Monday, January 31, 2011

Empty Row To and From Paris

Sometimes life is so much better than you can hope for.  Most of the flights I have taken since coming back from Iraq are full and even beyond full—overbooked with gate agents offering a free flight to anyone who can wait another day to go home.

When I booked my flights to Paris and back, I followed my usual practice of getting an aisle seat as far back in the plane as I possibly can.  Both ways I was on a Delta/Air France flight.  They sold the ticket as Air France, but it was a Delta plane—a Boeing 757 that was built when the Beatles were still a group.  This long, narrow plane has 34 rows of  coach seating with three seats on either side of the center aisle and ten rows of first-class seating with two seats either side of the center—not quite 200 passengers if the plane is full.

On the way over we had just 57 passengers.  On the way back the gate agent said there were 70 empty seats.  From Row 37 back to Row 44, most of us had a row of seats to ourselves.  I have been eating and napping for the last four hours.  Travel to Europe does not get any better than this!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Touching Off an International Incident--in Brussels!

If the US goes to war with Iran over an incident in Brussels, Belgium, I just want to say in advance, "It was not my fault!"

On Sunday evening I flew to Paris for a conference.  Since air travel is SOOOOOO much nicer in uniform, and since I was actually on a drill weekend, I decided to wear my soldier suit for the trip over.

Now waiting in the security line at Philadelphia airport.  My oversize slightly overweight checked bag was not a problem.  (If you know there is a regulation against travel in uniform, just let me enjoy my ignorance.)  As I always do I booked an aisle seat as far back in the plane as I could.  As I got ready to board a very old extended range Boeing 757, the ground crew said there were only 50 passengers--I had three seats to myself.  A whole row---AAAHHHH!!!

But the plane was delayed for 45 minutes while they tried to fix a leak in the 40-year-old toilet.  We arrived late for Paris and I had to catch a train for Brussels that left 15 minutes after I got my bag.  I made the train, but was still in uniform.  No problem, I'll change in the bathroom.  I went into the bathroom when I got on the train.  The floor was sticky. I checked another car. Blue water on the floor.
When I got to Brussels, I met a colleague who was going with me for a site visit for an event in December.  She said we had to go right away, I did not have time to change.We got the facility, a beautiful meeting hall for 1200 people called The Square.  I took my camera (with a long lens) out of my pack and took pictures of the place we would set up a display.  Then the representative from The Square took us down to the actual meeting hall.  When we walked through the door to the lobby, there were a dozen dark-skinned men staring at me.  A couple of them were holding signage with Arabic symbols.  It turns out they were setting up for a meeting of the Iranian exile community in Europe the next day--in the main hall of The Square.

So I am standing in uniform with a camera in my hand looking at a bunch of Iranians getting ready for a party.

I decided I had seen enough of the meeting hall.  We went upstairs to talk about plans for December.




Friday, January 21, 2011

Wrapping up the numbers for 2010

It will soon be a year since I have returned from Iraq.  During this year, fewer people are reading the blog, but the surprising thing to me is that more than 2000 people per month at still visiting the blog, the lowest since my return, but more than I expected a year out.

Tomorrow is drill.  I won't be on duty Sunday because I am flying to France for a meeting.  It will be my first time out of the country on business since 2006.  Paris is my favorite city outside America.  It was my favorite city in the world, but New York is edging past.  Paris is beautiful.  New York is vibrant.  San Francisco is definitely third, and Singapore fourth.

In 2010 I rode fewer miles than in 2009!!  I am spending more time at work than I have in a decade and it shows in my riding logs.  But I have been spending more time running and in the gym.  I ran at least 60 miles each of the last four months in 2010 and should be able to continue the trend this month.  Maybe I will finally get the last few points on the PT Test and max it.  My last four PT tests have been 290 to 297, but never quite 300.

The verdict from S-1 is the only way I can retire is to get run over by a Humvee.  I'll probably stay as long as playing Army remains fun.

Happy Belated New Year!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Last in the How I Would Have Died series--Face/Off

Last Friday I wrote the last post in the series on How I Would Have Died if I Lived 100 Years Ago.  This time it was about how the plastic surgeon on duty in the Lancaster General Hospital Trauma Center put my face back together.

We have a CLS weekend coming up at drill--that's the acronym for Combat Life Saver.  I know it's important but I grew up when Lifesaver candy was popular.  Combat Life Saver sounds to me like circle-shaped, camouflaged candy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And No Internet Service

Part of the reason I found out about the screwing I got from DirecTV was because I recently tried to change my internet provider.  I had DSL service from DEJAZZD of Denver Pa since 2002.  Last year an ISP named Windstream bought them out.

Dejazzd had great service.  So did Windstream, but it was 38.95 per month.  Verizon offered me 19.95 a month and included a discount on DirecTV and Land line phone service.

They said it would be no problem to switch.

I tried several times from before Christmas to after New Years to get service, but Verizon kept telling me the line was being held by someone else.  I had cancelled the Windstream service on Dec 20.  I had a cancellation order number.

Nothing Verizon could do.  Someone the line was now held by an ISP called Covad.  I had never done business with them.  They had no record of my phone number and they could not help me unless I had an account number.

So I called Windstream.  They no longer had any record of me being a customer.  No record of my name or phone number--even though they and the company they bought had received more than $4000 from me over the past eight years.

I am thinking fo going back to Comcast Cable.

