Saturday, December 30, 2006

ETA Breaks Its 9-Month Truce

I've had a deep connection to the Basque region since the late 1980s. I married a Basque. I've lived in the Basque Country. I'm not going to pretend to give my opinion on this conflict that was born of Franco's oppression, because Franco has been dead for more than 30 years, the Basques enjoy more autonomy within Spanish constitutional law and yet, the etarras continue this campaign.

What I will comment on is the posturing of Spain's PM Zapatero. Remember that it was the al-Qaeda train attacks of 11-M that brought the appeasing Zapatero and his Socialist party to power. Three days prior to the election, trains were detonated and, although polls showed that a few days earlier Aznar was clinging to a slim lead, Zapatero won the general election...many say because he was all for leaving Iraq (cut and run) and for "dialogue" with extremism.

Unfortunately, Zapatero is as dense as they come in the "let history teach us a lesson" crowd. Terrorists, whether islamofascists or home-grown separatists, do not negotiate. Neither should heads of state negotiate with them. You're in or you're out, in my opinion.

When ETA said nine months ago that they would (unofficially) lay down their weapons, many hailed it as an IRA-esque move towards peace. I was skeptical and viewed it as a period of reloading. It would seem that more extreme factions within ETA have gained control of the decision-making and want nothing to do with the IRA way of gaining legitimacy for their cause.

Terror has returned to Spain. Unfortunately, it will be the world opinion of Basques, and therefore Basques as a whole, that will suffer.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Snow Cats


So we find ourselves about 90 miles north of Boise, Idaho at a little place called Glenn's Ferry. Our friends had invited us up for the weekend so we took them up on the offer. The "menfolk" went hiking (well, my daughter came, too...but mostly because I think she likes one of the other boys!), and on our way back, we came across this cool little vehicle: A vintage SnoCat. We'll have to come back in February and see if the neighbors actually get it to start! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald R. Ford

"Ford, Ford, he's our man! Carter belongs in the garbage can!"

I remember reciting that little ditty over and over back in grade school in the run-up to the 1976 general election. I would have to say that Pres. Ford is the first US president of whom I have clear recollection. I was five when Nixon resigned, and it was second grade for me when Ford ran a doomed campaign against Carter. How could a candidate overcome such a maelstrom of negativity in less than two years and defeat the opposition party? Even for an upstanding, dignified, class act like Pres. Ford, it was too tall an order.

Now, at age 93, the "accidental president" as he's called, with no malice, has passed. In retrospect, I can only wonder what the current political landscape of the US would be had Ford beaten Carter in 1976. Would Reagan have had such an overwhelming pair of landslide victories? Would Bob Dole have been our 39th president? (He tried to be #42.) Would the hostage crisis in Tehran have happened? Ford could've conceivably been the longest-serving president since FDR, having not been elected and serving less than two years, it's conceivable he could've been elected two times, serving around ten years. Alas, the American public opted for "change" with Carter, and they got, perhaps, one of the worst presidents in the last 100 years. Hindsight being what it is, I know we all could do without Carter using his ex-President mantle as a loudspeaker for his irresponsible worldview.

Rest in peace, Pres. Ford. The country was better with you at the helm, and you'll be missed.

Casino Royale

This is a rehash of a post that for some reason unbeknownst to me, was lost in the ethersphere.

Casino Royale is now my favorite Bond movie. I like this Craig character. The movie, made from I think the second Bond book, is purely visceral not technological. The chases, the fights, the action: All man-to-man. I love it. There are no gratuitous product marketing spots for hp, BMW, Rover, etc. Bond logs onto the secure MI-6 server a few times but then goes right back to getting his nuggets whacked by the bad guys. And men, there is a scene in here where just that happens. A friend of mine said he left the theater the second time he watched the movie because he was "upset at how cruel man can be to man." Note that this was the second time he saw it, and that he knew what was going to happen...and he still left. The male nether-region and any unnatural behavior surrounding it are a touchy subject to men.

