Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's wrong with the Health Care proposals?

There are lots of commentaries out there regarding health care and the various proposals that are being considered in Congress. All of them have one thing in common: They are trying to be all things to all people.

Health care is a really big problem. There are issues with people being dropped from coverage, being denied covered due to pre-existing conditions, etc. A single catastrophic illness can cause serious financial problems for individuals. I have no problem with something being done to help these issues.

On the provider side there are issues with the existing Medicare program not reimbursing in a fashion that encourages physicians to choose primary care, thus causing a shortage in first line physicians. In my particular area, laboratory, Congress has time and again tried to save money on reimbursing these services. This is because we do not have a real voice and we are the most politically expedient area to cut. We're virtually invisible to patients and our services aren't publicly valued even though the laboratory provides 80% of all data needed for medical decision making.

So, why do I have a problem with what's proposed?

As I said, too much is trying to be accomplished at one time. You can't try all solutions at once. As in any scientific experiment, it is important to change one variable at a time or else you don't know what caused any changes you observe. How do we know what has worked if we change multiple things at once?

My suggestion: Make changes to the insurance regulations. One big issue is that each state monitors their own insurance programs. If the insurance issues: Not able to get, dropped from are major problems, then regulate these issues. However, you need to realize that if you require insurance companies to take these insureds then the cost will go up. However, you could but a ceiling on the costs or determine a package of benefits that must be offered for a set price, but that many other packages could also be offered with additional services if people choose to take them. I am also in favor of the individual mandate. All adults should be responsible for making sure they are not a burden to society, therefore, they should be required to obtain a minimum package of services and most particularly catastrophic insurance. Perhaps, the catastrophic first and then the minimum later. This will help drive the cost down by having a larger pool of participants absorbing the risk. Insurance companies are in it for profits, but it has to react to the marketplace. More competition is better. But NOT government competition. That isn't real competition. I am open to some non-profit firms, but these exist now (e.g. USAA).

Bottom line: Insurance reforms should be tried first before the Government jumps into the pool. In the meantime, work on Medicare reforms that makes it better and reimburses more fairly. Examine changing the system from a procedure driven reimbursement model to some other model, because reimbursing procedures has been the downfall of primary care which utilizes medical knowledge (screenings/diagnosis/treatment) more frequently than they perform procedures.

Till next time...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Who is President Obama?

Seems like an odd question to ask as there has been wall to wall coverage on our President for years now. Maybe who isn't precisely the correct question, but rather what does he really believe and value? He sounds so reasonable and during the campaign his promises sounded so good. I even briefly considered voting for him because he said he wanted to be bipartisan and he sounded so moderate, like he wanted to compromise and make everything work well. Kumbayah and all that.

But I kept thinking about it and realized that he had always voted with the far left. He had essentially the same politics as John Kerry. But, he was playing the game differently. He was campaigning by staying away from specifics. It was the old "devils in the details." Without the details, you can say things that sound like they are great ideas, but when you get to the details they just aren't workable or even destructive.

Communism, in concept, and described generally sounds wonderful. Everyone will be equal all will be shared...the people will rule. Utopia is here. Unfortunately, in execution there are problems, some people will be, by necessity "more equal" than others because someone has to be the leader or representative of the people to other countries. So, this leads to corruption. Since it isn't a democracy, the party, supposedly looking out for the peoples interests becomes a clique or cabal of people who then feel they are "entitled" to more because they are doing more for the people and "protecting" them. In the meantime, at the worker level, if the government is going to provide the same to everyone, then what's the point of working hard? You're going to get your share anyway. Drops in productivity leads to poverty for all. Its just not sustainable. Human nature needs a goal to pursue and hard work deserves reward. That's what America has always offered. If you work hard, you can get ahead and improve your station in life. It doesn't matter where you started...all can rise with hard work.

What's happening now, is what I was afraid of. President Obama's ideas sound wonderful...all people will have health care, everyone will get a pay raise, those "rich" people will support everyone, evil corporations will not be allowed to "trick" their employees, we will rescue everyone from their bad decisions and there won't be anymore foreclosures. Again, details...all these promises and no money to fulfill them. Even if everyone who made more than $250,000 gave 100% of their income to the government, it wouldn't even start to cover the expenses already incurred by the stimulus package and the other bailouts. Not to mention the money budgeted for various programs including health care reform. He seems to not have any qualms about spending other peoples' money.

