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Oma & Opa in Europe, 2019

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

This year in March, we met my parents in Germany, rented a car and travelled through southern Germany (Munich, Traunstein, Berchtesgaden, Nuremberg, Cologne, Heidelberg, Koblenz, Ahlen-Westfalia), Austria (Salzburg, Melk, Schönberg am Kamp, Vienna) and the Czech Republic (Česky Krumlov, Prague). It was fantastic to hit the road with them, visiting historic sites and seeing friends and family. Lovely!

Getreidegasse, Salzburg.
Salzburg Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa

Dinner at Švejk Restaurant in Česky Krumlov, named after The Good Soldier Švejk.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa

Oma, Uncle Manfred, Uncle Reinhard, on a beautiful day in Ahlen-Westfalia.
Oma Manfred Gerhard

Oma, Opa, classic car. Prague.
Oma Opa

With Norbert in the Kleine Bierl in Vienna. Great meal, great times.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

At Maria’s in Schönberg am Kamp.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

At Deutsches Eck in Koblenz. The cool people!!
Oma Opa

Near the Stefansdom in Vienna.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

Wandering the streets of Prague on our second day, after the Charles Bridge.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

A wonderful dinner with friends in Traunstein.
Traunstein Naoko Zen Opa Oma Gisela Heinz

A beautiful morning in front of the Stefansdom in Vienna.
Oma Opa Naoko Zen Norbert

Late afternoon in Česky Krumlov!!
Peter Naoko Oma Opa

With our wonderful relatives in Ahrweiler!!
Roswitha Naoko Zen Siegfried Liesbeth Irmtraud Oma Opa

Oma & Opa in Schönberg am Kamp.
OMa Opa

With our wonderful friend Theresa in Schönberg am Kamp!!
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Theresa

With my parents at Schönberg am Kamp.
Oma Opa Peter

A perfect picture in Salzburg.
Salzburg Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa

In Vienna near the Stefansdom.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

Cologne, the cathedral by night.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Roswitha

Great sausage restaurant in Nuremberg.
Peter Naoko Oma Opa

Lovely lunch after cherry blossom viewing in Heidelberg!!
Peter Naoko Oma

Heidelberg
Oma Opa

Heidelberg Castle 5.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa

Our relatives gathered in Ahlen, Westfalia.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa Gerhard Ruth Manfred Inge Simon Michael

Awesome sausages in Nuremburg!!
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

At the monastery in Krems.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

Waiting for the driver to arrive in Prague…
OMa Opa

A wonderful lunch after seeing the cherry blossoms in Heidelberg.
Naoko Dieter Naoko Oma Opa Zen

A beautiful dinner with the Schultheis family in Heidelberg.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Dieter Naoko Hana Lena

Hanging out at the castle in Heidelberg.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

At Dieblich, on the Mosel river.
Oma Opa Naoko Zen

Hello, Vienna!!!!
Oma Opa

Near the castle in Heidelberg.
Oma Opa

Dinner in Schönberg am Kamp.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert Theresa

Eine kleine Bierli! In Vienna!!
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

On the Charles Bridge in Prague.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

Saying goodbye to our wonderful friends in Schönberg am Kamp!!
Zen Naoko  Oma Opa Norbert Theresa

At Dieblich, on the Mosel river.
Oma Opa Naoko Zen

Prague wandering!!
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

Oma & Opa & Zen in Traunstein.
Traunstein Zen Opa Oma

Visiting my old school in Salzburg.
Salzburg Oma Opa Peter Naoko Zen

Europe trip 2019

Friday, May 17th, 2019

In March-April we went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, Naoko, Zen & I and my parents. We were with Oma & Opa for two weeks in a rental car, three generations together, visiting Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, then back into Germany, seeing old friends & relatives in Austria & Germany. We said goodbye to my parents in Frankfurt, then drove on for another week in Paris, where we gave up the car and became flaneurs!

Here are some pictures from the trip. As usual, click on the thumbnail pic to see a larger picture.

In Changi Airport in Singapore, heading out to Europe for (Zen’s) first time!
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On the KLM flight to Europe!
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First meal in Europe – lunch!!
Naoko Zen

In front of the Hofbräuhaus!
Naoko Zen

The Hofbräuhaus!!
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Beer at the Hofbräuhaus!!
Peter Zen

At the Marienplatz in Munich.
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Breakfast in Munich.
Peter Naoko

The Europa statue at the Theresienwiese, where every year the Oktoberfest is held. At this time it was empty.
Naoko Zen

Munich’s Viktuelienmarkt.
Peter

Checking out paintings in the Alte Pinakotek in Munich. This is a painting by Albrecht Aldorfer that made a strong impression on me when I saw it first at age 15.
Peter Zen

With our friend Ingrid in front of a Leonardo da Vinci painting!!
Ingrid Naoko Peter

