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Observations from Canada

I took a quick spin up to Vancouver, BC yesterday. I had never really been to Canada. Well, I take that back. I did make it in to Canada when I visited Niagra Falls, but I don’t think that really counts. I just got far enough in to have to change my American Dollars to Canadian Dollars in order to buy a hamburger. Then when I got back to the US, I just had worthless dollars and coins. Oh well. Niagra Falls was cool.

There were no especially interesting stories to tell of in Vancouver, but I do have a few observations.

-The Metric system was really messing me up. Cities seemed alot farther they I thought when the miles turned into kilometers.
-Gas was 91.9 cents per liter. I didn’t know if I was getting a deal or not. You had to take into account both the dollar to Canadian dollar AND the Litre to Gallon. Who cares, I jsut filled up and forgot about it.
-They don’t have any left turn lanes on the major roads. Nor do they have any suicide lanes. That was hard because when there were people turning left the left lane was really held up. So the fastest lane was the one in the middle.
-Their traffic lights had four stages. Red, yellow, green, and flashing green. I never really figured out what flashing green meant, but I didn’t get in a crash so it’s alright.
-It was ALOT harder for me to get into Canada then out of Canada. The guard to get into Canada asked me like 20 questions and was really rude about it. I guess he’s just trying to protect his border.
-Vancouver is a HUGE city. I hiked out to one of the cliffs on the border where there was a lighthouse and got a beautiful view of the city and the bridge.
-All of the building downtown have ALOT of glass on it. In the States, the high rises have windows but also alot of other building material. the buildings in downtown Vancouver were probably 90% glass.

All in all, Vancouver was very pretty and I liked it.

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High Mountaintops and an even higher ego

After making a map earlier this week of the states that I have been to, I decided that the NW and SE were too empty. So yesterday I took a flight up here to Seattle to meet my dad who is here on a business trip. So the updated map is

map2

I like it up here. It reminds me alot of Northern California, which I like very much. I flew into Seattle but didn’t spend alot of time there. While I was at the airport, I was waiting on the curb for the rental car company to come and pick me up. As I was waiting, a man pulled up in a really nice Mercedes S-Class. He pulled up to the curb, popped the trunk, and was waiting on the curb for his friend to arrive. He was one of those guys that is easy to despise. With the look on his face that said, “I am too good to be here.”. He made snide remarks to a woman and a child as the child brushed by him and let her luggage hit his leg. He couldn’t believe that the kid couldn’t recognize his greatness I guess.

Well, since I was there with nothing to do, and he was there even though having everything else to do, I thought I would have a little fun. With the other recently arrived passengers as my audience, I approached the man.

“Excuse me?” I said, as he turned his nose downward and slowly looked my direction.
“Are you with the rental car company? They didn’t really tell me what to look for other than a blue car.”

I wish I could have had a camera to capture the look in his eye. His answer was “No” but his look was “I can’t believe you could mistake me for a man with such a trivial job.”

“Alright,” I replied “You just had the look so I thought I’d ask.” As I turned away and gave a little wink to the family that was earlier scoffed by the prune. That was fun.

After meeting with the real Rental Car Reo, I got my car and headed North to Whatcom County. It is really pretty with just the right mix of mountains, trees, water and plains. Along the way I explored a beautiful lake up in the mountains, stopped and met some nice folks at Skagit Community College, and had a tour of the Whatcom County Museum. I saw a stuffed wolverine in there. That was interesting. Those animals are scary.

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The Digital Music World

There has been a new player introduced in the digital music world, and being known as the Apple spokesman in my circles, I thought that I would set things straight. The new vendor is actually an old name with a new service. Napster, known for igniting the music filesharing a few years ago has introduced a new service. The service is called Napster To Go. Apple has been enjoying a large majority of the digital music sales and use and Napster, along with other companies, have been trying to get a piece of the pie.

Napster to go seems good at first look. The marketing strategy has been to claim that to fill your Apple iPod with music from the Itunes Music Store it would take $10,000. ($1 per song). In comparison, to fill it with the Napster to go service it costs $15 per month. Of course, most people have a big cd collection so the $10,000 estimate might be a little high since cd collections can easily be transferred over to your ipod. There are many arguments against Napster, for instance, their music will not play on ipods, the most popular MP3 player by far. But I don’t intend to go thru all the arguments. I just want to make one thing clear to my family and friends and let them come to their own conclusion.

The music that you get from the Napster To Go service is only good as long as you are paying your subscription. They want you to believe that you can just have all this music for your collection. However, you pay the 15 dollars to fill your non-ipod, but if you don’t pay it the next month then all of that music will expire. You don’t own your music, you are just renting it. They don’t tell you that up front, but most people are turned off when they realize that.

