Berlin – 20 Year Anniversary of the Wall Collapse

(retro post based on popular demand)

In November 2009, it was the 20th anniversary of the fall/collapse/destruction of the Berlin Wall.

I was very fortunate to be able to visit and join the festive celebrations. Stay tuned…I will talk about this event a little later below…

But let’s start with exploring greater Berlin as there is so much history and architecture like the  Brandenburg Gate.

The US embassy is almost adjacent to this landscape, but more importantly is the very moving Holocaust memorial.

Not very far away from the above is a bare spot of land that is for some reason highly visited and nothing is built on this spot. Does anyone know what it is/was?


It was Hitler’s Bunker. It is somewhat sensitive as we never want to promote or recognize the Nazi’s, yet this was a very significant location and historical event.

One of more pleasant discoveries on the first time I visited Berlin was the park in the center.

It is great for walking and running with wide paths!


It is also not far from “Checkpoint Charlie“. Everyone knows what that is right?

It was the actual border crossing between East and West Berlin and opening in the Berlin wall that was controlled by the American Army.


Speaking of the wall…how do you where the former Berlin Wall used to be? You can look at various markers on the sidewalks and streets.

and there are painted lines where it used to be as well on the major roads.

There are even a few places where portions of the historical wall remain.

20th anniversary placement

The highlight of the trip was the pseudo wall stones that were painted and placed along the former path of the fall to hold a anniversary celebration of the fall of the communist government. The wall “pieces” were places like dominoes and were all toppled to be a symbol representation of how the horrible regime was toppled overnight.

In closing, Berlin is a great place to visit and if interested, you can see another posting I have on Munich Germany if interesting in exploring the country further.

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Hard Rock Cafes

I decided it was time to write a quick and fun posting on my experience of visiting Hard Rock Cafes around the world!

Why – I don’t know…similar to geocaching, it was a fun way to track my travel adventures and collect some souvenirs!

I was surprised to see on the official list there are hundreds, so I guess I have a long ways to go, so…

OK – where did I start?

  • Paris in December 1994. I was in the Navy and took a long weekend by the TGV train from Nice France. The Hard Rock cafe still using francs and I have the menu I snuck away with 🙂

  • Las Vegas – Hard Rock Casino – August 1997. Not long after the military and my cybersecurity interest kickoff, I attended DefCon and had to visit the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel as part of my adventures.

  • Amsterdam – August 2000.
  • London – August 2000.
  • Paris, France – August 2000. This group of three was on a 10 day trip through Europe so visited each one along the way.

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands – 2001. I do not have a picture of this one, but I had a long layover (12 hours) on the way to Israel, so why not go out into town and explore a little and have some lunch?

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico – May 2004. As part of a long weekend getaway and exploration of San Juan, the Hard Rock was a great choice for an afternoon lunch after exploring the city.

  • Berlin Germany – April 2007. One of many business trip spots. Great place to meet after a day of conference meetings. I need to post some pictures from some of these trips.

  • Budapest, May – 2008. Budapest is an amazing city and the local restaurants are the best, but had to visit and check off another one on the list.

  • Bucharest, Romania – July 2008. This was a nice weekend getaway visiting friends when we lived in Israel.

  • Seattle, WA – 2010. The home town of course.

  • San Francisco – February 2012. A weekend getaway after visiting Alcatraz.

  • Buenos Aires – December 2012. That week, was on a tour around the city, but had a break and opportunity to explore. Why not try and find the Hard Rock?
  • Madrid, Spain – March 2015. We spent a few days in Madrid and after a run in the park, the Hard Rock was a great choice for lunch.

  • Saigon, Vietnam – August 2014. The tour had ended and spent the day running along the river and shopping. A great way to enjoy a local beer and burger before heading home!

  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – January 2016. On this one, there was actually two visits. One to the cafe to have burgers and beer while watching a Seahawks playoff game and another to the Casino to enjoy a night out on the fun island.
  • Krakow, Poland – May 2016. We were on a guided tour around Poland and this was a great choice when on a break in the famous tourist square in Krakow.

  • Honolulu, Hawaii – December 2021. This was a new one and a great winter break location during the holiday season.
  • Dubai, U.A.E. – November 2022. I know it is not as exciting, but I can check off another city on the list as I visited the cafe in the Dubai airport and bought some hoodies!

