pyesetz: (woof)
(Brown text = post-election edits.)

It’s been almost six years(!) since the last time I linked to the blog of my American friend and colleague, Dr. J.  Gotta cross-link to your homies to keep our Google rankings up!  Anyway, Dr. J works for the US gov’t, so he may be obligated to write political tracts in support of the incoming Stalinist dictator Constitutionally-limited president.  He published this tract on a Sunday, perhaps to hide the fact (if it is one) that he was required to write it on paid government time.  There is a law against that, but it’s widely ignored like most good-government laws in the USA.

The didactic form that Dr. J chose is the “in an alternate universe, Hillary is actually guilty of something” meme, which isn’t bad as propaganda styles go.  Certainly it is less objectionable than the style chosen by Dr. Phil Plait, who basically starts from the reasonable “Global Warming is the most important issue” and the unreasonable ”politicians do not lie” and somehow manages to conclude that Hillary is the best candidate — even though she is pro-WWIII and Donald is against it and the world wars show up as spikes on the historical temperature chart.  So I guess I could perhaps join in on this fun, although personally I endorse Jill Stein because she tells the fewest lies.

Before we begin, I should note that Dr. J’s piece is actually funny, which is probably more than I can hope to achieve with my own work.  His Churchillian grammar reference is excellent and I found myself agreeing with the imaginary crowd furious at Hillary’s misquote.  It’s “shall not”, I say!  Yet even in an alternate universe, it is still the anti-Hillary forces that are correct.

Alternate Universe № ❰∞,∞,∞,26,∞,0,19,∞̅…❱ (see supernatural numbers, which I don’t actually believe in because ∞ is a figment of the mathematical imagination; Objective Reality probably doesn’t contain any numbers larger than around 10⁸⁵ or so).
      Conceit: In this universe (which we can never locate because its ID number is transfinite), Hillary actually had a legitimate reason to operate her honeypot email server that provided live feeds to Russia and Al Qaeda and Goldman Sachs containing the classified info that she received.
      Resulting difference: Not much, really.  The Espionage Act of 1917 says it applies to everyone, including the president.  It does not offer any exemption for politicians who possess a legitimate national-security reason to burn an agent’s cover; if that action results in another agent’s death then the politician is supposed to get the electric chair.  So Hillary Clinton is basically in the same category as Dick Cheney.
Alternate Universe № 5.2761 (but keeping in mind that fractional numbers which are not ratios might not actually exist; they might instead be mere measurement conveniences arising from the enormous gap between human-sized units and physics-sized ones).
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary actually still has a shred of decency left in her, so she does not make a big deal of Donald’s misogynistic ways.  Because, you know, her husband Bill has done most of the same things — except only Donald dared to talk about it when he knew the mic was on, thus showing that Donald is an idiot.  And Hillary has insisted all along that absolutely nothing Bill has ever done was actually wrong, so therefore (for her) those same things should also not have been wrong when Donald did them.  Donald's contemptible attitude toward women could certainly be criticized by other Democrats (such as Huma Abedin, who divorced her own husband for less) but this would lead to questions about Bill that Hillary doesn't want to hear.
      Resulting difference: None.  It doesn’t matter which acts of muck-raking Hillary decides are beneath her (if any).  Barack Obama has already announced that the winner of the election shall be Hillary.  He has also hinted that if for any reason the vote-counting machines ring up “Donald” as their answer, that could only mean that the machines were hacked by the Russians because the American people do not have permission from their president to vote for Donald.  HeilHillary!  It outta be a crime not to love her!
Alternate Universe № 3141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375110⁴⁹.  (This ratio *might* be the true value of π, if transcendental numbers do not actually exist.  In any event, because our home universe is quantized, there is probably no physical experiment that could ever be performed which would prove that this *isn’t* the true value of π.)
      Conceit: In this universe, Hillary is openly working for Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid that wants to RULE THE WORLD by installing its Manchurian candidates as the leaders of all major governments.  None of the policies she espouses on the campaign trail have anything to do with her actual plans for her presidency, which consist of transferring all remaining wealth from Main St to Wall St while waging a causeless war against Russia in order to bring about the Nuclear Apocalypse, thus ensuring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ among the poor bedraggled survivors on a burnt-out planet.
      Resulting difference: Um, there seems to be a technical glitch in our Inter-Universal Counterfactuality gizmo.  Apparently the ID number for this “alternate universe” is actually a synonym of our own.  Anyway, by the Reflexive Property, there cannot be any difference between two universes that differ only in name and not in character.
pyesetz: (sozont)

Our room.  Day 4 dose 1 of Kid #2’s ear drops.

Landscape of Flavors (12:12pm).  Lunch.

Ink and Paint (12:45pm).  Single-dose DayQuil for $2.45.  Kid #2 is coughing.  Also, get a sandwich-cutter for $6.34 that makes white-bread sandwiches look like Mickey Mouse’s head.  Our kids are too old for such foolishness (and have never attended public school), but we can buy it anyway!

Ink and Paint (12:57pm).  Two Entenmann’s Apple Pies.  Obviously there is no way we can eat up all the “snack” credits during this vacation, so we have to start accumulating snacks that will travel well so we can bring the excess food home.

