LHB – Theme

I’ve always loved heavy synth, house, electronica songs but when I heard this I got obsessed with finding out who LHB were. I still have not been able to find their website, nor a Wikipedia entry, but I read a review of their latest release, and then an Amazon review.

LHB are the duo Giles Barton and Lee Wilson-Wolfe whose debut for a major, Tell ‘Em Who We Are, has the potential to be one of the biggest-selling dance records of 2002. There is nothing particularly new or out of the ordinary about their style but the skill and creative ideals used to successfully blend so many different genres of dance in every song are rare talents.

I am now obsessed with this song. For your listening pleasure.

Prefiero Ser Su Amante by Maria Jose

I found this song the other day (it’s sung in Spanish), and it got stuck in my head. I’m not a fan of the lyrics nor the title (“I prefer to be his mistress”), for obvious reasons (I don’t believe in being unfaithful). But the song itself is fun to listen to and it’s the perfect ear-worm. For your listening pleasure.

Crees que es tuyo solamente, pero es una farsa
y te convences que esto acabará, te equivocas…
Tu papel es el de ser esa mujer que el se cansó de ver,
que ya no toca más, que ya no quiere más…

En cambio yo, tengo sus noches y su pasión,
sus fantasías y su obsesión, aunque te duela soy
la que en tu cama probó su amor, tú eres rutina
por eso yo, prefiero ser su amante, su amante…

La intuición no se equivoca cuando sientes celos
no estás loca, y enterate, yo soy la otra…
El de ti ya esta aburrido y a mi me persigue como
un niño, soy un dulce que siempre le sabe bien…

En cambio yo, tengo sus noches y su pasión,
sus fantasías y su obsesión, aunque te duela soy
la que en tu cama probó su amor, tú eres rutina
por eso yo, prefiero ser su amante, su amante…

Yo tengo sus noches y su pasión,
sus fantasías y su obsesión, aunque te duela soy
la que en tu cama probó su amor, tú eres rutina
por eso yo, prefiero ser su amante, su amante…

Yo tengo sus noches y su pasión,
sus fantasías y su obsesión, aunque te duela…

Su amante, su amante, SOY YO

Looking for Myself by Usher

I really hadn’t paid much attention to Usher nor his music, but I came across the Samsung commercial and I really enjoyed the song – Looking for Myself by Usher (Feat. Luke Steele). For your listening pleasure, I found it on YouTube.

The lyrics, taken from MetroLyrics are here

Walking with my head down
Counting every step
Hoping that the next one
Brings me closer to the man I was

Cause I was way better
Maybe its because
We were together

[Refrain]
I said I’m looking for myself
And I still can’t find me
That’s why I’m looking for myself
Who am I? Someone remind me
I’m looking for myself
All my life
I’m searching
I said I’m looking for myself
And somehow I ran right into
Youuuu (looking for myself)
Youuuu (I, I I, I I I)
Youuuu (looking for myself)
And somehow I ran right into you

Escaping on the tightrope
Trying not to fall
If I don’t keep my balance
I know, I will lose it all
I should have known better
And it’s all my fault
That we’re not together

[Refrain]
I said I’m looking for myself
And I still can’t find me
That’s why I’m looking for myself
Who am I? Someone remind me
I’m looking for myself
All my life
I’m searching
I said I’m looking for myself
And somehow I ran right into
Youuuu (looking for myself)
Youuuu (I, I I, I I I)
Youuuu (looking for myself)
And somehow I ran right into you

I was on a journey,
Tryin to figure out who I really was
Then I realized that,
When you’re not here,
Half of me is gone
So in order for me to find me,
I had to find you
You know? (youuuu)
And I got a funny feeling that
You won’t know who you are
And unless you find me
It’s like…
You look in the mirror
And you see the person that you truely love

[Refrain]
I said I’m looking for myself
And I still can’t find me
That’s why I’m looking for myself
Who am I? Someone remind me
I’m looking for myself
All my life
I’m searching
I said I’m looking for myself
And somehow I ran right into
Youuuu (looking for myself)
Youuuu (I, I I, I I I)
Youuuu (looking for myself)
And somehow I ran right into you

Happy birthday, Canada! (my second Canada Day as an expatriate)

On July 1st, Canada celebrates another birthday, and I will be celebrating my first full year in Mexico, and for the second year in a row, I will be away from Canada on Canada Day.

Canada Day at Canada Place (July 1st, 2011)

Usually, on Canada Day, I would spend most of the day with Minna, or with other Canadian friends of mine. Other years I’ve done the Canada Day at Canada Place programme, as I’ve been invited as one of their blogger partners.

Raul and his two two Canadian flag tatoosOf course I miss Canada. I miss it terribly. It was my home country for more than 16 years, on and off. I fell in love with Canada, I fell in love IN Canada, I had two Canadian-born partners, I did one of my Masters, and my PhD in Canada. I was a faculty member in one of Canada’s top universities, and I taught hundreds of amazingly bright Canadian students. I blossomed as a person, a social media darling, and I do owe Canada a big debt. Canada and Canadians taught me about following the rules, about privacy, about doing things “by the book”. Some of my best friends are, and will always be, Canadian. And I will always be a Canadian too.

This week I have been receiving many great news, all of which have happened ever since I moved away from Canada. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel enormous gratitude for Canada. It’s been my home, my country, and I’ve loved more Canadian people than I have any other country’s population in the world. I’m proud to be Canadian, I’m proud to have represented Canada in the occasions I’ve done so. And yes, Vancouver is and will always be home for me.

