Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Birthday!

Today is my birthday! Since I got back from Europe late last night I am pretty tired and jet-lagged today (I will write about the whole trip soon once I get to relax and rest up.) We picked up my dogs early this morning (at 8 am), we had lunch at the local dinner - I think we are now the talk of the town since several people kept talking about our trip - and then we made a quick trip to the market. There was a lot of mail (since we had it on hold for about 2 weeks) and I got several cards. I also got many birthday wishes on Facebook.
I knew this year would be pretty low-key and was fine with that. I do wish I got more birthday cards though - I suppose some could still be on their way as several are coming internationally. I think getting a card is even more fun than getting a present although I would not turn down a present either. I say that every year, but it's true.
My parents gave me a really cool camera for my birthday - they gave it to me early so I could use it on the trip and I took lots of great pictures. That has to be the best present I got (although the trip is up there too.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heading To Ireland

Tomorrow I am going away to London, Ireland and Northern Ireland for several weeks. I am not sure when I will have Internet or when I will post something. When I get back home I will write all about my trip.

Transgender Passport Change

From Yahoo News:
"New Passport Rules Ease Switch for Transgenders"

I don't think this is a very good law. Just because a man dresses as a woman doesn't make him a woman. If he undergoes surgery and then becomes a woman than I think she should then be allowed to change her gender on her passport or any other document. What happens if the man (who hasn't had the surgery) changes his mind and stops acting as a woman? By having the surgery proves beyond a doubt that they are committed to changing their gender - especially because it is so expensive.

Barcelona Says "Don't Cover Up!"

From Yahoo News:
"Barcelona to ban veil in public buildings"

I think this is a good idea and I know it is catching on throughout Europe. I only wish the same would happen in the US. I remember when I was in Kuwait and had to speak to a woman wearing a full burqa and how creepy that was, but I was in her country (although even as a foreigner since I am a man I had more rights than she did as a native.)Since I had to respect the local laws in Kuwait I think it is onlyb right that they respect our laws and traditions and covering your face is not one of them.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Charlotte Gray (2001)

This was a pretty good movie. It has Cate Blanchett who is a Scottish spy who goes to France during World War 2. She helps the French Resistance, blowing up German military trains and hiding two Jewish boys. She not only has to evade the German occupiers, but also the French Pro-Vichy collaborators.
It seems to me that France hasn't done enough to bring to justice those who collaborated with the Germans and yet they were given a zone of occupation in post-war Germany while we sold out those countries (like Poland, Czechoslovakia) which did more to stop the war.
The movie had what all the good war movies have: war, drama, suspense, betrayal and some romance.

Grimm (2003)

This Dutch movie has to be one of the worse ones I have ever seen. I thought that it would be an updated version of "Hansel and Gretel," but it was so far off. The brother and sister in the movie are in their 30s and love each other a little too much (they take baths together, sleep together, etc. Their parents leave them in the woods with a note to go to Spain and see an uncle there. Of course it only takes them a few hours to drive to Spain on a moped from the Netherlands.
The rest of the movie gets even weirder. The girl marries a Spanish doctor (and of course the two Dutch people can speak fluent Spanish, but the Spanish can't speak Dutch.) The brother looses his kidney in one of those "urban legend" stories and they hide out in an abandoned US Wild West Town in Spain.
I don't know what the director was on when he made this movie, but it can only be considered good when you are "high."

English For The Married In The UK

Yahoo News:
"Britain's new romance language is English"

This is a good requirement. Foreigners (especially those who want to marry and live in a new country) need to be able to speak the local language. I know most of Europe are creating new rules on immigration and knowing the local language is one of them. I would like to see the United States make sure would-be immigrants can speak English. It shouldn't matter that the US doesn't have an official language since the UK doesn't either yet they still made this language requirement. The fact that more than have the States in the US have made English their official State Language shows what Americans want.

Parlez Anglais? - Non!

From Yahoo Canada:
"French-speaking Canadians hid fluency in English: agency"

This seems a little childish of the Francophones. What is the point of knowing English if they don't use it? It's not like it was in the 1950s when only English was used throughout the country. I think the Francophones need to use English and the Anglophones need to use French.

