Friday, November 30, 2007

Rudy G for president

Yesterday, I read an article on Rudy Giuliani's mayor-ship. You can read the article for yourself here.

It seems that while Rudy was mayor, he had police protection at one time for himself, his wife and his mistress. My objection is not over the waste of tax payer money, my objection is over Rudy's failure to keep his promise to his wife and to have an "affair" (I dislike that term - it's too easy) while he was still married. (I also object to wasted tax payer money, but that's a much lower issue).

If a man can keep a promise to his wife, how can we expect him to keep a promise to his voters?

It seems to me that we already had a president in recent years who was a philanderer. I recall that when he ran for office, people said it didn't matter. All they were concerned about was the economy. Everything else was unimportant. As a result, we had several terrorists attacks (not on US soil, but against US property), our armed services suffered and the US was seen as soft. And as for the economy, everyone got what they wanted until the bubble burst (and continues to burst -see earlier post on Citibank).

I am reminded of the story detailed in 1 Samuel 8: The people of Israel wanted a king, and even though they were told how bad it would be for them, they demanded a king. God saw this as a rejection of his sovereignty and let them have what they asked for. In 1992, we Americans got what we asked for. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.

For the record, I can not vote for someone who has been so reckless with his promises. Marriage is sacred. If a man treats his wife this way, he won't get my vote.

Typically, I leave Bible study and politics out of my posts, but this one just couldn't be left alone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Citibank - proof the "subprime" lending mess is bigger than you think

Unless you missed it, Citibank (actually parent company Citigroup) got a bail-out yesterday from Abu Dhabi, the investment arm of the Saudi government. The Sauds paid $7.5 billion (yes, Billion) for a 5% stake of Citi. As such, they become Citi's biggest shareholder.

Some will see this as Bush's fault, others as Clinton's. Some will see this as a problem with big oil. Others will see this as an attempt by the middle eastern bloc to control the US. Any or all of those may be valid.

I see this as a sigh that the "subprime" lending mess is bigger than you think. It has impacted one of the top two banks in the nation (depending on how you look at it, Citibank is #1 or #2, Bank of America shares the lead with them).

We can no longer blame the subprime mess on irresponsible banks or irresponsible borrowers. I don't believe there is any simple "fix" for the problem and I believe it will affect us all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Occupancy by more than 50 people...

... is dangerous and unlawful.

That's what the sign on the wall of this courtroom said where I spent the first hour of this day (more on why I was there in another post, another day).

So, when we crowded 92 people into this room made for 50, I was just a little surprised. What a way to show respect for the law...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Basic English

I was at Dulles airport today and saw a sign that said "SAS counters opens 2:30pm".

OK, I'm thinking SAS airlines don't fly much and the counter opens at 2:30. Simple enough.

But the sign should have either read "SAS counter opens 2:30pm" or "SAS counters open 2:30pm". Either there are multiples counters that open, or a single counter that opens.

Monday, November 26, 2007

GSP Airport

I love the GSP airport. It's small and friendly, but you can go anywhere from there. Something like 12 gates total, two concourses. A long line means 10 minutes to get through (compare with hours at Atlanta). Direct flights to DC, Newark, Dallas, Cincinatti, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Ft Lauderdale, Orlando and probably more places.

Free Wi-Fi connections, decent foods, parking close to the terminal, who could ask for anything more?

But when going down the A concourse to my gate this morning, I noticed that gates A1-A4 are all empty. So why should I have to walk past them? Why not give me a shorter walk by moving the remaining airlines down?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Clemson Reigns!!!

Last night was the annual Clemson - USC game, a major event in our household. I have two degrees from Clemson, my duaghter has one (and soon a degree from USC). Her husband has a degree from USC. We have another mixed family, with one a Clemson fan, the other a USC fan. And our oldest is a Clemson fan, soon to be married to a Clemson fan.

This is a battle with heritage. My oldest brother attended both schools, but got his degree at USC. He also went back for a second degree at USC. My sister got her undergrad and Furman (after attending USC for a year), but her graduate degree at Clemson.

With all this in-fighting, some might think we wouldn't speak to each other. But last night some of us sat down and watched the game together (mostly Clemson fans). Yes we gave each other a little bit of a hard time (one complained loudly about the fashion statement Clemson players were making), but most of it was in good fun.

I cooked boiled peanuts, a first for me. They were good, but took a LONG time to cook.

And the best news, Clemson won by two points as time expired on the clock

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Family Man

Last night the movie The Family Man came on and my son (age 17) wanted to watch it. I think he had it confused with another movie, but he watched it anyway. I think I had seen it before on VHS tape.

