reservations from it.” Turns out that when they made the new reservation to me, they made it wrong, for a bus leaving an hour later.

So I had to hurry home and drive to the airport on the spur of the moment (through horrible Seattle traffic, and I hate driving in Seattle traffic) to save my flight.

And now I see that they failed to properly refund all the money for the reservation they botched.

That’s right, I’m now up to four interactions with them, for something that should have taken just one interaction, and literally every interaction has gone wrong (and at their fault) in some way.

I’m starting to realize why Alaska Airlines can get people to wake at o-dark-thirty to catch that 5:00 am flight of theirs.

A Quick Update

Published at 09:23 on 21 January 2020

The Arctic Outflow Event Is Over

Not really a surprise, as such things seldom tend to last much longer than a week, anyhow. It only took a few days of temperatures above freezing both night and day to dispatch the snow that fell.

What was a surprise was how it ended: mild air started invading Wednesday night, but very slowly. Still, by the wee hours of the morning temperatures had climbed well into the forties Fahrenheit. Then, the surprise: the arctic air reasserted itself. The slush refroze. The cold weather then lasted for two more days before the inevitable happened.

A Surprise Job Opportunity

Someone wants to interview me for a local tech job. The interview process is somewhat unusual and plays to one of my strengths (teaching people). But there’s also a host of potential mismatches between myself and the employer. Time will tell on this one.

GUI Programming Is a Real PITA

I always knew it was; that’s why I’ve not done much of it up to this point. But boy, is it slow and tedious. It literally takes days of reading documentation and slow experimentation to accomplish the simplest things.

Part of the issue is that what I’m trying to do is somewhat unusual: I’m displaying multiple text panes within a scrollable area, using an area that is dynamically created and updated. Most programs don’t dynamically generate windows (with varying numbers of components) in their GUI’s, and virtually all programs just put a single text pane inside a scrollable region, and they want that pane to automatically grow to be as large as the whole region.

And this is with the Java Swing library, which is well-known, stable, and well-documented. I couldn’t imagine how painful the process would be in the sketchily-documented, ever-changing native Apple GUI libraries. Thankfully, the unusual part of the application is now basically complete; what remains is much more conventional GUI programming.