Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Classic Album of the Moment

Are you of a generation that can remember buying vinyl records? Or even cassettes? If you are, then you probably can recall getting home with your new record or tape and playing it to death again and again until every word, melody, riff have permeated your mind. You will have sung along to the singles, but more deeply appreciated the album tracks, and if it was one of those albums that had no singles, then you could lose yourself in discovering the new music. I'm sure this is still possible in the post CD era of i-tunes and MP3 players (and probably gadgets that I don't even know about...God I'm getting old) but with so much music free (or cheap) to stream on apps like Spotify and youtube the mystique of buying an album seems to have disappeared.

Anyway, true to my younger self, I'm going to indulge in discovering some albums that I wished I'd have bought when I was younger but never did. Yes, they will be on CD, but I will listen to them again and again until I have immersed myself in every thing they have to offer. There'll be no Greatest Hits Albums here, though I have nothing against them. I want to hear some album tracks, some tracks that are new to me.

My favourite Beatles album (from beatlesbible)
So where to start? I've got about 50 years worth of popular music to choose from and some of the albums I may have heard before, but not for a long time. I recently lost myself in Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. I must have listened to it 100 times this year, with Tangled Up in Blue possibly my favourite Dylan song. Time to move on. I've played the Beatles Revolver a few times recently. It really is a fantastic album with some beautiful songs, and was an early popular psychedelic creation. It's easy for us in 2013 to forget how innovative and trend setting the Beatles were. However, Revolver was released before I was born (only just!) and I was thinking more of my own recollections from when I was starting to buy records, or at least ask for them as presents.
The Jam's 1978 Album
I started secondary school in 1978, which was a pretty exciting time for music. Besides the fact that rock music was becoming more accomplished (Pink Floyds's 'The Wall' was released the year after) punk and new wave were taking over. An album that I wish that I owned but never did was The Jam's All Mod Cons. (Coincidentally, the Jam used The Beatles 'Taxman' guitar riff for their number 1 hit 'Start', Taxman being the opening song on Revolver).

The album was apparently influenced by British 60's invasion music which is most notably seen in their cover of the Kinks track, David Watts. As I could also listen to the Kinks and that brand of 60's music, this is the perfect album for me to start reminiscing about. According to Q Music, All Mod Cons is the 50th greatest British album of all time. The list is headed by Revolver!

Monday, October 14, 2013


What is it you want to do? And where do you get your inspiration from? I obviously have a passion for chess, and I remember seeing a program on TV in the 1970's called The Master Game which inspired me to carry on with the game through my teenage years. Yesterday I was also playing chess, but inspiration came from a different event. Yesterday the Melbourne Marathon was being held. Nearly 7000 people participated with the best runners producing world class results. It has been a while since I last ran, but I took inspiration from yesterday and went for a brief jog today after work. It was hard work, as I knew it would be, but I enjoyed it immensely, and plan to carry on with running in my own modest way.

Setting goals and then making plans is always a good way to achieve results. I have set myself 2 targets. One is simply to lose the weight that I gained on holiday in America, and since getting back when I did very little. This is about 3 kilo's, though the more the merrier. The other is to run a half marathon, and I've set myself the target of running the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon which is held in May. That gives me 7 months to build up to the 21 km distance and I currently feel pumped up to take it on, even if I am a little puffed after my 5 km run earlier.

I also read a fair amount of fiction and am inspired to read new authors and new titles. Joining the online site Goodreads was great for building up ideas, and I must admit that I've read novels this year that I wouldn't have done if not being a member of a book club on Goodreads. If talking about books with other book lovers, comparing ideas and critically discussing books isn't inspiration enough, tomorrow sees the 2013 Man Booker Prize winner announced. While I'm not usually swayed by what awards novels and their authors may have won I must admit that I've hardly ever read a novel shortlisted for the Booker Prize that I haven't enjoyed. Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize winning "The Remains of the Day" is still my favourite novel, and I'm currently reading "The Yips" by Nicola Barker which segues between acerbic dialogue, strange encounters, and some of the most beautifully written descriptions I've ever read. In fact, earlier today I was stunned by the power of feeling that a particular passage evoked. And this novel wasn't even shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2012. In fact neither was "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce which is probably the best novel I've read this year so far.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a literary snob who only reads award winning high literature. I'm happy to read novels from almost any genre: historical, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, detective, thriller etc. In fact, labeling novels under certain categories can sometimes be a little misleading. I guess a good example of this is the rise in stature of books labeled 'Young Adult'. This covers a massive range of books, spanning all kinds of subjects and genre. Earlier this evening on Twitter, I discovered that one of my favourite authors, Joanne Harris was labeled as 'Chick-lit'. Before seeing her tweet I never even knew there was a chick-lit genre, let alone what it entailed. Joanne Harris' reply to this categorisation has been my final inspiration for this evening. Don't just sit there and take the crap that people give you.

