Nov 24, 2013

"Four of the most powerful words in the world"

I came across this article yesterday after someone drew my attention to it. Although the specifics of the journey differ, it reminds me both of my pre-Camino post easy yokes and light burdens and my actual experience on the Camino. It was encouraging to read considering the not insignificant trek I'm preparing for. The conclusion of the article is worth quoting in full here:
The ready generosity of strangers has been the most important lesson he’s taken from his travels, says [veteran travel writer Don] George, who edited an anthology called The Kindness of Strangers for Lonely Planet Publications.

“It’s been probably the single greatest revelation I’ve had as a traveller . . . that basically the world is full of kindness,” he says. “If you get into trouble somewhere and you say to somebody ‘I need help’ . . . wow! the whole village comes out to help you and take care of you and I’ve found that time and time again. I think, ‘Can you help me?’ are four of the most powerful words in the world.”

Nov 18, 2013

18 km closer to Jerusalem

The other day, I met up with a friend in Toronto and we went for an 18 km walk through his part of town. This was the first of many such walks we will be taking in the next ten months, and they're leading up to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pascha in 2015.

I mentioned ten months, since our plan is to start walking to Jerusalem from England. We'll arrive in London shortly after the feast of the Cross in September and walk down to Canterbury, thereby retracing the late medieval pilgrimage made (in)famous by Chaucer.

...and where is he now?

From Canterbury we'll walk the Via Francigena to Rome, arriving sometime in mid-December. Although it would be nice to experience Christmas in the Eternal City, we'll still be less than half way to our goal. At this point, we'll have walked some 2000 km and will seek a pilgrim's Testimonium from the Vatican. We'll probably need to replace our shoes once we reach Rome, and there may even be a few sites worth visiting while we're here.

From Rome, our next destination will be Bari, where we'll pay our respects to St. Nicholas after about three weeks of walking.

From Bari, we'll hop a ferry to Durrës where we'll pick up the Via Egnatia through the Balkans to İstanbul. I spent ten days in this magnificent city in 2006, and I look forward to spending a few more!

The Great Church

When I first started playing with the idea of this great trek shortly after completing the Camino de Santiago, I'd hoped to walk through Turkey into Syria and then into Lebanon as far south as Beirut. From Beirut I'd have headed east again to Damascus and then through Jordan so that the last section of the journey would have been walking west to Jerusalem.

Clearly, this is no longer feasible. Instead, I'll retrace the route recorded by Brandon Wilson in Along the Templar Trail. This will bring us to the port city of Alanya, Turkey. From there, it's a ferry ride to Northern Cyprus and then a walk across the island to Limassol, Republic of Cyprus. From Limassol, we'll take our fourth and final ferry to Haifa, whence it is an eight day walk to Jerusalem. The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Jerusalem have great information covering this part of our journey.

In the next ten months, I need to get back in shape, learn Turkish, set up a new WordPress blog, and save some money. Yes, I'm excited!

May 30, 2013


Okay, perhaps I am to blame for not researching this more diligently before I slapped down my $699 + tax for a brand new BlackBerry Q10. (Fantastic device, by the way!) This is now my fifth BB device, but it is the only one where the problem seems impossible to resolve on my own.

Here's the situation. I use Speakout Wireless for their pre-paid talk time. On my previous BB devices, I was able to use Speakout's $10 per month unlimited browsing plan. It's not a BB data plan, and doesn't support much more than traffic on ports 80 and 443. For $10 a month, I'm not going to ask for much more.   As a budget wireless provider, S/O doesn't provide any guarantee or support if a customer uses a non-S/O phone, but the Un-Official Speakout Wireless forums are great. People have been posting about work-arounds for the iPhone, Android, and other smartphones for years.  I've used several BBOS devices with stunning success.

