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Managed to lock my keys inside the car, oops. Luckily I did it at a petrol (sorry, gas) station, and the guy helped jimmy it open. I’m tempted to blame the car — you don’t need to hold the handle up when shutting the driver’s door to get it to lock, so it’s a fair bit easier for it to accidentally shut.

Spent the day at work, after another trip to social security — it’s going to take about two weeks before I can get a number (and open a bank account, and get paid). Still screwing around getting accounts and things setup, and doing paperwork.

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First day at work. Most of the morning was spent doing paperwork and boring stuff, I didn’t make it to Yorktown until about midday. This was also delayed by the fact that the Italian guy I was giving a lift to got to Yorktown before realising he actually wanted Hawthorne.

Went to the social security office before discovering that it was closed for Martin Luther King day, so by the time I got back to IBM it was already about 4:00. One of the guys there invited me and the other intern over for dinner, which was pretty nice.

Boring entry, huh? I probably won’t have quite as much spare time to be updating this now.

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Well, it eventually stopped snowing, so I crawled into town. They clear the roads, but not most of the parking spaces, so you have to be careful getting in and out. You also have to wade through knee-high slushy snow to get to the car, in some spots.

Even in a smallish town, many places are open late. I went into Borders and got a proper street directory, and got a sandwich thing for dinner from a deli.

Off to IBM tomorrow, they want me there at 7:45, and I haven’t driven it before, so it’ll be a hella early start. I really really hope it isn’t snowing again tomorrow!

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Decided I was going to see what the driving conditions were like. Spent 15 minutes in the falling snow scraping it off all the windows, and the front of the car. By the time I finished more had fallen and I had to go back over it. Crawled into the car, started it, and waited another 5 minutes for the engine to warm up. Made my way ever so slowly out of the car park, before discovering that even the main road was covered in wet slushy snow, and that people were driving disturbingly fast. Turned around and came back.

Not sure what to do now… sitting in my room getting bored and wondering if I should give it another go. I really do need to buy some stuff before next week.

It’s snowing

Planned to go shopping in White Plains today, but it snowed quite heavily overnight, and the car, car park, and road are all covered. Guess I’d better get used to it — luckily I already bought a thing to scrape snow off the windows. There was a guy outside in a Volvo using the snow-covered carpark to do donuts and skids all over the place.

Had another enormous breakfast this morning, and took a banana for lunch. I’m not sure how healthy this is, but since I’m paying for a buffet breakfast it’s a cheap way to skip lunch 🙂

Random Americanisms: the payphone plays you a 5-second jingle before the number starts ringing, and the shop doors all open outwards onto the street.

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Went in to the town for dinner. Parked in an area with meters, but no sign to indicate when you were expected to use them — this seems to be a local rule that is obviously known to everyone but myself. Noticed that all the meters had expired, even those with cars parked in the space, so took my chances.

By the way, when I said that the road rules varied by state, other things like speed limits and parking restrictions are set for each town. As you drive in there are signs saying things like “Town of Blah Blah, no parking on roadways 3-6am”.

I ate in a coffee house that also had sandwiches and pizza stuff as well, and was packed with people. Ordered a melted sandwich thing, as well as a mocha. Actually, it’s apparently not a mocha, because when I finally gave up and pointed to it on the menu he said “Oh, a mowcar!”. It also turned up in a cup as large as my head (these Americans seem to like everything big).

That’s the third coffee for the day, or counting them in terms of normal size cups, probably about the sixth. The rough plan is to stay up to a semi-normal time by being drugged up on caffeine, thereby forcing my body to sleep longer in the morning. I’ve yet to see how well it works.

After paying (one has to ask for the “check”), I returned to the car to see with relief that I had not yet acquired an American parking ticket. And so endeth another day, apparently it might not be quite so freezing cold tomorrow.

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Spent most of the day driving around looking at apartments. I only actually looked at three — this was due largely to getting lost quite a few times, and also to visiting the same town twice.

The first two places I looked at sucked. You might have all the features on paper when you say “private apartment, furnished, with car space, kitchen facilities”, etc., but when you actually take a look you discover that everything is old, at least second hand, and crappy. One place in particular astounded me… it was just out the back of this guy’s garage, was filled with basically random junk furniture, and he wanted $1025 a month, plus a dollar a day to use the garage.

The third was much nicer, even though it didn’t have a proper stove, just two hotplates. It won’t be available for a week though, so it looks like I’ll have the joy of staying in a hotel for a little longer than I expected. I might try to find somewhere cheaper.

Speaking of getting lost, they do have some curious road rules:


  • When you’re on a road, and it says “end blah blah speed limit”, that means you can do 55mph (I had to look this up). Everyone seems to speed by at least 5mph though, I collect nice backlogs of cars behind me when I drive at or near the limit. This is probably explained by the fact that I haven’t seen a single speed camera type device.

  • They have right-turn permitted on red after stopping, but it’s the default (ie. you can do it unless there’s a sign not to).

  • The right of way rules are subtly different. If you’re in an intersection first you have right of way, even if you’re turning left and the other person has to stop. I haven’t really been game to try this one out though 🙂

  • When a school bus is stopped, you can’t pass it on any side of the road, no matter how big the road is. I’ve yet to see how this works on a highway.

  • The parking signs are strange. It seems you usually can’t park overnight on the street, since they plough it, although many streets have alternate days parking on one or the other side of the street (the sign actually says “Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun”, etc.).

  • There are stop signs, and then there are stop signs with “FULL” written underneath. I’ve no idea what the difference is.


Also, it seems to be fairly arbitrary what passes for an indicator around here — some cars have the standard flashing orange light, others flash the brake light, others have another red light separate from the brake and flash that. I saw one car with an orange light that didn’t flash (could just be a dodgy auto-electric job). It’s rather confusing. Of course, many people don’t bother indicating anyway unless they’re stopped waiting to turn.

And each state makes up their own road rules, so lots of things apparently differ from state to state. Yay for consistency!

Random observation: Starbucks here is better than in Australia (ie. not crap), however for some reason they only have Tall or “Grande” sizes on the menu, you apparently can’t get a regular size coffee any more.

Need to work out what to eat for dinner. It’s a pain waiting to move out of the hotel, because you have to eat out every time and that gets expensive pretty quickly in the US.

Abtronic

Whilst searching for a picture of an Abtronic machine, I came across this gem of a press release. An extract:


The Federal Court has declared that other claims made by Danoz Direct were misleading or deceptive in breach of the Trade Practices Act, because Danoz Direct did not have reasonable grounds for making the claims. These included that:

  • the Abtronic was a brilliant training and toning tool;

  • the Abtronic firms, tones and tightens your upper abs, lower abs and ‘love handles’, with no sweat;

  • the Abtronic could provide a vigorous workout for the abdominal region, the love handles, arms, buttocks and thighs;

  • the Abtronic would tone and firm muscles; and

  • the Abtronic can work out and tone different muscle groups.


Who would have thought it? It does have other uses though, if only a certain page was still accessible, you could see an example.

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The coffee is RANCID!

Apart from that, breakfast was really good. Got given a slip of paper to fill in a tip on, and sign, to have it charged to my room. Doing the mental arithmetic for a 15% tip in your head sucks! Ended up tipping a bit too much (20%), for people that didn’t really do anything, but whatever.

The whole tipping thing sucks. For any given price (say, $10.95 for buffet breakfast), you need to remember that the price you finally pay will get tax (which appears to be 7% here) added to it, and often they expect a tip (although they won’t say how much, you have to divine this from a guide book). Then sometimes they add gratuity and other random charges. In fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the price you see is not the price you pay, which makes you wonder what the point is.