Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Thursday, September 14, 2017

United Airlines

United Airlines just gets worse and worse. 

We flew from Houston to Chicago today, Sept 14, and when I booked the flights about a month ago, I booked a new fare that United calls "Basic Economy." I didn't notice this was a new fare class, and I don't recall any particular warning or notice that I was booking this new fare class until after I had booked it.

"Basic Economy" is marginally cheaper than "Economy." Like maybe $10 off of a $250 fare. Whoopee! As they say, the devil is in the details. Details like: you cannot pick your seats with this fare class; if you book flights with your family, you WILL NOT get to sit with them; you can't even take a normal-sized (reduced size) carry-on bag, and you only get one bag on board instead of the normal two; no "Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM); also, no changes, PERIOD; no cancellations, no changes. There are so many fare classes, who can keep up?

Sure enough, when my wife and I checked in, we were not seated together. At least they put us both on row 32, almost at the back of the plane, but on separate sides of the plane. 

Why is it that the plane is so hot before you take off? Talk about hot, this plane was practically scalding. In this 737, there are three seats on each side with an aisle down the middle. Hell, in first class, there were two seats on each side with an aisle down the middle. For what they charge for first class, there was not that much more room than in coach. OK, more leg room.

And WTF is with the tiny seats in coach?! If you are overweight, you do NOT fit in the seat. Sure enough, one guy on my left was so fat, he spilled over the arm rest into my space. You get hardly any leg room in coach, unless you pay an extra $20 or so, and then you get a whopping extra 3". So your legs are almost under your chin, it's hot as hell, and I am squeezed into the seat. 

Each seat now has a TV. How exciting. On comes the CEO, Oscar Munoz of United, to brag that United is now #1 in on-time departures. What bullshit. All this means is that we pull away from the gate "on time." So naturally, after we pull away from the gate, we sit and sit and sit on the tarmac for about 30 minutes, and the plane is so fucking hot I am just a puddle of sweat. You can feel a palpable sense of anger rising from the passengers, but what choice do we have? None. Nada. 

We finally took off and the A/C kicked in. At least the flight was relatively smooth. They must fly faster than normal so they can arrive close to on time, but we were about 15 minutes late. 

It's a fucking tragedy what United has done to Continental. We had a good airline in Continental, but United has just nickel-and-dimed everyone to death, including their own employees. What are we down to now? 4? 5 big airlines? And they always say the mergers will increase competition and be good for the consumer? Right. Bullshit! When was the last time a big merger was not allowed? I can't remember.

Fuck United. But they are just about the only game in town if you fly from Houston.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Joel Osteen

Roy Zimmerman, who will perform at the upcoming FFRF convention, took off on Joel Osteen, Houston's own "prosperity gospel" preacher. Osteen was certainly ripe for fucking.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

We drove from South Padre Island into Houston today (Sept 12) and were dismayed to see all of the damage from Hurricane Harvey once we got close to Corpus Christi. Our route takes us up highway 77 and then highway 59 (I-69). 

So many fractured trees along the way, but once we got into Refugio, damn, multiple piles of lumber and who knows what here, there, everywhere.  Billboards with no message, just the posts; gas stations destroyed; crops chewed up and flattened; a few automobiles still laying on their sides. 

I made the mistake of not filling up with gas before leaving the Valley. When I got to around a quarter-tank remaining, we still were about 150 miles away from Houston and we had to find gas. If a gas station was open, all of their pumps might have been damaged or out of gas. In some cases, only one pump was open and there were lines of cars waiting. We finally scored some gas for a pretty high price of $2.799/gallon, versus the typical (lately) of $2.299 or cheaper. 

The love bugs were out in force too. Strange, because you usually don't see swarms of love bugs except in the springtime. Everything seems out of whack. Crazy fucking storms, lots of sunspot activity in the solar minimum cycle, total solar eclipse, it's the end of the world!! 

In Houston, the west side of Beltway 8 between highway 59 and I-10 had just reopened. It had about 18' of water in it over 10 days after Harvey left. They finally brought in pumps and pumped out all of the water. As soon as we hit Houston and tried to get on the Beltway northbound to get to our hotel on the NE side of town, we hit a mega traffic jam. It took at least a full hour to travel about 5 miles. 

Traffic has been bad in Houston for a long time, but after Harvey, with Highway 6 on the west side STILL closed, traffic has been a real nightmare. In total it took us over two hours to get from the SW to the NE side of town. 

