Saturday, December 29, 2007


Greetings from Chicago, where weLve avoided for the last year and a half...ever since Christina got stuck here overnight. We made it more or less on time, and our flight to Dulles is 40 min. delayed. I feel like we're in good shape. Also, I made it to 100,000 miles...which is a lot on United before touching down in Chicago.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Puerto Rico 2007

We're taking it easy here in Arizona, so I have time to get together some pictures from previous trips. Here are some from our Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico. This time we got out of San Juan; we stayed in Ponce. Since we had a car, we were able to get out to more of the island.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

World Heritage: 2007 in Review

Well, another year is drawing to a close, and time for me to take stock of my visits to World Heritage sites. (See 2006 or 2005.)

Five appears to be my lucky number. For the third year in a row, I visited five sites.

  1. In early May, I visited Tallinn, Estonia.
  2. In late May, I visited Barcelona, including the works of Gaudí ...
  3. ...and the Palau de la Música Catalana.
  4. In September, I visited Schönbrunn in Vienna...
  5. As well as Vienna's historic city center.

I also got a bonus site...the Sydney Opera House, which Christina and I visited in 2002, got listed. So that puts me at 40.

2008 is a promising year. I have the potential to add sites in Australia, Turkey, the UK and the US. Maybe I'll break the string of fives...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


To accompany the statue, they are playing a 9-11 country song. I was able to endure without comment until the lyrics about not knowing the difference between Iraq & Iran.


I have now been asked by 3 tourists for monorail tips. I could answer
2 of their questions. I am now researching the other -- can you ride
to the end & just stay on? The answer is yes.

Done Gambling

Well, I have finished all my goals & I have about 5 hours until my
flight. I am very glad I did not go early this morning.

I started playing nickel video poker with a stake of $20. I bounced
between 18 & 23, had a free drink, started smelling like smoke & got
bored. I switched to quarter vp & almost immediately hit 4 of a kind.
I cashed out my 49.25 & am now headed back to the monorail.

I plan to stop at each stop & see if there are any geocaches or
waymarks. (I got an all day pass.)

Spice Market Buffet

They changed the casino from the Aladdin to Planet Hollywood, but left the buffet intact.


Well...I made it.

Red Carpet Club

I am enjoying my last saved rcc drink coupon before heading to the gate.

Too tired to drive to the airport...

...or at least too sane. At this point I'm valuing 4.5 hours of sleep in my bed ahead of 4.5 hours in Vegas. I think I have successfully canceled the standby, as well as checked in for the return flight. I'm going to grab my printouts, then go back to sleep until after the morning rush hour.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mileage Run

Well, I've packed my bags for a trip to nowhere. Or Las Vegas, depending on your perspective. Recently, I calculated my total "Elite Qualifying Miles" on United Airlines, and I discovered that I was going to end up with 96,972 at the end of the year. (For reasons documented a year ago, that's more miles than I actually am flying.) What to do?

One option, through the bizarre calculus of frequent flier programs, was to spent 40,000 "earned" miles to get 4,000 EQM and put myself over the top. But 40,000 miles is a lot. It's more than enough for a flight to the Caribbean or Hawaii, and almost enough for a flight to Europe or South America.

So a $198 fare to Vegas -- that gets me more than 4,000 EQM and 8,000 "earned" miles. And I can fly there during the day and come back on the redeye. Only eight-and-a-half hours on the ground in Vegas. I could have had a quicker turnaround, but if my outgoing flight was late, I could miss my return flight!

So what to do with my eight-and-a-half hours in Las Vegas? Well, by the time I get out of the airport, catch a cab, and account for enough time to get back early enough to make my return flight, conservatively, I'm down to five-and-a-half hours. I identified three priorities:

  • Enjoy a buffet.
  • Do some geocaching and waymarking.
  • Play the nickel video poker machines at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Hmm, even with the monorail to zip me from location to location, that seemed a little tight. So when I did on-line check-in today, I decided to standby for the early morning flight. That'll add 4.5 hours to the whole deal, and if I wake up tomorrow morning too tired to drive to the airport, I can go on-line and cancel the standby.

