London Ilse of Dogs

[click to zoom in]
The City of London itself is actually to the left of this picture but was out of reach of my airplane window. On the right you can see the white dome of the O2 arena, where many world-class concerts and sports events are held.

You Always Remember Your First…


About a month ago my wife and I were on a cruise in Alaska. This is her with the pink backpack in a picture I took next to the Noordam, the ship we were sailing in. We were boarding after a shore excursion in Scagway, Alaska.

It was my first cruise – and I loved it.

Today we took some friends who were visiting from Colorado down to San Diego. We drove to Coronado Island and took a ferry across San Diego Bay to the Broadway Pier, a 10 minute ride. And what did I see?

The Noordam, moored to the pier in San Diego. My heart skipped a beat. After they dropped us off in Vancouver, the ship went back up to Alaska, then presumably back again, and then it finally made its way to San Diego. We had talked to the crew and they had told us that after the season in Alaska ended at the end of September, they’d make their way to Australia and New Zealand to tour there for the summer in the southern hemisphere. I am assuming the ship stopped here on its way there.

Here is a better shot from the bow. In San Diego, I could get closer to the ship for this kind of picture than I ever did during the cruise in Alaska.

All kinds of memories flooded back. Sitting up in the crow’s nest from the very top, looking out and seeing humpback whales in front of the boat. Standing on this very bow in Glacier Bay looking out on glaciers. Hanging out in our cabin, sitting on the balcony and looking at the waters speeding by below.

All great memories – and I wanted to get right back on the ship and sail along with her. But the best thing we could do is to have our friend take this picture of us in front of the ship in San Diego.

I guess you always remember your first cruise.


Capitol of Alaska

A few weeks ago we were in Alaska, and during a short visit to Juneau, I took a walk up the hill to the government area.

Here is the front view of the Alaska State Capitol:

I walked to my left and just a hundred feet down the street is the State Office Building:

Many years ago I developed a student identification tracking system for the State of Alaska, and I remember many phone calls with folks in Alaska. I assume they work in this building. From where I was standing to take this photo, when I turned around, this was my view: Another angle of the State Capitol:

Then I walked up the street to my left, and just about five minutes up the hill is the Governor’s Mansion:

It’s a nice home right by a city street, just a very short walk from the Capitol and the State Office Building. It seemed very accessible. I could have walked up to the door and knocked, if I had wanted to.

In fact, it’s a very unassuming location. Here is a street picture from the other side of this building:

As you can see, there is just normal street parking of the neighbors. The white building on the right is the Governor’s Mansion.

Of course I didn’t even know the name of the current governor. I had to look it up: Mike Dunleavy. He was a teacher and educator before he entered politics. Here is his Wikipedia page.

Of course, as we all know, the governorship of Alaska became notorious in the 2007 election with Sarah Palin.

I enjoyed my short stroll to check out the government complex in Juneau.

Capitol of New York

Today during a morning stroll in Albany, New York, I was able to get a nice shot of the State Capitol.

By the time the building was finished in 1899, it was the most expensive building ever constructed in the United States. It took 32 years to complete, which supposedly is longer than it took to build the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Walking on a Cruise Ship

On August 29 we were on the cruise ship Noordam on the way out of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The Noordam’s deck 3 is the main deck where all main exits are, with access to the life boats. There is a plank path all around the ship, from bow to stern. In the bow, there is a plaque indicating that the distance around the ship is exactly 0.33 miles, meaning that three times around the ship comprises a walk of one mile.

To get a sense of the scale of the ship, here is a (partial) picture of her [lick to enlarge]:

Deck 3 is where the orange life boats are, just at the top of the black painted hull. The top deck is number 10.

I decided to do my customary two mile walk in the late afternoon on the way out of Glacier Bay National Park. The wind was brisk, particularly when walking forward toward the bow. I estimate that the ship was moving at a speed of about 14 knots or so.

I turned on my Garmin Instinct watch to track my walk, and it was supposed to be an experiment. The Garmin tracks walks with all manner of statistics, and it saves a map of the walk. I have displayed such maps many times on these pages, usually when I show hikes. I was interested what a “walk” of two miles would look like going around in circles on a moving ship.

Doing the two miles, or six times around the ship, took about 35 minutes. Here is the map:

Obviously, it’s on water and it shows up as a straight line. The width of the ship is only about 100 feet or so, which is not enough to show up as a wiggle on the path. The red and blue areas are fast and slow. I would have registered as walking faster going backwards away from the direction of the ship’s movement. But it did not turn out that way at least consistently. It may be that the ship slowed down or speed up at one point, or that my Garmin was starting to get wonky.

[Note, the Garmin was getting wonky, and I have since upgraded to an Instinct 2 for that reason].