Our room.  To prepare for today, Wifey spent months making herself a Minnie Mouse costume.  Part of the costume consists of old shoes to which she laboriously applied many coats of yellow paint.  But the shoes feel tight and today’s schedule includes massive quantities of walking and Wifey’s knee is already feeling gimpy from previous days’ exertions, so she decides to be prudent and not wear the special shoes that she worked so hard on.
      Wifey insists that I wear a Haunted Mansion T-shirt.  Kid #2 does not dress up at all.
      Kid #1 wears her Dr. Who outfit.  She also has a Winnie the Pooh fursuit (open-face) that we didn’t bring because obviously it would be too hot for Florida.  But even the tweed jacket for her Who suit seems like too much for the 90° weather, so she leaves that item in our room.
      Kid #1 also brought her Winnie the Pooh doll, but it spends the entire trip in her backpack and no pictures are taken of it at the park, where we had bought it as childless newlyweds in hopes of someday having a baby to give it to.  Well, after a year of fertility treatments, we got our wish!  Considering how many years Pooh spent as her go-everywhere favorite doll, it is in remarkably good shape.

Magic Kingdom Park (3:40pm – 12:00am).  It’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!
      Regular park hours run until 7pm, while special party tickets are for 4pm to midnight.  They have started to accept special tickets but then the revelers are being held in a pen until the stroke of 4.  Since we have excess park tickets because of our skipped days, we decide to “waste” them by entering the park 20 minutes before everyone else in our class.  The ticket collectors find this hard to believe, but they let us do it.  It feels so luxurious to engage in such “conspicuous consumption”; we are spending an entire day’s ticket just to get 20 minutes of extra park time!  But there is nothing else we can do with these nonrefundable nontransferable tickets.  Maybe for our next trip (if there ever is a next trip), we’ll buy park tickets for only half of the hotel days.
      Attractions visited today: Various trick-or-treat spots, Main Street USA photo spot (photo, 3:48pm), Confectionary (take-home, 3:57pm), Crystal Palace (dinner, missing receipt), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Big Top Souvenir (take-home, 8:56pm; actual souvenir, 8:58pm), Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Astro Orbiter (Kid #1 and I), Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Haunted Mansion, “Monsters’ Dance Party”, “Happy Hallowishes”, a popcorn cart (snack and souvenir, 10:47pm), Big Thunder Mountain (kids only), Aloha Isle (snack, 11:05pm), and Mickey’s “Boo-to-you” Parade (kids and parents on opposite sides).
      At the Main Street USA photo spot, Wifey wants a family photo with Cinderella’s Castle as the backdrop.  I suggest taking two photos with three people each, then stitching the digital photos together back home, but it seems unlikely that this would work well.  A pair of other park guests who are walking by offer to take our family photo for us.  Yay!  So now we need a photo frame.
      At Confectionary, we get 3 additional boxes of shortbread cookies imported from Scotland and shaped like Mickey’s head.  Paying customers would be forking out over a dollar each for small ordinary cookies — but for “free” we’ll take them!
      Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.  This is totally different.  You see animated characters on a big screen, but clearly there are live comics working behind the scenes at this show who are making up jokes on the fly.  Periodically they shine lights and cameras on individual audience members and put these live video feeds on a big screen with funny captions below them.  Only a small minority of audience members get this treatment.  They point the camera at me with the notation, “What do you get when you cross a human with a chia pet?”  Presumably this refers to my beard, which is a different color from my scalp hair.  Unfortunately I am unable to think of a funny dance to do while the camera is on me.
      The Crystal Palace buffet costs $202.88 for dinner (actual money, not on our meal plan; can’t find receipt so price taken from the final-accounting email sent by Disney after our trip is over).  The food isn’t worth quite that much, but this restaurant includes meet-and-greets with various Winnie the Pooh characters.  Wifey takes photos of our kids with Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh; she tries to get them to strike the same poses as on previous trips, but this is physically impossible because the character fursuits are the same size but our kids are now much bigger.
      At The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh exit shop, we find out that Winnie The Pooh® brand honey is no longer offered, so we can’t buy it, so Wifey can’t check off this item in her giant list of “Things to do at Disney World” formed during the two years of planning.  Oh well.
      At Big Top Souvenir, Wifey gets two containers of cheese goldfish and a bag of pretzels.  We have way more dinner-credits than we can use, so she trades one dinner for these three snacks.  Big Top is one of the few in-park stores that offers this conversion feature, which is usually done at the hotel food courts.  Wifey is so focused on the snacks that I have to remind her to get a fridge magnet for our collection!  I say, “If this is the ‘trip of a lifetime’, shouldn’t we buy a fridge magnet?”  This probably sounds rather silly to the store staff.  Anyway, I select a small picture frame surrounded by “Walt Disney World 2015” with both magnet and kickstand features — only $10.60!
      The Monsters’ Dance Party is very loud and has bright lights; guests dance along with cast members who are wearing fursuits.  Wifey and Kid #1 join in, while Kid #2 and I sit it out.
      Astro Orbiter is a kiddie ride.  Kid #1 and I share a vehicle, which was fine ten years ago but quite cramped now.
      As we exit from Haunted Mansion, the “Happy Hallowishes” fireworks display starts up, so we sit to watch.  At one point, half the visible sky is filled with exploding fireworks!  We’ve never seen anything like it.
      At the popcorn stand, Wifey uses a snack credit for bottled water (another luxury, since water fountains are available but bottled water is cold and we might as well use the snack credits).  She gets a souvenir bucket of popcorn for $6.00 (popcorn is a snack, but souvenir buckets aren’t; Kid #1 eats the popcorn).  On one of our previous trips we got souvenir buckets which the kids then used in their sandbox at home — but they are too old for that now.
      At the trick-or-treat spots, cast members give out handfuls of fun-size candy which are not as impressive as the full-size candy bars we can get with our snack credits.  At one spot, the cast member greets me and Kid #2 by name (since we are wearing our 15-year-old nametags).  She greets Wifey as “Minnie” due to her costume.  I don’t remember what she called Kid #1, but it wasn’t “Dr. Who”.  I remark to Kid #1 that Minnie Mouse is a Disney property but Dr. Who is a BBC property, which may explain why the cast member couldn’t refer to it.  On at least two other occasions today, some other guest we passed by uttered the passphrase “bow ties are cool” which is a Dr. Who reference, but Kid #1 didn’t hear them or couldn’t think of a reply.
      At Aloha Isle, I get pineapple juice, which is tasty but isn’t Dole Whip® which is one of the fond-memory foods that Wifey had wanted to eat on this vacation.  But here we are on day 10 and she still hasn’t had any, because we’re never near the Aloha Isle when she’s hungry.  There are definitely some downsides to this eat-all-the-time dining plan; also the excessive heat is suppressing our appetites.  Anyway, Wifey shares some of my pineapple juice while we watch the parade, thinking that the kids are enjoying themselves on Big Thunder Mountain.
      Meanwhile, the stand-by line for Big Thunder is unexpectedly long, so our children get in only one ride and don’t feel like standing in line again, but the parade route cuts off the Big Thunder/Splash Mountain area of the park, so the kids just stand there and watch the parade, then rejoin us after crossing the street becomes possible.
      The “Boo-to-you” Parade is supposed to be one of Disney’s best.  Ho hum.  I guess we’re just not parade people.  This is the first parade in 25 years that we actually sat and watched instead of avoiding at all costs.  It is probably also the last.

