Security Musings

Security Musings

Information Security Travel Guide

Stephen Northcutt, an Information Security Researcher, United Airlines 1k, Writer and Instructor, documents the struggles of the travel and hospitality industries as we all face continually increasing energy costs. He and his peers share their travel experiences and give you quick tips and short reviews of the companies they do business with as they travel. If you came across this article because of a Google search, what you want is probably here, just use find with your browser (CTRL - F), it is easier than reading from top to bottom; however, you may get some useful tips if you stick around and read. Each major cluster of trips is documented in a separate file.

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Information Security Travel Guide Edition 12 - Stephen Northcutt

By Stephen Northcutt
infosec travel 12 new

Infosec Travel Guide Version 12

Stephen and Kathy Northcutt, your faithful security travel guides, are getting ready to leave Kauai for Boston, Richmond VA, Athens and other parts of Greece, VA Beach, San Diego and I am told, back to Dahlgren VA. Along the way, we will report on what we see and do, exceptional restaurants and travel tips.

[Friday July 31, 2009] Last day on Kauai for a long time

Everything but my carry on is packed. I have traded in my iPhone for an HTC FUZE; the iPhone has crashed three times and I am concerned about the security on an iPhone. I landed late last Saturday from my last trip and after church headed downtown to upgrade my technology. I had the iPhone backed up with iTunes, but when I reloaded the contacts, the phone crashed again; all I know is I got an inscrutable text message with nothing but a square box and it was downhill from there (kidding about the box). The sales guy was not sympathetic:
“Sir you are past your 30 day return window, there is nothing I can do, AT&T provides the service, but Apple makes the rules. We sold you the phone at a discount, you would have to pay full price, that is a thousand dollars, before you can move to another phone.”
“Sir, if the phone doesn’t work, your service does not do me any good.”

I do not know if I owe AT&T or Apple a big set of thanks, I did fill out the Apple survey about how pleased I was with their tech support (FAIL). The guy was nice enough, but he didn’t fix my problem and then left the call to go help other people. Anyway, someone rigged things so that when the clerk looked at my account at the AT&T Store he was astounded:
“It says you can upgrade with no penalty.”
“OK, then, let’s get a new non-iPhone.”

I am struggling to learn the HTC FUZE that runs Windows Mobile. I am utterly clueless how to do most things with it, but it answers email and works as a cell phone, and I am told it can edit spreadsheets and such, we will see. I am glad to be off of the iPhone; yes, I loved it as well, but with everybody and their brother using it and some signs that security was not a major factor (if you turn on Bluetooth you have to be discoverable), I think an iPhone worm is just a matter of time. I may jailbreak the iPhone, trying to decide what makes the most sense. Then, off to the Verizon store. I have a broadband card for my laptop and this is how I get online while on the road, but Kathy cannot get online as well. At a recent conference, Mike Poor showed me technology he has that is an upgrade on the USB card and works as a mini WiFi, called a MIFI 2200. We have it working in the office and I can't wait to try it out on the road.

[Sunday August 2, 2009] In the heart of Boston

The eleven hours of flight time was tiring, but I got some sleep on the plane. United 31 on July 31 left a bit late, but managed to land early. We managed to score first class and they were quite attentive bringing water the entire flight. We had a short layover at SFO and boarded United 226 to Boston. Didn't get the upgrade, it was a full flight, the flight attendants earned their pay, but were courteous and attentive. We bought the cheese plate for breakfast and got it for six dollars instead of nine since the only thing the credit card machine knew how to charge was beer. So, if you see my Visa bill, I don't actually drink beer at 7AM.

The taxi guy didn't want to take us, felt we had too many bags, but the guy controlling the line told him he could try or get in the taxi queue again. The Grand Hyatt Boston is a short drive from the hotel, taxi was less than $20.00, and what an outstanding location. We are two blocks from Chinatown and two blocks from Boston Common. We ate at the Black Seed (Greek) Saturday night, it is a bit of a hole in the wall, but they do great Souvlaki and they did a good job on the Tilapia. For brunch on Sunday, we visited the Kingston Station, generous portions, try the scramble or eggs benedict. Tonight, we will certainly eat in Chinatown. We spent a couple hours hiking the area, Chinatown and Commons and bought a bottle of 2005 Vat 8 De Bortoli Shiraz from Deluca's. Tomorrow we enter conference mode with Boston 2009 and there will probably be gaps in my reporting, because conference mode is such a blur.

[Saturday August 08, 2009] #SANSBOSTON 09 Completes, headed for Richmond VA tomorrow

Another conference in the barn, I enjoyed my students, good crew. My laptop did not crash, I am slowly learning to use my HTC FUZE, and the Verizon MiFi 2200 has been flawless, so technology smiled on me.

Good to Great Boston Restaurant Experiences

We ate at Shabu Zen twice, a very good hot pot restaurant, great food, great prices, wear something you can splash liquid on. We also visited Peach Farm in Chinatown, this is a seafood restaurant, we had a sea bass that the waiter deboned at the table, or at least tried and soft shell crabs, I give it a good, but not quite a great. The portions are certainly generous and the house fried rice with seafood and charsu pork was outstanding and the wait staff was certainly attentive. The food just wasn't quite what it could be. A fun discovery was UFood Grill, this is a chain I had never experienced, but I am glad to have found them. Take the time to really read their menu, they use a lot of organic food and try to be healthier than the average restaurant. You can do tofu, or you can do a low fat burger. I particularly liked the grilled sirloin tritip with steamed broccoli and sweet potato mash. We ate there twice. I didn't think the 3 bean cheddar chili was up to par, I would try a bit of basil and sundried tomato to make it pop, but enjoyed everything else. NOTE everything can be customized, so read the menu and decide what you want and ask for that especially if you are ordering a sandwich. After class on Friday, my class went to Cheers, boy has that place changed for a drink and appetizers. Friday night, Kathy and I walked down to the Fanueil Hall area. We ate at the bar underneath Durgin Park, Whitehorse or some such and you can order off the Durgin Park menu. They had a 1.25 lb lobster for 14.95 special, what is not to like about that. We also shared the grilled seafood platter which is quite generous, the grilled sole and scallops were my favorite entries on the platter, yum. Best of all, we had the place to ourselves. Only problem, the waitress was not motivated by the empty tables, so she gave us terrible service, I gave a ten percent tip. I worked very hard this week, no time off in the evenings, it was either giving talks or business meetings. I slept in late this morning, that is rare for me, but I think I was pooped. Need to watch out not to get too tired on the road. The weather has been glorious and we have walked up and down and through Boston when we could steal some time and that was fun. I have a biz meeting with Dr. Eric Cole in an hour and then think Kathy and I can do one more stroll through the city and try one more Boston Restaurant.

And the winner, the five star experience, was just tonight. The job is done and it is down to packing so we wanted to celebrate a bit; we went to Radius at 8 High Street. It is a bit pricey, but not bad and the quality is there through and through. Extensive wine list includes helpful sommelier. We settled on an Edmeads Zinfandel 2005 from his Ciapusci vineyard, the oldest vineyard in Mendocino County, now we are talking old vine! We got the last bottle they had, apparently the restaurant can only get a case at a time and that is when they can get a case at all. Kathy and I both settled on the prix fixe choices and they were excellent, we both had the green papaya salad and the monkfish main and the dessert plate. It was good, it was very good, it was what you expect, but you do not always get. The service was impeccable, even when I asked that they speed up the close and present me the bill with dessert, they did not miss a beat. We got there right at 6 PM and had the restaurant to ourselves which is an awesome experience. We had to come and leave early, a pair of my teaching pants developed a small hole today and we are on the road for eight weeks and I needed to purchase a replacement pair at the huge Macy's a block from the restaurant before packing tonight. What a memory, what a shared experience with Kathy, thank you Radius.

Less Pleasing Boston Restaurant Experiences

Business meeting at the Union Oysterhouse. Famous tourist place, really loud and frenetic. Wait staff literally running which leads to dropping of plates, so there is even more noise. Of, course I should know to avoid 7PM, the peak for a restaurant. Still the Basque mussels and grilled sole are great food, but expect more atmosphere at that price point.

Ivy Restaurant was the worst experience though. It was recommended by the hotel, the idea is interesting Italian Tapas style, but it did not work out so well, They are noisy, poor service, second string food that you wait a long time to receive. If you are young, like noise and you like to wear black and be somewhere that thinks it is hip and do not know good food from mediocre food then this is the perfect place for you; you will have a good time. If you are an experienced business traveler, stay far away. The wine was Lady Bug Red 2006 and I think if it had another 30 minutes to breath, or if they used one of those new aerator gadgets it would have been better, but I was having a hard time believing this was a Zinfandel (it isn't, the menu is misleading, it should say table wine ) and reject totally the idea it is old vine. The meatballs in Fettuccine were like rocks, the pasta was OK, but it was totally soaked in sauce. The Sea Scallops over Risotto were not bad actually, they just did not rock and everything else being sub par dragged them down a few points on the experience meter. I will say the bread was very fresh and yummy. This was one of those experiences where you ask for the check as soon as your food arrives and leave a half bottle of wine behind because both it and the place you are in are not worth savoring.

But what took the cake was Sunday morning, August 09 at the Boston airport. We decided to eat breakfast at the airport, I always feel better after I have cleared security. We stopped at the Boston Beer Works, don't let the name throw you, they do not serve alcohol till after 11:30 A.M. on Sunday in Mass. (it is not just a good idea, it is the law). I had the BBW Benedict and Kathy had the Veggie Omelet, food was good, but the waitress apparently escaped from a sitcom. Inna, slammed drinks down, didn't hand out silverware, had her back to us the entire time, she wins the worst waitstaff in 2009 award. The receipt says their webpage is, but I was not able to open a web page by that name.

Reflections on the Hyatt Regency Boston as a conference hotel

The worst thing I have to say about the hotel is that the shower in an executive suite should have a shelf large enough to hold a bar of soap AND a small hotel size shampoo. But if that is the worst thing, this is a pretty good hotel, in fact it is excellent. I love the location, love walking around Boston in July, August and September. They only gave my room a newspaper the first day, but there were papers down by the front desk and I do not mind picking up a paper. The elevators can get congested, especially when huge flight crews are all in motion at the same time, but they were fast and in pretty good condition. I never ate in the hotel restaurant, sorry, I try to do that, but had to be here and there. We did have food in my room, we supplied lunches for the students with above average hotel food at this event for Management 512 SANS Security Leadership Essentials. The hotel catering folks were very attentive and their timing is down to the minute. We are going to end the practice of supplying lunches as of SANS CDI 2009 (I was hoping my students would bond, but they just take their food back to their table and read their email all lunch). My new hope is that if students have to go out for lunch, they will go out with one another and I am going to try to lead the charge on this.

Kathy, Kate and I did meet up in the Hyatt lobby bar for 20 minutes, they claim they have an extensive wine list, but they must have handed me the reader's digest version, smile. No problem though, call me crazy, but if I am in a Hyatt, I usually order the Canvas, it will never win an award, but does not disappoint and the price is moderate for a hotel. The hotel staff tries hard, they get the customer service thing and it shows, so I give high marks to Philip Stamm, the general manager. From a conference perspective, SANS and the Hyatt Boston have to learn to dance together better, but that is perfectly normal for a first time and I am personally glad we are coming back. The thing that speaks volumes is that my conference manager tells me whenever anything came up they fixed it instantly.

[Sunday August 09, 2009] Richmond VA

We managed to fly from Boston to Richmond VA on United. The main flight from Boston to IAD went OK, but when we got to IAD it was bad. First the flight was oversold, it was the third oversold flight I heard in the announcements of the day. I wonder what happens to people when nobody takes the volunteer offer; shudder. The United Shuttle to Richmond was initially listed as running late, but then they came up with another aircraft and only read slightly late. I called James Limousine as we were boarding to update them.

