Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Necessary Guide for Living With the Dutch

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Living on a small Dutch Caribbean island (we hit 10 years of living on Bonaire in a couple of weeks) is quite an interesting experience, especially as we have a blend of two cultures here – a Caribbean influence as well as a Dutch one. For as long as I recall, Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival was recommended reading for anyone thinking of living here on Bonaire, but now thanks to dear Dutch friends (that’s you, Martin & Angela), we have found a new tome to help us understand the Dutch-ness of Bonaire.

The book is called The UnDutchables, and it’s a humorous dissection of Dutch culture as well as the drivers and motivators behind observable Dutch behavior.

While The UnDutchables has an obviously strong link to mother Holland and activities there, and is intended primarily for English speaking expats living in The Netherlands, I have found that many of the examples apply equally well in the Dutch Caribbean. We have Dutch friends on Bonaire, as well as on neighboring Curacao and Aruba, and boy, does this book nail some of their traits to a tee! And some of those behaviors have rubbed off on some of the Antilleans we know here too. If only we had had a copy of this book 10 years ago, we might have dealt with certain situations better!

The authors also have a web site – http://www.UnDutchables.com – to accompany the book. Ironically, the book is also available writtin in Dutch to help so-called “Cloggies” understand their fellow “Kikkerlanders”. The Dutch friends who gave us this book found much of the content to be dead-on accurate (and funny) as well, incidentally.

Highly recommended with a 9.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale.

I wonder if and when a similar book, written in Dutch, about Americans, will be produced to help the Dutch understand our frailties, foibles, and motivations?

New Bonaire WebCams

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

One of my many projects includes playing with WebCams in interesting places. In the last few weeks, with help from friends, I have managed to install a new underwater WebCam and move another one as well as install another top side WebCam here on the island of Bonaire.


View from the new Bonaire Pier ReefCam


View from the updated Bonaire Wreck ReefCam


The new Yellow Sub PierCam

The above are images from these various cameras. The Pier ReefCam is an interesting design. I used a waterproof NTSC bullet camera (so named because of its shape), encased it in resin, protected the cable with an off-the-shelf garden hose, and then mounted it on a 2×4. It’s not pretty, as seen below, but it gets the job done.


The new Bonaire Pier ReefCam

Live images from these cameras can be found at http://www.BonaireWebCams.com.

Our Annual New Year’s Day Party – Cancelled Indefinitely

Monday, May 7th, 2007

In case any of my readers, family, and friends were planning on visiting with Linda and myself for our traditional annual New Year’s Day pot-luck event, to which one and all have always been openly invited, I regretfully hereby inform you that Linda and I have decided to cancel this event, indefinitely.

This past New Year’s Day pot-luck marked our 22nd year of having an annual pot luck event. It first originated as the Wing-Ding-A-Thon (due to my addiction to Buffalo Wings) held each October starting in 1985 for a few years, and then evolved into the “Yeah! It’s Summer Party” (and potluck). That continued until 1997 when Linda and I moved to Bonaire. The first year the party was held on January 1st was in 1998, and it has continued to be held that day without fail, even when we had to struggle to get back on-island in time to finalize our shopping for the party, or when, like in 2006, I had to leave early the next morning to attend a conference in the U.S.

Our lives have slowly been changing, and with a recent decision to home school our children starting this summer and Linda’s recent knee replacement surgery, we find ourselves in need of some other changes, among them ones which include the flexibility of possibly missing our first Bonaire New Year’s Eve in the coming year or two because we’re off doing something interesting and unusual with the children in some exotic location.

We figured it would be better to give a lot of advanced notice on this subject since there are folks on BT and elsewhere that have planned their vacations to Bonaire in order to join us on that nice day. Bless them.

We have enjoyed the company of many of you, both at the potluck as well as various BBQs we hosted over the years, never mind dinner’s at Gibi’s and elsewhere, but it’s time for us to move on from the big party into a more sedate socializing mode, like small dinners out.

We are also looking forward to opening a small private art gallery in our home here on Bonaire to show off Linda’s and my art and will have small wine & cheese-type gatherings there on occasion between travels and other commitments. Construction is going on as we speak – see the image below from our private WebCam:


Jake’s Construction Cam

At some point we may resume some sort of annual event, but until we fully understand and embrace all the challenges of schooling both kids at home (which we expect to take the equivalent of at least one person working full time) we are hesitant to make any further or future commitments to a regular event like that now.

