pyesetz: (Default)

Friday, August 8th (08/08/08)

The big day!  The main event of the trip!  My brother-in-law’s wedding!

But first, more banking.  Back to Strata Bank to cash in another ¼ of the bonds.  Over to Bank of America, where this time we were greeted at the door by Seth, who told me “for future reference” that lunchtime was not a good time to open an account at his bank.  Yeah, Seth, that’s the way to go: blame the customer for your bank’s failure to provide mid-day staffing.  Anyway, it was too late for the account-opening approach to our problem.  A teller cashed the final ¼.  Kid #1 noticed that the dates shown on all the bank’s calendars were correct today, for a change.

So now we had mucho dinero in untraceable American currency, in eight packets with children’s names on them.  What should we do with it all?  The hotel room had no safe.  I put the money in a DHL courier envelope that I was carrying around anyway (passports, terribly important papers, etc.)  The envelope was already beginning to look a little beat-up from being carried so much; no one would ever suspect the Spanish Inquisition that it contained serious quantities of loot.  When we went into our hotel room, it came with us.  When we went out, it stayed in the car.  No one ever steals anything from our car, which apparently has acquired a “Someone Else’s Problem” field.  There is value in driving a boring family minivan: cops and robbers both ignore you.

The children were very good and never blabbed to random strangers (or anyone) that we were carrying around an envelope full of filthy lucre.

Left at 5 PM for the wedding.  It was raining cats and dogs, but I didn't step in a poodle.  Apparently there is typically a huge Rush Hour backup at the interchange from I-495 to I-90, which blocks the entire road even if you don’t want to get off there.  The jam used up all our “spare” time and caused us to be late for the wedding.  Wifey hates being late for anything!  I fully expect to be late for my own funeral.

The wedding was being held at a quaint country inn.  My youngest brother-in-law (BIL #3) was waiting for us by the front door, so Wifey and the kidlets got out with their umbrellas and went inside.  The parking lot had a sign commanding visitors to use the special path and not to walk in the street, but the special path was a raging torrent so I walked in the street which had better drainage.

The justice of the peace was having a discussion.  Somebody or other had forgotten to bring the marriage licence!  Eventually it was decided to hold the ceremony anyway and fix up the paperwork later.  Kid #1 recorded that the ceremony took 7¼ minutes and the words reminded her of the Borg assimilating a new species (“one mind, one heart… I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Him”).  The groom (BIL #2) was confident in his “I do!” but the bride stumbled through her vows—her attack of nerves was cute!  Meanwhile SIL #1 in Arizona was listening in via a speakerphone.  My children sat quietly through the ceremony and dinner, causing everyone to mistakenly believe that they are well-behaved at home.  (BIL #3 had left his kids at home, knowing that they were still too young to pull off such an illusion.)

We “borrowed” $200 from one of Kid #1’s packets to use for a wedding present.  Each of my kids received a gift bag from the wedding couple, including treasure chests full of official USA coinage!  Kid #1 (who has issues with useless presents) was reasonably good at pretending to like her gold bracelet.

The bridesmaid was the bride’s daughter from a previous marriage, who had brought along her Missouri-drawling boyfriend.  They found it hard to believe that we had driven “all the way” from Canada, although their trip from Missouri was actually twice as far.  My new SIL seemed to like it when I introduced her daughter to my kids as “this is your new cousin!”

We left the inn at 9 PM and proceeded to… more shopping!  Wal*Mart for more Iraq care-package items and some homeschool supplies, Barnes & Noble for yet another book for Kid #1, whose Canadian ABM card (attached to her youth savings account, $50 max withdrawal per day) worked perfectly as a payment method.

Saturday, August 9th

Today’s scheduled activity: visit BIL #3 and his family in Attleboro MA.  But first, a visit to mother-in-law’s house.  Since MIL’s last at-home child just moved out, she has less need to cook now, so Wifey brought a bunch of home-cooked goodies that we had been keeping frozen all week.  MIL gave Wifey a whole bunch of just-married BIL #2’s old Halloween costumes “to sell on eBay”.  I think Kid #2 will be mixing and matching some of the pieces for trick-or-treat this year.

In Attleboro, cousin #3 is now just barely old enough to remember us from 11 months ago.  Cousin #1 has been officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  His mother (my sister–in-law–in-law?) gave us a Xeroxed booklet about the syndrome, which we all noticed contained a duplicate page.  Kid #1 joked that the booklet is a test: if you notice the duplicate page, you’ve got the syndrome!  It seemed to me that Cousin #2 also has some spectrum-disorder issues, which were being ignored because he is “almost neurotypical” compared to his brother.  New cousin #4 was not present because she was on her way back to Missouri.  BIL #1 showed up and spent a lot of time playing with his brother’s kids.  I asked him whether it would be nice to play with kids more often and he (a confirmed bachelor, back in Illinois now having served a tour in Iraq after being called up from Army Reserve at age 50) looked at me like I had two heads.

