Asia 2013: Two Completely Opposite Days

20130819-134622.jpg

At 4am Wed night/morning Leigh Ellen and I started our journey to Asia which will be our second trip to the continent this year (China in Jan). In typical Evan fashion I put this together in a very random fashion. Two of our good friends moved to Singapore and we think it is important to visit in the first year as it is a time when you start to miss home a bit. And if you are traveling to the other side of the world you might as well take some extra time to make it worth while. This trip we are going to Japan, Cambodia, Singapore Bali, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. We might have over extended ourselves with too many stops but we’ll make the best of it.

So anyway we headed out at 4am and caught a short flight to Toronto and that’s where things got interesting. Our itinerary perplexed pretty much every Air Canada employee who saw it because we were going RDU to Toronto to Calgary to Tokyo when most people go direct to Tokyo from Toronto. We get into Toronto and stroll to our gate to find out our gate got switched and we had to walk clear to the other side of the airport. No sweat, our flight got delayed 30 min so we had plenty of time. After getting there we were called to the counter which is usually a bad sign and when the lady started off with “well we have a 2pm flight to Tokyo” I assumed the worst. Then she asked if we wanted to be moved to the direct flight 4 hours from now and offered us meal vouchers and an exit row seat. The flight was supposed to land 20 min after our original itinerary so with a direct flight, meal and an exit row we didn’t hesitate to make the switch.

Another lady showed us and escorted us to customer service to get our “meal voucher and compensation.” LE and I both looked at one another and smiled at the little victory. Little did we know Air Canada gave us $400 as “compensation” which was nearly the cost of 1 of our tickets. Double win! We ate a surprisingly good Canadian cheeseburger, drink and waited for our flight. Little did we know that we got switched to the direct flight that was also a brand new Boeing 777 with all the bells and whistles. Triple Win! The in-seat entertainment and exit row legroom made the 10 hour flight extremely painless. A godsend compared to the flight to China!

We breeze through customs, hop on the express train from the airport and in 1.5 hours we get to our stop, Shibuya, which couldn’t be more convenient as it also had an entrance to our hotel right there connected to the station. Quadruple win!

So far this trip couldn’t have worked out any better if I planned it.

We get checked in and even though we had a minor communication error on my booking the staff was extremely accommodating and we got to our room. Right as we were considering laying down and crashing at 7pm my friend, Karen, gives us a ring and proposes dinner. A little backstory, Karen is a friend I met back in 2007 when I went to Thailand. I vowed to come visit and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

Anyway, being two people who have never turned down a meal we said yes and rallied our second wind. It was a good thing we did as Karen took us to an izakaya and we ate and drank for hours. Our meal consisted of a variety of things but most unexpectedly was the dried sting ray (Ill add the pic later) which was a little salty but not bad. The chicken on a stick, shrimp wraps, salad, dumplings, and cold beer were just what we needed.

A perfect start to our trip.

We went back to our hotel, crashed and tried to gather ourselves for the next day, although nothing we could have done would have prepared us!

Tokyo, Japan – Day 1

LE and I woke up around 8 well rested and ready for the day, so we thought! After a few Internet searches for directions and such we headed to the included breakfast in the hotel restaurant and we immediately realized we were up for a challenge. We got seated and weren’t sure what to do so we just sat there confused and watched a Japanese mom and her daughter to fill their plates.

Breakfast was a mix of traditional Japanese and American fare, quite good.

After, we went up to the room to grab our things and headed out for the day, at least that was the plan. I ended having to return to the room three times for things we had forgotten. That should have been the first sign the day was going to be out of balance.

We thought heading to one of the nearby parks which houses one of the more famous temples would be a quick and easy start. Well, after the 2+ mile walk to the park in 90+ degrees we realized things in Tokyo are much farther than we think. We still made it to the park and walked in looking for the temple which should have been right in the middle according to the map. What we didn’t know was the park was split into two and they did not connect. We figured this out the hard way.

