Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh, Give me a Home...

Oh, Give me a home, where the buffalo roam...

And I thought I had a problem with deer!  HAH!

The rule in the park is to keep at least 75 feet away from the animals.  Someone should have told this guy.


The shadow on the road is from out van going by.  We saw lots of bull bison and also went to the Hayden Valley to see the female herd.  August is mating month in Yellowstone. 


Today at Costco I found Bison Burgers.  We had them for lunch in Glacier.  They didn't taste much different than hamburger.

A Foggy Day

I was really looking forward to seeing the glaciers in Glacier National Park.  I had read all about how they were rapidly disappearing.  Many authors blame it on global warming.  Several people we talked to in the area, especially one 87-year old who had been climbing the glaciers over 50 years ago, pointed out that just like in the ice age of 10,000 years ago and the mini-ice age 5,000 years ago, the glaciers will all eventually disappear no matter what we do.  It makes sense when you think that West Bloomfield was formed from the glaciers and we exist in what on called a 'glacial moraine'.

So, camera ready, we took off on the 'jammer' bus to see the glaciers. HAH! Below are my photos from that morning.

6:42 AM (MDT)

8:53 AM


10:18AM

11:32 AM

My favorite:

12:04 PM

We can't even see past the road.

The next morning the fog and clouds lifted to provide good views from the porch of our lodge in the Many Glacier Valley.  Just in time to go home.


 5:43 AM

6:18 AM

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not all Publicity Makes You Look Good

I am not a big fan of talk shows, whether they are on the radio or TV.  I also am not a big fan of news shows.  I only need to hear something once, not repeated all day long.

When my kids were home, they often watched Bill Maher or Jon Stewart on Comedy Central.  If not for my sons, I would never have known who these performers were.  I would hear them on TV and became familiar with their brand of humor.

So, when I came home from work in 2001 and saw a New York City phone number on my caller ID and then discovered it was from 'The Daily Show', I was prepared for anything.

For background:  During Christmas week in 2000 I went into my office at work to find that the temperature was 56 degrees.  Because I routinely heated my office with a space heater, I turned it on and also left my coat on to keep warm.  (There were many space heaters used in the building, four in our offices alone.)  After about 30 minutes I noticed a strange smell in the room.  I looked down and saw that the fur on my coat had started smoking.  The pants on my pant-suit were scorched.  I ripped off the coat and doused the pants with water.  Needless to say, I was furious!!!

I had long complained about the lack of heat in the building, but had been told to wait and eventually I would complain that it was too hot.  (I am still waiting as I have NEVER had a hot flash.)  Not a good solution as far as I was concerned.

After the coat was repaired, I submitted my $1500 bill to the township.  The Supervisor told the papers I had no business wearing a fur coat to work.  If that was in the dress code, I missed it.  The bill was not paid on a 3-3 split vote.

The story was carried all across the country.  I heard from people I knew in other states.  So, it should have been no surprise that someone from The Daily Show would see it.

When I returned their phone call, the representative indicated that Jon Stewart wanted me to come on the show and discuss the incident.  Having seen the show, I could just imagine that I would be made to look like a fool.  I politely declined.

Now comes the Mayor of Warren and the 'Polka Piracy' incident on the Colbert Report.  He is made to look like a complete doofus and the City fares no better.  Did he expect anything different?  I know that there are politicians who think getting their name out there can't hurt, but this episode sure can't help.  Click on the link and go to the second section of show to see the report.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This Gets Stranger and Stranger

From the Detroit News:  Kwame Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita, and his father, Bernard N. Kilpatrick, filed motions Sunday asking a federal judge to quash their depositions in the Tamara Greene case.  Carlita Kilpatrick said being questioned could adversely affect a federal criminal case against her husband. Bernard Kilpatrick argues it would be unduly burdensome for him to sit for a deposition.

Just when I think I have read and heard everything about this case, something else gets printed in the paper.  I do not know if you have ever been deposed, but I have and believe me, if you have nothing to hide, it is no big deal. 

So, what is Carlita trying to hide that 'adversely affects her husband'?  And if his father can't 'sit' through a deposition, let him stand. 

