Around the World in 30 Days, On the Company Expense Account

Around the World in 30 Days, On the Company Expense Account

(from copious contemporaneous notes, lots of photos, and with added embellishments)

Allow me to explain....

I must mention that I managed to finagle my employer to pay for this trip, as a "mutually beneficial arrangement", hence it was a business trip and vacation.

The story begins as I had planned a round-the-world vacation. After I made my reservations (initially, just London, Hiroshima, and Sydney), we were contacted to send someone to Moscow (yeah, Red Square) and San Francisco, and "Yokohama and Tokyo would be nice but not absolute". The fare to just Moscow and San Francisco was considerably more expensive than the round-the-world business class fare was, so my company and I agreed to save each other some money and I'd let them buy me around-the-world business class ticket.

Note to other world travelers: the round-the-world ticket is only three hundred dollars more expensive than Boston-Moscow-Boston.

Copyright notice

All images and text on this webpage are copyrighted by me, but you can probably use them under the Artistic License.

Here are the rules:

Jump to a part of the trip :

Note: this site is visually rather "lush" - I'm into photography as an art. Because even a 40K .jpg is rather time-consuming to download, I've broken the trip down into blocks that should (I hope)! download in ten seconds or less each. Within each block, you'll see small thumbnails of photographs... each photo by itself is about 40Kbytes long (and thus should take ten to twenty seconds to download in it's full glory on a 28.8 modem). Just click on the thunbnail to get the full 600x400 image.

[I've test-clocked this page - it's about one minute to load on a 28.8 line, including all the thumbnails. I think that's acceptable. Of course, the medium and high-res images might take somewhat longer - the medium-res images are about thirty seconds each, the high-res ones several minutes ]

A few photos of "great merit" are available both in 600x400, and in "holy cow" format - 3600x2400 pixels. These hi-res images should NOT be downloaded unless you have some spare time- they are about 750K long EACH. But- they make kickin' screen backgrounds, eh. :)

High-res images can be accessed by clicking wherever you see this logo. But be careful- you're asking for around a megabyte of data!

Note- high resolution images are the reason I'm still using a film camera. A decent film camera can deliver resolution that makes even the CIA's digital spy satellites jealous.


Jan 29 - Boston, USA.

Trying to pack for this trip. I think I can do it all in one carryon bag, one camera bag, and wearing my heavy parka, boots, and gloves. I've got four business shirts, two T-shirts, two pair of black jeans, one set of shorts, one swimsuit, one set of white dress pants, four pair socks, a set of teva sandals and a floppy safari hat. There's also a subnotebook computer with modem and power supply, toothbrush, micro travel alarm clock, traveler's checks and a set of hiking socks.

In the camera bag there is the big Contax body, four lenses (16, 24, 50, and 135mm), a teleconverter, a flash unit, film, lead-lined film pouch, lens cleaner and tissue, and spare batteries. My Benadryl and Imodium are in the camera bag as well (the Benadryl in particular is important; I'm violently allergic to shellfish and Benadryl is the antidote). Plus- I have a book to read.

In the jacket are a set of noise-cancelling headphones, a Yashica T4 Super Weatherproof point-n-shoot camera (my backup/rough area camera), and some zinc throat lozenges. Clipped to the zipper pull are my winter gloves and in the left front pocket is my passport, international driver's license, and tickets. Each bag and my jacket has a stapled packet of xerox copies - my passport front page, my visas, directions and contact info for my business meetings, phone numbers, etc. A fourth set of xeroxes is on the kitchen table at home, and a fifth is with the office manager at work.

And lastly, in the right front jacket pocket, this journal, and a pen. I'm hoping to write notes each day, which will be expanded into this document (with photos and all) when I return.

Jan 30 - Boston

Took a cab ride to the airport. The cab driver asks what I do. I say "software design". "Do you know Java?" "Some." "I'm learning it- which should I concentrate on- advanced Java or Pascal?" "Hmmm.. depends." "Yeah, well I'm having trouble getting a handle on good design of object hierarchies...."

Only in Boston would you talk computer language semantics all the way to the airport with your cabbie.


Jan 31 - En Route to London

I'm on the airplane now. I'm being introduced to a new terror of the Western World- "British Cuisine".

New and unique British Custom - extra silverware. Teaspoons smaller than baby spoons. My seatmate on the airline spills his red wine into the control panel between the seats and shorts out the lights. Only fair- the last three trips I've been on I've spilled my water on my seatmate.

10 AM: T (er, I mean "Tube") into London. Transfer at the Acton Station. Mind The Gap indeed - up to an 8" vertical gap, and an 8" horizontal gap between the train car floor and the platform at the station. Apparently, the train stations aren't on straight sections of track, hence the platforms follow the outside edge of the cars, which leaves big gaps near the middle of the cars.

By the way, Acton Station is just one of a number of synchronous town names between England and New England.

11 AM: check into the bed & breakfast- the Cavendish Hotel. Well, at least it's cheap. Shared shower, shared toilet. (it won't be for another four days that I find that there's another shower and two more toilets!)

The Cavendish Hotel

1300: British Museum - it's full of treasures and it's mobbed. There's a polite crowd around the Rosetta stone. The stone is in this big hall of Egyptian antiquities, and has a spotlight mounted on the ceiling shining down.

The Rosetta Stone

The whole crowd is taking pictures. Most don't know enough to turn off the "red eye preflash" on their cameras, not realizing that the Rosetta Stone won't get red eye. I do a couple of "hold-the-camera-over-the-head" shots. The tourists imitate. (wait a minute, I'm a tourist too...)

1430: I've definitely been spoiled by my old (lightweight, all plastic) camera. My camera bag "needs lightening". [I weigh it later- it's like eight kilograms!]. As a note to future visitors and visits, the British Museum allows photography everywhere and flash everywhere except the manuscript room and the paintings.

There's a lot of excellent stuff here. Amazing statues from China,Burma, and India. Giant Buddha statues from Japan, the Temple of the Nereid from Turkey,

The Temple of the Neried

the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon.

The Elgin Marbles (and me)

More Elgin Marbles, from the Parthenon's facade

The British Museum. Our Motto: "It's a small world, but _somebody_ has to loot it.". Though, considering how well (or poorly) the Egyptian antiquities are being preserved in Egypt, and what I've heard is going on in Athens with acid rain eating into the Parthenon, perhaps the British Museum is a good idea after all.

Just for future notice, the British Museum is at

N 51 deg 31 min 11.9 sec

W 0 deg 7 min 42.3 sec

The nearest station is Goodge Street, on the black line ("Jubilee"? "Victoria"? So strange here to have lines with names, rather than just colors as in Boston.)

