Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New blog home

I've started a new home for this blog at http://www.cruisinaltitude.com so please check it out there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

All you can jet in 30 days - I'm in

Houston, TX. Wed. 19 Aug., 2009. I took the plunge and I'm now a member of the All you can jet in 30 days club. Yup, this is the JetBlue Airways (B6) offer where you can basically fly their system in 30 days for $599 plus some taxes if you head to international destinations.

The purchase experience was not too bad, I had a wait time less than 5 mins. when I called. My first call failed as I could not hear the agent when she came on the phone, but the second one was fine and in about 10 minutes, I was the proud owner of a confirmation number. It took a little longer as I forgot to join TrueBlue, their frequent flyer program so I had to do that before I bought the pass. It was a simple process and took about a minute to accomplish.

I did the smart thing and used my Citibank MasterCard that gives me miles on American Airlines' AAdvantage frequent flyer program of course. JetBlue only gives me 35 TrueBlue points and I need 100 for a free ticket. So Goal #1 accomplished which is scoring as many AAdvantage miles for this trip. Any purchases made during the trip will also be on this card to maximize the mileage earnings of course.

The agent was very pleasant and advised me of the following when she was done:
  • JetBlue is ticketless
  • JetBlue offers beverage snack services only
  • One checked bag and one carry on are allowed for free, there is a $30 charge after that per bag
I was then asked if I wanted to book any trips, so I immediately secured my trips home on four consecutive weekend Sundays starting on Sunday, 13 September 2009. The e-mail confirmations came in rapid succession.

I am still figuring out my itinerary. Using the JetBlue's schedule application is quite a bear I'm afraid. It needs quite a lot of work. As an example, I choose NYC metro area in the "From" box since they serve four of the five area airports and I got no cities in the "To" drop down. I've had to use a schedule tool at http://www.cruisinaltitude.com to help me, which works quite well in filling the gaps.

So off to continue planning my routings now.

Follow my travels on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mskonfa1990.
They won't start until 11 or 12 September, 2009. But you never know, I may be on a flight on 8 September, 2009.

Related Blogs/Posts:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A totally different journey - I went to a gun and knife show

Houston TX Aug., 16, 2009. Today, I did something different. This is something I had never done before, I went to a gun and knife show.

Yesterday, I was driving around and saw a sign on the highway directing me which exit to take from I-10E so I could make it to the gun show. I wanted to do something completely different and outside of my realm of knowledge so this was it. I wanted to be like a fish out of water and learn something new.

I checked online and it was also taking palce today from 10a-4p at a cost of $8.00. I headed downtown Houston, TX and got to the show about 12:30p or so at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

I did notice crudely made signs encouraging me to join the NRA and get free entry as I walked in. Inviting I thought. They had a few anti-Obama signs as well.

I walked in with my camera on my shoulder and I was told by a Houston Police Officer in uniform that I had to check it. I made small talk about having to check it and that it was not dangerous, the Office laughed.

I also did not get my ticket so I went outside and paid in cash. No credit cards accepted the guy told me.

Once back inside, I checked my camera with the other guns that the Houston Police Officer had checked. You see there was a sign outside that said you cannot take your concealed weapon inside. For some reason I was expecting a metal detector, silly me.

So I gave my ticket and walked in. The lady gave me a card to fil out for a door prize adn well as sign up for e-mails about upcoming shows.

As I entered, the first thing I saw was a guy standing with an automatic weapon on his shoulder. He was selling it. Odd, I thought, then I saw another guy and yet another guy. I guess it was the norm. I did not want to ask for fear that I said something silly and insulted the guys. Don't think I want to upset anyone at a gun and knife show.

I started walking down the aisle looking at the guns and there were plenty. I can't tell you what they were as I have no idea. Except that there were hand guns and big gun like they have in war shows on TV and the movies. I could not understand why a person would buy one of the war type guns for home use. I was scared to ask though in case I picked the one guy who would be pissed at me. I have a few friends who are gun fans, I'll ask them later.

As I walked the twelve aisles I bumped into people as it was so packed. Everyone was really polite. There were people of all ages there. From newborns in the arms of their parents to pre-teens, teenagers twenty, thirty, forty, fifty somethings and seniors.

I stopped to ask a vendor how I could get a gun. I did not really want one, but I'm at a gun show people! I had to know.

He said, that I must have a Texas drivers license and fill out a long yellow form. Then he calls it in to some kind of clearing house and then if I am cleared, I can take the gun with me after paying for it with cash or credit card. Too easy I thought. Lots of people were filling out these forms.

I asked about ammunition and was told that there were plenty of vendors around where I can get my ammunition. After walking around, he was not kidding. It seemed like if you sold guns you cannot sell ammunition and vice versa. Although the ammunition guys are just a few stalls from the gun vendors.

