Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The farcical new seven wonders of the world

The website http://www.new7wonders.com is doing a survey to ask what today's seven wonders of the world should be. Since most of the ancient wonders are gone, we kind of need to update the list. I like the idea, but...
I didn't do the survey because they didn't include what in my mind should be second only to the pyramids in sheer size and impressiveness - the Temple of Karnak. Yet the Eiffel tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Christ Redeemer are all on the list, amongst others of varying arguability.
I consider the rock hewn churches of Lalibela to be more impressive than these structures. We're talking "wonders," which in my mind constitutes things that people are curious about. Not a big hunk of metal in the middle of Paris, nor a gift from France to the USA. Is this a popularity contest or a serious competition?
We know the story of these objects, thus eliminating the "wonder" factor. Lalibela's rock hewn churches, we have no idea where they came from, thus the wonder. The temple of Karnak is so damn big, we wonder how it was built by an ancient civilization. The great wall in Zimbabwe, okay not as impressive, but I "wonder" who the hell built it.
Cologne Cathedral, or take your pick of one of Europe's massive cathedrals.
The mosque in Mecca.

I'm sure there's a dozen others who should be on the voting list. These are just off the top of my head.


The list provided is surprisingly thin. More thought should have been done to give people a list of things they can actually vote for; not places whoever came up with the new7wonders idea could name off the top of his/her head.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A particularly gruesome day in Baghdad

The UN announced last years death toll in Iraq. Total people killed was 34,400. Broken down, that's a murder rate of around one-hundred people per day.

As if to hit home that number, explosions abounded throughout Baghdad today. The first was a double bombing at a University in a Shi'a district, striking predominately women - because we all know educated people, especially women, are a threat to defunct and anarchic societies. The second occurred in a market, using the double-bomb mentality. Blow up the first time to kill a few, then when brave humanitarians flock to the scene to rescue the maimed and dying, a second more deadly bomb goes off. Just like educated people, kind-hearted heroes are also a threat to an uncivil society.

The evil that it must take for a person to commit such an act is beyond my comprehension. It's something I've only been witness to once in my life, the threat to take my life simply because I was a foreigner, and it left me rattled and extremely angry. There is a twisted religious movement sprouting in the Middle East. I wager that it thrives among the poorly educated and criminal classes of Iraqi society.

Will sending 20,000 more troops directly to Baghdad help? Probably not. The troops will just be there, probably sticking to the safer zones. If I wanted to commit an atrocious mass murder, what's to stop me from carrying it out. Are 20,000 extra people with guns really going to stop someone with the advantage of anonymity in the masses from conducting his gruesome business?
What can the soldiers do? At best, they can bring the city to a standstill. But people still have to eat. And to eat they need to shop. And to shop they have to go to the market. And, well, BOOM!
A bomb is so easy to conceal. Put it in a backpack, a baby carriage, strap it around one's chest, a suitcase, hide it in a toy or a printer or a box of cigars. There are a trillion trillion places to hide it, and only 20,000 extra troops too busy worrying about their own asses to be very concerned with the safety of the Iraqi masses.

I really don't know what the solution is. Cut and run? The Americans are going to have to leave eventually. No matter how many times they insist they are trying to help, trying to correct their mistake, or trying to change things. Nobody trusts what they have to say, especially with Bush at the helm and his "Smoke em out," "With us or against us," "Gonna get the terrorists," bullshit. Anything that comes out of his mouth is destined to inflame more than improve.

A big change is needed, starting with the departure of Bush! The next president should immediately specify a withdrawal date, and declare a mass push to train Iraq's army and police force prior to that withdrawal. Political pressure should come both internationally as well as from the dismal Arab League who can at least all agree that Iraq needs help.

With the Americans completely withdrawn under a respectable and apologetic leader, at least the primary source of Iraq's anti-colonial anti-crusade self-destructive inspiration will have been deflated. And that gives Iraqies something to work with.

The LA Beckham sports formula.

