Monday, December 28, 2009

"Mapi Liberia" documentary

When my sister was studying abroad in Ghana in 2007-2008, she started a girls soccer team at a Liberian refugee camp. The team was named "Mapi," which was our nickname for our dad, because he was the one who taught her soccer.

While in Ghana, a fellow exchange student (from Germany) thought this would make an interesting documentary. Well, a few months later, here is a clip of the trailer of the film. (Click on the clip titled "Mapi Liberia Working title with new music"). It was shown fairly widely in Germany and my sister is trying to get it shown at the local independent movie theatre in Fort Collins.

They grow up so fast

I am in the FoCo on a weekish long vacation before the start of the hell, wrath and fury that is the legislative session. I had a rude awakening on my first full day back here. My sister and I went to the club (gym, for my Northeast readers) and played some raquetball.

This is a typical routine for us, and it usually goes like this: We play, my sister sometimes scores in the double digits, but in the end I sweep the best of three series easily.

Well, turns out that my little sister has been practicing the ol' ballgame and she got pretty damn good. She has (umm, had) only beaten me in a series once before. Sure, every now and then I will lose a game to her, but a series, that was a once in a lifetime event. And I remember that the time she did beat me, I was lazy, uninterested and she basically ambushed me.

Well, mark this date down: December 26, 2009. I got a raquetball beatdown. An ol' fashioned ass-whooping. I am sure the fathers and mothers out there reading this can relate. It felt like that first time that a son or daughter beat you at something, whether it be chess, or basketball, or just plain physically beat you up.

So my little sister finally grew up (or I grew old). We played again yesterday afternoon, a best of 5 this time, and yes, although I ultimately prevailed, it was only after a furious rally from 2-1 games down. I am no longer the scary raquetballer that bullied my sister and built my own confidence at her expense. I am now running around a raquetball court like a moron chasing a little black ball - all this at the hands of a person that is barely over 4 feet tall.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adventures in FSX

Around this time last year, I was grousing about the fact that FS 2004: A Century of Flight was no longer good enough after I had caught a glimpse of the screen shots of Flight Simulator X. This is despite the fact that I had only been playing said FS 2004 for about two months at the time and had deemed it a "major upgrade." What I did not say last December, was that I had gone to Best Buy to see exactly how much FSX would set me back. Well, if you know me at all, you would also now know that it must have been a poop load of money because I am usually quite tempted when it comes to the purchase airplane and airplane accessories.

Turns out I was at the old shopping mall the other day on different business and I decided to meander on over to Best Buy and lo and behold, FSX was available at a significantly reduced price. So I bought it.

Problem: the graphics on this game are very much as amazing as I expected them to be. Why is this a problem, you might be asking yourself? Well, my laptop is not quite able to handle all of this airplane goodness very well.

Result: sometimes choppy action on the computer and a failure to be able to run multiple flights due to my computer giving up.

It's not all bad, though. About the same time I purchased FSX, I also started using a little thing called YouTube. You may have heard of this. Well, it turns out that people out there that are in fact dorkier than me have made videos of how to use the Instrument Landing System (ILS) on FSX. This is huge actually for two reasons: (1) it allows me to use the larger jetliners because I have a greater probability of landing them and (2) I can fly anywhere I want. As I have said before, one of my handicaps with the earlier versions of FS was that I only was able to use airports that I could locate with visual clues. That really limited my options. Now I can fly virtually anywhere and the ILS will guide me down to my destination.

You can bet that I have already put all the new features of FSX to good use. Here are two screenshots of a successful landing at ALB with an A321. Check out the detail on the wing - you can literally see runway between the ailerons and flaps.Another great feature of FSX is the new and improved airline options. The plane I was using above is Pacifica Airlines. It's so good that were it real and a flag-carrier, it would have a decent shot in the best color scheme among flag-carriers tournament.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The unexptected joys of long lost emails

My mom's organization has been asking its employees to start trimming the volume of emails they keep in storage. As a result, she has been going back through some very comprehensive archives that she could barely recollect even existed. This little seemingly inane task has actually been incredibly rewarding for us because she has dug up some emails that my dad had sent ages ago.
Reading through them has been very bittersweet. First of all, it has been great for me and my sister to see that our parents, even after a difficult divorce, still communicated regularly and amicably about us and their conversations back and forth show that they had remained close friends and equal opportunity parents after all these years. Second, it is incredible to see how much parents worry and discuss their children behind our backs. I mean this strictly in a positive light. For example, in 2001 I was diagnosed with keratoconus, which is an affliction of the cornea that causes very poor vision and can only be controlled with hard contact lenses. This was very difficult for both of my parents, and I would argue perhaps a bit more difficult for my dad based on the long distance that separated us. This was certainly evident in the emails. My mom carried the same worry with her, but had the benefit of seeing me every day and knowing that I was in no danger. And finally, it is humorous to see my father and mother discuss events about me and my sister and see their takes on the happenings of the day.