This was also a knife show and there was no shortage of knives. Big ones, fat ones, small ones and long ones. A kid, well older kid, tried to sell me three samurai knives of three different sizes on a stand. It retailed for $75, but he would give me a deal for $60 and throw in a smaller knife. Tempting, but I declined. I told him that I was struggling with what I'd do with it. He said just put it on my wall and look at it. I had a problem with that idea. I did ask him where were they made, Japan? "Or China," he replied. So much for authenticity. I thought.

As I walked around I noticed other items were being sold. Here is a list:
All weather writing paper, jewelry, safes, small gun safes, stun guns, ear plugs, sauage jerky (at least two stalls), ammunition (lot of it), used guns, knives, scopes, gun purses (these were cute), pistol packs (never thought of that), stuff to clean your guns, guns (duh), flat screen TVs (not sure why), free concealed hand gun clases, t-chirts, back packs, coins, helmets, army stuff, wallets, tools (scissors and pliers, etc.) belts and display cases.

After almost an hour, I had walked the twelve aisles and had my fill of something that I had no interest in, except curiosity. And after the hour my interest is the same as when I walked in - non-existent.

I never grew up with guns although one of my uncles was a police officer, so maybe that is the reason for my non-interest. And I'm that boy that never liked knives. I was a clumsy kid so a knife would have been a bad thing.

I still am clumsy, never grew out of that one. I think I did own a Swiss army knife, but not sure why and have no idea where it is today. It may have been a gift from someone as I would certainly not buy it.

I did enjoy the experience today and it was great to get a window in the world of guns and knives and the people who love them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

All you can jet in 30 days - job permitting

Houston, TX Fri. 14 Aug., 2009. Like many others, I have seen that JetBlue Airways (B6) is offering you to basically fly their system in 30 days for $599 plus some taxes if you head to international destinations.

Being the consummate traveler where it is all about the journey, this looks intriguing. Of course I have specific goals in mind and during that month I have to work so I have to accomplish this task on weekends only, i.e. Friday p.m. to Sunday p.m. This poses mega challenges, but I'm up for it. I also have to justify the cost vs. the goal value.

I've already looked at Jetblue's routes and picked the cities which I've not yet logged and those which I've already visited but would like to visit again time permitting. I have to keep focused as the primary goal is to log 13 new airports in 4 weekend days (12 days) and stay within the rules of the game.

Here are my 13 goal cities:
Aguadilla, PR BQN
Buffalo, NY BUF
Hyannis, MA HYA
Long Beach, CA LGB
Martha's Vineyard, MA MVY
Nantucket, MA ACK
Newburgh, NY SWF
Provincetown, MA PVC
Puerto Plata Dominica Republic POP
Richmond, VA RIC
Rochester, NY ROC
Rutland, VT RUT
Santiago Dominica Republic STI

Here are my 10 time permitting cities:
Aruba AUA
Hamilton, Bermuda BDA
Bogota, Colombia BOG
Bridgetown, Barbados BGI
Cancun, Mexico CUN
Nassau, Bahamas NAS
Montego Bay, Jamaica MBJ
San Jose, Costa Rica SJO
Santo Domingo, Dominica Republic SDQ
St. Maarten, Netherland Antilles

And finally I'd love to re-visit these two cities, but service starts after the end of the promo :-(:

Castries, St. Lucia UVF

Kingston, Jamaica KIN

I'm now armed with my PDF and downloadable schedules that were pointed out to me by @jetblue - http://www.twitter.com/jetblue at http://www.jetblue.com/help/timetables. Let the strategy begin.

Follow my travels on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mskonfa1990.
Related Blogs: http://thestrategyblog.com/index.php/archives/281/how-to-book-an-awesome-travel-itinerary/

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Hanging out at Houston's Hobby and Intercontinental airports

I was hanging out at Houston-Hobby (HOU) and Houston-Intercontinental (IAH) and got a few fantastic videos. Here are a few of them.

Air France Boeing 777-300ER landing at Houston-Intercontinental

Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 landing at Houston-Intercontinental

TACA's Airbus A320 landing at Houston-Intercontinental

Continental Airlines' Boeing 757-300 landing at Houston-Intercontinental

TACA's ERJ-175 landing at Houston-Intercontinental

Southwest Boeing 737 taking off from Houston-Hobby

Southwest Airlines (WN) Boeing 737 with winglets taking off from Houston-Hobby

Please leave a comment.

50 airlines I follow on twitter

As I go through my travel journeys each weekend I ensure that I'm connected to the Internet so I can send out my tweets and get all kinds of flight information, schedules, maps, destination information, etc.

I follow a number of airlines on twitter most recently, Continental Airlines at http://www.twitter.com/continental. Some airlines have multiple ones, but I've only listed the main ones that I follow here. Do you follow any of them?

