Images of Brazil

1 July, 2006

The problem was that our flight was during the Brazil-France match. Damn. As we entered our descent, the word came that France scored to make it 1-0. Then, the plane landed at the international airport in Rio de Janeiro. There was one person to greet us at the gate, and as soon as the door opened, she ran off to watch the end. We got to the immigration line, and one person was sent out to give our passports a cursory look, and rush us through. There was no one at baggage claim. There was a noise to the right, and at the back of the duty free shop, everyone was watching the match on one of the televisions. A couple of us went over, and we were soon joined by a large number of Brasileros from the flight; apparently a school group took a trip to Buenos Aires. With every effort, the Brasileros were yelling and screaming, and when it was over, some were crying.

Most of the Argentinos I met were into football, I'd estimate 95% of the country watched the match, but their attention was intense, but not quite the same. The Brasileros were passionate. It would have been amazing to experience the passion of the final here in Rio, but the French have denied us that.

I got to the hotel in the early evening, and a group of us went to dinner at a steak & Italian place. I had a pepperoni pizza, it had more cheese than most and less sauce, and it was pretty good. There was lots of oregano in the cheese. I also found a 1.5 liter bottle of water for 2 real, seems a little high, but not absurd. (a 330 ml bottle at the hotel is 17 real!) I went to bed.

2 July, 2006

The restaurant is on top of the hotel, and has magnificent views of Ipanema. Having come in late afternoon, this was my first view of the place. I want to retire here.

After breakfast, we had a city tour that basically took in the beaches, and the new cathedral. Then we went to the Hippy Market, where I found an interesting gift for my father. David Houston and I went to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant for lunch, where we had various meats, carved off skewers. The technique is rodissio, and is traditional Brazilian.


São Conrado

Flamengo FC Trophy Case

Pluton

Urca

Sugarloaf

A Statue

Mike Sherman

Cocovado

An Angel

Tambra Nichols

Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

Rio Cathedral

Rio Cathedral

Central Square

Ipanema

Drink Vendor
Click on any image to see a larger picture

After lunch, we headed out to the beach, and we walked along the beach from the market area to the hotel. Ipanema beach is just what you imagine. Lots of vendors, lots of people, lots of attractive women in bikinis, lots of not so attractive men in speedos, lots of out-of-place Europeans, lots of fun. One common misconception is that a lot of the women are topless; they are not. According to one of the locals, there is some toplessness around Carnival, but it is not normal on the beach.

I have a lot of pictures of the beaches that I may not share. :)

Late afternoon was work. First, I had to move some pictures for GEMBA to the ftp site, then I had to do some readings for the week ahead. We have to do a presentation for cost accounting on Wednesday, and we had our first real discussion on the topic this evening. We also need to submit a paragraph on our proposed topic for our paper on strategy.

Since our strategy paper will cover real issues for one of my teammate's employers, I will not be able to discuss it here, except to say that it is an interesting topic.

For cost accounting, our presentation is for how a (fictional) consulting firm handles a renegade office. Naturally, for a Harvard Business School case study, the "good guys" are in Boston, and the "bad guys" are in San Jose. What do they know? Still, we discussed the case for about 90 minutes, plus the strategy paper, and then we went to dinner.

Initially, the plan was for feijoada, a native Brazilian dish with rice, black beans, and meat, sort of similar to a jambalaya (or so I am told), but not everyone was that hungry. We ended up back at Bar do Beta, where this time I had chicken a la Kiev. It was more like a cheese filling, or perhaps potato, than just butter, but with a lot of butter mixed in. Fairly rich, huge serving, with drinks and a side vegetable, it was about $17/person.

The costs here are higher than Buenos Aires, but the economy is stronger.

Classes restart tomorrow, so it was an early bedtime. While Rio has nightlife, they do get to it earlier, and get to work earlier.

3 July, 2006

I woke up and didn't read the schedule clearly; I went for breakfast early, where I photographed some birds. I arrived in class a half-hour early, but I did get a good seat by the window. The first class was cost accounting, where we had a demo of the issues of transfer costing, how it can mess up an organization.


Fregatta

Fregatta

Fregatta

Fregatta

Fregatta

Fregatta

A boat

A boat

The Brazilian Flag

An island of Ipanema
Click on any image to see a larger picture

Between classes, it stopped raining, and the waves were big. Some waves were three meters tall.

Suffice to say, with Ipanema outside, and classes inside, we were not where we wanted to be. Fortunately for us, the calendar is shorter this week, with only 10 class sessions (as opposed to 14 in Buenos Aires) and the visit to Petrobras. After Monday, three of those sessions have been concluded.

Operations was the second class. Lunch was a buffet on the 23rd floor, and was only so-so. Strategy was the last class of the day.

After class, I did a little reading, and we had a short team meeting. I also walked along the beach as the sun set.

Dinner was at Porção, one of Rio's barbecue places that recently expanded into the United States. The style is rodissio, where they serve various meats on skewers, and they keep coming. Some meat was excellent, but some was a bit overcooked for my taste. Still, it was hot, and filling.

I then went back to the hotel and went to bed.

4 July, 2006

The sun came out, and it is a beautiful day. Too bad we're in classes. The three classes today went OK, although the "beer game" was a bit silly. The material the beer game was supposed to illustrate could have been just as easily covered in a 20 minute lecture.

After classes, several of us went to a local bar to watch the Italy against Germany semifinal. Several in the class are German, and one teammate is Italian. Carlo couldn't attend, so I was the stand-in Italian. The match was hard fought, and fairly even. After 90 minutes, it was 0-0. Fifteen minutes into extra time, it was 0-0. That's when I mentioned to Hajo that penalties were an unjust resolution to a great match. The second period of extra time went like the first, until 14 minutes into the match, when Italy scored a beautiful goal. Germany had to press forward, and in injury time, Italy struck a second time on a counterstrike, for a 2-0 win in extra time.

