Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Random Mews


Saturday, August 25: the first time I've seen 99% of my high school graduating class since June, 1997. While I specifically delayed my trip until after this date, in retrospect, I think the best reason for doing so is to make sure I do not regret not going... confusing, but true :p Turns out that the people who I actually knew fairly well in high school did not show up. Rob, Nolan, Ian, David - yes, this means you. Oh well. Everyone else I at least rememebered, and a few probably spoke more to me in that one day than they did during 12 years of school...

At the 'mixer' event in the evening, everyone got up and gave a little speech about what they've been doing for the past 10 years. To summarize: 94% of them have kids, most of them multiple kids, and most of those are daughters. About a third have a kid that is older than their marriage, I think only one has offspring and no spouse or fiance. 90% have worked in the oil and gas industry here in Alberta. All of their children are "beautiful" of course.

I stood up and did a little John Cusack quoting ("flipped out, joined the army, now I'm a professional killer"), but either nobody got the reference, or I had a catastrophic microphone mismanagement episode and nobody could hear me. I suspect the former. ... or maybe they thought I was serious and if they laughed I would shoot them? Who knows, who cares. Anyway, the upshot of the day seems to be that 10 years out of contact has not brought me any closer to being the same as them. What a surprise!


On the travelling front, things are shaping up. Only a few items remain: I need to get a power adapter for charging my camera in Europe, a watertight container for my med kit supplies, a paper journal, and then pack it all. Last week I went to MEC in Calgary and spent 3 hours (Thanks, patient MEC staff!) picking out a backpack and a few other items. I went with a 50L pack, which is small compared to most 'travel' packs, and is actually designed for mountain climbing.. I probably could have gone with something even smaller (say, down around 40L), but this one will do. There was a really nice one that was 65L, but ultimately I decided that no matter how large or small the pack, it was going to get filled to capacity. And carried for a year. With a smaller pack, there is less room for unnecessary crap that weighs too much.

There was also the fun experience of going through the pharmacy section and getting most of the items that my guidebook recommends for a first aid kit. It was at least worth a couple curious looks from the staff and the cashier :p everything from a tensor bandage to diahrreah pills. Wheee! So after I get all this home I think: In nearly 28 years of life I have never once used most of these things. What are the odds that I will need them within the next year? Well, I will be exposed to more new foods, environments and activities in one year than in the last 28 combined, so there is a chance. Given that the combined weight of all the stuff is under a pound, I might as well take it all...


Also, going through WoW withdrawal. Still. After 7 months. Arg! Having just finished playing through the entire single player campaigns of WC3 and TFT, and finding myself with a week left before travelling, I went and finally took the shrink-wrap off of the DVDs that came in the collectors editions of various Blizzard games (WC3, WoW, WoW:BC) and watched all the special features n' stuff. Think of it like a nicotine patch for Warcraft... although I must say that it did seriously tempt me to pack along a laptop, hole up in a motel with a wireless connection somewhere in France, and play WoW for a few months.... but, NO, I MUST RESIST! No laptop carrying for me. (Besides, the damn thing weighs 15 pounds when you pack in the power supply, a mouse pad, mouse, headphones, carrying case, etc etc). I'm still debating whether or not to even bring an IPod... and if so, should it be my current one (which has a broken screen so unless you know what is on it, is somewhat useless. Perfect?) or a new one that I could actually see... eh, will probably just skip it. Putting in headphones is a good way to make people not want to talk to you, and I'm not travelling the world to listen to the same music as the last 10 years, but to see new things and new people. The occasional long plane/train/automobile ride is not a good enough reason to forego that.


Last night, there was a total lunar eclipse here (on my very doorstep, something that only happens a few times in a lifetime) from around 3 to 6 in the morning. I actually was awake for all of it, and took a bunch of pictures. Sadly, I have no tripod, and it wasn't until the second half that I actually started wedging my camera in a partially open door to avoid hand tremors. Even then, it kept telling me pictures were under-exposed unless I used at least a 20 second exposure -- sadly, today when I copied them all to my computer and looked at them at full size, it turns out that in most the moon is just a big white blob (It's like the sun! You look, you look away!) because of overexposure :p There are a few decent ones, as at a couple points I snapped pictures with every exposure time between 1/1600th of a second and 1 minute. I took a few series' of shots with 20 and 30 second exposure times, which are kind of neat because all the stars are small lines (and the moon therefore a bit blurred) due to the rotation of the Earth.

All that said, I'm only going to put the one picture up here, because if you *really* wanted to see pictures of the elipse, you could find tons of them all over the internet that were taken with much better equipment than my pocket camera :P

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Another way to use AMA.

Woo! I am now a proud holder of a plane ticket to London, to leave 2007.09.03. Also, travel insurance (so when I end up in a coma in Mozambique they can fly me home or something), and 'parking insurance' ($3 a month) for my car.. and it was all done under one roof! Yay for that AAA membership I bought to get free towing last December.

So. Officially leaving now! Right around when I wanted to, so I guess I didn't do my planning too late after all. Even managed to get a round trip ticket for right around $1000, which is cool, it just means I will have to return to London to fly home... or I could just skip out on that and buy another ticket home from wherever I am when I decide to come... given that my round trip ticket was less than a one way ticket, I wouldn't feel too bad about that at all.

Also, today was the day of The Shot... they warn you that you'll have a sore shoulder for a while, but ow. Holy crap, I am just glad they did it to the left arm, I need my right arm to shift gears :p

On a random unrelated note, my computer suffered a catastrophe yesterday. It was supposed to live until after my trip, at which point I am planning to build a new one then transfer all my data from the current one... so yesterday the power went out in a weird slow-motion sort of way, and my computer wouldn't start afterwards...

After doing some disassembly and tweaking I managed to get it to start up and run for a few minutes before the blue screen of DOOM but I fear that it is on it's last legs. The only hope is that it will run long enough at a stretch to burn all my important crap (oxymoron. who cares?) to DVD or transfer to the laptop before it dies completely :p I don't want to lose the data (Data: saved games and... um... hey, those are important!), but I also don't want to put any money into this thing either. Given the nature of the problem it is likely the graphics card or RAM that got zapped so hopefully removing one of the RAM sticks or swapping to my backup or the onboard AGP card will fix... will see soon enough.

The moral of the story is: Get and use a UPS. (Uninterruptible Power Supply). When I get back from ye olde travels, I will be having to replace an xbox 360, HD projector, and computer that have all melted due to power outages and spikes within the last 6 months.... you can be damn sure that none of them are going to be plugged into anything less than a really good UPS.

Friday, August 3, 2007

They do go in the arm, right?

A tip for prospective travellers: Prepare earlier than you thought you might need to!

There are things that hadn't even occurred to me until recently, that really need to get done before one travels to any foreign country. I have been apparently spoiled by the ease of travel from my home country of Canada to the United States - just show up at the border and have ID. For travel to Europe, Africa, or pretty much anywhere else in the world, one thing that caught me by surprise is vaccinations.

Vaccination against hepatitis A is an absolute requirement for most of the world, as are a few others, plus some "recommended but optional" ones. I don't recall the whole list (which varies depending on which countries you are planning to visit) right at the moment, but they include such appealing afflictions as Hep A/B, tetanus/diptheria, measles, typhoid, rabies, etc etc. As it turns out, some of these vaccinations must be administered in multiple stages over the course of a period of time, so this is really something that one should look into months in advance of travel... me? I realize this one month away from when I'd like to be leaving. Doh. Oh well, next Wednesday I get the wonderful pleasure of having a bunch of sharp metal things stuck into my arm.

At least I hope they go in the arm :p