Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour Redux

Is it just me, or does Earth Hour seem to swing around sooner each year? At least it's better than New Year's Eve, which doesn't even get underway until midnight. It's hard to stay awake. Earth Hour happened here in Toronto at 8:30 pm and was all wrapped up in, er, an hour.

The City celebrated C02 consciousness by hosting a big electric rock concert. Apparently I'm the only person in Toronto who sees the irony in this.

Me, I forgot all about Earth Hour.

I watched a Monk episode.

Season Four.

Life is good.

And that's the way the Monk-loving Ball bounces.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

North Korea is pointing missiles, peace continues to elude the Middle East, and Fargo is flooded out.

But, enough about that -- let's talk about pizza.

I bought four on-sale frozen pizzas today at Metro. Dr. Oetker's Ristorante Pizza Speciale, Dr. Oektker's Ristorante Pizza Generosa, Dr. Oetker's Casa di Mama Ultimate Pepperoni, and Dr. Oetker's Casa di Mama Ultimate Deluxe.

So, yes, there is a Doctor in the house, or, to be more exact, the freezer.

The weird thing is where these pizzas came from. You would think Canada, maybe the US. But, no. They are from Germany. I can't even imagine the economics or logistics of making these things -- probably in some former derelict munitions plant in the former East Germany -- and then shipping them -- frozen -- all the way to Canada.

But, I guess it's done. Maybe, given the tanking of the Baltic Dry Index, shipping rates have dropped to the point where you can order a take-out pizza from Germany, and they'll deliver free to Canada.

I know I'm going to like them -- each pizza is topped with richly spiced tomato sauce and a delicious blend of mouth watering toppings for the ultimate bold, filling, and satisfying pizza experience.

And that's the way the mouth-watering Ball of pepperoni bounces.

If I have one later today, I'll post an update with the Doctor's prognosis.


Meaty. Tasty. Homer Simpson would approve.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Time Is It?

For the answer, go here:

Right now, there's a four-hour difference between Toronto and London, England. For Charlottetown PEI, (hint: same time zone as Halifax) the difference is only three hours -- that's less than the time zone difference between Charlottetown and Phoenix Arizona, which is currently four hours.

What time is it where you are?!

Monday, March 23, 2009

One Thumb Up, Way Up!

This just in from the National Post--

"A Helsinki software developer who lost his thumb in an accident has replaced it with a prosthetic that doubles as a USB drive. The man's fake thumb looks like a real one, but its nail can be removed plugged into any computer. It can hold up to 2GB of information, photos, music and video.

'When I'm using the USB, I just leave my finger inside the slot and pick it up after I'm ready,' he said."

I'm saying one thumb up, way up, on this one.

The NP went on to add:

"He should meet this Toronto man, who is replacing his missing eye with an embedded webcam."

Wow! I'm gonna keep an eye out for this guy!

And that's the way the thumbs-up! Ball bounces.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

Oops. Wrong headline.

Shoulda been: The Ice Is Melting! The Ice Is Melting!

According to the latest AGW reporting, if greenhouse gases rise EVEN SLIGHTLY ocean levels could rise seven metres.

Yikes -- talk about a disproportionate response!

I had no idea we live on such a precarious planet.

Since C02 is generated by the mere act of breathing, I suggest we have a national hold your breath day.

We'll all breath in, and then, just hold it!

And that's the way the barely-breathing Ball bounces.

The US is Going to the Dogs

I'm sitting in the Red Carpet lounge at PHX - Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix. I'm asleep. Because I'm here for an early flight to San Francisco. I'm flying to San Francisco so I can then fly to Toronto.

Don't ask.

At any rate, HLN is on, and the news is weird.

The first article is about Soup Kitchens for Dogs.

I Kid You Not. Well, why not. After all, they're only human. And what dog wouldn't want to slurp up a batch of chicken noodle?

The second article is about service animals -- they're not just dogs anymore. Some are gerbils, apparently. People with service animals have the right to take their service animals everywhere they go -- supermarkets, restaurants, etc. And organizations that "discriminate" face big-time fines and reprimands.

Well, one legally blind gal has a seeing-eye horse. That's horse, as in h-o-r-s-e. There's a shot of her going through a supermarket. The implications of a horse in a supermarket or restaurant are not a pretty sight.

Have a great Sunday.

And that's the way the SFO-bound Ball bounces.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Air Canada says, "Sorry..." *UPDATED*


After successfully selecting and reserving my seats on Air Canada, thanks to blogger Bryan, I got an email from Air Canada announcing an "Itinerary Change".

How exciting!

After scanning the new information carefully it appears the only difference is this: Air Canada has overridden my selection of aisle seats and bumped me to window seats for both flights. To add insult to injury, they characterize these new seat assignments as "Seat Selections".

Selections indeed. But, by whom?

And that's the way the bounced Ball bounces.

This is the third time in a row I have been unable to book my seat selection with Air Canada. I took about 10 minutes to scrutinize the seating chart for each flight -- coming and going -- and then selected what I thought was the most advantageous seat for each flight.

I then pressed "Continue".

Here's the message I got:


Your booking is confirmed. Not all your seating and meal preferences or your special needs could be confirmed. If you wish to confirm your preferences, please contact Air Canada Reservations for assistance. (68004)"

Did they include the number to reach Air Canada Reservations in their message? No, they did not.

The last time I took them up on their suggestion to call Air Canada Reservations for assistance, I was put on hold for 45 minutes, until I finally, sensibly, gave up.

Why do I even bother?

(In fairness to Air Canada, I had a perfectly fine flight up to Toronto today from Phoenix. I managed to cop an unoccupied bulkhead seat. And, I'm thankful for their safety record.)