President Obama claimed again and again that people making under $250,000 would not see their taxes rise "even one penny" under his administration. Well, as smart as he is, he must not be very good at math since it just isn't possible to do what he has already laid out without raising taxes on virtually everyone or ransoming the country to the Chinese, which I don't think even he intends to do. And in spite of his claims to the contrary, he really is planning on stealth taxes. The Cap and Trade program, which seems to be helpful on the environmental front, is a back door tax. It will raise energy prices across the board and this will be a tax on everyone. There will likely be subsidies for the very poor, but it will still be a very regressive tax as it will affect those at the lower middle class the worst and potentially drive them back into poverty, making it harder for them to raise their standard of living.

Finally, (for this post) what then is the incentive to try to work hard and make more money? The government will just take it from you. Doesn't that mean that we will fall into the Communist conundrum? Now, don't take it that I think Pres. Obama is advocating Communism, as he most definitely is not, but he does appear to want to move the country into a Socialist direction, while not run by a dictatorship, still has a lot of the downfalls of Communism.

I truly hope that all Americans will examine President Obama's proposed plans and the subsequent legislation that would make them real and then voice their opinions to their elected representatives. There is not a more important time than now to get involved, since we are at a turning point as to the direction of the country over the next decades to come.

The most important thing is to make our points cogently and to develop alternatives that will solve the problems presented without bankrupting the country. The government CAN'T do everything or solve every problem. The gospel of Personal Responsibility needs to be preached...but without rancor or heat. We need to be as cool as the President is.

One final note, I do admire President Obama as a very intelligent, well meaning individual. I also think he is a great example that all Americans can aspire to the highest levels in the country. No one in this country is mired in poverty. There is always a way to improve your situation by hard work and/or study, if you really want.

Health care issues next time...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Warning: Politics

If you would rather not hear about politics...stop reading right now and go read someone else's blog. Just fair offense meant or taken.

First of all, I'm sorry I've neglected my blog for so long. I really need to make a concerted effort to post more frequently. Work has been hectic and I've had a lot of outside musical activities. But I could still make time to post short notes at least. Part of what has been keeping me from posting is that I can't think of what to post about. I've just realized that what I've been thinking a lot about is what is happening with the government and media right now and how unhappy I've been about it. So, while my personal life is either mundane or insane, I realized that what is more important is my view on the world rather than my activities in it.

Before you think that I'm about to go on a wild right rant, let me assure you I'm not going to. That's actually what I'm pretty upset about. I am a Republican...there I've said it. I believe in personal responsibility, limited government, maintenance of freedom including speech, religion, movement, personal property, etc., I am also lovingly pro-life and Catholic (that means all life, cradle to grave, not just the politicized portions thereof). I also believe that we should love one another and assist where we can with people who have had misfortune in life through no fault of their own. In other words, I'm pretty much a normal person, not a fanatic. I consider myself to be a moderate conservative. I strongly believe in common sense as being the way things ought to operate.

I am very concerned about what I see as government actions which will threaten many of the principles that I hold dear and which if go forward unopposed and unmodified will adversely affect all of us and particularly our children and grandchildren. However, what I am seeing from the GOP "opposition" is almost 100% garbage. I see rants and raves and namecalling. I see jokes at the expense of the Democrats. I see little nonsensical issues (e.g. Pres. Obama going on a date with his wife) being blown all out of proportion and taking center stage when much more important things need to be addressed. The "haters" need to sit down and shut up. If the GOP wants to bring its ideas back to the fore then we need to sit down and come up with solutions to the problems that face us.

I have FINALLY seen some sign of this because John Boehner and Eric Cantor have just presented a list of programs that can be cut or consolidated to help reduce government spending. I looked at the list and think that they look REASONABLE for the most part. Not just partisan, but actual things that are duplicative or things that are "nice to have" but when the country is in a time that we need to cut back, these are things that are not essential to our existence or vital for the federal government to do. We should be spending time promoting these things and hopefully this isn't just a list that is "all or nothing." Lets negotiate...lets talk about these things - A LOT. Lets make it uncomfortable for the Democrats not to come to the table and negotiate. We are not in a position of power, we NEED to get the non-partisan people behind our ideas. Polls count in this day and age. Lets talk about the issues and refuse to get sucked into discussing plane flyovers and dates and new puppies in the White House, and whether the President shows up at a local burger joint and teleprompters. WHO CARES?????

The rhetoric needs to stop. We are not impressing the public by acting like And the public IS who we need to impress - the wide majority of independent thinkers: GOP, Democratic, and Independent, if we ever want to have our ideas and values be the ones by which the country is governed. OK, so we can be just as snipe-y as the Democrats. We need to be better than that. We need to be adults and present our ideas in an adult manner and quit showing our butts just because we know how (this means YOU Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter). That's how Pres. Obama got elected. He sounds like a grown up and avoided name calling by and large. He did say some things, but he used that ability very judiciously. He almost always took the "high road" when he had the chance as it made him look more statesmanlike and gracious. People like humility and grace and he has these gifts in abundance and he used them - frequently. And he still is using them, being still in "campaign mode," in case you haven't noticed.

