Friday, December 15, 2006

Travel tips

Just started packing my suitcase last night. I'm heading up to Idaho to spend some time with my family, and I just realized, I haven't seen snow since 2002! Living in the sonoran desert can do that to you I guess. But as I packed my bags, I got to thinking about some of the recent changes by the TSA regarding carry on items.

* Always verify baggage limits with your carrier. Some airlines allow only 2 checked bags, some allow 3. Be aware that if you go over the free limit, excess fees will come into play, and you pay those fees one way - if you're still heavy, oversize, or have too many bags on your return flight, you'll have to pay again.
* Your airline may allow 1 carry on and 1 personal item, but the aircraft may not be able to handle it. Many smaller commuter jets, like the Canadair Regional Jet have limited carry on space. Larger carry on bags may have to be placed beneath the seat, or gate checked.
* Beverages are not permitted through security. Drinks purchased after you've been though security may be taken onboard.
* When it comes to toiletries in your carry-on bag, remember 3-1-1...items weighing no more that 3 oz in a 1 quart bag, 1 per passenger. These items should be kept at the top of your luggage, just in case the TSA agents need to take a closer look at your bag. Of course, there's no limit on the amount of these items that can be placed in checked luggage.
* And always during the holidays, remember to give yourself at least 2 hours to checkin for your flight. Checkin and security lines will be long. In fact, if you check in too late, while you may still have 45 minutes left before departure, if the lines are too long, you may be denied boarding.

Happy flying and have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I didn't see Marion . . .

. . . the librarian, but the last three weeks have been great as I've rediscovered the local library. Since moving out to the sticks, the local library options have been limited. The town we live in has a small modular (read: trailer) home that manages to squeeze every book they can into the limited space. Unfortunately, there's not that much more room, and the offerings are a bit scant. One day after work, I drove through a part of town I hadn't been to before (I work in a metro area, but live in a bedroom community miles away) and discovered a branch of the metro library. I also discovered that anyone living in the county, not just the city, could become a patron. It's only been since November 28th that I discovered the library, but what a great three weeks. And here's the kicker. For those who know me, or read my blog back in ... what was it March? I had an article or two on the state of comics. I've read at least a hundred graphic novels and comic trade paperbacks since getting my card, and I'll tell you, I've found some new winners.

Ultimate Spider-man. Wow. When I first heard about it, I was part of the camp that wondered why in the heck Marvel wanted to throw out 40+ years of continuity to create a new universe for tweens to discover classic Marvel characters. I mean, yeah, the clone saga was pitiful, but we're talking Spider-man here! John Romita, Steve Ditko, Todd Macfarlane, Erik Larson, John Romita Jr, the list goes on . . . Spidey's the supreme example of what could happen to any of us if we got bit by a radioactive spider - life sucks, we try to make it better, but it's always a roller coaster. You don't mess with Spidey. Or so I thought. Cut to, what is it now, six years later, and boom, Ultimate Spiderman has just celebrated issue number 100. I've picked up the trades out of curiosity, and I've read them a bit out of order. I can't say I'm much of a Brian Michael Bendis fan, a lot of his stuff is too "adult" for my tastes, but he nailed Spiderman on the head. For me, it feels like a natural progression as Peter discovers his powers, loses Uncle Ben, finds love from Mary Jane, and disowned by Aunt May. It's great writing, great art (by Mark Bagley), and something a lot of books don't have - heart.

Another book that has heart is "Herobear and the Kid." This book has received a LOT of praise, and I even picked up the first issue a few years ago, but it's only been over the last few weeks that I've read the first volume. I've read "indy" books since the days of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I love "Bone." "Herobear and the Kid" reminds me a lot of what I found interesting about Bone when I first discovered it. Something about the black and white creates a sense of innocence and wonder in these books, and in this case enhanced by the animated pencils of writer/artist Mike Kunkel. In it's later issues, Bone got a little too serious, compared with its beginnings. I don't think that'll be the case with Herobear. It's loaded with heart, and dare I say whimsy. I can't wait for the next installment now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

Five years ago, I watched the towers fall.
Five years ago, I learned what heroes truely are.
Five years ago, our world changed.
Five years ago, I saw the best and worst in humanity.

