Archive for the ‘General’ Category.

Random Update

I’m in an ADD kind of mood, so here’s a matching entry.

Site
I got sick of moderating comment spam so I upgraded to WordPress 1.5 yesterday and chose a new theme. The latter part was way more difficult than it should have been; since getting this 20″ Dell 2005FPW widescreen LCD last month, most webpages are now huge portions of whitespace (i.e. a couple of centered, fixed width columns perfect for an 800×600 resolution, then huge columns of whitespace on either side). Out of the 50 or so available themes I could find, maybe 5 of them are actually variable width, automatically adjusting to the size of the browser window. Out of those 5, only one of them didn’t look like ass.

Work
We gave our first full-time offer to a female developer last week. We’re now also taking bets on which of us will be the first to be sent to sensitivity training.

Car
I swear my car and I must be cursed or something:

  • Last weekend Bonnie and I were changing the tires on my car back to the all-seasons. Apparently one of the rear ones picked up a screw sometime last year, and I didn’t notice when swapping to the winter tires last November. Just like last time, it’s in a place that’s unrepairable. What are the chances, really?
  • A star-shaped, stone chip crack in my windshield also appeared all of a sudden. Apparently some insurance companies will completely waive the deductable on the ~$50 repair because it’s so much cheaper than the replacement option. Not my insurance company. Sigh.
  • My brakes have started squealing, though it’s a very high-pitched squeal. The next scheduled maintenance isn’t for another 6,000KMs or so, but I guess I should take it in anyway.
  • Apparently the natural resonant frequency for my front bumper matches that of my engine when it idles around 750RPM. Needless to say, there’s a lot of vibration once the car has warmed up and I’m waiting at a stop light. It’s apparently a known issue, complete with a technical service bulletin. I guess I’ll get that fixed along with the brakes.

Money Stuff

  • The University of Waterloo is expected to open a downtown Kitchener health sciences campus, consisting primarily of a School of Pharmacy in September 2007. It will be located at King and Victoria, which is coincidentally just down the street from where we’re living right now. Go one stop light south of the proposed campus and you’ll find the abandoned Kaufman Footwear factory, which is being converted into The Kaufman Lofts. Why is this of interest? Check out the expected demographic for the Pharmacy undergrads at the new school. 85% expected from outside of the Region of Waterloo, 75% female, 90% single, 65% over the age of 23. This is practically a landlord’s wet dream: 1) Mostly out of towners that require housing. 2) Single, meaning they are more likely to rent rather than plant roots and purchase housing in the area. 3) Long term leases (the duration of their undergrad program – 4 years?). 4) Females in their mid-to-late-20’s are not likely to seriously trash the place.
  • Since the beginning of March, stock markets have lost roughly 10% of their value. This has the nice effect of weeding people out such that prices drop low enough that they just give up and sell their positions at a huge loss because they think everything is going straight to zero. In the industry they call this “capitulation”, and it is also the best time to buy. People who are not usually wrong are predicting that this will happen in the next week or two, after a further non-trivial drop. Hopefully you’ve “kept some powder dry” to take advantage.
  • My sister bought me subscriptions to RealMoney and Minyanville as belated Christmas presents. The people that write for these sites tend to be more correct than the general media because there is no conflict of interest (you pay the subscription fee to read what they’re really thinking, rather than what someone has paid them to say). The value is not so much any specific recommendations that they make, but rather skimming through the articles to get a general feel for their sentiments at any given time. Hey, if you don’t have the time to do the work yourself, why not stand on the shoulders of giants? 🙂

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Gregory Maguire must be spinning in his grave[1]

After our unsuccessful attempts at getting Wicked tickets last year in New York, we immediately pounced when they started selling tickets earlier this year for the tour stop in Toronto.

We just got back from the show. It’s been something like 3 years since I read the book, so I don’t remember the plot details very well; Bonnie sure does though. She rattled off a list of differences in the car, then extended the list as we looked through this photo gallery, finishing it off with a disapproving, “It’s all wrong, it’s ALL wrong.” It was eerily reminiscent of me after each of the Lord of the Rings movies.