Sorry, did I say my final inspiration? I just found out it's National Chocolate Week in the UK. As an expat I feel it would be remiss of me not to participate. Unfortunately, I was unaware of International Chocolate Day which was on September 13th, but it's in my diary for 2014 and next September 13th will be eatchocolatetillimsickday!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What We Miss In Our Games

There is some truth to the idea that the strength of a player can be judged by the things they miss. Today I played in a tournament for the first time in a year and although I did better than  I expected, in all of the games I missed fairly obvious things. The tournament was played at the Melbourne Chess Club and involved groups of 4 players in round robin format. The event is called a "quad" and, assuming the players are of an equal strength, is an excellent format for a one day tournament. Today, 8 players turned up so there were 2 sections played at a rate of 60 minutes + 20 seconds increment per move. Although this is a fairly fast time control in longplay terms, it is still long enough for the games to be rated on the ACF standard list. So these were the first games I'd played that were rated under this system for the past year.

To be honest, it felt good to be back at the MCC in a playing capacity. There have been times during my self imposed exile when I've considered caving in, coughing up the money to FIDE, and playing again. Then the chess world does something to make me wonder whether I really want to contribute to it and I feel good about myself. The latest news story involves Andrew Paulson, the guy who was supposedly hired by FIDE to arrange, organise and set up the Candidates matches and World Championship with great promises of increased interest in chess from the wider world. Well, something happened that is somewhat mysterious, but the end result is that Andrew Paulson now has nothing to do with these events, or FIDE it would seem. Except that yesterday, he was elected President of the English Federation. Now I have no problem with Mr Paulson, but why are the English Chess Federation electing an American as President, when there are plenty of good English administrators around? I hope that Mr. Paulson will do good for English chess, but the cynic in me can't help feeling he has his own motives in becoming President of the ECF, and I guess we'll see what they are in the next year.

Anyway, enough moaning and on to the chess. In the first round I played pretty well as black against Dmitry Partsi, and was probably better when I allowed a perpetual. So I can notch my first 'miss' of the day down to not looking at all my opponent's checks.

Black to move, and though I spotted that white is threatening Nf5 forking g7 and d6, I didn't notice it was also hitting h6. The best move is probably 1..g6, but I played 1..Rfc8 2.Nf5 Bf8 when a draw was agreed due to the h6-f7 knight check perpetual.

No worries, the other game between Jack Puccini and Sylvester Urban was also a draw so we were all tied after one game. In game 2 I had white and was lucky that my opponent, Sylvester Urban blundered an important pawn early in the game. Even then, I missed a check later in the game and was lucky to be far enough ahead for it not to matter.

As White I'm 2 pawns up and thought that I just need to develop my last 2 pieces. I played 1.Bd3 and was lucky that 1..Nb3+ wasn't enough to pull Sylvester back into the game. Instead I should have played 1.Qg5+ covering the d2 square. Then after a king move, I can play Bd3 and if black plays Nb3 I can just move my king to b1.

Never mind, I should count myself lucky to have missed 2 such simple moves and be on 1.5/2. At this point I found myself equal first with Dimitry who had beaten Jack Puccini. In the final round the 2 leaders both had black and both of us lost. I don't know about Dmitry, but I was smashed! This time I missed a pretty nice blocking manouvre which completely destroyed my king's meagre shelter.

To be fair, my black Najdorf has already gone pretty badly. I have to defend f7 and chose the least wise option 1..0-0. I had some grovelling ideas in mind when I suddenly saw that Jack could play 2.Rf6 and I was completely busted. It didn't take long for Jack to notice this, he played it and the game finished soon after.

So not bad for the first real chess in a year. I won one, drew one and lost one, missing one rather monumental move for my opponent in each game! The tournament was great fun, and the fact that it ended in a 4-way tie for equal first was pretty fitting as no one was dominant. The second section was jointly won by Ben Frayle and Endre Simon 2/3 ahead of Surjeet Singh 1.5, and Daniel Dobos .5, and looked to be just as fiercely competitive.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Too Much Chess?

