pyesetz: (woof)

Day 14: Drive from Ohio to Ontario

Meijer (Maumee OH, 3:08pm, pronounced /ˈmaɪ.ər/).  Our usual grocery-shopping-in-the-States before driving across the border.  $234.80.  The same candy bars we got for our “up to $5 snack credit" at Disney are being sold here for 82¢.

Kroger (Roseville MI, 4:21pm).  Try to get some lunch here, but their to-go section isn’t all that great.  $22.11 for a submarine sandwich for Wifey and some more groceries we forgot to get at Meijer.

Tim Horton’s (Roseville MI, 4:26pm).  In same shopping plaza as Kroger.  $8.26 for turkey sandwich on ciabbata (for Kid #2) and cinnamin-raisin bagel + cream cheese (for me).

Some convenience store (Dundee MI; no receipt).  We get off the highway for Tim Horton’s, but no one wants a washroom.  There is a Walgreens next door, and Wifey remembers that she hasn’t played the lottery yet on this trip, but the Walgreens has no lottery display.  We head the other way down the street, since there is a Kroger’s sign pointing that way, but we can’t find it.  Finally stop in at a convenience store.  $1 for a scratch-off ticket that wins $1, so it was a “free” play.  $1 for a PowerBall ticket that doesn’t win.

Blue Water Bridge (Port Huron MI – Sarnia ON).  Toll = $3.00.  The border guard seems to know a whole lot about Wilmot ON, considering that he’s never been there.  He asks about the Blue Moon Hotel (which is mainly a restaurant now; I've never been inside).

Tim Horton’s (Strathroy ON, 6:28pm).  Washrooms.  $2.39 for a blueberry muffin and a Boston cream doughnut.  Kid #2 uses a gift card to get another pretzel bagel.
      Here in the Southwest Ontario countryside, the leaves are turning.  It is much cooler than in Florida.

Our house (8:00pm).  We’re home!  Trip complete with no major disasters!
      Our house is much more dimly lit than anything at Disney, giving it a surreal feeling: this is where we *used* to live, a long time ago — but it was only two weeks!

Disney World 2015, day 15: Dog kennel

Wag ’N’ Train.  $299.17 for two weeks at the kennel (using the $50 off coupon we got as a raffle prize on orientation day).  The dog has apparently lost 5% of his body weight and is now trim and more able to use his arthritic leg.  The bathroom scale says all other family members are within 1% of their pre-vacation weights, despite the running-a-marathon-in-a-sauna feeling of Disney World in September.

Disney World 2015, day 17: UPS / High Holiday

Our house (2:05pm).  The boxes from Florida arrive.  Although there was no import duty when going to the States, the Canadian UPS wants $188.77 for their “brokerage” services, thus doubling the shipping cost and making it totally unworthwhile to use UPS instead of Allegiant.  The delivery driver refers to his own employer as “pirates” and suggests that I call UPS headquarters and complain.

Our house.  It’s Erev Yom Kippur.  Kid #2 makes the dinner.  Our fast is uneventful.

pyesetz: (woof)

Our room.  Day 3, dose 1 for Kid #2’s ear drops.  He feels yucky: coughing, sneezing, sniffling.  I’ve got clogged sinuses as well.  Wifey isn’t feeling 100%.  Only Kid #1 (the germophobe) seems to be okay.  So it looks like we’ll have to skip another day at the park.

Epcot.  Attractions visited today: none.  Today was supposed to be our visit to the back half (“World Showcase”).

Art of Animation laundry room (near Big Blue Pool, 12:15pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm).  The laundry machines are no longer coin-operated.  Instead, you swipe your credit card at a central console and press a button to indicate which machine gets the money, then go to the machine and select a cycle, then go back to the central console to press “OK”.  Also there is a cute website that you can use to monitor your load from the comfort of your hotel room.
      The cute website is just a Flash app that only updates once per minute, so it really shouldn’t need to eat up 90% of available CPU time on my laptop for its very simple two-step animations of cartoon washers and dryers (the ones in use are shown as vibrating).
      The heat index is over 100°F today (yet again) and I have to walk across the resort complex to the laundry room.  On my first trip, I bring only the clothes we will wear during the remainder of the vacation.  I put them into the washer, but it’s only ⅓ full.  So take them out and carry them back to our room through the searing heat.  Get *all* the dirty clothes we have and carry them across the resort through the searing heat of Central Florida in September.  The washer is now barely full.
      My credit card is charged $1.00 for a box of dryer sheets (I pressed the wrong button), then another $1.00 for box of soap (what I actually wanted).  I think each of these is good for two loads, but none of the laundry-room signs actually says that.  The high-efficiency washing machines warn that you must not use more than 2tbsp of soap but there are no measuring spoons anywhere.  The soap box says “1.9oz”, which *might* mean that it contains four tablespoons.  I eye out half a box of soap, pay $2.00 to start the washer, then leave the other half of the box near the soap vending machine.  Then walk back to our room through the searing heat.
      Then back through the searing heat to move the clothes to a dryer and pay $2.00 to dry them.  Use one dryer sheet (since I have it) and put the box with the other dryer sheet next to my leftover soap that no one has taken yet.  Then back through the searing heat to our room.
      An hour later, back through the searing heat to collect the clothes — but they are not dry yet!  So another $2.00.  At the central console I allocate the money to dryer #16, but then at the dryer I accidentally press the button to start dryer #15.  Somehow this causes the money to be allocated to the machine above the one that the clothes are in, so I transfer them.  My leftover soap and dryer sheet are now gone, so I don’t have to worry about whether I should use the other sheet (at home we generally don’t use such products).  Back to the room through the searing heat.
      Another hour.  Searing heat.  Clothes are dry and hot.  Stuff them into the trash bag I brought them in — of course they are now fluffier so they barely fit in the bag.  Walk back to the room, carrying the bag of clothes through the searing heat (which isn’t doing my stuffy nose any good).  Wifey packs the clothes we won’t need into the UPS box for shipment back to Canada.

Ink and paint (12:56pm).  Wifey had asked me to choose a replacement antenna-topper for our car.  We need something to make our blue Chrysler Voyager stand out in parking lots from all the other copies of this popular model.  The current topper used to be “Glitter Mickey” but he lost an ear and his glitter eventually fell off, so we want something bright.  The “Mike Wazowski” is big and fluorescent green, the “Mickey wearing a rain poncho” has high-constrast black and yellow, while the ”Rainbow” is… pretty and gay.  At the gift shop, I note that Wazowski is heavy; our current topper makes the car antenna bend a lot at highway speeds, so I don’t want anything heavier.  Which of the others should I buy?  The toppers are $5.95 each or two for $8.00, so I buy BOTH OF THEM!!!  (*cue the Cookie Monster noises*)  Back at our room, Wifey is surprised at my sudden attack of spendthrift.  I suggest that we install rain-poncho Mickey (who looks like he’s wearing a dress) on our car in Ohio, then perhaps switch to the rainbow after crossing the border and exiting from the homophobic USA, where it is no longer permissible to say “I just like rainbows”.

Landscape of Flavors (5:20pm).  Fruit cup for Kid #1.  Snack-credit.

Our room.  Wifey doesn’t feel like doing anything today for the second night of Rosh Hashanah.  My childhood upbringing was in American Conservative Judaism, which celebrates two days for major holidays, but our own family practice is more like Reform or Humanistic Judaism which generally celebrates only one.  But at home we usually eat two special dinners.
      Some people may be offended by how we practice our religion.  How can we go on amusement rides during the Ten Days of Repentance?  Perhaps what we need to atone for is not the things we have done, but the things we did not do because we were afraid to try anything new.  It has always been easier for us to justify field trips that were “educational” than those that would have been “fun”.
      My father (ז״ל) would not be pleased by the poor Jewish education I have provided to my children.  Mistakes were made, but they cannot be corrected now because the kids are grown.  It the job of the children to review the ancestral ways passed down to them and to prune the ones that no longer make sense — and it is to be expected that the parents will be displeased by some of those pruning decisions.  I almost never speak Hebrew, so my children have never seen much point in learning it.  Kid #2 almost never associates with other Jews, even though his gem collection (which includes a diamond) is a stereotypically Jewish hobby.