But right now I’m in a different place, in a different space and I have a completely different outlook on life. I’ve moved on, and while Canada will always have a special place in my heart, I am now looking forward to the changes in my life. And I’ll always be a son of Canada, no matter what.

On July 1st, I too will be celebrating Canada Day. Happy birthday, my beloved country, Canada, eh?

Should wifi and power be mandatory at all airports?

JR Train/Sky Access Line (Travel Shin-okubo to Narita Airport) Japan

Dallas Fort Worth offers free wifiI travel quite a lot, particularly with work, but also because I do a lot of media/press trips (after all, the vast majority of my blog is focused on my travel writing). I almost always have to download and upload thousands of photos, and other online material at airports, as I have another professional life that does not include writing about my travel. Thus, I am always on the look for spots that offer free internet access via wireless (free wifi). Fortunately for me, many of the international airports, including Vancouver International Airport (YVR, for more than a decade my home airport), and several domestic ones (such as Kelowna) do offer free access to wireless. But this is not always the case, as my tweet indicates.

I have to say that I find it a little bit bewildering why airports wouldn’t offer free wifi. Even more amazing, Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW) offers free internet connection via ethernet cable, and free power charging for Apple products such as an iPod, iPhone or a MacBook Pro, as can be seen on my photo below. This, of course, in addition to free wifi.

airport chargers

So my question to you, my dear readers is… do you think airports should have free wifi? Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta doesn’t have it, but it says that it is slowly moving in that direction (and given that I travel with Delta Airlines quite a lot, an airline that has Atlanta as one of their major hubs), I hope they do move soon in that direction.

Encounter (Calvin Klein) – cologne review

Encounter (Calvin Klein)It’s been a long while since I’ve done a cologne review, but on my recent trip to Japan, I decided that I had to spoil myself, so I bought myself 3 new colognes. Well, 1 cologne new to me (Encounter, by Calvin Klein) and two that I already knew very well (Eternity for Men, also by Calvin Klein, and Herrera for Men, by Carolina Herrera). As a fan of Calvin Klein, I’ve reviewed Eternity for Men Summer.

The Encounter description from the CK website describes it as:

masculine. intriguing. seductive. ENCOUNTER Calvin Klein redefines modern, unapologetic masculinity. a distinctive sensual woody fragrance, ENCOUNTER combines an addictive blend of freshness, warm cognac and sensual woods.

Strangely enough, Calvin Klein’s website doesn’t provide the actual notes of the fragrance, but Fragrantica does:

Calvin Klein launches a new fragrance in September 2012 – mysterious, seductive and masculine Encounter. The composition is developed by Firmenich perfumers Honorine Blanc and Pierre Negrin. It opens with aromas of mandarin, cardamom and rum. Pepper, Egyptian jasmine, patchouli and cognac from the perfume’s core, settled on woody nuances of oud, Atlas cedar and musk.

While I found Encounter less of a Calvin Klein cologne than I have found before (most of the CK fragrances I’ve had are more citrusy rather than, in this case, more woody), I have been using it to go to the office and I feel quite comfortable. However, I would say that Encounter by Calvin Klein is more of a night cologne (e.g. for “going out” than it is a day one). And yes, it does smell what you would call “traditionally masculine”, although I sometimes object to those descriptions.

Encounter by Calvin Klein can be obtained at most stores. At Sephora it retails for $72 Canadian dollars.


Disclosure:I bought a 100ml bottle of Encounter by Calvin Klein on my own dime at the duty free shop in Dallas. I have no financial connections to Calvin Klein and I was not given a free bottle for review. As always, I retain full editorial control over anything published on my blog.

Cerro del Muerto (The Dead Man Mountain) – Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes

Both JT and I love hiking, and one of the things we used to do together all the time while I lived in Vancouver was go on hikes. Some of the most memorable ones I ever did were with him: Lynn Canyon, Indian Arm/Deep Cove, the Stawamus Chief. So it wasn’t a surprise that when he came down to visit me I went hiking with him. We chose a hike that I had never done, but we both were eager to explore: The Dead Man Mountain (el Cerro del Muerto), in the outskirts of the city of Aguascalientes, in the namesake state of Aguascalientes.

Cerro del Muerto (Dead Man Mountain) - Aguascalientes

The Cerro del Muerto (Dead Man Mountain) is named that way because it resembles a dead (or sleeping) man (see the photo above). While the hike isn’t considered an easy one, and we didn’t go all the way to the top, I really enjoyed it.

Cerro del Muerto (Dead Man Mountain) - Aguascalientes

There are two pathways (you need to take the highway to Calvillo and then stop almost right at the intersection with the highway that takes you to Mexico) that go uphill.

Cerro del Muerto (Dead Man Mountain) - Aguascalientes

There is a chapel in the first 200 metres as you go uphill, and to be quite frank, hiking that far up did not make me even work up a sweat. But the rest of the hike seemed quite daunting and I was out of shape as I hadn’t been exercising enough so I didn’t want to risk it. The next time I have some free time, I’ll have to check the Cerro del Muerto again.

Cerro del Muerto (Dead Man Mountain) - Aguascalientes

Asakusa (Taitō, Tokyo Prefecture)

I’m a natural-born shopper, so when I asked the Tokyo Plaza Hotel staff where should I go shopping, and they said “Asakusa” without hesitation, I figured they were right and I was overdue for a shopping spree. After all, retail therapy is fabulous for breakups, they say!

