Saturday, July 12, 2014

Plane, Trains, Buses and Fireworks II

Part 2

On my way out of Wisconsin, I joked with my colleague that I hated going through Chicago because something terrible always happens. I’ve never had an on time trip coming in or leaving Chicago. Like Ever. Pretty impressive record considering how many times I’ve flown in and out of Chicago. I’ve experienced everything from snow, broken plane toilets, broken plane, plane running into a cart, plane running out of fuel while sitting on tarmac and many other nearly impossible things that’s cause delays in my Chicago flight experience.

When I got to Chicago, I saw that there were some weather issues coming so I thought I’d be smart and change to an earlier flight to stay ahead of it. I thought I was so smart. I got the flight changed and ran to the gate just in time for them to close the door. BTW, don’t laugh at the people hauling ass through the airport. Every second counts so don’t be a dick and clear a path.

I got on the plane and the door was closed and I thought I was all good. What happened next was a fun 2 hour stay on the tarmac. I had actually fallen asleep during part of it and waking up thinking we’ve landed only to find that we haven’t moved. They had held all flights going into LaGuardia due to an impending storm. What’s funny is that the storm is in the path to NY, but both Chicago and NY were sunny and clear.

After 2 hours had passed, the pilots came over the speaker and said that they had been up since 5:30am and by law they’re not allowed to stay on the plane anymore. This was both scary (that our pilots have been up for almost 12 hours) and good because we’d get to go back to the terminal. Just to add a little bit of excitement, the pilot said that they have to leave, but we may not get to due to regulations. Luckily, this wasn’t true as I’m sure there would’ve been a riot. We were able to leave because they had cancelled our flight. The fun never seems to end.

In the announcement that the flight had been cancelled, they also gave out the number to rebook our flights. It was a mad dash for the phones as everyone was trying to get in front of the queue. My phone had died during the 2 hour wait so that was awesome. However, there was one bright spot for me. Tess and I had planned to spend the weekend in Chicago anyway and I would’ve had to fly back the next day. This would actually save me 2 flights. Score.

As I watch the passengers madly dial and put on hold, I was thinking about what some of these passengers’ stories were. Were they going to New York for work, vacation, meeting up with their long lost love or a dirty weekend with someone they’re not supposed to be with? This has always been a good way for me to past time. It’s really fascinating how many different stories there are.

I spoke with the lady sitting next to me during our wait. She was a very nice and friendly older lady from Minnesota. She was on her way to New York where her son lives. Her son was apparently very successful and has lived in several countries, most recently settling down in New York after meeting his girlfriend. The two of them were going to take a flight to London later that night for a vacation together. I was really hoping that she’d be able to make it, but after seeing how all flights were cancelled, I knew there was no way she was going to make it. Hope she was still able to have a good vacation after a delay.

I was lucky that I was on a work trip so I ended up just staying in a hotel in Chicago and it was all paid for. There are so many others not so lucky who either had to stay in crappy airport hotels or just found a corner in the airport. I went and checked with the agent that if I go ahead and cancel, I should be able to get a refund and she said yes because the flight was cancelled and they would not be able to get us out that day. After i got back and called about the refund, they said no, that's not going to happen. I was not able to get a refund because the airline said that the flight wasn’t actually cancelled cancelled. It was just delayed until the same time later so it still went (albeit 48 hours later), so no refund for me. WTF. That’s not a damn delay, that’s just the next scheduled flight, the original one did go away. I’m glad I learned this lesson on the company dollar.

As there were no flights from Chicago to New York, the same was true of flights from New York to Chicago. Tess was supposed to get on a flight the next day to come for our weekend in Chicago. As the storm didn’t move from the day before, the same situation happened with all flights being cancelled between New York and Chicago.

After finding out that she wasn’t going to be able to fly out to Chicago, she was amazingly resourceful in finding ways to get there. After exhausting several options, one finally came up. As is the case for almost anyone using this form of transportation, Greyhound buses was the last resort to get to Chicago now. A red eye bus ride that took 18 hours in cramp uncomfortable seats is more than anyone can ask. Her determination to get to Chicago to spend a weekend with me was simply an amazing feat. On the bright side, she was able to stop in cities that she would have never seen like Cleveland and Toledo. Yes, some bright side that is.

The journey seemed endless, but she finally made it to Chicago and to the hotel where we were staying. While the journey getting there was a massive struggle, we had a great time in Chicago. The weather was wonderful and we had an opportunity to do great Chicago things.

