Sabbatical Daydreaming

so a couple of days ago my boss let slip that there was a high chance i could take a one-to-three month sabbatical this year. naturally, my mind began to wander (always a bad sign, especially if it’s not a for-sure thing yet) as to what i could do with that time. because i would still have to be available for work, it would make the most sense to be places where i have unlimited data roaming on verizon (thanks to our business plan; click “View List” under “Global Data Options”), so that limited my choices.

i narrowed it down to three, based on what i could do in 4-5 weeks (thinking i could extend to longer if they let me):

  • mostly brazil, with some argentina
  • mostly thailand, with some hong kong and macau
  • kazakhstan
  • the balkans and then some

after some thinking about what i wanted, i’m going with the last option. i would need to have reliable (and relatively speedy) internet in case i needed to do any work, so kazakhstan is out. having done japan and cambodia last year, and even though brazil (specifically brasilia) is on my bucket list, i’ve developed an itch for southeast europe lately. this is partially thanks to the last #indie2012 and missing my old classmates from grad school, many of whom were from this area.

this is my tentative plan, with major stops along the way (going counter-clockwise, i.e., from west to east*):

* there’s no big reason why i’ve chosen this direction, but i read on wikitravel about passport trouble going from kosovo to serbia, and even though it is not supposed to happen now, it’s just one less thing to worry about if i go from serbia to kosovo.

the crossing on the black sea, i’m thinking, would be on the prinses elena, which i found out about on seat61.com. yes, kind of daunting, a ukranian cruise. not only would i stick out like a sore thumb (not too worried about this), i’d have no clue what’s going on (more worried about this), since i don’t understand russian (or ukranian, or turkish), and the longest “cruise” i’ve ever been on was the three hour eckerö ferry from helsinki to tallinn. on the other hand, it sounds like a great adventure!

in order, the major stops that i’ve mapped out are:

  • sarajevo
  • niš
  • priština
  • skopje
  • sofia
  • istanbul
  • odessa
  • kiev

thoughts? this may never happen, at least not soon, and this is only a first pass. i’d love to fit in something in romania, but i’m not quite sure what. this is already incredibly tight (bordering on impossible) for five weeks.

Phlashback: Antiquarium of the Munich Residenz

one in an occasional series of photo flashbacks

Five years ago

"The Hall of Antiquities (Antiquarium), built in 1568-1571...is the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps."
Wikipedia

Today’s #frifotos — Balls around San Francisco

By SBC Park

Stairs and Ball

Water and Balls

And a bonus from SoCal -- Tomorrowland Tower in Disneyland

The Perfect Hotel Clock/Radio and Three Hotel Bathroom Pet Peeves

for four of the past five nights i’ve been living out of a suitcase at hotels near a client’s worksite. which hotel, exactly, has been at the mercy of others (over the weekend) and priceline (during the week, since i’m not picky, as long as it’s clean). as an aside, i’ve gotten two great deals on priceline, especially for weeknight stays where rooms are normally more expensive than weekends. tonight i’m in a four-star (hamilton park, independent) for $72 (69% off, says priceline), and last night i was in a different four-star (hyatt) for $84 (63% off). i was in a hyatt house, their newly-rebranded upscale extended-stay suite hotel (used to be known as summerfield suites and hotel sierra), over the weekend. p.s. kudos to tonight’s hotel and hyatt house for their free wifi, though i must say the $11.95/24 hour wifi at the hyatt, which i only bought because i needed to download a 1.5 GB file, was quite speedy as far as hotel internet goes.

in any case, all this exposure to different hotels has gotten me thinking about what i like and don’t like about each. i’m normally not picky, but like everyone, i have idiosyncratic things that either delight or dismay me.

the perfect hotel clock/radio

The Sharper Image Sound Soother Alarm Clock (at tonight's hotel)

(preface: i’m most definitely not being compensated for this — i just happened to discover the joys of this clock radio when i got to my room this afternoon)

except to tell time, i hardly ever use any of the functions on a hotel alarm clock. i’d rather just tell siri when to wake me up (yes, i’m that guy), or as backup, set up a wake-up call. this alarm clock, however, i just want to hug and take home. not only are the buttons big and clearly-marked, but the display is large, too. the best part, though, is the ipod/iphone dock connector and the top door that turns into a tray to hold your gadget.

why is this a step above just a regular AUX/headphone connector (which is also available)? it charges my phone — which many radios/clocks don’t, either because they weren’t set up to charge i-devices (i.e., you get just the AUX/headphone connector) or they charge using an older charging method which does not work with newer models. this means i don’t need to fish out (and potentially forget) my charger from my bag!

also, the “adjustable slot” for holding your phone or music player is great for those who don’t have an apple product and can’t seat them in a dock connector tray, and perfect for those of us who don’t trust dock connectors to hold up a phone, even with a support on the back. as a bonus, it has a sound generator for “rain”, “surf”, “brook”, and “aviary” and can play “jazz”, “guitar”, “spa”, and “lounge” songs (i’ve played both “rain” and “spa” tonight while working). i’m currently listening to some streaming music and to my untrained ears, it sounds pretty decent. (i would never pump up the volume in a hotel, and at lower listening levels, i certainly can’t complain.)

i’m sure this cost much (MUCH) less than the geneva sound system they have at the andaz in new york, and while the sound, i’m sure, isn’t comparable, i’ll take the sharper image one any day, thankyouverymuch. do you know how long it took me to figure out how to work that thing? (it was so irritating — one of those form over function pieces of crap — that it sticks out in my head almost a year later.) amazeballs hotel, uninspired radio. most definitely not soothing like this one!

three hotel bathroom pet peeves

(a non-exhaustive list of first world problems i’ve noticed over the past couple nights)

  • you get face soap, body soap, shampoo, conditioner, and even a tube of toothpaste, but NO LOTION! [hyatt house]
  • no soap holder in the shower/tub [hyatt] (although those wire rack-type holders are blech as well, since small bars of hotel soap tend to fall right through them if you don’t place them just so and the shampoo bottles never stand up straight, so you have to make sure they don’t tip over and leak)
  • when they place the towels on the other side of the bathroom and you don’t notice until you’re emerging after your shower (hyatt)

Phlashback: Old-School Dinkelsbühl

one in an occasional series of photo flashbacks

Five years ago

Walls, medieval and otherwise