The chess world is gearing itself up for the World Championship next month, but in the meantime there is no end of chess. In fact, there's so much chess it's hard to keep up with it all. Back in the day, the Soviet Championship always used to be among the best tournaments of the year, and now the Russian Championship is also pretty hot. World number 2 and ex World champ Kramnik is in action in a very strong field currently being led by Peter Svidler.Svidler has won the Russian Champs 6 times, more than anyone else, and if the Soviet Champs are also included, then he equals the 6 wins of Botvinnik and Tal and will go one better if he stays ahead in this one.

To be honest, the tournament of the moment should be the Masters Final tournament in Bilbao. It's strong with Aronian, Mamedyarov, Adams and Vachier Legrave in a double round robin, but not as strong as one would expect a masters final to be. However, with the World Championship taking away 2 potential players, and Kramnik playing in Russia, this is still a pretty good field. I'm glad to see the Englishman Adams leading early on. He's a great player, who might just be having his best year to date, knocking on the door of the top 10 in the world again after an impressive win in Dortmund this year. Another small double round robin is happening in Romania. The King's Tournament is a 5 player event with another strong field, Caruana, Ponomariov, Wang Hao, Radjabov and Nisipeanu. Caruana started with a win in the first round, but the tournament has only just started.

It's amazing that 3 world class events should be happening simultaneously. It wasn't that long ago when 3 world class tournaments would make a good 3 month period in chess or even longer. And it wasn't that long ago that a tournament like the Chigorin Memorial with 150 players including 3 over 2700 and over 20 players rated 2600 would have attracted a deal of attention. Now it is passed over as the fourth most important event of the moment. And the 5 player GM tournament in Spain (Rapport, Cheparinov, Bruzon, Salgado, Granda) and the GM section of the Budapest First Saturday event currently being led by English GM Stephen Gordon barely rate a mention.

Is it good that so much chess is happening at the same time? Does it diminish from the worth of one tournament that other tournaments of similar prestige are scheduled at the same time? I know some people would say that you can't have enough chess, but at the moment I'm not sure which event to look at, and I find it hard to keep up with all the top events, let alone the local tournaments here in Melbourne and Australia. Perhaps it would be better to play instead of watching so much. I'm currently playing online at chess.com trying to knock out some games every day, and playing about 20 turn based games at a time. However, when I look at the quality of my play, it's no wonder I watch others! Enjoy :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jet Lag

It's that feeling you get when you've traveled a long way, especially across time zones. Jet lag is a condition which many people suffer from after long flights and it's basically to do with our internal body clocks and biorhythms. Since I returned from the USA 4 days ago, I've felt tiredness, a bit groggy at times, occasionally disoriented and lethargic. Apparently it takes about 1 day for every time zone crossed to readjust. How this works with going across the International Date Line I'm not sure. All being well, I hope to bumble my way through this week and then be ready to start life properly again next week. Luckily I have had a staggered start back to work, so things haven't been that hectic for me, though from next week things look full on. Apparently scientists in Japan are working on a pill to remedy the effects of jet lag, though I'll believe it when I see it.

I am presently using the tried and tested method of "grin and bear it" to make it through the week. Meanwhile my running program has been put on hold, but will be renewed this weekend as I become inspired by the Melbourne Marathon which is on Sunday. I have no great desire to run a full marathon, but I would love to give a half marathon a go. Maybe I need to set myself the target of 2014 Melbourne Half Marathon? Meanwhile I have friends who are cycling the week after in the Round the Bay in a Day event. Caroline is putting me to shame by riding in a women's group that are taking on a 50 km ride, while David is going for the full thing I think which is well over 200 km. I'll be a cheerleader for them, before sneaking off for a coffee in a non bay suburb!

Engrossing reading, detective novel, Navajo style

What I have been able to do is read a lot. While gradually wading through a 1000 page fantasy novel, I am breaking things up by reading other books at the same time. I just finished a book called Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman. I bought the book in a second hand bookstore in Flagstaff. We had just passed through the Navajo nation on our roadtrip and a detective novel set in modern day America but based around the Navajo culture appealed to me. This novel also touches on the religion and culture of the Zuni and coincidentally, I bought another book from that shop on Zuni Fetishes.