After the match, one of my teammates, Bryan, and I went to Itahy for dinner. This was an Italian restaurant, and I had a pizza. It wasn't too bad. We prepped for our team meeting.

Our team had to finish a presentation on cost accounting, and also solve an inventory problem. We had some arguments on the cost accounting, where the problem may have been over billing, but there definitely was bad accounting for costs. For the inventory problem, the case materials were poorly written, and we ended up asking a lot of questions of the professor. I volunteered to solve the problem with some assumptions. Since we were given the spreadsheet to solve the problems, it wasn't too difficult. It was a matter of taking some assumptions and filling in spreadsheets.

5 July, 2006

The professor responded quickly to the email, and most of my assumptions were valid, so in the morning I posted my answer for the team to consider.

We had fewer classes today, with an early afternoon ending scheduled to allow us to watch Brazil play in a semifinal. Alas.

Before lunch, Deputy Dean Will Marshall gave us a talk about the search for a new Dean for the Fuqua School, and a bit about Fuqua's strategy. During the discussion of strategy, one of my classmates made a comment that the current value statement just felt wishy-washy, and that setting a target of being one of the two best was a stronger goal. Will made that change to the slides, we'll see if it propagates through the school.

We also had our last strategy class.

The World Cup semifinal between France and Portugal was the replacement for Brazil. The Brasileros watched, but without the passion. France scored on a dubious penalty in the 33rd minute, and then held on for the 1-0 win. Based on the play, the score was a fair result, even if the penalty itself wasn't. So, the World Cup final on Sunday is France against Italy. It isn't what I wanted, but it will do.

For dinner, Carlo and I went to Garota di Ipanema. The story goes that it was in this restaurant that the lyrics to "Girl from Ipanema" were written. Apparently, the girl in question is still alive, and is a grandmother. Time flies. I'll admit I've seen a few garota di Ipanema that caught my eye. I'd guess that, for those who could afford to use it, a walk along the beach here could be used to diagnose a need for Viagra.

Anyway, for dinner, I had a beef stroganoff, which was pretty good, although it bore no similarity to the beef stroganoff that I've cooked. The sauce had a slightly spicy, tomato-ish flavor. Carlo had a local fish preparation. I thought the fish was a bit overcooked. I did have some mint ice cream for dinner.

We had our final team meeting for Rio at 9PM. Since we already had our questions answered, we went through my spreadsheets to see what needed clarifying. I took some good feedback on presentation, and modified the spreadsheets accordingly. Once the meeting broke up, I submitted the modified spreadsheet for our team's answer.

6 July, 2006

Thursday was our non-class day. In the morning, we went to the Petrobras refinery just north of Rio. About a third of the class missed the trip, which is a bit of an embarrassment for Fuqua and our class. Petrobras offered the busses for us, and used their resources.

I'll admit I didn't get as much out of the tour as I would have liked; it was just a drive on a bus through the refinery. One notable fact is that Petrobras is a pioneer on deep-sea drilling. It is also interesting to note that oil companies are now drilling as much as 8-9 miles deep.

After lunch, we had an executive from Petrobras make a presentation that just reinforced these facts. It wasn't as interesting as what followed.

The CEO of Magazine Luiza gave us an hour of her time. Magazine Luiza is a merchandising chain in Brazil that has over $1 billion in annual revenue. More important, they are one of the more innovative merchandisers in the world. With the poverty in Brazil, they've managed to develop methods of both selling goods, and bringing good to the community. An example, Magazine Luiza has created virtual stores to save money, a customer goes into a store and sees the products on a computer with a salesman, and they can place an order at the store. The virtual store provides more information than a standard catalog, and also provides the human interface of customer service. It also allows the company to reach potential customers that might not be able to make catalog orders for reasons of lack of credit, or the like. Business wise, it allows for expansion while keeping costs low. The community good comes from further users of the computers; Magazine Luiza is now providing free internet access in many of these poor communities.

We had our farewell dinner at Maria's barbecue. This was not as good as Porção, but was still decent. There were lots of meat on skewers, and a lot of food. The better aspect was good company. After dinner, some went dancing, but I went to bed.

7 July, 2006

Our last day of class!

Both classes were essentially wrap-ups of the residency portion of the term, with previews of the distance portion of the course. We finished classes by lunchtime.

In the afternoon, many of us went to Corcovado.

I should explain a bit about the geology of Rio. Rio has a lot of tall, steep granite hills. The term is plutons, which are granitic extrusions where surrounding soil has eroded away, leaving these tall pillars of granite. It reminds me of the plutons of Yosemite (Half Dome is one such pluton) or the mountains around Guilin, China. The city surrounds the plutons, which long, deep white sand beaches for Ipanema, Leme, Copacabana, Leblon, and others. It is a magnificent city.

Corcovado is one of the plutons, near the center of the city, on which the statue of Christ the Redeemer is placed. It is perhaps Rio's best known man-made symbol, and provides great views of the city and surrounding areas.

To get up the pluton, we had to take a funicular (mountain-climbing railroad.) This is essentially a train with a large gear on the bottom, and a motor that drives the gear against a series of notches. The first train had some problems, so we had to wait 30 minutes for the next train. It was twenty minutes from there to the top of the pluton.

At the top, there are 231 steps to climb to the final plateau. From this location, you can see much of Rio de Janeiro. The weather was a bit hazy inland, but the beaches of Ipanema, Leblon, and Copacabana were magnificent. The Maracana stadium was barely visible in haze, though, and the inland areas were obscured. I took the last GEMBA group shot of a distant residency for those who chose to take the trip, and after that, we went back down. It took a little longer going down as we had to wait for the uphill train. It may have been delayed due to the problems our train had.


Black Vultures

The Funicular

Central Rio

Central Rio

Ipanema from Corcovado

Ipanema from Corcovado

São Conrado

Botafogo

Botafogo

Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

The Statue

The Statue

Flamengo

Flamengo

Centro

Ipanema

Island

Copacabana

Leme

Sugarloaf

Sugarloaf

Botafogo

Maracaña

Maracaña

Hang Gliding Area

Hang Glinding Spot
Click on any image to see a larger picture

We then went back to the hotel.

