Thursday, July 31, 2008

I know what you did last summer. And yesterday.

I decided yesterday night that I was going to give online dating another shot. I updated my profile (I hate writing those!), uploaded some recent pictures and looked to see if there's anyone I'm interested in and found this one guy in my neighborhood that seemed interesting. Unfortunately, because I'm a standard member I can only see thumbnails instead of the larger pics and I can't tell how cute he is. Regardless I email him because he's nearby, a vegetarian, into technology, likes Macs, and seemed interesting enough.

Because I can't see the larger pictures I do a search on his username, just in case. By the way, I do not use my alter-ego on dating sites because of what happened next: The guy's dating username? It's his web alter-ego name as well. In one search I find:
  1. his personal blog
  2. his professional blog
  3. his twitter account
  4. his full name
  5. the Meetup he belongs to
Just to list five because there's more.

I'm not interested in reading his stuff - I don't know this guy - all I want is to see a larger photograph. So I do one more search and add the term "flickr" and find his photos. Bingo.

It's great to hit the motherload but I didn't have to work at it at all. It was too easy. How disappointing. I like my cyberstalking to have some hurdles so I can flex my search muscles, really get creative and feel awesome when I finally hit paydirt. There's no fun in this! There's no mystery to be solved. People are getting really comfortable with sharing their identity online that they're removing all the fun and challenge of finding their info.

Oh well. He looks cute in his photos.

American follows up

Today I got the following, very surprising email from American Airlines in regards to Sunday's flight:

Dear {vivzan}:

Our manager in Miami was concerned and asked us to follow up with you regarding your flight with us on July 27. We can understand how frustrating that trip must have been. We are very sorry for all the difficulties you encountered when flight {xxxx} unexpectedly returned to the airport.

As our personnel indicated at the time, a mechanical problem developed en route to JFK. As a result, the decision was made to return to Miami so our specialists could take a look at the situation. While our personnel worked hard to minimize the inconvenience, we know that many of our customers' important plans were disrupted. I am truly sorry.

In appreciation for your patience, we've added 4,000 Customer Service bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. You should see this mileage adjustment in your account very soon, and you can view this activity via AA.com at http://www.aa.com/AAdvantage. I hope this gesture of goodwill helps restore your confidence in us.

Your loyalty is important to us and I would like to assure you that we are committed to getting you to your destination as planned. Sometimes, as on July 27, flights won't operate as planned but our goal is to keep those times to a minimum. I know your next trip with us will go much more smoothly than this one did. We will look forward to welcoming you on board soon.

Sincerely,
xxxx
Customer Relations
American Airlines

This is impressive. I didn't send them an email, complain at the desk, talk to personnel, make a phone call, nothing. So, they did this on their own (unless they follow my blog! LOL).

At the time when flying is getting increasingly expensive, delays are rampant and the whole experience has turned from joy to dreaded security theatre, I'm impressed that a company not particularly known for customer service took the initiative to send me an email and give me more miles. Unasked.

I was just saying to my mom that I have two more trips scheduled with American. While American is better priced, flies into MIA and has better flight times, I like Jet Blue's experience a lot better and that after my scheduled trips with them, I was going to book with JetBlue going forward.

Well, since they reached out like this, American officially gets a second chance. Good job.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where oh where shall I go?

Earlier this year, I made a decision that I was going to really try to build some kind of social network here in NYC or else move away. That's still true but nothing is going to be decided upon this year or rashly. I think about packing my glassware and the cost of hiring movers and it freaks me out enough to not think about it and just stay put. But, I don't feel like I should be in New York out of habit or convenience - and it's been feeling that way. It feels like the only things holding me here are my job, the food co-op and Prospect Park.

Truthfully, I have deep doubts that I'll be able to build a community of friends that will keep me here (hopefully I'm not sabotaging myself) and, if I don't, who knows if I'll have the balls to pull the trigger and actually move? But, let's put that aside and have some fun with this: Where would I want to go? Right off the bat there are a few places I'd consider:

Portland, OR
I keep hearing such good things about this city. How friendly, beautiful and green it is and that it's a pedestrian- and bike-friendly city. I've never been there, but I want to check it out. I hear the economy isn't so great there, though. Plus, I don't know much about this city.

Seattle, WA
Another city I've never been to but hear good things about. The stereotype is that it gets a lot of rain but a friend of mine who lives there says that it's the 26th rainiest city in the US and that the small amount of rain they do receive is just spread out over more days. I hear I'd get good coffee.

San Francisco/Bay Area, CA
(Settle down now, Chelc! :-) I've been to SF once, back in 1995. For years, everybody said I would love it and truthfully, I didn't. I recall a lot of homeless people. We went to a restaurant, sat outside and a homeless guy, who was on a cell phone, stopped and asked us for money. Another memory of SF: driving up a hill in a convertible and thinking that it felt a lot like being on a rollercoaster and feeling really, really nervous.