In between the 2 entrances there was a lady cooking some sort of wok noodles on a street cart that looked and smelled amazing. We thought we’d run into the temple park and then check out the noodle pusher.

The park was impressive, probably more then the shrine, and we worked up an appetite for some street noodles. Then we had the realization that we still didn’t have any money. We had a credit card but the odds of a 60yr old street noodle lady taking Visa were slim so we walked across to the nearby shopping district in search of an AtM. A search that in most countries would take no time but in Japan not so much. We walked inside malls, stores, and even banks but no ATM would accept non-japanese cards! Racist atms! We eventually learned that only Citibank ATMs work for us. No sweat, we’ll hop on a random wifi and look for the closet One. Wrong again!

Tokyo being one of the most technologically advanced cities in one of the largest consumer electronic producing countries in the world, doesn’t have free wifi anywhere! There are hotspots but they are run by the telecoms and only for subscribers. Not helpful.

So now we’ve been walking around for hours in the Cosplay district and gave up on the noodle lady because we couldn’t find an atm or wifi. Fantastic! We debated going to McDonalds, we were that hungry! We held off though and decided to hop on a train and go to another district because we’d surely be able to find an ATM and wifi there. Well we had to use the CC to get our tickets so we waited in line for the ticket office and got to the counter only to realize the computer wouldn’t read my card. Awesome!

Luckily my ATM card worked and we were on our way from Harajuku to Ebisu, home of the “beer museum.” Perfect, a beer would be just what we needed after walking in this hot and humid day. The beer museum turned out to be a huge building with a small room of old bottles and a fancy tasting bar……that didn’t accept any cards!

So here we are sitting on the side walk bench with no cash, hungry, without wifi and no idea what to do. We tried to make the best of it by going to the Nature Institute which houses a jungle in the middle of Tokyo. At least that was the plan. It looked so much closer on the map, we walked which seemed like forever to the Megero district where another cluelessly lost American tried to ask us directions. Ha!

We walked with them for a while to try and meet up with their Japanese friend who we hoped would help us find an AtM. As we were wandering around looking for his friend we finally found the nature institute that to no ones surprise was closed long before we would have ever found it.

After meeting up with our new friends’ Japanese buddy we talked to him and he talked to a policeman and no one had any clue where we could find a useful ATM. We dropped our heads, tucked our tails and headed back to the hotel to rally. After 14 miles we had to admit, Tokyo beat us today. Tokyo 1 Us 0

At the hotel, Karen had called and asked us to dinner. Which, after a quick change we happily accepted. She met us in our hotel and could obviously see the dejection on our faces and asked “do you guys like meat?” We assumed that was a rhetorical question as I have meat running through my veins. She took us to a Yakiniki, a Korean style restaurant with a grill in your table and ice cold beer and on our way she showed us an ATM that worked! Total redemption! A perfect way to rally from the long day and fight back to Tokyo 1 Roberts 1!

20130819-134717.jpg

20130819-134759.jpg

20130819-134954.jpg

A Year in Review 2012 & New Year Upon Us

“Without a Goal, You Can’t Score” – Someone

That quote alone is the reason I am one of those rare people that actually keeps track of their NYE Resolutions and tries to keep them. Now, It’s that time of year again, reality check on how many resolutions i did or didn’t keep. Considering I don’t have any idea where the year 2012 went, I don’t the the scores below are going to be too pretty. Here’s the scorecard below.