I said my bags are packed, but really it's just a backpack. I have a book, some spare clothing in case I get stuck, and various electronic goodies. I've transferred about fourteen-and-a-half hours of video to my iPod -- in retrospect that seems like overkill. I bought a battery backup for the iPod that allows me to use AA batteries. I have my phone for Internet access (I may annoy subscribers to this blog with frequent updates) and my camera and GPS for geocaching/waymarking. I have Lonely Planet Las Vegas Encounter and a printout of Wikitravel Las Vegas which I'll pit against each other for usefulness.

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 07, 2007


Well, I'm back in Singapore. I have some cool stories and pictures from Malaysia to post, but they'll have to wait...well, until I set aside some time to organize and post those, along with the cool stories and pictures from Puerto Rico.

My sightseeing ambitions for today in Singapore were rather limited. I headed for Sentosa, which is an resort island off the south coast of Singapore, itself an island. I was actually headed for an island off the south coast of Sentosa. This island is, in fact, the southernmost point on the Asian continent. I headed there for three reasons. One, I find extremes interesting. Two, the site is a virtual geocache, and it allowed me to check off Singapore on the geocaching list. The third reason was not apparent to me originally, until I thought -- wait a second, how can this be considered the southernmost point in Asia? Parts of Borneo, definitely in Asia, are south of Singapore. If we're restricting ourselves to "continental Asia", well, this is an island. I finally realized that we were talking about the southernmost point in Asia, reachable by ground transportation. There are more southerly points, but this is the farthest south you can go without getting on a boat or a plane.

Then I remembered an article I read several years ago about the prospect of taking a train from Scotland to Singapore. This seemed to me to be a wonderful journey. There are a number of obstacles -- some of the train tracks don't exist yet (see this Asia Times article from earlier this year for an update), and at least a couple of countries aren't the best for an American to travel through. So I decided this trip is one I could take in retirement -- that'll give people plenty of time to build the railroads and, well, achieve world peace.

So the third reason is that this is one end of my journey. Maybe some day I'll come back here at the end of that trip. Most likely by then, someone will have built a bridge to an island slightly farther south, though.


On a positive note, I got to ride a monorail to Sentosa, and the rain stopped for long enough for me to see the site. On the other hand, it was very muggy, and switching from the train to the monorail required me to navigate through a mall. I decided to head for the Asian Civilisations Museum next, but I got caught in a downpour while trying to walk there from the mass transit station. At this point, my desire to be anywhere but home evaporated, and I headed back to the hotel. Sorry, George, but my trip to get a Singapore Sling will have to wait for some other trip. I showered and changed into whatever clean clothes I could scrounge, and am about to head back to my room to order room service.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sarawak GPS

Posted by Picasa

I had a really good time on the conference excursion this morning -- more details on that later. Above is a map of the trip we took. To a certain extent, it was pointless to take my GPS along -- it was a bus trip, and we were going exactly where the bus took us. Nevertheless, it made me feel much better to have it along. Bus trips have their pluses and minuses, but one minus is the lack of control -- not only of where you're going, but the information about where you're going and when you'll get there. At least the GPS got the information for me. (For one thing, I could tell we'd get back early based on our speed and the distance back to Kuching.) It was interesting to realize how close the longhouse was to the Indonesian border (the gray line in the lower left). Yeah, it's just a map -- not as cool as a video of a orangutan swinging -- but the latter will take a while for me to upload to YouTube.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sarawak Museum

Posted by Picasa

This afternoon I found some non-raining time to go for a walk. (At lunch, a Malaysian from Kuala Lumpur told me that he didn't understand why the conference was in December...because of the rainy season, they never have conferences in November and December.) I walked along the river and inland a few blocks to the Sarawak museum. As you can tell from the sign above, I have no pictures of the museum to post. Just as well; it was a rather tired affair. Clued in by the Wikitravel article on Kuching, however, I knew to take the pedestrian bridge across the street to a newer museum, skip the exhibit, and head straight to the gift shop. I snagged a set of postcards, an interesting looking t-shirt for myself, and something for the holiday gift exchange at work.

