Thursday, January 28, 2010

State Of The Union

From Yahoo News:
"Obama's State of the Union: How did he do?"
It seems that many people (Democrats and Republicans)do not think think Obama's speech last night was that good. It seems that he continues to say that he inherited from Bush - come on it's been a year and no one forced him to take on the position of President and all the problems he knew about beforehand. It seems that all Obama can do is make speech after speech an excuse after excuse.
The US needs a person who can not only deliver a speech, but also someone that can deliver actions that help the country. After one year, Obama hasn't done much but talk.
He wants to force all Americans to have health care regardless if they can afford it or not. If he wants to make it a requirement than he needs to make government funds available for those that can't afford it. Instead Obama's plan will force everyone to have health insurance and anyone who doesn't or can't afford it will have to pay fines. That has to be the dumbest thing I have ever heard. If you can't afford health insurance how can you afford a fine?
Obama needs to wake up and be realistic. He needs to focus on many issues (as any other President does) including: the military, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, domestic security, the economy, education, etc. We need and desire realistic actions instead of the fairy-tale words he has been given us for a year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

65 Years: Auschwitz

Today is the 65th anniversary of Soviet troops liberating the Auschwitz Death Camp in 1945. It is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Auschwitz was the largest Concentration/Death Camp the Germans built. Millions of people (anti-Nazis, Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Freemasons, Soviet POWs, priests, Jehovah's Witnesses, criminals, Communists, etc) from all over Europe were sent there.
Men, women and children were crammed into cattle cars without food or water and sent to Auschwitz (with the help of the National Railroads of each country involved.) Once at Auschwitz the men were separated from the women and children and then the Nazis selected those that looked like they could do hard labor and those that would be murdered right away.
For those selected to die right away they walked to a large building where they entered a room and were told to undress. Then they were crammed as tightly as possible into another room where a heavy door was closed. Gas was sent into the room through small holes in the ceiling. After around 5 minutes of screaming from the people inside the gas chamber's door was opened and other prisoners took the dead bodies to the ovens to burn them.
For those selected to be worked to death they walked to a large building where they were told to undress. Then all their hair was shaved, a tattoo number was put on their arms and they received rags to wear before being put in barracks where they waited to be told what hard labor they would be required to do. For the majority of those people sent to Auschwitz and were not killed on arrival the average life span was a few months before they died by starvation, disease, being shot or gassed.
No intelligent person can deny the Holocaust happened. The eye-witnesses (both the victims, by-standers and murderers), pictures, records and the camps themselves prove to the world what the Germans (and their helpers)did during the war.
No one should ever forget what happened during the war and even though it is 65 years since it's end those responsible should be punished and those murdered should be honored. Today is the UN's International Holocaust Remembrance Day and every country that is part of the UN needs to educate it's people about the horrors that can and have happened when people stand by and do nothing while they see others do evil things.

Song Of Survival

This was a good book. It is about Helen Colijn and her experiences being imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp during World War 2. I have read many books about people sent to German POW, Labor, Concentration and Death Camps during the war, but didn't know much about those run by the Japanese.
I did know that the Japanese were very brutal towards those they occupied and imprisoned. This book shows more insight into this brutality and how those interned lived through it.
Helen Colijn was a Dutch woman living in The Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia) with her family when the war broke out. Her mother was captured first and the rest of her family (her dad and two sisters) tried to flee to Australia only to have the Japanese sink their ship. They were eventually captured and separated (Helen and her two sisters went to a women's camp and their dad to the men's.) In the camp there were Dutch, Australian and British women who were captured by the Japanese throughout Asia. Along with the "white" women that were imprisoned were also those of mixed European/Asian blood (although many of the last group were given the chance to leave the camp.)
In the camp the women tried to make as much of a life for themselves as they could and as the Japanese allowed. Despite their efforts (the women, not the Japanese) there were numerous deaths and diseases. After several years the war ended and the women were free.
People tend to forget just how brutal the Japanese were (especially to captured soldiers and white people.) The Japanese beheaded and conducted chemical experiments on many captured soldiers because they believed it was wrong to surrender. The Japanese also raped many women and forced lots of them into "Comfort Brigades." The things the Japanese did during the war go well beyond this book.
I believe that the Japanese who lived during the war should be held to the same standards as the Germans for what happened. Many stood by and did nothing while their governments, military and ordinary citizens murdered millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Cap