I awoke that Tuesday morning as my sister knocked on my bedroom door. I couldn't hear her clearly, she said something about the world trade center being on TV. Just like millions of others, I turned on my TV to see the black cloud rising from tower one. My thoughts turned back 12 years. On a July evening in 1989, I stood atop that tower and gazed past the Statue of Liberty to the lights of the New Jersey coast, wondering how many people were looking back at the tower that night. Earlier that night, I trembled with anticipation as I waited for the elevator doors to open. I've never been good with heights, and up to that date, the highest up that I had been (aside from the plane that took me to the east coast) was 26 stories up in a high rise in Salt Lake City. After spending about a half hour at the top, I lingered with my tour group in the courtyard between the two towers and marvelled at the sheer magnificence of the buildings.

I went to work that afternoon in shock. At the time, I was a photographer with a local tv station. The roads were empty, and the general hubub that permeated the newsroom on most days was somber. The anchors and reporters were gathered around the monitors which recorded the national feed. We were all quickly dispatched to our assignments. I don't remember everything I did that day, but I do remember going to the local aiirport to set up a live shot for the evening newscasts. Our competitors were also set up, and the usual banter we shared took on a somber tone. I remember feeling relieved that I was given this assignment, as it meant that I wouldn't have to do any interviews, too worried about emotions too near to the surface.

Since that day, my life has changed dramatically. I'm married, and my wife and I have a beautiful daughter. I thank my Heavenly Father daily for the blessings in my life. I look back today a little bit older and wiser, and still feel deep sorrow over the lives lost in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville. I heard a song today, titled "Have You Forgotten." I hope I never forget. May God bless the USA.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Duck and Cover

For Disneyland's Fiftieth birthday, several "hidden mickeys" have been created, and placed throughout the park. Hidden Mickey hunting has become a highlight of visiting any Disney park. But I say it's time to fight the power, let others be heard. Let the Duck be heard! Props to Adrian (see link on the right) for this image he probably has forgotten about.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

It's getting hot in here . . .

If you happen to read the comments to the last post, you'll notice one person mentioned an A/C problem. My home's air conditioning has been out since mid June. The compressor went out just before Father's Day. It was repaired within a week, but not before the old one blew, sending pieces through the condensor coil, eventually preventing the unti from working, even after the new compressor was put in. After a week of finger pointing by the home warranty company, the unit's manufacturer was supposed to send a new condensor coil. It's been over four weeks. The contractor told us last week that his supplied indicated that the part was shipped just within the last few days. But here we sit in the Arizona desert, with little but fans and window A/C units that keep only the bedrooms liveable.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I'll write my blog, even if I gotta break through this window!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fly like a pro part 3

Finally, the big day is here. All your bags are packed, you're ready to go, I'm standing here outside your door . . . wait a sec, I just went completely John Denver today. Sorry, it shall not happen again. You've still got a few hours to go before you head to the airport. What to do in those last few moments before braving the ticket counter and security lines? Never fear, I've got a few suggestions. As always, contact your air carrier for specific information regarding their services.

Before going to the airport
*Call the airline within 24 hours of departure to confirm your reservations. Also call to confirm your flight's status before leaving to go to the airport if there are any weather issues that may affect your flight. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you may be able to save yourself a headache.
* Check in online. If you're only taking carry on bags and have an Eticket, there is no reason to not do this. You can save yourself time by not having to go through the ticket counter line. And if you do have luggage, double check with the airline whether they have curbside service or a central baggage collection area outside of the ticket line.
* Check in at the kiosk. Don't have access to a computer and the ticket counter line is three miles long? Again, our good friend the Eticket comes to the rescue. Most major airlines now have kiosks near checkin and security areas which allow you to check yourself in at the airport. It will print your boarding passes for you and your can proceed to security, all without waiting for an airport employee assistance.
* Early check in does not supercede the security line. Plan to give yourself enough time to get through security. Most flights begin boarding a half hour prior to departure and close the door 10 minutes later. If you have not given yourself enough time to get through security, you may be denied boarding.
* Pack any essential items in your carry on luggage, such as medicine, money, cameras, and even a change of clothes if you can fit them. This is just in case your luggage does not make it to your destination with you.
* Weather and Holidays can and will affect checkin times and lines. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. If you're leaving a car at the airport, be sure to call ahead and make sure the airport has parking available, or try off site airport parking (check your local yellow pages).
*Have your ID ready. All commercial flights in the United States require that all adults show positive picture identification. For domestic travel, a driver's license is sufficient. If there's been a name change due to a recent marriage or divorce, bring the apporpriate legal document verifying the name change. For international travel, contact the airline for customs and visa information specific to the country you are going to visit, as well as for re-entry back into your own country. You will be required to show it at the ticket counter and security, and many airports require positive ID at the gate prior to boarding. If you have an infant who will be travelling as a lap child, bring a copy of the birth certificate to verify the child's age. Children deemed to be two years or older at time of travel are required to have a purchased seat, and airport agents may require the unprepared parent to purchase a full priced seat (at last minute rates) for a child they do not believe is under the age of two. Keep all ID in an area where it can be easily accessible for you, as you may need to access it several times at the airport, but be aware of your surroundings and always know where it is at to avoid identity theives.
* Visit the TSA's website for the most up to date list of items that are not allowed onboard the aircraft. You may be surprised by both what is on and not on the list. It is also a great resource on current policy regarding all transportation systems, including airline, bus, and rail, as well as travel tips to help avoid any problems with security.