Flagstaff, Arizona's cool second hand bookstore (image from yelp)
As for chess? I'll be posting about that next, but I was interested to see Kasparov throw his hat in the ring for the 2014 FIDE leadership campaign. If you're not into chess, then FIDE is the world governing body of chess, and our president is a crazy guy who claims to have been abducted by aliens, and who chummed up to General Gadaffi so as to hold a chess tournament in Libya (among other things). Suffice to say there is a lot of discontent with the current leadership of the chess world, much as in the real world of politics. Will Kasparov make a difference? No doubt he will, though since retiring from chess the ex world champion has been trying his hand at politics in his native Russia. However, he has found that Putin doesn't play fair, and Kasparov is now one of his biggest critics. If the last election campaigns was anything to go by, these will be great fun to follow over the next year. :)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back to Chess

I have been on a chess free vacation for the past 2-3 weeks and it is time to get back into the swing. It seems while I was away I missed much in the chess world, though there is now so much top class chess happening and being reported on that it doesn't really matter much. It was no surprise that Yifan Hou regained her World Championship, though perhaps the ease with which she defeated Anna Ushenina was. And while I was away there were men's and women's Grand Prix tournaments, that now seem to happen so frequently that they are just more of the same old thing. This time round, Koneru won the women's event, while the men's tournament was jointly won by Caruana and Gelfand. The World Junior Championships were won by the top seed in the boys, Yangyi Yu while my tip for the girls title, Aleksandra Goryachkina won the event. It is reassuring that one of my tips has come through, though I probably know more about girls chess than the top level of chess at the moment.

Personally, I am about to start playing again. Next week I am playing a small one day event at the Melbourne Chess Club. The MCC Quads are designed for players who have little time but want to play long play chess. Players are allocated into 4 player groups and have to play 3 games of about 60 + 20 in a day. I think it is a great idea, and while I know it will be tough to play at a constantly good level for 3 games, I am eager to play some rated chess again. In fact, it will be interesting to see how far off my play has dropped after not playing any serious competitive chess for about a year. I certainly expect a bit of rustiness, especially tactically. The question is, how to prepare for the event? Should I try to play loads of online chess? Should I study some openings? Should I be trying to solve as many tactical puzzles as possible? Hmmm, I guess I'll just continue to do what I normally do and play as best I can on the day. I'll be blogging some things here over the next week, so you'll see some of the things I'm doing to prepare.

One thing I'll be doing is following the games from the Russian Championship Final which started yesterday. The men's event is really an amazing field with Kramnik the top seed. Inspired by the fact that I recently got something right, I'm going to go for Peter Svidler for this event, he always seems to pay well at the Russian Championships. Yesterday, in the first round he started with a win, but then again so did Kramnik on a day when all the games were decisive. Number 2 seed, Karjakin lost though this was with black to Andreikin who proved just how good he was in the recent World Cup.

Finally, did I say my tipping had improved? Not really, I got one right and this has gone to my head a bit. Well, to come back to earth, I also suggested that Mirko Rujevic was going to be tough to beat in the MCC Open. Tough to beat he no doubt is, but not impossible as was proved last week by Justin Penrose. The previously unbeaten Rujevic is now on 3/4 with a large group of players while Penrose takes a half point lead into the 5th round played tomorrow. The tournament is still wide open, and Mirko must still be considered one of the favourites. Round 5 sees Penrose playing black against Dizdarevic on board 1, while the top 2 seeds, Rujevic-Pyke, play on board 2.

Right I'm off to do some preparation for next week's tournament. In America I bought a book and am going to find a good coffee and browse through it. Hopefully some of the games will get that far.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cities and Deserts

Our last day and the view changed from mountains to desert
I am currently sat at home, in the comfort of my bean bag, writing this post. It seems like only yesterday I was in 29 Palms, California driving to LA to catch my plane. In fact, the last stage of the journey was an exhausting effort, starting with a fairly easy 3 hour drive, but then taking on a 16 hour flight before landing in Melbourne. And on the way we crossed the equator, going from Autumn to Spring (though the Californian autumn was definitely friendlier than the Victorian spring) and the International Date Line meaning we lost a day.

