eldar: (Default)
2010-11-02 12:35 am
Entry tags:

Living In America: Part I: Caught In The Crossfire

...in which I introduce a semi-regular (and really, don't hold your breath for Part II) series of posts on reflections on the Left Side Of The Pond vs. the Right Side.

I sit here on the eve of the mid-term general elections, in which, tomorrow today - November 2, 2010 - Americans will vote for all of their Congressmen, 1/3 of the Senate, and Governors in many states. There are also local elections.

In all of this, I'm a casual bystander - as a legal permanent resident (AKA "Green Card" holder), I can live here, work here, pay taxes here, but I can't vote, not even for the town garbage administrator.

"Casual Bystander" is perhaps the wrong term. "Civilian casualty of increasingly hostile political crossfire" might be a better way of putting it. Partly because of the two-party system, partly because of the funding and campaigning rules, and partly because Pennsylvania is seen as a key battleground, a barometer by which the rest of the country will be measured, I and the rest of the Commonwealth's TV viewers and radio listeners are being smacked by a constant barrage of mudslinging, name-calling, and scare tactics delivered by, and on behalf of, the candidates in the Senatorial, and to a lesser extent, Gubernatorial, elections.

Let's start with the race to become the next Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In the Red Corner, we have the Republican candidate, Tom Corbett. He's a former State Attorney General - the top lawyer - with about as much experience at governing as I have. He does have a bit of positive spin: in a very lawyer-ly manner, he's claiming he's going to cut out the perks from State government, trim the fat from the pork, as it were. Whilst he'll almost certainly have the Republican-dominated state legislature on his side, I'm not sure he understands how much Harrisburg's lawmakers love their kickbacks.

In the Democratic Blue Corner, there's Dan Onorato, formerly Allegheny County (that's basically the Pittsburgh metro area) Supervisor. He's balanced the books there - a big deal in Pennsylvania, with its usual chronically late budgets - and whilst his claims to have created 10,000 jobs need to be taken with a pinch of salt (over 20,000 were lost as well), he appears to have made what is effectively they best of a damage limitation exercise, whilst still keeping Pittsburgh at the top of the US cities "livability" surveys.

Obviously, the two (and their supporters) are firing barbs at each other over the airwaves. Corbett has "created zero jobs" whilst Onorato has "created 10,000". Onorato is the "second coming of [outgoing Governor with a dubious track record] Ed Rendell" and "hasn't met a tax he doesn't like".

My feeling here is that Corbett will win. He probably has enough support in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to swing the votes there he will need to back up what is likely to be a healthy majority elsewhere. (Pennsylvania, the two major cities aside, is a rural state that is heavily Republican. Philly and Pittsburgh provide enough population for the Democrats to get some swing in statewide elections - Pennsylvania voted for Obama in '08 - but at the local level outside the cities, the map is mostly GOP red.)

The Gubernatorial election is tame, though, compared to the all-out war that is the Senate race.

Joe Sestak (Dem) vs. Pat Toomey (Rep) has to go down as one of the nastiest, bitterest, most negative combination of election campaigns I've ever witnessed.

Sestak is a 31-year Navy veteran, a former Admiral who served in all of America's recent campaigns. He's currently serving as a Congressman. Earlier this year, he beat out Arlen Specter - the long-time incumbent, and one-time Republican - for the Democratic Senate nomination. (PA's other Senator is Robert Casey (Dem).) To be honest, I've not really noticed why he'd make a good Senator, other than a bunch of hoary old standbys of "standing up for Pennsylvania", "working hard", and "voting against party lines to get what's right". No doubt his Naval service will play well for him, and of course his ads use it to his advantage. His campaign has been more about scaring us into thinking his opponent is an evil man who will sign away every job in the country to China, if it will get him in better with his supposed Wall Street cronies. One particular ad tells the story of a factory whose workers stripped the place down, shipped the machines to China, and were then laid off.

