Our elitist province

If you want evidence that our government has no fucks to give to the common people of the province of Ontario, look no further than Highway 407. Now, I’m not inherently opposed to toll highways; in fact, they can be a good thing. For example, nearly half a million people drive on Highway 401 every day. If everyone had to pay a reasonable toll of, say, $1 per trip, they could generate nearly half a million dollars per day. This money could then be used to maintain and repair infrastructure. Over time, it could have been used to build Highway 407. The problem with Highway 407 is that a dollar won’t get you very far on this highway, with rates that skyrocket during the times when we need it most.

A quick history on highway 407: It was originally planned as a freeway bypassing the Toronto section of Highway 401, which is now the busiest highway in the WORLD. Shortly after it was built, our GOVERNMENT sold it to Spanish investors. This leaves us in the province of Ontario with not only the busiest highway in the whole goddamned world, but also the only viable alternative the most expensive toll highway in the whole goddamned world. Add in a greenbelt where housing cannot be built, pushing people into places where the 407 is the only viable alternative, and you have a recipe to make corrupt people wealthy on the backs of the working class.

An overfed twat

So now they’re going to raise rates even more; a full list of those rates can be found here, and bear in mind that a kilometer is just slightly over half a mile. Here is the transcript from CTV news when they interviewed an overfed twat:

Interviewer: “At what point is there a concern that you start turning away drivers based on that it’s out of reach for an average person?”
Overfed twat: “That’s not the objective; the objective in, ah, in setting tolls is to ensure the highway continues to move at a rate where it’s an alternative, ah, for drivers.”

Translation: “There are too many common people using this highway now, so we’re going to keep jacking up the rates so that only the wealthy can afford to drive on it, so fuck you, common people.”

My view? They’re a bunch of greedy idle rich people squeezing the common working class person as hard as they can to ensure the working class continue to suffer to make ends meet, while the rich get to enjoy their highway free from regular people. Forget about conspiracy theories; all the theories are just a smoke screen to keep people from seeing the real conspiracy that’s happening out in the open, right before our eyes.

Going back to Linux

First, I will state that I think Windows 10 is a fine operating system. I switched back to Windows from Ubuntu Linux when I could upgrade my Windows 7 for free. I thought I’d try it out, and then stuck with it. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, and it ran all the software I wanted. On a technical level, I believe it is a superior product in the market, certainly better than the MacOS, and, as far as companies go, I believe that Microsoft is less nefarious than either Apple or Google.

Yuck.

My main reason for going back to Linux is that Windows 10 is a marketing machine for Microsoft. For example, when I click on my start menu, I see things like Candy Crush Friends Saga and Township, which are things I have no desire to play. I didn’t put them there, and while they are free, they have in game purchases that I don’t like. Honestly, I’d rather pay for a good quality game up front than to have on-going in game purchases. What’s wrong with Mine Sweeper or Solitaire? Another example is when I run an older version of Microsoft Office, it tells me that my Microsoft Office is out of date and wants me to buy the new version, even though there’s nothing wrong with the old one. Even my lock screen is constantly telling me how great Microsoft Edge is, and why I should use it. It’s constantly calling home to send data about my usage to Microsoft servers, in order for advertisers to be better at manipulating me through targeted ads.

Store bought boxed originals

I get it; Microsoft is a company, and so they need to make money in order to fatten the wallets of their shareholders. I have no problem buying a good quality operating system or office suite; for example, I bought legitimate store box copies of Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows 7. I also paid for a legitimate copy of Office 2003, student and teacher edition as I was using it for non-commercial purposes. I didn’t need to be told when to buy these products; they offered something I wanted or needed, and bought them – or rather, paid for a license to use them.

Oddly restrictive licensing.

That license is another thing that is an issue. For example, my copy of Office Student and Teacher edition 2003 has qualifying criteria: Full or part-time student, home-schooled student, full or part-time faculty or staff of an accredited educational institution, or a member of a household meeting this criteria. This means that the average minimum wage earning joe struggling to make ends meet who just wants something to create a new resume so they can find a better job would have to shell out a lot more money for the “Standard” edition, while an overpaid tenured professor gets to use the inexpensive version. I have a problem with that. It also states that it’s licensed for non-commercial use on up to 3 home PC’s. I don’t get it; why should Microsoft care about how many PC’s I use this product on in the privacy of my own home? No wonder I switched to LibreOffice.

