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I last left you guys/gals swimming far away in the Pacific and thought it only polite to bring you back home once more, so the balence of the trip follows. I wish I could have given the full measure and breath of my experiences over the past few months but that would have required a tome rather than a series of posts. Thank you for your indulgence in this experiment and I wish each of you good travels in your juirney through life. With apologies to Dean Koontz (butchered from "Life Expectancies":

One should be motivated not by the actions of others, not by envy, not by a conviction of moral superiority, but by life's possibilities. When we fail to see the eccentricities in ourselves and be amused by them, we become monsters of self regard. We should not edit ourselves to impress others and should avoid the pull of the mindless herd, the allure of the pack. We should resist the extreme effects of this influance and when we don't we drag our societies into the wreckage of failed utopias rather than cherish the gift of our indeviduality.


Couple of forgotten notes:
The ship pays close attention to cleanliness. For the first two days out of an embarkation port, passengers are not allowed to take their own food at buffets, but the food is behind Plexiglass barriers and is dished out by stewards. The ship has hundreds of alcohol disincentive dispensers in all passenger gathering areas, outside restrooms, etc. As you enter the ship or the dining room there is a guy squirting the goop into your hand. Despite that, each cruise runs a pretty good chance of some low level respiratory virus passing through all the new passengers, but I have to give them “A for effort”.

Somehow Fiji water has gained a foothold in the US market. I’m sure there is some huge source of crystal clear, clean water somewhere on Fiji to supply this huge market. That said, I did not see one.

As we passed the equator, the members of the crew and staff were subjected to a “traditional” ceremony in front of the passengers (unfortunately passenger pollywogs were not invited to participate for liability reasons). As I have previously been sworn to secrecy by King Neptune himself, I am not at liberty to discuss the festivities but for those who are familiar with the procedure, I can assure you that it was appropriately and imaginatively handled.

Well here we are in the paradise that Hawaii is on Oahu. OK, admittedly by now I’m a bit jaded and it takes more than palm trees and beaches to get my blood stirring, (and we had previously seen the “Pearl Harbor”sites) but Hawaii is still a pretty unique place. While everyone on the ship seemed to make a bee-line for touristy shops (like Honolulu Haddy’s) and Wall-Mart. I have to admit that my record of being a Wall-Mart virgin was strained by peer pressure but circumstances interfered and I never entered the place. (As an explanation: NYC doesn’t have Wall-Marts and though I own stock in the company and have heard the siren songs of comparisons to Nordstrom’s, Neman Marcus and Bloomingdales over the years, I’ve yet to enter one of their magnificent emporiums of blatant mercantilism). We decided to rent a car and drive in a circle around the island. The route is extremely scenic with views of surf breaking over rocks to rival those north of Big Sur in California. As we started to it the surfing beaches in the north, we got out at Sunset Beach to watch the surfers tune up for Van’s World Cup of Surfing. Then we hit Bonzai Beach of pipeline fame. We ate a nice seafood lunch as a small restaurant in a marina surrounded by surfing equipment shops. Next we hit a supermarket for some 100% Kona peaberry coffee ($10 a pound but life is short and the coffee is good) and a few of bottles of wine to replenish the larder. We circled back to the ship and prepared for the final five days at sea to Los Angeles.

On wine drinking: Those who know me know that I’m not much of a drinker. I’m not a tea-totaler, but rarely (almost never) drink any “hard stuff”, maybe a case or two of beer and a few bottles of wine a year at home. When out with friends or at an affair I’ll have a glass of wine (or drink) or two. There are red and white wines that I like better than others, but that taste does not seem to be price dependent. Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, the people we were traveling with were REALLY into wine. Between the six of us (I’d say 5.25 of us as my wife didn’t participate much in this bacchanalia) we put away 16-20 cases of wine in 10 weeks (hard to be sure because of the shore replenishment, wine won on-board, etc.). These guys traveled with their own special wine glasses (in the fashion of golfers who take their own clubs, pool players who bring their own cue sticks, scuba divers who lug their own weights and tanks and Argentines who bring their own steak knives to barbeques). After a lot of patient explanation on their part of the benefits, I borrowed a couple from the ship’s fancy dining room and did notice a bit of a difference as the evaporated wine did get into the nose better. The glasses are delicate (one of them broke one, but had a spare), so I don’t see the point of traveling with them rather than borrowing them – though I’m told the specific shape makes some sort of a difference as well – who knows).

