Archive for December, 2007

Merry Christmas!

24 December 2007 at 8:35 pm
by Jonah

I think we got everything shipped to us except for a possible birthday present for Berck that he has to pick up at the UPS station because they were convinced we weren’t here when we were. I’ve bought a wireless doorbell that we can put in the study to hear if they come by. Today we were home all day, and UPS never bothered to ring the doorbell. Instead they hid our two packages (one from Uncle Dave, thanks!) under the door mat. Yeah, they were nearly invisible.

Some Numbers from Italy

20 December 2007 at 9:22 pm
by Berck

While we were there, gasoline cost $7.63 per gallon, and our little Sirloin got approximately 38 miles per gallon.

FedEx Sucks.

16 December 2007 at 1:23 pm
by Berck

Seriously, WTF?

The weather was *excellent* on Saturday. Clear blue skies, and there wasn’t a bit of snow/ice on the roads. We drove Arthur, our ’62 F100 with cheap (not snow) tires, on Saturday. So how can they claim a weather exception????

It would be one thing if FedEx had correctly delivered a single package out of dozens of attempts the past 6 months. I am absolutely astounded at just how bad the service has been lately. The last exchange I had with FedEx involved no less than 12 telephone calls and a copy of OSX 10.5 that was delivered over a *month* late. They screwed that one up badly enough that it was finally delivered by a suit who was driving a 4-door sedan.

But, the real question… is UPS any better? Nope, I’ve simply been using FedEx whenever possible because I got so disgusted with UPS. Why is delivering a package to my door so hard? These are companies who can get a package to any city in the world in a matter of hours, but can’t manage to get the same package to my door? The packages almost always get all the way to Colorado Springs where they inexplicably sit… forever.

And I’m not totally clueless as to the process, after all, I once worked for UPS. The problems then seemed to be a lack of understanding or appreciation in upper management for the jobs done by the folks who actually drive the delivery trucks. Not to mention a total inability to scale in order to handle the extra load that Jesus packages cause every year. It’s not like it’s a surprise that people are going to ship more packages in December…

Airline Mandatory Retirement Age Raised

15 December 2007 at 4:23 pm
by Jonah

This week the President signed into law something that will affect our lives dramatically.

The House and Senate both unanimously passed a bill raising the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65.

This new law makes common sense. Airline pilots that old have to undergo two physicals a year. Medicine is much more advanced and people are living longer than they were in the ’50’s when the age was capped. Pilots keeling over in the cockpit between age 60 and 65 really isn’t anything to worry about and is probably far outweighed by their valuable experience and learned wisdom in decision making. And it comes at a perfect time for the airline industry, which is finally recovering from September 11th and is currently suffering a severe pilot shortage.

What this means for us, though, is that the airlines will effectively stop hiring altogether to replace the normal number of pilots who retire each year, lasting until 2012. It also means that all the airlines will have the pick of the most experienced pilots in the world to hire as new first officers, should those who have already been forced into retirement decide to work a few more years.

Currently, Berck has the 3rd lowest seniority at his airline. Up until Thursday, it looked like he would jump up fairly quickly. Now it looks like he won’t go anywhere at all.

But… it also means that he was hired just in the nick of time. There’s no way he would be hired now. We are extremely lucky.

We’ll see how this plays out now.

[Berck’s note: I’m not sure it’s as dramatic as all that, but it certainly will have consequences I’m likely to notice. Let’s just hope I make it through training.]


14 December 2007 at 10:39 am
by Berck

As many of you know, I once had a bit of a bad time with some Absinthe. Most of the better hostels in Europe have a bar downstairs, and the one I stayed at in Prague was no exception. I started drinking $0.50 Budweiser (the Czech beer whose name was purloined by some bad American brewers), and noticed that everyone was drinking this blue stuff. I ascertained that it was called absinthe, and ordered a glass. There, the locals drink it by taking a spoonful of sugar, dipping it into the absinthe, igniting it (absinthe is often up to 160 proof, so it burns readily) and letting the sugar carmalize. The next step is mighty important– you must extinguish the fire BEFORE dropping your burning sugar into the glass of absinthe, otherwise a pretty nasty explosion results. Finally, you stir in the sugar, and drink. I don’t recall it tasting like much except vaguely sweet and very strong. I had two, and honestly don’t remember the rest of the night only glimpses of a night club, an older, argumentative Jew, and girl with fake red, almost copper-coloured hair. I woke up in the many-bed dorm room very sick and stayed that way most of the next day. While lying in bed, I thumbed through my guidebook and discovered that Absinthe, in its original state, is illegal pretty much everywhere except the Czech republic.

Anyway, today I stumbled across this Scientific American reprint and thought I’d share. It was reprinted online because this recent New York Times article about how absinthe is making a comeback referenced the earlier SciAm article.

Some quick Wikipediaing reveals facts slightly different than I had previously thought. It turns out that while it was illegal in the US, the ban on Absinthe was lifted shortly after WWII. There are still debates about just how much of the hallucinogen Thujone is actually contained in properly-distilled absinthe– I suspect that in the late 19th century the answer varied a lot depending on who made it, and in cases was an awful lot. Also, according to the Wikipedia article, the absinth-sugar-fire ritual did originate in Prague in the 1990s, but whoever taught me didn’t do it quite right. It seems that you’re supposed to set the absinth on fire with the burning sugar, then add water until the fire goes out– which I certainly did not do.

In any case, my absinthe experience was such that it seems I was certainly affected in a way that was atypical of the way the way that alcohol affects me. My advice would be to stay away from the stuff:)