Asakusa Shopping District

From the Asakusa Wikipedia entry:

For most of the twentieth century, Asakusa was the major entertainment district in Tokyo. The rokku or “Sixth District” was in particular famous as a theater district, featuring famous cinemas such as the Denkikan. The golden years of Asakusa are vividly portrayed in Yasunari Kawabata’s novel The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa (1930; English translation, 2005). The area was heavily damaged by US bombing raids during World War II, particularly the March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo. The area was rebuilt after the war, but has now been surpassed by Shinjuku and other colorful areas in the city, in its role as a pleasure district.

Of course, while shopping was the main target, I did get a chance to visit the Sensō-ji, an anciest Buddhist temple, located also right besides the Asakusa Shrine. While I am not any more knowledgeable about Japanese religious history (something I did read about years ago), I felt a strange connection to the temples I visited.

Asakusa Shrine (Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan)

The purification before entering the Shrine was something I was completely unaware of until I visited Mishima-shi, and something that I took up quite quickly as a routine. I also had my fortune read at Asakusa Shrine, and apparently I am due for lots of success (I wonder if this happens to many people!)

Asakusa Shrine (Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan)

Overall, I really enjoyed shopping in Asakusa and visiting the temple and shrine. I really think Japan deserves a more thorough visit and I will have to come back soon (well, as soon as next year, 2014).

Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger) by Donna Summer

Today is Music Monday, and I haven’t posted a Music Monday thing in a while. At the same time, I listened to this song on the radio today, it’s like a good omen I think. I’ve always loved this song and I had never figured out the name until I researched it today. A number of wonderful things have been happening to me so I think that it’s a sign that good things are yet to come. The song is Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger) by the late Donna Summer.

(I’ve) hung around with big shots
Never knew love was in the sights
I guess I missed the target
Caught up in a different line of fire

But I know since I’ve been aiming
For the sweetness in your soul
Your name is on the bullet
And it’s gettin’ ready to explode
There’s been a change inside my life
And I just wanna let you know

I’ve got my finger on the trigger
Love is in control
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
I ain’t lettin’ go

Bass Line:
Baby, let’s have some fun
A won’t cha be my, my
Number one

Mama used to tell me
Girl, you better load your gun up right
She said ya, ya gotta come out smokin’
Hit it with your best shot every time
Well I didn’t understand her
’til you walked right into range
I saw your love at twenty paces
And I new I’d won the game
You better raise your heart up high
Or love will blow you right away

I’ve got my finger on the trigger
Love is in control
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
I ain’t lettin’ go
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
Love is in control
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
I ain’t lettin’ go

Leave off that safety catch
There ain’t no risk
We’re gonna have some fun
I’ve got cha, love’s begun
So stay with me
Until the mornin’ sun

You’re superbullet number one

Bass Line:
Baby, let’s have some fun
A won’t cha be my, my
Number one
There’s been a change inside
My life
And I just wanna let you know

I’ve got my finger on the trigger
Love is in control
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
I ain’t lettin’ go
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
Love is in control
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
I ain’t lettin’ go…


I found an extended version that has a little bit better audio.

One year later: I’m glad I moved to Mexico and left Vancouver behind

For the vast majority of my readers, and particularly those who live in Vancouver, saying what I just posted as the title of my blog entry would be heresy. After all, I was for all practical purposes, one of THE pre-eminent Vancouver social media darlings. I have written about Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada for more than six years. And then I moved. I packed my belongings and moved to Mexico, to be closer to my (aging) parents.

Vancouver skyline from the Lions Gate Bridge

Everyone who is in some way or another close to me always asks me “are you sure you made the right move?“. And my answer, one year later, is still emphatically YES. I’m glad I moved to Mexico, and I’m glad I left Vancouver behind. You’ll see: I left behind a group of very lovely friends, and someone I loved very much and with whom I shared many, many years. I moved away from one of the cities I have loved the most (I lived for more than a decade in Vancouver), a gorgeous, exciting and vibrant city. I left behind a position that was highly glamorous and socially popular as the socialite editor-in-chief of Hummingbird604.com

Landscape in Downtown Vancouver

At the same time, I also left behind a number of things that were negative about Vancouver that I did not like, and that I put up with as part-and-parcel of living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, surrounded by stunning natural beauty.

I left behind the snarky online fights of some members of the Vancouver’s social media scene. Yes, even with my personality (which is for the most part, gregarious, open, and always honest), there was always someone who disliked me, and always someone who would not like how I participated in the online realm. I have not received negative comments on my blog in months, nor have I been the subject of online attacks. Why not? I have a hypothesis: I’m no longer the competition. With one of the top Vancouver bloggers out, the field becomes less competitive (becomes more competitive among the ones who stay, of course, but I’m no longer a competitor nor am I on the same market).

Leader again on UrbanSpoon Vancouver

I left behind incredibly expensive real estate. Of course, I loved my shoebox one-bedroom apartment in Mount Pleasant, and I miss it terribly. But I also left behind having to commute everywhere by bus, and getting soaked wet or snowed in. I have a three-bedroom, 2 stories house with a yard and a back terrace here. And I pay $50 Canadian dollars LESS than I did for my shoebox in Vancouver.

