About airfares and airplanes

Once in a while I dream about going on a well deserved vacation.
For a few hours I mobilize myself into finding info on a sunny spot. Sometimes it is Cancun, sometimes Malta or Tenerife, depending on the mood of the day.
Almost every time it boils down to how expensive it would be and suddenly my enthusiasm is gone.
At one point I put in balance an all-inclusive (flight included) offered by one travel agency vs. contact the hotel and book the plane ticket on your own.
Searching for a non stop flight to Cancun, I found an offer with AirTransat. Non stop flight from Vancouver to Cancun for about $970 round trip.
Nothing wrong with that, only that the listed price did not include all the other hidden costs, which when added to the original offer, brought the price up to about $1200.
As a rule, here in Canada and for that matter, in the U.S as well, advertised airfares won’t include taxes, fuel surcharges and other fees.
Other fees include: Canada Airport improvements, Canada Security charge, Canada Goods and Services Tax (GST); if you fly into the U.S. you pay U.S. Security charge, if you fly into U.K. you must add U.K.Passenger Service Charge.
Very often an advertised price of $699 ends up as being $1,100.

At this point you may think that the cheapest way around would be to choose a not very expensive airline. With that it comes other hidden dangers.
Like the following case, circulated via emails… hoax or not? it’s hard to say, but definitely it raises suspicions.
So here we are:

For anybody who is not familiar with a jet engine, a jet fan blade should be perfectly smooth.
A pilot for a Chinese carrier requested permission and landed at FRA (Frankfurt, Germany) for an unscheduled refuelling stop. The reason became soon apparent to the ground crew: The Number 3 engine had been shutdown previously because of excessive vibration, and because it didn’t look too good. It had apparently been no problem for the tough guys back in China: as they took some sturdy straps and wrapped them around two of the fan blades and the structures behind, thus stopping any unwanted wind-milling (engine spinning by itself due to airflow passing through the blades during flight) and associated uncomfortable vibration caused by the sub optimal fan.

Note that the straps are seat belts….how resourceful! After making the ‘repairs’, off they went into the wild blue yonder with another revenue-making flight on only three engines! With the increased fuel consumption, they got a bit low on fuel, and just set it down at the closest airport (FRA-Frankfurt) for a quick refill.
That’s when the problems started: The Germans, who are kind of picky about this stuff, inspected the malfunctioning engine and immediately grounded the aircraft. (Besides the seat belts, notice the appalling condition of the fan blades.) The airline operator had to send a chunk of money to get the first engine replaced (took about 10 days). The repair contractor decided to do some impromptu inspection work on the other engines, none of which looked all that great either. The result: a total of 3 engines were eventually changed on this plane before it was permitted to fly again.

What makes celebrities so unhappy?

Yesterday I read about Heath Ledger dying from an apparent overdose. He was 28.
Again, I was asking myself: what makes celebrities so unhappy to look for peace in drugs?
Take a look at the majority of young actors and actresses: by the time they reach 21, they have already been through a few detox programs.
Why the need?
What about Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears? One hops from one penis to another, the other one lost the custody of her kids.
Both of them seem to have lost their mind. How can they be so shallow?
Some people feel sympathetic to their problems, but what problems? they created their own problem.
I have read that Britney Spears did not really have a good childhood and that her image has been oversexed. True, but I remember her years ago, she was sweet. Now she is repugnant. All that skimpy cloths and nails with partial polish make her look like white trash. Is she?
Years ago I have read a book written by John Douglas, ex FBI profiler. I could understand the need to wash away haunting memories. I can understand the trauma experienced by officers working for special victims unit, especially dealing with child related crimes. But celebrities? what trauma do they have? too much money to spend?

If this is the price to pay for being a celebrity, than I would happily keep being an obscure person.

What does my Horoscope look like for 2008?

Yesterday I spent some quality time on the net: I wanted to read the horoscope for 2008 for my family.
So, I started my quest for a free quality horoscope.
Easier said than done. I found some sites but the quality was less desirable.
Moving on I stumbled upon a mixed kind of horoscope on some Indian astrology site. Mixed because it refers to the western style horoscope with our typical animals zodiac, but adds to that influences of planets more characteristic to eastern cultures.