Here is the formula used by Los Angeles to warrant their purchase of David Beckham:

Value of Beckham's waning soccer skills - $200,000 per year.
Value of Beckham's boyish-grin-and-pop-star-wife appeal - $49,800,000 per year

Monday, January 15, 2007

Writer's meetups in Ontario Kingston area.

Most of us have gone through it. You end up on a site like classmates.com, add your info and try to look up some old friends - then comes the message. "In order to do anything cool on this site, you have to pay $$."
It drives me nuts. My recent frustration being with meetups.com. There are a few other registered writers in Kingston, the Canadian city where my family lives and I visit once a year. I thought it would be cool to have a writers get together with the other half-dozen Kingstonians registered on the site. I go through the motions, write a nice detailed message saying, let's meet up at Starbucks/Chapters, date, time, etc.
I click next.
Bang
In order to proceed, you have to pay $12 per month for your group.

As I pull my hair out, I come up with a few "stuff you" ideas to get around the problem.

One - I put my email address, in code, in my Meetups blurb. "Wanna meet up, email me at des4859-at-yahoo-dot-co-dot-uk."

My second idea, look up the other writers names through 411.ca and call them. I came up with, on average, three people per name. Also, there were a couple people who only wrote their first names. This is admittedly kind of awkward, and I envision cold calling people after tracking them down via the internet going badly.


"Hey, I noticed you're a writer at meetup.com and wanted to get together, maybe at Chapters later this week. I promise I'm not a psycho axe murderer... any more!"

Insert sinister laugh here.

"Are you some sort of internet stalker?"

"No, I'm a writer, my family lives in Kingston, I live in Morocco."

"Then why don't you meet up with writers in Morocco."

"Because hardly anyone speaks English here."

"Please leave me alone, freak!" click.


Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. But I still don't feel like calling fifteen numbers to get in touch with five people.

The next generation of hockey

I'm growing weary of the NHL. This is in part to being a Leafs fan, who over the course of my life have given me very few spurts of joy and reason to cheer. It's partly due to the strike a couple years back, which pissed me off to no end. Although not specifically to do with the NHL, it really irked me that Wayne Gretzky didn't choose Sydney Crosby for Canada's 2006 Olympic team. Todd Bertuzi over Crosby? What the hell? And Canada went on to get humiliated!
A recent blunder is the falling apart of the deal by Canadian business icon Balsille to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the likely intent to move them to Canada.

Pittsburgh doesn't deserve an NHL team. Under normal conditions, it's an unsustainable market. They have however been blessed with superstars, first in the form of Mario Lemieux, and recently thanks to the best thing since Lemieux, youngster Sydney Crosby. This is the only reason a hockey team still exists in that city, and even with Crosby they are trying to move the team.

But not to Canada.

Rumour has it NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wants to keep the superstar in the US market where they figure he is desperately needed to revitalise their junk franchises.

What the hell is a hockey team doing in Phoenix? Carolina? Two in Florida? Three in California? The list goes on...

Here is my solution to revitalize hockey.

Crunch the NHL down to two divisions, a Canadian division and an American one.

Canadian division

Toronto
Montreal
Ottawa
Calgary
Vancouver
Edmonton
Winnipeg
Quebec City

American division

Detroit
Boston
Chicago
NY Rangers
Philadelphia
Los Angeles
Minnesota
New Jersey

Create a European league with something like the following teams.

Western Europe

Stockholm
Geneva
Oslo
Munich
Germany 2
London
Paris
Helsinki

Eastern Europe

Slovakia
Berlin
Belarus
Moscow team 1
Moscow team 2
St Petersburgh
Czech - Born
Czech 2


Create a second league for second division teams. For the former NHL teams, relegate them to the division 2 league, with about sixteen teams, and a similar division 2 league in Europe.

The Stanley cup - given to the North American Champions.
The Euro cup - given to the European Champions.
The continental cup - given to the world Champions - winner of Stanley vs winner of Euro.
The shoe cup, described below. (shoe being a temporary name.)

