About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

12 January 2013

Hot Air Balloon Rides

For some reason P has been obsessed with hot air balloons; going up on New Year's Day and then again today. She arm twisted me to wake up ridiculously early (3:30 am!) to come along.

I was glad that I went; it was an amazing experience. So much slower than airplanes, it harks back to an earlier time when it wasn't all about speed and efficiency.

It's not cheap, but well worth it; at least once. See here for more details.

Electronic Boarding Passes

Kulula now allows electronic boarding passes; which was a pleasant surprise this week. They are specifically useful on smartphones, and passbook integration for iOS would be cool.

Surprisingly Comair's other airline - the British Airways franchise doesn't :(

08 January 2013

Cape Town from above

Flying into Cape Town in the evening is a beautiful sight on a clear day; especially around 1 hour before and after sunset.

Wireless-G Account Issue/Security

Nashua-Mobile recently launched an uncapped WiFi service with Wireless-G in South Africa. The registration process was a bit hazy - with Nashua Mobile not knowing the process itself; but once that was sorted, the rest of the registration process was pretty smooth; although still quite convoluted!

When it came to logging on though; it was a damn pain. For some reason my login just didn't work. After a few attempts over a few days, I have up and called the help desk. While friendly and enthusiastic, they recommended a few setting changes to my iPhone. Instead, I tried using M's laptop instead; and had the same issues.

Thus, I decided to just reset the password and behold; it worked. It wasn't that the password was wrong (I could log in to my account); but rather it seems it was too long (15 characters) or it couldn't handle special characters. In fact there are a few security weaknesses beyond not accepting long passwords; they store the passwords in plain text and email and SMS the passwords to you. The helpdesk person also asked for the password so that they can "try" to log on!

I will send through a note to them; let's see what comes out!

Shoe Polish Services

Shoe polishing services are probably one of the oldest small business initiatives; and I have seen them all over the world. In South Africa, they are an institution at the major airports; and to be honest they are often the only reason I have polished shoes! In fact I find it strange that they are only available after security in the departures lounge - I think it would also be a good service in the general public areas and at the luggage pickup area!

The airport initiative is one of the most successful small business startups; and the guys are always friendly. This afternoon there was some friendly banter between the guys; first on one of the guys pointing out that one of his colleague's cleaning equipment was not up to scratch to which the colleague retorted that the others were just jealous that he gets so many customers, leading to higher wear and tear!

I find it quite interesting that you often get the most personal and likable service at small businesses; and it is not because they have a wealth of personal information backed by data mining. It is perhaps a lesson that bigger organizations may need to learn.

07 January 2013

Good Phishing Email

I like coming across really good phishing emails; primarily because I try to think on how to actually identify the email correctly. This morning, I got the following, reputedly from ABSA bank:

Your registeration with us has been cancelled due to our new terms and conditions, please read below to view how to re-register or visit your branch

Read Here

 It had all the hallmarks. Let's start with the sender, sent from a legitimately sounding address "absamail.co.za", which was not detected by Google as a bad domain. The mail relay is "Vodamail", which is somewhat suspicious - but Vodacom's ISP does have a large set of corporate customers, so a Bank is not too surprising. And lastly, all the sending address ( seems to be a South African IP range. I looked on some registration records, but couldn't get much beyond the hosting ISP.

Aside from the sender details, the text itself is short and sweet; and even has a friendly "visit your branch", to give it some credibility. And for the "Read Here" bit, I didn't get a URL overlay (although I can't find any direct bugs; other than a misplaced "HREF=3D", which is apparently a MIME encoding component (from a casual Google search).

The URL has off course nothing to do with ABSA, and is hosted in Romania. I assume it has a drive by download and other nice things - I didn't go and check.

06 January 2013

Movie: Life of Pi

I read the book about 5 years ago (a welcome distraction from writing my thesis); and thoroughly enjoyed it. While I don't remember all the details, the story was memorable and was therefore really looking forward to the Ang Lee's movie adaptation. I found it quite true to the book, capturing Pi's adventure in the lifeboat brilliantly; and the narrative of an older Pi telling the story to a struggling writer worked very well.

It is a beautiful movie; with some stunning cinematography of the open sea. It also manages to capture the post colonial India quite well; with the contrasts of the various cultures that meld together. And the acting was equally impressive; and thus it does set the movie up for at least a good share of award nominations.

Probably the biggest discussion point of the movie (and I don't recall this being in the book), is the claim made by Pi's uncle to the author, that Pi "had a story that would make me believe in God". The movie is not a religious experience which leads one to become a devotee to one of the many Gods explored in the movie (Pi himself professes to follow Hinduism, Christianity and Islam). And there is at least one movie review that criticises the movie for not delivering such a religious experience.

I think the argument posed by the filmmaker is completely different. In fact the argument is not even on whether God exists, but whether one should believe in the concept of God.  In the filmmaker's vision, it is an argument between a rational but cold facts; and a fantastical and irrational story. Those are the two stories that the Life of Pi presents. With the presentation of those contrasting visions, the version that is preferred by all is the fantastical, irrational one. My opinion on the outcome is, that the filmmaker was merely explaining why there is a belief in God; because it is so much easier to accept the fantastical and irrational story instead of the cold rational story.