The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul


Tests of Anti-Terrorist Technology Goes to a New Level

Although most everyone, including the Department of Homeland Security, has agreed that missile attacks on domestic airliners are not considered to be a significant risk, close to $120 million has already been spent on testing infrared laser-based antimissile systems. The cost is expected to reach a staggering $10 billion dollars when they are done.

Yup, you read that right. $10 billion dollars.

Want to see what your tax dollars went to pay for? Click here for the complete article from the New York Times.


Happy Memorial Day....Thank You, Veterans!

I'll be posting again on Tuesday....see you all then, and enjoy the first summer weekend of 2005!

United Airlines May Go On Strike.....Maybe....

I had heard that United Airlines was possibly going to face a walkout at Sky Harbor and other airports earlier this month, but now the latest rumors are that the managers are bracing for a Memorial Day walkout in protest of the recent court decision allowing United to get rid of their pension plan.

If you are travelling in one of United's hubs, be prepared for long delays and disruptions, even if you are flying another carrier.

Blogger News Network Publishes Another One of My Rants!

It wasn't travel related, so I didn't post it here. But if you click on this link, it will take you to my latest magnum opus on Blogger News Network, regarding quite possibly the Lead Standard of Credit Card Offers.

I hope that none of you ever had, or have, a credit card this bad.

It almost makes me want to send appreciation notices to my current card companies.


Let's not get carried away here, kids.....


weird cool goofy trips

I'm happy to say I've done half the things on this list, even if they weren't at the locations they mention.

Guess I better get cracking.....don't want to check out before I try zero gravity!


Ok, Enough With This Frivolous Travel Stuff.....

Let's get to the REAL important, who's going to die in the next Harry Potter book?

Yes, they really are starting to take bets on this in London. If you want to check the latest odds, click here.


Raising the Roof in Sydney

A low-flying plane in Australia apparently caused a vortex that ripped two-thirds of the roof tiles off of a home under construction.

Sounds weird, I know....but this happens about 3 or 4 times a year in Sydney, believe it or not!

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

No, not mine......8 months today and still deliriously happy, thanks!

I'm talking about US Airways & America West's merger plans. Seems US Airways is keeping a lookout for a better deal, even though America West's offer is the best it's had in 5 years.

Why does this remind me of a guy who is balding, in his 40's, with a big gut who works for minimum wage....and still thinks he deserves a supermodel with a PhD in nuclear physics?


Lucky Lindy's Anniversary

Oops, my bad! Damn allergy season!

Forgot to mention yesterday that it was the 78th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic solo crossing.


So....What's it Like When the Authorities Divert Your Flight?

It seems like every week another flight is getting sent back to Europe or Canada, and someone described as being of "Middle Eastern descent" gets escorted off the plane. This blogger was aboard the Alitalia flight that was forced to land at Bangor due to an undesirable passenger.

However, it does not look like it is a strictly American phenomenon. A blog dedicated to women's finance, called Women's Wall Street, has an entire series of articles about air security problems. According to that website, an incident involving a British Airways flight to Boston involved commandos storming a plane on the tarmac at Heathrow last month. I don't recall any mention of it in the American or international press.

So, how are these people ending up on the plane in the first place?

Well....depending on how you see it, the blame for letting them get on/the credit for catching them before they see our amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties rests with the Department of Homeland Security. Airlines are required to transmit their manifests to the DHS up to 15 minutes after takeoff.

Due to the fact that there are sometimes many different possible spellings of non-Latin alphabet names (for example, the love of my life, Tsar Charming, has a couple different valid spellings on file with DHS because the various agencies can't always agree on how to convert Cyrillic to Latin), there are going to be problems that crop up from time to time. Just like Santa, they check the list twice.....the second time has more detailed info like birthdates.

If a name on the manifest then matches a name on the database, the decision is made as to whether or not the person will be apprehended at their stated destination or at another airport. The alternate could be the originating airport or the closest suitable airport (hence the sudden popularity of Bangor, Maine for forced down aircraft.)