I really liked Marin County (and I recall that being very expensive, so I doubt I could live there). So why is the bay area on the list? Because I really liked California as a whole (we went everywhere while there) and am willing to give SF and the surrounding area another look. Plus, I'd probably be able to get a job there. High, high, high cost of living though.

Raleigh/Durham, NC
I went here because of my job and found the area to be very charming, especially Durham. Jobs might be a little more old-school than I'd like (not exactly known for their internet start-ups) but it has access to beaches and mountains and the weather is pretty nice and the pace is slower. The area is surrounded by colleges and therefore has a lot of progressive, liberal people. However, while there, I noticed subtle racism in relation to how Raleigh inhabitants spoke of Durham. Durham clearly was where the black people lived and they spoke of it as crime-ridden, containing a lot of "foot traffic" and as undesirable. Meanwhile, people from Durham stated that crime wasn't a problem at all. Durham definitely seemed diverse and that's a positive. Housing-wise, both areas are still relatively affordable and I'm actually considering purchasing a place just to rent out.

Florida
This one's obvious. My family is in South Florida, but that doesn't mean I'd automatically move to Miami but it would seem stupid to move there and be 4 hours away by car. Job-wise, I wouldn't have a lot to choose from, it's not known for its tech community (yet, surprisingly, Mashable is holding an event in Miami). The allure is spending more time with my family and having more access to the beach and pools. Downsides are the multitudes of strip malls and chain restaurants, although I tend to find really good Indian food in FL. Another issue is that FL is so car-oriented. I like driving, voluntarily. It's another thing to have to commute on a regular basis and live in my car.

Ok, so clearly I have a few places to visit. If I did move out to the West coast, I think my mom would be sad. I visit her quite often since it's cheap and quick to fly down from NY. No more weekend trips if I did that, though.

I decided to take the test at findyourspot.com and see what they have to say. (It made me a little uncomfortable taking the quiz, with them asking all sorts of religious and political questions. If you decide to take it, use a fake name and your spam email address.)

What did Find Your Spot suggest?
1. Portland, Or
2. Baltimore, Md
3. Corvallis, Or
4. Hartford, Ct
5. Fredrick, Ma

And what am I looking for in a city?

- Pedestrian friendly
- Good public transportation system
- A vibrant downtown or neighborhood main street
- Local shops, not full of strip malls
- Music scene
- Colleges nearby
- Relatively nice weather
- Nearby beach, parks, forests, mountains, lakes, something.
- Vegetarian friendly (meaning a co-op, local veg restaurants, farmer's markets, etc)
- Available tech jobs
- Some crunchy granola-ness
- Not terribly congested
- Not republican

Clearly some of the places I've mentioned don't satisfy some of the options on my list, but I'm willing to give on some of these things if I really like the place.

So what are your thoughts? Have you been or lived in some of these cities? Are there cities I should consider that I haven't mentioned?

Are we there yet?

When I go to visit my family in Florida, If I can, usually book the earliest flight leaving on Friday morning (which usually ends up being at the ungodly hour of 5:45am) and return Sunday on the last flight of the night. I always expect delays on the return flight, since it's the last flight out, but nothing like what happened on Sunday.

My flight was scheduled for 945pm. I knew it would be delayed somewhat because everything was a mess on Sunday; Airports in New York and NJ were closed and there were delays up and down the East coast because of it. JFK was grounded for five hours, yet American's website was saying that my flight was still "on time." Whatever, I was hanging out at home with my mom.

By the time it came for me to head over to the airport, the flight was delayed for an hour. Ended up being an hour and a half which isn't too bad considering that flights earlier in the day were either canceled or delayed for 5 hours. We all board and the crew tells us the one of the A/Cs is malfunctioning (aircrafts of that size have two A/C packs but can operate on one). It is crazy hot on the plane. Pretty much it's like there's a fan on inside of a closed, windowless room, but they tell us that it should get cooler once we take off. We're late, sitting there and come to find out there's no ground crew to take the plane away from the gate. So we sit in the hot plane. At some point, we find out they're giving out water in the back and I get up along with several passengers. People are tired, hungry. I talk to a few passengers who traveled from Haiti and have been traveling and delayed since 9am. We don't take off until sometime after 11pm.

It doesn't get cooler after take off. With over 260 people on board plus crew, it's getting hotter and people are fainting and getting sick. Call bells are going off like crazy, attendants going back and forth. An announcement is made for physicians and nurses to go to the back of the plane. After 40 minutes in the air, the plane is diverted back to Miami because of the heat and sick passengers.

As we're landing I look out the window and see all these firetrucks and police cars on the tarmac. For a moment, I thought something else was going on but after we land, they follow us.

