Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Out of the Steam Room and into the Sauna

Last week was a nail biter. The US congress was doing its level best to default on our national debt (or at least scare the bejeezus out of world markets), and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in NYC was doing the best to do the same to me! After a frustrating attempt at a Do-It-Yourself visa experience, I turned to my old friends at CIBT (actually, I'm an old ZVS fan, but they merged), and had all the paperwork submitted by Monday (only a week or so after I meant to). On Wednesday at 4:30, I learned that I would not, in fact, be flying to Frankfurt that evening, as my visa had not come through.

First stop, call Continental. Next stop, panic. Final stop, American Express Travel Services, who after an hour and a half found a fascinating routing for me: EWR->CDG->CAI->JED. This was particularly fun, as I needed to go to Riyadh, and only found out about the last bit on receiving email confirmation at drinks. Calling back from an available conference room (thoughtfully provisioned with left over brownies and coffee), I got a wonderful veteran agent from Houston who transformed this to EWR->CDG->BAH->RUH. I could now finish getting drunk for the last time in a while in peace!

Thursday was dedicated to relaxing about visa mayhem, and enjoying the downtime I would be missing with Saudi Arabia's Saturday through Wednesday work week. A last batch of chicken wings for lunch kept the day rolling nicely, and around 4 p.m. I learned that my visa was read, and I would be leaving that night at 7:30. From Newark. For those of you not native to NYC, getting a cab between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. requires an Act of God. Luckily, walking to Penn Station was a supremely unpleasant task, but one within the purview of mere mortals. As a side note, I shall not miss the New Jersey Transit train at all!

Arriving in Paris, I have made an important discovery: Charles de Gaulle airport is basically like a crappier version of O'Hare (my least favorite US airport), with incompetent transfer desk capabilities and baggage handling. I would avoid this airport, unless you're going to Paris and think Orly is inconveniently located. The rest of my trip went well, until I arrived and learnt that my bags had been left (as alluded to) in Paris. Luckily, I was prepared with a 2-day carry on including a suit, two ties, two shirts, and some gym clothes. I met my driver, hoped in the car, and was whisked away to the car-bomb-protected sanctuary of the Sheraton Towers Riyadh. Check in was uneventful, and a shortly collapsed into bed for 6 much needed hours of sleep.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Super Epic Blog Relaunch

Hey dedicated Mike fans, this post marks the epic relaunch of my blog - from now on, I will continue to post at random and irregular intervals of up to several months. How is this a relaunch? Because I said so (and someone else was launching a blog so it seemed like the "cool" thing to do; certainly a better decision than going drinking in Brooklyn because your friends are doing it...).

In the near term, stay tuned for:
  • A Guide to Whitewater Rafting Around the World
  • Reviews of New York's Top Restaurants
  • Why Dan Brown is a Genius Even Though His Books Are Awful and I Still Read Them Anyways Because I Fail at Life
  • Is Geneva 8.0 the Fund Accounting System You've Been Looking for Your Whole Life?
  • And MORE...
If anyone actually reads this blog, welcome back!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Racist Halloween Costumes...For Pets

I'd say that the "Pup Shalom" dog costume could be considered offensive by some, and that the Indian one is lame, cheesy, and (worst of all) Disney-esque. The pimp costume is probably my favorite, though, because it is undeniably awesome looking, and I don't necessarily consider pimping to be a black-only occupation. The reason it is a black dog probably has less to do with racism then a combination of "purple velvet looks good with black" and the enduring cultural meme of black pimps in similar attire from 70's films.

The fundamental issue with all of these is intent and perception: the illegal alien can represent anything from a protest of the dehumanization of illegal economic and political migrants to the demonization of the same people. The description on the geisha costume is more ignorant than bigoted, to my mind, and it is hard to condemn a cute little dog in a chinese themed floral dress (until it barks too much or pees on you, of course). I'd avoid the Shalom Pup on general principle, but I can also think of some Jews I know who would probably dress their dogs up in it...