2230: London Tube trains still use _wood_ as structural parts! The trains fit fairly snugly into the tubes (which are cylindrical, not the rectangular post-and-beam of most of Boston's T tunnels); there's less than a 25-cm gap, so being in the tunnel when a train passes through is not likely to be survivable.

Further, the trains aren't wired like any of the Boston lines (i.e. two-grounds-plus-third-rail or two-grounds-plus- overhead-catenary). Instead, there's two traction rails, and _two_ hot rails, one down the middle of the tunnel and one up on the side, where the typical American third rail goes. Apparently the power supply is "floated", because I've been told "if you ever fall onto the tracks and a train is coming, dive into the trench under the center rail- there's plenty of room there." And indeed, there is a trench between the weight-bearing rails, about 50 cm deep and as wide as the tracks, with the central hot rail on ceramic standoffs. You _could_ hide down there.

Jan 31 - London

Spent the day with Paul Harrison (from IRC). We went to a flea market, bought a couple of souvenirs, and then he says "This is England- let's have drinks". So, at 1 PM on a Sunday, we duck into a pub (which had a slight crowd already) and we have a couple pints of some very smooth ale. A little more shopping, but found nothing more of interest - or found the shop was closed. So, this being England, we went drinking again.

Recommendation - if you're in the neighborhood of King's Cross in London, and you feel a thirst coming on, go to Smithie's pub. It's a great place. They treat you very well there.

Note- the lights at Smithie's keep flickering, and twice they went out completely and the barman had to go "in back" somewhere and hit something with a hammer. Lucas electrics???

As it got toward suppertime, we hit a Cuban restarant and had dinner and (this being both England and a Cuban restarant) a pitcher of Margueritas.

Feb 1 - London

Today's order of business were to get a new flash cable (it seems I've misplaced my original) and then go east, to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

The Tower Bridge First of all, of all the camera stores in London, none of them have the cable I want. One did have a cable that would work. So I got to the Tower at noonish.

The tower is great. It turns out that Newton was Director of the Mint, and had his offices in the Tower, where he did some of his work in Calculus and Physics. The Crown Jewels are, for the most part, rather ordinary looking, except for the Cullinan II, which is a ghostly stone- you can barely see it's outline, just a region of space full of colored prismatic lights. Very nifty and kind of spooky.

The Wayward Tower (which is also the main gate) has an interesting history... after 11 PM or so, one could not pass without knowing the word of the night, that is to say, the pass-word. The Beefeater guide claimed this is the first documented historical use of the concept of password-controlled access.

Recommendation - waiting for the Beefeater tour is very much worth it.

The tube was all messed up on the way back- two hours return for a 20-minute ride out, with two double-backs to avoid lines that were completely stuck (disabled trains).

When I got out at Tottenham Road, I walked up toward Gowan, or so I thought. It turns out I was on the wrong street. Then, as I turned around to go back to Tottenham tube station, I got a cinder in my eye and as I was blinking it out, I _saw_ a homeless person appear. He was wrapped in a maroon sleeping bag, and he definitely was not there three seconds before. Tell Neil Gaiman that he was right- the undersociety that he describes in "Neverwhere" exists. I personally have taken to being much more careful to "Mind The Gap".

Dinner tonight was at the Greenhouse again. Movie was Alien Ressurection. Still haven't been able to get onto the Internet. Did quite a few postcards which will go out tomorrow.

Feb 2 - London

Today I did The Museum of Transportion in Covent Garden... very nice. It has a nice history of the public transport of London all the way back to the first horsedrawn carriages. Interesting points- the old Tubes were bored out to 11'8". New ones (and tubes being rebuilt) are bored to 4 meters (13.1 feet). The two bare wires running along the sides of the tube at window height are telephone lines, and the trainmen have clip-on sets to use them. Additionally, shorting the wires (easy to do by hand, they are slightly slack) will immediately cut power to that section of tube- a handy safety feature.

One section of the Museum of Transportation is dedicated to the role of the Tube during the Blitz. Fascinating... it seems that England is still a bit enamored of winning WW II.

Regulations for Shelter during the Blitz

Tourist Tip: there's a card called the "White Card", you can get it at many of the London museums and galleries, and for a fixed rate you can go into as many participating museums as you want. It's well worth it.

I took the tube to South Kensington, then walked to Buckingham Palace and back to Churchill's War Rooms. The palace is OK at best; historical interest only. The Victoria Memorial is nice sculpture though... a good "art opportunity" well executed. The light wasn't that great though, so we'll have to see how the pictures come out. [ they did come out... ]

Victoria Monument, in front of Buckingham Palace

The Churchill Cabinet War Rooms are definitely worthwhile, as is the walk from Buckingham Palace to the Rooms and then on to Parlament. Whitehall Underground station is a mess right now though. I'll give the War Rooms three stars as well.

While I was visiting, the Churchill War Rooms had an I.R.A. bomb scare. Thus, they closed off the area until the bomb squad had cleared the area.

Waiting for the bomb squad to clear the area

Once they had cleared the situation, the War Rooms were quite interesting. In classical British style, at the end of WW II, the officers in charge simply closed the door and locked it. The rooms thus sat, darkened and inviolate, for nearly fifty years, until someone realized that "Hey, that would make a great museum.". Most of the papers and maps were intact, left just as they were the day after Japan surrendered. Churchill's desk is there, with the microphones he used to broadcast the famous "We shall fight on the beaches..." speech.

Churchill's desk, with the original microphones

Note to photographers - everything in England is so close together that a wide-angle lens is absolutely necessary.

I finally dialed back in to work, but I can't read mail because the machine I was told to use is not configured correctly. *sigh*

Dinner tonight was at a vegan Indian restarant near Tottenham Road Station. Go north from the TR tube station, on the left there's a tiny alley (1 car wide at best). Go down the alley, you'll see what looks like a porn/fetish shop "Vinyl Experience" - with two 15-foot PVC-clad cutout beauties on the sign. It's a joke- "Vinyl Experience" is a used record store. Anyway, go back about 5 meters, turn right, go about 30 meters further, and it's on your right.

Nothing specifically _weird_ happened today. :-)

Feb 4 - London

12:00 The Museum of Natural History Of The Earth. OK for a grammar school, but not comparable to the Boston Museum of Science. Glad I did laundry this morning.

