Thoughts at the Airport

I have been sitting on my keister at Logan International airport trying to get on a flight to Chicago. My first flight was severely delayed because apparently, a vital plane part is missing and they had to order it. Since then, I have been on standby for two flights and have been unable to board either flights. I am beginning to think that the likelihood of me making it to Chicago today is about as likely as me winning $10 Million dollars on my upcoming trip to Las Vegas (a girl can dream no?). I have been shuttling between terminals with another gaggle of passengers who are stuck in the same predicament.

In the grand scheme of things, it's not so bad. Internet access (as evidence by my blog entry), CNN and some colorful conversation make the delay quite bearable. I really love to people watch, and airport delays make for some perfect people-watching fodder. Usually, I am able to make some significant sightings, and I am seriously debating writing a book on "travelers of the world", as there are clearly archetypes on every flight. Here are some of the common breeds of passenger sightings:

- The Salesmen: They can usually be identified by the Bluetooth headset and blackberries. They pace the waiting lounge like expectant fathers, passionately discussing their latest sale. If one does not notice the headset, you might be tempted to think they are talking to themselves.

- The Glamour Doll: The perfectly coifed, beautifully dressed women reading "Glamour" or "Vogue". The airport is the perfect time to catch up on the latest "10 Ways to Please Your Man";

- The Old Married Couple: They are usually sitting side by side, and don't utter a word during the entire wait, no matter how long the delay (I do so often want to know what they are thinking);

- The College Student: These are clearly identifiable by the myriad of college paraphanelia that they are wearing (hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts etc.) They are usually reading a Vonegut book, or something VERY intellectual (or at least, pretending to read it);

- The Loud Ones: Usually a very vociferous group that is sadly mistaken into thinking that everyone else in the waiting lounge thinks that what they are discussing is hilarious (this breed annoys me the most, but alas, they are the most common);

- The Angry Man: Sometimes, this breed is mistaken for the Loud Ones. While they are indeed loud, these can be distinguished by their frequent use of explitives, visible huffing and puffing, and constant harrassment of the gate attendant; and

- The Laptopers (including myself): easy to spot. Usually sitting down on a chair (or often, the floor) and furiously typing away.

Ok - time to move onto another gate. As expected, I wasn't able to get onto this flight. I m hoping I can get a seat on the 11am!


Steven's Internet Tubes

Wow - two posts in a row. I couldn't help it. I had to post this clip from the Daily Show's coverage on Net Neutrality. Classic.

What the Hell is "Irshal"?

It's Sunday evening. The last night of my vacation.

And tomorrow is Monday. . .The first day back to work.


I actually have a pretty good job, but really it doesn't matter - the first day back from a vacation is about as pleasant as stubbing your toe. Or getting a root canal. Or getting a spinal tap. You get the idea.

Accordingly, I am embracing my last evening of relaxation. I am sitting at my desk, with some Ella and Louis streaming through my speakers, sipping on a nice glass of Rioja. My window is open and there is a delightfully gentle breeze wafting through my apartment. I just supped on my favorite meal, sushi, and cannot help but look outside my window at the delicate clouds that are mystically back lit by the remnants of the sun. I've been working out like a fiend and my muscles are all sore and warm. Life is good.

This is the the calm before the storm of back-to-regular-life. But that's ok. I feel rejuvenated, ready to tackle reality again (although arguably I've actually been more ensconced in reality this week). I have ignored my blackberry e-mails this week, and know that I will have about a million e-mails to parse through tomorrow. I am off to Chicago at the end of the week for a lovely work affair at the Field Museum which will involve a private viewing of the King Tut exhibit, and I am ardently looking forward to it (although I am dreading the drive to the airport . . . sans tunnel).

Anyhoo, I think it's high time I explained the namesake of my blog, "irshal" as I am often asked about its origin. Unfortunately, I don't have any glamorous response to this query. Simply put, it was a nickname my best friend of 23 years (yeesh) gave me when we we were youg'uns. I m not quite sure where she got it from herself, but she was had a knack for dubbing people, animals and places with creative surnames. Irshal was her namesake for me and it's stuck. And when I started getting into the whole Internet thing (with all it's Stevens tubes and such), irshal was also available. Simple, clean, and I didn't have to add any numbers to it (like irshal456). Perfect.

Of course, I tried to think of a better explanation. I googled "irshal" and was surprised to learn that it is actually a great hiking mountain in Mumbai, India. If you are curious, I found a nice slide-show of one group's trek of Irshal. (I have no idea who these people are, but I am glad that they posted these pictures!) India is on my list of places to visit before I knock off, so a trek on Irshal is a must when I make it over there!

