Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Busy As A Bee

I was just tired of seeing that "Mea Culpa" title everytime I opened up my blog. Not much has happened to me in the past few days. Just all of a sudden work got crazy and all my clients decided to band together and just dump their work on me. So I've been running around like crazy. And woo-hoo, by tomorrow, I'll have worn a suit twice in the past week. The first time was for a fancy demo of my company's "solution" to all your legal problems, and then tomorrow will be for a job interview. It's too bad I'm not that excited about this job, especially since I learned that someone I went to college with works there now, and I'd kind of prefer not to see him again. And given the relatively small size of this company, I doubt that would happen.

But I always have this thing about visiting another company or firm's office. I'm always looking around taking note of the style, the furniture, the views, the building, etc. And while I've never taken a job solely on my opinion of the company's taste level, it's always nice to be in a place where my taste level and the company's taste level just gel.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mea Culpa

My lame attempts at humor and insightfulness dependant on a high number of similes and copious amounts of run-on sentences seem to be taken without the grain of salt they require. Folks, my blog posts are usually more funny than ever serious. So just keep that in mind, especially to all the anonymous commenters out there who really should at least just email me directly and tell me who you are. If you knew me personally, you'd know that I'm just trying to be tongue-in-cheek and that I'm always very aware of how much I'm exaggerating and stretching the truth in my quest to be a superstar blogger (some more joking around for you.)

So if I offended anyone with my blog posts, especially about San Francisco's airport (more kidding), please forgive me. Obviously I'm not doing a good job of conveying how really not serious I am in my posts.

P.S., I really do love San Francisco like I've written in previous posts. I've even thought of moving there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Five Things About San Francisco: #4 San Francisco's Airport is Messed Up

I've flown in and out of San Francisco Airport 30-40 times now and I've gotten to know the airport pretty well. Once in a while, I've flown into Oakland too, but that's only if someone has told me that the world will end unless I fly JetBlue, because I hate JetBlue and flying into Oakland is a huge pain. Actually before I delve into the mess that must have been designed by a moron on crack at SFO, I'll talk a little about Oakland. The thing about Oakland is that everything looks like it's in a sketchy neighborhood, with rusted metal, dilapidated houseds, and industrial warehouses as far as the eye can see. It looks pretty uninviting. The low hanging clouds casting a grey shadow over everything doesn't help. How does this city (if you can call it that) have a professional baseball team? I've even heard the stadium sucks (the SF Giants stadium, on the other hand, is beautiful and kicks ass). It looks like a morgue and the players posters are like smiley face stickers stuck on a coffin.

At least SFO is in a semi-nice area down on the peninsula. It's near the town of Millbrae which has about a million Chinese dim sum places along with hordes of tour buses of Chinese tourists who seem to come to San Francisco to just eat their own food in a different country. Maybe it's an Asian thing. I know my parents usually like to only eat Korean food whenever we travel and we scour the entire town wherever we are for a temple to bulgogi and kimchi. Anyhow, traveling into SFO is like going through the labyrinth from Greek mythology. You have no idea where you're going. Signs to the same place are pointing in opposite directions, and if you ask, you'll probably get the wrong directions. And you have to walk what seems like miles past dangerous obstacles to get anywhere.

As soon as you land, the adventure starts. As you taxi on the runway, you realize that the pilot landed with about 6 inches left on the runway. After that, there's a gorge that makes the Grand Canyon look like a stream. I can only imagine what the pilot is thinking when he takes off. He's probably praying that he has enough momentum to lift off before the runway disappears.

