Thursday, February 24, 2011

Computer Donation to the Boys Home

Over a year ago I went on a company trip to a boys home (orphanage) outside of the city limits. We went there to just have a fun day with the boys.

Initially we were treated to a tour of the home which is on a very large tract of land and has many buildings. One of the first things that we say was the computer classroom. I noticed that they were all shut off. I asked if they were any problems with them and they said there was many. Myself and a few others tried to get a few to work. It was futile, they were all junk.

We continued our tour and was given a karate demonstration by the boys and then we ended up playing some impromptu volleyball and cricket.

It occurred to me that the company often donated used computers and even the worst computers that we get rid of would be better than what they had now. I told the director that I would try.
(open mouth, insert foot).

This isn't the first time that I had some grandiose idea for charity. The last big idea I had didn't turn out well. That's a story for another time.

As it turns out one of the units with the company had just received new computers and they said I could have the old ones and the monitors! Only problem was that they had removed the hard drives. They also had the old restore CD's (software, drivers etc.) that came with them.

My first problem was getting the computers home. Between procrastination and logistics, this took awhile.

Next came the hard dives. I was hoping that some grant money would come through but it never did and I ended up having to buy the hard drives off of eBay. I was trying to get the best bang for my bucks and I lost a few auctions before I finally won an auction for the hard drives that I needed at a good price. Now I had to wait for the hard drives to arrive.

The hard drives arrived and now I had to prepare one that I could clone to the other computers. This took awhile as I wanted to find the best open source educational software I could find.

When I finally got one of the computers the way I wanted it I was ready to clone the hard drive. If all went well I would be able to use a hard drive duplicator at work and the job should only take a half hour tops to clone all of the hard drives. The duplicator wouldn't work with the drives. I needed a plan "B".

I then had to figure out a software way to clone the computers. This took forever but I finally was able to bot the computers from a USB flash drives and clone all of the computers over a weekend. But then two of the computers used different hard drives. Fortunately I had the drives but then the clone image wouldn't work and I had to come up with something new for them. I ended up installing Ubuntu Linux on them.

Then I tested the monitors and realized some of them didn't work. Now I needed more monitors, Back to the company and asked if I could get some used computer monitors to be donated. This took awhile but I got the monitors and got them home.

I'll just fast forward here. I finally was able to get someone to make liaison with the boys home and with some help delivered and set up the computers.

The boys were very excited and dived right into the educational software that I had installed. It was so good to see how happy they were. I'm ashamed at myself for dragging this on for so long.

We are making another trip to the home next month and I'll get a chance to follow up on the computers and I am going to see about getting the company to donate a printer.

Boys home web site:


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Corner - Finished Reading

When the Bough Breaks (Alex Delaware series) - by Jonathan Kellerman
448 pages
Detective thriller

This is the book that introduces the Alex Delaware character. Honestly I liked the first Alex Delaware series that I read, but this one was good.
All in all a good read.

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Over the Edge (Alex Delaware series) = byJonathan Kellerman
448 pages
Detective thriller

I think I have found yet another series that I like. The main character in this book is a retired psychologist who retired young and ends up in helping to solve crimes in one way or another.
If you tired of reading Patterson's Alex Cross series, give this a try.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Singapore Adventure - Final

Time to fill in the gaps of our trip to Singapore. Where to begin?
Well for one I have to say the flight to and from Singapore on Emirates Air was amazing in itself. Flying coach on Emirates Air offers you just as many benefits of flying business on any American airline. They even serve you a full meal for a 3 1/2 hour flight, a good meal at that!

I'd say our hotel was pretty much typical what Holiday Inn has to offer. It had a very nice lobby and glass elevators. As with everything else in Singapore it was expensive, to include breakfast for about $18 per day and Internet access about the same. Room service was unbelievably expensive. One cup of coffee, about $8. Don't ask me how I know that.

We wanted to experience the many food courts that Singapore has to offer. They call them hawker centers. They are very large and have food stalls that seem to go on and on and on. You might think that these places are dirty and loud, but they are neither. The centers were very clean and you can leave your trays on the table. We were surprised that with all of the people we were able to carry on a conversation without raising our voices. The prices were very reasonable. Oh, yes, how about the food? Fantastic. I tried the chicken rice and Peking duck with noodles, delicious!