I'm afraid I know little of Pat Toomey's background, and as I'm writing this entry without the aid of research other than what I can remember, I'll have to leave it at that. I know he has two kids, as they feature in one of his ads. Mostly, though, he's concerned that Sestak is a nasty man who likes nothing more than to spend every penny he can get his hands on and throw it down the drain, by voting in step with the Evil Witch Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, and as the Democratic party currently holds a majority there, she's a Democrat. Sestak is, of course, a Democrat. So what it boils down to is that Sestak's being accused of voting in line with his party. Er, hello?! One of Toomey's more vocal backers is the National Rifle Association who would have us all believe that Sestak is for eroding Americans' "Second Amendment Rights" - better known as the "right to bear arms". I could write an entire entry regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment, and my views on gun control laws, so let's leave it for now (hint: Hungerford, Dunblane, Lake District - 3 incidents in 25 years; compare that to 3 in the last two years that I can think of over here, and that's before you start on Columbine, the Washington snipers, etc.).

As for calling the Senate vote, it's tight. Toomey had an early surge, but recently Sestak's been coming back. Turnout will be key. If it goes over 40%, there's a good chance Sestak will get in (more of those extra votes will be in Philly/Pittsburgh than the rest of the state). If it hovers around the usual average of 35%, it'll probably be Toomey.

I imagine from the tone of this entry, it's clear who I'd vote for, if I could, but I'll still leave it as an exercise for the reader.

As a final thought, though, I'd like to leave you with my opinion on all the campaign ads:

Why do they keep advertising these politicians on TV? None of them seem to be any good. I really don't want to buy any of them.
eldar: (Default)
2010-05-16 01:32 pm
Entry tags:

Reboot

In great Hollywood tradition, I'm considering rebooting this franchise.

I'm on Twitter, finally. #nrtreeby. Expect the same level of service that you see here.
eldar: (Default)
2009-10-13 06:01 pm

Guitar Hero 5 vs. Rock Band 2

I have a Wii! I have Guitar Hero 5. I thought I'd share my frustrations with it (compared to Rock Band 2, which I've also played extensively).

Career Mode in Guitar Hero 5 SUCKS DONKEY BALLS in comparison to the same in Rock Band 2:
1. GH5 Career Mode consists of playing 1 song at a time to unlock venues and other stuff. Sure RB2 does the same, but at least RB2 has a good variety of setlists, some of which are maddeningly hard (the 8-song East Coast Marathon springs to mind).
2. GH5 Career Mode doesn't unlock extra songs for you - they're all available right away (which is actually good, but...).
3. GH5 Career Mode doesn't let you pick individual song difficulty, you have to re-start your Career Mode session to do that.
4. Every time you complete a song in GH5 Career Mode, it puts the cursor back at the top of the list for that venue (or dumps you back to the venue list if you unlocked a new venue - but RB2 does that as well). Why can't it work out that if you've played a song in the list, chances are the next one you want IS THE NEXT ONE IN THE LIST?!
5. No option to choose a Random Song when you have to pick a song (I always choose Song 2 for non-Guitar challenges, 'cos it's only 2 minutes long and dead easy).

The good news? I can get RB2 for less than $40 on Amazon.

A shame 'cos I like the GH5 soundtrack is better than RB2's (plus I played RB2 to death on Carly's Wii). But I like the better and more varied solo/career/setlist modes offered by the latter.
eldar: (Default)
2009-08-14 01:17 am
Entry tags:

I can has Health and Dental?

I've been here nearly a year (doesn't time... fly?). And finally I am medically and dentally insured. It's safe for me to get ill.*

I wonder, what's finally left for me to get/do?
- Job. Check.
- Insurance of the medical variety. Check.
- Car x 2. Check.
- Home. Check.
- Driver's license (in 2 different states...). Check.
- Cable TV. Check.
- Grill (barbecue, to those on the other side of the Atlantic, what you would and I used to call a grill is called a broiler over here). Check.

