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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in David Luyer's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
10:49 am
0x20 years old
I'm 25 today! :-)
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
6:12 pm
As per my previous post, I'm in Perth, or more specifically Cottesloe, having departed San Francisco on Feb 25th, arrived here Feb 27th, and recovered from jetlag a few days after that.

This is nicolerego</lj>'s first trip to Australia; in fact, her first trip requiring a passport (until very recently, visits by citizens of the USA to Canada and Mexico did not require anything more than a state-issued ID such as a drivers' license; even today, these are possible with a "passport card" rather than a full passport).

So far:

Feb 25th-27th: 24 hours of travel (crossing the dateline, hence the date span).  Ran into my manager's manager at the airport.  Otherwise uneventful and a little painful due to my recovering ankle.
Feb 27th: Arrived.  Quick visit to Kings Park, seeing the Boab Tree and the War Memorial.  Local pizza.  Booked in to visit the consulate while I'm here to get a H-1B visa stamp.  Sleep very early.
Feb 28th: Walked to Cottesloe Beach, had a swim.  Walked back via the Cottesloe Civic Centre.  Swam in the pool at my parents' place. This is what summer in Cottesloe is all about.  Fish (Gummy Shark) and chips.  Sleep early, still jetlagged.
Mar 1st: Visit to Harbor Town.  Went on the ferry to South Perth.  Sleep a little later, but still not a normal time.
Mar 2nd: Visit to Perth Zoo.  Kan Tong for dinner (yes, this does not exist in the USA, and there is no approximation).
Mar 3rd: Walked to Cottesloe Beach.  Sculptures are being set up on the beach.  A couple of topless girls at the beach - have the rules changed for this beach, or are they ignored now?  Swam out along the groyne then across to the giant bubble, twice.  Had lunch at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel.

The beaches of NorCal and Florida don't even come close to comparing to Cottesloe Beach.  Florida's might, if it wasn't for the "sea lice".

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I'm not sure exactly what's going on yet, but I'm sure we'll find something to do.

We are still intending to visit at this stage: UCC (this Friday night), Albany, Monkey Mia, Cohunu Koala Park, Adventure World, Rottnest.
Saturday, February 21st, 2009
8:38 pm
My computer is an alcoholic
Well, actually it just likes to bathe in alcohol.

After a bottle of 95% alcohol (Polish Spirytus), it is back in action.  Hopefully Midnite doesn't throw up in it again before we work out a deterrent to stop her spending so much time sitting on top of it.
Friday, February 20th, 2009
9:41 pm
Return to Australia
nicolerego and I are heading to Perth on Wednesday (February 25th) and will be there until March 22nd.  It will be the first time I've left the USA since arriving here on January 13th, 2007 (unless you count hopping through Texas airport on the way back from Florida - Texas is virtually another country).  That's over two years in the one country - the longest continuous time I've been in one country since 1997.

Anyone who feels like catching up while we're in Perth, let me know (comment here, or send me an email).  It'll be Nicole's first time traveling anywhere she needs a passport to visit (US citizens could visit Mexico and Canada with their drivers' license until recently).  I'm sure we'll come to UCC and have some pizza, it looks like I'll catch up with the AARNet guys (and some of the others from PARNet from when I was in Perth) while we're there, since I've been talking to them a fair bit recently about IPv6 and Google, and we'll probably head out of the city a bit (up to Monkey Mia?) and of course spend some time down at Cottesloe beach.  And visiting Cohunu Koala Park so Nicole can hug a koala bear.

