Farewell Frugal Traveler

May 26, 2010 at 4:59 pm (Uncategorized)


For the past few years I’ve savored Matt Gross’ travel columns.  I printed out all his Italy posts and brought them in a folder when I left to study in Bologna.  Carrie and the girls might have their Manolos, but I have a penchant for cheap tickets and friends with couches around the world.  So to celebrate Gross’ last column for the New York Times, “Three Things I’ve Learned About Frugal Travel (And the Things I Didn’t Do)” here are some of my favorite excerpts over the years from the King Frugal Traveler himself.

[Frugal travel is] about realizing that your budget — whether high or low — does not determine the quality of your travel experience. To travel well, you need to pack an open mind, a lot of energy, infinite patience and a willingness to embrace the awkward and unfamiliar. No amount of money in the world can buy those things — because they come free.

[On Bologna] For the next four days, I indulged in all the perquisites of student life. I woke up late and ate pizza; I browsed the library at the Sala Borsa, the old stock exchange whose Roman foundations are visible through clear plastic floors; I marched uphill through 666 arches to the hilltop Sanctuario di San Luca; I took a day trip to nearby Modena to see how balsamic vinegar is made; and at night I met an ever-growing circle of students for aperitivi.

I walked into the chapel, where a choir was singing and parishioners were shushing tourists. Just to the left was the tomb of Vasco da Gama, who had sailed from Lisbon to India at the dawn of the 16th century. Above the tomb lay his statue, hands clasped, a garland of fresh flowers below his heavily bearded chin. He looked, I thought, like someone I’d want to have a drink with.

I often wished it were still the late 19th century, when gleaming new railroads and steamers carried one across the plains and oceans of a world that had, almost overnight, grown smaller… I did not have vast riches. I did not have a devoted French servant. And I did not have faith in airline timetables and the easy availability of hotel rooms and economy-class seats. What I did have were three months with no pressing engagements. So I jumped at the opportunity to write about the traveler’s holy grail: the round-the-world voyage…Then I turned to my favorite hobby: entering unusual airport codes on Kayak.com, whose stripped-down design and inclusion of lesser-known carriers (Uzbekistan Yullary, anyone?) never fail to impress me.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Reelect This Man!

May 14, 2010 at 3:32 am (Uncategorized)

Today, on behalf of all USG job seekers, I feel hopeful, but slightly dubious.

Obama Orders Hiring Changes, End to KSAs

from Federal Daily

President Obama has ordered federal hiring managers to revamp the way the government hires workers and to eliminate from the initial application process the use of the onerous essays called KSAs that assess applicants’ knowledge, skills and abilities.

The changes, detailed in a May 11 presidential memorandum, are part of Obama’s effort to cut in half the time it takes to fill vacancies and to give the government a leg up in competing with the private sector for the best candidates.

Under the order, agencies by Nov. 1 must do away with any requirements for KSAs in the initial application process and allow all jobseekers to use resumes and cover letters, or let them complete simple, plain-language applications as they do when applying for non-governmental jobs.

The order also allows departments within agencies to switch to a system known as “category hiring,” which allows a manager to hire from a wider list of qualified candidates. This method would replace the old “rule of three” hiring method, which requires a manager to choose from among only three qualified candidates. Under the order, after a department has screened candidates from a list, another department also would be able to pick candidates from the same list, rather than start the process anew.

Among other things, the order also instructs OPM to improve the quality of federal job announcements to make them more understandable to candidates, and encourages senior administration officials and agency heads visiting universities to inform students about federal employment.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley applauded the move to streamline hiring, but cautioned that the changes, particularly the category hiring, should not subvert the civil service merit hiring process. Kelley said she was especially encouraged that the president’s mandate ordered the Office of Personnel Management to evaluate agency use of the Federal Career Intern Program and report back. NTEU has been advocating the elimination of the FCIP, which the union says has been used by agencies to avoid merit-based hiring to fill entry-level positions.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Christo, Jeanne-Claude, and Snoopy

May 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm (Uncategorized)

In honor of hearing the venerable Christo speak at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art about the years of effort and political maneuvering that went into the iconic wrapped Reichstag ,I present the dynamic duo’s lesser known work: Snoopy’s dog house wrapped. 

Perfection, recycled, and so cute.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Message to iPad Haters

May 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm (Uncategorized)

Get over it!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Visiting My Ex-boyfriend

May 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm (Uncategorized)

As the Bolt Bus rolled out of the Lincoln Tunnel, my eyes naturally turned upward.

He’s so big.

Has New York been working out?

I know he’s seeing other people…last I heard about eight million or so.  But, he still flirts with me when I’m in town.  He’s all like, pause, “remember that time in ’04 after a great night of dancing in the East Village, you hailed a cab back to Queens and literally sat on an unopened box of expensive gourmet Belgian chocolates?  That was fun.  You were so incredulous and hesitant to take the box knowing that someone forgot them, but I, New York City, gave it to you! (hehe)”

It was one of the best little gifts he ever gave me.

We see each other about once a month or so now–probably not the most healthy thing since I’m trying to make a relationship work with my new guy, DC.  I shouldn’t be seeing the rain trickle down his skyscrapers to his glistening sidewalks or his $1.50 slices.  The memories hurt sometimes.  DC has his moments, don’t get me wrong, but he’s been verbally abusive lately.  He’s so cliquish and won’t let me get a new job!  Just trying to get away from him on a Friday night is an arduous process of sitting through beltway traffic.  The nagging never stops.  While New York was definitely not a perfect gentleman, I somehow forgave his indiscretions more easily.  Dare I say it–the worst thing you can tell a lover–DC is… nice.

I know New York has changed, and I have too.  Old restaurants, shops, and cafes we once shared together have now closed.  I don’t know where the newest fads and hot spots are.  When we catch up, it’s a mixture of intimate knowledge and being out of the loop.  I know the basics, how’s your family, how’s so-and-so, how to get to the West side via subway, which entrance to use at Penn Station, but I don’t really know what’s going on in his life today.  I get news bits from our mutual friends and the metro section of the paper, but it’s not the same.  Actually, the other day DC was like, “Can you please read the Post on weekends at least? Hello! You won’t even get a bank account here. What, you don’t trust me with your money? You have commitment issues!”

New York and I had something real.  New York said it’s okay to want the best foreign foods and a cheap price at any time of the night.  He said that anyone could start over when things don’t work out.  That it was okay to go on dates with yourself.  That you could find a neighborhood that fits your style and paycheck and have a winning baseball team.  He said it was okay to be a Zoroastrian girl from a Masonic family on Jewish Long Island and, most importantly, not be B&T. He said this without batting an eye, because it was true.

New York and I will always have a relationship.  Maybe one day we’ll date again, but I know you can never really go back.  He saved me after months of living in Sahab where I was starved for cosmopolitan stimulation.  He was there for me when my senses needed him most, and I’ll never forget that.

Right now, I’m dedicated to working on my relationship with DC. I know I’ve had a bad attitude in the past and my heart was closed.  I want to make things work.  I really believe he has a lot to offer if he would just loosen his tie, pick up my resume, and think outside the district box.

Thank God for my District friends who make the relationship bearable and even, gasp, fun.

Permalink 3 Comments