Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The Royal Wedding: A pragmatic observation

The Royal Family is a part of the quaintness that many non-Brits like about Britain. As much as the time for this concept has long since passed in a social context, and terms such as ‘commoner’ are anachronisms, it makes huge financial sense to keep them. To be sure, if they were a Corporation, they would probably have one of the highest ROIs year-on-year, in the world

Hundreds of millions of people will either watch the wedding live or see coverage on their local news and any cost will be way more than made up by the boost in tourism both around the wedding and in the months or even years following it, as well as the good will it might bring for our trade.

The British Royal Family may have originally flourished in feudal times, but it is now a great lesson for success in marketing. And I dare say that while many will be angered approaching the wedding day and will boycott everything to do with it, others will look forward to it and their mood will be lifted by it.

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Monday, September 20, 2010


Conversations with IT recruiters

Most recruiters are good to excellent. They listen as well as they talk. Here are two conversations I had with the not so good type;

#1: joined half way through…..
Would it be ok if I get my manager to call you at 5pm?

No, I’ll be on a 4:30 call and am leaving early, so today would be a bad day. Tomorrow morning would be better.

So he can call you at 5pm?

No. I have a 4:30 call and am leaving early today. Tomorrow would be much better. Basically, any time after about 10am

So he should call you before 10 tomorrow?

I repeated myself yet again

#2: Hello, this is Andy

May I speak with Andy please

(resists temptation to be sarcastic): This is he

I have an excellent role….(goes on to describe it)

(I cut him off part way through): Actually, this sounds a lot like a role that was described to me earlier. Is this with Alliance Bernstein?

Yes it is.

Sorry, but if they were the only company left in the world, I would gladly remain unemployed for the rest of my life.

OK. So I’ll submit you then

Did you listen to a single word I just said? (repeats)

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Friday, September 10, 2010


Chase Bank compromised? Important read for Chase Debit Card holders

I tried making two Debit Card transactions today. The first was over the phone and I just thought the person I spoke with was doing something wrong when he said the card came up as invalid.

The second time was at a supermarket, and it was declined, even though I got paid yesterday. So I knew something was wrong.

I called Chase and was told that there were two attempted charges, neither of which were allowed by them, that were made in France against my account. One for about $15 in 'Bazaar Shop' and another for $646 with 'MDA Distributions' for electronics. As these were obviously fraud, I had them cancel my card, which will be an inconvenience until the new one comes through.

I then paid attention to a charge that appeared as Pending, yesterday afternoon. It was with Avon Online for $11.63. My wife sometimes uses my card, and this hadn't seemed an unlikely charge for her to make, even if she'd never bought anything from them before and usually tells me when she's going to use my card.

The woman I spoke with at Avon with told me the amount of the charge before I could even say it.

In the last 3 days, she alone has taken several such calls and the amount is always the same. This is only happening on Chase Debit Cards.

So, all you Chase Card holders (I'd beware even if yours is a Credit Card), look online RIGHT NOW and see if you have this charge with Avon. If you do, contact Chase IMMEDIATELY and have your card canceled!

EDIT: A thought: Just because people are doing this with Avon doesn't mean they aren't making fraudulent charges against other companies also, at small enough amounts to raise little suspicion. If any small charge on your account looks suspicious, act quickly!


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Sunday, August 22, 2010


Get Low

This film will be nominated for several Oscars. Of note, of course, Robert Duvall gave the performance of a lifetime and is at least for now, well ahead of the competition for Best Actor. Both Bill Murray and Cissy Spacek will also get nods in their respective Supporting Actor categories. And the film? Well we haven’t seen the usual November and December rush of films which usually make up the bulk of nominations and winners, but this one certainly heads the field right now.