A Russian Non-Holiday

From Moscow Times:
"New National Holiday Irks Non-Orthodox Faiths"

I don't really understand what the big deal is here. It's not really a holiday since people still have to work that day. I think there are more important issues that both governments and citizens need to address rather than worry about non-holidays.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Uniform Teaching Standards

From Yahoo News:
"States to establish uniform standards for teaching"

This makes so much sense it should have been done decades ago. So far only: Kentucky, Hawaii, Maryland, West Virginia and Wisconsin have adopted these standards, but as the article says "another 40 states and Washington, D.C., have agreed to adopt the standards in coming months." Hopefully the whole US will start doing this soon.

Proposed New Airline Rules

From Yahoo News:
"DOT: Airlines should pay bumped passengers more"

WASHINGTON – Airline passengers would receive as much as $1,300 for being bumped from a flight and would have 24 hours to cancel reservations without penalty, among other consumer protections proposed Wednesday by the Obama administration.

Currently, airlines must pay up to $800 for involuntary bumping of passengers.

The new rules, which will likely go into effect later this year, would also require airlines to fully and prominently disclose baggage fees as well as refunds and expense reimbursement when bags are not delivered on time, provide special notice any time baggage fees are increased, and notify passengers buying tickets whether they must pay to check up to two bags.

Price increases after a ticket is purchased would also be prohibited under the proposal. Airlines would also have to give passengers timely notice of flight status changes.

The proposal would extend a requirement to foreign airlines that they have contingency plans for returning passengers to terminals if they've been kept waiting on tarmacs for prolonged periods. A rule requiring U.S. carriers have contingency plans for international flights struck on runways went into effect in April. A flat prohibition on waits that last longer than three hours was also imposed on domestic flights at that time.

Transportation Department officials said Wednesday they are considering whether a firm three-hour limit should be extended to international flights by U.S. and foreign carriers. They're asking the airline industry and the public to comment on that prospect.

"This administration believes consumers are entitled to strong and effective protections when they fly," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

Currently, airlines may limit compensation to $400 for involuntary bumping of passengers if the carrier arranges substitute transportation scheduled to arrive at the passenger's destination one to two hours after the passenger's original scheduled arrival for domestic flights, or one to four hours for international flights.

They limit compensation to $800 if the substitute transportation is scheduled to arrive more than two hours later for domestic flights, or more than four hours later for international flights.

The proposed rule would increase the limits to $650 and $1,300, respectively, and adjust those limits every two years inflation every two years.

While acknowledging the financially troubled condition of the airline industry, LaHood said he believes airlines can factor the new rules into their schedules with causing disruptions in service.

James May, president of the Air Transport Association, which represents major carriers, said airlines would evaluate the proposals "with a focus on minimizing potential passenger inconvenience."

Bumpings due to overbooking are becoming a more frequent occurrence. They rose in three of the past four years and jumped 10 percent to 762,422 in 2009, the highest total since 2002. They soared 17 percent in this year's first quarter.

Airlines are required to first ask for volunteers before involuntarily bumping ticket holders. They can reward volunteers with travel vouchers, but people forced off flights must be paid in cash or check. Critics say airlines often flout that rule. The Transportation Department recently fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for that and other shortcomings in its bumping practices.

When the government first regulated bumping three decades ago, passenger no shows were far more common. Today, with most airline tickets are deeply discounted and nonrefundable, no shows are much less of a problem. Planes are also more likely to be full due to cutbacks in airline schedules over the past two years. That means passengers who are denied boarding because a flight is overbooked often have a harder time finding a seat on another flight.

Interested parties have up to 60 days to submit comments to the Transportation Department. LaHood estimated DOT will finalize the new rules some time this fall.

^ I agree with all the new provisions and only hope that they become law soon. ^

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006)

This was a really good Irish movie about two brothers fighting the British during the Irish War for Independence (1919-1921)and then fighting each other during the Irish Civil War (1922-1923.) It showed the brutality the British used against innocent Irish civilians (including the use of the Black and Tans) and how the Irish stood up for themselves. It also showed how the Anglo-Irish Treaty that ended the War for Independence both divided the island (creating Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom) and its people.
I personally think that I would have sided with the brother, Damien. The Irish fought to end British rule over Ireland and instead the majority of Irish accepted giving the northern part of their island to the British. It would be as though we (Americans) fought the American Revolution against the British and then let them keep New England - unthinkable to many, but that is what happened in Ireland. Had the British left the whole island back in the 1920s then I don't think the "Troubles" of the 1960s-1990s would have been as deadly or violent as they were.
This movie comes a few weeks before I go to London, Ireland and Northern Ireland on vacation. I have a basic understanding of Anglo-Irish and Anglo-Northern Irish history, but hope to learn even more during my trip.
This is a movie that everyone should see.