Personal Logistics

I recently took a trip with my mother to Vancouver Island, both to take care of some family business out there and to do a bit of sight-seeing. The main challenge of the trip, though, was just getting around; neither my mother nor I drive, and we needed to get to multiple locations around both the island and the mainland, so just how does one get around a place like that without a car? The obvious ways are taxis, buses, rideshare, and good ol’ walking, but it took a bit of planning to make it all work.

When we arrived in Nanaimo, we needed to get to Duncan. There is a bus between them, but it was already later in the day, and I wanted to make sure we got to the hotel before check-in closed, so we just grabbed a taxi. At over $100 this was by far the most expensive option, so I didn’t want to do this too often, but I just wanted to get there ASAP.

My mom’s mobility is a bit limited these days, but fortunately Duncan itself is fairly small, so walking around was perfectly viable for the places that we needed to reach within Duncan. We also needed to get out to a business in Maple Bay though, and that was way too far to walk, but there’s a bus system within Duncan that runs out that way. I never carry exact change anymore, but we could buy tickets from local shops for the bus and use those instead, so that was no problem. We also wanted to visit Chemainus, and the buses even ran all the way up there.

We needed to get to Tofino next, and that was a bit trickier since it’s a good 3-4 hour trip, so the local bus and taxis weren’t an option. Fortunately there are a couple of other bus services that run up and down the island (the Vancouver Island Connector, and Island Link), and we could take those right to and from Tofino. There’s a gotcha, though: they don’t run every day of the week. I had already booked the hotel in Tofino before I realized that there was no bus at all coming back the day we checked out, so I had to scramble to adjust the booking to ensure we’d be leaving on a day where there would actually be a bus. Scheduling these ahead of time is essential just to make sure you can even get a seat; one of my biggest fears was something going wrong with the booking or the buses somehow and being stranded in Tofino with no easy way back.

Tofino is also a pretty small town that’s extremely walkable, with one exception. We were staying close to the ‘downtown’ section, and the beaches are actually pretty far from there. Within walking distance for me, but not for my mom. Normally there would be a free shuttle bus that would be able to take you pretty close to some of them, but our timing was bad: it stops running for the year at the start of September. So, we wound up calling a taxi to get to and from the beach. Turns out that there’s only one taxi in Tofino, just one car operated by one guy, so we got to see him both directions and chatted a bunch about the area.

We also wanted to stop in Vancouver for a bit to see some family, so we took the bus back to Nanaimo and took the ferry over to the mainland. I was initially uncertain how to handle things from there on, since the ferry drops you off at Horseshoe Bay, a ways away from the city proper, but it turned out to be easier than expected. Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Vancouver itself are basically one big integrated transit system, and there were buses going right from Horseshoe Bay all the way downtown, where our hotel was. The only glitch was that I didn’t want to drag our luggage through a transfer onto a second, busier bus for the final leg, so we wound up walking through downtown a bit farther than I’d liked. Dragging two pieces of luggage. Uphill. (I’d forgotten how hilly Vancouver is.) I kind of wish I’d picked a hotel a little bit closer to the ‘main’ bus routes, but I didn’t book as early as I should have so my options were limited.

Getting around Vancouver to see the family was also fairly painless. Again, no exact change, but I was able to use my contactless debit card on any bus, and I bought a pre-loaded ‘Compass card’ for my mom so she just needed to swipe it. Way easier than what we’re trying to roll out in Calgary, where you have to manage and activate virtual ‘tickets’ in a mobile app. Figuring out the routes to take was easy enough through Google Maps, which had a surprising amount of detail about exactly where the buses were. And there wasn’t too much waiting at any point, even though we wound up getting dragged across both West and North Vancouver to chase some of the family down (don’t ask)…

And then on the last day we could simply take the SkyTrain all the way from downtown right out to the airport, where we flew home. So, in the end we only needed to take taxis three times, and managed to bus it the rest of the time. Going into the trip I had a lot of anxiety about successfully navigating all of this, but in the end it was actually a lot easier than expected.

Meet Bob

I occasionally have to work on integrating with APIs for various user directory services, and as part of that I have to create a bunch of fake users with silly names for testing.