We visited the Hard Rock Cafe, one of three on the island. The prices were a bit higher than the States, but they had the same good ol' HRC menu. I always get the pulled pork bbq sandwich, for no other reason other than it's probably one of the least expensive items on the menu : )

The metro system was great. Very easy to use and inexpensive. The station were very clean and architecturally pleasing. The trains were behind glass doors that opened when they arrived which kept the noise down. A neat thing about taking the metro is that if you bought a single pass you can redeem your pass at any of the ticket machines for a $1 refund.

Singapore is famous for two things, shopping and food. I mentioned the hawker centers but they also had food malls. No, not food courts, food malls. We visited two and could not believe the huge selection of foods they had to offer. The vendors went on and on with every type of food you could imagine. Again they were very clean and the prices were reasonable. Speaking of clean, what do you imagine when you think of a mall bathroom? Now how about a food court bathroom? You probably wouldn't even want to use it unless you really wanted to. We used one at a food court and I almost took a picture of the inside. It was like something you would find in a five star hotel. The attendants carried tongs to pick up anything that fell on the floor. It was amazing.

Now we found out the shopping fell into two categories. For the most part the prices were totally ridiculous. Crazy expensive. Yet, the malls were crowded just like any mall in the States and the kids were buying the stuff up. But on the other end of the scale we visited a mall in Chinatown and they had many stores with lots of reasonably priced goods. In fact most of Chinatown had small stores with good prices.

Final thoughts? I really enjoyed Singapore. By far the cleanest, most advanced and civilized country I have ever visited. I liked the food, I liked the friendly people. I liked that nobody cared we were tourists. When we were in Chinatown we ate at a hawker center and had to have been the only tourists there. We didn't worry about the price mysteriously getting higher, nobody stared at us, nobody tried to scam us. It was very nice. But on the other hand it was just very expensive as a whole. More expensive than the Maldives and I thought that was expensive. The Maldives was affordable compared to Singapore! I'm not sure if I'd visit there again. I'd like to see Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) next.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tips for Seeing a Concert at The Singapore Indoor Stadium


If you plan on seeing a concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium here a few useful tips.

DO pick up your tickets before the show. I really didn't see a line at the box office when the show began but why take chances.

DO take the metro (MRT). It's affordable and the Stadium station is conveniently located. Take the Circle Line from any of the connecting MRT stations such as Doby Ghant.

DO give yourself PLENTY of time if you take a taxi to the concert. Expect plenty of traffic.

DO purchase a return ticket (If you don't already have an EZ Pass) at the MRT so you don't have to wait in line to purchase a ticket after the concert (very long line).

DO NOT plan on taking a taxi. You can try calling for one but chances are they will all be booked up and you will have a very long wait for one.

DO bring your cell phone and non-SLR type camera because you can take pictures during the concert.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Operation Singapore

Tomorrow morning my beloved and I will depart for beautiful Singapore. Our goal is to eat good food, her shopping, me see the museums and both of us see Eric Clapton on Valentines Day.

I already know that Internet access at the hotel we are staying at is $21 per day, but free at the business center. I'm not sure if I'll cough up the $21.

I also want to go to the roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotels where apparently you can see Indonesia on a clear day.

There is road construction on the way to the airport and we have been forewarned to leave up to four hours early tomorrow, not looking forward to that part of the trip!

I have extra batteries for the camera and my binoculars ready!

Till next time.

Coming Down the Mountain in the Rain

Coming back from Badulla in the rain. Note our driver attempting to pass on a solid double white line.

Badulla Visit - Epilogue

I finally found a chance to catch up on The Doc Report, and now the rest of the story.

The trip to Badulla took six hours to the southern end of the island. We went through twisty windy roads all of it two lanes. The scenery was very beautiful, especially the mountains. Apparently there is some sort of election going on so there were huge vertical banners with the Sri Lankan president pretty much everywhere and in the corner a small picture of the person that he was endorsing! There was big smiley pictures of the president everywhere on banners everywhere, with the little picture of the person he was endorsing. Too funny.

We stopped for a classic Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch. 600RS to feed all three of us, about $5.50, that was including a Pepsi that was probably 100RS by itself!

