Tuesday, September 27, 2011

250 movies in ayear

I bid on a charity silent auction VIP movie pass so now I can see free movies for a year at 2 theaters (more in the chain, but 2 nearby). I'll also see some movies on planes and maybe even at home I'll write about every single one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Interactive map of Tahrir Square protests

A nice map of Tahrir square at the height of the protests http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12434787 clickable map I spent many days of my life in that square, now it earned it's name for this generation.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Think you know Geography (better than me)?

Monday, March 30, 2009

$17 cereal

Jet lagged in Juba, Sudan. I went to the grocery store and boughta 10 ounce box of cereal for $17 - new record!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Into Africa

I started a 2 weeks work project in Southern Sudan by traveling 24 hours door to door from Toronto to the Holiday Inn Nairobi. That is a nice hotel with beautiful gardens and pools and the best breakfast buffet I've had outside of a casino!

A smaller plan took me 90 minutes - and perhaps back 100 - or more - years - into Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. A world capital with maybe 3 paved roads and the lowest life expectancy and literacy rate of any national capital (checking that for accuracy)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Egypt trip 2008 - The bucket list

click on photos to enlarge
Cool Camels:

Camel Jockey Melanie:

Village friends in Luxor:


Dahab - RELAX!!

What we did

  • Luxor Temple day visit
  • Colossi at Memnon
  • Tombs of the Nobles
  • Valley of The Kings, 3 tombs
  • Queen Hatshepsut Temple
  • Lunch at "Mohamed's Cafe" on West bank
  • Karnak Sound and Light Show
  • (many) 20 cent Ferry crossings
  • Met British expat who moved to Luxor
  • Village visit with women and their kids, drinking tea in their home
  • Koshary dinner in Luxor
  • Felucca sunset sail
  • Just missed president Mubarak visit
  • Dahab beachfront breakfasts (with cats)
  • Dahab beachfront dinners (with cats)
  • Rented car, drove to St. Catherines
  • Saw Moses's burning bush and 1400 year old Greek Monastery
  • Stayed in beautiful, stylish 8 room hotel / all rooms different
  • Melanie had one day vomiting
  • Matthew had one day fever
  • watching goats "collect garbage" (eat paper in the street)
ALEXANDRIA TRIP - day trip on fast train
  • Alexandria Library
  • Eating fish overlooking Mediterranean
  • Roman catacombs
  • Roman amphitheater
  • Pompey's pillar
  • Jumping on to moving train
  • walking through the markets
  • long funeral processions
  • Giza Pyramids with 90 minute camel ride
  • Sphinx
  • Egyptian Museum
  • Citadel - Mohamed Aly Mosque
  • Prison where Sadat held
  • National Police Museum
  • National Folkloric dance troupe show - Sufi dancers
  • Garbage city
  • The church in the Cave in Moqattam
  • Coptic Cairo/ Mar Girgis
  • Hanging Church
  • Crypt of the Holy Family
  • New/world class Coptic Museum
  • Felucca night sail
  • Many, many coffees, teas and Karkaday
  • Many trip to Khan Al Khalili Bazaar
  • Tentmakers area
  • Spice Market
  • Graffiti Festival

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Melanie and I got engaged on August 30 on the shores of Georgian Bay!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Symon Pee Pee Teepee

After months of life, it's way overdue to introduce new nephew Symon. (He's not technically my nephew until Melanie and I get married in February). He is, of course, perfect. He has started in the bouncy chair and can be watched for hours providing entertainment ...

Monday, July 07, 2008

How NOT to run the bulls

Add your own caption or explain to me what these 2 are doing?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The good old days: 24 seconds

Apart from doing a "beer mile" I think my competitive racing days are over. I made one last season of it when I returned to the US from Egypt, in 2005. And recently came across this photo showing me making my goal of 15K under 1 hour - with a whole 24 seconds to spare! :-)

Monday, June 09, 2008

WoofStock 2008

The world's largest dog event was fun - no, it was hilarious. website They had contests - including the one where they have dogs jump across a pool to catch a tossed "plug". The best jumper we saw didn't even need the motivation of a good toss. The owner just threw the thing across the pool AND THEN took the dog back to the starting line and released the little dog. 22 and a half feet.

Woofstock 2008 was on Saturday and Sunday in downtown Toronto, June 7-8. For a dog lover like me, it was a chance to see,laugh at and pet hundreds of dogs. For the dogs, it was often almost too much of a good thing (see first photo).
For others, they could only hope for rescue from cruel owners with bad fashion sense ;-):

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do you?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

InterHash 2008/ Fiji ( part 1 - Fiji at Matava)

Starting with snowstorms in Toronto on Thursday night (March 6) and Saturday morning (March 8) and, Melanie and I snuck out Friday March 7th at lunchtime, up and across the International date line. Our 4th plane of the trip landed on the Fijian island of Kandavu, where we waited for 2 hours for a 5 minute truck ride to take us on the island's only road to the other side of the island. We waded out to a little boat and 45 minutes later, having zigzagged the coast and through the astrolabe reef we arrived at the eco-tourism resort Matava. We had 10 days and 9 nights, some as the only guests, staying in a traditional "bure" (a traditional Fijian straw hut) facing the ocean. 3 times a day the wooden drums would sound telling us that another meal was ready and we'd go stuff ourselves (in progress, updates in process)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Seeing Red Again

Back from Morocco and London: EuroHash 2007 - which started with a charity Red Dress Hash run through the street of Kingston. The UK had been having horrid weather for the past month but it mercifully gave us 4 beautiful days starting with this Thursday evening.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Up, Up and 1700 times up

I'm climbing the tallest building in the world, on April 28th to raise a little money for the Canadian Wildlife Fund. If you want to pledge a buck or three Do That HERE

1774 steps up that needle on the left ....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Let me criticize you ...

I'm good at it (or so say the judges).

OK, it's not American Idol. But I enter speech contests, and in the case this year, speech evaluation contests. And - BRAGGING ALERT! BRAGGING ALERT! I have met with some success.

In 2005, I managed to win the Club, Area and Division International Speech contests which covered sort of northeast Florida. Unfortunately I was off volunteering in Rwanda and had to let the runner-up take my place at the "District" contest which covered Florida plus Bahamas. But got a nice haul of 5 trophies on the way (I was also in the impromptu "Table Topics" contests).

