These are the thoughts that go through my head...

Bruges Ice Festival11/27/12 - Sadly it's our last day in Belgium. We made the most of it by jumping on the train to head towards Bruges and the Ice Festival.

The Ice Festival was conveniently located in a huge tent right outside of the train station. We bought our tickets and headed in! This year's theme is a Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings fantasy theme and wow the ice sculptures were amazing. There were probably a hundred different sculptures ranging from small ice dwarves to 15 foot tall ice dragons. The time spent looking at everything was totally worth loosing the feeling in my ears and fingers.

After the Ice Festival it was time to head into central Bruges and the 40 degree weather outside to warm up. We wondering around the sites and had a nice lunch of Chicken Waterzooi in town before heading back to the train station once again.

Back to Brussels with enough time to pick up the bags from the hotel and head to the airport.

Jean Luc Picard in Aachen Germany11/26/12 - A short train ride and we are now in Aachen Germany. City of Charlemagne, water and oh yeah a big Christmas market! We arrived just in time to join a walking tour of the city which turned out to be more of a walking tour of the cities fountains. Yeah...we were hoping for something more. We did learn some interesting history of the town along the way and got an idea of the layout of the city. After the tour we headed to the treasury to see the cities artifacts. Then it was off to the Christmas market for some much needed refreshment. many people. It's a good thing we were carrying around snowman mugs filled with Gluhwein or we may not have survived. We did manage to look around the booths while enjoying the gluhwein and snacking on frites before it was time to jump back on the train to Brussels.

Belgium Waffles11/25/12 - Touchdown! We are finally in the land of chocolate and beer and indeed we spent the better part of the day running around and sampling different chocolates. We also stopped for a banana topped waffle for some added nutrition. Unfortunately the Christmas market here isn't open until next week. Fortunately for us we booked a train ticket to Aachen Germany tomorrow and their Christmas market is in full swing.

11/24/12 - It's Thanksgiving so that means only one thing - Jean Luc and I are at the airport. Jean Luc demanded we go back to Belgium to replenish the depleted chocolate stores. He got no complaint from me, I too was thinking it was time for more chocolate and gluhwein.

We originally booked a flight from LAX to JFK to BRU but the JFK to BRU leg got canceled so now we get the extra stop in London. May not seem like a big deal but it makes sleeping on the flight across the ocean hard to do. It is a relatively quick flight from New York to London. Once dinner is served you are left with about 3 hours to sleep before decent and Jean Luc has discovered he can sleep pretty much anywhere except in first class on an airplane. I told him that was a first world problem and he just glared at me.

happy Pumpkin10/31/12 - Happy Halloween!

Jean Luc at San Diego Safari Park10/13/12 - Thanks to a half price ticket sale I decided it was a good time to take a trip down to the San Diego Safari Park. Jean Luc decided to come along saying that he loved animals. I should have known something was up when I saw him pack a knife and fork along for the trip mumbling something about being ready for lunch.

The Safai Park had less different types of animals then a regular zoo but seemed to have more room for the animals to run around. We saw lions, tigers and many a horned animal whose name I don't remember because I was too busy keeping an eye on Jean Luc. It was on the African plains safari tram where I caught him trying to light a fire and sharpening his knife.

After the tram ride we went back to see the trainer talk session with the tigers. The tigers were pretty laid back until 2 prey sized children started running around outside their enclosure. After they spotted the kids there was much pacing back and forth and perhaps some drooling. Jean Luc thinks if we go back to the zoo in the future we will need to bring some children as bait so we can see the animals being active.

Paramount Ranch9/22/12 - Somebody's poisoned the waterhole!

The cool thing about being in Southern California is being able to go see cool places where movies and TV shows were filmed. I hopped in the super Honda and headed out to see Paramount Ranch's Western Town. It's a small collection of old buildings/sets where they used to film all the classic western movies. The only build I was able to go into was the jail, everywhere else was locked up but it's still cool to be able to wander around the place.

In the surrounded hills from the ranch is where MASH was filmed. I wanted to hike up the trail that lead to that location but I choose poorly and ended up nowhere that looked like fake Korea. Let this be a warning to all - do not choose the Coyote Trail. I found it to be poorly named as I did not see a single coyote. What I did see, and in large amount, were horse apples. That's right, 1.2 miles of horse crap dodging and once you are finished you are not in place that lends itself to doing a Radar impersonation.