Here are some excerpts, which have been translated and provided with context as necessary:

(1) Following my high school graduation in 2001 (from the humorously named Poudre High School) I went to Argentina for 6 months to spend time with family.

"Nico is doing well. He is always in a good mood and enjoys everything we do...We talk and go out a lot and we both have a very ironic sense of humor. His sense of humor is not the only thing he gets from me - he is also very inconsistent. It is very difficult for him to follow through on anything that he starts. He started playing hockey here, he bought the hockey stick (which he quickly destroyed at the first practice). I went to the store and tried to exchange it by saying that it was damaged, but I am afraid it is our son that may be 'damaged.' He then bought a chest protector, spent all his money and now he doesn't go anymore....One of the topics we have broached is the difficulty he has 'socializing' with the girls. I would prefer on some Saturdays that he go out with groups of kids his age. I don't force him to do anything, but at least we have talked about it. In this regard, I can assure you he is not like me."
(2) On the same 6 month trip to Argentina, I took a brief trip to Buenos Aires, and my dad takes his opportunity to air some grievances to my mom:

"I just spoke to Nico and he arrived safely in Buenos Aires. I just thought you should know that he is starting to become somewhat expensive for me - and not for what he is making me spend, but rather for what he is breaking. I lent him my watch, which I have worn continuously for more than 10 years. In less than 24 hours he broke it. He tried to open my closet while the latch was closed. He gave it an enormous tug, broke the latch, made the frame fly across the room and separated some of the wood from the door of the closet. Fortunately, my life was miraculously spared since I was away from the scene of the accident. Yesterday at the bus station, my mother went to give him a kiss on his hand. He made a sudden movement with those enormous sausage like fingers on his hand and struck my poor mother's jaw. I almost had to go looking for her detached head at gate number 28. All kidding aside, my mother's jaw was swollen last night....It's a good thing his career path is the law instead of gynecology."

(3) My sister studied abroad in Germany her junior year in high school. Here are some communications relating to that experience.
"On Tuesday I talked to her. The mother answered and I can't even tell you what our communication was like. I spoke to her in 'my English' because I think it is closer to German than my Spanish, and she talked to me in 'her English' which is unlike any other human language....[On Sunday] I tried to scold her by jokingly telling her that how could it be possible that we had to deprive ourselves of sleep to wait until 4am to call her. She was happy to hear from us and told us she was up and waiting to go to church. Nico and I had a good laugh about this new experience of hers. I told her that now that she was going to be attending church every Sunday that maybe she would become a nicer person."

So, the moral of the story is that parents are neat. And that is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Of EgyptAir and pyramids

All I can say is "Wow!"

At various parts of our trip to Egypt, Diane and I woud ask each other, "How are we going to describe this to people back home?" The truth is that I do not think words (or pictures) can really do justice to the history and splendor of Egypt.

First things first, the airplane information...

Our New York-Cairo trips were on B777, Nefertiti I to be exact.

We had four domestic flights, as follows:

Cairo - Aswan on an Embraer 170 (which coincidentally was my first time in such a plane).

Aswan - Abu Simbel on an A321.

Abu Simbel - Aswan on a B737.

Hurghada - Cairo on an Embraer 170 (sadly I got no picture of this plane).

A few notes on these flights...First of all, the service was very good. We were given a little tote bag with a travel toothbrush and socks. Plus, the crew handed out refreshing towels throughout the flight. Second of all, it was absolutely fascinating to hear the announcements in Arabic. Third, on the flight to Cairo from JFK, the cabin TVs showed live video (picture below) that was mounted on the front wheel, so we could see what the pilots were looking at as they taxiied. The video was left on through takeoff. I was hoping they would turn it on for landing, but no such luck. Lastly, the flights to an from Abu Simbel were very short - 45 minutes, to be exact. As such, the plane only ascended to 13000 feet.

