Skip to main content

Posts about bunnies (old posts, page 17)


I haz teh fuzzies!


I ended up going downtown to find them. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, although that doesn't say much. I was looking forward to going downtown with slightly less trepidation than a trip to the dentist. I don't like city centres. There's cars and people and tall buildings and people and signs and people. I don't like people.

It wasn't too bad, though. The trip -- at least to the parts of downtown that I walked through -- ended up being uncomfortable, but not to the level of anxiety. I wouldn't have wanted to do it at night, though.

I had to walk for quite a bit. I left university and headed downtown, but after a few blocks I realized that I only had ten pounds on me. Not having any kind of reference for how much footwear cost here (other than Clarke's, which has designer men's slippers for 20 pounds or more!), I headed back home to pick up more money[1] before going downtown. That added about 40 minutes to the trip.

[1] I brought £500 with me, but I only put £100 in my wallet at once. I'd just finished one set of 100, and thus had to pick up another 100.

It was about 25 minutes to get from my house to Primark (the clothing store recommended by two locals). It was in a car-less area -- evidently near the city centre, they have a few streets that are pedestrian-only. The store was small by North American department store standards... say, a quarter of the volume of the Bay at Brentwood Mall. I'm not certain if my slippers are officially women's slipper or not -- all the footwear was in one area, and most of them had heels. I looked for a separate section for distinctly male shoes, but couldn't find any. About 90% of the shoppers were female, although I did see some men's clothing. So the locals hadn't sent me to a lingerie store for a lark. :)

Anyway, I'm quite happy with these slippers. The outside of them is even softer than it looks... I spent a few minutes with my feet on the top of the slippers. Yes, I know that's not how you're supposed to wear them. But they were so soft! They remind me of my mother's fake rabbit-fur coat that she used to wear when I was a child. And they were only £2.96!

I fail at shopping

(alternate title: Why I really need a girlfriend)

I finally have a cell phone -- but no SIM card. I finally found a third place to have lunch -- after two and a half weeks. And I'm still no closer to finding a pair of slippers.

Yesterday morning, I went walking along Byers street looking for a cell phone. As I passed each store, I glanced in to see how many salespeople and customers there were. If there were more salespeople than customers, I kept on walking. I don't like sales people.

Eventually I found a relatively big store with -- it seemed -- an acceptably low ratio of staff to customers. Unfortunately, it turned out that one of them was free, and he began talking to me as I was looking at the display of "pay as you go" cell phones. I stated that I wanted a cheap phone with minimal camera capabilities, so he pointed at the cheapest one with a camera. I started looking at the difference between that one and other slightly more expensive ones, but he just stood there, so I got flustered and took the cheapest one. It was only £25, so I figured it couldn't be too bad a buy. I also got £10 of airtime.

Upon later examination, I found that this provider was more expensive than others (&pound0.25/minute for local calls, compared to &pound0.10/minute for another one!). And I also I discovered that the phone didn't come with a SIM card. Huh.

The SIM card thing was annoying, but the provider was offering a free SIM card online, so I ordered that. And to be fair, I suppose the same thing could happen in other domains -- somebody could buy an ultra-cheap violin without getting a bow, or buying a cheap desktop computer without a monitor. So I don't blame anything but my own ignorance for the lack of a SIM card.

The poor deal for the provider was also a matter of ignorance, but a less acceptible form -- I'd already been looking at cell phones from two famous providers in the UK. I should have gone with one of them and ordered the whole thing online.

As previously mentioned, the cell phone has a camera. When I first used it, I was amazed at the poor quality. Then I realized that 1) I was viewing a 640x480 (I think) picture on a 200x135 (or something like that) screen, and 2) there was a bit of protective plastic wrap over the camera. I'd taken the plastic wrap off the main display, but missed that tiny bit on the back of the phone.

(as a completely uninteresting side-note, my ipod nano (won from a opinion survey submission to UVic) still has the plastic wrap on the cover. I've had it for 3 years now!)

Now, the phone has bluetooth -- but neither my netbook nor my desktop has bluetooth. One can theoretically get a USB cable for the phone, but one end is a propriatary connector, and various discussions online state that nobody (including official stores!) has such a connector.

