Way down south

We touched down in Cape Town a little before 11am local time – this flight was on a plane with BA’s new “Club Suite” arrangement, and it’s a huge improvement over their old “Club World” that we’d flown from SFO. Everyone faces front, everyone has direct aisle access, and there’s even some usable storage around the seat.

I slept better than I did on the previous leg – it wasn’t the best night’s sleep of my life, but it sufficed.

We landed a few minutes early; we hadn’t checked any luggage and were near the debarkation door, so we were almost the first people to arrive at Passport Control and didn’t have to wait in line there. Total time from off-the-plane to find-our-driver was less than 15 minutes. We were lucky – our driver said that six international flights arrive within a few minutes of one another, and people on the final flight often have to wait a couple of hours!

We stopped to get a picture to prove we’d been to Cape Town, and then it was off to our hotel, the South Beach Hotel in Camps Bay.

Our travel agent told us to be alert for the first view of Table Mountain – we didn’t have to wait long; it was visible a minute after we left the airport. Unfortunately, it was slightly rainy and I had somehow set my camera to ISO 12800, so the photo leaves much to the imagination.

We’d arrived early, so our room was not quite ready; we left our luggage and took a stroll around the neighborhood. The weather had improved considerably on our drive from the airport; it was sunny and not too cool, and we could see Table Mountain almost as soon as we stepped out.

We were also just a block from the beach; it’s on the Atlantic, and there’s a lot of wave action.

Our hotel is in an upmarket area; it’s next to the “Theatre on the Bay” and a couple of blocks from the Promenade shopping center and lots of restaurants.

We returned to the hotel and they’d finished inspecting the room to make sure it was up to snuff.

It’s a very nice room – kitchenette, living area, and a view.

We had lunch at Primi, chosen because our travel agent mentioned it, the hotel desk said it was good, and it was the first restaurant we found. It was quite good – worth a return trip.

After lunch, we wandered around the area a little more before going back to unpack. There are a lot of ways to spend time and money here.

We went back to the beach to enjoy the sunset; we were not alone.

Table Mountain attracts hang gliders – I bet the view is amazing!

We had dinner with the other couple from our group who have already arrived. We wound up back at Primi for the same reasons as we’d chosen it in the first place – well-recommended and close! Luckily, it was as good in the evening as it was in the afternoon.

I am looking forward to sleeping in a real bed tonight. Soon!

Solitude at Heathrow

We’re waiting for boarding to open for our flight to Cape Town. It was strange not having to rush or worry about time at any point during our day at Heathrow – even though it took nearly 80 minutes to get from “off the plane” until “through security and on the concourse”, it didn’t matter.

We visited two BA lounges, the North (in the main terminal) and the satellite lounge in the B Gates area (our plane leaves from the B Gates). They were both much less crowded than the main South lounge and we were easily able to find seats with power, which is a nice change.

We had so much time available that we walked the underground walkway between the main terminal and the B Gates rather than taking the train. It was quiet – almost eerily so; we only saw two or three other people on the 15-minute walk. In fact, we had to take a selfie because no one else was around to take our picture!

The time to board nears – next stop, Cape Town!

Sleeping till noon ain’t all it’s cracked up to be

We’re at the very back of the upstairs Club World cabin on an A380, which has its good points and its bad points. The good: we could sit together and neither of us had to climb over anyone or be climbed over for aisle access, unlike almost any other seats in Club World (BA has a very weird seating arrangement). The bad: we were the last to be served dinner, so we didn’t start eating until nearly 9pm San Francisco time.

My tray table wouldn’t stay level – since there was no one in the seat next to me, the flight attendant took down that tray table and put my drinks on it. It worked wonderfully well, and I used it for my night table so I could charge my watch and still look at it when I needed to know the time.

We were finished with dinner a little after 10, which is 6am London time. I slept some, but woke up every hour, which is pretty normal for me when I try to sleep on a red eye. My most recent wake up was at noon London time; I can hear breakfast being prepared, and we’re supposed to land in a couple of hours, so I guess it’s time to get up and face the day, which will be entirely spent in the hands of British Airways.

One short leg down, many long legs to go

I took a last look at the persimmon tree in our back yard before we left to drive to SFO, and it’s starting to show fruit. I wonder what it’ll look like when we get home?

