Thursday, May 22, 2003


Great, just as I'm headed to a conference in Alberta, they find mad cow disease in...Alberta. And I had been so looking forward to the steaks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Sooner or Later, It Starts to Add Up to Real Money...

Prince George's County's $1.8 million budget for 2004, scheduled to be adopted by the County Council tomorrow, could face deep cuts later this year -- perhaps as much as $20 million -- if Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoes a package of corporate taxes passed by the General Assembly, county officials say.

--"Pr. George's Fears Veto Of Tax Bill By Ehrlich", The Washington Post, May 21, 2003, B05.

I don't know how you're going to cut $20 million from a $1.8 million budget. Maybe by tapping the $1.2 billion snow removal fund...

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Tennis Elbow

Christina has posted a medical update at her site.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Five-Star Service

Well, I've just about recovered from the jetlag. I suspect my ailment last week was more contagious than food-related, as Christina has taken ill with similar symptoms. Sigh.

I just thought I'd post a little bit about the hotel I stayed at last week -- the Sofitel Victoria Warsaw.

When I travel, I have to keep within certain limits on hotel rates -- the hotel per diem. These rates can be fairly generous, but they generally constrain me from living the high life in a city's poshest digs.

When I got a list of the hotels for the Warsaw conference, I compared the rates to the per diem and discovered that I could stay at one of the four-star hotels. I was relatively happy with that -- I've stayed in three-star hotels in London, and I'd do it again, but they were a little bit sketchy. Sketchy is not something I was looking forward to in Warsaw.

I double-checked before making the hotel reservation, and lo and behold, the per diem rate had gone up by around $40. I could afford the five-star hotel (the Sofitel Victoria). I'd be staying in the lap of luxury.

Well, not really. In many ways, it was comparable to the four-star Hilton Metropole we stayed at in London last month. The Internet access in the room was a definite plus for keeping me in touch when I retreated back to my room, ill.

But somehow it didn't seem as nice. It seemed a little...dreary. I probably could have done better trying to fit under the per diem at one of the newer hotels not on the conference list.

My repeated encounters with the gift shop woman seemed to exemplify the staleness of the place. At one point, I asked for stamps to mail postcards back to the US. She asked me how many, and I counted out nine postcards I had filled out. She started tearing off the stamps, and I remembered four more postcards I had yet to fill out. Since I would need stamps for those, I said, "No, thirteen." She sighed audibly and shot me a look that seem to say, "I can't believe communism lost to you." She hadn't even finished tearing out nine stamps!

I shouldn't generalize, though. The morning I checked out, I had a few more postcards to mail. A different woman helped me out, and she even got out a sponge to moisten the stamps for me. She also gave me "priority" stickers to put on the cards, which apparently you need -- so those of you who get your postcards via steamer two months from now, you'll know who to blame (and where she works).

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Melrose Place

Christina has written a review of the Melrose Hotel, where we stayed on our wedding night.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Viva Poland!

Well, at yesterday's lunch, the Qvo Vadis staff was dressed in sombreros. Odd enough. They also served something that appeared to be enchiladas. I don't generally eat enchiladas, so I didn't risk it.

Perhaps that is what put me in mind of Mexican food, though, and that evening I ended up at El Popo for dinner. The food was...interesting. Good, but unusual. The quesadillas seemed more like cheese turnovers. The flautas were served with a side of potatos and sausage...Christina assures me that this can be autentically Mexican, but I didn't sample the sausage to find out if it was chorizo.

Dinner was accompanied by a mariachi band, who seemed quite good. During their break, they wandered over to the bar and started trying to figure out how to transfer photos from one person's cell phone to another's Palm Pilot. Judging by the amount of swearing that was going on, I don't think it went well.

When it came time to depart, I ran into the small problem of not remembering where the entrance/exit was. (I eschewed the margaritas, so that wasn't the problem.) Fortunately, one of the mariachis came up to help me. Unfortunately, he started trying to help me in Polish. We settled on Spanish, and I ended up back on my way to the hotel.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003


OK, I feel better today. I had a little food at lunch, which was the first real meal I had since Monday dinner. Still not sure if it was food poisoning or what. By the way, the restaurant's name is actually Qvo Vadis...the fact that the first thing that jumps out at you from their web site is the phrase "Mix-Erotix" is somewhat disconcerting. And yesterday and today, nobody was wearing togas...oddly disappointing.

Other than feeling incredibly sick, yesterday wasn't a total loss. It was the conference afternoon off, and I had signed up for an organized tour of Warsaw. It suffered from some of the usual downsides of bus tours...why did we get out of the bus here, but drive by there, but all in all, it wasn't bad. For some reason, only a small fraction of the conference attendees signed up, so we were actually in a Mercedes mini-bus.

