A quick tour

The train ride was easy and uneventful. They served a breakfast snack right after we boarded in Cologne, and a lunch snack just after Brussels. Since we were in the Premium class, we were able to fill out a form and pre-request a taxi for €7 extra. It was nice because the taxi line stretched from outside all the way into the middle of the station.

We took the quick taxi to the new hotel, Hotel Paris Bastille Boutet. It’s near the Bastille Plaza, and in fact we drove right through it on the way to the hotel. I planned to take a quick nap and then go out, but I realized I would just skip everything if I didn’t go out right that second. I consulted Google Maps for the best way to get about, and I decided on going to the Louvre since it was a straight shot without multiple line changes. I turned left out of the hotel and walked about 10 minutes to the Reuilly – Diderot Metro stop. The ticket machines were easy to switch to English and accepted credit cards, though I had to use my pin. I barely have to use it since it still hasn’t taken off in the US, but luckily I remembered it. Tickets anywhere in Zone 1, which covers most of Paris, were €1.90 each way.

The train arrived quickly, and there wasn’t a large crowd since it was about 1pm on a Friday. I got to the Louvre 7 stops later and walked up onto one of the side entrances. Although lots of people were taking pictures here, it wasn’t the view I had in mind when I thought about the Louvre. I made my way around to the front and took a picture with the pyramid in the background:

I didn’t realize how huge the Louvre is, or that it had been a place previously. I guess I need to do a little more studying before going to new cities so that I know what I’m seeing. I didn’t feel the need to join the throngs and see the Mona Lisa today, but maybe next time if I spend longer there. I hear there are also other pieces of art in the Louvre as well 🙂

After looking around the square a bit, I walked along the Seine parallel to the Tuileries Gardens, which are also pretty huge. It’s cool to imagine what it looked like in the old days when the Louvre Palace was one of the only big buildings around. I knew the Eiffel Tower was a pretty far walk, but I figured I could get close enough for an identifiable shot today. This was all mainly a recon trip to make sure I didn’t waste time figuring out transportation next time when I have enough time and am awake enough to actually see things. Anyway, here’s La Tour Eiffel in the distance:

I walked on the Seine as far as the Place du Concorde, which looks so much like the copy in Vegas that Google Lens thinks that’s where I was. I took some shots, enjoyed the scenery, and walked back to the Metro. 7 stops later I was back on Rue Reuilly for the short walk back to the hotel. I was pretty beat by the time I got back, and I slept a good 7 hours until 11pm or later.

I stayed up until breakfast the next morning and met the captain down there. The breakfast was pretty good, with eggs, bacon and sausage as well as some fruits, meats and cheeses. All-in-all it was small for a €22 breakfast, but not bad when you don’t feel like going out early in the morning. The captain and I had an enjoyable time talking about airplanes and guns, although we both managed to spill the lid off the orange juice, much to the hotel waiter’s chagrin. I think it was clogged with pulp and made you turn it over more than usual, causing the weight of the liquid inside to pop the top off and spill OJ all over. Anyway I’ll know better for next time if I decide to eat here again.

He went to Paris…

Our second stay in Guangzhou was shorter than the first. I had time to take a nap, go to breakfast, take another nap, then hang around in the room until the late wakeup call. The captain chose to do a long, long, short, short rest cycle for the trip to Cologne, meaning we had about 3.5 hours on, 3.5 off, 2 on then 2 off before getting back in the seat for the landing. At the last company we used to split all the flights right in half, but current fatigue studies suggest breaking the rest periods up can be more beneficial than only one long rest. I slept pretty well during our first rest, and then while we were up front for the short period we got to see a lot of China. The weather was beautiful, and it was easy to see the many towns, military bases (we think) and other odd buildings that just seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. On the second rest I just read the whole time, and then we got back in the seats for the landing. The approach was one we don’t often have to fly, meaning the normal level of micromanagement was knocked up a notch. I didn’t mind it as much because it was something unusual for me. The landing turned out to be a lot less eventful than it seemed like it would be after all the talking preceding it. We got to the hotel and I set an alarm to wake up at 4:45 to meet at 5:30.

