Last hoopla before turning 30… anyone still game?

So ends another successful cottage trip. There was much eating, golfing, and lounging to be had. It used to be an annual thing, but Calvin disappeared to HK last year, and even before that the fate of his family’s cottage was up in the air.

At the last one (in ’03), we devised a grandiose plan to go on a big group trip before we turned 30. This e-mail describes it:

Date: Mon, 01 Sep 2003 23:24:24 -0400
From: …
To: …
Subject: Last hoopla before turning 30

You are cordially invited to attend a luxury boat cruise to an
unknown, exotic location (Alaska probably doesn’t count) with your
fellow 29-year-old buddies in late May/early June 2008. Yes, this is
a serious invitation! And it would be great if everyone could go,
which is why this is being sent five years in advance.

After our last cottage trip ever (so sad!), the bunch of us got
misty-eyed and wanted to plan a future trip where we could do
something as a large group. Thus a cruise, where we can frolic on
land and sea and gorge ourselves to porky pigginess! It’s a chance
to sow your last wild oats before becoming middle-aged! Hopefully
in five years, most people will be out of debt and have at least
one week of vacation time to block off for this trip.

To encourage people to commit to this trip, we are asking for a
non-refundable deposit of $500. (Ha ha, oh great, now I sound like
I’m about to pull a scam.) We are planning to put all the money in
a bond or something similar so that we will have lots of pooled
cash to spend on the cruise and the daytrips. This means that if
you pull out, you’ll lose your money! Which is why you should make
sure that you can go! We have nominated Dave to be the treasurer
but if anyone else is interested in the job, let us know.

Just reply saying whether or not you are interested in going, and
you can reply all if you have any suggestions for the group. Thanks!

P.S. Spouses are welcome, but Dave and Bonnie have banned children
from this trip. Sorry! People with families will have to find

Suffice to say, nothing ever came of it. At the time we couldn’t really agree on a place to put the money, but in retrospect I should have just grabbed the bull by the horns and opened a joint trading account with someone. If we had put the money in an S&P/TSX60 index fund at the time like I was planning, we’d be up 50% by now (or 22% compounded annually).

Well there’s still 3 years… who’s up for it?

I’m a lazy, lazy monkey…

Having a relationship with a pharmacist doesn’t come with the perks you might think; Bonnie refuses to fill my prescriptions. Sigh, so much for the dream of IMing my symptoms to a doctor, who then phones in my prescription to the pharmacy, where it gets filled and magically comes home at the end of the day.

Japan Recap

It’s been almost 4 weeks since we got back from Japan, so I figure I’d better write something before I forget it all. It’s already been so long that I don’t think I can string together coherent paragraphs describing the experience, so here comes the random stream of consciousness.

  • People in Japan have one of the world’s longest life expectancies, but you’d never know it if you just hung around Tokyo. It seemed like everyone there was young and immaculately dressed (Bonnie described the Tokyo-ite clothing as “fussy”). It wasn’t until we got to the hot spring resort town of Hakone and Expo Aichi 2005 that we found where all the old people were hiding.
  • Did I mention that I’m not a big fan of their old people? They’re rude and pushy, like they’ve got some gigantic chip on their respective shoulders. The most vivid memory I have is standing in line to buy tickets for the Linimo (a maglev train, which by the way is just one big money grab) to the Expo. So I’m next in line, about to walk up to the ticket booth and this old woman comes out of nowhere, cutting in front. Yeesh.
  • All of their non-alcoholic drinks (wouldn’t know about the alcohol-laced ones) seem to be watered down. The Kirin milk tea that Matt raves about? Tastes like they steeped the tea for maybe 10 seconds, then poured in a ton of milk. Fruit juices? Watered down to at most 30%. They have some “100% juice” ones, but they actually taste like the crappy “from concentrate” juices you get in Canada. I’ll stick with my Tropicana Orange and Apple, thank you.
  • Smoking is still considered cool there, which I have trouble dealing with. My two most vivid Japan-smoking traumas are: 1) A First Kitchen fast food place in Kyoto, we wanted to try their Bacon-Egg-Burger (B.E.B.) cause the picture looked tasty. The place is two floors, first floor is where you order and there’s maybe seating for like 20 people. It’s lunch time, so the first floor is completely full. Fine, so we go up to the second floor – we turn around before making it to the top because there’s so much smoke in the air it’s like a dense fog. We end up eating on the first floor by the garbage can. 2) On our last day, the “Friendly Airport Limousine” we took from our hotel to the airport manages to lose one of our pieces of luggage (actually ended up being the hotel’s fault). Regardless, we end up sitting in the airport limo office for a good half hour while they sort things out. They have four employees lounging around in this cramped little office, two of them are puffing away the whole time. When we finally get out of their our clothes reek of smoke and my eyes are watering.
  • When you’re a potential tourist outside of the country, they extoll the virtues of the several hundred dollar Japan Rail Pass. It sounds like a wonderous form of public transportation, spanning the county in a safe and punctual manner. What you don’t find out until you get there is that JR is really meant for inter-city transportation. “Public” transportation within the big cities is actually a fragmented mess of private subway lines, each belonging to different companies. JR does have sparse coverage in the most popular urban areas, but be prepared to do a lot of walking if you only stick to JR. I’d almost liken the JR Pass to an unlimited GO Transit pass in Ontario.
  • Continue reading ‘Japan Recap’ »

Random Update

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

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.

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.

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? 🙂

Continue reading ‘Random Update’ »

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.