Carlo was taking me to dinner at Marius Crustacean to settle our bet on the Italy against the United States match in the World Cup. As it was a 1-1 draw, we both owed each other dinner. (I covered Carlo's dinner at Randall's birthday.) This was a Brazilian style seafood feast, where instead of carvings of meat, we had different barbecued seafood. I did enjoy a lot of lobster, plus they had some of the largest shrimp I have ever seen, along with many other sea creatures.

The company was also interesting, and an indication of the real potential of GEMBA. At the dinner, I was the sole American. Carlo is obviously Italian. We were joined by Florian (from Germany), Kayoko (from Japan), and Evgeniy (from Russia.) Each is smart, and a business leader. I'm sure GEMBA would have loved a photograph from that dinner table.

There was a party near us, and to celebrate, the restaurant covered the floor with peanuts, and there was singing. It was an interesting experience.

8 July, 2006

My hopes for the morning of the 8th were to go hang gliding. I've never gone hang gliding, and it looks like fun, but apparently the winds were wrong. When the air is still, I guess you can't really glide - it is like a condor, they can fly better in stronger winds because they are larger birds, and I guess I am a little bit heavier than a condor, so I need the stronger winds. I was told that it is not unusual for the winds to be bad in winter.

So, instead, I headed off to the Botanical Gardens. Rio de Janeiro has an extensive botanical garden at the base of the rainforest. There are a lot of different plants and flowers from South America, but the most beautiful were the orchids. They have a greenhouse full of them.

Also, there were the small South American monkeys there. They were playing near the rest rooms.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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I came back to the hotel at about noon, and met up with some classmates who were going gem shopping. I joined them for lunch, where I had a sausage and cheese sandwich. It was, well, different. The main gemstones here are the topaz, aquamarine, amethyst and similar stones. They do have a few emeralds. I took a look, but even a basic pair of cufflinks was over $500 US. I did stop by Mundo Verde for some healthy snacks; it means green world, and has health foods. There were some decent sugar-free chocolates there.

Cody had arranged for us to have some decent seats at a kiosk to watch the third place match in the World Cup.

Beach life in Rio de Janeiro (carioca life) is centered around "your" kiosk. This is where you gather, meet your friends, get refreshments, and head out onto the beautiful white sands of Rio de Janeiro. There is a kiosk directly across the avenue from our hotel, and it naturally became the GEMBA kiosk for the duration of our residency. We got to know the people operating the kiosk, and they knew us. Since I make it a point to say I am from California instead of just saying from the United States, I was "California" to them. Beyond some basics, we probably had no idea what we were saying, but it seemed to work out OK.

We all gathered for the match between Portugal and Germany. I was in three pools, for me to win all three, I needed a draw. (I already won two of them.) At halftime, it was 0-0, so it was looking good. Early in the second half, Schweinsteiger scored a beautiful goal for Germany, then Petit of Portugal scored, Schweinsteiger scored a second goal just like the first, and Gomes finished for Portugal. You'd think I'm happy, right? Nope... Petit's goal was an own goal, so Germany won, 3-1.

I guess you can't win them all.

After the match was over, I checked some email, and then met up with some classmates who went to a grill for dinner. I ordered some more beef stroganoff; I don't know what, exactly, it is here, but it did taste good. I think it is a bit of tomato in with the sour cream. Or something like that. Everyone else ordered steaks of one type or another. For all but me, it was a last dinner in Rio. The company was very good. Bart and I had an interesting side conversation about philosophy.

I'll admit I enjoy my classmates. To a person, they are quite intelligent, and since I've mainly spent my life with engineers, discussing things with people from different backgrounds is something I find very enriching. I hope they have the same opinion of conversations with me.

After dinner, some folks went out, but I went to bed. I wanted to wake early for hang gliding on Sunday.

9 July, 2006

There are five months left to graduation from GEMBA. On my 46th birthday, I'll become one of the latest in the hordes of MBA's. I do think, though, that taking it as an executive course will be a major help to my career. For your regular, daytime students, they're new to the world of business, and won't see the real-world applications of their learning. I certainly do, and for those that I don't see, often many in my class have experienced the issues in their careers, and we learn from each other.

A good example was the previous Friday, when we had a presentation by Michael Sherman in our operations class. His company has written software that is used to help McDonalds in their operations in their fast food stores. It is essentially a job tracking tool (I am greatly oversimplifying it!) but with a lot of intelligence on the back end. It allows McDonalds to have food available for you when you order. Mike's presentation was good.

I wasn't thinking about McDonalds on Sunday morning, I was hoping I could run off a cliff. I checked with the concierge, but apparently the winds were still bad. My biggest regret from my visit to Rio de Janeiro is that I did not get a chance to see the city like the vultures do, soaring on a thermal over the beaches and towns that make up this city.

With hang gliding off the table, I ended up going to Sugarloaf. This is one of the plutons that stands sentinel to the entrance of the bay. There is a cable car system that takes you from ground level to the top of an intermediate rock, and then a second cable car up to the top. In the end, you rise to almost 400 meters above sea level while hanging in a small box over a deep gorge. The views were spectacular.

One of the more interesting views was of San Dumont airport, the domestic airport in Rio. The flight paths that morning were taking the planes near Sugarloaf... under the top. At one point, a TAM jet was banking in for a landing and seemed to be heading right towards us. For others, you'd see their descent, and a faint puff on landing.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Copacabana beach is clearly visible to the west, but most of Ipanema is hidden by a hill at Arpoador. This time, I couldn't see the hotel.

I did remember that in the 1950's, my father visited Rio de Janeiro on board USS Soley, a destroyer in the United States Navy. Seeing the off-shore islands made me suspect there are seamounts on the approach to the bay. If some plutons poked just above sea level, there may be others that did not breach the surface.

