Author Archives: Mr. Biggs

Turkey Pot Pie

Great for when your mom gives you leftover turkey after Thanksgiving dinner.  Or, you want to take all those leftovers if you only had a good idea what to do with them.

This is actually a lot simpler than it looks.  If you have bowls and a skillet you’re good to go.  Pics on my Instagram.


  • Turkey leftovers, shredded/torn
  • Cream of mushroom soup – Trader Joe’s has a great cream of portobello in stock.
  • Organic foursome frozen veggies
  • Frozen puff pastry – seasonally available from Trader Joe’s
  • Cornstarch (optional)

Throw turkey, soup, veggies in a cast iron skillet and simmer for 20-30 minutes
Add cornstarch for desired thickness
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Pour turkey mix into ramekins or small bowls
Cut puff pastry into squares to cover ramekins
Baste with a bit of butter
Bake for 10-12 minutes until puff pastry is puffed and golden brown
Let cool (or don’t, if you’re like me) and enjoy!

How Game of Thrones will end *massive spoilers*

Been meaning to write this one for a while now, but the first episode of season 7 really confirmed all my major theories about the story arc.

Let’s begin, like season 7, with Arya.  The interesting thing about Arya’s mass-assassination of the Freys  is she says “Tell them Winter came for them.”  This gives it away.  Arya, by taking a face of the dead to haunt the living, mimics the tactics of the Night King.  Like the Night King, her vengeance can be all-reaching.  And the faceless men are much like the zombie hordes – nameless, faceless, with one singular purpose.  This is how the story segues from the battle among the kingdoms to the battle with the Night King.  This may also have to do with anything the Faceless Men do in the Stronghold.  Surely they must research the origins of their magic and how they can find deliverance from the Night King.  But enough about that.

I also figured Arya would be the one to assassinate Cersei.  But I’m surprised nobody else has mentioned my angle, that taking the face of Walter Frey is a foreshadowing of how she’ll do it.  Cersei’s madness is onsetting, as her conversation with Jaime attests.  She will surely suspect he is to repeat history and be King(Queen)slayer yet again, and off him before he gets a chance.  Arya will then use his face to haunt her, claiming he’s back from the dead.  This weakness for Jaime and what she’s done will let Arya kill her easily.

But not without massive guilt.  You know, the kind that will have the Night King come straight for her.

Notice in the “next episode” teaser, Arya encounters her dire wolf again.  She’s the only Stark who really still needs her Dire Wolf, which is a sort of Patronus for the children to help see them through their innocent years.  Contrast it with Sansa’s dire wolf, which gets offed pretty quickly – forcing her to grow up quickly and face the reality of grownup politics.

Arya has been an innocent child trapped in the machinations of grownups her whole life.  She thought she met a nice guy in Jaquen H’Ghar, but he’s really just an agent for the Iron Bank.  Her assassination of Cersei was something planned by the Bank, because the Lannisters couldn’t pay their debts.  Once the assassination is complete she is of new use to them and her downward spiral will be quick.

Some suggest she might warg into her Dire Wolf to avoid being taken by the Night King.  I find this a fitting bittersweet ending – her eternal innocence saved by melding with the spirit of the wild.

Now – how will the war play out?  The Iron Bank and Cersei gives a good clue into how the Kingdoms will spar.  The secret to the crown is nobody has a monopoly on it.  Each kingdom has a certain dimension of power and stake in it:

Braavos: purse (Iron Bank)
Ironborn: navy (ironborn fleet)
Mereen: army (unsullied)
Dorn: fertility (Elia Martell)
Westeros/Tyrells: food
Vale: knights
North: popularity/memory

If you take a closer look at the seven aspects of the Septem, you will probably be able to chart a simple 1-1 ratio between these dimensions.  The Septem therefore becomes the spiritual recording of this ancient connection between the kingdoms.  Cersei’s destruction of the Septem destroys the old shadow of this relationship, and paves the way for it to be rebuilt anew.

So that’s how they will play out, and they will only find a resolution when each kingdom finds its proper role restored in the crown, whoever manages it.

