Category Archives: Travel

Comments and observations on the traveling life.

Goodbye Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to The Other McCain and Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Mrs. Animal and myself have been roundly enjoying our brief trip to Japan.  I’ve done a fair amount of business here, but this is the first time we’ve come over just for fun (amending that; it’s the first time I’ve come over just for fun, Mrs. Animal is hoping to transact some business in Jimbocho, Tokyo’s publishing district.)  There’s just something we love about this place.

Sunday we visited the Imperial gardens.  It’s a bit early in the year to catch them at their best, but we did see some early sakura blooming and some other great scenery.  Photos follow. Continue reading Goodbye Blue Monday

Animal’s Daily Air Travel News

Friendly Skies.

According to the Wall Street Journal, frequent fliers (like yr. obdt.) are finding an old friend on some recent flights:  Empty seats.  Excerpt:

U.S. airlines are adding larger jets to their fleets and more rows to existing aircraft. The result is more open seats on many flights even as demand for air travel grows.

That is good news for fliers who have grown accustomed to vying for desirable seats and bag space. It’s also a concern for airline investors who believe the industry might not trim capacity enough to protect a record run of profitability.

Shares in the sector have fallen over the past year while traffic has boomed. Delta Air Lines Inc. earlier this month reported tempered revenue expectations for the first quarter in part because of the partial government shutdown. American Airlines Group Inc. also this month cut its earnings expectations for 2018. United Continental Holdings Group Inc., which recently passed Delta as the No. 2 U.S. carrier by traffic behind American, said recently that it plans to expand capacity by up to 6% this year.

“Right now there’s a lot of capacity out there, and I think they’re kind of struggling to fill it,” Bill S. Swelbar, at consulting firm Delta Airport Partners Inc., said of carriers.

Last December, on an evening flight from Newark to San Diego, Mrs. A and I took the aisle and middle seats in our row and were fortunate enough to find the window seat unoccupied, allowing us a comfortable flight.  Better still, I once took the 13-hour Osaka-San Francisco flight on the aisle seat of the five-seat middle row, and was the only person in the row; I actually stretched out and slept most of the flight.

But that’s the exception to the rule, and one that brings up another question:  Why should it be such a relief to find an empty seat next to yours?  The answer is simple:  Because normal Economy seats are so cramped as to make flying, especially for those over 5’6″ or so, miserable.

Granted I’m 6’1″, with the normal girth of a late-middle-aged guy.  I can nevertheless fit within the confines of my own airline seat – barely.  But I was once seated next to a 400+ pound behemoth who spilled into my seat by a considerable margin, and had to demand reseating; to my fortune I was moved into a bulkhead row, into one of the aforementioned empty seats that, to my good fortune, was available on that flight.

The airlines could do a lot to make the desirability of empty seats unnecessary.  Two things come immediately to mind:  First, increase the pitch between seats back to pre-2000 levels.  Second, demand passengers of extraordinary girth pay for two seats.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to The Other McCain and Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!  Also, be sure to check out my latest article over at Glibertarians, this one the first part of a multi-part series on the history of the sixgun.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

Mrs. A and I spent Friday and Saturday last week in San Diego, which was… interesting.  It’s a pretty place though, and the harbor tour was fun; some photos follow.  Enjoy!

Continue reading Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove For the Rule Five links!

Our deer hunt in the Bosque del Oso State Wildlife Area was a success from the meat standpoint, as two fat bucks were taken, but neither of them were quite trophies – but then, antlers aren’t so good to eat no matter how long you stew them, so there’s that.  I have promised the full hunt report to my friends at Glibertarians, so I’ll post a link to that when it is published.  In the meantime, yesterday saw Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. on a flight back to our temporary New Jersey (ugh) digs, so, I suppose, we’ll make the best of it.  The best of it may include a couple of trips up into Pennsylvania looking for ruffed grouse, so stay tuned for news of that.

The Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) makes for quite a challenging hunt.  While Colorado lacks them, having only the dusky mountain grouse that we regularly shoot from trees with .22 pistols, the woods around my childhood home in Allamakee County, Iowa had good populations of these fast-flying forest birds.  They are evasive flyers and make for some of the most challenging wing-shooting I’ve ever experienced.  In his day the Old Man was something of an expert at making a shot charge arrive at the exact location of a fleeing grouse, but I’m not the shotgunner he was, sadly.  Still, I’ve managed to bring a few of these birds to bag in my time, and hopefully will be able to do the same again.

When I was a kid, the sounds of grouse drumming was one of the sure-fire signs of spring.

They’re great eating, too.

