Thursday, December 17, 2015

Granada and the Alhambra (December 2015)

Pat and I went to Nerja, Spain, to celebrate Christmas with Jim and Mary Jane Vergin, our friends from across the street in Charlotte, NC. When Pat and I moved to Singapore, they decided to spend a year overseas in Spain, Ireland, and Germany.

Nerja is located on the Costa del Sol and the apartment they rented is only a short walk to the Mediterranean Sea. It is also a short bus ride (about 2 hours) from Granada, the home of the Alhambra, a former Moorish fort/palace, with its first structure being built in 889. The name means "Red Castle".

We arrived in Granada on a Thursday afternoon and checked into the Hotel Inglaterra, for our 2-night stay. I found this hotel on and picked it because of the price and the great location. The rooms were nice; the bathrooms newly remodeled.

Since our entry tickets for the Alhambra were for Friday morning, we set out for a walk. Our first destination was the Albaicin, an area near the Alhambra, "that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. It was declared a world heritage site in 1984" (wikipedia). That description of the streets is so true. There are small plaza interspersed throughout.

In one of those plazas, Mary Jane and Jim waited for us to go retrieve a geocache (GC2NB69 Mirador de San Cristobal), our first in Spain. We then joined them for a beer and a tapas (which is often free with a beer!! Don't know how they can afford to do this but we loved it.). Jim and Mary Jane were just finishing up when we got back.

A view of the Albaicin

Albaicin Passage

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Vietnam (21-26 November 2015)

Pat and I have returned from a short trip to Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and the island of Phu Quoc). The main part of the trip was arranged by Eco Adventures here in Singapore. They arranged our flights on Vietnam Airlines and the hotels we stayed in. We arranged our own tours using Viator.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Our flight left Changi Airport at 1:15 PM for the 2 hour flight into Ho Chi Minh City, or the name most residents call it - Sai Gon. (It's interesting that most signs spell it as 2 words, while I remember it from the news as a single word). We are flying into Ton Son Nhat International Airport, which was known as Ton Son Nhut Air Base during the war. We are heading into the country that dominated the news while Ray was in college, Pat was in HS, and for a number of years after. A place many of our friends served in (some did not return). We both had strong feelings about our visit. Hard to put some memories, photos, and news reports out of our minds.

Visa Letter
In order to get into Vietnam, we needed to carry with us a letter from the Vietnam Immigration Department, which cost us $10/each before even getting our airline reservations. Having that document allowed us to pay $45/each to get the visa once we got to immigration in Saigon. However, we missed the window for picking up our visas and, instead, went directly to the immigration line. After waiting for quite some time, and presenting a copy of the letter, we were informed we needed to go to another window to get the visa. Once we got to the visa window, we found out we were missing passport photos. For another $5/each, we had our pictures taken, waited another 20 minutes and finally got our visa. Ah, the joys of traveling!

We were greeted at the airport by a guide and driver, who took us to the Golden Central Hotel. It is nice not having to figure out how to get to the hotel and have someone waiting with our names on a sign. The hotel was nice and the location was good.

Sai Gon

View from our hotel room on a not-to-busy traffic day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Move files from old Windows PCs to new ones with free PCmover Express

This is an article from, one of the computer sites I follow regularly. Some of you may have seen this when I posted it on Facebook, but I know that not everyone uses Facebook.

Move files from old Windows PCs to new ones with free PCmover Express

By on September 1, 2015

While it is clear to tech savvy users how to best transfer files from an old computer to a new one, it is something that less tech savvy users often have problems with.

It is usually the case that you want to take some files with you when you buy a new computer or build one from scratch.

Maybe it is photos, programming projects, videos or documents. The question that comes to mind often is how; how do you get the files from the old system to the new?

There are multiple options for that that vary in how comfortable and time consuming they are. One easy option may be to connect both systems to the same computer network and move files this way.

Other options include using cloud storage, copying files to an external hard drive or even burning them to DVD.

Microsoft teamed up with Laplink to provide users with an easy to use program for that task.

PCmover Express has been designed to move files from old Windows systems, starting with Windows XP, to new devices running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

Note: Please note that you need to enter a valid email address during setup and register during the process. It is also interesting to note that the program runs well on Windows 8.1 and 10 systems.

The program walks you through the process using an on-screen wizard. It displays a checklist on start which highlights the process and things you should do prior to starting the transfer.

PCmover Express works by connecting both devices, the old and new PC, to the same network which can be wired or wireless.

