Thursday, June 20, 2013

I-5 Bridge Repair: Time Lapse Video

It's nice to have that I-5 bridge re-open so quickly with a temporary Bailey Bridge fix.

The video is interesting to watch.

Thanks are due to the late Sir Donald Coleman Bailey, OBE.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wall Street Journal Fantasy: "If The World Were Run Like Airlines"

A Happy Anniversary

When it's your 44th you're not likely to do anything to silly, but we celebrated by enjoying the Happy Hour at Anthony's Hearthfire Grill earlier this evening.

A variety of draft beers can be had for $3.50 and quite decent wine for $5. Appetizers are available from a $5 and $7 list.

We started with a hamburger that turned out to be a full-sized burger with a decent side of fries. We followed up - and finished - by sharing Chicken wings and vaguely Asian sirloin steak strips - delicious.

We sat outside on the patio, savoring the view of the marina in Squalicum Harbor. It was breezy and the sun shone through the clouds only intermittently.

Glorious and very reasonable!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Making The Rounds: The Chinese Baggage Handler Video Clip

There's a rather hilarious clip (if the boxes aren't yours) of a baggage handler throwing boxes on the conveyer belt up to the plane's cargo hold.

When he tosses three at a time, more than once only one stays on the belt.

On our visits to China we have generally noticed a lot of people doing the job of one. Maybe this fellow just felt lonely and worked himself into a passive-aggressive mood.

Watch it here.

A Major United Airlines Mileage Plus Change: Hey Big Spenders!

United announced this morning that, effective starting in 2014, customers will have to spend set minimum dollar amounts in addition to flying X number of miles in order to earn elite status.
  • Premier Silver: [25,000 PQM or 30 PQS] and $2,500 PQD
  • Premier Gold: [50,000 PQM or 60 PQS] and $5,000 PQD
  • Premier Platinum: [75,000 PQM or 90 PQS] and $7,500 PQD
  • Premier 1K: [100,000 PQM or 120 PQS] and $10,000 PQD
PQM=Premier Qualifying Miles
PQM=Premier Qualifying Segments
PQD=Premier Qualifying Dollars

The PQDs consist only of the base amount of the fare and airline fuel surcharge, and not to any taxes.

We were convinced this was coming at some point and now we know.

The good news for us that our devalued lifetime Gold Status may become a little more worthwhile as the ranks of elite flyers are almost inevitably thinned. Our first guess is that most high-level elites in future will be folks whose companies are buying their fares and there will be far fewer elites traveling on their own nickels.

UA has outlined the updates here. There is a lot of discussion occurring here in Flyertalk, and one major consensus is that folks are somewhat resigned to the changes.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Actually, Memory tracks... Brian just wrote up the following to submit to a travel website offering prizes for memories of summer trips. The prizes are modest and the main pleasure is in the recollections. It may also help our children understand why Dad always wanted to take them on trips.

First a disclosure: This was not a summer trip but what a chunk of memories it provided.

In the fall of 1954 my younger brother and I accompanied my mother and grandmother on a three-week train trip to attend the funeral of an uncle in a small town in Ontario Canada. We were in “drawing rooms” and “bedrooms” all the way, indescribably luxurious for two little boys.

We rode the old Overland Limited from San Francisco to Chicago. Bill was our waiter and it was the first time in my life (and still among the few times) that I ate lamb chops with little paper tassels on the end. We even had finger bowls.

Later my father told me the joke about the two sailors on the train (there were sailor jokes back in the 50s). In the dining car one the first sailor asks the waiter what the finger bowls are for. The waiter explains their purpose is to allow you to rinse your fingers off after eating. The waiter leaves and the second sailor says to the first, “See – ask a silly question and get a silly answer.” (Those were the kinds of jokes parents told their children back in the 50s.)

In the Chicago train station we had an eight-hour layover and my mother kept us close. One vignette stands out. We watched a man see his wife off with great affection and lots of hugs. About an hour later we saw the same man, who seemed to be acting funny. A bigger man in a three-piece suit and fedora hat went up to him and said something. The man laughed. The big man pulled something out of his pocket and showed it to him. The man made an ineffectual grab at it and the bigger man grabbed him by the arm, and then pulled him out of our sight.

My mother explained to us that the first man was “drunk” and that a policeman had arrested him. Wow! After listening to Gangbusters on the radio we finally got to see the police in action.

From Chicago we took another train to Toronto – all I remember is that it was supposed to be very fast – and yet another small train to a town near the St. Lawrence River (it wasn’t yet a Seaway). There a relative, Cousin Don, met us and took us to their home in Iroquois, a town later moved as part of the massive Seaway project.

We stayed with them and also stayed one night on the nearby dairy farm of another distant relative. There Cousin Olive showed us how to use the chamber pot if needed (they still only had an outhouse), which of course I had to try (for number one only) the next morning.

We two boys didn’t attend the actual funeral. We stayed for the afternoon with a nice lady who gave us the run of her house, which unfortunately led to another memory surrounding bodily functions. I’m still mortified all these years later that I opened the bathroom door and caught her sitting on the toilet. I closed the door and later apologized profusely (I was a polite kid) and recall that she was very nice about it. She didn’t have children and just wasn’t used to having to lock the door.

Back in Toronto, we rode a Canadian Pacific train all the way to Vancouver. I remember getting a shock from the neon-light handrail whenever we walked up the stairs in the Vista-Dome car. I asked my mother if I could buy a coke downstairs in the bar area. She told me to ask the price. The man behind the little counter had an accent and it sounded like he was saying “five ten cents.” I finally realized he was saying “fifteen cents.” My mother told me that was too expensive (pop was a nickel back then) so I didn’t get my coke.

From Vancouver we took the day-long ferry over to Victoria (no BC Ferries yet). I remember trying a pop machine (a nickel machine) that allowed you to mix the four varieties into a cup. I ended up with something undrinkable but drank it anyway. My parents trained us not to be wasteful, and I'm not surprised those machines aren't still around.

In Victoria, we stayed overnight on Halloween with old friends of my Canadian-born mother and went out trick-or-treating with just-purchased paper-mache Donald Duck masks and our raincoats. Weren’t we special! My mother’s friends had a coal furnace and gave us lumps of coal to take home with us – even back then there was show-and-tell in elementary schools and I later confirmed that real coal was a show-stopper in a California school.

From Victoria we traveled onward to Seattle. All I remember is Pike Place Market and eating for the first time in my life a hot dog with raw onions on it one rainy morning. That’s still one of my personal favorites, even though my better half makes (and prefers) cooked onions.

From there it was back down the coast to San Francisco, where my father picked us up at the train station.  That experience hooked me on travel, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Last year we finally took that long train trip on Amtrak that I’d been waiting to do ever since – Seattle to Sacramento to Chicago to New Orleans. Four consecutive nights on the train, no lamp chops with tassels, a claustrophobic upper bunk for me, and much bumpier road-beds than I recall in 1954.

I still loved it, and every time I see a passenger train I’m ready to jump aboard. Ah, memory lane, or in my case memory tracks.