Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Come To This - My First Blog List: 9 Things I Travel With

At this point in my blogging life, I have finally succumbed to the need to make an actual enumerated list. I've been doing a lot of travelling seeing family and have put a lot of thought into my travel gear. I'm still trying to nail down a good personal backpack that can easily store my stuff that I like to have easily accessible to me on flights, but for now, I have a small sling pack that I got from a trade show. I'd like to find one that isn't as large as the usual backpack as I've found those a little too big for my needs. I notice myself seeing what others are carrying in hopes that I can find some good ideas for this need.
Anyway, without further adieu here's my 9 travel accessories that fit my needs. I present them to help you find some ideas that work for you. Of note, I'm very much a "travel light" type person. I think there's something adventurous being able to make due with a small number of versatile items.

1. Dell 3147





Right now I'm on a connecting flight heading home and am composing this entry on my Dell. It has a ten inch screen and is used as my home desktop (with dual monitors), travel laptop and tablet (folding completely over and with Window 8, it has a touch screen capability). I had it upgraded to 8 GBs of memory and a solid state hard drive (quiet, and very low battery consumption). This has been by far the best computer I've ever had. Thin, light and versatile it fits my needs very, very well.

2. Rolling backpack


This backpack has literally been around the world with me. It is a relatively small carry on that is good for about 3 days worth of clothes. I find that even if I'm travelling for longer than that time frame, I wash my clothes during my travels. I admit that I'm a t-shirt, jeans/short and high tops type of person so the small size works well for me. I usually roll this bag but at times it's been nice to be able to throw it on my back. I've used it so much that I'm looking into replacing it because it is beginning to show some well earned wear.

3. Bluetooth headphones


I settled on the Power Beats 2 but I would consider any bluetooth headphones to work just fine. Wires are a pain and I do like listening to music so this is a great pick up. I use it at home on walks and runs as well. It has a microphone so it also is useful for hands free calls. There's also a few controls to activate some of the features on my iPhone (most notably, Siri). The sound quality for my taste in music is great!

4. Glasses case


I admit that I found this travel hack on another bloggers website: use old glasses cases as places to store your charging cables. I carry two cables (iPhone and micro USB), an SD card, a standard US wall plug and a car plug adapter in it. It's amazing how this can keep those cumbersome wires untangled and organized.

5. Bluetooth folding keyboard


I don't always carry this when I travel but when I want to go super light and forego my laptop, this keyboard is great. I'm pretty old school when it comes to data entry so a real honest to goodness keyboard is a must for any entry greater than a text. I got this on Ebay for less than $20.

6. Ear plugs

On flights the reduction in noise helps with travel fatigue. It's also nice when you want to sleep. I pack a pair in the glasses case I mentioned above.

7. iPhone 5c

This is almost a given. Versatile and portable, a smartphone serves so many purposes I probably couldn't list them all. A few handy apps are Flight Stats (for travel information), Uber in case you need a ride (and it's usually cheaper than a cab), and Google Maps (for directions).

8. Battery powered charger


This can be had for anywhere from $200 to $10 but is one of those things that gives a lot of peace of mind while travelling. With so many devices, besides WiFi one spends a lot of time looking for wall outlets. This little guy can be a lifesaver when you're smartphone is running out of juice. I have a $20 charger that I picked up at WalMart. It has a built in flashlight and does great in a pinch. I recommend something no bigger than your wallet so it doesn't take up as much space.

9. GPS

Even though I have Google Maps on my smartphone I like having a dedicated navigator to save on battery life and data usage on my smartphone. I got a Garmin for about $40 on Ebay. It's slightly out of date but again I use Google Maps as a backup.

OK, there you have it. My list of things I take when I travel. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy travels!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Planes Trains And Automobiles 2015 Edition

This is my random ongoing thoughts as Winter Storm Octavia wreaks havoc on the Southeast. Right now I'm on a plane to Atlanta with a delayed flight awaiting me there. I'll have to find a way to hole up for the night - oh boy!
It started as a family visit to Folsom. I was happily leaving behind what was looking like an extreme cold snap. That cold snap will likely be referenced by my fellow East Tennesseeans as the Blizzard of '15. In California, I enjoyed near record highs in the 70s wishing I had packed more shorts. Via Facebook I was reading on just how bad things were in the South.

