Sunday, February 27, 2011

Modern Technology For All Of Our Travel Needs

Since Veronica and I have decided that we are going to be doing some serious traveling abroad in the future, we decided to make an investment in our travel plans. It never ceases to amaze me of all of the technology that is out there.
Below is the new "toy" that we purchased...our new Ectaco ITRAVL Talking Translator and Dictionary. This item is so much more than just a translator and talking dictionary. But before getting into what this little gem can do, let's see what came with our package. 
  
 Below is what came with our package deal. There is another stylus and cd that isn't present in the photo. We got 2 different styles of protective covers, an extra rechargeable battery, docking station that you can use when recharging both batteries, AC charger, several different headphones/earphones, a set of world travel adaptors, a couple of language program CDs for the computer, a special C-pen, a free 10 language world translator(the white thing in the photo...plus several other items

 Our unit has 13 languages built into it including English. The languages that are in our unit are: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish along with English.
Built into this unit are a Dictionary, English Dictionary, Pictured Dictionary, Text Translation from any of the above listed languages into another of the above listed languages, an Audio Phrasebook that covers many highly used phrases from travel, hotel, food/drinks, health/drugstores, shopping, sports/leisure, repairs/laundry, emergencies, in the restaurant and so much more. And each of these sections are covered in all of the languages within this unit.


There is text translation from any language to another that is built into the unit. Just type in the word or sentence and it will translate it into the language requested, which cab be either visually read or verbally spoken to you from the units speaker. There are also language teaching programs within this unit. They have language crossword puzzles and even hangman included in the unit. 

 On the front of the unit, they have what they call "soft buttons" that you can press to move to the next "page" on the units interface. On the 2nd page you can see other things that this unit has built into it. There is a video player, audio player, a jtBook reader, a voice recorder that records notations or anything else you want to record onto the provided 512mb SD card which can be expanded to a 2gb card. Also built in is a Audio Books feature, World Time, CIA World Factbook, Cultural Notes and a Navigation (GSP) feature.


On the 3rd page of this units interface, you have the Extras area. For extras they have an IHelp section, a calculator, a calendar, size equivalents, metric conversion and a Notepad. The IHelp section is really kind of cool for emergency situations....instant communication help. All you do is say a short name for any pre-programmed phrase(s) and you can get an instant translation and voice output in the foreign language that you choose and is built into the system. This gives you emergency communication with doctors or police or any other number of people that you would like to communicate with in an emergency situation.     
To get into any section available, you can either use the stylus provided or you can tap on the screen. The unit is built on a Microsoft Windows CE operating system.  

 Here is the unit in the supplied cradle which you can hook up to you computer or with the provided AC adaptor. There is a spot in the back of the cradle to hold and charge the spare battery. The little bump at the top of the unit is actually a microphone to speak into and the larger circular area at the lower section of the unit is its speaker. Almost everything you can do with this unit is via speaking into it although you can also use the virtual keyboard to type info into the unit.
It has a text to text feature built into it where you type a word or sentence into a box and it translates the writing into whatever language you choose. The same can be done for verbal communication to a point.


 The unit came with built in GPS software for the United States and Canada. Veronica and I also purchased the GPS package that includes both Eastern and Western Europe but does not include Russia. The GPS software has plenty of different options to give you directions and pictures so that you can get where you want to go. It even has a feature where you are almost looking at your map interface from a ground level viewpoint. 

 This unit came with what they call a C-pen. This is a really great feature. The C-pen plugs into the unit at the bottom in the same location as where you would plug the GPS unit in. When you plug the C-pen in, the C-pen interface shows up on the screen...see below photo. What you do is you choose the language that you want to translate into English. Let's say that you are looking at a restaurant menu in Venice Italy and you you don't read or understand any of the Italian written language. You take your C-pen and press the pen down and over the sentence or word that you want the unit to translate into English. The tip of the C-pen lights upon the area that it is acquiring. The Italian text will show up as it is actually written, in the top box on the screen. You then tap or use your stylus to press the "translate" tab and the next thing you know, the sentence on the menu is translated into English in the bottom box section...if that is your chosen language. After translating that sentence, you can either delete it or continue with the translation of any of the sentences that follow after the initial one. This is very helpful on menus because many times the description of the food is written in multiple sentences. You can use this on travel directions that are in a foreign language. There are numerous uses for this pen.I think that this particular feature is really great. I also like the fact that this unit is great for verbal communication either through actually taking into the unit for phrases and such along with typing information, sentences or words and the unit can verbally translate what is written into whatever language you have chosen.
This unit also has teaching software included within the unit to assist in you learning a new language...which ever language you choose from the ones that are built into this unit. There are so many more features that this unit has...too many to mention here.