Intermission (at All-Star Music Resort, dinner 7:13pm).  The plan is for Kid #2 and Wifey to stay in the hotel room while Kid #1 and I go fetch some food.  (I have to go because Kid #1 hasn’t taken her road-test exam yet.)  Wifey looks around online and finds a menu for All-Star Movies Resort that says they serve cheesesteak subs, which are not available in our resort’s food court.  All-Star Movies also offers salmon, which Kid #1 likes but is not available in our own food court.  Kid #2 selects chicken nuggets and french fries.
      We drive to the food court for All-Star Movies Resort, but they no longer offer cheesesteak subs.  A cast member suggests that maybe the adjacent All-Star Music Resort still has them, so we drive over there — but no go.  Attempts to contact Wifey via the TracFone are unsuccessful (later we find out that she detected the incoming call too late and was unable to access the voicemail).  So we decide to just buy food for Kid #1 and Kid #2 for now.  Salmon and chicken nuggets in take-out containers.

Landscape of Flavors (dinner, 8:04pm).  Get two “create your own pasta” entrées for Wifey and myself to eat.

pyesetz: (woof)

Our room.  Day 2, dose 1 for Kid #2’s ear drops.  Wait around for Wifey’s college friend, whom we haven’t seen since our previous trip to Disney World ten years ago.

Our room (12:30pm).  Friend arrives.  We spend quite some time in our hotel room with her, catching up on typical old-person topics (who died, who has grandkids, etc.)  My children are polite and make it seem like they actually care about such things.

Landscape of Flavors (lunch, 2:00pm).  We give the friend one of our plenitude of food credits; as of May 2015 it is now permitted to buy food for people who are not on the plan.  We all have lunch together, then split up by gender.

Wifey, Kid #1, and the friend

Big Blue Pool (inside Art of Animation Resort).  Hang out at the swimming pool for more conversation.

Kid #2 and I

Pixel Play Arcade (inside Art of Animation Resort).  Our accommodation includes a coupon for 100 play-points at the arcade, but both of the machines that are supposed to convert the coupon to an access card say they are “empty”.  There is no cast member at the arcade today (it’s Sunday), so we go to the concierge desk; they give us a card with 250 points *and* return the unused coupon.  What a great deal, eh?  But the games are not much fun and half the games we select are “free play” anyway, so we use very few of the play-points before losing interest.  One of the less-uninteresting games is Fruit Ninja, which Kid #2 recognizes as a game that was originally written for the iPad and has been retrofitted for the larger screen of an arcade game.  (Back in my day, the arcade was the initial target-market and then games were retrofitted for personal computers).

Our room.  Use our computers with the hotel Wi-Fi.  This is more fun than the arcade.


Our room.  The womenfolk return to the room for more conversation.  The friend leaves around 5:30pm, so she got a five-hour visit for which she drove 2½ hours each way.  Then my family has more computer fun while we wait for it to get darker.

Our room.  It’s Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of Jewish year 5776.  This is at least the third time in the last 25 years that we have celebrated it in a hotel room.  Wifey’s original plan was to eat dinner in the room with rotisserie chicken from a grocery store, an apple, and Winnie the Pooh® brand honey.  But we didn’t get around to buying the chicken or the honey and I forgot to pick up an apple at the hotel food court.  In our room fridge there is a leftover fruit cup that includes three slices of apple (desserts are included in the dinner food-credits, but the Disney dinners are too much food for us).  So we look up the Rosh Hashanah blessings on the Internet and say them while eating the apple slices (Wifey and I share one slice).  Wifey brought along a single birthday candle from Canada, so we stick it in a leftover-dessert cupcake, light it on fire (oh noes!  An open flame in a hotel room!), and wish the world a happy birthday.  Then we blow out the candle and divide up the cupcake.  Happy New Year!

Disney Transport (Lake Buena Vista FL).  We take a bus to Downtown Disney, which is in the middle of being rethemed as “Disney Springs” so many of the parking lots are closed for reconstruction.  Hey, it’s another ride!

Wolfgang Puck’s Express (Downtown Disney, 7:18pm).  I wasn’t too impressed with Chef Puck when we ate at one of his cafeterias in Boston.  This one is considerably upscale from that, but still there is much to complain about.  My chicken soup tastes sweet.  My brownie tastes like gooey sugar syrup with chocolate flavor (but other family members enjoy theirs).  The receipt makes it look like we paid $74.87 for family dinner, but actually the cost was covered by our dining plan.  Bottled juice is available, but only fountain drinks are on the plan, unlike at Disney-branded restaurants.  The cashier keeps asking us to list our “meals” first (eventually we figure out that she means “entrées”).
      After dinner, we split up by gender again.

Kid #2 and I

Sassagoula Steamboat Co.  Take a ferry across Lake Buena Vista to Downtown Disney’s “West Side”.  The captain says the name of the ferry company, as if it were an attraction, and the name is displayed on the dock but doesn’t appear on the Downtown Disney map, so I’m calling it a ”group” (like the popcorn carts) rather than an “attraction” (with name shown here in purple).  Walt Disney Corp. owns everything in sight, so the distinction is sort of arbitrary.  The Sassagoula River flows into Lake Buena Vista.

DisneyQuest (8:15pm).  We have a coupon for a day’s admission to this five-story building full of arcades, restaurants, and a few rides.  We just go on the rides and are done in an hour.  Attractions visited today: Invasion ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlaster, Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, and Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for Buccaneer Gold.
      DisneyQuest is scheduled to be closed next year, so this is our only chance to go on these rides.  AstroBlaster is the main one that I would want to go on again.  It’s sort of like bumper-cars but for two-man crews.  I steered (which was difficult) while Kid #2 loaded the “cannon” and lobbed “asteroids” at the other vehicles.  When hit, a vehicle would spin around and then return to the control of its occupants.  Fun!

Sassagoula Steamboat Co.  Ferry back to the “Marketplace” side of Downtown Disney.

Disney Transport.  Bus back to our resort.  The bus driver asks the men to give up their seats for women and children, who must surely be tired from all their shopping.  No one moves.  Kid #2 (who is nearly a man) and I try to get some standing females to take our seats, but none of them will accept the offer.  “Don’t be silly,” says one.  “I’m a teacher and I stand all day.”  So we sit back down.  “The bus driver was making a joke,” I tell her.

Wifey and Kid #1

Mickey’s Pantry (8:00pm).  Two packages of shortbread cookies, paid for with snack-credits.

Goofy’s Candy Co. (8:15pm).  A box of animal crackers and a bag of plain M&Ms, to use up two more snack-credits.

Little Miss Matched (8:22pm).  $9.94 for three deliberately-mismatched but color-coördinated socks, to be given to a homeschooler girl we know who likes to wear that sort of thing.

World of Disney (9:07pm).  $8.47 for a silicone pancake mold shaped like Mickey’s head.  Also, a box of mints that we’ll give to some homeschooling friends (snack credit).

Ghiradelli (9:17pm).  Shared hot fudge brownie sundae for $11.66.  The receipt comes with a “10% off” coupon, but there are no Ghiradelli stores in Canada.  Perhaps we can use it in Boston.

Tren-D (9:39pm).  $6.34 for a Minnie Mouse rhinestone headband, to be given to yet another homeschooler girl we know.

Disney Transport.  Ride the bus back to Art of Animation Resort.


Our room.  The guys return only shortly before the gals, even though we did less stuff, because of our additional travel time on the ferry.  Also, day 2 dose 2 goes into Kid #2’s ear.

pyesetz: (woof)

TD/Allianz Insurance (via telephone; 10:15am - 10:45am).  Kid #2 still can’t hear much with his right ear, so I call the insurance company to find out which clinic around here will work with them.  They call Lake Buena Vista CentraCare, confirm that it is willing to direct-bill them, and then fax over a pre-authorization form for us.  The insurance company says that the clinic is expecting us and we should proceed there immediately.

