March 31, 2009
"The eyes of an animal have the capacity of a great language. Independent, without any need of the assistance of the sounds and gestures, most eloquent when they rest entirely in their glance, they express the mystery in its natural captivity, that is, in the anxiety of becoming (Bangigkeit des Werdens). This state of the mystery is known only to the animal, which alone can open it up to us—for this state can only be opened up and not revealed. The language in which this is accomplished is what it says: anxiety—the stirring of the creature between the realms of plantlike security and spiritual risk. This language is the stammering of nature under the initial grasp of spirit, before language yields to the spirit's cosmic risk which we call man. But no speech will ever repeat what the stammer is able to communicate," - Martin Buber, Ich and Du.
March 30, 2009
I have had nothing but easy travel for quite some time now. So I guess that it was time for me to get annoyed and bothered, or at least delayed on my last trip.
I left Houston for Oslo last Wednesday, via Amsterdam. I was returning on Saturday, via Newark. The weather looked like it would be dicey, and I thought that I would not get home on time, even thought it was late flight – not landing in Houston until 7:30. (I usually get home about 2:00 PM. I missed the flight connection in Amsterdam, and was forced through Newark because the US is not on the same Daylights Savings Time schedule as the rest of the world that moves to Daylight Savings Time. Thanks Congress! You are evil!)
Flying through Newark is always a problem anyway. Luckily I was not checking bags (I have stories about THAT in Newark!) but I was worried about immigration. But I get ahead of myself.
As usual I did not get much sleep Friday night in Oslo (it is my second night there, and I am flying out the next day. When I wake up, I watch movies. Not a big deal. I saw part of Beverly Hills Cop II, and part of Master and Commander. I had seen the later, but not the former, previously.) so I was up and ready for breakfast when the breakfast room opened at 7:00 AM. (Eggs, bacon, and pickled herring. Nothing like fish for breakfast!). I read from my Kindle (The Big Rich. An excellent book about Texas Oil Men. I recommend it) and then went up to my room to finish packing. That done, I wandered over to the train station to grab the Flytoget train that goes to the airport.
I arrived at the airport a scant 30 minutes later and ambled over to the Continental ticket counter. (I had check in online, but had no boarding pass) There was a family with complicated passport issues in line in front of me, but I had plenty of time so I did not worry. I finally got my ticket and got through the relatively short security line without any issued (remember this for later)
I had to buy some chocolates for My Sweet Ever Lovin’ (Lindt chocolates. Lordy, they are so good the make you want to slap your mamma!) and was able to do that in the (very crowded, oddly enough) duty free shop.
Since this was a flight out of the EU, I had to clean immigration. There were two lines at the immigration counter. One was for “All Passports” and one for “EU Passports”. One of the PGS employees was a couple places in front of me in the “All Passports” line. There was nobody in the “EU” line, though there was an immigration official. Well, in front of me step three Norwegians (in the “All Passport” line) with immigration issues. Why they chose to wait in line, instead of go DIRECTLY to the front of the other line is beyond me. (Reminds me of the sign that they used to have when leaving the Denver Airport. Everyone had to pay at for parking at what looked like a big toll plaza. Probably about 25 booths. The sign said “Use Shortest Lane”. I always thought that was the funniest thing. Having to tell people to “use shortest lane”. But you do. People are foolish) in any case, I had to wait behind this couple with immigration issues as well.
Little did I know that those two lines were a harbinger of things to come.
The flight was largely uneventful. I never said two words to the fellow who was sitting next to me for 9 hours. That was fine with me. We landed and made it down to immigration with no problems.
At immigration, a miracle had occurred. There was nobody in line! I waited for maybe 30 seconds and was sent on to Customs.
Now, keep in mind that I had been out of the country for only three nights. I had only one carryon bag, my computer, and a duty free bag with the chocolates. As I got up to customs, they told the pilot in front of me that he had to go to his left for an ag-check (agriculture check) and they told me that I did, too!
Think about this – there are almost no farms in Norway. I was only out of the country for three days, and only had chocolate. And I was chosen for an ag-check! Talk about a waste of time.
Of course they found nothing, and then off I went to clear security to get back to the gates.
Here is where the real fun began.
I noticed an empty belt and walked right up to it. That was a big mistake. There was obviously some tyro reading that x-ray. I put my stuff through, walked through the metal detector, and was told they needed to do a “bag check” What the heck! This was the fourth x-ray that this bag has been through on this trip, and they have a problem? OK, being the good citizen I am I just stand and wait while they open my bag and take my shoes out (my shoes?)