So I ended up buying a micro-SD card. It's a bit annoying to transfer photos, since I need to take the entire back of the cell phone off to get at the card, but it works. And I won't need to do that change often -- I wanted to get a 128 or 256-meg card, but the smallest one offered by the next store I went to was 1 gig. That'll hold thousands of VGA-resolution photos! Especially since it seems that even the "High quality" pictures on this phone use jpeg compression.

Pictures of my room, university, and surrounding area will be coming, but I'll spend a few days taking everything I can think of, then do a mass upload.

As for lunch... as previously noted, I hate going to a new eating establishment. Oh, I definitely dislike shopping in general, but interacting with food places merits a whole new level of feeling. It's ok if I'm with another person, since I can let them go first (in all things -- even just walking through the door. People probably think I'm being polite, but it's really that I want whatever dangers are in the restaurant to focus on them, while I get adjusted to the new environment).

As a result, until yesterday there were precisely two places I could have lunch: a small custom-made sandwich place (which my supervisor frequents), and Subway. The joy of franchises is that you know what to expect, no matter which country you're in.

Anyway, I noticed a small "mom and pop"-style place selling kebabs, pizzas, burgers, etc. We went to one at the ICMC conference, and I've seen a fair number of them around Glasgow. The middle eastern accent was slightly difficult to hear, but in an odd way, it was comforting to have difficulty with a non-English accent -- yes, some Glaswegians are hard to understand, but they have more of a claim to be speaking "proper English" than I do. So I had some much-needed meat (a burger) for lunch, and added a third place to my lunch options.

It's a shame that the "lab culture" here doesn't include having lunch together; I'm sure that there's loads of other (better?) places to eat within walking distance of our building.

As for slippers... in the morning, I went to a few clothes shops to look for shoes. They did have some... but only a dozen or so. These stores are tiny!

Based on my misadventures with shopping, I think I'll order them online, rather than continuing to walk around hoping to stumble upon a decent shoe store. Or maybe I shouldn't be looking in shoe stores at all... I must admit that in Canada, I'd check in the Bay or Zellers instead of going to a shoe store. Of course, at a mall, going to various stores is much, much easier. I never thought that I'd say this, but I miss malls. :(

So... can anybody recommend a place to buy slippers online? What do I want, you ask? Well, think about a sleeping cat curled up in the winter. Now imagine sticking your feet into the cat.

Yes, I want cat caracass slippers. I want to have a shower at night, put on my pygamas, shove my bare feet into something furry, and sit at my computer for a few hours without getting cold. Note that my room temperature is about 15C, because the heat still isn't working. (although we have hot water again!)

In honor of the name of the blog, I'll give bonus points for suggestions of stores which include bunny slippers.

Officially a student

I'm now officially a student. Postgraduate research students (i.e. PhDs) registered / matriculated at the very end of the registration period.

In addition to having a student card, this marks the first time I went to the main university building. The EE&E building (ok, the civil engineers share it too) was built in the 1960s. It actually reminds me more of the Chemistry department at SFU than anything else... the building has a wonderful grey concrete exterior (I honestly like the SFU architecture!), and the inside has a certain smell that you only get from various gasses leaking out of experiments.

Ok, the smell is actually probably just from the type of floor wax they use, or the particular brand of rubber grips on the stairs, or whatever. But I'm going to ignore that. In my mind, the smell comes from Real Experiments happening. I think the terawatt laser is in the other engineering building, but there's still plenty of Real Science (albeit applied science) happening here.

The fact that I just sit at my desk programming all day is irrelevant. I'm in a lab in a building with real sciency stuff, where people can kill themselves by inhaling certain gasses used in some experimental processes. (sorry, I can't remember the particular chemical it was, but my supervisor was warning me about it. I think it's also two floors away from our lab, but that's still cool.)

They're also serious about restricting out-of-hours access. You need a keycard, need to sign in, etc. Yesterday, I left my desk at about 5:25, and the front door was locked by the time I got there. I had to exit through the side "out of hours" (also "smoking area") door.