I am told that some of the wine brought by our traveling companions was very expensive and fine. The sommelier on the ship seemed to reinforce that. Admittedly it was good, but frankly so was some of the $10-15 a bottle stuff so either I’m proficient (more likely lucky) at picking good values off the rack at Safeway or I remain a Philistine who can’t tell the difference. Anyway, I’ve drunk more wine over the past 2-3 months than over the rest of my life and have not changed my opinions much (but did learn the names of a few labels which seem to impress others).

Before we left, I made the decision to spend a night in Los Angeles rather than run right back to the East Coast. Probably, in retrospect, it was a waste of money and time, but it wasn’t a show stopper and allowed a breather before the flight. We stayed in Hollywood (I think – didn’t see the streets populated with movie stars, but there was a large Macy’s where I seem to remember a seedy neighborhood a couple of decades ago). We stayed at the Hotel Elan on Beverly Blvd. (chosen after reading multiple reviews on a popular travel web site). While a bit Spartan, it was reasonably priced ($200 including all the taxes) for a major metropolitan area, clean, had a comfortable bed, free Wi-Fi and business center, included not only a breakfast but a two hour wine and cheese hour (red was a low end Aussie Penfolds and the white a decent Napa Valley chardonnay – who says I can’t be taught). The front desk (in fact all the employees) were so intent on being helpful as to be bordering on being obsequious. Downside was valet parking clocked in at $24, but that’s life in the big city.

Plane left late because of rain in NYC and then one of the passengers (Alec Baldwin) had to be removed due to inappropriate activities (whatever those were). Hopefully we did a good job on the refrigerator and will not be greeted by science fair projects – we’ll see (written on flight back).

Got home to all the rain we missed in over 10 weeks of travel. Car’s battery was deader than Kelsey’s nuts and three large bags of mail (about 2/3 junk and not a few financial worms to unravel).
So the question is would I do it again? Yup. So what’s the encore (more like the dance card)?
We have a 10 day cruise scheduled over Xmas and New Years (set up a few months ago) and then the rest of 2012 is barren. There is a 29 day cruise from Dubai to Capetown (I think next Novemberish). I’d like to try t spend the summer in Europe (on a mixture of a couple of river cruises – which we have not tried before – and more traditional driving/training around. The alternative is to spend the time (or part of it) in Uzbekistan and western China. This will let us get to India about a month before the cruise. I figure we can spend a couple of weeks floating around in Rajasthan (by high end train, sleeping in palaces). Then a stop to relax on the beach in Goa. Then a jaunt to the south for as bit, sweeping back north to the Taj Mahal. A short flight from New Delhi to Mumbai should set up the flight to pick u[p the cruise after a hop to Dubai. Capetown will be the start of a month or two of driving up the Garden Road, a hop to Kruger for an obligatory safari out of Sabi Sands. Then a bit in Batswana and Mozambique at a friend’s place (and of course a stop at Victoria Falls and maybe another animal thing – Xmas and New Year probably somewhere in Africa) then a hop to London to pick up an 88 day cruise to Singapore (through the Suez Canal) and back. A short flight to NYC will let us rest up in preparation for a run across Canada (mostly by train) with stops in Banff, Jasper, etc. for a bit of a stay in Vancouver before starting on a 70+ day cruise to a bunch of dots in the Pacific that I’ve never heard of, but have to do with WWII battles and bases. I figure if nothing else the diving and beaches should be good. That sort of brings us through nearly the end of 2013. Not all of this is reserved and a lot is subject to change but without belaboring it in the future I just wanted to explain why I may seem to fall off the face of the earth every now and then. The two dates I need to be around are when taxes are due and when my apartment lease is up for renewal; else I suspect I’ll be on the road much of the time. I will be working over the next few weeks to set up a mail/phone/internet infrastructure which will let me get away with that.

