Things I learned after a week without my car:

Last Sunday, I crashed my car into a tree in downtown Omaha. It is still in the shop and i’ll probably won’t be getting it back for another week or so. Not much of my weekly routine has changed fortunately but I came to realize a few things:

1) Omaha (and probably most of american cities) is designed for cars.

Nothing is designed with pedestrian in mind around where I live. While there are sidewalks, They are merely for show. There is are a couple small shopping center near where I live and there is sidewalk that surrounds the mall and its parking. However, there is also no path between the side walk and the shopping center, it’s all grass. Not that walking on grass is a problem but psychologically it feels like that you are not meant to walk to the shopping center but drive there. Even worse, there are no crosswalk painted on the pavement and often no stop line for cars either. This makes crossing the road somewhat terrifying. thing are different downtown but most of Omaha feel treacherous for pedestrians.

2) I am glad that I have an insurance.

Yes, I know it sound stupid, but hear me out. I cannot imagine how much a pain in the ass it would have been if I had to paid for the full repairs. Sure, insurance might seem like a waste of money if you never crashed your car, but when you do (and most likely will) you will be glad that your insurance has your back. It is a necessary evil that from time to time helps you out. If you can get a rental car with your insurance package, do it! That will also save you a lot of trouble.

3) I finally understand why people have busted cars.

Right now, I wished I didn’t crash my car because I am somewhat stranded (see #1). I thought that if it was not as bad as it was, I would probably just drove on. That made realize that the reason people have beat up cars is because they would rather keep their cars damaged then having to deal with not having a car while it is repaired. The alternative would be to have at least two cars, in case one broke down, but that would be stupidly expensive (and awesome).

4) Uber is your friend.

Uber does not make sense in a big city like New York city where taxis and buses are everywhere, and where you can go from side of the city to the other for $2.50 using the subway. In Nebraska, where taxis are seen once in a blue moon and buses take an hour to do three miles, and you do not have a car, Uber is such a blessing. You are not dependent on your friends for rides and they cheaper than taxis or renting a car. All the drivers I have met so far were extremely friendly and I never had to wait more then five to ten minutes before they arrived. A real life saving service.

5) I glad I don’t have to drive this weekend.

Because I don’t have winter tires and it is currently snowing outside.

It was nearly 70 degrees like a week ago, what happened?
It was nearly 70 degrees like a week ago, what happened?

That wasn’t so bad…

It finally happened. For the first time, I can truly say that I am a resident of Nebraska, because my car finally look like it tried to eat a tree. Because that what happened to me today.

truly a real Nebraskan car now.
Truly a real Nebraskan car now.

Somehow, while trying to park downtown to go try a Ice cream shop, I managed to press both accelerator and brake pedal causing the car to jerk forward into the tree. I’m a great driver, I swear! Thankfully no airbag deployed/exploded in my face and I came out uninjured. I guess that’s what I get for dissing other people car’s or whatever. Thankfully, One of my coworker happened to walked by and provided moral support until the tow truck arrived.

From my limited working knowledge of cars, I think the damage is limited to the radiator and the passenger side headlamp unit. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait too long for the repairs. My friend offered to give my lifts until I get the car back so I might take her up on her offer. not the worst thing that could have happened for my first accident.

The only thing keeping the headlights in place was the wiring.
The only thing keeping the headlights in place was the wiring.

The most surprising thing to me is how quickly I managed to rationalize the situation and not panic at all. I felt stupid but calm. Running into a tree a low speed is not the worst feeling I ever had, somehow…

Bitcoins! Cupcakes! Crazy weather?

I thought they would be more... digital..
A Bitcoin! I thought they would be more… digital..

Today, I took my first bold step in Bitcoin! I bought some! About $40 worth of Bitcoins (0.17 bitcoins at the time). Some time last year, I was made aware that a bitcoin ATM was installed in a bakery/cafe place in Arksarben village near where I worked and I found out that they were going to have an official launch party/meet up tonight so I went to check it out.

I actually had to buy a used android phone off ebay because none of the portable devices that I own could have a bitcoin wallet installed. My phone is a Nokia and Windows phone has no wallet apps (that is not exactly true, there is one in beta and one called Copay, but it was too sluggish to be practical), my iPod was to old and no apps were supported on my version of IOS (DAMN YOU APPLE!), and finally I have an Nvidia shield thingy, which runs on android but has no camera, so no good either. The upside is that I can use the used phone as cold storage since it only connect to the internet via wifi, and will be turned off unless I using the Bitcoin app.

The ATM itself is really easy to use. I remember reading stories about some model requiring you to scan your Driver’s license and taking a hand scan for identification, but this one had none of that none-sense. All it asks is a phone number to give a confirmation code, then it asks if you to buy or sell bitcoins. To buy scan your wallet address using your QR code, put you cash in and then it will send your bitcoin to your wallet. It is that simple. Don’t have a Bitcoin wallet with you? No problem, the ATM can generate a “paper wallet” receipt that you can use later to cash in your Bitcoins.

The Bitcoin ATM!
The Bitcoin ATM!
The S'More cupcake I bought Using my freshly bought Bitcoins!
The S’More cupcake I bought using my freshly bought Bitcoins!

