random musings

After 5 years, 2 hard disks, 3 keyboards, 5 motherboards and 2 screens, my beloved laptop recently gave me the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.  Poor Old Bess.   She was my constant companion through 23 countries (21 of which were intentional, but that’s another story), countless hours of airport layovers, survived air turbulence that would have destroyed a lesser machine, and gave faultless performance in many speeches and presentations all over the world.    Old Bess found me hotels, alternate flights, and otherwise saved my butt when the Travel Gods decided to play their little games.

I felt bereft when Bess finally decided it was Her Time.  I found myself going through the classic stages of grief – anger (damn it!), denial (perhaps it’s only a virus), sadness (waaa!) and finally acceptance (OK – so when are you sending me a new one?).   Rest in peace, Bess.

It’s not just that I can’t indulge in writing, one of my passions, but it sure made my work life terribly difficult.   Working only from a blackberry isn’t an optimal experience.    I found that missing our company’s internal instant messaging was crippling.   I’m sure my co-workers were happy I wasn’t virtually stalking them for the information they owed me.   However, it was a short-lived relief – many of my co-workers are also friends on Facebook, and I discovered how easy it is to virtually stalk via the chat feature from my home computer.   I think I was single-handedly responsible for an increase in productivity at the office, and a lightening of the load on Facebook’s servers.

It was with great happiness that I accepted the FedEx delivery today of Bessie 2.0.   This is my first blog post on my new darling, and we’re starting to get acquainted.   I’m getting used to the new keyboard layout, and am totally stoked about the lightning fast speed from the i5 processor.  I’m not dissing Old Bess, but 9 minutes to boot up in the morning was just a little bit slow.   Bessie 2.0 is able to get out of bed and up and around in about 1.5 minutes.  That’s better than me on most days.

I have a lot more stories to write, and I’m thrilled to introduce to my readers Bessie, my new assistant.   She’s quiet and unassuming, but I can see that she has a lot of the same spirit that infused Old Bess.   I think we’re going to get on very well together.

I have a lot of friends in the middle and eastern parts of the US who have had enough snow, ice, wind chill and cold to last them for the next decade.  The most common theme I’ve been reading on various social media sites is ‘get me outta here!”.  So – to give all of you something to think about, something to dream about, or something to actively plan, here’s a few lesser-known places that are waiting for all you Snowbirds who don’t want to spend a fortune getting there, and where you can see just about everything in  a 3 or 4 day weekend.

