noideadog: (natural dancer)
One other thing I did this weekend was try to figure out what new nonsense visa waiver people need to do to visit the US. Last time my parents came here they were scolded for not having filled out some internet form that neither the airline or their allegedly well-informed daughter had said anything about. They arrived all "ESTA! It's called ESTA and if you don't fill it in you can't go to America! But the man said we could go just this one time, but DON'T DO IT AGAIN." America can be such a dick to visitors.

It turns out that there is, in fact, something called ESTA, which is a crappy online form that you need to fill out before you get to the airport. Here's the start of its blurb:

"On March 4, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act (TPA) of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-145. The Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a fee for the use of the ESTA system, comprised of $10.00 for each VWP applicant receiving authorization to travel to the United States and $4.00 for the processing of the ESTA application."

In Soviet America, we make a Travel Promotion act that makes it harder and more confusing to visit. America, when we said you should think more like a global citizen, we didn't mean you should base your tourism policy on that of Turkmenistan!

In happier news, my kid sister Tina and her bloke Damian are visiting next weekend. It's the first time they've travelled abroad without a Responsible Adult, so it's all very exciting and scary and unknown for them. Airports! Immigration! How to spend six hours without Facebook! Unfortunately they have difficult schedules and I couldn't find affordable flights that didn't involve changing airlines in Heathrow... this will be the deep-end approach to learning how to do international travel. It's not the transfer that's most worrying them though:

"What if they ask me questions?", Tina has asked, several times. "It's easy. Just tell them the truth!" "But... *in tones of deep significance*... what if they make me go into a room".
noideadog: (Default)
You wouldn't believe the length of the two queues I just skipped by not checking bags. The Air Lingus bag tag line went on for basically the rest of your life, and then those poor bastards had to carry their luggage to a slow, slow security scanner. I felt almost bad for them, but I was too busy feeling smug as I pushed past with my small bag. Terminal 4, JFK, is still a soul-sapping place to spend time, but at least I get to sit down. It's well worth the hassle of having to buy shampoo when I get there.

God, I hate flying. I hate airports. I hate this dirty, noisy, cretin-filled terminal. I hate the people who have checked out of their brains and are drifting along in my way in a zennish uninteractive daze, and I hate the ones who are all engaged and manic and unpredictable, and I hate the excited groups of tourists most of all and the noise and flapping as they get in a last shitty beer before boarding. And I hate the shitty beer too, and the shitty bars that serve them, and how they're the only place to buy food if you stupidly decided to fly at a mealtime. I hate their deafening music and their omnipresent televisions and especially the way you would probably get as much nutrition from huffing the condiments as from the twelve-hundred-calorie pizzas, burgers and nachos on the menu. And I hate the condiments too, and their high fructose corn syrup, and the way I always feel like there should be something reassuring and familiar about the chemically bright ketchup and mustard, but how they just emphasise the disposable plasticness of everything and how they glare in the dead yellow lighting. Which I hate, I have to tell you, just as much as I hate the common-cold-riddled recycled air and the irregular beeping and the ambient reminders of final calls to places I'm not going.

I hate that I can never predict the lines, so I always arrive in a panic or have to kill two hours. I hate the little Hudson News kiosk that sells nothing I have ever wanted, but where I always find myself looking, in case this is the time it's different. I hate the advertising in every direction on every flat surface. I hate that there's no free wireless so I end up blogging on my phone, and I hate how slow and painful that is. And most of all I hate grumpy bastards who complain about airports when they should be excited about going home and marvelling at a future that allows us to cross continents in hours. Those people are assholes. Anyway, now my flight is boarding.
noideadog: (Default)
Airports are all about waiting. I'm simultaneously impatient to be on the plane and dreading going home. The sunshine is addictive, and New York will be miserable.

I took no good photos of Puerto Rico. This will have to do.

Posted using http://moby.to/3sobnm
noideadog: (buttercup)
It's 8am and I'm eating microwaved pizza and hating everything and wishing I was somewhere else. Here's five things I'm looking forward to:

- being back in New York, kissing Joels, petting Lucy, sleeping in my own bed, having nowhere to be
- reading about trains out of Athens and deciding whether to do some travelling when I'm there next month
- having a massage on Tuesday and getting the pains out of my back.
- changing my display name to its irish equivalent for a couple of weeks for Paddy's day (it's a work tradition)
- reading three weeks' worth of comics.
noideadog: (Default)
If anyone's awake and has decent internet access right now, I'd be greatly obliged if you investigate what's going on at terminal 3 in JFK. All of the staff are on edge and in vile humour -- even for airline staff, even for JFK -- and the bag drop line didn't move at all for half an hour, despite the huge number of staff milling around, making phone calls, conferring quietly and refusing to notice the increasingly long line of confused and frustrated passengers.