Our room.  I apply five drops of ofloxacin to Kid #2’s ear.  This is day 4, dose 2.
      My wife and I will probably never again visit the Magic Kingdom for as long as we live.  Our kids are all grown up now and the expected delay until grandchildren arrive is greater than our remaining life expectancy (although you never know).  I has a sad.  In fact, I have a sad repeatedly over the next several days.  I think my first visit to the park was in 1972; Wifey’s first visit was later that decade.  We just don’t have the money to bop down here without a good reason such as a grandchild or a hefty inheritance.

pyesetz: (woof)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pyesetz: (woof)

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

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

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

Wifey, Kid #1, and the friend

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

Kid #2 and I

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

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


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

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

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

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

Kid #2 and I

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

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

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

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

Wifey and Kid #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

pyesetz: (woof)

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

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

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

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

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

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

pyesetz: (woof)

[My HOTTEST DAY *EVER* at Disney World!  97°F *before* factoring in humidity!  Ontario, Ohio, Florida — doesn’t make a difference, it’s been over 90 every day of this trip.  And Hollywood Studios is the hottest of the parks because its many tall buildings and excessive quantities of asphalt create an “urban canyon” effect.]

Ink and Paint (inside Art of Animation Resort, 9:55am).  $12.40 for Imodium and Benadryl at the gift shop, for Wifey and Kid #1.  The cashier expresses her condolances.

Our room.  My family is out of shape and yesterday involved much more walking than our usual, and in very high temperatures.  So we start our day late and end early, which once again requires rejiggering all our FastPass™ appointment times.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Attractions visited today: The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, Muppet★Vision 3D, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, ABC Commissary (lunch, 2:56pm), Toy Story Midway Mania, and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (only Kid #2 and I).
      Midway Mania is new.  Unlike most Disney rides, it has no storyline; you just shoot at virtual targets while wearing 3D glasses and sitting in a rotating vehicle that’s moving along a serpentine track.  Kid #2 gets the most points in our vehicle.
      Our children are too old to enjoy the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, so Wifey takes a photo of them standing on either side of a giant ant.  Some other kid decided to sit on top of the ant during the photo, so I guess we’ll have to try out our PhotoShop skills when we get home.  I take a photo of Kid #1 going down a giant leaf-slide because we have a photo of her doing that back in 2001.
      Kid #1 used to like Tower of Terror, but she decided to skip it for this trip.  Kid #2 has never been on it, so I take him.  He doesn’t like being yanked violently downward in total darkness with nothing to hold on to but a seatbelt, so we ride only once even though the standby line is short.
      At the ABC Commissary, they are showing America’s Funniest Home Videos from 1994, so the children having pratfalls in the videos are now all grown up.  ABC had required video submitters to relinquish all rights without any compensation except for each show’s winner, so when Disney bought ABC in 1996 they gained the legal right to display these videos for the amusement of park guests, even if the people in the videos hate Disney and would never have agreed to having their pratfalls (some of them painful) commoditized like this.  As Billy Joel sang, “I’ll get put in the back, in the discount rack, like another can of beans”.
      Wifey has never seen the “Fantasmic” fireworks/laser show.  But it doesn’t start until 30 minutes after the park closes, and it’s very hot and we just want to get out of here.  So she still hasn’t seen it, and this is our only scheduled day at Hollywood Studios.

