Travel Log

I have had a very light travel schedule the last two years. Probably the least I have traveled in 15 years (before I started in product management). But that lull has ended.

Some thoughts from the road:

  • TSA PreCheck – Over a year ago, I went through the rigmarole to get my Global Entry card/status. One of the fringe benefits is being added to the “Trusted Traveler” list. Thus I pretty much always get the TSA PreCheck on my boarding pass. WIN. I get to use the special lane, I don’t have to remove jacket or shoes. My laptop can stay in my bag. I get to go through the magnetometer. It is like going back to 1999 and traveling.
  • Carry on Baggage – I understand why airlines have gone to charging for bags and everything else that used to come gratis. But the $25 per bag to check means that the boarding of the plane is a melee. People arguing about the overhead space. People mauling other people’s bags to force in their body bags. And the inevitable gate checking of a dozen people’s bags. Furthermore, all airlines have guidelines on the size of carry-ons. Fully 3/4 of all rollers I see are way over the size allocation. Airlines, please start enforcing the size constraints of the carry ons.
  • Overbooking – I was at the airport early, flying a spoke flight (from a non-hub to a hub). All three flights were oversold. If a Tuesday mid afternoon (not the busy slot) is completely oversold, you might want to run bigger planes, or more flights. This is not new, but it has reinforced my belief that I will never ever be tempted to take the cash for a later flight.
  • Cab Queues – I often don’t rent cars. If I have the time, or am arriving at a reasonable hour, I will use public transit, or one of the shuttle services. But when I land late, or if I am unfamiliar, I will use a cab to get at least to my hotel. Why the hell can’t we figure out how to operate consistent cab queues? In Japan, it is methodical, machine-like, and uber efficient. In the US, it is all over the map. Peoria IL? After 8:00PM it can take an hour and a call to get a cab (grrrrr). Boston at midnight? A surprisingly long queue (I once waited 90 minutes in a line that was 400 yards long).
  • Elite Status – being elite used to be awesome. Board first, get upgrades etc. In the mid ought’s, I would get a lot of upgrades. First class in domestic flights was about 50% (I was putting on about 160K miles a year on UAL at the time), and probably 30% into business class international. Then I hit a million miles on UAL about 4 years ago. Supposedly I was automatically added to the upgrade list every flight. A “perk” they said. In 4 years, I have NOT ONCE been upgraded. A perk isn’t a perk if there are at least 24 additional people on that list, and the odds are nil that you will get it. Yes, I still get to board early, and I get double miles. Big deal.
  • Rewards Programs – I have three different frequent flier programs, I have at least 5 different hotel chain reward programs. I have “advantage” with 3 different car rental companies. Enough with this crap. There isn’t enough benefits across them to be worth the hassle. I get the “loyalty” program, but I also am annoyed when I travel with someone who absolutely must stay at a Marriott property. FFS, is a free night’s stay sometime in the future really worth being an asshole to travel with?

And this doesn’t get into the annoyance of the mergers of the major domestic carriers, the reduction of competition, and the corresponding degradation of (what little is left of) service. The American people have spoken, and the lowest fare is the winner, with all the extras being charged for. I just wish we could go back to the late 1990s.

Airport food has never been great. But all the vendors are moving to the grab and go model. $10 for a bland turkey sandwich. Yet, you will get worse food for more money on the plane (if you happen to be on a flight long enough to have food for sale). You are a captive audience, and you have no power in the relationship.

Sorry for the rant. I feel better now.

Leaving Arizona – Some more good stuff

While Arizona has many flaws, there are some wonderful things that are worth bragging about.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Truly a wonderful place to get a good snapshot of the ecology of the desert. Well run, fabulous docents, and a great place to get a feel for the diversity of the desert.

We were members every year, and we were certain to take all our visitors to the ASDM.

The Pima Air and Space Museum

Located adjacent to the Davis Monthan AFB, the Pima Air andSpace museum is a jewel. A fabulous overview of the history of flight, and many fabulous planes (including a complete SR-71 Blackbird, worth the price of admission on its own).

A real treat that everyone enjoys.

Cafe Poca Cosa

A restaurant in downtown Tucson, it is a local favorite. We used to take all our out of town guests there. Fabulous food, made fresh every day, with a menu that changes twice a day, it is well worth the drive.

The owner, Susanna Davila, also the principal chef, loves to mingle and interact with the guests. Their bar makes terrific Margaritas, and if you are interested in a less alcoholic experience, their white sangria is fantastic.

