Diary of a geek

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Andrew Pollock

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Friday, 10 February 2006

Corteo

Tonight Sarah and I went to see Cirque du Soleil's performance of Corteo at San Jose.

It was excellent. Really really good. Words cannot do justice to the description of it.

We were both amazed and awestruck at the performers' gymnastic abilities. The music and the song were excellent as well. Money well spent on good seats.

[23:40] [life] [permalink]

The Social Security Administration strikes again

I'd been planning on waiting to blog about the issuing of my Social Security number until I actually received the card, but as it seems that it has been lost in the mail, I could be waiting a while...

So I was doing my regular weekly "what the fuck is going on with my Social Security number application?" phone call to the San Jose Social Security Administration office on January 12, when for a change, they couldn't actually find my application by the reference number that they'd given me. Lo and behold, my number had been allocated two days earlier.

They told me that my card would be mailed out in 10 working days from the date of allocation, or that I could come into the office and get a bit of paper that told me what the number was.

Let's just say that I'm glad I didn't wait for the card, or I'd still not be getting paid...

So ten working days passed, and then some, and no card. This made me somewhat concerned, since everyone's been telling me how the SSN is the Primary Key of All Things, and that if it gets stolen, you're screwed as your identity can be stolen, with all the bad things that accompany that.

So I rang the San Jose office back, to see if they had anything useful to say for themselves, and of course, they didn't. They couldn't tell me anything. They couldn't even tell me what address they had on record to ship the card to. They couldn't offer any postal tracking information, and they said that if it bounced for some reason, it would go back to Baltimore, where it would be destroyed. Oh goody.

So after the trip to the DMV today, I thought I'd drop into the Mountain View Social Security office to request a new card.

Well, let me just say that I can see why they zip-tie the chairs together...

After waiting for over an hour and a half to get to speak to someone, they said that they would need to request secondary verification of something or other before they could issue me a card, and that it could take up to four weeks (the same secondary verification that took nearly 2 months in the first place). Or I could go to the San Jose office, where they already had the verification on file, and they could request a new card for me immediately.

I was so flabbergasted that I just walked out of there. In hindsight, I should have told them to just go ahead and request the secondary verification, as so far I haven't actually needed to present the card to anyone wanting my SSN, and it's a lot more convenient (I think) to have to deal with the Mountain View Social Security office than the San Jose one.

What absolutely blows me away is that there is no trust, no communication between offices. The fact that one Social Security office has already requested (and received) secondary verification of my existence from Immigration isn't sufficient for another office. They can't even ship a copy of that from one office to another? The mind boggles at the inefficiencies. I want that hour and a half of my life back.

[23:36] [life/americania] [permalink]

Licensed!

Last Monday, Sarah and I visited the fine institution that is the California Department of Motor Vehicles, so that we could get ourselves California drivers licences.

We had to do both a written test and a behind the wheel test. The written test was your standard multiple-guess exam (36 questions, maximum of 6 incorrect answers to pass). Annoyingly, all the material on the exam was not in the California Driver Handbook, which the handbook tried to make out was the case. Fortunately it was largely a case of common sense. I got two wrong. The funniest thing was that Sarah and I both got the same exam paper, and Sarah did her test just after I finished mine, and we were allowed to keep the paper, so she could see which two I got wrong.

One of the more unusual things I found about the process was that they allocated me a licence number before I'd even sat the test.

Last Thursday Sarah had her behind the wheel test, and today I had mine. It was pretty easy. No reverse-parking, no emergency stopping. I just had to drive around for 15 minutes. I passed without any faults.

Given it took me four attempts to get my original licence in Australia, I was pretty pleased with this. (I failed my Queensland licence a number of times due to nerves).

The other thing that I was amazed to discover was that I don't get the licence for another four to six weeks! They mail it out. The DMV processes over here are just mind boggling. The fact that you can't get a licence on the spot, and that it takes something like three months to get licence plates for a new car just blows me away. It's nothing like the process in Australia.

[23:22] [life/americania] [permalink]

SSL protected mailing lists are usually a waste of time

Amaya points out to Jonathan why people like to use SSL for their mailing list archives.

The silly thing is that quite often people still have the monthly password reminder emails switched on, which go out in the clear.

The same hypothetical bad guy who might be sniffing your password when you might log into the web management system just has to sniff at the right time of the month when everyone's password is being emailed out...

[23:09] [tech] [permalink]