What's a jet-setter to do?

Keep in mind that the amount of flights diverted is very, very small. That guy sitting next to you from Saudi Arabia is more than likely not going to be anything other than some guy who wants to get to school or Disneyland. And....pack another book and snack. That inflight movie probably is going to suck.

Cool Travel Gear to Check Out

Fortunately, I don't have any serious food allergies or have to live on a restrictive diet for health reasons. For people who do, traveling to a country where English is not spoken can be difficult.

Dietarycard, a British company, is now providing travelers with cards printed in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. The cards are available for people with food sensitivities, special diets, and other food-related concerns. They can be taken along and discreetly presented to restaurant workers to ensure that you can safely eat the local cuisine.

If you know someone that really needs cards like this, they can be a lifesaver. Click on the link above and check it out!


Fly Me To The Moon, Let Me Burn Up That 401k!

A Canadian company planning to retool 60 year old WW2 German rocket technology and an Indian-American physician turned entrepreneur/politician are teaming up to offer rides into space starting in 2007. The joint venture, called PlanetSpace, hopes to launch the Canadian Arrow from the Great Lakes region.

(They aren't exactly going to take you to the moon....I've just been listening to too much Frank Sinatra lately.)

If you are interested, the fare includes 14 days of training for the prospective passengers. You will experience 4 to 5 G's on takeoff, which is more than the astronauts on the Space Shuttle deal with. The 15 minute flight will take you up about 70 miles, allowing you to see the curve of the earth, the blackness above, and a few minutes of weightlessness.


Think You Know the Answer?

Ok, let's imagine that sometime in the future, you are lounging poolside aboard the fabulous USS Jet Set, tropical drink melting at your side. Then, the blasted margarita machine breaks down, and the first mate is trapped in the head.

How do you properly call for assistance?

Hint: think "Little Caesars".....

Click here to see if you were right!


Bon Voyage, Stefanie!

Before I forget.....I have to wish one of my favorite people a safe and happy trip to Munich, Prague & Vienna! She's going there for a little over a week.

Have a great time, and have lots of Viennese pastry for me!

Finally....A Poetry Reading I Could Take Tsar Charming To!

Damn, I love the Big Apple! I remember going there virtually every summer when I was a kid to see the relatives. (Dad dubbed them "The Tribe".)

New York has a reputation for being expensive, which is pretty much deserved. But it also has inexpensive, novel ways to entertain the public. For $5, you can listen to and laugh at some really horrible literature, such as the collected works of actor Ethan Hawke, Rosie O'Donnell's horrible Vogon poetry blog, and "Uncle Tom's Cabin" death scene for Little Eva.

I gotta find something like that here in Phoenix.....


US Airways & America West Ramp Up Talks

A possible $1 billion merger between America West and US Airways has been accelerated. The various other players in the deal include Air Wisconsin, the Retirement System of Alabama, GE Capital Aviation Services, and yes, the US Bankruptcy Court.

Although America West will be the major partner in the merger, they are planning to keep the US Airways name. It would be America's sixth largest airline if the complicated talks are successful.

UPDATE: Yes, I corrected the headline. Preview is my friend, especially when it comes to spelling. OY!

Stupid Rumor Department, Case 14-D

The latest weird rumor I've heard about the airlines, and damn if there ain't a ton of them floating around, is that carriers are refusing to pair up Christian pilots just in case the Rapture leaves the plane unmanned.

Riiiight. I think someone has been reading too many of those "Left Behind" books. Guys....look....they are fiction, ok? Not prophecy. Captain Rayford Steele does not exist, just like Pan-Continental Airlines does not exist.

The Rapture may or may not happen, but you can guarantee the airlines would be looking at huge lawsuits for religious discrimination if they asked their pilots what, if any, beliefs they have.

If you are really worked up about the Rapture, I guess you could ask the captain if he's an atheist. Or ask him if he's signed up on this site.


Booze Builds Better Brains!