One final note, here is one more way to best the Napster service. How does this look?

napster

That’s right. Free! Apple and Pepsi are paired right now in a program. If you buy a Pepsi product with a yellow cap, you have a one in three chance of winning a song from the iTunes Music Store. Then, when you download that song, you are entered into a drawing for a Free iPod Mini. Apple is giving away an iPod Mini every hour for the next few months. This is a really neat promotion, but if you are like me, I’m not really into Pepsi. I’m more of a Coke man. “If you treat your Coke right, it treats you right.” is what I was taught.

I did a little digging around and read thru the official rules of the itunes+Pepsi promotion. Turns out that you can get free game pieces by sending a self addressed envelope to Apple. Here is the official wording:

To receive one free game piece and a copy of Official Rules, without purchase and while supplies last, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope postmarked on or before 4/11/05 to: Pepsi iTunes Game Piece, P.O. Box 4711, Young America, MN 55558-4711. Residents of the state of VT may omit return postage. Limit one free game piece per request per stamped outer envelope.

You can read the rest of it here

So, as it turns out it doesn’t take $10,000 at all. Since one in three pieces win…it only takes 30,000 letters to Apple. So you get the 10,000 songs…and ten thousand chances at winning that ipod mini. Of course, you’ll have to pay for the stamps (which will be ALOT of money), but at least you won’t have to feel bad about wasting the Pepsi.

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I thought I was bad

I think that I like gadgets as much as the next guy. My mom often reminds me that I don’t always have to have the latest and the greatest. (To which my reply is, “Yes, yes I do.”) For instance, I would really like one of the new Mac Minis from Apple. Sure, I already have a couple Apple Computers. (One for each hand, but I can learn to type with my toes.) I don’t have a pressing need for it, but it just looks so cool. And it’s so inexpensive. It’s a fully functioning computer, and it’s about the size of a Chicken Pot Pie Box. And I think that I would keep it on top of my TV and use it as a DVD player, but with all the movies already stored on the hard drive. Think how cool it would look up there.

Macmini

I thought I was bad with wanting gadgets, but I have certainly found my superior. As I was reading some articles online the other day, I read about a kid in India who has a serious problem. You see, he was embarrassed by his mobile phone. He said that all the other kids at school had the coolest new phones, but his was old. So what does he decide to do? Find random jobs and save up to until he had enough money? Wrong! Little bucky decides to fake his own kidnapping and demand money from his parents.

One day after school, he decided not to go home. He called his dad from another part of town and, disguising his voice, he demanded that he would have to give up money if he wanted to see his kid alive again. For three days this went on. Police started to become suspicious when the kidnapper was demanding that the father give the money to the kid’s best friend. the police decided to trace the call next time it came in. A call came in and the located the phone, as they went in they found the kid with a piece of cloth over the phone. The kid had no remorse, other then the fact that he didn’t get the money for the mobile phone. You can read the story here.

Dad, if you get a call demanding for $499 plus tax, just ignore it.

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Looks like I have some places I need to go! (update)

I found a neat new site that will keep track of your travels for you and color in the states as you visit them. It will also work for countries that you visit. The site is www.world66.com. I spent a couple minutes and made a map for myself. I thought that I was doing good on my travels, but after making the map I realized that I mostly visit the same places. My total count was 25 out of 51. (Includes DC) Looks like I have some traveling to take care of.

Here is my map. If any of you make a map, I’d love to see it. There will be a map kept current in “Links” list.

map

I have had some questions as to whether layovers in Airports count. Of course everyone can make their own rules, but here is how I decided it for myself. I didn’t count layovers in airports because you can’t see the state. However, I did count states that I drove thru in a car because most freeways go thru major cities and you see quite a bit of a state as you drive thru. So those are my rules, do with them as you will.

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I almost want to buy the car

I just came across the coolest commercial that I have ever seen. It is a commercial by Volkswagen for the old/new Golf GTI. The Golf is an old car that was really popular, but it has been redone for 2005. In order to show that, they took another old “thing” and updated it. They chose the famous clip of Gene Kelly , “Singing in the Rain”.

Using computer effects, Gene Kelly’s “old” dance changes from dancing in the rain to breakdancing in the rain. They rebuilt the street that he danced on then three different dancers tried to follow the same route that Mr Kelly took, but with the new style of dancing. Finally, they superimposed the face of gene Kelly to the face of the dancers. What a great job!!
(No doubt this was all done on a Mac. When I find proof that it was, I’ll post it.)

