This Blog Ain’t Dead Yet

June 26, 2017

Moribund, but not dead. I’ll revive it for a possibly too detailed account of the quest for a residence visa to where ever the next country is. Portugal looked good enough on first impression. I’m headed back for 2 weeks in Sept, by way of Vienna, to venture into the suburbs of Porto and Lisbon so as to simulate some day to day resident behavior.

In the meantime, here are Ideas for blog posts I rejected almost as fast as they appeared.

20170606_104758-shrimpfat

Also known as cholesterol in saturated fat.

 

20170523_054619-shoecubby

No one cares this lie flat airline seat has a cubby hole for your shoes.

 

s95-20170624-01168-sardines

Top can has 3 big sardines. Bottom can has “12-22” svelte, pliant ones. They’ve only been sold in Hua Hin for a few months. They are far less likely to trigger my stomach acid problems, so I’m stockpiling them. Why? Calcium and heart-healthy oils.

 

s95-20170621-01167-sprained

Sprained my right ankle. Got a Slab put on today. It’s rigid cast material that runs down the calf to the heel, then across sole to in front of toes. Front is open so I can remove it to shower. It’s held on by an Ace bandage. Crutches are going to suck.

 

20170513_092006-pieface

I passed on buying this in Portugal because I thought the fun would immediately wear off unless one was drunk enough.


So how was the flight on an A380?

April 8, 2017

It looks a lot bigger in real life. There wasn’t a ramp from the gate to the plane, there was a ramp to a 3 way intersection (First, Business, Economy), then stairs, then another ramp then OMG. It’s bigger on the inside than I expected. Four across seating allowed for ‘seats’ (pods would be a better name) with this between the seat part of the pod and and the aisle:

J-20170327_204229-800

For the first time there was more – far more – storage space at the ‘seat’ than I could use. One of these holds the full length sleeping pad and pillow, the other is for, uh, duty free purchases?

20170327-01663-800

I put that pad and pillow to good use, getting 5.5 hours uninterrupted sleep on the way to Sydney.

Return flight was scheduled for 7:30 pm. We left at 9 pm. Is flying Business Class worth it? Good question. Maybe if I could barely afford it I’d have a good answer. I do know time passed quickly and comfortably in the Emirates lounge. But the best part, after walking about 5 kilometers on the warmest day yet, was my first stop in the lounge:

J-20170327_170021-800

In 2015 I flew biz class for the first time, on a flight to Vienna. It was a 60th birthday present to myself and an experiment to see if it would reduce jet lag and travel fatigue. It did. Flew biz class again last year to Amsterdam to verify my findings (HA! I don’t even believe that justification). Thought about a quote I’d read decades earlier: ‘A luxury once sampled becomes a necessity.’ Wasn’t concerned because I’d long since learned that when I did splurge it was balanced by my pervasive living beneath my means.

After my third trip with long biz class flights I’ve realized it’s probably time to switch to another quote. Last year I read about the discovery of a walled off section of a NYC subway line. It contained the deteriorating remains of one of the best known and most opulent private subway cars from the era when the system accommodated them. The author found a quote by the owner from the period she was using the car. When asked if a private car was an acquired taste, she replied, ‘No. One takes to it immediately.’

 

 


O Lucky Man!

March 19, 2017

So far, it had a been a fun day in Melbourne. I went to Luna Park, an amusement park that opened in 1912, for a photo shoot. As expected, on the way there and back I followed distractions, which had me heading back to the hotel later than expected. Not a problem.

Then I kept eating up time. When changing trams, I got on the correct route going the wrong way. Realized that after one stop but waiting for the right tram took a while. While waiting I saw a big banner advertising a stage play touring company now in Melbourne. Googled for tickets, but, as expected, they’re sold out until late April. While my face was buried in the phone, I missed the next tram.

Once on the correct tram I soon saw something worth photographing and hopped off. After 15 minutes, checking Google maps showed 2 options back to the hotel: tram or train. Had yet to take a train in Oz, so I took the longer way home.

Walking from station to hotel I passed a theater. The one hosting the sold out play. An open door had a small sign saying box office open. The stated hours open had started 5 minutes earlier. Walked on, then, in a moment of non-pessimism, turned back and went in.

There was one ticket left for a matinee the next day. She asked my price range. I asked first see the seating chart. Wow. Decided to buy before hearing the price. Why? Sometimes SLADS (Spending Like A Drunken Sailor) seems like the best thing to do.

