Wednesday, February 28, 2007

If I Can't Have Peanuts...

When the airlines revise their passenger bill of rights, I want them to include I, as a paying passenger (with elite status, I may add), have a right NOT to be seated next to a chimney. After all, those restaurants in states where smoking is still permitted (as I found out earlier this month, Texas) have separate smoking sections. Hotels have non-smoking and smoking rooms. I should be able to sit in a seat and inhale stale, germ-infected, recycled airplane air without the gagging stench of cigarette smoke.

This happened to me yesterday while flying to New York. Some twentyish-looking kid sits next to me and as soon as she sat down, I could smell she was at least a two-packer-a-day. YUCK! I was annoyed. It was a 7:00 a.m. flight - how can someone smoke that much in the morning and smell like an ashtray?

My annoyance grew "once approved electronic devices" could be used. She was kind to not only share her rap music with me, but also the three rows in front of and behind us. All the while, she kept poking me with her elbow - which I find extremely annoying. Makes me want to scream, "There is space. Your space does not go beyond this arm rest. My space does not go beyond this arm rest. Stay out of my space!"

But I don't scream. I breath deep, keeping good karma while flying the friendly skies.

I reached a breaking point when song 2 blasted. I jabbed her with my elbow and was about to ask, "are you taking requests?" When the passenger sitting across aisle asked her "turn it down." Turning and giving her the hairy eyeball, the other eye was scanning her boarding pass for her connection.

"Please not New York. Please not New York. Yes! Chicago!"

Peanuts have been banned from most flights, so why shouldn't stinky, smokey passengers???

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Invasion of the Giant Squids

On Feb. 14, 2007, National Geographic News released video of a giant squid off southeastern Japan in the North Pacific Ocean. It's the first time a giant squid has been filmed in the wild.

More than a week later on Feb. 22, 2007, the same agency reported probably the largest known colossal squid (not to be confused with a giant squid) was caught in the Antarctic's Ross Sea. This beast weighed in at 990 pounds (450 kilograms)! Unfortunately, like the giant squid which was caught in December 2006, the beast has been killed and preserved for research.

When visiting the National Geographic News site, you can see the images of the colossal squid and a diagram showing how big a colossal squid can get. It's compared against a 40 foot (12 meters) school bus and it can grow to 43 feet (13 meters) while a giant squid can grow to 33 feet (10 meters).

Now that's a lot of calamari!

Cool Site of the Week: Space Love

Meet Loretta and George Whitesides. Their love story is like so many others: they meet; almost three years later Loretta asks George on a date; three years later George proposes (Loretta says "yes") and they marry in 2006. SpaceLove.org is launched this year to share their journey to a weightless honeymoon aboard Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Spaceline (www.virgingalactic.com).

The couple are Virgin Galactic Founders, meaning they will be the first 100 passengers to fly into space and will be the first couple to honeymoon in space. The flight will take place sometime beyond 2008 and will include several minutes of weightlessness, a dip into the darkness of space and see the curvature of Earth.

Check out their site and keep up with their journey.

Best U.S. Cities for Jobs: I Was Surprised

Forbes.com recently released "The 25 Best U.S. Cities for Jobs." Raleigh-Cary, NC topped the list and usual suspects such as Salt Lake City was included (it really is a great city). I was surprised to see the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Fla. region at number 11. What???

Things must have changed in the year-and-a-half since I've left. Tourism growth was stated as the reason. I also think Sarasota's Economic Development has been successful in growing businesses who need qualified employees to fill those spots. But, I can see that affordable housing is still an issue. If a company wants to recruit and maintain excellent staff, the salary needs to be compatible with the cost of living.

Has Sarasota finally addressed the affordable housing issue? When I was down last weekend, I noticed TONS of "for sale" signs on houses, some with "foreclosure." I knew the bubble would burst, I just couldn't sit around long enough to see it happen.

Speaking of tourism, I understand there's discussion within our great state's House of Representatives to increase sales tax by up to 2.5%, from 6% to 8.% (then add county and local tax on top of that) in order to reduce property tax. This would make Florida's sales tax the highest in the country.

