525,600 Minutes

Turns out Rent was right. There are 525,600 minutes in a year. I always thought it was too small a number, but I just did the calculation (I was going to use the right one) but 60 x 24 x 365 = 525,600.

Anyway, I’m going off topic before I’ve even started. Today is April 18th 2009. Today marks an important day in history, for me, for my family, for Kelly and her family, and a handful of others. On this day one year ago I stepped onto Qantas flight QF2714 and flew from Wellington to Auckland, waving goodbye to my family and friends at Wellington Airport. In Auckland I walked from the domestic to the international terminal, and boarded flight QF25 bound for LAX. I haven’t seen New Zealand with my own eyes since.

I remember that all three flights that day were late. The first one was late because of mechanical problems earlier in the day that had caused delays and they were trying to get back on schedule. The second was a fault that had apparently been fixed but they were still waiting on a problem with paperwork for it. The third we had to wait at the gate at LAX for mechanics to get to us after their list of other faults to fix.

I remember walking through customs at LAX having filled out my little I-94 card, and being unsure what to write for “Country of Residence.” The customs lady walking the line checking things before we reached the officers processing us was angry at me that I didn’t know, but I truly didn’t. At that moment I didn’t live anywhere. On April 17th I resided in New Zealand. As of April 19th I would be residing in the United States. April 18th? I was homeless, as it were.

Despite all the mechanical problems and delays, I arrived in one piece at Dulles, although I was about 45 minutes late as I recall, landing at 12:30am on the 19th, walking into the arms of Kelly (followed by everyone else that was there).

People keep asking me if I miss home, and to a degree I do. It’s not so much home though, as aspects of home. I miss walking to the end of the street and getting Fish and Chips for a snack because I was bored and hungry. I miss driving to McDonalds and getting a large coke and a large chocolate thick shake for the same reason. I miss catching the bus and train to work and back every day. I miss Sunday night drives to the beach or around the bays, or somewhere else random that we wanted to go, with Sue and Amber. I miss having a cell phone, and understanding how the billing for cell and landline phones worked (I still think it’s really messed up that you have to pay to receive calls/messages etc..).

I miss driving to Paraparaumu via Paekakariki Hill one way and SH1/SH2 back for the fun of it. I miss knowing where everything in the supermarket is, and what most things are even if I haven’t had them before.

I miss the surprise of seeing Dad’s face in the window when my train pulls in to take me to work, I miss the sound of my brothers mock screams when I play a trick on him, and I miss the sound of my mother trying in vain to make me stop when she finds out what I did/was doing.

I miss having the opportunity to drive almost anywhere if I had time or money to pay for gas (and for whatever I wanted to do when I got there), ranging anywhere from watching a movie to eating dinner to going to Parachute. I miss having the contacts to do sound and lighting gigs with semi-professional companies and organizations when they needed the help.

Most of all I think I miss seeing people I know and love that I haven’t seen for a year or more, it’s nice seeing the young kids grow up through photos on Facebook etc, but it really isn’t the same.

So, what have I accomplished in my year of USA-ness? Not a lot, I fear to say. Having arrived in April 08, I was married in May 08, and filed immigration paperwork before the cut off date in July 08. In February 09 I received my Employment Authorization Card, and started applying for jobs. Of all my applications (around 30-50) I’ve had one solid lead (Summer Camp Counselor), and one official rejection (“Position has been filled”). The biggest problems I run into are experience (or lack thereof), lack of College education, and lack of US Citizenship or security clearances. I have no problem relocating 2 hours away (or commuting that far until relocation can occur), since there are practically no IT jobs in this area at the moment.

I have a drivers license (Learners permit, will sit the full test some time soon). I have fixed several computers, some for money. I helped with the church’s VBS program last year, and probably will again if I don’t get the camp job. I traveled to North Carolina for gas money to visit a long time friend and work on his church’s network. I created several new websites, including DailySerene.com, and several personal sites. I also rebuilt the websites for UCCN and C-IRC (C-IRC with the help of Ed), and developed an IRC-based trouble management system in PHP.

We bought a puppy, rented an apartment, gave up an apartment, took out a $2000 loan, moved twice, started a modern worship music section in a traditional church service, bought a guitar, taught Sunday School to High Schoolers, took several thousand photos, and had a few bad times, with lot of good times.

All in all I’m having a great time. I’m glad I moved, and while if I had to live my life again I’d probably do that part differently, I’m not at all unhappy with the way things worked out. In fact, I look forward to what the next 525 thousand-odd minutes have in store.

Triumph and Tragedy

Triumph: Mostly installed qmail on Mack’s newly reinstalled server, rhapsody. A few things to finish off today.

Triumph: Installed and configured a second private hub for UCCN, hub02. Will install backup services at a later date.

Triumph: Kelly put in a job application yesterday, and another will go in tomorrow.

Triumph: The package of stuff from New Zealand arrived today, albeit slightly beaten up from its travels.

