Travel Foibles: Part 8 (of too many to count) – “Premium” Seats

Since when was an aisle seat or a window seat “premium” and worth $15 to $40 more?  I understand the psychology of airlines, and their addiction to the nickel and dime charges that travelers are willing to outlay.  But, come on.  Tomorrow, I am flying to Austin Texas.  American TUS to DFW.  2;05.  I have a center seat.  eh, I can deal with it, because it is not a long flight.  But, you would think that I have a center seat due to the fact that the plane is overbooked, or ful.  

You would be wrong.  There are aisle and window seats available.  I just have to whip out my AMX card and buy the seat.  Sorry, not gonna do that.  

To me, a “Premium” seat is in a different class of service.  Like First Class, or Business Class.  It isn’t just a seat with only one other traveler next to me in it.  

Airlines, I would be willing to pay $40 for a seat with an extra 6″ of legroom.  I hate being cramped in a seat that should really have an OSHA limitation to be sold only to double, above the knee amputees and not have ergonomic issues.

Ah well, I guess I am tilting at windmills.

Travel Foibles: Part 7 (of many) – Hotel “green” initiatives

You have probably seen it, you get into your hotel room, and there are placards that describe how you can help them “save the environment” by any of a number of actions that include:

  • Not changing the bedding daily
  • Reusing your towel
  • Turning off lights and television while not in the room

All great things, and I do all of them (in fact, I virtually NEVER watch TV in my hotel room.  Just got out of the habit years ago and forget that it is even there anymore).

The one that bothers me the most is the reuse of towels.  I alway hang them on the hook to signify that I will use it again.  At home, I typically wash my drying towel once a week, so two or three days of use is neither “gross” nor a problem for me.

However, probably 90% of the time, the cleaning staff replaces the towel anyway.  So much for environmental consciousness. It makes you wonder what else they are not doing.

(For the record, the best experience was the Shiodome Hotel in Tokyo.  There is a card you put on your pillow to signify re-use of the bedding, and in return you get a “You are so AWESOME” card.  I have one taped to my office door.)

 

Travel Foibles: Part 6 (of too many to count) USA Today

I will admit to being a fan of newsprint.  Something about leisurely reading of the daily rag is something that I enjoy.  At home, we subscribe to the local newspaper, and read it every day.  While I read the NY Times everyday online, I still subscribe to the local fish wrapper.

As a product manager, I also travel.  A lot.  Hotels all over the USA, and the world.  Invariably, they come with a local paper.  In the US, if you are lucky, you will get a complimentary copy of the Wall Street Journal (although I enjoy reading that a lot less now that it is a Murdoch paper, but that is a tale for a different day).  However, you are about 99% likely to get a copy of the USA Today. 

Blah.

Seriously, I suspect that if the gratis copies provided to hotel guests were eliminated, the circulation is probably about 50 copies daily.  Why do I dis the USA Today?  It seems to be a purposely bland paper.  It tries too hard to be neutral in its editorial stance.  Its selection of stories is guaranteed to be non-offensive.  Even its opinion page strives to have a completely neutral balance.  Add that to the WHITE newsprint that gives it a more of a magazine look and feel, and you get a waste of words.

I usually glance through it, but as with a meringue, it is fluffy, but ultimately unfulfilling.

 

Travel Foibles: Part 5 (of many) – Carry on baggage

Time for another sarcastic look at the state of travel, and the law of unintended consequences.  Today, the (now) ubiquitous carry on baggage shuffle.

A few years back, airlines cottoned on to the idea that they could charge for the basic amenities.  Food.  Pillows.  Blankets.  A premium seat (how come an aisle seat is considered a $25 premium on Northwest/Delta?)  None of these does as much damage as the charge for checked baggage.

To save $25.00, people will try to cram two suitcases full of clothes, toiletries, and other sundry items into a small “roller”.  This is supposed to fit within a reasonable space (and all airlines have a measuring station).  They schlep this on to the plane, and manhandle it into the overhead bins.

In the old days, perhaps 25% of coach carried on (I admit that this is pulled out of the air, no scientific basis, yada yada).  But now, it is closer to 90%.  This means that by the third seating group or zone, all the overheads are overstuffed.  This leads to bitchy travelers who have to now check their baggage, bitchy flight attendants who have to tell the still boarding passengers that no, there isn’t any room left (and they still drag their bags on to “see for themselves”), and delayed departures, as 25 – 30 rollers are gate checked.

Lately, it has gotten even worse.  I witnessed the early boarders (particularly those with seats near the back) snatch all the front bins.  This leads to a wave of later boarders having to go beyond their row, stow their bag, then swim upstream to their seats.  Repeat in reverse at debarkation.

A mess.

Please, airlines, return to a reasonable one bag free to check, and charge only for overweight or more bags.  The sanity of frequent travelers is a commodity in short supply.

Plantar Fasciitis is the DEVIL

I have been doing battle with Plantar Fasciitis for about 6 months now.  It first manifested itself on a trip to Australia in March.  Annoying, but it seemed to pass reasonably quickly with lots of rest and vitamin I (Ibuprofen).  

It came back with a vengence when i went to run the Bay to Breakers race in May.  I suppose it was all the naked people that I was surrounded by.  It started in the Right foot, and I did get to a podiatrist.  New inserts in my shoes, stop wearing loafers, daily icing, and 650 mg of aspirin twice a day.

