Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Registration - Airport Security Style

On Sunday I lent a hand to the organizer of the Schenectady Central Park Cyclocross Race. Cyclocross, for those unfamiliar with the sport, is a type of bicycle racing that combines rough terrain, course obstacles (like the ones below), and calculated danger. I would describe it as part exercise, part recklessness. Somebody else described it as American Gladiators on bikes.
What else would you expect from a sport where the winner gets.......MUDDY!I was part of the registration team, and although we operated smoothly enough, at dinner the topic of discussion was ways to make improvements for next year. Of course, the smarta pantalones of the group had the brightest idea, which was to have two separate registration tables - one for people who pre-registered, and another for day-of registrations. This suggestion stemmed from her observation that often times people that had pre-registered had to wait in line as we registered new entrants. Another issue that came up was that some riders did not have their USAC license with them, which is required for racing. One memorable female (?) rider came up and said, "I don't have my license, but here is my license number - I wrote it on my hand." This begs the question: If you are willing to take the time to grab a pen, take out your license, scrupulously copy the number on your hand, then why are you not willing to stick said license in your wallet and bring it with you to the race?

It also made me wonder if at some point in history, somebody came up to a registration table and said, "Here is my license, but I forgot my bike. Here's a picture of it, though. Can I still race?"

Anyways, to avoid this problem in the future, I suggested that the registration team adopt an "airport security" mentality. Before riders approach the registration table, their license would be checked at the stairs. No license? No racing. Just like at the airport: No ID? No flying.
We'll even let them keep their shoes on.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Something we can all agree on in the Middle East

It's time for another installment of The Best Color Scheme Among Flagcarriers Tournament."

Today we will delve into a region of the world that Jon Stewart described this way (paraphrasing): "The Middle East is where civilization began, and also where it is likely to end."

I hope that the governments of this troubled region of the world will build on the goodwill fostered by this friendly competition and transform it into the political capital necessary to broker a historic peace in our Cradle of Civilization.

In the interest of transparency, I would like to state upfront that I am indeed half-Jewish, but I have deep admiration and love for my Muslim brothers and sisters. My personal faith will in no way interfere with my objective color-scheme judgement.

In the spirit of unity, I will not break up this bracket into regionals, but rather set all the participants into a single 16-player bracket, which will eventually, after four rounds, will yield a champion. (Check this out to get an idea of how the matchups will play out.) The seeds will be determined by population, with the most populous country receiving a number 1 seed and so on down the line. With that...on to the First Round!

(1) Egypt Air (1) v. (16) Gulf Air: I was frankly hoping for an easier decision here because no #16 seed has ever upset a #1, although this crew came the closest, and I do not know if I was bold enough to make such a decision. However, Gulf Air (hailing from Bahrain) was too good to pass up. The gold looks sharp, and the blue highlights are like a fallaway jumper at the buzzer. It's upset city as this diaper-dandy takes down numero uno. WINNER: Gulf Air.
(2) Iran Air v. (15) Qatar Airways : If anything during this tournament, I have tried to be consistent. That is why I cannot in good conscience allow Qatar Airways to advance. In the Oceania Bracket, I punished Qantas for disobeying the natural laws of grammar. Unfortunately, Qatar meets the same fate. By the way, Iran Air's color scheme is uninspiring and dull, but in this case they met a team who fell due to to a technical foul (get it?). WINNER: Iran Airways.

(3) Sudan Airways v. (14) Oman Air: First of all, I was surprised to find out that Sudan had an airline, so they get some brownie points for that. However, Oman Air gets my soft spot for gold and blue and rides it to the second upset so far. Gotta love that color combination. WINNER: Oman Air.
(4) Iraqi Airways v. (13) Kuwait Airways: It's a rematch of the Gulf War, and this time, Iraq pulls out a victory. They were favored the last time these two met, but after Kuwait recruited some heavyweights from overseas to fortify their lineup, Iraq was overmatched. I was impressed most of all with the soothing greens of Iraqi Airways, and similarly by the fact that they still had planes. You have to give a lot of credit to any commercial pilot courageous enough to make the difficult landings at Baghdad International. WINNER: Iraqi Airways.

