27 Oct

Hello Old Fiends

Been a while hasn’t it? Welll I am still here, plugging away at the PhD thesis, although many other tasks and reports and proposals have bumped into the way.
On the PhD front I am now at Chapter 8, maybe 33% finished, and I hope to have it nailed by mid November.
Then Chapter 9, Reflections, or as I like to think of it “Now I read it again, how would I have done it properly”..
Then Chapter 10, which in truth I hope will write itself.
I want a bound softcopy for the supervisors in their hands before the Christmas vacation..
Other things we/I did:
Went to Thailand for the International City Logistics Conference: freightandlogisticsnews.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-10th-international-conference-on.html
Went on a cruise to Norway and it was rainy: www.facebook.com/tom.zunder/media_set?set=a.10154918642471453&type=3
Seen my lovely grandson Ollie Bear less than I would like 🙁
Ann retired..
The CHARM project ended, and probably so did any further work with the EU.. 🙁
Shacon 2017 was great. Furnace 2017 was hohum for me.
BREXIT rumbles on like a senile blue colossus, whilst everyone with any sense just looks on, including me, sorry to say.
Ah well. No wonder I feel down..
But life is good, Ollie Bear is lovely, Matthew has come home and completed his Masters, and is living in Cambridge with Alaa and applying for graduate schemes. Ann is fit and healthy (well apart from her foot) and despite putting on kilos of weight, and grinding my teeth and suffering from rolling cluster headaches.. so am I…. am I?
Tom

12 Mar

Lots of visiting done

Thursday, Northampton, Janet, sleep.

Friday, drove to Auntie Doreen’s interment in Chelmsford, Ann said some lovely words. The tablet was very tasteful and it’s very nice that Den and Doreen’s ashes are side by side in the ground together.

Together Forever

Then some final house clearance at Bramwoods and we got some quotes for the furniture removal. Then back to Northampton.

Saturday, I went to Hemel Hempstead to Nathan Baron’s 40th. Fun, Dr.Who themed, nice people who I had good chats with about Mythos, ICT, tattoos, and roleplaying. I met Nathan’s Mum and all in all it was a very pleasant do. I stayed in Hemel, listened to the new Radio 4 adaptation of War of the Worlds, very good.

Sunday, drove back to Northampton, picked up Ann, drove to North Hykeham in Lincolnshire to see Mike and Amy. Drove home.

Have a lot of ideas re the thesis buzzing round my head but also quite a lot of other work stuff I need to do this week.

 

 

 

 

02 Dec

Tom has been travelling

For work I have been to Rome, Hotel Diana in fact, and attending a consortium building meeting, then back to London and we attended Uncle Denis’s interment of ashes at the Lawns cemetery in Great Baddow. Off to London where we attended a lobby event supporting the East Coast Mainline Authorities (ECMA) supporting 3bn extra funding for East Coast Mainline by 2030.

 

 

 

07 Oct

Day Two in Long Beach, the Day of Thens!

Well I had brekkie, porridge, poached eggs on a english muffin with bacon and sausage and blackberries.
Then 45 minutes in gym in shoes that the hotel lend you (plus a tee and shorts and a free pair of socks), 30 on treadmill and 15 on cross trainers, then little swim. hotel lends you trainers, shorts, tee shirt, all for $5, it's to promote the shoe brand I am sure, actually I didn't like them at all, too tight and broke my big toe nail, bastards.

Then in convertible with top down and drove to Santa Monica on the huge freeway for 30 minutes, and spent a pleasant 30 minutes with gamers in hobby shop before visiting Santa Monica Pier and Beach and cruising down along Ocean Drive.