That's it for part 3. Next, we'll discuss what to do once your at the airport. Again, policies may be different betwen airlines. Always contact your carrier for any questions specific to your flight plans. These posts are developed after years of assisting passengers with questions and are not intended to supercede or affect any airlines policies, nor do they reflect any one airline's policies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Flying like a pro part 2


To preface today's notes, think of a ticket as a contract. Passenger X agrees to pay for a ticket to travel from point A to point B on a certain date. Airline Z agrees to provide service on flt 123 from point A to point B on that date. Between the time the ticket is purchased until the flight leaves, a myriad of things may happen that may keep either party from keeping their end of the contract. Passenger X may have to work on the day he planned on travelling. Airline Z may have to cancel the flight. Both parties have obligations based on the terms set up when the ticket was purchased (remember, read everything before buying). Whether you read over the terms or not, once the ticket is purchased you and the airline agree to the airline's contract of carriage (most airlines provide this contract through their websites), as well as all rules for reaccomodation. As always, policies may be different between airlines.

If you make the change
* Confirm the change policy of the airline. Most tickets are non-refundable. A reissue fee on such tickets may carry a penalty of around $100 per passenger. You may also have to pay the difference between the value of your current ticket and the price of the new itinerary. The airline will price the new itinerary at today's price, not the price it may have been back when you originally purchased your ticket. If you know that you need to make a change, the sooner it can be made, the better it may be price wise. Keep in mind however, if you need to change the ticket a second time, you may be charged a second reissue fee. Check with your airline.

If the airline makes the change
* The airline wants your business. Flight changes are not personal and the airline does not take pleasure in making several thousands of passengers upset that their plans have been changed. Airlines adjust their flights several times througout the year, based on how full the flights may be. A flight which is full every day stands little chance of changing the time, in fact the airline may switch the aircraft for a larger sized plane to increase their revenue. However, a flight which goes out half full five days out of the week is not profitable, and in todays economy, airlines cannot afford to even fly the planes with so few passngers aboard.
* Airlines will look at all options - conditionally. Though your flight may be cancelled several weeks in advance, the airline can offer alternate itineraries. They may not (and probably will not) look at accomdations on other airlines for a schedule change made several weeks before the flight is scheduled to leave.
*Day of departure. Any number of things can affect a flight on the day of departure. There may be a mechanical problem requiring serious attention. Weather can stop all traffic into a city faster than you may realize. Air traffic control is God when it comes to any operation. Crews, which may have had a later flight, are required to wait for a specific amount of time before they can work again.
*If your flight is cancelled or a delay will affect another flight - speak with a gate agent. Unless the agents tell you to call the airline's reservation system, only airport agents are allowed to make changes to a passengers itinerary once the passenger is checked in. Lines will be long and tempers will be hot. Please keep in mind that the ultimate reason the flight has been cancelled is that it has been determined that it is unsafe for passengers to travel on that particular flight, and the airline or air traffic control is protecting every passenger on that flight.
*Reacommodation to another airline is not always an option. For example, if Airline Z cannot fly to Duluth because of a snowstorm, neither can Airline Y. Most reaccomdation policies are determined at the time the cancellation occurs.
*Have some way to contact someone outside the airport. Take a cell phone, use the pay phones, please have some way to contact a family member or friend.

Again, policies may be different betwen airlines. Always contact your carrier for any questions specific to your flight plans. These posts are developed after years of assisting passengers with questions and are not intended to supercede or affect any airlines policies, nor do they reflect any one airline's policies.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Flying like a pro part 1

Working inside the airline industry has really opened my eyes to the other side of the coin. Just watching an episode of Airline can really give you a good idea of what airline employees face every day. As my little contribution, I'm beginning a multi part listing to give you an idea of how to make the most of your flight. Policies may vary between airlines, so always verify and double check with your carrier if you have any questions.

