Wednesday, March 31, 2010

American Experience - PBS Series

I am somewhat of a history buff, for no other reason asides the fact that I am somewhat of a history buff. Which is probably why I enjoy the PBS series American Experience. They are like mini history lessons all in 50 minutes. Just finished watching one about the Dust Bowl, very informative.

And as Forrest Gump would say "And that's all I have to say about that"

Which reminds me, have I ever blogged how I was almost an extra in the movie Forrest Gump and how Chris and I will never watch it together as I can point out so many people that I knew and the roles they played as extras in the film?

Guess now that I have mentioned it I will have to blog about it soon!

The Storm in the Cloud

"Wake up and come see this" Chris says at 5:45 in the morning. Grumble, grumble I go out to the patio to see this lone fluffy cumulus cloud hanging over the ocean. "Watch" is all Chris says.
Within a few moments there was a lightning bolt that shot from the top of the cloud to the bottom on the cloud, it lit it up very bright. This continued on an on, all the while lightning bolts staying within the cloud but never reaching beyond.

I realized this would make a cool video so I ran to get my digital camera, by then the lightning was slowing down just a bit and I had to wait for a train to pass, otherwise the first few seconds of the film would have been rather annoying.

The monsoon season has started and the rain has become more frequent. Today there was a pretty good thunder boomer while I was at work.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Negotiation

Every trishaw ride begins with one, negotiate the price with the driver. Now you can be brave and just jump in any old trishaw that comes along, give the driver a destination and deal with the fair when you arrive, but chances are if you're a Westerner that is going to be a hefty fair.

As it stands now we probably pay, make that we do pay too much, probably double what a Sri Lankan pays.

More often than not when you ask how much the driver usually says something to the effect of "No problem, you pay whatever" or "Get in, no problem" everything is no problem.

It's just automatically assumed you're rich if your a Westerner. To make things that much more difficult for us is that if we catch a trishaw outside of our apartment then they know you live in one of the most expensive apartments in Colombo, doesn't help. Works the other way around as well when we try to catch a ride to our apartment.

Funny double whammy as we ate at a restaurant at the Hilton Residences (Hilton Hotel apartments) and grabbed a trishaw back to our apartment. Yeah, try being cheap leaving one of the most expensive apartments in Colombo and going to one of the other expensive apartments in Colombo. Actually wasn't so bad, I started the negotiation off with 150 Rupees, he asked for 250 and we settled for 200 ($1.75), probably 100 if I was Sri Lanka!

Taking Chance - HBO Movie 2009

I watched the movie Taking Chance, again, the other night. It has to be one of the better movies I have ever watched, well in the military genre.

Kevin Bacon just nails it as his role as a Marine officer. No question about it. There are man movies involving Marines and if you were to watch one with a Marine or former Marine they are bound to point out all of the inaccuracies, not so with this movie.

One of the best scenes is where Kevin Bacon is going through security and is asked to take off his jacket and he refuses "I will NOT take off this jacket and desecrate this uniform!". Your probably wondering what the big deal is? Wearing the Class "A" jacket with medals and ribbon with long sleeve khaki shirt makes up the Alpha uniform. There is no such Marine uniform that consists of a long sleeve khaki shirt without medals and ribbons. Now add the medals and ribbons to the long sleeve khaki shirt and you do have a uniform, the Class "B" or Bravo uniform, but when worn with the Alpha jacket you do not place the ribbons or medals on the shirt. So yes, he would be out of uniform if he took off his jacket. Uniforms are a big deal to Marines, believe me on that.

Another small scene in the movie that was probably just a blip to most folks but stood out in my mind is where Kevin Bacon leaves the Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge with the Sergeant and the Sergeant turns around, snaps to attention and says "Colonel" and Kevin Bacon snaps to attention and says "Sergeant". Even though they were in a very casual setting, the Sergeant still knew his role as the enlisted person to render honors to the officer. He is not in uniform, so he comes to attention, he is not going to be so casual as to say "Have a good night Colonel", they are not friends nor would he even think about bringing it to that level with a superior officer. Kevin Bacon as the Colonel comes to attention and acknowledges the Sergeant. Small but poignant moment in the movie for a military person.