14:00 - I take it back. Turns out that I was just in one of the smaller annexes, one dedicated to grades 1-5. The main museum is MUCH larger, scale of the Boston Museum of Science or the NY Museum of Natural History. About 1/5 the galleries are under renovation, but the rest is quite astounding... fossils from most eras but without the "over- interpretation" now common in the USA.

The Apatosaur and I

18:00 - The Science Museum, next door to the Museum of Natural history, truly ROCKS. They've got the original steam turbine, parts from Turing's "Colossus" computer, _big_ steam engines, Babbage's Difference Engine #2,

The Analytical Engine Trethivick's Locomotive Engine #3, and prototypes/models of a LOT of stuff.... and I only got through two floors out of 5. The big question for tomorrow: back to the British Museum or back to the Museum of Science?

A german Enigma cryptography machine

Watt's workshop is at the London Museum of Science; apparently when he died, his wife (who didn't quite understand all this puttering about with steam and such) simply closed and locked the door to Watt's attic workshop. Then four years later, she remodeled... and the workmen, not having the key to the attic door, just plastered over the doorway. Thus entombed, the workshop sat intact, with the tools where Watt had left them until the mid-1950's, when it was rediscovered, removed en masse (including the interior walls) and put on exhibit in the musuem. You don't get to go inside, instead you view the workshop through the attic windows (which are the originals).

James Watt's attic workshop

Had dinner at an all-you-can-eat Indian restarant in Leister Square, quite good. "The India - All you can eat - L 5.95" Compares well with the vegan indian place last night.

It's amazing to see these things that Watt, Parsons, Trethivick, Babbage, and Turing built personally.


20:30 - I should have kept my mouth shut about the weirdness. The weirdness switch is apparently set back on. Was walking past the Scientology storefront (on the way to the Goodge Street Tube) and got accosted. Wonder what they would have thought if I'd agreed to go in, take their test, and answered the questions honestly.

Note on previous night- on the movie, Alien Resurection. Strange, but the two characters I felt the most empathy with were the 'droid and the clone (Winona Ryder and Sigourney Weaver).

I think I'm getting used to the Tube. Question for tomorrow remains- back to the British Museum, the Museum of Science, or to the London Dungeon Museum.

5 Feb - London

Well, the Dungeon Museum is not worth it. It's a tourist trap. I give it a three-star 'Avoid' rating, unless you are into that sort of thing.

I had originally planned to take a side trip to Portmeiron, but the train to will take about 6 hours of prime daytime each way. Add an hour transport at each end, and I'd spend half my waking hours in the train. So, I cancelled the trip to Portmeiron and will stay in London an extra three days. I let Paul know, so hopefully I'll see him and Colette in the near future.

In the meantime, I'm back at the Museum of Science for the afternoon. Whee! I give this museum five stars, it's that good.

6 Feb - London

1/4 the way through the vacation. Went to see "Devil's Advocate" last night. Had a major attack of the lonlies. I hope Rusty and Rory (the kittens) are OK.

22:00 Talked with Tara and Derek via IRC (finally got a connection!) Rusty and Rory are fine. I'm feeling quite a bit better now as well.

Someone definitely put fresh batteries in the weirdometer. On the way to dinner, saw a guy wearing a 2600 T-shirt on the tube. I motioned toward the shirt, and gave a thumbs-up. Turns out he's a local officer of 2600 and there was a meeting tonight, at the Trocadero arcade, and British Intelligence was going to attend. He invited me as well. I declined, citing that I really _did_ need to go to Moscow on Monday and it would not "do" to endanger that. I got appetizers for dinner at the Greenhouse on Goodge street (Hint: AVOID the pizza! 2 days in a row and it's been cold.) The soup there is good, though.

Back at the B&B, Rosa L., PhD, Room 5, comes in, talks (to me? at me?) for 1 hour, continuously, witout me able to change the course of the conversation by epsilon. I don't think, by the clock that I spoke for more than sixty seconds. She may know a lot about Assyrian mythology, but her social skills "need work". I only ended the conversation by leaving the room.

Except for the bar that Paul showed me in Angel, I haven't found one I like yet. Maybe I just need to know where to look.

7 Feb - London

A first - I didn't go to any museums today. Instead, I went to Hyde Park and walked around it. Two miles, I reckon by the map. Ended up shooting 1 1/2 rolls of film on Pictures That Just Needed To Be Taken. Doesn't look like I'll see Collette this visit, but that's life.

Hyde Park/Kensington is really nice. It's sunny today, and there are a lot of wonderful picture opportunities.

Geese in Hyde Park

Getting out in the open really helps my mood (that is, a good walk rather than a museum crawl). It's also a lot less strain on my back and knees.

Now I'm on the train to Reading to catch up with Paul - the trains are slightly quieter and nicer than the Boston Commuter Rail, but more bouncey. The trains _do_ run on time, or at least depart their originating stops on time. And another bizarreness... the doors are not opened by the conductors, but by the passengers... and there are no handles on the inside. Instead, there is an instruction sticker that says "open window and unlock door only when train is stopped."

Ian and Paul in the Reading train station. Yeah!

8 Feb - London

Spent the evening with Paul Harrison and Iain out in Reading. Had a good time too, we went on IRC and joked around. Today is my last useful day in London. Paul and Iain are coming to London, we meet at Victoria Station at 1 PM. A question still remains- how feasible is it to _really_ go around the world in one carry-on bag.

The plans today include a long walk through London... dinner, shops, all that. Ian needs to catch a train out so it can't go too too late.

Ian, Paul and I in front of Tower Bridge (near where I shot from previously)

I've been advised to bring a camera to Russia, but not a camera that I would mind losing. Hence, the Contax will stay in the baggage check at the Hilton, along with a few other things that might be "ill-advised" to bring into Russia (like the GPS). So, I've got myself a duffle bag that I'll pack with everything that's not necessary and I'll leave it in checked baggage.


12 Feb. - Moscow

A bit of catching-up is necessary. I mistakenly left this journal in my camera bag, which I checked at baggage store at the Heathrow Hilton.

Anyway, here are observations on travel to and from Russia as of 12-Feb-1998.

Standing in line is the Russian National Pastime. Once you get past that, the Russian peple are very warm and friendly - things are still changing rapidly there and everyone (including my hosts) finds it a bit dizzying.

Private gaurds are everywhere. It reminds me of Chicago in the 1920's or maybe the "Gangster Planet" in the Old Star Trek "A piece of the action" episode. But - it is possible to do work here, just differently. In the USA, you expect to see an armed gaurd _maybe_ at a bank, maybe not even that. But here in Moscow, you see armed gaurds at good restarants.

