Seems like only yesterday I was writing about being in this show, Two Diabetics, but the video’s finally up on Youtube! And embedded below, for your convenience.
Seems like only yesterday I was writing about being in this show, Two Diabetics, but the video’s finally up on Youtube! And embedded below, for your convenience.
Our last flight home, from Houston back to Milwaukee (we didn’t leave the airport this time, with only an hour layover) has about an hour left in it, and so I’ll try to briefly summarize some of the interesting facets of Roatan, Honduras – probably one of *the* most heavily touristed areas we’ve ever visited together.
First and foremost, either the government of Honduras or the local leaders of Roatan need to figure out whether or not they’re officially backing the Honduran lempira, or the US dollar, and stick with it. It was rather crazy to see that the majority of hotels, restaurants, and other random businesses we frequented not only often accepted USD primarily, but then also would randomly put the prices for other things down in lempira instead. Some hotels would list their prices in USD, for example, then have the drinks in their bar in lempira – and vice versa at other places. The exit tax we paid to leave the country, for another matter, was even charged in USD, not lempiras – but yet, all the credit card machines in the country will *always* do the transaction in lempira, regardless of whether the price was given in USD or Lemps. By the way – the government of Honduras doesn’t seem to see fit to have an easily-findable, up to date list of what the exit tax is – well, as of June 1st, 2014, everywhere else on the internet is wrong – it’s precisely $39.72 for foreigners (to leave by air; from Roatan). Thankfully some elderly British gentleman in the line behind gave me the last 200 lempiras I needed (about $5) otherwise I would have needed to get out the plastic – and all of the fees that would have entailed. Continue reading this post…
It’s going to be hard leaving the tranquil jungle of La Fortuna, our hotel on Lake Atitlan, behind tomorrow. We really lucked out with Christine finding them on Trip Advisor and them having a few rooms available at low season prices. I’m sitting on the porch of one of their bungalows right now, looking into a small cluster of coffee bushes and beyond that, the under-construction new “Big Bungalow” and then finally, the lapping waters of the lake itself. We’ll be leaving tomorrow morning back south for a night in Antigua, one of the most touristy sections of the country.
To be honest, at first I didn’t think I’d be able to write any more for the duration of this trip – moments after I completed the previous blog entry, my computer went dead and I was unable to power it back on – it merely would throw up an error message that said it couldn’t find any boot devices and then demand to be restarted. I grudgingly admitted defeat that evening, as we left around 10am from our hotel in Guatemala City, Dos Lunas, and I didn’t have time to work on it. We had an entire full-sized van to ourselves – our driver, Reyneido, estimated that it would take us about 3 hours to arrive at Panajachel, the “gateway village” to the rest of the lake. I asked him why it would take so long when Google Maps estimated two hours, and he said something about robberies and rapings and various other bad stuff if you don’t use the most well-travelled, well-guarded routes. Looking out the windows, I saw that every barrio/neighborhood had barbed wire, sometimes electrified around the entrances, and at the outside of every bank stood one or two men with shotguns – gas stations too (at the prices they were charging; $5 a gallon, I’d want to rob one too). Christine reminded me that this wasn’t the safest of countries to be in. Three hours seemed fine to me!
Around three hours later and a van-transfer later, we were unceremoniously dumped near the dock in Panajachel, where we were immediately swarmed by private boat drivers who quickly told us that there was no public-fare boat to La Fortuna, an eco-lodge that is pretty much completely cut off from the rest of the world by land. Christine, of course, spoke rapid Spanish to the men down on the dock itself, and of course we found a public boat right away, for a tenth of what the drivers up near the drop-off point were shouting at us.
