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The Mobile Lawyer -- One Lap, No Jetlag: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Photo of the Day: 'Skyscrapers' in Italy

From Various old

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My Guest Blog

thanks for my blogging friend, Shannon O'Donnell (ShannonRTW on Twitter). She has been nice enough to post a three part series I did on freighter travel. Here is the link for part 2.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Photo of the Day: Micro Flower

From Various old


Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo of the Day: Eating Babies

From Various old

perhaps my favorite statute in the world, so far

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Photo of the Day: Great Ocean Road, Australia

From Great Ocean Road

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I am in the process of knocking out some quick blogs about my time in Oz as we speak, so look for those in the next few days. Funny that I spent more time there than anywhere on the trip, but have not written about it much at all. Soon to be corrected.

One reason that I haven't been writing too much lately is my new obsession. My folks got me a Kindle for Christmas and I am flat addicted. This thing is incredible. I've downloaded literally hundreds of books. Hundreds you say? Well, yes. Turns out that for authors whose works are out of copyright (Twain, Melville, Verne, etc. etc.), you can buy everything they ever wrote by one click of the Kindle. And the price is right. I picked up about a dozen authors complete works and didn't pay more than $5 for any of them. In addition to that, I took my incredible book store-complete lack of restraint and transferred it to the Kindle. As a result, I've got reading material for years already and I'm knocking through more of it everyday than anytime since I was back in college. It is wonderful.

Side note: free internet anywhere in the world. I didn't know of this huge bonus, or I would have bought one long ago and paid for it three times over from money saved from internet cafes. The web browser is basic, mostly text, and operates off of whatever cell phone reception you can get, which means the coverage area is broad. I have no idea how it can be free, but it is.

If you are a book lover -- buy one. Plain and simple. Especially if you travel at all.

So here is my brief axe to grind, whilst I read a new book on my Kindle. I bought a book by a Brit named Dennison Berwick called A Walk Along the Ganges. The concept was one that appealed to me -- his quixotic travel quest was to walk the entire length of the sacred Ganges, some 1550 or so miles, to see what he could learn about India, its people, and Hinduism. Seeing as I on a quest with a similar ground-based restrictions, I thought it would be an interesting read. And it is. He's a good writer and the tale is a good one.

My complaint? I'm only about 30% the way through the book (no pages numbers on a Kindle, so you only know a percentage of how much you have read) and the guy has taken a bus three different times already! Basically, he hadn't trained his feet and legs properly and blisters have halted him in his tracks, literally. Now I'm not claiming that going around the world without flying is any more difficult than walking 1,500 miles, but I am going to actually succeed on my particularly odd quest.

Then again, he got a book contract. Bastard.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Photo of the Day: Venice at Night

From Various old

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Photo of the Day: My favorite sunset

From Various old

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

photo of the Day: Fog Rolls In

From Various old

Found some old pics that I like. Prior to this particular trip. This one was in Maine. Was standing on a dock, waiting for my lunch order to come up and the fog rolled in FAST. Literally 2 minutes before this pic, you could see these boats perfectly.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Photo of the Day: Sunset Namibia

From Sunsets

just liked the angle of this -- and the moon, of course.

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Freighter Travel: Part Three - the People

• The people that end up taking these long passages are uniquely odd. I have been one of them and I’m certain in many quarters qualify as both unique and odd, so I don’t mind talking a bit about some of them, though I will change the names.