"Wow, I had great timing. While the East is getting blizzard conditions, I'm here in Sacramento experiencing a possible record high for President's Day weekend (72 for the high). Nice to be hanging out in shorts and a t-shirt."
Once I saw the forecast for the night I was to return (-3!!!) After some debate, I knew it would be wise to reschedule my flight. The first open flight was to be Friday! I took it thinking that the storm would have passed and it would be just a cold flight home.
"OK there's a distinct possibility my flight to Knoxville will get cancelled tomorrow. My connecting flight is in Atlanta which looks like it will work. Not ever having this happen before, what are my options? Should I take the flight to Atlanta from Sacramento and then change my flight to Knoxville for when all this ice goes away? I would guess that Delta would then have to put me up for a day.
Should I reschedule the whole trip instead? It's pretty hard to leave this amazing weather right now."In the mean time, I enjoyed time with the kids and even got to see my Alma Mater, UC Davis. That was great that even though it has changed and grown, it still had that peaceful feeling I loved. I actually got emotional thinking of all the good times and especially the great lifelong friends I had from there.


Chem 194

Toomey Field - aka The Toom. Great times and memories there.

The Quad. 

Rumors of Hart Hall's demise are greatly exaggerated.


My old apartment. The home to our world famous dance parties!

Friday arrived and the weather, although better is still very rough in Knoxville. I got an email telling me that my connecting flight from Atlanta to Knoxville has been delayed until Saturday morning. My Facebook reactions:
"Agrh!!!! My flight to Knoxville from Atlanta is delayed until tomorrow morning. But my flight to Atlanta from Sacramento is still good for today. Thoughts? Do they put you up for the night if this happens? Provide food? What's the best option and what should I ask for from them? I;'m going to get a call back within 30-60 minutes. I do need to get home and this is getting crazy! Give me your thoughts..."
Sadly, the story I'm getting right now is that my carrier (Delta) doesn't not provide for lodging when a flight is delayed by weather. So currently it looks like I'll be sleeping in the Atlanta terminal.
Some personal reflection halfway through this. First is how emotional all of this is. Seeing family, reminiscing about my college years, and having my schedule change constantly has reminded me of how far God has taken me in this journey of being more like Christ and how far I have to go. Emotions for things that I would just stuff down are now coming to the surface. It's good, but deep in both pain and joy. Anxiety is still a battle for me. My coping is far better in that I can feel it recognize it and get back to the rational but it's still a struggle. Finally, I'm starting to embrace the adventure. Life is full of it when we choose to live the uncharted life. I think there's a need for me to let go and be comfortable being uncomfortable. So I may end up sleeping on the floor at the airport  - I'm learning to be OK with it. I'm warm and relatively safe. God is with and I will find a new way to trust in Him here. More to come...
Made it to Atlanta and tried in vain to get on an early flight to Knoxville. It was booked solid. So I decided to rough it meaning I'm going to sleep at the airport and just "rough it" for the night. Overall, Delta has been helpful considering the circumstances and this is probably a once in a lifetime occurrence where weather was on the extreme side. I do wish they would have offered a hotel - oh well. I did eat a very tasty Chicken Pesto Panini from Atlanta Bread. I also got a cool overnight kit for my trouble. My good friend John was going to talk to me while I wait for the next morning to come. Great guy!
My overnight digs.

This long trek deserved a cold one and catching the tail end of the East Coast NBA games.
It's now morning and my flight may once again be delayed. The crowd here is cooperative but clearly sleepy. My night was periods of sleep with interruptions. Sleeping on the ground was very difficult (hard floor) and the seats were cramped to sleep on. It also got quite cold overnight. Not a great night and I'm sure I have more sleep to catch up on.
After circling Knoxville for 20 minutes we ended up returning to Atlanta! Yes, they needed to refuel and the flight was cancelled. The state has blocked 75 at the border so renting a car is out. Luckily they added another flight so I'm now waiting for that flight and will hopefully arrive at 12:07 PM. God is really teaching me patience.
Last update: the flight did work out, but it took over an hour to take off because they lost the check luggage! The flight attendant was nice enough to start handing out food and drinks (including alcoholic ones - a lot of people appreciated that). Getting to Knoxville went smoothly and a gentleman who lived near me gave me a ride home.
I thought that would be a relief except for one thing: my water line broke during the sub-zero cold!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Three Is A Magic Number


It takes three legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle.
Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don't have to guess.
When it's three you can see it's a magic number.
Jiichan and your big sister, Maddie!


To My Third Grandchild (and second grandson!),

Hello! My name is James Nakamura. By the blessing of having your mommy as my daughter, you are my grandson. You will call me Jiichan. It's the Japanese word for grandpa. First and foremost, I want you to know that I love you deeply. You are a very special person to me and one that I hope to get to know very well. The fact that God created you to be a part of our family is such a joy. Know that I am proud of you and will treasure the times that we have together.