Now, as to Jon Snow.  We know he’s special.  I think he’s Azor Ahai.  If you remember, Aegon Targaryen had two sister wives.  Jon Snow has two living half sisters – Sansa Stark and Danerys Targaryen.  Ice and Fire.  He will ride the dragons with them against the Night King.

Of course, Snow will also need a badass flaming Valyrian sword.  He will get it – through the willing sacrifice of the Red Priestess.  She will find redemption for her life of error only by becoming the fiery spirit of the sword.

I always found Sansa’s development to be beautifully understated.  As is the nature of ice.  We already see her cold calculating command in this first episode.  She knows exactly what Baelish wants and knows how to control him with it.  Baelish, the man nobody else trusts.  She is the perfect counterpart to Danerys’s fiery temperament.

More in a bit.



Shrimp Fried Rice

Frozen shrimp
Leftover rice
Soy sauce
Optional Ingredients:
Frozen vegetables
Chopped onion
Sweetened rice wine

Picture this.  You went out for Chinese food, and they gave you a huge bucket of rice with your dinner.  Being on a low carb kick, you didn’t eat most of it, and they offer to put it in a to-go box for you.  What do you do?  Well now with the Bachelor’s Cookbook, you finally have a use for it.

Making fried rice is as simple as throwing some frozen shrimp in a pan, frying them up to melt them, adding the rice and soy sauce and frying it further until it gets some crisp to it.  Boom.  Done.  You don’t even need to buy soy sauce for your bachelor pad because chances are the Chinese restaurant also threw in a couple packets in with your to-go box.

Also, rice keeps surprisingly long in the fridge.  Yeah it gets a bit stiff and I wouldn’t eat it directly out of the box if it’s been sitting in there too long.  But frying it up in a pan will bring the freshness right back.  A bit of mold?  No sweat, just scrape it off and fry the rest into sterile oblivion.

If you wanna get fancy with the fried rice, you can chop up a quarter onion and fry that up first.  Then add the shrimp to melt it.  This is where you would also add an egg by dropping it off to the side and scrambling it.  Let it cook all the way before you add the rice.  Frozen veggies can add some roughage to the mix and is another nice thing to keep in your freezer.  But those you want to add after the rice.

Sweetened rice wine can give your fried rice a milder, sweeter complexion without making it taste like candy.  It’s readily available at Japanese supermarkets and keeps forever.  Add that along with the soy sauce to taste.

I’ve gotten out of many a night with no dinner in sight by frying up this concoction and getting those stupid rice leftovers cleaned out of my fridge.

I mailed Barack a clock

I mailed Barack Obama the remnants of a clock I built with an Arduino, some electronic components and a USB battery.  Here’s the accompanying letter:

Dear Barack Obama,

Enclosed please find the remnants of a clock I built.  Your meeting with Ahmed Clockboy inspired me to create this and show it off Halloween 2015.  If you check my Instagram, you’ll see videos and pictures of the working model.  I’m really proud of what I built, and I figured I should give you a tutorial about what to look for, to distinguish between an honest science project and a bomb hoax.

First, notice the breadboard, with wires and resistors attached.  Also notice the component seven-segment LED display.  This has pins which fit into a breadboard.  Contrast this with Clockboy’s clock, which was just a gutted consumer model.  No breadboard, all premade circuitboards and wiring bundle, prefabricated display.

Also, notice the Arduino.  Any electronics science project would have a processing core like an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi.  You can then download a programming package to it, wire it up to electronic components like the LED, and watch the magic.  All put together, it was a self-contained, self-powered clock.  It taught me a lot about how to program an Arduino.

I say this because your meeting Ahmed and defending him over what was an obvious political stunt with no scientific merit really left me scratching my head.  Nobody who has any kind of technical background saw any scientific or educational value in what he did.  They all saw through the fraud.

I was so embarrassed by your lack of insight, I even wrote a presidential apology for you, which I’ve included.  So I wondered, I, a lifelong Democrat who voted for you twice, why you?  Why did you believe it?  And then it dawned on me.  Like attracts like.

