Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who brought the 1970's goalie?

I am a bit disappointed that I have not kept hockey statistics this season because I have been tearing it up on the ice. I have a couple of hat trick games, a couple of four and five point games, and, if I do say so myself, some nasty, filthy goals mixed in. This is probably the best hockey I have played in my life.

And just to make it a bit more interesting, I also donned the goalie equipment for a game. Here's the proof:

Unfortunately, my goalkeeping was not as awesome as my goal scoring. My team lost the game I played in goal 6-5 and I did my share of the damage with what I considered 3 soft goals. It was nice to get back in the gear, though. I played goalie on the Colorado State University roller hockey back in the day and when I lived in Colorado and played both roller and ice on multiple teams (ah the joy of being a student) I mostly played in net.

When I got to Albany, my mom shipped out my equipment to me and I think I used it maybe once in the last four years. So, when Diane moved in, the equipment had to go - there just isn't enough space in my high-rise luxury condo for goalie equipment that is not being used.

However, when I was still an up and coming star with the Night Owls hockey club and did not have a permanent roster spot, I wanted to make myself as indispensible as possible. So, I told the manager that I could be an emergency goalie if someone else put up the equipment. I did not get that call until a few weeks ago - and since I didn't entirely embarrass myself, it looks like I may get it more regularly.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Hardware

Now its time to tell you about the important part of our recently completed trip to Argentina: the hardware we flew on.

Our trip was booked entirely on LAN. We did this for two (2) reasons:
(1) We had a domestic flight to Iguazu and thought that it would be best to book all the flights together; and
(2) There is always a risk of a work stoppage with Aerolineas Argentinas, and with such tight schedules, we preferred to avoid unnecessary delays in our travel.

We booked flights from JFK - which is where it was easiest for us to catch a LAN flight. From JFK, we flew to Santiago, via Lima, Peru. This leg of the flight was on a B767, sans winglets, much to my disappointment.

For a few years now, LAN has been operating the short hop from Santiago to Mendoza on the A320. This flight across the Andes offers, in the humble opinion of this writer, the most bang for your buck. From gear up to touch down, the flight can't take more than 30 minutes, but each of those 30 minutes are spectacular - if the weather cooperates, that is. On a clear day, you get a stunning view of the high Andes, including close ups of Aconcagua and Tupungato (both of which, I kindly remind you, are in Argentinian territory).On our trip, we were fortunate that the sky was clear enough to offer this spectacular view. However, Aconcagua and Tupungato were not visible due to a white out during the middle portion of the treacherous cross.

We also flew on LAN A320s to Iguazu, via Aeroparque Metrolitano Jorge Newberry in Buenos Aires. Aeroparque is set beautifully in downtown Buenos Aires and offers both a great view of some downtown skyrises as well as the majestic Rio de la Plata (which is the world's widest river). Landing at Aeroparque is always entertaining, and at times terrifying.Our scheduled return trip on LAN had us flying from Iguazu to Aeroparque, transferring in Buenos Aires to the international airport at Ezeiza and then flying (on an A340!!!) to Santiago, where we would then board a nonstop flight to JFK. Yes, quite a roundabout way to get to New York, but on the bright side, I was excited about flying on an A340 for the first time of my life. I was going to lose my A340 virginity!

Well, as it turns out, the A340 which was going to carry us to Santiago was running very late - so late, in fact, that LAN rebooked us on American. Our new trip home would be more direct, but less exciting. We ended up flying from Buenos Aires to New York via Miami. At least the Buenos Aires to Miami leg was on a B777, which provides a greater level of excitement than the B767. Sadly, we were all stuck in middle seats in the 2-5-2 seating plan.

Here are some parting thoughts about the travel and service:
(1) LAN has excellent service. We were given snacks and meals on every flight (even the 30 minute hop from Santiago to Mendoza). The flight attendants offered (and in fact almost insisted on) multiple drinks. The booze was free on the international flight, which is a nice touch since it does make sleeping a bit easier when you have a glass of wine.

