Virtual Ride

I wrote before about how it was fairly painless to get around Vancouver by bus thanks to their Compass card system, and when I went to visit my mom, I discovered that Edmonton is doing something very similar with their Arc card system. The weather here lately has made using the ticket machines a bit tricky though, so I finally looked into Calgary’s system, and it…went a different path.

In Calgary’s system, instead of a physical card, you have to use a smartphone app. In the app, you purchase ‘virtual tickets’ ahead of time, and then just before you get on the bus or train, you have to ‘activate’ a ticket in the app. If you’re getting on a bus, you then have to show the QR code the app displays to a scanner on the bus. This is…a bit less convenient than just tapping a card.

You also can’t just load up on a bunch of tickets or put $x into it ahead of time. The virtual tickets expire after only 7 days if you haven’t used them, and you can only buy 5 at a time, so you’re likely going to have to make purchases of them on a regular basis. This then becomes yet another app that wants to hold on to your credit card details for your convenience. (It’s supposed to integrate with ApplePay too, but I’ve had separate troubles getting that working.)

It works, but it’s not great. I guess after several aborted attempts to come up with their own homegrown system, Calgary Transit just gave up and went “look, we’ll just use…those guys” and picked a service already operating in some other cities.

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!


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!

Okay Fine Facebook, You Half-Win

Well, it’s been over a year since I closed my Facebook account, but I recently realized that I needed some information from some old private messages on there, so I had to reactivate it.

I’m still not really keen on using it as some kind of all-encompassing social hub, but I figured that I may as well leave it open for one thing: to add Facebook Chat to Adium. The ‘old-school’ IM services like AIM and Yahoo seem to be rapidly dying out, and this is probably the best supplement/replacement to them right now.

The Darkness Attacks

I just had my first ever compact fluorescent bulb burn out, after being installed for…I don’t even remember how long now, but it’s been years. I was confused at first because there was no flash or pop or anything; it just didn’t come on, and initially I thought there was something wrong with the switch.

It’s the first time I’ve had to change a light bulb at all in years now, after switching over to CF bulbs.

Automated Isn’t Always Better

The Safeway near me has introduced four of those new self-service checkout counters, and despite some initial hesitation, they’re pretty easy to use and good for a quick trip when you’re only picking up a few things.

Of course, they also save the company some money by reducing cashier staffing, but that can come back to bite them in the ass. Tonight, all four self-service machines were out of order, and they’d cut all of the express cashiers for the evening, leaving the usual busy Sunday night crowd to build up in extremely long lines behind the few tills actually open.


At Least It’s Still Mostly Rerun Season

Well, it was a good set while it lasted, but the tube on my old TV died tonight. It was only about 8 or 9 years old I think, rather short for a TV, but it was teetering on the edge of obsolescence anyway. It’s the age of HD, and this thing didn’t even have component inputs.

It’s probably a sign that I should finally get a proper HDTV for the gaming consoles anyway, which I’d held back on since it seemed like too much effort to replace a perfectly good, working set (no longer a problem now), and wanting to wait until finding a more permanent place to live to avoid moving hassles.

In the meantime though, after some quick rewiring, all of the consoles are now hooked up to my Dell LCD monitor instead. It’s a lot smaller though, and the S-Video mode on it doesn’t really feel natural (it’s missing the natural blurring effect CRT TVs have), so it’s just a temporary measure at best.

Getting Zapped

Ouch. I just paid the biggest power bill I’ve ever had, at $73.84. It wasn’t that long ago that I was only paying around $30-35, and I don’t think I’ve ever even had one in the $60-70 range, it just shot straight up from the mid-50s. According to the little graphs they include, my usage hasn’t really changed, it’s just that the rate keeps on climbing.

Maybe I should unplug my DVD player, so the LED clock on the front doesn’t waste all that power… :P

Fuck Winter

Oddly enough, the exact same thing has happened to me two out of the last three days now:

It’s been rather cold (below -20°C in the mornings), so I decided to take the train instead of walking. After getting to the platform and buying my ticket, an announcement that there would be a delay due to a breakdown came on. So I waited. And waited. And waited…

And then even after the trains started arriving, they were so filled up with the backlog of people that I couldn’t even get on them. Not wanting to be That Rude Guy shoving his way on ahead of everyone else, I had to let three trains go by before one with enough room arrived. In the end I wound up waiting over 40 minutes on Monday and 30 minutes today, for a train that normally runs every 5 minutes.

It only takes me 20 minutes to *walk* to work, but the problem is that you’re trapped. Even after you’ve already spent 15-20 minutes waiting and are tempted to start walking, a train could arrive any moment now and then you’d feel really stupid for walking and stumbling through snowdrifts and facing the freezing wind over the river when you could have waited just a little longer…

Update: And apparently there was another problem today, as there was a train waiting at the station the entire time I walked past, with a ton of people still on the platform. The train’s reliability lately has taken a serious nosedive. Fortunately it’s a lot warmer today, so I was walking anyways.