The movie is a twist on "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Scrooge" and made me wonder exactly how many movies are made with that general theme - - give someone a glimpse of what their life might have been. In Science Fiction, we'd talk about a parallel universe or time travel. The movie gave Jack Campbell (played by Nicholas Cage) a good view of what might have been. It reminded me of Jimmy Stewart's character in a way, Jack Campbell was an enormous success who prided himself that he could buy anything he wanted. The alternate lifestyle Jack was in the center of middle class, two kids, a mini-van and 10+ years left on a mortgage. Without giving away any secrets, Jack does come to realize the difference between the two lives and is faced with some difficult decisions.

Jack's wife is played by Tea Leoni. I am amazed at how little this beautiful woman has done. I thought I had seen her in several movies, but looking at her filmography on shows surprisingly few movies. I guess she just stands out so much.

The Family Man is a good movie. It's rated PG-13, the TV version was of course much tamer. The website gives the movie a profanity score of 5 out of 10, a sex/nudity rating of 4 and a violence/gore rating of 3. Overall, I'm surprised it was rated PG-13 instead of PG.

Overall, the movie is very good and rates high with me. It's not deep or anything, just a good flick.

P.S. For those who've never used, I highly recommend the website. They give a very accurate representation of most movies and give a consistent score. While I feel like they are somewhat strict (this coming from a conservative), they explain their ratings and give details of why they are valid. You, the reader, can decide to agree or disagree. For example, they will explain the number of times you see cleavage (or more) and decide if it's important. Much more details that MPAA ratings.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I Walk the Line

We received the DVD I Walk the Line two years ago for Christmas. Someone in the family borrowed it and it went from one set of children to another for a while. We finally got it back a couple of months ago and finally sat down to watch it last night.

I have to confess, I wasn't impressed. Oh, the music was great. The fact that Joaquin Phoenix and Resse Witherspoon did their own music was quite impressive. The views of other singers of that era was also impressive. Reading the credits afterwards and realizing that Waylon Jenning's son played Waylon was cool.

But I was unimpressed with the story line. I'm sure it's true (most of the notes I've read about it indicate it was true, but possibly unfair to his first wife), but it was depressing to me. It turns out that the man who wrote the song "I Walk the Line" simply didn't.

While Johnny's first wife was at home raising his four daughters (including singer Roseanne Cash), Johnny was out on the road not walking the line. Instead he met and fell in love with his second wife, June Carter. The movie also showed him somewhat involved with two other women.

To me the central part of the movie will forever be Johnny's "Cheatin Heart" (Hank Williams song). Why is it that a man should leave the wife of his youth to seek out a new one? Why is it that a man can't stick with the woman who stuck by him?

I also didn't like the issue with Johnny's father. Throughout the movie Johnny sought his father's approval. He never got it (the scene at the end implies that may have changed). Instead, his father always saw the cloud instead of the silver lining. Whenever Johnny did something good, someone else did something better.

But why should an adult Johnny blame his father for his problems? Why not accept the blame himself? At what point to we become our own person, responsible for our own lives, and not our father's children? No, the movie never blamed the father, but I hear a lot of viewers simultaneously saying "See, my dad was the same way."

Where's the movie about a guy that stayed with his wife, through good times and bad? A movie about a man who loved his mother and father in spite of their failures? A movie about a man who realizes that he is of his own making?

I have to admit, I don't see where the movie was unfair to his first wife. Sure she was a little bit whiney in the beginning. When they couldn't pay bills and were ready to be evicted, Johnny was squandering money on music magazines (including mags with cover pictures of future wife June Carter), Vivian wanted to go see her daddy. Ok, she should have "stood by her man" (Tammy Wynette) and suppoorted him, but somehow a mother of 1.5 children has a right to whine.

Vivian stood by her children and even was right to tell the young divorcee to "stay away from my girls." I hope to read her side of the story in the book "I Walked the Line: My Life With Johnny."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish all my gentle readers a very Happy Thanksgiving. In random order:

Today, I am thankful for my regular readers including Becky, Neil, David and John (that I know of), there are other readers who drop by sometime.

Today I am thankful for family, many of whom will be here today: Kayte and (soon to be family) Kevin, Ashley and Adam, Katie, Anthony and Adam and of course Grandma Rose.

Today I am thankful for friends, some of whom will be here today: Bob & Mary, Lisa, Anna, Barbara, Melody and Blake.