The purchase of this unit will give Veronica and I the freedom to easily communicate and navigate in many countries that we want to visit. This unit was costly but I think it will be well worth the money as we do more and more traveling. For more information on products from Ectaco, please follow this link...   ECTACO

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A New Battle Arises

I have been deliberately withholding the writing of this entry until I had a little more information to share.
I think that the time might be right to put out there, what is going on here.
Over the last few years I have had my PSA taken at irregular intervals but there was enough of a pattern building to look a little more in depth at what my numbers were trying to tell me.
About 2 or 3 years ago, I remember going to a Urologist and discussing my PSA test scores...Prostate Specific Antigen. For info on what a PSA test is all about, click here.... PSA
Back then my score was around a 3.2 Because this particular Urologist felt that my PSA was higher than what he would have liked to see, he wanted to jump right in and do a Prostate biopsy on me, even though he did a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) and found nothing.
This sort of brazen devil may care attitude did not set well with me, especially since he was so eagerly wanting to invade MY body parts.
That visit to the doctor really had an effect on the way I looked at a Urologist and the overall taking of PSA tests by yours truly.
So over the next couple of years, I shied away from a majority of PSA test and those much dreaded DREs.
I has a few PSA tests done here and there along the way but anytime a DRE was mentioned, I poo pooed it off as being totally unnecessary.
That is the way it was until I moved here. Once I got hooked up with a very good and talented local doctor, I stated to get my PSA taken at regular intervals. I have probably had more PSA tests done in the last 12 months than I have had over the last 5 years.
One things that was becoming apparent from all of these PSA tests was that my PSA score was on the rise.
A year or two ago it was around a 3.2 or so. I had another one taken about 3 weeks ago and it was a 5.2.
After having that score in the books, I was referred to a local Urologist. This was the first time that I had been to this doctors office. During this visit, he decided that I would go through one of those dreaded DREs.
So with drawers down and me grabbing my old knees, this Urologist went for pay dirt.
After doing what felt like figure 8s and spending just a little more time that what I was comfortable with his finger up my rectum, he withdrew his digit and told me that everything felt normal except...(insert long artistic pause here).......that I had a small hard spot or nodule on the right side of my prostate.
In my lifetime, I have heard this word mentioned a few times but never really had much of an idea what this prostate thing was and what usefulness it served.
Because I am not a doctor and a little tired, I will not bore you with my attempts of describing what the prostate is, what is does nor where it is located. I will provide you a link that can better explain it than I could... The Prostate- What Is It? and for the male readers in the group, you might want to take note of what you are reading because it could be you in the same position that i find myself in and I am not just talking about the position with my drawers down and my hands on my knees.
With the knowledge of what he found inside me and the ever increasing PSA test numbers, this Urologist wanted to do a prostate biopsy on my. What is it with these guys...they all seem so anxious to prod and probe you and take pieces from your body. Its no wonder why I really tried to stay away from them.
I told him that there was no way that I was going to have a biopsy done on my prostate. He wanted to know why and I politely informed him that I had read some horror stories about the pain involved and how it screwed up ones sex life.
He stated something to the effect that wouldn't I want to get it done if it would keep me from dying.
Nice guy...throwing out the death card at me.
We left things in this fashion...that I would get another PSA test done in a couple of weeks and then return to see him and discuss this biopsy thing further. I left knowing that I most likely would not be seeing him again, which is exactly how that will be playing out. I just was not comfortable with this guy.
So I made an appointment with my local family doctor and discussed what had happened and what should I do next.
I really like my family doctor and have complete faith in her. She decided that i should have another PSA test taken and we discussed her doing a DRE on me to confirm what the other Urologist had told me.
When it was all said and done, she did find the smallest of nodules on the right side of my prostate. She said it was extremely small and she wasn't positive that it was a nodule but with my PSA scores where they were, that we should probably figure out some sort of game plan.
First she wanted to give me another PSA test.
I just got a call from her a little while ago and my PSA was up to 6.7....yikes...it was just 5.2 a couple of weks ago. I found it to be an alarmingly quick jump in numbers.
My doctor told me that it could be some type of bacterial infection in my prostate and that she would suggest that I take Cipro and another drug for a period of a month. For information about Cipro
I am hoping that my body will tolerate this drug. I have had some problems in the past with my body able to handle certain medication.
After being on the Cipro for a month, I will have another PSA test performed and see if the Cipro brings the numbers down. Even if it does, there still is the fact that I have this little itty bitty nodule on my prostate.
Trusting my doctor the way I do, she recommended a Urologist that she trusts, that would be able to perform the prostate biopsy on me. Because my doctor trust this doctor, the Urologist was "grandfathered" and included under my umbrella of trustworthiness.
When and if the time comes, I would see this Urologist locally here one time. He only comes to this area once every 2 weeks. I would then travel to his location, about 55 miles away and have the procedure done there and then all followups would be done locally every two weeks.
I haven't even touched on what would happen should the biopsy results show a high Gleason Score. Yes...yet another new word to throw in your vocabulary to impress others. What is a Gleason Score?
I have read some articles on how they perform these prostate biopsies and guys, let me tell you, it is one of those things that while you are reading it you will start to close your legs and butt cheeks together in almost a death grip and you will probably find yourself grimacing at the thought of it while little beads of sweat trickle down from your forehead and down your face. It is one of the EEeewwww!!! and YIKES!!! moments.
Needless to say, I am not looking forward to any of this happening but once again I find myself preparing for battle.
I will let you know how things are going as time goes by but first I must take the meds for 30 days and who knows, maybe everything will totally disappear and my PSA will come back a 1.5 and I won't have to concern myself with having prostate cancer.
Ok...so I did some mind altering drugs before writing that last sentence. You can't really blame me can you?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Videos Of Our Las Vegas Adventure

Here are some videos that I took on our latest adventure in Las Vegas
This video was taken in one of the malls.

