Lazy. So. Very. Lazy.

I really don’t have any excuses for this close-out post being so late.  We got back almost two weeks ago, then immediately launched into prepping for the moderate-sized (90 people projected – I think we did a bit better than that) family reunion.  Then the reunion. Then moderate cleanup (I love that my family is so diligent about picking up; about the only thing was the literal truck load of garbage to go to the dump), then back to work.  For two days. Then July 4th, one day at work, then a weekend, then more work, and now you are up to the present. Plenty of time to hammer out a blog post; sorry I’ve been such a deadbeat.

OK, trip report…  The day train to Munich was nice except for one major issue.  The car has giant windows that let in lots of sunlight and the AC was barely keeping up.  Then, I guess to move the engine from one end of the train to the other (‘cuz we changed directions of travel), the AC was off for 10-15 minutes.  It quickly turned into an oven. Keep in mind that these are normal summer temps, we got out before they had those record heat waves, so I can’t imagine what it would be like during the heatwave.  The car had only managed to get back to bearable by the time we got back to Munich, well over an hour, perhaps two.

On the taxi ride back from the train station to the hotel I remarked to the driver that the two (long) train rides I was on were both a half hour late.  He made it clear that late trains was a fairly regular thing, so I’m guessing the EU is resting on its laurels now and letting things go to hell. I never actually checked the time for the shorter train rides we were on, but Mara, our guide at the time, was diligent to ensure we were always at the train/bus before it was to arrive.

Our last night in Munich was spent in a local restaurant at another hotel.  The service, unlike reported here previously, was OK. Granted there were 18 of us (Mama’s brother and wife joined us) and we were pretty much the only customers, so the staff was probably overwhelmed, but the food came out fairly quickly given the circumstances and was very enjoyable.

Some random thoughts on our trip, since the rest of the post diverges from the trip:

  • Cleaning elves. We sort of joked about this, because most places were really clean (caveat below), but we rarely saw anyone doing anything about it.
  • Tiny glasses.  What the heck is it with these one-sip glasses?  I’m used to the ‘small’ glasses everyone else in the US has (I drink from quart-plus glasses at home), but they felt gallon-sized compared to these tiny things.  In a couple of places I got my wife coffee and me drinks in a soup bowl.
  • F-ing cobbles.  God, do I hate cobble stones!  So easy to trip over. And don’t get me started about pushing a wheelchair over the damn things, particularly when the gaps are the exact size of the wheels.
  • So much water per flush.  I guess they don’t consider water a valuable commodity there, or we got (un)lucky, but man did their toilets use a lot of water for each flush.  I’m used to the gallon or so here in the US and sometimes it seemed like 5 gallons were going down.
  • Handicap accessibility. I mentioned this before, but it was everywhere.  I guess they either don’t have handicap people in Europe or they don’t give a damn about them, as the problem was everywhere.
  • Unmown grass.  I mentioned the ‘cleaning elves’ above, but there were many places where the grass was completely unmown and it looked trashy.  On a jog around Zurich, though, I came up with the idea that these were set aside for wild flowers and pollinators. Or I’m making excuses for them, can’t be sure.

Our simple trip to the airport wound up not being that simple.  First, we follow the wheelchair people to their own checkin desk, which only had a single person in front, just about to leave, while all the rest got in the long line to checkin there.  Yet _all_ the others managed to get through the checkin while we were still standing around. Supposedly there was some element of haggling over seats, but I really don’t understand why these things always seem to take longer for the group I’m in.

Then we went through security, largely painlessly. Then only had to go through customs and find our gate.  Except it seems there are at least two ways to get through customs and our party fissioned. NATURALLY our son goes with the other party and we lose track of him.  I believe it was almost an hour and a half before we were able to finally get word where he was. He was just outside another customs entry way, playing on his phone like there was nothing going on.  I did my best not to jump all over him, though I’m sure he felt put upon. Of course, just about everyone else had to give him a dig at some point, as it seems he was somehow the only one that didn’t realize we were frantically looking for him.  Well, my wife was frantically looking. I stood in one place so there’d only be two of us lost in the airport.

Our biggest worry was he did some Home Alone crap and followed someone else through customs and now we would be split on both sides.  We had no idea about the multiple customs entry (why?) or we might have thought to check the other(s). Anyway, instead of a relaxed hour or two at the gate, it was stress filled and I had barely got to relax before we started to board the plane.

The bulk of the flight was without incident.  We were three abreast in the middle of the plane, which meant I didn’t have the window to lean against to attempt to sleep, which sucked.  Plus, we were ‘chasing the sun’ and it never got dark the whole ride and there was never a period where people calmed down and relaxed. I did try to sleep (I really tried!) and my wife tells me I snored, so I must have been unconscious for a half hour or so.  However, I didn’t feel I got any rest at all.

I watched Captain Marvel, since I had 9 hours to kill.  I liked it and will want to get the disks to watch the behind-the-scenes.  I really found it amusing that after she had mastered her powers, she’d giggle as she flew back and forth through a big ship, tearing it to pieces.  I watched another movie, but can’t remember what the heck it was. I started to watch Jumanji 2, figuring I wouldn’t mind it being interrupted since I’ve watched it several times and have the disk.

Then we came in for the landing.  Some little kid (girl, perhaps, but they all sound alike at that age) seemed to be feeling some pain from the change in altitude.  Except not just crying, but screaming. The ‘interesting’ thing was it (what else should I call the child if I don’t know the sex?) had a fairly substantial vocabulary and spoke in whole sentences, so I really felt it was a temper tantrum rather than crying from the pain.  I got very close to homicide.

Naturally it took a long-assed time to get everyone off the plane.  The oldies prefer to be back near the bathrooms, plus wheelchairs, so it was a good long while before we got to the main terminal.  My family and a couple of others had got the Global Entry thing to get through customs. It was just a couple of minutes, no line, and we breezed through.  Only to learn that the mob moves at the pace of its slowest member and we probably sat for at least a half hour, perhaps even close to an hour, before everyone else made it out of customs.  At least we had all the luggage by then.

The trip home was almost anticlimactic, except for how tired I(we) were.  We finally managed to get to bed around midnight, or around 6 AM Munich time, for a vvveeerrryyy lllooonnnggg trip.  We did nothing the next day (Wednesday) except drive out to Shen, all the party prep was left for Thursday and Friday.  And after doing that I was pretty wiped out from the sun and physical labor. It seems the mysterious ailment that has been nagging me for several months now is still not finished. Around six weeks ago ago I visited a cardiologist because I had been dragging for over 6 weeks (this was on referral from my GP, who ad no idea what’s up).  He couldn’t find anything either (seemed a bit disappointed that I was otherwise healthy), so scheduled an ‘echo’ and a ‘nuclear stress test’ for July 11th. Some 6 weeks away at that time. I figured I’d be cured or dead by then. And, wouldn’t you know it, just a couple days later I started to feel much better. Even started jogging again.

But my jogging energy (I seem to be able to walk without too fatigue) would ebb and flow.  I felt good jogging in Europe, until the last day in Munich. I really dragged and probably only did an honest jog for about a mile.  The fatigue from the prep for the party felt like part of it, but it was hot as hell and I was doing physical labor, so I sort of chalked it off to that.  Didn’t really have any time to go jogging until yesterday and I was dying before we got a mile and didn’t even manage to finish jog/walking to the two mile halfway point.  And was so wiped out when we got back I didn’t have the energy to shower, then woke up with the alarm. So maybe the tests on Thursday will tell the doctor something I can act on.  Hopeful, but not optimistic.

I managed to finish my screenplay, or, at least, got all the elements in my synopsis written into screenplay format.  Only 60 pages though – when I was aiming for 90-100. Traditionally, screenplays are considered one minute of finished on-screen film per page, though that’s violated probably as often as it’s honored.  My first feature, Shenandoah Treasure Hunt (shameless plug), was 84 pages, yet edited down to 62.5 minutes (including the begin/end credits). I’m somewhat less worried about my bike racing movie as there are quite a few pages where I have brief descriptions of what I feel strongly will wind up much longer on the screen.

I got absolutely nothing done on my budget or energy idea.  Regarding the latter, in discussions with a brother-in-law (once removed), he suggested I curtail my cigars and use them as a reward to getting progress on the energy thing.  I was skeptical at the time, but have since started to think it might be worth pursuing. That being said, so far I’ve only managed to do some design work while smoking exactly once, but at least that’s further than before and I am slightly optimistic I can do this at least a few more times.

Now I have to try and focus on getting prepped to film the bike racing short in August.  My lovely wife is helping by doing her Shopping Queen thing, but I have to build a greenscreen wall as well as a dolly track, then try and organized the crew to spend at least a few hours practicing with the setup, so when we start filming we can (hopefully) blaze through and get it all done on one weekend.

My wife would like to collect our trip and reunion pictures and display them and I will, no doubt, be involved in that.  I may create a post with those links and let my reader(s) know. Or, probably the most likely, dilly dally until everyone has forgot, then blow it off.  I never put any pictures up from our trip to the Philippines last year, though I had every intention at the time.

