I am on hold, again. I think I have spent 37% of the last week on hold. All the websites have banners that say they are experiencing higher than normal call loads, and hence I should sit back and prepare to listen to tinny flamenco for 90 minutes. These are now permanent fixtures of the websites. Which means they’re not higher than normal; they’re normal. Higher than before, but normal for now. So you’d think they’d staff up. But nay, nay, let ‘em wait. They can always go to a virtual assistant!

Hello what can I help you with?
Sexing toads
Distinguishing between various grades of burlap
Pointing out a mote in someone’s eye
Removing a beam from your own eye
Something else

“Something else”

Okay! Type a few words to tell me what you want.


I’ll get you an agent for that!

Fine. Then the agent comes on, or doesn't: the first time I did that last week, the agent bailed after one question. Then another agent entered the chat and backed out. No one came to my assistance. Something I said? Reload browser, try again, and this time I got someone, but oh my stars and bars it took 45 minutes. Today I tried to make a change I couldn’t make before, and I had to go through Expedia because the airline wouldn’t let you make changes if you got the ticket elsewhere. Why? PUNISHMENT.

I tried to get an airline rep on the line, but the phone tree was one tricky SOB: if you press 0 at any point in the routing process, the call is dropped, immediately, with extreme prejudice. It’s almost comical. We see what you’re trying to do and we’ll have none of that, lad.

The problem: I am trying to use credits from a cancelled flight, and apparently it has restrictions that don’t let you upgrade. You are STUCK. I want to find some human being and wave greenbacks: here. This is my money. Take it.

Online agent:   Sorry, sir, but you got a special rate through Expedia -

Actually no, I didn’t. If you look at the credit, the price I originally paid was actually more than the price the airline is charging on its own website.

I tried this line with the agent in the chat box, and she kept saying “The website would not reflect what you paid,” over and over, as though somehow I thought my particular situation so important and unique that the airline’s database would interrupt its search for fares, and say hold on, we got someone here with credits, let’s adjust every search result. I mean, how could it reflect what I paid? Why would it? What did she mean?

So now I am on hold to speak to a real person who will tell me the same thing. Well, since the wait time is projected to be 47 minutes, might as well go home.

UPDATE: a human answered while I was on my way to my car, could not get into the system, and put me on hold while she rebooted, during which time I walked to my car, drove home, parked, and started making supper for my wife who has to leave early for tennis.

Bottom line: IT CANNOT BE DONE.

Terms and conditions.

But I am on a mission now.

It will make it happen. By hook or by crook, I will. (Cue The Prisoner theme)









Netflix recommended “The Edge of War,” a movie about the machinations that preceded Chamberlain’s famous paper-waving. The full title was “Munich: The Edge of War” but they seemed to downplay the “Munich” part in the graphics. Something pinged in my head, and I thought: Harris?

I’d recently attempted to chew through Robert Harris’ “Munich,” a tale of the same period, and gave up out of boredom. For one thing, as with all those "let's stop Hitler early" stories, you know how it ends. For another, the book was oddly inert. Passive. London's on the brink of war, and nothing felt imperative or nervous; at some point you want the book to start biting its nails. Having enjoyed Harris books before, I wondered if it was me. Checked the reviews: yes, it was me. No, it was not me. Some LOVED IT! CLASSIC HARRIS! Others found it a cold, still thing.

It’s a crime that no one has made a series of Harris’ Cicero novels, or his Pompeii story. (A cracking yarn - well, as much of a cracking yarn as you can expect when the hero is a hydrologist.) His early work “Fatherland” had a movie adaptation with Rutger Hauer, and was well-received. He’s a wildly successful novelist. Yet his name has no currency.

The movie didn’t have credits, so I shot to the end to see if I was right. I was: Harris’ name shows up. The production company was Scott Free, which is Ridley Scott’s outfit. All of these things guarantee a quality product, more or less. After all, I’d just watched Scott’s “The Last Duel,” and found myself surprised it had flopped. Possible reason: the color scheme is basically hay and mud, with Ben Affleck teleporting in from a Burger King commercial to add some color. But it was quite an accomplished work, embedded with a million details, never seeming like a DeMille SPECTACLE that transports contemporary mores into the past for some clanging-sword thrills.

Yet it bombed. Scott was angry about this, and blamed the modern audiences who watch things at home or, God forbid, on their phones. Number me among the sinners, since I watched it at home. It made me think it would have been better to see it in the theater, but the theater probably would have been empty, and you think: I don’t want to sit in an empty room that shrieks of commercial failure.

I loved going to movies alone and having the theater all to myself, but that was when you had the expectation that the general industry was a going concern. The multiplex had a dozen shows, and a dozen more were coming, and a dozen dozen after that. Movies. In the movie theater. We still have that psychological distinction.

But it’s becoming more and more tenuous. It won’t snap. It will just dissolve.

If it does. It may not. It just feels as if so many things are trembling on the edge of the tine of a thin fork.

Sometimes. Often, to be honest.




It’s 1941.

Looks like a failed attempt at Simplicity, or simplicity gone awry. Mis-simplicity.

“Youth is in youthful thinking - and youthful corseting.”

Glorified! There’s that word again. Remember, at some point its meaning altered somewhat, so that it was only used sarcastically, to indicate pretensions or a gussied-up feature that didn't deliver.

The resplendent hotel of tomorrow! Which means it’s old, and they just did a remodel. It opened in 1906.

The story:

The Montrose was taken over by Eugene Eppley in 1917. Eppley controlled hotels in Ohio, Iowa and South Dakota. He planned to make extensive improvements, including adding private baths to 38 rooms, and remodeling 17 more to give the house 193 rooms. At a 1919 directors' meeting, Eppley detailed the quarter-million-dollar improvements he planned for the Montrose, including adding a seventh floor, moving the dining room from the second floor to the main floor and installing a water-softening plant. The billiard room was turned into a cafe and the mezzanine cafe was converted to a ballroom and banquet hall.

Grant Wood was relatively unknown outside of Eastern Iowa when Eppley commissioned him to decorate the hotel's coffee shop in 1932. Wood's seven 'The Fruits of Iowa' paintings of Iowa farm life in the 1920s and '30s were the result. Wood also painted murals for the Montrose's Corn Room and designed corn-themed chandeliers.

Demolished in 1988.


Kresensky’s, a local mainstay, until it wasn’t.

You didn't know the former head of the Russian Duma moved to Iowa and opened a department store, did you?

(Actually, he moved to New York, where he died . . . in 1968! Fifty one years after the revolution!)

Absolutely free! As long as you purchase just a nominal amount of flour. How much? Weeeeeelllll

Ah, Anderson’s Jack Sprat. I have a matchbook from that chain, I think . . . yes.


You’d think this would be apt for the 20s, at the latest. Nope; they kept this up into the 40s. But they'd drop it in the 50s.

I suspect they made their name buying up smaller properties. The Knox, for example, is rather humble.

Okay okay I won’t, geez, calm down, are you okay? You get too much gas at the dentist’s or what?


What was that? Sorry, I didn't catch that -


Uh - yeah, I guess so


This was in the folder, without context.


War nerves were making people unhinged.





That will suffice for Tuesday, the worst day of the week, for some. For me it's something of an early Friday, deadline-wise, so I expect I'll waste some time tonight on a video game. It's been a while. I've been stuck in a Nazi castle for two weeks. At least I figured out how to adjust the configuation to defeat Mouse Acceleration, and now I can aim. Which is far more than you cared to know. I'll shut up now. Go see Fireball Twigg!





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