This year, I represented my Toronto club and won the Area and Division contests and in 2 weeks compete for the Ontario 'District' championship in the Speech Evaluation contest.

Those of you who know me may be thinking: well no suprise there, that cranky clod can criticize anyone!

Anyway, there is a tiny bit more to it than that and I do try to be nice. The speakers we evaluate in the contests are very good speakers so even though evaluations are 75-90% positive feedback, it can be a challenge to find much to suggest for improvement.

If you have never attended one of these contests before ... you most likely won't attend this one :-) but here's where I'll be competing April 15th: http://triontex.com/SpringConference2007/.

What do you say, "break a leg" isn't really appropriate ... "Split a lip?"

This year's trophies:


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Zelda on cuteoverload

If you don;t look at http://cuteoverload.com everyday - you need to.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I'm stranded .... on a jet plane

At least I didn't fly jet blue.

Getting back from Mongolia took a few more hours than the planned 24. I flew Mongolian's MIAT airline from UlaanBator to Beijing and United to O'Hare 5 hours later. I cleared customs and had 75 minutes to connect to my flight to Orlando; the people in line to check in for domestic flights filled the hall.

I was trying to hop onto an AirCanada flight to Toronto, but the agent was - I regret to say "the usual AirCanada type" - and uninspired to be much help offering only - "I doubt there are any seats left" - How's that for specific, timely, useful information?!

So I jumped the United line, while listening to the announcement: "We recommend you go home if you can, all flights after 7:00 pm are cancelled". Aha! My flight to Orlando was scheduled for 5:45 pm - still hope! I already had a boarding pass, and bags tagged to Orlando, so just dumped my bags onto the conveyor belt and headed to the gate.

The crew was there, the coming ice storm had not yet arrived, the plane was there and ... no gate agent to let anyone in!

The agent arrived and the crew boarded at 5:15 and we waited, seeing a delay until 6:00 posted, then we boarded ... and waited

A series of fortunate and unfortunate events then transpired including:

Then it was pretty much good. We got de-iced and assured that "safety first" was still the policy in effect, we landed before 4 a.m. in Orlando and I slept at the airport before heading to Toronto on a 7:30 a.m. flight (which took off at 8:30)

All in all United Airlines crew did a great job of keeping us informed and kept a courteous and cheerful attitude through our 6 hour runway sit, though they seemed to be getting sparse and innacurate info all through the evening.

check back and I'll post the link to a short video of the de-icing in case you have never seen that ...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy New Year (you pig!)


I did a getaway weekend in Beijing in what is probably the BEST weekend of the year to visit one of the world's biggest cities. I met up with friends from Mongolia also visiting China and we hiked for 3.5 hours on the Great Wall neat Simatei and saw about 16 people all day. Beijing traffic, known for 5 hour traffic jams flowed smooth all weekend as so many people headed to the countryside to celebrate as families.

Being 1 in a ... billion. Just to make sure my Great Wall experience was unique - I did one pushup in each of the 32 towers on our walk. Yes, I know there is something wrong with me.

I managed to visit the Forbidden City, Tia'nenmen Square and watch the fireworks all over Beijing 2 nights. I heard the fireworks in Hong Kong are wilder and featured the first ever in the world Chinese character produced by fireworks, but Beijing is pretty special. EVERY person sets off fireworks. We had about $200 worth at our part. It sounded like a war zone... Watch some fireworks here!

And the highlight of the trip was 2 days with the Beijing Hash House Harriers, we had a great run and party at the Hash 5:19 bar, food and beer all night for about $10. Then the usual suspects met up again the next night and we ate sashimi and sushi and beer at all you can eat/drink Japanese place for another $10. Great Hashers and people in Beijing and China!

From "A Word a Day": If you were born in 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923, or 1911, congratulations! This is your year. In Chinese astrology a pig signifies intelligence, honesty, strength, and fortitude.

It's so unfair that in many cultures pigs symbolize all things uncultured.
In English we have idioms such as to pig out (to overeat), to be pigheaded (stubborn), to be piggish (greedy or slovenly), to hog (take more than one's share) -- all reflections of our bias. In truth, pigs are the most intelligent animals after primates. See more HERE

pignus (PIG-nuhs) noun, plural pignora

  1. A pledge.
  2. Something held as security for a debt.

[From Latin pignus (pledge).]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

He's a Taxi, She's a Taxi ....

I'm a taxi, wouldn't you like to be a taxi (pepper) too?

There are basically 2 types of cars in Ulaan Baator: nice, big 4-wheel drive hulks and ... unofficial taxis. Ok, there 3 types, because there are real taxis too.

Driving is on the right hand side here in Mongolia - like the States - but plenty of cars are left hand drive. And my commute between hotel and work has become one of riding in many types of cars. Like many locals, when I want to go somewhere, I don't bother phoning for a cab, I just stand on the road side with my arm extended down at about 45 degrees and wait for a car to pull over. They often reset their odometer to measure the ride. I only take them around the city so I know there can't be a fare over 1500 Mongolian Tugriks ($US 1.30), and I try to overpay just a bit and leave a little extra money in Mongolia.

Usually it is a man driving around by himself looking for fares and they rarely pick up someone extra once they have a fare, but yesterday I got in a car with another passenger and today, coming 'home' from work, a young woman 'picked me up'.

I've driven in a lot of places and anyone who has been in Egypt knows about wacko driving, but here is the most aggressive driving towards pedestrians I've ever seen, and last week was the absolute worst taxi ride I ever had in my life - 6 minutes of jerking and screeching in the normally straight road to my hotel. Not a great story but that was the last time I got into a real taxi.

Some others on the bottom of the food chain are the maids in the hotel, so they are very appreciative of their 90 cents tip/day and my room never wants for any supplies.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Six Men and a Baby

(Click on any of the thumbnails here to see large images)
Actually it was 6 men, 2 women, a baby and a teenager: 10 in all in the jeep we drove from Mongolia's largest city, 50 kilomteres into the countryside for the weekend. I had taken the sleeper train Friday night from Mongolia's capital UlaanBaator to the 3rd largest city Erdenet. Video of the dining car The 4 person compartment with a mini-TV
This was Sarra's family, the wife of Marc, who I met via the aborted effort to put on a play. There were 16 of us in the ger ( read about gers - the same as a Russian 'yurt' here). They are nomadic herders who move 8 times a year. In winter they gather ice where they find it for storage of water video of collecting ice from frozen stream

And they collect water from the bit of a river about a mile away which is no completely frozen these days video of collecting ice from frozen stream

Most of the family

some views of the ger, where we 16 slept...
and me on a hike in the mountains, wearing my borrowed herder coat - WARM!


