Ashley Richards

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Remembrance of Things Past

September 27th, 2006 Posted in Stuff

It’s a little strange when someone from your past gets in contact with you out of nowhere. It’s happened a few times with me. These were people that I knew either since I was about seven or since high school. First, all these things that I had long forgot come floating to the top of my memory. Then emails go back and forth, but it’s not until you talk to someone on the phone that you get a sense of who they are now. 10-15 years is a huge chunk of time. People change, but in some ways they don’t. So the conversations can feel like I’m talking to a friend of a friend. I feel like I know them because I’ve heard all the stories about them through my friend (in this case my 15-year old self). But once I start talking to them they’re different from who I thought they’d be. In some ways my impressions were correct, but then they say something that makes me think, “Who are you?!” And in the next breath they say something that sounds just like the person you knew, and it’s “Oh okay, it is you.”

Wal-Mart to Offer Generic Drugs for $4

September 21st, 2006 Posted in Marketing

So I’m reading my morning news and see that Wal-Mart is piloting a program in Florida where they’ll sell 291 generic prescription drugs for $4 for a 30-day supply. According to the article, those drugs typically cost $10-$30. But I love how their PR is spinning it as “we care for our customers” – they quote Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr.

Each day in our pharmacies we see customers struggle with the cost of prescription drugs. By cutting the cost of many generics to $4, we are helping to ensure that our customers and associates get the medicines they need at a price they can afford.

Yeah right, I’m sure that they really care about the health of their customers. They definitley have one of the worst health insurance coverages for their employees.
If this flies in Florida it will probably help increase Wal-Mart’s sales revenue. Think about it – If your average senior is paying $30 for a month one prescription, and they probably have about five that they’re on, then they’re paying about $150 a month or $1800 a year. But if they’re paying just $4 for that same prescription, it’s only $240 a year! So that frees up a lot of money to spend at Wal-Mart while you’re picking up your meds. And you’re probably buying products that have a higher mark-up translating into more money for the company.

Yes it’s good that grandma and grandpa won’t have to break the bank to eat, but Wal-Mart isn’t kidding anyone that they’re doing it from the goodness of their heart.

SoCal

September 18th, 2006 Posted in Travel

Brendon and I usually take our vacation in the fall, after all the kids go back to school. 5 years ago we got stuck up on the top of a mountain with no way to get choppered down since North American airspace was shut down (and I thought I was an only child for a few hours-still phone or message my sisters every 11 Sept). This year went off without a hitch.

We got back from our touristy trip to SoCal last night: L.A. (Getty, Hollywood, Beverly Hills), Disneyland, San Diego (Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and SeaWorld). Felt like we’d been gone for a few weeks rather than just 9 days.

L.A. feels much newer than San Francisco. It’s smaller than I remember. I guess it’s just the traffic that makes it seem big. And maybe the big egos that drive around in it. The Getty is huge. Hollywood Blvd cleaned up – feels like Granville St. And Santa Monica’s Third Street is what Granville Street should be. L.A. and Vancouver are sister cities – one’s the sunny blonde, the other the brooding brunette.

If you go to Disneyland you have to go on the Hollywood Tower of Terror – i won’t tell you want it does, you won’t expect it, and you will scream. Pirates of the Carribean was still good – they didn’t mess it up by altering scenes to fit the movies. Astro Blasters was like being in a video game – a children’s game, but still. And I’m making a note that I will be pulling children out of school when the time comes to go to Disneyland, so we don’t have to deal with insanely long lines and heat. We didn’t have to wait more than 10 minutes – and that was without the FastPass.

San Diego feels like Vancouver, but warmer and with military. (S.D. is probably the one place I’ve been with the most bases in the area. Northern Ireland was the most fortified.) The Gaslamp Quarter is like Gastown, except more restaurants (steak, mexican and italian mainly). And the new buildings downtown look like the new buildings in Downtown Vancouver. I wonder how much that has to do with Bosa building in both places. And there’s way too much walking uphills and in heat at the San Diego Zoo, but worth it to see all the cute animals. The Wild Animal Park was better in my opinion – do that first so you learn all about the animals and follow-me marks. Passed Camp Pendleton where my dad was stationed before Vietnam. And saw the rather sad/weird/scary illegal immigrant crossing caution sign on the highway.