See? It not only makes you more sophisticated and better looking as closing time nears, it also builds up your IQ!

Ok, sort of.

But considering that Pope Benedict is supposed to be quite intelligent, no wonder he's getting home delivery of his favorite brew.

Latest Unsafe Travel Destination.....Perth, Australia?

Australia's Foreign Ministry has had to apologize to the city of Perth after a test message by an outside contractor was mistakenly sent out via e-mail to subscribers to their travel advisory warning list.

What a Messed Up Weekend!!

It's great to finally have a moment to post! (You know your weekend is gonna suck when you have to walk the dogs at 6 you can go to the dealership at you can spend the rest of the day at the Department of Motor Vehicles, with everyone else who can't make it there during the rest of the week. Throw in the first 100 degree day of the year, and it's just about perfect, in a very perverse way.)

And then Tsar Charming needed the computer most of the time we were home for work.

So, just to let you all know, if I do post on here during the weekends, it will be a very rare occasion. Don't think I don't care!

Anyway, I hope the rest of you had a much better weekend!


Jennifer Aniston Not Making Friends at Heathrow

After her flight was held up for two hours because of fuel line problems, Jennifer Aniston decided she had to get off the plane immediately. The unnamed airline obliged....however, getting her and her luggage off the plane caused an additional two hour delay.


Fun With Airport Codes....This One Really "SUX"!

Think you know which airport has the code "SUX"? Click and see if you are right!


Planes Collide in Minneapolis, 6 Hurt

Two Northwest planes collided Tuesday evening, leaving six people hurt. Four were crew members, and two were ground crew. One remained hospitalized. No passengers were injured, although one complained of shortness of breath after the incident and was treated as a precaution.

A DC-9 that had been experiencing hydraulic problems crashed into an Airbus A319 as it taxied to the gate. The Airbus' wing ripped into the DC-9's roof. The DC-9's fuselage was lodged under the Airbus' tail. After being separated early this morning, both planes were towed to Northwest hangars.

NTSB investigators from Chicago have arrived in Minneapolis and are now looking for the cause of the accident.

Get Your Cheap Tickets from DC While it Lasts!

Independence Air is becoming known for two things....offering discounted fares from Washington Dulles, and for racking up an incredible $105 million in losses. So far.

Independence Air used to be known as Atlantic Coast Airlines when it was a code share partner of United Airlines. United tried to cut the payments it made to it's partner when it last ended up in bankruptcy court, and Independence Air was born as United's latest competitor.

Most carriers would be hunkering down after losses like that, but the 10 month old airline has just announced service to San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Grab those $29 fares to Florida while they last!!


Japan Airlines Chief Resigns Amid Safety Concerns

Following two incidents on Sunday which forced two planes to make emergency landings, the CEO of Japan Airlines has resigned as promised. His last day will be 31 May.

Isao Kaneko is accepting responsibility for a series of safety lapses at the carrier. The first was in January, when a JAL pilot took off without approval from the air control tower. This Sunday, one plane lost pressure over Japan during a New York to Tokyo run, and another flight to Manila developed altimeter problems. The carrier had previously been publicly warned by the Transport Ministry.

Newest Trend in Flying....No Hubs?

The major airlines have decided to take a page from Southwest's playbook and are adding more direct flights to the traveling public.

Don't get too excited out there....slightly over 10 percent of flights are direct. But they are adding them in response to customer demand in the hotter markets. (Hey, anything that keeps you out of the hell that is Hartsfield is a good thing, right?)


Is Today an Anniversary or Are We Celebrating it a Wee Bit Early?

Depending on who you believe, Richard E Byrd and Floyd Bennett flew over the North Pole on this date.

Or....maybe it was Umberto Nobile, Lincoln Ellsworth, and Roald Amundsen three days later in 1926.

Your call, fellow Jet Set Loungers!

I Think I Found My Cousin Brenda!

Ok, she's living in Georgia, according to my other cousin. He thinks. He's not speaking to her so who really knows?

