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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Jul '20

Home Report: Unplanned Project

If there is anything in this world that I dislike more that “45”, it would be plumbing repairs.

This week was slated to be version two mask making week (elastic head [not ear] straps, wire insert by the nose for better fit.

The saga begins a month ago when I swapped out the float mechanism on the toilet since it wouldn’t shut off all the way.

Then, a couple of days ago, the tank started dripping…guessing I knocked something out of alignment.

Thought it was coming from the bolts that hold the tank, so, new bolt and big rubber washer kit…

Several attempts stop the leak, finally decided to test the tank over the kitchen sink where it was easy to dump, easy to work on, and easy to see where the leaks were.

Final answer was the flapper assembly, so back to Home Depot for yet more parts. On a positive note, 100% mask compliance at Home Depot, and only saw one sketchy guy at Safeway without one.

After several attempts at getting seated correctly, finally got it all put back together…

Deep-cleaned the rest of the rest of the bathroom while I was on the floor, and then tackled the 6-burner stove in the kitchen.

Grates are in the dishwasher for an easy clean.

Not really how I wanted to spend my last three days.

Joys of home ownership.


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Jul '20

Home Report: Living Room Redo Done

Just realized that I’m cleaning/redoing the décor in a very slow clockwise path. Finished the living room this afternoon.

Here is the before:

Can you say CLUTTERED!

I’d been wanting to change out the artwork for the last couple of years – but the piece with the massive frame weighs a lot. The frame is built on a 2×4 base with quarter inch plate glass in the front. 70 pounds is my guess.

Thanks to Roxy and Shua, the piece has been relocated to the “art closet” in the garage, and several large pieces that hadn’t seen the light of day will go in their place.

Yes, we had to take the door off to get “The Legs of Christ” into the closet. The artist is David Best, best known as one of the major temple architects at Burning Man.

That was almost a month ago. Nothing on this house redo is getting done quickly.

And now the after (still need to clean and sort the junk on the couch (a.k.a. my office):

I’m turning Japanese, I really think so. Of course, I had to look up who the artist was from the 80s. That would be The Vapors.

All the Japanese city scene oil paintings are by Kristina Hagman (daughter of Larry Hagman, granddaughter of Mary Martin of Peter Pan fame).

Complementing her pieces are some Japanese wall hangings – which are actually traditional obi, the fabric sashes festooning kimono.

One of the things slowing down the living room was figuring out how to hang the obi. A week or so ago I had an inspiration, and even had all of the materials on hand:

Wish I’d had gold three-inch screws, but couldn’t find any in the garage, and not worth a trip to Home Depot.

The last one is actually a composite of two different obi.

And, yes, the far-left clock is set to Tokyo time.

Whew! Another room down. Now the kitchen, then the garage.


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One Response to “Home Report: Living Room Redo Done”

  1. Mary S Willi Says:

    Fabulous work Mark Stephen Souder! Your living room looks great and the clean-out is impressive. Love the colorful art work.

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Jul '20

Home Report: Failed Cooking Experiments

I post all the pretty dinner pics on Facebook – but rarely the disasters.

My first attempt at making zucchini fries crusted with parmesan. Definitely, a fail. Maybe if I had cooked smaller batches with them spread out. Oh well.

Plus, I accidentally put in too much salt – and with the parmesan, definitely noticeable.

In an attempt to salvage something out of the recipe, diced up the rest of the zucchini, and three grilling onions…

Sautéed them up with some bacon…

And crumbled up the parmesan fries to use on top of the sautéed veg and bacon… to create a “hot dish” as they say in the Midwest, for reheating later.

In the end, just cooked up the rest of the bacon in the oven (I made a rack for my 8×8 Pyrex baking dish to keep the bacon out of most of the fat)…

Made some fries and called it a night.

Probably should have made a salad as well. Maybe tomorrow will be salad night.


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Jul '20

Home Report: Second Bedroom Done

Second bedroom is a bit misleading…technically, it’s the Master Bedroom, i.e., where the Master (that would be me) sleeps.

Before, the shit show of leftovers from years of travelling:

Thought it wouldn’t need all that much time, but that’s when “project creep” comes into play:

  • Jewelry chest needed to be cleaned, items passed onto friends (so that had to wait until they came to dinner), lid screwed back on, and organized
  • Closet needed going through (have a dozen and a half t-shirts that haven’t bee worn in years, and an equal amount of socks which are too lightweight or too heavyweight
  • Gave up on waiting to build a small dresser and ordered one off Amazon. Was hoping to make one out of 6-bottle wooden wine boxes, and maybe I will, but not in in the cards at the moment
  • Like every other place in the house, serious amounts of dust (which reminds me, need to replace the furnace filter). My maid retired at least 5 years ago, and really, the dusting has gone seriously downhill
  • And piles of random travel gear, Hawaii shirts to turn into pillowcases, though probably another round of masks

And the after picture. I still haven’t attacked the storage (and dust bunnies) that live under the bed:

And this shot shows how you can watch TV from the bed. It’s on a pivot mount meaning you can see it full screen in the bedroom, the living room where it lives, or swing it around to watch in the kitchen!