Next time I shall do a little research before I start wandering off into the wilderness.....probably.

Prehistoric Turtle at Natual History Museum New York9/8/12 - Big Apple Day Trip Part 2: The Apple Bites Back

Some people think taking a day trip from Los Angeles to New York is crazy. They may be right but I've never been a fan of being sane so I decided to take my second LA-NY day trip of the year.

The adventure started out well and my flight was a couple minutes early getting into New York this time. I hopped on the train and headed to the city to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum and rent a bike to ride around Central Park.

I arrived at Penn Station before 9am and decided to walk up to Times Square to visit the Gigantic Toys R Us in search of the Ewok multi pack on my way to the first museum. I was dismayed to discover it didn't open until 10am. Fine I'll just walk around central park up to the museum and come back later. Okay, so this walk turned out to be much longer then it appeared on my handy map and to top it off it started pouring down rain just as I started. By the time I got to the museum I was soaked even with an umbrella. My backpack got drenched and from knees down I was dripping. I stood inside and had to submit to a backpack check before I was allowed to enter. Turns out my full, unopened bottle of Diet Coke would not be permitted to visit the museum with me. I was allowed to stand to the side and chug as much as I could before being able to proceed. I drank half the bottle and created a small puddle from my dripping cloths and backpack then insanely enough was directed to the bag check as my backpack was not allowed in the museum. Why can't a Diet Coke stay in my bag if I have to check the bag anyways? Wet, confused and slightly bloated from the speed drinking I finally entered the museum and did have a fun time seeing the art work.

Next it was time to wander across Central Park to the Museum of Natural History. Luckily by this time the rain had stopped and I was beginning to dry. I got to the museum and stood in line to buy my ticket. For those unfamiliar with the way museum entrances in New York work each of them lists a "suggested price" for admission to the museum. Of course the note that the ticket price is only a suggestion is at the bottom of the signage and very small. I think they count on most people not noticing it. The suggested admission price for the Natural History Museum was $19.50 - I only wanted to see the dinosaurs so I ignored their suggestion and handed over $10. The ticket guy just kinda looked at me and said "You know you won't be able to see out special exhibition Spiders Alive without paying more." That's okay I prefer my spiders dead. So I got my ticket and headed to the dinosaur floor.

It didn't take very long to see the dinosaurs so soon I was outside again and headed to the bike rental place. It is much harder to ride around on an ill fitting bike with a 15lb backpack on then one might think. Never the less I managed to peddle all around Central Park and go out on the city streets to terrify the locals within my hour rental time.

After my ride I picked up a hot dog and soda and made my way to Toys R Us. Sadly there were no ewoks in sight and I left muttering yub yub disappointedly. By this time it was getting late so I stopped at a deli to sit down and grab a sandwich before hopping on the train and heading back to the airport. After arriving at the airport I discovered there had been a tornado in Brooklyn and bad weather was headed up towards us. The flight ended up taking off an hour late but we still arrived back in LA on time.

8/28/12 - A brave hummingbird finally visited my feeder today. It flew around it a couple times trying to determine if it was a trap before it tentatively landed and took a drink. Then it acted like a hummingbird on crack. It kept flying around then taking a little drink, then flying so more then another drink. After it got its fix it must of flew off and told the other hummingbirds about the feeder. I got 4 more little hummingbirds come by to sample the nectar.

Griffith Observatory Moon exhibit8/25/12 - That's no moon....oh wait, it kinda is.

In my continuing series of "there is life outside your apartment" trips I decided to head to Hollywood and visit the Griffith Observatory. It seems like lots of other people had the same idea. The parking lot at the top by the observatory was full but I got a parking spot along the side of the road that wasn't too far down the mountain. After a short hike up the hill I walked around the outside of the observatory and looked down at the overcast skyline of Los Angeles.

Inside the observatory, which is free - awesome, there are displays of the planets and the stars along with a tesla coil demonstration. One of the coolest things I saw was a massive periodic table with samples of the actual elements in the appropriate boxes. I decided to go to one of the planetarium shows called Centered in the Universe. It covered the history of our theories of the universe and speculated on what we might find in the future. It was short but interesting. Not long after the show it was announced over the loud speaker that Neil Armstrong had died and there was a minute of silence for him. Seems fitting that I was in a place looking up at the stars upon hearing the news.

