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.

Guts

Dec. 13th, 2013 08:44 pm
pyesetz: (woof)
I didn't do much today.  The wind-chill was nasty all day, but most of the things I was supposed to have done were on the telephone.  One item: I was supposed to call one of the local "Chamber of Commerce" type places to ask if they know of any other Job Fairs like the one they held a month ago.  (They had 55 vendors, I handed out 5 résumés, went home thinking there were actually two companies I'd like to work at, but later found out that one doesn't need a software guy right now and the other has run into funding issues and can't hire anyone.)

I was also thinking of asking them where I could find a part-time semi-retired salesman for a "Linux system administration outsourcing" company, because it seems that I could actually form such a venture but none of us wants to be the guy who goes out and hawks the product to potential customers.  One of the nice things about sysadmin is that you really can create virtual full-time people by packaging up a bunch of part-timers (as long as work-documentation standards are strictly adhered to).  Two half-time contractors get paid less than one full-timer, so there's "margin" and "value-add" and all that lovely business stuff.  But I didn't call.

Today, PZ Myers wrote about the first time he asked out his future wife, which reminded me of my difficulties in picking up the phone to ask those two companies from the Job Fair why they hadn't called me back.  (You never know — I once got a job several months after a different job I had interviewed for had funding difficulties, because the interviewer remembered me.  And *that* job led to Company ℱ where I worked for 17 years.)  Professor Myers writes, "She was the brave one when she said yes."  Yeah, if any salesman were to agree to take on this gig, he would have to be a brave one.  Right now I have only one customer (that I would like to replace, or at least augment) and the method I used to acquire that one probably wouldn't work again.  I have no idea how to sell such a service, or how to determine what price the customers would pay for it, or how to find people who should buy it.  If you know that you're not good with sysadmin, then you don't think about sysadmin approaches to solving your problems, so you don't "feel the lack" of a sysadmin on your staff and don't realize that you could benefit from hiring an outsourcing firm.

I had a much easier time asking out my future wife than Dr. Myers did.  I just posted a "mating call" to a University BBS.  She was the only female respondent, so — years later — I married her.  Now if only I had some income to put food on the table for our children...
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)

Isn't it cute?  The data-set is a bit of a mongrel, though: the yellow and blue show how many seconds my program took to run (seven times a day, five days this week), while the red and green show how many mistakes the program made (corrected once each day).

As you can see, VPSville is much better than HostMDS!  I recommend them for all your Canadian web-hosting needs.  One caveat, though: you do need to be comfortable with the Linux command-line.  VPSville doesn't put a lot of effort into fancy graphical interfaces, they won't act as your registrar, their DNS support is minimal, their replies to customer emails are slow — all they offer is screaming-fast compute and network performance and lots of it, for no more than the others charge for a crappier product.

When I look at this chart, I see green logs in front of red tents, in front of a frozen tidal wave, in front of yellow mountains.  What do you see?

pyesetz: (stock)
"China owns so much US debt that the INTEREST INCOME they receive from the Treasury Department is nearly enough to fund their entire military budget."

"In just 11-years, the Ottoman central government went from spending 17% of its tax revenue on interest payments, to spending over 52% of its tax revenue on interest payments. Then came default. Eleven years. The US is at 15% right now. How long will it take for the interest burden to become unbearable?"

Zero Hedge

On another note: The favourite song of zombies? Supercalifragibrainsaretotallydelicious
pyesetz: (Default)
I made a shiny thing!  Click to embiggen.  It is supposed to show off how effective my new stock-trading strategy is, but we'll have to see whether that really works out.

I had to piece this together from images in my Firefox cache due to bugs at the stockcharts.com website, which silently throws away colour-spots on the left of the picture if you add "too many" spots on the right — surely nobody would want to add over 100 colour-spots to their chart, right???  And there are many other bugs at that website, that often cause all the colour-spots on a chart to be silently thrown away.  Remind me again why I am paying them a monthly fee to use this crappy software?