CentraCare (Lake Buena Vista FL, 11:00am - 2:30pm).  They received the fax and are expecting us, but still there are hours of waiting during which people who arrive after us are seen first; later I learn that you are supposed to go to their website and make an “appointment” (even though it is an urgent-care clinic) in order to obtain a “significantly” reduced wait-time.
      Of course, the first thing to do is fill out medical-history forms.  The most bizarrely-American item on the forms is the requirement that the patient must identify his “race” and whether he is “hispanic”.  Kid #2 has no idea what his race is (the concept is not much used in Canada).  I tell him that I generally say my race is either “White” or “Other” (because “Jewish” used to be a separate race, but was combined with “White” in the 1930s for political reasons; when I hear “White race” I think of what Sarah Palin calls “real Americans”, who are not my people and have no common ancestry with me in the last 1,000 years); Kid #2 writes ”White” on the form.  There is another Canadian seeking medical care at the clinic, who loudly complains about the absurdity of the race question.  “Everyone’s the same in Canada,” she says.  I elect not to mention to her the situation of the Québécois (or the Aboriginals, for that matter — Canada gives them special ID cards which exempt them from sales tax, but that really doesn’t compensate them for the crap they put up with).
      A person’s declared race is of little medical value.  For example, about 10% of black people have G6PD deficiency which causes certain drugs to be unsuitable for them, but most Blacks don’t have this problem and some Whites do (especially Jews and other Mediterranean people).  Anyway, there is absolutely no medical reason to ask for the race of the guarantor who will be paying for the service!  But yes, the form wants to know my race, too.  I think this is because of US government regulations requiring medical practitioners to collect such data and which obligate them, for patients who refuse to participate in this inanity, to use their own prejudices to guess which race the person providing the money seems to be a member of.
      Another bizarrely-American feature of this medical clinic is the inspirational quote that is painted on the wall over the restroom doors.  It says something like, “Faith in Christ improves wellness of mind, body, and spirit”.  Later I learn that CentraCare is part of Florida Hospital, which is owned by Adventist Health System, which is an arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
      The city of Lake Buena Vista is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Corporation, so Florida Hospital must be paying them rent in order to run a business here.  While we were waiting, someone came in claiming to be a Disney employee; he was refused treatment and was told that he must go to DisneyCorp’s own medical facilities.  Lake Buena Vista is basically the implementation of Walt’s EPCOT concept for the corporatist ”city of tomorrow“, where your citizenship class determines which medical facilities you may use.  (In Ontario, anyone can be treated anywhere, although you’ll usually get quicker service in a clinic than at an emergency room and more personalized service if you set up a continuing relationship with a physician’s private practice.)
      * * * * *
      Eventually a doctor examines Kid #2 for (just about) two minutes.  Based on her bedside manner, I think she is a pediatrician.  Kid #2 is 17 years old, which now makes him an ”adult” as far as Canadian healthcare is concerned, but in the American system he is still a “child” and must be seen by a kid-doctor rather than an ear-doctor.  She says his earwax is impacted, prescribes an irrigation of both ear canals using diluted H₂O₂, announces that the clinic will provide this service, then leaves.  After some more waiting, a nurse(?) comes in and performs the procedure, which is effective in restoring Kid #2’s hearing.  Then more waiting.  Then the doctor returns for another few minutes to examine the cleaned ear canals.  The right one is red, so she prescribes ofloxacin drops twice a day for five days.  More waiting.  An orderly(?) announces that the clinic will sell us this medication for $27.  I agree to pay.  More waiting.  The orderly comes back to say that this particular CentraCare clinic is out of stock on that medication; he gives me an scrip and suggests I drive down the street to Walgreens to get the drug.
      And then, a wondrous thing happens: we are let out of the building without having to pay anything!  Thank you, TD Canada Trust bank, for selling us this foreign-travel health insurance that ACTUALLY WORKS!  The insurance cost $80 for two weeks’ coverage of four people; Allianz said on the phone that the estimated cost of an exam for “ear infection” is about $250.

Landscape of Flavors (1:50pm).  Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Wifey and Kid #1 eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Walgreens pharmacy (Lake Buena Vista FL, 2:35pm - 2:45pm).  The pharmacist says that the drug costs $113!  I don’t know why the price is so different, nor whether Allianz would reimburse me so much.  The antibiotic treatment doesn’t seem so important now that the canal is clean, so I decide to put this problem off until tomorrow.

Art of Animation parking lot (2:55pm).  Our first FastPass™ of the day is scheduled for 3:55pm (already rejiggered from 2:50pm because there’s no way we can make that), so the plan is for Wifey and Kid #1 to take the bus to Epcot if we don’t get back to the hotel by 2:55pm.  The bus shows up at the same time we do, so the womenfolk skip the bus and hitch a ride in our rental car to the amusement park.

Epcot®.  The Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, brought to you by various corporate sponsors who control which facts each ride may present.  Attractions visited today: Electric Umbrella (lunch, 3:34pm; snack, 4:11pm), Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Mission: SPACE (except Wifey), Test Track (except Wifey), The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Sunshine Seasons (dinner, 7:56pm), Soarin (Kid #1 & I), and The Circle of Life (Wifey & Kid #2).
      Kid #2 and I catch up on lunch at the Electric Umbrella, since we didn’t have time after the medical stuff.  I get a bottle of water for Wifey to use up another snack credit.
      Spaceship Earth is now sponsored by Siemens instead of AT&T; the dioramas have been completely redone to emphasize “communication technology” instead of “connecting people across the world”.
      Ellen’s Energy Adventure has not been redone in 20 years (perhaps because Exxon stopped sponsoring it in 2004); it is now quite dated.  Bill Nye has aged considerably since this presentation was recorded.  He is the co-star with Ms. DeGeneres and his career is currently doing very well (with multiple honorary doctorates received in recent years), so why doesn’t he get billing?  The emphasis on compact fluorescent lightbulbs and wind power as “the future” now seems ridiculous.
      The Seas is a new ride.  It is similar to It’s a Small World, except with an undersea theme rather than toys/Christmas, and is sponsored by Disney’s Finding Nemo rather than Mattel.
      Of the restaurants on our dining plan, Sunshine Seasons seems to have the best selection so far.  My dinner is tuna salad on a croissant, strawberry shortcake, and orange juice (my throat is scratchy).
      Soarin is new.  It is a motion-simulator ride in front of an iMAX-type giant movie screen, where you pretend to be flying with the birds.  On our way out of this ride, I remark to Kid #1 that there was a dirt-spot on the screen that was visible when a pale color was displayed there; some random other park guest walking by says, “Oh, you noticed that, too?”
      The park is open an extra two hours tonight, for Disney resort guests only, but we are too tired to utilize this feature and go back to our hotel at the regular closing time.  Six hours of amusement is enough!  Wifey’s schedule had called for us to visit Club Cool, Journey Into Imagination, Turtle Talk, and Innoventions, but we decide to put those off until our next visit to Epcot later in this vacation.

pyesetz: (woof)

Oct. 29, day 7: Drive from New York to Ontario

Best Western (Liverpool NY, 2:46am).  Yet another bill-under-the-door.  Only $111.76 for a 2-queen room — and the pool is heated!  Looks like we’ll be back here next time, although the side-by-side beds caused Kid #1 to be quite unhappy with Wifey’s breathing noises.  When we were last here in 2007, the neighbouring airport was very noisy, but no problem this time.