(2) ALWAYS check your LAN itinerary for changes. I am one of those people that books a flight and does not keep looking for changes, or confirms the day before, or tracks flight status before heading to the airport. Well, it turns out that LAN likes to change things up quite a bit. And for the most part (actually for the entire part) the changes were negative. For example, they moved our departure time from Mendoza from 10am to 7am. Our flight from Iguazu to Aeroparque was delayed from 10am to 1pm. This particular change was rough since we had scheduled the trip into Buenos Aires with a 6 hour layover to allow for some speed tourism and a relaxing transfer to Ezeiza (which takes a good 1 and a half hours). Instead, we only had 3 hours between flights and were not able to see any of Buenos Aires and instead had to hurry hurry hurry to the next airport.

(3) Less is more in terms of onflight entertainment. Both of the long hauls (one on LAN and the other on American) had seat back entertainment units. The problem is that neither of them worked. AT ALL. I would much rather prefer a working movie to help me fall asleep to nothing. So while the fancy screens with on demand movies seem like a nice touch, they are only worth it if they work. And it was not just my bad luck - none of my fellow travelers had working screens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Argentina 2010: Meet the Storelli Castros

Yesterday afternoon we (Diane, her parents, and yours truly) returned from a lovely two+ week trip to Argentina which encompassed time spent in wonderful Mendoza and stunning Iguazu. This trip was a chance for the two families to get to know each other before they see each other again next year at our wedding.

Long story short, it was a GREAT(!!) trip. We did A LOT ... so much, in fact, that I think we all need a vacation to recover from the vacation. Although quite a bit of the time was spent hanging out with family, we still had outings nearly every day, and here are some of the highlights:

Arrival and asado at my uncle's home with nearly all the family.Time at the Chacras weekend house where we played some pretty intense ping pong matches.
City tour - here we are at Plaza San Martin.Another asado, this time on a Sunday at my Grandma's weekend home in Chacras.
We even had time to take in an Argentinian soccer game. This is a Nacional B game, which is the second division of soccer. We went to see Independiente Rivadavia (home team) take on Atletico Rafaela. The good guys won 3-1. Diane and I had been to a soccer game together before (Argentina vs. USA at the Meadowlands in 2008), but this was an entirely different experience with the local crowd (and, plus, Diane finally got to see a GOOOOOOOOOOL).
Of course we did some bodega tours - on bicycles (thanks Chacras Bikes!). We went to Alta Vista and Clos de Chacras. This worked out great since they are both very different types of bodegas. Alta Vista is a large operation and Clos is much smaller - so small in fact, that they hand label their bottles. Being on the bikes presented a challenge when it came time to transport our purchases (see the water bottle holder), but it also helped us moderate our tasting intake, since riding a bike with a buzz can't be that easy.We also took Diane's parents on the same High Mountain Andes tour that we did in 2008. Sadly, the road to the Christ the Redeemer statue at the Argentina-Chile border was closed due to poor conditions. The road is bad enough in perfect conditions ... so we had to leave that for another time. The statue was placed on the border after a history of border disputes between the countries and the premise of the statue is that the countries should not fight over the border because Christ knows exactly where it is. We did of course make stops at Aconcagua and Puente Del Inca.We spent the last few days of the trip at Iguazu where we went to see the greatest, most spectacularly amazing waterfalls in the world. There is literally no way to transmit what one feels at this location, since even pictures do it very little justice. We essentially took in all the attractions at the national park, including a boat trip that makes the Maid of the Mist seem quite tame. We also visited the Triple Border area, where one can see Argentina, Paraguay and Brasil (in the last picture below, the picture is taken from Argentina, Paraguay (and Ciudad del Este are on the left, and Brasil is on the right).That is a rundown of the activities. I will have separate posts with commentary and, of course, a summary of airplane and airplane-related activity.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New commercial flight at Fort Collins/Loveland beginning on Friday

Beginning this Friday, Allegiant is beginning new jet service from Fort Collins/Loveland to Phoenix. This is the second commercial flight to operate out of FNL, and this is something that I have been harping on for years.
Northeast Colorado is ripe for air service. There are two universities in the area (Colorado State and Northern Colorado), multiple large employers (HP, Budweiser), and trendy travel destinations nearby (Rocky Mountain National Park, multiple ski resorts). Plus, the region has become significantly populated. I have a feeling that adding air service to this would have a Field of Dreams effect - "if you build it they will come."