What I want to know is this:  Is there a business out there for creating excuses for people?  Between the Kilpatrick, Conyers, Riddle, etc. cases, this seems to be a growing industry.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Very Uncommon Journey

The tour as described in the brochure:

The ultimate in scenery, comfort and adventure to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National parks with fine hotels, complete sightseeing, fine dining and two great train rides, aboard the California Zephyr and the Empire Builder.

• Train travel from Chicago and the Midwest ... to Utah aboard the famed California Zephyr... From Chicago, guests enjoy the stunningly beautiful daylight passage through the Colorado Rockies...
 • Fully hosted from start to finish by professional tour manager that handles all the details.

The truth: When I informed the tour 'manager' that we had been given a room with one bed instead of two, he told us that we need to deal with the hotel ourselves. I told him I thought that was his job. He said if it happened again, that we should deal with the hotel. We again informed him we thought he should make sure it didn't happen again. Guess what? It happened in Jackson and we had to have the hotel owner correct it.

• Overnight luxury hotel stay in Provo, Utah at the Four Diamond-rated Provo Marriott with full breakfast.
 • Most meals including breakfast daily.

The truth: Other than when we were on the train, where meals were part of the roomette price, we only had two dinners provided in addition to breakfast. Furthermore, the breakfast at the inn at West Yellowstone was strictly continental with a hard-boiled egg thrown in. And the dinner in Jackson, Wyoming was without a doubt the worst food I have ever experienced. After a few bites, I threw it all out except for a spice cake that surprisingly was good.

• Complete sightseeing throughout including all admission fees and special treats such as the scenic float trip on the Snake River at Jackson Hole and the red open-air 'jammer buses' at Glacier National Park.

• Two-day visit to Jackson Hole/Grand Teton with raft trip on the Snake River and complete touring of Grand Teton National Park.

The truth: We arrived late in the afternoon, with only enough time to get ready for dinner that night.  If there was 'touring' of the Tetons the next day, I missed it. Yes, we drove by the mountains and visited Jenny Lake, but that is not 'complete touring'. Furthermore, the promotion on the bus for shopping at 'Coldwater Creek' was inappropriate in my opinion. I did not go to Jackson Hole to shop.

• Two-night stay in Yellowstone National Park at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel along with complete sightseeing including Old Faithful and Lake Yellowstone cruise.

The truth: Well, as part of the 'Exiled Eight' who were removed from the tour bus for an 'upgrade', we did not stay in Yellowstone, but rather in a small motel in West Yellowstone. How does a tour company remove an ill 84-year old man from a tour bus? The tour manager asked us to give up our front seats on the bus, so he could have the elderly couple up front. Then he sends him off? In addition, I did not appreciate being told that we were chosen because we booked early, when in fact other couples booked before us, and the real reason for sending us off on our own was because the company over-booked. Others on the tour resented our 'special treatment'. We were constantly telling the other 43 passengers that we were not 'upgraded' nor were we 'special'.

Because we stayed in West Yellowstone, we never saw the Mammoth Hot Springs, one of the reasons I booked the trip. And cruise? What cruise? Yes, when the itinerary arrived, there was no mention of the cruise, so why is it still in the brochure?

The only good thing was the tour of the southern park in Yellowstone with a very knowledgeable guide from Xanterra and being in a group of just six tourists (the elderly couple remained in the motel).


The Exiled Eight minus one

• Two night stay in spectacular Glacier National Park, Montana with complete sightseeing including the famed red 'Jammer' buses over the extraordinary Going to the Sun Highway.

The truth: We left our hotel at 8:00 AM in West Yellowstone arriving at Mammoth Hot Springs with just enough time to transfer luggage and go to the restroom. Our lunch stop was 15 minutes at a Quiznos for 53 people. We arrived at East Glacier around 7:45 PM where we were allowed to go to dinner while the bus unloaded the other passengers at their hotel. We got back on the bus at 8:54 PM for our trip to Many Glacier Hotel.

Our driver was told that the trip was 35-minutes and his directions were to drive past the third stop-light and turn left at the tepee. We were in the dark in a raging thunderstorm with 37 mph winds and with someone who was not feeling well. The lack of signage when we reached a T-intersection resulted in a turn in the wrong direction. None of us, including a very tired driver, had any idea of exactly where we were. Once turned around and back in the right direction after a stop at a gas station, we had to strain our eyes to finally see a sign for the Many Glacier Valley, still not sure we were on the right road. We arrived at the hotel at 11:20 PM.  We had been travelling for 15 hours.

