Nov. 7th, 2011 09:40 pm
theducks: (Default)
[ profile] lizbyrd's parents + brother and sister are coming to visit over Christmas, and we're going to Tofino, on Vancouver Island with them. Should be fun. But the question comes, how do we get there?

Cause there will be 6 of us, and Priuschan seats 5. Also, the road over there is hilly and you are legally required to have winter tires (tyres) or snow chains to traverse them.

Option 1 - Rental from Avis/Budget

  • Can guarantee a van

  • Can guarantee a vehicle with winter tires

  • Can't guarantee a van with winter tires

  • $1700 for the time of our visit only - will make doing stuff in Vancouver difficult

Option 2 - Bus

  • Doesn't include transport in Tofino

  • $890 for 6 return tickets, plus maybe another pile for transport to/from bus terminal

Option 3 - Buy a minivan and sell it again (ugh)

  • Minivan - $5000

  • Winter tires - $400

  • Registration and insurance for 3 months - $660

  • Sell in 3 months -$4000?

  • So about $2000 for this option, but we'd have a minivan to do stuff around Vancouver too, and go up to Whistler in Feb

theducks: (Default)
Panels we went to, they were all REALLY amazing. We did have to spend almost an hour lining up for them though:
  • Fri: Felicia Day Spotlight
  • Sat: "Vintage Tomorrows" Sneak Preview
  • Sat: Girls Kick Butt: Strong Female heroines in young adult fantasy
  • Sun: Mad Special Video Presentation and Q&A
  • Sun: The early works of Jim Henson screening, with special "Tale of Sand" discussion
People we saw:
  • Stan Lee (comics)
  • Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
  • Peter Mayhew (Star Wars)
  • Jewel Staite (Firefly, Serenity)
  • Al Jaffee (Mad Magazine)
  • John Ficarra (Mad Magazine)
  • Ian McNeice (Dr Who, Hornblower)
  • Cory Doctorow (The Internets)
  • Kevin Sorbo (Hercules..)
  • Sandeep Parikh (The Guild)
  • .. and of course, Felicia Day (The Guild, Buffy)

Shops/artists to give props to:The artists alley is also an amazing experience.
theducks: (Default)
Soo.. just finished the first week back at work, after a week in New York City, and a week in Washington DC. I guess I didn't post about that. Oops. Sorry.

So let's re-cap!

2011-10-08 - Saturday
Left Vancouver at about noon, flew to Minneapolis, then onto Newark NJ. Arrived late, just missed a shuttle bus to NYC, and so spent 30 minutes waiting for the next one. Arrived at Port Authority Bus Station at about midnight, walked the three blocks to our hotel, Yotel Times Square. Which, since it was Saturday night, had a nightclub in the lobby. Which was a little exciting.

Bed was really hard, shower was very.. integrated into the room. But we slept.

2011-10-09 - Sunday
"Hop-on, Hop-off" tour. Which it wasn't really - took us about an hour to get going, then the bus was so packed that we didn't really want to get off. Got off around .. well, somewhere. Walked around lower Manhattan. 

2011-10-10 - Monday
Caught the bus uptown, got out at Museum of New York (which was mostly closed, but we had free entry, so.. it was ok). Walked down through Central Park, then via SMS, arranged to meet up with Anne and Sarah, two sisters from Australia who I've known via IRC since about 1995, but yet never met. So we finally did, and had a fun few hours hanging out and chatting.

Went to 5th Avenue Apple Store, got directions to nearest AT&T store, got a micro-sim for the iPad. Activation was.. less than seamless, due to the way AT&T want to check the card address. So I had to use my Australian credit card. Heh.

Went to Zen Palate on 9th avenue for dinner

2011-10-11 - Tuesday
Did a tour around the river in NYC. Very pretty. Was very pissed off at some kid who insisted we have a photo op for the $20 souvenir before the boat tour, even after I said no. Little fuck face even got in my way to prevent us boarding. Perhaps I'm more angry with myself that I didn't rip into him and just went along with it. So many belittling responses I could have used! Sigh.

Afterward, we we right next to the Intrepid Museum, so we went there and went on a tour of their Concorde. That was pretty cool. 

Had some dinner at a mexican place, then went up the Empire State Building - beautiful clear night. Accidentally backed into one of the panic buttons, probably installed after the 1997 Shooting. Oops. 

2011-10-12 - Wednesday
Went to Museum of Natural History. Had a bit of a quiet day other than that.

Caught up with tofu-cousin Janet for dinner. 

2011-10-13 - Thursday
Went to Museum of Modern Art in the afternoon, then went to Loving Hut for dinner. 

Went to Bodies in the evening, by myself. Felt quite voyeuristic, but it was interesting. And thankfully didn't smell. 

Went out for a late dinner at a Mexican place in Times Square. Very glitzy. 

