Monday, March 31, 2008

Hampton Court was Amazing

I can only get in a quick entry. Hampton Court was just fantastic. There was just so much to see and it was just so incredible. There were several guided tours that you could take with people in costume and in character. The gardens were fantastic too even this early in spring.

I came back into London (I took the train out to Hampton Court) and went up in the London Eye. Great views.

The Tube during rush hour was just jammed with people. We are so spoiled in DC. We don't know what rush hour is really like.

I got a ticket to see Phantom. I figure this is the first place I saw it so many years ago I have to see it again. I at least got discounted tickets.

I need to get going take a quick shower and head out for dinner and a show.

Monday in London

I went out for a little while last night. I walked around the area of my B&B. I discovered that there are several casinos near by. Now there not huge casinos like we have in the US but more like store fronts. I assume they must be open very late.

There were still lots of people around. Cinemas were full and the local pubs and restaurants had a good number of people for 9 on a Sunday night.

I'm off to see Hampton Court.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Sunny Day in London Town

It was sunny the whole day. Ok not the entire day it was a little cloudy and there was some rain in the morning but otherwise a beautiful glorious sunny day.

I went to the Dr. Who exhibit. Yes I am a Dr. Who geek and this was the exhibit to go to. The exhibits were from the recent Dr. Who episodes and were very good. Got some good pictures and some good video.

Then I put my Oyster Card to work. I took the Piccadilly line to Knightsbridge to gain access to Hyde Park. I walked around Hyde Park for a while and visited the Wellington Monument. I also went up into the Monument and got great views of Hyde Park and down toward the Palace. Now here's the very cool part. I got the Tube at Hyde Park Corner which is on the Piccadilly Line. I went to Green Park and transferred to the Jubilee Line to Bond Street. At Bond Street I transferred to the Circle Line and got off at Marble Arch. I saw Marble Arch and Hyde Park Speakers Corner. Head a couple of speakers.

Next took the Tube to Tottenham Court Road and transferred to the Northern Line and went to Leicester Square. I eventually eneded up at Covent Garden. It was jammed with people infact just about the whole city was jammed with people. I took in several wonderful performances at Covent Garden. A blues guitarist and a small orchestra along with a magician and a few others. It was fantastic.

I then wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery. I saw the VAnity Fair Portraits along with a large part of the rest of the Gallery. Then I went down the street and went to the National Gallery. Saw a wide selection of art Turner, Renoir, some very impressive works by Seurat. I then walked around Trafalgar Sqaure again completely full of people. I took a slow walk up toward Chinatown where I had dinner and then took the Tube back to the B&B.

If I have any strength left after a little rest I might just go out and see what the nightlife is like.

Day two has been a complete success. Tomorrow I'm off to Hampton Court.

One quick final point: time changes today.

Saturday Night

I made it back to the British Museum. I left the camera because I didn't want to lug it around to dinner and the show. Of course I saw all sorts of things that I'd have taken pictures of which only means I have to go back again.

Dinner was nice chicken and "bacon" with pasta. The bacon was actually ham. It was great. Then I went around the corner and saw Lord of the Rings. Several understudies were playing some parts. I'm not sure the original players would have added anything. There were some parts that were just fantastic. Amazing theater and other parts I just went what were they thinking.

Anyway this is a quick post. I have to get breakfast and then head out to the Dr. Who exhibit and then it depends on the weather what I do next.

More later.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

First Full Day

It was sunny. It was windy. It was dizzly. It was rainy and turned cold. All in less than six hours.

I'm taking a little rest before I head out for dinner and Lord of the Rings. I took the Original London Sighseeing tour today. It was a great way to see huge parts of London. Also a way to rest up from the trip over. I got off by Big Ben and took a river cruise which was included in the price of the tour.

This has helped me figure out what to do tomorrow after I see the Dr. Who exhibit and adjust to the change in time. If the weather looks pretty good, I'm going to the Dr. Who exhibit and work my way back to Hyde Park. I'll use my Oyster Card to hop on and off the Tube. If the weather is not so nice, I'll head off to the National Gallery.

Well I'm going to take a little bit of a rest and head out in about an hour or a little less. Maybe I'll stop off at the British Museum on the way down. Now that really proves I'm in London!!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

I made it

I made it to London. The flight was pretty average. We ended up getting in almost an hour early. Customs was pretty easy to ge through too. I ended up being in front of a guy from DC and we talked some.

I got my Oyster car and headed into the city. I arrived very early at my B&B. I stowed my luggage and headed out. I went down and got a ticket to the 5pm show of Mamma Mia. Then I headed back up to see the British Museum. I got lost along the way but it was sort of fun. I did finally find the museum. I forgot how incredible of a place it is. I will be going there a couple more times.

My room is now ready so I'm going to go up and take a shower.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Just About Ready to Go

It's finally here.

Tomorrow I'm off.

I'm ready.

I'm packed.

Well that is to say my main bag is packed. But in general do you ever feel like your completely packed. I have my big backpack to do. This one I'll carry on the plane. My small backpack is in the big suit case (which on reflection is not as gigantic as I thought it was). I'll use the smaller backpack when traveling around London.

I'm taking the video camera. It will be in the carry on. I've put it in a big zip lock bag surrounded by shirt and underwear. This is my change of clothes just in case my luggage gets lost.

I figured out what to bring to read The Golden Compass. I went to Borders yesterday and spent half an hour looking for something. Then I came home and did the same thing. Finally today I thought I haven't read this. I'm only going to take the one volume. I just need something light and fun to read on the plane and maybe one night or two.

This will be a blast. I should get to the B&B around 11 or so on Friday. The room won't be ready until noon. I'm going to stow my stuff and then head down to the theater where Mamma Mia is playing and see if they have a ticket for the 5pm show that day. I figure go to the show and get really revved up and then grab something to eat and then head back for an early first night. I figure the time between getting the ticket and seeing the show I can spend at the British Museum.

Yes, my bags are packed. I'm ready to go. I'm leaving on a jet plane . . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

Five Years, 4,000 Dead and Counting

We passed the fifth year of the war last week and today was the 4,000th casualty of that war. Here's the story from USA Today.

There seems to be little end in sight to this. Unless of course there is a change at the presidential level. In other words a victory by the Democrats.

There is also a great opinion piece also in USA Today about the lack of sacrifice on anyone's part besides those in the military, their families and friends. I have long thought that the United States is not at war; its military is. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq only touch the average American's life by what he watches on the news.

The piece in USA Today makes some very good points:
... more important than noting how many have died is to remember what an extraordinarily unfair share of the burden those fighting in Iraq have borne. Never has most of the country been so spared the personal suffering of so long a conflict.

And this point really hits home:
The real answer is that if most Americans were asked to sacrifice in serious ways, their support for the war — already weak — would likely erode even more. Only by asking very little has the administration been able to sustain a war that was supposed to be over in weeks or months.

It could not have been said any better.

Those We've Lost

Once again a salute to the fallen heroes who have given their lives. Here are a few of Those We've Lost:

Staff Sgt. Lillian Clamens
Lost October 10, 2007

Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris
Lost October 8, 2007

Cpl. Benjamin C. Dillon
Lost October 7, 2007

Spec. Adam D. Quinn
Lost October 6, 2007

Spec. Rachael L. Hugo
Lost October 5, 2007

Starting to Pack

I'm starting to pack for my trip to London.

The new suit case that I got is much bigger on the outside then it is on the inside. Of course it is bigger on the outside in order to accommodate the wheels. I'm going to have to do some creative packing in order to get everything in there. The toiletries bag has been replaced with a large zip lock bag. It takes up a lot less space in the bag.

I'm still packing my sweater but may only need it for the first couple of days that I'm there. It looks like in a week or so it will be in the 60s. I'll make a decision on that a little later in the week when the forecast goes further into next week.

