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Derrick and I figured this would be the iconic photo of my visit. It pretty much captures it all.

Hot Dogs

(Click to see larger, bien sûr.)

This was taken in front of the Smithsonian castle. Fortunately, you can not tell how unbearably hot and disgusting it was outside.

Oh, and yes, that’s an exploded Mac shirt. Thanks for asking.

This is how Derrick greeted me at the airport in D.C.:

Derrick greeting me at the D.C. airport.

(Click for bigger, of course.)

The trip only got better after this.

Mazel tov! I hope I spelled that right.

Left, Right, and Center

We played a fun game tonight: Left, Right, and Center. (The actual game container called it Left, Center, Right, but who the hell cares?) Everyone around the table has $3 in singles. We take turns rolling the dice, one per dollar you have, up to three. For every L you roll, you pass a buck to the person on your left. For every R, you pass a buck to the person on your right. For every C, a dollar goes into the pot. The person with the last dollar wins the pot.

Amazingly, though the stakes aren’t huge, it’s enough to get everyone incredibly rambunctious. Take a look for yourself at this, the last few minutes of the game. I won’t tell you who wins.

Forget that last picture. That was nothing.

I slept through the flight, and so before I knew it, it was NatkinWexler Madness time! I was so warmly greeted. My week is gonna be awesome.

UPDATE: I fixed the title of the post. My French is a bit rusty.

It’s off to NYC and DC for the next week and change. The most exciting part? I’m flying Virgin America! I mean, who has a check-in counter like that? And gate desks like those, separate from the gate to prevent crowding? Keen!

Also, this isn’t really the most exciting part of my trip. The trip is filled with exciting parts.

I’ll probably be tweeting more than posting, but I hope to get most of the pictures here on the Forum. We’ll see how well that works in practice.

Click the pics to see them bigger.

I wrote the following on September 28 while waiting in the first class lounge for my flight from Sydney to Australia. I never posted it because the lounge WiFi I was so excited about was completely overwhelmed, and I kept getting kicked off. So my waxing wonderful about finally having free WiFi was premature. I forgot I had written it, but I think this is interesting, so I’m going to post it now, over a month later.

* * * * * *

My vacation is nearly over, and I am here in the Air New Zealand lounge waiting to get on my United plane back to L.A. Sadly, the flight is about 2 hours delayed. I imagine that was what the mysterious calls to my iPhone were in the middle of the night that I did not answer, and what certain unretrievable voicemails must be telling me.

Here are some items of (even less important) note so far.

The United people expressed grave concern that I, as a first class passenger, did not receive any calls about the flight being delayed. Explaining that the call was too early for me to bother answering was not worth going into, so I let them be concerned.

They definitely don’t care how heavy my bag is. The scale was flashing “30kg” and “OVER” and the woman gave it no mind.

International lounges still kick the asses of domestic lounges. I have so far enjoyed some cold antipasto nummies, vegetable frittata, chicken korma, cream of tomato soup, and chocolate black-out cake. there is power near most seats, unlike in the U.S. United lounge.

Internet in hotels is simply non-existent in Australia. I had no Internet access at all until we visited an Internet café two nights ago. The Travelodge we stayed at last night charged AU$11 per half-hour of in-room Internet. I did not partake. Many hotels had for-hire Internet stations in their lobbies, which were often busy. Aside from the Apple Store I visited in Sydney, this signal I’m using now is the only other free WiFi access I’ve had.

The Singapore Air A380 is always here. My guess is it never really travels anywhere. They simply tow it around the tarmac to show it off and get people like me all excited that they’re seeing one.

I hope you have been following my progress via Twitter. (http://twitter.com/lekowicz.) Twitter used very little bandwidth, so I could keep within my included 20MB overseas data limit. Thanks, AT&T, for making overseas plans so exorbitantly expensive that my iPhone was 90% crippled.

* * * * * *

Pack to the present. Out of curiosity, I priced my first class ticket for the exact same flights next year. Had I not used miles, I would have paid over $24,000. Well, actually, I would not have paid $24,000, but you get what I mean. Who can drop that kind of cash just for a flight somewhere? Crazy!

I am now officially on my vacation! I’m sitting in the International First lounge in Terminal 7. Here are some items of (not very important) note so far.

Apparently, when you fly first class, they don’t really give a crap if your suitcase is over the weight limit. Nor do they ask you to take it to the X-ray machine yourself.

On Wednesday, the TSA was wearing their usual Love-Boat-White shirts. Today, they all have on brand-new, brilliant blue shirts. I wonder how much that cost us all? I guess the price of freedom knows no budget.

My huge-ass chariot awaits! The 747 is already at gate 77. International flights seem to be the only ones where the planes aren’t flipped in 6 minutes.

LAX is freakishly empty. It’s unsettling.

The lounge lady was incredibly friendly. She loved my passport photo. She has to be paid to say so, because it’s not what I’d call supremely flattering.

I am currently enjoying cheese and crackers, a nut assortment, some tasty olives, mini quiches, sautéed mushrooms, spinach and feta cheese filo dough triangles, and free Wi-Fi. I will then proceed to enjoy a fine selection of sweets. I will not be enjoying the array of complimentary boozes, but I’m sure others are.