Landscape of Flavors (8:17pm).  Dinner at our resort.  Kid #2 announces that his pizza is not sitting well in his stomach, so I tell him he can just go back to our room.  Wifey then quickly finishes up her dinner and walks after him to check whether her 17-year-old son made it back to our building or is retching in the bushes someplace (actually his stomach settled down after he left the cafeteria).  Kid #1 and I finish our dinners and then rejoin the others in our room.

Our room.  Kid #2’s right ear still doesn’t hear well.  I give him a pseudoephedrine tablet, but it doesn’t help.  We decide that we are trying too hard on this vacation and need to take the day off tomorrow, which is forecast to be (surprise!) yet another scorcher.

pyesetz: (woof)
(Yet again, this distance took just about exactly *twice* as long to cover as Google Maps had estimated.)

Herkimer Motel (Herkimer NY).  A receipt for $124.49 for one night’s stay is slipped under our door in the wee hours of the morning, but the credit-card charge slip says it was run through at 9:54pm last night.  This will be our last stay at the Herkimer, which will be changing its name to “Red Roof Inn” as of November 1st.  The owner assures all guests that nothing will change because he is merely “affiliating” with Red Roof, not selling out to them.  We decide to give this hotel another chance on our next trip, whenever that will be.  We always stay here because the rooms are huge and “60% of the total trip” is just about right for one day’s travel.

Advance Auto Parts (Herkimer NY, 11:03am).  I look in my car’s owner’s manual and determine that it needs a type 9007 headlight bulb.  Replacement requires removal of three screws, a retaining ring, and the electrical connector.  Installation requires not getting any oily substance (such as human sweat) onto the glass bulb.  The store offers multiple models of 9007 headlights at different prices, but I have no idea which one to get so I pay $11.90 for the mid-range.  My tools are all at home, so the store lets me borrow a screwdriver — but the screws are all torqued too tight, so they loan me a hex ratchet, which is effective.  Kid #2 helps with the repair.
      While Kid #2 and I are at it, I am reminded of the phrase “working together on the car”, which was used by [ profile] ozarque (Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin, b. 1936, fl. 1965‒2011, frontotemporal dementia) to invoke a scene where boys are working together towards an intellectual goal, rather than belittling each other or fist-fighting.  You see, the car actually matters, so the boys actually think about how to make it work.  But cars nowadays are too difficult for most boys.  In my life it has usually been “working together on the computer program” but few kids today write their own software.  So I don’t know what the modern version of this scene would be.  Perhaps “working together on their MMORPG character stats”?
      So anyway, I take the new bulb out of its packaging and place it next to the old one to demonstrate that it is in fact an identical replacement.  Then I put it back in the package and place it on the engine while attempting to disconnect the old bulb, pontificating all the while about how getting any oil on the new bulb will drastically shorten its life.  But while wrestling with the old bulb and its connector, I manage to jostle the wire-harness.  This causes the new bulb to fall into the depths of the engine, which of course is covered everywhere with oily grime.  Oops!  Kid #2 is a polite fellow and does not laugh.  But the day is saved because the bulb did not fall out of its opened package and remains untouched by oils.  I make some comment about how important it is to keep the bulb in its package until use, then insert the bulb into the lens-assembly while thinking of the kids’ game Operation.  Touch nothing on the way in!
      Success!  The new headlight works great!

New York Thruway.  Pay toll; no receipt.

Massachusetts Turnpike.  Massive traffic jam!  As we near an exit, there is a sign announcing “bridge work ahead; seek alternate route”.  We are unable to determine whether the jam will end soon when we reach a bridge or whether it will go on for many more miles, so we take the exit and pay the toll.  We do not have a roadmap of Massachusetts in the glove compartment.  The only relevant map is for “Eastern USA”.  It suggests that we can take some minor-league state and national highways to get to MA route 9, which Wifey and I remember from our student days at UMass.  The detour is only an inch on the map, but each map-inch represents 1,385,000 inches in real life.  Two hours later, we finally locate Route 9.  It would almost certainly have been faster to just crawl along with the traffic jam.

McDonald’s (Belchertown MA, 3:48pm).  After finding Route 9, we stop at a CVS to buy a map — but they don’t have any.  We try a gas station, but they don’t sell maps anymore because everyone has a smartphone these days.  This causes Kid #1 to gripe yet again about how far behind the times our family is, with one crappy “feature phone” shared by the entire household.  But she could just buy her own smartphone if she *really* wanted one.  Anyway, we stop at McDonald’s to access Google Maps on our laptops.  $10.67 for snacks.  I get a chocolate shake, which gives me a brain freeze and then later I have flatus.  Apparently I’m starting to get lactose-intolerant in my old age.

MA route 9.  In Eastern Mass., this highway is a fairly straight East-West route, but in Central Mass. it is a winding road.  I vaguely remember that I avoided this route when driving to my parents’ house from UMass because it took four hours (vs. three hours for MA route 2 further north, or only 1½ hours for the Mass. Pike on a good day).  Anyway, we eventually get to Interstate 495 and return to our pre-printed directions from Google.

99 Restaurant & Pub (Franklin MA, 8:11pm).  The girls get chicken broccoli penne (but hold the broccoli for Kid #1, add house chardonnay for Mommy), while the boys get the 9oz top sirloin (medium rare for Kid #2, medium for Daddy).  This restaurant chain is named for the address of its original location at 99 State St. in Boston.  Only $68.72 with taxes and tip!

