"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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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tokyo JR Stations To Have Letters and Numbers

Above, the JR Harajuku Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is continuing to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The East Japan Railway Co. is allocating numbers and letters to every JR station in Tokyo. 

According to Kyodo News:
East Japan Railway Co. will start allocating a combination of a letter and number to stations in the Tokyo area in a bid to make it easier for foreigners to travel around one of the world's most complicated labyrinths of rail lines, company sources said Wednesday. 
The company, commonly known as JR East, will start updating station signboards and other displays by the end of this year ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the sources said. 
JR East will be joining Tokyo Metro Co. and other railway operators in the metropolis that have already introduced such station numbering.
To read more, go here

5 Places To Visit In Kamakura

Above, the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 2004, the first G-TOUR visited Kamakura and the group visited the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine and the Great Buddha.

Inside Japan Tours Blog has posted tips on five places to visit in Kamakura.

They begin with:
Inside Japan tour leader Brian is based in Tokyo, but finds time as often as possible to visit one of his favourite places in Japan – the coastal town of Kamakura. Kamakura is an easy day trip from Tokyo and offers a winning combination of historical sites, pretty hiking trails and a very pleasant beach – which is why it’s often included in our best-selling itineraries! Here, Brian gives his top five tips on what to do in the city. 
To see the top five places in Kamakura, go here.

The TSA Screwed Up Again!

Above, the Los Angeles International Airport control tower in the background. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The TSA screwed up again! Now we have to show up at the airport at least 2 hours before the departure time.

Japan Today reported:
NEW YORK —Fliers will likely face massive security lines at airports across the country this summer, with airlines already warning passengers to arrive at least two hours early or risk missing their flight. 
The Transportation Security Administration had anticipated that its expedited screening program, called PreCheck, would speed up lines and require fewer agents to screen passengers. But the agency has failed to enroll enough travelers, leaving TSA with too few screeners to quickly handle a growing number of fliers. 
The TSA tried to make up for that shortfall by randomly placing passengers into the express lanes. But it recently had to scale that back for fear dangerous passengers were being let through. That’s when the lines started growing, up to 90 minutes in some cases.
Thanks to the TSA, my suitcase didn't arrive in Japan last year with my flight. I was told by Singapore Airlines that the TSA held it in Los Angeles for some unknown reason. Although not their fault, as a goodwill P.R. gesture, they gave me an envelope containing ¥12,000 at the airport.

Now the TSA is making things worse for passengers with their hare-brained planning.

To read more, go here.

Peter H. Brothers Feature Article

There's a local quarterly magazine that serves the cities and communities of Calabasas, Agoura, Westlake Village, Oak Park, Malibu, North Ranch, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Camarillo and Oxnard called, Beyond The Acorn.

Godzilla aficionado and author Peter H. Brothers has scored a feature spotlight article in the Spring 2016 issue, "Godzilla Guru."

To read the article on Herr Brothers (on page 18), go here.

Car Wash and U-Haul

Above, the U-Haul tech filling the propane tank. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Since the jaunt to Yosemite National Park is a week away, preparations have begun for the trip.

Today, I took The Beast to a coin-operated car wash to get some bird crap off and general cleaning. Following that, I went around the corner to the Northridge U-Haul to fill up the propane tank.

The propane tank has an eighteen gallon capacity and although I probably already had enough, I decided to fill it since nights are still cold in Yosemite and the heater runs on propane.

I hadn't filled it since after the Yellowstone trip and I was also curious as to how much had been used during the Lake Havasu, Joshua Tree National Park, San Diego and other trips. As it turned out, only 2.6 gallons of propane was used. Not bad! I thought the heater would have gobbled up a lot since it was freezing cold in Joshua Tree National Park and at the Gen. Patton Memorial Museum and I used the heater during those nights.

All that remains is to load it up with food provisions, some clothes and toiletries and I'm ready to go.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


My patio thermometer says it is 50 degrees outside, but when I went out to The Beast to put my Clamper barbecue apron inside (photo, above), I found it to be too cold out to stay out for long. It has to be colder than 50 out.


Jessica Tseang posted this photo of Super-Cholo, Captain Mexico and Vato-man (photo credit: Hollywood Firsts) from WonderCon at the L.A. Convention Center (San Bernardino could use these guys to keep order):

Too bad I missed the show. Oh, well. There's always next year.

