Archive for March, 2008

Some enjoyable short ones

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

One who believes in himself has no need to convince others.    Lao Tze

How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists–and believe those lies when they see them in print.    Karl Kraus (1874-1936)    Still true! 

If little else, the brain is an educational toy.   Tom Robbins

Chinese Proverbs

  • Virginity like bubble, one prick, all gone.
  • Man who run in front of car get tired.
  • Man who run behind car get exhausted.
  • Man with hand in pocket feel cocky all day.
  • Foolish man give wife grand piano, wise man give wife upright organ.
  • Man with one chopstick go hungry.
  • Man who eat many prunes get good run for money.
  • War does not determine who is right, war determine who is left.
  • Wife who put husband in doghouse soon find him in cat house.
  • Man who fight with wife all day get no piece at night.
  • Man who drive like hell, bound to get there.
  • Man who stand on toilet is high on pot.
  • Man who live in glass house should change clothes in basement.
  • Man who fish in other man’s well often catch crabs.
  • Man who fart in church sit in own pew.
  • Crowded elevator smell different to midget.

Yoda

  • Do or do not. There is no try.
  • Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

If it’s true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?
Arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics: a piss poor way to pick up chicks.

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.    Adolf Hitler

Now that I look back, I realize that a life predicated on being obedient is a very comfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one’s own need to think.   Adolf Eichmann

We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.    Hillary Rodham Clinton    All we can hope for in the 2008 election is that this socialist loses.

If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.   Thomas Sowell

The best government is the one that charges you the least blackmail for leaving you alone.    Thomas Rudman-Brown

Arriving in Europe- April 2004

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I arrived in Europe Friday about 12 noon. Because the Europeans went to daylight savings time a little before the Americans, I faced a 10 hour time change. Because of lack of sleep after packing on Wednesday, March 31, and not sleeping much on the plane Thursday night, I was able to sleep about 7 hours Friday night and a full night of sleep Saturday night. I walked a lot on Saturday, but on Sunday I watched a lot of TV. At about 1300, I felt like a nap, so I slept until 1800! Then, I couldn’t sleep at bedtime, and finally slept from about 0530 to 0730.

Paris- April 2004

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Paris is a wonderful city to visit. I saw

  • The Louvre- The Mona Lisa is a famous painting of an ugly woman, and you need a Segway or bicycle to see everything as the place is so large.
  • Seine river tour
  • Chateau tour- This was a 13 hour 1 day tour that took me 2-3 hours outside of Paris to visit 3 castles. Chenonceau spans a river, and Chombard is so huge you need a map to make sure you see all the rooms. It also has much 18th century art that enters my spirit. It depicts dogs hunting foxes and wild boar. Pictures are in the gallery.
  • Segway tour- Riding one of these machines is an amazing experience. As it senses your balance to control fore & aft movement, it is eerie how this machine blends with your intentions. If you try to go too fast, it starts to tilt you backwards to tell you to shift your balance. This is because its ability to accelerate is limited, and it keeps the last 20% of accelerative ability in reserve to prevent you from falling on your face! They spent 20-30 minutes teaching us to ride in a calm, safe area, and then took into the streets, traffic, and sidewalks of Paris.
  • Eiffel Tower- There is a very nice view at the top. You can save a about 3 EUR if you take the stairs to the 2nd floor, then take the lift. It helps to burn off some of the Paris cuisine!
  • Buddha Bar & B Fly- If you search at Amazon.com or comparable place, you can find Chill Out/Lounge/Down Tempo music under these names. The B Fly is a sushi bar, and the Budda Bar is a fancy restaurant with a Budda about 12 ft high. Both play nice chillout music.
  • La Defense Grand Arche- This is a very modern part of Paris. There is a lot of modern architecture and skyscrapers that were a welcome relief after more than a week of seeing old bulidings.
  • Notre Dame- This is a beautiful church, and the climb to the roof to see the bell is exhausting. There was a placard that said Quasimado could not have rung the bell by himself because it weighs over 10,000 lbs. The inside is filled with stained glass.