A sixty game regular season, with a massive tournament in between.

Take all 32 teams, plus another 32 teams from the second divisions.

A World tournament in the middle of the season. Round robin format followed by single elimination similar to Olympics/World Cup.

Who wouldn't love to see Montreal vs. Moscow in the World finals? Certainly better than watching Carolina, or Tampa Bay, or Anaheim.

I hope to one day see things kick started by the creation of a European League to rival the NHL. Come on Europe, there are hundreds of Soccer teams making millions. A dozen or so hockey teams can surely survive, especially with popularity in the big seven European hockey countries. Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech rep., Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland. Not to mention Belarus and Norway.

Christobal Huet playing for team Paris.
Matts Sundin playing gor team Sweden.
Ochevkin for team St. Petersburg.

Seriously, is there any hockey fan out there who wouldn't prefer this to the current lacklustre NHL?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Baby photos and digital cameras.

Now I'm sure there must be a way to quicken the digital camera's response time, likely at the expense of a high-definition photo.
Catching baby Zack in a smiling mood happens every so often, keeping him smiling while I run to the next room for a camera is something else. If I do happen to come back to a smiling baby boy, the next trick is not having his eyes bug out when the clunky camera is being held over his face and the flash goes off.
Smiles tend to come in short bursts, a second or two, to a few seconds, or the rare ten second gummy smile of joy.
Trying to keep the big gummy smile during the three second delay from when I press the button to when the digital camera shoots is the hardest part of all. Regardless, here's a few photos. Meanwhile, I'm gonna try and figure out a way to make the camera take faster photos.
















G'morning Mommy and Daddy.














YES! I finally got a smile on Camera!














Doh, I forgot what I was supposed to do at 2pm. Oh yeah, it's time for a big poo!















Zack's sleeping pose.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Planning for the MGoun trek, March 29-April 5

Last year, Doug Teschner led six of us an expedition into the Atlas Mountains, including a summit of Mount MGoun.

The guys pose for a photo at the start of the hike.



I'm doing a similar trek this year, albeit a different route, for two reasons. One, by the time we got to the base camp for MGoun, my feet were so sore and blistered from my low quality, not-worn-enough boots, that I couldn't make the last push up the summit.


The second reason I chose this route is the Tessauit Gorge. As I'm leading the trek this year, I want to do something special, and the Tessauit Gorge is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It also posed enough of a challenge last year to make the trip have that special memory factor of eventfulness.
















































On the morning we were to leave, we awoke to an inch of snow covering the ground. It gave us an exciting twist to the end of the journey and we hiked over a high pass, and ran down a snowfield as we made our way to back to where we'd parked. This was a five day, four night trek. Mine, if all goes as planned, will be a seven day, six night trek.



Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Getting there thanks to Apple.

Several months ago, I blogged about what I thought the perfect mobile phone would be capable of. The newest Apple Iphone, to be released in the US in June, comes pretty close to hitting the mark. Think about it, no more need for a dozen gadgets - mobile phone, ipod, GPS system, camera, regular phone, etc. Now, everything you need, well almost, is on the new Iphone.

It will retail at $499-$599, a bargain if you take into account the product bundle you are getting.

A two megapixel digital camera, $100
A colour GPS system with Google maps - $200
An IPOD - $100
A mobile phone with big screen and wireless internet capability - $300

And its all in one handy device.

My other ideas have yet to be applied, but it's only a matter of time before the Iphone gets complimentary products. Wireless technology will soon reach another level. No more need for USB cables! Printers, keyboards, mice, monitors - everything will be done through wireless. Home computer? Simply put the iphone on it's chargable mounting, and the wireless monitor turns on. The keyboard is ready to go, the printer too. The Iphone is probably as powerful as the best computers were ten years ago.

A car adapter radio kit so the Iphone recharges, plays music, makes and receives phone calls, and navigates for you while you drive. Perhaps even a steering wheel option like some radios have so that you can drive while choosing music, making calls or adjusting the GPS. The Apple steering wheel? Wireless of course.