If we were not upset enough at this point, more was to come. In the morning we were told by the hotel manager that a 'Jammer' bus would take us to St. Mary's where we would meet the other tour members. We were to see part of the 'highway' trip, stop for lunch at Lake McDonald, cruise and then go on the 'Jammer' to Glacier Hotel. At that time, around 6 PM, we would transfer to another 'Jammer' to finish the 'Highway' tour, and then return to our hotel.

Around 6:30, when no one was there to transport us, I approached our 'manager'.  I asked where our 'Jammer' was to finish the drive back to St. Mary's area and then to our hotel. He asked me who said we were going back at that time and I explained that we were told that in the morning. He said no one should have told us that and that we were to have dinner at 7:30 and then go back to our hotel - at least an hour away!

By this time we were all ready to kill. Finally, a 'Jammer' driver said he would take us back. By this time, there were only four of us. The older couple had stayed at the hotel all day since the gentleman was still ill. Another couple had gone off to pick up their rental car. We got in the 'Jammer' and the driver asked us if we had a pass to get back in the park. Well, of course we didn't. The bus driver had that so we went looking for him.

Our driver said he had it and would take us back. We told him to go eat his dinner and then we decided to go into the hotel and get dinner also. What we found interesting is that everyone but us had pre-ordered dinner and we had no dinner vouchers. It seemed obvious that there was no intent to ever include us in the dinner, but we told the waiter to bill Uncommon Journeys and we sat down. We invited our bus driver to sit with us, we ate our dinner and we went back to our hotel.

The drive back to Many Glacier took one hour and ten minutes, in daylight and knowing where we were going. No way was this a 35-minute drive.

• Train travel from Glacier National Park to Chicago ... aboard the 'Empire Builder' train, an overnight ride ...

The rest of the saga: We left our hotel at 7:15 AM to head down to East Glacier and the train station. Our bus driver left us at the station with our luggage. We figured we would wait there for our tour 'manager' to show up with our tickets. Unfortunately, the station was closed and I needed to use the rest room so I was going to walk up to the hotel. While debating what to do with my luggage, a man on the platform, 'Don', said to just leave it next to the wall. One of the other 'exiled eight' saw his shirt that said 'Uncommon Journeys' and said that she would under no circumstances have anything to do with his company. He retorted that he could not believe that a Southern woman would speak like that. He said that he had heard about our little group. As we walked away we heard him say, 'Wait till they find out we are in a private train car and they are not'. It sounded like something a ten-year-old would say on the playground.

I reached the hotel but the tour 'manager' was off at an annex building, so I went down there on the bus along with the elderly couple to find him. I asked for our tickets and was told to wait while he loaded the luggage on the bus. Finally, tickets in hand, I was ready to head home.

This was without a doubt the worst travel experience I have ever had and that includes experiencing Hurricane Lenny aboard a cruise ship and Hurricane Ophelia in Nova Scotia. If they had just said at the beginning of the trip that they had overbooked and were willing to offer cash compensation, I am sure some folks would have opted out of the large group. But to just randomly grab eight passengers and act like they were doing us a big favor, 'upgrade' as they called it, was downright fraud in my opinion. 

A Tale of Two Trains

My very first real train trip, that I can remember, was as a Brownie and we went to Lansing to see the State Capitol.  (I, of course, am not counting the train at the Detroit Zoo as a real train.)  All I really remember is a bunch of us at a big train station and having fun.  I believe this was on the old Grand Trunk Western line, but I do not remember where we boarded the train, though it would make sense that we boarded in East Detroit.

Over the years I have ridden trains all over Europe, into Canada, and Amtrak to Chicago and Milwaukee.  I have just returned from another trip out west, this time on the train.  Two trains to be exact.  I took the California Zephyr on the way out

and the Empire Builder on the way back. 


It was an adventure, to say the least.

I flew to Chicago Midway to start my trip and then took the Orange Line train to Union Station.  Oh to be able to do something like that in the Detroit area, i.e. have decent public transportation.  We had a quick lunch in the station and headed to the train.