I rolled over in the dark and checked my phone to see how much time was left. My phone was dead, which I really didn’t see coming. As long as I leave it in airplane mode, I can usually make a very long distance flight and still have plenty of use in the room before charging it. My watch hadn’t died, and was surprised to see it was 5:21pm! I managed to get downstairs in 9 minutes and meet the captain. He wanted a drink first, so we went to the hotel bar, where we met another crew who was planning to head out to eat. We joined them for a good meal. I had Schnitzel “Berne,” which was ham and a cheesy sauce on the schnitzel. It was excellent! We followed with a quick Guiness at one of the two Irish Pubs in the Heumarkt Square, and then the other crew headed off to bed. The captain and I walked to the train station to scope it out. We decided it was an easy enough walk, but with our luggage we preferred to take a taxi.

By the time we got back to the hotel, I was ready to call it a night, though the captain stayed at the hotel bar to listen to the musician they had there. I passed out almost right away and woke up about 3 in the morning. I wasn’t able to go back to sleep, so I just kept reading. I’ve been running through the Jack Reacher novels, which are thin on substance but easy reads. They’re great work books because I can put them away for weeks and easily pick them back up again the next time I’m on a plane, or wide awake at 3 am.

We met this morning around 8 and took a taxi to the train station. It turned out to be less than 8 euros which is not a bad deal. We scouted out the gate’s location and then decided to find the lounge in case we have more time the next time we do this. It turned out to be outside the train station in a little store front that barely advertised the name of the train company. It was a small lounge, good for getting out of the crowds but not much else. Having found our target, we hoofed it back to the train station, where we had to wait less than 5 minutes before it arrived.

Since we traded in a plane ticket, we were able to buy premium class tickets on the train. That includes wifi throughout the 3.5 hour journey, which is the reason I’m writing this now. Between writing and eating the small airline-style breakfast, I’ve managed to kill one hour of the trip. Hopefully the weather in Paris will allow me to see some of the famous sights since I’ve never been there before.

Back to China

After the excessive amount of sleep the night before, I wasn’t able to go to bed very early in Japan. Part of the problem was the room temperature. Instead of a thermostat with a number, there’s a rheostat that goes from cool to warm with no numbers. I guessed how cool I wanted it, and I guessed wrong, waking up at least twice to turn it down more.

When the phone call came in to wake me up, I was sound asleep and dreaming. Luckily I had mostly packed the night before, giving me extra time to stand under the shower and wish time would stop for a bit.

There was a delay that caused the captain to be behind on his preflight. That gave me a lot of time without interruptions, and surprisingly I was able to complete all my duties promptly. Later he said it was my “best leg” and that I was “finally up to speed,” a backhanded compliment that was really saying “I didn’t say anything the last 4 legs but I was unhappy with your performance.” I had to chuckle a little and bite down hard to avoid saying it had a lot to do with not being interrupted. I don’t know if they’re trained that way or that’s part of the captain persona here, but they mostly have the habit of seeing that I’m in the middle of something and demanding my full attention to whatever they’ve decided to interrupt me with. A great example of this myopia occurred approximately 3 seconds after I told him my electronic flight bag had failed and was rebooting. “Ok, I’m ready for the performance numbers now.” “Do you want me to come over to your side and run them on your EFB?” I asked.

On a lighter note, when we’re outside Chinese airspace and try to request digital ATIS, the message comes back “TIS REJECTED.” I’m sure it’s something like “terminal information services” or whatever, but in my mind I always hear a pirate saying, “Arrr, ’tis rejected matey!”

Anyway I’m back in Guangzhou and took a short nap before enjoying the executive floor breakfast again. Man, I thought I had a big room the lst time I was here, but this is huge! It’s a true suite with a 1/2 bath in the living room and then a full bath with the bedroom. Max is eating dinner way over there in ‘Murica, and then we’re planning to try out Planetside 2 together.