The other thing I enjoyed about the movie is that it doesn't play the political card although it certainly could have been the venue for such.

Chris even displayed he approval for the movie by staying awake nearly halfway through it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Multimedia Headache Central

docreportMy eMachine computer, receiver and television. Actually I might just get rid of the DVD player as the computer has a DVD player. Note the keyboard and mouse to the right of the center speaker.

This may not be an authorized photo from my wife, we'll see after I post it!

Partial Geek Success

When we got rid of our fixed line ADSL package and went for the wireless dongle I figured no problem, I'll hook it up to our main computer and share out the connection, or so I thought.

Not to get into real deep geek speak, I'll just say that our main computer did not like going from a fresh reinstall to XP Service Pack 3. Fact is I found knowledge base article from Microsoft attesting to my problems are from the Service Pack, that I can't uninstall. So I couldn't use our main computer to share out the connection, for now I would try my netbook.

It took two frustrating nights of trying but I finally nailed it, having to give my other computer a static IP address on its wifi adapter as it wasn't picking one up from the netbook.

Amazingly I am getting 384kb on the shared computer, which isn't bad. The main thing I need to do is test the Skype call quality.

So for you geeks that want to know how to share out your laptop/netbook's wifi connection here is how I did it:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Multi Media = Multi Headaches

Ever since I have received all of the parts to make my multimedia center, things haven't exactly fallen into place.

The video card installed easily enough but there are some annoying pop up error when the computer starts. I found the fix on a forum, just need to get around to it.

The wireless antennae was a little buggy at first but after downloading the latest drivers it has been doing a great job.

I have hardly any hard drive space. I used to think of that as totally unnecessary, but now that I have taken up downloading certain files, I realized how quickly hard drive space fills up.

Initially I setup my computer in one of the side compartments in the entertainment center, problem was some of the cords were to short and they stretched this way and that. It looked like spaghetti and I decided the thing to do was move it closer the receiver. So I disconnected everything and moved it closer to the receiver, big mistake. The receiver by itself generates a good amount of heat, the computer generates a good amount of heat, put them in the same compartment and I have an oven! Time for Plan "C" and move it again.

My ADSL broadband, fugget about it. I put in a request to have it disconnected.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Upgrade Downgrade - Epilogue

Ever since our ADSL broadband service has been upgraded there has been one small problem, it hadn't been upgraded. I checked our router and it showed 4MB service (Although we didn't request that) but our results were closer to dial up speeds. When I checked our line speed online, I was right, it was closer to dial up speeds, in some cases even slower!

I did what I should have done a long time ago. I walked across the street to the cell phone store and in less than 10 minutes had purchases a USB wireless device with 1+MB download speeds already activated and ready to go. The neat thing about this is we can use it anywhere in Sri Lanka.

I brought it home, installed the software and instant 1-1.5MB line speed. Here we waited well over a month to get our ADSL upgraded, only to have it get times worse, where we now have wireless broadband for less than half the monthly rate we were going to pay. Incredible.

It's going to be interesting to see how long it will take to have our broadband disconnected from the phone company. That and there is no way we are going to pay for a 4MB line that delivered dial up speeds!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Making a spectacle of my spectacles

doc meyer
I've been needing new glasses for awhile now. My eyes have been hurting and tearing while sitting at my desk looking at a computer screen all day and problems reading.

Step one find an optometrist and get my eyes checked. As luck would have it there was one right across the street at the shopping mall.

First I tried calling a multiple of phone numbers listed on their website, as is the norm around here this was a lesson in futility.

I walked across the street to the optometrist and inquired about an eye exam, I knew they sold sunglasses but wasn't sure if they performed eye exams but they did, for free. My favorite price!

The eye exam went easy enough, as expected my eye sight had become a little worse.

I picked out some stylish new frames, NOT! Picked out some frames much like my old ones. I was told I could pick them up in 3 days.

The big day came and I picked up my glasses. It was a little weird trying to get used to them but I figured in time I would.

No more than 2 hours or so into wearing my new glasses that my eye started to hurt very bad and started tearing up. Took off the glasses, my eyes didn't hurt.

