Back in NZ, for a while.

Well, I'm back in NZ for a few weeks - until the 25th. Something important - really, really important, in the category of 'most important things ever' - has come up in NZ, and I convinced my employer to let me work from NZ for a while for 'personal' reasons.

I would really, really love to go into details here, but it's probably not wise. More later, including all the juicy details. This assumes that there is actually anyone who reads this that doesn't already know exactly what I'm talking about, anyway. Which I doubt.

A public apology to #sporksters

I've been a bit of an ass lately. Sorry.

It's been brought to my attention that I've frequently been less than friendly the past few weeks, culminating with the almighty row in #sporks a day or two ago. A lot of it stems from what's been going on in my life recently - moving, new job, visa problems etc - but that's no excuse. In the past few days, particularly, I've found myself snapping at the smallest things. Once or twice, nothing more than another spam arriving in my inbox was been enough to get me angry(er). Something that took no more than a second to review and delete.

Now that I'm aware of it, I'm actually feeling a hell of a lot better already. I ought to be more like my ordinary, sanguine self, hopefully. If I'm not, pull me up on it. Tell me I'm being an ass again.

Photos of my new apartment

A bunch of photos of my new apartment. Please forgive the poor compositing on the two of my work area, I didn't have a tripod, and it wasn't possible to get the whole thing with a single frame (too much dynamic range).

Edit: Added a picture of how it looks at sunset:

Somewhere to stay!

As much as I like sleeping in Dark's lounge, eating his breakfast cereal, and working from his dinner table, I have been desperately searching for a furnished apartment I can stay in while I'm here. All at once, on Thursday, my search paid off - with two seperate apartments. I took the slightly more expensive and slightly larger one, paying $100 less than Too Much for it. It's still a studio apartment, but it has a murphy bed, placed such that I can fold it up when I have people around, but I don't _have_ to if I don't. It has a nice little enclosed balcony/conservatory area with a computer workstation. I can work whilst looking out over the city from my dizzyingly high 32nd floor perspective.

Photos will be forthcoming once I'm moved in, later today.

Back in Canada

So, I made it back into Canada. After all the extensive, lawyer-assisted preparations so I would be able to explain myself in sufficient and excrutiating detail to the customs officers, I was simply waved through with nary a glance.

Then, as I pull away, suitcase in tow, the officer goes "Hold on a moment". "Uh oh", I think, "now I get the half hour of going over all my documentation 5 times before they're satisfied". I return to the desk, and give him back my passport. The passport scanner is flashing "NZ Passport Alert!!!" on and off. The screen has a single line entry " Personal Marajuana Posession". I have no idea what it's talking about - I presume a name collision. He puts the passport back on the scanner, waits a couple of seconds, takes it off, hands it back, and tells me I can go. I do.

How Canadian Immigration helps Amtrak compete with airlines for user-unfriendliness.

Today was the day I was scheduled to go back up to Canada, after 3 weeks down here in Seattle training at the offices of the company I contract for. In an ideal world, I would have headed back to Vancouver, whereupon I would have located a furnished apartment to stay in until the end of June, or, with an application to Canadian immigration, possibly as late as October.

Instead, I spent 4 hours getting down there, 3/4 of an hour being interrogated by Canadian Immigration personnell, 6 hours sitting in a stationary train being watched over by a security guard, and another 4 hours back to Seattle.

Basically, the Canadian customs officer decided my reasons for wanting to (re)enter Canada weren't wholesome enough. The fact that I was contracting for a Seattle company, and planning on staying in Vancouver with trips down to Seattle at intervals, apparrently indicated to him that:
1) I was doing this to avoid US visa requirements, which prohibit me from working for the Seattle company as an employee in Seattle, by tele-commuting from the conveniently-nearby Vancouver.
2) He had no proof that my company was even applying for an H1B VISA ...

Things that are strange about North America, part 1

- Coins are 1c (useless bits of copper), 5c, 10c and 25c. Canada sensibly has $1 (a 'Loonie') and $2 (a 'Toonie') coins. The US still has scraps of tattered paper for $1, and nothing for $2.

- The 5c coin is bigger than the 10c coin. So is the 1c coin. Yes, the 10c coin is the smallest coin of the lot.

- 10 coins are 'dimes', and 5c coins are 'nickels'. The 10c coin doesn't even say what its value in cents is, just 'one dime'.

- Pedestrian crossing buttons are sometimes on the side of the pole facing the direction you want to cross, and sometimes 90 degrees from that (with an arrow pointing the direction you should cross for this button). They are never on the opposite side of the pole to the direction you are going so you can press it as you approach.

- The only 'barn dance' crossing I have encountered has a recorded voice telling people how to use it.

- Cars drive on the right (duh).

- Most roads are more than two lanes, even right in the middle of town.

- The lanes are really narrow.

- Instead of one set of signals, possibly with additional left and ...

Stereotypes in action!

On Sunday evening (a little before midnight - the Amtrak train got in really late), I arrived at my accommodations for the next 3 weeks - the Pacific Inn in Bellevue. Checking in, the person at the desk asked me for my passport or driver's license so he could take a copy of it. I gave him my passport, which he took to another room to photocopy.

I waited for him to return. And waited. And waited. About 5 minutes after he left, he came back in, without my passport or a copy, and said "You're a software guy, right?".

I'm sure you can see what's coming. He was unable to operate the photocopier. He asked me to take a look. I pressed the '+' button to increase the number of copies from 0 to 1, then pressed the copy button. It copied.

What amuses me here isn't that he was unable to operate the photocopier - any photocopier that defaults to 0 copies (and returns to that when all its copies are made) is particularaly badly designed, and it's not surprising he had trouble if he hadn't used it before. What amuses me is how incredibly ...

Here I am

Well, here I am in Canada. The trip was, as expected, exhausting, and hard on my legs.

The flight out of Christchurch was on one of the old, unrefurbished 747s, which was rather annoying - the in-flight entertainment systems on the refurbished ones are really good at banishing boredom. Instead, mixed with mostly failed attempts to get some sleep, I read Jennifer Government cover-to-cover (good book), with enough time left over to watch the few remaining episodes of QI that I hadn't seen yet.

Then I transferred through LAX, where I had to pick up all my baggage to check it in at the transferring baggage desk. Thankfully, a helpful TSA(!) person told me I should take it all upstairs and get it checked in there, because the bike was too large and would have to go up there anyway. After a wait of about 1/2 an hour to get into the lift, my bag, box and bike were accepted almost immediately.

The service from Air Canada wasn't nearly as bad as I'd been led to expect - the flight attendants were friendly to a fault, and I have no complaints. Maybe it was an exception.

On arriving ...

An unexpected party

Yesterday evening, my (now ex-) flatmates came around to pick me up for a farewell drink or two at the dux. Returning home, I was somewhat, though not entirely, surprised to find the kitchen dining room filled to bursting with friends and acquaintances. I'd been expecting a family farewell dinner, with maybe some extended family around, this was rather larger.

I had a great evening, and caught up with some people I haven't seen in too long. I was given a few going-away gifts, chief amongst them the book 'Are you a geek?', given to me by a collection of friends. I'm pretty sure I know what the answer is already, but from the browse through it I've already had, the book is hilarious. I look forward to filling it out.

All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better going-away party.