And, yes, there is a theme to my bedroom. Sex and Death.

The throw rugs on the floor are Afghani War Rugs from when the Soviets occupied – tanks, bombs, aircraft, farm animals, all woven into the rug:

The oil paintings (done by friends) are thematically death. One is based on the refugee camps in southern Mexico when people were fleeing civil wars in their Central American countries, the other, harking back to the war in Vietnam.

I’ll spare you the sex part, needless to say there are numerous framed photographs of mostly naked men.

Feels good to let go of this pile – now I just have to find an open donation station:

Now it’s onto finishing up the living room, which is 80% done.


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  1. Michael Scott Says:

    Donation stations have finally opened here in the UK so I’m able to clear Mum’s stuff out at last. Great relief. BTW I love your Afghan rugs.

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Jul '20

Home Report: Pantry Update

One would think that with this 4+ month travel grounding, that I’d be further ahead on my cleaning/organizing. Hard to get excited about anything.

This project wasn’t even on my list, but the purchase of an Air Fryer, I needed someplace to actually store potatoes (and onions).

And I needed a better (heavy duty) potato/vegetable cutter. The old plastic one on the wall, and they beefy one that cost more than the air fryer:

I believe that is called “project creep”.

The “before” shot:

The “after” shot, with the potato cutter bolted THROUGH the wall on one side:

With a close-up of the new root cellar:

Why, yes, the root cellar is made from recycled wooden wine boxes. It allowed me to get an extra self out of the space.

One more room down….still to come is the living room and the Master Markie bedroom.

[? ? ?]

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Jun '20

Trip Report: Road Trip To The Woods

After three and a half months of being in my own bed every night, what a joy to take a road trip!

Hatched the idea on Sunday, with an email to my friends that run the Quillayute River Resort outside of Forks, Washington. Enquired about how their occupancy was since they reopened a month ago. Usually, they are completely full in the summer – but not this year. They have as many guests as they can handle with the enhanced cleaning (4 hours per unit). There was room at the inn for me!

Had I taken the ferry, it would have been less driving, and if I timed it right, about the same amount of time plus $16.00 each way since my car is under 14′, $20.40 – BUT, they aren’t sailing on their full schedule, so if you miss it, the boat is full, you wait around for another hour plus. The sun was out – and I was looking forward to driving … anywhere!

The resort has changed to a contactless check-in system so you can go directly to your room, punch in a code, and bingo. Here are some of the pics of the place:

There are six suites (one two-bedroom, the rest, one-bedroom), arranged in a shotgun style, with garages between each unit to there are no common walls with your neighbors. The garages are for housekeeping, guest laundry, lawn maintenance equipment, etc.

There is a main check-in building/front desk area that in other times would be open to the public (lending library, etc.). The owners live upstairs.

Suites in the summer are in the low $200 a night range, winter, half that. That said, you get a lot of bang for your buck in addition to the beautifully cared for grounds. Check out in suites themselves:

Gas fireplaces, comfy furniture.

Memory foam mattresses (either king or two doubles), heated bathroom floors.

Kitchen will all the gear you need to cook, like pots & pans, glasses (including wine glasses), coffee maker (with coffee!) and an electric kettle for tea lovers, olive oil, spices, etc. I would have killed for this place as a college student!

Nice touches include fast charging outlets in the kitchen at usable height, wireless (and wired) routers in all the units, flatscreen TVs in the bedroom with a massive DishTV lineup – and if you have a Tesla, there is a charging pod with two cords in the parking area.

If you look as the number of “high-touch” items in the kitchen, it explains why it takes 4 human hours to clean the units between guests. Gone are the books, puzzles, cards in the room. All the silverware is boiled (and allowed to cool so it can be put away), all the dishes/glassware/cookware gets a water/bleach dip, all the linens down to the mattress pads get laundered, packed, and spend three days in quarantine before they are used again. It also explains why they block off a unit for a day between guests.

The day I arrived, the owners (longtime friends) were off for a 12-mile first hike of the season. It was just nice to chill by the river, make a little dinner, have a little whiskey and wine (not in the same glass).

Panko-breaded Portuguese Sausage SPAM, mac and cheese, green salad, Bonny Doon Vin de Gris rosé.