The Night Train to Zürich

This was noteworthy enough I thought to record my thoughts while I still could remember them.  The trip was… interesting. Not bad, per se, but not one I have any eagerness to repeat any time soon (really, at all).  We got a ‘room’ that ‘slept two.’ Why the quotes? I’m sure prison cells are larger for one person and we squeezed in two, plus our luggage.  Bunk beds, and the bottom was slightly longer than the top, which just allowed me to lie on my belly, with my head touching one wall and my feet the other.

The main issue I had was the necessity to have the purser (or whatever he’s called) fold the upper bunk up/down instead of doing it ourselves, as there was no way for me to sit with the top bunk down.  Eliz and I attempted to sleep together on the bottom bunk, but it only took 10 or 15 minutes for us to realize neither of us would get any sort of quality sleep and rang for the purser to fold the top back down again.

I’ve never actually been in a coffin, but I’ve looked at a number, several with people inside.  The bed felt very much like it was coffin sized, particularly given the closet on one side of my head, the wall between compartments on the other and the above bunk less than two feet from my face.  I banged my elbows several times during the night as well as my head a time or two.

All that being said, according to my wife I slept soundly, at least I snored a lot.  I didn’t feel like I slept at all, though I didn’t feel that tired when we got up (around 7 AM, I believe, after getting on the train at 9:30 PM and probably being ready for sleep by 11).  The train stopped many times and I felt like I was awake each time that happened, but perhaps I was awakened each time from a dreamless sleep.

The food was OK. Not great, though no doubt better than prison food.  Comparable to airplane food. They took our order that night and delivered it in the morning.  After we got the purser to put the top bunk up again. How they expect people to sit there without the top bunk folded is beyond me.

I do believe my wife lacks any sort of romance at all.  A night train, alone in a compartment. How many steamy novels have been written around that?  Well, no steaming in our compartment, that’s for sure. Granted, she may have been practical, as she is the very soul of practicality nearly 100% of the time, and it would have been very impractical indeed.  Imagine a space slightly bigger than twice the size of an airplane bathroom. But people join the mile high club all the time, so I figured there’d be all sorts of interesting things to investigate. Instead we went to sleep.

We’re in Zurich now.  We got here too early to get all our rooms.  The hotel cleared one out so we could pile our baggage in it.  They left for their adventures, I left for a jog. I felt light headed when I started and wondered if it were the altitude, but Google just told me we’re only at 408 meters (1,340 feet).  Perhaps it’s just the travel catching up with me. My jog was probably around two miles, though attempting to measure it via Google Maps has proved too painful to continue ,so it’s just a guess.  The water in the river Limmat, the outlet for Lake Zurich, is very clear. Probably the clearest water I’ve seen since we’ve been here. Most of the rivers are totally opaque, from the glacial ‘flour’ ground off the rocks. And the river is flowing quite well. I saw several people swimming in it.  Even swimming upstream, most people will still going down stream. At least where the people were swimming there were ladders at regular intervals (the sides are mortared stone), so they wouldn’t get swept to wherever the Limmat goes to.

Once again, no AC in the hotel.  The train was very pleasantly cold, though.  Indeed, one of my sisters-in-law remarked the train was the first time she was comfortable since we’ve got here.  And, again, the hotel window has no screen. They do have a Dyson fan, which I placed in the window, so I have a slight breeze blowing over me, cooling and drying me (yes, I sweat like a pig – and it’s really gross).

I got some good writing in yesterday, I’m close to 30 pages.  My goal is around 100, so nearly a third of the way. I’m not sure if I’ll get more writing done today – despite the relatively good sleep my body apparently got, my brain isn’t convinced it got what it needs.  I’m writing this blog post instead of napping because, well, there are bags on the three beds in the room and I’m still sweaty from my jog. I’ll probably Reddit or something until they get back and we can get our own rooms.  If not tonight, then hopefully tomorrow before the train ride (thankfully only around 4 hours, and during the day; there was very little to see out the window last night, though I did enjoy watching the scenery for an hour or so this morning).  And we have some time in Munich before we head to the airport, so some possibility there.

Oh, almost forgot: our train was a half hour late getting to Zurich.  What about the famous punctuality of European transportation? I was rather disappointed!

Solar Fields and Non-Rotating Wind Towers

I even sent myself an email to remind myself to add this to my next post, but obviously that wasn’t enough.  Something I totally forgot to mention when I discussed the myriad little tiny farming plots was how many are dedicated to solar panels.  Perhaps not that many as a percentage, but given the massive number of little fields, it’s a large number.  I only noticed one that was getting dual use, there were sheep eating in and around the base of the panels.  I saw a lot of greenery under and between the panels, so clearly there’s enough light for things to grow, which makes me wonder if it’d be practical to get something in addition to the electricity, such as the sheep grazing or some crop that prefers partial sun.

While no where near as ubiquitous as the solar panels, the wind mills are much easier to see since they stick up so high.  But very few were turning at a speed I figured would be necessary to produce meaningful electricity.  I don’t know if this is from lack of wind, I know they all have a minimum wind energy to get the blades turning as the generator has some significant startup resistance, but where there were several, I’d often see one or two turning, if lackadaisical, while others were either stationary, or moving so slowly I couldn’t make out the movement.  Perhaps they’re really only useful in the winter.

Interestingly, I didn’t see any in the mountains.  Perhaps no one was willing to ruin the views.  All I saw were on relatively flat land and typically in closer association with a major metropolitan area.

Innsbruck to Vienna, by way of a Small Austrian Town

To start, we traveled _all_ the way back to Munich, all 4 hours. I gather that the official, supported, tour began at Prague and our visit to Munich at the beginning was a chance to hang out with Tito Eddy, Mama’s brother. I felt a tiny bit better once I understood this. A tiny bit.

So we go all the way into the center of Munich to see the BMW building we’ve passed twice already (from the hotel to the bus station, then from the bus station back past our hotel; this has been an interesting experience of deja vu all over and over (and over) again). We spent around 45 minutes there, though a good chunk of that time was too-ing and fro-ing. At least I could go pee for free. Pay to pee? What’s an American to think? How about this: water isn’t free either! Even plain old tap water costs money! Even the ‘free’ bathrooms expect a donation – to the keeper of the bathroom, I guess. Anyway, we spent a few minutes in the giant BMW building that seeks to extract money for kitsch and was successful in a couple of places.

Then began the odyssey. We left Prague around 7 AM and got to our final destination at 8 PM, for a 13 hour trip to cover slightly more than 550 kilometers, what should have been around 5.5 hours driving. Of that trip, except for potty stops (for reasons that escape me, they didn’t want us to use the bus’ toilet, except in an emergency) and the brief stop in Munich’s BMW store and another stop so inconsequential I can’t even remember for sure it happened three days later, we spent the rest of the time in the bus in stop-and-go traffic that makes the DC rush hour beltway look like a wide-open race track. Part of the issue, it seems, is all trucks are required to stop for some sort of inspection crossing from Germany into Austria (I guess the EU isn’t as open as I thought, though the passenger cars had no issue (I’m told getting back to Germany requires even passenger cars to be examined, but we won’t see that when we return)). The two lane road turned into what was basically a single lane road as the right-hand lane was almost entirely parked trucks. Yep, parked. As in not moving at all. Not that we were setting any sort of speed record, of course, spending a good chunk of that time perfection stationary. Wheee!

The AC wasn’t working in the hotel we stayed in Innsbruck and, get this, the windows had no screens. WTF? No bugs in Europe? Plus, we’d have to leave our curtains open all night, letting the glare of the industrial park in. Yep, industrial park. I took a couple of pictures of the amazing Alps, with an industrial park in the foreground. A word on pictures: I decided to wait until I get home to gin up a post with pictures. First, as I believe I mentioned, this POS Chromebook wants to mirror my wife’s phone (twice! Since it already did a mirror once – with, btw, no evident way to delete it; to think this steaming POS is built on Linux) rather than letting my copy selected pictures. Second, once emailed, I have to go through this rather idiotic chore of copying the files to the Google drive, then to my local hard drive, then run an app that lets me FTP the images to my webserver, only to then be able to make use of them. I’ll do a single post at the end with the pictures I took along with, perhaps, some select pictures others have taken.

Selfies. WTF is it with selfies? Every picture has the same big heads blocking the view of whatever interesting people set out to photograph in the first place. The ‘funny’ thing is they look exactly the same in every selfie, with, possibly, a change of clothes now and again. It’s evidently a human thing, I see everyone doing it no matter the culture. Here and there are people taking pictures without fat human heads in them and I want to shake their hands for daring to be different.

OK, enough digression… At Innsbruck I did something I actually enjoyed, we took a ride up the Nordkette Cable Car. First we took a funicular to get to the bottom of the cable car, then the cable car, to another cable car, to the top: Hafelekar. A rarified 2,700 meters (8,850 ft) above sea level. I felt light headed even at the intermediate station, even more at the top. The spectacular view was marred by some substantial haze putting a blue cast on everything. Oh well. Eliz didn’t care for the height and kept complaining her ‘butt was puckering.’ That being said, she did choose to ride at the window, so I guess she’s a closet adrenaline junkie. Speaking of which, our also height-fearing son only made it to the intermediate gondola station, though that he made it up the funicular and first leg of the gondola speaks volumes. My sister-in-law took a video out the back of the second gondola and I expect he’ll still get the willies when he watches it.

