pyesetz: (Default)

To Rochester NY for more shopping!  And more shopping!  And even more shopping!!!  We went to the “Land’s End Inlet” which is actually a misnamed outlet store.  It was disappointing; many of our desired items were not on sale.  Then to Wegman’s grocery store to stock up on chicken and butter and other stuff that costs much more in Canada because they don’t abuse undocumented Hispanic serfs to keep their prices down.  When we visit the States, we usually return with more butchered chicken carcasses than is permitted for “personal use” importation, but they never search our car so we get away with it.

We were about to get back on the highway when I remembered that I had wanted to go to Wal*Mart to return a multifunction digital watch that BIL #1 had given me for Christmas.  I already have a digital watch and the gift watch’s face is too large for my taste.  But I couldn't return it at Wal*Mart Canada because the two companies have separate computer systems, so neither the UPC nor the code on the gift receipt would register there.  The Wal*Mart clerk in Rochester thought my story was a little hokey (and Christmas 2009 was a long time ago), but it helped that BIL #1 had sent watches to both me and Kid #2 and the clerk could see that Kid #2 was wearing his.  So she gave me an in-store credit and we went around buying stuff to use it up.

The New York Thruway offers public Wi-Fi at all rest stops.  That’s not so unusual these days but I hadn’t tried the other turnpikes.  To get on the Internet, you have to click past a landing page that asserts the right of the State of New York to monitor your activities and refuse service to anyone for any reason.  But they don’t ask for ID!  This shreds all the RIAA’s arguments that it should be considered a crime to have household Wi-Fi that isn’t protected by password.  Really, the only reason to restrict access to your home Wi-Fi is so that you can’t defend yourself against an RIAA lawsuit by claiming that the songs were downloaded by some random passer-by without your knowledge.  If they really cared about child porn, they wouldn't let you just show up at a rest area and download it without a trace.  But music takes too long to download so the RIAA doesn't care about rest areas, just libraries (where you have to show ID to surf the web).

The Thruway accepts Canadian currency at a steep discount of 10% off face value (the exchange rate would suggest a 6% discount) but they insist on giving change in American money.  The bridge into Canada accepts American money at face value but insists on giving change in the same currency.  So it seems to be impossible to leave the USA without some leftover American coinage in one’s pocket—the Good Lord knows I tried!

We arrived home to find that our second freezer was operating properly and was ready to receive all the chicken carcasses.  It had been malfunctioning for months.  The temperature control was broken and the cooling system just ran continuously, creating a −25°F environment that was too cold for ice cream.  I had taken the freezer to our local electrical shop for repair a couple of days before the trip, but the repairman had other things to do (like attend a funeral) so I didn’t get it back until the morning of our departure.

All’s well that ends!

(This completes the “Mass. Trip '10” series of posts.)

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: (Default)

Penzey’s Spice Shop in Arlington.  $100 for a year’s supply of spices.  (Actually a bit more, since our kitchen still has a few bits of spice left over from our last visit in 2008.)  The total bill was higher than Wifey had originally planned to spend.  When she showed me the receipt, I exclaimed “Only 59¢ sales tax?  I guess we’re not in Canada!”  The store clerk was apologetic and explained that only the empty glass spice jars were taxable.  Obviously, I enjoy pretending to be rich and not having to care about the bill.  And really, $100 isn’t going to make a lot of difference when paying down my $100,000+ mortgage.

Science museum.  Perhaps I’m partial for having grown up in the area, but I think the Boston Museum of Science is the standard by which all other science museums should be measured.  Lots of buttons and levers and clanging balls and sizzling 700,000-volt lightning generators!  The only problem with it is that it is located in Boston.  There was some construction going on at the entrance to its parking garage, so we pulled forward to ask the cop if things were okay.  He said they were, but then we had to go around the block to get back to the entrance.  But you can’t “go around the block” in Boston because the streets are not parallel, so we ended up driving out to Cambridge and then back into Boston, passing by both the hotel where the Company 𝔾 conference was being held and the Boston Public Library, where I had spent a lot of time back in high school because it was more easily accesssible by mass transit than the library for my own city of Newton.

