More Places I Have Seen

In alphabetical order:

Ahrweil, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany

Ludgate, London

Pie Town, NM (near the Continental Divide, temperature: -2F)

Silverton, CO

Trastevere, Rome

Zwettl, Austria

As with all these pics, right-click to enlarge, and feel free to use as wallpaper etc.


Not In Keeping

In last Sunday’s post about places I’ve seen, there was one pic which, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut:

As a long-ago Reader once commented:  “The best view of Manhattan is through a bomb-sight.”

Like so many cities, the place is best viewed from a distance because a) it smells and b) Noo Yawkers.  And of course there’s the political thing.

Despite all that, however, I like NYFC even though (to quote another Reader) it’s “mostly hype and hicks”.  And I’m not talking about the members of the International Hayseed Set who can be found gawping at Times Square and forming long lines at the Statue;  having lived there for three years, I’ve found most New Yorkers to be unbelievably parochial and yes, hicks.  What else can explain a city which serves the most over-priced-yet-average food in North America, and thinks that if it doesn’t happen in NYC, it doesn’t matter?

New Wife has never been to NYFC, so at some point I may have to grit my teeth and take her there.  Or not.  The price (to me) may just be too high.

Places I Have Seen

Indulge me for a moment, O Gentle Readers (like you don’t all the time) while I invite you all to take a stroll down Memory Lane with me, and re-visit some of my favorite places in the world.  It’s by no means comprehensive, nor are the pics ranked by anything other than alphabetical order.  (Some are quite large — right-click to embiggen.  And feel free to copy or use them as wallpaper etc.)

All Cannings, Wiltshire, England

The village green, Bishops Cannings, Wiltshire

Bodensee, Meersburg, Germany

Grand Place, Brussels

Back home

Hurley, Berkshire, England

Jean Talon Market, Montreal

Luxemburg Gardens, Paris



Vina Del Mar, Chile

Oh, Wonderful

Continuing with my series on air travel this week, I see this little snippet:

A security researcher has reportedly discovered a code leak in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner that would allow hackers access to the in-flight entertainment system and possibly systems like controls.

I just flew on a 787 last week for my return to Dallas.  Yeah, this makes me feel SO good about flying, when some neckbeard asshole (or, for that matter, some recently-shaved Islamist asshole) could mess around with the airliners’ control system while in the air.

Somebody remind me why I hate the Internet Of Things so much… oh never mind, I just remembered.

“Alexa, go fuck yourself.”
“I’m sorry, Kim, I can’t do that.”

Thoughts On Flying Commercial

Until last week, the last time I’d flown domestically in the U.S. was close to two decades ago (international  is a different story, of course), and man, things have changed somewhat.

Nothing much has changed with the airlines, it seems:  the same plastic smiles and training-manual treatment from customer service, the same fucked-up delivery (late flights, canceled flights, overbooked flights etc.) and the same rip-off fares for those unfortunate souls (like me) who didn’t have the luxury of time to have booked their flight six months earlier.

TSA is also the same bunch of petty gauleiters  who are at best curt and dismissive and at worst malevolent bastards (male and  female, BTW;  equality at last!).

It’s the passengers who have changed the most, but I can’t put my finger on the exact cause.  For some reason, the treatment given to people at airports seems to have rubbed off on the people traveling.  For example:  on both the outbound and return flights I managed to book an aisle seat, and because of my long relationship with American (I guess), I managed to board fairly early in the process.  This meant that on both flights, the person in the middle seat walked up to me, pointed at their seat and just said, “That’s my seat.”  No “excuse me” or “hi there” or “sorry to bother you” or anything like that — not even a fucking smile.  (On the several-times-delayed return flight, let me tell you that I was extremely short on patience, and when the twentysomething hipster chickie laid that schtick on me, I was thisclose  to saying, “So?” and not budging from my seat.)  In passing, I was discussing this very issue with a regular customer of mine — someone who flies DFW-LGA (the poor girl) every Monday morning — and she has seen the same thing, on almost every flight she catches.  Her take, however, is that it’s a generational  thing:  rude snowflakes with an attitude of entitlement.

Another thing is that old bugbear, luggage.  As the airlines are insisting on still charging for checked luggage (even though fuel prices, the reason for the original decision to charge for baggage, are the lowest in recent history), people seem to have stopped checking luggage except in exceptional circumstances.  Which means that you’re restricted to a small carry-on bag (which has to be small enough to squeeze into the microscopic space under the seat in front of yours) and a larger one which has to fit into the overhead bins — which, I should admit, seem to have got bigger on domestic flights than I remember.  Needless to say, the airlines aren’t enforcing the size restriction, which means that the bins fill up quickly, and therefore latecomers have to gate-check their bags.  The most egregious offenders in the “oversized” issue are the backpackers, who take Himalayas-expedition-sized onto the aircraft and either expect to stuff them into the bins, or else don’t care that even if they can, they’ve taken up 1.5 passengers’ space in the bins.

