Monday, February 27, 2006 

Danger at 35000 Feet

So I finally was on my way home on Saturday. My itinerary was to go from CDG in Paris to ORD in Chicago. After 1 hour in the air, the pilot came on the PA system and said we have a "valve" problem so we needed to make an emergency landing in Heathrow (London) to get it fixed. However, because of the large amounts of fuel we needed to dump some of it and circle around to get to a safe landing weight. After 2+ hours of circling around, applying the brakes & hearing weird noises from the plane we finally landed to a sea of fire trucks around Heathrow. We were grounded for a few more hours while the plane was being repaired. The problem was upgraded to a "leaky engine". The flight attendants on board have never experienced this problem, so it was a first for many. Luckily we got back into the air and arrived safely in Chicago about 5 hours late. It was pretty scary, but we're alive. I question how bad that "valve" was and how close to death we were.

Friday, February 24, 2006 

Pictures from Torino

One of the guys "Pike" in the apartment that I'm staying at took some pictures. He's a pretty good photographer:

This is the last night that we were all together having a last drink of vino.

(L-R): Giacamo, Alessandro, Julio, Pike, Lisa (below), Big Al & Rita

Lisa is uploading her photos to the Boston Globe. She got Page 1 that evening.


Big Al, Rita & Lisa looking at pictures.


Looking over Big Al's pictures:

(Alessandro, Mohammed, Giacammo, Big Al, Lisa & Rita)

Here are some other pictures of Pike's adventures in Torino. They're pretty good:


The Opening Cermonies


Bobsledding fans

 

Torino: El Final

So it is time to say goodbye to Torino and my vacation. I'm ready to come home. The 5 day vacation was awesome. It was more than what I expected. If you were to ask me on February 1 where I would be on February 24, I would say San Jose, CA. Just being able to make it out here and check this city out was more than enough - all the events and activities that I did after I arrived were just bonus. Here's a recap of what I did:

Tuesday, 2/21
Arrived in Turino after barely making it to the Paris airport in time. I found my way into the city and I couldn't find out the apartment that I was to stay at for the rest of the week. I tried calling the apartment owner, but since it was early, nobody picked up. Luckily, I had the address and I found it - it was nowhere close to the designated spot the owner told me to meet him.
After settingling in, I roamed around the city. Like I mentioned before, the city is more disorganized than what I would expect an Olympic host city would be. I checked out the Olympic shops, the main streets and plazas, the vendors and anything else that looked interesting.
I decided to go to the speed skating arena to see if I could get in. Remember, I came here with no event tickets. I got off the bus and I was offerred a seat near face value. Since I thought the ticket value would go down I let it go. The ticket value didn't go down, but it was significiantly higher - first to $120 then to $150 then to $200 all from $100. Sad to say, I didn't get to go. It was sad because I missed a close event where 2 Americans medaled. I then made it over to the hockey arena with a new strategy. I gave it a valiant effort to get tickets at a fair price, but I eventually submitted to the scalpers for $80 which is 2x's face. It was sad to pay that price, but the event was good and the seat was fairly decent. I later went back to the apartment where I met the rest of my flat mates. I earlier met Mohammed, Pike and Lisa, but I later met Rita.

Wednesday, 2/22
I pretty much hung out all day with Rita. We went to the market, took a train to the mountains to watch a little bit of the snowboard event, went back to town and found 2 great sponsor's seats to the Short Track Speedskating at face value. We saw a few crashes, Apollo Anton Ohno's victory and a disputed bronze medal by the Italians. We topped it off with a nice Italian dinner.

Thursday, 2/22
Not knowing exactly what I was going to do, I started to focus in on the figure skating event. I wasn't sure how to go about it, but I knew I really wanted to go. I ended up going to an online ticket site and bought an inflated ticket, but it was worth it going to the premier Winter Olympic's event. We ended the night by partying with the whole apartment gang (Alessandro, Giacamo, Pike, Lisa, Rita, Julio & Mohammed) in the apartment until 5am with a couple bottles of with. Rita & Lisa were taking off early on Friday to make their flights.

Friday, 2/23
It's pretty sad that everybody is getting ready to leave. The last few days were so much fun. If I had the choice, I would leave today just keep the level of excitement at it's peak - always wanting more. So today I will check out the steeple, the vendor's tables, the Today show and maybe the hockey match and medal's cremony.

Although the vacation is not at an absolute end (I still have Chicago this weekend), I'm content with everything. I spent a lot of money that wasn't budgeted in, but it was definitely worth it. I'll have to make a few sacrifices in the coming months to recover from this, but that's not a problem. I always thought life was about accumulation of money or items - being rich or the most powerful person, but its days like this week that define what life is all about. I probably will not run into these guys again together - maybe one or two here and there, but it was fate that brought everybody here this week to enjoy these few days. I still can't believe everything. It's so unreal. It was so much fun.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 

Winter Olympics - Who will you remember?

