Note to the Stupid (Like Me)

I just wasted an hour and a half trying to get an image to appear on a webpage. That’s right: a whole friggin’ hour and a half for something so trivial! You’d think I’ve only been doing this stuff for a day or two, not 6 years.

I drove myself crazy.

Q: Is the image corrupt?
A: Can’t be. I tried creating it with two different applications.

Q: Is the database table from which the reference to the image was drawn corrupt?
A: Why are the previous references working, if that’s the case.

Q: Did I copy the image to the right directory?
A: Yup.

Q: Are the file attributes for the image on the server “normal”?
A: Look fine to me. They’re like all the others.

Q: Is the HTML markup referring to the image wrong?
A: Nope.

Q: Could it be a browser cache issue at this point?
A: Cleared cache, but the image isn’t showing up on Netscape or IE.

Q: Would rebooting the computer help?
A: In theory, it shouldn’t. Doing so with other strange problems has cleared things up. But not this time.

Then it occurred to me.

Through much of the evening, I’ve been having to set my FTP program to upload files in ASCII mode. However, images are binary and, therefore, must be uploaded in binary mode. So I uploaded the image again, this time in binary mode, and, of course, it showed up on the page.

In the back of my mind, I knew I would kick myself once I had figured out what I was doing wrong. But I never thought it would be something SO STUPID!

I give you all permission to laugh at me. I deserve it.

Polls During Election Campaigns

I have a problem with polls during election campaigns. To be blunt, I don’t think they should be published. Some say that polls do not influence how people vote on election day. I say those who say that have their head up their ass if they truly believe that.

As you know, Nova Scotians will be going to the polls in 8 days — the day after the August long weekend, perhaps the slowest work day of the year. No one is in the mood for an election, except the incumbent Tories who are hoping that widespread ambivalence in the political process at this time of year will sweep them back to power. And their strategy might work very well. Unfortunately, say I.

Enters my problem with polls. I believe that for many who sit on the fence (i.e., those with no set allegiance and whose vote could go to any of two or three parties), polls become a substitute for looking closely at the issues and the incumbents’ record. If one party’s platform doesn’t strike the fence sitters as spectacularly odious on the surface and that party seems to be leading the polls, then why not just be “agreeable” and go with what seems to be the flow? And if the lead is sizeable, why not just vote for what seems like a foredrawn conclusion (or not vote at all)? Besides, most people derive some satisfaction when, on election night, they find that they voted for the winning party.

I believe polls played an important role in sweeping the Conservatives to power in Nova Scotia in 1999. The 1998 general election had yielded a minority Liberal government: 19 seats for the Liberals, 19 seats for the NDP, and 14 seats for the Conservatives. Since the Liberals were the incumbents, they were asked to form the government. The gulf in political philosophy between the NDP and the Conservatives is such that the two parties could never have formed a majority coalition. However, even if they could have overcome their differences, I don’t believe they would have been allowed to form such a coalition under the current system, even though such a joining would have reflected the will of the majority of Nova Scotians.

Intent on governing as though it had a majority, the minority Liberal government elected in 1998 fell the following year. A summer election followed, but it had to happen: the province couldn’t go without a government just because it was summer. Polls published during the 1999 campaign showed a dead heat between the Liberals and NDP and the Conservatives trailing, suggesting Nova Scotia was heading towards another minority government. The thought of annual provincial elections was probably too much for most people to contemplate. With dissatisfaction towards the Liberals still in the air and what seems to be a belief that the NDP is better suited to be an effective opposition, Nova Scotians woke up the morning after the election a bit surprised to find themselves with a majority government headed by the Conservatives, which the polls had touted as the underdogs. The end result, though, was that Nova Scotians could set aside the notion of going back to the polls for yet another provincial election in 2000 or 2001.

Perhaps a huge chunk of the undecided voters in those 1999 polls opted for a devil they already knew from the late-’70s to early-’90s rather than the then-disliked Liberals or the NDP that never held power in this province. Perhaps they will pull the same stunt in 2003 and propel to power the supposed underdogs, the NDP, who’ve demonstrated great political maturity by staging an effective opposition in the last 4 years. (I doubt that’ll happen, though.) But with a strange twist, only one conclusion can be reached about the 1999 polls: they were wrong. Very wrong.

