Titanic Triple Travel Time

2:40 pm (been travellling/airporting for four hours already)
I now embark on an arduous day of travel, connections and transports invented by my airline as a penance for people who don't book flights in time. I'll be visiting three different cities with travel times precisely calibrated to wear down my resolve, all after the initial gauntlet of boarding a flight to America, also known as "Being Arrested on grounds of being Foreign". But I shall prevail! For I learned wisdom at the under a stern tutor; like the greatest Kung Fu masters, he was thousands of years old. Many thought of him as rocky and unyielding, but I learned the value of life and never to waste a single day - not even a day spent imprisoned in an inescapable aerial prison.

I have free time, I have unlimited imagination, and even better - I have electronic devices.

3:36 pm
Flicking through the in-flight movie selection, I find that the 'movie classics' selection is the 2002 version of The Time Machine. For your reference, the feeling of losing your last remaining hope for humanity is a cold weakness draining strength from your cheeks as your face falls in despair.

3:51 pm
Rewrote an article I'm doing for TRENZ magazine, since it was so dull I am wondering if I accidentally swallowed a copy of Readers Digest before writing it. Wanted to en-brilliant-ify the Parkour article as well but it seems it didn't save properly, and at 40,000 feet I can't really connect to Google Documents.

Speaking of Parkour, I have almost completely recovered the use of my legs.

5:03 pm
Played a game of Go against the computer. Go is a famous strategy game that computers just aren't built to learn well; it's used as a common test of AI efforts. I lose the first game by 10 points, the second by 20. Conclusion: I'm learning even slower than something that by design can't learn it.

6:18 pm
We've arrived Dallas and I haven't seen any guns or big hats yet. This may be because we're stuck in the airplane for 20 minutes while the previous flight at the gate prepares; other passengers have voiced frustration, but I cunningly thought ahead by only booking my flights at the last minute and therefore having a three two hour wait ahead of me anyway!

7:26 pm (6:26 pm local)
I heard my very first authentic non-mocking "Y'all" just now. Disappointingly it was by a woman, and she seemed to wear neither gun nor ten-gallon hat, but by her sheer scale I can say she represents the spirit of Texas. There was also the biggest escalator I've ever seen; where any other nation might have given up and built elevators, or at least a short landing halfway, the Lone Star state bravely saves the effort of walking even an extra meter with an escalator that may well be visible from space (and only falls slightly short of reaching it). You may think I'm exaggerating, but I saw an local employee turn, sit on the stairs and start writing once he got on. Clearly once you get used to the majestic automated scale of the whole thing you need something to occupy your mind during the wait.

I also rode the Skylink, an inter-terminal tram that puts most public transit systems I've ridden to shame. Each loading bay outstrips many subway stops, and the ride gave a great view over the whole airfield. (Nerd +1: Looking at many of the planes, I couldn't help but think those wings would make very awkward and flimsy arms once they transformed.)

Despite not being known for their grasp of technology that doesn't fire projectiles, this state has shown a couple of unexpected contrivances:
1. The ATM machine has a headphone jack. This jack does not feature instructions for the blind, as you might expect, but simply plays the beeps louder and directly into your ear canal, in case you feel you may have missed something. Perhaps for capitalist minimalist techno music market.
2. An iPod vending machine. This is the cruelest thing I've ever seen, a torture akin to the water always receding before the eternally thirsty Tantalus, and the fruit always beyond his reach. And that was inflicted by Greek Gods, the Masters of All Pointless Bastardry. Think about it; a distraction starved prisoner of the terminal finally cracks and buys an iPod, anything to relieve the tedium, then stands there holding his lovely new sound device with absolutely no way to load it with music.

The terminal is flanked on both sides by Starbucks, keeping watch against their eternal enemy, variety.

8:20 pm (7:20 pm local)
Everyone reading this, please cut out the following and keep it on your person at all times. If you ever gain access to time travel technology, send it to my younger self standing outside the 'Chili Too' eatery in Dallas Airport:
"Luke, your intuition that the 'Oldtimer chilli burger' will satisfy you is correct, but your hopes that the spicy buffalo wings will be nice, or even remotely edible, are false. Abandon them."

10:20 pm
Jubilation! I'm back in the air and already the whole torturous trip has been made worthwhile, for I have acquired a Skymall catalogue - the holy grail for all who enjoy mocking stupid products, and encyclopedia of pretty much everything that is wrong with capitalism. It feels like the metal duck shoot at a fairground - it's way too easy, but it's so much fun you won't stop until they stop coming.

10:25 pm
Alas, in Dallas I was forced to choose between feeding myself or my laptop battery, and may soon be forced offline.

11:04 pm
Third game of Go against computer. I resign from a hopeless situation before even finishing; at this rate the computer will be checking me on as luggage in the next flight.

11:30 pm
The laptop is out, so I record these notes on paper as I play gameboy instead (luckily I carry multiple electronics with me at all times, or I may be forced to become aware of my surroundings).

I hoped to enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog on my DS but found that the game was translated by rabid fanboys - and not in a good way. I mean either bitter sega fans, despairing that they lost the hardware war and determined to sabotage nintendo where they can; or howling nintendo zealots who have sworn to die rather than let the enemy sully their lands. Either way only a vicious conspiracy could allow a game so utterly broken to be released.

Because Sonic suffers from slowdown.

Yes, on a console I've seen run games four times as complex Sonic staggers and stutters like a broken-legged geriatric, and no amount of pulling out and blowing on the cartridge will save him. Understand that a slow Sonic is like a pacifist R-type, or choosing Ryu and finding yourself in "Street Resolving-conflicts-through-reasoned-discussion II"

Yoshi's Island on the other hand is pure platforming love and threatens to reignite my love of utterly pointlessly collecting coins.