All this having been said, I can only imagine that had the movie been made in the 60s, the big poker showdown wouldn't have been poker at all, much less No Limit Texas Hold 'em. I'm sure it would've been a more elegant game of baccarat or blackjack.

Go see this movie. Worth the $10. Worth another $10. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


As a lifelong fan of the NHL, I feel kind of hypocritical about voicing this opinion, but I am no longer a fan of the NBA. It's been graduallly happening over the last few years, but tonight, I can say, that even if I was given tickets to an NBA game, I would turn them down.

Oddly enough, the last team I saw play in an NBA game was the Denver Nuggets, and they're the reason for my decision. In New York tonight, the thugs of the NBA who can't take losing had a brawl. Ten players were ejected and one fan was turned off for good. This is what you get for allowing the lowest common denominator to rule your league. You have kids who didn't attend college, and, therefore, may have barely attended high school, playing a game where the worst player on the worst team may be making millions. Add all of that to a little testosterone and "manhood questioning" and affrontery and you've got today's NBA.

I have a simple solution to the pox on pro sports that is the athlete who feels he can do no wrong: You throw a punch? You're banned for life. You hit a ref? You're banned for life. You use profane language on the court? You're out for good. You take drugs? You're out for good. Nothing cleans up a situation quite like a good, solid no-tolerance policy. If pro sports adopts one, I'd be shocked, but it just may be a reason for me to return to my seat and watch the NBA again.

Are you listening, David Stern?

Thursday, December 14, 2006


If you've never irrigated on the Erie Canal, you may not be aware of the phrase "low bridge, everybody down!" If you've never navigated in New Jersey, you've never seen one of the non-wonders of the modern world: The "jughandle."

Last night, I was reintroduced in a very sick way to the concept of the jughandle. I'm in town for business in New Jersey and decided, after four nights on the road, that I'd go take in a movie. I know exactly where the movie house is, since I drive by it everyday on my way to our main office. Thanks to jughandles, however, my two mile drive turned into ten miles of back and forth, missing my "handle" and having to go to the next jughandle to u-turn and come back, only to take another jughandle to make the turn into the movie theater. It's a good thing I left quite early or I may have missed a few of the five hundred previews and advertisements prior to the actual 2h 24m of "feature presentation" that I actually went to see.

I'd like to take this moment and share my true feelings about jughandles. Nevertheless, I'm a respectable individual that doesn't think that my loved ones who read this would like line upon line of profanity and ill will. This much should suffice: I hate jughandles. I think I'll print a t-shirt.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Scalini Fedeli

So I'm in town for work in NJ, but I'm missing the corporate Christmas party. I'm the only one of us who doesn't work out of the home office here in Jersey, and the dinner is scheduled for next Thursday. So, coming to NJ, what do my bosses decide? They take me to dinner at Scalini Fedeli in Chatham, NJ. It's the second time I've been there with them, and the first time the air conditioning worked...well, not that I'd know since it was 44 degrees tonight. No AC needed.

Let me try to accurately describe the experience. Okay, I can't, but I'll tell you what I ate, let you know the service is terrific, and that I'd definitely return. The menu is prix fixe, which means dinner is $52 a plate, no matter what you order. And order we did.

For starters, a basket of bread is delivered tableside with raisin, rye and Italian from which to choose. I asked for rye and Italian, my dining companions opted for the raisin with the Italian. They're also wine aficionados, something I'm not, so all I can say is the wine was "tinto" and they both liked it. They asked for "the best sub-$100 bottle you have." They were given a $55 bottle and no complaints.

I ordered a Tuscan white bean soup with prosciutto and a cheese whose name escapes me. It was delicious. The dinner is started off for all with a shrimp in a mild horseradish glaze (so mild it probably wasn't horseradish), then the appetizer. My companions ordered Risotto with mushrooms and petit peas from Provence with crispy zucchini and Spaghettini arrabiata with capers, black olives and minced Spanish anchovy in a spicy tomato sauce. I tasted the risotto, and not being a fan, was impressed with the full flavor.