Coming back we barrelled up the I-5, past the Day Fire and into the desert with artificial rivers. It was very strange to see dust devils and lush farmland side by side. I now know where all my food comes from – garlic trucks smell nice, cattle farms (forests as Brendon called them since it was wall-to-wall cows) smell bad.

Pictures will come…just have to get them off the camera and the iPod and up on to Flickr.

Next planned trip – back to Canada for a white Christmas.

Gettin’ Drunk at Disneyland

September 2nd, 2006 Posted in Fun

So I’m putting together various playlists for our trip down to SoCal. After searching for “Disneyland” on iTunes, I stumbled across the funniest song I’ve heard yet about the place, Gettin Drunk at Disneyland sung by some guy called Fig to the tune of Enter Sandman by Metallica. You can read the lyrics here.

I think my favorite line before the song starts:

I hope you kids realize we’re spending all your college money on this trip to Disneyland.

Snakes on a Plane

August 19th, 2006 Posted in Movie Reviews

It’s not going to win an Oscar, but it’s the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. You have to see it with a big group, laugh at it together, and make fun of it together. (Snake-o-vision is the best.) It followed all the classic rules of horror flicks (as they apply to snakes being on a plane), but Samuel L Jackson is the only one that seems to live after breaking them all.

The biggest surprise for me was at the end of the movie – the video for the theme song. It’s sung by none other than Gabe Saporta (my sis’ high school sweetheart’s brother)! It’s part of his fun project Cobra Starship; he’s also part of Midtown. And it was just a few years ago they were playing the small Croatian Cultural Center in Vancouver.

Vertigo

August 13th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday today. So I’ve been watching the Hitchcock marathon all weekend. Ironically it’s very fitting that they’re playing Vertigo, because I have vertigo. I wish it’s like in the movie where it’s brought on by a fear of heights. No, it just hits me whenever it damn well pleases while causing my hearing to get all muffled. Luckily a constant stream of Sudafed and Claritin is keeping it at bay and helping me hear.

Of course, at the rate I’m going I may surpass the anti-meth law’s monthly limit, but I can’t seem to find a firm answer as to what that is. And what happens when I do surpass it? Do I get arrested or is it just that they won’t let me buy any more? I can’t find any answer to my questions.

It was a bit strange having to swipe my driver’s license to purchase the medicine and being told by the pharmacist that I might not be able to buy two boxes at a time (enough to get me through one week). I guess I could always go to the doctor to get a perscription for an over-the-counter medicine if it comes to that, because the non-psuedophedrine versions aren’t working for me. I’ve lived in Europe where it’s common to have medicines behind the counter, but I was never asked to present ID. The U.S. has created a very strange third class of drugs, and the bad guys will always get their hands on them if they want anyway.

So if you see me wobbling around looking like I’m drunk, it’s the vertigo.

Teach a Person to Fish

July 22nd, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

This past week I got my first email letting me know that Milly, the woman whose business I invested in over in Uganda, started paying back her loan I helped finance. She’s expanded her 1-room home so that her family of 6 children has more space – most women make their crafts at home. No, I’m not a heartless Scrooge. I’m a big-hearted microlender with Kiva. And you should be too!

BusinessWeek calls Kiva a MySpace of microfinance, but that’s probably not exactly correct. It’s quite a bit more organized and the people whose businesses that need loans have been vetted before being posted on there. Kiva works with established organizations in the country who determine which businesses are most likely to be able to pay back their loans. So there’s less risk for the lender (me). I’m not making any money on this loan – just earning Karma points.