At the top I was so light headed I was just going to sit and enjoy the view. Then my nephew (once removed, I believe, as the son of a niece, though we tend to just ignore all those issues) Kaelan decided he needed to climb to the top. Which challenged my wife too much, so she headed up, which, of course, forced me to go. I was huffing and gasping as I did my best (but still terrible) mountain goat jog up and, surprisingly (nay, shockingly), my dizziness went away when I finally caught my breath. At the top we saw what looked to me like sheep, but surely must have been goats (the grass was cropped quite close) and crow-looking birds with bright yellow beaks and orange/red feet. I sent a picture to a ornithophile friend of mine for identification.

After that we visited the Swarovski art museum. Not very interesting to me on the inside, but they have a park/garden I relaxed in. More whining about people taking pictures: why not actually stop and experience the thing you’re documenting? The sunlight prisming off the crystals can’t, in my mind, be captured by a still photograph. I believe, at minimum, it must be a video. But I feel a video still does it gross injustice and the proper way to ‘capture’ it is to simply sit and watch for a while. Which is exactly what I did.

Fortunately, leaving Innsbruck was nowhere as painful as arriving, though we still spent a lot of time in the bus. We went to Salzburg where we did that typical human caterpillar thing I hate so much (flashbacks to bootcamp, perhaps) where we all crept along extending and collapsing. Eventually we wind up in the city center where about a third of us simply planted our asses and waited for the rest. Interesting old-looking European architecture, but, frankly, seen one, seen all. We had drinks and desserts at a little cafe (I was totally carb loading!) then headed to visit a little town called Kitzbuhel. There we got out of the bus and went downhill for a very long time to get to the city center, where some sort of holiday was going on. The weather turned and we lost our sunny day in favor of cold and windy. Which started raining the moment we decide to head back to the bus. The highlight (for me) was the race pushing the wheelchairs back up the side of the mountain we descended. Surprisingly, I wasn’t sore the next day. (I believe I won, but probably only because my nephew didn’t realize we were competing.) That night we stayed in a hotel without even non-working AC. So we slept with the door open (non-screened door, btw) until I finally started to get cold in the very early morning. The dinner was very good and I was shocked I didn’t suffer regurge that night. I did stick with a single plate, though, perhaps that helped.

We drove around a number of lakes, stopped at one where I once again pushed a wheelchair up a steep-assed mountain (no racing this time). This takes us to the next portion that didn’t suck (notice I’ve been avoiding breaking out a thesaurus to describe the various ways this trip has been miserable): a boat ride across one of the lakes. Some beautiful scenery and the ability to relax and either sit or stand or even move around, as I liked, instead of being trapped in a bus seat.

As a btw, we watched “Sound of Music” on the bus (spread over several periods, or ‘seasons’ as our guide joked). Clearly I’d never seen it before. I thought I had, when I was very young, since it seems I know all the music, but I had no idea of the plot and it seems at least some portion of it would have stuck. It was interesting, but I felt rushed. The love story really hammered along, with barely the token of conflict from the Baroness. Indeed, when she bowed out and the whole wedding montage started I was sure it was some sort of dream or something and Baroness was going to get back into the action somehow. I guess plot takes back seat in a musical.

We’re in Vienna now, in another hotel that has poorly working AC. It’s set below 15C and I should have icicles on my nose, but I’m in shorts and a TShirt and quite comfortable. Breakfast was OK, but I’m writing a blog post instead of a script because I still need to decompress from the stress of the trip. Tonight we’re taking a night train to Zurich, today is the official end of our guided tour. Tomorrow the family explores Zurich and perhaps I can do some writing (a sleeper car for us, so ideally I’ll arrive refreshed) then we take a train back to Munich for the night in the same hotel we started in. From thence a non-stop flight from Munich back to the states. I expect this will be my last in-country post and will do the wrap up when we’re back home (along with the pictures).

The Trip to Praha

Sunday night we decided to try a restaurant that we saw on our walk back and forth to the Burgerfest.  Re the fest, we, foolishly, thought that meant burgers would be on the menu, but burger, it seems, means something like local citizen, and we got some strange looks when our troop initially arrived at the fest the night before.  Anyway, the restaurant, with a heavy Italian leaning, served lots of seafood (their menu had English translations, so at least we weren’t going in blind) and that appealed to my non-meat eating wife (in my book, seafood is still ‘meat,’ but not in hers).  The food was quite good. The service… not so much – perhaps they weren’t expecting to be so busy on a Sunday night with the Burgerfest going on and hadn’t staffed up enough. We wound up with around 10 people, but they arrived in three waves. My group was first and our service was pretty good and we got our food quickly.  The second group had a much longer wait and the third nearly an hour. We joked that the staff were slipping out the back to the Burgerfest and that’s why things were taking so long. All this made for a late night (well, late for me, normally, plus late for everyone, since we had to be going so early). What was interesting to me, was the _north_ sky was bright, even after 10.  I was telling everyone that the the sky was light because we were so far north that we were getting reflections from the 24 hour sun at the pole. It’s really screwed us up for estimating what time it is by the light available, though.

I believe I mentioned the four plus hour bus ride to Prague and how I wasn’t looking forward to it?  Well, it pretty much managed to live up (or down, I guess) to my expectations. We got up at around 3:30 AM, or, rather, my wife woke me up as she started packing, since she woke up even earlier.  The breakfast buffet began at 4 and the taxies to pick us up were due at 5, so my wife couldn’t sleep. The trip to the bus station was fairly uneventful, it seems morning traffic gets a much later start in Munich than in the Washington, DC area rat hole.  That meant that we got to the bus station, in central Munich, two hours early. This is what I really hate about travel, the endless waiting.

Our bus finally arrived.  We assumed we had assigned seats, but couldn’t find any evidence of seat information on the ticket, even when they tediously translated each word.  One of our members asked the lady that seemed to be managing the tickets, but her English was basically nonexistent. We, therefore, assumed that the bus had open seating, so arranged to be very first in line so my wife could get the seat in the front to minimize her motion sickness.  It wasn’t cold, but there was a cool breeze coming around the corner that ‘built up’ after sitting/standing for two hours and I was really glad I had the foresight to pack a jacket and pants in my backpack.

The bus finally arrived, much later than I expected, but it didn’t have to unload any passengers, it was empty.  Getting everyone on the bus was tedious, each ticket verified along with each passport. We all piled onto the front seats and waited for everyone else to get on board.  I saw several people look at the seat numbers (btw, they started at 26, wtf?), their tickets, then shrug and wander to the back. I commented about assigned seats again, but, once more, any attempt to find such on our tickets failed.

There was a last minute dash to the (paid) toilet (at the other end of the depot, naturally), when it seemed there wasn’t a toilet on the bus.  Which was absurd, but there was no visible evidence of one. I started to escalate my typical sarcastic comments, which was steadily pissing my wife off (she already had a headache and was very much not looking forward to bus motion; normally she can handle a lot more of my asshole-ish before things get this bad), but, thankfully, all the pee-ers made it back and the bus, remarkably, left only a minute or two late.

To drive back almost the entire way to the hotel where we had been staying!  Except this time in dense rush-hour traffic. Whee!

The traffic, though thick, moved better than around the rat hole and the distance from the city center to the rural areas much, much shorter than back home, so the pace picked up fairly quickly. The countryside is very quaint and picturesque. The same small farms, but, from time to time pretty little villages that seemed to have been formulated from paintings.  Though, I suppose, the paintings were all based on these villages in the first place.

I tried to sleep, to very little effect.  Most of my companions seemed to trot off to dream land quickly and without any real effort.  My knees were bothering me, the front-most seats didn’t have any place for me to extend my legs, and eventually I switched spots with my wife so I could stick my legs down the entrance stairs.

After a while, instead of the patchwork of wheat, corn, what looked like potatoes, probably rye and a few other grains, I started to see hops.  Then more hops. Then lots of hops. I guess with all the beer produced there, they needed lots (and lots) of hops, so eventually it made sense to me.  Much of the area was very flat and there were lots of what I assume were drainage lakes or ponds, to let the ground get dry enough to farm. At some point the character of the ground became more rolling and there were eventually places that actually looked parched, like it hadn’t rained in weeks.  So either the weather was highly variable or the lower-lying areas diligently collected rain so it could be used to water the crops.

So the ‘express’ did make a stop.  And that’s where the seat assignment thing reared its head once again.  _These_ people didn’t shrug and head to the back when they saw us in their seats and the driver, with something like a half dozen words in English, angrily pointed to these random numbers in the center of ONE of the tickets and loudly said we needed to move.  No problem, except, of course, the new arrivals were all standing in the space between the seats, where we all needed to occupy in order to move anywhere. The driver got angrier that we were just sitting there, since he clearly didn’t understand I was saying we couldn’t move because the people were in the way and I started to get angry (of course) that we were stuck in analysis paralysis instead of motoring down the road.  Eventually, I just reached over the newcomers heads to start dragging out the luggage from the overhead compartment and handing it out. I later learned that Mitch, the other white guy in our entourage, got the feeling that several of the new arrivals were saying disparaging things, so in his own charming asshole way, made a loud comment that contained the word ‘shit’ in it. Evidently, that word is somewhat of a universal one, as they all got really polite all the sudden.  Mitch isn’t as tall as me, but he is otherwise big and can look very intimidating when he wants to.