Apparently everybody in Russia pays protection money to someone. They call it the "roof". Good hotels supply your "roof" for you; it's an unspoken part of the package. Cheaper hotels... you guessed it. You've probably heard the joke about Rhode Island... "A Family- Owned Business Since 1890." Well, it's like that here, but the Russians don't even attempt to cover it up.

But the people here (the _people_) are so friendly, it doesn't matter. I feel amazingly at home. I guess that's what living in the People's Republic of Massachusetts does to you. I'm glad the Cold War is over, that's for sure! Just like Egypt was, these people have finally gotten the Dream (call it capitalism, call it American Contagious Imperialism, whatever), and they like it.

Likewise, Cyrillic is just the Roman alphabet plus the Greek alphabet plus a few new ones. But if you know a few Indo-european languages, it all starts to make sense. There's a bizarre feel of seeing Cyrillic "melt" into understandable letters - like in the movies where Klingon or Kanji morph into English. The first word I got that way was "CY[pi][backwards-3][backwards-R]MAPK[backwards-3]T". On a storefront?

Cypher-something? Secret police? But on a storefront? And with _advertising_??? Doesn't that spoil the whole point of 'secret police'?

Then the letters "melted" and I saw, in my mind, "SUPERMARKET" - which I mentioned to my hosts, who confirmed that it was, indeed, a supermarket, and asked if I needed any groceries.

One difference - a "stop" sign here is "CTO[pi]", and it's a small white rectangle, not a red octagon. I asked my hosts about a few letters that aren't in the Greek or Roman alphabets, such as the doubled-H which is the "ZHI" sound, like in Zhivalgo or Zhulugi, "b" is "soft symbol", not a sound per se as far as I can tell. "B" is a "V". A squared-off "W" is a "SH" sound, as in Shremetivo airport (the main Moscow international airport).

Red Square... (well, rectangle). Never thought I'd be in Red Square. But I've been there now, stood in front of Lenin's Tomb. It's one of the plces I'd nmever expected to have been, like up on the "flying bridge" of the Arecibo telescope, or in the Great Pyramid.

Red Square, at night, in snow flurries

Red Square is impressive. The Kremlin is one side of it, and Lenin's tomb is as big and blocky in real life as it is in the pictures- but there's no longer an honor gaurd in front of it 24x7. The main gate of the Kremlin still has the Red Star, lit 24 hours a day; St. Basil's cathedral is as beautiful and bizarre as it can be.

Galena, Alex, and I, in front of Lenin's Tomb

I didn't get into the Moscow Subways. My hosts warned me to not go out alone at night, and not into the subways at all unescorted. Apparently an American was machine-gunned to death in the Red Square subway station only a few days earlier. They were willing to take me into the station for a visit anyway, but I declined.

My hosts took me to dinner at a Russian-Georgian restarant. They knew I was vegetarian, and one of them did all the ordering. Russian meals are served with a variety of "side dishes", cheese, fruit, cole slaw, etc. Then, an excellent soup or two, served with a side condiment bowl of sour cream - add a spoonful to 'richen' the soup. Then finally, the "meat" or whatever course. As it turns out, my host ordered for me the equivalent of "spicy-hot Boston Baked Beans", and served with slivered onions and chopped greens. It was _excellent_.

[afternote - I've tried to reproduce the Russian Spicy Baked Beans recipe on my own, and I've not been quite successful yet. But I'm coming close. Cinnamon, perhaps, rather than red pepper?]

Other things - the hotel I stayed at was the Metropol in Moscow, and it had the interesting feature of two rooms without numbers on each wing of each floor. One was adjacent to my own room; I thought it might be an extension suite room, but I failed to find the door between my room and the extension room. Additionally, the locks on the doors of the "extension room" were quite different from the locks on the doors of the numbered guest rooms. KGB lounge, perhaps? :)

Myhosts have taken me on some side tours on the way between the hotel and the office. I got to see KGB headquarters (from the outside only),

KGB headquarters, Moscow.

as well as some of the rather impressive statuary.

Two of my hosts (Alexander and Galena) and myself

Anyway, I returned to London and packed the current batch of souvenirs, photos, etc. for a FedEx back home. Now I'm on my way to Japan. London Customs inbound was completely vacant. An empty room, no inspectors at all (normally Heathrow Customs is a long room with big steel tables along the sides- you walk down the middle and if an inspector tags you, you get searched, otherwise you just walk. But in this case, there was nobody manning the tables. If I wanted to smuggle something in, I could have just walked through. )

Cripes, I shoulda visited Crazy Gorby's Arms Bazaar, and picked up some cut-rate MIG parts or something. :)

Finally - I'm caught up to today. The flight to Japan from Heathrow (there is no direct flight from Moscow's Sheremetivo airport to Osaka Kansai airport, you have to go back to London first) is a half-empty plane. Maybe more than half-empty. Nice ride. They've shown two movies so far, CONTACT and Peacemaker. Contact was quite good, only a few bugs, but Peacemaker... they should all be dead from the plutonium oxide dust. Ugh.


Feb 13 - Enroute to Osaka

Didn't sleep much on the plane, maybe two or three hours. We'll be landing in Osaka in about 20 minutes. The sunrise was beautiful over the Sea of Japan. The moonlight over Siberia was pretty cool, too... so to speak. The snow on the mountains made an interesting contrast. I think I may have forgotten to mail out one of my postcards. We're now overflying the west coast of Japan. There are a number of "artificial harbors" visible - concrete breakwaters jutting out into the surf, then T'ed or L'ed off to give a calm harbor for fishing boats.

Osaka Kansai airport is about an hour out from Osaka by Shinkansen "bullet trains". Then, it's another forty minutes by cab to the Itami works, and then twenty minutes to find the meetings. Oh well. The meetings went very well. We may have an engineering winner here.

Feb 14 - Hiroshima

Bad case of jet lag last night, which was actually fortunate because I needed to call in to work and talk to some folks. Now I'm on my way back to the Shinkansen station, and then go to Hiroshima. On the way is "Clean Sports Land" (makes you wonder 'in contrast to what'?). The hotel last night advertised "Massage - 40 minutes - 10:30 PM to 3:00 AM - 4350 yen." I didn't take them up on it. Anyway, I slept in till 9:45 and feel much bettter now.

Some of the parking lots here are stacking machines- the cars drive onto pallets, which are then stacked vertically. The highest I've seen so far is 5 levels high.

I'm starting to recall some Kanji now. Fascinating... "shin" == new == box-over-tree-next-to-channellock-pliers.