This book, by Roman Frister, was pretty confusing to follow. I would have thought that since the author was a journalist after World War 2 in Poland and then Israel he would know how to make a story flow - I was wrong.
The book is about what he went through during the Holocaust and afterwards. Rather than starting with before the war, then the war and the Holocaust and then the post-war he jumps all around from one point to another. His story is interesting, but he needs to have someone better to edit it so it flows more easily.
I also had no idea why the book was called "The Cap" until I was almost finished reading and he spent a page on an experience he had while in the camps. I think he could have just as well called it "The Boots" - if you read the book the reference would make sense.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Valkyrie (2008)

I just finished watching this movie. I had heard many bad things about this film and so kept putting off watching it. I have to say that I thought it was really good. It was fast-paced, dramatic and as close to the actual events as can be made on the screen.
The movie shows that those in the July 20th Plot knew they might not succeed, but that it was the only way to show the Allies and the world that not all Germans were Nazis and not all Germans agreed with Hitler or the war (even if some came to that conclusion late.)
This film shows some of the true German heroes. It is very sad that it wasn't until the 1970s that those few in the German Resistance started to be seen as heroes who wanted to help Germany rather than traitors.
The July 20th Plotters and the White Rose were some of the handful of German anti-Nazi/anti-Hitler organizations. The majority of Germans alive at the time either fully supported Hitler and all that National Socialists stood for or simply went along because they felt they had to (which makes them just as guilty.)
It is 65 years since the war ended and yet the actions of those alive at the time still need to be addressed. There are still many alive who were active in the crimes and need to be punished. There are many Germans in my grandparents' generation that were in their 20s-30s during the war and many are just as guilty as Hitler and all the rest for allowing what happened in the war to take place (by not speaking out they are just as wrong as the murderers themselves.)They need to be shown that even after 65 years their actions during the war should not go unnoticed. The Germans born after the war should hold their grandparents and great-grandparents accountable. No excuses (such as "We didn't know" or "We were only following orders") should be allowed. It has been proven numerous times in the past 6 decades, beyond a doubt, that the majority of Germans during the war knew more than they would ever admit to knowing nowadays.
The actions of a few Germans in the Resistance do not overshadow the millions upon millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children murdered by the Germans during the war. Their actions do, however, show that there were still some Germans who could think for themselves and risked everything so they and their families could live knowing they were morally right. If only the majority of Germans at the time would have stood-up and spoken out it could have changed the war as we know it today.
Every German school child should learn about all the evils their country and ancestors committed in their name (not just during World War 2, but also World War 1, in East Germany, etc.) While more attention should be given to all the murderous acts committed by the Germans throughout history the small acts of German Resistance should also be taught so that every German school child learns that while their country has done many unspeakable crimes in the not so distant past there were still those Germans who gave their lives to try and make Germany a better place.
This movie should be included in the school lessens - or movies like it. Regardless what you think of Tom Cruise and his "religion" the film still stands on it's own and portrays what happened in a realistic light.

German Hypocrites!

From BBC News:
"Germany chided for limit on Poles"

I had to include this article because I think it is beyond stupid. Doesn't anyone in the German Government think it is hypocritical for Germany to discriminate against ex-communist countries that are now part of the EU? Maybe Angela Merkel? It has only been a little more than 20 years since East Germany (an ex-communist country) reunited with West Germany. In fact Angela Merkel herself lived in Communist East Germany. So by German "logic" the former West Germans should discriminate against former East Germans if they want to continue to discriminate against Poland and other former Communist countries now in the EU. The EU is supposed to do away with barriers, but it seems that the continued discrimination of other EU countries (like Romania, Bulgaria, etc) is ok - hypocrites!
Sometimes, people and governments need to stop and think before they come up with stupid rules.

Yemen Stops Visa-Free Travel

From BBC News:
"Yemen 'stops issuing visas at airports'"

I guess this is the one thing that Yemen can do to try and "weed out" potential terrorists (like the Nigerian underwear would-be bomber) from entering their country. Hopefully, their Embassies have more security and background checks installed to check on those applying for visas.

Transport Canada's New US Rules

From Toronto-Pearson Airport's Website:
"Travelling to the U.S."

Are you travelling to the United States through Toronto Pearson? The new security arrangements might mean that getting to your plane could take a little longer, but your journey through the Airport will be made a little easier if you keep the following suggestions in mind. Being a smart traveller reduces the time it takes to get through the airport and makes your trip more relaxing.

