Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Passage to India

I'm off to India tonight - for just a week. My aunt is getting married. It should be fun.

Before I leave, I have come to realization that to my crush, I am not, "good enough." I'm not the trophy girl he would be proud to bring home to his family. I have two big strikes against me:
- divorced (this is huge, a la Hester Pryne in Scarlett Letter)

- Age 29 (too old, why get this old cow when you can get some pretty, perky young girl?).

These are the facts, I know them but it doesn't make the hurt any less (even when my girlfriends say "why would you want to be with someone who had these hang-up's about you?"). Why indeed? I feel like the Michelle Pheffer character from The Age of Innocence. I don't know why this happens to me, but any ideas on how to get over this guy would be most helpful.

In the meantime I'm going to India and enjoying myself. See you next week!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

This and That

Sorry I haven't posted in a bit - we were moving office locations on Friday and it became a much bigger task than I imagined!

Today we are in the new office and I am sad. I lived in my old cubicle in that other location for FIVE YEARS and despite what my resume says, I'm not good with change. That was my home away from home. So much of my life has passed by from that cube. It was hard coming in this morning, not to my comfortable old cubicle with my radio tuned to NPR and my pictures of London and Paris alongside my family and I mugging outside the Taj Mahal. It is too quiet here - the silence coupled with my depressed feelings makes everything magnified in intensity, no?

But I suppose change is a good thing, no? I truly believe everything happens for a reason and there must be some reason God wanted me to make this change. I know if I hadn't gotten the boot, I'd probably have stayed on with non-descript airlines forever and that obviously (according to God) was not the plan.

But to help me threw the day, I have my Get Fuzzy comic and a pic of Prince Harry and William : )

ps - What is everyone's opinion women wearing pant suits for interviews? In a country where women don't show a lot of leg, wouldn't pant suits be better?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

View from the 23rd Row

Seat Assignments

I got the idea for this week's View from the 23rd Row from the Washington Post Travel section. They had a tiny piece on something Northwest Airlines is allowing passengers to do, pay for prime seating.

What is prime seating? This is a good question, on a plane, this can depend on length of flight and aircraft configuration.

(this all applies for coach seat, there is no such thing as a bad first class seat).
In my estimation, for domestic flights the best seats are:
- Emergency row exits
- Anything close to the front (so you can get off first!)
- Window seats, if no one is in the middle

For International flights the best seats are:
-Window seats where you can prop your pillow up on the window
- Middle aisle seat if there is no one else in that row with you

The worst seats on planes are:
- bulkheads (right in front of a section, generally where they put people with babies cause the kids can lie down there, but trust me there is NO leg room).
- the last row, the one right next to the bathroom, horrible!
- aisle seat if the guy sitting next to you has to use the restroom every hour on a seven hour flight!
- anything next to a crying kid or a smelly person.

Since you can't control who will be seating next to you, I suggest trying to get your seat assignment as quickly as possible, so at least you have a good seat location. Mind you, seat assignments do change (if the plane type gets swaped, medical reasons force someone else in the seat etc.), so don't be wedded to your choice, be flexible. Trust me, the nicer you are, the more willing most customer agents are in helping you find a suitable alternative seat assignment.

I'm not sure if it is important enough to PAY to get a good seat (as Northwest is purposing) but it certainly helps make a journey more pleasant.

I'll be gone next Wednesday, traveling, but please do send any suggestions for View from the 23rd Row topics.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Book Review

Blogger has been acting up lately, so I'm not posting daily.

Just wanted to give a quick book review.

Rough State - I finished this about a month ago while in South Africa. This is the book Osama Bin Laden referenced in his most recent tirade. After that "speech" aired, the book went from languishing at 22,595 on the Amazon list to number 25, quite the leap. I wanted to see what the hype was about. The book, which looks at American foreign policy since WWII, reads like an extended master's thesis by someone who regularly attends Star Trek conventions.

Actually I liked the book, though at times difficult to slog through. After reading all the horrible things America has done (particularly in the name of the Cold War), you will feel ashamed that we elected such villians to lead our country. It certainly sets the foundation for why America is so reviled around the world, we have done some pretty crummy things - at one stage in the book, the author puts in America's voting record in the UN, man were we scuzzy! When the rest of the world (except Israeli) voted yes for basic human rights to the Palestinians, we voted no. When the rest of the world voted yes against working with an apartheid South Africa, we voted no. When the rest of the world voted yes to limiting nuclear testing, we voted no. It goes on for over 15 pages, very sad.

