Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 flights, 68,331 miles

2010 Air Travel

Distance and Time
  • 68,331 miles flown
  • 6 days 12:54 aloft
  • 2.74x Around the world
  • To the Moon 0.286x To the Moon
Journey records
  • Longest SYD > SFO, 7421 mi, 15:20
  • Shortest IAH > AUS, 139 mi, 00:47
  • Average 1,752 mi, 04:01

Other Statistics
  • 22 Airports (new to me: 14!)
  • 8 Carriers
  • 8 Countries
  • 39 segments

Ronald Reagan Washin (DCA)13
Chicago Ohare Intl (ORD)10
Washington Dulles In (IAD)9
General Edward Lawre (BOS)4
Presidente Juscelino (BSB)4
San Francisco Intl (SFO)4
Melbourne Intl (MEL)4
Guarulhos Gov Andre (GRU)2
Val De Cans Intl (BEL)2
Heathrow (LHR)2

United Airlines16
American Airlines6
TAM Brazilian Airlines4
US Airways4
Austrian Airlines2
Continental Airlines2
Delta Air Lines1

Airbus A320: 6
Boeing 777: 5
Airbus A319: 4
Boeing 757-200: 4
Boeing 737-800 :3
Embraer 135: 2
Airbus A380-800: 2
Boeing 747-400: 2
Boeing 737-400: 2

This beats last year's record (46,336), but is a long way from that of Air Freeland (141,174)
2010 OpenFlights

World Flights
2010 World Flights

North American Flights (detail)
2010 North American Flights

China Journal: 12 - 20 November 2010

China Journal: 12 - 20 November 2010

12 Nov 2010

United 851: ORD to PEK
2:18 pm EST
Left DCA without a problem, met up with Keri and had an uneventful flight. Landing in ORD, we wandered around the airport for a bit before I got a Chicago "everything" hot dog and Keri got hummus at Starbucks.
Chicago style hot dog
Got on the plane, interesting seat, over wing, so not a great view. About an hour into the flight and just crossed over the US/Canadian border, headed for Thunder Bay (6095 miles to go). Altitude, 33,000 feet and 509 miles from ORD.

4:55 pm EST

Feeding time arrive about 90 minutes ago; choices were pasta and chicken. I went with the chicken which wasn't bad. Woman in front of me ate my brownie and I had celery for dessert. I did indulge though with a red wine with the food and a Bailey's and coffee for second dessert.

Went to the bathroom. Four spots, Three had no movement for at least ten minutes. Finally one opened up and just a solo woman came out. Wonder what she was up to all that time? Went back to say hi to Keri who was not sleeping.

Back to the seat, nearly finished the John Lennon magazine (only a few pagse to go). Took a little nap, but then woke up. Currently over the Gulf of Boothia in far northern Canada. Altitude still 33,000 feet; 2,023 miles from ORD; 3:41 hours in the air, and 4,621 to go.

13 Nov 2010
10:03 am Beijing time
Slept a bit more; some more music; finished of the Lennon magazine. More food was served, a noodle bowl and almond cookie (I supplemented with more celery and almonds). Right now, the sun is just over the horizone, we're just north of Siberia and the water below is a giant ice sheet.

2,509 miles to go, 7:43 hours since leaving Chicago.

13 Nov 2010

2:27 pm Beijing time
Crossed over the Mongolian border in time to eat again. Seem to be stuck in a dinner/lunch time frame. Had stir fried veggies with rice and more orange juice. Ran out of celery and almonds and some raspberry shortcakes are staring at me. I am not making eye contact.
Lingered over lunch before pulling out computer, so am now just a little northwest of Beijing. Been in the air for a little over 12 hours and gone about 6,535 miles. Just 200 to go; plane starting to decrease altitude.

13 Nov 2010
6:24 pm Beijing time
Landed on time (3:30 pm); got off plane, through immigration, customs. Changed some money and then got a cab. For a long long long ride around Ring Road 5. With a couple of stops to look at the map Keri brought and some chatter in Chinese between Keri and driver.

Got to hotel, Chris sitting in lobby with laptop. He helped check us in and then we went up to the rooms. Did some freshening up, plugged in gadgets. Still figuring out wifi. Plan is to meet in the lobby at 7 pm and seek out food.
13 Nov 2010
8:34 pm Beijing time
Met up with Keri and Chris in the lobby; had dinner at the hotel buffet (not really sure what I ate). Went to lounge and had a drink and chatted. Now, back to room and maybe sleep!