  • San Diego, California combines some of the best winter weather in the US with a good number of sights.   The San Diego Zoo, Gaslamp, Mission San Diego, Coronado Island, and Legoland are just a few of the sights that draw tourists to this picturesque town year round.   Summer time can be cool and foggy, but winter and spring are usually glorious, and there are some great prices right now on flights.  San Diego just has one airport, but you can fly into Los Angeles and drive south if the prices are better.
  • Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona is the winter golf mecca for Snowbirds.  The weather is usually very mild this time of year, and you don’t have to stay at one of the pricey resorts to be able to enjoy the sun and the warmth.  There are many better deals in the towns around Scottsdale that are within easy distance of all the sights.  Check for hotels or motels in Glendale, Mesa, and Tempe for lower cost accommodations.  Fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
  • Palm Springs/Palm Desert, California – within easy driving distance of Las Vegas, this desert resort area caters to all financial spectrums.  There are chi-chi resorts, timeshares, as well as cost-effective hotels and motels.   From this area, you can reach the Cabozon shopping center within an easy drive, as well as driving into some of the most beautiful desert areas in the world.   Fly into Palm Springs or Las Vegas and drive from there.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico is a delightfully quaint town in the mountains above Albuquerque.  Or is it Left at Albuquerque?  I always get that mixed up.   Santa Fe is home to artists, shops galore, and incredibly beautiful nature.   It’s a great place to just rest and recharge, and the weather dramatically improves in March.  Look for deals on B&B’s during this time – they can be had!  You can fly into Santa Fe directly, or for a cheaper flight, go to Albuquerque and drive up the scenic road to Santa Fe.
  • Napa/Sonoma County wine areas in California are known all over the world for beautiful scenery and good wine combined.   But there are other reasons to visit besides the wine – bicycling is very popular in the area, and there are several good tour companies that fit every budget.  Calistoga is home to natural hot springs and famous mud baths that are not necessarily expensive.  The Russian River area has Anderson Woods, with beautiful hiking paths through the redwood forest.  Spring is a lovely time in this area – at the most you’ll have to deal with a few showers of rain in the midst of lots and lots of sunshine.  There are many small B&B’s in this area as well as motels that are cost effective if the pricey resorts are not in your budget.  Fly into San Francisco or Oakland Airport and drive to the Wine Country.
  • Oregon’s Willamette Valley is incredibly beautiful.   Bicycling is popular for the more active, and tour companies abound with a wide variety of options for the beginner to advanced cyclist.  Look for good deals in the Spring.  For those who prefer a more 4 wheeled option, there are back roads that are clamoring for a leisurely drive, with wildflowers and grape vines blooming as far as you can see.   Yes, this time of year can be rainy, but it’s still better than 2 feet of snow, and there is a lot of green to look at!  Fly into Eugene, Oregon and go from there.
  • San Antonio Texas combines warm spring weather with golf, shopping, amusement parks and The Alamo.  There are several pricey resorts up on what passes for a mountain there, but there are also many other low-cost options that can be found on an internet search.  Flights are relatively cheap there at this time of year, and it’s worth a look to see what’s available.

I hope this gives you some ideas for getting OUT OF THE SNOW for a 4 day weekend.  Enjoy, and may the Travel and Weather Gods be with you!


It’s happened to all of us who’ve traveled across time zones.  Nausea, sleeplessness, drowsiness, achiness, and general brain-fog that turns a high IQ individual into Homer Simpson.  This dragging feeling can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.  The farther you travel, the worse it gets.  If you’re reading this blog entry, the chances are you’ve been struck by this ultimate indignity inflicted on us by the Travel Gods.

I’ve read about all the special practices that I could find on the Internet.  I’ve talked to other passengers on Trans-Atlantic or Trans-Pacific flights, I’ve asked doctors, physical therapists, and heck – I’ve even talked to Chinese acupuncture and traditional medicine practitioners.   I’ve tried most of what was suggested, and if it didn’t make me sick, loopy, or just didn’t flat-out work, I incorporated it into my own routine, which changes depending on where I’m going.   The nice thing is I now have the jet lag effects down to a minimum, and I can function much better than before.  This blog will refer only to non-medicinal practices.   Discussions on sedatives is a whole ‘nother issue!  Read about that here.

Short-haul Travel (1-4 hours of time change):

  • If you’re traveling east, get up early – very early.   Try to wake up at the same time you would if you were already at your destination.  This way you are tired when you need to go to bed  once you arrive.
  • If you’re traveling west, try to take a later flight, and get up a bit later than normal.  It does help.
  • Get your stomach-clock on the new time zone immediately.  Eat breakfast and lunch on the destination’s time zone while you travel.  I’m not hungry at 4:30am, but I always eat something light while in the car on the way to the airport.  It really helps.
  • Set your watch to the new time zone as soon as the airplane takes off.  This gets your mind on the new time, and reminds you when to eat the lunch you brought on the plane with you.
  • Do NOT overdo the caffeine.  Take only as much as you are used to – a cup of coffee or tea in the morning.  If you load up on Coke or Diet Coke, you will only have problems falling asleep that night and your jet lag will be much worse.
  • Go to bed that night at the time you usually fall asleep, but in your destination time zone.  If you’re traveling west, stay awake and DO NOT NAP!  If you do, you’re hosed, and might as well admit defeat right there.   Follow your normal routine when going to bed, but try to keep noise down as much as possible.  Turning the TV on will just keep you awake, and really tick off your hotel neighbors.  A book or magazine will make you fall asleep faster.