Majority of the book is devoted to our Cold War antics, which after you read you are amazed that the 9/11 terrorists were not from Latin America, cause Lord do they have a hell of a lot of reasons for hating America. We have screwed over that part of the world in inrrepreable (sp) ways. Cuba may have a communist regime but at least they didn't overthrow democratically elected officials in Chile in order to install baby-killers, all in the name of fighting the big bad U.S.S.R. What was the point in fighting the Soviet Union if we behaved exactly like them?

While I don't believe in all the theories in the book, I do think it is a good read in explaining anti-American sentiment. If more Americans realized what was being done in our names, we would have a complete over-haul of Washington and our foreign policy.

Probably what bothers me most is that the good intentions and deeds done by Americans (and I believe most Americans are good people at heart) can be so dwarfed by the enormous evil things our leaders do or did. This is wrong to both the people of those countries and even worse to us Americans! We are not like that - reminds me how fanatic Muslims ruin it for the rest of us in the religion, similar.

Read the book, discuss it, vote - its the only way change will happen and change is the only true way we will fight terrorism.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Funny Friday

I'm having problems with my internet - seems I can view everyone's blog but my own - urgh!

So will try to get home and see if I can do something there. In the meantime have a good weekend, I'm staying put in DC for a change.

Someone sent me this and it made me laugh out loud at my desk (particularly the Starbucks one cause it is so true) - enjoy!

George Carlin's New Rules For 2006

New Rule: Stop giving me that popup ad for classmates.com! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 years. Because you don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn.
New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout?
New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky bastards.
New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you're a dope. If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you're a grown man, they're pictures of men.
New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.
New Rule: There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket, water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.
New Rule: Stop f***ing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.
New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge asshole.
New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.
New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.
New Rule: Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins. ESPN recently televised the US Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting. What's next, competitive farting? Oh wait. They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."
New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&M. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.
New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappie, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.
New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


This is an addeundum from yesterday's post - some of you have asked how to pack a carry-on so you don't have to have any luggage at all.

I happen to be an expert on this as I travel stand-by and checking luggage in as a stand-by is a nightmare. All my travels since working with non-descript airline have been with carry-on bag only.

Here are my tips:
  1. Travel size everything, makes it smaller.
  2. Bring outfits you can mix and match, I have a black turtleneck that goes with everything, I just use that every other day of the trip with a different skirt.
  3. Determine which two pairs of shoes you want most to bring, pack one and wear the other. That's it, don't bring any more shoes!
  4. Like to read as I do, bring a paperback, more flexible.
  5. Roll everything that can be rolled, gives you more space.
  6. Bring disposable things or things you want to give away, like toothbrushes, use it on the trip and throw it away before your return flight home. For Australia, I brought cloths that I liked but was planning on giving to charity, so I wore them there and on my last day put them in a bag and had the hotel help get them to a local charity shop.
  7. Decide in advance what you are going to wear each day of the trip, and than pack ONLY those accessories that go with that.
  8. Try to figure out what you might get at your destination - most American hotels have irons, hair dryers, don't pack those things.
  9. Realize everything will not be able to come, so look and see what is most important and put the other stuff to the side.

Hope that helps - happy traveling!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

View from the 23rd Row

Carry-On Luggage

This is a subject that I can go one for hours about, so I'll try to keep this simple. Carry-on luggage is the luggage you bring with you on-board, usually small bags or backpacks. Most American carriers only allow you one bag and one personal item (like a purse or shopping bag). Here are my rules for carry-on luggage:

1. Let me say this again - most American carriers only allow you ONE bag and ONE personal item! Yet inevitably there are those jerks who somehow get through security with three or four pieces (all overstuffed big bags). Don't be one of those people, learn to pack - you don't need four pairs of jeans if you're going to Vegas for three days!

2. Keep all the essentials in the carry-on luggage. My favorite letter to the CEO of non-descript airlines (I worked up in the CEO's office as an admin. for a brief stint) was a letter from a mother whose son was suffering from a life-threatening disease and blamed non-descript airlines for almost killing him because we misplaced their luggage. Ahhh...excuse me stupid woman, but if the disease was so life-threatening, WHY DID YOU STICK THE MEDICINE IN THE CHECKED BAGGAGE, WHERE YOU KNOW THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT THINGS CAN GET LOST? Don't be stupid, don't put your house keys, you medicine, your credit cards anything that you can't live without in you checked luggage, carry that on-board with you, cause you know when you land it will still be there with you!