Anyhow, the recanting of my last trip for your pleasure has been fun and now I have to get serious about getting back into the swing of things and reading a few months of back posts and bringing my financial models back up to date (UGG!)

Jeff
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Splendid! Almost sad to see your trip reports come to an end, but we've missed your insight on the turmoil and volatility in the global markets, good to have you back.

On a side note, it's interesting that as much importance we place on global events, that you can go away for a couple of months and still not really miss anything.
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and Wall-Mart. I have to admit that my record of being a Wall-Mart virgin was strained by peer pressure but circumstances interfered and I never entered the place. (As an explanation: NYC doesn’t have Wall-Marts and though I own stock in the company and have heard the siren songs of comparisons to Nordstrom’s, Neman Marcus and Bloomingdales over the years, I’ve yet to enter one of their magnificent emporiums of blatant mercantilism).


Jeff,

Welcome back.


Anymouse

http://finance.sympatico.ca/home/the_giant_of_giants_that_is...

The giant of giants that is Walmart

06/12/2011 5:13:00 PM

by Roop Gill
We all hear about the immensity of the Walmart retail enterprise and the average North American can't escape the presence and relevance of Walmart in their everyday lives.
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Anymouse

Jeff might not know the new moniker. He might have to look at the SSL-related handle to remember you. ;)


** not signed **
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Jeff might not know the new moniker. He might have to look at the SSL-related handle to remember you. ;)


** not signed **



DAT IST VERBOTTEN!!!! }};-()
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by Roop Gill
We all hear about the immensity of the Walmart retail enterprise and the average North American can't escape the presence and relevance of Walmart in their everyday lives.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

......I can. You have to drag me screaming into one of them.:) - Carol
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the average North American can't escape the presence and relevance of Walmart in their everyday livesthe average North American can't escape the presence and relevance of Walmart in their everyday lives

In our area, the food prices at Kroger (with "VIP" card) are just as good as those at the supersize WalMart, with better produce, meat, seafood, wine and deli departments. For baked goods, Fresh Market tries really hard to match the old-fashioned European-style bakery goods.

We are fortunate that our area has a pretty darn good selection of places to shop for groceries. Aldi, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Publix, Kroger, Trader Joe's, Costco, Target and Walmart.

We probably ought to buy our drugs at Costco or at WalMart pharmacy with their $4.00 generic deals. However, Walgreens and CVS are hard to beat as far as drugstores go.

One thing WalMart does provide, though: the ability to buy all of the above, plus toys, household goods, seasonal items, sports gear, ugly clothes, electronics and automotive, all under one roof. It can save a lot of driving around to the specialty places. Plus, it definitely saves a lot of time to get everything in one trip.
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Notehound - One thing WalMart does provide, though: the ability to buy all of the above, plus toys, household goods, seasonal items, sports gear, ugly clothes, electronics and automotive, all under one roof. It can save a lot of driving around to the specialty places. Plus, it definitely saves a lot of time to get everything in one trip.

---------------------------------------------------------------

.....It also puts all of the mom and pop stores out of business, which hurts the economy even more, if thats even possible. - Carol
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Welcome back, Big Brother!
Love,
Wendy
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Welcome back Jeff! Really enjoyed your trip reports. A friend of mine went to Tashkent last year and loved it. I can only imagine what all you will discover there and look forward to visiting it via your words.

I have my own story regarding WalMart which kind of contrasts how things have changed.

I visited the US for the first time in the late 1990's. On my first trip, I made it a point to visit the closest WalMart. My American colleagues were quite 'intrigued' and were taken aback when I shook hands with the Greeter and asked them to take my photo with him. The Greeter was nonchalant but my colleagues were quite not so.

Growing up in Asia and fascinated (still am) by folklorish stories of mostly American entrepreneurship, to me WalMart was a very fine creation of a great entrepreneur. By that time, I had read a lot about how Sam Walton in painstaking detail constructed the business. From what I read, it was clear that he built the business with the best of intentions for both his employees and customers. After Sam, I guess WalMart gradually morphed and is now 'professionally' managed.

Recently the equivalent for me has been making a pilgrimage to the Apple Stores.
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After Sam, I guess WalMart gradually morphed and is now 'professionally' managed.

