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

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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

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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.