Hello, Brussels, You Old Sailor

The flight to Brussels was as good as I could want, other than putting a wrinkle on the earth and jumping from one continent to another. I had an entire row to myself from Newark to Belgium. The hack I put together worked. Moving up from United’s Economy to Economy Plus gave me a few precious inches of leg room, feeling like an emergency row on Southwest. There was a strategy behind the seat I chose. Instead of picking and aisle seat, my favorite and most expensive option on the hop, I opted for the cheaper middle seat. There were a few rows still uninhabited around me. I reasoned that if a couple were to book, one of them would ask me to move so they could sit together and I could get a better seat for less. Secondly, I figured that people booking would likely skip the row all together to not bother with the fool in the middle seat. Admittedly, there was no guarantee either would work…but it did. Full row for 6.5 hours. I was so happy I nearly shed a tear – but I hadn’t planned on crying in front of others that day, so I refrained. I ate, watched 21 Jump Street and slept – all with a goofy smile bolted to my face.

Welcome to Brussels, Dummy

My sister is training for a new job in Brussels for a month. She’s been updating her Facebook page with her ridiculous experiences. Thankfully, I was warned to enter the bus from the front and exit from the back or expect a tongue slapping in French, Dutch or some Biblical tongue in an update. What I didn’t know was how to read Dutch or French on the stupid ticketing machine. Also, I wasn’t bright enough the first three times to hit the blue button that had flags on it to change languages, but I was out of buttons to press and knobs to turn. English! Well, Engrish – mostly English. Ticket challenge, complete! On the bus, I repeated “In through the front, out through the back, in through the front, out through the back.” Don’t worry, I wasn’t rocking back and forth like Rainman.

Death to Paper

Paper maps are archaic. I would rather avoid paper cuts and the frustration of folds. Who am I, Magellan? Handsome beard? Yes. Able to navigate by the stars? Wear a ‘coon skin hat? Not so much.

Before this trip, my homeboy, Bobby and I did some magic to unlock my iPhone. The tough part was not knowing if the unlocking worked stateside. I ordered a pre-paid SIM from Mobile Vikings in Belgium to use during my adventure. I prayed as I pushed the plastic and metal card into my phone and magic happened – it worked! I looked around…*tiny dance in the apartment” Though the new iOS maps are designed by super heroes that can jump over buildings and bodies of water, with nonsensical instructions to walk through walls and levitate over water, it’s better than becoming a luddite cartographer.

I’m geared up in the streets of Brussels. Data on the iPhone, new camera ready to capture Brussel’s beauty and a small Patagonia bag strapped to my back (It’s not a man purse, dammit!). Oh and thanks to Vid, I’ve got a fitbit to track my steps and distance. I really think he’s monitoring me, but that’s a different story for a different day.

The day’s walk took me through Grand Place. Don’t pronounce it Place, like I did. It’s embarrassing for you to sound like a hayseed and it’s disheartening for the person that has to correct you. Say it like “PLAZZZZ.” Now everyone knows how classy and educated you are. Part of the fun of having a smartphone working while your traveling is using Wikitude, an app that lays Wikipedia and Flickr information where you’re standing. You know what you’re looking at and you can steal photo ideas from better photographers.

All this walking had taken it out of me, it was time for coffee. There was this industrial coffee roaster at the entrance of Corica that drew me in. I’d buy a coffee then shoot a photo. I got much more. Sipping on my Costa Rican Lungo, I chatted up the guy behind the counter, Harold. Harold is a bro in his late 20’s or early 30’s who owned the shop with his mom. In his younger years, Harold was a smoker, spending days hanging out in the grass. His dad told Harold he was flying him to Canada, because he was a bum, so he could be one in Canada. Harold protested and asked how much money his dad was giving him before his trip. “Not much.” Away he went to Canada and lived as “a hobo.” Hobo sounds classier when you say it with a Dutch and French accent. Harold slept in a car and in the woods. It was “easier” that way as long as he didn’t run into a bear. There were no obvious chunks missing, so I think he made out alright. Harold met a girl who took him in and he worked odd jobs around Canada, gardening and such. He returned to Brussels and opened Corica. Corica reminds me of Olmos Perk in San Antonio. It’s a hip little place run by people who care about the coffee they brew. Harold isn’t looking to expand right now, there are other passions he’d like to pursue without franchising and getting gray hair. We pause the conversation. It’s his girlfriend asking if he’d be okay with carrot soup for dinner. He was kind on the phone, then he hangs up and laughs “Hhhhhell no, carrot soup is not okay. I WANT MEAT.” He asks about my political affiliations and we talk about the differing freedoms between the US and Belgium. He looks at our country as one with many personal freedoms to think as you want but more laws limiting what you do, Belgium being one of thoughts being limited but the latitude to do as you please physically.