Queen Mary Queen Mary

Then off and away back to Long Beach to another hobby shop, different location but same fat gamers playing Pathfinder and boxes and boxes of old games and dusty miniatures. After a scary drive through the scary part of Long Beach (about 8 blocks back from the expensive bit) I decided to go see the Queen Mary, and before I knew it I was exploring the sun deck and then had dinner in the Seafood and Chowder Lounge as the sun set. I had Maryland Crab Cakes with  grated cabbage and then grilled mahi-mahi with a small mound of rice and some broccoli. Queen Mary nice, see pictures, but not THAT great. Avoided dreadful sycophantic St. Diana of the Underpass exhibition and possibly better "Legends and Ghost Stories of the Queen Mary" which is clearly their Halloween fun fair come ghost story thing. It's also a hotel, and pleased to have gone. Came back and crashed at 9pm.

Long Beach - 394Long Beach - 395

06 Oct

Tom’s trip to Long Beach

Set off from Heaton at 10.30 in taxi, flight from Newcastle to London delayed 30 minutes but not a problem since loads of transfer time in terminal 5. Had salad and quiche at BA lounge, confirmed that my Silver card will last until the end of November, cried a little inside that I won't be Silver anymore and then settled down to my new book 1491: The Americas before Columbus

Our flight to LAX was delayed, until 17:05 and in satellite C. So I left lounge at 16:25 and HORROR, the transit trains stopped running for a security check. I stayed calm. But when I got to the plane at 16:55, I appeared to be the last.. I need not have worried, many more were even later. But it did mean that when they puzzled and tore up my ticket and gave me a new one I didn't even look at it until I was at the plane and realising I had been upgraded to Club World. Oh happy days!

The flight was fine. I read my new book, watched episode 1 of House of Cards (USA), devoured 8 episodes of 30 Rock, and had a 4 hour kip towards the end.
One of the episodes of 30 Rock was about when Liz and Chris  go to IKEA, very funny, couples exploding in rancour over chairs and tables, creepy pale attendants watching with ghoulish glee as romances die on the floor of planet IKEA. The food choice seemed hard but I kinda think I got it right, a salad with some ham, a fig and some bread at the start; then a big salad with roast vegetables and plain chicken, no carbs; then some blue cheese on ultra thin crackers; but did then eat a teeny tiny piece of chocolate.
Breakfast was a cream tea, oddly, so I had the goats cheese and olive salad rather than little white sandwiches; and then a tiny scone with cream, no jam. I ignored the plate of 4 ultra delicious petit fois, grrrrrr. Drank water the whole way.
An Airbus A380 is just so huge you don't even feel your're in an aeroplane, it's more like a small hotel that you stay in for 12 hours. Very nicely done but functionally the same as the previous planes we did Club World in. Whilst I read I listened to the soundtrack to Lawless, which I have to say I loved, reminded me how much I like EmmyLou Harris.
I got off the plane fast and was early to Immigration which went quite fast, just a chapter of my book waiting, and then to baggage reclaim which was slow, and then customs which was a nod through whilst all the Asians from Philippines and China has their entire luggage inspected and stripped of food, well actually just some of the food and the people manning the scanners and inspection desks knew their stuff and had some friendly banter going on, not like the Aussies on that awful customs programme that I keep turning off on the telly. Then bus to Alamo lot and no queues and OF COURSE, I upgraded to a convertible.
So, after I asked, in a terribly British way, how to actually get the top down, I drove the I-405 to Long Beach with my Garmin GPS and with not too much fuss checked in. Yes.. valet parking, just 3 dollars a day extra. The hotel is very tall, quite like a refined Vega scale thing but refined, I said REFINED! Nice room, good bed, usual silly tiny USA bath, reasonable wifi and a nice coffee machine that I have just made a cup of joe with.
So, now it's 7.45, I think I'll read some more of 1491, then down to the restaurant for a light breakfast (that'll be VERY hard) and then probably a quick gym before going off and exploring the marina, look at the Queen Mary and generally relax.
24 Aug

Hong Kong, 20th to 24th August 2012.