Anyway, we finally get everyone to their assigned seats, which is where we would have gone in the first place if someone had pointed out the damn random-seeming numbers to begin with.  I announced, in my normal, loud, forthright manner that my wife hates so much, that next time, we needed to bring a local language expert with us, as I’m quite certain the seat number fiasco would never have happened if there wasn’t the language barrier.  Speaking of which, after everyone else trooped to Munich to see off Mara, Tom and the kids, they missed their intended train as they did some chicken-with-head-cut-off running around trying to figure out where the elevators linked up. Eventually, it seems, the wheelchair riders had to climb up a couple flights of stairs just to make it to the right platform.  Mara made things so much easier when she was around!

The bus got going and the rest of the trip was largely uneventful.  Except my wife wouldn’t talk to me any longer, as it seems I exceeded my allowed quota of asshole-ish behavior.

It turns out the bus actually did have a bathroom.  The recorded briefing (in three languages) mentioned it was at the back of the bus, ‘down below.’  It wasn’t at the back, though, it was at the middle. How would anyone think the middle was the back?  Anyway, the bathroom, about the size of a typical airplane one, could only be reached by stepping part way down to the exit ramp, then opening the door, then doing this limbo-like twist and turn to finish going down the steps, pulling the door closed behind you. Into pitch blackness.  EVERYONE had to open the door so they could find the light switch. What fun.

After arriving in Prague we manage to link up with the guy to take us to the hotel without much trouble.  He had a large enough van for us all and was towing a trailer that wasn’t quite big enough for everything and had to stick one of the wheelchairs in the back of the van.  The hotel was nice and we managed to check in without any huge issue. The huge issue was for later, when we got to the room.

My wife stewed the entire 4+ hour trip, which, naturally, fed back into my upset.  Normally, if not reminded, I quickly forget when I’ve been upset, often within minutes.  But her constant reminder reinforced mine to the point we were irritating each other without even speaking, looking or touching.  When we got to the room the others announced they were hungry and decided to check out the restaurant for a late lunch (it was around 1:30 PM by this time).  I wasn’t that hungry (I’ve worked for years to get my body to metabolize fat and have been (attempting to) do the single-meal fasting thing as a way to reduce my caloric intake without reducing my meal size – there have been slight signs of efficacy, but the jury is still out) and, frankly, didn’t want to spend any time with my wife, so lay down to take a nap and told her to go without me.

At some point later (I can’t be sure if I actually slept; I was really tired, and it had been a long day, so I might have started snoring before she reached the elevator) she came back to the room and insisted I come down for the meal.  We had a rather heated discussion about the day’s events and, though it was angst filled, it was remarkable that we aired our disagreements so quickly. In the past these feelings might have marinated/fermented for days, even weeks, so hours is rather astounding.  After rehashing some old ‘scores’ and talking over the day’s events, we somewhat agreed that we were both at fault, kissed and made up. Hopefully that will be the nadir of our trip.

The dinner was very tasty (steak tartar for me, which is really just raw hamburger), but ssslllooowww.  I don’t know if it’s a European thing or if we just got (un)lucky (as before, there didn’t seem to be enough staff for the size of our group), but it was very tedious waiting.  I had no intention to join the tour that afternoon, planning on writing (yeah, right), and Don and his cousin Kaelan also stayed. I wound up reading (and dozing) until Don and Ky showed up (they’re in the room right next to ours) saying they wanted to go to dinner.  We headed down and I figured we’d try the other restaurant, since the first was so slow. Except that one, it seems, is used as a buffet for group tours and was blocked off from us. So we went back to the same restaurant that had the slow service from before. But, I figured, it was only three of us, so it should go much faster.

Nope. Still glacial.  We all ordered the same hamburger, which was quite good when it eventually arrived.  Our drink glasses were made of crystal, it seems, as Don asked about the music making ability and, while I said I had never been able to make it work, immediately demonstrated.  And it immediately worked! So that amused me for part of the time we waited.

This morning we had the breakfast buffet in the other restaurant and it was very good indeed.  I ate too much, and am only just slightly hungry now, at 5:30 PM, after having eaten at around 7:30 this morning and working out in the gym.  The gym is reasonably well appointed and I spent nearly an hour there. Managed to squeeze out two miles on the treadmill (I hate treadmills) by doing one to warm up and another after I was done with the weights.

I did managed to get some writing done today (other than this blog).  About 3,600 words total (out of an estimated 20-25K), approximately 17 pages (out of 90-100) and about 22% of my synopsis (9 out of 41 sections).  Not as far as I’d like, it flows in fits and starts (like usual), but I feel like I’m on a good track and can reach my goal for the vacation.

Tomorrow we’re touring and repositioning, so I can’t sit in the hotel and write.  I suppose, in principle, I could write on the bus, but doubt that’ll work. I’ll bring my laptop in case I get inspired.  Oh, did I mention one of the places we’re going tomorrow? Munich! I think we wind up in Innsbruck or something at the end of the day.  It took me a while to get over that. Hopefully the bus tomorrow is an easier time compared to the last one.

Sorry I didn’t get the pictures posted.  When the wifi worked, it was high speed, but it was off for several hours today.  Earlier, I attempted to copy the files off my wife’s phone, but it seems the POS Chrome software wants to make a mirror of the damn thing, rather than let me pick and choose the images.  My wife emailed me a couple of pictures, but not all the ones I wanted.

Three Days in München

I honestly didn’t think I’d be blogging about this trip.  I figured it’d be like a trip to Orlando, where there were nothing more than the usual complaints about fellow humans being human.  Despite my interest in writing, I generally don’t think of myself as someone who’s good at documenting travel.

Then, the trip happened.  Even though I don’t feel the need to get the angst off my chest by subjecting my dear reader(s), it was enough to motivate me to set fingers to keyboard.

Up front, I’d like to say that I’ve managed to mostly not be an asshole.  So far, at least.  My wife was even prompted to mention how ‘mild’ mannered I’ve been.  This not to say, of course, I haven’t made my thoughts known, but I’ve managed to do so in such a way that minimizes the raised voice and cursing.   But the trip is young…

We left the house at 10 AM for a flight that was set to leave at 5 PM at an airport that was 40 minutes away.  I did express my… displeasure at the early liftoff, but was assured we’d spend _most_ of that time at the gathering place in Vienna.  Which turned out to largely be the case.  I believe it was about 2:30 when we left for the airport (after a quick cram of some Chinese food, because, of course, the decision on what type of lunch to get was left for so long there was little time to eat it) on a small charter bus barely large enough to carry the 14 of us (with two more meeting us at the airport).

Dulles hasn’t seem to change in all these years.  They managed to double (or more) the size of the terminal while keeping the same look and feel.  It’s a rather iconic look, though it’s hard to say if it’s really a good one.  I was going to put some pictures and links in the post as I wrote it, but the wifi at the hotel we’re staying at sucks, to be most generous, and I lack the patience to do so.  Perhaps in later posts conditions will be better.  Anyway, we all managed to link up without any problems (with a couple of glaring exceptions, this has been the case so far).  Naturally the airlines have found a way to make travel even more sucky and PITA and we have to manually check in at a kiosk, then drag our bags to actually, you know, check in.  But I was only an observer, and we were indoors.

My family and one of our nieces has TSA Precheck, so we strolled through the idiotic security theater.  One wrinkle, though: my wife choose to bring a small hammer for the wheelchair that occasionally locks up.  The hammer was slightly longer than the allowed, so that bag got pulled aside for manual examination.  When the screener pulled it out, my wife was surprised, evidently she ‘lost’ it during packing.  She was going to discard it when she remembered it screwed in half (thus making it smaller) and asked if that would be OK.  The guy was unsure, so called someone more experienced.  Who studied the situation for a few moments before waving is through.  More on the hammer later…

Honestly, I can’t remember the hours sitting around at Dulles.  Which, I guess is good.  But I remember the next part: sitting around on the plane at Dulles.  And sitting.  And more sitting.  An hour and a half sitting.  Funny, the _exact_ length of time we had to catch out connecting flight in Geneva.  Screwed before we even left the ground.

Other than knowing the connecting flight was FUBARed, the 7.5 hour trip itself was rather uneventful.  I was tired enough that I didn’t read, didn’t even open the computer or my sketch book.  I have exactly three things I’m trying to accomplish on this trip (well, four, if you count not being an asshole as something to accomplish): 1) write the first draft of the feature-length script for the short I’m filming in August (Domestique), 2) get a basic budget for the same (based on a book I have) and 3) sketch out the design for my latest million-dollar idea.  An idea that’s languished for months, with no explanation for why my brain is so lackadaisical about it.  A couple of hundred bucks for the proof-of-concept and a grand or so for a working prototype (assuming the POC works, of course), historically I’d have done it in a week.  But for no reason I can elucidate, my brain would rather invest it’s energy in silly movie ideas with statistically zero chance of making money.  So, anyway, zip done on the three projects.  I listened to music and kinda dozed.  I watched a bit of the flick my wife was watching: Captain Marvel.  It looks interesting enough I’ll get the disk.  Someone else was watching Bumblebee, and I doubt what I saw was enough to lure me into getting that disk.

