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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Robert Taylor's LiveJournal:

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Monday, February 22nd, 2016
7:08 am
Upgraded from "ow motherfucker your spine hates you and your median nerve is rioting" to "healing and full of mucus after slight cold", thanks to prednisone and medical marijuana edibles, and a weekend spent in coma in my bed.

ETA: and then right back to "fuck you motherfucker ow" after coughing fits at work while sitting upright.

Current Mood: ow
Monday, May 26th, 2014
9:57 am
Memorial Day
Inadequate thanks are the only kind we have to offer those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” in service to the country. We the living, and we civilians, should be mindful that every one of those deaths betokened an awesome act of trust – trust that, when they made themselves into weapons, they would be wielded wisely; trust that, when they lay down their lives, we would use that coin for worthy purchase. As a nation we have only ever fitfully met the standards implicit in those deaths. Let us be humble, and let us try harder.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
10:54 am
morthael and icprncs, this may be relevant to your interests
The Saddest Tourist Destination in the United States Has Just Gotten Worse

And unfortunately, unless you're qualified as a software engineering manager, I don't know of open jobs here. :(
Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
8:39 am
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
11:40 am
Looks like...
I get to see Vanilla Bear, morthael in May.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
6:42 am
Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
12:58 pm
Well, crap. Sorry, icprncs and morthael.
Poor planning on my part for a day in Philly.




We'll need to rethink this. I may just grab the mandatory cheesesteak and head up straight to NYC.
Saturday, June 16th, 2012
11:53 am
Time for the Packening, prequel to the Movening.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
12:06 am
Since not everyone is on the Book of Face...
Rose is better.

We don't know why. We're not sure why she was unwell to start with.

But we'll take it.

Next up: Moving. Unfortunately, I can't take Dave Barry's advice on the topic:

Saturday, February 18th, 2012
8:18 am
so, morthael...

Why didn't you take ME out on the boat, Vanilla Bear?!?!? >:
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
8:32 pm
My daughter just published Mary Sue Doctor Who fanfic.

I... don't have anything more to say. Just this.

Hope you and Vanilla Bear are doing well with the menagerie.
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
5:18 pm
Not really an update
So, yes, Facebook is evil, Mark Zuckerberg does unmentionable things to barnyard animals, etc.

But LJ sucks for shortish sorts of posts on my phone with picture dumps (especially as I am a Cheap Bastard and don't have paid LJ). And I'm not feeling like longish trip report-ish sort of stuff yet. I am still doing large amounts of Christopher Robin-style Nothing, which works well with Facebook blurbs, not with actual reflective writing.

So you'll all have to be waiting for a bit for an LJ update, or reading my damned FB.

Also: this SHOULD be the middle of nowhere. Yet thanks to the Internet, it is not.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
11:19 am
Abusing Frequent Flyer Programs for Fun and Profit
I've threatened to do this post for a while, and, well, bags are pretty much packed and we're down into the double digits for when I leave... so....

OK, here's the thing. Yeah, I did manage to get some neat things (trip around the world as a way to go to Wave Gotik Treffen) out of judicious application of a surprisingly small amount of money. That being said, there are people at this who know a lot more than I do. So go read them.


So now it's time to explain what I did.

Airlines make more profit selling frequent flyer miles than flying airplanes. To quote Dave Barry: I am not making this up. The deal is they sell miles to banks, car rental agencies, FTD... and even to people. It's kind of like being able to make your own pseudo-currency. Now, while this does pose some problems for you and me, the end recipients of the pseudo-currency (inflation as airlines re-enact Gresham's law over and over again, arbitrary rules and capacity restrictions to cheat you out of the "value" of your pseudo-currency, and so on), where there is currency, there is... arbitrage. And this, in the end, is what I ended up doing- using various opportunities to leverage the cost of coach tickets to Europe in June (so, $1,200 or so) into what would normally be many thousands of dollars in tickets in international business/first class...around the world.

That being said, I am a piker compared to this guy, known as "Pudding Guy", and other people mentioned in that article. Or these fine folks. And some of the deals I did don't actually exist any more, much like how you can't turn $240 worth of puddin' into first class to Paris any more. That's fine. There's always more. And I share the word (just ask the friends who ended up enjoying free Vegas with me on a fine December weekend, thanks to expedia.ca). So consider this more an illustration of what is possible (and some of what I describe still is).

