Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

I hardly know where to begin. I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been mired in travel planning – I’m up until the wee hours every night doing research and finalizing arrangements – there’s a lot to think about when you are leaving the country for six months. But yesterday I looked at my remaining list of things to do before I leave and I realized I’m going to make it. Almost all the crucial things are done – taxes, powers of attorney, setting up all my bills as drafts or activating online bill paying, etc. Now just the little stuff remains and I decided to take a breather. One of my new friends loaned me the movie “The Secret” so I decided to kick back in my recliner, make a big bowl of popcorn, and enjoy the movie.

This movie is all the rage right now. Oprah has featured it on her show and discussion about it on the Web is rampant. For me the film was just OK. It contained nothing I haven’t known for years. That’s not to say it’s not worth watching. It’s just that I found it to be a rehash of information that was previously examined on the film “What The Bleep Do We Know?“, which I found to be so much better than “The Secret.” The premise of “The Secret” is startling in its simplicity – that we create our reality with our thoughts and our intentions and that there is only one Universal law, the Law of Attraction. In other words, if we dwell on the negative things in our life we will attract more negativity into our lives.

I have always believed that that there are two clouds of energy out there in the ether – a dark, black cloud composed of fear, hate, judgment, envy, despair, sorrow (basically all the negative emotions) and a pure white cloud composed of love, joy, gratitude, willingness, honesty, peace, etc. (all the positive emotions). I believe that if you stay in a positive emotional state – and this is absolutely a choice on everyone’s part – you will draw positive energy to you, while if you dwell on negative emotions Read More

OK, I admit it. I think am probably borderline OCD. First, I am an inveterate counter. For instance, I know that there are 19 steps to my second floor apartment because I count them every time I go up or down the stairs. I know the numbers to my credit cards, driver’s license, passport, and license plate by heart. Once I have dialed a phone number a couple of times, I can remember it until I no longer need it, at which point I erase it from my memory. I count the number of steps I take when I am walking. I even count the seconds it takes to get from one place to another or the number of seconds between events.

I also seem to have an amazing internal clock. Once, when I was in High School, we were learning how to give artificial respiration the old way – with the victim face down, pushing on the upper rib cage to force air out of the lungs and then pulling both arms up and off the floor to force air into the lungs. We were graded on how close we came to completing 12 rounds in a minute. I did it in EXACTLY 60 seconds. I can wake up at any time of the night or first thing in the morning and know what time it is without looking at the clock. I stopped using an alarm clock years ago.

While it doesn’t bother me if there is a little dust on the furniture or the floor needs vacuuming, it drives me crazy if a stack of books is crooked or papers on my desk are not lined up just so. Frankly, I think if people would always put things back where they found them, life would be Read More

We’ve had an absolutely delightful week of sunshine, crystal blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70’s, but today the temps dropped and by dusk a fog bank blanketed downtown, making for some ethereal scenes of Sarasota in the fog:

Artistic photo of Pastry Art in the fog, downtown Sarasota

Artistic photo of Pastry Art in the fog, downtown Sarasota

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Those of you who have been faithfully reading my blog know that I am enamored with Sarasota‘s commitment to culture and the arts. But this morning I saw that sports in Sarasota is also important. I have always known that Florida (along with Arizona, where I also lived for 11 years) is the winter training grounds for Major League Baseball. Today I learned that Sarasota has been hosting spring training since 1920, longer than any other city in Florida. The Cincinnati Reds train here and a huge crowd was on hand to welcome them back at a rally this morning in front of the downtown library. The faithful came in all shapes and sizes:

Man in Cincinnati Reds T-shirts

Man in Cincinnati Reds T-shirts

And woman in Cincinnati Reds T-shirt

And woman in Cincinnati Reds T-shirt

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You just never know when you’re going to be entertained. Today it was at a downtown coffee and pastry shop, where I stopped for a late afternoon snack. I had just settled down with my Vente Cappuccino when three cops walked in for their mid-afternoon coffee break. They were still standing at the counter ordering when a woman burst into the shop, demanding that they come over to her store and arrest her boyfriend. Two of the cops stepped outside to discuss the situation with her, but not before I heard her exclaim, “He maliciously embarrassed me.” Imagine that. Malicious embarrassment. Maybe there’s a new criminal code I don’t know about.

Although I couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation, the ensuing pantomime through the shop’s front window was almost as entertaining. I watched for nearly 20 minutes as the woman got right up in the faces of the two cops, shaking her finger and berating them for their unwillingness to arrest her boyfriend. A homeless guy sitting at one of the outside tables watched open-mouthed, shaking his head and laughing as the situation unfolded. Read More

On occasion I have written about things that I consider indicative of the “Failing of America” – usually companies that have lost touch with their customers’ needs and desires or have forgotten what customer service is about. In these cases there is usually a lot of finger pointing going on – blaming someone/something else rather than taking responsibility for ones own actions.

So it was refreshing to receive an e-newsletter from USAirways today where they actually took responsibility for their own actions. After providing an overview of their current state of affairs (they are now out of bankruptcy and actually turned a profit this past year – setting aside $58.7 million for their employees to be distributed through profit sharing), they went on to discuss some of the lessons they learned throughout their restructuring and merger with America West Airlines. The following are DIRECT QUOTES from the newsletter:

USAirways

On the subject of the A320 (aircraft) First Class overhead bin space (or lack thereof) there was this:

“If you’ve flown in First Class on one of 20 reconfigured A320s then you know that we blew it on the overhead bins by putting everything but the kitchen sink up there (e.g. oxygen tanks, video players, survival gear) and took up space that belongs to you and your bags. We sincerely apologize and we’ve thrown that process into reverse and will be clearing the bins out ASAP. It was clearly our mistake and you can take it out on us, but please don’t take it out on the flight crew; they’re on your side on this one. They’ve let us know loud and clear where we can put our equipment.”

On the subject of their web site and online booking services there was this:

“During the last month we’ve been like exterminators, focusing on bugs and fixing several annoyances.

  • Some purchasers were receiving an error when they attempted to buy a ticket. The reservation was made but a step was missing that prevented the ticket from being issued. That was dumb.
  • We killed a bug that prevented users from requesting retroactive mileage credit for 2007.
  • Also gone is the frustrating bug that inadvertently logged users out without warning in the user profile/my account section. OK, that was dumb, too. “

And finally, on the subject of the merger of the two separate reservations systems used by USAirways and America West there was this:

“The day we’ve all been waiting for … is almost upon us. Having two Reservations systems (Sabre and SHARES) is the source of many of the frustrations that you may have encountered online, on the phone and at the airports. But the end is in sight and …(we) continue to work overtime to prepare for a cutover, now planned for March. Surely one streamlined reservations system will be a welcome accomplishment, and again we thank you for your unending patience as we’ve sometimes clunked our way through with two systems.”

I LOVE it! Totally refreshing! I would love to see more of this type of thing. Perhaps that is why I decided to book my round-the-world travel through US Airways.