As predicted, we got to Geneva (Geneve, as they call it locally, assuming my memory can be trusted (it took several minutes to validate the spelling of Munich for the title, so I’m too lazy to do the same here)) and had missed our flight.  They told us they were going to put us on a flight to Vienna Austria, then back to Munich.  No problem.

Of course not.  We had another hour and a half to make this new flight that, as far as I could tell, was mathematically the furthest point from where we entered the terminal.  And had to go through immigration.  And then get screened again.  With 16 people, two in wheelchairs.  What where they thinking?

So Eliz, Don and I elected to blaze the trail, as it were, and now we get to discuss the reality that, at least Geneva’s airport security, is at least as much theater as is the US.  Maybe they’re used to people knowing what not to pack in their carry on, but there was exactly one person doing the manual screening and there was probably at least a 20 minute backup before we could get that damn, disassembled, hammer through.  Once the XRay person (a rather attractive Asian-looking woman) set eyes on it, she waved it through, but we had to wait for the half dozen people in front of us first.  Then we walk.  And walk.  Then  walk more.  And _finally_ get to the gate where we’re to leave.

And where the plane was set to begin boarding in some 10-15 minutes and leave the ground shortly thereafter.  My wife asked if they’d wait for the troop to arrive and a woman there said absolutely not.  Her male companion, though, said they would.  My theory is because the next two flights were booked, and they might have to put us all up in a hotel for the night, the guy was going to get us all on the plane no matter what it was going to take.

So, some 10-15 minutes AFTER the plane was supposed to leave, and, let it be said, after I started to whine about how we should be planning to get hotels, etc. instead of fruitlessly waiting in the airport all the damn day (I was getting a bit salty, I’ll admit) and AFTER my wife decided to hunt for the lost souls, they arrive.  They get their boarding passes and start to load on the plane.  Wrinkle?  No wheelchair-bound companions.  Or wife.  I and my son weren’t going anywhere without my wife, she had all our travel documents and IDs even – if we were tempted.  The gate agents start to call out our names on a regular basis, still no wife.  Some 45 minutes after the plane was supposed to leave and we find out that somehow our wheelchair travelers had been escorted directly to the leaving plane and had been waiting for us all this time.  Sure woulda been nice to know this was going to happen earlier, eh?

Finally my wife decides to check to see what’s going on and we bundle her onto the plane where we expected them to immediately take off.  But no, instead we sit around and they lazily give the pre-flight briefing (which is the same everywhere, just in French and English).  Eventually we push off and trundle our way across the entire airport and take off.

A note here: the decision to have an hour and a half layover in Geneva (as opposed, for example, a direct flight) was made by the travel agent, not my wife.  What where they thinking, to get 16 people (two in wheelchairs) through immigration, across the airport, and into another plane in 90 minutes?  That seems absurd.  For anyone else thinking of doing something like this, go with direct flights.

Thankfully, the connecting flight in Vienna (you know, it’s true: as my wife commented, all airports look the same) didn’t require the mad dash and we got there with plenty of time.  I was amused by the beer kiosk in the middle of the concourse (and, of course, bier gardens) and, as expected, our wheelchair travelers arrived separately, though I guess we saw it this time.  But this flight was an hour and a half late leaving.  Not our fault this time, evidently something had FUBARed the schedule early in the morning and it just carried along all day.  Since Munich was our final destination the delay didn’t matter (much) to us, but it screwed a lot of other people.  Some were repurposed at Vienna, others were told to ride to Munich and gamble on the repurposing there.  Glad I wasn’t part of that angst.

We _finally_ made it to Munich.  Then we had this long delay while we waited for buses to take us from plane to the terminal (evidently, this airline doesn’t rate a direct connection), which would make a sane person think the luggage would already be there waiting for us.  Well, we don’t live in a sane world, so we had another 20 minutes or so to wait for our luggage.  Interestingly, they were the first off the plane, so at least that small benefit to being jerked around all day.  Then we traveled through Customs.  Note I didn’t say we spent any time.  No, we had nothing to declare, so just walked out of customs.  Weird.  But, it seems, Germans expect people to behave properly.  Certainly not the American Way.

Outside we me two who would be joining our party for the first couple of days: Mara and Tom.  Mara is our cousin by way of my mother-in-law’s brother, one of the reasons we were in Munich in the first place.  Tom is her husband.  And they have a young daughter and an even younger son.  I don’t miss that age.  I managed to keep my composure when they had their meltdowns, even getting a mild congratulation from my wife for not engaging in a meltdown of my own, but it did require effort.  Our bus to take us to the hotel, of course, was an hour away or something like that.  So we sat around waiting, then finally managed to arrive at our destination, a Holiday Inn Express, right along the landing path to the airport.  Really.  As I type this I see plane after plane descend in my window as I look out.

The others went out that night, didn’t get back until after midnight, but my son and I needed naps, so slept instead.  Surprisingly, to me, anyway, most of the celebrants were up fairly early the next day (this’d be Saturday; we left the US on Thursday).  The hotel has a small breakfast, something our son turned his nose up on in favor of even more sleep (he claims he didn’t sleep that night because of my snoring, which I can understand, except, once he’s asleep nothing will wake him up, so all he had to do the night before was stop playing with his phone before I was asleep and all would have been good).

Eliz and I went for a walk, a mile one-way, according to her Fitbit.  Then we all decided to head to a mall in Munich, to meet with Tito Eddy, Mama’s brother.  Mara is our guide for all this, knowing the bus and train schedules and how to herd us all in the right direction.  It was a long bus ride, packed to the gills with 20 of us (16 plus Mara, Tom and their two kids), a double-wide stroller and two wheelchairs.  We managed to get to the train on-time and had an uneventful trip.  The farms here are tiny.  Like a couple of acres tiny.  It makes the patchwork of 50 to several hundred acre farms on the East Coast look palatial.  Tom seemed at least a little impressed when I told him about the farms in the midwest that are supposedly so large that the harvesting equipment will start at the morning at one end and have only reached the end that evening, where they turn around and return the next day.

Other than the elevators being one-person (really!), the bus/rail system seems very nice. Not sure why they treat handicap people so badly, having to make three trips up and down each elevator was rather tedious.  The mall was, rather remarkably, just like every other mall I’ve ever seen.  The only real comment I have is on the surprising lack of eye candy.  I wasn’t too surprised to find people in the airports to be… full-bodied and Rubenesque, they were fellow travelers and could be from any country.  But at the mall I expected the European reputation of walking everywhere to have the average fitness level being much higher than in the US.  I’m sad to report that they all looked like Americans.  As I like to say, there was very little competition for my my wife.

One thing that was interesting to me was the varied cultures.  Some more obvious than others, as there were quite a few Burka-wearing women.  But others less eye drawing, as there were Asians a plenty and a goodly number of (other) Middle Eastern, African and Indian people.  At least what I saw, everyone was getting along well and even the Burka wearers seemed to draw no extraordinary attention.  I don’t think that’d be the case in the US.  No.  Not at all.

After we got back from the mall, we rested a bit, then decided to a ‘Burgerfest’ literally right around the corner from the hotel.  Eliz and I had walked back and forth past it that morning so once we mentioned it, along with the ease of access, it was an easy decision (so rare; so very rare).  Eliz and I were relatively late, as we (I) pushed Mama’s wheelchair and she was, as usual, lagging behind.  We were joined by Papa, as well as Mara, Tom and their kids.  It turns out it’s slightly up hill to the ‘fest, so I was a bit winded and sweating by the time I got Mama there.  The rest had already been knocking back the liter-sized beers already, so were very happy.  I tasted a couple of the beers (at least I think they were different, they were all in the same sort of glass), but they all were the typical nasty bitter taste I remember from my youth, so that was the end of that.  We had some of the food and observed the singing and the patrons.  It was interesting and I have took a couple of pictures I hope to upload at some point.

We left relatively early.  Don was happy with his 3/4 of a beer and boosted one of the big mugs.  He went right to sleep, so no complaints about my snoring this morning (Sunday).  The rest of the group wanted to go to Munich again, to see the monuments, etc. , since the mall was closed on Sundays (everything seems to be closed on Sundays; evidently the ‘blue laws’ never got repealed in Europe).  Since I got nothing done on any of my projects, and, frankly, don’t care that much about monuments, etc., I waved them goodbye and stayed to write this, to start to read my directing book and to actually start writing my screenplay (about 5.5 pages).  And jogged almost 3 miles (out of four total; assuming Eliz’ fitbit is accurate in the distance reported yesterday).

OK, half our group is back and we’re heading out for dinner, so I’ll wrap this up.  I’m sure I’ll write at least one more, for bookends, but it’ll likely depend on the wifi connection, as I feel more like talking about the pictures I’ve taken than about the trip.

Last one…

July 10th

My goodness. Forty-five hours door-to-door. We left Tacloban at 5 AM Saturday, which was 5 PM Friday back home. Then we arrived at home at around 2 PM Sunday. That’s some ugly math!

First was our trip to the Tacloban airport where, for reasons that still escape me, it took close to an hour to get checked in (I did find out they tried to put us in a non-exit row, after my wife paid extra to sit there; she managed to browbeat them into submission). Then we had eight hours to kill in Manila. Because of the highly variable traffic in Manila (believe me, there is no traffic anywhere in the US that compares to a routine day of traffic in Manila!) we didn’t want to risk not being able to get back to the airport in time to go through immigration, etc.