Yes, Barack, I see it now.  You too are a fraud.  Just like this Clockboy.  And now everything makes sense.  Every statistic you quoted about restoring jobs, getting rid of terrorism, making the world safer, it’s all lies.  The more I dug down into the statistics you quoted, the more I found Potemkin Villages of data.  Every facial expression, every cause you support, every attack you make, all calculated frauds.

So in a way, maybe this Clock really is a bomb.  It is the bomb that blew up everything people believed in you, your entire legacy.  Leaving you, and the Democratic party I’m leaving, nothing but a hulking wreckage of a fraud.

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The trouble with a one party state

California is now a one party state.  This has been the big issue of the 2016 election.  It smacks of communist party rule, and is degenerative to society in so many ways.  During my campaign, I want to address Democratic Party dominance, how its entrenched their position in the state, and how its damaging society as a whole.

First is the legal entrenchment.  In 2010, California adopted the open primary rule, meaning only the top two vote getters in the primaries get to advance to the general election.  So this year, we didn’t get to vote for any Republicans except the president.

That Kamala Harris would become our next Senator was a foregone conclusion and a coronation.  There was no GOP candidate, only a runner up Democrat who ran to her left.

This scenario has left Republicans folding their tents and given the Democrats the keys here, they don’t even run campaigns anymore.  This leaves us with a political machine which has no debate.  Only one big machine, with ladders and favors to apparatchiks.  My 37th district has a congresswoman who’s a 4th generation dynasty of appointees.

One could say that, well, this is because California is a diverse electorate which does not fall for racists.  But they would be wrong.  As I’ve pointed out before, Trump made inroads to Blacks and Latinos that have flummoxed the Republican party for decades.  He basically cracked the race code.  Those cracks were evident earlier, when Democrats thought blacks would join them in fighting against Prop 8 (outlawing gay marriage) but they wound up being its most fervent supporters.  And I think that all peoples and races share some basic core values which make them natural Republicans.  Issues like Family, Law and Order, Work Ethic, Public service.

So why are so many voting Democrat?  The answer is social – the other dimension a one-party state entrenches power.  For this I have mostly anecdotal evidence.  But it’s assumed around Los Angeles that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could vote for Donald Trump.  All the worst lies about him are assumed to be true, people around here are literally suicidal that he’s won.

You’d say, well who cares, but the fact is that you can’t support Donald Trump, you can’t even give him a fair hearing, without constantly getting into arguments.  Conversations start with “at least we all hate Trump, right?” or “I can’t believe how anybody could vote for that rapist”.  And when they see you not nodding in enthusiastic agreement, then the argument starts.

It’s not just annoying.  It’s damaging to democratic society.  Indeed it bares light on the Democrats’ strategy that goes all the way back to the Antebellum days – they treat their base like a plantation, and instead of resorting to reasoned arguments turn to slanders and violence on anyone who doesn’t support them.

So part of our early strategy in this run is to come out of the closet as Trump supporters and Republicans.  We need to come out, stand proud, and even if some of us didn’t vote for Trump, at least demand a fair hearing for him.  I share an opinion with a number of friends and acquaintances that, regardless of who we voted for, we still accept the other candidate and want to give them a fair hearing.

We can start with that simple premise.


Considering a congressial run in the GOP

FINALLY! A Secular non-tea-party Republican has run a successful campaign!

I know. Record screeching to a halt. What?  Yes.  Trump’s victory forever changed the GOP.  It dissolved both the Tea Party and the Evangelicals in one blow.  Yes, of course he made overtures to them during his campaign.  And he will fulfill promises to them.  But both Tea Party conservatives and hard evangelicals campaigned as hard against him with their #nevertrump as any Democrat.

Meanwhile, in his simple populist message Trump made inroads to Black and Latinos that have flummoxed the Republican party for decades.  He basically cracked the race code.  And I want to build on that.  Trump’s victory is a blow to PC culture which might actually grant us a real discussion among each other as Americans.  And I think that all peoples and races share some basic core values which make them natural Republicans.  Issues like family, Law and Order, Work Ethic, Public Service.

