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Sweet Dreams

The poor lady next to me on the plane coughed 61 times during our flight. How do I know this? Because it kept me awake, and instead of counting sheep, I counted her coughs. It was a tough situation for her, really. It's miserable not coughing when you feel the urge, and I could tell she was holding it in. Although I don't know how much was left to hack up, as every cough sounded like little pieces of her lungs were coming up.

Poor lady. I guess I know what to expect when I start to feel sick in the next few days.

Orlando Skies

The Gate Attendant just said, "Here in Orlando, we don't pre-board families with children, as that does make up most the flight."



Smoking or Non?

I'm staying in a hotel in Connecticut, and it got me thinking about hotels. The not-so-expensive kind. Like this one. No internet, no wall outlets by the bed, a phone that isn't plugged in, a refrigerator that isn't plugged in, etc. The type of lodging that offers you smoking or non. And conveniently, though I asked for the non-smoking abode, I was awakened to the treat of my neighbors' cigarette smoke in the morning.

Well all this got me thinking about the hygienic history of this room.

For instance.

The floors. Have you ever seen a housekeeper vacuuming the rooms? I haven't really noticed, but after seeing the stuff on the tiled bathroom floor, I can only imagine what awaits us within the fine shags of 15-year old carpet.

Toilet paper. It's been a technique of hotels for years now, to recycle already-opened rolls of toilet paper, simply folding the end in some fancy origami design to reassure us it's safe. But I'm starting to think less of this. I know it saves them money and us trees, but it also promotes nasty germ transfers. Why? Because inevitably someone before you used that toilet paper for a purpose. And had to get it off the roll somehow. And also contaminate the room with bowel-dropping aromas. Yet that same toilet paper roll managed to convince the housekeeper that it was ready and able to help another guest. Gross. If they want a cheap, sanitary solution, they should order much smaller rolls. If someone runs out they can unwrap a new one. That will solve the problem of wasting the hotel's money, the world's trees, and our lives.

I used the mini-shampoo they gave me. I squirted the yellow blob onto my hand, and in an effort to get some more, I squeezed again. Only this time it slurped back into the bottle. I don't know what I just put on my head, but it was a cross between a liquid and solid state of matter. With a mind of its own.

I also question how clean community towels can get. Particularly wash rags. If a bath towel (the kind you dry yourself with) can still have a stray hair or two from previous owners, how sterile can the dirtiest rag of all-time really become? Everyone uses it in the same ways, for the same purposes. Maybe they're washed on account of their nastiness. I'm sure hotels use a scientific formula to decipher how many washes with how much bleach is needed to cleanse the rag of its bacterial menaces.

Why did I stay here? Well, it was quite the deliberation...

When I pulled up to the "Inn" it was very much like the one-story motels that are playgrounds for serial killers. The ones where you pull right up to your front door--AC unit in the window. The cashier/owner/tenant in the loft above the lobby spoke marginal English with a thick Indian scent/accent. I took my key, so I could determine if the room would suffice. Figuring not, I would then simply return to the desk and say "I'm leaving," in however many languages I could create, using hand gestures and charades when necessary. But that didn't happen.

Obviously I stayed the night, and it's because at the motel room next door was parked a brand new Mercedes SUV. I figured, "If anyone's gonna get hit tonight, it'll be them."

So now I'm off to visit two state capitol buildings. I realized last night I could've gotten pictures at 5 of 8 capitol buildings. Providence, RI (I will today); Hartford, CT (also today); Boston, MA; Concord, NH; and Albany, NY. I wish I would've thought of that yesterday. Maine, Vermont and Maryland will have to wait for another time. Quite a fun trip. I fly out tonight at 8.30pm.


Vermont and Beyond

Well I'm in a Cracker Barrel in Albany, NY, right now, taking a break from a rather busy day.

I don't even know where to start, so I'll just explain my route, and go from there.

Yesterday I landed in Providence and shot up to Kennebunkport, ME. It got dark before 4pm--I had my car lights on at 3:30 in the afternoon! Crazy. That's been the one downside.

This morning I went to the beach and saw an amazing scene. Rocky beaches. I touched the water. It wasn't arctic or anything, but I ruled out a quick swim. I drove past Fmr President George H.W. Bush's house. They weren't there because Mrs. Bush is in the hospital. Maine really wasn't that cold at first, but after those 2 minutes, I opted for the gloves and snow hat. I was anticipating the cold would be the most peacefully miserable I'd ever been in my life. It wasn't quite that cold, but it certainly was peaceful.

From there I shot over to Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire. Beautiful there too! I was driving with trees all around me one second, and then there would be a clearing and you could see the mountains or a lake or a river. It was breathtaking. At one point I pulled off and took pictures. I can't upload them now, but I will. It was risky on several fronts. I parked the rental on a steep hill, the ground was very soft and covered in leaves--leaving you in the dark as to what was water and what was solid ground, and being in the woods where wild beasts (see: black bears) live.