Right now, we’re in the BA lounge, waiting for our flight to Heathrow. They say it’s going to be an uncrowded flight – we were the only people on the TSA PreCheck line, which is a good sign (Diane still got tagged for a “random search”, but I think it’s because they were bored).

The lounge is fairly empty, too – we’ve had more BA people actively helping us than I’ve experienced before. I asked about the Matlow candy that they have and one of the senior people found out where they source it (Nassau Candy Company) and that it was easy for civilians to order in small quantities from Wal-Mart. She said that the cherry candies vanish quickly once the lounge opened and brought me a handful to take with me!

Down to the wire!

AmaWaterways usually sends out a pre-trip kit with documents, luggage tags, a book about the area of the cruise, and a bag or two. We didn’t get one before our Douro River cruise (and I really didn’t miss it). But we were promised one for our Africa trip – and promised and promised and promised….

Last night, FedEx said they’d be delivering the package by Priority Overnight mail and it came just before lunch. Not only did they include the documents I expected, yet more luggage tags, a book about southern Africa, and a couple of bags, but it also had the first details I’d seen about our intra-Africa flights – it’s comforting to know where we’ll be going!

Packing took longer than I expected, even allowing for the usual problems. I discovered I had run out of intradental toothbrushes, so I drove over to the nearby CVS to pick up a package.

They were out. So was Walgreens. And Target. I finally found them at Walmart, but by the time I’d gotten there, I’d spent an hour driving and shopping. At least I got to catch up on my tech podcasts while I was searching!

The pressure is on!

It feels like I’ve spent all day today getting ready for the trip (returning stuff to REI, getting a haircut, printing South Africa entry forms, trying to calculate our cash requirements…), but that’s an exaggeration.

I also went to a Toastmasters meeting and answered my Learned League questions, as well as watched a little bit of the news. And Diane and I worked out.

Rumor (in the form of FedEx notifications) has it that we’re going to get our pre-trip packages from AmaWaterways tomorrow – that will be exciting!

Who needs bolt cutters?

We’re continuing to prepare for our upcoming trip. Our plan is to avoid checking luggage, but our travel agent suggested we might want to lock the bags we have to leave at a hotel for a couple of days while we’re out in the bush – and that made sense.

Diane’s favorite carry-on had come with a lock on it, threaded through one zipper. Unfortunately, the key was nowhere to be found, at least not in the time we were willing to devote to the search. So I had to find a way to remove the lock.

A thread on TripAdvisor discussing the merits of luggage locks mentioned using a hammer to break the lock, but the design of the suitcase made that impractical. I tried nibbling at the lock with a wire cutter – it made a dent, but not nearly enough of one to give me any hope.

The obvious tool was a bolt cutter, but I don’t own one. I thought about bringing the suitcase to a hardware store and “testing” a bolt cutter, but that seemed tacky. And then I noticed a pair of lopping shears hanging on the garage wall. A minute later…voilà!

I’m not going to bother with a lock.

Sense and Sensibility

I moved all of my photos from Alaska into the my main Lightroom catalog this afternoon – more than 2000 of them. I guess I wasn’t as diligent in weeding out the superfluous ones as I’d thought! Maybe I’ll do better in Africa….

I’m writing this before we leave to see the Silicon Valley Shakespeare production of Sense and Sensibility at Sanborn Park in the Saratoga hills, where the scenery is excellent, the play’s the thing, and connectivity is non-existent.

The Economist disagrees with IBM

There was a nice sky this evening when we went out for our walk.

And I needed it – I’d spent far too long doing battle with the website for The Economist. I wanted to pause delivery of the paper while we’re away – finding the right page wasn’t too hard, though the form I had to fill out was hidden behind an inconspicuous “Edit Details” link.

Simple, right? Just figure out the day you want to resume delivery and subtract a week (I guess it would have cost too much to have the computer do the work). And make sure you don’t want to suspend the paper for more than a month. And be sure to pick a valid date:

What’s a “valid date”? Telling me that would take all the fun out of it!

ETA: You can’t see it in the screenshots, but the site provides a drop-down date picker so I didn’t have to guess the right format to enter the date – but there were no hints about what dates might be “valid”.

I gave up and used the chat widget on the page to ask customer service to handle the suspension, which they did – they even let me stop the paper for more than a month!