Our apologies to any folks that have already made plans, but if we’re home on January 1st, feel free to drop in and say hi but don’t expect a party to be going on grin

Photos From My Trip To Japan & Taiwan

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Last December (2006) I needed to get about 15,000 more miles on my American Airlines account so I could requalify for Executive Platinum status for this year, as I like the free first class upgrades AA offers its top level frequent flyers. As I was going to be in San Francisco for a patent conference at the end of November 2006, I figured I could use the west coast as a launching point to do a so-called “mileage run” and rack up some miles by doing a quick trip across the Pacific.

The original plan had been to visit Tokyo for a full week of both sightseeing and business prospecting, and then head home to Bonaire. However after I had already made all my plans I was informed I needed to go to Taipei, Taiwan, for a business meeting, right in the middle of my Tokyo stay. That basically ate almost 3 days out of my Tokyo plans, but it turned out to be a fun adventure.

For two of the two and half days I spent in Tokyo, I hired a private tour guide, Junko Matsuda, to take me around. Junko, who runs Jun’s Tokyo Discovery Tours, had been recommended to me by someone at http://www.FlyerTalk.com, and what a treasure she was! If anyone wants a personal tour and explanation of everywhere and anywhere in Tokyo, consider hiring Junko – she can be reached by e-mail at me2@gb3.so-net.ne.jp or phone at +81-3-5477-6021 (or mobile at +81-90-7734-0079). In the links below to my photos, Junko is the Japanese woman that appears in them with some frequency. I also gave her a camera to use during our tour to take photos of me (since I rarely ever appear in photos as I am always taking them).

I also hired another set of guides – Naoto Nakamura and Eizaburo Yoshino (see their page here) – as part of a group tour of the famed Tsukiji Fish Market. As my body had not yet adjusted to the time zone, a 4am meeting for that tour worked out fine, and we had only one other participant on the tour. The fish market tour was excellent, with both Naoto and Eizaburo highly knowledgeable of the workings at the fish market.

I spent nearly a full day in transit between Tokyo and Taipei and back for a 1 hour meeting, but we (my friends/business associates and I) had a good local guide in our off time in Taipei, and got to visit Taipei 101 (the tallest building in the world at that time) and a Taipei night market, as well as several local dining establishments where we feasted on all sorts of delights, including pig’s intestines (tasted a lot better than it sounds).

I am nearly a half year late getting the 946 hand-selected pictures from my travels posted on-line because I had grand aspirations of annotating each one of them with a description.

I was off to a good start (see here and here) using the Photo Gallery software that came with my blogging system, but the scope of the effort, which involved both getting the photos to the right size as well as upload and annotate them, quickly overwhelmed me. I got about half way through my first full day in Tokyo doing that (again, look here and here) – so only about 150 photos out of 946 annotated.

But with a holiday weekend on Bonaire this weekend, and the mostly enjoyable use of Adobe’s Lightroom software, I decided to make simple web-based photo galleries instead and finally get the photos where folks could see them before they became too outdated. They don’t have any contextual annotation other than camera and exposure information, but hopefully those viewing the images will enjoy the subjects almost as much for their sheer interest (and in some cases, beauty or novelty) without the commentary I have not had time to add.

Here are the links to the photos:

Traveling From California to Tokyo and Arriving in Tokyo – December 2-3, 2006

Touring Tokyo with Junko (Asakusa, Kitchen District, Akihabara, Imperial Palace, Ginza) – December 4, 2006

Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo – December 5, 2006

Taipei, Taiwan with friends/business associates Eric, Isabelle, Bryan, and Ivan – December 5-6, 2006

Return from Taipei to Tokyo (Roppongi) followed by another day in Tokyo with Junko (Harajuku, Meiji, Shibuya, War Memorial) – December 7-8, 2006

If you have any questions about any of them, give a link to the photo in the comments on this blog entry with your question, and I will answer you.

On the Go With iGo Power Solutions

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Over the prior few years I have spent more than half of my time on the road – at trade shows, business meetings, and vacation travel. And being the gadget geek that I am, I always carry around lots of tech toys, including a cell phone or two, a Nintendo DS Lite, a notebook computer, a camera or two, my Sony Reader, and my iPod.

As anyone who travels with lots of gadgets know, you generally need a separate charger for each device, which makes for a lot of extra bulk in one’s carry-on luggage (I don’t know about you, but I would never check vital chargers in my checked luggage).