3. Now for the reverse rule, don't pack everything in your carry-on bag. I love when people essentially bring a big-ass suitcase on board and say, "this is my carry-on." NO I don't think so - that is not only unfair but potentially dangerous if it were to fall from the overhead bin. The good thing lately is that many airlines are now forcing these cheaters to check the bag at the gate.

4. Overhead space for carry-on luggage is at a premium, try not to be a selfish pig and put only your big piece in the overhead bin and small pieces underneath the seat in front of you. Small pieces include shopping bags, small purses, lite jackets, half-empty containers, camera bags, and makeup cases. If you don't want anything in the little space in front of you - don't bring so much stuff on-board (see rule #1 & #3).

5. Understand that your precious bag is not so precious to everyone else and it's going to get jostled as it is stuffed overhead, if you have something delicate in there and fear it breaking - take it out.

6. Once the bag is up - leave it alone. Don't be one of those annoying people who has to constantly keep opening the overhead bin and getting this or that out. Whatever is necessary for you on the flight - take it out of the bag before you put it overhead.

Follow these rules and you will be a model passenger, someone airlines love - don't follow these rules and be assured that you are an inconsiderate slob and your fellow travelers are cursing the heck out of you!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Baby Name Contest!

CHECK IT OUT- London Underground was asking for baby names (for the new arrival of a regular reader) and my suggestion was chosen!

It might seem small but lately it seems nothing I do is right so it's nice to know that my name selection was considered the best of the choices. See, I may be pathetically alone with no prospects of having a baby, but at least a name I liked for child will be out there! I hope this baby turns out to be the next Prime Minister of England, how cool would that be?! (than I could say, I helped name her, hee hee).

Propaganda Morning Radio

I was going to post something funny today but something happened along the way from my waking up to getting to work that changed my mind.

As I was driving to the commuter lot (I rarely drive into work, too much hassle), I was flipping channels on the radio, I hit upon 99.5. It's a top 40's, rap, pop channel - like TRL on the radio. It is an entity of Clear Channel (a known conservative force in the media). For this particular music genre in the Washington DC region, Clear Channel has very effectively eliminated all unwanted competition. This means that many area teenagers and impressionable children have only 99.5 to listen to if they want to get their fix on the latest song craze hitting America. The morning talk show on 99.5 is hosted by two people, Mark and Chris.

Since the 2004 elections, my sister and I have begun noticing how right-wing Mark is...he is outspoken on his support of secret wire-taping, more abandonment of civil liberties, and the always trotted out refrain of "support our troops, don't say anything bad about our president." Chris is just a syncophate (is that the right word?), she just mimics whatever Mark says.

This particular morning they were talking about how funny members of the Bush administration could be (yeah cause causing the genocide of thousands of people in the pursuit of oil is hilarious) and they went on to talk about some poll which showed that few New Yorker's would vote for Hilary Clinton in 2008 for president and how this was good for Mark Warner, cause he wants to run for president in 2008 and that is why he didn't run for governor (WRONG - in Virginia there is a one-term limit for Governor's!). But how they wanted to see Condolezza Rice run, cause she is so pretty and funny (barf, gag).

What worries me is that they are on a channel which is listened to by so many impressionable children. Mark and Chris do all these funny antics that the kids just love it - 'oh Mark and Chris are so cool,' is a familiar refrain. So if Mark and Chris are so cool and they are saying how great G.W. Bush is, it must be true, no? Teenagers are just forming their ideas on politics and the world, they are looking for guidance from people they feel comfortable with, from adults that speak on the teen's level, who better than two morning radio D.J's who speak the language, don't condense and like to have fun ("let's send our sidekick to do something stupid like dressing up as a chicken, hee hee"). To me, it's a very subtle way of insinuating conservative political views. Good job Clear Channel.

Honestly if I didn't know Clear Channel's agenda I'd wonder why Mark and Chris spend so much time talking politics, it's anathemum (sp) to a radio station whose target audience watchs, "The O.C." and "Jackass." For now all I can do is change the channel but it is a bit scary, it all just reeks of Orwell's 1984, no? What next...Big Brother taking over the movies?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Missing Monday

I was traveling back from Berlin last Monday, so this is my Missing Monday Monday.

Missing: Jan 27, 2006
Age Now: 14
Height: 5'6" (168 cm)
Weight: 164 lbs (74 kg)
Race: White/Hisp
Missing From: WOODBRIDGE, VA (that is my neigborhood!)

Kimberly was last seen on Janurary 27, 2006. She may still be in the local area. Kimberly has a tattoo on her forearm, shoulder and back. She is endangered runaway.

