Easier for Who?

It has been more than a year since people from Washington and several other western states have been able to obtain free copies of their credit reports. Over the past year, citizens of the rest of the nation have had the same access made available in a staged process. As a recent article in the Seattle times points out, the process hasn’t been perfect but according to the article things should be getting easier. I must ask, “Easier for who?”
The legislation making free access to credit reports is something that we should have had years ago. With the number of companies using the details of your credit report it is vital that you know what it contains, especially because sometimes there are inaccuracies. I know in my case back when I was living in Portland, there happened to be another Kelly Ford living in the same apartment complex as me and some of that person’s bad debts did appear on my credit report at one point. It was a major effort to get them removed.
That’s in part why I’m a big fan of the required access to your credit report. Sadly in the year that the process for this has been in place, there’s been no progress on accessibility to the report request process or the reports themselves.
Obtaining a copy of your credit report requires you to go to the official web site to start the request at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Aside from basic accessibility flaws like missing alternative text for images, the web site uses the increasingly common visual word verification test in the initial stage of the request process. With no alternative, such as audio of the graphical word to be entered that is used on some web sites, you are locked out if you are blind.
True you can request a copy of your report by phone or e-mail. Thus far my attempts to use these methods have not proved to lead to any greater accessibility as there’s no provision that I can find in these methods to get an actual accessible copy of the credit report. By contrast the online process will lead you to an online version of your report that is more or less accessible. Still it shouldn’t be necessary to get someone else to assist in the process at all, especially for government-mandated access to personal information.
I hope others reading this will consider writing to the editorial staff of the Seattle Times as I have done asking them to cover the accessibility aspects of this issue. Letters can be sent to opinion@seattletimes.com and must include day and evening phone numbers as well as your full name and home address. The paper’s web site gives full details.
In the past year I’ve exchanged several e-mails and phone conversations with officials from various congressional offices for the house and senate of Washington State. Thus far I’ve been unsuccessful at getting any politician to take a serious interest in this issue. In my view the process and credit reports one obtains should be 100% accessible and individuals with disabilities should be able to obtain and access the information independently.

Tube Tunes

One thing that sticks in my mind from trips to London are the street musicians one hears as you walk through tube stations. The stations tend to have long halls with concrete or tile walls which makes for an acoustically rich environment. Add a little reverb in and anyone can sound good (just ask the recording industry). Here’s a sample of some tube tunes from our recent trip.

Dehra Dun to London in 30 Hours

We are now back in London after a 30 hour trip from Dehra Dun to London. We weren’t sure what we were going to do on our last day in India but the airlines decided for us.
We left our Hotel in Dehra Dun at about 10A yesterday to head for the Jolly Grant airport outside of Dehradun. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
We no more than got out of our car when someone at the airport told us to hold the car because the flight had been cancelled. Apparently, if there’s no traveller from Delhi to Dehra Dun on a given day, the flights both way simply don’t happen. Our driver, as with just about everyone we met in India, was extremely helpful in helping us find a taxi back to Delhi.
If I thought the Road to Agra was an adventure, I should have driven to Dehra Dun first. You know it is quite an experience when the customs agent here in London talks about how much of an “on the edge of your seat” ride she had on the same trip five years ago.
I suppose it was really nothing new but rather just the intensity of the traffic, animals, people and perhaps the most aggressive driver we had to date in India that made things interesting.
We ended up at the airport at about 8P for a flight that left at 3:30A. The Delhi airport isn’t exactly the most exciting place to kill time. That said all went well with our flight and in the end that’s what matters. London is 5.5 hours behind Delhi and we arrived here about 7:30A. Customs, backage and travel to our hotel took a bit. You know you are back in the west when you are schlepping your bags down the street after getting off the tube. No drivers here. We made it to the hotel about 11A.
More on India, the wedding and some general thoughts after we get a bite to eat and some rest. I will say that while it feels nice to be back in the west (it is a comfort zone of sorts) I know that there are things about India that will be missed and I’m richer for the experience of the last two weeks.

