Sicko - about France

Sicko - about France

Yesterday I saw Michael Moore's Sicko movie.

First off, let me say that it's absolutely terrifying when you see the stories of all those people literally ripped off by their health insurance company! Boy I was worried about that stuff before (when considering to move to the US), now I consider it as the #1 pitfall if I ever actually want to relocate over there.

Anyway, as always with Michael Moore, the reality is twisted to make it more... tasty? For example when he comes to France and shows how a "middle class family" lives... he doesn't actually show a middle class family.

He asks them how much they make and they say 8000 € a month. Well... the average salary in France is around $1500 a month. Now a family where both parent work will make an average on 3000 €/month. More than 2.5 times less than what Moore depicts as a "middle class" home.

On the other hand, the rest of the story about how the government takes care of our health is basically accurate... with a lot of details overly simplified...

Again, he states we pay a lot of taxes (I won't deny :P) but doesn't mention that those taxes aren't actually enough to cover for the costs. The healthcare system here is growing a humongous debt year after year. For some reason, it doesn't seem to implode though...

So how much can you actually trust the guy on accuracy?

Now I wish someone from the US would deny it all and tell me that if you cut your fingers off, you'll get them fixed, no matter what. And that if you get cancer, you'll get treatment without having to put a mortgage on your house... if you have one. That kind of crap would never happen in France. (I mean, it hasn't happened yet...)

The good thing: it helps me see the good side of France :> ('coz I could bitch about France for hours...)

iPod touch: what's missing!

So that new iPod touch that Apple presented today is pretty nifty, isn't it? And Steve's keynote was pretty entertaining too.

Yeah well... there's quite a few missing features (no it's not the Beatles) that itch me... even before I lay down the $399 I will no doubt end up spending on this (nonetheless) beautiful peace of art. And Especially:

Podcasts: yes, so it has WiFi and a browser and an online music store... but what about podcasts? You subscribe to podcast in order to get new episodes when they become available. The least I'd expect from a WiFi enabled portable podcast player is to actually get the episodes of the podcasts I'm subscribed too. Not a single word about that...

...well maybe it is actually there. Maybe Steve just didn't mention it because they haven't found a way to gently rip you off with it, as they're getting ready to do with their iPhone ringtone business! Think about it: you already bought a full length song (at a fairly high price). Now Apple lets you clip out 10 seconds of that song to use as a ring tone. All you have to do is pay another $.99 for those 10 seconds you already have on your iPone! Why exactly did people applause to that?

Email: can you name one single good reason why this thing doesn't include a POP3/IMAP mail client? Does Apple's partnership with Google go so far they're going to encourage us to use Gmail instead?

And by the way, if Google rules, where's the Google maps application?

Edit: The new $20 iPod Touch upgrade finally addresses that!

Games: Steve proudly showed off the games on the new iPod nano. What about the iPod touch? Can I play all the games I purchased for my iPod "classic" on my soon to be iPod touch? Odds look pretty bad...

PDA features: This device now clearly has the capabilities of a top of the line PDA. It just lacks some software to do it right. Todo lists, anyone? Can you at least edit your calendar and contacts on the go? You couldn't do it with the previous iPods and Steve didn't mention it. It would be odd not to be able to do it, but then again, the software on this one is so trimmed down compared to the iPhone that I'm a little scared...

Edit: you can now edit calendar and contents in version 1.1.2.

Now of course, what I should really do is get an iPhone... Especially at the new $399 price! Yeah... if only they were available in Europe... (fingers crossed for Apple Expo Paris this September).

Camera: Actually, now the iPhone is just $100 more than the iPod, does it really make sense not to have a camera built into the high-end iPod? ... well, that would make it a killer blogger tool for sure. And again, the iPhone is *not* available everywhere, not even in certain regions of the US where there is no AT&T coverage...

Jetlag 2.0

Ok, so I'm back to France... and guess what: I'm actually seeing the light of day!! :)

When I flew back from California last October I had the hardest time ever to sync back to European time. This time... it might be smoother...

There is a 9 hour time difference between California and France. That means that when you normally wake up at 10 am California time, it is already 7 pm France time. So when you fly over this way, you tend to wake up in the evening... stay up all night... and finally feel sleepy in the morning. Do that in the winter when the days are shorter and the nights longer... and you literally won't get to see the light of day for weeks! Guaranteed ending up somehow depressed...

This time I tried to prepare real hard for the trip back home. I would go to sleep really early for the last few days in California, then get up every morning around 5 am (2 pm French timezone).

So I planned I would keep that rhythm when coming back: wake up at 2pm and manage it from there...

Of course it didn't go as planned! Does it ever anyway?

