I have a new blog for 2012 – Assignment 35.
In honor of the 35th anniversary of my move to Denver, I’ve adopted a random set of assignments which involve the number 35.
See you over at the new place.
Posted in Blogging, Books, City, Culture, Current Events, Denver, General Suz-ness, Good things, Life and death, Movies, Music, Travel, tagged 2012, blog, blogging, books, Denver, Movies, music on January 7, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Yes, right there on page 1 of the Denver Post:
“The black box has a bazillion different parameters on it. They will hone in on what went wrong.” Mike Boyd, aviation analyst, on the voice and data recorders, above, that have been sent to National Transportation Safety Board headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Gosh, isn’t it great when our local papers bring us the benefits of specialized expertise?
At least a dozen years ago I volunteered for a Saturday airport emergency preparedness exercise. Involving a simulated plane crash, a real airline flight crew, real emergency responders from the airport and surrounding agencies, the Red Cross, you name it. I was one of the “passengers” and the organizers made us all up to look appropriately injured.
It was a cool-to-cold clear fall morning as we assembled, got our makeup (moulage) applied, and eventually took our seats in the aircraft. It was an old 707 which was parked out by a hanger and had been stripped of its engines, etc. I took a seat in the first-class area near the front.
We sat for a little bit, then the flight attendants grabbed bullhorns and called out that we’d crashed, and we had to evacuate. I headed for the closest exit, which was in front of me, but the flight attendant there in the aisle yelled to us, “this is blocked, you have to go back!” So we turned and went down stairs (no chute in this case) out onto the concrete around the plane. We were guided away from the aircraft and then sat and laid down to wait for the first responders.
It was so quiet. So very quiet. And it seemed like such a long time until we heard the first sirens. It couldn’t have been very long, really, but my God it seemed like a lifetime. And nobody was hurt, nothing was burning, it was just a beautiful day out on the north end of a major international airport next to a big hangar.
I remember bits of the rest; I got evacuated by helicopter to Denver Health in midtown, then took a loonngg bus ride back out to the airport with the others who’d been transported there. (Note: if you get hit, shot, knifed or run over in Denver, you *want* to be taken to that ER, believe me.)
Ever since then, people, I really do pay attention to the emergency instructions when I get on an airplane. I note where the emergency exits are, in front of me and behind me. When I fly I don’t wear flip flops, fancy dress shoes, or any clothing that I can’t climb, bend, crawl, and run like hell in. I remind myself that if we get into any emergency evacuation situation the ONLY valuable thing I had better try to take off that plane is my own sweet self, and there’s nothing in my carry-on bag that I’m willing to die for. I usually put my main ID including passport in a pocket. And figure that anything on my notebook PC that hasn’t been backed up? I’d better be able to live without.
I swing between preferring an aisle seat for the ability to get out immediately for routine (bathroom) reasons and in any emergency, and quaking at the thought of being brained by some idiot’s overstuffed carryon luggage falling out of an overhead bin above me, which is less likely if one’s in the window seat.
The lessons of that Saturday are so well-ingrained that I don’t often think of it. But I did this afternoon when I read this piece in Newsweek by a passenger who was on Continental 1404 in Denver last night. The headline: “A sudden, terrible stillness.” And I remembered the quiet, lying on concrete waiting for sirens, with time to realize that this is how it happens, only often in the dark, in the rain, in deep cold or awful heat, after a car wreck or a plane wreck. The reporters and photographers get there after the emergency crews, the flashing lights and sirens, so we always see the vehicles, the uniforms, the flashing lights, in the news coverage. What we don’t see on the news is before that, between the crash and the response. The stillness, the isolation, that awful waiting when you are praying that help is on the way.
Seriously, people, I enjoy flying, I believe it’s safer than driving, and yet I don’t show up in flip-flops and silly clothes for it. I can only hope and pray that if I am ever a passenger in a commercial aircraft incident that’s survivable, the flip-flop quotient on that particular flight will be really really low.
Thailand’s new foreign minister has described the recent hijacking of Bangkok’s airports as a lot of fun.
And like a fool I chose to reschedule my Thailand trip to late March 3 weeks ago. When because of all the FUN they were having over there in Bangkok – so much fun there were no flights going in or out – our trip couldn’t go as scheduled. I could have chosen a trip to another destination, but I stuck with Thailand
I wonder if it’s too late to change my mind?
Denver International Airport (DEN) has several banks of charging stations for electronic devices (phones, notebooks, laptops, PDAs, cameras, whatever) located on the concourses (as opposed to the Main Terminal Building). They are marked with “FreeCharge” signs. There’s no cost for their use. Here are a couple of pictures.