(5) Saudi Arabian Airlines v. (12) Palestinian Airlines: I am a big fan of the Saudi tail design, even though it seems a bit violent with the crossing swords. Nonetheless, they are a national symbol of sorts and that earns you points in this contest. I am not too crazy about the peachy color on the fuselage. It's a color that is more appropriate for a living room (I would know) than a flag carrier. Palestinian Airlines is too bland, frankly. There's nothing to point to as a unique or interesting design. Although the tourney almost always yields a 12-5 upset, it won't be happening here. WINNER: Saudi Airlines.

(6) Yemenia v. (11) Middle East Airlines: There is a difference between a white-based color scheme that is boring (see above) and one that is interesting (see below). Yemenia makes it work because the tail design offers a compelling image. What troubled me most about Lebanon's flag carrier was that the country's name was in no way referenced. The name itself is unappealing because it offers no glimpse into any sort of national identity. WINNER: Yemenia.
(7) Syrian Arab Airlines v. (10) Emirates: Although initially I was partial to the Syrian flag-carrier because it reminded me of my beloved Aerolineas Argentinas, I eventually realized that the bird on the tail was strange looking, and rather undignified. It was too Woody Woodpeckerish. Emirates has another classy, white-based color scheme with national colors prominently featured. WINNER: Emirates.
(8) El-Al v. (9) Royal Jordanian Airlines: This is a rematch of some war or wars, so there is obviously some tension here. We have the equivalent of Auburn v. 'Bama, or Duke v. UNC. This one is heated and someone is going home very upset. I was hoping that Royal Jordanian was going to make a strong showing to avoid uncomfortable matches in subsequent rounds, but it's color scheme is too dark. When I was analyzing the color scheme I felt the same overheating one might feel on a hot summer day wearing a black T-shirt outside. "That's not going to be good for business, that's not going be good for anyone." WINNER: El-Al.

Now for the Elite 8...

(2) Iran Air v. (10) Emirates: As I alluded to earlier, Iran Air was not going far in this tournament. The reason they got such a high seed was due to their population, but clearly they were not strong heading into the tournament. This is comparable to what sometimes happens in hockey, where a division winner receives a #3 seed, but is clearly inferior to a team that came in second in a much more competitive division and gets a #4 seed. They may slip by in the first round, but eventually it catches up. Iran Air, meet eventually. WINNER: Emirates.

(4) Iraqi Airways v. (5) Saudi: Saudi will slip by again this round on the strength of the tail design. Neither fuselage color-scheme was overpowering, which leads me to base the decision on what these two flag-carriers did with their tails. Iraqi uses the oft-used bird-in-flight design. It's neat, but not unique. Oh yeah, and it breaks that pesky U after a Q rule. Saudi keeps it traditional and moves on. WINNER: Saudi.
(6) Yemenia v. (14) Oman Air: Although I remain a big fan of the gold and blue combination on Oman, I have come to realize that the design is a bit too erratic. There seems to be very little rhyme or reason to it. Yemenia is neat and professional. This is a white-based scheme gone right. WINNER: Yemenia.

(8) El-Al v. (16) Gulf Air: This may one of the few (only?) matchups which does not constitute a rematch of a previous war for Israel. The matchup does feature a decisive battle between a colorful and creative color scheme versus a traditional white-based scheme. I am a fan of both of these. However, it comes down to the continued and impressive creativity of Gulf Air. Look at that tail design. At the end of the day, there are and will continue to be very nice white-based schemes like El-Al's. However, I have yet to encounter in my research a combination with the aesthetic appeal of Gulf Air. The shockers continue. WINNER: Gulf Air.

And now, the seminfinals...aka The Final Four!

