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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 12,496

About Me

Liberal born in Boston

Journal Archives

Flying in a sardine can and other travel misery

People forget that the airlines got bailed out right after 9/11. People forget that for a short while, travelers were uneasy to fly because of their fears, and for while, the airlines were running at a deficit.

Now, the airlines are taking advantage of ALL of us, those people whose taxes went to help the airlines keep going in a post 9/11 world.

And what have we wrought?

I can't speak for everyone or every situation, but I can speak for myself, and what I saw on the recent trip I made to Las Vegas and back to Boston this past week. And what I saw was depressing, and disgusting, and inconvenient, and largely deplorable.

First: The cost of an airline ticket has become overpriced, and predatory. I purchased my ticket several months in advance, looked at dozens of schedules--most of them inadequate, fares, airlines, and everything that used to be easy to research. Not anymore. Even the travel sites that proclaim they can get you the lowest fares are a sham: the difference between the results of these sites was underwhelming--most of the fares were pretty close to what could be found on the main page of the official airline sites themselves. Even Priceline, with whom I ultimately purchased my ticket, offered relatively little bargains in the fares.

It used to be easy to get a non-stop flight from one major city to another. At one time, even, I recall it was more expensive for multiple flights on a trip. Now, the non-stop flights are literally hundreds more dollars than what the travel sites can offer. Having multiple stops now increases the anxiety level, as you are forced to endure more take-offs and landings, wasting time in airports with nothing to offer except overpriced (grossly overpriced!) food, snacks, or anything purveyors hope you will buy at the last minute. Ten dollars for a Burger King Whopper meal is simply untenable.

Inspections: how many people have actually sat down and read the list of ALL the things you can't take on the plane with you? Because it's so damned arbitrary and frustrating and maddening, that for that reason alone, I have lowered the prospects of further trips out of town. On the last trip I took in January, they confiscated two unopened bottles of Gatorade I had. I lived with that, because it had been 5 years since I had traveled, and I wasn't completely aware of the restrictions.

This time around, I refused to spend $10 on the meal available on the plane--again, highly overpriced and, to me, largely inedible. Instead I brought crackers and cheese and peanut butter to make a snack. They confiscated my unopened jar of peanut butter. On the return trip, they confiscated a tube of hair gel, and an unopened jar of blueberry jam. Both, mind you, were also in my carry-on bag on the outgoing trip and were not taken at that time. When I went to check the tube of hair gel so I could remember it when I had to purchase another, I had a VERY hard time with the asshole just to see the front of the tube, because I couldn't read the label.

The airlines are now nickel and dimeing you to death. Because of all these extraneous fees, bringing the cost of your flight up considerably. Going to Vegas, I had to take some items to my brother, and therefore had two suitcases to check. The first bag cost me $25, the second one was $35--an additional $60 on top of the price for the ticket itself. On the way home, I was able to consolidate the two suitcases, and put one inside the other in order to bring them both back. The result was a suitcase that weighed nearly 50 lbs. I don't know about other people, but I have a variety of conditions which leave me unable to carry a whole lot, and I had to rely on others to take that suitcase on my own. In addition, the new rules leave almost every single person bringing on carry-on bags and trying to stuff them into the overhead compartments.

The result? Extreme weight right over everyone's heads during the flights, which, in my estimation, could be disastrous if the plane crashed or was damaged in some way. In addition, it seems to me that this will leave planes top-heavy, and physically crippling in some kinds of weather and conditions. I could be totally wrong on this, but even if I'm wrong, it would take considerably more than an explanation to allay my trepidations on this issue.

The planes themselves are jam-packed to the point of bursting. The airlines justify this by bitching about the price of fuel, but I came up with some numbers:

The average 320A (I believe that is correct) has room for 200 passengers. Now, despite wildly varying prices of tickets, $400 is not out of line for the average fare (this is based on a transcontinental flight like the ones I took), and that means on one such trip, $80,000 is not out of line for the amount brought in for one such flight. Right now, the cost of a gallon of aircraft fuel is $3.12. An Airbus A320 burns roughly 30,000- 35000 lbs of fuel on a cross country flight (approximately 4475 - 5225 gallons). Answer supplied through Yahoo questions http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080114102113AA839TN) Roughly, that means $16,302 is spent on fuel.

So how does the airline justify adding fuel surcharges on every plane that carries a full load of passengers? It seems to me that a new plane design, independent of kick-backs and favored manufacturers, based strictly on design benefits, COMFORT and fuel efficiency could bring the cost of an airline ticket down significantly.

I'm a passenger, not a pilot, not an airline employee, not an estimator, not an aircraft designer, et al, and even I can see where the cost of flying is built solely on profit for the airlines, NOT for the passengers at all, not even an itsy bitsy tiny amount. We are cattle, sardines, or any other synonym you can conjure to illustrate the feeling of traveling with too many people, inadequate passenger comforts, and WAY too much rigamarole to make any person feel right during a flight.