As someone who takes serious care to ensure that my bags aren’t oversized, I’m angered by this attitude.  It used to be that the worst offenders were business execs who tried to take their overstuffed garment bags and stuff them into the overhead bins, but now it’s the occasionally-vacationing Backpack ‘n Sandals set who are the assholes.  (Business execs are now the most conscientious travelers, it seems to me — maybe because they just don’t want to deal with the baggage hassle every time they fly.)

Here’s another thing:  the cabin crew are rapidly getting to the “you packed it, you lift it” policy when it comes to getting your bag into the overheads, and I can see why.  Mostly, of course, it’s female passengers who are the most egregious offenders — all that hair-dryer stuff and makeup and what have you makes for a case that feels like it’s filled with lead piping — and on several occasions, even the female cabin crew have had to ask male passengers for help. (This nonsense doesn’t help either.)  That said, it’s not always the passengers who are at fault.  On my return flight last week I flew in one of the new 787 Dreamliners and even I was struggling to get my bag into the bins, which are really high above the seats.  Watching the five-foot-nothing girl in front of me trying to lift her bag was an exercise in frustration (for both of us) and thank goodness that the next passenger coming down the aisle was a) tall and b) well-mannered enough to offer to help, because the flight attendant wasn’t having any of it.

New Wife and I flew last month (using miles) to get to New England for our short vacation, and for all sorts of reasons I didn’t want to write about flying commercial then.  But after what I saw last week… let’s just say that it will be a long  time before I take a domestic flight again.

What a horrorshow.

Third World Adventure

I once knew a German professional photographer (let’s call him Georg) who, along with a fellow German photographer (“Klaus”), decided to do one of those photo safaris — driving from Cairo to Cape Town, snapping pics along the way — that sounds so good back in Hamburg, but is completely foolish in reality.  Anyway, driving a mil-surp G-Wagen (not a bad choice, BTW), they set off and made it through Egypt without incident.  At the border, they had to get a “passing through” visa to get across the Sudan, which essentially allowed them to be in the country for three days.  When they got to Sudan’s southern border, however, the sole guard at the border post (just a hut) wouldn’t let them leave the country because they had the “wrong visa” — and they’d have to drive back to Khartoum (a two-day drive) to get the right one.  When Georg pointed out that their existing visa would expire en route and they would, in essence, be in the country illegally and imprisoned if caught, the guard just shrugged.  Not his problem.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.  Last week, faced with a looming legal deadline, I had to fly up to Chicago to get a legal document out of the Cook County Court archives.  (Why I was unable to access the document online, or even manage to talk to someone in the County Clerk’s office to send me the document is a story all by itself.)  Anyway, after having had my 5am flight canceled (thank you, American), I made the 7am flight only by dint of paying the full fare (don’t ask) and arrived at the Cook County courthouse (2nd District in Skokie) at about 11am, with all the data needed for the request on my trusty laptop..

Of course, there’s TSA-type security at all these places these days, which is where I had a Sudan-type encounter of my own.  Reason?  No laptops allowed in the courthouse by members of the public.  I know, it’s inexplicable but hey, Cook County.  I looked around for any storage lockers:  none.

“So where can I store my laptop?”
“You’ll just have to take it back to your car.”
“I don’t have a car;  I just flew in from Dallas.  So what can I do?”
Like the Sudanese border guard, the fucking security guard just shrugged.  “Not my problem.”

At this juncture, I should point out that every single glass window and door at the courthouse has one of those idiotic little “No Handgun” stickers displayed.

I’m not saying that I would have shot someone — in fact, I absolutely would not have, even if I’d been able to bring the 1911 with me — but let me tell you, after a day which had begun at 3am, experienced a canceled flight and a massive fare surcharge along with all the other hassles of modern-day travel (full flight, idiots with too-large bags, crowded train from the airport into the city etc.), only to be faced with indifferent bovine officialdom at the end of it, I can quite believe that some other guy  might  have dropped the hammer.

Which, by the way, is what Klaus did at the Sudanese border.  He told the guard that he had the correct visa back in the car, fetched his gun instead and shot the guard dead.  Then he and Georg got in their G-Wagen and raced off into Uganda.  A real African tale, that one.

And now, the rest of my  story. Read more