Three is a magic number.
Yes it is, it's a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.
The past and the present and the future,
Faith and hope and charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three.
That's a magic number.

Also, I am just as excited to meet you as I was to meet your sister and cousin. I feel so blessed that you will be in my family and realize the miracle that you have been created as a unique and special person. The cool thing in my mind is that you are number three. Three is such a powerful number that in the Bible it means to be complete. Somehow, God is actually three different people. It's hard for us to understand that, but He is. That just shows how amazing and powerful He is. So you being the third grandchild makes things complete to me (in a sense). Yes, your Jiichan can over think things so let's just leave it at this: I love you very much and it brings me so much joy to know that God created you. Like I wrote to your sister and cousin, I am Jiichan. What does that mean? Well I helped raise your mommy and to me she is one of the most beautiful and special people in the whole world. She brings me so much joy and love. It means that you will have me around to play with, get presents from and someone who will love you and be very proud of you.

3, 6, 9... 12, 15, 18... 21, 24, 27... 30.

Three time ten is... >> 30
Three times nine is... >> 27
Three times eight is... >> 24
Three times seven is... >> 21
Three times six is 18, three times five is 15
Three times four is twelve
And three times three is nine and three times two is six.
And three times one is three of course.

When I was a little boy, I loved Schoolhouse Rock. This was actually how I learned my times tables for the number three so this song always stick with me. Perhaps you will really be into math and we can sing this song together - I'd love to build a robot with you some day. Maybe you'll love sports and we can watch them and play them together. Maybe you'll have an amazing imagination and we can read together. It really doesn't matter to me. I'm just so excited to have time with you.
Your Mommy, Daddy and a special friend

I know that over the years I will shower you with gifts because that's part of what makes me happy is to give gifts to those I love. Most importantly, I want you to know that God gave you the best gift of all. He gave us His Son and He took away all of the bad stuff that is in our lives so that we can be free to know Him and He is truly the most amazing person of all. I hope that as Jiichan, I can love in a way that you will know this truth in your heart.

I'm so excited and look forward to meeting you soon.

Love,
Jiichan

Friday, December 12, 2014

Helmets And Safety (Keeping Your Wits)

Life is a set of risk and rewards. We can break all that we do down to in essence a series of choices. Life also one that we live out from the consequences of those choices. I also choose to live a life that involves risk. Now mind you, I'm far from reckless but also need to know that inside of me, God has placed something adventurous and fierce. For me, that involves riding a sport motorcycle. That also garners me a constant question about the safety of that choice. My choice is based on a few calculated assumptions: I work to keep improving my skill as a rider increasing my safety margin, riding within my skill level and wearing proper safety gear. With that in mind, here's an article about helmet. For what it's worth I will always be wearing a full face helmet.


The Effectiveness of Motorcycle Helmets

Riding a motorbike without motorcycles helmets might give you the feeling of being a hunk. However, you must understand that it is an essential part of your journey, as it can effectively keep your skull safe from minor as well as major accidents. You might be a very good biker; but you may not always be safe from crashes or falls during your journey. Therefore, wearing a helmet is necessary for every rider. Read on to note down the effectiveness of the motorcycles helmets:
·       Face and Skull Safety: Helmets protect the most important part of your body - the head. An injury to it can be fatal. If your body is injured during an impact, the bruises or scars may be less severe than a head injury. Properly certified helmets purchased from a good company, reduce the amount of dynamic energy transmitted to your brain during an impact. This is because the force of the strike is spread all across the rigid shell of the helmet. The inner lining of the helmet absorbs the rest of the force, which could have damaged your head. In addition, helmets also protect your face, ear, and neck largely.
·       Comfort Wear: Good quality motorcycles helmets help reduce the optimal effect of an impact. A layer of foam made of extended polyurethane, polystyrene, and/or polypropylene, forms a cushion inside. These foam pads provide comfort and ensure that the helmet has a snug fit when you wear it.
·       Dust and Smog Protection: While you ride on highways, wear a helmet, as that will protect you from smoke, dust, and strong wind blowing against your motion. It also protects your eyes from various other objects and provides you a clear vision. This in turn helps keep you safe from the accidents that are common on highways for the riders riding without motorcycles helmets.


