Arnold Ziffel

On Pigs. The place where I cared for perhaps a dozen was a farm where school children came to learn about agriculture. After the piglets were several weeks old, I no longer remember the exact number of weeks, but they were still not big, we could no longer bring the children into the large pen because the pigs would start attacking the children. And these were varieties of pigs bred for centuries to be less aggressive.

When BBC filmed Tudor Monastery Farm they were unable to use authentic period pigs because those breeds represented too much of a risk of knocking down someone on the production and killing them.

When mucking out pigs, they are itchy creatures, they will rub up against the barrow and blithely knock it over if you do not chase them away from it. And it is not easy to persuade a pig to go somewhere else. They don’t catch on very fast.

There is a myth about pigs being clean that no doubt is just a reaction to pigs traditionally being thought of as dirty. We actually told the school children that the pigs would restrict defecation to a toilet area if given enough space. I cleaned that pen. This is a lie. It is perhaps true that there was marginally more shit in one corner. But they shit all over that large enclosure. And on the subject of waste I have never seen another animal standing in its water trough and peeing into it while drinking.

But before I personally had experience with pigs, the first time I had the ‘pigs are smart and nice’ bubble burst, I roomed for a year with a kid who’s family farmed pigs. He knew. And I will not repeat the horror stories he told me after laughing at my Arnold Ziffel misconceptions.


Let me start by being super clear. I run a business. I make and sell digital artwork to customers. I charge sales tax. I have been doing mostly only this for more than 30 years. I am not an employee. I do not have any employment income.

Sometime around 2005, I think, one of my customers caused considerable consternation for many of its freelance suppliers by suddenly and unaccountably issuing T4 slips to them. Among the problems with this was the fact that that first T4 slip was thousands of dollars short. This happened because I had income from them that they had payed late, in the following year, but were for sales that belonged to the prior tax year. Not being into tax fraud, I had to report my actual income for the tax year not some random fraction of it.

So, I laboriously gathered all the information about the T4 with the wrong amount on it, provided annotated copies of my actual sales income and a cover letter explaining the mistake. I filed my taxes on paper with all this supporting material attached.

Because this was bullshit, there was considerable backlash from suppliers. So the following year, when that customer issued T4s to everyone, they came with a cover letter explaining that they were required to issue T4s to businesses they had purchased artwork from.

There are a couple of things to unpick with this.

When I called the CRA to ask how they meant for me to deal with this they confirmed that my customers were indeed required to issue T4 slips to suppliers for sales/purchases. So I asked the CRA if that meant I should have to issue T4 slips to my mechanic or grocery store. After a long “uhhhhh…” pause, I was was told, “yes.” 🤣

Of course you and I know this cannot be true. And part of the way I and other freelancers stuck with this problem knew it was not true is that only this one customer had ever issued T4s. Until quite recently no other company I have ever done work for has ever issued a T4.

And here is an interesting additional problem. Because that initial T4 was short, the missing amounts from the previous year appeared on the T4 for the following year. While at the same time, amounts that were past-due were omitted. Thus for many years, every T4 I was sent was for the wrong amount. Eventually like most people who got sent them, I just started to ignore them. Typically my customers, because I am in no sense their employee, do not have my Social Insurance Number. So, none of these T4s are associated with my Tax account anyway.

This year is super special however. I have three T4s. One from the company that first issued them. And two from companies that bought up divisions of that company. One of those T4s shows an amount of $500.00. Almost as soon as I received that T4 I also received an email from that company (2022/03/09) saying that the amount was in error and they would be emailing a replacement in a week. They have not however emailed another T4. This is especially problematic because they are a US company. I had a whole nightmare of getting set up as an approved supplier with them in 2020, where I had to play guess-what-info-they-need for tax-treaty purposes with respect to US withholding. And the thing I eventually correctly guessed, cause they would not say, is that they needed my Social Insurance Number. And because they have my SIN that wrong T4 is associated with my Tax account.

But it gets weirder. Cause not only is the $500.00 amount wrong. I didn’t have any sales income from that company in 2021. $0.00.

I have, I think, figured out how this mistake happened. In November of 2020 I had completed $150.00 worth of work for them and invoiced for it. That $150.00 was unambiguously part of my 2020 sales and I reported it as income for 2020. But they issued the check past-due for the November bill, late, in January. And have issued a T4 for that income as if it were in 2021. And to add insult to injury, they put in the wrong amount.

