May 282005

I am never complaining about having my baggage inspected at the airport in the US again. I’ve just had every item in my suitcase removed, squeezed, refolded, neatened up, and repacked by a very polite and friendly young man.

One item at a time.

Veeerrrrryyyy sssslllloooowwwwllllyyyy……..

If I had been more awake I would have screamed in frustration, “Just drop the whole damn stack in there! I have to wash it all anyway! ARRRGHH!” Luckily I wasn’t, and I didn’t. If I had, he probably would have shot me, then apologized for it very profusely.

Now I’m parked on the carpet outside the gate, waiting for them to let us through the last security checkpoint. Ten minutes to go.

Ok, now I’m through, after getting my carry-on checked. The screener saw something she didn’t like on the scanner, but they didn’t object to anything they found. Now I’m finally sitting at the gate. Here, they have a metal detector and bag scanner at every gate, and each gate is in its own glassed-in area. I can only imagine how horrendously slow it is during peak hours, and I’m really glad I’m here at 5am.

I ended up taking a nap, but only managed to sleep about an hour before staggering down to check out.

Tuesday, May 31 2pm

I’m back! The flight was long of course, but luckily there was no layover in Japan. In fact, they hustled us from one gate to the next because the next flight was already starting to load when we got there. I had a bizarre and disturbing dream on the flight to Japan, which was fairly bumpy. I dreamed that I was awake and sitting in my seat on the plane. The sky outside was blood red and suddenly I saw the black silhouettes of birds flying past the window. I knew that one of them was going to go right through the cockpit window, causing the plane to crash, and remember thinking, “This is it!” Then I heard a loud, rapid, mechanical honking sound, which I assumed was a collision alarm, and it startled me awake. It took me a few seconds to realize that the alarm was only in my dream, no one else was reacting to anything, and there are no birds that fly above 35,000 feet that I ever heard of. The rest of that flight (until I fell asleep again) I was acutely aware that I was in a fragile aluminum shell hurtling through the air at over 600 mph, and I wondered if the plane came apart, would I die instantly, would I freeze to death as I fell, or would the impact with the ocean get me? I’ve never been afraid of flying before but after that I understand how some people can be terrified of it. Oddly though, the flight from Japan to Detroit didn’t bother me at all. *shrug* Weird.

It was good to be home and, after some Welcome Back festivities, we headed to Greektown for dinner. I was in bed and asleep by 9:30pm, and didn’t wake up until 8:30 the next morning. I dreamed vividly all night, mostly involving my car getting stolen in Riverview. I called the police but the first cop I spoke to kept wanting to talk about my kid’s school attendance record. He ignored me when I told him I didn’t have any kids and that my car had been stolen. After hanging up and calling 911 I finally got someone who had a clue, but then realized that I was dreaming and my car was out in the parking lot at home. I hung up on the dispatcher and continued with the rest of the dream.

Yesterday was mostly spent reformatting and reloading my hard drive. The thing was hosed beyond repair and just needed to be wiped. Thank Norton for Ghost, and that I had made a backup image of the drive several weeks ago. I’ve been able to reload programs from the backup without having to dig out the CDs, and some programs I don’t have the disks for anymore.

I’m hoping to get it finished and have all the Singapore pics posted sometime this week, but with the wedding coming up and Mollie & family in town, dunno if that will happen. 3 more days to wedded bliss!

 Posted by at 4:38 pm
May 282005

Today I did some sightseeing on my last day in Singapore and took a whole bunch of pictures. I also walked.

A lot.

I also rode the train system, which is arguably one of the best in the world. It’s scrupulously clean, modern, efficient, easy to navigate, and everything’s in English (bonus!). The streets of Singapore, however, are easy to get lost in. I thought downtown Detroit had a screwy layout, but it’s got nothing on The SG. The main roads are on a grid (sort of), but the minor streets that sprout off of or between them are like some giant automotive fractal pattern. It took me almost half an hour to go ONE block, trying to get from the Suntec City mall to my hotel, mostly because of construction. I went up and over and down and around and back again, ended up on a roof, dead-ended in a MALL of all places, and finally made it back. Most of downtown is an underground mall, with the only way to tell one tri-level subterranean shopping area from another is by the signs hanging from the ceiling. Once I paid more attention to the signs, and the arrows on them, it made it much easier to find my way around, and I got everywhere I wanted to go without much hassle.