Then there’s the flight back! Just joking. The flight back was fine, just a slight delay. Way to be consistent Chicago.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Plane, Trains, Buses and Fireworks

Part 1

It’s been a few months since I’ve travelled for work. I get that like anything else, you can be rusty at doing something you haven’t done for a while. Work travel is one of those things that might seem easy, but involves a lot of things that could easily go wrong. For me this week, it all went wrong.

It all started when I got to the airport at 7am, which meant getting up around 5am. I know a lot of people wake up at 5pm on a regular basis, but I am not one of those people and I believe that’s an unholy hour that we all need to avoid. Travelling to LaGuardia airport here in New York is not the easiest thing to do at the best of times, but for whatever reason, and it had better be a good reason other than it’s Monday, there was some serious traffic on the roads. I looked later to see if the Queen or the President was in town to cause such a traffic mess, but no, just Monday getting a head start on ruining your week. Combine that with a very aggressive cab driver that’s probably been up for 36 hours and hopped up on caffeine, this did not make for a fun ride.

I finally got there and I go straight to check in machines to get my ticket. The machine kept saying that it doesn’t have a reservation for me. Stupid machine. I have my confirmation right here, why can’t it find my reservation?! I was beginning to doubt my argument that it would be better to leave it to machines to run our political life rather than to entrust humans. That’s another whole different post though.

So I head over to an actual person to see if they can figure out what the machine can’t. After looking through their system by my name, flight number, confirmation and even booking agent, the airline lady told me calmly that the booking agent has cancelled my ticket. Awesome.

I’ll spare you all the yelling that went on for the next few hours. Being that it was still 7am, no normal people were up so there was no one to call. I tried to call the travel agent’s after hour line, and I get the lady that’s probably just finishing up her night shift. I asked what happened and she said I’ll have to wait till the day team comes in. I asked what they can do for me, and she said it’s not her fault that the ticket was cancelled (I did not in any way accuse or suggested it was her fault, only that we try to find a solution).

All flights were booked and the only tickets left are $1400 (my original ticket was only $300). As much as I’d love to explain this to my boss, I don’t think that would’ve gone over well. I was trying to think of all kinds of way to get to Madison, Wisconsin. I suggested a train. That did not work out as we’re not in the 1900s anymore. I suggested a mix of flying to Chicago and renting a car to drive there. Amazingly, the cost was equal to the expensive ticket plus I’d have to drive. By now I’d be pretty happy to just jump out of the airplane or maybe get shot out of a big cannon. The lady just said, I’ll put the $1400 ticket on hold and call back after 9am and the day team will handle it. Oh, and you need to call back if you’d like to cancel it. That’s some good customer service if I've ever seen it.

Once normal work hours started, quite a few people were trying to help me from the office. It went all the way up to the head of procurement who personally called the head of the travel agency to get this sorted out. They admitted that there was a bug in their system that randomly cancelled my flight and I got on another flight later that day which they will cover the difference in cost. Before this was all sorted out, I actually went home because I didn’t think anything was going to happen in terms of me getting on a flight. Of course, as soon as I walked into my apt., it was resolved and so straight back out to the airport I go. BTW, traffic has only gotten worst since 7am so the rides back and forth were really fun for everyone. I eventually got to Madison where my colleague picked me up and it was instantly relaxing. All the open fields and much slower pace of life was such a change coming from New York. I was pretty sure the worst parts of the trip was over, boy was I wrong.

To be continued..

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Everyone’s Gotta Eat

With the amazing amount and variety of food in NYC, even Pup has to take some time out in his world domination planning for some good meals.
Here are a few from this past week.  

Txikito - 240 Ninth Ave

Went to dinner with a couple friends at this nice place in Chelsea.  I didn’t know much about the restaurant other than it was supposed to be good.  Walking into the restaurant, there was a warm buzz about the place with a full crowd and very handsome waiters moving through the small space.  We had a look at the menu and couldn’t decide where type of cuisine it was.  It looked Spanish (the country) to me and Portuguese to others.  Looking at the wine list, we noticed that there were a lot of wines from Basque

I had no idea what that meant, but luckily my friends who were much more worldly and said that they are an indigenous group of people from around north-central Spain and south-western France.  A lot of the menu was written in Basque hence no one could make out what it was exactly.

We had a selection of small plates (tapa-ish) to share which were all delicious.  My favorites were the Octopus Carpaccio and the blistered Gernika peppers with sea salt.

Overall, the restaurant was nice and the wait staff very helpful and friendly.  The food was well executed and unique.  Be ready to wait on busy nights.