Of course, these were probably mapped many years ago. Rio has been a major seaport for more than two centuries, first exporting sugar for the Portuguese back before the United States was established. Still, I suspect there may have been some tricky navigation, or perhaps a harbor pilot.

Rio, in 1954, must have been an interesting place. They did have the cable cars back then, and they also had the Corcovado, but Copa and Ipanema certainly didn't have the name they do now. The air was probably cleaner, too.

After the Sugarloaf, I went to lunch at Casa de Feijoada. I figured I couldn't leave Rio without first trying the native specialty! Feijoada is primarly a bean dish, served with stewed meats. I opted for jerked beef, sausage, and smoked bacon. These were cooked with black beans, and served steaming hot in a pot to the table. I served myself rice, beans, and meats, and nibbled on side dishes. There was a lot of food, and I felt very full when it was over.

I next visited the Hippy market to see if there was anything I missed. I did find something for myself for which I hadn't found a reasonable price: A Ronaldo jersey in my size. Most places were asking R$180 (about $90!) for a jersey, with some as high as R$250. This was a surplus for R$40. Ronaldo has scored more World Cup goals than anyone else.

Next, it was time for the World Cup Final. I went to my kiosk, and settled in. "California" had his cola light, and settled in to watch. Cody was still in town, but had to catch a flight, so he only watched part. I was supporting Italy in the final.

Zidane scored first, on a penalty, for France, then Matezorri scored on a beautiful header for Italy. The match was even after that, into extra time. Early in the second period of extra time, Zidane brutally head-butted an Matezorri, and as a result, he was sent off. Perhaps Zidane was provoked, but in this, his final international match of his career, he should have kept his cool. Instead, his last act on the grand stage is one of shame.

Watching the World Cup Final on the Ipanema beach is a real treat. Even though Brazil was out of the cup, the fans were still passionate. On each threat by the two sides, you could sense the excitement in the crowd around the kiosk. And a crowd it certainly was! I'd estimate between 100 and 200 people were watching on this one television, and you'd see similar crowds around the other kiosks.

You could also easily identify the American visitors to Rio, they were the ones walking by, wondering what the excitement was all about.

Ah, the Americans. One of the reasons why I try to identify myself as a Californian as opposed to a generic American is the ubiquity of the Americans. It seems the new trend among reasonably well off college students is to summer in Rio. The number of college kids down here was notable. Also, a lot of traveling families were present, but I guess that is to be expected. We stopped taking family vacations like this well before when I was an undergraduate. (Although, I guess we did take one when I was 40.) Still, it seemed the college-aged kids were pretty self-absorbed and self-important.

It is scary to think I was probably like that when I was visiting Europe during graduate school.

Back to the Cup... Zidane's sending off did not fundamentally alter the play, but it may have had an effect. The match ended 1-1 after extra time, so we had the awful result of deciding the World Cup on penalty kicks. Zidane is the best at taking penalties for France. Since France missed one kick (Trezuguet hit the cross bar and almost had the Geoff Hurst bounce, but failed by less than a foot) and Italy made all of theirs, Italy won the World Cup. Would Trezuguet have been one of France's kickers if Zidane had been available?

I was not all that hungry, so my last night in Rio concluded with a late night snack at a desert shop. I had a hot dog with cheese and fries. It was unremarkable. I did reading, and I did a major repack.

10 July, 2006

I leave Rio today for a four night trip to Foz do Iguaçu, the waterfalls on the Iguaçu River, on the border between Brazil and Argentina. A couple of my classmates, Veena "Mr." Ramen and Kayoko Yamanishi, visited the Argentine side on a day trip from Buenos Aires, instead of watching the Argentina-Mexico football match, and they reported they had a good time. I'll be visiting the Brazilian side for several days.

The Caesar Park hotel has been a very good hotel, but it is also very expensive. Laundry costs were obscene, so high that I am taking some dirty clothes to Iguaçu since the laundry there can't be as expensive. An example: Breakfast at the Caesar Park was R$63, which is the equivalent of $30 US for a skimpy buffet. Other meals were proportionately expensive, which is why I never ate in the hotel.

As I checked out, I came across a film crew. It appears that CSI: Miami will have their season premier featuring Ipanema. If I remember, I'll need to check it out to see what I recognize.

Rio de Janeiro is an expensive city. Many prices were on par with the United States. Taxis, for example, started at R$3.70 for one passenger, roughly $1.75, and the mileage started immediately. Short distance taxi trips were roughly $10 US. Dinners out ranged from R$70-R$160, or roughly $30-$75, per person. Even a burger and fries would be $15. And, I've already mentioned the cost of Brazil football jerseys. They're less expensive on the Internet, shipped from London.

A lot of us made the error of assuming Rio's costs would be comparable to Buenos Aires, so when we received A$1000 for our per diem, we figured a dinner in Argentina for 100 pesos was reasonable. Clearly, it wasn't. It is a good thing that ATM machines are widely available.

My first checking account, at North Carolina National Bank, came with a very primitive ATM card. There was an ATM on the Duke campus, where you could withdraw $10 or $20 at a time. The machine had large metal buttons that still stand out in my memory.

It is interesting to see how getting foreign currency has changed over the years. When I went to Scotland for graduate school, I had a check and opened a bank account at the Royal Bank of Scotland in St. Andrews. (I still remember the account number.) Traveling to Europe on Christmas break, I converted cash in small increments in Amsterdam. I could use my cheque card to write a guaranteed check, and get cash. When I traveled to Australia in 1986, I started taking travelers checks, and converting them, since the conversion rates were better. By the end of the 1980's, I switched to cash advances on credit cards, as that had the best exchange rates, even with the 2% fee.

Each of these methods required a human interaction, so they only took place during fixed hours. Cash advances had to be made at banks, and we know what hours bankers keep.