A week ago, I walked into a Rogers store and bought a Q10. I told the associate that I wouldn't need a wireless plan, since I would be unlocking the device and using my current provider. She warned me that LTE probably wouldn't work, and I assured her I was okay with that.  I even mentioned that I was planning to do some travelling in the near future, and that I'd be using a local SIM to save money while still using my wonderful Q10.  If any of what follows had come out in this initial conversation, I would've walked out the door without a phone.  (To be fair, I wouldn't expect a sales associate to have this level of technical knowledge.)

Apparently, one of the new "features" on the Rogers Q10 is that the option to edit APN settings has been greyed out. To be fair, it's not only Rogers which has colluded with BlackBerry to prevent users from using their phones to their full potential. Once I started searching for a solution, I discovered the CrackBerry and BlackBerry user forums are actively discussing the issue, but the consensus is that unless the provider you purchased the phone from has specifically enabled editing the APN, there is not much a consumer can do. Some international contributors have reported success with their providers' SIM inserted, but it is a matter of luck finding a wireless provider that allows consumers the freedom to use the device they've paid full price for.

I work long hours throughout the week, and so it's taken some time for me to piece this all together. My S/O Wireless SIM gives me ltemobile.apn without the possibility of editing this.  My Mobility Pass SIM gave me great hope when I saw that the APN options were open, but as reported on the BlackBerry user forums, the changes are not saved and the device reverts back to the default settings unless the device has been "properly unlocked" by the original provider.

Finally today I decided I had done all that I could reasonably do.  One of my earlier attempts to use social media to contact both Rogers and BlackBerry elicited a response from @RogersHelps that pointed me to the previous link.  With that in mind, I looked up the Rogers support number and started talking.  The individual there said there was nothing Rogers could do, but that BlackBerry could "flash the memory" and unlock the setting for me.  He then offered to transfer me to the BB help line.  Even though this contradicted the information provided to me by @RogersHelps, I agreed to allow him to pass the buck.  Big mistake.

My next interaction was incredibly frustrating.  The BB voice menu I waded through wound up directing my call to someone in the tablet division.  He tried to transfer my call over to someone in handhelds, but apparently at 16:30 EDT there was nobody available.  To give him credit, he agreed to step up and try to help.  Unfortunately, he didn't seem to understand the details I had given him, and when I commented that his proposed solution wouldn't work based on what he'd already told me, he hung up on me.  About thirty seconds later I got an automated email from the BB help system notifying me of my ticket number and summarizing the problem as best as this guy could understand it when working outside his area of expertise.  About fifteen seconds after that I got another automated email stating that my ticket had been closed and reporting the proposed solution.  (Contact my carrier and get them to contact BB directly.  Now scroll up to the second paragraph and read it again.  Yeah.)

I called BlackBerry Customer Support back, gave them my ticket number and expressed some frustration at being hung up on.  Then I laid out all the above information and held my breath.  And when Lou repeated my story back to me, he had the details right!  After a short wait on hold while I read the paper and presumably he searched for an answer, he came back with "Contact the provider you bought the phone from."

And that almost completes the cycle.  I went back to Twitter.
@RogersHelps @BlackBerryHelp Each company's support line has told me I need to contact the other one to resolve my request for help.

@RogersHelps replied with an offer of help within a minute.  Rather than trying to communicate all of the above 140 characters at a time, I decided to write it up here and send off the link.  Here's hoping that I'll be able to take full ownership of my $700 smartphone soon!  As it is, I feel like I've been pwned by either Rogers or BlackBerry or both.

Feb 26, 2013

The Irish Rovers

Ticket to Ireland: booked!

For two weeks in July, I'll be catching up with my college roommate, and hopefully visiting with the Bearwakers.  Carsten and I will also be doing some walking, from Enniskillin to Croagh Patrick.  If we take our time, we should cover the roughly 170 km in a week.  It's not much of a walk, but it will be a good opportunity for us to check our gear and fitness levels in preparation of a slightly longer walk we're planning to begin next year.  More on that later....