I will stop here. My next post will be on why Pres. Obama is so scary and what I think we need to do about it - politely.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dallas and Philadelphia

This is a high travel week. Last Friday we left for Dallas, Texas. The purpose of the trip was another Saint-Saens Organ Symphony excursion. The Dallas Symphony plays its concerts inthe Myerson Symphony Center, which contains the Lay Family Organ. The concert was wonderful and we also heard what is going to be a new favorite, the Guilmont Symphony #1.

While we were in Dallas we also visited the Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park. This is an area where buildings of historical significance, primarily from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries have been moved from all over Dallas. There are people in period costumes, in character, who interpret the times. It is very interesting. The day we were there was Girl Scout Day, so there were a lot of activities geared toward badge achievement for the girls ongoing. Unfortunately, it was also raining, pretty hard, on and off, so we ended up cutting our sightseeing short. But, we did get to see a gunfight in front of the Saloon, and also visited a small church on site that had a pump organ. We were also lucky that there was an organist playing that day, so we got to hear it. It really filled the space. The organist took a break while we were there and we chatted for awhile. All in all, it was a very nice day despite the weather. We also found a great barbeque place (Off the Bone), not too far from there and they even offered us samples when we answered that we hadn't been there before. Their ribs and chicken were wonderful and they definitely lived up to their name, the meat was so tender. They did use a vinegar based sauce (like NC barbecue) rather than the sweet sauce, but that worked out well for us, since that sauce is much lower calorie.

On Sunday, we attended church, visited Ft. Worth...had to make the obligatory pilgrimage to Cattleman's
and had lunch and then just wandered the stockyard area until it was time to head back to the airport. Arrived late Sunday evening. I repacked and after spending half a day at work on Monday, headed for Union Station (about a block from my work) and grabbed the Amtrak to Philadelphia. The ACP Services board meeting (I'm the EVP) was scheduled for early Tuesday morning. I attended that meeting, and later in the morning headed back to the train station for the trip back to DC. I arrived at my usual spot for pick up by hubby at about the usual time, so it was almost like a normal day.

Wednesday was spent preparing for the next Organ Symphony excursion this weekend in Cincinnati. I'll tell how that part of the trip went in my next post. We are getting ready to head out later this morning, taking our time driving over there and seeing a few things along the way. On the road again...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cycling and Music

Many good cycling races this past week, topped off by the ultimate Classic: Paris-Robaix, also known as the "Hell of the North." Once more, George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad) had a spate of bad luck and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) won for the third time in his career. This race is just made for Tom AND he had luck on his side. The race could have been a little more exciting, but the weather was good, but there were plenty of crashes anyway. Paris-Robaix is a race that has many sections of cobblestones, which is what makes the race so epic. In the rain, these are mudslicked and usually cause lots of difficulties including flats and crashes. There were plenty of mechanicals and the above mentioned crashes anyway, despite the dry conditions. Most of the crashed riders came through relatively unscathed, despite some of them hitting the deck more than once.

One unexpected tragic episode happened when one of the race motorcycles (they lead the cyclists and/or carry television cameras or photographers) crashed into the crowd, a dozen or so people were injured, several seriously including at least one small child. It was reported that most of the injured were members of the same family as they had come out of their house to watch as the race went by. Please keep all these folks in your prayers. The racers know their risks when they step on their bike, but these folks were just enjoying their day and weren't expecting anything like what happened to them in their own yard.

Holy week was inspiring and, well, holy. The liturgies were beautiful and I hope that the music the choir provided helped enhance the congregation's ability to worship more fully. I know that there are times when I am singing that I am moved by the words and music and feel the true sentiment of the piece. I certainly can relate to the saying that "when you sing you pray twice." It certainly feels like that at times, especially when everything is falling into place, despite the focus required to get the mechanics and musicality to mesh. When all goes well, I experience such peace when the music is over. I know that I have given my best to the Lord.

