SfaUT: Top 5 Posts of ALL Time

Well, actually it has been about 1 and 1/2 years since I started blogging, and I wanted to see if any ‘Unifying Theme’ has popped up.  Also, for anyone who has watched network TV, you eventually get to that episode where the money and/or creativity runs out, and they resort to running a ‘retrospective’ episode of clips cobbled together from previous episodes.  This is the blog post equivalent…

Maybe it is different for other bloggers, but I doubt it: the posts that you really, really like are NOT the ones that get the most hits!  Based on the number of hits, I should create a blog about Rogers or RBC rants, or perhaps a restaurant guide.

SfaUT Top Posts

The top post, which still receives more hits a day than any other post, is a rant about the high data roaming charges that Rogers bills its customers, which I experienced on my trip to Asia earlier this year.  Apparently this is a common experience with a lot of people, which has led to a lot of traffic to my site.  If you type “rogers data extortion” into Google, my post is the top hit (as of today).

Next, in #2 position, is a post I did about Google.  I was watching Google regularly releasing applications that I am sure others were building their entire business case on, and had a thought:  What is happening to the web start-up industry as a result of Google’s deep pockets, and free applications?  This got picked up by a web aggregator called Ycombinator at the time, and has since been changed to ‘Hacker News’.  Of those >1000 reads, about 80% were in a single day, and has since dropped to zero reads a day!

#3, and deservedly so, is my assertion that Singapore Restaurant is the best restaurant in Ottawa, and why.  It shows up on about page 6 of a Google search on Ottawa’s best restaurant, so it must only be really determined people that find it… or they are using some other search tool.  With 662 views, I hope at least a few of those people actually gave it a try, Abba and Foo deserve the business!

#4 was another fee-based rant:  This time the target was RBC Visa and their overlimit fees.  Since I don’t carry balances on credit cards this was actually a sympathetic-rant for a friend I was helping with some financial counselling.  I actually got quite angry on the phone with the RBC representative and accused them of taking advantage of people that were not financially savvy.  Now I wish I had recorded it, it may have made a good audio clip for the blog.

Finally, to maintain my lack of a ‘Unifying Theme’, the last in my Top 5 list is about an observation I made of how similar Klee Irwin and John Waters look… judge for yourself! This was my second post about Klee, who came to my attention in his hilariously funny infomercials on dual-action cleanse.

It appears that I am STILL Searching for a Unifying Theme…

Shure SE530 – Perhaps the Best Earphones Ever!

During my Asian vacation, I purchased a pair of SE210 sound isolating earphones which I reviewed for the purposes of air travel.

I got used to how well this style of headphone worked in noisy environments, but started to wonder just how much better the top-of-the-line SE530 would sound.

While I was attending NXTComm 2008 in Las Vegas for work, I had the opportunity to attend the InfoComm show as well.  Shure had a booth at the show and their full range of sound-isolating earphones available for test drive.  This is where I fell in love with the SE530’s!

The retail price of these babies is pretty dear in Canada, around $500 I believe, so I took advantage of the wonders of eBay to pick up a pair for less than $400 including an adapter to use the earphones as a headset for my iPhone.

I really enjoyed dealing with ‘The-Deal-Spot’ because I had some problems with the first set they sent (weird distortion on one ear) and they sent a replacement set with no hassles.  This is particularly important since Shure really doesn’t support earphones that are not sold through their dealer network.  Another important thing I learned was to keep all my paperwork from the shipping, since if I wanted to get my taxes back on the original set that I sent back, I would have to use the paperwork from the original shipping to satisfy Canada Border Services and get my refund… still looking…

Unlike the good-sounding SE210’s, which have a single audio driver, the SE530’s have 3: two for bass and one for the high range.  This translates into GREAT sound, which you can enjoy even more when you are in a noisy environment, like my favourite office: Starbucks.  Those coffee grinders, overly-caffeinated patrons, and barista machines make a lot of noise!

The Floating Village – Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

If you take a trip to Siem Reap Cambodia, or in fact just about anywhere in SE Asia, you will quickly suffer from an overdose of temples. While they are stunning works of art, and feats of engineering, after a couple days of visiting them they start to look very similar!