One of the many big halls in the Alte Pinakotek!
Ingrid Naoko

Surfing on the Eisbach river in Munich. Amazing!!
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Surfing on the Eisbach river in Munich. Amazing!!
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In a beergarden in the English Garden in Munich.
Naoko Ingrid Zen

Zen chatting with his grandparents in a brewery in Traunstein.
Traunstein Zen Opa Oma

Breakfast in Traunstein.
Traunstein Naoko Zen

Posers in Salzburg!!
Salzburg Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa

Cool doorway in Salzburg.
Salzburg Zen

Salzburg!!
Salzburg

My old school in Salzburg.
Salzburg Oma Opa Naoko Heinz

The Untersberg in Salzburg, Austria.
Salzburg

At the Königsee in Berchtesgaden, south Germany.
Berchtesgaden Kónigsee

On the Alpine trail in Southern Germany!
Zen Heinz Opa Naoko

Morning frost on the car!
Traunstein Naoko Zen Peppy

The monastery in Melk.
Naoko Zen Opa

Schönberg am Kamp.
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Checking out the beautiful cat in Schönberg am Kamp.
Naoko

Hanging with Norbert in Schönberg am Kamp.
Norbert Zen

Opa and the kitty in Schönberg am Kamp.
Opa

The monastery in Krems.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

Krems.
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Zen at the monastery at Krems.
Zen

With my parents at Norbert’s house at Schönberg am Kamp.
Oma Opa Peter

Norbert and Naoko at Schönberg am Kamp.
Norbert Naoko

Having a nice dinner in Schönberg am Kamp.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert Theresa

Stefansdom in Vienna.
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Stefansdom in Vienna.
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Stefansdom in Vienna.
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Near the Stefansdom in Vienna.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Norbert

Vienna time.
Peter Naoko

Vienna time.
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Vienna time.
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At lovely Schönbrunn.
Naoko Zen

At Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.
Naoko

Norbert’s cat at Schönberg am Kamp.
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With friends and family in Schönberg am Kamp.
Zen Naoko  Oma Opa Norbert Theresa

Norbert’s cat
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Chilling in Česky.
Zen

In the kitchen of the serviced apartment in Česky Krumlov.
Oma Peter

Česky Krumlov.
Naoko Zen

Česky Krumlov.
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Lovely Česky Krumlov beer.
Peter Naoko

Česky Krumlov by night.
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Česky Krumlov by night.
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Česky Krumlov morning.
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Door in Česky Krumlov.
Peter Zen

Česky Krumlov.
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Česky Krumlov.
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Česky Krumlov.
Naoko Zen Opa

Česky Krumlov morning.
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Česky Krumlov.
Naoko

Prague.
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Prague Old Town Square with the Gothic Church of Mother of God before Týn.
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Prague Old Town Square.
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Prague Old Town Square at night, with the Gothic Church of Mother of God before Týn. This was the view from our apartment.
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Prague Orloj, the famous medieval astronomer’s clock.
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Prague Old Town Square in the morning with the Gothic Church of Mother of God before Týn. A Chinese model was taking photos at 6:30 AM.
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The Charles Bridge in Prague.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa

My parents in Prague.
Oma Opa

The Charles Bridge in Prague.
Peter Naoko Zen

Nuremberg.
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Nuremberg.
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Nuremberg.
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Getting some much-needed breakfast items in Nuremberg.
Peter

Nuremberg, site of the rallies.
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At the Anders home in Fritzdorf.
Naoko Zen

With our relatives in Ahrweiler.
Roswitha Naoko Zen Siegfried Liesbeth Irmtraud Oma Opa

With my cousin Roswitha in Ahrweiler.
Roswitha Naoko

At our relatives’ house in Fritzdorf.
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Old house in Ahrweiler.
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With my dad and my Uncle Siegfried.
Opa Siegfried Peter

Cologne cathedral.
Oma Opa Naoko Zen

Evening at the Cologne cathedral.
Zen

Evening at the Cologne cathedral.
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Roswitha

Evening at the Cologne cathedral.
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Early morning Cologne – getting the buns for breakfast!!
Peter Naoko

The Cologne cathedral.
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With relatives in Westphalia.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa Gerhard Ruth Manfred Inge Simon Michael

On the Mosel in Dieblich.
Naoko

In Dieblich on the Mosel River.
Oma Opa Naoko Zen

In Dieblich on the Mosel River.
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In Koblenz at Deutsches Eck.
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In Koblenz at Deutsches Eck.
Peter Naoko

In Koblenz at Deutsches Eck.
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Silhouette inside the Monument of German Unity at Deutsches Eck in Koblenz.
Peter

Heidelberg castle.
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Nice lunch after seeing the cherry blossoms in Heidelberg.
Peter Naoko Oma

At dinner with friends and family in Heidelberg!!
Naoko Zen Oma Opa Dieter Naoko Hana Lena

Heidelberg castle!!
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Heidelberg castle by day.
Peter Naoko Zen Oma Opa

View from Heidelberg castle!!
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Cherry blossom viewing in Heidelberg.
Zen

