Monday, September 8, 2008

It is quiet, although Captain Kirk rides again

Maybe it is just me, but it seems that the folks who are behind Priceline have been taking lessons from the Crazy Eddie school of advertising [see a previous post featuring that madman and mastermind of the low price electronic store schemes and ads]. These are on practically every second of the day, with the good Captain saying that one can get hotel rooms at close to or at half off regular price.

It just so happens that when this is mentioned, there goes that pesky fine print across the screen. Usually associated with car ads or those from attorneys who say they can win any case for $199.95, it is so small that one would need an electron microscope to see that this may be saying 'subject to availablility, certain nblackout dates may not be available', etc. Some of this would be or rather should be common sense, but we are in an era when even that is a precious commodity.

It would be a little refreshing if businesses would just back what they are saying or doing with just their word as their bond. Yes I am well aware that we are a very litigious society and the need for the fine print to keep folks out of trouble and to protect us from ourselves, but gee whiz what would be the harm in just saying that they will back up the prices and leave it at that. I could be wrong here and old fashioned....but why not?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

And now the other shoe has dropped with the airlines

For those who are either frequent fliers or those who want to plan that trip to Aunt Harriet's with the kids, the worse is about to happen:

It is not just that the fares are being raised across the board, but it is cutbacks in service. Not so much to smaller towns [the universal example given here in the states is Bemidji, Mn...the smallest city in the US to still have jet service.....until these recent cuts and the pending merger between Northwest and Delta] but to larger towns like Sacramento, Oakland, Kansas City, Tucson and others.

All of this is adding insult to injury, in that there are the cutbacks in the ammenities [see a previous post in re: same] that many of us had become used to. Grantted very few extras in return for low fares were and are what folks expect when they fly on Southwest or JetBlue. But now, for what would be either a king's or queen's ransom, there may end up being trips which would be a slight step up from riding a Greyhound bus from Baltimore to NYC. And that is a scary thought in itself.....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

If it were not true, this would be really funny...

Under ordinary circumstances, the article listed at this post would actually be rather funny. But when the Air Canada subsidiary, Jazz decided to remove life vests from their planes:

the first thought that went through my mind was: this would have to be an idea from the minds of Bob and Doug McKenzie. That's right, eh. Bob and Doug of 'Great White North' fame [from SCTV, for those of you who remember this companion to Saturday Night Live]. And one can imagine them as the pilots talking over the intercom [with apologies here to SCTV and Geddy Lee of Rush whose song 'Take Off' can be heard on the PA]:

Bob: Hi this is your captain, Bob McKenzie and this is the co-pilot, my brother Doug.

Doug: How's it going, eh?

Bob: So like this is our flight from like Calgary to Moose Jaw and then to Vancouver, eh? We'll be flying through the Great White North on the blue sky serving back bacon and really good beer. But like you know we have to tell you some like safety stuff, eh?

Doug: Yeah, eh so here it is. Like we no longer have life vests on the plane, eh. So like you will like if we have a water landing, grab like your seat cushions, take as much beer and bacon as you can eh and then you should be able to float til we get someone from the RCMP[Royal Canadian Mounted Police] out to like rescue you, eh?

Bob: So like enjoy your flight, eh here in the Great White let's Take Off, eh!

Doug: You Take off you hoser!!

Bob: You're the hoser, you hoser!!!

[Theme Fade Out]

Yes, the above is a tad mean spirited, however the fact that the mild-mannered Canadians would actually put lives at risk like this is just insane. And even Bob and Doug would never do something like this, would they, eh?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well it has been quiet...perhaps someone is reading

Yep, the summer is winding down. It looks as though we may...and I stress the word MAY skirt through the rest of the season without there being a major online reservation glitch. Then again too, the unoffical end of the real summer travel season is Labor Day...or when the first Monday Night Football game [which will as last year was, be a doubleheader courtesy of our friends at ESPN] occurs, whichever comes first.

With all the above said, if any of you are having problems with all of those wonderful travel sites that have been previously mentioned in this space, by all means let's get that info out so it can spare others the pain and the embarassment of getting to the hotel only to find 'no room at the inn'. Just because the summer is coming to a close, does not mean that the gremlins are on vacation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why Wireless internet is not where it should be...

One of the newest ammenties that is listed more often on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and others when one books a hotel space is the availablity of wireless internet or not. No longer does one have to pack with their laptop computer that ethernet or phone cable to plug into the phone outlet to connect to the web, just plug in either your PC card [us geeks know it as being a PCMCIA card] or your little USB connector and away you go. Or are you?

That question at the end of the last paragraph is what some folks feel or notice when they try to connect and it seems that there is no signal. No connection or it is so slow that one can read a chapter from 'War and Peace' while waiting for the opening page on their browser to display. Dear readers, there is a small technical explanation for this and it is rooted in old-style radio technology. Yes, an old fashioned FM signal...

