Random Musings

Hey, my blog’s supposed to be about randomness, so here are a few random musings from the last few days.


The Unreal Water Fountain


What’s up with airports adding fake sound effects to various items? On Sunday when getting a drink from a bubbler (water fountain to folks outside Wisconsin) at Seattle’s airport, I noticed this very robust water gurgling sound. It in no way matched the dribble of water the fountain was producing. Turns out there was a recorded sound of a water fountain playing each time you pushed the button to get a drink. Is reality not good enough for even the bubbler these days?


AT&T’s Mysterious Billing


Checking my cell phone usage lately, I was surprised to see a new item showing up called Rate Plan Overage. Surprised because I have an AT&T phone with rollover minutes and have more than 1,300 minutes extra. In fact, I have so many of these rollover minutes that I lose some each month due to a one-year expiration period.


Not wanting to get surprise charges, I phoned AT&T customer support. I guess that was my first mistake. Four hold periods later the customer service rep’s basic answer was not to worry because they could see I wasn’t over my minutes.


Right, don’t worry I’m thinking when here you are telling me something is putting me over my plan minutes. I guess when the bill comes in I’ll tell AT&T, don’t worry about those extra charges, maybe I’ll pay them someday.


A couple more hold periods and some further investigation, and the AT&T rep now discovers that this Rate Plan Overage listing is really telling me how many minutes I’ve used calling other AT&T cell phones—this by the way is something for which my plan has an unlimited number of minutes clearly indicated in another section of the minutes used statement.


So, I guess now we’ve arrived at a point where even something as simple as a billing statement is unable to tell you what you are really being charged for. AT&T’s final answer by the way, was just don’t worry.


Biggest Braille Menu Award


It is still a nice treat when dining at a restaurant to have the wait staff ask if I’d like a Braille menu. Sure, the ADA and such says menus should be made accessible in some fashion and all but unless it is a Braille menu from my perspective it isn’t realistic to ask the wait staff to read the menu when you are dining with sighted folks. Even then, often the Braille menus are out of date or incomplete.


So, it was a doubly nice surprise when going to eat at The Cheesecake Factory a couple days ago to be asked if I wanted a Braille menu and to have the menu be comprehensive and accurate on pricing.


This restaurant has to win the award for the biggest Braille menu too. The combination Braille and large print menu brought to the table was more like a small book with 95 pages of menu items. A tip of the proverbial diner’s fork to The Cheesecake Factory for taking accessibility seriously. By the way, while the desserts are clearly the cornerstone for this chain, the food itself is really quite good with a menu that features a wide range of selections.

Home Stretch

Hello All,
Sorry I haven’t written any updates in a while, but I’ve been in the sticks of Nepal where email access is nonexistent/unreliable. I’ve enjoyed the country, but aspects of the tour have been very disappointing, and the last several days have not been without drama. Let me explain.
We got to a nice resort in Pokhara called Tiger Mountain–very beautiful, remote placewhere Sir Ed Hillary and the Royals once stayed. Gorgeous views of the Annapurnas (which I saw at sunrise), had some lovely nature walks in the Gurung villages accompanied by a the guide’s dogs, children, and the occasional butterfly. Our tour agenda promised several activities but failed to mention only a few were covered by the tour, and we had to pay to go into Pokhara. The pony rides were not being offered. Great services and food though.
After Pokhara, we were picked up by a guide and drove to Lumbini via Tansen. Drive took longer than expected and the guide was totally unfamiliar with the area, culture, history, etc. Not good. Passed a hotel with a dead goat in front of its gates (the welcome mat, perhaps? An ad for dinner?) We were to stay at the Hokke Hotel, but ended up at another, which was a dump. Broken light fixtures, bad wiring on one lamp (a dim room), no info on what services the hotel provided, including when the hot water was shut off (a reality in this part of the world). The second night, Michelle and I got some food poisoning from the dinner–I had a mild case, but I was wiped out the next day, when we stayed at Temple Tiger in Royal Chitwan. Very nice, like in the jungle, but basically like camping without access to the Tharu villages as the agenda promised.
Today we were to go to Janakpur, but this had to be cancelled due to strikes in the area. I’m on my way back to Kathmandu, but wantd to send you all an update and to let you know I’m safe. More Later.
I will be home on the 15th.

