Thursday 25 January 2024

Summer dispatch

We had a summer winter holiday. 

Kids out of school for summer holidays, we headed properly North (and East) for the first time since maybe 2016. A few weeks with my family now on Vancouver Island; a few weeks with Susan's in Pittsburgh.

Minor highlights and travel notes:
  • Cannabis shops are ubiquitous on Vancouver Island. They don't seem to cause any problem. They do seem to affect the ads I get served on Twitter.
    • There are, however, an awful lot of vagrants around, who seem to be affected by substances that aren't cannabis. 
  • Huge amount of mixed-used building going on around Parksville and Qualicum. Fourplexes. 3-6 story condos with retail below. Concerns about whether water infrastructure was up to the increased development, but didn't meet anyone who knew how that was funded or financed.
  • There are a lot of bald eagles on Vancouver Island. They sound nothing like the eagles one hears on television.
  • We hit a Costco and normal grocery shopping. Overs and unders on pricing relative to New Zealand, no clear advantage all-up. Beef particularly expensive on the Island relative to other meat, as compared to the price of beef vs other meats in NZ. Prices there for cheap cuts were higher than what we pay in NZ for good cuts. 
  • Getting the 15 year old a dose of the updated Pfizer shot was quick and easy at pharmacy. Canadian rules precluded the 13 year old (she had Covid in late October). Sue and I were boosted in early October so figured we'd wait until the Pittsburgh leg of the trip to get our new-version boosters. 
  • Cannabis shops are also ubiquitous in Pittsburgh, where they're dispensaries for medical cannabis. They also seem to affect the ads I get served on Twitter. There were also a fair few people around who seemed affected by 
  • We hit a Costco, Aldi, Whole Foods, Ikea, pile of other spots. Again, overs and unders on pricing, hard to see systematic advantages. Beef again very expensive. $10 USD/lb for low-end cuts was common. $10 USD / lb = $35 / kg NZD, and remember that I haven't added GST. On getting home I bought scotch fillet for $29.90 / kg at New World, including GST. A need a new blazer; decent ones there were running $250 - $400 USD. We responded to relative prices. Did relatively little shopping while there. Was told that one reason for high US beef prices is changes to BLM lease access to grazing land but that is hardly satisfactory: why aren't more good NZ cuts being exported to get to global law of one price? A good roast there is crazy expensive. Like "We'll do this for Christmas but only for Christmas for special" expensive. Chicken/pork/eggs cheaper for low-end stuff, but a lot of that would be from farming reg differences like cage-free eggs, pig crates and the like. 
  • The rest of us got our vaccine re-ups while there. You can get Covid vax at Target. Target has an in-house pharmacy. You just walk up. They get a bit confused by people who just want to pay cash; they're used to dealing with a lot of insurance forms. But pay your $190 and they'll give you the jab. In NZ, we'd have had to have convinced our GP that we had a special medical reason. Daughter had had the low-dose shot when they first came out, as under-12 and it was impossible to get a booster. In the US, we could just get the shots. New Zealand policy is really abysmal on this one. Medsafe Delenda Est, and same for the vaccine recommendations outfit that makes it impossible for GPs to enable access. 
  • Mask use as low there as it is here, but lots of Covid around. 
  • 2 Degrees charges $8/day for international roaming. I wanted that so I could be available on my NZ number. Downside: your IP address still shows up as being in NZ, so you can't do a pile of normal stuff like order takeaway food at restaurants, download apps for McDonalds - anything where they figure you're in NZ because of your IP address.
  • Work from home has been way stickier in the US. Most friends we caught up with were regularly working from home. They also had a way worse Covid schooling experience, with learning from home for a couple years rather than the short bursts we had in NZ. 

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