2011-10-14 - Friday
New York Comic Convention - I'm actually going to write another post all about the Con, so no details on that in this one. 

Arrived just before opening, so we had to go to the end of the line to get in. Which was about a mile long. I'm not even kidding. It took us a good 15 minute walk to get to the end of the line. But there were really good about actually getting everyone in quickly. 

Went through the dealers room. Or, four football fields of dealer rooms. 

Met up with Anja, an old friend of mine from Mandurah, who through various connections, now works in the US, and happened to be at NYCC too!

2011-10-15 - Saturday
New York Comic Convention

Walked along the Elevated Railway Park, back to the Convention Center.

2011-10-16 - Sunday
New York Comic Convention

Went to an awesome Korean Vegetarian place for dinner, called Hangawi

2011-10-17 - Monday
Train to Washington DC. Worked out Metro system via internets on the train using my iPad. The future is pretty awesome. As mentioned vaguely on twitter, I was thinking of a similar trip I took back in 1998, where I pondered the possibility of one day being able to see my location as we travelled. Yeah, iPad with GPS + 3G internets is pretty awesome at that. 

Did laundry - I wish we had awesome washer/dryers here. 

2011-10-18 - Tuesday
Went to Bureau of Printing and Engraving Tour. Saw about half a billion dollars cash in production. Niiice. 

Walked to Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, then walked past The White House

I went to the Holocaust Museum in the afternoon. It's really well done, I can't say enough good about it. 

2011-10-19 - Wednesday
Went to Museum of the American Indian, just for lunch. They have an amazing selection. Loved it.

Then headed to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in the National Mall. 

2011-10-20 - Thursday
Met up with [ profile] shifuimam! After knowing her on LJ for the last 4 years or so, and chatting/debating a fair bit, it was really good to finally meet her. Went to the Air and Space Annex at Dulles Airport with her and her boyfriend. Good fun. Then back to her place, saw some of her geeky toys and her kitties.

Had hoped to meet up with [ profile] punquin for dinner, but her husband had to cancel, so.. maybe next time for her. 

2011-10-21 - Friday
Met up with C+J again, went to National Museum of American History. Saw the original Stars and Stripes flag, Dorothy's red shoes from the Wizard of Oz, and a bunch of other cool stuff. Went to the National Archives, saw the original Declaration of Independence

We went to the H Street Country Club for dinner with them, which is a bar with mini golf. Good fun :D

2011-10-22 - Saturday
Went to National Zoo. Saw Pandas. 

Went to National Museum of Natural History. Saw cool stuff.

2011-10-23 - Sunday

Met up with [ profile] shifuimam+J again, did lunch, hung out at Tyson's Corner, saw the Lego Store, the first Apple Store, then they dropped us at the airport for our flight.

All in all, it was a really good trip :)
theducks: (Default)
RIP Steve Jobs by theducks
RIP Steve Jobs, a photo by theducks on Flickr.

I could write a lot about Steve Job's death, but a lot of it has been said by others, and said well. I'll take the anonymous proverb, sometimes mis-attributed to Dr Seuss -

theducks: (Default)
Now that it's Thursday, I have to time to write about what I did last weekend..

Friday night: Picked up former UWA co-worker [ profile] torque_635 from the airport. Went to Aberdeen Mall to show off Lamborghini dealership. Drove around Richmond, showing off the sights. Went to Cronos for dinner, then back to apartment. Showed him around the carpark while he drooled over some of the cars in it.

Saturday: Took [ profile] torque_635 to UBC to show off some stuff, then along spanish banks into downtown. Did a bit of a tour through Stanley Park, then out of the city via East Hastings. Went to Hananoki for lunch - had deep fried Sushi and other tasty noms.

Dropped Liz off, then went to Lansdowne mall and bought a 100mm f/2.8L IS lens for my camera. Very spiffy. Went to Richmond Centre, he got some tea and saw the large Apple store, then we came back so he could pack up to go to another friend's place and we could pack for a weekend away. Dropped him off at his friend's place (nearby), then headed down to the border - 3 quick questions and they let us in, then drove to Tumwater for the evening. 

Sunday: Drove to Portland in the morning, and went to the Portland Zoo (Photos here). Took many photos. 100mm macro lens is also a good 100mm regular lens, and a lot less.. erm.. attention getting than the 100-400mm I have. And lighter. Tried to go to Portland Rose Garden, but it was too busy, so we went to Voodoo Donuts instead. I got one with Froot Loops on top. Met up with [ profile] vampireborg , [ profile] vampireborg  and Dawn at Old Wives Tales for dinner, as is out habit for Portland, then dropped them off, and headed off to McMinnville for the night. 