US Postal Service (Liverpool NY, 10:43am).  $4.17 for delivery of an item to New Jersey and for a box to mail it in.  The item is my old E-ZPass transponder, which hasn’t worked since 2009 or so yet they keep charging me $1/month for it.  The return address printed on the transponder is no longer valid, so I had to call them to get the new address.
      I just checked my E-ZPass account balance and an “adjustment” was made to my account on Nov. 4th.  I now have a $50 credit balance.  Anyone wanna place a bet as to whether I ever see that money?

Jo-Ann’s Fabrics (Amherst NY, 1:59pm).  Wifey paid $46.91 for sewing stuff, mostly for Kid #1’s birthday present.

Tops (Amherst NY, 3:00pm).  $134.87 to stock up on inexpensive American groceries for our Canadian pantry.  Includes canned gefilte fish and mass quantities of turkey pepperoni, chocolate baking morsels, and AA batteries.

Tops (3:02pm).  As a thank-you gift for our preceding purchase, the machine spat out a coupon for a 75¢ discount on our next purchase.  Kid #2 noticed a pack of gum for 79¢, so we bought it to use up the coupon.  With tax, the net cost of the gum was 11¢.

Key Bank (inside Tops, 3:02pm).  Get $20 to ensure that we can pay for tolls on the way home, but it turned out that we already had (barely) enough cash — so now we have USD $20 to hold onto for our next trip to the States.  No ATM fee for Key Bank, but $3 fee for our bank plus the exchange rate was $23.07.

Tops lottery vending machine.  Once again, Wifey buys an instant ticket for $1 which wins $2.  She also buys a $2 Powerball ticket for the evening’s drawing (it didn’t win anything).

Wegman’s (Amherst NY, 3:35pm).  $52.63 for salad bar lunch.  Still pretty good, but notably lower quality than last time.  Robert Wegman died eight years ago.  Things change after the founder dies: stores become less distinctive and more like every other store, because that’s the “safe” move for an MBA executive.

Wegman’s (4:48pm).  $463.59 for even more groceries, including mass quantities of boneless chicken breast, peanut butter, horseradish cheddar, Hebrew National® hot dogs, and — as usual — 160 cans of “Wegman’s Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water” (which costs half as much as similar products in Canada).  Wegman’s might not be as distinctive as they used to be, but you can’t argue with their prices!  In fact, they have the same Sea Dog blueberry ale from Maine that I bought at Shaw’s in Massachusetts — but Wegman’s price is about 20% lower.  Oh well.

Wegman’s parking lot.  We bought too much stuff on this trip!  Wifey spends considerable time jamming everything into the trunk.  Eventually she gets it all in *and* leaves enough open space down the middle of the van so the rearview mirror will work.  She is amazing.

Delta Sonic (Amherst NY, 5:38pm).  $50 for gasoline.  This station is very close to Tops and Wegman’s, so we generally stop here before beginning the long drive home.  Once again, prepayment is necessary due to rampant American xenophobia.  No zipcode means no right to a receipt showing how much gas you got for your money!

Canadian border (Queenston ON).  Border guard waives us through, perhaps in part because we have Canadian passports.  Once again, no sales tax on our declared $1000ºº of imported goods!

Our house.  After bringing in the food from the car, I looked in the fridge and said, “Hey, know what we forgot to buy?  Fridge light bulbs!”  Both of them had failed just before we went on our trip.

Oct. 30, day 8: The day after

Country Paws (St. Agatha ON, 10:53am).  $165.20 for a week’s stay at a dog kennel.  That’s $20/day plus tax plus $1 per day to feed him a customer-provided chewable beef-flavoured arthritis pill that’s no trouble at all to administer because he likes it.  And the dog came home with a limp, so either they didn’t actually give him all the pills or he overexerted himself (which he often does at the kennel).

Home Hardware (New Hamburg ON, 3:46pm).  $5.53 for a pair of lightbulbs specially designed to provide “true daylight colour” inside a fridge.

Oct. 31, day 9: The day after the day after

Our house.  Halloween party.  We had only two guests over.  After trick-or-treating and then some trading, each of my kids ended up with a gallon-sized bag filled solely with candies that they actually liked.  What a nice neighbourhood!

Nov. 2, day 11: The last day

Carl’s Jr. parking lot (Waterloo ON).  Presented the items to my furiend, but he didn’t want to do the Furry thing I had in mind, so the whole exercise turned out to be pointless.  He gave me USD $12 for the Cheez-Its and Starbucks (even though he also had Canadian money in his wallet), so now I have even more US cash to hold onto for the next trip.  I gave him the blueberry ale as a consolation prize.

pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
(A₁ is my father’s sister.  She is the only person I knew before my 18th birthday who is both still alive and also still on speaking terms with me.  A₂ was my grandmother’s sister, who died 30 years ago but her estate is *still* unsettled to this very day, because lawyers.)

Interstate 495 (Franklin MA, 12:15pm).  A₁’s house is north of our hotel, so I get on I-495 North even though our pre-printed directions stated that I should use I-495 South to get to I-95 North towards her house.  (I-495 is a semicircle around Exurban Boston and so “North” actually means “clockwise”, while I-95 cuts through Suburbia.)  It is a typical fault of dogs that they can’t grasp the idea of deliberately going the wrong way for awhile in order to get to a spot where they can more effectively go the right way — but humans are supposed to be smarter than that!  It is a typical fault of male humans that they hate reversing direction, so I decide to continue on I-495 North for awhile and then cut over to I-95 — but Exurban Boston is much more built up now than when I was a kid and the roads all have a lot more traffic and stoplights than I remember.  So once again the trip takes *twice* as long as Google Maps had predicted.

Golden Temple (Brookline MA, 1:49pm).  $75.60 for Chinese food to bring over to A₁’s house.  We had told them to prepare the food for 1pm pickup, but thankfully it was still warm enough to eat.

A₁’s house (Brookline MA).  Visit with my aunt.  Unlike previous visits, she did not dismiss her home health aides for the day because she can no longer function without them.  She had a stroke last year and lost much of her hearing.  Also she had pneumonia earlier this year (which was news to us) and has lost most of the remaining function in her one good leg.  But — just like her mother — the mind remains sharp to the end.
      We spent some time talking about her paternal grandfather, who remains relevant because Wifey likes to talk about genealogy online and keeps finding extended family members who are related through my great-grandpa; he was a Shochet who arrived in the USA as a penniless immigrant and then got heavily into real estate and ended up gifting a separate house to each of his children.  To hear my aunt talk, Great Grandpa was also an inveterate liar who could never tell the straight story of why he no longer spoke to his siblings.
      I brought up the subject of the lawyer who grabbed control of A₂’s estate.  Apparently he is still dribbling money to A₁ to help pay for the heavy equipment she needs to help her get in and out of her wheelchair.  He insulted me 20 years ago and I have been waiting for vengeance ever since.  But he’s getting old himself and maybe he’ll die before A₁ does and I won’t have to figure out how to make that criminal let go of the money without having to go to jail myself.  When you’re fighting an evil lawyer, the entire government is against you, even though that guy is associated with one of the largest tax frauds in the history of Massachusetts (according to one newspaper article I found).
      It is unclear how much time A₁ has left, but it isn’t much.  We told her we’ll try to visit again next year.

Shaw’s (Franklin MA, 7:01pm).  $66.06 for groceries, including salad bar for dinner, a cheesecake and a box of cookies for the cousins, Chanukkah candles, a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay (on sale for $5!), a six-pack of Sea Dog blueberry wheat ale, and two boxes of Sunshine Cheez-Its.
      The Cheez-Its are BOGO; on these trips to the States we usually stock up on Cheez-Its at either Tops or Wegman’s in New York, whichever is cheaper, but obviously they can’t beat this half-off sale.  The store clerk says the sale will run until day 8 of our trip, so we plan to sample these boxes and then come back for more.  We still buy a “test” box of Cheez-Its before buying mass quantities of boxes with that same lot number, even though it’s been years since the last time Sunshine made a bad batch (with a metallic taste).
      The ale is for a furiend whom I’m trying to soften up for (something); he asked me to get him a “surprise” when I visited the States.  He once tweeted that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”.  He often visits New York to buy beer, so I wanted to get him a Massachusetts microbrew blueberry ale that he couldn’t get for himself.  But instead I got the Sea Dog (which is a widely-distributed product from Maine) because it has paw-prints on the bottle caps!

pyesetz: (Default)

Day 2b: Rosh Hashanah

Hawthorne Suites: It is evening on September 28th.  We eat foods that Wifey prepared in advance (with some last-minute cooking using our room’s mini-kitchen).  The foods were transported frozen from Canada.  In some cases, such as the matzoh farfel, this food had actually been made in the USA and imported into Canada—then we bought it and exported it back!  Tasty and traditional.