Fortunately, the next night they invited me to a socially distanced dinner complete with appetizers in the main lodge. I brought the wine – more Bonny Doon, including a magnum of the 2008 Le Cigare Volant. In normal times, the lodge is used for weddings, meetings, etc., with it’s full catering kitchen.

They fired up their wood-fired oven for me!

And voila! Pizza!

They have been using the wood-fired oven in the kitchen even before the interior was done on the main lodge – in the past they have made other pizzas, fresh pita bread. Amazing.

It had been too long since I’d been out to visit – probably a year and a half. Left them a couple of versions of my brandy as a thank you. The food and the conversation that distanced evening was so heart-warming, I should have left them a case!

My return to the city started out with mist (but I still had the top down), and a return to the resort ten miles out because I’d left one of my bags, but eventually made it home. Would have been quicker, but there was a massive accident in Tacoma. But home is home.


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  1. Melba Toast Says:

    Hi Markie, you might want to look into staying at the Alta Crystal Resort on Mt. Rainier just a couple miles outside the National Park gates on the way to Crystal Mtn. Very nice place, it’s where I’ve stayed when Roderick was camping with people nearby, next to the river. They are offering COVID deals — we are going there for a couple of nights soon — $150/night and we can bring Banjo. Two nights minimum. You might enjoy it there. Tell them I sent you. 🙂


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Jun '20

Home Report: Back Bedroom Clean/Organize

Three months into the lockdown, I’ve finished one project, the cleaning/organizing the back guest bedroom to make it more comfortable for guests. Like there will be any guests anytime soon.

The before, trashed version:

The after, before stuff starts showing up on all flat surfaces (nature abhors a vacuum):

And from the other direction – space for one more suitcase (in my bedroom at the moment) up top, and space on the rack for guests’ suitcases to be open and accessible, with room for another small piece of luggage, and a pole for hanging shirts/etc.

And, yes, that is a 42-inch inkjet printer which I’ve been cranking out posters on now that I can actually get to it (physically, and network-wise).

In addition to promotional posters for a friend’s business: (http://www.greenfireloft.com):

And even “How Is Your Covid Feeling” posters:

Complete with lamination!

Doesn’t everybody have this equipment in-house?

Also in progress (albeit small) are switching out the artwork in the living room, and cleaning/organizing the garage. Anyone else feel that they aren’t making progress on their projects even though they are no longer travelling?

[? ? ?]

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May '20

Home Report: Covie-19 Feeling Chart

Periodically during this pandemic I’ve been feeling a wide swing of emotions. I decided to make a “fire danger” chart for myself and everyone else to use.

So, if you’d like to download a copy of this, you can find the PDF at this link. It’s formatted for landscape letter (US) size.


I decided to make a really big one for myself.

First, you need to have a 42″ printer in your guest bedroom that hasn’t been used in months due to the Covid-19 virus.

Then you have to reprint it in landscape so that you can get it through the laminator that you need to warm up in the garage.

The machine on the top is a polybagging/shrinkwrap machine.

Then you trim it down….

And add an arrow – since I had to reprint twice so I have two arrows and I don’t need to cut into the original.

Think I’m done with Ennui, I’m back to Resignation.

Sunday nights for me are like Friday nights for people who work an M-F 9-5 job. Throw care to the wind, stay up late, turn off the TV, listen to music, drink, drink some more, get up in the late morning and do the weekly grocery shopping after breakfast at noon.

It’s a good thing I didn’t make this a “spin the bottle” game where you had to adopt the mood you landed on!

I think this falls into the category of, “has too much time on his hands”. Seriously, I need to get back to travelling.


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May '20

Home Report: My Tax Dollars Spent On Trump Campaign Advertising, AGAIN

Estimado Líder Exaltado,

Si bien le agradezco por devolver $1,200 de mi dinero de impuestos, la carta de explicación que llegó dos semanas después del cheque me parece una pieza de literatura de campaña para la candidatura de reelección de su alteza. El pplazamiento de us$franqueo para los 150 millones de personas que reciben estas cartas de campaña delgadamente veladas es de 36 centavos cada uno (por un total de $5.4 millones de dólares, y estando en el negocio de correo directo durante años, puedo adivinar que la impresión / relleno / clasificación corrió otros 5 centavos cada uno, añadiendo otras tres cuartas partes de un millón de dólares, llevando el total a $6.5 millones en dinero de impuestos federales. Humildemente le pido que reembolse al Tesoro de los Estados Unidos de sus arcas de campaña desbordantes (según se informa, ha recaudado $78,8 millones). Eso sería menos del 10% de lo que has recopilado hasta ahora – no es como si no puedas pagarlo. Me recuerda a la postal que envió hace un par de meses con “consejos tímidos” que también tenían su nombre engalanada por todas partes, y que fueron a todos los hogares de los Estados Unidos, alrededor de 83,48 millones. Esa era una postal de gran tamaño (que es la misma que un sobre de primera clase), por lo que el costo de imprimir y enviar correo sería conservadoramente otro gasto relacionado con la campaña de $3,244,680. ¿Sería tan amable de añadir eso de nuevo a la Tesorería? Porque sé que las matemáticas no son tu fuerte, eso sería $9,922,680. Por favor, no pose su cheque.