If anyone that I have travelled with thinks I have missed one, let me know so I can update the great list!

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12 Lucky Years

On this day, 12 years ago, I left the hospital.  It was a happy day. I spent 17 days in the hospital after having a ruptured brain aneurysm. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, an estimated six million people (one in 50) in the U.S. have an unruptured brain aneurysm.

I was lucky and had a much better story which I shared here. Hence, I will be enjoying my glass of champagne tonight 🙂


I had my latest scan and checkup this year. My titanium clip is still in place. My rupture has not leaked or expanded. and there are no obvious new formations or bulges detected. I do not have any restrictions and I can continue my travel goals and enjoying life day by day. Today is a day where I reflect and I am thankful that I can love another day and enjoy my passions and life that might have ended so quickly before.

Thank you

A continued thanks for the medical staff of Harborview hospital, University Of Washington and all my friends and family that were there for me when I needed it.

And a special thanks to Dr. Kim who saved my life. I hope many others will recognized and support his work in understanding what actually causes aneurysms and how they can determine which ones will burst.

What was I thankful for?  Of course, I was thankful for the medical staff of Harborview hospital, University Of Washington and all my friends and family that were there for me when I needed it.

What is next?

This year, I have now visited 65 countries, and I am back on track to hitting my 100 country goal. The COVID pandemic has made it a little more challenging and I think it will continue to do so. Unfortunately, the COVID is not going away any time soon as so many people, governments and activists are not coordinating to try and get this solved across the world so this will make travel, gatherings and activities hard to achieve for a long time.

I am going to continue to get my vaccines so I do not die and I can continue to safely travel. I have been through more than one episode where a vaccine could not help me, so I am not going to make the mistake of missing an opportunity for science to help me avoid one in the future.

Stay tuned – the travels will continue!

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Saudi Arabia

Yes, you can travel to Saudi Arabia (most people) and yes it is safe. It was a delight to have an opportunity to visit a country that has changed enormously the past 2 decades and see it first hand.

I had an amazing opportunity to speak at BlackHat MEA and it was an amazing experience. I do want to call out the overall conference organizations, staff and logistics which made the experience rewarding for all stakeholders.

Riyadh is becoming a major economic hub for the whole region,

…and BlackHat MEA had in excess of 10,000 people per day attending.

A LOT has changed in this country and I must honestly say and evangelize that the reality is much different than the perceptions many have of the country and in media.

There is the normal cautionary and nervous anxiety when you arrive, but within minutes, you realize it is a modern country and operates much more familiar than many would expect. Riyadh is a modern and clean city and its architecture, design and style stand out the moment you exit the airport.

I was fortunate and was able to use the local conference “shuttle cars” but you can get around anywhere using Uber just like every other modern city.

The hotels have everything you need and are comfortable for everyone.

The only restrictions are spas, gyms, fitness centers, pools, prayer rooms, etc. are segmented by gender. and many people may ask, what about attire? In general, everyone is free to choose and although most locals and visitors tend to be conservative, there are no strict barriers.

If you have a favorite fast food (Western) restaurant, they are ALL here in Riyadh. Everything. Believe it or not, there is even a Chuckie Cheese pizza joint next to the Hilton Residences.

Myself, I wanted to explore and try out some of the local cuisine and restaurants.

One great restaurant (although a little pricey) is the Sulhail Restaurant. The interior design, the staff and all the local food delicacies around Saudi Arabia were AMAZING. Highly recommended.

Another great restaurant was the Library Club. I did not take any pictures, but the food and atmosphere were amazing. You do need to be ready that many residents in the country are smokers and the water pipes are used and popular in many restaurants.

Note: nobody eats out before 8:30 PM, so expect much later meals, dining and overall events. Most things start much later in the day, and many will not return home or return to the hotel before 11 PM.

The traffic is pretty bad in Riyadh, but not as bad as many other emerging countries. The mitigation is you get to see some amazing buildings, architectures and designs. I am not sure I saw a single piece of trash or debris laying out in the city which is very different than many other middle eastern countries.

Some great artwork, murals and “graffiti” was always intriguing to see. There is now growing interest, demand, and venues where music, concerts, etc. are all now occurring in Saudi Arabia which did not exist 5 years ago.


