Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Jacket

By Chuck
I finally have a sports coat that will allow me to blend into any environment -- from casual to mildly dressy. There was some history to this.

Most sports stores with clothing do not have the casual dresser in mind; they are catering to sports types who might occasionally want to make a modest impression. We tried REI, North Face, Magellan's Travel Supplies and Holloway Travel -- to no avail. We did find a "dark sage" jacket at the Travelsmith Outlet store that fit my budget; but they only had XX sizes in stock. I thought it looked cheap; but, I liked the style; and, it had TEN pockets, some of them hidden, was washable, and only cost $75! (One youthful fantasy had been to own a fishing jacket with dozens of pockets!)

We ordered a medium, online; it arrived from the factory with creases in the material that we were convinced would not come out with a washing; also, the sleeves were too long. I ordered a replacement; it arrived in due course; I went to our ace tailor, Han, to shorten them. There were some minor creases in the material that we thought a washing would cure. But, the lining began to pull apart due to the washing. Annoyed, I finally managed to get Travelsmith to send another replacement and to credit me for the tailor's work. But, by the time it arrived, we had decided that the secret pockets could not offset the poor quality of the jacket, and we returned it, too. To their credit, a prompt refund was issued.

We finally decided to try the Men's Wearhouse. Gregory, the wardrobe consultant, quickly found just the right sports coat; it was a trifle long in the sleeves and only had 6 pockets - 3 on the inside - none of them hidden. But, life is not perfect; and, it did look and feel terrific, is made out of microfiber and wrinkle and stain resistant. $99 on sale. I wore it to Rob and Anna Iannacone's wedding reception last weekend. I did take it off before we ate; I'd hate to ruin a new jacket with food spills on the first outing, even with a claim of stain resistance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Our New Toy!

By Chuck
Well, I am as happy as a clam still in the ocean: I just got my 10.1" netbook! We did discuss whether or not we really needed two computers for the trip; but, it was a short discussion. I think Claire's “What on earth are you thinking?” got the point across immediately. I mean I hate to give up my own access when we can simply boot up another computer. Besides, we plan to only carry the 2.9 lb. netbook during our month in Egypt/Jordan, as we will be traveling as light as we can.

After several cursory attempts at research over several months, I finally decided on an ASUS Eee PC 1005HA. It got pretty decent reviews, corrected some deficiencies of earlier models – and I was running out of time. What corrections? Well, for one, the shift key is now “full” size, eliminating the annoying habit of pressing the wrong key on the 90% keyboard. Amazon charged $390 and provided free shipping. The memory upgrade to 2 GB was frequently recommended; so, for $25, I went for that, too. The clincher was the advertised 10.5 hour battery life!

The first challenge was to get Wireless working. You'd think I'd remember how to do this, since I have done it before. Actually, I did recall that I only needed to provide the WEP or WPA encryption key. It was quite straightforward after that.

Skype was the next thing I tackled. We have a loyal friend, Carol, who is unable to connect to us, visually – we see her; but, she cannot see us. The ASUS has a built-in webcam and mics, of course; but, I was afraid the configuration might be a problem. Skype was pre-loaded; so that was very cool; the audio and video tests checked out. So, I Skyped Mick and caught him reading in his backyard with his phone by his side; he agreed to accept a computer call and we had no problems – a welcome change from our other Skype experiences this week.

I also downloaded VLC media player to handle the movies that Tai so generously provided and that we plan to take to Egypt with us. After all, we might get bored with 3000 years of history, gorgeous scenery, and a combined Kindle arsenal of 2000 e-books – or not.

I did have problems setting up Sophos, our Anti-Virus software; but, that was my problem. I hate reading documentation, and the solution to a proper installation was in a separate text file that I blithely ignored in which the REAL username and password were provided. So, after foolishly fumbling around with hit and miss attempts, I finally got the damned x in the Sophos icon in the system tray to disappear and I was able to update the software.

Well, we had a long day. Up at 6am to begin getting ready for a trip to San Francisco with our granddaughter, Sarah, for a day at the California Academy of Sciences. This was her first trip as well as mine; Claire was our experienced guide – she had gone once before. I'd have to say the highlights were the scalper who sold us 3 tickets at a reduced price, the rainforest, the planetarium and the 3D bug show. The only downside was the $36 lunch. Sarah was as cooperative as any 8 year old can be, except for the devilish trick of putting V fingers behind my head for one of the candid photos back home when I won at "Pretty Pretty Princess." Retirement, as you may discern, is hell. ;-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009


By Claire
I'm reading War in Val D'Orcia, An Italian War Diary 1943-1944, by Iris Origo. The more I read, the more I realize how little I really know about Italy's part in the War. This book was written during that time and it's an intimate and informative look at living through WW II in the countryside of Tuscany.

I'm trying to read and learn as much as I can about European, Turkish, and Egyptian history so I'll be at least a little bit prepared for all that we will see and learn throughout our travels.

I just finished No Man's Land: One Man's Odyssey through the Odyssey by Scott Huler. You can read my first attempt at writing a review for Traveller's Point, a great travel forum and blog site.

Reading will definitely be a big part of our trip and I've purposely chosen books that take place in the countries we will visit. Here's a sampling:

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Speaking for Myself: My Life from Liverpool to Downing Street, by Cheri Blair
My Life in France, by Julia Child
Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, by Georgina Howell
Medievel People, by Eileen Power
Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome, by Steven Saylor
44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith
A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena de Blasi
Married to a Bedouin, by Marguerite van Geldermalsen

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Count Down

By Claire
I'm struggling to some degree with the lack of structure in my days now that I don't have to be anywhere other than hiking or out to breakfast or lunch with friends. We have a long list of things to do to complete our readiness for this trip but sometimes it's hard to get motivated even though the end result is leaving for Europe! The scary part is that time is marching on. However, so many things have been done: We've rented our house to a wonderful couple, we've picked out our camper and paid the deposit, and the plane tickets have been purchased. On the other hand, we have a return date of November 26 to make it look like we're staying less than 90 days (see Schengen Agreement and our post Planning a One Year European Adventure). I will need to contact our travel agent in early November by email and she will obtain new tickets with a return date at the end of August 2010. I'm a little worried about re-entering the EU after our first 90 days out with a return date 6 months later but some things I just have to let go. We still have to deal with bureaucratic registration issues on our cars with the DMV. We're storing both of them with very generous friends (thank you Merlyn and Tom!). Chuck's car will need to be smogged next May when we're not here, for example. Several phone calls and much website navigating tells us that we can do it when we get back but we can't drive it anywhere until it's done. Huh? That means walking or biking to the DMV after illegally driving it home from our friends and then illegally driving it to the Smog place. I hope the Smog cops aren't out in force that day. My car can't be legally driven until it is re-registered and I can't send in the "Planned Non-Operational" registration until after we're gone (of course). Figuring out money and future taxes while we're on the road (we'll be in Greece when we need to do our taxes) and ATMs and credit cards all takes a toll. But, believe me, it's all worth it. It just has to be done.

Yesterday we bought electrical adaptors and hope that we'll be able to charge all the electrical devices we're dragging with us:

2 Kindles
iPod and portable speakers
Batteries for two cameras

At some point we have to start boxing and moving our personal items up into the attic that Chuck floored in last Christmas.

The goal is to leave here smiling and rested. My fear is that we'll leave here stunned and snarling.

But hey, life is really good and I have no complaints.