We had arranged to travel in a 'roomette' on both trains.  Think of 'roomette' like 'closette', i.e. 'mini-closet'.  Unfortunately, a sleeper car was not available, as these tend to fill up very fast.  So, not wanting to sleep sitting up, we booked what was available.  (The pictures on the website make the accommodations look more spacious than they really are.)

Both of these routes use the Superliner trains, but the trains on the Empire Builder have been refurbished.  So, let's compare the two routes.

The views on the California Zephyr far surpass those of the Empire Builder.  We took the Zephyr out to Provo, Utah, but I imagine the sights after that are just as impressive as it makes its way to Emeryville, CA.  Of course, the views I am referring to are of the mountains and canyons.  We could have done without the rafters 'mooning' us as we went along the Colorado and Green Rivers.  Apparently, this is quite the custom on the weekends.

Sometime in the middle of the night, in the middle of Nebraska, the train sat idle for an hour while a thunderstorm raged through the area and there were tornado warnings ahead.  In the morning someone asked what you do if a tornado is sited and I said you hope you don't get blown off the track.  While I was awake during this, I found many people who said they did not sleep, but never heard a thing or realized we had stopped.  Hmmmm.  Maybe they were sleeping?

At Helper, Utah, we pulled into a Union Pacific siding to get help with the engine.  It seemed that without service we would not make it over Soldier Summit at 7,000 ft.  If they couldn't fix the engine, we were told that a Union Pacific engine would be used to get us over.  Though the engine was repaired, we were delayed and were not able to see the actual climb in daylight over the switchbacks.  It also meant a very late arrival in Provo.

At the other end of the trip, the Empire Builder picked us up in East Glacier, Montana.  This train originates in both Portland, OR and Seattle, WA, meeting up in Spokane, WA before heading to Chicago.  The sleeper cars on this train have been refurbished,  not that we noticed anything other than painted walls and a better 'mini-closet' in the roomette.  The bathroom and shower facilities were greatly improved though.

On the Zephyr, the sign in the shower suggested that you might be more comfortable sitting down while taking a shower.  I stood there trying to figure out what they meant.  There was no stool, no bench, and no built-in seat.  Did they mean you should sit on the floor?  Who knows.  On the Empire Builder, the showers were new with a built-in seat.  So maybe they could only afford new signs for the Zephyr?

As for the scenery on this route, I might ask 'What scenery'?  Think lots of green, some rolling hills, and Canada in the north.  And Montana may be only the fourth largest state in the Union, but riding all the way across on the train, all one knows is that it is really BIG.

As for train food, overall, it was not bad.  I found the servers on the Empire Builder to be more pleasant than the Zephyr and the food arrived very promptly.  You could still remember what you ordered.

To be sure, train travel is not for the 'princesses' of the world.  Think of it as 'camping on wheels'.  Always moving wheels.  You will be jostled while sitting, sleeping and walking.  Hey, we are moving here.  But train travel allows you to view the scenery without trying to drive or reading a map while doing so.  You also avoid the 'lookie-loo' drivers who are busy watching the view instead of the road.  These people scare the dickens out of me.  And out of professional tour bus drivers too, as I have learned.

As for a route preference, the views on the Zephyr cannot be beat, but the Empire Builder actually arrived on time.  At least on this Sunday return.  And as for train travel, I am already looking at routes for my next adventure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fitting an Elephant in a Smart Car

Most men will probably not be able to relate to this blog today, so perhaps you should Google what LeBron is doing.  Today I am ranting about the 'quart size zip-top bag'.

When I went to Chicago in May, I drove.  Yay for the full-size sedan trunk.  You could fit two bodies in there, maybe even a baby elephant.

Last month, when I flew to Las Vegas, I checked my bags, even though I only had a carry-on.  'Why?' you ask?  Because of the quart size zip-top bag (QSZTB), that's why.

What do men have to squeeze in there?  Shaving cream?  Toothpaste?  But women have way all sorts of stuff to cram in.  For example, I have hand cream, moisturizer for my face, moisturizer for my body, toothpaste, sunblock, liquid make-up, hair gel, hair mousse, skin toner, and antibiotic ointment.  I have more stuff, but it won't fit, therefore making bag-check necessary.

Once I got pulled out of the security line with a tube of mascara in my purse.  Truth.  Since then they have eased the rules and allow lipsticks and compacts to be in your purse.  I can go away for 10 days with a carry-on only, but then have to deal with the QSZTB. 

