Saturday, September 30, 2006

May I have your zip code please

May I have your zip code please.

You don’t need it I politely replied. I was then asked for it again. Again I had to say you don’t need it. I don’t understand the reason for giving someone my zip code when I’m purchasing something at a store. I happened to be in Old Navy but Bed, Bath and Beyond or is it Linens and Things (I can never keep them straight) does the same thing. After nicely saying for a second time no, I got attitude from the clerk for the rest of the transaction. She asked if I was paying by credit card and then said I need to see some ID. She had to scan the card twice and was abrupt with me when asking for it again. Now she wasn’t out right rude but her attitude definitely changed after I wouldn’t give her my zip code. I know this is to track where people come from, but, if I’m paying with a credit card which a great number of people do, they have that number and my zip code too much information as far as I’m concerned.

However, something good was accomplished by going to the store. Ending up there was by pure chance. See I’d bought cat food to make sure Sam would have enough when I was away on my trip. Well, Wednesday night I open up the new bag so I could pour what little cat food was left from the old bag into the new one. I take one look at the food and realize it’s the wrong food. So I needed to find a Petsmart or some such pet store to get the right food this time. It so happened that an Old Navy was in the same shopping mall.

I got the right food this time. I got another 20 pound bag so now I have 40 pounds of cat food but the smaller bag was only 3 bucks less than the big one. Sam should have enough food to last him into the middle of next year.

After getting the food, I went into Old Navy. Looking for the elusive casual long sleeve shirt that was neither ugly or too expensive. And guess what they had them. I tried on several. One that I really like had two front pockets both with buttons. The better to store important stuff in. It was brown. When I tried it on it fit really well but the brown well the brown was sort of the color and it kinda made me look like I was wearing . . . well you can fill in the rest. I ended up getting two. One is solid blue and the other is striped. One stripe is a light green the other a light blue.

Next it was on to Target to find travel size items and a zip lock bag. Since the ban was lifted on liquids, I can now bring some mouth wash and tooth paste on the 20 hour plane ride. I had a zip lock bag but alas it was too large. I’d used zip lock bags when I did the AIDS Rides but they were either a quart and a half or two quart bags and the TSA is only allowing quart size bags. I didn’t find the bags or the travel size items. But there was a Giant Food store there and I was able to get the zip lock bags at least.

And that was my adventure is shopping.

May I have your . . .

Friday, September 29, 2006

Just Odd

I’m getting all my stuff ready for my trip. It occurs to me that it might be a good idea to have contact numbers for my credit cards just in case one gets lost or stolen. So I start with “what’s in your wallet” And my oh my what a pain. It took me ten minutes to actually get to a living person. Who knew there could be so many automated menus to go through. I’ve read and heard the thing to do is just press 0 and that will connect you to an actual person. No such luck. But like I said after ten minutes I reached someone. That’s when things really started getting weird.

I asked the guy for the number to call in case I lost the card and explained that I was going on a trip. He said that I would have to talk to the fraud and theft division. I asked why. The guy said this would ensure that no purchases were declined. Now I wasn’t in a particular good mood after it took ten minutes to get through. What I said was I have to get permission to use my card. Oh no sir but you still need to talk to these people.

Now I've heard of people getting calls asking if they purchased certain items. In fact, a friend from work had been to Spain with her family and her husband had gotten a call asking about a purchase. However, that was after the purchase not before. I thought at first I'd misheard the guy but he used the same phrase of a purchase being declined. I figured I needed to talk to the fraud people.

So after I got the contact number, I was transferred and was promptly put on hold for a good five minutes. Gave the person at the fraud department the dates of my trip. And it took three tries for the guy to get it right.

I ended up calling the other two credit card companies and giving them the same information. One of the companies gave me a local number in New Zealand in case I had problems. The other an international number to call collect. “What’s in your wallet” you get to call collect to the US.

I might be changing what’s in my wallet when I get back.

Odds and ends

I was running a little late to work this morning and was rushing to the subway. Well perhaps rushing is not exactly the correct term after all it is Friday. Walking quickly hmm walking with purpose.

