Archive for the ‘News to Use’ Category

Earthquake in Haiti: How to Help

January 13, 2010 1 comment

It is a scene of utter devastation. It was afternoon in Haiti when the earthquake hit and many kids were in school buildings that collapsed. Bodies are being piled up on the streets. From shacks that were home to the poorest of the poor to the Presidential Palace to the Headquarters of UN Peacekeepers, the capital city of Port-Au-Prince has been destroyed.

Here’s a site that referred in October of 2008 to an article in a Haitian newspaper that quoted a geologist as saying an earthquake in Port-Au-Prince was a distinct possibility and describes how devastating it would be:

A recent article in Haiti’s Le Matin newspaper has quoted 65 year old geologist and former professor at the Geological Institute of Havana, Patrick Charles, as stating that “conditions are ripe for major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince. The inhabitants of the Haitian capital need to prepare themselves for an event which will inevitably occur…” According to him, the danger is imminent. He ads “Thank God that science has provided instruments that help predict these types of events and show how we have arrived at these conclusions.”

According to Patrick Charles, Port-au-Prince is traversed by a large fault which is part of the Enriquillo Fault Zone. The fault starts in Petionville and follows the Southern Peninsula ending at Tiburon. In 1751 and 1771, this town was completely destroyed by an earthquake. As proof to his claims, he referred to recent tremors that have occurred in Petionville, Delmas, Croix des Bouquets, and La Plaine. Minor tremors such as these usually signal a larger earthquake to come

It is a humanitarian disaster of the first order.

These are reputable organizations that need donations to get relief to these people.

CARE, World Vision, American Jewish World Service

ABC News lists links and contacts to these additional organizations:

American Red Cross
Mercy Corps
Food for the Hungry
Doctors Without Borders
Partners in Health
World Food Programme

Amtrak- Riding the Rails

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

I know this is a bit of an esoteric area for discussion, but I traveled between New York and Washington yesterday for a series of meetings and took the high-speed Acela down and the Regional train back up. The experience has confirmed that I am, most definitely, a first class, or rather, business class- snob. But more importantly, why is this country and our government so loathe to support rail travel? Anybody heard of Europe? It’s a region of the world that is dependent on rail and it works wonderfully.

The distinction between travel on the Acela and the Regional is like the difference between savoring caviar and wolfing down a hot dog. And at least judging by my particular one-way fares, it was only a $26 difference. On the Acela you get air conditioning (perhaps too much of it). On the Regional, you get a packed train and it feels like something approaching body temperature. Suggestion to Amtrak: Add the temperature on the Acela to the temperature on the Regional, divide by two and disperse equally between the two services.

I will say this though (and I’ve been doing it for years); either experience beats the hell out of taking the air shuttles. On the rails, you line up and board. Initially, you’ll see a cute dog sniffing around the aisles on the leash of a heavily armed, uniformed individual. By air, you’re treated like a terrorist, have to take off your shoes, and get busted for carrying too much tooth paste or shampoo. On the trains, you get leg room, don’t even have to buckle up, can stand up and move around, hit the café car and get micro-waved cheeseburgers and a bottle of wine if you want. On the plane, you’re lucky to get a stale bag of pretzels served with a snarl. Ok, on the shuttle service you do get complimentary alcoholic beverages and coffee. But for a round-trip it’s also about $70 or so more expensive. That’s a lot to pay for a Sam Adams.

At least for travel between NY and DC, time is not a factor. Door-to-door it’s about the same. In regard to usage, A LOT of people use Amtrak. New York’s Penn station is, by far, the busiest counting 6.4 million arrivals and departures in 2008. Washington’s Union station handles 4 million.

Plus trains offer alternately dramatic or serene scenery along the way. It is very cool to be chugging (on the Regional) or gliding along (on the Acela) and see Philadelphia’s One Liberty Place, the Mellon Bank Center, and the Verizon Tower suddenly come in to view as you round the bend. Wilmington looks like a comfortable and pleasant little town. Baltimore is a little freaky, especially the burned out row houses as you approach the other Penn Station. And, of course, there’s Union station in Washington which is a superb and breathtaking piece of architecture. The other way, the New Jersey approach to Manhattan is like a scene right out of the Soprano’s. And there’s a moment when out of nowhere, you spot the Empire State building in the distance and realize, wow, man- that’s friggin’ New York!

I know flight attendants and the airline industry at large will hate me for saying this (but then again it feels like they’ve always hated me anyway) – but when traveling the mighty Northeast corridor, nothing beats Amtrak.

They’re Heeeere- Avoiding or Lessening the Holiday Blues

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

It starts this week with an orgy of eating and continues into the next few weeks with endless shopping, parties and travel. It proceeds onto that flurry of gift-giving and receiving that marks Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, etc., etc. and culminates on December 31st with binge-drinking. Ah- the glorious holidays are upon us. Happy, happy, happy.