Correction - it's the 14'th. I'd been using the data back on my cameras as a calendar and I lost a day by resetting local time across a midnight.

Anyway, the Kami of Hiroshima knew I was coming, and they were marginally angry. They knew who I was, they knew who my father was, and they knew why I was coming. I will leave it that strong words were used by both sides before agreement with honor was reached.

The A-bomb museum is both less and more horrible than I imagined. Melted eyeglasses and bottles, fused roofing tiles

Terra cotta roofing tiles fused and melted by the fireball

, watches all stopped at 8:15 AM by the shock wave... the famous "shadow of a person burned into the sidewalk"

Shadow of a person

posters where the black ink absorbed the heat in the nuclear flash, turned to vapor and left cutout stencils of characters in the off-white poster paper.

Posters, with the black areas vaporized by the flash

A truss-girder snapped by the shock wave

I'll leave it at that. The museum and peace park get four stars worth of recommend by me.

The museum admits that the Japanese Ministry of War called for "100 million deaths with honor" to defend Imperial Japan, and at the same time decrys the US action to end the war by killing 100,000. By my math, that means we saved 99.9% of the people who would have died. The hypocrisy of this rather got to me. Then again, the A-bomb museum dances the fine line between honor and truth, and I think that in some places the overlap is vanishingly small. To their honor, the museum also admits to the Rape of Nanking and some other abuses by Imperial Japan, some of which I had not heard of before.

"What is Truth?" asked Pilate. Indeed....

Anyway, four stars for the Peace Museum, partially on historical significance; it would three stars on standalone quality. Worth it if you are anywhere nearby in western japan (Osaka area).

The Atom Bomb Dome is what's left of one of the few buildings left in any form other than melted rubble. It has not been renovated, merely preserved, as a permanent memorial to the dead. Ground zero was about 150 meters away, and the warhead detonated up about 500 meters. Although from these photos it looks to be in relatively good condition, there are no floors inside the building- the shock wave drove all the floors into the basement, leavng the vertical walls standing.

The Atom Bomb Memorial Dome

The Peace Park is well laid out, with a number of very good artworks. The style, as you can probably guess, is predominantly Shinto.

One of the memorials in the peace park.

Dinner was an interesting exercise... a true "first contact" scenario. The restarant was in the train-station complex, named "Curry Station" (they specialize in Indian food, says the sign)- but nobody in the restarant spoke English. According to the photos out front, a large percentage of the dishes were seafood-based... maybe the curry was just an added flavor? Anyway, it was a 'first contact' situation, in that there is no common language you can use, and only a small common background you can draw upon to establish communication... and in my case, the consequences for a misunderstanding might be death (i.e. shellfish allergy - I was carrying my Benadryl and hoped I wouldn't need it).

We eventually communicated by drawing pictures of little plants and animals (I think my "smiling crab" was a big hit :-) ) and Xing out the ones that I couldn't eat. I ended up with "cheesa curry" (Curry sauce over cheese and rice), whcih was pretty good.

I managed to get a solid connection to the USA last night on modem, and I got through almost all my business Email. Fully 20% of it was spam.

I also managed to was five shirts worth of laundry in the hotel sink- it seems that most hotels in Japan have laundry service ony during the daytime and only during the week, hence laundry services are not useful to someone who moves on every day as I am doing.

Hint: if you need to do laundry in your room, hanging a shirt or two right from or in front of the draft from your room ventilator will dry it overnight quite nicely, and humidify the room air as well.

More on the Shinkansen "bullet trains"- they run on elevated tracks almost everywhere, and I'd say that a good 20% of the track is in tunnels. On the way to Hiroshima, I had the GPS clocking us at 137 MPH. Today, the GPS is not getting a good lock.

Looking out the window, it is clear how intense land cultivation and agriculture is in Japan. Even in the cities, spaces the size of an automobile parking spot are cultivated, and, it seems, for food.

Another aside - the train just went past a KIRIN brewery. There was an array of fermentation tanks out front - perhaps a 10 x 10 or 10x15 array, and each tank was six storeys tall and maybe 20 feet in diameter. That's a LOT of beer.

16 Feb Tokyo, Japan

Checked out of the Yokohama Tokyu hotel. They were nice enough to call ahead to the Yaesu Fujiya hotel in Tokyo and confirm my reservation; thus the Yokohama Tokyu gets a thumbs-up from me.

A shrine in Yokohama.

Last night I was almost poisoned again. This time it was not a misunderstanding, it was a screwup as to which table got what order. I ordered a cheese-and-sun-dried-tomato pizza. The one that was delivered had shrimp under the tomato. Fortunately, I noticed before I ate it. The fellow next to me was glad to see that I had not mauled his shrimp-and-cuttlefish pizza.

Additional tip - on Japanese train platforms, the directional signs indicate the _next_ station in each direction (not the end of the line in that direction, as in the USA), and if there's a "dot" in the arrow it means the train going in that direction will indeed stop at that station.

In both the Hiroshima hotel and the Yokohama hotel, the room bathrooms had one of those newfangled "electronic" toilet seats. These seats are heated, and have a little spray arm that extends telescopically underneath at the push of a button to wash you with warm water (thermostatically controlled, no less). Hopefully, toilet paper is not needed, and other unpleasantness such as running out of toilet paper is avoided.

Well, the one in Hiroshima had the water pressure set way, WAY too high (a final joke of the Hiroshima Kami on me... lent a whole new appreciation of the phrase "rip you a new one"), while the toilet seat in Yokohama had the pressure set so low that it barely dribbled off the spray arm without gaining "adequate altitude". The seat in Yokohama also executed a "pre-flush confidence check" whenever I sat down on it. In either case, I'm really not that impressed with the overall technology and would say it "needs some work".

17 Feb - Tokyo

Meetings before lunch, then a business lunch and I'm off to go shopping in Tokyo. Akhihabara is much as I remember it, but I can't seem to find the ham radio place I visited before. No matter, I found what I was looking for anyway... new mini-thermos, language translator, etc. And there's a Wendy's here- so I can get some safe food.

The Ginza at night.

18 Feb - Tokyo

Last day in Japan. I'm in Tokyo Disneyland to see what the cross- cultural interpretation is like. Answer- the lines here are even longer than at Disney in Florida and California, and this is a Wednesday!

It seems I left my good Russian coathanger at the hotel. I remembered that I had not packed it when I was in the train station. It was a nice hangar, about 3mm steel wire (unfortunately, not titanium. If it had been titanium, I would have gone back for it!)