I'm not complaining about service--employees of most airlines are excellent, and I can't really bitch about most TSA personnel, as for the most part, they've been very pleasant. But the arbitrary standards, the "it's just the way it is" attitude, the general agony of traveling on any aircraft, unless you're rich enough to afford first class, fills me with anxiety. I'm short, so my feet don't touch the floor, so I end up with pains in my legs, plus health issues make my legs and ankles swell dangerously (on the trip home, they swelled to about 3x-4x times normal and they STILL haven't come down to normal), catching colds or other problems among other passengers through airborne viruses, seat backs, which do not support your spine with their design, and airlines filling every plane to bursting points makes me hesitate tremendously in flying for any reason. I can't stomach the costs, the food, the stuffiness, or the discomfort unless it is essential that I must endure a long flight.

I don't know about anyone else, but I think we should return to the days when airlines were regulated, where standards were kept up, and when costs were carefully studied and maintained. I don't think I smell like a sardine or a cow, and I know I don't have enough money to buy the "comfort" of first class. I'd love to see a day when travel held a little bit more pleasure and planes weren't so claustrophobic.

(Despite the seeming contradiction I make in questioning the cost of tickets at similar rates nearly everywhere on line, and the idea of returning to regulating airlines, the notion is not contradictory. I think conditions should be monitored by government to make certain that airlines can be limited in the surcharges they make, the additional fees they charge for almost everything to do with a flight, the need for justifying increases in fares, or making at least reasonable standards across the whole industry. Regulating can help lower the cost of travel by making all airlines adopt similar price tiers and conveniences, as well as insure passengers will be treated to roughly the same experience, regardless of which airline they choose to fly. Extras offered by airlines, apart from simple creature comfort, could still be offered, such as flight clubs, airline mileage rewards, etc., with sensible fees for them would not really be affected by regulation.)

Am I a bigot?

I think I could be considered a bigot. I guess, because my definition of bigotry means that I'm persecuting someone as a result of their differences. And I do admit that. I hate people who see themselves as superior, who stand for offensive ideals, who try to remove my rights from me. I despise people who believe in things that I consider horrendous: forcing values on others, forcing religious views on others, forcing their will on me, and trying to police things that I consider private, and none of their fucking business. If I am intolerant of all that, and I can put a label on this, then I am probably as intolerant of them, as they are of me.

This works both ways. The truth however is this: however my prejudice against their actions might be, I am fighting for those things that they hate about me, and not toward the people themselves. I don't give a good goddamn if they're pink, have three heads, read the bible literally, or how they practice their religion. That's their business. I believe that they have the right to make their own decisions in their own life, but that when they trespass against me and my beliefs, they have crossed a very tangible line. They are going above and beyond the rules of liberty, and they cannot be let free of answering for that. They are not going to keep trespassing on my liberties, because they are wrong. They are killers--they try to rescind what the Constitution has guaranteed me, they are killing my FREEDOM. They are evil and vile, and their crimes of subjugating others must be punished.

If that makes me a bigot, I am proud to wear that title. If they are going to keep trying to make me hate them, they will succeed. But as I write these words, I am still free, even if they they try to quash my liberties, I can still tell the world of their incursions. Let us all remember that religion is a choice, not a requisite to living in America.

The most extraordinary Webcam!

I have one of my accounts at the iGoogle site, which for some of you can be tranlated into a place where I can load up widgets of a million varieties, and either play small games, translate text, read specific articles, etc. One of the ones I'm most fond of is the Webcam. In this widget, I get a "snapshot" from a webcam somewhere else in the world. Since these webcams are often put up by a city tourism group, or city official city's administration, most of the shots have some element of prime scenery. There are also companies who put them up to highlight their products, boost their sales, whatever.

So tonight, I went to Heidleberg, Germany, Saskatchawan (prob misspelled!), Thessaly, Greece, Thailand and Ludlow, UK. All in the span of three minutes!

I like the fact that I can even look up to see a town or country, ot any place in the world.

It's amazing. Just the concept of being anywhere, anyplace, anytime is phenomenal. A century ago, we were just going for rides with an internal combustion engines. Then....well, we haven't stopped making strides since. Where will be be in another cenury? Will we be inhabiting the moon, Mars, or some distant planet? Will we have found a way to travel between dimensions in parallel worlds? Or will we still be stranded, on the third rock from the sun?

I'm watching an all MSNBC lineup tonight

The lineup at Current dismays me. I've watched all three shows more or less since their start, but I was watching Current because of Keith. In comparison to those shows, Ed Schultz, Rachel and Lawrence are seasoned professionals.