Alright, back to my relaxing Sunday evening I go . . .


New Pictures Are Up!

So, long story short, but I finally fixed My Picture Gallery so that I can finally start adding more pictures. It's been a long, long time, but I promise and vow to be better about posting my pix (sorry to all of those who have been waiting a long time for this. There are now pix from my travels, my poker nights (including a VERY fun one that lasted until 2am yesterday) and other random assortments. There will be a LOT more pictures coming shortly . . . In the meantime, enjoy! For those of you who want high-res version of any of these pictures, drop me a note and I can e-mail them off to you.


Vacation Exhaustion!

I've been on vacation this week, and for the first time EVER, I opted to stay home. I am not going anywhere, I am not loading my backpack, and I am not getting on a 15 hour flight to some far-off destination. No diving, no bungee jumping, no hiking, no sipping on pina coladas by the pool for me. Not this time.

Yes, I went nowhere - absolutely nowhere. Gasp.

Have I plateaued. Have I finally "grown up"?

I don't think so. I really think it's partially related to some looming work travel - Chicago, Seattle, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, NYC - and all in the next month and a half. Yeesh. Fortunately, most of them are 2-3 day trips, and on the bright side, I will be stacking up those frequent flyer miles. As it stands now, I am already a super-duper-we-kiss-your-ass-would-you-like-fries-with-that-shake frequent flyer on USair, United, and I am fast working my way back to that status on Continental and Delta. And, I am getting dangerously near to having to actually pay for my personal flights again, and I certainly do not want that!

My vacation timing was also planned to coincide with the arrival of my new pup, Hunter. She landed on Monday night, after traveling all day from Spokane, Washington. So far, so good, but it's only day 3. She still hasn't figured out that she is here for good - I give it a couple of more days before I get to know the real Hunter. She has a very sweet, gentle disposition with a streak of coquettishness . . . so we shall see what comes next. Murphy is reticent to give her a proper welcome, focusing simply on the fact that he now has to share me. I feel slightly guilty, but he'll get over it.

So, my vacation week has thus far been spent puppy training, spring cleaning, cooking (which has been fun), and chellaxing with friends. And, for whatever reason, I am awake every morning at 6:30am - what's up with that???

Needless to say, the combination of the insufferable heat (I'll take this over winter any day though), unplanned EARLY mornings and a constant state of puppy-vigilance (i.e. did she have an accident? what is she chewing? and the like) have me exhausted.

A cruel irony, since, technically, I am on vacation. . .


Ok . . . I am Ashamed to Admit This, But . . .

I thoroughly enjoyed "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle." I've never considered myself a "Naked Gun" sorta gal, but this movie had me laughing my a$$ off. Many people have recommended this film, and I finally ordered it on Netflix and it arrived today - I still cannot wipe the stupid grin off my face that this movie put there. Not to mention, there is something about that Kal Penn. I cannot put my finger on it, but this guy's comic timing, delivery, and looks are a nice combination.

Also, "Snakes on Planes", the first movie I blogged about will be released on August 18th (yehaw!), and as one of my friend's pointed out in an e-mail to me today, "There are few things in this life that I can think of that are more entertaining than hearing Samuel L. Jackson say "there are mother#$%^in snakes on this mother#$%^in plane" In fact, I am giggling to myself like a 2nd grader as I type these words."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Now, about those Snakes on Planes T-shirts that I really want . . .I am still waiting!


Another Sad Day in Boston

Boston has been a very sad town lately. On a personal note, last Friday, one of downtown Boston's greatest Irish pubs forever closed it's doors. Tiernen's, a favorite Boston haunt is no longer. My friend is writing a story on it for the Weekly Dig, and I have received countless e-mails from cronies who are saddened by this loss.

But, that's nothing compared to yesterday's tragic events. Yesterday really saddened me, and I want to take a moment to pay homage to a woman I don't even know.

Yesterday, the Big Dig (one of our nation's largest pork barrel projects) took the life of a 38 year old woman, Milena DelValle. She was a recent newlywed who was crushed by the concrete panels which fell from the ceiling of the tunnel. Her husband managed to crawl out of the crushed body of their Buick, but unfortunately, she was in the direct path of the falling debris.

The purpose of writing this is not to sling accusations at the MTA, the builders of the Big Dig, Amarello or Mitt Romney. The press is taking care of that. I really just want to remember Milena DelValle, a woman who was too young to die.

