Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yay Cathay!

Still not in Bangkok. Delta flight yesterday couldn't retract the landing gear, so we took a scenic tour of the local valleys and channel islands while testing it then dumping fuel to land. The pilot and crew handled everything quite well, but the rebooking was a clusterfuck. Got booked onto a special make up flight today and it too was canceled. Thanks to mobile phone technology I could wait in line while checking my options. Turns out I could get a Cathay Pacific flight to get in a half hour behind the only delta flight, and since I hadn't moved in line in 2 hours, I booked the alternate. There was a small kerfuffle trying to get American, the booking company, to give CP my flight number but Hee Kim was super sweet and helped me out and I am at the bar near the gate sipping (gulping) my gin and tonic. No guarantees but I'm hoping for both better results and better on plane entertainment options. If all goes well I'll make my BKK connection to Chaing Mai after a bit of a nap.

I'm out one vacation day, one night in Bangkok, and the extra shuttle money but have some pictures of the local landscape, and talked with any number of nice folks yesterday, and found that taking anti-motionsick meds helps my tolerance of imperfect plane comfort. And people talked up Chiang Mai left and right, so I have modest but good hopes for the rest of the trip. Even if I wind up needing a dewormer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memories, frontside

I'm going to Thailand, Thailand; Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I'm going to Thailand. (to tune of "Graceland" by P. Simon)

I've been distracted by facebook, medical issues, and re-reading books about Navy SEALs. The health stuff seems mostly to center around having a very persistent UTI and no vitamin D or B12 in my system to speak of. Everything else is pretty much fine, so my fears of wearing slowly away to nothing appear to be both fixable and unfounded.

For the last couple days I've been in a packing frenzy (see sidebar for twitter link to prelim layout of clothes to take). I managed to, ahem, only pack 6 pairs of pants, 3 dresses, 1 skirt, and roughly 2 dozen shirts (selection of sleeve less, short sleeved, and long sleeved, some of which layer), some sandals and appropriate undergarments. For a 9 day trip. Yep. Fortunately these are all the thinnest pieces of clothing I own so they don't weigh a lot or take up space. If I took that many things to Minnesota midwinter they couldn't get the plane off the ground.

The trickiest part is packing all my meds. My regular stuff is straightforward and no different from the last 3 times I packed it. But now I am on one antibiotic for the infection that the doc *finally* found and which seems to be helping somewhat. I have another antibiotic for just in case I get sick. I also have prescription vitamin D in 50,000 IU size, prescription anti-motion-sick meds, prescription sleep aids.... I asked my friend if I should be worried about traveling with this stuff to Thailand but she reminded me that Thailand is where you go to GET all the illegal stuff so not to worry about taking normal stuff in. Oh, right. D'oh. At any rate I had to pack the emergency purse stash, the carry on stash and the check through stash (like tylenol) and sorting that out was kind of a pain.

My clothes, shoes, toiletries are all done though. All I have left is to finish charging my electronics, pack the cords, figure out if I'm taking any other stuff for entertainment, then make sure I have my comfort items and food and I'm done. the flight is at 1 but the shuttle comes at 8am, god help me. I think the key for the food is to not overpack, but I'm not sure I can manage that; I've hit my decision making capacity for the week.

I'm ready to sleep now. This is one thing where I can just keep plugging away until it's done because now I think everything is just a random task to do. Hope you all have a safe and pleasing Memorial holiday. My favorite was still picnicking at the Old North Bridge with some sandwiches Martha Stewart explained how to make and watermelon and a batch of friends. One of whom is going to Thailand with me. Yay! Thanks for letting me tag along on your visit!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Women in History

Been running into oddball "women are screwed over by history" stories this week.

XKCD on female mathematcians you've probably never heard of (I hadn't heard about one of them in the comic until a friend tweeted recently that she was his favorite and I checked her out on Wikipedia. Crazy.)

There's a paper where men can't handle the idea of powerful women, so they edited out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the recent situation room photo. Seriously, this shit happened in 2011.