I really want to be clear about this, especially since a couple of these people read this blog. I really liked these folks (well, except the French dude -- don't know him at all). I just tend to be occasionally observant, and also think some of their stories are interesting. I hope no one takes any of these as negative or insulting.

o Jasmine and Thomas were a recently married couple that were talking an extended cruise on the first freighter I took. It was a retirement present to Thomas, who had just retired as a very prominent theologian in California. They had been on the ship 53 days when I boarded. 53 days. They had flown to Singapore and boarded the ship there. It then went north to a few ports in China, then to South Korea, back to Japan, over to Shanghai, down to Singapore again, over the Indian Ocean to Durban and Cape Town, South Africa, over the Atlantic to Buenos Aires, up to Uruguay, then to a few ports in Brasil, where I boarded. They were then crossing back to Cape Town and getting off there, where he was scheduled to give a Easter sermon at Desmon Tutu’s church and then they were flying back home. Their comment to me when I asked whether they had enjoyed their extensive time at sea: “Interesting, but I don’t think we would do it this long again.” I opine that if you can happily do two months at sea together – you aren’t going to get divorced anytime soon.

o Jennifer and William were a long-term dating couple, she from South Africa and he from Ireland. They had flown to Florida, bought two motorcycles there and rode throughout the U.S., then down Central America, over to Columbia by small boat, and down the east side of South America to meet the ship in Rio. She had never ridden a bike until this trip. There were two great stories about their trip – the boat ride they took from Panama to Columbia, that I’m not going to tell here, and what happened to them as they pulled into Rio, which I will.

Their agreement was if they got separated on the road, the person in front (usually William, since he rode faster) would stop and wait at the next gas station or other noticeable location for the person behind to catch up. This apparently happened a lot, with no complications, until the last time. This time he had stopped for gas a few hundred miles from Rio and she didn’t stop and continued ahead for a while longer. She eventually noticed that he wasn’t following her and pulled over to the side of the road at a rest stop to wait for him. He flew by some time later – he didn’t see her, or so he said – and by the time she got back on her bike and got going, he was gone. She couldn’t catch up to him. He didn’t stop until he got to Rio, a few hours later. They hadn’t made any plans on where they were going to stay in Rio, so she didn’t have any idea where to look for him when she finally arrived a few hours later. Their only cell phone was in her bag, so she couldn’t call him either. She also had all their money. Having no idea how to find him, she stopped at a police station in Rio and reported him missing. As you can imagine, she was a little frantic.

He, apparently, was not, since he’d decided to just go to the Copacabana Beach and hang out and wait for her to somehow find him. Somehow she did find him. She just drove around Rio – one of the most dangerous cities in the world – for a while alone and eventually saw his motorcycle parked on the street adjacent to the beach. He was getting some late afternoon rays. They were an interesting couple.

o Ian was a married guy from Chicago that had made a deal with his wife. She was a doctor in the last years of her residency back home. He wanted to travel the world. They both wanted to have kids in the near future. Since she couldn’t leave home for more than a few weeks, their deal was that she’d let him travel the world for seven or eight months, as long as he agreed to be the stay-at-home parent to the soon-to-be-conceived kids when he got back. He had traveled through South America for months before boarding the ship to South Africa, where he was to meet his parents and his wife on arrival. She had taken her two weeks vacation to meet him at the mid-point of his trip. He then was going to drive through a good bit of East Africa with his retired father, who had bought a used Land Rover for that purpose in South Africa. While I find all of that fascinating (and without ever meeting her, I think his wife may be the most understanding woman on the planet), what is more amazing to me is that the freighter ride was not the last time I ran into him. We parted on the docks in South Africa in mid-April. . . and then he walked into the hotel bar where I was having a late afternoon beer in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was about 3,500 miles from Cape Town (as the crow flies), almost four months later. He was now traveling on the overland truck that I had only that day agreed to board for the next three weeks to Aswan, Egypt. Ian sat down and had a couple beers with me and we marveled at the size of the world.

o Sean was the only other passenger on the ship I took from Hong Kong to Brisbane. He was an older Scotsman. I’m sure he’d be offended by me saying this, but he was British. Very British – in that upper crusty way that only Brits can seem to manage pull off. He had taken a freighter from London, through the Suez Canal, all the way over to Shanghai – a thirty-day passage. He then went overland over the next five days to Hong Kong, to catch our boat, which then would take ten days to get to Brisbane. He then caught his only flight of the trip, a short one to Sydney, to there meet his daughter and his grandkids. He was visiting them for about three weeks, and then catching another freighter from Sydney back to the U.K. again back through the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal – another thirty or so days. So he basically was spending 80-90 days traveling, almost entirely at sea, in order to see his daughter and grandkids for about 20 days or so.

