Monday, July 30, 2012

Chick-Fil-A tempest shows who is really intolerant in our society

    Recently Chick-Fil-A president Dan T. Cathy had an interview with a Baptist newspaper reporter in which he stated that he was opposed to gay marriage. It was a personal opinion stated by a man who happened to be a company president. It's not an extreme position -- most Americans share it, although opinions have certainly been evolving.
    I pointed out in a recent blog post that there has been an absolute sea change in attitudes towards gays in general in recent years. One rarely hears endless gay jokes, whether by friends or comedians. I can't imagine Jimmy Carter criticizing a politician today as giving "a kind of effeminate impression," a charge he made in 1988 of George H.W. Bush.
    This change in opinion doesn't mean everyone has to rush out and support gay marriage. I said so in my blog post. I may eventually; I don't now. And I resent the treatment that this man has received. The left-wing crowd has just gone nuts, demanding a boycott of Chick-Fil-A and vilifying this man in every way.
    Meanwhile private citizen Jeff Bezos, who also happens to be the president of, just donated $2.5 million to support gay marriage -- and what a difference his actions are receiving. Those who disagree with him are not in mass numbers calling for a boycott of Amazon, they aren't vilifying him on the Internet, or anything else. They seem to be accepting the fact that people have differing opinions and the right to express them.
    We hear so much about how conservatives are intolerant. Take a look at people's behavior sometime and you quickly see who is really intolerant.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hard times I've never known, or why today's families need two incomes

    We're often reminded that today a family needs two incomes whereas in the past one income was sufficient to raise a family.
    I do agree that the decision by the federal government and left-wing educators to destroy our public schools by eliminating ability grouping has forced families with bright, well-behaved children to flee, at great expense, into high-cost school districts where they can enroll their children with others of like ability and temper. Certainly our schools policy has destroyed many of our cities and regions.
    But most people aren't talking about the high cost of basic housing when they reference the need for two incomes. They're pointing out the need for two incomes to maintain what they view as a decent standard of living.
    But what is decent? My mother's father was already a school superintendent when he decided to enter the Methodist ministry, a vocation for which he realized he would need a college degree. So he enrolled at the Mississippi State Teachers College and was given a job as manager of the bookstore to pay his tuition expenses. This was in the 1930s. The school allowed him to bring a couple of cows and pasture them where the football stadium is today. My mother and uncle would sell the milk in the mornings to professors. Can you imagine how many of today's students would refuse a college education if they were told it involved milking a cow or even working in the bookstore?
    While my maternal grandfather was enrolled at "Southern" my paternal Uncle Jake enrolled as a student. His first cousin was married to the president, Dr. George. My uncle lived with them because he couldn't afford the cost of a dorm. One semester the money was lacking to pay tuition and my grandfather instructed him to just write the check and he would cover it. As it turned out he was unable to persuade the local bank to loan him $25 against $1,000 in county warrants as collateral and he had to sell his finest mule to cover the tuition check. Today this would be considered intolerable!
    In the 1940s my mother was fortunate enough to attend the University of North Carolina on a Rockefeller Scholarship, where she earned a master's in health education. She told me during her time at UNC she was "rich," as it was the first time in her life she had ever had any money. The provisions of the scholarship were that she had to work in a rural Mississippi health department for five years, so she ended up in Holly Springs, where she lived in a boarding house. She wasn't alone. There were many successful, middle-class people who lived in boarding houses in those days. (One successful businessman told me he never paid rent as he always managed to work off his rent in chores.) My mother was struggling to pay off a car on a two-year payment plan, and she told me she always tried to arrange her daily schedule so she would be visiting a school at lunchtime so she could take advantage of the five-cent lunch. Money was that tight.
    By 1948 the Depression was over, and both of my grandparents were on a sound financial footing. By that time my paternal grandfather could even be called prosperous. Yet my parents were married that year in the living room of my grandparent's home. In 1948, the expectation was not that one spend a small fortune on a wedding. Today they would be expected to put on a lavish affair at great expense.
    Take a look sometime at the homes of the 1950s and early 1960s. They tend to be nice, comfortable homes but they are not nearly as luxurious as the homes of today. Today our homes are nicer and cost more, and perhaps that's why we have to work more to pay for them.
    As a child when my clothes would get a rip or a tear, my mother would repair them. Does anyone remember the little iron-on patches that people used to use? I never see a child today with patched clothes (including my own). I used to wear hand-me-downs as a matter of course; sometimes I would be the fifth cousin/brother to wear an item. It didn't bother me. Today, of course, kids rarely wear hand-me-downs and to offer a poor person an item of used clothing is considered an insult.
    The bottom line is we insist on a much higher standard of living today than what earlier generations enjoyed. In fact, we tend to view the standard of living of 40 or 50 years ago as abject poverty. It's really not, and perhaps we need to change the way we look at the world.
    I'm not suggesting that two incomes aren't great. I just question the notion that a family absolutely has to have two incomes to survive, particularly if one parent is staying home tending to the family. As my grandmother told my father one day when he was bemoaning the high cost of living: "Son, it's not the high cost of living, it's the cost of living high."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Electoral map, gut-check, show Romney's chances getting better. My prediction now Romney 295-243