With Current, there was an anchor. There was a seasoned pro who could usher in the less than professional hosts, and give them a nod. Without KO, there is no anchor, no name who can draw people in, no reason for people to check them out.

I'm certain the others will get better as time passes, and that's fine. But without KO's passion, even his ego, the network elicits no desire in me to watch relative amateurs in their ongoing TV host training, especially in this primary season, with all the ongoing politics which are so vital to our democracy.

I know some people dislike KO. That's okay--I, too, hate some things on TV, like stupid reality shows. But I also am well aware that Hollywood, as a state of mind, hates amateurs--or it DID, before the networks started handing out cameras and TV shows to just about everyone, including garbage collectors. Polish was a virtue, something that made a diference in the way a host (and therefore, a show) was perceived. It still does, to an extent--I wish it still meant more. But it's difficult to stitch the wide variety of news viewers out there--in order to please everyone, there would be a vast empty space in TV land. But there will always be fearless pioneers who push the edge of the envelope so that TV evolves, and KO was one of them.

I don't watch all news all the time. Hell, watching the primetime lineup tonight was actually a fluke. But sports messed up some of my shows, and I decided to stay tuned to MSNBC. It wasn't so much a choice as it was a necessity.

There is still a lot of anger in me toward Current. I am irritated at Keith as well--it's not ALL Current's fault, but letting Keith go was a colossal mistake, and they're going to be paying for it for a long while. I'll be surprised if anyone even knows who they are at election time.

Confront and dissent

How many of us, in an effort to be polite, have kept their mouths closed when they have been verbally asaulted by s bigot from the religious right? How many of us have tried to remain neutral when a discussion breaks out on the topics of religious freedom, the discussions on evolution vs creationism, and pretty much everything or anything that creates a social issue?

It's time for us to stop. It's time for us to make our opinions known, and loud and clearly.

These groups on the extreme right have big mouths, and they use them. It's why we always hear news about them, because they don't know when to shut the fuck up.

We've got our own opinions, and HAVE for a long time. But while we often sit meekly by, watching them take the spotlight, they have gotten to be out of hand, and therefore get the attention, the benefits, and the "glory" of being heard.

When are we going to change? We can't remain in the current situation for much longer, we hear about all these puppets kowtowing to the Catholic bishops, the rest of the religious right, giving them silent signal that there should be more of the church in the government, more restrictions on those who are not of the same faith, and a firm foothold on matters that should only be secular.

The squeaky wheel is the one who gets the oil, and it's time that squeaky wheel become quiet, as all of us "wheels" need oil too.

I call it "confront and dissent." It's time for a revolution to come to the citizens of this country, and not only speak up, but shout out our displeasure at the way things have been happening. And it all begins with us.

I've kept silent in the past, even wheen it made me feel uneasy. I've watched all these people who aren't real "Xtians" try to regulate anything I think, my choices for my own body or partner, and I've watched them get smug, arrogant and vicious. And every single day we let them get away with it, we further their causes.

We just need to be proficient in how we retaliate.

Investigate common memes. Learn the truth about their lies. Who was it, Bush or Obama, who graciously bailed out the banks, the car companies and other institutions, and make sure you bring up citations as proof. Learn the facts about the whole "Xtian nation" shit, and again have the proof. Learn about evolution, and why it's called a "theory." Learn about climate change, who still insists that it's fake, and how we've proven it's real. Learn about the real achievements and philosophy of people like Jesus Christ, Gandhi. Mohammed, Buddha, and heroes and villains of other religious groups. Learn the truth about things like the "In God We Trust" on currency, and the inclusions of "under God" in the pledge of allegiance.

If we all strive to make the truth known, including any and all arguments against the memes of the right wing nuts, the whackadoodles who are trying to smother our country and take away any and all our civil rights, we can maybe change our country for the better.

Look at your own state's elected officials, get as acquainted as you possibly can, and have that knowledge as a weapon when some right-winger tries to argue with you or others as to why their choice is best. Make sure you can carry facts around in your heads to use when necessary. Be progressive at the same time--give the names of those you admire and why they are the only possible candidate for the circumstances. Learn about your representatives, who they are, and who they were. Are they good or bad? Do they deserve re-election, or are they among the brainwashed idiots of the right?

Learn about city, state and federal law, look up laws they've enacted, at those they have proposed, and why they were right or why they were wrong.

It shouldn't be a task--it should be refreshing! It should be invigorating! It could be the catalyst for someone who isn't exactly sure what they need in a political candidate, or a law passed.