Based on real events, it is the story of a man who is carrying a heavy guilt, incarcerating himself in a house apart from the town for 40 years. The locals see him as a hermit and make up stories about him. And now he is ready to end his self-imposed penitence. He pays for a funeral for himself, to be had while he is still alive. And everyone with a story to tell about him is invited. To tell more here would be doing readers an injustice. This film unfolds so magically, you leave the theatre feeling uplifted. Complete strangers talked to us in the street afterwards, as they knew we had just shared this experience.

I have seen some wonderful films this year, and would recommend Cyrus, The Kids are Alright, The Concert and Kisses, of the films I have seen recently. But this is the first absolute must see film of the year

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Thursday, August 19, 2010


Growing number in America believe Obama a Muslim – poll


According to a just published poll, the number of Americans who believe that Barack Obama is Muslim has risen from 11% in March 2009 to 18% now. Of respondents proclaiming themselves Republican, 34% believe him to be Muslim and 33% did not know his religion. Apparently, 43% of all respondents didn’t know, which is quite staggering. I wonder how many people doubted Jimmy Carter or George Bush’s religion, even after seeing them go to Church?

The disinformation campaign really seems to have taken root among those who let certain elements of the media do their thinking for them. I wonder how many people who watch CNN or MSNBC take everything that they see as absolute fact unless there is an element of substantiation. And yet it appears that too many people who watch Fox Views Channel or listen to Conservative Shock Jocks need any proof at all to be furnished. If the words match their own ignorance then they are happy to drink and breath them as if they were water and oxygen.

Another finding was that the majority of people who disapprove of Obama are extremely stupid and racist. Or, to put it the way the poll did, people who believe he is a Muslim, overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance, while the majority of those who believe he is Christian approve.

I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I am obviously naïve in my hope that such opinions will be reached through reasoning, and that since no two people are exactly alike, so no two people will have exactly the same reasons for reaching these opinions. However, this poll is further evidence – not that I for one needed any more - that a very large percentage of Americans do not think for themselves and are capable of denying all evidence presented which goes against what they want to believe. The venom spitters from Fox Views Channel make their cases based upon nothing but ignorance and lies. They need no burden of proof. Their followers hang on to and will believe their every word. What a shame! And I mean that in both senses of the word.

There will always be ignorance in every country. But surely the levels reached here, now, are approaching historic proportions. Polls like these are an embarrassment to every thinking American, whatever their political affiliation or views of the sitting president.

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Monday, August 16, 2010


You are you and can only be you

I live in New York and work in Jersey City. This means that my commute is very much against the flow of traffic, as very large numbers of New Jerseyans (New Jerseyites?) work in my home town. So in the morning, after climbing the stairs at Pavonia Newport, I must try to find a turnstile to exit which isn’t backed up with people wishing to enter through it. It can certainly be of more than minor irritation that nobody ever yields to us reverse commuters. We must sometimes forge a path through hostile on rushers so that our fellow New Yorkers may follow.

One morning last week, while 3 of the 4 turnstiles to the left of the station were unavailable to me, I saw that the leftmost turnstile offered a free path. I stepped towards it. A split second before the side of my hip hit the turnstile (I am of that certain height where I dare not exit facing forward, at least without protection, for fear of extreme temporary incapacitation of the instantly eye-watering variety), a woman appeared on the other side.

I continued unabated, as to do anything else would have meant a very sudden change of trajectory – and anyway, the other 3 turnstiles in the bank were still taken by people heading to and not from the Big Apple. As I passed her, I caught her mumbling “asshole”. I didn’t dignify this comment with so much as a stutter in my step or a sideways glance. She had perhaps thought that I arrived after her and should have let her pass before me. Maybe she thought that as a man, I should always let her go first. And maybe, in the spirit of camaraderie between our two great States, she thinks that all New Yorkers are assholes. I will jump to no conclusions as to what prompted her comment, other than that she herself jumped to a conclusion strong enough that she felt justified in calling me a name.

