Friday, November 30, 2007

Pictures from London & Paris

We made it back from our week-long Thanksgiving trip to Europe. I won't give a full travelogue of the journey since my wife did a good job of doing that on her blog. But I will post a few pictures and give you all a brief overview.

The weather was fantastic - relatively speaking. We had no rain during the day, and it was only overcast in the morning. The temperature was cold, but that just made walking around the city easier. We spent the first 2 days in London exploring the city, then rented a car for the next 2 days to explore the countryside. The 5th day was spent in Paris. We got up early that day and rode the Eurostar (in first class, mind you) high-speed train (200mph) from London to Paris in 2 hours. We came back to London late that night. The last day was spent in London before heading home to the States.

Overall, I'd say it was a perfect trip! Even my first experience driving a right-sided car on the left side of the road went well. Of course, it helped that Hertz upgraded us from a Toyota Prius (hey, gas is $12 a gallon there) to a diesel Volvo S80. We drove in style. I only ran over one curb, and it was only an inch high! But man, driving on the other side of the road is truly an experience. It is not for the faint of heart - especially when you're learning in central London traffic! Thankfully, none of us died.

This was my first trip to the UK since living there as a kid in 1984, so it was a really special (I hate using that word, but it was) experience for me. It was also my first time in Europe since 1998 when I visited Denmark and Sweden with my Dad and sister.

If you have questions about any of the pictures... just post them below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Our Way to London

On the 777. Wish it could be first class this time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dumb, Stupid, Moronic Drivers!

Considering I used to be the champion of berating idiotic drivers, I'm surprised that this is the first time I've decided to post something about the subject in my 3 years of writing this blog. But this article set me off today. According to the research, an estimated 36 million drivers would fail a driving test.

I can't say I'm surprised... DC and Virginia are in the bottom percentile. I've been saying that for years. The idiocy here is unmatched anywhere in the world. And, I'm not talking about crazy drivers... I'm talking about the moronic ones (and no, they are not one in the same). Let me explain:

To call someone a "crazy" driver is purely subjective. One person who may be too timid to drive above 55mph might consider someone who drives 65mph a crazy driver. By the same token, someone who feels comfortable taking a corner at higher speeds may be considered crazy by a mom in her minivan who is taking the curve more slowly. Such a driver is not necessarily an idiot (although, there are idiots who drive too fast for conditions, and that's a different issue), he is merely comfortable driving at a faster pace. Such drivers actually tend to be more alert on the road, as they are constantly looking out for slower cars, police radar traps and the like.

An "idiotic" or "dumb" driver, on the other hand, is completely oblivious to his surroundings. You'll usually find these people occupying the fast lane when they are not passing other cars (the law states that the left lane is for passing only); failing to turn left at intersections where the light turns red while they are next in line to turn; driving with their brake lights on; blocking intersections; driving too slow for conditions (when everyone around them is going faster); or my favorite - people don't know how to merge into traffic without stopping. You get the picture.

So in the article, it points out how people don't know that you're supposed to stop when the light turns yellow (if it's safe), when to properly signal, etc., and it suggests some kind of national driving standard. Let me just say that I'm all for this idea - as long as it doesn't supersede the rights of the states to make their own driving laws and requirements. But clearly, there is a need for a minimum level of uniformity.

In the meantime, I've always been an advocate for increased driver education and more stringent requirements on drivers' tests. And of course, part of that includes a mandatory basic understanding of the English language!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tired of Being Sick

Yes, another blog post about being sick. I know... I can't believe it either. It's the 3rd time I've been sick since July - and each cold has been special in its own little way. This particular cold started off pretty mild. I had some sniffles and an itchy nose last Wednesday. By Thursday, I knew I was definitely sick and elected to stay home from work. From my last 3 bouts, I've really come to believe in getting proper rest when sick.

When Friday came, I stayed home from work again. By this time my throat was feeling a little sore. Later that night, my throat was dry, and really itchy. Saturday I felt fine, and thought I was getting better until Sunday arrived. That's when I got hit by the monster truck - a really dry, hoarse cough developed that was really painful in my chest, along with a pretty bad sore throat and all of the accompanying aches and pains of being sick. By Sunday night, my voice was completely gone. Monday I felt sick again, voice still gone... and another day of missed work.

On Tuesday I finally mustered up the strength to go back to work. My voice sounded like a 12 year old boy hitting puberty, but was understandable. Now I sit here, Thursday night, voice almost 100% back and feeling pretty good - except for this darn cough. My throat is pretty raw from all of the coughing, but it's going away. Oddly, other than the first day, this cold never affected my upper respiratory tract. That means that my ears were unaffected, and thus, unplugged, the entire time. Those of you familiar with my blog should know how happy that makes me. Although, I'm still a little paranoid they will plug up (as they sometimes do days after a cold) right in time for my flight to London next week. If that happens, expect more ranting.

I know this stuff probably doesn't interest you. After all, many of you come here for my political ranting and technology reviewing (mixed with the occasional personal posts and pictures). To you, let me say that this particular post is mainly for me. Since for whatever reason I seem to be getting sick more often, it's nice to go back over my posts and know exactly when my last suffering took place. Also, I get a lot of hits on this page from people looking for ways to get over their own plugged up ears. To you, I say visit my old posts here.