I've decided not to take my video camera. The case for it takes up too much space The camera is not all that big but all of the wires needed for it (mostly for charging purposes) takes up too much space. I have to keep remembering less is more. I also find that with a video camera I spend a great deal of time figuring out the shot as opposed to enjoying what I'm filming.

It is also possible I might just put it in my big backpack with the two batteries and when it runs out of life it runs out of life. There's is still time to figure that one out. The digital camera hardly takes up any room at all. So if I don't take the camera bag for the video recorder I might be able to put it in a padded bag or something like that. This is something to ponder.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Currency Exchange

It pays to do some research especially when it comes to changing money.

I went down to the local AAA. It's just s few blocks from where I work. There is a place in there that will exchange money. It is not part of AAA but a place called Travel Ex. I'd suggest avoiding them if you need to change money.

The price that was quoted to me on Thursday when I went in there was $2.24 to the pound. I went home thinking that suddenly my trip was going to be a lot more expensive then I had expected. But I did a little further research.

I found an American Express office even closer to my office. The rate there was $2.08 to the pound. Well to be completely accurate it was $2.085441540 to the pound. There was also a $5 fee. There was a similar fee at Travel Ex. So it really did pay to look around.

I then got curious and wondered what rate I would be getting when using my charge card. I called the company. They said they couldn't give me an exact rate because it changed from day to day. I asked if I looked in the paper and found the rate is that what the company would charge. I was told yes and an additional 3% charger per transaction.

The way to go is to charge as many things as possible on the credit card and that way I'll get the best rate possible.

Total Contempt

If you want to get a sense of what Dick Cheney thinks about democracy in the United States you need look no further than his comments on the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Here's an exchange he had with Martha Raddatz of ABC News:

Raddatz: "Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting, and they're looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives."

Cheney: "So?"

Raddatz: "So -- you don't care what the American people think?"

Cheney: "No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. Think about what would have happened if Abraham Lincoln had paid attention to polls, if they had had polls during the Civil War. He never would have succeeded if he hadn't had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there."

There a small little problem with that. The opinion polls really have not fluctuated at all. And to compare this administration with the one of Lincoln's is nothing short of obscene. It also reinforces the point that this administration cannot be out of power soon enough.

USA Today has a great editorial on this subject. It says in part:

Cheney, in particular, has long since squandered his standing to criticize others on this subject. On March 16, 2003, three days before the invasion, he was asked on NBC's Meet the Press whether an invasion might not unleash "a long, costly and bloody battle with significant American casualties."

"Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way," he replied, "because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators." Two years later, he said on CNN's Larry King Live that the Iraqi insurgency was "in the last throes."

I guess he was a little off on those two predictions. So for him to say we are winning in Iraq must be taken with the grain of salt it so richly deserves.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Fed Acts

It’s best to let the market sort these things out.

As the president said last week:

“The temptation is for people, in their attempt to limit the number of foreclosures, to put bad law in place,” he said. “I believe there ought to be action, but I am deeply concerned about law and regulation that make it harder for the markets to recover.”

But I guess that only applies to the little guys. When the big guys get in trouble well so much for market forces. Thus the Fed has conducted a fire sale of Bear Stearns and said the U.S. Government will take over the really bad investments made by the company. Read more about it here.

Is this a wise thing to do? Yes, probably in the long run it is. There should have been a great deal more action a lot earlier and we might not be in such a mess. But to let this company go belly up would have been a disaster to the economy.

Who’s to blame?

First off Wall Street. Plain and simple it’s greed. Bundling of very questionable mortgages and selling them as a commodity. And Wall Street firms just kept on doing it. Will Bear Stearns be the last to fall? Let’s hope it is.

I think the appropriate analogy is to think of a Wall Street as a small child. The sub-prime mortgage market as a huge tray of chocolate candy. The tray was put in front of the child. The child ate and ate and ate and ate the chocolate until it puked. The unfortunate thing is that the America tax payer gets to clean up the puke. And we all know how much fun that is.

The next question to ask is why did the child puke. Yes, the child ate too much chocolate but the child ate too much chocolate because no one was around to supervise the child. No adult was present. The adult of course, in this case, would be the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

They just sat back while the child ate and ate saying there was nothing to be concerned about and that the market would correct itself. There was no need for any sort of regulations for these types of loans. They are now falling all over themselves to regulate the sub-prime market.

Remember last summer they said this would not effect the economy at all. I think the saying is the chickens have come home to roost.

The thing is that steps could have been taken that might have prevented this crisis or at least lessened its severity. The Fed could have looked long and hard to see the effect of continuing to raising the prime rate would have done to this segment of the market. The prime rate is not directly linked to the way mortgage rates are set but it does influence them.

But the Fed had to fight that great phantom menace inflation and so it continued to raise the prime rate. It disregarded the warnings that the sub-prime market could indeed impact other markets.

I remember when I was looking to buy a house six years ago these types of loans were around. My real estate agent said they were a bad idea because at some point interest rates would go up and the mortgage payment would sky rocket. That’s exactly what happened. My real estate agent could see that but the regulators couldn’t.

There's a great article from E.J. Dionne in the Post about this.

A couple of points from the article:

The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulatory regime for which they lobbied so hard. They have lost “confidence” in each other, you see, because none of these oh-so-wise captains of the universe have any idea what kinds of devalued securities sit in one another’s portfolios.

The closing sums up what I’m thinking about his whole thing and I bet a great many other people as well:

So now the bailouts begin, and Wall Street usefully might feel a bit of gratitude, perhaps by being willing to have the wealthy foot some of the bill or to acknowledge that while its denizens were getting rich, a lot of Americans were losing jobs and health insurance. I’m waiting.

I think we all are waiting. My guess is will be waiting a very very long time.

Monday, March 17, 2008

London is my Oyster

That is to say the Oyster Card is the smart card used to ride the Underground in London.

It is essentially identical to what I use here in DC to ride the Metro. But here’s something that is very cool about the Oyster card. It acts as a single journey ticket until it reaches the cost of a day’s bus or travel card and automatically converts to day pass for the rest of the day. It’s a great way to save some money if you’re riding around the Underground.

There is another added benefit in that the fares are cheaper than if you buy a regular ticket. It would be really nice if Metro would do that as well. There are also available to purchase all over London. You can get them at any Tube station and over 2,000 other places around London.

This will definitely come in hand while I'm touring around London.

More Trip Planning

I did more planning for my trip to London yesterday. I was at it for a couple of hours. I concentrated on firming up plans for the two day trips.

The one for Hampton Court was easy. Everything there opens at 10am. I can leave at a reasonable time from London and still get there right when things open. I looked into train schedules. I can take a 9:36 am train out of Waterloo Station and get to Hampton Court at 10:12. This is a direct train and takes 36 minutes. It will cost £6. This is the saver fare.

The trip to Bath is a little more complicated. It takes about 90 minutes to reach Bath by train. The good thing is that many of the sites open at 9. The bad part is how expensive it can be to get there. The fares are all over the place. You can pay up to £133 for a round trip ticket. There is an "Advance" rate of £33.50. It looks like you book the train the way you do a plane. You book an actual train time and you're assigned a seat. Very different from train travel here. There's an 8 am train that would get me into Bath around 9:30. However, if I go after 9:30 the train could be as low as £19. These cheap tickets sound like the real cheap tickets you can get on planes in that there are only a limited number of them.

My preference is to take the earlier time and spend a solid day in Bath and maybe even take a quick trip to Bradford-on-Avon. I think the thing to do is to look into this on the day I arrive. There's a train station not too far from where I'm staying. There also might be somewhere to purchase tickets when I come in at Heathrow. Someone at work is from England so I'm going to ask her if she knows anything about it.