The subway entrance next to the library has been closed for years.  Apparently the infinitesimal risk of terrorist attack is far more important than the convenience of library patrons.  When I was in high school, my Russian teacher liked to say that the goal of American libraries was to distribute information *to* the public, while the goal of Soviet libraries was to protect information *from* the public.  But I guess we’re not that different after all.

pyesetz: (arctic-fox)

DAY FOUR: The conference.  I’ve mentioned previously that Company 𝔾 is involved with conferences.  There’s one in the spring and one in the fall, never in the same city twice.  This year the spring conference was in Boston, which just happens to be the city name printed on my birth certificate.  Wifey had been agitating to do another Mass. Trip this year, so we timed it to coincide with the conference.

I have years of experience driving around in Boston, which doesn’t mean that I like it.  My Google directions told me to get off the Mass. Pike at Copley Square and immediately turn onto Huntington Ave., but I couldn’t do that.  When I got off the Pike, I was on Stuart St., which abuts Huntington but is one-way in a different direction.  So I had to go around in circles trying to get to where Huntington and Stuart meet.  When I eventually found the hotel where the conference was, it turned out that I had driven past it during a previous circle but hadn’t detected any of the signs (side-street name, hotel name, etc.) that would have clued me in.

It was nice entering the hotel, seeing that every conference room door had a sign with Company 𝔾’s name and the conference session numbers and titles that I had been manipulating with my software.  Yes, these conferences actually do exist in meatspace!  And people pay serious money to attend them.

I proceeded to the registration desk.  There I shook paws with “Mr. Bear”, for only the second time in the four years I have been working this job.  He introduced me to another fellow, whom I will be calling “Mr. Green” for reasons best left unsaid in a public post.  Officially, “Mr. Green” does not work for Company 𝔾, but for a separate company that I suppose I'll call “ℐ” in this journal.  The conferences are a joint production of 𝔾 and ℐ.  They’ve been doing this together for years.

I told “Mr. Green” that I had come all this way just to see him, which is actually sort of true in a way.  He was taken aback, but immediately asked me if my company could write some software for him.  I stammered for a moment, then said that I would have to hire some more staff but it should be possible to work something out.  His website software is crap and I think the organization as a whole would benefit if he could get some better people to work on it, but “Mr. Green” is computer-phobic and his current website represents his best effort to hire and manage software developers.

“Mr. Bear” went off to attend a session.  Eventually “Mr. Green” went off to some meeting or other.  So I was standing there at the registration desk, trying to decide what to do next.  Neither Bear nor Green had seemed particularly interested in introducing me to the attendee customers, probably because I was a little scruffy inside my clothes.  I don’t need a fursuit to be “furry”!  Eventually I decided to declare my mission a success and go home.  It was less than an hour of business meeting for a week of driving.  Doesn’t seem worth it, somehow.  It’s too bad that I can’t just fly to these meetings, but airplane travel has joined drug use as part of the US War Against Our Own Citizens and I do not enter warzones if I can help it.  Long-distance train travel is uncomfortable.  I wonder if I could go by boat?  It would probably cost a lot and take a long time, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if someone else were piloting the boat.  And it would need a satellite link for Internet access.  Perhaps I should look into that…

Returning to my hotel room in Billerica, I wrote a business email to “Mr. Green”, summarizing the points discussed in our meeting.  He replied later that day.  His reply is still sitting in my inbox.  I suppose I should do something with it; he is the easiest “second customer” that my business could ever get.  But I don’t want more customers!  I want to continue doing as little as I’m doing now and just get paid a whole lot more for it!  But I suppose I owe it to Canada (which has been very nice to me) to grow my business so it can employ Canadians and pay taxes.  [livejournal.com profile] shiver_raccoon says he might be able to rustle up some more “on-the-spectrum” folks who can appreciate the charms of this kind of virtual job.  But it takes months to develop a new subcontractor!  Maybe I should just go back to bed.

No, I wanted to talk to “Mr. Green” because I was sick of dealing with the garbage data that his website sends to mine.  I wanted him to fix his end.  He is (apparently) willing to pay me to do that for him.  There is Engineering Work To Be Done.  This isn’t the work that I had planned to do after moving to Canada, but it has fallen into my lap.

pyesetz: (fire-hunter)

Jump out of bed, drive to the Company 𝔾 conference and back (see next post).  Then laze about.  Then off to the local Borders bookstore, so the kids can spend the gift certificates they got from the in-laws.  The kids take forever to select their books, so there is no time available to visit Penzey’s Spice Shop.  Wifey is very unhappy about this.  I tell her that it’s all her fault, which is one of the worst things you can say to her.