Well, not so happy for many. Here are a few links that might be helpful in getting you through this time of year:


First of all, if you hadn’t noticed, we’re in a hellish recession and unemployment is at its highest level in 27 years. A lot of folks can’t even afford to have holidays. At the risk of dampening a consumer-based economic recovery- be reasonable with your finances. Here’s a nice piece on whimsical gift-giving by Leslie M.M. Blume, author, journalist and contributing style editor to Huff Post. For those of you with politically conservative tendencies, I would recommend replacing her suggestion on giving an Obama poster with, perhaps one of Sarah Palin’s books.

Don’t Be Lonely

Not everyone is happily (or unhappily) connected with a significant other. That can exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness. Here are four easy steps on how not to feel alone from


The average American gains at least five pounds during this time of year. Balance and moderation might be a good thing to consider. Oh- and common sense. Here are ten really great tips from a registered dietician at UCLA. This is not the usual crap. For example, she advises NOT to sign up for weight-loss programs at the start of the New Year because it just sets you up for binge-eating during the holidays thinking you’re going to be shedding tons of fat in just a few weeks. And if you are overweight, this is not the time of year to go on a diet. Part of being reasonable means managing your expectations.


Family reunions are big during the holidays, obviously, and that opens up a whole other can of worms (for those with tight family structures, apologies for making an analogy of your loved ones to worms). Remember, you aren’t 10 years old anymore. You’re an adult now and you get to have your space if you want to. One of the most common tendencies is for people to fall into their old family roles even though it’s been 32 years.

But perhaps more useful than anything is this guide from the Stress Management section of on How to Become Adept at Dealing with Difficult People and Avoiding Conflict. Not that I am suggesting for one second that you have any difficult people in your family.


Then, of course, it all comes crashing to an ignominious end with the onset of the New Year as you pack up the decorations, send the tree off to the landfill, look down in shock at your waist line and snap back into the normal routines of life. Here are five, reasonable and easy tips from on easing through the post-holiday blues.

You see, I want my friends and readers to be happy. Oh, and I want to be happy too. So this, just now, was my gift to you this holiday season. Maybe it will help keep you sane. Expect nothing else, and definitely nothing expensive. Hey, we’re in a recession.

A Merry Rama-hannah-kwanzamas to all! Read more…

Under the Hood with New York City Cabbies

November 4, 2009 1 comment

New York has a really great subway system and I do use it but sometimes circumstances demand that you park yourself on a street corner and hail a yellow cab. My driver this morning had no idea I’d be blogging about him, but he was most obliging in answering questions that reveal the following facts about driving a taxi in New York City.

1) This one is probably well-known but my cabbie mentioned it and I confirmed the costs via a cool little web site for NY taxi drivers. You are not an official taxi cab in New York unless you have a medallion; a small metal disc that’s attached to the hood of the vehicle. They’re, uh, expensive. The city auctions them off. They can go for as high as $650,000 to $700,000.

2) My cabbie today says he works Wednesday through Sunday and starts each day at 5am and finishes up around 4pm. These are not lazy people. My driver will not get in an airport line and wait an hour to get a fare. He says it’s a waste of time when you could be out there prowling the streets.

3) The financial risk is all on the drivers and not on the fleet operator. Depending on the time of day you’re working, the cabbie pays the company anywhere from $105 to $134 each day. It’s up to the driver’s tenacity and good fortune to turn a profit each and every day. The fleet operator, however, is guaranteed their take. This particular fleet is made up of 200 cars. My trusty calculator shows that to be about $23,000 a day, $160,000 a week, $650,000 a month, and nearly 7.8 million a year. Of course, there’s insurance, they have to buy new cars every three years and by 2012, Mayor Bloomberg wants them all to be hybrids. Environmentally-friendly cars should save cabbies on their fuel costs, or so the theory goes.

4) I don’t want to paint all fleet operators with a broad brush, but my cabbie says his guys are cheap, cheap, cheap. They will balk at replacing something as inexpensive as windshield wipers. God knows how they feel about bald tires and transmissions.

5) Miserliness is also prevalent among certain customers. I think there’s a life lesson here somewhere. My driver says that when he picks up a fare on Park, Madison or 5th avenues, 80% of the time he will get virtually no tip at all. Like $11 on a $10.50 fare. Rich people are, apparently, the stingiest of all. This is how they got rich, I guess- fifty cents at a time. Of course, if they’re REALLY rich, they’ll be getting into the back of one of those fancy black cars.

6) Why can’t you get a damn cab when it’s raining? It’s not because cabbies are mean. People who would ordinarily walk or take a bus, are now competing for taxis so your odds of getting a vacant car are significantly reduced.

7) Cabbies are a little bitter about the credit card systems in their cars. They claim to lose 5% on every fare paid with plastic.

8) Passengers are a little miffed at the new 50 cent surcharge imposed this week. Along with the $2.50 start on the meter, it’s now three bucks just to step into a New York City cab.

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