Mmmmm, Late Food…

Ugh. I love the food from Boston Pizza, but dealing with them can sometimes be a chore… They’re one of the few companies that doesn’t have a computerized system for deliveries yet, and they seem to have high staff turnover, so things can get…chaotic.

I placed an order at around 6:45 and waited for them to call back with the confirmation and total, like they always do. They finally did so at 7:30, and told me that it would be about an hour since they were so busy. Right after the call, I quickly popped down to the corner store to pick up some pop.

So then I waited, and at around 8:25 they called back to check and see if the food had arrived yet. It had not, and upon checking her notes, the person on the phone told me that it had just been sent out for delivery a while ago.

So I waited some more. And waited. And waited. And I lost track of time a bit and by around 9:50 I finally gave up and called back. And this time they checked with the delivery company (they use a separate company for it) and told me that there had been a delivery attempt and that nobody had answered.

What must have happened is that the order probably went straight to the kitchen, and when she called back to tell me that it would be an hour, they actually meant an hour from when I originally called, not from that call, but that wasn’t clarified. And then they must have tried to deliver it during that brief period right after when I popped down to the store.

They had kept my returned order in their fridge though, so at 11:00 I finally had my slightly-reheated dinner. Mmmm.

Eh, Never Mind

I’ve gone and looked at a bunch of houses, and some of them are fairly nice. But…

…I just can’t overcome the little voice in the back of my head that tells me I’d be crazy to pay nearly double its current assessment value. I can afford the mortgage payments, but it would make my budget a lot tighter, and what’s the point of gaining more freedom if I can’t afford to do anything with it. And it’s not like I’m moving in from out-of-city and absolutely need a new place to live.

Add on to that uncertainty at work, a feeling that I may not be mature enough to handle it, and that I’m entirely alone in the decision-making processes, with no other voice of reason to back me up or challenge me, and I don’t think I’m ready for this just yet.

Some financial groups speculate that this may be a permanent market increase and not just a bubble, due to meeting some kind of ‘fundamentals’. If so, then maybe my future just doesn’t lie here in Calgary.


Forget history. Forget ‘the market’. I’ve already said to myself that upon finding a suitable home, I would be willing to pay ‘x’ dollars. So, I’ve talked to an agent. We’ve scheduled a day for viewings. For a couple weeks I will go look at houses, and evaluate them.

If they meet my criteria, I will make an offer on them, and possibly successfully purchase one.

If they do not, or my offers are rejected, I will simply continue in my current arrangements.

If there are any regrets, I will just note to myself that they merely displaced the regret of not even trying.


The current home sale stats for the Calgary area are rather…unhelpful.

You can clearly see a huge upward trend over the last 10 years, not just this last year. Checking against the city’s assessments, houses are often selling for $100,000 or more over their assessed values.

But things do seem to be cooling off. The average sale price dropped last month, for the first time in quite a while. The percentage of sales versus listings also dropped a lot. Some of the specific listings I’ve been looking at have even dropped their prices by $8-15 thousand. Maybe I should hold off and see if things drop even more.

But there’s no guarantee that the drop is an ongoing trend, and people still seem to think that the labour shortage and oil boom are just going to make things worse. If I wait too long, prices could suddenly turn around and skyrocket even higher. But I don’t really want to overpay by even the current inflated amounts, or get stuck with a crummy home in a bad area.

I think I’ll go hide under the bed for a bit…


I often run across URLs that I can’t check right away, or want to come back to later. Since I’m not necessarily at the same machine I want to check it from later on, I throw them into a file called ‘urls’ on my file server.

I just realized that that file is now over 1200 lines long.

I’ll be surprised if half of them are even still there…

The Value of Cash

Wheee, tonight I got to be That Guy holding up the line at the supermarket, taking forever just to pay.

I was low on cash and forgot to stop at the ATM on the way out of the office, and didn’t realize it until I’d arrived at the local Safeway to pick up dinner. No problem, I can just whip out the debit card, right?

Well it seems that its position in my wallet has formed a bit of a bend in the card. The ATMs accept the card without any problems, but the crummy little readers they use at the store just wouldn’t read it, even after repeated swipes. I noticed that my old card was still in the wallet too (I probably held on to it just in case its replacement didn’t work), and the scanner accepted it. Except that after the “Processing…” delay after entering everything, the transaction was rejected. Of course, the old card was deactivated after the new one was used…

My last hope was the credit card, and fortunately it worked and the line could start moving again, but it’s still embarassing going through the public frustration of having trouble paying for something while everyone’s eyes are on you.

That’s why, despite the convenience of debit cards, I still prefer to carry a bit of spare cash.