A nice lunch after some cherry blossom viewing in Heidelberg.
Naoko Dieter Naoko Oma Opa Zen

On the old bridge in Heidelberg. The castle is in the background.
Peter Naoko

Leaving Heidelberg.
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In the village of Foameix near Verdun. We chose it because it was in the middle of our drive from Heidelberg to Paris. Cool town!
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French pizza in Étain, near where we were staying in Foameix.
Zen

Memorial to the dead in Verdun.
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War cemetary in Verdun.
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Breakfast at au Bois de mon Coeur in Foameix, France.
Naoko Zen

Checking out the supermarket on our first night in Paris!
Naoko

Strutting in Paris.
Naoko Zen

City Hall in Paris.
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Strutting in Paris.
Naoko Zen

Strutting on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Naoko Zen

At the Arch de Triomphe.
Peter Naoko Zen

Checking out the Metro in Paris.
Naoko Zen

First view of the Eiffel Tower.
Peter Naoko Zen

Chilling at the Eiffel Tower.
Peter Naoko

The amazing Concorde Bridge in Paris.
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At the Seine near the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre.
Peter Naoko Zen

Paris sunset.
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Perspective in Paris.
Naoko Zen

The Brasserie experience!!
Naoko Zen

The brasserie experience.
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Paris metro.
Naoko Zen

Big train clock in Musée d’Orsay.
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Musée d’Orsay.
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Musée d’Orsay perspective.
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Scenes at the Musee d’Orsay.
Naoko Zen

Paris sunrise from our apartment.
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Paris scenes.
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Paris, Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
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Paris, the Pantheon.
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First view of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame de Paris

Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame de Paris

Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame de Paris Peter Naoko Zen

Crepe in the Quartier Latin in Paris.
Naoko

Lebanese food in Paris. We at at this place more than once.
Naoko

Entering the Louvre.
Naoko Zen

Mona Lisa, my baby and me.
Peter Naoko

Louvre masterpiece.
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Louvre masterpiece.
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Louvre masterpiece.
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Our hood in Paris.
Peter

Looking for a nice place to eat on our wedding anniversary in Paris.
Naoko Zen

A lovely wedding anniversary dinner in Paris.
Peter Naoko

That was a nice place to eat!
Peter Naoko Zen

Paris Metro.
Naoko Zen

Paris, Sacre Coeur.
Peter Naoko Zen

Paris Montmartre.
Naoko Zen

Paris, Sacre Coeur.
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Paris, Sacre Coeur.
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Our last breakfast in Paris, bought bread here.
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Bastille Sunday market in Paris.
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Bastille Sunday market in Paris.
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Oysters & wine at the Bastille Sunday market in Paris.
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Paris bouquiniste near Notre Dame.
Notre Dame de Paris Naoko

The Seine near Notre Dame.
Notre Dame de Paris

At the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Our flight got cancelled, though…
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Chilling in a Holiday Inn Express with our survival packs full of yucky food.
Naoko Zen

Isaac Asimov’s Robot/Empire/Foundation series

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018
I saw the name of a book called Foundation over and over again on “must read” lists of sci-fi classics. So I picked it up… not knowing that it was actually part of a series of 15 books… and that Foundation placed about two thirds of the way through the series! So I read from Foundation to the end, then started at the beginning in story order (although the oldest books are actually #5, #6 and #7). Confusing history of development, but that hardly matters since the results are brilliant.
1 - Caves of Steel
Caves Of Steel (1954)

Caves of Steel, the first book in the Robot Series was… okay. Asimov clearly wanted to show that science fiction didn’t always have to be one certain mode of writing, and here he’s set his first robot novel up as a detective story, thereby crossing boundaries (and setting the scene for Blade Runner, Neuromancer, etc). It was written in 1954, three years after Asimov’s first novel (but actually the fifth in the grand Robots/Empire/Foundation series).

Unfortunately, as a detective novel, it’s not that great. The crime, and how it was solved, is a bit obscure, and he never really gets a great story together in terms of motive, execution, etc. The ending is also unsatisfying.

What is great, however, is his description of the future Earth “old world” society, and how it’s contrasted with the creepy “new world” society (is it a coincidence that it has 50 worlds?). There’s plenty of description of day-to-day life on Earth in the future, and it’s pretty fascinating. Also, for someone who read the Foundation series before reading the other Asimov series, I get the sense that I’m re-creating his history of the series, especially since I’m catching up on past events that were referenced in Foundation & Earth (although Asimov at the time of writing Caves of Steel would not have fully conceived the events of that book), so it’s all pretty cool… and it means I’ll need to re-read Foundation & Earth at some point…

2 - The Naked Sun
The Naked Sun (1957)

The Naked Sun follows our hero Elijah Baley on his first voyage offworld, in this case to Solaria, where human society has established itself at its most neurotic extreme (and its most robot-dependent). It’s a fascinating study in weirdness – Solaria is a colony world that is as opposite from overcrowded robot-hostile Earth as it is possible to be, and lucky Elijah has been called in to investigate… and once more paired with his robot counterpart R Daneel Olivaw, an ever-present Asimov character.

