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Archive for June, 2012

It’s been a while since I wrote about our trip to Bali, Indonesia, but I’m not yet finished writing about it.

While we were staying in the town of Ubud, the first few days we stayed in a hotel that we had to walk to down a long alley of about 500 feet.  It was a very narrow alley, so narrow that if you drove down it in an SUV, you couldn’t open the doors on either side.  How the drivers manage to get in there without scratching their vehicles is a mystery to me.

However, the last part of the week we stayed in a private house a bit further away.  It belonged to a lady who lives in the US most of the year and rents it out to travelers like us when she isn’t using it.

This was a really nice place but you had to exercise to get there.  The house was at the bottom of a hill and to get to it, you had to walk up 100 steps.  I know how many steps it was because I counted.  We tried not to come and go too often because from house to street level was at least a 5 minute journey each way.

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Along the walk there, we passed by several other houses.  The most interesting one was the place with stone Hindu sculptures outside of it, no doubt belonging to another wealthy westerner.

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This place was a risky location to stay because it was located next to a rice field. The wife would sometimes get hungry and try to eat the crops:

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But on to the house itself!  It was private amongst the trees, although we had neighbors that were located about 100 feet away.

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You can see the porch in front of the house in the picture below.

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This house had many of the things you associate with a tropical resort: outdoor facilities, a hammock and a private swimming pool filled with somewhat cold water:

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Here’s a picture of me just kind of lounging in the morning, fiddling on my phone which was connected to the wifi:

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The inside was nice, too.  It had two floors: a bedroom upstairs with a balcony (which is where the hammock was), a porch downstairs (which is where I am in the picture above), and kitchen facilities.  We would often walk the 10 minutes to the grocery store, excluding the time it took to get from the house to the street, to stock up on supplies and then walk back to the house (up the stairs) where we’d make our own food.

Downstairs, the kitchen is on the right (you can see a water jug covered in a cloth):

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Upstairs bedroom:

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But the most interesting part of the house was the bathroom; it wasn’t indoors.  It was an outdoor bathroom!

Now before you curl your lips in disgust, it was a private bathroom.  I went out there and looked around, it was covered from almost all angles.  Looking from pretty much any building you couldn’t see anything.  Here’s a view looking at the sink:

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The big white stone thing on the right is the sink.  You turn a faucet and water comes out.  If you turn it the wrong way, water sprays out at you and soaks you.  I did that five times.

Do you see the little head carving of at the top in the middle of the picture?  That’s the shower faucet.  Above you is nothing.  No roof, no doors, you are completely exposed.  But as I said before, it is covered from almost all angles because the walls are high enough to block anyone’s view and your neighbors are far away.  The only real risk are if someone walks into the bathroom, or Google Earth satellites taking your picture from 155 miles above the planet.  But it’s still a little weird standing stark naked in the outdoors having a shower where you feel like the whole world can see you.

The toilet is around the corner, to the right of that tree.  There is a screen in front of it so you are only exposed from one side.  In fact, from the shower, you can’t even see the toilet and vice versa.

The picture below is the outdoor bathtub taken just in front of the screen which is just in front of the toilet.  We never used this (I’m not sure I want to sit in a stone tub outdoors) but it was interesting nonetheless.

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All in all, this was a neat experience.  Even though it costs more than a regular hotel (although not a 5-star hotel) I recommend that people try the private dwelling.  It’s quiet and it’s almost like living at home, except you’re on vacation!

And that’s where we stayed in Bali.

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I’ve got to write this stuff down.

Four months ago, in February, I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon who did my third hip operation.  At the time, I was doing okay although I was still a little sore. He told me to come back in four months.  I scheduled an appointment but forgot to write it down.

Or maybe I did write it down somewhere.  But if I did, I don’t remember where.  I knew I had an appointment coming up but I didn’t know when.  But I figured “Oh, it’s alright.  They’ll phone and remind me when it’s coming up, they always do.”

But they didn’t.

I called them up last week and asked “Um, yeah, I’ve got an appointment with the doctor coming up soon but I can’t remember when it was.  Can you look it up for me?”

They agreed to look it up, and when the lady on the other end found it, she said “It says here it was scheduled for last week.”

I paused for a moment.  “Oh.”

“Do you want to schedule another appointment?”

“Yes.”