Install the program on both devices and click on the next button on the source device (the old one with the data that you want to moved).

pcmover express

Select whether this is the old or new PC on the next screen to continue.


Select WiFi or Wired Network on the next screen. The two other options displayed on the page, Laplink Ethernet Cable or Laplink USB Cable require special cables that you need to purchase.

pcmover wired wifi network

You are then prompted to run PCmover on the destination PC. There you need to register an account before you can proceed and select the PC name after selecting the desired connection method.

Information about files on the old PC are transferred to the new one which may take a moment depending on their quantity. The analysis checks all connected hard drives automatically and provides you with detailed options when it comes to which files are transferred and which are not.

pcmover files

The following options are provided:
  • User Account Selection: Select which user accounts you want to transfer to the new PC.
  • Drive Selections: Select drives you want to transfer to the new computer. This is done by adding drives as folders to a hard drive of the new computer.
  • File Filters: Use these to exclude file types from being transferred. You may want to block temporary files for instance.
  • Folder Filters: Block folders from being transferred.
PCmover Express does not warn you at this stage if destination drives have less free storage space than needed to transfer all data. This happens after the configuration stage which is not ideal considering that you may need to go back and make adjustments if source files exceed the free space on the destination PC.


PCmover Express is an easy to use program to transfer files from an old Windows PC to a new device running Windows 8.1 or 10. The program has a couple of usability issues that make the process less intuitive as it could be but overall it is an easy way to move files between PCs.

About Martin Brinkmann

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pat and Ray visit Tokyo (2-9 August 2015) Part II

5 Aug 2015

Today we are headed out past Shinjuku to look for Japanese yarn. Unfortunately, the shop we went to had Japanese yarn, but the brand is one that Pat can easily find in the U.S. It wasn't a wasted trip though because it took us into a residential neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants. It was also good to get out of the business side of Tokyo for awhile.

Puppy Yarn near Shimokitazawa Station

We got back on the train and went to Shinjuku for at least 2 reasons:
  1. there are more yarn places there (Pat had them organized before we left Singapore;
  2. 34 years ago, I was there for 2 weeks, consulting with Nomura Securities, while working for Battelle Memorial Institute, and I wanted to see how things had changed and whether I would recognize anything.
Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in Japan, serving an average of 3.6 million passengers a day (there are over 200 exits, which makes it even more confusing). When we got there, nothing looked familiar (as I kind of suspected - after all, 34 years is a long time). We wandered toward the area I thought should be the correct direction and I did recognize the Yodobashi Camera store, or at least the name. It is a large camera and electronics store. I think I may have actually bought something there at some point, but can't be sure.

As we were walking, nothing looked familiar. The area had certainly changed - lots of new, tall skyscrapers, hotels and government buildings. In one of the big government buildings, we found a Tourist Information center and picked up a couple of maps. Leaving the TI, I definitely recognized the Hyatt I had stayed in on my previous trips - it was known as the Century Hyatt then; now it's the Hyatt Regency.

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, the 2nd-tallest educational building in the world

Unfortunately, I led us in the wrong direction when trying to find the building I had worked in. The heat must have gotten to me. Finally, spotting the correct building on the map, we turned around, headed for the Nomura Building, stopped for a nondescript lunch, took some pictures and continued toward an area know as the Golden Gai, where I vaguely remembered seeing people playing Pachinko and an overall fun area.

Sign outside the Nomura Building

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pat and Ray visit Tokyo (2-9 Aug 2015) Part I

2 Aug 2015

We left our Singapore apartment at 4:50 AM to head to Changi Airport for our 6:50 AM flight to Tokyo. The flight was uneventful, as one always hopes. We landed at Narita (NRT) at about 2:30 PM.

The line to get through Immigration was horrendous. Probably the longest delay we ever experienced in our many travels - room was hot and humid and it took over an hour to get through and there was no apparent reason for it. Fortunately, picking up our luggage and getting through Customs was easy and fast.

Once outside Customs, we looked for, and found, a Citibank ATM. Then it was off to arrange transportation into Tokyo (the airport is about 50 miles outside of the city). We took the Narita Express train to Tokyo Station, where we took the Marunouchi Line (subway) to Akasaka-mitsuke Station.

Pat enjoying the Narita Express into Tokyo.
Great views of the rice paddies along the tracks.

Trying to get a ticket for the subway was a challenge, but we were aided by a friendly gentleman who showed us what to do. After that buying subway tickets was a breeze - we even stopped clicking on the English language button.