I got to the subway platform and it was filled with people all piling into a train. I thought I'd wait for the next one. But the sign said the next train wasn't for 11 minutes so I hoped on. Turns out the "train will be holding at this station for another minute." We did that for the next two stops. So the train was pretty well packed with people. At Metro Center and Farragut North (my stop) the train operate said not to crowd this train because there was train right behind this one.

When I got off at my stop, I looked up at the sign and it said next train 6 minutes. Now to me saying there's train right behind this one means you see the lights of the next train as the current one on the platform pulls away. Or at least it pulls into the stop before you exit the station.

Metro has this problem from time to time. Not telling you how long the delay will really be. They do track work on the weekends. Lately it seems it is every weekend. For some reason they like to do it on more than one line sometimes as many as three. The announcement always says expect minor delays of 5 to 10 minutes. I'm not sure what fantasy land Metro is in but the delays are never just 10 minutes.

Cell Phones
I was out at lunch today and stopped into the CVS. I was looking for some key chains so I could give extra keys to people to have just in case while I'm away. So I'm walking into the CVS and I hold the door open for this women who's blabbing away on her cell phone. Can she be bothered to say thanks. Of course not.

It reminded me of the other day when I was doing some shopping at the mall. I heard this very loud voice. I turned to look at this woman "talking" on her cell phone more like shouting into her phone. She just so happened to be looking in my direction and gave me this annoyed look: like how dare I. I wanted to walk up to her and say honey if don't want people looking your way don't have an argument with someone while talking on your cell phone. You're out in public.

Almost there
Art and I had our last phone conversation about the trip. Things are getting into shape. Less than a week. I went and got some New Zealand money and my traveler checks. Had an intersting experience with one of my credit card companies which I'll talk about later.

So the next time I talk to Art, there won't be 8,000 miles and 17 time zones between us but it will be face to face!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

What about Bob?

It’s not often you get to see a genius but I was lucky enough to see one Friday after work. He’s part of two of the greatest sitcoms to ever grace the TV screen. And, in my personal opinion, has the best series finale that ever was or ever will be (Newhart). I’m talking about Bob Newhart. He was signing his new at Borders which is right around the corner from where I work.

He spoke for about twenty minutes and then signed books. He talked about how he got started. A friend of his played a tape of his routines to some record executives. They liked them. They then wanted to have a live recording done of them. The only problem was Bob had never done live stand-up. So he had to quickly book a gig somewhere. Once that was accomplished they recorded the shows. The only problem was that at the first show there was a lady in the front row who was drunk. She kept saying that’s a load a crap and that was all you could hear on the recording. Fortunately they had two other show to use.

He talked about the comedians who influenced him most notably Jack Benny. He talked about writing the book. While he was writing it, one of his daughter’s came for a visit with one of his grandsons. He’d just gotten to the part in the book where he was talking about the Bob Newhart show and how they would have to write several shows for Suzanne Pleshette because he would be with his wife waiting the birth of his daughter. The same daughter who’d come down to see him.

He added it just goes to show where’d the time go. And you need to stop and smell the flowers. He said he’d gone to a cast member’s husband funeral. And they’d remarked how the dead husband had never stopped to smell the flowers during his life which was odd because he was a florist.

With that he ended and went to signing books.

I’ve started reading the book and it is very funny. He has a section where he talks about potential titles to the book and why they were rejected. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Here are a few pictures that I took. I wish they were a little bit better but digital cameras seem to have a great deal of trouble focusing and shooting a picture when there is any sort of movement.

Bob Newhart at Borders

Bob Newhart arrives at Borders

Bob surveys the crowd of over 200 people

Book signing

Saturday, September 23, 2006

How sad

I finally finished the article in the Sunday Post called Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq. How very sad.

Two quotes tell the story:

“I’m not here for the Iraqis,” one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. “I’m here for George Bush.”

A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

Can you imagine putting people in charge of major projects that have no real knowledge of what they are doing. No wait wait a minute that sounds vaguely familiar . . .

This just points up once again that there was no planning at all for what happened after we won in Iraq. With the attitude of "the vast majority of our troops would be home by December" or "it will all be over in 6 months." No wonder these were the bozos picked to run the operations in Iraq.

