January 25, 2008

Back in Houston

Both flights (Singapore to Tokyo and Tokyo to Houston) were on time or early.

That is just a long way to go.

Only do it for the food in Singapore.

January 24, 2008

Singapore Food

My last night in Singapore I was lucky enough to be able to have dinner with one of the people I worked with while here back in the ‘90s, and another ex-Landmarker who is (coincidently) working for PGS. Pauline always knew the best places to eat in town, so Mark and I gladly ceded all responsibility for the food to her.

We met about 7:00 PM. She has not changed a bit in 11 years. We started off to the food, stopping tp pick up Mark in the meantime. She drove us to a house on the East Coast called Hua Yu Wee. IT looked very promising. We walked around to the back, and Pauline asked for her favorite waitress. They chatted and laughed in Chinese. My only request was that we get a jug of cold Tiger, and some Black Pepper Crab. The beer was soon on the table, and we also had a plate of peanuts.

The peanuts are there for an appetizer, and you are supposed to eat them with your chopsticks. That is quite fun, especially since these are not dry roasted, but the oiled ones. Delicious, and entertaining as well.

The food started coming shortly thereafter. The first thing we got was fried mushroom caps. They were covered with something or other, and were large – about the diameter of a cue ball (but not round, of course. Nor hard. Nor white) These were quickly followed by a plate of Baby Kai Lan. Those are similar to baby Bok Choy in the US. You can’t stop eating them!

Drunken Shrimp followed (Shrimp boiled in some sort of alcohol) with a hot dipping sauce. Concurrent with the Shrimp were Butter Crayfish. There were just the tails, breaded and stir fried. Deep fried, maybe. They were LARGE, too. About 5” long and at least 1 ½ “ wide. They brought us forks so that we could hold one side down and dig the meat out with a chopstick. Now we were really eating.

We also got a plate of deep fried squid. These are tiny. Popcorn or peanut size. You can just eat a million of these little things.

Ah, but then, the dish I was waiting for. Black Pepper Crabs. Big Sri Lankan crabs that are partially steamed, then cracked and covered with spices, mostly black pepper, and other goodness, and finished off in a wok. It is sort of like heaven in a claw. I ate more than my share, though I must say that nobody left that table hungry.

We finished with some fruits and more conversation.

11 years is too long to stay away from this sort of food.


The first thing that I notice when I get off the plane is that Singapore smells exactly the same as it did 11 years ago. I looked around the airport, and the airport looks exactly the same way it did 11 years ago. And this is a good thing. I walk down the concourse and it all seems so familiar. I see the immigration control and the only difference I notice is that there is not a special lane for residents. Of course, I could have missed it, since everything was moving so fast.

To my mind, there is no better airport than Changi. I landed, and the doors opened quickly. I got to the concourse and quickly walked down the (wide and fast) moving sidewalks to immigration. There was only one person in front of me in line. I was stamped through with little fanfare. I walked down to baggage claim, waited under 5 minutes and my bag was on the belt. I walked to the taxi queue and waited no more than another five minutes and was whisked off to the hotel.

The hotel was sort of another story. I am not sure why we were put up in The Negara (well, I actually do. But that is another story) It is old, dank, and under renovation. The drilling in the wall kept up, but no one seemed to pay it any mind. It made the rooms uninhabitable from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM.

The only interesting thing about the hotel was that the first night when I got back after dinner was that the work crew next door had obviously tapped into my electrical system in my room. When I turned my bathroom light off some mechanical device next door turned on. It sounded like a drum spinning up a wire rope. I played with it for a while, and then decided to leave the light on for the night and just close the door. The next morning I showed the manager (she was reluctant to accompany me to my room, but I insisted) the problem. She was mystified.

January 22, 2008

Dubai – Singapore.

I lived in Singapore from January of 1995 to October of 1996. During those 22 months I flew to Houston 18 times. Each one way trip was at least 24 hours in the air, and two stops with at least 2 hours between flights, so in real time each flight took at least 30 hours. So 18 (flights) x 2 (round trip) = 36 trips. 36 x 30 (hours) = 1,080 hours spent in travel just to Houston during those 22 months. 1,080 hours is 45 days. 45 days! And that doesn’t count the trips to China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, India, Vietnam, Bangkok, or Brunei.