    Perhaps you've seen the public opinion polls that show Obama down by five points to challenger Mitt Romney. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was down by 14 points to Jimmy Carter at the same time, if memory serves. So for the incumbent to be down by five is pretty big news.
    Not much has changed since April 11, 2011, when I blogged that, For Obama, it's Ohio or bust in the next election, save that Obama is weaker than ever. I still think Ohio is key to the election, but Romney could still pull out a win by putting together some other combinations. For Obama, it's take Ohio or he's toast. I used the website for my predictions; it's a great tool for playing around with electoral college numbers.
    Here's some things to consider when you hear presidential polling numbers.
1. Current polls aren't screening for likely voters. When these screening questions go into effect, the GOP candidate generally jumps by about five points.

2. The last election was an anomaly, with GOP voters totally dispirited while many independent and Democrat voters considered Obama to be a deity. No more. Many liberals and independents are just as disgusted with Obama as conservatives were with George Bush, which will increase GOP voter participation. In fact, recent special elections (Wisconsin, Arizona) show GOP results outperforming public opinion polls by about five or six percent, the traditional pattern. So the general rule is that if you hear the Democrat and Republican are tied in the polls, it means the Republican will likely win.

3. In some states, about two percent of registered voters are non-citizens, based on the percentage of people dismissed from juries for being non-citizens (juries are selected from voter rolls). These non-citizens and illegal immigrants tend to vote Democratic, and Voter ID laws and efforts to remove them from the voter rolls, such as those in Florida, will benefit the GOP.

4. Historically the GOP has had a built-in advantage in having its nominating convention last. The public is more attuned to politics closer to the election, and the pageantry of the convention just boosts the GOP nominee. No reason to believe things will be different this year. In fact, things are a mess for the Democrat convention in North Carolina, while the GOP will likely benefit from having a successful convention in Florida.

    Polls are helpful, but at this point I don't trust them very much. For example, lots of polls are showing North Carolina as a toss-up state. Obama carried it in 2008 but I don't believe he has a chance this time around. Likewise Obama tends to have a poll lead in Virginia, but 2008 was the first time a Democrat had carried that state since 1964. Obama is a lot less popular today than in 2008, and I see no reason for Virginia not to return to form.
    So I use my gut-feeling test in combination with poll results, and my gut feeling is that Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Florida are all moving over to the GOP column from 2008, along with Indiana and Missouri.
    This gives Romney 257 votes and seven states from which to pick up the additional 13 electoral votes needed to get to 270. As things are going right now, that's not going to be a difficult task, but the winds of politics blow a different direction every day. It could get harder or it could get easier.
    But the states Romney has to choose from are Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. I see these as the real battleground states, although a few more will still require work to remain in the fold. My personal prediction is that Romney has a good chance to take Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and New Hampshire, giving him 295 electoral votes to 243 for Obama.
    Times change, predictions change, but that's mine as of today. But even though times change, my map doesn't look much different than it did in April, 2011. And Ohio still remains the state that will put Romney over the top and into the White House.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why inequality? For starters look at family formation decisions