Gracias de antemano por su rápida resolución a este asunto.

Mark Stephen Souder
Pequeño Empresario

In case you are not a Spanish speaker, here is the translation:

Dear Exalted Leader,

While I thank you for returning $1,200 of my tax money, the explanation letter that arrived a full two weeks after the check looks to me like a piece of campaign literature for his highness’s reelection bid. The presort US Postage for the 150 million people receiving these thinly veiled campaign letters is 36 cents each (for a whopping $5.4 million dollars, and being in the direct mail business for years, I can guesstimate that printing/stuffing/sorting ran another 5 cents apiece, adding another three-quarters of a million dollars, bringing the total to $6.5 million in Federal Tax Money. I humbly request that you reimburse the US Treasury from your overflowing campaign coffers (reportedly having raised $78.8 million). That would be less than 10% of what you have collected so far – it is not like you can’t afford it. It reminds me of the post card you sent out a couple of months ago with “covid advice” that also had your name emblazoned all over it – and that went to every household in the US., around 83.48 million. That was an oversized postcard (which is the same rate as a First Class Presort envelope), so the cost to print and mail would conservatively be another campaign-related expenditure of $3,244,680. Would you be so kind to add that back to the Treasury? Because I know math is not your strong suit, that would be $9,922,680. Please do not postdate your check.

Thank you in advance for your speedy resolution to this matter.

Mark Stephen Souder
Small Businessman


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Apr '20

Home Report: Time Travel

As you all know, I live to travel, which, sadly hasn’t happened recently, and it’s looking maybe by the end of May, maybe.

About a year ago, I was on a quest to find a world clock with the ability to display four time zones at a glance to help with my every present travel bug.

VERSION ONE: Four matching analog clocks.


  • Easy to read at a glance


  • Tags too small to read the city
  • No clue if that’s AM or PM
  • No clue what day it is
  • No automatic adjustment for daylight savings time

If you wee wondering why one of the clocks is half an hour off from the others—say hello to India. Just to make it fun, Nepal is fifteen minutes off of India.

VERSION TWO: Four matching digital alarm clocks.


  • Shows AM/PM
  • Shows date
  • Shows day of the week


  • Doesn’t show city
  • Limited viewing angle (like only when I’m sitting on the couch looking directly at it)
  • Doesn’t automatically adjust for daylight savings time

VERSION THREE: Three mismatched laptop and tablets resting in the garage (was testing proof of concept before I fired up another on)


  • Shows city
  • Show AMPM
  • Shows day of the week
  • Automatically adjusted for daylight savings time


  • Day of the week too small to read at a distance
  • They seem to want to keep updating themselves
  • Not sure if the fourth one will fit up there

Sadly, I’m still not there yet. Close, but not yet. I’ve seen the one I want, but I’m too cheap to pay the $750 to $1000 on the vinyl lettered one:

And REALLY too cheap to spend the $1700 to $2000 for the ones with LED cities:

Who know, maybe I have a VERSION FOUR in me.


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  1. Susan Campbell Says:

    Hey Mark
    I was scheduled to finally go home on March 30tth
    Guess What? COVID-19 !
    Second time I was going home
    Stuck here Again

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Apr '20

Trip Report: Last Trip To Hawaii For A Bit

It seems like a different time, though it was only a month ago. It’s taken me that long to find the motivation to document my trip to Waikiki. This was the week before the shelter in place order.

There was such a lull in air traffic, the both DancingBear and I got upgraded to First Class. Upgrades are a rarity on the SEA-HNL route with so many frequent fliers on the routes. You know that there is something up when even MVP Silver fliers (like DancingBear) are getting upgrades.

This was also when airlines were still serving food and booze in First Class, though the lounge before the flight was only serving wine and beer, no cocktails.

Since it was our last trip for the foreseeable future, we sprang for an Uber into town rather than the city bus.

Staying our two nights at the Wyndham Waikiki Beachwalk, which is a couple of blocks from the beach, and a view of the “Pink Palace“.