And then people ask me why I hate to travel. I think that the answer is obvious. I have not been back to Singapore since I left. I still have some people I keep in touch with occasionally, and will try to meet with them. I am not sure if it will happen.

I am reading a book called The Singapore Grip by JG Farrell. I am not sure how far it goes, but it opens in Singapore right before the Japanese overrun Singapore in WWII. The book focuses on the truly myopic view of the war and the Japanese by the local British community. This is one of the more embarrassing episodes in British Military History. Incompetence and cowardice by the military leaders. Courts martial ensued if I recall correctly.

January 21, 2008


I got to Dubai on last Thursday.

On Friday we flew to Saudi Arabia for a Saturday meeting.

On Sunday we stayed in town to visit local clients

On Monday we flew to Qatar to meet with QP (Qatar Petroleum).

It was an uneventful trip that I believe will bear fruit over the next year.

But how DO you pronounce Qatar, anyway?

Dubai Desert Adventure

After a day of successful meetings with our business partners, our local staff decided that we should go out to the Dubai desert on what is sometimes called a “Desert Safari” and what I have been calling a Dubai Desert Adventure.

I was not really sure what to expect, and this is always a fun thing. We met at my hotel around 3:00 and waited for our driver from Oriental Tours. He was right on time. We piled into the Toyota Land Cruiser (absolutely the best off road 4x4 you can buy) and started off. First we had to pick up one more passenger, a young Japanese woman whose husband was working in Saudi Arabia. She could not get a visa, so she stayed in Dubai.

The driver Mustafa said we had to go about 30 minutes to the “rendezvous point” and they off into the desert we go. Rendezvous point? I asked. Yes, we were meeting with nine other 4x4s for safety reasons.

Now, you know that I could spin the story that five of the other nine Toyotas were technicals, but that would be an exaggeration. Only was was. (that, actually, would be an exaggeration, too. After all, we were in Dubai, not Yemen.). The other nine vehicles were filled with a bunch of other tourists. German, Dutch, a TON of Italians from some company that couldn’t afford a name. They only had initials. A handful of Australians (dressed for a summer desert adventure) and us. We consisted of an American (me), a Frenchman (our local manager) and a Pakistani (Our local technical guy. Not technical like above, of course.)

We met at a gas station/convenience store, and then set out of the dunes.

We drove about 20o minutes and then all lined up in the desert like a convoy. The drivers all got out and let some air out of the tires so they would have better grip in the sand.

This, I was told, was only for show. Because of recent heavy rains, the sand was quite compact and was more like riding on a freeway. Nonetheless, we reduced air pressure and were off!

I have never really been a fan of “off roading” since I had to do it for a living while working as an engineer in Kemmerer, WY. But it was fun enough as we rolled through the sand, up and down over multiple sand dunes.

After about 45 minutes we took off to stop at a camel farm. They raise these camels for racing, and while we didn’t see any other people there, the animals seemed well treated.

Then we visited the Oasis Desert Camp. This consisted of several open air thatched huts with low tables and cushions to sit upon. We also had “Sand boarding” (sliding down a dune while sitting on a snow board – which my dignity did not allow), riding a camel (which it did), dressing up in dishdash, and eating some BBQ mutton, beef, and chicken. They also had a falcon handler.

The night ended with a belly dancer. She was very engaging, and got several of the crowd up to dance. That was very funny. At one point they got us all on our feet and we did something like the hokey pokey, where we had to try and shake was she was shaking. It was not pretty.

We got back to the hotel about 9:00. While perhaps not quite an adventure, it was certainly fun.

January 19, 2008

Saudi Arabia

We got to the Dubai airport about an hour and a half before the flight. That is tighter than I usually cut it, but what the heck. I am trying to relax about these things.

We got in line to check in for the flight, and got to the counter. The agent told us that we could not check in there, since we had business class tickets. We had to move to a different row. “The one with the Red Carpet”. So we checked in and walked through security. Not a big deal, less security than I am use to in the US (No need to take off your shoes. No need to remove your laptop from the bag.) Everyone was very gracious.

We stopped for a while in the lounge (there was a soccer game on) and waited for the flight.