Arriving at the Akasaka-mitsuke Station, we exited to the main street, Sotobori-dori (love how that sounds). Looking across the street we saw our hotel - the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu - how convenient! Also saw a sign in same building as the hotel for the Beer Kitchen - looks like we found a place to stop after checking in.

Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu

Location of our hotel

Our first dinner in Tokyo was at the Beer Kitchen. Oh, so good!

Taps at Beer Kitchen

Yona Yona Real Ale

Hare no Hi Sennin

Very rich broth for the noodles. Much more attractive than this photo shows. And really yummy.

Pork skewer with a tasty sauce

Here are some of the notes about these beer, taken and modified from the beer menu:
  • Yona Yona Real Ale - unfiltered rich aroma and uncarbonated direct malt flavor. This hand-pumped ale shows bubbles to create a creamy head. 5.5% ALC and 36.5 IBU. Ray started off with this one.

  • Yona Yona Ale - Fragrant aroma and rich flavor. Our flagship ale. Golden amber color, fragrant citrus-like flavor of premium cascade hops, and well-balanced bitterness and sweetness. 5.5% ALC and 36.5 IBU. This was Pat's first choice and all time favorite.

  • Hare no Hi Sennin - Rich and mellow. Over 1/2 a year maturation makes this ale high-alcohol like wine. Strong in body, bitterness and sweetness. Recommended to emjoy relaxed using a wine glass or brandy glass. 8.5 % ALC and 68 IBU. Ray's second choice came in a brandy snifter to hold all that 8.5% ALCs in.

  • Zenryaku Konomi Nante Kiitenaize SORRY - Striking aroma of Yazu, unleashed with coarse salt. A session ale of serendipitous combination. The bursting aroma of salted Yazu and 2 different aroma hops (Cascade and Styrian Goldings) creates an unprecedented unique flavor. 4% ALC and 13 IBU. Pat tried this one after her bowl of yummy noodles.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

6 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent (The Huffington Post)

I like the Google Flights website for for planning trips that involve airlines. I found this article posted on Facebook several months ago. (I hope re-posting this is not illegal.)

6 Google Flights Tricks That Are Better Than Any Travel Agent

Posted: Updated:

Latitudestock - TTL via Getty Images

Chances are you're familiar with Google Flights. The flight search engine does everything you assume it would, like locate flights based on your ideal outbound time, inbound time and number of stops. After all, it's the same technology that powers both KAYAK and Orbitz.
The site also includes a whole host of features that aren't so easy to imagine, probably because they're so unimaginably amazing. In some cases, this online tool can beat out any human travel agent. Don't believe us? Check out these six tricks below.

1. Don't know where to go? Search for a general region, and see a map of specific flight prices.
Just Google "flights to Europe" and click the Flights tab below the search box. A map of the entire continent will pop up, along with prices. You'll be able to compare how much it would cost to fly to London versus Paris -- and you can even filter the options by type of airline, duration of flight and price you're willing to pay.


2. Or go with "I'm feeling lucky" to let Google plan your dream trip.
What "I'm feeling lucky" does for search, it also does for flights. Click on a map within Google Flights, pick your departure spot, and click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button to let Google choose a destination based on your search history and what's popular. You'll also see a bar graph letting you know when flights will be at their cheapest.


3. Google will tell you which flight is the best bang for your buck.
The "Best flights" box tells you which flights are the best combinations of price and speed, so you won't have to decide whether a layover is a good idea or if a nonstop is worth the extra buck. Google also highlights its top pick in green. It's like having your very own travel agent say, "If I were you, I'd do this."


4. It'll also show you the lowest price for any given day on the calendar.
You can see prices for your trip on every day of the month, with the cheapest days highlighted in green. A bar graph at the bottom lets you know how prices will likely drop or rise over time.


5. Automatically see swaps that will save you money.
If you search for a flight that has a similar yet less expensive option, the "Tip" bar lets you know how much money you'll save if you're willing to fly earlier, later or from a different airport. Then you can weigh the cost and decide!


6. Once you find a potential flight, let Google monitor the price for you.
If you find a flight you like, then hit the "Save This Itinerary" button and let the Google Now app track its pricing. You can hit the app on your phone to see how prices are changing, and Google will email you if they dip dramatically.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Phone Apps for Travel

We use several applications on our mobile phones that are useful for travel. I thought I would share what we have learned. All of these apps require you to have a data plan that is good wherever you travel or the ability to use wi-fi when traveling. (we have T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan that allows us to use our phones in 121 countries/places around the world with no roaming charges.)