Arrived in McMinnville and saw that the crazy dudes of Evergreen Aviation had indeed built a waterpark inside a 747, but that it was closed for the evening. Went to Walmart looking for swimwear, but were unsuccessful in finding some appropriate. Went back to hotel and off to bed. 

Monday: Woke up early to get to Evergreen at 9AM when they opened. Saw the Spruce Goose and lots of other cool plane and spacecraft thingies. How do they get all this cool stuff? Well, they're essentially a front for the CIA, depending on who you ask, anyway. Saw a 3D IMAX film about the development of the 787, went to the Space Section of the museum, and then scuttled off to Eugene to see the always delightful [ profile] tygati. Had dinner with her and housemate M in an old converted railway passenger car, then hung out for a while chatting and watching stuff. Stayed on their airbed.

Tuesday: Left Eugene at 11AM to head back to Vancouver, some 680kms. Stopped.. many times along the way, both to break up the driving, and to get fuel (a full tank on a North American spec Prius does about 550kms, vs I'm told almost 950kms on an Australian one, thanks to a fuel bladder to reduce emissions slightly). Got to Seattle near the beginning of rush hour, but took the express lanes that go under the city and avoided most of it. Yay! Did some plane spotting at Boeing Paine Field in Everett, while Elizabeth finished her book before taking over driving. So many brand new 787 and 747-8's waiting for certification and delivery.

Entry back into Canada was only a 10 minute wait and pretty quick. Stopped off at shops on way home to get milk. The future is almost awesome - self checkout, but my credit card's paywave chip is broken, so I actually had to put it in a machine. In bed by 11PM, then up for work at 6:30AM the next day.
theducks: (Default)
.. and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.

Actually, I didn't get a t-shirt.

Despite long layovers getting there, the TSA and lots of humidity, we had a great time.

Day 0:

Left Vancouver in the afternoon, flew to LAX. Yay pre-clearance of US customs and immigration in Canada.

LAX is.. almost indescribable. You have to make an effort to make an airport this bad. We arrived and had to change terminals. You'd think that's reasonably common right? The sort of thing you'd put signs up saying how to do. Guess again!

We had a few hours in LAX, then flew to Miami (MIA). The LAX/MIA flight was 100% full, every overhead bin, every seat. Also, "overnight" and a 4 hour time change forwards, so we arrived in MIA at 1AM Vancouver time, 5AM Miami time. Sleep? Ha! But to make it easy on us, they played Rio on the overhead LCDs - so good luck trying to sleep with bright flashing colours in your eyes.

Liz and I got a few hours sleep on the floor at MIA before getting up to find some breakfast and catch our plane to San Jose (SJO). Which is a 3 hour change backwards.

Day 1:

We met up with [ profile] lizbyrd's sister, Caitlin, in the throngs of people at San Jose Costa Rica airport, and got a pre-arranged shuttle to the apartment hotel I booked for us.

Checked in, showered, then slept a bit (yay disrupted sleep!). E+C went out and got salsa, refried beans, corn chips and tortillas from a nearby shop, and we had some snacks. Did lots of chatting and planning, planned a trip to a butterfly farm for the next day. Had Quiznos for dinner - ordered in spanish.

Day 2:

Went to butterfly farm. It was in an urban-fringe type area, and I was not disappointed in my stereotypes of central America. Most of the buildings had tin roofs, and wandering chickens and dogs. Also, the roads had giant pot holes.

Day 3:

Took a day trip through the countryside. Included a river boat trip spotting animals, authentic Costa Rican lunch and a ski-lift/sky-tram through the forrest canopy. Nice and relaxing.

Day 4:

Went to downtown San Jose. Plans was to check out the gold museum and banking museum. Unfortunately they were both mostly closed for renovation. Downtown San Jose is.. not very nice. Sort of, get-out-of-town-before-sunset type not nice. But we survived ok, and caught public buses in and out. It was an experience.

Day 5:

Tour to Irazú volcano. Saw volcano - no lava though. Got irascible at Irazú due to misunderstanding of meeting places and subsequently having to expend a lot of energy at high altitudes. But it all worked out in the end. Went to Lankester Gardens, took many photos of flowers.

Back at the hotel, tried doing laundry. Dryer didn't work, but the staff pre-emptively fixed that by drying it in their industrial dryer and returning it to us mostly folded. Yay!

Day 6:

Tour to Monteverde. Driver was an hour late, then we got stuck for almost an hour on the pan-american highway due to protestors. Admired Police for their restraint and for protecting the protestors - I would guarantee doing the same thing in Australia would get you pepper-sprayed and hauled off in flex-cuffs quicker than you could say "We want.." Drive to Monteverde was up 15kms of an amazingly bumpy dirt road in a Toyota Hiace. It took almost an hour up, and 30 minutes down. Went on a walking tour through forrest and over suspension bridges. Saw a Queztel, but didn't have my 400mm lens on, so only got a crappy photo. But it was fun :)

Day 7:

Packed and off to the airport. SJO-MIA-LAX. No US Customs pre-clearance, so arrived in Miami and had to do a massive trek through the terminal to get to Customs, then waiting in line for an hour. Yaaaay. Then re-check bags, re-clear security, get to gate with a few minutes to spare, wolf down dinner.. then the plane to LAX is delayed by an hour due to lightning. Doh! Uneventful flight to LAX, picked up at airport by E+C's cousin Nadine, dropped off at hotel near her place, shower, and sleep by 2AM.