And my trip is odd?

He was an incredibly interesting guy. He had been a wine importer for decades in Edinburgh and sold that business a few years ago. His son was a successful author that had just placed a book on the NY Times Review of Books’s 100 Best Books of 2009 list. He personally knew the last two British Governors that were in charge of Hong Kong before the handover, Chris Patten and Sir David Wilson. We had an interesting discussion of what a few high placed Cabinet officials he knew thought of George W. Bush’s foreign policy (the reviews were not favorable). While the Cold War was still going on, he’d driven to Moscow once with his son and a separate time through Eastern Europe to see Romania.

He just totally fit the British aristocrat mold – down to his wearing nicely starched long sleeved, button down Oxford shirts with pressed long pants to each meal (though he did dispense with the jacket). The most amusingly British thing about him was his complaints. This was the sixth freighter he’d be on and he was incredibly annoyed with almost everything on this ship. Brits of a certain class level can complain in a manner that I don’t think anyone else can effectively duplicate.

The silverware at our dining table was a disgrace. The wine available on board was contemptible. The poor, young Filipino steward that waited on us for our three meals a day, “though he was obviously trying as well as he could. . . that’s not a proper steward!” There wasn’t even a bedside table in his cabin, for God’s sake. And please, don’t even start about the quality of the food. He spent the better part of two days crafting a “strongly worded” email to the shipping company that he sent off on the computer on the bridge. What I particularly love about his complaining was that it had that understated British distain to it that was somehow not offensive in any way whatsoever – as if it should have been so obvious to everyone that this or that was far below par, but then again, what else could one expect from people out here off the Isles? I began to look forward to dinner, if only to hear what had rubbed him the wrong way that day. “Michael, have you noticed the state of the bathroom towels in your cabin. . . . ?”

I’d much, much rather hear a rich Brit complain about anything than a rich American. Our people are so damn annoying and offensive when we complain about anything. We have a lot to learn from the Brits on that particular score.

o Claude is a Frenchman on my current ship. I have no idea about anything about him because he speaks no English and I speak no French. I do, however, know that watching him eat most meals is entertainment in itself. The last couple days, we have had some sort of fish soup available as a first course. He has asked, through another French woman passenger that does speak some English, to have his served with just the fish. No broth, just the pieces of fish. For dinner one night, we had stir-fry beef and mashed potatoes. The potatoes were served by scooping them out with what must have been a small ice cream scooper, so that you got 3-4 little spherical balls on your plate. He just wanted the potatoes, so they gave him a plate piled with little balls of mashed potatoes. It looked like a potato pyramid. He gave a little clap when it was placed in front of him. Yesterday, for lunch, he picked out all the yellow corn KERNELS from a mixed salad bowl on our table using his small coffee spoon. After he got a nice pile of them on his plate, he then proceeded to eat them individually with his fork. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Addendum: I finished writing all of that before my last lunch on board, which I just got back from. Today, we had steak, corn and broccoli. I figured that Claude would be quite happy that he was able to get a healthy portion of corn for his lunch, as indeed he was. He ate the steak. He ate all the corn on his plate. He ate his three pieces of broccoli, except for the bottom parts of each, the three bases. He then took the mixed salad bowl on the table, which had been fully replenished since yesterday, and again proceeded to spoon out a heap of corn kernels onto his plate. He then took his butter knife and slowly and methodically scrapped off the exterior green portion of the base of the broccoli that he had saved from his meal. I was unaware the exterior was of a different flavor and/or texture than the interior, but I have never claimed my personal breadth of palate is that vast. He then cut the remaining broccoli into very small pieces, as if mincing garlic, and spread it out over the top of his pile of corn. In addition to that, he then placed a black olive, with pit, on each of the north, south, east and west corner of his corn pile from a jar on the table. Then he took two pieces of sliced French bread from the community table on the plate and removed the inside of each piece to make two little bread boats. After preparing this odd little feast, he then ate up the corn and broccoli combination, and used the bread to mop up some residue (why scoop out of the interior of the bread? Alas, I have no idea). The olives appeared to be a bit of a dessert course. Bon Appetite. ???!!!