One of the airlines that really aggressively pushes their frequent flyer miles is US Airways. Last year, I happened to fly me and my daughter on them by accident because, well, our flight home from Phoenix on Alaska Airlines was overbooked, so I said "great, fly us home from Chicago in first class, oh and give us some airline funny money", and signed her up for an account (I had one from back when US Airways was America West, and still flying to Las Vegas). So, US Airways regularly does promotions where if you share miles between accounts (which costs about a penny a mile), they will give you MORE miles. In this case it was a 100% bonus. So, in essence, you get to buy miles at a penny a mile (and some promos I have taken advantage of give you miles for much much less- .4, yes, point-four cents per mile, which would mean if you could buy miles for that cheap, a business class trip to Europe could cost less than $500). They were also offering bonuses for transferring hotel points, car rentals, etc. etc.

So, I bounced some miles between my daughter's account and mine, getting bonuses along the way, along with seeding the accounts with transfers, a few car rentals, and so on, and the miles that were already in there... and when the dust settled, I ended up with 120,000 miles and change.

So, you might be thinking "How can you fly around the world on US Airways? They don't fly over the Pacific." You're right, they don't. But Star Alliance, the airline alliance US Airways belongs to, does. Star Alliance airlines pretty much go everywhere. So, naturally, you can redeem US Airways miles for flights on Star Alliance partners. Here's the chart. If you look, you will find a first class redemption to Hong Kong from the United States is 120,000 miles (at the time I wrote this). So 120,000 miles and $150 in taxes later...

OK, so now you're going "But that's Hong Kong. Treffen is in Leipzig. Aren't you about 6,000 miles away in the wrong direction?" Well, as one of the blogs I linked to above puts it (emphasis added):

I’ve never had a problem booking awards from the US to Asia via the Pacific or by the Atlantic, and never had a problem transiting one ocean in each direction. Some folks believe this constitutes a ’round the world’ award and should be priced more expensively but that’s not correct — as long as you conform to stopover rules of a regular award, and don’t stop in extra destinations, it’s just a regular award.

So, by "stopover rules", what the author means is that you have to stop over in a Star Alliance hub for an airline that's part of your itinerary (though US Airways enforces that rule inconsistently at best- people have snagged stopovers in places like Paris). Gee, Lufthansa is in Star Alliance. Lufthansa has hubs in Germany. And it turns out that Frankfurt is closer to Seattle than Hong Kong, thus making it a legitimate stopover en route as long as you don't care about the extra distance traveled to get there going around the world (look this up on a map if you don't believe me). So that gets us to Frankfurt. I can handle cheap Air Berlin flights+train tickets from here. Hint: use Rail and Fly.

When I realized all of that last year, there could have been people blinded by the intensity of the light bulb going off over my head, because the other realization I made was the lovely people at the soon-to-be-United, now Continental had two debit cards I could pick up for frequent flyer miles: Chase (25,000 miles) and Key Bank (4,000), plus I could earn a bonus that made it 30,000 miles, and Key Bank would also give me a $150 bonus for opening the checking account that would pay for both debit cards and leave me with money left over... that I could use to fly somewhere far away. And I was already flying somewhere far away. So why not add somewhere else? (The Chase deal is gone, sadly, a victim of banks withdrawing those deals now that Congress is cracking down on the usury that's merchant credit card fees.)

Oh, look, how about that. Hong Kong is in North Asia for US Airways, but in the wacky world of airline geography, it's in South Asia for Continental (unlike the rest of China). And if we look at a handy chart, an award in South Asia is 30,000 miles for business class (through June 15 of this year, as I write this). And includes a stopover. Oh, look, Bali. Hmm, and Bangkok. And (at the time, not any more, sadly), oh, look, Continental and Emirates are partners, meaning my flight back to Hong Kong from Bangkok is going to have a bar. Well, I guess my work here is done. Oh, and the ticket cost me $38 in taxes. Which meant I still had money left from the $150 from the last paragraph.