I’ll let the photos I took of the La Fortuna lodges speak for themselves. It’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been, and the fact that it’s so quiet, tranquil, and cut off from the world (yet still with wireless internet!) makes it heaven on earth for me. Kat and Steve, the owners, have three dogs and of course Christine was ready to pet and play with them as much as possible. I couldn’t believe that Steve and a few of his Mayan-Guatemalan employees were able to make 2 mile long trail through the jungle behind the bungalows just with machetes, flat rocks, and wooden stakes driven into the dirt. I was told this place used to be an old coffee finca (farm/plantation) and that they still make about a thousand pounds a year of the stuff and serve it to their guests. It’s quite tasty; I’m drinking a cup of it with panela brown sugar right now.
Photos on Google+ (upload speeds from here to my website are pretty weak, so this is easier)
Yesterday, we climbed the trail behind the lodge up the side of the mountain at 5 in the morning to see sunrise on the lake with the volcano, Toliman, looming across the lake from us. Kat and Steve’s employees, cute and shy young Mayan women from the villages around the lake, served us breakfast at the bungalow when we returned – although it’s hard to hear them quietly say “Hola? Hola?” outside the door sometimes! We Americans are more used to the brusque “housekeeping!!” when we travel, I guess – there’s no missing that. No “do not disturb” tags for the doors yet; La Fortuna has only been around for a year and a half so I’m sure they’re still ironing out the last bits, even as they construct a massive bungalow right on the lakefront that will eventually contain a lounge, office, game room, and a communal place to eat that isn’t your bungalow.
We spent the rest of the day visiting a few of the numerous small villages that ring the lake – first back to Panajachel to use their most-numerous ATM’s (thanks, Charles Schwab bank account, for reimbursing me for all international ATM usage fees – otherwise I’d be in the hole an extra $20 due to withdrawal fees by now!) and then to San Pedro, the most touristy village, across the lake, for 25 quetzels (the local currency) per person. We met a couple of Americans on the boat ride over who were trying to learn spanish on the cheap at some of the numerous language schools (usually charging $130-160 per week for lessons) in the village. There was an animal rescue shelter with a friendly Canadian who implored me to send any veterinarians I knew to the area, as she could really use the help (we both gave her money instead), and we ate lunch at a place named “Smokey Joe’s BBQ” that seemed to be filled with nothing but tattooed young Americans and Europeans. Smokey Joe and his wife were a raucous middle aged southern USA couple who hollered out people’s names and slid over plastic trays covered in burgers and the “backpackers special” – a burger filled with three or four kinds of smoked meats.
After lunch, it started to rain and we caught a cheap tuk-tuk (looking identical to the ones in India) to the next town over, San Juan, with an affable young driver. Christine pointed out to me that all of the Mayan-Guatemalans we’d met so far were rather quiet, subdued people who had a very relaxed air to them – even the children, when playing, just seemed to smile and shout in a quiet way. We bought some textiles in San Juan, but it was much less touristy than San Pedro and perhaps due to that, and the rain, almost everything was closed. Although we’d been told to haggle everything here, the elderly woman in the shop wasn’t willing to budge much, even for a bulk purchase of four or five items – just because they were quiet didn’t mean they weren’t resilient!
My first time in Texas was a good experience! Like many liberals probably do, I had some misgivings about a ten hour layover anywhere in Texas that isn’t Austin but after walking a good 5-6 miles around the city, I have to say – it felt a lot like Madison or Milwaukee. Christine, who had been to Austin at least a few times, was surprised at how green everything was in comparison. On our (extremely cheap) bus ride from the George Bush Airport (hah) which was only $1.25 and had extremely comfortable, Van Galder style seats, I saw more mega warehouses for mega specific businesses then I’d ever seen. One said “Golf Cart Warehouse and Showroom.” Another strip mall seemed to have twenty stores that specialized in mattresses. And one simply read “DOORS!!!” in 10 foot tall red letters on its roof.
We thought we’d try to get into the aquarium, as it was reviewed well on Google Maps (we hadn’t planned our layover very well), but had to nix that as we were coated in luggage and they didn’t have any storage lockers. Neither did the airport, “since 9/11″ drawled the friendly information staff person. So we were lugging the luggage all day.