For those of you who know me, of course I went running! You can wear shorts and normal running clothes. No restrictions for men, but woman also run, but do need to wear more conservative running clothes. It is not too hot early in the mornings and is very delightful to explore parts of the city when there are almost no cars at 6AM 🙂

Another country checked off my list and proud to add to my continually growing collection! Some of my other favorite running spots:


Yes, most people will need a visa. Check out iVisa which is my choice when planning and booking my business and personal travel with my family!

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Emirates Airline Review

I had an opportunity recently to fly Emirates Airlines recently in business class and I thought it would a perfect time to conduct a review for all my fellow travelers.

The first surprise, and I am not sure many people know this, but Emirates offers (free) complimentary
chauffeur” service for business class customers. You just register and they assign a service to pick you up for your flight 3 hours in advance of your flight.

Nice pickup in a new Lincoln Navigator through the global Blacklane service which I like historically.

The Seattle Lounge

Does the Emirates have a lounge in Seattle? Well, not a dedicated one. They use the “The Club”.

It basically a stripped down and limited service lounge that used to be former Delta S-Gate lounge, Nothing to get excited about, but at the same time, it is spacious, not crowded and not noisy.

Oh yes, Qatar and Emirates also have a first class lounge as well with premium seating! What a major upgrade!


Like most large airplanes, it is a little chaotic and massive crowds, but they had good lines for the various boarding classes that made it easy to get onboard quickly.


The seats were very modern and spaced far apart for some privacy

The electronic video and audio were impressive. They even had tablet devices on the side of the seat to control the entertainment without having to stretch forward to touch the screen.

The amenities kit was HUGE. I am not sure the next connection security will let me take all this through.

The Flight

You have to love the modern 777. Very quiet, stable, fast and so reliable you can fly over the North Pole. I have to admit I was a little nervous as we flew over both Russia and Iran…I never thought in my career, I would fly over Iran.

(sorry the picture of the screen showing the airplane camera was not that clear)


Of course, they served a glass of champagne when you board, and it was a delicious Veuve Cliquot, but was actually even more pleasant was the amenities all in place as part of your seat.

The menu was delicious. How to choose?

The food was delicious, but I must admit the service is a little slower than most US based carriers based on my historical experience. After almost 2 hours, and not loading up in the lounge with snacks, I must admit, I was a little hungry.

The entrée was a hard choice, but I chose…

The lamb. It was small, but it was so tender, it was one of the best I have had in years in any country or restaurant.

Dubai Lounge

The Emirates lounge in Dubai is massive. It is like an entire wing of the airport. In fact, I think it is the entire second floor of the B gates in Terminal 3.

Check out all the food choices and areas you can park based on your needs.

They have special, isolated “sleep” areas for people who have long layovers and need to take a nap. I should maybe try one of these since I have a 6 hour layover at night…

But I liked the private lounge suites better. Spacious, quiet and away from other people.

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Simple Tips Before International Travel

I thought I would jot down a few tips for both business and vacation travelers that are starting to explore and travel again since the COVID waves and infection rates seem to be calming down right now.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Tip #1: Plan and understand your destination requirements.

Every country is different and do your research well in advance. The Internet is your friend.

They all have different entry requirements and paperwork, see below!

Tip #2: Get your Passport and VISA ready

Many countries do require Visas and sometimes that can take time and process. I personally use and recommend iVisa is which is a great choice in workie through your needs in this area.

Tip #3: Understand their COVID vaccine and testing requirements

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

I know some people do not like this, but countries do have different documentation and attestation requirements for vaccine, PCR testing, quarantine, etc. based on your length of stay, citizenship, etc.

Tip #4: Power Adapters

Here is an easy one to forget about when traveling internationally again: will you need power adapters?

Not all countries are the same and it is important to have the right adapter/sockets for your electronics, chargers, etc. before you travel. Although many airport stores have these, they are often very expensive.

Tip #5: Luggage Trackers

Photo by Edgar Okiog

I have discussed this topic before earlier this year: have good luggage tracker(s). Yes, the airports and airlines are getting a little better about managing all the luggage, but if you are risk averse and want to chance checking luggage through multiple connections, I recommend considering luggage trackers to monitor the state of your luggage closely.

