Amazingly, we are somewhat back on track! I fiddled with Gronk a bit more, and Melissa got some work done. We also got our landlord to help us charge up the battery on the car, speculated on the cause of the problem—which may be related to the alarm I didn't know I had—and took a turn around the neighborhood, discovering that the evil Safeway was closed, as was the dollar store, so we're still dangerously low on milk. Oh, well.
January 1, 2001 (Mon)
January 2, 2001 (Tue)
I received a terrifying telephone call around noon from Immigration Canada, who were finally processing the application for an extension to my vistor status I filed last September. Lots of questions, but in the end they said they'd issue a new document. Afterwards I felt pretty ill (adrenaline'll do that), but that's a huge load off my mind.
Also, the car seems to be behaving with its new charge. We've tried flipping the mystery switch to its other position, and we'll also try to be sure to drive it a bit more often (as it is, we often only drive it once a week, and over the Christmas–New Year's holiday, we actually left it for close to two and a half weeks).
We went to the grocery store today, and also checked Grand and Toy in hopes of finding some of these Stabilo 's move pens that Phil Agre mentioned in a recent message he sent to his Red Rock Eater list. They sound neat, but I don't know if anyone actually sells them. I did send mail to Stabilo, though, so maybe they'll get back to me.
While we were in the mall, we also stopped at the T&T Supermarket, a wild Asian food store that features (among other things) live fish (killed for you on request!) and more kinds of bizarre snack and dessert foods than you can shake a stick at. We went in search of rice crackers, because I just couldn't believe that CN$5 was a reasonable price for a 500 g bag. We ended up paying about CN$4.50 for some “Cajun-flavoured” ones that claim to be “North American's Favourite Snack!” Unlikely, but they're pretty good.
January 3, 2001 (Wed)
After suffering assorted aches and pains, we thought we'd get a massager with a heater, which led us to London Drugs. After some debate, we got it down to three models, a small handheld Dr. Scholl's (CN$19.95), a medium-sized Pollinex (CN$19.95, on clearance), and a large Dr. Scholl's (CN$39.95). They all seemed to do roughly the same things—they had heat, they had massage, they plugged into the wall.
But were they any good?
The obvious way to answer that question is to plug 'em in and see. But the folks in the pharmacy were too self-important to help out customers, and the folks on the floor couldn't find an electrical socket that was less than seven or eight feet off the floor (above the top shelf, basically). So they sent us to the customer service desk at the front of the store.
The woman there was willing to let us try, but the nearest socket was near the closest cash register, and she couldn't leave the customer service desk 'til someone else appeared to cover her. So we cooled our heels. After a few minutes, another young woman showed up, and searched in vain for the socket. After some calling back and forth, she found it (way back in the cabinet beneath the cash register). We opened the small massager, she plugged it in, and we turned it on.
At first I wasn't sure it was on, but by putting my hand directly on its active end, I could feel it. Barely. It was clearly not strong enough. Okay, then, on to the next one.
The girl decided we should try the $40 one next, but she couldn't get the box open. And, while trying, she managed to create a huge tear down the front of the box. Whoops. She claimed the box couldn't be opened, and moved on to the medium-sized (and priced) one, which proved to be enclosed in a plastic bag that was “sealed” with a piece of cellophane tape. Which she refused to remove, as doing so would mean that no one would buy the massager, and they would have to return it to the manufacturer to be resealed.
I pointed out that we could easily reseal it; that if we bought it and returned it, they'd still have to send it back; and, finally, that if she wouldn't open the thing so we could try it, we were most definitely not buying it, but she wouldn't budge. So we didn't (try it or buy it), and they'll have to send the $40 one with the torn box back (or mark it down substantially). Who won, exactly?
January 5, 2001 (Fri)
We got to see The 6th Day tonight, and it was pretty good. I'm not sure what happened here, but I definitely sensed that there was a deeper movie (à la Gattaca) just beneath the surface, and big echoes of Blade Runner (the question about the turtles in the desert and the syncording devices) as well as purer Dickian ideas, poking through from time to time. But still fun, especially the amazing Vancouver locations! (Some notables: The giant sulfur pile in North Vancouver, seen behind Arnie's head in the autopiloted truck scene; the whisper jet pad in Stanley Park; the big car chase scene that involves crashing through the middle of the Simon Fraser University complex (in front of the library); the exterior of police headquarters (B.C. Place stadium) and its interior (West Mall Complex at SFU); and, of course, evil headquarters, played by downtown Vancouver's Library Square.)
We're looking forward to seeing Antitrust, which was also shot in and around Vancouver (including SFU (mostly exteriors—that ziggurat-like building you can see in the promos is at SFU) and UBC's CompSci department).