I believe it was a State Rep who said along with resident spending, tourist spending would make up the difference from lost revenue of property tax. In essence, the residents will pay less in property taxes as long as tourists are spending money in the state.

This is a good theory, somewhat. We're lucky here in the Sunshine State not having state income tax because over 84 million visitors (84.6 visitors in 2006 to be exact, according to VISIT FLORIDA) come play and spend with us. But, with a state tourism budget smaller than that of the city of Las Vegas, how can Florida continue to compete and attract visitors?

If money isn't spent to bring visitors, then who's going to be spending money and generating revenue from sales tax? And, is it reasonable to expect out-of-towners to pay for our infrastructure? I realize while they visit they do use our services, but where do you draw the line?

Like any business, making more money requires an investment. While we think tourism is fun and games, it's serious business. Florida's tourism generates substantial revenue and economic stability for its residents. I hope the Republican-run House has the common sense to thoroughly think this through.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is Your Neighbor a Criminal? Part Two

I recently mentioned the Web site FamilyWatchdog.us in another post. Of course, I went on and searched my neighborhood. Leaving the office at o'dark thirty tonight one of the building's custodians caught my eye because he looks very similar to one of the offenders near me. The offender has a distinct smile and so did the man in the building.

I feel a bit voyeuristic and a little creeped out. Guess I'll have to stay late tomorrow night to see if I can get a better look. On second thought, I better leave the office at a reasonable time so I don't have to get another look.

What would you do if you definitely knew a convicted sex offender was in your building? Would you believe they've been reformed and not worry about them or would you exercise caution?

Seven Wonders of the World: Vote!

On 07/07/07 (that's July 7, 2007 or 7 July 2007) in Lisbon, the New Seven Wonders of the World will be announced. And guess who's assisting in the decision making? You!

Which historic site will be included in the New Seven? Will it include New York's Statue of Liberty? Or how about Easter Island? Perhaps China's Great Wall will secure a spot. Check out the site to see the contenders to be part of history and vote for your favorite.

But I'm thinking, wouldn't it be cool to be in Lisbon this July when the new seven wonders are announced?

Vote for the new 7 world wonders

Monday, February 19, 2007

An Evening with James Bradley

Despite having lived in Tallahassee for almost two years, I'm still navigationally challenged around here, especially when I need to head over to the Florida State University campus. But somehow, I did find my way to hear James Bradley tonight, author of "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Flyboys." Read the story on my Tallahassee blog.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Oh, I'm Stressed"

While writing this, I see my boy Anderson Cooper is on "60 Minutes" interviewing Kenny Chesney. Without cable, I usually don't have the pleasure of setting eyes on Mr. Cooper.

Life has felt a bit overwhelming lately, not feeling in control nor having any time for myself. I haven't written much of anything and have neglected emails. (And so much has happened in pop culture over the past few weeks that I want to comment on!) I'm basically in reactionary mode right now and I hate that feeling. Once I get through the month of March, life should be good again.

The gnome is retiring because despite popular belief, I am not a 12" troll with a white beard who likes watching bombs explode. This is me:





[Note: "Oh, I'm Stressed" from the "Seinfeld" episode called, "The Chicken Roaster."]

9:02 p.m. update: Argh! I'm frustrated I can't get the link to the photo to upload here on Blogger. Keep getting a link is broken error message. I tried using Picasso, Blogger's "friend" and I'm just too tired to figure it out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Remembering Afghanistan

Yippee!! A member of the editorial board for a Tallahassee-area paper called the "Apalachee Tortoise" (www.apalacheetortoise.com) had contacted me last month. She found me via this blog and asked if I would contribute something about my March 2006 trip to Afghanistan with Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org)

Almost a year later, I'm still struggling with the experience because it is unlike anything I've ever known. Writing the article (you can view the text here ).

Hope you enjoy it.

Is Your Neighbor a Criminal?

I usually don't open emails which have been forwarded, especially those claiming to reveal "something." But, I took a chance on one I received today and found it legitimate. It's called Family Watchdog (www.familywatchdog.us) and was launched in 2005 following the assault and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a neighbor.