The main course for all of was unanimous: Braised short ribs of beef with a cherry pepper and port wine glaze, fennel-apple puree and twice fried potatoes. The ribs were hardly ribs, as there were no bones on the plate and the beef was so juicy and tender that it practially fell apart on my fork. The fennel-apple puree underneath the ribs was the perfect hint of sweet and each of us had no trouble finishing off our portion.

A sorbet was served to cleanse the palate and prepare me for the apple tart with cinammon gelato drizzled with caramel. Although the apple was a little bitter for my taste, the flaky pastry crust was perfect.

Having been here before, I wasn't sure what to think going again. To be honest, I can't remember what I had last time I was at Scalini Fedeli, but I won't soon forget what I ordered tonight. Definitely three forks of three. Certo.

Hypocrisy from My Least Favorite "Comedienne"

It's been a long time since Rosie O'Donnell said anything that even made me purse my lips in an upward direction, much less smile or chuckle. Now she's done something that ought to come as no surprise from a hypocritical...and hypercritical...liberal idiot. On the heels of feigning outrage at Kelly Ripa for a benign comment that happened to be made in conversation to a gay Clay Aiken, Rosie shows her anti-Sino tendencies with this: (You'll get the idea once you see what Asian genius Michelle Malkin has to say on the subject. I don't think you'll need the subtitles to appreciate Michelle's subtlety.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

How far did you go?

Here's a fun site. According to the calculations, my latest trip is worth 4280 miles with a 2140 mile kicker for Silver status. Can you guess where I went?

Really sorry I missed this...

I'm not that old, but in my shorter-than-Methuselah existence, I've not seen a former US president do so much to undermine America, American democracy or the foreign policy of a nation that has actually been surprisingly bipartisan as former president Carter has done over the last few years.

His latest salvo is, if reviews are to be believed (I won't be purchasing the book as a conscientious objector to fiction-posing-as-fact books), nothing other than anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli rhetoric. Palestinian apologists must be drooling with anticipation for the Arabic translation. Of course, since the PA and its predecessor the PLO have done little to improve academic performance within the so-called "occupied territory," opting instead to preoccupy themselves with anti-Israel hate-ucation, they may have to wait for the audio book. Of course, ask any Palestinian child to locate "the devil" on a map, and they'll be able to point to "Israel" on any map. It's not that the education system in Palestine doesn't work, it's what's in the curriculum that's disturbing.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is the stature of some of their sympathizers within the international community. Ex-president Carter stumping for anything not helpful to Israel. It's enough to make you wonder if Plains, Georgia isn't really a little-known anti-American outpost in the Holy Land.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Little Green Footballs

My wife turned me onto this site. The blogmaster obviously lives on the West Coast...but it's a political blog, not a beach blog. I like it. If you're curious as to where my political leanings are located, you might start here.

Enjoy the read.

Injustice, and then justice

So last week, the Vikings play the Bears to an offensive standstill, give up to touchdowns on special teams, throw a bunch of INTs and lose at Soldier Field. I think hey surrendered thirteen yards of rushing and the Bears QB had a rating of 1.3. And they still lost.

Nothing cures losing quite like a trip to Detroit. Today, the #1 defense against the run held Detroilet to minus-3 yards rushing...and won. Injustice and justice.

I will always be a Vikings fan. It's hard to be a Vikings fan. What have they given me over the years? Four Super Bowl losses. The great choke of 1998. A dominating offense and a dominating defense, but never in the same year. Nevertheless, I will always be a Vikings fan. Cut my arm and out pours purple. Skol!


I still can't figure out what I want this blog to be. Apparently, however, I've forgotten that I want it to be evidenced by the scarcity of posts. So in a moment of lucidity, I figured that it really doesn't matter what I long as a I write something. How about an online journal with a steady dose of personal anecdote and opinion. That sounds good, doesn't it?

