Archive for August, 2005

Random update

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

This week was another busy one at work. My boss has been on holiday so I was stand-in chief for the week. I was also teaching part of a training class which meant I was out of the office as well and trying to manage some support calls at the same time. The old phrase about sticking the broom where the sun doesn't shine and sweeping the floor springs to mind.

Events happening this week, in no particular order were:

I finally got my genuine driving license so I no longer need to carry my passport around with me for ID. The photo they took at the DMV looks nothing like me. Firstly, in the photo, I look tanned and, secondly, they've taken it with a wide-angle lens so I look overweight.

We also got news that Joanna can be admitted to the same school as Rachel. This is a great relief because the school is only 5 minutes walk away and so we don't have a logistical nightmare trying to be in two places at once by 8:30am.

We still haven't found a car yet. Sam is hunting on craigslist. There's an on-line service available called CarFax which allows you to enter the VIN of a car and see its history. You pay a one-time fee to access it. Sam has been trying for ages to set up the account to access this service but we found out that they only accept e-mail addresses with EDU, GOV, MIL, NET, COM, ORG, CA, US, BS, ARPA, BIZ, INFO domains. So, our .co.uk address isn't being recognised. How parochial. I keep telling everybody who wants to listen: For it to be a world series, you have to invite the rest of the world.

And how exactly is this insurance ?

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

Responding to a comment that I haven’t updated this for a while…

As we get more settled in, there are less encounters with bureaucracies which means less things of interest to have happen.

I’m still waiting for my real driving license. Sam passed her test on the same day as I did but 5 hours later. We passed on the Monday and she received her license on the following Thursday. How does that work ? I have a temporary license which is a piece of paper rather than a card and it should last me for 60 days after passing. I have no idea why it takes so long because (again) it could all be done through computers. They have my picture on file and my records have obviously been updated otherwise they wouldn’t have printed out the temporary license. A random sample of 1 colleague reveals that 100% of those polled waited up to 2 months before they received their genuine license.

We’re starting to get various hospital bills arrive now and we’re beginning to wonder what the point of the insurance is. It seems that we have $250 excess (called a deductible) per person so for Rachel and Joanna’s trip to the doctor for (mandatory) immunisations has cost us $500 and a check-up for Sam has cost us another $250. Why am I paying $300 per month for insurance again ? OK, so I could understand the cost of Sam’s visit but because the state requires that the immunisations are needed for school, there should be some federal programme which covers this cost. Land of the Free, in this case, means free to charge what you want for health care.

Our first water bill came in last week. The city is responsible for managing water services and they bill every two months. Their first billing period for us covered approximately 5 days and so the total bill came to $5.62. I’m sure they spent more in processing fees.

Sam is starting an earnest hunt for some cars. Our main requirement is cheap.

If you’re thinking of living in the US of A, be aware that car insurance companies will attempt to screw you for as much money as possible for the first 18 months of your tenure. Past driving history is no measure. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been driving for 15 years with no accidents, you haven’t driven on this side of the road before so we can charge you a fortune.

My overwhelming advice for any planned migration is to bring money and lots of it.

You're going to feel a little prick…

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Today wasn’t very nice.

Before Rachel and Joanna can get into the school, they have to have proof that their immunisations are up to date.

This meant that we had to take them to a doctor today. Not fun.

They enjoyed being examined with cold stethoscopes, tickly hands and headphones for hearing tests but they didn’t enjoy the needles.

We’re in the 21st century and we still haven’t come up with an effective method of sub-cutaneous delivery of drugs that doesn’t involve forcing a tube the size of an oil pipe through the top layer of your epidermis.

At least that was how Rachel and Joanna both saw the situation.

Unfortunately, to get the required number of immunisations, Rachel needed 3 injections and Joanna needed 5. They should really sound-proof doctor’s surgeries.

If someone tells you that this isn’t going to hurt a bit, they’re lying through their teeth.

We go driving in our car…

Friday, August 5th, 2005

This week has been particularly hectic at work. It's a damned inconvenience when work intrudes on personal life and, more importantly, my ability to blog.

The major event this week was that we both passed our driving tests. If we were to keep score of the number of errors (where a low score is better and 16 is a fail) then Sam beat me 7-15.

Most of my errors were related to speed and how often I checked my mirrors. My piece-de-resistance was to make the examiner cry out “Oh my gosh!” as we pulled out of a T-junction to narrowly miss an oncoming truck. It appears that America has some rule about giving way to through traffic at T-junctions. My defence is that this country insists on having crosswalks at every intersection and the T-junction looked more like a 3-way stop to me so I was expecting the truck to stop.

Sam's errors were too minor to even note here so she's now going around the house with a big smile on her face.

This weekend saw me finally bite the bullet and buy a Cingular phone. I paid the $500 deposit on the grounds that I need to get a credit presence and we can see this as sort of a savings account because Cingular pay back the deposit after a year with 2% monthly interest. So, I'm now the proud owner of a Motorola Razr V3. I'm getting appreciative noises from m'colleagues when I show it off.

The only other gadget of note this week was a TiVo box. They were giving them away for the cost of a year's service so I took them up on their kind offer. I had to wait a couple of days before I got to download the latest firmware update which allowed me to connect it to my wireless network but I can now stream TiVo content to my PCs around the house. How cool is that ? 🙂 Next step is to hack the box to get a bigger disk.

I managed to achieve the technological equivalent of recording static with it though. For the uninitiated, a TiVo box is basically a hard disk with a video input that allows you to schedule recordings by using a TV guide that TiVo provides. It's like Sky+. The box has a couple of IR transmitters which are used to control your cable or satellite box and the cable or satellite box is connected to the TiVo box. So, this week, I scheduled recordings for Tripping the Rift. The major requirement for TiVo to work is that the cable or satellite box is turned on.

This week, I have been mostly recording a cable box that is turned off.