I am struggling to find the words to describe the rest of the adventure. The trip was much better than we had anticipated. I was worried that we might be stuck in a group of tourists and have to mope around with a bunch of old people. Luckily, that was not the case. We essentially had our own private guided tour of Egypt. We went from temple to temple with our guides, who were both incredibly helpful and added so much value to the trip.

I could rattle off all the sites we visited, but I will stick to what one of our guides called the "Big Three." (1) The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx; (2) Abu Simbel; and (3) Karnak.

The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
I remember being a bit disappointed when I first saw Mount Rushmore. I guess the pictures I had seen were taken from angles that made the monument appear enormous. In reality, it was not as large as I expected it to be. I don't mean to take anything away from Mount Rushmore, I simply mean that sometimes when you have very large expectations, you may set yourself up for disappointment. I was worried about that with the Pyramids. Boy was I wrong. They are BIGGER, LARGER, MORE IMPRESSIVE than I had imagined. If they had been built two years ago, they would still be impressive. To think that they were built thousands of years ago, without the technology that we have now, is just mind boggling.
I was also fascinated by the location of the pyramids - they are in the Cairo suburb of Giza, right across the Nile from the world's second largest city. In fact, although our excursion to Giza was scheduled for the second day of our trip, we actually saw the pyramids from the Citadel, which is on a hill in the middle of Cairo. It was so interesting to see a massive urban center with such a clearly ancient temple.

Abu Simbel
Of all the temples that Rameses II built, this one is my favorite - and it's not only because of its magnificance or location, but also for the message. It is located on the shores of Lake Nasser, near Egypt's southern border with Sudan. When it was built it was meant as a "warning" to the enemies of Egypt to the south (the Nubians?).

It is also very fitting that Rameses II also honored his favorite wife, Nefertari, with an equally splendid temple near his own intimidating temple. Rameses II had over 90 wives (or so, I can't remember the exact number). One of our guides took to calling him Casanova. The guy was a pharaonic FDR. He put his people to work on all sorts of public works, actually mostly just temples honoring him and the Gods. What a guy. As a side note, we saw him (his mummy anyway) in the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. He was around 90 years old at the time of his death, and he looks remarkably good for a 90 year old (not to mention that having been thousands of years ago). He had a horseshoe bald thing going on, and his body had not contorted in any strange way.

One thing we kept hearing on our trip was how the main Egyptian god was Amun Ra, the Sun God. That is why Egyptians lived on the east bank of the Nile, where the sun rose every morning, and all their funerary temples and tombs are on the west bank, where the sun sets. There were many other gods that were worshipped and the most important ones had very impressive temples built in their honor. We visited one in Kom Ombo built for the crocodile god and Horus (the falcon god). Horus was an important part of Egyptian mythology, and as such, he had a very impressive temple all to himself in Edfu. All along, I kept thinking, if they built all these incredible temples for the minor gods, I wonder what a temple for Amun Ra would look like? Answer: Karnak.

Karnak is the world's largest religious complex. My guidebook said that it is larger than the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica and London's St. Paul's. The Great Hypostile Hall in Karnak has just rows after rows of columns. And, my god the obelisks. This is one of those places where I specifically remembering asking Diane how we would explain this to people who have not been here. It is simply a collection of greatness that you would expect from a people that were motivated to please their main god. Anything less would have been unacceptable to the Egyptians.

As far as further observations about Egypt, I can only say that we felt incredibly safe the entire time. We could walk around at night in any of the places that we stayed. We never ever felt in any sort of danger. There is a law in Egypt that requires American tourists to be accompanied by armed guards. Thankfully our guide would tell police at the checkpoints that we were British so that we weren't joined by a guard. Frankly, the requirement is unnecessary.

Islam is a beautiful religion. Five times a day, moslems pray, but we came to the conclusion that meditation is a more accurate term for what occurs. I loved hearing the prayer calls, except for the ones at 4:30 a.m. But otherwise, there was no better way to know you were in the Arab world than to hear the calls from the mosques. There is a fairly sizeable Christian population in Egypt, and they appear to live in harmony with the Moslems, if what we were told is correct. Our observations certainly seemed to support that notion. I will probabl never understand the issue with women in Islam - but the rest of the religion is indeed fascinating. As a side note, everybody assumed we were Christians, when in fact we are atheists. We both felt it was easier to let them assume we were Christians than to have the conversation about how we believe in nothing.