    Everyone likes to argue that there is some type of conspiracy to increase the level of inequality in American society. The New York Times had a story recently that helped to illustrate just how strongly behavior affects life outcomes.
    The story, entitled “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’,” features two white women with similar backgrounds. Both come from small town, working middle-class families. Both work at the same workplace for somewhat similar pay.
    The difference between them?
    One, Chris Faulkner, chose to finish college, get married and have a family. She takes an annual cruise vacation with her family and she and her husband are able to schedule their time so they can attend all of their children’s school and sporting events.
    The other, Jessica Schairer, chose to go to some fourth-rate college because they “had a spot on the basketball team” (egad!), got involved in a troubled inter-racial relationship that quickly produced one child and then two more, but no marriage or child support, and now struggles to get by on food stamps. So she picked her college based on the fact that it had a “spot” on the basketball team. Then she got pregnant by some bum and dropped out during her first year. She and her paramour discussed marriage, but decided to wait until they could afford a fairy-tale wedding with a big reception. Sounds like a plan!
    Experts vary in their opinion, but most agree anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the total inequality in America today is because of women choosing to be single parents. And make no mistake, it’s a choice, not a lack of birth control. It’s not like 40 years ago where young women found themselves in a terrible way and made the best of it. Women are perhaps getting pregnant by accident once, but then allowing themselves to get pregnant again, and again, and again, just as Jessica Schairer did.
    We live in a politically correct society where people are taught not to make value judgments, and that to consider the race of a prospective marriage or sex partner is an act of immorality. But the fact is that as a white mother choosing to have three black kids out of wedlock Ms. Schairer has put herself in a place where it’s going to be difficult to find a mate. Her odds of finding a white husband are going to be exponentially more difficult and the demand for marriageable black men is so high that she's going to have difficulty with that option, too. In other words, her chances of finding a mate are very slim. That's the reality of race in America, and society does a terrible wrong when it hides this fact from young women.
    While the experts attribute 20 to 40 percent of the inequality in America to single parenthood, I suspect they are considering current family income and wealth alone. I don’t think they consider the cascade effect, where children of single-parent families receive less parental input than those from two-parent families, as the Times article explains. The Faulkner children take part in lots of sports and other activities, and the parents are always on hand to participate. Ms. Schairer’s children are limited to one extra-curricular activity a year and Ms. Schairer is often absent. It’s just common sense that two incomes are better than one and four hands are better than two.
    Even though Mrs. Faulkner and Ms. Schairer have similar jobs – Mrs. Faulkner is the director of a child-care center and she hired and later promoted Ms. Schairer to be assistant director – the article fails to provide one bit of information that might be helpful: the ACT or SAT scores of the women. While the correlation isn’t exact, these scores can be used to get a pretty good idea of the test-taker’s IQ. I suspect part of Ms. Schairer's problem may be low IQ in relation to Mrs. Faulkner: She may not be smart enough to foresee the consequences of her actions.
    In 1994 Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein infuriated the nation and world by suggesting that IQ might have something to do with lifetime success in their book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book), which was widely denounced by liberals who had never read the tome. Since they had never read it they were later able to breathlessly report the same findings in a more sympathetic manner as amazing discoveries, such as when The Washington Post reported on the surprising Pew Trust report that found that "Many in U.S. slip from middle class, study finds." Needless to say, neither the Pew report nor the Washington Post story credit Hernsteirn, Murray or the Bell Curve.
    Charles Murray has taken a smart pill, in that he realizes that any analysis that includes all Americans is simply too controversial to be be discussed by our hyper-politically correct society. So his new book is entitled Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
    As you might expect, Murray finds that the state of white America is dreadful. For the smartest, most educated Americans, things are great, because they are living life just as their parents and grandparents did. They are getting married, having kids and for the most part not divorcing, just as their parents and grandparents did. For the dullest whites, the fabric of society is completely shredded, with most children being born out of wedlock. This fray has slowly been making it's way up the IQ ladder. Apparently a large segment of society requires moral absolutes to make good life choices when it comes to sex and reproduction, and today's moral relativism has translated into societal decay.
    The real inequality that matters in American society isn't that we have a few ultra-rich people floating around. It's that we have lots of families living pretty good, traditional-family middle- or upper-middle-class lifestyles while others are wallowing in single-parent poverty. And this inequality is one based largely on family formation choices.
    The New York Times article said America is becoming “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’ ” and it is, but the article could just as well have been entitled, “Two Classes, Divided by ‘IQ’.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