They run the bag through again, and STILL see something they don’t like. So they rummage around again in my dirty underwear and shirts. I offer to take some stuff out of the bag and I am sternly reprimanded. At which point I just sit down and let them spin their wheels.
And what happens now? They put the bag through again, and they STILL see something they don’t understand. Well, this is the rich part: They then tell me to repack my bag and be on my way!
So they found a problem, never identified it, and just sent me away? Doesn’t that sort of defeat the whole purpose of the check?
TSA. American Stasi, only Dumber.
But wait! There is one more piece of joy left in this day of Kafkaesque air travel.
In spite of the TSA’s actions, I was able to get to the President’s club about 2:20. I was scheduled for a 4:30 flight to Houston, arriving at about 7:30. There was also a 3:00 PM flight to Houston.
So my PGS buddy and I visited the counter to see if we could get on the 3:00 PM flight and save a couple of hours. Jerry had a cheap coach fare, but had been upgraded to Business Class on the 4:30 flight. I had a Business Class fare. They looked at Jerry’s ticket, and immediately gave him a seat (in the back) on the 3:00 flight. No fee, no questions They dickered around with my reservation for a while and then said I had to go to the gate.
So we walk down to the gate, and the gate agent tells me that the business section is full. I say no problem, can they get me a seat in coach. You bet! They start looking at my record, and the woman has to make a phone call. That is never a good sign.
I hear her asking about class of travel, and how to book the change. She hangs up and calls another person. Again, questions about Z and Y and all sorts of other codes are being thrown about.
She says, “OK, that will be a $250 change fee and $37.50 for the transaction.”
I express incredulity as calmly as I can.
Of course, I politely declined their offer. Now, keep in mind that I am a Platinum Elite flyer with Continental, and have been an elite member for each of the past 15 years. Most of the time, that has been Platinum, occasionally gold, seldom silver.
Don’t you think that they would want my business?
This story would have been better had they actually cancelled my 4:30 flight. Luckily for me (but not the story) they didn’t.
So in the end, I got home right on time.
March 28, 2009
March 27, 2009
March 26, 2009
March 25, 2009
March 24, 2009
March 23, 2009
March 18, 2009
Hard to believe it took 50 years! But more to the point, I was born in 1957. So I have a lot of competition.
Baby Boomlet: US Births In 2007 Break 1950s Record
March 17, 2009
March 16, 2009
March 15, 2009
Doreen and I went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo yesterday. We really were there only for the livestock show. The rodeo part doesn't really appeal to us so much. But the livestock part is fun.
We went yesterday because there were two things we particularly wanted to see – one was the Poultry Judging. The other was the Sheepdog Trials.
The Poultry Judging was not what we expected. We thought we would see all sort of different chickens in different colors and such. Instead, we saw this. Oh well. I guess it really was judging the poultry!
The sheepdog trails were fun to watch. I am not sure what I expected, but dogs work sheep sort of the way that old Daleks computer game works. The Sheep always go away from the dog. So the handler just needs to move the dog on the opposite side of where he (or she) wanted to send the sheep. As fas as we could tell, the dogs responded to only three commands “Here”, “There” and “Lie Down”.
The dogs obviously loved this work. Most of them were Border Collies, but there was one Kelpie as well. We didn't stay for all 40 contestants, but one fellow had two dogs. One named Blaze, and one named Dan.
March 10, 2009
March 9, 2009
March 7, 2009
March 5, 2009
March 2, 2009
I can say that I honestly enjoyed listing to Paul. He had good pacing, good delivery, and a nice voice. He was sort of nutty sometimes, but he also stood up for what he believed in (NB: Taking on Nixon after the invasion of Cambodia). Every time I would hear Paul Harvery since it brings me straight back to the bench by the office, with my back to the Fox River, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Last week was the last publication of the Rocky Mountain News. I subscribed to The Rocky when I lived in Denver back in 1981/82. I also subscribed to the Denver Post. I loved living in a two paper town. Houston was a two paper town when I first moved here. We all lose something when a newspaper shuts down.
I don't know what it would take to keep newspapers profitable. I hope they last longer than I do. Our local paper, The Houston Chronicle, recently combined its City and State and Business sections on Mondays and Tuesdays. I don't like to see that, as it implies to me that worse cuts are yet to come.
I still subscibe to the Chronicle and two other dailes. In another life I think I would have been a newspaperman.
I really hope they find a new business model.