The drive to Denver International Airport from the Fort Collins/Loveland areas takes approximately 1:30. There are many examples of airlines currently offering service to cities that are as equidistant to a significant airport as FNL. Delta currently flies to Fort Dodge, Iowa (population 25,000). It is located 1:35 from Des Moines, Iowa. Delta also flies to Jamestown, North Dakota (population 15,000). This bustling metropolis is located 1:31 from Bismarck, ND. United flies to Klamath Falls, Oregon (population 20,000), which is located 1:32 minutes from Medford, Oregon. The Fort Collins/Loveland/Greeley/Windsor area has a population over 200,000.

I am glad that at least Allegiant is developing its FNL service. The jet service to Las Vegas was a no-brainer. The next expansion should be to a Florida resort town, or a midwestern hub, like Chicago. I would imagine that there would be a lot of people in Northeast Colorado who would pay a little more for airplane tickets to avoid the long drive to Denver. Allegiant serves FNL with the MD-80, which seats 130-170 passengers. But there's nothing saying you can't fly in and out of FNL with a CRJ or Embraer, the latter of which only requires you to fill 37 seats.

That's all I got.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Forced fanaticism

One of my good friends in Colorado was a big Dallas Cowboys fan. He was not born in Dallas (or Texas or anywhere near there). Nobody in his family was a Cowboys fan. He had never been to Dallas (or anywhere in Texas) in his life. He just liked the Cowboys for no good reason. Even though he lived, was raised, and was, for all practical matters, a Coloradoan. And it's not like the Broncos had a slouch team. This was during the Elway years when being a Broncos fan was a lot of fun. I was just incredibly annoyed that this kid did not support the hometown team. I would have understood his position if he had a good reason for being a Dallas Cowboys fan (like any of the quality reasons I raised above).

So, when I moved to New York in 2006, I knew that I needed to start adopting the hometown teams so that I would not become so objectionable to myself. It was not easy to make this transition. Of course, it did not help that the Rockies got really good in the last few years. And it is just very difficult to give up on the Broncos - they are quite the religion and I drank the Kool-Aid.

But at the beginning of this football season, Diane and I decided that we should choose a football team that we could root for together. We went through an entire exercise including choosing finalists, vetoing the others' choices, etc. And after much consideration, we settled on becoming Buffalo Bills fans.
As it turns out, after 4 very painful losses, this may have been a huge mistake. Much like the industrial complex of upstate New York, the Buffalo Bills' season is crumbling and there is very little hope for recovery. On the other hand, it is somewhat enjoyable to have misery to share with other Bills fans that I run into, and I do enjoy getting the sympathy. It's like becoming a Bills fan is equivalent to doing a good selfless deed like helping an old lady cross the street.

Regardless of the current and future losing that I am destined to witness, I do feel good about our decision (which incidentally was the first major decision we made as an engaged couple - woot!). There is something inherently good about rooting for the only football team that actually plays its home games IN New York.

As for the other sports, I have embraced the Red Sox, although I have not totally let go of the Rockies. I can't put into words how annoying it is that they got this good since I left Colorado after all that horrible baseball I had to endure at Coors Field. And since the Shell-Dawg is a fan of the New York Rangers, that is good enough for me to follow them.

I do have to stress that although I am still a reluctant Rockies fan, it was the Broncos that were the hardest to give up on. Probably because I knew deep inside that I was in for decades of bad football.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

JFK Emergency Landing

In case you missed it, a Delta CRJ-900 made an emergency landing at JFK on Sunday night after a malfunction in the back-right landing gear. The plane landed and then skidded on its wing to a rest in a shower of sparks. A passenger captured the final moments on a cell-phone camera. At 0:12 you can hear the plane touch down and it takes until about 0:18 until you start seeing sparks, which means that the pilot was able to keep the wing off the runway for a good 6 seconds.
I like how at the 0:24 mark after the plane has been skidding for a while (and has not yet veered off the runway or otherwise become destroyed) the flight attendant gives out a triumphant "Heads down! Stay down!" You can sense in her voice that they are gonna make it.