All that changed in the 1990's as ATM networks became international. I recall visiting Edinburgh in 1998 and getting cash from an ATM machine that dispensed Twenty pound notes. The next year, I was more amazed to get cash in Kenya from an ATM, well outside Nairobi, that also showed me my bank balance... in Kenyan shillings! (Since the exchange rate was 75 to 1, that looked rather good.) There are now ATM machines in Cambodia. The convenience is great, but the banks are catching on. I wonder what the next trend in currency exchange will be?

My flight to Iguaçu was originally booked on Varig, but with Varig's troubles, I chose to change the flight to TAM. I was flying out at 11:15 AM, so to cope with Rio traffic, I checked out and left the hotel at 8:30. I stopped at the Copacabana Excelsior hotel, my next destination, to leave three bags. I left the large body bag, filled with gifts and dirty clothing. I left the large camera case, and I left the GEMBA bag filled with readings. I took with me the 400mm lens, a small clothing bag with my camera wrapped in clothes for protection, my backpack with some other GEMBA reading, and my tripod.

At the airport, I realized it was a good thing I arrived early. The check in queue was very long, and it took about 45 minutes for me to get to the counter. Checking in, I had to waive liability for the lens, as TAM's condition of carriage do not allow for photographic equipment. Very odd. The flight was all one class.

It was also a good thing I changed flights. After clearing security, I saw that Varig had cancelled my flight to Iguaçu, along with 80% of their domestic flights.

I ended up near the front, in an aisle seat next to two English college students. They were both writing journals. I listened to my IPod. The flight left late and landed late, but not too late. I was met by a driver who took me straight to my hotel: Tropical de Cataratas. I have a standard room, which is small compared to the previous hotels, but it is adequate. I didn't book a falls-view room (they cost double) but I have a decent view of the falls, anyway.

After checking in, I took a walk to see the Foz do Iguaçu. There isn't a single waterfall, instead, there are a series of cataracts that stretch across several hundred meters. On the Argentine side (the Iguaçu River is the border between Brazil and Argentina) there is a large concave wall that has several falls. There is a shelf on an island between the two sides, some of the concave-wall-waterfalls fall onto this shelf to later fall the remaining distance into the Iguaçu Canyon. Then, there is the devil's neck, the main waterfalls. The very tip of the canyon is narrow, and water falls into it from both sides. There is another shelf on the Brazilian side, where a wall of water falls, then rolls down to separate waterfalls.

All told, there are probably over 100 different flows over the cliffs at Iguaçu, forming perhaps the most spectacular series of waterfalls I have ever seen. The falls in Yosemite are amazing if only for the size of the drop, the Erewan falls in Thailand are beautiful, but for complexity this is unique.

As I watched, I became more amazed. At the top of the falls, the Iguaçu River is wide and shallow, perhaps a half mile from the Brazilian bank to the Argentine bank. The water almost meanders to the ultimate crash. Near the precipice, the water obviously speeds up, but that increase in speed is slowly fed.


Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls: The Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls
Click on any image to see a larger picture

The trail slowly takes you down to the Brazilian shelf, with various views of the many separate falls, but even more common are the dark marks on the walls of rock indicating where the falls would be when the water is higher. I'm at this amazing place in low water!?! Along the trail are coatis, which are relatives of our raccoon. A coati looks like a cross between a badger and a lemur. People feed them despite the many signs asking visitors not to feed the animals. Naturally, when this one woman feeds the closest coati, the others swarm around her. One starts to climb her leg, and she drops all the food she is carrying. Stupid woman.

Eventually, I walk out on the raised trail across the shelf to a viewpoint into the devil's neck. The mist from the falls forms a double rainbow. The trail is wet and slippery.

At the end of a trail is an elevator to the top of the canyon, and the visitors' center. Because of the design of the place, my mother could visit despite her bad hip, she could take the elevator down to the center, and slowly walk out to the overlook. The visitors' center is just a shop, plus a fast food place and a restaurant. Feeling thirsty, I grab a bottle of water and wait for the shuttle bus.

There is a shuttle bus that runs from the park entrance to the falls, with stops at two trailheads and the hotel. Even though the hotel is only a kilometer away, I take the bus. My knee was hurting a bit from the hike down into the canyon.

I dump off my pictures to my iPod, and then to my laptop, for later examination and processing. I note that the neutral density filters I was using tend to significantly darken the colors in the images. That's a bummer.

I've had to move to much stronger neutral density filters for my waterfall photography when I moved to a digital camera. I previously had ND 0.9, 0.6. and 0.3 filters, these result in roughly 12.5%, 25%, and 50% of the light getting through, respectively. (ND scales are logarithmic.) That changes exposure time or f-stop as follows:

ND filterOriginal exposureOriginal f-stopNew exposureOR New f-stop
ND 0.31/125 second16.01/60 second8.0
ND 0.61/125 second16.01/30 second4.0
ND 0.91/125 second16.01/15 second2.0

When you combine a slow speed film (ASA 50 or ASA 25) with a narrow aperture, you can increase the exposure time to the point where you can make a waterfall look like silken tresses from a beautiful woman.

The problem with the newer digital cameras is that the slowest film they simulate is ASA 200. (Some go to ASA 100.) So, to reach an ASA 25 equivalent, you need to get an ND 0.9 filter, just for starters. Then, you need additional filters to slow the image. So, I recently purchased some new filters. I now have an ND 3.0 (0.1% of the light), ND 4.0 (0.01%) and ND 6.0 (0.0001%). These are not common filters, I will admit. They are also not inexpensive filters, but when compared to the camera and lenses, it is a minor expense.

Unfortunately, they are no longer really neutral, or I just haven't become accustomed to using them. I'll need to work with them some more when I get my camera back. Just imagine some of these were brighter, and when I get home I'll see what I can do with the imaging software.

Alas, the camera has developed a flaw on its image surface. It is minor, but a small area of pixels is not registering. I hope this is a minor problem that Nikon can repair quickly when I get home.