And that's the way the fly-by-night Ball bounces.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Air Canada and United -- A Partnership that's up in the Air

We flew down in Phoenix on Friday on an Air Canada codeshare flight with United Airlines.

An Air Canada codeshare flight is much better in every way.

The last time I booked Air Canada to Phoenix, I went to the seat assignment screen, pored over the available seats, carefully selected the two I wanted, and, voila!, got a "This operation cannot be completed" message." (When we got to the airport, Air Canada had assigned us seats about 12 rows apart. At least each seat was a middle seat -- you wouldn't want to have to sit by a window or an aisle.)

A codeshare flight is even better. With a codeshare flight, you select seat assignment, and it gives you the "This operation cannot be completed message" right away. This saves time, and you've still got an excellent chance of being assigned middle seats!

When I got to the airport, I had to check in at the United desk, because this wasn't really an Air Canada flight; it was a United flight pretending to be an Air Canada flight. What this means is that the check-in line is much shorter, and the staff friendlier.

I get to the woman checking baggage. She notes my Aeroplan number and the AC-Gold status. I inform her I don't think I'm really gold. She says it's in the computer, so, enjoy it! I used to be Air Canada Super-Elite in the days I flew over 100,000 miles annually with Air Canada. But those days ended shortly after 9/11. Anyway, Air Canada hasn't gotten around to letting United know, so, as far as United is concerned, I'm "Gold". Who am I to argue with the official computers of Air Canada and United Airlines?!

Anyway, because I was Gold, I didn't have to pay the $15/bag that United would have charged. We're up $30!

Plus, I'm told that our seats on the leg down to Phoenix from Denver are booked in the Economy Plus section -- more legroom, and we didn't have to pay the $60 each to get it. I'm up $150!

We get to Denver. I sense the connecting flight to Phoenix is overbooked. I can smell it. There are a bunch of stand-bys, and it's not looking good for them. I sit poised to pounce. The announcement comes on: "Ladies, and gentlemen, we are in an oversold position...". I pounce. I'm at the desk. I'm first in line. We're offered two free round-trip tickets anywhere United flies in the continental US if we are willing to go out on the next flight. I take it.

How do you put a value on them? I would say at least $500 each. So, now we're up $1150.

Downside: a four-hour wait at the Denver airport. Wait? Wait! I'm Gold. I've got Red Carpet lounge privileges. I show my boarding pass. The United guy waves us on through while continuing his phone conversation.

We luxuriate in the Red Carpet lounge.

Wait a minute. What about my car rental? I've booked an off-airport rental with Hertz -- did you know that PHX Phoenix airport has the highest airport car rental fees in the nation? They are unbelievable. There's a city tax and a state tax and a stadium tax and an airport tax and a tax tax, and a -- you get the picture. I'm already saving money by booking off-airport. But now we won't be getting in until later. I've got 16 days on the contract, two efficient 7-day periods, and two extra days at $60/day -- exhorbitant. I do the math. If we can do without a car Friday evening and Saturday, I can re-book the rental for Sunday morning and save $120 minus taxis. Minus $50 for taxis, we'll save another $70.

I redo the Hertz reservation. We end the day up $1220.

To top it off, the United jets were clean and new, and the service was impeccable.

Thanks, United!

All in all, a pretty good travel day.

And that's the way the Ball bounces -- from Toronto to Denver to Phoenix.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Skill-Testing Question

Does this Hillary outfit remind you of anything?

A Seinfeld episode, maybe?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

The woman was in a public place.

Through no fault of the airline she was late for her own flight. She charged at the staff and went into a frenzy. Her actions were caught by an alert Cathay Pacific employee. The video got posted on YouTube. Millions watched it.

Now, Cathay Pacific has apologized and offered the woman an upgrade on her next flight with Cathay Pacific.

I'm perplexed. The woman was in a public place. She made a public disturbance. She assaulted another woman. She could have held up the entire plane if her baggage had to be removed. And now Cathay Pacific is apologizing because the woman's behaviour was posted on YouTube?

If some action was necessary, shouldn't the woman have been fined and possibly arrested for assault, rather than rewarded with an upgrade and return of frequent flier points?

I could be wrong on this one. Perhaps the video shouldn't have made its way to YouTube and so maybe Cathay Pacific has some sort of liability over this.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Wisdom of Solomon...

A Canadian traveling to the US was recently instructed to turn off the motor of his car by the US Border Guard. He responded by counter-instructing the US Border Guard to say "please". They each repeated their respective demand, back-and-forth, a couple of times. Then the Canadian was pepper-sprayed by the US Border Guard.

Who do you side with on this one?

My verdict: the Border guard.

The rationale:

* Crossing into the US (or any other foreign country) is a privilege, not a right.

* Border crossings in the age of terrorism are not places to fool around. A US border guard faces imminent threats daily. The Canadian may just be making a fuss, or he may be involved in creating a distraction while someone else does something much more serious. The border guard is responsible for resolving the situation rapidly and effectively. His safety, or the safety of his colleagues, may depend on it.

What do you think?

* * *

For what it's worth, I once advised my wife to use the border crossing line up as an opportunity to get rid of some car garbage in a nearby waste bin. When we got up to the border guard, he told us to never, ever, get out of the car again while in line at a border crossing -- we could be shot.

This was just after 9-11. My wife was not amused.

We keep our garbage to ourselves, now.

Another time, we had a huge bag of fresh dog food confiscated. We had repackaged it into an airtight plastic container, and could not prove that it was made in the USA (which it was). Homeland Security -- keeping the USA free from meat products which may contain illicit pork, lamb or beef! The guy dumped it into a huge container. The Port Huron, MI guys must specialize in illicit dog food confiscation. I hope they don't get paid by the pound...

And that's the way the border-crossing Ball bounces.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"