The view from my seat:

J-20170319_124631-800

Front row in the first balcony.  The show was excellent:

20170319-00758-1280

If I remember correctly, this is the third live musical I’ve seen. First was A Chorus Line by the UC Irvine Drama Department in the early ’80s. Second was Reefer Madness in a 99 seat theater in LA in 1998 or 9.


Off to Oz

March 12, 2017

I’m on my way to Australia for about 2 weeks. Daily updates will be on my post-one-photo-a-day project at 365Project.org. One album will be my favorite images , the other will be a record of and comments about the day, site or photo .

Photography isn’t the only reason I travel, but it is one of the major ones. Necessity may teach me to pack lighter, but here is my travel kit for now.

j-20170309_115651-850

Bottom Row, left to right: Tripod, assorted ties for attaching tripod to pack.

Row 2: Olympus 12mm f2 (multiply focal length by 2 for 35mm equivalence), Panasonic 20mm f1.7, Panasonic 14-45mm f3.5-5.6, Olympus EM10 MkII with Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8, Flash.

Row 3: Two lens hoods (which I should have reverse mounted on the lenses for this photo), SD card reader with cable, White balance cards I’ve been playing with, 2 types of lens cleaners in baggie.

Row 4: Two empty filter cases because replacing a filter in the field without an empty case requires either 3 hands or setting a filter down , stack of ND and CPL filters, Filter step-up rings because the lenses take 3 different sized filters and the CPL won’t fit any without a step-up ring. 2 batteries in baggies with charger and power cable, spare SD card.

The ‘What If something goes wrong…’ row : Replacement or second camera – Olympus E-PL1 with Olympus 14-42EZ f3.5-5.6, 4 spare lens caps, spare rear lens cap attached to spare body cap, External hard drive with 2 128gb USB drives, Filter wrenches.

Top Row: Case for E-PL1 in baggage which also serves as a belt pouch for spare lens(es) in places that don’t allow backpacks, Padded insert designed for photo gear, which goes in the adjacent carry-on backpack

Not shown: Ultrabook computer, any evidence of photographic talent.


2017 Shoehorned Sandwich

February 12, 2017

My trip folder names are boring. 2014 Fall – Japan, for example. I broke the pattern with 2015 Fall – Slovenian Splurge because it just fit. The trip formerly known as 2017 Spring – Portugal has become 2017 Shoehorned Sandwich.

May looked good for Portugal because it warms up and dries out as Spring progresses (duh, just like most places). My stopover city on the way home, Paris, is less desirable in late May because the French Open adds demand for accommodations. Who knew Springtime in Paris was a thing?

Google Images of Paris parks in Spring http://bit.ly/2kWhnSw

So I shoehorned the trip between the start of the Open, and a date reached by subtracting the number of nights I wanted in Portugal and Paris. I can’t remember doing such precise travel date setting since retiring, except when traveling with a friend from the US of A.

What about the Sandwich?  I’ve kept trying and failing to add more unplanned days to my trips. Actually, more nights without booked places to sleep. I started planning this trip with the best of intentions: book 1 night before and after flights. Immediately remembered budget places near metro stations in Paris sell out early. Booked all nights in Paris when I bought the airline tickets in early Dec.

OK, so first night Lisbon will be easy – but – the next day is a public holiday, so first 2 nights. The more I read about Lisbon, the less it seemed like a relaxing place in which to recover from let jag, uh, jet lag. Lisbon has an extensive light rail system. One line ends at Cascais, a former fishing town that became a weekend and day-trip destination from Lisbon. It shouldn’t be warm enough for beach goers in April, so I’m in.

Google Images of Cascais  http://bit.ly/2lEIzoD

The last night is in Porto. Easy. Done. Except the oldest part of the city, the one of most interest to tourists, is on steep hills.

Google Images of Porto http://bit.ly/2lEv2xE

Damn, my knees are older than the rest of my body. The best value budget sleeps nearest metro and bus stations were down to their last few rooms. I added 2 more nights. My knees thanked me.

Good, that left many unbooked nights – but – while putting the bookings on a calendar I saw I’d noted May Day when deciding on flight dates. Not just a big public holiday, a 3 day weekend. Plan was on the 3rd day to head south to the Algarve region on the Southern coast. It’s the warmest and driest part of the country. Plan was to stay 3-5 nights, but that meant moving on during a 3 day weekend. No thanks. I needed a Plan B.

OMG. Sintra is a 30 minute bus ride from Cascais and it’s on a rail line to the Algarve via Lisbon.