Day 8:

Photos from LA. Breakfast at hotel, shared table and chatted with couple from Teax. Walk to beach, meet Caitlin (staying at cousin's place near beach). Wander around, watch the beginning of Smackfest, a beach volleyball tournament. Back to Nadine's place, then back to beach where C+N swim, Elizabeth and I watch and soak up the rays, have some brunch/second breakfast, meet up with Nadine's husband Anthony. Back to their place, then brave LA highways, go to lookout over Hollywood sign. Brave more freeways, tourists, drive through Sunset strip, Rodeo drive, Beverley Hills, go to La Brea Tarpits. Dinner at swanky little restaurant, back to N+A's place, chat till 11PM, walk back to hotel.

Day 9:

Mini-breakfast at hotel, including made on the spot waffle (om nom nom). Checked out and picked up from hotel, brunch again with C+N+A. Went to BestBuy, picked over the carcass of a Borders store. Had ice cream. Hung out and chatted with them some more, then off to the airport, sad goodbyes with Caitlin and flight back to YVR. In bed by 11:30PM, and then up for work the next morning!


Wonderful to see Caitlin again. Costa Rica was as imagined and really nice. Packed efficiently.
theducks: (Alex Mountie)
There's some roadwork going on along our normal route to/from work, which is pretty annoying - it adds about 20 minutes per day - so we're taking a slightly different way home.

Anyway, last night on the way from work we stopped off and got some bread from a 7-11.

This wasn't the first time I've been to this 7-11. In fact, I've stopped off at this 7-11 quite a number of times over the last 12 years.

Yes, twelve years.

You see, while we only moved here nigh on 2 years ago, I've been visiting Vancouver on and off since 1999. In fact, I would have actually been here 30 years ago if I hadn't broken my arm. And indeed, I may have been to that 7-11 in 1982. But anyway.

When visiting Vancouver in 1999 and 2002, I stayed with my uncle's sister, who lives just around the corner from this 7-11. I remember stopping in there many times on the way to or from expeditions downtown, as the bus stop is just across the road from it. I also visited it on my 2003 and our 2006 visits to Vancouver.

If future me (see above) had stopped me in the store back then, I can imagine some interesting conversations.

"One day you and your wife will stop here for a loaf of bread, on your way home from work"
"Oh, ok. That's interesting"
"Your Australian wife"

I'm the sentimental kind, and like the flights of fancy from thinking of places being touch-points at vastly different times in your life.
theducks: (Default)

For our upcoming trip to Costa Rica, I wanted a cheap computer to take along. And I'll be damned if it was going to be running Windows.Not bad for $237+tax

theducks: (Default)
We have been informed that sadly Stylish Design, our Australia car, a 1989 Toyota Corona, is written off, following an accident.

Elizabeth's aunt was driving it to the mechanics for a service, and her uncle was in a Landcruiser behind it. On taking off from a stop sign, the car stalled (as it would sometimes), and the Landcruiser smashed into it, causing significant damage to a car that was only worth $1500 on a good day. Obviously we're primarily concerned about her aunt being ok, but since she IS ok, let us indulge here a bit..

Having the car down in Perth was helpful to both Elizabeth's parents and to us for our flying visits back there. Sentimentally it also held a special place for us, with Elizabeth getting it just as we started going out, me learning to drive in it, all the trips we took, from Geraldton to Albany and out to Cunderdin. Of our friends in the back seat, trying valiantly to get the seatbelts to work ("Just pull it slowly. Angle it up!"). Sigh :)

Our car near the Geraldton Lighthouse
theducks: (Alex Mountie)
Went down to Seattle on the weekend and went to concerts by Panic at the Disco, Fun and Tim Minchin.

Tim Minchin was my only first time there too. We'd seen Panic at the Disco in Perth some years ago and fun. up here in Vancouver a few months ago.

I used to know someone with a Mark Twain quote in his signature, that said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness". My opinions of the guy in question are.. not worth repeating, but the quote is at least true.

Putting aside the whole issue of how amazingly mind blowing it is to go to another country for a concert, all of my previous trips to the US had been as a tourist, or a business visitor. I didn't really feel I connected with the people there as part of their society. But this was different - I spent two nights in a row with hundreds of Americans and we were all having a really good time. I think those two nights broke down a lot of barriers in my mind about them and us, whoever "them" and "us" are.