I firmly believe that it is all a trap to get money from us.  Keep the items to under 3 ounces and make you squeeze them in a small bag, or pay to check your luggage (even though I get free baggage on Delta) and avoid the QSZTB.  Or carry on the bag and see what freebies you can get from the hotel before you go shopping in your destination city.  (not recommended, since I actually forgot to place the bag in my suitcase one time).

So, what is LeBron doing today?  Bet he's not squeezing his stuff into a QSZTB.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Medical Marijuana Debate

OK.  Let's start by saying I have no opinion on this issue, true for this blogging purpose.  Rather, I have a little story to tell.

Last Saturday I had a get-together for family and friends.  Topics of discussion were all over the place as is likely to happen with a large group of folks.  Some of my neighbors were there and we were discussing the furniture sitting in the driveway of what is certainly the largest home in our subdivision.  We had not seen anyone at the home for several months.

We began by talking about one of the former residents of the home.  The doctor who lived there had lost his medical license for writing prescriptions for controlled substances and then selling them, or so we read in the papers.  That led to a neighbor telling her story of the family. 

Seems she, her husband, and daughter were sitting in their home when they heard the water running outside.  Looking at each other, they wondered who was using the water.  When they looked out the back window, they saw the son from the aforementioned house and his friends emerging from the wooded area behind their home.  The water soon shut off and then the daughter proceeded to walk into the back and investigate.

There she found an aquarium with a healthy crop of marijuana.  The West Bloomfield Police were called and the officer came out and removed the plants and left his business card in its place, informing the owners of the plants to 'give him a call'. 

We were laughing about this incident from probably 15 years ago.  My son said if the father and kids had just waited they could now have set up their own shop for growing and selling their crop legally. 

My how times have changed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Generational Differences

There are differences in work style, motivation, technological skills, and personal values among the various generations in the workplace. We must be aware that it's essential to adapt our methods in order to best reach this talented upcoming generation of public servants and finance officials and to continue to get the best from more experienced public servants.

The above quote is from an email I just received from the Government Finance Officers Association.  They have prepared a report on the topic of 'Generational Change' which is available on their website for free at http://www.gfoa.org/.

Let me start by saying that I have not read the report.  But, I did have lots of thoughts about generational differences when I read the email.  Some background:

Last week my oldest son came for a visit.  Now that we no longer have the, "Mom, when are you going to retire?" discussion, we are able to move on to the "Mom, when are you going to move out of Michigan?" discussion.  This usually starts a whole round of questioning about my retirement and what my plans are.  And eventually leads into why am I not travelling more, buying a new television (this is popular with all my sons), still have a landline phone, don't have an iPad, etc.  All of these questions certainly show the difference in generational thinking.  I wonder if any of my sons could use a slide rule?

I grew up in the 50's.  While I don't remember the post-Korean War Recession on 1953, I do remember the one in 1957.  My father was a tile setter and 'no construction' meant 'no work.'  In those days, accepting government welfare meant picking up boxes of food containing dried eggs, powdered milk and stew in a can, suitable for feeding the family pet.  Those experiences had a lot to do with shaping my ideas for my future.

I also remember a world of air-raid drills in school and envying my friend whose family had a real air-raid shelter in their front yard.  Remember sitting in the halls with your head between your knees?  We all knew that some crazed political leader could end life as we knew it with a push of a button.  I remember going camping with the Girl Scouts in the Utica area and being told there was a Nike Missile site nearby.  I wasn't sure if I felt safer or not.  And then there was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War.

When I graduated from high school and then college, I, like many of my friends, thought that I would remain in the same career until retirement.  (Some did, I didn't.)  And finally finding myself in a good-paying job, our President enforced a wage-freeze.

My sons all grew up in the 80's and 90's.  Not exactly the environment their mother grew up in.  They lived in the suburbs and had a pretty comfortable life compared to me.  Their opportunites were endless.  No welfare, no air-raids, and no war until the Gulf Crisis.

The differences in thinking are apparent when we have conversations about my life choices and how I spend my money.  My parents grew up in the Great Depression.  That certainly contributed to my fiscal conservancy along with my own experiences.  So, it is no wonder that today's young workers, those 30-somethings, have very different ideas about their working and leisure lives than we did. 

