Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras, New Orleans 2006

There's a big part of me that wishes I was walking down Bourbon Street this Fat Tuesday. To those who have suffered, for those who showed up in New Orleans to support it, and to those who just showed up to get hammered...I raise my glass to you. God bless,baby. See you at Pat O'Brian's again someday soon.

Follow on Nola.com

Sunday, February 26, 2006

WTC- 13th Anniversary of 1993 Bombing

This is the 13th Anniversary of the 1993 bombing of One World Trade Center, the north tower.

The bombers drove a rented Ryder van into the parking lot in the basement, where it exploded. Six people died in the blast.

I worked in lower Manhattan during that time, near the South Street Seaport. I had lunch plans with someone in One WTC. I called him late morning to confirm, and he told me that he'd probably have to postpone, as he'd heard that " a boiler of something blew up in the basement ".

Before too long, we learned what really happened. It was a pretty unproductive afternoon. Subway service was suspended for a time, but we later were able to get home just fine.

I know a number of people who worked in One WTC, and it was not so good for them. Lots of them had to walk down 30 plus flights of stairs through the smoke. The lucky ones had paper towels or handkerchiefs to give some protection. Lots of them had black smoke stains around their mouths by the time they reached the ground floor.

One year later, my company moved into offices high up in Two World Trade Center.

Bode Miller, Flop

It's hard not to have a big dose of schadenfreude at the abominable Olympic performance of US skier Bode Miller.

Just before the Olympics, he did an interview with 60 Minutes, in which he admitted to skiing when drunk. That's not good.

During the Olympics, as in other US ski competitions, Bode does not room with his teammates. He's too cool for that. He travels and sleeps in a separate RV.

Throughout his career, he has refused any attempts at coaching him, preferring to coach himself

Well, all this is fine if you can back it up. But this so-called rebel went to Torino and came up with nothing. Five events and zero medals. His sloppy attitude may have infected his US teammates, who as a whole were a grave dissapointment.

Nike prepared a fancy website for Bode and probably paid big cash for the rights. What a fake. I'd say that he should be arrested for stealing the money, but Nike deserves it.

Maybe the great Bode can spend the money on a coach, who can teach him how to ski. There was one other natural sports talent who could not be coached, that being Mike Tyson. He fired coach Kevin Rooney because Iron Mike just knew it all. His career had its moments, but it would have been so much greater had he listened to someone he knew. Athletes have coaches for a reason.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

World Trade Center - 9/11 Denial

As a New Yorker, and as someone who worked in Two World Trade Center until the evening of September 10, I take a very personal interest in what happened in 2001.

One of the strangest phenomena we've seen since the attack has been the rise of a very small but utterly convinced group of people who think that the 9/11 attack was the work of the US Government, as a " controlled demolition". It wasn't the Arab hijackers who flew planes into the buildings that did it, it was Bush and Chaney that did it.

Some people really believe this stuff. I've seen them on the NYC subway, and I have seen them on Church Street in front of the WTC site, where I regard their presence as as desecration. Again, there are not many of these guys, but they do represent an interesting phenomenon.

This week's cover story of the left-wing Village Voice is about the "9/11 Truth Movement" . I was surprised when I read it, because the article is completely balanced and serious.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Was Y2K A Big Hype?

I think so, and thought so at the time. See Freakanomics, who holds the same view. I think Freakanomics is interesting, so add it to the blogroll. Also, Bookslut is being added. It's an interesting site. And I love the name.

This is pretty much a zero-sum game, so Feigning Interest has gotta go.

Changing My Communications Providers

I've been doing a slow burn over the past two years over the s-l-oooo-w service given me by my internet provider Verizon DSL. The service is supposed to give me up to to 3000 kbits per second. They've occasionally reached this speed, but more typically they've given me 1500 kbits / second...which is ok for most of my uses.

My problem is that they occasionally get much slower than this. This week is one of those times. This morning it gives me 250 kbits/second. That's no good. I've called Verizon technical support, and they have told me that the signal is a perfect 3000 kbits/second to my modem, and that the problem must be in my PC. I don't believe them. They said this to Seth a while back. Then he switched to internet service as provided by the local cable company Time Warner. For the past six months, he's been running at 5000 kbits / second, 100% of the time.

