May 24, 2003

Flying – Pricing Up -

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:29 pm

Flying – Pricing Up – Paring Down.

The big news stories about the state of the airline industry are impossible to miss. These include the regular news items about heightened security, its cost and the inevitable inconvenience to travelers. The other big story is the general reduction in air travel and resultant revenues, which are driving some carriers into bankruptcy.

Having recently flown between Newark and Fort Myers, Florida on Continental Airlines I noticed some of the small changes that aren’t big news stories, but they are certainly noticeable to travelers. Here are a few examples:

Food.
Three years ago, on a morning flight between Florida and Newark, the airline served each passenger a hot breakfast, with a choice of pancakes or eggs with bacon or sausage. It also came with a piece of fruit, and, as I recall, a muffin of some sort. Last year, the breakfast consisted of a box of dry cereal, a container of milk, and a banana. This year, “breakfast” consisted of a muffin that was approximately one and one-half times the size of a golf ball. That was it.

One might say, who cares? After all, people don’t fly to eat; they fly to get someplace. However, I imagine that the reduction in food service will result in travelers eating more before they board the plane, spending many of their travel dollars in the pricey airport eateries. I suppose it could also result in passengers bringing food aboard the aircraft. Imagine what a treat it would be to be stuck in the middle seat between two people eating greasy, drippy sandwiches brought from home. Seems kinda third-world to me.

Pillows and Blankets.
Last year, each seat came with one of each. This year, a few were placed randomly on seats. If you wanted a blanket or pillow and you happened to be assigned to one of “pillowed and blanketed” seats, you’d be a winner. Otherwise, as they say in Russia, “Tough shitsky.”

Newspapers and Magazines.
In prior years, the flight attendants offered both, and there always seemed to be enough to go around. This year, if you didn’t bring something aboard to read (I did), you could enjoy the Continental Airlines Magazine, with interesting articles about things like springtime in Bora Bora. Oh yeah, each person also had access to the “Shop from the Plane” catalog. Does anyone ever buy anything from that thing?

So, my advice is BYOB (bring your own book).

Booze.
For me, a cocktail on the plane is a must, particularly since September 11th. Two years ago, drinks were $3.00. Last year, they were $4.00, and for the price the traveler received one of those little bottles of booze, a short glass filled with ice, and an entire can of mixer. This worked out well, because by pouring half the liquor over the ice and then filling the short glass with a portion of the mixer, there was enough of each to make two drinks.

Now, the price is $5.00 (a 25% increase) and, for that, one receives the little bottle of liquor and the short glass already three quarters filled with mixer. Adding the entire contents of the liquor bottle to the glass makes for one stiff drink. I suppose that if I would have asked for the whole can of mixer, I would have gotten it, but I didn’t ask (stiff drinks happen to work fine for me). I will, however, ask next time.

The complimentary soft drinks are still complimentary. I wonder if that will be the case next year.

Space.
Clearly, the airlines are constantly rearranging their flights so as to minimize the number of flights that are not filled to capacity. Two years ago, there were several available flights, and the one we chose ended up being than half full. Last year the flight that was booked six months in advance was canceled, thereby ensuring that the flight between Newark and Fort Myers to which we were assigned was filled to capacity. This year it was the same. I was notified approximately a month ago that the flight that I had booked eight months earlier was being changed to a different time, and again, the plane was filled to capacity.

Ever fly any distance in the center seat? ‘Nuf said.

Obviously the loss of these amenities is not earthshaking, and if the money saved by serving me a mini-muffin instead of eggs is paying for increased security, I’m fine with it. Having said that, if in the future, you find yourself cold, in need of a pillow, hungry and smooshed between two fat guys eating garlic sandwiches they brought from home, you can thank the terrorist shitheels who made it all possible.

Oh, by the way, there still is no charge for using the john. Next year, I’m bringing quarters – just in case.

May 23, 2003

Back Home Again. Just returned

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 11:49 pm

Back Home Again.
Just returned from a week in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The only thing more beautiful than the weather there was the unfailingly pleasant disposition of the people who live and work in the area. Not surprisingly, leaving Southwest Florida and arriving in New Jersey (at the beautiful Newark Airport), with temperatures in the low fifties, drizzle, surly residents, and lunatic drivers has me somewhat bent out of shape at the moment. I will probably have a bit more to say this weekend about the trip, but for now, I think I’ll catch up on what others have been writing about while I was away.