I wish I had another chance to do this experiment over again with a reliable device. But there you have it, a map of a two mile walk on a moving cruise ship.

When in Dallas

After 40 or so years of visiting the Dallas area, with literally hundreds of layovers at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, I have never actually been in downtown Dallas, until today.

This morning I woke up at my hotel at 1700 Commerce Street. It was going to be a hot day, so a morning walk at 7:00am seemed like the right thing. I was within a mile of the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I walked down Main Street heading east and soon reached the famed, or infamous, Dealey Plaza. Here is a map, and the red arrow shows the exact location of Kennedy’s death.

I was there around 7:00 in the morning and there were no tourists yet. It was all empty and quiet. Later in the day this area gets quite busy with many tourists walking around and taking pictures. I avoided all that by being there early.

The above photograph shows the location of Kennedy’s death (red arrow) and the window where the shooter sat (blue arrow). The address of the building is 411 Elm Street in Dallas. It was a book depository in 1963.

Here is another view from a little further away. You can see there was hardly any traffic that early in the morning.

Here is another view of the same spot, this time from the center of Dealey Plaza. If you click on my photograph and zoom in where the arrow points you may see a white X that is actually marked on the street on the very spot.

Bob Dylan wrote a very moving song in his last album Rough and Rowdy Ways titled Murder Most Foul. The song is about the Kennedy assassination.

Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63A day that will live on in infamyPresident Kennedy was a-ridin’ highGood day to be livin’ and a good day to die

You can find the full lyrics here. I recommend you listen to the song. I can’t post it here for copyright reasons.

The sixth and seventh floor of the former book depository are now a museum named The Sixth Floor Museum. It opens at 10:00am, so I had to come back later to visit the museum. I it did not regret it. There are countless exhibits of posters, photographs and audiovisuals.

This picture shows an exact copy of the rifle that was used. The actual rifle that killed the president is at the National Archives.

And most eerie and deeply disturbing, here is the window from where the shot was fired. The area is enclosed by glass in the museum, and the book boxes are of course staged. There were book boxes the shooter used to rest the rifle.

I stood there for quite a while and let it sink in. This very spot was the place where U.S. history changed when a popular president was killed by a loser with a cheap gun.

I still remember the day. I was six years old and I had just started second grade in elementary school in Germany. My mother told me about what happened before I went to school. She wanted me to be informed in the event that the teacher brought it up.

When I was in the museum I watched some video clips of the day’s events. There were the ominous clips of the motorcade rolling down Main Street in Dallas, literally Kennedy’s last minutes alive, showing him waving to the crowds on both sides of the streets. Then the car reached Dealey Plaza and turned right onto North Houston Street before turning left again onto Elm Street to the fateful spot. I looked up and saw the building and the window where the shooter sat that very moment. He was not visible, but the window was definitely open – this was just seconds before.

In another clip, it showed the Kennedys arriving on Air Force One at Dallas Love Field that morning. It showed Jackie in the now famous bright pink outfit coming out of the plane and walking down the stairs, followed by the president. Lyndon Johnson greeted them. Eventually Kennedy entered the open limousine. As it pulled away, there was a Texas Lone Star flag behind the car, and right next to that flag was a Confederate Flag.

And that also made me stop and think.


The Dismal State of American Airlines

I have been a decades long loyal American Airlines Flyer. I am approaching three (3) million miles on American Airlines alone! You can’t say I didn’t give them my best shot.

However, I am close to finding another airline for my business. Most recently, my experience was pretty dismal – as posted here. In fairness, the airline awarded each of us 10,000 bonus miles for the unplanned adventure.

Then I just came across this post for another traveler:

The Dismal State Of American Airlines Flagship First Class – Live and Let’s Fly (

It certainly looks like this flight attendant was not trained. If I were treated like that at the local Subway shop, I’d find another sandwich place. If I paid $2,000 or more for a first class seat, and I’d get this treatment, I’d find another airline.

I am not sure what’s going on with American, but things are not well.

Visiting Hemingway’s House in Key West

Last week we visited Key West, Florida, for a few days. There are two very famous Key West citizens whose presence is felt all over the island. One is Jimmy Buffett, the American singer and songwriter, author, actor and businessman, who is best known for his music, which often portrays an “island escapism” lifestyle. He started his career partly in Key West, and “Buffett-stuff” is all over the island. The other famous Key West citizen is Ernest Hemingway, who lived there in the 1930ies.

We visited Hemingway’s house, which is now a well-preserved museum dedicated to his life and legacy. Here is a view of the house.

I found it riveting to be walking through the rooms where he lived, including his bedroom and the master bathroom, the sleeping quarters for the nanny, and the room where his kids slept.