Long-haul Travel (5+ hours of time change):

  • If you are  landing in the late-afternoon or evening, the most important piece of advice I can give is DO NOT SLEEP if you can, and if you have to, don’t sleep more than 2-3 hours on the flight.   I’ve learned through bitter experience that it increases that hit-by-a-truck feeling the next day, and jet lag effects last longer than if you stayed awake.  I bring books, videos, crossword puzzles and my ipod to keep me awake on long, long flights and layovers.  You want to be really tired when you land so you can get some sleep that night.
  • If you are landing in the morning (any time before noon), then get as much sleep as you can on the flight so you can stay up all day without napping.   At this point, caffeine is a good friend, and go ahead with the coffee, tea, and soda until about 3pm.  DO NOT imbibe any caffeine past 3pm in your destination time zone.  If you do, you will not sleep well that night.
  • Set your watch to your destination time zone as soon as you take off in the airplane.  This helps you wrap your head around the time change before you arrive.   If you have multiple destinations, I’ve found it helps to reset it on each flight.  It may sound like a small point, but I firmly believe that if you keep thinking “it’s _o’clock at home” your body will not accept the new time as readily.
  • Drink a lot of non-alcoholic fluids on the flight.  Keep hydrated.   Yes, it does mean more trips to the loo on the airplane, but as long as it’s not too turbulent, it also gives you an excuse to get up and get moving at times.  Dehydration will increase the severity of your jet lag.
  • Get up and do some stretches when turbulence permits.   Sitting in one position too long is not only uncomfortable, it can be detrimental to your health.
  • Go to sleep at an appropriate time your first night, and do not eat a meal just before retiring.  Stay away from that room-service menu!   If you eat a meal, you will not sleep well, and will be very muzzy the next morning.   If you are arriving very late, I usually bring some protein bars to nibble on the train or car to the hotel.
  • And this from reader Jaimie Goulding – “Having spent considerable time in the air myself “commuting” between West Coast USA and Asia/Pacific global region, I have 1 more suggestion to offer. Prolonged exposure to the pressurized cabin may be attributed to the flu-like symptoms some of us suffer (mild hypobaric hypoxia) upon landing, and I’ve found that a good long hot water soak in a deep hot tub or jacuzzi immediately relieves some of the edema, helps “rebalance” your cells and will certainly help you sleep better. Try to do the soak as soon after you land as possible. ”  –  Thank you, Jaimie!  This is an excellent addition.

And the MOST important piece of advice:

  • Get a massage as soon as you can after arriving, and definitely within the first 2 days.   If you land in the morning and have to work or sight-see the first day, then try to have a massage before sleeping that night.  This is the single most effective piece of advice I was ever given.   A massage will  decrease jet lag in a very simple way.  Tight muscles  prevent sleep, and wake you up at 4am.  Water retention and mild edema is uncomfortable.  Racy-brain and stress will increase the body’s reaction to the time change.  All of this is corrected by a 60 or 90 minute session with a good therapist.  Many good hotels in Asia offer special massages to reduce jet lag, and they WORK.   If they don’t have a Jet-Lag Special, then choose whatever service is most comfortable for you.

I have the routine set now so I can land after traveling for 23 hours, have a full day of productive meetings, a massage, a light dinner and a glass of wine, and then sleep for 8 or 9 hours and feel great the next day.  It’s a minor victory over the Travel Gods, but I’ll take it!

If you have a favorite practice that I have not addressed, please post it in a comment, or send me an email.  I will do a follow-up after I hear from some of my readers.

I love people-watching when I travel, and Las Vegas is one of those places where you can always find something of interest. When I’m with a group of girlfriends for one of our spa-pool-show weekends, we have a good time with everyone’s favorite Vegas spectator sports – Which State are They From? and Is She a Pro? (honestly. sometimes it’s hard to tell).

