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Jack Bog's Blog, by Jack Bogdanski of Portland, Oregon

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September 2002 Archives

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Jimmy the Greek, I ain't

Another busted week trying to get rich picking NFL games. I bet correctly 4 out of 6, but that won't cut it. I even broke it down onto two cards of three games each, but there was a loser on each, and that means you're nada. New England and Miami let me down. But I knew that Detroit and Dallas were solid bets, and I'm proud of those two.

It does make Sundays a little more fun, but next week, I go back to one card.

Delta blues

Even the U.S. Postal Service can now track a package and post its location on the Internet. So how can a major U.S. airline lose a suitcase for 24 hours, and be able to provide the bag's owner absolutely no clue as to its whereabouts? Easy, if you're Delta Air Lines. My recent trip to Atlanta was badly marred by the incompetence of the Delta baggage "system" (if you can call it that). Plus some wickedly arrogant "customer service." I journeyed 2500 miles in a most uncomfortable (albeit new) seat to wind up addressing 600 distinguished professionals, with me wearing a T-shirt that I had had on for the better part of 24 hours. My compensation for this "inconvenience"? Why, nothing. The bag got there 22 hours after I did, which is two less than 24, and so Delta wouldn't even pick up the cost of a spare toothbrush.

I thought the government and the airlines were bending over backward to make sure that every bag on a U.S. aircraft had its owner on board the same plane. Guess I was wrong.

It ain't just 9-11 that's bankrupting this industry. A little thing called hubris is at work here, too. For 20 years the airline execs screamed incessantly that what was really needed was deregulation, deregulation, and more deregulation. The almighty Free Market would make everything work better than ever before. Government should just leave the benign carriers alone to work their magic!

Now with 12 bad months under their belts, they're back on Capitol Hill crying, "Mommy, Mommy, we need another bailout!" As they say on the Hollywood Squares, I disagree. There will always be a sizeable U.S. airline industry -- the fleets are there, the crews are there, the passengers are there. The real question is whether this set of managers, and the shareholders who saw fit to put them in charge, should have their sacrosanct Free Market Risks retroactively forgiven by the U.S. taxpayer. If it were up to me, I'd let them all go under, and we'd start all over. Within a few months, everything would be similar to the way it is now, except that we'd substitute: New managers. New investors. And a new regulatory scheme.

Maybe not everyone would get to fly wherever they wanted at the drop of a hat. So be it. As it stands, the industry is asking to become the next Amtrak, only with rich executives and fat-cat owners left in place. Toupees of Congress, just say no.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Blew out my (psychic) flip-flop

I attended Jimmy Buffett's show in Portland last night, having the good fortune to be up close to the "Son of a Sailor" himself. A full report must await another time, but the strong suggestion I sensed as I stood there in the largely drunk and delirious Parrot Head crowd was an analogy: Buffett is to Bruce Springsteen as Jay Leno is to David Letterman.

The analogy doesn't completely hold up: Buffett is completely original, whereas a good deal of Leno's shtick seems derivative. I like Jimmy a lot more than I like Jay. But in terms of the conflict between smilingly putting butts in the seats vs. struggling intensely for perfection, I think the parallel is there.

Next, we buck the hurricane on our way to stormy Georgia. Have a great weekend. And as Bob Borden says every night, God bless America.

...Oh, yeah, and please light a candle for: Miami -3.5 @ K.C.; Detroit + 7.5 vs. N.O.; Dallas + 11.5 @ St. L.; Cleve. + 6.5 @ Pitt.; Tampa -8.5 @ Cinn.; N.E. - 3.5 @ S.D. Peace, out!

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Overheard at the KFC drive-through

"A bucket of extra crispy; large fries... oh, and make sure it's made with the Colonel's special blend of herbs and spices." (Thanks, Howard Bashman.)