Q: How early do I need to arrive?
A: Transport Canada recommends that passengers heading to the United States arrive 3 hours prior to their flight time to allow for security screening.

Q: How can I check in?
A: Many airlines offer web based and mobile check-in options. These will help streamline your check in process at the airport. Also, check-in kiosks are available in both terminals. If your airline offers this option, you will be able to check-in at any kiosk in your terminal.

If your airline does not offer web or kiosk check in, or if you are not comfortable with these options, airline staff are available to check you in for your flight.

Q: What are the current carry-on rules and regulations?
A: When flying to the US one piece of carry-on baggage is permitted through security screening. Many restrictions still apply regarding the size and type of carry-on permitted. The carry-on bag cannot exceed 23 cm x 40 cm x 55 cm.

Essential personal items required for travel such as medication or medical devices, small purses, cameras, coats, items for care of infants, laptop computers, crutches, canes, walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items, special needs items, musical instruments, diplomatic or consular bags are permitted.

When you are packing for your trip, we would recommend that you ask yourself whether what you are thinking of carrying on is essential. If you don’t need it during the flight, please pack it in your checked baggage.

Please remember that there are restrictions on liquids, gels, and aerosols.

Q: What are my options if I have something that is not allowed to go through security screening?
A: You may discard the item, put it in your checked baggage, or store the item at the airport at The Travel Store. Additionally, The Travel Store offers passengers the option of mailing an item to the address of their choice.

Q: What can I expect at the airport if I am going to the US?
A: First you will need to check in. This can be done in person, on-line or via mobile service, depending on your airline.
Once you have checked in and been issued a boarding pass, you will need to have your checked baggage weighed by airline staff.
Next you will need to fill out your US Customs card and then go through US Customs. This step may be streamlined if you have a NEXUS card. (US Customs opens at 4:30 each morning)
Once US Customs has cleared you to travel into the US, you will go through the first step of CATSA’s pre-board security screening. Before you arrive at your gate, you will have a secondary security screening stop.
Following this secondary screening, you will proceed to the gate area, where the airline will check boarding cards when it is time for your flight to depart.

Applying for your NEXUS card is always a good idea. Application forms can be found online or at the NEXUS office at the airport.

Q: What about the full body scanners?
A: CATSA has begun implementing full body scanners at Toronto Pearson. One machine is operational at Terminal 1 and passengers travelling to the United States may be required to pass through this machine as part of the security screening process.

Q: Can I still shop in the terminals while I am waiting for my flight?
A: Yes you can. Our restaurants and shops, including duty-free remain open in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 to serve you.

Q: Which documents are required for travel to the US?
A: Passengers are required to present a valid passport or other valid document such as a NEXUS card when travelling between Canada and the US. Please check with Canadian Border Services Agency and the US Bureau of Consular Affairs for specific details.

Q: What about the countries that have been flagged by the US: what will this mean for me when I’m travelling out of or through Pearson?
A: The US Transportation Security Administration has identified countries that they consider to be high risk. Transport Canada is currently reviewing the situation and will make a decision on how to apply the new rules at airports in Canada.

If you are planning your trip, check airline schedules. It is worth keeping in mind that the busiest time at the airport is always first thing in the morning. To avoid the busy times, you might ask yourself whether you could take a flight at midday or in the evening.

Toronto Pearson is making every effort to make sure that your trip through our airport is a smooth and pleasant one. Please check back often as we will update this site with more tips on how you can make your journey at Pearson Airport an easier one.

^ It seems that Transport Canada and the Canadian Government are finally starting to think and use "common-sense" (as I wrote about earlier) with passengers flying from Canada to the US. ^

Divided We Fall (2000)

I saw this movie last night. It is a Czech movie about a husband and wife who help a Jewish friend hide from the Nazis during World War Two in Czechoslovakia. It was a very strange movie and not the typical war movie I usually see. It did mention the collaborators who helped the Germans - thus adding even more people who knew about the arrests and killings.
The movie had a good background story that just didn't seem to click together on the screen. I don't know if it was based on a true story or not, but many scenes (especially at the very end) were more comical than dramatic.