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I guess I should have said those are the best things about travel. Well, not all of them.

1. It's warmer here than there - maybe. Stuff is melting! So the "World's Coldest National Capital" is NOT, at least for today

2. Just when you thought the bureaucracy would be horrid: I arrived at the Chinese Embassy 1 minute before the Visa section closed, seeing the hours for the first time (not listed on the website) and figuring I would have to come back in 2 days, and allowing for my total lack of how to say anything in Chinese, I thought this trip would be a waste. The smiling clerk took my application, smiled and said, 30 seconds later, "It'll be ready next Wednesday!"

3. The play I was directing has been canceled. One highly motivated person can wreck something, unfortunately. I stayed positive and offered to do whatever was necessary, but 2 of the cast gave up and decided to quit. Apparently there have been 3 attempts to do shows in UB in the past 3 years and - including this one - all 3 have been canceled! And there is one person involved in all 3 - Ugggh! If only I had known when I started and cast the thing! If you are interested in the soap behind the play-that-wasn't email me and I'll send you some of the emails that went back and forth - I find them hilarious :-)!

By popular request - here's more photo's: SMOG - the morning view from my hotel room - Chinggis Khan hotel room 815: Coal burning in the ger's (tents) makes the air truly ghastly - that's NOT through the window - I stuck my camera outside to take the pic

Countryside 2 hours outside of Ulaan Bator ("Red Hero")

Happy to see tourists!

Another camel!

Don't ask me! There's Dinosaurs in Mongolia!


If you haven't heard about the astronaut stalker in diapers, you will...

News story here

Key quotes: "NASA spokesman James Hartsfield in Houston said that, as of Monday, Nowak's status with the astronaut corps remained unchanged."


10. Non-stop singing to herself, "And I would drive 900 miles, and I would ...."

9. No pantie lines but diaper pins showing through dress

8. Overheard at lunch, "please pass the salt and pepper spray"

7. Nonstop accusing other astronaut of "trying to abort my re-entry"

6. Wearing wig and trench coat around office claiming overexposure to solar radiation

5. Starts trimming nails with 4-inch folding knife

4. "Yes, I have 3 kids, I need all the diaper sizes you got"

3. Oh, "a mission to Outer Space", I thought you said, "a mission to bust her face" ....

2. Fills in emergency contact form: relationship: "... more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship"

1. One small step for [MY] man, one giant leap into a life sentence

online at: http://raslife2.blogspot.com

and pardon the graphic nature, but that was also one small stepout in diapers and a whole shitload of trouble for one astronaut!

Note, what I'm making fun of here is ... NASA has not changed her status, what do you gotta do to lose your job a an astronaut????

Would you roll down your car window for THIS WOMAN (photo) ?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

EyeRags, Ankle Bones and Bactrains

After meeting people, seeing different customs and cultures is the best thing about travel and visiting new places for me. Mongolia has plenty of 'different' ones. One of them is hard to swallow - literally. I was served a teacup at work and after 2 hours had managed to lower the level about 3/4 of an inch and then gave up - just glad I didn't actually heave.

Read about the making of airag here

I am not completely clear about the Ankle bone thing, but the Mongol Post reported that: "The Mongolia AnkleBone shooting Federation in Thailand(!) has demonstrated its sport to promote the national sport. Ankle bone shooting is a game played by two opponents in two teams and involves flicking small bullets (!) at ankle-bones arranged in a row." I'll keep you posted ...

Another ankle thingy: It seems the custom here is that if you accidentally kick someone's shoe or foot, you must shake their hand. I got kicked yesterday in a meeting - no harm no foul - but I did get a handshake.

In your face Dept: I was going to brag about riding all the camel breeds, but it turns out there are 6 breeds of camel, counting cross-breeds. Here I am on a bactrain, temp -30C.
Read about camel breeds
The horseys are short here:

Monday, January 22, 2007

What I didn't eat / Football

On my first weekend day here I toured the Mongolian natural history museum, which features great dinosaur skeletons, giant hip bones and some old bison tusks more than 8 feet long. They also have bunches of fossilized dinosaur egg clusters. They are big enough to make a pretty mean omelet.

It also honors the first Mongolian to climb Everest, be a cosmonaut and explore Antacrtica - making Mongolia the 37th country to have someone go there - bet you didn;t know that ;-)

I also roamed the downtown area around "SukhBaatar" square where the main government buildings are, along with communist statues and leftover Soviet style boxy buildings.

There are tons of Korean restaurants here providing relief from Mongolia food, which is pretty much mutton: fried, grilled, and in soup. And fatty and kind of miserable

I had to "watch the NFL playoffs" on the Internet reading the play by play before work and in between meetings ... meaning I missed the big comeback by the Colts which finished about 11 am Monday morning local time.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Day 1 of "9 days"

It was noticeably colder this morning - and that is saying something when the low last night was -15 F (-26C)!

I will try to get more details on this, but there is a local explanation that Mongolia has nine sets of '9 days', and we are the 4th one, the coldest one.

The first 9 days, it's cold enough to freeze milk, the second nine days cold enough to freeze oxtail, etc. this one is cold enough to freeze anything!

I registered with immigration since I am staying longer than 30 days, it cost $1.10 to do that and 5 minutes of my life, so I'm good to go until Feb 24th now. I'm not sure if any more 9-day periods hit while I'm here.... but when I went outside to go to immigration, it had "warmed up" again +5F(-15C)!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Land of Blue Heaven-Not Blue Plate specials

Check the weather in Mongolia http://weather.ca/weather/cities/intl/Pages/MNXX0002.htm - It's -14 F (-26C) right now.

Mongolia is called the Land of Blue Heaven. Will find out why and let you know. I've been at work 2 days, in the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labour, and have found the people to be very nice, friendly and warm. Nothing else about the place is warm - but it is sunny!

My hotel - the Chinggis Khan Hotel - is excellent with a pool, gym, adequate breakfast with egg chef and attached grocery store and little "mall" (very little) that is the biggest in UB (The capital city Ulaan Baatar).