Kathmandu Part 2

Namaste All!
Yesterday after I sent the email, I walked around the area, and noted a crowd had gathered around this car that had its windows smashed out. About a dozen cops with batons and shields were in the area. Would have been a great photo, but didn’t think it would be wise. On the way back to the hotel, I saw a truck with cops in riot gear.
According to our guide, the protests were held by casino workers. Apparrently an off-duty cop recently went to a casino to gamble. When he was denied access, he orchestrated a raid as revenge.
I met two other ladies on the tour, Pam (from Dallas) and Michelle (former Seattleite now in New Mexico), who I like. That afternoon we met two friends of Pam’s at the Stupa View Restaurant, overlooking the Boudnath Stupa (lots of people worshiping). Great dinner, vview of the sunset, and good conversation, and lots of atmosphere. Traded a few war stories as to who was the weirdest travel companion. Michelle won with her tale of a fellow traveller to Machu Piccu began having past-life flashbacks during the visit. On the way back, had the wildest taxi ride of my life thusfar: the driver never used the horn (which over here is used to tell people you are coming or there) and played chicken with multiple vehicles over dark streets with potholed roads. I would’ve fished for the Nepali dictionary to the words “Sslow Down” but I had to hang on for dear life. He literally came within millimeters of a car and a wall. But we made it.
Today we rose at dawn to go to the Monkey temple, climbed 365 very steep stairs (better than a stairmaster) and saw the locals making pujas, or offerings. Saw a few cremations at the Pashnupath Hindu temple and some colorful sadhus. Tonight we’re having dinner at a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet that features ghazal music.
Weather here is gorgeous–cool in evening and about 80 degrees and sunny during the day!
Hope all is well with all of you.
Peace Out,

Kathmandu to you

Namaste All!
I arrived in Kathmandu yesterday afternoon to a beautiful day–partly cloudy, high 77, low humidity! While waiting for the plane, it was interesting to note the high level of excitement in the terminal. Thank goodness I didn’t have to sit next to the Witch of the Skies, a woman who gave filthy looks to her seatmates for having the audacity to get up to use the bathroom, and snapped at the young Nepali boy who was chattering excitedly when the Himalayas were in view.
Kathmandu is in a valley encircled by the Himalayas. It is beautiful, but lots of poverty. The wireless connections here are spotty, and last night we had two brief blackouts. I’m staying at the Yak and Yeti, which was founded by this semi-legendary Russian. Part of it is a former palace, but I’m in the shabbier section. Compared to the Lebua, it’s like a Motel 6–and it cost me more to stay the night there, too! And they charge an arm and a leg for net usage–I found a net cafe in Thamel that I can use for less than a dollar an hour.
This am I woke before Dawn to take a sunrise flight over the Himalaya. Unfortunately, it was too foggy for sunrise, but after waiting 1.5 hours, we flew out. Truly an awesome sight, and definitely worth it! Saw Mount Everest, which was cool too. Had a combo Western/Indian brunch (tea, dosa (Indian masala pancake), fruit, hashbrowns, mini pain au chocolat) at the hotel, where I was unfortunately seated in view of this sick guy who kept coughing up a lung and had strings of snot hanging from his nose. Despite the poverty, there is some magic here in the wafts of incense and the chimes of temple bells and the toots of melodious car horns.
This afternoon I will be meeting the other members of my tour group and will will tour Kathmandu tomorrow. Not sure how often I’ll be posting, but I’ll do it when I can. Hope you are all doing well, and don’t forget to vote!