London- May 2004

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I visited London for 10 days, staying in the Knightsbridge area. Hyde Park, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and the London Underground were all a short walk. Harrods has a supermarket, with many deli items priced from 3.5 GBP/100 g, mushrooms for 100 GBP/kg, and broccoli for 4 GBP/kg. I took the tube everywhere around town, as it is very efficient.

The Theatre At the Leicester Square tube station, you can purchase theatre tickets at half price for that evening’s performances + a 2 GBP serivce fee. So, I saw the Jerry Springer (JS) Opera, my first exposure to the London theatre. It is a mix of the awful JS TV show and opera. Imagine a man with a wonderful voice portraying a guest on the JS TV show wearing a suit and singing to his wife he wants to be her baby. She sings you are my baby. He sings I really want to be your BABY. He then tears off his suit, and is wearing nothing but a huge white cloth diaper. He then proceeds to sing It might seem pathetic, it might show a lack of class, I only feel the real me when the shit is pouring out my ass. It turns out he has a pooping in his pants fetish, too! I saw Bombay Dreams next. It was a beautiful production, full of fancy props, and nice dancing as well.

Egypt

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Tuesday, 27 July 2004
Sunday night I flew 5 hours from London, UK to Cairo, Egypt. Today, I wandered around the pyramids and Sphinx, rode a camel near the pyramids, went to an art store where they demonstrate making paper out of papyrus, went to a perfume factory where they make perfume without alcohol, and sailed in a saluka on the Nile. Photos are in the usual place; let me know if you can’t find them.

Wednesday, 28 July 2004- 3 Arabs took me out of town
A local lawyer and a cousin of my friend invited me out last night. I thought we were going locally to have a bite to eat or a drink. The lawyer’s younger brother drove us in an old Lada car to see his wrought iron fabrication shop. He started the business 5 years ago at age 20.

Near the shop, people were dancing in front of some apartments with some loud music. It turns out it was a wedding celebration, and we went and watched for a while.

The lawyer wanted me to see his village, so I ended up about 50-60km away from my hotel (about an hours drive). He could live in the city, but his father had lived there, he owns the building that contains his 2 apartments, and the man feels at home there. We ate the take away he had purchased in Cairo, then went across the street to talk to his neighbor and family. The neighbor grows cotton, has birds, and grows grapes. He showed me his turkeys (the father was very protective of the chicks), and some pigeons or doves.

Thursday, 29 July 2004- Life in a small village
At about 0130 in the morning, the lawyer and I went to his house to sleep. Upon awakening, the cousin and I went to sit at the front of the house to watch people go by on the dirt road. I was shocked when I saw two tiny black goats (about 20″ at the shoulders) run out of a room whose door had been left open! There were small black “pellets” everywhere. We then ate breakfast consisting of pita bread, feta cheese, yogurt, and rather large hard boiled eggs. Curiously, the eggs had two spherical yolks inside them! I had a second egg, and it also contained a double.

After breakfast, we had tea and watched the donkeys pull carts of watermelons, machinery, and other things down the dirt road. A neighbor stopped by to chat, and we went to his house.

He had a small cow, maybe 40″ at the shoulders that was quite timid, about 50 boxes with honeybees at work, and green grapes. We put on protective hoods and went to look at how the bees build a honeycomb structure. The man took a device that blows smoke when you pump it (I know people that can do that without a device:) in order to calm the bees. Each box has one queen bee, who is the biggest one in the box. The honey is very nice, and the honeycomb is quite waxy.

He showed us his hand-cranked centrifuge that extracts the honey from the honeycomb. You can pivot all the trays to aim CCW, pull the brake lever, then pivot the trays to aim CW. This lets you extract the honey from each side of the tray.

Later we went to the beekeeper’s home where he and his family served us refreshments and 12″ hard pita style bread that we dipped into honey. I heard chickens and saw some walk past in the house! The room we were in had a refrigerator, a large bed, and a ceiling fan. The ceiling fan was most impressive, as many fancier accomodations in the UK and western Europe do not have any ceiling fans.

These villagers are not rich financially, but they seem to have happy, peaceful lives.

