There's been a lot of stuff that's been going on since the last time I updated.
The most fun exciting one(s) are that I'll be doing quite a bit of traveling this year! There's a work conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in April that I'll be going to, which will be my first time to our 50th state (unless you're a birther, then it's known as a country called Kenya). The conference lasts a week, then I'll be taking vacation the next week to explore The Big Island to see some of the world's only active volcanoes and do some zip lining through the forest. Then back to Oahu to hang out on the North Shore. I'll definitely be doing some (bad) surfing and we're staying right on the beach. And of course Kara is coming too, as she'd likely murder me in my sleep if I went to Hawaii for two weeks by myself.
Then just today I booked tickets for a huge Asia adventure, hitting Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Tokyo in November! I'll be going with Kara and some other friends, sorta how my Italy trip panned out.
And the best part that thanks for that British Airways credit card offer a while back, it was (mostly) all free! They don't have it anymore, but if you spent $2,000, then you'd get 100k airline miles. Which is enough for both me and Kara to go somewhere round trip. And the great thing about BA miles is that they let you do extended layovers on your trip, so as long as the stop is on the route on of their OneWorld alliance partner's flies, then you can stop there as long as you want. So for instance we're flying Cathay Pacific from Chicago to Ho Chi Minh City, but it has a layover in Hong Kong. So we're staying 3 nights there.
Then we're traveling by bus up to Hanoi, and then flying Japan Airlines through Tokyo as a stop-over, spend a few nights there, and finally get back to the US at LAX. All-in-all having that card saved about $3,500 in airfare. Not a bad deal if I say so myself!
I think I'm most excited about Tokyo, since I've always wanted to go to Japan and realized that this was actually possible now (original plan was to fly back through Hong Kong again on the way out). This will be my first time in Asia, and it's a bit daunting since it's a completely different language system than in Europe. Even Kara is intimidated. But with being in a group and 8 months to practice my Vietnamese, I'm sure I can figure it out.
The other kind of bad thing is I don't really like Vietnamese food... (shhhhh). I do love my Japanese and Chinese food though!
Oh and the flight from Chicago to Hong Kong is 16 hours. Which is even longer than those New Zealand flights I took back in 2009!
I'm really excited for both trips, and it's nice to get to do some more long distance traveling again, since last year the furthest I went was Florida (though did do that 3 times due to work and weddings).
I was also in San Diego last week for quite literally a day because of a work customer meeting. It was actually one of the least fun trips I've ever taken, because it was just grueling and so quick. Had to get up early, get on a flight to PHX, then SAN. Got picked up, went immediately to the customer site, had an all day meeting, had dinner with the sales guys, and then flew back early the next morning (with a connection in Houston). Flying really did feel like work for once.
It wasn't all bad though. I got to see one of my really good friends from my Intel internship who's getting her PhD down there, and the flight back on Continental had DirectTV, so I was watching Top Gear and ESPN on the way home.
I still can't believe I haven't ever been on an airplane yet that had WiFi. I know they're rolling them out, and I don't fly all THAT much, but I would have thought by now I'd have hit at least one plane during some segment that had it. I'd definitely pay whatever they want for WiFi access. I can't wait!
Oh speaking of WiFi, the hotel in San Diego was the very first luxury (Hilton, Marriott, etc) hotel I've ever been in that didn't charge for Internet. Normally it's like $14 to $20 a day. That always offended me because if I'm (ie Freescale) is paying $200+ a night for a hotel room, they should be paying for Internet. It's like charging for the TV or the soap in the shower. Maybe my old rule that internet is free if the hotel is under $100 a night might finally be breaking...
I would have stayed in San Diego longer since I had never been there before, but that Friday marked me and Kara's 3rd anniversary of meeting! It was but 3 years ago I met the most wonderful person in the world in a piazza in Rome. How time does fly!
SXSW is right around the corner starting March 16th, which means it's time to start figuring out who to see and which parties to attempt to go through the RSVP hoopla to attend. I already got my wristband for me and Kara, and the band list this year is pretty good, including The Limousines, Chromeo, The Strokes, Neon Trees, The Bravery, She Wants Revenge, and much more.
I set up an email address each year just for SXSW party RSVP's, since every place requires them (or at least the good ones). It's a challenge in and of itself to keep track of which parties are where and when and what kind of food, drinks, and bands there in order to make an educationed decision on which day party to go to.
Sunday is also the Austin Kite Festival. Unfortunately it's not supposed to be very windy, so it might be a bust. But here's to hoping it pans out!
My SXSW 2011 kicked off last night with an awesome party downtown at the top of the Omni hotel. A local media company was throwing a SXSW Kickoff party, so it had free beer, free food, free music, and awesome views. It was also a friend's birthday so that turned into his after party after dinner. It was a typical startup, so it had the requisite crazy furniture such as a bird's nest and a hide-away conference room reached via a bookcase. Good times were had by all!
Though no one actually could figure out what the heck they actually do. Their website says they "Effectively monetizing traffic and generating high quality leads" but what does that mean they actually do!?! Even the employees there couldn't explain it really. Things that make you go hmmmmm
Which does mean that SXSW is right around the corner! It technically starts today, but the Music part doesn't start up until Wednesday. I have my wristband once again this year, but hopefully I can get into more venues than I did last year where I had terrible luck. One year I'm just going to take the week off, get a Platinum badge, and just have fun for a week. I figure since I don't have to pay for hotel or airfare, I'm actually saving money since SXSW is definitely something I'd just go and do a trip for anyways.
The Gators are doing well at basketball again! We won the SEC East, and the SEC tourney starts tonight against Tennessee. I really miss being a Rowdy Reptile sometimes. Ahhhh college.
SXSW 2011 is done! It was MUCH better than last year since I actually got to see just about every single band I wanted to see. Last year it seemed like every place filled up with badges 3 hours before anything interesting. Anyways it was a crazy fun 5 nights filled of music (they kicked off early this year, with a handful of clubs doing showcases on Tuesday night), and I'm sad to see it go. Definitely got my walking in. Highlight of the festival was Bowling for Soup (they put on such a fun live show!) and Foster the People (can't wait for their EP on May 24th). Best random band I saw was Wolf Gang, who are from England.
Kara's in LA this week to visit the family, so I might hopefully maybe get around to putting up some pictures of the bands and other goings on. Also planning on finally taking down the Christmas tree. Yes, for some reason it's still up. I know. I know.
Finally Angry Birds Rio came out today! It launched with Amazon's new app store, and is free for the first 24 hours. So addicted!