My Sept.11 anniversary lament/rant included this passage:

Some people are outraged that we are rounding up foreign Muslims for crimes like falsifying Social Security records and carrying traces of TNT in their suitcases onto our commercial aircraft. But you know what? I'm not. Cancel my ACLU membership. (Actually, it lapsed a while back.)
Now it turns out that the supposed traces of TNT found on the one gentleman's bags weren't really there after all. Nor was there cocaine. So it looks like we're now down to some older Social Security violations for this fellow -- serious concerns, perhaps, since fake Social Security numbers were apparently part of the Al Qaeda modus operandi. But it's not enough to keep him locked up without bail.

I'm still not joining the ACLU. But I'm definitely starting to get the feeling that indeed, we are just trumping things up with this one. Surely things are not as clear-cut as they seemed previously.

Guess we'd better keep that Bill of Rights, after all.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

It don't come easy

My recent string of gambler's luck has quickly been balanced out by some unsuccessful wagers. Today I join the legion of gamblers cussing out the inability of the New York Giants to score a single touchdown against the sorry Seahawks of Seattle. Heartfelt raspberries to the mediocrity from the Meadowlands.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Here's a beautiful album

If you haven't heard vocalist/pianist Norah Jones's disc, Come Away With Me, you should. I know nothing about her except that she has a most intriguing voice, she and her bandmates have written some excellent material, and they have surrounded themselves with some spare, straight-ahead arrangements that bring out the best in the voice and the songs.

Why I've lost interest in the NBA

Living in Portland, Oregon, I have but one significant professional men's sports team to root for: the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association. As season-ticket-buying time rolls around once again, I get a chance to reflect on why I no longer care enough to pay attention to that team, or that league.

A big part of my problem is the Portland team itself, managed by a group of nitwits who have assembled roster after roster of players who are impossible for an intelligent fan to like. Not only don't they win on the court, but by and large they are also losers in life. Drug addicts, attempted rapists, wife beaters, drunk drivers, cop beaters, even female cop beaters, we have had them all here in the Rose City thanks to the Blazers.

Then there is the rest of league, personfied by dominant player Shaquille O'Neal, a powerful and talented man who seems to care little for anything but his own bloated paycheck. Play on the U.S. Olympic team? In the All-Star game? In the world games? Nah. Too busy or hurt, always. And now he doesn't want to play most of the 82-game regular season, either -- he schedules elective surgery for late summer, just in time to miss the first half of the season and the All-Star game.

These owners, these players, they are faxing in a crummy version of what this game used to be. The refs are convicted tax cheats, and many fans are convinced they throw playoff games, too. They won't be getting any more of my money, and I will be steering young people away from them any time I get the chance.

How sad. It used to be such fun to watch and root.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Bad Idea of the Week

"Trusted traveler" cards that will allow certain preferred passengers to skip by parts of airport security. The proposal being floated is to allow some travelers to avoid security by subjecting themselves to voluntary background checks, particularly if they are frequent air passengers.

Oh, really? And exactly who will decide which travelers are worthy of a free pass past security? The folks who have done such a fantastic job at the FAA? The INS? The FBI? The CIA? The airlines? If the experiences of the last year-and-change have proved anything, it's that you can't trust federal agencies to make sensitive judgments to insure our safety. Honestly! How long would it be before a "trusted traveler" card fell into the wrong hands? How long before a "trusted traveler" went over the fence and decided to become a terrorist?

The pressure for this organized breach of security is reportedly coming from the corporate road warriors who travel the most. (No sane person would doubt that the airlines are goading them on.) These are the same weasels who took out all those full-page ads to shed their corporate tears about 9-11 and pledge eternal loyalty to the red, white, and blue.

Corporate America, if you love this country so much, then subject yourself to the same airport security as everyone else. Take off your shoes, empty your pockets, extend your arms, and do it with a respectful, quiet smile like the rest of us.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Dear Janet Reno

It's over. You seem like a nice person. Please, please step away from the public spotlight.

Thank you in advance.

Curious George

Not only are we going to resume the Bush Family Vendetta against Saddam, but we are going to trash-talk the U.N. in the process.