Then you deplane and enter San Francisco Airport where I'm sure people go missing every day. I think the main problem is that SFO has been upgrading it's structure probably since the Wright Brothers. In fact, if SFO had offered its facility to the Wright Brothers, they probably would have laughed. After you deplane, you walk. Then you walk some more. And then some more. And then you walk and walk and walk. Sometimes you take an escalator, maybe even an elevator. You look out the window and you realize that you can still see your plane because you've returned to the exact same place you started from after walking for three hours. One time I somehow found myself in the parking garage, trying to get to baggage claim. And I swore I followed all the signs. Then one time, I was trying to get to the BART station, but found myself in some obscure place where I feared for my life after wandering around for hours and hours, and getting on countless escalators and elevators singing, "Climb Every Mountain" and going up, down, inside, outside, and up and down a couple more times. (Ok, so I'm exaggerating a little.) San Francisco Airport, at least, seems to have no shortage of signage, but it would help if the damn signs were right.

Getting out of SFO is more of the same, except I have to deal with the United ticket desk and the security lines. Now I have never had any problems with any individual ticket agents at the United desks. But my problem is that there are about 10,000 desks, but like two agents. So my status as a Premier Executive flyer is basically nothing more than a way for me to show all of the other passengers what a tool traveler I am. But the express lines is really a benefit that I really value and it would be nice if I could use it. Security is also a huge pain, if nothing else because the lines are always so long. I don't think any terrorist would ever try to leave through SFO because he'd kill himself first, just waiting in line.

There's that song "I Left My Heart In San Francisco." Well clearly the people who made the airport not only left their hearts there, but they left their brains there too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday Groove

Here's some groove for a Monday morning. I wanted to post this directly to my blog, but youtube.com is being screwy and won't recognize my blogger account credentials.

I came across this video after a weekend filled of looking at old videos of American Bandstand and Saturday morning cartoon-death knell Soul Train performances from the 70s. Some of them are hilarious. We sure could dance like dorks back then.

This is one of my favorite songs ever. Maybe because it was released the same year as my birthday (1977). I could just picture myself in the studio recording this song and belting it into a mike that of course drops down from the ceiling. Oh and of course I have to have the big ass Princess Leia style headphones over my ears, with my hands clutching them and head bopping along to the music. But, alas, I have no musical talent whatsoever, and so American Idol won't be knocking on my door anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sleazy Disney

This morning on the radio, I heard about the sleazy underbelly of working at Disney World as an intern. The guys on the radio were talking about what it's like to work there and a girl who used to be an intern there actually called in too to give her perspective. During the day it's some perverse puppet show with the mouse pulling all the strings and I'm sure feeding all of the workers there some speed or something in order to keep them going with the script. Disney works on a point system for their workers. Curse out a toddler and swat his ice cream to the ground? You lose points. Suffocate inside a hot Pluto costume head and fall over and die? You lose points. Didn't smile when you were handing out disney pens on that weird paddle boat thing to little kids? Well you probably made the mouse cry. The mouse apparently suffers from OCD, and if one worker isn't perfect, he cries. And if you make Mickey cry, well, you're screwd.

So on your first day of the internship, they bring in some guy who rambles on and on about Walt Disney and his vision and the rewards of the internship program. I suppose they make it heartwarming enough for you to really believe that all there really is behind the Disney corporate behemoth is a lovable friendly mouse bouncing around all happy and smiling like Santa Claus on Prozac.

After a day's work, the world of the Disney interns becomes a weird version of Studio 54. Think about your favorite Disney characters like Donald and Pooh, smoking, doing drugs and drinking. Then think about your beloved characters participating in debauchery like a Snow White and seven dwarves orgy, a Cinderella strip tease, a Chip & Dale gay romp in the celebrated jacuzzi of the intern apartment building.

Whoa. This is like Da-Vinci Code worthy insider information. My mouth was agape. I stood there frozen in front of my bathroom mirror in my boxers and toothbrush thinking about the dark side of Disney. Now I don't have any particularly warm & fuzzy memories of Disney World. But, oh my god.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bring On The Bubbly

While I was in Europe, I became an agua con gas afficianado. That's right. I've become a sparkling water drinker. I'm fairly ashamed of this. Drinking sparkling water is so Euro. Also when I was a kid, I thought sparkling water tasted like dinosaur pee or like water with an aspirin dissolved in it, and I hate to go back later and admit that I am wrong. Worse still, I've become a total tool by actually favoring Perrier over all the other brands out there. If I was going to go for a sparkling water, I should go for a good old American brand like Calistoga, which I'm sure our cowboys drink. Well, our cowboys in Aspen.