Anyway, here's my impression of our tour guide:

"The Nazis destroyed that...The Nazis destroyed that...The Russians desroyed that...The Nazis destroyed that...OK, that we just didn't build right to begin with...The Nazis destroyed that..."

Seriously, though, that's unfair of me. It leaves out the most astounding part of the city, which was that after the war, they decided to built it right back again. As a result, you can stroll down streets that look hundreds of years old, but are less than 60. And it's not like a Disneyland version...everything was done for authenticity, not tourism. It displays a certain amount of stubornness..."OK, we don't really need a castle any more, but we're not going to let some jerks come into our country and burn it down."

As the World Heritage page says,

During the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, more than 85% of Warsaw's historic centre was destroyed by Nazi troops. After the war, a five-year reconstruction campaign by its citizens resulted in today's meticulous restoration of the Old Town, with its churches, palaces and market-place. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.

Actually, the castle was not restored until the 1980s. One of the odd sights in the castle were busts of Washington and Jefferson, which were donated by Bush I. They were displayed like wedding gifts that a couple didn't really want, but have to leave out for fear of offending someone. (Note: we didn't get anything like that. It was all great. You shold be getting your thank you notes soon.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Maybe it wasn't the sleep...

I'm continuing to feel iffy this morning. (I'll spare you the details.) I thought maybe it was the room service I ordered last night. But I just talked to a colleague who said that he thought he had gotten food poisoning from lunch at the conference yesterday. Great... He described the choices as "unidentifiable meat, unidentifiable meat, unidentifiable meat, unidentifiable meat..." That pretty much sums it up. The restaurant is called "Quo Vadis", and it features weird decor and a bunch of people standing around in togas -- it has this weird Caesar's Palace vibe going on.

I think I'll try to stay away from the unidentifiable meat today.

To sleep...

A year and a half ago, I said,

In my early 20s, I could stay up all night w/ no consequence beyond sleepiness the next day. Now, as I near the end of my 20s, I find myself unable to cut into my 8 hours of sleep much w/o getting headaches and upset stomachs. Blech.

Well, on the other side of 30, I can report that the upset stomachs still reign, though I find myself mercifully headache-free this morning. Thank goodness for small favors.

I just sort wish my sleep pattern corresponded to either Maryland or Warsaw. I'm sleeping like 8pm-1am and 4am-7am Warsaw time, which is 2pm-7pm and 10pm-1am back home. I guess that is 8 hours, though you wouldn't know it from the signals my body is giving me right now.

Anyway, you'll excuse me if I lack charming comments about my trip right now. In the mean time, enjoy Christina's weblog update.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Apology for Eating at McDonald's

I feel like I should start this out with an apology for eating at McDonald's yesterday. I'm not entirely sure of the basis for this feeling, but it's been nagging at me. Maybe I should start with a defense instead. I was hungry. My other options seemed to be room service and various hole-in-the-wall kebab places. And I wanted something cheap and quick to eat before the conference reception last night. I managed to communicate my order with the McDonalds worker, mostly because she knew some English. I got the Cordon Bleu meal, which suggested to me some lines for "Pulp Fiction II":

Vincent: And you know what they call a... a... a McChicken in Warsaw?
Jules: They don't call it a McChicken?
Vincent: They call it a "Cordon Bleu".

Anyway, that picture above, from the McDonald's web site is the first McDonald's to open in Poland, and the one I went to yesterday. So at least I went to a historical site. And it's the first McDonald's I've seen where they serve Red Bull.

Sunday, May 04, 2003


The guidebook warned against hiring a taxi driver who solicited me in the Warsaw airport. No problem. Well, except for the fact that as soon as I left the terminal, I had taxi drivers swarming around me asking if I needed a taxi. I said "no", which wasn't all that convincing, since I kept standing there.

I like to look around and get my bearings on a situation before taking action. I was hoping there was something else around I could feign interest in, but there wasn't much to the area in the front of the airport. An attempt to examine the exchange rates to see how I did at the exchange near passport control led to offers of help with that. I finally just walked up to the taxi desk (as advised by the guidebook and various signs around the airport) and said "Sofitel Victoria?"

The woman behind the counter confirmed that I in fact wanted a taxi there and led me to a waiting one from one of the more reputable companies (according to the guidebook). I asked how much it would be -- she told me around 35 zloty. It ended up being 26 zloty (about 7 bucks). Plus, I got to hear One Night in Bangkok on the radio on the way.

Later, when I went out to get the GPS coordinates of the hotel (52o 14.396' N, 21o 00.757' E), a taxi driver stopped and asked if I needed a ride. (OK, he asked me something. I make assumptions.) I guess they have pretty agressive taxi drivers here for some reason.

Friday, May 02, 2003

More Hotel Reviews

Christina has written up a review based on our stay last month at the Hilton London Metropole. She also has a review of the Hampton Inn and Suites Providence from her visit to Rhode Island.