These services are also rather hungry for you to sign up for their more advanced/larger volume services though, and some of them are not beyond trying to contact users to try and upsell those services. So, every once in a while, I’ll get an email that literally says “Hello Bob Testuser, I’d like to discuss how we can help you in the mobile space…”

Well, That Was Fun

I had my little heart incident last year and haven’t really talked about it since, but throughout 2022 I did a lot of exercising, started eating better, and gradually felt better. By the end of the year I was pretty much feeling back to normal (aside from the bout of COVID). And then 2023 started…

Soon after the start of 2023 I started getting those weird trembling-but-not-really sensations in my legs again, but not consistently; they’d come and go a lot. Over the last month or two I started being able to feel my pulse a lot more strongly, where I’d be aware of it a lot more than I normally would be and could feel it pounding away at night and against my skin in more places. Plus, it felt more erratic at times, suddenly speeding up and slowing back down again for no apparent reason. Along with that my head felt a little, well, not really dizzy or light-headed, but slightly ‘off-kilter’.

And then yesterday, at work, it all kind of hit me at once, as besides all of the above hitting a strong point, I started feeling some tension in my chest and some occasional twinges of pain in my left arm. That was it, I was somewhat actually scared now, I couldn’t put it off any longer and had to get this checked out now, and headed to the ER.

Once at the ER there was a lot of waiting involved because, well, as great as universal health care is, we still perpetually underfund it, and I had to stand around for about an hour in line just to get to the triage assessment. While in line I was feeling bad enough that I started to wonder what would happen if I just collapsed right there in line, but I got through it and they immediately did an ECG after registering me (they do ECGs for a lot of cases, but suspected cardiac cases get to jump the line on that). More waiting until I got called into the back, where they installed an IV, took some blood work, and then a lot more waiting interrupted by checks on vitals and a couple more blood draws.

Eventually, about seven hours later, I got to see the doctor, who took more information, did a physical check, and then he had to inform me that…my heart is doing fine. Sounded fine, the ECG looked fine, the blood work came back fine (slightly above-normal troponin levels, but nowhere near worrying), my heart is actually in a lot better shape than I’d expected.

So, that was kind of a wasted trip, but it’s also a big relief. I still don’t know what the actual problems I’ve been experiencing are caused by yet; I’ll have to seek a more general diagnosis on that with a regular doctor to see if it’s something besides general Getting Olditis. But it’s not my ticker about to explode, at least.

(The doc was pretty cool and we talked for a while about general fitness and exercise and nutrition and such and he had some good advice without being judgy about it. To the point where I suddenly realized that oh jeez, I’ve been tying up this ER doctor’s valuable time blathering on about the shift between WFH and returning to the office and such and I should probably let him get back to work…)

Unnaturally Clean

This is the first week since the pandemic started that I’ll have actually gotten up, showered, and gone to the office all five days of the week. When we were fully work-from-home, why even bother showering more than two or three times a week when you’re not even going to see another person for days at a time, and even when we had to start coming into the office once or twice a week, it doesn’t matter as much when there are only going to be two people there.

So, things are “normal”, I guess. I can still technically work-from-home three times a week, but for the new stuff I’m working on now it really does help to have the beefier multi-monitor PC at the office rather than the single-screen potato I’m currently using at home.

Trying to do things “normally” still feels weird, though. Having to get back to a more rigid wake-up schedule, not having the freedom to take mid-day walks anymore, having to arrange lunch ahead of time instead of just grabbing something from the fridge… I used to do all these things for decades before, but it feels foreign now.

Where Does The Time Go

My new MacBook came with a three month trial of Apple TV. I wouldn’t normally consider subscribing to it since there’s not a lot of stuff on there I’m interested in, but there are a few intriguing-looking shows (Severance, Foundation, For All Mankind), so I figured that I’d just use the free trial period to binge the ones I want and then cancel.