Every Day Lasts A Year

This book was alright. It is about a set of letters that are sent from Krakow, Poland to the United States from 1939-1941 (it ended once the US entered the war.) The letters are from a Polish, Jewish family to their son/brother/uncle/brother-in-law who managed to flee Europe.
The letters don't reveal any real hardship of a family living in German-occupied Krakow (and then forced to move to the Krakow Ghetto) other than occasion mention of maybe being forced to leave Krakow. I guess I expected more when I heard about this book. I know there were censors and that it was war-time, but I have seen original letters and post cards sent from other ghettos and even concentration camps where codes were used that would tell the true hardships going on.

Haiti Help

I have seen all the calls for aid on TV, the Internet, etc and believe that people who can should give something. My only issue with many of these aid groups is that one minute they cry for people to help and then turn them away if they have anything other than cash. I will never understand why aid groups do not want to accept canned food, toys, or clothes - if they are so desperate (as they usually say) for help then why not take ALL the help and donations they can?
I am hesitant to give money for things like this because you never know if it is really going to the cause you intend it to (in this case: Haiti.) Cash can just be put into someone's pocket and never get to those who really need it. If I want to give good, clothes, food or anything else then to help those in need than I should be able to.
I do not know why the US has to take the lead in Haiti - aren't we already fighting wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and don't we need some troops in our own country to help if there is a natural disaster? I can understand and support Americans helping within Haiti, but that should be as part of a larger group with other countries stepping up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Colorado Trip: Part 5 Going Home

We got up early (5 am) and took my sister-in-law, niece and nephew to breakfast at IHOP. We don’t have an IHOP anywhere near us in NH so it was nice to go there. Then we drove to the Denver Airport. I have to say that after experiencing Logan Airport and how bad the TSA in Boston was I was prepared for the worse in Denver. I was luckily surprised to have no problems with anything there. The TSA at Denver were very helpful and professional. I liked that Denver as a Smoking Lounge for those who want to smoke while behind security. You had to buy at least one drink to sit there. In Boston they discriminate against smokers (like most airports do) and have no place to smoke. In Manchester, NH they have free smoking lounges as does Washington Dulles.
We had no issues boarding our plane. It was a fully-booked flight and so every seat was taken (except for one in the middle between a kid and his mom who were both wearing masks.) I got the “pleasure” of sitting next to a woman who kept sneezing and coughing right on me for the whole 3 ½ hour flight. I tried as best I could to keep away from her, but to no avail. I wish I had the masks those other people were wearing.
When we landed at Logan we got our bags and then headed outside to catch the private van we hired to take us to my friends’ house where our car was parked. We got stuck in Boston rush-hour traffic and when we finally got to the car my friends’ driveway was plowed of the new snow, but was very icy. I had to clear about 6 inches of snow off my car with my hands because the scrapper we have broke. It was very cold and dark.
We finally headed for the 2 ½ hour drive home. We stopped at a Boston Market for dinner. Luckily it wasn’t snowing. When we got home we saw that we had about 8 inches of new snow and that the plow had come while we were gone. I got the bags in the house and then shoveled the walkways.
I was exhausted from the long trip and after making sure everything was done went to sleep. We got our dogs the next day (today) and they were so happy to see us and be home.
I have to say that they trip was good overall. It was nice to get to see everyone and go to places we normally wouldn’t go to. But like most things it is good to finally be home. The only issues we had the whole week was dealing with the TSA in Boston, some dumb girls at a Baskin Robbins, the sick girl on the plane next to me and clearing the snow from my car by hand. That for me is the sign of a good trip - that more didn’t happen and the things that did were mostly minor.

Colorado Trip: Part 4 Pike's Peak

On Martin Luther King Jr Day we were all (my mom, brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew and myself) took the cog train up to Pike's Peak. I had called and made reservations before we went to the Dude ranch - which was a good thing because the train was pretty crowded.
When we got there we got our tickets, went into the gift shop and then got the box lunches you can take on the train. The lunches (I got a turkey sandwich) were pretty bad and expensive. The bread roll was so hard I had to throw it out and just eat the meat.
The train ride up took about 1 1/2 hours and I got a lot of nice pictures. We got to the top and had 30 minutes to eat at the cafe, shop in the store (they didn't accept credit cards, but luckily I had enough cash) or look at the views outside.
The trip down was the same (1 1/2 hours.)
It was a really nice day with the whole family. When we got back home we made some bulgogi - which I really like

