Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ruh Roh, Shaggy..

Avis bus stop @ IAD

We hear a plane landing and it sounds very off, like some kind of botched landing.

Suddenly lots and lots of sirens.

Let me guess.... My flight is going to be delayed. Again.

Film at 11

Catching Up On My Summer Reading

One of the things that I was able to accomplish with all my travel delays was to finish reading several books that have been stuck in my queue for the last few months.

I have finished Captain Ward's "Tales of the Anna Karrue" and "Into the Mystic" - the chronicles of a tugboat captain in Charleston SC.
Capt. Ward is an old friend from Key West- he and his wife kept me sane on more than a few trips to the Dry Tortugas, where he was a captain on the Yankee Freedom.
His stories give a glimpse into life on waters in and around Charleston SC, really highlighting some of the drama that surround a very colorful segment of coastal life.
Tasty stuff... Pick them up if you enjoy a good seaside tale.

Speaking of tales- or more appropriately - tails...

If you have not secured your copy of The Book of Barkley yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

It took me a while to get mine, but I am so glad I did...

I may be a bit biased, having had the pleasure of meeting the author not once but twice, and this book has double impact on me: Knowing the author, and being the recipient of the love of a black lab at my humble abode, the tales hit home with a vengeance.
As the author shares her tales of life, love, a mischievous black lab, and ultimately, loved ones lost, she weaves thought-provoking tales of home, work, squeaky toys, and family, she makes you reflect on your life and your loved ones in a very profound manner.

If you read this book and don't smile, laugh out loud, and shed a tear or three (or like me, about 50), I will have to revoke your status as a Constant Reader. 
Listen to your Uncle Jay: Go to the site and order The Book of Barkley now.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Shanghai Surprise

As always- Shanghai is a challenge.

Getting there is a 20 hour nightmare, and once on the ground, the CBD is hell-and-gone from the airport in PuDong.
Count on at least an hour, one-way.

But once you're in your humble abode, things get better.
Or, at least you hope they will.

I was prepared to rise to challenges this year, but there was one big change that caused me a good bit of inconvenience-
Google (and Google products) are strictly forbidden behind the Great Firewall...
There are work-arounds, but every Interweb connection goes through filtering and censorship that was pretty effective.
(VPNs are usable, but being the cheap  bastard I am, I won't spring for paid service, and since I'm on vacation I couldn't (ethically) use the company VPN)

Case in point- any website that was on the whitelist would still load slowly.
and if there was any Google APIs (like AdSense) those segments would stall the page load or just hang the process entirely.
A monumental pain in the ass, really.

This was new for this year and it was really bad. I was for all intents and purposes incommunicado for most of the trip.
I did post a few Instagram photos and did a couple tweets, but as a rule, I was too busy to do much blogging even if connectivity was good.


So... Where Were We?

Oh yeah-
United Airlines was bending me over the back of the couch and having it's way with me, in a very horrid and painful manner.

I made my connection in Nooowark, but just barely.

For the long flight I did have the seat next to me empty, so that was a small victory.
Not a lot of sleep though.

On the ground in Shanghai things got interesting.

 Traffic was just as bad as it always has been...
At least my driver didn't hit anyone on the way to the hotel this time.

Once ensconced in my temporary domicile, it was only 2 O'clock in the afternoon-
And after long experience I knew that getting comfortable and lounging would lead to sleep, and that was the recipe for disaster.

I needed to fill the larder.

One thing about China, you can find some familiar but different items... A veritable cornucopia of Spam varietals for instance... And no.
Didn't get any of them. But I was tempted.

Another familiar-but-not-so-familiar variation:
The tried-and-true XXX Acai Vitamin Water. Love this stuff. I grabbed a taxi and headed toward Shinesun Center, the replacement for the old CyberMart on Huaihai Road.
I got a little sidetracked and found an interesting side market near by...
I was a little puzzled by these tiny ceramic bowls.
Serving dishes for Barbie dim sum?
No... This dude was working on an additional accessory for the same sport/pastime/hobby.
He's carving out these dog-dish sized containers made from semi-soft terracotta. They are the homes and food dishes for Chinese fighting crickets.
(Sorry about the crap focus on my photos- had a hard time keeping the phone steady.)  
Seriuosly- some of these bastards are the size of your thumb.

