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My Trip to London/Paris

I was very lucky this year when I was asked by work to go to London to participate in a project.  I wasn't sure what to expect and I sure didn't know what the heck I was doing.  I was nervous since I had never traveled to Europe and I wasn't sure I was going to know how to get around.  I also hadn't traveled anywhere with my passport since Jamaica almost 10 years ago.   

I was excited to go and work kept me very busy.  I did try to look into what I would want to do and where I would want to go while I was there.  But this trip came out of the blue.  I was asked by my boss in March and within a few weeks I had tickets.  I went at the end of April.  It was kind of a whirlwind.  I went to AAA and asked a lot of questions of a lot of folks that I know had done any traveling overseas before.  AAA wasn't too much help, but they did print out for me a bunch of information.  I did some research online too.  All in all, I just decided to get on the plane and go for it.   I figured I knew I'd have to work for 3 full days and then I'd be on my own to look around for 3 full days.   I just decided to soak up the city and just do stuff.  I didn't make a big itinerary and I just had fun.   It was a very freeing experience.  

I got to travel in Business First on the plane ride there which was awesome.  Free wine, food, the whole nine yards.  Tons of movies and music and TV shows in a TV in front of me.  Tons of legroom.  And the seat I was in turned into a bed.  That was fantastic.  I did sleep a bit and the plane ride itself was very smooth.   10 hours or so later I was in London after departing LAX.  I just landed and followed the signs.  I was a bit nervous at Customs, but basically, not a big deal.  Got a stamp in my passport and then off to get my luggage.  Once I had my luggage I looked for a machine to get some train tickets since I wanted to try traveling by subway on the London Underground.  I got some cash from an ATM too.  Figured I wasn't 100% on using my credit card and if it would work everywhere so having some cash was a good idea.  Not too much though.  I checked with my bank before leaving the states to make sure that my ATM and my credit card would work.  They made some notes on my accounts and I was good to go.  I couldn't believe that AAA didn't exchange money anymore at their offices, so I just did it at the airport at any ATM.  Easy.  Here's my note/tip to make sure that everyone knows in advance before you embark on your European vacation.  The credit card machines in London/Paris have a chip in them and they aren't like ours in the states.  Even though your credit card works everywhere according to the bank, not all businesses will be able to accept them.  Europeans all have a PIN # that they enter when swiping their credit cards like at an ATM here, but I still had to sign for my charges.  I knew this in advance from asking people, but still I was a bit nervous using my card.  A couple of bars didn't know what to do with that and didn't take my card, but I had cash, so I was good.   Another good tip to know is that all transactions charge a foreign currency exchange fee.  I tried a few different ways of charging, because many businesses gave me the option of converting to dollars for my charge or just charging in British pounds.  I found when I got home that when they did the conversion to dollars it was more expensive for me and they still charged me a foreign currency fee.  Banks are vultures.   I recommend just charging in the foreign currency and let the bank convert it.  Exchange rate is better, but there's still fees.  

Anyway, got some cash at the ATM and proceeded to the Underground.  Got my Oyster card.  It's basically a debit card that you can use to tap in/out of train stations with.  I made one mistake but then I made it to my hotel no problems.  I checked in and was soo tired, but wanted to keep going since I knew I would have problems with the time change if I didn't stay awake.  It was a 9 hour difference between London and LA.  It was also pretty chilly so glad I brought my winter coat.   At night, it would get down to 35 degrees and it never really got above 60 degrees in the day while I was there.  Most days about 45-55 degrees.  

Work kept me busy and it was a great week of meetings.  Everyone at the office gave me tips and encouraged me to see things at night.  I did.  Every night I went out and looked around.  I just hopped on the Underground (The Tube) and saw what I could.  I found myself very fascinated with the architecture.  I was surprised by that, since I didn't think of myself as an architecture buff before, but the buildings there are so old and have such history, that I was transfixed.  I got a little freaked out by the people driving on the other side of the road, but I got used to it.  I didn't drive there ever though.  Took a cab a couple of times, but mostly rode the train.  I looked around and took lots of pictures.  Those first few nights, I went to Chelsea area, London Bridge Area/Knightsbridge, Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park.  There was tons and tons of stuff to do.  I think I could've stayed there for a month of more and just looked at other things.  I had some fun dinners.   I tried bangers & mash (sauage and potatoes), i had authentic english fish & chips (with mushy peas) and some fun beers at pubs.   Beware that London isn't an all nighter town.  I was surprised by this.  I almost missed dinner a few nights since a lot of places closed down by 8pm or 9pm.  Luckily I found places that served food until 10pm so I did eat late.  One night I had to eat at the hotel since that's all that was available.  