I've become so obsessed with Perrier that these days you'll probably find me liplocked to one of those curvy green bottles. Pellegrino, the other bastion of Euro water coolness, is always a good fallback choice. But in Perrier, I can really appreciate the aggressiveness of the bubbles. They just feel like they have so much more ooompf to them and dare your palate to conquer them. In fact, I took a small bottle of Perrier and a small bottle of Pellegrino home with me one day to do a showdown between the two and conduct some science. I wanted to test their bubble strength (clearly I have too much time on my hands). So I shook up the Perrier bottle as hard as I could and held it above the sink while I gingerly twisted the cap off. Water came spraying out as soon as I started twisting, spraying me and my whole kitchen counter, giving both of us a decent soaking. Then I did the same thing with the Pellegrino bottle. Pellegrino's performance was pitiful. Hardly any effervescing from the Italian seltzer water. If you need a bottle of water for a water fight, go with the overpriced curvy green French stuff.

Both Pellegrino and Perrier are mineral waters, which I suppose literally means dirty water that hasn't been cleaned yet. But it's those extra sulphites and salts and whatever else that add that extra special tasty or therapeutic something to these waters. So taste is another important quality. Both taste pretty good. The bubbles though taste finer and smaller in Perrier. I also used some guidance from Jeffrey Steingarten's chapter on water where he actually decided to make his own great-tasting water by buying an alphabet soup from the periodic table and mixing them with distilled water. Then I also came across the guidelines for what is apparently the preeminent water festival in the world held at Berkeley Springs. This quote taken from their handy guidelines stood out to me.

An aftertaste of wet dog or sucking on a wet band-aid is decidedly NOT desireable.

Uh....is that the water they drink in hell? What water tastes like that? Ew.

I also learned some stuff about tonic water because in Spain, they drink a lot of that stuff straight up. I learned, for instance, that tonic water is water with Quinine added to it, owing to tonic water's origins as a medicinal solution to things like malaria, not that I ever would go trekking the jungles of Africa with nothing but tonic water in my bag. Tonic water makes me want to gag. I can't stand tonic water, and wouldn't consume it unless I was dying of thirst on that creepy island in Lost and the Others were holding a gun to my head.

So after an afternoon of experimentation on sparkling water, I was left standing in the kitchen, mineral water drying from my t-shirt, satisified with the results of yet another one of my selfless acts to educate the public. I'm also starting to think of more ways to make my experiment more scientific. Maybe I should involve lightning somehow. Lightning always makes science more fun and cool. Good science always needs a good jolt of electricity.

Sidebar: I am dying to get one of
these. Wouldn't that be so cool? My own sparkling water spring from my own faucet. I could bottle it and call it TCho H2O.

Friday, September 08, 2006

You Really Like Me!

I had a satisfyingly day of unproductiveness today. Actually, today's my first day back where I've actually been semi-busy. But still, I've had a lot of free time at work today, where I suppose I could have focused my efforts on constructive things like updating my resume or working on some ebay auctions that I've been meaning to put up, but instead I decided to sit at my computer and check on all my airline and loyalty programs because I'm a total frequent flier/guest points junkie and crave on every little transaction that goes on in my accounts and daydream about all the ways that I can redeem my points. I'm even enough of a geek to have files (yes, files) filled with old boarding passes, hotel invoices and receipts from various merchants who give points or miles for purchases. It's amazing the amount of pride that I have in my "status". It's like I'm beaming with pride like an Olympic Gold Medalist when I look back at all the points I've accumulated. Yes, that's right. I'll win the first Gold Medal in frequent flyer points.

