Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Choo Choo! (more ranting)

Diane Rehm had a very interesting segment on her NPR radio show about our Amtrak passenger rail system. Her guest speakers were a democratic senator, Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey; a congressman from Oklahoma, Ernest Istook, Jr.; Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers; and Derrick Cain, a reporter for the National Bureau of Affairs.

Apparently, there is a bill that Senator Lautenberg is trying to pass that would allow the requirement that Amtrak become self-sufficient to be lifted and a new program devised to help Amtrak move in a direction of becoming a more passenger-friendly rail system.

The congressman from Oklahoma is not in favor of this bill and thinks that we should demand that Amtrak become self-sufficient.

Let's think about this. Gas prices are sky-rocketing. People are looking for more ways to be 'green.' Air travel prices are going in the same direction as fuel prices. Our population is growing. We need alternative transportation methods that aren't being developed fast enough.

Our passenger rail system is a joke compared to elsewhere in the world. When I
road the rail in Germany, their trains are accurate to the MINUTE. If the train is due at 13:43, by golly, it arrives at 13:43! If we need to, let's look to other more efficient systems to use as a model. I'm sure when Europeans come to our country for the first time they are befuddled and bemused that they can't take a train or two to get to where they need to go. "These Americans!'

Senator Lautenberg points out that in every country that has decent passenger rail, they are subsidized by the government. And I can see why.

Rail travel should be the norm in my opinion. This country should have the best and fastest rail systems imaginable. We have the resources. We need to get off our spoiled butts and realize that developing a good country-wide rail system wouldn't be moving backward, it would be moving forward. And the government, with MY money, can help facilitate a well-run system.

I would like to ask Mr. Istook how he votes when it comes to foreign aid. I would much rather MY money be spent on a good, efficient rail system that would blow away Europe's system than to send more of MY money abroad to buy weapons. I only wish that when I paid my taxes I could check off boxes and fill in amounts as to how I want MY money spent.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Happy to you, Den!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful brother, Dennis.

(Shown here with our mother.)

April, 2007: Hannah takes on San Fran!

I'm making an attempt this year to travel one-on-one with each of my daughters. This is the trip I did with Hannah over spring break of this year, in April. I took her to San Francisco, her first time there. There was so much to try to do; of course there is never enough time for everything.

The first weekend we went sailing with Richard. It was a bit choppy and just a wee too windy for a small boat so all we could do was sail out in the channel to the bay and then turn around. Sounds short but that took about an hour.

Also on that first weekend, we took a drive down the coast on the infamous Highway 1. We found this lovely beach with a couple of big caves carved into the rock. There was (unfortunate) evidence of people using the caves for various purposes but all-in-all it was pretty pristine. The carving you see Hannah doing was actually just writing with a stone.
We spent a while at that beach just enjoying the fact that there were no other people around. Richard, of course, had to get his feet wet and play in the water a bit.

Ahh...true love forever! Richard etched this heart in the sand with our initials in it!

These pictures of jellyfish were taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This aquarium is the best aquarium I have ever been to. It is well-known around the world and has an annual attendance of 1.8 million. It holds 35,000 plants and animals representing 623 species.

Richard had to work during the week but Hannah and I played. We took a ferry over to Alcatraz one day. Once you're over there, it's a pretty well put together tour. Everyone gets their own independent headset and you can walk through at your own pace. Parts of it were narrated by some of the actual prisoners.

Here is Hannah cruising around the prison, checking out the escape routes.

And here is what a typical cell looked like. Can you imagine living in such a cramped space??
I think I would rather die. I'd at least go insane. I start going crazy when I don't get out of the house by early afternoon.

This cell shot is showing how 'the great escape' was pulled off. That is a dummy head you see lying on the pillow made from a homemade cement powder mixture, soap, and toilet paper. The authorities never found the guys who escaped and assume that they never made it to land.

We spent one day exploring Muir Woods, a beautiful redwood state park. I just love the smell of the forest. And in California, with the extra flavor of eucalyptus in the air, noses get the best treat!

I'm not sure if you can
read the
dates on this tree sample but the
birth of the tree was the year 909 and the year it fell was 1930. I wish I could grow that old as gracefully!
We had a great time in the city by the bay and I hope it will be etched in Hannah's memory forever.

Here are a few more random pictures of our trip.

Barbie does the Titanic!

Here we are eating dinner 'down below' on a floating boat restaurant called Forbes Island restaurant.

Hannah enjoying downtown San Fran, taking in the sights.

Hannah being sassy. Pthhhhh!

Early training for the good life.

More jellyfish. This one was taken at the Pier 39 aquarium.

Just chillin' by the fire in the apartment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

San Fran in October

Ahh...San Francisco! Every time I go I say I want to stay. And I would if I could.

My good friend, Lori Peak, joined me last week in San Fran. We had a great time catching up. Since she moved to the other side of the state (Muskegon) we don't see nearly enough of each other. Here she is just as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sausalito side. We spent the afternoon checking out that quaint city, having lunch and just lollygagging around.

Lori is a pretty fascinating person in that she has experienced so many diverse things in her life. She is the first woman to gain seamanship status in the US Navy! And boy, is there a story to tell there! Also, she was CMO for Wright Airlines (now defunct) back when the glass ceiling was VERY thick (not so long ago, actually). Now she is a principal for two correctional facility schools in Muskegon, MI. She previously worked at a maximum security prison in the Detroit area. And as you can imagine with that background, she has a TON of interesting stories. I keep encouraging her to write a book. I even think her life would make a good movie. Lori is a woman who knows the true meaning of perseverance and is a terrific role model for the females in her life.

