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Jan 29 2017

I have two credit cards associated with two different airlines where I earn “miles” with each dollar I spend. With what is going on now at the airlines, I really wonder if this is a good way to go.

Case 1: I want to fly round trip to LAX first class. On the day I want to go there, while they had several flights during that day, there were no flights available for an upgrade from coach to first class using points. And the amount of points to “buy” the ticket were huge. When I inquired, it was six months before I wanted to fly. The solution, so to speak, was for me to buy a ticket one way and to use points for an upgrade the other direction.

Case 2: Went online today with my favorite airline to book flights to and from Europe in October. Could not find any flights on either the day I wanted to go or the day I wanted to return that would allow me to buy an economy ticket at any price and upgrade to Business Class using points. So, I called the awards program number and spent about half-an-hour with a wonderful agent who told me the same thing. She tried all sorts of ways to maneuver, but none of them worked. To buy round trip with all points, I would need about 320,000 of them (read $320,000 spent). The best option was to buy a non-refundable business class ticket at a discounted price.

The airline does have an program of letting you use 10,000 points (read that as $10,000 spent on the cc) and get $100 off the fare for each 10,000 points you wanted to use (one percent cash value). The Catch 22 is that all segments of your flight have to be on airlines in their alliance, not just airlines with code sharing. One segment of mine was not, so I could not go that route. She then looked at alternate ways to get to my destination including going to another gateway city in the country I was going to and taking a train to my final city. Well, even though that option would have qualified for the $100/10,000 point discount and there was one less flight segment, the fare was $900 higher.

Airlines promote credit cards associated with them to earn miles. There are even bonus miles for signing up and for getting someone else to sign up. But I wonder about the value of “miles” in this day and age. Again, it’s January and I’m booking a flight for October. The agent told me that now there are only one or two seats on every flight where one can buy coach and upgrade using points. How far in advance do I have to book to get one of these? Or should I just go back to credit cards that give cash discounts (e.g., 1% or more) and forget “miles?”

Jan 01 2017

Stereotyping and labeling have always been in vogue, but seem to be even more so today. It’s just too facile to throw these labels out at people with whom you disagree. Fill in the blanks and consider the labels you apply and why you rely on labels at all.

  • If he voted for Trump, ___________________________________________
  • If she voted for Clinton, __________________________________________
  • If she supported Bernie, _________________________________________
  • If he questions Israel’s policies or actions, ___________________________
  • If she supports movements like Black Lives Matter, ____________________
  • If she opposes the views of the NRA, _______________________________
  • If he is a Muslim (or speaks in Arabic), ______________________________
  • If he is a Jew __________________________________________________
  • If she is a Catholic, _____________________________________________
  • If she is an Evangelical, _________________________________________
  • If he is a Liberal, _______________________________________________
  • If she is a Conservative, _________________________________________
  • If he is an environmentalist, ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________________________________
  • If she is pro-choice, ________­­­­­­­­_____________________________________
  • If she is pro-life, ________________________________________________
  • If he or she is Gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, _____________________
  • If he is black, __________________________________________________
  • If he is an immigrant, ____________________________________________
  • If she is a welfare recipient, _______________________________________
Jul 19 2016

Twelve men, mid- to late-seventies, all from my high school year or a couple before. I’m about the only moderate (and the only one who votes for Democrats) in the room. We sit around an oval table in one of the restaurant’s private rooms. Invariably at these reunion meals, someone brings up politics.

A man to my right said he’d heard Loretta Lynch say that the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas were “just the blacks getting revenge (against the police),” as if she condoned them. I confronted him about passing on unsubstantiated rumors, and, while he stopped, he said in pretty plain language that he’d heard it so it must be true. Reminds me quite a bit of the unfinished innuendos that Donald Trump drops in almost every speech. “I don’t know this to be true, but you can draw your own conclusions” sort of statements.

I have been at previous gatherings where Obama bashing and Hillary bashing have been the blood sport of the evening. I’ve had to walk away from conversations and either stand alone or talk to some of my classmates with whom I can have discussions about ideas. I have no issue with opposing political views and I realize most of my classmates are life-long Republicans. It’s the venom. It’s the stating of rumors. It’s the untruths that bother me. It’s the “I’m right and you’re wrong” that bothers me. Guess Donald would call me a loser. Ah, well.

When I left lunch, as we exited a classmate’s car in front of me sported a Ben Carson sticker.

Sep 22 2016

My iPhone contract with AT&T is over. I wanted to have the device unlocked so I could change carriers with the phone. It’s hard and a bit Byzantine.

Some things I learned:

  1. They used to be able to do this for you over the phone, but no longer can.
  2. While I have a login online and in my My ATT app with a specific password, you need another passcode to deal with (a) ATT online customer support (chat, telephone), and (b) trying to get the doggone thing unlocked online.

I went to the site I was told to access. I put in my name and the “new” passcode I had established with ATT in a telephone call where I jump through some hoops to verify I am me. I then input the IMEI number of the phone as required (you can find it under General, About). The site then told me my Request Number (good think I wrote it down) and said I’d get an email pretty quick that I would have to respond to within 24 hour to start the unlock process.