*$25copayand$500deductiblenotwithstandingpleasereadtermsandconditionscarefully.
eldar: (Default)
2009-07-01 09:04 pm
Entry tags:

Hair Metal Time!

There's only one link to post to describe what I'm eating right now:

Some Early 90s Hair Metal For You

(Don't blame tomorrow's ear-worm on me, now.)
eldar: (Default)
2009-06-10 11:10 pm
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New Car!

I'm getting a 2000 Chevy Malibu.

About 90k on the clock, 2 previous owners (with the most recent one going for a couple of monstrous, but thankfully removable, auxiliary convex mirrors mounted on the wing mirrors), and hopefully good for the next year or two. Mot too bad a price either.
eldar: (Default)
2009-05-23 10:29 pm
Entry tags:

The King of Flat-Pack Assembly

In the past two and a bit weeks, I have assembled:
1 bed (US king size, UK superking);
2 bedside tables;
3 chests of drawers;
5 bookcases;
1 computer desk/workstation*;
3 CD/DVD towers**;
1 TV stand;

That's 16 items in 15 days!

I have a long weekend now to recover.

* At the first attempt, I discovered that my boxes clearly labelled "1/2" (plus a big [1] sticker) and "2/2" (plus a big [2] sticker) actually had identical contents. This necessitated a trip to Baltimore last Sunday to exchange it. The new boxes were different sizes. No chance of a cock-up there.

** With assistance from Alexis, and attempted assistance from Aliza. There is a fourth CD/DVD tower that Alexis assembled on her own.
eldar: (Default)
2009-05-20 11:48 pm
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My New Job

Okay, there's not much to report (a week and a half in, I'm just about starting to do some "proper" work but I'm still on a bit of a leash...), but suffice it to say that the company I work for has:
- A museum of sorts, displaying various bits of kit from down the years that they've sold. Including Commodore Amiga CD32s and an Intellivision console.
- A life-size statue of Master Chief from Halo.

Oh... and we have a big red sofa. I have a theory. The sofas you see on showroom floors are juveniles, not fully grown. Back in the warehouse, in the sofa cages, they're breeding the full-grown adults that are fully 10-20% larger than the tame ones you try out when you buy them. It's the only reason I can think of why, when they're delivered, they seem to take up more room than you originally envisaged.
eldar: (Default)
2009-05-08 09:09 pm
Entry tags:

Moving Mayhem! 2: Pennsylvania Road Trip

The movers came, took our stuff, then said they didn't want to tackle The Bronx and cross the George Washington Bridge during the day, so would be heading down to Pennsylvania early Saturday morning.

There's only one slight issue with this: we had to be here today in order to sign the lease and pick up the keys (they don't do weekend check-ins). So we're back in the Holiday Inn for the night.

We're also TV-less (well, okay, we get basic cable so won't be missing House or 24 or other important-ish stuff) until Wednesday. Worse, we're internet-less until then, unless we can "borrow" wi-fi from an unsuspecting neighbor. This is mainly due to Verizon having a really dumb order verification system that relies on human beings. If they have a computer trying to do human handwriting OCR (and I've seen one in action, even the people demonstrating it said it was only about 80% accurate), then that's possibly even dumber. In the end, the guy I spoke to managed to trace the fax we sent them back via the number it was sent from. So FiOS Guy is coming on Wednesday to hook everything up. Luckily the previous tenants also had the triple play, as the box is already set up in the basement - so it should just be a case of activating the account.

Right... and that, as they say, is that.
eldar: (Default)
2009-05-05 06:26 pm
Entry tags:

DW Test

I've got a DreamWidth account, and imported all my LJ entries and comments into it.

Anything I post in DW will automagically cross-post into LJ, so there'll be no discontinuity of service (er, not that anyone would really notice anyway?)

Comments for now are disabled from LJ, to comment on anything posted from DW you'll need to use your OpenID (and well, whaddaya know, if you have an LJ account, you have an OpenID!)