The free trial period is just about to end. Number of episodes I’ve watched of anything on Apple TV: 0

It’s not really Apple TV’s fault, as the same thing is happening with Netflix, really. It often just feels like I don’t have the free time to just sit and watch episodes of something, or I figure I’ll watch it ‘soon’ and that ‘soon’ just never materializes. But at the same time I’ll binge a bunch of random junk on Youtube, including true crime recaps, video essayists, disaster documentaries, video game LPs, etc…

I guess the difference is that the Youtube stuff is a lot more bite-sized and low-investment, something where I can just throw on a random video and when it’s done that’s it, whereas an ongoing TV or streaming series feels like more of an investment I have to be prepared for, so I keep putting it off until I feel more ‘ready’ to take it in. Maybe I just need to set aside a specific time slot specifically for catching up on streaming shows.

Through QA’s Eyes

I have had zero luck getting anyone to take my bug reports seriously lately.

“Hey, your scanning tool throws an error and fails to generate any output when I scan this particular application.”
“Yeah, the archive file contains a file with an invalid filename on Windows. Closed as WONTFIX.”
You’re not even going to try to work around the problem, skip just that one file, so it can at least still scan the rest? I don’t control that app, that came from somewhere else, but I’m stuck with it and it’s my builds that now fail because your scanner can’t handle it.

“Just FYI, your checkout process is a little weird because it wouldn’t let me get past the shipping address until I changed the province to something else and back again, even though the default province was the correct one.”
“Yeah, that’s just how that dropdown control works by default, and we want to make sure people actively make a selection, not accidentally leave it on the default value. Closed as WONTFIX.”
If you want to force people to make a selection, then don’t let the default selection be a valid choice that forces people in Alberta to do an extra little dance, make it “Please select a province:” or such. The default behaviour of the control doesn’t matter, these things are within your power to change!

I wonder if this is how the QA department sees me…

Don’t Call Me

“Oh hey, my old landline number is still in my Paypal profile, I should remove that.

There’s no option to remove it…”

Turns out that you *have* to have both a Primary Mobile and Primary Home number, and you can’t remove a Primary number. So, what you wind up having to do is add your mobile number *again* as a Home number, make it the Primary Home number, and then you can remove the old landline number, so you wind up with the same number listed twice.

This is not good UI design, guys!

Hitting The Streets, Again

I need to get back in the habit of walking again. Things like holidays have a good chance of derailing habits like that, as I spend time travelling and not doing them regularly for a while, and then when I get back I have to force myself back into doing it. The last couple of weeks I’ve only been doing it once every other day or so, which isn’t quite enough. Especially since the holiday overindulgences have caught up with me and I’m feeling some of those old symptoms again…

But I also need to step up the intensity a bit, as it felt like I’d kind of plateaued before. So, today I extended the walk out to include the 14th Street bridge as well, which added about 15-17 minutes to the walk, for a total of about 65 minutes and 6.2km. It also adds some steeper climbs onto the bridge; only brief ones, but it helps get the heart rate up early on. The walks are getting long enough that I’m going to have to queue up some longer podcasts or something though, so I feel like I’m still being a bit more productive mentally as well, not just physically.

The new route also takes me along some paths I’ve never taken before, and it’s weird how strange and new they feel when they’re right next to areas I’ve traversed for ages now. It also gets me some under-the-bridge sights I’ve never seen from these perspectives before:


Due to Amazon shenanigans, I’ve been browsing around some other e-book stores, and checked in on Kobo today. I was kind of surprised that the “Graphic Novels and Comics” section had its own “Erotica” subsection, and just had to check it, out of curiosity. And once in there, I couldn’t help but notice that the listing of books went out to…69 pages.

Bad Taters

Just had my first failure of trying to resuscitate the freezer-burned old food I had stashed away, with a Stouffer’s Balsamic Chicken entree. It came out with one strip of really tough freezer-burned potatoes, and a cold spot at the bottom of the potatoes, which led to one edge of the chicken patty being cooler than it should have been.

I suspect the problem is that this one had it really bad for moisture having crystallized out onto the plastic film, and I cooked this one in microwave mode instead of oven mode. The water just escaped as steam, and then the potatoes were too dry to pick up enough microwave energy. (The tough strip was probably unsalvageable, though.)