  1. Aegean Airlines - http://twitter.com/aegeanairlines
  2. Air France - http://twitter.com/Air_France
  3. Air New Zealand - http://twitter.com/flyairnz
  4. airTran - http://twitter.com/AirTranFares
  5. Alaska Airlines - http://twitter.com/AlaskaAir
  6. Allegiant Air - http://twitter.com/allegiantair
  7. American Airlines - http://twitter.com/AAirwaves
  8. Asiana Airlines - http://twitter.com/AsianaAirlines
  9. Austrian Airlines - http://twitter.com/FlyAustrian
  10. British Airways - http://twitter.com/British_Airways
  11. Continental Airlines - http://twitter.com/continental
  12. Copa Airlines - http://twitter.com/copaair
  13. Czech Airlines - http://twitter.com/CzechAirlines
  14. Delta Air Lines - http://twitter.com/DeltaAirLines
  15. El Al (Hebrew) - http://twitter.com/ELAL_IL
  16. JetBlue - http://twitter.com/JetBlue
  17. Frontier - http://twitter.com/FrontierSale
  18. Hawaiian Airlines - http://twitter.com/FlyHawaiian
  19. Iberia Airlines - http://twitter.com/IberiaAirlines
  20. Indian Airlines - http://twitter.com/indianairlines
  21. JetStar - http://twitter.com/jetstarnz
  22. JetStar Australia - http://twitter.com/JetstarAirways
  23. Kenya Airways - http://twitter.com/KenyaAirways
  24. KLM - http://twitter.com/klmfan
  25. Korean Airlines - http://twitter.com/KoreanAir_KE
  26. LOT Polish Airlines - http://twitter.com/LOTpolish
  27. Lufthansa - http://twitter.com/Lufthansa_USA
  28. Malaysia Airlines - http://twitter.com/MAS
  29. Meridiana Airlines - http://twitter.com/Meridiana_Air
  30. Pet Airways - http://twitter.com/PetAirways
  31. Qantas - http://twitter.com/QantasUSA
  32. Qatar Airways - http://twitter.com/qatarairways
  33. SAS - http://twitter.com/FLYSAS_com
  34. Singapore Airlines - http://twitter.com/SQairlines
  35. Skywest Airlines - http://twitter.com/Skywest_Airline
  36. Southwest Airlines - http://twitter.com/SouthwestAir
  37. Spirit Airlines - http://twitter.com/SpiritAirlines
  38. Sri Lankan Airlines - http://twitter.com/SrilankanUK
  39. Swiss Airlines - http://twitter.com/SWISSairlines
  40. TAM - http://twitter.com/TAMAirlines
  41. TAP - http://twitter.com/tapnews
  42. Tiger Airways - http://twitter.com/tigerairways
  43. Turkish Airlines - http://twitter.com/turkishairlines
  44. United Airlines - http://twitter.com/UnitedAirlines
  45. US Airways http://twitter.com/usairways
  46. USA 3000 Airlines - http://twitter.com/USA3000Airlines
  47. Virgin America - http://twitter.com/VirginAmerica
  48. Virgin Atlantic Airways - http://twitter.com/VirginAtlantic
  49. Virgin Blue - http://twitter.com/VirginBlue
  50. WesJet - http://twitter.com/WestJet
If I've missed any, please leave a comment and I'll add it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Whitney Houston is back with "I Look To You"

Oftentimes the travel journey discovers other things. I was in San Francisco, CA last weekend and saw people with little fans announcing Whitney Houston's new album, I Look To You which debuts on August 31, 2009. Do we still call things "albums?" :-). You can see the album cover above.

I just had a chance to take a look today, yup been a busy week.

You can listen to this cut above or on her Web page at http://www.whitneyhouston.com.

She looks quite different now and sound a little, O.K. a lot different as well, but its been 6 years since we've heard from her.

I don't know if I like this song, I want the old Whitney back, but I'm afraid she's gone forever. Let's embrace the new one and see how this new album pans out.

I'm a big fan of Whitney, you?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Which airport has the funniest code or spells an odd word?

Airport naming is fun and will be the subject of another post, but for this post, let's just make fun of the funny codes and the words they sometimes spell. Check these out.

  • ABE - Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, PA
  • BAR - Baker Island, AK
  • CAK - Akron/Canton, OH
  • DOH - Doha, Qatar
  • DUB - Dublin, Ireland
  • EAT - Wenatchee, WA
  • FAT - Fresno, CA
  • FUK - Fukuoka, Japan
  • PIS - Poitiers, France
  • POT - Port Antonio, Jamaica [appropriately, I guess]
  • REK - Reykjavik, Iceland
  • ROW - Roswell, NM

You ever been to any of these or do you live in one of them? There are many other gems, which ones are your favorites?

