Monday, March 30, 2009

Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats

Latest song to make it into my music library, as heard on Bones "The Salt in the Wounds." Actually, the episode itself was not that great, but the song is nice.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shazam! The Shining by Badly Drawn Boy

Another great app that I downloaded for my iPod Touch is a free one called Shazam. It listens to a sound clip and identifies the song for you. Now unlike the iPhone, the iPod Touch doesn't come with a built-in microphone. So on my recent trip, I bought a set of Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic from a shop at the NOVA Computer Arcade in Taipei. It works perfectly and I've been able to identify some previously anonymous tracks I had in my iTunes library.

Tonight, I was able to use Shazam to identify the song that was played at the end of the episode of House called "The Social Contract."
Now playing: Badly Drawn Boy - The Shining
via FoxyTunes

With only a few seconds of listening, Shazam identified the song and artist, showed me the cover of the album and gave me links to preview and purchase the song at the iTunes Store and even to see it on YouTube. It's one of the more useful Apps out there--and it's free!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Heart iPod Touch

In preparation for our recent trip to Taiwan, I bought a 32 GB iPod Touch. I never paid much attention to the whole iPhone/Touch hype before, but a few weeks before leaving I attended a technology conference where the keynote speaker talked about his iPhone. After finding out that the cost of a digital oscilloscope was in the hundreds of dollars, he was able to buy an oscilloscope application for his iPhone for only $5.

I never knew that there were so many different apps available for the iPhone. I was sold. Of course, I'm not a cell phone user and I refuse to pay such high fees for a monthly data plan, so I bought the iPod Touch. It can run all the same apps and besides the phone function, it is missing only the built-in camera and GPS of the iPhone. And even without the GPS, the WiFi connection in the iPod Touch is surprisingly accurate in locating your position on Google Maps.

I found the iPod Touch to be invaluable during our trip. Much better than lugging a laptop around, I was able to carry the Touch in my pocket and take it out at many of the WiFi hotspots available in Taipei. My favorite locations were at the metro stations because while I was waiting for the next subway train to arrive I was able to check my email, Twitter, and Facebook with complete ease. Despite being over 10000 km away from home, I never felt disconnected. I downloaded all sorts of free apps to help me with currency conversion, checking the weather, tracking expenses, and keeping up to date with news. On top of that I had my music and movie collection and games. I even was able to use the flashlight app a few times!

Now that I'm home, I'm continually surprised at the variety of apps that keep arriving for the iPhone/iPod. Yesterday, I paid for my very first app: Cube Cheater for $0.99--a program that will show you how to solve any Rubik's Cube in 20 moves or less! Another amazing free app I got today was one that I saw on an iPhone commercial....

It's called Shazam. It can listen to a song and then identify the title and artist for you. If there's a video on YouTube it will give you the link to watch it. You can even preview and buy the song from iTunes. I works really well and I promptly identified some unknown songs in my collection that had puzzled me for the longest time :0)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Transportation Methods when Traveling in a Foreign Country

Planning a trip to a foreign county involves making a number of travel preparations before you leave. One factor you should take into consideration when planning a trip is how you are going to get around once you arrive. It is important to be aware of the various methods of transportation so you can make the appropriate travel plans.

Bus: Taking a bus can save you a lot of money. You will have a chance to get a close up view of the country. Buses tend to be safe and reliable. They also make many stops allowing visitors to see much more of the country. When traveling by bus, you should make sure you have arranged for accommodations along your route.

Car Rental: Renting a car will allow for more flexibility when traveling. You can decide where you want to go and when you want to travel. You must have a valid license. Depending on the country, you will likely be required to have an International Driving Permit (IDP). You should also purchase the appropriate car insurance. Car rental agencies will usually offer cheap car insurance. If you do purchase cheap car insurance, make sure you read the contract to make sure you have sufficient coverage. Traveling by car is a great way to learn about different cultures and how they live.

Trains: Most foreign countries will have a good train network. You can usually purchase tickets on an as-needed basis. Purchasing train travel passes in advance can save you a lot of money and allows for more flexibility. You will be able to view different scenery and stop at different locations for sight seeing. There are usually sleeper cars available for long trips as well as a dining car and lounge.

Airplane: Traveling by airplane is a quick way of traveling. Budget airlines can provide a cheaper way of flying. There are many popular vacation resorts that partner with
particular airlines. Travel agencies often provide discounts to popular hotels when you book your flight through their company.

Cruise Ships: Traveling by cruise ship is a great way to explore different countries. They offer great accommodations, food, recreational activities, and often provide sight seeing tours.

Bicycle Tours: Cycle tourism is a fun and healthy way of exploring a foreign country. They often provide group tour packages. Tours packages will usually include accommodations such as hostels, motels, or staying at campgrounds.

Most foreign countries consider tourism to be a major industry. Visitors are now able to choose from a variety of transportation methods that will suit their own travel needs. It is important to do your research and make the appropriate travel preparations before embarking on your trip.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

VW R32: 5th Anniversary

Well... it's been five years since I purchased the R. I have to say most of it has been fun. I also have to say, or admit, that in the past year and a bit, and after several large expenditures, I've wondered how much money I could have saved if I didn't care about my R so much.

Oh, well.

Happy 5th Birthday, R32! :o)

Monday, March 09, 2009

VW R32: Icy HIDs

The R32 is great nevertheless there were some things that I found disappointing about the 2004 North American iteration sold in the United States. One of which is that for some inexplicable reason (probably $$$) prior to shipping R32s to the United States they stripped them of the HIDs European R32s possessed stock.

I consider HIDs to be first a safety issue and second a performance issue. Having said that, the HIDs on European R32s were in short supply, and expensive, so I delayed a little in purchasing them. Anywhoo, I installed HIDs years ago.

This post is to make the observation that HIDs emit less heat than conventional headlights. As a consequence on a snowy night somewhere in New York or Pennsylvannia I discovered that my Lexan covers had iced over the HIDs. It was pitch dark and snowing so I hadn't realized I wasn't getting optimum light output.

See below the fold for a picture.

Not sure what's up with my pictures on this blog, but if you click on it you should get an unobstructed view.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

VW R32: A R32 in Canada

After 50,070 miles my R has officially become a Canadian citizen. It survived the roughly 1,200 miles, most of it driven in snowy darkness, it took to complete my relocation to the Land of Tim Hortons.

The R hopped through the hoops set by the Registrar of Imported Vehicles, jumped the hurdles set by Ontario motor vehicles and as of the afternoon of 3 February 2009 my 2004 Volkswagen Golf R32 received its Ontario tags. Actually, I’m debating whether to even to put them on as I’ve ordered personalized ones.

The R is white with salt and I’m seriously contemplating taking it to a “touchless” car wash, a concept previously verbotten in Maryland.

See below the fold for the first pics my R in Canada.

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