The language of fun is universal it seems.
theducks: (Default)
 Over the last few months, I've really become a big fan of Perth boy Tim Minchin. Of all the ways I could have really looked into his music, I was reminded of my desire to look into it by a co-worker of mine here in Vancouver.

Being relevant to my interests, I found out he was playing in Seattle, and was initially in a quandary, since it was at the same time as another show that Elizabeth wanted to see on the other side of Seattle. Thankfully he put on a second show, so we both went to the one Elizabeth wanted to see on Friday, then I went to Tim's show last night.

So I spent my Saturday night in the Neptune Theater of Seattle, with about 600 other people, watching the son of a high school friend of my mother's as he played:
He's an incredibly talented musician and pianist, and has amazing comic timing too. In the stilted timings of a guest of Adventure World in the early 2000s: "It was really good."
theducks: (Alex Mountie)
Do you ever get the feeling that you have much to say, then you sit down to type it into update.bml, and almost forget it all?

Part the first - des vacances
- We're going to Seattle on the weekend, and seeing Panic at the disco and fun on friday night, and Tim Minchin on saturday night. Awes. May also see [ profile] daguppian, for the first time since 1999.

- In mid July, we're going to Costa Rica, to meet up with [ profile] lizbyrd's sister, since it's a lot closer than Canberra, and to see some of central America. It's our first time going to a non-first world nation, and today we're getting poked with various engineered compounds to keep us well.

- In August we're planning a weekend away in Oregon

- In October, we're planning on a visit to NY (don't think any of you live there?) and Washington (sup [ profile] stvlive and [ profile] shifuimam!)

- In December, Elizabeth's parents and brother and sister are coming to visit for Christmas. Plans are for the Island somewhere. We should book that soon.

Part the second - nous voiture
Following an unexpected encounter with a bike trailer, 'er majesty's Crown Corporation, The Insurance Company of British Columbia saw it fit to pay for a good whack of repairs to our car, and in for a penny, in for a pound, we also paid to get some other stuff fixed, original paint damage from before we bought it, and a few dents from not being quite used to its size/shape in relation to our parking garage.

It took a week longer than quoted, the car smells of paint, and the paint job is definitely not concours standard, but it is a whole lot better than it was.

For those interested in the source of the original covered damage, we were driving along one day, and a guy on a bike on the footpath was riding in the same direction. As we passed him, the rope fixation of his trailer came loose, and it fell into the road and onto our car, scratching from passenger mirror to rear bumper. Yeah. We stopped and talked to him, and the trailer had contained all the cooking and camping gear he used living on the streets. Feeling sorry for him and glad he was well, we went on our way.

When we bought the car, the hood (bonnet) and front bumper were covered in paint chips, and the day after we got it, I backed it into a pillar in our parking spot, injuring the rear bumper, quarter panel and cracking the tail light assembly. Then, while heading off to Whistler with [ profile] droneboy in August 2010, I misjudged another pillar in our garage and scraped the rear door and quarter panel. Awesome, huh? We had a quote to fix all of this stuff for $1400. With the covered damage from the bike trailer, it was only $1100 to fix it, but since the other "driver" could not be contacted, it was a $300 excess, or .. $1400 in total. But at least I get $15 back from my 1% cash rewards credit card.


Part the third - en été

It's summer! Trees are blooming, birds are singing, it's not longer 10C and rainy. What a time to be alive!

We went out for dinner last night at our local Cactus Club Cafe, and sat on the "patio", as Canadians so politely term it. As it was also the equinox, despite it being almost 7PM, it was still broad daylight. As it was until 9:30PM. Thanks Canada. Thanada.

Part the forth - le immigration

There has been a postal strike in Canada for the last week or two, so no mail. Apparently it's being sorted out (through legislating them back to work.. possibly the only option, given some of the demands were less money and more totally reshaping Canada Post's business model to keep existing staffing levels in face of declining mail volume)

This is related since it will soon be 20 weeks since we submitted our Permanent Residency applications, which is the timeframe for initial notification of receipt of application. We sent it registered mail, and you can see on the website that it was accepted by Immigration Canada, but this is the one where they tell us we completed the craft project successfully. Hopefully.

This weekend also marks 2 years since we arrived here in Canada. It's been a lot of fun, so we're sticking around for now. I still miss the old country, and eagerly await [ profile] jedinic's return, hopefully with Minties and musk sticks. Tonight we cut up a fresh pineapple - first time I'd ever done that. Good fun. On Saturday we found the last White Knight we brought back from Perth in Jan (it had been in the freezer), and we nommed it good and proper.