One of my favorite is if you from fly from FRA to NCE you are going to FRANCE.

Leave a comment below please.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google Voice: Making a call

Google Voice

I received my Google Voice invitation recently. On July 6, 2009, I setup my account. I've wanted to use it to make a call for a while, but just never got around to it. I needed to call my dad who is out of the country, so I used it as T-Mobile charges me $1.49/minute! Plus I believe I get docked my phone minutes as well. Here is what I did.

Making a call This is really simple, first you click on the Call icon and then start typing the name or the number of the person you wish to call. As Google Voice is integrated with your Gmail account, any numbers you have stored in your G1 phone contacts will be accessible. I chose my Dad from the list of numbers that appear as you start to type.

You can then choose the phone you've set up to ring using Google Voice or choose a different number. You may have the system remember your choice by checking a checkbox. Click the Connect button to make your call.

The phone you designate to ring will do so. When you answer it, it tells you how much credit you have and the cost per minute of your call. You can also view your balance on screen.

It's that easy. What do you think?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Heathrow airport: Getting to Terminal 4 from the Central Bus Terminal - What a nightmare

Heathrow International Airport, London England 19 Jul., 2009. My KLM flight to Amsterdam from Heathrow's Terminal 4 was at 6:30a. I figured I was going to have difficulty making that flight so I purposely stayed at the airport and in addition, awoke at 4:00a so I could make my flight. This is when the fun began.

The night before, well a few hours before bed, I did some research about the bus times at the Transport for London web site to ensure that I could at least get a bus to the Central Bus station at Heathrow Terminals 1,2,3. I however did not research actually getting to Terminal 4. Why would I think that would be an issue in the world's busiest airport?

As I was not too clear about the morning's outcome, I was out of the hotel at 4:32a and headed for the bus stop which was quite crowded for that time of the morning. But the airport is run by people and Heathrow starts early; first flight lands between 5:45a and 6:00a and first departure is at 6:00a from Terminal 1, 6:30a from Terminal 4, my flight and 6:15a from Terminal 5. This may vary by day of week and time of year.

Within minutes the #555 showed up with Central Bus station as its destination. I asked the driver if the bus goes to Terminal 4, he said no, but pointed across the street saying I'd have to take the bus on that side. I said, thanks and that I will figure it out once I get to the Central Bus station as I knew that you can take the shuttle to Terminal 4 from the Central Bus station.

I arrived at the Central Bus station at about 4:40a and headed downstairs and followed the signs to Terminal 4 via the Heathrow Express/Connect shuttle. Once there, I along with a few other people realized the doors were closed. There was really no signs saying what time it opened. There was however a schedule saying that the first train to London Paddington was at 5:08a.

Two other passengers and I headed back upstairs to see if there was a bus. Lo and behold it was the #555 and it had departed at 4:45a; yup, it was the same bus I was on from my hotel. Now why did the driver not say something? Your guess is better than mine.

It was now 4:50a so we decided to head back to the Heathrow Express station. At 4:57a, a lady opened the doors. I asked her if there would be a shuttle to Terminal 4 right away and she said yes.

When we got down to the tracks, we noticed that the next train to Terminal 4 was in 38 minutes and I believe 29 minutes to Terminal 5. It appears that Heathrow Express which is responsible for the shuttle train between terminals is clueless of the airlines' operating schedules. Here's a clue folks - go here.

I saw some of the passengers talking to a Heathrow Express employee and garnered that she said we should take a cab. Also, that the cabs may not want to take us as the journey is a short fare.

So four of us went upstairs and headed for the cab line at Terminal 3 arrivals. This whole episode had the makings of my experience back in February this year (2009) when it snowed like crazy and London could not deal with it.

One of the ladies was going to Terminal 5 and the rest of us to Terminal 4. The three of us approached a cab and told him our destination. He was none too happy, but ushered us into his cab, closing the door behind us and telling us it would take about 20 minutes. What! At that point I knew he was going to take the longest route so he could get a better fare.

He then went over to the dispatch booth to complain I guess while we waited for him. Moments later he came over, started the cab and we were off.

After what seemed like a really long drive, I noticed the Hatton Cross bus station and wondered why the heck he was going this far out. As fate would have had it, I had taken that 555 the day before and it took all of about 8 minutes from Terminal 5 to the Central Bus station, so I know that it should not be taking us this long to basically go around the airport. So I know this cab driver cheated us.

By the time we got to Terminal 4, the meter read 22.20 GBP! I split it with the lady and her son, but she only took 10 GBP from me. As a comparison, During that freak snow storm back in February, I had taken a cab from Tower Bridge to Paddington in driving snow and that fare was 15 GBP. That distance was much farther than what we did today.