There are exactly 2 Mongolian Buffet restaurants in UB, and the food is supposed to be good. Apart from eating once to experience real Mongolian food, I'll stick to Korean, Hungarian, and even a Ukrainian restaurant I've spotted. Mongolia food is .... mutton - fatty and salty and pretty much Blech!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Seoul Man

Update: I listened to the Sunday NFL games on Internet radio - almost like being there - NOT!

On my way to Mongolia for 6 weeks on a project for the Asian Development Bank to help the mongolian Governement establish a plan to modernize the Information Systems for the Social Security and Labour Ministry.

Today I had a 5 hour and 11 hour flight. The plane needed to be de-iced in Vancouver (so did the one leaving Torono) but I'm leaving the warm weather behind. The high in Mongolia will be -15C or so (4 F or so) in January, and the lows will be below -30.

Getting through Seoul airport was easy. Gentle, friendly place. A guy from the hotel showed up when I got Info desk to call, they had 3 other people in the van. We had a high speed drive in the dark along long roads with pretty much nothing in sight for about 15 mitnutes, then popped up at the hotel. Korean food in Korea! Kimchee and noodle/miso soup.

My hotel room has a PC in it, but I connected the Internet cord to my Laptop. It has a nice hot/cold water dispenser and my own vending machine!. CNN is the only English language channel and I also found the past Winter Olympics playing showing the Korean beat Canada and USA in the 5000 meter skating relay.

Breakfast then a 4 hour flight to the capital of Mongolia - Ulaan Baatar - tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Asia 2006

3 weeks, 5 countries (OK, just passed through the US for about 4 hours, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Japan) and 2 World heritage sites... This will take several blog entries to tell

Melanie and I traveled to Chiang Mai for the Wolrd InterHash event, where I MC'd the stage entertainment and we ran and partied with old and new friends. 5800 Hashers invaded Thailand for the event and the wolrd largest ever Red Dress Hash was held on the Thursday. That's right, over 2400 wackos in Red Dresses (technically Iwas in a cape) wandered through Chiang Mai.

The Hash was great but we had some great travel ahead. My usual cast iron stomach failed and on a flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap Cambodia I sprinted to the lavatory and just made it - unfortunately I didn't get the toilet seta up and projectile vomited into the mirror. I'll spare you further details but it took me cups and about 5 inches of paper towels to clean up the little room while the tiny Thai stewardesses just went about serving drinks to all the passengers NOT throwing up.

I ended up with a fever and stayed in bed the rest of the day, our first in Cambodia. I rallied the next day - and Melanie fell ill the next afternoon. So we managed to see the amazing Angkor Wat temples together and apart for 3 days.

Before we headed to Viet Nam we visited the volunteer run landmine museum and landmine clearing project (http://cambodialandminemuseum.org/)

Perhaps the highlight was cave kayaking in Halong Bay, the 2nd UN World Heritage site of our trip - see the videos http://youtube.com/results?search_query=raslife&search=Search

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Beer Mile

OK, not of my best moments as a human being but pretty fun :-)

A Beer Mile ( http://beermile.com) involves, as one can sure guess, running a mile and drinking beer, things I have done most of my life - since I was 14. Well, not the beer part, I stepped onto the track and did my first 5 minute mile when I was 14

The days of sub 5-minute miles are gone for me, and the days of drinking like a college student are, well, at least less frequent. The Beer Mile, DC Hash style makes some variations from the 'Official" BeerMile © rules:

So, you see, it is not so much about the running, and (readers with good taste or sensitivities are advised to stop reading at this point)...

There is an award for 'best vomit', which seems like a sane idea to get as much of the 72 ounces of hastily consumed (usually cheap) beer out as quickly as possible!

Oh, I finished in 8:08, 2nd place out of about 30 whackos who showed up early Friday evening to participate in front at least that many fans and supporters sitting in stands leisurely drinking beers from their own coolers.

In 20 months, I plan to set the world age group record for the offical BeerMile ©!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Another day, another Olympic stadium

I forgot to mention that we went to the Olympic ski jump in Oslo which was used or the Stockholm Games. There, I rode the simulator which did the ski jump and the Lillihammer downhill ski run.

The Olympic city theme continued as we visited Innsbruck and Munich, though we didn't get to Munich Olympic Stadium, which was being used for the World Cup.

One place we did visit in Munich was the Dachau 'work camp' site of the famous metal sign 'Work Will Set You Free'. It is a moving experience to visit the place, now the site of reconstructed sample barracks, several relgious memorials and a museum. The original baracks are all gone, they have marked them and left the gravel lot empty where 32 baracks, each 10 by 100 meters stood.

Each baracks was originally designed for 208 men, some held as many as 1900 when the allies liberated the camp. they had gas chambers but none at Dachau were used. over 200,000 people passed through and 30,000 were experiemented n, executed or died miserable deaths from diseases like typhus.

Back - time to review

Things I learned on my trip:

Rudolph the Red Nosed Luncheon Meat

Stockholm is a great city. Most amazing stuff includes the Vasamuseet, the museum of the resurrected 1628 ship which sunk after 20 minutes. Found in 1956, surfaced in 1961 and in the museum after 17 years spaying with polymer coating in 1988, it is a fascinating story and amazing 'BIG BOAT'.

Nearby in the Skanka area with an outdoor park, museum and zoo and where I bought a hunk of dried reindeer meet which is great snack food.

a night on our own

Flåm (pronounced like Tom) is a one horse tourist stop at the end of the spectacular 55 minute descent train from Myrdal, on the way from Oslo to Bergen. We missed the last boat to Aurland and the 6:30 bus showed up at 7:25 and we headed to the relatively big town of Aurland.

There appeared to be one other hotel guest in Aurland - none at our hotel though and we made dinner and breakfast in a huge kitchedn with spectacular fjord views. Waterfalls every few hundred yards poured like milk from atop and out of th e middle like sigots in the mountainside.

Highlight? a crazy woman talkig to a lamp post for 10 minutes.

Planes, trains and T-banes

Actually on the 2nd day of the trip we did 5 modes of public transport: cruise shipp, ferry, bus, Tram and underground train (t-bane).

In sevral towns we seem to find 'the last hotel room available'. Although we are ahead of the start of tourist season we have bumped into a classifcal music conference in Oslo, the 2 week conference season in Copenhagen and the Stockholm Marathon and 'Taste Stockholm'.

We walked the final couple km of the marathon and sat in Olympic stadium to watch the finishers pour in for about an hour.