As always, the whole thing would of course be no fun without one of my patented self-inflicted “adventures”. So Bonnie gives me the tickets to carry on the way down to the theatre (mistake #1) . She also says, “Very important, do not lose” (mistake #2). Suffice to say, shallow pockets combined with sharing the pocket with my cell phone equals trouble (mistake #3). I knew I dropped the envelope between the subway station and the theatre, so I was all set to retrace my steps, but Bonnie brilliantly suggested that we just appeal to the box office. The guy didn’t even blink, so I guess this kind of thing has happened before. They even have a rubber stamp to mark the tickets as reprints.

It doesn’t end there though. A couple minutes after curtain time, an usher appears with a couple of strangers in tow, asking to see our tickets. She inspects them under her flashlight, hands them back, then leads the strangers away. Five minutes later, another usher appears by herself, asking to see our tickets again; this time she takes them and runs away!

First thought: “Aw crap, that wasn’t an usher, that was the scammers taking our tickets so they can come back later and kick us out.” That didn’t happen, someone else returned our ticket stubs at intermission. Bonnie asked her if there was a problem, and she explained, “It just looks like they double-booked somehow. Someone else has tickets for the same day, same time, and same seats.” At this point we tried explaining the situation, but it seemed like she either didn’t understand or didn’t care and went back to standing by the door. Sigh, guess they just seated them somewhere else.

Second thought: “Man, I just let someone see this show for free. This sucks. Shouldn’t the box office be able to see that we just requested reprints?

Third thought: “Hmm, maybe a scalper picked up the tickets and sold them to those two strangers. If I were in their position I’d probably argue with the theatre too despite any resistance they offered. Man, I just enriched some random scalper. This sucks.” Though for some reason this scenario appeals to me more than the first one.

Fourth thought: “Hey wait, can’t I see all shows for free by pulling this scam on purpose? Maybe even make money off of it? I buy tickets, sell them on eBay, then get to the theatre on the night of the show before the auction winner and get reprints.” The auction winner has to deal with the hassle and the theatre is always left holding the bag. Replace eBay with some other more anonymous method of sale and the scam goes even smoother.

I think I’m getting old and slow; I can’t believe the scam didn’t cross my mind until the fourth thought, which was during the bowing and applause. It was one of those classic “lightbulb above the head” moments that in my younger years would have been my first or second thought. Sigh, now I’m just waiting for the receding hairline, bi-focals, and my gut to jut out far enough that I can no longer see my feet.

[1] Yes, I know Gregory Maguire is still alive. It’s one of those long-running jokes we have at work. Initially it was used for former employees when we gutted their code/ideas, but now we also use it for current employees, often in their presence.

Random TV-Related Things

  1. My parents bought this plasma TV at Best Buy during boxing week. What surprises me is how integration with upconverting DVD players and HD set-top boxes is so unpolished. At the current level of integration, it’s clear that the whole HDTV thing is aimed squarely at the early adopter. The surprising thing is how much penetration it has at the consumer level – just check out how hard Future Shop is pushing HDTV for the upcoming Super Bowl.
  2. My question is, how do Joe-and-Sally-average buy HDTV equipment and set it up themselves at home? My guess is they do it sub-optimally. I picture them setting it all up, then having their own eyes tell them that it doesn’t look as good as they thought it would. Trouble is, it probably looks better than the 10-year-old CRT that it replaced, so they can’t be sure if it’s actually supposed to be so underwhelming.
  3. Lemme tell ya though, when everything’s set up correctly, 1080i and 720p HD broadcasts are absolutely breathtaking. There are only about 20 HD channels, and they’re of varying quality because a lot depends on the quality of the original source material, and also whether the broadcaster has done any detrimental post-processing. The Rogers HD demo channel seems to have the Much Music 2004 Video Awards on endless loop though. It’s a good choice – the young and nubile are particularly well suited for display at high resolution. That sounds kinda dirty.
  4. The funny thing is that Bonnie refuses to even look at the HD channels. She says that once she’s seen them, she’ll never be able to go back. No, there’s no convincing her. I tried with the “We should stop eating at nice restaurants, because we’ll never be able to go back” argument, but no dice. Meh.
  5. Since my parents got the new plasma and DVD player, Bonnie and I inherited their old 27″ Sony CRT and “high-quailty” Vsonic DVD player. This, combined with GoodLife now offering free DVD rentals to members means that we’ve been doing nothing but working out and watching movies for the past week. Not good, the TV just sucks the time away, it’s such a waste. I think this further cements the resolution that we’ll never be getting cable.
  6. Now a random selection of quickie movie reviews…

