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Feb 09 2018

But this is not the opening line of a joke. A man, a father, a close friend of our daughter and her family was shot to death at point-blank range in a bar after an argument with a stranger about the weight of a dog and the weight of the victim.

This whole tragedy is really outside of reality for me. I have come to terms with the death of friends and relatives, both the sudden ones from a failing heart to the lingering ones as a cancer lives up to its name “terminal.” I can even understand those deaths caused by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But this. This I cannot fathom.

Not some revenge by a disgruntled worker or a kid bullied at school. Rage. Instant rage. Uncontrolled rage. Deadly rage. Senseless rage. Rage that pulled the trigger multiple times in a row standing within feet of the man he shot and killed. Over what? Another thing I cannot comprehend.

As we were driving home today from a week’s vacation and had heard about this catastrophe, two times drivers were tailgating me just a few feet behind the rear of my car. My usual inclination when this happens is tap my brake pedal a couple of times to give a signal to that driver that he/she is too close. Not today. The danger of what could happen if road rage were to occur outweighed the danger of a car way too close to me as I travelled at 70 mph.

Jul 14 2017

It’s today – 331 days before our scheduled return flight from abroad back to the US – first time I can make the reservations. And we have Skymiles points with Delta and they have only one non-stop flight a day. So pressure is to make the reservations now trying to use points before those seats disappear. Oh, and it’s business class.

Called the Skymiles number around 8:30AM. Asked for “representative.” Was told by the computer voice that I would be called back in 30-49 minutes. Time passed. I got the callback. I told the representative what I wanted to do and when. When I told her I wanted to use miles, she told me how many miles I would need (ended up she was quoting main cabin and not business class). I would need to transfer some of my miles to Marian’s account which I could only do online and not through her, but she said she’d transfer me to someone who would help me through all this and book the tickets. Instead of a transfer, the line went dead.

Before calling back, I went online onto my Skymiles account and transferred the requisite number of miles to Marian’s account for what I had been told. There is a charge for this – the equivalent of 1 percent in dollars of the miles being transferred plus $30 per transfer. And it ended up I didn’t need to do it.

So, I called the 800 number again and now was told I’d get a callback in 60-90 minutes. Time passed. Got the callback. Sylvia, the representative, told me some things. First, the amount of miles I had been quoted before were about a third of what would be needed to use miles for the seats and we didn’t have that many miles altogether. Second, while I could “pay with miles” at $100 per 10,000 miles given our accounts, it’s not something she had the “functionality” (her term) to do. I’d have to do it myself online. And I’d have to do it separately for the both of us. Sylvia said she’s call me back (took my number) in 45 minutes to give me time to do this so that she could cross-reference the reservations.

Went online. It was not intuitively obvious how to book and use miles to pay part of the ticket. After a few tries, got the hang of it. Booked for me. Went on her account and booked for Marian. Chose seats by one another.

Sylvia did call back and said she linked our two reservations.

In all, if I had known the way this was going to end:

  1. I would have not needed to transfer points between accounts and pay that fee.
  2. I could have just booked this online and did the “pay with miles.”

However, it’s done (I hope).

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?”

Jun 14 2017

Today, just before flyting out to New Zealand, I called Delta to attempt to make airline reservations for next Summer to go to Israel. I want to use miles, of course, which is why I called today. Here’s what I found out:

First, no reservations can be made until 331 days before a flight.

Second, if you are trying to book a round trip, you have to wait until 331 days before your RETURN flight to do so.

Third, if you, say, want to make reservations for your outbound flight 331 days before it and then return flight later, there is a $150 charge per ticket if you used miles to buy the ticket(s) or $300 charge per ticket if you used miles for an upgrade. “Change of ticket” fee, I was told.

With a very limited number of seats available where miles can be used (especially in business class), it pays to book as soon as you can. So, do I book the outbound and pay fees to change when then reserving the return? Or do I wait until 331 days before my return to try it all?

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, _______________________________________

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