The End Of The Aughties

Diogenes's picture

We draw the year to an end today. It has been a remarkable year. A flurry of articles about the 'best of the decade' have appeared, and this last decade has even been given a name - the Aughties, which is a lame effort to make it sound as exciting or memorable as other decades. I suppose it all started with looking back at The Roaring Twenties and The Dirty Thirties. Some decades stand on their own - The Sixties were just so different from the others it defies attaching any defining adjective to it.

We returned home to Calgary for xmas again to find lots of snow but a little warmer than last year. It has been a white xmas for two years in a row now and much colder than average. It's as if Alberta set out to prove that global warming is a myth with a convincing demonstration that it is not getting any warmer and we need all the warmth we can muster from around the globe just to get our cars started.

It was -46°C in Edmonton just a couple of days before we were to land in sunny Alberta. Calgary is 300 km closer to the equator than Edmonton, so it was a more balmy -32°C at the time. Fortunately, by the time we arrived, the cold front was gone and it was a much more pleasant -7°C. The coldest we felt this year was -20°C; which was just slightly cooler the warmest temperature that we experienced in the previous year.

PrimeRib (5K)

But cold weather never stops the true Albertan from having a BBQ with Alberta beef, the best in the world. We enjoyed prime rib 3 times, BBQ steak once, and of course, turkey (from the oven). And I enjoyed 3 giant, ruby red, California pomegranates, also the best in the world, and almost impossible to find in Europe.

phillipsWebcam (5K)

What not to buy

This xmas I bought Mom a webcam so we can do Skype video calls. The first webcam I bought was a Skype certified kit made by Phillips. I even followed the instructions, installing the software before plugging in the camera.

The camera has a built in microphone. The kit also included a telephone headset. I installed the software on a Microsoft Vista Home Edition desktop computer. Vista often makes installting new software more interesting than it should be.

Let me describe how things did not work. The microphone built into the camera worked with Skype as long as you were not making a video call. If you attempted to make a video call, then the built in microphone did not work. You had to use the headset, which involved plugging in 2 RCA jacks into their proper sockets. There were 5 sockets to choose from and the color coding of the cables jacks and sockets did not match. I had to get down on my knees and squint at the markings on the cables and jacks to make sure I had the right plug in the right jack. How convenient.

Of course, with the headset plugged in, the hi-fi speaker system that came with the computer does not work; until you unplugged the headset.

After about 4 hours of screwing around, I did manage to get everything working with Skype, but it also required re-configuring Skype every time the computer was restarted or the headphone set plugged in.

This is an incredibly stupid product. It took another hour to uninstall the software from the Vista system, as it was necessary to restart the computer in SAFE mode for the uninstall program to work correctly.

logitechWebcam (3K)

Two days later I had traded in the Phillips kit for a Logitech C500 camera that actually cost $20 less. The built-in microphone works great and the picture quality is much superior to the Phillips product.


Even the software that came with the camera is is kind of fun because you can do all kinds of stupid things with it, like make yourself look like Stimpy or a talking pig. And no headset is necessary.

Have a safe and pleasant flight

This year we had direct Amsterdam/Calgary flights with KLM, which trimmed 4 hours from our trip each way. We arrived at the Calgary airport 2½ hours early, which was 30 minutes later than recommended because of increased airport security screening. But the KLM check-in line only a 10 minute wait. Unbelievable!

airtravel (13K)

The West-Jet queue next to us had 4 switch-backs that spanned their entire check-in counter before the line continued to wrap itself around into the airport departure promenade. I'm guessing the line was at least 1½ hours in length.

Much of this had to do with the exploding underwear bomber they caught on the xmas flight to Detroit. So there was this over-reaction to security on flights bound for the USA. This security mania was totally absent on the flight to Amsterdam, which actually made for a pleasant trip. I typically hate air travel, but when chaos and queues are expected, and none of that actually happens to you, air travel is quite enjoyable.

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