January 6, 2001 (Sat)
Melissa's birthday! We went out to see Best in Show (also shot in Vancouver!) at the Hollywood with some friends. It was funny, but perhaps not quite as funny as the crowd seemed to think. Afterwards, we sampled yet another approximation of Mexican food adjusted for the Canadian palate. Sometimes I miss California.
Melissa's big present was a pretty nice SCSI/USB scanner, so someday maybe I'll add some photographs to the site....
January 8, 2001 (Mon)
Caleb Carr (author of The Alienist) believes that it's time to regulate the Internet to prevent it from being taken over completely by corporations.
I can't say I agree. Like pretty much everyone who argues in favor of government intervention, Carr believes that everyone's freedom should be sharply curtailed so that children and stupid people who can't evaluate the veracity of information can be protected from themselves, and so that “evil” people (i.e., paedophiles) can be prevented from gaining access to children.
No thanks. I'm all for the end of corporate domination, and I'm not especially enthused about the idea of children being abused, but having “the government” (as if only one government has jurisdiction, and any government could really control anything in a meaningful way) dictate what can and cannot appear on the 'Net is hardly a reasonable solution, nor do I think that suspending the constitutional rights of the majority to protect a minority is justifiable. Maybe, instead of licenses for content, we should have tests to verify that people are smart enough to evaluate what they read instead of accepting it at face value before they're allowed on the 'Net. Why should a lie told by a Web author be considered more heinous (and receive less constitutional protection) than one that appears in the pages of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal? Can anyone really believe that the same lie told in all three places would be more readily accepted when read on the Web site than in the pages of one of the two “papers of record”?
On a happier note, Salon also has an interview with Ian MacKaye, of Fugazi and Dischord Records fame. “Most people I know who use Napster listen to stuff they've never heard before. And then they get psyched and go out and buy the damn records. It's more like a sampler.” Exactly.
And, in the interest of adding more links to balance the excessively personal content of previous entries, if you like maps, check out TopoZone.com, which offers topographic maps of the U.S. It's a great way to show your SO all the places where you used to do crazy things (such as skip along the edge of thirty-foot cliffs, leaping from rock to rock as though you were immortal—remember those days?).
January 9, 2001 (Tue)
Today we bought an Ultra-66 IDE controller for tenby, our PC, and hit the grocery store. Melissa spent most of the day and evening getting it working—PC hardware is unbelievably horrible, especially when you're plugging it into an older machine. We'd already substituted an ISA network card for one of our PCI network cards, freeing one PCI slot, and that adventure had required assorted gyrations with DOS and BIOS tinkering to get it to work properly. Installing the IDE card was much easier, since the PCI stuff handled the IRQs and other evil PC settings more or less transparently. It did need patches for ther kernel, though, and it turned out to be extra fun to get both of the main drives working on the new controller, and required using the built-in controller to boot the machine (and for nothing else, really). I opted to save both of us from extra angst by letting her handle it herself (I had my fill of PC hardware long ago). On the plus side, the machine is now lots faster (or at least less sluggish during disk accesses), but, wow, do I ever hate PC hardware....
January 10, 2001 (Wed)
Today we realized we'd probably gotten everything exactly backwards. Seems we should have been getting job applications for Melissa out all last year, instead of waiting 'til she'd pretty much finished her dissertation. Oops.
On the other hand, there's still time for the jobs we know about (about twenty days), and there will probably be more jobs posted as time goes on. She may have to take a position at SFU or UBC as a lecturer this summer and maybe next fall, too, however. Goddess knows how much fun dealing with Immigration Canada will be this time....
At least you can learn from our mistakes! Some academic job-hunting links:
for a Massive Academic Job Search. Great summary of the whole
process, with tons of links and lots of good advice.
By Ellen Spertus
on the Network. How to use electronic mail, Web sites, and
conferences to get to know (and be known by) other folks in
your field who share your interests.
From Phil Agre
an academic job. More good advice, along the lines of that in
Ellen Spertus's piece, but more general.
By Michael Ernst
resources for job hunting. Great page of pointers for more
information for specific academic disciplines, including
humanities, social sciences, and hard sciences.
From University of Michigan Career Planning & Placement
That said, if you're looking for someone who knows lots about functional languages, parallel programming, and loves to teach, consider getting in touch with Melissa
January 11, 2001 (Thu)
January 12, 2001 (Fri)
Salon has an article about independent casket dealers and their battle with the funeral industry, which believes that 500% markups and pressure sales tactics are just the thing for dealing with shellshocked relatives. Just burn me, okay? And a cardboard box is fine.
January 13, 2001 (Sat)
We just visited good ol' LG1, the launching gantry that's been putting up SkyTrain sections near us. It's now well into the Home Depot's parking lot, and they're apparently suing SAR because they claim that their business is being disrupted. Looked pretty busy to us, with people whizzing around the parking lot all the time we were there.