Had a wonderful meal out of Bills (a Sydney, Australia-based chain) since my usual happy hour spot was closed in advance of the state-wide ban.

By the time for our next dinner, the state had just imposed a ban on restaurants serving anything other than takeout – which is what we did.

It was a quick two-night trip, a final mileage run while Alaska was offering a 50% bonus on Elite Qualifying miles. I did get some tourist shopping in at one of the largest ABC Stores in Waikiki. Particle facemasks and various salts.

For the return trip home, we were also honored with First Class upgrades! Four of the above masks I gave to all the flight attendants.

We arrived a couple of hours late back to Seattle. Early Friday morning rather than 10PM Thursday night. On Friday, Alaska announced that they were stopping food/beverage on all its flights. Not surprising since we drank the entire plane out of Woodford Reserve.

I have a couple of more runs to Waikiki scheduled for mid-May, but I’m not optimistic that those won’t get cancelled. My Alaska eWallet already has about $800 in future travel funds. At one point it was over $1500, but I booked Santa Fe for early December.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Nagoya To Seattle

We had one last afternoon meal of conveyor belt sushi (see previous post) before I headed to the airport – since I have an early flight, staying at an airport hotel.

This time (I’ve done this before), staying at the Centrair Hotel which is directly connected to both the train station and the airport:

A little more expensive than the last place I stayed, but WAY nicer.

And nicer rooms:

Better amenities, ice machine, beer and Highball machine…

Up and out EARLY in the morning – so early that I had to weight half an hour for the ticket counter was opened.

Was the first person to check in, and with the Covid-19 virus starting to temper travel, immigration was a snap and I was onto the lounge…which, even pre-virus days, didn’t offer much in the way of food.

Or people! Luckily, the Highball machine (also beer) was working – that, and little packaged snacks…I mean tiny, like less than a handful.

Decently full flight from Nagoya (NGO) to Haneda (HAN).

By the time we took off, there was one person in the window seat, but lots of middle seats open.

Because of the virus – half the JAL lounges at Haneda are closed – and the service severely curtailed. No open bar, just beer, wine, champagne – not even any Highballs! Huge First-Class buffet was down to some sani-wrapped selections.

All this would be full of buffet items…

Good think I like those convenience store sandwiches!


My hope is that the flight to San Francisco (SFO) is operating with full food/booze service.

And the status board shows TONS of cancelled flights:

Considering I had a 10+ hour layover (no frequent flyer mileage flights leaving Nagoya later in the day), it wasn’t a bad view:

Finally – BOARDING!

Yes, the had a gangway JUST for the 8 First-Class seats.

Here is the plane layout:

And what the publicity shot from the airline’s website looks like:

And here is the reality…

The very courteous flight attendant offered to take my photo – seeing how much I was enjoying my palace for the next ten hours.

This seat is loaded with electronics. A controller for the 23″ TV:

There is even a satellite telephone (as the flight attendant said – not free, very expensive):

Once we are in the air – the food service starts…both Japanese and Western-style food choices:

Some nice 2005 Rose Champagne…

The first round of food…dinner roll, and some fire squid – apparently these squid light up like fireflies.

Then we were onto the Caviar appetizer…oh how I’ve missed International First-Class Service!

Notice the Mother-Of-Pearl spoon for the caviar!

Now for the main. Upper right is a half order of the lobster. Bottom right is the Wagyu beef.

And the flight attendant was back to take more pictures:

You might have noticed that the hands of the flight attendant were gloved, and she was wearing a mask. Since the outbreak, this is standard for all Japan Air Lines cabin staff.

For dessert there was a grapefruit granita martini – one of the most innovative desserts I’ve had on an airplane:

And that is some 30-year-old port next to it.

When it was time for bed – the flight attendant asked if I’d like to have her make up the suite across the aisle since it was empty – and whether I’d like the “hard” or “soft” mattress pad. Gee. A place to relax and a place to sleep.

A note about how many people were on this flight. I’m on a Japan Air Lines 777-300ER that CAN seat up to 240 people in 4 classes (see illustration above). My flight had 5 people in First-Class that holds 8 people. There were 8 people in Business Class which holds 49 seats, and the last of the 40 people (27) were scattered between Premium Economy and Economy. A VERY light load.

Arrived at SFO and breezed through immigration and customs because I’m Global Entry, but to be honest, the place was dead. No questions, to medical screening, just a “welcome home”.

The problem with SFO coming in International is that my connection on Alaska Airlines runs out of a different terminal which I need to recheck my bag…and the only lounge I have access to is, you guessed it, back in the International Terminal. So, out of immigration, train to another terminal, recheck bag, back on the train, through security, hang out in the lounge, take the train, back through security. If I hadn’t had three hours of layover, I would have passed. But I love the Singapore Lounge at SFO even if the noodle bar isn’t open.