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These videos were taken of the water fountains and the water show that is in front of the Ballagio

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This next batch of videos are from the show that is in Ceasars Palace


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These videos are of the general Vegas strip area around our hotel
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These videos are of the night time water fountain show that is in front of the Bellagio
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The wind shifted during this last video and we ended up getting pretty wet. There was a fine mist from the fountains floating everywhere. That is why the video might appear to be somewhat blurred or difficult to see at the end of it.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heading Home From Our Vegas Adventure

Veronica and I woke up around 2:15AM so that we could check out of our hotel and take a taxi to the airport for our 6AM flight home. Our first leg of the journey was a long one...over 4 hours and we landed in Atlanta. After a layover in Atlanta, we landed in Newport News around 3:30PM and then it was a 2 hour plus drive back home. Veronica and I both had a great time in Las Vegas but we decided that this will most likely be our last trip there. There are so many other places on our list to see. Our next big adventure will be fishing up at Eagle Lake in Ontario Canada and seeing our friends Ken and John up there. This trip will be in September. Hopefully with the assistance of both John and Ken, I can catch a couple of those trophy sized fish that I have been after. If anyone can help me get them, these two guys can.

I somehow came back from Vegas with a little money

In the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport on Concourse B Adjacent to Gate B15, I came across this neat business. I know that in Japan, they  have sleeping pods/day rooms for the weary traveler. I believe they are called kaminshitsu in Japanese. For a price you can also get a shower cubicle with a vanity mirror. The one in Atlanta is called Minute Suites..The Traveler's Retreat. I spoke to the person working the front desk and was told that this company is not a franchise type of company and that the company is looking to expand into other airports...especially the airport in Chicago. Below is a card that was at the front desk with additional information. For more information about this company and its offerings, please visit http://www.minutesuites.com/  


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 5 Of Our Las Vegas Adventure

Well today was our last day in Las Vegas. We had a few more hotels that we wanted to check out plus we had tickets to our last Cirque Du Soleil show... O, which was at the Bellagio. Our tickets were for the 7:30PM show. After spending the day walking the Vegas strip, we got something to eat and then went to the Bellagio to see the show.This show was very different from other Cirque Du Soleil shows that we had previously seen. It was different mainly because much of the show had a pool and/or water features to it. Overall, it was a really good show. After the show we took the opportunity to take some night photos of the strip along with some videos of both the Vegas strip and of the water fountain show that is held out front of the Bellagio. After taking in the water fountain show, we headed back to our room to finish packing our luggage and to go to bed early. We needed to get up around 2:45AM so that we could get ourselves ready for our 6AM flight out of Las Vegas. I have not mentioned anything about our gambling adventures while we were in Vegas. In every hotel that we visited, we dropped a dollar into one slot machine. We didn't win anything that way. We did spend a little more time in a few other hotel casinos along with the casino in the Monte Carlo. Other than winning $39 playing some type of fishing slot machine, we were down a few bucks.On this last day in Vegas, we spent more time in our hotel casino and it paid off for us.I ended up playing a slot machine called Deal Or No Deal which is based on the television game show. It was a fun and interactive type of machine, which I like better than the ones that you just pull the lever or press a button.The slot machine I was playing was a penny machine. The machine ended up paying off for about an hour. We ended up winning about $100 from this machine.I cam real close to hitting it big time. I had about five 7s across the pay line and the sixth 7 was just below the pay line. Has that last 7 been on the pay line, I would have won a bundle but isn't that typical of Las Vegas...almost hit it big time, could've, would've and should've.

Everything looked different at night time.



Veronica told me that this was the place she saw on tv that had a $1,000.00 sundae. This sundae had gold leaf sprinkled on it.

Click on the photo to make it bigger. Check out those prices...very typical of Vegas dining.




This is the Rio Hotel, where Penn and Teller perform





We found this shrine outside of Caesars Palace. We said a prayer and then lit an incense and placed it in the sand that was in front of  the shrine






This is a photo of part of the Caesars Palace Hotel complex
The Ballagio


This statue of Siegfried and Roy was between the Mirage and the Treasure Island Hotels
I believe that this lion exhibit was in the Mirage



And here I thought that what was done in Vegas, stayed in Vegas. It might be hard to tell which way I was looking but you can use your imagination and probably be correct. I should know better than to leave the camera with Veronica.



Outside of the Caesars Palace Hotel complex



More photos of Caesars Palace







These photos were taken inside of the New York New York hotel complex



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