Tag Archives: travel


We recently traveled to Turkey.  The trip was a great experience.  I really enjoyed the food, and wanted to upload a few pictures here:



Great and not-so-great things about the internet in Japan 2008

As I stated earlier, I am visiting Japan for the first time in 10 years this Thanksgiving break. After a couple of days, there are a few things that have really stood out to me.

Electronics are not as advanced over the rest of the world as they used to be. There are still alot of cool things here, but there is nothing I have seen so far that I am just dying to have. 10 years ago, this was very different…

The prices of things have not changed at the same rate here as in North America (ESPECIALLY Canada). The last time I was here, there were many things I wanted to buy, the the prices where prohibitively expensive. Granted, at the time I was a graduate student working on my Master’s degree and money was a bit harder to come by — but — the prices of things here is definitely cheaper. Eating out is now quite a bit cheaper than in New York City (depends on the restaurant of course).

The internet is the thing that is sticking out the most to me. 10 years ago ISDN was a luxury that most people only dreamed of. 128kbps was jsut amazing speed and you could actually download the newest version of Netscape 4 in under 1 hour. It was just great at the time. Now with fiber, cable, and DSL connections being plentiful here, I can watch TV via sling AND Video chat with friends and family through Skype for no cost at all. I spend more than $200 on phone calls the last time I was here!!

With all this good stuff, there must be some bad. The bad part of the internet experience I am finding so far is related to content filtering. It seems that many companies and providers are IP filtering connections and seem to block any connections not originating from the U.S.A. This is lame. One problem that is really bothering me is that Steam is not allowing me to download Left 4 Dead onto my laptop so I can kill some zombies. I already purchased the game and have been playing it on my desktop as well as my computer at work. I forgot to install the game on my laptop before I left, but didnt think much about it since I knew there would be a fast internet connection waiting for me in Japan. Well, to make a long story short, Steam is not allowing me to download any new content while I am connecting from Japan. I have tested this theory using VNC to my systems at work and at home. No problems there. Anyway, this lameness aside, I have found a way around other filters. SOCKS 5 Proxys are great. I installed WinSocks on my computer at home. I am connecting to the computer via Hamachi using a VPN. This allows me to not open ports on my router for this. Makes it very easy. Anyway, using a program called ProxyCap, I can redirect programs running on mylaptop to mask their IP address to that of my home system. This allows lots of things to work now. In particular, I am thoroughly enjoying watching NFL football via DirecTV’s Superfan program. It refused to connect without the proxy, but when I change the settings, I have live NFL football in all its glory right on my laptop. This is very nice.

Anyway, lots of good, and a few bad things (no killing of zombies is pretty bad…) to mention here. I will post more as the trip goes on.

First experience with Amtrak

amtrak online

With the high price of gas these days ($4 per gallon in these parts), I decided to try my luck with Amtrak. I have never ridden Amtrak, but I have quite a bit of experience with train riding in Europe and Asia, and well as uncountable hours on subway systems. Anyway, I purchased my ticket from Penn Station in New York to Huntington, WV. Since I am a student, I applied for the discount card (I purchased a 4 year membership for $40). This discount brought the round trip cost to $158. Had I driven, the cost would have ran around $300-$400, depending if I stayed the night in a motel.

Anyway, the trip to Penn Station from Brooklyn was simple. When I got to Penn Station, I got right on the train and away I went. I had my own double seat — the train was largely empty at this point, however it did fill up as time went on, but I got to have 2 seats the whole 14 hours. During the trip, I was able to use the trains AC socket to power my laptop. From NYC to DC, I could use my AT&T wireless broadband connection to have video chats with Skype, as well as watch the entire Today Show via Sling. Very nice. I would not imagine this is even possible at this point on an airplane. When I got into the mountains in WV, I lost my 3G connection, and EDGE was sparse at best. The view was simply spectacular however. The New river and the rapids it creates as well as the surrounding mountains are really quite nice to look at.

As the trip went on, I became hungry. The food car provided ample snacks, but the 1 hour layover in DC was much better as Union Station there has a very nice modern shopping and eating complex. I was provided with a nice salad and an iced americano thanks to the Starbucks in the station.

The trip home was enjoyable, although I didn’t get to stop at Union Station for a snack. Other than that, it was pretty much the reverse of the first leg of the trip. Overall, I have to say Amtrak gets my seal of approval. They are doing a great job and should be commended for it. I will try my best to use them whenever possible from this day forward.