I also did a little more shopping. I got a new pair of jeans and another shirt. I'm hoping to stop off at Filene's on the way home form work today.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Smile

I'm having a rather lazy Sunday afternoon but thought I'd post this to bring a smile.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is Spring Finally Here?

That is the question many people are asking. The cherry blossoms are supposed to be coming out in the next couple of weeks. Surely that is a sign that spring is on its way. My Hyacinth in the front yard are starting to come up. Some are already bull of buds even though they are just out of the ground.

Today was a very bright and sunny day. There was a little breeze and it was just a little bit cool if you were in the shade. Thus you needed to have a jacket on. I wandered around DuPont Circle today running some errands. There were some people sitting in the circle. Another ten degrees warmer and the place will be packed. On the way home I stopped off do some grocery shopping. The Home Depot was full of people getting their spring flowers.

So it does seem that spring is here.

Sam out enjoying the day.

A Hyacinth in bloom in the back yard.

Sam taking a rest from rolling around on the ground in the sun.

Sam enjoying the sun.

Here's the back of the vacuum cleaner and the cut cord. Read more about this in the most recent Odds and Ends post.

Why I Love Living in Washington, DC

This is one of the reason I love living in Washington, DC. You can run into the most unexpected happens by total chance while going about your business. Very few cities can give you such an opportunity.

I was going to an electronics store at DuPont Circle. I was looking for a plug adapter to use when I go to England.

And I happened upon an anti-Scientology rally. Scientology has a headquarters in an old mansion just north of the Circle. There about 50 to 60 people protesting. They were not directly in front of the building but across the street. Many were wearing bandannas over their faces or the masks from V for Vendetta. They said they needed to hide their faces so the Scientologists would not come after them. I really wish I had had my camera with me.

I did pick up a couple pieces of literature which I've scanned and you can take a look at them. Click on the image to see it up close.

Once again this shows how much I love living in Washington.

Presidential Reassurance

President Bush says

“In a free market, there’s going to be good times and bad times. That’s how markets work,” Bush told the Economic Club of New York. “There will be ups and downs, and after 52 consecutive months of job growth — which is a record — our economy is obviously going through a tough time.”

I always find it so reassuring when Bush tells us that things are not all that bad be it Iraq or the economy. There just seems to be a total inability on his part to recognize that things are not going well.

Then there was this ringing endorsement:

"I respect (Federal Reserve Chairman) Ben Bernanke. I think he's doing a good job under tough circumstances," Bush said. "Today's events are fast-moving. The chairman of the Federal Reserve and the secretary of the Treasury are on top of them and will take the appropriate steps" to deal with them.

Sort of like Brownie you're doing a heck of a job.

The fact of the matter is the Fed is part of the reason we are in this mess. Last summer it said the sub-prime mortgage problems would not pose any threat to the economy as a whole. Guess they got that one wrong.

Part of the reason for the problem was the Fed continued to raise interest rates. This had a direct effect on the rates home owners would once their adjustable mortgage started kicking in. It seems to me that once investors started getting into problems because of the way these mortgages were packaged as commodities only then did the Fed become concerned. You can see the evidence of that by the bail out of Bear Stearns, Read more about it here.

As long as this only caused problems for the little guy, the government was not all that concerned. Once investors were threaten it acted. Now we should have rules about how these types of mortgages sold to people. There should have been rules in the first place but satisfying Wall Street's greed was more important than protecting individuals.

Odds and Ends

While trying to get to sleep
The other night I was trying to get to sleep (see the post about time change) and heard this very strange noise in the distance. I'm always amazed how much more I can hear in my bedroom at night. The day time noises of the city have died down. It means you can really hear the noises that are left.

So I'm in bed and I hear this honking noise. It grows steadily louder. I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is. It is not an air horn or the sound of a car horn or alarm.

Finally I recognize it. It is a flock of geese flying overhead. I listen as the sound becomes very loud. It sounds as if they are flying right over the house. Then slowly over time it recedes and then is lost.

I wished them well on their journey.

Harry Potter
It seems the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows will be two movies not one. Considering how complicated the last book and the amount of ground that is covered, it is a good idea to make two movies. I know for the Goblet of Fire there was talk of making two movies too.

Half Blood Prince will be out in November.

Coke bottle cap

For some reason Coca-Cola has changed the design of the cap on its bottles. I noticed it the other day. I have to say I think it is not as easy to open with the new design. There is less to grab hold of the cap is not as tall as the old one. I’ve had problems opening a couple of bottles that were wet. I don’t thin I would have had the same problem with the old design.

Vacuum Cleaner
I have an old vacuum cleaner that I no longer use. I thought a good way to get rid of it would be to put it out in the back where I place the garbage. It's in an alley and I figured someone would come by and take it off my hands. Well I had no such luck. I finally brought it back up to the house yesterday when I got home form work. That's when I noticed that someone had taken the time to cut the electrical cord off the thing. I thought that was very funny. Why take the time to do that? What a silly act ov vandalism.

Friday, March 14, 2008

National security letters

Here something that will make sleep better at night. The investigation of the FBI’s use of national security letters not to gather information on terrorists but ordinary Americans.

In total ... the FBI issued almost 200,000 national security letters from 2003 through 2006, and they were used in a third of all FBI national security and computer probes during that time. Fine said his investigators have identified hundreds of possible violations of laws or internal guidelines in the use of the letters, including cases in which FBI agents made improper requests, collected more data than they were allowed to, or did not have proper authorization to proceed with the case.

FBI Assistant Director John Miller said a new automated system will keep better tabs on the letters, and they are now reviewed by a lawyer before they are sent to a telephone company, Internet service provider or other target. “We are committed to using them in ways that maximize their national security value while providing the highest level of privacy and protection of the civil liberties of those we are sworn to protect,” Miller said.

And this is going to reassure us how exactly. The FBI used many of these letters to go around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court rejected two claims by the FBI. So the FBI used the letters to get the records anyway. The justification was based on “the FBI’s general counsel, Valerie E. Caproni, told investigators it was appropriate to issue the letters in such cases because she disagreed with the court’s conclusions.” What exactly is to prevent the FBI from using this justification again.

The question might be asked why be concerned. There are a couple of answer. The first and most obvious is people’s rights are being trampled all over. Of course this has never stopped the Bush administration before.

Here's another reason. 50,000 letters were issued in 2006 alone. Who exactly is going through all this information? Is the sheer volume overwhelming the ability to properly analyze, sort the data and find information that actually relates to the security of this country? You need some real supervision of the letters so they end up being used to go after terrorist. You need some real supervision so the letters are used to go after ordinary people who are not in any way shape or form associated with terrorists.

Congress needs to hold the FBI's feet to the fire to make only the bad guys are gone after.

Time Change

I’ve been dragging all week because of the time change. I try and go to bed at a reasonable hour but I never seem to get around to it. More to the point I don’t find myself sleepy between 10 and 11 which is when I usually go to bed because my body thinks it is an hour earlier. That usually means I’m getting to sleep or falling asleep sometime between 11 an 12. The other side of the coin is that I’m waking up at 6 am but my body thinks it is 5 am. So I’ve been dragging this week. Several people at work have said the same thing.

I think it is much easier to adjust when the change in time is more than an hour. I’ve never had any problems when I’ve gone out to the West Coast. I always seem to be hungry but that passes in a day or so. I’ve never had problems with sleeping. I didn’t even have that much trouble in adjusting to the time change when I went to New Zealand. I was more worn out from the long trip than anything else. The first full day I was there I was up and ready to go.

The funny thing is that the first weekend that I’m in England they move their clocks ahead one hour.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I've been translated

I have to admit I find it interesting to look at the stat counter on my blog. It gives the number of hits and how many returning visitors you have. It also has this really cool feature of a recent visitor map. It is a map of the world that shows all the places where your visitors come from.

