Wednesday, June 22

Going offline, in stages

The movers came today and packed up all of our stuff into boxes. Tomorrow they'll load the trucks, we'll do some cleaning and run some errands, and then we'll be off on our roadtrip. This is going to be the first time since starting my PhD that I'll be able to just completely leave work behind, and to that end I'm not planning on making any effort at all to go online. I think being out of touch may do me some good actually; I'm too reluctant to put the laptop down sometimes.

Anyway, what this means is that I'll only be online when it's easy, which is probably not going to be often between Davison and Seattle. I'll be checking email sporadically (maybe once a day) until Sunday, and probably not at all for about 10 days from then. Mobile phone reception is also going to be very limited past Madison, though if for some reason anyone really needs to get through to me urgently I will at least get messages on my cellphone eventually.

I'm very much looking forward to just being able to immerse myself in one experience free of distractions. I haven't been able to do that since New Zealand.
posted @ 3:10 PM -

Sunday, June 19

A victory worth sharing

Since I was still at school, I have had various forms of to-do list that have been endless. There's the people I should write to list, which of course will never end because if I were better at emailing my friends I'd also get more mail from them. Then there's the projects that aren't work list, which will never end because there are too many things that interest me, and too few hours in the day. There is one that should never have been endless, which is the pile of papers to attend to.

Every time I move (and having recently counted I can tell you that that's been an average of every 15 months as an adult) I have tried to clear the pile before moving, so I can make a fresh start. Every time, there's been some reason I failed. Usually it's because I moved at times when I was also otherwise busy, though there are a couple of notable exceptions (to and from the Sussex dorms) when this was clearly not true and I was just too lazy or too excited about things other than paperwork. This lack of thoroughness sometimes has quite serious consequences; in particular, the only reason I don't hold a British passport (which would at times make my life a good deal easier, and given me the right to vote over there) is that in several years when I intended to apply and would have met the criteria I just never got around to filling out the relevant forms. Same for a photocard driving licence, which would have been very useful here in the US, since everyone is so programmed to accept driving licences as ID that sometimes it's hard to persuade people to accept a passport (not to mention that I don't make a habit of carrying my passport with me all the time, whereas a photocard licence would just live in my wallet).

The difference this time is that since May I've had relatively little stress and few urgent demands on my time, while being, well, a lot more organised than I was at 19. As a result, for the first time in my life I have actually cleared that pile. There is currently no paper sitting on my desk, or in the drawer that I deliberately gave a transparent top to so that papers in there would still nag me.

I should celebrate, I think.
posted @ 10:07 PM -

Things I will miss in Cleveland

I initially wrote one post, intending it to become a series, in which I describe some of my favourite things about Cleveland to provide a fair balance to all the complaining I do. I never got around to writing more, because sometimes living just gets in the way of blogging. Pleasingly, this time it's not been a matter of drowing in work, but more fun things like doing a lot of long bike rides, and a lot of preparation for the move. Still, I would like to have a list of things I'll miss, partly so that my good readers don't get the impression that Cleveland is the first circle of hell, and partly so that when I look back I don't give myself the false impression that there was nothing to like in Cleveland.

I don't have the time to describe places, so this will just have to be a list, in no particular order.
  • The Barking Spider Tavern
  • The long ribbon of parkland along Doan Broak, which passes right in front of my apartment
  • The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
  • The Inn on Coventry, purveyor of the finest cooked breakfasts I have ever devoured
  • La Cave du Vin, and particularly its wonderfully genial and knowledgeable waitstaff
  • Having an office on the 8th floor
  • The walking trails through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Shaker Square, even as one quadrant of it rots, since Legacy Village sucked out its shops
  • Chagrin River Road (for bicycling fun)
posted @ 7:39 PM -
Melinda is defending her MS thesis tomorrow morning. Wish her luck!

At times like this I'm always reminded of David Peter's perfect response when I handed my MSc thesis in. It was something along the lines that must feel like the relief after taking the biggest dump ever. Not that I mean to compare your work to excrement. I'm paraphrasing because the comment itself seems to have been lost, and I think there was a little more digging involved, but you get the idea.
posted @ 7:24 PM -

Sunday, June 12

Some things are just not fucking acceptable. I would submit an entry made out of the New Testament, but I have more respect for the sane christians of the world.
posted @ 10:02 AM -

Wednesday, June 8

Boiling alive!