I wouldn't be surprised to have her show up on a similar site, though. The second-to-last time I saw her, she was living in the backwoods in Florida just outside Ft Myers. I remember crossing the bridge and noticing that all the people walking around on this island looked weirdly alike. They had this kind of slack jawed, inbred look. The vulture circling overhead freaked me out a bit, too. You just don't see them in the city.....

I finally drove out on this dirt road and my cousin lived at the end of it. Thank God I was in a rental car. My cousin greeted me and told me excitedly about the Trans Am carcass she found in the overgrown grass on the property when she went looking for one of her dogs after it got in a fight with a skunk....or something else that smelled really bad and got its stink on the pup.

I remember thinking, strip away her Brooklyn accent, and you got yourself a stereotypical redneck. And she's RELATED to me!!! AAAAARRRGGH!!

I am not making any of this up.

If any of these trailer homes look familiar, and you know a Noo Yawker named Brenda living in one of them, you probably know my cousin. My apologies.

Tell her to give me a holler on this here blog! ;)


VE Day

If you're a History Channel geek like I am, you know that today is the 60th anniversary of V-E Day.

By no means was victory over the Nazis assured, although sometimes it is presented that way in history books. It is impossible for us to really understand what it was like in occupied Europe or even here in Fortress America during that time.

I came across this site that has audio clips of broadcasts Edward R Murrow made from London prior to and during the war in Europe. Walter Cronkite and the rest of the anchormen alive today wish they were half as good as Morrow was then. About halfway down is his broadcast from Piccadilly Square during the victory celebration.

It's part of this much larger site with different World War II audio and visual links. Listening and watching some of the clips is probably the closest to understanding what it was like for those of us who were not yet born when the war raged on.

I wish I had something really profound to say on this occasion, but the best I can come up with is this: Thank you to my uncle Peter Zupko and all of the other veterans who served in Europe during World War II, and to the civilians like my father who also served (Dad was ineligible for the draft due to asthma, but he worked as a mechanic, repairing planes for the Navy in Africa on loan from Pan Am). You really were America's Greatest Generation.


Taking a Tropical Vacation.....In Berlin?

Ok, it's a little outside Berlin. This may be the cheapest "island" vacation ever for Germans.

A former airship hangar has been transformed into a 24 hour sunny "beach", complete with sandy beach, beds of orchids, a "waterfall" and Asian-themed souvenirs and snacks. The air temperature is always around 77 degrees, and the water is in the 80's.


Anniversary of the Hindenburg Disaster

Maybe you knew that on this day back in 1937, 35 people lost their lives in the Hindenburg disaster. But did you know that Herb Morrison's famous on the scene narration for a newsreel ("Oh, the humanity!") later became the nation's first coast-to-coast broadcast?

Modern day blimps are helium filled, not hydrogen filled like the Hindenburg and other older zeppelins. If you ever get the chance to snag a ride on one, go for it! My brother and I did when we were kids after our dad won a contest sponsored by Goodyear. We got to float over Phoenix. It's nothing like any other kind of's much more gentle and peaceful.

(It almost made up for when our dad decided to take us to the movies for the first time. It was a double feature.....Jaws and The Hindenburg. No wonder we turned out so warped!)

How Do You Get a Table at One of the World's Best Restaurants?

There are people who plan an entire vacation around one spectacular meal. (I plead sort-of guilty to that....treated the Tsar to Commander's Palace on his birthday....)

If you have always wanted to go to one of the world's best, the Times has come to your rescue. Check out the detailed information in this article. Not only do they give you the phone numbers, they also have suggestions for how far in advance you should call, suggested budget, and close swanky hotels. True, the phone numbers include the access codes from London and the prices are in British pounds, but since you all are pretty sharp, I know you can figure it out for yourselves.


Another Time Waster from the Jet Set Chick

Hat tip to the Larsonian for this one....