Houses in industrial areas (Mount Pleasant)

Of course, with leaving the bad behind, comes also leaving the good behind. I miss the forests and the beaches. I’m someone who needs to be close to nature all the time, and the cities where I spend most of my time in Mexico are incredibly urban with a very low green-area-to-inhabitant ratio. Water is scarce in central Mexico, whereas it is abundant in Vancouver.

Stanley Park Prospect Point Event

Sunset in Vancouver and North Vancouver

Sunset in English Bay (Vancouver, West End)

I left behind a number of amazing friends and some of the best collaborations I’ve experienced, including my book co-author (Arieanna Schweber and her family), the co-founders of The Network Hub (Jay, John and Minna), and of course my Vancouver-based friends I met online and then became my offline friends (Airdrie Miller, Isabella Mori, MJ Ankenman, Kimberly Bowie, Gus Fosarolli and Russ Benger, Jordan and Alex Behan, Cassandra Anderton, Monique Sherrett, Ava Naves, Mark Robins and David Hannigan, just to mention a few of them – there’s still a tonne of close friends of mine I left behind in Vancouver, and the list would be incredibly long to mention them all here – you know I love you all).

Vancouver Pride 2011

Dinner at Steamworks Pub

Vancouver Pride 2011

Vancouver Pride 2011

But the truth is: I made the right choice. Living in Vancouver was a choice, and one that I made having JT as one, if not THE, primary reason why I stayed. But my priorities changed as my parents got older, and I had to make a decision, and I’m perfectly happy and content with the one I made. IT WAS THE RIGHT ONE. Living in Mexico is also a choice and one I’m very happy I made. I’ve had friends of mine come and visit me and spend time with me here, and I think that on closer look, they can see why I love being here so much.

Yes, I miss Vancouver. And yes, I loved every minute of my life I lived there. But I love my life here, and I have absolutely no complaints at all. Professionally and personally, this was the best decision I could have made. Sometimes I wish I had made it earlier, but everything comes in due time. But I’ll be back in Vancouver some day. I just don’t think I’ll ever move back. But as they say, never say never!

Twitter is unfit to be an actual emergency and crisis communication platform

If you’ve been following the news, Calgary and several parts of Southern Alberta, in Canada are getting flooded. My brother and his family live in Calgary, I have lots of friends and family there, and I’ve got hundreds of followers who live in Calgary. So even though I’m in Mexico, thousands of miles away from Calgary, I decided to help spread the word about what was going on, and to retweet offers for help, and information about the flood via the hashtags #yychelps #yycflood and #abflood

calgary flood twitter jail

I complained earlier that Twitter put the Calgary Police Twitter account in #TwitterJail, and low and behold, it happened to me too. Something I find completely stupid. I have a pretty sizable followership (10,800 followers), my blog and Twitter are widely read in Canada, in Alberta and Calgary. You would think Twitter would be able to discern that the reason why I am tweeting and retweeting so much stuff with the #yychelps hashtag is because, you know, I’M TRYING TO HELP.

So now I’m completely useless to a series of communities that I really want to help, simply because Twitter and their stupid algorithms to put people in Twitter Jail. I. Am. Floored. Read my friend Gillian Shaw’s blog post (Gillian blogs and writes on Digital Life as the Vancouver Sun Tech Reporter) on Twitter and the Calgary Police case.

Serious by Duran Duran

My current obsession is NOT with a popular song, but with rather an unpopular one. Serious, by Duran Duran, was (according to the Wikipedia entry), a total commercial failure. But as far as I’m concerned, this is such a great song, and it’s not traditional Duran Duran stuff. For your listening pleasure.

Tokyo Plaza Hotel (Shin-okubo, Tokyo, Japan)

If you have no clue where to stay in Japan, and want an inexpensive hotel relatively well located (near Shinjuku and not too far from Asakusa), I would probably recommend that you follow my lead and stay at the Tokyo Plaza Hotel (in Shin-okubo, Tokyo). It takes less than 3 minutes to get from the Shin-okubo Train Station (one stop from the Shinjuku Train Station on the green JR Line [Yamanote] to Ikebukuro and less than 20 minutes from Nippori Station, where you would take the train towards Narita Airport).

Tokyo Plaza Hotel (Shinokubo, Tokyo, Japan)

Fair warning: though cute, the rooms at the Tokyo Plaza Hotel are SMALL. Not microscopic, nor coffin-like, but definitely small for my standards. They did come with two beds, so I assume that if I were travelling with my (now former) partner, I would be able to stay here comfortably, if not luxuriously.

Tokyo Plaza Hotel (Shinokubo, Tokyo, Japan)

The bathroom is tiny, and the seating area made me feel crammed even though I was there by myself, but I think it’s a good choice, and it’s not all that expensive (about $100 USD per night, considering this is almost downtown Tokyo, which is a bargain!). It also had a few added cute quirks, like the fact that it provided plenty of shampoo, face soap, body wash and individually-wrapped razors, toothbrushes with toothpaste and hair combs/brushes.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. If you do book with the Tokyo Plaza Hotel I do recommend Booking.com or Hotels.com, as the website is entirely in Japanese and Google Translate doesn’t work really well. Unless, of course, you do read and speak Japanese! Bonus points: front desk folks are fluent in English, and western-style breakfast is fully included. The only problem is, if your flight leaves early from Narita (like mine did), you have to eat breakfast elsewhere. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with my stay at the Tokyo Plaza Hotel and I would definitely recommend it!