Family Watchdog allows users to locate sexual offenders in their neighborhood. It's easy to use. Enter your address and look for your "house" on the map. Colored dots indicate a criminal with offenses ranging from assault against a child to rape to sexual battery. When you click on a dot, the offender's photo, mini-bio and convictions pops up.

According to this site, no offenders live in my apartment complex, but there is one man convicted of sexual battery living around the corner. Visit the site and take a look to see who's living around you. Stay aware and keep you and your family safe.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Life in AC Land: US Soldier in Iraq; Japanese Toilets & Page Views

Warning: blatant shameless plug post (but isn't that what a blog is for?).

My book review about, "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq" published on Associated Content this week. If you read my blog post about the author, John Crawford, in September 2005, the article will be familiar. Despite the book being published two years ago, it is still important as long as the War in Iraq continues. You can check out the book below. [BTW - I have an online site interested in my review of Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant: The Queen of Sky Blog - which is about a fired flight attendant; keep the fingers crossed they'll pick it up].

The big news over on AC is that page views are here! Yippee! It was interesting to see which articles have received the most views and which slagged a bit. Am I surprised my little bit about "How to Use a Japanese Toilet" received the most views? Nope. But I really do need to write a whole book devoted to the art of relief.

I am getting frustrated over there, though. Other writers boasting $50 offers when "all I got was a rock." [Charlie Brown fans will understand that]. I can conclude either my writing really sucks or I just never fit into the clique and it's just time to move on and focus energies elsewhere.

Anna Nicole Smith Dead: Now What?

The advantage of traveling this weekend is instant access to CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, etc., so I can keep updated on the latest developments on Anna Nicole Smith's death. "Wow!" It's sad she's dead but her ending just fits all the drama she's been through.

Right now, there are apparently three men claiming to be the father of her baby, Dannielynn. There's Larry Birkhead, the photographer; Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole's husband (are they really married?) and attorney; and now Prince Frederick Von Anhat, Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, is not only claiming HE'S the father but there may be other men who could be the father! What?! It's just craziness!

Here are some of the cast of characters in Anna Nicole's life the media have introduced:

Howard K. Stern - did you ever notice the tension between Anna Nicole and Howard K. during her reality show? It was obvious there was some attraction, an almost creepy attraction. Was Howard K. obsessed with her? Was he responsible for her loopiness over the past few years? He claims to be Dannielynn's biological father but refused a paternity test.

Larry Birkhead - okay, I really think he's Dannielynn's father because he wants a paternity test.

Prince Frederick Von Anhalt - Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband is claiming he had a decade-old relationship with Anna Nicole on CNN tonight. She did have a thing for older guys, he's in his mid-sixties. (http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/02/09/prince.paternity.ap/index.html)

Jay Howard Marshall's Family - Have they commented on her death? (This is the family of Anna Nicole's billionaire deceased husband, he was 89 and she 26 when they married). Will Anna Nicole's death add to the legal drama and the inheritance? Is Dannielynn now entitled to it?

TrimSpa - A class-action lawsuit was filed against Anna Nicole and TrimSpa earlier this month for false marketing.

Still mourning the loss of her son Daniel, maybe life became too much to her.

No matter what the cause of death is, conspiracy theories will circulate about "what really happened." Look at the deaths of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.

Again, I'm sorry she's dead but did we have all this fanfare when Former President Ford passed away? I mean, ALL the cable news networks are covering the story plus the entertainment shows. There's still a little drama going on with James Brown, the poor man hasn't been buried yet and he died on Christmas day! We're heading into the second week of February. Ewww!

The next twist in the bizarre Anna Nicole tale is any one's guess.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mish-Mash of Things

I feel as though the details of my life have been scattered over the past few days. In recognition of that, this post will have a mish-mash of things, here we go:

Peter Greenberg Worldwide launched this week: www.PeterGreenberg.com. He's a travel guru linked up with NBC's "Today Show" and AOL, to name a few. He has a cool business card, too. I met him April 2006 in Miami during a travel show- his card is in braille. He discussed his recent book, The Traveler's Diet: Eating Right and Staying Fit on the Road and how he lost a significant amount of weight while traveling. Now if I tell you what he said, there wouldn't be any fun in reading the book!