It brought back a moment some years earlier, from the days when I lived in New Jersey and commuted from Newark Penn Station, that had long been buried in my memory, of a failed clairvoyant who knew me better than I knew myself. As I walked towards the turnstiles, I was hedging my bets as to which of the two on either side of me I would enter through. As other commuters will recognise, my decision would be last moment, depending upon which one presented itself as open.

I stepped to the right and a man walked into me quite hard. One of the perils of commuting, and not to be fretted? I excused myself but he yelled: “you were headed for the other turnstile and changed your mind at the last moment.” Again, I did not rise to the bait. It would have achieved nothing other than a pointless, heated exchange. In his mind, I had apparently decided upon a path, so he decided, using this certain knowledge of his, to aim for the turnstile I supposedly changed my tack for at the last moment. His reality was forged with such conviction, that he felt justified in telling me what I had been thinking.

The morals of these stories? Even those of us who rarely give much credence to even our own musings regarding the minds of others, still occasionally jump, or at the minimum pigeon step to conclusions. We know that 90% of these conclusions are 90% wrong (and that 76.3% of all statistics are made up), but our untethered minds still sometimes get the better of our varying levels of common sense. I’m not looking to preach about the lessons to be learned apart from suggesting that nobody should leap to (re)action based strictly upon our version of another’s reality, or waste too much time on these ponderings. Indeed, while we may paint detailed impressions of the workings of another’s mind, the event or thoughts we have so painstakingly (or perhaps instantly) crafted, supposedly from the other’s viewpoint, may have registered with them minimally or not at all.

Ultimately, we can’t help but think from our own viewpoint. Even if we are trying to think from that of someone else who we know very well, the closest we can manage is to come from our understanding of who that person is, from our angle of view and through our viewing filters. So whereas people might presume that they know someone well enough to predict how that person will react, sometimes going so far as to state that they know a certain person better than that person knows themselves, this is at best, really only a form of self-flattery. You are you and can only be you. Admit that you are confined to your own mind and don’t spend any great amount of energy presuming you have successfully got into someone else’s while constructing scenarios that are, at the bottom line, all yours and nothing to do with the person you attribute them to. And sure as hell don’t lose sleep, lose friends, call anyone names or yell at anyone based upon a personal construct that you have labeled as belonging to another.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010



I saw on a Snapple bottle cap that the average life span of houseflies is one month. This begs a couple of questions:

Is this average noticeably affected by Human use of insect sprays?

I have pondered this one for a number of years: What were houseflies called before there were houses and where did they used to live? Indeed, as the thought now occurs to me, how long did they used to live before we provided the houses for them to live in?

Clearly, you will find very few of these creatures in office buildings, stores or theatres, for example. So somewhere in their tiny minds, they are making a clear choice to reside where we live and not where we work, shop or play.

On reflection, it seems that of all the creatures on Earth, houseflies are the most tied in with Humans. We provided the dwellings for them to live in, from which their name is derived; then set about devising various means of removing them, including the popular father and child sport of fly swatting. Indeed, whereas cats and dogs (okay, maybe not Labradoodles or Puggles) would exist if not for our species, houseflies are perhaps the only creatures which have evolved because of Human Beings, as opposed to either in spite of us (Foxes and Squirrels come to mind) or due to our manipulation (which brings us back to Labradoodles or Puggles!)

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Friday, May 21, 2010


Shhhhh. What was that sound?

On Tuesday evening, the PATH trains were messed up. Well they would be that day, as I was meeting Jan (my wife) and Hannah (my daughter) for dinner and was already running 10 minutes late. The usually timely 7:16 train from Pavonnia Newport Station was maybe 4 or 5 minutes late. If that wasn’t warning enough that something was amiss, the fact that we sat at Christopher Street station for several minutes should certainly have been an indication. Of course, an honest message from the conductor or over the loudspeaker in the station would have alerted us to exactly what might lay in store. But this is the PATH system – home of the “trains are subject to 10 minute delays” messages (*).