Our small Richmond House

It was great visiting our small mainland layover spot in Richmond VA, In the past if we had three days between events we flew back to Hawaii and then on to the new event. The new plan is to dive into Richmond if we only have a few days. We met up with our son and went to dinner at Texas de Brazil Churrascaria. Great restaurant, I love the format of the Brazilian steakhouse. This was well done, the chicken Parmesan and the lamb were outstanding. One small problem, kinda funny, Hunter is young, a strapping Marine, handsome guy, so the waitress, also young and pretty was very focused on Hunter, that part is good. However, she never seemed to be able to refill my water. I had a good time, it is a good restaurant, but you diminish your tip and diminish your review on the Security Travel Guide blog if you do not give service to the guy paying the bill; I have never said this before in my life and hope I never have to again, but you know what the t-shirt says, Old guys rule.

Monday, I really pumped it out for SANS, there is a course correction we need to make, I hope we can make the right adjustments, it is midnight and I am still pounding this keyboard before the trip to Greece. Tonight I cooked for family. Kathy did the shopping and I pulled the meal together, seems a bit like iron chef, but we have worked together for a long time. We did langostino tails over rice and veggies, sockeye salmon topped with a spicy tomato sauce, portabella mushrooms, kalamata olives and a lamb and steak grill, good fun.

[Tuesday August 11, 2009] Getting ready for Greece.

Trying to finish odds and ends, have a few phone calls to make and packed for Greece. Packed very light, using a big carry-on as my checked bag and I think I will bring my laptop, I have been wavering both ways. I do not have the time to plan a bunch of this so we gave Viator a try. Our first tour will be Santorini with Hermes en Grece.

[Wednesday August 12, 2009] Stranded in Richmond VA Airport (RIC)

United Airlines just canceled my flight, United 7973 that was supposed to leave at 2:07 P.M. Not sure why United canceled my flight, but hopefully it was for a good reason, not just a pilot upset about his hat. They rebooked me on another flight that leaves at 8 something P.M. That is an entire plane full of people that will not make their original connection. You would think they would have mobilized a bus before leaving that many people stranded, but that is what it is like to travel in 2009. We were in line over an hour to rebook our flight, but no problem there, we had no place to go. So, lunch was the next order of business. The classic Barbeque place that served both North Carolina and Virginia style has closed, bummer. We dropped into the Applebees in the airport, Kathy had the grilled shrimp spinach salad, I had the 9 oz. sirloin steak ordered medium, arrived somewhat past well done. The waitress brought super strong tea, no lemon, not enough ice, tipped 10%, gonna be a long nine hours in the airport, but I need to decompress and this is one way to do it. Speaking of food, I wonder why they did not offer a voucher, however when we went back, they were kind enough to give us two $11 vouchers.

Wisdom from the net, when United cancels your flight.

On Twitter we read: United canceled my flight to Chicago, but when I called they let me grab an earlier one. Their new phone system ROCKS. @UnitedAirlines I believe the phone system he is referring to is easyupdate. I do not want to deal with updates for all my flights, but you can select a particular flight.

Here is a guy, Jian Shuo Wang, going from San Francisco to Shanghai and his flight got canceled. He got vouchers for food and a hotel room for the night.

Consumer Traveler has a cautionary tale, weather cancellation disrupting a guy's vacation and when he went to see about a refund for the canceled flight, he discovered United had not canceled the flight in his record, and had also canceled his return ticket. I believe that, in this cancellation, they told us we had business class all the way, but when we got to the gate United had booked us on the back of the plane.

Here is a story similar to my own, "Of course a call to Lufthansa tells me its United's problem. They (United) offered to refund my miles and the price of the ticket or put me on another flight(s) that would add almost twelve hours of travel time to Riga." There is a risk of using the star alliance because they do not really honor one another except in perfect conditions. has a story showing the dangers of using low cost web travel agents and booking across multiple airlines, if everything is perfect you will be OK, but if anything goes wrong, "CheapTickets contacted the airlines and told me neither Continental nor United would "protect" me, and CheapTickets wouldn't do anything to get me to my destination, either. So two days before my trip -- on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year -- a ticket I'd bought nine months earlier was useless and my trip canceled."

United will still book you on another airline according to their contract of carriage, many of the other carriers will not do that.

Travel Tip: this is hotly debated on the net and so do you own research, but I think that buying the ticket from United directly is safer than from a Travel Agent. Also, if you can get a direct on United instead of a code share with a Star Alliance partner you are far better off. Even if the direct is a couple hundred dollars more, you can make that up in stress reduction.

And back to our canceled flight story

We made it to Dulles (IAD) and raced for our connection. Wouldn't you know our arriving gate was at the very far end of the A gate, we had to cross the entire distance. We went fast, knowing there was not much time, and A was, as always, very crowded. And when you are in a hurry you get behind every guy talking on his cell phone while moving slow. Our big piece of luck was catching the transport vehicle for C gate; we had 18 seconds before door close. They were already boarding when we got there, but we zipped up to the red carpet and got on board to try to make sure there was carry-on space.

It was a good flight and a good crew. It was a bit bumpy, but not too crazy. I had the beef shortribs, Kathy had the express meal. Then everyone settled to sleep, Kathy conked out, I had zero desire to sleep. I tried several times, but I was wide awake by some fluke. I had purchased one of those post Frank Herbert Dune books, but it was too stupid to read. I left it on the plane and watched movies to pass the time. I saw:
Fast and Furious, fun, no social redeeming qualities
Star Trek, I still like this new crew a lot
Dragon Ball or some such, stupid and mildly controversial, but I was tired enough to be vaguely amused

[Thursday, August 13, 2009] Pedaling as fast as we can to get to Greece.

We landed in Frankfurt. Now we have to get our tickets straight since we missed our connection due to the canceled flight. We queued up at the United sign at the ticket transfer desk. A lady in a Lufthansa uniform said she could not help us. We needed to go to United's ticket counter. We finally found it after standing in yet another line that said United manned by people in Lufthansa uniforms. The lady there gave us two paper coupons with she stamped INVOLUNTARY and sent us to the Lufthansa. The lady there could not book us together, but we both had aisles one behind the other, that works.

Lufthansa tickets say there is a maximum of one piece of hand carried luggage, but they did not enforce that on our flight, Lufthansa 3382; Kathy had two. They also say to only board when your row is called, and then did not call any rows. Kathy caught on that there was no way that many people were in first and business class and we got on, luckily early enough to store our bags, even row 6 and 7 have less legroom than United's Economy Plus.

They served lunch, it was actually one of the better airplane tortellini's I have ever had, probably the very best and we got a free glass of wine; not bad. After 30 hours of travel, Kathy and I both conked out on this flight. It was a very fast descent into Athens, glad I put in Earplanes brand earplugs at the first hint of descent. They warn you about taxis in Greece and ours gave us the wrong amount of change. I will try to arrange a shared van back to the airport at the end of the trip, we were tired and easy marks.

Hilton Athens

At this point we are really tired, it is about six P.M. in the Athens timezone. I like the Hilton, clean, friendly, comfortable, though pricey. I borrowed a power adapter from the hotel, the label on my travel set had me pack the wrong adapter. They made a big deal about how power in Greece is 220v, apparently some guests have zapped their devices, but this Dell Precision M90 has been traveling the world for almost three years, it worked just fine. Kathy wanted to visit the outdoor pool, it was your classic resort scene, lovely young girls sunning and slowly leaving as the sun dipped lower, fat old men and women watching them. It really wasn't my scene and I didn't feel like ordering a festive drink with an umbrella; I decided to get on line while Kathy napped at the pool.

Had to disable my personal firewall to DHCP an address, odd, but it worked. It was 11 Euros for an hour, but money well spent. Our Santorini tour operator Hermes en Grece requires a phone call 24 hours in advance, they are very clear they will cancel if you do not call, but we were on jets. Diane covered that for us, she used an international calling card and it was about 44 cents to make the call.

Travel Tip: When traveling internationally, consider booking the trip and using a shared email box, like Yahoo or Google. You can give the password to a close friend or relative. That way they can monitor travel news. You can always change the password when you get back. Needless to say, it is wisest to have an email account you only use for travel or your friend or relative may receive an unintended email.

Travel Tip: Consider using International phone cards, leaving one back in the USA for the same friend or relative that is monitoring your travel email and use one for you to call back to the USA. Yes, I understand your cell phone works in most countries, but that is going to cost a lot more than a calling card unless you have the world's most awesome plan.

It was about 9 P.M. Kathy and I had both scanned our email with the hour of connectivity I bought and we wanted to consider dinner. We were too tired to do anything but use the hotel. The Hilton has a buffet they call Byzantine, it was clean, quiet and the service was friendly and attentive. They have a nice salad bar and cold plate, a reasonable set of entrees for a buffet with several fish selections and an awesome dessert section. The buffet is pricey though 43.5 Euros works out to more dollars than I spend in two trips to a restaurant, but it was nice to have little tastes of well prepared food. We also sprung for a bottle of water, that adds 5.5 Euros to the bill, but it seems to be the standard in Mediterranean countries. When in Greece . . . Finally, we sent our bill into orbit by adding a bottle of wine, one of the more modest choices, but we wanted to try a local wine. We chose a Katiogi Averof, a Cabernet/local grape blend. We want to drink all local wines while we are here. Starting tomorrow, we will focus on Santorini vintages. The wine was good, enjoying it together was fun and it ended up being a wise choice, we both plunked down and went to sleep immediately after brushing our teeth.

[Friday, August 14, 2009] Santorini

We both slept through much of the night. I woke up at 4 A.M, an hour before wakeup time, we have a 6 AM hotel pickup to transfer us to the ferry to Santorini. So at 4 A.M. I did something a bit rare for me on travel, I took a bath, I almost always shower on travel. But the tub at the Hilton was big enough and it was an opportunity to sweat out toxins. I also killed a 1/2 liter of water, I try to hydrate early while I still have the hotel bathroom. Bathrooms can be far and between while you are on the road.

Our tour sent a taxi to our hotel at 6 A.M. I decided to get some coffees and muffins at the hotel, 15 Euros, a bit pricey. It is far smarter to eat on the Ferry, their prices are 50% or lower. Our ferry is operated by Hellenic Seaways. We were not assigned seats together, but the couple behind us moved and we got an aisle seats one in front of another, travel is like that, trips often have their theme, in this case front and back aisle seats. It is a long trip, I did not realize how long it was going to be. There is almost nothing to do, there are some TVs, but the volume is low and they are small. The smart thing to do is sleep, the Greeks party late into the night. However, that was not working for me, so I worked on getting this edition of the Information Security Guide. After a few hours the kids started being a nuisance running up and down the aisles and screaming and yelling, I wonder if it is better in business class, probably. At this point I realized I had screwed up when I booked everything, we were going to spend as much time on ferrys as we would on Greek Islands. Not to worry though help is on the way.

In a way the long ride reminded me of being in the U.S. Navy. I served on aircraft carriers that serviced the Mediterranean sea. I spent a lot of time riding back and forth as the time passed slowly.

Our hotel in Santorini is the Loucas, it is entirely different than any other hotel I have written up in the Security Tour Guide series. Let's start with check in. The ferry arrives and then you have to find your ride if you have one set up. There are hundreds of people getting off of the ferry so it takes some doing. These vans service several hotels and after a tour of Santorini, finally they drop you off. It is too far for you to take your luggage they say, someone will meet you. A gentleman comes and puts Kathy's duffel on his backpack and takes two pieces. He seemed miffed that I kept one of the check bags, but it was so easy. You wander through the shops, it was a very busy day, so it was hard to keep up with them. When you get to reception you realize the Loucas is built out on the cliff overlooking the boat landing at Skala. What a scene, blue ocean waters, boats, islands, quaint white houses built up and down the cliff. At check in, Maria was looking through our materials. She did not approve. "You are leaving in three nights to go back to Athens, then two days later you are riding the ferry to Mykonos? That does not make any sense. Who was your travel agent?"