Prime Minister Abe: 60 Million Japan Visitors By 2030

Above, the Wako department store in Ginza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Since Japan almost reached its 2020 goal of 20 million foreign visitors in 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced a new goal.

Nikkei Asian Review reported:
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday Japan now aims to welcome 40 million foreign visitors annually by 2020 -- double the previous target -- and 60 million by 2030. 
The government has raised its target for 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, from the previous 20 million amid expectations that figure will be reached before then thanks to rapid growth in tourist arrivals in the country. 
At a government tourism vision meeting, Abe announced the targets, set to be incorporated into a new tourism strategy along with measures to prepare for the swelling numbers.
You may want to consider a trip to Japan now, before the hordes take up the scarce available hotel accommodations.

To read more, go here.  

A Mind-Blowing Japan Video

Above, scenes like this of the Tokyo Skytree are featured in the video. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I've seen many videos on Japan over the years, some very good and some not so, but a new 4-minute video that has been posted at Vulcanpost.com by Vincent Urban is excellent. 

As the title of the post says, it will "blow your mind."

The accompanying text with the video states:
Japan is arguably one of the countries with an everlasting vibrant vibe that makes visitors want to stay, and locals never want to leave. Their fast-paced lifestyle collides beautifully with their olden day culture and it is a seamless blend between modern and tradition that makes Japan a unique place to be. I’ve never set foot in Japan in my entire life, but how do I know this? 
Vimeo user Vincent Urban recently released a 4-minute long video on his account about his 3 week travel in Japan. The freelance film maker and video editor put his set of skills to use with his footage of the country. Interesting little clips of geishas, trains, dance, and bright lights encapsulates what Japan is all about—in just 4 minutes.
To see the video, go here. You'll be glad you did! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Earlier this evening, I was re-arranging things in my bedroom closet. Things were a little disorganized since the November 2014 pipe breaks. It was about time that I put things in a little better order.

While doing so, I found my Platrix Chapter No. 2, E Clampus Vitus barbecue apron that had seemingly disappeared (for 9 years). I thought I had it with some boxes containing camping equipment that I used with my old 1985 Nissan Pick-up. When I bought The Beast, I went through those boxes (which hadn't been opened since late 2007) for usable items. It wasn't in any of them.

But, instead, it was hanging in a section of closet space that I rarely ever look into. So, all I have to do now is to put it in The Beast for camping use.



The Yosemite Trademark Mess, Will See For Myself

On March 21, The Washington Post wrote:
The four-thousand-foot-high granite crest of Half Dome, which looks like a bell cut clean down the middle, towers over lush, forested valley at the heart of Yosemite National Park. It is a sight to see — arguably the most recognized sight in the 745,000-acre expanse of sequoia-studded canyons and lofty mountain peaks. 
But Yosemite doesn’t own it. 
Or at least, the park doesn’t own the famous Half Dome image that’s become a fixture on water bottles, keychains and all manner of other park paraphernalia. That trademark instead belongs to Delaware North, the company that until recently ran hotels, activities and concessions at America’s first federally-designated park. And when Delaware North left Yosemite this month — having lost its concessions contract and then filed a lawsuit over the bidding process — it took the Half Dome logo, other famous place names, and some uses of the very phrase “Yosemite National Park” along with it. 
Now, an ugly legal fight over naming rights is unfolding in this beloved wildernesses. On one side, there’s the U.S government, which claims that Delaware North surreptitiously accumulated those iconic trademarks during the two decades it managed Yosemite’s concessions and is now demanding that the park pay to get them all back. On the other side, Delaware North says that it is only asking that the new concessionaire pay full value for the intellectual property it’s getting along with the park’s horse stables and hotels, just as Delaware North once had to do.
[To read more of The Washington Post's article, go here.]

Late next week, I will be heading to Yosemite National Park and will see first hand (unless a miracle happens between now and then) the changes the U.S. government felt it had to make due to Delaware North's lawsuit.

This mess will likely not be resolved anytime soon. It is estimated that this fight will drag on through 2017.

While I am on the side of the government in this fight, I still have to shake my head at how the government allowed Delaware North to trademark things and places that rightfully belong to the American people.

