Category Archives: Travel

A Year of Living Spare-ingly

Until you decide to pack up all your sh*t and stick it in a 10×15 storage locker, you never really conceptualize just how much useless junk you’ve acquired. While it’s true that, in the run-up to our ‘grand roadtrip‘, the Frogette and I spent months selling off everything that wasn’t nailed down…there were still boxes and boxes of things that we just couldn’t bear to part with, and the worst of it were the ‘spares’.

Oh sure, for the right price one can sell just about any piece of electronics, TV, printer, or piece of furniture. And what one can’t sell, when placed outside of any San Francisco flat, usually disappears in the space of a few minutes. But what I’m talking are the things you can’t sell, like…dental floss. How is it that a pair of frogs manages to acquire somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 packages of dental floss? Well, of course, we really do know the answer to this question: “It was on sale.”; “The dentist gave us one or two on our last visit.”; “At one point we bought a ‘MEGA-floss’, enough to stretch from here to the moon!”

And that’s not all… Do you poach the good shampoos/conditioners/soaps/gels from those hotels you stay in? Of course you do! I mean they add $10 or $20 to your nightly bill just for this stuff. So, “Hell yes!” you take it, but of course that comes back to haunt you when you’re packing for vacation and you discover enough conditioner to keep the British Army’s hair silky and lustrous.

Yes…it’s been almost 8 months since the Frogette and I decided to go on the road—4 since we actually left California—and we have yet to come to the end of ‘the spares’.

New magazine jolts publishing world – TSA body scans to appear in “Public Screenings”

The White House announced the first stage of a new business diversification plan today, launching the first-ever government owned monthly magazine.

“Public Screenings” will carry images of airline passengers taken by Transportation Security Administration using the new millimeter-wave scanning machines.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the TSA originally planned to release the photos in the Federal Register, as a way to preempt the paperwork burden of responding to inevitable Freedom of Information Act requests by Maxim, FHM and Fox News.

However, the Office of Management and Budget reviewed the project and immediately saw how a new magazine, when coupled with the public’s insatiable interest in seeing people naked, could result in a major new revenue source.

Press secretary featured in spread in premiere issue

Gibbs cited how the tens of millions of people who fly every year would quickly create a huge collection of body scans of people from all walks of life — including the rich and famous. “The sales of issues containing Tiger Woods mistresses alone could pay for three years worth of the upcoming military occupation of Yemen,” Gibbs said, adding: “Whoopsie.”

OMB projections see newsstand sales erasing the national debt by June.

However, the private sector publishing world denounced “Public Screenings” as exploitation and an invasion of privacy, and called the idea of a federally-published magazine socialistic.

“Americans don’t want a bureaucrat standing between them and their paparazzi, we already have the best private naked picture delivery system in the world,” said Vernon H.W. Lechér, spokesman for the U.S. chapter of the British Institute of Nude Observation Clubs United for Laws Against Robes (B.I.N.O.C.U.L.A.R.), a free-market less privacy rights organization.

“This is a job killer. If Barack Obama has his way, instead of lurking in bushes with telephoto lenses, thousands of independent photographic entrepreneurs will be living under those bushes,” Lechér said.

Instead, Government should cut regulations on independent photographic entrepreneurs. “Imagine what the Globe or National Enquirer could do with those TSA body scanners — provided all local voyeur laws are canceled by executive order,” said Lechér.

“Honest people with curtains and nothing to hide should have no objections,” he added.

In other news, Fox News commentator Brit Hume said yesterday that he meant no offense to Buddhism when he advised prodigal golfer Tiger Woods to become a Christian. “I was only saying that his kitchen floor would be cleaner and shinier with new improved Christianity, over Buddhism or other kinds of witchcraft,” Hume told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly.

Dispatches From South America – Burning the Old Year

Ecuadorans have a unique way of celebrating on the new year. They dispatch the Año Viejo (‘old year’)—along with effigies of the famous and infamous—in bonfires that are lit up just about everywhere.

These are the widows of the old year. They stop traffic and passersby, begging for alms with which to bury the old year.

And here we go…bonfires on every block, bonfires by the thousands. By morning Quito was covered in a smokey haze, but you know…I didn’t mind. Dispatching 2009 seemed somehow right. Certainly more appropriate than welcoming 2010. (More photos here.)

More ‘Dispatches From South America’

Demint has alternative to unionized TSA – Larry Craig may scan male air travelers

Declaring that every alternative security method should be explored before allowing Transportation Security Administration personnel to unionize, Sen. Jim Demint (R-SC) introduced legislation today directing the TSA to use former Sen. Larry Craig to screen air passengers.

The proposal is in response to the Christmas Day incident aboard an Amsterdam-Detroit flight on which a passenger was caught attempting to light an explosive device concealed in his underwear.

Demint’s bill creates a pilot program that would station Craig, the former three term Republican senator from Idaho, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where he would visually assess and hand-search all male air travelers.

“Airline security will also be President Obama’s Waterloo, and Larry Craig is the leading Republican expert on loos in airports,” said Demint.