(5) Saudi v. (16) Gulf Air: As time has passed, I have come to appreciate the peachy color on Saudi's fuselage, just like I have come to like it in my own living room. When it comes down to it, both have fuselage colors and tail designs that are appealing. The difference is that Gulf Air could be from anywhere, whereas you know where Saudi is from. This was not easy, but Gulf Air's cinderella run has come to an end. WINNER: Saudi.

(6) Yemenia v. (10) Emirates: With this matchup, we are guaranteed of at least one white-based color scheme in the final, which is appropriate given their relative abundance and strength in this region. My decision is based on the lettering here. Emirates is clear, decisive, and it stands out. Yemenia is simply too shy. That may seem trivial, but it counts in this tournament. WINNER: Emirates.

And now...THE FINAL...Who will advance to the "real" big dance?

(5) Saudi v. (10) Emirates: This region, with a history of violence and unrest, has not disappointed here, offereing creative and traditional designs, intriguing upsets, and historcial rematches. And in the end, we have representatives from both sectors: the creative and adventureous v. the traditional and professinal. The tail designs on both match the motifs, and are equally representative of national colors and symbols. The lettering on both is equally assertive. The difference, it appears to me, is that Saudi has it both ways. With it's peach and white base, it avoids the disadvantages of a white-only color scheme and captures the advantages of the traditional look. With Saudi, everyone's a winner, and that's the most we could ask for in this part of the world. WINNER: Saudi

See you at the dance, if that sort of thing is allowed in Saudi Arabia...

Stalking 101

Have you ever seen an airplane and wondered where it's going to or where it's coming from?

Me too.

And now, with the assistance of the internet (thank you very much) I can have the answers to those very questions.

I bring you:
FlightAware - a website that tracks flights into, out of, and around airports.

My new digs have a great view of flights arriving from the South at Albany International Airport. Now when I see a plane coming in, I quickly mozy on over to my trusty laptop, jump onto this website and figure out which of my winged friends I have the pleasure to be stalking...err watching.

Neat-o, right?

So now I think I need a Blackberry (and thank you very much for that) so that I can track every plane I see. Last night on my jog, I found myself at the Joseph L. Bruno State Plaza watching a descent into ALB that I had no information about. Preposterous.

By the way, I have reached out to FlightAware to consider a joint venture called "JuliaAware."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The mainstream media catches on


A topic very similar to the one first reported here is now making rounds in the mainstream media.

Check it out: Apparently, Senator McCain and his wife Cindy have 13 vehicles, and 2 of them are foreign made.
This, of course, after claiming that he only bought American-made cars AND Europe-bashing at the Convention.

And then, of course, there's the whole thing about owning 13 total cars. That's not helping.

It looks worse than I originally thought. Senator McCain's venal behaviour was not an isolated incident, but rather it was a pattern of deceit and falsehoods.

What else has the Senator from Pangea been lying about?

Note: To all my readers who are wondering why this post has been tagged under the "safety" category, it is because there is no greater in-flight (or national) security risk than voting Republican in this election.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lies and the lying presidential candidates that tell them

Let me tell you a little story.

I did not watch the Republican National Convention for my health. I was compelled by Senator McCain's story of torture in a North Vietnamese prison and felt that perhaps I should try to endure some torture myself by watching some hateful people spew their hateful message.

By the end of it, I was severely nausceated and, frankly, I felt physically ill.

I know I'm not the brightest person out there, but I did manage to pick up the main theme of the campaign: Country First.

Fine. Lovely. Wonderful.

By the way, wasn't this guy's campaign slogan also "Country First"?

Now, I have been in rehab recently because I used to have a major problem assuming things that sometimes should not be assumed. But, wouldn't you ASSUME that the candidate whose slogan is "Country First" would use a campaign plane built in said country, in this case, the US of A?

Me too.

Then why is this Senator McCain's campaign plane?
An Airbus. A Frenchy, cosmopolitan, elitist Airbus.