So it begins. With the trip I'm currently on, I enter a new world. I go from Silver elite in '06 to Gold for '07. I guess what that means is that on certain routes, instead of having 38 people in front of me for first class upgrades (Boston to Minneapolis last week), now I'll only have twelve. So 50,000 miles later, I may have a little more comfort in 2007. Here's the deal, though, as a Silver in '06, I've gotten at least a half-dozen first-class upgrades, so I think I'm in good shape (at least coming out of Boise). My wife will probably appreciate me not "taking a trip just to take a trip" like I did last December to make elite.

So what are my perks, anyway? Well, the first class thing has been mentioned. I also get to get on the plane no later than right after first class boards (if I'm not in it)...which is money to me, since I get my bags up top where I want them. (I've turned into the "all carry-on" guy who doesn't check bags on short trips...such thing I hadn't supposed I'd be.) One other cool perk is that I get a 50% mileage bonus on anything I fly. For 2007 I'll get 100% of the miles. Hopefully that will mean additional frequent flyer tickets that my wife, who hates to fly, will never want to redeem. Life is so fair it's unfair.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

MS Bike Tour

The weekend of October 21-22 included a trip to Santa Barbara for me. I participated in my fifth MS 150 Bike Tour in California. The more I ride the more humbled I am by those who ride with me. This year was no exception.

I've ridden since 2003 with the "Rockin' Jalapenos" a group of friends I connected with at the Palm Springs Challenge that year. As head Jalapeno Arvin Torio said, "we would stop at the rest stops and he (me) would be there every was like he was stalking us!" Thanks for not getting a restraining order on me, Arvin. I've ridden three tours with the Peppers, but this was our first Santa Barbara ride, defecting from the Orange County/San Diego Bay to Bay after two rounds.

The route was much more difficult this time, with major climbs both days, something lacking in the OC ride. It's a fledgling effort, marking a comeback for the LA Chapter after two years out of the MS 150 business. The volunteers were energetic and resourceful (PB & honey sandwiches at day two's big stop). And there will be growing pains, but the tour was overall a qualified success.

The Peppers had an additional advantage over the other riders, though. We had THREE SAG vehicles. Two hubbies and a brother of riders provided motor support to our team (in addition to illegal traffic control and much in the way of action photos). That was huge.

At the end of each day, Santa Barbara Body Works volunteered for hazardous duty and provided sports massage services post-ride. I say hazardous becuase normally when I go to the spa for a massage, I'm recently showered and clean. After 75 miles, we were all a little gamey...but they gave us the rubdown regardless. Kudos to SBBW.

The highlight of the ride for me had to be having the honor of riding with Jennica on our team. She was diagnosed with MS recently, and, due to support and programs from the MS Society, has been able to find hope and support. I only pray we augmented the resources she's already benefitted from. I was definitely inspired riding with her. It put life and all of this into perspective. An interesting happened to me at church on Sunday, too. A man mentioned that his daughter's sister-in-law was diagnosed on 10/27 with MS. I was grateful to be able to know enough to give him some info as to who to contact, what resources the NMSS provides, etc.

I'll try to post other links to the photos for the ride. I can't wait to go do it all again next year.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Craig Randall, DDS

Parenting is full of moments that make you think, "this isn't in the manual!" Last night, I participated in an event, where, although I'd had lots of experience as a patient, I'd never been a doctor:

I slipped a piece of mint dental floss over my daughter's tooth, and with a quick yank, she was soon to be richer courtesy of a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

She was good with it until she noticed a little bit of blood...then she turned into a backup singer for an opening act heavy metal band. My ears have recovered, and she happily bounded into my home office this morning and gave me the full report on the fact that the Tooth Fairy visited, left her a dollar (cost-adjusted since I was little), and she was thrilled!

Ah, to be young again.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I got some season seats for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (more on that abomination of a name later) game last night. I called up a few friends and we were off to the Big A to watch...well, I went to watch the Twins...the Angels play. What I got was a reminder in just how predictable we as Americans can be. The following stadium cliche activities were in full effect in Anaheim last night:

1) Jumbotron aping. What is it about the camera that causes men, women, and children to think they can dance, experience facial convulsions, and put two fingers behind everyone's head? Oh, and point to their jersey and raise the index finger?