14 Nov 2010
4:14 pm Beijing time
Went out for a morning walk and some some sights around the neighborhood. Had a breakfast crepe from a street stand that was quite tasty and then back to the hotel to meet Keri and Chris for the breakfast buffet.

Our goal was the Fragrant Hill Park (Xiangshan Park) and the Botanical Garden. First stop, the park. In the park, we headed to the Temple of the Azure Clouds (Biyun Si). Temple was very nice, good selection of Buddhas, a memorial to Sun Yat-Sen, and the highlight, after a long flight of stairs, the Vajra Throne Tower. Before we left, we tied a prayer ribbon for "a successful career" for BHL to a tree.

We then went on the cable car (a ski lift basically) to the top of Incense Burner Hill (Xianglu Peak, one of the highest points in Beijing). The 17 minute cable car ride was fun (and a bit chilly). At the top of the hill, you had a spectacular view down to Beijing past the Summer Palace; on the far side of the hill, you could see the large nuclear or coal power plants. We opted out of walking back and paid another 60 Yuan ($10) to ride back down.

Toured around the park some more, saw the Heart Mirror Johkang Temple (destroyed in Boxer Rebellion) and the nearby Glazed Longevity Pagoda, back around the park a bit more and then we looked for lunch.

Ended up in a little alley where they had hot pots of various sorts, you picked out one, full of raw things, and then they added stock and cooked it, bringing it to you. You sat crammed in a small room where I knocked over a big thing of dough. Soup was very tasty though.
Left there and walked to the Beijing Botanical Garden, not too interesting since nothing blooming, but nice. Goal there was the Temple of the Reclinging Buddha (Wofo Si). Nice temple (filled with VERY FAT CATS), the Buddha was quite spectacular, 15 feet long, all bronze and the largest in China.

Left the Garden and stopped at a grocery store for some staples (grain alcohol gifts, beer, lemon Ritz, wasabi peas, water, etc.) and back to the hotel to recover before dinner.

14 Nov 2010
10:05 pm Beijing time
Went out for a quick shopping stroll on the streets before dinner, then met up with Keri and Chris and we went to Na La Restaurant for a Mongol-inspired feast. Met at door by Mongol warrior guy, cheered into the restaurant by six women, seated and waited on by five or so people.
Had braised spicy lamb (very good), spicy egg plants with buns (very good), crispy prawns (ok), pea shoots with carmalized onions (very good), rice (best steamed rice I've ever had!), dessert with dragon fruit, and a bottle of Dynasty Dry Red Wine. Very nice.

Off to sleep now for planned 8 pm jaunt for breakfast and then 9 am meeting.

15 Nov 2010
Got up around 5:30 am again, did some of this and that; once the sun came up, went for a walk around the neighborhood. Bought a baked yam from a street vendor that was quite tasty.

Back to room to get ready, met up with Keri and Chris. Headed for the Institute of Botany/Chinese Academy of Sciences (IB/CAS). Stopped to get the egg crepe thing and then walked while eating to IB/CAS.

Meeting started around 9:15, it was us and Qing Shao, Cui Jinzhong, Xu Zheping, Fenghong Liu. Had a good session, first Chris, then me (they loved the movie!), then Keri (good job of workflow stuff).

For lunch, they had a van that picked us up and drove us to the Ecological Garden Restaurant. A restaurant set up in a greenhouse. Big tanks of sea creatures (that were also then on the menu). Joining us was Ma Keping. Had about 15 courses, let's see:

  • fried potato and onions
  • mushroom chicken soup
  • ginko fruit salad
  • regular salad
  • whole Chinese sturgeon
  • dried fish
  • meat platter
  • noodles with buns
  • flour noodles with choice of sauce
  • "instant tofu" (made before our eyes! soy milk mixed with dry ice)
  • I'm sure I'm missing some things!

Drove back to the IB/CAS and walked around the garden for a bit, then back to the meeting for presentations from the IB/CAS staff. Went til nearly 5:30 pm.

After, Chris and Keri felt we had a big lunch and didn't need more food and could just have crackers and beer. Stopped in at the super market and bought crackers and beer and noodle bowls. Went back to hotel, I went back out to buy chop sticks to eat noodle bowls.
Regrouped in my room at about 7 pm to eat crackers, beer, etc. Packed up the gifts, did some recapping of the day and next steps for tomorrow. This that. Guests left the room and I cleaned up and got ready for bed.

