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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Weather you like it or not

A large tree rests on the RM 12 bridge over the Blanco River in Wimberley after a flood on Sunday May 24, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The weather in Texas has been wet. Very wet. Yesterday we had a tornado warning at 6 am that thankfully, was just a storm.

However, that same large weather front caused a flash flood of the Blanco River at Wimberly and San Marcos. Many are homeless and a family from Corpus Christi are missing after their vacation rental house was swept off it’s base. The San Marcos river came so high, it flooded over I35 which is elevated above the river.  In Wimberly, the flood was reported as being as high as 41.5 feet, 30 feet above flood level.

The Blanco River at Wimberly Texas in calmer times. Copyright Mikesluxurytransports.com

For those not familiar with either places, these are in the Texas Hill Country, one of my favorite parts of the Texas. Wimberly itself is small town, well known for it’s bed and breakfasts and touristy shops. It also has some outdoor swimming places, Jacob’s well and Blue Hole.

San Marcos is just off I35 about 40 minutes from Austin and has a campus for UT San Marcos. It also has a tubing on the San Marcos River.

While the Hill Country is very picturesque, it’s rocky landscape makes it susceptible to flash floods. Whenever you drive in the Hill Country, you see many warning on smaller roads about not crossing rivers in floods.

In North Texas, they’ve also had some of the wettest periods where the River River has topped the Lake Texoma Spillway: The 4th time in 58 years. A year  ago, the same lake was in a drought.

So what is the weather projection for this summer: Due to the El Nino in the Central Pacific, we can expect more of the same. California can expect to continue it’s drought.

US Weather forecast for summer 2015 (copyright: weather.com)

 

Strike two – where’s my wallet?

Eiffel tower works strike in protest of these guys

Dahlings, Those Frenchy Eiffel tower workers are out on strike again.

This time it is not a solidarity strike but it is a protest. The cause of the protest….Pickpockets.

Yes, you read that correct. They didn”t open friday to protest against the rise of petty crime around the tower.

In 2012, Louvre workers went out on strike for the same reason.

Well, I guess their hearts are in the right places but it is rather an odd thing to strike over.

Ciao for now,
Cleo.

Testing Pre-pay prices for car rentals

I’m considering a big road trip in June and thinking about renting an SUV instead of putting mileage on our existing cars. Normally I used Breezenet.com as my prefered sites for booking my cars. I found some great rates in the past.  Years ago, I remember one car rental person in Gatwick asking where I had booked it as he had never seen such a low rate.

Quote for SUBV rental with Breezet rate and Enterprize

Quote for similar car with Avis but using pre-pay optionI didn’t see such screaming low rates today so out of curiosity, I decided to look at Avis’ site where I have a Wizard number and sometimes good rates with that.

Even without a Wizard number, they show better rates than Breezenet rate if you pay in advance. Same car is $110 cheaper. As a test, I plugged in my Wizard number and it made no difference.

The small print on the cancelation is $25 if 6 hours before and within 6 hours is a $100 NO SHOW fee.

There is always the priceline name your price route but personally, I like the transparency before I jump into something. I also have a good experience of AVIS where I use them a lot for business travel.

For the record, here is Priceline’s comparison (Breezenet is owned by Priceline. Unbfortunately as I seem to remember getting better rates before aquisition). Note that National are owned by Enterprize hence the Priceline/National rate is the same as Breezenet/Enterprize rate. Confusing, I agree but welcome to the world of travel brands where so many sites and companies are in fact the same company.

The SUV options from Priceline

The SUV options from Priceline

 

Budget quote for Ford Edge  (slight upgrade from Escape)

Budget quote for Ford Edge (slight upgrade from Escape)

I looked at the Budget’s pre-pay option for same type of car. Slightly higher but here again, slightly better car. Edge vs Escape where I didn’t see the Escape as an option.

By the way, the $1084 rate in Priceline is for the Escape and the $1329 is for Edge. 

Whatever way I book, seems like pre-pay directly form the car rental companies is best saving with ~30% each time. This is also what Priceline ‘name your price’ claims to offer. If so, their pricing edge (SUV pun intended),  may be changing for car rentals.

He ain’t nothing but a hound dog

Don't buy anything from Ahmed Mohammed's  hot dog stand

Don’t buy anything from Ahmed Mohammed’s hot dog stand : Copyright NBC New York

Some people deserve to get named and shamed. Ahmed Mohammed is one such shyster.

NBC run a story with video clip of his overcharging tourist for hot dogs – up to $30 in some cases – and short changing others. To make it worse, he is doing this outside the World Trade Center. For starters, NYC ordinance says prices need to be published.