My old Nokia 9300 Communicator came off worse for wear after it was sitting on top of a friend's tesla coil (a picture of this will come later - my main workstation is temporarily out of service after Midnite was sick while sitting on top of it, where she sits to get the warmth from the fans, and it shut itself down and has refused to start up since) so I don't have everyone's numbers - I have a few, but again, emails would be appreciated :)

And just to make things interesting, on Tuesday, I slipped (embarrassingly, I missed a step no higher than a kerb) and ended up with a rather severe sprain of my left ankle.  Right after doing it, I thought I was going to be OK, and walked back to my building with no problems (pain, but not unbearable pain), but by the end of the day I could tell I had a problem, and I took around 10 minutes to walk from my desk to the shuttle stop (usually a 1-2 minute walk).  After a quick trip to a nearby urgent care facility and a few x-rays (determining no broken bones), I ended up with an air-gel ankle brace and a pair of crutches, both of which I'm still using, and the advice that I probably wouldn't be able to carry a suitcase by the time I'm flying out.  I don't know what Qantas' policy on crutches on flights is, but there's a good chance I'll find out soon.
Sunday, February 8th, 2009
1:09 pm
iPhone - no call blacklist, no call blocker in app store?
nicolerego</lj> bought me an iPhone 3G (black, 16G) as an early birthday present, since we'll be in Australia for my birthday, and she wanted to buy the present before we went.

Which, of course, means I now have a developer G1 (aka Google phone), a Windows Mobile device (AT&T 8525), a Nokia 9300 (Communicator) and an iPhone - all I'm missing is a Palm, really :-)

So far, I'm very happy with the iPhone, and am likely to use it as my primary phone; I've transferred almost everything across from my AT&T 8525 and all the music from my iPod, however I still need to scan my CD covers to update some of the album art which iTunes couldn't find.  It was even simple to set up multiple email accounts!

Simple reasons why I'm not using each of the other devices:
  • G1: Does not support AT&T 3G frequencies, and the other networks which it does support 3G on do not have good coverage of country California.  Besides, I'm comfortable with AT&T, and don't have any significant desire to switch.
  • AT&T 8525: This has been my main phone since I've been here.  I find the interface somewhat painful, although it does at least support cut and paste, which is one of the well-known iPhone deficiencies.  The web browser was nowhere near as nice as on the iPhone.
  • Nokia 9300: This was my main phone for my last couple of years in Australia.  The interface was far nicer than the AT&T 8525, and the keyboard was better.  However, web browsing was even worse than on the AT&T 8525.  Besides, I've shattered the small LCD on this, so I have to do most things on the large LCD, with the phone open.
Initial issues?  I wasn't able to complete some forms in Safari on it, but that's not a big issue.  I can't seem to find how to tell it that it should check for new e-mail messages in a specific set of folders, again, not a killer issue.  However, there is one big omission.  There's no call blocker/blacklist, and not even a 'silent' ringtone.  I can upload a silent ringtone to it easily, but I also don't want the callers in question to cause my phone to vibrate if it's in silent mode; that's harder.

I searched for a while, and all I could find was MCleaner and iBlacklist; both of these require you to jailbreak your iPhone.  Do Apple have something against blocking unwanted calls?  Or is it just that nobody has written a call blocker to Apple's satisfaction?  Does anyone out there know?
Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
11:03 pm
Sunny California
Forecast for next Monday in San Jose:
  • Max 43F/6C
  • Min 36F/2C

Reminds me of when I first arrived in California and started this livejournal, with -3C overnight minimum.
Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
9:06 pm
8:42 pm
Recently, I purchased a Canon Pixma MX310 multifunction device. The motivation for this was for Nicole to be able to send some faxes for her work, however I of course had to find a well-reviewed device, and as most fax machines were pretty poorly reviewed, that led to the choice of the multifunction device.

The device proved useful for a lot more than faxing. For example, when it came time to print some place cards for our engagement party, my trusty old (well, not yet two years old, so perhaps not so old) laser printer left toner marks attempting to print on the place cards. The inkjet printer worked perfectly.

Further, this means I now have a scanner. As a result, I have scanned the four recent non-digital pictures that I have:
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
5:03 pm
UAW - Wow!
It has been reported quite a bit in the media that a concession which UAW are discussing with respect to attempting to secure an auto industry bailout is cutting back the jobs bank.

The jobs bank pays laid off employees in the order of 85% - 95% of their regular pay until they are re-hired. This is part of the reason that US auto companies tend to do deep discounting rather than cutting production if they can't sell - because cutting production doesn't impact labor costs.