[Edit]
...and this is a test to see what happens when I edit a post? Because, y'know, I forgot to turn off comments for x-posted entries.
eldar: (Default)
2009-04-14 10:32 am
Entry tags:

Nothing Ever Happens

It's been over a month, hasn't it? See, if anything of any vague interest had happened, I'd have mentioned it here.*

There are things I'd like to be doing, and I'm sure there are better ways of looking for a job than sitting round firing off random emails into the InterWeb, but I'm kinda stuck where I am and I just plain don't know anyone outside of Alexis's family. Home life is chaotic and noisy, with very little opportunity for sitting quietly and just being vaguely creative - y'know, writing, trying to build some kind of web page/presence/functionality (really, I paid for a domain and all this web hosting and bells and whistles and so far all there is to show for it is a "Under Construction"-type home page!!), playing with the free versions of .NET and SQL server.

I need an office. Or a better laptop than my netbook for sitting in Starbucks, a cost I can't justify right now.

So I'll just sit and play quizzes on Sporcle and wait for nothing else to happen.

* I'm not mentioning anything job-related, because I don't want to have to post the inevitable post-interview "I didn't get it" post, assuming that the company in question even bothers to contact me to tell me so.
eldar: (Default)
2009-03-05 05:31 pm
Entry tags:

Dr Lipman, I Presume

A warning that this post contains dentistry details. If that sort of thing makes you weak at the kneeeedc ..,, sorry, briefly lost control there... anyway, as I was saying, if dentistry isn't your thing, you'd best be advised to look away NOW.

Finally, We Meet )

Now... what else?

I still don't have a job - that really shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as I'm sure you'd expect me to post here the second I did get a job. It's not the sort of thing I'd expect to keep quiet. Anyway, I keep spamming my resume at Monster and Dice and CareerBuilder and the like, and I get a hit-rate of about 1 interview per 30 resumes. Ish.

I also realised, what with the film coming out and all, that I'd not actually read Watchmen. Many times I'd gone into Borders at lunch time (back when I had a job), and poked and prodded it in the graphic novels section. I'd probably read the first page or so. I'd never handed over any cash. Well, I changed that, making use of the Amazon vouchers I received as a leaving present to get hold of it. The idea being that I could read it, watch the movie, and be justified in my disappointment. From reading on IMDB, it's clear that SPOILERS?!! )

And that, as they say, is la vie.
eldar: (Default)
2009-02-26 11:59 am
Entry tags:

All I Want For Christmas...

When Pavel Nedved finally retires, will he be giving away his spare away kits?*

* Really, you need to read the article to get this. Even then, you may not.
eldar: (Default)
2009-02-05 08:23 pm
Entry tags:

RAM-a-lam-a-ding-dong

The RAM, after leaving Columbus, travelled to Parsippany, New Jersey, and via another stop in NJ it got to the UPS Farmingdale depot, which, as I've mentioned before, is just down the road (it's a ten-minute walk, not that you'd want to walk there from here). It left for delivery at around 6am yesterday, and arrived at the usual UPS delivery time in the apartment complex - about 6.30pm. The theory I have is that as we're the closest domestic deliveries to the depot, we always get done last. However I'm not entirely convinced that UPS should be allowing their drivers to pull 12-hour shifts (it'd certainly be illegal in the EU - however from what I've gathered, truckers and other commercial drivers putting in long shifts is not uncommon).

Anyway, it's in the PC now and it works a lot better, thanks. There's considerably less waiting time when switching users, starting Firefox, and the amount of paging it needs to do when I shut down Civ3 is significantly reduced.

Hmm, wonder if I should upgrade the GFX card, or just pull the card from my PC, so I can play Oblivion...?
eldar: (Default)
2009-02-03 12:47 pm
Entry tags:

The Adventures of RAM, Part 2

So yesterday I was telling you all about how some RAM I ordered started its trek across country from Boise, Idaho, arriving in Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday morning.