* * * * *

Earlier this month, after four years of putting it off, I finally got my attic insulated!  And it cost NOTHING, as long as I agreed to apply urethane foam-sealant and weather-stripping elsewhere in the house, and pay $300 to have the house inspected twice.  In return for that, I will get a government grant for the attic insulation that is LARGER than its out-of-pocket cost, plus I'll get a prize for having done a good job sealing up my house.  The prize only *partially* pays for the inspections and sealant and weather-strips I had to buy (and would have covered those completely if I had sealed up the house just 3% better and gotten into the next prize category).  Net cost: $200.  Supposedly these improvements will pay for themselves with one winter's savings in heating bills, but it's hard to tell this year because it's been a very warm winter so far.

Dear diary: I never did get around to telling you that, after three years of putting it off, I finally got a sump pump installed back in Fall 2010!  It works great!  The basement is now dry-er but of course it's still damp.  During last spring's rains the pump got quite a work-out, but the water never rose above floor-level.

Last summer, I got my air-conditioner replaced.  It was quite old and its evaporator coil was full of pin-holes and so could no longer hold refrigerant — and the refrigerant that it used has since been banned for contributions to Global Warming.    The replacement unit works very well!  And hopefully it will work even better next summer, when the new attic insulation will help keep the heat out of the house so the A/C doesn't have to work so hard.  Last month, the people who installed it for me called to say that the government grant they had promised me hadn't been issued yet, and would I go to Ontario's website and click some buttons and scan+upload a copy of the receipt?  So I did that; hopefully there'll be a cheque in the mail sometime soon.
pyesetz: (Default)

So, I drove the family to Massachusetts and back.  And I said I would write a post about it.  But all I have is this pile of three dozen receipts.  How am I supposed to weave them into a story?  I guess I’ll start with a dedication:

This road trip was funded by a grant from the estate of BIL #1, who died last year of alcoholism after being thrown out of the Army for refusing yet another tour of duty in Iraq.  I consider him to be a war casualty.

Day 0: Preparation

Buy gas: It is 1:45 PM on September the 26th.  The big trip begins tomorrow.  I am at the recently-opened gas station down the street from my house, filling up my tank.  I buy 67⅔ litres of gasoline for $81 (that's about $4.80/gallon for Americans).  I am thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t buy so much gas, since it’s cheaper across the border in New York, but I don’t want to deal with the stations near the border — last time I had trouble with a gas pump that wouldn’t accept my American credit card because my address doesn’t have a zipcode.
      This gas station has a large sign that says “Mac’s” with an owl logo.  The pumps have logos for Shell Oil.  The receipt says it’s from Shell Canada.  Nowhere to be seen is the name ”Alimentation Couche-Tard”, which I think is the shadowy megacorp that actually owns this store.  They are apparently not very nice and perhaps the #OccupyMontreal people should keep them in mind.  Still, they were willing to spend lots of money to build this station in my little town, so I guess they have some redeeming social value, unlike the banks who refuse to open any branches here.
      The receipt also includes a store number, a gas pump serial number, a transaction number, a credit card approval number, a sales tax ID number, zzzzzzzz...  You know what?  I don’t give a shit about this crap!  Let’s jump forward to the middle of the story, because that’s just the kind of left-handed doggie that I am.

Day 5: Aquarium

October 1st is one of two days of our trip that were set aside for visiting museums, on the grounds that BIL #1 would have wanted us to have some fun with his money.

Drive to Boston: We are on our way to the New England Aquarium.  I paid some tolls on the Mass. Turnpike to get here, but didn’t get any receipts so fuck it.  I haven’t been to this aquarium in many years.  As we get closer to it, I vaguely remember that it has some sort of parking problem.  I pass by one garage that seems quite far away from the destination, but advertises $18 for aquarium parking.  I keep going in hopes that maybe something more convenient will show up.