Triumph: Shaved.

Triumph: Received most of the outstanding eBay items purchased up until last week.

Triumph: Got the new router installed and running smoothly. Could use a RAM upgrade, but that will come in time.

Tragedy: A bump while drinking water last night resulted in a spill occuring directly above the macbook. It was quickly shut down, but after being left 24 hours or so, it won’t turn on. Leaving it beside the heater for another 48 or so to see if this changes anything, but my hopes are not high.

NZ Roads are Better than VA’s

New Zealand roads. They’re often considered not great by New Zealands inhabitants. The tar and gravelled roads are poor on tires, the purely tar-sealed roads are slippery in wet. Most peple can think of something bad to say about them until they drive overseas.

Having lived in New Zealand since birth, and driving regularly since I was 19 or 20, including two trips from Wellington to Hamilton and back, I consider myself fairly experienced. I’ve lived in Virginia in the USA since April, and if there is one thing that scares me more than anything, it is driving at night in the rain.

catseyesSee, in New Zealand we have cheap little things all over the place called reflectors. Red ones either side, and white or yellow ones in the middle (signifying whether you can or can’t pass, respectively). Here? There are just lines painted on the road. That is perfect on fine days. It’s even pretty good at night. Sometimes during the day when it’s raining. Couple together darkness and road surfaces, and the paint is almost invisible. There are NO reflective markings whatsoever, unless you happen to be driving on a major road like the interstate. We regularly drive on a Virginia highway (VA-42) but there are no reflective markings on this road. I’m also not aware of any reflective markers in Harrisonburg, either on US-33 or US-11. I really don’t know how people here manage to not have serious accidents more often.

The other reason I say NZ’s roads are better, and this one may not be so fair as the reflective markers, but the Interstate roads in parts of Richmond, and in parts of Washington DC the road surface changes from tar-seal to concrete. I understand concrete may be cheaper and quicker to set on such busy roads etc, but is it REALLY that hard to CLOSE A LANE to reseal it properly? I would hazard a guess that they don’t need to be resealed any more than once a year, I’d suggest they take a summer night to reseal a lane at a time in 100 yard stretches. Close a SINGLE LANE between say, MIDNIGHT and 6AM. You could probably even have it closed another hour or two if it was facing away from rush hour.

So, New Zealanders, be very happy with your roading system, and be patient when Tranzit or the local council decides to close a lane of road during the off-peak so that you can have a more pleasant driving experience. Cliche as it is, there are people in other countries who have it worse off than you, and I don’t mean in the 3rd world.


I currently have 3 active model railroad projects going that are all at 3 different stages.

Firstly, my coffee-table N-scale has all the track required, but nothing to put on it, nor anything to put it on. I know I need a baseboard of approximately 24″x40″, but this has not been purchased, nor has any other framing or electrical equipment.

I have two HO scale layouts still in planning, despite having a large amount (I cataloged it today, more later) of HO scale rolling stock.

I have basic track plans for both of these, the first is based on an Atlas track plan that my Dad and I started work on several years ago and never really got far with. I’m going to modify it a little to allow some mainlines on the front (that can connect with something else when I get that far), and connections from said mainlines to the yard area. I still need to work on how that part is going to work – I’m thinking block-sectioned DCC to allow signaling and automated running.

The second layout is based on an old standard, the Timesaver. This will likely be modified in the same way as the yard above, to allow mainlines with connections. The timesaver would still be able to run either independently or as part of the wider layout (again, when I get that far).

Both of the above would be built on a pair of modules each, and I’ll look at building framing for them both to allow for safe traveling.

What are the next steps? The N scale needs a base-board and rolling stock. I also need some wiring and other wood to build a real table for it to sit in the bottom of. A friend of the family has some cherry wood for free, I need to see what I can do with it.

The Yard layout, I’m awaiting the plans to be sent to me, so I can plan the appropriate modifications, and I can start buying the set-track to complete it, and appropriate sized lumber.

The Timesaver I need to finish the track diagram and purchase the appropriate track and timber. I’ll also probably do this layout with flex track.

Oh yeah, the catalog. On Google docs I made a catalog of all my HO scale rail-bound vehicles (IE, not the containers). I have 14 locos – 12 Norfolk Southern, 1 Union Pacific (Desert Victory!), and 1 Tranz Rail (Bumble Bee DC). I have 9 Passenger cars – 7 B&O, a Union Pacific and a Renfe (Spanish). I also have 19 freight cars, counting the 2 5-unit articulated well sets as 1 each. I’m trying to get a hold of some flat cars (mostly for the time-saver) and a lot more Norfolk Southern/Norfolk Western/Southern branded hoppers (covered and not). I also need a bogie-side for my GP38-2, and a bunch of Digitrax chips. About 7 British Rail Mark 2 cars wouldn’t go amiss either, so I can paint them in the Capital Connection colours.