Time passed. Hours went by. No email. I went back online and the ATT site said that if I had not gotten an email I could put in a new request. The site then asked for the same questions as my first request, but then said that I already had a request and ATT was waiting for my response. So, chasing my tail since I kept ending up at the same place.

Tried to Chat with ATT when the site said “Chat Available” to find out in the next screen that no reps were available … out serving other customers … try later. I did. Same result. So, I called the 800 number and told the robot voice my issue was device unlock. Guess what? I was directed to the same online site I had been sparring with and “goodbye” on the phone. Called again. This time I just said “customer service” until I was connected to a human.

I gave the rep the IMEI number and my Request Number (as said above, glad I wrote it down). So, another thing I learned:

 3.  While they have an email address for me for billing and such, there was none registered for online account dealings. Nor, by the way, could I find a place to insert same on their site.

I gave her an email address. She said that she would put through my acceptance (bypassing the response to the email I never got) and I would hear from them with the rest of the process within 24-48 hours. Sure.

Nov 05 2015

I attended a meeting of the City Council of the City of Chesterfield, Missouri, last night. The subject of the meeting was a motion of censure by Council against Mayor Bob Nation. For those of you who read this and do not have background information on the mayor’s conduct that brought things to this stage, I commend you to read the charges, which were the result of an independent investigation about allegations regarding the mayor’s conduct.

http://www.chesterfield.mo.us/webcontent/CouncilPackets/11-4-2015_City_Council_Packet.pdf

It was all initiated by a city employee who was subjected to an expletive-laden rant against her superior by the mayor who had come into her office and shut the door behind him. She felt threatened and stood up for herself as did another employee who was likewise harassed by the mayor and filed charges with the City. In the course of the investigation, a history of abusive behavior and bullying was revealed.

So, to cut to the chase, last night was the culmination of these events which led to a 7-0 vote in favor of the motion to censure by the Council. After the vote, citizens were given the opportunity to speak.

The mayor and his supporters tried to make the case that this was all a vendetta against the mayor because he was a fiscal conservative. His actions were portrayed as just “salty language” and no big deal. The crowd in attendance included many who support the mayor. When people spoke in his favor, they received a hearty round of applause. When people like me spoke about his behavior being unacceptable, him being a bully, him trying to intimidate others, his long history of these outbursts and conduct, we were greeted by boos as was the vote by Council. For me, this just underscored the lack of civility the mayor has exhibited toward others, toward city employees, and towards our citizens.

Here is what I said at the meeting:

President Pro-Tem Fults, Members of Council, City Attorney O’Rourke, Mayor Nation, fellow citizens:

  • The people on the dais know me, but for the record:
  • My wife and I have been citizens of Chesterfield since its incorporation;
  • In 2007, I was honored as the city’s Citizen of the Year;
  • I have served on committees and commissions since the city was born;
  • and I served two terms and for four years was chair of the Planning Commission.
  • It grieves me to be here tonight. I have had good personal relationships with the mayor, but I am not going to parse words.
  • This isn’t about politics, it’s about ongoing unacceptable behavior.
  • This isn’t about foul language, it’s about abuse of power.
  • This isn’t about an angry outburst, it’s about bullying.
  • This isn’t about speaking your mind, it’s about intimidation.
  • This isn’t just about now, it’s about a long history of actions.
  • This isn’t just about the mayor, it’s about the city and its citizens.
  • So, I am sad for the city, its citizens, its employees. And sad for the mayor.
  • But, at this point, if you were a city employee, how would you feel if you interacted with the mayor?
  • If you were an elected official from another city in St. L. or St. C County, how would you feel about our city and its mayor in general or in meetings that included him?
  • Same if you are a businessperson here.
  • If the mayor has a sense of decency and cares for our city, he will put his ego aside and resign.
  • Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

And my “I am not going to parse my words” in the above was aimed at opposing attorney who was disrespectful of the independent counsel, of the city’s attorney, of members of the City Council. He was condescending. Did he make points with the red meat he flung out to the mayor’s supporters? Sure. Was he trying to throw sand, blow smoke, get around the basic issues? Yep.

The mayor’s supporters dwelled on what a good mayor he’s been for the city and the things he’s fought for as well as excusing his well-documented and ongoing unacceptable conduct as a minor thing … you know, people curse in the workplace, no big deal. Some even tried to shift the blame for the outbursts to another city employee … not the mayor’s fault, he was frustrated.

People like me concentrated on his conduct. I have had personal experiences with him. He tries to bully. He tries to intimidate. He is a retired airline captain. As such, I think when he told his crew to “jump,” bet they were already in the air and only wanted to know “how high, sir?” This is not acceptable for a mayor.

While the mayor acknowledges his language and has apologized for it, he and his supporters have never acknowledged his rude, bullying, intimidating behavior not only in the incidents reported in the investigation, but a history of this conduct. I believe this is the third time Council has had to take action against the mayor, only this time it was public.

If I were a city employee or a member of Council, I’d make sure to have a recording device with me at all times I was with the mayor and never meet with him alone. It’s a sad state of affairs for our city. We shall see how those who want us to just “move forward” will be rewarded.

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