Disclosure: My stay at The Tokyo Plaza Hotel was sponsored very generously by the organization that brought me to Japan for work purposes. I wasn’t paid to write this review, nor was I required to do so either as I have no financial ties nor interest or stake in the hotel. The purpose of this blog entry is just to describe my experience at the hotel. In any review I write or publish on my site, I retain editorial control at all times. Should you have any questions/concern feel free to contact me via e-mail through my contact form.

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West Inn Fujiyoshida (Fujiyoshida-Shi, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan)

West Inn Fujiyoshida (Fujiyoshida City, Japan)By pure sheer newbie luck, I lucked out on landing in a fantastic Western-style hotel in Japan (although, to be quite honest, I think it’s kind of a hybrid hotel as it had the Japanese style bedrooms and collective bathrooms). During my stay in Fujiyoshida-Shi (City of Fujiyoshida in the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan) I stayed at the West Inn Fujiyoshida Hotel. And I can’t recommend it enough.

West Inn Fujiyoshida (Fujiyoshida City, Japan)

I found the West Inn Fujiyoshida one of the most welcoming hotels I’ve been to. While quaint and not incredibly big, it was a little bit larger than the Comfort Inn Santa Fe, another hotel in Mexico City where I stayed that has very small rooms. But it had everything I needed, TV included (even though I would not watch it as I was busy all day).

West Inn Fujiyoshida (Fujiyoshida City, Japan)

The room was large enough for me, and even for two people if I were travelling with someone else. The only problems are (1) you have to pay for your stay in cash and (2) the staff does not speak much English (in fact I found that in Fujiyoshida rarely anyone actually spoke English, something I found frustrating). The location is pretty superb, about a 4 minute walk from the Fuji-Q (Fujikyu) Highland Bus Station (which is where I arrived from Shinjuku Bus Station).

West Inn Fujiyoshida (Fujiyoshida City, Japan)

The hotel has a restaurant, Gourmand, although I cannot really vouch for the food quality as I did not eat there. I do love their free wifi included with the room price (about $120 USD per night). Overall, my experience was great and I would strongly recommend it. I think if someone comes to Mount Fuji to visit and climb, it would probably make sense to stay closer to the mountain, but if that is not too much of an issue, I would recommend to stay at the West Inn Fujiyoshida.


Disclosure: My stay at The West Inn Fujiyoshida Hotel was sponsored very generously by the organization that brought me to Japan for work purposes. I wasn’t paid to write this review, nor was I required to do so either as I have no financial ties nor interest or stake in the hotel. The purpose of this blog entry is just to describe my experience at the hotel. In any review I write or publish on my site, I retain editorial control at all times. Should you have any questions/concern feel free to contact me via e-mail through my contact form.

Savoy Suites Hotel (Georgetown, Washington DC)

Savoy Suites Hotel (Georgetown)While I had travelled to Washington DC several times before, I had never really made my own travel arrangements. Usually, I travel with a group of people (mostly for work) and therefore I was not really sure of which way my hotels were chosen. This time, I needed to make my own travel arrangements and hotels in Washington DC are incredibly expensive. So I am lucky to have found the Savoy Suites Hotel, in the Georgetown area of Washington DC (and relatively near to the location of where I was going). The Savoy Suites Hotel was also near by and the taxi cab ride was relatively inexpensive (less than $8 per trip).

Experience breathtaking country views of Washington DC when you select our charming DC hotel near Georgetown. Savoy Suites Hotel is just moments from Georgetown and offers stunning views of the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol building and Potomac River.

Access is everything in Washington and from this vantage point all of DC is at your feet! With an ideal hotel location near Georgetown and close to several of the city’s most prestigious neighborhoods including Embassy Row, Cathedral Heights and Chevy Chase, Savoy Suites Hotel is also convenient to DC’s prominent business districts and Capitol Hill. Explore our Glover Park neighborhood and you are sure to stumble upon the National Cathedral, Georgetown University, American University and the National Zoo, along with the premier homes of the world’s leaders such as the Vice President and Embassy officials!

Savoy Suites Hotel (Washington DC, Georgetown)

I requested a single-bed room, but the room size was spectacularly big for what I expected (and not all that expensive at $149 USD per night). It had a full kitchenette with fridge, hot plate and microwave.

Savoy Suites Hotel (Washington DC, Georgetown)

This hotel is definitely suited to longer stays (and I spent almost a week in Washington DC, so I needed to have access to cooking facilities (particularly because Washington DC is so incredibly expensive). Being within the Georgetown neighbourhood also facilitated my life.

Savoy Suites Hotel (Washington DC, Georgetown)

Savoy Suites Hotel (Washington DC, Georgetown)

Savoy Suites Hotel (Washington DC, Georgetown)

In many ways, the Savoy Suites Hotel reminded me of the Magnolia Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. Both are boutique hotels with excellent customer service and fantastic rooms. I will definitely stay again at the Savoy Suites Hotel. I did obtain a discount (20% if you book 2 nights) but they offer those discounts to every single customer, so I did not receive any special treatment.


Disclosure: I paid for my hotel room on my own dime. I wasn’t paid to write this review, nor was I required to do so either as I have no financial connection to the Savoy Suites Hotel. The purpose of this blog entry is just to describe my experience at the hotel. In any review I write or publish on my site, I retain editorial control at all times. Should you have any questions/concern feel free to contact me via e-mail through my contact form.