First I took a cab over to Malay Village which, according to the website, was a kind of heritage museum and shopping area. I got there about 90 minutes before it all opened up, and I wasn’t very impressed. The “traditional Malaysian village” wasn’t open either, and from what I could see of it, it was pretty low-rent. I gave up and started looking for the train station since I was sure it was cheaper than a cab and I wanted to try it anyway. It’s one of the few clear memories I have from my last visit to Singapore 15 years ago. Of course I got lost. I went north instead of south, then wandered back and forth along the road trying not to look TOO clueless, and failing. I was away from the downtown area in more of a working class section of the city, and I felt very tall and VERY white. I found a 7-Eleven(!) to get a bottle of water and ask directions, and got back on track. I took the train over to the marina area and wandered some more, snapping some pictures. I also visited the Merlion fountain, which stands on the edge of the marina area and sprays a jet of water from it’s mouth into the harbor. I don’t know how it manages to spit in public and not get fined; everyone else does.

Afterwards I tried to get back to the hotel and rest, and had my “wandering in the desert” episode I mentioned above. After cooling off and dumping my pictures to the laptop, I headed back out to see Sentosa Island, one of the major attractions of Singapore. It’s a large island off the southern tip of the country, reachable by bridge, ferry, or cable car. I chose the cable car and paid the extra cash for the glass bottom car. Not only did I get a better view, I got to skip the huge line of Chinese tour groups and go straight up the elevator. I felt very VIP. And still very tall and very white. 🙂

The cable car runs over 150′ above the water and even though I have no particular fear of heights, even I had a second or two of vertigo when I passed over the support tower midway across. The view is spectacular however, and definitely the route of choice when going to the island. The best way to describe Sentosa is kind of like Busch Gardens, without the rides. There’s an orchid garden, a giant synchronized fountain show, bike and hiking trails, a 200′ long mosaic river/fountain, golf course, beaches, all surrounded by tropical rainforest. I walked and walked, and walked some more. It was very cool to walk through an actual jungle and hear all the frogs, insects, and birds. There are even troupes of long-tailed Macaque monkeys, but I didn’t get to see any. It was just like the stereotypical jungle you see in movies, and everything smelled intensely green. All I needed was a fedora and a bullwhip, and I would have felt just like Indiana Jones, at least until I got run over by a tour bus. I had intended to stay for the 7:40pm fountain show, when everything is lit up, but after seeing the end of the daytime show, it just wasn’t impressive enough to stay another two hours, then work my way back to the mainland and to the hotel. In total, I was there about four hours, and by then I was tired, sore, and drenched in sweat. A geologist could have probably determined my age by the number of layers of mineral salts I was coated in. I didn’t get to see even half of what was there, but I was happy I got to wander on my own in a new place for awhile. I’ll post all of my pics on my website gallery when I get back, but here’s a tease:

About five more hours before I check out and head to the airport. I’m going to try and stay awake until then, and for the seven hours of the flight to Narita, so I can sleep as much as possible on the way to Detroit and start to reset my body clock. Dunno if I’ll manage to not sleep, but I’ve already had a raspberry frappucino from the Starbucks across the street and there’s coffee and tea in the room. See you all tomorrow!

 Posted by at 9:01 am
May 272005

The first picture was taken about 15 minutes after the last entry, but I had to pay attention to the meeting and couldn’t post right away. The second picture was about a half hour after that. The storm blew in from Indonesia and right back out again that quickly. Just got back from dinner at Indochine, a great Vietnamese/Laotian/Cambodian restaurant, paid for by the head of the Singapore IT office. I had the pepper beef with garlic and butter, but it was more sweet than peppery or garlic-y. I wish I had brought my camera with me into the restaurant because evanrudemi would have loved the bathroom. The sink was a flat sheet of glass that slanted back toward the wall into a grillwork trough. VERY cool.