After the observatory visit I headed out to walk the trail that heads towards the Hollywood sign. It didn't go all the way to the sign but I got pretty close and had a great view of Los Angeles.

8/23/12 - So far my new hummingbird feeder is not attracting the happy hummingbirds that the cover on the box implied it would. I saw one hummingbird pass by and look at the feeder rather suspiciously. Maybe it was confused the "flowers" seem to be growing out of a window and held in place with suction cups.

7/15/12 - Feeling fully recovered from Thursday's trip I decided to head done to San Diego for the final day of Comic-Con. My goal was to get in to see the Supernatural and the Doctor Who panel which were both in Hall H this year then see if the exhibitors room was less busy so I could take some better pictures.

I arrived at the convention center at 7:45am thinking that I would be plenty early to see the Supernatural panel and would probably have no issues getting into see the Fringe panel that was the first panel of the day in Hall H. Walking up to where the Hall H line began I realized how wrong I was. I had severely underestimated the number of Doctor Who fans who indeed thought time was irrelevant and lined up at 5am that morning.

I stood there thinking I had driven 3 hours to get here I might as well wait in line until 10 and then see if it looked that there was any chance to get in for the 11am Supernatural panel so I kept following and following the line to try to find the end of it. Okay now I'm behind the convention center and I'm still looking for the end, now past the harbor and still going......oh crap does this line end before I actually reach Mexico... I'm looking for an abandon all hope ye that are beyond this point sign along with a person dressed up as Nelson pointing and laughing...HA! HA! It took me 20-30 minutes to finally reach the end of the line.

Polling the other people in line around me the general thinking was we actually might have a chance at getting in. Most of these people had been at the con all 4 days and I was pretty sure they were delusional by now. Around 9am the line started to move, apparently Comic-Con staff were going through waking people up and condensing the line. That seemed to move us up a lot which gave me hope. By this time I was just around the side but across the street from the convention center.

At 9:30 they started letting people for the 10am Fringe panel. I finally got inside at 10:40 and was rewarded for my patience with a Fringe Fedora upon entering Hall H. By the look of how full the room was when I got in I think I was around the 6400th person in line. Hall H holds 6500 so I was very lucky indeed getting in when I did. Had I arrived much later I don't think I would have gotten in to see Supernatural. People do not have to exit the hall after the panels so people arrive early and basically squat in the hall all day waiting for the panel they really want. This makes me wonder why Comic-Con doesn't put all the really big panels first up.

The Supernatural panel was great fun and the Doctor Who one was decent as well. Not many spoilers for either show were given as to be expected. Not sure what to think about the Doctor Who Dinosaurs on a Spaceship spoiler/preview.... After the Doctor Who panel ended it was a mass exodus out of Hall H. Guess not too many people were there for the Cleveland Show or Sons of Anarchy panels later.

The exhibitors hall was still very busy on Sunday and I didn't manage to get any of the better shots I had wanted but I did luck into getting a in line for Gentle Giants Star Wars Bust Up freebie. I ended up leaving the con just after 3pm which was probably good as it took me a whopping 4.5 hours to get home. Curse you 405 traffic!!!

Stay Puft terrorizes Comic Con7/12/12 - It's Comic-Con Day!!!!!

it's a good thing Comic-Con is only once a year. You rally need that year to recover from being in the crowds and chaos that is Comic-Con. Maybe if you live in Tokyo you'd be used to it and think it the same as any other day. I however am not used to being that close to 120,000 other people who get increasingly ripe as the day goes on. Never the less it was a fun day filled with cool stuff to see, if you could see through the crowds.

I was able to get the one exclusive that I really wanted - the Star Wars Carbon Freezing Chamber with Jar Jar Binks in Carbonite. The box is huge and the Jar Jar figure is really well done. It opens up and you can flip it around so you can unfreeze Jar Jar. Not sure why anyone would want to unfreeze him but you could. The only other figure I bought was a vintage Jawa to add to my growing squadron of Jawas. I did pick up a free Hobbit Acorn Lapel Pin that was being handed out that is pretty sweet.

There were some great displays in the exhibitors hall. Marvel had all the Iron Man suits on display to promote the upcoming movie. The new Iron Man suit was also on display. Weta decided to bring along the 3 life size trolls from the The Hobbit. They were stomping on convention goers all weekend. The new and old Superman suits were there along with props from Batman, Looper and I got to meet the prop master from Doctor Who.

