Scruff: Every Bit as Bad as Expected

Published at 10:37 on 9 February 2024

Let me start by saying this is not the fault of anyone at Perry Street Software. They actually tried. The Scruff app has features that would enable it to be something different from what it actually is in practice… if, of course, its user base desired that. The problem is that user base. What it wants is, generally, what Scruff actually is in practice. And what Scruff actually is, is not what I want.

I had written off smartphone dating apps as, well, basically what I have now experimentally determined them to be, ever since they first came on the scene. Late last year, I came to the conclusion I was being overly dismissive and should at least get some actual evidence to base my beliefs on.

It turns out there is dismissiveness, but then again there is also the wisdom of experience. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between the two. In this case, it was the wisdom of experience all along. The scene on Scruff is every bit as bleak as I had believed it to be. I did not bother checking out Grindr, but I did some research on their policies and all the evidence pointed it to being even worse, and with my current experience under my belt the latter is not even worth a chance.

You see, the main reason I do not self-identify as “gay” is that so much of the expression of gay male sexuality is the expression of typical male sexuality in general, specifically the typical male sex drive. I do not share that sex drive. My sex drive is more like the typical female sex drive; sex without a deeper personal connection is not very meaningful to me, and the few times I have had it, I have found it to be the most mediocre and disappointing sex of my life.

So much of the gay male subculture revolves around that male sex drive. (Straight men would have as much casual sex as gay men, if only straight women were as interested in it.) For me, it’s always seemed much like my junior high and high school years (where all the guys were madly obsessed over something I had little interest in) all over again.

I was hoping that by not choosing “Random Play/NSA” (NSA = no strings attached, i.e. sex without the expectation of anything more), and by writing a profile that indicated my interests, I might be able to find a kindred spirit of some sort.

Ho, ho, ho! Read the other guy’s profile. Good one. That would slow down the quest for more sexual conquests, so what’s the point? It’s all click on the pic and flirt for casual sex. Regarding NSA, approximately 98% of the user base indicates that as an interest. Because of course they do. Welcome to the gay male subculture.

I add a simple test in my profile (an unusual word that has to be mentioned at the start of any communications, to weed out those who did not read it). No new messages mention that word. None. Zero. Zilch. Oh well, at least it makes it easier to block ’em and move on.

General laziness, plus perhaps some unrealistic hope, means I haven’t yet closed my account and deleted the app. But I see that happening in the not too distant future.

Buy a Condo? Probably Not

Published at 10:37 on 21 January 2024

Having been granted permanent residency in Canada, I will be selling my Bellingham condo soon. This whole move north has in some ways been fortuitous: there are not many condos available in Bellingham, and what is available is generally carpeted and with clauses in the deed requiring carpeting for its soundproofing qualities.

The problem with carpet is allergies; there are two types of carpeting:

  1. Old carpet full of dirt and allergens.
  2. New carpet that outgasses toxic chemicals.

I began my ownership with the condo in the first state, and two years ago invested in bringing it to the second state. I did a significant amount of research in trying to select carpeting that outgassed less. It didn’t matter: it still outgassed to an excessive degree. Fortuitously, it was about two years ago that I got my job offer in Canada, so I never had to deal with what to do about the whole situation (absent the job offer, there were no good solutions).

Now, there is an excellent solution: Just sell it. Pristine carpeting will be a selling point.

That begs the question of whether or not to use the proceeds to purchase a condo in the Vancouver region. The answer is probably not, at least not now.

It’s sort of ironic, as the big problem with condos in Bellingham is not so much of an issue here; carpeting just isn’t as popular in Vancouver. I think this has to do with the high proportion of immigrants in Vancouver; carpeting is not as popular outside of North America, and the market is simply catering to overall demand.

Alas, there are other problems with the condo market here.

Money is probably the biggest one. If you divide the list price of a condo by the yearly rent of an equivalent apartment, you get about 29. The rule of thumb is home ownership seldom makes economic sense unless that ratio is 15 or less.

So absent a strong economic case, some other case must be made. Several possible cases exist:

Stability in general
It is hard to be evicted from a property you own. Unfortunately for this argument, British Columbia has strong tenant protection laws: it is hard to be evicted from a rental. Easiest way for my landlord to push me out would be if he wants to move into my unit himself or move an immediate family member into it. My unit is so small that he and his wife are unlikely to want it. It contains stairs, so it is unlikely to be appealing to an elderly parent. In other words, I am likely to be able to stay here indefinitely long.
Price stability
On top of that, one of those tenant protections is rent control. By contrast, Canada lacks long-term mortgages, for the simple reason that the federal government here has never taken the sort of policy to create them (long-term loans like 30-year mortgages are something a market will never create on its own. So any financing I undertake will be limited term, and have to be renewed (typically, after five years), possibly at a much higher interest rate.
My current rental is a so-called laneway house, a small, detached dwelling unit behind the main house. I share no common walls with anyone. I am in a completely residential area on a quiet side street. The only way to do as good as this with a condo would be to find one in a cottage development, but such developments are extraordinarily rare here.
Ham radio aspects
It would be nice if I could erect a few antennas. I have done that in other condos by hiding antennas in the attic space. Another alternative would be a penthouse condo with a roof I could climb up to from my deck. Both of these are in the strict sense forbidden, but if one is discreet about it, one can in my experience get away with it. The sort of tower developments popular here mean only a minute fraction of units are top floor units, and that those units sell at a disproportionate premium. (Being on the top floor is also critical from a quiet standpoint; I have lived under simply too many people who apparently keep a pet rhino that they attempting to teach how to tap dance.)

