Travel::Kids::Tech::Foreign Service

Archive for the ‘Tech/Gadgets’ Category

Amazon rocks.

If you used the Amazon cloud player, you probably already discovered this…but man did I get a shock yesterday when I went to play some music.  Amazon now provides an electronic copy of every album you’ve purchased from them physically!  It’s called Amazon AutoRip, and I’m thrilled because while we’ve ripped almost all of our *mumble*about 8,000 *mumble* CDs, we haven’t uploaded them all to Amazon yet.  My DH is the music geek and I had only recently convinced him to go to Amazon cloud player for ease of listening at work, and while he’s hooked he hasn’t been able to transfer over new purchases since we’ve been here (I think I mentioned the low bandwidth).

There are still some hiccups.  For example, I often buy music for other people that I wouldn’t necessarily listen to myself, and now it’s in my cloud player.  For myself, I usually just buy the digital copy, so it’s not a huge benefit.  And for my DH, who adamantly buys the actual CD, he often goes through a third-party reseller to get them used, and those aren’t part of AutoRip.  (He’s probably going to stop doing that anyway, as he’s had one too many experiences of the wrong disk being in the case).

This is great for another reason too:  Mal likes to listen to classical music as he falls asleep, but hates wearing earbuds.  As there’s no classical station here, now I can set up a laptop with the cloud player and have hours of music streaming for him.


The second grade has their own wiki

How cool is that?  That’s how they do the second grade newsletter and make sure the parents have all the information about the class and the kids.

Also, if the school should shut down for any reason (like, say, if the fact that Chavez isn’t going to take the oath of office today and yet still be El Comandante in spite of the constitution motivates political riots, or if the massive food shortages mean the school can’t provide food), they go to online learning, and the wikis are the gateway to that.

An interesting insight into what tomorrow’s leaders are going to think of as “normal.”

Things we can’t do in Venezuela

Download music.  I’d gotten in the habit of buying mp3s, and then downloading them to my NAS later.  I’ve been downloading The Hobbit soundtrack for four days now, and I’m about one-third done.  The intertubes are so limited that it cuts off after about 45 seconds, so I have to keep hitting the button.

This is still the internet, so let’s have a post about my cat

A lot of folks wrote me after my last post mentioning that litter was almost $40 a bag, asking what we were going to do about litter.  It’s not like it’s cheap to mail from the States.  Some folks suggested that’s what Venezuelan newspapers are for; others suggested the Washington Times for this purpose.

I’m going a slightly different, and possibly insane, route.

I’d been joking about training Inanna to use the toilet for a while, but when we received our air freight and the only thing that was broken was the litter box (how do you break a plastic litter box?), I went for it.  We are 2 weeks in to toilet training the cat, using the “WORLD FAMOUS” and “AS SEEN ON TV” dorkily-named Litter Kwitter. (The link takes you to their homepage where you get to watch videos of cats peeing, so I personally wouldn’t click it…)

I wouldn’t even bother to try this with any other cat, but Inanna is tiny, graceful, and smart, so if any cat can learn to do this, she can.  I wouldn’t have tried this with our recently-departed cat Enki, as he was dumb as a rock and stunningly clumsy.  And our previous cat Legion, who was awesome and smart and fastidious…well, I think we can all agree that Legion was just a teensy bit overweight, and the toilet-training would have looked like this:


The art print “Fat Cat Capsizing” by Richard Waterwax

But Inanna’s doing great, and I have high hopes that not only will I not need to pay the exorbitant prices for litter, but soon I won’t have to deal with the whole nasty litterbox thing.


Tech in this post: Garmin nuvi GPS.

We went to see El Hobbit: Un Viaje Inesperado yesterday.  All in all it was a successful excursion. We didn’t get lost, didn’t have traffic issues, didn’t get kidnapped, and had time for lunch at the mall before the movie.

The theater was a multiplex at a ritzy mall, and was entirely adequate.  It reminded me of movie theaters in Los Angeles, with the theaters on the floor above the tickets and concessions, but I’ve never seen a working and monitored metal detector at the entrance to a theater in LA.  Also, like most places that aren’t America, you pick your seats when you buy your tickets.

There’s no child discount (although there is on for seniors), but the ticket prices are rational (again, unlike the US).  We opted against the 3D version of the movie, and the theater wasn’t set up for the HFR.  It was set up for eardrum-blasting sound, however.

I guess I could give a review of the movie, but honestly I feel a lot of “why bother?” about it.  If you liked Lord of the Rings, you’ll like it.  If you LOVED Lord of the Rings…you’ll like it.  A couple amazing performances (Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis) and the avoidance of PJ’s worst abuses of dwarves help a lot, but all the things I love about it are due to Richard Taylor and Howard Shore, and I’d have been quite happy with another director and a MUCH tighter script.  It’s not the movie version I would have made.

The mall was the standard developing-world high-end mall, with your Zara and Swatch and such.  The food court was a little more interesting than I was expecting (sushi and cajun options even), but I’ve been in so many malls just like it around the world that I do almost start to believe the world’s a sim, and they are re-using models.

It was refreshingly close to where we live and easy to get to.  This is good, because I don’t think we’re going to be able to use the GPS here.  It’s a new GPS for us, but pretty much the same model we had before (Nuvi by Garmin), and I’d spent the day before loading the map pack for Venezuela onto it.  For whatever reason it cannot seem to acquire satellites in any timely manner; I was halfway home from the mall by the time it did.  Also, unlike any other GPS I’ve had, it wants us to set our country every time we turn it on.

That may be due to the Venezuelan map pack, but what it means is that we also have to go in and set all the language choices each time.  Way too much time and effort, especially when the English Text-to-Speech rules just can’t handle the Spanish street names.  I’m going to try one more time with a Spanish TTS, and hope it doesn’t say “coll” for calle or avenneda for avenida.  I don’t have brain time to dedicate to translating what the GPS says while I’m driving here.

The world, she has changed…

Tech in this post: Nintendo DS, Little Professor calculator, iPad, iTouch

Little Professor math toyWhen I was Mal’s age, my two big Christmas presents were an AM/FM radio shaped like Snoopy and a Little Professor calculator (which was really a math game).   My husband says he got a Texas Instruments calculator.

Mal’s big present this year was a Nintendo DS.  I was expecting it to be something like a GameBoy, but it’s actually more similar to an iTouch.  He can play games, sure…but he can also take photos, edit those photos, listen to music, chat with friends, and to some limited extent surf the Internet.  This means I get my iPad back.

Now, the price point of the DS is probably higher than that of the Little Professor, but even so, there just wasn’t anything like it available.  Mal’s been playing Brain Age Math all day, which highlights the difference; among other things, he writes the answer by hand on the touch screen and the DS recognizes it.

I wonder what mathy computer tool his kids will get for their 7th-8th Christmas.