When you go to take your third shower of the day at midnight, and you have to wait for the water to cool down to the temperature you want, you know that it's too damn hot. I'm almost at the point of envying Scott, Shelley and anyone else in Utah for their June snowfall, but I think I've had enough snow for a little while.
posted @ 9:15 PM -

Tuesday, June 7

I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing

I don't normally pay much attention to the various weekly interview type memes, but last week's altfriday5 caught my eye because it seemed quite timely. So first a quick update, and then on to the questions.

The movers (who we recently discovered will pack up my stuff and collect it from my address - thanks, MS!) will be collecting our stuff on the 22nd. We'll probably leave here on the 24th, and then we're taking a while to actually get to Seattle because we're making a road trip of it. The approximate route (with pleny of flexibility, and some weirdness in the maps because Google Maps isn't finding every location) is:

Cleveland —> Davison (spend some time with Melinda's family) —> Indian River (where her family have a cabin) —> Madison, WI (where we'll hang out with Alexis) —> Minneapolis/St.Paul —> the Badlands —> Yellowstone National Park —> wherever in the Rockies is a convenient stopping place —> Seattle, Redmond or Bellevue depending on where our temporary accommodation is.

Then we'll be in temp housing until we can find a place to rent somewhere reasonably central in Seattle, and then finally the movers will reunite us with all our stuff.

So now, the questions:

From the altfriday5:

1. How far do you currently live from the place where you were born?

According to this online distance calculator, 5,300 miles or 8,500 kilometres. A month from now, it will be 6,100 miles or 9,800 km.

2. How many times have you moved in your life?

Discounting NZ (because even the places where I did some work and stayed for a little while were too transient to count), I can recall 5 cities so far (Istanbul, London, Brighton, Bristol, Cleveland). As for house-to-house moves, I count 11: Istanbul —> a rented house in London (I forget which suburb) —> Whetstone, London —> Hendon, London —> Highgate, London —> Sussex University student dorms —> Riley Road, Brighton —> Park Crescent Road, Brighton —> North Laine, Brighton —> Bristol —> [long interlude of travelling and a temporary move back to London ignored] —> Cleveland Heights, Ohio —> Shaker Heights (suburban Cleveland), Ohio.

And then there's the upcoming one. And I still hate moving.

3. What was the shortest move, in terms of distance? The longest?

Shortest move as a straight line distance was probably between the two Cleveland addresses. However, there's a park in the way so the shortest actual road distance was between the first two Brighton addresses, at 0.7 miles.

The longest was London to Cleveland, at 3,700 miles or 6,000 km. Or to put it another way, 5 time zones.

4. Have you ever moved for school? Love? Work?

Those three capture all the intercity moves I've made of my own accord. Istanbul to London was when I was two, so obviously I moved because my parents did. Since then: Brighton was to start university, Bristol was for work, Cleveland was to start my PhD, and Seattle will be for love, because Melinda's moving there for work and I'm following.

5. Did your family ever move when you were a child? How did that make you feel? (either moving or not moving)

I really can't remember, because I was too young. Sometimes I wish I had been 2 or 3 years older when we moved, so that I would have more of a firsthand sense of what it was like, and what my other culture is really like, but on the other hand it was probably much easier at 2 than it would have been even at 5.
posted @ 12:18 PM -

Friday, June 3

Congratulations, Vinay
posted @ 8:16 PM -

Disappointed by Apple (1): online store

At the same time as I ordered a replacement hard drive from a third-party supplier, I ordered a new battery for the same laptop directly from Apple. My old battery works, but it's showing its age by having somewhat less than half the capacity it did when new, and behaving rather unpredictably when it's close to empty. The third-party suppliers actually stock batteries with a slightly higher capacity than the official Apple parts (53 vs 50 watt-hours, while the one that shipped with this computer is 47 watt-hours), but I decided to go for the official product because I felt like I would probably get more reliable service from Apple.

The hard drive shipped the following day. It's not fair to compare the time in transit, since the hard drive supplier is in Illinois and I shelled out for fast shipping to get my computer back quicker, whereas the battery comes from East Asia with cheap shipping. However, the battery still hasn't shipped.

In itself, this isn't terribly surprising. Apple is in the midst of a battery recall, and though my laptop isn't affected, I'm pretty sure the new battery I ordered also fits some of the affected machines, so there's probably been a huge transient spike in demand. What I am disappointed by is that Apple didn't warn me. In fact, assuming the problem was something this predictable, they've been rather dishonest. When I ordered the part I was told it would ship within 5 working days. At the end of that time, I got an email telling me it would ship on the 2nd of June due to an unexpected delay, with no further explanation. I accepted that, seeing as it wasn't a huge delay, but then last night (17 minutes before the 2nd of June was over in their time zone), Apple sent me another:
Dear Valued Apple Customer,

Thank you for placing your Apple Store Order [xxxxxxxxx]

We need your response to continue processing your order.