Hope the bad publicity and NYC puts this rotten bastard out of business.

Jessica Lappin of the Alliance for Downtown New York said “it gives New York a bad name.”

Is that even possible?

Anyhowy our verdict: Feed him to the Lions.

Munich : Quick guide

A collegue is going to Munich for business but will have some free time including a weekend there. He asked for recommendations to do.

This article is going live to help him out where I was monkeying with google maps anyhow. Click on an item to see what it looks like.

A-Frauenkirche, B-Viktualienmarkt, C –Sankt Peter Kirchen, D-Hofbräuhaus München and E-Hofgarten are all close to each other and you can walk here. The Viktualienmarkt is best seen on Saturday morning. Not on the map, but you can also wander down Kaufingerstrasse or go North up Ludwigstrasse where there are plenty of shops, bars and cafes.

F Englischer Garten is famous for its nude sunbathers but has 3 beer gardens, the famous one is near the Chinese Tower.

H Hauptbahnhof doesn’t sound like much of a place to visit but on Sundays, this is probably best place to shop. If you are looking for great snacks, this is a good place to come to.

G Olympiapark go up the tower and I BMW Museum and great to wander around where BMW museum is a favorite for car buffs.

J Deutsches Museum if you are into science, is somewhere where you can while away hours.

K Maximilianeum

L Oktoberfest München – not much to see here when it is not a festival

M New Town Hall

N Munich Residenz

O Königsplatz

P Siegestor

Q Bavarian State Opera

R Nymphenburg Palace – a bit out of town but you can catch tram or bus there.

Links
Munich tourist board

Munich Found – English speaking magazine: What’s on etc


Outside Munich, there are other attractions to consider – see maps below. These can be accessed by car or train.

Typical attractions are Neuschwanstein Castle (B), Chiemsee (I), Gamish-Partenkirchen (D), Dachau (Q) on the map.

Wash n’ stay?

Ha ! While looking for hotel in Corpus Christi over Memorial weekend, I came across this offering in the list of possible hotels.

Look at the picture chosen to communicate first impressions of the hotel.

Plush bedding? Flower petals on your pillow? Welcoming smile?

No. The laundry room !

Can't wait to see what the hotel room looks like.

Alternatively, this could be an attempt at Guerilla Marketing. The message “Quick book fast otherwise this will be the only room available”.

Augustus.

Reflections on Winston Spencer Churchill – part 1

Today is 70 years of VE (Victory in Europe) day which was the end of the Second World War in Europe. I’ve included the speech by Winston Churchill announcing the unconditional surrender of German forces by General Jodl and Admiral Dönitz.

Not only that but recently on April 25th was the 100 year anniversary of Galipolli of which Churchill was architect of that campaign.


 

Willam Manchester's biography of Churchill : Volume 1I am a big history buff and it gave me pause to think not only of the war days, but of Churchill’s involvement in British history.  Over the last two years, I have been listening to many books and Podcasts that talked about Winston. While I knew some of it, I was amazed to learn the things he has been involved in. I have visited the Churchill War Rooms beneath Whitehall (highly recommended) which after the war room themselves, had a fantastic exhibition on Churchill’s life including letters, pictures and movie clips. This is how I discovered there is more the the man than just his WW1 and WW2 personalities.

Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born in 1874 in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. His old man was Lord Randolph Churchill whose Dad was the Duke Of Marlborough. While Pops was a Lord, Winston would not get the title since his Dad was second son. Churchill’s mom was an American socialite, Jenny.

Blenheim palace : Birthplace of Winston Spencer Churchill

Blenheim palace : Birthplace of Winston Spencer Churchill

Both parents were too busy with their respective political -Randolph was Tory MP and later became Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance minister)- or social lives (Jeannie was a party girl with numerious lovers including the Prince of Wales) and neither of them spend quality time with young Winston. His surrogate mother was his nanny, Elizabeth Ann Everest, who is called “Wom” (as in short for woman). Wom would be the emotional bedrock for Churchill.

School life was miserable time for Churchill and he continually looked for parental attention and approval. Reading his letters to his mother for her to visit him and heartbreaking. While he was somewhat gifted in certain academic topics, he continually came in the bottom of class. His father was continually disappointed in him.

After School, he joined the army and ended up in Cavalry. He tried 3 times to get into Sandhurst and Cavalry had lower entry requirements compared to infantry. Nevertheless, Army life appealed to him and he somewhat excelled. While still in the army, his mother’s influence got him to be a Military journalist position covering the Cuban war of Independence. While this got him noticed on the public stage as a journalist, it gave him a taste for cigars.

