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Showing posts from August, 2008

Thoughts and notes from NYC

A few observations from our time in Der Big Apple:

- Recycling: where is it? I only recall seeing one recycling bin during our whole stateside trip, and that was at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We drank pop ("soda") and juice and water and had nowhere sensible to dispose of the bottles and cans other than the garbage. It seemed very wasteful!

- Drinks: not so cold? It could be my imagination, my heat tolerance or something else, but it seemed to me that every time I got a cold beverage, it wasn't nearly as cold as I'd expected. Do Americans set their refrigerators to a different temperature than we do up here?

- Empire State Building vs. Top Of The Rock: Rockefeller Center wins by a long shot. ESB wins the SMB award for this trip. The prices were comparable, but the Rock was by far the better trip. They had timed tickets so you knew when you'd be going up, and you got there fast in a speedy elevator with cool special effects. Staff were courteous and helpful, …

The Ring

The Ring, originally uploaded by BigAssSuperBlog. For those who've been curious, here's Amanda's engagement ring. Custom crafted by Fire Works Gallery in Halifax. Round brilliant ideal-cut Hearts & Arrows diamond in half-bezel setting, white gold.
I love the way it sparkles -- but I'm not fancy-pants photographer enough to be able to capture that detail.

The Stallion rises from the grave

The PC in the dungeon, nickname Stallion, is now back and functioning as best as I can expect.

Fixing the USB problem -- no mouse, no thumbdrive, printer, scanner, external HD, PODxt, camera, etc. -- was easier than expected. I went to Device Manager and opened the USB connections. I opened Properties for the first one on the list and clicked Update Driver. Windows said "oh yeah, right, I forgot about that... you need new drivers for this thing ... gimme a sec" and pulled together a USB 2.0 driver for the whole pile of ports. Ta-da! You have a new mouse! Wanna use it? Oh, and a thumbdrive! How keen!

Now it's on to installing all these Windows updates. IE7 came in smoothly. A couple of security updates installed fine. But Service Pack 3 is giving me the same headaches as SP2. I may just learn to live without it and concentrate on backing stuff up, slipstreaming a new Windows+SP3 install CD and setting fire to the whole C: drive.

Ten years ago today - August 28, 1998

Back in 1998, I tried a little experiment. I tried to write down five things I learned every day.


Here's what I learned on August 28, 1998:


1. Stag parties aren't as wild as I'd thought -- just a bunch of guys playing cards
2. It's the best man's duty to plan the stag
3. Replying to the "remove me" address on spam can get you on another mailing list
4. Stopping distance is usually more than you think
5. There's a collision reporting centre near the west end (Islington). Learned all about collision reporting.


The story? I was out on assignment west of Toronto, doing a story at a truck inspection station. I don't recall what the story was, but it was pretty dull. I was tired and hungry and driving back to Toronto on the QEW with a bit of a headache. I wanted to make decent time because I was going to my first stag party, in honor of then-680News police reporter Jim Morris (RIP)

I was driving the company's Subaru Outback wagon. Suddenly traffic s…

Does my computer work? Here's a hint -- no it doesn't

That's sort of a lie.

I talked to Ravi at Microsoft for a few hours on Sunday and didn't manage to get the damned thing working right. Reinstalled Windows XP Pro -- again, this is the release-day version -- and got the activation issue handled, but I couldn't do a GD thing with the machine because of a can't-find-entry-point error of some kind. Ravi made an appointment for Tuesday night at 9 for a next-level guy to call.

So Sanjeev and I hacked at the thing 'til 1am. I re-re-installed XP, applied SP2, he ran the remote helper thingy, ran a script to give me explicit superduperuser access to my own PC, used microtweezers to extract the shattered remnants of Norton Internet Security from the PC ... and it looks like it's back to a working state. Sort of.

Now I can get to the desktop and all my stuff appears to be there.

But it's hard to be sure because my mouse no longer works! None of the USB works! Okay, this'll probably be easy to fix -- I'm going to t…

But that's not all I did on vacation ...

The proposal/engagement was a big deal, yeah, but that's not all that happened on the two-week summer vacation.

We started out with a plane trip to Ontario, (on Air Canada with the new seat-back video screens -- nice addition) spending part of a week with Amanda's family in Bradford. They surprised us with a co-birthday party (mine in August, hers coming up in October) featuring Amanda's sisters Amy and Ruth. Amanda got the other big surprise of the trip, with her folks funding a pending laser eye surgery -- so she'll be able to wear sunglasses year-round and see her alarm clock at night. Very big news.

The Bradford leg featured multiple trips to Marble Slab Creamery. It's an ice cream place featuring super-deluxe-premium ice cream in an assortment of interesting flavours, mixed with premium fixin's on a frozen slab of marble. C'est tres yum, ouais.

We got to watch some Olympic coverage, see video of the cool propane explosion in Toronto, comingle with licky d…

Big Ass Superstar engaged to marry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (August 25, 2008)

"Vacation turns to engagement for Halifax blogger"
HALIFAX, NS -- BigAssSuperstar.com wishes to congratulate founder and editor Scott Simpson on his engagement to long-time girlfriend Amanda on 08-20-2008 in New York City.

