Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Maldives Adventure - Part I - Sri Lankan Airport Fun

So today I had to leave for a trip to the Maldives on an official boondoggle of sorts. I made arrangements for a driver to pick me up and I realized that I was probably cutting it a little to close but I was unable to get in touch with him. When he did pick me up I expressed my concerns about to getting to the airport in time and he in turn expressed that with a heavy right foot.

Because I have a special airport badge we were able to go through the staff lane (all cars and passengers are inspected by the military at the airport), we were pulling up at departures with time to spare.

As expected there were small crowds of people trying to get through the entrance doors with no organization. There is an Sri Lankan Airman checking for tickets, not putting much effort into it, but slowing everything down. I managed to get through fairly quickly.

I rush to to the counter to turn in my bags as I already had a boarding pass. There was one guy in front of me, how long could that take. Well apparently forever as another agent called me over. My bags were over the limit (carrying printers) and I had to pay an overweight fee, no biggee it will be expensed. You have to go to a cashier, pay the fee, then return to the counter. No big deal right?

I go the counter and give the woman the slip of paper indicating how much overweight the bags were. She told me the amount and I hand her a credit card. I wait, and wait, and wait. I'm watching the minutes tick by. Finally they ask if I had another card, when I knew there was nothing wrong with the one I gave them, I give them another card, and wait and wait.

Finally my temper starts rising. I tell them if I need to go and get some cash tell me, but they need to make up their minds as I am cutting it close. Finally I make up my mind get my card out and head to the ATM, that's not inside the airport, but OUTSIDE.

So I go outside the airport getting hassled by security along the way. I go the first machine. Low and behold it won't give me any money. But I didn't believe it so I went to another machine and did get my money.

Now I had to go through security baggage check again but this time I whip out my airport badge which got me to the head of the line.

I get back to the cashier, pay her then to go back to the ticket agent, give her the receipt and run for my gate, but I have to go through customs first.

Usually I can go through a special line for people in the company but the guy waved me off as he was dealing with a special case apparently. The lines were slow.

I get through passport control and run for my gate. Newton's Law says my gate has to be the last one. I am running with a backpack with two laptops in it. "Sri Lanka Air paging passenger Meyer, please report to Gate 12 for boarding". I am now down to a fast walk when a guy in a golf cart stops and says "Male'?", I said yes, he tells me to 'please hurry as I am the last passenger'. I'm thinking, dude I know that and how about giving me a ride. I take off and make it to the gate and onto the half empty plane. I am dripping sweat. Not perspiring, I am DRIPPING sweat, my shirt is soaked in sweat.

I quickly fell asleep and we were in Male' quickly. When I made it out of the arrivals terminal a gentlemen was there waiting for me. There was a big group of Chinese also going to the same hotel. I had to wait for the second speedboat that was no problem, I was offered something to drink and a seat to relax. The speedboat arrived and my luggage was loaded and off we went to Male, about a two minute ride. I knew where the hotel was so I hightailed it in front of the Chinese folks.

There was still a big group of people checking in. A flight crew was in front of me complaining of the wait. One of the desk guys comes around the corner asks for my passport and told me to have a seat. In about two minutes he is at my table with my room key, he said he would send my bags up.

I go to my room and there is a nice fruit-bowl waiting for me with a card that has a handwritten note from the manager, nice touch.

I'm bushed, it's past 3:00am. Good night!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Secrets of Inchon: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Covert Mission of the Korean War by Eugene Franklin Clark, CDR USN
325 pages
Military history

Without a doubt this has to be one of the best military history novels I have ever read. I came across this book at book store in Santa Cruz and for $5 thought I would give it a try, I'm glad I did.

The author had typed up his memoirs of going to a small North Korean held island to gather information for the assault at Inchon harbor. He forms a small guerrilla unit and together they encounter many situations that would make any spy thriller novel that I have read look like a walk in the park. What I especially like is that the author just writes it as it happens. The mistakes, the deaths, and in the end watching the assault from a U.S. Navy cruiser (although almost being shot when approaching it from sea.)

I encourage you to read the Amazon reviews:

It looks like you can buy a used hardback edition for under $2

This was especially a good read.

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Disciple by Stephen Coonts
368 pages
Spy thriller

I think this is the second by by Stephen Coonts I have read, but I'm not sure. Have to say that in the whole spy thriller genre that I seem to like so much this was a huge improvement.
Overall not over the top and I'd say it's a good read.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Of Cars and Cell Phones

Whenever I come back to the States two things always seem to grab my attention, cars and cell phones. I'm just amazed at the cars that I see that I had no idea were on the market.