It was 6pm by the time I had made my way through everything the exhibitors hall had to offer. A fun and very long day...

National Atomic Testing Museum6/16/12 - This morning I decided to get up and drive to Las Vegas. Not for a weekend of gambling and shows as you might think. No, no, no - I had bigger plans for my Vegas trip....

My first stop was the National Atomic Testing Museum with a special Area 51 Exhibition. The museum was text and video heavy with only limited displays. I did however get the chance to use a geiger counter to see if I was radio active. I thought they might be a slim chance from being near Chernobyl in the early 90's and going through all the inane airport security now-a-days. But I am happy to report that I just made the geiger counter beep a little bit. Certainly much less than it beeped when I held it over the sample chunk of uranium.

The Area 51 Exhibition was much different than I was expecting and focused on the military experiments and testing that took place in the area and how easily they could have been mistaken for alien and UFO encounters. Now the little Fox Mulder in me wonders if this isn't a further attempt by the government to cover up alien contact... Anyhow it did have an interesting history on some of the military planes that were tested in the area and had interviews with some of the test pilots.

Feeling smarter and non-radioactive I next headed for the Pinball Hall of Fame! I know - pure awesomeness. Why would anyone spend hours plunking coins into a slot machine when there is a place with over 100 playable pinball machines offering 3 plays for $1.00. The roll of quarter I brought lasted a good hour and a half. I spend most of my time playing Fun House, Adams Family and Jurassic Park (awesome multi-ball). That creepy little fun house dummy still haunts me....

Thinking that I should probably do something Vegasie while in Las Vegas I headed down to the Fremont Street area and quickly discovered the joys of $1 hotdogs, cocktails and frozen bananas. I really prefer the old area of Las Vegas over the new area on the strip. I don't gamble but I still prefer my casinos to be small and sort of seedy feeling. I went to a couple casinos on the strip later in the day and needed breadcrumbs to find my way out again. Like being lost in an Ikea with slot machines.

I rounded out my Vegas adventure by watching the Treasure Island pirate show, the Mirage volcano show and the Bellagio water show.

5/28/12 - Freshly emerged from our pleasant stay at the Yotel we hoped on the Heathrow Express to transfer to terminal 3 to check in for my flight. I was happily surprised to see that Heathrow has smartly done away with the nudoscopes. Both at terminal 5 and 3 all I saw at the security checkpoints were the standard metal detectors. No silly shoe removal required as well. If only the TSA would wake up and stop their insanity as well.

Security was light and I was in airside in less than 5 minutes. I headed straight to W.H Smiths to load up on crisps and chocolate bars. After securing my bag of goodies I decided to spend my time in BA's Galleries First instead of going to AA's flagship lounge based on many internet reviews.

I sat down and poured myself some Bollinger Rose champaign before Jean Luc could shove a straw it the bottle. This which was much better than other champagnes I've tasted. However I've decided that I'm just not really a champaign drinker so I added some orange juice to my glass and enjoyed the mimosa. Soon after sitting down a waiter appeared to take breakfast orders - I decided on the bacon and egg sandwich.

While waiting for my sandwich I had a bowel of cereal from the self serve area and stole 2 more packets of crisps to stuff into my already bulging goodie bag.....shhh don't tell BA. All too soon it was time to head to the gate for boarding.

The flight home was uneventful. I remember shrimp, more shrimp, ice cream and cookies - there was a bit of wine involved so things are a little fuzzy.

Moscow Metro5/27/12 - Our last half day in Moscow. Jean Luc and I decided to take it somewhat easy knowing if we didn't we'd be hobbling to the airport with luggage. So hopped on the metro and did a metro tour jumping out at each interesting stop to take a look and photos of the different stations. Moscow metros are like works of art in themselves. Grand structures filled with art, tile mosaics and sculptures, each one having its own style.

After seeing all the metro stops we continued onto Novodevichy Convent home of nuns. Or people exiled to become nuns as it was rebuilt by Peter the Great's sister after he confined her there. It was pleasant to walk around the walled complex. Most of the structures date from the 1600's and there were even some signs in English. There was a cemetery behind the church where several notable Russian people are buried.

Deciding we'd seen enough churches for one vacation we headed back into the downtown area and walked from Red Square to Kitay Gorod and ended up at the small but very interesting Boyer Residence museum. This is the residence of the Romanov family before they became Tsars. The museum contained many different authentic items from the family and the rooms were well preserved with the original wall decorations/paintings. It is very interesting to see how small the rooms were and the doorways and staircases were all tiny. People must have been no more than 4 foot tall back then.

