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Articles about anything that doesn’t really fit any other category.

Libations With Linda, Episode 1: Mike – Coming Out

This is the first episode of a podcast I’m putting together. This is somewhat experimental. How often it happens or even if it continues to happen will depend largely on feedback and whether I can find guests on a regular basis.

The idea for the show is to sit down with someone to enjoy a beverage and discuss the topic of the day along with the beverage.

Future episodes will hopefully cover a wide variety of topics so if you have an idea for a topic or want to sit down with me to enjoy a beverage then let me know!

In this first episode I sat down with my nephew Michael and we discussed his coming out. Our libation was Premium White Peony from Teavivre.  This was a great white tea that we both enjoyed. It’s one of the better white teas I’ve had in my limited sampling of white tea so far.

Here are links to the sites mentioned in the podcast:

Apologies for the video noise and background hum. This was a first effort and I need to work a bit on the videography end of things still.

EZ Pass Cost Increase Is The Wrong Approach

Last night I saw a news article that Virginia intends to begin charging EZ-Pass customers a monthly fee. The justification is to help pay for all these new toll lanes they are adding.

Excuse me?

First, the whole toll lane idea was misconceived. It was insanely expensive and won’t really do much to help traffic.

Second, the whole idea of EZ Pass was that it would cut costs by reducing the number of toll collectors needed.

Finally, adding a fee, even a modest one such as this (and we all know fees will just continue to go up over time), will just encourage occasional EZ-Pass users like me to ditch EZ-Pass. This will only serve to make traffic worse, not better.

If anything, increase the fare for cash tolls to encourage people to move to EZ Pass. That speeds up movement and still increases funding.

Better yet, ditch all these toll lanes and put all that money toward a real mass transit system that could get significant amounts of traffic off the roads.

Earthquake!

At 1:51PM eastern time we experienced a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. For the Californians out there this would probably be a minor blip but for us east coasters it was a major attention getter. An hour later it’s still impossible to get a cell call through and even calling landlines from a landline is spotty.

The shaking started slowly. I was typing at my desk and became aware of the desk and the floor shaking. As the shaking built, I stood up and could feel the floor moving under my feet. At the same time a low frequency rumbling became noticeable.

Given my office’s proximity to Dulles Airport, my first thought was that we had a very low pass from a jet but as the shaking increased and I became aware of the rumble, the thought that it had to be an earthquake began to percolate through my head.

After perhaps 20 seconds or so it subsided.

We evacuated the building briefly but it was quickly decided that there was no safety risk and they let us back in. I tried to reach people but cell phones were utterly useless. I did get a voicemail through and received a few but have only succeeded in getting one landline call through.

I’ve always wanted to experience a minor earthquake, something large enough to feel but not so large that it caused damage or casualties. After experiencing it, I’m not sure why I wanted to. It is truly unsettling to feel the floor moving under your feet. I don’t think I need to do that again.

Fortunately, everyone seems to be in one piece and there hasn’t been any major damage reported though I suppose reports will come in as more thorough inspections can be performed.

Thoughts On Two Weeks Of Travel

For most of the last two weeks I’ve been traveling. The first week and a half were vacation followed by a brief stay at home and then business travel. Today was my first day in the office for two weeks. It’s been a rough day thanks to jet lag. Hopefully one more good night of sleep will have me back on track.

The vacation part of the time away was in Massachusetts and Maine. In Massachusetts, I was able to spend two days doing genealogy related things and in Maine we visited with Lauri’s relatives. The business travel portion was a “new employee orientation.” Seems kind of odd to bo to an event with that name given I’ve been in my current job for three years. However, 11 months ago, the company I worked for was acquired and they’ve slowly been working us through orientation. My turn finally came this month.

The ipad featured prominently in all of this travel. We used it for traffic updates to supplement the Garmin GPS and it did a great job helping us navigate around the problems identified by Google Maps. It also gave the passengers something with which to pass the time when conversation and watching the landscape no longer sufficed. I used it to plan out my genealogy research and keep our itinerary.

Lauri’s niece and nephews loved the ipad and were sorry to see it go. As we were saying our goodbyes, Emmett looked into the car through the side window and called out, “Goodbye iPad!” They played lots of games and I was able to show lots of photos.

On the cross country flights to and from San Francisco, I was able to listen to music, read, and play games to pass the time. On the 6 hour westbound flight, I ended the flight with 54% battery remaining making the ipad a great way to pass the time.

