March 12, 2007
How to Secure a Flight...

Here's a handy How-To for any of my faithful readers who have ever wondered how best to book a flight using frequent flier miles.

How to Secure a Flight Using Frequent Flier Miles in Twenty-Seven Easy Steps

Step 1: fly so often on a given airline that you rack up a couple hundred thousand frequent flier miles. Or, get a credit card that rewards you with frequent flier miles, spend lots of money on it, and see where that gets you. Both methods are equally problematic.

Step 2: use the website of your airline-of-choice and pick "redeem miles". For the sake of this handy guide, I used American ("Come sit on the friendly tarmac with us.") Airlines, but I'm sure most airlines are equally problematic. Enter your Frequent Flier number and password. You do have these handy, don't you?

Step 3: Enter the desired dates of your trip out and back.

Step 4: The dates you have selected are not available for 25,000 miles. Nor are any other dates that could possibly work for you, and your travel plans are pretty flexible. So, select the "Anytime miles" level of 50,000 miles.

Step 5: Now the dates you desire are available. Select them and click continue.

Step 6: You see a list of available flights. Begin making your selections.

Step 7: Your phone rings. It is a client/customer/co-worker/family member. Answer it.

Step 8: Conclude your phone call. Resume making your flight selections. Click continue.

Step 9: You see a message that says, "Your session has timed out. Please start over again." Or words to that affect.

Step 10: Repeat steps 3 through 9.

Step 11: Twice.

Step 12: Repeat steps 3 through 6. When phone rings again, ignore it.

Step 13: After choosing your flight preferences, click Continue.

Step 14: One of the flights you chose six seconds ago is no longer available. Go back to choosing your dates, extra miles level, and select new flights. Click continue.

Step 15: Congratulations. You've selected a flight that hasn't overbooked yet. But you're being charged $110. Ten dollars is for converting your miles. The other hundred dollars is because you are booking a flight that takes place soon.

Step 16: Utter profanities. Then get out your credit card and enter payment information.

Step 17: Click OK, even though it isn't and you aren't.

Step 18: The evening before your flight, go back to the site to print up your boarding pass.

Step 19: Your flight information cannot be retrieved, but a message tells you to call customer service at their toll free number. Call.

Step 20: Navigate your way through their automated touchtone maze. Get hung up on by their system.

Step 21: Twice.

Step 22: Call again. After a few minutes, get through to a person. Tell them your story.

Step 23: The first flight in your trip has been cancelled. Because of bad weather? No. Because they don't have a full crew for that flight. But, hey, they can book you on a flight a few days later.

Step 24: Inform the helpful agent that a few days later is not going to work for you. Why she tries to find alternatives for your originally scheduled flight, ask: if nothing suitable can be found, and you have to arrange to fly a few weeks later (your next available opportunity), can you get your mileage back in the meantime and get reimbursed for the fees you paid to redeem your miles?

Step 25: According to the rules, you cannot get your fees back, even if the airline doesn't provide you with what you were paying for (which was, in essence, a ticket within a short time window). Ah, but that's okay, the friendly agent found you an alternative outbound flight (on a different airline).

Step 26: At the appointed time, go to the airport. Since you are not flying on the airline that lists you as a frequent flier, you are now once again eligible for random heavy-duty screening at the security line.

Step 27: Be randomly selected for heavy-duty screening at the security line. Try to act like you are not offended by the way the search is conducted, even though you know and everyone else knows that this kind of search is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and wouldn't even prevent the kind of attacks that brought about this random heavy-duty screening in the first place.

Congratulations, you're now on your way. You have secured a flight using your frequent flier miles.

It may take you a few more or a few fewer steps than twenty-seven. After all, your mileage may vary.

Posted by at 12:43 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (2)
 March 13, 2007
Northeast, Northwest

Having spent most of my adult life alternating between the East and West Coasts, and having recently spent a very quick (alas, too quick to be able to catch up with dear friends of mine who live there) trip to my old stomping grounds on the other side of the country, I thought I'd share a few thoughts with regard to the East Coast versus the West Coast.

Northeast: lots of old buildings, some several hundred years old.
Northwest: an old building is more than twenty-years old.

Northeast: In the allegedly suburban areas, the streets are narrow, and the buildings are packed tightly together. Traffic is awful.
Northwest: In the suburban areas, the roads are wide, and the buildings are spaced out more. Traffic is awful.

Northeast: Drivers will deliberately veer into your lane, or accellerate, or decellerate, just to prevent you from executing the turn that you signaled, to the point of intentionally running you off the road and killing you.
Northwest: Drivers will inadvertantly veer into your lane, or accellerate, or decellerate, thereby accidentally running you off the road and killing you.