There's no ADA in Europe, and getting around in a wheelchair is tough; bring help

    We just returned from a Princess Mediterranean cruise with my dad, and I must say I’ve come to appreciate the Americans with Disabilities Act a little more. This isn’t to say that I don’t think it doesn’t go a bit too far at times, because it does, but traveling with someone who is disabled in Europe shows what a different world it is.
    In cities sometimes there are curb cuts, sometimes not. Sometimes doors open easily, sometimes not. In many places it appears to be impossible for someone with a mobility disability to do many of the things that we now take for granted in the United States.
    My father really isn’t disabled in the traditional sense. He’s just old and broke down. He’s 88, almost 89, and while he can make his way around the house with care, he certainly doesn’t trust himself on uneven pavement. And he just isn’t up to distances over a few feet at a time.
    On our trip Dad had the benefit of three sons who could lift and carry his transportation chair. Plus Jinny was along. She’s likely stronger than me, although I hate to admit it. She’s never beaten me up, though, although I’m sure she’s thought of it.
    We certainly planned for difficulties. We booked private tours in many of our port stops instead of just doing things on our own. It added greatly to the expense, but for someone with a disability, it was well worth it, and really is the only option in some cases.

    Some brief observations on touring the Mediterranean with a disability:
1. If you can get a wheelchair with big wheels, do so, the bigger the better. It will smooth out the cobblestones and rough pavement.
2. If you can bring help, bring them, the more the better.
3. If you can afford private tours and guides, they are worth it and sometimes a necessity.
4. Plan in advance as much as possible!

    We were fortunate that my dad is able to get up and walk a bit if needed. And he’s light – I’m guessing he only weighs 140 pounds. So we could easily lift and carry his transportation chair.

Here are our port stops and some general notes.

Venice: Our hotel in Venice was a bit off St. Mark’s Square, which was no problem once my dad got to St. Marks. My brother chose to get there in a water taxi, which was very difficult for my dad to use. He literally had to be stuffed into one of them. I would want to do some research, but I think the land bus to Piazzle Roma and then the ACTV vaparetto to St. Mark’s might have been the better option.

Athens: We booked a tour through Nikos Loukas travel. We were promised a 12-seat van and ended up in a luxury 16-seater. I should note that he charged a flat fee, so if we had added some friends it wouldn't have increased our price. It made for a very easy trip and we rate the company very highly. Getting up to the top of the Acropolis wasn’t the easiest thing, and required going up a rather scary elevator (see video), but we’ve done worse. My dad was able to see most everything.

Ephesus: My dad probably should have stayed on the ship. He went and entered through the exit with my brother, who has bad ankles from an accident and wasn’t up to the long walk. He saw the amphitheatre and a bit more, but ended up waiting in hot weather for us to return. He couldn’t see the Basilica of St. John. There really is very little way for someone in a wheelchair to see Ephesus. It’s a shame they don’t sell sedan chairs, because we could have handled that!