Lastly we headed to old Arbat street, lunch and one last ice cream cone. Lunch was a the Russian fast food restaurant Teremok. I decided on the Borsch and a sugar blini. The lunch was tasty and cheap by Moscow standards. After lunch it was time to head back to the hotel to pick up luggage and head to the airport.

Luckily as it was Sunday the metro was not nearly as crammed as usual and we made it to the train station with all the luggage easily. Had to wait about 30 minutes for the train to leave then it took an additional 45 minutes to get to the airport. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to enjoy the lounge as we found out during check in that the flight was delayed 1 hour. This turned out to be okay as I had changed my flight so I was staying in Heathrow overnight so no chance of missing the connection and I got to watch all of the last stage of the Giro de Italia on my computer while waiting in the lounge.

The flight ended up taking off over an hour and a half late but we made up some time and landed in Heathrow about 50 minutes late. The flight itself was actually a nicer experience in club world than I had the way over in first. There were only 5-6 of us in Club World and the service was fast and attentive. The meal started out with salmon and caviar, my main was the Herefordshire beef with potatoes that much to my amazement was actually tender and not overcooked. Desert consisted of a berry compote penne cotta, cheese selection and chocolate. I didn't care for the penne cotta and only ate the berry compote portion of it. I nibbled on the cheese and stashed the chocolates in my pocket for later. After dinner and a movie (My Week with Marilyn) the captain announced 40 minutes until landing. The view from the window was good and I managed to snap a shot of Windsor as we flew over.

Landed safely and cleared immigration quickly. Ended up being very lucky and walked outside the terminal just as the bus pulled up to take us to terminal 4 and the Yotel for the night. I believe I checked in just before 10pm and was out asleep very quickly.

Jean Luc at the Kremlin 5/26/12 - Back to the Kremlin this morning to try our luck again. Turns out yesterday Putin was at the Kremlin having some important meetings.

Woohoo it's open! I got there 30 minutes before tickets went on sale and was the 5th person in line and I still could not get a ticket to see the Kremlin armory....ugh. Okay think happy thoughts, at least we made it into the Kremlin today.

Ended up spending just over 3 hours seeing all there was to see in the Kremlin. In total 5 churches and a palace were open to viewing in the Kremlin. The senate building, other offices and the arsenal were off limits and well guarded to keep anyone from "accidentally" wandering in. The interiors of the churches were in atypical Russian Orthodox style. The walls covered floor to ceiling with paintings and icons. Visited the The Cathedral of the Archangel were we saw tombs of many of Russia's early rulers. Jean Luc wanted to have his picture taken in there but unfortunately photos were not allowed anywhere. We were going to sneak some photos but there were watchers everywhere to make sure no one got away with any shenanigans.

At noon they had what was labeled as a demonstration of the ceremonial of the equestrian and pedestrian procession of the President regiment. Yeah sounds confusing to me too but it turned out to be very enjoyable. It contained a displays from a military band, platoon of foot soldiers and calvary unit. Good thing the horses went last because a couple of them left quite a trail behind them. The soldiers boots wouldn't look so shiny after marching through that.

After taking in all the Kremlin had to offer I decided it was time to head to the Izmailovsky flea market to look for some souvenirs. The flea market was fun although not as big as I was expecting. I had heard it was supposed to be in full swing both days of the weekend but maybe it only gets bigger on Sunday - who nows. It was interesting to walk around and look at everything, half the area seemed to be tourist type souvenirs and the other half true flea market stuff. Lots of old military items on display, I believe I could have easily purchased an AK-47 if I thought I could get it back in the states.

On the way out I bought yet another ice cream cone and a glass of Kvas for only 30 roubles! Kvass is basically a low-alcohol beer made from black or regular rye bread. I remember seeing it while I was in Ukraine but never tried it then because it was always sold out of the back of big tanker truck looking vehicles that seemed rather dodgy and perhaps slightly unsanitary. The Kvas was tasted like a mix of very cheap wine and a supermarket brand soda.