Flying with Delta Airlines

While I did a lot of travelling with Delta Airlines when I was a graduate student, I hadn’t taken any of their flights in a while. I recently travelled to Washington DC in the United States and I needed a really good flight. I can’t praise Delta Airlines enough. I found some improvements over what other airlines I have taken quite substantial. They may be minor to other people, but to me they were pretty solid.

Delta Airlines

First off, I found the seats much more ample than in other airlines. Secondly, the drink sizes are MUCH larger. Thirdly, while we did not have full meals, the snacks were much healthier and nicer than in other airlines. And fourthly, but very importantly, the flight lengths were just about right. To get to Washington DC from Mexico City I flew less than 3 hours per leg (Mexico City International Airport (Benito Juarez)-Hartsfield-Harrison Atlanta Atlanta International Airport and then Atlanta-Washington Reagan National).

The flight was affordable for high-season standards (less than $500 USD). My only complaint was that the online wifi was not working on the way to Washington DC, but I could make it work on the way back. Overall, I was pleased with Delta Airlines and would probably fly with them again.


Disclosure: I paid for my flight to Washington DC via Delta Airlines on my own dime. I have no financial stake nor interest on Delta Airlines, I just wanted to share my experience of flying with them.

Travelling to Japan

While I have had a love-hate relationship with Japan (the hate part being unfortunately caused by my breaking up with a former scholar of Japanese history), I never realized how much fun I would have visiting Japan until I actually did spend a full week in the country itself. I do speak rudimentary Japanese (thanks to The Ex Who Shall Not Be Named), so I felt that I was prepared to travel to Japan without much preparation. In fact, I will admit I rarely do any research on any place that I travel to. I’m an adventure traveller. I do as I go.

JR Train/Sky Access Line (Travel Shin-okubo to Narita Airport) Japan

Oh, how wrong was I NOT to have done any research. Seriously. I did not realize that:

  • I would have to use practically ONLY CASH just about everywhere.
  • I would need to speak Japanese (or do some sign language!) as English is not as widely spoken in Japan as I thought it was. Thank God for my rudimentary Japanese.
  • Japan was so expensive in some ways and so inexpensive in others. Seriously. Hotel rooms for $500 Canadian dollars? You have GOT to be kidding me.
  • Toilets are a case of its own. I really loved hotels that had Western-style (sit-down) toilets.

I was terribly unprepared to travel to Japan this time, but now I do have a basis for next year when I’m in Yokohama. The first thing I can recommend is: try to take as direct a flight as possible. I flew Mexico City-Dallas-Tokyo and I landed in the Tokyo-Narita International Airport, but given that Tokyo Haneda International Airport is a much nearer airport IN Tokyo itself, I probably should have done that.

JR Train/Sky Access Line (Travel Shin-okubo to Narita Airport) Japan

While I knew how to get to Shinjuku City in the Tokyo Prefecture (there are buses, which I took, and there’s also Japanese Rail, JR), it took me a little while to figure out how to navigate the JR train system (which very much like Paris’ metro system, is kind of confusing due to the fact that it involves several routes and different companies). I stayed in the Shin-okubo area of town, although I did go shopping to Asakusa and from a geographical standpoint, it probably would have made more sense to stay in Tokyo in the Asakusa shopping district.

Asakusa Shopping District

I promised myself that I would blog about my trip to Japan in detail, particularly because I think non-Japanese folks may not be aware of the subtleties and intricacies of travelling within Japan. Unfortunately I can’t say that I have the time, but I’ll be blogging about it as I find little pockets of time. Overall, I loved my time in Japan, and it taught me great lessons. In patience. In openness. And in checking incoming cars from the opposite direction!

Mishima (water and river restoration fieldwork for IASC 2013)

My life with braces: Reporting back at the 6 months mark

Raul with braces at 6 monthsIf you follow me on Twitter, you will know that on a regular basis, I tweet about how painful it is to live with braces. I got braces six months ago, in a demonstration (to myself) that I care about my own well-being so much that I am willing not only to pay for the rather expensive treatment, but also to live with looking like I’m 14 years old again. I am well aware that I need to re-do my Twitter avatar and page so that it reflects my new situation with a mouth that is filled with metal, but I haven’t gotten around to doing it.

But what I can do, in my very limited time, is to show you how much progress I have achieved with the braces. In six months. If you remember my lower arch, I had the most crooked teeth you could get. And if you see the photo above, my teeth are almost straight! I am quite proud of the fact that I NEVER eat anything my orthodontist says I can’t eat (anything hard to bite like an apple). My nieces and nephews who have braces (and who are rather amused that their uncle has braces) eat everything. I am very wary of doing anything that could jeopardize my teeth’s straightening progression.

I can’t tell you how happy I am. Having straight teeth really will do wonders for my self-esteem and my diet. And everyone who has seen me with braces, from Air, to JT, to my former professors, to my former students, all think that the braces look cute. So who am I to disagree :)

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) – Movie review

Let’s face it: I’m a fan of Star Trek, but I’m no Trekkie. So take this review of Star Trek: Into Darkness with a grain (or many grains) of salt. I am, however, a fan of Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), Zachary Quinto (Mr. Spock), Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison/Khan), and Canadian icon, British Columbian Bruce Greenwood (Admiral Pike, for those of you following along). And of course, nobody can dispute that I loved Chris Pine even before he became the young, impetuous, reckless, loving, loyal and charming James Tiberius Kirk.