So, I'm cutting the cord. I just signed up for Time Warner Cable for my internet service.

But to maximize my discounts, I am also giving them my phone service, which will now be a " digital phone " as offered by the cable tv company.

I will also switch my tv provider from Directv to Time Warner. This is strictly an economic decision--Time Warner pays a $200 incentive for switching, and there is a bundling discount for having tv/internet/phone with TW. I'm not dissatisfied in any way with Directv, and I will be sad to leave them.

The plan I signed up for gives me a) a wide spectrum of digital channels, shown here
http://www.twcnyc.com/downloads/chlineupBQ.pdf , b) digital phone incl unlimited local and US long distance service, and c) 5000 kbits internet service. The price for this is $99.95 a month for the first year, going to $109.95 in year two. Thats a good deal.

I'm paying $19 a month extra for DVR service ( an recorder for the tv ) and for an additional tv set in the other apartment.

The service will be installed on March 10.

The channels will include Fox Soccer Channel, so I will be able to see what my European friends have been talking about.

Vacation Thoughts

When I was a kid, I never traveled anywhere, not even to Florida. Our family was too poor for that sort of thing. Going away on vacation was something that the " rich kids " did.

I traveled a lot when in the Navy, and have kept it up ever since.

Here's where I've been:

North / Central / South America

USA - lots of places, incl Hawaii
Canada - Montreal, Toronto, Quebec
Mexico - Acapulco
Panama - Gamboa, Panama City
Argentina - Buenos Aires
Uruguay - Colonia


Italy- Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Sicily
France - Menton, Paris
England - London
Scotland - Edinburgh
Ireland- Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Belfast, Derry
Netherlands- Amsterdam
Belgium- Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge
Spain - Madrid, Barcelona, Grenada
Switzerland - Zurich
Denmark- Copenhagen
Sweden- Stockholm
Norway - Oslo, Voss
Germany- Munich, Berlin, Hamburg
Greece- Athens
Austria - Innsbruck, Vienna
Poland- Warsaw, Crakow
Czech Republic - Prague
Hungary - Budapest


Tunisia- Sousse

Middle East

Israel / West Bank - Haifa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem
Saudi Arabia - Dharan ( Persian Gulf coast )
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

Asia / Australasia

Australia- Sydney, Melbourne
Indonesia - Bali
Japan- Tokyo, Kyoto
Hong Kong
Vietnam - Saigon, Dalat, Hoi An, Hanoi

I have an informal goal of traveling to one new country every year. So where should I go this year?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bad Samaritans?

You'd want to think that this story is a joke. But I'm afraid it isn't. A family vacationing in Hawaii lost an expensive digital camera. Another family, from Canada, found it, but doesn't want to give it back, saying that their child " really loves it and we can't bear to take it from him ".

See the blog reporting this, along with many comments. If this story is true, it won't be long before the Bad Samaritan's identity becomes known...and some local ostracism will resolve the issue. The Canadians that I've known would never put up with this bullshit.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hi from Bermuda

Have had a rapidfire set of meetings over the last day and a half, but now they are over and can concentrate on having a pub-grub dinner and cocktails at the Hog Penny with some of my buddies over here.

The weather is glorious here, but unfortunately was stuck indoors almost all the time.

Bermuda is a British possession, so they drive on the wrong side of the road. Roads are so narrow, that they don't permit tourists to rent cars. They avoid much carnage with this policy.

The tourist industry is not all that strong, because it's expensive here compared with Florida and other destinations. But its a nice place to visit. The people are friendly and easygoing.

The place gets a little less British every year,due to the large US influence. A lot of local politicians would like to break the tie altogether and become independent.I don't think its a good idea for an island of 50,000 population to pretend to be a " country " but its the Bermudians' call.

Back to NYC tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Off to Bermuda

Will be off to Bermuda tomorrow morning for a two day business trip. It sounds like fun, but its really just meetings, meetings, meetings. May make a short post or two when away.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bookslut leads me to Freakonomics Blog


We're always looking for interesting blogs, and discovered two of them this morning.