16 Nov 2010
Got up and went for the morning walk, yams and pictures. Stopped in at a nick-nack shop and got some things. Back to the hotel, met up with Keri and Chris and got the egg crepe thing (now known correctly as Jianbing). Walked onto the IB/CAS.

Heard presentations from the hardcore computer people. After that, Keri went to do workflow with the scanning staff and Chris and I got a tour of the library from the two librarians. Saw some neat old Chinese books and many of the Western titles (Linnaeus) found in Natural History collections.
Saw the various cats (over 300 on the property, they roam freely through the building and library. The scanning room has a big bag of cat food in the corner.

Went to lunch on the campus at a tea room like place, way tooooo much food (many parts of the pig I doesn't usually eat, ears, skin, feet). Really great dumplings, ate TOOO many dumplings.
Back to the IB/CAS for more scanning workflow things and other misc. things.

Then, off to the IB/CAS Ping Pong match; Xu Zheping is quite the player and is in the IB/CAS staff tourney. Went to the ping pong facility on campus and we were invited to warm up with the group. Played a bit of ping pong and then watched Xu compete (he won this round and will go on to the finals later in the week).

Back to the Scribe room where the scanners were in a panic because the Scribe was making all kinds of noise. I diagnosed it as a fan problem. Keri quickly unplugged it, pulled out the box, opened it up and confirmed fan problem. She secured the fan and had it up and running. Yay Keri!

Walked back to hotel to rest up. Decided to go back to Mongol Warrior restaurant (menu has pictures). Had some cabbage, crispy duck (with head), very tasty mushrooms, and noodles w/eggplant.

Back to the hotel.

17 November 2010
Out for a short walk, got a yam, saw many dogs. Back to the hotel to freshen up and then out to meet K&C. Went out and got the jianbing (egg crepe). Walked off to the IB/CAS; were early, so took a walk around. Keri interacted with a group of cats and then two tough dogs cornered us and the cats. We scared off the dogs and let the cats escape, we walked around the dogs, but they cut us off on the path, had to stomp and growl to scare them off (they seemed angry we saved the cat!).

Into the meeting; Assist. Director of the IB/CAS was there and his senior staff. Chatted a bit, then Chris gave a presentation on his Center for BioDiv Informatics.
Series of presentations by the staff of the IB/CAS; Dr. Qin (Dep. Director of IB/CAS led the discussion.

Lunch was brought in, fresh fruit, salad, rice with meat, ramen noodles. Pretty good. Then we were given framed versions of our group photo.

After lunch, I met with Dr. Cui (Head of BHL China) to discuss Global BHL; then we all went for a tour of the photo services department and the herbarium.
Then it got weird. All kinds of discussions in Chinese, the gist was, they wanted to take us somewhere. It took a really long time and then the answer was the Paleontology Zoological Museum (dinosaurs!). The group was: Chris, Keri, me; Fenghong Liu (head of library and person running BHL China in reality), Mi Li (head of photo services), Mi Li's assistant, Qing Shao.

When wew went out, it was the first day we'd seen in a while, and it was amazing; it was like there was a heavy, red fog covering the city, it was SMOG, totally covered, probably 20% visibility with a dull red sun in the sky. You could actually taste and feel the air.

Drove about 30 minutes in the cab and got to the museum. Very dusty inside (windows open) but some amazing dinosaurs and other fossils. Spent about an hour there.
Then, off to hail a cab, I thought back to IB/CAS, but no, we went to a huge shopping mall, Golden Resources Shopping Mall. We hung out there for a while, Keri bought some tea thermos bottles; then Fenghong bought us coffee. Hung out at the coffee place (not a Starbucks, but there was one there) and chatted. The mall was like a Mazza Gallery on steriods, 8 floors and blocks long; I introduced the word "galleria" to Beijing.

Then, back out to get a cab. Mi Li and friend left us, so Keri, Chris, Fenghong got a cab leaving me and Qing Shao alone. Took us a while to get a cab since no one wanted to go out that way. Finally got a cab and back to IB/CAS.
Went to dinner on campus in the "canteen". We were joined by Dr. Cui and Dr. Xu and had another 20 course feast. Fenghong insisted we get "baiju" (basically, 76 proof grain alchohol) for toasting. Ate, toasted, drank baiju. Left and slowly separated with the Chinese peeling off til it was just us and Fenghong walking back to the hotel (she lives nearby). Left her and into hotel.
Made plans with desk for a car to take us to the Great Wall at 8 am. Back to room to pack. Cup of tea and then to bed.