Sarah Palin is a power-hungry fanatic. Too bad she’s sitting only 10 feet from me. She smells like fresh-cut ragweed.

The in-lounge DJ will start spinning in 10 minutes. I understand the exotic dancers take the stage at 9:30. They even provided me with a stack of singles with which to tip.

And that is all for now. Aussie Lek signing off.

I am on my way to Australia later tonight. I’m flying first class. Yes, I used miles. To be honest, this has been one of the most exciting things about the trip… that I get to fly first class overseas! In the top of a 747! The 747 to me is the greatest passenger jet in the universe. It’s so iconic. Any other jet, you look at it and go, “It’s a jet.” A 747, you go, “It’s a 747!”

So I will be flying in the lap of luxury. I get to use the First Class International lounge before I board (I’m getting to the airport early so I can milk the hell out of that privilege); I’ll get a 47-course meal on the plane; my seat will lie flat for comfy comfy rest. Luxury, I tell you!

Here are two guys who are probably used to this kind of thing:

Click here for the high res version.

Now, you know I’m a fan of Apple and a huge UN-fan of Microsoft. Some of the Get a Mac ads are really great (for example). But I have to give props to Microsoft for this one. Well, not to Microsoft, but their ad agency. I was watching this on my iPhone, ironically, at the car wash this morning, and laughing out loud (LOL to you youngsters who can’t speak real English). There is a lot to like about this “ad.”

I’m not sure how effective these ads will be in making Microsoft appear less crappy a company with less crappy products, but at least it looks like we’re in for some really funny attempts at doing so.

So me, the lap of luxury. These two, slumming it. My, how our world has changed!

Some people are a fan of Southwest airlines, but I’m not. I have only flown them a few times, and was not terribly enamored of the third-world feel of the whole thing. I often wonder why there are not goats and chickens runing around freely in the aisles on their planes. My guess is the only reason there are none is that hungry passengers, denied meals or snacks, would snatch them up and grill them on a makeshift spit set up in the back of the plane, near the lavatory.

Now, I am definitely not a fan of any of the major American airlines, and I am definitely not a fan of the seat selection process, but at least—at least—if you get a crappy seat when you buy your ticket, you can choose another flight, or, if you have no choice, you have a while to get resigned to the fact that you will be crammed in a middle seat between two unsavory types who eat their pork rinds with their elbows sticking into you, way in the back row where the seats do not even recline, and where the smoke from the goat spit will water your eyes.

If you go through Southwest’s new seating game (reprinted below in case it goes away on their site), it’s like choosing a seat on the school bus all over again.

Southwest seating cheat sheet

When I read this, all I can think is, “Why not just assign the seats? Why go through this rigmarole?” The whole thing is nedlessly complicated for a seating system that is meant to be simple. Seating people in the order they checked in sounds like a good idea, but it isn’t. People should be seated in the order they bought their tickets. If you purchased your fare months in advance, why should you not get the better choice of seats than the guy who just got his ticket online last night and got to check in at the same time?

It’s the burden, I guess. Putting the burden on the passenger. You already had to go through hoops aflame with hellfire to get a ticket for a decent price at times you can live with, but now you have to go back again to check in online to secure a decent seat. And this is not just Southwest. Lately, the airlines have not allowed me to have pre-assigned seats for work travel. I have no choice but to check in online the day before and hope something good in the way of uncomfortable seating is still free. God forbid I can’t get to the site in a reasonable amount of time or, worse, that I forget, and have to accept the dregs that are leftover for me when I get to the airport.

To be honest, I have enjoyed being able to check in online. It’s helpful in other ways, like using the kiosks with the shorter lines once you got to the airport to check your bags. But to not be able to get my seat when I actually buy the ticket is a terrible trend. Flying has become so unpleasant anyway, why make it worse? We’ll see how Southwest’s new scheme goes over. Maybe it’ll be a smashing success. If not… more goats and chickens!

I’m here at LAX, waiting to board a plane for Denver for my 20th high school reunion. What better time to post a link to an interview with Kip Hawley, head of the TSA? It is a good interview, with some no-nonsense questions.

Now, when can we get those yummy meals back that we all used to enjoy so much?

Yes, I’m at Macworld. Yes, I get to see Steve’s keynote tomorrow. Yes, I’m as giddy as a Japanese schoolgirl with a new cell phone charm.

Today we are snowshoeing above Grand Lake. It’s another perfect day, with on signs of bad weather. I wish I could stay up here for a few weeks.

(That’s Scott and Teresa there in this picture.)

While Denver gets slammed with snow, we have great weather up here.

A huge storm is coming, but we’re on our way to Grand Lake anyway. We’re actually looking forward to getting snowed in…

Third state on my four-state journey: Colorado! And I happened to run into Vince here…

What’s a trip to the South without a visit to a Waffle House? A crappy one, that’s what!

Don’t be fooled by my dad’s expression; this was some awesome BBQ at Jack’s on Broadway in downtown Nashville. Yummy!

Our family road trip to Graceland went awry because we left Nashville too late. So we went straight to Tunica, where we’re staying tonight. We’ll have to hit Elvis’ pad tomorrow.