TV – Andy Rooney

Dana sent me some advice from grumpy old Andy Rooney, the CBS curmudgeon.


Tips for Handling Telemarketers:

1) Three Little Words That Work !!

The three little words are: “Hold On, Please…”

Saying this, while putting down your phone and walking off (instead of hanging-up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt.

Then when you eventually hear the phone company’s “beep-beep-beep” tone, you know it’s time to go back and hang up your handset, which has efficiently completed its task.

These three little words will help eliminate telephone soliciting.

2) Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end?

This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when a person answers the phone.

This technique is used to determine the best time of day for a “real” sales person to call back and get someone at home.

What you can do after answering, if you notice there is no one there, is to immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as quickly as possible This confuses the machine that dialed the call and it kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer !!!

Tips for Handling Junk Mail:

When you get “ads” enclosed with your phone or utility bill, return these “ads” with your payment. Let the sending companies throw their own junk mail away.

When you get those “pre-approved” letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope.

Most of these come with postage-paid return envelopes, right? … Drop them in the mail empty.


travel – if you are poor

shoestring guide

The rich have many travel options en route to Clooney’s place on Lake Como.

The rest of us need the Lonely Planet shoestring guidebook series. Inexpensive accommodation, restaurants and activities only.

Big Trips on Small Budgets.

On my current 3-month trip I have stayed in cheap hostels and 5-star resorts (sleeping on the balcony under the stars, actually).

The hostels are far better, of course.

Hostels are only successful if their guests have a great time. And they do.

You can have an excellent trip travelling for US$20-30 a day in most countries. It is a mistake to budget less than US$20 / day, I advise. Shorten your trip, instead.

Caution — we entertained an 88-year-old UK lady backpacker at the beloved Weary Traveller hostel in Tulum. She left next morning disgusted at the place. Some travellers are too delicate for the hostel circuit. But most survive the cold showers, loud parties, over-indulgence in alcohol, and the odd wandering scorpion.

travel – Lonely Planet

Guatemala guidebook Lonely Planet guidebooks revolutionized travel & reinvented the guidebook genre in the same way that Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus.

Starting on a kitchen table in 1972, the Australian company grew quickly to dominate the industry overcoming many long-established competitors.

What did Lonely Planet do right?

  • The best maps
  • No advertising
  • No endorsements
  • Focus on good value at all price ranges
  • Support of ecologically sensitive vendors
  • Support of indigenous vendors over outsiders
  • Highlights maps
  • Top 10 lists
  • Recommended itineraries
  • Lonely Planet holds people to account. If vendors cheat or misrepresent to travellers, they do so at their peril. In some cases businesses close after LP gives a bad review or even drops a listing.

    And brutally accurate write-ups. While they have gotten softer over the years, my current Central America on a Shoestring still includes:


    … Those who have wrecked havoc on Central America. A Hall of Shame:

    1) Pedro Arias de Avila – bishop-murdering Spanish founder of Panama City

    2) Pedro de Alvarado – Spaniard whose burning of captives in the 1520s disturbed even Cortes

    3) Alonso de Caceres – Spaniard who called fake truce in 1537 to murder Honduran indigenous leader Lempira

    4) William Walker – bully American in 1850s who tried to take over Central America

    5) Ronald Reagan – US president of 1980s who broke records for outside intervention

    Other travel guidebooks were inferior. I recall the horrible Lets Go Europe we carried in 1976. And the stupendously useless Rough Guide China (1st edition) I foolishly did not throw in the dumpster in 1998.

    Now in a very few regions there are good competitors; the best example being the South American Handbook (now Footprint guides).

    Thence I was shocked (as you might imagine) to stumble on to Moon Handbooks Baja — a better guidebook than Lonely Planet! Why so? For one thing it is authored by Joe Cummings, the legendary lead writer for Lonely Planet in the early years. When Mick Jagger wanted a guide for his entourage in Thailand, he phoned Joe.

    I’ve started to browse other travel guidebooks recently and been very pleasantly surprised. They have improved. Most by copying LPs format and style.