When I returned to the hotel, I prepared for dinner. The hotel restaurant offers an international buffet and menu service. Ordering off the menu is not much more expensive than the buffet, so I stayed on the menu. I prefer hotter foods, anyway. I had a fettucine appetizer and beef cordon bleu. It was OK, but not great. About what one would expect from a monopoly restaurant.

After dinner, I slept.

11 July, 2006

Apparently, I was extremely tired, since I nearly slept until 8AM. I showered, and went out to the trail again. The morning light should be different from the afternoon light, and it should give different pictures. Anyway, that was my thought as I hit the trail at 8:30AM.

Clearly, the falls on the Argentine side are better illuminated in the morning, so I took a lot of pictures there. Also, the different in light on the Brazilian side gave some interesting images.

Leaving as early as I did, I was the first on the trail and first person at many overlooks. This gave me an opportunity for peaceful introspection. As I looked at the rocks and saw where the high water marks were located, my mind came across queuing theory. Oh dear, the MBA is changing the way I think about waterfalls! I looked at the top as excess inventory waiting to be processed by the bottleneck of the waterfall, before moving on. The water level rise would represent increased inventory. Help me, I am a geek! Of course, the bottlenecks change their behavior with excess inventory, which isn't business theory (or we've not reached that point, yet) and Iguaçu Falls has many different processing points.

So, to relax, I switched my mind away from queuing theory, to fluid dynamics. I then looked at the backwashes in the river in the canyon and attempted to model those in my mind. I also used the model to show different pressures at different depths as water levels rose at the waterfalls, and showing how different water behaves.

You've always wondered what is going through my head when I see beauty, and there it is. I analyze, I try to figure out how it works.

One exception: Female beauty. In that case, I look at it, and try to figure out what specific traits are those that trigger responses in me. Going back to the dinner table conversation of June 23, one of the topics was what guys look at when they see a woman. While I joked that the main thing I notice is the hair as the woman runs away from me, to a very real extent, it is also the honest truth. Long hair, like the waterfalls I photograph, is one of my favorite things. Beyond that, I look at the eyes for the intelligence, and the smile for the warmth.

The women mocked that, assuming that, like many guys, I first notice the woman's breasts. A lot of men do; and while I do notice them, they are really quaternary to my assessment of a woman's beauty.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Click on any image to see a larger picture

For the waterfalls, though, I was busy looking at the system as a set of bottlenecks and fluid dynamics, and attempting to solve multi-variable parallel equations in my model of the falls. Simple tensors, really. I guess Alan Turing invented computers so we wouldn't have to do this in our heads, but where's the fun in that?

I spent a good couple hours examining the different fluid dynamics involved in an effort to produce my model, and decided it was all a load of crap, so I left. For lunch, I went to the grill at the visitors' center, and felt it was a rip-off. A bacon burger fries, and a coke cost a mere R$10. But the bacon was odd, and the place was swarming with wasps. Nasty looking wasps with long stingers, that had an unnatural interest in soda cans. I didn't stick around long enough to be stung, although some of the visitors seemed to panic at their sight.


Coati

Coati

Argentina

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Coati

Forest

Visitors' Center
Click on any image to see a larger picture

After the wasp lunch, I went to the other end of the park to check the place out. The entrance has a shop, and another grill. Plus, there's a large fountain. I decided to do a little exploring around the place, visiting some of the businesses at the entrance to the park before heading back. It reminded me of the roadside stalls in Africa where vendors are trying to sell the same merchandise as each other.

I had to pay a second entry fee to return to the park, this was R$5. Oh well. I rested and read in my room until dinner. My reservation was at 8:30PM, two hours after sunset. This time, I had a spaghetti appetizer and a roasted pork chop. It was pretty good.

12 July, 2006

Wow! Overnight someone must have turned on a spigot...

The waterfalls this morning were much more active. I heard there was some rain near the origin of the Iguaçu River, and I guess it has now made its way to the falls. Where yesterday there were dark markings on the cliffs where waterfalls were, today there is water flowing. What is more interesting is that there are still lots of dark areas, implying this is only running at medium (if yesterday was low.)

This caused a change of plans. Originally, I was going to try to walk the Poco Preto trail, a 9 kilometer walk in the woods. Instead, I had to take more waterfall pictures. This much water means that the beautiful tresses of water have gone from shoulder length to waist length. Yummy, yummy hair.

Have I mentioned how beautiful Brazilian women are? No? Well, they are. Perhaps it is an excess of silicon and plastic surgery, or perhaps it is because I was at Ipanema, but I have seen many beautiful women here in Brazil. It reminds me of when I went to Tahiti, and thought I'd see beautiful women in Papeete. I didn't. They must all have gone to Rio, because this is making up for the deficit. Alas, my Portuguese is weak, and my will (and self-confidence) is even weaker, so all I'll do is look.

Of course, there is more than just beauty. Beauty doesn't last; I did see a few elderly women who should be banned from wearing dental floss (the current style of bikini in Rio de Janeiro) in public. The sun can be cruel. True beauty is more than skin deep, I've met only a few truly beautiful women in my life. I even had the good fortune to be loved by one, many years ago.

Anyway, the water was beautiful. This time, I did not bring my tripod to pull out the tresses, but I did bring a zoom lens to get close to the action. One picture I particularly like is of a little curl of water. Going back to fluid dynamics, it is interesting to see the combination of surface tension, gravity, and pressure produce a small lick of water, no more than three inches in height, that remains constant through the deluge. I was foolish to think I could mentally model the hydrodynamics of this waterfall, never in my wildest dreams could I have imaging this one little curl amidst all this water. So, all science is now left behind as I just soak in the beauty.

Did I say "soak?" Well, that is an apt description of the trail today, too. With all the extra water flowing, the mist is as thick as rain. Looking over the precipice from the Brazilian shelf, you can see about 300 degrees of a rain-circle. It is more than a rainbow. It shows all the classic images of a rainbow, with a spectrum of colors (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet, and I am sure the colors that are beyond the visible wavelengths are also represented) and the relative lightening inside the bow, with darkening outside. I hope some of the pictures represent this well.