The book also serves to introduce the character of Gladia, a Solarian, who will be a key figure in the next two Robot books as well.

The book is somewhat frustrating in how it dwells on the freakish character of the Solarians and how they have built their snobbish, chauvinistic society (although it’s surprisingly open-minded about casual sex!). It’s also not a very satisfying mystery, nor is its resolution very different from that of the first one (concealed). But it also does a perfect job in building up the concepts that will lead to the invention of psychohistory, the creation of the Galactic Empire and the isolation of Earth, and all sorts of other groovy things in the Isaac Asimov universe.

3 - Robots of Dawn
The Robots of Dawn (1983)

Robots of Dawn is a third Robots book, after a very long interval, published near the end of his life, with just one other Robots book to come (and also a bunch more of Foundation sequels & prequels). So it was the book that, in a way, started to bring things together. And yet… I nearly gave up on it halfway through.

Somehow, at some point, main character Elijah Baley became a severe navel gazer, pondering the strange intricacies of human development, looking questioningly into mirrors, along corridors, into shadows and around corners, as he attempts to solve a murder (or is it a murder?). Interview after interview with yet another bizarre and deplorable Auroran takes place. Elijah Baley suffering more agorophobia! And self-doubt!! A (seemingly) meaningless episode in a rainstorm thoroughly confused and amazed me. I’d had enough. This Asimov book was so different from the others I’d read (many of which had their flaws, but which redeemed themselves quickly) and I started to wonder if I was wasting my time…

And so, this one took a lot longer; but by the end Asimov hit with a whammy, proving that he’d been in control (nearly) the whole time. A masterful book that really makes you think (although there is at least one mystery that is projected/predictable before the end) and it’s all good. It also proves an amazing unifier for his grand Galaxy theme that just sort of goes on and on… It also introduces a mythical new character, and develops the wonderful Gladia character to her full potential. Bravo! Wonderful!!

4 - Robots and Empire
Robots & Empire (1985)
I actually read this book near the end of my Isaac Asimov odyssey of 15 books, and it’s a pretty perfect capture of all the things that make Asimov such a brilliant author. Here he abandons his human character Elijah Baley of first three Robot books and makes two robots R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Giskard Reventlov his main focus! He also probes the fascinating character of Giskard (who was revealed to be much more than he appears in the previous book), and explores fascinating topics like the dangerous evolution of artificial intelligence, human culture, human memory, human evolution itself, space exploration, politics, human prejudices, myth-making, the origins of psychohistory (and the origin of mental powers à la Second Foundation), all on top of a intriguing James Bond-level plot.
There are also fascinating flashbacks to the life of Elijah Baley, and a new mystery – what happened to Solaria!? There are also examples of great intellectual detective work that credibly explain away what might have easily become too great a stretch for the imagination of the reader to accept if it were handled by a less talented author than Asimov. Asimov had the talent to constantly astound in new ways, totally awesome.
5 - Pebble in the Sky
A Pebble In The Sky (1950)

One of the great things about Isaac Asimov was his ability to adapt so many different literary genres to the science fiction story, and in this one – the first novel he ever wrote – he writes a sort of comedy of errors. A man is accidentally shot forward in time (Futurama, anyone?) where he learns what kind of place the radioactive hellhole Earth of the future is (coinciding with the events described at the end of Robots & Empire, a book Asimov needed 35 years to finally actually write).

The plot, though, is somewhat convoluted, and way too fantastical. The villains are moustache-twiddlingly caricatured, and their evil plot too far fetched to be successful. Happily, Asimov wraps it up quickly with a very clever action by one of the main characters, instantly redeeming himself as a writer.

Whether he was dissatisfied with the comedy of errors concept after this book I’m not sure – he might have been since he didn’t attempt it again – his knack for writing clever endings certainly did hold out, as many of his books wrap up with astounding flourish. Bravo!

6 - The Stars Like Dust
The Stars Like Dust (1951)
Here Asimov picks the “road movie” concept to write around, with a young aristocrat on the run from a galactic conspiracy that pushes forward the development of the growing galactic empire. The plot is interesting, as are the characters, and Asimov writes a bit more action into the book than he does in lots of is others (and, correspondingly, there’s also a lack of the type of significant conceptual development that you’d normally find). There are a few elements to the plot that are quite dissatisfying, though, and a few of the developments were predictable from the beginning, so I’d probably rank this as one of his weaker books, although he manages to come through with a total zinger of an ending (in fact, I suspect that he may have deliberately wrote the book around this idea).
7 - The Currents of Space
The Currents Of Space (1952)

If you were to read the 14 Isaac Asimov books in the Robots/Empire/Foundation cycle, this – the seventh book, halfway through – gives the first real introduction of Trantor as a key element, although it’s still a minor part of the story as a whole. It is also the last book with an Earthman as a character until the final tale (sorta).