I hummed and hawed because the inept travel agent was me. I booked Greece several months ago. We had decided to take a vacation. Kathy was maxed out, she had made the reservations for the flights to Greece, but had not had the time to do anything else. While we were down in Fort Lauderdale and she had a tooth going bad. It turned out to be a happy story, she got first rate medical care unavailable on Kauai and is in much better shape, but the evening I set the trip up, she was writhing in pain. I jumped on the Internet and booked the tours with Viatour. They try to do a good job, but all they can offer are packages from other operators. If you want to modify the package, it turns out you have to contact one of these operators. Now that we were in Santorini, with these unworkable reservations courtesy of you know who, the hotel took action. Maria they called the local tour operator and they called the tour operator that works for Viator, Hermes En Grece. Then Dimitri also from the hotel got in the act. In the end, it cost a small amount of money to work it out, but we did, one more night each in Santorini and Mykonos and more importantly two very long ferry rides off the table. My hat is off to Hermes and if we come back to Greece, we will call them first. The close came with a phone call in our room from Irene at Hermes, "I have your hotel rooms taken care of, but you must act fast, there are only 18 seats on the ferry from Santorini to Mykonos on the 18th". We zipped up to the local tour office and got the tickets taken care of. Kathy and I are deeply grateful to the staff of the Loucas hotel, to the local tour operator, Pelican Tours, and Hermes en Grece. If you want to visit Greece, I strongly suggest you make contact with Hermes.

After getting the tickets, we bummed around Santorini for a few minutes, it was after 3 PM and shops start closing. We got some Greek fast food, a salad, this is peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, a block of feta and some olive oil. I am not the biggest fan of raw tomatoes, but they were so very, very ripe, I ate most of mine. Then on the way back, we ran into another rip off. The shop keeper beckoned us in for some cactus juice. Problem number one, they serve it over ice and we have been told not to drink the water here. And it was ten Euros each, a big rip off. So if you are in Santorini near the donkey ride to Skala, avoid the cactus juice sales guy at all costs and remember to ask what something is going to cost before agreeing, this place would be far nicer if they got rid of the rip offs.

When we got back to the Loucas hotel, it was four P.M. time for a nap. That is the pace of life here, you nap in the fullest sun and then get up for sunset. Kathy woke me up as the sun was setting. Do you remember I told you the Loucas is not like any other hotel I have described in my writings? Well the differences start here. Sunset in Fira is a BIG DEAL. You have to experience one to understand. People line up in advance to get a good spot on the wall. We did not have a need to do that, our room has a terrace, it is huge, I think it is bigger than the hotel room itself. And the sunset is truly an awesome experience. Hard to explain, but if you are thinking yeah, yeah, another sunset, you are missing the message.

Then out to dinner, we decided to eat in the hotel the first night. They have the Aris restaurant. It is basically an Italian format on one page of the menu, Greek on the next. It was good food, superb atmosphere with a very friendly waiter. I suppose I was a bit off putting. I wanted a table with electricity so I could plug in my laptop. We are so far down the mountain from reception that the wireless does not reach our room even with my external antenna. Since the week was coming to a close in the U.S. this was my last chance to interact. I know, people say not to get your laptop out on travel, but I have these relationships with other security professionals and instructors and we just do not go off line that often. I promise I will vacation more and more and you will see days skip on the trip, but for now it isn't time to totally unplug. After dinner, we walked down the fifty or so steps from the restaurant to our room. Yup, you are on the slide of a cliff, no elevator, no handrails. Needless to say, we watch our alcohol consumption before heading to our room. We ordered a bottle of local Rose at the restaurant, but no way we finished it, the waiter left the cork, we can have the last few glasses of wine just before bed in the safety of our terrace. When we settled in for the night, our terrace mates were also having a local wine so we shared so we could each taste a half glass of one additional wine. I hope I do not make anyone really mad at me, but so far the hit great of good Greek wines has been a lot better than Italian wines.

[Saturday August 15, 2009] A big fat Greek holiday

I have no idea what the holiday is, and without Internet, I cannot look it up, but supposedly it is a big one, I know it has something to do with the Virgin Mary and in a country that is 95% Greek Orthodox, that is big stuff. We woke up and climbed the stairs to breakfast. It is a beautiful day, nice and cool, gentle ocean breezes, lovely muted sun as it climbs up the other side of the island. Breakfast is including in our stay and it was a fine one, not just continental, they threw in a lovely mushroom omelet as well. We have a tour scheduled for today, it is a beach trip ending with a wine tasting. The reason we use tours is for the transportation. If you try to arrange your own car, it will cost you far more and it is more of a hassle. That is in an hour or so. I washed my clothes before breakfast, the hotel is willing to do it and their prices are reasonable, but with this huge terrace and sea breezes everything dries in a heartbeat, it is actually easier.

Travel Trip: Travel with a length of rope and learn a few knots. I use my rope to tie bags together when I need to move my bags. It is far more versatile than the luggage straps that come with some bags. It can also be used as a clothesline. Mine is about four feet long, but experiment and see what works for you.

Travel Trip: If you ever break one of those plastic hangers with the clips, do not throw the clips away. They make awesome travel clothespins to keep your clothes from blowing off a line when drying clothes.

We went down to the meeting place by the hospital for our tour, this is the island tour, they take you to the museum of the island's earliest cultures which were strongly influenced by the Crete Minoan culture. Then, through some of the towns, to the highest spot on the island ( great views ) then down to the black sand beach and finally, a visit to the local Santos Wine Winery. This is a coop of over a thousand farmers pooling their grapes. The grapes in Santorini are truly unique, the farmers usually do not string them up, instead they grow them low to the ground. As the vines mature, they shape them into a basket and the grapes form on the inside, this is to protect them from the strong winds. Mostly they focus on white wines, but this winery produces a 12.5% red, called Mavrotragano, it is possible that you will never taste it, they only produce 1,800 or so bottles a year. I also learned that none of the plants gets watered. There is an amazing water shortage on Santorini, they have to bring water in by boat. That is probably the reason we were told to drink bottled water, anything could happen with a supply chain like that. I enjoyed myself, the Best Restaurant, at black sand beach was not bad. Kathy had the Santorini salad and the fava bean dip. I ordered the "fake meatballs" with Tzatziki on the side. The meatlessballs are made from sundried tomatoes and flour and then fried. Very fun and a huge portion. I have been working on meatlessballs recipes for years, but can never bring myself to use a fryer which really makes it easier. I also ordered the Greek platter, a bunch of local favorites, most of which I did not recognize. We both had a glass of local Rose with lunch. I must say, this trip has made me reevaluate my opinion of Rose. I will do some reading and make some cautious purchases when I get back. We then hit the beach, Best charges 9 Euros to rent an umbrella and two beach chairs, but they give it to the tours for 6. You want the umbrella! Even with SPF 70 on, we got some sun and we were careful all day favoring the shade when possible. It was fun swimming, the water was cooler than I remembered, but it was a scorching hot day so it was very, very refreshing. If you get a meal with Best, they let you use their shower, that was nice. There are no changing facilities, so you see all these incredible contortions. Either someone needs to give classes on the surfer towel trick or Best Restaurant could make a killing with a changing booth.

The black sand beach was interesting, the girls seem to prefer skimpy bottoms ranging from thongs to Rio cuts and many of them really shouldn't, but it is the beach and all in fun. One of the big things I learned on the tour is how many hotels I would NOT want to be staying in, despite the endless stairs and having limited Internet, this hotel rocks. However, the rooms vary, suggestions include 33, under the restaurant, but plenty of Internet and a great terrace; the three upgrade rooms 45 - 47; the suite if you are dripping with money; 38; 15 is a unique cove style room with a private balcony, but that one, like 36, has two twin beds instead of a double. Finally, 24 has a huge window, private balcony, but it is just under the bar. I have found a few more hotels that seem to be cliff side and in the downtown location, the one next door is Scirocco, seems a bit run down and next the Fira Porto Suites and from what I can see from here it looks to be in good shape. If you want the same scene, but quieter, on the opposite side of the stairs to Skala, there are some lovely cliff hotels in a residential district. It would be about a quarter mile to restaurants and the like, but quiet at night. We got back a bit after five, the sun is just too strong, but just like the guidebooks say, people are already trying to find their spot on the wall. It will be time for the sunset ritual to start in another 20 minutes, I bought a half bottle of Mavrotragano at the winery, I used one of my tasting chits to give it a try. It needs to be served cold, but we have a few slices of Fouantre ham, a crisp bread and a local cheese. We had one glass of wine before dinner, put it back in the refrigerator ( the hotel Loucas supplied our room with a fairly sizable refrigerator) and go out for a meal sans appetizer and come back and have the final glasses. For supper we ended up at a hole in the wall, Elia, but they had a grilled seafood mixed grill for two, and that hit the spot.

[Sunday August 16, 2009] Happy Birthday Volcano

Right outside my hotel window is a very unimpressive volcano, Nea Kameni. However, looks deceive. It looks like it is only a few hundred meters above sea level, but its base is 2 kilometers down, so it is under everything. Santorini, called Stongili, or circular, at the time, used to be a circular island. But the volcano blew up taking a bunch of the island with it, the force of 100 atomic bombs. We jumped on a boat tour and hiked to the top of the volcano. It is a dusty hike, stay on the trail, sturdy shoes, closed toe preferred, there are tons of small rocks that get into even the most advanced hiking sandal. Bring water, but be aware there are no bathroom facilities and almost zero privacy, use the facilities on your boat before starting the hike. Next we went to the volcanic hot springs. This is lukewarm yellow water, not sure what the attraction is, but it is a way to get the dust off. Next, we went to Thirassia, a sister island for lunch and another swim. Captain John's restaurant seems to be a cut above some of the others, but a tour boat is just like a bus, everyone shows up at once. Get off the boat early in the line, choose your restaurant, don't dally looking at the menu, get your order in and you will have time to swim. Last they went to Oia, this is another cliff city, overpriced, not much to do, if you have the option of not adding that part of your tour, coming back to Fira makes more sense. Anyway, on to the volcano party.

Exactly how they determined what its birthday is escapes me, but the celebration is a big deal. We were lucky, we befriended a waiter at the hotel who reserved a table for us with a volcano view. There were people everywhere. Many of them wanted a seat at Aris restaurant, but they had not booked ahead, as I said, this is a really big deal. Kathy and I took our food to our terrace and gave one young couple our table, after all we have an even better view from our terrace than the hotel restaurant has. There were over a dozen ships watching the display including three cruise ships. The fireworks are five miles away, so they are a bit small, but they work very hard at them. Our display was a simulation of a volcano. They managed to create some long burning red effects and then worked from there. After they finished the display from the volcano, several sites on Santorini answered back with their own fireworks. When the display is complete, the serious drinking begins. If you walk through the city at 4 A.M., the last of the parties are winding down and there are bottles everywhere. By 8 A.M., all is clean as if this never happened.

[Monday, August 17, 2009] Down Day in Fira

Today, we want to walk the streets, shoot some photos, be quiet, maybe visit one of the churches. It seems like we have been going and going and need to down shift. My laundry from yesterday is already dry, it is nice to be at day 18 of a trip and have zero dirty laundry, the stuff can accumulate very fast.

Travel Tip: Always travel with at least one plastic coat hanger, you can save hundreds of Euros by washing your own clothes when possible and save time as well. The heavy duty plastic coat hangers are far more useful; the thin ones break easily.

Travel Tip: One shirt that has performed well for me is a John Ashford 100% rayon. It is comfortable to wear and washes neatly. Mine is a Hawaiian style print. I see Hawaiian style shirts just about everywhere I go in the world, so having one as part of your travel pack probably makes sense.