Recommendation: Get the Plato, a mix of three of their entree’s at the Chef’s discretion, it is sure to please. No ability to pick what is on the plate (but if you have a shellfish allergy, they will accommodate you), it is the best way to get a taste of Cafe Poca Cosa.

The Musical Instrument Museum

Up to Phoenix now (actually Scottsdale), the MIM is wonderful. When I visited, I expected it to be good, but I was completely blown away.

They have assembled a huge collection of music, musical instruments, and related it to cultures and the spread of civilization.

Music is something that is innate in all of us, and it was fascinating to see the most humble of components, how they were assembled, and then to hear the music that came from it.

Truly a wondrous display, and a worthy trip! If we weren’t moving, we would definitely be annual members. It is that good.

The Butterfly Wonderland

This is a new addition. Also in Scottsdale, the butterfly wonderland is a bit out of the way. It seemed expensive, but with the AAA discount it was better.

You start with a 3D movie that explains the cycle of the Monarch butterfly. It was cool, but not great. Then there is a display of butterflies and moths in their metamorphosis. Again cool, but not overwhelming.

Then you go outside. Wow. Butterflies, Moths, in all different sizes and shapes. Vibrant colors, large, small, they were all there.

Summary

Plenty of great things to see and do in Arizona. If you should visit, I can recommend these (in addition to the standards: Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Antelope Valley, Monument Valley).

Selling your house sucks

There are many reasons to hate the process of selling. The last time I had to relocate, we moved up front, and left an empty house. Get it cleaned, and let the agents have free reign.

This time, we have to sell before we move. This is much harder to accomplish.

#1 Select a realtor

There are literally thousands of realtors in any major metropolitan area. We are fortunate that we had to choose one who knows the Relo game and works with our Relocation company. Two good realtors, two slightly different approaches, but both seem competent. We pick the local specialist.

#2 Get ready

Unless you have fucking Martha Stewart as a maid, and a kick ass gardener, there are likely a list of things to do. You can live there, but you have to be ready to show at any time. And while it can be lived in, you really need to not have too much clutter.

So there are about 40 boxes of stuff stored in the garage. No guitars out. Not much besides the essentials.

It is tough living, but we have to do it.

Get the carpets cleaned. Get the tile scrubbed, fix those little things you never got to. Oh, your kitchen sink faucet died? Get it fixed. Oh, your garage door spring died? Get it fixed.

A few thousand dollars later we are ready.

#3 Put it on the market

Now the fun begins. It goes live. The marketing begins. The listing gets picked up by Trulia, homes.com, and Zillow.

We put it on the market on a Wednesday. We knew the first weekend would be busy, so we went to a local resort for a splurge. Put the dogs into daycare.

Now we are in the constant readiness state. Dirty a dish? Into the dishwasher instantly. Vacuum every day. Pick up dog toys and beds. We went from 10 dog beds to 3 that we move in and out.

We are now officially 2 weeks into it. Showing have trickled to once a day, or every other day. Easter weekend is coming. I bet that is slow.

#4 Bad buyers – Ups and Downs

The first Monday, we had an offer. Full price. Wanted the washer and dryer. Cool.

But the Relo people have a special process. Since they didn’t live here, they have no direct experience with the property, so they give minimal disclosure, and the buyer has to buy it as is (they do get to do an inspection, and we will fix what they find, but no need to come completely clean). The buyer, being a lawyer, didn’t like the terms. We were in limbo for 4 whole days before they backed out. Fuck.

I can totally relate to the buyer’s trepidation. A simple Google search shows that the relocation company is more than a bit skeevy, and has totally boned a lot of buyers. Sigh.

I know this happens, but it still sucks. Ironically, if we were just selling without the relo group involved, we would be 2 weeks from settlement. (You can be sure that I will hammer them on the customer satisfaction survey)

Summary

We have priced our house to sell. We are $12 – $18 a sqft below the neighborhood trends. But we are in a buyers market, so it will take time to get the right person to walk into our house.

I just want to get moved, and move on. Too much happening in life to have this drag out.

We have a showing tonight at 6:30. Fingers are crossed.

How Pop-Culture Ruined Me

I am reading a great book by Daniel Boorstin, called “The Seekers”. It is a book about the different philosophers throughout recorded history, and how they influenced civilizations, arose as the religions, and in general seeking the meaning of life.