I made it back to the hotel sweat-soaked. I changed and am now in the executive lounge enjoying a refreshing Coca-Cola.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Conference participants just can’t help being in awe of State’s capital"

So says an article in Monday's Borneo Post. Guess they didn't read my post from last night. :-) To be fair, I think most of the blame for my ill mood lies squarely on the Holiday Inn. Right now I'm enjoying a breakfast at the Hilton that is comprised of an excellent selection of Western, Chinese and Malay dishes.

Marinated Honey Chicken Wing Ball

I don't like to think of myself as the type of guy who travels halfway around the world (in this particular case, to Kuching, Malaysia -- this loses to Sydney by a couple of hundred miles for the "farthest I've ever been from home" honors) to order room service. So I braved a torrential downpour (thankfully my hotel lends umbrellas) and headed to the opening reception. What's that smell? Ah, overflowing sewers. When I got to the Holiday Inn Kuching, I remembered, oh yes, the organizers had planned a poolside reception. I tried to take pictures of the overflowing pool, but I think my camera lens was too fogged up.

When I arrived, I was beset by two gentlemen offering me a sample of the local wine and a discount on a future purchase of it. Jon's new rule: Always drink the local beer, never drink the local wine. Unless you're in France, Napa Valley, or some place you'd drink wine from even if it wasn't local. (Not as snappy with that qualification, is it?) Then I moved on to the appetizer buffet. The mini pizzas were pretty awful -- why do places think they need to provide "international" food -- but the chicken satay was passable. What pushed me over the edge was something labeled "Marinated Honey Chicken Wing Ball". Looking at it, it may have simply been a chicken wing, but I was not going to take any chances. Dispensing with a half-formed plan to try a local restaurant, I high-tailed it back to the Hilton and turned in my umbrella.

Now where is that room service menu?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

80 minute walk in Singapore


Well, I got about an 80 minute walk down to the Botanic Gardens and back. Boy is it hot here! When I got back around 10, it was downright sticky. I'd better pack up the computer and head out to the airport, but I thought I'd share my quick glimpse at Singapore.

Sunday Morning in Singapore

Greetings from Singapore, where it is just past 8 in the morning on Sunday. I had hoped to have some time to see the city, but when you get into the hotel about 12 hours before your flight out the next day, and they tell you to leave about 3 hours before your flight for the airport, not much of that is going to happen. I will probably finish the post and go for a walk for an hour or so, but any more intensive sightseeing will have to wait until Friday (I think I have about 18 hours then).

The flight from DC was, well, long and boring. The main advantage of my upgrade was that the seat had a "bed" button that converted it into a reasonable approximation of a bed. Which was good, because for 22 hours, there wasn't much else to do but sleep. I did spend about 60 minutes transferring planes in Japan...I thought I'd at least get to see a little bit of the airport, but I was so rushed trying to make the connection that I didn't.

Anyway, it's amazing how far I can travel in 24 hours...and end up seeing so little.

Friday, November 30, 2007


That's International First Lounge, of course. I managed to snag an upgrade to First for today's trip, so my first ever international first-class trip starts off not with the Red Carpet Club, but with the IFL. So far, the advantages seem to be:

  • Better food. They even have Cherry Coke!
  • Better service. While I was getting the better food, a guy came up to me and made sure I had seen the tiny vials of soy sauce that went with the sushi.
  • Free wireless access. It's kind of funny, given how much people are paying for some of these tickets compared to the cost of wireless access, but this may be my favorite feature.
  • Isolation. There are about 100 chairs in here, and I think 3 or 4 passengers. On second thought, this may be my favorite part. :-)

Given the parts of this that I'm enjoying, my suspicions that I'm not high-class enough to partake of this on a regular basis are being confirmed. Just as well, as I'll probably be "stuck" in business class on the return flights. (Cough.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Posted by Picasa

The green paths represent where we went this week in Puerto Rico. We took the GPS because it turns out that its North America coverage includes Puerto Rico. It also turns out that the GPS doesn't speak Spanish as well as it thinks. On our first full day, it took us down a one-way street in Ponce. Still, it made it very easy whenever we needed to get back to the hotel.