Bookslut deals with, with, well, books, and that helpful slut gave a reference to Freakonomics Blog", put out by the authors of the bestselling book.


The big snowstorm has hit. It was over a foot, and some of it was wet and heavy, giving me a good workout when I shoveled the front walk. Photos next door in the Bay Ridge Blog.

I did grocery shopping this week at a Pathmark in Staten Island. I wanted to buy Danish beer or cheese, but could not find either. So, I bought a tin of Danish sugar cookies here in the Rite Aid drug store, even though I have no intention of eating them. Will open them at work. BUY DANISH.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Here's my Podcast!

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Memories of John Lennon

I don't read enough books. Hardly any, actually. Why, when I love to read?

Work eats up immense amounts of the day. I read a lot of newspapers and magazines. And now this blog vice. So, I may try to be a bit more selective in my journalism reading, and have to be a little more militant on the time management on this blog thing.

A week ago, checked this book from this branch of the New York Public Library.

As the Amazon reviews will largely indicate, its not a great book, but it does have interesting little details about John Lennon.

The Killer

My favorite: In 1973 or 1974, Lennon attended a Jerry Lee Lewis concert in the Roxy Theater in Los Angeles. Mid-sets, Lennon was brought backstage to meet Lewis. John got down on his knees and started kissing Jerry Lee Lewis' boots saying " Thanks Killer for showing me how to rock and roll ". Lewis responded, in his Southern drawl, " Now, son, that ain't necessary at all. "

When Lennon left, Lewis's son said " Do you know who that was "? The Killer just laughed. " Yeah, Son, I know who that was."

NYC Polar Bears are Happy Tonight

It has been the mildest of winters until very recently here in New York. December was mild. January was like late February. But a couple of days ago, winter bit back. It will be 23 degrees F tonight, colder than most would like it. But its fine by me.

I must come from a long line of polar bears. I love fish, and I love the cold even more. I only wear a proper topcoat a couple of days a year. The rest of the winter, its a spring coat, if that. Its a running gag in the office.

Lucy from the office wears proper coats all winter long, but she has a vice. She swims with the Polar Bears. Not with the bears you see above, but with the Brooklyn Polar Bears. These lunatics go for a swim every week during the winter at Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Though I like the cold, I can't really imagine swimming in frigid winter waters. But maybe someday....

When the weather gets cold, my distant relatives, the true polar bears at the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zooare quite happy. They're happy tonight, I'll tell you. I raise my beer glass to them from here in Brr Ridge.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tangled Web Downgraded / New Links Added

( updated once )

There have been a number of conversations about A Tangled Web on Irish blogs recently. It is a two-man deal. The junior partner in this relationship, unworthy of being named, recently took it upon himself to mock the victims of the Bloody Sundaymassacre in Derry by dismissing them as " lawbreakers ". The other guy backed him up, which will be taken here as tacit agreement.

That's not the only disreputable thing that has appeared on ATW, and it has led to it being de-linked by United Irelander and by other good sites.

That's a good approach, but, after due reflection, I will keep the link with ATW. There are good pieces in it at times. But I will keep it locked up in a separate " Penalty Box ", all the way at the bottom of the blogroll. If ATW ever reforms itself, it will get out of the box and join the blogs of better repute that are shown above it.


Further updates
John Batchelor runs the best radio show for political / US News / World News junkies. The John Batchelor Show may be heard on mighty WABC, from 10pm-1pm East Coast Time Monday - Friday, and there is a link to an internet stream. They have an international network of correspondents, so when they're not talking about the US budget, they may be speaking to their man in Gaza, in Uzbekistan, or in Adelaide, Australia.

On tonight's show, Mr. Batchelor gives recommendations to Brussels Journal and to Opinion Journal.

UI recently linked to Sicilian Notes, which I just eyeballed for the first time. I looks like an intelligent place, and I loved the Google image they posted dealing with censorship on their Chinese search engine, so I will check them out. ( Image stolen below )

So, look right, and you'll see some new members of the Hall of Fame. And one new dungeon dweller.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I support Denmark

During WW2, Denmark's king and Denmark's people supported the most vulernable of its people, despite great pressure from the occupying Nazis.