Here's one in his natural environment. 

The place was creeping me out- I'm heading back to the tech market.
If you want to know more about the sport of Chinese Fighting Crickets, go here.

But first- wanna buy a bag of fish?

Seriously- bags of fish.

Back at the tech market I was treated to a demo of the latest must-have gadget for the Round Eye- Blue lasers.
Here the girl running this kiosk is lighting a cigarette with one. Oh yes, I gotta have me one of these.
I picked one up, along with some other sundry crap like bluetooth enabled selfie sticks and  some other goodies, then headed out for an early dinner.

There was a restaurant nearby-
Let's see what's on the menu:
Yeah, a great big NOPE on that.

I guess if you're looking for for some spicy ass, this would be your restaurant.

Me, not so much.
I'll take the Spam instead- I headed back to my hotel. There's a Cantonese restaurant nearby. Porkbelly and dumplings are on menu tonight.

So much for my first afternoon in Shanghai-


Monday, September 29, 2014

Who Didn't See This Coming

Heading to Shanghai this AM. Lovely 6am flight to EWR then on to PVG.

Five minutes into boarding they stopped and took everyone off.
"Maintenance Issues".

I am about to lose every bit of my charm and decorum.
I can guarantee an ugly scene if I miss my connection to PuDong.

Film at 11.

TBG, pissed.

Friday, September 26, 2014

This is now going on a full year of travel issues-
Last year at this time there was a bomb scare at JAX that caused me to have to drive to Orlando in the middle of the night to catch my early-morning flight to Newark and on to China...

I had issues with that trip and the subsequent trips to Krasnodar, Sochi, Sydney, the second trip to Sochi, and the other trips all thought the year.

Really... Is it just me?
Or is it United Airlines and/or travel in general that is just getting worse and worse.

I'm going to ask American if they'll match my United status to convert all my travel over to them... I wonder if they'd go for it?

It can't be any worse.


Aaaand - Canceled!




Changing The Name of This 'Blog -

It's going to be called:
"United Airlines Sucks And Other Travel Issues"

(Of course, it's been delayed even more now....

Never gonna make that connection.

This is just getting out of hand...


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rise of the Machines

After writing up this post, I got to thinking...

Maybe it's not...


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Arena Technology

No wonder arena hardware is always FUBAR...

Dark Matter?
One of these days, the clock will hit zero and the entire city of Chicago is going to collapse into a black hole.



Seen on Racine St in Chicago.

No sign or anything...

But I did find out what it was.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Signs Of Our Times

I think this is the place Borepatch goes in Roswell...


Notes from the Road - Food

There were some opportunities for tasty chow...
We hit several really good places...
If in Phoenix and you want a great meal, I highly suggest The Arrogant Butcher. Awesome...well, everything. (menu)

If you're looking for great regional food, I suggest The Fry Bread House on East Indian School Rd.

We really overdid it.

I had this frybread taco filled with chorizo and cheese. That bowl of lava red beef stew was a mistake.
A big, evil, hot, spicy, mistake that I paid for over and over for the next 36 hours.

Jason had 2 fry bread tacos and the green beef stew (even hotter, if you can believe it) along with some hatch chilies.

We continued taking our lives on our forks as we transited to Chicago...
I was not impressed with the famous hot Italian beef (dipped, wet)...
It just wasn't what I thought it was going to be.

That night Kui and I joined AdiW from the NBA at a pub near our hotel called The Exchequer for a Chicago deep-dish pizza...  (When in the Windy City, do as the Windians do.)

Chi-town deep-dish is insane.  It's more like a lasagna with crust.

The next night we decided on something more exotic...
We wound up at a place called Yum Cha- a dim sum place on East Randolph.
Nice xiao long bao... (one of my weaknesses).

We also had some great pork belly, and Singapore chicken & rice,
and some lovely bone marrow.

The one thing that none of us had ever had prior to this was jellyfish.
A cold dim sum dish...

It was...uh, different.

