vehicles, travelling, and time machine

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(no, that subject is not a back to the future reference. well, now it is i guess, but it wasn't originally meant to be.)

let's see...i called the taipei economic and cultural office (or something..."teco") here in houston monday or yesterday to inquire about visas. i had to leave a message. i called a few hours later, to voicemail again (didn't leave a message). i called again today and someone answered. they said if i had a u.s. passport valid for at least 6 more months and an itinerary showing a return flight within some number of days (30 or 60, i don't recall) then i don't need a visa. so hopefully they're right, and that's one less thing i have to deal with or worry about.

car update: edelbrock never called me after the new year. i gave them a week or two and called them. i eventually got in touch with someone. they said they would get info and call me back. they haven't. so my expensive edelbrock crate engine still sounds like crap, ostensibly because of a lifter knock. i guess i'll have to call them again. it's annoying to have to push a company who i had thought would be professional and customer-focused.

another car update: a couple of weeks ago the windshield wipers, which had always worked, stopped working. the mechanic re-wired them because they were going straight to the battery. now they don't work at all. (although i'm pretty sure they were working after i got the car back from him.) also, i recently realized that my gas tank is leaking gas. well, at least when the tank is full. i'm not sure where it's leaking from. so i guess i'll need to get a new tank here sometime. joy.

on monday i had my mom (who works at a bank) wire some money from an account at her bank to my local accounts here. one for my credit card, one for my atm card. i'm pretty sure i'd be okay financially, but since i've been pushing a lot of money toward the credit card with my engine/car work on it, and i hadn't really planned to take this trip, my local reserves were low. so i'm borrowing money from myself to help make sure i'm good to go during the trip.

i upgraded my macbook air to snow leopard earlier this week. that went fine. what didn't go fine though, was time machine. i use an external drive hooked up to an airport extreme base station as my time machine backup drive. this is possible, but not supported by apple. unfortunately, something with snow leopard borks time machine backups -- especially when doing them over wireless. since it's not a supported config, apple doesn't have to offer help. but what happens is for some reason time machine ends up corrupting the sparse bundle that all of the backup info is stored in. so the only solution is to delete your sparse bundle and start over. or pull the drive local and use hdiutil to try and fsck fix the sparse bundle. joy. other than that annoyance, so far so good with snow leopard.

i had a scare yesterday after work. i got in my pickup and went to start it and the starter made scary ratcheting sounds. that in and of itself isn't too scary, it does that now and then. but usually i turn the key off and back on and it works fine. but this time it never did anything but the scary sounds. i was annoyed about having to figure out how to get home, when to replace the starter in the parking lot, and what i was going to do about getting out of the parking lot. (you see, you pay for parking and then take the token to get out. but you have to get out within a time limit.) i eventually got out and knocked the starter around a bit with my mag-lite. after that it started right up. unfortunately, i had already paid my outrageously overpriced $12 for parking, and by the time i got to the gate after the starter fiasco the system decided i'd taken too long and charged me $2 more. i hate tmc parking. and i had to pay more than the maximum amount because of that.

back to my impending trip. i want to take my wallet chain, but i'm worried they're going to have a problem with it because it's sort of long and heavy. since i'm now planning on checking a bag, i can put it in there. but i've read about stuff like that going missing from checked baggage. so i don't know if that's any better than just having it on my person or in my carry-on baggage. i should probably just leave it, but i pretty much always wear it and i like having it. of course, i also always carry a lighter and a pocket knife, and i'm planning on leaving those behind. i guess i'll figure it out in the next few days.

i've still not come up with any good way to get free (or even cheap) calls back into the u.s. via cell phones, or google voice. so i think i'm probably going to see about using skype for that. (if i need to make calls back to the u.s.) if i have a wifi connection, i can use my laptop or iphone (i have the skype app) to make calls to u.s. phones via skype for about $0.02/min (plus a $0.04 connection fee). not bad. (stupid at&t/apple and not unlocking u.s. iphones...otherwise i could have a local taiwanese sim in my iphone with a data plan and make cheap calls to the u.s. over 3g/edge as well.)

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If you use your chain that much, just put it in your suitcase. I seriously doubt it would be taken by someone. I imagine potential thieves would go after items of high-resale value. Unless there is a burgeoning pocket chain racket going on in Houston, Tokyo or Taipei, I doubt it'll be a problem. That having been said, don't leave any gold rings or jewelry in there!
As far as making calls back to the US, you can buy an int'l calling card at 7-11 (or as they say here "say-bun" with equal emphasis on both syllables) for like US$6.00 that would last 2 hours or so (though I can't remember exactly how long).

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