Monday, August 31, 2015
Oh, that is right, I didn't tell you I was gone. You may have noticed that I was commenting less on your blogs, but I tried to keep Travel Penguin busy while I was off on a great adventure to Germany, Austria and Iceland. Much more to follow. I was able to ride a Zeppelin in Germany, a real highlight for this fan of flying.
The postings for the last three weeks were all created scheduled before we left. To err on the side of security, I have stopped saying when I will be out of town, until I am back. I should have a mountain of new adventures to talk about over the next month (and I will be in Oregon sometime soon for four days.)
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Bloggers in Real Life
This is the first group of friends that we met through blogging. Woodchuck (far right) Kel standing in the dark shirt, and Squirrel in the hat, were active bloggers that we met through comments on a blog written by Bert who is an old friend of ours who lives in London. My introduction to blogging was as a guest blogger for Bert 10 year's when he was on vacation for two weeks. I remember writing about going to a beauty show for cows on his blog.
The first time I mentioned to my co-workers that we were meeting Woodchuck for dinner and that we only knew him through blogging, by co-workers were convinced I would be found dead the next day. But as we all know, most blogger are real people, and really good people. Read their blogs for a few weeks and you kind of know if they are well balanced or not - of they are safe to meet or not.
This picture was take near Seattle in 2008. Woodchuck, Kel and Squirrel lived on the west coast at that time and met us in Seattle when we there to board a cruise to Alaska. Unfortunately all of them have dropped out of the bloggosphere. We read about their adventures on Facebook, but it is not the same. Woodchuck (aka Bob) and Kel have become good freinds, they now live in northern Indiana and we see them from time to time. I should let Squirrel know I am going to be in Portland in a week or so.
And now through the Bloggerpoloza we have met a new and larger circle of friends. I have seen a couple of you outside of the gathering and I look forward to meeting more. I have to make it Wales one of these days.
Easy for you to say
You may have noticed I started letting Google put adds on my Blog a few months ago. If I had a high traffic blog, maybe it would generate a noticeable amount of revenue, to do that I would need to spice it up and inflame my readers with takes of sex, drugs, rock and roll, politics, not really my style here. One thing I notice as I travel the adds change. The one above appeared this morning. Hmm, what does it say?
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Friday, August 28, 2015
The Big House
I first visited in the very late 1970's with my two grandmothers. I don't recall the circumstances, but my maternal grandmother had gone to Michigan for the summer without her car. I was driving the two of them in my paternal grandmother's car, as a recall a huge Buick. After my grandfather died she indulged herself in a couple of really nice cars after 50 years of plain-Jane standard cars. She had a little Lincoln coupe for a couple of years and then decide she wanted a big four-door and bought the nicest Buick in the dealership.
When we were there that trip there was still a section of the house occupied by a member the family. My paternal grandmother was very impressed with the house and I think shared my feelings of I could get use to living like this, my material grandmother's reaction was simply, "boy am I glad I don't have to clean that." The difference reflected how the two of them viewed life. One was an optimist who saw unlimited potential in life and the other was a pessimist who saw her role as the servant of others.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
How do I find my expiration date?
A lot has changed in 25 years, much of it for the better. Where will I be and what will I be doing 25 years from now? Well at 82 I will be old, or decomposing. If I am still up for the adventure 82 could be fun, but I really don't have a problem with decomposing at that age. In the words of the modern bard Jimmy Buffet, "I'd rather die while I am living, then live when I am dead." People really should come with an expiration date, I am likely past my "best by" date.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Bring Me Their Heads!
I vented on Facebook recently about the following adventure in accounting:
In March my office manager and I went and asked the accounting department how to handle a particular budget item on a project that was wrapping up the end of May. They gave an answer that didn't make sense, but - hey they are the experts so we proceeded based on their advice. We went back this week to ask if they had been able to do the accounting gymnastics that they told us they could, and the answer was, "No, that can't be done." We have gone around on this a couple of times trying not to lose to the bad advice enough money to buy a small car and it has proven difficult. In the end we have agreed to walk away from $4,000.