    It reminds me how Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL search engines exactly copied Google and, as a result, are starting to improve. Have you seen the prettiest Google imitator?

    I may finally (faintly) consider alternative guidebooks in future.

    new website –

    My dream job is to manage my own websites from any WiFi coffee shop in the world.

    It’s getting closer. I write from the Bagel Barn in Antigua, Guatemala. (toasted cinnamon raisin) AND I just posted a new website:

    I like the website. But I like the product even better. Bill Pawluk has built and patented a vehicle hauling trailer which easily converts to a flatbed. This way the trucker can haul vehicles in one direction, and anything else on the return trip. Brilliant.

    automobile truck trailer

    travelogue – Tulum, Mexico

    Looking for a beach paradise?

    Tulum is a Mayan walled city guarding the gorgeous Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico. However, once tourists see this Riviera Mexicana beach, they tend to forget to visit the archaeological attraction.

    Screw Cancun. Bypass Playa del Carmen. Tulum is the best beach bang for your buck on the Mexican Caribbean.

    Tulum on the Riviera Mexicana, 130km south of Cancun.



    I tented here 4 nights.


    We also rented at least one thatch roofed cabana in which I stored my gear.


    Tenting cost about US$6 / night. Cabanas run US$12 and up. A bit higher at Zazil Kin resort, your best bet.


    The beach is insect free. No hassles of any kind.


    Not much to do but walk the beach and snorkel out to the world’s second longest reef 400m from shore.


    There were many signs of last year’s hurricane damage.


    This toilet block did not survive a big blow.


    Sarah, my yoga teacher. (She is kind & helpful to all though this photo would not have you think so. She doesn’t like it!) Those are the Mayan temple ruins in the background.


    I enjoyed 2 days of yoga on the beach. Perhaps 90 minute slow, easy sessions.


    My favourite of the inexpensive beach resorts was Diamonte K. Unique, filled with interesting art pieces.


    Many resorts here long ago added “Eco” to their names. Next step is to add “solar” to the sign board.


    Big old iguanas are a highlight of the Tulum scenery.


    Monika and Monty, a lovely couple from the UK just starting 7 months of travel.


    Monty, Ron and Tom.


    This dog got plenty of exercise every day chasing his master’s kite.


    Beach bar with hammocks.


    Many of the cabanas are wedged into the dunes for protection against the wind. One night we got coated with a fine layer of sand.


    Should I book you a hut?


    Fishermen land here to sell lobster & fish to tourists.


    Kite surfer.


    Most evenings we caught the free hostel shuttle into town.


    Tulum town is noted as “butt ugly” in the guidebooks. But I still liked it.


    The hostel offered “burn your own barbecue” for US$3.50.


    We much enjoyed “The Weary Traveller”. One of the best hostels in Mexico, I reckon.


    One night I bought a basket of “carne” for a meat pig-out. Vegetarians were mortified.


    Another night we cooked fish on the beach. This is a home made barbecue tong.


    The highlight of Tulum for me was snorkelling a cenote.





    Finally we hit the modest Tulum ruins. Many backpackers never get around to paying the US$5 entry fee.


    The Spanish in 1518 were amazed by this city, painted vivid red, blue and yellow. It was one of the last fortresses to be abandoned.


    Many spend more time on the Tulum beach than touring the ruins. A spectacular setting.


    See the iguana checking out the bikinis?


    I would return to Tulum any time. It is a fantastic place!


    hiking – gas cartridge stoves

    stoveAround the campfire, hikers frequent debate the pros & cons of different cooking systems.

    After a disaster or two, I became a fervent booster of the gas cartridge stove. (Even encouraging F. W. Linqvist to patent the idea in late 1880s.)

    Super-hiker Chris Townsend almost always uses gas cartridges because over-all they are a lighter system. A 3oz stove cooks grub. Townsend would only use a multi-fuel stove in really cold weather or in some God-forsaken 3rd world backwater.

    For example, La Paz, Mexico.

    This isn’t the first time travelling abroad that I wished I did have a dirty multi-fuel stove needing constant maintenance. You cannot buy canisters in La Paz.

    More than you ever wanted to know about camping stoves on