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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, missed it !

Bats on Congress Bridge in Austin

On our Saturday evening in Austin, our party decided to go to see the Bats at Congress bridge. Since I knew something about Austin I was the one in charge of arranging it. I said let’s leave between 5:30 in order to have dinner just before hand. Since some of us wanted to have a nap, we compromised at 6.

So by the time we get going it was more like 6:20 and after seeing some I35 traffic, I began to wonder to myself if my recommendation of going to Chuy’s was a wise choice. We get there at about 6:45 and find a parking spot but there was a 15 minute wait.

After about 20 minutes and just as I was following up with the front desk, our table became available. The ordering and then bringing the food took some time and after it all, the food alas was pretty mediocre. My enchilada sauce we caked hard from over warming and Patricious did not like his crispy tacos at all.  On the plus side the waiting staff was very attentive and the food in a tourist area is cheap but I was left wondering if I should have gone to my second choice of ‘Shady Grove’ instead which has an outdoor patio and hybrid Americano/TexMex food. I thought Chuy’s would be more the more memorable for everyone but it wasn’t. Nothing special, move along.

As we walk to the van, it is now it is after 8:00 and kids are asking me about the bats and saying we have plenty of time since they only come out at night. I correct them and say they come out at twighlight so we need to get a move on.

We drive and park in a pub near the Congress bridge. I point out the No Parking signs other that patrons and the door staff at the pub watching us getting excited. We convince the driver that getting the car towed may not be a good idea after all. (I bet the door staff get a commission if they call in a tow away). So we all get in the car and park in a multistory at Riverside/1st instead which turned out to be free but a big walk.

It is 8:40 by the time we get to Congress bridge we see a big crowd on the East side of the bridge but many are leaving. At the point where the land ends and lake begins, some kind souls allow our kids to come to the front where they can see some bats leaving but only if someone in the boat trips below shines a red light upwards.

What we wanted to see was the black dots of 100.000’s of bats disappearing into the night to hunt for insects  – see the picture. What we saw instead was the crowds of people looking for bats but there was nothing to see but blackness..

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Crowds below Congress bridge in Austin looking for the bats : Copyright Roads-2-roam

Ah  travel and the disappointment of reality!

Tales of the Brazos Riverbank

For Memorial Weekend, Patricious and I joined some family friends for a weekend in Austin. The trip up on US Route 290 from Houston revealed many flooded side roads and fields. Just past Hempstead near the Brazos, there was a minor hold up near the river where local police were directing farmers across freeway to round up some livestock. It  not often that you see a cop holding up his hand to halt traffic on a 70 mph highway road to allow someone on horseback to cross.

After spending Sunday in San Marcos, we took the cross country route thought Bastrop which eventually brought us back to I10 at Columbus. The I10 traffic was moving so I was feeling very pleased with my decision to leave on Sunday to avoid the Memorial day traffic snarl on I10.  From experience, it is a terrible route to travel on holiday times, as it is only a 2 way freeway that cannot any handle the volume of traffic.

water gawking on I10

The queue on I10 to gawk at the Brazos Flood

Then we hit traffic stop just before Sealy. As we are now stationary, I look on Google maps and see stationary traffic all the way to the Brazos river. There was no indication of a wreck on the map and having seeing the degree of flooding further up North, and having just passed the flooded Colorado at Columbus about 20 minutes before (normally it is a passive river around there), I guessed it is related to the Brazos flooding.

Forty five minutes and 15 miles later, I confirmed that was the case but it was nevertheless stunning to see the degree of flooding at the Brazos having passed that same spot many times over the years. For those who know it, it extended past the DPS commercial vehicle enforcement station.

As we sped up, we notice some locals driving up the service road even though it was closed. While they may have made it out of this stretch, further up it was deeper.

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A Texas hellraser driving where Angels fear to tread – A local driving through the Brazos river flood water below I10: Copyright Roads-2-Roam

 

French Unions are on strike again. Travelers impacted again.Weak French Government fiddles while France burns..