Today, Denmark needs your support. One way is to offer the Danes moral and poltical support. Another is to counteract a boycott by the most reactionary and backward Islamic types. Beat the boycott and buy Danish beer, buy Danish cheese, buy Danish butter, and buy other things from that peaceful and tolerant Scandinavian nation.

How Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban Repays Danish Hospitiality

Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban is a Palestinian imam who has been the beneficiary of Danish hospitality since 1993, when he moved to Copenhagen. He has been a frequent guest on Danish television.

When he saw the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten, he complained in Denmark, but did not get much of a reaction. So, he brought his complaints to the Muslim Brotherhood and to others in the Middle East. This is how Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban , recipient of the hostpitality of the Danes, has repaid this most liberal and hospitable of societies.

He has been quoted denouncing the attacks on Denmark and praising them in Arabic on Al-Jazeera. The old Arafat trick.

Please read fromNational Review.


Last night, I brought Carlsberg and Elephant Beers, both Danish, to the Super Bowl Party. One of the other guests brought Tuborg. I will make every effort to buy a few Danish items every week until this event passes over.


Will soon update blog listings. Will add The Counterterrorism Blog

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Two Weeks Until Pitchers and Catchers

Yankee Stadium, Bronx NY. The Yankees have played here since 1923. This stadium has also been the site of many famous boxing matches and was the home of the NY Giants football team for years.
This of course is the famous Super Bowl Sunday. Even I, whose sporting heart beats only for baseball, will be joining my two brothers in law, one sister, and a very sports crazy young nephew for a Super Bowl watching evening down in the wilds of Wayne PA. It'll be good, it will be swell seeing them, and hopefully the football match will be good also.

But, contrarian that I am, I will take the greatest pleasure in noting that the end of the Super Bowl marks one day close to the opening of baseball's Spring Training Camps. Our long national nightmare of days and nights without baseball will soon be coming to an end. And not a minute too soon.
Shea Stadium, in Queens NY, has been the home of baseball's NY Mets since 1964. When it was opened, it was right next to the World's Fair which ran from 1964 through 1965. Shea Stadium was the home of the football NY Jets for many years. The Beatles played here in 1965. I saw the Rolling Stones there in either 1989 or 1990 ( Steel Wheels Tour ) They were great.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Al-Salem Boccaccio Disaster

In December 1979, I boarded the USS Blandy ( above ) for a three-month cruise that began in Rota, Spain, near Cadiz. This was an older Navy ship, near the end of its service life. It had been launched in 1956, and had served in both the Cuban Missile Crisis and off the coast of Vietnam during that war.

We cruised east through the length of the Med, and hung a right for a slow cruise through the Suez Canal. I was able to go outside during most of the transit through the canal, and found it very intersting. Though we were far away from the Pyramids and the other famous places, I found if incredibly interesting to be able to see Egypt, ancient Egypt, just off the side, at times close enough that you could have thrown a stone or a baseball to the shore.

After the transit, we headed south down the Red Sea. Not much to see, it's much wider than it appears on a map. The water was choppy, becoming moreso the further south we went.

We spent Christmas Day in the Red Sea. We had " surf and turf " for Christmas Dinner, both steak and lobster. Most of my shipmates, from the Midwest and South, weren't into the lobster, but I ate all of their share, gorging myself with the stuff.

Late evening the sea became rough, perhaps brought on by winds funnelled by the narrowing sea, as Africa and the Arabian Peninsula became ever closer. . The boat rocked from side to side, food trays slid across the table ( which is why there were little metal parapets on the table to catch them ).

I had to go down a vertical ladder near the top of the ship some hours later, and was afraid I might fall off.

The rough seas continued through the night. Its hard to fall asleep when you think that you might fall out of your rack. It was the roughest water I've ever ever experienced.
Now we hear of the disaster at sea of the Al-Salam Boccaccio, where it is likely that over 1,000 died fairly suddenly in the cold and the waves. These were not big shots on a luxury cruise, these were mostly poor migrant workers returning home for a visit. I imagine very few of them knew how to swim ; in any event, many of them were trapped inside the vessel, which sank quickly and with little warning.