Stop & Shop (Franklin MA, 8:20pm).  $47.25 for 15.651 gallons of gasoline at $3.01⁹/gal.  This was the only gas-pump during the entire trip that didn’t refuse my business due to lack of a zipcode!

pyesetz: (woof)

Saturday morning, we awoke to find no hot water.  The pilot was out on the water heater and it would not stay lit when I pressed the igniter button.  Of course, it was a holiday weekend (isn’t it always?), so we just did without for a few days.  We had a kettle and the stove was still working, but hot showers were unavailable.

I invoked the power of the INTERNET! and searched for knowledge.  The usual cause of “pilot won’t stay lit” is that the thermocouple has failed, so the water heater cannot sense that the pilot is on, so it stops feeding gas down the pilot tube in order to prevent an explosion.  I found a set of owner’s manuals at the manufacturer’s website.  None of them exactly matched my model, but the interesting thing was their owner’s manuals include instructions for “replacing the thermocouple”, implying that this repair does not require a plumber’s licence.  I usually limit myself to electronics repairs.  I generally don’t do plumbing, and have never done a gas-line repair before.

I followed the disassembly instructions until I was able to remove the pilot-assembly, shown here.  The top item is the thermocouple, the middle item makes a spark to ignite the pilot, and the bottom item provides gas for the pilot.  Thankfully, on this model the pilot’s gasline has a screw coupling, so I didn’t have to bend the gas-tube for access, then carefully (one of several places in the manual where they warned me to be careful) bend the thing back for re-installation without cracking it and causing an explosion.

Online sources told me that water-heater thermocouples are generic; the only thing that matters is the “length”.  I thought they meant the length of the tip part, but actually they meant the length of the copper tail that connects the thermocouple to the control unit.

On Tuesday I set out to buy a replacement thermocouple.  Since this is a rather specialized product, I decided to skip Home Depot and drive directly to One Stop Plumbing.  I brought along driving directions for Mark’s Supply as a backup.  The guy at the counter at One Stop said they didn’t have it and suggested I go to Mark’s Supply — for which I already had directions!

The first sign of trouble was the sign outside Mark’s front door: “Contractor and Trade Sales Only”.  They did not want my business, but there was nowhere else to go, so I went in anyway.  I showed the counter clerk my pilot-assembly, but she had no idea what to do — her computer wanted her to enter a part number!  She called someone for help, then went to the stockroom to fetch me a part.  But the thing she got was a thermoelectric generator, which is a totally different part that happens to look vaguely similar and have a similar name.  I was stumped.  Now what?

Another customer, who happened to be in the store and happened to be a gas plumber, took pity on me and told me to look at the end-cap of the aisle behind me, where they were selling thermocouples.  Great!  But which size do I need?  I had forgotten to measure the length of the copper tail.  (I had also forgotten to write down the model number for my heater, as some online sources recommend, but that turned out to be unnecessary.)  The other customer looked at my assembly and suggested that I get the 18-inch model.  Only $8.23!

I drove the 24 km back to my house, then examined my purchase.  The two ends looked right, the press-fit adaptor looked right — but the length was wrong.  There was no way it could work.  I actually needed a 23-inch tail.  So I drove back to the store and bought the 24-inch model.  Only $7.48!  I have no idea why it cost 9% less to buy an item that contains 30% more copper.  Maybe it’s a more popular size?

So now it’s time to complete the repair.  I decided to take photographs of my steps, so this post would have some decoration.  That decision drastically increased the repair time because I am a terrible photographer.  My forepaws shake a lot and — even bracing the camera against a door-frame — it often takes me 3‒6 tries to get a photo that’s sharp enough to use.

Anyway, here is the pilot-assembly with the new thermocouple installed.  The new one has a lighter tip and a brass-coloured ferrule at the bottom.

Here is the pilot-assembly after re-attachment to the burner guts.  In this photo, the pilot-assembly has been flipped over, so now the thermocouple etc are pointing left and the pilot gas-tube is attached on the right.  Once again, I am really glad there was a detachable coupling so I didn’t have to bend the pilot gas-tube for access!

The paint chips at the top-left and bottom-right of this photo are because the back door to my basement is in serious need of a new paint job.

Here we see that the flame-spreader plate has now been re-attached, which partially covers the pilot-assembly (poking out to the left).  Also, the thermocouple and igniter wires have been threaded through the front plate and clamped in a strain-relief thingy.

Note the grey sealing gasket which is supposed to be attached to the front plate, but has partially peeled off.  The manual emphasizes how terribly important it is to have a tight seal around the plate to avoid risk of explosion.  But I thought it would only matter for a moment while I’m screwing the thing into place, so I used two pieces of cellophane tape to hold the gasket in place while shoving the burner guts back into the water heater.

All that’s left is to re-attach the igniter wire, thermal-overload detector wires (not shown here), thermocouple wire, pilot gas-line, and main gas-line to the control unit.

And now, the final act.  Turn on main gas line.  Wait.  Sniff.  No gas!

Turn main control knob to PILOT.  Press and hold red button.  Press black igniter button.  Press black button a few more times.  There is a spark, but no flame.  Shit!

Wait a bit.  Press and hold red button again.  Press black button.  We have ignition!  Hold red button for sixty seconds.  And now, the moment of truth: will things be any better after this repair than they were before, unlike this previous time?  Release the red button.  The pilot stays lit!  Yessss!  The day is saved, thanks to Hero Doggie!