And of course, the spontaneous cheers and applause are nice. I smirked at this because on virtually every foreign airline I have flown on (save British Airways, but including LanChile, Austral, Aerolineas Argentinas and EgyptAir) the foreigners always applaud the landing. Even in perfect weather. But then again, in Argentina we always applaud the asador - we are a very grateful people I guess. (<-- By the way, I am always shocked at what you can find on YouTube.) One final item you may have missed, which appeared in the NY Daily News today, is that there have been 5 similar incidents with the CRJ in the last two years. This, of course, is problematic, and the Daily News writer explains why (with tongue firmly in cheek):

"...Landing gear being generally recommended for the landing portion of a flight..."

Although, I would go a step further and say "properly functioning landing gear being generally recommended for the landing portion of a flight..." Right JetBlue?

These are facts.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hockey Season is Back

There is a chill in the air. The leaves are turning. The Mets are playing out their final meaningless games. All of these are signs that the Night Owls Hockey Club Fall/Winter season is back.

This fall I am playing on both the Thursday and Sunday squads. We are already three weeks into the season and so far it has been a boon on the scoresheet for me, including a Hat Trick and two sick and professional backhand goals. In fact, Diane was alert enough to capture one of them right before the moment of greatness:
She also, rather passive-aggressively I might add, captured some photographs detailing the temperature inside the arena.
On another note, Diane's mom deserves some sort of medal for the very selfless act of washing my hockey equipment. If you are lucky enough to have never smelled hockey equipment, perhaps my good friend the Sports Guy will give you a level of appreciation for how powerful it is. This is an excerpt from a 2007 article:

"My theory on why all hockey players are so boring: It takes three beers to loosen them up because their brains are rendered senseless by the stench of sweaty, stinky hockey equipment. It's like the smell of death -- you can't get it out of your nostrils once it gets in there. Hence, they're on autopilot until that fourth beer makes the stench go away. And then? All hell breaks loose."

The last time I had my equipment washed (which was also by Diane's mom) Bush was still president, the New York State Senate was still a Republican (yet dignified) body, and the world was unaware of Bristol Palin's sexcapades. It was getting so bad that I was getting dirty looks in the locker room.

Monday, September 20, 2010


In July 2008, I began an installment called the Best Color Scheme Among Flag Carriers Tournament. I envisioned it as a summer project. More than 2 years later, here I am - trying to finish out this damned thing. Just to refresh your memory, because god knows I needed my own memory refreshed, I picked a winner from eight regions with all the winners advancing to a huge Elite Eight tournament to determine once and for all the best color scheme among flag carriers. Today is the final qualification tournament as we (I) select the US representative to this elite field.

As you know, America does not have a flag carrier, since, you know, that sounds communist. So today we are picking the US winner from a group of 16 airlines (including 2 defunct, yet classic US airlines - PanAm and Eastern).

There are two 8-airline brackets seeded as follows based on numerous factors, including regional balance, yearly passenger load, and other factors that I, as commissioner, determined but do not have to divulge. Here are the brackets:

South/West Bracket:
1. Southwest (appropriately enough)
2. American Airlines
3. Eastern Airlines
4. US Airways
5. Northwest
6. Allegiant
7. Hawaiian
8. Alaska

North/East Bracket:
1. Delta
2. United
3. PanAm
4. Continental
5. Spirit
6. Air Trans
7. JetBlue
8. Frontier

So...onto the work at hand. Let's start with the South/West Bracket:

Round 1 Matches:
(1) Southwest vs. (8) Alaska: I dislike having to make difficult decisions and already I have been saddled with a tough choice. One the one hand, the Southwest colorscheme is pleasing to my eyes - but it also seems quite loud to me. And while the Alaska colorscheme is simple, it still does just enough (like having lines of different widths running down the fuselage) to keep my attention. I am also fascinated by the Eskimo on the tail. I am going with Alaska on this because in the end, I don't think I like the wavy blend of red and blue on the southwest fuselage. I don't get it - why can't they have a straight line where the colors meet? Winner: Alaska.(4) US Airways vs. (5) Northwest: There are things to like about both of these color schemes. Although US Airways has the basic white color scheme, there is a lot of activity around it. I am a huge fan of the subtle gray that Northwest uses - and I really like the lower case "nwa" that they use here. It's a nice touch. The only part of the US Airways color scheme that I am not getting is the block of red at the top of the tail. It is out of place. Winner: Northwest.(3) Eastern vs. (6) Allegiant: I have always had a soft spot for Eastern since that was the airline that brought us to America. So even though it no longer exists, I thought that they merited a spot in this important tournament. I also am a big fan of Allegiant since they are the only commercial airline to fly in and out of Fort Collins. In this case I am going with Eastern because I believe they need to be rewarded with the fuel-saving and Earth-friendly polished color-scheme. Being green pays off, people. Winner: Eastern.
(2) American vs. (7) Hawaiian: Props for the polished look that American uses (see above). But American is not advancing simply because of the polish - it's also advancing because of the fine eagle on the tail and the great font. And Hawaiian - I am sorry but that lady on the tail is cartoonish. For reference on how to put an acceptable face on an airplane, see Airlines, Alaska. Winner: American.Round II Matches:
(8) Alaska vs. (5) Northwest: There certainly is a charm to a simple colorscheme such as the one used by Alaska. The problem with that, as I see it, is that it can result in a less dynamic appearance. Take Northwest's old color scheme (see it here): it was exciting and "busy." But when the time came for a new look, Northwest was able to adapt and come up with a new look that preserved the heritage of the old colorscheme. I am fascinated with how Northwest adapted the tiny triangle in the N/W on the tail and used it as the main point of attention on the new colorscheme. I think that although the Alaska colorscheme is certainly attractive, it has nowhere to go from here. On the other hand, I am excited to see what Northwest does next. As a side note, props to Alaska for some very well crafted special colorschemes, like the Salmon Plane below. Winner: Northwest.
(2) American vs. (3) Eastern: It is fitting and good for the environment that these two eco-friendly color schemes have advanced this far. Despite the significant similarities between these colorschemes, there are, in fact, substantive differences. First, the stripes on the Eastern fuselage rise through the tail at the back of the plane. That is not a very aesthetic look in my mind. On a similar note, while American sports the AA and eagle on the tail, there is nothing new or unique on the Eastern tail. Winner: American.

Round III: South/West Bracket Final
(2) American vs. (5) Northwest: This final has come down to a battle between two different styles. While Northwest was praised for its dynamic colorscheme, American has advanced largely on its ingenuity and classic symbols. And, ultimately, that is where I make my determination - the symbols. The American tail is distinctive and recognizable. Not to take anything away from Northwest, but sometimes the price you pay for product rebranding is a loss in identity. And what is more important than identity in a colorscheme? Winner: American.
Now it's time for the North/East bracket. Here we go with...

Round I Matches:
(1) Delta vs. (8) Frontier: Perhaps in a preview of what may be coming in subsequent rounds, I am just going to have to put out there that I have a slight problem with the Delta flag on the tail. I can see how the country's flag would be helpful on an airplane, but I don't think a "company" flag is appropriate. That being said, although I have shown some love to the hint of gray earlier in this post (see Airlines, Northwest), I am not a fan of the large, fuselage-encompassing soft gray used by Frontier. But the animals on the tail are cute and they made for some good commercials back in the day. Winner: Delta.(4) Continental vs. (5) Spirit: I like both of these colorschemes very much. Continental offers a nice two-toned fuselage with a fine golden line to separate the colors. And it is hard to mess up the globe on the tail. Spirit - like others before it - very effectively uses the soft gray. I don't think their colorscheme would work well with a white background so I give them props for that. I go with Continental here though because I don't like how the square-fade works in the tail of the Spirit colorscheme. Winner: Continental.

