Sunday, June 29, 2008

Twitter Works

Sitting in the departure lounge for my flight to JFK at Dulles airport outside DC I posted the following to Twitter at about 5:30pm:
JetBlue you scanning Twitter? 3:45 hr delay? This makes about 5 bad experiences. The small diff in price ain't worth it.
Sitting on the plane a while later - still stuck on the tarmac - I checked my email to see the following message with the timestamp of 7:35:
Hi, Robert A Stribley.

JetBlue Airways (JetBlue) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out JetBlue Airways's profile here:

You may follow JetBlue Airways as well by clicking on the "follow" button.

Now, I will say that JetBlue put us on the plane about an hour and a half earlier than they'd earlier than they said they were going after they'd discussed the delays. I won't pretend to know that that had anything with my efforts - especially since the plane still ended up taking off at about 8:45, about 3 hours and 45 minutes after it was originally supposed to. But it does indicate at least that JetBlue knew what I was thinking at the time - even before my flight took off. So in that sense, Twitter worked for me.

Update: JetBlue responds to my post here in comments within 45 minutes. I'm impressed with your responsiveness to social media, JetBlue, if not always with your service!

Related: Summize search for Jetblue

The Romance of Travel

An Attentive Swissair Air Hostess Serves a Smart Gentleman a Cup of Coffee

Ah, remember the days when flying was a dashing and romantic pursuit? Picture travelers striding purposefully through airports, dressed to the nines for the occasion, the bright, clean lines of the concourse reflected in their brilliant mirrored glasses. No more. Now, getting to your plane is invariably a series of humiliating trials you endure: removing you shoes to pad through a metal detector with padded feet. Trudging through with your pants slipping about your hips, after you've whipped off your belt before a line full of fellow passengers to send it through the scanner after your laptop (which might picked up by someone else who has one of those same Dells companies buy by the thousands).

I stood there today, here at Dulles Airport outside DC, waiting for my shoes, which I could see stuck in the chute just ahead of me as the security officer checked out someone else's luggage, and I watched a 90-year old African woman in a wheelchair getting patted down; long, lean fingers, reaching behind her to her backside to ferret out whatever contraband she might be smuggling through. The nun who accompanied her stood by watching silently. I'm sure the tall, thin young girl executing this search felt awkward doing it, though likely not as uncomfortable as the elderly woman experiencing it.

In these moments, I'm prompted to wonder, how many lives have been saved by millions of people removing their sneakers at a security checkpoint since September 2001? How many terrorists have been foiled because we've abandoned our belts and tripped over our pants cuffs for a 15-foot perp walk? I'm sure some would say, "We'll never know." I'd be willing to bet I could make a stab at an estimate though: zero.

We'll probably cease with some of these measures eventually, whether or not the terrorist threat continues. Why? Because we've abandoned useless measures before. Remember the three questions we used to get asked for years before boarding a plane? (Did you pack your bags yourself? Have you kept your luggage with you at all times? Did anyone give you anything to add to your luggage.) Those questions proved useless against a handful of box cutters, and were dropped after 9/11. Because we realized that since they'd been implemented they'd done demonstrably nothing to increase our travel safety. Besides, if you were a terrorist, were you likely to answer those questions honestly?

So, no doubt, eventually, we'll reverse some of these procedures and/or new technologies will streamline the process. In the meantime, however, we'll just have to learn to accept being treated like chattel. Contented cows, patiently stepping through the requisite chutes in order to reach our desired vehicle: a plane upon, which we're now expected to pay for every additional amenity beyond our seats. Moo!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Maintaining a Healthy Constitution

Seems Obama has offended the religious right with his irksome preference for Constitutional law:
"Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?" Obama asks in [a 2006] speech. "Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination. Or we could go with Deuteronomy which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount."

"So before we get carried away, let's read our Bible now," Obama also said to cheers. "Folks haven't been reading their Bible."
How refreshing to hear an American politician state the obvious. That it's the Constitution and not anyone's holy book that establishes rule of law in this country. Of course, Obama gave that speech two years ago, so I wonder if he'd speak quite so frankly now.

James Dobson, naturally, is incensed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

Fuck. George Carlin died. 71 years. Not a bad age. The same age at which Yves Saint Laurent just died. They both got a lot done in their own way, right?

A few choice quotes from one of the great comics in modern times:

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.

Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.

When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat.

