Getting prepared for the whatever

Living in upstate new York isn’t the worst place to be

An article in Forbes notes that “nine states will no longer allow travelers to board an airplane with just their state issued driver’s licenses as of January 22, 2018. To get past TSA security checkpoints, another form of identification will be required: passport, permanent resident card/green card or a military ID.”

The states are Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

However, this map from the Department of Homeland Security suggests that more than half the states, plus Puerto Rico and all of the territories, are under scrutiny. These include California, Illinois, and New York by 2020 at the latest, if their drivers’ licenses aren’t compliant.

“DHS is currently reviewing extension requests from states with extensions that expired on October 10, 2017… In the meantime, there will be no change in enforcement status for these states. States will have a grace period until January 22, 2018, meaning that Federal agencies (including TSA) will continue to accept driver’s license and identification cards issued by these states in accordance with each agency’s policies.”

As it turns out, I always travel on planes and trains with my passport, which doesn’t expire until 2020. It HAS come in handy. I looked at it recently and realized I had stuck a rarely-used credit card and a $5 bill in there. The Wife’s passport expires when mine does, but the Daughter’s has lapsed, and we need to fix that.

This has been all part of a preparedness mentality the last few years of disasters has created. We have a manual can opener because the power can go out. We need to replace our bottled water; I assume they feel the plastic will leak into the beverage.

That said, I’m thinking that living in upstate New York isn’t the worst place to be. It’s not prone to wildfires (western US) or hurricanes (mostly south of here) or flooding or tornadoes (Midwest) or drought.


I’ve always wanted to see Toronto, so that’s on the agenda.

AS I may have mentioned, in a couple months, we’re going to be making a visit to Canada. Essentially, we’re going to circumnavigate Lake Ontario. Still not sure what the route will be. Initially, we thought we’d start by going northwest, visiting my wife’s alma mater of St. Lawrence University, then go north into Canada, head west, then south, then back east into the U.S.. But lately, we’ve considered start going west through New York, and enter Canada at Niagara Falls.

We all have passports, including the Daughter. One doesn’t NEED a passport to go Canada from the US; one could get an enhanced driver’s license or non-driver’s ID, or similar products. BUT one day we might want to fly somewhere in Canada or Mexico, and the alternate products are only good for traveling by land or sea, not by air.

We’ll see the Falls, of course; it’ll be the Daughter’s first time. I’ve always wanted to see Toronto, so that’s on the agenda; ideally, we’d see a Blue Jays game. More than one person has suggested staying outside the city proper, and use the mass transit. One of my coworkers highly recommended the Peterborough lift lock. We’d see Carol’s college on the return trip.

Hey, Canadians, especially you folks in southeastern Ontario! Anywhere else we ought to go that wouldn’t take us too far out of the way?

N is for Niagara Falls

One doesn’t NEED a passport to go to Canada; one could get an enhanced driver’s license or non-driver’s ID, or similar products. BUT the things are only good for traveling by land or sea, not by air.

JEOPARDY! answers. All but the first from a Niagara Falls category introduced by host Alex Trebek, who said: “The honeymoon’s not over with one of North America’s most scenic attractions.”

Niagara Falls gets is enormous power because the Niagara River’s water is rushing between these 2 Great Lakes, which are only 36 miles apart but have a 300-foot difference in elevation.

In 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor became the first person to go over the falls in one of these; she made it, but I’m gonna pass.

There’s plenty of water going over the falls right now, but would you believe that in March 1848 for about 30 hours the Falls actually stopped flowing due to a massive upstream accumulation of this stuff.

The tradition of honeymooning here at the falls began way back in 1801 when the daughter of this then-U.S. vice president came here with her new husband; three years later, dad fought a famous duel.

Ferries with this dewy feminine name have been plying the waters below the falls since 1846; some of the most famous guests: Edward VIII, Teddy Roosevelt & Marilyn Monroe.

