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Tue, Nov. 23rd, 2010, 04:08 pm
Seattle Snow and Ice

For my global friends, this is why snow in Seattle paralyzes the area, and why I've been staying at home (on paid snow days!) instead of at work the last couple of days :) Put simply, the problem is that Seattle isn't flat. You couldn't pay me to drive on these slopes! :)

(Notice that quite a few of these vehicles are four-wheel-drive, and/or have chains. Even the bus has chains. I didn't shoot the video, it's just one that was uploaded to youtube recently)

After my snow adventure, I thought it would be prudent to wash the car immediately even though it was midnight and the temperature was below freezing (which makes it a particularly unpleasant job. I actually had to start by washing the icicles off the wash-brush!) so that I could get the car under wraps and store it safely in case it snowed. Which it did - within hours of me finishing! The perfect timing vindicated the unpleasantness :)

Wed, Sep. 1st, 2010, 10:39 am
How to get a phone in the USA, in several easy steps.

How to get a phone in the USA, in several easy steps.

I start by researching the phone that is right for me. It's not easy, and I have to sacrifice a lot of time to do it, but I find a clear winner - a phone designed for what I want, and is currently fairly highly recommended by the gadget sites. It was released a few months ago (with a lot of fanfare). It's also very expensive, but I'm desperate for a phone. I spend another few days trimming my bills for monthly savings.

I got to T-Mobile to buy it. "Oh, we didn't have this phone on in-store display, so not many people bought it. And then we stopped selling because not many people were buying it. But you can buy one directly from Google, and if you do, we can set you up with service for it!"

So I go home and got to Google. "Oh, we realised it was a mistake to dirty our hands selling our phones to customers directly, so we've switched off our online store. But you can buy one directly from our guy, Brightstar."

So I go to Brightstar. "Oh, we've stopped selling to the unwashed masses of the general public. We'll only sell to you if you are a registered phone developer."

I figure that I can probably set myself up as a registered phone developer, and go to find out the process. Reading the contract I'm about to agree to, I realize there may be a legal clash with my work visa (I'm not allowed to work other than for the company my visa is registered with), and that perhaps I should talk to an attorney.

(So at this point, just to buy a phone I need to consult an attorney. Trying to buying a phone in the USA is an amazing experience)

I do more research and decide that (a) it's most likely compatible with my visa, and (b) if it isn't, no-one will know. So, it looks like an Officially Registered Phone Developer I will be!

"Oh" says Brightstar, "It doesn't actually matter if you're a phone dev or not, because we don't actually have any phones to sell. But there is a chance we might be getting a small number of them sometime next month. If you camp out at our online store, maybe YOU could be one of the lucky buyers!!!"

I am defeated. US phone companies never really wanted my money, they just like to torment me. Nothing I do gets me a phone.
Wait... while I don't want to buy a phone from ebay (because later warranty dealings aren't easy), but maybe there is a local gadget store or Amazon or something?!

"Oh you poor man" says Amazon, "Come in from cold! We have phone! We sell to you! Everything good with Amazon! Exact phone right here. We do you special deal! Phone retail for $500, we give you good deal - for you just $900! 900 dollar and phone is yours!"

I budgeted for phone+service to top $1000/year, and I know dentists that give you a more pleasant buying experience for that money. Literally. Dentists! (Not to mention, at the end of the day, the dentist actually provides you with some dental work.)

I still don't have a phone.

Thu, Jul. 3rd, 2008, 04:55 pm
Oh the sacrifice!

Behold - THIS is what I am going to be missing out on, a week from now, thanks to the efforts of my so-called "friend" Lilacambrosia!

Are you reading this? guilt-trip guilt-trip guilt-trip :-p

If I EVER catch you getting married on my LoJ weekend again, young lady, you will be in big trouble!

Let the record show that for the second weekend of July, you must be at least this awesome to ride.

Ok, I'm done being a brat. I'm going to wander off in search of sugar, while looking forward to the awesomeness that will be the was-LoJ-but-is-now-Lilacambrosias-wedding weekend.

Tue, Mar. 11th, 2008, 07:20 pm
PC games can die now.

I just wasted $50 buying Portal, which doesn't run.

Like cell-phones, it's as if Valve (source engine) games are designed to piss me off. Any computer, owned by anyone else, and they run fine. Any computer that I am using (I've tried four now over the years) and after my preciously hours of free time have been wasted without reward or progress, just trying to get the games working crash-free on perfectly normal hardware, I want to break stuff. Violently.