Of course, I can't leave out that today I am thankful for my lovely wife Nena. She is the one who plans this day, cooks (especially since our turkey fryer turned up missing), cares for all that are here. She puts up with me (which is a tall order) and cares for me.

Today I am thankful that I live in a country where I can choose my destiny. I am free to practice religion as I want, I am free to work as hard as I want and (sometimes) be rewarded accordingly. A country that stands behind me if wrongly accused and a country that defends me.

Today I am thankful for those who are willing to give up the priveleges I have in order to defend those priveleges.

Today I am thankful for God, for His soveriegnty. (If He left things up to me, I know I'd mess them up). I am thankful for His care and loving, for Him sending His son to make up for my inadequacies, for my failure, my sin.

Happy Thanksgiving to all

Monday, November 19, 2007

Customer service - Nationwide vs State Farm

Recently, I've had a chance to do business with two different auto insurance companies and I've seen a stark contrast in their approach. I'm not saying these incidents are typical of either company, one incident per company doesn't make a trend. But just listen to (read) my experience and see what you think.

In April (on my birthday no less), my son was involved in a small accident. No one was hurt, which was a blessing. He stopped for some turning traffic in front of him and his friend, traveling behind him, didn't stop quite quick enough. A jeep rear-ends a small Mitsubishi, not a good thing. It was obvious to me that it was a total loss. He drove it home to avoid tow charges and it sat in my driveway avoiding storage charges. State Farm (the other boy's insurance) was called on Monday morning and said an adjuster would call me within four days. That means they will call, not that they will do anything. Since my son was under age, no rental car was available to him. Another savings for State Farm.

(I blogged on some of this back on May 07, see it all here).

The experience overall was horrible, State Farm did a lousy job managing my claim and when I filed a complaint with their office, they just said that these things happen.

Fast forward to this month, my mother-in-law has a wreck. At 84, any wreck is major. She was very fortunate, she broke a couple ribs (no one told us just how many) and had some internal bleeding, but after only four nights in the hospital she's home recuperating. The accident was her fault, she ran a redlight (early morning sun seems to have hidden the light). It was easy to see the car was totaled, I contacted insurance to help her. Nationwide asked me about the damage and agreed it was probably totaled (it doesn't take much any more).

Within two business days, I got a call from the adjuster. He explained he had the case and would call me the next day. He called the next day and had an offer for settlement. His offer made good sense and he even emailed me a 15 page document explaining the offer and justifying it. He found cars in the area that matched her car and showed me where they were. He also included on the first offer the "extras" that he was allowed (tax, tag & title fees) - I don't think State Farm did that until I pointed them out.

A couple days later I got another call from Nationwide asking my mother-in-law's condition and telling me that she had coverage for medical payments. This coverage is issued direct to her to cover incidental expenses. They are mailing a check along with some papers (technically, they don't have to mail the check until the papers are signed).

Nationwide has gone about their duty quickly and efficiently. State Farm seemed intent on dragging their feet each step of the way. Nationwide's first offer was clear, concise and fair. State Farm's first offer was low, with no explanation. When I objected, they raised the offer making me feel somewhat justified. I never felt either offer was fair,

Now given the customer service listed above, who would you do business with? I've paid out more in insurance than I ever will recover (hopefully). I would like to lower my premium, but customer service is more important than getting the cheapest rate, especially if the company doesn't show they will hold their end of the bargain. For now, I'm staying with Nationwide.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thank you to all veterans

It's late in the day, but still not too late to say thank-you to all veterans everywhere.

I am proud of the fact that there are several veterans in my family: 1) Step-son is the most recent veteran, getting out of the army about 2 years ago, 2) Two air-force veteran brothers, one got out about 8 years ago, the other 20 years ago, 3) sister-in-law is air-force veteran, got out about 20 years ago, 4) father was a WWII veteran, he joined in spring/summer 1945 (after victory in Europe I believe, but well before the end in Japan).

I also have a future step-son-in-law (if that's a word) who is active in the army guard and will be full time army when he graduates seminary.

Thank you to each of these, and to others everywhere. Thank you for service to you country. I know you gave up a lot for this service. Thank you for the willingness to step up and do your part. I hope I can in some way, repay you for what you have done.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fall is here

I saw a visual representation yesterday of why Autumn is called "Fall". Beside our deck in the back yard are two tall trees we affectionately call our "Jack" trees. We planted these things when they were about 3 feet high. The first year, they shot up over 10 feet. Second year, same thing. Last year, I cut the tops off to slow the growth and they only grew around 5 feet or so. So, in my mind, it was like Jack and the Beanstalk.