It’s these issues Trump laid the groundwork for.  If we can build on this, and really push forward a new Republican agenda of enlightened classic liberalism, we could go into the 21st century making it the greatest one yet.  And we can go into it with a consensus that really represents America.

Once again, California is a perfect starting point for this visionary future.

In his Victory, the Death of the Democrats

The Republicans reel from the dissolution of these wings which they depended on for their mass base.  But they will recover.  And they will come out stronger than before, ready to handle this century of challenges.  Already a new generation of anti-PC secularist militants sympathetic to Trump are organizing.  Mind you, these are not your leftist secularists.  We do not begrudge people their religion, we don’t attack their beliefs, in fact we enshrine their right to behave as they see fit.

The Democrats, unfortunately, are still saddled by their militant wings, which are pulling the party ever more into irrelevance.  One would think their base would see the error of their ways after Trump’s election, and drift away from identity politics and branding everyone and everything as a racist.  They are not, and in fact are doubling down on their politics.

But this is the symptom of a party that has been in power too long and has not needed to become self conscious.

I was a lifelong Democrat.  I worked for the Democrats in a number of campaigns, I see how they behave, especially in my home state of California.  I consider myself of the vein of such Democrats as Chuck Schumer, Jim Webb, and Jerry Brown.

But with Trump’s election, I’m flipping to the Republican party.  Because Trump effectively took over those wings of the Democrats, and now they are part of a GOP conversation.  I want to be a part of this dynamic conversation they are having.  The Democrats stopped having a conversation, and I fear there is not much for them as a party at this point.

This will be the first of many articles about my stances on various issues.  The major question at this point is how to run as a GOP candidate in California, which is effectively a one party state.  I would like to discuss how it became a one party state, how damaging this setup is to our politics and our society, and how we can reverse this trend.

Hillary’s E-mail Question

I should begin by saying I generally don’t consider issues like this “30,000 emails” thing.  I consider them theatrics for the masses, much like a politician’s sexual details or tax returns.  That being said, I’ve been running Exchange (Windows) mail servers for the past 15 years so I know a thing or two about how mail servers are run.  So watching this whole issue unfold brought up some interesting issues for me, with our government, with Hillary, and with what changes really need to happen in 2017.

The tipping point was when my wife and I were listening to an episode of This American Life which was trying to justify Hillary’s private e-mail server.  The basic premise was that this private e-mail server wasn’t some Machiavellian scheming on Hillary’s part, it was just a certain cluelessness and carelessness about a technology that the government hadn’t really adopted yet. I’d read some other justifications, like that it’s accepted protocol to destroy an old phone with a hammer.

First I’d like to debunk some of these justifications.  And first among those is smashing a phone with a hammer.  This is not just untrue, it shows real stupidity on the part of whoever decided to smash it.  Smashing a phone will just smash the plastic and glass, more than likely it won’t smash the flash memory on which sensitive data may reside.

Of course, in the private sector, business e-mail needs to be encrypted on a phone in such a way that it can never be retrieved if someone were to get the phone.  It technically doesn’t even sit on the phone.  And if a phone is stolen, the e-mail administrator has the ability to remote wipe it.  If you’d like to know more about that you can check out IBM’s MaaS360.

Second was Ira Glass’s charge that a lot of government officials use private e-mail accounts, citing Colin Powell’s use of an AOL account.  Now let’s get this straight, there is a huge difference between using a personal commercial e-mail address and hosting your e-mails on your own server.  An AOL account can be subpoenaed.  AOL follows proper data storage protocols, they can pull up any and all e-mails that ever went through their organization.  If Colin Powell were under investigation for something, the FBI could gain access to this.

Not only that, this is a compliance requirement of all private sector businesses.  I’d like to introduce you to an appliance I have personal experience with – the Barracuda Message Archiver.  All businesses with compliance requirements need something like this.  Any e-mail that goes in, out, or through the company gets passed through this archiver, to be stored for eternity.  Nobody gets away with deleting anything.