• I have been reading a good bit of fiction on this trip. Some of the characters that are drawn, especially in some of the more modern fiction (reading some Vonnegut now), seem unbelievable in their little absurdities. Then I began to pay attention to the people around me. Humanity is ever fascinating. That’s all I’m saying.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Photo of the Day: Banos, Ecuador

From Bridge Jumping in Banos, Ecuador

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Freighter Travel: Part Two

• Perhaps the strangest thing to be about it is that it doesn’t feel that much different to plane travel at its core: both are monotonous. Neither provide much excitement or scenery, unlike trains and cars and buses.

• The title of my blog is One Lap, No Jetlag (I do need input on whether everyone thinks that is a catchy enough title for the book), but one of the interesting things is that on the east/west legs I have been on, we basically have gone forward one time zone per day. Each afternoon, the Captain comes on the ship intercom and announces that the ship’s clocks will be set forward at midnight. It is very slow motion jet lag.

• The loading and unloading of these massive ships is fascinating. It is amazingly automated as the eighteen-wheelers pull up next to the ship, the huge cranes remove the containers from the ship and place them on the truck, or vice versa. Rinse and repeat a few hundred times. From the bridge, the eighteen-wheelers look as if they are the size of a medium sized car.

• The superstructure of the ship is seven or eight stories high, with the bridge obviously at the top most level. This is over the level of the bulk of the ship, with is another three or so stories high, so that the bridge is about ten to twelve stories over the sea line.

• I’ve yet to go through even moderately bad weather, but officers in each of these ships have said they have gone through seas that have been rough enough that water hit the windows on the bridge. That isn’t to say they have ever seen actual waves that are that high (which would be absurd), but that the waves have been high enough to hit the superstructure or the stacked containers -- they stack up 4-5 stories themselves -- a good ways up and then sprayed upwards. I think I believe them.

• The ships have all been about 200 meters (600 or so feet) long. I think all three of them have been what is called ‘Panama Max,’ which means they are the exact size of the locks of the Panama Canal. I got a good tour of the first ship, which was 42,000 horsepower. The engine room was four stories tall. Aside from the main engines, it also had four auxiliary engines that produced enough power to support a town of 5,000. Those engines powered everything on the ship, including lights, air-conditioning, and most importantly, all of the cooling systems on each of the hundreds of containers. At top speed, the ship burned 130 tons of diesel fuel per hour. At normal speed, it burns 90-100 tons per hour. The ship held about 41,000 tons of diesel in its tanks.

• Although these ships are huge, that constantly rock back and forth (or front and back) in the waves of the ocean. This is true even when the sea is almost entirely calm. It doesn’t have any particular effect on me and all of the seas I have experienced have been quite calm, but a few passengers on the first ship I took had some difficulties sleeping with the gentle rocking back and forth. Interestingly, since the huge engines are running constantly, the feeling I get is that you are sitting on top of a huge and slightly shuttering washing machine.

• Quite interestingly to me, the Chief Engineer makes more money than the Captain. Keeping the engines up and running must be more difficult than following directions in this GPS-world.

• The Captains never look like Captain Stubing.