We were both able to check in for our flight although there was quite a long line.

I'm sending BAA and Heathrow Express a link to this post so they can see what customers go through in the wee hours. Here's hoping they will make some changes.

Related Posts: If you liked this post, you will love these one —

London/Berlin Jan 31 2009: Heathrow Airport is snowed in

Friday, July 10, 2009

a weekend with Mom

My mom turns 68 next week. She has asked to visit a foreign country that's been on her list for a while. A few years back I had it all planned with her and my Dad and she pulled out literally at the last minute. Dad and I had a blast.

I always stress when I travel with my mom as no matter what I seem to do I can't please her. Let's see what happens on this trip.

You can follow us on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mskonfa1990 and guess our destination using the clues.

Friday, July 03, 2009

It's a long Holiday weekend

Well, it is a long weekend so it brings opportunity to delve farther around the world. With almost 90 or I think 90 countries under my belt, the easy ones have been attained. Thoughts were to do Belarus, Bulgaria or even Vilnius. The flights look like crap so these are not possible at this time.

Tunis, Tunisia was a choice by my colleagues canceled so that did not work out. There are now thoughts of South America or Europe, but will see.

What are your weekend plans?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Micheal Jackson

I, like many of you are Michael Jackson fans. I remember growing up, he was the only perosn myself and my friends listened. In my opinion, Off the Wall is he best song he ever did. Which song is your favorite? Check it out here:

Here are the lyrics, read for yourself compliments of Lyricfreak:

1st verse
When the world is on your shoulder
Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down
If you cant hang with the feeling
Then there ain't no room for you this part of town
cause were the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
Groove, let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall
Life ain't so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)

2nd verse
You can shout out all you want to
cause there ain't no sin in folks all getting loud
If you take the chance and do it
Then there ain't no one who's gonna put you down
cause were the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
C'mon and groove, and let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall
Life ain't so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)

Do what you want to do
There ain't no rules its up to you (ain't no rules its all up to you)
Its time to come alive
And party on right through the night (all right)

3rd verse
Gotta hide your inhibitions
Gotta let that fool loose deep inside your soul
Want to see an exhibition
Better do it now before you get to old
cause were the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf and just enjoy yourself
C'mon and groove (yeah) let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain''t so bad at all if you live it off the wall
Life ain't so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf and just enjoy yourself
C'mon and groove (yeah) let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all if you live it off the wall
Life ain't so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)

Oslo, Norway: Arrival meal on CO58 from Amsterdam to Houston, TX

Fruits, salmon, chicken sandwich for lunch at 11:54a with 1:21 to go on CO59 on 28 June 2009.
Fruits, salmon, chicken sandwich for lunch at 11:54a with 1:2... on Twitpic

Oslo, Norway: Nuts and wine on CO58 from Amsterdam to Houston, TX

Warm cashew nuts plus a glass of sauvignon blanc on CO59 on 28 Jun 2009 at 10:11 as we pass over the port of England.

Warm cashew nuts plus a glass of sauvignon blanc on CO59 on 2... on Twitpic

Monday, June 15, 2009

12 tips to help you tweet more effectively

Since I started using twitter, I've had to contract my thoughts into 140 characters or less. It's not a bad thing, but I've had to think more when I tweet. Here are some tips to help you along.

  1. Use "&" instead of "and"
  2. Use numbers instead of spelling out the number; e.g. "1" instead of "one" unless it makes your thought unreadable
  3. When re-tweeting, try to edit the original tweet if you can to make it more legible, but don't change its meaning
  4. Use synonyms to find shorter words that means the same; go to a cool online Thesaurus at http://www.synonym.com/
  5. Sometimes an antonym for your word will convey your thought just as good. Go to http://www.synonym.com/antonym
  6. Re-read your tweet before sending. If you are confused, your readers will be as well
  7. End your sentences with a period
  8. Use dashes or semi-colons to separate your thoughts if applicable
  9. Use only one space between sentences
  10. If in a crunch for space, consider re-wording before removing punctuations
  11. Leave space for others to re-tweet your message
  12. Spell check your tweet before sending. Spelling mistakes decreases your credibility.
Well, this is it for now, if I think of more, I'll either update this entry or add a new one.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

A few places to visit this weekend

This weekend I was thinking of a few cities:
  1. Boston, MA (BOS) - to hang with friends there
  2. Cordoba, Argentina (COR) - just never been
  3. Honolulu, HI (HNL) - beach and watch the sun set on Waikiki beach
  4. Los Angeles, CA (LAX) - to hang with friends there
  5. Memphis, TN (MEM) - to get barbecue in the airport
  6. Orlando, FL (MCO) - Shuttle launch
  7. Raleigh/Durham, CA (RDU) - Wordcamp Durham
but ended up staying in Houston and attending http://podcamphouston.org. This was a fantastic event and I'm glad I attended. I met many really smart people whose friendships I hope will last a long time.