French unions

Roads-2-Roam has warned many times about the potential for strikes impacting you when traveling through or over France so it should be no surprise to hear that French workers are again on strike.

This time it is the refiner unions who have caused petroleum shortages at stations throughout France. Air traffic controllers have have also joined in so much of the budget airlines are affected.  The cause for this are changes to the strict employment laws of France and the hardcorde CGT union are pushing back against this.

All this comes at a time when France are about to host the Euro 2016 football tournament.

Sheesh. What a messed up country.

I was planning on going to Normandy this summer but will look at somewhere else.

CGT and French Government : Feed them to the lions

Washing and rinsing at Camp Clinton

American Camping Accociation : Enriching politicians through charities

American Camping Association : Enriching political friends through speech donations

We at Roam love camping, so was surprised to see American Camping Association (ACA) on the list of organizations that paid  to hear speeches from Hilary Clinton. In fact, theirs was the last one before she declared as a Presidential candidate.

Now curious,  I decided to take a deeper look into the ACA. From their website:

“The mission of the American Camp Association is enriching the lives of children, youth and adults through the camp experience”

Sounds great like a great mission doesn’t it. So why does ACA,  a  not for profit organization, spend 1/10th of it’s budget on a speech by a previous Secretary of a State ? Their annual report calls it out but isn’t much help – see excerpt.

2015 report from ACA calling out HRC's talk. Apparently Camp is very powerful.

The Washington Post back in 2015 wrote about the ACA event.  It mentioned some attendees questioning it’s value for money:

Still, with Clinton’s candidacy on the horizon, the price of Clinton’s speech caused chatter in the halls. Several counselors wondered if their group had paid Clinton’s usual fee of $200,000 or more, which would represent about 10 percent of the group’s annual budget.

Clinton, 67, has been giving regular paid speeches ever since she finished her tenure as secretary of state in 2013. In recent weeks, she has given speeches at the headquarters of eBay in San Jose, Calif., at an Emily’s List gala and at a conference for women working in Silicon Valley.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton adviser, declined to discuss compensation for Thursday’s speech. Jess Michaels, a spokesperson for the American Camp Association, referred questions to Clinton’s speaking agency, which did not respond to inquiries.

One interesting point about this is the Q&A from ‘camp owner and director Jay Jacobs’ from the report. Well it turns out Jay Jacobs is Democratic chairman of Nassau County, New York. He is also a member of the Democratic National Committee. At last but not least, he has involvement  with the Clinton Foundation. So being close to Mrs Clinton, ACA obviously got a reduction in HRC’s usual speaking fees. Far from it : They ACA paid $260,000.

This stinks.

So are there any other reason ACA may depart from their usual keynote speakers of child development or camp issues? The left leaning Daily Kos suggests it may have been to influence the State Department J-1 visa. The J-1 is an exchange visa where ACA uses this to staff their summer camps where in 2011, they had 25,000 Student Work Travel (SWJs). While promising a chance to visit America, the Students work the camps and get pocket money in return.

The SWT program grew dramatically – from 20,000 participants in the early 1990s to a peak of 153,000 workers in 2008. It is currently capped at 109,000 workers after public outrage over widespread abuses of working conditions, accommodation, compensation and a non-existent cultural component.

Participants pay significant fees to the sponsoring agencies ($1100 to $2000) in the hope they will experience America and make some money while they are here. In reality, the experience is often far removed from the exciting marketing materials on sponsor web sites. Sixty to eighty-hour weeks of making beds, flipping burgers, working the night shift and sleeping four, six or eight to a room in poor accommodations for minimum wage are all too common.

Employers in such resort towns as Ocean City, Maryland, employ thousands of these SWT workers for a variety of reasons divorced from any notion of cultural exchange. For starters, they save 8 per cent over the cost of employing domestic workers because they don’t have to contribute to Social Security, Medicare or Federal Unemployment Insurance.