Details of where to find them:
A Gates aka A Concourse or Concourse A, 2 locations:
B Gates aka B Concourse or Concourse B, 4 locations:
C Gates, aka C Concourse or Concourse C, 2 locations:
Also in the C Gates area, at some of the Southwest Airlines gates on the East side, there are small freestanding counter-height tables – some with stools, some not – with electric outlets which are available at no cost.
(This just updates some information I posted several months ago, minus irrelevant blather.)
Another news story covered via twitter. See http://twitter.com/2drinksbehind. The saga starts with the tweet that reads “Holy f*g sh**t I wasbjust in a plane crash!”
HFS, that’s my airport. God, I am so glad everyone got out of the plane. (Continental flight 1404 from Denver (DEN) to Houston (IAH), went off runway into ravine on takeoff at 6:18 p.m. last night. Our local TV news is now giving us pictures of the plane sitting upright, covered with firefighters’ foam that looks like snow. But isn’t. DFD says the fire was intense but apparently didn’t get into cabin until everyone was out, nobody got burned.)
I was out there yesterday morning for my volunteer shift. Noticed it was windy as hell when I left, but that was six hours before the accident.
It’s bad enough that evil winter weather all over the rest of the country is messing up airline flight schedules. This accident has caused closure of half of DEN’s 6 runways for several hours, although I hear now that 1 or 2 of the 3 West airfield runways have been reopened, meaning that 4 or 5 of DEN’s 6 are again in operation.
Sorry, air-traveling people, looks like delays and cancellations all over the place this weekend.
Finally. The tour company called. They can’t get us into Thailand for our tour as scheduled (later this week), and now we’re scheduled to take that trip in March.
The political protesters are moving out of the Bangkok airports, which will eventually reopen for business as usual. I hope. I understand that PAD, the group that moved from occupying Government House to shutting down the airports, has the backing of the country’s elites – businesses, academics, the royals. I wonder if PAD may have overstepped that support when it seized and shut down the airports, which has had a huge negative effect on the nation’s businesses of all kinds.
On the other hand? Maybe the country’s elites are totally OK with the mass confusion and economic destruction that the airport seizures caused. It’s certainly true that neither the armed forces nor the police showed any real interest, enthusiasm or competence in either preventing the airport takeovers or ending them, or even keeping the masses occupying the airports from growing. Apparently because they understood that PAD is backed by the royal family, among other very important entities.
I hope I haven’t made a big mistake in keeping the booking for Thailand instead of selecting a tour of another country. The Land of Smiles isn’t likely to be stable politically in the near future, but its political uproars have been internal matters, not involving widespread violence or hostility to tourists. I hope that remains true.
(Sign displayed at closed-down and occupied Bangkok international airport, BKK, by People’s Alliance for Democracy (Thailand) which has seized it.)
I hate Christmas. Never was much on it and have come to dislike it more each year.
I once bought a big artificial tree (half price) because, well, if you’re a grownup with your own home you’re sort of supposed to. The happiest I have felt about Christmas in decades? Was when I dumped the tree and of all my Christmas decorations. Yesss!!
That’s one reason why I’m going to be very disappointed if my scheduled trip to Thailand doesn’t happen. I was so looking forward to escaping half of the horrible month of December, and I ain’t just talking about the weather in Denver. I wasn’t going to be gone on the day itself but happily absent during most of the pointless hoo-hah leading up to it.
Dayum, I had finally booked a December getaway, and now the Thais have hung out the “GO AWAY” sign. I am staying tuned to see if they can get the Bangkok airport opened for business next week and I can take my trip.
Maybe I can get a last-minute deal and go to Mexico instead.
Mary Winter’s column in today’s Rocky Mountain News explains it very well, although I don’t share her interest in changing a huge economic and cultural phenomenon. Or skiing. Entire column is below the fold if the link doesn’t work.
Total hours I have served to date in 2008 as a volunteer ambassador at the airport, according to the program’s scheduling/tracking system: 116:45.
My “classic reviewer rank” on amazon.com, which is the old system: 5,437.
Words I have yet to write for National Novel Writing Month 2008: 50,000.
Days left until my vacation trip to Thailand: 39.
Simple Thai phrases I can speak or understand: 0.
Edited to add: Estimated attendance at today’s downtown Denver campaign speech by Barack Obama, according to the Denver Police Department: 100,000.
Yes. 100,000 people went downtown to see and hear Sen. Obama, with only a few days notice. First photo from the Denver Post, second from the Rocky Mountain News.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust
True enough, but sometimes seeing new landscapes in the company of new people gives us – or lets us borrow – new eyes.