Camels are asinine. We rode a camel around the Great Pyramids of Giza, and when I was getting on it, the camel let out an enormous groan/sigh/growl. It was clearly not pleased that I was on him. He was equally sad to learn that ADB woul be coming along for the ride as well. At least he didn't spit on us.

They love Obama in Egypt. When we told people we were from New York, the would say, "American..........Obama." That was usually followed by us enthusiastically saying, "Yesssss!" and them responding, "Obama, good man. Bush, bad." What a thrill to not be embarrased (and terrified) to travel as an American anymore.

My sister is a heartless, mean negotiator. When I was in Ghana with her, she was able to bargain for an amazing amount of gifts for ridiculously good prices. We didn't do so well in Egypt, although I did manage to offend a carpet store owner when I offered $100 for three carpets, including a moslem prayer rug that had Arabic scribe on it which he said cost $1300. He didn't even know why I wanted that one. "Excuse me, but I do not think you are Arabic," he said to me. I wish I could go into Hannaford's and say, "$3 for milk. You're crazy, I'll give you $1.15." I did get a little better as the trip went along. My favorite strategy was to tell people that I was Argentinean and a student. That way I could comfortably claim relative poverty compared to other tourists and gain some sympathy.

And this is my last comment about the trip, and actually it's only partially about Egypt. We met a couple from Saratoga on the way home, and Cathy was telling us about a Chilean they had met on their travels incessantly complained about how dirty the streets were. At that point, I chimed in, " a Chilean he should be used to dirty streets." Oh Chile, I kid.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Egypt Itinerary is in

We finally received the details on our forthcoming trip to Egypt. By the way, I highly encourage people to watch NatGeo TV - that is how trips like this are born.

The big honker is a direct JFK - Cairo flight on an EgyptAir Triple 7, just as I suspected. It's 11 hours on the way there and about 13 on the way back. We have, to my great delight and to ADB's great indifference, a series of domestic EgyptAir flights. We are flying from Cairo to Aswan on a ERJ, from Aswan to Abu Simbel and back on an A320 and B737 respectively, and from Hurghada to Cairo on an ERJ. We are going to be pretty airplaned out by the end of this, I suppose.
Needless to say, we are both very excited about the trip. We spend a total of three days in Cairo. We then head South, to Abu Simbel, and then to Aswan to begin a cruise of the Nile with stops in Edfu, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and Luxor. From there, we head to the Red Sea town of Hurghada for two days before heading back to Cairo for the return trip home.

I will have pictures posted of all our airplanes, as well as the pyramids probably, right here. I should note, for the record, that EgyptAir is sporting a new color scheme since the African regional in the Color Scheme Tournament. But I am sure you had all figured that out on your own already. That's what I like about you - your attention to detail.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homophonia at Stewarts

I was filling up on costly gasoline at the Stewart's on Henry Johnson Blvd, when I noticed this sign looking back at me.
It took me a sec, but I believe they meant: "Don't let your engine CEASE; use Anti Freeze." Unless they are taking it to the extreme and warning drivers to not let their engines go into seizures. Highly unlikely.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Air Force One visits Albany

President Obama came to the Capital Region on Monday to speak at Hudson Valley Community College. The President flew in and out of Albany International Airport. I had a view of both the landing and departure from my office. On its approach, AF1 flew in over the western part of the city before turning to make its approach into the airport from the north.

Here are some shots locals took of the landing:
The departure gave us an even better shot (no pun intended) of AF1. The B747 departed on Runway 19, which means the flight path took it right over the center of the city. I did not have my camera, but I did get this (not so good) picture on with my cell phone.
These people got a better picture:

Said an unamed co-worker upon seeing AF1 overhead: "Paul Tonko is on that plane!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cyclocross skills clinic at Serotta

This past weekend I attended a Cyclocross clinic held on the grounds of the Serotta bicycle factory in Saratoga Springs sponsored by If you have never heard of cyclocross, then allow me to briefly explain: it is like gladiators on bikes.

The clinic was for beginners, and the lessons were taught by real-life cyclocrossers (including this master cyclist). At one station, we were taught how to take corners, at another we were taught how to properly dismount, mount and go over barriers, and at the final (and most entertaining station) we were taught how to load your bike in the 3-point carry to go up a hill. I found it fun and ironic that at a cycling clinic, two of the stations focused on how to get off the bike. Luckily, one of the instructors did teach us that it is never good form to dismount your bike over the handlebars.