We mostly focused on shopping for souvenirs for friends and family today. We tried to avoid cliche items and shop carefully, I hope we did well. Jewelry is very interesting, if you are going to buy jewelry in Santorini, make a decision not to make a purchase until you have visited three shops. Get the range of prices and see how far they discount. They are very friendly so negotiating is not hard. First they give you an artificially high price, then they discount that. If you hem and haw, they will discount again. Try that in a few shops and you will see what the price you are going to have to pay is. Also, some of the shops offer a glass of wine, do not accept, it can make you feel obligated to buy; you are not. After shopping we had lunch at Naoussa. It is a Greek restaurant for Greeks as opposed to a tourist focused location, but they welcome tourists. Kathy had Tzatziki, Fava bean dip and baked Feta, I had the lamb in lemon sauce, slow cooked for hours, bone in. It was served with lemon potatoes, very nice, a bit more food than I could eat, but I was appreciative.

[Tuesday, August 18, 2009] Transfer to Mykonos

Tomorrow, the plan is for us to get up, eat breakfast, pack and transfer to Mykonos. According to hotel Loucas, we have a transfer left and they are negotiating with our travel agent to use it tomorrow. That would be nice, saves money and protects you from crooked taxi drivers as well. We had a leisurely breakfast and said goodbye to Mohammed, our friendly waiter who was a seasonal worker from Egypt. The hotel sent a might man to carry our luggage up 119 steps from room 36 to the top. I tipped ten Euros for that feat. And surely enough the hotel had arranged a transfer, so we got on the bus, every seat was full; how do they manage to do that every time? They ended up reloading my laptop bag which I had carefully placed in the bus cargo area. Sure enough when we got to part Athina and opened the cargo door my laptop bag came flying out. However, I was not too worried, it was very well packed and when I restarted it in Mykonos there were no problems.

The ferry was late, we ducked into one of the coffee shops and found a table, no mean feat, those things are packed out. Finally our Ferry came and we loaded up. Because we had traded in a trip to Athens for a trip to Mykonos, we got upgraded to premium. We had a table and there were two college students from Italy on the other side of our table. The wind was howling and it looked like it was going to be a rough trip; it was. One of the girls lost cookies a couple of times, but we made it. I am told it was a bit rougher down below when they pack them in. That is where we will be on our way back to Athens, but it is all good, we will work through it. We did not have a transfer arranged at Petasos Beach Resort, I think because the hotel has a shuttle, but we did not know that. However, we found the taxi stand and soon enough we were on our way. It seemed like a very fair price, 12 Euros. Yayyy! I have not an infinite amount of sampling, but it does seem like Mykonos has honest taxis. It was getting late five thirty or so P.M. or 1730 as they say here. We wandered down to the beach front tavernas to find a late lunch. There was a place on the corner of the road and the beach that caught Kathy's eye. She had the fresh fish special, we have no idea what fish it was, they say it was similar to marlin, I had the seafood souvlaki style. It was exactly enough food. We took it easy that evening, hopefully tomorrow we can go out dancing.

[Wednesday, August 19, 2009] First Day in Mykonos

I am beginning to see just how awesome the Hermes en Grece tour folks are. When I first saw the Petasos Beach Resort, my thoughts were OK, interesting, could be better. The resort is very nicely done, modern, stone floors, plenty of room, our patio has an ocean view. However, after traveling today through Mykonos, I see how nice our location is. We do not have the best room in the hotel, our patio has a view of the ocean, but it is limited, that is what happens when you book with a tour service, but they saved us hundreds of Euros over direct booking, a very fair trade and it is a fine room. The bathroom has a deep tub and a huge glass window looking into the bedroom, must be a new thing, my room in Japan at the Hotel Nikko had it as did the Athens Hilton. Anyway, plenty of space, anything that you need. Breakfast was wonderful. It is self service, many of the tables are oceanfront, fresh fruit, cereals, eggs and meats, pastries, a very fine breakfast.

After breakfast and an hour of writing, we caught the water taxi to Elina, 7 Euros apiece. I cannot tell if it is a return trip or not. The guy made us get off, I was hoping to ride back with a lay of the land. I loved the boat ride, but wanted a bit more ride. He said he would be back at 1630 (4:30 P.M.) It is apparently a nude beach, but we did not hang around to find out. We had a nice coffee at the one taverna on the beach and a taxi drove up so we took advantage of that and headed into Mykonos town. A fairly long drive and it was 13 Euros which seems very fair. It is an interesting place, I somehow missed the art colony, but it is only 1.4 Euros by bus to try again. Clearly a tourist location, Souvlaki shops, Crepe shops, T-shirt shops and Internet cafes are everywhere. We had lunch at a Souvlaki snack cafe, OK, not great, and caught the bus back to the hotel. During the hottest, brightest part of the day, we usually head inside if possible. So I spent a bit of time writing and Kathy journaled and took a nap and we headed back outside at 1530 (3:30 P.M.). Swimming in the ocean was fun, but I had forgotten how cold it was. We are more or less in the warmest weeks of the year and good thing, or I am not sure I would get in the water. We came back to the pool through the outside entrance, showered, got just a bit of sun and did some swimming in the saltwater pool. I showered again and got a bit more sun and partly dried off my swim suit so I did not drip.

We ate in the hotel's restaurant. It was good, but it has no chance of being a going concern. The first problem is location, it is deep inside the resort, good for keeping people who should not be there at breakfast out, but bad for business. Also, the menu is priced at about twice the cost of the ten or so competitors within walking distance, and most of these have ocean front tables as well. Finally, the portions are small and this is Greece; that cannot work as a business strategy.

[Thursday, August 20, 2009] Blowing off Delos

We had a tour booked, but we canceled; we got up early for breakfast and then went back to bed. Now that is vacation! We had a late lunch at Nikos, Kathy had the Crab and Avocado salad, (warning, fake crab), I had the Chicken Souvlaki. We are waiting out the peak sun and will go out later, like yesterday - it just makes sense. We took the 1520 Water Taxi to Paradise Beach and ended up at the club. I think the food and drink prices are perfectly reasonable. Until 1700 (5 P.M.) you can get the really comfy chair / tables just by purchasing food and a drink. However, after 1700 when the "party" starts, they push alcohol heavily at those tables, where "big bottle" means a bottle of vodka or Champagne. So, it is better to move to the wicker chairs; we enjoyed the party for several hours, but people never started dancing, just the GoGo girls, so we went downtown to Mykonos to the clubs. That was a slow start as well, so we headed back to the Hotel Petasos; Kathy said she was hungry, so we dropped into one of the beach front restaurants at the Hotel Kosmoplaz. It was a shade pricey, but the service was impeccable. I had the Lamb Oregano which was served with those fabulous Greek baked lemon potatoes. Kathy had a vegetable and pasta dish. Good day. As soon as we got back to our hotel, Kathy fell asleep. In all, another fine day on Mykonos.

[Friday, August 21, 2009] Our last full day on Mykonos

We had another lovely breakfast, which is included in the room rate at Hotel Petasos. Then, we set up the computer at the pool and Kathy downloaded her pictures, she has quite the set. I checked my SANS email. Then we got a swim in, and I caught up on my blog.

[Saturday, August 22, 2009] Ferry to Athens

Another great breakfast at Petasos Beach Resort. We grabbed one last swim in their salt water pool and they arranged transportation to the port for us to pick up High Speed Cat 5 to Athens. The seas were rough again, but fewer people got sick. The ferry ride from Mykonos to Athens went a lot faster than the ride from Athens to Santorini. Our tour operator Hermes en Grece had arranged a transfer from the ferry to the hotel, so that was one less time we had to endure being ripped off by a taxi driver in Athens. We got to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus on the way to the hotel. After we got checked into the Hilton, we took off for Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in Athens. It is near the hotel. So we started the walk up the hill. And then the stairs, oh boy, more stairs, but we were Santorini trained, so it was no big deal. Not ten stairs but a hundred or hundred and fifty. Then you have an option, you can take a cable car for about six Euros each, or you can walk up the hill and climb more stairs. If you want to be buff, save the money, but it counts as exertion; almost everyone who walked it was sweat-soaked and you have a very cool breeze at the top of the hill. However, we paid the money and rode the cable car. The view is phenomenal. You see the Acropolis, Alsos Skopeftiriou, Arios Pagos, you name it. After a brisk hill climb we were hungry, and I didn't feel like dropping a hundred Euros to eat at the hotel buffet. I saw a very interesting possibility across the street from our hotel. It is just before you get to Goody's and Starbucks and it is covered in trees, a pretty neat feat in Athens. It is called the Aropa or Agopa and the website is Very nice, combines the casual and the elegant. I had pub food, chicken drumsticks with a nice mustard dipping sauce, a small salad and country style fried potatoes, Kathy had a Cretan Barley Rusk salad.

[Sunday, August 23, 2009] A day in Athens

We really only had two goals for the day: the National Art Gallery, since it is across the street from the hotel, and the market at Monastiraki. However, without a fridge in our room, such as the one we had in Santorini and Mykonos, we were not sure the bread and cheese we brought from Mykonos were any good, so we also wedged in a visit to Starbucks to grab some food and coffee and also check our Internet. It is not free here, but the guy gave us a card good for two hours which was really nice. On the way, we noticed there is a Best Western hotel less than 200' from the Hilton, you might be able to save some money there, but keep in mind the Hilton has the largest pool in Athens. Anyway, we picked up the Metro at Evangelismos station ( ask about the 24 hour pass ) and rode it to the market. There is a major excavation going on, so you get to see lots of ancient buildings; you can even tour them if you want to, but in the past two years, Kathy and I have had the fortune to see a lot of ruins and we skipped the opportunity. DO NOT buy anything within sight of the Metro station at Monastiraki. You will see it all again and again, and for half the price, if you will just walk a quarter of a mile into the market. One of the surprises was quality art. Everything I saw in Santorini and Mykonos was very primitive, the art scene simply is not developed. We dropped into a couple of galleries in the market at Monastiraki that just blew my mind. Clearly original work, not hand highted giclu00e9es like the islands and there is a style developing. Very exciting. Remember, a big open market with shops and street vendors is also pickpocket heaven. If your hotel has a safe, the Hilton does not, leave your passport and the bulk of your cash in the safe. Only bring one credit card shopping.

Speaking of art, if you are building a house or doing a significant remodel and would like to discuss having all original art, feel free to contact me. Kathy and I worked together to do an art installation in our Richmond home based on our trip to Italy. We would be happy to discuss doing something with you based on Greek Island architecture and motifs if that fits in to your plans. We could do all the 2D stuff ourselves and then do a trip to Athens for the 3D stuff. Anyway, enough commercials, we also met a very interesting jewelery store operator. Now, I am sure you know the drill about buying baubles in tourist areas. They mark the pieces up to the stratosphere and then tell you they are doing you a favor giving you 40% off. Never, ever, buy in the first shop you go to; at a minimum, check three. Also, if you see the same piece in many shops, it is almost certainly being produced in China. You can save a LOT of money buying it over the Internet or really haggling. If you have saved up for a handmade piece, do your homework, look at some of the more expensive pieces in shops, ask what their best price is and then walk, just say something like, "we need to think it over." They will welcome you if you come back. You can use cash to get one more discount, but do not mention it until the very end. Anyway, this one seemed more fair and reasonable and honest than most of the shops we walked into,, or call 210 3217948. We had a great time meeting the general manager, Eva Dede, and maybe we can set up a reception for them in some of the hotels we are working in anyway. In all, the market is fun, and Sunday is the day to go.

We got back to the hotel and got in one last swim, it was combat conditions. The hotel sells memberships for 10 Euros a day to locals. You can usually find a reclining chair, but you may not be able to find them in the sun, and worse, the hotel has Ginko trees, famous for their dirty socks smell. Of course, we went to swim, not to sun, but it is good to lay in the sun for a couple minutes to dry off after you swim and shower, so you do not drip water all over the lobby, but the Ginko trees took the fun out of it, so I went in to work on my blog. Kathy came in a few minutes later and we had some quiet time and made tea; the Hilton, unlike our island hotels, has a tea pot.