I've also used other tricks to keep the hotel costs down to $1000 US (which is pretty amazing for a 3 week trip that includes a week in Europe), like Hilton Point Stretcher to get a room in Bangkok, and Starwood Cash and Points to get rooms elsewhere (Macau, Frankfurt) at favorable prices. I spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor.com, Wotif and Booking.com. I think the one I'm proudest of is getting the room for Treffen for €185. For five days. Yeah, I'm not close to the center of town, but the money I have saved can cover a LOT of cab fare. Plus walking is good for me, my doctor says.

So, that is how I did this. And the fact is that while the deals out there today aren't the same as the ones I used, and won't be the same as the ones out there tomorrow, you can do it too. The links I've scattered around this piece should give you some starting places for your own trips of a lifetime. I hope you can use them.

In the end, my trip looks like this:

And that will be what I am doing for three weeks.
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
10:45 am
So, hooking up the ol' LJ and Facebooks on the Internets Googles
It's a series of tubes!

Anyway, I am doing this so I can more effectively blog about my tripstravaganza. Since Facebook buries old entries and I want to have hard links I can point to, this is probably the best way to go. I'm not using the LJ for much, might as well turn it into a blog for my trip.
Friday, April 15th, 2011
4:58 pm
Good news and bad news
I woke up at 3:30 am (after going to sleep around 11:30 ).


This was actually good news (other than the sleep dep), because I caught a OMGWTFBBQ huge error in payroll (basically, my contracting agency and ADP somehow weren't able to pay me as planned) and found out about it early (important when the home office is on Eastern Daylight Time in MA) and got it fixed.

The giant sigh of relief you heard from Fremont around noon was me seeing my paycheck had been wire transferred into my bank account, and about 5 minutes later I had paid a bunch of ZOMG URGENT MUST PAY NOW NOW NOW bills.

Oh, and there's plenty of work this weekend and next week. More money to make travel easier on me. Woo.

The bad news? I don't feel like doing anything more involved than writing this journal entry, having a little happy hour snack/drink in about 30 minutes at Blue C Sushi to celebrate the end of a month of being mostly horribly broke, and then crashing in bed. I kind of don't want to miss things happening tonight, but I also don't want to show up tonight (or tomorrow at work) feeling like a poorly animated zombie. Sorry.
Friday, April 1st, 2011
8:04 am
Happy Amateur Day! :D
Sunday, March 27th, 2011
12:35 am
Well, bloody hell.
No sooner did I write this than my hotel in Bali (needed for a 6 day stay) announced they were closing, leaving a nice 6 day hole in my 21 day trip around the world.

Now, mind you, I have (after going into AAAAAAUUUGHH PANIC mode and desperately searching a bunch of sites) found an acceptable backup plan (for now), that took the price DOWN from $240 USD to $180...


It will do for the moment. I want to actually try mixing it up a bit now that plan A is kaput. Basically:

- I've got 6 days
- There's lots to explore in Bali
- Taxis are cheap

So the plan might end up being:

Night 1: Crash in someplace in central Denpasar. Maybe this or the hotel above. Yes, I know it looks like an iMac threw up in the lobby. Shut. UP. It's $33 a night.
Nights 2-3 Head to Kuta, full of partying Aussies and nightlife
Nights 4-5 go to someplace like Lovina that's laid back. Maybe take in Ubud.
Night 6 is head back to Denpasar for the onward flight to Bangkok.

We'll figure it out. (The advantage of mixing it up between more expensive parts of Bali and cheaper ones is my money will go farther.) Or hell, maybe I'll take the ferry to Lombok.
Friday, March 18th, 2011
7:35 pm
For the one person on the ElJays who doesn't read the Facebooks on the Internets
I am back at Adobe, Vanilla Bear. Starting Tuesday. I guess flying out to Philly or Newark at some point will be feasible.
Thursday, January 6th, 2011
1:44 pm
Still not dead yet. Stupid stroke notwithstanding.
Nothing like that to remind you-all flesh is grass.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
6:19 am
I guess waking up 45 minutes before your alarm is supposed to go off is good when your alarm is a cell phone that had the battery sucked out (after being fully charged this afternoon).
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