To take a break from temples, I asked my guide to take me to Tonle Sap lake. It interested me because of its significance to Cambodia:

  1. It is the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia.
  2. It changes in size from 2700 sq. km to 16,000 sq. km depending on the seasion and goes from 1 to 9 meters deep
  3. The Mekong river actually changes direction from outflow to inflow into the lake depending on the level
  4. 60% of Cambodia’s dietary protein comes from this lake

$25 got me my very own boat for the day, not a boat for a single person, rather it could have easily handled 20! Based on the age of the engine, I think we spent that much on gas! Perhaps this is why the captain took advantage of the trip to run some errands at the floating hardware store.

The first event worth note was the sudden appearance of an extra person on the boat, a very small person carrying drinks. Perhaps due to some instinct triggered by travel in a foreign land, I had taken count of the passengers on the boat, and hackles were raised when the math no longer worked! I think I was at the lake on a slow day, because we could have been boarded 4-5 times to be sold drinks, and my skipper actually had to wave some off.

After some travel through the murky water of Tonle Sap, we arrived at the floating village.

Since the people that live on the lake are subsistence fishermen, I think living in floating houses solved the problem of needing to be near the water, and dealing with the massive change in both the depth of the lake, and the location of the shore. Everything was floating, even the Christian church!

I was informed that the majority of the inhabitants were actually not Cambodian, but Vietnamese. You can see from the picture here that for children, independence comes in the form of a cooking pot! Rather than asking for the keys to the family car, they raid the kitchen!

Obviously the child in the picture is missing something. While I did not get his particular story, it is a very common site in Cambodia to see people missing limbs. This is due to the scourge of land mines that still plagues the country. Apparently there are still more land mines than people… not a good ratio!

The poverty was hard to believe… poverty that can only exist in countries where the weather allows survival when you truly have nothing!

But at least they get to enjoy awesome sunsets!

Rogers Data Roaming Rates = Extortion!

Every time I travel abroad with a Canadian cell phone I generally assume I am going to get absolutely raped come billing time. As a result, I am very frugal when I use my phone. I try and only use SMS, I keep the phone off most of the time, I turn off the data functions, etc.

Still, it never ceases to amaze me what I get billed when I get home…

For example: 2MB worth of roaming (not Gig!) when I was in Singapore = $100!!

Lets put that in perspective, that is less than 1/3 of the song “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters in Apple’s AAC format. So… if I had a hankering for Everlong whilst in Singapore, it would cost me $300 for the download. It is my favourite song, but it isn’t worth $300 to me, unless maybe I had it played to me in a private session by the band!

For any of you who have been to Singapore, you well know that this is a VERY modern place, with WAY more cell phone infrastructure than my home city of Ottawa, so its not like they are propping up some 3rd world dictatorship with these fees.

&*^% you Rogers! Next time I am unlocking my cell phone, buying a SIM card while traveling, and cutting you out of the money flow entirely.

For my new post on how Rogers is trying to lock you in with a service bundling contract, check out “Rogers Pushes Their Luck”. There is a LOT of fine print when it comes to this new contract, expectially with wireless plans, so have a look!

Looking for A Great Guide to Siem Reap / Angkor Wat?

Originally uploaded by Adrian F1

I got really lucky and found a great guide via my hotel (The Borann) which takes about a 20% cut of the action. I am not sure, but you may be able to contact ‘Raum’ directly to get a better rate than the $25/day that the hotel charged for his services.

Mr. Sem Sopheara, is an English speaking guide who I used for two days, to visit Ankor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm (Jungle Temple) and Tonle Sap lake. Sopheara (his first name) goes by the short form ‘raum’ (phonetically) helped me see all sorts of detail of all of these sites that I would have been sure to miss on my own. He was very knowledgeable about the sites and Cambodia in general, and a generally nice guy!

Raum was a big part of why my trip to Cambodia was so enjoyable, as he, and my driver ‘Kohn’ were my companions for almost my entire stay. I definitely made the best of my short 2-day stay in Siem Reap with their help!

If you would like to contact ‘Raum’, his mobile is 012 674 659, and I can provide his e-mail address to you upon request. Please leave a comment below and I will respond to the email address that is provided to me.

