Friday, 30 September 2016

Oh, Microsoft, why don't you go and F%%% yourself ?

So my laptop shut down this morning to install an update.  Given that it was unavailable for about 2 hours, I assume it installed the Windows 10 Anniversary update. 

Of course, it did that without warning or (God forbid) asking me whether this is a convenient time (No, it wasn't but fortunately I have a second laptop laying around).

Even after I started it up, it wasn't doing much for about 20 minutes except displaying ridiculous messages like 

"These updates help protect you in an online world".  

I feel so much safer now.  Because my computer screen told me so.

But the really hilarious part MS saved for the very end.  

My AVG FREE Virus program no longer works on the updated Windows.  Everything else works, just NOT my Virus scanner.  Not only that, even a virus program re-install doesn't work.

Never mind the fact that in fact these updates exposed me to all kinds of online threats by disabling my virus scanner, but think about it: 

Do you actually think it is a coincidence that the ONLY programme that no longer works after the update is a virus scanner from the Czech Republic?

If you think THAT is a coincidence, could I maybe interest you in a time-proven pyramid-scheme investment opportunity?   TRUST ME, it's intended to protect you, LOL.

For all those other sheep out there with a less developed herd instinct:

An update to this issue on Oct 23:  Two updates later my sound is back.  But now MS has thought it would be conducive to something if they removed the volume control icon from the task bar. Conducive to what?  Irate users? We'll probably never know.  

Breathless North of Seattle (or This city makes me sick)

I am riding a bicycle again today.  A few days ago, I spent all day coughing and sleeping.  In the evening, I had to inhale so hard to get an adequate amount of oxygen into my blood that I thought about going to the emergency department of a hospital.  

Vancouver's air quality report on that day. HOW does one 'take it easy' riding a bicycle?
When your average North-American hears in the news that 92% of the world's population has to breathe contaminated air EVERY DAY, most probably think that all those people breathing crap must live in China. Unfortunately, the air in cities like Vancouver is bad enough (see above graphic).

To get an independent air quality report for your city, try the Plume Labs World Air Map.  It lets you choose your city to get a more detailed report.

I feel much better today and most likely it was just a nasty cold but I got a glimpse of what people with chronic breathing issues must go through every single day.

... and INHALE !
Maybe, just maybe, today is the day that you should leave the car in the garage?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Why I do what I do (or I'm NOT lazy, just very selective in assigning priorities)

Yes, regular paid work had arrived and it was sitting in some file folder hidden in the darkest corners of my PC's hard drive, while I was doing other things.

 I don't think it's laziness by the standard definition.  
A freak downpour in an otherwise clear sky
If I were lazy, I wouldn't have googled whether 'were lazy' or 'was lazy' is the correct grammar (no-one will notice if you use the less appropriate one).

And I CERTAINLY would NOT have CYCLED from Paris to Frankfurt. 

So it's not laziness

But there are other, 'more important' things to do and research. 

WTF?  Flying Saucer cloud ?

A new trip coming up and it's going to Parts Unknown (Sorry Tony, for infringing ;-)

I've just figured out what Guangzhou's 72 hour transit visa-free policy means.  In the past I wanted to visit Guangzhou and even had made my way down to the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, when I was informed that as a European living in Vancouver, I would need a plane ticket in my pocket to be issued a visa.  So much for that.  But things have changed.  Now I can board a plane in Vancouver and hang out in Guangzhou for 72 hours WITHOUT a visa ;-)

Not that I really want to hang out here. Building big things out of concrete and putting bright lights on them has been done in many places before, most notably Singapore and it's not really the thing I'm looking for when traveling. So a single night's sleep will do here.  Why am I sleeping here if HaNoi is only 3 more hours away? Two reasons: 1) 13.5 hours of being hurtled over a large body of water in a tin can is enough for one day;  2)  This way I arrive at NoiBai International in HaNoi at 10:30 am instead of 11:30 pm ;-) I followed the same idea in March by flying through South Korea and it does work quite well.  

Paying CAD $20 (Yes, thats TWENTY) for this admittedly NOT huge room 300 meters from Guangzhou International airport doesn't hurt either LOL.

Oh, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.  You don't know where Guangzhou is?  It's in China. And it was formerly known as Canton (they speak Cantonese there ;-).

Maybe its time for a map.  A map of Indochina. Because that's where I am heading.

Guangzhou is on the above map, and the flight time from there to the next destination is only 2 hours. And I already know that the next destination will cause me to shed tears of joy. Ha Noi.

I can pretty much narrow down the exact point in time (plus/minus 10 minutes) when I fell in love with Vietnam.  It wasn't getting out of  Noi Bai airport.  It wasn't on that 80 minute ride on the local public bus from the airport into town.  It happened on that 15 minute walk  to my hotel through the French Quarter with its evening mayhem scooter traffic and all the city out on its narrow sidewalks.  That's when I discovered a whole new world. A world I didn't know existed.   But strangely enough, a world that from the first moment I entered it made sense.  Unlike the world that I just came from, and would have to return to in a short time.
My very first time walking into Ha Noi, trying to find my hotel, in Oct. 2015

A visit in Da Nang is a must, to meet again Anh, the Easy Rider, and the name and voice-less enfant teribble of DaNang Bay Hotel.  
I so hope that they will be there when I return !