For dinner, we walked an entirely new direction opposite of the Lycabettus Hill and towards the Taboo Dance Club billboard (no, it is not a strip club, it is a dance place for young people, keep in mind English is a second language in Greece). There was a lovely square with lots of restaurant choices and while most of them turned out to be pub food, we chose the Palmie Bistro, a nice Euro chain. The big menu decision was rice offerings versus fried potatoes, I was very tired of fried potatoes by that point. Kathy had the Tandoori Chicken with yogurt sauce, I chose the Pork and Mushroom Sauce. Great service, great prices, great music, I think that chain could succeed in the USA.

Fire in Athens

We were not impacted by the fire, but it was clearly a big deal. Almost all of the Greek TV channels were covering the fire. We saw the smoke, but it did not impact us, it was very high, it looked like a cloud. We wish them well and hope they can get the fires under control.

Visiting Greece Economically

Looking back, I can see that there were a number of things we could have done to save money and still have a wonderful time, so here are my best suggestions for visiting Greece at the three star level and saving money:

Invest in an international calling card so you can ask questions and see about options. Use the Internet and find a respected tour operator, I would be happy to use Viator again, they can negotiate discounts with hotels and the like that you can't as an individual. Calculate about what the room rates are and pay attention to the extras, like breakfast and transfers from airport to hotel, and such. You will need that information when you talk to the tour operator. Find out who the actual tour operator is. For us, it was Hermes en Grece, if we come back next summer, the first thing I will do is call Irene of Hermes at +30 210 6072 150. The more you can get included and locked in up front the better off you are IF you know what you want and do not want. Kathy and I look for tours that give a lot of free time, we don't like being marched around, but opinions vary. Athens is cool, but you only want to see it as a tour package, and make sure to stay out of taxis in Athens, those guys are the biggest crooks since Richard Nixon was in the White House. For the meals on your own, do a few picnics, you can always find a park bench with a nice view and there are lots of mini markets in Greece. When you do decide to enjoy a restaurant, don't tip like an American, round up your bill, if it is 36 Euros, pay 40. Also, they seem to pad the bill somehow or another here anyway, if you order three things, your bill has five, they probably charge for the bread or something, I will try to research that.

[Monday, August 24, 2009] Flight from Greece to Richmond

0300 (3 A.M.) wake-up, ouch. We were packed from the night before. Checked out of the hotel and poured ourselves into a taxi. It was about 40 Euros, there is a price increase at either 2 or 3 A.M. We had no problems checking in at the Lufthansa counter. They were able to give us tickets all the way to Richmond. Flight was on time, we slept through breakfast on the plane, but when we got to Frankfurt, Lufthansa honored my gold card and we were allowed to use their lounge. Very nice! Magazines, newspapers, grilled sandwiches, fruit, cereal, even wine, beer, and coffee (though we said no thanks to either class of dehydrating fluids). The soda machine had a selection that was carrot juice plus something else called multi-vitamin that was yummy. Frankfurt Airport is maxed out and needs a new terminal. To catch our plane, United 917 to IAD, we needed to get on buses, go out to the tarmac, and climb the stairs up the 777. No problem. Flight was close enough to on time, we were still pretty sleepy. The inflight meal was very flavorful, clearly a lot of work had gone into the selection of food under the guidance of Charlie Trotter and also the wine. I said what the heck and had a glass of the Pinot Noir, Kathy had a glass of the Cabernet, a Jindalee from Australia. Service on the plane was good, and they kept the water coming. There was one flight attendant that was a bit of a pill, but she self gravitated away from us, yayyy! They did screw up the movies so that the only movie showing after I was finished reading was The Great Buck Howard. I really do not get that movie, but I fly enough that I have seen it a few times. Finally, enough people brought it to the flight attendant's attention that they started the other movies. I watched Wolverine, X-Men Origins, incredibly stupid and very entertaining, *grin*. We landed at Dulles and our seats 13A/B were right next to the exit so we were off the 777 fast, which turned out to matter. Customs was full, the line actually started outside of the Customs area. It used to be a rule, no cell phones in Customs, but I could not find that sigh anywhere, so we unpacked a cellphone. We started to arrange a ride from the Richmond Airport, but when I looked at the time and my ticket and the line, I was not at all sure that we were going to make our plane. Cleared customs, walked as fast as possible to the A gate shuttle, it was just loading as we got there, hooray, Fast bathroom stop at A gates, filled up our water bottles and as soon as we got to our gate they were calling for Global Services and 1Ks to board. Normally, I board small aircraft last, especially in the summer time because their air conditioning is so limited. However, I am still getting used to my HTC Fuze smartphone and it is easier to manage that sitting down, so we boarded. I called James Limousine from the plane. I was not sure they could move that fast and was willing to hire a taxi to get to our Richmond apartment, but Randy in dispatch told me, no problem. United 7987 from IAD to RIC left close enough to onetime not to notice, and it was an easy and uneventful flight. The flight attendant was uber-professional, I am not exactly sure why having every seat exactly all the way up for takeoff and landing makes a difference, but I appreciate professionalism when I see it. It was nice to see the limo guy when we landed, we were really tired, we had been up 24 hours at this point and only got five hours sleep the night before. It was nice opening up our apartment, tiny bit of a musty smell, but overall it had done well the ten days we were gone. Found a meal in a bag from Trader Joe's in the freezer and heated that up and Kathy was asleep immediately; I would have been also, but Hunter, our son, who lives upstairs, just rolled in so we chatted and then I went down to the apartment to crash.

[Wednesday, August 26, 2009] Road trip to Fredericksburg VA

We spent Tuesday trying to catch up on our email backlog. Ran into some trouble with my Security Thought Leadership series. Until now, people just provided the information necessary. However, the latest candidate did not want to cooperate. So, we are going to formalize the process a bit and have created an initial set of questions to frame the interview process and validate the subject as a security thought leader. Then, someone popped into my email box with a recommendation for three more. Whew! I guess the application comes just in the nick of time.

This morning, about 0600, my HTC FUZE smart phone woke up, and then it synchronized itself with my computer. Not sure what it all means, but now Skype has my phone contacts which may mean that I can call US phone numbers from other countries, we shall see. Today, I leave Richmond at about 1030 in my Ford F150 pickup truck and head for Fredericksburg VA for a meeting to discuss potential recertification options for GIAC. Of course you know how these things go, one agenda item becomes ten, but that is OK, it will be great to catch up with the gang. The plan is for me to drop into Lenny's and pick up subs which they will order in advance. I think I will have the Roast Beef, no onions. The trip up was easy, the TomTom 730 performed flawlessly. I used to live in Fredericksburg, but there is so much growth, I would have easily gotten lost. The business meetings were good. The way home was a different story. At about 1705 (5:05 PM), south of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, traffic was heavy, but not too bad. I got behind a Greyhound bus that seemed to drive sensibly and settled into the middle lane. As we worked our way down the highway, the right lane slowed a bit; a white, eighteen wheeler from H & W Contract Carriers turned on his blinker just as I was about to pass him. I decided to stay with the bus, but he turned aggressively into my lane and I had to brake hard to keep from getting hit by his trailer. Of course, the truck behind me was tailgating, so it was a near disaster. How sad that a so-called professional driver would be willing to kill someone to arrive at their destination 30 seconds earlier. If you have the opportunity not to do business with H & W please take your business elsewhere and if you know someone that has been killed by their drivers and want more testimony for the trial, sign me up, that was the most aggressive move I have seen on the highway in a long time and there is no excuse for it.

[Sunday, August 30, 2009] SANS Virginia Beach 2009

Friday, we headed down to Virginia Beach, caught a touch of rain courtesy of Tropical Storm Danny, but no big deal. Minor delays at the tunnel. Ate at Captain John's Crab House, it was right next to the hotel; don't do that. Dirty, low quality food, yikes. Saturday I taught my Awareness course, good crew, good class. We have a tradition in Virginia Beach started by Joel Horner of the Navy, we get together and eat Sushi. Just like last year we went to Sakura. The sushi/sashimi is good, what is not to like. Sunday, we kick off my Security Leadership Essentials Course, the room is packed; I guess VA Beach is a big draw. Randy Marchany, a SANS instructor, met us for dinner; he is a semi local, has a condominium here and suggested Nicks Restaurant on Laskin. It is not swanky, but the food is good and reasonably priced, appeals to locals and doesn't only open for tourist season. I had the Broiled Seafood platter: Flounder, 2 shrimp, crab cake, oysters and choice of two vegetables. Kathy had the Grouper and Randy, the Tilapia. The entire bill was $63.00, awesome. One of my students went to the Fire and Vine also on Laskin and said the BBQ ribs were quite nice. Another recommends Abbey Road on 22nd, they sport a large beer offering, over 80 varieties, and she enjoyed the Grilled Salmon. You can also see my reviews of Virginia Beach restaurants from last year's visit in edition three of the Security Travel Guide.

[Wednesday, September 02, 2009] SANS Virginia Beach 2009

The conference is going well. Monday I ate in the hotel restaurant, Aqua Vi, with Joe Magee from Vigilant who was speaking later that night at the COINS event; we had the Porterhouse Cut Pork Chop with mustard sauce. It was OK, not great. Tuesday, Kathy and I walked down to the Holiday Inn SunSpree to eat at Isle of Capri. We ate there last year and it is an enjoyable experience. Kathy had the Salmon, I had the Fruti di Mare, which is a bunch of seafood over pasta. Tuesday night is half off a bottle of wine night, so we splurged and got a bottle of St. Francis Zinfandel. Food was good, service was excellent. Tonight, Wednesday, we drove down to Rudees on the Inlet. We both had the Broiled Seafood Platter, scallops, shrimp, crab, lobster. Food was fine and cooked well, but I was disappointed with both the service and the atmosphere, and I do not recommend this restaurant. Also, I developed a massive case of heartburn after eating this meal. I suggest either go somewhere higher end, or save some money, go local, go to Nicks. Thursday we ate supper at Lunasea, really neat architecture. We had the restaurant to ourselves, at least the room we were in, there seem to be a large number of rooms. Key West themed, very spicy food, after Rudees I was a bit paranoid and did not finish my Paella. Kind of pricey, really only makes sense to go there if you want to visit the dance club. They say they usually have a live band on Thursdays, but we had a DJ. Friday, we got up, packed and drove to Richmond. I wanted an early start because of the tunnel and Labor Day Weekend. Because we were making such good time, I did not stop for lunch till we reached the outskirts of Richmond VA. We took the airport exit, and had lunch at Carini's. It is your classic family owned Italian that is over decorated and it is popular with the locals. I had the broiled seafood platter (am I getting in a rut?), Kathy had the seafood filled manicotti. I notice they have a projector and a screen, it might be fun to have a lunch and learn there at some point. Then we drove to our apartment, but on the way stopped at West End Antiques. We purchased a secretary, a type of desk that folds up for Kathy. We had some technical difficulties, the first one we found did not lock and I got bored and started looking at the doo dads in the glass cabinets. There was a ring that looked just like the Byzantine Jewelry we picked up for Kathy in Greece. It fit perfectly and the price was very fair. Even though our mother-in-law apartment is a custom remodel, it is only 320 square feet, so we have been very careful what we purchase for it. We caught up with Hunter and went to Costco to get Kathy an office chair for her new desk. We also picked up some fish, so supper was a scallop and salmon over pasta affair.