The falls are divided into two sections–the straight-line American falls over here, & over here on the Canadian side, this cataract, named for its distinctive shape. I have been to Niagara Falls at least thrice, with my family planning a trip there this year. Let me tell you about my previous visits.

When I was 10, give or take a year, my parents, sisters, and I went to Niagara Falls. Oddly, I have a stronger recollection of the floral clock on the Canadian side than I remember the falls themselves. I do recall that the kids were all asleep when we came back through to the US side, and that I was disappointed by that.

In 1998, our SBDC annual meeting was in Niagara Falls. By this time, the Canadian side had a bunch of casinos, and we were all given some casino money – from a sponsor, not the program – with which to start gambling. Since I had never gone before, I gave it a shot. But I found/find casinos annoying loud and rather boring. Worse, I was actually winning, which you might think would be exciting, but which I found actually worrisome. So I changed machines, promptly lost my money, and just wandered around the area outside. My strongest recollection, though, was crossing the borders, in each direction, on foot. I waved my US passport and about a half dozen of us went across; ah, the days before 9/11.

In 2002, the State Data Center had its semiannual meeting there. It was in May, and my wife had just finished her school year; she was a grad student. Even better, it was our third wedding anniversary. So we drove out, had a hotel room for three nights, and ate out every night, and all was reimbursed except for her meals. She explored all day while I had my meetings. It was great. We walked across the border, me with the passport, my wife with her standard driver’s license.

So now we’re planning a trip to Ontario. We all have passports, including the Daughter. One doesn’t NEED a passport; one could get an enhanced driver’s license or non-driver’s ID, or similar products. BUT the things are only good for traveling by land or sea, not by air, and though we’re traveling by car THIS time, we might want to fly to Vancouver, BC or Calgary sometime in the future. Oh, those pictures: they’re supposedly Niagara Falls in 1911. Are they really Niagara Falls? Apparently so. Are they from 1911? Almost certainly not. It’s one of those legends that are partly truth and partly fiction. The e-mail from which I received the photos even came with this narrative:

Margaret writes: Her mother had a cousin living in Niagara Falls that year. She told the family that she and her neighbours woke up in the night feeling something was wrong. It took a while but they finally realized that it was the lack of noise. They had all become so used to the roar of the falls that the silence was unusual enough to alert their senses. Of course, at that time nearly all the houses were near the falls. Can you imagine walking on Niagara Falls? JEOPARDY! questions:

What are Lakes Erie and Ontario?
What was a barrel?
What was ice? (See the falls DO freeze!)
Who was Aaron Burr?
What are the Maids of the Mist?
What is Horseshoe Falls?

ABC Wednesday – Round 8

In the “Who moved my cheese?” department

What did we do on Monday from 3:52 p.m. to 5:48 p.m.? We, that is to say I, stood in line so that my wife and I could renew our passports…

It’s my wife’s birthday today – happy birthday, Carol! – and we have been chuckling lately over something that started off as annoying.

She’s a deacon in our church. A few weeks ago, she substituted for another deacon in preparing a snack for after the service. She had bought, with her own money, a block of cheese, had cut it up, put it on a plastic plate, covered it up with a plastic wrap, and brought it to church at 9:30 a.m., at which point she went to Bible study.

At 10:30, she went to transfer said cheese onto a nicer plate, but she could not find the cheese. She looked around for a time, finally finding the plate of cheese in the garbage. There were other snacks, but she was understandably annoyed, actually, less about the waste of money and more about the waste of time preparing said cheese, then looking for it.

There is a policy – these are Presbyterians, so naturally, there’s a policy – that food in the refrigerator need be labeled and dated, but Carol never thought that the food she brought could be dumped in an hour. (By contrast, when they cleaned out the refrigerators at my workplace on July 9, we got a week’s e-mail notice, with large notices also on the fridges.)