This is in addition to backups.  Without regular backups, Exchange simply doesn’t work.  You could technically skimp on the backups and keep a short retention history, but you can’t do that with the archiver.

So, my understanding is Hillary’s team made backups, even offsite backups, but didn’t archive.  The only way this could result in so many e-mails being deleted by chance is with some combination of deleting e-mails as they come in, and having a very short backup retention policy.  Which, if you’re going to keep backup retention that short, why even have them offsite?

Okay, so you see where I’m going with this?  Two possible stories surface here, both of which spell something scandalous.

  1. The traditional story that Hillary’s camp purposely used a private e-mail server so they could write each other e-mails outside the realm of scrutiny, knowing what they were doing was illegal.
  2. Government agencies do not have the compliance requirements of the private sector, which puts them above the laws they create. Hillary’s team’s carelessness about this is just a symptom of a much larger issue with a public sector that needs a tech overhaul.

Either story speaks of a scandal.

A quick way to vet which story is true is to find out what other senators, candidates, or any political officials run their operations with a private e-mail server.  But I have a hunch Hillary’s camp is unique in this behavior.  Really, e-mail is so much more complicated than a server.  Maybe 15 years ago we could get away with a simple server but we’ve been in the era of strict compliance and sophisticated spam filters for years now.  We generally talk of e-mail more in terms of systems than servers.  I haven’t even gotten into so many of the other features we have to keep in our e-mail organization.  Really, unless you’re an organization of at least a thousand people, it’s more efficient to outsource it.

Unless you have something to hide.

A Goblet Universe

It started with a simple graph: the rotation of the function y=1/(x2+y2-h2).  I didn’t quite know what the metric was for a black hole, but I knew I was close.  The familiar well came up, with an asymptotal cylinder of radius h.  But something else happened.  I forgot it also had a “goblet” in the middle.

My more formal mathematical training taught me to throw that goblet away and deal with the “real” and “finite world outside of a black hole’s event horizon.  Then I read about Rahmanujan.  Why exactly do we throw these away, anyway?  Don’t they tell us something?

Rahmanujan has gained some importance recently, because the peculiar thing about black holes is they touch infinity at the event horizon.  So his mathematics of infinity, of throing away this self-imposed limit on our math, would seem to give us some insights.

But it goes further than that.  Could there be a “negative world” inside the event horizon?  And would it be really all that negative?

How event horizons differ from planet surfaces

Take two planets of equal density.  Collide them together to make a new planet that’s still perfectly round.  The new radius will be 3root2 or ~1.26 times the old radius.

But what happens to the event horizon of two colliding black holes of the same radius?  The new radius will be double the old radius.  Why is that?  That’s because an event horizon is nothing like a planet surface, it is the radius at which light makes a perfect circle around a black hole.  So the larger the radius, the less light needs to accelerate.  Turns out that once the calculations are done, the radius of a black hole is directly proportional to its mass, and not the cube root like a planet.

This means that the larger black holes get, the less dense they need to be.

Black Hole Sea

We keep talking about black holes as some dramatic star crushing into a singularity, like that’s all they can be.  But so long as any matter of any form and any volume can pull light into an orbit around itself, it will “cloak” itself in an event horizon.  The second thing to remember is black holes are really small.  A typical stellar black hole will only be a few kilometers across.  Compare that to the Earth which is over ten thousand kilometers across.

So a black hole with the density of Mercury’s orbit will have the density of our atmosphere.

What then, about nebulas?  While a nebula is only about a thousandth(?) times as dense as our atmosphere, remember you double the radius and you 2^3 volume, so you only need 1/8 the density.  Black holes get rarefied really quickly. A nebula the size of our solar system could well be a black hole candidate.

Now that we’re predicting supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, that very well may be how these guys have spawned.

But what of the matter on the inside?  We can’t imagine that anything spectacularly instant would happen to the matter.  So it means we have this matter, which creates an event horizon, and still has a very nicely independent existence from the world outside of it.  But then if it’s inside the event horizon, and is still curving spacetime the same way, it should very well curve (carve?) out this goblet shape that asymptotes to a cylinder at the evnet horizon.