Then came the kicker, one of the accounting people said, "you should have known the rules, when we gave you bad advice, you should have known it was wrong, and not followed it."
I wanted her head on a platter. Maybe this lady on the Metro can help. (It is a manikin with a wig, she is a student at one of the top hair styling schools in the country.)
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
I want the Answer Now!
Yet to be Converted Card Catalogs, Library of Congress, Washington, DCSome refer to it as life before Google, how we cataloged and searched the collected knowledge of the nation and the world before computers, card catalogs. The Library of Congress had thousands of drawers like these, that held tens-of-millions of cards, indexed and cross indexed. In a few minutes, a skilled researcher could find, what Google can now find in less then a second. Steadily the cards are being converted to computer databases, and yes the cards are going away. One at a time, card by card. All new holdings are still reviewed and indexed - the way it has been done for centuries, but the data is stored electronically, so when I ask my phone for the answer, it can give me the answer NOW!
Monday, August 24, 2015
I work for a huge professional membership organization. I don't write about my work, but we are one of the worlds largest voluntary professional membership organizations. We have two primary offices, Chicago with about 750 staff and Washington DC with about 250 staff. We have nearly 400,000 members. (Now if you do a Google search you can probably figure out who I work for.)
When I was in the hospital back in early May, getting ready for surgery, I received an email from the Executive Director wishing me well. I was moved, it was a very thoughtful and personal message from a very busy person, he oversees a staff of nearly 1,000 and we have nearly 400,000 members who believe that he works for each and every one of them. This morning I was working in my office and I hear a knock at my door and and "Good Morning David. It is so good to see you back at your desk, I hope you are feeling better." It was the Executive Director, stopping by for a short and very pleasant exchange. Again, I was touched. I like this guy - he cares about all of us. He can't solve all of the challenges, but I really think he cares.
This is not the first time I have had an Executive Director pop into my office, my fist day on the job, December 15th, 2008, the soon to be X executive director popped into my office and thanked me for all of the hard work I had done for the organization that year, yes - all 5 hours of it at that point. He didn't have a clue who I was, nor I who he was - his thanks rang hollow and fake. He didn't last long.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Blogging Every Day
I recently cleaned up my blog list, deleting bloggers who have not posted in months, or longer. We start blogging and we have busy periods and quiet periods. I am coming up on my 10th anniversary of blogging, I have had a year when I only posted three times, but I have never given up. Very soon I will post my 1,000th post. This year I have committed to posting 365 postings. The idea was to post once a day. I have posted more then one time several days, so far I have only missed one day this year. I will try very hard not to miss again.
So how do I do it? I create posts in batches when I am inspired and have ideas. It may say I did X yesterday, but the yesterday may have been a couple of weeks ago. If I have an idea that needs to go up today or tomorrow, I move what was scheduled for today or tomorrow, to a date in the future. Most of what I do is not time sensitive. I schedule postings ahead of time, sometimes a few days ahead, sometimes long into the future. I create lists of blogging topics. All of my postings contain a picture, I will go through the archive of images and start draft postings based on pictures I want to use. I have a handful of drafts at any one time that are just an image and a title. I try not obsess over content. If it works, it works, if it doesn't there will be another posting tomorrow. I don't obsess over perfection, I sometimes go back and fix sometimes my typos, sometimes I just leave them. If anyone quits reading because of the typos, they really weren't interested in what I rant about to start with. Writing every day is a habit, a habit I wish to develop. The best way to do that, is to write everyday.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Transit in Transit
Here I go on transit systems again. Chicago has an interesting system, known as the "L" for elevated trains. It runs from both airports into the city. Much of the system is above ground, there are a couple of lines that run underground when in the downtown area. The cars are very utilitarian inside, simple seats, hard rubber floors. The cars hose out easily, handy in Chicago winters. The top of some of the windows open (a complaint about the DC system when the air conditioning is not working is that the windows are all sealed.)
Chicago uses a flat fee fare system. From O'Hare into the city it is about $5, other rides, including back to the airport are $2.25. You pay when you enter the system, it does not matter how far or how long you ride, one price covers it. I like that. This past year they changed to a new payment system that uses credit cards with near field communication chips. Any card with that technology will work, if you don't have one, the vending machines in the stations dispense them. All in all, it is a good system and a good way to see major parts of the city.