Then there’s the way Windows behaves. For example, every week there’s a new system update. Often, these will force my computer to restart. Ubuntu Linux doesn’t do that. One time, I got an update that linked my documents and pictures folders to my OneDrive, but then my OneDrive filled up, so I got a message that I could “Buy” more space. Yuck, more harassment from the marketing department. I have to “Opt out” of things that, if they were “Opt in,” nobody in their right mind would participate in.

This Netbook is over 10 years old!

My journey back to Linux started with giving new life to an old netbook; an Acer AspireOne. I replaced the hard drive with an SSD, and installed Lubuntu Netbook edition. Lubuntu is a lightweight distribution of Ubuntu. This became my workhorse and travel companion; I installed LightZone on it so that I could have a digital darkroom with me anywhere I went. I followed that up with installing and configuring Ubuntu Server on the computer that hosts this very blog. My main PC is one I built from hand picked components in 2017, and I had intended it to be a powerful Linux machine, but I ended up transferring my legitimate Windows 10 license to it. Today, I finally got around to installing Ubuntu desktop 18.04 in a dual boot configuration from a USB stick. I was pleased when the installation went flawlessly, and everything worked. It even found my network laser printer and set it up automatically, no need to go hunting for drivers!

My first impression was one of peace. I went with the clean Unity desktop that I hated so much when it first came out but now have come to appreciate. No advertisements. No visual noise. No pressure to upgrade and spend more money. Nobody watching, nobody tracking to figure out what to sell me next. I configured the Thunderbird mail client; I hadn’t used an honest, clean, functional mail client like this since the last time I used Ubuntu Linux. I was shocked to see that my neglected inbox had over 15,000 unread messages; thankfully, Thunderbird allowed me to quickly and easily cut that down in a reasonable amount of time. I installed the NextCloud client and synced everything.

Ultimately, my greatest satisfaction comes from the knowledge that every single clock cycle and every bit of memory in my computer is dedicated 100% for my benefit, and is not wasted for the benefit of a company forever trying to extract more money from me. No wonder my computer feels so much faster and responsive now.

The 90 day jacket

I used to work on the assembly line in car plants 1 and 2 in Oshawa, from around the time the Y2k programmer job market dried up to the time when GM shut down the truck plant in Oshawa. I wanted to get into the electrical trade, and GM had a program where they would offer free training and recruit from the assembly line to fill their need for electricians. I came in with a group of around 600 new hires when they started a 3rd shift in the truck plant in 2002, but for some reason I ended up on the swing shift in the car plant that built the Impala and Monte Carlo. This made me the lowest seniority guy in the entire department; the guy with the next lowest seniority had 15 years and came from the Scarborough Van Plant, and, as one would expect, there was always someone there wanting to bust the balls of the “New guy,” which I always managed to turn around, like the time I got my “90 day jacket.”

The 90 day mark was a significant milestone for new workers back then. From day 1 to day 89, General Motors could let a new worker go for any reason at all, or even for no reason whatsoever. There were stories of guys who got on the bad side of a foreman who got let go right on day 89. However, all that would change on day 90, because, on day 90, a new worker got the full protection of the union. Back then, it was called the Canadian Auto Worker’s union, or CAW, local 222, and they had power. I dare not repeat some of the stories I’ve heard, but let’s say that even if you killed someone, the union would make sure your job would still be there for you. The only time the CAW did not defend its members was the time when two guys were caught putting sand in the paint. To their credit, the CAW takes pride in the products its members build, and are probably responsible for the high quality of Oshawa made cars and trucks, and would not tolerate sabotage to the product that is the livelihood of their members.

One particular fellow delighted in sadistically tormenting me during my first 89 days. His locker was next to mine, and we usually sat at the same table during lunch. Back then, our lockers and lunch tables were on the shop floor, near where we worked. He wasn’t dangerous nor terribly obnoxious, he was just trying to have a good time at my expense. I honestly couldn’t really blame him, as a place like that can really take its toll on the mind of a middle aged guy who has to come to terms with the fact that all he has to look forward to is counting down the days until his retirement, where the average life expectancy of a GM retiree is only 18 months. It’s almost like counting down the days left to live, so I played along.

The GM Picnic, 2002

Almost to the day of my 90 day mark, GM held its annual picnic towards the end of October. This was an event where we were able to bring our families on tours of the plant, eat food, enjoy a live band, and buy GM merchandise at a discount price. At this time, I was in need of a good winter jacket, and so I bought a flashy GM Goodwrench Racing winter jacket at a heavily discounted price. I also noticed that the ball buster did not attend.