 Posted by at 10:52 am
May 262005

The days have been very long, but the week has gone by quickly. Tomorrow is the last day of the workshop, followed by dinner with the big boss, in Chinatown. Two of my coworkers are leaving on the 6 a.m. flight Saturday morning, but Vince and I are staying til Sunday morning. Saturday I’m going solo to sightsee, maybe buy a couple more gifts.

The days have been full of work-talk, followed by resting up for a bit, some shopping, and then dinner, which includes even more work-talk. I know we’re here on business, but even I can only take so much computer talk in one day, regarding things I no longer care about. Last night we went to a cool restaurant in the Riverwalk area downtown that was four flat-decked boats in the river, connected by ramps to the shore. Sadly the food was only mediocre but the venue and setting more than made up for it. Besides, I didn’t pay for it. 🙂 I also forgot to take my camera with me, and there were some prime photo opportunities. Maybe I’ll get back down there before I go, but it’s unlikely. The camera is awkward to carry with me because it’s a bit bulky and has no wrist- or neckstrap, so I have to drop it in a cargo pocket or carry it in my hand everywhere.

Of course dinner conversation was almost entirely work-related, and we sat there until 11 p.m. By then, I was ready to run screaming into the night and fling myself in the river to escape it. Marty spouts more convoluted technobabble than an episode of Star Trek. He’s one of those super brilliant people who’s slightly retarded socially, but he’s such a nice guy that, although you want to tell him to shut up, you can’t really dislike him. Darren has helped keep me sane because he’s feeling the same way I am, and we commiserate and quietly poke fun at things and people to vent our frustration. Our Singapore coworkers have been the soul of help and hospitality, but I’ve had far too much togetherness. Organizing anything outside of work is like herding cats, and we spend a lot of time shuffling around aimlessly before we decide on a course of action. I begged off dinner tonight because they all wanted to get started with it at 9 p.m., and it would end up the same way as the last three nights: lots of drinking and more talk about work. Just one more day of playing the corporate zombie, then I’m free to roam for a day. I can’t wait.

Today we visited the data center at the new SingTel building and got the grand tour. It was all clean and sparkly, with state of the art server rooms, neatly laid out cables, and top-flight security and disaster-recovery systems. It also smelled like a barn.

L to R: Darren, Marty, my bathroom (the glassed-in shower stall is to the right of the tub), and my bed (which is turned down every afternoon)

A badly done panorama shot (I don’t have Photoshop with me to fix it):

Some more city shots:

Since I wasn’t hungry for dinner, I ordered dessert from room service: chocolate wontons on caramelized bananas with bourbon vanilla ice cream. I wasn’t too proud to lick the plate.

 Posted by at 8:53 am
May 222005

We finally staggered off our plane after taxiing past what seemed like 5 miles of terminal to get to the gate. Customs worked fast and, as luck would have it, my suitcase was one of the first on the belt. Marty had left his suitcase back in Detroit. He got there too late to check his luggage and they would not let it on the airplane. They wouldn’t check it at the gate and it was too big to go as a carry-on, so he traveled to Singapore with nothing but a backpack and the clothes on his back. We caught a taxi to the Conrad Hilton hotel, which is stunning, got checked in, and dropped off our luggage. Vince suggested we all go out and get a beer “to help us sleep”. Three hours and five pitchers of Tiger beer later, we staggered back to the hotel. I got to sleep at 7am and didn’t wake up til 2pm.

We ended up at the Tiki Bar along the waterfront, which is lined with bars, clubs, and restaurants. We all wanted some food, but only a few bars were open and none of them served food that late. While we were there we made the acquaintance of Grace, a local girl, who lost her bet with the bartender and DJ as to whether we were English, Australian, or American. She told us how horribly boring it was to spend your life in Singapore (she’s 20), and how she couldn’t wait to leave for Melbourne in the fall to go to school. Sometime during the conversation over the third pitcher of beer I let slip that I was getting married the Friday after we got back, and they all congratulated me, but so far I’ve managed to keep the nature of my wedding a secret. I think it would just be too awkward. Do you have any idea how hard it is to avoid using gender pronouns when talking about your significant other? I feel like I’m back in the closet again!