18 Nov 2010
Got up, walk around the neighborhood; yam man not there and that made me sad; got my egg crepe (jianbing) and back to the hotel to finish packing and checking out.
Cab came and we drove for just about 90 minutes to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Took cable car to the top and then walked around the Wall for about an hour, cable car back and then we left Chris (and his sore foot) at the bottom and walked back up to another part to ride the Alpine Slide down. Walked up about 10,000 stairs, along the Wall for two towers and found out the slide doesn't run in the winter. Took a chairlift down and did some shopping at the stalls. I had a bad negotiation time and paid $30 for two tee shirts. Met up with Chris and taxied back into downtown to the Marriott. Took about 2:15 back to town, the last hour all being the last 5 miles or so.

Another day of amazing pollution, so quite gray and "foggy".

Checked into the hotel, was upgraded to Executive Class (huge room and lounge privilages). Keri upgraded too.

Went to find lunch, went to a shopping Mall, no one liked what was there so we went to the Starbucks; getting late, so Chris taxied back to the Fragrant Hill Empark Hotel. Keri and I got on the subway to the Temple of Heaven.
Spent about an hour at the Temple, did some gift shopping; got lost and eventually found the subway stop. Back to the hotel; went to the Executive lounge where they had a nearly full bar and hot food. Sat there and drank negroni's and ate misc. foods for about an hour or so. Hotel is attached to a shopping mall, so went in and did some more gift shopping.

Back to the room.

19 Nov 2010
Up early again and went out once the sun appeared for a little walk around the Chongwenmen St. area. Grabbed a Starbucks and then back to the room to get ready.

Met up with Keri and we took the subway a couple of stops to the Tienamen Square stop. It was still pretty smoggy out and you couldn't really see much on the square. Headed on through the square to the entrance of the Forbidden City.
Toured through the many gates, passages, treasure rooms, etc. for at least 2 hours. Saw a number of cats around. Lots of little side gardens, but very hard and stonelike, No expanses of grass or green at all, just a very few, sparse gardens.

Spent some time in some of the many gifts shops tucked in spots and then headed out the back entrance and decided to go to Jingshan Park. Had to push through huge crowds of people selling things, offering rickshaw rides, etc.

Got to the park (paid the usual entrance fee, 15 cents) and it was very green and calming. Bought some hawthorne berries on a stick - berries in a sugar glaze, quite tasty. Walked around the garden, climbed to the top of the large hill in the middle that had a temple and five pavilions. Looked at the giant buddha for a bit and then rested for a while.
Decided to find some lunch and went walking in the street for quite a while. Found a cab quickly and pointed on map to the Hilton. Got there in a few minutes.
There was a mall next to the Hilton (where there was a restaurant that she wanted to go to was). Went to the mall, walked around a bit and then went to Chamate (we decided it was a Chinese Ruby Tuesday). Menu with pictures and vegetarian selections. Had tea and some large bowls of soup, rice, etc. Not bad. Neat thing was a small control box at your table that let you signal for service (order, check, water, etc.). Paid up, stopped at a Chinese drug store for some cough medicine for keri and then walked out of the mall.
Walked down the big shopping street, Wangfujing Street, a sort of giant Times Square/5th Avenue. Walked to the end of there and then caught the subway back to the hotel.

Stopped in the hotel for a few minutes and then headed over to the Ten Fu's Tea shop; spent a while tasting various teas; bought various ones and then over to the New World Shopping Centre. Spent a long time in the grocery store getting various treats as gifts; dropped them off in the hotel and then to the excutive lounge for drinks and snacks.
Hung out in the lounge for a bit and then decided to go to the other large mall across the street from the hotel, Glory Mall. Wandered around there for a while, still not finding anything. Bought some Japanese pastries. Finally found a store that sold all kinds of junk. Spent a long time there and spent a lot of Yuan.

Back to hotel, met at my room to spread out all the gifts and made sure we had something for everyone; packed them all up. Did some final packing, some online stuff and then out like a light.

