Category Archives: Of Interest

If only there could be a travel blog that gives you the real experience

I love to travel, but find it tiring. The traffic, the language barriers, sickness, and other hassles don’t add to the experience — although they define it. But, for us busy types, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to travel without leaving your home? In a sense with travel videos, you can do more than you think. But, you can’t taste the food, smell the air, or feel the emotions of the traveler.

To me the salient features of travel are the unusual experiences you might have. You might meet someone in a train station, or have an interesting experience chatting in a cafe. It is not anymore about the culture, or the city, but about the people, and the experience. But, how can you translate this into a blog or video? Is it even possible?

I have written other articles about virtual travel. This requires a multi-billion dollar theme park where you really feel like you are in a different environment. In real life, someone determined could probably build such a place. But, how can you engineer your blog or video to help you at least imagine the smells, tastes, and the real experience without making it look documented? Perhaps it might be nicer to try to capitalize on the more interesting moments during a trip. Most trips are quite dull most of the time, but then a few minutes a day you’ll have a “wow” experience. You’ll see an interesting building or something interesting will happen.

My most interesting travel experience was looking for my friend in a Mumbai railway station. A stranger in his 60’s came up to me and said, “Your friend is looking for you.” I told him I was also looking for my friend. Then, I looked around and couldn’t find her in the crowd. Then, the man came back five minutes later and told me to make a loudspeaker announcement. I went to the manager’s office and made an announcement. Then, I waited. Nothing happened. I went back and walked around and found her. Then we walked back to where I had been standing. Keep in mind this station is huge and has thousands of people in it. It was a scene of a horrible massacre years after my experience there. We both saw the guy who I had talked to. I asked my friend if she had talked to him before. She said she had never seen him before. Bizarre — only in India!

If you run your own business, you can travel & then deduct it!

I own my own business and I love to travel. I love it when I can have a business meeting in a different metro, and deduct my expenses. In real life this doesn’t always work out that well. It is often that the service provider just isn’t doing good work and I have to fire them. But, I suppose if I keep looking I will be able to find good people in places I like to go anyway.

I love going to wine country, San Diego, Tucson, and Santa Fe. I hire programmers in other cities. That tends to be complicated. But, I could also hire bloggers, social media experts, or other consultants. I wonder if I can find any in the desired cities though. I found a programmer I really like. He is in Mississippi. Driving from Los Angeles to Jackson is a lot more than I think I can handle unless that is the only thing I do all month.

But, in the past, I did find programmers in other cities. I did deduct my trip. Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t as “fun” as I wanted it to be because it was 80% about business and not about fun. The IRS will be satisfied that I am doing real work on my trips, but I am not. Is it possible to combine business and pleasure like a pro? If it is, let me know how to master this art — I really want to know! (ooh, that rhymes!)

A lifestyle of travel can take a lot out of you

I remember my trips to India. It was so easy going, but coming back I felt like I was in a daze for three weeks. I never understood why it is like that. But, others claim the same thing! Travel tires me out. I can drive to other states, and enjoy that tremendously. The deserts of the American Southwest are mesmerizing and enchanting. But, there is nothing like going to a foreign country.

Sure, in America we have Chinatown, Japantown, and people from all over the world. But, it is not like being in a real foreign country. When you are abroad, the phone system is different, the coca cola tastes different, it smells different, people don’t speak English to each other, etc. In short, it is really different when you get off a plane. While in Los Angeles it only feels different!

But, I notice that I have gotten caught up with work. Maybe that is good. I am making something of myself. I am getting ahead. I am trying new things in business . I am mastering my skills. But, I feel very cut off from the world. Will I ever see India again? Will I ever see Bali or Dubai? Maybe I need to set my priorities. Maybe I need to work less, and make it imperative that I do some travel. Slowly, but surely I am rearranging my life to make my weekly activities more manageable, and I’m finding more people to help me too. Maybe I’ll be able to have time for an international life. Or better — maybe I can have business activities that require international travel. That would be my dream come true. My psychic says it will happen. So, we’ll see!

The importance of spending time with trees

My guru told me I should meditate at a particular place because the old trees would be good for me to stay spiritually grounded. It sounded a bit far out, but it worked. I was very unstable before I started going to that meditation spot. When I went once a week, I really did feel more grounded. I was much less paranoid. I didn’t feel the need to go on trips quite so often. As you know from reading my blogs, I have the travel bug, but don’t always have the time to satisfy my travel cravings. The place I often meditate has some very unusual trees. There are older trees that twist around. Some of the braches need to be held up by supports as these are really ancient trees. The people who used to visit this place really loved the trees. I don’t know if those are people who go there now, or people decades ago. This place in Mount Washington is lost in time. The vibration there is more from the 1940’s than any other decade.