I also got a lot of planning done for future success.

On Thursday I leave for the Paris Airshow in Le Bourget, France just outside of Paris. Then the weekend with friends in London, England.

Monday, June 08, 2009

G1 Android software update

Last week (Sunday 31 May, 2009) Google made an update to the Android operating system. I was chatting to a friend of mine after having some afternoon birthday cake and tea. I accepted the update and continued chatting. Acknowledging that I was doing so.

After the update was done, the date changed to April 15, 2009 at 10:01a, I showed it to my friend who laughed. Seconds later, it changed to the correct time. I looked back at the phone and I was quite impressed with my findings:
  1. The first things I saw was a new icon that said "camcorder" with the picture of a camcorder [here is a video I did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSaPxN63_sI]. I had to immediately mention that to my friend, to which he quipped "cool." Not sure if he was annoyed that I was being distracted or if he was really impressed :-). I think the former. I was eager to try this out, but had to wait.
  2. Next, I noticed that the browser icon was now a world map. Nice I thought.
Not to be rude, I left it alone and continued my conversation. Over the next few days, I really checked out the phone and here are my deep findings:
  1. onscreen keyboard: Yes, finally they've added one. It is a bit small and does take some getting used to. During my first few days, I actually refused to use it, but more and more I'm using it and learning it. One thing I could not figure out was how to make the darn thing disappear after I'm done (click the Back arrow next to the power button). Also activating it is a learned experience (you have to tap into the area where you want to write something). By default, the keyboard activates with capital letters; once you press the first letter though, it changes to small letters. You have a "DEL" key and a "?123" key as well. I can't find a "\" though on that keyboard, can anyone? I am also assuming that in Europe there are "£" and "€" signs. The keyboard also auto completes for you so that is a good deal. Oh, sometimes, it places a "Done" on the keyboard and pressing that makes it disappear or completes the action you were performing. All in all a worthwhile addition.
  2. threaded e-mails: Perhaps the best fix yet. The previous issue was that when you receive an e-mail you could not reply to it as the reply would go to the first person in your contact list. For me that was Google 411. This really sucked as sometimes I forgot and wondered why my friend never replied to my text. All that is history and the new threaded feature rocks. Thank you so much google.
  3. contacts: They've re-worked the interface so it is easier to read/use and has cooler icons. There is now a "+" to add a contact's information and a "-" to remove it. You can also "Revert" if you want to discard all you've just done. You can now add a postal address as well as Organizations. If that was there before, I never realized it. When you press "MENU" from the main Contacts screen, you now get "Search," "Display group," "Edit sync group" and "Import contacts." Again, if these were there before, I never saw them.
  4. call log: Not much done here, just that the icons are slightly different and after you've called a number that is not in your contacts, you get an option to add it to contacts as well as send SMS message, plus the usual Call again option. It also gives you stats on the call (time, date and duration of call). Oh, the names and numbers are arranged a little better than before.
  5. dialer: Not much change, except that when you dial a number, the tab in the middle now changes to "Dialpad." After a few seconds, it changes to a lock that says "Double-tap to unlock." Which is good as it helps so that you don't accidentally press a key. I am still waiting for the feature where once I put the phone away from my face, the dial pad activates, but I guess that is next.
  6. favorites: not to be left out, they've actually built some auto functionality into here by adding a "Frequently called" section below any favorites you denoted.
  7. camera: Nice improvement. The new software is 1,000% better than the old. It is actually much better in low lighting now and it looks like they've added some handshake code, which was well needed. Also, now when you click the shutter, it processes what you did and focusses even more for you it seems. Once the picture is taken (by using the new onscreen camera icon or the buttons on the side), it shows in an icon on the upper left if you are holding the phone horizontal and upper right if vertical. The position does not change based on how you are holding the phone. The only odd thing is that the picture is auto saved and once you click on the thumbnail, you get the options to go to the Gallery (formerly called Pictures), "Set as," "Share" and "Delete." Plus an arrow to move to the previous picture and of course you can see the picture and there is a zoom bar (new icons for this release). it does take a little while to load up this new menu though. I have 1,191 pictures on my card so that may have something to do with it :-).
  8. gallery (formerly pictures): nothing new here except the zoom bar now has a "-" and a "+" on it. But this is a new thing for the phone itself.
  9. camcorder: I've saved the newest for last. it is O.K. it is a learned experience. Once you click the camcorder icon, you are taken to a screen which activates the video camera showing a thumbnail of the previous video in the upper left hand corner if he phone is horizontal and upper right if vertical. There is a icon on the right upper corner that is used to start the camera. A counter counts the time and the icon changes to a red dot in gray circle. Pressing the circle stops the record action. Playback is achieved by clicking on the newly created thumbnail of the movie and then choosing Play. Once play is complete, you can choose "Gallery," "Share" or "Delete" or record another movie from the menu choices. Share options are Gmail, Messaging or YouTube. For the latter, you have to enter your username and password, sign in and then give the video a title, decide if you want it public (default) or not, enter a description, add your tags, view the shortened terms of use with a link to the long version and click "Upload" or "Cancel." Voila you are done! You are then taken back to the video on your phone. When complete you get a YouTube: Upload Complete notification. You can see my video here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSaPxN63_sI
There are perhaps more stuff that were updated, but these are the major ones I've seen/used. A good update, thank you, but can you please add a notepad for me?