One of my good friends, Snooze, has a son she has nicknamed Buccaneer Boy. Apparently one of my favorite little tykes in the whole world likes jumping around saying "I'm a naked pirate!" (Cut the kid some slack.....he's 4!)

Anyway, Buccaneer Boy needs one thing...a real pirate name.

I be Iron Mary Vane to you! Arr!!

Y Ahora, un "Grito" de la Chica "Jet Set"

It's that time of year when I avoid Mexican restaurants and bars at all is Cinco de Mayo.

Usually some doofus white boy or girl decides today is the day to do four shots of Jose as many minutes. Then they wash it down with the most horrible beverage on the planet. That's right, Corona. (I refuse to call it beer. I know beer. Beer ranges from light amber to dark brown. It is NOT neon yellow.) All to the tune of some really annoying norteno music. Then one of the gang of idiots decides to sing "La Cucaracha", even though they don't know the words.

And that's not even including the Arizona Repulsive's take on the holiday. They always seem to dig up the grumpiest Mexican native in the state to complain about "this isn't the way it's celebrated in Mexico..." They then spout off about some traditional commemoration in their half-a-horse hometown in Guanajuato (really, any state except one that borders on the US....I guess the editorial board doesn't think Sonora or Chihuahua is "authentic Mexican" or something), where people would solemnly march with a poster of Pancho Villa. Maybe Che, who knows....he or she hasn't been back in thirty years, but it's still vivid in their memories. Kids would write essays about "What Cinco de Mayo means to me." And nobody, but NOBODY, ever got drunk on that day. Even the town drunk stayed sober to listen to the kids' missives. None of this commercialism got into the mix until those damn Yanquis ripped off one more thing from poor little Mexico.

Screw it! I'm going to sit on my balcony with a bit of Sauza Hornitos, liquid nectar of the tequila gods. Maybe I'll toast Mexico after I finish toasting Tejas. Why Texas? Because, that's the birthplace of the victorious General Ignacio Zaragoza, pinche cabron!


If You Miss This Convention, You May Get a Second Chance to Attend....Someday

Possibly you have heard about the Time Traveler Convention scheduled for this Saturday.

I still wonder....if I attend as I am now, is it possible that I might run into myself, say, as a 70 year old? Or my future grandkids?

Zdyes, govorim po-russky!!

Someday, me & the Tsar might go to the Holy Land. But I don't think I'll ever get him to go into this bar, even if they make a killer Jack Rose...

India's Newest Budget Airline Takes Off

Capitalizing on the fact that so many Indians work in the Gulf States, a new discount carrier has begun service to Abu Dhabi. State-owned Air India Express will be the first budget international carrier from the subcontinent.

India's first budget airline, Air Deccan, was a partial inspiration for the new airline. Kingfisher Air and SpiceJet, two other new budget carriers, will be starting service in May.


Brits vs Iranians in Airport Hissy Fit

from the ever reliable Arab News....

Iran's government, currently tired of or afraid of baiting the "Great Satan", has now decided to focus their anger on the British government for issuing a warning about traveling to Tehran's newest airport, Imam Khomeini International. They have advised their citizens to travel to the older Mehrabad airport instead, due to concerns about the runway conditions. The runway has been built over some ancient irrigation system called a qanat. Canada has issued a similar warning to their citizens.

Some Iranian politicians have decided that the real problem is the name of the airport, and say that nothing less than severing diplomatic ties with Britain is called for. Britain denies ever requesting a name change for the airport.

No proposed sanctions against Canada for issuing basically the same warning were called for by the politicians.

One carrier, Emirates, has decided the runway was safe and will start flights to the new airport shortly.

Peru Pissed at Chile, Again....or Should I Say Still?

Peru's government is suing Chilean carrier LAN's Peruvian affiliate over an inflight video that portrays Lima in an unflattering way with images of litter in the streets and an old man taking a leak.

Apparently this has also triggered off new complaining about past grievances such as supposed 1990 arms sales by Chile to Ecuador during the Peru-Ecuador war. Angry Peruvians have not been pacified by the resignation of three top executives and an apology from the airline.