We arrived at Beijing airport to discover that despite explicitly asking British Airways and being assured that our baggage allowance stayed the same all round the world irrespective of airline, that our allowance on Cathay Pacific would plummet to 30kg each, and we had 97kg in total! After some outright blagging by Tom we managed to dodge the bullet. Cathay Pacific have a legendary rep for business class, but I have to say whilst it's very good on service (they have a lively multi-ethnic crew) the kit is showing it's age and needs an update. Still, their Cathay Delight mocktail is delightfully minty and we settled in.

We arrived and had no problems getting a taxi and a driver very happy to fit all our bags in the cab, with a bit of bungee holding the boot closed(ish) as we sped from the airport. Ann was able to see the Tsing Ma Bridge, over the Lantau crossing, a bridge that she worked on for a good while selling all the Hyclad stainless steel for it.

We were staying at a Crowne Plaza near to the Times Square shopping area, A very nice hotel indeed, with an Indian doorman, and we zoomed up to the top floor bar and drank cocktails with our old friend Mark Basford (also from the stainless steel days) and watched the flashing neon of the skyscrapers. The next day we found and joined the Big Bus Tour, which is our preferred way to acquaint ourselves with any city. It was a good example of the type and we got a good mix of history, architecture, culture and shopping fed to us in a very pleasant British voice. In the middle of the tour we stopped and took the Star Ferry around the main harbour. Whilst this was a very historical and appropriate tour, the voiceover was a curious mix of the official party line and what seemed to be extracts from developer's brochures. Well worth doing tho' and if we went again I might do it at night to see the sound and light show.

From Hong Kong China


We finished the tour and headed back to our very nice hotel room. [Did I mention that the hotel room was very nice?] Then we took a taxi up Victoria Peak, which is the hill that lies on Hong Kong island and overlooks the main bay. We watched the spectacular view of the vast array of skyscrapers as they pulsed with neon, the most spectacular night show we've seen on this trip, including Las Vegas. Then we ate with Mark and Kate Basford at the Peak Overlook restaurant, which was great, catching up and talking over life, kids and just what work is like in the post quiche world. Only odd thing was that there was no lighting on the table of any consequence, so we read the menus by torch!

The next day Ann was feeling a little fragile so she stayed in bed whilst I packed 18 kilos of dirty washing into a big cardboard box and the very nice conciere in our very nice hotel posted it all back the UK, hence reducing our luggage to 80 kilos in total. We then bought a new cabin bag to put 10 kilos in, and decided to use our small suitcase in the cabin (it's legal for cabin) therefore solving our baggage allowance problem. However, if you choose to book a round the world One World Traveller ticket, be very aware that your effective baggage allowance is that of the lowest allowance, making the vast British Airways allowance a it bloody pointless!

We explored the computer stall market that is 288 Hennessy Road and Tom resisted buying a zoom lens for his Panasonic, and also confirmed what we had seen all round the world, which is that the UK is usually cheaper or more competitive for electronics, and that nearly all souvenirs are made in China! We had a bite to eat in a local cafe, and we tried Hong Kong milk tea, which is basically very strong builders tea with condensed milk, Tom liked it and Ann didn't.

From Hong Kong China

The next day we flew to Thailand. I think. It's all a blur. We were fine on luggage allowance! We liked Hong Kong..

16 Aug

Seoul, South Korea, 12th to 16th August.

Flew in on Japan Airlines, I like JAL. Like Tokyo we got a limousine bus from the airport to the Holiday Inn in Seoungbuk, a rather nice part of Seoul, with plenty of neon, a PC bang, Korean BBQ, bakery in the hotel, little supermarket, Karaoke bang, eateries and one or two mobile phone shops, with huge soaring apartment blocks on all sides. Seould has a population of about 25 million people, and yet a smaller ground area than Beijing and loads of green areas, it's a very dense place, and yet not too oppressive.