The bottom line is that a condo purchase could make sense if I find something reasonably-priced on the top floor with some sort of roof or attic access. Such units do exist, but they are almost always in older buildings, and these have several problems:

Before the 2000’s, it was unusual for condos to restrict smoking. Condos are not airtight. Have a smoker as a neighbour and it is likely that their stink will intrude your unit. In my case, this raises allergy issues.
Older condos tend not to have in-unit washers and dryers. I am allergic or sensitive to most scented laundry products, which makes wearing clothes washed in shared machines problematic. Yes, even the residue from a previous usage can make clothing effectively unwearable to me, causing itching, rashes, and migraines. This has caused me significant issues when I have had to contend with shared laundry facilities, to the point that the only reasonable conclusion is that having my own private laundry facility a must.
The exterior building envelope
There was a huge spate of shoddy condo designs built in the late twentieth century in British Columbia, to the point that the leaky condo crisis has at times been a significant political issue here. Buying an older condo that has not already been renovated to correct this issue is taking on a significant risk.

The bottom line is that the available facts seem to indicate that owing my home simply does not make much sense in this region.

This may change in the next five years or so, however. A number of of zoning changes have been made or are underway that make it reasonable to suspect that a batch of smaller condo developments are about to be built in residential areas, and that some of these will take the form of accessory dwelling units (like the one I currently inhabit) being offered for separate purchase. That would change the calculus significantly. Such changes are, however, at this point only theoretical.

So unless I really get lucky, the best answer for the time being is almost certainly to continue renting.

Mouse Update

Published at 11:35 on 22 December 2023

When I wrote this, I had not, in fact, caught all the mice.

Signs of mouse activity quickly resumed. Then began the game of strategically redeploying traps in an attempt to catch the other ones. A week later, I caught one in a trap baited with a piece of a walnut. Then began a further week with continued high mouse activity and no caught mice.

Eventually, the idea to try a different sort of bait occurred to me: something savoury, greasy, and meaty. I had heard that sometimes mice go for such things, so I borrowed a handful of dry dog food from a friend and left a piece of kibble out in an area of the kitchen with particularly high mouse activity. Within four hours, the kibble was gone.

So I promptly re-baited two traps with dog kibble that had been baited with Tootsie Roll (of which I had read can attract mice, but which these mice showed approximately zero interest in). The traps were ignored. So I made a trail of kibble bits leading to one of the traps. The mouse ate the trail and left the trap alone. So I left another trail, this time ending closer to the trigger. The same thing happens. Try a third time, this time ending under the trigger, since that type of old-fashioned snap trap can be tripped by lifting the trigger as well as depressing it. The trail gets eaten except for that last little kibble bit under the trigger.

It was at this point I nicknamed the offending mouse “Einstein,” because it had apparently managed to learn how mousetraps work. I complain to the landlord and get him to redouble his efforts at sealing off all entrances, and to seek the services of a professional exterminator.

A few days later, I get the idea of swapping out the bait in another trap in another area with high mouse activity for a piece of dog kibble. This is also wooden snap trap but it has a wide plastic trigger instead of a traditional metal one. Because there is no easy way to tie bait to this trigger with a piece of wire, I just place the kibble atop the trigger. Einstein promptly steals the bait, leaving the trap untripped.

So I try again, this time hot-melt gluing the bait onto the trigger. If you have ever observed a small rodent eat, you will notice that they prefer to do so by standing on their hind legs and holding the food in their front paws while they nibble on it. I figure the mouse will want to do that, which will lead to tugging on the stuck bait and a hopefully sprung trap.

And at long last, my newfound optimism at a new strategy is borne out. The same night that happens, a second mouse visits one of my other traps baited with walnut and gets caught by it. So I go from a week with no success to two dead mice in a single night.

That was now a little over a week ago, and there has been no sign of any new mouse activity since then. So I now feel reasonably safe concluding that my mouse problem is probably over, at least for this season.