Back in 1967, IBM commissioned Jim Henson to create an ad for the MT/ST (Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter), possibly the first word processor – the ad was titled “Paperwork Explosion” and told about how the MT/ST would help control the massive number of documents created by a typical office of the day. Near the end, there was a segment showing people saying this:

IBM machines can do the work
So that people have time to think
Machines should do the work
That’s what they’re best at
People should do the thinking
That’s what they’re best at
Machines should work
People should think
Machines should work
People should think
Machines should work
People should think.

And that was quickly followed by an older gentleman relaxing and saying “I don’t do too much work any more; I’m too busy thinking” and the IBM logo, ending the ad.

I wish the people behind the Economist’s website had seen the ad!

We open packages

Tonight, we opened the package of six teeny-tiny bottles of port that we’d bought on our visit to Cálem in Portugal and tried the “White and Dry“. It was nice, but nothing spectacular.

Diane’s old trackpad went crazy and started clicking itself at random times, which is not a good idea. The problem surfaced right after I’d updated her computer to the latest level of Mac OS, but I’m pretty sure it was a coincidence because the trackpad kept doing the same thing when I paired it with my laptop. Even turning the trackpad upside down so that the little buttons on the bottom that actually do the clicking were in mid-air didn’t stop it, so we made an emergency trip to the Apple Store for a replacement.

We couldn’t get the same trackpad – it was so old it wasn’t even Magic (just haunted). The Magic Trackpad is bigger and, so far, well-behaved. I hope it stays that way.

So many meetings, so little time

I just got home from chairing the Shir Hadash Ritual Committee meeting. Our focus was on the upcoming High Holidays – it will be exciting and different (as you’d expect with a new Senior Rabbi), and it will be wonderful to have services in person again.

The meeting was productive and lively and ran a little long to allow full discussions – which is all great, except that I also have the honor of being Toastmaster for the Silver Tongued Cats bright and early tomorrow morning, and it would be nice to be coherent in that role, so I’m going to call it a night.

It was too easy!

The Learned League off-season is filled with member-created events. There are One-Day Specials devoted to specific (sometimes very specific) topics, like Talmud, The Science in Science Fiction, or IATA Airport Code Combos Forming 6 Letter Words (not my strongest result!). There are also Mini-Leagues on various, usually broader, areas like “World Literature”, “Advice”, or “Gen X Culture 2 the Max” (a real learning experience for me).

One of the current Mini-Leagues is called “Stuff…or ELSE”. Each day’s six questions are about a single subject (like “Women in Science”); each question has an audio or video clue (for Women in Science, it was always a picture of the person in question) and a rebus-style alternative way to get the answer. For example, the first question in Women in Science had a photo of a woman standing near a computer tape drive holding a book labeled “Cobol”, and the rebus was “it’s a theological word in the title of a 1990 Sean Penn movie and a 2012 Taylor Swift song + the film villain who met his end being torn apart by the young of a predator (fortunately largely offscreen, given the target audience of the 1998 film).” The answer, of course, was Grace Hopper.

Yesterday’s topic was “The Muppets”; I was surprised and pleased to get all six questions right. Unfortunately, so did my opponent. Of the twelve people in my group, nine of us had a perfect day – not a result I’m used to seeing.

It could have been more frustrating, though; in one group, eleven players got them all right – and the one person who missed a question got lucky because their opponent assigned zero points to that question.

One of tomorrow’s One-Days looks like it should be interesting: “Your Body Is Trying To Kill You 4”. Time to channel my inner House!

Goodbye, old friend

I didn’t do anything terribly noteworthy today, but I did make a surprising discovery while removing some 200GB of unneeded iPhone backups from my travel MacBook Air.

I searched for the best way to get rid of old backups – most of the hits were for old versions of Mac OS, using iTunes. Eventually, I found the method for current versions of Mac OS on HowToGeek.

They documented several ways to get rid of the backups – one, “Delete Backups from Storage Management”, didn’t need me to attach the phones to the computer, so that’s what I used. It’s easy: Click the Apple in the menu bar, click “About This Mac”, click “Storage”, click “Manage”, and wait for a while. When the computer calms down, click “iOS Files”, then select the backups you don’t need and delete them.

But when I looked at the “iOS Files” section, I didn’t just find the backups; I also found an installer for iOS 12.1 occupying 14GB of precious SSD storage – it’s from 2018, so I must have copied it to this Mac from one of my previous computers!

It’s gone now.

I wish real-world housekeeping was as easy.