Lunch was at pad thai, at a restaurant suitably named Padthai (but it wasn’t on the cheap lunch special!?!) Passable, but a little too sweet for either of our tastes. We had to douse quite a bit of the provided hot sauce on the table to make it a little more bet mahk. We thought then that we’d try to see some cool costumes at the local “comic con” but after a mile of walking or two, we sadly just saw a few on the outside – most of the folks had already paid their $25 admission fee and gone into the cavernous George R Brown Conference Center.
Next, we tried to visit a brewpub, only to find that they only did tastings on Saturdays – darn. I did ask the brewer on staff what bars he’d recommend going to in Houston, and he said without hesitation, “Moon Tower Inn a mile down the road.” Time for more walking! It was a very sunny day, but the weather was nice and there was a good breeze – Christine still got a bit burned, though. Moon Tower definitely lived up to the recommendation, with around 30 beers on tap, and a selection of “wild game [hot] dogs” ranging from deer and elk to pheasant and rabbit. Christine even ordered a rabbit dog for us to split and it was quite tasty (I mean, there are plenty of rabbits, right? And we’re not destroying the environment to farm them like we do with cattle? – yeah, and it was delicious). The first beer I had was made by Moon Tower themselves, the “hairy porter” – it had almost a brown mustard flavor to it, which the brewer told me was because he had cooked the yeast up very hot beforehand. Whatever it was, it was unique.
We were chatting with a friendly hipster-looking guy a little older than us when suddenly seven very loud bangs rang out somewhere “within a block or so,” the hipster observed without flinching. “Sounded like a 9 mm, judging from the report. 45 would have more of a reverberation.” He revealed that in the Great State of Texas, there is the equivalent of seven guns registered to every man, woman, and child in the state. And that’s seven handguns. That have been legally registered. The guy confided he had 10 himself and not a single one was registered. I asked him if he thought this neighborhood was safe. He shrugged, grinned, and said “I live here; I like it.”
We tried to take the same $1.25 bus back to the airport, but after waiting fruitlessly for 45 minutes for it to show up (it never did) and several frustrated called to the Houston Metro transit station, we found out that the bus was in the shop. Christine started chatting with a nearby Indian-American woman who also had a lot of luggage, and the three of us agreed to split a taxi to the airport instead, since even if the bus had come right at that moment, we’d be cutting it dangerously close. On the 40 minute long taxi ride (in a concrete-barricaded-off carpool lane no less, something that this Wisconsin country bumpkin had never actually seen before) the two ladies chatted about Kerala and Mumbai – the lady confessed that she’d lived in Houston for 25 years and when going back to visit her family in India, she’d never gone beyond Mumbai.
The flight here was uneventful, and our driver, Victor, had a sign held up and waiting for us outside the gate. He and Christine chatted, and I nodded and interjected “si!” when I understood something (which was about once every couple dozen sentences). We’ll be getting up early tomorrow to begin our long car ride to the north side of Lake Atitlan!
Back when I was young and foolish, I thought that Facebook would be a good platform to share content on. Of course, I came to my senses a few years ago when I realized that they’re a dying company preying on the elderly; the younger generations have long since abandoned them for Twitterings, Snapchatting, and whatever it is they do. I use Google+ almost exclusively these days, with occasional posts to Facebook when I’m with certain groups of friends who haven’t yet seen the light.
I just discovered that Facebook, who used to give us the ability to embed the videos that we’d allowed them, given them the privilege of hosting, has removed that function and not told anyone. Here’s the post back from 2008 when they actively touted this ability. There hasn’t even been an update to this post saying that it’s been taken away, but it has. Let’s use my blog entry from Easter 2009 as the example. In it, I have a embedded Youtube video, and an embedded Facebook video. You’ll be able to see the Youtube one near the top (disabled by default, I hope for you, because everyone knows you should disable flash from playing in their browser by default – right?)