2012 Resolutions: – Full Post Here

  • life journal daily – FAILED – kept a private journal for a while but tailed off in the summer
  • tumblr/blog often - FAILED – started off ok, but failed bad. I did however move my tumblr posts here. I’ll try again.
  • de-clutter (closets, clothes, house) and keep them that way FAILED kind of.  Felt like LE and I made progress here but we still have a ways to go.  We will say Work in Progress instead of failure
  • finish my mancarage (Mancave + Garage) – mod-SUCCESS I mostly finished this but could always keep improving. It has been nice for watching games, movies and poker nights.
  • start Yoga classes w/ the wife – SUCCESS We did Yoga for 3 months and attempted to find another studio closer to home. She’s started back up at a gym and I think I’m going to do the same shortly. Really liked it
  • read more – FAILED considering this a failure only b/c I didnt stick to my book a month.
  • learn more about my family FAILED
  • get my domain portfolio in order – SUCCESS got rid of the waste and sold some of the gems
  • spend money smarter or not at all – SUCCESS, i think
  • finish WUR and PR (another project) – FAILED
  • Plan a big 2013 vacation (China?, Asia?, So. America?) – SUCCESS going to China for 10 Days. Other trips in the works
  • No more soda (unless its in a mixed drink ) / More water – FAILED/SUCCESS went 6 months without soda.
  • do more to help my wife with her goals and projects – Work in Progress
  • get organized – Work in Progress
  • Take More photos – Fail
  • eat smaller portions – FAILED – did ok for a while but have really put on some weight lately.
  • Cut the cord – SUCCESS no cable (or cable bill) and it is fantastic.

Final score is 6 Successes, 8 Failures, 3 WIPs, 1 Wash. Not terrible but definitely room for improvement.

2013

  • Read a Book a Month – Sort of a carry over from last year but now with a little more specific goal which should make it easier to follow through (So far so good)
  • De-clutter everything
  • Blog more
  • Launch some projects I’ve been half working on for a long time.
  • Keep active – between Yoga, Disc, softball, hoops, and the push-up challenge so far so good.
  • finish Kitchen Renovations
  • Travel more

Yea, so I kind of forgot about this post being a draft so i’m going to go ahead and post it.  It’s not complete and I know i’ve forgot some resolutions i’ve wanted to include but that just makes it easier to complete more and fail less.

 

Book – Running Blind by Lee Childs (Jack Reacher series)

running-blind

I’m currently obsessed with the Jack Reacher series and I just finished ‘Running Blind’ in about 4 days. Its one of the shorter Jack Reacher books and I think it ranks the lowest of the Lee Childs books that I’ve read.  Not that it was bad, but it was different. What I did really like that was different than the other books was the second person point of views from the killer’s perspective.  It immersed you into the mind of the killer.  Good book, 7.5/10 for me.

Jaxson is a Creature of Habit

Every morning Mon-Fri, I take my dogs on a 2.5 – 3 miles hike / walk / jog (depending on how im feeling) at a trail nearby.  The routine never changes both Jaxson and Sasha know when its the weekday (when they get their park trip) and when its a weekend (when we normally don’t go) and I assume it has something to do with LE getting up before me or not.  When I do get up after her, they immediately get excited.  They bounce around and whine for 10-15 minutes while I enjoy my hot tea and oatmeal and when I’m done the run for the garage door and out into the jeep as soon as it opens.

We get to the park and Sasha runs off to sniff around on her own and Jaxson jumps out and waits for me to throw the frisbee all the way down the field. By the time we get to the end of the field and the trail beginning Jax heads for the creek to get a drink and in the summer cool off.  The very first time he went in there he dropped his frisbee in the water and lost it, but ever since then he’s never lost another.  He still goes into the creek and you’d think by now he’d learn to leave the frisbee outside of the creek but nope he’s adapted in a different way, he’s learned to find his frisbee underwater. Every time we walk he does this. I finally got it on tape b/c its too good not to share.  

Facebook, “Elections” & Bi-partisan Ignorance

I’ll get this out of the way first, this post isn’t about whether or not I like Romney or Obama because I don’t like either but that is not the reason my Facebook friends make me concerned. Every time there is a debate or something political in the news one side of my peers goes on a social media birage of why their side kicked the other side’s ass and 100% of the time no body actually looks at the facts.

