I wake up this morning in Zagreb, Croatia at 10:18am.  Damn!  I missed the free breakfast that went until 10.  Ugh, that will be the worst part of the day.  Guess I’ll meander down to the main common room of the hostel and check some lazy emails.

25 new emails!  Hope nothing too important happened while I was sleeping!

Whats this? “Notice of Termination due to New California Law“  Sent from Amazon?

Hello,

Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of California. If you are not currently a resident of California, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state in the near future please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.

To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to California residents and will not affect your ability to purchase from Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com.

We have enjoyed working with you and other California-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to California residents. As mentioned before, we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.

Regards,

The Amazon Associates Team

Snap.  I had just spent a lot of time and money implementing the Amazon feed, and Amazon was responsible for nearly $100 of revenue a day for me.  I’ll also have to find out which other retailers will stop working with me because of Jerry Brown.

Leaving California is my ONLY option.

I’ll have to re-incorporate my California business in another state now.  That is the only way to survive.  Maybe Nevada? Delaware? A different country?  I can’t call Amazon (and all the other affiliate programs that might nix me) and say “please please let me work with you!”.  I can’t call Jerry Brown and say “please please please learn how the internet works!”.

I hope you are happy, California lawmakers.  I was paying California income tax but now I will pay zero California income tax.  I’m not sure how you intend to fix the budget when you are driving tax-paying businesses out of your state.

Would Meg Whitman Have Done It?

No!  Former CEO of eBay?  Are you serious?  She understands how the internet works.  Jerry Brown does not.  It is totally not fair for these dinosaur lawmakers in California to pass a budget when they have no idea what it even means.  Try to get each lawmaker to explain what this bill does exactly.

I’m In a Blind Rage.

I thought I had a lot of stuff to take care of when I returned to the states.  Selling the RV, buying a car, finding a place, selling off my websites, developing the new version and optimizing my main site, closing out a few other projects, and somehow fixing my shoulder/wrist injuries.  Now I have to move my entire business to another state.  Change my address for everything: affiliate programs, taxes, payroll, banks, etc.  All because Jerry Brown ignorantly decided that he didn’t want my tax dollars anymore.

Thanks, California.  We had a good run.

 

I have been to tons of countries and never really affected by the concept that people outside the US hate Americans.  Yes, people might crack a joke, say something silly about George W Bush, or call me a Yank, but it seemed to be all in jest and I would still be treated with respect.  I could tell that individuals were smarter than to judge someone based solely on the country they come from.  I was starting to think that maybe the world does not hate Americans as much as everyone says.  Until my 3-day trip to Munich.

Our experience in Germany was substantially different than in all the other countries.  What I noticed first was that the wait staff/bartenders seemed to be extremely moody, as if asking them to do their job was a huge favor that they were begrudgingly granting.  Maybe just having a bad day and pure coincidence?  Maybe not.

I realized we were being “targeted” when we tried to get into a number of clubs/bars last night.

The first asked us for our identification.  We showed them our California drivers licenses, they gave them a look, and then requested to see our passports.  The wouldn’t accept a color copy I take with me instead of carrying the real thing around.  I figured it was just their policy and we didn’t think much of it.

For the next one, we waited in line, and when it was our turn, they asked for IDs.  Again, we pull out the California drivers licenses.  This time, the club immediately became full.

“Sorry, we are full”.

“Thats fine, we can wait.”

“No you leave now.”

We assumed they didn’t want two single guys coming in with no chicks.  Totally understandable.  We befriend a group of 3 German girls and head to the final bar.  Being gentlemen, we let the girls go in first.  When it is our turn, they again ask for our IDs, and when they take a look at them, they instantly become full again.

“Hey, you just let all our friends in but not us?”

“We are full, sorry”

“Really?  Then why are you letting all these other dudes in that were behind us?”

“Please leave now”

Finally it all makes sense.

Its not that we were inappropriately dressed; we were probably dressed better than most guys there.  Its not that we weren’t with girls – we had 3.  Its not that we were underage or too old.  Its not that we had been over-served at a previous establishment.  Its not as if we were being rowdy or obnoxious.  Its not because we spoke English, not German.  We were treated different immediately when they discovered our country of origin.

This was a great learning experience.

It does not feel good to be stereotyped.  We only experienced this a little; it didn’t become more than a mild inconvenience, it was outside our own country, and it was still extremely upsetting.  I can’t imagine how it feels for US citizens to be stereotyped in their own country.  How it feels for immigrants trying to lead a better life.  This has inspired me to be even more accepting of people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds.  More intolerant of intolerance.

 

Mariele left for a family reunion just after we arrived in France.  Luckily, my friend Shelly from Seattle flew into Paris that same day, and we met up to explore France, Spain and Italy over the next 3 weeks.