The Universe inside a Black Hole

Here’s where it gets really interesting.  As an event horizon increases, the density decreases.  Turns out that the entire mass of the universe can generate an event horizon that’s about the size of the known universe.  And here’s the thing.  A goblet shape will create “anti-gravity”.  Everything inside the goblet will slowly slide towards the event horizon on the perimeter.

And so we just found a novel way to explain accelerating expansion.

It’s counterintuitive to think of us being in a black hole when we associate it with such powerful tidal forces and gravitation.  But if you think of an event horizon that’s billions of light years across – that means light only carves a circle once every few dozen billion years.  The acceleration would be negligible to even our most delicate instruments.

And considering light is timeless and dimensionless, it really doesn’t care whether it carves out a circle of a few kilometers of a few billion light years.  Its path is just as instant and timeless.  And so the curvature should not care either.

The Parallax Paradox – why a goblet appears flat to us

But we still have to account for the fact that, by our best instruments, the universe appears to have flat curvature.  But how do we know this?  We do it by measuring a large flat “parallax triangle” and seeing if the sides add up to 180 degrees.  If it ‘s less or more, we know it’s curved.

The problem is, plenty of shapes will still give us 180 degrees.  A cylinder, for one.  Which is what a goblet asymptotes into.  So we could very well be drawing this triangle that simply follows a curve path along the goblet that still gives us 180 degrees.

Egypt travelblog

Egypt is anarchic.

That’s the best way to describe it to a Westerner, especially an American.  Things you take for granted like fixed prices, schedules, satisfaction guarantees, clear signage, experts, do not exist.  Travelling through Egypt will challenge your assumption that the world is dictatorships or democracies.

So whatever I write here could be null and void in a matter of months.

To give you an idea just how anarchic it is, even Google and Apple are not aware of some basics.  Apple thinks Egypt is at GMT +2.  But Egypt recently ditched daylight savings time, and is currently only GMT +1.  Simply travelling to Egypt will set your mobile phone ahead by an hour unless you set it to manual time settings.

Then there’s the Rowaysat bus station in Sharm El Sheikh.  Google Maps will tell you it’s at one spot, but it turns out it’s a couple miles down the road.  Only the taxi driver knew this.  And that’s just the beginning.

Okay, so now are you ready to understand how travel in Egypt works?  Good.

My travel was from September 7-10, 2016, from the Taba border crossing South of Eilat to Sharm El Sheikh, on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula.  It’s basically the only part of Sinai left accessible to tourists while the Egyptian military deals with ISIS in the rest of the peninsula.  The first thing to understand that it is safe, and you’ll be fine.  Sharm El Sheikh is a HUGE tourist destination, and Egypt has every incentive to make sure it stays that way.

The recent plane crash to Sharm damaged the industry enough, and they are not about to let it get damaged anymore.  Air traffic is already back with increased security.  And the road from Taba to Sharm is on lockdown – you’ll cross about a dozen checkpoints on this 140 mile road, about 3-4 which can ask for your passport.  Furthermore, you can cross the Taba border without a visa.  But your stamp will only allow you along this coastal road.  The border guard emphatically told me “no Cairo.  Only Taba Sharm.”

With this in mind, remember these people know what’s up.  They are telling you these things for your protection.  They are not the Man trying to bring you down.  Listen to them.

Now, how to actually make it there.  There’s two options.  One is a bus that goes from Sharm to Taba and back every day.  It leaves the Rowaysat bus station in Sharm at 9am every morning, and arrives in Taba about 1-1:30 pm.  It then leaves Taba back for Sharm at 3pm.  It makes two stops, at Nuweiba and Dahab.  As well as maybe one or two other stops where the bus driver knows someone.  But that’s neither here nor there.

The other way is by private taxi.  Now, forget everything you know about taxis and Uber.  A “taxi” is just a guy with his own car who sees you walking down the road and guesses you’re a tourist needing a ride.  He will then haggle you for a ride.  I paid $60 to get from Taba to Sharm via taxi, when he originally asked for $100.  I consider the trip worth the expense because he knows the roads and the checkpoints.  He introduced me to a couple of his favorite stops along the way, and the checkpoints tend to be a bit more lenient with him.  As he said “if you show your passport before he asks for it, he won’t ask for it.”