Some takeaways:

  • Peanut butter is not always best. It is reputed to be the best bait, and virtually every source out there about dealing with mice recommends it highly. Well, these mice showed exactly zero interest in peanut butter. If, after a few days, you have no success with peanut butter, it is probably best to start considering other bait types.
  • Watch what they nibble on. One of my catches was in a trap baited with granola, since I had noticed an old, reused granola bag get nibbled on by a mouse.
  • Try similar baits. Peanut butter never worked, but that got me to try another type of nut butter (sunflower). That didn’t work, either, but it led me to try walnuts. Half of the mice I caught were in traps baited with walnut pieces.
  • Try dog food or jerky. Some mice like meaty, savoury things. A mouse that showed zero interest in any other type of bait came for dog food.
  • Multiple traps are good. Anywhere you see signs of mouse activity is a good place for at least one trap. No area with signs of mouse activity should be more than a few feet from a trap.
  • Multiple types of trap are good. These mice never came to any of those newer-style “improved” plastic traps, ever. The only traps that caught mice for me were old-fashioned wooden traps. Of those, Victor makes some with a new-style wide plastic triggers. Those were by far the most successful type, catching three of the four mice. I would have never learned this, and would probably still be struggling with a mouse infestation, had I not been willing to try different trap types.
  • When using old-fashioned wooden traps, leave nothing to chance. The disadvantage of these traps, and the motive for most improvements on them, is that if the mouse approaches from the back and sometimes the side, it will evade the kill zone even if the trap goes off. Such traps must be placed inside a little box, or between objects arranged so as to guide the mouse into the kill zone, to maximize their chance of success. Likewise, solid baits should be affixed to the trigger by gluing or tying with fine wire to promote tugging and minimize the chance of bait theft.
  • Incrementalism can be helpful. I never caught Einstein until I first baited a trap with a new bait and did not secure the bait. This probably taught the mouse the lesson that it was possible to steal from a trap of this design with this bait. On the second visit, when the mouse’s guard was down, the bait had been glued to the trigger. No more easy lifting. Snap!
  • Exclusion is key. I do not think it is a coincidence that I caught two mice in one night right after the landlord redoubled his efforts at closing all possible avenues of rodent ingress and egress. I believe this trapped two mice inside, and once they realized they could no longer go outdoors to feed on garbage (I have been meticulous about cleaning up crumbs), there was no ready food source left for them save the bait on my traps.

Caught the Mouse

Published at 14:11 on 30 November 2023

For about the past fortnight, there has been an unwanted house guest living on my first floor.

Late this morning, returning from an errand, I finally was greeted with the sight I have been hoping to see for all too long: a sprung mouse trap with a dead rodent in it. As luck would have it, part of the errand was procuring a live-catch trap (since I was having zero luck with the snap traps, and have read that the live-catch traps have a higher capture rate).

Regarding the latter point, this mouse evaded capture in a snap trap not once, not twice, not thrice, but a total of four times. I guess the critter finally let its guard down enough to let one of my traps catch it.

At least, I sure hope I caught the mouse. I.e., that there is not more than one furry little home invader to deal with. The new morning ritual of cleaning up the mouse poop has gotten very old. I am going to play it safe and hold off on returning the live-catch trap unused until at least a week passes with no sign of mouse activity.

On a related note, I have finally stopped getting nothing but the silent treatment out of the various job applications I have been sending out. Hopefully catching the mouse is a good sign that my luck has turned and I will catch a job as well. We shall see. It won’t ruin my life for this to be false optimism; I have enough saved up to be able to go without a job for a while, and the time off will be a good way to recharge.

More Bits of Evidence in Favor of My Departure

Published at 09:31 on 19 October 2023

The generally shambolic nature of the organization that is my soon-to-be ex-employer is best exemplified by two of their actions in the 24 hours since I submitted a letter of resignation.

Something They Did Not Do

They did not thank me for my advance notice, announce they were dismissing me immediately with severance pay equal to the amount of time between Tuesday and my stated departure day, relieve me of the building access card they had furnished me, and then proceed to escort me from the building. This is actually standard procedure at many high tech companies, particularly at ones that deal with anything of a sensitive nature. This employer deals largely in archiving the proprietary information of large financial firms, easily the most sensitive data of any employer (save a government contractor involved in plutonium production) that I have worked for!

Look, I am not going to steal or destroy anyone’s data. But they don’t know that for sure. The vast majority of acts of sabotage against businesses happens at the hand of disgruntled insiders. Competent businesses know that, and have policies for acting accordingly.

Something They Did

They asked me what of their property I had been given and to come up with a plan for returning it to them. That points to not having functional inventory control. The latter is Business Administration 101 sort of stuff. The first anecdote was no great surprise when it materialized (see immediately below). This one, however, was.

There is actually an inventory sticker on my laptop. I guess it was merely the self-directed action of a lone, competent systems administrator, who has by now departed the company.