Kremlin at night Since this is my last night in Moscow I decided to stay up until the wee hours to be able to take some night shots of the city. Taking night shots here is more complicated than in most places for one reason - it just doesn't get dark here until after 11am then is light again at 4am. But last night and all I was determined to do it. I decided to head to the bridge behind St. Basils. From there I had a good view of the Kremlin, Moscow river, Ascension Church and St. Basils. I had been a little worried about safety as I headed out but that proved not to be an issue. There were 60-100 other people out there waiting to take pictures as well. They seemed to be a mix of foreign tourists and lots of Russians tourists as well.

The sun didn't start to go down until 10:45. We reached the blue hour around 11pm. At 11:30 I was getting cold and tired and decided that even though it was still not truly dark yet I'd go ahead and start shooting to see what I could get. Playing with the camera settings I was able to get some good shots at called it a night.

I walked back to the revolution square metro stop and was horrified to find it closed. I had read that the metros did not close until 1am. I walked back the other direction for 15 minutes desperately hoping the metros on the other side of Red Square were open. I was not looking forward to walking the 3 miles back to the hotel at this hour and I didn't have change for a gypsy cab. With a great sigh of relief I found the other metros to be open and made it back to the hotel around 12:30am.

5/25/12 - There was a plan for today, a beautiful plan of going to the Kremlin and then visiting the Red October Chocolate factory. Unfortunately none of this happened. Arrived at the Kremlin only to find the Kremlin and the block surrounding it totally barricaded with armed guards posted every 50 feet. I asked one of the guards what was going on and he just replied that the Kremlin was closed for the day and he didn't know about tomorrow. Well, that's sucktastic. Okay I'll try to get over my disappointment with some Chocolate from the factory tour. No, not so much. Turns out nothing is left of the chocolate factory. No museum, no chocolate shop, nothing....ughh stupid guide book.

On the long walk to the non-existant chocolate factory we took a look at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. A big gold domed church that looked pretty impressive but we were still churched out from yesterday so we didn't go inside.

Back to the hotel to get the travel book and come up with a plan B. I decided to get out of town and hopefully leave our frustrations behind. We hopped on the metro and headed to Tsaritsyno Park home of Tsarina Irina, sister of Tsar Boris Godunov and later a summer house for Catherine the Great. She never got around to actually staying there but the park was nice to walk around, the palace was pretty cool and we had our second Ice Cream lunch. This time joined with a mystery pastry from a stand by the metro. Turns out it was filled with poppy seeds and was very tasty.

After seeing all the park had to offer we jumped back on the metro and went to Kolomenskoe Park. The buildings here were much more interesting than Tsaritsyno Park. The buildings were all constructed in the 17 hundreds and were actually used. Before heading back into town we stopped at a stand to get chocolate blini to enjoy.

Jean Luc visits St Basils 5/24/12 - Woke up bright and early ready to start our first day of Moscow adventures. On the list first was to head down to Red Square for some quality sightseeing and photography time. We arrive to find most of the square has been sectioned off for some children's sport activities that runs through the weekend. A bummer for photos and also annoying because you need to go though security with metal detectors to enter the square.

After taking a good look around it was time to get in line to see the body of Vladimir Lenin resting in his Mausoleum. I had heard he looks like fake fruit. After seeing him I have to disagree. He has a waxen appearance that was not quite fruity but certainly odd. Visiting Lenin is kind of surreal, you get to navigate several flights of stairs in the pitch dark before entering the main room which is thankfully light. From here there are several guards making sure you keep moving as you walk 360 degrees around Lenin in his glass display box. Upon exiting you walk along the in ground tombs of several other soviet leaders including Stalin, Brezhnev and Dzerzhinsky (founder of the KGB).

After visiting comrade Lenin the plan was to go inside St Basil's but for whatever reason they had blocked access to St. Basil's this morning so it's off to the Central Armed Forces museum. This would have been so much easier to get to if the travel guide had told me about the new metro stop right by the museum. Instead I walked the 20 minutes to get there from the old metro stop...stupid guide book. After finally getting there all I can say is wow, I think they shoved every peace of war memorabilia they had in here and then parked the rest in the park behind the museum. Some of the highlights include the wreckage of the U2 spy plane that was downed in the Urals and the nazi flag and eagle the soviets ripped off the Reichtag after entering Berlin.

Around this time sustenance was needed and the decision was made that ice cream was a suitable choice for lunch. This would be the beginning of the chocolate ice cream cone lunches. After refueling it was time to head back to Red Square to see if they decided it was okay to let people in the church.