Monday, November 19, 2007

EuroQuest 2007 Redux

EuroQuest 2007
Originally uploaded by Eric E Haas
Greetings from sunny (and rainy) Puerto Rico.

Eric Haas left a comment on my previous post mentioning that there was, in fact, a picture of us playing Imperial.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

EuroQuest 2007

EuroQuest 2007
Originally uploaded by Eric E Haas
Last Friday, Ben, Martin and I went to EuroQuest. I had gone last year as well, you'll recall. Despite the fact that EuroQuest allows us to play games we don't normally play with new and different people, the one picture of us that ended up on Flickr involved us playing a game that we've played dozens of times by ourselves.

I posted a few more to Picasaweb, below.

Euroquest 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Jazz Fest Hat


I wore my Jazz Fest hat to the Redskins game today. It's not my lucky hat or can see that from the outcome of the game. But I sure have worn it to a lot of places. Since I'm not sleeping right now, I thought I'd post a collage of the hat throughout the past few years. This is a 2001 Jazz Fest hat...I have a more recent, undated one, but I've tried to stick to my favorite. The pictures are from:

  • Cancun
  • A ferry in Australia
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • College Park, MD
  • Ferry to Ellis Island
  • Tucson, AZ
  • San Diego
  • Washington, DC
  • Blenheim Palace, UK
  • La Jolla Cove

...and then they repeat. For the past couple of years, the hat has the added benefit that I can feel like I'm showing solidarity with the people of New Orleans by wearing it.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Geocaching Update: Different Kinds of Caches recognizes 12 different types of caches. Almost all of the ones I find are "traditional caches" -- that covers everything from tupperware in the woods to film canisters hidden under lampposts. These past two weekends, I found two types of caches I hadn't found before.

The first is a "virtual cache". The one I found was in Silver Spring. Christina and I had a number of errands to run there, so we took a nice walk to this cache, followed by a dinner of Ethiopian food. Virtual caches were good for urban locations where it was hard to hide a traditional cache. I use the past tense, because they have been discontinued. To a certain extent, they were discontinued to encourage people to use waymarks, which are similar. On the other hand, waymarks are generally things you see on the site ahead of time, whereas virtual geocaches bring you to an interesting place that you generally don't know about until you reach the coordinates. Still, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a "virtual cache", so the only ones around are those which have been grandfathered in.

Another type of cache is the "event cache". Really, this isn't exactly a "cache" -- it's an event. On the other hand, it has coordinates -- and you can put stuff there, which puts it a step ahead of the virtual cache. The event cache I attended was a 15 minute event in Columbia. It was part of a worldwide series of "flash mobs" organized by a geocaching podcast. In the picture (taken by an attendee), I'm the guy in the foreground in the black jacket and jeans. The event was mildly amusing -- someone handed out Hershey kisses, and there was a prize drawing. Apparently the Howard County police showed up to see what was going's sort of sad that a gathering of about 40 people in Columbia is such a shocking occurrence.

Meanwhile, my coins continue to march across Europe.

Coin #1 has crossed the Severn River into Wales. Coin #2 continues its apparent progress towards Prague. I thought they might at least head towards the States sooner...#1 is in what appears to be a difficult cache, so it may stay there for a while... I bought a few more coins on-line that I'll be releasing soon, since this has been fun.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

After The Fire

I made it to San Diego Monday night, a week after I planned to be here. Things were in an upheaval last week due to all the wildfires, and my trip got postponed. Other than smelling smoke on Tuesday (and to be fair that might have been the restaurant), I only saw one aftereffect...I had quite a time finding a parking space at my hotel because of all the fire vehicles from far and wide (Chico is the one that sticks in my memory) parked there. Tuesday morning, there was a meeting of uniformed fire officials in one of the hotel conference rooms, and fire fighters were all over the breakfast area. Tuesday evening, they all had moved on, and the hotel was fairly empty today.

The Web A to Z, Revisited

About three and a half years ago, I published a post listing which web sites my browser suggested when I typed each letter. Let's see how things have changed (or not).