I went back to the optometrist and he gave my another eye exam, the results were pretty much the same as my previous exam. He is going to send the glasses back for some additional adjustment. In his opinion I just need to give the glasses some time. I'm not sure about this, we'll see. Get it, we'll see : )

Monday, March 15, 2010

The One Phone Call - Upgrade Dowgrade

doc meyer
So that's all it took, one phone call to the right person at the phone company to get our ADSL upgraded, and I'm not sure that the apartment management did it.

Here's the story. I get a call from the apartment management this morning and they told me that my Internet service has indeed been upgraded, again. She tells me that I have been upgraded to a 4MB service (Although I had only requested 2MB), to confirm everything she tells me what she believes is my phone number, it's not. I know for a fact our neighbor across the hall has a 4MB connection to which I told her, it's probably him that the phone company was referring to.

I was visiting the company's phone techs and brought one of them a shirt that was to large for me. I told them the latest and greatest with my situation. The guy I gave the shirt to asked me my phone number and said he would make a phone call to the telephone company. I went to my office and no sooner entered that my colleague told me the phone company had called and said I would have upgraded ADSL by close of business.

I arrive home and low and behold, yes, it was upgraded, to 4MB which I didn't want, but it was upgraded.

Also the rest of my parts to connect the computer to my plasma tv arrived. Sadly the video card that I ordered was not what I expected. I swear I researched and read every review I could find, I swear I thought it had a DVI port, but it didn't.

The wireless antennae turned into a slight nightmare. It installed easy enough, but was a huge headache to connect to my wireless network. The problem was Symantec Endpoint Protection, don't use it.

The ATI Radeon 9250 video card seemingly installed easy enough, but lots of pop up errors when the computer starts up. I attribute this to Symantec as well. When I get around to it I am going to compeletly uninstall the software package and reinstall. The computer is a little old and slow to boot up so I'm not exactly looking forward to this venture.

Oh, the 4MB ADSL? Not as good as expected. I thought with 4MB service we could watch streaming videos with no problem, hardly. Mind you, better than 512kb, but not great. Did notice typical downloads were much quicker though.

Yeah the picture has absolutely nothing to do with computers : )

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Whistle me a tune

The first rain storm in months has just rolled in. The wind, lightning and thunder is incredible. Add in the waves crashing against the seawall and you have some great entertainment, but wait, there's more.

We have lots of windows but they are all sealed to keep out the heat. The wind is so strong it finds the nooks and crannies in the seals and sometimes it whistles. It's usually the patio doors. Well we just had a bout of whistling and Chris went to hunt it down and low and behold it was one of the casement windows. No real way to stop it short of resealing the windows which we will probably have to get maintenance to do next week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Need for Coffee

Coffee, the wondrous elixir that it is. Chris and I go through gallons of it, which equate to pounds of coffee every month. We usually order it off of the Internet, but fell behind so had to get some locally.

Which got me thinking about all the coffee that I have tasted throughout the years.

My first memory of coffee goes back to 1985 or so when I was in the Marines. Had to wake up very early and turn on some HF radios and do radio checks. Someone showed me how to make coffee and I had a cup, and haven't turned back ever since.

Since then I have enjoyed cafe' au lait in Paris, cappuccinos in Brussels, Cafe su da ( in Saigon (Okay, I'm old fashioned, it is Ho Chi Minh City), very good Brazilian coffee while in Montevideo and all the coffee that I brought back on my trips. Ah, but how can I forget the many many small cups of strong Turkish coffee along with good conversation I had with my Bosnian friends in Sarajevo Believe me, Turkish coffee will get you talking! Good memories indeed.

And then there is Cafe du Monde with it's hint of chicory and for a real good cheap pot of strong coffee there is Cafe Bustelo, probably still only around $2.

So, with all of the coffee's I have drank and enjoyed, here is a funny story.

I was having coffee at the company cafeteria in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and just ranting and raving about the coffee that they served. I told my colleagues I must find out what coffee this is as it is so good, they all looked at me and said in one voice "It's Folgers". I was shocked. I thought it was some expensive coffee, but sure enough it was Folgers Breakfast Blend.