(I think this is what TVTropes calls a PseudoCrisis, where episode 2a seems to end with a cliff-hanger but then episode 2b resolves it with a single paragraph.)

Day 3: Visit with Aunt

Last year I wrote a friends-only post in which I refered to my aunt as “A₁”.  It is a silly name for her, but then I am a silly dog.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the ”high holidays” on which no work is done and no business is conducted—just stay in the synogogue all day.  The observant Jew will not even pick up a pencil on this day.  Well, fuck that!

Stock market: The market is going down.  Buy TZA.

Toys Я Us, Bellingham MA.  Buy toys for the cousins, whom we will see on day 6.  Cousin #1 gets a kid’s chemistry set.  Cousin #2 gets a pogo stick.  Cousin #3 gets a Hello Kitty themed karaoke/radio plus some AAA batteries.  Total $78.58 at 12:56 PM.

Market Basket, Bellingham MA.  Buy a bottle of Juicy Juice® Berry, which used to be the juice that Kid #2 and I drank all the time when living in the States.  (Now we mainly drink President’s Choice 5-Berry, which is also raspberry-flavoured.)  This is to ensure that there is something suitable to drink at A₁’s house.  $2.99, 1:19 PM.

A₁’s house, Brookline MA.  More foods prepared in advance by Wifey and transported frozen from Canada.  It turns out that A₁ has plenty of beverages and so the juice wasn’t necessary.  Dinner conversation is pleasant, mainly because touchy subjects are avoided.  Examples: A₁’s morning at the synogogue, Kid #2’s lack of preparation for a Bar Mitzvah, a certain lawyer.
      At one point, it was necessary to run the garbage disposer.  A₁ went to the sink, stood out of her wheelchair on her one good leg, then used her one good arm to grab the stopper, insert it into the garbage disposer, and twist to turn it on, with no spare limbs for balance.  This is the first time I have seen her out of her wheelchair in at least ten years.
      Eventually we get to the subject of money.  It seems A₁ is expecting that I will not accept her ”no” answer to my request for a handout.  I tell her that I have other sources of money (though they are dwindling), but I have no other relatives with whom I am still on speaking terms, so that matters more.

Stop & Shop, Brookline MA,  8:45 PM.  Stop in at a local market to buy Jewish foods (on a high holiday!).  Disappointing: their Jewish selection is much reduced from prior years.  I guess the demographics of the neighbourhood are changing.  Buy some Hebrew National bologna for $7.20 because it’s not available in Canada and Kid #1 remembers it fondly.

pyesetz: (fire-hunter)

An article in the New York Times describes E₈ as “some sort of curvy, torus type of thing” and states twice that it has 57 dimensions.  The Wikipedia article on E₈ contains 2800 words, but after reading them I now know even less: E₈ seems to have only eight dimensions, or is it 248, or perhaps 696,729,600?  The number 57 does not appear there, but only in a catsup article.  They do show a nice Tinker-Toy picture, but obviously it captures very little of E₈’s hyperdimensional grandeur.

The problem is that I pre-announced a post about E₈, but I have no idea what that word *means* to mathematicians.  If I am to write an entire essay about a word that I don't understand, then I must be either a PHB or a linguist.  I actually have half a bachelor's degree in linguistics, so hopefully it will be okay if my hair isn't quite pointy enough for this essay.

So what does E₈ have to do with Objective Reality?  That’s a hard question.  Let's start with an easier one: is E₈ *alive*?  Think about that for a moment.  Does that sound like the silliest question you've heard all day?  It's completely outside the Overton window of socially-acceptable questions.  What kind of Commie-pinko-moonbat loonie would even ask such a thing?  Let's review the range of answers:
  • Western Civ: No, because E₈ was not “born” and cannot “die”.  It does not eat, reproduce, or evolve.
  • Anishinaabe (the Great Lakes Indians): Yes, because there are questions you can answer by studying E₈.
  • Brain science: Maybe, because we don't have a clear idea yet what the word “alive” actually means in terms of brain activation.  Some research suggests that the superior temporal sulcus is active when analyzing situations that Western Civ would say are “dead” while the Anishinaabe would say “alive”.
  • Furry: Yes, because the word E₈ can be drawn as a face-in-profile with a goatee.  Add some stick-figure arms and legs and you can make a dancing cartoon that sings about the philosophy of science in rhyming couplets.
  • Dictionary: Yes (senses 2 and 5) or no (senses 3 and 4) or begs the question (sense 1) or cupcake sauerbraten tarball (sense 6).
Well, that clears things up nicely, doesn't it?  We can now confidently conclude that philosophy is a method for turning wrong answers into a continuing stream of research grants. 

On to our next question: does E₈ *exist*?  Philosophers have made lots of money on this one!  (Bonus question: define “alive” and “exists” so that God has both properties but rainbow-pooping unicorns have neither.)  Let us review the isms that philosophers have come up with:
  • Nominalism: No, the word E₈ exists but the concept it refers to is imaginary.
  • Idealism: No, because only consciousness exists, not the things that we are conscious of.
  • Intuitionism: No, because only the natural numbers were created by God; everything else is man’s work.
  • Formalism: Begs the question because math is just a game and has nothing to do with the real world.
  • Logicism: Begs the question because math is just a sub-branch of logic so go ask the logicians.
  • Platonism: Sort of, but the E₈ that you or I know about is just a shadow of the real E₈ whose grandeur is beyond any ape’s ability to appreciate.
  • Social constructivism: Yes because E₈ is something that mathematicians talk about.
  • Empiricism: Yes because it was discovered rather than invented.
  • Realism: Yes, but only if E₈ describes string theory and string theory describes Objective Reality.

Well, *now* we're getting somewhere!  So if E₈ is needed to describe string theory and string theory is needed to describe Objective Reality and Mathematical Realism is the correct philosophy THEN WE WIN!

There's an article called An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything that was apparently never published in an official journal.  It was written by “surfer and theoretical physicist” A. Garrett Lisi.  BTW, the phrase “exceptionally simple” is a pun referring to E₈, not a measure of the theory’s conceptual difficulty!  The Wikipedia article has an animation, one frame of which I am showing to the right.  Note the multiple occurrences of the “Star of David” motif, hiding in plain sight within this physics theory, thus proving that Rabbinic Judaism is the only correct religion.

Anyway, Lisi’s theory shows how each of the 248 symmetries of E₈ can be thought of as corresponding to one of the 248 subatomic particles (including 22 that are yet to be discovered).  Many mathematician-physicists think that it would be sooo kewl if this theory turns out to be correct, although Gödel told us 80 years ago that there cannot be a “theory of everything” because every theory of the universe must be incomplete, inconsistent, trivial, and/or obsolete.  So why do they even bother?

Since I haven't completely run this topic into the ground, expect a (part III) at some point.

pyesetz: (Default)

Visit with in-laws.  An hour’s drive down to Attleboro and another hour back.  We usually don’t stay this far north, but we were looking for an inexpensive hotel with a kitchen suite—and “inexpensive” is not very compatible with “Boston area”.