2) "Kissing Cam" Have you seen this one? The clever AV dropouts that run the Jumbotron put a little template over the screen in the shape of a heart attempting to entice the two people within it's tractor-beam like shape to kiss one another. Of course, the best of this activity is when they either erroneously pair two people together, or the woman shuns her man. "Her man" got shunned twice last night. She said "no" once, and the clever cameraman decided that after a minute, she'd acquiesce. No dice. Derisive chuckling from 40,007 fans.

3) And how do I know there were 40,007 fans there? I took a quiz! Yes! The great attendance quiz. This test is usually administered sometime in the 6th inning, after the game is considered "official" and no notes are allowed. The great thing about this quiz is that of the four choices [these were the options last night: a) 40,005; b) 40,006; c) 40,007; and d) 40,008] EVERYONE in the stadium got it right! Not only did they get it right, but they all felt the need to jump up, cheer, and high-five each other, congratulating themselves for their incredible ability to correctly estimate the size of a crowd of over 40,000 to within one person. I was impressed.

4) The video baserunning race. The three contestants last night were Captain Baseball, The King, and some other also-ran. Once again, clever AV dudes, with the aid of graphic art school dropouts, summon all their creative energies and create a fictitious cartoon race around the basepaths as 40,007 fans cheer on (give or take about 5000 who are busy in the urinal or at the biergarten). Once again, all those who were cheering were able to correctly ascertain that Captain Baseball was going to be the winner as evidenced by the aformentioned jumping up, cheering and high-fiving. People in Orange County are so smart.

5) T-SHIRTS!!! OVER HERE!!! The latest craze is an air-rifle version of the t-shirt thrown into the audience. This gives hope to the thousands of fans that weren't seated 12 rows behind third like we were...those in the upper deck...because now eye-candy promotions girl can actually "throw" a canned t-shirt as high as the second deck. We were hoping to see someone dive for it and end up on the lower deck, but not everyone's that hopped up over a giveaway shirt. Thank goodness.

6) I will kill you for this foul ball! I love foul balls. I don't love them in my section...I just love to watch the melee that ensues when one ends up in the stands. I watched as two guys gouged each others' eyes over a 2-1 pitch fouled off by Justin Morneau of the Twins. That's a souvenir you'll be talking about for decades. Eat your heart out "Guy Who Caught Hank Aaron's 755th!"

7) Bratwurst. Okay. This one is actually a good reason to be at the game. This is, to me, the menu at Angels stadium: Bratwurst and "crap that isn't bratwurst." Thankfully, the good folks in Anacrime figured out that there are enough of us midwesterners out here to merit a good link at the ballpark.

It wasn't such a bad night after all. Oh, and by the way, the home team cheated and won 4-3 in extra innings.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lord Stanley's Beautiful Cup

It's the time of the season for cupping. At the beginning of this past NHL season, I contacted my satellite TV provider and upgraded to the package that would give me OLN, who had replaced ESPN as the network of the NHL in the US. About two weeks into the season, OLN (owned, apparently, by Comcast) upped their fee demands of auxiliary providers. My satellite provider dumped them.

I was more than a little upset.

Gratefully I live in a major market and the local FSN affiliate shows both Kings and Ducks games...sometimes on the same evenings on FSN1 and FSN2. I was in hockey heaven...well...not "heaven" but at least some transcendent reality location. When one of those teams played in the Eastern Conference, I would get a game at 5 and another at 8. Nice. But still not OLN. And definitely not ESPN.

I miss listening to Gary Thorne and Bill Clement call a game together. They are the best US broadcast hockey duo in my opinion.

Well, I got a reprieve. OLN, by some fluke of luck, was reinstated just prior to the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (not called "the postseason" folks...that's for other lame sports). After last night's 3-OT game three in Edmonton, I realized just how lucky I am.