I couldn't sleep for the whole overnight flight. T'was actually the most turbulent flight I think I ever experienced. We landed at sth like 11 am yesterday and I got home at something like 1pm. Had to stack up the fridge first ad basically got to sleep around 6 pm, just when daylight would start to fade a little...

I woke up several times during the night but fell asleep again shortly thereafter, until 6am when I just couldn't sleep any longer. Luckily the day would dawn around 6:30 and I'm now feeling almost okay.

Of course I always talk about jet lag on planes and nobody seems to have ever cracked it really... However, I just felt so bad last time that I keep thinking there's room for improvement, at least for myself.

So far, this time seems to good to be true. But on the other hand there's one thing that makes it a lot easier: summer time! Days are long enough to make it easy to wake up at some point when it's *not* dark outside. And daylight helps, really, a lot!

Anyway, we'll see how it goes in the next few days...

Let's get to work!!

Alive in California

Allright I’m not dead yet. I’m actually back in San Francisco after a 5 week trip through Chicago IL, Kansas City MO, Flagstaff AZ, the Grand Canyon AZ, Monument Valley UT, Las Vegas NV and San José CA…

I just did the SF Friday Night Skate again ;) Gotta put up some videos for that!

In the meantime, if you’re interested, I’ve got a small boatload of pictures from the trip online.

So far:

  • Most amazing natural site: Grand Canyon
  • Most amazing artificial site: Las Vegas – The Strip
  • Most beautiful site: Monument Valley
  • Worst food: Amtrak
  • Best food: Chicago (still deciding between Gibson’s and The Chop House)

USA mobile travel survival guide

1 line summary: when you travel from Europe to the US for several weeks, sign up foT AT&T’s prepaid phone plans and T-Mobile’s monthly WiFi plan. Then, pray for coverage!

Ok, I’m sitting in the train right now. Going from Chicago to Kansas City where I’m gonna meet Danny from the evoTeam. I’m actually writing this offline since there is no WiFi on the train. I’d almost say “of course”, but hey, this is the US! You would expect WiFi just about everywhere, wouldn’t you?

I’ve been disappointed by the internet connectivity last year in California. I am again this year in Chicago :P I mean, I stayed at the Sheraton twice, which was the official hotel for internet related conventions, and both times the connection was about the speed of ISDN. As if they had the whole hotel (‘bout 1600 rooms!!) hooked up on a single DSL connection. And you wanna know how much they charge for that? $11.95 per day!

Actually the best connection I got in Chicago was at the Red Roof Inn, which errs on the shady side of how Chicago hotels go, but it has just enough class to provide a T-Mobile hotspot. That costs $39.95 / mo and the catch is you have to call in when you want to cancel. Other than that, the speed was great and you can also use it at any other T-Mobile hotspot, including Starbucks.

Mind you, you can’t use it at Mc Donald’s which has AT&T hotspots and apparently AT&T and T-Mobile weren’t smart enough to come up with a roaming agreement. (Ok, let’s consider it to be just another good reason to stay away from Mc Donald’s :P)

Ironically, I am now a customer of AT&T too... for my mobile phone. I figured their pre-paid offer was a better deal for my 6 weeks in the US than T-Mobile’s... but wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if either of these companies offered a complete all-in-1 package to the international traveler? Pre-paid cell-phone + WiFi... how hard can that be?

Anyway, the cool thing about AT&T’s « Go Phone » offer is that if you recharge it with $100, you get to keep your number for 1 year even if you don’t use it. Very convenient when you come to the US once or twice a year and don’t want to get a new SIM card & number everytime you arrive.

Other than that, I pay $1 per day I use the phone and then 10 cents a minute. If I was roaming from my French provider I would be paying 2.50 € aminute... that’s... errr... at least 3.something dollars a minute.

Text messages (SMS) are 5 cents a piece. Even to international numbers.

The shady side of the story, of course, is coverage. I don’t know if any mobile phone carrier actually covers or roams all of the US, but I do know that this girl from Kansas, sitting next to me on the train, has had far less dropped calls than me since we left Chicago. She’s on Verizon.

The problem with Verizon though, is that it’s not GSM. So you don’t use SIM cards. You can’t use your European phone and worse... once you’re back home, you can’t check your voice mail anymore...

So there you have it: AT&T for cell, T-Mobile for Wi-Fi... Let’s see if they keep it happy all the way over to San Francisco.

Can I really end this post without a note on the iPhone? Yeah well... if I buy one here I have to sign a 24 month contract and won’t be able to use it back in France. Figured I’d just wait for the Euro version. But of course, I do hope that it will accept my AT&T SIM card when I come back! ;)