Lastly, if you think 72 female virgins are awaiting you in the afterlife, my mom asks that you question pretty hard their motivation for waiting for you to martyr yourself. Surely you're not their idea of heaven.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Worse Before Better

I'll post some pictures soon, but one of my good things for this week was (finally) putting up the closet system across my bedroom wall. My organizer helped me start it out and get through all the tings that needed two people - plus she's great at cutting in, so we even got the painting done. It was very chaotic looking room for a while though, with all my stuff strewn everywhere, boxes being emptied, and whatnot. Whew! It's pretty impressive though. I'm also happy with the paint color I chose. It looks like suede. Thanks again to the customer at the checkout counter for letting me run off with her paint chip.

I managed to fly up to San Jose and back for a vendor audit without having to go through a mugging machine at the airport. I did get a swipe test for explosives - and passed - which made me wonder what would happen if I had been doing some target practice. But the travel was totally incident free, no stress at all, and our hotel was nice.

I spoke to both my mom and grandma today and had good conversations with both. Apparently my grandma's brother-in-law is only 6 months younger than her and they have an unofficial contest to see who lasts the longest. She claims that him being Italian gives him an edge, but I think that at age 94, it's even odds. It's probably more tied to the lifespan of their spouses at this point. Hopefully Pop will continue to do well enough with regular "oil changes" (aka, a pint transfusion every couple weeks).

That makes three. I'm going to try and do some more of these happiness posts, interspersed with the topical posts. Upcoming are grandma's peanut brittle, my dining room furniture, and the closet install.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

High Speed Speed Bumps

Switching to more quotidian trials, I'm a little perplexed by the method CalTrans is using to "improve" the freeway I commute on. Each night, they tear up a small patch of freeway and replace it with a concrete patch/repair that is slightly lumpy and dragged with traction lines so squiggly, I'm just waiting for them to take out an unwary motorcyclist. They're only working on one lane at a time, which I get - they're leaving the others open for the lighter night traffic. What I don't get is why they're doing non-consecutive patches. These patches are roughly the length of half a car to to 3 cars, with similarly sized unpatched areas in between. If the patches were a little smoother and didn't jiggle my treads sideways, I would still be curious, but I might not be as concerned. As it stands, I find this process concerning.

freeway striped in the wrong direction

See what I mean? That's odd, no?

I'm not given any indication that they plan to fix the shoulder where it has literally crumbled into rubble. Certainly the shoulder isn't the priority, but there are places where it's pretty bad. Perhaps they will do that last? One can only hope. Given that they fixed the end of the nearby offramp that *didn't* cause my visiting friend to clutch the side of the car in terror and scream "Oh my god, It's not even a road!" when we exited there, I'm thinking my hope could be misplaced.

repairs next to decayed shoulder

Doubling back on the access road, one can see the patchwork effect in the far lane, no patches in lanes 2,3 and the patches in lanes 4,5 hidden by the hill. Crazy, though, right?

patchwork repairs as seen from above

The only time I've ever driven over something similar was when the U of M was testing road paints near the VoTech. I'm impatiently waiting for the whole plan to be revealed - will they eventually also fix the shoulder? Will they pave over the whole shooting match? Will they fill in the gaps? Will they resurface it? I have no idea. But there are several dozen people employed to do this every night for the forseeable future, and they finally got to the really bad spot in the #3 lane this week so who knows what the endgame is? But for now, I'm going to have to tag this CalTransFail.


Only related because it includes a partial picture of my car, my odometer hit a fun number this weekend after my post carwash spin up Mullholland. It was chance that the trip odometer corresponded.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Better Stuff to Do

What a day of conflicting emotions. I woke to the news that Obama had ordered the takedown of Osama bin Laden, who took a double tap to the noggin. I both felt satisfaction in a job well done and sensed that I wouldn't be feeling giddy. (That said, go watch the Daily Show from today.) I have to admit to being pleased that the Navy SEALs were the team to do it - having the most affection for that group of the JSOC, despite being acquainted with a few of them. (My new emotion is surprise that Google dictionary does not yet recognize "takedown", "Osama", "SEALs" or "JSOC" despite nearly total coverage of those things today. I suppose I am also relieved that it finally knows "Obama".)

