"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Only Days Away

Above, a vintage Hawaii poster by Pan Am.

In three more days, we'll be off for a Spring vacation to Hawaii. That's another thing I'll be scratching off from my bucket list.

I have begun packing The Monolith (that's what I call the big suitcase that stands in my hallway like the monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey). I swore that I am going to pack light, but it seems that I am bringing everything but the kitchen sink. I took out a few things from The Beast for the trip.

While in Honolulu, I am meeting up with my cousin Vince Vaquer. It has been decades since I last saw him. I spoke with him a few days ago (he sounded great) and he lives near Pearl Harbor (which we will be visiting while in Honolulu). I'll be hanging with him while the girls have their "girls night" out. Denise and I will have our "date night" on the last evening we're in Hawaii. We'll be going on a sunset dinner cruise.

Above, except for the gal in the white costume, this is the Hawaii-bound group.

Joining Denise, Aiden and me will be Denise's best friend Jackie. She is an insurance broker, so we have something somewhat in common. We get along pretty well.

We got an excellent deal for the trip from the Automobile Club of Southern California. The price included all flights (even the inter-island ones) and hotel rooms. It was a lot cheaper than if I were to put together everything myself.

While in Honolulu, we'll be at a resort hotel on Waikiki Beach for a few days. Then we'll head over to "The Big Island" for a few more in the Waikoloa/Kona area. One of the things I am particularly looking forward to is seeing the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park by helicopter on the island of Hawaii. None of us have ever flown in a helicopter before, so this will be an interesting experience. Just hope the engine doesn't fail over the volcanoes or we'll end up like the two Rodans in 1957.

Denise and Jackie are going to try out parasailing while we're in Honolulu. I'll be on shore taking care of Aiden. Unfortunately, he is too young to go on the tow boat to watch. But all of us will be able to partake in a luau on our last night in Honolulu.

I'll be bringing along my back-up laptop, so I can upload photographs and provide you curious people on how things are going on this blog.


Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley Dam Lawsuit Gets Tossed

Above, Yosemite Valley at dawn. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The only dam built in a U.S. national park will not be torn down.

Digital Journal.com reported:
Sonora - A California state court has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to compel officials to tear down a nearly 100-year-old dam in Yosemite National Park that supplies power and water to millions in San Francisco and the Central Valley. 
Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kevin Seibert decided that the 1913 Raker Act, which authorized construction of the O'Shaughnessy Dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley on the Tuolomne River, precluded any state efforts to remove the dam and that an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit group that brought the suit had filed it decades too late.
It had been said that Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley was even more picturesque than Yosemite Valley. It looks like we won't get the chance to see if that's true.

To read more, go here.



Saturday, April 30, 2016

National Park Service Centennial Cup

One of the things I picked up at Yosemite National Park earlier this month was this cup.  It is hardly the "holy grail", but it could be a prized heirloom of your family.


On one side, it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service.



On the other side, it features the iconic image of Yosemite's Half Dome.

I would hazard a guess that each of the national parks has their own edition of this cup.

The National Park Service will likely see more people visiting the national parks this year, especially when awareness of the centennial spreads.

Platrix Spring Trek Photos Posted, But...



The Platrix Chapter No. 2's E-Picayune has posted several of my photos of the Spring Trek at Tehachapi Loop.

The fly in the ointment is that one has to be a member of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus in order to see them. Sorry.

Dollar Plummets To ¥108.40 In Tokyo



This is certainly not good news for Americans planning to travel to Japan anytime soon.

Jiji Press reported:
Tokyo, April 28 (Jiji Press)--The dollar took a nose dive to around 108.40 yen in Tokyo trading on Thursday, due to a selling spurt after the Bank of Japan's disappointing decision to keep the status quo despite growing economic uncertainties.

Let's hope that a big rebound comes soon!

To read more, go here

20% of Hotel Reviews At Trip Advisor Are "Suspicious"

Above, one of my reviews at TripAdvisor is of The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Photo by Armand Vaquer.


Have you ever wondered about whether those online "reviews" posted at such places as Yelp and others are real or posted by shills for those places?

I have seen some reviews of restaurants and other places and found that a number of "reviews" are indeed fake or very misleading.

Japan Today has posted an article on a study of hotel reviews posted at TripAdvisor and found quite a number of them to be suspicious.