Of course, one needs to keep one’s mind occupied on a six hour flight where the airline has the seats packed so tightly that people are literally rubbing shoulders. Air travel has become an incredibly painful form of transportation. First there is the security gauntlet where a lot of disruptive but not particularly effective security has us balancing shoes, removing belts and juggling all this with our carry on bags. Then we get loaded onto an airplane where the seats are sized for children. I had an aisle seat and my shoulders extended beyond the width of the seat and I’m not really a large human. As a result, I kept rubbing elbows and shoulders with the woman next to me (who was roughly my size) and getting bumped by the aisle traffic. Somehow we’ve turned air travel into a grueling experience rather than something fun. By contrast, the road trip up north took longer but was significantly more comfortable and entertaining.

I enjoyed the trips but it’s good to be back home!

A Tale of Two Refrigerators

In the beginning of March, Lauri and I bought a new refrigerator to replace a roughly thirty year old unit. The old fridge still ran but was beginning to make odd noises and the door wouldn’t always stay shut. It seemed likely that it was running on borrowed time and we began to search for a replacement. It was the last of the original appliances in our condo to go.

We settled on a 20 cubic foot LG french door style refrigerator in Stainless Steel from Sears. Our space for the fridge was very small and we didn’t have many options, particularly for nicer units. The woman at Sears in Fair Oaks pointed out this unit and after a couple of weeks of checking around and doing some research we decided that was the unit we wanted. Home Depot had it at a cheaper price but we wanted to give the commission to the woman who pointed out the unit to us. Sears matched Home Depot’s price and we set a delivery date for March 23rd.

On the afternoon of the 23rd, the new fridge was delivered and all seemed well. The next morning we began to realize that something might be wrong. Both the refrigerator and freezer sections seemed warm. We cranked down the temperature control to their coldest settings and hoped that things would cool down. Later that afternoon, Lauri called me to say that the food in the freezer had thawed out. We definitely had a problem.

We called the woman who sold us the unit and explained the problem. She directed us to another number where they would arrange an exchange. All went well until we asked about the lost food. They offered us $50. This was only a 1/3 of the actual value. They said they would have to send a technician out to verify the loss. Also, it would take two days for us to get a new fridge.

The next day the tech came out and asked if I wanted him to try to fix the unit. I said that I was willing to accept a repaired unit so long as we had confidence that the unit would continue to run. He opened the back panel and exclaimed, “Oh my god!”

The compressor was completely off its mount. It was clear the refrigerator had been subject to some pretty strong physical forces. He tried to set things right but the compressor would not work. He verified our food loss and in a few weeks I should get a check.

The next morning the new fridge came and it worked. The only problem is that the delivery guys have scuffed up and in a couple places gouged the walls in the stairwell. The stairway is tight but the first delivery crew made it without incident. No other delivery crew has caused damage. It’s fixable but this new purchase has had a lot of collateral damage associated with it.

I am a bit peeved that Sears would transfer us around to three different people to deal with getting a replacement and then question us on the cost of the food loss. Particularly when the tech who “verified” the loss simply asked me for the number. Now I have to contact Sears again to let them know the damage their delivery people have done to the walls.

It will be a long time before Sears gets my business after this.

Is the Media Doing Its Job?

As the news media enters a frenzy of action heading towards the November election, I am left wondering if, collectively, they are doing their jobs properly. Not that I’m accusing most journalists of bias, but I am wondering if they report on the actions of politicians differently than they report on other types of news.

It seems to me that when a politicians stands on a stage and makes a claim, whether it’s about an opponent or a a group or an issue, the media has some responsibility to validate the claim before they report it. Otherwise they are not reporting news; they are becoming proxies of the politician’s campaign. Politicians know that the statements they make don’t need to be true. They do know that if they proclaim them loudly enough and often enough that the statement will take on a life of their own, even after the truth comes out. To allow this practice to continue in the misguided application of “reporting the news” does a major disservice to all of us who are trying to actually learn what is going on.

I’m not talking about policy decisions but about claims of fact, of history. If a politicians says his or her opponent did something, the media should validate that claim before they report it. If the claim is true, then report it. If the claim is false, then it seems to me the story is the lie (or mistake). Granted, there is a lot of gray area there but there ought to be more to journalism than putting a microphone in front of a politician.

Take some of the hype out of the process. Stop being used and start doing your jobs as journalists!

I Hate Office Buildings

It seems to me that one of the primary purposes of a building is to protect its inhabitants from the outside weather. Whatever the outside weather, the building is supposed to keep us comfortable. So, then why can’t the typical office building manage to keep the temperature regulated?

