Friday, July 25, 2014


Why do we like apocalyptic movies?  Is it because of the same reason that we like roller-coasters?


Sometimes I worry about getting sick while travelling.  Call it Sudden Sickness Syndrome.

I don't mean something that needs a doctor's immediate attention, like appendicitis or malaria or getting hit by a bus.  I mean things like my blood sugar abruptly gets way low, and I don't have a source of glucose handy.  Or suddenly finding -- how to put this delicately -- that I need to know where a bathroom is, right the hell now. Or finding out that the result of that awareness is that toilet paper now feels like sandpaper. Or getting a sudden leg cramp while lying in bed, or a muscle spasm while slouched in a chair, or my back abruptly hurts, or I get an acidic stomach. Nothing lethal, but immediately urgent?  Oh, yeah.

These are all things that can freak me out just a bit when I'm at home, alone (in fact, one of them is how I ended up breaking part of my shoulder).  But the idea of them happening overseas, when I'm alone, not comfortably fluent in the language - like this upcoming trip in October -- that possibility actively scares me.  And I don't know what to do to address that fear. I have suggested hiring a cute Danish nurse to accompany me, but my wife seems to have a problem with that. 

Some solutions occur to me -- eat blandly, stay hydrated, carry drugs such as Pepto Bismol (unavailable in France!) and others that are common here. (I recall reading in Airborne, William F. Buckley's book about sailing across the Atlantic, that one of his older female relatives, on the trip, had a compact container of meds that the Red Cross would have envied.)  And even strange solutions - make sure you carry lots of tissues,  bring disposable underwear, always carry a high-sugar granola bar - occur to me. (So this is why American travelers wear those fanny packs!) But what else?  Without being a paranoid American traveler who should have stayed at home, what else?

We're in a position where we can travel -- we don't, a lot, but we can, and sometimes we do -- and when it's we, all is okay.  But when it's just me -- things like this scare me. I resent that fear.  It makes me feel old.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Talked with an Iranian woman who's in her late 30s, living in Iran.  I mentioned 9/11, and she said "What's that?"

Where was this...

.....when I still used business cards?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I was looking at a few photos of Hearst Castle, at the paneling, the ornate ceilings, the massively tiled indoor swimming pool, all of that - thinking that it was obscene that one person had that amount of wealth. Thinking that no one should have that much more money than others, acquired in their lifetime or not.   (Why, yes, I do vote Democratic, usually.)

I had though the same about the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Then I thought about our bank account, versus the bank account of the vast majority of people in this country.  (I had looked at a Federal Reserve estimate of average household net worth, a few years ago, and was surprised.)

Then versus the bank accounts of people in most other countries.  Particularly the ones in Africa, most of the mid-east, that sort of place.

Oh. So this is what it's like to be rich, huh?

Friday, July 11, 2014


If you fly round trip from Dulles to Paris, it costs $2000 for Premium Economy, and $10,000 for First Class.  So what do you get for that extra eight thousand dollars?

You get a private entrance into the terminal.

You get a private lounge. And a "prestige car", whatever that is, to your gate.

You get a high staff to passenger ratio on the plane.

You get personally introduced to the crew. Though I guess that home phone numbers are not included.

You get a bigger seat with a bigger TV. The seat folds out to be a bed.

You get to get off the plane first.

You get personal escort to baggage claim.  Persumably, they'll get your bag for you.


You get a  nice little box of toiletries.


Not enough.  What would make it worthwhile?

Well, for starters -- a limo that comes to my house to get me.  Not a van, an actual limo.  With a good selection of music and munchies for the drive to the airport.    Driven by a liveried TSA person who will waft me through their stupid security checkpoints. They handle the bags. And... and.....

Nah, I got nothing.  Nothing that's worth $8000.  $1500, maybe. 

Sorry, Air France.

Monday, July 07, 2014

pointy things

 I saw an ad for what is essentially a flat Swiss Army knife. It had several of the useful tools, including a knife and scissors, but they slid into something that was about the depth of three credit cards. I thought it sounded good - and then I thought about losing it forever if I flew and forgot that it was in my pocket.

I know, in the scheme of things, that wouldn't be a big deal. But it would be to me. Why can't the TSA mail stuff back?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Apple Q's

This is a recipe I found online.  Of course, we modified it!

Apple Quesadillas - makes two

1 medium apple    2 tortillas
grated cheddar    cinnamon

Core and slice apples into thin slices
Lay out one or two medium tortillas
Top half of each with grated cheddar and lots of sliced apples
Sprinkle cinnamon lightly over mixture
In large frying pan, melt some butter
Fold each tortilla over and place into pan
Cook for ten minutes until slightly crisp

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


So now people are suspected of having explosive devices surgically implanted, undetectable by current means, and headed here through major hubs in Europe. Which means we get to rachet up the level of discomfort and paranoia again. At what point does it stop? When we have assassinated every single person who could be involved in the Middle East's cycle of madness and revenge?  Which, I'm assuming, means just sowing the field for another cycle of it, ten years from now?

I hope there are some smart people thinking about it, because me, other than neutron bomb the whole damn place, pave it, and make it a parking lot for Africa, I'm pretty much out of ideas.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


I'm really getting tired of the Google soccer animations.  Part of it is that I'm not into soccer, part that their animations (not just these, but globally) frequently strike me as inane, and part of it was a comment I saw in a comic to the effect that they highlight something distressing: I no longer have the patience to wait all the way through a ten second clip.

Reading an issue of MIT Tech Review.  I had subscribed to it again, about six months ago, digitally, only to realize about three months later that  a) I was forgetting to look when a new issue 'arrived', and b) when I remembered, I had to go to their site to read it -- my RSS reader couldn't get it for me. Quelle horreur. So I told them to switch it to a paper subscription, which doubtless means that someone there marked me as a neo-Luddite.  The magazine was as always interesting, though, since this issue was almost entirely about the intersection of psychology and the workings of the brain, not that fascinating; personally, I felt a little squeamish, reading about the 'optogenetics' (I may have that word wrong) research into determining which neurons in the hypothalamus are involved with fighting, which with mating, and which (intriguingly) with both.  They're working on being able to tickle those neurons, leading to, say, a mouse becoming suddenly enraged by an inert object, or becoming abruptly amorous with the same inert object.  Okay, the concept is intriguing, but - I guess its me - I kept thinking of science fiction movies where people are remotely controlled and have little wires sticking out of their heads.  Silly, I'm sure: they'd be wireless.

Also read about a company that wants to sell a device that will plug into the diagnostic port of your car's engine, tracking info on the car's utilization and performance, streaming it on command to a smart phone. Nice.  This being America, there is another company that wants to piggyback on that driving information so as to present ads to you on that smart phone, based on how you drive.  And of course, there's the implication that the cops might be interested in that data.  Neo-ludditism starts to sound good.