Left to Right: Lobby of the Conrad Hotel, outside the Tiki Bar, me and Grace

Once I got back in the hotel, I discovered I have this view out my window:
More to follow…

 Posted by at 3:35 am
May 222005

I have to say, if you ever have the means and opportunity, I highly recommend travelling business or first class. I felt like a country bumpkin gone to the big city for the first time. The powered seat went in every direction, had built-in rolling massage, and straightened out almost flat into a bed. I had my own video screen with video-on-demand, free booze, and lots of dinner, mid-flight snack, and breakfast choices. I got a Bombay & tonic to start, and she left me the rest of the can and a small bottle of gin to make my own after the first one. I nursed all of it for a couple hours but was still a bit buzzy. I went for the Japanese style dinner, which was really tasty. I didn’t know what most of it was, but there wasn’t anything bad and I ate it all. After that I changed into track pants and t-shirt, popped an Ambien, and said goodnight. Our flight path took us right through the middle of Alaska and I kind of wish I’d been awake for it, since according to my coworkers the view of the mountains was amazing.

L to R: Business class, my seat controls, dinner and dessert

Now we’re sitting in the NWA World Club in Narita, waiting on our flight to Singapore. It turned out to be Vince, Marty, and Darren on my flight, which is ok. They’re all cool guys, and Darren is actually pretty hot. Darren had DVD software on disc for me to install, so now I can watch Cowboy Bebop (woot!). I really should be working on some kind of presentation for the workshop, but I have no idea what to show, and I have no Powerpoint skilz to speak of. Maybe I’ll whip something together on the Singapore flight if one of the guys sits next to me to give me some pointers.

Time to take a quick wander nearby and get some pictures…

L to R: Walkway, Darren in the WorldClub, Marty with his only luggage, kiosks of indeterminate Japanese function, gift shop, beer dispenser(!)

Narita is a pretty cool airport, but other than being Japanese it’s pretty much just another airport. Except for the beer dispenser in the WorldClub.:)
Soon we were off to Singapore, a 7.5 hour flight after just spending 12 on the way to Japan. *zzzz*

 Posted by at 3:35 am
May 212005

Well, this was originally my initial entry upon arriving at the airport and waiting in the Northwest Worldclub, but I accidentally saved over it. Long story short, it was pretty swanky. Lots of comfy leather seats, indirect lighting, giant palm fronds in huge urns. I never encountered any of my colleagues until I was part way to Japan, but that’s ok.

The 747 is huge, with a business-class upper deck, which Aaron made sure to get me a seat in.

Shite, I just discovered my laptop doesn’t have DVD player software on it. I thought Windows Media Player would play them, but it won’t. Neither will RealPlayer without downloading extra software. So, with no internet connection to get the software, guess I won’t be watching any movies on the flight over. *sigh*

 Posted by at 1:15 pm
May 162005

Yesterday my mom and I headed to Chicago to meet my sister and her family on their return from Germany. My brother-in-law is in the Army and after three years in Baumholder is being transferred to Fort Irwin, California. In the middle of the Mojave Desert. We took pity on them and agreed to drive them back to spare them from juggling over eight pieces of luggage, a 2 yr. old, a miniature Schnauzer, a dog carrier, and a car seat, after a nine hour flight, and then get it all to a hotel or drive another five hours to my mom’s. The Army wouldn’t pay to fly them to Detroit, since their ultimate destination is California, but they could get off at their connecting stop in Chicago.