Concrete falls, and a couple's joy is destroyed
By Maria Cramer and John R. Ellement, Boston Globe Staff | July 12, 2006

It sounded like thunder, he said. Angel Del Valle was driving through the Interstate 90 connector at about 10:45 Monday night, his wife, Milena, at his side, to pick up his brother at Logan International Airport. Suddenly, in front of him, the ceiling began to give way. The noise was deafening. He slammed on the brakes of his Buick sedan, but it was too late. Huge chunks of concrete and steel came crashing down on his car, nearly flattening it.

Dazed, but conscious, he pulled himself out of the window on the smashed driver's side and went to try to help free his wife. But debris surrounded the car and the passenger side was crushed, preventing him from prying open her door. He could not get to her.

``It was impossible," he said yesterday, as his sister, Ines, wept nearby. ``I wanted to do the impossible."

Angel Del Valle, 46, stood outside a relative's house in Dorchester yesterday afternoon, holding a picture of his wife on their wedding day two years ago. They had met two years before that, at a Jamaica Plain church service. Immediately upon seeing her, Del Valle knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

``She was the woman of my life," he said, speaking in Spanish. ``And she continued to be until God took her away from me."

Nursing a purple bruise on his forehead from the accident, he spoke of his final moments with his wife, a 38-year-old Costa Rican immigrant who arrived in the United States about five years ago.

The couple were driving to Logan to pick up his brother, Francisco, who was returning from a trip to Puerto Rico, where Angel Del Valle was born. As they drove into the tunnel connector, Del Valle said he could see the chunks of concrete fall a few feet in front of him. He never heard his wife scream, only the sounds of concrete falling on his car.

``They came, one on top of the other," he said. ``It all happened so fast, I can't even understand what happened."

Yesterday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the accident, he still hadn't slept. He seemed tormented that he was unable to rescue her. He had crouched in front of the car and told Milena he would take care of her children.

``We were together for four years," he said. ``They were short, but very happy. That's why I feel so [destroyed] . . ."

Still, one of his few consolations, he said, was that his wife probably felt very little, if any, pain. He believes that Milena died immediately.

``Thank God, she didn't suffer," he said.

Angel Del Valle, who was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital after the accident, suffered minor injuries.

The couple lived in a three-decker apartment on Westerly Street in Jamaica Plain and were always together, neighbors and friends said yesterday. He is a full-time clerk behind the meat counter at Hi-Lo Foods on Centre Street, a supermarket popular with Latino shoppers. Milena Del Valle worked in facility maintenance at Mississippi's Restaurant in Mission Hill. Before that, she occasionally handed out copies of El Planeta, a Brookline-based Spanish weekly newspaper, at Forest Hills T-station in Jamaica Plain and at the Orient Heights station in East Boston.

When Angel Del Valle came home from work, his wife would take off his shoes and socks and rub his feet. He did the cooking. They were seldom apart.

``They were always going out on the weekends, doing laundry," said Rico Figueroa, 35, who lives on the first floor of the apartment. ``They seemed real happy together."

Milena Del Valle occasionally came by Hi-Lo Foods to visit her husband, said Bill Jordan, the store's manager. The chemistry between the couple was obvious, he said.

``I could tell he was crazy about her," he said. ``You could see the connection there. They were always smiling at each other."

The couple did not have children together, but Milena Del Valle had three adult children living in Costa Rica. She had left her family to find a job that would help support her mother, two sons, and daughter. Her ultimate goal was for the children to move to the United States. Until then, she hoped to make enough money to help her daughter start an ice cream shop, Del Valle said. She attended Sunday services at Hispanic Community Church of Boston on Seaverns Avenue in Jamaica Plain for the last two years, where her husband was also active, said the Rev. Lisa De Paz, a pastor.

``She was a wonderful woman who always wanted to give herself to the church," De Paz said. ``She tried to help people, working the coffee hour in the church. She was very, very involved with the life of the church."

Shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday, just before rain began to fall, two State Police cruisers and a black sedan pulled up to the Dorchester home of Angel Del Valle's relatives, not far from Blue Hill Avenue. The entourage was escorting Matthew J. Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, who left his vehicle and approached Del Valle's relatives to offer condolences. The visit occurred at about the same time that Governor Mitt Romney was calling for Amorello's ouster during a State House press conference, saying the public had lost confidence in the safety of the tunnel project. Amorello hugged some of Del Valle's relatives. His head lowered, the turnpike chairman ignored a reporter's questions and walked away.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Globe correspondent Yuxing Zheng contributed to this report.