We pulled out of the station and travelled perhaps 100 yards before stopping again. Several minutes elapsed before the conductor apologised for the delay, ‘informing’ us that there was a train ahead. The question of whyt there was a train ahead of us was not addressed.

Another few minutes passed before the next apology: “Sorry for the delay. There’s a power outage in front of us and we hope to be moving in about 10 minutes.” Another few minutes: “We are waiting for the dispatcher to give us clearance.” Do dispatchers have power to make trains run when there is no power? Why even bother telling us this nonsense!

He saved by far the best for last: “Ladies and Gentlemen. It sounds like we will be moving soon.” I couldn’t help but wonder what the sound of ‘we will be moving soon’ is and how this mysterious sound was conveyed to the conductor! I would like to know, so that I might recognise it the next time it occurs in my vicinity. That is, unless this conductor is privy to some sound waves my untrained ears cannot discern! I listened hard, but the only thing that came to me was the sound of bullshit!

Of course, it would have been nice if we would have been told while at Christopher Street that there were problems ahead which could result in delays. Just in case a few people might have considered making their way to their destination by alternative means. But that would obviously contravene whatever directive conductors are apparently bound by which forbids them from saying anything that people might actually wish to hear!

* I have mentioned this pet peeve of mine before: Being the literal type, I see a 10 minute delay as meaning that the 7:16 will come at 7:26; the 7:26 will come at 7:36, and so on. Basically meaning that trains are running normally as far as passengers are concerned. This, however, is not what they mean. I have yet to discern if they really mean that trains are running every 20 minutes, as this has not been my experience of these occasions. More likely, it is just something to say when there are problems. The credo apparently being that if something is said, they can’t be accused of not communicating….. even if what is said actually means, or at least communicates, nothing at all of value. See above for further examples!

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Manchester City v Spurs: The most important match for many years

Quite simply, this is the most important match in many years, not just for Manchester City and Spurs, but for all European football.

Currently, City have the means to outbid every other team in both transfer fees and wages. But this is not enough for players who want honours at the highest level and want them NOW! Not that they can be considered one of the favourites to win the Champions league at the first time of asking – and this will likely still discourage a few players from joining them for one more year. But for some players, Champions League qualification will be enough and they will drop any objections they may have against joining the team.

Make no mistake, City should be very short odds for a top 4 spot next year, even if they fail to make it this year. But a Spurs victory today, or a draw today and Spurs at least matching City’s result on Sunday, at least slows down their seemingly inevitable march towards European domination by another year, and gives the teams above them another year to rebuild and stay ahead of them. Let no Arsenal or Manchester United fan feel complacent that they will be able to resist the City march for very long. Only wise player investment by each of these teams will enable them to remain above them a year from now. Liverpool? They really picked a bad year to drop out of the top 4, and there appears little way back for them in the short term.

So whereas Sky apparently relishes the prospect of a new power being born, all ‘neutrals’ really should be hoping for a Spurs victory today – even those who might have to swallow very hard in order to root for them!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009


Back from LA…. A married man

The following two posts were written 3 weeks ago. This one was today. I had a lot of catching up to do, so it is short and sweet:

For the thirds and last time, I am a married man. There is so much to write about the ceremony, the party, the Honeymoon, the people, our families, the trip and more. It will take a while, as I also have a lot of other catching up to do. Also, I haven’t yet got the professional pictures. But I do have some great ones lifted from Facebook, posted by various family members and friends. Please bear with me.

It was an amazing 3 weeks which will live with me forever. And those who joined us have similarly raved.

For now, it’s back to reality and the need to make a lot of money!

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On my way to LA

I’m writing this 19,000 feet up in the air (and climbing), on my way from New York to Los Angeles on a futuristic and very comfortable Virgin America Airbus. I had thought I might also send it from up here, but decided I don’t need to pay the $12.95 Internet charge which will be good until my battery dies…. About an hour and a half.