I've had a couple of posts on my phantom visitor somewhere off the cost of Africa. Also a post on my visitor from the Isle of Man. Well today when I looked at the map I see I had a visitor from China. Beijing to be exact. It looks like he was translating my main page. I imagine translating my blog into Chinese.

So now I'm a multi-language blog!

I wonder what my blog looks like in Chinese.

Click on the image to get a larger view.

My personal trainer rocks

I joined Results Gym the middle of January. I’ve been very pleased with my experience there. The facilities are first rate. Everything is in its proper place. If you have a 25 pound dumbbell, you never have to spend time finding the other one. I have yet to see a piece of equipment out of order. The gym is very clean. It’s nice not to have to bring a towel to the gym like I had to at Bally’s. You can just concentrate on the workout. Also, the hours of the gym are great. On the weekends it opens at 7 am. (The location at DuPont Circle opens at 6 on Saturday. Yes, there are people there that early.) A couple of times I've actually been there around 7. The only thing I don’t like about being there that early is I was the only one there besides the staff. It was a little creepy until more people showed up.

As pleased as I am with the gym, I’m even more pleased with my personal trainer. I decided, if I was really and truly finally going to get into shape or as in shape as I could, I needed to have a trainer to show me the proper exercises to reach my goal and to push me to reach it. I got a really great trainer. His name is Randy. He works out of the Results at the downtown location. I’m not sure if he does training at the other locations.

I’ve been taking personal training sessions with Randy for a little over a month. I’ve never done the same workout routine with him twice. There are similar exercises in the routines but never the same routine from start to finish. The order of the exercises are not shuffled around so although the exercise are not done in the same order you’re still doing all the same exercises. That has never happened. At the end of most sessions, Randy will say now you might hurt tomorrow. My response is that I’ll hurt by the time I’m done with my shower. This is only a slight exaggeration. Usually I do hurt the next day. But I’ve noticed that the more I train the faster I recover from the last training session.

Each session lasts around 50 minutes depending on what we are doing. Except for the time it takes to walk back and forth from the drinking fountain, I’m working out the entire time. There is very little if any rest between exercises or sets of exercises. I know I’m reaching my target heart rate because by the time I’m done with the workout I’m soaked in sweat.

The routines are varied. One time we boxed. I never realized how long a three minute boxing round is until I was in one. Randy would shout out which punch I was supposed to do while I was dancing around him. I felt a little silly doing it but in the end I got a great workout. Today I used a medicine ball in all the exercises.

Many of the exercises are tailored to help me with the problem areas that I have. I don’t have the greatest balance. I never really have. This is exacerbated by the problem that I have with my ankle. I still have problems with it from time to especially after an intense workout. Also because I don’t do the exercises I was giving by physical therapist as often as I should. The other area being worked on is in my hamstrings which Randy says are very tight. This prevents my lower body from being as flexible as it should be and reduces the range of motion on some of the exercises I do for my lower body.

Last week I asked Randy if I was making progress. I thought I was. I thought I was getting a littler stronger. The workouts did not wipe me out as the did in the first few weeks. Randy said I was making progress. He liked working with me because I concentrated on form with each of the exercises. I still had my doubts.

I had my doubts that is until today. I did a lunge exercise. This is where you take a step forward with your right leg and the knee of your left leg touches as close to the floor as possible. You then take the left leg and step forward while the right knee touches the floor. The idea is to do this as a smooth motion without stopping between lunges by bringing your feet together and then starting the next lunge. A month ago that is what I would have had to do. Pause between the lunges. Today there was no pause. I did this while holding the medicine ball above my head! I was even able to go backwards without pausing (this time without the medicine ball).

So in closing I have to say that my personal trainer rocks.

I can hardly wait to see what further progress I can make in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I got my maps today for my trip to London. Another item to check off my list.

I got them at this great store called ADC Map & Travel Center. It's a few blocks from work. They have just about any map you could possibly want. And I found two of them Actually one is a map the Insight Fleximap of London and the other is London AZ.

The actual map gives a good overview of the whole city. While the book gives much more detailed information. It also list just about every possible tourist destination in its index. It lists all the theaters that I'm going to. The theater district has expanded somewhat or more likely I was only in a small part of it when I went there all those many years ago.

Saturday afternoon I plan to sit down and have a good long planning session of what I'm going to do on what day. I need to figure out where to catch the train for the two day trips (Hampton Court and Bath). I don't go out of the same train station for both. I know for Hampton Court I go from Waterloo. So I need to see where that is and what Tube line to take to get there.

I think I can now say I am officially excited about the trip!!!

A More Important Resignation

Overshadowed by the sex scandal (I know that comes as a shock) is the resignation of Adm. William J. "Fox" Fallon. It seems he was much too out spoken in his opposition to Bush policies dealing with Iraq and Iran. Here's the story from the Post and the story from USA Today. There also a commentary piece from Dan Froomkin in the Post.

Why should we care that this Admiral has resigned? Well it seems that he was leading the charge for some sense of rationality in regards to our position with Iran. In other words, invading it would be a huge mistake on a massive scale. It seems Fallon was a little too honest when he talked to Esquire magazine.

I think this nicely sums up what officers who disagree with administration policy will draw from this event (this is from the Froomkin piece):

"At the same time, some younger officers who have been critical of senior commanders for not speaking up about the risks of invading Iraq now see a senior officer who did speak his mind publicly being prompted to choose early retirement."

I guess there can be opposing views but they have to be very quiet opposing views.

At least there was some reaction. This from the Post story:

"Several Democrats were quick to accuse the administration of not tolerating dissent. 'It's distressing that Admiral Fallon feels he had to step down,' said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.). 'President Bush's oft-repeated claim that he follows the advice of his commanders on the ground rings hollow if our commanders don't feel free to disagree with the president.' Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) asked whether Fallon's resignation is a reflection that the administration is hostile to 'the frank, open airing of experts' views.'"

Does this mean we are closer to war with Iran? Maybe. Maybe not. It does mean that one voice of reason has been silenced and that can't be a good thing for this country.

Spitzer Resigns

Not that this has come as a huge surprise but Spitzer has resigned.

I still have to say what was this guy thinking.

From a couple of the reports I've heard he spent tens of thousands of dollars on this escort service and it had been going on for along time. What an idiot.

There's an interesting column by Howard Kurtz in the Post about the coverage of this latest scandal.

In the end it is just sad that such a promising career has come to end in such a manner.

Preparations for London

I'm starting to gather things up for London.

I bought some new underwear so I'll make a clean impression when I go over. It will also allow me to start packing which I plan to do this weekend.

I also got a new suitcase. I decided that my old soft side Samsonite was not appropriate. It doesn't have any wheels. The one suitcase that does have wheels is too small. I figure, if I'm going to be doing some walking around in an urban setting, my suitcase should have wheels. All the recent trips I've made like to New Zealand or out to California I had a car waiting so I could just toss the suitcase into the trunk. Because of that wheels didn't matter. Since I'm going to be taking the Underground to and from the airport and where I'm staying, I thought wheels would be a good idea.

The next thing I want to get is a good map of London. I've been to a couple of Borders but haven't found anything I really like. I'm hoping today at lunch time to go to a map store near work. It is where I got my map of New Zealand.

I called my credit card company to make sure that the charges I made for tickets in London were not questioned. Last year when I went to Philly to see the Tut exhibit I ran into problems. I was blocked form making purchases. So I decided I'd let them know what I was doing. It would have been very unfortunate to arrive at the theater and not have a ticket. It turned out everything was fine that charges were waiting to be processed.

So in just a day over two weeks I will be on my way. I know it will be a blast.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Low Will Republicans Go?

I had an earlier post about how I thought the Republicans would go after Obama.