Me wearing my 90 day jacket today

The following Monday, I wore my brand new jacket to work, onto the shop floor, making sure to keep it on until the ball buster showed up. When he did, I took it off carefully to hang it on the hook in my locker.

“Where the fuck did you get that,” he asked. “Where the fuck did I get what,” I asked innocently, as if I didn’t know. “The jacket, where’d you get it?” I had his attention, it was time for some fun.

“Didn’t you know? All of us new hires got these jackets for passing our 90 days,” I told him. Since I was the only new hire in the department, he had no way of knowing otherwise. “Well, I didn’t get no 90 day jacket,” he protested. “That’s probably because you’re not a new hire,” I advised him. “Well, I’m going to put in a call for Johnny,” he said. Johnny was our union rep.

Later on that day, I got a visit from Johnny asking me about the jacket. I explained everything to him, how the ball buster had been trying to bust my balls for the past three months, so I made up the story about the jacket because it was my turn to get him going. Johnny thought it was a great joke, and went back to the ball buster to advise him that I got a 90 day company jacket, not a 90 day union jacket, and if the ball buster wanted one, he would have to talk to the foreman about it. Johnny knew full well that the ball buster was not on speaking terms with the foreman. Others in our department were, and couldn’t help themselves when they heard about this story, and started telling the ball buster that they got their jackets in the mail that week.

In the end, the ball buster eventually realized he’d been had, and was eager to get in on a joke with another ball buster a few weeks later…but that, my friends, is a tale for another day.

Mail was down

Just a quick note, my e-mail server was not working over the past week, I overlooked this configuration when transferring my domain name, so if you sent me something, I would not have received it. This has been corrected, and my e-mail now works as it should.

Productive weekend

Not having Facebook as an endless distraction meant that I could get to some things I wanted to get done this weekend. After putting my server on a battery backup, I diverted some LED lighting destined for a landfill on a job I did recently by re-purposing it as over and under cabinet lighting in my kitchen. I think it looks fantastic, and can’t wait to re-purpose more of it as accent lighting.

Other things I did this weekend was to got for a walk with my wife, watch the first episode of Bosch on Amazon Prime, give something nice to my neighbours, shovel snow, eat a $3 hamburger from Wendy’s, watch some road rage dashcam videos on Youtube, and I bought an open top tool box.

This will be a new experience for me. I’ve used all kinds of tool boxes for my job, including a Klein tool backpack. I’m always looking for the best solution for my tool storage, and I believe this might be the most efficient. I will report back later.

Thanks for stopping by!

pquirk.com is now secure

Thanks to the assistance of the open source linux community, I finally found out why I was unable to obtain a valid security certificate for pquirk.com; it turns out that when I moved this to a virtual server so I could also host cloud.pquirk.com and history.pquirk.com, it created a double configuration file which caused confusion. That’s fixed, so now my friends and family can reply to my posts with confidence that you are using a secure connection. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all of my friends and family for being my friends and family, and I’ll do my best to share fun and interesting things with you on my blog.

4×4 fun

Last month, I went to visit my parents in the Hastings Highlands with my new GMC Sierra 4×4 pickup truck, and we decided to test out our 4 wheel drive in the snow. It was also a good opportunity to use some of the auto tracking features of the drone. You’ll see my father driving his Ford Ranger towards the end, it did really well.

Server down (and back up)

Just a quick status update; if you tried to access anything hosted by me last night and found that you could not, it’s because my server crashed. I restarted it, but it only gave me a beep code. Thankfully, I have keen troubleshooting skills, and found that re-seating the video card did the trick. The only other issue I’m having is in obtaining a valid security certificate for pquirk.com. Interestingly, I was able to obtain a valid certificate for my sub-domains, cloud.pquirk.com and history.pquirk.com, but I’m having trouble with my top level domain. I might just have to read the instruction manual on that one…

GM Oshawa closure

With the closure of GM Oshawa’s plant in the news and the protests that are happening, I would like to take this opportunity to bring some sobriety to this situation with my own first hand experience and perspective.

Me and my truck visiting the place where it was built.
Me and my truck visiting the plant where it was built.