Apparently, lounge food service hasn’t shut down (yet) in San Francisco.

And it was great to take a shower after so many hours in the air – should have done it in Tokyo as well.

Final leg of the trip was from San Francisco to Seattle…between a retired doctor and a corona phobic lawyer headed to his second house in the Methow Valley, by plane, to a place that has no medical infrastructure. Nothing like having a cross conversation being in the middle of two people. So much for distancing.

A very interesting time to travel internationally.

Because I’m writing this a couple of weeks later, I’ll give you the update. It’s 14-days since I left Japan – and all is well (so far). This pandemic has made me realize what an integral part of life travel is to me. Everything is cancelled for the next six weeks – and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is longer than that. With all the flights I’ve cancelled this year between unexpected dental work and the virus, I’ve got over $1800 in my Alaska eWallet.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Japanese Vending Machines

One of the wonderful things about Japan is their Vending Machine Culture. Years ago, in Tokyo in the red-light district, I saw pornography in a street side vending machine. Nothing as tawdry this trip. Just everything from cigarettes, to beer, coffee, high balls….

Cigarettes —

Hot dogs and French fries —

Sodas, water, tea —

Just coffee – some of the machines dispense it hot or cold depending on the season

Beer —

And my all-time favorite – in the lounge at the Nagoya Airport…the Highball/Beer dispenser:

So, that’s my silly tour of Japanese Vending Machine culture.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Osaka

So, took a late afternoon Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Osaka. If you were trying to save money, you could shave $25 off if you were willing to transfer three times and have it take 6 hours rather than 2. We took the semi-fast train (more stops, but direct).

Unlike last night’s hotel, which was near the central station, tonight we are in the Dōtonbori neighborhood because it has better nightlife (according to Julian). We stayed in this neighborhood several years ago in a Capsule Hotel (see post) back in March of 2018 – wow, almost exactly two years ago!

Oddly enough, the entrance to the hotel was to the right (the bar was to the left). It had an oddly, unfinished, feel to it. And I found it even stranger that they handed you the TV remotes when you checked in.

While there ARE two beds – it’s TIGHT. This should really be a one bed room. Julian cut a deal with the front desk for a separate room for himself, as video didn’t work in mine (or his first one – they moved him again).

We’d had a late lunch, so I just had some convenience store food (which is really fresh and cheap). Julian went out for a bit. I was spent from all the walking.

The morning found us up and out early – Julian has an appointment at the US Embassy at 11:45 to get some notarized documents for his upcoming wedding (celebration in November so I’ll be back).

You can see the police bus in front of the embassy – didn’t want to get too close to photograph least they lock me up.

Looks like those people are headed to the embassy! Julian showed up 45 minutes early, got in 30 minutes early, was out before the original appointment time.

Here are some random shots of Osaka.

As a side note – there are 7-11 EVERYWHERE in Japan, and they are more than just a convenience store, you pay bills, pick up packages, etc. They also run a bank.

Time for lunch in the bowels of the Osaka Central Station – there are dozens of restaurants. Fast food near the gates, food mall on the lower level, then sit-down restaurant in the basement.

The food here doesn’t suck – whether it’s food out, or dining in with Julian cooking:

My trip to Japan is ending…longer than I expected, and somehow, not long enough.

I’m already looking forward to my return in November for the wedding.

Headed home tomorrow.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Hiroshima

With my unexpected extra time in Japan, Julian and I decided to head several hours south to Hiroshima, yes, that Hiroshima. Back on the train go we.

And yes, there are little smoking rooms on the train:

At the train station in Hiroshima, besides displaying cars…

They also had a seating chart of the station bathroom:

And the stations are kind of gorgeous:

Got into Hiroshima in the evening as Julian had to work a little during the day – found us this place with its high-tech check-in system.

Features a free self-trouser press, and most importantly, an “Ice engine” – interesting translation:

If you were wondering what the top item is, VOD is Video On Demand, ART is…

But the room is nice.

It was dumping out – but fortunately out the back door of the hotel was this GREAT restaurant serving Hiroshima specialties (photo is of their front entrance, not the back entrance we came through):

Lively place:

Fortunately with picture menus! One for Julian…

One for me…

And the food was great!



After dinner it was time to check out their “onsen” (Public Bath).

The tattoo rule is pretty standard in Japan as usually only the Yakuza have them. The baths were great. Julian was impressed with the place I’d picked – and it beat walking around in a downpour outside.

