Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Things are somewhat different here...

When you step onto an elevator you greet the occupants with a polite "Buenos dais". Nice change from the US where you either look straight ahead with a stony expression or examine the tops of your shoes!

The ATMs - of course they have them, they are everywhere. However I have never seen an ATM guarded by two men in bullet proof vests toting sub machines guns while a third man replenishes it. Added a rather surreal note to the teaming book expo.

The teenagers are as attached to their cell phones as they are in the US. The students all wear uniforms and look charming. Some of the uniforms look downright chic and that´s hard to achieve. The children are so much thinner than the students who have migrated to the US. Less fast food perhaps? There were multiple classes visiting the Expo yesterday.

Taxis are cheap, cheap cheap and plentiful. Most excellent in this city where I would not want to drive. Traffic is like Paris - many traffic circles, with all the drivers driving as fast as they can and honking their horns furiously. Motorcycles seem to favor zipping in and out and driving on the center line.

The Holiday Inn version of Mexican coffee is not pretty.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Mexican Retrograde

If Mercury Retrograde is bad in the US it is even worse in Guadalajara, Mexico where the "manana" mentality reigns supreme. Luggage carousel clearly marked with our flight number. Does our luggage show up there? No, it shows up at a 3 carrousels over that is clearly marked with another flight.

At the hotel, the rooms aren't ready, despite it being 3pm. Ready in 20 min, ready in 40 min, still not ready, the hell with it, leave the luggage and go the Book Fair expo. But not before one member of our party tries to make a phone call. Several wrong numbers and assorted adventures later she too gives up and heads for the Expo.

At the expo, inquiring the whereabouts of the food court lands us in the parking garage. Inquiring where the children's books are lands us in the ¨children´s play area" which is swarming with ninos all of whom run, push and shove just as much as they do in the Houston Thrift Stores. Must be cultural.

Book expo is overwhelming, bigger than TLA. Tonight I will get anal and try and map out a plan of action. Today I just wandered about trying to ¨Gork it all and not succeeding very well.

One unfortunate thing is our hotel is way the heck on the edge of town, not near anything of any interest so I can´t indulge in my favorite activity of walking around and getting lost. Taxi´s are cheap, I may treat myself. I don´t want to come back from Guadalajara having seen only the Holiday Inn which looks like any other Holiday Inn in the world. In other words, it´s bland and boring.

I feel the need for a good dose of local color so tomorrows mission may be to find it!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Mercury is retrograde and It's Not Pretty

Today was once again one of those days when the simplest things took way longer and were ever so much complicated than they had to be. I finally admitted that the keyboard on my computer was beyond help so back to Dell it went. In one of their post paid boxes. Not a problem, but the shipper was DHL who is not the most popular shipper in Houston. The DHL location was closed for the 4 day holiday, the UPS store wouldn't take the box and neither would Kinko/Fedex. OfficeMax is a dropoff stop but their internet was down. The Box Store, despite being touted on the DHL website as an "official drop off" site declined the honor. 2 hours later the OfficeMax on West Grey finally delivered for me. Now let us hope Dell delivers it back in a timely manner - and with a working space bar.

Needed to rustle up business cards for the upcoming trip to Mexico...again an exercise in frustration. Finally bought pre-prefed cards to make my own, but the printer won't take the card stock. So it's back to Kinko's tomorrow to run the stock through the copy machine. Let's hope it is a one stop errand though considering how things went today I have grave doubts.

Monday, November 22, 2004

DayTime TV

It's Thanksgiving and we get the entire week off - what a blessing. It's raining, raining, raining, as in "Noah, Where's the Ark" raining so I stayed home and piddled about with this n' that. Happily watched all my new BBC DVD'S on the downstairs TV which is the latest and greastest in TV technology. The one in my upstairs office is several generations removed from latest and greatest.

Curious to whether or not the city was underwater I turned on the mid-day news. It's very apparent who their target audience is.....people who are on disability or wish they were. The broadcast was sponsored by various personal injury lawyers of the ambulance chaser variety.
The overlying theme was "I'll get you money" and the testimonials were all given by people who did not use their settlements for some badly needed dental work.

And yes, the city was underwater - at least at some key intersections.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

And They Wonder Why People Abandon Teaching!

The Texas Education agency has decided, in it's infinite wisdom to survey all teachers on their use and opinions of Technology. Good enough idea, but then they made it way more complicated than it ought to have been, mainly I think to provide "busy work" for some over paid and under worked administrators.

First, all classroom teachers had to give up one of their planning periods. Those of us not on block planning had to carve out some time out of an already to full day. I joined the third grade. 5 teachers + 1 librarian at about $50 an hour = $300 worth of tax dollars.

The Instructional technology department sent not one but 2 trainers to train us. 2 trainers, 1 hour + 1 hour travel time = $200 tax dollars.

We were given 3 photocopies. We then watched an on line video of a talking educational head who read us the photocopies. The head was an administrative head so it was most likely paid double what we are. 1 talking head x 2 hours to make the film = $200

Then we were allowed to access the web site so we could begin to fill out the survey. Price to create survey? Who knows? At least $1000 worth of staff time.