Istanbul: We did this on our own and had very little problem. My dad said the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia with no problem although he couldn’t go upstairs in the latter (and apparently no one in a wheelchair can).

Mykonos: Not much to this port, a waste of time really. My dad had no problem going ashore to a restaurant for lunch.

Naples: Dad was looking forward to seeing Pompeii for the first time, and let’s just say it was tough. This is a place not designed for the disabled, although perhaps a bit more homework would have helped. Also, his transportation chair didn’t have the biggest of wheels; perhaps bigger wheels would have helped.

As you can see from the video above, we did quite a bit of carrying of my dad in Pompeii. The stones we were stepping on in the video are raised stones that were used to cross the streets when the were flooded, which was done regularly to wash away the animal manure and other debris.

There were areas where there were smooth sidewalks, but then other areas hand only rough cobbles which required carrying the chair short distances. We also had to carry my dad's chair down a flight of about 60 or so setps. My dad’s transportation chair actually broke to the point of being unusable in Pompeii. We got back to the ship, and were able to buy another in Naples before reboarding.

Rome: We used tour service to take us to the city and drive us around. With a disabled person, there really is not much other option and we rate this company highly. For the Vatican we also paid 150 euros for a guide, Francesca, who was great. This was the best money spent on the trip. She knew exactly which guards to talk to to get us permission to use the right elevators, and had we been without a guide we would have been in bad shape. The handicapped access points are not well marked. Once we used an elevator that the guards are quite picky about for some reason, but our guide was on friendly terms with the guards so we got to take a shortcut.

Livorno: We made an easy day of it and hired a taxi to take us to Pisa. We were going to go perhaps to Volterra, but we overstayed in Pisa so ended up going on to Lucca. We had a great time and Dad didn’t get too worn out. No problem here, although there were some sights in Lucca that he couldn't have seen, but he really didn't want to.

One other note. There are a few people who just can’t stand the thought of waiting 10 seconds for a wheelchair. I can understand being impatient, but in some cases it’s ridiculous. There were numerous instances of folks cutting us off as we maneuvered about, but one was the worst. In Pompeii we were carrying my dad’s chair down about 80 steep steps. There were people in front of us, so we couldn’t go any faster, but after a while we sat the chair down for about 15 seconds to catch our breath and then started down again. This one woman was muttering that she had to catch up with her group and was attempting to get by us on the side, even though there was absolutely no room to do so as we were taking up the whole staircase carrying the wheelchair. It’s not like we were delaying these people any length of time, but you would think that any person would consider a 30- to 45-second delay in order for an old man to be carried down some steps in a wheelchair to be acceptable. But as far as some people are concerned, you would be wrong. Certainly my experience has taught me to be a little more patient of those who need a little more time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Venice night sailaway not so bad

    I mentioned in an earlier post that we had to do a very early morning sail away from Venice – early as in 1:30 a.m. This had something to do with the high tide.
    A daytime sailaway is something to look forward to, but as you can see from this video, a night sailaway isn’t so bad either. (I tried to post this about 10 days ago, but couldn't get the video to upload from the ship!).

