Argentina & Machu Picchu

Posted February 11, 2009 by smacdown
Categories: Travel

Well, G-Dog added a comment to my last post reminding me I’m a lazy assed blogger.¬† He’s absolutely correct, so I’m going to try to get my ass in gear…no promisesūüôā

On Dec 28th I flew down to Buenos Aires via Toronto to hang out with Scott & Sam and generally bust it out.  I got back on Jan 19th and had a sweet 3 weeks down there.

I spent the first few days hanging out with S&S, explored B.A. and got drunk for New Years.

I flew over to Mendoza where most of the Argentinian wine is produced.  It was a good time, I was buzzed off of malbec red wine for the 4 days I was there.

I flew back to B.A. and the next morning Scott and I flew up to Peru to go check out Machu Picchu.

We stayed in Cusco the first night and took the 4 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu early the next morning.  By 1pm we had taken a bus from the valley, up to M.P.  The first sights of the ruins were pretty amazing.  The day was sunny and hot despite the forcast for the area calling for non-stop rain.  We trounced around all the ruins the first day, getting the lay of the land.  We also took a little hike around one of the mountains to see the Inca Bridge.  The cliff-side was intense.  We stayed up at the ruins until just about closing time at ~5pm.

IMG_4153

Day 2 we got up super early (5am) to catch the bus up to the ruins again.¬† We wanted to catch sunrise and hike up Wayna Picchu.¬† Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike the mountain, and sign up starts at 7am.¬† There was a lot of fog the second day, so we weren’t able to see sunrise, but the effects of the fog were just as impressive.¬† There was a long line to sign up for the hike up W.P., but we managed to get going around 8:30am.¬† The hike is similar to the grouse grind, although the stairs are far steeper.¬† The ruins at the top were pretty cool, but the view from the top was by far the most impressive.¬† The mountain is very steep, making for some pretty stomach wrenching trails.¬† In hopes of finding an easier way back down, we hiked around the back side of the mountain and passed by more ruins build into caves.¬† The alternate route turned out to be neither easier nor quicker.¬† We had to climb straight down 2 50 foot wooden ladders, and shimmy across a path carved out of a cliff :)¬† It was a 3 hour hike back to Machu Picchu, we had been gone for about 5 hours in total.¬† I’m glad we did the extra hike, it was pretty cool.

We stayed in Cusco one more night, and then flew back to B.A. the next day.¬† I spent the rest of my trip doing some work that I couldn’t leave behind, and continuing to explore B.A.¬† The second to last day I visited Tigre, a town an hour train ride from B.A.¬† The train ride was pretty interesting to say the least…it deserves it’s own post.¬† The last day I went to explore one last area of B.A. and ran straight into the closing ceremony of the Dakar Rally.

I finally started putting my flickr account to good use: http://flickr.com/photos/macritchie/

The best ones from my trip are here: http://flickr.com/photos/macritchie/sets/72157612913431467/

RAM it

Posted August 28, 2008 by smacdown
Categories: Uncategorized

I’ve got a 15″ macbook pro.¬† It’s got 2gb of RAM which does not cut it a lot of the time when I’m at work.¬† About a month ago I went in the Apple store in Pacific Center and asked how much it would cost for an upgrade to 4gb of RAM.¬† They said $200.¬† I thought that was a reasonable price at the time as I was busy and didn’t want to worry about anything.¬† I just wanted it done.¬† I went back a couple days ago to undergo the surgery.¬† They guy came out with the RAM and said it would cost $400.¬† I said WTF?¬† He said “well, it’s a $200 upgrade for new laptop purchases”.¬† I said screw you.¬† I then went to futureshop, picked up 2x2gb for a total of $70 and had it installed with no issues in about 6 minutes (it took me 5 minutes to find my small philips scewdriver).

Apple: You make cool shit, but why you trying to screw me?¬† You charge almost 6 times the price of the RAM.¬† Even if you charged $100 for the 2 minutes of labour, you’re still overcharging by about $230.