Oh, we went through metal detectors and our luggage through XRay scanners THREE times in order to get into the waiting area. But wait! There’s more! In order to get onto our US bound airplane, we needed a FOURTH screening. We were then sequestered in a holding area that was protected by a… rope of fabric that anyone could reach over and kids would routinely go under. Yea for extra security theater! My wife, btw, decided she needed to go potty afterwards and was able to get back through screening (without, of course, being screened) by presenting her boarding pass with a yellow streak from a highlighter on it. Yup! There’s more fun below…

We finally get onto the plane, then sat. And sat. And sat some more. Ninety minutes worth of sitting on our asses. No bad weather, no terrorist attack, just, it seems, we were destined to not actually leave on time.

Finally in the air, we spent the next 11.5 hours winging across the Pacific to get to Vancouver. I do believe I managed to sleep four to five hours on this trip, though, as usual, I only have this estimate because of the lack of psychologically experienced time. I rewatched “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which I really enjoyed. My favorite scene remains when Ryan Reynolds is launched through the car’s windshield. My son can’t understand why that tickles my fancy so much, but it certainly does. I started to watch Deadpool, which, surprisingly, had all the F-bombs. But most of the gore was cut and, get this, the butt cracks were fuzzed out. I started my period of un-experienced time thereafter, but did finish it later.

The meals were all pretty good, btw, and the planes were all fairly new 777s, so PAL (Philippine Air Lines) has been making good strides at standing out.

Then we arrived in Vancouver. Where we were ALL disembarked, WITH our carry-on, for, get this, EVEN MORE security theater. They separated the men from the women (wft?) and we all got a pat down and they groped through our carry-on. Then we were sequestered in… THE EXACT SAME ROOM as the rest of the people. Wow! It sure makes me feel safe to have pointlessly been dragged off the plane for pointless re-screening to pointlessly go back on with no actual change in security!

We arrived in JFK and immigration. Wow! Again. What a MASSIVE cluster fck. I’m not even sure I can adequately describe it, but it was chaos as people attempted to do an electronic recording of themselves entering the country (boy, hard to see how that system could be gamed!), complete with pictures, but, it seems, no fingerprinting (we were fingerprinted entering Philippines). My wife ‘mysteriously’ was selected for ‘extra screening’ (which turned out to be nothing more than waiting in a line that moved about an order of magnitude slower than the one for me and the boy).

With our luggage recovered, we headed to the shuttle train to meet our shuttle to the hotel. Thankfully, the temps had cooled off from the heat wave people were reporting and it was a nice, mild 64F when we got there. Another llllooonnngggg drawn out affair. I can see no reason why we sometimes waited for thirty seconds to a minute for the damn shuttle doors to close. At one AM. The hotel shuttle, shockingly, wasn’t waiting for us and we had to sit around. We finally got there, got checked in, and got to the hotel room. I got to say, the next several hours were vastly better than any spent on the plane.

That is, until I got a leg cramp and was woken from a deep sleep. Man, that hurt! I was eventually able to massage it to the point I could get back to sleep, but, dammit, I was wide awake around 3 AM and couldn’t do more than some light dozing thereafter. They had a quite nice ‘Continental’ breakfast for us.

Back to the airport, but thankfully dropped off right where we needed to be. And got on the plane on time, which left on time. But (why does there always have to be one?), when we arrived at Regan National the damn sky ramp wouldn’t line up with the door to the plane, so we stood around probably 15 minutes before they could get a ramp to bridge the distance. This, on a plane that HAS ITS OWN STAIRS. WTF?

Eliz wanted an Uber, but since the nearest one was at least 10 minutes away, I asked her to check the taxi prices. About the same, so why wait? And with that, we were finally home.

Where I had to take a nap. After three hours I got up, but was totally groggy and barely able to check my email. Got back to bed by 10:30 PM, only to be wide awake around 3 AM, so said the hell with it and go to work round 4 AM. Though I had waves of tired dizziness, I managed to stay until 12:30, but had to take a nap when I got home. Another 3 hours and again groggy, then went back to bed around 8:30 only to, once again, wake up at 3 AM. WTF is up with this 3 AM business?

Some random observations… As if I hadn’t been forced to acknowledge this sooner, but I’m officially an old codger now. Three weeks of not using my electric razor to keep things under control meant I had nose hairs that stuck out close to a centimeter. It looked like I snorted a rabbit! And the mole next to my nose was also similarly adorned, so I’m sure I terrified children. And the damn hairs wiggled with each breath. Man was that annoying. Note to self: bring electric razor next time to control those hairs!

There was disappointingly little eye candy throughout the whole trip. Lots of nice hair while in the Philippines (I have a thing for long, straight dark hair), and other salient body parts, but very few that had the whole package. My wife had very little competition for my attention.

Security theater is alive and well.

My shoulders were very painful during the trip home. I guess because I don’t really fit in the seat and was scrunched up, or, perhaps, because I leaned against the walls or seat. Fortunately, today my shoulders feel OK, but it was reaching the point I couldn’t lift my arms over my shoulders without wincing.

I actually lost a couple of pounds over the vacation (according to my spreadsheet, since Jan I’ve lost a bit more than 13 lbs and am averaging a half a pound a week). No doubt because of the illnesses (I spent 24 hours in bed one day), but I probably ate less than I expected. I don’t feel like I look any better and only half imagine I can see more of my toes than before, but I have noticed I have a lot less issues with heartburn (I still have a bottle of antacids next to the bed, I just rarely use them now) and, as I mentioned to my wife as we went on a walk yesterday evening, for the last many years I’ve had a continuous low-level feeling of nausea that was exacerbated with anything touching my belly. While that sensation hasn’t vanished, I now find I can more easily sleep on my belly (my preferred way) and there are periods of hours, sometimes a whole day, where I don’t have this sensation.

My wife and I have reconciled somewhat from the angst of the trip. We discussed ways to try and short-circuit arguments in the future. And there will be future trips, as they’ve already planned one in two years for my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday. Hopefully we can fly non-stop from JFK (I still hate that airport, though it was less of a PITA than I remember from my first trip) and not have this extra wasted time in Vancouver.

I’ve been too tired to watch the Tour de France. Plus, I’m conflicted, as I really should be focusing on my Treasure Hunt movie. I may ask the boss to sign up for the channel later, once I’ve fully recovered, as there are some awesome mountain top finishes and I love to watch those.

I sent my completed (well, still struggling with that transition I’ve harped on) BlueDom draft to my editor. I can’t wait for her feedback. I hope she’ll be chock full of suggestions for ways to lengthen it without bloating.

Last night I started working on the program I have for processing my screenplay into individual scenes. I was pretty fuzzy headed, though, so didn’t get it completed. I want to try and have it done by this evening, as Thursday I’m meeting with a potential DP (Director of Photography) to discuss the movie and I’d like to have a page count for each scene so we can discuss scheduling, among other things. We seem to have connected well via email, so if we click in person, I think my DP search is over before it began.

Next week I intend to put an ad for the actors I need. I have a feeling I’ll either have little to no response or a deluge. Then the ‘fun’ of arranging for auditions and winnowing down the selections to find four people that have chemistry. And I don’t even know what that means. Of course, does anyone?

As I write this, I intend to collect some pictures and videos and post them online. Assuming I do so, I’ll have one last post in this series to provide a link. Other than that, it’s a wrap!

Thank you for reading. I hope I was at least a wee bit entertaining.

PS: I wound up leaving work early and just got up from another 3 hour nap. Sigh.


July 5th

The Last But One Day of vacation, as I don’t count the day (or so) of travel as a vacation day. Probably the penultimate diary entry as well, as I’ll probably have just a single one to wrap up when we get back. And that will be that. I’m thinking of collecting a number of pictures (and, when reminded, the videos from when I was snorkeling at Cebu) into a web page. Perhaps without any verbiage or perhaps with some modest context, depending on how I feel. Dunno any timetable, though, and fair warning: I have _yet_ to complete the construction images from our greenhouse pool effort that was done several years ago.

I went for a jog yesterday and am now thinking it was a really dumb thing to do (battling a cold, courtesy of my son, if I didn’t mention that before). The day before I walked as my wife jogged. I felt like jogging then, but didn’t, sure it was a dumb idea. At Leyte Park there’s a circle that goes up and down pretty steep and I today almost made it around thrice. Probably should have stopped with twice. Got a bad cough now (thanks Don!), though I used this somewhat magical material called Katinko to help suppress the urge. It’s a better version of Vicks Vaporub, which is great, but very short lived. When I used it in the past, it was enough to get back to sleep, but it would wear off almost as soon as that happened and I’d cough myself awake again. Katinko has lasted over an hour to sometimes as long as a couple of hours. I can’t stand the smell, but I love being able to sleep, so don’t mind smearing the stuff on my upper lip.

Two days ago, we went to a local mall, Robinsons, and had lunch there, then Don and I watched Incredibles 2. I really enjoyed it, though I felt the first was a bit better. I was also able to guess the bad guy, though Don wasn’t. I suspect it’s simply because I’ve seen so many movies and read so many books that I can tell which trope is in the offering.