For all I know, the queue is still there: I was pulled out of the line and taken behind the counter and had my bag processed, ahead of four people who were obviously in front of me, and six other people waiting at counters. I said "uh, excuse me, why am I skipping the line?" and the people in front asked the same question, but with more anger, but the airport guy refused to listen or respond. "What's going on?" "Put your bag there".

The guys in front of me had been waiting as long as I had, but had a much earlier flight; it was starting to look unlikely that they'd make it. A guy at the counter was completely ignored, although his daughter's flight was being called on the tannoy. When he managed to attract attention for a second, the air near his head was told -- in exasperated tones -- that it was too late for them to check her bag. Fellow passengers repeated it louder so that he could hear. "What do we do?" he called after the check-in guy, who walked off without a response.

Do you think there might have been a security scare, and I looked sufficiently whiteunthreatening for them to let me pass? I was definitely the whitest person (and one of only two women) in the queue. Was I profiled? Does that sort of thing happen? What the fuck is going on at JFK?
noideadog: (monkey!)
Gosh, terminal 5 of JFK is quite a pleasant place to be. The subway was fast; the airtrain was fast; the lines were so short that if I hadn't had to take my boots off, I could have passed through security without breaking stride. I love that JetBlue divide their security gates into "I am transporting children, liquids or an untravelled brain", "I am neither efficient nor inefficient" and "I am such an airport badass that I probably can remove my boots without breaking stride". (This isn't quite their phrasing).

There's even a food court with healthy options. I am eating pasta that tastes not merely not of ass, but actively good. It's a new airport experience. 5pm flights with JetBlue are my new preferred method of crossing this continent.

I'm off to LISA, the sysadminniest of the nerd conferences, and I'm really looking forward to it. While there, I will be manning the corporate booth a little, attending tech talks a lot, catching up with faraway cool people as much as I can, and almost certainly being a fangirl most of all :-)
noideadog: (weirdofreak)
Prepare to be impressed: I withdrew money from my branch ATM, then -walked away-, leaving the card sitting happily at the "Another transaction?" prompt. Not many people are smart enough to do that. Trying to resolve this situation while on the AirTrain was about as pleasant as you might imagine. My bank's website's location search is a dead link. Their card cancellation service has an automated component that won't proceed without an account number. The bank's published phone number has no options that end at a human. I would describe my mental state of twenty minutes ago as "unsettled".


Luckily, Joel (at a different airport just now, but also on the way to Dublin) did some magic to find the number of my branch, and a human there checked and found my card. I don't know for sure if it's been used, but probably not. I'm relieved and, as usually happens, I'm luckier than I have any right to be.
noideadog: (travel)
I'm off to London today to battle some Swiss gentleman for the right to sit at [livejournal.com profile] knell's desk while he's off gallivanting. Should be entertaining at least. There's some work reasons too, some presenting of a presentation I expect to begin writing any minute now, some enthusiastic marketing of my project and, not least important, some buying of beer for colleagues who deserve it. Back tomorrow evening.

The airport is filled with alarms and chaos today. Sirens were screaming in all the shops along the main concourse, and shortly after I sought refuge in the food hall, an alert went off there too. Shutters automatically came down in front of each of the counters, leaving bewildered queuers wondering whether they were meant to evacuate. Nobody did. A third set of alarms fired as I arrived at my gate. Maybe it's me.

In other news, it's a bit cold, isn't it?

Edit: In London. Not dead. My hotel is a bit posh.
noideadog: (shutup)

Shannon: you had no choice. Muahaha!
Originally uploaded by xymb.
The short answer is "Quite."
noideadog: (california)
The Shannon stopover is a pain in the arse. Get over it, Shannon. Nobody likes you. Stop being so needy.

A guy just passing was complaining about it too. "An hour and a half in Shannon! Soon as you go up you come right back down." His friend agreed: "Like riding a duck's back". Fantastic.

You know what? I packed my bag the night before last. You should have seen me, all together and organised and so very pleased with myself for being ready 24 hours in advance. "Bed at 11pm", I decided, "and six hours sleep, and maybe a pleased livejournal post about being a being entirely devoid of chaos. Hurray!". And then I stayed at work until after midnight and couldn't get to sleep at all. You can't win, can you?

If you're ever in Dublin airport and stuck for laptop power, most of the sockets around the C Gates don't work, but the one at the disabled toilets at C44 does.