“Craig has the know-how, the eyes and the hands for the job,” Demint said.

Reached while vacationing on New York’s Fire Island, Craig displayed ‘Official Underwear Inspector’ business cards he had already had printed. “What do you think about that?” he asked reporters.

An amendment to Demint’s bill by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) would require all female passengers passing through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas to be screened by Ensign and professional golfer Tiger Woods.

“Only Tiger and I together have the capacity to screen the estimated 9 million women annually passing through McCarran,” Ensign said.

Pat MacRauch, a TSA screener since 2006, said a proposal like Demint and Ensign’s is the very reason he and fellow screeners should be allowed to join a union. “Friskings require extensive training and are one of the biggest perks of the job. We’re not going to let amateur enthusiasts do them for free,” MacRauch said.

More air travel safeguards – Passengers will now travel in cargo

The Transportation Security Administration today announced new regulations covering international flights to the United States. The additional security measures are in response to a Christmas Day incident, in which Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab, 23, the London-educated son of the former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria, is alleged to have set off an incendiary device on board a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The new rules require all passengers to travel in the cargo holds of aircraft, said TSA spokesman Gard Frandle. “Palletized loading and transport of air travelers will result in an unprecedented new level of in-flight safety,” said Frandle.

Under the plan, each tranquilized passenger will be sealed inside a climate controlled steel box for loading into the lower part of the airplane.

An advantage of the new rules for the airlines is that passenger cabins are now freed up for baggage. “We’re taking the limits off the amount of luggage allowed on flights, and providing a level of service and comfort heretofore unseen for luggage traveling first class,” said Bertie McFraundle of British Airways.

However, travelers will be limited to one banker’s offspring in their carry-ons.

TSA Freaks Out! …Again

Three years ago, we all thought that the ‘no liquid, no gels’ rule on US bound flights was just a temporary thing. We joked about how it would lead to new draconian restrictions on air travel. A few airlines, most notably British Airways , did clamp down for a few weeks on the really dangerous stuff…like books and magazines. But then we all just learned to put up with 3 oz fluid containers, all the while holding our noses because of all those stinky feet in the security lines.

But with the most recent bungled attempt to bring down a Northwest Airlines jumbo, TSA seems to have jumped the security shark. Reports are coming in that indicate that passengers are being required to say seated for the last 60 minutes of all inbound international flights, while at the same time keeping their laps clear and their hands in view. Fliers are saying that they’ve been prevented from using their ‘approved electronics devices’, from laptops…to iPods…to DVD viewers.

F*ck! At this rate we really will be flying naked in no time—ordered to disgorge the contents of our stomachs and bowels before boarding to ensure that we’re not carrying anything that TSA might not like, including that Taco Bell burrito you choked down on your way to the gate.

Dispatches From South America – Do Ecuadorans Sleep?

So far Ecuador is proving to be a fascinating country, and Quito…a fascinating city. As I had hoped, our taking an apartment in the city’s ‘Centro Historico’ (the old city) was the right decision. It’s giving us a much more intense and rewarding introduction to Quito. Of course, being the only ‘Gueros’ (‘fair ones’) on the streets in the old city, is a little unnerving.

And another thing: Between the roosters crowing at all hours of the night and… “What the hell was that? Canon fire!?” How do Ecuadorans sleep? I am reliably informed that the booming explosions are part of the religious parades this time of year, but at 5:30 am!?

More ‘Dispatches From South America’

Thanks for Nothing

As I prepare to expatriate for a bit, I’ve found that living on the cheap is really…not so cheap. Even though I’m currently crashing with my parents and my apartment in South America is already paid for, there are still a whole slew of expenses that I just can’t get away from, most of which provide little or no value.

Cell Phones — Sure AT&T would love to help us cut the cost of our expensive plan…since their service is essentially useless in South America, but put the whole thing on hold? Not a chance,”…we’re not Netflix, you know”. The best they will do is cut our rate plan to the minimum and eliminate some of the ancillary charges, but we’re still paying $60+ per month, and for that we don’t even have voice mail.

Car Insurance — If you’ve ever lived without a car, you know that insurance companies don’t give a cr*p whether or not you been with them since you had pimples. Terminate your policy—even for a month—and you lose ‘continuity of coverage’. Lose continuity of coverage and your rates go through the roof. Now I have no choice, though my car won’t see pavement anytime in the next 3 months, I’m still going to pay $180 just in case the garage caves in.

Medical Insurance — Lost my job back in March; sporadic work since then; COBRA is too expensive, but I still need coverage of some kind. Since I’m traveling outside of my new home state, no policy I can get will do any more than help me cover an emergency, and then only after I fork out $20,000. And for that privilege, I’m going to have to cough up $170.00/month.

About the only recurring cost I have that actually provides some value is the rental on my storage locker. Yes indeed! 150 square feet at the best price per square foot ratio you can find in the Bay Area. Hey!? Perhaps I should move back to Sodom by the Sea and live in my storage locker. It’s climate-controlled and all of my stuff is already there.