Paris, France

We spent a few days exploring Paris.  This is a pretty expensive and large city.  Lots of stuff to do, and of course the Eiffel Tower.  We walked up the first part, and too the lift all the way to the top.  Extremely touristy, but something you have to see when you visit Paris.

Lyon, France

This is a few hours south of Paris.  We couchsurfed with a friend of Shelly for two nights, and had a great time exploring the city and going out on the town.  I had my first shot of Absinthe here and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to try and tell the locals I was from Ireland.  They believed me!

Marseille, France

This seemed like an area that a lot of French tourists visit.  We were only here for one night, so only got to explore the city for a bit.

Provence, France

We used a French ride-share website to carpool from Paris down to the south of France, and the driver, Ben, was actually also a couchsurfer, so we ended up couchsurfing at his place.  Provence is a big college town, so there were a lot of international students when we went out.  I guess a big thing is going into the fountain after a long night of drinking, so that picture is of Ben, his Canadian friend and myself in the fountain.

Barcelona, Spain

I’ve met so many bi-lingual people on my trip that I’ve been inspired to learn Spanish.  Knowing that we were headed to Spain, I actually started brushing up on it while in France.  To my disappointment, Spanish is not the official language of Barcelona.  Catalan is.

We couchsurfed with a guy from Colombia and a guy from Mexico who were studying music there, so I got to practice my Spanish a little.  We went to a huge party on the beach on a Sunday night with a bunch of locals which was quite the experience.

Madrid, Spain

We actually flew from Barcelona to Madrid because it was much cheaper to fly than it was to take the train.  We stayed right in the downtown area of Madrid at an old little hostel on the top floor of a building overlooking the main street.  We went to a bullfight, and learned that they actually kill the bull in front of you.  Somewhat traumatizing.

Rome, Italy

We did a week in Rome because we were a bit tired of bouncing around all the time, and we had already booked flights out of Rome (myself to Prague and Shelly to Athens).  Rome was a little dirtier than I thought it would be, and extremely touristy.  We visited the Coliseum, went rollerblading in the park, ate tons of pizza and pasta, went to the beach, Vatican, and even went to a waterpark “HydroMania!”.

After Rome, Shelly went to finish her trip in Athens, and I flew to Prague to meet my college friend from San Francisco, John.  We will be touring eastern Europe for the next few weeks.  On July 5th we fly out of Vienna.  Johnny is headed back to the states and I’m headed to visit Luke again, but this time in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Finally, on July 12th, I’ll be flying home to SF!

 

Wizz Air Baggage Check Scam

I’m a capitalist at heart, but when a company abuses the system and screws their customers, I become upset.

In the business of flying,  any airline is a perfect substitute for another. This results in most customers choosing the flight with the lowest price. There are several price aggregators (Kayak, Orbitz, Cheapoair, etc) that allow you to easily compare prices of the same flight by different airlines.

Airlines know that customers will only choose them based on price, so they compete to offer the lower prices than any other airline. This sort of competition is good for the consumer, as it forces airlines to streamline their processes, cut costs and run more efficiently. Unfortunately, some airlines decide to use this as a way to screw the customer.

How I was screwed by Wizz Air:

I’ve traveled on over 20 planes in 2011, through a dozen airports and through a dozen airlines, all with the exact same luggage set-up.  One small piece of hand luggage (carry on) and my small backpack (personal item).  I’ve often times saved money by buying a ticket that does not include checked baggage.  In this time I’ve never encountered a problem.  My hand luggage always fit in the over-head compartment, and nobody has ever questioned it being too big (its pretty small).

I purchased my Wizz Air ticket from Rome to Prague because it was the cheapest.  It did not include checked baggage, which was fine with me since I’ve never been required to check it.  I went ahead and booked the flight.

Next, I’m told that I must print out my boarding pass before entering the airport, or I’ll be charged 10 euro.  I don’t have a printer, but I can find one.  I print out the boarding pass, and then it tells me I still have to visit the check-in desk.  What is the point of doing the e-check-in then?

While I’m waiting in line for the check-in, I see people frustrated at the counter, and leaving/returning with little slips of paper.  I don’t understand what the confusion is.

I visit the check-in desk, and they ask which piece of luggage I’d like to check.  I explain that I have on piece of hand luggage and one personal item, and this has been just fine with every other airline I’ve ever traveled with.  The lady says that you can only have one item.  Realizing that I have no choice at this point, I’m check my piece of hand luggage.  That will be 40 euro, go pay at the ticket window.

I head to the ticket window with my slip of paper, realizing that everyone else in line has been screwed just like myself.

Why this is unethical:

One of the fundamentals of capitalism is consumer choice.  Consumers can chose between competing businesses based on the good/service and price.  However, when faced with the 40 euro baggage charge, I did not have a choice.

Furthermore, the 40 euro fee was not a fair price to check a bag.  I could have easily carried it on board, just like I have done dozens of times in the past, however Wizz Air came up with a policy that would generate extra profits from unsuspecting customers.