Turn main control knob to ON.  Main burner starts up!  No gas smell!  But, after a few minutes, there is a sizzling noise.  Once again I invoke the power of the INTERNET! to determine that this is probably just water vapour from the burnt gas, condensing on the cold bottom of the main water tank and dripping onto the flame.  Nothing to worry about, but sounds bad.  I decide to go take a nap for half an hour so I don’t have to listen to it.

Upon my return, the heater is quiet.  It has finished heating up the water tank.  There is no smell of gas, but there is a definite “burnt” odour.  Examining the front plate, I see that the pieces of cellophane tape are now crisp and their adhesive apparently melted and ran down the plate.  Oh well, doesn’t seem like a big deal.

And so, once again, the City of Townsville is saved.  My mate and offspring are now provided with running hot water — such a modern convenience!  I will probably never have to do this again, because the Government of Canada is telling people to stop using these old-style water heaters and switch over to tankless models, which do not have pilots.

pyesetz: (sozont)
I have occasionally used the phrase "gothic horror movie" to describe the recurring themes of my life, and why I felt so at home at Company ℱ, and why I have never wanted to work at RIM or most other companies in my local area (because they are more "gladiator movie" than "gothic horror").  My wife has used "Addams Family" to describe her first visit to my parents' house.

So you can imagine my interest in last Friday's article in the Guardian (or Grauniad as the locals call it), which is entitled "How to Tell You're Reading a Gothic Novel".  I guess I'd rather see this title as "How to Tell You're Living in a Gothic Novel".  Anyway, let us review their helpful hints:

1. The villain is a murderous tyrant with scary eyes

Actually not.  I have had a variety of opponents in my life, most of whom did not have especially-scary eyes.  One notable exception was that four-year-old kid I met when I was six.  Aaaaaah!  On the other paw, lots of people have commented that my eyes are scary, so maybe I'm supposed to be the villain?  But I always try to be a good little monster!  I have never murdered anything larger than a flounder, although I have been indirectly involved in the senseless killings of several innocent dogs (may their souls RIP in Heaven).  The notches on my metaphorical pistol refer mainly to the destroyed careers of various evil-doers who were stupid enough to pick fights with me after I told them not to.  Just go away and nobody will get hurt!  But they wouldn't listen.

2. The heroine is a pious virginal orphan, prone to fainting.

I don't know WTF this is supposed to be talking about.  What does morphine diacetate have to do with virginity?  No swoons for me; Victor Frankenstein I ain't!  Though sometimes I wish I could just sleep through the bad periods when there's nothing I can do about my problems.  And since when are orphans known for their piety?  My father is dead and I actually don't know whether my mother still lives.

3. It's set in a spooky castle or stately home.

Not exactly.  But this item has sub-items, so let's review those:

3a. Built in Gothic period: No, my house dates from 1870.  It's old, but not that old.

3b. In a poor state of repair: Yes, the wooden front porch is rotting and needs replacement before it collapses.

3c. In the middle of nowhere: Well, the city folks think so, but really it's only a 15-minute drive from here to Canada's Technology Triangle.

3d. Haunted/cursed: Not really.  My previous house was haunted by the spirit of a little girl who was really, really unhappy that she had to move to Singapore — but I think she was gone by the time we left there, and I have no idea if the folks who bought the house from us thought we were still haunting the place (I insisted on moving to Canada, so the rest of the family got dragged along with me).  My sister used to say about our parent's last house together that it was some sort of spiritual way-station because so many non-corporeal entities passed through it on their way to ¿someplace else? But really the house was just creaky and the spirits had nothing to do with that.

3e. Has a fobidden wing and/or secret passages: Yes!  My house has a variety of inaccessible areas.  The largest is under the mud-room, which I can shine a light into from the basement walk-out but I never see anything.  So far as I know, nothing lives in there except occasionally a family of squeaky little shrews will move in for breeding season.

3f. Has a reclusive and/or sinister owner: Yes, I am left-handed.


4. There is (probably) a ghost or monster

[I like the footnote on this item that refers specifically to Southern Ontario gothic novels.]

I guess this one applies, but let's look at the subcategories:

4a. Ghost: Not currently, I think.  But I was medically dead once and almost-dead another time, so maybe this life is all a dream?  The final episode of Roseanne was the best!

4b. Monster: I sometimes identify as a therian, which is sort of like a furry only totally not.

4c. Witch/sorceress: I'll let my wife answer this one.

4d. Vampire: No, it's a werewolf!  Werewolves are not vampires!  (*spits into mike*) Is this thing on?  A werewolf, I tell you‼  Sheesh.

4e. The Devil: No, although some people have claimed that I should have "666" tattooed on my forehead.  But really, Arabic numerals would make no sense — it should be "DCLXVI" for proper Latin.  Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc. I said that once (in English) to a lawyer who was trying to depose me.

4f. Not really a ghost at all: It was nice of them to include the footnote here about Scooby Doo, which jumped its shark in later years when the monsters were reimagined as "real" within the story universe.


5. It's set in the olden days.

Hey, we're on Internet time now.  I remember the dark ages before Google, before Wikipedia, before Rule 34, when people actually had to get up and go to the TV and rotate a knob to change the channel.  So, um, yeah.

6. It takes place in foreign parts.

The footnote says this applies if the story takes place in a country that is not where the author was born.  So Canada counts.  And, BTW, I am a citizen now!

7. The weather is always awful.

This is an exaggeration, although there were far too many days with -30° wind-chills last winter.  But next year is supposed to be a monstrous El Niño, so hopefully more to my liking.