January 15, 2001 (Mon)
It's Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Think about what King was working for, and how much fun the next four years are going to be....
Hmm. My Debian packages don't seem to be making it into testing, for reasons that I'm not sure I can do anything about. :-P
January 16, 2001 (Tue)
Salon has a profile of Karlheinz Stockhausen, a musician and composer who's influenced (directly or indirectly) almost all of the musicians I admire (BTW, the “German art rockers Ca” mentioned in the article are almost certainly Can).
Amusingly (?), “Kurzwellen”, a piece featuring randomly tuned radios first performed in 1968, is even more evidence for my frequent annoyed response to fawning tributes to the “innovation” of one or another currently popular (and terribly derivative) group by DJs and VJs—“It's been done! Ages ago! By much better musicians!”
Also in Salon, Janelle Brown has an article on “infiltration”, a concept I first learned about by creeping into places we probably shouldn't have been with my friends. I also learned how to get from almost anywhere to almost anywhere else in SUNY-Albany (and, to a lesser extent, Binghamton) without setting foot outside (a very useful skill given winter's snow, ice, and wind). Later, I learned about the Paris catacombs from Jonathan Littell's Bad Voltage.
Also, having spent a fair number of afternoons on roofs, I can assure you that almost no one looks up no matter where you are.
January 22, 2001 (Mon)
Took a longish walk out beyond the PNE grounds to New Brighton Park, which is hidden behind and beneath a tangle of freeway overpasses, ramps, and tunnels near the Second Narrows Bridge and the big grain silos. There was a kids' television show filming there, and we were taken for film folk by the guard, which was kind of amusing (she greeted us with, “Don't get the linguine—it's cold!”). The park was all soggy and had parts fenced off for construction (looking pretty much as it had when we first found it—about two years ago) so we didn't stay long.
People have finally started to work on a house a couple of blocks away that was torn down a couple of months ago and left wide open ever since. I'm amazed they could get away with it—in the States some kid would fall into the cellar and break an arm or a leg and the owners would be sued for creating an “attractive nuisance”. Now they've cleared away the debris, dug out a larger cellar, and started to build wooden forms for pouring a concrete foundation.
January 23, 2001 (Tue)
Step one was to check the mileage, as they've always wanted to know what it was. While I was in the car, I had an intuition, tried to start the engine, and discovered the battery was dead again. Damn. I guess I flipped the mystery switch the wrong way.
Step two was to make the call. I got through to a human quickly (!), paid my AAA membership, and then asked to pay my insurance. I ended up talking to a clerk in the Richmond office, and discovered I didn't owe anything—that is, I hadn't been billed yet for next (this) year, and I'd paid my bill in full last year. Luckily, she was able to guesstimate how much I'd owe (US$200 more than last year due to my not having an uncashed check from them like I had last year), and I paid it. Now all I have to do is get the paperwork, and I'm set. Oh, yeah—they didn't ask about the mileage this time.
We borrowed the trickle charger again, and I sat in the car for a couple of hours while it charged. We get a lot more foot traffic on our street than I thought we did—I guess we just miss most of those folks when we're out and about.
While I was at it, I completely disconnected the wires that appeared to be for the alleged alarm, insulated the ends with tape, and bundled them away from everything. Maybe that will stop the battery drain. I hope so, because spending a couple of hours charging the battery before driving the car is already old.
We hit the grocery store (and T&T for more rice crackers and wasabi shrimp chips—yum!), and also had to pop out to the bakery for some rolls for garlic bread. On the way back we noticed a fluorescent pink sign at the top of a stake with some other papers below it—the pink sign turned out to be an ad for the lumberyard supplying the material for the forms, but the other pieces of paper were for a couple of bathroom supply places. On one of them was one of the most bizarre devices I've ever seen: The STYLBAD, a tall spinning brush that you mount in the corner of your shower. It's kind of like a car wash for your body.
I, of course, forgot the name of the thing when I sat down to do some research, but after going back out with a flashlight and pen and paper, I managed to turn up the manufacturer's site and some places selling the Stylbad. Apparently it goes for about CN$1,800.00, which seems like an awful lot of money to me. I'd say this item is every bit as indispensable as a bidet. (BTW, be sure to check out the other pages on that site if you're into softcore porn—you've got to love European advertisers....)
January 24, 2001 (Wed)
We went up to campus today so Melissa could talk to one of her committee members about being a reference (and also get some feedback on her CV and base letter). While she was doing that, I returned a whole bunch of heavy library books, then popped into the bookstore, where I ended up buying a copy of Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down (J.E. Gordon) from the “Hurt Penguins” table (only CN$3.99), and gave in and picked up the Oxford University Press edition of A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens—only CN$6.95). Tim Powers' Earthquake Weather quotes liberally from A Tale of Two Cities and warps the story into what I imagine is a radically different interpretation, and I wanted to check it out for myself. (Powers also inspired me to borrow Walter Otto's Dionysus: Myth and Cult.)
