Friday, February 28, 2014

The changing voice of Travel Penguin

When this blog started, DG (David) was writing in the voice of Travel (TR) and was accompanied by Wicked Hamster (AKA J AKA DG’s significant other), Secret Squirrel (AKA Brian) and Woodchuck (AKA Bob.) The original focus was to document the travels of TR.  TR had been traveling for a few years before the blog began.  DG’s first blogging experience was as a guest blogger for Uncle Bert (AKA Stephen) while he and Someone were on holiday one summer.  TR blogged for a month, before he told anyone he was blogging.  TR is still with us, he spends most of his time in the bottom of DG’s messenger bag.  He still loves to travel, but seldom comes out for pictures anymore.  

Sadly, Wicked Hamster, Squirrel, Woodchuck and Uncle Bert have all abandoned blogging. Three of them are relatively active on Facebook (as is DG.) Uncle Bert tried a blog this last year and dropped off after a few months.  He is active on Twitter - I really don’t understand the appeal of twitter. Woodchuck, Squirrel and Uncle Bert all remain wonderful friends.  We knew Uncle Bert before blogging.  We met Bob and Brian and their families through blogging and very much value their friendships.  Woodchuck had a conference in Louisville a few months after we met online, we met him at the Marker’s Mark restaurant downtown, with TR sitting on the table as a means of identifying one another (we had not seen pictures of the people behind the icons.) We met Woodchuck and Mrs Chuck in Seattle in 2008, and met Squirrel, Mrs Squirrel and little Squirrel for lunch.  

DG has never really appeared on the blog.  There is one image out of over 500 that he sort of appears in, but you probably could not pick me out of a lineup from having seen that picture.  The work I was doing when I started blogging required a great deal of confidentiality and I stayed out of the blog to avoid raising questions.  My current work claims ownership of anything I write that is in anyway connected to my work. The best way to keep my employer from claiming ownership of the Adventures of Travel Penguin, is to avoid talking about my work and not appearing or clearly identifying myself in the blog.  Facebook is treated differently by my office, but even there I don’t identify who I work for or talk about the nature of my work. (Nothing mysterious, I do program development and policy work in legal and human services - I think that is vague enough to keep the office of general counsel happy. When you are a lawyer for an organization that pays a few hundred lawyers by the year - not by the hour - you have to be careful.)

So there is a degree of identification, the voice of Travel Penguin, is David. I will be at the  dinner at the blogger gathering that Ron at Retired in Deleware is organizing in a couple of weeks. J is arriving in DC on Friday evening, we will drive up on Saturday and be there midday to meet some of the bloggers I so enjoy reading.  I bet there will be pictures, but not on the Adventures of Travel Penguin.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Read me a Story

Dr Spo posted this one

1. Describe your favorite place to cozy-up with a good book.

I do most of my reading on the subway and on airplanes.  Reading really makes the time fly by.

2. What do you read when you’re on the toilet?

               Nothing, the bathroom is not a reading room.

3. Do you read when taking a bath?


4. If you can, do you read when at the gym?

               Yes, I will read on the treadmill or stationary bike. 

5. Do you still read newspapers  and or magazines?

               I read several newspapers online everyday .  I occasionally read a print magazine; I only have two left that arrive in the mail.

6. What are your favorite genres to read?

               Travel essay or narrative, business management and communications. 

7. Do you read one book at a time or can you read several? 

               I usually have multiple books in progress.

8. If you start a book, do you finish it no matter what?

               Usually, rarely will I give up.  Only twice have a tossed a partially read book in the trash. One was autographed by Ralph Nader, I don’ think I made it through the first chapter and I tossed it so no one would ever suffer by trying to read it. 

9. Did your parents read to you when you were growing up?

               No, not that I recall. 

10. Have you read to your kids/nephews/nieces?

               No, I almost never am around children.

11. How do you feel about reading books vs. using electronic devices? Have your feelings evolved from one or two years ago?

               I adore my Kindle.  I rarely read a print book.  I was shocked at how sudden and complete my conversion was.  I have broken or had fail four Kindles in three years, and I still love my Kindle and won’t leave home without it. 


When was the last time you looked at or read an adult magazine to satisfy yourself? When was the last time you even saw one?

               Do they still print them? Years ago. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

High Water on the Kentucky River at Valley View

We went out for a drive this afternoon, down the winding road from Lexington to Valley View, where the ferry normally crosses the Kentucky River.  The ferry is not running today because of high water and a very swift current. I know there was a swift current, you should have seen the Geese floating downstream at 20 miles per hour. It has been a cold wet winter in this part of the world.  I am always surprised that after all these years there is still not a bridge across the river at this point.  There had been a railroad bridge just west of here, I believe it was washed out in one of the devastating floods of the 1970's, times when the water was 40 feet higher than it is today.  The line was long out of use, and many bridges were never rebuilt after three major floods in the decade of the 1970s.  