They wrote:
HONG KONG —Around 20% of online hotel customer reviews may be unreliable or fake, according to Dr Markus Schuckert and Professor Rob Law of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a co-researcher. 
After examining more than 40,000 TripAdvisor reviews of all star-rated hotels in Hong Kong in a recently published study, they warn that the high proportion of suspicious reviews should ring an “alarm bell” for customers. 
Although these reviews are not necessarily fake, they can be misleading and waste customers’ decision-making time. Given that many customers depend on online hotel reviews to make their purchasing decisions, the problem has serious implications for the hotel sector. 
E-commerce platforms have become so popular that online sales of travel products, particularly by hotels and airlines, have become the “biggest part of their business”, write the researchers. 
One reason for this rising popularity is the availability of online reviews and feedback posted by customers, which help potential customers to make informed decisions. From the service provider’s perspective, online reviews provide “fast, instant and easily accessible customer feedback”, and good reviews can increase their revenue.
I have posted reviews at TripAdvisor (The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan is listed at TripAdvisor) on restaurants, attractions and hotels and I try to be as accurate and fair as possible. I have also posted reviews of RV parks and campgrounds at RV Park Reviews.

To read more, go here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

"John Wayne Day" Shot Down By California Liberals



A resolution was shot down yesterday by California liberal legislators honoring actor John Wayne over Wayne's alleged "racist" remarks.

According to Fox News:
The California Assembly refused to pass a resolution Thursday which would have set aside a day to honor renowned actor John Wayne because of statements he made about racial minorities and his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and John Birch Society. 
Wayne, who grew up in Glendale, Calif., grew into the star of movies including The Alamo," ''The Green Beret," and "True Grit," for which he won an Academy Award, while portraying the gruff, rugged cowboys and brave soldiers who were his stock in trade. 
Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, sought to declare Mary 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born. However, opposing lawmakers quickly railed against the resolution citing racial comments he made throughout his life.
When hearing of this, Wayne's son Ethan posted the following on Facebook:
We did not know that the assembly was trying to get John Wayne Day passed or we would have been there to speak on my father's behalf. It's unfair to judge someone on something that was said 44 years ago in an entirely different era. I know that my father, John Wayne, had a great respect for all people no matter what color race or sexual preference they were. He taught us to treat all people the same. He felt strongly that things should be earned, and not given to someone simply because they were a man or woman or one race or another. I hope that America remembers John Wayne for who he really was- a family man, a great friend, a cherished actor on the big screen, for his values and morals that have made him a role model for many and his continuing work to find a cure for cancer through the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and the John Wayne Cancer Institute. 
Ethan Wayne

To read more, go here

Cell Phone Platrix Clamp-Out Photos

While at this year's Spring clamp-out of Platrix Chapter No. 2, E Clampus Vitus at the Keene Ranch near the Tehachapi Loop, I mainly used my Canon camera.

But, sometimes, I didn't have the camera with me, so I used the camera in my cell phone.

I have posted some already, but here's some that I hadn't:

Above, the Platrix store. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, for the first time in years, the banner is on display. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Friday evening rainstorm. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Peter Lebeck Chapter's store trailer arrives. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Brandy Alexander tables Saturday morning. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the caterer preparing Saturday night's dinner. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the PBC interrogation. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Travel Insurance: Will You Be Covered For Earthquake Loss or Injury In Japan?

Above, Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are traveling to Japan and a major earthquake occurs, will you be covered by your travel insurance? 

That question is answered in an article by Australia's Finder.com.au.

They wrote:
Japan is still reeling after two major earthquakes hit the southern island of Kyushu on  6 and 14 April, killing 48 people, injuring 263 more and destroying 1,527 houses in the Kumamoto prefecture. Recorded at magnitudes 6.5 and 7.3 respectively, the earthquakes have caused the largest natural disaster Japan has seen since the earthquake and tsunami that struck in 2011, killing 22,000 people. 
Natural disasters cause significant disruption for both locals and travellers. If you were planning to travel to Japan around the time the earthquakes occurred, whether you would be covered by your travel insurance would depend on when you purchased your policy.
To read more, go here

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Japan: Don't Talk Loud, Fart or Soil Public Toilets

Above, it was a struggle, but we did finish our meal at a ryokan in Atami. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There are some behaviors by foreign nationals visiting Japan that they would like to curb.