So I look back at all the Winter Olympics in years past and you can remember a few names - Jansen, Blair, Picabo & Mosley. These names are remembered now, but will they be remembered in 20 years? Will they be remembered by non-Americans? Probably not. However, there are names that are ingrained not only into American culture, but the World culture - Hamill, Yamaguchi, Lapinski & Hughes. These are the American Figure Skating Olympic gold medalists. These ladies are the face of the Winter Olympics and if they can pull out the gold then they will be remembered forever. Hopefully, there will be some memorable event tonight because I WILL BE THERE!!! As gay as it may sound, I live for these Super Bowl-like moments. In my life, I plan to go to at least one major event for each sport and I'm glad that I can cross off not only going to the Winter Olympics off my list, but also go to the premiere event of these games. If an American wins gold, watch me on the NBC Today show on Friday in the background celebrating with them (I'm sure they'll be there). Ciao!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 

Torino Update

Just a quick blog from Torino. It's been really fun here. I've met some great people. The comraderie among Americans and the world is unreal. The Olympic Games are something that everybody needs to experience at least once in their life. A few things that I want to note:
1. The transportation sucks here. Taking the bus is like a guessing game here. It doesn't help that people don't speak English here.
2. The ticketing is not that bad. I've run in to a few people that have sold me great tickets at face value. However, I do think these Games could do away with the scalpers. They are greedy and mean and in no way do they share the meaning of the Olympics.
3. The weather is extremely cold - in California standards.

So far I've been 2 events - USA vs. Russia in Hockey and Men's & Women's Short Track Speed Skating. I saw Apollo Anton Ohno. It's so cool. I'll write up more later. Ciao!

Monday, February 20, 2006 

Au revoir Paris. Buon giorno Torino.

It's time to leave Paris and continue my journet to Turino. To the all the Parisians that have spoken to me in their language expecting me to answer back... well I tried. Please learn English, and I will be happy to spend more of my company's money with you. I hope it's not another 3 years before I come back to have a taste of a Gnutella, Bannana and Grand Marnier Crepes (BTW, there's a corner creperie next to the McDonald's in the Latin Quarters. Best place to get a crepe.

It'll be my 3rd time in Italy. I'm indifferent about the Italians (sorry to my friends of Italian descent). I'm actually pretty indifferent with all the Europeans except for the Amsterdamians who I don't exactly remember meeting, but I'm sure we had some thoughtful conversations in one of their coffee shops. Anyways, the next few days will be an absolute adventure. I'm now off of company's expense, so everything is now coming out of my pocket. Goodbye business class, hello super saver coach. Goodbye fine dinners with bottles of wine and chocolate desserts, hello McDonald's Big Mac and softserv ice cream. Goodbye Tranquillite' Suite of the Paris Hilton, hello some random person's bed who I found advertised on the Internet.

To anybody that's reading this (yes you Gale & Jessica and to the 15 or so mysterious people that regularly read my blog)- you are now liable for everything that happens to me. It is your responsibility to make sure that I get back to the US this weekend.

Ciao!

Sunday, February 19, 2006 

Randomness s'il vous plait

So I've been in Paris for the last 4 days. It didn't dawn on me until today that I'm pretty fortunate to have this opportunity. Not only this specific opportunity, but to be going all over the world on a regular basis and get paid. I often looked past the positives and focus in on the negatives of my occupation which makes me grumpy. Anyways, 'nuff said about that.

On Friday, I didn't have much work to do. I waited for my team back in Santa Clara to finish up the software that I needed. It was available late Friday Paris time, so it won't be delivered to the customer until sometime Monday morning. I don't expect too much work to do other than get the software loaded, test it out and have a celebratory lunch with the customer and my French colleagues (knock on wood). Anyways, on Friday, I went to the Musee d'Orsay, walked along La Seine River and toured the Pantheon (this place is a giant crypt of famous French people).

On Saturday, I went to the town of Versailles and toured the chateau of Louis XIV. This place is huge. My expectations were blown away in regards to the size of this dude's crib and backyard. I then went back to Paris and walked along La Seine River and saw the Eiffle Tower. I didn't go to the top this time around because I did that in 2003, but it was pretty cool to walk around it again. I then went to the Liberty Flame which coincidentally is in the same location of the place where Princess Diana died in 1997. There isn't an actual memorial for her, but you can see notes that people left in her memory. I then walked over to Avenue Des Champs Elysees and did some window shopping. I tried to look for a bike and yellow jersey, but I couldn't find any. My night ended with going out with a couple of my French co-workers. We went out to grab a bite for dinner and hang out in the clubs. I really like the European clubs - it may be that I just get more attention because of my American accent. We ended the night about 5am.