The Camp Counselor program which the ACA fully embraces, offers similar advantages to employers. State Department rule changes in 2012 sought to draw a clearer distinction between counselors and SWT staff roles but tremendous ambiguity and virtually non-existent enforcement remain.

Those sponsoring agencies that do present an accurate picture of the job explain that counselors work 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week during a nine-week camp placement. Sponsoring agencies describe compensation as a stipend and an ACA 2013 FAQ as “pocket money”. Even using the high end of the stipend range ($1800), you get abysmal compensation: $1800 for nine 72-hour weeks, works out to $2.77 an hour.

Now we see it.

And to think ACA want donatations to sponsor children. Well ACA, take a hike if this is how you spend your money. You don’t deserve your 503 status. As as for HRC and her speeches as a front for donations – fighting for us indeed..this better represents you.

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees..

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees..

Our verdict: Feed the ACA and HRC to the lions.

LaJoy to the World: Meet the new boss – same as the old boss?

Parashoot-flames

The TSA re-organization and former Head of Security, Kelly Hoggan’s new assignment

There’ll be 1000 screen agents standing around.
1000 screen agents, standing around
and if one screen agent should accidentally fall be pushed.
there’ll be 999 screen agents, standing around.

And so it is then that we bid farewell to head of security for TSA, Kelly Hoggan who has been removed from his position after the fiasco in excessive pre-security lines. He has been replaced by Darby LaJoye, who is currently deputy assistant administrator. LaJoye was previously federal security director of and LAX and JFK.

LAX and JFK – that sounds really impressive doesn’t it? Except for some small details. In a poll by ‘Travel and Leisure‘, LAX was voted #2 worst airport (ranked 21st for check-in and security process) and JFK was slightly better in #4 worst airport (“Ease of getting a taxi may be the best thing to be said about JFK. You will wait—and wait—in check-in and security lines..”).

Egypt Air MS804 and the tourism crash

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Back in the days when ISIS was cool

We’ve been following the terrible news of flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo that went into the sea with 66 lives lost. Our thoughts go out to the families.

The obvious thought is that it is terrorist related.

It appears there was a fire in the toilets and area underneath the cockpit based on telemetry transmissions. Some news sources are also saying that the pilot spoke to Egyptian air traffic control after the said fire happened.

The Greek Government is saying that the plane turned 90 degrees then spun around 360 degrees. Today, the Egyptian Government is counter claiming that the pilot talking to traffic control and the spin didn’t happen.

Some off the wall tabloid stories are even saying UFO’s were sighted an hour before the crash.

It is likely that we will not get the real story soon especially will take some time to retrieve the black box and there are politics involved in controlling the story.

Nevertheless, what we do know is that this is another catastrophe for the Egyptian tourist industry especially at the Sharm-El-Sheikh resorts where rooms at Radisson Blu Resort are going for less than 20 UK pounds per night. The area already impacted the Russian aircraft bombing and then cutting off of flights from UK.

We guess this is what the fundamentalists want – They need to destroy  the village to save the village – and our thoughts go out to all those in Middle East whose livelihoods depended on tourism.  In Cairo, the tourism had already been hit after the Coup D’Etat against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

However, we don’t see this sorry story ending anytime soon. Either in the Middle Eastern tourism industry or in the terrorist attempts by ISIS or their affiliates.

Cravings for Spargelzeit

An Asparagus Queen : Source BBC news

It’s spring time and I am craving Asparagus.

This time of year has me thinking about “Spargel zeit” in Germany where in many restaurants in Germany from Mid-April to June, you will see special items on the menu celebrating fresh Asparagus. Note that the Germans prefer white asparagus over the green asparagus that Americans eat.

I remember visiting Augsburg and finding a restuarant that had dedicated “Spargel Fest” menu of nothing but Asparagus items. Multiple soups, appetizers and main courses. I had Spargel mit schinken accompanied with a good Hefeweizen.

