Recently in United States Category

Another US trip: NY and DC

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After a full two weeks, I found myself back in the Taipei International Airport flying back the United States. This time, most of my time was spent visiting friends in New York and Washington DC.

I was in New York on January 20th, and although I was staying out in Queens near a friends house trying to save money on hotel costs, I went into Manhattan hoping to watch the Inauguration on TV somewhere. Crowds were starting to gather in Times Square, and the pre-show events were on all of the huge jumbotrons all around the Square. I would have just watched it out there but it was much colder than my Bangkok-trained body could stand.

I finally found a BBQ restaurant with the heat turned on and the inauguration on TV, and so I grabbed a seat at the bar and thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings for the next couple of hours. For me, the highlights of the day were Aretha's hat, and seeing freezing cold people in Times Square, just around the corner from where I sat. Then again, even though I was warm and comfortably seated, perhaps I missed my chance at five seconds of International Fame.

The next day I rented a car and drove down to DC. The whole purpose of this part of the trip was to see as many people as I could, and I did a pretty good job of it, although I didn't see everyone on my list.

But now, I am headed back to Asia one last time, and hopefully I will stay there for a while.

Christmas in San Francisco and Denver

It has been a great, but mostly uneventful trip back to the US for Christmas. My first stop was in San Francisco for a few days visiting friends there and checking out some of the cool new night spots, such as the very highly recommended Pisco Latin Lounge. This bar is owned by a friend of a friend, and is very stylish and the picso cocktails are tasty. Small neighborhood bars like this one is something that San Francisco definitely has over Bangkok.

Then, I headed to Denver, where I spent several relaxing days with my family. It wasn't snowing much this year, so we were able to get out a bit. The family all piled into the truck one day and headed down to the "Garden of the Gods", a cool rock formation outside of Colorado Springs, where I met up with Pete, a good friend from college. I hadn't seen Pete since graduation, so it was great to catch up with him and meet his family.

We also stopped by the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and walked around a bit. They have an amazing cathedral there that looks like it is made from huge airplane wings. It is definitely one of the most unique houses of worship I have ever seen.

I posted a few pics to Facebook, in case you are interested in seeing the Garden of the Gods, or the USAF Cathedral, or my friend Pete!

Now, it's on to Taipei for New Years with Piyawat and some of my Taiwanese and Singaporean friends.

A Day For History


There is nothing I can say that hasn't been said a million times all over the world. But, sitting here on my couch in Bangkok, I am completely overwhelmed with the gravity and importance of what happened in the United States today.

And even though I live on the other side of the world, I have a keen interest in what is happening back in the US. But over the past few years, I have become more and more disillusioned with the path that my country has taken. And during this last election, I have been disgusted with the tactics taken by some to divide the electorate, to sow fear and uncertainty, to claim that some Americans are "more American" than others.

But now, this is all behind us. Finally, a real change has come. I, along with the rest of the world, am again hopeful for the future. Hopeful that the US can repair ties with our friends around the world. Hopeful that new friends can be made. Hopeful that the world can make progress on the environment, and on the fight against disease and poverty. Hopeful that the world will continue to progress and improve.

Now the real work starts.

My First White Christmas


snow%20groceries.jpgLooking out my window today I see a much different view than usual. What's up with all this white stuff that is falling from the sky? And why do I have to wear all these clothes when I leave the house? After five years in tropical Thailand, I think it's safe to say that my blood has thinned and I better hurry back before I freeze to death.

We had a lovely Christmas here in Denver. It was my niece's first Christmas, so most of our time has been spent watching her crawl around the house making strange noises and putting everything within reach into her mouth. Other traditional Christmas activities that we participated in was an emergency run to the grocery store in the snow (pictured here), eating as much food as possible, and of course opening presents this morning.

mom%20and%20ava.jpgMy brother-in-law measured the white stuff outside the house and he said it was 8 inches deep. Even though I was complaining about it earlier, it's actually good news because I wanted to do some skiing on this visit. My parents brought my 10-year old skis with them to Denver, and my Christmas gift pile was mostly much-needed ski apparel. Hopefully I will be able to hit the slopes sometime in the next couple of days.

ruin%20view.jpgOh, and although I haven't written about it yet, last week, my dad and I had a great trip to Peru. We spent 2 days in Lima, then 4 days up in the mountains based in Cusco. While there, we had one day-trip to see Macchu Picchu, and one day-trip to see other Incan sites, like Ollantaytambo (pictured here). It was a truly amazing experience. I'll try to write up some more details and post some pictures soon.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Refusing To Act Like Senior Citizens


Who is afraid of getting old? Apparently not my parents. After I dragged them on a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia (5 cities in 14 days) they went back to the US and continued the active lifestyle. Mom is competing in a golf tournament this weekend, while my Dad completed the swimming leg of a team triathlon.