They WILL argue with you. That goes without saying. They have been conditioned for over 40 years to reject morality and freedom, and agree with repukes. They need to understand the truth about the coercion of the brainwashed masses to the right, and the ideology of the much maligned left. They see a man getting a blow job in the White House, but they can't see Gingrich screwing his mistress while his wife is stricken with cancer and in a hospital. They can't see the Secretary of State committing voter fraud. They can't see the pain, misery and often deaths of those who have been abused, raped, and denied care. They can't see the brutality and force of someone who tries to control all those around them, bu making it impossible for anyone to escape.

We all hear the loud cries of "persecution" whenever someone tries to correct a situation, making many of us fall in line just because we don't want to stand out from the crowd and change things. We know we live under oppression, and yet we don't and won't speak up.

It's time to stand up, confront and dissent. If we don't, change will never happen, because we refuse to rock the boat. Just picture that boat and imagine later down the line when nutcases take countrol of that boat and bark their own demands on who lives and who dies. I'd rather fight to the very end than allow myself to be controlled by others in any crucial situation.

Home!!! :-)

We have a beautiful planet. We really do. Whether we ever find life on other worlds within our lifetimes, I think we really need to understand our own world, first. Let's be awed for a while, and contemplate where we come from.

To be honest, sometimes I wonder if we deserve what we currently have. But let's not wonder about that, and take a look at the wonder we already have.


Dolly, the pit bull

Please watch. The only way to help animals is to know what they are going through. If we don't have the built-in courage to see what is happening to them, we are letting down mankind as well as those with no voices of their own. It hurts to... look, I know; been there, done that. But these beautiful creatures need our love, our help and our compassion. There are way too many wolves--human ones--who maim, torture and kill animals as though they aren't capable of emotion or feeling pain. The rest of us know differently.


New year brings new attacks on evolution in schools


New year brings new attacks on evolution in schools
Legislative actions in New Hampshire and Indiana beset widely accepted theory

The new year is bringing new controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, with two bills in New Hampshire seeking to require teachers to teach the theory more as philosophy than science.

..Meanwhile, an Indiana state senator has introduced a bill that would allow school boards to require the teaching of creationism.

New Hampshire House Bill 1148 would "require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism."

The second proposal in the New Hampshire House, HB 1457, does not mention evolution specifically but would "require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes."

Innovation can indeed overturn old ideas, but the theory of evolution is too well-established to be tossed out like yesterday's garbage, scientists say.

How many kids are too many?

I know that it often depends on situations, such as being rural or urban setting, whether you have enough money to raise them and so on, but for the ordinary human being, does there come a point where it becomes difficult to care about all the kids in the same fashion?

Let's say you have enough money to raise a bunch, but would you love them all equally, in the same way?

Are there different levels parents have their kids on, in terms of "love?" I never had kids, but I have seen some parents favor one child over another.

I ask because I was watching something last night and there was a couple who had two kids, and then their third turned out to be a special needs kid, and all the attention turned to that one, and it seemed, even though it was only segments of their lives, that attention went less to the older two children as a result of the third one's need for more care and attention.

I was first in a family of four kids, and it seemed to me that my brother and I might have gotten more attention simply because we were around longer, but my two younger siblings seemed to have more--well, issues. My sister of course abused (and continues to abuse) alcohol and drugs, and my younger brother was arrogant and nasty (even though he suffered brain trauma in a car accident and requires care, he still has that nastiness right under the surface, and begins to strike out at everyone if he doesn't get his way).

I know some people shouldn't have any at all, but should a family realize their limitations and stop after a couple?


Let us count the Democrat ways:

Gone are Ghadaffi, bin Laden, Mubarak, Kim Dong Il, and several other despots.

We have seen our own government struggle, with Tea Party politics, GOP pretenders to the throne, and conservative morals that go bang in the night.

We have seen Democratic leaders pressured to give up their posts, with concervative vitriol at an alltime high. We have seen good people go down and not get up again. We have seen the growth of a new, progressive netowrk, railing against the evils of Republicans.

We have seen the birth of the "99%"--an effort to bring people together, to curtail the greed and power of the 1% richest people and corporations in the country. We have seen the movement grow, wane, and enter the public consciousness.

We have seen the fall of influence with some, like Rupert Murdoch, and the rise of others. We have brought the tradition of protest back to the fore, and public awareness has increased.

We have seen some of our own pass away: Warren Christopher, Geraldine Ferraro, Fred Shuttlesworth, William Donald Schaefer, Sargent Shriver, John Shalikashvili, Charles Manatt, Sidney Harman, Richard Holbrooke, and Dorothy Rodham, Hillary Clinton's mother.

Whatever we hope for in 2012, we will still see the deaths of many--far too many, for political reasons and power struggles.

But we can still hope, as we do every year, for less death, for more fulfilled promises, for a time of peace.

We can disagree with our political opposites, but finding a single, clear focus of a bi-partisan goal might still be possible, if we can clarify what almost all of us want in the end.

Goodbye to all that other stuff--let's take a go at a new year.
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