The clinic ended with a mock race which included two sets of barriers and one run-up. I had been to a cyclocross race as a spectator before, and I did make some very poignant observations as a participant. First of all, the barriers are a lot higher than they look. Perhaps, this observation could be extended to note that it is a lot easier to watch somebody else carry their bike over a barrier than it is to do it yourself. Second, it is not a good idea to wear baggy shorts when you are going to be mounting and dismounting frequently. This may lead to getting tangled and ending up on your back with the bike on top of you. Just saying.

Here are some shots of the event. Here's a short clip from helmet cam shot this Saturday at the run-up clinic.

And check out for races in the area. They are very entertaining to watch. Last year at the Bethlehem Cup I saw somebody crash into the creek and then get back up on the bike and keep going. So, go!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Annual Colorado pilgrimmage

Diane and I headed to Colorado over the Labor Day weekend. It was her first trip west of the Mississippi River, and with exception to our Andes mountain excursion in Argentina (as retold here by a friend), the highest elevation she has been at in her life.

It was quite the whirlwind trip since we only had five days to do a lot. I also wanted to spend a lot of time with my mom and sister, who still live in Fort Collins. In the end, the trip was quite entertaining. Diane got to see Denver, Boulder, and a lot of landmarks around Fort Collins, including Old Town Square, New Belgium Brewery, Coopersmith's Brewery, and a lovely hike to Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park. Below are some highlights of the trip.
For me, one of the perennial highlights on trips is the airplanes I get to fly in. We flew United, which I had not done in a long time. But since American Eagle has left Albany, there is one fewer way to get to Denver than in years past. Our trip both ways connected through Washington Dulles (IAD). Here are some airplanes I have known:

From ALB - IAD we went on this very nice (and new) Embraer 700, which to my surprise had two-abreast seating. It was quite lovely and a great ride. Upon arrival at IAD, we parked next to this B757 with the blended winglets. Look at the height on those things. (Sadly, due to the gate arrangement at IAD, I could not get a shot of the A320 that took us to DEN.)From DEN - IAD, we flew on this B757 - no winglets, sadly, as you can see from the in-flight shot. Upon arrival at IAD, we parked next to this ginormous B777. Look at how the people on the ground measure up to that engine.
I also did some plane spotting at the airport. Here is an SAS A330 that arrived while we waited.

A South African A340 parked across the terminal.
Finally, on our way back to Albany, here is our Embraer 700, which we got close and personal with. And our approach to Runway 1, and landing.

Monday, August 31, 2009

My lifelong dream of having a sexy plane in my bedroom is now fulfilled

One day during lunch at work, I made the tragic mistake of admitting to my non-airplane-fanatic co-workers that I believe that there are certain planes that are "sexy." I know, I have problems, but I cannot help the way I see certain things.

When my co-workers pressed me for an example of a "sexy plane" I immediately rattled off the CRJ-100 or 200 and the Airbus A340, all of which I consider to be "sexy" due to their winglets - I just think it makes them look graceful. See for yourself:
I am not a hater, so I would struggle to name a non-sexy airplane, but if absolutely pressed I would name the Cessna Grand Caravan, seen below.
In any case, as you might imagine, I received -perhaps deservedly - quite a bit of abuse after these revelations. There was no shortage of jokes made at my expense regarding certain activities of mine with these planes.

Last week for my birthday, Diane gave me the painting below, which was painted by a friend of hers who happens to be a very talented artist.
It's an absolute masterpiece. When she commissioned the painting, Diane requested three things: (1) winglets, for the obvious reasons stated above; (2) a body of water, because I also have an obsession with bodies of water; and (3) mountains, to represent Colorado and Argentina. She's the best.
By the way, I would simply like to reiterate my disappointment that EgyptAir does not use an A340 on the JFK - Cairo route. It would have been my "first time."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reason #492 why I don't trust lawyers

My first job of any real consequence was at the District Attorney's Office of the Eighth Judicial District of Colorado, which encompasses Larimer and Jackson Counties. I worked in discovery, which for the layman meant the files and evidence room. I would put paperwork in the proper case files, prepare evidence to distribute to defense attorneys, and help with the dockets of the various prosecutors.