Well it seems they are trying another tactic. Actually it is an old tactic that the Bush White House became famous for.

Here's a story form the Des Moines Register about what Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa said about Obama. Here are some of the low lights:

King aroused outrage among Democrats when he said in an interview Friday with an Iowa radio station and newspaper that Obama's "middle name does matter" because "they read a meaning into that, the rest of the world - it has a special meaning to them.

"They'll be dancing in the streets because of his middle name," King said. "They'll be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says, 'Pull out of the Middle East. Pull out of this conflict.' "

King goes on to say:

"I don't see that I have made a factual or judgment error. What I see are some people that are super-sensitized and I apparently have touched their nerve," the Republican from Kiron said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. "No one has rebutted my argument, so I have to say I must be right."

Or maybe the vast majority of people think you are so incredibly stupid that it's not worth wasting the time rebutting an argument from a moron.

To McCain's credit his campaign did release a statement condemning the remarks and then went one step further:

Monday night, a spokes-woman for McCain emphasized the senator's unhappiness with King's remarks.

"The senator rejects the type of politics that degrade our civics and this campaign will be about the future of our country," Crystal Benton said. "Senator McCain could not be clearer on how he views these types of comments and obviously that view extends to Congressman King's statement."

How sad or I guess how expected that this is the route some Republicans will take after all if you have nothing to run on smear the opponent any way you can.

This time, I hope, the American public will see this for exactly what it is.

Why can’t they keep their zippers zipped

What it is with men in public life that they can’t keep their zippers zipped. Here’s the story about our latest zipper dropper Governor Eliot Spiter.

From the story:

A person familiar with the case said Spitzer was one of the unnamed clients of a New York area prostitution ring mentioned in federal court documents unsealed last week. Spitzer, a rising star in the Democratic Party who has been in office for 14 months, did not directly address the allegations in a hastily called news conference,and he made no mention of resigning. But as he dropped from public view, canceling all of his planned events, his political career seemed in limbo last night amid speculation that he was preparing to step down.

The story goes on:

The wiretap was set up as part of a federal investigation of an exclusive prostitution ring, known as Emperors Club VIP. It charged well-heeled clients as much as $5,500 an hour for “exclusive, beautiful, educated companions of fine family and career backgrounds” while ensuring “privacy and discretion when dating and traveling,”
according to the company’s Web site.

One thought is $5,500 an hour. That’s just nuts. How does a public servant have that much money to throw around? How come it always seems to be these moral crusaders that get caught with their pants down? How did he possible think he would not be caught? The guy was also a former attorney general. Since this contact was across state lines it is a potential federal offense. Don’t you think he would have know that? Or are these guys just so arrogant that they think they will never be caught.

The moral of the story keep the zipper zipped.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just Sad

This is a story that appeared in a recent issue of Time Magazine. It is the story of Sergeant Gerald (GJ) Cassidy and how the Army did not take proper care of the injuries he sustained in Iraq. He was in an Army medical facility when he died. In essence the army killed him through neglect.

He was at an army hospital receiving treatment for severe migraine headaches. He was on methadone. This from the article:

Horrifyingly, it appears that Cassidy lived for up to two days after falling into a stupor. Forgotten and alone, he sat in his room until he died. "My God, he was there for three days, and no one even found him. That's a huge scandal," says Dr. William Kearney, Cassidy's Army psychiatrist. Regulations that require a soldier to show up for formation three times a day or be tracked down were widely ignored, say soldiers who stayed at Fort Knox. "You could easily linger for two days in a coma," Kearney says, "and if anybody had opened his door, they would have found him unconscious and they would have called 911."

The article continues:

Just as the Pentagon failed to anticipate the duration and cost of the Iraq war, it has been woefully unprepared for the waves of wounded who return home needing care. Earnest, hardworking medical personnel haven't been able to handle the deluge. At Fort Knox, Cassidy and more than 200 other soldiers were placed in a newly created Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). The Army is spending $500 million this year on such units, in which troops operate as a military detachment and continue to be paid. After a 2007 Washington Post series focused attention on poor conditions at the service's flagship Walter Reed hospital in Washington, the Army created the units to streamline the care of Army outpatients. There are currently 8,300 soldiers in 35 WTUS. One in 5 suffers from TBI, PTSD or both.

Once again the total lack of any "post war" planning by the Bush Administration is costing soldiers their lives. The tragic part is this is barely mentioned in the media. It is outrageous.

There are the usual oh we'll do better and this has shown we've got to work harder. "Now the Army is rushing to catch up, setting up screening tools and treatment plans to deal with TBI and a "center of excellence" dedicated to the challenge."

How many times do we have to hear this excuse? How many more soldiers have to die because of neglect and incompetence before something is really done? How come the public isn't more up in arms over this?

We make a big point, from the President on down, of saying how we won't forget the soldiers who have gone to war, how we'll honor them when then come home.

When does that rhetoric become a reality?

I know the troops are dying to find out.

London Planning

Now that I'm finally feeling better I'm actually doing planning for the London trip. It is two and a half weeks away.

I bought some of my theater tickets last night on-line. I have the Lord of the Rings, The 39 Steps and The Lion King. I'm still working on Mamma Mia. The ticket for The Lion King I printed at home. Well not at home. I went to a web page and downloaded a PDF of the ticket. The only problem is the page size is larger than 8 1/2 by 11. So I had to print the file at work on legal size paper.

I got a tip from someone at work who stayed in Bath for a semester in college. He suggested that I to to a place call Bradford on Avon. He says it is a great little town to visit. A Saxon church that dates back to the first millennium. It is a little west of Bath. It looks like a very interesting place. The plane would be to take the train out to Bradford and then work my way back to Bath. I need to get a better sense of when the trains head out that way and how long it takes to get there.

I'm also starting to get things together to start packing. I have to look at my suit cases. I'm thinking I may get a new one. The one soft side is very old. The one with wheels I don't think is large enough. So it will be off to the new Target again sometime this weekend to see what they have.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Odds and Ends

New Target
The new Target opened in DC this week. It is in the very up and coming neighborhood of Columbia Heights. I haven't been up in the area since I was house hunting which is now 6 years.

There is now development all over the place. Besides the Target there will be a Marshalls, Bed Bath and Beyond and a Best Buy (this will be the second Best Buy to open in the District). There is across the street from the Target more stores and many many condo buildings going up.

As to the store itself, it is on two floors. They have an "escalator" for your shopping chart. The chart escalator is located right next to the regular one. As you ride up the chart keeps pace with you. I not sure what happens when the store is really crowded and there are lots of charts heading up or down.

The only potential problem I see is that the entrance and exit to the parking garage is on a very narrow one way street. When all the stores are open the street could really be over loaded with traffic.

From one Mall to another
I went out shopping with my friend Mark yesterday. We ended up going to Springfield Mall. At one point in time it was the largest mall in the DC area. Neither of us had been there in a very long time. It was to say the least a complete and total dump. There were several hallways we walked down where there were absolutely no stores. It also was very dark and seemed claustrophobic. There were very few people in it.

On the way back to Mark's house we ended up going to Pentagon City Mall. There was a new Apple store there. It was packed with people. It was very bright and open.

Monarc Construction
This is a local construction company. They have been around for a very long time. Almost as long as I've lived here. And there has always been something that has bugged me about them. They have a butterfly as their logo. Now you'd think Monarc Construction Monarch butterfly. But as far as I can tell it looks very much to me that it is a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. Go figure.

First real estate tax bill
I got my first real estate tax bill this past week. I was under a program in the District where first time home buyers were exempt from paying property taxes for the first five years they live in their homes.

So I to got my first bill. It was about one-fifth of what the mortgage estimated. I've written them a letter with a copy of the bill and asking them to recalculate the escrow payment for the property taxes which means my mortgage payment will drop.