And the real sad part of it is the people who are paying for this mess are not the people who screwed it up but our soldiers and the people of Iraq.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Odds and ends

Just some random thoughts and occurrences in my rather mundane life which in a very short time is going to get a great deal more exciting.

Night occurrence
Friday night I was watching TV in the room off my bedroom. (I’ve enclosed the back porch that was off my bedroom which happens to be in the back of the house. It is a great room and I really need to use it more.) As I was watching TV I heard this very odd noise. It sound like someone chopping on something. I looked out the window but didn’t see anything.

Now I’ve noticed at night that sound can play tricks on you. Several occasions I’ve been in the back room or my bedroom proper and have heard this very loud rumbling sound. Most times I stop what I’m doing and try and figure out what it is. It is of course a train going by. During the day there is enough other noise outside that you don’t hear the train as clearly. Similarly I’ve come downstairs on a Saturday or Sunday morning and turned on the TV and think the sound is way too loud. The reason is that there is no other noise around and so it just seems louder than it really is.

Ayway back to the strange sound. Well it didn’t go away. I was thinking maybe someone is trying to break in somewhere. So I looked out again. This time I found the source of the sound. It was someone using a hedge clippers to trim some weeds. Now it’s 12:30-12:45 am. A rather strange time to be doing gardening. I watched for a little while and saw there were three guys out there. I recognized one as someone who lived there. They would clip the weeds and then drag their feet through the area. It seemed to me that maybe they’d dropped something and were trying to find. But still an odd time to be doing gardening.

On going occurrence
I’m attempting to figure what all I need to bring for the trip. Underwear and socks are all taken care of and packed away. I have just about everything for toiletry kit. Now I have to figure out the rest of the stuff. I’m going to bring one pair of dress pants. Pack a pair of jeans and wear one and that should be enough in the pants department. I’m going to check the weather reports and I might add a pair of shorts. I looked at the ten day forecast and it will be mostly in the 60s so shorts might be out. I’m taking five polo type shirts and then a couple of long sleeve ones and one dress shirt. That should be enough. Anything else I might need I’ll get there.

Money occurrence
Another thing I’m trying to figure out is how much money to take. I’d like some actual New Zealand dollars. There’s an exchange place down the street from me so I’ll get some from there. I found out from my bank that I can use my ATM card while I’m there. There’s the standard $2 fee for using someone else’s machine and then a 3% charge for exchanging the money. That’s not too bad. I figure I won’t need a great deal of actual money because I’ll charge most everything.

Political occurrence
A very interesting article in the Washington Post on Sunday about the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. It seems people were choosen to be a part of it based on how much they supported the President as opposed to their qualifications. I haven’t read the whole article and so will comment more about in another post.

Then there’s the story of the man from Canada wrongly accused of being a terrorist and taken to Syria to be tortured. It is so reasuring to hear from Bush that the US doesn’t torture. After all we don’t need to we can just send someone to a counrty where they do torture people.

A quick comment on the Pope’s comments. What was he thinking. I’ve never been a big defender of the the Catholic Church, but I think this is a great column about the reaction to his comments in the Muslim world.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Better Map

Possible route of the North Island Road Trip

Starting in Auckland and then on to (click on map for larger view):
Te Awamutu
Waitomo Cave
Te Kuitie
Palmerston North

The return trip:

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Tooth brush - check
tooth paste - check
dental floss - check

I'm making up my list. I'll probably check it way more than twice. But I've started to pack. And my friend Arthur in New Zealand has sent some information which arrived today. It only took 4 days to get here.

I've also done some packing. Socks and underware are in the suit case. I still have to get undershirts but off to Target tomorrow to accomplish that.

Now my dilema is what to pack in the carry on. I'd hope to bring a tooth brush and some tooth paste but you can't carry gels on planes any more. I guess I'll just bring the brush. I figure I'll need to do something to my teeth after being on a plane for 20 hours.

Wednesday I'm taking the day off to run around and get all the needed odds and ends for the trip. I'm going to start making a list now and add to it as I think of things.

