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A miserable time

Winter is here. Kind of. This week, we had a "snow storm". I say it in quotes, because I cannot in good conscience call it a storm. Yes, it snows quite a lot in a short period of time, maybe 15 cm/5 inches in about 3 hours, about 8 inches over night. However, it was very wet, what we in Norway call "kram", and we actually had temperatures above freezing. I was supposed to go to New Jersey on Wednesday afternoon/Thursday, so I had gone to pick up my rental car, which I then drove to my chiropractor. When I left it was pleasant 6-7 degrees celsius, so I put on light shoes, a t-shirt and a "jogging suit" jacket. Coming back from the chiropractor, the engine lights came on, so I decided to take it back to the rental company to have it checked out. Well, it had started snowing a bit by now (around 4PM/16:00), and I started thinking I would not make it to NJ. Luckily our admin was on top of thing (thanks, Azure!) and got everything postponed to the next day.

Once I had been at the rental company, I decided to go through the mall, because it is a shorter route, and traffic wasn't moving anyway. If I was going to not move, I would want to not move closer to home. It took me about 2.5 hours to go ca 200 metres. The wind shield wipers stopped working at that point, and I still had about half a mile/one km left to go. The next few hundred metres went really smoothly, I had passed 495, the major highway. Traffic wanted to go there. Anyway, I got myself on one of the smaller roads home, and was again stuck in a row of cars. Well, trees had crumbled due to the heavy snow, and cars had problems moving, so no wonder it was bad. This, my friends, is why I don't want to drive here when it is snowing. People are not trained driving in snow, they don't have the equipment, nor the guts. I usually feel a bit apprehensive the first few days on snow, so I cannot really blame people from being scared, but this happens ever year, almost, why not get educated? Pushing the gas pedal is NOT going to help you one bit!

Anyway, Thursday I headed north. I have about 15-20 miles to drive on 495 before I get to I95, the main highway that goes from Maine to Miami. It's not known outside of the US, but it is a road vital for the eastern states. What was I saying? Oh, yes, I was driving a few miles along I495, and counted 11 cars and a trailer left by the side of the road. I was so happy I had not abandoned the car and walked home on Wednesday! Well, if I had tried I would probably have frozen to death. I wasn't dressed for winter. I was also apprehensive driving up the New Jersey Turnpike, it's 80km/50 miles of road with only 5 exits. If you get stuck between exits, you may be stuck there for a while. But I gambled, and it paid off. I got to NJ in about 3.5 hours.

That night I could barely sleep. My left shoulder has tendinitis, and it's painful to sleep on my side. Left or right doesn't matter. Guess what? I'm a side sleeper. Guess what? I prefer sleeping on my left side. Guess what? That's the shoulder with tendinitis. I slept maybe an hour, then I watched TV for a couple, slept a bit more, watched more TV, and slept a bit more, before giving up around 6AM. I did the job, and headed home. It was snowing by then, but luckily, it wasn't to bad. Took me about 4 hours to get home, mostly because the DC traffic was lighter than normal. I liked that! Alas, while I got to sleep in my own bed, with pillows that is meant for my head and shoulders, I still have problems sleeping. I'm in constant pain. I take Vicodin from time to time to take off the worst edges, and it does work. However, I need to take 3-4 a day to keep me pain free, and I don't have enough for that. I will have to go to my orthopaedic surgeon next week *sigh*

Circles...

Today after singing, I went to the car to get home. I got in my car, started it and started heading out. I was parked in a stupid place in the garage where I have to go 355 degrees around to hit the ramp to go up one floor, drive around about 270 degrees to get out. So I start going around. And I am thinking "Wow, not a lot of cars here tonight." And then I am thinking "did I miss the exit?" So I keep going. Took me at least two turns around to realised I _hadn't_ taken the ramp up, and I was still on level 2, not 3 where the exit it. I felt kind of stupid on my third round, but at least that was the final :)

I forgot the train-pushers!

One morning I couldn't sleep in Tokyo, I got up and decided to go to the office early. Well, I got myself ready and headed for the train. As I mentioned before, the Japanese really know queueing! So I lined up with my fellow travellers (I had figured the queues out by then) and was wondering what the guy in uniform was there for, I hadn't seen him before. Well, train arrives, and everybody gets out, those going further get in line in front of us in the queue. Well, then it's time for us to get on board again. So we pile on in to the train. I suddenly realised what the uniformed guy was there for: to push people in! Well, what can I say. We were filled to the brim. You know like the cartoons of overfilled trains, and the train is breaking at the seam. Anyway, I realised that the pressure from my fellow train riders was the only thing holding me up, because my legs were not under me. I was kind of lying with my arms behind me, my legs in front of me and me in the middle. A poor Japanese woman was in trouble with breathing so I pushed a bit more to give her some space. The train ride was only for 2 minutes, but it was an interesting ride!