Google Images of Sintra http://bit.ly/2lEqO8T

I had figured to hit it in mid trip as I meandered north to Porto. It works better making it the second stop then doing a base camp over the long weekend in Faro as the third stop. Faro is a good transport hub for day trips in the Algarve and interesting in itself.

Sintra is on steep hills, budget sleeps in or near the flat area by the train station… you know the rest. Booked 2 nights in Sintra, 4 in Faro. Aargh.

Adding Faro and Sintra to my calendar removed the aargh because then I saw the filling of the sandwich: Ten unbooked nights in a row in a relatively small country. Woo hoo.


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2016

January 11, 2017

I’m sorry Ladies and Gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this post here(1). Past cost of living posts were intended to be informative. Also, as I stated in the first post 8 years, 5 months and 15 days ago, all posts are for my use too. In 2016 my spending changed significantly and atypically, so it doesn’t seem like others would find it useful. Besides, most categories stayed the same.

Medical expenses increased, to be expected following a heart attack. The most expensive drug prevents the immune system from treating my stents as foreign objects. Yeah, that’s worth it and will be for the next 2 and a half years I’ll be on it.

Food costs jumped because ingredient labels in Thailand are mostly fiction. Replacing palm oil with heart healthy oils required shopping at the supermarket with imported goods, priced for those who just can’t face life without their favorite foods from home.

Camera spending increased because I picked up 2 more camera lenses. They’re faster and sharper ones which duplicated focal lengths of lenses I already had. Did I need them? Nope. Did I want them? Yep. Will my photos improve? Nope, though I will be able to shoot in lower light than without them. Now, because this blog has too many posts without images, the 2 newbies:

em5-w-lenses

When I saw the average spent per month on travel I thought it couldn’t possibly be correct. It was, because I’d forgotten buying tickets in December for 2 trips this year. I hadn’t forgotten they weren’t Economy class tickets. I’ve always had trouble sleeping on flights. With age, that’s had greater impact on travel fatigue. As I suspected, upgrading has made sleep easier with less jet lag. Also, seems priority boarding and disembarking will be useful on one of these:

a380

(1) Paraphrasing one of the best improvised actions by a guest on SNL disrupting a live show that had been timed to the second He wasn’t invited back for almost 12 years.


2016: What a Wonderful Year

January 2, 2017

When deciding when to begin early retirement, a major concern was not running out of money before taking the long dirt nap. The flip side was running out of time, physical or mental capabilities with enough bank left to have done or bought things earlier if I hadn’t been concerned about running out of money before taking the long dirt nap. That’s circular. No worries. It motivates me to just get on with things.

The best part of last year was my heart attack wasn’t fatal. The adventure started at 2:30 one morning in June with the cliche of waking up with my chest in a vice. Banged on a neighbors door for a ride to the ER where they stabilized me before a 135 mile lights and siren ambulance ride to Bangkok. Ever been wheeled straight from an ambulance into a surgery where a squad started working the moment the gurney came to a stop? It was both a major relief and, upon later reflection, concern why they needed so many people. Five subsequent nights in the Cardiac ICU gave me a clue.

s4-20160617_200002

They discharged me on the 11th day with instructions that included exercise. I obeyed.

Ten weeks later it was no big deal to do 3 miles in an hour without rests. That’s been my personal standard for minimum level of fitness for decades. That got boring, so I shortened the walk and added trips up, across, down and back over a pedestrian bridge. Built up to 20 minutes with 2 up and downs on each end before crossing. Yesterday for the first time since June, I did the hill I’ve always used before travel to get in shape for – wait for it – stairs and hills. My rule of thumb has been I’m ready when 5 laps is an effort but not unpleasant or a problem. Yesterday 3 laps met that standard. Could have done more but was concerned about sore muscles (my glutes hurt today). I’ll be ready for the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb(1) in March.

As for the money end of things, it’s great. The Social Security administration deposited my first benefit payment 3 days ago. IRA balance is 117% higher than retirement at the end of 2008 during the global economic shit storm. The non-IRA account, which had to last until I could access the IRA without penalty in 2014, should last until the end of 2017, despite some spending this year on expensive stuff I didn’t need. Details in the upcoming annual Cost of Living post.

Haven’t looked at my bucket list for years. Now seems like a good time.

(1) Top of the bridge is 440 feet above the water. Said to be a nice view. It would be fun. Then I saw the price. IS THIS SOME KIND OF JOKE?! Well… I could afford it. Then I realized it’s high adventure for some people, and thus worth it. I’ve been to 11,800′ in a hang glider, so the price-to-wow ratio of the bridge climb is unappealing. Even without that experience, I doubt I would have done it because cameras are not allowed.