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Looks like it will be San Diego, CA (SAN). It was kind of on the list, but not on the written list.

Not sure where I'm off to in a few hours.

Not sure where I'm off to just yet. The choices are:

  1. Tromso, Norway (TOS) - http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=tromso,+norway&sll=37.649034,-95.712891&sspn=31.012903,79.101563&ie=UTF8&ll=74.496413,18.984375&spn=52.62392,316.40625&z=2&iwloc=A
  2. Bristol, England (BRS)
  3. London, England (LHR)
I will know more tomorrow. One thing is certain I have a 5:00a wake up :-(

Saturday, May 02, 2009

London May 1, 2009: In London

Linked up with friends, had a shower and enjoying the beautiful weather.

One of the fun things about London is people watching :)
Just saw a lady trying to force her way onto the Picadilly Line. The doors are closing and she is forcing her way in. Eventually the doors re-opened for her.
Will have to expedite a passport this week as I'm off to Jamaica on Friday a.m. I will then have to re-do Global Pass :(. I may wait until the next week.
It is a beautiful day out today. It is sunny and not raining. The flight over was good and I was able to get some sleep.
The stupid lift does not say which direction it is going. Heading into Central London now on the Picadilly Line.
Got lectured about my passport being full. Which is why I wanted to use IRIS.
IRIS is busted, so have to join the regular queue :(.
Just arrived in London-Heathrow where it is 9:42a on 2 May 2009. A beautiful day at 55 degrees.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Ice islands from 37,000'

Ice island just below Greenland.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: In Heathrow

Heading back to Houston from London in about 10 minutes. It was an early wake up this morning at 5:00a.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Pictures from Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Landed in Dubrovnik, Croatia (DBV)

Just arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia, it is 2:45p.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Landed safely taxiing to the gate in Vienna

We are now taxiing to the gate.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Landed in Vienna, Austria (VIE)

Well, we landed at 11:55a without incident!

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Emergency Landing AF1438

AF1438 24APR09 Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG) to Vienna, Austria (VIE) 9:35a 11:35a 320 F-GFKD

Flight Time: 1:30
Seat Map

We are preparing for an emergency landing. Not sure what is the cause of it...11:38a on our way to Vienna on Air France.

I was a little taken aback at first and wondered if it was all real. After 15 years of constant flying, this is my first emergency landing preparation. I've had an aborted takeoff on a Boeing 757-200, two aborted landings (a Boeing 727-200 and a Lockheed L-1011) and three diversions (Boeing 747-400, Boeing 737-500 and a MD-80), but never the big one. "Was this it?" I thought.

The lead female flight attendant read the emergency procedures in French from a card while the other two male flight attendants ensured that we were buckled in and that the aisles were clear. There were no English translations, but I muddled through what she said and also watched what the others were doing.

The lead flight attendant read the details of the position we had to adapt when she gave the "brace" command once we landed. I think this piece of information brought it home that this really was happening and it was serious. I looked around as the passengers did as instructed in a practice run.

We were then told to get out our coats from the overheads and don them so we all did. I assume that this was just in case we had to use the slides as it was cold out. Everyone complied quite orderly indeed. No one panicked at all.

Although, there was one passenger who had the overhead open and his case on his seat and was fumbling around. The lead flight attendant tried unsuccessfully to get him to sit. Eventually, once he got all the stuff he wanted he closed the bin and sat down.

I made sure that our onward tickets were in my pocket as well as that I had my Flip video and mobile handy to record whatever happened as much as I could.

We all then waited. You could hear a pin drop in the cabin. I had put my computer bag up in the bin from by my feet, but had re-retrieved it, thinking I could just take it with me when we exited the plane via the slides. Which by now the flight attendant had advised were ready for us. Silly I know, but my mind was racing and for a moment I was not thinking clearly.

We were not told what was the nature of the emergency, just that we had to prepare for one. At least, if we were it was in French and I did not comprehend. I know some French, but I'm not that good at it.