I worry about kids like this - maybe she ran away because she was mad at her parents, wanted to be with a boy or did she run away because she was being abused at home? Either way, I don't think getting on the streets is a good idea, there must be a better solution. In'shAllah she will make the right decisions and stay safe.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Berlin Dashing

Here is my travelogue on my recent jaunt to Berlin - I'm going on a day trip to NYC tomorrow, here's hoping this great weather holds out.

What to say about Berlin.... in a nutshell, it was a lot of fun! Three days is not enough time at all for this VERY fascinating city. There is so much history in every nook and cranny, you could spend a lifetime exploring.

Reached Frankfurt Friday to find much of Germany suffering from a major snowstorm, all domestic flights canceled. Joy. The group (my sister and two co-workers) decided to use the train to get to Berlin. It would probably have been a very nice train ride too if we hadn't been completely exhausted and slept through the entire trip.

Arrived in Berlin, my first thought, 'goodness it is so cold! What a change from two weeks ago in South Africa!' Got oriented quickly and than hit the town. For the three days we were there we simply sampled the city - each person had their own personal agenda but we tried to do something for everyone. We visited the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Space Needle in Alexanderplatz, Postdamer Platz, Holocaust Memorial, Two museums, the King Wilhelm Memorial Church and Checkpoint Charlie (where all non-Germans crossed from West to East Berlin).

But the most moving location to me was BabelPlatz in the middle of Humboldt University in the former East Berlin section of town. It was in this quiet, unassuming square that the Nazi's held their book-burning rally in 1933. A plain blank glass panel has been placed in the middle of the square, a square ringed by a library and a church, to mark the scene. For someone who loves to read, (me) book-burning is sacrilegious. What could one be afraid of in a book that you had to destroy it in such a vicious manner? To think that less than 100 years ago, a civilized society was taken over by fear and hatred, to the extent that they removed all logic and began burning books. Sounds familiar, no? (Some of the parallels of Nazi Germany and present day America are eerie). Actually that whole street which BabelPlatz is off of was full of Nazi history - it was so surreal to be standing and walking in places that held so much violence in the not so distant past (including Hitler's bunker). Lots of the buildings that are still around from W.W.II reflect the fires and bullet wounds they sustained during the war. Couple that with the communist era and its amazing that the people of Berlin are so upbeat.

Speaking of which, the people of Berlin were very nice. This is a great city to go to for lots of American lovin'. I suppose it comes from the whole communist period and America supporting Berlin with the airlifts and through to the collapse of the wall (which by the way is no longer standing anywhere except in museums). Lots of praise for Americans all over Berlin (they have a square named after JFK!). It was a bit weird when the rest of the world pretty much can't stand America right now (to put it mildly).

Last day there, walked into a grassy square where they were hanging up Nazi swastikas - uhh to say that was a little frightening is an understatement. We concluded it must have been for a movie since they were draping black cloth over the swastikas as soon as they got them up. Closed the night up by hanging out in typical Berlin fashion - in a coffee shop.

The cherry on top of the whole trip, for me, was arriving back in Washington DC, I got to talking to the INS guy and as he stamped my passport he said, "welcome home, your beautiful." How kind was that?! A pleasant way to end a lovely jaunt to a fascinating city.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Five Weird Things Meme

Brenda has tagged me and since I haven't completed my travelogue on Berlin yet, I thought I'd use today's post to play this game. I have done this before but I can't even remember what I put, so forgive me if something gets repeated.

Five Weird Things About Me:
1. I will not walk into an unlit bathroom- it scares me (from that whole Bloody Mary urban legend).

2. I have my childhood Carebears and various stuffed toys sitting on a bench at the foot of my bed.

3. I suffer from anemia and love to chomp on ice.

4. I'm going through a period of mourning knowing my crush doesn't like me that way.

5. I like to scratch my head when studying.

Right, now I'm to tag five people, so I choose.....Tony, Merci, Molly Malone, Joe and Random Kath.

Berlin travelogue tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I'm Back!

I'm back from Berlin, actually have been back since Monday afternoon, but have been swamped with work, my freelance writing gig, getting graduate school applications out, job applications out and studying for this stupid GMAT (I'm so going to do poorly it's not even funny).

Berlin was lovely, hopefully I'll get my log out soon and be able to post on here.