Ed Hughes posted this at the Boycott Delaware North Facebook page:
This is what happens when people with absolutely no business experience, or business sense for that matter, are in charge of government. Delaware North did nothing illegal. In fact, they did what every business does on a daily basis all across the country, they trademark their brand names. Delaware North followed the well laid out law. If this was a problem the government could have, and probably should have, denied them trademark protection. They did not. 
Simply put, the NPS should have trademarked the names when they decided to contract with a private sector company. Their ignorance in business practices is the sole reason for this mess.
While it may have been "legal" for Delaware North to obtain the trademarks in question, one has to question the ethics of the subsequent actions they took when they lost the concessionaire contract to Aramark. Delaware North's demand in their lawsuit amounts to demanding $51 million in ransom.

In the meantime, I will see for myself the changes at Yosemite National Park.


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Monday, March 28, 2016

National Geographic: "10 Best Campgrounds In The Parks"

Above, The Beast at Joshua Tree National Park's Cottonwood Spring Campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Summer vacation is fast approaching and before we know it, it'll be here.

If you are planning to visit one of our national parks and camp, you'd probably like to know which are the best campgrounds.

Unfortunately, Cottonwood Spring Campground (pictured above) at Joshua Tree National Park is not one of them (I liked it anyway), but National Geographic has a list of "10 Best Campgrounds In The Parks" that you may like.

They begin with:
There are few better traditions in the United States than taking to the road and pulling into a national park campground for a few nights of adventure. Of course, the parks can be crowded, so the best spots to pitch a tent are off the beaten trail, where they immerse you a bit deeper into the landscape and unique history that make these parks national treasures. Dig into our picks below and start planning your spring break and summer vacation now.
To read more, go here.

Narita and Kansai Airports Start Immigration "Fast Lanes"

Above, the Terminal One arrival lobby at Narita International Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Narita and Kansai International Airports will be inaugurating a new "fast lane" in Immigration for VIPs and selected foreign visitors.

Kyodo News reported:
Japan's first fast lane immigration service will start this week at key international airports near Tokyo and Osaka in a bid to speed up procedures for certain foreign visitors, airport operators said Monday. 
Narita airport and Kansai International Airport will start the service on Wednesday targeting such people as conference attendees and VIPs. They will be allowed to enter the fast lanes upon showing a coupon provided in advance by their airlines at the entrance to immigration. 
Narita airport showed the facility to reporters in a demonstration Monday ahead of its opening.
To read more, go here

Dollar Firm Above ¥113 In Tokyo

The dollar remained firm in the ¥113 range in Tokyo trading which is good news for travelers to Japan.

Nikkei Asian Review reported:
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The U.S. dollar stayed firm above the mid-113 yen range Monday morning in Tokyo, as stronger-than-expected U.S. fourth-quarter gross domestic product bolstered expectations of a further U.S. interest rate hike. 
At noon, the dollar fetched 113.66-67 yen compared with 113.05-15 yen in New York and 113.06-08 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Friday.
To read more, go here

Sunday, March 27, 2016

"Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice"

For the past few days, I've been reading reviews of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice from critics and friends. Most of what I've read were negative.

Tonight, I went to go see it. 

Since the reviews I've read were mostly negative, I went into the theater with low expectations. The last time I went into a theater with low expectations was for Van Helsing. It met my low expectations.

However in the case of Batman v. Superman, I found myself enjoying it more than expected, even more so than Superman Returns.

Was it the best Superman movie ever? No. Was it the best Batman movie ever? No. Was it the best super-hero movie ever? No. But it was enjoyable. It also wasn't the worst in any of these categories either.

Granted, a lot of it was long and too drawn out. I detested the costumes for Superman and Wonder Woman. Batman looked okay, except he looked too bulky.

Henry Cavill is good as Superman and Clark Kent, if only he had a better costume (the design is based on DC Comics' current one) and a lot less cape. He reminds me a lot of George Reeves, which is a plus in my book. Ben Affleck was good as Bruce Wayne and Batman. One quibble on Affleck: if he's supposed to be a millionaire playboy, can't he afford to buy a razor?

Above, the Silver Age Batman and Superman.

Gal Gadot was good as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. Jesse Eisenberg was fair as Lex Luthor. I was not impressed with Amy Adams as Lois Lane. To me, Lois should be a dark brunette and very hot-looking. Adams wasn't unattractive, but she was not a striking beauty to me that a Lois Lane should be.

I won't go into the story, but it wasn't as bad as some are saying. The special effects were pretty good.