How have things changed? Well, this time, I did the check during football season, so more Redskins stuff than just their site popped up. Also, I read a lot of content through Google Reader, so a number of sites don't pop up because I view their "feeds" more than the site itself. Ironically, Talking Points Memo, another one of the holdovers, appears there because I don't read its feed. I find it too hard to keep up with, but sometimes when I've cleared out the stuff in Google Reader, I head over there to see if there's anything interesting.

The Prince George's library system is another keeper, though they've changed letters. The fourth repeat site was United, so I guess I'm still flying too much.

This time, a lot of sites appeared with letters other than their main name. In particular, Google appears to own me. I can see some new interests I've developed in the past few years -- go, geocaching, buying meat directly from farms, and Netflix.

Hmm. Kind of interesting, but three and a half years seems about right.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Geocaching Update: DNF

So, a couple of weekends ago I went out and looked for some geocaches while waiting for my car stereo installation appointment. First, I looked for one in the woods of Crofton Park. After 20 or so minutes of poking around with no luck, I gave up. Then I headed north to the Odenton Nature Area. I had a nice walk along a trail I didn't know existed, but again, zippo. Nothing there. (That I could see.) Both caches had a difficulty two, meaning, "The average cache hunter would be able to find this in less than 30 minutes of hunting." I guess I haven't made it up to average cacher yet.

When I got home, I posted DNF (did not find) logs for both of these. In the past, I've mostly avoiding these -- a lot of times, I feel like I didn't give sufficient effort to merit the comment. But if a number of people post DNF logs, it tells the owner that maybe the cache has gone missing.

I didn't expect anybody to assume it was missing on my say-so. My 20-something number of caches found marks me as clearly below-average in experience. Still, the guy in Odenton went out and double-checked that his cache was still there (it was). In Crofton, a few people have since found that one. Still, it's not always my lack of geocache-spotting savvy. In Bristol, I looked for one that I'm pretty sure was attached to fishing line in the harbor. I found fishing line, but nothing attached. Sure enough, the next day, it was disabled.

Last weekend saw better luck. Christina and I did a cache that involved a walking tour of Solomons to find clues for the final coordinates. Later in the day, I convinced her to cross the bridge into St. Mary's County so I could add to my Maryland counties cached. That produced this new map (notice that Calvert county has now moved into the "2-9 caches" category):

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fifth Anniversary

Christina and I got back today from Solomons Island, where we celebrated our fifth anniversary. It was a nice two days (and a very nice five years)! Above, you can see a YouTube video of me eating crabs on Friday night. We hadn't had crabs in over a year, so I was a little bit out of practice. Still, we try to make it out for Maryland crabs at least once per year. We really caught the tail end of the season here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Car Stereo

Posted by Picasa

Somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I splurged this past weekend and got a new stereo installed in my 6-year-old Honda CR-V. The new stereo actually lacks a CD player, but since 99% of my listening is to my iPod these days (and the other 1% is to the radio), I didn't see that as a problem.

Previously, I had been using a low-power FM transmitter that plugged into what used to be called the cigarette lighter. Disadvantages:

  • Sound quality wasn't good, especially when real FM stations interfered.
  • It was easy to jostle the transmitter out of the power outlet, leading to an abrupt ear-splitting jolt of static while driving down the road.
  • Having to fiddle with the iPod controls while driving.
  • My iPod sat out for anybody who walks by to see.

This new stereo has none of these disadvantages...the iPod connects in the glove compartment and fires right up when I turn on the car. I can control the iPod with the stereo controls. The controls are iPod-like, but actually easier to use when driving. Instead of spinning a wheel, I click through the choices one-by-one. That's easier to do with your eyes on the road.

What really sold me was the display of the album art and the song title on the display. You can sorta see that in the picture's a lot harder to take a good picture of the stereo than I would have thought. (I'll let you guess how many songs I skipped through on the shuffle until I got one I wanted in the picture.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Geocaching Update: Finding Tupperware in the Woods

This time, in addition to posting some maps, I thought I'd talk a little bit about what I like about geocaching -- and what I don't. One thing I like is the fact that although it's a social hobby (it couldn't exist without a massive network of people), I have yet to meet another geocacher (other than Christina).