Yesterday's haul at Akhihabara was kind of slim, considering. An english-japanese translator, an electronic muscle massager (which worked quite nicely on my feet last night), and a new half-liter thermos. I'm still lugging around the duffle bag I bought in London to hide my good camera bag in for the baggage check at Heathrow- Derek and Laurie can keep it when I get there, use it as they will.

Some of the props here at Tokyo Disney are authentic US. For example, the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster appears to have a genuine Henderson Mfg. Co. ore crusher in front, made in Utica, NY., as well as a Joshua Henry Machine Works Ore Mill, San Francisco, CA.

I have further decided after yet another close call with shellfish that it's unclear if being vegetarian is wise here or not. At least they have a minor tradition of not adding shellfish to beef dishes.

Heh- another one of the wall decorations is a monkey wrench, made by the Wadsworth Tool Company, Boston, USA. Some of the puns here have got to go WAY over the heads of the locals- i.e. the "May Q. Tipsy Whiskey Company." Other stuff is obviously local, e.g. the "Big Rock Minning Company" (sic) spray-painted onto the side of a prop crate on the theme roller-coaster.

21:00 On the airplane to Sidney. The cabin purser here gave me more grief than all the others put together about my bag's weght. Must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed for sure.


19 Feb 21:30 Sydney, Australia

A recap. Got into Sydney with no problems; Oz customs even specifically OKed my Lomotil and Benadryl. Cripes, it's hot here. Far too hot for comfort. Maybe out in the country or maybe in the mountains it's nicer, but it's just too much for me to do anything but veg out.

Derek took me on an afternoon walking tour of Sydney (thanks, Derek!) including a walk through the park and down to the Opera House.

The Sydney Opera House

Derek and Laurie's place is truly small- it's clean, but it's clear that it isn't meant for more than two people living in "an intimate relationship" and who don't have much stuff. I also made it to Bondi Beach - there were some folks there but (contrary to Derek's claim) there was plenty of space. Of course, this was a Friday morning, not a weekend.

Bondi Beach, in Sydney

On the way back from Bondi Beach, I ended up sitting on the bus next to an old woman reading a book. The book was in Cyrillic. So, when she moved around to make it easier for me to get off at my stop, I said "speciba" (Russian for "thank you"). She smiled a BIG grin, and said "babzjusta!" (Russian for "you're welcome"). Cool, eh?

Observation: there is _nothing_ as good as total immersion to help you learn a new language.

20-Feb Sydney

Since Derek and Laurie's folks are now in town, I'm now in a hotel. The "Barclay" hotel is in Kings Cross, Sydney. Though, they do have some good stuff here too. The hotel is... well, it's not bad. I've got a private bath and on-site laundry, but it's... well, not a five star hotel. Not the Metropol in Moscow, that's for sure. Dispite the heat when I came into the room I found the heat was _on_. The room is nice and large though- one queen bed and one single. Could easily sleep three.

The neighborhood of the Barclay is King's Cross in Sydney - that is, a cross between Chinatown, Central Square, and the Boston Combat Zone. Within a two-block radius there are four sex stores, three "live girl" theatres, and at least two dozen restarants of various ethnicities all of which look very good.

Oh, the final insult- the phone line here has a jack- but not one I've ever seen before. So, I'm stuck for online access until I can find a Radio Shack.

I've also set my clocks ahead across midnight yet again, so the dates on the camera data backs are off... again.

I didn't sleep well last night- far too noisy. No other hotels have any rooms - and, of course, the air conditioner is broken. More specifically, it sounds like a mistuned lawnmower hitting rocks. The "night life" is composed solely of girlie shows and 130dB smoke-filled bars.

I've managed to wrangle a telephone hookup by cannibalizing my RJ-11 cable, stripping the wires, unscrewing the cover plates on the phone jack, and wedging the wires into appropriate-looking places inside the wall. My mean-time-to-carrier-drop is like six minutes - ALMOST enough time to read an email message and reply to it. Derek and Laurie haven't returned my calls. I guess they are dealing with parents.

I got out to the Blue Mountains (or rather, the Blue Plateau). Wentworth Falls is a very nice climb/hike. the Three Sisters are interesting (but sadly, the authorities will soon prohibit climbing them due to the erosion damage being done to the vegetation on the talus slopes).

The Three Sisters formation (eroded sandstone/basalt/shale)

Anyway, I'm basically disgusted with the noise and situation here in Sydney and am ready to call the airport and ask for the next flight out and just leave. That is, if I can figure out how to return the rental car. There are places in Sydney where there are no permitted turns, left OR right, from a main street for nearly 2 KM. They even have signs saying so. This isn't an expressway, either, it's city street with no turns permitted. The locals seem to simply ignore the signs and the cops ignore the locals. In other words, it's hell to navigate here...

21 Feb - Blue Mountains

I got the heck out of the hotel and got a reservation (thanks to a friend on IRC) for a motel out in the Blue Mountains, in Kotoomba. I've extended the rental car for three days, and I'm getting the heck out of Sydney.

I didn't sleep again last night till like 3:30 or maybe 4 AM. Damn noisy. They said last night that they'd fixed the air conditioner- yeah, now it just sounds like a lawn mower with someone throwing stones at it occasionally. The grinding sound is now merely an occasional interlude.

Anyway, I checked out of the Barclay hotel and drove to Kotoomba in the Blue Mountains. On the way out, I was listening to the radio (Triple-M, in Sydney) and the DJ was discussing the goings-on of the night before.

You see, this was Saturday Night of "Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras" in Sydney. And... there was a riot. In King's Cross. Right outside the hotel. The DJ was there, tried to use a pay phone, was dragged from the booth by four guys, who proceeded to kick the heck out of him. The DJ boasted "broke me nose, cracked two ribs. It was one hell of a party, mates!".

No wonder I couldn't sleep.

The motel here "The Three Sisters" in Kotoomba, New South Wales, is simple and direct. No air conditioner- the desk guy says it's not needed. I believe him. The air up here on top of the plateau is pleasantly warm and dry. And it's quiet. We're about one kilometer from the cliff rim. The air is clean, and the environment is beautiful.

22 Feb - Kotoomba

Walking along past the three sisters, I went into a little roadside cafe... or so I thought. It's the "Kotoomba Falls Solar Observatory and Cafe". They've got typical cafe food, plus some very nice telescopes out front (including a StarFire 127 equipped with a Thousand Oaks white-light filter, and a 4" running a Daystar H-alpha narrowband h-alpha filter. "$2 a look". Well worth it. The owner/director and I got into telescope geeking and he didn't charge me anything. But- I need to send him a card, at least!