Anyhow, things started to get busy later in the day. So busy, that I had to ask someone in San Francisco to cover for me on a couple of things because I had to leave the office today at 5:15 to get to yoga class. (Oh yeah, I've started doing yoga, and so now I'm a serene and spiritual Terence. But more about yoga in another blog post.) I left the office and got into the subway station at Grand Central. I noticed that the bag check had been set up again. For some reason, I felt tension rise in me, like I had something to hide. But actually in retrospect, I realize it was that feeling of "Will they pick me? Me???" Is it weird that I actually felt honored when the cop said "Bag check, sir." I felt like I won. It was kind of like the time in high school we were having an assembly for Career Day and our school headmaster (I went to a snooty prep school, so we had headmasters) announced that certain students would be escorting our illustrious guests for the day. Yes, these illustrious guests included a bank manager of a Wachovia bank, a local personal injury lawyer and other seasoned professionals. Our headmaster got out a piece of paper and called out....my name! I hadn't heard about this "contest." Well, I was probably the only person in our school who saw it as a contest, and I wasn't sure what to do, so I just stood up. I was like "Oh my god. You picked me! Do I need to congratulate the other losers? Do I need to go up?" Visions of the Academy Awards flashed in my head. I felt so honored.

Well, to get back to my "win" today, I approached the bag check desk and expected a "Congratulations" accompanied by a big grin. I proudly handed the cop my bag. But he didn't even open it. He just swiped it with some tissue and put it in this machine that looked like a credit card swiper to check for whatever those machines check for. Then he handed me my bag back and said "There you go, sir." I was on my way, a bit disillusioned but not defeated. I'm sure next week, Larry King will be calling to ask me about my win.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Travel Gods Hate Me, Part II

So I'm back from my tour of Switzerland and Spain. This has to be the worst vacation I've ever taken. I couldn't wait to get back to New York. Every couple of years I get this urge to go to Europe, but when I actually get there, I think to myself, why the hell am I here? Europe can be so chintzy, and for everything you hear about New Yorkers being rude and unhelpful, I've heard and seen nothing but friendly New Yorkers willing to indulge tourists and answer questions like "Where's Manhattan?" when they're standing in Times Square or "Can I walk to the Statue of Liberty?" from a tourist wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now I'm not a New York snob or anything, or much worse a Manhattan snob. I do leave Manhattan under great duress and venture out to even Queens or Brooklyn once in a while even though I sometimes act like you need a passport to get out there. But I am not ashamed to admit that I am an American snob. I'm sorry, but I really just don't enjoy Europe. However, luckily, nothing truly that bad happened to me while I was in Zurich or Madrid. I was a little worried about Madrid because I had heard so many stories about crimes against tourists, particularly Asian & elderly tourists (I never thought I'd be in the same target group as the elderly.) So I was all prepared to walk the streets with my bullet-proof vest and pepper spray in hand.

Well I didn't need any of those things. If anything, Madrid was kind of boring to me. I was most looking forward to the food, but I'm sorry, I've had better paella here in New York. The rest of Madrid was ok. I walked around a lot. I went to the Prado, saw Guernica, had lunch in Plaza Mayor and saw most of the city. It was HOT. I mean hot like you could fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. I dealt with this by drinking lots of horchata drinks, which I always thought was a Mexican drink because I always see it in the taquerias out in California. My hotel also stocked me up on the ultra-chic, Scandinavian VOSS water which is in a bottle shaped like time capsule.

So nothing that eventful happened to me in Madrid. It was on the trip back where the travel gods decided that I was relaxing too much. First of all, my flight from Madrid back to Zurich was at an ungodly hour of 6:25AM. On my last day in Madrid, I met up with a guy who I had met earlier and we went out for tapas, and he didn't keep me out all that late--just 1AM--but way too late for a 6:25AM flight. I felt like I was doing the walk of shame back to my hotel after a long night of partying, except this time I was in clothes that I had changed into only 6 hours earlier, and not 24 hours.