By the way, I'm pretty sure I had this. I'm serious.

Thanks for reading my rant! Let's hope I'm perfectly well for my vacation next week!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dear Hollywood Writers: Get Over Yourselves

Dear Writers Guild of America:

Enough already. Throw in the towel. Know when to quit. Get back to work. And please understand, I don't say this because I hate unions (I do), or because I think you're not getting your fair share (you probably aren't), I'm simply saying "get over yourselves" because this particular strike isn't benefiting anyone - least of all, you.

I know you have every right to seek more money for what you earn. That's a principle as old as this country. But keep in mind, the producers are also in it to earn a buck. What you fight for is also a deduction from their bottom line, so don't expect to claim the side of moral superiority. You all want money. Big deal. Who doesn't? But know that there is a time to fight for largess, and a time to suck it up and be thankful you have a job at all. Now is a time to reflect on the latter.

It's not like television has a steady stream of classics keeping it alive right now. Viewership is at an all time low. Advertisers are abandoning the networks in droves in favor of Internet-based media. The decades-old reign of the boob tube is coming to a close, and if you don't recognize that, you're not worth the paper you're writing on (which, in green Hollywood, is saying a lot).

Yes, I love shows like The Office and Journeyman. But you know, once they go off the air due to a lack of written material, I'm likely to find other things on which to spend my time. My DVR is already loaded with shows I'd like to watch... maybe I'll find something new. After all, I don't need your product. In fact, a reasonable argument can be made that the world would actually benefit from less television watching. In fact, I'm sure that argument has been made. My mom argued to that effect many times during my childhood as I religiously watched Knight Rider and Star Trek. But I digress.

The bottom line is that viewer loyalty to any particular program only goes so far these days. And as I mentioned, there is quality programming out there... but it is dwarfed by the tons of crap that is being written, by you, on a daily basis. So, the level of empathy I feel for your cause is somewhere around the level I might feel towards a striking tobacco salesman whining that his numbers are down. Get over yourself, I'd say. People know crap when they see it.

And as for the Hollywood actors that are paying your bills in support and sending pizza to your picket lines... they can get over themselves, too. Does anyone take their hypocrisy seriously anymore? Oh, and to the bloggers going on a sympathy strike: You're just opportunistic and pandering idiots.


A concerned viewer (The Conservative Futurist)

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Pakinstani Problem

In response to those news organizations lamenting the loss of stability in Pakistan... I hate to break it to you, but Pakistan has never been stable. In fact, it's ironic that Musharraf's dictatorship has been a beacon of stability when contrasted with Bhutto's old (and extremely corrupt) government.

Stability notwithstanding, Musharraf has made a poor move in declaring this state of emergency. He has essentially thumbed his noses at American and British support, without which he (and thus, Pakistan) doesn't stand a chance financially. However, his move, no matter how poor, has a certain amount of (madman's) logic to it. Masharraf had no other choice if he wanted to remain in power. And it seems, despite his platitudes to the contrary, that it is power he wants. He couldn't accept the Pakistani judiciary's looming opinion that he relinquish his military role if he wants to be President, because he would suddenly be vulnerable to Islamic extremists who have been trying to kill him for years. Without the military, he cannot enforce the high level of protection he has been affording himself.

Also, without the military, Musharraf cannot stop the swelling of support for Bhutto now that she's returned from her self-imposed exile. And while I have no love for Musharraf's dictatorship, I have even less love for criminals like Bhutto, who are blindly given support just because she claims to embrace democracy. Given the media coverage, you'd think that she was the savior of the middle east. In fact, it was largely because of her corruption that Pakistani madman and nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, was able to sell Pakistan's nuclear secrets to a half dozen rogue nations from Venezuela to Iran.

However, despite the alarm raised by the press, nothing has really changed in Pakistan. Musharraf is still the dictator and the government is still in control of Pakistani's nuclear arsenal (the latter point is a good thing). He will, eventually, have to face the music for going back on his promise of letting go of some power in the form of a likely drawback of US and British financial support. This may force him to relinquish his military title while remaining President, or it may not. If his goal is to remain in power, then this is his best bet. So, why go through the motions of declaring this state of emergency? Well, he may be sending a message to India that he still retains control. Remember, it is in India's best interest that Pakistan's government remains stable - and that means more Musharraf.

The US is in a tough spot, because we also recognize the level of stability under this dictatorship (and in a sense, rely on it). However, we have a problem of hypocrisy to deal with: namely, that we ousted one man (Saddam Hussein) because he was a tyrant, while we support another (again, it is in our best interest to keep Pakistan stable - not only because of the nukes, but because Musharraf has given the US more support in its war against Islamic fascism than any other Pakistani leader). So, we have to condemn his actions, and Congress may vote to reduce our financial support... but in the end, he'll still be President - albeit, one with further-weakened credibility. And, that's not good for anyone. Especially Musharraf.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Today is Gorgeous

Wakefield Park, Annandale, VA

Fall is Here

And it feels like I'm coming down with a cold, to boot. My lungs are ready to explode on today's ride!