After all my work meetings, I decided to be very adventurous and head to Paris.  I boarded the train and 2 hours later I was there.  I took the Paris Metro system (more subways) and got around great.  I went to the Louvre - saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and other pieces of fantastic art.  After the Louvre - and a detour to the Louvre Apple Store to get some much needed wifi and a little power, I headed to the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens).   Sculptures and beautiful flowers everywhere.  Both London/Paris had tons of open garden/park type places available for public use.  Then I went and got to my hotel.  Teeny tiny place, but not bad.  I didn't spend much time there anyway.  After that, I headed back out in search of the Eiffel Tower.  I did try speaking some French while I was there - I was definitely not too good at it, but surprisingly some was coming back from high school and college.  I think had I been there longer, I would've gotten better at it.  I walked to Notre Dame cathedral (no hunchback) and then walked along the Seine River.  Paris truly is a romantic city.  But it definitely lived up to its stereotypes.  French people were  not as nice as London people.  Lots of motor bikes and smokers.  Tons of cafes too.  Anyway, I headed to the Champs Elysees.  Just gorgeous and basically a Rodeo Drive of shops.  It was getting dark when I hit Les Invalides.  I then proceeded to get a good view of the Eiffel Tower, but I needed to eat something and sit for awhile.  I earned tons of activity points that day, I actually walked for over 6 hours that day.   Anyway, I found a nice little french bistro by the Eiffel Tower called Bistro Saint Dominque.  Wonderful food and drank a whole bottle of wine.  I also had a nice little french cappuccino and pastry.  Just delicious and a wonderful meal.  Then I went to Eiffel Tower.  I was a bit mad that my phone/camera was running out of juice, but oh well.  I found some pictures of Eiffel Tower at night online anyway.  But it was just so massive and gorgeous to see in person.  I walked back to my hotel and in the Metro cavernous station, there were tons of street performers which I found interesting.  Lots of homeless too.  Beware of pickpockets everyone said, so I was careful.  I slept and woke up early so I could find the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower in the light so I could get pictures.  It was a jam packed morning and missed breakfast, but I got a chocolate croissant at the train station just as I was boarding my Eurostar train back to London.  It was wonderful.  The french know how to do pastries.  Paris was a little dirtier than London I thought too, but much more romantic.  Too bad I wasn't there with a nice french woman, but oh well.  

Once I got back to London, I took the Tube to look at some of the historic and larger train stations.  Especially King's Cross like in Harry Potter.  Had a snack and got off at the Bank Tube stop.  Got out and looked around.  Just beautiful and since it was after 5pm, I ran into a lot of people outside of pubs partying.  It was cool.  Took tons of pictures then hopped back onto the Tube down to Imperial Wharf to try a Thai restaurant that someone had recommended to me called Blue Elephant.  It was another fantastic meal.  I loved it.  Headed back to the hotel (I would usually return by midnight) and enjoyed a pint before bed.  

The last day I got up and went to Trafalgar Square to take the Original London double decker Bus Tour.  It was great.  Hop on/off and look around.  They had audio commentary too to tell you where you were.  One of the buses was just headphone audio in my seat and one had a live tour guide.  Saw Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, St. Paul's Cathedral, and tons of other sites.  It rained pretty hard that day, so I ducked into a performance of Spamalot on the West End (tons of theatres there - like Broadway in NYC).  I missed the beginning, but I went in at intermission (interval in London).  It was great and I got the ticket for half price at the TKTS booth in the West End.  I capped off my night with a looksee at Big Ben, Parliament and Buckingham Palace.  I headed to dinner and wrapped it up early since my flight was in the AM (back at the hotel to pack up by 9pm).  I was told to be at the airport at least 2 - 3 hours early, so I made sure to do that.  

