Content here is by Michael Still mikal@stillhq.com. All opinions are my own.
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Tue, 30 Jun 2009



The Wild Palms Hotel

    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.

    Tags for this post: travel usa california sunnyvale review
    Related posts: Did I mention it's hot here?; Summing up Santa Monica; More reviews; Book reviews; Noisy neighbours at Central Park in Mountain View; So, how am I getting to the US?

posted at: 14:25 | path: /travel/usa/california/sunnyvale | permanent link to this entry


Tue, 19 Aug 2008



Hotel Max

    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.

    Tags for this post: travel usa washington seattle hotel
    Related posts: Paul Allen's Science Fiction Museum; Ice hotels again; I think I've worked out the problem with the hotel network; In a holding pattern; On hotel Internet that sucks; Beware the concierge at the Rendezvous Hotel!

posted at: 16:25 | path: /travel/usa/washington/seattle | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 03 Jan 2008



More nuclear bunkers

posted at: 20:29 | path: /travel/usa/virginia | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 27 Dec 2007



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

    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.

    Tags for this post: travel usa tax permanent resident
    Related posts: Is my cat deductible?; On the flood levy; US tax withholding for W-8BEN

posted at: 10:20 | path: /travel/usa | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 19 Nov 2007



Boston

posted at: 09:58 | path: /travel/usa/massachusetts/boston | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 18 Nov 2007



Boston

    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.

    Tags for this post: travel usa massachusetts boston freedom trail hotel
    Related posts: Boston; Ice hotels again; I think I've worked out the problem with the hotel network; Quicksilver; On hotel Internet that sucks; Zodiac

posted at: 06:41 | path: /travel/usa/massachusetts/boston | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 11 Nov 2007



Arrived in Dallas

posted at: 07:46 | path: /travel/usa/texas/dallas | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 05 Nov 2007



Random travel tip: DFW / Dallas Fort Worth

posted at: 05:49 | path: /travel/usa/texas/dfw | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 21 Oct 2007



Arrived at Disney World!

posted at: 16:16 | path: /travel/usa/florida | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 20 Oct 2007



A busy couple of days

posted at: 19:35 | path: /travel/usa/florida | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 30 Sep 2007



Noisy neighbours at Central Park in Mountain View

    Its 5am my time, and I've been awake since 3am. Not from choice though -- its the downstairs neighbours waking us up yet again. They're shift workers you see, and must either sleep with construction hearing protection on, or be deaf. Either way, they seem to think its ok to stand outside our apartment at shout at each other at 2am, or slam doors at all hours, or listen to music so loud it vibrates stuff in our apartment basically all night.

    We've asked them nicely to turn it down (we used to get on quite well with them at first). We've asked the complex to please do something. We even rung the complex security folk when its happening, and asked for some peace. Its really done nothing to help -- they perhaps turn the music down for 30 minutes until security leaves, and then turn it right back on again.

    So, we've run out of ideas, apart from ending the lease early (which will cost an unknown amount of money), and moving somewhere else. We're so serious about doing that that I have started looking around Craigslist already.

    Perhaps the floor between apartments is too thin, because the bathroom fans this neighbour leaves on for literally days at a time also vibrates things in the apartment, but either way I think Central Park has pretty much failed to provide us with a livable apartment. We don't want a lot, just some peace after 10pm like the complex rules say we should get.

    Grumpy.

    Tags for this post: travel usa california mountainview apartment
    Related posts: So, how am I getting to the US?; What are we doing with the pets?; Please report to the municipal hall of justice; Andrew is a loony; Packing; All airline tickets now booked...

posted at: 05:08 | path: /travel/usa/california/mountainview | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 09 Jun 2007



How do you spot the Australian kids in an American playground?

    They're the ones wearing hats.

    Despite it being noon, the various American kids at the playground all lacked sun protection. In fact, they pretty much all lacked practical clothing, it was all way too dressy. Americans don't seem to have figured out skin cancer at all in fact, every weekend there are bikini clad young ladies sunning themselves around the pool, the schools don't require kids to wear sun protection, and it's pretty common to see outside workers not wearing any sun protection either. How odd.