Easter was spectacular. After taking part in Holy Thursday services, Good Friday services, and the Vigil Mass, we were all ready for some sustenance, so early Easter morning we had our traditional St. Andrew's choir breakfast at 8:30am (see picture above, right). Suitably caffeinated and sugared up, we tackled our last Mass of the week with gusto. This was our main Easter Mass with Organ, Brass, and Timpani. The music lineup was as follows:

Prelude: Toccata from Organ Symphony #5 - Widor
Entrance Procession: Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones - Lasst Uns Erfreuen
Mass: Missa Brevis in F Major - Gabrieli
Preparation of Gifts: Hallelujah from Messiah - Handel
Communion Hymn: Good Christian Men, Rejoice and Sing - Gelobt Sei Gott
Choir Anthem: Let All Creation Praise the Lord - Forsberg
Marian Meditation: Regina Caeli - chant mode vi
Closing Procession: Jesus Christ is Risen Today - Lyra Davidica
Postlude: Postlude on Lyra Davidica (brass and timpani)
And incidental music, such as responsorial psalm, alleluia, sequence hymn, and general responses

Quite a lot of music, but we enjoy all of it! The church was beautifully done up...check out the picture above. Sorry its a little fuzzy, I haven't quite mastered my phone camera yet.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Easter! Till next time...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Crazy Monday & Should We Want Obama to Fail?

Well, as alluded to in my last post, Monday wasn't much fun. My work laid off three people and reorganized their duties and the majority of the distribution was to my department. Its sad when you have to do what we did, but budget cuts had already been made and there wasn't much else to cut other than personnel. Some folks, honestly, weren't completely employed, so it made sense to reorganize those positions. But, of course, those who do the most are handed the tasking because its known that those tasks will get done. This is one of the truths in life, I'm afraid. If you do well, you get given more work. That's OK, my department's folks are all up to the challenge and they all took the news well.

I am convinced that a good portion of our economic woes are caused by the media. Even folks not in a bad position watch the nightly news and hear how "bad" it is and then they don't carry on as usual being afraid that something bad might happen to them. It rolls all through the economy as people stop spending. That's what caused ours...many physicians decided not to pay their membership dues and dues revenue dropped; educational product sales dropped and here we are...three more people living on the government via unemployment insurance. I'm not sure what is going to stop this vicious cycle. But I'm sure its not more giveaway programs. The ones already in place haven't worked and they didn't work back in FDR's day either. WWII is what saved us then but it appeared on the surface that the giveaway programs worked. As they say: "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." (Not sure where the quote is from.) I'm not advocating another World War, mind you, just illustrating that giveaway programs don't work for reversing an economic recession/depression.

On to my other topic...there has been a lot of talk this week about people saying they "Want Obama to fail" and a lot of backlash to that. I first read Meghan McCain's response. that of course she didn't want him to fail, he's our President. I tended to agree with her. Regardless of who our President is we should support him or her.

Then I saw the headline on CNN that said something like "Jindal defends people who want Obama to fail." My first thought was, "Oh no, not another Republican about to say stupid things...and I had such high hopes for him." It turns out that his point was that we don't want him to successfully install all these giveaway programs and other things that will cost us and our children trillions of dollars. Well, I agreed with that too.

So, I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of failure we're looking at here. The failure of the office and the failure of the policies. I have a big problem with letting the office fail. We should never let that happen and unless the President does something illegal, that we should always respect him or her and support them as the leader of our country, particularly in dealings with other countries. On the other hand, that doesn't mean we have to support or even like all (or even any) of the President's proposals. The President proposes, Congress disposes. I really oppose a lot of what President Obama is proposing because its just not smart. I am all for improving things, but not if that means that hard working people are asked to give up a substantial portion of their hard earned income and/or savings to give it to people who made stupid decisions or who are just plain lazy. What happened to personal responsibility?

In any event, I don't think that failed presidential policies = Obama failing as a president. I want him to succeed as our chief executive (he has made some reasonable moves with regard to foreign relations and organizing the government), but I want him to fail to get his policies passed (i.e. budget) the way it is now. Ideally, what I would like to see is that he really execute the bipartisanship that he promised prior to the election, but unfortunately I don't see him getting the rest of the Democratic party to go along with it. And to be fair, I don't think most of the Republicans will either. Whatever happened to statesmanship? I'm afraid its long gone in this town. So, I guess we're in for a long hard fight to try to prevent the worst from happening. And in the meantime, I'm doing everything I can think of to prepare to protect what I worked for from being conficated by the government and if that someday means I have to quit my job to lower our household income so we aren't considered "rich" than, so be it.

I'll write on cycling and music in my next post!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The week and Milano-San Remo

This week has been busy. St. Patrick's Day was eventful, as usual, at my office with many festivities. The Senior VP of our division is Irish so its been a tradition for some time to basically goof off that day with a breakfast and lunch (extended) along with an in-office party and Limerick contest. I always wonder what St. Patrick thinks of everyone celebrating his feast day by drunken revelries.

We were finally able to schedule a Committee meeting via phone with three of the board members after two weeks of trying. Got that done and produced the report. That means the board book is done.

Had a conference call with our partners in India on Thursday. I had to get up at 4am to make the call due to the time difference. Not too much earlier than usual, but it still seemed to take a lot out of me.

