Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Can Your Bra Do for You?

A 24-year-old American hiker stranded in the Bavarian Alps for nearly three days was rescued last Thursday after using a unique SOS signal. Jessica Bruinsma was located after she attracted the attention of lumberjacks by attaching her sports bra to a cable used to move timber down the mountain. According to Berchtesgaden police officer Lorenz Rasp, “She’s a very smart girl, and she acted very resourcefully,” said Rasp. “She kept her shirt and jacket for warmth, but thought the sports bra could work as a signal.”

Bruinsma, who is training for a marathon, went missing June 16 after losing her way in bad weather while hiking with a friend near the Austrian border. She fell 16.4 feet to a rocky overhang, where she spent the next 70 hours on the narrow ledge, sustained by water that she found by breaking into a supply box on the ledge. She badly bruised a leg and dislocated a shoulder in the fall, and the cliff was too isolated for her to climb free, Rasp said.

So there you have it—even if you don’t have flares or a mirror or a way to build a signal fire when you’re lost, you’ve got a way to point out your location as long as you’re wearing underwear! What other uses could a sports bra be put to in a pinch? Would you have thought to use it as a signal flag and send it down a German mountain?

-- The Commish

Monday, June 23, 2008

24 hours in L.A. or how a city stopped serving me attitude and really started serving me

I just returned from a whirlwind 24 hours in Los Angeles. This is a city I have visited dozens of times for work and for fun, but this trip took the record for quickest turnaround time. As it turned out, this proved to be one of my most enjoyable trips as well. When in L.A., my stomping ground is typically West Hollywood. This trip, we stayed at The Grafton on Sunset. Although its stylish glory has faded somewhat, the hotel is perfectly located and the staff could not have been any nicer.

We stopped by Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant at The London West Hollywood. In concert with the hotel, the restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. We just sat at the bar for cocktails and a snack from the bar menu. The luxe white and brass and dark wood surroundings would have been enough, but the scallop starter we had now ranks in our top 10 best bites ever. We so completely freaked out about the dish, the bartender brought the chef (not Gordon Ramsay) out so we could discuss in detail. The staff could not have been any friendlier. What’s happening to you L.A.? You’ve stopped serving me attitude, and just started serving me.

After finally making ourselves leave the London, we had dinner at Take Sushi. Located on Sunset near North Vicente, it’s a just a skinny slip of a place. Right around the corner from the Viper Room and across the street from the Whiskey, our neighbors at the sushi bar were eyeliner-rimmed, tattoo-sleeved rockers. Absolute seminal L.A. rocker perfection. (And the sushi was delicious and shockingly inexpensive).

Time for a disco nap (and then the remaining 12 hours).

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I want candy

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love of all things candy to you before. Well, you can add another candy-themed destination to your list of places to go. The Island Fudge Shoppe in Hilton Head, South Carolina is a must visit. All their fudge is to die for, and they offer 16 varieties (it’s a fudgeapalooza!!). I’m particularly partial to the peanut butter fudge. It’s HEAVEN. Heaven, I say! Craving some delicious fudge but nowhere near Hilton Head? Never fear, dear readers. You can order online!! Give it a shot. Your girl Hannah won’t steer you wrong when it comes to the candy!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Then and Now

Having been fascinated with the idea of Cuban travel after Castro's resignation, this story couldn't help but catch my eye.

Do you remember where you were that fateful Easter morning in 2000 when federal agents stormed the home of Elian Gonzalez's relatives on the orders of Janet Reno? What a brouhaha that caused! But what else was there to do? His cousin Marisleysis famously told a Justice Department community relations officer, “You think we just have cameras in the house? If people try to come in, they could be hurt.” The family was not just going to obey the orders of the United States government—the government of the country that they presumably felt was far superior to that of Cuba. Did they think we had no laws at all?

But now look who’s all grown up—Elian has joined Cuba's Young Communist Union. While the story has gotten some press, there haven’t really been any retrospectives or comparisons of what Elian is or could have been. Funny how things that can get people so riled up at the time have ways of fading. . .

-- The Commish

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Coffee, Tea or Humiliation?

The Transportation Security Administration is installing security scanners that can see through your clothing with millimeter wave whole body imaging in 10 U.S. airports (they forsee installation in 30 airports by the end of 2008). Random passengers (that means you big-boobed blonde) will be shut in a glass booth while a three-dimensional image is made of your body beneath your clothes. And, yes, the scanners will reveal your sexual organs and all sorts of other details about your body, but don't fret because your face is blurred! USA Today quotes James Schear, the TSA security director at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as saying that with the detailed pictures "(y)ou can actually see the sweat on someone's back."

This guy is such a comfort!

Reportedly, you are allowed to choose between the "harmless" millimeter wave scan and the traditional pat down.

While the TSA says, basically, eh, it's no big deal, the ACLU (probably not surprisingly) says we'd all be shocked if we saw what they saw.

The Dallas Morning News has an image from one of these types of scans on their website. Take a look.

So, will you be a scanner or a patter?

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Six for One

The number of gadgets that I travel with today has increased exponentially since the days I boarded a plane with nothing but my battery-operated Walkman cassette player and a couple of mixed tapes. These days, I need my cell phone, Blackberry, iPod and PlayStation Portable, all with their various chargers so that I don’t run out of juice at a critical moment (particularly when playing a game that will send me back to the beginning to kill the Soviets all over again). But who wants to pack all those adapters and cords? They could take up half of your carry-on!

Enter the chargepod! This little gadget has one AC/DC adapter that plugs into a hub with 6 spokes. You can get the right cord to go from the hub to your phone, iPod, etc. . . Not only have you done away with individual power systems, but you can also plug everything in and charge it all at the same time, so you don’t need multiple outlets, either. And it really doesn’t take any longer to charge them all than it would if you plugged them in by themselves.