    • The Incredibles
      One-line review: Another home run for Disney/Pixar, I think it’s their best to date.
      Unanswered question: If Violet were invisible while eating, what would happen to the food? Would you be able to see it in her stomach and watch it slowly turn invisible as it was digested? That’d be kinda cool.
      Best scene: Jack-jack turning into a little devil and going postal on Buddy at the end of the movie.
    • Closer
      One-line review: Natalie Portman almost nekkid, what’s not to like? Clive Owen is also quite the nasty villian – I’m only used to him helping lost Tibetan boys and such.
      Unanswered question: I’m not quite sure I understand the ending. OK, so she fooled those handsome Englishmen good. Now she’s gonna rope in some startlingly unattractive New Yorkers too? I don’t get her deal.
      Best scene: “I don’t stalk, I lurk.“.
    • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
      One-line review: Like all Wes Anderson movies, this one’s great because all of the characters are such losers that take themselves so incredibly seriously. It’s jolly good fun to watch.
      Unanswered question: No seriously, what’s with the red caps?
      Best scene: Bill Murray grooving to his piped in music.
    • The Delicate Art of Parking
      One-line review: Not a fan of the faux documentary style. The faux documentarist is kinda sleazy looking too.
    • Mona Lisa Smile
      One-line review: Meh, just your standard chick flick. As an aside, is it just me or is there something vaguely rabbit-like about Maggie Gyllenhaal?
    • Something’s Gotta Give
      One-line review: Meh, more formulaic chick flick stuff, but for old chicks I guess. Has Jack Nicholson been playing the same character since As Good As It Gets?

Underthings

Some interesting observations about the value of underthings between the two genders.

Bonnie goads me every so often, saying that I should get rid of my “saggy whities” and get some proper underwear. In turn, I sometimes suggest that her decade-old bras have perhaps seen better days. But when we go shopping for our own respective underthings, we’re more than likely to exclaim something like, “XX dollars?! I can’t afford that, I’m so poor!“.

Then we turn around and buy things for each other, thinking nothing of it. $12 for a pair of boxers is a bit much, methinks, but she thinks that’s reasonable. Vice versa for a $25 bra. It’s all kind of odd if you ask me.

A side note… ladies, all those things that you’ve been throwing in the wash, flushing down the toilet, or chucking in the wastebasket? You’re throwing away pure gold! (Don’t click the link in a public place, it’s not “workplace friendly”. When you do click, check out the “Miscellaneous Items” and “Women’s Clothing” sections).

Office Furniture

Apologies for the hiatus, Bonnie and I finally caved and bought ourselves some office furniture. The southwest corner of our modest apartment is now home to a right corner desk, a left corner desk, a hutch, two lateral files, two bookcases, and a three-drawer file. For the past two weeks the place has been a mess, littered with unassembled furniture and their corresponding boxes. Things are getting back to normal now, so here are a couple lessons learned from the whole debacle:

  1. If you buy furniture from Office Depot, make sure you pick it up yourself. They use Purolator to deliver everything, which is fine if you’re buying a box of Sharpies, but not such a good idea for 800 pounds worth of furniture. Imagine you were in the furniture delivery business; think of all the things you would have to do to make the process go smoothly everyday. Purolator doesn’t do any of that.
  2. The corollary is that it is not a good idea to ship large, heavy items using Purolator. I asked the delivery guy, “How did this box get like this, was it dropped?” To which he responded, “It’s possible, everything goes down a conveyor.” This is from the same guy that punched our apartment number into the intercom rather than looking up the correct code in the directory right beside the intercom. He did this on two separate occasions. This was also his “first large delivery”. They sent him by his lonesome to bring all 800 pounds up himself. Good job Purolator!

Anyway, that’s all water under the bridge now. I’m just worried about moving day next year. All this new office furniture plus another four bookcases, a marble dining table, eight dining chairs, and a queen-size bed[1] (those latter three items are all hand-me-downs from Bonnie’s parents), probably means professional movers are in order. I say we should make the most of it and pick up a (baby) grand piano too. I wonder if any of them would bring in a huge crane and move stuff via the balcony like they do in some European cities. That’d be cool.

[1] Thankfully not a four-poster carved from the trunk of a giant sequoia, which we always half-jokingly tell ourselves that we’ll pick up eventually.