The most recent VP debate is a perfect example. The common consensus among Facebook’s Democrats was that Biden performed better during the debate than Ryan. After watching the debate as unbiasedly as I can, the only reason I can honestly see was from his “performance” not at answering questions but for attempting to seem above Ryan with his consistent laughter and smug smirk. He completely looked like a clown and I’d be seriously concerned about having this man 1 bullet away from running this country. I don’t agree with Ryan’s views but at least he presented himself in a more Presidential fashion.

This in itself is, in my opinion, the biggest problem facing America right now, Bi-Partisan politics. People pick sides and will defend that side to the grave no matter who the candidate. We pride ourselves as being the “Land of the Free” and having a true democracy but yet we have one of the worst election systems possible. Two parties and that’s it. Sure there are other candidates out there but despite their best efforts they can’t get recognized on the tickets, by the media or even by the debate commission.

That’s right, the Commission for Presidential Debates whose own website states:

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.

Oh I get it, by excluding candidates such as Gary Johnson and Jill Stein you are providing the best possible information to viewers. Makes perfect sense to me, just like a flying pig. Hard to believe the general public let’s people like this who claim to be non-profit & non-partisan get away with such garbage. We as a people should be more thirsty for facts and fairness as opposed to being sponges for whatever garbage the media wants us to hear.

A real problem I get from my social media feeds is that I don’t think people understand half the issues, at least the important ones. Our country is at a critical juncture and I fear this election is going to be won by social issues & civil liberties instead of critical economic issues. I have my opinions on gay marriage, birth control and the other social issues but I don’t believe they are the main issues at this point in our history. I’m not saying they aren’t important but not critical that they should be the issues deciding the Presidential Election when our economy is in the toilet, unemployment is remains at a high point of my lifetime (~8%), and government spending and taxation is through the roof.

I hope people go out research the issues on their own, meaning not on Obama.com or Romney.com. Romney is lying. Obama is lying. Do your own research and understand what is important for this country at this point in time. For me, it took me a visit to isidewith.com along with some of my own research to really understand the issues and who I support. For the first time ever, I financially backed a candidate and I am proud to say that I formulated my own opinion that isn’t based on a particular party or biased news sources.

If Romney & Obama supporters would open their eyes and see that every election we are talking about the same issues and realize that these two candidates are just like every other pair of candidates that have come before them in recent years, pawns for Big Government. The issues never change because the pawns never change. Bigger government is not the answer that will bring the United states of America back to its once prosperous state and until people stand up and shout the system will not change. No more bi-partisan politics, no more corrupted debate commissions & no more un-informed voters. We deserve better. We should demand better.

A wasted vote is an uninformed vote.

If CISPA passes I’ll be moving all of…

If CISPA passes, I’ll be moving all of my personal information off of Facebook and onto this site. For some reason CISPA doesn’t have nearly the attention and uproar SOPA did.

The Demise of Google and Facebook

*I figure I should probably start updating this blog again. It has seen probably a dozen iterations over the years and thanks to p2, here’s a new one.

Anyway, a friend of mine sent me this Forbes article about the next generation of the web and how it is very possible that Google & Facebook won’t be around in 5 years. Personally, I agree and here’s why: As the article mentions, the web is changing into a mobile platform with more and more devices connected to the web from the palm of our hands, our usage patterns are bound to change. Google relies on search and Adwords for 80%+ of its revenue which makes them extremely susceptible to lose market share fast. The company they should be concerned most with? Apple. Apple has already bought a mapping company to integrate into iOS thus removing the need for Google Maps integration and I predict their next movement to build or buy a search engine (DuckDuckGo for example). If Apple puts their own brand of search on their devices they will massively impact Google’s traffic numbers. Microsoft and Internet Explorer dominated the market for so many years because of their tight integration, now we’ve seen Safari’s growth numbers rise b/c of the increase in Mac and iOS devices. It is only a matter of time before Apple takes their cut of the search market.

Facebook is also under a lot of heat right now b/c as the article states, their lack of ability to monetize mobile traffic. They just don’t know how to make money with their app other than with FacebookAds. This is a big problem for them but the one benefit they have is search. Facebook has the data and eyeballs to create their own search engine based purely on the number of shares for content, Fan Page size and other social metrics based on the activity of its users. This is somewhere Google was trying to go with Google+ because they know the impact of social is going to be the future of content. Link based algorithms won’t be here for ever.

