On Our Way

We’re on our way –  Portland, Oregon to Geneva, Switzerland via Newark, New Jersey on the friendly skies of United. Getting up at 2:30 am and leaving for the airport at 4:00 wasn’t easy after going to bed at midnight. It would have been better to stay up.


We left Newark at 5:45 pm (2:45 Pacific) and will arrive in Geneva at 7:30 am their time. With about 14 hours in the air overall, that’ll be 10:45 pm west coast time.

I’m ready to give up trying to figure out what time I’m on and accept that it’ll be a long day before reaching our hotel in Wassen, Switzerland.

After spending the last several years flying Alaska the change to United is welcome. With the first flight partially full, an aisle seat, no one in the middle, and the boys behind me with plenty of room, everyone was happy. With the new mood lighting, comfortable seats and a beverage cart that came by several times, the five and half hour flight went quickly. On the other hand, the flight to Geneva is packed, seats are smaller and the walk through first class to board reminds you there are better ways to travel.

One pleasant surprise is the United Hemisphere magazine. After years of reading about Alaska’s destinations, 50 things to do in Cabo with kids and numerous ads on how to look tens years younger in ten weeks, Hemisphere offers a wide range of topics, some off beat, some amusing. There was an article about a mouse taxidermy class you could take at a pop-up mall in London. Evidently it’s pretty popular and not just any taxidermy class. It’s anthropomorphic, with the outcome being mice doing human activities – like a mouse posed at an easel painting a picture of a cat. The teacher asked one student what he was going to do with a less than successful, misshapen mouse, he simply said “Mother’s Day”. A gift only a mother could love.

The next article was about Data the robot standup comic. Developed by a Carnegie Mellon doctoral student, the robot is programmed with jokes and is calibrated to respond to the audience laughter. If there’s just a few laughs after a long joke, Data uses an algorithm to judge the response and then throws in a one liner.  The machine is also used to develop information on how people and machines work together.

And last , there’s the travel section – hiking in England using a pre World War II guide book called country walks. As the young couple using it discovered some things change like new malls, power stations and lack of mile posts, but they still found winding gravel paths, bubbling brooks and grassy knolls, just as described. They also had the benefit of smart phone GPS when they were completely lost. At the other end of the spectrum was three perfect days in Chengdu with ping pong at an ancient shrine, peacocks and pandas and Zodiac themed cuisine. Our next stop is not quite as exotic  – Wassen, Switzerland.