Jan went out to LA on Tuesday morning. She found a one bedroom condo for a short term rental, which is ‘on’ the beach. I expect to take a morning dip in the Pacific tomorrow. By the time I arrive tonight, I’m not sure I will be quite up to it!

So it is a week until the big day. On Wednesday, my mother and sister arrive; on Thursday, my kids and 3 cousins arrive and we have the bachelor party, which will basically just be drinks in a nice bar somewhere. An aunt will come on Friday, the day of the rehearsal dinner. And on Saturday morning, at 9:30am, most or all of us will gather at a location as yet to be determined, and watch Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United live. What a way to start my wedding day!!! I hope the lads do me proud and start my big day on a positive note. Whatever the result though, watching it with that many of my favourite people will be unique and special.

The wedding itself is at 6:45pm on Saturday. Somewhere between 50 and 55 people will be there and the work involved in putting it on seems quite disproportionate to the hours it will last and the size of it, but it will be a lot of fun. Jan has put in so many hours to put this whole thing together. Who knew that selecting the type and colour of dress worn by the bridesmaids; the flower that they will wear and the flowers on the tables could possibly be so complicated! Selecting the tux certainly seemed easy enough!! 

Relatives start to filter home on Sunday, ending with Mum and Jackie leaving on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, we go to Maui for our Honeymoon for a week.

I will take pictures and will post some, along with a wedding shot or two, here. But please bear with me – it might be a while.

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Challenges of being in New York

Now at 38,000 feet……

I’m really not sure how much patience I have left for the place. I still love the positive energy and walking around some areas at certain times. But either the bullshit level is on the rise or my tolerance of it is on the decline.

One commute home began with a complete selfish idiot running through the revolving door exiting the PATH station at Pavonia Newport in Jersey City. Never mind that I was in the door and he suddenly more than doubled the speed. I pushed ck a little and was sorry I hadn’t jammed my foot there and sent him crashing into it. Next time!!

Then on 6th Avenue in in Manhattan, as I started to cross the road I heard “watch” from a distance and paid it no mind. A couple of seconds later, more urgently, “watch! Watch!!” And I turned to see one of the great menaces of New York, the Chinese delivery man on a bicycle. They observe no rules and I wish they would be stopped and fined more by the Police. Maybe, just maybe, they would observe some common decencies then instead of practicing their headlong pursuit of faster delivery and extra tips. Not that I blame them for wanting more than the meagre money they probably make. But I do resent that happening at the expense of my safety.

And just a day later, on 14th Street approaching Trader Joe’s, a young lady was twirling her oversized umbrella completely oblivious to the people with whom she was sharing the crowded sidewalk. When she slung it sideway over her shoulder, I was forced to grab it so as not to be hit. When I informed her that this was Manhattan and there were other people around, and that I nearly got got, she responded “No shit, Einstein! Well you should stay away from me!” Like I would ever think of not doing so!! Really no point in continuing any discussion there, as people with attitudes and mouths like that will refuse to back down even if they know they are in the wrong.

Pity these assholes and all of those who walk out of restaurants and stores without bothering to look and see if anyone else is around (it’s Manhattan. Others are around!) then stop, blocking the pavement; and all of the other mindless folk who inhabit the streets here spoil it for the decent majority. But certainly, by the time Hannah is more established in her independence, there’s every chance that I will move from the area for the last time. Before then, maybe it will be back to New Jersey for a while.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Yahoo Spam

I just got a Spam mail that surely only a complete and utter moron could possibly fall for, so maybe I shouldn't be so angry that I want the senders to choke on their own spit overnight and not wake up tomorrow morning. After all, surely, people who are stupid enough to fall for this aren't capable of feeding themselves, let alone negotiating the Internet. Anyway, this is the email, which I have reported to Spam@uce.gov, an FTC website:

Yahoo account users,

All yahoo free account owners,

We are having congestions due to the anonymous registration of yahoo accounts so we are shutting down some yahoo accounts and your account was among those to be deleted.We are sending you this email so that you can verify and let us know if you still want to use this account.If you are still interested please confirm your account by filling the space below. Your Username, Password, Date of Birth and your Country information would be needed to verify your Account...