Lori and I found this little alcove of shops in Sausalito that had flowers galore along the sidewalk and above. This was a beautiful flowering tree, one of which I had never seen before. The flowers were a cross between a rose and a hibiscus. My camera has a feature where I can tell it to choose a color and it will photograph in black and white everything except what it see in that color. It's a lot of fun to play with. I couldn't resist having Lori stand in front of this tree with her red shirt. Unfortunately, Lori had to leave on Friday, the same day that another good friend of mine, Donna Brown, arrived. I would have loved for them to overlap; the laughing between the three of us would have never ended. Both Lori and Donna know how to have a good time!

In between Lori leaving Friday morning and Donna arriving Friday night, Richard and I took his son, Nathan, to dinner and then out to see 'Guys and Dolls' in San Jose. Wow! What a production! As some of you may know, the lead character's name in that play is Nathan Detroit. Richard's son Nathan was called Nathan Detroit by his aunts and uncles while growing up. So it had a special meaning to both Richard and Nathan. During the intermission Donna called to say that she had arrived at the San Jose Amtrak station so Richard and I left Nathan at the theatre to go pick her up and used Nathan's ticket to sneak Donna in to see the last part of the show. Don't tell anyone.

Donna lives in San Luis Obispo which is on the coast in central California. She was born and raised in Michigan and I miss her being here. We've had some absolutely crazy times that only special friends can share. Hopefully I will eventually make it out to California for a stint of my life and we will have the opportunity to see each other more often. Boy, does this blog sound like all my friends leave me?? I'm just lucky enough to have them all over the place!

On Saturday, Donna, Richard, and I took a ferry to Angel Island, an island in the Bay. We had a riot riding Segways. Segways are those crazy, two-wheeled personal transporters that you might have seen in the airport or maybe someone riding one on the sidewalk in a city like DC. It took a few minutes to get the hang of balancing and turning but once we 'felt' it, there was no stopping us. Well, up until I saw a steep hill that I had to wheel down. I was okay until Richard mentioned skiing. I like to downhill ski but I don't like to ski fast. And sometimes when you start down a snowy hill it just takes you and I'm not that experienced to not get nervous when the speed kicks in. So when he said 'skiing' my body froze for a minute. The guide was cool, though. He went down with me and as soon as I realized how easy it was to slow down on the Segway I started to enjoy the steep downhill. The neat thing about the Segway is that you can't go too fast. In order to accelerate you must lean forward and if you reach the max speed it pushes back. So, really, there is no way to go too fast. These Segways that we were on would go up to 12 miles per hour.

So here we are. I'm in the red helmet, Donna is in the blue helmet singing that well-loved song, 'Hey, hey, we're the monkeys!' and Richard, well, he's the tall, handsome one.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And he's a supreme court justice...

I know this post is not about my travels but bear with me. I have to blow off a bit of rekindled steam.

Would you, knowing that you got away with something by the skin of your ass, and after 16 years, stir the pot again? Clarence Thomas is even dumber than I first thought while listening to his confirmation hearings. And I couldn't have thought lower of his lying ass then. (Sorry for all the ass.)

I'm sort of glad he has written this whining, oh-woe-is-me book. It is forcing all those sorry senators to face the music - they confirmed someone who clearly was not fit to sit.

Please check out this interview with Angela Wright on NPR. She was the women waiting in the wings to testify in support of Anita Hill.

It just amazes me sometimes how many unqualified people lacking any ounce of integrity gain power.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Live from Birmingham!

Well, it's about time! After realizing that I have difficulty remembering what happened on which trip I've decided I can't put this off any longer. I've got to write it down. My mammory is reflecting my age...I mean MEMORY! Well, my mammories are showing my age, also, but that's a personal problem.

Richard and I spent the weekend of October 6, 2007, in San Francisco in order to attend our friend's wedding. That would be Barrett Lyon and his now betrothed Rachelle Sterling. Whereas the number of invitees were quaint and low, the event was quite a high.

They chose a Saturday that would provide their guests with quite a show in the sky. First, while mingling on the 6th floor roof of the Vitale hotel overlooking the bay, before the ceremony, we were all treated to the Blue Angels air show. I had never seen them flying before and it was fantastic. The precision with which they flew together was awesome. And when one plane flew straight up only to shut off his engines and fall straight down (of course he came out of it okay), it took my breath away. It made me realize how boring it must be for regular commercial pilots, always flying in the same path at the same speed...no adrenaline rush there. But that's okay. I fly a lot and don't need any extra adrenaline rushing.

After a very untraditional ceremony (Barrett's father is a lawyer and performed the nuptials) that brought tears to my eyes we all headed to Pier 40 to board the Merlot. While cruising around the bay we had a very tasty dinner. Music was being played on the top level and a few of us danced a bit.

Then at about 9pm we had another show in the sky - wonderful fireworks! It seemed as though they were performing just for Barrett and Rachelle. How romantic!

We did manage to see Richard's son, Nathan, this time. Nathan is attending Stanford for his doctorate. It's nice that Richard's job is so close; he works in Sunnyvale and Nathan is in Palo Alto only 10 minutes away on a good Hwy101 day.

The three of us had a very good meal at Il Fornaio in downtown Palo Alto and then we moved to a more 'campus' atmosphere, a bar called the Blue Chalk Cafe. They have a shuffle board table there and we managed to stick around long enough to secure the table. Nathan ended up the winner and it was his first time playing!

I'm headed to San Fran again in a week to meet my friend Lori out there. I'll post again and let you know about all the fun!