[Sunday, September 06, 2009] At the Richmond VA Apartment

Saturday, I did some writing and then we went to visit Kathy's family. I started simmering a pot of split peas about 1300 (1 P.M.). I wanted to do a split pea soup with a twist, added some garlic and fresh vine ripe tomatoes and a bit of VA Style BBQ sauce. Then, an hour before serving I cut up some Tilapia, crab meat, threw in about 20 peeled shrimp and a fillet of wild caught salmon. I was a bit nervous, but it all seemed to work. Also did a brown rice and chicken to serve cool as a salad over greens and did some dips and pita bread. The highlight though was their daughter, she is headed for two years of age and truly is precocious. Her language is advanced and she signs as well and they are excellent parents. We stayed up past my bedtime watching a slide show of my trip to Greece, so we ended up missing church. Sorry Lord, hard to balance everything. My HTC FUZE Smart phone says that I need to install ActiveSynch 4.5 or newer on my desktop. When I went to Microsoft, they said I needed Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1 since I was running Vista. Who knows, I downloaded it and we will see what happens.

Later today, we will head to Fredericksburg VA. Some friends of ours, John and Kathy, have been hosting a party for something like 30 years and it will be nice to catch up with people that I went to college with and the younger generation that we knew in diapers and now have babies of their own. And no, I do not feel old, but definitely have been around the block. It was a good night, great to see so many people and it looks like I will be doing a talk at Mary Washington University when I teach at Dahlgren. The party was far calmer, more restrained than 25 years ago, nobody seemed to get plastered and it started closing out about 10 P.M., I remember seeing the sun rise in past years. We didn't eat much at the party, so we headed out to find food. We were staying at the historic Kenmore Inn on Princess Ann Street, the bar was open when we got there, but the kitchen was closed. The bar keep suggested Capital Ale a few blocks away. They have about a gazillion beers on tap on in bottles. Kathy had an Original Sin hard cider, I had two beers the Starr Hill Jomo Lager in a bottle, very nice and a Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale on draft. The claim to fame is the hops are used as soon as possible after picking, the beer menu said the same day, the web site says the same week, I was unimpressed in any case. The food was OK, I had the Smoke House burger, smoked Gouda and bacon on the burger, but a bit overcooked and no pickle; hey I like the dill pickle with my burger either on the burger or on the side, Kathy had the Lemon Caper Chicken, but the service was weak, wrong salad dressing, did not refill water, never checking back, Emily C. was friendly, but not useful. I think I would come back, but the level of service puts this one was on the margins.

After dinner we headed back to the Kenmore Inn. It really is a lovely B&B, nine rooms, gorgeous antiques, friendly service. We were in the "Fredericksburg Grand" room. I think we were the first guests to breakfast and that was tasty, we both had the omelet choice. Kathy had added the spa package to our room, so we had a massage after breakfast and then on to a meeting in Fredericksburg. Our meeting went well, it was great to see one of our family's advisors again and we headed south on I95. Traffic was light, but we wanted a bit of an adventure so at Ashland VA, we switched from I95 to Route 1 to look for some antique stores. We did not find much, but it was fun to see the transition from agricultural to outskirts of Richmond and we found The Dump. It is a furniture store that focuses on low prices. I am not sure where they get their furniture from, but the place is huge. Now, Kathy and I had already decided to furnish the Richmond place with antiques, one piece at a time as our budget allows, but I am not interested in trying to do that with a sofa. Most antique sofas have stains on the fabric or structural problems. And we wanted leather. Long story short, we bought a distressed leather love seat, chair and ottoman for the living room we share with the upstairs tenants. A guest came over just at the right time, to help us move the furniture into the house. Kathy and I had not eaten since the omelet at the Kenmore Inn, so I suggested we move the party from the living room to the kitchen, everybody nodded; nobody moved, I guess the new furniture is a hit. As we were ready to crash at the end of the evening, Kathy peeked at the living room and Hunter was laying on the love seat reading his homework. Big smile. I am not that big on nouns (possessions), in general they just gather dust and mold or mildew, but when you get one that people want to use, that makes for a smile.

[Tuesday, September 08, 2009] Back to the Richmond VA Apartment

In the afternoon, the primary focus will be telephone meetings, so in the morning, I have a few hours to research and write. Two of my graduate students, Jim Beechey and Rob VandenBrink just completed a pandemic checklist document and PowerPoint presentation for organizations working on their H1N1 planning.

[Sunday, September 13, 2009] Headed for San Diego I Hope

Yesterday, Saturday, we got ladder style roof racks on the F150 4WD Ford Pickup Truck and went to Fredericksburg to pick up Kathy's Sea Kayak, Ariel. John and Kathy have been kind enough to take care of the boat and Kathy is happy to have her back, it is an Andy Singer design. We went out to dinner together to Umi, on Route 1 next to the bus station.. I don't normally eat sashimi the day before or day of travel, but made and exception and glad I did, the rolls and presentation are masterful. Really enjoyed the spicy crab salad and spicy girl roll. Had my first tempura sweet potato roll, also very good. Prices were very reasonable and the service truly impeccable. I would go again. The drive back to Richmond was easy. Since our return trip is up in the air, we decided to leave the truck in Richmond and got a ride to the airport on James Limousine. I picked up a teaching gig in Dahlgren after San Diego that was not part of the original plan. We are going to fly to San Diego before Diane changes the flights. Every once in a while if you change your itinerary, United changes all your other flights.

Hopefully this flight will not be canceled like our last one on the trip to Greece. I just read @SarahCortes amazing story about suffering a spinal injury and the rural hospital trying to refuse to let her transfer and wanting to to the surgery. Apparently, she used Twitter to get the word out. Really worth reading and thinking about an emergency health care plan.

Starting to rethink Richmond VA airport. My last flight was canceled entirely and there was a 12 hour wait in the airport, but that was vacation time. Today I am on business. United Airlines 8059 has been rescheduled twice. Now it is so late that I am going to miss my connection in Chicago. I called the United 1K desk and they told me to go home and try to fly again tomorrow? Can you believe that? Sorry #SANSNS2009, we could bring our instructors today, but we might be able to fly them tomorrow. So, I told the lady this was business travel and I had to try. She looked and said that there was nothing she could do, that all the flights were totally booked. We finally left it with Kathy and I flying to Chicago to wait on standby.

I tried calling the 1K desk twice, but they said they would book me on a flight tomorrow. On UA 8059 they told us five times a gate agent would meet the plane. However, that did not happen, but when we got off the UA 8059, I asked a United employee at a different gate what our best shot of a flight today was. He told me to head for the gate of the next flight to San Diego. On the way, Kathy spotted a Red Carpet lounge. We have a membership so we went in and asked the reservation person there if they could help us. She got me on a flight first, I am a 1K, which is fairly high status on United and then Kathy, who is a Premier Exec this year, but next year should also be a 1K. Yaaay, I was so happy. I think her name is Christine.

We then headed for the gate, along the way passed an upscale food court near C21, Kathy got an awesome spinach salad with all the trimmings and I got a Chicago Turkey Sausage Pizza from Reggios. We were on the plane, but both in middle seats. We lined up on the red carpet ten minutes before boarding and met a nice guy, also a 1K, he ended up getting upgraded to first and it turns out he was in our row and the nice ladies put Kathy and I together, which was a definite plus. The sad thing, there were 23 people on the standby list, so a lot of people did not make it. Also, when we landed in San Diego, I heard a gate announce 33 people were on the standby list for that flight. I think it is going to require a congressional review to get the airlines to treat people humanely and that is sad.

[Monday, September 14, 2009] #SANSNS2009 Begins

I set my alarm for 7:00 A.M. to jump into this time zone. We got up, but we were both very fuzzy. We have been on the road since July 31 and it wears on you. They told us we did not have access to the club lounge so we went to Seaport Village for breakfast. Two omelets, two coffees, a mere $25.00. We have a fridge in our lovely room at the Manchester Hyatt, after answering our email we trudged up to Ralph's to get some food for tomorrow. We also hiked to the closest AT&T store at 252 Broadway to get a new battery for Kathy's cell phone, an AT&T Tilt. Most responsive service I have ever witnessed in a cellphone store, but alas no battery in stock. We found one at the mall. Then we went to Hooters for lunch, king crab legs, a pound of steamed shrimp, less than $40.00. Say what you will about Hooters, but the service is always excellent there. The afternoon was back-to-back meetings, last one was Eric Cole at 7:15 P.M. We went for a working dinner at 809 in the Gaslamp district. Awesome! It is Latin/Caribbean food. We had a great dinner, but please do not ask me to recite what we had, all of these names are new to me. My main was a Puerto Relleno or something very close to that. Our server, Kerri, was very responsive, friendly and helpful, I did the full 20%. I would go back, we will see if that is a possibility, but then again, there are so many fantastic restaurants in San Diego, who knows. Kathy stayed behind with the team to work on a special project, but looks like they had some fun [picture]. Tomorrow I teach and I am pretty sure I will lose some days as we jump into conference blur mode, when you teach all day, and go to meetings all night AND try to keep up with your email it is hard to keep up with your blog as well.

[Thursday, September 17, 2009] #SANSNS2009 is flying by.

Tuesday night we managed to get out of the hotel into Seaport Village and ate at Edgewater Grill. I had a BBQ Pork chop that was surprisingly good and Kathy had the Shrimp Quesadilla, also well done. I would be happy to go back. Service was excellent, but we were early and there was at least one wait staff per customer. Wednesday night there was no possibility of getting out of the hotel, we ate at Laels. This week only they have a fixed price menu for restaurant week. We both had the fig salad, I had the veal chop and Kathy had the Fillet Mignon and sorbet and chocolate torte (we each had a bite). We certainly appreciated the price break. Tonight, we had the vendor reception. I was booked for 12 straight hours, so we ate hospitality food.

The conference is going well, but there is a guy casing us. He clearly wants to steal a few laptops, we got him kicked out of the hotel today, but all my instincts say he will be back tomorrow and will make his move. If you are at the conference and you read this, show the picture to someone else. Over the next few days we had to shoo several street type people with backpacks coming through the conference area, the Hyatt really needs to work harder on that. They did get some of our break food, but they didn't get a laptop that we know of. Saturday evening we had a lovely dinner at San Diego Pier Cafe, I had the Mixed Seafood Grill, Kathy had the Sea Bass; since it is a pier, it has extraordinary views of passing boats and the sunset, and Kimberly our waitress was attentive and smart. When they started to get busy, she left a small pitcher of iced tea with us.

[Sunday, September 20, 2009] Graduation night

We met in speaker room about 6:30 or 6:45 PM in full regalia, then walked over together toward the entrance of the ceremony room which was Elizabeth F at the Hyatt. We decided to have the grads meet in the Speaker room too, since they might have been confused about how to wear the hoods.

For the entrance, Alan, Stephen, Eric Cole, Ed Skoudis, Debbie Svoboda all went to the front of the room. The six grads walked in behind us, in alpha order of last name, and were seated in front row. Then the speeches were given (3 - 5 minutes each):
Stephen Northcutt, President – Welcome to the Fourth Commencement Ceremony of SANS Technology Institute
Alan Paller, Chair: "Cyber skills matter, duh!"
Eric Cole, Department Chair: Building Solid Thought Leadership in Cyber Security

Next up, speeches by three of the grads, who are also GSEs and have had some involvement in instruction. Their speeches described the skills and capabilities that leaders in information security will need in the next three to four years. Eric Conrad, "We have shown the way"; Rick D. Smith, "Importance of leadership"; and, Kevin Bong, "Taoist principles in leadership".

Time for the diplomas, I was supposed to say:
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, faculty and staff of SANS Technology Institute, I hereby declare that the students, who I will be calling forward, have met all the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Information Security. Under the authority vested in me by the Board of Directors, the faculty, and staff of SANS Technology Institute, I hereby confer upon the following students the degree of Master of Science in Information Security.” Then, we handed out the diplomas and had a photoshoot of each graduate receiving their diploma. The closing remarks were short and followed by an invitation-only onsite dinner in the Gallery Room for faculty, students and their families. It was a great graduation ceremony, people had a wonderful time.

[Monday, September 21, 2009] Last day in San Diego

During the day, I taught my Information Security for Business Executives course. I think it went well and I was able to give them a bit of the security perspective and be sensitive to the business needs and point of view. What was a bit of a surprise was that they primarily wanted the latest trends and tools.