In this book, Asimov writes more about economics than he does in any other book (geopolitics is also a key theme, but that is also a part of many of his other books). There’s also a lot more astronomy and physics in this book than there is in other books, giving it a bit of educational value on top of everything else. Ironically, it also contains more action and violence than nearly any of his books.

Following a concept later made familiar in the Dune series, Florinia is the only planet in the galaxy that produces a certain substance. It is controlled by a tyrannical race of pampered “noblemen”, its rebellious inhabitants policed by a goonish police force. Into the fray we get a mysterious stranger with amnesia. Who is he? While all of these elements may seem clichéd now, they probably weren’t in 1952 when the book was written. While it’s not one of Asimov’s better books, it’s still very interesting and a great read. The ending wraps up very cleverly, although it’s still a bit of a headscratcher. Great stuff.

8 - Prelude to Foundation
Prelude To Foundation (1988)

Prelude to Foundation is exactly that – a prelude to the famous series that Isaac Asimov started writing in 1951; it is also one of the last books he ever wrote (with a second prelude book that picks up where this one left off, Forward the Foundation, being his actual last book).

The book goes back to the mystery format that Asimov experimented with his robot novels, and we see our man Hari Seldon arrive on Trantor and immediately become a fugitive. He travels around Trantor’s many worlds, meeting many people, encountering strange religions, rival clans, and picks up his sidekicks historian Dors Venabili and guttersnipe Raych. Asimov also advances interesting theorisers of futuristic class (and caste) societies, while also waxing philosophical on yeast foods (which crop up also in his robot stories).

9 - Forward the Foundation
Forward The Foundation (1993)

Isaac Asimov’s final book is more story-telling than really pushing the envelope on the Foundation series, tying up all the strings and bridging the last gap in the story; unfortunately, it doesn’t really say anything new, or even reveal as much as Prelude To Foundation already showed. The book concerns itself a lot with Trantor politics, as Hari Seldon struggles to keep his Parahistory project together against challenges inside and out. It has a few revealing moments about the nature of the Second Foundation, though, making it a good pairing with Foundation’s Edge.

10 - Foundation
Foundation (1951)

This book has been on my to-read list for a long time. I finally gave it a start in mid-2018. The concept is interesting – Asimov outlines a future space empire that is crumbling, with a scientific prophet outlining a 1,000 year future transition from one galactic civilisation to another. The beginning of the book features Hari Seldon briefly, before moving on to outline other elements of future societies (the psychohistorians, the encyclopedists, the mayors, the traders, the merchant princes) as time passes. Each section is, in fact, a short story now tied together as as series into a single novel, but with only the overarching concept (and some characters) as unifying features.

Politics plays a great role in the book, as one character out-maneuvers the other. Action is difficult to picture, and characterisation is nearly absent. Lots of parallels with the fall of the Roman empire and the impending fall of the Cold War powers. Interesting – but, while clever and layered, the stories also seem fairly cold and near-encyclopedic (ha ha… irony… and just as ironical, Foundation is not the foundation of Foundation… sigh…).

11 - Foundation and Empire
Foundation & Empire (1952)

The second Foundation book (of the original trilogy – prequels were published later on) moves the needle a bit from the original book… which contains four stories all of different backgrounds, while this book contains only two stories, both of which are relatively unified. The first one is fairly interesting, dealing with the final days of the galactic empire and the fledgeling Foundation, before going into the second story which introduces mutant mind powers, the hunt for the Second Foundation (which becomes an obsession for the series eventually). It’s nice to be able to follow characters in this universe for a change, even if they are relatively flat, and with perplexing names that make them seem like they come from episode descriptions in TV Guide. A blistering ending sets up the third book, which is equally good!

12 - Second Foundation

Second Foundation (1953)

This is the third book of the Foundation trilogy… when it was still just a trilogy (two more sequels followed it, as did two more prequels, book-ending the original trio quite nicely to make a magic seven books in total). The series of books is surprisingly consistent in quality, so of course this is no exception; given its place overall, it’s also the last book to have a real fifties flair to its writing style (for better or worse).

Like other books in the original trilogy (and unlike the subsequent sequels and prequels), this is a set of novellas. The first of the two is about the psychically-powered mutant the Mule’s search for the Second Foundation, and all of the wild goose chases he embarked on (or set in motion) in order to find it. The end is purely trippy, and probably deserves a second (or third) reading. This is one of the few times that a Second Foundationer has truly appeared, thus showing readers of the series that they do actually exist.

The second tale in the trilogy concerns space hijinks, historic battles that change the tides of war, and other swashbuckling. The location of the Second Foundation is always a lingering mystery, which we solve in…

13 - Foundations Edge
Foundation’s Edge (1982)

This book (and the sequel, which continues where this left off) is quite different than the previous installments, in that this book settles on a batch of characters and sticks with them; it was also written in the eighties, so it has a very different style to the others, which were written in the fifties. Finally, and this may be a bit of a spoiler… Asimov finally explores what the Second Foundation is and how it functions.