Once we got to our Best Western hotel, we discovered that the hotel had been flooded during Harvey. It smelled like heavy mold and mildew. The elevator was out and they wanted to put us on the 3rd floor. No. Fucking. Way. Fortunately, they let us cancel our reservation with no penalty and we landed in an America's Best Value hotel a block away. "Best Value" is code for bare bones. No shampoos. One trashcan. Hard beds. Musty smell. A/C hardly worked. No coffee in the room. No chairs in the room. Suffice to say, we will NEVER book again at one of these hotels, but at least they had a room open.

We were very lucky to move out of Houston in January of 2017 to get down to south Texas. We missed this storm. If we had still been in Houston, we would have lost BOTH of our cars to the flood, as the apartment complex where we had been living had the parking garage totally flooded. 

This time, a lot of rich folks got flooded out on the west side. Typically, only the poorer areas flood, and they have no "pull" in government. But now that the rich folks flooded, I expect to see some big changes in Houston as to how they deal with floods. Houston needs to spend BILLIONS on infrastructure and flood control, but I kinda doubt they will have the political will. Still, with the rich folks demanding home buyouts, the chances of change are much greater. 

I understand that there are still hundreds of people living in shelters in Houston. The need is still great. Give what you can, but don't send it to the Red Cross or Salvation Army. Those two groups have too much overhead and much of the money doesn't even reach the people that really need help. The best choice is really the local food bank, or pick a charity that you really trust. When there is a tragedy, the scammers come out in force, so be careful.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Tom Hanks

I knew I liked Tom Hanks. It's really hard for me to like right-wingers.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Equifax


Thanks a lot, Equifax! I hear they were informed of their vulnerability, and they did NOTHING, until AFTER they discovered they were then hacked.

“It’s one of the worst hacks imaginable," said Dan Guido, CEO of the cyber-security firm Trail of Bits. “People should be extraordinarily angry at companies like Equifax. We place a huge amount of trust in them about money matters but they’re so easily compromised by simplistic attacks like this one.”

The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do

If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.
Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.
There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. (This link takes you away from our site. Equifaxsecurity2017.com is not controlled by the FTC.)
  • Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  • You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Todd at Berklee

Todd Rundgren gave a (his first ever) commencement speech at Berklee College of Music this year.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Frances Wright


One of the unsung heroes of women's rights, Francis Wright, is practically unknown to most women.

On September 6, 1795, Frances Wright, the first woman to publicly lecture in the United States, was born an heiress in Scotland. An arresting five feet, ten inches as an adult, Wright influenced fashion of her day with her liberating style of ringlets, and later her adoption of "Turkish trousers." She traveled with her younger sister Camilla to America in 1818. Her play, "Altorf," was staged to acclaim in New York in 1819, where she shocked society by using her byline as a female author. Her travel book, Views of Society & Manners in America, (1820), caused a sensation in Great Britain and abroad. Freethinker Jeremy Bentham became her mentor and General Lafayette her confidante. Returning at 29 to America, Frances became a U.S. citizen. As an early and passionate abolitionist, she began a noble but ill-fated model communal plantation to educate slaves for freedom at Nashoba, Tenn. They would have no religion but "kind feeling and kind action," Wright decreed. The experiment unraveled for lack of money.
At 33, Wright launched her speaking career on July 4, 1828, in Cincinnati, seeking to "destroy the slavery of the mind," and counteract the effects of a religious revival on women, as well as the Christian Party in Politics movement. Wright called for the education of women and the rejection of religion. Her historic speaking tour won her adoration from progressives, such as the young Walt Whitman, who recalled how "we all loved her: fell down about her." But press and clergy dubbed Wright "The Red Harlot of Infidelity," and a "voluptuous preacher of licentiousness." Wright urged: "Turn your churches into halls of science, exchange your teachers of faith for expounders of nature . . . Fill the vacuum of your mind!" Practicing what she preached, she purchased an old church in New York City for $7,000 and renamed it the "Hall of Science." It opened its doors in April 1829, for lectures, a radical bookstore and at one time offered a health clinic. She and Robert Dale Owen launched the Free Enquirer and the Working Men's Party, advocating a ten-hour workday, for which she was dubbed a "female Tom Paine" by the mayor of New York. After an unsuccessful marriage to a Frenchman, Phiquepal D'Arusmont, resulting in the birth of a daughter, Frances Sylva, Wright returned to the United States, where she lectured and wrote. When Wright divorced her husband, she tragically lost custody of her daughter. She broke her hip in a fall and died prematurely after great suffering in Cincinnati. The women's movement of the 19th century later lionized her as a path-blazer of unparalleled brilliance. D. 1852.
“I am not going to question your opinions. I am not going to meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you mine. All that I say is, examine, inquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the grounds of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you.”

Monday, September 4, 2017

Vicente '20

I'm glad I'm on the "left". It's where all the funniest people (and nicest people) are.