There are different types of caches. The type I tend to prefer involve, to paraphrase a T-shirt, finding Tupperware in the woods. I like to walk around a park or other natural, isolated location and find a geocaching container (possibly, in fact, made of Tupperware) hidden in a tree stump or under some rocks.

The type I don't usually like is, well, something like looking for film canisters in parking lots. When I was in California, I found one that was an Altoids tin which had been magnetized and attached to a piece of equipment in an office park. Whee, an office park. One of the closer ones to where I work is near the parking lot of the Bowie Target. I found its general location today. Other than the fact that I wasn't going to climb around looking for it in my work shoes, it had this "cache attribute":

Stealth required. While it may thrill some people to get to sneak around avoiding non-geocachers (or "muggles" as they're called), the last thing I want to do is have to explain to some mall rent-a-cop that no, I'm not really a terrorist, despite the fact that I'm using electronics to hide suspicious containers.

Fortunately, with a $30/year membership, I can create custom queries. A typical one ignores caches that are "micro" in size...which gets rid of most ones in heavily trafficked urban/suburban environments.

A cache in the wilds of Columbia last weekend brought my Maryland county count up to six:

Also, the coin I left in Vienna continued its trek across the Czech Republic,

while the coin I left in the UK moved an exciting 8.9 miles to the north...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Down on the Farm

I was getting maps ready for another geocaching post, when I realized that it would seem like all I have been doing is geocaching lately. So I decided to post about something else instead today.

Christina and I have been trying to eat more grass-fed beef, in the theory that it's healthier than the corn-fed beef. After all, whenever you see a drawing of a cow, what's it doing? It's in a pasture, eating grass. It's not in a pen, eating corn. After all, corn is a New World food, and cows are Old World. Additionally, it's better for the cow.

So last Saturday, I made a trip to Hedgeapple Farm, south of Frederick, Maryland. Right by the side of a major road, they have a little shop set up to sell various cuts of grass-fed beef. Unlike other farms in the "pasture-raised" family, you don't have to buy a quarter cow. We got some delicious ground beef and steaks there on a previous visit, so I went back.

Since I was in the area, I stopped by Jehovah-Jireh Farm, which has a more diverse selection. It's also in a more rustic location -- not only at the end of a minor road, but the little shop is at the end of a half-mile long driveway. I already had beef, but this place raises pastured chickens. I got a frozen chicken (haven't tried it yet), some eggs (even though they're available at My Organic Market in College Park) and some lamb chops. Sadly, they didn't have the ground lamb I was looking for -- maybe next month.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Geocaching Update

Well, the coin I dropped off in Vienna a couple of weeks ago has migrated north to the Czech Republic. That's pretty neat -- a coin I own is some place I've never been. Its first stop was the ruins of a castle. It's currently location...well, I don't read Czech, so I'm not quite clear where it is now. I'm also not clear on how this is contributing towards its goal of getting back to Maryland. I'm writing this, I just got notification that someone retrieved it. We'll see where it ends up next...

Its sibling coin remains stuck where I left it in England; nobody has found that cache since I did.

I've really enjoyed moving around these geocoins and travel bugs. One travel bug I found in Vienna was trying to get to Montreal, so I thought dropping it off near Frederick last weekend was a good start. I also picked up a coin in Vienna, which I dropped off earlier today on the University of Maryland campus. I've been moving a few other things around Maryland, too.

The map progress I've made recently consists of adding Frederick county to my "counties cached in" map.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Geocaching Update

Well, I've found one more geocache since my last update. As you can see from the map, that brings my total number of countries cached in to 3. The one cache I found was a departure from my usual preference for caches in parks. This one was in the middle of a busy Vienna street, a few hundred feet from where the Pope had been the previous day. Unlike most urban caches, this one was huge! It was a great example of "hiding things in plain sight," but I suppose I shouldn't give away its secret.