But, there are other places with trees. The environment is different and the types of trees are also different. The Santa Cruz area has wonderful redwood forests. I love going there several times a year to commune with nature. I find it deeply satisfying to be around those wonderful trees. They have a wonderful healing energy to them and I love how soft the ground is around their trunks as well.

Hotel Bel-Air has a wonderful sunken garden with all types of trees including a Silk Floss Tree, seven Redwoods, and many other very unusual trees. I swear there are pixies or angels there in the garden. You can’t see them, but they must be thre in such an unusual environment.

I notice a very negative change in my personality when I haven’t had my dose of nature or in particular — trees. Maybe we all need to be with trees. Thomas Jefferson claimed that man needed to live in nature. I agree with him. Too bad I can’t meet him. I’m a few hundred years too late. But, I play the cello — so, we have something in common even with the time differential!

123notary

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I run a Notary blog, Outsourcing blog, and Travel blog. But, these topics have a lot of overlap. Many people outsource mortgage work which is related to the Notary profession. And Notaries often travel to their jobs. They don’t get to go to exciting places like Bali, but I know of some who travel to the Mexico border near San Diego. Mobile Notaries get to drive an hour or more to jobs. They get to know their metro inside out and see all the little areas within it. I was a Mobile Notary for years and found it very interesting.

Driving around has been interesting for me. I got to see many different neighborhoods. I got to know the very opulent area of Bel-Air with their $30 million mansions. I saw cool areas like Santa Monica and West Hollywood. I also got to know many ethnic enclaves and their cuisine such as Thai Town, Chinatown, Japan-town, Korea-town, and more. I drove into the desert on many occasions which is like being in a different state completely. I also got to know all of the local jails which is a cultural experience in itself. It is not bad to go as a visitor, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

So, think about becoming a traveling notary. It is a very interesting job with a lively social media community. You can have a flexible schedule and save up to go to Katmandu and then do some real traveling. Just don’t bring your notary seal to Katmandu. You might get in trouble!

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Halloween 2014; Haunted mazes, and more

This year, halloween was somewhat fun. I was so upset last year that I didn’t do anything. So, this year I made it my business to go out and enjoy myself at some haunted attraction. My housemate wanted to go with me, so off we went. I researched some places, but unfortunately, the places I wanted to go to were not open on a Thursday night. Curses! So, I did a little more research and found a few choices that were open, and we picked the best choice.

We went up into the San Fernando Valley which is North of Los Angeles. The attraction was near a college on a huge suburban farm. I’ve been to dozens of these Halloween attractions. They are very predictable. You go through a maze, and high school students dressed in very fake looking costumes act eerie, and scary and jump out at you trying to scare you. But, sometimes it is unusual or fun. This attractions had a haunted corn field, a corn maze, a factory of horrors, and an insane asylum. We went to the haunted corn field. We walked through and all types of scary creatures jumped out at us. My housemate was so scared and screamed bloody murder each time someone jumped out. I had to put my fingers in my ears it was so loud. I explained that these were high school kids and that this was not real. Her response was, “But, what if it were real?” My response is that we could be driving home and a maniac from hell could come out from nowhere and have a deadly collision with us — but, this was not real.

So, after twelve sessions of her screaming for 45 seconds straight each time (I think the staff appreciated her genuine terror) we got to the point where the guy with the chainsaw singled her out. They didn’t bother me, (that much) because I wasn’t afraid. I knew there was no chain on the saw! But, this was actually fortunate, because the next attraction was much more scary — even for me.