That is my thought and I wanted to get it down in writing for the future but this prediction has one caveat; We make it past Dec 21, 2012!!! Below is the 10 second Too Long; Didn’t Read version.

TL;DR Google is in trouble if Apple ever decides to leverage it’s platform with its own search. Facebook is in trouble of not knowing how to monetize mobile but has an out if they develop a quality search engine.

Random Hot Tub Conversations

LE and I are here in Breckenridge, Colorado and after a long day of skiing/riding we obviously decided to sit in the hot tub to relax.  Well 20 minutes in our fellow guest at this BnB joins us.    The conversation goes from tourism, land deals, oil and mineral rights, politics, cars, future of energy, London, taxes, military and back to oil and land. It was a good 2 hours of semi-intellectual conversation (mostly buy the other guy) but there was some really interesting things brought up that I wanted to remember/share.

Some background, the guy is 50+ born and raised in the UK but has lived in Fort Worth, Texas  for 20+ years, enough to refer to the USA as ‘we’ and ‘us’.  He never actually disclosed what he did but at one point said he runs an oil and gas company in Texas and between that and his stories of travel, high-society friends and business in general, I’m pretty sure he’s very well to do.

Some interesting points talked about:

- US M1 Abrams tanks, the big ones used in the Middle East, run off turbine engines (jet engines basically) and they last an average of 2 weeks in the desert. The cost to replace one of these engines: $750,000 each.  The US has replaced them so many times and have gotten so good at it, the military mechanics can do it in an average of 40 minutes.  Ridiculous!

- He has a friend who bought a high building in Ft Worth, someone wanted the building and those people had been using his mineral rights w/o knowing.  Their inquiry into buying his high rise brought this to his attention.  They settle out of court and the guys sells his building and rights for well over 10x what he paid for them.  He turns around and buys 23 square miles of land in Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming which happens to be the most expensive real estate in the US today. Total dollars spent in taxes on the sale and purchase =$0!  Apparently there are some laws if you sell some commercial real estate you can reinvest that money into real estate in 90 days and pay no taxes on the sale.  Mind = blown.

- Electric Cars are going to present a bigger problem in the future with battery waste and believes they are not the future. Too many additional problems as well (charging times, battery life, battery waste, range etc).  Natural Gas cars and trucks are the future.  Burns Clean, USA has more natural gas then we know what to do with it which makes it dirt cheap. Chevy and Dodge coming out with natural gas truck models soon, maybe this year.

- Ford has versions of its cars in the UK/Europe that run on small diesel engines that are faster than their US counterparts and get 50+ mpg.  New model will break the 70mpg mark. US diesel is too dirty for these cars. Sad.

- He drives a car that gets 5mpg and he and his wife use 1,000 gallons a month but “we produce it so I should probably use it.” 

- Rick Santorum scares him.

There was more but we are going to eat now and I have to leave something for conversations when we get back. Needless to say, It was an interesting 2 hours. I love talking to smart / interesting people. 

Being Old

I was playing hoops today at the outdoor courts at NC State and started thinking about being old.  It is funny how no matter what age you always think you are old.  When you get into high school you think you are all grown up. When you get into college you look back at high school kids and think they are young and now you’re really an adult. And when you are in your 20-30s you look at the college kids and think they are just kids.  The only thing I could think of is that we only have a limited perspective of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.

Why do we always feel the need to be old? 

Public Service Message – Turn off Pinterest on Facebook

Everyone loves Facebook but not everyone loves Pinterest and the quickest way to annoy your fBook friends is to auto-post anything you ‘Pin’ on fBook.  So do us all a favor and turn ‘Add Pinterest to Facebook Timeline’ OFF.

It is as easy as going to edit profile and scrolling down until you see this option