After the awesome train, racthet wheel train, fjord ferry, and mountain bus ride between Oslo and Bergen, we bolted early from Bergen to the sun of Sweden. Bergen boast 60 days of sunshine per year and it didn't look like there were going to be any this week

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Introducing Mrs. Kleinosky

No, I did not get married.

When I booked 2 persons for the Copenhagen to Oslo overnight cruise, I apparently clicked on the 'Mrs.' salutation for myself and Mr. for Andy so they put us into separate cabins. Each of the low price cabins we got (cheaper with our 25 % eurail discount) has 4 people in them. However, no one else in either of poru cabins, so we have 8 beds between us.

Copenhagen is a fairly expensive town and doesn't really have that much to offer, at least pre-summer. The buskers were few but people watching was was better Tuesday with more sunshine. We found a great vegetarian mediterranean buffet for $35 with a bottle of wine and 2 meals which was about $20 less than a cafe lunch cost.

The hotels were virtually all full, we got the last room in Hotel Windsor in a great location, which we stumbled into after asking at a women's boutique for directions to another hotel. The hotel reception was 4 flights up; $90 for a double rom with a sink. Toilet and shower down the hall. And a big black labrador outside the door in the morning.

I managed to forget my fleece and bought one for $1.60 out of a cardboard box on the street in Copenhagen.

We arrive in Oslo tomorrow morning and plan to take 'the best train ride in Europe' to Bergen the next day - 7 hours, 300 tunnels and 200 bridges with a steep descent to the fjords...

When I find a net cafe which lets me USB connect I'll post photos of all this...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Feeding Pigeons in the park

Suffering from: jetlag, overeating, not enough sleep, too cold of weather and too light of clothing, Andy and I are in Amsterdam on first European day of our 17 day trip.

I have photos but the easynet cafe doesn't let me use the usb port, they will appear later. Why are photos necessary? Because, in our stupor, we sat for 30 minutes watching a 20 year old art student making a film of pigeons picking clean a roasted chicken.

The 'artist' laid down 2 large white blank posters and attached them to the brick surface with bolts. She then used packing tape to secure the edges of the white mat. I had been feeding the pigeons cheese from 2 packets from the BusinessFirst lounge in Newark, and while the video camera was bein set up, one of the pigeons walked over and crapped on the fresh white mat.

Undaughnted, our budding filmmaker then bolted a fully cooked chicken to the mat. She then baited the trap - tossing breadcrumbs around to to entice the suspicious (and cheese-stuffed pigeons) to eat the bird. Once the bravest had a peck, a frenzy not seen except during blue light special at KFC ensued. There was one pigeon tking the low road eating from low on the carcass while another sat on its head. Otherjust pecked as chicken bits went into, onto and over the shoulders (do pigeons have shoulders) on the feating mob.

We are heading out tonight to Copenhagen and hoping to catch the Hash Monday night. The other sufferings started with the overnight flight from Newark in "BusinessFirst" class which is not quite First class but still included sterling service and ... 4 knives with dinner. Forget 9/11 precautions anymore. We had 8 pieces of deadly silverware which would have no doubt been confiscated at security screening at the airport. We were told that only "certain flights" into Europe are allowed to use silverware and 'never in coach class'. Aren't we special?

Perhaps having 3rds of crab and shrimp appetizer wasn't the best idea.

Getting only 2 hours of sleep didn't really help, either. Photos (of pigeons) will follow, I promise!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Your Personality - Don't Leave Home Without It

OK, I am not going anywhere cool - for at least 8 days, when I go to Europe for 17 days with my college roommate (ex).

So why write? It occurred to me that with all the fuss and furor over 'Identity Theft', there has been little attention paid to the growing crime and nefarious act of 'Personality Theft'

Yes, that's right, there is another risk out there in the scary world; someone could actually - using new technology - steal your personality!

What is truly scary about this crime is that you do not even have to be a credit card user - although early reports seem to indicate people without credit cards are distinctly lacking in personality. That is not to say that EVERY credit card user HAS a personality. In fact it is almost the opposite, and credit cards users may be able to breathe a little easier knowing that most of the early victims of this horrific crime have not been active credit card users (and they also did not have yappy little dogs).

What are the symptoms of Personality Theft?
Initial reports link these activities to post Identify Theft complications ...

What can one do if they suspect their personality has been stolen?
First of all, don't panic. There are several web based firms who will help you rebuild your personality. For a fee they will analyze your credit record, buying patterns, cell phone usage, etc. and reconstruct a profile which you can follow and simulate your previus personality.
Other firms will actually come into your home, examine your wardrobe, personal hygeine and habits and for a fee - based on how disgusting the above turned out to be - tell you whether or not you are better off without your old personality.

What can one do to protect themself from Personality Theft?

To be continued... If you want more, leave a comment and I'll expound on this further....

I apologize for this post, I do not know what came over me, but I just had to write it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lucky Ted!

On the way into work (I am now working at home from about 5 a.m. - so I can communicate with Baghdad before they leave work for the day +8 hours from EDT) I noticed a one-day conference for COGNOS software in the Ronald Reagan Bldg. So I registered and dropped in.

I only atended the main afternoon session which featured Ted Koppel as Keynote speaker. He is - as you might imagine - shorter than he looks on TV, and a fantastic speaker. The first 15 minutes included stories about people spotting him and talking to him as a celebrity, Henry Kissinger leaving his fly down on an Air Force One flight, and his dog's digestive problems and the solution involving frozen vegetables.

Ted also had some great views to share on changes in journalism and politics. When he started out - he was one of the network's 30 or so overseas correspondents. He said ABC now has 5 - none in China, none in India, ...

But the highlight of the day, no doubt, at least for Ted, was getting his picture taken with me. When I get it in the mail, I'll post it

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Smooooth as Silk ... NOT!

Smooth as silk, this trip - except for when the man at the desk said, "Sorry sir, I can't let you get onto this plane."

16:55 Yesterday, we booked a van to take 5 of us to the HeloPad 5 minutes drive from USAID and across from the PX, next to the Palace/Embassy. "Showtime" is one hour before scheduled flight time and we were fairly confident that we would get to go and not get bumped because a Marine Colonel who works at USAID was 1 of our 5 and booked the Helo.

17:00 we arrived at "Landing Zone Washington" and all put on our helmets and flack jackets and rolled our luggage up to the barriers and 2 helochoppers landed (they kick up a lot of air). Col. Brazee checked in and they told him, those were our birds, so let's go.

