The “new” United…

…making lots of changes we know you will like.

Like making a simple milk run from SFO-LAX into an ordeal. Has anyone noticed how UA planes are starting to break down more frequently? One of these no-show planes was supposed to land, load up and take off before my hour long flight to The Southland. The plane that I eventually flew to LA was already on the ground, ready to go.
Since the plane to take us to LA is already here, all it needs is a gate to use. And since the flight before ours never arrived, we couldn’t use the gate. We were delayed close to 2 hours before they moved gates and loaded us onto a decrepit 757 that saw better days 15 years ago.

The flight passed without incident until we landed LAX and watched as 3 flights after ours landed get their baggage. Apparently, our baggage was delayed and was on a later flight from SFO. Nice move UA! Didn’t even bother telling us until we had to ask. If we knew, we wouldn’t have interrupted your gossip session!

I don’t like these “changes”.

Frozen over…

Unlocked! iTunes say so...

Hell has begun to freeze.  AT&T is finally allowing customers who are out of contract to SIM unlock their iPhones.

Prior to April 9th, if you were a sucker customer with AT&T and you were out of contract, you could unlock any phone, except for the iPhone.  All sorts of tap dancing resulted with AT&T blaming Apple and Apple (correctly) blaming AT&T for not being able to SIM unlock your property.

Some of the stories the AT&T CSRs defending this policy were beyond outrageous.   “Why unlock?  You can roam on AT&T internationally”.  “Apple doesn’t unlock iPhones”.  And the best one, “There’s no such thing as an unlocked iPhone”.

Of course, I fired back, telling the CSR about being in Singapore and Hong Kong, where there is an abundance of unlocked iPhones.  In Singapore’s case, they’re sold that way because it’s illegal to SIM lock a cell phone.

Now we are beginning to emerge out of the GSM dark ages here in the States; you can finally unlock your iPhone without having to deal with the hassle of jailbreak and hacks.  Yay!

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Mobile update

Well, here’s the first entry from my iPhone. To make blog entries this easy will hopefully wean me away from FB.

Here’s a random photo!

20120411-175822.jpg

It’s small, easy to park and fun to drive, especially with the top down.  It also gets 29MPG in the city despite being aggressively driven.

Rebirth

After close to 10 years using the Movable Type platform, I finally took the plunge and converted the site to WordPress.  Why?  A few things.  First off, it’s easier to customize using themes than MT was, resulting in a more visually interesting site.  Second, the tools provided by WP for controlling comment spam works very well and is easier on the servers than MT was.  Third, there are all sorts of interesting add ons to control your WP blog, including an iOS app.  Overall, a much more user centric package that doesn’t require knowledge of code to work.

Interview

Inputting photos is easier too.  See photo above of Congressman Darryl Issa (R-Vista) and Amber Lee, KTVU reporter working at a recent event here in San Francisco.

Ku De Ta view back in November

Back in November, one of my friends got comps to visit Ku De Ta, the rooftop bar at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.  Since that meant “view” and “adult beverages”, how could I refuse?

We arrived just before sunset (see photo on the left).  After a few drinks and one bump that nearly sent my camera plummeting into Marina Bay, the sun went down and the lights came on (the other photo on the right).  Amazing!

The crowd is a bit d-baggy, the drinks are very overpriced and on most nights and weekends, there’s a cover and a queue.  Definitely come here after work and watch the sun sink into the west.  If you can find a quiet spot on the deck.

東京から新年あけましておめでとうございます!

For the second year in a row, I found myself in Tokyo for New Year’s.  Unlike most of the world, where New Year’s Eve is another excuse to get smashed and celebrate loudly, New Year’s in Japan is pretty much the exact opposite of that, with family time taking priority over debauchery.  As a result, many people in Japan “go home” and stay in over New Year’s, filling family obligations before connecting with friends and visitors.  Most restaurants and businesses close early (by 1600) if they’re open at all.  A lot of businesses take several days off during the New Year’s holiday, so if you’re doing your first Japan visit during this time, you will find that a lot of businesses and attractions will be closed.

NYE schedule for the Oedo Line

New Year’s is also unique in that this is the only day of the year when the trains (JR, Eidan and Toei) run all night.  Granted it’s a abbreviated schedule, but at least they’re running.  If you find yourself out that evening, take a picture of the schedule that’s posted so you don’t come back to the station and have to wait for an hour for the next train back.

One tradition that visitors can partake in is hatsumode (初詣), the first shrine visit of the new year.  The way to think about the new year is that it’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.  Pay your debts and make amends for the past year and make wishes and pray for a good new year.  Many of the major shrines in Tokyo get slammed over the first days of the new year as practically everyone is off work. Meiji-Jingu in Shibuya which is probably the best known shrine had over 3 million people visit over the first three days of the year.  Many choose to visit on New Year’s Eve night, as I’ve done the past couple of years.

During my New Year’s visits, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo (Shinjuku).  Even though it’s overshadowed by it’s glam cousins, the Park Hyatt and the Grand Hyatt (Roppongi), the Hyatt Regency Tokyo has a good location, the club rooms are very nice and best of all, there’s a 7-11 in the basement AND has direct underground access to Tochōmae Station on the Toei Oedo Line. The hotel had a small New Year’s celebration in the lobby with singers and free champagne to toast at the stroke at midnight.  The entire shindig ended just short of 0030.  When I visited the Meiji Shrine last New Year’s, my friends and I arrived at the shrine close to 0100 and wound up queuing with 400,000 others to pay our respects.  That took just about 3.5 hours.  So, I thought, if I leave later, perhaps the queues won’t be as thick and I won’t be outside so long in the cold.  At 0200, I made my way to the subway and 20 minutes later, I was at the Meiji Shrine.  Where there was a slightly shorter queue.  The wait was only two hours before I made it to the front.

Due to the lateness (or earlyness) of the hour, after I made my offering, I purchased new omamori and recycled my old ones and hightailed it back to the hotel where my warm bed and room awaited me.  Usually there’s food stands and amakaze just outside the shrine area for snacking and fun but many of the booths were closed due to the late late hour.

 

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Silly prize from an excellent airline

All Nippon Airways has emerged as my preferred carrier if I have to sit in steerage on transpacific routes, displacing UA as my default carrier (unless there are SWUs involved).

Why choose NH over UA? For about the same price, NH gives you better food, seatback AVOD, excellent service and a choice of arrival times and if you plan it right, a brief stopover as you change airports for the connection to SIN.

And since I brought up SIN, why not fly SQ instead of NH?  If you’re flying economy, you need to select a slightly more expensive economy ticket in order to get miles.  Seeing that the price difference is usually about US$60, it’s not a big deal.  What IS a big deal is that on NH, as a UA Mileage Plus elite, you will get elite bonus for your redeemable miles earned on their transpacific flights.  SQ gives you miles flown and that’s all IF you have a qualifying fare.

NH also has a very active FB presence with lots of photos and contests you can enter via Twitter.  I won this luggage tag by answering the question of the month via Twitter and linking my accounts.  It’s a nice looking tag.  Not sure if I want it to get all scuffed up…

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