Thursday, January 31, 2008


Sailing on the evening tide

Northwest Airlines ground crew on the tarmac at My Home Town Airport.
The little figure at bottom center is a snowman, which the ground crew dressed up
with a reflective vest and hand-signal flares.

In the olden days of transoceanic travel, departures frequently occurred in the evening, to take advantage of the tide. Sailing on the evening time symbolizes sleeping, eating, living on the ship until it reaches at the destination port. That has always struck me an integral part of the romance of travel, where time has to be taken in the getting there, where the adventure is not only in the arrival. The need for sleeping accommodation on the conveyance itself shows a commitment, that one will transfer one's whole life, albeit temporarily, to the journey.

A vestige of that can be recreated by train travel, but air travel essentially kills that romance. Air travel is simply about getting there fast. I generally zone out, "kill time" until it's over, all the while looking forward to the day when, like Star Trek, we can be simply "beamed" to our destination.

On this trip, a 6 p.m. departure for the Old World, I tried to get into the mindset of the evening tide. And it sort of worked. The flight was kind of nice. I have to say, I really like the fancy new personal entertainment centers they provide at your seat -- we had a choice of about 20 movies, in addition to music and other stuff, and they were offered DVD like with start times when you wanted them (not a single start time for the whole cabin) and the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward.

The next morning we were in Paris.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008



It's my new mantra for travel-related frustrations. Such as:

Incomprehensible airline regulations

Train conductor screaming at me because the train is four hours late and he is “tired of taking shit from people.”

Camera is "on the fritz"

Vendors who skillfully rip you off

Department store cashier treats you like an industrial spy

Helmut, the authoritarian flight attendant

Security guard stops you from taking pictures

Unanticipated public transportation strike

Getting stared at

Sketchy internet access

Fussy "tour fuhrers"

People who spray chloroform into your train compartment and then rob you when you're unconscious

European low-cost-flight airports

WWJBD -- What would Jason Bourne do?

Yep, you guessed it -- TRAVEL BLOGGING!!!

Monday, January 28, 2008


But at least he won't be able to shampoo on the plane

News item: "TSA tester slips mock bomb past airport security"

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Bill Clinton...

... is really starting to seem like an ex. I don't mean an "ex-President." He's like the nation's ex-boyfriend from a long-term relationship that was ultimately disappointing and unhealthy for us. We still think he's fundamentally a good guy, and super smart, but his charm has become somewhat threadbare. We still like him. But, honestly, he's starting to act somewhat nutty. Thank goodness we got ourselves out of that one!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


1,000 Lies

What I love about the new Center for Public Integrity study -- documenting 935 false public statements made by Bush and his administration to justify going to war in Iraq -- is the pure numoristy of it. Not only is it a big number, and a big validation of the feeling of most of us that we were repeatedly lied to. It's a number. A simple, compact fact. A reduction of an entire campaign of lies, indeed of an entire administration to a single integer.

And it cries out to be rounded off to 1,000. "The Presidency of the 1,000 Lies" -- a beautifully perfect historical label. The chapter heading for "w" in the Book of American Presidents.

Or you could think of it as the Scheherezade Presidency. "If you tell the American people one lie every day for a thousand days, you will have a second term."

I wonder whether this study will have any impact at all on the 2008 presidential election. The story has been picked up by msm, but does it have any "legs"? In my book, the Republican Party should be per se disqualified from the election. I say, more than 500 big lies and you're out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Who's next?

Friday -- Bobby Fisher.

Saturday -- Suzanne Pleshette.

Whose demise will round out this latest "celebrity three"? (Note: If you Google "celebrity threes," this blog comes up as the first hit!)

Often, you'll find some significant connection between two of the three celebrities who die within a short time of one another. The next one could be Bob Newhart -- Pleshette's fictional husband on The Bob Newhart Show. Gosh, I hope it's not Bob Dylan.

bob_dylan fischer1
They could be brothers: the two Bobby's,
born two years apart -- left, Zimmerman, right, Fisher.

What's the connection? According to "Bobby Fisher's Pathetic Endgame," five years ago in the Atlantic Monthly,
To generate income, however, [Fisher] resorted to selling himself to chess fans and curiosity seekers. The going rate for an hour's phone conversation was $2,500. Bob Dylan is said to have received a call from Fischer as a gift from his manager. For $5,000 a personal meeting could be arranged.
According to "", Dylan is "a rabid chess player and fellow religious recluse." The Fisher-Dylan conversation is probably in my top ten "conversations between famous people I'd be curious to have heard."

I'm posting this photo of Suzanne Pleshette to emphasize the point that she was rather hot at one time and that youth and beauty are fleeting. The obits tend to post this very recent photo of her. Actually, she wasn't bad looking for a 70-year old, in a Judge Judy sort of way.

She had a somewhat scratchy voice as a late-30/early-40 -something on the Newhart show. I'm guessing that she was a heavy lifelong smoker, hence her relatively early death from lung cancer.

UPDATE (1/23/08): Tuesday -- Heath Ledger. Huh??? Didn't see that one coming...


Perfect week!

Seven-for-seven solving NYT crosswords this week, only the second time ever!


The puzzle week begins on Monday, of course, since that's when they restart the easy-to-hard degree-of-difficulty progression.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


So, basically, when the Terrorism Threat Level is "orange," the threat level in my bathroom is "red"

According to John Tierney in today's "Science Times Section" of the New York Times:
when statisticians look at cold numbers, they have variously estimated the chances of the average person dying in America at the hands of international terrorists to be comparable to the risk of dying from eating peanuts, being struck by an asteroid or drowning in a toilet.
Thus, my bathroom is far more dangerous to me than international terrorists, when you consider the added risks of slipping in the shower, of hitting my head on the corner of the medicine cabinet door when I stand up after picking up the dropped toothpaste-tube cap, and the fact that I on occasion eat peanuts in the bathroom...

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