We missed the Junkyard Wars final. Damn. BTW, it's on Mondays, now, instead of Wednesdays.
January 25, 2001 (Thu)
We buckled down to work on creating a database of information about prospective jobs for Melissa, and, somewhat to my surprise, we may not be as screwed as I first thought—there were quite a number of jobs whose deadlines we hadn't missed, and quite a few that had been posted since the magazine went to press. After a lot more work than you might think, we had over a hundred entries. Melissa's now working on scripts to manipulate the information to create letters, as well as her statement of teaching philosophy and research interests and plans. Keep your fingers crossed!
January 26, 2001 (Fri)
I just put my finger on one of the things that bugs me about Greg Bear—he refers to women as “females” and men as “males”. Now, that's fine if you're talking biologically (as in “the victim was female”), or if you're talking about some non-human species (“the male baboon is displaying aggressive behavior”). But we have words for male and female humans, and those words are “man” and “men” and “woman” and “women”. Remember that sex is not gender and use the right words for the concepts you're describing!
Taking advantage of what may be one of my last opportunities to do so—rumor is that Fox is planning to cancel the show—let me say nice things about FreakyLinks, which airs on Friday nights at nine o'clock. I expected to hate this show, but I really like it. It's made by some of the people behind The Blair Witch Project, which I wasn't particularly excited by (no, I didn't get sick, but by the time the remaining kids were murdered, I was rooting for the killer), and it promised to be incredibly cheesy—about a bunch of wannabe supernatural investigators who have a lame website (not to mention that it's on Fox).
So we not only have openings for silly supernatural stuff, but also silly computer stuff!
But it turns out to be an okay show—lots better than, say, Dark Angel, which has an unbelievably lame backstory, uninspired plots, and cookie-cutter characters, or Level 9, which was so boring we forgot to watch it, or Freedom, which we've all seen before a dozen times, with different clothes, but identical storylines. The first couple of episodes of FreakyLinkswere every bit as awful as we expected, but the show has gotten a lot better, and very quickly (c.f., ST:TNG, which was unwatchable for at least two seasons).
Anyway, if you don't have anything better to do, check it out. It's a fun show, with some interesting people (of the four main characters, two are black!), some clever ideas, some annoying cinematic styles, and a lot of silliness (intentional and otherwise).
(One more thing that impresses me—they've spent some time on the website. FreakyLinks.com is the website on the show—complete with video footage, Derek's stories, and lots of links to junk you can buy to “support the site”. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to include any of the coffee mugs you can see scattered around the set.)
January 30, 2001 (Tue)
For the first time in a few days, Salon had several articles worth reading, including: an article about a spousal abuse awareness campaign and followup about the “toxic” marketing techniques aimed at women. Also, an article about the California power crisis, and a profile of Matt Groening. (While I was looking up the URL, I noticed profiles on Lou Reed and Ursula K. LeGuin.)
A couple of days ago, crunching on some corn nuts included in a bag of Cajun-flavored rice crackers, I got one that reminded me of the taste of Kellogg's Corn Pops, which I haven't had for years. As it happens, they were on sale at the grocery store, so we picked up a box.
It turns out that Canadian Corn Pops are almost completely different from American Corn Pops! They taste fairly similar, but where the American cereal consists of shiny, smooth, kernel-shaped pieces, the Canadian version is more like the crunchberries in Cap'n Crunch Crunchberry cereal, only yellowy-orange. They also have a surface texture that is similar, if less destructively abrasive, to the surface of crunchberries.
I'm not sure why I'm surprised—other Canadian cereals are different, too. Trix, for instance, one of my all time favorites, is really yucky here. And Canadian Special K is more closely akin to corn flakes made of rice than the bowl-shaped American pebbles.
The press corps slimed the Clintons one more time, claiming that they “looted the White House”. Hope they're happy with what Shrub'll do to the country. How 'bout that economy?
January 31, 2001 (Wed)
I took the car into the dealership today, and it looks like the culprit may not be the alternator (it's on its third (since I bought it)) after all, but the battery. Amazingly, the battery, which we bought back in 1997, is still under warranty (albeit not replaceable for free). Still, I'd rather it be a CN$75 battery than the CN$500 alternator, even if the alternator, too, is under warranty (since the shop charges CN$45 an hour for labor).
The find-M-a-job odyssey continues, as we fight to complete the various components necessary for a complete application. It looks like we've nailed most of pieces—left is some fine-tuning on the letter for researchy schools, rewriting the letter for teachy schools, and finishing the revamp of her website (which is pretty much all mine). It's actually going pretty well, with any luck, we'll be able to start mailing things tomorrow. (*knock, knock*)