Kotoomba Solar Observatory

Yes, it's actually a real observatory. He's got a CCD system and does real observation in cooperation with the University of New South Wales. But, he still loves to show off the sun and sky to everyone - a worthwhile mission if ever there was one.

They sell a number of different space-oriented items in the cafe, including meteorites. I picked up a rather nice section of polished and etched iron-nickel showing a Widminstatten pattern for Au$100 (about $60 US), and cheap at that price.

22:00 Gawd, this is nice. It's so quiet, I can hear the bugs chirping outside. I went for a drive again, back up past the observatory to take some astrophotos. On the way, I met "Macca", a rock-climber waiting for a taxi. We chatted while he waited for his taxi- which was rather late. I told him that if the taxi hadn't shown up by the time I came back, I'd give him a ride back into Kotoomba. Then I went out onto the lookout cliff and BOOM... the Milky Way and the Magellenic clouds. Alpha Centauri is not as bright as Sirius, but together with Beta Centauri, it's a powerful pair. Macca left a note on my windshield, saying he got his taxi ride and left his phone number in case I got the urge to go climbing.

I also got a book on the Blue Mountains - geology, biology, and natural history. It seems that the place in Wentworth Falls that I found so appealing was... well, has a history. Seems that Charles Darwin found the spot equally enchanting. Now I need to go back and re-read "Voyage of the Beagle" to find that place and compare my photos with Darwin's drawings. :)

I definitely should have stayed out here on Saturday night. :)

Another thing- at night, they floodlight some of the rock formations till 11 PM. The local bats know this and take advantage of it for grabbing a quick snack in the bug-rich environment of the floodlight beams. I watched the bats feeding for quite a while (also playing/chasing each other) and it was quite a sight- and sound- as their echolocation chips are sometimes audible and they bounce off the rocks.

I tried to use the flash to photograph some of the bats as they made close passes but it's unclear how well that will work (it didn't). I also shot the Milky Way and the Magellenic clouds on time exposure (which didn't work that well either).

I really, REALLY regret not coming up here on Saturday and just staying here. I also need to thank Subangel on IRC for the phone numbers and encouragement.

23 Feb - Kotoomba

Another great day. I did the "long" Kotoomba walk - down the giant stairs past the Three Sisters, then down into the valley (~300 meters down the side of the cliff), then 2.5km north sloping down along the cliff-bottom talus slope (another 200 meters descent), into Leura Forest (which is a rain forest).

The hiking trail down to the canyon floor on the talus

Then, heading back toward Kotoomba along the bottom of the canyon, out of Leura, on the "National Pass", to link back up at the bottom of the talus slope below the Three Sisters, then another 3 km to the Inclined Railroad base, (it used to be the coal lift for the coal mines under the plateau, then another 1.7 km upslope (300 meters vertical, I've already climbed the 200m vertical talus slope), along the Kotoomba Waterfall, then another 2.5 km back, plus another 2 km of fiddling about on side trips, etc. Lots of rocks, lots of views, lots of plants and critter life.

Kotoomba Falls

For the first half of the trip, there was _nobody_ on the trail except myself. It was kind of interesting, realizing that if I went down for any reason, it might be days before someone came by. It's a rather interesting feeling and I heartily recommend it as an occasional brain recalibration. (yes, I know I *should* let someone know where I was going and when I expected to be back... however I had expected the downcanyon trail to be as populated as the rim trail had been. This is NOT the case.)

The jungle below the canyon rim in Kotoomba

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at the overlook and started chatting with another visitor. Turns out he's a ham radio operator and the new publisher of the Australian version of QST. So, we chatted about electronic gadgets, ham radio, etc. A good time.

Dinner was at the Kotoomba Canton Garden, or something like that, down the street from the Three Sisters hotel. Note for next time, the Edges hotel is closer to the point and looks to have nicer views- at a much higher price.... and to be honest, I don't think I'll have much time to look out the windows. I'll be out climbing the canyon wall and hiking the jungle!

Looking out over the larger canyons, fisheye lens. It's about half a kilometer to the jungle on the canyon floor!

You know, two days ago, I wanted to just get the heck out of Australia. Now I wish I could stay a few days more, at least. I think I wasted a day or two by staying in Sydney King's Cross, but that's life.

24-Feb - Kotoomba

It's cloudy, like last night (no stars). There's a bird here with a call like someone blowing random notes up and down the scales of a set of pan pipes. I haven't managed to figure out which bird it is. There's a big black and white called a currawong, and a number of different chickadee-sizd finches. There's also a huge native parrot population of several different species or at least different color schemes.

Free-ranging parrots, hanging around in the Eucalyptus trees

Time to leave... I spend an hour or so doing a final visit to Echo Point and the Three Sisters pinnacles. Saw some more parrots- the visitor's center puts out trays of birdseed and the parrots know a free lunch when they see it. I had to buy more film... again. I guess that means I'm having a good time.

Free-ranging parrots, feeding on some birdseed

The desk guy at the Three Sisters said to leave at least two hours to get to Sydney airport, and it took about that. The "expressway" has construction and lights. *sigh* I'm really sad to be leaveing but according to bruce at KSO, there's no tech jobs in Oz. Well, like Egypt and London, I guess Oz is another place on the "vacation" list.

Future note: next time, allow at least a full week for the Blue Mountains alone. I suspect that won't be enough, but it will be fun.

24-Feb - Take Two - Los Angeles

Now back on the ground in LA, waiting for the flight to SFO. I get to go through February 24 all over again, because I crossed the international dateline eastbound.

I had strange dreams on the flight over, mostly centered around confusion as to which side of the road to drive on.

I also got quizzed but not searched by US Customs when they saw I'd filled up my "countries visited" part of the Immigrations form, and had only carryon baggage. How long was I gone, what kind of work did I do, etc. They seemed slightly amazed that I had gone around the world in a carryon and a camera bag. And they got jealous when I explained that work had paid for the ticket, and that I would have never visited Moscow of my own free will. No bag search, though. Also I repacked things to put more into my camera bag and thereby made the carryon look less stuffed, and so didn't get hassled for the carryon either.

Leaving the duffle bag with Derek and Laurie also helped a lot.

[Derek used the duffle bag later on, when he came back to the USA on business.]

San Francisco

25-Feb - San Francisco

What a cluster! It seems that the local office of our Russian co-contractors needed to cancel the meeting- and were unable to tell me! I spoke to Vladimir on the phone after finding out that Wayne (my local contact who works for my company as the Russian liason) not only wasn't in the office today, but was at a conference in Maui.