May 16, 2003

I will be taking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:09 am

I will be taking a bit of badly needed R&R. In the meantime, please enjoy the stuff written by the terrific bloggers who appear on the left side of the screen. Also have a go at the archives, if the friggin’ things are working.

I’ll see you on or about the 23rd of May.

The Smoking Ban – The

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 12:32 am

The Smoking Ban – The Californication of New York City.
I received this e-mail from a reader in San Jose, California who describes how things went when that state banned smoking in restaurants and saloons a decade or so ago.

We went through that [the smoking ban] out here in California 10 or 15 years ago. And yes, business at restaurants dropped off 20-50% initially. Smokers would come into a restaurant and threaten to beat the manager up. Of course some people came in, ate their meals, lit up, and when admonished, used it as an excuse to leave without paying.

And we went through a period of time when people went through all kinds of expense to set up private smoking rooms, etc. to bypass the laws.

To be honest, I had little sympathy. I smoke a pipe, and I had been non-legislatively banned from smoking it in public smoking areas at least 5-10 years before that.

Business in most restaurants and bars returned to normal within 3 to 9 months. A restaurant or bar which did not have a place outside where their customers could smoke in a somewhat sheltered space remained in trouble. Many of them defied the law for years. Many went out of business, or moved.

But some of them used the law to force their landlords and or their cities to allow them to have a couple of cafe tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk in front. Two small tables, four small chairs and two umbrellas, plus an unwritten law that says 1) smokers have priority, and 2) nobody is allowed to monopolize them. If the sidewalk is wide enough, they can even put a railing up and the smokers can bring their drinks out with them.

After these years have gone by, the most lasting result, other than the ban itself, is that anyone looking to open a restaurant or bar will insist on sheltered patio space, even if it is just an awning, some gas heaters, and space.

This is a very big plus to me. Pre smoking ban, the cost of a patio space compared to enclosed space was such that more and more places didn’t bother to serve on patios anymore (San Jose, CA BTW). Patio dining was one of the pluses of California living, and it was going away, because it cost 5-15% more (extra bussers, extra cleanup (to prevent insect swarms around spills), outdoor heaters, canopies, umbrellas, just general extra.

Today, patio dining is back. Hooray! Because of the smoking ban.

Of course, given there is at least one city trying to ban even outdoor smoking, it may go away again.

Patio dining in California can be a twelve-month affair, but it won’t be a big hit in New York City in January, methinks.

Some of the local saloons on the boundaries of New York City are being particularly hard hit by the no-smoking law. They are losing many of their customers to the bars across the street. This is because the street marks the boundary between New York City and Yonkers, a city without a smoking ban.

This all seems nuts to me, and it could not have come at a worse time for New York City, which has had to cut services to the bone and lay off thousands of municipal workers due to crippling deficits. However, I really should not be surprised by New York’s beautiful people backing a dumb idea. After all, they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary.

Christopher Hitchens, a damned fine Brit who enjoys a cocktail and a smoke, has written an interesting article on the New York City smoking ban. via My So-Called Blog.

In Northern Jersey, smoking is generally not allowed in a great many, if not most, of the better restaurants. However, this is not mandated by law, but rather is a choice made by individual restaurant owners, which presumably is dictated by the economics of it all. That’s the way it should be. Restaurant patrons in Jersey have become accustomed to either not smoking or stepping outside for a smoke — even in January. I think it is fair to say that most smokers do not have a huge problem with no-smoking restaurants. No-smoking bars are another story. I do not know of any no-smoking bars in New Jersey. Again, this has nothing to do with law, but everything to do with the free-market. That’s the way it should be.

Got a light?

May 14, 2003

Badgers in the News. Venomous

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:50 pm

Badgers in the News.
Venomous Kate reports on the badger that seriously injured several people in England. I’m really not surprised.

Badgers can be serious ass-kicking animals and really should not be kept as pets. The “terrorist badger” in the story linked to by Kate was “hand-reared and hand-fed.”

Badger fur makes the best shaving brushes. I have had one for more years than I care to think about. It is indestructible.