Admittedly, what I loved about Star Trek (beyond the stunning visuals, action-packed sequences and eye candy) was the progression of Chris Pine from gorgeous-eyes, “hey-look-at-me-all-handsome-and-a-born-leader” James T. Kirk to a more subtle, nuanced James T. Kirk. I saw Chris Pine actually showcasing a broader range of emotions, something that demonstrates that the actor himself has grown. I saw James Tiberius Kirk about to shed tears twice (one of them while being given a stern pep talk) and that was moving. Plus, who can fault those beautiful blue eyes… ok, fine. I digress.

While feminists may feel a bit let-down by the lack of involvement of female crew members in the action-packed sequences, Uhura and Carol Wallace (Alice Eve, in a very convincing role) do actually get to do some some butt-kicking. Not as much as I would have liked, to be quite honest, but at least that’s a start.

I enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness because it gave me a better look of a more human Mr. Spock and a more human James T. Kirk. Their friendship is tested (and yes, we all know that it survives and thrives). Witty quips, snarky remarks and comebacks are a dime a dozen in this movie, but that’s to be expected of *any* Star Trek. I loved the action sequences, and I wanted to see more and more.

Of course, it was stunning to see Benedict Cumberbatch being a superpowered human with an amazing superbrain. I also liked seeing Spock touching more on his human side. All in all, I would recommend seeing it if for nothing else, for two and a half hours of action-packed fun.


Disclosure: I paid for my ticket to the movies on my own, and I have absolutely no financial or material ties to the producers/actors/director of this movie. I am just reviewing it for fun. As always, I retain full editorial control over anything I publish on my site.

Los Arcos Restaurant (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

While having seafood really makes me miss Vancouver, I can’t praise Los Arcos Restaurant enough, and it is a restaurant I am going to recommend thoroughly (it also happens to be conveniently located 1 minute and 30 seconds drive from my house, in Aguascalientes). One of the most recent branches of the Los Arcos Restaurant chain (there’s one in San Diego, in the US, and several in Mexico), this is a fantastic place for seafood.

Dia del Maestro lunch at Los Arcos

Not expensive (any dish is anywhere between $90 pesos and $170 pesos, close to $9-17 USD), and really abundant, I went there with my colleagues for lunch to celebrate our day. I ordered a couple of Tacos Bonita (soft flour tortillas filled with spicy shrimp cut in pieces, $30 pesos), and a Salmon a la Diabla (which was $170 pesos, and amazing if I may say so myself).

Dia del Maestro lunch at Los Arcos (CIDE Region Centro, Aguascalientes)

Oh, and who can discount the most excellent tamarind Margaritas ($50 pesos)?

Dia del Maestro lunch at Los Arcos

The decor is cute, with a Mexican coastal flavour, and there’s plenty of space of kids.

Dia del Maestro lunch at Los Arcos

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I would definitely recommend it and come back again. And desserts were just as amazing. The service? Top notch.

Dia del Maestro lunch at Los Arcos

Disclosure: My institution treated us to lunch. As always I retain full editorial control over anything I post on my blog.

Exotica by George Benson

I’m someone who thinks in a very visual way, and who visualizes his life in “Kodak moments”. I think the song that would be closest to my favorite to be played as the background of my life, currently, is Exotica by George Benson. Perhaps one of the richest, more complex, and nuanced smooth jazz song I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, Exotica certainly embodies the soundtrack of a life like mine: full of exciting sounds, flowy, flirtatious, ethereal at times, and deeply rich other times. For your listening pleasure, Exotica by George Benson (from YouTube).

Feria Nacional de San Marcos 2013 (National Saint Marcus’ Fair) [Aguascalientes, Ags.]

As a new resident of the city of Aguascalientes, I can’t claim that I have done everything folks do when living in Aguascalientes. But one of the things I knew about the city even before moving here was that this was where the biggest fair in Mexico took place, the Feria Nacional de San Marcos (Saint Marcus’ National Fair). The fair itself is incredibly busy because it’s super big. Instead of being located just in one big area (like the Leon Fair), it encompasses a vast majority of downtown Aguascalientes, through the longest corridor (from the Isla San Marcos, a small island that has a little lake and a large set of rides, all the way through to the Feria San Marcos official site, near J.M. Elizondo and Lopez Mateos.

De nueva cuenta la Feria Nacional de San Marcos consolidó su lugar de privilegio: CLT

Photo credit: Gobierno de Aguascalientes

There are a lot of activities in Aguascalientes during the Feria Nacional de San Marcos, although the problem for me is that because it’s so crowded, it becomes really overwhelming. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth visiting.

Ana Cristina Wheelock López es la Reina de la Feria Nacional de San Marcos 2012

Photo credit: Gobierno de Aguascalientes

La Cita by Galy Galiano

Most people who read my blog know that I have danced salsa professionally and that I taught salsa in my younger years. Recently, I had the opportunity to dance salsa again, at my cousin’s wedding, and I danced one of the songs I always loved: La Cita (the date) by Galy Galiano. Galiano, a Colombian singer, popularized salsa (somewhat ironic since salsa isn’t really Colombian) to an extent beyond what many other salsa singers had achieved. La Cita (the date) is a song about a man who arranges a blind date with his cheating (female, in his case) partner. The lyrics have a bit of a sting, considering that in one of the phrases, Galiano writes “so, come now, get naked and turn off the light for an instant, and make love to me the way you do with your lovers. I swear that today is the last time you laugh at me and cheat on me”. While not thrilled with the actual content of the lyrics, the music is astounding, so I hereby present to you: La Cita by Galy Galiano.