In a month, the right foot quickly healed.  Unfortunately, the left foot flared up.  This was in June.  I have continued the icing, the aspirin.  THe stretching.  All to no avail.  I have been in constant agony.  I returned to my podiatirst last week.  Was prescribed a strong anti inflammatory (one that is risky in conjunction with my heart health), and got a painful cortisone shot.

It is now 4 days later.  I am again in agony.  The pain is back.  The cortisone seems to have had minimal effect.  Even modest exercise of just walking in my neighborhood is excruciating.

Next up is custom orthotics for my shoes, and a long, slow recovery.

Low motivation – Work on a Holiday

It is Monday, September 5th, Labor Day here in America.  A bank holiday.  Tomorrow starts a week long series of meetings that I have a variety of contributions to make towards.

Alas, I just can’t get motivated.  I just cleaned my spice cabinet.  Perhaps I will clean out my sock drawer next.  Some old ones that need to be retired.

Sigh.  I wonder how long I can keep dodging this.

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We don’t give date estimates for bug fixes. Quit asking.

As a long time product manager, one of my pet peeves is the bug/hotfix process.  Stepping back, we have a well defined triage process, where a good team of dev, support, and support engineers (as well as myself) sit in a room, and agree on priority, severity, and even whether it is a defect, or just desired different behavior requested.  This works well.

Issues are brought in, verified, assigned severity (and if there is a work around, that lowers the severity, as you would expect), and tossed into the queue.

The maintenance team, 3 developers, then pull items from the queue in FIFO with some stack ranking due to priority.  At any one time we have 30 – 60 issues in queue.

What this rant is about is the constant badgering I get from sales.  “When will issue X be done?”  “Why isn’t {insert pet issue} done yet”, “I am going to go to the division GM if you can’t give me this this week”, among other less printable comments.

As there is a queue, and it is ranked by priority and severity, we get to them as we get to them.  We do not make duse dates available.  I will not commit to more than “It is in the queue, and the team will address it”.  

Sigh, I seem to lose 2 hours a week in these pointless discussions.  I have an idea, why don’t you find a bug in Windows, and call Microsoft support.  See how much “pull” you have there.

Great drive in music today – Steve Vai set

About 2 minutes into my drive to the office today, a great set of tunes popped up on the ol’ iPod plugged into my stereo.

From the forgettable movie, “Crossroads” (the Ralph Macchio one, not the britney spears one), there is a scene where Macchio’s character cuts heads with Jack Butler (played by Steve Vai), a guitar player who sold his soul to the devil.

The scene has for parts, “Fried Chicken”, “Butler’s Bag”, “Headcutting Duel” and the victorious response, “Eugene’s Bag of Tricks”.  Fantastic guitar work, and the piece de resistance, is the Eugene’s Bag of Tricks.  It is really one of Pagannini’s Caprices arranged for the guitar.  (In the soundtrack, all these parts are played by Vai, naturally).

What a great way to make it into the office.

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Damn, didn’t need that. Lost my best friend a year ago today

Opened my email this morning and got sucker punched.  I knew it was coming but somehow put it out of my mind.  Not hard to believe.  I set an annual alert in my Google calendar to remind me of the passing of my greyhound Oliver.  One year ago today, I made the toughest decision of my life, to allow him to pass with dignity and grace.  

Oliver-1

We got him in early 2004.  He failed off the track, and never ran a race.  We liked to think that he was too smart to race.  All greyhounds have issues.  They spend their youths only in the company of other greyhounds, and live life in kenels.  It is hard, and it definitely affects them.

Oliver had needs.  He was afraid of most men, but I was the immediate exception,  He glommed on to me, and really was my biggest fan.  He would mope when I would leave on a business trip.  He would be bounce all over when I came home.  He was really a super companion.

As a greyhound, he loved to run.  It was in his blood, and he would turn it loose.  It was a thing of beauty. 

Oliver-3

Then, one day, he pulled up lame.  I thought nothing of it at the time.  He had over exerted him self a lot of times, and always snapped out of it.  This time was different.  Over a period of three weeks, he got progressively worse.  We tried metacam (an NSAID), and other pain medications.  We tested for Valley Fever.  We had x-rays done.  THe hope being that he had a bone chip, or torn cartilege, or some other explanation.  

Alas, that wasn’t the case.  Greyhounds are highly susceptible to osteo sarcoma.  It is a hell of a disease, and really hard on the dogs.  No really good treatment besides amputation, and chemo therapy.  The was never an issue, but research showed that the prognoses even with this aggressive treatment is poor.

On his last night, He was up, restless and whimpering all night.  I laid by his side, and came to the realization that it was time to end his suffering.  Anything else would be selfish.

I guess that since this hurts me so to write (I am blubbering and crying like a baby) it means that he touched me in a very deep and special way.  I miss him terribly, and will probably always miss him.

God speed Oliver, keep chasing those bunnies in doggie heaven.  I miss you.

Oliver-4

Travel Foibles: Part 4 (of many) – In room comfort

What is it with mid range business hotels?  They all race to the same amenities.  

Name brand toiletries (Neutrogena here at the Hilton Garden Inn).  

They have the wide shower curtain bars (so that you don’t notice that you are standing in your grandmother’s bath tub).

There is a pillow menu for soft to firm.

All to increase my comfort.

You know what would really help?  Getting rid of under window AC unit.  I would sleep tons better if it didn’t sound like a Boeing 747 powering up to a takeoff run.