A Quick Personal Update

Published at 09:20 on 11 September 2021

Not been posting here much recently because I have been preoccupied with the upcoming move to Vancouver, BC. Or should I say, the potential upcoming move.

You see, my potential employer had been operating under what I call “the child’s conception of NAFTA*.” Which is, upon hearing that the “FT” stands for “free trade,” to conclude based on its name alone that one knows all there is to know about the agreement. In this case, it means assuming cross-border hire is only very slightly more complex than hiring someone from another Canadian province. Just tell the hiree to apply for a work permit under that agreement, wait a few weeks for perfunctory approval, problem solved.

Um, no, that’s not how it works. Back in the day, I remember right-wing, ultra-capitalist libertarians whining about how NAFTA was false advertising because it really didn’t usher in complete free trade. Well, from their standpoint, they had a point, because it did not. National borders still very much exist and they still very much matter. Yes, there are easy-to-get work permits under that agreement, but they are limited to 63 quite narrow and precisely defined job categories, and a software developer is not among them.

So the intervening weeks have been a process of educating first myself, and then transferring that knowledge to my potential employer, who to this day remains of the general belief that they do not want to get super heavily-involved in the process. Which makes the outcome uncertain, because as Canadian immigration law is written, the employer basically does have to be quite heavily involved in my situation.

One can argue that this should not be the case, given the shortage of software people in Canada. That, however, is a policy advocacy position and not a statement of political fact. The fact is that hiring developers from abroad is not currently so easy or simple.

So this whole exercise may well come to naught so far as they are concerned. It won’t be a total loss from my standpoint, however, as going through it has enabled me to learn about which Vancouver employers are willing to be involved in the process of hiring from abroad (due to the software developer shortage, there is a motive for them to do so). Those are going to be my focus from this point onward, of course.

* And yes, the agreement is no longer officially called NAFTA. It is, depending on what country one resides, USMCA, CUSMA, or T-MEC. (Note how each acronym puts one’s own nation’s name first. But of course. Ah, nationalism. But I digress.) People tend to remember the fact that it’s basically a renegotiated NAFTA, however, and still judge the overall nature of the agreement by its original name.

I’m Back; Forget the Reopening

Published at 22:48 on 27 July 2021

I’m back from a road trip. Back a few days early, in fact: wildfire smoke cut it short. Not much point camping, hiking, and surveying rare plants if the air quality level is someplace between Unhealthy and Hazardous, with minimization of time spent outdoors recommended.

Regarding the border reopening, thanks to the Delta variant, forget it. Yes, Canada announced that it would reopen on the 9th of next month. That is merely a non-binding statement of future intent. Canada can easily renege, and in all likelihood will. This is even the more likely given that the USA has announced it will not reopen so early. Really, now, why should Canada extend to Americans a privilege the USA refuses to extend to Canadians? It would amount to giving up a bargaining chip for acting in the interests of its own citizens. No competent national government would do such a thing. On top of that, a strike is brewing amongst Canadian border guards and customs agents.

Remember what I wrote in my prediction of a reopening:

This assumes no unexpected developments (such as a new, vaccine-resistant COVID variant emerging), of course. If such things happen, all bets are off and the border closure may truly become a long-haul thing [emphasis added].

Vaccinated!

Published at 19:58 on 9 April 2021

I had sort of been keeping an eye on possibilities for registering to get on wait lists as soon as I become eligible for the vaccine on the 15th, so any vaccine-related threads on the local Reddit group immediately get my attention. Yesterday morning, rumors were circulating that three tribal clinics in the area had excess supply and were letting any adult, regardless of age or tribal status, receive the vaccine.

Two of the three rumors got promptly shot down in flames. But people kept insisting that the third one was actually a possibility. I went to the web site for that clinic, and sure enough, hundreds of vaccine doses for that afternoon were yet to be claimed.

Could it be? It sounded too good to be true. The clinic in question was in the next county and almost an hour’s drive away, and I didn’t want to make the drive only to be turned away, so I called them to verify. It was indeed true: they had a surplus of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and any adult, regardless of tribal status, who made an appointment and showed up could claim a dose.

Everything was handled outdoors in the parking lot of the Swinomish Casino. I did not even have to leave the cab of my truck. I waited less than five minutes to get my shot. It all seemed surreal, what with how so many people are scrambling merely to get on waiting lists. It still seems surreal.

But I have a piece of card stock to prove it was all very real.

Back from a Long Camping Trip

Published at 15:19 on 2 September 2020

Well, long for me. I don’t normally go camping for more than a couple days at a stretch, particularly not since the pandemic has made travel increasingly risky.

However, the condo complex I presently reside in is having every building re-roofed this summer, my building’s turn had come up, and the idea of living in a construction zone really does not appeal to me. So a camping trip it was.