We started off with a Korean BBQ. At each table is a hole in the centre of the wooden table and a brass extractor pipe overhead. A bowl of hot coals is placed into the centre of the hole with a grill over it, and you grill your own choice of meat. It's a great idea, and apart from the fact that everything else around the table was weird or known to be ultra spicy, it was good fun. Noticeably I ordered some rice and got a small bowl, Ann ordered noodles and got a bowl of cold soup with cold noodles in, so we shared the rice. As time went on I realised we were in Northern Asia and rice isn't that common or plentiful but noodles, being wheat based, are more common.

The next day we took a shuttle bus to catch a round the city hop on and hop off bus tour. It was air cinditioned, thank goodness, and we saw quite a good bit of town before stopping off at Itaewon which is a rather tourist area, clearly focused at the large number of US forces personnel in town. Some people are a bit iffy about it, but frankly I rather liked it, and we went to a tailors and started the process of having a bespoke suit made for me! Hoorah! [Ate at Outback, a rathe good Aussie steakhouse chain we've seen all along our travels.]

That evening we went to N.Seoul Tower, which is a ruddy great tower on the top of a ruddy great hill in the centre of Seoul. The city is very much a sea of neon and so we (along with about 300 people and many millions of screaming kids) watched the city change from grey to neon through dusk.It certainly is a great city to view from up there, late at night, and some of the buildings have great displays, not to mention the tall red crucifixes that rise up from the very many Christian churches (usually architectural monstrosities). At the end we took the cable car back down, which I rather enjoyed despite my dislike for heights.

http://flickr.com/photos/55048848@N00

Picture by Andrew Bell, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The next day we went to the DMZ. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea which runs along the 38th parallel north. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. It is 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide and is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The Northern Limit Line, or NLL, is the de facto maritime boundary between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea and the coastline and islands on both sides of the NLL are also heavily militarized. [Previous paragraph, source Wikipedia, see page for licence details, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone]

Frankly we did not have a great time. The guide was good, but the day consisted primarily of a very long coach trip, a very long wait in a very hot car park, then a near lethal walk down a very steep tunnel to a very low wet tunnel to look through a tiny hole at a another tiny tunnel, then a closed railway station, followed by a viewing platform where we look across opend land to North Korea. Ah well, bucket list and all that. On return we explored a rather nice small area of town called Insadong where we had a nice cup of coffee (good coffee is an expensive treat in Asia) and browsed some typical arts and crafts, tried a Korean doughnut (yummy), ate at Burger King (yummy) and staggered home in a taxi.

Cuteness even extends to the fuzz in South Korea!
The next day the skies opened and it rained. No, that really doesn't cover it. Someone threw a bucket of water thru a sieve over Seoul. I've been in a few tropical rainstorms in my time, but this was unbelievable. I was in a cagoule and I was drenched in about 15 minutes. Anyway, all part of the fun. We went and had a fitting for my suit and then zoomed off to Gyeongbokgung Palace, where we drowned as we squeezed from palace to palace. I kinda liked it, Ann was quite dispirited, and Steve Culy would NOT have been able to call it a 'clearing up shower', although truth be told, when it did clear up, the city was ruddy clean!

From Seoul, South Korea


We then visited the Hongdae area is a region in Seoul, South Korea near the Hongik University, after which it is named. It is known for its urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainments.

We used a mixture of taxi and the metro in Seoul, and whilst taxis are simple and inexpensive, the congestion is unbearable and the driving quite aggressive and bad. The metro, on the other hand, is clean, fast, simple to understand, and uses a smart card payment system called T Money that makes life uncomplicated. I particularly liked the fact that you can get little mobile phone charms that act as smart cards for payment, rather than using a card, obviously there was a Hello Kitty one! We also found the fact that you can pay for your taxi ride with a T Money device as a great recognition of the true potential for integrated ticketing. We’d like to send out a big thank you to Canadian Andy, who we met in a B&B in California, who gave us some great advice on where to go in Seoul (not all of which we followed) and also her T Money card.