If you are in Munich, check out the viktualienmarkt to see some traditional food grocers – see the picture. Just look how fresh it looks.

Buying fresh asparagus at Munich’s Viktualienmarkt.

Still hungry for more, here is a discussion by an Austrialan lady on Spargel Fest. It contains a good recipe for Asparagus soup or Spargelcremesuppe as it is known over there.

To add our 2 Eurocents on best way to cook ’em : The best way is to blanche it but shave them with a European vegetable peeler first.

The TSA (Thousands Standing Around) is You and Me

I’ve got admit I didn’t pay attention too much to the headlines about why we should expect long lines at airports this summer. Then I saw this youtube video taken at O’Hare airport.

The videographer started his video at the beginning of the security line and filmed himself walking to the start of it. The duration just to walk to the back of the line was 2:16. Incredible.

The New York Times is saying that if you are planning on flying, you should allocate HOURS to get through the security lines where the TSA has allocated fewer resources to screening this summer. That’s right – FEWER.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, about 600 passengers missed their flights on March 25 because an inadequate number of screeners led to waits exceeding three hours, airport officials said. Brent D. Cagle, the airport’s interim director of aviation, complained to the T.S.A., calling the episode a “fiasco.” “This situation could have been avoided, had the T.S.A. had the proper staffing (or overtime budget necessary) to meet customer demand,” Mr. Cagle wrote in a letter to the security agency. (T.S.A. officials denied that the wait had ever been that long, telling local reporters that it had been 75 minutes for a short time.)

This was far from an isolated incident. Airports in Atlanta, Miami, New York, Seattle, Denver and Chicago, among others, have all experienced similar problems in recent months. Denver @tsa is always horrendous… 6:07 PM ­ 20 Apr 2016 · Colorado, USA, United States 3 www dot CharlotteFor dot me TSA checkpoints backed up at Charlotte airport during Spring Break.

Last month, Denver Airport advised travelers to get to the airport as much as three hours before their flights. Still, people waited for more than an hour and a half to clear security.

The TSA claims the reason for the long lines are there are more travelers.

They are also understaffed due to employee turnover but they are also inspecting more after a Security audit showed the TSA had missed weapons and explosives in undercover tests.

The Chicago Tribune adds some more details on the TSA numbers where they cut their budget by 10% based on expected uptick on TSA Precheck. It didn’t happen. As the consequence to all this is that people are missing their flights.

Friday morning, American Airlines held at least five flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport because of passengers stuck at security lines, according to airline spokesman Ross Feinstein.

On the 7:20 a.m. flight to Las Vegas, 52 of the 160 passengers were not onboard 10 minutes before departure. American held the plane an extra 13 minutes. That allowed 23 passengers to hop onboard, but 29 still missed the jet and arrived on later flights.

At another American hub, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, security lines peaked at one hour and 45 minutes on Thursday.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told The Associated Press Thursday that “the longer lines get the more passengers are going to miss flights and there’s not much you can do about that.”

The biggest help to ease lines is to have more fliers enroll in the PreCheck program.

A bit about the TSA Precheck is that it is $85 and valid for 5 years but even some Precheck passengers, had to queue for about 1 hour.

Anne Marie Harrison, a wine saleswoman who has signed up for PreCheck and who flies out of Newark Liberty International Airport about twice a month, said she nearly missed her flight after waiting more than an hour recently. 

That day, the security line started downstairs, in the baggage check­in area. That was odd, she said, especially for a Sunday morning when the airport was usually empty

But the pathetic part to all this is the attempt at positive spin by TSA’s administrator, Peter V. Neffenger. “It’s really a good­ news story. The economy is doing well, Americans are traveling more, and this equates with record numbers at our checkpoints”. 

What a dick head.