Is there anything better in pro sports than a hockey overtime playoff game? No time outs. No commercial breaks (sorry soccer...the sport has to be exciting to qualify). Guys slugging it out. Retro official calls (as in, we'll let 'the players play'). Sudden death. Oh, and Ottawa-Buffalo games that only offer us 18 seconds of overtime don't qualify either.

Thank you NHL. Thank you Lord Stanley for the greatest trophy in professional sports.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Happy Juror Appreciation Week to me! I was summoned for jury duty for a "special case" this week. "Special" is legalese for "you can't get out of it or get a postponement." I made the trek to San Bernardino County Courthouse in lovely San Bernardino, CA today. Normally I'm summoned to the courthouse more close to in only three miles away...but not for the "special" case.

I've served on a jury in the past, as an alternate. Alternate is legalese for "you get to sit in and take notes like everyone else, but you most likely won't be involved in the deliberation unless another juror gets violently ill or blabs about the case so thanks for coming." Some things have changed. Now, in the juror waiting room, you get to watch a snazzy video that highlights all of the wonderful things the State of California (self-proclaimed in the video as "The Best State in the Union" which I wanted to stand and say, "I object, Your Honor" until I realized there was no judge present). After some nature shots, we get to see criminals in handcuffs, cops on the beat and the narration says "but we sometimes have disputes." Disputes? Hilarious. Sometimes? Ummm...

The video ended and we were entertained by Judge Garza, who thanked us for coming in during "Juror Appreciation Week" a.k.a. JAW (I got a pen). I was originally planning on coming in last week. When I heard that this was JAW, I knew I had to come in this week...either that, or my summons told me to come in this week. Interestingly enough, my wife mentioned that a woman we know was summoned for the same trial, reported yesterday, and had to stay until 4:00 p.m. (SPOILER ALERT!) I went in today and was released by 2:00 p.m. Apparently my skills were not needed this time, so I got my pink slip (a good thing here, a bad thing at the employment office), and returned home happy in knowing that, for all intents and purposes, this could very well have been my last trip to a courthouse in California (in this capacity).

I'm not sure about the name of the court video, but in true California style, there were about five minutes of credits at the end. I've never seen something like that have the credits. I think they wanted us to know that no incarcerated individuals, although available, were harmed in the production of the movie. Best quote from the show (referring to jury service): "It wasn't bad at all. I'd do it again." (Meanwhile, the woman in front of me rubs her Rosary beads and mumbles something about God not picking her.)

Happy JAW to all, and to all a good case!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Political Debate in the USA

I spend a little time each day moving from opinion site to opinion site on the Internet these days. It's not that I have a fantastic opinion on anything...I'm a social and fiscal conservative and am a fan of small government...but I like to see what's happening in the minds of others. I can honestly say that, after the past few months, it's not much.

The idea of "debate" in the USA meaning two sides coming together to rationally discuss a point on its merits, is dead. What passes for debate these days was known in the famous Monty Python sketch as "verbal abuse." A typical "debate" usually goes about one round before one side resorts to name-calling, profanity, vulgarity, or the trifecta of all three. Lincoln and Douglas were recently seen rolling in their respective graves.

I'm sorry to report that rational thought has been replaced by hatred. Honest opinion has been co-opted by partisan politics. Lively conversation...the Spaniards call it "la tertulia" where folks get together to talk about what's hot in the public eye...has been replaced by vitriol and ridiculous rhetoric.

I still need to get my news, but I'm seriously grateful for sports talk radio and ESPN these days.

Update: In order to properly illustrate my point from last year, I offer the loudmouthed-shout-down-conspiracy-nut Rosie O'Myword.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spain. Is there any vacation destination that's more exciting?

Here's a link to my online travel journals. You may find it interesting. If you do, let me know. If you don't, keep it to yourself. My feelings are fragile.

Find it here.

My Elbows

I travel fairly regularly on business, and consider myself to be a mildly reasonable airline passenger. I do have my moments, though. This past week, I had one of those moments.