8. Anyone who isn't a white middle-class Protestant is frightening.

Yup.  I'm a Jew who lives in a township full of Mennonites.  Be very afraid!

9. The laws of the land are brazenly flouted.

I can't talk about this in a public post, but there are signs that the laws will be a-changing soon to be more to my liking.  The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind!

10. People talk funny.

I've been here for seven years and still don't feel like I have a grip on the local accent.

11. So which gothic novels are the best?

I don't know, but not the one I'm living in — that's fer damn sure.

(p.s.: In case you're wondering, the most important sentence in this essay is the last one for point 6 above, which Wifey wanted to know why I hadn't posted yet to this journal.)


Jan. 21st, 2013 11:57 am
pyesetz: (arctic-fox)

I wrote a furvey back in 2004.  It was only the second furry thing I ever published, yet still today much of it rings just as true (or false) as it ever did.  The main thing I would change is that the “bird” character should actually be a “blind fox” who can’t even tell what his own species is.  In my Furry Fandom travels since then, many people have mentioned that I seem to have a Fox Inside® that I never talk about, and are pleased when I tell them that “Pyesetz means ‘fox’ in Russian” like somehow that explains things.

Unfortunately, I can’t just do a global search/replace to change “bird” to “fox” because then question 28 (external manifestations of furriness) would no longer make any sense — in the historical event being recounted, I actually did use an avian reproductive metaphor, not a vulpine one.  I have put in approximately zero study in the ways of foxes.  Did you know that fox eyes have vertical pupils like cats?  It was not until this year that I finally did a Google image-search to confirm that.

The word “cat” occurs six times in the furvey.  In question 21 it is what people mistakenly call me because they don’t know a fox when they see one.  In question 30 it is the furry species of some random girl I once met.  Whenever a cat is mentioned, it is always in the role of “Not Me“.

The word “horse” occurs only once, in question 38 (the spiritual-reincarnation animal).  There is an oblique reference to a TV show called Mr. Ed that aired 50 years ago.  Only his co-star Wilbur could hear Mr. Ed talk, sort of like the original Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street that only Big Bird could hear.

YouTube shows 239,000 results for the query “MR. ED”, including many complete episodes from season 3 (seasons 1 & 2 are on Hulu, which prohibits access from Canada).  I am afraid to watch these old episodes, for fear that the show will not be as good as I remember.  But I did dare to watch the one-minute sketch Mr. Ed and the Dodgers.  Good God, those special effects were horrible!  The scene of Mr. Ed sliding into second base looked positively painful.  And never mind the impossible physics of Mr. Ed batting the ball with his teeth!

But maybe that was the point after all.  A talking animal is ridiculous, as anyone with horse sense knows.  Mr. Ed was an impossible illusion and he wanted you to know that, so you could laugh along with him at the absurdity of his existence.

*Ahem*  Anyway, it was just a TV show.  About a horse.  Of course!

pyesetz: (sozont)
So I was clicking around the Internet and happened upon this website, which purports to be the "real" history of what eventually became the FurnalEquinox conventions in Toronto.  You probably cannot imagine my surprise to find my own name mentioned in the history.  I did WHAT???  I "designed the logo" for CanFURence?  But I'm not a graphic artist!  There must be some mistake.

So I looked through the "Pyesetz" folder of my email.  Unlike for my IRL name, I actually have a nearly-complete record of every email I have ever exchanged as "Pyesetz".  And there it was: a logo for a furry conference, sent without comment from me to the TorFur mailing list.  WTF???  Did I have an m-trans moment and some other personality in my head did that?  And there were a bunch of other emails around that time, between me and Dan Skunk, in which I sound like I'm actually thinking about paying to attend a Furry convention — which I've never done in my life.  Where's the Twilight Zone music?

The real explanation is probably much simpler.  I was a newcomer in Canada and had noticed that government logos tended to have a flag over the 'a'.  When Dan Skunk suggested "CanFURence" as the name for a project he was working on, I thought the logo was "obvious" so I fired up GIMP and made it, as a throwaway post to a mailing list.  I thought nothing further of it — but Dan did.  As to why I was considering attending, it was probably something like: "I'm in a new country, should meet people, how about a FurCon?"  But I didn't go.

I like to think that I have a præternatural ability to not be there when drama happens.  At university I heard several times that bad things occurred (e.g., police action) shortly after I left a keg party.  So I was not there when the shit hit the fan regarding CanFURence/FurnalEquinox.  Perhaps I thought it best to forget that I had ever paid any attention to that project.

It's too bad that the write-up linked above does such a piss-poor job of explaining what actually happened.  People got mad at other people, but why?  The world may never know.
pyesetz: (Default)

Once upon a time, early last week, I made yet another trip to Buffalo NY to buy groceries.  It needed to be done because our Permanent Resident cards were five years old and about to expire at the end of October.  Immigration Canada is understaffed these days, due to the Recession, so it will take several months to get replacement cards.  The only official purpose for those cards is for gaining re-entry to Canada at the border; now that they’ve expired, we will not be leaving the country anytime soon.

