Tuesday, September 30, 2008

San Francisco, CA September 2008: Electronically robbed

So I went out to lunch today and tried to use my bankcard. It was declined. Annoyed, I gave the guy another card which workd fine.

Once I got back to work, I checked my account and sure enough there were two charges which I had not made. They were made in Florida at two separate Walmarts forty-five minutes apart. The stores are located 3.2 miles from each other. Total charges were over $400!

I called up my bank and they will credit me the amount and investigate what happened. I am thinking that the only time this could have happened was when I gave my card out for a meal at a local restaurant Friday night after arriving in San Francisco, CA. I did also use the card for cash that same night, so it is possible that there was a little device in the card reader at the bank.

This is quite disturbing to say the least!

Monday, September 29, 2008

San Francisco, CA September 2008: San Francisco International, San Francisco CA (SFO) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

CO1444 29SEP08 San Francisco International, San Francisco CA (SFO) to Houston Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) 8:05a 1:48p 739 N??419

Flight Time: 3:20
Seat Map

The jetway was still backed up so it took a few minutes to make it onto the airplane. I greeted the flight attendant who greeted me back, then I continued through the twenty leather seats configured in a 2-2 configuration. Finally, I made my way to the Economy class cabin which is configured in a 3-3 configuration with an extra lavatory just behind First class.

The doors closed at 8:04a and three minutes later, we pushed back as the flight attendants did the manual safety demo. This aircraft is not yet equipped with any entertainment system, so there are no screens. It does have power ports at every seat in First class and two to every row of three seats in Economy class, but they are not yet powered up.

As we taxied out, the Captain advised the flight attendants to take their seats at 8:12a and three minutes later, we commenced our takeoff roll, climbing into the foggy morning skies.

After takeoff, the lead flight attendant advised that alcoholic beverages were 5 USD, other beverages were complimentary and that we would have breakfast on our way to Houston this morning. No mention was made of any entertainment or lack there of. I did check below my seat and felt the electrical plugs, but did not bother to try them as I figured they would not be working either. I did see the little sticker similar to what I'd seen on the other airplane on the bulkhead in front of me.

The position of this seat is actually crappy, as people stand there waiting for the bathroom which is actually right across from that seat. The legroom is fantastic though! Also, when the flight attendants go from the first class cabin to Economy, invariably they bump your shoulder as you go by. So do other people waiting for the lavatory.

It was 8:35a when the beverage service arrived. I had some apple juice as well as some hot water so I could have my lemon and ginger tea. In a few minutes, breakfast arrived. It consisted of a banana, a muffin, milk and cornflakes.

I had taken out my computer and started to sort out some of the pictures I had taken all weekend. I had to close it to eat as there is not much room to accommodate it and the meal. At that point the guy next to me said hello and we started a very lively conversation. He was actually quite the traveler and had been to about 35 countries. I applauded him, he was equally impressed at my 82.

A second drink service commenced at 9:24a; I declined as I'd had enough to drink at this point. I started watching one of the TV shows I'd downloaded from the BBC and actually fell asleep about 15 minutes into it. I was really tired having gotten up at 4:40a.

I did hear the Captain say that it was now 83F and sunny and that we were starting our descent and he anticipated an ontime arrival at 1:48p. I was soon awoken to get ready for landing, then I went right back to sleep.

San Francisco, CA September 2008: Departing San Francisco International, San Francisco, CA (SFO) for Houston, TX

San Francisco International, San Francisco CA (SFO)

I "detrained" [is that a word, like deplaned?] and then took the airport train to Terminal 1 where I alighted and headed to the Presidents Club.

I hate taking BART as the process is so much longer than the bus. the KX only takes about twenty minutes and I get dropped off right outside my terminal. it is also cheaper at $4.00 as opposed to $5.35 on the train.

I checked in at the club and had a breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese, a banana and some juice. I took some time to check e-mail and the status of my flight. Doesn't look too god, but will see.

At about 7:05a, I headed to the gate; the line at security was building, but it did not take too long to clear it. At the gate, I waited until about 7:45a, at which point I got a seat. I went around to the gate and boarded when it was my turn, which happened to be the last group as I was seated jus tbehind the First class cabin.