Cambodia & Angkor Wat

Adrian @ Angkor Wat

Originally uploaded by Adrian F1

Ha, I just realized that I am wearing the exact same outfit as I am in the Singapore shot! I assure you my hygiene hasn’t taken a dive since I have been in Asia, I still change clothes, and occasionally underwear as well. 🙂

I was hoping to have better access to internet while in Bangkok , so I could upload my shots from there (my hotel was supposed to have it in my room), but that will have to wait.

Cambodia’s internet, while available, is really slow. As a result I only risked uploading this one picture. Far from my best shot, particularly because I am in it, does show that I am actually in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the Angkor complex of temples.

The temples are spectacular, and I recommend you see them as soon as possible! Tourism is increasing at 30% a year, and there is lots of evidence of this in town, with many many new western-style hotels popping up. There are already too many tourists, so get here before the number of tourists doubles or triples!

There is lots of evidence of the various wars that have set the region back considerably. There are many people with missing limbs as a result of land mines that are still dotting the country side. You can also see many bullet holes and vandalism on the temples that occurred during the civil war.

The best temple, while not the biggest, is the ‘jungle temple’ where the French, who instigated much of the renovation work now overtaken by the Germans and the Japanese, decided not to get rid of all of the huge trees that overgrew the temples. You can really see how powerful nature is when a 200-300 year old tree totally splits and crushes a sandstone temple.

Some suggestions on travel here: I highly recommend the Borann hotel that I am staying at ($40 a night for A/C room), which offers very good English speaking tour guides ($25 a day) and drivers ($25 a day). You can go much cheaper as well, but I decided on this approach to see as much as possible in a short time. The guide named “raum” (phonetically) really helped explain many details of the temple that would easily be missed by a tourist. He also helped explain much of the mythology that is etched on the walls of the various temples.

Another note: Don’t bother with the local currency, the “Riel”, nobody wants it, and will penalize you with a bad ‘exchange’ rate with respect to the USD. Get lots of $1 bills and even some quarters to help you buy bottled water when you visit the temples.

Next stop is Phuket, Thailand via Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Travel Tip of the Day: Sound Isolating Earphones

I am doing a lot of flying over my holidays, and I got tired of trying to hear my iPod over the roar of airplane engines, crying babies and snoring neighbours.

Trying to find a solution, I first thought of sound canceling technology as a solution, but several things made this unattractive:

  1. Good noise canceling headphones are REALLY expensive ($300+)
  2. They need batteries, which means one MORE thing to keep charged
  3. They tend to be really bulky, especially the over-ear models
  4. You look like a goob wearing them

I looked into alternatives, and only one really stood out: Sound Isolating Earphones.

These earphones basically combine an ear-plug with a tiny speaker that is purpose-built to drive good quality sound within a pressure vessel created by the earplug/ear-canal/eardrum combo. I went to a recommended brand called Shure who has experience making professional monitors for musicians.

Sure Earphones

I opted for these Shure SE210 Earphones which provide sound that I am really impressed with!! They also do a great job of blocking out noise. I managed to snag them for $175 CDN before tax. They came with all sorts of adapters (5 different types) to make a good fit with your ears.

One thing I noticed was that I was playing my iPod at about 1/2 the volume that I ususally would. I suspect that this will provide long-term benefits to my hearing, but I am not sure if this is just indicative of a more efficient energy transfer because of the design. I do think that I am actually listening to the music much quieter now that the background noise is so reduced.

I also find myself enjoying my music collection in much the same manner as when I buy a new stereo for home or car. I want to hear how all my favourite tracks sound on the new equipment! I start noticing all sorts of details that I never did before.

While I am sold on this method of enjoying my music in noisy environments, there are some potential drawbacks:

  1. These are basically earplugs, so if you are jogging or in other situations where you need to hear for sake of your safely, you should avoid!
  2. Some people may find the in-ear style of earphones uncomfortable. I was definitely one of these people, having given up on the Apple in-ear earbuds and others, but found these quite comfortable.
  3. Some people experience wax buildup when using this style of headphone, and regardless, you certainly will become acquainted with the status of your aural hygiene.
  4. Bass response tends to be bad with in ear models. If you want good bass response you may have to splurge for more expensive models like the Shure SE310.
  5. You can’t impress your neighbour with your impeccable musical taste, as these units are pretty much noiseless to anyone who isn’t wearing them.

Note: Since I wrote this post I have since purchased Shure’s SE530 model and you can see the review HERE.

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