I also need to e-mail the bridge walk people and the sailing guys to find out how far in advance I need to make a reservation.

In a little more than two and a half weeks the adventure begins.


Go Jennifer go

Jennifer, my sister-in-laww, is doing the MS-150 bike ride this weekend. This is a really great cause. She has been training very hard for this. At least one long day of training every weekend say a 50 mile bike ride. I know how hard this is to do from doing several AIDS Rides. You have to stay very focused and know that part of each weekend will be taken up training.

So I say:

Good for you Jennifer.

Best of luck and . . .

Pedal Jennifer pedal !!!!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And the winner is . . .

Adrian Fenty. And he did it handily. It's been a long time since I actually voted for someone. Not since Gore. And for a change it's nice to vote for someone who wins!

There was a new wrinkle in the campaign this time. Recorded messages left on my answering machine! Now this has happened in the past. But I've never had so many messages left before. Friday there were five. Saturday there were four and twice I answered the phone and they were on the other end. Sunday there was six. Monday eight. Eight messages. I couldn't believe it. There were even a couple on election day.

But I was a good citizen and voted. Got to the polling place a little before it opened. I was home at 7:10.

And I'll be ready to do it all again in November.

3 WEEKS TO GO!!!!!!

Only three weeks to go.

Or 21 days or 504 hours or 30,240 minutes or 1,814,400 seconds.

Not that I'm in any way shape or form excited about going to New Zealand.

I'm starting to gather things together for packing purposes.

And this weekend I'm going to actually start packing!!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years later

It seems like a long time in some ways and then again a very short time in many others.

I'm trying to recall the time. I'd gone to Lisner Auditorium the night before to hear Carol Burnett speak. It was like an Inside the Actor's Studio type interview and then she took questions from the audience. A very fun and enjoyable evening.

In fact, it had been part of a very enjoyable couple of weeks. I'd gone to my parents for a long Labor Day weekend and Ed and Jennifer had come up Springfield,Mo. We'd all gone to the Labor Day concert at Ravinia.

On the actual day of September 11, I wasn't going into work. I had a physical scheduled for that day. It was a really nice sunny, pleasant morning. I walked up to my doctor's office at Dupont Circle. It was 9ish or so. I stopped in a place that had a TV on. I saw the top of the Trade Centers on fire but I couldn't exactly grasp what I was seeing. I knew I should recognize the landmark but I just could not place it. I couldn't grasp why they were on fire. But I soon found out.

I walked to the office and of course asked if they had heard. I remember telling someone in the waiting room about what had happened. He immediately got on his cell to try and call someone. We hadn't heard about the Pentagon yet. I had a conversation with a woman in the waiting room. We both agreed that New York might not be the last place to get hit. Moments later we heard about the Pentagon. A little after that there was a report that a bomb had gone off at the State Department. Up until that moment the doctor's office had been pretty calm but then people started to get scared.

But my doctor kept the appointment. We started in until the first tower came down. I then said we can do this at another time and my doctor quickly agreed. One of the doctors in the office was talking about going down to GW hospital to see if they needed any help.

I decided to walk back down to my office and see if anyone was still there and to offer a place to stay for awhile incase they didn't want to battle all the chaos going on. In retrospect offering my place at 26th K very much an area that could have been a target, seemed rather silly. I did go back to the office but no one was there. I then walked home.

All you could do then was to watch the news coverage. I also tried to get in touch with people. It took awhile to reach some people. Some friends I just ended up sending an e-mail to saying I was ok. I know several friends from out of town asked if I was scared and I have to say I really wasn't. I was shocked, angry, surprised but not scared. My reaction was one of they(meaning the bad guys) had final struck us.

Later on there would be some scary and unnerving things. Like walking to and from work each day for a month after where there were armed men at each street corner. Or driving past the Pentagon and seeing the surface to air missile battery.

The one thing that scared me the most on that day was something that happened long after the events of the morning. The network news was coming back on after giving local affiliates a break. It was 6 pm. They summarized what had happened and then did reactions from people around the county. They interviews a woman in San Francisco. They asked all the usual questions. How had your heard about it. Where were you and then this one. Are you scared. And without missing a beat she said: Oh no. Because it would never happen here. I almost fell out of my chair. That's what scared me the most that after what had just happened someone thought it could never happen where they live.