Most of these applications are free, but are supported with ads. I often purchase the ad-free version for a few dollars. The cost of the ad-free versions is usually minor.


When we were in London in 2014, we needed a mobile phone app that would help us navigate the city - something that would help whether we were walking, taking the bus or riding the Tube. We discovered Citymapper and it became our go-to app for getting around London.






We knew we were moving to Singapore, but Citymapper didn't work there. However, there is a link on the app to recommend additional cities. I voted more than once for Singapore. A couple of months after arriving in Singapore, I was notified by email that Singapore had been added and immediately loaded it on my Android phone and on Pat's iPhone. We have been happily using it ever since.

The list of cities they now support: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Washington DC, Madrid, Boston, Barcelona, San Francisco, Chicago, Milan, Rome, Tokyo, Lisbon, Manchester, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sao Paulo, Amsterdam, Toronto, Vancouver, Brussels and moreto come.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bali underfoot.

I wanted to write a post about the parts of Bali that I saw. Often I see details and things that others overlook. However as I started to collect the photos I wanted to show I realized that these items were not hidden but underfoot. And underfoot everywhere!

Bali is the only island in Indonesia that is Hindu. The rest of the country is Muslim. So I was expecting to see the brightly painted Hindu shrines like I see in Singapore and saw in Cambodia. I was surprised that the difference in Bali is quite striking.

Leaving the airport I noticed that their statues and shrines included draped fabric often a bold plaid print and sometimes a solid color. The statues and shrines were unpainted stone for the most part. Some were carved stone and others were more building-block in nature, all intricately placed and arranged into symmetrical beauty.

Once we started walking around it was hard not to notice the small daily offerings each family presents to their local shrine. I was told that each family sets an offering out each morning - and they are everywhere.

Some are elaborate and many are very simple. We saw women gathered around piles of palm leaves weaving the little shallow baskets. We also saw the piles of yesterday and last weeks offerings piled along the street. At least the material is biodegradable.

Although similar there were striking differences in design and detail. Some were very, very simple indeed.

Rice was probably the main ingredient and then flowers and then all kinds of things.

When we left Bali and flew over to Lombok it was very noticeable that we left a Hindu land and entered a Muslim land. All the statues and offering were no longer around. The contrast was visually startling. I was no longer snapping photos at my feet.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lombok - June 20, 2015

We arrived last night from Bali to join the rest of the family for one day. Lombok is the next island east of Bali in the Indonesian archipelago. So it was a flight of about 30 minutes in the air.

We stayed at the Quince Villas in Senggigi, Lombok. Another wonderful place, arranged by Pat's daughter.

Today, the eight of us were picked up by a driver for a trip to the foothills of Lombok's volcano (Mount Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani) to see some waterfalls at Senaru. Although we started at 9 AM, it was the only activity we really had time for. The drive out was about an hour. We hiked to 2 of the waterfalls (Sendang Gila is about a 20 minute walk from the entrance; Tiu Kelep, the second waterfall is another hour hike past the first one).

I will allow the following photos to describe the beauty of this place. Cold and clear water and wonderful views. We even saw a large family of monkeys on the hike back. When we returned from the hike through the jungle, we had lunch where we left our driver and the SUV. Most of us slept on the way home. Along the road we could see the beginning of commercial building projects along the beachfront. Lombok has been described as "how Bali was before it became a vacation spot". Well it looks like Lombok is borrowing some ideas from Bali to help it's economy.

Sendang Gila (1st Waterfall)

Another view of Sendang Gila

At the base of Sendang Gila. A very refreshing place to stand.

We have to climb lots of steps on the way to the 2nd waterfall

On the jungle path to the 2nd waterfall

We had to traverse 2 rivers on the path

Tiu Kelep, the 2nd waterfall. At the base was a pool that several people got into (not me - too cold)

We then went back to the hotel to relax. Pat, the grandkids, Pat's daughter and I spent some time at the beach collecting shells and sea glass. The beach was very nice and across the water we could see the big volcano on Bali.

Looking South on our beach

Looking North on our beach

That is the volcano on Bali as seen from our beach

All eight of us had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants -  Quali Restaurant, an Asian seafood restaurant. Another fine meal in a great setting.

Early tomorrow morning we have a flight back to Singapore (with a stop in Jakarta). The flight leaves at 6:50 AM, so the hotel concierge recommended we have our cabs pick us up at 4:30 AM! Yawn. All went well and we made it back to Singapore.