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Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

I have frequent flier miles and an itch to go. Just have to find out what my cardiologist has to say.

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One more day

Thanks to Robin and her colleague I now have a VPN tunnel on the toy. This is supposed to make all of the internet available to me, even in China. I bought something called HotspotVPN. Besides wanting to be able to blog, and evidently this blog is blocked, I want to be able to access the news and the debates. BTW, I’ve already sent in my absentee ballot.

I have only a few things left to do: laundry, a few more things to pack, getting my car ready to sit for three months. I found out that the gas deteriorates and fouls the engine. I got something called gas stabilizer, which I will put in the tank, then drive the car to my garage and leave it there.

I spoke to Cross Cultural Solutions again and got last minute instructions. Natalie informed me that tomorrow and Wednesday will still be holiday in China (Golden Week, first week of October). I thought it would be over, being the eighth. She thinks I will see some celebrations. Possibly, but I had no trouble getting a hotel room, so I’m not sure about this.

I leave for the airport at 6 am tomorrow.

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I finally packed my suitcases, sort of. I still have to do a last load of laundry, which I’m saving for tomorrow night, and I have to deal with the toiletries I’m taking in my carry on bag, mostly contact lens stuff. The biggest headache is getting the computer ready to avoid the Great Firewall in China. It would be nice to get there and find I have no trouble reaching the outside world, but I think planning ahead is a good thing. I started with this article on accessing WordPress in China. I was never really sure what she was talking about; my computer knowledge doesn’t extend to things like proxy servers, SSH and whatever. Also, the toy (Asus eeePC) is using Linux as the operating system and I really don’t know anything about Linux. Robin read through it all for me (she’s much more knowledgeable) and decided I should go the VPN route. There are also those proxy servers and something called Posterous, which lets you post from an email. I haven’t done anything yet; that’s tomorrow’s job.  So I guess I have a lot of learning ahead of me.

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Five days to go

I started packing today. I am appalled at the amount of stuff I need for maintenance: calcium, vitamins, baby aspirin, and, of course, the really important meds to keep my heart regulated. Add to that all the stuff like toothpaste, shampoo and contact lens solutions. It’s a good thing my hair is wash and wear and I stopped using much makeup long ago. I completely filled one of those small, cloth bags they give away at conferences. It must weigh ten pounds. Ugh! I believe in traveling light; my rule is that I have to be able to handle my bags by myself. I don’t know if I’m going to make it this time. Being gone for three months feels daunting. And I don’t want to buy any of this stuff in China. After all of the research I’ve done, I don’t trust any of their products. Cross Cultural Solutions suggests we bring it with us.

I haven’t gotten to clothing yet. Since I am no longer living in my own apartment I’ve already made a selection. Now I have to pare it down. Planning what to wear for three months, with increasingly cold weather, is not easy. I won’t take a real winter jacket; I’m planning to live in layers–long underwear, turtle neck shirts, jackets and a windbreaker. Also hat, gloves and heavy scarves. I’ll be in Kyoto during the coldest weather. I suppose I can always go south to Nagasaki or even Okinawa, although neither is currently on my itinerary.

Except for a return flight from Xian to Beijing I have all my reservations made through November 19 when I will do some extensive traveling in Japan for about two weeks. Then I settle down back at the Palaceside Hotel for about 32 days. There is so much to see in and around Kyoto I figure I can’t miss with that schedule.

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Fourteen days and I’m on my way

I am sitting in Camille’s Cafe, with free wi-fi, and testing out my new toy. I got online, and mostly it’s working fine, but it still has a few tics I don’t understand. Most important, I want to know about firewalls in this situation. I haven’t been able to find anything but I’ve just done a rudimentary search. The toy uses Linux. It has some kind of anti-virus software but I can’t find anything about a firewall. Can anyone help me?