Friday, August 21, 2015
It is a complicated drive from Honolulu to the north shore. You can cut across the center of the island, through urban sprawl and farms. I took the long way around, driving along the coast. Lots of stop and go, narrow roads and more than a few odd turns. I didn't have Ms Garmin with me, the map from the rental car place was more interested in directing me to advertisers, then helping me find my way around the island. I used the GPS on my phone to find where I was at a couple of times. I don't find my phone an effective navigation device, the screen is too small, goes black to easily and the phone is hard to see while I am driving.
It was so worth the drive. The water changes color, the surf gets bigger. It was spectacular.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Surviving Travel in Coach
I almost always travel coach, also known as cattle class. On very rare occasions, I have ridden up front, when the at the gate upgrade was cheap and I was feeling privileged, or when the airline needed to shift 250 pounds to the front of the plane, or when they owed me a big apology for really screwing up. But I generally opt for the cheap seats in the back of the bus. Even on frequent flyer miles, I'd sooner take two trips in coach then one in business class.
So my tips for surviving in coach. Don't try to carry on everything you need for the trip. I generally only carry on one small messenger bag. Stuffing maximum sized roll aboard bags into the bins, or even worse finding that they won't fit and having to check them after you have boarded is a bad way to start the flight. I always try to get my bag in the overhead bins. There is precious little leg and foot room and stuffing your carry on under the seat in front of you, fills the foot room. I kicked someone's purse out into the aisle on the way to Chicago that was in the way of my feet. She didn't seem to understand that her under seat storage was in the way of her feet, not mine. It helps to have short legs, my 30-31 inch inseam fits well. I have figured out why airline magazines list the top orthopedic surgeons, it is a hint for the traveling public with more than a 34 inch inseam. Shorter legs would help. I always try to book early and I always try to select my seat. The farther forward the better, I avoid the rows immediately in front of the exit rows, on some planes those seats don't recline. Most airlines charge extra for exit row seats, and I don't believe in paying extra, and most of what you get is leg room and I have short legs. I prefer an aisle seat, on the left side of the plane. I can lean out into the aisle, but I can't lean out the window. Being on that side and being right handed, my most active arm is out in the aisle and not in the face of the person stuffed in the middle seat. Jay and I are large people, when we travel together we sit across the aisle or in front and behind of one another rather then side by side. Shoulder and hip room are an issue when we sit side by side. I avoid seats in the back and near the toilets. Most airlines put families with babies in the back - I hate babies, and the toilets can smell, and people stand in the aisle and annoy me. I carry ear plugs and know how to use them, I carry something to read. I use the toilet before I board and try to avoid that discomfort in coach unless I am on a very-very-very long flight. On long flights i carry a couple of the round pillows and an eye mask for sleep - or simply to shut out the world.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The First Virgin
That neighborhood in Chicago is home to all of the major hotel brands and several smaller boutique hotels. I have stayed at both, the small and quirky places can be great fun. I seem to end up in Chicago at least once a year for something. If I go to both of them I have two conferences in Chicago next May.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Easy to Spot in a Crowd
It is well made, it is the first piece of Travel-Pro I have owned. I have shied away from the hard-side cases with the zipper in the middle, because when you open them they take up a lot of space, in this 20 inch size it works. Time will tell how durable it is.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Dead or Alive on the Transit System
Now people sleep on the DC metro, usually not laying down, but it does happen, and no one bothers them. In fact you can die on a metro train and no one might notice. A couple of years ago someone died on their morning commute into DC one morning, after rush hour the train went out of service and no one said a thing. The train sat on a siding until the evening rush hour, when the afternoon rush hour riders boarded - they complained about the dead guy on the train. Shortly after that Metro issued a new policy that when a train goes out of service the operator has to walk through all of the cars to check for bodies. Reassuring.