Yay to a fast laptop againūüôā

Mayhem

Posted August 22, 2008 by smacdown
Categories: Life, Random Stupidity

So my current project at work went live Wednesday Aug 20th around 9am.¬† It was supposed to be 7am, but I’m just happy we made it on the same day!

I’ve pulled three 80 hour weeks to get it into production.¬† On Monday Aug 18th I worked from 9:30am to 4:15am on Tuesday.¬† I got up at 8am on Tuesday the 19th and worked from 9am until 5:30am Wednesday Aug 20th.¬† I had 1 hour of sleep, got up at 6:45am to fix some critical bugs, launched at 9am, then got an hour of sleep from 10am to 11am.¬† I worked the rest of the day fixing bugs.

I’ve never had to do anything like that before.¬† Although I like to test my limits, I hope never to have to do that again.

To all my friends, I’m sorry I’ve been off the grid for so long!¬† I have one more project to do that launches September 15th.¬† It won’t be as crazy as the one I just did.¬† It better not beūüėČ

I wanted to thank one friend in particlar for pulling me through the tough times.  I wanted to throw my hands up and quit many times, but your pep talks and 5 minute breaks got me through!  You know who you are and I owe you big!

Back to sleeping 8 hour nights!¬† See you all soonūüôā

Renaissance Man #1: Splitting firewood

Posted June 15, 2008 by smacdown
Categories: Uncategorized

I¬†aspire to be a¬†renaissance man. ¬†When I was young my Mom encouraged me to try out as many different things as I could. ¬†At that time, it was mainly focused on sports. ¬†She was trying to ensure I would have a basic understanding of many different subjects when I was older. ¬†She wanted to make sure I¬†didn’t look like an idiot if years later¬†someone asked me to join their soccer team. ¬†Since I hated soccer, it didn’t¬†really work¬†out they way she had planned.¬†¬†However, I¬†know her secondary goal was to allow me to discover the things I liked, and that which I did not. ¬†That goal succeeded.

Hopefully this post doesn’t come off sounding like I’m an immodest prick. ¬†The key word in the first sentence was ASPIREūüôā

I’ve learned some interesting things in my journey through life so far.¬†¬†I¬†thought it would be¬†interesting to chronicle¬†some of them. ¬†This post explains some of the tricks I have learned about splitting firewood. ¬†It may seem rather trivial, but most people don’t know the first thing about it. ¬†Nowadays most people don’t NEED to know the first thing about it. ¬†I’m going to share what I know nevertheless. ¬†As a side note, the majority of what I learned was from my grandfather. ¬†He grew up during the depression and spent a large part of his teens splitting and selling firewood to help the family pay for food.

Rule #1: Look for weakness. ¬†Like everything else in this world, wood has a fatal weakness.¬†¬†No, it’s not kryptonite.¬†¬†Wood is very strong across its grain, but much weaker when going with the grain.¬†¬†This is the reason you always stand a log on end when you split it with an axe. ¬†If you have ever tried to cut accross a log with an axe, you know what I mean.¬†¬†There’s¬†a¬†reason it’s an event in lumberjack tournaments. ¬†The real trick I want to share, is that 95% of the time, a piece of wood will tell you exactly where the axe needs to strike it. ¬†If you hit a piece of wood where it tells you to, you can’t loose.

BeforeTo the right is a picture of a piece of wood I split last Sunday. ¬†I cut 2 piles of wood at my cabin, each pile about 3m in diameter and 1m high. ¬†It was a lot of chopping! ¬†What is this piece of wood telling you? ¬†It says “I’m cracking in half already”. ¬†Notice the cracks that have naturally developed in the wood. ¬†This piece has a Y shaped crack. ¬†Splitting a piece of wood on an already existing crack is one of the most important parts of chopping wood. ¬†The crack is telling you exactly where this log is weakest. ¬†Strike at the weakest point, it will make your life significantly easier.