Monday, July 16, 2012

South Lamar bridge may get guardrails

    I’ve heard talk that the South Lamar bridge over Highway 6 may soon get much-needed guardrails or even a fence. The fence would protect cars on Highway 6 from items being thrown from cars or by persons on the bridge.
    When my family first moved to Oxford we rented a condo in Provence Park, a townhouse development just south of the intersection of Highway 6 and South Lamar.
    Provence Park has a great location, just under a mile from the Square, and an easy mile walk at that. But to get there you have to cross the bridge over Highway 6, a bridge with no guardrails. There is a small sidewalk on the bridge, but it’s a bit unnerving to walk across a bridge with a knee-high railing, with a four-lane highway 40 feet below.
    It’s even more unnerving when one’s young children have to use the bridge. The first time we crossed the bridge as a family my son, then 11, ran ahead of us and then sat down on the guardrail. Now we don’t usually fall over backwards when we sit down on something like that, but if it happens 40 feet above a busy highway, it can only happen once.
    In pretty short order I marched up to city hall and demanded an audience with Oxford mayor Pat Patterson. In just as short an order he explained that the city had no control over the bridge, and that it was under the authority of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. He said the city had been “raising hell” about the bridge for years, seeking either a guardrail or a fence. He suggested I take the issue up with MDOT.
    And so I did, with a letter that was admittedly a whole lot more bark than bite. I pointed out to MDOT that they were illegally converting a public pedestrian road into a limited access road, and threatened to sue. I never followed through.
    But the logic of MDOT is interesting. They felt the bridge and sidewalk weren’t up to current MDOT standards, and so MDOT was intentionally making the bridge as dangerous as possible to discourage pedestrian use, even though pedestrians must use the bridge and have used this route for ages. It’s pretty goofy logic if you ask me.
    To read my letter to MDOT and their response, click here.
    Of course, I don’t live at Provence Park anymore. I hope the current residents enjoy the guardrails, if they come to fruition.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

To get to Venice, don't take the Alilaguna water bus if you value your family's good opinion

    Here is my top tip for visiting Venice.
    Do not, I repeat do not, use the Alilaguna water bus to get from the airport. By the time our ordeal was over Jinny was furious and Lucy was sick and not speaking to me. In fact, she even rufused to sit next to me for a while, preferring instead to sit near strangers.
    There are three ways to get from the Venice airport to your Venice hotel. ColReb chose the worst.
    Quickest and easiest is to take a water taxi. Even though quickest it will still take about 45 minutes. It’s also the costliest, and will run between 100 and 110 Euros, depending on the amount of luggage.
    Another way in, and one that Jinny and I used some years ago, is to take a land-based bus to Piazzale Roma, the one bit of Venice connected to the rest of Italy by road. This costs 6 Euros. From there you can take a vaparetto for an additional 6.50 Euros (or buy an all-day pass for a bit more). It takes the better part of an hour to get from Piazzale Roma to St. Mark’s Square, the dropping-off point for many hotels, so the trip from the airport is still going to be a two-hour affair.
    And then there’s the Aliaguna water bus. Somehow I thought this would be our best option. I don’t know why. It cost 15 euros per person, paid up front. We got our ticket, walked 10 minutes to the boat launch area, and then got in line to wait for our bus. The wait was about 15 minutes and then the bus arrived. But there wasn’t enough room on the bus so we had to wait 20 or 30 minutes for the next water bus, this entire wait being on a floating dock. We were all seasick before ever getting on the water bus.
    The concept of a queue is entirely unknown to those not of British descent. So although only a few of us didn’t get on the water bus, soon other people arrived and when the bus finally arrived it was a matter of pushing and shoving our way on board. Pushing and shoving is a way of life for Europeans. It makes them happy.
    We finally arrived at our hotel after a very long ordeal, hot, seasick, with a very unhappy wife and daughter. Everyone eventually recovered and Lucy will sometimes speak to me and even sit near me.

    On a happier note, my regular blog readers will remember that I mentioned the Daily Getaways auction some months ago. I purchased 100,000 Choice Hotels points for just over $350. It turns out the chain has been having a Europe sale, and Venice hotel rooms were on offer for 10,000 points per night. So I was able to provide a pre-cruise hotel night for everyone in the family at no charge. Given that Dad is treating us to a cruise, it was nice that I could spring for hotel rooms!
    The Comfort Hotel Diana wasn’t fancy, but it was very nice, and I liked the location, close to St. Mark’s Square, but just a bit off the beaten track. The breakfast was good and there were lots of reasonably priced places to eat nearby by. For Venice, these are a rarity! If you are looking for a reasonably priced (for Venice) hotel, this is your place. The front desk folks were just as helpful as could be, and there was a mini-bar in each room with reasonably priced water, soft drinks, and beer. We only drank a few waters, but it was nice to have handy.