Virgin Frustrated Over US Rules

(Sorry....I just had to use that headline.)

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is running into difficulty determining how to license Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne technology. The problem seems to be the potential military applications.

Virgin Galactic plans to offer $200k rides into space from Mojave, California. 100 people have already paid the fare, with another 29,000 agreeing to put down a $20k payment for future travel. Each flight is expected to carry five to nine passengers, each with their own window. The passengers would be allowed to take off their seat belts for the four to five minute planned weightlessness during the voyage.

Rutan complained before a congressional hearing that the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation has misapplied rules meant for unmanned boosters to passenger spacecraft. "The process just about ruined my program," he said. "It resulted in cost overruns, increased the risk for my test pilots, did not reduce the risk to the non-involved public, destroyed our 'always question, never defend' safety policy and removed our opportunities to seek new innovative safety solutions."

Virgin Galactic had originally planned to debut in 2007, but the company's president now believes that the delays due to US regulation will push it back to 2008 or 2009.


Weird Coincidences

Cape May, NJ has just decided to lift its 30 year Speedo ban.

And then, still on Yahoo news, I find a little tidbit about the huge tower of buns being constructed in Hong Kong after a 26 year break.

I think I need to take a 30 minute break from the Net.

Honduran President in Small Plane Crash, Not Seriously Injured

A Cessna carrying President Ricardo Maduro went down in the sea off of the resort town of Tela today. The crash is being blamed on mechanical failure.

Although he was taken to a hospital as a precaution, the president and the other three people in the plane (his daughter, the pilot and a friend) suffered only minor scrapes when they evacuated the half-sunk plane. People vacationing at the resort recognized the president and helped him to get out.

The plane was later towed to shore.

Reasons Why I HATE Golf, Part 453....

I know I'm going to piss people off, but it's my damn blog and I can say whatever I want.

Let's get this straight. Golf is a game. It is not a sport. No way, no how. And professional golfers are the biggest crybabies around.

Want proof? Ok, ruminate on this.

A professional baseball player can hit a ball coming at him at a speed of 90+ miles an hour with a stick of wood even in a stadium filled with screaming yahoos. Especially in a stadium full of screaming yahoos calling for his violent death. He then has to haul ass around the field before the other team's players coordinate catching the ball and throwing it to the nearest player in order to tag the guy out.

The delicate creatures who play golf require total silence before they can hit a stationary ball. They then get into their motorized carts and drive to where they hit the ball. Someone else carries their golf bag. (Wouldn't want to spill your drink, now, would we?)

My grotesquely fat ex-fiance can golf.

Hell, there's more physical effort in bowling, fer Chrissakes!

Do any of you remember Pat Summerall giving what passed for "color commentary" during televised golf tournaments? It was a great sedative when I couldn't get to sleep.

(Guess what scene was my favorite in the movie, "Jackass". Yup, the air horn at the golf course. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Johnny Knoxville is my hero.)

So, now I got to add another professional golfer to the list of people I would dearly love to bitch-slap some day. Ernie Els wants to set up metal detectors at golf tournaments to detect....cell phones. I am not making that up.

I hope Tiger Woods spanks him hard the next time they meet.

"it goes in one end and out the other...."

No, it's probably not what you are thinking....

It's a surprisingly good article from the Beeb as to why planes can take a direct hit from a bolt of lightning and not fall from the sky.


Time to Start Planning Those Road Trips!

Summertime is almost here (well, in Phoenix it is almost here, so don't go honking off about your freak snowstorm that dumped 4 feet of the white crap in your backyard yesterday....)! And that means....ROAD TRIP!!!

What's a road trip without a really bizarre roadside a giant cow skull, or a huge pineapple? But how do you find them?

That's where this nifty little site comes in. Click here to find the World's Largest Roadside Attractions, with an amazingly detailed search engine to help you find what's weird and wonderful on your next long drive.

Load up that Wagon Queen Family Truckster and tell us what you find!