Reason I bring this up is I needed some coffee for work and I am looking at the 1 pound Starbucks bag for $10 and the 2 pound Folgers or $11, my choice was pretty easy. And you know what? Brewed my first pot of Folgers today and I have to admit it was a pretty darn good pot of coffee!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'm doing the 5's

Being a former Marine can do strange things to you, I attribute my new exercise regimen to the Marine Corps, I call it, "Doing the 5's".

I get off work at 5:30, walk home and go to the gym before 6, run 5K on the treadmill, then grab 5 pound weights in each hand and do a cool down walk at 5% grade, thus, doing the 5's!

I'm surprised I can still run 3 miles (Give or take 5K) but hardly at my old Marine Corps run times. I look back and can't hardly believe I was once able to run 3 miles at an average time of 21 minutes.

The Upgrade Downgrade Continues

Still no luck getting our Internet service upgraded to 2MB. The apartment wants to send their phone tech out again as "There is something wrong with the phone line", when there is NOTHING wrong with the phone line, the problem is nobody from the apartment management has submitted a request to the phone company to upgrade our service.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Me and special friend

Me with a special friend.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jnauary 2005 - The Iraqi Elections

First it was "My Name is Khan" and now the 2005 Iraq Elections? Confused, whats going on?
One little blip in my life was the year I spent in Baghdad, Iraq from December 2004 until December 2005. It was an exciting time (And sad) time to be in Iraq. I can't forget that I was there for the elections. I do remember expecting the usual inbound mortars and car bombs and all sorts of side work because of the elections.

I just looked through my old Doc Report emails (Pre blog days) to see what I had to say about the elections, surprisingly not much, only something sad the insurgents did during the elections.

I hope the current elections go without much problems.

I was "friended" today on Facebook by one of the Iraqi's that I worked with in Baghdad but it looks like she deleted her account not soon after I responded to the request.

Mickey D's Sri Lankan Style

So after the movie we decided to go for a walk along Galle Road. I wanted a roti which was easy enough as there are many stands open late at night, it was just a matter of finding the one I wanted to buy from.

Chris knew of a specific stand that she thought I might like. We found it and was hoping to get a certain type of roti, vegetable and cheese, but they wouldn't make it for me and tried to sell me other food items. I then tried to get them to make a me a cheese roti which they had displayed on the menu, but for whatever reason they said they couldn't make that (No cheese maybe?).

We left that stand and headed for the arches, the golden arches that is.

The McDonald's was open and not crowded, another thing was that it was nice and cool and very clean. As with pretty much every restaurant you go to it was an all guy staff. They spoke good English, all wore ties and they were very friendly and attentive. The nice thing is that they brought the meal to our table. I ordered a Big Mac meal.

I know the question you're asking, did it taste the same? Absolutely, right down to the two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun and the french fries too!

They don't have a drive through window, instead in the road next to McDonald's they have the menu painted on a wall and you drive up and park your car and someone comes out with a radio to call in your order.

Somewhere buried deep in my blog is my posting about the McDonald's in Montevideo. Again, very clean, nice friendly staff, but they did have girls and guys working behind the counter. I think there was something like thirteen McDonald's in Montevideo. I think there are only two, maybe three in all of Colombo.

My Name is Kahn or Bollywood Meets Forrest Gump

A collective HUH? From my blog readers. "My name is Khan"?, "bollywood"? whatchutalking bout Doc?

Chris and I saw the movie "My name is Khan" last night, and wouldn't you know the Washington Post had an article about it in the Sunday edition:

So if you haven't guessed without reading the article it is an Indian movie, it was subtitled but some portions were in English.

In my opinion the movie portrayed the U.S.A. in a bad light, just about every stereotypical bad American was in the movie.

But the "Forrest Gump" connections, I wasn't sure, but the more I thought about it, absolutely. So here I go:

MNIK = My name is Khan FG = Forrest Gump

FG = Forrest has a special gift, running
MNIK = Khan has a special gift, repairing things

FG = Meets the President
MNIK = Khan meets the President

FG = Life is like a box of chocolates
MNIK = My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist

FG = Has a personal mission, goes cross country.
MNIK = Has a personal mission, goes cross country

FG = Life changes because of a hurricane
MNIK = More or less, life changes because of a hurricane

FG = Forrest calls his Mom, Momma and his wanna be girlfriends name is Jenny
MNIK = Character named Momma Jenny