I passed through NH into Vermont and experience the oddest thing. There was no snow in NH except for ice on the rocks or snow on the tips of the tallest mountains. But as soon as I crossed into Vermont, literally only minutes, there was snow everywhere! Everywhere! It was fun, except for the ice, but it was only on the shoulders. Oh, and I almost slammed into a deer that most certainly looked like a ram. I don't think they live in Vermont though, so I guess it was a deer. I wish it was a moose. If I was in the Stratus, I don't think my breaks would've stopped me in time.

Now I'm in NY. And honestly, it's too dark to care much about scenery, though even at night, the lights have lit up the buildings that appear to outline some river I should probably know. Gas is most expensive here, but at least the roads aren't winding over the mountains and through the woods and around prancing rams.

I'll be passing through Massachusetts again on my way to Hartford, Connecticut, where I'll be staying tonight. Then tomorrow I'll explore there and Providence, RI again, until my plane leaves at 8pm.

Last thought. Massachusetts and Rhode Island roads are awful. On two fronts. They are bumpy and rundown, even though they're busy areas (this is most likely the cause), but they're also incredibly curvy. Nauseatingly. This leads me to believe that most of the houses have been around much longer than the interstate, because the freeway winds around them at every possible turn. I bet we probably looped a couple neighborhoods just in trying to travel north.

Ok, time to eat.


Super Obama

My first post-election post of a political nature. And it goes like this...

There's a new computer game online.

Super Obama World.

It's a take off of Super Mario Brothers, except that you're Obama and you battle pigs in lipstick and Sarah Palin on a snowmobile.

You can play it here.

This is how I'm getting over the election results.


Mr. Veteran, Sir,

I went to Normandy last year. It was only a few days before another D-Day anniversary. I remember the awe as I walked onto American soil in the heart of France. Reminiscent of Arlington National Cemetery, white crosses flank the right and left and north and south. It creates a sense of smallness; you're enveloped by so many crosses, too numerous to count. But you're also surrounded by so many lives lived well; lives given on your behalf.

I didn't get that very well. Not in Arlington, and not in France. I thought of distant heroes who won a great war, but I didn't wander too far into the gritty details. I read the history throughout the indoor museum, but only from the historical perspective. Not from the human side.

I walked the crosses, counting the souls that left this earth on the very same day they landed ashore. I counted the number of Jews who fought--and died--for other Jews to be freed. I compared divisions and companies and battalions. But for every single cross, every single gravesite, a life laid in the ground. A story much like my own, laid dormant, obedient to Fate's demand.

Saving Private Ryan was on tv Sunday. I needed it. Within the grotesque depravity of war, the human story prevails beautifully. And I needed that reminder. I needed to see again that some guy like me had a future and a hope and dream to be something big. Someone with a purpose. Aspirations and imaginations that ran wild.

And then it was over.

He didn't get to live out his dreams and grow old with his wife. He didn't get to raise a son or buy a house.

It was over in a flash.

Soldiers give themselves for us. It's cliche and underappreciated now. But it wasn't then. Those men are heroes, not just because they did save the world, but because they gave all they had.


Some made it. Many didn't. But every last one of them is a hero. Then, and now.

What if my life went that way? I never see it ending like that, so unhappily ever after. Cut short before I figuratively conquer the world. But if it happened just that way, and I don't live out the imaginations I envision, I can only hope my life will have been found so honorable.

Here's to you, Mr. Veteran, Sir.

And thank you.


Maybe He Should Give Back that Guy's Leg

What I thought was an SNL skit is apparently real; note the last scene:


London Calling

Joanna's staying in Brent, London. I guess it's a suburb? Anyway, she found this sign.

I bathe. Really, I do.



To Eat or Not to Eat

Since it's been a help to the many folks I've talked to, I'm adding two new links to help people find restaurant and hotel inspections.

For all Florida restaurants (and hotels I think), click here. I added this because the previous post only listed restaurants in the Orlando and east coast of Florida. This should cover them all.

For all Mississippi restaurants, click here.

Have fun.


Spy Dreams 2.0 Redux

I woke up this morning a little tired, but otherwise fine. I went to the bathroom to get ready and noticed a scrape on my nose. And brushing my teeth I noticed blood like I'd bitten my bottom lip. I don't remember dreaming much last night, maybe a trip to Europe or something. I rarely do remember my dreams. But it must've been intense. So intense that my dream left me bruised and bloodied. A bloody nose and lip? What in the world happened in there?

I'm sure I saved the world. Probably better than Obama would. Definitely better than Obama would.

A. Because I roll like Jack Bauer. (Though these days, all Jack's doing is resting up for a hellacious season 7 in 2009. Yes, you read that correctly. We don't get 24 until 2009. Whatever.)