In Chicago, about the third stop out of the airport, a CTA employee came in the door shouts and shakes this guy awake. Towering behind the CTA guy are two police officers in full body armor, they weren't taking any chances. The sleeper assures them that he is okay, he just needs a nap, and they leave and he goes back to snoring. I hope he got a nice nap.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Dinner with a View
The view made the evening more enjoyable. Herd meals are not my favorite conference event, and I have been known to develop a headache and slip off to my room. But this one was good. The company was pleasant, even of old enough to be my mother (and my mother is very-very old, her "baby" is 56 and she was no spring chicken when her youngest came along.) The food was fussy, and tiny, and undoubtedly expensive. But the view was nice, the speakers were brief and to the point. I would do this one again.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
I always look at the departure boards and see what long haul flight are headed out. On my recent visit to O'Hare, there were flights leaving for Dublin, London Heathrow and Beijing. I wandered down for a look at the huge long haul aircraft and the crowds in the departure lounge. They had a 787 headed to London. It reminded me of my departure on some of the grand adventures. Many more adventures to come.
Friday, August 14, 2015
It is all perspective
Then, a Facebook posting showed up from an acquaintance who had just been notified that his job has been eliminated. He had temped for 2-3 years, and finally last year landed what looked like a permanent job. Demand has slowed, and his employer dropped the job they had told him he would be perfect for. He works in a field with not a lot of positions. meaning you usually have to move to find a job. His wife has a good job where they live now. It looked like they were both going to have good jobs, in their fields, in relatively the same place, and not now. His FB posting was filled with despair.
Suddenly I felt silly for having complained about my job. I have a good job. I know I have funding secured for another year. Yes it has it's frustrations, but those are part of the job. It is all a matter of perspective, I would sooner deal with the idiots, then not have a idiots to deal with. How dare I complain about my job, when others would love to have it.
I was recently off on medical leave for two months. I am so thrilled to be back to work. My work is a part of who I am, I have projects that I love (even of they are frustrating from time to time.) When I left the office in May to go to the hospital, I honestly was not sure when or if, I would ever return. I am so glad to be back. How dare I complain about work, it is all a matter of perspective. I'd sooner clean up the mess caused by incompetence, then be unable to do so.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Where do I want to go?
I have two states left to visit, Idaho and Wyoming, So that I can check off all 50.
I want to spend more time in Caribbean. I have been to a handful if Islands and I think I could spend a couple of delightful years exploring more.
I want to go to Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Scotland.
I want to go to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea.
There are a lot of places to go back to and explore more of. There are places I won't go and others I see no reason to visit. There will be other places that I visit that are not on the list, I will seize the opportunity to take the adventure nearly anywhere. My work takes me interesting places. Only once have a I said "no" I don't want to go there to do that project. I regretted that no. It was a good project that yielded great benefits for several years that I would have been on the leading edge of, and the project coordinator took out on me her revenge for my saying no. Probably cost me a trip to Guam, via Tokyo, with a weekend stop in Honolulu on the way home.
So where do you want to go next?
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Electronic Health Records
When I was growing up, the country doctor (who was actually a graduate of a top Medical School in California and had moved the very rural mid-west to be the only doctor in miles as a mission trip for his church and choose to stay) kept medical records on 5 by 7 file cards. His handwritten notes where all there was, the story of each patient's life, he was there when I was born, he was there when my great grandmother died. The challenge was when anyone needed to read his notes, and his notes are long gone - he retired in about 1980, his replacement committed suicide a few short year's later and the practice never reopened. The records of my early years are long gone. When I was recently asked if I had been vaccinated for measles, I didn't know and there are no records to check (the blood test showed that I am immune - either vaccinated or I had the measles as a child.)
I started with a new doctor in May and was astounded to see that her office is still using all paper records. What a mess. I went to fill a prescription a couple of weeks ago, handwritten of course from the office that still keeps paper files, and the prescription was unclear. The drugs name was incomplete, it could have been one of two different drugs. They had to call, the doctors office transferred the call a dedicate voice mail box. Because I was waiting the pharmacist called doctors office back and was told, you will have to wait for a response from voice mail, we handle "all of those at the end of the day." Let me give you a hint, if you have so many questions on the handwritten prescriptions that you have to have a special voice mail box, maybe it is time to move to electronic prescribing. Two advantages, no handwriting issues, and a good electronic prescribing system won't let you enter an unclear drug name. Would I change doctors of the lack of electronic prescribing, I have thought about it.