• There isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do on these ships, as you can gather, so aside from eating, I basically read, watch TV shows and movies on my computer, and get an hour or so of sun up on deck after lunch. I only mention that because I was working on my tan on the Hong Kong/Brisbane ship as the Jonathon, the other passenger, came on deck with his GPS and said we were passing over the Ecuador. Suntan on the equator – kinda cool.

• I was originally excited to see sunsets at sea every night. I was going to take pictures of every sunset and make a separate photo album of sunsets at sea. Well. . . sunsets on the ocean generally suck. I’ve seen thirty of them so far and none of them make my top 20 of all time. Here is the problem: there is no scope to anything at sea. The horizon is huge. Obviously, there is no land to frame any view – no hills, no mountains, nothing. So the sunsets end up looking so damn small. Sunsets that might end up filling up the sky when you are sitting in Nicaragua, with a hill on either side of the harbor, seem puny and insignificant when they are framed out against the entire vastness of the horizon. Plus, you need good, spotty cloud cover to reflect the light properly to get a colorful sunset, but again the problem is scope – you can see so far on the ocean that all the clouds appear very low on the horizon (since they are so far away) and they are usually massed up, which doesn’t give the proper canvas on which to paint the proper sunset. In short, huge disappointment.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photo of the Day: Devil's Marbles

From Uluru and area

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Freighter Travel: Part One

While sitting on my third freighter ride of the trip, I thought I’d do a quick summary of what I’ve learned and experienced from my ship travel so far. To review, the first of my ships was from a port near Rio in Brasil to Cape Town, South Africa. I was on the ship for 13-14 days total. The crossing of the South Atlantic was 9 days, but I’d gotten on the ship a few ports before we crossed. The second ship was from Hong Kong to Brisbane, Australia (after my Singapore to Perth passage fell through) and was for 10 days. This current trip is from Melbourne to Napier, New Zealand and is only 4 days.

My last ship, from New Zealand to the west coast of the U.S. in late February has fallen through, but it looks like I’ll be taking one now in late March to the east coast of the U.S. Then again, I’m told that after going through the Panama Canal, that ship stops in Kingston, Jamaica, on the way to Savannah, Georgia, so I might just hop off there and not make it back to the States anyway.

In any case, here are some bullet points regarding these stretches:

• This is not a cheap way to travel. Instead of repeating myself too much on this point, let me point you to a set of guest blogs that I did for a blogger friend of mine – since you should be reading her blog anyway. A Little Adrift... Bottom line is that is costs about €100-120 a day to get a cabin on a freighter.

• Here are some of the other basic logistics of these ships. You usually have access to the bridge and can go up there and check out the equipment and be there when the ship goes into and out of port. The payment is all-inclusive. You get three meals a day at the officer’s mess. The food has been varyingly acceptable and the current one I am on actually has wine included with lunch and dinner. Each of the ships has had a small workout room (one had a small pool that was occasionally filled with seawater). The cabin you get is perfectly serviceable: my first one was a two room suite, my second one was a small single room and this one is a quite roomy single room with two single beds I have to myself. All have had private bathrooms. My cabin had a television in ships one and two, but only had a VCR player (huh?) in the first ship and had a DVD player in the second one. The current ship doesn’t have a television in my cabin. Each of the ship has an officers and crew rest or lounge area with televisions and DVD players. I’ve never seen anyone in any of the officers’ room, except for me. There are some occasionally good party nights in the crew lounge area.

• All three crews have been entirely Filipino. The three officer rosters have been German, Russian and Romanian, respectively. The officers are all worried that they will be replaced by cheaper Filipino officers in the next decade by shipping companies looking to save costs wherever they can.

• Once the ship leaves port, you can order things from the on-board ship store, also called the slop chest. You can get beer, wine, snacks, and bathroom supplies. One two of the three ships, you could also guy liquor. The prices are duty-free prices.

More tomorrow. . .

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Photo of the Day: Bullfight almost-goring

From Bullfighting in Medellin

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Photo of the Day: Sunrise Uluru

From Uluru and area

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