So much for the streak!

Ok I managed to break my 1-day posting streak because I was just too tired when we landed in Narita. I was tired when I woke up in Guangzhou, though I’d slept a solid 7 hours before the trip.

The trip was relatively uneventful, though the captain continues randomly flying the airplane for me for no reason. I get it, I’m new, but rather than proceeding from a presumption of competence and correcting mistakes, he just does things for me and says he wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. I was, but somebody else’s hand was in my way!

I was whipped when we got to Narita, but like always the act of checking in and getting to the room woke me up a bit. After chatting with e, I went to the convenience store in the hotel and bought a bit of food. After eating I messed around on my phone a bit, then climbed into bed to take a nap before meeting up for dinner. Well, by the time I finished reading Facebook and a good bit of Jack Reacher, I didn’t go back to sleep until 3pm. I woke up at 11pm, then again 1 am, and finally 4 am! I don’t know why I’ve been so knocked out because I slept pretty well in Guangzhou.

Today I’ve been trying to get Max hooked up with Planetside 2, but as soon as we started trying to work on it the internet went crazy. When I left it last night, it had about 1GB to download and install. I assumed it would be ready today. When I finally connected, there was no shortcut to the game, so I ran the install repair again. The stupid computer kept saying there was no internet even though I was connected to it through–you know–the internet! I tried multiple times before giving up. We spent at least an hour resetting the jetpack, turning the router off and on, and restarting the computer. No luck. I could connect via TeamViewer, but the computer said it couldn’t connect with the Planetside server to complete the install. It’s frustrating because there are so many possibilities for error as I connect from Japan to a computer running OpenDNS servers through a router, through a Verizon Jetpack. Any one of those could have an error, but everything looked fine by my end. There’ve been Verizon outages reported in the news the last few days, but I can’t find out if there’s an error in Kissimmee, FL.

I finally gave up and told Max to turn everything off and go play. I asked him to turn it on again when he gets home. Maybe the reset will fix everything and we can finally install this game. I really hoped to play it with him today! After giving up, I went to breakfast for the first time in this hotel. It’s a pretty standard western/Asian mix, and there was plenty of good food to eat. I’m back in the room now at 8:40 am Monday morning, and my wakeup call comes at 7:30pm. Tonight is a short trip back to Guangzhou, so I’ll be ok even if I don’t get a ton of sleep before the flight.

Back in the saddle…for awhile, at least.

It’s been 5 years since I posted anything here. I’ve been on a lot of adventures since then that have been documented in thoughts, pictures, and my #1 fan’s blog. She suggested I start writing again instead of deleting the blog as planned, so I’m jumping right in rather than trying to recap the last 5 years.

Sunday, March 4, China Time

I’m in Guangzhou near the end of a 48-hour layover. We came in at 3 in the morning and leave at about 1am. That sounds bad until you realize it’s a fairly decent schedule back home, meaning I’m not yet totally out of sync with E and the boys. Just wait, my schedule will be totally screwed up by the time I get home! 😉

International travel is fun, and I do enjoy the time even when we’re off cycle from the world. I spend a lot of time awake at night and sleeping during the day, and usually I’m unwilling to go outside in the city in the middle of the night. I think that just makes sense. So what do I do? Yesterday we got to the hotel by about 3:30 am after a 3-hour flight from Singapore. I intended to stay awake until at least breakfast, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The layover in Singapore was short, and I chose reduced sleep so that I could see a bit of the city. The captain had lived there previously, and he had a lot of cool stuff to tell me about while we walked around. Anyway I took a little nap, leaving the shades open and my phone on so that I wouldn’t sleep too long. I missed most of my notifications, but at about 7:30 a text woke me up and I got ready for breakfast.