Boy, Was I Ever Right

When I started getting frustrated at what a strange and difficult workplace it was, one of the first rules I arrived at was to never assume any level of competence on their part, since the best explanation at the time for their observed characteristics was a organization-wide lack of basic competence. This has proved to be a very good guide for predicting their actions ever since the time I formulated the theory.

It’s Over

Published at 23:42 on 17 October 2023

They wanted me to agree to another unrealistic “Performance Improvement Plan.” Given that it was unrealistic, it would have been dishonest to agree to it. The main issue is a fundamental mismatch between what they need and what my skills are. So I am on my way out.

Caution Confirmed

Published at 07:16 on 11 September 2023

Today I learned that a friend has become addicted to cetirizine and is going through withdrawal sickness after suffering an interruption in supply.

Cetirizine is more commonly known as Zyrtec. Yes, the over-the-counter antihistamine. That’s right, an antihistamine, not an opiate.

As an allergy sufferer, I have occasionally taken antihistamines most of my life as needed. The key words here being occasionally and as needed. I was originally given them by my mother as a child. It was not that long after I started being administered them that I pushed back, questioning why I was always being given a dose of them every day. Couldn’t we stop and see how bad the symptoms are without medications today?

Mom thought I was being somewhat silly for being willing to risk feeling miserable like that, all over a little worry about ingesting medication with a doctor’s approval. I felt that why should I take any medication unless I am sure I need it. (It’s not as if my allergies were life-threatening or anything.)

Such has been my policy about antihistamine usage to this day. If my allergies are making me miserable, I will medicate, and do so without guilt. Then I will cut myself off medication, and see how I feel without. If I don’t feel abjectly miserable, I will put up with low-grade symptoms and carry on. If I do feel miserable, I will take another pill.

Many, like Mom, have thought it silly bordering on Puritanical for me to be willing impose suffering on myself like this. Today I feel vindicated.


I have also run across those who try to make me feel guilty for being willing to turn to the products of the pharmaceutical industry at all. Try alternative treatments, they say. Well, I have. They don’t work as well (often, they don’t work, period).

When I query them, I find out that such individuals inevitably either don’t have allergies, or that their symptoms are vastly less serious than mine. As such, their opinions the matter are irrelevant.

On (Not) Being a Java Careerist

Published at 07:40 on 29 July 2023

Not to slam Java careerists. One thing they are is very smart and talented. One just has to be, in order to deal with all the gratuitous complexity bred by the traditions of that programming community.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to devote basically all of my mental effort to doing that. I don’t want to lose my botanical knowledge, or my wide-ranging general scientific knowledge. And I would have to in order to succeed in the Java world. The mental load is just so extreme.

Even if I wanted to, I am not sure I could. I crave knowledge in a diversity of subjects. My mind would rebel, strongly, against being forced to hyperspecialize.

In a sense, this means I’m “lazy” in that I “don’t want to work very hard” at software software development. But I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing. Why should I work harder than necessary? If there is an easier way to do a good job at something, why not choose the easier way?

Is it really intelligent behavior to continue doing something in a difficult way when you are aware that an easier way exists?

This all was, in fact, something I wondered a bit about going into this job. And I decided then that if this was the case, I wouldn’t succeed at the job, wouldn’t want the job, and would end up departing from it. And so here I am.

Neurotypicals, Sigh

Published at 17:33 on 22 June 2023

I am somewhere on the autism spectrum, and one thing I find difficult about neurotypicals is how they so often experience extreme difficulty using language to communicate, via words and their assigned meanings.

Like with my toothache recently. It was bad enough that I was reasonably sure that it was abscessed to the point of no return and that the f*cker needed to be extracted. But noooooo, the endodontist couldn’t say that. Instead, he has to write up a report to send to my regular dentist, who then can’t say it either. No, I have to schedule an appointment, face to face of course, so she can break it to me. And she spends about fifteen minutes doing so. Most of those fifteen minutes are filled with statistics about root canals that don’t apply to my particular situation. Eventually she gets to the point: the endodontist’s report said that options were not good for any restoration procedure.

End result: I learn what I had already expected some time ago.

What was I supposed to do? Cry over it? It’s dead, it’s infected, we need to do what one always does with dead infected things in one’s body: remove them. Just tell me it needs to be removed, so I can get it removed sooner rather than later. Is that so hard?

Oh well, at least I know now. And thankfully the really hurty phase of it ended three weeks ago, so it is not as if I was in any undue pain from the experience. But it sure would have been nice to know the truth sooner and with less fuss.

A $100 Offer

Published at 09:48 on 18 March 2023

I feel like making a little easy money. As such, I will bet the first taker USD $100 (CAD $137 if you prefer to wager in Canadian funds) that Trump will not be indicted in the next 14 days (i.e. by 9:00 AM Pacific time, 1 April 2023). Any takers? This is an honest offer. Comment on this post if interested.