Woke up early, checked out and headed to the airport (Heathrow) via the Tube.  It's super convenient that you can grab a train directly from the airport.  LA needs that.  Anyway, since I got there early, I didn't see the gate assigned yet, so I hung out in the Airport lounge.  Fantastic.  Power, free wifi, free food, both hot & cold.  It was great.  I felt like a rockstar.   They didn't assign the gate until like a half hour before my flight which I thought was weird, but no standing around at the gate since I went right from the lounge to the gate to boarding the plane. 

The trip in general was unexpected, but awesome.  I hope I can figure out a way to do more international travel in the near future.  Some other tidbits.  I didn't enjoy the full English breakfast.  I tried it, but lots of gross stuff that I didn't want for breakfast. In addition to eggs and big sausages, there was mushrooms, big slice of tomato, blood sausage.  Stick with the eggs and english muffin & pastries.  Those were good.  Traveling by train was surprisingly easy and user friendly.  London was very kind to visitors in my opinion.  London has lots of people.  It's a big city.  It's expensive, but extremely fun.  They have great - I mean great - Thai/Indian food in my opinion.  International data rates are horrible.  Make sure to get a plan either while you're there or before on your phone.  You'll need it.  Paris has great food.  I could eat there for a month or more and just keep trying new things.  In general, I would love to go back to both cities.  

Enjoy my adventures by visiting the pictures page and check out all the photos.   I took tons.  I didn't upload all of them, but you'll get the idea.  Thanks for reading and hopefully I'll be able to write more again soon. 


rewind 2012 - final edition

These took a lot longer to keep up with than I thought, but glad I set out to do it and finish it.  Maybe next year, I can be a little quicker with the updates.  I mean 2013 is basically half over, so let's wrap up these rewind 2012 posts, by posting a bit about general things in my life.   

Last May, I did a 5K walk.   I was really proud of myself for doing it and it was a good challenge.  I walked most of the way, but tried to do a faster walk.  I jogged toward the end to feel the rush of crossing the finish line.  I did the whole walk in about 40 minutes and I'd do it again.  I was really surpised at how much fun I had doing it.  I'm definitely not a runner, but I was proud of the accomplishment.  All year, the weight loss was slow, but I kept most of my weight off and I kept trying to break through some barriers.  Most of it is due to needing to adjust habits which I'm slow to change.  I tended this year to do well for a bit, but then falter.  I did make it my lowest weight in 8 years, but I gained a bit to be back around the 300 mark.  The goal for this year is to get out of that century mark and keep the weight coming off.  I find it interesting that on this journey, I'm constantly learning and re-learning over and over again.  I need to keep my momentum going, but it's a marathon, not a sprint.  The weight didn't come on over night I tell myself all the time.  

Work was busy as ever and I took on lots of new responsibilities again this year.  I tend to do this each year, but the job is still fun and keeps me very busy.  It was stressful at times with lots of upper management and just general changes.   I tried a mentoring program and I thought it was beneficial.  In general, I just felt extremely busy and tried to tick off more accomplishments.  I got our live game interface working and we took text to air live from an online source with automation for the first time ever.  ABC Family automated tons of graphics and finally came over to the side of everyone else using the same applications.   Like I said, busy as ever, but fun.  The biggest change was having Danyel move to Programming which was a major adjustment since she and I worked so closely together.   It's been good for both of us, but she's the best work partner I've ever had and I may never have a work relationship like that again.  One of the most fun things I've ever done at work was a 2 day immersive Disney class where I learned about the company which I did in January.  I got to do lots of fun things and even got to be a character at Disneyland.  Way fun!

 California Adventure was finished last year and it's spectacular.  They did an amazing job on the rebuild of that park and it's great now.  The new Cars Land is superb and really sets the bar high for any future endeavors.  The ride is a big favorite and it's always got a very long line, I tend to get on it early in the day when I'm there so I can get it in, because I don't want to wait in a 2 hour line.  

April 2012, brought it to the 1 year mark since my Mom passed away.  I think I felt like I turned a corner and could take a breath again, but I still miss her a lot and I probably always will.   But with time, it's not a daily upsetting piece of my life, more like a lot of memories of her that drive my positivity.  She's the person who's had the single biggest influence on my life.  