20 Nov 2010
Slept in later, met up with Keri about 8:30 and we went out for breakfast. Jianbing stands weren't out, but the one that sold a smaller little egg thing was. Got one of those and then to the Starbucks to supplement it with juice, coffee and a scone.
Back to the hotel, freshened up and then hit the subway for a visit to the Lama Temple. Lama Temple is a huge Tibeten temple so quite a bit different than any I've seen (China recognizes a different Dalai Lama). Huge crowds at the temple (since it's Saturday). Amazinng amounts of smoke and incense. Went through all the various halls and got to the main hall with an immense standing buddha, maybe 60 feet tall. Strolled around a little bit more and then, since it was getting a little late, headed back to the subway and the hotel.

Went to the hotel restaurant; I got minestrone soup and Keri got tuna salad (this was the "western" restaurant, the only one open). Mine was actually tomato soup with cabbage and spaghetti in it, but not bad. We both had to send out tea back since it wasn't very hot. Got the check, back up to the rooms for some final packing and then to the lobby to check out.

Checked out without a problem, I put my excess cash towards my bill (since I'd overdrawn at the ATM on my last visit - no one took VISA! Only was able to use my credit card once, for the tea purchase).

Doorman got us a cab and after the initial trafficthrough Ring Roads 1-3 (there are six beltways circling Beijing; the IB/CAS is at Ring Road 5; downtown is "inside the Ring 1"). Got to the airport in about 45 minutes; I'd budgeted 2 hours, so we had plenty of time).

Airport is huge, so it took us a while to find the check in and things, but took care of that; got on the train to the gates, and then shopped in duty free for a while. Took a break and went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch (noodles and tea for me; broiled eel and tea for Keri); I headed off to bathroom and sent Keri back to duty free; never found her again, so I went to the gate and she eventually showed up.

I boarded with group one and promtly sat down (but in the wrong seat). Moved to the right seat and have an annoying arm rest grabber (western guy with mustache). Nodded off during takeoff and woke up somewhere in the air.
So, 7:01 pm Chinese time, 33,000 feet; somewhere over Northern China, near Manchuria (differnt route - no Mongolia); about 1:17 into the flight and about 5,978 miles to go til Chicago, 744 miles down.

6:57 am EST
Just had dinner, Asian chicken with rice, veggies, side salad and a bit of cake. Wine free flowing, have had two glasses of a Califoria Cabernet. Just passing over the Russian border and soon to be heading out into the Pacific. 5,488 miles to go; 2:13 into the flight.

11:45 am EST
35,000 feet; over Fairbanks; 2,766 miles to go; 7:02 hours since leaving Beijing.
Fell asleep somewhere after leaving the coast of Asia. Woke up sometime later when the next food service came, Ramen and an almond cookie, as we were crossing the border into Alaska (look, there's Sarah Palin).

3:57 pm EST
Slept again for a pretty long while; woke up again for another feeding. This time, a fruit plate and small roll. Right now, just about 450 miles from ORD, somewhere right near Minneapolis.
United 624: ORD to DCA
Got to Chicago on time, but had a horrendous series of lines for customs, luggage recheck, security. I got through 10 minutes before boarding, but had left Keri way behind (she was in the back of the plane). Then flight was slightly delayed and Keri showed up with plenty of time.

Upgraded to first class. Landed, got luggage with Keri, she took metro, I got in cab.

The end.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The human urge to collect ...

is amazingly strong. Interesting to walk on the beach and see dozens of people, who probably never think of mollusks, stopping and stooping, fishing around in the sand to find shells. Nearly everyone on the beach would stop now and then to look down at the sand, pluck a shell, perhaps toss it in the water or pop it in their pocket.

There's something almost primal in the experience, look, something pretty, something shiny, something unusual.

Collecting, for no real purpose, something part of our humanity?

Seafood chowder at The Wharf

St. Petes Beach


Bahama Mama

On the rocks on the beach

Mini golf, 20 strokes, 9 holes

At Trade Winds, St. Pete's Beach

Monday, December 27, 2010

Obama Bobbleheads are "here"

Originally uploaded by martin_kalfatovic
Took the Suncoast Trolley up north from St. Pete's Beach to John's Pass. A "historic fishing village" that now seems to be focused on selling tee-shirts, candles, and craft jewelry (as well as smoked alligator and other treats). Couple of interesting eating spots, we chose Sculley's and had some good fish, but it was pretty chilly (since it's been CHILLY outside).

Walked a bit on the boardwalk afterwards and found a shop, sadly closed, selling Obama Bobbleheads, so, yes, they are "here" and here's one of them: