Monthly Archives: June 2011

Welcome to the Hotel Rantifornia

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I’ve been traveling with some regularity for some twenty
years now, and there are a couple of things that hotels just can’t seem to get
right, and they’re the simplest things in the world, so I’d like to see some
effort made to fix them. Two simple things and I’ll feel like we’ve made some
progress as a civilization.

First, hotels of America, make your internet access
wireless, truly high-speed and high bandwidth, and free. And by “free,” I mean
stop trying to make it a super-rich profit center, build it into the cost of
every room, and think of it as being as basic as having a bed in the room (and
I’m talking to you, DoubleTree, which recently gave me a room without a bed). Nearly
every traveler  today relies on internet
access, and if you don’t give it to us, we’ll just do it through our phones and
remember that you made it an expensive pain in the ass. Still feel the need to
charge me $10 a night for something I can get free in almost any coffee shop?
Fine, then give me a rebate of the same amount for the cable bill, because you’re
pumping 40 or 50 channels into my room and I never, ever turn the TV on. Then we can
call it even.

Second, and maybe even more important, turning on the lights
should not be like solving a tavern puzzle. Every single hotel room I go into is
set up differently, and it’s annoying every time. Some of the lights (and it’s
impossible to predict which ones) are on a wall switch. Others have a switch
somewhere on the base of the lamp. Some others you’ve got to find the turnkey
in the socket. Some of them have the switch in the cord. This week’s stay, I
had two seemingly identical lamps on either side of the bed. They looked
exactly the same. But one had a switch in the base, and the other one had it up
in the bulb socket. That’s just fucking with me, and you need to cut it out. It’s
insane. If I could get back all the time I’ve lost figuring out how to turn on
lights, added to the time I’ve spent figuring out whether to pull on the paper
towels or wave my hands at the soap dispenser, and I’d have at least an extra couple
of months to tack onto my life. But this shouldn’t be hard. If the switch is
going to be on the base, then it should be on the base of every lamp in the
room. If it’s going to be an inline switch that you then tuck behind the desk
and bed so I can’t find it at all, fine, but do it for every goddamn lamp so I
know what to expect. You want me to clap to turn them on, fine, but can’t they all
be on the clapper? You spend millions laying out these rooms. Some designer reject
from a Bravo reality show spends weeks poring over lamp designs to find just
the right one, and then he or she or whatever says, “Order 400,000 of these desk lamps, but make the switches on every
one of them in a different place.” You’re wasting my life and grinding
civilization to a halt and you need to cut it the fuck out.

You know, I thought I was more annoyed by the internet
thing. Apparently not!


Can’t spell ‘transition’ without ‘transit’

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After a few years of hardly any work-related travel (with
occasional bursts of driving activity down the Taconic), I’m suddenly a
bag-dragging road warrior. Except I hate the road and my cars are both above
the magic 100,000 mile mark (my first ever to make it that far with severe
electrical or psychological crises), so in fact I’ve become more of a rail
warrior. All of a sudden, I’m once again all about the public transit.

The new job, as close as it is, is still a longer commute
than my home office was. It requires me to shave every day, too, which is much
more of a sacrifice than the short commute to downtown. However, having left
the State system for a number of years, a parking spot downtown is not in the
cards. Pending layoffs won’t do it – people would have to die in droves before
I could move up the parking queue, and I’m out of town so much that I probably
wouldn’t pay for parking if I could get it. So that puts me back on the bus.

I got around by city bus for years in Syracuse, and kept that
up when I moved to Albany. Even across the river, our house is two blocks from
a bus stop. But the first time I had to stand around downtown Albany with a
vomiting baby, waiting for a rare mid-day bus to carry me back to Rensselaer
County, that was pretty much the end of public transit for my commute Between
that and a job that knew no regular hours, the bus just didn’t work.

Now it does. And so does the train to Wilmington. And the
Wilmington Trolley. And the train to Philadelphia. And the subway, and the Norristown
High Speed Line. And hotel shuttles. And good old-fashioned walking. Yes, I’m
beholden to the vagaries of Amtrak and the likelihood of hot track action, but
the delays are a lot less frequent than they are driving the Thruway or I-95.

And when you’re not driving, you really get to see things. People, buildings, architectural details, the splendor of the Hudson river, the
surprising persistence of the Meadowlands, the awful ass-end of industrial New
Jersey and Delaware. Everything from unspeakable beauty to razor wire and

I want to add the bike to my commuting habits, but the need
to drag my laptop and clothes and lunch and everything else is proving to be a
drag on my initiative, as desperately as I need the miles. All this traveling
is cutting seriously into wheel time, and something must be done, but I need
big depanniers and the will to haul them up the hills at a modest pace that won’t
leave me arriving at work bathed in sweat. (My last job had both a secure bike
lockup AND showers. I was spoiled.)

So about the only way I’m not getting around these days, at
least for work purposes, is by car. I’m pretty pleased with that. (Of course,
as I write that, the train is coming to a slow crawl that will give me plenty
of time to ponder the mightiness of the Hudson and how long it would take me to
paddle up it from here to home.)

The latest trend in spam

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I don’t know why, but comments spam on my site has gone from viagra/cialis malware misdirection and the usual assortment of gibberish to incredibly longwinded pastes of senseless articles about Windows 7. I don’t get why volume is considered a good thing here — it’s mostly longer than any comments system would allow, and who’s going to even be able to scroll through it to get to the suspicious link? I could handle the spam, and don’t mind cleaning up 20-30 comments a day for the one or two legitimate comments I get a month (most of my feedback comes through Facebook, not here). But now it has become so cumbersome, the individual messages have become so long that scrolling through them is taking up serious time. So for a while, I’m going to shut off comments. If you’re my friend on Facebook, try me there, or if you want to say something, locate my email address on the site. But for a while, anyway, we’re going comment-free.