Too bad they were unable to let me know what was going on, so could have spent more time in Oz (and I would have, too!).

Anyway, it seems that tomorrow I'll get to talk to Tom and Moses for at least a while (yet a third co-contracting group) and so it's not a total loss.

I'm supposed to have lunch with Lisa (an ex-girlfriend I went to Egypt and Jordan with) but she hasn't called back. Wupps, that's her on the phone.

afternoon - good lunch with Lisa. She's doing well here; Fecklar (her cat) is now four years old and chubby. She's still at the same job.

evening - I called up Palmer and we got together for dinner (Mongolian barbecue - _excellent_ - at Colonel Lee's in Mountain View near Palo Alto/Sunnyvale (a four star recommend, at McDonalds prices, too!) , and then we went to a friend's house to watch the most recent Babylon 5 episodes.

For a vegetarian, I seem to be eating a lot of red meat lately...

26-Feb - San Francisco

Meeting today with Moses, Tom, and Stephan. Went well, voiced my issues about the Russian contractors, and the whole overall concept. Also, contacted Sharon's husband (Sharon is an old friend from college; we may be going to the same party this weekend, which would be great.

27-Feb - Mountain View

Got my ticket changed to return to Boston on 1-March. I'm hanging out at Christine's place in Mountain View. Met a few people last night at a munch, but it doesn't look good for parties this weekend.

A duck makes it's way around Mountain View

Christine and I did drive Skyline Drive, had yet more good food, and went to the flight simulator game arena - it turns out they are _closing_ and tonight was their last night ever.

Yes, Namco Flight Simulator Arena is going out of business, and Friday, Feb 27, 1998 was their last day. The ride was fun, but I'm not sure I'd pay the big bucks for it ($20 for 20 minutes) very often.

28-Feb - Palo Alto

Christine is taking me on a couple of walking tours of the parks around San Jose, and we got some good pictures of snowy egrets.

Snowy egret, among the ducks

Another view of the egret, showing off the neck

Zooming in on the Egret from the previous image...

The San Francisco area has a good plastics distributor (TAP plastics) - they have some good liquid resin and precast shapes, but alas, do NOT have carbon fiber sheets in sheets (though they do have it as fabric for do-it-yourself layup).

I did get a new piece of 3/32 lexan to replace the broken piece of aircraft plywood in the bottom of my camera case.

I also got a telephone line tracer at Fry's. I'd rate Fry's as about 3/4 of U-Do-It and Micro Warehouse together, plus an appliance store selling TVs and refrigerators, plus a decent convenience grocery store. It's a strange mix and the prices are not all that great, but that's the story everywhere these days, you have to look around, there is _no_ best place for everything anymore.


1-Mar - En route to Boston

I'm on the plane to Logan now. I should probably wrap this up. I've been around the world, took a month off, and what conclusions do I have?

Landing now. 8 hops. 25,800 air miles, ten cities, roughly forty rolls of film, thirty days, all in one carryon, one camera bag, and "utilization of local resources".

I never wore the shorts, and probably could have dispensed the Tevas. I also used the hiking socks only as padding. The hat was a necessity in Australia, the GPS handy but I could have done without it. The alarm clock was useful; the subnotebook computer marginally useful. If it had not been a business trip I would suggest something smaller; in any case, a modem card without the gigantic dongle would be nice. Or- simply pay the exorbitant cyber-cafe rates. Or do without.

I haven't used the carryon "backpack straps" yet, though I expect to use them on the Boston T; a carryon without padded straps (and hence more inside space) would have been a good tradeoff. On the other hand, the Eagle Creek rollaround carryons certainly are durable; the urethane rollers and skids on mine have quite a few miles on them and show only slight wear. Nothing else on the carryon shows even the slightest sign of use.

I didn't use the swimsuit either; never had the opportunity. However, that would be the last thing I would have cut, because there were a number of times I _almost_ used it, and it was very small and light.

Most used lens - the 24mm wideangle. Probably 2/3 of all my photos were shot with the 24. Second most used lens - the 16mm fisheye. Again, probably 2/3 of what wasn't shot with the 24 was shot with the fisheye. Of what's left, almost all were shot with the 135mm telephoto, half with a 2x extender and half without. I only used the 50mm f1.7 for maybe 10 frames. (is there a message in that?). The camera was a Contax RX, all the glass was Carl Zeiss T*. Maybe 10% of the shots were by flash, the rest were available-light.

These totals ignore the little T4 super point-and-shoot; probably 10% of the photos were taken with that. It has a 35mm f3.5 Zeiss and autofocus. I used it in Russia and in the rain, because the T4 Super is nominally "weatherproof".

Part of the reason for the heavy use of the fisheye and wideangle is that in a lot of the places I visited, you can't "back up" to get everything into the scene. You either have to use a wideangle, or you have to do without.

I've carried either the RX or the T4 Super (or both) with me 24 hours a day for the last month now. Neither has given me a speck of trouble (unlike what happened last trip with the Pentaxes). Maybe there's a message there, too, like buy pro-grade gear if you're going to do something serious. The last time I went out on a trip like this, I "used up" a new Pentax SF-1N (Pentax's top amateur-grade camera of that era). Yes, the Pentax still still mostly works, but it was getting pretty gratchy and noisy after three weeks and only thirty rolls of film. The Contax sounds and feels and looks just like new, after fifty rolls of film (I shot ten rolls before I left, just "getting used to" the Contax.) [afternote - another twenty rolls of film and the Contax is still as crisp as the day it came out of the box. Again, the lesson here is "the good stuff lasts. If you're going to buy an SLR camera, spend the bucks and get a pro-grade camera, even if you have to buy used equipment". Indeed, my two most-used lenses (the 24mm and the 16mm fisheye) are both "used lenses". ]

Kodak 800-speed MAX film is amazing stuff. It really delivers exceptionally small grain size for an 800 film; heck, it looks in my enlargements like it's as fine-grained as the 100-speed of ten years ago. Pretty fantastic, eh?

Other notes: the Customs folk at every airport I had contact with were both cheerful and helpful. Thumbs up all around the world. Every country also had a "Declare it or dump it" area, where you could toss things you didn't want to get through Customs (i.e. raw food products). I categorically tossed candy bars and such just to avoid dealing with them; the Imodium and Benadryl I got cleared specifically.

Well, time to pack it out of the plane and get onto the T. Docked now...

-William S. Yerazunis, 1 March 1998 21:23 PM, Boston, USA.