Tip #6: Always pack a change of clothes in carry-on

If check luggage, it is a best practice to have at least one day of clothes refresh in carry on. There can be delays and cancelations in many flights and logistics and let’s not forget about lost luggage! Even if you have a delay or lost luggage, you can much easily survive if you have a 1-day refresh in your carry-on.

Tip #7: Medicine and basic toiletries in carry-on

Similar to number #6 above, make sure you have your medication and basic toothbrush, travel deodorant, toothpaste, etc. in carry so you can be ready if there is lost luggage, delays, etc. You can survive almost all scenarios when you have these items ready in your carry-on.

Tip #8: Use services/apps like International SOS

I think International SoS can provide the best information on every country and contacts for when emergencies occur and you may need help.

Tip #9: Register your trip with your embassy

As we have seen in the news, many situations and weather can change quickly and unexpectedly around the world. It is very helpful with a disaster or dangerous event occurs for your embassy to know where you are and how to contact you. In the United States, it is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Tip #10: Pack your passport early!

The final obvious, but very important tip, is to pack your password, paperwork, identity cards, and even your ATM/credit cards early in your carry-on so you know that will NOT be forgotten or last minute!

I some people find this valuable reminders and best practices as we start to travel internationally again. I will have some new reviews and sites to share soon!

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Exploring Arizona

We decided to take a long weekend and explore some parts of Arizona that we never visited before.

Everyone is raving about Scottsdale are (near Phoenix), so we decided to check out the Royal Palms resort that is at the base of the Camelback mountain.

It is a great place to to run, walk and hike. It is very safe and conveniently located to many restaurants and shopping.

The Royal Palms is built from a very old Spanish home/mansion which is turned into a hotel. It is settled amongst all the mansions and (I call them) castle that are nestled in the slopes. They look like they at 10,000 – 20,000 square foot homes selling for $3M.

We had a lot of exploring the area…and I must say that it is the largest collection of expensive stores and restaurants I have seen in any city, The lady at Nordstrom said that the Scottsdale Mall Nordstrom is the busiest and largest in the United States,

We also went south to check out some of the National Parks.

One fun and easily accessible was Picacho Peak.

It is full of flora and fauna. The crows are HUGE here.

It is very hot and you need to pack lots of sun screen and water in addition to wearing good clothing to avoid all the scratchy cacti and bushes.

It is not crowded, but I do recommend good hiking shoes as it is very rocky, somewhat technical (even though it looks easy) and some people may choose to buy gloves at the the small Ranger store at the entrance.

and…after a hot hike, what is the favorite rest stop for most locals? Eeeges! Everyone recommends the icees/shaved ice drinks to cool down 🙂

In case you missed it, here is the major site we visited on this trip which is unique to Arizona at the world actually!

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Titan II Missile Silo

Did you know that there is a (real) former Cold War ICBM missile silo that you can actually tour with all its original equipment and missile? Probably the only one in the world?

It is in a formerly Air Force restricted area near Tuscon Arizona.

You have to drive through some dust storms to reach eat, but it is quite an amazing and in depth tour of the entire nuclear command experience.

After reading the Titan II book, you want to visit this national landmark site in person. And as a Cold War veteran myself, it is nice to see some of these places memorialized.

Continue reading
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New York City in the Fall

It has been almost 4 1/2 years since I last visited NYC in the blizzard winter and it is hard to believe how much time has passed since the COVID pandemic disrupted everyone’s travel timelines. Let’s talk about the latest experience!

In the Seattle airport, maybe only 1% of the people wear masks any more which is disappointing. We will see if that changes when the next wave hits us.

The number of people on the subway wearing masks in NYC was maybe 5 percent. I could not determine on any statistics based on demographics on who was masked versus not.

On the airplane, maybe 10-15% of the passengers wore masks which was comforting (slightly).

I do admit it was nice to get a warm meal again on the flight and not just “snacks”. The improved seating was much more comfortable and less confining that previous configurations.

The traffic is just as brutal as before and it takes a full hour to get from JFK airport to Manhattan even at 9 o’clock at night. Times Square never sleeps.