While there, I dropped off the brick geocoin I picked up in Bristol, along with Free State Mover #2, my second geocoin whose goal it is to get back to Maryland.

The Vienna cache is a very active one. Within hours of my visit, someone had picked up the brick coin. Two days later, a Czech picked up Free State Mover #2 with the note "North!" So I guess it's going to the Czech Republic on its way back here.

If it ever makes its way back here, that is. Over the less than six months I've been caching, I've noticed a disturbing number of trackable items go missing. It's possible they are on somebody's shelf and will return to the cache world, but I have to wonder if they're permanently MIA.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Pope's in Town

Apparently I'm not the only one who decided this would be a good weekend to visit Vienna. His Holiness is here, which I discovered yesterday when I saw a sign at Stephansdom indicating he'd be performing mass there Sunday (today). His visit presumably explains the sparsely attended concert in front of the cathedral, consisting of what I can only assume is Christian rock. Enjoy the snippet below. (Or not.)

Saturday, September 08, 2007



I've got the first two rules of taking pictures of my big head in front of historic sites:
1. Hold the camera level with my head, so the picture isn't up my nostrils.
2. Smile.

Apparently, now I have to work on:
3. Don't squint.

After a much needed late start, I took the U-bahn (underground/metro/subway) out to Schönbrunn palace, the summer home of the Hapsburgs. The guide book said it was second only to Versailles in terms of magnificent European palaces. I've never been to Versailles, so I can't vouch for that, but it dwarfed most other European palaces I've seen and definitely topped the czar's digs.

The most impressive sights were the gardens, which I wandered for half an hour while waited for my timed-entry ticket to take effect. After choosing the audio guide (I guess my other option was a live guide), I got to the desk and was told they were out of audio guides, but I could have a nice pamphlet instead. Boo, Austria! That put me in a bit of a sour mood the rest of the day. The benefit of my getting the audio guide would have been that I could have looked at the palace rather than the pamphlet. The benefit of everyone else's getting the audio guide would have been that they could have watched where they were going instead of constantly bumping into me. Still, it was neat to see the room where a young Mozart first performed for the royal family (and then jumped into the Empress' lap and smothered her with kisses) and the room where the last Emperor abdicated after 600 years of Hapsburg rule.

I wonder what changed...was Austria really so horribly defeated in World War I? They had lost wars before. Was it the fact that fewer monarchies were on the victorious side, so fewer countries had an interest in preserving the monarchy? In the US, not much history east of Germany gets taught; this visit points out certain gaps in my education.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's About the Maps

Well, since my last geocaching update, I've found two more geocaches. The first was in Calvert County, Maryland near Hutchins Pond. I dropped off Mistr Turtle, a plastic turtle whose goal was to visit beaches throughout the world. Since he was a few miles from Chesapeake Beach, I figured he was in good shape. I picked up "More U Know", a button which
wants to travel cache to cache with the message "The more you know, the less you need".

I brought it over to England. Maybe it will undermine their capitalist economy instead of ours. I also brought Free State Mover #1, a coin I bought with the express purpose of returning to Maryland. It's my first geocoin, so I'm mostly releasing them as an experiment.

I went on what turned into a 4.7 mile walk today. First I looked for a geocache down by the harbor. It was a higher difficulty rating than I'm used to, and I didn't find it. Since I had these items to drop off, I persevered to a cache called "On the Rocks", where I dropped them off and picked up something called GA Cacher's mtn-man Admin Brick Geocoin. That, along with Free State Mover #2, will go to Austria with me tomorrow.