Parking: We arrive at Central Wharf, which is a mob scene with wall-to-wall tourists.  Eventually, at 1 PM, we complete the maze of one-way streets to arrive at the parking garage that is adjacent to the aquarium.  The charge is $35.  Ah, now I remember!  The aquarium and the garage next door are enemies; it is the $18 garage that is friends with the aquarium (get your parking stub stamped for a discount).  The aquarium hates the $35 garage because it causes people to feel cheated before they even get in the door, which reduces the take from their gift shop, etc.  This has been allowed to go on for many years, so I presume the City of Boston is raking some off the top from the garage.  Mustn’t miss an opportunity to scalp the out-of-towners!  The whole thing stinks of corruption, which overpowers the slightly-fishy odour of the wharf.  As we exit from the garage, we are accosted by barkers trying to sell us overpriced tours on harbour boats.  For a moment I feel like I’m back in Mexico.  But we must soldier on because that’s what BIL #1 would have wanted.

Waiting in line: It is Saturday at a museum.  The line to get in is very long.  I generally avoid lines, figuring that anything *that* popular is probably overhyped.  But “visiting the aquarium” is our scheduled activity for the day, so we enter the line.  I feel like a sitting duck with a neon sign over my head saying, ”Attention all pickpockets!  The tourists are ⇒HERE⇐ and they can’t leave this line.”  But our time spent in line is uneventful.

* * * * *

I later learned that #OccupyBoston was holding a demonstration at South Station, about a mile away, but there was no evidence of any disturbance at Central Wharf.  I wish the occupiers well, but the situation is similar to the end of apartheid in South Africa: it is very, very difficult for the oppressors to climb off their pedestals, having told each other all their lives that they *must* remain on the pedestals because otherwise surely the unwashed masses will tear them limb from limb!  Well, no, actually the masses just want this horrid financial game to be over.  It is only after food becomes unaffordable that the violence will start.  There is still time for the top 0.01% of the ultrarich to do the right thing, but very little evidence so far that they can find it in their hearts to do so.

There is some confusion among the occupiers about who their enemies are.  While “the 1%” is a catchy phrase, most of the top 1% hates the ultrarich as much as the bottom 99% do.  Once all the wealth has been sucked out of the 99%, the vacuum will then be turned upon the 1% and probably many of them know that.  The real enemies are people whose names you have never heard of, who have fudged the public records so their loot appears to be spread out among a horde of fake nominees, because they believe that if their lives ever became public knowledge then of course they would be put to death immediately.  You might as well call them ”the Voldemorts”.

Of course, it is presumptuous of me to be speaking on behalf of the 1%.  I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor have I ever wanted to be, a member of that class.  At the peak of my career as a software engineer, my income was barely into the top 20% for Americans; it is much lower now.  I have always refused offers of promotion into management.  I have never kissed anyone’s ass (no, it’s not just a figure of speech) and I don’t intend to start now.  I have gotten into stock trading, not because it’s a popular pastime among my rich friends, but because my health is poor and it is one of the few jobs that truly doesn’t need anything more than a brain, a computer, some seed capital, and a whole lotta nerve.

The stock market is broken.  It has become a casino where the world’s wealth is gambled away.  It should be restored to its proper function.  But in the meantime, if you’re not playing, you’re losing.  The world’s corporations are taking the money from your pocket and putting it on the stock market.  If you want it back, that’s where you have to go.  To win, all one has to do is be smarter than the average bankster, which seems like it shouldn’t be that hard.  But the banksters have had many years to hone their game, while I am a newbie.

Many people have written their versions of ”What #OccupyWallStreet’s demands should be”.  Here is one from Shah Gilani, who is a member of the 1% and has been neck-deep in Wall Street for 30 years.  The language is a little stilted, and some of his demands are perhaps too lenient, but he seems to be roughly on the same page as the protesters outside his offices.  That’s a refrain I’ve heard from many sources: most of the people who work on Wall Street agree with the protesters, not with their own overlords.  They hate how corrupt their jobs have become.

* * * * *

Aquarium entrance: At 1:40 PM we finally got to the front of the line.  In the meantime, the rear of the line had become maybe 20% longer.  I pity the fool who joins it now!  Admission is only $91.80 for a family of four.  As soon as we get in, we immediately find ourselves at a penguin feeding show.  I really dislike the crowd-control language that the emcee is using, so I wait on the nearby benches until the show is over.

Lunch: At 2:20 PM we head to the cafeteria.  I get a salad.  Later I get the runs; hey Toto, maybe we really are back in Mexico?  The kids get chicken fingers and French fries, which are heavily coated with some bright orange powder of indeterminate origin and purpose (I suppose it *might* be food).  Only $31.51! McDonald’s would have been healthier and tastier.