The AIG flap is almost amusing. Do you understand CONTRACTS people? While I would never have agreed to million dollar bonus/retention contracts, these contracts were in place previous to the company taking a dollar in taxpayer money. These are legal obligations. You might not like it, but the company did not have a choice in paying them or else they would be sued for breach of contract and rightfully so. I have to deal with contracts all the time and spend a lot of time negotiating various aspects of them and there have been times that I needed to insist that my contract partner follow the terms of the contract when they tried to do something else. I was very happy I had the contract or else my business would have incurred expenses or otherwise been disadvantaged had these not been in place. This is a key factor in doing business in the US and around the world. If the government suddenly sets the precedent of breaking contracts they decide they don't like then this makes a contractual agreement between businesses and people not very secure. This would be a bad thing. The other thing is, if you had agreed to work for x terms and then you weren't paid after the fact wouldn't you be upset? I know that I would. I definitely see lawsuits over this if contracts are broken. Finally, the tax law just violates the constitution in multiple ways. Once again Congress spends (or maybe wastes) time just doing political cover...this law when challenged WILL get thrown out by the Supreme this case I doubt the vote will even be close its so blatently unconstitutional. The media has gotten people all worked up over something that they aren't explaining well and Congress is reacting to the media and rather than doing something constructive going forward they are trying to punish individuals who are just getting the compensation that was agreed upon at the beginning of the contract terms. This is just so stupid. OK - end of soapbox.

On to more interesting news - Mark Cavendish (Columbia) suprisingly won MSR today by a centimeter over Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo). It was pretty amazing. The speed that he came up on Haussler was astounding. But he is really lucky that the line wasn't just a foot further down the road. Just barely got him. He is an amazing rider and you've got to give him his due. I guess we'll be hearing his name a lot over then next 10 years or so. Its hard to believe he is so good at such a young age. One amusing thing was a statement HH made after the race in that he was unhappy because second place was just "first loser." I had to laugh out loud at that because my husband, Neil, has made that statement numerous times with regard to various races when I said "so and so" at least came in second...

Lance finished way down, but he was just planning a training race. At one point when Astana came to the front to do most of the work in chasing down the break, I thought he might have something planned, but apparently not. Just a hard training ride. Next week's race should be interesting. I'd be surprised if Astana didn't really try to win that one with the "all star" cast they are bringing to that race. Lance, Levi, Alberto, Andreas...all their heavy hitters. Should be interesting.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin) fell and as of right now its reported that he "might" have broken his collarbone, but it isn't confirmed yet. I hope he's OK, he's had such amazing form it would be a real shame if he loses out on all the northern classic races this year as he might really have a breakout year.

Finally, I am getting serious about increasing exercising and reducing calories. A milestone, not to be revealed, has been passed and its unacceptable. I went for a 40 min. brisk walk through the neighborhood today (too cold to cycle with my current cycling wardrobe). Its supposed to be warmer tomorrow so maybe I'll bike tomorrow afternoon.

This next week promises not to be much fun, especially Monday. Will write more sometime next week! Everyone have a good one!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quiet Vacation

This week was fairly uneventful. I was on vacation this week. Nothing special planned and since I had a cold, just pretty much goofed off. Caught up some on reading back newspapers. Got some estimates for replacement of our side fence. Did get to ride my bike on Wednesday because the weather was so nice. But other than that, was just pretty boring.

I was glad to see the stock market went up some this week, but not holding my breath on the trend continuing just yet. Some signs the economy is recovering on its own. I'm sure the actions that the government has taken so far has only had a marginal effect, if any. The bank funds were probably the most effective to alleviating the credit crunch which isn't totally fixed yet.

I'm afraid I don't have any confidence that spending all of that money in the so called "recovery" bill will help at all. Its just a giant "earmark" by another name. Its obscene the way communities in each state are lining up for handouts. I just know that those of us who worked hard, saved, and spent our money wisely are the ones who will be asked to foot the bill for all the giveaway programs to those who didn't manage their finances in a responsible fashion. With them incentivizing sloth the way they are it will be a miracle if any of our children think that saving or getting an education to make a higher salary will be a good idea at least if they have any brains they won't. I can see that mediocrity will be the result of all of this equalizing. End of soapbox...

On that depressing note, I'll sign off for today. Try to have a good weekend!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This and That...redux

Well, its been awhile again. I really need to blog more regularly. I'll try to do more frequent short ones instead of my usual long ramblings.

I did miss telling about the last Saint Saens' Organ Symphony we attended. There was a local one in February by the Baltimore Symphony at Strathmore Hall in Rockville, Maryland, a northern suburb of DC. We've heard it in that venue before and it has one of the best electronic organs we've heard, so we don't mind (too much) that its not a pipe organ. It was a very good performance and we did enjoy it. The next one's on the schedule are both in April a week apart. One in Dallas and one in Cincinnati. In addition, I have a board meeting to attend in Philadelphia in between those two concerts, so it should be an interesting week travelwise.