29 Palms is a town on the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park. Unfortunately, we never entered the park because of the US government shutdown that looks to be worse than originally thought. I was reading on a news website that this shutdown might run through till the 17th October when there is a deadline for a bill to raise the debt limit of the USA. I'm not 100% sure what all this means, but I do feel for the people who are out of work while the Democrats and Republicans play a game of brinksmanship politics to try to earn points in the polls. I said before that we were lucky as we'd already covered most of our holiday before the shutdown hit. I'm sure there are going to be plenty of people who's plans have been ruined by this shutdown. Even at this last point, our luck held out. While we missed the cultural and educational centres in the park we did get to see the trees that give the park its name.

Joshua Tree

Seeing this part of America really rounded things for us. Virtually everything before 29 Palms had been at relatively high altitudes for us. Consequently, the temperatures were pleasant, and there was plenty of greenery. Even before we hit California, the scene changed to that of a desert with sandy landscapes dotted with scrubby trees and shrubs. It was a landscape that I expected to see more of in the west of the USA, but I guess we were too far north for most of the time. The temperature was in the 90's on this final day so it might have been a good thing that we couldn't do too much sight seeing.

From 29 Palms we drove directly to LA airport where we had to drop off our hire car. The drive was pretty nightmarish. After spending so much time in the countryside, and considering 3 cars waiting to get in a national park as heavy traffic, driving through LA was a sharp reminder of city life. LA is covered in smog, and from a long way out this is visible. The roads were busy from a long way out too, and the driving became less considerate and more competitive as we drove through the outlying towns, the suburbs, and into the metropolitan area. It felt bad to me, though I know my view was clouded by the fact I'd driven through some of the most beautiful countryside America has to offer. And LA isn't alone. All cities move at a faster pace than their neighbouring countryside, and are dirtier and more competitive. That was the main reason for our itinerary  which avoided cities wherever possible. While we were planning we'd thought about spending some time in San Francisco as it's a city we'd both like to visit, but this wasn't the time to do it. This journey was about experiencing the American west, seeing some of the great countryside, and learning about how it has become the place it is today. We've touched the surface of this, learned much more than we knew before, and have areas we want to follow up on and learn even more.

Back to civilisation, LA airport
But every cloud has a silver lining. Even in LA, after dropping off the hire car and waiting for shuttle bus, we saw a beautiful hummingbird duck into a bird of paradise plant. Funnily enough, once we dropped the car off, things became really easy. We emptied the car, took a shuttle bus to our terminal, checked in, sat around, boarded a plane (about 15 minutes late, so no big drama), flew 12 hours to Auckland, transferred, flew 4 hours to Melbourne, got our bags, went through customs (a long queue, but it moved quite quickly), got picked up and driven home. Though we left on Wednesday night in LA, our 12 hour flight arrived in Auckland on Friday morning due to crossing the International Date Line. It has been an absolutely amazing journey, probably the most enjoyable I've ever done, and just makes me want to start planning the next road trip.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pinch, Punch...

Sunset of our roadtrip
Bizarrely, the 1st October has seen a crazy situation in the USA. The House of Representatives and the Senate have not been able to agree on a budget for the financial year, and as such, the US Government has partially shut down. The average American that we've talked to today has been either mystified, sad or angry about the decision, but the unanimous feeling is that the decision makers in their countries are a bunch of idiots. So in this respect, the average American is not far different from British or Australian people.In real terms what the shutdown means is that close to 1 million American government employees who are considered non essential will be furloughed until the situation has been resolved. These people will not be paid during the lat off, and may not get back pay. This is unbelievably unfair when the politicians are receiving their pay of over $3000 per week, especially seeing they got the country into the mess in the first place.

How will it affect Caroline and I during our holiday? Well, not a great deal to be honest, though we have considered ourselves remarkably fortunate as the main reason we came to the USA was to see some great countryside which is maintained in the National Parks system. Well, today all National Parks were closed. We were sat in a diner in Flagstaff before driving west and a guy came in who was supposed to be working at the nearby Grand Canyon National Park. Instead he was laid off, and apparently state troopers were turning back those who were trying to enter the park. Another coffee drinker at the diner said that Flagstaff was full of coaches that couldn't get to where they were supposed to be going (presumably Grand Canyon) and there were a lot of pissed off coach tourists milling about. We said that we'd been lucky, but would miss out on the Joshua Tree National Park. This great guy advised us to head south, pass through Jerome and go cross country to our final destination in 29 Palms, California. So we had to make a choice, straight across on the interstate, or the longer but prettier route? So far our traveling motto has been 'luck favours the brave', so we carried on with this and went cross country. We weren't exactly sure on the route, or on how long this would take, but what the hell, it's our last full day.