I suspect it would have turned out better if I’d cooked it in oven mode, giving heat more time to penetrate and maybe reabsorb some of the lost moisture. I’ll have to stick to that for the rest of them.

Size Problems

I mentioned before that I needed new cookware for my new oven, and while I was at the Safeway I noticed they sold some little baking pans that were only $8, so I grabbed one. It wasn’t until I got home and could peel the label off that I could read on the back of it that it’s only rated to 415°F. So that’s why it was cheap. I cannot be trusted to remember to put pants on in the morning, let alone remember what the temperature threshold for a random piece of cookware is, and it’s not stamped on the pan itself.

So today I picked up a different set, this time a bundled package of a baking dish, baking pan, and broiling grill, rated to 450°F, which is the highest this oven can do anyway. It’s technically a “toaster oven” set (and, amusingly, it says not to use the broiling grill with a broiler), but whatever, that’s still about the right size that I want.

Except not quite. The baking pan is a bit bigger than the others, and you can put it in the oven, but this beast does something that toaster ovens don’t do: it still turns the turntable in oven mode, and then the pan jams up against the edges. Fortunately there’s a mode setting to disable the turntable, but now that’s another thing I’ll have to remember to set. I foresee a bunch of “*clunk* Oh dangit,” in my future…


I finally got a chance to give my new toy a test in its oven mode, instead of as a microwave. Some notes:

  • Some wisps of smoke started to come out of the back while it was preheating, and I panicked and shut it off. After a bit more research, it turns out this is common when using a new oven for the first time, as it burns off various oils and greases and such on the internals from when it was assembled. I guess I’ve never been the first person to ever use a brand-new oven before! It cleared up before too long, but I still kept an eye on it during its first run just in case it burst into flames…
  • The area around it gets pretty warm. Well duh, it’s an oven, but I’m not used to having that warmth up on the kitchen countertop. I think I might need to get a separate shelving unit or something for it, to free up some counter space, maybe get it better ventilation, and keep its vents away from potentially getting splashed by the sink.
  • I’m going to need some new cookware, since the baking sheets and pans and such that I have are mostly sized for a regular oven. Plus an anti-spatter cover for microwave mode.
  • It does an automatic preheat cycle after you set the temperature and timer, but one annoying quirk is that once preheat finishes, it lets you know with a chime, but then immediately starts counting down the timer before you’ve had a chance to actually put the food in. Maybe I’ll just have to set the timer to a minute longer than needed.
  • It’s a bit noisy, as it keeps a fan running continuously while operating. About as loud as it is in microwave mode, but in oven mode you’ll be running it for longer.

For its first test, I dug out some frozen stuffed chicken cutlets that have apparently been in the freezer for, uh, six years. They turned out to be a little tough along some of the breading, where moisture had been lost, but were still perfectly edible. As far as being an oven goes, it successfully heated stuff.

There’s still a grilling/air frying mode to test as well, though.

Fry, Baby, Fry

I haven’t had a microwave for a long time. The one I previously had broke probably 15-20 years ago, and I just never bothered to replace it, and I got used to cooking or reheating things on the stove instead.

However, my oven also broke a little while ago, and I’m kind of sick of prepared meals and recipes that increasingly assume you have a microwave, so as my xmas gift to myself, I went and got one of those fancy-shmancy combo air fryer/convection oven/microwave units.

One of the reasons I didn’t replace my old microwave was a lack of space, and unfortunately, with it hogging the right side of the counter, and the dish rack on the left side of the counter, I’m left with this as my meal prep area:

I bought it locally ($250 cheaper than it would have been through Amazon!), and getting it home was also ‘fun’. Carrying it to the cashier didn’t feel so bad, and it’s a fairly short trip to and from the train so I felt pretty confident, but on that last block before home, I probably had to stop and rest my arms four or five times. I’m sure they’ll feel like limp noodles tomorrow.