The chargepod is not cheap, but with American Airlines now charging $15 for the first checked bag, we need all the extra space we can find in our carry-ons! Skymall sells a bundle that includes the AC/DC adapter, hub and 6 of the most popular cords for $99.95. http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=102592733&c= But I recommend that you go straight to callpod’s website and customize your own: http://www.callpod.com/ It’s a little more expensive, but you’ll get the right equipment for each of your electronic gadgets. Both systems also come with a handy pouch for storage and packing.

-- The Commish

D.C. or Austin? Wherever You Go, Come to Play

I want to thank Kay Bailey Hutchison for once again proving that she is the loser of all losers. MSNBC just asked her if she would like to be John McCain’s running mate (there’s been a lot of talk of getting a woman to run with McCain to grab some of the angry Hillary voters) and KBH replied, “John McCain has a long list of great people to choose a Vice-President from; I do not want to be on that list.”

The thing that irritates me is that Kay Bailey got into this game, and we all supported her – as a woman, as a conservative. She’s in the starting line-up because we have repeatedly put her there, but she refuses to really get in there and play. She hasn’t made any impressive moves in the Senate; she just shows up every now and then to support something a Texas man has done. In fact, she spends most of her time in that most important of positions whining about how she doesn’t really want to be a Senator and maybe she’ll just come home and run for Governor (where we already have a conservative in place, thank you very much Kay Bailey). And now, when she could: (1) help the Republicans actually win the presidency in what is going to be one of the most difficult battles of our lifetime; and (2) make history for women by possibly being the first woman Vice-President, she’s just not interested.

That’s great Kay, come back home to Dallas and throw tea parties with your society friends. But will you please, please, please, hurry up and vacate your seat so we can get a woman from Texas up there who gives a you-know-what about what we are trying to do? We have wasted almost 30 years hoping you would do something, and that’s our bad – you’ve made it clear for years now that you’re just up in D.C. socializing and have no interest beyond supporting oil company legislation, adopting kids and shopping for old lady suits to wear with your collection of brooches. At least have the decency now to move over and make room for someone who cares.

And for those women out there who love-love-love Kay Bailey and hate-hate-hate Hillary Clinton, you must, at least, admit this: Hillary came to play.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Not Going Swiss

I've had a representative from the Swiss investment firm UBS hounding me for my money. He was awfully young and cute, and I was seriously thinking about giving him a crack at earning me some money. Well, I have just found out a few things about UBS that I didn't know. Of course, I'm talking about this DOJ investigation into the UBS and Phil Gramm dealings. But in researching that, I also found out about the 2006 $100 million fine the U.S regulators hit UBS with, for transferring dollars to Iran and Cuba against U.S. sanctions and then trying to hide the transactions. I've also seen the resulting lawsuits alleging that UBS's actions have helped fund Hezbollah, Hamas, and other Islamic terrorist organizations.
I've never liked the Swiss much - this neutral stuff is just a facade to do business with everyone, including all the criminal regimes, across the globe and their theft of Jewish billions following the Holocaust is despicable. Still, I don't know how much of the latest allegations are true - I guess we'll see - but the $100 million dollar fine for doing business with Iran is proof to me of UBS's egregious anti-American wrongdoing, and I won't send one nickel of my money to UBS because of it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AA and Customer Service: An Oxymoron

I recently flew to Atlanta on everyone’s favorite airline, American, and the experience was not to be missed. First, AA cancelled the flight immediately before mine. The gate agent announced that my flight was already oversold, and that everyone from the cancelled flight was automatically on the standby list, so no passengers should need to speak with her. Apparently, some concerned customers actually did feel the need to confirm what was going to happen with their travel plans, and others wanted to check on their seat assignments. After about 10 minutes of a steady, but by no means overwhelming line, the gate agent made a new announcement. This time, in no uncertain terms, she decreed that no passengers were to ask her if they were standby or for a seat change. “If we don’t have time to ‘work the flight’ because you keep asking for assistance, the plane may go out with empty seats, and that will be your problem.” Being confirmed on the flight, I was not terribly concerned with this new directive, but isn’t dealing with customers’ questions the gate agent’s job?

Once we got past the gate agent, the flight attendants were even more prickly. As always, they announced that there was limited carry-on space, so to utilize the seat in front, etc. . . But then they went a step farther—we were instructed that if we got on the plane with a carry-on bag that would not fit in the overhead bin or under the seat, then it would be checked not on our flight, but on the next flight out! Since when has that been the policy?! And the carry-on situation is only going to get worse, with the new baggage charges.

Seems to me that the customer service agents employed by AA are becoming even less worried about the customers and service than ever before. They have always been less than helpful, but never simply declared that they were not going to help at all, so don’t even ask. And what else do they have to do during the boarding process besides deal with carry-on baggage?

The final straw was the pilot’s unnecessary announcement that we were going to arrive in Atlanta 10 minutes early, which we certainly did. But only so that we could sit on the tarmac and wait for a gate. Early arrivals are the greatest lie in the aviation industry today. . .

While en route, though, I sat next to a recent graduate of Texas A&M who wanted to talk. I indulged her for a few minutes, during which I learned that she was working at her first job out of college and she really, really liked it because the people were all really, really nice to her and the window of the office faced downtown and the refrigerator was stocked with cokes. Oh, to be young and Gen Y. . . On the way back from Atlanta, I sat next to a guy who announced to me that he’d had to pee since Alabama, but that’s a story for another time. . .

-- The Commish