I shot a few photos, we exchanged business cards and I zipped off. Like Pizzesco in Munich, visit Harold’s Corica when stopping in Brussels and ask about being a hobo.

Five Tips to Make You a BlackBerry Power User

BlackBerry Tour.jpg

The new BlackBerry Tour was recently released for Verizon and Sprint and this August, RIM is launching the BlackBerry Curve 8520 on T-Mobile. If you’re lucky enough to have picked up a new device or you haven’t done these tweaks to your current BlackBerry, give them a look. They’ll certainly make you look like a BlackBerry genius at the office and potentially more attractive to the opposite sex.

1. BlackBerrys have a built in dictionary called Autotext. If you go to the Options (wrench icon) and select Autotext, you can add to the list. You can add shortcuts such as having the BlackBerry replace “ty” to “thank you” or “yw” to “you’re welcome.” Doing this will make you incredibly fast in your email and text responses.

2. The camera on your BlackBerry has keyboard shortcuts that allow you change options without going into the menu.

a. Spacebar – Cycle between automatic flash, turning it off or forcing the flash with the spacebar

b. Volume buttons – let you zoom in and out

c. SYM button – toggles the full screen view

3. There are a number of Twitter applications that you can pick up for your BlackBerry. Typically, you’ll find people using TwitterBerry, one of the first good Twitter apps. Now, I prefer the following applications because they’re much faster and they have additional functionality:

a. UberTwitter (free) – this is my current Twitter application. It’s fast, allows for re-tweets, allows you to look at trending topics and allows you add locations to your tweets and photos. Use your phone’s browser to get it from http://www.ubertwitter.com

b. SocialScope (free) – SocialScope is another great free BlackBerry Twitter app that has tabs for Twitter and Facebook and allows for re-tweets. Get more information at http://www.SocialScope.net

c. TweetGenius ($5) – TweetGenius is the best looking BlackBerry Twitter application from Boy Genius. TweetGenius lets you track users and perform Twitter searches, among other features. You can see screenshots and purchase at http://www.thetweetgenius.com

4. Do you want to read your news feeds, check the weather, sports and flight status all from one place? Do you think free applications are the best ones? If you answered yes to these questions, then you should check out Viigo at http://www.getviigo.com/nan through your BlackBerry Browser.

5. Your BlackBerry is capable of streaming internet radio and again, it’s free! Point your BlackBerry Browser to Pandora http://www.pandora.com or my favorite, Slacker at http://www.slacker.com. You can set up your station on your computer, and then login with the same credentials on your BlackBerry for the same experience. Additionally, Slacker allows you to save the stations to your memory card for listening when your phone isn’t able to connect to the network, such as flying in a plane.

Keep an eye out on this blog for more BlackBerry tips and applications to help you maximize your device at little to no cost to you. Enjoy your new knowledge and ask questions in the comments or on Twitter.

As seen on MySA.com

How to Unlock a Sprint BlackBerry


Today I received my Sprint BlackBerry Tour and it’s amazing. But, you’re not here for a review, you’re here because you want to unlock your Sprint BlackBerry Tour. Here’s what you do. Thanks to my friend at CIO.com, Al Sacco, I knew the steps to unlocking it.  Fortunately, the good folks at Sprint will walk you through the process as well.  Here’s what I did to unlock the SIM slot on the Sprint BlackBerry Tour.

  1. Call Sprint International Support – (817) 698-4199, prompt #2
  2. Ask them if they’d kindly unlock your SIM slot on your BlackBerry Tour
  3. Turn off your wireless network connection on the Tour (yes, you’ll have to call from another phone)
  4. Click on Options > Advanced Options > SIM Card
  5. Type MEPD
  6. Type MEP2
  7. The representative should give you a 16-digit code
  8. Thank the representative for their help
  9. Reboot your phone and you’re ready to go

There you have it!  It took me about 5 minutes to get my phone unlocked.  I tested my Sprint BlackBerry Tour with a T-Mobile SIM card and was able to access the web, use BlackBerry Messenger and send and receive messages.