Due to the congestion in all Yahoo users and removal of all unused Yahoo Accounts, Yahoo would be shutting down all unused Accounts, You will have to confirm your E-mail by filling out your Login Information below after clicking the reply button, or your account will be suspended within 48 hours for security reasons.

* Username:
* Password:
* Date of Birth:
* Country Or Territory:

After following the instructions in the sheet, your account will not be interrupted and will continue as normal. Thanks for your attention to this request. We apologize for any inconveniences. Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his/her account after two days of receiving this warning stands the risk of lossing his or her account permanently.

The Yahoo Management

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Friday, August 21, 2009


Eyes of the storm?

A super fast moving and violent storm passed over here. The sky is now blue, but more ominous clouds are rapidly approaching. So we are in the eye. Then I thought of how storms break up the faster they move and the further in land they go, so it is possible that storms may have more than one eye.

I imagine that storms with 4 eyes must be quite a spectacle!

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Thursday, August 06, 2009


I am a bad person!

A couple of weeks ago, a man in his 30s got on the B train, two stops from where I was getting off, and stood just in front of my seat. He rested his heavy brief case against my leg, which I promptly moved. The brief case came to rest against someone else’s leg. This forced the man to pick it up and rest it between his own legs. He wasn’t happy.

And when I stood up, he had to not only pick up his brief case again, but also move a little to let me off. He looked at me as if I was the biggest pain in the ass he had ever encountered. Somehow, even though he was obviously a lovely fellow, I didn’t feel guilty.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009


The new New York Times commercial

Their new commercial has been on for a couple of months now…. long enough for me to hate it almost as much as I hated their previous efforts. Gone are the obnoxious happy yet empty stereotypes. They have been replaced with a couple whose relationship is based on the New York Times; people for whom the New York Times is the highlight of their weekend; people who are “fluent in” sections of the New York Times (yes, the woman is fluent in the Style section!) and a man who knows beyond any argument, that the very best journalists in the world work for the New York Times. In other words, shallow people who don’t have a life beyond the New York Times, plus an opinionated idiot.

As before, the commercials come on all too frequently and feel more like harassment than an attempt to sell me a product. They come across as an attempt to lose the traditional customer base and run the paper into the ground. If there are many other people – advertisers nightmares – who, like myself, tend to use commercials more to determine what not to buy than what to buy - the criteria being that if they are aiming at morons they can’t be trying to sell me anything so I won’t buy it - then their strategy is probably doomed to lose them readership at an even faster rate than modern trends would otherwise predict.

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Mattresses, swedes and mashed potatoes

Some of you may wonder how these could possibly be linked. But you will know from your own secret thoughts, that memories can take our minds on wild tangents. And so it was with me.

I moved in with Jan a couple of weeks ago. She had inherited a mattress which was somewhere in age between considerably older than 15 years and post civil war. It was brutal. I realised after I replaced it with my wonderful 2 year old but good as new firm memory foam model, that I shouldn’t have dumped the thing. I missed an opportunity. I should have donated it to the American torture camp program. Suspected bad people could have been confined to it for 22-23 hours per day. I tell, you, they would have broken even if strong enough to withstand water boarding. And there’s not a convention in the world that would call it torture or consider it illegal!

I was convinced that this was the worst mattress I had ever slept on until my memory dredged up a long forgotten number that I slept on a few times in my Aunt and Uncles place as a pre-teen. It was old, but suited me well enough. Until one day, my Uncle’s Mother stayed over. She was a lovely lady with a truly enormous belly. The next time I slept on the bed, there was an indentation in the middle which directly corresponded to her girth, and which I had to curve my body around for fear of falling in. At the time, I always slept on my front, and this really wasn’t conducive to sleeping in semi craters.