Due to an unexpected delay, we are unable to ship the following item(s) by the last date you were quoted:

will now ship on or before 06/17/2005

If you prefer, you may change or cancel your order anytime before it is shipped. If you cancel your order, you will receive a prompt refund.

If we do not hear from you or we cannot ship your order by the revised date above, we are required by federal law to cancel your order and issue a prompt refund, and we will do so.

Sorry Apple. You design great products, and your operating system is vastly better than any competitor I have used, but you can't take your cult of adoring fans for granted. If you must suck at customer service, I'll just take my money elsewhere.

I'll order the higher capacity battery, and I'll have it next week, and it's probably just as well made as the one I'd have been sent by Apple if I waited.

Update: later on the same day, I got another email from Apple announcing that my battery had in fact shipped. I'm a little suspicious about this. My guess is that they had partial stock, and sent the earlier email to everyone who was waiting for a battery. Then for those who weren't willing to wait, magically a battery gets shipped today, while those who don't mind waiting get screwed, because Apple knows they aren't about to lose their business.
posted @ 6:12 AM -

Thursday, June 2

the Kyoto Protocol is not dead

Until very recently, I was under the impression that the Kyoto Protocol had been rendered entirely irrelevant by the United States' refusal to ratify it. Certainly, if nothing were done this would be the case. Why should the signatories accept the burden of additional regulation if the country that is both the world's wealthiest and its worst polluter is just going to compete unfairly by continuing to pollute without restriction? At best, it would waste the effort made by those countries that did reduce their emission of greenhouse gases, but it seemed likely to completely undermine the treaty.

Then I started reading Seattle local media and blogs, because I'm going to be living there soon. What I learned was that Seattle's mayor, Greg Nickels (who appears to share my views on many things) has launched an initiative to get individual US cities to agree to meet what would have been their Kyoto obligations had the country signed up. So far 157 mayors have agreed.

I wouldn't bother reading the whole list, as it includes a lot of cities that are really just suburbs that devolved from a rotten city centre (yes, I'm looking at you Garfield Heights). However, if you take a look at the highlights, and then add in that a few entire states have done similar things, this does start to look significant. A large proportion of America's population and economy has voluntarily agreed to meet its Kyoto commitments. Suddenly the whole thing seems less worth calling off, and I am reminded yet again of how wrong it is to treat this country as a homegeneous mass.
posted @ 5:32 PM -

Wednesday, June 1

Knowing who our friends are

I'm thinking more about that previous post. I feel that a significant proportion of Jewish Zionists support the Bush administration because it's perceived as being on their side. I can understand why—this is a US government that is much less willing than its predecessor to put pressure on Israel, while it is willing to put boots on the ground to deal with rogue regional powers—but I think they're missing something very important.

These people are not our friends. Their support for the State of Israel is an alliance of convenience, quite independent of feelings about Jews as a group of people. The motivation ranges from the geopolitical—I'm willing to bet that US political support for Israel would dry up overnight if all the neighbouring countries had stable, friendly governments—to the completely insane (such as the belief that Israel is necessary to bring about the End Times).

People seem to be awfully short-sighted about such things.
posted @ 4:30 PM -

I simply don't understand people

Dear American Right Wing,

You have a choice. It's a simple one:
  1. You can be more zionist than half of us Jews are, because this suits your agenda.

  2. You can hate us all for being Jews and therefore apparently out to undermine your beloved 18th Century morality and culture.
However, you can not do both. I would have thought the contradiction was obvious enough, but apparently not.

Love and Kisses,


I still think that America is the safest place for a Jew to be—a good deal safer than Israel for the moment, and I still don't understand how gathering our entire race into a small area is supposed to protect us from hypothetical future attempts at wiping us out—but things like this do disturb me. Just as in Europe it's the fringes of the left that are bringing anti-Semitism back into public discourse (and if you're not convinced it's just the fringe, I urge you to read a representative sane lefty's response), here in the US it's the fringes of the socially conservative right.

Mostly, I think we're safe from a repeat of past horrors. I think these sorts of prejudices are likely to stay on the fringes of politically active society. But then I'm reminded of how German Jews also thought that in the 1930s, and plenty of people who could have emigrated to America stayed put, because they didn't see the Final Solution coming.
posted @ 4:10 PM -
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