Spring ahead
I love having to go through my house and change all of the clocks. I always forget to do the one in the basement. I also have to change my watch. Now the watch is supposed to be linked up with the atomic clock in Denver and you should never ever have to change the time. It will access the atomic clock and change all on its own. Well I've never has that work until today. I got out the instructions to the watch so I could change the time and picked up the watch and the time was already changes.

Finally this is starting to go away. The nasal spray has helped and so has the inhaler. I think sometime I cough just because I'm so used to coughing. I think it will be gone when I head for England which is in a little over two and a half weeks away.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A fifth of soldiers at PTSD risk

That was the headline of a story in USA Today recently. The story starts:

More than five years of recycling soldiers through Iraq and Afghanistan's battlefields is creating record levels of mental health problems, as about three in 10 GIs on their third tour admit emotional illnesses, according to an Army study released Thursday.
The report goes on to say:

The report underscores concerns raised by military leaders that the current year-long break soldiers receive between successive 12- to 15-month combat deployments is far too short for them to recover. In fact, certain mental illnesses such as PTSD grow more intense as the soldiers prepare to go back into combat, the report shows.

Once again we are shown how the complete lack of planning by the Bush Administration is placing our soldiers at risk. If there'd been a post war strategy beyond Mission Accomplished our soldiers would not be going through this. But there wasn't and they are going through it. And it seems at every step along the way the military is trying to play catch up. I'd say there not doing a particular good job at it.

Those We've Lost

In light of the above post, it's also important to remember those who've not been as lucky to come back from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Spec. Avealalo Milo
Lost October 4, 2007

Petty Officer Third Class Mark R. Cannon
Lost October 2, 2007

Gunnery Sgt. Herman J. Murkerson Jr.
Lost October 1, 2007

Sgt. 1st Class James D. Doster
Lost September 29, 2007

You're Now Free To Fly

Around the Country. That's Southwest's slogan. It seems however you're also free to fly around the country in planes that are not safe. This is the headline from USA Today FAA levels record $10.2M fine against Southwest.The reason for the fine:

The FAA said it will seek the fine from Southwest for flying 46 jets during nine months in 2006 and 2007 without performing required inspections for cracks in the fuselage.

No wonder Southwest is able to offer such great fares.

But it seems there is a further wrinkle in the story. Southwest disclosed to the FAA that it had missed the inspections. It seems the FAA policy is that:

Airlines have been allowed to "disclose" safety problems and escape fines even though inspectors initially discovered the problems, Goodrich said. FAA documents prohibit that practice.

I guess it's good to know that inspections have been missed. But if nothing is ever going to happen to the airline after it discloses the problem doesn't that encourage airlines to continue to miss the inspections. It's sure cheaper just to say oh we missed the inspection knowing nothing will ever happen then actually doing them.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Media Overreacts

I know that comes as a huge surprise that the media would overreact to something. I'm trying to understand the reaction to the red phone ad. I'm not sure how exactly this is an attack ad. Also the comparison to the 1964 Lydon Johnson ad of the girl picking petals off of a flower is just over the top.

Howard Kurtz from the Post has a great article on it. I think this part of the article really reflects my opinion on this whole thing:

Michelle Cottle has the good sense to agree with my argument in this New Republic piece:

“Enough with all the whining. Also enough with all the smack talk about how there must be something seriously wrong with Hillary/Obama as a candidate or s/he would have been able to close the deal by now. Horsefeathers. This isn’t a primary in which Democratic voters are having a hard time making up their minds because both candidates are so disappointing. That’s what’s happening with the other team. Democrats’ problem is that they have two candidates who are firing up the electorate, as seen in the consistently high turnout at the polls and the jaw-dropping fund-raising figures. ($30 million and $50 million in just one month? John McCain would kill for that kind of trouble.)

The media has also decided the story line going forward:

The Hillary/Obama contest is "increasingly brutal" (Boston Globe); in danger of "tearing the party apart" (L.A. Times); a "political party trying to destroy itself" (New York Post); the "most cutthroat political campaign in years" (Boston Herald); "depressing and distressing" (Time), and facing a "nightmarish scenario" (Baltimore Sun) that "will heighten racial, ethnic, gender, and class divisions" (Politico).

Could this happen? Yes it could. But it is not happening now. If anything, the continuation of the contest could suck all the air out of any coverage of the McCain campaign. What if the contest for the Democratic nomination goes right up to the convention? Do you really think there will be any coverage on McCain? No the media will be too busy working itself up into a lather over the Democrats.

And once again it would be nice if the pundits would just shut their collective mouths and let the voters decide whom should be the nominee. But then again where would all that hot air go.

Fixed Furnace

Well the furnace did get fixed.

The repairman arrived a little after one. Just after I made my last post for that day. It took him until about 2:40 to get things up and running again. Essentially the starter had gone out. That’s why I kept hearing a click when I turned up the thermostat but then nothing else happened.

There was a great deal of trial and error in getting it back up and running. The furnace was on and off many times. At first it sounded completely wrong. There was an attempt by the furnace to start but nothing happened. After about an hour in, the furnace motor would actually turn over and it was running but still not sounding completely correct. Then finally it was back to its old self.

The visit was free. Well not actually free because I have a service contract but I did not have to pay the repairman anything. Everything was covered under the service contract. I even got new filters.

The only draw back, besides missing a complete day of work, was the house smelled like oil. And I mean really smelled. It was a nice day out so I opened up the windows on the first floor and the basement door. It worked pretty well. Although I did notice a little residual odor when I got back from Dinning Out for Life last night. I might need to open things up again. I’m not sure that the weather will be all the cooperative this weekend.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

While I wait

I thought since all I'm doing is waiting I'd post something funny. This is a recent series of Peanuts.

Still Waiting

I'm going crazy.

I washed the storm window in the front door.

I've cleaned the bathroom.

I dusted in my bedroom.

I got all the laundry up from the basement.

I've read several magazines.

I called my dad.

I washed the dishes and put them away.

I paid some bills.

I blogged several times.

I got the water from the big storm we had last night off the front stoop.

I've played with Sam. He wants very much to go outside and is being rather annoying about it.

It is now 11:30. There is still some faint hope that they will show up before noon. But only a faint one. Hopefully it won't take too long to fix. Say an hour or so. At 1:00 does it make any sense to try and get into work?

I did get the oil delivery yesterday so I know for sure there is oil in the tank.

So I guess I get to wait a little more.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

I'm waiting for the furnace repair guy to show up. I'm an hour and a half into my wait. I was told they would be here by noon.

I hate waiting for people to show up. I feel like I can't do much of anything for fear I'll miss the guy. I always think I'll clean. You can do some of that but you can't vacuum. Can't really do laundry because that would mean going down into the basement and you might miss the guy.

I always schedule my appointments for the morning window. I think that's easier. There's a little story that goes with that preference of mine.

I was living in an apartment at 12th and E Streets NE. I needed to have someone come out and fix the cable. I'm don't remember exactly what was wrong with it. I was always having problems with it. Once they decided to disconnect me for no reason.

Anyway I set the appointment for the afternoon window 1-5 pm. I leave work sometime around 11:45. This will give me plenty of time to get home. I'll even have time to fix myself some lunch before I have to sit and wait. I arrive at my apartment building and there's a note on the front door saying sorry we missed you. It was from the cable company for me.

I call the cable company up and ask what's going on. I was told well someone should up for the appointment but no one was home so I'll have to reschedule. I ask if there is a way to find out when the note was left. She says there should be a time on the note. I find the time it says 12:20 pm. I read her the time and then asked her when was my appointment for. She says 1-5 pm. I say well then the reason on one was home was because it was 40 minutes before someone needed to be there.