I also must check whether those 6 fishing women still dig themselves in the sand to wait for sunrise EVERY morning or whether DaNang's conversion to a tourist destination has progressed so far as to put an end to such a lifestyle (Sadly that is inevitable).
Da Nang Dec. 2015
When I check weather conditions, I also realize one very strange thing.  While in Cambodia the rainy season is from June to October and in Northern Vietnam it lasts from May to September, the wet season in Central to Southern Vietnam (Read BEACH paradise) is NOVEMBER. OOPS!

Phnom Penh is  another MUST-stop on this trip.

Phnom Penh  Dec. 2015 or Feb 2016
 And naturally I can't wait to take that speed-boat to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat again.

Tonle Sap River, Dec. 2015

Angkor, Dec. 2015
But then the trip will enter Terra Incognita.  A plane will take me to Bangkok. NO, not for that. O.K. maybe just a little ;-). I never have been to Thailand, and Bangkok is the departure point of an overnight sleeper train to the Friendship bridge with Laos.  Now it's probably time for most people to want to have another look at a map of Indochina.

O.K. so I;m in Bangkok and I will take a train NORTH to get to Vientiane.  Vientiane?  Yes, that is the capital of Laos.  And here is a Link to a show that Anthony Bourdain did on Laos. Watch it and you will know why I'm heading there

Then it's to Luang Prabang by bus or boat

You say that Luang Prabang is a Party Town you haven't of heard of yet?
That's already TWO reasons why I'm going there ;-)

What else?  This place is about as far from "Buy-all-that-useless-crap-so-you'll-have-to-work-for-US-for-the-rest-of-your-life" as I at present dare to go.

But I'm working on it.

I will cross that bridge eventually (LOL, yes that was a double entendre ;-)
Bamboo Bridge, Luang Prabang
When I tell my bike-guy (about my age, from Poland) why I'm travelling to these parts he only says "Oh, I understand. I was born in a time and a place when the world was still real."

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Denny's is going upscale (or Who are they trying to kid, LOL, but I'm reaping the benefits)

NO, I'm NOT kidding.  The signs that Denny's is trying to go more upscale are unmistakable.   No No, they didn't get rid of the horrible booths.  No, they're not changing the quality of their menu or the hipness of their waitresses. And no, there is no price increase to suggest to ignant imbeciles that they're getting something special. THAT last market is cornered by The Boathouse in Richmond, LOL.

No, it's the WINE.  NO NO, don't even dare think that they're serving fancy wine at Denny's now.  But I already noticed it yesterday.   "Would you like a drink while you wait" an unknown waitress asks me today.   I only barely refrain from smugging "I thought you'd never ask" and ask for 'white wine'.  BUT HERE IT COMES:  I did the same thing yesterday and this is the reply I got 
 "Would you like a 5 oz or a 9 oz glass of wine?"  
See what I mean. Denny's is going if not up-market then definitely ridiculous.

But here is the CATCH (there always is one ;-). 
Pretty much all of the waitresses here know me. 
And at 9 a.m. a 5 oz glass of wine is enough for me. 
So after my waitress arrives yesterday  with a rather FULL carafe of wine and I ask whether I'm dealing with 5 oz or 9 oz, she answers with a mischievous grin:
"Oh, I don't really know; I just poured. Let's just call it 5 oz"

Try to get THAT kind of service at The Boathouse, LOL !

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Worse than I imagined but not as bad as I had feared !

I'm back in Vancouver.
The YVR version of reality 
Since was getting the lithium run-around in Paris this time (at least that worked well), it's only fair that I clear the obstacle course of Vancouver Automated Passport Check - Manual Check of the Automated Check - Line up for 2nd Manual Check because the Machine NEVER works - find luggage AND BIKE - Clear Customs with an expired Personal Resident Card in RECORD TIME !  The East-Indian-looking border control guy doesn't have a chip on his shoulder and maybe likes the champagne corks on my backpack to make my story of cycling from Paris to Frankfurt seem plausible.
Reality's version of reality

NEXT it's time to screw the system AGAIN.  If you are taking a SkyTrain from Vancouver Airport you are paying around CAD$9 to downtown, which includes a tourist tax. If you cycle 3 stations station towards downtown, you're paying CAD$4 for the same journey.  If you're cycling 4 stops to Marine Drive, the total comes to $2.75.  Naturally, I cycle ;-)

When a hotel shuttle bus (Thanks WESTIN Hotels) comes within 20 centimeters of my handlebar when passing, I realize I'm not in Kansas anymore, and I miss the classy French drivers.   Another thing that seems to be missing is COLOUR. Everything here seems grey,  Silly me for travelling to somewhere where they have REAL blue sky so I have to notice the lack of real colours upon my return.

