December 2006 Archives

Childhood Memories of Our Second Home

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The year is 1976. I am sitting on the couch with my neighborhood buddies, Chris, Jay and Lee. Bowls of Cheetos sit between us. We spend hours on this couch every day, either watching the afternoon re-runs like the Mickey Mouse Club (the Annette Funicello version) or Tom and Jerry or Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. And if we get tired of the re-runs, there's a brand new PONG home video console waiting for us to play.

The old-fashioned games of Monopoly and Life and Yatzee always entertained us as well. They were stored on the shelves in the old garage that was converted into offices. A huge set of Matchbox Cars were yet another excellent diversion that could be found on the shelves.

Living in Florida usually meant that the outdoors were even more fun for us kids than the indoors. Behind the house was a huge forest that went as far as we were willing to walk. Trails had been cut in the woods and we spent thousands of hours exploring, building forts, turning over rocks, searching for crawdads in the creek, or playing hide-and-seek.

But none of us actually lived in this house by the woods. Instead, it was the home of a woman who was like our second mother. She had five teenaged kids of her own, but still opened her house every afternoon after school to watch over the neighborhood kids whose parents worked.

Thirty years later, I am standing in the same living room that used to hold the TV and the couch and the PONG game. The board games are still out in the garage on the shelves, albeit under a thick layer of dust. Our "second mother" is there as well, still looking much the same as before, with just a few more grey hairs, still showing her stern side, but always quick to laugh. We reminisced about the old days when her house would be full of ten kids aged 5-18, and she would keep us all entertained and under control.

"Good memories", she finally says, thinking back decades ago.

Good memories indeed.

My Year in Cities, 2006


Last year I made a list of all the places I had spent the night in 2005, and since it's the end of a new year, I thought I'd do it again.

This was a great year for travel for me. I visited some of my favorite places (like Luang Prabang) and crossed off some of the highest ranked "Places I Want to Visit", like Hanoi, Shanghai, and Tokyo. And I found a new "Favorite Underrated Thai Place" in Phitsanulok.

So, here are the cities I spent at least one night in during 2006. The cities with a * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive nights.

Last year's list had 24 spots in 5 countries, this year had 30 in 9 countries. As much as I loved traveling around this year, I know I won't have nearly as long a list in 2007. 2006 was the Year of Travel, 2007 will be the Year of the Startup Company. Last year was great, to be sure, but I am actually looking forward to a new lifestyle this year.

United's Four Hour Flight Delay in Chicago

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Thanks to the fact that Wi-Fi Internet connections are becoming popular, I am posting this from Chicago O'Hare Airport. I'm glad for the fact that I have Internet access, as it allows me to catch up on some work, but I am not glad to be sitting here because my connecting flight is four hours late. (And I really wish the Internet was free, but it's not.)

O'Hare is a zoo today, most likely because the Denver airport has been closed for a day or two. So I flew out of Houston today thinking that travel might be difficult, and sure enough, here I sit.

But, according to, this particular flight is on-time only 56% of the time, and the average delay is 86 minutes. So there is a 44% chance that this flight will be late on any given day. I was ready to cut United some slack, but that record is just criminal!

Visiting Family in Houston Texas

Even though I have a lot of family in Houston, Texas, it's been about 15 years since I have been here. The first two days in town was spent getting my Thai Business Visa at the consulate, the next two days were spent catching up with my three aunts and their families.

Today was especially busy. Aunt #1 drove me from Houston down to Galveston, just to do a quick drive-through of the historic town. And historic it was, but quite a bit run-down, unfortunately. It reminded me a lot of downtown Pensacola, before all of the renovations turned a down-and-out area into a quaint historic shopping and entertainment center.

Then, it was on to Clear Lake where we had lunch with Aunt #2. And although I didn't get to meet her grandchildren, I got an ear-full about what they are up to these days. After lunch we stopped by Aunt #1's house and spent about an hour there playing duets on her piano. I haven't had piano lessons in about 20 years, but she did a pretty good job of teaching me some tricks about how to play bass chords by reading the treble clef. It was so much

After piano lessons, I headed out on my own to find my grandmother's old house. She passed away about 20 years ago, but I just wanted to see where we used to go visit her. I didn't realize it as a kid, but she lived out in the middle of nowhere. Even now, the signpost into her town said it had a population of 773. And by the looks of it, that sign might have been optimistic.

The next and final stop was to visit Aunt #3 near Cold Springs, north of Houston. I also stopped by to visit a cousin who is just a couple of weeks younger than me, but who I haven't seen in decades. Aunt #3 fixed me a delicious steak dinner with red wine and cheesecake. It's times like these that I LOVE the US.

And then it was a long drive back to Houston to spend the night before my plane leaves in the morning. All in all it was a nice visit to get reacquainted with family members I haven't seen in a long time. Tomorrow, it's on to St. Louis, and then to Florida for Christmas. Ho Ho Ho!

The End of the Dot-Com Hangover?


Going back to San Francisco is always a strange experience for me. It is at once familiar and unfamiliar. So many things stick out in my mind: the beauty of the hills, the diversity of the City's inhabitants, the amazing array of delicious food that is available, the sky-high prices of everything...

Every time I make my annual trip to San Francisco, it's always a whirlwind visiting friends and my favorite old haunts. This trip was especially good, though, as for the first time since I left at the end of the dot-com implosion, people are actually in a good mood and are optimistic about the future. Before this trip, every visit to San Francisco seemed to have a veil of uncertainty and doubt and a longing for "the good old days".

But things are different now. The restaurants are full. Companies are hiring. People feel like they have freedom to do as they please, with a bright future ahead. And I would guess that the Democrats victory in the last election didn't hurt the jubilant mood in this famously liberal city.

I had one lunch with a few ex-colleagues. Six years ago we were all toiling away at an Internet consulting firm at the center of the dot-com boom. And now we have all gone our own ways -- one friend just launched a "Web 2.0" startup, another ex-project manager is sewing handbags and selling them online, while still another is touring the nation as the lead singer of a rock band that is becoming more and more popular. And then of course there is me, living the expat life in Thailand.

So it's been a good few days here. San Francisco is still one of my favorite cities in the world. Now it's time to turn my attention to my family and the holidays, with Houston, St. Louis, and Florida on the itinerary.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2006 is the previous archive.

January 2007 is the next archive.

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