On to other news, Neil and I had a nice visit with the kids in Richmond. The weather was gorgeous and I got to sit on their deck in the sun for awhile. Neil helped out some with the kitchen renovation. Mostly gave advice and helped lift things, though he did do some sawing while Bryan was out of the room which made me nervous but apparently Bryan and he had discussed the cut so it was OK. They got the double oven in place. It is going to be a really nice area once they get it all done. Bryan has done a really nice job with the cabinetry. It has got be satisfying to be able to create something like that and know that you did it yourself rather than just buy something. His grandfather, my Dad, was good with woodworking and did carving a lot in his later years. My uncle was a carpenter who built houses (he and my Dad built the house that I grew up in) so I guess he comes by his talent honestly.

I HATE this cold. At least it finally seems to be getting a little better. I'm supposed to go to the dentist today for a regular cleaning, etc. I might even be able to breathe through my nose which would probably be helpful. Its the pits that I got this during the week that I took for vacation. I should ask for yesterday as a sick day instead of vacation since I wouldn't have gone into work if it wasn't a vacation anyway.

I am enjoying the leisure of being able to watch the Paris-Nice cycling race this week. I'm able to get the video in french, which I mute the sound and then get an audio stream in English from Eurosport. They don't quite match (the video is ahead of the audio), but it works out.

And finally, I'm not scheduled to cantor for Mass again until later this month, but then I do two weeks in a row. I can't believe its Lent already, it seems like it was just Christmas. Time just seems to fly these days. Trying to increase my spiritual reading and get back into the habit of visiting
Sacred Space. Its a great resource to assist in praying during the course of a busy day.

Well, this turned into another huge post...maybe if I post more often I can keep them short.

Later ya'll...

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Once again it has been a long time since my last post. Where does the time go? In any event, as I said in my last post, I am now going to talk about my trip to India. It was not a long flight to get to India from Dubai, though I did go through at least 3 different security checkpoints before being able to board the plane. The trip went smoothly, though we departed slightly late, but not very by today's standards. I arrived, cleared customs without any fact, because I left my large bag back at the hotel in Dubai, I just had my little bag with me and they just waived me through, so that was nice. Upon leaving customs there was a crowd of people waiting for folks just outside the door. I soon located my name and there were two gentlemen from the hotel to pick me up. We went out of the airport and walked a short distance to the car. Driving to the hotel was an experience! I've never seen such traffic and the Washington DC area has the 5th worst traffic in the US (it was on the news last night). The unusual part was that there were hundreds of these small three-wheeled vehicles that looked like an enclosed golf cart. I asked about them and was told they were called "rickshaws." They just went everywhere. Since they are smaller sometimes two of them would go side by side or pass each other in the same lane. They zipped in and out in between cars. There were also many motorcycles and motorscooters that just zipped between the cars and around them. Everyone just kept moving along and just ignored all the littler vehicles that were zipping in and out. Very exciting. I saw more of the same the next day when travelling around with my hosts from Lilac Medicare. Of course, the traffic runs British style, which seems backward if you're from the US. Add to that the fact that turns across the other lane of traffic seem to be done mostly "nose in front" style (turn and get your car in front of one car, then scooch across the next lane and the next - forcing each lane in turn to stop and let you through) and it is a pretty hair raising experience. I wasn't too anxious as I just figured if my time was up, my time was up and that was the least thing I was worried about anyway.

Upon arrival at the hotel, we pulled into the area in front of the door and there was a whole crowd of people in traditional Indian dress and there was also a full band!!! The driver said it was an Indian wedding. The band finished just as we pulled up and all the people started going into the hotel. It was quite a surprising sight. The doorman was in a white military like uniform with a red turban. Very elegant. The hotel was quite nice. I'll add some pictures in a day or so here. I enjoyed my stay there and ate at the restaurant there that evening. I was able to get Bhindi, which is a spicy Okra dish that I first had in London a couple of years ago. I enjoyed that a lot.

The following day I was picked up by my hosts from Lilac Medicare and they took me to their office for an all day meeting. It was a very fruitful meeting where we ironed out a lot of operational details, they explained a lot of things about doing business in India and the challenges they face, I explained some of my challenges and we were able to work out the next steps in our relationship and in planning to present the MLE program to Indian laboratories. After our meeting, they took me back to the hotel for a short rest and then picked me up and took me to a shopping area. I was able to get a bargain on some of my usual face cleanser and also purchased some bracelets in the Indian style. They also bought me a CD of classical Hindi music to take back. I was very touched by this last. We then went to dinner at the Hotel Intercontinental, which I am sure is a 5 star hotel. It matched the best of any hotel I've seen in this country. We had some traditional Indian food (way more than I could eat - but I did my best!) and I enjoyed it very much. I also got to go over to the kitchen area and see how they cooked much of the food in traditional Indian tandoors. That was very interesting. It was late when I returned, but I enjoyed the day immensely.