Before Buying
* Be flexible. Many travel websites can offer multiple fares if you travel one day earlier or later. Some will show the rate even before looking at itineraries. Also, fares can differ on different flights.
* When pricing flights, be sure to specify the number of seats that you are looking for. You may find a great rate, but it may only be for one person, and not available for your party of six.
* Consider insurance. Flight insurance may be an option that can save you money if your flight needs to be changed. Most insurance policies will not cover changes that are not related to illness or emergency.
* Read Everything. Your ticket may have fees for itinerary changes.
* Double check. Be sure that you are purchasing the flight that you want to take. Any change could be costly.

After Purchasing
* Double check again. - even if you have not received an email, verify your flights with the airline before midnight just in case you find out your flying to Minneapolis instead of New Orleans.

Tomorrow: Changes

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Leavin' on a jet plane . . .

One of the best benefits of working for an airline is called "Non Revving." Employees and family members are able to travel anywhere on their airline, somethime for free, sometimes for a small fee. Most of the trips my family has taken has been to visit extended family, but we've also tried to make the most of this opportunity. In 2004, we purchased annual passes for Disneyland. We were able to fly out and visit several times that year. We've also spent time in San Diego just wandering around and finding something new everytime. We plan on visiting Pennsylvania, Oregon, Florida, and Washington DC.
The downside of this benefit is that we must rely on open space. Even with tickets as expensive as they have been recently, we can only fly if there's an empty seat. Sometimes it makes for long waits at the airport. One time we even flew through two different airports just to get back home. The most important thing I've learned is that it's good to be flexible and have at least 3 back up plans for your back up plan (yeah, you read that right).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

One Month Later . . .

I'm...uh...taking a cue from DC comics and writing as if it's one month later, yeah, that's it, that's the ticket.

Over the past couple of weeks, DC's Infinite Crisis has led up to an interesting turn of events. Without going into too much detail, the multiverse of Earths has returned, Superman is the source of it all, and the DC Universe has jumped ahead one year in continuity. I've only read one of the "One Year Later" books, Detective Comics, which has Batman returning to Gotham for the first time in a year. Gordon is again the commissioner. I'm not sure how to describe it other than it was a great read. The Batman/Gordon interaction has been missing for about five years now. The issue was set almost entirely on the roof of Gotham's police department. A few hints are dropped about the past year (which will be fully revealed in DC's upcoming 52* maxiseries), and events are dated as "last year" and "nine months ago." Noticeably absent was Detective Rene Montoya. She is to be one of the main characters of 52*, and left the Gotham Police Force after her partner was killed by a rogue CSI agent (nope, it wasn't Gil Grissom). That partner, whose name escapes me at the moment, has become the new Spectre. Also, the issue did not show any aspect of stately Wayne Manor or the Batcave. No idea if Alfred survives the Crisis. And I've heard rumors that the Elseworlds tale Son of the Bat may have become continuity. Talia Head, the daughter of Ras Al Ghul, and Batman have a son, Ibn Al Xu'ffasch. A grown up Ibn was part of the seminal Elseworlds epic Kingdom Come. Current suspicion is that the reason Batman's been missing from Gotham is that he's been searching for his son. It's an interesting turn, especially considering the role that Talia had with the return of Jason Todd. And thereby hangs a tale. . .

Monday, February 06, 2006

I'm still here (at least I think I am)

Between work, home, family, stupid computer problems and assorted life stuff, I've been away from the blog. I haven't given up, it's just the internet has been against me for the last week. I'll soon update.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Final Secret Crisis of Infinite Identity Wars II #0