- all from the inimitable George Carlin
He's just been named the first posthumous awardee of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

NYT topic page on Carlin

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hillary & Obama

Hillary & Obama

I've added several new photos to my Photostream on Flickr, including this one of Hillary and Obama graffiti on the corner of Houston and Bowery. That large one is a Shepard Fairey, and there's a different one by him across the street. It's a colorful part of Manhattan to live, the East Village, and I love it for that.

You may have guessed that I like street art: I also recently added a Graffiti & Street Art set on Flickr.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jury Blogging

I served on jury duty this week for three days, the first simply sitting in the jury pool, reading, checking email, jockeying for power outlets; the second and third actually participating in the jury selection process for an alleged criminal arms possession case. The latter part was pretty fascinating, but since you can't exactly live blog such a procedure, what follows is a selection of highlights from all three days.

Day One
  • Guy sitting next me is trying to access wireless Internet when his Mac laptop crashes and he screams like a little girl. His way of getting out of jury duty?
  • General activity first two days: watching 60+ year old men (potential jurors) flirting with girls a few years my junior, taking them to lunch, and so on.
Day Two
  • Guy sitting near me has 20+ minute animated conversation about politics and basketball with himself. His way of getting out of jury duty?
  • The court officer who escorts us to the courtroom looks exactly like Chris Elliott with long hair in the back. No, I mean, exactly. Of course, this means I cannot stop looking at him.
  • In jury selection now and one woman confesses that just looking at the defendant, she believes he (a young Hispanic gentleman) must be guilty. She admits she would vote with her "gut" and could not make a judgment simply upon the evidence or the lack thereof. Her way of getting out of jury duty?
  • One guy in the front row is playing with his belt, opening it, closing it, bending his head way down to examine it, much to the alarm of the court officers. His way of getting out of jury duty?
Day Three
  • Sixty-something year old man confesses he believes in profiling and might not be able to separate this belief - and what he knows about statistically valid stereotypes - from the need to judge someone fairly. He is congratulated by the defending attorney for his honesty.
  • Others similarly express support for the Police and their tendency to give men in uniform the benefit of the doubt where their veracity is concerned over other human folks. (Near as I can tell, all of these people were dismissed as jurors without exclusion.)
  • Many - upwards of half even - of the potential jurors were not born in the United States. Several could not speak English. One had lived here since 1964 and couldn't speak English. 5 years longer than I've been alive.
  • A white woman sitting near me tutted quite audibly at these non-English speakers. Afterwards, she approached the sixty-something gent above (the profiling fan) and told him she would've said the same thing. Nice to see people so self-congratulatory in their bigotry.
Overall, it was a fascinating process and I was glad to serve. If not for a mountain of work awaiting me at my desk, I'd love to have been selected and to have heard the entire case. I barely missed the questioning process though, as I came back for a third days, as they were down one juror after two round of questioning on my day two. Interestingly enough, most people get dismissed for one reason or another. Of course, when some folks say something, it's pretty fascinating to watch the attorneys begin scribbling away in earnest, and you just know that person isn't going to make the cut. I have to say that people I saw who did seemed to be the most impartial - insofar as you can tell, given so little questioning and follow up.

Almost makes me wish I'd studied law.

Friday, June 13, 2008

RIP Tim Russert

Tim Russert

Big Tim Russert died today, way too young for such a talented and gregarious journalist and gentleman. Apparently, Russert paused mid-narration and died of a heart attack.
The most extraordinary thing about him was that he just had such unparalleled empathy for whoever he was talking with. You never had the feeling he was trying to get somebody, he just wanted to get them to talk and wanted to get the record straight and his emotional self was as strong as his intellect. As a journalist there was such a strength of his person who everyone who knew him knew. He was just beloved. - Doris Kearns Goodwin
Go Bills.

Russert's NYT obit

East Village Gentrification Protest

East Village Gentrification Protest

I posted this CNN iReport tonight on a gentrification protest in the East Village. The building across the street from me has become emblematic of this ongoing issue in the area.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Young Orchard

Young Orchard
by Richard Wilbur
These trees came to stay.
Planted at intervals of
Thirty feet each way,

Each one stands alone
Where it is to live and die.
Still, when they have grown

To full size, these trees
Will blend their crowns, and hum with
Mediating bees.

Meanwhile, see how they
Rise against their rootedness
On a gusty day,

Nodding one and all
To one another, as they
Rise again and fall,

Swept by flutterings
So that they appear a great
Consort of sweet strings.
From a recent New Yorker, this lovely poem seems to neatly fit this blog's theme of interconnectedness.