San Francisco, CA September 2008: Leaving downtown San Francisco

29SEP08 San Francisco, CA

My phone rang at 4:40a, it was my friend who was in the city for the weekend telling me that he had arrived in Newark and was on his way to Atlanta, GA. I groggyily acknowledged him and advised that I was sitll sleeping as my flight was at 8:05a; he thought it was at 6:00a. Grrrr.

I went back to sleep and awoke at 5:00a when the alarm clock on my phone went off. I got ready and was out of there by 5:35a. I made it to the platofrm at 5:45a, missing the 5:44a train to the airport. I had considered taking the KX, but they don't run too often at this hour and I did not feel like waiting in the dark at that

bus stop. Also, I had no change and when I asked the hotel guy, he had none either.

At 5:59a, a 9-car train showed up and I boarded along with other airport bound passengers. It was 6:30a, when the train pulled into the station at the airport.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

San Francisco, CA September 2008: The Maltese Falcon

I just saw Tom Perkin's boat called the Maltese Falcon. It was out in the San Francisco Bay with many other boats enjoying a sail on this picture perfect day.

If you read the book Valley Boy, you will learn all about this boat.

Here is a story about why it is here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

San Francisco, CA September 2008: Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to San Francisco, CA (SFO)

CO307 26SEP08 Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH) to San Francisco International, San Francisco CA (SFO) 5:50p 8:09p 739ER N??421

Flight Time: 3:43
Seat Map

It was slow boarding as passengers tried to find space for their bags. With such a large aircraft I found it strange that it was taking so long to accomplish this task. But apparently people take a lot of crap on board.

I found my row, just after finding a place for my bag in the overhead compartment. I was at the window and had to ask the guy and the young girl next to me to let me in. Apparently, my standing there and pointing to my seat was not enough. The guy commented that I was late; I told him it happens and tomorrow will be his time, taking my seat in the process.

It was not until I sat down that I realized that this was a Boeing 737-900ER. It has five rows of 2-2 leather seating in First class with a lavatory separating the Economy cabin with its 3-3 cloth seat configuration.

I settled in after a few seat changes and ended up with a window with the middle seat empty; yes, more room for this almost 3 hours flight.

It was 5:49p, when we pushed back at which time the flights did the manual demo as this aircraft is not yet equipped with any entertainment system. we then started our taxi out to the runway.

At 6:01p, we had made it to the runway and the left engine was started. Once that was accomplished, we made our way to runway 33L/15R, took our position behind an Embrear ERJ-145 from Continental Express and took to the air at 6:05p after the Captain telling the flight attendants to take their seats two minutes earlier.

After takeoff, the lead flight attendant welcomed us onboard and advises that there would be a beverage and meal service. There was no mention of the lack of entertainment on this aircraft.

I eagerly tried the power outlet, but was disappointed as it had no power at all. My battery life said 3:34 so at least I had some juice in it. Before closing, she re-iterated that the flying time was 3:43 and that we should sit back and relax and enjoy the flight to San Francisco.

The flight attendants passed and headed to the front of the plae with the beverage cart at about 6:35p.

At 6:31p, the captain welcomed us at 34,000' advising us that although he had turned off the seatbelt signs, we should keep our seatbelts fastened when seated. He re-iterated the 3:43 flying time and advised that we would be 20 minutes early arriving at 7:50p. He also advised us to re-set our watch as it was 4:33p in San Francisco at this time. The weather in San Fran was the winds were 20 mph and the temperature is 68F with scattered clouds. He added that he would update us later of our arrival as we neared the airport; concluding with "once again, welcome on board."

The meals came through and I spotted pizza, which is not really my favorite on planes, but we will see.

At 6:47p, the Stefano steak & cheese hot pizza arrived with a salad plus pepper cream dressing and a KitKat milk wafer bar.

By now the drink cart had caught up and I ordered some ginger ale as well as some water. The couple sitting aisle across in my row, held each other's hands and prayed before the meal.

The pizza was surprisingly good and I ended up having it all. I just did not have the KitKat bar. Thrash pickup followed shortly after at 7:08p.

I had to use the lavatory and noticed that they had really nice LEDs. Once I closed the door, they are supposed to brighten but they did not. When I was done, I asked one of the flight attendants what happened and she advised me that the lights were not working as they should.