Later on in his Army career, he ended up in Egypt and became involved in the battle of Omdurman., last meaningful charge of British cavalry. He also continued his side gig as a journalist and his account was published in 1899 where he was critical of General Kitchener’s killing of the wounded.

After army, Churchill made his first attempt at politics running for MP for Oldham. He failed to be elected.

Statue of Louis Botha, Capetown

Statue of Louis Botha, Capetown

Needing a job, Churchill fell back to journalism where luckily for him, the second Boar War had broken out in South Africa. He became a Prisoner of War in Pretoria after an armored trained was ambushed. Amazingly, Churchill escaped and travelled almost 300 miles to Portugese East Africa. This did wonders in the British Press for his reputation and he managed to return to the front just in time to  relieve Ladysmith. During the War is when Churchill first met Louis Botha – he led the ambush of train that captured Churchill – and they would be later allies during the first world war after Botha became Prime Minister of The Union of South Africa.

Statue of Lloyd George on Parliament Square, London

Statue of Lloyd George on Parliament Square, London

After South Africa, Churchill returned to Britain in 1900 and campaigned successfully this time, to be Conservative MP for Oldham.

However, Churchill fell out with Tory Party over tariffs where he changed party to the Liberals in 1904 and started his Ministerial climb where he met the “Welsh Wizard”, David Lloyd George.

Churchill helped introduce a number of social reforms including first minimum wages in Britain and Unemployment insurance. He was promoted to Home Secretary in 1910, where he became personally involve in the Siege of Sydney Street. It was also a time of social strife that involved a number of labor strikes and the Suffragette movement.

OMD, OMD, OMD Clemantine

Before I get too far down Churchill politcal life, now is a good time to introduce the love of his life: Clemantine. They first meet in 1904, where Churchill was socially inept in talking with women. It wasn’t until 1908, when they met again at a ball, did the romance blossom. They got married and were very close and affectionate. They had pet names -Pug and Cat – and had five children in their long marriage.

1911, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty which took him into the First World War. Under his direction, new ships were to be powered by oil rather than coal and recommended stockpiles of oil be build up. Churchill was also strong advocate of airplanes to be used in combat even learning how to fly himself.

To be continued in part 2..


 

 

 

Skiplagged 1 : Utd 0 (Own goal)

Update on Skiplagged's 'godfundme' page

Update on Skiplagged’s ‘godfundme’ page

Roam got an email update recently from Skiplagged regarding their lawsuit where United was suing them.

The update is a bit meek in saying it was a ‘technical’ dismissal but CNN gives more beef. Basically the judge looked at it and said he had no jurisdiction over the case since the defendant neither lives in not does he do business in Chicago.

Ouch. That is not a good start.

By the way, United: you have invoked the wrath of the Streisand effect – Not many people were aware of ‘hidden fares’ until YOU brought it up.

You should fire your legal team and the idjiot manager who decided this was a good idea.


See previous post:  SCAMCHESTER UNITED: UNITED SUES WEBSITE THAT SHOWS “HIDDEN CITY” FARES

Insurance scam meet dash cam

An insurance scam attempt captured on dashcam. The driver did not even hit her !

An insurance scam attempt captured on dashcam. The driver did not even hit her !

I’ve been sitting on the fence on getting a dash cam but got around to ordering one this Monday.

This is one of the reasons : To avoid fraudulent insurance claims.

If you watch this, you will see the driver brake erratically and not following the movement of the traffic. It ends with the driver stopping 3 feet away from the car, yet the driver gets out claiming she is hit.

This type of scam is pretty big in Britain where they call it “Crash for cash”. One insurance company Avia is claiming that 54% of claims are ‘crash for cash’ fraud.

This is not only UK problem however. Years ago when I visited Italy on business, an Italian work colleague noted my rental car and asked If I was going to Naples. I said no and he proceeded to warm me that tourists are a target where they will even reverse into you and claim you drove into them. Not a lot you could do about it as they always had ‘witnesses’.

Back to the facebook video posting:

This is why I have a camera in my van, this clown (reported to the Police and crime reference number obtained) slows down then moves forward then slows down again then stops then rolls back a tiny bit. She then tries to claim I ran into the back of her. If you watch you will clearly see that I am nowhere near her, in fact about 3ft away all the time. Crash for cash??? If anyone knows this person please feel free to share it all over and shame her. She had to cheek to start shouting abuse at me when I pointed out she was being recorded. She was heading into Gosport at 0850 this morning off the M27 (junction 10)

Posted by Terry Harborne, May 5, 2015