Hey Honey, Look What I Found in the Ocean!

On my morning walk with Murphy today, I met a fellow-dog owner with a very colorful story about how he and his wife happened upon their little dog, "Scup".

At first sight, Dave was clearly a sea-faring man, and I was not at all surprised when he informed me that, up until a year ago, he and his wife lived on a boat. He has a full head of white hair, worn hands, and tan, weathered skin. While Dave and I chatted, Scup growled at Murphy. He is a tiny, very proud little Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix who completely bullied Murphy around - it was quite amusing.

My encounter with Dave sent me on memory lane. He reminded me so much of Archie Ross, the late skipper of a boat that would take me to my favorite island off the coast of Freeport, Maine. It got me thinking about him (pictured above) and was a sad reminder of his death a couple of years ago - I absolutely adored him. He would always let my brother and I sit on the top of his diesel-powered boat while we putted our way to the island. Archie was always barefoot, and his feet were so leathered that, if possible, barnacles would have grown on them. He was the quintessential sea-man and he captured my imagination. I was very sad to learn of his death, but I know that he left an indelible mark on this world. Ooof...it looks like my sentimentality is getting the best of me. But, before I continue with my story, if you are up there in heaven reading this, cheers to you Archie.

So, back to Dave - as dog owners always do, we began chatting about our "children" - name, age etc. We started talking about how we each got our respective dogs, and of course, I told him that I picked up Murphy from North Carolina. Dave proceeded to tell me that Scup actually came to him - swam clear up to his boat from the ocean! Of course, Dave and his wife were puzzled, since at the time, there were no other boats within eye-sight. Little Scup was clearly an adult dog, but was untrained and would not respond to English, Spanish or French. It was a puzzle how this little dog simple appeared in the middle of the ocean!

After speaking to the Coast Guard about this mysterious fish-dog, he learned that way, way off yonder there were indeed a couple of boats out in the ocean of Indonesian origin. Apparently, little Scup was a food source that got away!

Pretty amazing story no?


I Couldn't Have Sung It Better Myself

Ok, so I don't own a honda, nor am I advocating that everyone go out and buy one. However, the company recently went home with two Cleo award for these amazing television ads. Being an ardent vocalist, I was seriously wowed by this (and for you doubters, they REALLY did this. I saw the making of this video):

I also was tickled by this great Rube Goldberg-like vision of the car:

Enjoy ;)


What Do These Three Have in Common? Fireworks, Stomach and Brains

Happy belated July 4th everyone! It has been a record lapse since my last entry, but I had another house guest, and just assumed a new role within my company. As you can imagine, its been a bit crazy. But, my head is finally above water and as always, I am KEENLY anticipating the upcoming weekend - which will basically be spent watching World Cup Soccer and enjoying the warm weather (that I am confident we will get!)

Otherwise, I do feel a bit remiss in not participating in the patriotic July 4th activities at the Esplanade. Instead, I hung out in the North End and enjoyed a very public display of Italian patriotism, which was in full-force after their victory over the German home team. I had just said goodbye to my good friend Eric, who spent the long weekend visiting me from NYC (Eric and I originally met in New Zealand back in 2001 and we have stayed in touch every since). I was sad to see him go, as it was the first time in a couple of years we had the chance for a proper catch-up. Eric is one of these rare people with an amazing zest for life and child-like wonderment that I have always respected and admired - not to mention, he also has so much energy, I would kill for the 1/10th that resides in his left pinky!

It was fun to see Boston through his eyes - Eric wanted to explore as much of the city as possible during his brief stay here. Like me, he is also a huge film buff (we share an ardent passion for the Lord of the Rings trilogy) so of course, we went to see the new "Superman" (a fun ride, and loved Parker Posey) and he humored me by going to see "The Devil Wears Prada" (the first 15 minutes were really funny, but it was downhill from there with the exception of a deliciously nasty Meryl Streep). We supped at a spectacular French restaurant, "Craigie Street Bistro" and enjoyed some great wine, and a 6 course meal picked entirely by the chef. It was a culinary adventure, which included things like sheep's brain, pig stomach and some more "traditional dishes". We didn't up from the dinner table until 1am.

Otherwise, I am now chellaxing in front of my television, watching the "Battlestar Gallactica" series on DVD. Yes, I am a full-blown geek . . . but I am very much enjoying my sci-fi guilty pleasure ;)