My next three weeks are kind of chaotic. Like riding a duck's back. Counting stopovers and layovers and sleepovers and hangovers, I go to Dublin, Shannon, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, New York and Dublin. Check it out! Toronto! The BA strike meant [using reasoning I'm not clear on] that it wasn't prohibitively expensive to fly home from [livejournal.com profile] cliphsville. Luckiest girl in the school, me. Thanks, BA!

My bag was 9.7kg, but in my defence, a lot of that was hats. It's -11C in Toronto. Crazy shit.

Like riding a duck's back.
noideadog: (california)
To get into the USA, I asserted that I'd packed my bags myself, I went through the usual scanner, I went through a second queue for handing in liquids, I was patted down, my bag was hand searched, I had to provide an address for where I was staying or they wouldn't let me on the plane (almost an incident!), I had to justify my trip, I was fingerprinted, I had a photo of me taken, I had to join another queue to swear that I wasn't carrying any fruit and finally my bag was sniffed by a beagle. (This is a genuine security measure. A cute little dog smells your bag and looks thoughtful.)

Signs say something like "We are testing a new security measure that electronically determines whether you are carrying dangerous materials. You may be randomly selected for this procedure. If you decline, you will be comprehensively hand searched.". Another one says, "For your comfort, safety and security, we are taking secret photographs of your underwear while you pee." I don't see where this over-zealous security will go. It has to calm down again to turn planes into the air-buses budget airlines want them to be, but I can't see a trigger that will make that happen.

Phoenix is hot. I've seen very little of it so far, just an extraordinary runny sunset and airport cactuses. There are no bars near here, but I met up with work folk in an arcade for DDR and several coronas. It's quarter to midnight here , or 7:45am in my brain. Sleep time either way.
noideadog: (meerkat)
I have to meet my parents off a plane in seven and a half hours. This is why I'm asleep right now and not fecking around on the Internet. Snore. Snore. Zzz. Idiot.

Something reminds me. Anyone know where I'd get a big map of Dublin for hanging on a wall? I'm willing to Pay Money.
noideadog: (random)
Heathrow again. The incoming flight was delayed, and the outgoing flight is with a different airline, so I had to buy a new flight. With money! Travel insurance will sort it out I'm sure, but in the meantime I have the vast inconvenience of sitting in the BMI business class lounge (no free wireless, if you can believe it), eating snacks and catching up on the last fifteen hours' worth of email. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon in Heathrow.

Last night, which was Monday night, even though it's Wednesday now[1], was way too hot to sleep much. I was still reading at 4am and I was awake and in the shower by 7am, and I think that'll hurt a lot later on. I watched movies on the plane instead of sleeping: Brick, Crash and Enron: The Smartest Guys in The Room. The last one was by far the most horrific. Actually, I didn't think it was madly well presented -- I hate the modern documentary format of reconstructed scenes, pseudo-appropriate song lyrics and symbolic clanging images -- but it told an incredibly frightening story. I'd heard the basics of the Enron scandal before of course, but, seriously, I had no idea.

The other two are excellent movies. Brick's more enjoyable by a factor of infinity. It's a lovely overdone film noir with femme fatales, Sam Spade dialogue and all the film noir cliches you could wish for, but it's set in a high school. It's gorgeous to watch.

As for Crash.. well.. it's.. very good? It's upsetting and shocking and just a bit too real to be comfortable to watch. Did it win the Oscar? Of the other nominated ones that I've seen, I think it deserved it over Walk The Line, Brokeback Mountain and Good Night and Good Luck. It's extremely powerful, enough that you feel that it's going to cross the line into being obvious, but then it doesn't.

Something completely different. In SFO I bought a Moleskine reporter notebook. I've been coveting one for ages, and between it and my mechanical pencil, all of my writing-things-down needs are now fulfilled. There was a neat art installation at SFO of 120 old saxophones surrounded by four bars of music, so I wrote that down, and there were signs telling everyone to be nice to other people (In San Francisco, that's THE LAW) so I wrote those down too. It's an unreasonably attractive notebook. Moleskines are unfathomable. There's really no justification for what makes them so attractive, unless it's sheep-like consumerism and brand awareness, which I suppose it could be. Or sheepish consumerism, which is a different thing. Or sheepist consumerism. Sheepism would be an excellent word, if it was a word.

Notebook. Yes. It has a little pouch in the back that's exactly the right size to hold a passport. I foresee a beautiful future of going places and .. writing things down. Or losing the notebook today. That would be in character too.

[1] Aren't timezones amazing? I expounded on this in Mountain View and was told that I need to fly from California to Australia and back a few times to knock this novelty out of my system. It's seventeen hours ahead, but you're flying east to west so you think it's seven hours behind, but a day earlier.. how cool is that? (Not at all after the first time, apparently.)
noideadog: (california)
29 hours door to door. I am here. Sleeping now.
noideadog: (booze)
Well!