Their 'work style' includes tele-commuting, something we never heard of in the 60's and 70's.  Their motivation to do a good job includes their own personal satisfaction in doing so, something I strongly encourage.  While they may not be able to use a slide rule, their technological skills far surpassed mine back to when they were in high school.  And their personal values?  They seem just about right to me.  They seem to have a much better hold on balancing work and leisure than I did at their age.  And that ain't all bad.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

YIELD - NOT a Suggestion

It's time for me to complain about the roundabouts again.  Today, in the pouring rain, I drove through the roundabout at Maple and Drake.  The rain was so heavy at times you could hardly see in front of your windshield.  I even saw cars pulled off the road.  It was probably a smart idea.

As I was returning home I thought about driving three miles out of my way in order to avoid going through the aforementioned intersection.  Alas, I just wanted to get home.  Traffic was moving slowly.  As usual, everyone seemed to head for the left lane in the roundabout.  So, I got in the lane and waited my turn and pulled into the intersection.  As I am going around, a car pulls into the roundabout right in front of me.  He looked right in my direction and just kept moving.  What part of 'Yield' do these drivers not understand?  Do they think it means that someone will 'yield' to them?

Several years ago a local radio station had someone from the State Police on the air at the start of a long holiday weekend.  He was giving safe driving tips.  He told drivers that when merging onto a freeway they are required to yield to oncoming traffic and merge when they are able to do so safely.  He reminded them that it is not the freeway driver who is required to yield to them.  Boy, I bet that idea surprised a lot of drivers.

The fact that a car in the roundabout has the right of way seems to mean little to drivers who have no intention of yielding to anyone.  It's more like 'Damn the torpedoes.  Full steam ahead.'  Oh, and BTW, the speed limit is only 20 mph in the roundabout.  And yes, it is posted.  You just have to read the signs.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

And this is Important, WHY?

My absentee ballot is still sitting on the kitchen counter top where I first opened it.  I am pretty sure I will not be voting for all the offices on the ballot.  I just don't like many of these people.

What is really getting irritating is the campaign material and phone calls I am receiving.  I live in a state where the economy is so f, well, let's just say it is BAD.  And what do the materials and phone callers tell me?

Our candidate has been endorsed by 'Right to Life'.  Our candidate is pro-life.

And this is going to help the economy how?  My older son was here last week when one of the calls came.  While I was yelling at the caller (on the answering machine since I do not pick up robocalls or anything faintly resembling them), he informed me that RTL is the issue people vote on.  WELL, no wonder we are in such a mess.  What does that have to do with running government????

Well, nothing actually, but then we have the candidates with no clue, no experience, and no ideas.  And then we elect them.  Hey, they are 'right-to-life'.  And I have a right to my opinion.  And a right not to vote for them.  Maybe I'll just ink in my name on the ballot.  For everything.

This Violates the Law How?

When I returned from Arizona recently, someone asked me 'How was it?'  I said it was 'Great', but they persisted with 'But really, how was it?'  Huh?  "I mean with the illegals.  Did you see a lot of them?" 
Well, not being able to spot one that easily and not wanting to further the discussion, I just said 'No'. 

Not a day goes by without news of the Arizona law that will soon take effect regarding illegal aliens, a law that sets out to enforce what our Federal Government is supposed to be doing.  This is the same Federal Government that decided to force citizens to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not.  But making sure that people are in this country legally?  Not so important.  So, I've been thinking about my own experiences with 'proof of citizenship'.

My mother's family came here from Cordenons, Italy, after the First World War.  She had two older sisters who were born in Italy.  My mother was born in International Falls,  MN.  One of her sisters became an American citizen and resided in Detroit.  The other moved to Windsor and lived with her family in 'Little Italy'.

We would visit my Canadian cousins several times a year.  Every time we crossed the border we were all asked for our place of birth.  My father, sister and I would all say 'Detroit'.  My mother would say 'International Falls, MN' and would promptly be asked to show her identification.  Out came the birth certificate, the original no less, and after examination by customs, we went on our way.  I never understood why she just didn't say 'Detroit'.  It's not like they had her picture up in the custom's office with 'Minnesota' written on it.  And that still made her a US citizen anyway.  But she never, ever questioned being asked.  By the time she died, that certificate was pretty well-worn.