The world brought a lot of craziness and sadness in 2012.  Whitney Houston suddenly passed away after a troubled life with drugs.  It was definitely sad to hear that.  Lots of stories on guns and needless killings.  Especially the story of New Town Connecticut with all those elementary school kids who were killed due to a crazy gunman.  I mean, enough people, enough.  The crazy has to stop.  We've got to turn a corner with this craziness.  It sparked a lot of debate on gun control and in my opinion, we'll never solve this issue.  I don't think we need assault rifles out in the marketplace to purchase for hunting.  I think we can just stay with shotguns for that.  I just don't see a need to manufacture those types of assault weapons except for kiiling and war.  But it's very political and it's not a common sense arugument, so I'll leave it at that.  The fiscal cliff debates were a joke.  I mean seriously our elected represenatives would rather see us go bankrupt I think than fix their problems.  I think they are all worried about getting elected to additional terms and not as worried about governing at the best of their capability.   Maybe they are not smart people I don't know, but compromise has to enter their vocabulary soon.  Because even though we avoided the dreaded fiscal cliff, it's still politics as usual in Washington D.C.  On top of that, we had the presidential election that just didn't want to quit.  It felt like it lasted for the full 4 years.  We saw Barack Obama get re-elected over Mitt Romney.  I was essentially glad, but I'm hoping for some progress in government and I'm still not seeing any.  We had the hockey season locked out and didn't start until 2013.  Ugh.   At least they started playing in 2013.   But that's for next year's recap, right?.

With my busier schedule, I tried some groupons/living social deals for cleaning services.  They were a mixed bag, but I've got 1 or 2 still more to try this year, but I'm occasionally using a service of Three Little Piggies cleaning service and they are excellent.  It's not perfrect after they leave, but they do a great job and saves me a lot of time.  Still only hiring them to show up every few months, but it's a big help.   

I tried getting out more and more and visiting around Los Angeles.   I've joined the Grammy Museum which is located downtown and it's a great little music museum with tons of interactive exhibits and fun to walk around every now and then.  We'll see if I decide to renew my membership which is up sometime this summer.  I've been trying tons of new restaurants and make it a point to go out and try them.  I've even been trying more food trucks.  Burbank had a nice little ladies night once a month on a Friday and they would have tons of food trucks showing up on Magnolia Boulevard and that was a blast to try a bunch of those.  Good food.  My home email got to an uncontrollable level - as bad as work - and I've tried lots of ways to tame that beast, but basically, I just stay on top of it.  My emails run a close second to all those loyalty cards in my wallet though.   I'd love to get rid of a bunch of those, and I'm slowly getting more in my phone.   I joined more social networks and I guess the list keeps growing.  Why not?  Right.   2012 brought me a regular to 4Square where you basically brag about where you've been.  It encourages me to get out around town more and then I can check in.  Seems to be working.  Started using my iPad at work for some stuff and also reading documents on my iPad while traveling to see the family.   I've tried reading my Entertainment Weekly magazine on the iPad which I kind of enjoy from time to time and always tried reading the newspaper.  That is more of a challenge because the LA Times has an odd interface.  I may have to ditch my subscription to the paper, but I feel like I'm killing print media by doing that, but it may come to that in 2013.  In general, I've got higher aspirations for my technology.   I even found myself complaining about the Arclight Cinemas iPhone app a bunch in 2012.  Yes, on that app, I can buy movie tickets on my phone and use it as the ticket at the theater. Brilliant.  PRoblem is that there is no synchronization between the iPhone app and the website.  So if I buy tickets online, I can't send them to my phone and if I buy tickets on my Phone, they don't show up as something that I purchased on their site.   Hopefully they will fix that soon.  I also started this new site in 2012, since Apple officially shutdown Mobile Me.  

Our annual Florida trip got a bit chaotic this year, but it was very fun.  I even got to go to Universal Studios Florida and try out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I thought they did a fantastic job on that place and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I would love to go back at some point.  They are even talking about building a version here in Hollywood at the Universal near my place.  They are also talking about expanding the Harry Potter themed areas and putting some of it in the standard Universal Florida park.  In general, fantastic and the main ride inside the Hogwarts castle was spectacular and sooo worth it.   