Aquarium exhibits:  I liked the deep-sea tank, because it was a fake diorama.  They can’t actually replicate deep-sea conditions in an aquarium tank and it is very hard (or impossible) to capture deep-sea creatures alive and put them in tanks.  You can’t even taxidermy them because their bodies explode when you bring them to the surface.

Aquarium gift shop: The receipt says we bought a T-shirt for $25, but I don’t remember that because I waited outside.

LongHorn Steakhouse: In Franklin MA, just down the street a ways from our hotel.  We had stayed at this hotel in the past and thought this restaurant was worth revisiting.  Just over $100 for a family dinner with tax and tip.  I think the food was not as good as I remembered.  Perhaps the restaurant has had a change in management?  Wikipedia says the LongHorn chain was bought by the Olive Garden/Red Lobster people back in 2007.  Ah well; something’s gotta give in a “down” economy.  Receipt is dated 7:21 PM.

Stop & Shop supermarket: In same shopping plaza with LongHorn.  Just popping in for a few items while we’re here.  $22.35, 7:43 PM.

Buy more gas: Actually, this was 11 AM.  I am mentioning it out of order BECAUSE I CAN!  And because I wanted to start with the driving-to-Boston scene. Only $3.39⁹/gallon! Filled the tank with 17½ gallons.  Sunoco station in Franklin MA.

Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Walpole MA.  Wifey bought $45.62 worth of sewing supplies.  We could probably obtain them in Canada, but Jo-Ann’s has a nice selection and we remember them fondly from our old life in New Jersey.  The receipt says we completed this purchase at 12:03PM, while the receipt from the $35 garage (27 miles away in Boston) says we entered there at precisely noon.  I think the garage is lying its head off.
      The Walpole Mall is just sad.  Around half the stores are out of business.

pyesetz: (Default)
The economy isn't looking too bad.  Employment has rounded its bottom and is heading back up, with no sign of a double-dip recession.  If you ask around among your friends and neighbours, the economy still seems pretty bad, but upward momentum has begun and eventually the rising tide will lift all boats, at least a little bit.

What should you do now?  Buy stocks!  Buy buy buy!  The bottom of the market is where most of the money can be made.  If you wait until things have clearly become better before you buy in, those profits will go to someone else.

What should you buy?  I haven't a clue.  Nobody does.  Buy whatever doesn't keep you up at night worrying about it.

Recently I was forced to seize control of my 401(k) account and merge it with my IRA.  Now I have this big pile of money to invest.  Too much responsibility!  I do not need this aggravation!  But the money tree won't set fruit if you don't tend it and now there is no one to tend my tree for me so I have to do it myself.

I bought TNA because SmallCapTimer.com offered to tell me when to sell it.  TNA has done well so far, up 37% since I bought it two months ago.  Meanwhile, SmallCapTimer has announced that they want me to start paying them $60/month to continue waiting for the day when they will tell me to sell.  I don't like that, and I don't like their Terms of Service where they say "The information is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice or any other advice."  That' a lie!  When you log in, the only thing the website says is (and I quote) "Buy TNA".  It's been saying that since August.  Someday things will change and it will instead say "Buy TZA".  Financial advice doesn't get any more explicit than that.  Obviously their lawyers told them to lie in the terms of service.  Once you let the lawyers convince you to lie, you've lost control of your life and will have to start asking your lawyer about each piece of truth and whether it's "safe" to tell that one, or whether it would contradict some lie previously told.

So I downloaded Best-Charts because it works well with WINE under Linux.  Using the MACD(10,50,9) formula, the trades it recommends for TNA would have made me 76.6% this year.  Like SmallCapTimer, it says I should have bought in mid-July, sold in early August, and bought again in late-August/early-September.  But it also says I should have sold late-Oct and then bought it again early-Nov, which would have yielded an 8% loss.