After the visit, more shopping!  Bought a paper shredder so we can compost our own junk mail instead of putting it out for the county to recycle.  And why did we need to buy this in the States, as if our car's trunk weren't already full enough?  It was ON SALE!!!

When we returned to our hotel, Wifey took the kids to the exercise room to burn off some energy while I tried to get some paid work done on the laptop.

[Poll #1266541]
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 [livejournal.com 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: (sozont)


My favourite part is the blood spatter that just happens to be covering the spot in the comic's text where a serial comma isn't, and this becomes important four lines later.

When I went to Wikipedia to get that reference for "serial comma", I half-expected to see a trivia item about xkcd's mention of it today, because xkcd is more notable than are serial commas.  But no, and I didn't feel like adding it.
(What?  You wanted more "Mass. Trip of Doom" posts?)
pyesetz: (Default)

(Based on my recollections, financial records, and Kid #1's diary. Not only is Kid #1 older than the kid mentioned here, whose parents are [livejournal.com profile] jrittenhouse and [livejournal.com profile] marmot63, but Kid #2 is also older than that kid!)

Tuesday, August 5th

(Recollections are poor for today.  The financial records do not record which town we were in when spending money at a national chain, nor the time of day for the purchase, while Kid #1's diary for today is a stream-of-consciousness jumble with no clear timeline.  I suppose I could look through my receipts-wastebasket and recover the time-and-place information, but who cares really?)

Woke up to find the hotel bill slipped under our door.  This has become the new standard for hotels.  With a plastic room-key and pre-authorized credit-card billing, we can leave the hotel via any door and never talk to any hy00mans on our way out!  But we stop by the front desk anyway to turn in our key-cards for recycling.  We leave at 10:45 AM, which is quite unusual.  Usually we barely manage to get going by the check-out deadline; when the kids were younger we often asked for an extension and usually got it.

First stop: the local Barnes & Noble bookstore.  Kid #1 was just about finished with all the books she brought with her, so we bought her a new one for the next leg of the long car ride.  (Kid #2 was using a GameBoy Advance for entertainment.  At some rest stop or other there were new cartridges for sale but he didn't buy one.)  While we were in this plaza, Wifey browsed in a clothing store but didn't buy anything.  This may have been the plaza where I hit the ATM to get some US dollars.  The ATM accepted my Canadian ABM card, and the exchange rate wasn't totally ridiculous, but I later discovered a hidden $3 "foreign ABM system usage fee" on my account.  Kid #1 recorded that we were considering a visit to Wal*Mart (because Wifey is accumulating small gifts to send to her friend's brother in Iraq) but we ended up skipping it for some reason.  Apparently I pontificated about why Wal*Mart is so much cheaper in the States than other department stores are (more info) which Kid #1 then dutifully recorded as if Wal*Mart's improprieties were established fact in a court of law.  This reminds me vaguely of PZ Myers' daughter Skatje (who has her own blog).  Skatje's atheism *may* be authentic by now, but presumably she began by parroting her father's beliefs.

Driving route: New York Thruway to Mass. Pike to I-495 to Franklin MA.  I was supposed to get rid of my E-Z Pass transponder last year, but didn't get around to it.  The unit in my car is now an obsolete model and E-Z Pass sent out replacement units, but I didn't get one.  I sent them an email about that and they said, "Call us" but I haven't called them yet.  Meanwhile, I'm continuing to be charged $1/month for the privilege of owning a device whose original raison d’être was that it would save money for the State of NJ.  But it's sure getting a workout on this trip!  Stopped in Yorkville NY to spend US$ 60.00 on more gas.  I suspect that Wifey bought a lottery ticket at this point, but there's no record of it.  I subscribe to the belief that lotteries are "a tax on people who can't do the math", but Wifey and the kids seem to think that it's a reasonable amount of fun to get for a dollar.

Arriving in Franklin at five-ish, we head out to Shaw's for groceries to stock up our hotel fridge for the week.  My ABM card was accepted: US$ 137.27 (CDN$ 146.61) for food—apparently only cash withdrawals get the foreign-usage fee.  This total included large quantities of apple-bars, Cheez-Its, Krispies, and other products not sold in Canada that we planned to take back with us, plus some items for the Iraq package.

In the same plaza, Wifey went to Bath & Body Works to get more vanilla-scented wall-powered stench emitters.  While in the store, we passed by an early-teen boy who obviously thought Kid #1 was nice to look at.  "Ugh," she says, "human mating calls".  The same plaza also had a sign claiming that Franklin was "home of the nation's first public library" (hence the naming of the town after B. Franklin).  We decided to come back another day and take a photo of Kid #1 in front of that sign.