But most inspiring was seeing his writing studio. Here I am at the foot of the stairs. The studio door is at the top of the stairs above my head:

Here is another view of the building from the other side:

I was able to enter the studio. I was alone while there, behind a fence to keep out tourists, of course. I had plenty of time to just reflect.

This room, museum staff told us, is largely untouched as it was when Hemingway wrote there in the 1930ies. This is his actual chair and table. You can see one of the 54 cats on the property under the chair on the left. It is said that all the cats are descendants of Hemingway’s cats. He went up into that studio before breakfast every day to write at least 700 words. 70 percent of Hemingway’s work was written in this room, including the following novels:

  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Death in the Afternoon
  • Green Hills of Africa
  • To Have and Have Not
  • The Fifth Column
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Snows of Kilimanjaro

It turns out, I have only read one Hemingway book: The Old Man and the Sea, and I have read that several times. I have no review of it published here, since the readings were all before 2007 when I started this blog.  I once tried to read The Sun Also Rises, but could not finish it. Here is my short review.

Being in that studio inspired me, and I decided to give it another shot and read some Hemingway.

After the visit to the Hemingway house, we went across the street to climb the historic lighthouse:

Here is a look back to Hemingway’s property from the top of the lighthouse:

If you find yourself visiting Key West, I strongly recommend you visit this museum. The entry fee is $18 per person – cash only – yes, but it’s well worth it.

The Special Hell of Flying American Airlines

My wife and I attended a wedding in Key West, Florida, this past weekend. We flew from San Diego to Miami on a non-stop red-eye flight on Wednesday night and arrived there first thing Thursday morning. Then we rented a car and drove down all the way along the Florida Keys, since we had never done that before and wanted to see what that was like. No regrets.

Our return trip was also a non-stop, leaving at 9:20pm Sunday night, scheduled to arrive just before midnight in San Diego. Enough time to go home, get a good (short) night’s sleep to be ready for work on Monday morning.

At about 5:00pm when we got to the airport, the airline alerted us that the flight was delayed to leave at 11:11pm. Ok, not too bad. We checked our luggage and went to the Admirals Club to relax while we waited. When we showed up at the gate at about 10:30, the airline posted that the flight would now depart at 12:18am. The incoming flight was late due to mechanical problems. Then the flight was delayed again to 2:30am, because one of the pilots had timed out of his 12-hour window and they had to find a new reserve pilot. They soon told us they had found one, but it would take time for him to dress, drive to the airport, park, take the shuttle and get to the gate. At 2:30, they finally boarded us, even though there was no captain or pilot on board yet. When we were ready at about 3:00am, I saw a pilot, but no captain. They then told us that we would have to get off the plane, and we would leave at 6:30am, but this time “for real.”

So rather than telling us at 5:00 that there’d be trouble, giving us a chance to rebook another way home, they kept stringing all 200 of us in the gate area along one hour at a time.

If I had known that the plane would not leave until 6:30am, I would have found a nearby hotel and got a good night’s sleep and showed up at 6:30 for the flight. Did they know? I cannot tell. It’s now 4:04am in the Miami airport as I am typing this and I really don’t know if we’re really leaving at 6:30.

This kind of stuff happens too often these days. Weather, mechanical issues, labor regulations, and sheer apparent planning incompetence get in the way, and air travel is no longer reliable.

If this country had a decent high-speed rail system, I would have booked a ticket for the 12-hour ride from Miami to San Diego, I would have slept the night, and arrived on time without stress.

Instead, we are literally trying to sleep on the hard carpet at gate D16 in the Miami airport.

And this is the special hell of flying American Airlines today.

Regensburg was one of the Largest Cities in Europe in 1050

Largest Cities in 1050 in Europe and North Africa – Click for Credit in Reddit

I found this map in a Reddit post. Please note that the post itself has way more information in the comments than I could possibly provide here.

What struck me about this is that Regensburg was the largest city in Germany, and one of the nine largest cities in Europe altogether. I grew up in Regensburg, and I know the city well. I always knew it was one of the oldest cities in Germany. Incidentally, it was also one of the few that did not get bombed out in WW II, so many of the old churches and buildings are still intact. I remember clearly as a boy walking the city and never being much impressed with the “Altstadt” – the old town, but that’s what I had grown up with, so I knew of no other reality.

I have a few photographs I took during a visit in March of 2014 . Here is the center of the city with the famous cathedral. The towers are 100 meters high.

Regensburg City Center seen from the Danube

The very oldest settlements of the city can be dated back to 5,000 years BC.  Regenburg was a Roman fort with the name of Castra Regina 2,000 years ago. There are still remnants of the old city wall in downtown, right there for anyone to view – and touch. As a child, I was not impressed much, but as an adult, and particularly an American, going back and  walking the old city streets, I always have a sense of awe.