As Colorado turns increasingly blue, Mrs. Animal are moving ahead with our plans to move up to the Great Land.   That state has plenty of grouse, not only ruffies but sharp-tailed, duskies and spruce grouse, along with three kinds of ptarmigan.   The bird hunting is great in that northern state; that’s something to look forward to.  But in the meantime, I’ll settle for some Pennsylvania ruffies.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

Regular readers of these virtual pages will recall that yr. obdt. landed another gig, this one in New Jersey; a couple weeks back you’ll recall the week of travel totty pics put up whilst Mrs. Animal and myself were crossing most of a continent to our temporary lodgings.

Well, today sees us headed halfway back, as we discovered the client company could not complete my IT stuff (laptop) and training at the Joisey site, so we have to go to a place up north of the Chicago metro area to get that done.  That will take 2-3 weeks, then it’s off back to Joisey.

Good news:  In the time we’ve already been in Raritan, NJ, where our temporary digs are located, we’ve found it to be a pleasant little town.  The folks are friendly, there is some great Italian food to be had, and the countryside isn’t bad at all – big trees, a nice river through the town.   It’s acceptable.  In fact, if it weren’t for the state’s bat-guano crazy government, it would be a pretty nice place.

So, this morning it’s back in our little travel car/truck/SUV/something (is the Ford Edge a car or a truck?  An SUV?  What the hell do you call it?) and off to Illinois.  Bright side:  We’ll take a weekend in there and go see our oldest kid and my Mom in Iowa, a 4-hour or so drive from the training site.

Self-employment is not an easy life.  But all in all, in the fifteen years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a pretty good time.  Complications come with the business and you have to learn to roll with them.

Roll we are.  Tomorrow you’ll be stuck with one more travel totty post, then we’ll check in with you all from Illinois.  Fortunately we’ll be well away from the free-fire zone that is Chicago.

Animal’s Daily Sendai News

As mentioned yesterday, we spent last weekend in the northern city of Sendai.  And, as it happens, there is a lot more noteworthy in that city than just the opportunity to partake of whale sushi.

Sendai is also home to the remains of a historic castle and the largest statue of the Shinto goddess Nyoirin Kannon in Japan.  It’s home to one of the biggest traditional shopping arcades I’ve ever seen – and to lots of great restaurants serving a variety of fare, in the case that whale isn’t your thing.

If you’re ever in Japan, I recommend a visit to Sendai if you can make it happen.  Mrs. Animal and I hope to come back some time when we have more than a weekend to spend.  Photos follow – enjoy!

Continue reading Animal’s Daily Sendai News

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Our usual thanks go out to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

This Monday finds us way up north in Miyagi Prefecture, having spent the weekend in Sendai.  Sendai is an interesting town, known for (among other things) it’s fine dining, which includes whale.

Yes, whale.  And yes, I partook.  This first taste was in a sushi joint in Sendai just a few blocks from the shinkansen station.  Whale was surprisingly tasty, although it was lightly cooked in the Japanese style and therefore undercooked by American standards.

Whale sushi. Delicious, delicious whale sushi.

These are little strips of whale meat, lightly braised and served on little beds of rice.  I don’t know what kind of whale it is but I suspect it would be minke whale, since that makes up most of the Japanese harvest.

Note that the minke whale is listed as an animal of “Least Concern” by the IUCN, which should (but probably won’t) fend off most of the squealing by the “save the whales” crowd.  And I confess, pissing off that subset of greenie nutbars is one of the reasons this has long been on my Japan bucket list – precisely so that when I run across one of the “save the whales” crowd, I can agree enthusiastically, adding, “yes, by all means – they’re delicious!”

Yr. Obdt. enjoying whale and Japanese beer.

So, True Believers, if you’re ever in the Sendai area up here in Miyagi Prefecture, the city is known for its whale sushi and various other whale dishes.  It’s also known for beef tongue dishes, but only the real nutbars object to beef.  In either case – try some!  If you piss off only one radical Sea Shepherd type, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

On this Saturday just past, my own dear Mrs. Animal and I moved from our temporary lodgings in Kinshicho over to the western Tokyo suburb of Akishima, where this job of work begins.  Yesterday we traveled to the mountain town of Takao, named for the mountain at the foot of which it resides.  It’s a beautiful area, and a great place to spend a beautiful Sunday.  Photography follows.  Enjoy!

Click for photos!

Rule Five Love Hotel Friday

Note:  Another short stint in Japan beckons, beginning early next month.  Regular readers know how Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. enjoy our forays in to the Land of the Rising Sun, so look for some photos and travel commentary from those environs very soon.

With that said, and in spite of the tendency of young Japanese to eschew sexual relationships, the love hotel industry in Japan is still robust.  Excerpt:

Japan’s population is shrinking.