Mr. Simpson crafted an intricate plot to propose to Amanda in front of the scrolling marquee outside Hershey's Times Square. After feeding her extensive misinformation leading her to believe a proposal might be coming atop Manhattan's famous Empire State Building, Scott led her to 48th and Broadway with the promise of a genuine American chocolate bar.

After exiting the store with chocolate, Amanda was caught off guard when Scott began recording a "video postcard," then handed his camcorder off to an apparent stranger. He pulled out a Canadian flag identical to one the couple had been given by soldiers on Paris' Champs-Elysees on the 60th anniversary of D-Day during their landmark European vacati…

On turning 35

Well, I turned 35 yesterday.

And it's occurred to me that I'm really glad I've spent the last few years making a concerted effort to "grow up" -- 'cuz I'd sure feel like an idiot turning such a grown-up age as 35 if my life were in the same state as it was, say, when I was 30. I feel much more like my life matches my age now than I did at any other landmark birthday.
For reflections on other recent birthdays, see my 2006 thoughts on turning 33 and my 2006 post about birthday wishes. Looks like I didn't write a birthday post last year.
---
Big Ass Summer Vacation Tour 2008 is under way. We're in Bradford Ontario right now, heading to Stratford tomorrow afternoon to dine and BBQ with my sister's family and our parents. Friday takes me to Toronto to visit with Sandra as Amanda sees her aunt. Then back to Stratford for the weekend, and Tuesday we're on to New York City!
Thanks to Barb and Wendall for their patience and generous hospitality so …

Is this why people buy Macs?

The Stallion is in quarantine.

My main home computer is unusable right now, pending help from Microsoft.

I canned Norton Internet Security after almost two years of saying 'no' to paying for virus updates. I installed Avast! anti-virus software instead.

I don't know why, but Windows woke up and said hey! You've changed so much since first validating Windows that we need you to validate Windows again within three days. I figured that would be no big deal -- it's a legit copy of Windows XP Professional. I got it the day they launched it at the freakin' launch party hosted by Microsoft. It's real, so I expected no problem.

But problem is what I got. The Activate Windows program window opened up a window frame ... and did nothing. The hard drive chugged and chugged, but nothing happened. The program showed as "Not Responding" in Task Manager.

Okay, no big deal, right? Reboot. Same problem.

Check the web for help. Find some Microsoft knowledge base stuff abo…

Vacation Headache #1 - solved

I spent some time working the phones with the car rental agencies last night. National, Alamo, Enterprise, Avis, Thrifty, Dollar, Budget.

Some of them were helpful -- I talked to National-Alamo's call centre for a while, and the woman was trying to be very helpful. Matt at Laguardia was a decent chap, but couldn't quite believe that it was illegal for me to drive a US rental car into Canada. Matt in Bangor, Maine was likewise accomodating. The fellas in Portland, Maine were polite but less trying-hard.

Budget's toll-free line got me Roger in Fredericton -- nice to talk to a friendly maritimer.

I called Thrifty and got a woman who was ... a pain. I called Dollar and got the same woman!

It was all ultimately futile. Nobody could set us up with a Canadian-plated car to drive from NYC to Halifax.

So we looked at other options.

Train? No go.

Bus? We don't have a hunting knife. (Too soon?)

American rental driven half-way and switched to a Canadian car? Not doable.

Rental driven to Po…

Vacation headache #1

Our plan was to fly to Ontario, do the Ontario thing, then fly to New York, do the NYC thing, then rent a car in NYC and drive back to Halifax through Maine and New Brunswick.

Amanda set up the car rental a few weeks ago with National-Alamo, and the only outstanding thing to settle was the discount rate offered through my employer. When sorting *that* out today, the customer service gentleman said he'd heard that Canada Border Services Agency seized American rental cars at the border.

Sounded fishy, but I just called CBSA and they say that's correct.

It's illegal for a Canadian to drive a car with American plates in Canada. So they'd seize the car and give me an ouchy fine.

Alternative solutions that sound good (and by good, I mean in theory, not that I feel sufficiently smart at this exact second to make them work):

- drive a rental from NYC to some border town, then walk, hike, skip or swim across the border to Canadian border town and pick up another rental; or, drive a …

How's that diet going, anyway?

It's been almost a month since I stumbled upon the Hacker's Diet in a pre-weekend fit of self-flagellation over my weight. How's it all going? Well, here's my chart as produced by physicsdiet.com:



The points are my daily weigh-ins. The top wavy line is the rolling weighted average. The straight line is the trend line.

This shows a slow but steady weight loss of 1.39 pounds per week, courtesy of a daily caloric deficit of nearly 700 calories.

This has not been difficult. I have not been exercising all that often -- taekwondo about once a week, walking home most days ('cept for the past week), and regrettably I've yet to ride my bike -- though I did buy a tire pump last weekend while on an excursion away from Amanda's hospital bedside. There's room for more drastic weight loss, but I'm off to a steady start so far.

Some difficulty will be introduced in one week when the Big Ass Summer Tour 2008 begins. We'll be hitting Bradford for a bit, then Str…