This wouldn't be half as scary if we had actually elected this guy.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Reverend Bruce

They ought to be playing Bruce Springsteen's new album, The Rising, on religious radio (among other places). At least a dozen of the 15 songs on the album make reference to God, the devil, and/or resurrection, and there are quite a few outright prayers.

Just reading the lyrics of the songs on their face, one comes up with a list like this one:

Lonesome Day: "This too shall pass, I'm gonna pray... Let kingdom come"

Into the Fire: "May your faith give us faith/May your hope give us hope/May your love bring us love"

Waitin' on a Sunny Day: No apparent reference.

Nothing Man: "It's just me, Lord/I pray that I'm able"

Countin' on a Miracle: "I'm countin' on a miracle/To come through... In God's hands our fate is complete/Your heaven's here in my heart"

Empty Sky: "I want an eye for an eye... On the plains of Jordan/I cut my bow from the wood/Of this tree of evil/Of this tree of good"

Worlds Apart: "'Neath Allah's blessed rain, we remain worlds apart"

Let's Be Friends: No apparent reference.

Further On (Up the Road): "One sunny mornin' we'll rise I know"

The Fuse: "Devil's on the horizon line"

Mary's Place: "Your favorite record's on the turntable/I drop the needle and pray"

You're Missing: "God's drifting in heaven/Devil's in the mailbox"

The Rising: Numerous references.

Paradise: No overt reference, although entire song reflects on what "paradise" is.

My City of Ruins: Lengthy final verse is an express prayer.

Is this what gives this record such great appeal to me? That would be kind of surprising. But like my rock hero, Bruce, I'm getting to be an old guy, so I guess this comes with the turf.

You got that right

The Oregonian's Renee Mitchell has written some excellent commentaries on life in the fair city of Portland in recent months. Thoughtful, blunt, but with her heart in exactly the right place. This piece on Wednesday was particularly well focused, and echoed sentiments expressed in this blog recently.

Tell 'em, Renee!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Doom, gloom, and always the anger

What have we done in the past year to insure that more terrorists won't commit more murders on American soil? Not enough, I think. Air travel is safer than ever, but life on the ground surely is not.

The kook who mailed the anthrax from Trenton appears to have been ahead of his time. But how long before the U.S. starts suffering suicide bombings on public transit and in public squares?

Some people are outraged that we are rounding up foreign Muslims for crimes like falsifying Social Security records and carrying traces of TNT in their suitcases onto our commercial aircraft. But you know what? I'm not. Cancel my ACLU membership. (Actually, it lapsed a while back.)

I'm sorry, but I'm also done with the puppet potentates of the Middle East -- particularly the Saudis, but they're not the only ones -- who smile in our faces while stabbing us in the back. The sooner we start shunning states like theirs, the better. Of course, as long as Big Oil rules our country, we will continue to sleep with these fellows and wake up smelling like them.

Ah, me. The ugly feelings that I continue to feel a year later are perhaps the real tragedy of 9/11.

On the anniversary

Here. This speaks to me.

Monday, September 9, 2002

Viva Las Vegas

Can a couple survive a long weekend in Sin City with a 2-year-old? Based on our experience, the answer is an emphatic yes, but we recommend a number of key ingredients for a successful trip:

Money. We were blessed to have enough of this commodity to "do things right." Actually, we didn't need too much, as we were able to score a beautiful room at Caesar's Palace at a very low rate thanks to a generous friend. We wound up with a huge two-queen nonsmoking room high up in the Palace Tower -- one of the nicer rooms we have ever occupied. And we were able to have adjoining rooms with our accompanying couple and their child, and we opened the door between the rooms so that the kids could roam between our room and theirs. Tons of space.