Same plaza: Longhorn Steakhouse.  Kid #1 and I had some chuckles over the marketing-speak on the menu, such as "corn-fed beef" (but grass-fed is better!) and "flown-in-fresh Pacific salmon" (jet fuel is environmentally unsound; Kid #1 prefers Atlantic salmon).

Evening: more Company 𝔾 work for me, while the family watched another DVD.

My bank's website tells me that there was an $18 donation to the "National Kidney Foundation" made today, but I have no idea who authorized that.

pyesetz: (Default)
(Based on my recollections, financial records, and Kid#1's diary.)

Friday, August 1st

Called the IRS to try to find out WTF their problem is.  No luck.  After 15 minutes on hold, interrupted every minute by a recording that commanded me not to hang up, I hung up.  I figured that if they weren't going to answer quickly, they would probably prefer for me to stay on hold for an hour so I could "soften up".  I am not in the habit of paying international long-distance phone charges for the privilege of being abused—and I was calling a number that was specifically for persons living outside the States.  Although I could perhaps try again from a hotel room during my trip, I decided to leave the IRS paperwork at home, as if they had "just missed me" and their letter was waiting in my mailbox upon my return.  The IRS letter made no sense (later, my accountants - TaxAct.com - concurred that there was no obvious reason for the IRS to reject my deduction).  Because of cascading effects from the IRS to New Jersey's Dept. of Taxation, I currently have $9,000 less money to my name than I had expected to have at this time.  I'll probably have to borrow some more against the house to pay for the washer, dryer, and stove I bought from Home Depot on a "12 months no interest" plan.  (They're an American company, so they were able to extend credit to me based on my US credit rating.)

Saturday, August 2nd

Rented 3 DVD's from Blockbuster, to use in the DVD players in our hotel rooms.  Our home DVD player has been on the Fritz for some time; one of these days I'm supposed to take it apart, give it my "magic touch", and get it functioning again.  That probably won't work unless the underlying problem is that the laser's lens is dirty.  I bought this player back in 2001, because it was available at Boscov’s and there was a cheat code for it on a website.  Macrovision® and Region Coding are of no value to me, only to the media barons, so I wanted a player that would work for me (the owner) rather than for Hollywood (the bully).

Sunday, August 3rd

Got the Voyager's oil changed at Jiffy Lube.  Also they replaced the dead brake light, and all three windshield wipers, and replenished the washer fluid (it was so low that its idiot light was illuminated).  Of course, it would be much cheaper to do these things myself, but I never get around to it.  They reminded me that the transmission fluid was overdue for replacement, so I had them do a full transfusion.  They showed me the tranny magnet, which was covered in metal filings.  Apparently my vehicle was heading towards a high risk of transmission failure due to particulates in the fluid.  I was supposed to return in a week to have the transmission bolts retightened, but haven't gotten around to it yet.  Maybe this week.

Stopped by Wal*Mart to get a fresh bag of Walnut’s usual dog food, to make his kennel experience less upsetting.  Wal*Mart is not the cheapest store in Canada, perhaps because they are not getting quite as big a subsidy here as the US govt gives them—properly paid near-full-time workers of a major corporation should not need food stamps!

Monday, August 4th

The big day.  Dropped off the dog at the kennel in the next village.  Wifey had set a target time of 1 PM for beginning the drive, but her weeks(!) of preparation had gone so well that she was actually ready to leave several hours before that.  I was not.
      After [livejournal.com profile] deffox told me that US tax forms should be done before the Canadian ones for my first year, I put off the US forms until their deadline (June 15th for us nonresidents).  By then the Canadian forms were already six weeks overdue.  There is apparently no lateness penalty for paupers who don't owe any tax (my earnings last year were below the poverty line, although I am doing much better this year).  So I continued to put it off.  But the time for dawdling had now run out.
      Before my last trip to the States, in January, I had worried that there would be trouble because my car was still registered in New Jersey, so there was a last-minute scramble to get Ontario versions of licence, insurance, and registration.  At the border, they did indeed ask me why I had re-registered my car so recently, and confirmed that there would have been trouble had I attempted to re-enter Canada in a vehicle with foreign plates.
      This time, the worry was that they would ask me why my taxes were late.  I actually do not know whether Border Patrol has access to such information, but I thought it better to have copies of the completed forms with me to confirm my claim that "I mailed them before I left".  So I needed completed forms, preferably copies of ones that had actually been mailed.
      The forms were mostly complete, but I needed to print out the 60(!) pages from UFile.ca and determine which were actual forms to file and which were part of the "presentation package" designed to make UFile's fee seem more reasonable.  The actual forms needed to be printed a second time and then mailed in, which involved a walk to the local bakery/convenience store/greasy spoon/post office (with free wireless Internet!).