Sigh!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Screwed by DirecTV

Friday I read an online post the named DirecTV as one of the 15 most hated corporations in America.  American Airlines led the list.  BP was #15.  DirecTV was #12.

I have DirecTV.  I signed up for it after returning from Iraq.  Like many things I did in the weeks after returning from Iraq, I believed what I heard more than I should have.  It turns out, the lower rate I was promised by DirecTV was a rebate.  It was a word I never heard in the sales pitch.

The DirecTV rep I spoke too last night apologized for the salesman's omission, but she said that I was supposed to notice that I was not getting the discount and contact DirecTV.  I had 90 days to do this which has long since expired.

She also told me my commitment was actually 24 months.  The initial commitment was for 12 months, but there was an additional 12-month commitment in some service I agreed to, which I did not know at the time.  I also had 90 days to revise this, but since I did not know it within 90 days, I cannot revise the contract now.

It will cost $20 per month to terminate the contract early.

Thanks for the Welcome Home DirecTV!!!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Bike on First Trip to NYC

I did not actually buy a whole bike, just the frame.  I bought this frame because I wanted to have a bike I could take on AMTRAK that was also full size.  My Dahon folding bike with 20-inch wheels was fine for a short commute, but no fun to ride otherwise.

If you can see the silver couplers on the top tube and down tube near the seat tube, the couplers twist and the bike splits in two pieces.  It also has a quick disconnect on the rear brake cable and both shifter cables.  I could fold the Dahon in 30 seconds.  Taking this bike apart and putting it together will take longer.  It also has to be disassembled before I get to the train platform or I am going to have a dispute with the train crew.  So my commute will be a little longer with this bike than with the Dahon, but it will be better to ride.

When I picked up the frame I replaced, the brake mounting nut in the frame was stripped.  It would have been rideable, but not really safe, so it was probably better to replace that frame anyway.  That makes three bikes in three months that have been stolen, smashed and broken.

Bill at Bike Line said the Dahon is junk after the SUV ran it over.  No surprise there.

At the end of the train ride to NYC, I will assemble the bike, ride it to the hotel, change for a business meeting then ride later in Central Park.  The next test point will be boarding the train in NYC to go home.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Report Filed!!!

Today, I called the Phila police again.  This time the operator said I could report on the phone if I worked with the local precinct.

I called.

They took the report.

It took ten minutes.

Tonight I will drop the bike off at BikeLine of Lancaster to see if it is "totalled".

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Still Reporting the Bike Accident

At 130 pm today I called the Philadelphia police and asked to make a statement about the accident on the phone.  They said they would send an officer to take the statement in person because the driver left the scene.  I gave them the address of the 7-story half-block long building where I work.  I waited until 430 pm.  No one came to the door.  There is a receptionist in the lobby till 415 pm.

Yesterday, I called 911 at the scene.  They said three different times they were sending someone.  On the third call, the operator said I was not there.  I did not move from the front of Sovereign Bank at 11th and Market from the time I made the call until 40 minutes later when I left.  I am six feet tall.  I had a bike.  The officer who responded said no one was their.

There is only one bank on that corner.

Tomorrow I am going to call at 845 am when I arrive at my office.  That way there will be eight hours for the police to show up.  I will let you know if thy could not find the building.

Reporting the Bike Accident

After waiting 40 minutes for the Philadelphia Police NOT to show up, I had given up on the reporting the accident.  But my wife said as a matter of justice I should report it.  So I am going to try today.  I am already leaving on the late train for work, so it will be difficult, but she's right.  The guy in the Lincoln SUV ran a red light then ran over the bike.  He would leave the scene with a dead kid in the road.

Now some of you may wonder if I think riding in Philly more dangerous than riding with the rednecks in Southern Lancaster County.

No.

I still prefer Philly to Solanco.  The fat guys in pickup trucks with faded McCain-Palin stickers on their F-150s actually hate people who use two feet of road.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bike Accident in Phila--No Injury

Today I was supposed to be at the Parent Teachers Organization meeting.  I left work at 420 pm, but my trip was delayed by a Lincoln SUV that ran a red light and ran over the front wheel of my folding bike.  I jumped off the bike seeing that was was running the light and thinking he would not avoid hitting me.

The guy had a vanity plate BY TRIO so I can report the accident.  I called 911 and tried to report it.  I waited at 11th and market for a half hour.  I told the dispatcher I was in front of Sovereign Bank.  I called 20 minutes later, the dispatcher said the police were enroute.  Ten minutes later I called again.  this dispatcher said he would send the supervisor.  He tried to say the police went by and there was no one there.  I had not moved for a half hour.  Ten minutes later I called and said I was leaving for Lancaster.

I am a member of the US Government as a soldier.  I want the government to be there to fix roads and sewers and show up at accidents, but I also know that I am always unhappy when I am subject to the whims of a government agent.  The comedy at 11th and Market made no difference because I was not hurt.  And now if I want to get my bike fixed, I will have to fill out forms with same police department and have to have a judge decide the case when the SUV driver lies about every detail of the incident.

The incident has only cost me an hour and a PTO meeting so far.  I'll find out later how much the bike repair is.

Family Black Sheep Flies a MEDEVAC Blackhawk

Brooklyn-born Amira Talifi, (not her real name) is a helicopter pilot I served with in the Army National Guard. She is one of seven ch...