The hospital and medical group that I spent much of May inside of uses a comprehensive electronic medical records system. My experience has been good. I started with a new physical therapy provider recently, the second or third time I saw him he remarked that he had reviewed the discharge notes (sent to him electronically) and was astounded by how much progress I have made in six weeks. He had also seen the most recent images of my spine - information that is very helpful in him knowing how hard he can push on what spots. This kind of portability and transparency is the advantage of electronic health records.
Now every time I was moved to a different part of the system, they would run through 30-60 minutes of questions. Most were repeats of what I had answered before, sometimes just hours before. They needed medical history, and frankly I hadn't seen a doc in a couple of decades so there was not much of a history. One night, I was moved from post anesthesia recovery to a room after midnight, and she starts in with 45 minutes of questions. About 10 minutes into it she asks "are you sexually active? - With women or men?" I was a bit surprised, no one had asked those question, and no one did again afterward. I commented "well that is a new question." She said it is in the list of medical history questions, most people are too embarrassed to ask so they either guess or skip the questions. I wanted to see how awake you are. My response, was "I will have to think about how honest of an answer I want to give," to which she said, "that tells me a lot about your mind and ability to reason, good answer!" I did answer her question, with probably to much information. Undoubtedly recorded forever in the electronic health records.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Is the General In?
Records show that the Washington's were frequent and gracious hosts. Some year's they had hundreds of overnight guests. Some were invited, some were planned and others simply showed up. Hosting guests and travelers was a social obligation, seldom overlooked.
The ground floor and part of the second floor of Mt Vernon are open for tours everyday. A few select days of the year, additional parts of the second and third floor are open to the public. It is a rare glimpse into life in Colonial America.
Neat place, really neat.
Monday, August 10, 2015
When was the last time I paused and looked at what was really happening around me? At home, work and life tend to fill my days with near non-stop movement. When I travel there is always the next site, the next flight, the next hotel, and oh-my, time to head home. What I need to do is stop and let what is around me sink in. I sit here six months later and look at this picture of the sun setting (or was it rising) on Kauai in Hawaii last February. I don't think when I took the picture I realized what an amazing place I was in the middle of. Each day as the sun sets, I need to take a minute and think about where I am and how I got here, I need to hit the pause button for a minute.
Sunday, August 09, 2015
Don't Leave Home Without It!
We had flown in late from Maui, arriving a the hotel about 8:00 PM. We went to dinner at the restaurant on the lower level open to the pool (yes the one in the picture above.) I paid the bill, and tucked my card not back into my wallet, but back into the folder the bill came in. I didn't notice it was missing until the next evening when I went to pay checked bad fees at the airport (hint, Hawaiian Airlines gives a discount on checked bag fees if you join their frequent flyer program.)
Within minutes of discovering the card was not in it's happy home, I was on the phone to American Express customer service. Once I got past the automated system that kept asking for the card number for the card I didn't have, the service was amazing. She (think it was a woman) looked me up by name, address and the last four of my Social Security number. Cancelled the card immediately. Told me that the last charge was dinner the evening before and there had been no attempts to use the card. She offered to express a replacement card in a day or two, but I was flying back to Honolulu spending the night and then from there back to DC on an overnight flight the next day. I wouldn't be in one place long enough for the replacement to catch up with me before I got home. I always travel with more then one card - and a little cash - so I could get home just fine. The new card arrived in a couple of days. After I returned home, I called the hotel and asked if they had found my card. Sure enough, the restaurant manager had turned it into security. They asked what I wanted to do, and I said shred it. In over 30 years, it is the only card I have ever lost - my X - well that is another story.
I know not to leave home without it, now I need to remember to take home with me.
Saturday, August 08, 2015
Well he asked!