Now I have to spend the day bopping around to everyone's blogs and see what I missed (hopefully nothing too big)!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

South African Log

(a picture of a Washington DC celebrity)

Here is a little from my travel log from South Africa -

This trip was in the making from last year, two perfect storms eliciting my desire to visit the continent of Africa: 1) a friend from South Africa talking up his country (my crush) and 2) realizing my job with non-descript airlines was soon coming to an end and a need to use my travel benefits.

Flight over was long - reminded me of going to India sans the whining crying kids (why is it always Indian children who cry the loudest on flights?). The plane was relatively empty and crew was nice, so journey wasn't too bad. Reach Johannesburg and immediately find my cell phone doesn't work (despite me having gone to Cingular store in the mall just the night before - gotta love those boys who work at the cell phone stores - all geniuses!). PS - immigration in Johannesburg is so much like India, I had to laugh, super slow and bureaucratic

Mom and I ended up staying in South Africa for only five days - two in Johannesburg and two in Cape Town - with one day for travel. We didn't do a huge amount of touristy things - we did see Cape Point, the Penguins at Barrier Beach, an Ostrich farm, the botanical garden and the beaches in Cape Town. My favorite spot was Chapman's Peak (or was it point?). Just beautiful, blue-gray water, steep cliffs and this breathtaking views. We mostly shopped in Johannesburg, the famous desi hangout, Oriental Plaza. No we didn't do a safari (mom is NOT an animal person).

My mom adored Cape Town but I preferred Jo'burg, I think I'm just a city girl at heart (hence my favorite place is London!) - I liked the buzz and excitement of the town. Cape Town is very nice but just a bit slower. It wouldn't be that hard to adjust because South Africa surprisingly, has a lot of American influence (I was really thinking I'd see more British emphasis in the culture). They watch our shows, movies, our stores fill up their malls, some of our cars pepper the street. But, sadly no Starbucks yet (LOL).

Everyone has been asking me, "so what did you think?" .....I liked it! South Africa is a unique place unto itself, I think the closest description is India meets Florida meets Australia. The one thing that stuck out in my mind is that every single person I encountered was beyond nice! This has to be the friendliest place I've ever been too outside of America!

The other big thing that stuck in my head is security. Before we had even gotten off the plane, my mother and I had been warned repeatedly about how you could be mugged, robbed or, because we were two women alone, worse. Everybody, the drivers, the guest house owners, shop associates, friends warned us to be extra careful. You would think there was someone lurking around every corner just waiting to pounce on your purse (they would have gotten only a few dollars, which btw don't go very far in South Africa - it is not a cheap country!). But looking at all the gated communities and the complex security systems in every house, one can see there is a point to these people's warnings. Thankfully, we had no problems.

"What is it like, some years after apartheid?" some of you asked. I have to be honest, I didn't study the country's history as well as other friends who have visited. But from what I saw and from what my SA friends said, it seems life is moving forward. If there are tensions, it doesn't smack you in the face. There are a number of problems, yet that is to be expected after years of oppressing people, no? I'd say South Africa is definitely a place you should go to...just make sure you know how to drive on the opposite side of the road, because you can't get around without driving!

As for me, Auf Wiedersehen, I'm off to Berlin today, see you all next week!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

View from the 23rd Row

This is going to be a short one.

Merci asked me in one of my posts about the forms one has to fill out when traveling internationally. I have become a pro at doing these things, so here is some of my advice:

1. ALWAYS carry a pen with you in your purse or pocket, so when the flight attendant passes out the form you can fill out the form straightway. Nothing is more annoying than wasting time at a counter in the immigration control area filling it out and going to the back of the line. If you have gotten off a plane seated to 300, that is A LOT of people in front of you!
1b. Have your passport nearby - every form I've ever seen asks you for a passport number.

2. US citizens, when re-entering the US, only have to fill out a customs form. Really the customs agency is looking for people who have spent a ton of money, over $1,000 and that too on very specific things (jewelry, antiques, fur, luxury items). People who are doing business are the main target. If you went to London and just bought a few trinkets, round to the nearest dollar and be done with it. They don't need you to list every t-shirt and key chain you have brought in.

3. As best as you can, get the address of where you are staying. Last time I went to London I got harrassed by the immigration person because I didn't have the street number of my friend's home.

4. Make sure your passport is not going to expire soon and that it has enough pages to stamp in. Too close to your passport expy date and some countries won't let you in - not enough pages and some immigration officials will harrague you (as happened to me in Australia).

5. Check the state department website before leaving to ensure that where you are going doesn't require a visa. Some country's that you think you wouldn't need one as an American citizen, do, like Australia.