She then gets bitchy and says the guy called ahead and left a message saying he would be early. I said there was no message left on my answer machine. She says well they expect someone to be there. I said yes you can expect someone to be there but not 40 minutes before the scheduled appointment. I ask what do you expect people to do take an entire day off from work when the appointment time is 1-5.

I then ask when I can reschedule the appointment. She takes along time to get back to me on this. She finally says the next appointment isn't for another 10 days. I say you have got to be kidding me. Your employee shows up for an appointment early and then leaves and I'm going to have to wait 10 more days to get service. She responds well I'm sorry sir (in that charmingly condescending customer service voice). I ask to speak to a supervisor because I've had enough of this lady.

So on to the supervisor. I get the same line. Well the representative showed up and no one was home. I again pointed out they were 40 minutes early why would there be someone to let them in 40 minutes early. This got no where. The supervisor could only offer me the appointment in 10 days. I'd had enough. I said ok then how about I cancel the service that shouldn't take 10 days should it. All of a sudden they are going to be able to get someone out to me by the end of the day.

The bottom line is they should have done that in the first place. They should have said sorry the guy should have waited but he didn't but we'll get someone out to you by the end of the day. I shouldn't have had to threaten to quit. And that's the reason I always take morning appointments.

Brett Favre Retires

You never think sports legends will leave the field but eventually they all do.

Brett Favre is no exception. But wow will he be a big loss. Stories from USA Today and the Post. USA Today also compiled a list of Favre's Top 10 Moments.

What I liked about watching Brett Favre was you were never sure exactly what he would do when he was on the field. Sometimes his improvisations were genius and other times they were disasters. But that is what made him so fun to watch.

Sunday football won't be exactly the same with him gone.

The Contest Goes On

Clinton wins three out of four. But is that enough?

Texas holds a primary and a caucus. Who's bright idea was that? Obama won the caucus. In the end even though Clinton won the primary, Obama could end up with more delegates from Texas. And that is what really matters. It is great to win primaries but in this race it is going to be the delegate count that really matters.

That's why the Obama strategy of going after the caucus states was such a great idea. It shows the strength of his organization and the weakness of Clinton's.

There are a host of stories about the results in the press. This one makes an important point:

Clinton still faces daunting odds in her bid for the nomination. Obama began the day with a lead in pledged delegates that will be hard for her to overcome in the 12 primaries and caucus remaining, despite the results from the four states voting yesterday. But her advisers said that the big win in Ohio alone would force a serious look at both candidates and that the race was far from over.

This story focuses on the math to get the nomination:

Clinton wiped away the debate last night with a robust victory in Ohio and a narrow win in Texas. But as she vowed to keep campaigning, the tight vote in Texas signaled she may yet face a tough decision in coming weeks. The slim margin in the Texas popular vote and an additional caucus process in which she trailed made clear that she would not win enough delegates to put a major dent in Sen. Barack Obama's lead. And regardless of the results, she emerged from the crucible of Ohio and Texas with a campaign mired in debt and riven by dissension.

What it now comes down to are there enough contests left for Clinton to win so she can catch Obama in the delegate count. I just don't see how that happens. Unless of course there is a do-over in Florida and Michigan.

The bottom line: the contest goes on.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Numbers Trickling In

Clinton and Obama have split the small states. Clinton won Rhode Island and Obama Vermont. The results form Ohio and Texas are well just trickling in.

It's very possible that they could split the big states as well. Clinton winning in Ohio and Obama in Texas. The more important thing is how the delegates divide up. In the end Obama might still be ahead of Clinton. He might be closer to the number needed for the nomination but he still won't have it.

Do Florida and Michigan have some say down the road? Tonight I heard the idea floated that those two states would have another go at having primaries but in June. Do you want it to go on that long? Will it mean a divisive campaign? Will the Republicans be getting all sorts of ideas on how to attack the eventual Democratic nominee? (Not that they need any help in that department.) Or does the on-going Democratic contest suck all the oxygen out of the room the Republicans are in? Can the Republicans get any sort of press if the focus is all on the Democrats race? Will the extra time McCain have (since with the wins tonight he now has enough delegates to be nominated) allow him to unite the Republican Party behind him?

I have a feeling over the next couple of days these questions will be asked a great deal.

I am concerned that the Democrats campaign not become too negative. But the idea that this will inflict a fatal wound on whomever emerges as the nominee is pretty silly.

All we can do right now is wait and see.

Tuesday Treat

In light of all the turmoil I had on Sunday I thought this would be a great way to relax on Tuesday by posting a Peanuts strip.

A Comment from afar

Most of the time if I get comments, which are few are far between, they are from people I know.

However on the post about the number of hits I took regarding Once, I got a comment. I’d mentioned that I had a visitor from the Isle of Man.

Well I got a comment from my visitor from the Isle of Man. So I think it only fitting to give an actual blog post thank you (as opposed to my response to his comment) to my visitor from the Isle of Man. Thanks.

You should take a look at his blog Go Mann Go: Humourous alternative news and history of the Isle of Man. It is very interesting and very funny. I'd especially recommend the post titled: Isle of Man Finance Sector.

For those of you who don’t know exactly where the Isle of Man is here’s a map of the isle. For a little more history about the Isle go here.

Dinning Out for Life

Support a great cause Thursday night by Dinning Out for Life. This is sponsored by Food & Friends. Follow this link to find out the restaurants that are participating. So gather up some friends and Dine Out for Life on Thursday. You won't regret it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Once post

This isn't so much about the movie as about my post called Once's Oscar Nod.

It got a deluge of hits after the Oscars. 107 hits to be exact. I was able to track the hits with my Stat Counter which is a fun to look at from time to time. I've posted about the ocean mystery. So I took a look to see where my Once post viewed from.

The majority of post were form the US. Several from Canada as well. Both of which is to be expected. Two from the Czech Republic. Well Marketa Irglova is originally from the Czech Republic so again not much of a surprise. A hit from Dublin, another from London, one from the Isle of Man, one form the Netherlands, two from Spain, one in Thailand, one in Cambodia, one from Hong Kong.

I won't list all of them but an interesting and very wide range of places heard from. I'm just curious as to exactly how they got to my post. I did a couple of searches and didn't see my post get listed.

Well anyway. I think it is cool.

All Down to Tuesday?

This is probably it for the Clinton campaign: Tuesday.

This from USA Today:

TOLEDO, Ohio — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton assessed her chances Monday for the Democratic nomination and made some pointed remarks about rival Sen. Barack Obama, one day before voters in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont go the polls.

Clinton suggested she'll press on with the campaign after Tuesday's crucial primaries, despite the outcome, arguing that momentum is on her side.

The polls seem to be pointing out a different trend. It also seems harder and harder for Clinton to catch Obama in the delegate count if she does not win really big tomorrow. Again all the evidence points to a close contest in the two big state Ohio and Texas. But even Rhode Island and Vermont take on added significance. Essentially ever single delegate is going to count. And in a way that makes me feel really good about the process so far. A race this time not a victory lap. I think it will make whomever emerges as the nominee a better candidate.

It is interesting to see now that the press is now pressing Obama on some of the issues that have followed him throughout the campaign: his controversial pastor, his ties to indicted fundraiser Tony Rezko, voting present, Farrakhan, the nuclear contributions and the lack of a flag pin. And the recent dust-up over NAFTA. The flag pin one seems really silly. There's an interesting article from Howard Kurtz on how the press is suddenly doing it's job [that's my take on it]; it's called Scratching Obama's Teflon.

I'm not against Obama. I think he would be a very good candidate and, if he is the nominee, I'm looking forward to voting for him. But I'm concerned, that if he is the nominee, this issues are going to follow him. Obama after all will be running against the Republican machine and it will be going after him full tilt. We seen recently some of what it may try to do. See my recent post on it.

Anyway the thing now to do is to sit back and wait and see what the voters decide. It should be a very interesting night.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Remember the song What a Difference a Day Makes?