The Daily Mail reported:
Welcome to Japan. Please do not burp, fart, or soil public toilets. 
These are just three unwanted habits a Japanese tourism board has highlighted in a brochure in a bid to stop holidaymakers behaving badly when visiting. 
Following a spate of perceived bad behaviour on the part of Chinese tourists, the Hokkaido Tourism Organization decided to print a guide on etiquette. It stresses that speaking loudly in public, farting, meals not being finished and queues being jumped are all frowned upon.
The article includes pages from the guide on proper etiquette while in Japan.

To read more, go here.


Direct Hotel Booking Blog Post Picked Up



The online newspaper, The Japan Daily, has picked up my blog post on direct booking of hotel rooms by hotels.

Rather than pay fees to online travel agencies such as Expedia and Travelocity, the hotel chains are offering discounts to guests to woo them.

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

1976: When Reagan Almost Won

Above, Nancy and Ronald Reagan arrive for a meeting at the Hilton Plaza Hotel during the
1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you think this year's GOP presidential primary contest has been contentious, take a look back at the 1976 Republican National Convention. It is hard to believe that was 40 years ago.

It was my first national convention. I attended as a Ronald Reagan delegate from California at the ripe old age of 22. I also attended the next two Republican national conventions, but the 1976 one was the most exciting.

The Daily Signal has posted an article on the 1976 Republican National Convention.

They begin it with:
The magic number needed to capture the Republican presidential nomination in 1976 was 1,130 delegates, and Ronald Reagan was oh so close as the national convention prepared to convene. 
After losing six straight primaries to President Gerald Ford early in the year, Reagan had come roaring back, attacking Ford for his weak foreign policy and deficit spending and winning the crucial North Carolina primary with help from Sen. Jesse Helms. Reagan achieved a political resurrection and posed the most serious challenge to an incumbent Republican president since 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt had taken on William Howard Taft.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dollar Sags Below ¥111 In Tokyo



The dollar sagged a bit in today's trading in Tokyo.

Jiji Press reported:
The dollar sagged below 111 yen in Tokyo trading on Tuesday in a cautious mood ahead of policy-setting meetings of the Japanese and U.S. central banks this week. 
At 5 p.m., the dollar was at 110.81-86 yen, down from 111.21-22 yen at the same time Monday. 

To read more, go here

Accessible Japan: Helping Travelers With Disabilities

Above, Senso-Ji temple in Asakusa is accessible to travelers with disabilities. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Many people with disabilities would like to visit foreign countries, such as Japan, but are unsure if they can be accommodated with easy access.

Fortunately, there's a website that will provide such information for those with disabilities: Accessible Japan.

According to Inside Japan Tours:
Josh Grisdale has cerebral palsy and has been living in Tokyo for nearly a decade. He runs Accessible Japan – a source of information on accessibility in Japan including general tips, hotel information, tourist attraction reviews and more.  
You can follow Accessible Japan on Facebook and Twitter.
To read more, go here.
 

Hotels Wooing Guests To Book Directly With Discounts

Above, we booked our room at this Tokyo hotel directly with the hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Hotels are looking to book rooms directly with travelers rather than rely on online booking agencies like Expedia and Priceline by offering tempting discounts.

According to Japan Today:
NEW YORK —Hotels are getting more aggressive in their fight to get travelers to book reservations directly with them instead of through online travel agencies such as Expedia and Priceline. 
Hyatt Hotels Corp has become the latest chain to offer guests a discount for booking a room directly on its own website. Members of its Gold Passport loyalty program can save up to 10 percent at hotels in the U.S., Canada and Australia. 
The move follows similar campaigns by Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. 
Hotel companies have a tortured relationship with online travel booking sites. They rely on the sites to bring travelers to their properties and fill rooms. But companies like Expedia and Priceline charge commissions of 15 percent or higher. The hotel chains would rather keep that money themselves.
I have only booked a hotel room through an online travel agency once, with Travelocity, and that was for The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas last December. The room was bundled with round-trip air fares, so some money was saved.

Above, our room at The Mirage was booked through Travelocity. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Our upcoming Hawaii trip was booked through the Automobile Club of Southern California. It was a great package (lots of money saved) for our flights to and from Hawaii, Oahu and the Big Island and one week's hotel rooms at two different hotels included.

I generally book hotel rooms in Japan directly with the hotels.

To read more, go here.

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