The sea is a beautiful and life-giving thing, but it is and always will be dangerous . Spare a thought for those who perished so quickly and so terribly on the Al-Salem Boccaccio.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Danny Boy

Is the character who sings " Danny Boy " male or female? I've always thought it to be male ( a father ), but Majikthise believes it to be explicitly female. What say you?

Mohammad Image- Every Paper Should Print It

The Muslims are rioting, by God they're always rioting about something. The most recent cause celebre is beyond stupid. They're upset that Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published some cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of the famous " Religion of Peace ".

Islamic tradition -- but only tradition, not the Koran -- says that its forbidden to show images of the Prophet.

Well, earth to Islam :tough noogies. In any newspaper, I can see images lampooning the Pope, the President, historical figures, people now alive who are precious to any. In the Arab media, there is a constant parade of anti-Jewish cartoons, showing rabbis as cannibals and murderers. Below, a fat yarmulke-wearing Ariel Sharon sets the world, and the dove of peace, on fire.

If its ok to lampoon people you don't like, its OK for all of us to post images lampooning your big time holy guy.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Road Trip to Derry And Belfast

In January 1997, I made a return trip to the north of Ireland.

I started with a short trip to Dublin, made my way up to visit family and friends in Dundalk, Monaghan, and up in Letterkenny, then took a bus into Derry town. I arrived without reservations on Friday, but quickly found a nice, inexpensive B&B to crash for a couple of nights.

Its a pretty compact city, easily covered by foot.

I soon learned that Sunday morning was to be the 25th Anniversary of an awful incident in that city's history. In January 1972, there was a large, peaceful demonstration that had been banned by the local authorities. The British Army set up blockades and shot 14 unarmed men and boys to death. I won't get into greater detail here, as the event is better described on Irish sites such as United Irelander and El Blogador. The situation had been bad up to 1972, but after Bloody Sunday, the gates of hell opened, and an awful lot of innocent people were hurt.

It was a beautiful, Sunday morning. I got up early, walked down to Free Derry corner in the Bogside, a place I had seen so many times in print and on television. Visited a monument to the 14 victims.

Then, I took part in the march. It was a long walk on a glorious day. Only one bad note. A security guy ( soldier? RUC? ) behind a small grey vehicle at the side of the road, grin on his face, pointed his weapon in the direction of the crowd, then took it back, then pointed it back somewhat in the direction of the crowd. We all saw it.

Derry's come a long way since Bloody Sunday. But they'll always remember, and they always should. I'll always be glad to have taken part in that march, and maybe I will do another one some day.

I took an " Ulsterbus " east from Derry to Belfast.

Belfast is a much bigger, busier place than Derry. The bus station is in city center, from which I walked for 15 minutes toward Queens University, where I found a nice, clean B&B. ( I've stayed a number of B&B's in Ireland, and most of them were just great value for money, with a great breakfast to start the day )

I liked the center of Belfast. The people were friendly, the food was ok, and the pubs were good. The area around Queens' was excellent, with a nice easy pace and lots of college students.

As I remember it, the security situation must have calmed down since four years prior. I don't recall seeing many armored vehicles at all. And I didn't have any nervous travelers with me, which was good.

But my short visit had a political angle to it. I wanted to see for myself some of the areas where the conflicts had taken place. I studied the maps over and over, and decided I was going to see both the Falls Road and the Shankill Road. These are inner city streets that are strongholds of the city's Catholic and Protestant communities respectively.

I went to the Shankill Road first. On the way there, passed houses with UDA and " No Surrender " murals. I saw guys in crewcuts with camaflage outfits on. These guys were not military. I wasn't going to ask them what they were.

I saw a bar there and considered going in. But I wasn't sure of the situation, and the pub had a buzzer you had to push to get in, and my instinct told me to move on.

There were small stores, and the area seemed old-fashioned. And not terribly well-off either.