This is an abstract of my horoscope (Leo):
“Transiting Saturn and Ketu over the ascendant are capable to provide malefic results. There might be delay in your important pursuits. From beginning of the year to 29th of April 2008, Saturn and Ketu conjunction will provide bad results. If, remedies are done to remove ill effects of these planets, Transiting Jupiter over the 5th house and Bhagyesh Mars over the 11th house are fully capable to provide cherished consequences.”

I have started already feeling a sense of panic reading about the malefic influences. Considering that the past two years had been less than glorious, I needed a break. A good one.
Next step : Finding how to counteract the ill effects.
And I found it!

To counteract Saturn ill influence you have to wear a blue sapphire ring.
But there is a whole ritual to be followed; there is a certain day of the week, a certain time and even a specific mantra you have to recite.
Mantra: “Om Sham Shanaishcharaye Namah Om”.
Day for wearing: Saturday
Time for wearing: Sunset

Blue sapphire should be embedded in silver or mixed five metals or iron ring. It should be worn on the middle finger.
The ring should be kept in a copper bowl full of water on Saturday. Two hours before the sunset, the water is to be discharged.

To counteract the malefic influence of Ketu (the moon descending node) you have to wear a cat’s eye ring.
Apparently this gemstone is related to psychic powers, spirits and astral forces.
Cat’s eye is found in yellow, black, dark or smoky-green, and white. Common to all shades is the band of light moving across the stone (chatoyance). A gem having a white band of light is supposed to be best. Cat’s-eye shines like the eye of a cat in darkness, but it does not shine in total darkness.
Mantra: “Om Kaim Ketave Namah”
Day for wearing: Wednesday, Thursday or Friday
Time for wearing: Two hours after sunset

Cat’s eye should be embedded in silver or mixed five metals. The ring should be worn on the middle finger of the right hand.
The ritual asks for the ring to be washed with water and unboiled milk, while reciting the mantra.

Now the problem with quality gemstones is the price. So far I could not find any good quality one for a decent price.
The lowest price for blue sapphir was $300 per carat!!! Thinking that it’s recommended to use gems of at least 1.5 carat… you do the math.
I could not find any rings made with cat’s eye. I am still searching all the sources: ebay, google, you name it and I try it.

Is there any affiliate program that it’s not a scam?

For the past two months I’ve been trying pretty hard to find a way to monetize my writing. Don’t get me wrong. I like having a blog to share my thoughts with my readers. But hey, if I can add some $$ value to it, why not?
I remember the day when I spent $47 buying info about getting rich through affiliates sites. Big, big scam.
You can’t make money with them, unless on top of this amount you pay a monthly fee to get your already designed website (by the affiliates hosting it) and at that point you can add other stuff to your website. Still depending entirely on the affiliate network.
I am not going to say the name, but it’s a very popular one.
There are a few important things to remember and take into account:
1. Most of the affiliate programs are based on pyramidal marketing, meaning that the people on top of the pyramid are the ones making good money; you on the other hand, are the new entry into the system, you are not going to make almost anything. I made a lame $10 in three or four months
2. If you are told that all you have to do is to get for a certain amount of money for a website hosted by the affiliate program, and after that sit on your butt and collect the moolah, run as fast as you can.
3. Logically speaking, could it be any normal marketing millionaire sharing secrets about getting rich on the net, for $47 or $97? why would they do that? It pisses me off to no extent even this amount : why 47 or 97? why not 98? It must be some psychological tool.
4. Beware of the ‘getting rich without investing any money’ trap. If there is indeed something like that, I have very serious doubts that somebody would share the info with the blogoshpere.
5. I tried to get into affiliate programs not by selling dreams and ebooks, but by promoting sales of products, namely herbs, vitamins and teas. Another warning point: most of them are Multi Level Marketing, and you are asked for money to get accepted as a seller. OK… does it make any sense? I have my own domain, my own website, my potential customers and I have to pay money to X or Y retailers to sell their products? You have to read about 20 pages of legal disclaimers, sign that you agree with all the terms, pay the money and then, good luck. On top of that the whole e-business may go tits up suddenly.