However what I didn't realize was that the jobs bank is the second level of this protection. For the first 48 weeks after being laid off, UAW members receive a combination of unemployment benefits from the Government and supplemental unemployment benefits from the company. After that, they start to be paid from the jobs bank.

No wonder the companies aren't competitive with the non-union auto companies. Even if they did everything else right, the labor situation is just crazy.
Saturday, November 15th, 2008
4:56 pm
Qantas, big sale
2-for-1 return flights US to Australia (and other routes). Sale ends in 36 hours.

I'm heading back Feb 25-Mar 22 next year.
Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
12:18 am
(Dessert) Wine and Cheese
Belated recommendations from Sonoma:

- Dessert wine: Mayo Family Winery's 2006 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. Acquiring more of this was a key reason for our choice of Sonoma for our most recent wine region trip.

- Cheese: Rumiano's Peppato Aged Dry Monterey Jack with Peppercorns and California Mission David Jacks' Habanero Jack -- also by Rumiano, but not on their website. Rumiano are actually in Crescent City, but Sonoma Cheese Factory have a wide selection of their cheeses.

For those not familiar with California's wine region: Napa and Sonoma are the two most famous "wine region" destinations, however the actual wine region extends quite some way away from these two centres. I haven't actually made it to wineries in Napa yet; the only time have I visited Napa so far was in 2001, as a tech-tourist: I went to look at the satellite uplink station there which not too much earlier had been the source of a substantial portion of Internet access in Australia.
Saturday, October 18th, 2008
5:06 pm
Good Fish and Chips, finally!
I've been in the USA continuously since January 2007.

In that time I've had fish and chips a fair number of times, and been disappointed every single time.  I was even getting ready to settle on occasionally having some I didn't really like, but were better than the others I'd had.

So, with great surprise, I had some fish and chips today which completely blew away any others I'd had in the USA.  Well, the fish at least, and for the chips, they had malt vinegar and salt, so I guess I should be happy.  The chips were oversized, not the typical "thick cut" from an Australian fish and chippery, but probably the same in two dimensions and twice the width.

Anyway, for excellent fish and chips in the Bay Area, and actually very close to my place (in fact, in downtown San Jose, so walking distance), try Hoagie Steak Out in downtown San Jose.
Sunday, October 5th, 2008
9:30 pm
Tonight, I took Nicole (nicolerego</lj>) to the Moss Beach Distillery and proposed to her (with this ring).  She said yes.

Friday, September 19th, 2008
10:02 am
Looked at LJ this morning to notice that a large chunk of my friends had done this in the past day, so here goes...

Take a picture of yourself right now.
Don't change your clothes, don't fix your hair - just take a picture.
Post that picture with NO editing.
Post these instructions with the picture.

The pictureCollapse )
Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
7:59 pm
At roughly the same time as dichro, I submitted my DNA to 23andMe.

In May, dichro received his results.

Some time later, I received my "failed to find sufficient DNA material" email and another kit, which I took slightly longer to return, and the results took much longer to come back. On the plus side, just before the sample was finally processed, I received an email informing me that there was a price reduction and I would receive a partial refund, and that 23andMe had moved to a new lab to resolve the backlog, which would also sample more markers than the previous lab.

In the end, though, I only have ~600k markers in my results, roughly the same figure as dichro's results.

So, my results?

- Ancestry painting: 100% European.
- Maternal Line: I2, found in Eurasia and Northeastern Africa, including Celtic Britons
- Paternal Line: R1b1c, found in Europe, including those of British descent
- Global Similarity: Most similar to Northern Europeans, next in line, Southern Europeans

No surprises there. All ancestors I've traced have been of British descent.

I have the genes which indicate a high probability of blue eyes, have a reduced probability of most diseases (diabetes, obesity, MS, etc, etc), and in the traits which appear to be considered rarer, I have two CCR5Delta32 'mutations' which provide resistance to the common strain of HIV. Oh, and I'm a fast caffeine metabolizer, which reduces my heart attack risk from caffeine, however I don't consume it anyway.
Friday, August 29th, 2008
9:59 pm
Fox Rent-a-Car, no longer my friends
Had an extremely bad experience with Fox Rent-a-Car tonight at San Jose airport tonight, which is unfortunate, because they're generally one of the cheapest options.