We got under weigh at 1:10 PM.  Spent $80 on gas.  We drove along the QEW, which avoids Downtown Hamilton by crossing over the southwest corner of Lake Ontario, on a bridge that looks (in Google Maps) to be about 6 km long!  That lake is so big, it might as well be an ocean.

Our pre-printed directions from Mapquest.com had us going over the Queenston-Lewiston bridge into New York, but electronic signs on the QEW informed us that said bridge had an hour's wait, so we used the Rainbow bridge for tourists in Niagara Falls.  Unlike last time, there were no attack dogs today, but there were vast quantities of armed officers standing around, pretending to look for trouble.  "Security Theatre" does not make me proud to be an American.

We returned to our pre-printed directions at the New York State Thruway, which runs parallel to the lake but 40 km to the south.  Like southwestern Ontario, much of this area of New York consists of mile after mile of farmland, dotted with occasional cities.  We arrived at our hotel in Utica in time for my family to use the pool, while I tried to get in some work hours for Company 𝔾.  We ate food that Wifey had prepared at home for us.  We were only halfway there.

pyesetz: (Default)
After yesterday's post, kid #1's trip diary showed up in my email inbox first thing this morning, although the matter hadn't been mentioned in over a week.  Not speaking to anyone in particular, but kid #1 is older than [livejournal.com profile] d3monspawn, whose mother is [livejournal.com profile] hakeber and grandmother [livejournal.com profile] loud4singing.

I finished typing in all the receipts in the "Mass. trip" pile.  Now I need to cross-check the results with the websites of my various banks.  Then I can compare my financial notes with kid #1's recollections to produce my trip report.

It's been a long time since this post.
pyesetz: (arctic-fox)
Once again I am motivated to post by the thought that Pharyngula will unfriend me if I stay silent for an entire month.  He just got back from a trip to the Galápagos Islands.  He whines that he had to stand in line for two hours to get permission to leave Ecuador.  Well, um, it took me over 20,000 times as long as that to get permission to leave the USA—and I'm a citizen!
Earlier this month I drove to Massachusetts to attend my brother-in-law's wedding.  It was not a fun trip.  I lived in Mass. for 26 years and left with many unpleasant memories (but not all bad: I did meet Wifey there).  The state's mood is terrible these days.  How does the most left-wing state in the Union deal with being the evil aggressor in a pointless war?  They try not to think about it.  Just "support the troops" (because it's not their fault that the CinC is a thrall of Satan) and rename bridges and squares after the newly-fallen.  I suppose I'll do a trip report at some point, after kid#1 finishes expurgating her diary so I can remember what happened.

Near the end of the trip, I saw a baby frog sitting on the siding of the hotel.  It was a very placid frog, just sitting there while I repeatedly tried to get my El Cheapo digital camera to take a decent photo of it.  For this second shot, the camera is maybe three inches away from the frog, who is looking directly at the lens!  The second picture might be "actual size" on your computer screen.

While in the States, I redeemed my children's US Savings bonds, because the thought of owning anything denominated in greenbacks makes me sick (I don't claim to have any rational basis for this).  Because there were so many bonds, I had to go to two different banks on two different days to redeem them.  Bizarre US banking regulations required me to receive the proceeds as cash, not cheques; I presume that a report was made to FinCEN about my unpatriotic behaviour.  Thankfully the amount of currency involved was not enough to require a report to FINTRAC upon my return to Canada—one of the US banks gave me receipts, but the other insisted on completely untraceable cash!  I'm not really a money-launderer, I'm just drawn that way...  Anyway the money is now invested in Canadian government bonds under the children's names.

On the way home, we had planned to stop by the Yankee Candle factory in South Deerfield MA.  The Mass Pike was backed up for miles, so I didn't feel like paying to use it.  I took the back roads, which led me through Ware MA.  Of course I thought of [livejournal.com profile] shun_ri, who recently unfriended me.  Again.  And it's probably permanent this time.  Shun Ri was the first LJer to spontaneously friend me.  I didn't know then how rare that would turn out to be.  I expect [livejournal.com profile] rabbitswift will be the next to go.
   


My dog "Walnut" is clearly having a better time in Canada than he did in the States, because he's getting more walkies now!

Back in June, I started to hear strange noises while sitting in my basement.  One day, a vole poked his head out from behind the washing machine.  He actually sat there staring at me for several seconds, before realizing that I am (A) a much bigger animal and (B) an enemy.  I live a block from a horse-feed factory (now in the process of shutting down) and there are farms only 1 km away from me in several directions, so this area has many voles (and feral cats to eat them).  I bought a mousetrap and baited it with peanut butter.  The next morning, I was the proud owner of a dead rodent.  Ain't modern technology grand?

Dead vole photo 1, Dead vole photo 2.

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