The morning found us sightseeing as best we could do with all the closed museums. The manhole covers almost made up for the closures:


Next up was lunch at this cold soba noodle place – that had a line to get in when they opened at 11:30:

Not a big place…

And the neighborhood:

Next on the agenda is The Peace Park – ground zero for the first atomic bomb used on people. The bombed out dome down river is the far end of the park, which covers the entire area flattened by the bomb.

The museum, closed due to the virus outbreak:

This gives you another view of the scale of the park. Keep in mind that this is in the middle of a huge city.

Various memorials as well:


And finally, the bombed out dome across the river:

And some close ups:

Time to head back to the station since the Public Gardens we wanted to go to were also closed, but first a stop for another Hiroshima specialty – OYSTERS!

We ordered the set since the individual oysters were extremely expensive:

Came with an appetizer plate:

Three oysters prepared different ways:

Followed by a pasta course.

A couple of high balls later we were ready to head to the train station for our overnight in Osaka:

The Japanese are VERY thorough in explaining things about their public toilets – like where to que up depending on what you are doing:

Back on the train!

I just want to add this screenshot that sums up my day:

That’s it for Hiroshima.


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Mar '20

Trip Report: Couple Of Days In Nagoya

Change is in the wind. Next stop was supposed to be a hotel near Tokyo Disneyland Sea – until they closed the park, then shortly after, India cancelled eVisas for Japanese citizens. Delhi was the destination after Disney. Change is in the wind, roll with it.

My answer? Cancel the Delhi-London section of the trip, get the miles back, cancel the hotels, get the points back. Rebook to fly home from Japan for less points, less money, in a suddenly available Japan Air Lines First Class Suite. Lemons into a cocktail.

Fortunately, Julian is transitioning between two jobs, and has more free time – so in that sense, the timing is GREAT. And I do love hanging out with him and his friends. And there is great inexpensive food in Nagoya…if you are willing to cook it yourself.

Julian lives on the 13th floor of this building:

Tonight, dinner is with Julian and Yosuke, who I’d met on all my previous trips to Nagoya.

Yosuke got “special rice” which comes with its own heater and timer for when it is done.

And we eat well even at home.

And there are home projects to do, like refinishing his kitchen counter…

And hanging a new ceiling fixture – honest, I love this stuff, just like home:

Isn’t that a nice view out his window – mountains in the distance.

Lunch the next day was at a conveyor sushi place near his place:

So, you can grab stuff off the belt…

Or order from the tablet…

We were cheap, we were only ordering the 100 YEN plates (that’s two pieces for USD $.093 – CHEAP) and highballs were only 350 YEN (USD $3.25). In the end, they come and scan the number of plates (and their color)…

And give you a laminated barcode to take to the counter:

Which you scan at the machine and stick in cash or your credit card:

Love this place!

So, Julian is a GREAT cook – and can-do amazing things with standard Japanese appliances…like baking sourdough bread in a fish broiler:

And our dinner with rice…

Like I said, he’s a great cook, even breakfast (with the sourdough toast) is aesthetically pleasing.

Gotta clean out the fridge before we head south for a couple of days…

I’m hugging it because it is a wedding present from Yurika’s grandparents – it has a built-in icemaker. Common in the US, rare in Japan.

Well, that’s it for this chunk of the adventure – it continues tomorrow as we head south.

[? ? ?]

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2 Responses to “Trip Report: Couple Of Days In Nagoya”

  1. Mary Willis Says:

    Love the conveyor belt dining. Great price and so convenient. You are living in the most interesting way. Will you travel while the corona virus pandemic is happening?

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    If there are flights running. At this point would only be domestic. I’m not in a high-risk group other than age.

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Mar '20

Trip Report: Gero, Japan – A Mountain Hot Springs Town

Having had a good night’s sleep in Nagoya – thanks to Julian buying a new guest mattress – in the morning we are off to Gero, which is a town several hours away, up in the mountains. WikiPedia link here.

We took the slow (i.e. cheap) train, which took a couple of transfers – but we still look happy:

I still had the English-language papers from yesterday’s flights to read on the way up.

Julian had booked us into the Yukai Resort Gero Saichoraku Bekkan which came with buffet dinner and buffet breakfast…

It’s a bit of a rabbit warren of a place built up a hillside:

And they provide robes (yakata):

I have to add the photo of the door to our unit – using Julian as a yard stick:

We went on a little walkabout, but it was a TAD rainy:

Snack shopping to tide us over:

Since we are in a hot springs town, we explore the onsen (bath) on the roof of one of the building that makes up the warren of this hotel.

Yes, this was outdoors, on the roof, in the rain, and we had it to ourselves – water was hot, hot, hot, to cooler.