I'm not talking about someone living in Peoria or Butte but someone living in San Francisco which has plenty of potential targets. That made me scared and it also made me angry. I wanted to be able to reach through the TV screen and give the woman a swift kick. On that day five years ago, we got to see what evil was. And we got to see it very up close and very personal. But we also saw something else on that day. Something that will remain with me much longer than the horror of that day. It was people doing things to help out. The police, the fireman, the office workers, the ordinary every day people helping each other out.

I also think of the people on flight 93 and there courageous decision to take back that plane. To prevent it from doing any more damage. Because make no mistake, if that plane had reached Washington, the White House or more likely the Capitol would have been hit.

So now we've seen the face of evil. Now our job is to make sure it is defeated. And in the end I know we will do just that.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

3 1/2 weeks to go

It’s only 3 1/2 weeks to go until the big trip to New Zealand!!!!

I talked to my friend down there on Thursday. We’re tying to settle up what we are going to do. Covering less ground means will have more time for the ground we decided to cover. So the South Island is probably out but the road trip to Wellington is on. The idea is to drive down the west coast seeing Hamliton for sure and then playing it by ear as to where else we might go but eventually ending up in Wellington. Then heading back to Auckland on the east coast. Someone at work said that there were several beautiful beaches at Napier. We’d also hit Taupo and Rotorua on the way back.

I got a revised itinerary from American in the mail today. It list total flying times and the flight from JFK to Auckland with a stop in Tahiti is 20 hours and 25 minutes.

Hope the battery on my iPod can last that long.

I still have to do some research on places to go to especially in Wellington. Not that we'd go to all the places I research but I think it's helpful to have some big attractions to head for. Then usually along the way there's something you always stumble into that turns out to be really cool.

Went to a volunteer appreciation party at Food and Friends today. It was very fun. Several people from Thursday night, which is the night I volunteer, were there. It was nice for change not to have to be chopping veggies. The food was very good too.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Weapons of Mass Delusion

I was channel surfing last night and came across some politician talking about WMD.

To paraphrase Homer J. Simpson: Stupid Democrats.

All I can say about that issue is the train’s left the station, the boat has sailed, the plane’s taken off, Elvis has left the building. Use what ever cliche you want.

To paraphrase Claude Rains in Casablanca: I’m shocked, shocked to find that intelligence has been manipulated for political ends.

Actually, I’m not. It’s election season and all you have to do is turn on the television and wait for a political add to see the manipulation of the truth or the shading of the truth or distortion of the truth.

I want an investigation into why everyone got it wrong. It’s not like the US was the only country to say Iraq had WMD. Just about everyone out there said Iraq had WMD.

The question that needs to be answered is how did everyone get it WRONG! In this case, the fact everyone did get it wrong didn’t pose a threat to anyone. But let’s suppose everyone gets it wrong again. This time around everyone says the country X doesn’t have any WMD but it turns out that they do. If that’s the case, the world could be screwed.

So the next time someone says it’s a slam dunk, it actually needs to be one. As opposed to turning out to be a blocked shot.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

There you go again Mr. Secretary

I’ve had three postings and nothing yet on national politics, but I can’t pass this one up.

This concerns Mr. Rumsfield speech last week where he equated those who oppose the policy in Iraq with the appeasers of Hitler.

Yes, that could be one explanation.

However, I have another possible explanation:

As someone who supported the war, it seems to me that the current campaign in Iraq can be summed up this way: The Three Stooges Invade Iraq. I’m still wondering when Shemp is going to show up.

Mamma Mia there I go again!

Yes once again I’ve gone and seen Mamma Mia. I think this makes about number 11. So I guess I’m now officially obsessed with the show.

However in my defence it brings back very fond memories. This was the last thing I did with my parents before my mother died. We all went down to Chicago to see the show and we all really enjoyed it. We also had a very unique distinction in that we were probably the only people in the theater who could say they actually saw Abba live. In 1979, I flew to Chicago from DC and my dad, mom and my two best friends went down to the Auditorium Theater in Chicago and saw Abba live and in person.