Yesterday, I was standing in the sunroom looking out (while the dog was taking care of her morning business) and saw these trees shedding their leaves one by one. You could count the leaves as they fell, about one per second. The leaves on this tree are huge, almost a foot across. When the leaves all fall, it will look like a stick tree.

The kids had a Teddy Ruxpin that used to sing "Autumn is just an in between time, in between the summer and the winter". But it's a pretty time of year....

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I've decided to move

Scientists report that a newfound planet could support life. I've decided that what with all of the global warming, I'm going to move to this new planet. But there's a little about the "science" of all of this that bothers me.

First, when I was in school, I learned that science was based on what we OBSERVED. So much of what we call science today is based on things that "scientists" can't see.

But enough of that, this planet, only 41 light years away is in the "'Goldilocks zone' - a place that's not too hot, not too cold, but just right." This planet is the fifth planet around this star. The planets are between the size of Jupiter and Saturn and are gas giants which "isn't a likely suspect in search for life."

Wait a minute, didn't the headline say it could support life? But wait, the story goes further, it says that "any rocky moons around (the planet) would be" (likely to support life). So we're talking about the moons around the planet being habital.

This should excite me. After all, if we can move to another planet, we don't have to worry about global warming. But it seems that science should count on what is truly observable and that until we can observe it, it seems like it should be reported as hypothesis.

Monday, November 05, 2007


I spent another night at a hotel last night. Last week, in Virginia, this week in NC. This time, the hotel was a lot like the hotel I worked at as a teenager. Small, inexpensive, right on the highway. But a lot was different too.

When I go to a hotel today, I expect coffee in the room along with an iron and ironing board. As a teenager, we had an iron and ironing board at the office, part of my job was to deliver it to anyone that needed it. Coffee was at the restaurant next door.

Breakfast this morning, was eggs (almost a cheese omelet), ham and a danish. Orange juice too. I could have had bisquits or waffles, but I'm watching my carbs. This vs. the restaurant next door.

The small, inexpensive hotel has changed..

Friday, November 02, 2007

Quote of the day

We hang the petty thieves and appoint (or elect) the great ones to public office.

Aesop - Greek slave & fable author (620 BC - 560 BC)

(That guy really knew what he was talking about, huh?

Taken from the quotations page.

WKRP Cincinatti

On my way back home, first leg was from Richmond to Cincinatti. A lady on the plane suggested we should all sing a song when we landed. I agreed and suggested the only song I knew about Cincinatti, the WKRP theme song. Of course no one knew all of the words, so we opted out. (I actually probably know most, but people say I sound like a cat that's been stepped on).

Cincinatti airport is fine if you don't have to go between C and A/B concourses. Then you have to take a bus. Seems like the carbon credit police should get after them for all of the buses, frequently idling.

I'll be home in a couple hours, that's all that matters

Virginia is for Lovers

I'm posting remotely today, from Fredericksburg, Va. I come to this town about 2-3 times a year to visit a customer here. I can choose to fly into Washington DC and drive down or fly into Richmond and fly up. Richmond is a nicer airport and an easier drive.

I always forget the Richmond is NOT a non-smoking town. It's hard to get a non-smoking rental car. After three attempts, I got a nice little Prius. After a couple of false starts (pun intended) and some help from a gentelman at the Hertz return "desk", I was able to get the car started and I took off. The Prius is actually a nice car, but I don't like the dashboard (too far away) and I don't like the view out the rear mirror (cut in 1/2 by a metal part of the car).

Last night for dinner, I met my boss, the customer and his "girl-friend" at The Log Cabin in Fredericksburg. We drove through part of the town (not the Old Town) and I was reminded how pretty this area actually is. On past visits, I've noticed how the rivers and rolling hills remind me of the foothills of SC. Dinner at this small non-chain seafood restaurant was excellent. We stayed for about three hours, enjoying gentle conversation. Yes, some work was discussed, but as my manager put it, we just wanted to show our appreciation to the customer.

I got some good news before the meal, I had thought I would be losing this customer next year due to some re-organizations in my department. After working with them for eight or nine years, I have developed a relationship of mutual trust. Fortunately, I'll still be able to work with them, possibly even at a deeper level.

I'm hoping that my wife and I can come up next spring for a visit. We would drive up and then go on up to see DC. But first, we'd spend a day or so visiting this area, having dinner with another couple with very similar backgrounds... it should be a nice visit.