In other news, I finally managed to build and upload lilypond 2.13.4. I've officially been the release manager for months, but the build process was a bit out of date, and requires a lot of CPU time to compile. It took me a week and a half, but I (and Jan, one of the core developers... actually, it was mostly Jan; I just send him error messages) finally managed to cross-compile the lilypond binaries for all 8 platforms. As fate would have it, we finished this task about half an hour before my registration time, so it really did fit neatly into a "in Glasgow but not a student" task.

In mundane matters, I have my bank account, and the bank card, pin, and online banking registration stuff have arrived. My Sainsbury's club card (it's called net-something, but I can't remember what it is) has arrived. The Tesco card hasn't arrived yet, which is weird since I signed up for that before the Sainsbury's card, but I have a paper "temporary" card, so it doesn't matter if the long-term plastic one hasn't arrived yet.

The only major remaining (necessary) task is to get a cell phone, which I'm still putting off. I have no excuse, though, so on Saturday I'll get it done. I should probably also try riding the subway (it's above-ground for some of the way, so it might be a nice sight-seeing thing), looking at downtown, looking at the Glasgow equivalent of the Sydney opera house (I can't remember what they do there), etc.

I'm also thinking about buying a bike. I can't claim that I need one; the 15-minute walk isn't all that long. (in fact, it's 15 minutes long!) But it would be even nicer if it were a 5-minute bike instead. Besides, I miss being a biker.

However, the prices are insane! Maybe I'm just looking in all the wrong places (google search "uk bike store"), but the lowest prices I'm seeing is £200. I can get a new bike in Canada for $100 -- one quarter of that price! Granted, it doesn't help that I don't know what type of bike I want... mountain, hybrid, hardtail, bmw, road, triathlon, cross-country, folding, tandem, trailer... ok, some of those are easy to eliminate (such as triathlon). But fundamentally, I just want something that moves forward when I push down on the pedal. I don't care if it's mountain, hybrid, road, cross-country, or hardtail.

I guess I need to *shudder* talk to a salesperson. I feel a bit cheap -- no pun intended -- marching in and saying "I'd like the least expensive bicycle you have, because I'm going to ride it for 15 minutes a day along almost-completely flat roads". But hey, that's what I do want, and I'm not going to buy anything else.

On the home front, I'm getting my just desserts. A few days ago, I was quite smug about having (almost) everything set up, having my sleep schedule finally adjusted, etc. So two day ago, the hot water broke. As a related investigation, one flatmate and I have determined that either the central heater is broken, or it requires some special trick to enable. We'll check with our other flatmates later. And finally, last night I had a normal insomnia night, taking over an hour to fall asleep, and then waking up 3 hours later and taking another hour to return to sleep.

Still, I remain in good cheer. The water is kind-of like camping. Besides, I'm a Canadian. I just think of the times that my igloo collapsed because I didn't shape the ice chunks at the right angle, or that time I dropped my seal-hunting spear into the water and dove into the icy ocean to retrieve it. And about my wilderness ranger training, where they deliberately give you hypothermia, so you'll recognize the symptoms if you get them later.

... ok, none of those actually happened. But I'm sure they have happened. To some Canadians. So I channel those imaginary Canadians and embrace the cold water. Besides, after the first 2 or 3 minutes (during which I tend to jump up and down... hey, it helps, if only psychologically!) the water doesn't seem so bad.

The cold room isn't anything new; I'm used to my basement room being 15 degrees. My brother blasts a heater, but I just pile on more clothes and/or snuggle in bed. Admittedly, the quilt in the resident isn't very good, but I bought an extra blanket / "luxury throw" (for £3 -- it can't be all that luxurious!), so I'll double-blanket the bed.

Finally, I'm vaguely regretting buying a new netbook in August. Don't get me wrong; I love this machine. But switching keyboard layouts between US and UK is slightly inconvenient. I mean, the @ and " keys are swapped, for no apparent reason. If I'd waited and bought a netbook in the UK, then I could have gotten adjusted once, rather than continually switching between the two layouts.

Oh well. I'll probably buy an ARM netbook next spring, and reserve this machine for my "powerful laptop". I mean, given the price of netbooks now, and the amount of time I spend on them, buying one each year isn't a bad bargain.