When we all exit the plane, we're told there's another plane that's arriving and that we'll be taking off at 12:30am. We all groan and wait in another gate. All the shops are closed and there are no vending machines available. No water. We wait. It takes a while for passengers to exit this plane and we find out that this flight's from Santo Domingo - it has to undergo an agricultural inspection before it can get cleaned.

By this time, it's 1am. Then, we get an unexpected announcement: the plane needs to get cleaned, we need to get on it, seated, overhead bins closed, door closed, before 2am or else the flight has to be canceled. FAA regulations state that flight crew cannot be outside of the plane after 2am (but they are allowed be in the plane and in the air ).

Surprisingly, or maybe not considering the time of night/morning it was, people weren't up in arms. No one was charging the desk demanding satisfaction. People were calm or sleeping. I'm sitting behind some people, one of whom is a doctor who helped one of the sick passengers. "We're not going to make it," he says. He goes on to say that if we don't make this flight, the next time we can fly out is 7pm on Monday. He's talking with his family, who ask if the airlines won't just put everyone on the next flight. "No," he says. "Those flights already have passengers. For whatever reason, the next empty plane is only available in the evening."

At around 1:30am, the ground crew announces that the plane is being cleaned right now and that we need to get ready to board. They're going to board by group number, and we need to be as organized as possible in order to make it on board before the cut-off time. People start to murmur, and the doctor's family behind me start saying that everyone should line up by seat number. People start to get up and get ready.

Finally an announcement is made for pre-boarding. Ground crew tells us that the flight crew is "unhappy and tired, and not really interested in flying. It's up to you to get on this plane and make it happen." It's kinda shocking that she's telling us this. She calls out group numbers and people hustle like I've never seen. People are orderly, not blocking the entrance, moving swiftly.

The plane boards from back to front. I'm in the middle, group 4. When I get on the plane, people are clapping and cheering us on. I quickly stow my bag and sit down. People already seated cheer on the people coming aboard, cheer on the doctor who's running up and down the aisle shutting overhead bins. Every time someone comes on, they're cheered. Other people are getting out of their seats to close open bins and are cheered.

By the time the last person gets on, it's around 1:52 am. Ground crew gets on the speakers and tells us "You guys did it! Congratulations from everyone on the ground crew! We've never seen a faster boarding ever!" All the passengers cheer and clap. It was probably the most awesome thing I've seen airline passengers do in the face of a cancellation. It certainly was an accomplishment! An "unhappy" flight crew member gets on the speaker and in a voice mixed with sarcasm says "Well, you all are certainly proud of yourselves."

And we were.

We landed at JFK at 5:00am. As if to make up for the flying mess, the train gods decided to take pity (they usually do not) and made sure AirTrain, LIRR and the MTA trains were all scheduled so that I waited for each train for less than 2 minutes and I got home in less than an hour. It was daylight by the time I got home.

I have to say, I've had some pretty bad flying experiences but while this one was the longest, it wasn't the worst. Maybe it's because it was so late that people were tired, but we all seemed to roll with it. It certainly was an adventure and I've never seen people hustle and support each other like that on an airplane!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Word

We all have our quirks. I talk to myself. Out loud. Mostly at home but if anyone paid attention they'd notice I do this at work and out on the street (although I'll classify that as "utterances.")

Here's one quirk of mine that comes into awareness every once in a while and I just did it 10 minutes ago. In my apartment, where I do most of my talking, I have the habit of stopping and saying out loud, "Ok, here's the situation."

Most of the time, I'll continue from there and think or speak aloud the issue I'm chewing on, but some of the times I end up totally derailing and doing something different, something I can't really stop until I finish and it's this:

Ok, here's the situation
My parents went away on a week's vacation and
They left the keys to the brand new Porsche
Would they mind?
Umm, well, of course not

Pay attention, here's the thick of the plot
I pulled up to the corner at the end of my block
That's when I saw this beautiful girlie girl walking
I picked up my car phone to perpetrate like I was talking

You should've seen this girl's bodily dimensions
I honked my horn just to get her attention
She said, "Was that for me?"
I said, "Yeah"
She said, "Why?"
I said, "Come on and take a ride with a helluva guy"

[whoop whoop sound]

She said, "How do I know you're not sick?
You could be some deranged lunatic"

I said, "C'mon toots - my name is the Prince
Beside, would a lunatic drive a Porsche like this?"