The Factory of Horrors
I don’t remember the exact name, but the name is approximately what I titled this paragraph. I waited in a very short line. During the weekend this line is much worse by the way — 20 times worse. They let me in and I was greeted by a very eerie looking guy in a bell-boy outfit. He ushered me into the elevator and said, “You are very brave…” I wondered if he said this to all the guests or only to me. After all, I entered this horrific and dark place — alone! I prefer these attractions alone. It is scarier that way, you interact more with the scary staff. I don’t remember the order of events that well, but here we go. The elevator shook, the dim lights flickered. I wondered if I had made a mistake in coming there and how bad it would be. I started having serious second thoughts. Then, the shaking stopped, and I was escorted into the maze which was not there when I went into the elevator. This elevator didn’t go down. It just shook while they rearrange the walls. So, I proceeded down the hall. A guy jumped out at me and actually rammed into my leg. I was not hurt, but he hurt his knee on the ground. There was a guy being electrocuted screaming very loudly. A girl told me how she cut her boyfriend into pieces and that now she wanted to cut me with her knife. I walked by them and then there was this huge slamming noise of wood smacking into wood. Another room had the sound of metal drums crashing to the floor, and a loud engine which is kind of a scary sound in itself. I went through a tunnel that was circling around which made me very dizzy. I like that part the best by the way! There were all types of other creatures who jumped out at me and I just wanted to get out of there after a few minutes. Finally I exited the maze, and was relieved. I was so glad my friend hadn’t come with me, because she never would have made it. If she thought the other attraction was scary, this was ten times as bad, especially since it was so dark, and had such realistic sound effects.

Afterwards
We got some funnel cake with apples which was just top-notch. Then, we went home. On our way down the highway, something happened. A crazy guy in a Mercedes raced past us, he cut us off with only inches to spare, and then took off ahead of us. It was time for us to take our Laurel Canyon exit. There was a long light. But, then there were sirens on the highway. We decided that the crazy Mercedes driver had gotten into an accident and that the cops and hopefully an ambulance were there. Neither of us were scared, but I explained to my housemate that the situation two minutes ago was actually life-threatening even though we were not slightly afraid while the scares at the haunted attraction were not real. Interesting!

The good part is that I did not have any nightmares!

Halloween: instead of the typical attractions, what about this?

I’m a little worn out of the typical Halloween attractions. You go through a dark and twisty maze and people in weird make up and outfits jump out at you. It is too predictable. The sound effects are predictable too. There is the boiler room, the train, the chainsaw, eerie music, and then techno beats to go with flashing lights. My favorite part of the last attraction I went to was the room with the white strobe light. It was so bright, you couldn’t see anything in front of you. You had to cling to the wall. It was very interesting and a little scary.

I like the idea of haunted mazes, but I would like more interaction with the actors. I think that I would prefer if they would be scary without trying to be scary. They should just give you the creeps, and let the feeling of terror build up in you until you reach an apex! Unfortunately for me, the haunted attraction industry specializes in catering to the 19 year old market segment which is the largest. High school kids don’t go as much to these attractions because it is expensive, and they often don’t have transportation. Adults seem to not go so often to these attractions. So, it makes business sense to appeal to 19 year olds in particular, but that is not interesting for me. I am 45, and consider myself to be a connoisseur of experiences.

A haunted bar?
There are many interesting and perhaps cost effective alternatives to the traditional haunted maze made of plywood sets. The thing that makes the maze interesting might be the sound effects or your interactions with the staff. But, at a haunted bar, you could really interact with some very creepy people without a lot of sets.

Imagine that you sign up for a haunted tour, or maze. But, before the tour begins, you sit at the bar. It is more fun if the scares are unexpected. The bar turns out to be way more scary than the maze (perhaps.) You talk to a seemingly normal bar tender. You order a drink. Since liquor licenses are hard to get, your drink might be a non-alcoholic drink. The bar tender drops to the floor after a ghoulish guy with haunted make up murders him with a huge ax from the 1400’s and then says, “I was sick of him anyway.” Your drink comes. There might be blood dripping down the side of the glass, or perhaps not. If you ordered tea, the spoon in the tea cup starts moving around on its own. That would scare the daylights out of me. Next, some very creepy girls with horror movie make up sit next to you. They look like they had a throat operation and have sharp metal objects surgically implanted into their lips which are a costume of course. They can tell you about their former boyfriend and how he did something they didn’t like and how they took care of him. Then, they come right next to you and say, “Want a date?” After they leave, some other creepy characters would sit next to you at the bar. When you turn around, the entire bar could be filled with creeps. What an experience — if done right.

The Star Wars scenario
What if on your way to your haunted maze, you had to walk down a series of long hall ways. Imagine if these long hallways had Star Wars characters walking past you in perfect outfits. I’m not talking about inexpensive costumes. Professional quality costumes that might cost $2000 or more per piece. They could be making small talk with each other about how the Federation raised taxes or why making the jump to light speed is overrated. It would be really fun to go to a Star Wars bar with that kooky music in the background. You could meet Jaba the hut and other creatures from outer space.