Read all about badgers here.

Badgers make me think of dachshunds. That is because dachshunds were originally bred to hunt badgers. In German, the word dachshund means “badger dog” (Dachs = badger and Hund = dog). The dachshund’s long, slender body, short powerful legs, strong jaws, and stubborn refusal to let go once it gets a grip on something makes the breed well-suited to go after badgers in their setts (the underground multi-entrance holes where badgers live) and drag them out.

I once played tug-of-war with a dachshund using an old sock. His grip was so tight on the sock that I could lift him off the ground. And, once off the ground, he still did not give up the sock. Rather, he thrashed back and forth and bounced his body up and down in mid-air, trying to get the sock from my hand. Here we say that a stubborn person is “as stubborn as a mule.” In Germany, one is as “stubborn as a Dachshund.”

O.K. I’m done now. There will not be a quiz.

May 13, 2003

New York’s Smoking Ban

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:36 pm

New York’s Smoking Ban Redux
Even though New York City’s ban on smoking in saloons has kicked in, there is still plenty of fire. Recently, the New York Post published the results of a survey showing that many establishments are reporting losses as a result of the ban, some as much as fifty percent. Acidman has posted in this issue here and here, as has Ravenwood, and Hanlonvision. I stuck my finger in the pie a while back, and this seems like a pretty good time to drag that post from the archives.

The Smoking Lamp is lit in the house by the Parkway. Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.

May 12, 2003

Back Scratch, Anyone? File

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:09 pm

Back Scratch, Anyone?
File this one under “Huh?” It is a site devoted to the admiration of men with long fingernails. It has lots of pictures, video clips and even a message board!

Wait!! This just in!! There are five new pictures of “Jay,” and eight new pictures of “Sebastian.” So, get moving, already.
via The Ultimate Insult

Punch a Clown – You’ll

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:40 pm

Punch a Clown – You’ll Feel Better.
As I have said before, I hate clowns. For those who are like-minded, this site is a must.

via The Presurfer

May 11, 2003

Well said, Mate. Please read

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 12:57 pm

Well said, Mate.
Please read Tony Parsons’ piece, entitled French Dissing in the U.S.A. (You may have to scroll up from the comments section), as posted on May 8, 2003 in A Little More to the Right. Mr. Parsons is a popular British columnist and author. His British perspective on American attitudes should be required reading for Europeans. Link via Acidman.

May 10, 2003

Military Wisdom/Common Sense Rules

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:00 pm

Military Wisdom/Common Sense Rules

A colleague sent this to me via e-mail. I have not verified the accuracy of the quotes or their attribution. Whether true or not, they are funny.

1. “Sometimes I think war is God’s way of teaching us geography.” (Paul Rodriguez)

2. “A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular in what’s left of your unit” – (Army’s Magazine of Preventive Maintenance).

3. “Aim towards the Enemy” – (Instruction printed on US Rocket Launcher) [I know that this legend appears on the business-side of a Claymore Mine – J]

4. “When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.” (U.S. MarineCorps)

5. “Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs always hit the ground.” (U.S. Air Force)

6. “If the enemy is in range, so are you.” (Infantry Journal)

7. “It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.” (U.S. Air Force Manual)

8. “Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” (Gen. MacArthur)

9. “Try to look unimportant; they may be low on ammo.” (Infantry Journal)

10. “You, you, and you . . . Panic. The rest of you, come with me. (U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.)

11. “Tracers work both ways.” (U.S. Army Ordnance Manual)

12. “Five second fuses only last three seconds.” (Infantry Journal.)

13. “Don’t ever be the first, don’t ever be the last, and don’t ever volunteer to do anything.” (U. S Navy Swabbie)

14. “Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.” (David Hackworth)

15. “If your attack is going too well, you have walked into an ambush.” (Infantry Journal)

16. “No combat ready unit has ever passed inspection.” (Joe Gay)

17. “Any ship can be a minesweeper … .. . once.” (Admiral Hornblower)

18. “Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do.” (Unknown Marine Recruit)

19. “Don’t draw fire; it irritates the people around you.” (Your Buddies.)

20. “Mines are equal opportunity weapons.” (Saddam Hussein)

21. “If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission
properly.” (David Hackworth)

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