The tale, in contrasting chapters, balances the adventures of Foundationer Golan Trevize with those of troublesome up-and-coming Second Foundation whiz kid Stor Gendibal. Hopping in a space ship, Trevize flies off on a mission with a small gang of helpers in search of a planet called Gaia. Gendibal also flies off to intercept him, and there’s a super wild conclusion that is full of great surprises, and amazing thoughts about evolution. Definitely one of the best books of the series.

14 - Foundation and Earth

Foundation and Earth (1986)

Picking up immediately from where the previous book, Foundation’s Edge, left off (a first for one of Asimov’s Foundation books), Foundation and Earth is actually an amazing travelogue of the universe, with our characters bouncing across six different planets, encountering six different cultures, before arriving at some conclusions about the fate of the universe. The book also successfully binds together three of Asimov’s creative ventures – the Robot series, the Empire series, and the Foundation series.

Without giving too much away, each planet that Golan Trevize, Janov Pelorat and Blissenobiarella (or simply Bliss/Gaia) visit offers some sort of wild and woolly adventure, surmising in many cases on the fate of mankind (including its possible evolution) and the future of the robot “race”. Definitely a wild ride and a lot of fun. There’s also a nice bit of romance, which Asimov’s books generally lack. Highly recommended… but maybe you should read the first fourteen books in the series first.

 15 - The Complete Robot
The Complete Robot (1982)

This book collects nearly all of the short stories that Isaac Asimov wrote about robots, which include some of the first fiction that he ever wrote, including some that were important to the Robots-Empire-Foundation continuity.

The books are arranged thematically, and there are sections dedicated to stories that repeat characters the he created (mainly the Powell & Donovan stories about robot testers, and the Susan Calvin stories about robopsychology). Nearly all of the stories are set in the early years of robot development, well before the events of Asimov’s later Robot series (although Robot series main characters Elijah Baley and R Daneel Olivaw do show up in one, a mystery about academic plagiarism of all topics).

The stories are a little bit on the dull side – brainy investigations of the nature of robot development, issues surrounding the robot’s role in society, and the start of the poliarisation of Earth society and that of the Spacers (pre-Empire galactic colonists).The book ends with the stunning Bicentennial Man, which is a gorgeous tale of a family robot that harkens back to Asimov’s first published fiction, a four-page story called “Robbie” that launches the collection, thus neatly book-ending this… book.

Japan and Hawaii trip 2018

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

This year, we combined our annual return-to-Japan trip with a trip to some place we hadn’t been to before – Hawai’i! Actually, I’d been there before, but not to all the places we’d been to on this trip. Here is a series of pictures showing what we did in Japan & Hawai’i (as usual, click on the pics to see larger versions).

We started off the trip getting acquainted with newborn Yousei, less than one month old and Naoko’s first great=nephew!

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Proud grandpa Masayuki (Naoko’s brother).

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A cute little snake that Zen’s cousin keeps as a pet.

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Giving grand-dad a massage.

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One of many visits to fabulous Himeji Castle.

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Home cookin’!

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Local flavours.

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On the road to Hawai’i!

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Waikiki beach!!

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Our first full day in Hawai’i – a hike up Diamondhead!!

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Waikiki Beach boogie-boarders.

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The Royal Hawaiian Hotel… cool place.

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Waikiki beach.

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Breakfast at the International House of Pancakes… yum!!

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Heading off to Pearl Harbour.

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The USS Missouri.

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The Pacific Aviation Museum

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View of the hotel pool from our hotel room.

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Driving the rental car in Maui.

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The view from our awesome Maui apartment.

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Our friend’s home!

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Barbecue time!

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Going down to the beach on a Sunday afternoon!

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Local food for dinner!!

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Day trip to Lahaina

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Barbecue dinner!!

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Watching a beautiful Maui sunset from our balcony.

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Day drip to the Haleakala crater.

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Another day at the beach.

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An afternoon on the north shore with our friends.

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So long, Maui, it’s been awesome!!

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Back in Oahu.

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Our hotel had one of the best views in town!!

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We took in a free hula show!!

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Last morning in Hawai’i… we mainly spent it gazing at Diamondhead from our room.

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Heading back to Japan…

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Welcome back!

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I wanted to buy this tiger plush doll!

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Himeji castle!

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See you next time, baby Yousei!

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On the last day we hiked up Mt. Mega…

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…and went to the fish market!

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Book store.

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Himeji Castle.

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Honeymoon 1997

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Twenty years ago Naoko and I got married. It was a great moment for me – to become anchored to another person, to go forth in the world as a team rather than as an individual. Our love was great and strong, as it should be. We got married in Japan in April, and my family came. My brother and his girlfriend arrived first, escorting my grandmother from Germany, and my parents came a few days later. It was a fantastic experience, and I was so happy to have all of my loving family from both sides there on that very special day.