About four years ago in a Brookstone’s at the Philadelphia airport I came across something called the iGo Juice70 – a universal power supply which came with a variety of laptop charger “tips” and the ability to also charge a second smaller piece of electronics at the same time as powering the notebook computer. I bought it and was immensely pleased with my purchase. I later found that they offered a three-way splitter for powering the smaller gadgets and got that too, allowing me to charge my notebook, cell phone, iPod, and DS Lite all at the same time. Wow. Plus I can use my Juice on airplanes where there’s seat outlet power in the form of a 12VDC car charger plug.

My first Juice adapter burned out about 18 months ago, which was a disappointment, but I bought a new one immediately at the Radio Shack near my Texas office and it has worked great, all over the world.

My only frustration would be (and still is) that I frequently get newer gadgets than they have power tips for, and thus have to wait a few months for them to have compatible tips for my gadgets. And I still have to carry separate chargers for the diverse camera batteries I use as I can’t usually schedule myself to use the in-camera charge for this. But that is not a problem iGo can easily solve themselves.

The biggest overall drawback I have found so far has been the price of the tips ($9.99 for each new one) and the power adapters (the Juice70 is $129.99), and I wish I could get a short 3-inch cord to connect the gadgets to the power adapter plug instead of the bulky “cord savers” iGo presently sells, as with all my gadgets, having three sets of cord savers takes up a lot of space. A tip organizer would be nice too.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, I met with iGo’s marketing folks who showed me a smaller, sleeker version of the Juice power adapter (can’t wait for that to be readily available), and something called the iGo powerXtender (see photo above) – a dual AA battery powered charger which uses all the same iGo power tips I already use for my gadgets.

pic

iGo sent me an evaluation unit of the powerXtender, and I have managed to put it to use a number of times when I had forgotten to recharge certain devices overnight. Most recently it was my Blackberry on Bonaire, as well as my kids Nintendo DS Lites during a long trip from New Mexico to San Juan (while the whole family was playing Uno wirelessly on four DS Lites). The powerXtender lasted for about a half-dozen charges. It doesn’t fully charge the device it’s working with (at least not in my tests), but does provide emergency power, which is what iGo promotes the powerXtender for.

For $15.99 the iGo powerXtender is a great deal for existing iGo product users, because you will likely already have all the power tips you need. For people new to the iGo product line you need to be aware that new tips are $9.99 each, so if you have several gadgets this can get costly quickly, which might be an argument to just jump in with both feet and also get the Juice70 or similar portable power adapter too.

I give the iGo Juice70 a 7.5 and the iGo powerXtender an 8.0 out of 10.0 on The Richter Scale based on my prolonged use of these devices and the drawbacks mentioned above.

Home With Kids For A While

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

As some of you know, my wife Linda suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis in her right knee. During her recent semi-annual visit back to New Hampshire to see her Rheumatologist, it was decided that it was time for her to get her knee completely replaced. That much needed surgery has now been scheduled for April 5th – just about 5 weeks from now, back in New Hampshire.

The net result is that Linda will be off-island for about 2 months for pre-surgery, surgery, recovery, and physical therapy.

And during that time, I will be both mom and dad to the kids, providing the chauffeur services that Linda normally provides (to/from school and activities).

During the week that Linda was gone in January, I learned quickly that I could manage about 3-4 hours of working time during the average day, and the rest of it was shot. And working late at night is not an option because I need to be up at 6:30am to get the kids ready and off to school.

So, in anticipation of not being able to get a lot of work done when Linda leaves towards the end of March, I had to cancel my planned press trips to attend the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) in San Francisco and the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) show in Las Vegas, both starting next week. As such, I will necessarily be reporting from afar. And I still have a huge backlog of blog items and other projects to work on too, so maybe it’s good that I’m not going.

I am not sure how soon I will be able to travel after Linda (our very own Bionic Woman after surgery) returns to Bonaire in late May – a lot depends on how mobile she is, and whether she can drive, but I suspect I will be staying with the kids (and home with Linda) through the end of June, which is when school ends here on Bonaire. That’s a good thing though, as I am already starting to spend part of my afternoons getting our daughter ready for home schooling (she starts 7th grade as a home schooler in August), and doing projects with our son as well. This will also be the longest contiguous stretch I have spent with the kids since 2001 or so. That part’s a bit sad in retrospect – the last few years have been a whirlwind of travel, with me typically being away more often than not, although last year we did manage to spend almost three months traveling with the kids.