Aaron and I went to the parking deck at my office to get Mollie’s Cherokee only to discover that I’d let it sit too long without starting it and the battery had died. Luckily I had jumper cables in the Cruiser and, other then initially misreading the symbol on the battery and causing a few showers of sparks, got it running and headed to Mom’s. Our flight was short and uneventful, and we had time to wander around O’Hare for a bit before heading to the international terminal. Mollie and John were some of the last people coming out of customs for their flight because they had to pick up Rhea (the dog) and get her cleared, and haul their two carts loaded with luggage out. Sydney was good the whole flight, which for a 2 year old is something of a miracle (she can be quite a handful when she puts her mind to it) and after a few seconds of shyness clung to me like velcro until I handed her off to my mom to help with luggage. It’s so cute to hear her call me “Unkoo Wyan”. Aaron and mrimp had teased me about walking around the airports with the stuffed pink puppy I bought for Sydney tucked under my arm, and the flight crew asked me if it was my good luck charm, but Sydney loved it and hugged it constantly.

Rhea made it about ten hours in her carrier without making a mess, although I’m sure she was ready to pop by then. Other then some barking at people outside the car rental office she laid on the seat of the minivan next to my mom and was totally quiet the entire trip. Sydney insisted on trying to hang onto Rhea’s leash at the rental office, and Rhea kept running around and spinning her in circles. I wish I could have grabbed the camera in time cuz it would have made a great video.

I got us out of the airport, through Chicago, and onto I-94 without a hitch. Everyone slept except me and Mom, and we made one pit stop at a Burger King in Nowhere, Michigan, where John won a copy of the Revenge of the Sith console game, and gave me his winning game piece! I sent off for the PS2 version this morning, since if we ever get a console it’ll most likely be a PS2, as Aaron would like to play Gran Turismo 4. Poor Sydney cried pitifully shortly after we got in the restaurant, since we’d woken her up at the equivalent of 3 a.m. for her, being on Germany time, but she fell back asleep pretty quickly. She whimpered “mommy” in her sleep a couple times, but other than that she was zonked out.

After a long-ass drive we made it to Detroit Metro, where I’d left the Jeep, and Mollie drove the van down to Mom’s while Mom and I drove me home. Unfortunately I’d somehow managed to turn on the dome light in the Jeep when I got out of it earlier that day and once again had a dead battery. So there we were in the short term parking structure at 1 a.m. with almost no one around. I managed to reach Cingular’s roadside assistance, in a race against time with the tiny sliver of battery power left in my phone, but just as the operator got the truck scheduled, airport security showed up and gave the Jeep a jump. Apparently this is something they do often and have an outlet on the front bumper of their trucks that lets them plug cables in without having to open the hood. Very handy.

The drive home from the airport on 94 was a bit tense until we got through the construction. There are only two lanes in each direction, and they’re narrow, and there are concrete barricades on either side so it’s like driving through a gutter. I was doing 60 in a 45 zone, and people were still blasting past me like I was standing still. I was also fighting sleep, so I was white-knuckling it all the way through Melvindale and Dearborn.

Saturday I had gone to Sophia’s (a jenn5k and agent00groovey production) first birthday party. She’s adorable, the food was really good, and it was nice to see some of the gang from ISS there. There were five babies there, all about one year old, and all the squealing, babbling, and toddling was really cute. But I’m glad none of them were mine. One of the best things about babies is that they eventually go back to their parents. I used to feel guilty about feeling this way, but then decided it’s better to realize that before I have kids. Of course, being gay is an almost sure-fire method of birth control anyway.

So now I’m slumped in front of the computer at work, trying to get through the day. Luckily nothing much is going on, as usual. I didn’t crawl into bed until after 2 a.m., and didn’t make it in to work until 8:30. I was really tempted to call off, but only have a few days off banked and need to save them for the wedding day, and a trip to San Fran in September.

My computer is all fucked up, and I’m going to be pricing out motherboards today. I managed to break off the retaining clips on one of my three memory slots while trying to get a memory stick to seat properly, and must have weakened or broken a solder trace or something. The system reboots constantly now. I had it running ok for awhile, but now it’s stuck in the reboot cycle. *sigh* Not money I can spend right now, so I’ll try reseating the cards again and see if I can keep it chugging along until I can get another one.

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
May 132005

The Mystic Pig

I asked the mystic pig: What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?
and the mystic pig said: the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour

Ask the Mystic Pig another question
created by ixwin

 Posted by at 11:18 am
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