    We made a mistake and boarded the Ruby Princess to start our cruise shortly after noon. We took a water taxi, and getting on and off was difficult for Dad. I can’t help but think that the ACTV public vaperettos might not be better for the wheelchair crowd.
    I say this was a mistake because we had to endure long lines, spending a long time just getting off the water taxi, and again getting a bit seasick in very choppy water. Then there was a long wait to board as we had to wait for our number to be called. Getting on a Med cruise isn’t like a Caribbean cruise – there is no rush to get on the ship. I suggest putting it off until the last possible moment. See Venice! That’s what you came for.
    It would have been easy not to have gone back out again, but I insisted we make landfall one more time, so Jinny, Lucy and I headed back to St. Mark’s Square at 7:30 p.m. for a stroll and dinner (everyone else stayed on board). Yes, we could have eaten for free on the ship, but we decided to enjoy Venice.
    Our Princess shuttle boat let us off just southeast of St. Mark’s. We decided to head southeast to an area I had never explored before and eventually we made it to Garabaldi Ave. I suppose this is in the Sant Elana district, in an area not visited by most Venice tourists. There were several giant yachts tied up along the way.
    We walked up Via Garabaldi, a wide boulevard filled with bars, restaurants, and businesses catering to Venetians. There were some Americans enjoying the restaurants, too, but clearly these was an area where locals lived and ate.
    Everyone seemed to be having so much fun at Restaurant Giorgione, so we settled on it for dinner. Jinny and Lucy loved their mushroom risoto. Everything else was good, but not great. But the music, sung by the owners, was good and fun. The violinist was quite accomplished. Oh, and our menu was in English, so it isn’t so off the beaten path that they don’t see American tourists, but I’d say it was a 50-50 split between tourists and Italians. We had a good time.
    At 11 p.m. we reboarded the Princess shuttle, this time a large ship, and made our way back to the Ruby. We had our sailaway at about 1:30 a.m., and of course we watched our exit from Dad’s balcony, making lots of racket in the process. Dad’s neighbor stuck his head around the corner and informed us that some people were trying to sleep. He wasn’t very nice about it. Half the people on the boat were laughing, yucking it up, and shouting back and forth to people on shore, but if I were trying to sleep I supposed I would be peeved, too. I’d just be more polite.
    Following our sailaway we had two sea days before our planned arrival in Athens (we’re not there yet!). Nothing to report except on what the Ruby Princess is like, and I suppose that may be my next blog post.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Delta ticket offers a middle seat and little more. To avoid misery, you must pay