Confidential to Senator McCain: Airbus is a European conglomerate. You know, the same Europe that Rudy and Fred and Mitt trashed during the convention.

One more thing: they are the biggest threat to Boeing in commercial aviation. You know, Boeing, that Seattle, WA-based company. In America.

Senator, I really do not care what plane you use. But do not be so assinine as to allow your thugs to bash Europe when you are the only candidate that flies around in a "Freedom" plane.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

They have planes in Peru?

I have lived through six summers as a camp counselor. I have survived (two weeks in) Africa. Even made it through a couple of car accidents. But making it without cable TV for the last two years almost did it to me. I had to be talked off the edge of the LOB a couple of times because I just could not take WifeSwap and Super Nanny anymore.

That's why I was so pleased to catch a show on Discovery the other night highlighting the Nasca Lines in Southern Peru. The show was actually focusing on the supernatural and possible evidence of extra-terrestrial activity on Earth. So they started with the usual material on crop circles. Then...they got to the Nasca Lines, which they started off by arguing could potentially be landing strips for UFO's from way back in the day.


Maybe not.

However, I have been convinced that I must check this out for myself. A full day excursion on one of the providers I checked out costs $256 for parties of two and $389 for people travelling alone. For that price, you get transportation from Lima, an aerial tour of the Nasca lines, lunch, museum visit, etc.

Personally, I would pay that for a flight over the Nasca landfill.

But hey, if you want to fly me over the lines, that's cool, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Best. Meeting. EVER.

I had a meeting at the government yesterday which I had extremely low expectations for. It was with some peeps from the City Board of blah blah blah. Anyways, in the course of this meeting, one of the suits mentioned the Aviation High School in Queens.

Yes, that is the...




Turns out that students at the AHS, as I like to call it, have been working on this Boeing 727 donated by FedEx.

It's not everyday that the joys of aviation creep into the workday.

Maybe it's time for a site visit.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sad, but probably true...

I stumbled across this during some web-based research I was conducting today:Frankly, this fee-for-everything silliness in air travel has gotten out of control. I understand that the costs of operating an airline have been hurt by high fuel prices - but gouging customers does not seem like the proper response.

Then again, a certain amount of flight activity is inelastic, so maybe airlines do not fear a huge repercussion from their actions. It's not like a New Yorker who has an urgent meeting in Washington DC - like this New Yorker - can drive down there and be rested for the meeting. That person is going to have to fly, fees or no fees. What percentage of the market, then, might the airlines be alienating with these fees? I dunno. I'm asking you.

In light of this, here is my Top Five List* of other fees airlines might consider:

  1. Seat belt fee - you gotta buckle up after all, the Captain said so.
  2. Deplaning fee - how else are you going to get off the plane - jumping?
  3. Reading light fee - Note to self: talk to National Grid.
  4. Armrest fee - no more uncomfortable elbow touching with strangers.
  5. Overhead compartment property tax - a tax on the overhead "property" where you store your carry-on.

Not gonna lie - the overhead compartment property taxes will probably not be very successful because a certain governor and his allies will probably try to cap them at the lesser of 4 percent or 120 percent of the CPI.

*This was going to be a "Top Ten" list, but my attorneys advised me that doing so could lead to legal action against Airplanes I Have Known by David Letterman's production company for copyright infringement. Thanks, thanks a lot, Dave.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Down Low on the Down Under

It's time for another installment of the Best Color Scheme Tournament - this time, we're heading to Oceania. If you're as old as I am and went to school a long time ago, you may have been taught at said institution that this continent was simply called "Australia." Apparently that is wrong and is the equivalent of calling anything north of Westchester County, NY "Upstate." I won't ever make that mistake again. But, I diverge...on to the important stuff. Let's find out who will join AeroMexico and Varig in the Dance.

Here is the set-up: We have eight participants broken up into two brackets. Here are our randomly selected first round matches:

Bracket 1:
Qantas v. Air Kiribati
Polynesian Blue v. Solomon Airlines

Bracket 2:

Air New Zealand v. Air Marshall Islands
Air Nauru v. Air Vanuatu

And, NO, I did not make up these names. On to the Bracket 1's matches...