Somewhere between the two communities there is a thing called the Peace Line. It's basically a wall in the middle of the street. To prevent people from the one community from crossing into the other's turf. As bad as it has been over the years, without those walls, events might have been even worse.

Crossed over onto the Falls Road, much of which looked just like the Shankill. Except for a Sinn Fein store, which you'd hardly see on the Shankill. I had a quick look around. Political posters, books, coffee cups with Michael Collins picture on them were on sale.

There was a security helicopter high overhead, motionless, for a very long period of time. As I walked through these neighborhoods in a red jacket, I imagine I was in a photo or two. It was a long walk back to center city, but I had seen what I wanted to see.

The next morning, I caught an Aer Lingus flight back home. They flew from Belfast to JFK via Shannon until 9/11.

Belfast still has a lot of unresolved problems, but its safer and happier since the Clinton-brokered " peace process " brought an end to the worst of the conflict. I'd like to visit the place again, maybe this year.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

1993: Visit to Belfast

I love to travel, the further and more off the beaten track the better. In the past few years, my wanderings have brought me to Panama, Poland and Vietnam. Not exactly hotbeds of US travelers, and there were some that could not quite understand why I wanted to go to such places.

In 1993, I went to Belfast. With the outbreak of quasi-normalcy that followed the Clinton-brokered " peace process " Northern Ireland gets its share of tourists now. It got damned few of them in 1993. But it got me.

The trip started when my no-good friends Tony and Emil joined me to visit Mark, who used to work with us in New York. Mark had sinced returned home to Dublin, and was a newly-married respectable citizen in a new housing development in Leapardstown, Dublin. We caroused around the Garage, Lily's Bordello, the Goat, the Norseman, Gogarty's , Johnny Fox's , and many other watering holes, and I actually broke off to peek at the museums and such. A few days of this madness, and I needed a break. I jokingly suggested that we take a run up to Belfast. To my astonishment, Tony and Emil thought it was a great idea.

Mark thought it was the worst idea anyone had ever had. He thought it foolish, reckless, an insane idea. It was as though you told someone you were taking your next holiday Fallujah, or Mogadishu. When he asked what the hell we wanted to go there for, we smiled and said we were going to Belfast because " we heard it was a party town! "

We took an early train out of Connolly Station. The worn out old train rumbled up north, and a few hours later we were in Belfast. We wandered around Donegall Road. The downtown area looked like a normal city you'd find in England or Holland, except for the fact that grey armored cars passed by every so often, with armed soldiers peering out of them. This was not the worst of the " Troubles " but it was not good either.

We decided to walk up to the Falls Road. I was the instigator, Tony was game, but with each step forward, Emil was less and less enthusiastic. The continuing stream of armored cars did not help his confidence. We passed a hospital I think, and we arrived at Falls Road.

I was happy we had reached it, but Emil was ready to head right back to the train station, and Tony was starting to get nervous by this point. I said that I was happy to leave too, but as there was a pub right there, we should at least stop in and say that we had a drink in the Falls Road.

We bellied up to the bar, filled with older guys and a box for donations to a Catholic charity on the bar. Three Guinnesses, please.

The Guinness was lovely. I was marveling at the feat of seeing the famous Falls Road, Emil looked out the front window. Another armored car passed by, with the soldier and his gun appearing at eye level. Emil lost it. He said we were stupid for going to this goddamned place and that we should leave right now. I said that it would be a shame to travel all the way to the Falls Road and not finish our pints, so we drank them, very quickly, and we left the bar.

We would have taken a bus to the train station, but didn't know which one to take, we could have taken a taxi, but did not know if we could trust them. So we walked back down the road into center city. Emil was not happy, and the sun was heading down. And the last train for Dublin was leaving soon. We had visions of being stranded for the night in a city that would doubtless be the scene of wild firefights, and bombings, and where there probably were not any hotels.

Well, we made it to the train, and made it back to " civilization " in Dublin. Mark and his wife told us we were out of our mind for making such a trip, but we assured them that it had indeed been a " party town " just as we had thought. We retired to the Goat for further discussion.

Next: 1997 trip to Derry and Belfast