·       Low Stress: Helmets help a rider reduce fatigue while riding because they improve aerodynamics. Your neck gets extra protection and you don’t feel tired while you ride the bike.
·       Better Hearing: When you ride wearing a helmet, the ability to hear the road and wind noise is improved. In addition, you will be able to listen to other noises far better than the chaos you hear when not wearing it.
Regulation: Wearing motorcycles helmets when riding is mandatory in many countries. Though legally imposed, the logic of compulsorily wearing motorcycles helmets boils down to your safety.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

College Road Trip

Obviously, I am way too old to take another one of those cool college road trips but God, in His amazing way with which He opens doors, allowed me to travel with the Johnson Royals basketball team on a 1300 mile round trip serving in my role as assistant coach. I continue to marvel at the surprises that God has in store for me when I know clearly that it is a blessing that I truly don't deserve. I get to learn more about the game I love and be involved in it in ways that I never would have imagined. Also, in small ways I can live out what God has put on my heart, being involved in peoples' lives hopefully mentoring them and serving them. It's quite joy and one with which I'm sure in many ways I need to grow more in.










Our first stop was to play the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA. Better known as VMI, this is a NCAA Division 1 program with all of the support and talent that comes with a program like this. For a small non-scholarship school like ours, this is known as a "money" game. Teams from higher levels pay the school for us to play to obviously help them in working on their game. For our guys, it's a chance to do something only a few people get: play basketball at the D1 level. I marvel at the fact that I myself can now claim that I have coached a D1 game. The talent gap was quite obvious, the crowd was energetic and it was blowout. I hope that this game was one that each of the players can savor - not for the score but for the opportunity. Having the right perspective and learning how to deal with great adversity is good for character building. They even gave us Gatorade and pizza from a local restaurant after the game. That was a nice gift.




 







The next nice surprise was that the team was offered free lodging at an alumnus' house in town. To call it a house would be an understatement. It was more like a lodge or even a small palace (eight bedrooms, a man cave, large dining room and a master bathroom larger than my condo). The Thomas' were beyond generous hosts who not only provided housing, but that evening gave us an early Thanksgiving meal. With Turkey and all of the trimmings, it was a nice gift. I felt so blessed to meet such generous people. They had the wisdom to know that God has blessed them so that they could be a blessing to others. An added blessing for me was they had two fluffy white dogs that I couldn't get enough time to enjoy. It was like having two Mazies (my Great Pyrenees).


"The Load-Out" by Jackson Browne
And these towns all look the same
We just pass the time in our hotel rooms
And wander 'round backstage
Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
And we remember why we came...

We got time to think of the ones we love
While the miles roll away
But the only time that seems too short
Is the time that we get to play

The bus: our home away from home.


Lots of time sitting around.






Game film at the hotel dining area.

Part of the life is finding time to wash uniforms between games.

A youth football team doing their game film.




To say that college basketball is all glamour and ease would be false. I'm not complaining in the least, but  small college athletics involves riding on a bus; very long rides. From Knoxville to Lexington was a good five hours and another five or so hours was required to make it to our next destination: Valley Forge, PA. Having college aged men requires frequent stops for food as well. Passing time can be a challenge so I resorted to sleeping, watching movies on my tablet and texting friends. I find it very interesting that in these days of smartphones, the players found ample ways to pass the time.

A road trip is not complete without some unforeseen "challenge". For this trip, we were not directly involved. The women's team bus hit a deer. Thankfully, nobody was hurt with the unlucky deer. Their bus on the other hand, had front end damage and needed to have the radiator replaced. This meant that we ended up sharing the bus we were travelling in while we were in Valley Forge. Before the trip, we had hoped to make it to Philadelphia and possibly New York City. Although we tried various ways to work around the bus sharing, it didn't work out. We were fortunate enough to be across the street from the King Of Prussia Mall which is the second largest mall in the US. That ended up being our down time entertainment for the stay.


I would like to say that our team fared well but sadly the outcomes weren't what we hoped for. I do see improvement. I appreciate their team first attitude. They're a young team (one Junior and the rest are sophomores and freshmen) so growing pains are evident. We challenged them to give it their all and I believe they responded well. We are close to getting to where we need to be. I know that can be said for me as a coach as well.

With our last game played, it was loading the bus at 9PM and driving all night back to Knoxville. Trying to get as much sleep as possible is the goal for us not driving. It's not the most glamorous life but one that I never thought I'd live out. The strange part was that the next day we were right back on the court for a game at another local college. It seems like the mantra is always "hurry up and wait".
Right back at it the next night after 13 hours on the bus.
The interesting thing for me is that I am still amazed that even at middle age, God is still teaching and revealing things to me. I have new adventures to live out and more that I must grow in. I'm thankful for a group of young men who are sharing a small part of their lives with me.