B. Because Obama won't save the world. (sorry, it's true.)

If Europe was in my dream, or dreams, it's still standing. And safer now than ever before. (I could do the same for America, but President Bush is doing a wonderful job already. That allows me to save places like Europe or Russia without feeling unpatriotic in my sleep. Anyway...) Vladimir Putin (the Former Russian President and KGB big shot) can't even handle me in my sleep. Don't even get me started about real life scenarios. Suffice it to say that if I'm saving the world in my sleep, then just wait till I'm out of my REM cycle.

I know, it sounds like they may have landed a few good shots on me to scrape up my nose and bloody my lip. Thanks, Subconscious. But you should've seen what they looked like.

All this heroic talk is making me want to stop a nuclear holocaust next.

Maybe I better go take a nap.


A Political Break, a Sanitary Fortune

Since this political season is still young, I wanted to take a break for all the readers who aren't into politics. So, I found something for Floridians to spend time on. Sorry, I haven't found this feature for other geographic locations yet, but leave a comment if you do!

The link is for any food critics who are ever squeamish about their dinner destination. Poor hygienics by the wait staff? Unsanitary cooking conditions? Unsavory eating conditions?

Then click here to find the latest food safety inspections for all restaurants in your area.

It might just be a life saver.


When Pigs Can Fly

I just saw this article and couldn't help jotting down some thoughts for the welfare of the world. The article highlights a monumental scientific discovery: a pig cloned to glow florescent green, passed the trait on to its offspring. They hope this will lead to the advancement of harvesting pig organs for humans awaiting donors.
A second article as mentioned by the one above, tells of South Korean scientists cloning florescent RED cats.

I don't even know what to say. There's also video on youtube.

To me, more astonishing than the trait being passed on, we CLONED A PIG FLORESCENT GREEN. Not with extra hairy ears or premature balding or bad eyesight. None of that child's play. FLORESCENT GREEN. Is anyone else in the world concerned with this besides me? Scientists thought the best way, the most effective and efficient way to study a sow's Punnett Square was to make it glow like shoe laces under a black light? No one thought that might blur ethical lines? We can't wear fur, but we can make the mink's tail GLOW. There's no cruelty in that. I guess it's better than giving a lab rat cancer, but at least you're studying how to fight cancer. I find it a stretch to pick "Nuclear Green" as a trait to pass on to little piglets in attempting to find cures for liver cancer. Why not just try to grow two livers in the pig?

And now we have a new demonic cat species. Their eyes aren't creepy enough, we had to go and make the rest of the cat glow in the dark? Apparently this is under UV lighting, but aren't we always concerned about UV rays from the sun? So now are we going to have stray orbs wandering our streets? Forget spaying and neutering. Stop scientists from cloning Kitty Neutron over there. And what's this going to do to the Chinese food industry?

And if researchers noticed this trait in the pigs was passed on, does that make it a dominant trait? Not that it'd be hard to spot a phosphorescent pig. Are we going to be eating green pork from now on? How will we know when it's gone bad? More importantly, if we're cloning sheep and cows, glowing red cats, and now the Green Little Pigs, what's next? A wolf in sheep's clothing? A dinosaur? A centaur? I remember in 2002, and I'll find the article, Reuters noted that Japan outlawed interbreeding unnatural species so as to discourage the creation of say, a centaur. But it was a year in prison and $500,000 fine. Hardly the deterrent. What a way to upstage the first cloned man; clone a horse-man.

I know we're nowhere near that point yet, or so I thought merely an hour ago. Our country is waging war over stem cell research with conviction and courage, trying to find the ethical line. I fear while we argue over the meaning of "is" and "life," others have long since moved beyond caring. So much so, that cloning a phosphorescent cat or a pig florescent green is no more news than the discovery that it can pass that gene on. I don't know if people are trying to clonen humans yet or why there's an obsession to try. Our world is fixated on it, for no other reason than perhaps the timeless struggle with our own mortality. But in the end, we aren't gods. We can't create ourselves--not even copies of ourselves. We are finite. We are limited. We'll eventually die.

And we'll never be able to stop that. Even if the chic fountain of youth for this generation of scientists is harvesting organs from swine.

We're too complex, too deep, too real. We have a soul that can't be created or destroyed or transferred to the newest replica of ourselves. We don't even understand how all of the brain works. How can we try to clone something like that? I don't think it's like cutting and pasting. Copying or sketching from an art book. It's complexities we don't even understand yet. We should stick to liposuction and face lifts, Donna Karan, Chanel and celebrity obsessions as our means of recreating ourselves. Our quest for eternity and higher self-esteem won't be satisfied then either. But at least we truly won't be altering the fabric of civilization. It's a much deeper problem that pigs and cats and sheep and cows don't know. Our depth is explained by the existence of our soul. And it must be nurtured by the loving One who created it. And He's not Zun Xiang or any other scientist busy at work to disprove Him. We'll never be able to completely disprove His existence or the reality of our souls. And we'll never be able to completely, safely, successfully clone a human being.

But I don't expect Congressmen and Prime Ministers, scientists or special interest groups to get that. At least I'll believe it when I see it.

Or when pigs can fly.