The China Hotel by Marriott gives us access to the executive floor where a decent breakfast is served. I ate breakfast alone, expecting the captain to join me. I think he was more tired than me last night and was probably still asleep. After breakfast I returned to the room and had almost a 2-hour conversation with E. That’s unusual for us, not because we don’t like talking, but because bad internet, China blocking calls, random schedules, and E’s normal life often prevent us from talking so long. We got her setup with two nights in a hotel, something we haven’t done since Mother’s Day last May. I try to give her a complete break from the RV and us every few months so that she can enjoy some of the solitude I do when I’m on long layovers in big hotels. I definitely try not to rub it in, but the single hotel room I’m in now has more living space than our whole RV. It is nice just to hang around in PJ’s and read, play computer games, etc.

Speaking of games, I spent some time playing one of my new favorites, Player Unknown’s Battle Grounds, or PUBG. It drops 100 players into a map and then shrinks the map over time, Hunger Games-style, forcing players to run into each other eventually. It’s a lot of fun, but I enjoy it more when I can play with one of my online friends cooperatively. I also love playing Watch Dogs 2. Although I finished the single player mission, it’s still fun to connect to other people and chase them around or hack them when they’re trying to complete missions, just like they did to me.

Max turned 13 this year, and I decided to make it a priority to find a game we could play together. After some searching I decided to try the free-to-play Planetside 2. It’s a massively multiplayer first person shooter. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of players running around battling each other. I thought it would be fun to play that with Max. I downloaded it here first and played a bit to see how it would go. It’s not at all bloody, and by default there’s no talking and very little typing by other players. That means Max won’t see or hear a lot of bad words, although when I joined a team the kids there felt the need to cuss every other sentence. I tried to install it remotely from here, but with the Chinese firewall and the RV poor connection lately, I haven’t been able to finalize it on his laptop yet. Hopefully it will finish downloading tonight and we can give it a try tomorrow after church there while I’m in Japan.

So there’s my attempt at a reboot of the blog. It’s 10am here in China on Sunday morning, regardless of what the post time stamp indicates. I had my executive floor breakfast and am making myself stay up until at least noon. Tonight’s another relatively short flight over to Narita, then I’ll be back here again.

July 2nd

Today was the 4th of July celebration. It was pretty well done except there was zero line control at the free food stands. And they were all next to each other in a narrow street, meaning there was one continuous line from one end to the other. I wanted to be polite, but since I refused to go hungry I forced my way into a few lines.

The fireworks were very well done, although I would love to hear them with an actual symphony instead of a recorded performance. I miss the old days with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

Blue(s) Monday

How does it feel to treat me like you do
When you’ve laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are
I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me
How do I feel tell me now
How do I feel

That’s right friends and neighbors, Blues Monday in a deployed location. Yippee! In the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal. I work in an office most of the day so it’s not like I need my combat uniform. I just wonder how long it will be until the other deployed locations start getting out their irons and their shirt garters.

What does the ‘brief’ in briefing stand for?

Today I got to go to work to brief an incoming team about airlift. The first thing I learned the hard way is that on Saturdays my usual door in the Embassy is locked. The other thing is that the bosses must not have anything to do on a Saturday because they went on and on and on. I got home eventually and walked to the Andino to eat lunch with Chuck before the daily torrential downpour.

Bottom of the Barrel

I was reading an email about a former classmate who passed away in 2007 and was only just reported to the AOG. Aside from the sad news of his passing, it was interesting to note that of the 20 or so classmates and one underclassman in the email, I was one of 3 who hadn’t made Lt Col. I know, I know, I’ve got to get over this. It’s just that stupid things like that have a way of hitting me in the gut all over again, you know? I think I would be a good Air Force leader; the AF disagrees, and the House always wins in this kind of disagreement.

One of the sure things…

Just like the last few years, I’ve not really thought about my taxes until someone mentioned that W-2s came out a few weeks back. That got me wanting to start on mine right away. I wound up spending some time at work downloading docs I need for taxes and then about 3 hours working back in my room. As much as I’d like to finish and get my refund on the way, I have to wait because 1) I won’t finish funding my Roth IRA until Monday and 2) I think our large mutual fund losses might have been reported as a wash sale. I need to call the investment company tomorrow and see if I can get to the bottom of #2.