Bareburger – 366 West 46th Street

We wandered by this burger joint and thought it looked nice so we stopped in for lunch.  Bareburger specializes in basically all-natural, free range, sustainable, organically sourced everything.  They know where every piece of their food comes from.  There are 9 types of meat you can put in your burger.  Everything from your usual beef to your more exotic bison, ostrich and everything in between.

Since it’s my first time I just went with a regular beef burger figuring if they can’t get this right, they’re not going to get the others right either.  The burger was fine, nothing to write home about, but it did taste much fresher than other burgers (it could be that I was reading about the farm that the cow was raised and how nice it seemed).  The burger was also a very good size.  Not so huge that you can’t fit it into your mouth and not too small that you’d still be hungry afterwards.  The sides were probably the main attraction here.  The sweet potato fries and onion rings were fantastic.  The salad was also very full of variety and taste.

Overall, there are way too many good burger places in NYC so I probably won’t revisit any of them.  Bareburger is good for a light snack or if you have vegetarian friends coming with you.   

Haru Sake Bar – 1327 Third Ave

After a long day of exploring the upper east side, we decided to make a pit stop for a drink and maybe a snack.  We happened on Haru Sake bar as I’m usually pretty excited about Sake bars and especially if it’s an izakaya (basically a Japanese bar with small plates).  Boy were we disappointed, they were not an izakaya (the host almost seems insulted when we asked) and the sake selection was pretty slim (for one that has ‘Sake Bar’ in the name of the restaurant).    

We had a couple of sake based cocktails and a few shared plates which were both pretty good, but again, nothing special.  The waiter seemed a bit annoyed that we were neither drinking fast enough nor ordering enough food. That didn't make for a good experience either.  It would be that we were pretty tired and cold from the day's walking, but this place certainly didn't put us at ease.

Overall, there are much better Japanese at the higher and lower end (price and location wise) than Haru.  I don’t think we’ll be revisiting this place again.

Gallo Nero – 42 W 44th Street

After going to see Kinky Boots (and meeting Billy Porter by standing by the stage door forever like a teenage fanatic), we were looking for somewhere for a small bite after the show.  We wandering into Gallo Nero as it had a very warm open vibe to the restaurant (also a sign that said ‘Wine is how ‘classy’ people get trashed).  We sat at the little bar (6 seater) and was quickly greeted by the manager who was very friendly.  

We had 2 glasses of wine that were simply amazing.  Even better, he let us try the wines which is a new thing for me.  Often times you’re more or less guessing at which wines to order, but to be able to have a taste first is amazing.  We then order 2 of the night’s specials.  One was a Burrata (a cheese made with Mozzarella and cream.  It’s amazing and I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve had it).  with prosciutto and Beef Carpaccio.  Both dishes were wonderful and beautifully done.  Everything was so fresh.  It was light and substantial at the same time.  Reminded me of our meals in Italy.

Overall, I was very impressed with this place that we randomly found.  I would highly suggest it to anyone and it may make it on our come back list to try the rest of the menu, but with so much great Italian around NYC, we’ll just have to see.   

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Obviously if the blogging is going to restart, it should restart with one of the most common topics that you’ll see here.  Apparently, my lack of blogging has not made people do less stupid things that pisses me off (not that blogging will stop them either, but its worth the rant).

Today, Georgia will sign the ‘guns everywhere’ law where you’ll be allowed to carry a weapon pretty much anywhere.  Besides creating this wild west scenario in the state, the law will also change a few pesky laws to make sure that it’s easier than ever to pick up a gun with no ways of tracking where the guns are.  Sounds awesome doesn't it?

Let’s just go through a few of these new rules.

You are now allowed to carry a gun into:

Schools – teachers and administrators will now be allowed to carry guns if the school votes to allow this.  That’s exactly what we need in schools.  More guns.  How do we teach the kids not to bring guns to school if the teacher is packing heat?  What kind of example are we setting for them?

Airports – You can’t wear shoes past security, you can’t make a joke about a bomb, but if you’re carrying a gun, that’s totally fine.  The new law states that if you ‘accidentally’ bring your gun to the airport, it’s all good, just take it back outside.  No harm done. You tell one joke about a bomb and you're on a list for life with possible fines and jail time.  Jokes are more lethal than guns.  Yup, that sounds about right.

Bars – Yup, cause there’s no better place to have guns than where people get drunk.  Seriously, in what world would someone think this is a good idea?  The new law allows people to bring guns into bars unless the bar owner tells them to get out.  How’s that for an awkward conversation?  ‘Sir, you’re drunk and have a gun, I need you to leave’ – said no one ever. 