Back when commecrial radio was king of media in the US, there were those two commercial bands known as AM and FM. AM was great in that dep on the power, the signal could be heard not just in the hometown of the radio station but several states over [and there were some cases where a signal could be heard nationwide, due to the station broadcasting at 50,000 watts of power and also being designated by the government as a 'clear channel' station which would remain on the air in the event of a national emergency. There are 12 such stations that to this day still exist, such as WABC in New York, WBBM in Chicago, WHO in Des Moines, KABC in Los Angeles, KMOX in St. Louis, WCCO in Minneapolis] but the sound quality was less than exciting, which is ok for listening to late night ballgames but not for music. FM which is more geared toward music was great for that purpose, but had one major drawback. That was the fact it was more of a 'line of sight' signal, meaning it travelled as far as ones line of sight went [think of someone who is nearsighted and you get the idea about how things in the distance look fuzzy] and degrades depending on how many miles one is away from the originating tower. And by way of explanation and history, this is how wireless internet signals work [albeit, a simplistic one but you get the idea]

So what can be done for the road worrier, I mean warrior so he or she can get the internet in their room and not have to go down to the lobby? Yes an ethernet cable can be plugged in and that can work, but is not convenient if one wants to work on their bed due to the fact that those cables are rather short. But a better solution would be a cheap new USB card or PC card that works on the latest wireless protocol known as wireless N. Those cards can be found cheap...every now and then some of the local electronics or computer shops will sell those for about $10 or less. These will work with no matter what network one is on and if the hotel has not upgraded, these cards are backwards compatable with the routers being used.

Now if there is still a problem with the wireless not being there but being advertised on those aforementioned websites, comment here and post which ones do are not being honest in their offerings. Plus if they see their name here, perhaps someone in management will make the change and correct the situation.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Eastern Airlines may be back!!!

Before someone says that I may have flipped my lid, gone off the reservation [see the movie 'Major League' for this Bob Ueckerism] and maybe smoking rope, it seems that there is a rumour going around that Eastern Airlines may be making a comeback.

Yes, of all things Eastern.....the same Eastern that:

- was one of two launch customers for the Boeing 727, which was soon renamed 'Whisperjets' because the engines were in the rear of the plane, hence the cabins were quieter. Not by much, but they were.

- created the Washington to Boston Air Shuttle with flights every hour from DC, LaGuardia and Logan. This became the favorite means of travel of the Washington elite and businessmen alike.

- was the same company that made former astronaut Frank Borman a corporate titan by naming him the president of this company. Not that he was not already a star because of Gemini 7 [co-piloted with Jim Lovell, later of Apollo's 8 and 13] and Apollo 8 where he commanded the first manned flight to the moon.

- one of the first to fly the Lockheed L1011 [which sadly became a legend due to the early 70's crash of Flight 401 which missed the run way at Miami International and crashed in the Florida Everglades]

- the launch customer for another European invasion. That being Airbus, which Eastern was the proud launch customer of the A300 [made before fly-by-wire technology was all the rage and was actually improved upon by Airbus Industrie. Sorry, Boeing]

- was the same firm whose customer service was so bad at one time they were parodied on 'Saturday Night Live' as having helped to create the 'Island of Lost Luggage'

- and was the same airline that as a slick and sneaky revenue creator actually sold coast to coast, no-frill passenger tickets [$55 in fact, first come first food, etc] on their overnight freight flights called 'The Moonlight Special' [everybody, sing it now...'Let the Moonlight Special shine a light on me, Let the Moonlight Special shine its ever loving light on me!!'].

If these rumours are true.....and there is no reason to believe they are not, this will be a welcome sight back on the runways. After all, if Eastern did not exist, everyone would have to pick on Jet Blue. Only kidding...but if they live up to their old reputation of being just this side of being strange and weird....the word fun could be re-applied to flying in the US. And right now, we can use that when we travel, after all why should all the constructively sick people work for either Southwest or Jet Blue.

Friday, August 1, 2008

If it is not the airlines putting people at risk, it is our roads

We here in the US have a rather ugly anniversary on our hands today. One year ago, the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 and injuring many more and this evening is the subject of a special [called Road to Ruin] on CNN:

What is rather scary about this structural failure is that this bridge is just one of many, way too many in every state that are barely usuable. Some bridges are so bad in fact that they either have holes in their roadways or for that matter are missing major pieces of metal in the beams that help hold the road or rail that cross on these said same bridges. In effect, the accident in the Twin Cities is a harbinger of things to come, unless something is done and soon.

Dear readers, one of the main reasons given as to why the needed repairs or replacements cannot be done at this time or is being deferred is the lack of money. Now granted, fewer folks are driving, buying less gas and paying less in gas taxes. Some of the taxes in turn are used to maintain the Highway Trust Fund which is earmarked for what? Highway repair of course. But before the current gas crisis, before 9/11...these issues were still facing us, en masse.

It may have been the thinking on the part of the powers that be that the time will always be there to do the repairs. Perhaps they are even thinking that 'if the Roman Aqueducts lasted til this day, then heck our little 4 lane bridge should be good til the next century'. Not so and even scarier..unlikely.

Just to give you an idea of how bad things are, let me relate a conversation I overheard one evening several years ago while crossing on the BMT subway line's Manhattan Bridge sector. There were a couple maintenance supervisors talking to the engineer of our train and it was just casually said that the I-beams which were holding up the tracks and the roads next to them had gaping holes in them, but it was still safe to travel on. Yes...this was said in such a blase fashion....which is even scarier. It was almost as though that if this were to fall apart, crash and people end up going to their final reward in the East River that it would be [SIC] '...just the cost of business...'

Now not all of our infrastructure is in this bad a shape, but if 1 in 4 of our bridges is in such disrepair that they need to be replaced and soon, that should be our wakeup call to get this dome and soon. Otherwise, we will not have learned one goshdarn thing from the accident in Minneapolis one year ago. Lives lost due to ignorance and deferred maintenance....not something that any right thinking person or government for that matter should want to have on their conscience.