Qantas v. Air Kiribati: On paper, this match is a blowout. Qantas is the premier airline of the region AND it has a very nice color scheme to boot. I'm a fan of the kangaroo. As you recall, national symbolism is a factor to be considered in the overall analysis of the color scheme. Air Kiribati's design appears to be a sunset, which is nice, but, and this may be a stretch, most countries have sunsets so it's not very original. WINNER: Qantas.

Polynesian Blue v. Solomon Airlines: I am personally very conflicted with this match. On the one hand, Solomon Airlines looks like the Brasilian flag, and as an Argentinian you know how I feel about that. And the stars, they look like they were stenciled in by first graders learning their shapes. On the other hand, I have a deep philosophical problem with an airline having "blue" in its name and being almost entirely red. WINNER: Solomon Airlines.

And now, the Bracket Final...

Qantas v. Solomon Airlines: Maybe it was unfair to pick on Solomon Airlines' colors. After all, if you inspect the flag on the plane below the cockpit, you can see that the colors on the plane are in fact also on the country's flag. So, national symbolism also applies to Solomon Airlines, I suppose. However, the kangaroo is definitely a more imposing symbol. Also, not to be the fashion police, but the baby blue on the Solomon Airlines engines does not match the rest of the scheme. The winner advances to the Continental Final, and that will be: WINNER: Qantas.

Very compelling indeed. Now on to Bracket 2 to find out who will face off against Qantas for a spot in the big show. To the matches...

Air New Zealand v. Air Marshall Islands: If you look closely again at the Marshall Islands flag underneath the cockpit, you will see that the country's flag and the airline's color scheme are almost a carbon copy. There's a lot to be said for using your country's colors on your flag carrier, but a little creativity would be appreciated. Air New Zealand has a simple, yet compelling color scheme. I like the forward looking arrow-like design on the tail. It implies progress and moving forward. WINNER: Air New Zealand.

Air Nauru v. Air Vanuatu: In my opinion, this is the closest first round match so far. You have a tale of two approaches: the extravagant yet tasteful design on Air Vanuatu and the classy yet intriguing color scheme on Air Nauru. I lean towards Air Vanuatu's bold design here because not only is it fun to look at, but it matches. The engines match the underbelly, which match the winglets. I am probably the most unqualified person to be making judgement calls on colors matching because until recently I didn't even wear matching socks. WINNER: Air Vanuatu.

And now, let's see who will face Qantas...

Air New Zealand v. Air Vanuatu: Talk about matching. Look at the outside wheel on the Air Vanuatu plane above. MATCHES! That is attention to detail my friends. I don't even know where this Vanuatu country/islands are, or if they even exist, but by golly, they are meticulous folk. Major upset here people. WINNER: Air Vanuatu.

And now...bum bum bum, the FINAL!

Qantas v. Air Vanuatu: What a compelling Regional Tournament. We had a classic matchup pending between the regional powers (Qantas and Air New Zealand). Just like in the other regionals where fierce rivals Aerolineas Argentinas and Varig and AeroMexico and Mexicana met, I was expecting a showdown to settle the queen of the Oceania skies once and for all. It was not to be because a little guy named Air Vanuatu decided to show up and it was upset city in Bracket 2. And, now, what will happen in the final? Besides the classic kangaroo that has gotten Qantas this far, I am also a fan of the "Spirit of Australia" slogan on the fuselage. It's humble but strong. However, just like I don't like an airline whose name includes the word "blue" but whose predominant color is red, I also have a problem seeing the letter Q not followed by the letter U. Does Qantas think they are above the natural laws of grammar? If so, they should take it up with her. The upsets continue, folks. It's a stunner in Oceania. WINNER: Air Vanuatu.

Wow, that was exhausting. Time for lunch.