FG = Wins the Medal of Honor
MNIK = Momma Jenny's son dies in the Iraq war and is awarded the Medal of Honor (They don't say this but it is displayed with his picture)

FG = Ends up in Georgia
MNIK = Khan ends up in Georgia

There are probably a few more connections that I can't think of right now, I'll add them later as I think about it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fixing the rails

Judging by the clanking and the loud voices early in the morning as well as prolonged train horn blasts, I knew that there must be workers doing repairs on the railroad tracks.
I watched them move the heavy rails in place, and noticed that many of them were only wearing flip flops! I also noticed to older men sitting across from each other cutting the rail with a hacksaw! I can't imagine how long that was going to take.
Here are some pictures I took.

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Perahera Festival Pictures


The Upgrade Downgrade

The nice thing about our apartment is that it includes free ADSL Internet service at 512kb download speeds. Well, it's supposed to, but closer to 384kb or less in reality. I have wanted to upgrade our service to a 2 Megabyte line and after dragging my feet finally got started on the quest.

I started at work and submitted the request, no problem I was told. Then the days went by and I inquired and was told that my Internet service had indeed been upgraded, but indeed it had not. So I tried with the apartment management who sent a phone tech out, he spent a half an hour with talking with the phone company only to tell me that my Internet service had been upgraded I had to reconfigure my router. Somehow I knew that this was a total farce but I did it anyway, resetting it to factory defaults, but no 2MB service. So I called the phone company and they told me that it had not been upgraded. They also suggested that I go directly to their office and submit a request.

I leave for the phone company office at one building only to be told that I had to go to a phone company office at another building. There I had to take a number and wait forever, only to be told by the customer service representative that only the apartment management can submit the request (Because they own the internal phone lines).

I was able to get in touch with someone with the apartment management who said she would check into it and call me right back, right back has been three days ago and I have yet to be able to reach her since.

I checked at work and was told that they had been in touch with someone at the apartment management and will be doing something about it.

This whole fiasco has been going on for well over 3 weeks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Grass is Always Greener or How the Other Half Lives

When we lived in Montevideo we really liked our apartment, it was just the right size and close to work. It wasn't until we had visited some other apartments did we realize that the company provided much nice apartments, we just didn't get one. Neither one of us would consider complaining or mumbling under or breaths given that it's all provided for free.

Next stop Sri Lanka.

So here we have this big apartment, larger than our brick home in Virginia Beach. It has it's quirks (Maybe I will blog about that), but it's just the right size and close to work.

Well our rooftop swimming pool has been less than cared for lately to the point that we just avoid using it. And although our fitness room tries to be a fitness room, it's doesn't have enough equipment and it is tight on space.

A coworker told us we should come and visit her pool, it's large and in the full sun (Ours is covered with this strange architectural thing). So we walked over and into this big lobby and found the elevators, We pushed the button for the floor with the pool but the elevator wouldn't go up. Two security guards get in the elevator and place a swipe card by a reader and he pushes a button to a floor, we follow suit.

When we make it to the floor with the pool we can't believe our eyes, it's a big lap pool, a big clean lap pool complete with attached kiddie pool and jacuzzi as well as a padded running track, outdoor showers and a covered playground. After enjoying the pool and lounging around we toured the rest of the facilities to include a very large and very modern fitness center with lots of equipment, a locker room and what I didn't see was that they also have a sauna and game room. Did I mention they have a man there to provide you with towels?

We walked up a floor and there they have a restaurant with great views. A look at the men found a nice selection and extremely reasonable prices.

To me it would be worth moving there if just for the pool and fitness center! That and I wouldn't have to cross the street to go the food court anymore, LOL! Can we mover over there? Who knows. You'll read about it here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Perahera Festival Colombo 2010 - Another Elephant

This is another typical scene from the festival, lots of elephants dressed up in these big Elvis capes!
View more of these videos at my YouTube channel at

Perahera Festival Colombo 2010

Here comes the main elephant carrying the special tooth in its special carrier. There is a truck that is following providing power for the lights. There are men collecting the white cloth you see and laying it down for the elephant to walk on.
What you don't see are that its (And every other elephant in the festival) has their hind legs chained together, lest they try to take off.