Archive for December, 2013

31st December
2013
written by bob

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers!

Christmas this year is being spent in the southern French Alps at the Isola 2000 ski resort. Spending the week here for Christmas, we’re hoping for some great skiing and lots of fun in the snow. I was a bit worried the week leading up to our departure as there wasn’t much for new snow (for the past 2 weeks). Isola only had a base of 65cm. Not bad, but certainly not great. We were booked Saturday to Saturday and, unlike our last couple of local ski trips (Valberg & Auron), this time we drove rather than take the bus. The weather was perfect for driving and we arrived after a quick 2 hr trip.

This was probably the first real weekend for skiing since there hadn’t been too many snowfalls prior to this weekend. Where to stay? We were booked in the New Chastillon Hotel. Over the last 8 months, it has been completely renovated into a more modern hotel. It’s prior history did not have very good reviews. However with a new look, our first impression was that it appeared quite nice although they seemed to be still scrambling to get things in order upon our check-in; which incidentally took probably 45 minutes. Not a good start; especially if you want to improve your public perception and online reviews! (More on this in a future post.)

Miss G's Chateau Neige.

Miss G’s Chateau Neige.

Sunday was a day full of super-fun stuff to do! A fresh blanket of the “perfect packing snow” had fallen last night and awaited Miss G’s plans for a snowman! We ventured outside to explore the hotel surroundings. While I went to get G’s new, blue sled, G and Mommy rolled a few large snowballs for G’s first snowman. It was about as tall as her. We found a small hill for Miss G to sled down and after a few trips down the hill, we explored more of the area around the SkiPass Ticket building. G found some fresh, un-trampled snow where she could lay in the snow and create a couple of snow angels. Then, it happened. A family snowball fight! At first, it was every person for them self although G was taking the brunt of the flying snowballs. On the downside of a hill, G and I took cover from mommy. We stamped the snow for a floor and build a small wall to keep hidden from mommy’s barrage. Initially what was supposed to only provided cover, turned into 2 hours of snow engineering to produce a LARGE snow fort for Miss G. As time passed, the walls continued to be reinforced and built higher. Once complete, our “Chateau Neige” incorporated a lookout, an ammunition (snowball reloading) hole, and an underside entrance. People started to walk over, observe, and compliment us on our masterpiece. It had especially caught the eye of 2 younger boys that were nearby though they never came over. One gentleman, even went so far as to ask us if were going to build a roof for it? Ummm, not today! That 2 hours created quite the appetite!

Christmas Eve 2013 at Isola ski resort.

Christmas Eve 2013 at Isola ski resort.

After lunch, it was time to go collect our ski rental equipment. Miss G informed us that she wanted to attend ski school for 5 days this trip. Now enrolled, we need to go get her gear at InterSports. The shop was pretty much beside our hotel and following a quick 2 minute walk, we met Jean and his staff. With G taken care of we discussed a small problem we had with Katherine’s equipment. In the flurry leading up to our departure, we accidentally booked Katherine’s skis from the Auron store and not Isola. After 2 emails to InterSports to correct and clear up this honest error, no one replied to help us out (not surprising). At this point, we just figured that talk to the people a InterSports was the best solution. That was when we met Jean, the manager of the InterSports shop in Isola. Jean listen attentively to our situation and explained that it could be an issue since we paid for the equipment online and the money was with the Auron store. Ouch! However, Jean told us to sit tight and he would see what he could do. He would call the “big” boss and explain what happened. Ummmm, what? Actual customer service in France!? True story.

After a few minutes, Jean came back and informed us that it would not be a problem to collect Katherine’s equipment in Isola. Jean and his boss would work out getting the money from the Auron shop. Wow! We were amazed. In all the time we have spent in France, no one has gone out of their way like that before. Most shops/people we have dealt with would have just said, “too bad” and we would have had to double rent with no chance of refund on the mistaken gear. That is the typical French way. Jean and his staff are great! We HIGHLY recommend Jean and renting from InterSports when you visit Isola! Jean will take the greatest care of you when you aren’t expecting it! Merci beaucoup Jean.

Au revior, mes amis!

25th December
2013
written by bob

This is a blog I have been meaning to write for quite a while now. ┬áToday’s the day.

In the wave of security and privacy concerns over the past 2-3 years, I have become more and more disturbed by the number of tracking scripts, beacons, etc. that websites have employed to watch our every click on the Internet. From Facebook to Google to your favourite news site and online shopping site (ahem…Amazon), they’re all watching everything we do.

BEFORE blocking update(s).

BEFORE blocking update(s).

AFTER updating blocking on JumpTime.

AFTER updating blocking on JumpTime.

Do I have anything to hide online? No. BUT, that is not the point. Personally, I believe everyone should be able to surf the Internet without worry that everything click or mouse movement is being tracked/recorded by who-knows-what-site. It’s not exactly anonymous but at least it would be “some” privacy. While there are several great services that you can pay for such as numerous VPN sites which will help you surf the net anonymously, most people do not necessarily want to shell out $6-12 (USD) per month just to do so. (Incidentally, I also use a VPN especially when I’m force to use public wifi however, that is another blog for another day.)

Enter Ghostery.

Ghostery is a browser plugin that allows you to view all site tracking scripts. It’s really an eye opener to see how many there actually are. I had always know of a few mainstream ones BUT you would be surprised by the number of other smaller trackers. Ever heard of Gravatar, New Relic, or Quigo AdSonar? Exactly, me either. As Ghostery states, “it sees the invisible web” – all the things you do not see visible to your eye. Ghostery is quite easy to install in any of your favourite browsers (Chrome, FireFox, IE, etc). Just follow the install instructions on their site. You can control blocking of EVERYTHING and you also have the option of “whitelisting” sites. Whitelisting allows you to specify a site or tracker is okay to be enabled and you allow the beacon to run. Inadvertently, blocking some trackers could possibly interfere with some site features (pictures, videos, etc) however whitelisting trackers will alleviate such issue. Ghostery really gives you the control you want and not the control the site “tells” you, you want. Here is an example of the number of trackers/beacons from just 1 site (I don’t remember which one):

This is one website.  Looks how many trackers there are here.  I have blocked almost all of them!

This is one website. Looks how many trackers there are here. I have blocked almost all of them!

I have been using Ghostery for the better part of 2 years and I have no issues with it. It works as promoted. And…it’s SIMPLE! Did I mentioned Ghostery is anonymous? It is. This is probably one of the best features they provide. No information is exchanged unless the user opts in to enable GhostRank. You can read more about GhostRank on their site. Regarding privacy for Ghostery (taken right from their site):

PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY:
Ghostery is built and maintained for users that care about their online privacy, and is engineered with privacy as a primary goal. Ghostery use is anonymous. No registrations or sign-ups are required. The Ghostery plug-in does not place session cookies into your browser. Neither the Ghostery application nor Evidon receives any data from Ghostery users unless the user opts-in to participate in GhostRank. GhostRank data is anonymous, it is NEVER used for advertising targeting purposes, and is only shared in an aggregated, non-personal, statistical form.

Finally! A company that understands privacy from the customer’s point of view and not their “self-imposed, you-do-privacy-our-way” bullshit. Thank you Ghostery. You actually “get it” and you are looking out for people and not the corporation.

Au revoir, mes amis!