The section I am reading now is about the Greek philosophers, particularly about Socrates. Great stuff, and I highly recommend the gook (and the series, including his book “The Discoverers”).

Enter: Pop Culture

Formative, bad pop-culture
Formative, bad pop-culture

In the way back time, I saw “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure“. It was one of those movies that was being spammed on HBO in the early 1990’s, so I must have watched it 10 or 12 times in a couple of months. Moderately entertaining, and mindless, it, like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was part of my watch list.

Don’t judge me.

However, reading a chapter that is focusing completely on Socrates, I find my self saying in my mind “So-Crates” like the characters in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

I am beyond help.

Leaving Arizona – Part II – the politics

I moved to Arizona in 2003 to take a job. Landing in Tucson, solidly in the southern part of the state, I grew to love the area. Fabulous weather (albeit blazingly hot in the summer), quirky neighborhoods, and outstanding outdoor activities like hiking, and biking.

I lived in Tucson for almost 10 years, and while I enjoyed it, there are problems with the area. Civic planning is at best an afterthought. Poor growth policies and pathetic allocation of greenspaces was a frustration. Still, it was home.

2012 found us moving to a suburb of Phoenix for my job. It was a culture shock to say the least. Urban sprawl everywhere, yet with some clear planning so that the neighborhoods are well laid out. Plenty of green space reserved. Adequate distribution of shopping and restaurants. It “feels” like a real city, where Tucson felt like a town that just kept bursting at the seams.

While I lived in Tucson, I was aware of how bizarre the politics of Arizona are, but we lived in a pocket of rationality. Moving to Phoenix was a culture shock. Arizona has always been a Republican leaning state, with some characters that make you facepalm often. You get this front and center in the valley. Intolerance, bigotry, hatred are front and center.

I used to read about places in the deep south and shake my head at their antics, but Arizona seems to want to outdo them at every step. I shouldn’t be surprised at a state that didn’t observe Martin Luther King‘s birthday until the loss of tourism dollars made it really painful (they were denied the 1993 Superbowl due to their backwards-ness)

Things that should be no brainers, like shoring up public education, improving the lot of the residents, and promoting freedom and equality are ignored, instead the politicians here want to punish gays, and hispanics, protect the unborn (or restrict women’s reproductive freedom), promote the propagation of firearms, and in general hassle brown people.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is hailed by the constituents here as a great man, but he is a walking liability, and is probably costing the state more in defending his inane tactics at the federal level than the cost of illegal immigrants. All the rest of it is just being mean, trying to extend the old white male domination.

Oh, and making it legal for anyone without a felony conviction to be able to just carry a concealed handgun, no permit required. Fairly often, there is a push to allow college students to carry concealed on campus. Yeah, barely out of their teens, lots of emotional issues, and rampant alcohol (and drug) use goes great with deadly weapons. SMH.

On concealed weapons, it is really bizarre here. Getting a concealed permit is easy. Take a class, pass a background check, and some pretty easy marksmanship test, and you are golden. While I think it should be a bit mroe strenuous (particularly the safety and marksmanship part) I am cool with that.

However, a while back the legislature made it legal for anybody with a clean record to carry concealed. No background check, no safety training, no basic shooting skills. Sigh. Anyone who thinks that random people should be able to just carry a weapon anywhere should be required to watch a class of their fellow citizens who are taking the extra step of getting a CCW permit do their shooting qualification. Some of the worst marksmanship I have EVER seen, and they are the “good” ones who are taking the effort to get the permit. They would have trouble hitting the side of a barn from the inside.

Summary

Arizona has a lot of good things going for it. However, the politics are a bit wacko. In most of the backwards states (like Texas) the tide of demographics will reduce the power of the old white male bigot. Alas here, while demographics are changing, a unique phenomenon seems to happen. Being a destination for retirees, we seem to be replenishing our dying racists with imports from the north faster than the population browns.

This leads to some of the most insane policies, and laws from our legislature. Things that make most rational people shake their heads in wonder.

There are plenty of sensible people here, it is just that their voices are squashed via gerrymandering, and the inanity of legislature.

There are some signs of progress. Last election saw Joe Arpaio coming ever closer to losing his office, we often have a democrat in the governor’s mansion to balance out the wackos, the racists, and the homophobes that seem to win local seats.

I am under no delusions, California has its own problems, but 11 years in Arizona has given me a new appreciation for my home state.