Theft recovery thanks to the GPS technology.

Now Mr Jobs and Apple people, I don't mind if you take my ideas. Really, I have no plans to implement them and I will not sue you. But hey, it would be damn nice if, one of these ideas happened to inspire you, that you add me to your list of people who get free stuff. I'm a travel writer after all, and the Iphone can be as much a travel tool with its GPS technology, music and camera as it is a device for high powered executives.

That's Daniel Sturgis. You can visit my website, www.danielsturgis.com for my contact details.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dirt Cheap flights

I was playing around with flights today, seeing where it's cheap to fly, where it's expensive, etc. I noticed easyjet flies from Casablanca to Madrid. The flights open up starting February 22nd. If I wanted to get a cheap flight now, I could fly from Casa to Madrid, return, for under fifty Euros! A great way to get a shopping fix in at a big city. In fact, it's something I might do in order to get some last minute purchases for my big trek through the Atlas Mountains in March/April.

Madrid is also an interesting gateway to Orlando where my parents live in the winter (because of the large hispanic population I assume). For me to fly easyjet to Madrid and catch another flight from Madrid to visit my parents in Orlando is perhaps the easiest route between the two countries. Using www.orbitz.com, tickets from Madrid to Orlando cost as little as 600 Euros, return and with taxes included - maybe even less because I didn't play with the dates.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Harper woos Khans, cons, and Muslims? And my thoughts on turncoats.

Liberal MP, turned Conservative advisor, turned turncoat, MP Wajid Khan of Streetsville/Mississauga, over a year ago took up the bipartisan role of advising Prime Minister Stephen Harper on cultural issues, in particular the all important Muslim-sensitive issues.
What are my feelings on turncoats? I think they should at least offer to run in a bielection, or there should be a confidence vote by their constituents on whether they still want the MP in question to continue to represent them under a different banner.
The difference between Stronach, Emery, and now Khan, is that Belinda, when a conservative MP, stole a Liberal stronghold because of her personal star power. Belinda then chased after and lost a conservative leadership bid to Harper, who treated Belinda as a threat, causing her to cross the floor in frustration. Note: she went on to win again as a Liberal despite loss of Liberal support elsewhere in the country. Emery's defection, which can loosely be tied to his desire to close the Softwood Lumber dispute, was much less noble. He was basically a nobody constituent riding the local Liberal popularity. His personal appeal had nothing to do with winning the election and he left his Liberal-majority voters feeling angry and betrayed.
Khan is something in between, a gradual defection ending with an stay-or-go ultimatum by new Liberal leader Stephan Dion. I wonder how much influence Khan's actually had over Stephen Harper, whose biggest Muslim-effecting decisions are - 1) Unflinching support for Israel at the expense destroying Lebanon 2) Rejection of democratically-elected Hamas thus by contributing to "railroading" the peace process in Israel/Palestine; 3) Wasting tens of millions of dollars in a largely unnecessary evacuation of Lebanese-Canadian citizens; and 4) Sending Canadian troops to the front lines in the fight against the Taliban.
Number 4 being the only decision I can agree with, even though his no-debate method left hard feelings on the other side of the floor.

What else should Khan be known for? Being the Muslim MP of the area where a failed Muslim terrorist plot was hatched by youth predominately from the same country of origin (including the intended beheading of his now friend Harper.)

We'll see how much star power Khan has after his gamble to cross the floor. While Harper's gay marriage stance and various other conservative views may strike a chord with generally-more-conservative-minded Muslims, I doubt too many will forgive his carte-blanche support of Israeli aggression. From what I hear, very few Canadian Muslims vote in federal elections anyway.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Things that make me laugh

Every once in a while, I see something in Morocco that makes me laugh. The sign on a business, a misspelling on a menu. Cruising through the snacks aisle this afternoon, and in search of a few crisps and nuts for Friday night poker, I came across these potato chips.