But it's not just the food I miss, it's the people too. It was sad not to be able to go to [ profile] silverai's wedding, and seeing [ profile] paperishcup in a video of it made me a bit teary, and it's been sad not to be around for [ profile] mkj and Susie's first child being born.

More of you should add me on Skype - I'm on there :P

Yesterday was National Aboriginal Day here in Canada. This is related, since 12 years ago I was also in Vancouver, and remember going to an exhibition in Robson Square. If future me had come up to me at the time and told me that in 12 years time I was going to be living in Vancouver, I would have been somewhat surprised, and my initial guess at possible reasoning would have been way off.

As I posted on twitter some time ago: "Short version: Adult life turns out fine. You'll never see where I am now from where you are now, but you like surprises, right? #tweetyour16yearoldself"

Part the fifth - le travail

Still the Manager of the Systems team, all 16 of them (14 of whom are older than me). I suppose it gets to a point where that doesn't matter, and I suspect I'm approaching that, but it's still a change from Arts, where of the 21 in my 3 teams, only 7 were older than me. We're interviewing for a new Manager this week and next, which should be good. I'm on the interview/selection panel for it, and I'm not motivated to apply for it, partially because it's only $50/week more, but also because it would mean a definitive move away from tech, and I don't think that's for the good of the organisation or really what I want right now.

I read through about 65 resumes for 3 jobs yesterday. Too much braining. But being on the hiring side of things does give you a good insight into how to write resumes. Looks like some good candidates there. I seem to have ended up on a lot of hiring committees this year. It's nice to be trusted, but I sometimes wonder if I volunteer because I don't trust other people to make these sort of decisions. Then I remember our helpdesk guy who insisted he could only give me a USB switch, not a USB hub, but that would be ok, since it was faster. So it's clear some people can't be /o\

It has been mandated that we start tracking how staff time is spent, in broad categories like maintenance, projects, admin and leave. Where have I heard that before? Hmm! Today I get to break the news to my team that we need to do it, and defend something that I know in their position I'd probably be initially peeved about. But I think it's a good thing.

Ahh yes, UCS, circa 2005. I wrote an application back then to do it (remember [ profile] erikan, [ profile] mtearle and [ profile] grahame? :). I found a copy of it all, except the SQL schema, in a uuencoded attachment. So I've dusted it off, and mostly rewritten it (No longer requires Tcl/tk! now has client authentication! No longer requires pop3 auth to cyllene to login!) I hope that showing off this application and offering it to them will help with acceptance, as well as explaining the motivations behind the reporting requirement - transformation goals of moving from being reactive to proactive, avoiding overloading us with project work.

It was also fun to do some PHP again, after 3 years since I did much, and 6 years since I did a medium sized app like this. Elizabeth helped, and showed me in detail something she'd done for her team. jquery is pretty awesome, even though I didn't use it in mine.

In other news, we ipv6 enabled the university's main website, and I took the opportunity to setup ipv6 on my linode host, so is also ipv6 enabled. I just need to make like an animated TRON duck or something to display to ipv6 viewers.

So that about wraps up this mega update..
#604insomnia, brought to you by Coca-Cola with dinner. A bad idea since 1886.

Dear LJ

Jun. 8th, 2011 08:54 pm
theducks: (Alex Mountie)
It has been 11 days since my last update.

I find it only fitting to use LJ to post song lyrics.

In this case, Wonderwall, by Oasis

Today was gonna be the day?
But they'll never throw it back to you

So funny story, we had plane tickets booked to go back to Singapore today as the return leg of our trip back here in Jan 2011. We haven't taken them. This means we are for most intents and purposes, now stuck in Canada. Our next planned trip to Australia will be Feb/Mar 2012, 8 months away, which is more than the 12 months we get on the return leg from our last trip to Aus.

We would have loved to have taken them, for many reasons, especially [ profile] silverai's wedding, and seeing Perth peeps, and not "wasting" the $500 or so difference there was between a one-way from Perth and a return, but we would have needed to take leave without pay, and for both our jobs right now that isn't a good option, and there are costs (like, we'd need to get back from Perth to come back to work, we'd need accommodation in perth..) which meant that the $500 was the "cheap" option.

So here we stay for now, quasi-Canadians. The sort with less rights, and the same taxes.

.. but I still get whistful when I listen to Tim Minchin's "White Wine in the Sun" (also, we're going to see him in two weeks! yay!)

theducks: (Default)
As I write this, I see many people on the twitters and facebooks posting a quote supposedly from Martin Luther King Jr, which posits:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Not forgeting Gahndi's

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

Or Yoda's

"Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering"

The US spent 14 years and over $1 Trillion finding Bin Laden, and surrrprise surprise, he was shot while resisting capture. "Dead or Alive", as George W put it. All we can do now is move forward and make change you can believe in, erm, amends, and try to not let it happen again. Yeah, right.

Yoda was spot on, for the record.