I wasn’t a world traveler when I was young. I got my first passport 13 years ago. Since then I’ve shaken the Denver dust off my feet and headed out for foreign places eight times. Six of those trips were to England, mostly London. Last year I went to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Peru.
Last week I met up with four of my fellow travelers from the ANZ (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji) trip. We spent 26 days together on that escorted tour, and had stayed in touch by email since then as we live in different places. As we laughed and ate lunch and adjourned to look at pictures in albums and on DVDs, I was struck again by the truth of our tour director’s comment on our first day together. He noted that there were 47 of us – the 46 group members and himself. And we would be taking 47 different journeys, together.
Last Friday, my fellow travelers - and now friends – several times mentioned things I’d forgotten. Not just details of what we’d seen but some of the funny things that happened along the way. I’m lucky to have traveled with so many people who really enjoyed the journey and were so much fun, then and now.
Although I take my same old eyes along, I’m enriched by sharing what my fellow travelers’ eyes take in.
I’ll find out more about this in December. I’ve just booked a 14-day trip to Thailand. Also in our group (this time a max of 16 instead of a 40+ contingent): two of my fellow travelers from the ANZ trip. Not some of the bunch I met up with last Friday – two others I’ve kept up with by email, and am happy to travel with again.
There are a couple of new art exhibits at DEN: “Colorado: See the New West Like a Local” which is outside the security checkpoints, and “Crossroads” – about Colorado architecture – for those who have cleared security and have time to kill before a flight.
In recent months there have been a few changes – besides their names – in the buildings that used to be called Concourses A, B, and C. Awhile back the buildings were renamed the “A Gates,” “B Gates,” and “C Gates.” Which many people still call the “concourses” – as does the airport at least once on its website. Although it seems to be moving to the new terminology – see this. Signage inside the airport has been changed from “concourses” to “gates’ which I’m sure confuses the passengers who’ve just been told by their ticket agent to go to the “[A/B/C] Concourse,” and can’t find any signs telling them where that is.
But I digress. Back to the changes. The Body Shop on B Gates closed, but there’s a new Body Shop on C now. Where I bought a bottle of Oceanus perfume oil. Yum. Rock Bottom Brewery is open on C, might have been for awhile now.
The newest amenities for travelers at DEN – free of charge – are Power Bars on all 3 Concourses. OK, how do I construct that sentence using “Gates” instead of “Concourses”? ”New Power Bars in all 3 Gates?” No. There are, what, nearly 200 specific *gates* at DEN, located on the A, B, and C concourses. I’m referring to the three buildings in which all those gates are located. Whatever.
The Power Bars aren’t snacks. Each of them is a bank of about six small work stations, with stools for seating. Each station has counter space, two electric outlets and a USB power port. One of the stations at each power bar is wider than the others and unlike the others has no stool in front of it – it’s designated with the universal wheelchair accessibility symbol. There’s a “Clear Channel” logo on the units and there are LCD screens at each station – currently blank but I assume soon to be populated with information and advertising. Use of the Power Bar stations is free, no time limits, just first come, first served. A way to charge (re-charge?) a laptop, cell phone, iPod, etc., without finding an electrical outlet on a wall and sitting down on the floor next to it with your stuff.
I took pictures of the Power Bars but due to technical difficulties and lack of time can’t post them right now.
Details of the locations of the Power Bars are below the fold.
The puppy’s home. I’m calling him Jasper – a name with an interesting heritage* and also a nice mineral. We are both still resting up from yesterday’s epic travels, and I have things to do besides play on the innernets so this will be short.
Jasper is cute as can be, with beautiful markings, including a lot of white. The colored parts of his coat shade from a lovely red down to almost black such as at the tips of his ears.
He’s also sweet and friendly and amazingly poised. Yesterday he was driven by his humans down to a new place (SUX), where he was playing around on some grass outdoors when this new person walked up. Then eventually his mom and grandma left him with this lady.
He was in and out of a new building with noisy big sliding doors, and got to ride around awhile in a rental car, and then back to that building.
Next, it was into a carrier that he didn’t like much but put up with. Ending up under a seat in a very noisy contraption in which he experienced very odd sensations.
(The Lynx turboprop planes are brand new and comfy and this flight was so sparsely passengered that the flight crew just *might* have looked the other way when I took him out of the carrier and let him snooze on my lap for a lot of the flight. But since that would be against the rules I must assume they just didn’t *see* me doing that.)