Deaths now outpace births, marriage is plummeting, and young people aren’t having sex. The media are calling it sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome”—an alarming trend that has the Japanese government funneling tax dollars into speed dating and matchmaking services over fears of an impending economic collapse.

But in a neon-lit pocket of Tokyo’s Shibuya district, BDSM equipment, mirrored ceilings, vibrating beds, and condom vending machines paint a different reality. Welcome to Love Hotel Hill, where Japan’s sex industry is flourishing.

Clandestine Encounters

True to their moniker, pay-by-the-hour love hotels cater to millions of Japanese couples every year, and increasingly, tourists. There are more than 30,000 love hotels in the country, and hundreds in Tokyo alone—a multibillion-dollar business that accounts for a quarter of the sex industry.

With increasing life expectancies, the rising age of marriage, and high population density, multigenerational households are ubiquitous. When married couples live in close quarters with elderly parents and children, love hotels offer a practical alternative to thin-walled Japanese homes where privacy is scarce.

Oddly, this isn’t a sign of any renewed fecundity:

Japan’s love hotel industry may be prospering, but the country is experiencing a paradoxical decline in marriage, childbirth, and sex.

More than 40 percent of men and women aged 18-34 in Japan have never had sex, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. If the current trend continues, it is projected that by 2060 Japan’s population will have shrunk by 30 percent—an impending economic disaster.

But in the midst of a stagnant economy, staying single has become an attractive choice.

Now, this next stint will have us in the Tokyo region for 2-3 weeks, where a visit to the Shibuya district is not only possible but likely.  Since our first visit to that country in 2009, I have (unsuccessfully) tried to persuade my own dear Mrs. Animal to undertake a visit to a love hotel, of course strictly in the name of research; you see, True Believers, how there are no lengths to which I will not go to bring you the best reporting on other cultures and the wonders to be found in exotic lands.

However, Mrs. Animal has been and remains of a conservative bent in such matters, and prefers to eschew any role in conducting such research.  Oh well.

Anyway:  I do love Japan and the Japanese people’s demographic trends has been a cause for concern.  As scribe Mark Steyn points out, the future belongs to those who show up for it, and the Japanese seem to have opted out.  What’s more, Japan has evidently decided to die Japanese.  While Europe has become a hotbed of Islamic activism thanks to their unchecked immigration policies – in no small part to attract younger workers to prop up their generous social welfare programs – Japan remains a difficult country to establish yourself in on a long-term basis.

But the love hotel industry gives one hope.  Maybe young Japanese people will rediscover the joys of sex.

Animal’s Daily Imperial Closures News

We are back at the Casa de Animal for a while, having spent a day in Las Vegas and driven across northern Arizona and southwest Colorado.  We saw such landmarks and historic sites as the Mojave, Flagstaff, the Four Corners, Wolf Creek Pass, the San Juan and Arkansas valleys and the famous South Park.

While that was going on, the Imperial government was shut down for… well, a few hours.  Did you miss it?  Neither did John Stossel.  Excerpt:

One day, one of these shutdowns should be permanent. We would still have far more government than the Founding Fathers envisioned.

That’s because even during so-called shutdowns, a third of federal employees — nearly a million people — remain on the job, declared “essential” government workers. Military pay continues, too, although political commentators, eager to make a shutdown sound scarier, repeatedly claimed that military families were being cut off.

Here’s a list of functions that kept going during the “shutdown”:

  • Law enforcement.
  • Border Patrol.
  • The TSA.
  • Air traffic controllers.
  • The CDC.
  • Amtrak.
  • Power grid maintenance.
  • Social Security checks.
  • Medicare checks.
  • Medicaid.
  • Food stamps.
  • Veterans hospitals.
  • The U.S. Post Office.
  • U.S. Treasury debt auctions.
  • Federal courts.
  • The EPA.

Do we need more government than that? Do we even need that much?

If you love the FDA, the Agriculture Department or government websites, you might be frustrated, but the private sector (Underwriters Laboratories? Consumer Reports?) would do drug testing faster; much of what the Agriculture Department does is harmful; and private websites update information faster than government websites.

And don’t forget there are still 50 state governments, plus thousands of local governments. We’re buried in governments.

It’s been pointed out before and will be again, but one of the things we heard about this shutdown-that-wasn’t-a-shutdown, as with others before it, was that “non-essential” government employees would be furloughed.  And, as has been asked repeatedly, if these employees are non-essential, why the bloody hell are we paying them?

As George Washington pointed out, government is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.  It should be – nay, must be – tightly constricted.  A part of that constriction must be in place in order to avoid wasting taxpayer’s money.  Nobody reasonable can look today at the Imperial Colossus and see anything but rampant, runaway waste.