Colorado Trip: Part 3 Winter Dude Ranch

My mom and I reserved two rooms at the Beaver Meadow Dude Ranch (on the Colorado-Wyoming state line) so my niece and nephew could have fun in the snow. What we didn't expect when we planned the trip to Colorado was how warm it would be (it was in the 50s during the day and 30s at night.) Coming from New Hampshire I was prepared for very cold temperatures and so brought a lot of heavy, warm clothes.
Luckily at the Dude Ranch it was a little colder than in Colorado Springs and there was still some snow on the ground.
My brother couldn't come with us because he was on-call with his job.
The road to the Dude Ranch were very small, dirt roads that had ice and snow on them - and we were in a mini-van and not the 4wd Jeep I am used to.
Even though we were only at the Dude Ranch from Saturday afternoon til Sunday afternoon we had a good time. My sister-in-law, niece and nephew went ice skating and snow tubing both days (I went snow tubing with my niece and nephew on Sunday.) It was pretty fun.
Most of the time I stayed with my mom while we watched the kids playing and then had hot chocolate. There was only one small restaurant - which was expensive since it was the only place to eat within 10-15 miles.
I took lots of pictures and in the end we all seemed to have a great time at the Dude Ranch.

Colorado Trip: Part 2 Colorado Springs

The road from Denver to Colorado Springs was nice. You could see the Rocky Mountains the whole time. We got to my brother's new house (he had just closed on the house December 31, 2009.) It is a decent looking house. A little small for me, but it is their second house and so is good for them.
I have to say that I wasn't really impressed with Colorado Springs. While it had all the main stores and restaurants they were so spread out. Also there are huge tracks of unused green space throughout the city while the housing developments are so close to each other and no house has much land. It was cool to see NORAD near-by.
We really went to Colorado to see my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece. Since we stayed at their house we got to see them a lot. The only complaint I have is their new dog, Luke. He is a rescue dog (as are most of the dogs we get.) When I first met him he was licking my hand and it seemed everything was fine and then he jumped at me and tried to bite me. I have been around dogs my whole life and have never had one do that to me. Needless to say my mom and I wanted Luke kept in a room away from us the whole time. My brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew were not that good at keeping him away from us. They would leave the door of the room he was in open and several times I would get something upstairs (our room was downstairs) for my mom only to come face-to-face with Luke. I don't think he is the best dog for my brother or his family. They need a more gentle dog.
While in Colorado Springs we ate out several times throughout our stay. Some were good (like Boston Market and On the Border) while others were just bad (Noodles and Company.) While the food was good at On the Border our waiter, Horatio, was awful and we got served by everyone but him. We complained to the manager (about Horatio and being over-charged), but made sure to mentioned the food was great. We got our meal for free and so we gave the waitress who actually served us a big tip.
We went to Fort Carson several times. That is where I got my post cards to send to my friends and family. One thing I will never understand is why Military Bases require an ID from everyone. I only had my Driver's License and showed that at the gate - how does that prove anything or keep the base safe? I would understand if I had to sign in since I didn't have a military ID, but they didn't make me. I guess it is more for show and to make you feel safe when in fact it is useless in terms of security.

Colorado Trip: Part 1 Arrival

I am back from my trip to visit my brother, his family and their new house in Colorado. Here is a summary of what happened.
We dropped the dogs off at the kennel near our house and then drove to our friends' house in Massachusetts. We took them out to the Olive Garden and then "spent" the night there - I say "spent" because we were only there until 2:30 am when the van service we hired picked us up and drove us to Logan Airport. I have flown several times into/out of Logan, but not on Southwest and not from the International Terminal. Check-in was alright, but the guy never told us how to get to the Southwest security check-point and so we walked around until I finally found a cop to ask. He said we had to take the elevator downstairs.
I have to say that the TSA at Logan were the worst I have ever seen (and I have flown hundreds of times throughout the US and the world.) There was only one line and a TSA woman shouting at people. I put our stuff on the X-ray machine and then the same TSA woman yelled at me to put my mom to the side while the women just stood there looking at us. Had I not flown so many times I would have had no idea what to do and the TSA at Logan were not helping in any way. It wasn't until I yelled at no one in particular that the TSA at Logan were the worse I have ever experienced and that not one of them would help my mother or myself. Right after I said that it was as though a bulb clicked in the TSA's head and the woman who had previously yelled and did not help became very helpful. She told my mom through security and then I complained to another TSA woman who finally helped me bring all 4 bins from the X-ray to where my mom was. I know my rights when travelling and what the TSA is supposed to do and am not shy to make them do their job.
After security I got the Pre-board card from the gate and then we went to have breakfast. We had to take an elevator upstairs and to the main International Terminal and went to the only place opened - Starbucks. The iced coffee I got was very hot and the food was pretty hard. After we ate we went back to the gate. We had no problems boarding the plane or during the 5 hour flight. The only thing was that I was so close to having no one sit next to us - the plane door was closed and the seat was still empty and then at the last moment a woman sat there.
We landed in Denver and took the train to the main terminal where my sister-in-law was, got out bags and then drove the hour to Colorado Springs.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On The Go In CO!