And then being carried in that carrier through a big noisy place (DEN) and onto something she called a “shuttle bus” and then into yet another car…
That’s a lot of excitement for a six pound 4-month-old fella to handle. But he took it all like a little champ! He’s well on his way to being housebroken and I will forever be grateful to his breeder for producing such well-socialized pups. He’s used to car rides and house noises and meeting strangers. He’s also cool with going into his crate at bedtime and just generally being sweet and adorable and busy keeping me wrapped around his little paw.
*Derived from “Casper” who was one of the Three Wise Men (he brought the gold), it’s not all dignity and honor which would be boring anyway. A “jasper” in 19th and early 20th century British and US slang was variously a villain, a troublemaker, or a guy who brought bad luck.
This is my puppy at his home in S.D. this afternoon, after his big road trip to and from the Minneapolis airport, and staying overnight away from home. He was more interested in playing with his brothers than sitting still for a picture or having his hair combed up into a topknot, but L got some quick snaps and emailed them to me.
I’m going to fly to a city not far from their home next weekend (not Minneapolis). L will bring him to me at the airport, and I will fly back to Denver a couple of hours later with the pup in the aircraft cabin. No more cargo for this guy! We’re flying on Frontier, my hometown airline which I hope emerges in due course from Chapter 11 reorganization, because it’s also my favorite airline.
About his name. Winston? Rusty? Ozzy? Or . . . ?
Northwest Airlines can kiss my grits. They accepted my puppy for shipping. VIP shipping, yet. They literally took his crate from the hands of the breeder’s husband at the Minneapolis airport.
AND THEN THEY DIDN’T PUT HIM ON THE PLANE.
Thank goodness L, the breeder, called NWA to confirm that both puppies they shipped today (mine and a dog headed for another city) were on their way. Because that’s when they told her, well, we didn’t really get that little guy on the plane. NWA gave her some convoluted tale about there being “too much cargo” on the plane or something – although I’m damned if I can see how one tiny puppy and his plastic crate could overload a commercial jet. That would have been Flight 563 from Minneapolis to Denver, just to be specific. And that’s Northwest Airlines, NWA, just to be really specific. I suspect some ramp rat was sneaking a smoke break or something instead of tending to business, and the pup was left off the plane by negligence. But we’ll never really know.
Because bad weather’s moving in up there and they were making noises like the later flight might get scrubbed, L called her hubby who was on the road headed home and told him to turn around, go back to MSP to get the pup and bring him home. A four hour drive to South Dakota. Where a serious snow storm is moving in as we speak. Blizzard warnings are in effect for their area, according to weather.com. I pray they have a safe drive home this afternoon and evening.
I am so disappointed. It will probably be another week now before I get to bring my puppy home.
Another bad experience with Northwest Airlines. I haven’t flown NWA for nearly ten years, just to avoid crappy experiences. And now I get to have one without leaving home.
UPDATE on Friday morning: L’s hubby went back to the airport and picked up the pup, but didn’t get all the way home to SD last night. Blizzard conditions, interstates closed. He and the pup stayed overnight somewhere about an hour from home and will get home after the roads are reopened, which I hope is later today.
L told me this is the first time they have ever had to come back home with a puppy because of shipping problems. I’m so glad that the pup is with someone he knows and not Lord knows where in whatever kennel accommodations NWA would have put him in if he had been left at the airport! But just consider how much trouble NWA caused by accepting the puppy for VIP shipment and then not putting him on the flight. What a mess.
And thanks to everyone for the good wishes about the new puppy, and the condolences on this setback.
MUCH LATER SECOND UPDATE: NWA’s story to L’s husband when he went back to pick up the pup, was that the live animal cargo area in the aircraft was not heated due to a mechanical problem so of course they couldn’t load any animals into it. And of course there is no way to know if that was just a convenient cover story, or the truth.
Today I spent the morning doing my volunteer gig under the big top.* This was my second Sunday morning shift in a row. The four hours went pretty fast. Both Sundays, I’ve been in a spot in the main Terminal where a lot of just-checked-in passengers walk by.
When I’m out there I’m wearing the volunteer uniform: a nice suede vest, blue jeans, white shirt, bolo tie and snappy white Stetson hat. (The vest, hat and bolo tie are furnished by the airport.) I’m there to answer questions and give directions. It’s fun to have no agenda or purpose but to help people. Mostly the people I talk to need basic directions: to security, where’s their gate. I’m learning a lot as I go along although after working at the airport all those years I did know some things already.
The most common questions I heard last week and today, other than a request for basic directions: Where’s Starbucks? (Concourse B down at the far East end by the regional jet gates.) Where can I find a TV to watch here in the Terminal? (Red Rocks Bar and Seattle’s Best coffee for sure; walk by the other eateries and see if any of them has TV.) Will there be places to eat after I go through security? (Yes.)