I scheduled it, and this time I put it in my Outlook calendar and into my phone.  That’s what I normally do; I’m not forgetting it next time!

I hope.

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Several years ago, I stumbled across the webpage wherethehellismatt.com, created by Seattle resident Matt Harding.  It’s a video of a guy who traveled around the world doing a silly dance.  It’s entertaining because he does it in random places and sometimes random people join in.  It’s very inspirational.  It inspired me to do my own dancing videos: once around Australia and Fiji, once around every building at the Microsoft campus around Puget Sound, and once around the world.

Dancing Matt did his original video in 2003, and then followed it up with another one in 2006 and a third one in 2008.  Since then, he has gotten married and had a kid, but during that time he was working on a fourth dancing video around the world.  This one is his most ambitious one as in it, he does actual dancing moves rather than his crazy jig.

Anyhow, check it out.  You can view it below:

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Every once in a while, I like to look at cars.  The wife won’t let me get a new (i.e., slightly used) one, but I do like to browse through the parking lot and look at them. It’s fun.  However, I prefer shopping for cars after hours when all the dealers have gone home.

Why is that?

Because every time I go looking through a dealer lot in person during regular hours, after about 3-5 minutes a salesman walks out and starts chatting to me about cars, if I’m in the market for a new one (no), if I’d consider trading in my older one (no), and if I’d like to hear about their financing plans (no). 

I just want to browse in peace. Just leave me alone, please.  I know you have to make sales and I know it’s your job to get me to buy. But when you come up and chat to me, I start to feel bad that I’m wasting your time and I then get really uncomfortable and it’s awkward.

I just want to look without anyone looking over my shoulder. But your desire for a sale (on the offbeat chance that maybe I will buy something today) no doubt trumps my desire for to be left alone.  So when I think about browsing during the day, I decide that I’d prefer to avoid that awkwardness altogether.  And because of that, I do most of my browsing on the Internet which is not nearly as much fun, nor is it nearly as informative

And that’s really too bad.

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I’m working on an iPad app.

I’m not going to reveal what it is just yet (not until it’s officially released) but I’m pretty excited this. It’s basically a travel-themed app that combines some of my strengths.

I first got the idea for doing something like this back in New Zealand when the wife and I were on a hike in New Zealand on my birthday.  In fact, this is the hike we were on:

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We were walking back on this hike and all of a sudden I got an idea and started thinking through it. I was like “What a brilliant idea!”

We got back from New Zealand in December and the idea went no where for something like 5 months.  I did a bit of investigation as my original investigation called for a physical product.  But when I looked into manufacturers in China, they all wanted something like 5000 initial units. I didn’t want that many, what if I couldn’t sell them all (or any of them)? Where would I store these things?

That’s when I got the idea to change my product into an app. With an app, I could do more with it and distribution would be way cheaper. So, one evening, I sat down and converted my idea from a physical product into an app.

I started drawing it out on a piece of paper.  I then moved to the computer and started making sketches of it, doing wireframes.  I worked on it for about a week and a half, tweaking things, until I got it right. It’s still not finished but I need to see an actual prototype before I tweak it some more.

Next, I started looking for developers. I can program but I am not good at graphics.  And for my first one, I want a professional.  I went to oDesk and posted an advertisement for an iOS developer and got back 22 responses in one day.

22!

I weeded through them all, looking at the portfolios, and then yesterday made a decision.  I went with the most expensive one but he is also the one that – by far – instilled the most confidence.

So that’s where I’m at.  I have the basic design, I have a programmer, and now I have to create the content.

Hopefully it’ll be up in the Apple app store in a few weeks!

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There’s a story this past week that a bunch of bullies on a school bus were harassing an elderly woman (68 years old) that was recorded on video and went viral. The boys, who were teasing the woman from upstate New York, were pretty cruel.

As I said, the story went viral. People from all over the country started making donations to send the woman on a vacation to DisneyWorld, and some corporations even pitched in to pay for the airfare.  You can read about the story here.  Here’s an excerpt:

The video of the seventh-graders cursing, taunting and physically threatening a crying Klein has become a rallying point against bullying. It has also prompted an overwhelming outpouring of support for the longtime school bus worker.