* Lyrics in Spanish in case you’re interested (Source: Music dot Com)*

Pasa y siéntate, tranquilízate
al fin ya estás aquí, qué más te da
Imagínate, que yo no soy yo
que soy el otro hombre que esperabas ver

Un desconocido que te ha escrito verso
y te dibujó la luna, en un trozo de papel
Un amante improvisado,
misterioso, apasionado
que te dió una cita, en este hotel

Desnúdate ahora
y apaga la luz un instante
y hazme el amor, como lo haces
con esos amantes
Te juro que hoy es la última vez
que te burlas de mí
que me engañas

Y fueron mis manos
las que te escribieron la carta
Han sido mis celos
los que te pusieron la trampa
y es mi corazón
el que llora de pena por dentro
Pero te dejo y me marcho, para siempre

Imagínate, que yo no soy yo
que soy el otro hombre que esperabas ver

Un desconocido que te ha escrito verso
y te dibujó la luna, en un trozo de papel
Un amante improvisado,
misterioso, apasionado
que te dió una cita, en este hotel

Desnúdate ahora
y apaga la luz un instante
y hazme el amor, como lo haces
con esos amantes
Te juro que hoy es la última vez
que te burlas de mí
que me engañas

Y fueron mis manos
las que te escribieron la carta
Han sido mis celos
los que te pusieron la trampa
y es mi corazón
el que llora de pena por dentro
Pero te dejo y me marcho, para siempre

Desnudate ahora y apaga la luz un instante
y hazme el amor como lo haces con esos amantes
Te juro que hoy es la última vez
que te burlas de mí
que me engañas y me hieres
Y fueron mis manos
las que te escribieron la carta
Han sido mis celos
los que te pusieron la trampa
Fue sorpresa para ti,
hallarme en el cuarto
en lugar de tu amante
palideciste y te pusiste muy nerviosa
Desnudate ahora y apaga la luz un instante
y hazme el amor como lo haces con esos amantes
Es mi corazón el que llora
de pena por dentro,
pero me marcho para siempre, para siempre
Y fueron mis manos
las que te escribieron la carta
Han sido mis celos
los que te pusieron la trampa
Imagina que soy tu mejor amante
hazme el amor y luego adios

The Broken Christ (El Cristo Roto, San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)

One of the challenges of moving to a new city and being a host to foreign visitors (well, so far all Canadian and all from Vancouver) is that very little is available in the way of English-language information for foreign visitors in the state of Aguascalientes (or the city of Aguascalientes, for that matter). And whatever little is available is usually not presented in the best form. So I have now come to realize that I am the one who will have to write in English about the wonderful things there are for foreign, English-speaking visitors who might come to Aguascalientes, either to visit me or to visit on their own, much as I did for Vancouver, and British Columbia.

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto One of the things that I was told was a must-see was to travel north-west of the city of Aguascalientes to a little town called San Jose de Gracia, which is the home to the largest dam in central Mexico (the Presa Plutarco Elias Calles). From the outset, when you arrive to San Jose de Gracia (you need to drive north towards Zacatecas and turn left once you arrive to Pabellon de Arteaga and drive towards San Jose de Gracia), you would think that the dam is actually a reservoir or a lake. But once you are almost in the midst of it, you can totally see the wall of the dam. It is within this dam that the island of the Broken Christ (el Cristo Roto) is located.

The Broken Christ has an associated legend with it (notes in Spanish from the Wikipedia page) and a poem as well. Legend says that around the independence of Mexico time, when the image arrived into the church in San Jose de Gracia, it arrived broken, and that it spoke told the would-be seller to leave him broken so that he would always have a reminder to think about his brothers and sisters without opportunities, without limbs. While I’m not really religious anymore, I found the inscription incredibly motivating and humbling.

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto

To get to the Broken Christ island, you need to take a little boat (I took Airdrie when she visited me and JT when he came down just a couple of weeks ago as well as my Mom, so in total I’ve visited 3 times).

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto

The area is well staffed and transportation is really inexpensive ($28 Mexican pesos or less than $2.50 USD per person per trip). Obviously you can also rent cabins, and a longer ferry trip which costs about $200 pesos per person or so. There is a restaurant (Las Playas) and several smaller places for food. There is also a little bit of an artificial beach, and the Island of the Broken Christ is considered a must-visit in Mexico when visiting Aguascalientes.

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto

El Cristo Roto (San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)

El Cristo Roto (San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)

Overall, I enjoyed visiting the Broken Christ Island, and so did every single one of my guests. So I would strongly recommend that if you visit the city of Aguascalientes you take a chance to come visit. You can also get to San Jose de Gracia by small van or “pesera” as they are called in Mexico.

Remembering @Penmachine Derek K. Miller on the anniversary of his passing

May 3rd marks both a joyous day (my brother’s day) and a really sad one (my dear friend Derek K. Miller’s passing). As regular readers of my blog will know, Derek blogged for 4 years about his stage 4 metastatic cancer. Derek’s Last Post went viral with over 16 million hits in less than a week. Derek’s wife Airdrie is one of my best friends (and she recently came to visit me in Aguascalientes). Thinking of Derek always gives me happy thoughts and I miss him terribly. Derek, missing you today. Air, L, M, Hilkka and Karl, I’m thinking of you today too. Much love always.

Best of 604-097

Me, Derek and Airdrie at the Best of 604 Awards

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