The Victorian House
What if you went into a house, and there was a small party in one of the lower rooms. Perhaps wine and cheese. Perhaps spooky organ music. But, what if you were to take turns moving around the house alone? Strange footsteps, odd sounds, cold spots, heavy breathing when nobody is there. There are ways to creep people out, and I wish people who ran haunted attractions would go for more subtle scares rather than assembly line people jumping out at you. They do a lot of slamming sounds in commercial haunted mazes, but there is a correct way to use slamming sounds. According to the classical haunted tales in Victorian houses, it is absolutely silent, except for the creaky sounds of the floorboards below you. You walk in darkness, or perhaps go up the stairs to an eerie second floor. You open a door — then all of a sudden there is a huge crash, and the sounds of glass breaking, pots falling, or other abrupt noises startles you. If it happens again and again it is not an authentic Halloween scare, but only a cheap commercial imitation.

With a little imagination, people could create very interesting haunted attractions. Unfortunately, this industry is only active one month a year and you have to make whatever profits you can in that limited time. It makes it kind of hard to do anything artistic in that time frame.

This Halloween I got a real scare that was very creepy and real!

I wrote two other quick blog posts about my Halloween. It was actually interesting since I got to meet the owner of one of the attractions. But, going to these predictable Halloween events is a bit unsatisfying year after year. I always complain that the scares are not authentic Halloween scares. They are disturbing, but not eerie like they are supposed to be. Having people in cheap costumes “trying” to be scary jumping out at you gets old very quickly.

Well, it was Halloween night. I had my steak at Wood Ranch. I walked home and saw some people with great face make up. One girl had Avatar face make up on and it was shiny blue. How professional looking and impressive! I saw a stormtrooper on my afternoon walk and talked to him about how he put together his outfit. But, it was later on when the real action took place.

I was doing my work on my computer as I usually do. I took a break to watch television. They had a 1980’s Halloween zombie movie playing. Eight people were trapped in a house and zombies were slowly walking towards to house trying to break in. Their eyes were white. They were dead, but perhaps possessed, so they could still move around. The people were boarding up the house and the music for this movie was eerie. If you ask me, the month of October is creepy in general. I tend to get a chilling feeling quite easily, and certain parts of town are just plain spooky.

So, as I was doing my work, a spirit came behind me. For those of you who don’t know, I see spirits quite easily. I generally only experience the spirit of my guru who comes to give me spiritual help. But, this time it was a very spooky and creepy spirit. I felt a sudden chill which is an authentic reaction to being near a ghost. This was a spirit, not a ghost, but then what is the difference? You can physically see a ghost, while you cannot physically see a spirit. I felt afraid, and that cold spot got me to close the windows and crank my heater up full blast.

But, after that experience was over, I said to myself — this is how Halloween is supposed to be, and that was an authentic eerie, spooky, and creepy Halloween scare! That is the one thing these haunted attractions never give me no matter how much I pay, or how many reviews I read!

Imagine a fantasy city with bike & Segway highways

The way cities around the world are set up is not very imaginative. There are roads, generally arranged into grids. If you live in Boston, then cow paths each going its own random direction (which is even worse.) Then, there are buses which drive along the same congested roads that cars do, ensuring a jerky and bumpy ride. Finally, there are trains, but getting to a train station and waiting for a congested train, inhaling urine smells, and having no way to park at the train station just are not fun. The Canadians at least have mastered the art of coordinating buses that connect to trains in both directions. Americans are very backwards in this sense.

Bike highways
But, let’s think outside the box here. It is not easy for bike enthusiasts to get around in today’s transportation systems. You have to ride on a road where you could easily lose your life if a bus hits you. People might throw stuff out their window and hit you too. Additionally, if you park your bike, it will get vandalized or stolen. These are all serious problems to consider when building a fantasy city.

What if a city were built that had bike highways. You might get hit by another bike, but that would probably not kill you. The sides of the highway could be padded too for your protection. People could ride in lanes that were wide enough for safety and comfort. Additionally, there could be stores along the highway that catered to the needs of fitness fanatics such as bike repair shops, sports clothing, refreshments, health food, newspapers, magazines, internet cafes, and more. Additionally, there would be connections from the bike highway to trains, buses, and other modes of transportation. Remember, that this is a fantasy city, so there might be modes of transportation that don’t exist in the real world… yet. There would be secured places to park your bike. You could lock the entire bike in a narrow glass box. There would be no way to steal the bike, nor would it be possible to vandalize the bike. You just lock it up with a hardened steel circular lock, and off you go. Security guards and cameras would also be present to guard your bikes, and all bikes would have GPS tracking by law to ensure that they could be quickly recovered if stolen.