I stop at The Boathouse, a specialty fancy Seafood restaurant along the way.  Their chilies dipping sauce is excellent, but the tiny bits of squid hiding from view in a lot of some kind of brown-bread batter don't really qualify as calamari in my book.  But I'm sure the batter is gluten-free!  Welcome back to LaLaLand, where the inhabitants make life beautiful just by believing.

In anticipation of such pleasures of reality, I almost booked a flight from Vancouver to Phnom Penh yesterday. RETURN for CAD$ 746 !  Alas I wasn't quick enough, some OTHER lucky bastard will now get to gloat at the banks of the Mekong.   

Phnom Penh, with a name like that the last city on the planet I expected to fall in love with. But I did. Head over Heels no less
But I can't complain. Thanks to my friend Alan, I will get a Promise of the Real (& Neil Young) in 5 weeks time and I have my work cut out to check out winterly temperatures in and flights to Granada, The Philippines, and Tahiti in the coming months

The next morning it is RAINING  cats  & dogs.  And it is forecast to do this ALL DAY.  And it is DARK out there.   People who know me a little know that things like this can lead to certain short-circuit decisions.  And it's no different today. And I'm glad that I didn't get yesterday's cheap airplane ticket.

Because today I manage to BOOK a RETURN ticket Vancouver to Hanoi with  a stop-over in Guangzhou for the unbelievable price of CAD $ 637  (US$ 482 Euro 432) THAT is a FABULOUS price, but still not as FABULOUS as the destination.

Ever since my last visit in March, I always remember what Anthony Bourdain said about an arrival of his crew in Hanoi.  They all bust into tears, because they were so happy to be back there.  After seeing this clip I don't feel bad anymore about having wet eyes every time the bus crosses the Red River into Ha Noi.  There was no shortage of trips since March, but through all these trips I have been secretly waiting for the end of the Rainy Season in Indochina.
And while yesterday I felt fine, there was that little edgy fact somewhere in my subconscious that I'd be rather somewhere else. Today that has been replaced by a kind of inner peace. It will be a while and I will have to endure more Vancouver rains, but I AM going back to Ha Noi. And that is a very nice feeling to carry around. There seem to be people out there who anxiously wait all year for Christmas (I am NOT one of them). But my yearning for Indochina is probably similar to some degree. EXCEPT, Vietnam always delivers the RIGHT presents ;-)

There is a date I need to remember (and maybe you should too). No, not MY trip to Ha Noi, but my favourite TV host meeting my favourite world leader in my favourite city: Anthony Dourdain's latest stint in Ha Noi, the one where he has lunch with Obama !   It is airing on September 25th on CNN !!!!

A few hours after having booked my usual hotel in Hanoi's Old Quarter, I get an e-mail from 'Mr. Johnny' and all I can do is GRIN, because it reads:

                           "WELCOME YOU BACK WITH YOUR HOME IN VIETNAM :))"

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Position update III (no time for proper posts)

I just saw the trailer for Snowden.  Gotta buy some band-aid to cover my lap-top webcam. Is that why they're forcing Windows 10 on everyone, so they don't need program permission to activate the webcam anymore?  Gotta watch the whole movie and coincidentally it starts playing the day I come back ;-)

That little dweeb from Third Rock from the Sun really turned into quite an actor !

I am in Dunkirk. site of the bloody end result of one of the stupidest military operations ever. Did I mention that I'm sick and tired of cycling by military cemeteries?  
There must be better things that one can put young men to use for. (You thought it ! LOL)

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The last terra incognita stop: Dunkirk (a Pretty Post)

The translation needs to get done.  So here I am at 6 am in Westende, Belgium, and I am NOT walking the short distance to the beach to watch the sun rise.  WTF?????   I LOVE watching the sun rise from a beach.  What is wrong with me?  

Ah well. Time is pressing. That's also the reason why I'm completing this post 9 months after the fact ;-(

Sorry Google Maps, this is NOT a cycling route (see below)


Right after Frankfurt, Dunkirk is the air with the dirtiest air on this trip.  And I know why because on the Normandy trip in 2014, I cycled through the vast industrial area just upwind of here when coming off the ferry from Dover.

I'm up at 5 a.m.  Bloody translation has to be finished today.  

Here is something that smokers get for free and non-smokers might not get at all.  The early morning view of the skies. If you leave the hotel every 30 minutes, you can really see how the darkness recedes and the light creeps into the day.  

1st cigarette

2nd cigarette
And this 3rd cigarette was REALLY worth it !:
I'm not sure whether the fog had developed in the last hour or whether I had just not noticed it the last time around.

But it made this morning seem very strange.  Brightly coloured clouds in the sky and to my feet but a gray band of fog extending right through the middle.

Yes, there is a TGV from Dunkirk to Paris.  This is why I came here. My train leaves at 12:30