I have sold RYN and VWO, because Best-Charts doesn't think much of their prospects, and bought DRR and FLIR because Best-Charts likes them.  It doesn't like TD and thinks I shouldn't own that because its stock price has been down recently, but I'm "long" on TD because it's a well-run Canadian bank, unlike my other investments which are basically just speculation.  Today TD announced that they're buying Chrysler Financial.  The stock is up 3%, which reverses its losses for Thursday, Friday, and Monday!  You just never know what will happen next.

Some time back I called Schwab to ask how to buy Canadian stocks.  Answer: use a browser other than Opera!  Canadian stocks have silly five-letter codes in the States because the USA insists that it is the only part of the world that really matters—and the function to look up those codes has a bug in it which causes it to work only with Internet Explorer and Firefox.  Recently I read that Dundee REIT is buying Realex, which owns 8 office buildings in Kitchener.  I live right next to Kitchener, so I know the market there is booming.  So I bought it as DRETF.  Best-Charts thinks it's more likely to go down than up, but I think the fundamentals look good.
pyesetz: (flag-over-sunrise)
Berin Greenbear quotes from futurist Douglas Coupland's essay in the Globe&Mail, which I actually read at their website before seeing this reference.  I didn't like it when I first saw it and I still don't.  A "pessimist" is supposed to be a realist, but a "radical pessimist" is apparently someone who sees every glass as half-empty no matter how full it is.

1) It's going to get worse
It is always getting worse for some people, better for others.  The important questions are "what is happening to the average person" and "what is happening to me personally".

4)Move to Vancouver, San Diego, Shannon or Liverpool
Overpriced real estate.  Yeah, weather's nice, but not nice enough for those prices.  Anyway, that's where the author of this screed lives, so at least he's taking his own advice.

5) You'll spend a lot of your time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside the grocery store – separation anxiety will become your permanent state
I doubt it.  I don't even have a cell phone!

6) The middle class is over. It's not coming back
That's what the rich folks *want* you to think...

7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores
Absurd.  There is no need to go to a Mexican drugstore if you can get the same products online!  The value of a brick-and-mortar store is being able to examine the products before purchase.  This is another "what rich folks *want* you to think" item.

10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness
I enjoy retro computing.
Read more... )

It is done

Aug. 16th, 2010 03:19 pm
pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
I have officially declared myself to be a failure as a provider for my family.  I have sent a letter to my aunt, asking for some early inheritance so I can make ends meet.

When I joined the Furry Fandom, I was feeling like a failure because I could not figure out a way to get my family out of a country that had gone crazy and whose government wouldn't grant me permission to leave and wouldn't say why not.  But eventually I got past that problem.

Now I'm a failure again.  But I don't feel like barking.  What sound does an anthropomorphized Homo erectus make when things aren't going well?  Maybe one of these.

Maybe I should join the otherkin, but their self-description doesn't quite sing to me.  My biology is obviously within human range since I have managed to produce offspring.  I don't really have species dysphoria or phantom-tail syndrome.  My Inner Ape is not a self-exploration exercise, nor a daydream to escape from my burger-flipping existence.  I haven't played D&D in years.  I am a professional computer wizard who casts spells for a living, but that says nothing about what kind of animal is inputting the keystrokes.
pyesetz: (Default)

Another visit to the in-laws, to pick up a package.  It was from an American clothing company that refuses to accept money from anyone in Canada, even American citizens using American credit cards for delivery to American addresses.  Wifey had used PayPal to give the money to an online friend of hers in Nebraska who then entered the order at the company’s website for shipment to BIL #3’s house in Massachusetts.  But everyone had forgotten about the package back on day three!  Due to the way the roads are arranged, it would cost two hours to drive to the in-laws and back to our hotel in Billerica, but it adds only 40 minutes to stop by their place on our way to New York.

pyesetz: (woof)
Yup, I'm a businessdog now!  I just finished paying my employees workers one-and-only subcontractor.  [livejournal.com profile] shiver_raccoon should get the money by tomorrow.

When I told one of the homeschooling moms that my payroll consists of going to my bank's website and pressing some buttons, she asked: "Is that legal?"  I've gotten that before, when I tell people that my job consists of sitting in my basement and pressing buttons on my computer, then money magically shows up in my chequing account.  Because of the paranoia that the mass media churns up about "hackers" in order to sell their advertising, a lot of people assume that any kind of electronic transaction that they are not personally familiar with must be a criminal activity.