I'm a comic book fan. I have been for the last twenty years. Sure, as I kid I read the occaisional Superman or Spiderman comic. In junior high, though, through the encouragement of my best friend and the local comic book club, I soon discovered the plethora of titles from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Fantastic Four. I still have my almost complete collection of Marvel trading cards from 1990. My entry into the comic world came in 1987, two years after the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths, and one year after the relaunch of Superman, and "darkening" of comic themes in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. The next few years were seminal, with the death of Robin (Jason Todd), the rise of superstar artists such as Todd Macfarlane, the creation of Image Comics and the publication of Wizard Magazine, the Death of Superman and Knightfall storylines, the boom of the speculator market, and the rise of independent publishers.
By the mid 90's, the industry seemed to reach it's zenith, with everything from the whimsey and fantasy of Jeff Smith's Bone to the dark themes of Neil Gaiman's Sandman creating fan frenzy and mainstream appeal. Somehow, amidst all the success of the early 90's, everything seemed to fall over a precipice and the publishers began to reach for straws. Marvel declared bankruptcy. Superman turned into an electric blue entity. Spiderman was no longer Peter Parker, but a clone named Ben Reilly (or was he?). Captain America and the Fantastic Four dissappeared from Marvel continuity for a time. Hal Jordan fell from being the heroic Green Lantern to the cosmic villain Parrallax, before finally becoming the vengeful Specter.
Creators and publishers were reaching for any sensational idea that might win back readers. One comment I often hear is that creators want to find new avenues and ideas that will both push the envelope but allow the character to retain their staus quo. For perhaps the first time in the medium's history the base of readers has been the same for at least the last 10-15 years. The fans have grown up with these books and characters, and rather than move on to other forms of literature, they continue to follow the stories. They want to see their favorite characters grow with them, yet they raise a call to arms should the precious status quo be affected.
I believe that publishers and editors have heard the complaints and have taken steps over the last few years to find ways to allow their characters to grow, yet maintain the core of the character. For example, shortly after the Spider-Clone saga (see Ben Reilly above), Marvel hired filmmaker Kevin Smith to write an arc of Daredevil. That storyline led to the highest readership and sales numbers the book had seen in years. Smith parlayed his success with the ressurrection of DC's dead hero Green Arrow, who wasn't a top tier character even before his death. Others took notice of what Smith had accomplished and began to look outside the industry for talent. Since 2000, Hollywood creators, such as J. Michael Straczynski and Joss Whedon have made their mark on comics. Novelists Greg Rucka and Brad Meltzer and independent creators like Brian Michael Bendis have brought new insights and situations to comics that might not otherwise have been considered. Even author Stephen King is bringing his Dark Tower saga to the comic page. Artists like Alex Ross have their pick of projects, from a post-history of both the DC and Marvel characters in Kingdom Come and Earth X. The medium is again at a high point. The past few years have seen a resurgence in storytelling that keeps getting better each year. Today's creators are now looking to use continuity to create stories the fans can enjoy. Hal Jordan is again the heroic Green Lantern. 2004's Identity Crisis took situations from 30 years ago and made them relevant to today's audience. DC's current mega-crossover Infinite Crisis is attempting to make all of DC's continuity, including pre-Crisis, relevant and understandable. Even Marvel is looking to their past. I think it really began with Origin, which delivered on it's promise, to give fans the unkown history of Wolverine, which is currently affecting the character. The Ultimate line takes well known characters and storylines from 40 years ago and has updated them for a new, younger audience. Last year's House of M and Winter Soldier storylines took events from the past and turned heroes into villains. Sure, there are some complaints, but the stories are good, and we keep buying. It's a good time to be a comic book fan.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What am I thinking about?

On my way home from work today, I wondered what I would write about. Would I rate the airports in the LA area? Would I discuss the filmography of Bronson Pinchot? What is green, has four legs, and can kill you by dropping out of a tree? I had no idea what to share with the greater world. Isn't that the beauty of a blog? You could prattle on incessantly such as I have done here and still manage to say something. I think.

By the way, the green thing in the tree with four legs . . . it's a pool table.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

And so it begins . . .

Greetings and welcome to my little patch of the blog-o-sphere.

Why have I chosen to make my presence known here? Who is to blame for my sure to be insufferable rants? Who am I to be heard?

The answer is "I don't know." Perhaps our journey will lead us to these elusive answers and more.

I've worked in the airline industry for the past few years, dealing with passengers one on one. No, I shall never be seen on such lofty fare as "Airline" or "Flight Attendant School" or other such schlock. A wonderful benefit of working for an airline is the ability to fly whenever and wherever I choose. Of course, flying there is one thing. Hotels, cars, theme parks, restraunts, and tourist traps all charge for their services. I hope to share my adventures in non-revving across the country.

But cramped seats and cheap peanuts are not my only interests. I have a healthy DVD collection, a veritable catalogue of comic books, an insane amount of knowledge concerning animation, and absolutely no understanding of how to post any of it on the internet.

So until next time compadres...I remain sleepy!