Since I plan to be traveling this summer, I’m seriously looking at the PreCheck now if this will help bypass some of these lines.

Two Texas Cities give Uber and Lyft the finger

Prop minus one

Latest news from Texas is that two most liberal cities of Texas – Houston and Austin – have demanded that Uber / Lyft, conduct more stringent security  background checks above what the companies are currently willing to do.

  • May 7th Austin: Prop 1 was voted DOWN so that potential drivers MUST do finger print based criminal checks.
    • Both Uber and Lyft are now saying they will shut down. Temporarily of course.
    • Uber and Lyft argues that their own background checks were stringent enough and that finger-printed checks by Austin city was an overkill.
    • From the Austin Statesman: The Voting populace didn’t agree and in Austin’s case, the vote was a backlash against the Uber/Lyft campaign who had spent $8m versus anti-prop 1 spend of $0.1m

In Houston, the City push back is bigger where City Hall requires finger-printing, drug testing and a physical which is far more than what Austin requires. Lyft has already had previously balked while finger printing requirement existed. Uber is threatening to follow.

Meanwhile the Texas legislature may come up with a State wide direction. That will be interesting considering Austin’s rhetoric about Big Government over-riding local voters.

Giving us a Freudian slip?

The Jung ones

The Jung ones

Dahlings, there is a follow up to my post ‘Making America great..In London” where an artist Illma Gore, painted a nude Donald Trump where it is hanging (or not so hanging if you read the story) in a London art gallery which in turn, has become a tourist attraction. Apparently, it is showing in the UK rather than the US after threats of legal action. The painting itself looks good except for one small detail.

Last week, the artist reported she was punched in the eye by someone who then shouted”TRUMP 2016″.  Yesterday, Ms Gore gave an interview to the UK’s Guardian where she gives her version of the story which sounds mainly credible and also attempts to explain all the anonymous reports to Facebook and ‘calls from Trump’s lawyer’.

Not sure what to make of this story, I’d previously looked into Ms. Gore where she is an “Street” artist from Australia who is a bit of a rebel. In a protest against Tony Abbot position on gay marriage, Illma cycled topless though Brisbane with “My Shirt didn’t match my rights”.  At the time, Illma posted  on her facebook the very profound:

“I got up this morning and made this chick breakfast and instead of thanking me she just said “how did you get in my house” at first I thought I was a sea anemone and then I realised I was a homosexual – I cannot pin point as to whether it was in the utero or even ponder that perhaps I was made this way – after all whom am I to question the wisdom of a greater knowledge?

I know that the world in all of its gloriousness of life, of feeling, of articulation that there is an art of existence and everything we do connotes a metaphysical note in the symphony of life.

Lets move positively further because the future is now and in a moment.

What baffles me is how a human any one human but especially one who wishes to lead our Country to speak for the people can refer to a large part of our nations rights as a ‘fashion’; we are not statistics we are human beings.

There is no such thing as ‘Gay marriage’ it is simply marriage and the right to live a life without being segregated.

In regards Mr Abbotts radical statement “I will not make radical change for the fashion of the moment” I give you a radical response: that today as an artist and as a homosexual I will skate through Brisbane topless and well… I guess today my shirt didn’t match my human rights.”

Outside lesbian cycling protest and obscure facebook postings, I have to say her prior art is very good if you like things on the wild side and there is no doubt, she is talented.

Illma’s original name was Ashley but there is a twist that I was not expecting – Her father was Mike Gore, an Australian property tycoon who was a bit of an Aussie Donald Trump himself. Mike Gore was known for a development known as Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast. In 1992, Gore fled to the Canada, leaving the development in receivership where it was owed $45m and he died in 1994 from a heart attack. Here is a film about him prior to all that.

So is this nude painting really about Donald Trump -What would S.F. say?

Ciao for now,
Cleo.

PS: Her half-brother Craig Gore has financial troubles of his own where he is now bankrupt owing $289m- see courrier-Mail.