There's pride in knowing that the entire operation was (1) kept quiet - no one leaked critical information that could have endangered our guys or tipped off the targets, (2) well planned, and (3) successfully executed. And that the target was a man that these guys who "live for the suck, not for the glory" could actually get some credit for killing. It's what we have them for, and I can't tell you how relieved I am that our current president knows how and when to use special forces. It makes be believe that he also knows when NOT to use them, which might be more important. In the case of Osama, I think his death was inextricably linked to our narrative of success. My stance on his demise is along the lines of "don't bait the bear".

If I'd had any energy at all on saturday, I'd have blogged about the Wedding. I still might, but suffice it to say, it was the feast day of a generation and people need these occasional spectacles. It's good for the mental health. I did spend a few minutes this weekend wondering what manner of newsworthy items would be buried under the deluge of the Royal Wedding newscaster-distract-o-tron-2011. Usually, corporations and countries take these opportunities to announce unpopular things so the news gets buried under the fold, as long as it's less marketable than the flashy event. In this case, I think Obama used the distraction strategically to reduce the risk of press leakage of this operation. Because even if it did get leaked, how could it compete with such a stunning dress? Or those crazy hats? Unless someone knew the whole story, such a rumor wouldn't be sufficiently newsworthy to overcome The Spectacle, and even then it might not fly. I was pretty impressed that someone finally used the media lull to accomplish something impressive. (Despite thinking it was the necessary thing to do, somewhat like an emergency C-section, I can't call it a good deed as such.)

Next comes some trepidation. I've been staunch anti-war-on-the-tactic-of-terrorism from the get go. Honestly, I would have been fine with going in, taking out Osama, and calling it a day. (I'm actually ok with black ops, when used IN MODERATION, by someone I trust to make an adult decision, when they know they could be called to account for what gets done, and feel it's necessary to do them anyway.) After 9/11, I could see limited engagement in Afghanistan. But Iraq? Clusterfuck from start to finish residual troops who may one day leave.

What I had hoped for then, was that we'd become even MORE American - more free, banding together, not being scared, willing to take a risk here and there rather than give up our hard won freedoms. Instead, I got a government spewing fearmongering nonsense for nearly a decade, and a media utterly and absolutely complicit in spreading the the fear. Instead of taking a statement from the White House and giving it in context, and making some sort of reasoned comment on it, especially with regards to how much bullshit it contained, I was being fed a steady stream of "the White house says this" soundbytes. Even from NPR, that "liberal" bastion of broadcasting. These preposterous soundbytes like "The Healthy Forests initiative is good for trees" would land in my ear and wake me up shaking with rage nearly every morning. (I only get one station in the electrical dead zone where my alarm clock lives, and it was the least worst option.) The rage was at the combination of flat out lies given out from our government echoed back, without question, comment, or analysis, by the journalists who are supposed to be critical to the point of irrationality. Since Obama got elected, the rage making is less, but now it's mostly about things that are commonly agreed to be false. At least someone points out the nekkid guy in the parade once in a while these days.

I've got a long and involved rant against the way we handle the security theater around flying and travel generally, which I'll forgo for now. But has anyone compared how difficult it is to fly these days with what we all condemned about the soviet government control on the flow of people? You can still drive around the country, but flying, or even taking the train requires an Official Government ID. Really? How many years will it be before they're making movies about the goodhearted rebels in America who require underground suppliers of forged documents to travel around the country, or smuggle deserving folks over the wall to safety, without being targeted for destruction? I'm not real thrilled with the average citizen being required to produce supplemental, official ID on demand all the time, for routine transactions. Reminds me too much of Escape from East Berlin docudramas.

So my hope for the future is that the GWOT will ramp down (and with it, can I hope that the GWOD, or global war on drugs will similarly be rescinded) the travel restrictions will ease to something less ridiculous and more effective, that we won't condone past or future torture of anyone in the name of America. That we can make decisions based on facts, not lies. That we can eject the people who keep trying to make us scared and call them out for working against the interests of the country. The biggest boogeyman of all has been removed and tossed overboard. Can we all agree that however scary the next boogeyman is, that he or she is not scarier than what we'll allow to be done in our names? Can we all agree that they are not scarier than giving up liberties for marginal illusions of safety? Can we all agree that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?