I happened across the English family who sat next to me on the airplane. They were extremely English, to the extent that I wonder if they were members of the hereditary upper class.


Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Coati

Coati

Coati

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Argentina

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Parrot

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu River

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Spider

Dove

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Rainbow

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Canyon

Iguaçu River

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Rainbow

Parrots

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Rainbow

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Parrots

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

The Water Lick

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Cormorant

Cormorant

Cormorant

Cormorant

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

A Flower

A Flower

A Plant
Click on any image to see a larger picture

I returned to the hotel for lunch, calabrese pizza and wasp soda. Yes, a wasp decided to take a dip into my coca cola light, and probably drowned. Fortunately, I was about 80% finished, and didn't try to drink any more. The thought of a wasp sting on my tongue... Ouch! Not to mention it could be fatal, if it were to swell up and block my throat. What a horrid way to go. Besides, the pizza really wasn't good enough to be a last meal.

After lunch, I decided to do some of the walking I missed in the morning. I went to the Passeio Trilha das Bananeiras, a one mile trail from the road to the river, and was told I had to pay R$45 to walk the trail, as it is private property, and a guide is required. Apparently, all of the trails in the park are that way. So, I opted to save some money by not forking over $20 per mile for a guided trail, and I instead decided to walk from there to the hotel on the road. It was about 4 kilometers, so it was a healthy walk, and I saw a lot of butterflies.

Still, there was some passing traffic, which was a distraction.

After I did this hike, I did take an organized trip with a "safari" company. We rode in a truck to the river, where we were taken on a trip up river into the falls. I went mainly for the photography, others went for the pseudo-white water experience. From the bottoms, the falls do look impressive, and I did see some white-winged swallows.

The white water part was a bit less interesting to me. I prefer my white water to be rafted under human power, not engines, as the engines take away the fun and challenge. I guess you can do more with engines, though, since there is no way we could have reached the falls themselves under human power, the currents were too swift. Part of the trip was a closer look at a single cataract, from directly underneath.

These tresses were no longer beautiful; they were as cold as the heart of some women, like the one who never wrote back. I'll just dry myself off and go back to watching from a safe distance.


Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

White-winged Swallow

White-winged Swallow

White-winged Swallow

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls - Devil's Throat
Click on any image to see a larger picture

Dinner was onion soup and soy sauce chicken. It was passable. The onion soup was a little odd, it was not based on a beef broth, but was a cream of onion soup. I did get some chocolate cake for dessert. The next day was a big day, so I went to bed early.

13 July, 2006

I woke at 5:30AM with a stuffy nose, and a mild sore throat. I hope it is only temporary, because I don't want to be sick when I fly. Hell, I just don't want to be sick.


Unknown Bird

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan
Click on any image to see a larger picture

Take a side trip to Argentina

We had to cross back into Brazil, then take the Friendship Bridge across the Paraña to Ciudad de Esté, the Paraguayan city opposite Iguaçu. At the Brazilian border, security was somewhat lax, with only a cursory passport check. At the Argentine petrol stations there were long queues for gas, apparently the taxes in Brazil are a little higher. The driver said that filling his tank in Argentina would save him R$60, but the wait is 2 hours. I did ask him how much he valued his time, since it seems he puts the value at under R$30/hour. He said he had never thought of it that way. Once we entered Brazil, we had to wash the bottom of our shoes with a disinfectant. Apparently, there are cases of foot 'n mouth disease that has the Brazilians concerned. The pool of disinfectant was so filthy that I doubt it would have any effect.

Take a side trip to Paraguay

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and picked up some cough drops, my nose is a little runny, so I am a little concerned. I also picked up some water that is cheaper than hotel water. I also found one last gift for my mother.

We returned to the hotel at 4PM. I went to my room, relaxed, and read until my 8PM dinner reservation. I had the spaghetti Bolognese appetizer, and the filet cordon bleu. Unfortunately, someone near me was smoking like a chimney, and there were no other tables, so I ate quickly, and left.

14 July, 2006

Today was my last day at Iguaçu. I decided to take a stroll on the grounds to see if I can do some bird photography, and to see if I can use the big lens for waterfall closeups. First thing I did was to walk the grounds of the hotel to see what I could see. There were toco toucans that were in the trees near the hotel that I had tried to photograph earlier, but with little success. Today, I had much better success. I also found a few other birds.


Unknown Bird

Unknown Bird

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

A Sparrow

A Sparrow

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

A lapwing?

A lapwing?

A lapwing?

A lapwing?

Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu Falls

A Parrot?

A Parrot?

Unknown Bird

Unknown Bird

A Sparrow

A Sparrow

A woodpecker

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

Toucan

A Swallow?

A Swallow?
Click on any image to see a larger picture

Since my flight wasn't until the afternoon, I decided to visit the Parque del Aves. I saw a lot of different species of birds here, including a harpy eagle, but since they were in aviaries, they obviously don't count. Besides, I had to pack away my camera when I left my luggage, so I didn't take any photographs, anyway.

I was pleased to see my nose was not congested! I guess whatever it was, was temporary, and not an indication of a major illness. I figure I've been exposed to so much cigarette smoke here that my sinuses are rebelling.

The bird park was quite extensive, and had species from all over the world. Obviously, a significant portion of the collection focused on Brazilian and Amazonian species, but beyond that, they had species from New Guinea, Africa, Asia, and North America. The variety and diversity of the parrots was interesting. For the herpephiles, they even had an anaconda in a separate enclosure. That is one big snake.

I went back to the hotel for lunch, frango e batata frites, and waited for my taxi. The Foz do Iguaçu airport is about as interesting as any airport, and naturally the flight was late. We were scheduled to depart at 4:50PM, but the plane didn't arrive until 4:50. It was interesting to watch them turn the plane around as quickly as they did; we were taking off by 5:15, and arrived in Rio just after 7PM.