Check out the video here

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New Way To Keep Updated.

Each time I write posts on this blog I send out about 300 emails to people who have asked me to keep them updated on when I write. This has posed a couple problems. #1) Those emails take a lot of time. #2) There is no way for a person to ask me to stop sending the updates without them having to write me and say, “stop sending updates”. I understand that can be a little awkward because it might make me cry.and # 3) There are filters on alot of email accounts that would put emails in the “junk folder” if there are more then a few addresses on the email. So I made a change…

As you may notice, there is now a box on the right hand side of this blog that will let you submit your e-mail address and you will be notified each time this blog is updated. I thought that this would be useful for people who don’t want to check my blog everyday and just want to know when I have written something. (Not saying that there is even one person in this whole world who would desire my writing so much that they would in fact check it every day)

So here is how it works. As of now, we are starting from scratch. The list of emails is at zero. If you want to receive updates, please put your email address in the box and it will go onto the new list. If you have been receiving emails and have been looking for a way out…here it is. Do nothing and you’ll get nothing from here on out.

When you sign up, there will be an e-mail sent to you confirming that you want the updates. Just follow the link in the email and you are set. You will receive the updates when I post to the blog. Each email will tell you the name of the entry and give you a link to the blog. At the bottom of each email, there is a link if you want to stop getting the emails.

So now there are two ways to get the updates RSS feed and e-mails. now I just have to find something of interest to write about. (And don’t worry, you won’t get any spam from doing this. It is just for blog updates.)

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I’m Just Not Sure Why

I know that usually I will write about music that I like, but this time I don’t know. There is an album by “The Streets” called “A Grand Don’t come Easy” and I just can’t tell if I like it or not. I enjoy listening to it but I can’t tell if I like it. I think that I am mostly just intrigued by it. You see, this rapper is out of England. The American rappers are popular in England, but this is an English rapper that is popular in England.

I was reading an article about a man who was late for work and blamed it on his iPod. He said that he got on the subway in New York City and flipped his iPod on. He was listening to “The Streets” album and next thing he knows he missed his stop by 10 stops. He wasn’t paying attention to anything because he said that he was “just so intrigued by the sound.” Well, of course with an introduction like that I had to locate the album myself. And Mr. Tardy-to-work is right, it is a different kind of sound that you want to listen to. There is something strange about a man rapping about the life of guns and drugs in a proper English accent. Those of you who read this in England probably won’t get the irony of it.

I thought that i would include a sample of it so all of you know what I am talking about. It’s the first minute and a half of a song called “Fit But You Know It”. It is rap (I guess that is what it would classify under) but there are no cuss words in it so listen with confidence. The song is here. If you take the time to listen, comment on what you think. Help me get a grasp on this.

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Another view on Iraq

I received an incredible email from a friend of mine serving with the Marines in Iraq. He was writing about a speech by Gen. Michael W. Hagee who was the Marine Corps Commandant over the marine who was videotaped shooting that Iraqi in the Mosque a couple months ago. General Hagee was giving his opinion on putting journalists with the troops. He is a supporter of it and belives it is the right thing to do. “However,” Hagee adds, “I don’t think (the coverage) is very well balanced.”

Here is a quote from my friends email:

The national media, he said, has been
slow to report on things that have been handled correctly. He recalled a
sergeant, a squad leader, leading his unit through a city of 200,000
people, when they came upon a funeral. Mourners were carrying the body on
their shoulders, and firing guns into the air. The sergeant ordered his
soldiers to point their guns at the ground and place their helmets over
their hearts in a show of respect. “Let me tell you, that took guts,”
Hagee said. “I arrived in An Najaf two weeks later, and they were still
talking about it. We did more to cement relations in An Najaf with that
one incident than anything else we have done.” It can be difficult to
allow a young girl to run up to your armored vehicle when you’ve had a
friend killed by an explosive device delivered the same way, but, Hagee
said, “Today’s Marine will not shoot, and I’m quite proud of that.”

My friend, George Moleni from Tonga, goes on to talk about how alot of the Iraqis are as tired of the insurgance as the soldiers are so they are helping more. I appreciate the insights that George gives me. His emails are usually quite detailed and informative. If any of you would like to send a line to George, feel free to leave a comment and I will forward it to him.

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Here we go again

For any of you that are interested, there was an article in the New York Times this last Sunday that highlighted my company here in Vegas, and there is a picture of yours truly. (I promise I am not working myself to death, no matter what that picture may look like.)

The article can be read here