Pausing to Remember Those Who Served (and Those Who Still Serve)

Today is the annual commemoration of Memorial Day. It used to be celebrated on May 30th but now it has been moved to the last Monday of May. When I wrote this tribute last year, we had lost 3455 troops in Iraq. As I write this we’ve lost 4083. I pray next year the number will be dramatically smaller. It’s a good day to thank a vet.

Presidential Candidate Shuffle

OK, several months ago I started keeping track of who is running for President this year. I wanted to list not only the Republican and Democratic major candidates, but (to the best of my ability) anyone who is running. Simply put, this has appeared to have gotten away from me.

Republican Party Since I started this, John McCain has appeared to have wrapped up the Republican nomination. His major opponents have withdrawn and endorsed him but this hasn’t stopped some of the other candidates. I’ve removed their webpages; Alan Keyes moved to the Constitution Party but he lost the nomination there too.

Democratic Party Conventional wisdom has Barack Obama winning the nomination though it appears that Hillary Clinton is not entirely out of the race. It’s a close call but I’ve left both of them on.

Constitution Party This is where Alan Keyes went when he realized he wasn’t going to win the Republican nomination. They held their nomination on April 26th in Kansas City and nominated Chuck Baldwin. I’ve removed all candidates from the party except Chuck.

Green Party Their convention is scheduled for July 10th to 14th in Chicago. So far the frontrunners are Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader. They are so much ahead of the other candidates that I’m listing only them.

Libertarian Party They will hold their convention later this month in Denver. On their website they list the top four candidates: Bob Barr, Wayne Root, Daniel Imperato, and Michael Jingozian. I’ve removed the other candidates.

The other parties (Socialist, Prohibition) don’t appear to have conventions, or at least have chosen their candidates by acclimation. Independent candidates, by definition, don’t need to be nominated and I’ve left them alone.

Stay tuned, and let me know if I’ve made any errors.

Hey, Somebody Needed to Carry Her Luggage!

Every year in early May Nancy and I head out on vacation; she has an annual convention of the Pediatric Academic Society. Last year it was in Toronto and next year we travel to Baltimore but this year it was in beautiful, downtown Honolulu. I’m not ordinarily crazy about the island of Oahu because it’s so built up but it was nice. We stayed at the Westin Moana Surfrider, one of the oldest hotels in Hawai’i, and it was just flat out relaxing. While Nancy was running off to meetings, I got to enjoy the beach and explore a little of the city. This isn’t for everybody, but I was moved by walking around the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also called the “Punchbowl” because it’s in an old volcano crater. Many of those buried there died in World War II including many who died at Pearl Harbor.

After the convention was over we moved to the island of Kauai where we once again stayed at the Poipu Kapili. The resort is really good and we recommend it to everyone. Unfortunately there is a great deal of development going on around it and we fear in the next few years it will become too congested. We’ll see.

As everyone who has been to Hawai’i knows, you can’t do anything without a rental car. When we travel we normally use Enterprise but they don’t have cars on Kauai. They sent us to Alamo and trust us, we won’t use them again. It’s commonly known that rental car places try to tack on extra charges (e.g. collision damage, liability, etc.). We have coverage for all these and most places understand that. It appears that Alamo has figured out a new charge: the Vehicle License Recoupment or Recovery Fee (VLRF). If the car is damaged while I’m using it, even if it’s not my fault, they will charge me the daily rate until the car is fixed. It was also explained to me that since we were in Hawai’i, any parts would come by cargo ship that takes a long time to get there. The agent also explained that nobody covers this and it is in my best interest to get this coverage. I took it because I was stuck but I’m convinced this is just another way they’ve found to get more money out of me. When I googled the VLRF, the first 5 pages were for Alamo so I’m guessing they are the only ones who have thought this up. My bet for what’s next: charging me for the time it takes the agent to explain this coverage.

In fairness, other than the construction and the rental car, the rest of the vacation was wonderful. We both enjoy snorkeling and my favorite spot is on the north shore, called Tunnels. Nancy also tried something called snuba. I was too freaked out to do this but she enjoyed it and they have promised us a DVD of her experience.

On our last day we toured the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. I’m really not a flower guy but it was a good tour and it gave me enough history of the island to keep me interested. This is a “don’t miss” even if you’re not a botanist.

It was a fun week. So next year we are headed to Baltimore. I’ll be boning up on my duckpin bowling.