AfterYou can see from this picture that I managed to strike the log with the axe right¬†on the main part of the crack.¬†¬†It split cleanly, right through, with minimal effort.¬†¬†I didn’t have to use all my muscle or weight.¬†¬†I didn’t have to throw¬†out my back.¬†¬†I didn’t have¬†to swing the axe in a wild, dangerous way.

Rule #2: Keep the axe¬†inline with your body. ¬†It’s great to figure¬†out that you need to strike a log right¬†on a crack line, but that’s easier said than done.¬†¬†My trick, which I learned from pitching a baseball, is to keep your entire body in¬†line with your target.¬†¬†If you are right handed, don’t lift the axe over your right¬†shoulder.¬†¬†Lift it directly over your head. ¬†Baseball pitchers that throw sidearm often have very powerful, fast pitches, but they often also have very¬†inaccurate, wild pitches.¬†¬†Keeping your¬†shoulders square to the target give you much more accuracy. ¬†Obviously being able¬†to hit a crack in¬†a log square¬†on with an axe¬†requires a bit of practice, but¬†it’s far easier when you keep your body¬†lined¬†up.

Rule #3: Go for dry, soft wood.¬†¬†Cedar is a very soft wood with a large, stringy grain.¬†¬†That makes it very easy to split.¬†¬†Alder is a very hard wood with a tightly packed grain. ¬†That makes it a lot more difficult¬†to split.¬†¬†There’s¬†a lot more “glue” holding it all together.¬†¬†Dry wood splits far easier than wet wood. ¬†I tried splitting some Willow on the weekend that had been sitting outside in the rain. ¬†Willow loves water and sucks it up¬†like a sponge.¬†¬†It was very difficult to split.¬†¬†Much of it took multiple swings.

Rule #4: Knots suck.  If you are splitting wood with a lot of knots, it is very important to follow Rule #1.  If your log is shaped like a Y with the main trunk at the bottom, and two branches coming out the top, try to spit each branch as if it was separate.  Never try to split the log down the center of the Y as that is where the grain runs in multiple directions.

Rule #5: It’s not a competition. ¬†The winner is not the¬†one that splits the log with¬†one blow.¬†¬†The winner is the¬†one¬†who splits the log in as many blows as it takes and comes¬†out with all¬†his fingers and toes. ¬†Ironically this is the most important rule, and also the most ignored rule.

Happy Father’s Day!

Hello, My Name is MORON

Posted June 9, 2008 by smacdown
Categories: Random Stupidity

Picture this: ¬†Guy is going to meet up with friends after work for drinks and dinner. ¬†Guy is going there straight from work, so he decides to take his laptop along because he needs it the next day. ¬†More friends show up than planned, so table gets full and guy puts his laptop under the table to make more room. ¬†Table is outside, and it gets really friggin’ cold. ¬†Everyone pays as fast as possible and gets the hell outta there. ¬†Guy wakes up the next morning and lays in bed going though his mental checklist of things he needs to bring out to his cabin for the weekend.

#1 laptop, #2 ipod car adapter…

SHIT!!!¬†¬†Where the hell is the laptop!?!?¬†¬†Guy runs around small appartment like a mad man and¬†realizes very quickly it’s still under the table,¬†outside, at the restaurant!¬†¬†Guy hops on the net to find the¬†restaurant number and see if there¬†open. ¬†Hoping, praying, and freaking¬†out, guy¬†phones and someone picks¬†up.¬†¬†Guy asks if a laptop bag was found…waiting…dying…holly crap, it’s there!!

Guy gets his ass over to the restaurant, picks up the laptop bag, which still has all his possessions in it, and gives the cute girl that helped him all the cash he had in his wallet as a thank you for saving his life.

Yes, my name is Moron.¬†¬†Of all¬†the things I could loose, my laptop is definitely¬†the worst. ¬†While I was freaking¬†out, I made a small¬†list of¬†all the ways I’d be totally F’d if I lost my laptop.¬†¬†¬†It wasn’t a pleasant¬†list.

