The Wild Palms Hotel

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When leaving the US, I stayed in the Wild Palms Hotel. I selected it for three reasons: I’d stayed there before; it is part of the Joie De Vivre chain which I have had good experiences with before; and it was very cheap on Expedia ($77 compared to an average rate in the area of about $150). I learnt some interesting things I thought I’d share:

  • The hotel is ok, just make sure you get an upstairs room. I was woken by mating elephants at 5am two days running because the floors are so thin. Be the mating elephant, not the victim of it! Once I moved to an upstairs room this probably went away.
  • The executive rooms aren’t worth it. I got moved into one of these because of the noise problems. Its advantages was it was away form the road, had a bathrobe (really), and a LCD TV. I don’t watch TV much, so the extra cost if I was paying isn’t worth it.
  • The cleaning service kept “short sheeting” the bed. By short sheeting I mean pulled the sheets up to make the top of the bed look impressive, but leaving the bottom couple of inches of the mattress uncovered. Lots of hotels do this, and I find it crazily annoying.
  • The air conditioner was insanely loud. It was 38 when I was staying there, and every time the air conditioner kicked in I would be woken up by it.
  • Its a lot further south than I realized. It took about 20 minutes to get to work if you took El Camino. Depending on traffic its probably much faster to go all the way to the 101 and then take that. The Lawrence Expressway looks like the best way to get to the 101 from the hotel.

So, overall this hotel was “ok”, apart from some minor annoyances. I’ll keep staying there so long as they’re cheap. If they’re not running a special, then you’re much better off staying further north.

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Does anyone else think its odd

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Does anyone else think it is odd that my kid’s school had a “code red alert” drill this morning? This is where they have the whole school pretend that there is a gun toting maniac on campus, and the class goes to a corner and hides. They practise being quiet while someone beats on the door, that sort of thing.

I find the whole thing just a little disturbing.

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Hotel Max

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When I was looking for a hotel to stay at for SIGCOMM 2008, I had trouble finding one in downtown Seattle which wasn’t insanely expensive. In the end I picked Hotel Max because it was only moderately expensive, instead of insane like the Grant Hyatt. The hotel is interesting because apparently it was quite run down until a few years ago when it was done up. Now every room has its own unique art, and the halls and lobby are filled with different bits of art as well. Very hip.

The room itself is quite small by American standards, which means its about the same size as the room that I stayed in while staying in London a few years ago. The shower and bathroom are literally cupboards off a corridor, but the bed is a full size queen. I’m not surprised about that given the yelp.com reviews.

Given all I do in hotels is sleep and work on my laptop, I like this place. If I had the kids with me I would go insane however. Also be careful to get a room that faces Stewart Street. Mine faces an alley and I can hear the binging noise from the streetcar until about 10pm, and the air conditioning plant from the building next door for a while after that. I still slept ok though, so I guess people turned all that stuff off at some point during the night.

Update: I was wrong. The binging isn’t the street car, its instead the beeping thingie that all underground carparks seem to have here to warn pedestrians that there is a car about to enter the sidewalk. Its very annoying.

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More nuclear bunkers

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Its clear from my past posts that I am interested in cold war bunkers.

I just watched “Lost Worlds: US Nuclear Bunkers”. That’s re-ignited my interest in US nuclear bunkers (as well as cold war history in general). I like the idea of the Lorton Bunker (under a correctional facility 20 miles form Washington DC, and abandoned in only 2001), and I’ve talked about the Greenbrier bunker before.

It’s a pity its four hours drive from Arlington, VA:


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The Greenbrier was secret for 30 years, and kept constantly stocked will all the supplies needed for three weeks of sealed living for 1,100 people. Finally it was leaked by one article in the Washington Post. After the article, the site had to be decommissioned.

Next, they talked about the Palm Beach Florida bunker built for JFK. Tours of that bunker are cheap too — only $10 each. This bunker is only a decontamination shower, and a single room, but I guess you wouldn’t complain if you’d just been nuked.

Finally, there is Cheyenne Mountainwhich used to offer tours, but apparently doesn’t any more.

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Mental note: don’t become a US permanent resident just in case

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To quote from this blog post (its a bit odd that its a PDF, but whatever):

… the new expatriate regime (Exit Tax
Provision) requires expatriates to recognise gain on their assets, and imposes a
new tax on gifts and bequests by expatriates to Americans, This new provision
(styled Section 877A) is an addition to (and not a replacement of) the current
expatriation tax rules of Section 877. Under the Exit Tax Provision, certain
individuals who renounce their U.S. citizenship or U.S. long-term residents
who relinquish their U.S. residence status (collectively covered expatriates)
must recognise gain, or otherwise be taxed, on all their assets on the date they
expatriate. In addition, gifts or bequests they make to U.S. citizens or residents
after expatriation will be subject to tax at onerous estate/gift tax rates.

In other words, if you’re a US resident and you leave the US permanently, then they deem all of your world wide assets sold, and then tax you on the gain. This includes retirement funds, as well as savings. Congress is proposing this as a way of funding tax relief for serving members of the US military.

Its not law yet, but still something I should pay attention to.

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Boston

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I must say that I like Boston. It feels a lot like Sydney, and I hope that Boston is the city that Sydney is in another 200 years. Boston has plenty of history (it seems that America happened here, and the rest of the continent came along for the ride), isn’t too built up (not all sky scrapers), has great public transport, and friendly people. Its too cold though — it snowed a little on my walk to the office this morning.

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Boston

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I am forever glad to be away from Dallas, which seemed to have few redeeming features (although perhaps that’s because I was staying in the worst hotel I have stayed in in the US). I’m now in Boston, where the Kimpton is very nice. It has a hilarious leopard skin print theme, but apart from that is very nice. The meat loaf for dinner last night was fantastic.

I have an idle day today, so the plan is to catch the metro to Boston Common, and then walk the freedom trail. I wonder if I’ll be freer at the end. I should try to remember to take a tea bag as well, and ceremonially throw it in the harbour. Then I can honestly say that I’ve tea bagged for America.

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Arrived in Dallas

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I arrived in Dallas yesterday. This part of the trip is to attend LISA 2007, spend some time on the Google booth, and present a poster about the initial research in my new-improved-previous-topic-abandoned PhD. I’m staying in the same hotel as the conference, the Grand Hyatt.

Staying at the Grand Hyatt has led me to make a conclusion — people mistake expensive for up-scale. I look at the hotel, and its pretty lame: parking is $18 a day, internet is $10 a day, printing is $1 a page, and all the food options are expensive. I can only assume that either they’re not interested in business travellers, or that they’re hoping people will confuse being gouged for being upper class.

Oh, and the room is noisy and poorly laid out. I much preferred The Hampton Inn I stayed at in Atlanta to be honest. Now there was a hotel that understood business travellers.

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Random travel tip: DFW / Dallas Fort Worth

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If you’re flying through DFW and have a layover, then this random advice based on my experience yesterday might help. The airport is huge, but bits of it were built at different times. The D gates were much nicer (and had a better selection of food places) than the A gates. I assume that means that the E gates are even nicer. So — don’t go to your gate too early if its in an older terminal.

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Arrived at Disney World!

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We’;re here at Disney World (at the All stars movie resort if that matters). I don’t really have any comments yet, apart from it talking way longer than we thought to drive from Boca Raton to Disney World. Florida seems to be composed mainly of strip malls, gated communities, freeways, and toll booths. More to report once I have something to say.

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