I have been in Colorado for a few days now and will write about everything when I get back next week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Miep Gies 1909-2010

From Yahoo News:
"Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank, dies at 100"

 The Anne Frank Museum says Miep Gies, who helped the teenage diarist's family hide from the Nazis, has died. She was 100. The Miep Gies Web site said the woman who rescued Anne Frank's diary after the family was arrested in 1944, died after a short illness Monday.

Maatje Mostart, a spokeswoman for the museum, confirmed the death but gave no details.

Gies and several other employees of Anne Frank's father provided food and other necessities to the Jewish family while they hid in a concealed apartment for 25 months. Anne Frank died of typhus in a concentration camp.

^ The last person from the Secret Annex has died. She helped bring Anne Frank's message to the world while all the time never accepting that what she did made her a hero. ^

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Swine Flu Vaccine

Yesterday my mom and I went to a free clinic (not the kind of free clinic for poor people, but a make-shift one at a church) to get the swine flu vaccine. We had to drive 40 minutes away. There was a clinic set-up at my local Town Hall for December 30th, but they didn't announce it until Jan. 3rd (good old small town thinking.)
We had to register online (our name and age) to go to the clinic yesterday. We got to the church (which is on a huge hill) and went in to register. We had to fill out one page -front and back - and then bring it to a person who checked it. My mom was told she was going to get the shot while I was getting the nasal spray. I took my mom to get her shot first and then got my spray. We then had to wait 5 minutes in "observation" - the woman in this last section was pretty weird and by the time she came over to our area and gave us the speech it was time to leave.
The whole thing took about 10 minutes (from the time we arrived until the time we left.)
I still think it is off that for months all the media and government talked about was how bad swine flu is and how many of us were going to get it and could die from it. Nowadays, you barely hear anything mentioned about it. It is as though it came and went. I still believe that anyone (doctors, nurses, teachers,caregivers, etc) who work and deal with people at risk should be made to get the vaccine and those that do not want to can simply find other work in another field. Why should we place those people more at risk in even more danger because their helpers do not want to get the shot? The caregivers have a choice whether to get the vaccine or not whereas those most at risk tend not to.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Canadian "Common" Sense

From The Globe and Mail:
"'Common sense' items allowed on U.S. flights despite list"

I'm not sure that Transport Canada has any real common sense after reading this article. To say that people flying from Montreal to Boston do not need laptops, but those going from Montreal to San Francisco do. For almost a decade we were told not to put laptops in checked-bags because they could get stolen (which doesn't speak highly of those that handle bags at the airports.) Business people would want their computers for work and tourists would want their computers to keep in touch with friends and family.
My sister flew from Toronto through JFK to Washington DC a few years ago and she checked her laptop in her bag. Her bag was lost and she was without her computer for several days.
I do not understand why the Canadians (ie Transport Canada) do not allow carry-ons on flights to the US yet they do allow 14 items from an approved list which they just can't put in a bag (how are they supposed to carry these 14 items without a bag?) It just seems that this list and lack of common sense is based on fear and nothing else. Even the UK allows you to have one carry-on (and before Canada they seemed to be the strictest country in this regard.)
Hopefully, countries (especially the US and Canada) will wake up and realize that they need to come up with real rules that will actually keep people safe rather than just say and do a bunch of things that are pointless.

Yossi and Jagger (2002)

This Israeli movie wasn't really what I thought it would be - I guess I read the description on Netflix wrong. It is about a small group of Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and the commander, Yossi, (Ohad Knoller) is having a secret relationship with is second-in-command, Jagger, (Yehuda Levi.)There are also two female soldiers - since Israeli women are also drafted - although the one woman just sleeps with anyone while the other decides she is in love with Jagger.
It was an alright movie. I was more interested in how soldiers in Israel's military (draftees) are treated and how they like fighting than the romance aspects.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Salem Witch Trial (2002)

This was a good movie about what happened in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. What started out as a sick game by a bunch of stupid girls turned into a chaotic religious craze. In the end dozens of innocent men and women were killed leaving behind a devastated community and a weak Puritan system (the last not being so bad.)
It amazes me how similar 1692 and today truly are. Back then as well as today people who are given even a little of power tend to abuse it for their own gain. It is also easy for people with influence to make others follow them blindly, never asking questions or second-guessing. It is only when a person stands up and exposes the flaws, often at risk to themselves, that the sheep (ordinary people) start to think for themselves and question things around them.