12:30 am
I've been betrayed! The coffee I relied on to keep me awake no matter what has now viciously backstabbed me, keeping me awake no matter what I do to doze. Who saw that coming?

2:30 am (11:30 pm local)
Taxi through downtown San Diego. It's amazing how much downtown San Diego looks like the inside of my eyelids. The fact that the trip only took thirty seconds, apparently, is also mysterious.

3:30 am (12:30 am local)

I've got your iBrand RIGHT HERE

Make your own DIY iPod Shuffle!

Welcome to Max Laboratories, where today we'll show you how to build your very own iPod shuffle - and save a few dollars into the bargain! For this project you will need:

1 x Nomad MP3 player ($40)
2 x Pitchers of Heineken ($36)

The total cost comes in at less than the Shuffle recommended retail price of $80 (we don't mess around with $79.99s here at Max Labs). A lower price may be obtained by replacing Heineken with an american beer like Bud Light or Labatt, but the extra preparations required (being an uneducated tasteless fool who can't distinguish tapwater from beer) aren't worth the savings.

Construction procedure:
1. Purchase and wear your cheap and extremely nice Nomad MP3 player. You will notice that this product, which does not have a major advertising campaign, is cheaper but has more features than the Shuffle you wish to build. Don't worry, we'll soon fix that!
2. Any electronics work area should be non-conductive and staffed by professionals. For this reason we recommend your local bar.
3. Order two pitchers of Heineken. Apply as needed.
4. Your route home should pass several trees. Tree climbing can be as a result of a challenge to your manliness, a surfeit of energy, or a simple reversion to primitive primate programming. It matters not.
5. The mixture and trees, alcohol and gravity should automatically produce a Nomad-breaking impact, without (or even
despite) the efforts of the person currently in the tree.

Your MP3 player now replicates the functions of a Shuffle costing twice the price - Congratulations! You may find that this shuffle-alike emulates the battery life of early-generation portable music technology rather too well, as a cracked LCD screen is the gutshot wound of battery powered electronics - ugly, with a tendency to rapidly bleed out and die. To rectify this lever off the LCD screen and just tear it out with whatever comes to hand. Keys and knives are useful, and convenient should you suddenly be attacked mid-procedure, but you really can't beat the dedicated "nails and teeth" approach that gives such a personal flavor to your possessions. Quite literally, for true practitioners.

Feel the sexy shiny blue!

With the blue LED backlights are exposed your player is now the single sexiest and most desirable piece of kit in existence - as we all know, blue LEDs are modern technological civilization incarnate. It is important to verify that the newly exposed lights remain blue; should they turn red, your foolish tinkering has flipped the 'Evil' switch included in all technology since 1980. Any attempt to use the device after this point may cause irritation, personal injury, and cause you to join the vanguard of fleshling slaves of the inevitable robot uprising. Should you retain any free will despite the inhuman intelligence bending your mind, at this point you should call technical support.

Canada Day

Canada - the country younger than my country's national drink.

I'm kicking back for Canada Day and it is so cute watching this place acting like they have a history and culture. Canada was confederated in 1867 - the Guinness Brewery has a longer history than that, one with more excitement and tragedy: the legendary 9,000 year lease; the 'Breo' disaster; the heart-rending closure of St James Gate and the daring innovations of 'North Star' and 'Toucan'. Canada's entire notable history is:

1867 - Confederated by Queen Victoria, who was tired of dealing with the whole frozen mess.
1814 - Burning of the White House by Canadian forces. You will notice this was before the current 'Canada' technically existed. The fact it was achieved by British forces also eludes those Canadians who bring it up.
2007 - Taking smug pride in being "better than Americans", despite the fact that having your entire national identity defined in terms of another country is a tragedy.

For history and culture you need a set up like Europe: too many tribes, too little land, and they all get gunpowder at the same time so nobody ever gets any peace. This results in masterpieces like London, Paris, Vienna, and maybe just a few of the bloodiest and most nightmarish conflicts in recorded history. A band of gunmen expanding into deserted tundra, stopping occasionally to slaughter tribes whose military capacity is entirely based on combating fish, does not lead to excitement or culture. It leads to Edmonton and Kitchener- the Tenth and Eleventh Circle of North American Hell. Ask an Edmontonian what there is to do and they'll say "The Mall", then sigh, and possibly promise to bear your children if you will but help them escape. The downtown is what the Gobi desert would look like if you could build parking garages out of sand, and at least the searing desolation of the savannah doesn’t close at 5 pm sharp.

Perhaps realizing the terror of this vanilla suburbia the Canucks have set up a great simulation of the pride, arrogance, stupidity and selfishness generated by intracontinental tension with the Quebec situation; but it’s like training to be a boxer by giving yourself brain damage and breaking your knuckles. You're meant to have a half-reasonable goal as well as the stupidity and pain and the concept of a Quebecer nation just doesn't cut it. Not even "Because it would be really funny, then a bit sad". It's like that one episode of every lazy sitcom where a roommate decides to divide the house into two, but without the deeply thought-out financial planning of the average comedy character.

Smaller countries don't work anymore. Even Germany, who you might remember as "the country whose economy could kick the shit out of three other countries combined" and "that tiny nation that took on the entire world and nearly won that time”, is pushing the European Union. When they start gathering countries like Ireland and Estonia to bring up the numbers, shouting "I don't want to play any more" and heading off on your own is statesmanship right up there with the Alderaan governors famous telegram, "Fuck you Darth Vader, what the hell could you do to a planet anyway."

Some people encourage the screaming-child politics of Quebec by acting like it’s an actual issue, but until they find a way to weaponize arrogance we can just ignore them – this is a problem that will go away. Because the best thing I can say about French is: it isn't English and it isn't Mandarin, so it isn't something your grandchildren are going to have to worry about.