Northeast: Streets wander around aimlessly, street signs are often lacking, and any given town is likely to have fifteen streets with exactly the same name (such as "Spring St." in Boston).
Northwest: Streets are aligned to a grid, street signs are everywhere, and any given town is likely to have fifteen streets with confusingly similar names (such as "NE 90th St", "NE 90th Way", "NE 90th Ct", "90th Way NE", "90th St NE", and "90th Ct NE" in Redmond).

Northeast: In the winter, the trees all look dead. In the fall, everyone acts as though the Northeast is the only place that leaves change color.
Northwest: In the winter, the trees are all lush and green. Then again, they are lush and green all year long. They are evergreens. Except in the fall, when they change color.

Northeast: Chinese food.
Northwest: Thai cuisine.

Northeast: Dunkin Donuts
Northwest: Starbucks

Northeast: The "Big Dig" was a fiasco.
Northwest: Hey! Let's submerge the Viaduct on Seattle's waterfront!

Northeast: Snow. Cold snaps.
Northwest: Wind storms. Earthquakes.

Northeast: During non-peak travel times, the typical flow of traffic on the highways (where the posted speed limit is 60 mph) is approx. 80 miles per hour.
Northwest: During non-peak travel times, the typical flow of traffic on the highways (where the posted speed limit is 60 mph) is approx. 55 miles per hour.

Northeast: They still haven't learned that highway on-ramps are for accellerating and merging.
Northwest: They still haven't learned that green lights mean, "Go."

Am I missing any?

Posted by at 12:47 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (0)
 March 29, 2007
...Could be raining...

[Scene from the movie Young Frankenstein: Dr. Frankenstein and Igor are exhuming a dead criminal]

Dr. Frankenstein: What a filthy job.
Igor: Could be worse.
Dr. Frankenstein: How?
Igor: Could be raining.
[it starts to pour]

This past Monday, my faithful laptop "iCarumba" blew itself out. Luckily, the hard drive survived, but the computer was left otherwise completely toast. I've been planning for months to buy its replacement, knowing that the end was near, but I kept delaying. I got almost exactly four years and one month out of that piece of equipment; the longest I've ever kept any one machine as my primary computer. I'd say, "it shall be missed," but that would be a lie. It was underpowered from the day I bought it, but I was too cheap to get the machine I really wanted and too cheap to buy its replacement before it finally forced my hand.

So when that little piece of hardware shrugged off its mortal casing, I ordered its replacement and had it the next day. When I haven't been tugged hither and yon at work or by the kids, I've been spending my time migrating my expletive from the old machine to the new one, and learning my way around the new 'un. It needs a name. Since it runs both Mac OS and Windows, I've been thinking of calling it's respective incarnations "Jekyll" and "Hyde", but which would be which?

This week also struck me with another bout of vertigo. Ah, nostalgia. The first time I encountered this kind of inner ear imbalance problem, I was a grad student at University of Effing Pennsylvania. I've been struck by it several times since then. I don't get sick often, but every once in a while, this ton of bricks lands on my head. Symptoms: if I move my head in relation to the ground, I feel like I've been whacked in the back of the head, I get dizzy, a sudden headache grabs my brain, and occasionally I even feel a little nauseated. In short, it's just like grad school, only all at once instead of being spread out over several semesters.

As we are nearing the end of March, my database clients all have much work they want me to do (very lucrative) and my other business (not yet lucrative at all) has enough orders on the books that, if I were to put in the effort to fill them all, we could close the quarter in a strong position. But demands at home and sleep deprivation and this vertigo thing and my computer... well, today was finally the day I gave up on the hope of having a record quarter.

Alexander cried tonight (I'm composing this on Thursday night/Friday morning) because I wouldn't play Crazy 8's with him after he hit his brother during their nighttime routine. It bums me out when Alex cries, but the idea is for *me* to manipulate *his* behavior, not the other way around. Besides, he needs to understand that hitting his brother is a bad idea. Nolan is very clearly going to grow up bigger than Alex, and paybacks can be a bitch.

Yet for all the deadlines, physical discomfort, and mechanical inconveniences of the week, I approach my 39th anniversary on this planet with my morale intact and a quiet sense of optimism. Sure, I may be fat. And my hair (what's left of it) may be turning from blond to brown -- thereby calling into question the real cause of my vertigo. But I'm doing okay.

After all, it could be worse....

--Allan (in Seattle. Where it never rains.)

Posted by at 11:50 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (2)

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