I went to the Dr.’s office this morning to have my pacemaker, and vitals checked. Everything checked out and I was wished a good trip. The pacemaker thing is fascinating. It seems it keeps a record of everything my heart has been doing. It even knew I had a few moments of Afib as I was coming to the office. I can feel when it happens; it bothers me. Other than that my heart has been stable since I increased the meds i’ve been taking. When I told the Dr. I thought I had somewhat less energy than before the meds, he suggested I start taking them in the evening. I prefer morning because I almost never forget, first thing. Sometimes evenings get messy, but I’ll try it.

I received a paper E ticket in the mail. They don’t usually do that, so I was a little surprised. Also, they usually charge for it, which they haven’t done. Maybe it’s because I’ve made several changes in the ticketing, because they got it wrong twice. The flight from Shanghai to Osaka was on the wrong day the first time they made the reservation. After I changed it they scheduled the flight for the day after I return to Pittsburgh—a situation you would think their computers wouldn’t allow. I think we finally got it right.

I finally scheduled a flight from Shanghai to Xian. It seems everything in China is negotiable. While you can fly at great discounts it’s hard to make a reservation until less than 30 days from the date you want to fly. I’ll have to make my return flight to Shanghai after I arrive; I decided not to mess around with a round trip. While my frequent flier tickets gets me from Pittsburgh to Shanghai, Shanghai to Osaka, then Osaka home, they weren’t willing to take me all the way to Xian. Anyway I wanted to stop over in Shanghai.

I still want to get to the dentist, get my hair cut and possibly get to a podiatrist, although I don’t have an appointment since I’m not too sure who I want to go to. Also, many other things, I’m still trying to find a way to make sure I can post from China.

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After three visits to the Chinese consulate (read about it here), I finally got my visa. And it’s for 60 days, so I won’t have to change my plane tickets. As the Olympics approached I heard the Chinese were giving 30 day visas. I’m only planning to stay for 32 days, but I didn’t want to be illegal for two days. After all of the reading I’ve been doing about China, I think it could be too easy to violate the law inadvertently, let alone with full knowledge. I’m up-to-date filling out my forms with Cross Cultural Solutions; now I have to arrange hotel rooms in Shanghai and a flight from Shanghai to Xian, and decided what I want to see in Shanghai. I think CCS will provide me with info on Xian and other nearby places I might want to go. I also want to spend more time thinking about Japan. This time I want to look at gardens.

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Technology

In order to keep blogging and keep a good record of this trip I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the equipment I want to carry. First, the camera. I really enjoy my little point and shoot Sony. It’s light, easy to carry, I always have it in my bag, but I’m not always happy with my results, even though I finally figured out all of the settings on the camera. There is seldom enough detail in highlights and shadows. I considered the possibility of replacing it with something better and decided I would have to go to an SLR with different lenses. I don’t want to carry all that stuff; I don’t want to pay for it; I’ll just do the best I can.

I’m taking two batteries for the camera, and I have two memory sticks with a total of three GB. The camera has an effective 7.2 megapixels (whatever “effective” means). I have been shooting at 3 megapixels, which is overkill for most of my purposes. I’ve decided to shoot at 5 megapixels for this trip so that I will be able to make high quality large prints if I want them. I haven’t had enough time to really check this out, but I got some very nice pictures using the 5 megapixel setting. Maybe that makes for better pictures or maybe I’m just unnecessarily using a lot of extra memory.

I’m taking my hp laptop, now about six years old. I haven’t used it since I bought an iMac about a year ago. I cleaned most of the extra junk data off of it, purged the trash, used disk cleanup and disk defrag. The laptop has most of 20 GB available for downloading my photos. I’m taking 5 GB of portable memory for backup and considering backing up to a Flickr account. Images look so different on my two computers I realize I will have a hard time judging pictures on the laptop, especially darker images. I plan to do little or no editing or touchup. You will see what the camera gives me, not necessarily what was really there and not what I’d like you to see. You can see my 5 megapixel shots here.

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