    Tags for this post: travel usa skin cancer sun protection
    Related posts: Damn Interesting; Random idea

posted at: 16:20 | path: /travel/usa | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 22 Mar 2007



Dentist

    I went to the dentist for the first time in the US last night. It was a pretty odd experience. 19 xrays (apparently that's standard here), a TV set on the wall where they showed me the tooth which needs a filling, and then showed me the filling after it was done, photos of my teeth with a digital camera so they can show me before and after in a few years. Heck, they rubbed lotion on my lips for me so that I wouldn't have to suffer at all by keeping my mouth open for more than 30 seconds.

    The best bit? They came up with a written estimate before they did the filling, and made sure I was ok with the whole thing before they did any work.

    I think I like the dentist here.

    Tags for this post: travel usa dentist
    Related posts: Catherine had her wisdom teeth out today

posted at: 12:00 | path: /travel/usa | permanent link to this entry


Sun, 04 Mar 2007



I am sometimes amazed by the childlike political discourse in the US

posted at: 09:59 | path: /travel/usa/politics | permanent link to this entry


Sat, 24 Feb 2007



Summing up Santa Monica

posted at: 08:15 | path: /travel/usa/california/santamonica | permanent link to this entry


Thu, 22 Feb 2007



Santa Monica

posted at: 09:18 | path: /travel/usa/california/santamonica | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 01 Jan 2007



There is a reason Ikea is crowded on the weekends

    It only just occurred to me the other day, but I now know why Ikea is so crowded on the weekends. Sure, the cheap furniture is attractive, but I think it's also go something to do with:

    • Free child care
    • Free nappies and baby change facilities!
    • Bathrooms which are actually designed to be the right height for kids
    • Cheap food
    • Even cheaper food for kids


    Basically it's just such a pleasure taking the kids there, and they have suck a good time, that I keep finding excuses to take them there. This time it was $6 worth of plastic buckets that I could just as easily got from Target down the road.

    Now, if only someone would open a similarly kid friendly cinema. I'm sure such a thing would make a killing too.

    Tags for this post: travel usa ikea kid friendly
    Related posts: Free kitchen designer from Ikea

posted at: 09:06 | path: /travel/usa | permanent link to this entry


Wed, 27 Dec 2006



Reactive economies?

    The other day while in Costco (for the foreigners, think Bunnings or some other hardware warehouse, but for food), I was graced with this conversation at the checkout, between two Costco employees:

    e1: Where the hell is e3?
    e2: Oh, we didn't meet our sales target yesterday, so they cut hours today.
    e1: So he's not coming in at all?
    e2: Nup

    Apparently Costco works out their staffing based on a "budget for the day" which takes into account todays sales target, expected customer load, and whatever they have to "make up" from previous missed targets.

    While there is nothing wrong with that, it must suck to be an employee in that environment. I can't imagine not knowing how much work I would have day to day. I used to be a casual, but our rosters were fairly static and worked out weeks in advance. I guess that Australia is headed down this path with the new industrial relations laws as well.

    That's not why I finally got around to writing this though. It occurred to me this morning that being able to lay off people instantly based on a micro assessment of the economy must also lead to very reactive economies, which are more vulnerable to downturn. If Costco couldn't lay people off instantly, then the billion dollar company would act as a cushion between small variations in economic state and the rest of the economy. Without that cushion, the laid off employee goes home and spends less (being unemployed for a day and all), which has a big knock on effect for the rest of the economy.

    I wonder if there are any studies on the probability of this being a problem compared with countries with more employee protection like Ireland? France probably goes too far for such a study, because the barrier to firing there is so high that it acts as a barrier to hiring as well.

    Tags for this post: travel usa economics costco

posted at: 08:48 | path: /travel/usa | permanent link to this entry


Mon, 25 Dec 2006



When in San Diego, visit the aircraft carrier

posted at: 09:40 | path: /travel/usa/california/sandiego | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 22 Dec 2006



Tempe, AZ to Mountain View, CA in a day!

posted at: 14:29 | path: /travel/usa | permanent link to this entry