So far I’ve only used it to warm up some sandwiches and buns, and I still have to see how well it actually works as an oven. Time to see just how bad the freezer-burn is on some of the stuff I have but couldn’t cook anymore when the oven broke…

So This Is What A Popsicle Feels Like

Ugh, I know everyone and their dog’s been complaining, but still, it’s too dang cold (-31C right now, with a reported -44C windchill). Not just outside, it’s rather chilly in my apartment too (the thermostat reports 61F/16C, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually lower) since the heat in this old building is kinda…weak. With all of the units having their heat constantly turned on, of course, the boiler just can’t keep up, and if I touch the pipe in the heating register, it’s just lukewarm.

I tried having an element on the stove turned on low for a bit, but although it made the kitchen warmer, it didn’t really seem to have much effect on the rest of the place. And I can’t just leave it on all day or I’ll owe the electric company my firstborn. I should probably get a space heater someday so I can put it where I need it, but still, same problem.

At least the pipes won’t freeze, but I’m still going to be grumpy…


I’d always kind of wondered how “butt-dialing” could even happen, as it seemed extremely unlikely.

But, just now, I went to pick up my phone and fumbled it a bit, and when I turned it around the screen had switched to one of the swipe-to-the-side notification screens, and on that screen was a “Call <last person I called>” shortcut. So yeah, I could see how I you could accidentally reach that.

I put the phone in my pocket, and about a minute later, my mom called me, wondering what was going on. Turns out it had called her, without me even noticing.

Guess it’s easier than I thought!

Ho Ho Humbug

Bleh, I dunno why, but I’m just not feeling the holiday spirit this year, and I just kind of wish I could crawl into a hole and wait for the whole thing to blow over. I haven’t even done any holiday shopping yet.

I’ll be visiting my mom for a bit, and I kind of don’t want to? It’s not a problem with her, and it’ll be nice to see her, but I get a bit anxious about being away too long. I also kind of dread being forced to socialize, even with people I like. But I know that’s probably somewhat messed up and I shouldn’t stay isolated too much, and she does miss me and wants to see me more.

Can’t indulge in too many treats either, so I’m passing on the usual eggnog and chocolates.

Oh well, maybe 2023 will be The Year That Finally Doesn’t Suck…

I Hate Moving

I’ve restored all my data to the new drive, restored the previous backups to a new location, and reconciled what pieces of that to keep and what’s been replaced, so now I can set up backups to run again and everything’s back to normal. I just have to watch how much data I put on this drive since it’s an 8TB drive but I only have a 4TB backup drive for now.

But, since I’ve merged two drives into one, a lot of stuff has moved around, and in particular, a lot of games that were previously installed to D:\Games are now under C:\Games, not where they were originally installed. So, is this a problem? It depends on where they came from…

Steam and any games installed through it are actually pretty easy to move around. Move or restore the entire ‘Steam’ directory to its new location, go to there and run ‘steam.exe’ directly, and it’ll grind away for a while repairing things and then pop up and continue on as normal. Piece of cake, and this alone accounted for around half the games I had.

GOG Galaxy:
Games installed from GOG were a bit trickier. The launcher was already installed on C:\, but upon running it, the list of installed games was now empty. Fortunately you can tell it to scan folders for previously installed games, and after selecting the new C:\Games location, it churned away for a while and then most of the games suddenly reappeared in the list and worked fine. There were a couple quirks: We Happy Few didn’t initially get found, but rerunning the scan on just its folder then managed to find it. And Disco Elysium just could not be detected no matter where I tried to scan, so I’ll probably have to reinstall it.

Epic Games Launcher:
Dealing with the Epic launcher was also a bit tricky, but in a different way. The games disappeared from the install list, as expected, but there’s no way to scan for existing installs. Instead, what you have to do is set the default install directory to somewhere on the new drive, go to install a game, find the directory name that it would install to, and move your copy of the game’s files to that same location before starting the install. Then, start the install, and the launcher will recognize that ‘oh, there are some files already here’, and do a verify/repair on them instead of a full install from scratch.

Origin / EA App:
The Origin launcher has been replaced by some new ‘EA App’, and unfortunately it seems to have lost the ability to tell it that a game has moved to a different location, which I think the old one had. Trying to do install swap tricks like with the Epic launcher didn’t work either, so it seems like there isn’t a good way to get it to reuse my existing install files and I’ll have to reinstall all of these from scratch. Not great, EA.