Well all I can say does it ever. After what I can only describe as a Sunday that sucked, Monday came along and was a pretty damn good day. The fact that I had to go into worked helped my mood. It took my mind off all the stuff that had gone wrong.

A some things actually went pretty well. I called up the furnace people. They said they could have someone come out today. I was at work when I called so we've scheduled a service call for Wednesday sometime before noon. She asked if I'd used the reset button. I said I didn't even know there was such a thing. So maybe that's all there is to it. I'm pretty sure it has not run out of oil. I keep the house pretty cool during the winter and in general this has not been that cold of a winter.

I got to my doctor today. He checked me out for my cold/chest cold/sinus/flu thing. He said it was all in my head. My lungs were fine. He gave me some nose drops and an inhaler. The inhaler I'm supposed to use when I work out and I shouldn't have any problems with coughing. He thinks that in a couple of weeks I should be fine. Yeah!!

I got my real estate taxes on Friday. They are much lower than my mortgage company thought they would be. I called the mortgage company today. They said I need to write them a letter and request them to adjust the escrow payment. Otherwise they wouldn't do it until September. This will lower my payment. Another yeah! I will still probably pay the same amount it just means more will go towards the principal.

And that's how my Monday went. Yeah again.

Oh and now the lyrics to What a Difference a Day Makes

What a difference a day makes
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain

My yesterday was blue, dear
Today I'm a part of you, dear
My lonely nights are through, dear
Since you said you were mine

What a difference a day makes
There's a rainbow before me
Skies above can't be stormy
Since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss

It's heaven when you find romance on your menu
What a difference a day made
And the difference is you

What a difference a day makes
There's a rainbow before me
Skies above can't be stormy
Since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss

It's heaven when you find romance on your menu
What a difference a day made
And the difference is you

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Odds and Ends

Bad Customer Service

Well bad customer service might be a little stronger. Maybe tepid customer service is a better way to describe it. I went to Best Buy on Friday. I was looking for a voltage converter to take with me when I go to London. I'm thinking of taking my camcorder and I'd really like to take my iPod with me too. If I do, I'll need to charge them thus the need for the voltage converter.

I wandered around the store for a little while to see if I could find one and also just to see what was new. I also looked at a speaker system for my iPod. I still haven't found anything I really like. Anyway I finally decided to ask someone if they carried them. He looked it up on the computer and then said to me they'll either be where I was working or in automotive (why would they be in the automotive section). That was the end of the help. He was not going to go with me and help me find them. I looked at my watch. I had a couple of other things to do before I met a friend for lunch. I decided wandering around Best Buy was not one of them. I know they have them so I'll get it later. Or better yet go to a luggage or travel store which will probably have a much better selection.

Movie Night

Last night I had an old fashioned movie night. The type of experience you'd have if you went to the movies in the 40's. I watched about ten minutes of Headline News. Then I put on a Warner Brothers cartoon actually I watched three of Tweety and Sylvester. Very funny. Then I watched a movie I'd gotten from Netflix. It was Dragon Wars. One of the reason that I signed up for Netflix was so that I could get such questionable movies as Dragon Wars. After all all you are paying for Netflix is $9 a month as opposed to $7 for just one movie.

Now was Dragon Wars bad. Oh yes it was very very bad. I feel like the Dan Akroyd character on Saturday Night Live: Leonard Pinth-Garnell. And this is a bad Saturday night movie. And it was very very bad. The director ripped off scenes from several recent sci-fi movies: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. There was almost nothing original in this movie at all. It was done by a Korean director so it had the feel of the original Godzilla with Raymond Burr. It had that spliced together feeling. How bad was the film even Jason Behr's hair was bad. Enough said.

But the Saturday night movie concept was a fun one.

Wrong side of the bed

This is what today has felt like. It started out late Saturday night. After the movie, I played on the computer for awhile and then watched a little TV. I did something I don't usually do and that is I feel asleep on the couch. I woke up around 2 or so. One of the last things I'd needed to do before going to bed was put sheets on the bed. I changed the sheets but hadn't gotten around to putting on the new ones. Well at 2 in the morning I was not going to do that. So I got the comforter and just went to bed.

I didn't have all that good of a night's sleep. I got up and went off to the gym. While there my Bose earbud headphones started acting up. There seems to be a short in the cord. So the sound goes in and out. Actually it is more like a channel goes out.

After the gym I go grocery shopping. Several things I want to get they don't have. And the bananas were as green as could be.

I head back home. Once there I notice that the furnace is not coming on. I can hear the click but it doesn't turn on. I'm not sure what is exactly wrong it could be that it is out of oil. I doubt this but it is possible.

I called the oil company and will be getting a delivery by Tuesday. The price is like $4 a gallon. I asked for the minimum amount but it will still be around $600. I hope once that is done the furnace will be fine. If not it means I have to get them out here to take a look at it.

The only good thing is it is going to be unusually warm for the next few days.

Next, I'm cleaning and rearranging things in the kitchen. My baking pans are in a cabinet above the stove. While trying to move some of them they all fell on to the floor. I decided at that point to call it a day.

I was going to go 0n-line and order my theater tickets for London but thought better of it. I'm sure something would have gone wrong. I'm now officially calling the day over.

I'm going to make dinner and maybe do another post or two, watch a little TV or maybe read a book but nothing else. I figure you can't have much go wrong with any of those but then again . . .

A review or two

Or maybe even three.

Anne Murray Duets — friends and legends

I mentioned the Anne Murray CD in an earlier post specifically about A Little Good News. As I said after listening to the words it is sad that so little has changed. This is especially true in light of the recent events in the Middle East. You can read more about in the Post.

But this is a review about the album itself. It is very impressive. I've been a fan of Anne Murray for a long time. So almost all of the songs are familiar. Yet at the same time they are totally different. The orchestrations have been changed and of course the most obvious difference is that Murray is singing the song with another person. The range of artists Murray sings with is amazing. Olivia Newton-John, k.d. Lang, Indigo Girls, Sarah Brightman, Nelly Furtado to name just a few.

As to my favorite songs here's a quick list Daydream Believer with Nelly Furtado, Time Don't Run Out on Me with Carole King, A Love Song with k.d. Lang, A Little Good News with the Indigo Girls, When I Fall in Love with Celine Dion and probably the best song on the CD You Needed Me with Shania Twain. This is a kick ass album and I highly recommend it.

And through the joys of YouTube here are a couple of the songs.

Here she's with Celine Dion. I have to say I make a great deal of fun of Celine at work because one of my co-workers really like her. I will say I think Murray and Dion's voice really work well on this song.

This is You Needed Me. The best song on the CD.

The Perils of Peace by Thomas Fleming

This is a great book which I got for Christmas. It is about the Revolutionary War from the Battle of Yorktown to the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty. It is an area that is usually covered in a couple of paragraphs in most books. Yorktown took place in October of 1781 the peace treaty was signed in September of 1783. This book traces the ups and downs and political intrigue that took place in England, France and the United States during those two years. The tireless efforts of Washington to keep the county focused on the fact that the war was not over and his attempts to have his army properly provisioned and paid. It is a riveting account. It points out that things could have ended a great deal differently then they did and not to the benefit of the U.S.

Here's a little excerpt from the book. Washington is in Annapolis, Maryland where the Continental Congress is in session. Washington is about to resign his commission as commander in chief of America forces:

This was—is—the most important moment in American history. The man who could have been King George I of America, or President fro Life after dispersing a feckless Congress and obtaining for himself and his officers riches worthy of their courage, was renouncing absolute power to become a private citizen, at the mercy of politicians over whom he had no control. This visible incontrovertible act did more to affirm America's faith in the government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.

If you are interested in the history of the Revolution, this is a must read.