This training was repeated 6 times at my school alone, multiply that by the 40 schools in my district! The amount of money spent to achieve this end is obscene.

Hey, I've got a college degree, I sell on E-Bay, I order on-line, I've taken long distance learning, I keep a blog. I am very capable of filing out an online survey without 30 minutes of prior instruction.

The final indignity? We were handed a pencil and a printed copy of the survey. We were told to fill out the hard copy first and then transfer the information to the on-line version!

Where's my resume?????

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Books,Books and more books....to many books!

Between my trip to Miami and driving Jane, the author to and fro and fro and to I managed to miss most of our annual bookfair. A pity since not only is it an excellent opportunity to actually look at the books I might want to order, it is an even better opportunity to visit and talk shop with fellow librarians. It was slim pickings in the sample book reading department - this year I only ended up with 3 boxes of books-normally I have at least 6. Less books, more competition and a shorter reading season.

So, now they are stacked in the back of the library in need of cataloging. Not sure when that's going to happen.

Should of gone this past Saturday when the building was open but I to deal with all the books at home instead. Books needed packing, books needed sorting, books needed culling and books just plain needed to be put away. Oh yes, and books needed to be read too but somehow there just wasn't time for that. Hum...perhaps I need to rethink the priorities.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Changes Changes

I left Miami for good in 1970 and while I’ve been back intermittently, I’ve not stayed for more than a week or so. Some things haven’t changed. The vegetation is as lush as ever, the grass green and palm trees stand tall. The shopping centers I remember from my childhood are still there, though with updated false fronts. The traffic is worse, far worse, despite there being any number of new freeways. The drivers rival those of San Antonio. Never have I seen so much blatant running of red lights.

There is a new underclass. When I was growing up the maids, waiters, taxi cab drivers and doormen were Cuban. All newly arrived and fleeing Castro’s Cuba. Their children now run the city and hire the newest crop of immigrants – the Haitians. I wonder who will take their place some 40 years hence? The African Americans appear to be left behind entirely. Some parts of Miami simmer with the anger of the disposed.

Miami Throwback

The Doral Resort and Spa – once known as the Doral Country Club is a throwback to the 1960s, to the days when blond furniture was in vogue, Jack Kennedy was in the White House and Camelot was on the horizon. The days when the men golfed and women played bridge and never the twain shall meet. Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and the rest of the rat pack would feel right at home. Chances are they were once.

This image was further solidified by the 400 partners and counsel of Hogan and Hartson, who had picked this particular weekend for their annual retreat. It was a small affair, just some 400 odd lawyers and their wives, and costing, according to a bell hop, a mere $1,000,000.

I’m not sure how the most likely minimum wage earning bellhop felt about a firm who made so much money they could squander $1, 000,000 of it in just one weekend. I wanted to ask him, as well as ask the mostly Haitian cleaning crew but I suspected they would only give me a polite smile and pretend to forget all their English. It brought to mind Marie Antoinette and her “Piete Trinion” – her fantasy farm where she gamboled about presenting to be a shepherdess while the people of Paris rioted in the streets.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

No Miami Vice - To Many Lawyers

We spent the weekend at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami in the company of 400+ lawyers from Hogan and Hartson enjoying their annual "Partner's Retreat". Given what this place costs it was very apparent that the law firm - was very well heeled and a quick Google search confirmed my suspicions. Reading between lines of all the corporate babble the words "well connected", " fat cats", "Political Pac" , "good old boys", "rich white men", "conservative" and "Republican" all came to mind. This is the kind of firm Ken Lay would hire to get him out of the Enron mess. They are most likely very happy with the outcome of the recent presidential election.

Many rich white men, accompanied by either their original wives (looking expensively matronly) or their trophy wives (looking trim, well cared for and sporting flashy diamonds). There are also a few women members of the firm, they read legal briefs poolside while the wives read Nora Roberts.

Saturday night was black tie formal - the men in tuxedos - though their name tags would have garnered them black maks from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" men. The trophy wives wore short, clinging black dresses, cut low where it counted, the original wives wore figure flattering , hide the bulges black and the women lawyers wore basic black so conservative it was boring and unforgettable. No flaming red halter dresses or sequins for this crowd. A couple of the women wore "Tootise" style suits which will most likely not help them make partner any time soon.

The men have been playing golf - there must be a class in law school entitled "Corporate Golf 101". The women have been spaing. In between they are entertained at a none stop flow of parties all carefully scripted by an events planning firm(easily identified by their matching pale peach polo shirts and tense looks).

The amount of money(no doubt tax deductible) spent could fund a health care clinic for at least 6 months if not longer.

Sad commentary on the current state of our divided country.

The main purpose of our trip was to visit our daughter who attends the University of Miami. We treated her to a day at the spa and a good time was had by all. My Beloved had a migraine so we passed on the University of Miami Football game which was no great sacrifice on my part. Miami lost in overtime so going would not have helped the headache situation.