Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

La Guardia airport terminal evacuated this morning

This morning, the central terminal at La Guardia airport was evacuated for nearly 5 hours after an apparently intoxicated man went into the airport with a bag full of batteries and wires that was apparently meant to look like a bomb. The man was acting “crazy” and police got several phone calls about his suspicious activity before he was taken into custody. The terminal was evacuated and the bomb squad was called in, but the “bomb” turned out to be a hoax device – just some wires taped to batteries, with no actual function. Many flights were canceled on multiple airlines due to the delays, even in the unaffected terminals, as traffic delays prevented flight crews from getting to the airport.

The suspect is in custody and normal airport operations have resumed, but delays can be expected to continue throughout the day as the airlines scramble to catch up. If you’re flying out today, be sure to check your flights before you head out to the airport.

USAirways Hero Pilot– Let’s Hear it for Sully’s Maturity and Experience

Yesterday's "Hero of the Hudson"The first thing that struck me when I saw the photo of Chesley Sullenberger of US Airways, the hero of yesterday’s “miracle on the Hudson”? I thought: this is a seasoned professional! In a society that values youth and tries to put older [higher-paid] employees into retirement, we should be happy that experience and maturity is obviously a valued asset at US Airways, at least for pilots. Sullenberger has been flying for 40 years, and got his training in the US Air Force. You might say he is a pilot of the “pld school”.

Ever since the deregulation of the aviation industry in 1978, airlines have been notorious cost-cutters, busting unions, and forcing employees – even pilots — to take pay cuts or early retirement. Let’s all be thankful that “Sully” was not a casualty of a cost-cutting guillotine. His cool demeanor [some passengers say he was the only one not panicking], and smooth landing were the products of his maturity and experience.

In short, let’s hear it for seasoned professionals! There are some jobs in which youth is not such an asset!null

Clubhouse Rules

The Princeton Clubhouse is looking for a new marketing person. I thought, “hmm, let me check them out.”

I had no idea when I clicked on the link that this was a clubhouse with squash courts and rooms for you to stay in. What exactly is a clubhouse? Upon seeing the different facilities and services offered, I was reminded of several Seinfeld episodes where Jerry and the gang go and play squash or tennis. So pretty much it’s like a fitness club except much snootier seeming.

Who goes to Clubhouses in a recession? But then I thought about it and realized that people still workout during a recession, so why not be members of clubhouses too? And then I thought about it further and realized clubhouses are frequented by those who aren’t hugely affected by a recession, and even if they are, they are so rich that it won’t really have an impact on their wallet. And that is a good thing because the Clubhouse will employ someone who is most likely not clubhouse attendance caliber, but still benefit.

The exclusivity and House Rules drew me further in and I found it extremely fun to read through their rules. Here’s a sampling, but go to the site if you want to read them all.

Effective September 1, 2008

  • Laptops and texting by cellular phone are permitted so long as they are silenced.
  • Business Meetings, which require obvious use and display of papers, are disruptive to other members and are not permitted. A quiet business conversation among two or three people is permissible. Club employees have been instructed to call attention to violations and to request that the member conform to the rules. Members who refuse to remedy a violation may be escorted from the Clubhouse.
  • No food or drink may be brought in from the outside for consumption inside the Clubhouse with the exception of members and guests consuming food or drink within their bedroom.
  • No food may be brought into any Club sponsored events/programs when food is not furnished for the particular event/program.
  • The Club’s address or telephone numbers may not be used on business related materials.
  • The addresses and telephone numbers of members may not be revealed except with member’s permission.
  • Working Press and members of the media are not permitted in the Clubhouse except by permission of management. Photography and audiovisual recordings of any kind are not permitted inside the Clubhouse except by permission of management.
  • Club employees are not to be sent out of the Clubhouse by a member.
  • Club management is empowered to enforce the House Rules on behalf of the House Committee.
  • Dining Policies

    Papers and documents should be handled and displayed discreetly in dining areas, subject to the discretion of management.

Greetings from Niagra Falls

It’s freezing cold here. It snowed on the entire ride from NYC to Niagra Falls and even while we were near the falls there was snow falling on top of us. It is absolutely the best time to visit Niagra if you’re from the city. A perfect winter break to remove your mind from holiday stresses like shopping, arranging holiday parties or unwillingly going to your work celebrations.

It’s also interesting to see how a (relatively) short trip into Canada changes everything as far as the way people interact. It’s mainly that they are nicer.

Free Bridges — Will They Be History?

It was always nice to have the option– pay for the Midtown Tunnel and get to the Village or Midtown faster, or battle with 59th Street Bridge or the BQE, and the crowded Williamsburg Bridge — but save the toll. Sometimes, it was six of one and half-a-dozen of the other, because you could burn so much gas on the BQE backup that you might as well have paid the tolland sometimes the choice was clear. But you had the choice!

Now, they want to put a toll on previously-free bridges, as an alternative to raising MTA fares. When I first heard, it seemed like a plan; we should be taking more mass-transit anyway! And of course, Bloomberg now has a platform to yell at us like naughty children — on the news, he said something like “See? I had the perfect solution — congestion pricing — and you didn’t want that” Okay, Uncle Mike — we get the point. So here’s another way we can stick it to the “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd.

But here’s what I want to know: let’s say they DO work out a method to collect tolls [since toll-booths are near-impossible, they are talking about a machine that will read your license plate, and bill the driver later — good luck!], how high do we have to raise the stakes before people WILL say “hmmm…..this is just like congestion-pricing after all. AND, congestion pricing wasn’t supposed to be in effect on the weekends anyway. Are they thinking of making the 59th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges free on weekends? My guess is “no”.