An online campaign to fund a vacation for Klein had grown to more than $500,000 by Friday afternoon, far surpassing the initial $5,000 goal. Max Sidorov, the Toronto man who started the fund two days ago, said he did so partly because he was bullied himself as a child.

"Maybe we can send her on a great, early retirement," Sidorov told The Associated Press.

This is a good news story in that people are coming together to help the picked on lady who did nothing to deserve the torment; it’s a good thing.  But the story continues:

But not all of the reaction has been positive. School officials in Greece, N.Y., and the boys who bullied Klein have received a barrage of threatening messages. Police stepped up patrols near the teens’ homes.

"We have a cellphone of one of the boys, and he’s received more than 1,000 missed calls and more than 1,000 text messages threatening him," Capt. Steve Chatteron said. "Threats to overcome threats do no good."

The bullies are now getting repercussions for their behavior, and cooler heads are urging the public to tone it down.

I have a very difficult time feeling sympathy for the kids who did the initial bullying.  As someone who was bullied every single year from seventh grade through twelfth grade (usually by a new bully, but sometimes the same one would return), I get a sense of satisfaction from that.

A big part of it is my brain; our limbic systems are parts of our brain that are designed to react automatically without thinking, and there are four things that are very susceptible to the limbic system:

  1. Food
  2. Sex
  3. Money
  4. Revenge

The non-thinking part of my brain sees bullies getting what they deserve and this is reinforced by the fact that I know exactly how it felt to be bullied and I feel like the vengeance I never got when I was a kid is now being doled out by proxy.

My neocortex is saying “Oh, good for the community!  It’s good to see people coming together to help this lady!” but my limbic brain is saying “Oh, the bullies can’t take their own medicine? Well, now they’re getting what they deserve!” and that brings me more satisfaction than the good news part of the story.

I don’t know the nature of the threats and if I did, the oxytocin in my brain would probably kick in and I’d say “Okay, that’s enough.” But sitting here from afar, remembering my own experiences, the emotion of contempt and revenge is the dominant one.

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I found another article yesterday about several students at a hypnosis show in Montreal were left in a hypnotic trance for several hours after watching a hypnotist’s act.  The performer was unable to bring them out of the trance and instead had to ask his mentor to break them out of it.

A group of young students at an all girls school were left in "mass hypnosis" after a demonstration from a fledging hypnotist reportedly left them locked in a trance.

Maxime Nadeau was forced to call on his mentor for assistance after the hypnotist could not reverse the condition of several 12 and 13-year-old girls at the Collège du Sacré-Coeur private school in Quebec. One of the girls was reportedly left in a trance for five hours.

"Being in a trance is a state of well-being," Nadeau told the CBC‘s French-language service. "I wasn’t stressed. I knew they would get out of it."

Still, Nadeau eventually called in his mentor and trainer Richard Whitbread to reverse the effects.

Hypnosis enjoys a reputation amongst the general population as something that is mysterious.  When you’re put into a trance, you are in an altered state; you’re not awake but you’re not asleep, either.  You’re somewhere in-between.

Among skeptics, hypnosis is not that.  It’s one of the following:

  • Social pressure – You do things because you’re on-stage and want to be the center of attention.

  • Suggestibility – You want to be “hypnotized” and therefore you play along with the performer’s suggestions.

You’ll notice during a show that a hypnotist will frequently bring many people up on stage and will gradually eliminate them until he is left with 6-10 who are then asked to do many crazy things.  But most skeptics will say that they are not in a trance or an altered state – they are simply playing along.  There is no such thing as being hypnotized.

Yet people are capable of telling themselves things and then doing them. A person who is “hypnotized” cannot move their arm because they believe they cannot move their arm.  But for centuries, nobody could run a 4-minute mile.  Then someone did.  Now people do it all the time.

The placebo effect is real and measurable, too.  Sugar pills don’t do anything but they have real and measurable effects.  But it doesn’t mean that we intentionally market pills that are placebos (at least, not as established by the scientific community).

So this one girl was hypnotized for hours.  What happened?  She believed she was in a trance, and she believed that the guy’s mentor could bring her out of it.  In reality, he could have gotten a friend of his to bring her out of it just by saying the words “I’m his teacher, and when I count to three and tap my finger on your forehead, you will be completely refreshed and not hypnotized.  One, two, three!”

That’s what happened.

Probably.

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