As there was no entertainment, I started to watch a film had downloaded from the BBC this past weekend. A second drink service came when I was about 1/2 way through the program called "The Real Hustle."

It was 7:58p, when the seatbelt signs came on as the Captain said that we are approaching some choppy air. I felt asleep soon after.

At 9:25p (Houston time), the Captain came on the PA and said that we were 15 minutes from touchdown; he also noted that it was 57F; wow, that's cold! The flight attendants came through the cabin and collect the trash soon after the announcement.

The final descent started at 9:35p; we then had to prepare the cabin for landing. Welcome to San Fran says the flight attendant making the address.

San Francisco, CA September 2008: Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

Houston-Intercontinental, Houston TX (IAH)

We arrived at Terminal C at 5:25p. I hurried inside, cleared security as there was literally no one around, checked the board to ensure that my gate had not changed, then headed towards gate C34. My other colleagues took another entrance and headed for Terminal B.

I made a quick stop in the Presidents Club, had a beverage, saying hello to the bartender who used to work in Terminal E's Club then had some crackers and cheese and then looked for a newspaper. There were none, so I headed out to the gate.

I got to the gate at 5:35p, collected my boarding pass for a window seat and boarded right away as there was no one else around.

San Francisco, CA September 2008: Downtown Houston, TX

There was not much traffic leaving the city, but as we got onto the HOV lane on US59, the traffic started to build on the regular road. I was glad that we had taken the HOV lane today.

We got to the parking facility and I advised the lady that I was running late, but still we had to wait about 10 minutes for a shuttle. Once it came, it took us directly to Terminal C. As I did not know from which gate I was departing, we called Continental. It was funny as since the bus was noisy, the automated system had a bit of trouble. Eventually, one of my colleagues got through just as I did and advised it was C34.

San Francisco, CA September 2008

This weekend I'm heading out to San Francisco to hang with some friends for an extended weekend. I've been meaning

to do this and finally I am. This is a simple trip, straight out there and back, nothing extra. Let's hope it all hold out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hurricane Ike: Comcast

So, I saw the story below talking about how Comcast is giving us credit as we had no power, hence no cable, hence no Internet. But there is always a catch! The bastards wants us to call to get credit, when in the same story they said they could tell whether or not we were using the service or not.

The injustice!


Comcast counts lack of power

Customers to get credit for outages due to electricity

By BRAD HEM Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Sept. 24, 2008, 10:32PM

Comcast will credit customers for the time they were unable to access their service, even if it was simply because they were without power, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"They were still without service," spokesman Ray Purser said. "We're going to credit them for that time."

It is a departure from its usual policy, which is not to credit customers if an outage is strictly caused by lack of electricity, Purser said.

The scope of problems caused by Hurricane Ike prompted the company to take a different approach.

AT&T spokesman Dan Feldstein said U-verse television customers also will be credited for time they lost service because of a power outage. Time Warner Cable, which serves areas east of Houston such as Beaumont, is giving customers a blanket credit from Sept. 12 until service is restored in those communities, spokesman Gary Underwood said.

Incorrect information

After announcing its credit offer Tuesday morning, Comcast received 50,000 calls during the day from customers, Purser said. The company has about 750,000 subscribers in the Houston area.

However, some reported they had problems getting through or were told incorrectly a credit wasn't forthcoming.

Spring resident Nancy Thornton said she was told she'd have to foot the whole bill even though she was without power for nine days.

Purser attributed any confusion to workers in the Comcast call center not knowing the policy by the time inquiries started coming in.

"It's probably just a symptom of miscommunication," he said. "We're working at a rapid pace. Maybe the call center was not ready to handle the calls."

Taking their word for it

To get the credit, customers must call 800-COMCAST and ask for it. For the most part, the company will take customers at their word for time without electricity, Purser said. However, the company can monitor when power becomes available at its nodes — vital boxes that serve whole neighborhoods — and Internet traffic by area, he said.

"More than likely, we believe the customer is going to be truthful," he said.

Credits would show up on the next 28-day billing cycle.

75 percent restored

By Wednesday afternoon, Comcast had restored service to 75 percent of its customers, though some of them may not know it because they are still without power, Purser said.

"We still have a number of nodes that are down," Purser said. "That is still an issue for us."