Bottom Line: if you want to be offended by any of these costumes, have fun, otherwise, just enjoy Halloween!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, July 31, 2009

Itinerary - NYC through Beijing

I'm sitting at the airport in NYC now, waiting to see if my flight to Atlanta is delayed, and paging through my itinerary for the next few weeks, and I figured I should share the first bit. If there are any "must-sees" or "gotchas" at any of the places I'm going, let me know (especially if there are cheesy photo ops that you want me to embarass myself with - I'll find a cousin who is willing to do it).

July 31st - Delta 1793 to Atlanta, visit Danielle.

August 1st/2nd - Delta 18 (16 hours in a tin can) from ATL to PVG (Shanghai), 3 hours at Pu Dong, China Airways 983 to Beijing (2 more hours in an even less safe tin can), sit in traffic and end up at The Peninsula, Bejing.

August 3 - visit the Temple of Heaven, do some Tai Chi, stroll through the Hongqiao Market, visit Factory 798 (apparently an artsy-fartsy kind of place), lunch at Chef Dong's Roast Duck Restaurant. After lunch, hit up the Forbidden City and Tianenmen Square, and watch the Shaolin Gongfu Monks in the evening.

August 4 - drive by the Bird's Nest and Water Cube stadia, then out to the Summer Palace and a boat ride on Lake Kunming. Lunch at Bai Jia Da Yuan Restaurant. After lunch, walk through a historic hutong style neighborhood, then take a pedicab tour of a "traditional" Beijing neighboorhood (what's the difference?). After that, we have a relaxing rest of the day, with only a calligraphy lesson, visit to a kite factory, and a evening shadow play show. I'm getting tired just writing about this!

August 5 - this is the biggie, time to hit up the Great Wall of China. Last time, this was a heart attack waiting to happen, but apparently now they have added a cable car and toboggan sled, so I'm thinking this will be a bit less work (after I spent all that time during the family reunion getting trained up!). Lunch at Xiao Long Pu Restaurant, then over to the Ming Tombs and the Spirit Way. After that, just a short 50 km drive back to Beijing and a night at the Peking Opera.

August 6 - Bye Bye Beijing, flying to Xi'an on China Eastern Airlines flight MU2124.

Well, it's just about time to get on my plane, so I'm going to sign off for now. Assuming I survive the first few days, I'll be posting on individual days and activities, and positing more itnerary detail as I go.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I am now the proud owner of two more pairs of ExOfficio fast drying underwear (for a total of three), and a new charger for my camera. I figure that with these bare supplies, I am now ready to take on all the challenges of that far off land known as China. I should also probably get some outerwear, but if all else fails, at least it is the summer there, right?

China Pre Departure Freak-Out (NYC, Departure - 5)

Things to do:
  • Return overdue library books
  • Figure out what clothes to bring
  • Buy pants?
  • Buy shirts?
  • Find/buy camera charger
  • Activate cell phone for international usage
  • Get 2 weeks of work done in the next four days
Doesn't actually look quite as bad when it's laid out like this...


Hello and Welcome to my friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone else who has found their way to my little corner of the internet! My immediate reason to create this blog is my imminent trip to China; I never got very far on blogging my trip to India over at my old blog, mikey_2a, so I figure my only chance this time is to get an early start. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I have enough clothes to make it home, and the only charger my camera has known for 18 months left with Kaitlin... I will still do the best I can with the poor tools I have to work with (but if I have to choose between exorbitant hotel laundry, and exorbitant hotel internet, please forgive me!).

In general, I intend to use this space to just generally expound, explicate, and expostulate (i.e. bitch) about the world in general and anything in particular that I find interesting. I'm happy to take requests, but no guarantees that I will have anything meaningful to contribute on any given topic!

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride! Please direct any questions, comments, or concerns to whichever of my myriad email accounts you happen to know; as the first secret I will reveal here, they all actually go to the same place...