A special note – we were very blessed that my maternal grandmother Henny was able to make the trip. She was nearly 80 at the time and not very healthy, but she made the effort and it was her first time in Asia. My binding memory of her on that visit is that first night in my future in-laws place, a few days before the wedding, when we were having dinner. She said to me in German “are those shrimps? I don’t think I can eat those…” I said “no pressure, just eat what you want.” Some time passed and she said, “you know, I’m curious about how they taste… just let me try a small one.” She did, and she said “wow, these are great!” After the wedding, the family took a trip around a few nearby spots (Nara, Kyoto), and I’ve got great pictures of those visits.

After the wedding, we hung around Himeji for a few weeks, because Naoko’s sister-in-law was due to give birth soon to their second child – Naoko had missed the birth of the first child (and the family’s first of the next generation) as she was studying , so she didn’t want to miss another. Haruka was born on May 9th, and then off we went on May 13th (a Friday, lol), to a big party in Ako, where I had worked for four months and had many dear friends.

The only fixed plan we had was to be in Beijing on July 8th, whence we would be on a tour of the Trans Mongolia-Trans Siberia trains, which would get us to Berlin eventually. So we had three weeks to see whatever lies between Himeji & Beijing. A lot! During that time, there was also a lot of buzz about the handover of Hong Kong from British colonial rule, back to China. That’s what we were heading into. A newly married couple in the late 20s/early 30s, we headed into the unknown. This is what we saw.

(tip – you can always click on the image to see a larger picture!!)

In Geongju!
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The Cheomseongdae in Geongju, Korea. This is the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in Asia, and possibly even the world. It was built in the 7th century.
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UN cemetery in Pusan.
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Fighting off a dinosaur in Qingdao, China.
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Countdown to the Handover of Hong Kong to China.
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Cycling in Beijing.
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Horsing around in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.
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The Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
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The Great Wall of China at Simatai
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Enjoying the Great Wall of China!
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Looking down from one of the turrets
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The Trans-Mongolia Espress, Beijing-Ulan Bataar!
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Honeymoon in Mongolia
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That’s me eating a cucumber outside of our ger (aka yert, aka bao). We both got sick right around that time too, with different ailments.
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In the Gobi desert with Beth. Or was it Heather?
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A Moscow subway. I love how Naoko wore her Guns N’ Roses t-shirt through that trip!!
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At the Marinski Ballet in Moscow!
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In Berlin with some dog… and Naoko.
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At the Hun’s Grave in Diesdorf with my grandmother.
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Gone for a walk in Diesdorf with my grandmother.
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In Wernigerode with my Grandmother.
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In Wernigerode with my Grandmother. This house is known as “the smallest house in Wernigerode”. I love how thre’s someone peering grumpily out the the window at us.
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In my grandmother’s garden in Diesdorf. That may have been the last time I saw my grandmother.
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Hanging out with Ramin & Arash in Düsseldorf!!
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Honeymoon in Germany with Naoko!!
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Honeymoon Germany. I don’t remember which town this is.
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Honeymoon in Germany, visiting Manfred, Inge and Kai Kremser, and Manfred’s sister & her husband.
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Honeymoon in Germany – hanging out with Dieter and David in Düsseldorf.
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Hanging out with Marcelo & Canaan in Frankfurt!
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At Schloß Neuschwanstein with Naoko.
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At the River Lech in Bavaria.
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Honeymoon in Germany with Naoko.
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Honeymoon in Germany with Naoko.
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Bavarian hay – on the road to Schaffhausen.
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Hanging out with Masako & Phillip and the kids in Schaffhausen.
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Naoko and Melanie in Schaffhausen.
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Naoko & Masako’s son at the Rheinfall in Schaffhausen.
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At Lake Constance.
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At Lake Constance.
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In Strassbourg.
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Swiss Lake with Nicole.
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Naoko and Nicole in Switzerland.
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Switzerland is for lovers!!
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At the Rheinfall with Ralph Hoflich, Nicole and Ingrid.
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Hanging in Switzerland with Ralph & Nicole Hoflich.
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Naoko and Nicole in Switzerland.
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Naoko’s birthday in Schaffhausen (her nickname was “Miki” at the time, lol)!!
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In Strasbourg with Janice Jenny!
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In Schladming with the relatives. Uncle Werner and Tante Gitti! Onkel Ernst! Tante Ingrid Onkel Karl!!
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In Schönberg am Kamp, Austria.
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Salzberg – the Undersberg, the Moos.
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Going for a run in Schönberg!!
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Going for a 10 kilometre run in Schönberg with Norbert.
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Autumn colours.
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On the road from Dresden to the Czech Republic with our car, which we named Rudi. That’s because it was the sound he made – “rudirudirudirudirudi…”
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We tried to find the town where my mom was born. This is all we found, though…
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In České Budějovice, where the original Budsweiser Beer comes from.
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Castle on the Danube.
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Hot spring water in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad).
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Taking a pilsner beer tour in Plzeň.
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Czech forest in Plzeň.
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Naoko among the ruins.
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At Cicmany in Slovakia.
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At our homestay in Hungary. This woman only spoke Hungarian. She kept saying to us “kaput, kaput, kaput…” After a while we realised that she was talking about a key…
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Budapest.
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Random Japanese art exhibit in Budapest.
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Budapest.
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Our Homestay uncle in Budapest.
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Balatonfüred thermal lake in Hungary. Nice place!
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Lake Balaton, Hungary.
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Hungarian art.
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Our first night in Romania, in Timișoara, only eight years after the revolution began there that ended in the fall of Communism in that country.
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Village life in Romania.
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Village life in Romania – with local kids.
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Village life in Romania – ducks crossing bridge.
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In Skopje, Macedonia.
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In Skopje, Macedonia.
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In Skopje, Macedonia.
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In Skopje, Macedonia.
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In Macedonia.
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In Macedonia.
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In Thessaloniki.
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In Cappadocia, with our friend Masako.
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In Cappadocia – we spent a night in a cave hotel.
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A turkey in Turkey. We were there for American thanksgiving, one of the guys in the guest house we were staying at insisted on having turkey for dinner, so off we went to a village to buy a turkey, but we left before it could be served.
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A boathouse in Olimpos, Turkey.
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Hot spring hotel in Pamukkele. I was so sick on the eight-hour drive that I collapsed when we got to the hotel we splurged on, slept 12 hours, but Naoko got to enjoy the waters.
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Ancient greek ruins in Efes (Epheseus).
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Brindisi, Italy, after taking the ferry from Greece. Trying to do a Nevlana dance on the breakwater…
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Bocca della Verità in Rome.
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San Marino. We were sliding all over the road, almost wiped out.
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Christmas dinner in Diesdorf… without Oma.
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This is how we took “wefies” back in the day…
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New Year’s Eve at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
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Paris, Naoko.
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Paris, Naoko.
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At the Dune of Pilat near Bordeaux.
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new Botanical Gardens area – The Learning Forest