I had been confining my camping to about a 50-mile radius this year, but the urge to visit the dry east side of the mountains had gotten just too great to resist, despite the risk. Part of it is that most of the free camping within 50 miles of me is at higher elevations, and these areas can be surprisingly chilly, even in the summer. I even had frost overnight one time last month. So Okanogan County it was.

I figured (correctly) that if I brought the right mix of perishable and non-perishable foods, my ice would last long enough to get me through most of the trip, and the last day or two I could get by well enough on dried and canned things.

That left buying gasoline for the trip home as the only business transaction I would have to make in what is one of Washington’s more infected counties on a per-capita basis. I would just pay at the pump and sanitize my hands afterward. No entering of public indoor spaces at all required.

It all worked out pretty much as planned, and it was nice to be someplace where it actually felt like summer at my campsite. It was very dry; many things were literally dried to a crisp. Not surprisingly, there was a strict burn ban on. Pleasantly surprisingly, I saw no idiots trying to flout it.

Then I return home, only to find that it was taking significantly longer than anticipated for my building to be finished. So I ended up making another, more hastily-planned, trip to a location much closer to home.

The first night of that second trip made for a nice counterpoint to the warmth and dryness of the east side, beginning as it did the same day a weak front brought some showers. The mountains make their own weather, so those showers ended up being a significant overnight rainfall at camp.

It had been some time since I camped in rainy weather, several years in fact, so it was actually nice to experience it again. Camping in the rain is no disaster if one is prepared for it, as I was. It was quite meditative to gradually fall asleep to the pitter-patter in the deepening dusk.

It ended by meeting some friends from Seattle for a short alpine hike near Mt. Baker, which doubled as a blueberry-harvesting trip. There wasn’t the bumper crop of berries that there was last year, but it was still easy enough to come back with enough berries to make a batch of jam (which I will be doing later today).

My Experiences with the Bellair Airporter

Published at 18:33 on 13 February 2020

I’ve noticed their buses on I-5 for decades, so I presumed that, given this is a well-established business, it was a reliable option for getting to Sea-Tac. Given that the only flight to my destination originating from the local Bellingham airport left at 5:00 am, it was a relief to know I could take the bus to Seattle (at a sane hour of the day) instead of flying down and changing planes there.

So I go online and make my reservation. Their web site was a little dated-looking, but it seemed to work fine. I promptly got a message saying my reservation was confirmed.

Then I get another e-mail a few minutes later saying there was a problem with billing my credit card and to call customer service. So I call customer service. They can’t find my reservation at all. They make another reservation for me.

Then I notice that there are not one, but two charges from them on my credit card. So I have to call again to straighten that mess out.

The day of my trip comes, and I arrive early at the bus stop. The bus doesn’t show at the appointed time. Having learned the hard way how lacking customer service and quality control tend to be in American business, I call them and ask if there’s any problems.

“We didn’t even send the bus to that stop because there were no reservations from it.” Turns out that when they made the new reservation to me, they made it wrong, for a bus leaving an hour later.

So I had to hurry home and drive to the airport on the spur of the moment (through horrible Seattle traffic, and I hate driving in Seattle traffic) to save my flight.

And now I see that they failed to properly refund all the money for the reservation they botched.

That’s right, I’m now up to four interactions with them, for something that should have taken just one interaction, and literally every interaction has gone wrong (and at their fault) in some way.

I’m starting to realize why Alaska Airlines can get people to wake at o-dark-thirty to catch that 5:00 am flight of theirs.

A Quick Update

Published at 09:23 on 21 January 2020

The Arctic Outflow Event Is Over

Not really a surprise, as such things seldom tend to last much longer than a week, anyhow. It only took a few days of temperatures above freezing both night and day to dispatch the snow that fell.

What was a surprise was how it ended: mild air started invading Wednesday night, but very slowly. Still, by the wee hours of the morning temperatures had climbed well into the forties Fahrenheit. Then, the surprise: the arctic air reasserted itself. The slush refroze. The cold weather then lasted for two more days before the inevitable happened.

A Surprise Job Opportunity

Someone wants to interview me for a local tech job. The interview process is somewhat unusual and plays to one of my strengths (teaching people). But there’s also a host of potential mismatches between myself and the employer. Time will tell on this one.

GUI Programming Is a Real PITA

I always knew it was; that’s why I’ve not done much of it up to this point. But boy, is it slow and tedious. It literally takes days of reading documentation and slow experimentation to accomplish the simplest things.

Part of the issue is that what I’m trying to do is somewhat unusual: I’m displaying multiple text panes within a scrollable area, using an area that is dynamically created and updated. Most programs don’t dynamically generate windows (with varying numbers of components) in their GUI’s, and virtually all programs just put a single text pane inside a scrollable region, and they want that pane to automatically grow to be as large as the whole region.