I had good luck with MMOs, though. With every single one I have installed, between Guild Wars 2, EQ, EQ2, Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV, and Lord of the Rings Online, all I had to do was run its launcher in its new location and everything worked fine, no repair or reinstallation or anything needed.

There are also a bunch of other games that were installed on their own rather than from a launcher, or were installed from disc, or needed some modding to run on modern systems, and I’m still not sure how many of these are affected by the move. I’ll have to deal with them on a case-by-case basis, whenever I get around to playing them. My modded Minecraft instances are fine, for example, since MultiMC doesn’t really care where it’s installed, and I just had to adjust the path to the Java runtime that I previously had on D:\. I have a heavily-modded Skyrim install and had to change a bunch of drive letters for paths in Mod Organizer 2’s .ini file.

So, there are a small handful of games I’ll have to reinstall from scratch, but otherwise, having to move a whole ton of games from one drive to another hasn’t been too disruptive. Way less of a hassle than I was expecting, at least.

Data Chaos

I really need to stop slacking when it comes to maintaining my PC.

Some time ago, the boot drive on my gaming PC started getting bad blocks, so I swapped it out for a spare laptop drive that I had handy. It was a smaller drive, and not exactly high performance, but it would do in a pinch until I had a chance to replace it properly. I’ve been meaning to do a complete PC upgrade, so it would just have to last until then. Using a smaller drive also meant that I couldn’t restore everything from my backup of the old drive. But that also meant that I couldn’t run any new backups or I’d lose that data that I wasn’t able to restore, and I didn’t have enough room on the backup drive for a parallel backup, so I just turned the backups off. After all this is purely temporary, right?

And now, many months later, I still haven’t done that PC upgrade… Instead of backups, I’d occasionally copy the most important files from under my user profile to some spare space on my Linux server, just in case. And now, I’m getting block errors on my secondary drive… The secondary drive is mostly just game installs, so 95% of it can just be redownloaded from Steam or GOG or wherever, but there is some unique data on there, too. Modded Minecraft installs and worlds, saves for games that don’t put them under the user profile, some game installs that didn’t come from downloads but had to be modded or cracked in order to get them working on modern systems, some other handfuls of miscellaneous files, etc. And since the backups were disabled, these files have gradually grown a bit out of sync with what’s in the backups, and now this drive is potentially failing.

Then I remembered that I actually have a spare 8TB drive that I’d never wound up using for anything. When I ordered it, I was completely reworking how storage was allocated across both the PC and Linux box, but by the time I got it, I realized that I couldn’t use it as a main drive in the gaming PC because I didn’t have enough backup drive space to cover it. I couldn’t use it for storage on the Linux box because I didn’t have a second one to pair with it for mirroring, and I couldn’t use it as a backup drive since I didn’t have a spare enclosure, so it just sat on the shelf of my parts closet.

So now I’m trying to clone all of the data off of both the boot and secondary drives onto this 8TB drive and make it just the single main drive. That won’t be the end of the trouble, though. I still won’t be able to back up this drive, and any data copied from the secondary drive might be affected by bad sectors (I’ll have to keep an eye on any copy errors). And I still need to do the PC upgrade, and when I do so I’ll have to take the data on this drive, the manually copied profile files, and the older backups, and reconcile all of them.

The lesson here is not to put off any important data management tasks, figuring that you can sort them out later on. If I’d just replaced that boot drive with a proper one right away, I’d have been able to keep proper backups going and avoided all this mess.

Back to Abnormal

Yay, I finally tested negative for covid today. I still feel a little congested and maybe slightly brain-foggy, but it’s apparently not unusual for it to take a while to fully clear up. Here’s hoping that Long COVID doesn’t become a problem…

By chance, this period largely overlapped with a week-and-a-half of vacation time that I’d booked. So, at least I didn’t have to try and work during it, but I also didn’t really get much of anything done during it. I didn’t even get much gaming done, just opting to collapse into my comfy chair and watch videos and streams most of the day.

I really need to get back to, y’know, actually doing stuff