Thursday, January 15, 2015

NYC impressions

The pedestrians are very aggressive. Example: Rather than wait for the walk signal they walk when when the lights are red for the cars. What if cars run the red light?

Example: Sometimes when there is a lull (and not absence of cars) because cars are turning away instead of coming straight, pedestrians surge into the street taking up half the road. They sometimes stare down drivers who are forced to stop even though they have the green light and they have occupied the street.

Traffic in Washington DC in comparison seems extremely sedate. Note to self when in DC: Take a deep breath and think, New York, New York.

Not related to NYC, but perhaps the culture that is NY? Last summer in update NY we stopped for lunch at an Italian restaurant. Near the end of the meal the waiter asked if I would be paying by cash or credit card. When I said credit he sighed and said it was too bad - if I were paying with cash he would not charge me the sales tax. (Yes, it was a rather expensive lunch.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Remotely from Penang, again

I had been surprised that there was a list that indicated that Bangkok and Penang had great Internet speeds which was not something I had experienced. This time round I tried it again and it is only slightly better and the experience was fairly uneven. In Bangkok I wasn't able to stream Coursera videos without significant lag and buffering. YouTube videos seemed to be fine. Downloading a 80 MB file took about 15-20 minutes. In Penang, this was much the same. Most likely it depends on the telco as well as the amount of traffic at the time. I'm thinking that the list is pretty much meaningless.

Traveling over the holidays

We decided to try traveling to Penang and Bangkok this past Christmas season. The lines at Dulles airport were long but the (cute red headed) CBP agent was surprisingly cheerful when she checked our passports and let us through. That alone was enough to make my day.

Surprisingly, we didn't have to remove laptops from our carry-ons nor did we have to remove our shoes. This was not the case at other airports however. In Dubai and Bangkok we had to take the laptops out of our bags. We didn't remove our shoes although some passengers did and the security staff there did not indicate anything to us. The security procedures aren't evenly applied to say the least.

One surprise (for me who doesn't travel much) was the introduction of machines for reading passports at Dulles. However, it didn't seem to make much of a dent in the lines although it is hard to tell when you're the one in a long line. As always, helpful airport staff directed us to which counters we could wait at since we weren't eligible for the machines.

Automated passport processing has already been in place for a while in Penang (at least since last year). Place the passport in the bin, take a fingerprint scan and then you're done. This is only for Malaysian citizens however. It isn't clear to me what this has to be the case. Now that most passports have biometric information (and possibly chipped) it seems that almost everyone who has a new passport should be able to be processed by a machines. It is way more pleasant than waiting in a long line and much faster.

Penang and Bangkok in December

Wow, the weather was cool - I have forgotten that this was possible 28 degrees C for most of the time. Of course it is also monsoon season with its annual floods. This is in contrast to the heat and humidity of July and August when we usually visit.