So, first off I’d like to thank¬†Subeez Restaurant for their awesome wait staff.¬†¬†Not only are they super cute, but they saved my life. ¬†Also, if I’m late for dinner, it’s cause I’m taking my laptop back home firstūüėČ

God I’m a dumb ass…

Mullets, Buck Teeth, and Cougars

Posted May 13, 2008 by smacdown
Categories: Uncategorized

OK, here’s the highlights from one of the craziest nights I’ve had in awhile. A couple friends and I went up to my cabin in Hope this past Friday to check out the Trooper concert. Cause I’m a nice guy, the friends will remain anonymous, although if you’re reading this blog, you probably know who they are already.

The concert was at the Hope skating rink. I’m guessing there was between 500-1000 in attendance, but I don’t think I stopped laughing long enough to figure out an accurate estimate.

The show started around 8:30pm with the first opening band. I have no idea who they were, some kind of crazy Finnish band that kept singing about cocaine in their bedroom…very strange! I’d give them a pretty high score on the suckage meter. They made fun of the “fans” sitting in the stands which was pretty amusing.

Next up was Helix who weren’t too bad. Definitely old. The lead singer’s skin looked like he had been sitting in a hot tub for 2 hours before getting on stage.

Lastly Trooper took the stage. They were good, but by then I wasn’t really paying much attention to the music anyway.

Alright, now to explain about the “crazy” parts. Firstly, having been around Vancouver my whole life, I haven’t been able to experience the small town scene much. This was my first real foray into the small town life style. Before I go any further, I’d just like to say I have nothing against small towns. They are generally full of very kind, helpful people. However, that’s not going to stop me from poking a little fun at a few folks. Concerts can often make a night fairly crazy. Here’s a timeline of stuff that pushed this particular concert a little bit further than most:

  • We parked the car at the end of the parking lot which was almost full. In the 20 years I’ve been frequenting Hope, I have NEVER seen more than a handful of cars in the lot. We got to the front door. I had a Will Call ticket, so I asked the bouncer where to go. He pointed at the 2 ladies selling tickets inside. I told the first lady I had a Will Call ticket and she said “ah, you must be Scott?”. I started laughing and asked if I was the only one with a Will Call ticket. She told me there was one other guy that had one, but he already picked his up.
  • We only had 1 beer each before getting to the concert, so we wanted to get beer in our hands as soon as possible. We discovered there was a beer garden in the back of the rink. We grabbed some drink tickets and commenced laughing our asses off at all the “interesting” folks. We watched an old dude molesting some 20 year old girl for awhile. She was into it. It was funny, but she might have been his daughter…tough to say.
  • We did 3 rounds of beers, and then it was my turn to buy more tickets. I went up to the back of the line, and was in a great mood, so I thought I’d try to strike up a conversation with the guy in front of me. I said something like “Hi there, I assume this is the back of the beer ticket line?”. The guys turned around and flipped out on me “You’re damn F#$*ing right you’re at the back of the line! If you want to do something about it we can take this outside”…blah, blah, blah. He went on a rant for a bit, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Even the dude behind me started laughing.
  • I got to the front of the line, asked for three tickets, and then started pulling out a $20. The girl said “Whoa, what are you doing, you’ve already paid!” Well, I hadn’t paid yet, I can guarantee that due to the fact I was dealing with the guy in front of me wanting to “take it outside”. I told her I was pretty sure I hadn’t paid yet, but she insisted and said “Man, you must be pretty drunk already!”. I took the free tickets and got the hell out of there. I came back later that night and she remembered me as the guy who tried to pay twice. Maybe she wanted me to take her outback? I need to learn how to speak hick.
  • After the first band finished, we were hanging out at the front of the stage, and this chick came up and started dancing. She said she was “Charlotte, you know, like Charlotte’s web”. She said she was 42 and a grandma. That was cougar #1.
  • Cougar #2 took a shine to friend #1. Every time I looked at this chick she’d grab me by the shoulder, pointed at friend #1 and would say “This guys is SO awesome!”. Yup, he’s pretty awesome! Later some guy grabbed friend #1 and lipped him off saying “Stay the F#*K away from my wife!”. Friend #2 and I almost had to bash some skullz. It was awesome. I later told Cougar #2 to stay the hell away from us as she was still making eyes.
  • Cougar #3 started hitting on me. We got into a whistling duel. My whistles were louder, so I won. I should add that to my normal cougar pickup repertoire.
  • We eventually got out of the concert, all pretty wasted. There was a road block outside the rec center, and we weren’t about to drive home, so I went out to the cop and said “Hey, we’re drunk as skunks, can you get us a taxi?”. He said OK and told us to wait on the side of the road. A couple minutes later all the cops got in their cars and drove off. WTF!?
  • We walked the 4ish KMs back to my cabin. I have absolutely no idea how long it took, but I’m pretty sure it was the main reason I didn’t have a gigantic hang over. I remember walking along the railing of a bridge we had to cross. That probably wasn’t a great idea.