This time around I saw it in Baltimore at the Hippodrome theater. Really great theater; really scarey neighborhood. To use a famous quote what a dump. There were some great looking condos across the street from the theater and several other buildings were being renovated but the rest of the area left a great deal to be desired. Several people with shopping carts and, as far as I could tell, not a grocery store insight. Also more than a few people with paper bags enjoying a late morning drink. In time I’m sure the area will be great but it has a ways to go yet.

After having seen Mamma Mia so many times, it is interesting to see the changes that have been made. A couple of the jokes were dropped, a scene or two has been altered slightly. Some of this is based on who’s in the part and how good of a dancer the person is.

A couple of quick examples: At the end of Chiquitita, Tanya and Rosie hand Donna a bottle of Jack Daniels to buck her up. In the first couple of versions Donna sings Try once more etc well she’s barely got out the word try because she’s reacting to her swig of whiskey. That has since been dropped. Also changed is what Tanya and Rosie are doing on stage while singing Dancing Queen. At one point Tanya pretended to play the drums and now Rosie is doing that. What’s interesting about is the same actresses are playing the roles. Another example Does Your Mother Know is a song where how well the actress playing Tanya can dance has a big part in what she does while one stage. The first time around the person playing Tanya could really dance. So her sequence with Pepper was very much a dance off where Pepper would dance and Tanya would then match what he’d done. Another time the woman playing Tanya didn’t dance much at all. The actress in the role now is somewhere between those two extremes.

But the bottom line is this a really fun show to see. And I plan on seeing it again. Maybe in New York next time!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Primary day it’s only a week away

Primary day it’s only a week away!!

Thank goodness the primary election is only a week away. It means all the political literature will stop and there will be no more knocking on my front door from campaigners. There is the general election in the fall but that really doesn’t matter all that much. The real fight is next week. After all if you’re a Democrat in DC all you need to do is win the primary. Because you have to face it you can count the number of Republicans in DC on one hand ok maybe two but I think I’m being generous there.

I’m going to vote for Adrian Fenty. I like many of his positions and I admire the fact that he was against the baseball stadium from the very start. I have to say I don’t have much use for Linda Cropp and the current mayor Mr. Williams endorsed her which as far as I was concerned was the kiss of death. I can hardly wait til bow-tie-guy is out of there. Maybe we can get someone in office who’s concerned about people who make less than six figures and doesn’t happen to have the last name of Barry.

I also like the fact that I’ve seen Fenty out and about in neighborhoods. I saw him when I was driving home from volunteering at Food and Friends last Thursday. I admire that he’s really trying to connect with people from all over the city. We need someone who’ll do that to make people feel connected to their government.

Tomorrow will be four weeks and counting until the big trip to New Zealand. I’m still doing research on where to go. The big question is can the South Island be worked into the trip or not.

I guess that’s a we’ll seeee.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Getting started

So I'm joining the blog bandwagon. Actually I'm doing this so when I go to New Zealand I can easily share my adventures with my friends and family from half way across the globe. I can give a few details of what I've been doing and post some pictures. It can also serve as my diary for what happens. I leave on October 4 and will be heading back to the US on October 26. So it is less than 5 weeks away. YEAH!!

Here are some cool links to places I'm thinking of visiting and a few things I'm going to do.

One is the Auckland bridge climb

Another is this which has to be one of the cooler things I'm thinking of doing. I'd love to do the match race.

I also want to do a sky dive. My original idea was to do it on the South Island by one of the glaciers but that might not happen now. Three weeks seems like a long time but there is just sooo much to do that I may be staying on the North Island only.

Other potenial activties include a balloon ride and other interesting things to do

Someone at worked asked if I was going to bungy jump off the bridge. I said I'd much rather jump out of a plane. With my luck I'd get the cord that was 51 feet long on a 50 foot drop. I also don't think I'd like the bouncing up and down like a yo-yo. And jumping out of a plane takes longer. And the views much better. Here's a couple of pictures from the a sky dive I did last June in Virginia.