Halo Hotel, SaigonSaigon is dense. How dense? I was across the street from my hotel, literally across the street, and I could not find it. Had my phone out and it was telling me I was right where it was, but I still couldn’t see it. Steil had to come out and show it to me. Yes I was operating on four hours of sleep after 28 hours of no sleep, so I was cloudy, but still!

If you see the vertical sign towards the middle of the photograph above, left side of the street, saying “HALO HOTEL” you’ve found my hotel.

Storefronts are narrow, maybe 15 feet or so wide. The sidewalks are packed with motor scooters and bicycles and people selling their wares from baskets and carts. You frequently have to step into the roadway as you walk down a street because there simply isn’t space on the sidewalk. In fact, when there is room on the sidewalk, expect to make way for motorcyclists who have jumped the curb to avoid an obstacle in the road (especially during rush hour).

It’s a bit disconcerting to hear people honking behind you as you walk down the sidewalk wanting you to step aside so they can drive past.

Tao Dan Park Birds

I went to bed at about 1:30 am after arriving in Saigon. I woke up four hours later and at about 6 am decided I wasn’t going to fall back asleep so I headed over to Tao Dan Park to see the birds. I’d read local bird owners bring their pets to the park for fresh air. Kind of interesting.

In Can Tho

It’s Sunday and I’m in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

The flight to Saigon was hellish. In retrospect, booking a seven hour flight two hours after a 13 and a half hour flight was not a brilliant idea. My butt, four days later, is still sore! I thought it would be my back, but it’s my butt. I’m old.

I arrived in Saigon about 11:20 pm. Went through customs easily. Bought 3,000,000 dong (about $150, BTW, I love the unfortunately named Vietnamese Dong, it makes for endless adolescent jokes at Herr. Steil’s expense) from an ATM and walked out of the terminal where there were probably a couple thousand people waiting to greet arriving passengers. Very strange. Four thousand eyes on me as I exited the terminal. I felt like a star. (I thought maybe there was something going on, but now I think this is just the norm.)

That’s probably the defining characteristic, in my mind, of Saigon. There are masses of people everywhere. That was certainly true of India as well, but Vietnam feels altogether different. Much more affluent. Vietnam is not a rich country, but it also doesn’t feel like a poor country. Very few beggars. In India it seemed we were constantly harassed by beggars. Here you’re much more likely to be harassed by vendors, though it isn’t oppressive. They give up fairly easily if you politely decline.

This morning we went to the floating market. Tomorrow to Ha Tien.

Buying my Tortuga carry-on backpack is proving to have been a great idea. I love skipping the whole checked bag thing and its size forces you to focus on what’s important and jettison the rest. Despite its carry-on size, it fits a ton. I love it.


I hate it when writers use “well” conversationally in their writing. What could possibly be more, well, contrived? Does that not sound completely and utterly unnatural?

They are pretending to stop mid thought to consider their words and then proceeding when having found the right word. But they don’t have to tell us that. They’re writing and we’re presented with the final product. We’re not there with them while they’re composing.

So why put this “well” in? To sound folksy? Conversational? Or, well, just stupid?

How to Check Whether a Port is Open

Port? What’s a port? And why would I want it to be open??

In this day and age everyone has broadband service at home. Most of us have multiple computers networked with our routers. Tons of kids use multi-player games. Many of us use remote desktop connect (RDC) to our home computers from work or the road. Bottom line, we need to open ports on our routers to individual computers and devices on our local area networks.

A port is a number associated with a network service that allows that service to be uniquely identified. So the same IP address (your home as it appears to the Internet) can manage multiple services simultaneously without all hell breaking loose. (Network address translation does this, too). One kid can play Call of Duty on the Xbox 360 with his buddies, all of whom are at their own houses, while his sibling researches a paper on the web. Another family member can stream Netflix while yet another is working on their office computer via an RDC.

Well that sounds great, right? Yeah, but you’re going to have to open up the port. It doesn’t just happen by itself. And once it is opened up how will you know if you’ve been successful? Certainly if the service is working that would be a positive indicator. But as so often happens where computers are involved it may well not work. Then you’ll have to figure out what’s not working.

I frequently find myself needing to verify whether a port is open or closed (because I have a really lame router that might not actually open the port even though its interface says it is open!). There are such services out on the web and they work great, but I was looking for something super lightweight and smartphone friendly. No bells and whistles, just super simple. So I made is my port open?

If the port you wish to check is on the same LAN as the machine from which you’re checking your IP address will already be correctly configured. If not, you’ll need to delete the IP address and replace it with your target machine’s. Then type in your desired port in the Port field and click check. If it’s open you’ll get a positive response. Usually pretty quickly, too.



We drove down to Freiburg from Frankfurt yesterday. It was my first time driving without Steil sitting next to me telling me what a lousy driver I am. Very stressful!

The German’s system of roads and driving is actually very similar to the US with a few important exceptions. First, in uncontrolled intersections the driver on the right has the right of way and drivers will barrel through these intersections without so much as a glance to their left? Second, the lines demarcating lanes is always white for normal conditions and yellow for temporary lanes such as in a construction zone. It is exceedingly stressful as US drivers rely on these cues to turn into the proper lane. Here, there is usually a small round sign with a white arrow on a blue background pointing to the proper lane. So I’m starting to get used to this, but it is still stressful.

Freiburg is similar to Madison in many ways. Same size. University town.

We slept in this morning rising at 9:30. We’re sitting in a sidewalk cafe having lunch next to a huge cathedral under a large bluff. Later, we will hike up the bluff for a view of the city.

We’ve Landed

We’re finally in Deutschland after a long day of travel. Our departure from O’Hare was delayed over a hour on the Tarmac while we waited for weather to pass.

Sleeping on the plane was darn near impossible. We did finally land in Brussels where we hadas much shorter wait due to the previous delay. The flight to Frankfurt wasn’t much longer than a half hour. Seems like we spent more time taxing after landing than we did in the air.

Steil picked us up at the airport. Airline lost Miles’ bag. Nothing much else. Glad to have made it here. Feeling good after showering and a good cup of coffee. Now we just need to stay up until a decent bedtime to adjust to the time difference.