Driving in Cairo traffic
This is an experience by itself. You have to

  • constantly use your horn, even without a reason
  • Lane lines are a suggestion. If you want to recall the good old days of flying a small plane with side by side seating, feel free to drive with your right leg over the lane line.
  • If there are 2 cars in front of you side by side or slightly staggered, and there is enough room to squeeze through, by all means do it.
  • If pedestrians are crossing the street, honk and they will get the hell out of the way.

For any of my smart-aleck friends, this is what I observed, not what I did. I would not want to drive here.

Summary
So, in summary, I am an American visiting an Arab country. 3 Arabs, two locals, one from another country, invited me to go out with them. They took me to small town 60km away where they proceeded to be warm and hospitable to me, introduced me to the neighbors, gave me a place to sleep, and fed and watered me on multiple occasions. The entire ordeal lasted about 16 hours, and without any ransom demands being made, I was returned to my hotel this afternoon unharmed, head still attached, and happy.

Taking a dump in Thailand

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Some of the Bangkok public toilets are similar to those in Japan and the Middle East where you just squat. In the Middle East, they have a hose with a water gun on the end for washing up. In Thailand, there was no TP, no hose.  Perhaps you have to bring your own.

The next time I went to this bathroom, I noticed a vending machine on the outside entrance to the men’s room. I couldn’t read anything because it was all in Thai. So, I put in a small coin and it dispensed a small cardboard box. I opened it and realized I had just purchased a tampon:)

Thai Foot massage

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I visited Bangkok twice in the summer of 2005. If you are ever there, get a foot massage for about $7-8/hour. Most of the massage is on the feet, but they work the shins and upper legs a little. Some of the massage was soft, other parts reminded me to smile and breathe in order to endure the discomfort. The masseuse took a stick and poked my feet and toes in numerous tender spots (or maybe they were tender because they were poked:)

During my first foot massage, I looked up at the wall and noticed a small lizard walking. It stopped, raised its tail, excreted a small black pellet, and continued to walk. That was totally weird!

The next foot massage I had was at the Bangkok airport. The masseuse took me to a chair and went to get towels and a tub of water to wash my feet. The masseuse at the next chair motioned for me to take a different chair. Her customer was a middle-aged oriental man who was sleeping during his foot massage and intermittently snoring loudly He continued to snore during the course of my 45 minute massage. Many of the other customers and masseuses were smiling and giggling. I was laughing so hard I was crying. New customers would come in and get the most silly look on their face as they looked for the source of the noise. Another customer mildly amused me by using a laptop computer during his massage.

Bad Travels- how to spend 49 hours on a 29 hour plane trip

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

My 29 hour journey took 49 hours from gate to gate:(

I was on my way from Muscat, Oman to Tucson, Arizona in April 2007.  This is a trip that is about half way around the world.

Muscat to Frankfurt, Germany via Bahrain was ok. After landing at Frankfurt, they took us through security to the next gate. The security did not have any walk through metal detectors. The security people had their wands and hands, and they used both! Everyone was being inspected by hand. I can think of a few people who might have enjoyed that, but not me.

The trip from Frankfurt to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas was scheduled for about 10 hours with an arrival at 1430 Texas time. Near the end, the screens predicted arriving 15-20 minutes early. About a half hour and 180 km before arrival, I noticed that we were flying in strange directions that did not go towards the airport. Soon we we were flying in circles. The Captain announced that there was concern about tornados and thunderstorms at the airport. Other planes were diverting to Houston 360km away, but he said we had plenty of fuel and would circle for a while. After about an hour, he said we were going to Houston to refuel. After refueling, we ended up behind 13 other planes. When it was our turn to lift off, he said the bad weather was back at DFW and we would pull aside and wait half an hour. So, at 1830 Texas time, we were taking off. I remember waking up at 2030, looking at the screen and seeing that we were about 180-200km away from the airport and circling. I was off the plane about 2115, or 17 hours after departure.