Things are a bit different when traveling to Sin City on business, usually since you know almost everyone around you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sport of People Watching.  I’ve decided that during conferences it’s fun to see  how people handle the off-times, and I’m rarely disappointed.     Like tourists, I’ve noticed people tend to fall into 3 different categories:

The Partiers: This group tends to be single and have lots of stamina.  And I mean LOTS.  You can see them all over the strip – traveling in packs with nametags or company logowear, taking multiple huggy-pics on their mobile phones.   Some are drinking heavily, and others are trying to pace themselves – with varying success.  All are planning their next stop after the company-sponsored reception is over, usually in loud voices.  Most make it back to the hotel at some point during the night and snatch a few hours of sleep.   Others will toddle into their hotel rooms in time to shower and get ready for the next day’s round of sessions.  You know who you are, and trust me – so does everyone else.

The Parents: This group obviously doesn’t get out much.   They REALLY want to party and have a good time, but it’s way past their bedtime at home.  They’re not used to staying up late, but stick it out for a while with the partiers because they know no little one is going to wake them up at 5am.  They know they get to sleep in until 7 before their first session in the morning so figure they need to make the most of their one night without responsibilities.   Some look all-in after one drink, others can go the distance with the best of the Party Crowd.  One easy way to tell them from the Partiers – they’re the ones showing pictures of their adorable little ones on their cell phones to everyone they see, in between yawns and drinks.

The Chaperones: With this group,  if you asked their age, you’d get clocked.  Let’s just say they’ve gone through the Partiers and the Parents stage, and now they’re at the age where they’re sipping their lone cocktail, and watching the other groups.  What they’re really doing is laughing and making bets on who is going to make it back to the hotel that night.   Having a few Chaperones along on an evening reception is not a bad idea.  They’re usually the ones who make sure the others they find who are out of hand make it back to the hotel in what is relatively one piece.   They’re also the ones the next day who are bright and cheerful at breakfast, and razzing those who are hanging over their coffee in pain.

Whichever group you belong to, enjoy the delights of Sin City and remember – when at a company convention, what Happens in Vegas DOES NOT Stay in Vegas!  And you KNOW who you are (so do we!).

View from the Mix Lounge at THE Hotel.

Today is Christmas Day for those of Russian Orthodox faith.   It is a day of celebration and family time that is every bit as important and special as the Christmas Day the Western World celebrates.  Vlad’s family only celebrates the holiday on January 7,  and I have always loved it – even if I am still Christmas shopping on January 5 and facing a mound of wrapping on the morning of the 7th.

I love learning about the customs and practices of  other culture and religions, so finding out why this happened was a priority when Vlad and I started dating – this was somewhere in between the time of the dinosaurs and the iPad.  Not saying exactly when, but if you ask my son, it was closer to the dinosaurs…

The reason Christmas is celebrated on this day has nothing to do with the Feast of the Epiphany, as many people may think.   It’s a very simple reason – the Russian Orthodox church did not change their calendar from Julian to Gregorian when the rest of the world did.    That means the church calendar is 13 days behind ours at this present time.   Pretty cool information, isn’t it?

There are other benefits as well –  the ability to access all the year-end sales in the stores for Christmas presents springs to mind.  It’s a great excuse for not taking your tree and decorations down until the second weekend in January.  Spreading the holidays out a bit more keeps the Christmas spirit going another couple of weeks.   Our son also got to exxperience every child’s dream – two full Christmases with all the presents and magic intact.  Having both Santa Claus and Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) deliver presents under the tree is a special bonus that I wish I had as a child.    No – they’re not the same magical beings – Dyed Moroz wears white and comes in the front door – not down the chimney, but they’re the same in that he also leaves nice presents.

So, today will be filled with wrapping presents and cooking the dessert for tonight’s dinner celebration at my mother-in-law’s house.   There will be good food, good friends and family, and a lot of Christmas spirit.   Once again.

C Рождеством Христовым!

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