My trip abroad

It's been three weeks since I left, so it's about time I talk about my trip.

First I cried while packing. I didn't want to leave Princess. Then Saturday came and I had to leave. I felt rushed, as I have had so much to do, I didn't feel ready. Well, off I went for a 14.something hour flight to Tokyo. I flew Air Nippon, and it wasn't a bad airline. However, I didn't really understand their food service, so I was really starving when I landed. They served food about an hour after take-off, then not until about an hour before landing. That's about 11 hours without anything to eat. Well, what I didn't figure out was that you could purchase food. They were pretty good with the drink service, though, and the flight attendants were very friendly, but their English was so-so. We managed to communicate nonetheless. I watched a LOT of films. Toy Story 1-3, and a few others, don't remember them all.

Then I landed in Tokyo. I had to go through security again, and it was a weird seance. We lined up and went through metal detector, and I wondered where we got a bomb on the plane. Anyway, got through that, and went to the gate for my next flight to Hong Kong. At this time, I was seriously tired, but I went around the stores and checked them out just in case. I was buying something for people around here after all. Anywho, I watched a flight to China leave, and I was surprised at the efficiency of queueing. Two lines for business/first class, one line for economy. I was first in line. Then we had a 5 hour flight ahead of us. I honestly don't remember much of that. I must have had a meal and watched some films.

When I arrived in Hong Kong, it was quite efficient to get through immigration and customs. And on the other side, Hiro, my colleague was waiting. It was already close to midnight and I had been up for about 24 hours. I got to my room, and it was very luxurious. I had a view of the harbour, unfortunately, there was a building that should have been torn down between the hotel and the harbour as well, so I didn't have the perfect view. One wall was mirrored, the bathroom was large, and the bed comfortable.

I slept through the night, but early in the morning, I started hearing this "insane" Christmas music, and I couldn't figure out where it came from. A couple of hours later standing in the bathroom, I figured it out: they played it in the bathroom! The bathroom was nice, but the tub had really high walls, and with my bad shoulder, I had trouble getting in and out. A couple of times I fell, as I am near sighted and couldn't judge the distance to the floor. I wish they had had a grab bar or something, and I let them know. Apparently they are going to do something about that.

Anyway, I went down to breakfast, and then I went to work. A nice walk through a mall, and then we started working. In the afternoon we went over to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology where I talked about Red Hat Certifications. It was a nice place, and the view was fabulous. What I found out while going there was that Hong Kong, the city, actually consists of two islands and a peninsula. The university is on the peninsula, also known as Kowloon. The airport is on one island, and then what most people think of as Hong Kong is an island on its on. The island is called Hong Kong, and the city part is to the north. There is a mountain in the middle of the island. I got some nice pictures that can be found on my flickr-page, but here is one:




I slept a lot in Hong Kong, but I also went walking in the city, went to Times Square, which is the town centre. Last day we went to Stanley market in the south of the island, and I got a few gifts and a pair of jade earrings :)

Then it was time to get to Tokyo. Hong Kong is very efficient, so I purchased a train ticket to the airport, but before I left, I checked in my luggage at the train station! Made everything SO much easier. I got on the train, and headed for the airport. I spent the rest of my Hong Kong dollars and then I went on the plane for a 3.something hours. I ate, then I fell asleep. One thing I was very sorry for when going to Tokyo was that I wouldn't be able to see Fujiyama (Mount Fuji). But about 30 minutes before I landed, I woke up, looked out the window and what do I see? Mount Fuji in all it's glory! The sun was shining on it, and the snow was glowing. We sort of circled it, and at a point it had the sun behind it so it was all dark. Finally we started approach and the mountain slowly disappeared in the mist/clouds. It was magical! I wish I had gotten a picture of it, but the guy next to me was asleep, so I couldn't get to my camera.