I can only guess what new hell will ensue when I have to explain to an inquisitive CRA agent what the hell has happened here.

Hat Head

For context here, my Salvation Army/United Church Sunday-school teaching mum would not go out, when I was a child, without covering her head. She wore a head scarf usually. Sometimes a hat. When I became an adult, she could not grasp how I could, as a man, go about in public without covering my head.

I cannot for the life of me understand what anyone’s objection is to a hijab. It is just a head scarf. Not very dissimilar to the ones my mum tied on in order to go over town. It does not obliterate a woman’s personal identity or even conceal her face. I wear a dickie balaclava outdoors in winter for strenuous activity which is essentially a pile hijab pullover.

A hijab is not a niqab or a burka. And while I object in principal to the cultural ideology behind those, I am none the less painfully aware of the futility of trying to force women not wear them if they choose to wear them.

Often lately when deciding whether to argue I weigh what advantages might come from the disadvantages of conflict. Will I get a prize? A gold star? What do people trying to ban head scarves think they are gonna win? What is the prize?


There is an argument that has been made that since we have very effective vaccines that we can end our pandemic measures. Sure, the risk of serious illness and death remains high for the unvaccinated. But hey, they made their choice.

But they didn’t make an informed choice, or probably for many of them who are in oppressive situations any choice at all. Think of kids who will get very sick, hospitalized or dead because their parents won’t get them protected. And there are people who cannot get vaccinated easily because their spouse will not allow it. Or people who will not get vaccinated themselves because they have been mislead by unscrupulous liars.

Those people didn’t conscientiously choose to suffer the inevitable toll of a society tolerating anti-vaxers. And many of them will die for that mistake.

I am fully vaccinated. It is very very unlikely that if I stopped following reasonable public health measures, which right now are mainly protecting the unvaccinated, that I would get sick, or very sick, or hospitalized, or dead. And even though I am too fat and obesity is the single greatest risk factor for negative CoViD outcomes I am probably fine.

But that does not mean that the misled or the unprotected or the controlled people who remain at risk are disposable. That some hideous western separatists think of those people as convenient pawns does not equate to me writing them off.

So, yeah, if we were all vaccinated this would be over. But we are not all vaccinated. And we lack the provincial political will to make that happen. So this is not over.

We Love Short Shorts

I wrote this a long time ago and it disappeared somehow. Then Facebook popped it up as a memory. So here it is, returned from oblivion.

My grandmother was born in about 1896 in rural Nova Scotia. She was not much educated, but she went to the Salvation Army where they taught her what nice ladies do and don’t.

More than 70 years later, my mother was visiting her family in Halifax when on a hot afternoon she changed into shorts. When she came downstairs, her mother was appalled, “Go put some clothes on!”

My grandmother knew, as part of her cultural and religious heritage that good protestant women wore dresses that covered their knees.

You can readily observe in the history of the last century, that when prescriptive clothing restrictions are relaxed, people inevitably move away from them and dress more practically, or more as they please, within a couple of generations. This is a good thing. Women particularly should not be pressured into or required to wear particular styles of clothing.

My grandmother was way out of line when she demanded that my mother go put on a longish dress. But it would have been equally wrong if my mother had required her mother to wear shorts.

I do not feel comfortable with some sorts of prescriptive clothing, particularly of a religious nature, because they seem to be part of a cultural oppression of women, just as my grandmother’s clothing was. However I have no more right to ask or expect a woman, who chooses to wear such clothing, not to than anyone else has to make a woman wear such clothing, if they do not want to.

There are people and governments that would love to prevent women who want to wear “traditional” clothing from doing so, at least under specific circumstances. This is contemptible. The state has no more right to require such dress off, than a community should have the right to require it on.

Moreover, such restrictions are also impractical. Prohibiting cultural practices never does anything to moderate them. Restrictions can only harden and help to entrench deeply held traditional beliefs. And in that respect, kindness and tolerance is the only way forward.


Stephen Harper thought the Senate should be abolished. As part of that, he appointed senators who were unqualified and who’s conduct could be easily manipulated, who would dishonor the institution. Making that House and by extension Canada’s bicameral system look ridiculous was a strategy to undermine trust in our institutions as a method of eroding them.