Family Center For War Dead

From Yahoo News:
"Family center opens at base where war dead return"

It's about time something like this was done. Soldiers have been dying in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003 and it took this long to think of the families of those killed serving their country. For some it is too late too late. Hopefully, the numbers of soldiers killed in action will go down to the point that this new center can close. There needs to be more done publically to recognize the sacrifice both the families and soldiers did for their country.

Obama's Speech

From USA Today:
"Obama: Al Qaeda 'a challenge of the utmost urgency'"

This was a pointless speech that did not say anything concrete or new. All it stated was that the US Government had all the information to stop the attack and did nothing about it, but that they would try harder. I feel very safe and confident now that I heard the speech - that is called sarcasm. It seems Obama and all those he appointed can not keep anything safe - from planes to White House dinners. He is inexperienced in this area and it shows. Hopefully, air passengers and ordinary Americans will continue to pick up the slack where the Government failed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More TSA Rules

From Telegraph:
"US tightens security for air passengers from 'terror sponsor' countries"

I think the TSA may finally be catching on to what people both in the US and around the world have been saying for many years. Since terrorists for the last decade have been from one group of people we should start focusing on that one group more than any other. The new rules say that people from a list of 10 countries (Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and one other)will have to be 100% hand-searched - both their bags and themselves - before boarding a flight to the US. I would say this is just a start and that many more countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East need to be included in this 100% hand-check. Also we need to realize that there are people born in these countries that have since moved to other places and now travel on different passports that should also be included (ie a person born in Somalia who became an American and travels on an American Passport.)Of course even this isn't full-proof as terrorists can easily get counterfeit passports and IDs.
I do agree that there should be more searches done, but not just on international flights. Domestic flights should also be included since the terrorists on 9-11 didn't hijack international planes, but domestic ones.
The TSA, airlines and Federal Government need to hire or invite more Israeli counter-terrorists to train us. Israel is the one country in the world that has a great track-record in uncovering and stopping terrorists before they attack.

Vodka Prices Won't Stop Russians

From The Globe and Mail:
"Russia's vodka drinkers get New Year headache "

I don't really think this will keep Russians from having their vodka. They seem to have to have it for any or no occasion. I remember always being told by my Russian friends that I had to have a drink because it would keep me warm (they told me this when it was -50 F and when it was 80 F out.) It is just their culture. In their blood. There have been other attempts (most recently in the 1980s) to ration vodka. It didn't work at all then and like I said above - I don't think it will work now.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

I saw this movie today and thought it was alright as just a regular detective movie, but not as part of the Sherlock Holmes series. It did not fit the same way as all the others (books, movies, etc.) I am not a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, but have read a few books and seen some Soviet-made movies about him and have to say the Soviet Sherlock Holmes follows the books much better than this new movie does.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

American Visa-Free Travel

According to Wikipedia American Tourists can visit 155 countries/territories without a visa or by getting a visa on arrival. That makes the US Passport one of the most prized in the world.

The Blue on the map is the United States. The Dark Green are countries that are visa-free. The Light Green are countries with visa-on-arrival. The Red are countries where visas are needed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's now 2010! A new year, a new decade. I hope that this year will be much better than any so far.
I spent the New Year watching the Ball drop in Times Square on TV. I have no desire to go to NYC in person and deal with all the crowds so seeing it on TV is just as good for me.
My New Year's Resolution this year is to be more patient with stupid people (I'm not talking about mentally disabled people, but those that just don't seem to have any common sense.) There seems to be many people who can not or do not think in every aspect of life (in government agencies, in stores, as contractors, on the roads, over the phone, in doctor/dentist offices, etc) and the way I see it is they aren't worth my time. I could let them get to me or I can be better than them and just move on. The only exception I am making to this resolution is when it involves an emergency and I need to get something done right away.
Hopefully, I will be able to keep this resolution and have a more relaxing and fun year.