The Road to Agra

Travel books often speak of the “road” to this or that destination as if the road itself is part of the journey. Most of my travel has been in the U.S. where there’s really not much difference, aside from where you end up, between I-5, I-15 or the many other highways one can take. What you experience along the way is largely the same erector set-experience no matter the road. You’ll find a motel, gas station, fastfood joint and the rest that’s become U.S. freeway standard.
On Saturday 12/3 we took the road to Agra and experience highway travel Indian style. Let me tell you it is a vastly different experience. You share the road with horse and ox carts, camel caravans, auto rickshaws, pedestrians, motorcycles, trucks and more. And of course cattle always have the right of way and make frequent appearances on the road. And in typical fashion, if the vehicle has a horn you can be certain you’ll hear it almost endlessly.
Scenery along the way included people gathering cow dung for fuel, slums where people live in little more than dirt, individuals toileting themselves in full view, and fields where crops such as mustard and potatoes are grown.
One minute you can be moving at 55 MPH and the next in a virtual stall as you wait for a cow to leave the road. The amount of dust is really unbelieveable. By the end of a four hour trip, you are coated in a thin layer of it.
So too the quality of roads varies greatly. The main highway is paved and as smooth as anything you’d find in the U.S. But we also ended up driving on roads that were barely gravel through the middle of small Indian villages.
Agra is home to the Taj Mahul and this was the main reason we went to the city. Some experiences are really visual in nature. Words simply can not describe them and I think the Taj is one such experience. Aside from being able to say I’ve been there, I personally didn’t find the Taj Mahul interesting in the least. True there were many carvings in the stone and the Amervilas hotel where we stayed was first class by any standard.
Yet Aimee found the Taj experience more than worth the hastle of getting there. She used words like ethereal, magestic and breath taking.
I think had there not been thousands of tourists streaming up and down the steps to the monument I would have gained more of a sense of the Taj. As it was, my experience was more like being in a current of people just going with the flow.
As an interesting side note, our trip also included our first experience with what I’d term low level corruption here in India. We were heading back to Delhi when our driver Sudama pulled over and got out of the car without an explanation. Shortly after he got back in moved the car off the main road and got out and started having heated words with a police official.
The net result according to Sudama was that the police official demanded 100 Rupees (about $2.25) or else he, Sudama, would have been ticketed for a manufactured traffic violation that would have cost about 700 rupees. Sudama indicated this sort of thing was a regular happening in his travels.
India is a very different place from the U.S.–some parts better, some worse but all colorful and interesting.

Audio of A Saturday Walk in Dublin

On 11/26 we were in Dublin. Here’s some audio from the day. Things start out with us walking around the outside of Trinity college. The two quiet sections are inside the college in a room with the Book of Kells and another large library room known as the Long Room that has hundreds of rare books. You then hear us walk through the college gates, part of a Dublin city tour and more stops on various streets of Dublin.
Unfortunately audio is in Windows Media format only while we are on the road. When we return I’ll convert to MP3 and put more audio online.

The Indian Taste Adventure

Imagine me sitting down to write about food. I mean honestly I’d not win any awards of the diversity of food that I find
interesting. Still the food here has been a tantalizing mixture of spices and flavors.
We’ve eaten six dinners thus far and five of mine have been Indian cuisine. Admitedly, largely variations on chicken and rice
with some naan bread tossed in for good measure.
On Saturday night in Agra we dined at a restaurant called Espahan in the Amarvilas hotel. The food there was simply put some of
the best I’ve ever eaten, no matter what nationality. The name of the dish I ate escapes me but the menu called it a chicken with
onion and tomato gravy. The picky part of me is thinking, “hey, I can probably eat this, it sounds relatively safe.”
Clearly the Indian definition of gravy is different from what I’m used to. This was not a thick liquid slathered all over the
meat but rather a delicate accent that was a fine accompanyment to the basic dish. Further the “onion and tomato” was both more
and less than what was described. More because there were at least six or seven spices mixed in and less because to say that the
dish had inion that you could actually taste was certainly not accurate. All this is to say that the dish was a uniue and
enjoyable taste.
Aimee often tells me that food for her is aadventure. For the first time I have an understanding of what she means by this as the
dinner we had on Saturday was like taking a trip to an exotic combination of tastes.
Oh and of course there was also an Indian twist on tomato soup. Ours had ginger and coriander mixed in. The result was like a
spicy , zesty and again unique taste experience that I’d not previously had.
I’m not going off the deep end here and suspect I’ll remain Finicky Ford when it comes to food. Yet this trip has opened my
palate to many new tastes that I’ve enjoyed. The variation of spices is simple incredible.