We left the hotel at 8:30 P.M. We had not realized it, but they had arranged a car for us - I had already called the hotel and asked for a high capacity taxi. An easy trip to the airport, almost no line at Security. We shared a cheese pizza from the airport concession as our supper. United 238 was on time at 10:30pm and was not fully loaded. We had tickets for seats in row 12 which we thought was an exit; the folks at United figured out we wanted an exit and moved us to row 11 on the Airbus; thank you United! Flight home was a bit bumpy, we hit some weather, and we were both conked out before they served beverages or snacks. I have this brief memory of a flight attendant walking by saying "beverages anyone" and then I conked out again. I woke up 20 minutes before landing and Kathy woke at wheels down. We landed 35 minutes early; hoot! Everything worked well at Dulles, our bags came off the conveyor belt first, as did Dr. Eric Cole's; thank you United for honoring the priority sticker. We headed for the Enterprise rental car van. As always, Enterprise was friendly, but there were only two people in the facility and it took over 30 minutes to get our car and leave; for the first time I understand the Hertz gold program. We rented a Garmin GPS, I waited to turn it on till I was on RTE 28 South. It was now about 7:00 A.M. and I did not want to tangle with I495 during rush hour. The GPS had me take I66 E towards Washington, but only for a mile then we picked up Fairfax 7100 to Rte 123 to I95 to Fredericksburg. We stopped for breakfast at the 2400 diner, a classic diner with a Greek influence. Kathy had the Greek Omelet, I had the steak and eggs we both chose grits as a side. We enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, if you find yourself in Fredericksburg, this is a must do.

[Tuesday, September 22, 2009] Dahlgren VA

We arrived at the Comfort Inn. Diane arranged to get us a jacuzzi room that also included a refrigerator, thank you Diane. They will come in handy tonight, because we had a late lunch, we really do not want to go out again so we will do a "carpet picnic". We need to get to bed early after a red eye flight and being on California time for almost ten days. The room is a bit musty so we turned the air conditioning unit on high. The bathroom is a bit scary, there are broken tiles, signs of water damage and the shower door does not stay shut, but we will make do. We made contact with the training folks at the base. For lunch we went to Roma Pizza, 5293 Palivoda Drive, King George VA 22485, (540) 663-2200. Wow, what a blast from the past. I first ate there twenty five years ago. It is under new management, Scott and his wife hope to develop an upscale pasta restaurant at night while continuing to cater to the lunch crowd. Kathy had the Greek Salad special, the dressing (on the side) is similar to Tzatziki. I had the Lobster Ravioli and salad special. Not sure how much lobster was in that, but it was only $9.99.

Then we decided to tour the Oak Crest Winery, but we pulled the phone number off the billboard and called, they are not open until Wednesday. We decided to pull a u-turn on 301. I remembered a charming little town called La Plata, so we drove up there. At least on 301, they have ruined the place, it is all fast food, chains and WalMart. We did stop at Colonial Liquor, which has the best wine selection near Dahlgren that I know of and selected a Bridges Merlot 2002 from Paso Robles. Unpretentious, under publicized, inexpensive, but something to take the edge off as we wind down into the east coast timezone. Seriously, at $7.99 this is one of the best buys I have seen this year; if you are withing striking distance of Colonial Liquor, my advice is to buy them out.

[Wednesday, September 23, 2009] Day 1, Dahlgren Onsite, Speech at Mary Washington University

We woke up early, but we both woke up which is handy in a small hotel room. One of our strategies for managing hotel room "sprawl" is to use the rental car to hold a lot of the stuff, I only have enough clothes in the hotel for the three days that I am teaching Management 512 Security Leadership Essentials this week. They have cereal and the like at the Comfort Inn, which is handy. NSWC was kind enough to give us both temporary badges, so Kathy can come and go. This will mean she is not trapped in the hotel room for the entire time. After class, we need to head to Fredericksburg VA to give a COINS talk at Mary Washington University in Trinkle Hall, the science building. I also have a conference call in between, typical day, sigh.

We ate at a neat place called Smyrna's Mediterranean/Turkish cafe' near Ferry Farm tonight. They have organic, vegetarian, vegan, and meat dishes as well. It was very tasty. The proprietor is enthusiastic, happy to share the glycemic index, grams of fiber and protein per serving, and discuss at length the dishes they make. I had to retreat to the far corner of the store to jump on a conference call, he was so excited about talking about his stuff. They have a micro sized Turkish market on the premises. I bought a spice tonight that neither of us had ever heard of; we're guessing it's in the Paprika family. Maybe I can take it home and give it a try.

The speech and discussion after went well, I think. We drove back to the Comfort Inn; I had only eaten a little at Smyrna's, so we stopped at the Domino Pizza store in Dahlgren. I actually thought I was going into the Subway, but they are next door and I missed the doors. The Italian Sausage sandwich was borderline OK, the tomato sauce makes the bread soggy, but it took twenty minutes for them to make it and I was the only person in the place. They did not give me napkins or anything, just a sandwich in a cardboard box. My sense is that Dominos is not ready to service the walk up market.

[Thursday, September 24, 2009] Catching up with John and Marianne Green

We slept luxuriously late today with the alarms going off at 6:00 A.M. I grabbed a bowl of cereal from the Comfort Inn and we zipped in to Dahlgren. The class seems to be warming up a bit. I am a bit concerned, there are massive signs of mold at the JD Training center and some of my students are already coughing. I can feel I am affected as well, background wheezing and I have to project for a few more days, there is no microphone. At lunch we went to Olympus Deli, they were friendly, the food was OK, not awesome. We ate outside and the flies are amazing there. They are better at landing directly on the food than any flies I have ever seen in my life. After class today, we tried again to visit Oak Crest Winery and succeeded in acquiring a bottle of wine to take to dinner tonight at the Green's home. Dinner was delightful and John broke out a few pictures from our past. The past few days at Dahlgren and Fredericksburg have had more than a few memories. Wonderful day. When we got back to our hotel room, Kathy and I decided to share a bottle of wine we purchased from Oak Crest Winery, it was the Hot Jazz, a white wine with hot pepper infusion. I am sure you are thinking "no way", but it is delightful. It is only 12.5% alcohol so a husband and wife can share a bottle and you are not too buzzed, we have to get up and rock and roll tomorrow.

[Friday, September 25, 2009] Transition to the Richmond apartment

Wakeup time was 5:45 A.M., we have to clear the hotel room today. Packed up the rental car and headed for Dahlgren for day 3 of Management 512 Security Leadership Essentials, this is known as the crypto day, though we only do Cryptography in the morning. I warned the students to drink lots of coffee. SANS buys lunch today and Kathy and I ordered Pizza and appetizers from Roma Pizza. The pizza was good, but it was overly heavy for my students, they got sleepy for the rest of the day. We tried doing a review session, but they were very checked out. I am sad, I would love my Dahlgren class to excel on the exam, but that might not happen. After class, we drove to Richmond by way of 301 to I95. I enjoyed the 301 drive, lots of woods, a few, just a few of the trees are starting to turn to their fall colors. Traffic was pushy, but not bad on the I95 portion of the drive, this is the way I plan to return to Dahlgren on Sunday. We reached our apartment and I zipped off to Fresh Market, I am craving fish and vegetables. They had a special on Dover Sole. I realize this is going to sound odd, but give it a try:

Steamed Dover Sole

In a pasta pot, put 1/2 inch of water, 1/3 stick of butter ( you can substitute olive oil), two tea spoons of crushed garlic ( half that if it is fresh). Bring to a boil.
Cut two Sweet Potatoes into slices throw in pot,
Cut two bunches of leeks, throw in pot,
Season with Adobo, black pepper, salt, I added some Meyer's lemon olive oil and some white wine, be careful making assumptions, the final flavor comes at the finish
Cook till the leeks are soft and the sweet potatoes are falling apart
Arrange the Dover Sole in the pasta section ( the part with holes) and place on top of the liquid, leeks and sweet potatoes, if all is well a bit of the liquid seeps into the fish section
Take juice of two lemons ( no seeds please) pour over fish
Do NOT over cook fish, serve immediately, we served with corn on the cob

The trick to this dish is that the lemons at the end mix with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and you get a hint of orange. I am not big on sugar at all, but this has just a hint of sweetness.

[Saturday, September 26, 2009] Richmond VA

I had hoped to sleep late, but I woke up at 7 A.M. and my brain was buzzing, so I got on line. I have been having troubles with my Vista box seeing the Verizon MiFi when it is in 802.11 access mode, so I connected directly; Kathy is still sleeping and so there are no "sharing" issues for the moment. I cooked for Kathy's brother's family tonight, they are expecting the birth of their second child very, very soon. We did scallops with a lot of vegetables and a lemon sauce with Greek style lemon potatoes. We watched Mama Mia the movie back at our apartment;Hunter joined us, that was nice.

[Sunday, September 27, 2009] Back to Dahlgren

Sunday morning we had breakfast with Hunter. Hunter and I spent some time talking about next steps with his college. Since he got back from Iraq, he has been attending J Sergeant Reynolds, getting good scores and enjoying school, so it is time to think about a four year school. He is also thinking about going into law, so he is wondering about the possibility of getting a job with a law firm to see what goes on. I think it is an excellent idea, so we zipped off to Nieman Marcus at Short Pump. We had exactly two hours from the time we left the apartment to get a suit. Traffic was light, we were at the mall in fifteen minutes. As we were striding purposely towards the mens department a well dressed gentleman caught my eye. As we got closer, he said, you on a mission? Yes, sir. Vaughan Breedlove took care of us, he was perfect and patient. I have purchased a number of suits through the years, but he was the most helpful and excellent sales person I can recall watching at work. We found a great suit, got the ties and all of that. We did not get the shoes, Hunter tried on a few pair and they just have to feel right or you never want to wear them, but he is on his way.

Hunter went to work, I went back to the apartment and packed, have to be careful, because our next trip is Israel, but we are leaving from Hawaii so if I have anything in the apartment I want to use in Israel, now is the time to put it in a suitcase. We had not eaten lunch and it was four P.M. so we stopped at the Super King Buffet 8087 W Broad St. (804) 270 7799. That is one of the better Chinese buffets I have ever been to; I realize that some people have given them low reviews, but, as your Security Travel Guide, I eat in more restaurants than most people and stand behind my thumbs up here. We got out of there for under forty dollars and Kathy had a glass of wine, so the prices are very reasonable. I95 was pushy, but OK; however, 301 was a song, and for stretches at a time we had the highway to ourselves, so I just set the cruise control and drove. We stopped at Food Lion on the way in; dinner tonight is a carpet picnic with flat bread, low fat cheese, veggies and a peach apiece.

The Holiday Inn Express seems to be much nicer than the Comfort Inn, no mold. Of course, we do not have a Jacuzzi in our suite, but the stuff they put on the bottom of the jacuzzi was peeling up, so it was not really exciting to use it. The Holiday Inn uses the same Internet service Sboca and it is unusable, very slow, very unreliable, I bet it is the same access point, since the Holiday Inn and the Comfort Inn are about 100 yards from one another. So, we are trying to get by using the MiFi Verizon access point. My Vista laptop has a hard time seeing it, but if I reboot enough times it works (usually).

Enterprise Rental Car Impala

I have now driven the Impala, our rental car, about six hundred miles at this point. I like the pick-up for highway merges, it handles well enough on curves, there is a bit of a need on sharp curves to treat her like a lady, but nothing like a PT Cruiser where you think you are going to flip over at any second. The trunk is spacious, Kathy is packing heavy on the way home and both of her rolling duffels fit in the trunk with room in front of them for additional smaller luggage. I like the cruise control, I do not normally use it, but this interface is easy; I like the automatic lights and I love the his and hers temperature controls. On long trips I need air conditioning, but Kathy favors heat. If you have a chance to pick this car up on a trip, it seems to be better than many others. The Nissan Altima is still my favorite car from Enterprise, but I will not turn down an Impala.