As we got closer to Badulla we could see banners for the exhibition and eventually a police checkpoint that would only allow vehicles with passes to continue on, we were getting closer.

But then we reached a crazy intersection with signs for the exhibition pointing in nearly every direction. We turn left, pull over and ask a cop, he says we need to turn around, go to another street pull over, ask a cop, same thing. Finally a cop saw our pass and just pointed down the road, we took this as a good omen and continued.

Finally made the exhibition and had to get the vehicle inspected by security. We had five cases of apples and a few cases of Coca Cola, they asked if they could have some and we obliged.

Now the next problem was actually finding our actual display location. This was a very large fairground with roads leading in several directions. We finally found an information booth and we proceeded to go there (still making a few wrong turns).

We set up and did what we had to do, give out pencils, apples, Coca Cola and other assorted company stuff. The crowds were anything from a handful of people to five minute frenzies of handing out apples and pencils. It got pretty crazy sometimes.

After a long day we took off to the hotel. We heard one source say that the hotel was an hour away, someone else said that it was twenty minutes away, it was an hour. Up a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, tucked in the jungle.

The hotel had a nature theme and my room was built to not disturb the natural rock formations, providing plenty of places to stub your toes! The crew before us said that one of them had seen a rat in their room. I didn't see a rat, but did see many bugs the next morning. The woman that accompanied our group could not sleep at all, worried about the rats!

The next morning we checked out, went down the mountain and back to exhibition to give out more promotional material.

Our relief crew arrived and we briefed them on what to do, uhm, hand out stuff! Well we also had a plasma TV that was showing a movie that we had to keep an eye on.

The ride back home was mostly in torrential rain. The roads were flooded and it the rain slowed our trip down.

Finally made it back to Colombo around 8:00PM that night, no so bad.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Definition of BOONDOGGLE
: a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament
: a wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft

I'm not exactly sure that I can agree completely with the Merriam-Webster definition, I prefer to call a boondoggle working while having fun.

Tomorrow morning I leave for what will be my third boondoggle since my assignment to Sri Lanka. When I was in Montevideo I never went on a boondoggle, while assigned to Jeddah I went on one.

The other week I was in the Maldives which is a prime boondoggle mission, especially because of the outrageous daily per diem amount. Tomorrow will be on the the complete other end of the spectrum as I am going to Badulla which is in the interior of Sri Lanka: It's going to be a six hour trip by vehicle south. Wish I had an iPod!

Basically I will be manning a booth with promotional material for the company, and I have to give out said promotional material. I did this boondoggle last year but in the old capitol of Kandy. At that exhibition we only had refrigerator magnets to give out and it caused quite the commotion giving those away. This year the goodies have been kicked up a few notches to include book bags, hats, pencils, pocket calendars and Coca Cola. It's probably going to be pretty crazy as we are expecting 3 million to visit.

We have been told that our per diem will be reduced by $5 as the hotel provides breakfast, truth is the company is just trying to save money. Can't blame them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Corner - Finished Reading

Gardens of Water: A Novel by Alan Drew
352 pages

I really enjoyed this book. You encounter socio-economic differences, cultural differences, romance, tragedy, it's all there.


In Drew's well-intentioned if overwrought first novel, cultures clash as a teenaged Kurdish girl and an American boy fall in love over the objection of the girl's father, a Muslim Kurd living in Istanbul. Sinan, a shop owner, tries to keep his American upstairs neighbors, Marcus Hamm and his family, at arm's length. But this is impossible after an earthquake devastates Istanbul, and Sinan and his family end up living in a tent city provided by American missionaries. Marcus, the director of a missionary school, lost his wife in the earthquake; she was found dead, shielding Sinan's son, who was buried alive for three days before being rescued. Now, Sinan watches as his America-obsessed daughter, Irem, falls in love with Marcus's bipolar son, Dylan, and his impressionable younger son, Ismail, slowly becomes converted to Christianity at the camp. The story moves inexorably toward a climax in which Sinan's Muslim pride and Marcus's Christian proselytizing collide with predictably tragic results. Though some may find the ideological conflict that provides the narrative thrust too textbookish, Drew, who lived in Istanbul at the time of the Marmara earthquake, effortlessly transports readers to a wrecked Istanbul and finds shards of hope in the mountains of rubble. (Feb.)
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