What you might not know is that the majority of the people recieving these loans cannot speak or write English. They may not be able to write in even their own language. I had lucky enough to work with Premal Shah, president of Kiva. I ran into him on the street in Palo Alto one evening – the passion and excitement that he has for Kiva cannot be contained with you talk to him about it. (He likes the recite the proverb below when explaining what Kiva does.) So he was saying that since the lendees can’t read English, the majority of the time they just look for their picture on the Kiva site and get excited about it. And yes, they have access to the internet – each village tends to have one reasonably priced internet cafe. (Unlike here where you get charge an arm and a leg for a minute of internet access.) Or there’s one not too far away.

You have money just sitting in your bank account that’s earning very little interest. Why not take your spare $25, $50, or $100 and put it into Kiva. Once Milly’s loan is paid-up, I’m going to keep my money in there and re-invest in someone else.

“Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day.
Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.”
~Chinese Proverb

Lady in the Water

July 21st, 2006 Posted in Movie Reviews

There’s no twist. Rather it’s like a mystery movie where the clues are shown to you at the beginning and the story slowly unfolds. I felt like M. Night Shyamalan was hitting me over the head with what the symbolism was supposed to mean – telling me just in case I didn’t get it – like you would with a little kid. But I wasn’t completely annoyed by it because he poked fun at that exact fault at one point.

It was a sweet movie, yet scary – a bedtime story or perhaps a campfire story, where the goal is to scare the b’jesus out of your listeners but not too much that they can’t fall asleep.

I’m not sure if you need to see it in the theatre, but you definitely need to watch it in a dark room. It’s worth the matinee price to escape the 100-degree heat this weekend. I think my theatre experience was a bit ruined by being surrounded by talkative people, the lights coming on for the opening of the movie, and people getting up and down throughout it.

An Inconvenient Truth

July 13th, 2006 Posted in Movie Reviews

I didn’t learn too much from An Inconvenient Truth. Maybe it’s because I follow the climate change stories and became a fan of Dr. David Suzuki after moving to Vancouver. A lot of what Gore has to says is the same exact things Suzuki has been saying since before I was born. Actually, I think Suzuki does a better job of explaining what’s going on and what our future will be like if we continue on the path that we’re on.

There’s a clip in the movie of a cartoon showing a frog in a boiling pot. For the life of me I can’t figure out where this clip is from, but it looks so familiar. I know I’ve seen it before. I should have stayed for the credits to see who created it.
The movie wasn’t all that hopeful or helpful. I left feeling like there really wasn’t much that I could do. Maybe I was just in a contrary mood. The thing that hit me in the heart was the drowning polar bear. There’s an animation of a polar bear swimming and swimming, desperately searching for a bit of ice to rest on. Children should not see this movie- they’ll have nightmares. I would have. But, I was the kid raising money for world hunger and going to Earth Day celebrations.

Eurovision 2006

July 7th, 2006 Posted in Fun, Madness

Okay, so if you don’t know what Eurovision is or have never seen the contest, you probably don’t understand the trainwreck that it is. It something like the Miss American Pagent combined with American Idol. Each European country has their own competition to choose the best song to go the Eurovision. This song has to be written specifically for Eurovision. So no, Ireland can’t just send the latest U2 song – it would make this contest so less funny. Once at Eurovision, the country puts on a performance of the song.

So I just found out who the winner for 2006 is – Finland.  (For my European friends – Yes it was in May; I live under a rock that is called the U.S.)

If you’re thinking they submitted some cute Lapland folksong that talks about reindeer frolicking in the snow, you couldn’t be more wrong! OMG – the group that performed it is called Lordi – and they look like a combination of something out of Lord of the Rings and Xenu (The Scientology overlord that was in that John Travolta movie). And to top it all off, they’re singing a deathmetal song about angels and heaven. I kid you not.

You can enjoy all the fun/horror with the online Eurovision song clips. The rest of the entries sounded either like bad American country music or dance/pop music. I don’t know which is worse.