Now let’s talk a bit about haggling.  First off remember.  You’re a tourist.  They know this, and you know it.  So you will pay more than the natives – if the natives even get something like a taxi.  But keep a couple things in mind to help you haggle.  I knew the bus was only 50EGP which is about $6.  But he found me walking around Taba at 10:30am, and we both knew I didn’t feel like waiting till 3pm when the bus showed up.  And I also knew the hotel wanted $130 for their own transportation to take me.

So when you have alternatives in mind, it helps you set a price in your own mind and not be subjected to their tactics.  Which, frankly, I respect.  Because for these guys life is a hustle.  It’s not easy living in these parts.

And speaking of hotel transportation.  I spent the night at the Taba Hilton, figuring I’d get an early start on the day.  I tried searching the net for bus schedules, but the one site I found said the bus left Taba at 7am.  It’s a good thing I talked to the hotel clerk/concierge (there wasn’t a dedicated concierge).  He didn’t even know, he just knew the bus phone number and was able to find out that way they left at 3pm.

If you do decide to take the bus from Taba to Sharm, it’s about a half mile walk down the road from the border, on the beach side of the street, in this dusty strip mall.  Keep in mind Taba is a ghost town.  Good luck finding the guy who’ll sell you a ticket for the bus.  Remember, I took a “taxi” so I can’t help you there.

140 miles down some very “interesting” yet picturesque road found me in Sharm El-Sheikh.  And let me tell you, I was not expecting what I saw.  I thought it would be a few dusty hovels.  Sharm is a resort town that gives Las Vegas a run for its money (so to speak).  Like Vegas, gambling is legal in Sharm (as well as the rest of Egypt), it’s strewn with HUGE resorts and hotels, there’s the greenest grass you saw all over the place, massive malls.  But unlike Vegas you’ll have access to some of the nicest water and the best snorkeling and diving the world has to offer.  All at rock bottom prices.

If gambling is your thing, you’ll have a fun time.  They inherit all the machines Vegas throws away.  From my limited sampling the slot machines only take dollars.  But unless you win over $100, they spit out your winning in coins/tokens.  Which is so much more satisfying than those sterile strips.  And they still have the levers you can pull – though they don’t actually mechanically pull the slots.

Also remember they have different cultural ideas of comfort.  I stayed at the Domina Resort which was granted five stars by Egypts Ministry of Tourism.  But the beds were small twin size –  I felt like they were from a children’s summer camp.  Apparently they have yet to catch up on flat screens – both the Domina and the Hilton had CRTs in my room.

Beyond that, expect all the amenities like a fully appointed bathroom, AC, and wifi – something that will help you cut out the roaming costs.  On that note, have you downloaded WhatsApp to your phone yet?  Good.

For transportation, I was lucky enough to have a friend in the MFO, which is an international force to keep the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.  So we tended to use one of their cars to get around town.  I think if I didn’t have that luxury I would be tempted to rent a car – Sharm is pretty spread out (remember those HUGE resorts).  It was about five miles from our resort to the city’s central attractions.

Of course, you don’t really ever need to leave your resort.  There’s plenty to do, and plenty of nothing to do.  Just hang out on the beach all day and forget the world.  Or check out some boat trips.  Get your SCUBA certification and you’ll have a lot more options.

If you do want to get around town, and you don’t want to rent a car, it’s about 50EGP per trip around town.  Of course, it’ll be a haggle every time.  Which will get annoying.   But there’s not too many places to go.  There’s Old Town, and Na’ama Bay, which are both worth visiting for dining and shopping.

Dining tends to be fixed prices.  Shopping tends to not be.  Shopping is also a hustle.  I’ve learned the art of admiring from afar – as soon as you show the slightest bit of interest, some will just light up and start hustling you.  Not all of them are like that, and the ones who weren’t were the ones I tended to browse the most.  The biggest hustles are the tours.  All I can say about tours is, get them from Eilat, or someone you know.  I wouldn’t trust a random guy offering me a tour.  Mostly because it’s probably a ripoff and not what you thought it would be.