Today I got a new one. Somebody asked if there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport. There isn’t, but that’s not a silly question when you consider the crummy junk-food lineup slap in the middle of the Terminal, 6 East: Panda Express, Domino’s Pizza, Taco Bell, and Burger King. In an ug-lee old food court which sadly has one of the primo visible spots in the place.
There’s a brand new spot in the Terminal: the Marketplace. It opened the other day and has a coffee shop, a flower shop and a corner store with food and snacks. Here are some pictures I took. It looks fresh and new. Lord knows the Terminal could use more of that. (I’m not going to waste bandwith by posting any pictures of the crummy food court.)
*Denver International Airport, aka “DIA”, airline code DEN
Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”– Gilda Radner
A year ago I grabbed the modest retirement I’d earned by sticking to a job for 17 years and achieving the age of 55 years. (Well, over-achieving that latter bit, if you want to be picky.)
And headed out the door into a world quite new to me: life without a full-time job. No pets or people to care for at home, a little bit of money dropping into my checking account each month just because I’m still breathing, a bit of money banked in the “fun and travel” account, and no fixed schedule.
I found it was relaxing, healing, scary, and sometimes I was immobilized by a sense of infinite possibilities or at least more than I could handle. I traveled, I snoozed, I took a lot of pictures and read a lot of books and walked for miles in the parks. I also let my inner lazy slob out to play and gained ten pounds. Ouch. I wish I could say that I embraced life and all its unknowns with verve and style, but I’d be lying. I’ve struggled some.
It’s been an ambiguous time, that’s for sure. Four times, on an airplane, I was handed customs and immigration forms as we headed to a foreign country. All asked me to state my occupation. How I answered depended on my mood. But I think I only wrote “retired” once because it didn’t seem right.
Now I’ve been working again for four months, this time self-employed. I’m happy about it. That ten pounds is gone. And I’m over communing with my inner lazy slob; she can go away forever.
I’m still a little stymied for an answer when asked “What do you do?”
Sometimes I say I’m semi-retired. Other times that I’m working as special counsel on a short-term contract without mentioning the R word.
In a couple of weeks I’ll probably say that I’m engaged full time in housebreaking a Shih Tzu puppy.
My hope for the next 12 months: that I can savor life’s ambiguity.
I think the US Transportation Security Administration is trying to reassure us regular peeps who fly commercial with this section of its website about its National Explosives Detection Canine Team. And it’s interesting.
But I find something unsettling about their breeding program logo. Unsuspecting yellow Lab being approached from behind by aggressive commercial jetliner.
Result: airplane that can sniff its own explosives, or dog that can fly itself to work?
Our fine bureaucrats in the Department of Homeland Security [sic] would rather watch our country’s buildings burn down than let a single questionable person sneak across the border. On a firetruck. With flashing lights and sirens. Responding to a fire call.
I wish I were making this up. This federal agency has gone beyond incompetence – into insanity.
Full article below the fold if the link’s expired.
One thing about digital photography: you can take literally hundreds of pictures in a short time. Especially if you carry spare batteries and memory cards – which I do. But another thing about digital photography: you have to do something with all those pictures you took.
I’ve been editing the photos I took on a few recent trips. I’ve spent hours at it over the last couple of weeks. And I’m not done yet. I’m posting the finished products on my zenfolio page.
The most time-consuming project: the zillion or so pictures I took on a 26-day vacation trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji last May. That’s my longest trip ever. We flew 22,000 miles on commercial flights and covered a few thousand more on road trips. During which I decided I prefer aisle seats on airplanes; a practical choice. In an aisle seat you can get up and move around without bothering your neighbors (or waking them up) during the flight, pop up and get something out of the overhead bin, and position yourself to get the heck off the aircraft after it lands.
What you lose, of course, is the view out the window. I’m glad I had a window seat on the flight from Melbourne to Alice Springs. I was so awed by the vast red landscape below us that I snapped some pictures of it through the window, including this one. Knowing of course that taking pictures through airplane windows is a dubious proposition. Although I’m often fascinated by what can be seen from those windows.
I’m rethinking my aisle seat preference, because I’m reading Window Seat, a book by Julieanne Kost which you just need to go get your hands on. Now. It’s subtitled “The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking” and it’s full of cool pictures and thought-provoking words. (more…)
I’ll be away from home for about a week, on a vacation trip. In case anybody peeks in here to see if there’s anything new. I’m relying on all of you to keep the blog world humming along with interesting content while I’m far away from home.
By the way, I won’t learn to say “Don’t Taze me, bro!” in Spanish. I’m pretty sure I won’t need that phrase at Machu Picchu.