Visit with my spinster aunt in Brookline (¾ hour drive each way).  She is the only surviving member of my family with whom we are still on speaking terms.  I am the executor of her estate and much of the conversation revolved around making it easy for me to clean up her affairs after she passes away.  “I’m almost eighty,” she said.  She dropped hints about whether I needed some money before she died.  It reminded me of my great-aunt, who called me at University 25 years ago, not long after she turned 80, and asked if I had a business that she could invest in.  “This may be the last time I can help you,” she said.  The next time I saw her, the mind was not all there anymore.  My father had a horrible time cleaning up her estate.

I regretted not getting the dough from my great-aunt, so I shouldn’t waste this offer from my non-great aunt.  But my business is software development and doesn't really have any capital costs.  My mortgage balance is uncomfortably high and interest rates are expected to rise drastically in the near future.  My car has 100,000 miles on it and might not last much longer.  But none of these seem like good reasons to present to my aunt as to why she should give me a hand-out.  Maybe, if one of my elderly neighbours wants to sell their house and move to an old-age home, I could ask my aunt for the down payment so I can rent it out.  My father did that for awhile.  My great grandfather apparently made most of his money that way, eventually closing his butcher shop and just doing real estate all the time.  But there are no For Sale signs on my block at the moment.

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.

pyesetz: (Default)

Drive to Massachusetts.  This time we stayed at the Homewood Suites (they have a duck logo, apparently named “Lewis”).  Homewood is a nice chain, but this particular one, located near the intersection of the towns of Billerica, Bedford, and Burlington, gets graded as a B− for poor selection of cookware in the in-suite kitchen, horrible Wi-Fi service (can you say “3 second ping times”, boys and girls?), and a “Business Center” with two PCs (one of them nonfunctional), a printer (nonfunctional), and a copier (didn’t try it).  Yet still the hotel is inexpensive and generally operational otherwise.

pyesetz: (Default)

If I write this stuff down, then years later I will remember the version of events that I had recorded; if I don't write it down, I will remember less but the memory would perhaps be less tainted by what I had once thought was a good way to describe what happened.

It was a busman's holiday: 1450 miles in seven days.  My car has a “trip computer” that can record hours of engine-on time, but I forgot to reset it before the trip.  Anyway, it was a lot of hours.  Near the end of the trip, the odometer flipped over from 99,999 to 100,000 miles.  The kidlets found it hard to grasp why this was a big deal (the sixth digit of the electronic odometer is lighting up for the first time!) and didn't join in when I sang Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear ♪ca-ar♬, Happy Birthday to you, but Wifey did.  I sent no money to the copyright holder for the right to utter these now-traditional words in the privacy of my own vehicle and so therefore I’m a bloodthirsty pirate just like Redbeard or Captain Kidd.

It took over an hour to get through the checkpoint on the way into the US.  Most of the cars ahead of us were getting searched.  We presented US passports and were not searched, although nationality is a poor predictor of terrorist sympathies.  They asked us the usual questions (“What were you doing in Canada?  Where are you going in the US?  Why are you going there?  How long will you stay?”), which Wifey finds offensive because we have Citizens’ Right of Entry and it’s none of their business where we’re going in a free country.  Sometimes it’s cute when Wifey maintains her belief that the Constitution is something more than just a fig leaf for a Fascist régime.  Anyway, these were the identical questions later asked by the Canadian Border Patrol officer upon our return, so I made sure to give the identical answers in order to verify our identities as the same folks who had left Canada the week before.  Only a five-minute wait at the return checkpoint!

From our entry at Niagara/Lewiston we got to the Utica area before ending our first day.  We stayed at the Herkimer Motel, in the Village of Herkimer, in the Town of Herkimer, in the County of Herkimer, in the State of New York.  For symmetry, they should rename the state to “Herkimer”, but I guess the NYCers wouldn't like that.  General Herkimer was active during the Revolutionary War.  We stayed at the same hotel on the return trip, but it’s too far east and we should select a more westerly accommodation so the last trip day won't be so long (left the hotel at 11 AM, got home at 9:30 PM).

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