Sunday, June 29, 2008

Preparing for Asia

The long-awaited business trip to Tokyo and Shanghai is growing near. This time next Sunday (Tokyo time), I'll be sitting in my hotel room after about 14 hours in the air. Lucky for me, my employer springs for business class seats for overseas travel, and puts us up in hotels I probably would not consider, if I were footing the bill.

The planning for the trip is tough. We'll be in three different hotels and taking a bullet train and a plane ride in between the flights to and fro, so I want to beware of overpacking. However, I do want to be comfortable and to bring as much 'home' as I can. So between packing my simple clothes, I'm also filling my iPod Nano with favorite tunes, my iPhone with familiar TV shows, and carrying several DVDs. Bought the third season of "Weeds," which will be my primary entertainment, along with the movie "Atonement," which I've wanted to see for a while. Mixed in with these, I'm bringing Part 3 of the Ken Burns "Baseball" series, "Bull Durham," and games 4 and 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. (Seeing a trend there, perhaps?) On the couple of times I was in Europe, I found myself longing to hear English being spoken, and I imagine it will be worse in Asia. So all of these comforts will sustain me, I have a feeling.

Another challenge is figuring out when I'll be able to catch Red Sox baseball while traveling and it appears that night games will be starting while I am getting ready for work most days. And the good buddies at "Surviving Grady" will take care of the rest - just reading game threads there is nearly as good as watching a game. Looking forward to taking a peek at Japanese or Chinese TV - wonder if there will be any English shows? I doubt it, unless CNN International is there? Don't know the answer to that one.

Food is another story. I like American-style Asian food, but I suspect the spices and cooking methods will be quite different. I've been practicing with chopsticks and think I can make my way through most meals ok. The plan is to steer clear of anything with eyeballs or feet still attached. To tell you the truth, I doubt whether I'll have much meat at all as I'm never sure exactly what it is...if you know what I mean? So, let's look at it this way - it will be a nice 12 day diet. And that wouldn't be a totally unwelcome occurrence.

Mostly, I want to survive the trip with no incidents: international or otherwise. My company takes good care of people when traveling abroad, so I am not worried about finances or health situations. Our colleagues in Asia will be great hosts and I'm just hoping I will have time, on occasion, to just relax and enjoy the hotel's bed.

Anyway, I hope to blog the trip, including pictures, so stay tuned (if you're interested).

Monday, June 23, 2008


Another major loss on the comedy front with word of George Carlin's death earlier today. This is the kind of guy you want to be around when times are tough and you need someone to point out the inanities of everyday life.

RIP, George. Have fun with Hunter.

Just to show us what we're missing, here are a few of his observations, from throughout his career.

* If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.

* Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.

* Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

* The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

* Always do whatever’s next.

* When you step on the brakes your life is in your foot’s hands.

* Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.

* Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

* When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.

* Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.

* Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

* You know an odd feeling? Sitting on the toilet eating a chocolate candy bar.

* One can never know for sure what a deserted area looks like.

* One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

* I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.

* Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.

* Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.

* May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

* I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven’t tried that for a while. Maybe this time it’ll work.

* Women like silent men; they think they’re listening.

* I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

* “I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.”

* I’m not concerned about all hell breaking loose, but that a PART of hell will break loose… it’ll be much harder to detect.

* Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

* I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the Professional Building. I felt better right away.

* If we could just find out who’s in charge, we could kill him.

* I don’t have hobbies; hobbies cost money. Interests are quite free.

* There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.

* The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.

* Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lest I Forget

I can't believe I didn't take note of the 2008 World Champion Boston Celtics! They celebrated with the traditional Rolling Rally through the streets of Boston today. Imagine being the poor Bruins, who haven't won a championship in 30+ years. The pressure's on, boys.

Congratulations - let's do it again soon!

It's The Oil, Stupid

Photo by Moises Saman for The New York Times

Does anyone believe the war in Iraq was about anything OTHER than oil now? The proof is in today's New York Times:

BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A September 11 Mentality

Recently, Rudy Giulliani and Grandpa McSame have begun to take Senator Obama to task for his "September 10 mentality." Yes, it seems Senator Obama seems to think that we can manage terrorism as a law and order issue, without abusing our personal privacy or dismantling the Constitution. Imagine that?

"He seems to think [terrorism] is adequately dealt with merely by being a criminal prosecution," Giuliani, himself a famous prosecutor, said. "On every issue, he takes a softer approach."

Giuliani was referring to comments by Obama two days ago, in which he said that after the "first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated."

Giuliani said that statement -- and other comments Obama has made -- suggest Obama would go no further than criminal prosecutions in combating terrorism."

First of all, why does anybody take Rudy seriously anymore? Second of all, I say that Rudy and Gramps are suffering from a gigantic September 11 mentality. In their minds, we haven't moved beyond that day in ANY way. We have learned nothing. We have changed nothing. We aren't prepared to meet the challenges of the modern world. We are stopped and frozen in time. Frozen in those 3 or 4 days during which the world was united and the French famously said "We are all Americans now."