I looked at WMT over ten years ago as part of my "training" in buying individual stocks. The stock price today is 2% higher than it was then and the dividend is a bit over half what you can get from a Canuck bank.

They are a good place to buy grandchildren's Xmas gifts and have the second cheapest milk (6 cents a 4 liter jug higher than Costco) in town. I can walk to the closest store but must walk right past Costco to get there (their parking lots abut) and on the other side is "Superstore" where the employees are a bit less incompetent, the store is better laid out and has the fresh meat and produce our local Wally World lacks and gives me "free" groceries for using their debit card.


Anymouse
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After Sam, I guess WalMart gradually morphed and is now 'professionally' managed.

NikSG,

You really hit the bullseye with the changes that have occurred at WalMart since Sam Walton died and the company became more "professionally" managed.

Inasmuch as you indicate you are from Asia, you may not be aware that, after the death of Sam Walton, WalMart was the single largest factor in the growth of Chinese consumer goods manufacturing (and the simultaneous decline in US consumer goods manufacturing).

Sam Walton built and expanded the original entrepeneurial, family-oriented stores using the "Made in the USA" mantra.

Although China would have become a manufacturing powerhouse eventually, there is no doubt that the rapid expansion of WalMart, the explosion in Chinese manufacturing, the decline of American consumer good manufacturing, and the death of the "mom & pop" shops in Mainstreet, USA, all were tremendously hastened by the death of Sam Walton and the demise of WalMart's "Made in the USA" mantra.

:-o
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Hi Nik,

Welcome to Metar :-)

My comment on Wal-Mart was sort of an inside joke. I am probably the only American who has never set foot in one. This has not been due to my attempting to avoid them (actually the reverse, but events always interfered), but rather a lack of opportunity. Because of the high cost of labor and real estate, New York City (and its area) are sadly deprived of this emporium of high quality (I'm told) products :-).

Companies evolve. General Electric was started by the serial entrepreneur Thomas Edison. Henry Ford started the car company which still bears his name. The mild mannered Bill Gates created the "Evil Empire" in a drop of inspired sweat :-). Each company (and Wal-Mart is no exception) has a beginning and then reaches a scope where changes take place. Presumably these changes are constructed to increase value (or decrease risk) for the owners. Just as most companies fail long before reaching this "next level", there is generally a trauma involved in this transition as well (as when Carol Bartz too the reins of Autodesk, when Bill Gates gave up the day-to-day control of Microsoft, when Steve Jobs was cold shouldered at Apple and so on). If the transition is "successful" the new iteration of the company may bear only skin deep resemblance to the earlier firm. This has obviously taken place at Wal-Mart. That said, I bought some of their stock a number of months ago, for the very reason stated in this thread by Tim that the price is the same as a decade ago, yet the value per share is much higher. In a perfect world, at some point, I would hope the price would more rationally reflect the scope of their business (a similar argument as to why I own Microsoft stock at this point in time).

Jeff
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That said, I bought some of their stock a number of months ago, for the very reason stated in this thread by Tim that the price is the same as a decade ago, yet the value per share is much higher. In a perfect world, at some point, I would hope the price would more rationally reflect the scope of their business (a similar argument as to why I own Microsoft stock at this point in time).

Jeff



Oddly enough I took it the other way around. Over ten years ago WMT was (IMO) massively over valued and being treated as a safe place to hide after the tech crash. They hit a peak in Jan 2000 after a tremendous five year run up and I don't think have been back there since?

Having said that I really don't like the whole retail sector and after a few interesting forays have chosen to leave it to others. There are (IMO) just too many stores selling too much stuff to too few customers with too little real money and I'm not very good at picking the winners there.

Some years back I was considering buying into a leather coat company (Danier Leather) that seemed to be doing everything right. I didn't buy the stock though a board buddy (who was the one touting it) on Canada Gen did. The company gambled with a huge order of those full length Matrix coats when the movie was hot but of course the movie was long gone by time the coats showed up and they couldn't even give the darn things away. Funny lessons you pick up along the way.


Anymouse.

http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/quickchart/quickchart.asp?s...
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