BTW keep a lot of dollars handy.  Egyptians tend to prefer dollars.  Some will even give you a preferred exchange rate – this includes both shopkeepers and cab drivers.  And if you didn’t know already, money is really good at getting you out of a jam.

Now, I took the bas back to Taba from Sharm.  There are two ways to get to the Rowaysat bus station to get you back to Taba – by taxi or by Bedouin caravan.  Assuming you’re not interested in waiting for a passing caravan, take the taxi.   Trust me.  I pinned it on a map and even the map is worthless.  It’s on a patch of dirt in the middle of nowhere.  The taxi driver should know, he should charge you about 50EGP.  Make sure he understands your bus leaves at 9am.

The bus station is a trip, and is well worth the experience.  The bus itself is reminiscent of a Bedouin caravan.  The windows are covered with heavy curtains to block out the harsh sun, with a few frills to boot.  The AC is sufficient.  The only thing is the seats are assigned, and at least my bus driver made us hold our seats even after half the bus emptied out.  And keep in mind he’s not personally catering to you like a taxi driver.  Pray for cooperative bowels, though you will stop for a few minutes at Dahab and Nuweiba.  Your best bet to fight discomfort is headphones and a good playlist.

The bus will also stop a number of times for government officials, who will board and inspect everyone’s passports.  So make sure you keep it handy.  Cargo shorts with buttoning pockets are great.

Now, last but not least (should also be first?), the border station.  There’s four basic steps to get out (in is in reverse): go through departure processing and get your passport stamped.  Show your stamped passport to the Egyptian guard and leave Egypt.  Show your passport to the Israeli guard and enter Israel.  And go through arrivals processing in Israel.

Now this is where Egyptian anarchy really reared its ugly head.  I don’t know where some random guard got the idea that I should go around the departure station.  But he was insistent I should do that and go straight to the border guard.  Needless to say that was a bad idea.  I’ll spare you the details but it helps to know what you’re doing and where you’re going.  Relying on or trusting the kindness of strangers is not a good idea.

If that discourages you, good.  Egypt is not for the meek.  Real travel is not.  If you’re interested in just having fun when you travel, stick with the safe spots.  But if you’re ready to challenge yourself, and take a few risks, you will see new dimensions of people you never thought existed.  That’s what makes travel, travel.

Black holes and light cones

I’ve been furthering my investigations into whether an event horizon collapses on you as you approach it.  One of the main sticking points now seems to be the concept of the light cone.  In short, the light cone shows you in which way space and time warp as your inertial frame changes in a relativistic fashion (significantly large relative to light speed).

This is about as accurate a picture as I could find:

A proper light cone.  The diagonals represent the speed of light, or c.

A proper light cone. The diagonals represent the speed of light, or c.

Obeying the absolute nature of light speed, or c, the diagonals always stay at 45 degrees.  It’s space (x axis) and time (y axis) which shift on us.  Things moving away are stretched out, things approaching us are smushed in.  Both time-wise and space-wise.

Here’s a nice top view of the above light cone.

Light Cone Top View

Top-down view of the above light cone.

Now I don’t know why, but for some reason, established journals are throwing this light cone out the window when using them to illustrate the approach of a black hole.  Here’s one:

blackhole lightcone

Keep in mind this is the same light cone as what we rigorously explained above.  Not sure what’s so special about the area outside a black hole that it would rewrite the very nature of how those light cone diagonals would point?  Call it hubris but it seems quite sloppy to me.

Of course, the very idea of those light cones inside the black hole, with both diagonals pointing inward, is like having an axis with two negative sides.

Here’s another one:

Rotating light cones?

Rotating light cones?  Where are we getting rotation from?

I could show more but they’re equally eyebrow raising.  Again, I’m fully committed to admitting I’m wrong.  But if I am, we have some simpler issues to straighten out first.

More later.