It probably goes without saying for most of you reading this, that you are aware that morality is relative, based on where you're standing. Some people though, don't agree/quite remember that Right and Wrong are moral choices. For the most part, it is difficult to judge people based on morality other than your own. Sure, as society we have moral standards, but many are not rigidly black and white, there's a lot of gray.

Given the audience I have for this post, I'll put this out here - chances are, you're not American. Some of you are, sure, but you're more likely to be either Australian, Canadian or "other" (Hi Rosie!). The fact is, they are a different culture. Sure, there are plenty of similarities, similar language, but we do have individual identities. Thankfully.

As a trope, many people think of blood magic as inherently evil, regardless of the intent.

Many people think that about celebrating a death too, regardless of the victim. It's just something you _don't do ever_.

And you're allowed to think that, regardless of why. Such is your own individual moral choice. But this is one of those areas for me where it's a grey area of morality. Celebrating a death isn't going to make someone more dead. How many layers of abstraction do you need to place between a death and the results of someone's passing before it becomes ok to say that the change is good? Does that abstraction really do any good? Aren't they still morally the same?

What is the difference between saying "I'm glad SEAL team six launched a 40 person assault on a compound in Abbotobad Pakistan and shot Osama Bin Laden in the eye" and saying "I'm glad that Al-Qaeda no longer has a definitive figurehead"? I see them as equivalent, if somewhat differently phrased ways of portraying the same thing.

Let me Godwin this out for you: how is "I'm glad the Nazi's were defeated" different from "I'm glad allied troops took back Europe from Nazi forces by killing anyone who didn't surrender?".

If you launch a war of aggression, and murder thousands of innocent civilians, you and I clearly have some different opinions on how to influence people and what is right and proper behaviour, and I'm happy for you to be dealt with under your own moral code.

I'm sad that they were unable to capture Osama Bin Laden and bring him to trial, however his moral views would have had no problem with the manner of his death, and if he didn't mind, I don't believe we should either. There are more important things to address now. Reducing everything to soundbites and metaphor reduces the ability to rationally discuss, but.. "live by the sword, die by the sword". He styled himself as a warrior, who brought death to innocents, on the assumption that he would one day die, preferably in battle.

I saw comments calling for his body to smeared with pigs blog and strung up outside the White House. Some people over-react, and I'm happy with calling them out for it to. The US did the right thing in giving him a mostly religiously appropriate burial. In much the same way that the location of Hitler's death is now a parking lot, you would not want his burial location to be used as a shrine. It showed their respect for his religion, even if he corrupted that religion for his own ideals.

The actual operation raises a number of questions - particularly about Pakistan's sovereign rights to not have US armed forces kill people inside its borders, but the dynamic of terrorism and how to fight it is not one that respects diplomatic norms. I'm sure the US will say sorry and promise that if they ever have to catch-or-kill Osama Bin Laden again, they'll ask first. But they're not going to say anything about Mullah Omar. It's all very well to use the Niemoller quote of "at first they came for the X [..] then when they came for me, there was no-one left", but it's not a slope that is that slippery. For anyone else, they'll just get your government to extradite you.

The information that lead to this assault apparently came out of a US detainee. I don't know where, and I don't know how. I'm hoping it wasn't torture, because there are fates worse than death, and that is one of them. We are the good guys, we shouldn't do that. I am hoping that the reason Guantanamo Bay was kept open this long was because they got it from someone in there, and they did not want that person talking before they could act on it. Wikileaks very nearly gave the game away, last week releasing a report mentioning a courier for Osama Bin Laden based out of Abbottabad.

I'll put it out there: I'm against the death penalty, I'm not in favour of wars of aggression, and I'm glad he has been "neutralised", however it occurred. In this case, I think the ends justify the means, as they sometimes do, and that's a moral call on my part. I know I couldn't be the guy going in with the SMG killing people, but that's why I'm not in the military. This is also why we have a military, to do distasteful things on our behalf.

Were I in Obama's place and had the head of the CIA come up to me and say "We're 99.99% sure we've found Bin Laden. Can I send a 40 man team into Pakistan to capture or kill him?", I'm confident I would say yes. But that doesn't make it any easier.

Conventional wisdom/morality is easy to understand because we've seen the paths that decisions lead in, the normal ones and the outliers. We know the risks. The problem is that there are situations where normal morality doesn't apply easily, because the questions are so uncommon that there is not an adequate amount outcomes to evaluate. The classic questions here are the ticking timebomb/torture scenario and survival lottery scenarios. By not taking the morally reprehensible option, you are making things far worse than the consequences of taking the option.

I'm glad that the news of his defeat has helped give closure to many in the US and around the world who were affected by his acts. If 300 of your co-workers were killed on someone's orders, wouldn't you be at least a little bit glad to see him gone? How about 3000 people from your town? Your city? At what point does it become not ok?