I looked around the cabin and noticed that there was no obvious sign of smoke in the cabin, the oxygen masks were not deployed either. I looked out the window and the wing seemed fine as did the engine hanging off of it. My mind raced as to what could be so serious as to declare an emergency landing. I relaxed a bit knowing that the pilots knew what they were doing.

Then I thought back to our departure in Paris. The airplane had arrived late at the gate from its previous journey. I did notice a mechanic checking out the nose gear and at the time had wondered what was going on. Could it be that the landing gear indicator light came on? Which meant that the gear would not lock when activated? Who knows.

I could not help but think that I'd lived the life I pretty much wanted and if it ended in a few minutes, I'd have no regrets. I also could not help thinking that the plane would be destroyed; this aircraft was rare as it is an A320 without winglets. Yes, I get silly at times :-). I also thought what a cool headline our demise would make. Morbid, yes, but...whatever.

Well, we started our descent and it was all normal, the flaps were deployed, we descended properly and orderly, we touched down fine and we decelerated properly and came in for a very smooth landing. Thankfully, the brace command was never given.

Roaring applause erupted from the cabin as we looked around at each other wondering why we were not piled up an in an aircraft wreckage off the runway somewhere. The awe and relief was pretty evident.

Outside the window, were fire trucks waiting to move into action if necessary.
We slowed down and exited the runway and headed for a hard stand. The fire trucks, etc. followed us as we did. There was a bit of talk in the cabin and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Others were still clapping. I actually took my phone out of airplane mode and sent a blog post. Always the thinker, I guess.

The flight attendant came on the PA and said we were fine, no need for any emergency procedures. It was then business as usual as she welcomed us to Vienna where the local time was 12:01p.

She also asked if anyone needed medical attention. I thought about it for a moment, then declined. Myself and my other three colleagues then headed for the rear stairs. I thanked the two crew members standing by the door and bade them adieu. As I deplaned, I did notice one lady going into an ambulance. She was a bit flushed.

We then boarded a waiting bus and made our way to the terminal.

"That was close," I thought.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Flying past the Alps on AF1438

AF1438 24APR09 Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Roissy France (CDG) to Vienna, Austria (VIE) 9:35a 11:35a 320 F-GFKD

Flight Time: 1:30
Seat Map

There is lots of excitement as we pass the Swiss Alps. Cameras are out, but the seat belt signs put a damper on it all. It is really beautiful to see.

I've flown by it a few times, but no matter how many time you do that it is still spectacular. We just had breakfast of a choice of three French pastries plus tea, cafe and water. I guess it is too early for alcohol :).

The folks around me are really excited about seeing the Alps as am I. Here is a video of the Alps as we passed it at 35,000'.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: On board AF1438

The door is now closed, so we will be on our way shortly. Lots of French talking and laughing onboard. I think there are a few people going on a cruise. See you in Vienna.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: On board AF1438

A host of passengers just boarded. Flying time is 1:30 and we are almost ready to go. The Captain said that the aircraft was late coming in due to air traffic over Paris. The flight attendants are counting passengers; the main cabin door is still open at 10:01a.

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Boarding AF1438

Just boarded AF1438 to Vienna, Austria (VIE). A pretty full flight as we all have middle seats right behind each other. Hopefully, we will depart by 10:00a as we are now 10 minutes delayed. Boarding is continuing...

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: Waiting to board AF1438

I've just arrived in Paris-Charles de Gaulle at 7:45a on 24 April 2009. It was a good flight and I was able to get some rest too. I am now waiting for a seat on the Air France flight to Vienna at 9:35a. The airplane just arrived, an early model Airbus A320 that does not have winglets. Hopefully, we will leave ontime, but I think not.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dubrovnik, Croatia April 2009: A tentative itinerary

So it looks like our routing will be Paris to Vienna on Air France then Austrian Airlines to Dubrovnik.  The journey should be fantastic.

Earth Day 2009

Happy Earth Day everyone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Possible Routings

Looking at Atlanta to London-Gatwick to Dubrovnik or Paris to Vienna to Dubrovnik due to flight loads and schedules.

Making plans to go to Dubrovnik, Croatia on Thursday. A little difficult to get to though.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Caribbean April 2009: Tortola, BVI (EIS) - a montage

Posted by Picasa

Caribbean April 2009: Tortola, BVI (EIS)

The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands.
A funny sign in Road Town. This was not at a corner.

A house on Main St.
A look down Main St.

There are actually two of these signs. I believe I saw only one stop light which my driver ran.

Road Town from the air.

A cruise ship in port. Tui fly I think from the U.K.
A man and his son enjoying the beach.
Having a nap while watching the ocean at about 9:30a

Ferries that ply to the neighboring islands from Road Town.
A look at the hills overlooking Road Town from the beach in Road Town.

The capital Road Town from the air.