The very first thing I saw when getting off the airplane was several men at their prayers. That sort of set the tone. Saudi Arabia is very devout. Saudi Aramco had a driver meet us at the airport, and the hotel was all ready for us. The town (Dammam) was the location of the first field discovered in Saudi Arabia. It seems like an unlikely place for a headquarters, but that is why.

The work meetings went well, and as we were coming back from lunch I asked if the Saudis felt lucky that Mecca was in their country, and if they had been on The Haj. They laughed and said yes to both. One of the guys that I was meeting with had been on The Haj five times!

As we were driving back to the airport, we saw camels walking in the desert. Camels! I guess it really is like Lawrence of Arabia.

January 17, 2008


After a while every flight feels close to every other flight. You wait to get on the plane, you wait while the plane loads, you wait to take off, and you wait to land. You watch a movie, you eat something. Eight hours or so later, you land.

Most flights I take these days has a map that shows the progress of the plane. It shows current position, and then the cities you are flying over.

Today, I glanced over to the map, and was startled – The first city name I saw was Kirkuk. We were flying over Iraq! Then I looked more closely. No – that is Tabriz! Tehran! We were flying over Iran! Now I knew I was going somewhere I had never been before.

Airports, too, tend to be rather generic. Except here you have about half the men in gutra and thobe. There women were in hijabs, or bare headed. I think that will be different when I get to Saudi Arabia tomorrow

January 16, 2008

Around the World in the interest of Commerce

I am heading around the world in a couple of hours, trying to do my best to reduct the US Trade Deficit.

I start in Dubai for an evening. I get there via London.

Then I go to Saudi Arabia Friday evening, back to Dubai on Saturday evening. I am hopeful that we will sell some software to Saudi Aramco sometime this year.

On Tuesday I head to Singapore (non-stop). This will be my first visit to Singapore since I moved away in October 1996.

On Friday, I leave Singapore to Houston, via Tokyo. I get here four hours after I leave (calendar time)

I gain a day by going around the world eastward. Though my sweet ever lovin' pointed out that the day I saved will be spent on an airplane. Oh well.

I have my camera, and hope to post some interesting photos.

January 4, 2008

Barack's Quote for the day

"This feels good. It's just like I imagined it when I was talking to my kindergarten teacher," -

Barack Obama this morning.

January 1, 2008

Learn Something New

Every year, my brother Chas posts the following to our family newsgroup. In 2007 he moved to the wild hinterlands of Wyoming, and consequently is currently without internet access. (He believes this to be a short lived phenomenon. I trust it to be so)

So I thought I would post this for everyone to think about for 2008.

Happy New Year!


Resolved: to Learn Something New

It's that time again. Time for all those wonderful new year's resolutions that are usually, unfortunately, soon forgotten.

Here's one that all of you on this email list should make for 2008. And one that will be easy to remember.

Learn something new in 2003. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it offers you a challenge. There will be no assignments, no tests, no grades, no diplomas; just the satisfaction of mastering something that you knew little or nothing about before.

The most important criterion is that it be something that interests you and that will make you feel better about yourself when you've gotten on top of the subject. Many of you will choose something in technology or business. How something works, perhaps how it could be improved. The structure and trends in a market. Who knows, a whole new product or business opportunity may result from your efforts.

It could be associated with a hobby or avocation. You may want to build some kits, install a satellite receiving antenna, invent your own computer games, make a home video movie, or grow some grapes and make your own wine.

Or it could be something unassociated with your present work or hobbies. You may have always wanted to learn about a period in history, read a writer's works, learn a new language, or delve into a branch of math or science you have always wondered about but never quite had the time for.

You must set aside a certain amount of time for your studies. Perhaps it will be an hour a week, a day a month. Skip some TV viewing, take your learning materials along on trips, or whatever makes sense to you. Buy a little note book and keep track of time spent in learning about your chosen area. Set some goals, with dates to meet them. Write them down in a book, and than make notes as you progress towards your goals.

The world around us is changing rapidly, and each of our own individual worlds evolves as well. We are free to expand our knowledge, our interests, our universe. Too often we don't. We grow in little ways just to meet our commitments, but too often we fail to choose our own course for expanding our horizons.

Here's your chance. Make learning something new a resolution for 2009, and this time do it. Post a comment below if you like, telling us what you are going to learn (that will make it harder not to follow through). But remember, you are the one who benefits by learning new things. All we can promise you is a richer life. Good luck.