15:20: We landed at a different spot at the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and were driven to 'Camp Sulley', a new facility with bedroom-only 1 and 2-bed trailers, a TV lounge, men's and womens' lavatories and showers, and a 'Coming soon' Internet cafe. We got a ride to the DFAC to eat, the PX to kill time and back to Camp Sulley.

21:13 Tired, I lay down to read

21:15 Fell asleep (all lights on)


03:15 Woke up after 6 hours sleep. That is about the most straight sleep I've gotten in 6 weeks, with no blast(ed) interuptions. Was hoping I wouldn't be up for good.

??? (not long after 03:15) turned off lights, fell asleep

06:35 Woke up, fully rested

07:25 they drove our luggage about 200 feet to where we check in for the MilAir flight to Amman. We were joined by the Supervisory Executive Officer (EXO), who I had worked with all the time in Baghdad. (Amazing lady who has done it all). Good thing.

8:25, Checking in, the man says, "I just need to see you Military ID and your orders". Then: "Sorry, sir, I can't let you onto this flight - these orders are expired." Yes, well, I was supposed to leave by April 10th, Then I and USAID decided I should stay longer. I did not need new orders to stay longer, THAT I was told. However, I did need new orders to LEAVE LATER, that I forgot to ask about.

a blur of time (knowing that the flight briefing is at 9:30 - 60 minutes) and the next plane (which I could get on) is in 4 days...

9:10 My buddy Mohamed, from Uganda, with direction from the EXO, whipped up a Travel Authorization, scanned and emailed it to the check in desk at BIAP

9:11 The golden words: "You're all set".

I'm in Amman Jordan and heading out to find sushi!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

43 days

When I got up yesterday, I had passed a threshold: 43 days in Iraq. That means money. Part of the incentives / compensation for living in a place where they risk of mortars is slightly higher than Johnstown, PA, is that after 43 days in Iraq, an extar 35% pay (for 5 days/week) get paid retoractively from day 1 and onward.

That, along with the 35% danger pay, paid from day 1, makes a 70% bonus. People working here as employees (not me) also get %20 for the expected overtime for which they are no longer paid.

I am looking forward to not working a day - may next weekend, when I visit Cairo, before flying back to USA. It'll be 2 months since I had a day off. And I feel great, the work has been fun, the people great and the food - well it was always there.

Was it dangerous? I didn't feel concerned except for about 90 seconds of the entire time. If you read about the Egypt bombings recently, we all know danger is everywhere, 2 Hashers were victims and were medevaced to Germany to have their leg bones reset and start PT and recovery.

Rabbit Rabbit!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Doctor, My Eyes

I have a problem. I caught the contagious disease they have here. Workaholism.

Let me be clear, I am loving it and this is not a complaint, I've worked 44 straight days and have had a ball. The people here at the USAID compound are great. But the fact that I spend most of my day either at the office or working on a laptop in mytrailer using a computer mean I have put my eyes through boot camp

When several people tell me my eyes look like my shirt (which isn't good since I more often than wearing a traditional white work short, wear some silly shiny silk shirt from Thailand, and in this case a reddish-orange one!) I know it's time to work in some eye-breaks.

To the rescue: the exploding salad dressing foil packs!

Why spend exorbitant money (using the $11/day per diem we get while in Baghdad) on frilly eye masks and balms, when I can just take "fat-Free Ranch dressing" in a foil pack straight from the fridge, lay down with it over my eyes and ... bliss!

Yes, I realize I need to come home soon!

Boom! Boom! Boom!

(and Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom and Boom!)

I was "dooking" after #2, and helmet-on and under my mattress somewhere between #5 and #6. At the pause, I jumped up and put the door ajar to avoid blown in windows if any percussive blasts got close

I sometimes act a bit like a cynic when people tell me they 'knew something was going to happen.' It's not that I think they are lying, it's just that I know our subconcious thinks all kinds of things all the time and when something actually does happen, we forget that there were 1001 things we thought would happen and one of them sort of actually did. It doesn't mean we didn't think of it, it's just we have a batting average of 1 for 1001 and make a big deal out of the 1.

Then again, those crazy coincidences are amazing and when something happens in close proximity to the time one had the feeling, I'm a believer.

Sunday morning I woke at 7:15 or so after another post midnight work session and considered going to the gym. I thought, 'it's Sunday, which seems to often be "Good Morning Baghdad - with a mortar!" day so I decided to try to sleep until breakfast figuring I'd be interrupted and have to stop anyway in the middle of a workout.

Maybe I'll just use the elliptical machine in a flack jacket!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter eating!

Last night was Indian night in the cafe (as usual on Saturday nights), with, for this place, great chick peas and cauliflower Indian versions along with that mildly spiced chicken and shrimp. It could have been several orders of magnitude hotter to suit me. The shrimp are a bit scary - they are all exactly the same shape and texture, I'm not sure they're from this planet.

So I wonder if someone is reading my draft blogs! Today's lunch had grilled salmon and platefuls of smoked salmon. Then dinner at Da Palace! I worked 11 hours today and joined a couple colleagues who left after 7:30 so we could hit the Embassy chow hall before closing. Prime rib and lobster tails are the Sunday night usual offerings, which were great and the place (called the DFAC) was decorated for Easter.

But, the big news is they broke out the good china!

I should say they broke out THE china. Usually we eat there on plastic plates with plastic utensils. But in celebratory style, we had real plates (we have real plates every day at the USAID cafe) and real silverware. And whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi, Diet Pepsi is like nectar after the only diet cola availble for a month has been local "Coke light."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Song Hits of the IZ

In addition to the skits I mentioned below, I've written on of those "buy this records bits"...: "Hits of the IZ (International Zone)"

RKO records presents the greatest hits from USAID in the Green Zone in Baghdad, who can forget that song we pull out when celebratory gunfire is heard...?

Bullets keep fallin' on my head,
But that doesn't mean I am going to turn up dead,
Duck and Cover is no lie,
But - Someones's got to do some explainin' -
(please) Don't shoot the sky!