My wife met with a couple of her childhood friends and they talked and talked and talked and talked. Over 6 hours, I believe. We were sitting in a restaurant at the other end of the mall and, as an avid people watcher (though I admit my focus is mostly on the attractive female segment) I looked out the window at the too-ings and fro-ings, expecting to enjoy eye candy. I was quite disappointed. At the other end of the mall there were a substantial fraction of pretty girls. After I had a large enough sample, I felt I could definitely conclude that this was the ugly end of the mall. When I brought my observation up to her friends, as predicted my wife objected, yet her friends chimed right in, so now I know my wife was definitely a lot saltier when she was a youth. Anyway, one of her friends (Chinki, I believe is her nickname) laughed and said that the front entrance was for the have-nots. Back here it was for the haves. My blank stare got her to elaborate: in the back, they ‘have cars’ and ‘have money’ so they can park and shop, the ones in the front have no car and generally little money, so they need to use the front. I felt it was a very astute observation.

Other than the jogging yesterday, I don’t think much happened at all. Even with the Katinko, I coughed a lot and just didn’t feel like going out. My wife and son went back to Robinsons where Don watched the latest Jurassic Park (I had/have no interest in seeing it, even on DVD) and she just wandered around window shopping.  She can go shopping all day, yet not purchase anything, and still have a great time. Like my dad and fly fishing.  Catching was just a bonus.


We went to a hotel on the water for a breakfast buffet. Very pretty place. Evidently completely smashed by the typhoon, then, because it was insured (so the story goes, it’s a chain owned by some Koreans), completely rebuilt better than before. The food was OK, but the ambiance was first rate. Then we had to make a number of stops on the way back, so got a partial tour of Leyte. It’s hard to tell when construction has been abandoned. The cider blocks go up ‘brand new’ looking like they’ve been there for a century and everything typically gets a patina of mildew very quickly. I needed to take a brief nap when we got back, now on to finish this entry…

Katinko, btw (just reapplied it), helps clear out the sinuses in addition to suppressing cough. The family swears by it for cramps as well, though my go-to is getting some calcium (before I started to lose some weight, I had to sleep with a bottle of Tums next to the bed due to the acid reflux I usually got at night) and if that doesn’t work, toke up on magnesium and potassium. I try and stay ‘electrolyted up’ during the summer, because I sweat so damn much when I work out.

Anyway, TMI, I’m sure…

Yesterday, whilst lying in bed trying to nap, I came up with some valuable plot additions to my BlueDom sequel and wrote a couple of thousand words. I haven’t quite finished with the original synopsis I had in place, but I’m past the climax anyway, so what’s left is just tidying things up. I’m going to see if I can come up with a few more plot elements before I send it off to my first script dev editor for her feedback. I started to convert some of it into screenplay format suitable for the conversion program to make official. In the past, the page count as displayed in Google docs wasn’t too far off the final formatted page length, which indicates to me I’ll be able to increase the raw page count I have now (37, with perhaps another 5 left to write) to 65-ish (1 page of prose turns into approximately 1.6 pages of screenplay). Still _very_ short from the 100 or so goal I have, so I still need a lot of help.

I haven’t made any more progress on Treasure Hunt. I decided, when I get home, to tweak the program I wrote that pulls each scene out into a series of linked web pages and have it output all the speaking parts and how many lines per. Also, how many pages are in each scene. (So they say, the very best programmers are the laziest and I’ll put my lazy against just about anyone. 😉 That way, it will help me formulate a schedule that I can keep updated by rerunning the program whenever I make changes. I thought, given the highly formulaic nature of screenplays, that it’d be trivial to find out how many lines were on a page (without counting, of course; remember: lazy). It turns out to vary pretty widely, from as many as 70 or even more to as low as 40, occasionally less. Very arcane rules for where to break the page. I believe I can emulate enough of that to get a rough count of lines such that I can plan. My gut is feeling more and more that 4 weekends isn’t an idiotic goal, but there’s still a lot of guess work in my ‘schedule’ at this point.

I assumed that the Tour de France started last weekend (it starts the first weekend of July), but it actually starts this one. Thus, I’ll be able to watch almost the whole thing instead of missing a third (it’s a three week, 2+K mile road race). I sent an email to all the people on my beta reading list telling them that I’ve been a deadbeat the last three weeks and expect to be a deadbeat the next three weeks and might continue to be a deadbeat because of the movie, but all that have got back to me have said they’re willing to wait for my feedback.

I’m ready to go home. Perhaps if we weren’t spending most of our time in the middle of smelly old Tacloban I might not be so eager, but I’m starting to feel a little trapped. Even a little bored.

But not looking forward to the actual travel back home!

Festival of Lights

July 1st

I was enjoying the festival of lights until a convoy of vans (clearly governmental; I heard that the PR President was in Tacloban for some reason) had to travel the EXACT SAME ROAD as the festival. With the entire rest of the city deserted. F-ing morons.

I didn’t have much else to report, until below, so wasn’t making much of an effort to blog. I’ve been feeling better, day by day, but still making regular visits to the toilet. So far today (2 PM as I type this), I seem to be fine. Tomorrow we may try for a jog, only the second since we’ve been on vacation.

Yesterday we visited what’s basically an extremely high-end Bed and Breakfast by the sister of a sister-in-law of mine (well, wife of my brother-in-law, so once removed?). They don’t advertise and work exclusively by word of mouth. It only has a total of 11 units and two of those are penthouse suites with multiple bedrooms. They were very lucky during Yolanda in that they were one of the first places to get their generators going again and so wound up being the headquarters of much of the international support. They called it a mini UN for a time. Had one official pay the day rate for an entire year! Anyway, it was beautiful and they had amazing windows that blocked out all the sound. They saved much of the wood from the original structure and used lots of polished marble. Relatively expensive, but I think well worth it.

I just experienced a small (very small) earthquake, and what prompted me to finally do the blog entry. Probably, if I hadn’t been sitting perfectly still at my computer, I might not have even noticed (I’ll have to ask the others if they did (many did, but a few didn’t)). I believe I’ve noticed at least one each time I’ve been here. Once, I suddenly felt light headed, again while sitting at my computer, only to notice a necklace hanging next to me wiggling back and forth.

It would seem, searching my blog, that I never describe the earthquake (no question about that one!) we experienced on a 2006 trip to Hawaii. We were on the last day of our trip and doing laundry and packing (that royal ‘we’ again; I was goofing off and Elise was ensuring the rest) when a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck. It was a ‘settling’ earthquake, in that the massive island chain, which continues to get bigger and heavier all the time, sometimes drops down a few feet, now and again. While I sat there, marveling at the sensations between the P waves vs the S waves (I can never remember which one is vertical and which is horizontal; here’s some info, if you care), ogling the chandelier as it swung back and forth and watching dust from the ceiling filter down, my much more intelligent and practical wife grabbed our son and raced out of the building. I didn’t start moving until the shaking was all over. Dumbass.

Anyway, I finally did get outside, but then we all (it was a condo complex and there were lots of us) sort of looked at each other, thinking ‘what now?’ After a few minutes, I shrugged and headed back in. Lots of other people followed. We discovered that there was no power and our clothes in the washing machine were, naturally, completely soaked. It seems that no sooner were we back when a 6.1 hit. You’d think, having been so recently reminded about practical things to do, that I’d be hustling out the door with my wife and child, but, nope, I stood there, once again, marveling at the experience. Some people just don’t learn.

We were outside much longer this time, but the world stubbornly refused to end (what point being outside anyway? To watch it?), so we straggled back in. We moved a bit more expeditiously this time, and I recall helping somewhat. When we turned in keys, etc. for the timeshare, there was a small aftershock. I was leaning against a desk and it was like it punched me. A woman ran a couple of steps toward the door before realizing that no one else was panicking, but wasn’t the slightest bit sheepish when she slowly returned.

There were a number of road closures, due to fairly minor landslides, but we could reach the airport. We went early, not sure what would happen, and sat around in the un-air conditioning for a good while. The backup generators would work the important things, such as security and air traffic control, but not AC.

We had to fly to Oahu before we could head back to the mainland and, interestingly, that airport’s backup generators weren’t working for some reason. This surprised me: planes could land and people could transfer, as we did, but no one could come into the airport because they couldn’t be screened. The airport was very warm and getting warmer by the minute. Word filtered to us that once the sun went down, the airport would be closed, as it had no electricity for runway lights. We all watched the sinking sun with a very sinking feeling, getting more and more convinced we’d be sleeping in a hot sweaty airport that night.

Instead, we managed to get on the plane (thankfully cooled on its own, not to mention with lights) and took off with part of the sun still above the horizon. We were several hours late, though, and I just assumed we were going to miss our connecting flight. Interesting thing, seemingly since we were traveling via first class (thanks to miles), they held our departing flight for some half hour because of us. My wife grabbed our son and raced through the airport while I took the stroller (he was two-ish) and carryons and followed in a more ambling pace, convinced the plane was long gone. Color me shocked when I see my wife standing in the plane’s doorway.

I don’t remember any longer if our bags made it on or not, but it was an interesting trip, for sure.


Our party has shrunk to perhaps 10 now, with the ‘defection’ of a number this morning. They’re going to visit for a few days in Manila, while we will only be there long enough to catch our flight back to the states. Could be quiet the rest of the week, but who knows…

I’ve got almost 8,200 words written on my sequel story and feel like I’m making good progress. I might actually have the draft done in a week, after all. Well, ‘done’ in that everything written that I planned in the synopsis. I still have the transition to work on that I never sorted out when I wrote the synopsis.