It was not a pleasant flying experience. I was surrounded by a group of adults who seem like they had never flown before. The guy in the window seat kept grabbing at the face of the person sitting in the seat in front of him and the row in front would sometimes climb on their seats and turn around to gesticulate. The person immediately in front of my kept grabbing at his headrest, which put his hand roughly a foot from my face. Now, I know why a woman once told me that she notices the guy's fingernails first, to see if they are clean. This person would not have passed that basic test. Then again, he had the ultimate NASCAR moustache, even with his mouth fully open, you could not see his lower lip. I figured he must strain his food like a baleen whale.

I arrived at my hotel, the Copacabana Excelsior, just after 8PM. I went across the street to La Trattoria for dinner, since it had been recommended. I had baked ravioli with sausage, and it was pretty good, though the service was not. Then again, this was my first meal in Brazil that was under R$50, so I shouldn't complain. (I wonder, were the alcohol bills when I shared meals with fellow GEMBA's so high that I was subsidizing them that much?) I went to visit the night market to see if there was anything I should purchase, and there wasn't. So, I went back to the hotel and slept.

15 July, 2006

Today is my last day in Brazil. I have a lot of re-packing to do, but beyond that, not much. This trip is the last international trip for my MBA, so I am somewhat nostalgic. I was looking back at some of the other trips, to put this one in perspective.

The GEMBA program is quite amazing, really. We have some of the best teachers available, we are a well matched group of students, and we get a broad exposure to global business. It is hard to picture a program more appropriate to the modern global business leader.

We visited six cities, in three residencies. We went to Brussels and Budapest, to examine two different economies in Europe. That was an interesting trip. We went to Beijing and Bangkok, seeing a tightly state-managed economy in China, and a laissez-faire capitalism in Thailand. We went to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro for an exposure to Latin American business and business practices.

Now, it is over but for the studying and graduation in December.

The ending to this trip is also somewhat unusual. Looking back, I've spent many "last day" of my trip with friends. In Thailand, I met up with the woman who flew with me, Naomi, and we had a good time together. I thought we'd be friends, but I guess I was wrong about that. Coming back from Europe, I had dinner with my friend Richard and his family, and he took me to Gatwick airport in the morning. Earlier trips also involved seeing friends at the end, usually in London.

Today, I am alone.

After re-packing, I took a long walk. I left the hotel and walked all the way down to Leme, onto the rocks at the east end of the Copacabana beach. I then walked back to the hotel, where I dropped off my camera. I then walked all the way to Arpoador, at the other end of the Copacabana. These ends are about 3 or 4 kilometers apart. The beach here is different from Ipanema. At the ends, it is fairly narrow, so the sunbathers are also close to the walkway, but in the middle of the beach, the ocean is about 100 meters away. The area from the path to the ocean is covered with the white sands found here. The sands are covered with volleyball nets and football pitches, this is where the Brazilian beach games take place.


The Copacabana Beach

The Copacabana Beach

A Crow

The Copacabana Beach

The Copacabana Beach

The Copacabana Beach

Cactus

Moss

The Copacabana Beach

The Progress of a Wave

The Progress of a Wave

The Progress of a Wave

The Progress of a Wave
Click on any image to see a larger picture

I stopped for a bite to eat of some sort of dumpling. It didn't kill me, and it tasted OK, so I guess it was OK. I will admit I have a longing for the good, spicy foods I cook.

I arranged a late checkout at 4PM, so I returned to the hotel to check out. I then returned to the beach to watch the end of the afternoon, until about 5PM. For dinner, I opted to return to Porção for a final churrascaria. My ride to the airport is at 8PM. After checking out, I waited at the beach and watched the people pass. I met the brother of the Brazilian ambassador to the US (or so he claimed) at one of these bars.

Porção was excellent, and confirms that I've been subsidizing the alcohol of my classmates. Oh well.

When I returned to the hotel, the ride was delayed, so I went on the roof and looked at the stars. The Southern Cross was there, as were alpha and beta Centauri. The light from alpha Centauri left for earth in late March or early April, 2002. Also up was Spica, 1600 light years away. The light from there predates the Crusades.

The ride to the airport was quick, and I checked in without any hassles. At the Air France lounge, the wireless does not work. Oh well. I guess I'll check my email when I get home.

It appears some religious children's group was on the flight. A whole bunch of teenagers were wearing blue tee shirts with bible scripture.

16 July, 2006

Despite the uncomfortable seat, I slept for about 6 hours on the flight. I figure that's OK for a nine hour flight. I arrived in Atlanta in decent shape. It took a while to get off the plane, due to a rookie gate agent who could not make up his or her mind as to which door to use. Then, since we were at the most remote gate, it was a long walk to passport control. Once the walk was finished, things went quickly. My bags were already on the belt when I cleared immigration, and I quickly rolled them over to re-check them.

I don't understand why the United States can't check luggage through to destination cities. Cambodia can do that. I guess Cambodia is more technologically advanced, at least where it comes to air travel.

I had a three hour layover in Atlanta for the flight to San Francisco. It took an hour to get from landing to the new gate, and I called my parents. I discovered another children's religious group is going to California. At least 50 children are waiting to board the flight. I am glad I am in business class.

I noted that the bar in the airport had a preacher on the television. Welcome to the Bible belt, please flee quickly.

I also found out that war is brewing in the Middle East. Damn.

The flight home was quick. We arrived 30 minutes early, so I had to pick up a luggage cart. I've flown to over 30 countries in my life, in most of them, luggage carts are provided for free, as a customer service.

In the United States, they are a revenue center.

Who said customer service was alive in America?

Anyway, I'm home. I forgot to tell the cat sitter to ignore any window washing requests, she took out the screens and closed the windows for the window washers, and Gremalkin is dehydrated. It was just over 95 in my living room with the windows closed and the sun beating on them... Obviously, the condo managers don't have pets, or they would schedule these events at a more pet-friendly time. Anyone who closes up an animal in the summer is insane.

Back to the grind tomorrow.




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