It's refreshing to hear Senator Obama talk like a grown-up, and someone who actually is interested in preserving our rights and going after the bad guys. Remarkable. Let's hope that Americans are interested in the future and not in looking back with fear.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Scottie Clears His Conscience

So. Scott McClellen is going to testify under oath, in public, about what was going on in the White House when they decided to out a CIA agent. And it appears that the questions could widen:

His hearing is expected to focus heavily on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, an episode that McClellan has said was driven by political motivations from within the Oval Office. But the committee could press the former press secretary on other matters within its jurisdiction, including the possible authorization of torture by administration officials (though it remains to be seen how much knowledge McClellan has of that topic)

Things are getting hot in Washington, and not just the heat wave.

Photo from the White House website.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

When Will He Blow?

The talk at our house is when will Grandpa McSame blow? From what we've read and heard, the good senator from Arizona is thisclose to blowing a gasket. I say the Obama campaign keeps on him until he loses his temper, whether at a reporter, or their campaign...whatever it takes. The man is NOT the one you want to have with his finger on the proverbial button. Here's more on this same topic.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

41 Hours

In October of 1999, Nicholas White, a Production Manager at Business Week magazine, went out for a smoke break, and, on his return to the office, got into the slowest express elevator ever: he ended up being stuck for 41 hours.

What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator for 41 hours? Personally, I'm not sure I'd survive.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


It's been a nutty day, and a slightly crazier evening, but I didn't want this day to pass without mentioning that this is the 40th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination. There have been many tributes over the past few days, including some touching commentary from his kids.

Let's just say, I remember vividly being told of Bobby's death in the early morning of June 6. My mom, who was not an early riser, came to my bed to wake me up and tell me what happened. As a 14 year old, I had already been through the deaths of JFK and MLK Jr., and had developed the notion that this sort of thing was not all that abnormal, in a strange way.

It broke our hearts to watch another Kennedy family funeral, with Ethel wearing the veil this time. And, although it was a solemn affair, Bobby's situation was more touching...with people of all ages and colors watching the train carrying his body roll through their towns - from California to Washington.

I also remember being much more devastated by the loss of RFK and the promise that was snuffed out. Still pisses me off when I think of it. Imagine, no Nixon, no Watergate, a shorter Viet Nam war, most likely.

What might have been?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Paging Al Gore....

Hillary is finally facing reality and conceding the primary fight on Saturday. Hope Al Gore gives her a call to let her know just how one gracefully exits a political fight. While certainly frustrating, Hillary's problem is nowhere near as heart-rending as what Al faced back in 2000.

Turns out some of her staff turned her in to her Senate colleagues (according to MSNBC), asking them to finally get her to let go of the fight. Apparently, her colleagues organized the proverbial "come to Jesus" meeting. Can't imagine it was easy and that she and Bill folded up their tent without putting up a fight. But they need to do it. And we need to move on.

HRC for VP? Nah, sure hope not. Obama's successful presidency depends on a fellow change agent being on the ticket with him. Being saddled with the Clintons is NOT the way to go. Dispensing with Hillary and Bill will be a good test of Obama's diplomatic skills. So far, so good.

*Photo by Erik Sumption / Sipa Press

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Super Tuesday!

It's been a long, strange trip, but Barack Obama has now received enough votes to make him the presumptive Democratic nominee for President. When I watched him make his announcement speech from Springfield, Illinois, more than a year ago, there was no way in hell I thought he'd be the nominee. Did I hope he would be? Yeah, but just like I wished that Teddy Kennedy was the nominee in 1980, or that Jesse Jackson was in 1988. It was the "pie in the sky" dream nominee that never, ever seems to come true. But, seemingly, it appears that tonight he's the guy.

As we watch the news tonight, they just played Grandpa McCain's speech. It was the most ineffective, lackluster, waste of airtime that I believe I've seen in a long, long time. He clearly looks like he's trying to improve his speech-making, but he talks in a sing-song, patronizing, unemotional voice. And reading the teleprompter is not one of his strong suits. At one point, he talked about providing hot water on babies. Huh? I think he meant clean water, but what the hell?

Luckily, the night gets better. Even Hillary's speech has to be an improvement. And by the time Barack bedazzles us at 10 pm with his own oratory, we'll see actual, real live, effective communication. I expect a barn burner.

Along with oratorical gifts Barack brings, he also brings a generational, millennial shift. If he brings half the change that his very presence delivers, I'll be one happy constituent. Do I think he really is Superman? Hardly. But he represents the next step for this country and I firmly believe that Mrs. Clinton represents the past (along with a very distasteful sense of entitlement).

So, tonight we get to soak up the success and get ready to embrace the future. Guess what? A black man could be president. That's just friggin' awesome.