Today's been excellent and rubbish so far. The worst part is that I'm still in Heathrow, more than six hours after my SF flight was supposed to take off. A hydraulic leak kept us on the ground for four hours, sweating in inadequate air conditioning, feeling alternately sorry for angry babies, their parents, and the people sitting right behind them (me!), and wishing they'd turn on more of the entertainment system than The Journey Channel. There's only so many times you can watch a Very Focussed lady do circulatory exercises in bright yellow socks before you've had enough. (Once). And the TVs don't turn off! Really!

Eventually "The Engineers" diagnosed the problem and kicked us off the plane, coincidentally turning on the entertainment system as we left, so that I saw 2 minutes of the six minute animated short, Badgered. It's about a badger!

The socks are cool though. Virgin gives you primrose coloued socks and also ear plugs. Still shoddy headphones though, and somehow I forgot my baby-cancelling Sennheisers. I wonder if they could build decent headphones right into the seat. Someone should invent that. I guess I'll live.

The excellent part so far was the flight to Heathrow. My next seat neighbours were a wonderful septegenarian Dubliner-living-in-California called Hetty, and her precocious (in the good way) Californian-visiting-Dublin granddaughter Natasha.

Precocious is from the latin "praecoquere", to ripen fully. That's quite nice.

Hetty lectures part time in Berkeley, teaching Irish of all things. She gets lots of Asian students, she says, which fills me with glee. I can't explain exactly why, but the idea of Asians going to California to do Irish studies fills a void in my life. I'm overly delighted by it. I'll get over it.

In two years she can get her students up to approximately junior cert Irish. I was enthralled and asked too many questions. We discussed Teaching Of Irish In Schools, as one does in this situation. I really want to learn Irish properly now. Honestly, I'm normally not interested in building short-hop friendships, but we exchanged email addresses for next time I'm in SF and want someone to visit in Sacremento (she's on her way to DC today). I've never had a flight pass so pleasantly.

Opposite me right now, a group of five white haired Californians are complaining about things, including (but not limited to):

- the food
- how first class passengers were taken off the plane first
- the departure board
- their friends
- the Euro
- the goddamn hallway
- not being able to find the rest of their group
- how they weren't done with the menu and that guy took their menu when they weren't done with their menu
- hydraulic leaks on planes

Ok, I'm with them on the last one.
noideadog: (booze)
28.9 kilograms. "It's not that much", the check in guy protested when I reacted with horror and defensiveness. Man, that's pretty heavy. I consider it a point of misguided pride that my bag is always really light when travelling. I think it makes me a better person somehow. (I can't explain. Just humour me.) Besides, it was 10.3kg on the way over. "Did you pack this bag yourself?", he asked. "Well, mostly", I didn't say, because I am not stupid, "but a miner asked me if I had any extra space and I guess I have some of his ..ehh.. strontium, or something." (Cliph said "strontium" so many times that now it's funny in my head. Also, may be mildly intoxicated.)

Home tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon.
noideadog: (Default)
Payday yesterday. Oh boy! I sure do love payday.

My sister and her fiance flew home from an eight month stint in America yesterday too, so Matt and I met them at the airport. There'd been some concern about whether they'd have trouble at ORD, as Gabriel had outstayed his visa, and a friend of my mother's had been telling her horror stories, so
we played I-Spy (P is for PayPhone) worriedly until they finally arrived, last off their flight. Nobody in ORD had cared particularly, or at least hadn't noticed, so the biggest hassle they had was with the insane amount of luggage they were carrying. I suppose you collect a lot of junk over eight months, but eight big bags of "you know, shoes and coats and things" (plus hand luggage) took some time to manoever into a taxi. I suspect they may be international anvil thieves. Don't tell anyone.

It was raining. The queue at the taxi rank went all the way back into the arrivals hall. Welcome to Dublin!

Their bus home wasn't until 12:30, so we waited it out in Reeds, getting nicely drunk and talking about whether it was good to be home (mostly) and whether anything had changed (mostly not). I can't remember when I spent the morning in a pub before, but I liked it better than being at work. A few buses went by, and it was probably around three when we remembered we had plans for the day, had one more for the (increasingly blurry) road, heaved their luggage onto a bus and parted company.

I sat down with my book for a little rest, and when Matt woke me up at 8 (and I'd wiped the drool off the sofa) we ate celebratory payday chicken-and-roast-potatoes until our bellies exploded.

It was a good day. A fat, beery, good day.

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