I like to distinguish between the unintelligent and the stupid. But this irritates some people. I think undermining the Senate is stupid. But another person might say that undermining an institution you want to abolish is an intelligent strategy for achieving a political end.

And maybe in here somewhere is a source of much confusion. How could a Conservative government govern so badly? How could their policies be so stupid? Ah, well if your political ideology is that modern representative government is bad; that Peace, Order and Good Governance are trade irritants; that the right roll of a government is to protect money and privilege from the masses… If you BELIEVE these things then it would hardly be right to govern well.

You cannot be seen to provide effective leadership. Instead, you must sow division.
You cannot be seen to dispense justice. Instead, you must dole out privileges.
You cannot be seen to preserve or protect resources. Instead, you must pursue exploitation.

You cannot govern well, in the best interest of the public good if the basis of your political ideology is that Government should not be allowed to do that.

So as the ONConGov just keeps failing on pandemic response and public health measures and instead concentrates on its war with unionized teachers and nurses, this may seem stupid. However, it is also a cynical and deliberate attack on the role of government itself.

I was told recently, “Conservatives like nothing better than for you to call them stupid,” as that distracts from the fact that their terrible policies are deliberate and calculated and that doing governance badly is an important element of undermining the civil society that they fundamentally do not believe in.


I am no friend of DoFo’s ONConGov, and they are not friends to healthcare. And maybe the fee schedule needs to be reassessed. But what cannot happen is for service providers to dictate what OHIP pays for services.

What optometrists are actually complaining about here is lost opportunity cost. Every service and every product at an optometrist is extraordinarily expensive. Doing eye exams and selling glasses in particular is a lucrative business. Why would any optometrist want to pause overcharging a working professional with generous private insurance many hundreds of dollars for an eye exam and new glasses just to provide healthcare to an elderly person?

Wanna see the association turn white as a sheet? Bring all eye care for everyone under OHIP so they are all always payed from an single-payer universal health insurance provider fee schedule for every service they provide.

No one has the high ground in this dispute.

Grey on grey

There really are some shitty trends in graphic design. Grey on grey is one of these. In interface design particularly designing a series of icons with light grey on a dark grey background or vise versa really makes the icons hard to read. This is because you are reducing contrast. If you want to design for maximum clarity and readability you maximize contrast and the maximum contrast is black and white with no grey.

This becomes more critical when there are lots of icons because now the icons are going to be small, because of space constraints, and detailed, because you need many distinct symbols. Making them grey is the equivalent of trying to read in the dark. The problem with which is again minimized contrast.

And so it surprised me that I received specifications for digital artwork that required that all the ‘blacks’ be changed to dark grey because, “it is easier on the eyes.” What it is is a source of eye strain.

Making this more ridiculous is the simple fact that no monitor shows a perfect black or a perfect white anyway. So even if you spec #000000 and #ffffff the user never gets absolute black and white contrast regardless.

I wonder if the people making these decisions imagine that books would be easier on the eyes if they were printed with dark grey ink on light grey paper.


I would never try to discourage anyone from planting an native tree in an appropriate location. In fact, go do one now, I’ll wait…

You done? Ok, trees are great. But they are not plant and go. Young trees need care for up to five years. Particularly in urban plantings trees routinely die after only a few years. If you do not provide the follow up care no tree planting is any carbon sink.

But more problematic, 23% of Canada’s “renewable” energy is solid (wood) biomass. For trees to be a sink, you have to leave them be. You cannot cut them down and cook them to make fuel. This is just so stupid that I cannot stand it.

And then there is the orders-of-magnitude problem that so often undermines silly environmental wishful thinking. Trees sink carbon, sure, but even reforesting as much of the planet as at all possible would still be orders of magnitude too little carbon sequestration to offset the shit show we are manufacturing.

By all means, plant trees for all the reasons trees should be planted. But tree planting cannot be a way of offsetting enough carbon to make a meaningful difference to climate change.

Work From Home

Obviously some jobs have to be done at an office or business. Otherwise all employers should have to justify why it is necessary for any individual to stop working from home. The neediness of a middle management martinette who misses micromanaging is not a reason.