Last July, the children’s passports became five years old and they expired.  Replacing a child’s passport cannot be done by mail and requires a trip to the US consulate in Toronto.  We finally got around to doing that at the end of September.  Actually, the trip wasn't as bad as feared: parking was a pain, the TSA goons at the door were rude, but the inside consulate staff were nice enough.  Kid #1 is now a grown-up and her new passport is good for ten years, while Kid #2 got another five-year kiddie passport.
      During the months between the expiration and the replacement of the children’s passports, Wifey was worried: what would we do if there were a Death In The Family and we had a sudden emergency need to visit the States?  It is against the law for an American citizen to enter that country without showing a US passport if they have one, but what happens if the passport is expired?  I didn’t think it would be such a big deal; surely there would be procedures in place.  We would probably be diverted to the Border Patrol office, have to show alternative ID, get grilled by Blueshirts, then they would let us proceed to the funeral.  Anyway, this didn’t happen.

So we’re on our way to Buffalo, just about to pass the “Last exit in Canada” sign, when Wifey checks the passports to make sure everything is fine… but everything is not fine.  The children are fine, but the parents’ passports expired last July when they became ten years old.  Oopsie!  So now we have to decide whether to turn around and drive an hour back to our house, or brave the border with bad passports.  I made an executive decision to keep going.

At the border, the guard did a double-take when processing the third passport.  I imagine a bright red flashing EXPIRED! indicator on his computer console, but he said nothing.  He asked some unusual questions (e.g., “Have you renounced your US citizenship?”) but nothing specifically about the expired passports.  Eventually he waived us through, without even diverting us to the Big House.

The grocery shopping was uneventful.  We went to the Tops and Wegmans supermarkets as usual.  We spent $800 on this trip, which was the most ever, including over $200 just for canned tuna.  Inflation is bad these days, despite the official lies from the government.

Upon our return to Canada, the border guard was gruff with us.  When we told her we bought $800 worth of food, she asked for the receipts and studied them carefully.  I imagine that she was upset to see $75 worth of boneless skinless chicken breasts (which cost twice as much in Canada because they don’t use undocumented Hispanic serfs in their chicken processing plants).  But perhaps she was less displeased to see that the single largest line-item was the tunafish, which is not caught in Canada so there were no local fishermen that we were refusing to support.  She asked various questions of the form, “Are you going to eat all this food yourselves?”  While there is apparently no sales tax exemption for one-day excursions, no border guard has ever demanded that we pay that tax.  On this day as well we were eventually waived through with no penalty.

Yet another successful shopping trip!
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: (sozont)
Three posts in one day!  I'm on a tear!

Read this blog.  I know the author.  His post on Constructivist Angelology is light-years ahead of my own work in the field.

In an email sent to (presumably) dozens of his closest friends, the author told me that this blog would NOT focus on penguins, yet there have been three posts in the last three days on that very topic.  As for hedgehogs, the Constructivist post linked above was the first of what has so far become at least five posts on marmotology.  Looks like a certain author's furry/feathery tendencies are refusing to be repressed!

And therein lies the rub.  The author has been bitten by the popularity bug and has taken it upon himself to try to become the best-Google-ranked blog on the subject of humility among the land beavers.  Nooooo!  The slippery slope to the road to Perdition!  But there is still time to give him the antidote.  He needs readers, real readers who really comment, not fake "readership" as provided by Google ranks.  Won't you help?  Because a blog is a terrible thing to waste.  You can use OpenID to sign in using your LiveJournal username.
pyesetz: (arctic-fox)
(About comments at newspaper websites): "It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

Gene Weingarten (who has won two Pulitzer prizes but I had never heard of him before this mention).  RSS added, but I'm not sure whether I'll keep it.
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: (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.  [ 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: (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).

pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Today I won a game of Clue, but in a most unusual way.

Like most members of my household, I generally don't like playing Clue because Wifey almost always wins.  She is very good at keeping partial logic-entailments in her head, like "If Betty is taller than Susie and Susie is taller than Lucy and Lucy is taller than Betty, then what is the price of oranges in Moscow?"  I hate those.

It seems that the particular thing I did that won the game for me today was a move that was so mind-bogglingly stupid, it caused all the other players to disqualify themselves, leaving me as the winner-by-default.  I realize that this sounds like a plot for Fairly Oddparents, but hear me out.

At one point I landed in a room that I didn't particularly want to be in (but in Clue you don't get complete freedom of choice in such matters).  So I copied a trick that Wifey often uses, making a "suggestion" that involved a Location and a Weapon whose cards I held in my own paw, plus a Murderer that everyone else had been using in their suggestions (this often-but-not-always indicates that other players think that person is the actual murderer).  No one could show a card to prove that my suggestion was wrong, so I concluded that the Murderer in question was the actual murderer.

It turned out that everyone else thought the choice of Murderer was a foregone conclusion by that point in the game (okay, I'm a little slow), so obviously what my turn proved was that the Weapon that I had suggested was the actual murder weapon.  Each of them in turn made an "accusation" involving the actual Murderer, the wrong Weapon, and then different choices of Location.  But they were all wrong, so I won by default, even though I had no idea what the actual Weapon and Location were.

Part of what made this work was that I have formed the habit of *always* showing a Location card when someone presents to me a suggestion where I have both the Location and Weapon cards, so throughout the game in question I had never actually shown anyone that Weapon card.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE Sunday 20 Sept.: Heard back from HostMDS sales.  The "fraudulent" signup evaporates after 24 hours.  So I signed up again and asked for a new phone call—which failed because Wifey was on the phone to her mother!  Oh well, guess I'll try again tomrrow.


pyesetz: (Default)

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