Regensburg is located at the northernmost tip of the Danube. It is navigable there, but only for a few miles upstream before it gets too rough. Two smaller rivers, the Regen and the Naab, join the Danube at Regensburg from the north. Due to this important strategic location, on the trade routes between Paris, Kiev and south to Venice, the city was an important crossroads and a center of trade for millennia. With a population of over 40,000, the wealthy city was larger than Rome, Paris and Cologne at that time.

It’s astonishing that Rome didn’t even make this list. Rome had a population of about 30,000 then, down from more than a million in the heyday of the Roman empire. Baghdad was the largest city of all on this map.

In 1135, a stone bridge was erected there called die Steinerne Brücke, which is still standing to this day. When I was a boy, there was still two-way automobile traffic allowed across the bridge, but it was closed decades ago and only left open to foot traffic. I walk over the bridge wrapped in nostalgia every time I visit Regensburg nowadays. Here is a photo I took in 2014, walking on the bridge:

Regensburg from the Old Stone Bridge

At the northern end of the stone bridge is the old historic sausage kitchen, called die Historische Wurstküchl. At an age of 500 years it is one of the oldest continuously operating restaurants in Europe. They make their bratwurst the same way now they did 500 years ago, and I recommend a visit to any tourist. One notable fact is that the restaurant gets flooded every few decades, with the water of the Danube reaching halfway up the first story of the building. When you look carefully on their website, you will see some signs in the restaurant, showing how high the water was:

In the above picture, you can see my red arrow pointing on a plaque in the wall: Wasserhöhe means water level. The date of March 27, 1988 shows when the water was up to that point. But this has been going on for centuries as the Danube floods from time to time, and they just clean up and continue with business.

Here is one more view of the city from the bridge:


And that’s what went through my mind when I stumbled across that Reddit post.

On a Flight with Paul Gosar

On a recent trip to Washington, DC this week, as I boarded my American Airlines flight and walked back to my coach seat, I saw a face looking up at me that I recognized. He looked up, we locked eyes for a fraction of a second, and both abandoned it.

I sat down in the row behind him. It was the controversial Republican Congressman from Arizona, Paul Gosar.

I pulled up his Wikipedia page and remained entertained for about half an hour. Needless to say, I am not very aligned with his views. Remember, this is the guy whose own brothers and sisters endorsed his opponent in his re-election run, because they thought he was too much of a crackpot.

He spent the entire four hours of flying time hunched over his phone reading things, but also with some interludes paying Solitaire.

I always sit in the exit rows and the seat next to me was empty. I guess he could easily have ended up sitting next to me.

I have to admit, I do not know whether I would have had any conversation with him in that case. I normally do not engage with fellow travelers at all. Yes, I am that guy. But I don’t know if I could have held myself back.

I don’t think anyone else around us recognized him, and at the end, I walked off the plane in DC right behind him. He met somebody there, and I walked on. We never talked.

Moon Setting over Manhattan

The weather was pretty dismal during my stay in New York the last couple of days. It was rainy, and misty, and most the time you could not see beyond the next few buildings. Of course, it does not help that it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.

This morning, as I was getting ready to depart, I looked out the window of my hotel room on the 7th floor of the Hilton at JFK. It was clear, and the sun had just risen high enough to light up a few tall buildings in distant Manhattan. With the moon setting over the city, partly behind clouds, it was a magical moment. Here is the best photograph I could get through a fairly dirty hotel window.

That was my parting view.

Best View in New York City and Nostalgia

Yesterday I visited New York City and spent a day working at the offices of our company’s financial partners. On my way there, as I stepped out of the Uber right in the middle of Rockefeller Center, I had this view of the famous Christmas tree:

When I stood there and looked down at the skating rink, I realized that I had stood at this very spot some 47 years ago with a group of my fellow exchange students, leaning on the very railing in the bottom of this picture:

I searched the archives in my home computer and found this photo. It was taken in July 1975. I am the guy with the blue shirt and bushy hair. Yes, I had hair when I was 18. The girl in front of me is holding on to the railing you see in the first picture with the Christmas tree.

After this short trip down memory lane, I went upstairs and they put me in a vacant corner office. I looked out the window, and this was my view:

You can look down on the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. The stairs where I had just taken the above picture are on the right.

Then I turned to the other window in the corner office, and here is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in the rainy mist of New York in December.

Once I was done with my business in the afternoon and left, I surely wanted to go back down there and look up at the building from where I had just looked down:

Of course, the place was now chock full of tourists, all taking pictures and selfies with the tree. I am sure Facebook has another 10,000 such photographs posted today, right?

By the way, all the city’s hotels were sold out. The cheapest rooms to be found in not so exciting hotels cost over $1,200 / night. I asked the Hilton why this was and they basically said that there is so much pent-up demand to visit New York during the holidays after the emptiness of the Covid years.

New York City is definitely back!