The local newspaper reported, "The male team of Jim McInturff, Wilbert Dawson and Stuart Towns, finished third in their division and probably took top honors as the oldest team in the race."

According to Dad, there was no "probably" about it. He says, "We were the oldest team by far -- 193 years combined."

So hat's off to both of my competitive parents who refuse to get old! (Hope I say the same for myself someday!)


The full story can be read at 24th Mightymite has first time winners from the Forrest City Times-Herald.

A childhood friend of mine, Everett Spain, is serving in Iraq right now. But he is in a very special position: the top aide to Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq. Everett says in a recent interview that he's more or less an executive assistant to the General. Or, as he was quoted as saying, "My job is to make him as efficient and effective as possible in order to expand his positive impact."

My parents are still good friends with Everett's parents (in fact, they were at our celebratory diner when Ava Marie arrived a month ago), but reading the article made me realize that I have lost touch with Everett and his life. He's married now with four kids, the last one being adopted from China.

The article goes on to say that Everett has already been wounded in fighting in Baghdad and received the Purple Heart award. (I wasn't aware of this either.) I hope that he stays safe for the rest of his time there and is able to return to his family back in the US soon.

You can read the whole article about Everett (entitled Commander's right-hand man) from the Pensacola News Journal website. Thanks for passing it along, Mom!

Living Vicariously Through Each Other


stuart_ava.jpgAs I sit here and hold day-old Ava Marie, I reflect on the whole amazing process. Since births happen all the time, I would think that we would get used to it. But no, it is still an awe-inspiring experience to share in the creation of another human life.

I was looking down at the sleeping baby in my arms, and my aunt asked me, "See? Isn't she beautiful?" I had to agree. "Doesn't it make you want to have one of your own?"

"Umm.... No. Absolutely not."

And I said it with a smile, because I really don't know why I missed out on the need-for-procreation gene. But having a baby of my own was the farthest thing from my mind at the time. And I am well past the age where that desire was supposed to kick in, so I guess that means that it's not going to happen.

It's funny how my sister's and I had the same childhood and share most of the same DNA, but our lives have taken wildly different paths the last few years. I have moved to the other side of the world and have done my best to put myself in as many different places as I can, as often as I can. She, on the other hand, found a wonderful husband, bought a house, and had her first child.

And we are both very happy with the outcomes and the paths ahead of us. So as she might marvel at the exotic places I go and things that I see (as she often comments on these pages), I too will marvel at her as she plays the premier role in shaping the life of another human being. It is a huge undertaking, and I have a lot of respect for her and the way she is going about it.

These paths that we have set ourselves upon are mutually exclusive. It would be impossible to do both, so we will just have to admire each other from afar. We will have to settle for living vicariously through each other as time goes on.

That's not such a bad thing after all...

My first time being an Uncle


At 5 AM on the day we were to leave Panama City, we got the phone call that we have been waiting for: my pregnant sister, her husband, and my mother were on the way to the hospital.

The flight back to the US was uneventful, but we were full of anticipation to hear the news from the hospital. As soon as we landed, we headed there to meet the newest addition to our family… a cute little girl named Ava Marie. Soon afterwards, I was able to hold the hours-old baby in my arms.

After spending some time with the baby and the new parents, my mother and father and I headed out for some dinner. They were both in a celebratory mood, as Ava Marie is their first grandchild. At the restaurant, we heard that some family friend’s had dropped by the hospital, and were now on their way to join us. And then we heard a big surprise that one of my aunts and her daughter had secretly driven all the way from Houston to see the baby, and that she was on the way to the restaurant as well.

It was a great party, once everyone arrived. The wine flowed freely and we made the kitchen stay open a little later than they perhaps wanted, as we kept ordering more food as new arrived.

All in all it was a great day. I look forward to sending little Ava Marie birthday presents every January from now on.

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.

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!

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