On Sunday, I went to Sainte-Chapelle. No, not Dave's crib (j/k). This place is another chucrch, but it has 15 stained glass windows that are 50 feet high. I then went for another walk through the Jardin des Tuileries and then finished off the night with mass at Notre Dame.

I also booked my room and flight to Torino for Tuesday-Saturday. It looks like I'll be crossing my Olympic visit off of my life's todo list.

Much love to Gale for providing me picture and blog comments. I'm glad I actually have people reading my stuff.

Ciao!

Friday, February 17, 2006 

The "Do Not Disturb" Sign

Whenever you're in a hotel room always put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door knob. I didn't do that and I was taking a midday nap. I woke up b/c of a sound coming from the bathroom. Before I knew it there was a man in the room. It was one of the Hilton workers placing a bathrobe in my room. Luckily I wasn't doing anything I wasn't supposed to be doing, nor was I naked, but it was a little awkward. I was still half asleep and incoherent. Had I been a female, I would be sh*tting my pants. Anyways, I hope you learned something today.

Thursday, February 16, 2006 

Bad Experiences in Paris

A couple of bad experiences so far in Paris.

#1 - I was at the Metro (subway) station at Charles de Gualle airport. I needed to take the train from the airport to my hotel located near La Defense. The machine that prints the tickets is all in French, so I had a difficult time getting my ticket and paying with my credit card. I requested help from the lady next to me and she gladly obliged. (A little background - I speak absolutely no French nor can I read it. However, I am not stupid and I can infer a few things given the situation.) She went through the touch screen and she pressed 3 tickets to La Defense. I then told her I needed one, but she insisted that the 3 tickets at a total of 27 Euro was right. If you haven't figured it out, she was helping me get my ticket in addition to her ticket and her companion's ticket at my expense. I couldn't read French, but I knew there was no reason for a "3" and a grand total of 27 Euro to be on the screen. I got mad and walked away.

#2 - I safely arrived at my hotel for the price of 9 Euro. After grabbing lunch and taking a nap, I went to work for a couple of hours. My co-worker called for a cab and they were to pick me up at 3:30pm. I went to the lobby and told the reception desk that a cab would be waiting. They informed me nobody was there for me, so I waited. Outside a cab was waiting, and I asked the security guard if that was for me and they said it was for somebody else. 15-20 minutes go by and I'm still waiting and the cab outside is still waiting. The security guard comes up to me and finally asks for my name, and it wasn't until then that they place the waiting cab and waiting person together. This wasn't the worst yet... So they drove me to my office, but when it comes time to pay, the cab driver charges me for the waiting time. The 5 minute cab ride was about 25 Euro. I attempted to argue with the cab driver, but it was useless since he spoke little English. Luckily work is paying for this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 

Greeting from Europe

So I'm back in Europe again... specifically Paris, France. I'm here for work. I'm scheduled to be in France until at least Monday, February 20. I'm attempting to get out to Turino next week to catch the last week of the Olympics and enjoy some R&R. I'll provide pictures if I can, but it's probably going to have to wait until I get back to the USA.

So far I haven't done much other than work and get rid of the jet lag. I'm expecting to get out tonight and check out the city, but I do have a lot of work. BTW - it's a little cold due to the wind chill.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 

A new adventure begins...

What's happening in the next chapter in the life of Allan? Wait and see! Muahahhaha!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 11, 2006 

Life's Checklist

I don't think I have a checklist of "Thing's To Do Before I Die" (at least not one that I've written down). The following are things that I've done that I believe would have been on the list had I actually taken the time to write it down:
Skydiving
Bungee Jumping
Taking a spontaneous trip to New Zealand with little preparation
Visit Europe
Buy season tickets to the Giants
Visit the Heineken Factory
Visit the Guiness Factory
Visit the Coke Factory
Ride in a helicopter
Snowboard on a continent other than North America
Become a Big Brother
Ride a raft on a Class 5 rapid
Drive cross-country
Go on vacation with the central focus around baseball
Visit Pompeii (because I did a 4th grade report on this)
Go to the World Series


Things that I would like to do (the unofficial list):
Go to the Super Bowl
Go to the Olympics
Meet the President
Start a business
Beat Super Mario Bros.
Visit my family in the Philippines
Set foot on all the continents (Africa & technically South America & technicall Australia are left)
Go to the NBA Championships
Play golf at Augusta
Visit all 50 states
Watch the Space Shuttle live
Own a Lamborghini Countach (real one)
Perform the Piano live on stage in front of complete strangers one last time


This by no means in a finalized list. It's just a work in progress. Hopefully I'll cross off one of those things to do next week. Happy weekend!

Thursday, February 02, 2006 

Why am I studying?

I'm trying to study for my Cisco test. This thing sucks. It's so hard.

I figure blogging will distract me. Thanks for reading! Have a good weekend!