No, the money magically appears because "Mr. Bear" tells his bank to take the money out of his pocket and put it into mine.  The money being sent to Shiver was withdrawn from my account.  There's a lovely audit trail and everything!
pyesetz: (Default)
My system for getting paid is a baroque monstrosity:
  1. At end of month, calculate hours worked and multiply by the exchange rate from the front page of xe.com.  Send email to "Mr. Bear" at company 𝔾.
  2. Wait for Mr. Bear to cut me a cheque (a day or two).
  3. Wait for cheque to travel via snail-mail from California to New Jersey (3-5 days)
  4. Wait for cheque to clear via ACH (1 day)
  5. Order a currency trade via xe.com.  Their bid/ask spread means the rate I actually get is usually about 2% less than the front-page quote.  Sometimes it's 10% less if the loonie is rising in value.  Sometimes I get lucky: the loonie falls between steps 1 and 5 so I actually make money off the currency fluctuation.
  6. Wait for the money to travel via ACH from New Jersey to xe.com in British Columbia (5 days).
  7. Wait for money to travel via CPA from British Columbia to Ontario (2 days).
  8. Decide how much spare money I have and transfer the excess to my home mortgage to reduce the principal (instantaneous).

Right now I'm at step 4: the November paycheque has arrived in New Jersey but has not yet cleared.  It looks like there will actually be some money available for a mortgage principal payment this month!

The ridiculous part: my bank in New Jersey and my bank in Ontario are owned by the same holding company!  The transfer could be instantaneous if the various governments and regulatory boards would permit it.

The stupid part: Mr. Bear has to mail paper cheques because his bank treats Direct Deposit as a premium feature that is not part of the El Cheapo business checking account that he has.  In Canada, anyone can make an electronic payment to anyone who has an email address, with no spread because it's done via CPA.  In the States, a similar service is provided by PayPal but they want a piece of the action *and* they want assurances that you are not buying something that they disapprove of (such as furry artwork).

pyesetz: (Default)
In the "American style" for writing dates, last Friday was 10/23.  Some of the people who celebrate "Pi Day" on 3/14 also celebrate "mole day" on 10/23.  Did you know that there are the same number of molecules in 2 grams of hydrogen gas, 12 grams of soot, and 64.458 kg of hemoglobin?  Yes!  There are roughly 6.02214179 × 10²³ molecules in each of these things.

So what does this have to do with the star-nosed mole pictured at right?  (* Waves paws wildly *) I've been having shrew problems again.  Recently there was a shrew who got into my basement and apparently couldn't find his way back out again.  Eventually there was a little squeak as he found the extrance to the "weeping drain" which leads out from the basement.  Now shrews aren't moles (moles eat earthworms, while shrews eat centipedes, which I dislike more than them), but both moles and shrews are small black-furred mammals that make tunnels under the snow, so I'm calling them "close enough".

Speaking of dates, I wish the Canadians would just pick a system and go with it.  If you go to the grocery store and a canned food says its expiration date is "09/11/09", did it expire last month or will it expire next month?  Even the "Canadian standard" dates are ambiguous: does "09 JL 10" expire last July 10th or next July 9th?  Would it kill them to add a little extra ink to show the century at one end or the other?
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 [livejournal.com 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: (Default)
Globe & Mail: "Even an Ontario winery is displaying the rainbow, on a new wine it calls Chardonngay ($1 from every $19.95 bottle sold goes to AIDS research)."

Homosexuality: First it was normal but undiscussed.  Then it was a evil monster hunting your children and forcing them to leave the church against their wills.  It spent some time as one of the Fascist hate-objets du jour.  Now it's a source of cheap puns and marketing gimmicks.  Next it will be normal again—don't know about the "undiscussed" part.

Capitalism beats Fascism!  If you can make money from it, that's more important than using it to instigate fear-of-the-unknown.
pyesetz: (Default)
I am writing to you using my CF-Y5 laptop with internal display!  The huge dent in the lid has been reduced to a barely-detectable bump.