Money well spent is what we paid for a cabana that we rented every day alongside the Caesar's Venus pool. The cabana has lots of nice amenities, including service that fawns over guests all the day long. The tent-like structure provides a refuge from the sun when necessary, and the TV allows gambler sorts to keep one eye on the day's sporting events. That view alternates with the topless sunbathing scene at that particular pool, while one's other eye remains (of course) on the toddler.

We went cheap on one thing only: gambling. Although the Caesar's casinos are beautiful and provide great gambling conditions (good lighting, hardly any smoke), the stakes were slightly too high for our tastes, and so for that activity we left the Caesar's property. Otherwise, during the day you could find us at the cabana, and in the evening it was a 50-50 bet that we were somewhere in the Emperor's lair.

A friend. Our companions have a child just a few months younger than ours. The kids get along well. They keep each other occupied for fairly long stretches, and two stashes of toys, books, videos, etc. are exponentially more fun than one. My wife and I took the two of them out to a grown-up restaurant for dinner one night -- no problem. Can't imagine that either of the litle darlings could have or would have been any sweeter on their own.

Gear. We relied heavily on our sturdy travel stroller. Our companions left theirs home in favor of a backpack-style baby carrier, but the two toddlers, staying with their solidarity theme, insisted on climbing into the single stroller together. A little crowded, but great togetherness! A few blow-up boats for the pool also came in quite handy, as did sun protection (lotion and clothing).

Trust. Our companions have a good Las Vegas babysitter whom they hired through the hotel in past years: a person whom in a different era you would have called a "nice little old lady." Instead of sitting just their little one, she minded both theirs and ours for two of our three evenings, enabling both couples to do adult things for a few hours. Better than we usually manage at home! Leaving the little one with a relative stranger wasn't easy for me, but she was great, and everything was fine.

Realism. One great aspect of this trip's agenda is that it contained virtually no ambition. In past trips, we felt compelled to pound the pavement of the Strip, drinking in as much of the attractions as we could. That was exhausting, and I can't imagine doing it with a little one. This time around, on foot from Caesar's, we made it only as far as across the street to the Bellagio (for the scene) and to the Barbary Coast (for cheap gambling). We also jaked a cab and rode over to the Orleans (off the strip) one night for an hour or so of excellent cheap gambling. And that was it. Never made it off the Caesar's property otherwise. Didn't need to. Our energy wasn't sapped by those miles-long walks in the desert heat. The joints look close together on the map -- they aren't. The front doors of two adjoining hotels can be a half mile or more apart. Guaranteed to make everybody cranky, especially if your destination turns out to be a bust.

Our daughter had a great several days despite her stationary status. The pool and cabana were a big hit, and she loved the dancing waters across the street at the Bellagio. We sang and danced around the walkway surrounding the gigantic fountain as it played "Singin' in the Rain." Soooooo sweet! And the shops and scene in Caesar's are more than enough for little eyes over a few days.

Luck. It doesn't hurt for you not to lose your shirt via the fall of the cards, dice, slot counters, etc. We were never in the red, and wound up ahead by just over 100 bucks -- enough to put a smile on our faces. When my first pull on a $2 slot bet paid $60, I knew that the toddler scent I had on me was good luck. Emboldened by this, I picked up another $55 on college football bets, and broke just a hair ahead of even on craps and blackjack. Gambling is great entertainment when it is free, but a nightmare when the odds mow you down. Bring good luck, or the correct attitude and restraint to enjoy losing.

It looks like another Vegas trip is in the cards for this time next year. We look forward to it enthusiastically.

Thursday, September 5, 2002

On special assignment

What happens when two middle-age Oregon couples take their infant daughters to Las Vegas for a long weekend? Watch this space for a special report early next week.

Monday, September 2, 2002

Three hundred hits

Sounds like the title of a Cheech and Chong album, but it's actually the number of times someone (other than I) has connected to this weblog since its inception earlier this summer. Just think: This junk used to just rattle around in my head all night -- now it's rattling around in other people's as well. Hmmmmm.... not sure if that's a good thing.

OK, here is a definite good thing (if you're in the right mood). Here too.

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