As you can see from the above map, I have now visited 3 counties in Maryland. I enjoy seeing the map fill in. As you can see from the below map, I had quite a walk around Bristol. I started out on the right, headed south, decided that the cache was probably north of the harbor, walked along the harbor, discovered I couldn't walk along the harbor the whole way, discovered the cache was on the south side of the harbor, went to the nearest bridge and cut back...and ultimately didn't find the cache. Then I headed up the hill to a point where I got the clue for the other cache, headed halfway down the hill to the cache, then all the way down the hill and back to the hotel.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sunrise Over England


I had trouble sleeping on the flight over yesterday, so around 5 I opened my window to discover the most astonishing sunrise. I tried taking pictures, but they didn't really capture the full range of colors I saw. In a way that's comforting -- it was a nice experience, and apparently one I can't just get looking at pictures.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 01, 2007

That Was Awful

Through the magic of TiVo, I just learned that Michigan lost to Appalachian State today. Without TiVo, I would have had to turn to a new story to be shocked that my alma mater had embarrassed itself by losing to Division I-AA App State. With TiVo, I got to watch three-and-a-half excruciating hours (OK, there was a lot of fast forwarding between plays), have the recording end with Michigan finally leading, and then go on-line to be shocked that Michigan blew the game in the last minute.


At least we can still win the Big Ten. But if we can't beat Division I-AA schools, I don't know whom we can beat. Michigan hasn't missed a bowl game since I started attending there (19 years ago this month); this could be the year.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dead laptop

I'm typing this on Christina's laptop. My laptop, which had been displaying signs of sickness since the weekend, suddenly started giving an error message instead of booting up. Sigh. I suspect it's a busted hard drive. I really hope I'm correct since a) it's not nearly as expensive as buying a new laptop and b) I just bought a new hard drive on eBay today.

We bought two Dell laptops in the past two years. This is the second hard drive failure. If the new hard drive doesn't fix things, I will not be replacing it with another Dell. Maybe a Mac?

Anyway, many thanks to Christina for lending me the laptop. I think she just wants to be able to hear from me when I go to Europe next week. :-) There's a chance the new hard drive will arrive by Saturday, but I shouldn't get my hopes up.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teddy enjoys a treat on his 15th birthday

Teddy's 15 today! Here we see him carefully inspecting the remains of a treat. 15 years is a long time for a dog, particularly one of his size, so we're proud dog owners today. He's been treated very well -- at least for the past 10.5 years -- and shows every sign of looking forward to 16.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's Not About the Numbers

One of my latest amusements has been geocaching, which I've previously written about. I've only found 18 geocaches, but I've amused myself learning about the culture of the "sport". One aspect of this culture is denying the importance of statistical accomplishments (in simplest terms, who has found the most geocaches), while at the same time tracking these statistics obsessively.

In that spirit is the web site It's Not About the Numbers, which allows geocachers to slice and dice their statistics in a number of amusing ways. To see my full array of stats, go to that site and enter my geocaching handle (pseudoprime).

I am particularly fond of the maps, in particular the by-county map.

This map shows San Diego County (where we spent the summer), Santa Barbara County (where I went last week), two counties in Maryland (Prince George's and Montgomery), as well as a county each in Wyoming and Utah. I hit the latter two during one day on my cross-country drive. I like this map because it shows some progress, but there will almost always be a little more I could add to it...I could visit caches in several different Maryland counties without too much trouble, for example.

I'm off to England and Austria next week, so I hope to find some caches there. I bought a handful of "geocoins" this month. These are trackable items. I plan to release them in Europe with the mission to get back to Maryland and see how long it takes for them to get back here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Santa Barbara

I think they're afraid of getting sued by tsunami victims. They made conference attendees sign a waiver about the beach bbq and pickup soccer game.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Go Skins

They're up 7-0, but Campbell and Washington got hurt.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Re-Cross Country

I tried to post Day 3 from Champaign, but the Internet crapped out right as I was about to post it. I wasn't thrilled with that motel in general. I think I've developed a new rule: never pay less than $50 for a hotel room.

Also: never try to drive across the country in four days. I'm exhausted, but home (for a couple more days).

I detoured about an hour out of my way to go through Champaign. I didn't want to drive through Chicagoland again...a) I've done it, b) traffic is ugly and c) Champaign seemed like a better place to find a hotel room. But it was a pretty boring drive. I look forward to a more leisurely road trip the next time I hit the highways.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I feel like I'm almost home.

Skyline chili

I was driving and thought...ooh, I'm in Ohio. I should go to that chili place...what was it called? Oh yeah , Skyline. But first I had to get gas. Fortunately, there was a Skyline next to the BP.