Anyhow, I went to bed at 2 and got up at 4 to head to the airport. As I got into the cab, I asked the hotel bellman in my limited Spanish because I know like two words of Spanish that I learned from Sesame Street to warn the cab driver that I was watching the meter, and I'm not gonna be ripped off like the other cab driver who picked me when I arrived in Spain. After my driver wasa sufficiently scared, I got into the cab and headed to the airport.

I can generously describe Madrid airport as "organized chaos." Otherwise, what a shithole excuse of an airport for a European capital. For my leg from Madrid to Zurich, I was flying a codeshare flight with SwissAir, but operated by SpanAir. As I was checking my bag, the first instance of travel god wrath happened. The SpanAir computer system wasn't working, and so they informed they couldn't check my bag all the way to the NYC, and I'd have to exit Customs in Zurich, get my bag and trek over to SwissAir for my connection. "Um," I asked, "Am I gonna have enough time to make my connection? I have about an hour...." His response was, "Uh, I don't know. I hope so." Great. I loved the confidence and helpfulness that I was hearing.

I just checked my bag and moved on. I got my receipts stamped for my VAT refund and then passed through security, forgetting that I had one of my VOSS bottles in my bag, but the security people never stopped me. Soon, I got to the gate and then shortly after I boarded. But wait, something weird was going on. I passed the business class section completely to my seat. WTF? I paid for business class! I go back to the Flight Attendant and explain that I was supposed to be in business class. Turns out the class code on my ticket was wrong, but after some lengthy screaming at the flight attendent and the so-called supervisor and totally embarrassing myself as some crazy belligerent American to the entire plane, I relegated myself to coach with some withering looks at all of the flight attendants on the plane.

This blog post has gone on long enough, and so I'll cut to my arrival in New York. I was able to complete the miracle baggage retrieval mission at Zurich Airport and hoofed it over to SwissAir in about 45 min, sweating like I had just run a marathon. Some other minor things happened on my Swiss air flight, like me not getting my first choice in entree nor my preferred window seat, which really are minor, but given how pissed off I was that day, they had been escalated to major grievances in my book, worthy of shutting down the airline. Anyway, I arrived in NY and after waiting for an hour at the carousel, my bag never appeared. I approach the SwissAir baggage desk and the woman informs me, my bag never made it on to the plane. Well, that's just great. Actually, in those instances I usually don't mind, at least when I'm coming home. Because then I get to have my bag delivered and I don't have to lug it home.

So I went home with no bag, getting weird looks from the Customs people as I exited like I was a terrorist who didn't need any luggage. I get on the subway back home from JFK which was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I was very pleasantly surprised how easy the subway from JFK back to Manhattan was. I got home, getting soaked in the pouring rain in the process and then just chilled at home.

The next day after work, I see my bag by my doorman's desk. Yay! I didn't buy much in Europe, but I did buy some nice leather things from Spain's own bastion of overpriced leather, Loewe (which was one of the main reasons for this trip) and a nice bottle of Spanish Rioja wine. I opened my suitcase on my living room floor and pawed through my things. Where the hell were my leather wallet & bottle of wine? OMG, someone stole them! This has never happened to me before. I could not believe it. I'm so pissed off at whoever with the sticky fingers decided to go shopping in my suitcase while it was trying to make its way home.

The travel gods really do hate me. I must have run over a backpacker in my past life.

Update: I've called SwissAir and it looks they'll compensate me for my stolen items. And United's gonna give me lots of miles for the clearly lack of sense in denying me business class. The Spanair people clearly didn't know who I am.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I'm Back!

I'm back from all my travels out West (well, California West) and the rolling hills of Zurich and Madrid. I've been so remiss with my blog, mostly due to my typical air-headness in forgetting my computer at home before my trip. But I'll be blogging back to normal soon! Hope no one missed my astute observations on things that are important in this world (well, my world.)