Cold, very elastic. Tasted like sesame oil and rubber bands.

Ok... I can check that one off my list.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Who had 'Flight Delay' in the pool?

I'm pretty much done with United...

Flight won't make ORD in time for my connection to SFO.
I'll spend the night sleeping in the mud, blood and beer in the food court in the C Concourse then catch the 7am flight to SFO.
I'll arrive at SFO right when my meeting is supposed to be starting in Oakland.

I think this is the last nail in United's coffin for me.

True Dat

From Hope n' Change


On Second Thought...


Hey Road Warriors-

I know this is tempting, but you could probably drive some Honduran housekeeper into apoplexy with this kind of shit.

Don't do it.

Except maybe on your last day when you've been living in a Russian bordello.


Allegiances - Which House Are You?

Prospecting for Hidden Gems

When going to a new place I have a habit of combing through Google Maps and looking at restaurant reviews for places near my hotel or work site.

Thought I had found a winner in the form of a small cafe for breakfast...
...until I saw the name of the menu .pdf in the Interweb.

Either a completely clueless Do-It-Yourself restaurant manager-webmaster came up with this, or a malicious 12-year-old neighbor who built the site for said clueless restaurant manager is the culprit.
I betting on the latter, based on the rest of the website.


The Betting Window Is Now Open

Getting ready to fly again today...
Based on the last few trips, I am girding my loins and anticipating getting bent over the back of the couch by United Airlines yet again.

Item:                                                  Odds

Flight delay:              70% 
Equipment Issue:           40%
Irritating seatmate:       90% 
Bulkhead seat:             50%
Baggage Loss:              10%
Harpy Flight Attendant:    60%
Missed Connection:         45%
Broken entertainment unit: 65%
Adjacent seat empty:      .05%
Complimentary upgrade:    .0061%
This one's not so bad: 2.5 hours then 4.5 hours to destination.
Next week, though... That's gonna be a bite in the ass - 2 hrs, then 15 hours.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Notes from the Road - Phoenix

I was in Phoenix a while back... too damn busy to blog very much.
Just a few pics here and there on Instagram.

While we were there it was pretty nasty at one point...

We had a sandstorm come through one afternoon... Howling winds and a grit in the air that was all-permeating.

We took refuge in a local watering hole...
The Palomar Hotel has a breastaurant, the Tilted Kilt, as part of the complex.

There are a couple things about that place that I greatly admire...


Um, Yeah, I Guess...

From our "Don't spend too much time thinking about it" Department:


Sunday Musical Interlude

How about something fun...?
(And perhaps a little silly).
Everyone remember those damned Six Flags commercials?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Where Is Your S.O. On The Hot/Crazy Matrix?


Friday, September 05, 2014

AAR - Singapore - Monday Night Walkabout & MBS

After the rain subsided late Monday afternoon I went back out instead of succumbing to the lure of the soft bed and air conditioning...
Singapore's Chinatown was a few blocks away and I spent several hours wandering the narrow walkways and streets filled with kiosks of cheap souvenirs and really tempting food.

There was quite a decorative display on New Bridge Road-

I was reminded of the very dim memories of my childhood in Chicago when we would visit Michigan Avenue at Christmas time.
Except here it was 90 degrees and smelled awful.

As dinner time rolled around I made some decisions that non-adventurous folks might find questionable-
I decided on dining eating at some of the little alfresco eateries on the street in Chinatown.

I indulged in an appetizer of tasty char sui pork, then I bit the bullet and ordered a dish of chili crab which was really messy and very spicy-hot.

The chili crab is deep fried chunks of chopped crab you pick apart with your fingers - looking for nice chunks of succulent crab meat in the red chili sauce - a sweet/hot mixture that covers the dish and is served with little buns called mantou... I would have preferred some nice slices of French bread like we get in New Orleans to soak up all that liquid love...but when in Singapore, well, know the rest-
Listen to Uncle Jay-
If you go to Singapore, eschew the Raffle's Long Bar and the $40 Singapore Sling-
Hustle your ass over to Smith Street near New Bridge Road and get a Chili Crab.
No regrets.