[Tuesday, September 28, 2009] Going for a strong finish

We bounced out of bed at 5:30 A.M. and had breakfast at the Holiday Inn. Not bad, this one has scrambled eggs and Kathy likes eggs. They also have Cheerios and I like Cheerios. Yesterday was day 4 of my class, then last night Kathy and I had a early dinner at the Crabby Oyster; she had the broiled platter and I had the steamed bucket. Oh my gosh, that was a lot of food. Looking back I would not have gotten the optional salad bar for $2.99, but it was such a good looking salad bar. As we often do, we shared, so it was really like getting a seafood feast for two. The food was cooked and seasoned well. Our server was very attentive, no complaints at all. After class ends today, the plan is to head for an airport hotel outside of Dulles Airport (IAD). I just checked the United Airline News blog to see what is going on. United has cut 290 pilot positions, says they are furloughed. Wasn't sure exactly what a furlough is, found this reference, it is basically an unpaid vacation. With all the job and flight cuts, it means if anything goes wrong you do not make it to your destination, most likely. However, so far, we have been very lucky, close call heading to San Diego, but we made it.

Two United 1Ks traveling together

Please rejoice with me. Kathy is now a United 1K as well. Previously she was a United Premier Exec, she makes that status level fairly often. I have been a 1K for several years and I am certain we are not the first married couple to both be 1Ks, but it cannot be common. What I am interested to see is if it makes a difference when we travel with linked tickets. Might even be a use case they did not think of, wouldn't that be a trip. Anyway, if you see Kathy, be sure and congratulate her, that is a lot of flying while holding our households together.

H1N1 Wave 1

I am a bit concerned about our upcoming trip, I expect that airline travel is our highest risk of contracting the H1N1, at this point this is a full on pandemic. At this point, North America has not been hit as hard as it will, but we are only a couple days or weeks from wave 1. I plan to bring sterilizing wipes and wipe down our seat area on the plane. There will be less than 30 minutes time passed since the last passengers to use those seats and that is not enough time for the virus, if present, to die. And we have masks and tamiflu, we are certainly trying. I heard on the news and then just read, a lot of people are planning on skipping the vaccination. That might be a plan you should rethink and research carefully, I am not personally excited about ingesting mercury, but that is the biggest downside that I am aware of today. If you were to lose a child because you refused the vaccine how would you feel? Tough problem, USA Today just ran a touching story about a family that lost a child and the remaining kids are all getting vaccinated.

Headed for Dulles

All in all, I enjoyed Dahlgren; JD Conference center is no lap of luxury, but the people are very real and it was great to catch up with people from my past. We did both a second half practice exam together, and then a review exam, and one student remained to get some help, then we headed for our airport hotel. The drive was fairly easy, we did not get behind a school bus (it was 2:30 P.M. when we started) and we got to Route 3. We picked up I 95 and traffic was OK, but pushy. The Garmin felt the best thing to do was take VA RTE 234 and come in through Manassas, I would have gone to VA RTE 123, but OK. Next we picked up VA RTE 28N and were headed in when disaster struck. The Garmin FAILED, just as we were getting to the hotel, it totally lost it. After the dreaded "recalculating" it said drive 10 miles north, I did not think that made sense, but everything matched the picture. It ended up sending us to the Hilton Tysons, instead of the Hilton Dulles Airport. The Tysons Hilton was kind enough to print a MapQuest set of directions. We powered down the Garmin, reentered the Hilton Dulles address, but I had no intention to follow its directions. Good thing, too, because it kept giving insane instructions. We stuck with MapQuest and we made it. I did call Enterprise and asked them to take one day off the GPS charge because it was totally useless. They told me to talk to Sam or Tom when I checked in the car and told me to ask before they closed the ticket, Renee said it is a lot easier before we close the ticket. We have one last issue, by being sent out of the way, my car is almost totally out of gas, I prepurchased the fuel, but I never go below 1/8th of a tank. I did ask if there were any rental car return surprises I needed to know about and Renee said no, drive past the Exxon and turn on to Autopilot Dr. So wish me luck.

I like the Dulles Hilton. They have a great gym and indoor pool; the restaurant, The Cardinal Lounge, has great prices and a well thought out, though limited menu. I had the Tilapia with lemon caper sauce *awesome*, Kathy had the Organic Chicken Breast with the red wine reduction sauce sauteed mushrooms. With a generous tip for excellent service, we were out of the place for under $40.00. Well, it is 8:30 P.M. and I am glad to have my blog updated, don't feel like watching TV, don't feel like any more email, so I think I am going to practice vegetable imitations, I am thinking carrot first, squash next and then possibly fall asleep. Hopefully the trip home to Kauai will go well.

Special note: since I blogged about the Verizon MiFi not being reliable, it has been perfect, who knows, but we will have lots more opportunities to test it in the coming days.

[Wednesday, September 30, 2009] The long march home to Kauai

Please join me in welcoming my nephew Samuel Albion Holmes into the world.

Sleeping late sounded like it was possible, but I forgot to take my phone alarm off and so we woke up at 6 A.M. We stayed in bed a bit, but decided to face the day. Kathy signed us up for the Bed and Breakfast deal, so we had coupons for the breakfast cafe. It is a decent buffet. No fault of theirs, but I just could not do one more morning of hotel buffet scrambled eggs so I got a box of Special K and some fruit. They didn't have Cheerios, so I picked up 7% of my daily sodium eating something supposed to be healthy. Whatever. I was mildly stressed about getting the rental car back to Enterprise, because we got so lost yesterday, it was below the orange line on the gas gauge. However, while VA RTE 28 North was congested, it moved along and we made it to Enterprise. One hurdle left, we are packing VERY HEAVY eight bags. The rental car vans drop you off by baggage claim. However, there was a baggage cart, so we made it.

Travel Tip: They have completely redone the security lines at Dulles. The airport is a ghost town today, so I have no idea how they will handle under congestion, but you might want to add 15 minutes more padding till this shakes out. But the day of the metro serving the airport gets closer and closer, I am VERY excited about that.

We breezed through security and got to the red carpet lounge. I don't think we are going to get upgraded, but I will check closer to boarding time. However, the Subway at D gates rocks, they are very fast and competent and I like their veggie pizza so we can take some food on board with us and we will be fine. Wrong and wronger. We did get upgraded, I think the lady in the Red Carpet Lounge make a special effort. The Airbus is only configured with three rows for first class (12 people).

And what is normally the world's greatest Subway Sandwich shop, the one at D gates Dulles, really hacked my pizza, they gave me no choice as to what was thrown on top of it. Flight 49 left on time. Our purser, Sandy, was excellent and attentive. Lunch was a choice of a roast beef sandwich or chicken salad. There was also a roasted tomato soup. The salad was good, but I did not eat all the chicken. Flight left on time, arrived on time, the air wasn't bumpy, what is not to like, thank you for the pleasant trip United. We just had time to duck into the Red Carpet lounge and check mail and refill our water bottles with hot tea. Time to zip to our gate.

The second flight was a snap as well, we left a few minutes late waiting for some bags from a different late arriving flight, but since there are no connecting flights on Kauai, everyone was chilled. We had good service. The inflight meal was odd, it was salmon with a sweet basamic vinegar sauce, not the best idea. The movie was The Proposal, it is our second time to see that on an airplane and it was still fun the second time. I was a little hungry so I decided to make some food, we are serving Mike Poor and his family over on Saturday with some friends so I need to start building some of the dishes that need time to set up. So supper was a spicy Incan Red Quinoa, the mother of grains according to the Incans, that will serve as a base for some sort of fish or meat. The basic idea of the dinner is a varient on rijsttafel, the indonesian "rice table". However, I am going to make it a "grains table:" instead. For the Quinoa:

Proper amount of Quinoa and water
Alea sea salt to taste
Herbs du provence (basil, rosemary, chives )
Touch of cayene pepper
Tablespoon of olive oil

For best results let it set up at least 24 hours

[Thursday, October 1, 2009] First day back on Kauai

I would have loved to sleep late, but we are still on east coast time, it was fun watching the sun rise. I made breakfast for Kathy, we had oatmeal and a fried egg. I made extra oatmeal for the rijsttafel.
Proper amount of oatmeal and water
Alea sea salt to taste
Basil, lots of basil, and chives
Touch of cayene pepper
Aged gouda cheese
This will set up for two days and then I will pan fry it with a bit of liquid smoke

At lunch, again, I made extra for the rijsttafel and also for the boat trip. This time I made polenta, I am sure you have the idea by now, but this comes with a twist:
Proper amount of polenta meal and water
Alea sea salt to taste
Basil, lots of basil, and chives
Solid hit of old bay seasoning
1 pound, super lump crab meat

For supper, it was lather rinse repeat, this time with red rice
Proper amount of red rice and water
Alea sea salt to taste
Herbs du provence (basil, rosemary, chives )
Tablespoon of olive oil

I served the red rice with flame broiled peppers and Mahi Mahi summer sausage, I was testing the recipe and will go out later today and get some more mahi to set it up for tomorrow
Mahi Mahi sliced thin, remove any skin or bones
Garlic, salt, brown mustard grains, fennel, celery seed, pinch of old bay, two drops liquid smoke
Let it set up and absorb the flavors and pan fry with as little oil as possible

So you can see where this is going. A rijsttafel is the original Indonesian Tapas. Every meal between the dinner party and boat trip I make extra so I have plenty of selections. I am trying to get the grains done, because our house gets cleaned tomorrow and as much of that behind me as possible is great.

[Friday, October 2, 2009] Ready for the weekend

We woke up before the sunrise still, too much time on the East Coast. Work was fairly easy, still getting some great tips from the Advisory board on where we should be taking the GIAC certifications, thank you guys and gals. Had a good conversation with the folks at Q1. I had not realized they are working hard to position themselves as a SIEM. Trying to learn their marketing message, but part of it is clearly, minimal set up, ready to go out of the box, helpful graphics. They can also make their product Radar, interoperate with VMWARE ESX which is cool.

Since I was up before work started, I did the falafel and lotus rice this morning. Ready for the meats. After work we went swimming and to the store to get the meats for tomorrow night. I plan to do Chicken Vesuvio but substituting my Lotus rice for the potatoes. I also use olive oil instead of butter and will turn up the spice just a bit with a Hawaiian chili pepper. After I post this entry, I will go make Kathy supper and set up the fish sausage, found some sushi grade ahi, so I will use that instead of mahi mahi. I will also finish the chicken parmesan:

Roast or rotissere whole chicken
Broil at the end to give the skin color
Pull the meat off the bones saving the skin on the breast
Take a piece of the breast, roll in olive oil, roll in grated parmesan cheese
Wrap skin around chicken, secure with tooth pick
Cover with grated parmesan, broil till cheese browns lightly
Flip, cover with cheese do it again
I serve either cool or a room temperature.

[Monday, October 5, 2009] Final entries

I enjoyed the dinner party with Mike and Liz Poor. We didn't make it through all twelve courses, but it was great food and conversation. Their son Max is a delight. At six years of age he knows all the fish in The Earth DVD Shallow Sea disc, the only one he did not know was the Moray Eel and he knew it was an eel. When we got up for church Sunday it was raining and I had doubts we would go sailing, but it cleared up and as they say in the charter business, "never cancel". Lovely light wind sail, my first sail of the winter season. We met Jim Gaither for the second time, about two years ago also on a winter sail was the first. He is the chief pilot for Big Sky Kauai, a powered hang glider or to be more correct, a TRIKE training company. We had a great talk and I had not realized that you get to fly the plane ( Jim does the take offs and landings ). I had always thought taking one of the Ultralights would be fun, but it never occurred to me I might be able to fly it. I would love to arrange this before our trip to Israel, which should be the subject of Security Tour Guide Edition 13. Thanks for reading, this is the end of edition 12.