Jerome, an historical hillside town

The view from Jerome

First stop was Jerome. Another place we'd never heard of before. It is an amazing city built on a mountain, that was once a mining boom town, then when that dried up, it became a ghost town, until it was rehabilitated by artists into a wonderful off the beaten track tourist spot. Historically, it is fantastic, but it a visual pleasure with great views down into the valley. It is perhaps the most surprising point of this holiday. The fact that Arizona should have an artists community in a hillside town that wouldn't seem amiss in Tuscany was just unbelievably wonderful.

Jerome, a quaint hillside town brought back from the dead

From Jerome we drove. The drive crossed mountains covered with pine forests, mountains covered with granite rocks, mountains covered with cacti. We drove through meadows, through desert, through forests. We even managed to cross the Colorado River yet again as we passed from Arizona into California. It has been the last full day of our trip here, and we finally had a fabulous sunset, driving through California. Before we reached our destination of 29 Palms, on the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park, we stopped because we were also treated to a light free area where we could see the most amazing star filled night sky. It really was a perfect final day to a holiday. And it comes down to the positive attitude that we've been taking throughout this whole trip. The easy thing to do would have been to allow the closure of the National Parks to finish our holiday, drive via the interstate to the last spot and accept that we'd already experienced a most  memorable roadtrip. But we didn't let them get to us, and just went with the flow again. I once again had to pinch myself to make sure that this is actually real, it has been so great.
We've been through the mountains, and today came the desert

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


"The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see" - G. K. Chesterton

Snoopy Mountain, Sedona

Our trip through the Western states of the USA has been amazing. While Caroline and I have been to some incredibly popular places (Yellowstone, Zion etc) we have been fortunate to have avoided anything too touristy. When we were planning this trip, we wanted to see some stunning parts of America and to learn about the cultures which have lived there. We tried to avoid cities, and anything that sounded too much like a tourist trap. And generally speaking we have succeeded. While we have been tourists, more of the time we have been traveling. We have been wowed by the landscapes, the wildlife, the history and the local cultures, whether they be Native American or not.

Today was another day of fantastic landscapes. We drove from Flagstaff south to Sedona through the beautiful Coconino Forest. Dense pine forests cover mountains, and permeate the air with a fresh, wonderful aroma. The forest then gradually is replaced by mountains of the deepest red I've seen so far on this trip. A picturesque river valley follows the road into Sedona. That's where the fairy tale ends. Sedona is the most ghastly tourist trap imaginable, a town that is in an absolutely beautiful part of the world that has decided to cash in on its position. The friendliness and openness that we've experienced throughout this trip was replaced by ignorance and commercial materialism. Prices are hiked, and the customer is just another source of income. Coach loads of tourists were teeming along the streets, making this the busiest place we've been to so far.

The scenic road into Sedona

Sedona sits at the bottom of this river valley
To be honest, Sedona was a disappointment after all the amazing things we've experienced this roadtrip. We spent probably an hour in Sedona before just turning around and driving back to Flagstaff. Flagstaff, by contrast, is a fantastic little town. Situated on Route 66, Flagstaff has an easy feel to it. The historic downtown district is full of restaurants and bars which would suit every type of person from businessmen, to the most alternative hippies. We are staying in an amazing hotel which has housed a number of celebrities. The Monte Vista Hotel, central in downtown, has seen Hollywood superstars like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and Debbie Reynolds as well as modern stars like Freddie Mercury, Jon Bon Jovi and Anthony Hopkins. Their name plaques are on the doors in which they stayed, and sometimes pictures of the stars also adorn the doors, and some are even signed.

Historic Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff
Not all the rooms have name plates on, but ours does. Not that I'd ever heard of George Babbitt before. However, in this part of the world, the Babbitt family are pretty famous. I found a brief biography here, and in the photo above, on the far left side the Babbitt Store stands.

We have one more full day tomorrow before flying home to Melbourne. We have had a great set of experiences so far, but this journey will lead to more exploration when we get back. I have learned much on this trip, though I'd like to learn more about certain aspects of it.

Stunning Sedona background. Is it just my imagination or does the big rock resemble Australia? Snoopy is lying by its side!