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

We woke up early this morning to explore the new Learning Forest area of the Singapore Botanical Garden, and wow is it ever cool! They just opened it up at the end of March, and I can see from one of the maps that they’re also developing another large section just north of if (the only part that is still untouched is an area that we can see from our balcony). Lots of nice pictures

Swan Lake, 7:00 AM.
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The start of the treetop walk at the Learning Garden, there’s easy access from one side of Swan Lake.
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Bamboo garden
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Tall skinny bamboos
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Bamboo bush
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Cousin Itt bamboo…
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Tall bamboo!!
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Bamboo Crosses Path
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Pathway
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Pond
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Groovy bridge
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Tall tree
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Tall tree with reflection
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Reflection of tall tree…
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Fun pond and promenade
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Groovy
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Naoko in contemplation
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Jungle
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Jungle
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Groovy catwalk
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A perfect arch. That’s the moon up there too…
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Yes, we have no bananas…
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Cool map of the Botanical Gardens. Learning Forest is newly completed, and it looks like there will be a “Gallop Extension”, with some sort of building in there. The untouched area is adjacent to our condo complex, and our pool can be seen at the far left edge.
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My babe likes bananas…
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Ginger flowers at the old access area (no longer Learning Forest)
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Ginger flower.
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Ginger flowers
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Someone practicing sword tai chi.
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Near the Bukit Timah Road exit.
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Bamboo bush
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Balcony view

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

We’ve seen some great sunrises, and some interesting cloud views from our balcony (as well as lovely birds, but we couldn’t get good pictures of them). Here are some of the better shots I took in 2016.

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Singapore Got bird!! balcony

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Singapore balcony

 

Christmas 2016

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

We had a nice, quiet family Christmas this year.

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Both Zen and I got haircuts on Christmas Eve. Don’t we look great?

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Zen got his first vinyl – Imagine Dragons!!

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Hooray, we got Twin Peaks, season 1 & 2!!

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I got some of these records on Christmas, some of them before Christmas (but didn’t have a chance to listen to them).

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We also played squash a lot during the break.

Beijing trip

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

This blog post about my recent trip to Beijing is a work-in-progress.

I saw a lot of enclosed motorcycles in Beijing; but… WHY!?!?
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Little provisions shop where I bought some  beer.
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Quiet lane; felt like Chicago.
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Power to the people.
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Hutong moon.
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Zen’s shop!
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View of the hutong from my hotel.
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Time to hit the road… but first an Asahi!
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Weird control tower looks like a prop from Lord Of The Rings.
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My “window” seat didn’t even have a window!
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Oma and Opa in Singapore

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Oma and Opa came to Singapore again. We had a great time on Saturday pigging out at the Raffles Hotel Ball and Billiard Room for a wonderful buffet lunch to celebrate Oma’s birthday, coming up on January 19th.

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