Friday 9:50 AM: Head out to Toronto.

11:15 AM: Arrive at Laptop Centre.  Hand in broken laptop, plus a variety of other broken laptops, spare power cables, old hard drives, etc.

12:25 PM: Arrive at Medieval Times, only 25 minutes late.  Meet up with other homeschoolers who got there early.

1:00 PM - 3:00 PM: Medieval edutainment show.

3:45 PM: Arrive back at Laptop Centre.  CF-Y5 repair not yet completed.

4:45 PM: Laptop finally done.  Also buy a used Dell Lattitude D610 for Kid #2.

6:15 PM: Arrive at Low Carb Grocery.  Pick up a few things.

8:00 PM: Arrive home.

It is WORKING!  But, the 1400×1050 display resolution is now reduced to 1024×768.  That's okay—I was going to suggest that they reduce the resolution to cut the parts price, if possible.  At 1400×1050 I have to use 150% zoom to make DailyKos readable.  But I told them that it needed part number LTD141ENDP and they quoted me $185+$65 on that basis, as if they were actually going to install manufacturer's recommended parts.

So, has anyone written any good posts on LJ recently?  I haven't been watching...
[Poll #1415359]
pyesetz: (Default)

T₀ = Friday, May 29th: We came home from a long homeschool outing.  As usual, I put my laptop (mentioned previously) at the top of the basement stairs and went to bed for a nap.  When I woke up, the computer had this big dent on the top and the LCD screen no longer worked.  Apparently Wifey had asked Kid #2 to get something from a shelf over the basement stairs and he had... stepped on my computer!  Of course, this sort of thing only ever happens on a Friday night.

I dug out a 10 year old CRT (that hadn't been used since the move from NJ) and plugged it into the VGA port.  Works!  But there's a reason why the old monitor hasn't been used: it's extremely heavy and it makes yucky "static discharge" noises whenever the screen resolution changes—which is appallingly often.  It's so heavy, I can only use this laptop+monitor combination at the dining-room table, which has hard wooden chairs that don't lean back.  But I managed to spend several hours setting ‘D’ file attributes to prepare for the full backup that this computer has never had (I've had problems in the past that got solved by using file attributes and the dump/restore pair of programs).

T+1 Saturday: Went to Walmart and bought a $150 LCD monitor.  Well, Wifey needs a new one anyway: her old monitor must be at least 15 years old and it's now too dark to play Runescape.  The new monitor weighs much less than the CRT, but it's still heavier than the laptop.  I am able to set it up in the basement so I can have the keyboard in my lap and then crane my neck leftward to see the screen.  Well, at least I have a means of income again.  Also got that full-backup done, which took 3 hours over wireless, and that's *after* marking several gigabytes of Ubuntu files with the "do not back up" attribute.

T+3 Monday: Called Plan‣IT‣ROI, from whom the laptop had been purchased along with a 3-year extended warranty (not my idea).  They won't fix it.  Before purchase, their warranty covers everything except the battery and "cosmetic damage".  After purchase, they stuffed a document into the "packing list" envelope on the box which excludes the motherboard, the LCD, and everything else that might actually break.  This is fraudulent—you can't change the warranty terms after purchase—perhaps I'll get around to calling NJ police on them.  They want $1500 to repair a computer that they know was bought from them for only $1000.  It seems they pulled this price of the air just to get me to go away.

Later: Called Panasonic Canada.  They'll fix it for $600 parts + $150 labour.  Ouch!  But obviously Plan‣IT‣ROI's price is farcical.  I once replaced the LCD on a ThinkPad 600, so I went looking around the web for parts.  Most places that sell LCD's don't have the one I need, but one place has it for $179.  Unfortunately the person answering the phone has a heavy Chinese accent, so I can only communicate with them via email.