(3) PanAm vs. (6) AirTrans:
There is a lot to like about the traditional PanAm colorscheme. The lettering is bold, and although similar in font and size to Frontier, it differentiates itself in that it is dark lettering instead of the light, almost "excuse me" lettering on Frontier's fuselage. And again, like I said about Continental, it is hard to mess up the globe on the tail. Huge props as well for writing the names of the planes near the cockpit. AirTrans essentially offers Southwest lite and I am not feeling it. The lower case "a" on the tail is a nice touch, but not nearly sufficient to knock off PanAm. Winner: PanAm.(2) United vs. (7) JetBlue: This was a very one-sided contest for me. United's new colorscheme is pretty awesome by my estimation. And actually, I would even say that their previous two colorschemes have been awesome and awesomer. I have always believed that a great colorscheme is one that can evolve and retain the greatness of the previous design and incorporate that into the new colorscheme. By that yardstick, United has been very successful. There is nothing inherently wrong with JetBlue's colorscheme. It is pretty dull by comparison here, though. Winner: United.
Now...on to Round II Matches:

(1) Delta vs. (4) Continental: I am somewhat conflicted here because I genuinely don't have major issues with these colorschemes. Sure, I made some disparaging remarks about the flag on Delta's tail earlier - but in reality the design is well laid out. Upon some research into the Continental colorscheme, I did find that I do not like how it looks on the Boeing 757 - which is my favorite plane at the mo'. Just like a great colorscheme must be able to evolve, it should also look good on the planes you fly. The problem with the Continental colorscheme on the Boeing 757 is that it makes the plane look disproportionate. Look at the Boeing 767 here: See how the gold line runs down the middle of the nose? Now look at the Boeing 757: See how the gold line is higher than the middle of the nose? Winner: Delta.

(2) United vs. (3) PanAm: Huge props to PanAm in this contest since it is the closest the US has come to a "flagcarrier." However, in this match up, I think PanAm bows out. If I had to pick one reason that United wins here it's the tail design - there is nothing wrong with PanAm's globe, but the United "U" is very imposing and, dare I say it, almost intimidating. Winner: United.

And now for the North/East Bracket Final:

(1) Delta vs. (2) United: I had not mentioned this earlier, but Delta does employ a partly-polished look on its planes' underbelly, which on these pages has been rewarded due to it's eco-friendliness. However, from a purely, purely aesthetic standpoint, the polished underbelly clashes too strongly with the white of the rest of the colorscheme. While I applaud Delta for it's partial green colorscheme, the artist within me must also punish them for an unbalanced look. Plus, if you're going to save Earth, you might as well go all the way. Winner: United.

So here we are at the final. East meets West. North and South will collide. Again. The winner advances to the big dance and will represent the US.

(2) American vs. (2) United: In a way it is very fitting that one of these airlines will be representing the US in the final tournament. Even in their names they embody the spirit of this country. These two airlines arrived here for different reasons. American has had a traditional look that has endured. And - yes, I am mentioning it again - the polished look helps. United has gone through various colorschemes even in my short lifetime - and each of the looks has been impressive. This is going to be a very difficult decision indeed. As I study both of these colorschemes closely, I am find it challenging to find a significant enough flaw on either of these colorschemes. In fact, I just keep finding pleasant surprises. For example, even the order of the red, white and blue stripes on American make sense. In any other order I am not sure if they would look that good. And the gradation and fade-in of the blue to white on United is very well done. The shades and sizes of the stripes are ideal. However, at the end of the day this is a competition about colorschemes on airplanes. The colorscheme that best suits airplanes should be the one that wins. While the polished look on American is beautiful and well complemented, I can't help but feel that the colors and variations on United help bring the different parts of the airplane out. American is like the naked human body with all its imperfections and faults. United planes are dressed up and ready to shine. Winner: United.And here are the eight finalists who will be competing for the title of "Best Colorscheme Among Flagcarriers:"

South America:
North America:
Air Vanuatu
Middle East:
Saudi Arabian
Air Tanzania

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dunkin Run Results

Diane, AK and I ran the Dunkin Donuts 5K run last weekend. The race started and ended at the Jewish Community Center. The course was nothing out of the ordinary - the second and third mile actually overlapped.

I improved on my Valley Cats 5K run, which I ran in 25:25. Here is the Garmin view of the race.

Sun, Sep 12, 2010 8:33 AM added by niquin21
Map data ©2010 Google - Terms of Use
2000 ft
500 m
Activity Type:
Event Type:
3.14 mi
Elevation Gain:
11 ft
485 C