I don’t consider “who seems to be winning” to be a valid bit of information during an election campaign, at least not for the public. In fact, I see it as a way for fence sitters to avoid considering the issues. As such, polls are more than a snapshot of public sentiment. They can influence the outcome of an election. I truly believe that. Fence sitters end up relying not on their heart and mind but on often unreliable numbers, not to mention the desire to “do like everybody else.”

There’s one experiment I’d like to see done in a subsequent election: a moratorium on publishing poll results the moment an election campaign begins. Each party should, of course, be allowed to conduct polls to see if their campaign strategy is working. Then, only when the election is over, publish those poll results. If the aggregate data closely reflect what happened on election day, then I’ll shut up …after admitting that I was dead wrong in suspecting that poll results influence, rather than simply reflect, the outcome of an election. But I would like to see at least one election fought strictly on the issues, free of speculative number crunching.

The Gradual Return

Indiana Jones, the Queen of Sheba and her son, Da Appetite Neverending (D.A.N.), and I returned from Fredericton late Thursday evening.

We all had a good time and, in the Queen’s case, a productive time as well on her research at the UNB library. Fredericton is a sleepy little city; the surroundings are pleasant, but there isn’t much to do and the array of restaurants could be much better for a place its size. We hardly saw the sun while we were there; it was mostly overcast or rainy and very humid, making the temperature in the low 20s feel much, much warmer. It felt like summer, though, and Hiker and his partner’s home, surrounded by trees and located in a pleasant, older part of Fredericton, was a delightful home base for me while in the city.

On Tuesday, Indiana and I went on a day trip to Saint John, Canada’s first incorporated city, about 100 km southeast of Fredericton. I must say that New Brunswick’s largest city is perhaps the most fascinating in the Maritime provinces, though I wouldn’t want to live there. Indiana nearly creamed his shorts several times as he spotted several patches of ashy soil or Japanese knot weed in various locations in the city’s centre, known as Trinity Royal — sure signs of archaelogical treasures underneath. I strongly urge you to visit the Trinity Royal website, although I admit that nothing compares to walking along the streets of a this city rebuilt in only a few years following the Great Fire of June 1877. Given how Saint John values its history, I would love to see some serious digging done in alleyways and courtyards of the Trinity Royal district, a venture I’m sure Indiana would love as much as the city’s historians and archivists.

I didn’t return to blogging immediately on Thursday night or Friday because Poupoune was in Halifax this weekend to (a) pick up her brother and his partner who are visiting from Toronto and (b) hop on spend time with the Bar Hopper. Friday afternoon, Indiana and I took Poupoune on a spin in Junior to Lawrencetown Beach, which was fogged out and decidedly cold. Then, after Indiana and I bathed Junior, we all met up from supper at a local Greek restaurant. Afterwards, Indiana and I “tortured,” as he puts it, the Bee Goddesses for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, after brunch at the Elephant’s Eye, we went to Peggy’s Cove, then Mahone Bay — a good way to spend a day. Today I was supposed to get back to work, but have only managed to do a few odd tasks. I plan to get back to some serious work tonight.

To the “Hear Our Side” People

My e-mail message to “Tony” upon posting this entry:
I posted a new entry in my online journal in response to your comment. You will note that my opinion has not changed and that I still favour Sunday shopping in Nova Scotia, with several major caveats that you seem to have missed in my original journal entry of May 24, 2003. You may, nonetheless, post your comments to my latest entry if you wish, provided that you are willing to provide refreshingly new insights I have yet to hear from “your” side.

Maurice Michaud

Thank you, Tony (whoever you are), for your links to the free Angelfire/Tripod-based and excruciatingly poorly designed “Save Our Sundays” website which promptly crashed my computer upon entering it.

I’m intrigued by how your comment arrived to me on a Sunday morning, when I would have thought you far too busy upholding “family [values] first” rather than sitting at a computer and attempting to force someone you don’t even know to visit a website that’s a member of the “Canadian Christian Business Federation.” However, I appreciate how, by doing so, you’ve come clean with respect to one of my comments in my original entry, namely how I wished people like you would “come out and say that they’re trying to keep one last little vestige of Christian values within the state.” With my confusion safely put to rest, I can now confidently assert that OUR Sundays you’re bent on saving are not mine, but YOURS.