She agreed and we were on our way
She was looking very good and so was I, I say - word

We hit McDonald's, pulled into the drive
We ordered two Big Macs and two large fries and Cokes

She kicked her shoes off onto the floor
She said, "Drive fast, speed turns me on"

She put her hand on my knee, I put my foot on the gas
We almost got whiplash, I took off so fast

The roof was open , the music was high
And this girl's hand was steadily moving up my thigh

She had opened up three buttons on her shirt so far
I guess that's why I didn't notice that police car

We're doing ninety in my Mom's new Porsche
And to make this long story short - short
When the cop pulled me over I was scared as hell
I said, "I don't have a license but I drive very well, officer"

I almost had a heart attack that day
Come to find out the girl was a twelve-year-old runaway

I was arrested, the car was impounded
There was no way for me to avoid being grounded

My parents had to come off of vacation to get me
I'd rather be in jail than to have my father hit me

That's from "Parents Just Don't Understand." I just checked and there are some omissions and errors, but this is how I recite it in my head, "whoop whoop" sound included.

Yeah.

History of Tabs

A short read about the History of tabs.

Merlin Mann gets major points for using the term, "office supply fetishist" of which I certainly am (who knew there was a term?) and a zillion points for mentioning James Burke, creator of the documentary series Connections and The Day the Universe Changed, both of which played a huge role in forming the person that I am.

If you haven't watched either of James Burke's series, definitely try to see them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do you think you can dance?

Here's the thing: I hated dancing. I was made to take tap, jazz and ballet during my childhood. On my father's side, everyone loves to dance and they're all good at it. Me? I didn't feel comfortable dancing, I hated every moment of those dance classes and I wanted nothing to do with the blah, blah, blah "express yourself" blah, blah "it's fun!" bullshit that I grew up hearing about.

When I got old enough, my friends would drag me to clubs and I'd hang by the wall, enjoying the music, watching them and everyone dance. I'd dance if I had a few drinks, under pressure from my friends, feeling uncomfortable doing something that made me feel incredibly self-conscious and doing my best to hide my discomfort. I did not consider it my form of expression at all and I absolutely did not like it.

So what the hell happened to me last month because now I have this desire that will not go away to go out dancing in addition to really wanting to take dancing lessons so I can properly learn how to cha-cha, rumba and samba?

When my grandmother died, I immediately flew down to Florida. The day or two after her memorial service, a bunch of us went out and had a few a lot of drinks and decided to go to a club afterwards. If you follow my tweets, you might recall a bunch of posts where I talked about this club. Ok, me and two family friends were the only ones younger than 40. Average age? No question over 55. I'm standing there, jaw dropping. There's a guy with a walker dancing!

So in this place, with this unlikely crowd, feeling emotional, intoxicated, and laughing hysterically, I got pulled onto the dance floor (by the two in the photo) to much protestation. And we just danced and laughed. I danced with my family and friends all night long and felt something I had never felt or connected with before: that it's about so much more than dancing.

Now I get it, the emotion behind the movement of others, the emotion behind mine and I understood why for so long I couldn't express myself this way and why it's at this point in my life that I can and want to. And, not for nothing, but it was a lot of fun.

So yeah, I think I can dance. :-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dragging out the old diaries

My friend bearclau wrote a great post about journaling and it got me thinking about my own history with it.

I got my first diary when I was eight. It's a red Nancy Drew diary with a lock. At that age, most of my entries were similar to these two gems:
March 8th
Ricki is stupid. He eats dodo and pea for lunch breakfast dinner
March 21st
Ricki is all the bad words in this whole universe!

I love how I couldn't spell. And hey, I remember Ricki to be a very nice kid and one of my best friends!

The second diary I got when I was eleven. I wrote in it sporadically and it goes up until 1989 (I focused mostly on stories, novels and poetry during that timeframe). This diary is mostly full of my seemingly neverending roster of crushes:
5/10/87 - Sun. 11:00pm
I'm supposed 2 be asleep. my dumb dog is barking and it's mom's day (mother's day). I'm writing a book which I plan to sell. ps I don't heart Jason anymore y'know. I'm attracted to Scott S. but I don't like him.
I have giant bubble handwriting throughout this diary. I also pasted in a movie ticket stub from the flick "Summer School", Edwin Jeans tags, and a Wham! sticker. So '80s.

After high school, I moved my diary to the computer and started calling it a journal. I thought it was great but then I realized that I would self-censor and edit my journals and it got really bad - bad enough that I read those entries and can see myself struggling with my feelings and sharing them. So I decided to go back to writing in a paper journal exclusively about two years ago. I wanted the physical experience of writing and not being able to immediately edit. Physically writing things down highlights the vulnerability I feel in sharing my feelings (even on paper) and I want to feel that strain and be conscious of it.

Bearclau wrote about wanting her journals to be a part of her legacy. Not sure if I want that for mine, at least not the "adult years." Mine are snippets, never daily entries, out of context and damning! It was fun to pull out my early diaries though. You know, I may be willing to read my teen diary and get mortified! Nahh, but I'd sure love to go hear someone read from theirs!