My brother-in-law’s stepdaughter is getting married soon.  Using the terminology from this post, it’s “Cousin #4” that is marrying “Missouri-drawling boyfriend”.  While BIL #2 was recounting the difficulties in setting up the wedding, he let slip that Cousin #4 uses the verb to jew meaning “to refuse to spend the money required by the situation”.  He regretted the word as soon as it left his mouth, but my children had no idea what he was talking about.  They lead such sheltered lives!

When we first arrived at BIL #3’s house, his children were hiding under couch pillows because “people from Canada” were coming.  But it was 95°F so we weren’t wearing our mukluks (actually, we don’t own any).  Cousin #3 is about twice as old as the last time I saw her, while Cousin #1 is only 20% older and seems much the same, perhaps a bit less prone to tantrums.


Jan. 3rd, 2010 04:34 pm
pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Over at SP I wrote a post called God, as perceived by scientists.  It's not very good, but seems reasonably well-received.

Several people wrote comments beginning with "As a scientist..." but only one was frankly negative.  That fellow apparently subscribes to the Popperian school where only the successes count as "doing science".  Popper's philosophy of science is fine as far as it goes (and his political philosophy is also good), but it describes only a small fraction of an actual scientist's daily activity.

A New Age-y person thanked me for writing "good nonsense", while a conservative fundamentalist Christian opined that "the diary was good and maybe the poll choices were nonsense".  It seems that the "scented melon-breasted woman" item in particular was over the top.  I'm giving my "most insightful comment" award to Ms. Shakti, who says
All of us are dealing with our own perceptions, gathered through our uniquely tuned sensory apparatus, processed through individual brains with their own idiosynchrocies, and filtered through our individual life experience and understanding.  It doesn't matter what I think god is, or what my experience of god is, it will only make sense to me and most likely be nonsense to everyone else. Some people perceive God, some perceive no god, the difference is not in absolute reality, the difference is all in our perception.

Overall, 42 comments and 13 poll respondents isn't bad for a stupid little post!  But zero people voted for "God is the reason why so many experiments fail", which was arguably the thesis of my post.  So I guess my thesis is bad and should be discarded.

Maybe next I should do a post on "Is God Hyperdimensional?"  Short answer: we don't know and we can't know, but it's fun to speculate.

* * * * *

After Christmas, Kid #1 told me that there was a Dr. Who marathon coming up on January 2nd and none of the video-recording equipment in our household was up to the task of recording it while we go out for our monthly "lunaversary" celebration.  So I bought a USB TV tuner to convert Kid #1's laptop into a TiVo.  As expected, the included Windows software is crap—just the excuse needed to switch Kid #1's computer over to Linux!  But MythTV is horribly difficult to install (I eventually got it to show a single station with no sound).  I tried a few other PVR packages but they were even worse, e.g. Freevo couldn't seem to figure out what the channel frequencies were.  After spending two days fighting with the thing (instead of working my paying job), I began to wonder what my SP post had to do with this TV tuner thingy.  What was God trying to tell me that I didn't want to hear?

Meanwhile, Wifey is complaining that I'm playing favourites among our children.  Kid #1 gets this new $100 toy while I refuse to kick in $50 for a Wii for Kid #2 (because he didn't want it until after Hanukkah gift-giving season was over).  Wifey is really annoying when she's right.

So I decided that what God was trying to tell me was that homemade PVR technology is not yet ready for prime time and I shouldn't be working on it.  The tuner has been set aside, to be returned to my local brick-and-mortar BestBuy store (on the other side of Kitchener, only 25km away).  We had take-out Chinese food on January 2nd so Kid #1 could watch the Dr. Who marathon without having to record it.  Meanwhile, Kid #2 and his Wii are still up in the air.

Of course, I could be wrong about this.  The only person to write a "customer review" at the BestBuy website says he likes the thing because he can use it to connect a Wii to his computer.  What a remarkable coincidence!  I may regret returning it.  But you know, sometimes you've just gotta pick a path and walk it.  As a professional software engineer, I can keep pushing the rock up the hill with the best of them.  But some hills end up being much much higher than originally predicted and a good engineer will recognize when a project has become a "runaway freight train to Nowhere".  Yadda yadda, insert your own lame excuses here.
pyesetz: (star-of-David)
In 2007, Wifey and I tried making a Star of David decoration, but it didn’t come out well.  For 2008, I let my house be the undecorated one on our street.  For 2009, Wifey decided to invite over our little homeschoolers’ group for a party, so SOMETHING had to be done.

So this is what I did (click images to embiggen):  I pretended that the ropelight was a neon sign tube, which I wrestled into a star-shape and then covered the non-star parts with black electrical tape.  The ropelight has a fairly large minimum curvature, so I curled it into loops at each corner (covered with tape) to create the appearance of a sharper change of direction than a ropelight can actually manage.  This is pretty much exactly what [ profile] xolo suggested in a comment on my 2007 post.

This wooden star-of-David form is the same one that we’ve been using for many years.  Previously it was covered in many strands of Christmas lights, with the controls set to “random chasing patterns”.  But those lights stopped working during the move to Canada.  The yellow blob in the window is a hanukkiah; see the daytime photo below.

Blah blah blah.  Need more text because the pictures are too big.  Yadda yadda.

At the Hanukkah party, we cobbled together some electronic gizmos to make a Skype videophone for our livingroom; we used it to call a former member of our group who has moved back to the States.  They were familiar with Skype but we had not previously used it.  The setup for our livingroom was quite easy!

After the typical conference-call greetings, they panned their camera around so we could see how much snow they got; then we pointed our camera out the window to show how little we got (because the jet stream is quite far South right now).

We had a Secret SantaHanukkah Harry gift exchange.  It was notable how many people got fellow family members when they pulled a name randomly out of a hat, but perhaps this is related to the birthday paradox.

Maybe I should make the pictures smaller.

pyesetz: (sozont)
I don't really have a website.  I used to have Furtopia, but I messed up and my account was frozen.  I used to be a paid member here at LiveJournal, but I had to cut costs.  For a while it seemed I didn't "really" need a website since I could just embed images directly in journal posts, but LiveJournal recently (and silently) stopped allowing that.  As usual, they didn't reply to my support request, so I'm left guessing as to why they did it.  My guess: it allows people to not buy LiveJournal memberships because they don't really need the ScrapBook® feature!  If that is really the reason, the new owners have flushed [ profile] brad's original raison d'être for this site and I should avoid paying them on principle.  That's too bad because I really liked the (poorly-documented) RSS feed of friends-only posts.  It was my favourite paid feature.

A few months ago I created a Google Sites website.  It seemed like it might fill the bill, although the documentation for how to write JavaScript for it seemed rather complicated, so I put off learning more about it.

Last night was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.  Since "Mr. Bear" and I are both Jewish, I generally make a show of not doing any paid work on major Jewish holidays.  What to do instead?  I worked on my Google site.  Problem: it is difficult to figure out how images stored in Google's File Cabinet (example) are to be hot-linked from other websites (example — can you see the laptop photo?).  In general, it seems that Google Sites is too concerned with preventing you from doing things that will make Google look bad and not concerned enough with ease of (re)use.  Also, their Terms of Service allow them to delete your site at any time for any reason or no reason.  Hey, if I didn't care about long-term storage or customized programming, I would use Imgur!

So I restarted another old project: find an ISP.  I wanted
  • Server physically located in Waterloo, Ont. (since we have plenty of connectivity here);
  • Runs Linux so I don't have to learn another operating system;
  • Offers ssh shell access so I don't have to learn another "website control panel";
  • Virtual Private Server technology so I can get root access even with "el cheapo" shared hosting;
  • PHP and MySQL for custom programming (which is what initially attracted me to Furtopia);
  • About $7/month, which is what WestHost used to charge for this feature-set (but they're in Utah, the cheap plan is now $9 and doesn't include ssh anymore).
Last night I found lots of ISPs that had *some* of these features, but none had *all* of them.  And reading through HostSearch was depressing; so many of these hosts have gone out of business after posting their ads.  Consider AroundKW:  They're based in Waterloo, but apparently their server is in Florida.  No Linux, no ssh, and minimum $12/month.  Other people offer Linux for as little as $2/month, but almost nobody dares to offer ssh (which would be suicidal for a Windows-based ISP to offer, due to lack of security).