One of the coolest gifts I received for Christmas from a frequent visitor program was a year's subscription to Zagat from Starwood. Pretty sweet and a belated thanks to the Starwood peeps!

Just received notice from Hilton Honors about Experience Rewards. Popping open the email, I'm told I can pilot a fighter jet one day. COOL! Basically, Hilton HHontors(r) points can be redeemed for awesome experiences, like renting a Harley-Davidson through EagleRider or drive a stock car through a company called Signature Days. Loads of other experiences are available. For more info, visit Hilton.

Oddpodz.com just opened its Muzeum. It's a "global nation of creatives." Check it out, become a citizen, socialize, collaborate, chill.

I don't know if I was scammed or if it will become something but I reserved my place on the MillionWordSite.com. Remember the day when people sold pixels? Well, this is a similar concept except with words, for eight bucks a pop. The word I reserved? "Quirky." Was there any doubt?

That's all for now. G'night.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Beauty School of Kabul

I know visitors to my Afghanistan blog have read the story about meeting Deborah Rodriguez. She's an American who runs the Oasis Salon in war-torn Kabul. I finally wrote a formal story about meeting her and the good she's doing. Enjoy it here.

Valentine's Day for Singletons

Attention singles: isn't it great?! Valentine's Day is next week, which means on February 15, we are no longer reminded of our singleton status until Thanksgiving.

I agree, it sucks not having a special someone to make a goofy Valentine for (yes, I prefer making, although this year I sent my single friends cards from Target) or snuggle with or give a peck, but think of the long run: the money you'll save. Means more for you to pamper yourself. Ok, not buying it?

Then stop by the Web site 18dozen.com, a site devoted to breaking up, making up and moving on. And, you can even adopt a boyfriend! Yes, I have introduced this article before and I think the site and the story (a tennis-pro founded it) are pretty cool. Check it out, if you haven't already.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl XLI: Which Ad Was Your Favorite?

I have to admit, once my beloved Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s, I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. Football just isn't the same any more; the magic is gone.

During the Super Bowl in 2006, the most memorable ad was Burger King and the Whopperettes.

But which ads stood out in 2007? With "Time Magazine" making you and me their "Person of the Year" for 2006, it was only fitting a handful of Super Bowl ads involved everyday people. There were the half-naked dudes dancing around a Chevy, which was the result of the car maker's College Super Bowl Ad Challenge (you have to admit, although it was a little creepy seeing that half-naked old guy, you laughed).

Then there were the two commercials for Doritos, both produced by novice film makers. Maybe this will be their big break. Out of hundreds (maybe thousands?) of submissions, five finalists were selected, each who won $10,000 and a trip to Miami for a private Super Bowl party. Fans voted for their favorite. "Live the Flavor" was made on a budget of $12.49 (maybe to pay for the chips) but my favorite was "Check Out Girl" for her sassy, flirty confidence.

The National Football League (NFL) had a fan-inspired commercial, too. Gino Bona won the NFL's "Pitch Us Your Idea for the Best Super Bowl Commercial Ever. Seriously." contest. He had to make the pitch in an "American Idol-like setting." The 30-second spot titled, "Hard to Say Goodbye" aired at the two-minute warning during the fourth quarter.

But the most talked about fan-input commercial had to be "Kiss" for Snickers. "Quick, do something manly." Following the commercial, fans were driven to www.afterthekiss.com to vote on one of four endings to be aired later this month during the Daytona 500. If you didn't catch the one which aired during the Super Bowl, catch it here. More Super Bowl XLI commercials can be viewed at ifilm.com.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

S2S 2007

I've begun planning my next trip, which I've decided to keep a "secret" until I actually get there and start blogging about it. Don't worry, it's within the United States and a region of the country I've always wanted to explore. It will be a bit of a road trip traveling over scenic highways.

Found a great deal on airfare and rental car (despite picking up in one state and dropping in another). Accommodations will mostly be covered with hotel points - rock on!

I'm naming it "S2S 2007," which are the first initials of the cities I'll be flying into and out of. Stay tuned!