I got a Toyota Corolla rental car when I went to visit my daughter in California and I was amazed at the quality and features the car had. It easily had enough acceleration to outperform my old Porsche 944, not that I tried to find out... Great gas mileage, roomy. I'm not selling this car, just 15 years ago I would have never considered a Corolla. It had a GPS unit (Hertz Never Lost) with it. I had never used a GPS so it was a little embarrassing to ask the clerk how to. I still ended up making a few U-turns during my trip.

I haven't seen a single SMART car on the road although I have watched the inventory at the local dealership dwindle daily.

And cell phones. Every time I come home the phones get more and more advanced. I had a cheap prepaid Wal Mart no thrills cell phone while everybody else has an iPhone or Android. Fact is, I'm not sure I would want one of those phones. I find myself spending too much time playing around with the baby browser that my phone had, couldn't imagine if I had full blown Internet access!

Well lets see what happens the next time I come back. I'm hoping to see flying cars.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Corner - Finished Reading

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Llosa
416 pages

I had read good things about this book so decided to give it a read, well I didn't like it. The book is about the dictator of the Dominican Republic Rafael Trujillo and his subsequent assassination.
I guess I was expecting more facts. All in all it was kind of a difficult book to read.
Well first book of 2011.

Catching Up

When I've been behind on posting updates on The Doc Report I usually wrap it all up in one tidy 'catching up' report. This usually means I've forgotten most of what I really wanted to blog about but here goes.

So I have been back in the good ol' U.S. Of A for about two weeks now. I had an agenda and so far I've been on track or better, but not so in the food department. You see there is always a list of food that I want to eat when I get back to the States, namely Vietnamese pho soup, a North Carolina pulled pork barbecue sandwich, maybe a good beef burger and breakfast before I go at IHOP.

So far I've had the pho soup and a good beef burger, but I'm really dying for that Carolina pulled pork barbecue sandwich!

I mentioned in my last post that I went to the Robbin Thompson concert, that was loads of fun and something I've always wanted to do.

I also had the opportunity to feed the homeless at my Dad's church. It was a really heartwarming and learning experience. I talked to a gentleman named “Rambo” who has served time in prison and for awhile lived in a tent in the woods. He had a really great attitude and was very happy to have a warm place to sleep that night (at the church) and for the food.

Likewise in the learning experience department I drove a used truck for my friend back from Richmond to Virginia Beach to be delivered to his brother. My friend bought the truck at a auction and it was plagued with electrical gremlins and a few other problems that had me worried as I drove it to the beach. When I met my friends brother I gave him the laundry list of problems with the truck. I didn't tell him that I thought he should just take it straight to the junkyard. But after telling him all of the problems with it and handing him the key, I realized I just as well have been handing him the keys to a new Rolls Royce. He told me all of the problems were minor compared to the problems he was having with his current truck. I learned a good lesson from him.

My Mom had recently traveled with some ladies to the Grand Canyon. This was pretty much her first real vacation and travel experience in years. She enjoyed the trip and wanted to see more. I came up with a few suggestions and looked at things to see and do, airfare etc. In the end, she wanted to go back to the Grand Canyon. I made reservations in the morning and we were flying to Las Vegas that evening. I booked a Grand Canyon tour with one of the many operators out of Vegas. We went to the West Rim of the canyon and if you've never been there I highly suggest that you take the trip. But do pass up The Skywalk which extends over the canyon with the glass floor. We both thought it would be exciting but in the end it was a waste of money and you could get just as good a view of the canyon from any of the other viewing points. It was kind of sad that the Indians there had sold out for tourism.

Our return flight from Vegas was supposed to go to New York and then to Norfolk, but because of all of the bad weather our flight was canceled and instead we were routed through Dallas. On the good side we were able to sleep in a little longer, on the bad side instead of getting to Norfolk around 5:30PM we arrived at 9:30PM. After checking emails and taking care of a few thing I went to bed at 11:00PM only to wake up and 4:00AM to go right back to the airport and fly cross country again to see my daughter! Funny as I left Norfolk at the same gate and arrived in Dallas at the same gate when we left for Vegas. This time I was able to fly business class which let me arrive rested.

Now here in the Santa Cruz area playing tourist and spending time with my daughter and son in law.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Robbin Thompson Band- Sweet Virginia Breeze

This was one of my most favorite bands of the early 80's. I would listen to the album 'Two B's Please' over and over again.
I finally got a chance to see the Robbin Thompson Concert last night at The National in Richmond Virginia with my best friend Bill.
The Robbin Thompson Band did not disappoint!
Everyone got out of their seats for the unofficial Virginia theme song "Sweet Virginia Breeze"