How my mind took me from this to Swedes, which are known in the US as rutabagas, even I’m not willing to guess at, other than both were awful memories. At my Primary School (for US readers, this goes from ages 4 or 5 up to 11), the school dinners were also torture (maybe this memory is linked to Jan’s old mattress and not my uncle’s?). And we had to finish every bite, because “children are starving in Biafra”. The swede was boiled down into a mush, which was somewhat lumpy and watery – remarkably similar in texture to what they called mashed potatoes, which were so traumatic for me that I couldn’t eat mashed potatoes again for 30 years – but with a strong flavour I will never forget but couldn’t begin to describe.

I believe I blogged once before about a moment indelibly etched in my memory. The headmistress of the school, who we all thought was incredibly old, had an enormous gap between her two front teeth. One day, I was sitting in the front of the lunch room, and she decided to speak, or rather shout at all of the kids. I watched in horror as a huge gob of her spit landed in the middle of my mashed potato and slowly disappeared into it, and my usual laboured eating of this dreadful stuff became an exercise of trepidatious picking around the edges.

When she asked me why I wasn’t eating, my young (9 or 10 year old) mind understood that telling her I couldn’t eat my mashed potato because she spat in it could only end badly for me. So when all the other children went out to play, I went into her office to finish my lunch. And I continued nibbling until a dinner lady came in and took pity on me. And no, in case you are wondering, this is not the reason I couldn’t eat mashed potatoes for 30 years. Even without the Miss Kohn spittle incident, these were quite disgusting enough to have left their mark on me.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009


Mike Bloomberg ads

Mayor Bloomberg is on TV constantly. It’s almost as if he is running against himself in the Mayoral race. He certainly present a compelling case for himself. But I have two points to make.

You can either believe what he and his political supporters say about City schools, or speak with teachers, who, in my experience, hate the man.

And second and far from least, the reason why he absolutely must not be elected. A vote for Bloomberg is a vote against democracy. I will state and restate this. The New York City electorate voted twice to maintain term limits and Bloomberg overturned these democratic decisions claiming there was a financial need for him to be given another 4 years. After he claimed that the economy here was picking up, a journalist asked him if the conditions for him overturning the will of the people still existed. He not only didn’t respond to the question, he was rude to the questioner. Because the truth is, economic problems or not, he is so conceited, he would have put forward legislation to overturn the public votes and run for a 3rd term.

Please, if you believe in democracy, do not vote for Mike Bloomberg, no matter how you rate his performance as Mayor.

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The high speed rail debate

I saw an article about this on cnn.com today. Apparently, President Obama has pledged $13bn to the cause and there is a split between those who say it will be financial self-supporting, those who say it can never be so and those who say that talk of financial viability is beside the point.

Of course, the last of the three is the right answer, and those who oppose it on financial grounds are the type of dinosaurs who should just hurry up and turn into oil already, like their far more interesting ancestors. But I digress.

The talk seems to be of trains in excess of 110mph. England had the ‘Inter-City 125’ over 30 years ago. In 2007, France broke the world record for a train, at 357.2 kph, which translates to a little under 225mph. So I would seriously question why the country which prides itself as being the greatest in the world is looking to upgrade to 30+ year old, and obviously inferior trains.

My vision is of 300mph trains on all new tracks, built through a combination of corporate and government financing with bond issues allowing the public to also invest. And I want to see these trains run from East to West and North to South. Yes, the cost will be hugs, but the cost of not doing it would be considerably greater in so very many ways.

First, a couple of reasons why this would be a good idea: If you could get from New York to Miami in under 4 hours, would you bother driving to the airport, leaving your car in the long term parking lot, checking in an hour or more before the flight time, waiting for the almost inevitably delayed take off, and then taking a cab from the airport to your destination, when the stations these trains will run between will be in City centres?