Comcast has posted maps of its nodes through its Web site, www.comcast.com, to let customers see where the outages are near their homes. But the maps are fairly small, and customers have complained on some online comment threads that they can't tell which node applies to them.

Spokesman Michael Bybee said Comcast wants to provide as much information to customers as possible and is considering adding detail to the maps.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

London August 2008: Departing London-Heathrow International for Houston Intercontinental. Houston, TX (IAH)

21SEP08 London-Heathrow International, London England (LHR)

I made it to Heathrow at 9:32a, plenty of time to check-in.

I made my way to the Check-in area and was surprised how sparse it was. The entire terminal was actually not very crowded. I think one of the reasons was that the flight loads are not too bad as well as the fact that British Airways (BA) has moved more of its flights to Terminal 5.

I got checked in, cleared the almost non-existent security lines and headed for the Holideck. I tooled around a bit, grabbed some breakfast and watched planes take off. I saw a British Airways (BA) Boeing 747-400, Jet Airways' Boeing 777-300ER as well as a few British Airways Boeing 777s.

I did notice that the BA 777 that crashed landed is now devoid of the BA logo as it still sits across from the take off runway.

My flight is delayed as it arrived late so at 10:50a, it still shows Will board at gate 2. I will head over there soon though.

London August 2008: Leaving Maidstone, England for London

21SEP08 Maidstone, England

It was 6:00a when my friend’s alarm went off and he got up. Fifteen minutes later my alarm went off and I awoke fully and got ready. We left the flat at 7:00a sharp and headed for the station. The plan was to take the 7:11a train to London Bridge station.

It was rather chilly out and all of the streets were devoid of cars and people except us. A silent mist hung low over the nearby canal as we made our way to the station arriving at 7:08a

We bade our goodbyes, then I made my way onto the platform. I noticed that the sign was saying the next train was at 7:30a to Victoria and it was delayed until 7:38a, Odd, I thought. I found an agent and he said that the first train was at 7:30a and they were hourly in the morning to Victoria and that there was no 7:11a. I was a bit bothered as I knew that I printed the schedule for today and it indicated a 7:11a train arriving at 8:12a in London Bridge. Oh well.

I used the kiosk to purchase a single ticket into the city, noting that a return ticket just cost 10p more. What a deal. I also found a return ticket for the next stop in the machine so I gave it to the agent. In a few minutes I heard him make an announcement and a lady came forward and claimed it.

It was 7:37a when the train arrived and we all got on board. By now the platform was quite crowded for a Sunday I thought.

Although the train was a few minutes late, we only arrived in Victoria two minutes behind schedule at 8:34a. I made my way to the District and Circle lines as the Victoria line was still down. The plan was to still take the Piccadilly Line to the airport.

A District Line train soon arrived and I changed to stops down for the Piccadilly Line, just missing one as I arrived on the platform. The signs indicated the next one would be in 7 minutes. Right on schedule it showed up, except it said Rayners Lane as opposed to Heathrow 4 & 1,2,3 as the platform signed indicated. I still got on as I would get off at Acton Town and take the Terminal 4 bound train there. I just wanted to keep moving really.

It was quite annoying on the train as a couple came on the train and would not stop slobbering over each other. They must have kissed a dozen times.

At Acton Town, the wait was about three minutes and I was not alone. There were indeed several people on the train who were going to Heathrow. The kissing couple came off and continued their romance; I guess last night was not enough. Can someone get them their own platform?

Friday, September 19, 2008

London August 2008: Leaving downtown Houston, TX

19SEp08 Downtown Houston

I got a ride with one of my colleagues who was also heading to the airport. He was going to Paris, France. After a quick stop by his house, we made our way to the airport arriving at the parking facility at about 5:05p. There was hardly any traffic on the highway.

They asked which terminal and we told them Terminal E. We parked, the lady came over and I asked her why do they ask us which terminal and then put passengers going to different terminals on the same bus. She said that is how they do it. I told her, then let's go to Terminal E first. She said she can't if someone comes in the bus and wants to go to Terminal E.

So as fate would have it, someone gets on the bus and they want to go to Terminal C. This is so stupid!

Once we arrived at Terminal C, we both got off the bus and bade her goodbye.

London Sept. 2008: Time for some r & r

Off to London this afternoon, to get away from Ike's aftermath; of course when I return it will still be here, but hopefully by then power will be back.