I find this moment in aMMusing‘s history rather rich for a variety of reasons, for anyone who knows me and reads this blog regularly (as opposed to simply stumbling upon it from a search engine) also knows that:

  1. I live in Nova Scotia but am not a Christian (at least not a practicing one);
  2. as someone who seems to lack the gene that makes most people want to own things, I despise shopping — even when I desperately need to purchase something, and
  3. I am staunchly pro-union and dedicated to protecting all workers’ rights.

Even if the Islamic and Jewish communities are small minorities in Nova Scotia, I don’t understand why the majority of Nova Scotians, by the sole virtue that they are the majority, should be so disrespectful and have no qualms in forcing individuals from those communities to work on their religious sabbath. Perhaps that’s what troubles me the most about YOUR position, and the fact you seemingly chose to ignore my alternate proposal on Sunday shopping, namely that retailers should be given a choice of which day of the week they can close.

Furthermore, on your website — such as it is with its confusing navigational scheme and its catastrophic grammar — you present photos of a deserted parking lot in a local shopping mall on a Friday afternoon. Again you seem to have missed how I raised a similar point, namely through the anecdote of when my parents were in town for a day trip from Moncton on a weekday and we happened to venture over to Mic Mac Mall:

It was Monday afternoon and we could have shot a canon several times without hitting anyone. Stands to reason: Most shoppers were at their 9 to 5 job. Besides, Monday is a notoriously dead day for retail.

Ostensibly, a major premise of your argument is that those of us who support Sunday shopping are looking for another (as in, “an additional”) day to shop. But I don’t think that’s what we’re saying at all. I think we’re saying that, because we’re busy working on weekdays and certainly don’t have the time to go take pictures of empty shopping mall parking lots, we wouldn’t mind having a few hours on Sundays when we could fit shopping into our schedule. Plus, while I’m by no means enamored by consumerism, I don’t see how a Sunday afternoon family outing to Sobeys to get the week’s groceries or to WalMart to get Bobby and Cindy’s school supplies or clothes — by golly, those two do seem to grow like weeds, don’t they!? — can be construed as against “family values.”

I firmly believe that good, sensible legislation that hasn’t a whiff of religious connotation could still ensure that each worker has the right to a weekly, even fixed, day of rest. Also, a bit of common sense by yielding to the laws of supply and demand would go a long way. It is utterly nonsensical to “supply” time for shopping when there is no “demand” for it. Conservely, despite years of a “tradition” of closing at 3 p.m., banks finally yielded to the public’s “demand” for greater “supply” (of hours to do business).

This situation requires more imagination than a polarized for or against “solution” can offer. I’m simply amazed — perhaps I shouldn’t be — that no one seems to have the guts and/or political will to suggest redistributing the current number of hours when retail outlets are open. Or is it that YOUR side is wont to imagine Sunday as the only possible, even sancrosanct, day of rest for everybody, regardless of everyone else’s beliefs and values?

I Like Comments …to an Extent

Some people have asked me why I have the following warning directly above the spot where I allow aMMusing visitors to comment. [Ed.: This warning appeared when this blog was powered by Movable Type; it’s been powered by WordPress since March 2005.]

If you haven’t commented before at aMMusing: Thank you for wanting to post a comment, but first, please look at the date the entry was written. If the entry is more than 10 days old, chances are the authors and readers of aMMusing won’t notice your comment. Also, know that the authors of aMMusing view this “Comments” feature as an opportunity for friendly dialogue, not for duels.

Aware that some people enter aMMusing through the archives as a result of a search on Google or some other search engine, I have made a point of including this warning in the archives. But lately I’ve been receiving more comments than usual on old posts, which regular readers of this blog won’t know about unless I bring them to their attention — often comments that are off-topic or suggest the commentor didn’t read the entry carefully. Unfortunately, since I’m not an expert in the programming language in which MovableType is built, I could only find a way of preventing comments on old entries in the individual archives, not the category or monthly archives. Yet I want to keep comments open so that we can read what people said about the entries when they were posted.

In my next entry, I’ll explain what prompted this diatribe. But for now, suffice it to say that a comment I received today from one called Tony is the reason why I put that warning up in the first place. While I hasten to say his comment was passive enough not to be construed as a call to duel, I am convinced he didn’t burden himself with looking beyond his narrow opinion/world view to consider the point I was attempting to make in the entry on which he commented.