Folks who complain about being asked for ID and proof of citizenship should try traveling overseas.  I was really surprised when I was required to get a visa to visit Australia.  A visa, really?  Luckily I qualified for an electronic version.  I have been looking at visiting Russia, but have been told to begin my visa application at least three months before the visit, no later.

A few years ago, I was on a train from Vienna to Budapest.  I was told that when we reached the Hungarian border, the Hungarian Police would board the train to check our documents.  I was told to offer my documents and not to try to make any small talk with the agents.  When they left our compartment, we all breathed a sigh of relief.  They were some scary, looking people and we were not even doing anything wrong.  

When I traveled through Europe in the sixties, every border crossing was an adventure - physically switching trains, or planes, converting currency at the border, no matter that it was the middle of the night, answering all sorts of questions about why we wanted to enter the country, etc.  Traveling was taken seriously, let alone immigration.

So, I have a hard time thinking that Arizona is doing something 'morally wrong'.  I am pretty sure if I overstay a visa in other foreign countries, yelling racial profiling will not win me amnesty.  Not all of my relatives gained access to the United States.  Many of them are still in Canada.  Maybe that is what you get for being a law-abiding citizen of wherever. But it is a system that works and has served many countries well, for a very long time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pet Peeves

My first job was for the JL Hudson Company in Downtown Detroit.  The greatest part of my time there was spent working in the Bridal Salon on the 7th floor where all the fashionable designer labels were sold, attached to clothes I could not afford.  Everyone who worked at Hudson's was required to wear company dictated dress clothes.  That meant men and women were in black, dark brown, or navy suits with white blouses or shirts.  No question who the employees were.  Later, when I got transferred to the Pharmacy, I wore a white lab coat.

When I went to work in the Hospital, at both Detroit General and Hutzel, I wore a white uniform with white shoes.  Every day.  No exceptions.

After my years at home raising my children, I re-entered the work force and bought lots of new suits.  I wore them every day.  Most of the staff people at Town Hall dressed more casually.  Rarely were clerical people seen in suits.  And then they introduced 'casual day'.  What the H---was that?  Aren't these employees already in casual clothes?

Well, obviously not.  Now we had blue jeans, flip-flops, shirts hanging out over our pants (or bermudas), etc.  I asked one of my employees if they came dressed to clean out the basement.  I hated these days.  Sometimes it was downright embarrassing to be there.

Now, as if 'casual days' were not enough, we have 'Bring your pet to work day'.  Imagine my chagrin when I was trying to talk to someone at the counter and dogs were barking up a storm.  I could hardly hear myself think, let alone carry on a conversation.

I thought I had seen it all until I called and was told recently that it was 'Bring your child to work day'.  As a stay-at-home mom for 11 years I can tell you right now that you cannot get a lot done during the day if you are watching your young child, unless you are parking them in front of a TV set. 

So, all of this makes me wonder just how busy and over-worked these employees are if they have time to entertain their dogs and children at work.  This is WORK, not doggie day-care.  And these are my tax dollars being paid to employees to WORK, not baby-sit. 

Nuf said.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Look Back and a New Perspective

I do not know how many times it has rained on the Fourth of July in Detroit, but it seems that it has been a fair amount.  I do remember a few really steamy 4ths, including 1977 when I was two days away from delivering my first son and we were in the midst of a heat wave.   Despite my indoor/outdoor weather station saying that we are going to get rain, there was none in sight yesterday, unless you count the humidity in the air.  I stayed inside most of the day.

My oldest is coming home this week for a visit and we will celebrate next weekend with family.  So, yesterday, I holed up in my home with the A/C running and watched an old movie.

I originally saw 'West Side Story' at the United Artists Theatre in downtown Detroit when it opened in 1961.  A girlfriend and I rode the bus downtown (I rode the Detroit buses exclusively for transportation right through 1969) and spent the afternoon listening to what would become very familiar tunes.  I loved the music so much I bought the LP (monaural).  I wore it out on an old portable player and have no idea where it ended up after several moves.