And then that song about the Personal Security Detail (armed guards who accompany USAID staff out of the IZ) from the old country ...with the Sound of Music

We're Super U S A I D-ers guarded by P S D's
When we go out in our flack jackets we cannot hardly breathe
After work (When's That?!) we like to swim at Pool Liberty<
But we cannot float while while holding onto our P S Ds

And then From - rest his soul - the great Sammy Davis Jr

Who can take vacations?
Forget about Iraq?
Go away for 2 weeks and pretend to not come back?
The R & R man! The R & R man!
The R&R man, cause he mixes it with work and makes it last so long,
makes it last so long.

more to come!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Crime Doesn't Pay - it leaks

I spent several hours at Da Palace (where the US Embassy is) over the past 2 days (subtitle: We need more steenking badges!) getting my Common Access Card (CAC) renewed. That cards gives access to military chow halls and other essentials.

I got lunch at Da Palace and pocketed a few foil packs of fat free ranch dressing since I really can't stand to eat buttermilk ranch dressing any more than 22 days in a row. Out cafe hasn't come through with the Cesar dressing that I asked them to make (fair enough they are not a custom shop, except they do whip up omelets on demand). And I should mention I ate lobster tails last night at Da Palace.

With my clean getaway, I felt a refreshing, cool sensation in my pocket - wait, that isn't the pocket where I have the can of Diet Pepsi from the PX! One of the foil packs of salad dressing decided to explode in my pocket.

But now I'm afraid of the contents since my thick Khaki pants didn't show anything... Shouldn't something organic actually be absorbed by cotton-y pants and show through. Maybe I have super-pockets in them and didn't know it...

I'm happy not to have big stain on the front of my pants but do I eat this salad dressing tomorrow at lunch? It's that or day 23 of Buttermilk ranch... (there are just so many titles: how about "Back at the Ranch" :)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What's it like?

That's what everyone (who doesn't read this blog) asks. It's like being in college: eating at a cafeteria at fixed meal times, using a laundromat next door, seeing the same people. Yesterday we played pickup Kickball. OK, not exactly like college - at least not the one I went to: when the ball got kicked way fouldit bounced over the fence and hit the top of another fence and got a small punture from the barbed wire at the top. We had to share the field with Fijians playing touch rugby.

I bought 8 DVDs from a hole in the wall shop in the compound with the sports field. So will catch up on the latest movies. The photo is just outsid my trailer; no cats this morning but that was yesterday's scene when I came back from brunch.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Not My Cake

this is NOT my cake <--- This is not my cake. Mine was smaller and probably tasted better. The gang here held an 'important meeting' in the cafeteria, to which I was called, where we sang Happy Birthday (to me), ate cake and all talked about how old we are.

(Happy) Birthday in Baghdad

my neighborsGood Morning Iraq! It's my Birthday. How many countries have you had a Birthday in? My list includes USA, Egypt, Thailand, Kuwait, France and now Iraq. I turned 21 in the back seat of a car heading to Spring Break in Florida.

And now this.

The first thing I saw was my new neighbors: the cats who huddle on a towel just outside the trailer across from mine (2-B). There are many cats on the USAID compound and they are bold, one of the yellow ones desperately wants into my trailer, which brings up another thing, occasionally I hear birds but I hardly ever see any - although chopper fly overhead regularly.

Melanie was the first to email me after midnight here and say Happy Birthday on April 7th, you've 14 hours and 19 minutes left!

I'm not the only one craving attention! See Help me win my bet - adult subject matter

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Trailer Trash

We had a good rain the other day and two things happended: the overhead light in my trailer shorted out and blew the fuse when I turned it on. I didn't suspect the obvious till I stopped in after lunch and found my phone was out and a large shallow puddle about 6 feeet wide in the center of the floor (and the floor is not very much bigger than that). Fortunately 3 things: my bed is against the wall and not under the light, they fixed the phone/fuse/light, it stopped raining and hasn't rained since!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dook and cOvair

(I acknowledge I have a horrible accent in all the 'foreign' language I try to speaka nd am fair game for abuse on that!)
I've worked a few evenings late (played poker last night).

Yesterday morning there was a boom in the middle distance followed by a PA call to "duck and cover. duck and cover." It is done in the voice of one of the South American (Peruvian) security guards (who are polite, dedicated and great to work with) on the USAID compound and sounds like "dook" (rhymes with 'book') and "cOvair". I thought up a skit if our planned comedy show comedy happens (planned for next week or the one after) : A guy in helmet and flack jacket goes to pee. He is obviously uncomfortable with the gear and is confused what to do with it while he pees. He takes his helmet off and puts it down. Picks it back up and puts it on and tries to take the jacket (actually a vest) off over his head. Takes his helmet back off, takes the jacket off and puts it between his legs to hold it while he puts his helmet back on. As he unzips the zipper gets stuck on the vest. Just then a call of 'Dook and covair" comes and he panics. The security calls intensify as he tried to free himself from the vest and ends up rotating and spinning and slamming himself with the vest around his groin. When he finally crumples into a heap, he ends up standing up with the flack jacket pulled on like pants covering his crotch. Looks around, shrugs and goes out.

I also have a bunch of Dick Cheney bits. One is Dick coming in saying "I shot another one, call the press." "Another one what?" "Another Republican!". "How?" "We were out in the woods trying to get something - a trophy - something to stuff and hang on the wall and I mistook hm for game."
"Oh no." I don't get it -again?" "Yes! Call the media!"
"What did you think he was that you shot him?" .... " a TROUT!".

Maybe also have a bunch of one-lines by a new anchor throughout: "Dick Cheney today was rejected as a starter for the Boston Marathon. He has been asked to be a ceremonial starter for the historical race but was rejected when he insisted on launching the race with a machine gun." They almost write themselves

The "All Clear" came about 8 minutes after the Dook&cOvair -I took off my helmet and vest (and freed my zipper) and went back into bed.

Then in the afternoon we heard a loud boom much closer - I was working in the supposedly bomb-proof office building, but could feel a very slight tremor with the boom. Another 'Dook and cOvair' announcement but all we have to do inside the office is stay away from the windows.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Get rich in Iraq

Yeah, lots of people are making big bucks here. Today at a crafts and art bazaar at USAID I picked up some - I bought a pile of money. Old value-less Iraqi money (since they have issued a new Iraqi diner). The top one is fake, a color photocopy, of which the market was flooded a couple of years ago. <Here's my pile.

Baghdad Hash

For those of you who don;t know the Hash House Harriers, this may be bewildering; the 'drinking club with a running problem' has been running every Friday (exceot one when a torential downpour forced them to skip the run part altogether) for over 2 years, in the Green/International Zone (IZ). Baghdad H3 bills itself as 'The Most Dangerous hash in the World', it may have been but I think my liver was at more risk than any part of my hide.