But lo and behold!  HostMDS offers Linux, ssh, PHP+MySQL, hosting in Waterdown Ontario (at least it's in-province, but they claim it's in Toronto?), and only $6/month!!!  Their Terms of Service are reasonably clear ("A website is considered using 'Excessive amounts of resources' when it monopolizes the resources available using 10% or more of system resources for longer than 60 seconds.") although it seems wrong to me to mention "Canada" and "DMCA" in the same paragraph.  Sorry, Stephen Harper, nobody but you wants a DMCA here in Canada!

So I tried signing up for their basic starter "Unlimited" plan.  Things were going fine until I got to the page where it said "To protect against fraud, we will now call the phone number you gave.  Enter this PIN when prompted.  Click HERE to begin the call."  But it was 1 AM and I had sleeping children!  Today I managed to get the signup process restarted to the point where their computer did call me and I entered the PIN and also the voiceprint of my name, but the transaction still didn't go through because it had already been "cancelled".  I tried a complete do-over, but then it wouldn't give me the hostname I wanted because "this name is already in use at HostMDS; cancel your other website first" but the name isn't in use and it shows in my account as "cancelled; status FRAUD".

I sent email to their sales department, but it's the weekend and they probably won't reply until Monday.  And then Rosh Hashanah will be over.

So I had to think of yet another thing to do that wasn't paid work and wasn't 8 boring hours of chanting Hebrew in a synogogue.  I started cleaning out my email inbox.  I actually managed to get rid of 10% of the oldest entries (down to 371 now) before thinking of something else to do instead: write this post!

UPDATE Sunday 20 Sept.: Heard back from HostMDS sales.  The "fraudulent" signup evaporates after 24 hours.  So I signed up again and asked for a new phone call—which failed because Wifey was on the phone to her mother!  Oh well, guess I'll try again tomrrow.
pyesetz: (spirograph)
(From [ profile] momentrabbit)
  • Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
  • Turn to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post that sentence along with these instructions on your LJ.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.
The cloest book is Scribble Pad which contains one hundred 9"×12" sheets.  The pages are unnumbered and anyway they're all blank.

The next closest is Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History.  I have never read this book and have no idea why it is sitting on my bookshelf.  The fifth sentence that starts on page 56 is
Second, and more significantly, how can belief be commanded?
pyesetz: (Default)

Thursday, August 7th

Got out of bed, got started on getting rid of those US Savings Bonds.  Went to the Federal Reserve’s website: you can’t sell back treasury bonds direct to the treasury!  Googled for banks near Franklin MA.  Bank of America sounds good.  Called them up to ask how to get rid of large quantities of bonds when I don’t have an account at any bank in the commonwealth.  They said I could just open an account with the bonds as the initial deposit.  Well, it’s a plan, anyway.

[Aside: 25 years ago, when I was still working at Company ℳ (my original job title was “baby-sitter”; final job title “senior systems programmer”), the Bank of America was one of the customers for our securities-DBMS product.  The joke around the office then was that Bank of America was one of our smallest customers, followed by Bank of New England and then Bank of New York.  The customer’s actual size was inversely proportional to the geographic area they claimed to serve!  Bank of New England later became BayBank, which bought up many area banks including the Newton-Waltham Bank where I had a "youth account".  BayBank merged with the Bank of Boston and then with Fleet Bank (two more of our customers).  It was later assimilated by the Bank of America (= "the Borg").  Meanwhile, the Bank of New York (which was America’s first bank, founded by Alexander Hamilton) got heavily into money-laundering and was bought out by Mellon.  Bank of America was originally the North Carolina National Bank and is now the largest bank in the country.  Resistance is futile!  All this bank-merger activity is indicative (despite what this guy says) of robber-baron capitalism which does not serve the public interest.  Oh noes!  I’ve linked to a Communist Party website—the McCarthyites will get me!]

So we drove back to that same plaza with the Longhorn Steakhouse.  At Bank of America we were told that there were only two employees, “Beth” and “Seth”, who could open the accounts for us, but they were both busy.  So we waited.  Wifey and the kidlets went back to Bath & Body Works for more vanilla stench-emitters.  Still no Beth or Seth by the time they returned, so we waited some more.  After half an hour, we celebrated American capitalism by rejecting BofA for poor service and going over to Strata Bank at the other end of the plaza.  The bank manager there immediately led us into her office and formulated an action plan: we would cash ¼ of the bonds at Strata today, ¼ of the bonds at BofA today (avoiding the need to open an account there), then do the same thing again tomorrow for the other ½ of the bonds.

Both banks had little signs showing today’s date to help you fill out your forms.  Both banks showed yesterday’s date on their signs.  As far as I know, this is always wrong: bank dates must be either today or the next business day.  Being surrounded by signs that were lying about the date seemed to bother Kid #1 rather a lot, so I told her about my experience as a baby-sitter for one of the founders of Company ℳ.  In his house was a clock that chimed the hours.  It always displayed the wrong time, so I fixed it whenever I went over there.  Later it was always stopped, so I wound it during my visits.  Eventually I found out that the founder and his wife hated the noise that the clock made—the wife was starting to think that a ghost was winding it up just to annoy her!

After converting the bonds to cash (non-customers can’t get bank cheques!), we went to Stop & Shop for yet more food, then to the sign “Franklin: Home of the Nation's First Public Library” to take pictures of Kid #1 holding a copy of Superior Saturday.  She was supposed to be wearing her banned-books bracelet but it had been forgotten at the hotel room this morning.  Finally we got to leave that plaza!

Then we drove to Arlington MA.  Have I mentioned how sick I was getting of all this driving?  Oh yeah, it was supposed to be mentioned in the entry for August 6th that I skipped.  Anyway, our computer-generated route had us driving by the synogogue in Lexington where I had chanted my Bar Mitzvah, so I got off the highway and went to look at my childhood house nearby.  It’s still about the same, except that it now has pink vinyl siding and the shrubs I remember have been restored (the next owners after my family had yanked them out).  We also drove by my elementary school, which looks awful due to extensive grass infiltration of the asphalt ball courts, but apparently there are plans afoot to remodel the place.

In Arlington we visited Penzey’s Spice Shop, because they don’t deliver to Canada at a reasonable price.  Wifey spent $65 on a year’s supply of spices, plus $5 for an ounce (that's a lot!) of dried chives for my aunt.  Penzey’s has a “kids’ drawing area” where both of my kidlets drew OPEN signs and then taped them to the window.  Sometimes "they're all together ooky", if you catch my drift.

Then we drove to my aunt’s house in Brookline.  It was the usual chit-chat.  My aunt used to travel a lot during her retirement, but recently she (like [ profile] ozarque) has decided not to fly anymore.  Apparently the problem is that she is a little old lady in a wheelchair, which is exactly the demographic that the TSA goons like to pick on.  (I wouldn’t doubt that many of those creeps had tried the duct-tape-on-a-cat experiment when they were kids.)  There was a bit of a disagreement over dinner, which had been scheduled to be home-delivered Chinese.  Usually we buy dinner at her house and she buys for us when she flies to Philadelphia for a conference.  But we don’t live near Philadelphia anymore.  And we’re a little tight on funds right now.  So my aunt bought the dinner.

Brookline is no longer the sleepy bedroom community for Boston that my aunt grew up in.  The city has swallowed it now.  After the USSR broke up, Brookline became a Mecca for successful Jewish immigrants from Russia and Israel, who continue to speak their native languages on its streets.  After visiting my aunt, we went to a local Stop & Shop (which was originally a Jewish-owned supermarket chain).  We bought traditional Kosher foods like pigs-in-a-blanket, crumbled Communion wafers, and some delicious US patent #3,108,882 which didn’t exist yet when I was born.  Also purchased was some APS film and 3 more items for the Iraq care package.