Since 2013 is half over, I figured I would lay out some goals for the year.  I'd love to try to read a little more.  I'm reading the Steve Jobs biography now and it's great.   I need to make more time to read and finish books.  It's good for me.  I'm attempting to do more paperless and it's going well.  I did finally break down and buy a printer though, since that's good to have around too.  I've really missed having a printer and it's wireless.  I would like to carve out some time to write and I've also got a lot of home video stuff to work on which I'd love to get out there.  I'm also going to try to get out and about more and even hopefully do some dating, which I'm not very good at, but I would like to.  It's been too long.  I've got lots of weight loss work to do too, but I need to get out there.   I think having a little writing routine and also an exercise routine are both good goals to shoot for.  

I'm going to try to save more money for bigger trips to go different places.  I mostly go to visit the family which I love doing, but I do need to travel to other places.  

Ok, I think I'm going to end this rewind 2012, since I got to travel a bit this year and it's worth writing about very soon.   Hope you enjoy reading these even though I seem to only post a few times a year, it's still fun to have a site and post little blurbs like this and some pictures.   Until next time....


rewind 2012:  tv

It's been awhile, since I posted anything.  I thought I would have finished these by now, but what the heck, it's still relevant to me.  As  I wind down on the rewinding 2012, here's my thoughts on TV.  

1.  Breaking Bad

This show gets better and better every year.  This year really had Walt going to an especially dark place even freaking out Jesse his partner in crime.  I can't wait to see how this ends as the final season wraps up this summer.  An inventive and just unbelievably well done show.  


2.  Fringe

I have loved this show from the beginning and it finished up this year in January 2013 after 5 years.  The final season that started in September 2012 was riveting and a definite departure as they flash forwarded several years to an observer controlled society.  The previous season that ended in May 2012, wrapped up the alternate universe storyline they had built up for several years.  This sci-fi show was always a bit crazy and for whatever reason I just loved every second of it.  

3.  The Walking Dead

This show got really really good this year.   The current 3rd season has been one of my favorites.  The people are more fearful than the zombies I think.  The addition of David Morrissey as the Governor is absolutely fantastic.  The biggest craziest and emotional moment that made me realize that this season was gonna be amazing came in episode 4 of the 3rd season.  Lori died while giving birth!  We lost T Dog.  This episode was so good that it could've been a season finale and it was only a few episodes in.  I cried like a baby.   This show is must watch right away TV.  

4.  Parenthood

This show makes me cry every week.   This year's cancer storyline struck me so close to home it's just plain riveting TV.   One of the most normal shows in my top 10, this is a top notch written show created by Jason Katims and starring a fantastic and huge cast.  The Braverman clan gets to me like not many others.  I really hope that this show continues on the air and is back for more next year, since this was an especially good season.

5.  Parks and Recreation

This show makes me laugh like not many others.  I don't always watch live, but so funny.  The supporting cast is as good as the main leads.   It makes me laugh and their small town politics are just crazy.   Leslie Knope ran for council woman this year!  The relationship between Adam Scott & Amy Poehler's characters are just the heart of this show right now.   

6.  Awake

Kyle Killen created a trippy weird crazy drama that had me glued to the TV every week.  I even watched most episodes twice to try to get the connections.  I'm not sure that a show like this is intended to survive in the television landscape, but I really love it when they try.   Great show! 

7.  Survivor/Amazing Race

I listed these 2 shows together since they are a good guilty pleasure and are both reality shows on CBS.  These are fun and constantly getting dumber people to play.  The Amazing Race is fun to see where they go and what people are willing to do.  Survivor is always interesting to watch for the social politics.  I'm not sure why I enjoy them so much after all these years and I definitely have soured on other reality television, but these ones keep me watching.  

8.  Revolution

This show had such a good pilot that I was hooked right away.  Now, the idea that they are trying to build a mythology is a little off putting and the cast isn't super awesome, but each week I'm entertained and willing to see where they go.  Any show with Elizabeth Mitchell also gets a lot of chances to succeed with me.  I'm curious to see more about why the lights went out and what's going to happen now that they are starting to come back on.  

9.  Cougar Town

This show with Courtney Cox and a very funny ensemble cast is always hilarious.  I was a bit concerned when they were leaving ABC, but to my surprise, they came back in 2013 to TBS of all places.  It's a sweet and funny show and always makes me laugh - most of the time out loud.   