In this picture, my head is on the left, the incision was about 9 or 10 inches long, right along my spine from between my shoulder blades to just below the bottom of my rib cage. In this picture the 42 staples were still in. This was my first experience with surgical staples. Not bad at all, a little tug when a few of them came out, but for the most part really not much discomfort. She took out half of them one day and the other half the next day. The puncture from the drain tube still shows on my back, the bruises below have long faded.
I have a feeling,. that this is going to leave a mark.
Friday, August 07, 2015
Such a shame, it is an interesting place. An old rust belt industrial river city, it has a lot to offer, interesting architecture, a nice river front, a good zoo and a world class art center. There were also a couple of fun things that have come out of the Queen Cincinnati. In the late 90's some thug grabbed the purse of another "little old lady" on the sidewalk in Cincinnati. Oops, wrong lady to screw with, first she was armed and chased him down with her Glock, second, she is a Federal Judge. Forget the purse snatching, she had him charged with assaulting a Federal Judge. The likely punishment for the purse snatching under local law was a small fine and time served. The penalty for assaulting a federal judge is years in federal prison. He appealed his conviction and sentence, and lost. If he has behaved, he might be out by now.
For many of us our first exposure to Cincinnati through the 70's sitcom WKRP. WKRP was a sitcom about a crazy radio station staff set in Cincinnati in the 1970's. Who can forget the great turkey drop, "who would have known turkey's can't fly when you drop them from a helicopter". "So if you ever wondered, wondered what became of me, I am living on the air in Cincinnati - Cincinnati WRKP" I bet you were humming the tune.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
October 17th is a special date for us, it is the day 23 years ago that we set up housekeeping together. It is also the date we took delivery of the first Mercedes, the one we are about to replace.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
One of the joys of travel is good service. It is out there from place to place and time to time. The best of it, anticipates what you are likely to want and has it ready for you. I was in the community watering hole the other evening. In came Daisy, at 80-something on the hunt for her next husband. She knew nearly everyone in the room and it took her five-minutes of pinching behinds to get to the bar, and by then the bartender was ready to hand her a Cosmo. That is real service.
I go to the Deli in my office building for lunch 3-4 times a week. I am predictable enough that they start making my sandwich when they see me come in the door. If I pick up a different brand of bottled water, they ask if I need help finding my usual. That is service.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
I hate carry-on bags
Monday, August 03, 2015
Witness to History
Grace explained that she grew up in Honolulu, graduated from High School there, her father was a Naval Officer assigned there. She grew up in a house on a mountain side near Diamond Head (the picture above.) She vividly remembers one clear December morning when she was 12, watching a plane with an unusual paint color and big red circles painted on it fly right over her bedroom window. It was December 7th, 1941 and she was a witness to history, the plane was on it's way back out to sea after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
You never know when history will happen in the back yard of your adventure.
Sunday, August 02, 2015
Why do I go and not talk about it until I am home, so I am not telling the world, NO ONE IS HOME AT MY HOUSE TODAY. I tell you I was gone, when I get back.
In answer to Anne Marrie:
The "Premiere Retail Space" in rump tower appears to still be mostly empty, I am sure the locals would love to take the sign down.
J and I went to the Billy Goat under Michigan Avenue once, many years ago. The service was so rude it brought on a panic attack in at least one of us, it may be the only time we both had a panic attack at the same time. I like a good show, but this was mean and stupid. Not worth it.
It was reassuring to travel again. The body scanners were not an issue, we will see how I do in the metal detectors, I have just been approved for Global Entry, so I will get Pre-Check most of the time in the future- and Pre-Check uses metal detectors at most airports. I am still getting conflicting answers on if the titanium in my spine will set off the metal detectors. From what I have read, it will if they used stainless steel screws. I walked enough to find my limits, that is good, I need to find them to stretch them. I am sleeping better and that really helps. It was a much easier trip then Hawaii - I think the adventure is back on track, I just need to watch how much time I spend on my feet and knees.
Saturday, August 01, 2015
Before I die, I need to own a convertible. Yes, I know what they say about men my age that buy the cool convertible, the truth is, they have finally reached the point in life when they can afford it and can own an impracticable car. My sister bought a convertible this summer. And she is older then I am.
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