I was hired by General Motors in 2002 when they had to hire around 600 new employees for a new third shift at Oshawa’s truck plant. The third shift was necessary because the trucks were selling very well, due to the fact that Canadian built trucks were of great quality and the appeal of a rugged truck built in a rugged country by rugged but friendly hard working people was great to the kind of person who would buy a truck. Things were going great until 2008, when we knew that the Buick and Pontiac were going to be done and no new product was on the horizon. We knew the plant couldn’t survive on just the Impala and Monte Carlo, so when GM said there would be no new products for Oshawa unless we agreed to a shelf agreement with concessions, we all thought that was a pretty good idea, so we voted in favour for that, which, among other things, allowed GM to hire people on a temporary full time basis, created a two tier system where new employees would never make more than $25 per hour, and froze the wages of current employees. GM rewarded us with the Camaro, which the guys from Sainte-Thérèse referred to as the “Kiss of death,” as their plant was shut down shortly after they got the Camaro. This announcement came at a time shortly after the price of crude oil was peaking at $160 per barrel; gas prices were on their way up to prices never seen before, so the whole idea seemed like something thought up by a demented idiot. A week later, GM announced they were shutting down the truck plant and moving it to Mexico.

Price of crude oil throughout 2008, generated at macrotrends.net.

GM had negotiated in bad faith. Jobs were going to be lost, there would be no way Camaro production would replace two trucks, the Pontiac, and the Buick. The CAW protested and threatened General Motors with legal action, but eventually they settled out of court on a plan called Voluntary Termination of Employment Program, or VTEP (GM loves its acronyms). Anyone who volunteered to terminate employment with GM would get a $35,000 car voucher, cash, and the balance of their pension either left with GM or they could take it out and have their own financial institution manage it. The cash buyout was very generous; someone with only a year’s seniority would get around $35,000, and that amount went up with seniority, up until 10 years, where it levelled out close to $100,000. A person within 3 years of retiring could also get the new car voucher, but instead of a cash buyout, they would get paid to stay at home until they were eligible for their pension. To me, GM was saying there was no future for us younger guys in the plant, so here’s some money and a new car to give you a good start in whatever career you might choose. I was told we would never see anything like this again. I chose to leave GM to go into an electrical apprenticeship and joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

My reflection in a window at the Women’s College new build

It turned out that the kind of people who buy trucks don’t like buying trucks that are made in Mexico, or anywhere else but the good old US of A, or Canada. Sales plummeted as anyone but a demented idiot would have predicted. GM scrambled to move truck operations to Fort Wayne, Texas, but could not get everything complete in time, and so they had to ship partially made trucks to Oshawa where they would be finished. I and other electricians from the IBEW were called in, along with other union trades, to get the line in and complete by a very aggressive deadline. We were working 10 hour days, 6-7 days a week to meet this deadline. The word from the very beginning was that this line was only going to stay in Oshawa for 18 months, after which it was going to be moved to Fort Wayne. The truth of this was reinforced with the fact that all of the equipment was designed to run on American 480 volts, so we had to put in step-down transformers to make it compatible with Canadian 600 volt power. When I went to the parts of the plant where I used to work, it was completely gutted. There was no way a plant that size was going to survive on the few Cadillacs and Impalas that were rolling along a single line; things were definitely winding down.

Stickers on my hard hat from GM 2017
My hardhat from putting in the truck line for GM Oshawa in 2017.

So, why did General Motors want to shut down operations in Oshawa? It’s not the workers or the union; they are very hard working, and there’s not many of them left, and those that are still there are underpaid for the work they do as many fall under the lower pay scale of the shelf agreement, and the 10+ year freeze has let inflation eat away at the income of those senior workers in the higher tier. It’s not because the plant is outdated; we put in the latest manufacturing equipment in that new truck line in 2017. The most accurate reason I’ve heard was that GM felt they were spending too much money on electricity. They have a direct line to the Pickering nuclear power station, and use a tremendous amount of electricity. I had heard that they wanted to start their own co-gen power station in Oshawa, but their application was denied, and the cuts and closures started. This is reinforced by the fact that they are going ahead with a 6.4 megawatt co-generation plant in St. Catherine’s, which they have no plans on closing. I think we don’t hear much about this reason because OPG is a sacred cow in this part of the country, but we really ought to have this conversation because the workers losing their jobs deserve a lot more respect than they’ve been getting, and GM, for all their bad moves and decisions, can’t be expected to continue to pay a premium for some of the most expensive electricity in the world.