14 Aug

Tokyo, Japan 8th to 12th August 2012

This blog written by Ann, over to you Ann.

Greetings from Tokyo. Flight was good – 11 hours flew by (see what I did there…) although JAL's seats were not quite up to BA's flat bed standards. The food and the service, on the other hand, were superb. We seem to have handled the 16 hour time change rather well, so far. There are many excellent limousine bus services from Haneda aiport to the main hotels, at about 7000 yen single per person. They're very efficient and happy to deal with heavy bags. We actually got in just a little late for the last bus to our hotel so they advised us to go to the Hyatt and take a taxi to the Intercontinental, it all worked well. Japanese staff seem very service oriented, wouldn't accept a tip if offered (would be offended in fact) and are extremely willing to meet your needs. The best thing to do is immediately goto the customer information booth when you land, they're very very helpful.

How to describe Tokyo? Clean to the point of clinical. Affluent. Industrious. Expensive. Refined. Classy. Confident. Safe. Painfully polite. Geeky/ nerdy. Kinky. Cookie-cutter 'salarymen', girls as individual as the fashions they wear. Crazy high heeled shoe-wearing taken to whole new level (in all this humid heat and concrete – respect!) Brilliantly funny 'cartoonized' public messages. Clam-shells, not smart phones (!) Superb quality food (even sandwiches are world class). Do I like this city though? Not much.

First thing to report on, is the toilet situation. There are 2 kinds in Tokyo. First kind, you sit down on a heated seat and there are buttons to: a) jet-wash your 'posterior', b) activate the bidet function (sprays your front bits) c) blow dry the above mentioned, with jets of warm air. Second kind of toilet: squat pan in the floor. Now, I'm starting to rather like the first kind, in a slightly embarrassed kind of a way but, having narrowly missed selection for the Olympic gymnastics team, I'm struggling somewhat with the latter. Solution: double-dose Immodium for the next 4 days!

We visited the Imperial Palace Gardens, hot, empty and utterly uninteresting. Ginza, expensive and soul-less window on top end brand shopping. We went to Akihabara Electric Town, which is a declining PC and electrical goods area which has turned to 'otaku' fans of anime/manga and which is full of manga/anime shops, games arcades, 'maid cafes' and was frankly all quite weird even if you like anime or manga. We then went to the Edo-Tokyo museum which had some excellent models and some great exhibits but also strange omissions in the history, especially over the Imperial Japanese War in the Pacific, China etc.

Off to see what the crazy Tokyo teenagers get up to on a Saturday night in downtown Shibuya. The crossing there is the one you always see in films and news broadcasts and it boasts the busiest Starbucks in the world. Cup of coffee before we go then…

Shibuya was excellent and just the Japan we were looking for, neon, people, activity, mix of old and new. Right on the mark.


Just been in a Pachinko parlour. This is a kind of vertical pinball slot machine into which you pour a basketfull of small balls and then manipulate them, through the pins, into certain locations. Directly gambling

on pachinko is illegal in Japan, so balls won cannot be exchanged directly for money in the parlour, but are exchanged for tokens or prizes, which are then taken outside and exchanged for cash at a nominally separate place.
The Japanese government estimates the annual revenues of the pachinko industry to be in the region of ¥29 trillion (US$378 billion) – approximately four times the total annual profit of WORLD-WIDE legal casino gambling!!!!!!!
Quite apart from the damage to the pocket, the NOISE level in these places (which are on every street corner) is deafening.

So, Tokyo, very expensive, only way to live is to eat the excellent white rice balls or white sandwiches with the crusts cut off from the 7-11 or Lawsons convenience store. It's not a very tourist friendly city, not least because it's so expensive (and I checked Japanese salaries and it's expensive for them, our salaries in real terms are very similar) but also it's not at all geared up for foreigners. Ironic eh? One of the world's key suppliers of tourists, from a place that's not at all interesting!

Ah well, it's ticked off the bucket list.