My grade: B.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Release "Japan Safe" Video In English

Above, a police koban at the entrance to Nakamise Street in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan, in general, is well-known as a relatively safe place to visit. 

But, to reassure foreign visitors that their fears that Japan is not a hotbed full of terrorists and criminals just salivating to strike at them, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has a new English version PR video on YouTube.

According to Japan Today:
TOKYO —The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has released a new promotion video in English, highlighting the law enforcement work and efforts toward tackling terrorism and crime. 
The video is designed to assure foreigners of Japan’s safety ahead of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 
The 12-minute-long video was uploaded on the police department’s official YouTube channel, which was launched this month. The channel features nearly 70 videos already, including the original Japanese version of the PR video, as well as a Korean, Chinese and a kids-friendly version.
 To read more and see the video, go here.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Looney Left Report: Deal With Big Labor To Raise California's Minimum Wage To $15

The Looney Left Report

Sacramento's socialists are cow-towing to their patron saints again: Big Labor. That's no surprise. But it will further poison California's business climate.

Governor Jerry Brown is expected to announce on Monday that the state minimum wage will rise to $15.00 an hour.

The Los Angeles Times reported:
Lawmakers and labor unions have struck a tentative deal to raise the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 an hour next year and then gradually to $15, averting a costly political campaign this fall and possibly putting California at the forefront of a national movement. 
The deal was confirmed Saturday afternoon by sources close to the negotiations who would speak only on condition of anonymity until Gov. Jerry Brown makes a formal announcement as early as Monday.
Texas, Nevada and Arizona will need to prepare for an economic boon in the next few years as California businesses will be looking to relocate to these and other business-friendly states. The ones that don't relocate will most likely close up shop.

To read more, go here.

How To Plan The Perfect National Parks Trip

Above, Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser. Photo by Armand Vaquer,

If you haven't planned for your 2016 vacation yet, now is the time to start your planning.

Why? This is a special year for the National Park Service.

Condé Nast Traveler has an article on planning your vacation at any of our national parks.

They begin with:
The National Park Service turns 100 this year, making 2016 the time to explore one of the greatest U.S. treasures. But you should start planning now—and we're here to help. 
If visiting Yellowstone, Yosemite, or any of the country's other national parks isn't on your bucket list, go ahead and edit it. Why? This summer, the National Park Service will mark its 100th anniversary, and while the official celebration doesn't take place until August—the same month President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act of 1916 a century ago, establishing the National Park Service—festivities are under way all year. The only catch: You need to start planning now, because true park aficionados have been mapping out their trips for months, and lodges and resorts are booking up quickly. From choosing which of the 59 parks you'll visit to getting there in Condé Nast Traveler style, here's what you need to know.
Above, Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Checkerboard Mesa at Zion National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I will be visiting Yosemite National Park next month and hope to visit others in the coming year. Last year, I visited four national parks: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Zion and Joshua Tree.

To read more, go here

Stanley Ice Chest Worked Great!

Above, still have ice over 24 hours later. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Before her surgery yesterday, Denise was unable to eat or drink anything for eight hours. I knew that afterwards she would be parched and would want some water. So I went to the market before picking her up and got a bag of ice.

I already had some bottled water in The Beast, so once I bought the ice, I put them all into the new Stanley ice chest that I bought a month ago at REI.

Well, I am happy to report that the new ice chest worked great. 24 hours after buying the ice and putting it into the ice chest, over 3/4 of it still remains solid.

So, if you are considering buying a new ice chest, I heartily recommend the Stanley ice chest.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Mount Fuji Evacuation Route Maps Released

Above, a shinkansen view of Mount Fuji. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

With the eruptions of different peaks in Japan in recent years in mind, evacuation route maps for Mount Fuji have been released for climbers.

The Asahi Shimbun reported:
SHIZUOKA--Although Mount Fuji has not erupted in 300 years, the sudden eruption of Mount Ontakesan in 2014 has prompted the Shizuoka prefectural government to release maps of evacuation routes for climbers of the World Heritage site. 
Based on past eruptions of Mount Fuji, the “Evacuation route maps” assume six eruption patterns and shows evacuation routes for each. 
The prefectural government plans to make the maps widely available among climbers, who are allowed on Mount Fuji from July to September, through its website and other means. 
The last major eruption of the 3,776-meter peak, which straddles Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures in central Japan, occurred in 1707.
To read more, go here

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