Carol tells the deacon for whom she substituted about the situation, so she could be alerted when next that deacon served snacks the following week. Then the fun began, with that deacon forwarding Carol’s note, to Carol’s chagrin, to all the other deacons and the pastors. Suddenly, there was a flurry of e-mails going back and forth, some citing policy, others complaining about the waste of food, still others suggesting it be discussed at a committee meeting, and/or that better signs be made. A huge cause celebre.

The custodian had noted that someone else had been eating the cheese that morning, and was possibly the one who rewrapped it poorly. The member of the committee who tossed the cheese had thrown out the cheese because she was afraid it had been there too long; it wasn’t wrapped well, probably by the snacker, but then, to Carol’s embarrassment, she gave her money, to compensate for her loss.

I, on the other hand, thought it was all terribly funny, and labeled it The “Who moved my cheese?” incident. Then it felt more like absurdist theater, and we laughed about it regularly.

Quite coincidentally, there is a unit in my building at work that was downsizing, and they were getting rid of some books. I picked up a few business books for our work library, including the Spencer Johnson book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” I mean, I just HAD to.
So what did we do on Monday from 3:52 p.m. to 5:48 p.m.? We, that is to say, I, stood in line so that my wife and I could renew our passports and so that our daughter could get her first one. There were two families ahead of ours. And we hit the line just minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline. The rush was based on a TV story we heard that the rates were going up on Tuesday.

The downside of waiting is that I did not bring any reading material. The upside is that, by the time we actually got to the front, I could cite, almost verbatim, the policies put forth by our fine postal employee. “The passports will take four to six weeks. It has been taking four weeks, but because of the recent influx, it might take a little longer.”

We hadn’t planned on waiting until almost literally the last minute. We were near the post office earlier in the day, but the daughter was having a stomachache. Later, we got an unexpected 71-minute phone call from an old friend, then I went bike riding with the daughter while the wife napped. (We’d gotten up very early to take a relative from Oneonta to the Albany airport that morning.)

In the end, we saved nearly $100, and I got a lesson in passport policy.
It’s also Linda Ronstadt’s birthday, so maybe she should sing with Muppets.


Traveling to Canada?

I was the target market for the Enhanced DMV card, but I declined.

My family will be going to Canada, specifically Ontario, in the summer of 2011 for an international reunion of my wife’s people. This will be the fourth quinquennial event – in 1996, it was in Fargo, ND; in 2001, in Binghamton, NY; and in 2006, in eastern Washington state.

As it turns out, my passport expires about a month before the trip. Initially, I was interested in getting those Enhanced Licenses and Non-Drivers’ IDs for the daughter and me from DMV, which would meet the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative guidelines. Only four U.S. states have actually done this, and, shockingly, given the inertia of Empire State government, New York State is one of them, along with Michigan, Vermont and Washington, all border states with Canada.

There was an article in my local newspaper in early June, indicating that sales of new enhanced driver’s licenses had fallen far below projections. The theory was that the card failed as a result of “the poor economy and reduced travel to other countries.” That’s not why I didn’t get a couple of them.

Rather, there were two other factors, especially the latter:
1) getting the enhanced card would have involved actually going to DMV, whereas renewing my old card, which expired on my last birthday, I processed either by mail or online.
2) The enhanced card is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea.

This means no air travel, only entry by car, truck, train, boat, or presumably, on foot. Thus, if we were to fly to Vancouver, British Columbia in the near future, the daughter and I would STILL need our passports. (So would my wife, but hers doesn’t expire for a few years.)

I was the target market for this product, and I declined, not because I’m homebound, but because the product simply proved insufficient for my needs, unfortunately.
Meanwhile, there is the G-20 meeting going on this week in Toronto. The U.S. President wants the other governments to spend more to stimulate the ecnomy, but at least the G-8 leaders are looking like the Republicans in the U.S. in opposising more spending, the tension over which is currently doing a job on the stock markets.

I’m a big supporter of protest – peaceful protest – but I’m unclear as to the efficacy of breaking building windows and setting at least one police car on fire. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

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