It certainly made for interesting work - much more interesting than bagging groceries at Steele's. The DA was Stu VanMeveren, who was pretty legendary and, actually, mythical. I feel as though he was a hologram. When he made appearances everything just sort of stopped and you were left wondering if you actually just seen the legend or if you were dreaming it up. He was a decent person, you know, for a Republican.

In any case, I bring all of this up because the DA's office was recently in the news. in 1987, a woman was murdered in Fort Collins. It was very devastating to the community because there are few acts of such violence in that area. In 1999, a 27-year old man, Timothy Masters, was convicted of committing the crime (meaning he committed the crime as a teenager) and sentenced to life in prison. (Here is a link to all the stories in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, in case you have the time to get into it. It's very interesting - apparently one of the leads was not followed because the suspect was a social friend of one of the prosecutors - see page 2.)

A few years ago, Masters was released because it was ruled that the prosecution had withheld evidence, and, apparently, made up evidence. The prosecutors who lead the case are now District Judges, mind you. (Judge Gilmore and Judge Blair.) Now, an attorney for Judge Gilmore is arguing that "prosecutors who manufacture evidence can't be held liable because making up evidence doesn't hurt anyone until it's used in court - and prosecutors are entirely immune from liability for actions there." Furthermore, "Gilmore and Blair's attorneys argue that since the two were acting in their official capacities, they cannot be held liable for what happened to Masters, in part because there's no specific law barring prosecutors from manufacturing evidence."

How assinine is that?

This leads me to believe that they must be in real trouble if that is their defense. I would have loved to have been a fly in the wall when that strategy was settled on. I think if I was defending Gilmore and Blair and I had a strategy session where some nitwit brought up that defense, I would have flung them out the window like they do to this guy for an equally assinine suggestion.

I suppose this just goes to show you that the tentacles of corruption and evil go pretty deep, even into the most peaceful of communities. By the way, Governor Ritter recently appointed another former prosecutor with connections to the case to the District Court. Great timing, Governor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You are allowed more than one piece of carry-on here

I saw this on the MSN front page today, and consequently, this is on my list of travel destinations, after Iceland of course ;).
It's a 1965 Boeing 727 that's been converted into a suite. The rates range from $400-$500 a night. There is a deck over the wings and some absolutely fantastic views of the jungle and coast line below.

I'm thinking October 2010 and I'm there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Egypt '09

Earlier this year, Diane and I, at my insistence, were having the mandatory, "What would you like to accomplish this year?" conversation. She said some things and then I randomly blurted out, "I want to go to Egypt."
I probably said that because (a) I could not think of anything more clever at the time, (b) I had recently watched an Egypt show on National Geographic, and/or (c) I've had an urge to travel to Northern Africa/the Middle East for a long time.

So, shockingly, Diane took me seriously and we started looking into a trip. My preference is always to travel without a group, that way you can make your way across the country at your pace and dictate your own daily schedule. Diane and I did our due diligence and purchased some Egyptian travel books to read up on. We both really wanted to do a cruise on the Nile. Now, when you do that, you can opt for a very fancy cruise or a budget-friendly falucca ride. A falucca is pretty much a sail boat. Falucca riders stay on the boat during the day then dock at night and travelers sleep out on the banks of the Nile. Also, faluccas don't have indoor plumbing, so when you have to go, you either wait for the next docking station or you just ... well ... you just go over the side. Diane very humbly requested that we splurge a little and get something with a toilet. Not an unreasonable request.

After more research, and considering that this trip would take us to a part of the world with which I was culturally and linguistically unfamiliar, we thought it best that we take an organized tour. Plus, since we could only go for a relatively short period of time, we wanted to maximize what we saw while we were there. So, after some research, we ended up choosing this package.

The final payment just went in and now the trip is official. Later this fall, Diane and I are headed to Egypt. We fly from JFK to Cairo on a EgyptAir, which I understand uses a B777 on the trip. Personally, I was hoping for my first ever A340 flight. We will spend a few days in Cairo, obviously taking in the Great Pyramids, and then we head off for a mini-excursion to Abu Simbel, which means we get to take a domestic flight on Egypt Air - woot! After that, we embark at Aswan on our 4-day cruise aboard the M/S Carnival (toilets included) to Luxor. We then spend two days relaxing on the beach at Hurghada before flying back to Cairo. All of this in 10 days.So, look forward to some Egyptian pictures, and of course, a full detailing of the Egypt Air experience.