The following day I returned to Dubai, went to the hotel to pick up my other bag and eat lunch and then returned to the airport. My flight to the US didn't leave until after midnight, so I had to hang out at the ticketing area until it opened at 9:30pm. I arrived back in the US at around 6:30am the next morning, but since there is a 9 hour time difference, it was a VERY long day.

I'll catch up on what I've been doing since the trip in my next post...hopefully sooner than two weeks from now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Long Trip - Long Time since Last Blog

It was a long way to Dubai and India. In fact, its taken me this long to get over jet lag since returning and getting my thoughts together about the trip so I can do a decent recap of the trip.

It was a very interesting place. In fact, after spending a few days there, I realized that if the signs weren't in both Arabic and English and there wasn't a periodic "call to prayer" from the Mosque nearby the hotel, that I wouldn't have realized I was outside the US. It felt very familiar, the taxis were the same as here and the mall across the street was pretty much like most in the US, except bigger. It definitely has a shopping culture. When I entered the food court, I knew that if I didn't like the food in the local restaurants, I knew where to come for a "taste of home" In the food court was a McDonald's (expected), Burger King, KFC, Subway, but the big surprise was there was a Krispy Kreme!! That was almost too much. In addition, there was a children's play area there with a carosel playing "Stars and Stripes Forever." Very strange given I knew I was 7,000 miles from home.

I did go to church twice while I was there. There was a major Catholic Church, but it was in a compound and didn't look much like a church from the outside. I guess they were keeping a low profile. However, the people seemed very devout. There was a grotto with a statue of Our Lady in it with candles in niches next to it. The church itself was very modern. There were no missals or hymnal, but everything including responses, hymn lyrics, and readings was projected onto the walls on either side of the altar. This was almost necessary because of the size of the church and layout, not everyone could see the altar, but they could see the projections. Also, when not projecting the responses, etc., it projected a camera view of the priest and altar, so the actions of the Eucharist could be seen.

The World Trade Center where the Arab Health Conference was held was very much like any convention center in this country. The architecture, particularly of their office buildings was pretty interesting. Probably because they just started building up the city, they have more room to build structures that don't fit the straight up and down geometry that we are used to seeing in our cities. Some of the buildings look like they have chunks out of them, some look like ships sails, and other fantastic configurations. The building that is going to be the tallest building in the world when complete, is mostly finished, but it doesn't seem to be as tall as it really is because its out away from any other buildings, so you don't get perspective unless you get close to the bottom of it, then you realize how really tall it is.

I went on a Dhow dinner cruise while I was there. Dhows are work boats that move a lot of cargo around. Dubai has a canal that goes through the center of town and a lot of Dhows have been converted into floating restaurants. They are all adorned with different patterns of lights. I tried to take many pictures of them and the buildings we were passing, but due to the low light, distance (flash wasn't very effective) and movement of the Dhow, I wasn't very successful, though I did get a couple of good pictures.

Finally, I went to the Souk, which is an outdoor (kind of) shopping area with a lot of different stores. But there is the same kind of store in each area. One area is the Gold Souk, another area is the Textile Souk, there is an electronic Souk (sounds kind of oxymoronic timewise) and of course there is the Fish Souk. I didn't go to this last one, but I heard about it. I had enough of fish markets after the big one in Tokyo. I'm including a picture of a shop in the Gold Souk.

Well, this has gotten long enough. I'll talk about my trip to India in my next post. Till later

Friday, January 23, 2009

Off to New Adventures!

Getting ready to head off to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I will be staffing a booth at the Arab Health Conference MedLab section of the exhibits. I hope all goes well, both in travels and with getting the exhibition materials ready. I'm supposed to be getting the stuff by Sunday to set up the booth. The weekend in the UAE is actually Friday and Saturday, so Sunday is a work day. Interestingly, St. Mary's, the Roman Catholic church there has a full schedule of services Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The ones on Friday seem to be in a variety of Middle Eastern languages, but the ones on Sat. and Sun. are mainly in English. So, I'm going to try to get to the 9am Mass on Sunday if possible. I arrive in Dubai on Sat. evening at around 7pm. So, getting to church will be my first adventure and then I'll head over to the Convention Center.