After making our way back through the metal detectors and the superficial look inside only the biggest compartment of my backpack we found the church ticket office open. 250 roubles to get into the church and 150 roubles to take pictures, the exchange rate is roughly 30 roubles to the dollar. Little did I know this was only the beginning of the money bleeding to be able to take pictures... The interior of St Basil's is split into 9 different small chapels each with a dizzying array of painted walls and ceilings. I took pictures of everything - I did pay my 150 roubles after all.

We left Red Square after 7pm and decided to go to McDonald's for a Royal Cheeseburger and fries then head back to the hotel. That's right - we ate McDonald's and are proud to admit it.

Big Ben London5/21/12 - Sitting in the oasis of calm that is the flagship lounge awaiting the flight to London then onto Moscow. Jean Luc is over by the open bar enjoying himself. I'm trying the mystery beef, collard green and plantains dish that magically just appeared....Okay, just discovered that I do not like collard greens. The greenness of them did make me highly suspicious to begin with but I thought I would give them a fair chance. I'm putting my dirty dishes in the area behind me so it's not obvious that I have ate 2 plates of food already. I wonder how many bags of chips and bottles of diet coke I can fit into my bag without them noticing.....

Several glasses of wine later it is time to head down to the gate to board the plane. Upon boarding the plane we were directed to go left while the rest of the passengers were lead to a place in the back of the plane called Y. Why indeed would anyone sit back there in those tiny little seats when there are these nice spacious one in the front of the plane.

Shortly after being seated we looked to our right and saw Kirsten Dunst. Then looked back a couple rows and there sat Kristen Stewart. Jean Luc was sorely tempted with the possibility of putting an end to anymore Twilight movies being made. Luckily he was soon distracted by the arrival of champaign.

After takeoff the food service began - Why yes, I would like the shrimp appetizer with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I passed on the salad having already eaten something green today. For the main I choose the chicken breast with ratatouille and smashed potatoes. The meal was ended with a nice hot fudge sundae.

The 10 hours passed rather quickly all things considered. I had to distract Jean Luc again after Kirsten Dunst decided it would be a good idea to sit with/on her boyfriend and make out for half the flight.

A hour and a half before landing it was time for breakfast. I choose what they called scrambled eggs with potatoes. Bad, bad say the scrambled eggs were runny is an understatement. You needed a spoon to eat them and that's if you could stomach more than a bit or two. The potatoes were almost raw so overall breakfast was a big miss. Luckily there were thoughts of Wispa bars after landing to keep me going.

Landing and immigration went smoothly. We hopped on the bus to go to terminal 4 to check into the Yotel and drop off our bags. We reached downtown London by 4pm. With nothing specific to look at we wandered around aimlessly for 3 hours. Saw Trafalger Square, Big Ben and Parliament, Tower of London, Tower Bridge all the big sights. Before heading back to the airport for the nights stay in the Yotel a visit to Tesco for Wispa bars was made.

Jean Luc at the Brooklyn Bridge 4/21/12 - Jean Luc seems to have itchy feet this year, he insisted we needed to go to New York and who was I to argue with the Captain. So as transporters still haven't been invited yet we jumped on a red eye out of Los Angeles to New York to see how much we could cram into the days' trip. We were disappointed to find out that our flight was going to be delayed 2 hours because we were waiting on the pilot. This would have never happened on the Enterprise. So 2 hours of our already limited time gone we hit the ground running.

We hoped off the train at Penn station and headed to Times Square and the monster sized Toys R Us store. Three floors of toys and joy! I didn't find the Mon Calamari Rebel Pilot I was looking for so off we headed to keep exploring. Further up the road we found Central Park and wandered around all the areas where years of watching Law & Order has taught us never to go to after dark. After the park it was time for a visit to FAO Schwartz where I did find the Rebel Pilot! Now that everything was right in the world we strolled down 5th Avenue to Grand Central Terminal and hoped on the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Feeling rather peckish we stopped to get what turned out to be a horribly overpriced and poor quality hot dog from a street vendor. Undeterred by the hot dog encounter we decided to walk across the bridge to take a look at the New York skyline. Next was a trip through China town before jumping back on the subway to Rockefeller Center where it was time to try an expensive but okay tasting slice of pizza. We walked down Broadway and munched on a very reasonable priced soft pretzel while taking in all the chaos. Unfortunately by now it was time to start making our way back to Penn Station to get the train back to JFK.