Churches – Cause that’s what Jesus would’ve wanted, for people to carry gun while they're praying for peace.  You should seriously re-examine your faith if you have so little trust that your God will protect you in a house of worship or perhaps you believe you can take matters into your own hands in which case, you also don’t believe in your God taking care of you.  Either way, you might need to re-examine your church going and how utterly little faith you actually have in your lord.

Govt buildings – The law now allows you to carry guns into non-secure govt buildings.  That’s just fantastic.  Although it’s not all govt buildings, it’s only the non-secure ones with no security checks where people can carry guns into the buildings.  So it's fine to allow people to carry guns into non secured buildings?  What are the workers in the non secure buildings?  Chopped liver?  There are more anti-govt hate groups today than at almost any other time in history.  Seems like this is a perfectly good idea.

Besides allowing guns to be carried in these places, the law also forbids the creation of a gun ownership database.  Yup, as a civilized society, why would we need to keep track of who has these murder sticks anyway.  Just to add to the craziness, the law also eliminated the fingerprinting requirement to renewing weapon licenses.  Seriously, since when has fingerprints been useful in solving crimes?  Oh yea, ALL THE DAMN TIME.

The new law also made it pretty much illegal to detain a person to check if they have a weapons carrying license.  So not only are guns now legal everywhere, you’re not allowed to ask if they actually have a license to carry it.  How in the hell do you tell a difference between a law abiding citizen carry a gun and one that isn’t?  Isn't that your whole damn argument?  That it's about the law abiding citizens?  So why in the hell did you include a rule so that you can't ask if you are law abiding!

Supporters of this bill all cry out that it’s about protecting the 2nd amendment.  It’s not.  It’s about money.  Pure and simple.  Nothing would boost sales of guns faster than a law like this.  The point of this law is not to protect anything other than gun profits and it uses fear as the primary driver. 

The most common argument you hear is that ‘bad’ guys have guns so the ‘good’ guys need to have guns too.  However, this 'bad’ guy is a boogie man created by gun lobbyist to instil paranoia into everyone.  The fact that everyone has a gun, good or bad, is also a creation by the gun lobbyist in the first place.  They created the problem and now they're creating the paranoia to scare people into buying more guns.  

Paranoia leads to fear.  Fear leads to hate.  Hate will lead to a whole lot of gun sales.

Guns cannot and will not ever bring a sense of security.  All guns can bring is paranoia.  Paranoia that that are ‘bad’ guys out there so you have to defend yourself.  This paranoia will just grow and fester in everyone who buys into these lies and then it will bleed into society in general until everyone is scared of anyone they don’t know, jumping at every loud bang and pulling out a gun as a first response.    

All these people banging their chest about being able to kill a ‘bad’ guy need to wake up from their adolescent wet dream.  You’ve watched way too much TV and movies or played too much video games.  You are not John McClane!  The gun makes it easy to shoot someone, but how many people are actually willing to kill another person?  Oh sure, in the heat of the moment many may, but killing a person will haunt you forever, guilty or not.  Are you prepared for that?  And what if you’re wrong about the person you’ve killed?  What if it wasn’t a ‘bad’ guy?  Are you willing to have that on you?    

Is this the society we are becoming?  A society where it’s all about the rule of the gun?  Where all situations only have one response?  So many people are being played by the gun lobby and I’m not sure if there is a way to make them realize that they’re just pawns in a game for profit.  The gun lobby couldn’t give 2 cents about the 2nd amendment.  They only want to increase sales and if increasing sales means bringing a society to its knees with fear and paranoia, well then, that’s just good for business.      

Monday, April 21, 2014

Im Back

It’s almost scary to think that this blog began almost exactly a decade ago.  A decade!  That’s like forever in blog years.  Pretty sure no one is here anymore.  After this long hiatus, I think it’s time for Pup to continue his ranting about the world, about random things and about things only a bear sitting around all day can think of. It’s probably better for everyone that no one is here. 

So what’s been going on?  I noticed my last post was the 2012 wrap-up.  Wow, that’s a while ago.  Totally missed 2013.  Well, a lot happened in 2013.  A lot more good than bad.  I think that’s all anyone can ask for.  Went on a trip that covered Finland, Hungary and Hong Kong.  There was everything from standing a foot from Katy Perry to finally realising I need to retire from playing high level competitive Frisbee.  Hopefully, I’ll get around to all these stories this year.

The big story is that I’m back in the US for a while.  New York City to be specific.  I’m sure there will be a lot of interesting adventures in the next few months and hence I want to make sure I write as much of it down as I can.  I’ll try and get to as many of the stories I’ve missed from the last year.  Of course, there will be ranting.  Oh yes, there will be ranting.  Ranting is coming. 

I’m back.  Get ready.