But I never, ever, watched the movie again.  It was long.  Two and one-half hours.  And when I first saw it, it was the music, specifically the singing (I had studied voice right through 1961), that I enjoyed.  The dancing and the symphonic music was not so appealing.  And the story was, to me at the time, JUST a re-hash of Romeo and Juliet.

This past season the DSO performed Leonard Bernstein's 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story'. I went early and listened to the background discussion of the events that brought the musical to the stage.  I was re-awakened to the pure symphonic charm of the music itself.

A few weeks later I saw a collector's edition DVD with the screenplay included and a documentary on the making of the movie.  I purchased it and left it in the video cabinet.

So, yesterday, in deciding how to spend my 'cloistered' afternoon, I opened the video and popped it in.  Amazing how 49 years can change one's perspective about something as simple as a movie.  Of course, the opening music struck me first.  And those aerial views of New York City were ingenious.  As a teen, I am sure I missed that completely.

But as an adult, not only did that catch my eye, but I was able to appreciate the choreography of the dances, which, being a non-dancer as a teen, just looked like a bunch of jumping around.  It was those long dance sequences that really got to me the first time.  My friend and I were like 'Enough already'.  And the angle of the shots - at street level looking up at the dancers - genius.

And, last but not least, the timeless story.  Even almost 50 years later, the hatred and bigotry displayed, and the consequences, could be taken out of today's headlines.  And that is the saddest part of all.

If you have not watched the movie in some time or have never seen it, give it a try.  (The movie differs from the original stage play which will be back in Detroit in the fall.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Can You spell M-O-R-O-N?

I have stated before that I moderate comments for this blog.  That usually means that I do not post them.  In actuality, I do not receive very many.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled: 'Like a Root Canal with no Anesthetic'.  I was blogging about a West Bloomfield Board meeting.

I received the following comment (I kid you not!):

'Dental health is very important always maintain your teeth to be safe from root canal treatment. There are many endodontics specialists who treats in professional method
Dental endodontics ohio '
 
Do people not actually READ the blog????  Based on the comment, it appears they do not use good grammar, either.

Zion

There are not words to describe the beauty of Zion.  I really was not prepared for what I saw.  Standing in a canyon looking up at the cliff walls is a truly incredible experience. 

We head first to the Temple of Sinawava and I see hanging gardens - columbine and grasses growing out of the rocks.

We continue our walk along the Virgin River up toward The Narrows.  People walk in the icy waters and watch it flow over the rocks.


There is a peacefulness and serenity here that makes one want to stay.  Right up until the temperature soars above 90, we are out in the sun, and the inside of an air-conditioned building starts to sound very tempting.  We shuttle back to the Lodge for lunch and pass some interesting land forms.  Because we are between the Grand Canyon and Bryce in the staircase, we see elements of both rock formations from the other parks.

 After lunch we are possessed again and head off to the Emerald Pools.  We all agree that someone lied on the signs and that it is only one mile round trip as the crow flies.  (On further reflection with time-dated photos, the signs are probably correct.  It is probably the fear of falling over the side that makes it seem longer.)

We trudge on only to find that the 'emerald' is more 'muddy brown' today.  Big disappointment as we now have to make our way back along a cliffside trail with no barriers.  Back at the river, we see what could be called 'emerald'. (squint)  Hey, why did we walk all that way???




I met a woman who came to America from Australia 40 years ago.  She bought a round-trip ticket and never used the return portion.  Why would you if you could see this out of your bedroom window each morning?

Better Late Than Never

I had a history teacher in High School who said that everyone hated the British.  That if you could choose a country to fight a war against, that everyone would choose Great Britian.  Of course, today that would be politically incorrect and no teacher would make that statement.  Nevertheless, having waited 38 years for a satisfactory inquiry into the Bloody Sunday Massacre, I am sure the Irish would agree.

 In 1998 Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed Lord Saville to investigate the massacre that occurred in 1972 after a soldier came forward in a whistle-blower action.  The report from the Saville inquiry was issued while I was on vacation.  I am not sure how much play it got in the US media as I was truly out of touch while I was gone.

For anyone interested in seeing a docu-drama that shows events of that day pretty much as the inquiry has determined they occurred, I recommend 'Bloody Sunday' which was filmed in 2002.  While the Queen decorated the soldiers who took part in the massacre of unarmed civilians, I will not hold my breath waiting for a statement indicating she was wrong to do so.