I went through my Treasure Hunt script and assigned a physical location to each scene. There are 75, with a total of 30 unique locations. More than 20 of those locations are either at one of our houses or very close by. There are two, however, I have yet to iron out at all, though a friend suggested some potential, and there are two others I haven’t contacted to see if they’ll let me use their place. I need a library, for a short scene, and hope to use the Mount Jackson public library (sent them an email). I’d like to use the Shenandoah County land office, but couldn’t find a contact email address online, so will call when I get home.

I’m trying to figure out an estimate for how long it will take to shoot the various scenes. I’ve asked the DP I’ve been interacting with for his suggestions on how long to set up under various conditions (say, moving from one end of the house to another, lighting the same scene for a different time (all the scenes in the same physical location will be filmed one right after the other), moving the whole kit and kaboodle to another location on the same property vs one further away, etc.) so I can try and put parameters on the process and see if 4 weekends is even possible.

Things are moving in the typical non-linear way that my mind seems to work. It feels very inefficient, but others seem to believe I’m getting things done fast.

The Moral Of This Story: Wash Your Hands Before You Lick Your Fingers!

June 29th.

So I’ve been sick the last couple of days. I feel almost (almost) good now, but don’t want to get out of easy reach of a toilet, so am ‘home alone’ again (never really alone here, there’s always someone). But that’s jumping the gun a bit…

Other than the crappy on and off Internet, the only other bad thing I think anyone had to say about the house where we were staying was how thin the mattresses were. Even though we had about a third of our party leave early, people were still sleeping on the mattress on the floor, they said it was more comfortable than the beds. I noticed that a number of the bed sleepers had doubled up on mattresses. Where my wife and I slept it was just thick enough that it wasn’t a problem, unless my hip was right on one of the metal bars.

When last we ‘chatted’ I was dealing with an incipient migraine. Thankfully, it didn’t clamp down until we actually arrived in Tacloban (after nearly 7 hours waiting at the airport!). We had to be out of the house in Cebu by 10 and only had access to one van, so had to make two trips. Since the flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4:30, we had a lot of time to kill. We visited one of those duty free shops and I found a liter of Drambuie for $40, which my boss agreed was a pretty good price, so I got it. I hope it isn’t counterfeit. There wasn’t much else to do. We did get some finger food, french fries and the like, which is where I believe the origin of my current constitutional problems arose.

We headed into the waiting area to wait (and wait (and wait)), but the airport had good and free wifi, so I spent some time responding to a friend’s email. That killed an hour (we exchange detailed emails) and I surfed Reddit a while, but my butt was killing me, so got up and walked around for a while. Not very exciting, much like every other domestic airport I’ve been in.

As we finally got close to the boarding time, we headed to the actual waiting area for our flight (a prop job, and one where they bussed us out to the plane). We had two oldies in wheel chairs and no elevators, so have no idea how they wound up down there with us, except they came in from the outside. It was noisy and I could barely hear anything, but eventually we deciphered that our flight was going to be delayed (shock!). I shrugged (and no doubt grumbled) and reached for my Chromebook figuring maybe Reddit had some new interesting tidbits to read. I had no sooner got logged on (you have to visit a non-secure (e.g., non-HTTPS) page to get the acknowledgement page before you can surf; quite common) when our plane arrived.

Happily, I can report that either this is a better plane or they’d fixed the AC problem from last time, as it was pleasantly cool when we boarded. Once again not with my wife, but at least it’s a short flight. The flight was fine. I enjoyed looking out the window and trying to guess where the places we visited were. Because our takeoff was evidently expedited, we actually arrived very close to our target time.

No rain when we arrived at Tacloban, thankfully, so could quickly deplane. We collected our luggage and headed home.

Oh, it seems we ‘borrowed’ someone else’s baggage when we left the Cebu airport as we arrived. I have no idea how they got the number to the house, but eventually someone answered it. We took it back with us to the airport and it even wound up following us back to Tacloban. Which I guess isn’t that strange, as it probably originated from Tacloban in the first place.

The Tacloban airport is being upgraded. Apparently it’s going to get a second runway (as I said before, there is ONLY the one runway, no taxiway or anything). The main reason seems (to me) to memorialize the Pope’s visit after the Yolanda typhoon.

Now there is a giant paved space and supposedly the start of a shrine of some sort where the Pope gave his address. Tacloban used to be a well taken care of city, as it was where Imelda Marcos  evidently spent her formative years. When Ferdinand was driven out of power, Tacloban fell on hard times. I guess the Pope’s visit caused the government to realize it’d been treating Tacloban like a red-headed step child and it finally got some more lovin.

The freaking migraine mostly held off until the drive back from the airport, then clamped on tight. I went straight to bed, around 6 PM, then had to get some pills when I peed around 8 or 9. Then slept until around 3 AM and awoke, thankfully, without any headache. Much of our party went off on a day trip to another beach. Maybe I can get some writing done today…

Nope. I wrote that above optimistic line as a way to keep track of things for later. An hour or two later I was huddled under a pile of blankets, with the AC off, shivering. Fortunately, that only lasted an hour or two. Except getting up to pee (and later, leave different offerings to the porcelain god) and get some fluids, I think I almost spent the entire next 24 hours in bed. Toward the afternoon, I started to get a headache. Not a migraine, but painful nonetheless. I couldn’t find any more pain killers in the copious bags of drugs my wife brought, so huddled in misery, moaning (weird how the moaning would help, but only for a few seconds at a time). My wife finally got home and got me some drugs (I didn’t have the energy to go to the first floor to ask some from my father-in-law). That allowed me to sleep through the night (well, except for visits to the toilet). Yesterday I was much less bad, but still weak and when pills wore off, feverish again. That afternoon I decided to just let the fever run its course.

A totally untested, unresearched theory of mine is that the drugs (e.g., aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, etc.) just delay the inevitable, you got some suffering in store and taking the pills just delays it. Full of crap or not, I decided to forego the pills until I felt my fever episodes had ran their course. That lasted until about 11 last night, when I wound up with a headache again, but by that point I had shucked my fleece jacked and pants and was just in shorts and a TShirt under a sheet, so felt my giving in was worth it. I managed to sleep soundly the whole night, I’m happy to say, waking up after dawn.

Most of the family has gone off on a short road trip, one I would normally go on, but I don’t want to get too far from a toilet, so declined. Today is supposed to be a big deal, as it’s the official fiesta for Tacloban. Two days ago (when I was most miserable) there was a parade of all the schools outside (we’re right on the main drag). All the schools had to vie who had the loudest drums. Since I was sure the fiesta was later, I assumed, for a long time, they were practising, but it would get louder, then quieter, louder and quieter, so I eventually shambled out to take a look. It was quite impressive, and, of course, loud as hell, but worth the few minutes I was able to watch before I was too tired and had to head in.

It’s hard to believe we’re ⅔ through our vacation already. And so little writing or reading. I reread most of my directing book and reread about half a book on directing actors, managed to almost finish my synopsis for my murder mystery sequel and finished 80% of the edits to Treasure Hunt, but damn. Two weeks and that’s all I got to show for it. I’ve already asked an editor to take a look at my sequel in mid July and only have 10% finished.

I started looking into getting permission to film at a location (as opposed to guerrilla filming) as if I use it for a night shoot I need to set up lights, which are obvious and likely to attract attention. The park seems OK with giving permits… but they want a million dollar insurance policy. I haven’t asked for a quote yet, I need to nail down a few more things, but it seems the normal cost is $1,500-2,500 for the sorts of things I’m doing. It may be, by doing much on my own property, that I’ll get a discount, but only time will tell. Aparently there is also a common clause that _all_ people involved be paid at least minimum wage, which I feel sure I can’t afford (hence the offer of ‘reel, beer and pizza’). I’d like to have that extra coverage, but I’ve been told, by filming much (or all) on my own property, that my normal liability insurance will cover if anything happens. All reasons why I wish I could find a producer to work with.

I discovered that one of my sources for research on Treasure Hunt wrote a screenplay back in the early ‘90s (or maybe even 90) about the Angel of the Shenandoah. The woman, Jessie Rupert, had a very interesting life, if even half of what’s said about her is true. Anyway, I asked the woman if I could look at her script, with the idea of producing and directing it if I felt called to it. While a period piece, thus more expensive, I think it would be a very nice transition piece for me to work on before I try and tackle my Dominatrix movie. Initially I thought it would be easy to get local support and maybe be able to build a budget as much as $250-500K, but it seems, even though Jessie was popular at her death, she remains a source of friction to a lot of the local historians.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve jogged exactly once. So much for doing extra exercise! There’s no place that isn’t smelly with car exhaust (and other things) to even go for a walk in the afternoon (without driving somewhere, at least) and when we were in Cebu I had no idea of the area so didn’t want to risk getting lost. Besides, I stick out like a sore thumb and all. Not many 6’1’’ goofy looking white guys around here 😉 This illness, though, might have knocked off a few pounds, though that’s not the way I recommend losing weight.

OK, now I’m going to try and get my ass in gear for some writing to actually further my professional goal of becoming a writer/director…