I'm not a kid anymore, with school holidays stretching into infinity. If a game takes my r&r time, and just gives me grief instead of a game, I don't have any more r&r time left to try to fix it even if I wanted to (instead of say, wanting to BREAK THINGS).
The PC is the greatest gaming platform there has ever been. It has vastly superior gaming performance and interface to anything else out there (though this comes at vastly greater cost than anything else). But if the games waste so much time to get running, none of that is worth it any more. The PC can piss off and die.
You see this a lot - as we gamers grow up, and responsibilities sap our time, everyone ends up moving to consoles, whether they like them or not. It just doesn't feel like there is any choice - the school holidays are over.

In the current case of Portal, the troubleshooting was no help as it seems it's a video error that seems to fall outside the norm - with latest-everything installed, the game runs fine... for a random period of about 30 seconds, then it crashes the computer. Then 20 seconds later the video card drivers reset the gfx card, bringing back the computer and the game, then the game runs for another ten seconds, then it crashes again, and so on. Eventually, one of the crashes will take down the entire computer! Hell, if it simply wouldn't run at all, that would be a MUCH LESS INFURIATING bug. It kind of smells like a memory leak, but in other ways it doesn't, and I have no way to know.

Actually, I will extend "the troubleshooting has been no help" to the wider "troubleshooting is never any help", because (as I'm sure you know from experience), you only end up using the troubleshooting help if your problem falls outside the realms of what the troubleshooting can help you with. If it didn't, then you would have fixed it yourself. Troubleshooting help invariably seems to have less expertise than the user, and only exists to raise our hopes as a way of grinding more salt into the wound.

Hmmm, I guess I'm also used to being in an environment where, when a game crashes, you can go to the guy responsible for the crash and, after agreeing that "it probably shouldn't do that", get it fixed. It's still time-consuming, but at least you're not powerless :-)

Sun, Jul. 22nd, 2007, 04:50 pm
Frustration and greencard worries

After working all week, it is the precious weekend - I FINALLY have some time off, but I've got nothing to do because I'm stuck here.

It typically goes like this - I really want to buy an AVR programmer so I can spend my downtime here learning how to use AVR microcontrollers. But the only programmer the nearby brick&mortor stores have in stock is an old type from 2002 that doesn't actually work on the modern AVR chips.

Everything I try to do, I hit some wall like this. I have enough trouble finding decent stuff in the states, which has a domestic economy over 50 times bigger than NZ. The domestic economy here just isn't big enough to offer the oddball stuff I like.

Normally when I feel like this, I'll go and do some "retail therapy", and thanks to the temp work, I can do that... but there just isn't anything available to buy that appeals to me right now. I have a HUGE list of stuff that I want... but it's not stuff you get from brick&mortor stores.

Except junk food.

To make matters worse, my greencard application could be screwed due to political bullshit shutting off the process for everyone. You can't get a straight answer on this stuff, so I have no idea what it all means. Just that a shitload of Silicon Valley tech workers in the same position as me (and who presumably DO have an idea what it all means) took to the streets in protest. Maybe it's just this year's quota being cut short, which might not directly affect me. Maybe it's far worse. No idea.

I just get the general feeling I'm screwed. All I need is to see some light showing an end to the tunnel. Just some damn light (but not oncoming train kthnx)

Tue, Jun. 19th, 2007, 04:33 pm
How dumb am I

I've paid about US$600 for an airline ticket worth about $150, and in exchange for all that money, I didn't even get a flight. I cancelled the ticket, no refunds, no air miles, nothing.

Just hundreds of $$$ up in smoke.

What happened was this: I paid a premium price for my return flights so that it would not cost much to reschedule them. What the bastards FORGOT TO MENTION was that since there were legs of those flights in both countries, one of the flights was a code-share between airlines, and the low reschedule fee only applied to non-code-share flights. So each time I've rescheduled, I've paid a small fee to change the first 10,000km or so that takes me half way around the world, and then paid an additional big fee to change the last piddling hop from California to Washington!

After a few hundred dollars of this, Mum pointed out that it was probably worthwhile to find out if I could cancel the last leg of the journey, as the money saved in paying fees if that was possible, would probably exceed the cost of buying a new ticket. This was one of those "Why didn't I think of that before?!" moments.