Over the course of 2005, I racked up enough miles to make the coveted "elite" status on a major American carrier...let's just call them "Legacy" airlines. This legacy airline is connected via an "alliance" with a number of other carriers. Together, I can usually get to where I need to go within budget. As luck would have it, though, my ethics got the best of me for my most recent trip, and instead of booking a more expensive trip on "Legacy," I decided to save my client a few hundred dollars and book on another airline. We'll call them "The World's Largest Low-fare Airline" (TWLLA) because that's what they call themselves.

I should have known my trip was jinxed from the start.

I went to use the online check-in the day prior to leaving and realized that in my flurry of business travel for this month, I had inadvertently booked my last week of March trip for the first week of April. Now, normally, on Legacy, I can change for a difference in fare +$50. I find that reasonable enough, knowing that the airlines like to know as far in advance who's flying where. Although I was able to handle the change completely online, TWLLA, remember the second "L" stands for "Low-cost," charged me $100 for a change fee. At a 100% markup over the standard change fee on Legacy, it hardly seemed to justify the "L."

Strike one.

Upon returning home, I went to one of the many e-ticket check-in kiosks and entered my ticket data. I had purposely requested a seat in the back of the plane for three reasons: 1) I could get an aisle, 2) I wanted to put my roll-aboard above me, not check it, and getting on first allows me that option (more on that later), and 3) I had time to disembark, so didn't need to get off the plane in a hurry. At any rate, I checked in and noticed that although I had the exact same seat going home as I had sat in on the way out, I was no longer in "Zone 3" but instead had been relegated to "Zone 5." Becuase my blog is new, you don't know about my trip last year on TWLLA to Newark, and therefore my disdain for zones higher than 3. Sufficeth to say, I wasn't a happy non-elite traveler on TWLLA. I asked the kiosk baggage agent for a logical explanation to this obviously confusing procedure. After drawing me a pyramid diagram and mumbling something about "windows" and "middles" it became clear to me that she would be unable to provide the logic I had asked for. I mumbled something about my love for TWLLA on my way to the TSA checkpoint. I knew it wasn't her policy, so decided to take it up with the gate agent.

Strike two.

Upon arrival at the gate, I realized that I there would be a sizable wait until an agent would arrive. When a gate agent did arrive, I approached the desk and told Victoria that I had a couple of questions, but would happily wait until she was ready for me. I noticed that behind her was a plaque noting the "marketing partners" that TWLLA had. Legacy wasn't one of them, but the airline with whom I'd gained my elite status was. Bonus. I asked if I would be given priority boarding or if it was solely a marketing alliance. Much to my chagrin, it was for marketing only. Not Victoria's fault, but I did have to ask. My next question was for her to explain the "zone" situation. She drew me a diagram I had seen earlier...downstairs at the check-in kiosk. It didn't make sense then, and the change in altitude didn't clear it up for me. My last question was whether there was an exit-row seat. She had a middle and gave it to me. I looked over my boarding pass: Zone 4.

Ball one.

I joked about my complaining and she was sympathetic. As I waited to board, Victoria called me over and told me that since a number of connecting flights wouldn't be able to make it, she had an aisle seat in the exit row. She gave it to me. I glanced at my boarding pass: Zone 6.


I joked to Victoria about it and she "hand-cancelled" it and made it zone 4.

Ball two.

I boarded my flight which was supposed to be overbooked and quickly noticed that it would be about 2/3 full. I also noticed that the seat next to me was empty. Probably since until about five minutes prior, it had belonged to me. The attendants prepped to close the door and made the announcement: "We are waiting for a couple of connecting flights. If you are seated in a seat that is not yours, please return to your assigned seat so as to expedite our departure." This was repeated four times. Once before the man who ran up from a few rows behind me to sit in the seat next to me did so, and thrice after. He said to me as he sat down, "It doesn't look like this is going to fill up, so I'll just take this seat."

Foul. 2-2 count.

