Sunday, March 27, 2011

Next stop: Amsterdam

Time for some field testing of Kindlefish and pannekoeken: I'll be in Amsterdam for the next few days.

Friday, March 25, 2011

McDonald's Around the World: Stockholm, Breakfast Edition!

In case you missed the previous post, you can see the standard and night menus over here, but this time around I ended up at a McDonalds in time for breakfast on my way to Romme Alpin with some friends. What does a Swedish McDonalds do differently? Well, take a look:

 Yes, Swedish McDonalds offer Swedish pancakes for breakfast! No hotcakes here! I didn't end up getting that this time, but there's some serious localization going on here. See more after the jump!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kindlefish - No Muss Translations for the Amazon Kindle

One of the best features of the Amazon Kindle is the ability to access the internet virtually anywhere for free. Since there is no touchscreen, the interface can be a bit difficult at times, but for simple errands like checking your email, reading up on something on wikipedia, or sending a text message with google voice it's great. For example, I step off the plane, switch on my Kindle and a few moments later I can send a SMS saying that I got there safely. It doesn't cost me a thing and it just works.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Kindlefish is back with a whole new look! Please read more about it here.

However, one thing that hit me the other day is that I should be able to use Google Translate on the Kindle to help me out in situations where I need to communicate a message, but there's a language barrier. The standard Google Translate page doesn't work for the Kindle and the mobile Google Translate page returns text that is too small to be easily read, and a little clunky for use on the Kindle.

So I fixed it. I present to you: Kindlefish!

Details and a walkthrough after the break!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ich war ein Berliner: Three things to do in Berlin, Part 3

3. The DDR Museum (Station: U2, U5, U8: Alexanderplatz)

The history of a split Berlin is visible at a glance of the architecture in Berlin, but the culture of the former East Berlin has rapidly been replaced with the usual western, pro-consumerism capitalism that we all are familiar with. The DDR Museum opened in 2006 as a private museum, and is a very interesting slice of East German culture. Part of the museum consists of the usual exhibits on the macro-political conflicts and the Berlin wall, but a good portion of the museum is devoted to nothing more than the everyday life of an East German. And that is fascinating.

Ich war ein Berliner: Three things to do in Berlin, Part 2

2. Tempelhof (Station: For Building, U6: Platz der Luftbr├╝cke, For Park, U6: Tempelhof)

Tempelhof is an airport in the south of Berlin with a very long history, some good and some bad. It was built during by the Nazis prior to World War II and was built in the impressively terrifying monumental style of that regime. The building itself is more than a half mile wide between it's "arms", which dwarfs anything in the area. It is well preserved and gives a sense of the architecture of the time, which makes it worth a building if for nothing else than to reflect over would have been. In many ways, I wonder how something so obviously from that era could survive the process of denazification that occurred after the war...

Tempelhof on a West Berlin Stamp

Ich war ein Berliner: Three things to do in Berlin, Part 1

Berlin is a great city with a complex mix of new and old cultures right at the epicenter of some of the largest battles in modern history, both physical and ideological. Moving throughout the city, it's very clear that Berlin is a city that is constantly in a state of change and re-imagination. For a city that offers someone for everyone, I was really glad to be able to get away from the more touristy areas and spend the days with my friend and resident Berliner in some more out of the way places. In particular, I'd like to share three places, one of which is really interesting but on the beaten path, while the other two are a little more out of the way. After the break, we'll visit a fleamarket, Tempelhof, and the GDR museum!


10 Minutes in North Korea!

Given how little video comes out of North Korea, it's amazing to see a slice of life from there. Steve Gong gives us this insight into the nation, filmed in secret. Apparently the North Koreans aren't up on the latest camera tech, because they didn't know that his Canon 5D could also shoot video. Combined with a little electric tape to cover the screen and some practice focusing blind (something I need to do), this is the result. The full raw footage will be part of a film project, "One Day on Earth", who hired him to go there.

Personally, I would find it completely unnerving to have those video camera guys popping up all over the place around me. There's one at 2:17 filming him and then another 3:45 in a complete different area. Is that just because he's a foreigner, or is that just part of "normal" society?

[Steve Gong via John Herrman]

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Flight Report: RyanAir (for a change)

I have a friend in Berlin and promised to visit her at some point, since she moved back there last month. Since my schedule is a little tight and I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on it, I decided to try RyanAir for the first time ever. Whooooo boy.

My ticket was about $35, including all of their miscellaneous fees (and without any checked luggage, which would have been an additional $35). Even when you consider the $35  and hour long ride out to Skavsta (which is "Stockholm" in RyanAir parlance, which is actually 90km to the south), it's still a pretty good deal, but I have never been on such a cheesy airline before!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Mileage Game: Why I picked United Mileage Plus

This is a follow up to my earlier post about how to pick a mileage program, just to show how it happened in my case. I am an active member in two programs:
  • United Mileage Plus (for Star Alliance)
  • Alaska Airlines (for basically everyone else)
And here’s I picked them:
  • Hub cities: Seattle (SEA) is Alaska Air’s Hub city, which means they are going to very attractive for the number of flights and pricewise, so major points to them. United is present at SEA, but so does Delta and Southwest, so on that end it’s a draw.
  • Alliances and Who I fly with: A lot of my international flights are on Lufthansa (LH), Continental (CO), SAS (SK) or United(UA), so Star Alliance was a pretty obvious choice. Alaska (AS), Delta (DL), Northwest (NW), British Airways (BA), and American Air (AA) are all sometimes airlines for me, but BA and AA are in oneWorld while DL and NW are in SkyTeam while AS is in its own world.
  • Earning potentials: Alaska brings in all of my random players under one roof: I earn miles on my AS account when I fly AA, BA, AS, or DL. That was a win because otherwise wouldn’t be able to pool my miles and I don’t fly any of them enough to really accumulate enough miles just on their own. With the Star Alliance side, UA makes sure that I get 100% of my flown miles more of the time than the programs with LH, CO, or SK.
  • Bonuses and Redemption: Chase is hooked up with UA and Bank of America is AS’s bank. I have an aversion to Bank of America and their offer wasn’t as attractive as the 25,000 from Chase. LH didn’t have anything and while CO’s was similar to UA’s, UA still had more options to earn bonus miles through partners. In terms of redemption, I really didn’t know but it turns out that AS and UA are both pretty good about mileage inventory.
Final Verdict: UA due to partner airlines, destinations, bonus miles through partners, and redemption opportunities and AS for all of the other airlines that I usually fly just to get them in under one roof (since then they’ve also added Kenmore Air and Icelandic Air as partner airlines, so this was a big win for that role!).