T+9 Sunday 6/7: Bought the service manual from 9manuals.com for $6.00.  This is the "consumer service manual", rather than the one Panasonic employees actually use.  The main purpose of the manual seems to be to convince people not to try this at home.  It is written in idiomatic Japanese translated literally into meaningless English.  Example text:
The both sides tape pasted to the keyboard bottom with the spatula is inserted in order of the arrow and then peel off. It is start-up from the LCD side and turns inside out on the top case. The KBD FPC WP sheet is peeld off... Do not damage the spatula ahead and move a top case in the direction of the arrow in order. Note: KBD-FPC sheet cannot be recycled. Please use new parts.
There are many warnings to "please use new parts" because so much glue is used in the design.  I suppose I *might* be able to do this installation, but if Panasonic's goal with this manual is to convince me to use their repair service, the instructions in the manual are probably not reliable, even if I could figure out what they mean.  When I Google for "intuition combination" I find other computer manuals poorly translated from Japanese, but I still don't know what that phrase refers to.

T+10 Monday: Called Laptop Centre of Toronto.  They offer same-day service for $185 parts + $65 labour.  I'll be in Toronto this Friday anyway for a homeschool outing—maybe the disaster will end soon!  Also, Laptop Centre will buy my various broken old laptops for about $30 each, which is better than *paying* $10 each to have the Province of Ontario recycle them.

Hopefully this won't turn out like the last disaster that I used "T+n" notation for.  My Move to Canada project finally ended at T+5½ years.
pyesetz: (Default)
Last weekend the temperature dipped below freezing again, making May '09 the eighth month in a row with freezing temperatures.  I didn't realize I was signing up for that much winter...  According to NASA, my region (between lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron) had "near-normal" temperatures last year, even though the local meteorologists said last summer was exceptionally cool and last winter was the worst in 15 years.  Last night's dog-walk was the first one this year where I didn't wear a coat.

* * * * *

The Province of Ontario produced a report in 2004 on how wonderful their healthcare system is.  The report is notable for what isn't in it: there is no mention of dentistry or chiropractic.  They talk about all the stuff they're doing to prevent heart attacks, but they don't mention that gingivitis is a risk factor.  They talk about "improving quality of life" but there is no mention of back pain.  If you have a broken bone, the province will fix it for you—unless it's a tooth bone, then you just have to live with it.  If you have a sprained muscle in your ankle, the province will help you—but if it's in your back they won't.
      I understand that these are cost-saving measures, based on the willingness of Ontarians to call dentists and chiropractors "not-real-doctors" and thus undeserving of provincial funds, but it is ridiculous for them to say that their mission is "to keep people healthy and care for those who are sick" when there are large classes of sickness for which they offer no prevention and no treatment.

* * * * *

HuffPo.  The Chrysler dealer in Cherry Hill NJ is slated for closing. Also, the dealer that I bought my first used car from (Runnemede NJ) is closing, along with the one in Maple Shade NJ from whom I bought two used cars. However, the Chrysler dealer in Langhorne PA from whom I bought my only new car has apparently survived the chopping block, for this round anyway.

* * * * *

I actually blogged about something *before* Cory Doctorow did!  He just found out about the Internet Identity Workshop's logo, which is reminiscent of the cartoon "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog".  I blogged it 3½ years ago!

* * * * *

Yesterday was the end of Kid #2's last year as a Cub Scout, so his pack went bowling.  In one game, I got a spare, a strike, and a double-strike, for a total of 173 points!  My best score ever at 5-pin bowling.
pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Here.  The hairless ape female being operated on in these pictures is not me; I had the right side done today (upper and lower) rather than upper-left as shown.
Notes on differences from my surgery )
pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
Globe & Mail:
Statistics Canada said virtually every major metropolitan area in the country experienced an increase in the number of regular [employment insurance] beneficiaries over the last year.

“The largest increases between January 2008 and January 2009 occurred in Southwestern Ontario, where the manufacturing sector in particular experienced heavy layoffs,” Statscan said.

In Windsor, which has experienced deep job losses as a result of layoffs in the auto sector, the number of regular beneficiaries rose 81.6 per cent to 10,600, Statscan said.

The cities of London, Kitchener and Hamilton were also hard hit by the manufacturing downturn.

Thankfully, my job seems secure for the moment.  In fact, I just got a nice raise starting next month!  Maybe this year I'll finally be able to get a sump pump for my basement.  I got an estimate on Friday: $500 for parts, almost $500 for labour—ouch!

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