The building where I work has had a temperature that is suitable for polar bears for the last three weeks, at least. I can only recall two days where the temperature in the quadrant of the building where I sit hasn’t been uncomfortably cold. There’s something wrong when you walk into a building and put on a jacket or sweater to protect yourself from the building’s environment. Indeed, even that sweater or jacket hasn’t been sufficient. My hands have been getting so cold that they hurt. I go to the restroom to run warm water over them.

I’m beginning to understand why people go postal (with apologies to postal workers). We tell the building staff over and over and over and over, yet nothing happens. Perhaps if we start calling in frozen then something will get done.

The Wandering Suitcase

Mistakes happen. That may be the one rule of human civilization. I can accept that. I’ve made my share. I sympathize when they happen. Unfortunately, at AirTran mistakes seem to be the business model.

Last Friday I tried to fly to Seattle for a weekend trip. I say “tried” because the flight leaving BWI was so delayed that it became impossible to make the connecting flight. I decided that leaving for a weekend trip to Seattle on Saturday didn’t make any sense so asked for a refund and my checked bag. I got the refund.

Even though I asked for my bag before the plane I was to have boarded even arrived, it never came back. Eventually they had me fill out a lost bag claim and told me they would call me. On Monday I called them. They thought my bag was still in Seattle. and would call me back when that along with it’s return booking was confirmed. That call came at 11:35PM Tuesday night. Who calls a residence at 11:35PM? Although I appreciated knowing that my bag had been found, it wasn’t so urgent that I needed to be woken up.

Finally, about 2PM my bag arrived here at work. That is almost six days to the hour since I left work to go to BWI last Friday. At least a quick check looks like it has all the stuff in it. I’ll verify that in detail tongiht, but nothing is obviously gone.

I still can’t figure out how a company can be so incompetent. Granted, the weather in Boston caused the initial flight delay and that wasn’t AirTran’s fault but everything from that point on was. I sure won’t be going out of my way to fly that airline again. More the other way around.

How to Not Get to Seattle

As I write this I am supposed to be on an airplane headed northwest to Seattle. Instead, I am at home contemplating just how easily plans can be disrupted.

My flight was supposed to leave BWI at 6:40pm. I left work at 245pm. Even with awful traffic, I would still get there in plenty of time. Of course, traffic was just that: awful. A trip that should have taken 45 minutes, and certainly no more than an hour took nearly two hours equating to an average speed of about 20 miles an hour. Still, I was paranoid about traffic and got to the airport about 4:30. It was about 5pm by the time I parked and took the shuttle bus over to the terminal.

I check my bag and get my boarding pass, get my dose of being made to feel like a criminal going through security and then I’m on to the gate. At this point, I learned my flight is 50 minutes late. No problem because Kaitlyn was running even later than I was and that would give her a bit more time to make it. She did eventually arrive at the gate just as they were finally getting the 2:30pm flight out only about four hours late or so.

Of course then they announce that our plane coming from Boston was late leaving and isn’t even going to arrive until 7:50pm and is scheduled to leave at 8:15pm. It has now become impossible to make the connecting flight to Seattle. Since I was going for th weekend, it didn’t seem worthwhile to lose 14 hours until I would get there so I got a refund and asked for my luggage back. Kaitlyn was going for a week and has to be there so she’s scheduled to go out tomorrow evening.

We are told it will be 30-40 minutes until our luggage is ready to pick up so we stop off and have a drink and gab. We go to pick up our luggage and hers is there but mine isn’t. Half an hour of waiting and it becomes clear that my luggage got on the plane even though I didn’t. I hope my bag enjoys Seattle. I’m wondering just how long it will take AirTran to get it back to me.

To make it worse, it rained like mad on the drive back home with visibility dropping to barely drivable levels at some points.

So much for flying out of BWI to save a few dollars compared to flying out of Dulles. Actually, I guess I did save a few dollars since I didn’t get to fly at all. But I did get the joy of sitting in traffic for nearly two hours, wading through airport security, filling out lost baggage forms, and driving back through a deluge. How much more fun can any one evening hold?

Indigo Girls at Wolf Trap

I was fortunate enough to attend the Indigo Girls concert at Wolf Trap last night. It was a fantastic show!

The group Girlyman opened the show. I’d heard of them and had even heard a song or two, but this was the first chance I’d had to really listen and what I heard I really liked. Having two women and one man, they can really change their sound just by changing lead singers. I’m going to have to listen to more of their music.

It seems like the Indigo Girls have been around forever and their music never gets old and they seem to really love performing and making music together. Whether it was an old song or a new song they were there for every note. When you had several thousand fans, half of which know every word to every song, you get a lot of great energy that it was great to be a part of.

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