My dear sweet someone walked down closer to the water.  He will be joining us at bloggerpalooza in three weeks.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lambing Season

Okay, so we are a little crazy, we have a flock of a 150 or so penguins and a flock of 50 or so sheep.  They are all acrylic, they are not very demanding, very warm, fuzzy and affectionate.  They are very low maintenance.  Turn them loose and and they keep the carpet flowers under complete control.  The challenge is that I like inanimate pets like I like my men, large, and large one's can be a challenge to find.  The guy on the top is the first super-size sheep we have found in 2-3 years.  Herbert will make a fine addition to the flock in DC, the two on the bottom are joining the flock in Lexington.  The joys of inanimate pets, you can have hundreds of them and not be accused of being the crazy sheep guys (or crazy cat ladies.)  

I am visiting my hubby in Lexington Kentucky for the weekend.  He teaches at a University here.  I make it to Lexington a couple of times a year, the joys of an academic schedule, J is able to spend 20+ weeks a year in DC where my job is located. One nice thing about visiting Kentucky is the Bourbon shopping.  I can find the really good stuff here (no rubbish.)  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Condo life

Clearing the Snow this Morning

I enjoy condominium living.  I have been here a little over four years and look forward to many more years.  Last night it snowed, just a heavy dusting, and this morning the maintenance staff was out shoveling the entryway and walks. People complain about paying the association fees, but when I add up the value of everything that I get, it is a decent value.  I have owned homes since 1982, but last mowed the grass about a decade ago.  I hate mowing grass.  For the last 10 years I lived in Florida I paid a lawn service, we have hired a lawn service for the house in Kentucky four years ago.  I have had a couple of roofs replaced, dealt with exterminators and landscapers for years.  It costs a lot of money to keep a house looking good.  When I add up the value of lawn service, water (including hot water,) front gate security, building security, sewer service, trash collection, exterior building maintenance, keeping the entryways clean, fresh carpet in the halls, the paint on my front door touched up every year and the snow being shoveled, it is worth every penny.  I pay for amenities I under utilize, indoor and outdoor pools, even a private bowling alley, but they are there if I want to use them.

There are moments when condo living is not perfect. I have upstairs neighbors who like to drag furniture across the floor late at night and there is the crazy lady downstairs (who shouldn’t live in a condo) who shouts at people for walking past her patio - a patio that is adjacent to the front door to the building with 250 neighbors living in it. Once a year, someone’s dog or cat will run wild in the hallways. And living in a 30 year old building that was marketed to “empty nesters” dead neighbors are a fact of life and death.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fresh Bread

I have started baking bread again.  It is really quite simple.  The KITCHEN - AID mixer does most of the work. And the smell is heavenly. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love and Marriage

Happy Valentines Day!

My sister got married today, her second time around, his fourth.  They seem to make one another very happy and I truly think they will enjoy many happy years together.  It was a simple, casual affair, Hawaiian print shirts, shorts and flip flops.

I took a try at marriage once, it didn't work.  We tried to change one another for a while, then gave up and lived lives of quiet desperation, neither of us having the guts to admit that it didn't work.  Finally jealousy ended it, she had a boyfriend, I didn't, and I was jealous.  I simply said, I know you are not happy, I am not happy, and we both deserve happiness.  We moved on.

A few months later I met my sweet-bear.  Within a short time I realized that I was the happiest I had ever been in my life.  I asked him to marry me and he responded, "don't be ridiculous."  That was about 20 years ago, times are changing, maybe someday soon the legal clouds will clear - clouds that make same sex marriage very complicated from a legal standpoint, if you live and own property in states that deny the right to marry.  Federal court rulings this week in the two states in question could clear the way for me to marry again.  To secure the legal recognition of the love that my heart recognized two-decades ago.

Why does it matter, taxes, inheritance rights, medical decision making rights, protections under state and federal law for married couples.  Just as a starter, if one of us dies while we still own a home in Kentucky, the survivor will owe the state inheritance tax of about 17% of one half of the net equity of a home we have owned jointly with the right of survivorship, since 1995. If the state recognizes a valid marriage, the tax is Zero.  Totally exempt. The same tax would be owed on SBs 401K, a total hit getting close to six-figures that will be totally exempt with a valid marriage.

We are getting close, I am getting optimistic. Love is in the air.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

12 on 12

Okay, I have seen this done on a couple of other blogs, posting 12 pictures on the 12th of the month, showing sort of a day in the life.  My day was a travel day, starting at 19 degrees in the DC burbs and ending in thunderstorm in central Florida.