Anyway, I got to the station, went through immigration/customs easily, and then I headed for the bus. I didn't really figure out how it worked, but a woman approached me and helped me get on my bus :) The bus went straight to my hotel, which was great. I got a room on the 20th floor, a ladies-only floor. Very quiet and nice. No man in sight ;) I had a wonderful view facing east. Right in front of me I had the Meiji-jingu Shrine park. Well, beyond a lot of city:




On Sunday, I took a bus tour with the Hato bus. I went for Panoramic Tokyo, and saw a Shinto Shrine, Imperial gardens, a Buddhist temple, a cruise in the harbour, and finally I saw "new" Tokyo, where the Statue of Liberty is located in Odaiba.

First stop was Meiji-jingu Shrine. First we had to be cleansed, so we went to the cleansing station, where we picked up a ladle and got pure water. We washed both our hands and swirled water in our mouths, and then we were ready to go in to the shrine. We prayed as well: first you throw a coin into this box, then you bow twice, then you clap twice, then bow once and then you pray. We were lucky enough to see a traditional wedding, and I have a nice set of pictures which will eventually end up on flickr (I'll post when I have uploaded pictures). Then we went to the imperial garden, where we got to learn a lot about the imperial family, the shoguns and the samurai. The gardens are fortified by a heavy wall, amazingly enough held together by gravity. It makes it resilient against earth quakes. They used to have an inner and an outer mote, but the outer mote has been made into streets, as Tokyo is short on space...

After having walked through that, we went to Asakusa, where we saw the Buddhist Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise Street which has about 90 shops down the street. There were a lot of people, and lot of smoke, and lots of noise. Outside there is a statue of a samurai, which is actually one of the opera players portraying one of the last samurai.

We then drove through Ginza and went to have lunch with a view of the harbour. We then went on a cruise in the harbour, and I got some beautiful pictures. It was a nice sunny day, and it was a very nice cruise. We then went to Odaiba and saw the Statue of Liberty (it's only 10m), but we had a view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Tower (it's 333 metres high). Then we headed home to base, and it was already 17:30. I then had my first experience with the subway. Actually it wasn't the subway per se, as they have several systems in Tokyo. I took the JR (Japan Rail) back to Shibuya. I was a bit worried I wouldn't be able to get off on the right station, but it was actually very easy, as they announce the stations in English...

The rest of the trip was filled with work, wonderful lunches and evenings of dinners with the team. We went drinking and had "water" and "juice" ;) Yes, I drank as much as my hosts, and was drunker than anyone else, but I also recovered like nobodies business. On the bus tour we learned a couple of Japanese signs, and it came in handy, because one of the restaurants used those on the toilets, and I knew which one to go into! Woohoo!

Toilets is of course a chapter of its own. You have to take a degree to figure these out. The seats are heated (nice!), and when you have done your business, you can hit water buttons and wash front and back, there is air who can blow you dry. It's actually quite pleasant once you get over the angst of pushing buttons ;)

Flying back I was very anxious to get home. I missed my little Princess. Since I had figured out I could purchase food on the plane, I got miso soup with noodles, and it was oh, so good.

What I take from this trip is how amazingly good the food was. Everything was so fresh and nice, and the fruit so juicy. I had sushi upon my return, but it didn't taste as good. In fact, I couldn't eat it all *sigh* I really miss the food. Thanks to my colleague, Ayumi-san, I have genuine miso! :) I haven't had time to make it yet, because I've been busy (had to go out of town even after I got home), but next week, I will take time and make miso with noodles, the proper way. It has to be Tuesday, because that is my "Hashi-day" (hashi is Japanese for chopsticks). I promised my Japanese colleagues to eat everything with chopsticks on Tuesdays, and they will talk with each other in English. I'm holding you to it, people! :)

Well, I miss both Hong Kong and Tokyo, and I wish I had had more time. I hope to be able to go back some day!

Purring kitty

I will blog about my trip to Hong Kong and Tokyo soon, but today I want to talk about Princess. I have been longing to be back with my fur-ball for the last few days, so when I got on the plain, all I could think of was "I'm soon home with Princess." I was very happy when I opened the door and my little cuddle munchkin was inside the door. I got myself inside and then I picked her up in my arms and she let me! She seemed a bit like "I am unsure of you" a bit in the beginning, but after that I've been holding her in my arms, we've played, and she's been following me around, and sleeping at my side and on top of me. And she's been purring! Purring, purring, purring.:) It is the most wonderful sound and feeling in the world. And when she looks at me with pure pleasure in her eyes, my life just feels complete :) She's such a wonderful being, I love her so much. She's my life, and she makes me so very, very happy :)

Rest in peace

I just got words through the grape wine to call home. My brother just died. He had been ill for a few years now, and been on deaths doorstep for the last month or so. I've been waiting for the words for some time. It's so sad to lose him, although it's been something we have been waiting for. He's at peace now. That's all that matters.