Finally got back to our hotel room at 10 PM.

[Meanwhile, back in Canada, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro took $122.71 out of my chequing account today to pay for the electricity used by our now-unoccupied house.  I still don’t understand what the business situation was that induced Wilmot Hydro—and not the electric companies of the other six Waterloo County townships?—to merge with Kitchener, whose laconic corporate history page is just the history of Kitchener (née “Berlin”) with nothing about Wilmot.]

pyesetz: (star-of-David)
Actually, I've made three posts since May 10th, but they were friends-only and thus don't count.  I suppose my last post *might* have shown up in PZ's RSS feed since I let it go 24 hours before friends-locking it (because it says potentially-objectionable things about my boss and I would like to keep this job).

Dr. Myers writes:
Now here's something cool: somebody has tried putting the actual creation story as revealed by modern physics into the same kind of portentous, simple language that even a Mesopotamian goat-herder could understand, the point being that if a god had chosen to tell primitive people how the universe came to be, he/she/it could have done so in just as awe-inspiring a way as the false myths we've got.  (Video Link)
To which I replied:

Only a palaeocon would believe that the Bible is "What God knows" and therefore that whatever isn't in the Bible are "things God doesn't know".  So North America was a surprise to God?

Also, it is ridiculous to assert that Genesis "could have been written like this" when the video contains phrases like "four thousand millennia".  There simply was no way in Ancient Hebrew to say such a thing.  Even during the Roman period, the largest number that had a name was "myriadoi" (meaning "ten thousand" or "zillion") so any span of time longer than 10,000 years was inexpressible.  Hillel (1st century AD, founder of modern Judaism) supposedly said something like "The days of creation were God's days.  Each of God's days is like 10,000 years of human time."  Since "10,000 years" was the longest span of time with a name, what Hillel said was basically "a zillion years for each Genesis day", which was as close as he could get given that the word "billion" didn't exist yet.

Yes, there's still the problem with darkness-before-light in the Genesis timeline, but something's gotta give when God's Hyperdimensional Word gets filtered through the minds of 3½-dimensional human prophets, whose ability to predict what will happen 20 years into the future is laughably bad yet some of them claim they know Evolution is false and humans and chimps couldn't have had a common ancestor only 5 million years ago because "that's not enough time".
pyesetz: (star-of-David)
Passover is over, so I guess I passed.

[Poll #1179301]
In ancient times, Passover was considered to be the beginning of the year.  New Year's was later moved to the fall, creating the new holiday of Rosh Hashanah, during which Jews are supposed to think about all the sins they committed last year against Man and doG.  I don't really celebrate Rosh Hashanah much, but I do commit significant amounts of effort to Passover (this year we drove down to Toronto to buy matzah, certified pineapple juice, chocolate bars without soybean oil, etc), so I guess this should be my sin-contemplation holiday.  Obviously I have sinned a lot this year, because comments on this journal have fallen waaaay off.  Well, not really: For Jan-Apr of 2007 I made 15 posts, receiving 64 comments; this year I've made 21 posts that received 79 comments.  But of my last 8 posts, half of them got nothing and the other half got 1-2 comments (which is basically one commenter plus my reply — hi [ profile] dakhun!)  It looks like the "zit porn link" was the journal-killer.  Since I posted that, no one will talk to me anymore.  Sheesh!  Should I try a penis photo next?  A monograph on the "one-state solution" that Israel will eventually have to accept?  What Ben Stein's Expelled tells us about the Nixon administration?

Maybe I should just post elsewhere.  I shot my mouth off at Street Prophets and got 8 "cookies"!  It's too bad LJ doesn't have cookies, which is just a way of saying "thanks for writing this" without having to come up with any reply text.
pyesetz: (star-of-David)
It's Hanukkah!  In previous years we've displayed a very gaudy Star of David with blinking lights in chasing patterns, etc.  This year we decided to refubish it and... let's just say we ran into many problems.  We ended up just wrapping it with a rope-light and calling it "done" for the year.

Why do I mention this?  Because [ profile] shockwave77598 just put up a YouTube video of *his* house decoration in action.  His house now screams "electronic engineer lives here!" while mine whispers "some bizarre denomination lives here".

I've been calling our star various bad names, like "The Lucky Charm—it's magically incandescent" and various epithets involving shamrocks and unlikely genetic recombinations.  Because I can't seem to control my camera (it insists on "S-2" even in manual mode), you can't see the wooden pair-of-triangles frame that's holding up the lights.  The frame has sharp angles, like a Star of David should, while the rope light has a minimum curvature that's too large.  For verisimilitude, I suppose I should cover up the "kite tail" with black tape.

If I were still an LJ newbie, I would go back to my old posts and install this icon for the ones with a "Judaism" tag.  But nobody reads old posts.

*Edit*: More comments over here: it looks like a "party balloon" or a "snowflake".  *Edit 2*: Virgomusic thinks she has me beaten in the "inappropriate for Hanukkah" department:
pyesetz: (Default)
There is no truth to this essay whatsoever!  I have never in my life had anonymous gay sex in a fursuit while davening the Talmud in a Sukkah!  Who comes up with these rumors?

Tonight is the last night of Sukkot.  My Sukkah was on the moving van until yesterday, so there's not much point in assembling it for just the last day.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
The "for sale" sign is now spiked into the lawn.  I've spent the last two weeks trying to clean up the disaster area that is my house, so now there's only two rooms left that are impassable.  Meanwhile, there's a worldwide "credit crunch" and the bottom has fallen out of the real estate market.  Two weeks ago my realtor thought the house might fetch 90% of what similar houses (but in good condition) had gotten recently.  Now he's using 80% in his example scenarios.

Yesterday I spent $800ºº on yard work.  Vast quantities of "volunteer" plants were removed from the property.  The landscapers filled up their dump truck with wood-chips!  The house looks a lot more inviting now, but every dollar I spend will increase the amount of debt I end up with on the new house in Baden.  I should have sold a long time ago, but I just couldn't get all the international-move political crap settled at a reasonable speed.

Today I printed out the mortgage documents for the new house that my mortgage broker had emailed to me.  They're totally screwed up!  It looks like the mortgage was set up as a 5-year fixed and then "amended" (by writing in the comments area) with a different rate.  Nowhere does it actually say that the loan is a line of credit (no fixed time-limit, no prepayment penalty, automatic approval for further withdrawals after I pay it down some).  I am not signing the documents in their current form!  Maybe I should call the bank directly and ask them what kind of loan *they* think they're offering me.

Next week I'll call the moving company.  Unless I can get lucky somehow, my schedule for September looks like
  • Fri 21st: Move out.
  • Sat 22: Betwixt and between (that day just happens to be Yom Kippur, the highest of the Jewish High Holidays).
  • Sun/Mon 23-24: Drive to Canada.
  • Tue 25: Sign mortgage documents.
  • Wed/Thu 26-27: Sit in hotel room and/or buy appliances for the new house.
  • Fri 28: Take possession of new house.
  • Sat/Sun 29-30: Paint new house and/or buy appliances.
  • Mon Oct 1: Move in.
This is a horrible schedule but I just don't know what else to do.  It looks like I won't be celebrating Sukkot this year because my Sukkah will be spending half the holiday sitting on a moving truck!

Maybe I should try moving the settlement date from Fri to Mon?  That would make things a lot easier, but the settlement date is written on dozens of different documents and I expect a lot of resistance to changing it.
pyesetz: (Default)
From here:
[Democratic activists, operatives and/or strategists] say that money from Jewish donors constitutes about half the donations given to national Democratic candidates
Three percent of the country donates 50% of the money?  Hard to believe, especially coming from Clinton's camp (she's already lied about whether the blogging classes are happy with her).

I guess I should start a new blog, so [ profile] mrcougar doesn't have to see this political shite.


pyesetz: (Default)

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