Well, here's the latest: yesterday evening, it made its way from Louisville to Columbus, Ohio (a trip taking 4.5 hours, which is close enough to the driving time between those two cities to indicate it went by road). At 3.50am EST this morning, it left Columbus, and still hasn't been heard from: my guess is that it is being trucked across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey before arriving in New York, possibly even all the way to the Farmingdale depot just down the road.
eldar: (Default)
2009-02-02 02:51 pm
Entry tags:

RAM Raider

I've ordered some new RAM for the PC I'm currently using - it has a rather creaky 512Mb right now. Once this RAM arrives, it'll be boosted to 2Gb. So I'm tracking it with UPS, as Crucial very handily gave me the UPS tracking number. It first entered the UPS system in Boise, Idaho on Friday afternoon. From there, it headed to Salt Lake City, Utah where it spent the weekend. Before even the crack of dawn this morning, it was tracked from Salt Lake to Commerce City, Colorado, where it spent an hour and a half before finding its way to Louisville, Kentucky. The RAM has been in Louisville since 10.13 this morning. That means that so far, it's been to four states (not counting those in between - from the looks of it, it would go through a bit of Wyoming between Boise and Salt Lake and must've flown from Commerce City, which is just outside of Denver, to Louisville, no way would it have been driven across Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana in four and a quarter hours - where necessary) and travelled 1,983 miles. It's quite an epic journey when you start to break it down like this.

It's a communal PC, with a decent-enough single-core 2.8GHz P4, otherwise sadly under-spec'ed. So far I've added a new sound card, the memory will hopefully make it work faster, somehow I doubt I'll be plumbing in a new GFX card unless I decide I want a new one for my own PC and plug in my old one. The main trouble is that due to user inexperience, it runs with fast user switching - which essentially means I've got a desktop-spec machine trying to run as a terminal server. I always disconnect other users when I log on myself. I also spent quite a bit of time tidying up the registry and services to get it to start up Windows faster (which it does).

The most annoying thing is that my own PC tower is sitting right next to this one, but I can't really use it because it's a pain in the arse to swap cables round and a decent switcher hub for the kb/mouse/monitor is really too much to justify spending the money on, and anyway I'd still have to switch the speakers around manually because hubs don't do that.
eldar: (Default)
2009-02-02 09:05 am
Entry tags:

London Snow

Well, with apologies to Charles Stross, but here I am on the other side of the Atlantic, sniggering away.

Having lived through snowy days in London where the place did shut down (and having got stuck in my car for 4 hours on one particularly memorable occasion), and now having lived through snowy days in New York that are worse than anything I've seen in London and seen business continue pretty much as usual, it does amuse me how easily England comes to a standstill at the first sign of a snowflake. You'd think that local authorities and those responsible for responding to snow and other weather-based emergencies haven't trusted weather forecasters since October 1987.
eldar: (Default)
2009-01-24 08:17 pm
Entry tags:

The Age Of Aquarium

Today, we paid a visit to the Wildlife Conservation Society Aquarium in Brooklyn (we wanted to do something indoors, and free/cheap - well, it was free thanks to our year's membership of the WCS).

Okay, so it's not 100% outside - the basic layout is a lengthy courtyard surrounded by indoors exhibits, with open pools along one side housing walruses, seals, otters, and penguins.

Nevertheless, Aliza had a grand time, particularly in the coastal/reefs exhibit, where she ran from tank to tank, pointing and shouting "Fish, fish, fish!".

Then we had a tour of Brooklyn on the way home, and we located (but didn't stop at) the ChipShop.
eldar: (Default)
2008-12-23 03:29 pm
Entry tags:

Christmas Shopping

Okay, I give up, what is the purpose of this yearly ritual? We have adverts all around us telling how Christmas is supposed to be fun and great and everything but so far this year my experience has been far from, in fact all I've seen is a mall full of shops of three basic types: clothes/shoe shops, jewelery shops, Body Shop & clones. Take them away and there's nothing left. It's depressing.