If friends #1 or #2 remember anything I missed, let me knowūüôā

PS Just found out you can book Trooper for your own concertsūüėõ

PPS Friend #2 is married and therefore was carrying anti-cougar-sprayūüėČ

Domain Names

Posted May 5, 2008 by smacdown
Categories: Geekout

Originally I thought I would keep the posts on this blog a little more personal, and start a new blog for my geeky tech ramblings. However, I’m too lazy to start a new blog, so for now I’m going with the mashup approach.

Geek post #1 is all about registering a domain name, the bane of my existance the past week.

My buddy and I have decided to try our luck at¬†building¬†a public consumer website. ¬†I’m pretty stoked about the new idea and I think the development will be a lot of fun. However, we both got fairly pissed off when it came to registering a domain name for the new site. I remember back in university I had a friend who bought a couple domain names and squatted on them hoping somebody would pay big bucks to snap them up. This was back in 2000 when things were crazy and domain squatting was all the rage. I thought those days had ended, but it seems I was wrong. In my search for a domain name I came across a huge number of squatters. Compared to 2000, there’s also a lot more legite domains out there. Everybody and their dog has a domain name now, which makes it extremely hard to find a free piece of virtual land to setup shop.

Some things I learned, or reconfirmed:

  • All single word domain names are taken.
  • Most syllables that end in a top level domain name are taken (ie: something like del.icio.us). This surprised me, but I guess that idea got popular rather quickly.
  • Most foreign words that are easy for English speaker so say are taken. I tried a bunch of Japanese words and had no luck.
  • You can’t register an Italian domain name (.it) without being a citizen or operate a business from Italy.

Eventually I couldn’t think of anymore domain names to try, so I started getting help. Ariane helped out a lot, both with new ideas, and letting me know which domain names suckedūüėČ Parveen gave the great suggestion of picking your favourite adjective and noun and combining them to get your domain name.

I tried out several tools to aid my search. The first was a scrabble word finder that allowed me to search for words containing specific word fragments. The second was a site that listed out a bunch of Japanese words. Lots of Japanese words roll off the tounge nicely and are easy to spell. Unfortunately all the good ones are taken! The last tool, and the one that came up with the winning domain name was Nameboy. It is specifically designed to help you come up with available domain names. Not only do the search results tell you if the domain is taken, but you can enter multiple words and it will list off a whole wack load of possible combinations.

During one of the many times the search pissed me off and I was on the verge of giving up, I stumbed upon this blog post. The author was in Japan and noticed that ad billboards were no longer advertising a company’s domain name, but rather suggesting keywords that can be plugged into google to find the company’s website. As it’s very difficult to get a good domain name, period, let alone one that fits nicely with your company’s product/service. I thought this was a cool workaround. Get any domain name and make sure it shows up at the top of a google search for your company name or specific keywords. Obviously this is risky, and easier said than done. However, not only does it remove the importance of your domain name, but it also forces you to concentrate on your search engine ranking, which I think is of extreme importance. If you’re not showing up at the top of a search for your company name, then you have a lot more problems than your crappy domain name!