In other words, was it the intention all along to present options to the “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd [of which I am one, by the way] that turn out to be just as bad, or even worse for private cars, than congestion pricing? And how high can the stakes go, before car-dependent suburbanites will finally load their families onto commuter railroads for their day in the city? What is the tipping point when private drivers will leave the cars home?

The Brooklyn Bridge is now free, but would charge a toll under the new proposed plan

The Brooklyn Bridge is now free, but would charge a toll under the new proposed plan

Connecticut, the other upstate NY

Dive into Sherman

Dive into Sherman

I drove up to Sherman CT yesterday for an interview. Though the trip was an hour and a half by car – it takes the same amount of time for me to get to midtown from where I live on the outskirts of Queens right now.

But the benefit of driving an hour and a half is that you get to see the beautiful country that spreads across the upstate NY and CT area. Green lush trees fill the sides of the highways – all of them on the verge of shedding all their leaves – but not before putting on a brilliant fall display.

As if this was not enough, the closer I got to my destination, the road turned into 2-way lanes. Curving side by side, following a splendid lake being hit by the brilliant sunlight. I was in awe. It was truly incredible.

Just a few hours away from the middle of the busiest city in the world lies uninhibited, raw, natural beauty. Check it out if you can! The 3rd weekend in September would probably be the right time to see all the fall foliage.

Smoke on a plane

Yesterday I was on a flight out of JFK heading to Syracuse. All was well, I thought, as we boarded and taxied down the runway without incident. But upon takeoff, I smelled something funny, and looked up to see swirls of smoke beginning to fill the cabin. I didn’t freak out too much – I’ve flown probably half a million miles in the past 4 years so I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit – but a number of the passengers were alarmed. The captain turned the plane around and we landed back at JFK about 10 minutes after we took off. Shortest flight ever!

This news report says the plane was turned around due to an “unusual smell”, but believe me, folks, there was visible smoke all through the cabin. It wasn’t so bad that they had to deploy the oxygen masks, but it was visible. And smellable.

Apparently this is the second incident in a week of one of JetBlue’s Embraer jets returning to JFK due to smoke in the cabin or cockpit. I hope they figure out what’s causing it, because I sure as hell don’t want to fly in a smoking plane!

A Cool Escape, Naturally

This weekend I’m joining the throngs of New Yorkers who flee the city on summer weekends. While in general I think it’s a fine place to be anytime of year and I enjoy the mellowness of the summer city weekends, I’ll be heading up to my in-laws’ cabin in the Adirondacks. I’m hoping the mountains and woods might offer a little relief from the heat which the unfortunate air conditioning situation in our apartment does not.

The Adirondacks have become one of the most popular nature getaways for New Yorkers. Even though the Catskills and the Poconos are closer (and now cheaper), the Adirondacks has seemingly surpassed them in numbers of New York expatriates.

Car service ripoff

I travel a lot, and when I fly into LaGuardia I usually book a car service to pick me up rather than wait in the taxi lines, which can be quite long, especially in the evenings or when there is bad weather. I usually use LimoRes (formerly Crown Limo), despite the bad service I’ve had from them before, but after the last few trips in which they attempted to charge me a waiting charge when they shouldn’t have, I’m shopping for a new car service to use, or suggestions on how to avoid rip-offs from supposedly legitimate car service companies in New York City.

Last night, we arrived from Toronto on AA flight #1084. Originally scheduled to land at 7:15, we encountered a 2-hour delay both on the ground in YYZ and in the air circling over La Guardia. We did not land until 9:11 PM and I was out of the terminal and on the phone with LimoRes at 9:18 to inform them I was ready to be picked up. This is well within the 45-minute grace period for international flights that LimoRes publishes on its website, which states that they check the time of arrival with the airline and dispatch the cars accordingly. We entered the vehicle at 9:27 PM, still well within the grace period. However, upon arrival at my apartment at 9:45, still within the grace period and only 34 minutes after we landed, the driver presented me with my bill, with a $16 charge for 16 minutes of waiting time included. The problem? LimoRes told the driver that we arrived at 8:40 PM. (more…)

Mumbai is cleaner than NYC…in some places

If you compare the number of people that are homeless in NYC v. Mumbai, the latter wins by millions. If you compare the number of slums – like straight up slums with tin foil and cardboard for roofs, again, Mumbai is the winner. The same goes for the number of vehicles on the roads, the different types of pollution sources and the amount of public transportation available. Mumbai, if looked at from a straight up infrastructure and numbers basis, should be a thousand times dirtier than New York City.

But after landing at Sahara international airport on May 2nd this time around, I’ve found that Mumbai is much cleaner now than it ever was before. They have implemented several garbage cans along the roads for cleanups. I even saw a NYC-styled garbage truck which for some reason got me really happy and homesick for a brief second.

India’s cleaning up everywhere. Mumbai seems to be one of the primary cities taking this initiative personally. There are several hundreds of billboards around the city reminding Mumbaikers to keep their city clean. I actually partook in one of these projects today. My friend has a graphic design studio here and she uses old CD-Roms to write anti-littering campaigns. Then she sticks them on the back of rickshaw drivers’ seats so that each rider can have the message delivered. I posted one of these today. It was awesome.

Mumbai’s done an excellent job in cleaning up and the smell that I once associated with this heavily populated city is also leaving slowly. It seems as though it’s time to move here, but then again real estate in Mumbai is the 5th most expensive in the world.

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