10.  Community

This show is funny and crazy all at the same time.  Chang trying to kill everyone at Greendale and take over as a dictator.  Troy and Abed in everything.   Their handshakes, their "morning show", and Troy's foray into the dark side of refrigerator repair.  You never know what will happen with this show.  I purchased Hulu Plus this year with the specific reason of watching all the episodes over the summer this year.  

Now, that you've seen my favorites, let's delve into some things that personally made me very disappointed.  American Horror Story: Asylum, had me very excited.  Last year's original American Horror Story was inventive, scary and riveting.  I found this season to be mired in clichés and gross out tactics each week.  I didn't enjoy Asylum and surprisingly stopped watching it mid way through the season.  Same for Boardwalk Empire.  I've also enjoyed this show, but it's pretty dense.  This year, it just got too dense or slow or something.  I wasn't enjoying it and with only 4 episodes left, completely stopped watching it.  Maybe I'll pick it up again on Netflix or something, but I was generally bored this year.  Others that started with high hopes and I quickly got bored with were Missing, The River, Alcatraz and perhaps most disappointing Sarah Michelle Gellar's Ringer.  The show was so complicated that I just couldn't wrap my head around it or enjoy it.  I gave it many chances since I loved Buffy, but not my type of show.  Pan Am, was a great period piece, but it just got boring too.  Animal Practice was heavily advertised during the Summer Olympics so I was very excited by it, but the show was not funny and it had a MONKEY!  The Olympics had me transfixed at times this year too.  I'm never sure with the Olympics, but it was very entertaining this go round.  

Other shows that I enjoyed, but didn't make my top 10.   Game of Thrones is fantastical and amazing each week. The seasons are much too short, but I love this show.  Looking forward to more dragons this year.  Scandal is a crazy little political thriller type soap and Kerri Washington is fantastic.  New Girl, How I Met Your Mother and Raising Hope make me laugh whenever I watch and even The Mindy Project.  I just don't find these to be must watch TV.  In new comedies, I seem to have grown the most fond of Go On with Matthew Perry.  The supporting ensemble is funny, but the premise of a support group for people who've lost loved ones is a bit on the depressing side, but it makes it real.   Good Wife is always interesting and kind of soapy.   NCIS is always fun to watch, but mostly for my cousin Chris's writing.  Veep with Julia Louis Dreyfuss got me hooked this year and I found it to be hilarious and I'm hoping it comes back for more soon.  Girls on HBO, I watched several times, but I just couldn't get into it. I know it wins tons of awards, but just not my cup of tea.   Newsroom by Aaron Sorkin is interesting but not sure if I'll stick with it next year.  We'll have to see.  Got a little bit boring as the season went on, but I did stick with it.  The reboot of Dallas was surprisingly fun and Falling Skies was interesting again.   Being Human always gets a space in the DVR too.   2012's big storylines were great and best when I watched 3-4 episodes at a time.   Finally, last year I was riveted by Revenge, but this year the show has gotten overly complex.  It's still sexy and filled with beautiful people and fun, but a little less addictive this season.  

As you can tell, there's lots of TV that I'm interested in checking out, but not a lot makes it to appointment TV.   What's for sure is that there is a lot of good TV being done and some of the best storytelling is found on TV.   Let's see what 2013 brings.  I've already noticed that so far for 2013 Arrow on CW is keeping me watching and looking forward to Game of Thrones coming back.  I'm sure Walking Dead will finish off great since each week has been even better than the last.  Finally, this summer will see the final season of Breaking Bad, which as you can tell from earlier in this post, I'm completely excited for.   

I'll try to write more as we go, but you never  know since I'm slow to update.   


Disney's Paperman online now

This is a very cute imaginative short film created by Disney.   It's very very good.  If you missed it in theaters like me, check it out now on youtube



new goo goo dolls music

I know that I still have 2 articles to finish in the rewind 2012.  I plan to finish them by this weekend.  But - today I found out about some new Goo Goo Dolls music.  The new single is out on youtube.  Here's the link.  Album comes out May 7 and new single arrives on Feb 12.  Very excited for the new music and most likely a summer tour.   YEAH!!!