Wizz air was the cheapest price upfront, but ended up costing me more in the end.  Had they included their hidden fees in their initial price, they would not have been the cheapest price, and I would have made the choice to go with a different airline.  Wizz Air decided to spring the extra fees on me when I had no choice, thereby going against the very ideals of capitalism.

Why complain about it?

Hopefully a few people will stumble upon this blog post while searching for Wizz Air baggage, and decide to go with a different company.  Also, I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my Wizz Air flight, its fresh on my mind and I wanted to rant.

I left the bustling city of Bangkok and arrived in the quaint town of Karlskrona, Sweden two weeks ago.  I had a 12-hour layover in Dusseldorf, Germany, so I got to spend my first night sleeping in an airport!  It ended up not being too bad; my flight got in at 6pm, I ate dinner, played on my laptop, then found a nice quiet bench to sleep on.  I woke around 4am to the sound of the awakening airport, and caught my flight at 6.

Sweden

The first stop on my Europe trip was to see my friend Luke, who is just finishing a year-long sustainability masters program in Karlskrona, Sweden.  (For anyone interested, Luke runs TheSocioCapatilist.com.)  Sweden was insanely fun.  I helped cook for 200 people, rode bikes into the Baltic and ran a half-marathon in a skirt (Sorry gents, I’m not gay; we decided that we’d run the half-marathon and do it in silly costumes the night before after a bottle of whiskey).

Video

Karlskrona at night

Half-marathon in Gothemburg.  From left to right: Luke, me, Chris.  I finished in 2:29, Luke in 2:07 and Chris in 1:37.

Gothenburg at 3:00AM (just getting light out)

Running the half-marathon without any training in 2-year old running shoes turned out to be a horrible idea.  My legs were hurting so bad that I hobbled the last few km.  My feet hurt so bad the next day that I could barely walk.  They finally felt fully recovered yesterday, 10 days after the run.

Overall, my impression of Sweden was very positive.  Most people speak really good English, the country is beautiful and the girls are very pretty.  Sweden is definitely on my list of places I’d like to re-visit for a longer period of time.

Holland

I said goodbye to the niche of Karlskrona and flew into Amsterdam to meet my friend Mariele (from California) on Monday.  My feet were killing me, but we rented bikes and had a blast cruising around the city.  I’ve never in my life seen such a bike-friendly town; there is even a special sidewalk for bicycles.  We hung out with tourists, but the locals were very friendly and typically spoke very good English as well.

I mostly forgot to take pictures in Amsterdam, but manged to get a few:

Lots of bikes.

A seemingly excessive amount of fire protection features in our hostel.  I found this rather interesting at the time of taking the picture.

My friend Tom from the bar crawl.  From San Francisco and went to St Marys.  Small world.

Overall, I thought Amsterdam was such cool city that I didn’t get to spend as much time exploring as I had wanted to.  Definitely on my list of places I’d like to re-visit for a longer period of time.

Belgium

Mariele and I took the train out of the mayhem that was Amsterdam to the quiet town of Bruges, Belgium.  It was definitely a nice change of pace.

Canal tour.  We were the youngest by ~35 years.

View from atop the brewery.

I enjoyed my 2-day stay in Belgium, but nothing really inspired me to plan a longer trip back.

What now?

I went through France, Spain and I’m currently in Italy.  Will post pictures from those countries when I have time.  Heading to Prague next, around eastern Europe, then flying from Vienna to Edinburgh.  After Edinburgh I’m heading back to the States!  Will be back sometime in July.

 

Currently the top two auctions on Flippa’s Most Active list are my auctions.  ClassicBodybuilders.com and PureHonda.com.  A few early bidding wars helped me climb the ladder.  I have a total of 5 auctions that are currently on the most active list.

I didn’t realize that watching these auctions would be so exciting.  It’s fun to see the bidding wars while watching the time tick away.

I’ve got a handful of more profitable sites that will be listed soon.  I’m confident those will be even more exciting than the current auctions!

 

Pictures from Asia: Thailand

Thailand was the last destination of my 3-week long tour through South East Asia.  I landed in Phuket and meandered the 800km up to Bangkok in 10 days.  Visited a few islands, went snorkeling, got a wicked sunburn, drank buckets, saw break dancers jump over people in the street, but didn’t take too many pictures.

 

Pictures from Asia: Singapore

Singapore was my second stop in my impromptu tour of South East Asia.  While it wasn’t very far away, it was still very different than Indonesia and Thailand.  I was only here for 3 days, but thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be making a longer return trip at some point.

 

Pictures from Asia: Indonesia

Indonesia was the first stop on my impromptu tour through South East Asia.  I spent the first few nights in Kuta Beach, and it was as if I hadn’t even left Australia at all.  Nothing more than a bunch of Aussies looking to party.  Once I ventured inland I started having a lot more fun.