The next day I had to go look at the site for another part of the event.
The festivities would be held at the Marina Bay Sands complex...
Specifically, in the skating rink, in the mall, across the street from the MBS Hotel.

I was up early anyway, and the place wasn't that far from my hotel so I figured I'd hoof it through the Downtown Core, past The Fullerton and down along the bay.
It was still early and overcast- only 80 degrees yet. What could possibly go wrong?

As soon as I left the Esplanade and got out from under cover, downpour.
I took cover in a tiny overhang near the Floating Stadium waiting for the deluge to stop.
It finally slowed to a drizzle and I made for the Helix Bridge to cross the downtown core inlet of Marina Bay.

Of course, just as I committed to the bridge- more rain.
The concrete on the bridge is glass-smooth- nice on a dry day- but deadly in the rain...
I barely made it over bridge without busting my ass- One hand on the rail for support, one arm outstretched for balance, high-stepping as fast as I can...

I got to the mall and spent 20 minutes toweling off.
(Lately, and especially in hot/humid climates I have taken to carrying a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-suggested accessory- Carrying a towel at all times.
In this case, one of the micro-cell sport towels. Really soaks up sweat (or rain) and wrings out completely.)
I was mostly composed when my meeting time rolled around.
They could barely tell I had been caught out in the deluge, except when my shoes sloshed and squeaked a bit as we did our survey.

Again- the details would bore you, but suffice to say the event will be interesting.
Kinda wish I was going to be there to see it.
We broke up - I had a wrap up meeting scheduled back in the office near the hotel later in the afternoon, but I had some time to kill, so I took a wander around the MBS before heading back to the Hotel...

The Marina Bay Sands is quite the complex...
Giant three-tier mall including skating ring, a monstrous underground two-floor casino (bottom floor=smoking, upper=non-smoking), and three residence towers, topped by a giant structure containing a bar, restaurant, and pools/spas - it looks like, for all intents and purposes, like a hurricane deposited a luxury yacht on top of a three-building hotel.

The middle portion of the structure is a huge infinity pool...
To which I would have to say "Nofuckingway, Jose".

Seriously- nofuckingway.
I know a little bit about Asian construction standards, and a tiny bit more about seismology.
No. Not going there.

It sure is intriguing though..

If you want to go up and walk around and you're not staying in the hotel it'll cost you $14SD... There's a nice bar- KuDeTa - (Coup d'etat, get it? Heh) where you can go over your plans for World Domination with the rest of the cabal and enjoy an even pricier Singapore Sling ($50SD).
Interesting drink on the menu- Tony Stark's Pepper - peppercorn infused Grey Goose vodka, caramel syrup, lemon juice & seared pineapple.

One Dark & Stormy later (after a long discussion with a really cool bartender and manager regarding their rum offerings and convincing them to look into the Old Bundy line) I was outta there and back on terra firma (or in this case terra moistura) and heading back to the hotel...
The wrap meeting went off without a hitch, and I was back in the hotel working on my survey report all evening. I had a 4:00am departure for Changi on my schedule and I was not taking any chances on missing this one...


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Best Sellers

Want to know what the best selling magazine in the Middle East is?


Exit Row, Baby.

Certainly can't complain about legroom on this flight.
I'll need to take a taxi to get to my bag, though...

Letters To People Unlikely To Respond: Clueless Traveling Mom

Memo to Moms traveling with small kids:

If you're on a flight that is late arriving to a major transfer hub, how about you and your precious snowflakes stand aside on the Jetway and let the folks that are dashing to try to make a connection go past?

Mom with one in arms and two in the two to four year old age were the first ones out the door on the late-arriving flight.
As soon as they cleared the doorway at least 5 people behind broke into a run, vaulting the stanchions trying to make their flights...
Mom and her parade had taken up the whole jetbridge in a meandering stroll to the concourse, holding up the entire plane as they moseyed along...

C'mon folks... Use your head for something other than a spot to hang your beaded headband and your Prada sunglasses.

Annnnd....another delay.

Whoda thunkit?

Every. Damned. Time.

Its like a law of nature or something...
I fly on United, I get delayed.