And the dinner where they butchered a tuna (with no sushi grace) at the beginning of dinner…

And if that wasn’t enough, you could get a vending machine cheeseburger and fries..

The next day we had breakfast in the buffet room (sorry, no pictures) and glanced out to sunshine in the valley…and by the time we checked out and headed to the train station, it was snowing. I kid you not:

Snow never shows up in photos…but it turned out to be a nice walk to the train station (we took the shuttle up the hill on arrival):

And things for sale in the train station:

The town mascot is the frog…

We opted for the Express Train back to Nagoya – one direct train rather than two transfers which turned out to be a good idea, even in the unassigned cars – look at the view!

And here is a little video of the train in motion…

Got home in about half the time (and less stress), and soon, I was reunited with Julian’s new refrigerator (from my previous visit), that includes a rarity in Japan – an ice maker!

It was a great overnight trip. More tomorrow.

[? ? ?]

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Mar '20

Trip Report: Seattle to Nagoya

The beginning of a 12-day adventure! All packed and ready to go.

First, a stop at Duty Free – yes, the limit is THREE bottles going into Japan:

Flight is on time…

Riding in style – Japan Airlines Business Class to Tokyo’s Narita Airport with a stop in the lounge first…

The plane is here…

And so is my compartment!

Once in the air, the food starts coming…

I got the Western-style meal with the swordfish; the other choice was beef tenderloin (which also looked good).

Nice view through the tinted windows…

And yes, the Business Class bathroom has a bidet seat:

During the flight there was a menu of dishes you could order if you were still a little hungry:

Udon noodles above, ham and cheese sandwich below…

And the miso black cod was stunning…

I just had carry on with me (that I had to unzip the gusset since there were now three bottles of booze), so was through customs and immigration quickly, then get some cash, then downstairs to grab the Narita Express into Tokyo proper:

Transferred at Shinagawa to the Shinkansen to Nagoya:

And a quick clip of it pulling into the station:

Timewise, 90 minutes to get from the airport to Tokyo, another 90 minutes on the Shinkansen to get to Nagoya – where Julian met me at the station:

Yes, he met me with a highball in a can! No taboos on public drinking in Japan.

Still had my subway card from the last visit so we headed back to his place to grab some dinner in the neighborhood…sadly, forgot to grab a shot of that.

Feels good to be back in Japan. Coming back in November for his wedding, as well. That’s it for today.

[? ? ?]

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Feb '20

Trip Report: February Mileage Runs

With being knocked out of the travel game for a month, I might finally be on the positive end of flying things I’ve booked. What I cancelled was:

  • Tucson
  • Boston
  • Bogota
  • Rescheduled Boston trip
  • Raleigh

Didn’t get in the air this year until February 5th with a mileage run to Raleigh. Puts me down by about 20,000 flight miles from where I usually am this time of year.

Did manage to get these mileage runs done in February:

  • Raleigh
  • Columbus
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh (with Rache)
  • Raleigh
  • Raleigh

My map for this year was supposed to look like THIS:

Got upgraded to First from Premium on all but two of the Raleigh return flights.

The downside of mileage run after mileage run, even in first class, is that you get tired of the same menu. Going out it was the cheese omelet with one little sausage link:

Or the pulled pork with black beans and scrambled eggs in a boil:

The dinner menu was either the pasta with Bolognese sauce:

Picture To Come If I get upgraded again!
Considering I’d had it a couple of times, no picture is odd.

Or the chicken breast:

First world problems – are they the worst.

But there was pretty scenery to fly back and forth over…

Well, that’s my flying for February. Time to sign off and start packing for my “Around The World In Twelve Days” trip.


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Feb '20

Trip Report: Return To Victoria

The year of cancelled/reworked/cancelled travel continues. Boston off, Boston rebooked, Boston off, hello Victoria! Had the weekend scheduled off, hated to waste it.

DancingBear and I returned to Victoria – this time for five nights!

Lower floor unit, but much better views:

A little more room inside on this unit – much less outside:

And as usual, massive amounts of excellent food came out of DancingBear’s kitchen:

And we even managed to leave the condo for something other than groceries – like John Lennon’s Rolls Royce on display in the Museum lobby (meaning FREE).

And drinks at the Q Lobby

Bar at the Empress…

Not inexpensive, but VERY calming.

Another day we were off to a Brewery and Whiskey Tour at Macaloney’s Caledonian.

And I’ll close the post with a couple of “profile” shots we took of each other…

That’s all folks!


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One Response to “Trip Report: Return To Victoria”

  1. Mick Westrick Says:

    Another great trip. We’ll have to get together soon and drink some Scotch-style whiskey!

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