Let me reiterate. The bike highway system would have:
(1) Wide lanes for bikes ONLY
(2) Stores catering to the needs of fitness lovers including refreshment stands, newspapers, internet, etc.
(3) Narrow glass boxes with heavy locks to park your bike if you transfer to a train, or are at your destination.

The bike highway could go through parks, next to lakes, trees, etc. But, it could also be elevated in dense urban areas, so that you wouldn’t be delayed by stop signs, red lights, etc. You would essentially be able to travel more quickly on a bike, than those would be able to in a car, and in a safe, fun and comfortable environment as well.

Segway highways
Segway technology fascinates me. It is so easy, and the device is so small. Imagine if you could have highways specifically designed for Segway travel. My dream is to have an elevated or enclosed tunnel for Segway traffic. You would not use your own. You would just walk in. Hop on, and take it to your destination and drop it off. There would be no way to remove the Segway from the established track, so theft would not be an issue. This sounds like a Dutch inspired idea, but it would work amazingly in the rest of the world as well.

Multi-person robotic carts?
What if you had an urban area in a fantasy city where there were 30 main transportation hubs in the various parts of town. You could have a stop in each of these hubs for a new type of transportation which is only used in manufacturing at the current time. Robotic carts! Imagine that four people can jump on a robotic cart that is programmed to take you to a particular destination. Imagine that you get on standing up, with side pads and a belt to keep you comfortably in place. Each stop could have 30 different carts. Once your cart is filled with four people, or three on a slow day, it instructs you to connect your belts, and then away it goes to the established location. It would be like advanced carpooling or India’s share rickshaws, but much easier to coordinate, and with no driver — well, at least not a human driver. Such carts could probably move around at 12 miles per hour which is plenty in a dense urban area, especially since there would be no traffic on these designated passageways exclusively for robotic cart traffic.

You never know who you’ll meet on a train ride

An original story
You never know who you’ll meet on a train ride- LA to Dallas.

Traveling with the church lady
Ever since “The Lady Vanishes” (1938-Hitchcock), train travelers can wonder who their fellow passengers are. I’ve met federal energy experts, devastated survivors, traveling minstrels, men from WWII Japanese prison camps, and missionaries. But you’ll also met ordinary people. As Amtrak’s policy for meals is community seating you’ll almost always wind up with a meal-mate with a story- unless she’s just some old grandma. So on one trip, just to be polite, I asked the white-haired dearies across from me what they did to pass their time (as in babysit, clean house, knit, or whatever). The dearies kindly informed me that they designed nuclear missiles for the Department of Defense- they weren’t kidding. So much for my stereotypes. Who are you on the train with?

My Kerala train story
I was once on a train to Kerela in India. I was in too much of a hurry and didn’t book a place to stay. There was a very friendly Muslim guy who was drinking far too much whiskey. He was going to his sleeping compartment, then walking around, offering whiskey to the workers (who accepted,) and then going back to his sleeping compartment. Back and forth. We talked briefly about Islam. I thought that the fasting they did was to remember God. He informed me that the fasting was to remember the poor, not God. My comment was — why not just eat a little bit and give the rest of your food to the poor instead of gorging promptly upon sundown. The extremely poor don’t get to gorge ever! We talked about spirituality, meditation, Islam, travel and other topics. He told me that I was on the wrong path doing meditation. I wonder if that was a subtle hint from the brighter world about what was going to happen to me in my spiritual group which indeed did go sour. But, the best part about meeting this weirdo (who was kicked off the train by the guards for being a nuisance) was that he gave me the phone number for a very clean and affordable hotel in Ernakalum (near Kochi) for $20 a night. I booked from the train, and they were only one kilometer from the rail station which made for an easy and affordable cab ride!

Tweets
(1) Traveling with The Church Lady? When this 93 year-old isn’t serving cookies she’s designing nuclear
missiles for Raytheon. #ttot

(2) During a long and soothing train ride I met a sweet 93 year old lady, Mrs. Higgins, a Nuclear missile designer. #ttot

(3) Meet Mrs Higins, a Sweet 93 year old Church Lady/ Nuclear missile designer
#ttot