I was the first customer to use the ATM and to buy something at the shop using Bitcoin! What an achievement! I got to meet some of Omaha’s Bitcoin enthusiasts and entrepreneurs too, and they are a great bunch of people. If you think that Silkroad was representative of the Bitcoin community, you could not be more wrong! Shoot outs to Edward and Bethann from Alpha Bitcoin for organizing this event! Also shout out to Edward again for stumbling unto my blog and commenting, letting me know about this!

Anyways, on to the other thing I wanted to write about: the stupid weather. Last week, we were freezing and achieved new records in winds chills. -20F! It was lip cracking cold! Even this Monday, my car was telling me it was 5F when I left from work. But today, suddenly, it is 57F… it feels like spring! It is going to last just for the weekend too, and it is going back to freeze mode later next week. I going to try to take advantage of that i see what kind of cool outdoorsy things I can do this weekend. I heard there is a Kool-aid museum In Nebraska, maybe I’ll check it out.

A story from work

Earlier last year, in November, I was assigned my first project… the day it was due on. No worries, I was told, it was a low priority one and we would have no problem with it being late. It was a simple project, all I had to do was to create a new output file that would contain raw transaction data for a client. It was simple conditional statement and a write statement to add to the program. How hard could it be?

I wrote all the code changes in one afternoon, fixed the bugs the next day, and took an entire week figuring out where I could find test data that actually had that specific client in it (apparently, in a whole month worth of transaction, they only showed three times). Once that was done, we put it in the test cycles, thinking that it was a job well done. It wasn’t. We forgot to put the date in the outgoing file, but then we were sure it would be good to go. And it was. Except for the fact that the tester are blithering idiots…

It has been almost two and a half month since the thing was in the test cycle, it was supposed to be approved for install on Tuesday at noon, but the test team did not start looking into it until a week before it was due. At first it was: “Hey, what are we supposed to test? What cycle is this running on?” and we sent them the design specs, which they should already have, and told them to verify the content of the outgoing file with the client. The next day, they replied :” The file is empty. What are suppose to verify?”. So we had to explain to them that the client did not show up frequently but that they could easily look up report to find the data they needed, like we did a couple month before.  The week end has passed and it is now Monday before the deadline. “Could you post some transaction for us to test with?”, “No, that is not our responsibility, go find your own data.” Tuesday : “Guys we have tested anything yet, and the deadline is at noon!” And finally: “We did not get the approvals required for pre-prod sign-off, we’ll have to revert the changes”.

Great job guys! Next time, maybe you should read the design docs more than a week before your deadline. The application analyst I worked with on this project was not impressed either. We ended giving them the data I pulled so that they could test it, which is kinda dumb. It is a bit weird having all these rigid procedures for quality insurance and testing when, as far as I can tell, no one really bothers to follow them. I can already tell that this is only the beginning…

Back in the swing of things… Sort of

Flying over Chicago
Flying over Chicago

Ahhh, back in the freezing cold of Nebraska! Apparently we had the coldest wind chill ever recorded this morning, Yay, fun.

I had 300 emails waiting for me at the office, thankfully only a dozen really concerned me. Apparently, we will be upgrading our Cobol compiler to the newer version and people seem concerned that some of our system will either fail dramatically or become more efficient. Interestingly, looking in the documentation, they are removing “year 2000 extension support” from the current compiler. I can only assume that means that Y2K bug related stuff are being phases out, which simply sound stupid because if Cobol  survives another 85 years they’ll have the same potential bugs for the year 2100 they would have had for Y2K, except it would be Y2.1k . Oh well.

I started to listen to audiobooks, and I currently listening to “Dune” by Frank Herbert. I tried to read it a few years ago but could not get pass the first chapter. There so much lore crammed in each page that it is hard to make sense of it. What’s a “Mentat”? Why is that crazy old lady testing for humanity? If you are familiar to with the Warhammer 40K universe, it kinda like that but pre Horus heresy, and where computer are banned by religion. Considering the source material, the movie was a bold attempt but just could not handle the craziness of the book. Definitely an easier listen than a read.

Remember when I said cars in Nebraska are all busted? Well here is another prime example:

Seriously Nebraska, what's up with your cars?
Seriously Nebraska, what’s up with your cars?

I thought that I would not find a car in worse shape than that one without a hood on but this is something else. That is just going to rust faster than you can say “what happened to my rear bumper?”…

On the subject of random anecdote, it appears that the weight loss ads that were all over the radio before Christmas all disappeared only to be replaced by gym ads. It must be a seasonal thing, in the end of the year they push weight loss pills for those who fear they haven’t lost enough weight/ will eat too much during the holidays, and in the beginning of the year, they push for gym membership for those whose New year’s resolution is going to the gym/lose weight. Sneaky bastard…

stupid planes….

I should be just about to take for Nebraska right now if it wasn’t for the fact that my plane got delayed twice already…

I have travelled internationally for many many years and never had as many issue as travelling between states. I think they should invest in a bullet train system like the ones in Japan or Europe. It would cheaper than flying and faster than driving or taking a bus! And probably more reliable and punctual than either.

Anyways, back to waiting for my eventual flight.