    As I write this I’m on a Delta jet headed to Amsterdam, then to Venice. I’m joining my extended family for a family Mediterranean cruise. Now if around-the-world tickets were 50 cents I couldn’t get around the block, so this is where I thank dear, old Dad.
    Delta has certainly learned how to extract every dollar from the customer. If you need to check a second bag (we didn’t), it’s $80. If you want to sit in anything but a middle seat, it’s an extra $49. We went ahead and paid an extra $119 for Economy Comfort, which provides four extra inches of leg room plus 50 percent more recline.
    Lucy and I are in agreement about the legroom. Who needs it? Regular seats have plenty. What we want is more booty room. And Lucy really doesn’t need much booty room! But I do find all the wails and complaints that people have about “leg” room ridiculous. There is plenty on every flight. What I want is a wider seat so strangers won’t touch me. For that matter I don’t want anyone touching me, but my legs are fine! The extra recline is nice, though.
    Flying has truly gotten to be a miserable experience. In fact, the whole thing about only allowing middle seats is because they know many of us will pay extra for an aisle or window seat. And make no mistake, I’ll pay almost anything to avoid a middle seat.
If the airlines were smart they would extend this wretched idea a little more. Whenever someone starts to pick a middle seat they ought to provide the percentage of the American population that is overweight, then the percentage that is seriously overweight. Then the odds of sitting between two overweight people. They the website could ask, “Are you sure you the risk associated with that free middle seat?” (Truth in blogging, I’m fat as a killing hog, but I don’t raise the arm rest and I don’t touch my neighbors, because I can’t stand touching strangers. Oh, I’ve been there already).
    At any rate, my plan is to blog my trip a little bit. I rented a European wireless MIFI for five dollars a day, and it provides 100 MB per day of data. They wanted double the money to “enable” Skype, which means they’ve blocked it. I refused to pay. I think I’ve found a way around the block, but we’ll see. I will report my results for anyone who might be traveling in the future. As a precaution I am removing the SIM card from my galaxy note, so that I don’t accidently use any AT&T data or calls by accident (I actually was able to just turn the SIM card over, so it won’t get lost, but the metal things won’t connect.)
    Jinny, Lucy and I are looking forward to our trip with Princess. We’re taking virtually the same Grand Med cruise that Jinny and I took eight or 10 years ago: Venice, Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Mykanos, Naples, Rome, Pisa/Florence, Monte Carlo (with virtually no time) and ending in Barcelona. My dad is 88 and soon to be 89 and we’ve found taking a cruise gives him something to do and provides us with a lot of fun while we’re doing it. Somehow Dad never managed to see Pompeii, so we’re doing that. He said he wants to see Rome again, and when we’ve tried to pin him down on what he wants to see so we can plan our sightseeing, he just says he wants to look at it.
    So look we will!

Pictured above is Dad at St. Mark's Square. He's in a "transportation chair," not a wheelchair. For an older person who has trouble walking, these are great. We've found that Dad enjoys going to see things when he isn't worried about losing the energy to return to the ship or to his stateroom.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Insulting Arabs with namecalling, pig heads on sticks unlikely to win lost souls to Jesus Christ

    Given that I consider myself a right-wing kind of guy, I generally like right-wing websites. But sometimes they can go just a little too far. Just a teeny bit.
    A friend recently posted a story on Facebook from WND entitled "Moslem mob stones Christians." It was about how a group of radical Moslems attacked some innocent Christians who were just going about their business, or so the story would have us believe.
    WND later edited its story to point out that the "Christians" weren't just having a Sunday School picnic, but were in fact hurling insults at an Arabs during Dearborn, Michigan's 17th annual International Arab Festival, and taunting them with a pig's head mounted on a stick. Dearborn is a heavily Arab city.
    I'll be the first to agree that radical Islam is a problem in this country and around the world, and often political correctness stops us from addressing it. But do these people really think they are reaching souls for Jesus Christ with their antics. Not only are they not going to convert any Moslems, but they aren't going to bring any wavering Christians back into the fold, either. In fact, all they can possibly succeed in doing is to drive decent people away from the Christian church. Who are these dreadful people?
    I'm certainly not for political correctness and I'm not willing to kowtow to the various interest groups that insist that we say just the right things in order to not hurt feelings. But I see no reason to go out on public streets and hurl insults at people either -- especially in the name of Jesus.
    I left a comment on my friend's post pointing out that the so-called "Christian" group had intentionally incited a riot. And indeed a near-riot occurred and the Dearborn did little to protect the "Christians" who started it. It's clear I was able to clear the air a little, because a little later someone else posted this:
In a world with justice, every one of those Mohammedans would have been machine-gunned in the streets, and every Dearborn cop involved in persecuting the Christians would be on his way to prison for oppression. THIS, boys and girls, is the face of Mohammedanism and "political correctness," throwing Christians to the lions. WTG Dearborn.