Statistically speaking, most of the successful internet marketers are in their late 20s- early 30s. These guys were born with a hand on a remote control or a game console.
They have started internet marketing campaigns in late 90s. We are now in 2007, almost 2008 and logically speaking we have lost about 10 years of trying to make money on the net.
We don’t have the time or the energy to learn everything we need to be successful.
And this is where the ‘beauty’ (not!) is: they now as much as we do, that we need this precious info. Whatever freebee we get, it’s probably not very useful or it’s been already used and it’s living the final moments. And here I am talking about the sort of honest guys.
Other type of e-marketers are going to sell the useless info, because guess what? Their motto is ‘a sucker is born every minute’

Conclusion: it’s a rant, yes it is, I am a bad sport, sour looser, whatever. But I lost the money I earned working hard, not scamming people.
And the reality is that it is foolish to believe that multimillionaires gurus are going to tell me how to make money.

Designer pets: Ethic or not?

I am looking forward to hearing and reading the next debate on genetically engineering aka manipulation, with animal protection activists foaming over the concept of ‘designer pets’.

Personally I must admit that I don’t fancy this concept either. I guess people would be better off if available grants are used to find cures to diseases going rampant, rather than creating animals for the rich and famous.
Because let’s face it, who is going to spend $22,000 on a designer cat? But hey, the positive aspect is that some cat or dog expensive breeds might get a more realistic, down to earth price.

A California based biotech company, named Lifestyle Pets has created a hybrid exotic breed of domestic cat that resembles a mini leopard.
Introducing the Ashera cat.
According to the info from their website

The Ashera is the world’s rarest and most exotic breed of domestic cat.
Developed by blending two exotic feline bloodlines with a domestic breed of cat, the distinctive result is the Ashera.
Featuring leopard-like spots and contrasting stripes, the Ashera can reach a weight of thirty pounds (14 kg). Lifestyle Pets developed the Ashera by way of a proprietary blend of the exotic bloodlines of the African Serval and Asian Leopard Cat subsequently bred with a domestic cat. Genetic monitoring is used to standardize breeding and ensure that the defining features of the Ashera remain exceptionally consistent.
Ashera cats are highly intelligent, very affectionate and have great temperaments, requiring the same care as any ordinary cat. Fully socialized, the Ashera gets along well with children and other pets and takes well to being walked on a leash.
New for 2008: The Ashera GD, an hypoallergenic version of the Ashera.
Priced at $22,000 for the standard Ashera and $28,000 US for the GD version”

The company has a large distribution network covering the whole world.
Most of the 100 Ashera cats sold this year by the company have been to customers in Russia and China.
The Ashera is just one of the lucrative breed of designer cats.
Other hybrid varieties include the Toyger, which is a cross of a Bengal and a domestic cat, the Chausie , a mix of jungle and domestic cats, the Savannah , which resulted from breeding an African Serval and a house cat, the Pixie Bobs and the Safari Cat, a hybrid of South American Geoffroys cat.

Chausie Cat

Lifestyle Pets accepted that Savannah and Ashera might look pretty much alike, but they have different characteristics. From what I have read it looks like savannah cats are bred more naturally so to speak. Which makes me wonder what type of procedure Lifestyle Pets used? Some sort of in vitro fertilization (IVF)? They needed a prototype to work with.

Checking the Toyger website I noticed a long list of breeders, most of them in the United States, so I presume that they are not doing IVF due to the difficulty of the procedure, but rather follow regular breeding techniques. Although from their website : the kittens are leaving the breeding premises spayed or neutered.

In 2009 Lifestyle Pets is planning to offer dogs as well. The Jabari GD is a true hypoallergenic small dog priced at $15,000 US.

Curious as a cat, I looked for the etymology and this is what I found:
Ashera = Canaanite fertility goddess or meta-virus brought to earth naturally or by aliens in the science fiction book ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson
Jabari = the brave one, fearless… kind of funny because the dog is small and white

Final thought: maybe we should give the go-ahead to human cloning and develop hybrids with an IQ in three digits. So far the vast majority of the Earth population is way below the 100 mark.