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May 15, 2015

4 Victoria Day Hacks That Can Really Modify Your Weekend

Here in the Commonwealth, we aren't shy about our favourite queens of yore. Every spring, we gather to remember Victoria, reciting the poems she wrote for us, and reminding each other in sober tones the adages she imparted on our ancestors.

However, if you've been feeling the effects of cyberwarfare recently, you don't want to lose any more clock cycles to the enemy. Here are some tips to optimize your security this long weekend:


1. Protect your empire

You may have updated your WordPress to patch the latest vulnerability, but what good does that do if your passwords can't hold up against brute-force? Use a complex passphrase you can easily remember and a cipher substitution system that feels natural. It's what Victoria would have done.

2. Scale out

Just as the beloved Queen expanded the British Empire under her rule, so you can expand your rule of the Internet-of-Computers. Get a few more servers and spread out — because if someone brings down your web game with a DDoS, or if it simply goes mega-viral, you don't want your databases tanking with it (even if they're Mongo).

3. Ensnare your enemies

How soon we forget that brave Queen Victoria goaded John Francis into carrying out his assassination attempt in 1842, only to have him pwned by her entourage. Following in her esteemed footsteps, you too can lay a trap for your predictable adversaries. Construct a good honeypot so you can analyze those who would analyze you, without relinquishing any meaningful data. Just don't give the whole thing away by disabling outgoing connections.

4. Sanitize

Victoria's husband Albert died of Typhoid Fever, a consequence of the castle's poor sanitation. Don't let your data fall prey to the same fate, or at least a metaphorically similar one — sanitize all your inputs, and don't forget to authenticate server-side. It's royally necessary.


That should get you through the long weekend. But if you still find time to party, make sure your house doesn't become the the House of Hangover by chugging a few glasses of water before bed. Just keep them away from the computer.






August 15, 2013

Grocery Shopping Tips

When I was young I remember some "smart shopper" tips that were drilled into me, making me feel smart. How was I to know that some of them were false?


  • "Never shop hungry" always reminded me to eat something before I went to the store. The premise is that if you're hungry, you'll buy all sorts of "impulse foods" like pizza pockets and English muffins instead of "good" foods like turnips. While I may be more cutthroat and focused when my stomach is growling, it does not rob me of all logic, so today I did an experiment, and shopped hungry. Although I almost passed out on the walk home, my bags were laden with quality food that I really wanted to eat, and as soon as I unpacked my groceries, I made a delicious salad, with cranberries and sunflower seeds from the bulk section.

  • "Always get milk from the back of the fridge" is actually still a good tip, although the design of the milk shelves in my local store discourages this practice by making it hard to reach back there. Luckily I have long arms.


These are the only "smart shopper" tips I can really remember, so I guess one for two isn't bad. But I have tips of my own that I will now share.


  • "Avoid the salt fridge at all costs" - you know the one, with the frozen pizzas and mozza sticks and wieners dipped in batter. Just don't look at that fridge! What, do you want to eat 200% of your daily sodium needs in a single sitting? Or are you just going to eat 4 mozza sticks? No, because you heated the toaster oven to 450° and you don't want to waste the heat. Just roast up some red peppers and onions. They're delicious.

  • "Tune out the sale colour" - stores use tags of a brighter, sometimes even neon colour to denote a price drop, or "sale," on their products. You might think, "Sale! I can save money by making a choice right now!" However, most of the sales are terrible. Six dollars is still too much to pay for ice cream, hoofprints or not. And don't let it affect your bread decisions, because all you'll get with economy bread is mold, days earlier. There's plenty of old bread in the dumpster out behind the store, if you return under the cover of darkness.

  • "Do you need cheese?" - sometimes the answer is a resounding "yes," such as when you've promised to make someone cheese-bread or have committed to a fondue party with co-workers. But usually cheese is optional. First of all, it's the most expensive thing in the store, other than those artisanal oils with the sprigs of parsley in the bottles. You couldn't spare a dollar for the homeless man you passed on the street, but you'll drop nine on a wedge of Jarlsberg? It is smoky, I'll admit, but you're only cheating yourself. And the homeless man. I bet if you gave him the cheese, he wouldn't even accept it, and you'd still feel like an awful person.


That's all for grocery tips this week. Next time, I'll be talking about different varieties of egg and how the brown, speckled ones, which look the most delicious, are in fact no different from the white kind.



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