I love you, my dear brother.

Hong Kong

I have now been here for a few days. Inside it is freezing, and it's nice and warm outside. I have seen weird food eaten on the corner, made by a man with a hotplate on the street. I've gotten some nice pics.

i am back at the hotel,resting my sore feet. I am also posting from my Kindle. I will report more, with pictures, later.

In Vegas again.

OK, I confess. There is a guy involved. He is cute and nice and has a butt I just want to squeeze. That aside, I am having a blast. I am only regretting I am going home tomorrow (still not midnight, woohoo!). I _love_ Las Vegas. It's a money pit de lux, and while my trip here wasn't expensive, I have spent as much on food and drinks and gambling. But, I had fun. Worked through the morning, played at night. That's how it's supposed to go, right? I have had FUN. I am definitely coming back. I miss it already, and I haven't even left yet.

Oh, yeah, he asked for my number. He's coming my way in the next few months, and wanted to meet up. Can I say no? I don't think so.

US health care best in the world???

OK, so this is just a rant of frustration. I've had diabetes for as long as I can remember, and despite that live a normal life. Growing up, no big deal, but when I got to the UK, I was in my 30s, and my primary care physician (or PCP) decided I was going to have the normal checkups. So he put something in my chart, and I got a letter telling me to come to another clinic to have my feet checked. I went in, they checked out my feet with ultrasound and whatnot, and I got an appointment for 3 months later. In an out, tested and everything in less than an hour (including the waiting room wait).

Fast forward to the oh, so "brilliant" American health system. My doctor keeps telling me she will write a prescription (!) for a podiatrist. I keep forgetting it, she keep forgetting it. One good thing about my insurance, I don't actually need a referral, so I looked up our network, and found a doctor. So I go in, she looks at my feet, even out my toe nails, and tells me she cannot feel any pulse in my feet. Well, we're not really worried about it, as my feet are warm, right? I expect her to whip up the portable ultrasound-device they had in the UK and get it over with. But NO! She write another prescription (!) for a vascular surgeon! So I go in today, wait an hour to be seen, then the doctor comes in, checks my feet, cannot feel pulse in right foot, and tells me probably nothing to worry about, but let's take ultrasound. Does he whip up the bang-whiz device? No, he write out some paper so I can go and get an ultrasound! I saw him for a total of 2 minutes (I actually timed it). So now I have to wait 1 month before they have time to get the ultrasound done and so I can see the doctor right after. WTF??? In the UK, they do this as part of regular checkup! I'm appalled!

Best in the world, my arse!

Weird America

I have been here in the US of A for little over 6 years now (where do time go?) and there are still a lot of things I cannot get used to. The lack of social security is appalling. Yes, I mean that. I think Americans are shallow and selfish. It is scary to see how self centred they are. A couple of examples:

* A woman was furious when someone called an ambulance. The poor sod who called didn't realise it would cost her money, and while it seemed serious at the time, when the ambulance was there, and got her back, she was mad as h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

* A house in Tennessee burned down to the ground with all pets inside because they had forgotten to pay a $75 annual fee. The fire department showed up to save the house next door, where they had paid the fees, then stood back and watch the house burn down.

And lots of Americans are fine with this. "They should have had insurance. They should have paid the fee". I have no words. It's shocking.

Most Americans' excuse is that they don't want to pay taxes. But if you add up what you already pay, health insurance, fire department fees (!) and whatnot, the % that you lose out of pocket is comparable to what is paid in countries WITH social security. Not to mention the stomach ache one has living here, wondering if insurance will cover you.

I have been diagnosed with arthritis damage and tendinitis in my left shoulder. The physical therapy has been helping, but my insurance thinks that I can live with pain and don't need to get better. But they are happy to pay for the medication I need (cortisone injections, anti-inflammatory, pain medication (I'm getting Vicodin, I totally get House now)). If it gets so bad, they'll pay for the surgery needed to fix it. They paid for an MRI, that cost thousands of dollars. But cheap solutions that is making me better, well, that they won't pay for. The doctor thinks I need it. My orthopaedic doctor thinks I need it. But no. I can argue with my insurance company if I like, but it's just not worth it. I've purchased all the gym equipment I need anyway, so I can get most of the things. I also pay OUT OF POCKET for the things I cannot do at home.

I am not going to grow old in this country. NO WAY