With the flight delay we had less than 6 hours with train travel included to explore the city but we managed to see a lot that we had wanted. We'll have to go back for another day to go see a couple museums and rent a bike to ride in the park.

4/8/12 - At 3:30 this morning I was awaken by a old metal sound and a loud hissing noise that sounded like running water. We'd been having road construction happening at night for the past week so these noises didn't immediately alarm me - probably just some big asphalt spitting out machine I thought. However within minutes I heard people walking through the apartment courtyard so I knew something was amiss. I got dressed and went outside to find out what was happening. Turns out the loud hiss that I assumed was water was actually a tremendous amount of natural gas escaping at high pressure from a blown pipe that feeds the building. This can't be good.....

Within 5 minutes the cops and firemen have arrived. I and a handful of other neighbors are already in the process of fleeing the complex as we seem to share a desire not to be burned alive. The cops went around and banged on other neighbors doors to tell them to evacuate. Out of the 30 or so apartments in the complex only 2 people who weren't already outside answer their doors. The rest apparently are deep sleepers who can't be bothered to get out of bed early in the event of a disaster - good to know for future reference.

Thankfully the fire department has the gas shut off within 15 minutes and the gas company is on the way to fix the pipes and walk around with gas sniffers to see if we are safe to go inside. After the all clear is sounded the handful of us that would have actually evacuated and would have survived stay outside talking for a bit. Nothing brings neighbors closer than the escape of fiery death.
3/29/12 - There is a tribble living outside my window. I'm sure of it, I've been hearing tribble like cooing noises for the last three days. I keep looking in the bushes to see if I can find the tribble but it seems to be hiding. Sneaky tribble....I'm sure if I give it a couple more days the tribble will be spilling out of the bushes as they multiply and then I'll be able to catch one.
Red Rock Canyon 3/3/12 - Believing that there is life outside your apartment I headed out to Red Rock Canyon for some adventure and fresh air. The ranger station was closed due to budget cuts fortunately they had a stack of crudely drawn maps of the park out for the taking. I found my way to the nearest trail and off I went.

I quickly discovered that the ranger station wasn't the only casualty of the budget cuts. The trail markers seemed to be few and far between. There were great, long stretches where I had to search for other hikers foot steps to follow in the I didn't find a corpse at the end of them with "Help hopelessly lost" scrawled in the sand beside it.

After hiking two trails I seemed to be at an impasse. My badly drawn map indicated the other hiking trails could only be reached with a 4 wheel drive. Perhaps I could hike to the start of the hiking trail? I boldly started out in the direction of a hiking trail that advertised Scenic Cliffs, this was of course just on the other side of the area marked Nightmare Gulch.... Now my map being crudely drawn as it was did not offer anything useful like mileage or any sort of distance scale. I only ended up walking about 30 minutes before I turned around to call it a day much to the disappointment of the crows that keeping a close eye on me no doubt hoping that I would slip amongst the rocks.

If I ever venture to Red Rock Canyon again I will rent a 4 wheeler and take more than 20 ounces of water with me.

2/29/12 - I'm feeling a powerful need to leave the country unfortunately my passport is traveling without me right now. It's on it's way to Washington DC. Hopefully soon it will be returned to me with a brand new visa for Russia. That's right Jean Luc and I will be headed to the land of borscht and Vodka in May. I'll need to keep a close eye on Jean Luc. He's been listening to the learn Russian language lessons on the Computer and I caught him practicing the phrase "Don't shoot I'm Canadian." Hmm, we might need to practice "Help me comrade they're trying to deport me" as well....

Star Wars Vintage

2/4/12 - About time some new Star Wars figures came out and by new I mean new characters. I do not need yet another repaint of Obi-Wan or slightly different scowl Anakin. Kenner seems to be on a little bit of a roll with these and the soon to be released deleted scene figures.

1/12/12 - I know....that's what has been swimming around in my head for the past 30 minutes. Of course my inside head voice sounds just like the Doctor so it seems perfectly fine to me. Things like this happen when you work by yourself for so long. You forget that people can't hear the dialog that goes on inside your head and you wonder why they don't understand what you're trying to say. I know, it makes sustained conversation with other individuals rather taxing.
Brussels Winter Festival 11/26/11 - Intrigued by the idea of Gluh Wein and a great liking of Belgium chocolates Jean Luc and I packed up and headed to Belgium to discover the wonders of the Winter Festival.

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