That changed my demeanor. How dare he sit in an unassigned seat! Is he also hard-of-hearing? The attendant just told everyone to sit in their assigned seats only! Who is he to shirk this obviously ironclad instruction from those in authority? Can't the sky marshal pull a gun on this clown and force him to comply? Well, since all of this was a dialogue with my tired mind, nothing happened, and this guy squished his wide frame into the middle seat. By the way, did I mention that he sat and composed e-mails on his Treo during the whole flight? Aren't those supposed to be in the off position? Is it a miracle our flight landed? I never saw him switch it to "airplane mode" we may very well have been in serious navigational-hazard danger!


There is an unwritten rule of flying that, if you get to the armrest first, you win. That's where this guy missed the memo. I placed my elbows on both armrests, something I don't normally do on the aisle out of respect for the claustrophobia that may beset a middle-sitter. In this case, I made an exception. He infringed on me, and I was going to plant my flag firmly on both armrests and claim the territory for me. He eventually took a break from his illicit e-mailing and leaned back...pressing his forearm firmly against mine. Again, in 99% of cases, the "presser" imposes his (or her) will on the armrest incumbent and the incumbent gives way. I was pleased to be one of the 1% in this case. He pressed...and pressed...and pressed...for a good ten minutes...and I never gave way, as I pretended to eat my Mike and Ikes and fiddle with my iPod. After ten minutes, he gave up, lurched forward, and continued to endanger us by broadcasting his e-mails, obviously he had just cured cancer and needed to get the formula out, during the flight.

Double to the gap.

In retrospect, this could've been easily avoided. Had he simply requested the seat at the gate, I wouldn't have treated him thus. Had he simply kept his mouth shut about his "plan" when he sat down, I wouldn't have treated him thus. Had I just been a little more charitable, I wouldn't have treated him thus. But, true to today's me-first mentality, that last option is not viable. It wasn't my fault, it was his. And I'm suing.

Batter up!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Donald Trump

Is there anything more mesmerizing than looking at Donald Trump's lid? How the heck does that mane stay put? Does he have a secret endorsement deal with Dippity Do? It's like the hair starts at mid-scalp, make a move towards the browline, and then, suddenly, does a 180 and makes a b-line for the back row. Nice lettuce, Trump. Of course, this could all be envy as I'm on a steady diet of Nioxin to stem my own hair's ebb tide.

Minnesota Timberwolves

What the hell happened to Minnesota over the past two years? I've been dumbfounded as I've watched the abysmal slide of the T-Wolves from perennial contender to laughingstock. After two seasons of mediocrity...wait...mediocrity would be an improvement...two seasons of NCAA-esque ball, I've pinpointed the problem: McHale

When he played for Bird Island-Lake Lillian as a high-schooler, he was good. When he was perennial sixth man of the year in Boston, he was good. When he joined the Wolves as GM, he crapped out like a banana left in the sun for a week.

Get rid of we can keep KG. And KG, stay in Minnie...we want you...and Lurch can go back up north and coach a middle school team.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

This is free?

So I picked up a copy of USA Today before heading into the gym at the Hilton Phoenix Airport for my workout. I decided to actually read all of it, not just the sports section, and found an interesting article in the Money section...or was it the Life...I don't recall...on blogging. We all have a vague idea of what blogging is...but I had no idea I could drink the kool-aid and create a blog F.O.C. Like Homer Simpson says, "I think I can afford 'free'," so I've swallowed the blue pill (or is it the red?) and the journey starts here. I'm sure this will compete regularly for the "World's Most Bland Blog" on a regular basis, but who cares? It's free. Enjoy the silence.

One more thing: When in Phoenix, do as the Phoenicians (is that what they're called? We're so far from water here, so that can't be it) do: Stay away from the Phoenix Coyotes games. We went there tonight and I noticed that the seats are maroon. I noticed this because so many of them were empty. They had an interesting little scoreboard thingy called "bubble vision" which as far as I can tell, simply means "look at bald men through a skewed lens that enlarges their bald heads and makes them look like aliens." Oh, and let the hilarity ensue.