Today I rescheduled my flights again, looked up the cost of buying a new one-way from LAX to SEA, and cancelled my LAX-SEA ticket.

I could have had a lot of fun with US$600.

In other news, airlines suck.

Fri, Apr. 6th, 2007, 01:59 pm
There is no escape, part II

One of the things I like about my NZ social circle is the increased propensity for conversation. In Seattle, clubs are too noisy, so the best conversation seems to happen at Denny's at 3am after the club. The only trouble is that going on to Denny's after the club doesn't happen all that often. And then when it does, half the time everyone is talking WoW. Which is basically like being at a table of people talking in German if you don't play it. Which I don't. :-/

So how is it, that last night, when I'm on the other side of the world, we went on to Denny's at 3am after the movie, and EVERYONE WAS TALKING WoW?! The mind-virus is global!

Bastards! :-)

To be fair to the old social circles, they're scattered far and wide, so this wasn't quite the same makeup of people, but still. Deja vu. :-)

When I'm elderly and immobile, and my mind is starting to go, then I can go nuts on the MMPORGs. THEN I'll PWN you all! :-p
But until then, there is just too much magnificence to try to cram into one measly lifetime.

Sun, Mar. 11th, 2007, 02:48 am
My cameras are cursed.

Remember that new digital camera I just purchased for my trip to NZ? It's busted. Ruined. The LCD screen is borked.


So now I've got to spend yet another US$300 on yet another sodding pocket camera, meaning I will have spent over ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS just to have a bloody pocket cam.

I didn't even drop it or anything. The damage is internal (ie no cracks in the casing). Normally if something breaks after I've bought it, if it was working when I got it I'll soak the cost, but this functioned for such a short period of time (and was returned merchandise to boot) that I'll see if I can get a refund. By the time I get back to the USA though, that's probably not going to happen.

A grand for a stupid pocket camera. This sucks.

Wed, Oct. 25th, 2006, 02:08 pm
Worst nightmare

I hate trying to write CV/resume stuff about how great I am. Even writing marketing briefs intended to sell a game to publishing executives, I hate hate HATE pimping shit.

A resume is only a page or two. A mere page, yet it takes me days. Days of pain and torment.

Right now, for a visa application, I have to write something like a resume, to sell the hell out of me, to reference the things I've done, etc, but not a mere page like a resume. Unabridged. Detailed. Referenced. A stack of paper TWO INCHES THICK is often what these applications involve. All the pain of writing a resume times a million!

And my life is hanging in the balance! If a resume doesn't get the job, you can take it to another employer. This is not true of visa applications. I get one shot. If it fails, there is nothing else.

This is like a special hell designed just for me.

I am so fucked.

On the bright side, at least I'll be able to do much of it on company time.

Wed, Mar. 22nd, 2006, 07:41 am
$400 night out: paying the Stupidity Tax

Counting accessories, I lost $400 on Saturday at the noc noc when, at the 2am closing of the back area, we moved to the front, and I left my pocket camera on the table in it's black noc-noc-table-coloured sleeve.

I assumed that since the only people back there were staff wiping down the tables, they would have to have found the camera, but I asked last night if it had turned up, and it wasn't around. (I couldn't get in touch earlier, on account of them not listing a phone number).

Worse than losing the camera is that I haven't copied the memory card for several months, so I lost all the pictures, including xmas, and ones that were to be the basis of a few lj entries.

It's useless to the finder since the charging station is specialized, and replacement stations are expensive. The only thing of use, unfortunately, is the memory card... once my photos are deleted... :-(
I wonder if it went out with the trash?

New business model: Buy a bunch of $100 cameras. Put a sticker over the make & model, showing a ficticious make and model. Set up a web site and some ebay auctions that sell this imaginary make and model for $800, (showing that it's a really incredible "find" if one happened to steal one), and the accessories necessary to get a stolen one up and running come to $200, and you are the only person selling them, because it's a fictional make and model. You can see where this is going... $$$! :-)

I hate HATE H8!! shopping for cameras. It's a vast conspiracy - there are about five key features you want in a camera to make it decent, and the designers are all "hahaha, let's have all those features commonplace, just never all in the same camera!", but they don't tell you that to your face, they conspire "and then let's make FIVE MILLION different makes and models of cameras, NONE of them with any more than four out of five, so he has to find and read the specs of A MILLION CAMERAS just to learn of our trick!". Bastards. Designers suck.

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