But lower down you’ll just see a big empty space. If you right click on it, it says “movie not loaded” – this means that there’s a problem loading the video from wherever it’s stored on a webserver. It’s been so long since I wrote that entry (although it does make me nostalgic for Dozan wa Awtar, that’s for sure) that I had almost forgotten if I had self-hosted that video on my own website, or if I was embedding it from elsewhere. Checking the source code gives me the following:
<object width=”450″ height=”337″ ><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.facebook.com/v/779249475727″ /><embed src=”http://www.facebook.com/v/779249475727” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”450″ height=”337″></embed></object></p>
This shows that the webpage is trying to load video from the following link, using Facebook’s official embed code as of 2009 – http://www.facebook.com/v/779249475727. Go ahead and click that! See what happens!
It takes you to a stupid page for the “V” movie or something. That’s right, at some point, when Facebook decided there was more money in pandering to corporations than to people, they gave everyone the ability to have custom URLs, and they never thought “maybe we should, you know, reserve the “/v/” custom URL because we, uh, um, let people embed videos using that embed code for 3-4 years, eh?” Nope, they gave it up just like everything else. And thus, everyone that thought Facebook would be as robust and futureproof as Google and Youtube when they decided to embed videos with them got a big slap in the face.
At least a year ago, from what I can find on the internet, there was still a way to just fix that Facebook embed link, switch the /v to =videoID=?number or something, and I think I did do that to some of my blog entries and it worked. But now, apparently Facebook has decided to copy twitter, and only allow entire posts to be embedded, not just the video I want. So if you want a big, stupid looking blob of text and code on your personal blog, you can do that! But you can’t just elegantly embed a video file anymore. Breaking backwards compatibility with one of your old features, in order to copy someone else’s feature. Well done.
Thanks Facebook. I’ll need to go into the MySQL database and run a query for every instance of your old embed code and scrape it out, and probably rehost it locally in HTML5. It’s time I got with the 21st century, anyway. I really can’t wait until you’re as much of a laughingstock of the internet as MySpace, but keep it up – you’ll be there soon.
Edit: I’ll be removing every video I’ve put on Facebook at some point, but because unlike Facebook, I respect my old links (sorry to anyone else who’s embedded my video files without telling me you had; this is why you should tell someone when you’re doing that), I won’t remove the Facebook video file that made me write this entire post. It’s kind of silly, just us doing buzzing sounds in the song “Oremus” – (and Facebook still mandates Flash player? Ugh) but a lot of Jordanian friends are tagged in it.
About six months ago, I fulfilled a (minor) dream of mine to own the most beastly portable computer ever made. The Dell XPS M2010 is the bigger brother to my former laptop, the M1210. Instead of a 12.1″ screen, it boasts a 20.1″ screen, dual hard drives, eight speakers (small, and arranged under the LCD) and a faux leather exterior. These systems originally cost somewhere between $2500-$3500 depending how it was specced when they came out in 2006. I got to take apart a single one when I worked at the university help desk. It was magnificent.
Fast forward 8 years and you can find them, occasionally, on eBay for $300-500. I picked up one for $350, but despite it working perfectly well for the first 4 months of ownership, it developed the chronic video card issues that plagued the model throughout its short life. Dell did their best to pretend they never made this computer (I don’t know why, as it’s awesome and all companies should make at least one new 18 pound portable computer a year) and unfortunately, replacement video cards are hard to find.
Baking circuit boards to help reconnect solder wire traces is a fairly old technique. I tracked down this blog post, and noted with approval the large amounts of comments declaring that the attempt had been a success. I used this PDF straight from Dell’s FTP website to figure out how to take apart the computer again (hey, a lot’s happened in the past 8 years since I last disassembled an M2010).
I’m including some high resolution photographs, as the owner of the above blog post lost his somehow. Usually I host my own photos on my own host, but due to the age of my hosting plan, I don’t have enough RAM on my hosting server to upload high-resolution images through wordpress, so I’ve decided to do everything through Imgur this time. You can view the album directly here if you prefer to share that with other people.