Kinda long. Rather rant-ish.Collapse )

The bottom line: I'm posting this from a Alamo rental car on interstate 5 on the way down to San Diego for the weekend.
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
10:03 pm
Luyer v Gordon Biersch, San Jose
Round 1 to me, narrowly...

After living downtown for almost nine months, and walking past the downtown San Jose Gordon Biersch brewery restaurant quite a few times, tonight we finally decided to give them a try. For an appetizer, we ordered the Shrimp and Chicken Potstickers. They tasted quite nice, and came on a bed of salad. I was quite hungry, so I started eating the salad. About half way through the salad, I noticed a crunch sound, and decided that wasn't right, so I spat it out. "It" turned out to be a rough triangle of shattered glass, around 7mm on each side and 3mm thick, covered in sharp edges.

Better luck next time Gordon Biersch. Perhaps if it was in Nachos I wouldn't have noticed and would have swallowed it down. But it didn't sound right in the salad.

We got out of there before the mains turned up. At this stage, I'm thinking that will be our first and only visit.
Saturday, August 9th, 2008
9:51 pm
Superannuation and 401(k) funds
When I left Australia, I had a reasonable amount in superannuation, most of it in 'capital' funds, and a smaller amount in foreign shares, having switched a large amount out of stock market funds and into capital at pretty much the right time (just before the local stock market started falling).

Despite the high interest rates (over 7%) in Australia, my super balance was constantly going down; this seemed to be primarily due to loss in value of the foreign shares due to the exchange rate being much larger than the increase in value of the 'capital' funds. So, with the Australian dollar losing around 10% in the past week, today I went to check the value of my super, and to consider switching to solidify some of the (expected) gains from this. To my surprise, it was at the lowest I've seen it yet, around 12% less than when I left Australia!

Somehow, over the past month, despite the dramatic decline of the Australian dollar in the past week and the rebound of various US stocks, all of the foreign investments have lost substantial value (when denoted in Australian dollars). I guess I shouldn't be surprised: super funds have become experts at losing money at times when everyone else is making profits from the market.

Further, even my 'capital' funds have managed to decline in value, despite the extreme returns available on cash in Australia!

This all makes my -2.6% 'personal rate of return' from Vanguard on my 401(k) look like a stellar performance for a retirement fund!

My savings available for retirement would be tens of thousands better off if I was managing them myself in the same manner as I have my regular savings over the same period. Needless to say: Not impressed.
Wednesday, August 6th, 2008
11:53 pm
A few months ago, nicolerego's cat, Midnite, moved in to stay with us. Shortly after, we bought her a little cat bed to curl up in. Despite our best attempts, she wasn't at all interested.

In part we'd bought this for her because we expected Midnite to be a little distressed with her new surroundings, living downtown. It turns out this wasn't an issue, she seems to love it here! She's much more active and social than she was at the last two places she lived, and when we're not home, she often sits in the window watching the outside world (actually, sometimes she sits and watches when we're sleeping too, it's like she thinks she's a guard cat; but usually she just curls up at my feet for much of the night). Remarkably, she jumps up to the window sill via my chess table many times a day, without knocking over any of the pieces.

Anyway, back to the topic of the bed. After a week or two, we decided Midnite wasn't at all interested in the bed, and instead (easily) convinced Nicole's chihuahua, Charlie, to use the bed to lie down in it. Eventually it became a "time out" zone for Charlie, who sometimes has way too much energy, but we only used it for that a few times, so mostly it sat empty.

So, just a couple of days ago, Nicole walked into the front room and, to her surprise... you guessed itCollapse )
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
8:55 pm
Blue sky at night
Courtesy of landbarge: blue sky at 2am (with around 10 minutes of exposure).
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