And this is with the Java Swing library, which is well-known, stable, and well-documented. I couldn’t imagine how painful the process would be in the sketchily-documented, ever-changing native Apple GUI libraries. Thankfully, the unusual part of the application is now basically complete; what remains is much more conventional GUI programming.

Arctic Outflow

Published at 22:11 on 14 January 2020

Today’s high was 19˚F. In Seattle that would break a record. Here in Bellingham, it’s definitely much colder than normal, but the record is still significantly colder. We’re close to the mouth of the Fraser Canyon, and if the interior of British Columbia fills up with frigid air, it can spill through that canyon and hit us without having to pass over any salt water to moderate it.

The arrival of the arctic front was dramatic. My building shuddered as a sudden gust of northeasterly wind hit it. The falling snow changed from sloppy and wet to dry and powdery. Within a half-hour, any wet pavement surfaces that had not been treated had flash-frozen.

Tonight it is snowing and 14˚F. That’s cold enough to experience something rare on the West Coast: snow that squeaks when you walk on it. That’s a fairly common occurrence in a continental climate, but I never once experienced it in Seattle. Here, the cold snaps really are a taste of what winter is like in a continental climate.

But only a taste. Within about 24 hours, the wind will shift. When that happens, the arctic air will depart as quickly as it arrived. The ocean is right here, ready to supply mild air the moment the wind resumes its normal westerly to southwesterly direction. The departure of the cold snap will be as abrupt as its arrival was.

And that’s the way I want things to be. The past few days have been fun because they have been a departure from the norm. Were they the norm, these conditions would become tiresome and unpleasant. Winter would mean not a green thing in sight, and spring would mean waiting seemingly forever for all the snow that accumulated in winter to melt, and all the while it melted it would get increasingly dirty and drab.

A Belated Post-Thanksgiving Check-In

Published at 11:00 on 8 December 2019

Not much to report recently save the somewhat frustrating experience I had on Thanksgiving. I was visiting some old friends in Seattle, and one of them, who works as a hydrologist, was having no end of trouble analyzing a batch of huge data files. The root of her troubles was that the software she was using was attempting to load the entire file in memory before operating on it.

That was highly frustrating for me to observe, because:

  1. All indications are that it was probably unnecessary to load the entire file into memory (i.e. it was possible to process it on a record-by-record basis).
  2. If so, I could easily correct the above problem.
  3. That their lack of computer expertise is causing this one project to be adversely impacted indicates that it’s unlikely to be the only such project; odds are this is merely the tip of an iceberg.
  4. I don’t work there, therefore I am not allowed to address such problems.
  5. I’ve been unable to convince anyone who does work there and who has the authority to hire me (either as a contractor, or as an employee) to so much as meet with me.

Better Late than Never, I Guess

Published at 16:48 on 1 October 2019

I’m now starting to get discount offer after discount offer from local big box stores, because they figure that as a new homeowner in the neighborhood, I might be in the market for a number of things, and they might as well try to build a relationship with me and become a store of choice.

Close, but no cigar. I was in a market for a number of things during my first month here. However, that moving-in phase is now mostly over. The last thing I did, I completed yesterday: correcting the undersized electric heaters.

Like most every place with electric heat that I’ve ever lived in, for some reason the builders decided to shave a few dollars more in profit by installing heaters that are ridiculously undersized (as in, about half the recommended heat output, given the living space). This they do despite the electricians installing wiring which is capable of serving the recommended wattage. Electric heater design has been very stable for decades, so the same manufacturers are still making the same exact models they were 20 years ago when this building was constructed. Therefore, it was a simple matter of swapping out the inadequate heater for an adequate one. For good measure, I swapped out the line-voltage thermostat, too, because I couldn’t find a rating for the old one and therefore wasn’t certain it could handle the new, higher current load.

But I digress. The heater upgrade was the last major thing on my move-in to-do list. I was going to put it off for several more weeks, but we’re having an early cool spell and as it turns out the inadequate heater was also making an annoying random rattling noise. Turns out that that was merely a foreign object in the fan area, but by that point I had already taken it apart and de-installed it. Might as well just replace the thing since I’d already done about half that job by the time I made that discovery.

So, I doubt I’ll make much use of any of those coupons.

Yes, yes, I know: it takes time for the public records of real estate purchases to filter through the system enough for marketers to be aware of them, so they can’t be blamed for the slowness. It’s still slowness, however. The reason for it doesn’t matter. Makes one wonder how much that tactic actually works for generating new customers.

Back Online

Published at 20:50 on 22 September 2019

This whole goof-up on the part of the ISP that hosts this site underscores yet again how crucial it is to get out from under them and to self-host it on my own virtual host, that I fully (or almost fully) control.