My morning view

A subway ride to the airport

Cold and on time

Every seat was filled

Having lived 5 miles north of it for a decade, Orlando International Always feels like home

The terminal shuttle was not packed 

Headed for baggage claim, my bag was among the first from my flight

77 degrees - in mid February - why did I move away from here?

Good News in Kentucky- interstate recognition 

Room signs

Checking blogs before the leaving for the airport, my desk is a mess!

Rain tonight

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Keeping secrets

This afternoon I deleted the following from an email message I couldn't send.
“In the immortal words of sergeant Schultz, “I know nothing, nothing!”
But I know more, than I know, on this effort.  Both parties have asked for my ideas on how to get to the same goal.”
I am talking  with two parties who won’t talk to one another. They are both asking me for ideas, and they are slowly realizing that they both really want the same thing.  Government is truly amazing from this close up.  I just have to make sure I don’t get too close, or the wax on my wings might melt.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Travel Penguin Loves a Travel Bargain

The name says it all, Travel Penguin, Travel likes to travel, unfortunately Travel does not have unlimited funds to travel. Travel like a travel bargain.  So how do we find them?

The major elements of most trips are airfare, hotel and frequently a rental car.

On airfare, timing is critical starting with when the trip will take place.  The more people who want to fly, the higher the price is likely to be. Flying at times of the day that people prefer to fly, will cost more than trips at inconvenient times.  A flight leaving at 6:00 AM may sell for $100 less than a flight leaving at 8:00 AM.  When you buy can also make a difference,  I start shopping early, most airlines will allow you to book 11 to 12 months ahead of time.  You won’t necessarily find the lowest price on the earliest booking date, but I would start checking to get a baseline.  Check every few days, 2-3 times a week.  When you see a price you like, book it and don’t look back.  WIth airfare, last minute is generally the most expensive.  Last spring I made a last minute trip to Florida for a family emergency, booking on Friday evening and leaving on Sunday morning.  I paid nearly twice the price I do for the same trip when I book ahead.  WIth airlines you also need to look at total cost.  Most airlines charge for checked bags, I get free checked bags on one airline as a benefit of a premium rewards credit card.  Flying that airline saves me $50 round trip on checked bag fees, so I can pay a little more and end up with the same net or a lower net cost.  

My starting point for hotels is if there is a group rate available. A lot of my travel is work related and I always look at the conference rate, but I don’t stop there.  I then do a search on an online travel agency and on the hotel’s corporate vendor site. Sometimes you can get the same hotel, a nicer hotel literally across the street for less.  If you don’t look you won’t know. But frequently the conference rate is the best deal. I have visited friends, attending a conference and asked for the conference rate (with full disclosure that I visited someone who was attending the conference) and had hotels give me the conference rate.  

If I am not going to a conference, I start with online travel agency sites.  Then I cross check to the individual hotel’s website.  I am a member of about every frequent traveler plan on the face of the earth. For hotels, you want to search, then log in as a member and search again.  If I am not sure on a price, I will book it if it can be cancelled without penalty, and keep checking.  (Watch for cancellation fees, just because the online travel agency does not charge a fee, does not mean the hotel won’t, read the policies before you click book. Most hotels ask for a credit card to guarantee a reservation, if you cancel, they may charge a fee, if you no show, they may charge you for the room that is now sitting empty for the night.  Always read the details.

The car rental market is wild.  There are fewer players in the market than there use to be and some who look like competitors, are actually the same company (Thrifty/Dollar for example.)  I subscribe to the email deals from half a dozen rental car companies.  As soon as I book airline tickets, I look for a rental car deal.  I look both online travel agency sites and the individual rental car company sites. Early on I book the best value - as long as it is cancel-able. But I keep looking.  On a recent trip I had three rental car reservations the Friday before, narrowed it down to what I wanted and cancelled the other two.  Keep looking down to the last minute, if cars are in short supply prices will go up, if cars are plentiful price can drop down to the day before. I am headed to Florida for a wedding soon.  When I first booked airline tickets the best price I could find on a car was $240 (for 3 days.)  This morning I booked a car from the same people for $78 total for the same three days.  With cars remember that the taxes and fees are going to add significantly to the total cost.  Before you leave home, decide how you are going to answer the inevitable rental car insurance questions.  I carry special coverage through an outside insurance provider that covers rental cars.  Check with your individual car insurance provider, and talk to your credit card companies  The coverage that I have is an extra through American Express, I pay a flat fee per rental, for $40,000 in no-deductible primary coverage.  Also check with your employer to see if they are reimbursing the rental, do they indemnify the CDL? A few years ago I was traveling in Montana as a contractor for a major national membership organization and a rock hit the windshield.  I called the company, they called the rental car company, I filled out a few forms and the company settled with the rental car company.  Easy and efficient.