Immigration and customs was not a problem, but the next step was when I found a 100m line to check bags for the next flight. Some people had cats in cages and a few people were walking their dogs who had also endured the 17 hour flight. The notice board showed my connecting flight was leaving in about 20 minutes. As I waited longer in line, my flight’s departure time kept getting later, and was even changed as late as 2330. I think 2 men were working the baggage recheck desk. They were so slow that the 2 men assigned to take the bags and put them on the conveyor belt sat in wheelchairs playing music on their mobile phones. It reminded me of when our drivers have nothing to do:)

After 90 minutes in line, the one remaining baggage check guy (the other had left) said he was closing and we should go upstairs to the regular checkin (same place where people just dropped off at the airport would check in). I rushed upstairs, and found a checkin for American Airlines, but the attendant at the entrance to the line said they were closing and to go to the one at the other end of the terminal. After 5 minutes fast walk I found the other line, and the line zigzagged back and forth for 6 layers. One lady was handing out papers with toll free numbers to call the airline. A lady from my flight told me she was on hold for 20 minutes. When I made it to the desk agent, it was already well after midnight, and therefore already Wednesday. The original plan was scheduled to have arrived in Tucson about 1745 Tuesday and have dinner with my parents on the way home.

The desk agent told me the next flight was at 1315 on Wednesday as the 2 morning flights had been canceled. With the 5 hour airport closure, and flights not arriving on Tuesday night, there were no planes to depart the next day. She said there was no compensation or hotels provided. In fact she said there were not any available rooms within 100km. So, I went to security to enter the terminals.

I noticed that some people had blankets and camping cots. One guy had an extra blanket and offered it to me. I walked around the terminal, and eventually boarded the inter-terminal train (all within the secure zone) and went to the terminal where my next flight was scheduled to leave to see what was there. I found a McDonald’s, a fast Mexican restaurant called Taco Bell, and a fried chicken restaurant. I proceeded to order and eat about 2.5 meals worth of food. At about 0230 Wednesday, after having failed to find any camping cots, I found a table about 1m x 1.5m near a boarding gate, climbed up and tried to sleep. As in most airports, the seating has armrests that stop people from sleeping. Many people were sleeping on the floor. Some slept on the carpeting at the center of the baggage return carousels. Throughout the night, the loudspeaker had announcements in English and Spanish such as NO SMOKING and you can only bring small bottles of liquids through security. At about 0400 the main lights came on and I was awake for good.

I started walking and decided I was going to walk the full length of each of the 5 terminals having about 40 gates each. Fortunately I still had the paper cup and the plastic takeaway bag from Taco Bell and was using the bag to keep the cup clean and tied to my roller bag as I found that bottled water was about $2 for 500mL.  I regularly filled my cup from the drinking fountains. I noticed some of the more creative people had taken the rows of seats with armrests and leaned them onto the backs and made a bed for 5 people to lie on the floor while using the backrest as their pillow. Others took 2 facing rows of chairs, moved them together, and found sleep as the armrests did not completely meet their opposite, leaving room for the sleeper in the middle.

My 1315 flight was on time. After 2 hours of flight, there were some strong winds on final approach, and the pilot suddenly gave a lot of power. He said there was wind shear and procedure called for aborting the landing, so we went around a again, taking another 10-15 minutes. We landed, and I quickly found the baggage claim and my parents 49 hours after the departure from Seeb. The airport is about the same size as Seeb. After the baggage carousel stopped and they said there were no more bags, I realized my luggage had not arrived. They were handing out papers with a phone number to call for those people who did not want to wait in the line of 20-30 people to file a claim for the lost baggage in person.

So, using my mother’s phone, I called the claim line on the drive home. The lady on the phone kept apologizing for taking other people’s calls. When she got to me, she seemed confused as to why I was calling her. I explained that they gave out the number at the airport. I finally gave up and called from home to file a claim. My bag arrived Thursday just before noon.

For the return in May 2007, it went a little better:) AA from Tucson to London allows 45 minutes to change planes in Chicago (same terminal).  The problem is we had a weather hold of an hour before leaving Tucson. In Chicago, they didn’t wait for me:( Then I missed the flight leaving London by 2-3 hours, so instead of getting the 0930 flight, I had the 2030 flight and got to spend 8 hours that day walking in circles at Heathrow waiting for the next flight.

These are the joys of international travel.  After these experiences, 10 hour flights are easy!

Welcome to the startup of my blog!

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

I have had various blogs over the years using different software.  As I find the time, I will add some stories from my archives.

Randy