Most of us have wanted to see the pyramids since we were kids. After all, they are the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still extant. Finally standing on the Giza Plateau, I was struck by a comment from a New Yorker: "Once you've seen Manhattan skyscrapers, the Pyramids are no big deal." I bet he has never actually stood next to them. They are impressive! And everywhere we went around Cairo, our eyes were always drawn back to the pyramids. Their distinctive shape and massive bulk stand out amidst the merely vertical skyscrapers, apartments and minarets that dot Cairo. Even from other sites farther down the Nile, you could look back and see the Great Pyramids in the distance. The more we traveled in Egypt, the more we understood the Pyramids and the people that built them. All the mysticism gave way to a profoundly human story, and made the achievement of their builders 45 centuries ago even more awe inspiring.
As the rocket disappeared into the clouds after about 4 minutes of flight, the crowd was hushed for a moment. It was as if we had all held our breath, the sight was so awesome. Then the place erupted in cheers and applause. One of the founders of the nascent satellite company, ProtoStar, was so overcome he couldn't speak for another 3 minutes. In those seven minutes the company went from powerpoint to production, from vision to a real operating business. And we had one of the most awesome experiences we will ever have. Check out the video, and read on.
Arriving in Bangalore, I was captivated by the traffic. A road with two lanes each way fills up with four or five rows of traffic in each direction, very close to each other, weaving in and out. The traffic moves and flows, impervious to rules. Everyone jumps on: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorbikes (mostly Japanese rice rockets),
scooters, motorized rickshaws with bright yellow tops ("tuk-tuks", a type of three-wheel taxi all over SE Asia), small cars , trucks, tractors, and
of course cows. Get a pack
of tuk-tuks and a few scooters side by side, and the road momentarily
handles 6 or 7 lanes, than flows on to 3 or 4. Left turn into
traffic? Just nose out and push through. Traffic accommodates and
flows around. People even nose into traffic and go the other way! They seem to be cheered on by the oncoming hordes, treated as momentary folk heroes for their panache. There is no road rage, just a lot of honking. (First
night I was here, I noticed the cacophony of honks but couldn't quite
make out where it was from, and asked whether someone had started a
party nearby; no, just rush hour.) The music of Bangalore.
Two years ago I gave a view of the World Series of Poker as a spectator. Now I can give a view from a contestant. I have been following the ups and downs of Richard Harroch, author of Poker For Dummies and one of the top professional players in the world. He didn't make it into the money that year, but came back again last year and outplayed/outlasted 10,000 others to finish in the top 1,000. He got knocked on on Day 3, in 950th place. He was maybe 90 minutes away of getting to under #873 and being in the money.
In talking with him, it is clear poker professionals remember the "bad beats". Richard said last year he lost pocket QQ to AK, pocket 99 to 88, and AQ to A9 - all hands he played well and normally would have won. Wait until you hear this year's bad beat, and some other chatter he picked up in the hall.
This is from notes Richard took at the table, and it gives a very good view of what it feels like to play at the WSOP. And remember, kids - poker is for professionals, don't try this at home! Just kidding. Poker is the great leveler - a sport that an amateur can still win at. Wait until you read Richard's bad beat story! Enjoy!
Singapore is clean and well-lit. Your teenage daughter can ride home on the
subway (MRT) at 1 am and be safe. Of course, she wouldn't be doing that
without your permission if she grew up there. Walt Disney would admire
the place. Westerners posted to Singapore ("expats") often have a hard
time leaving: why move from being treated as mini-royalty, with
cheerful household help, to being treated as middle management
suffering surly bosses and struggling every day through a long commute
to the office? This wonderful place arose out of a third-world swamp in
1965 to become the shining city on the hill for economic resurgence
across Asia. China is following the Singapore Model. Sing is a
delightful oasis of shopping, dining and business in the middle of
third-world countries. I have been many times, and would like to share
some of the pleasures that are off the beaten path.
We left early from Washington, DC to join the family reunion at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware - one of the oldest resort destinations in the US. These reunions happen every year or two, and over the past 20 years have frequented many of the venerable vacation spots in the US, including the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Jersey Shore, Santa Barbara, and Grand Haven on Lake Michigan. Rehoboth Beach has beautiful sandy beaches, affordable rentals, a mile-long boardwalk, and a plethora of rides, attractions, eateries, bars and ice cream parlors. The hoi polloi are long gone to places of a more exotic bent - Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Seychelles. What they have left behind is a retro experience tuned to the sensibilities and tastes of Middle America. How would we fare?
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." - Yogi Berra
"Namo! Namo!" yelled our guide, speeding us along. He was so frenetic, he had to shorten the Italian "andiamo", let's go. We were on a tour to Hadrian's Villa, and when we just made it to one of the most picturesque spots - the Egyptian pool, complete with a stone crocodile - he commanded, "Take no more than seven German minutes to enjoy!" What had happened to the languid La Dolce Vita? Had the government fallen, and a new Il Duce taken over, determined to get the trains running on time? (We found out later that was not true!) Or, perhaps it had nothing more to do than the tour bus being 45 minutes late, and our guide determined to be back by 8 pm. Roma remains Roman-tic. In a short few days we experienced annoying rail strikes, treacherous taxis, two-bit hustlers, and high-class cheats. Every day an adventure, every corner a turning point. We were determined to see it all, walking in the steps of Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in their Roman Holiday.
On my last summer trip to Europe we saw shades of green in the stores - green was the new black. It hit the US in the fall. This summer orange is everywhere in Europe. Orange tee, white pants. Orange polo, blue jacket. Blue polo, orange purse. Or just orange tee, jeans or khakis. Maybe we are sensitized, since we recently went to our son's Princeton graduation? (Their colors are black - and orange). But we first saw this on the Dalmatian Coast (Croatia as the new Riviera?). Maybe it started in The Ukraine - but the Orange Revolution has broken out. Orange is the new black. At least this summer.
The Mount of Olives overlooks the Old City of Jerusalem. Prophets would come up from the desert and crest the Mount of Olives before walking into the Jerusalem. The view is spectacular - but for prophets and pundits, there is no better place to cast a vision than from the Mount of Olives, and no better time than during Easter - especially this Easter, sandwiched between the release of the latest Gnostic Gospel, The Book of Judas, and the worldwide launch of The Da Vinci Code. Both pose an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a mystery: was the real message of Jesus co-opted when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire? Our pilgrimage to answer that question sheds more light on the human condition than on the religious one.