On the bike racing front, the Tour Down Under is underway in Adelaide, Australia. It is Lance Armstrong's first race back. He is racing for the Astana team. He is doing pretty to keep up with the other pros and he's not even the oldest racer in the peloton. Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) is one day older than him! He was in a break with the other major players the other day and it was nice to see. He is doing double duty besides, he has a whole host of Livestrong (Lance Armstrong Foundation) events that he's been attending besides just racing. I don't know how he does it. Of course, he's also in demand at the start line for autographs, etc. I think he's going to have to stretch it out some at other events otherwise he'll burn out before the Giro (Tour of Italy), much less the Tour de France in July. I think this pace is primarily because of the limited time he has in Australia and they are launching a whole lot of new initiatives and partnering with a lot of cancer organizations there. That was part of his reason for coming back to racing. It gets him a lot more publicity if he is an active racer and he can piggyback his activities with Livestrong onto an already very popular event, like the Tour Down Under.

Next month, he'll be in the Tour of California. That should be something to see. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team), last year's TDF winner will be there as will Ivan Basso (Liquigas), who is coming off his suspension for "attempting" to dope (long story...). Ivan had been one of Lance's main rivals the last couple of TDF's that he raced. Going to be a great season!

Well enough rambling for now...I'll try to update from Dubai. I think I should be able to because I should have internet in the hotel. This is a new one, it just opened in October 2008.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Saint Saens

Well, this weekend was good and bad. Good - arrived in NJ before snow; Nice dinner; Good acoustics; excellent soloist; excellent desert; dry drive home. Bad - Cold during walking; something went wrong with organ or conductor (organ so promising during 2nd movement was a bust during 4th); Neil fell in icy conditions on Sunday coming back from church; spilled coffee during fall and injured ribs but they seem to be getting better.

Overall, it was a good weekend. Nice concert, though the Saint Saens was disappointing. Nice drive, good time just being together.

Busy, busy, busy at work. Getting ready for my trip to Dubai and Mumbai. Plus a million other things on tap that need to be taken care of before I go.

That's all for now!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This and That...

Rod's party on Sunday was great! I had a lot of great conversations and too much wine, but all was well since Neil was driving. I was at my desk at 7am the next morning, not too much the worse for wear.

This has been a busy week at work...mid-year personnel evals are due, so I'm working on those. My program has applied to the College of American Pathologists for approval, and we've received questions from them, so I'm working on a response and there are just a whole host of administrative issues that need to be handled this week related to the new year. I've got to find some time to go over things related to my Dubai/India trip.

Bryan talked to me via Instant Message today. He isn't doing so well. He spent part of the day at the ER. He's got a case of gastroenteritis. The docs fixed him up, but he still isn't feeling back to normal, but he's got drugs to manage the symptoms. He's seeing his regular doc on Friday. Hopefully all will be well.

I had choir practice tonight. A lot of new (old - we recycle from past years) pieces to work on. Easter is coming soon...sooner than we'd like, but the older pieces seem to be shaping up nicely. Like riding a bicycle...

I've started following a new exercise regimen I found in a magazine...its "guaranteed" for you to lose 1 lb. per week without changing your diet if you do this 20 min. routine 3 times per week. I don't believe it, but I'm giving it a chance...I'm going to give it at least 3 weeks. Its on the treadmill, so I'm not overenthused, but if it works...

That's it for "this and that."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Years

Had an EXCELLENT time with Bryan and Jenn (son and daughter-in-law). Absolutely loved playing a board game. We hadn't ever done that while Bryan was in high school, but really liked interacting like that together. Because we've always have been a very quiet family, it has been nice to sit and each do our own thing on laptops and just enjoy each other's company without talking, but that apparently isn't what Jenn's family is used to. But it is good for us to get used to more interactive things and we really did enjoy the experience (even Neil!). Even though we stll enjoy just being together in the same room its nice to enjoy stretching our horizons. I hope they will come back and visit soon. We're really not so bad or anti-social...just boring.

Bryan sent an OUTSTANDING picture of the scorpion (stuffed) we gave him for Christmas at a "Red Robin" restaurant that they met Jenn's college roommate at. It was so cute!!! I've save it and will put it iinto the rotation for my desktop picture. So cuuuute....

On to tomorrow...Sunday in Northern Virginia...I'm singing in choir at 10:30am and then cantoring at 12:30pm. That will be good as the cantor solo is something I've always wanted to sing as a solo. Rod Sterling, the Twilight Man, will be hosting an excellent choir party on Sunday evening. We're really looking forward to that. I do still feel bad that he is still being the DJ for PVI's RunFest each September (which I intially got him into) even though Bryan has long graduated and I'm not involved. But he's still having fun and hopefully getting some business out of it. Great job, Rod!!

That's it for now!