You can walk on these trains. They have proper refreshment cars. People who are very long legged or very overweight will not need to choose between travelling first class in order to fit into the seat or upset those sitting in front of them (that person being unable to recline their seat – I know this, because I was that person once) or next to them.

Would you consider a 10-hour train ride between California and New York when the plane supposedly takes about 5 ½ hours? But how long before your flight do you leave home? What is the actual door-to-door journey time? I suspect the actual difference in journey time would be closer to 2 hours than 4 ½. But how much more comfortable and hassle free would those hours be?

Are you perhaps an environmentalist? Think of the savings in gasoline and aviation fuel!

But the recent talk has been about intra-State rail links, connecting major cities in California and Florida to each other. For these routes, perhaps 300mph trains would be overkill, even though a mere 110 seems pointless and redundant even while being planned. But if you could get from LA to San Francisco in 2 ½ hours, or Jacksonville to Miami in 2 hours, might it keep you out of your car or be a far more attractive alternative to flying? Traffic on roads would improve, meaning better air quality, less traffic, less stress and less road works. There would be less delays in air travel, which would also become safer.

And the cost, while undoubtedly high, will be mitigated by a few factors that the status quo people are too blinkered to think of. Many people would work on these projects. A proportion of the jobs would actually pay decently. These people would put money back into the economy by spending. They would pay taxes. They would have health insurance!

And here’s another way this should and probably will be partly paid for: tax on air tickets and higher tolls on roads where these routes coincide with the new high-speed rail lines. True, people would scream that they are subsidising others against their wish. And true, the airlines would scream that their business was being strangled. But times must change.

We are killing our planet and clogging our roads, airports and airways. The cost of gasoline will only go one way in the future, and this plan would relieve the upward pressure. And ultimately, apart from the cost of fuel in dollars and cents at the pump, there is the very real, if less easily discernable cost of dealing with increased asthma and cancer rates and other health issue directly related poor air quality, as well as the cost of attempting to clean the air. Yes, whatever the dinosaurs say, times must change. And the sooner we get real and accept these changes, the healthier we, our children and grandchildren will be.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009



This has been a VERY busy time, and I am now on the home stretch, but not done yet.

It all started with Memorial Day weekend. Jan and I went to Amherst, Massachusetts for Sean’s graduation, which was on the Saturday. We actually stayed the night before and the night after at the Springfield Sheraton, about 40 minutes away. We lucked out with the weather. Apparently, not too distant Boston had most uncertain weather while we were bathed in unbroken, glorious sunshine. And with 4000 kids graduating, we were wonderfully surprised that the ceremony was fast moving and very enjoyable.

The college, UMASS Amherst, had a cook out for students and relatives, after which we went for a wonderful meal at a really beautiful brook-side restaurant nearby. Our party was interesting. Sean and his parents, one of whom was with his fiancé; the other with her mother and step-mother, the latter of who was with her new husband, who was the only one I hadn’t previously met.

We went to Boston to spend Sunday evening through till Monday afternoon with my friend Heidi and had another wonderful day. I had hoped to post pictures here. I certainly took enough. Alas, somehow, somewhere, certainly at the end of the Boston stay, I lost my camera. I can still not quite believe it is gone, and I am most upset about that. I will have to get another as soon as I can afford it, but those moments have gone. And the camera was a gift. It’s worse to lose gifts than things we buy for ourselves.

The busy-ness continued. Jan was here for 3 weeks, but has now gone to California to finalise arrangements for the wedding. That entailed two lots of packing. And on Friday, I move into her place on the Upper West Side.

The mountain of things I have to do is tormenting me. I should have been getting to them rather than writing this blog entry. I am selfishly grateful that it is cloudy out, as I now have to go through everything I own to determine what comes with me, what goes into storage, what can be recycled or donated and what ends up in the garbage. And all the while, the new project I am currently learning, to eventually rescue me from a 9-5 existence, beckons.

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