Bin Laden was more than a person to many on both sides of the equation. The inability to catch or kill him gnawed at the western world, but particularly the American consciousness. He was the boogeyman strawman in so many positions taken by people, both good and bad, to justify their actions, both good and bad. I have great anger towards him for the measures our governments have taken in his name that erode our freedoms and civil liberties. I'm not thrilled with them either, but we have elections, a way to theoretically make them change. I am glad he now cannot be used as an argument to influence, as it will be a harder sell to continue them in the future.

The biggest surprise to me was as Obama announced the details of his death. I was expecting something along the lines of "grave/bones found/dna testing complete". I thought he was long dead. The fact he was killed in the last 72 hours is something I can't get over.

What I'm really looking forward to is what happens next. We've killed the bogeyman. Job well done, now let's get rid of all the blankets we put up to keep him out.


Apr. 10th, 2011 02:57 pm
theducks: (Default)
I am finding myself fascinated by people restoring classic Australian (Holden) cars.. it kinda started when looking up stuff about painting cars. I like a nice fresh coat of paint on a car, it seems. If I didn't do IT, I think it's what I'd like to do. But that's a flight of fancy that doesn't really make sense at this time :)

I'm also amused by them having totally separate communities for each model.

.. and of course
theducks: (Alex Mountie)

Oh Canada, how cute you are in your politeness.

Last night we took the Canada line downtown for [ profile] jedinic's birthday. The train was crowded. What didn't help was that there were some seats spare. But of course, Canadians being polite.. no-one would take them, since other people were standing. I've also seen this happen on buses. They'll be packed with people standing, but then there will still be empty seats.

It gets to a point where it's counter-productive. People can't get on because standing room is full.. but there's still seats.

Frustrating politeness.
theducks: (Default)
Hi LJ, remember me?

Last night I started using X-Plane, a flight sim, and because I'm a chump, I didn't start with the easy aircraft, no, I started with something big..

Fast forward a few minutes to loud buzzing noises. Elizabeth goes "Can you turn that off? It's annoying"

"You think you have problems? I'm about to crash a 747!"


In other news..

It's still raining here, but at least there's sunlight when we go to work, and when we come home. There was a time there when we were only getting sunlight during lunchtime. That was annoying


I made two blag posts on the internets about cool stuff I've done at work. Basically setup an easy way to recover any of our VMs, or any file from any of our VMs. Will save us a _lot_ of time, and it's far simpler than the recommended method from the storage vendor. Vmware + NetApp + NFS = ♥


Also on the work front, we upgraded 32 servers from 72GB of RAM to 144GB of RAM. This involved taking out 576 pieces of RAM, and putting in another 576 pieces. I'm just lucky I have a large and co-operative team. It took ages. Also, we did it to servers running vmware, and vmotion is awesome, so no-one noticed any impact.


One final work thing.. the Australian count at UBCIT is now at 5 - up from one when I started. I approve. A Business Analyst from Tasmania has started in the office next to ours. Liz and I did lunch with her yesterday.


Went to a Centre for Inquiry (CFI) "Skeptics in the pub" meetup at the prompting of co-worker Fred. They're good people - I enjoyed myself. For an added bonus, it was held here in Richmond.


My right index finger is sore for unknown reasons. I hope it feels better soon.


Canadian Election has been called. I don't hold much hope that people will vote any differently to the last few times, I only hope that the other parties form a coalition straight away, rather than waiting and letting the government pull the proroguing trick it did the last time they tried.


Co-worker pointed me to this writeup by a Professor from Wisconsin who is being harassed by the Wisconsin Republican party with an open-records request for all his email following a critical blogpost by him. The professor hopes the Republicans will see sense about why they should withdraw their FOIA request for his email. I don't share his hope - watching Wisconsin from afar, it seems the Republican party there is a cross between the know-nothings and fascists.


I have of late become interested with the idea of building a virtual pinball cabinet, like these guys. The thing is though, I haven't played pinball in years, so I'm not sure spending $2000-3000 on it would be a good idea... but have I note played it because I can't, or because I don't want to? It's fun to dream though, right? :)


That's it for this update of LJ!


Mar. 2nd, 2011 09:33 pm
theducks: (Default)
Watching Hoarders tonight..

One of the consistant themes from these hoarders is worry about throwing things out because they might have to buy them again.

I went through our financial records from moving in here - a good starting point right? We moved over here with 4 suitcases, and had to buy everything else. We're pretty happy here - we live reasonably sparsely, but even then, not too boringly.

Anyway.. everything we bought over here initially to set up a house cost us $6000 - including $2000 of LCD TV/DVR. It came with a dishwasher/fridge/freezer/washer/dryer, which made things cheaper, but it's nice to know that you can start over for that little.
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