We met after dark Friday night near Saddam's Place (one of the 63 he had), 3 women and about 20 men, mostly military, ran through the streets of the IZ, doign what Hasher;s do: chasing "hare's" who laid a trail of flour blobs, false trails and checkpoints that took us past the tomb of the unknown soldier, rows of humvees, fortified walls and various compounds yelling "On On" and "Are You?" to communicate the pack that we were on trail or wondering who was.

On On (On)The trail finished in a gated villa where we did the Hash 'circle' and Down-Downs in the grass, with ice seats for the offenders, and named 4 hash virgins, including one elder Scotsman who protested loudly when his new Hash name of "English Rose" was announced - his real name is Rosie (not sure how he spells that.)
Then we headed to a giant party with an open bar somewhere with some group (I never found out who) but it was a lively gathering and filled with a mix of civilians and military from all over.

The disco at USAID After all that I returned to USAID to join the outdoor party in progress in the compound with dancing festivities into the wee hours.

Photos and more detals are coming for this post. check back later.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lunch (No Comment)

Blackhawk Up!

Camp Striker and Baskin Robbins Welcome to Camp Striker! Pallets of bottle water everywhere as our checked baggage showed up and we turned in our Military ID (CAC cards or passports) and got inprocessed. The weather is pleasant, there are civilians and many soldiers reading, snacking and waiting for transport onward. My group of 5 was met by a USAID expediter who took us to get a meal at a giant cafeteria with just about every type of food one could want including a Mongolian stir fry, burgers and chips, and 10 flavors of Baskins Robbins.

I then picked up my 'Full metal jacket' and helmet whcih will be with me until I depart Iraq though I didn;t have to put it on until preparing for the Balck Hawk 4 minute flight into the IZ (international Zone).

This entry is being updated - please check back for final version!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Open Seating

Alas, leaving the 4 Seasons hotel at 9:00 a.m. for the Marka airport (not the Amman Intl) I checked in with immigration, paid my 5 JD dearturre tax. At another counter I checked my 2 bags and did NOT get a receipt. My boarding card had spaces for name, flight #, gate and seat. It was empty except for a handwritten "C-130": I assumed that wasn't my row number.

Boarding. More than an hour later than expected we were told to 'get on the bus' for the short ride to the waiting, cmao-green C-130 4-propeller plane, sitting with it's back end open and several soldires directing us inside.

Window Seat I went in almost first on the left side of the middle column and took the second seat since the first had a helmet on it. The seat was a red nylon base with nylon webbing forming the back and hanging from a pole running the length of the aircraft. Our backs were to the port side of the aircract and we faced across the body - sideways from how one sites in a commercail aircraft. 12 inches from my knees were the knees of a sleepy looking civilian in a baseball cap. Once we took off, a huge soldier strapped in next to me, his sidearm digging in to my hip. As we settled in wearing our required earplugs, most people slept, after the scenery below disappeared I read until 'civilization' reappeared below. I watch up cross the Tigris and start the spiral descent into Baghdad Interantional Airport (BIAP). I had been warned 'don't eat' before the flight, but since I ended up on a military flight instead of a smaller Airserv jet, it was hardly noticeable when we spun into the airport.

The pre-flight briefing. A female soldier told us to fasten our seat belts and explained the oxygen masks, which one puts ocmpletely over their heads and 'breathes normally.' We were also told, that in the event of a requirement to disembark in an emergency my side of the lane was to go to the nearest exit - the gaping backside of the aircraft. The other side would go out the front.

A safe and smooth landing!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Ruined Afternoon

My last day in Amman. I worked from the hotel and took a break to ride with Michelle from UNHCR (who must have been a car thief in a previous life - she drives 'perfectly' in Jordan) and Madison, an expat businesswoman, to the Roman ruins at Jerash.

A cool thing about Jerash (named Philadelphia in ancient times) - which I have visited several times - they keep finding new stuff. Today we saw a mosaic tile floor only uncovered one month ago and a church that was underground the previous time I visited. And there are apparently another dozen churches and a half mile of Roman Road left to uncover. We hired Akram, for $10 as a guide and wandered for about 2 hours. A policeman walked right across the mosaic, which was roped off, so I yelled at him and told him not to do it again (in Arabic), he sheepishly nodded and headed off.

We had a great mezze lunch at an open air Lebanese restaurant near the ruins and I am now repacking for tomorrow morning's flight to Baghdad Internatial Air Port (BIAP).

Friday, March 17, 2006

NON-Bike Week

2 weeks ago I joined the Orlando HHH with some Hogtowners at Daytona Beach "Bike week" for a weekend. It was the 'small' weekend with only a couple hundred THOUSAND bikers (the BIG weekend, the following weekend had 600,000). Motorocycles of all shapes, sizes, colors and models (and riders of all shapes, sizes, colors and models) roared, and seemed to politely obey all traffic rules.

Here in Jordan, there seem to be NO traffic rules, and virtually no mototrcycles. Since the last time I was here they have lifted the ban on motorcycles in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but I haven't spotted any bikes yet. That's probably agood thing. The driving is the same bizarre anything-goes as in Cairo but at higher speeds.

Stuck in Margaritaville til Sunday

OK, not really. I'm 'stuck' in Amman, Jordan. And being stuck in the Four Seasons hotel is no bad fate. But last night I joined a bunch of UNHCR folks at a Mexican restaurant where the music was latin, the chips and salsa were excellent, and the maragritas and Coronas flowed.

There have been obvious security issues in the news plus some administrative happenings which made my scheduled flights from Amman to Baghdad not available. Next plan is a military flight on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"Full, madam"

Ah, it's great to be back in the Near East

I just had a great breakfast at the 4 Seasons (Amman) Hotel, featuring fresh hommous and of course, Foul Medames. Foul (pronounced "fuul") - a staple of the Egyptian diet - always reminds me of the title of this blog. I see a waiter offering it to a visiting Ameican tourist and her saying "NO! I haven't even had any beans yet!"

Sorry. Foul beans are fava beans ladled out of a deep gold or bonze colored cooking pot where they have slow cooked and simmered with spices.

I'm off on the 'carnival ride' fight to Baghdad tomorrow, which I just confirmed, there are no flashing lights - as far as I know - but they don't put they air sickness bags on this flight just for show! - Can't you just hardly wait for updates? :-)

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