As mentioned above, it has been a long time since I have been to NYC and I must admit the vibe and vitality stand out. It was cool to see how the hotel welcomed me back with a gift and a card as soon as I arrived, I must admit this is how programs like the Marriott Bonvoy frequent traveler program build long term loyalty…

It has been many years, but Times Square is still the shopping Mecca for tourists

Even many people come to NYC to visit this one specific store.

The Swatch store has a rare watch that many people are looking for around the world. As a watch aficionado which I have posted in the past, I could not resist!

I have to admit, one of the challenges in NYC is choosing where to get various meals. There are so many choices – maybe even a dozen different choices on the same block/street!

I even got a chance to check out the University Club and have a cocktail in this great historical and relaxing venue. Seems very similar to the Rainer Club in Seattle.

Tip: NYC Dunkin Donuts has the best coffee, not Starbucks!

Of course I went running (as always) since Central Park has the best running club(s)!

I just recommend you leave your hotel around 6:00 AM so you do not have to deal with traffic slights, traffic, and people filling up the sidewalks.

I have done this route before, but it always has great scenery and sports atmosphere in the mornings.

It is hard sometimes to not stop and take some photos with your Windows 8 phone that you also use for music and picture taking on your runs.

For some reason, there were a lot of police and people talking pictures on this side of the park, but I am not sure why…

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The Fall Jabs (Shots)

The Bi-Variant COVID Booster

The Fall 2022 Influenza (Flu) vaccines

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

OK – what in the world am I talking about?

I am sharing my experience with the new bi-variant boosters that have been recently approved by the FDC and CDC for people 12+ years old. Some people call them bivalent. It is like “potato potatoe” – they are all the same thing.

Photo by Artem Podrez

and I just received my fifth shot/booster! To mix things up, I received the Pfizer booster for the first time, when the first 4 were based on Moderna, For some reason, the Moderna bivalent was very popular in the Seattle area, so I had to try our Pfizer. In any case, I thought I would be a great test case and share my experience with the community in what it is like to mix the different manufacturers.

All the research and reports indicate that is safe to mix and match. Let’s roll!

Why Now?

Very simply, for the same reasons I cited in my previous booster posting and 4th jab discussion. I am an international travel for business and personal and one of the last things I want to encounter is a restriction that may be imposed or required that requires a recent booster shot. I do not like being surprised, I like being prepared and proactive.

The reality is everyone – we are going to need these once to twice a year like the Flu shot for the rest of our lives. Yep, I am getting a little older and I do not want to be one of those “unusual” cases where people are healthy and then get infected from being in the wrong place at the wrong time with super spreaders and then dying as a result. I already died twice, not ready for the 3rd one due to COVID!

And NOPE, I am not drinking that fake Kool-Aid that the vaccine is killing more people and causing more harm than good.

Bivalent Side Effects

Now, let talk about the side effects as I know this is what most people fear and hinders them from getting the boosters.

Here is what I felt for the 5th shot and first Pfizer booster – they were a slightly reduced from my second booster and original Moderna shots which I shared online.

  • After 6 hours, I felt almost no soreness in the arm or tenderness from the shot location. Positive!
  • After 8 hours, maybe a hint of a headache. Very slight, maybe a 1 Tylenol headache.
    • After about 12 hours, I started to feel slightly fatigued. But was also a Friday night and the end of a long work week.
  • Overnight, my arm finally got a little sore. Not as bad as previous shots, maybe 50-60% of the previous intensity. It was a little annoying when sleeping, but not too bad
  • In the morning, only slight fatigue, not bad at all
  • This morning, I felt slightly achy, but not bad at all.
  • The arm felt a little tender, but no major restrictions or limits of movement. Nothing that two ibuprofen cannot take of

Similar to last shots, I did a nice workout (10K run) and that seemed to ward off all the side effects and minor fatigue. Highly recommeded!

End result: feel great and back to normal!

Summary: The bivalent booster seems to be a great choice to stay up to date and the side effects seem to be less after each shot.

Update: I received my fall 2022 influenza vaccine two weeks later.

Symptoms? Mild soreness in the arm, some fatigue/exhaustion at the end of the day. Minor nausea in the morning.

Solution? Go for a long run like I do for the COVID vaccines and the vaccine hangover is cured 🙂

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