RANTING: Lessons Learned from Aruba trip. Updated!

1. Gooferment ineptness (theirs and ours)

Aruba-bound @ EWR: The checkin lines for baggage checkin were enormous. There were five different counters with no discernible difference. Naturally “ours” was furthest down. Have to scan in the passport. (Surprisingly, we weren’t charged for the bags since we were ticketed before the created this ripoff. More on the unintended consequences later. Smart computer system.) Guess the “airline” is an extension of the gooferment. On to TSA! For some “security theater”. Frau had to go thru twice. She touched the side supposedly. I had to go thru twice no reason given. Note: I did have Frau’s nitro with the little metal top. Guess that’s OK!

@ Aruba: Mass confusion in the inbound immigration control. Lines were non-existent. People cutting in. Half the ports staffed. And, no one on the bureaucrats were too upset to hurry. Argh! (Some dimwits didn’t fill out their form on the plane delaying the line. Should be a special line for them.) Scan the passport (AGAIN!) and type some stuff into a computer. Argh!

EWR-bound from Aruba: Keystone cops. Show up THREE hours early to a “terminal width and a half line”. (Getting smarter in my old age!) Put Frau on line. I checked us in. (Don’t ask how I checked her in with out the body! Beats me.) Got another form to fill out. Filled it out. Went and returned the cell phone. Evidently, planes were being delayed. Magically two more Aruba bureaucrats magically appeared and the check in became more perfunctory. On to “screening”. Like a stopped sewer pipe, the blockage just moved down the line a little. Four screening lines. More theater. Both of us scan in one pass. Find the board. Two hour gate delay. Argh! Kill an hour in the bar. (One six pack of Bud Light for me. Frau took a glass. But they were only 10 ounce cans!) On to USA Immigration. Reunited with our bags (minus the handy luggage cart that made it possible for me to move everything.) No line. Agriculture inspection. (I bought Ev a chicken sandwich and a small slice fruit bowl earlier at the hotel.) Can’t take “fruit” into the US. “Discarded!” (Frau thinks the guy put it aside for his snack or lunch.) Of course, at the gate at Sabaro’s, I can buy a similar fruit to take to the USA. (Guess that came in by air from the USA! Yeah, right!!)

While seated at the gate, I observed the Ground Crew letting the pilots from an incoming plane into the secure waiting area. And, other Ground Crew moved thru the secured door. (Inspiring confidence!)

It’s all a JOKE!

Discard your water on the Aruba side of security and you can rebuy it on the Airline side at a premium. Give me a break!

Sigh!

2. Demise of a camera. Murphy moment.

I was driving the Land Rover on the “Natural Pool Jeep Adventure”. More about that later. I had my camera out to get some of the pics of the back of the island. I’d try to get to the “Natural Pool” before with a rental car but the terrain scared me off. (Rightly so.) In one particularly rough section I need two hands. SO I put the camera on the dash ledge. (Fatal mistake!) It was dry there.

BUT, (there is always a big butt), I drove and the rig tilted … a lot. Felt like 30 degrees but I wasn’t measuring. From somewhere a large slosh of water came rushing out. (It had rained the day before.) I was soaked. Frau was soaked. Her new Aruba beach bag got yucky on the bottom. AND the camera was sitting in a puddle. I “rescued” it but too late. I salvaged the memory card out of it in hopes it survived. (It did.)

(Never liked that camera. It was the Nikon with wireless capability that never worked right. Must have wasted a slew of time and many calls to 18002NONUSTECHNONSUPPORT!)

Argh!

SO here I am watching shore line I may never see again. And, no camera.

(If I had thought about it. I could have brought my cell phone and used its camera. But, it was back at the hotel. Powered off waiting for the return trip to NJ.)

Argh!

3. All inclusive — pro’s and con’s

This was the first time that we went all inclusive. I was thinking like a cruise ship. Food and beverages any time. Not so. Breakfast buffet from 0730 to 1000. Lunch buffet at two places: Main room from 1130 to 1330 and Pool side from 1130 to 1600. (Pool side was smaller with less choices.) Dinner was the Main Buffet or one of their three “fancy restaurants” (i.e., Asian, Mexican, and Italian). We were told to reserve early. We didn’t and were left with poorer choices. NBD (No Big Deal) to us since we like to eat dinner early. And, we had to take outside. NBD (We liked that better.) (I think the bright star that we saw each night we ate outside was Venus. But no one knew for sure.) We ate at the main buffet on the first night. It was like the main lunch one. We ate out two nights — both across the street from the hotel. One was a sidewalk Italian restaurant which was excellent and had music shared between the five restaurants. (We took the Italian cause it was farthest from some very loud, very good, very spirited, and enthusiastic ten man band. 60$) And, pizza. (40$)

Jury is still out if the all inclusive was a good option. Probably was. I just was expecting different (i.e., cruise ship all inclusive).

4. Air Travel sucks

Once upon a time, air travel was fun. Now, you lose a full day getting to and from your destination. If you’re lucky, it’s only a day. The lines for security theater put one in a bad mood. To be first out of the airplane isn’t necessarily any guaranty of making time. THe food on the planes is minimal. The entertainment is minimal. The temperature is minimal. I think the plane makes you sick. From a process pov, it’s a disaster. Do, redo. Check and recheck. It’s a wonder that anyone puts up with it. And, the costs. Taxes are hidden everywhere. And, not so hidden.

5. People are a pia

We were in the shuttle bus to the airport hotel, I had my keys in my right hand. My computer bag was slung over my right shoulder. THere wasn’t an inch of spare space in the minibus. This guy, who had been yelling at his wife on his cell phone loudly in the tiny bus, jumps up as soon as it stops. The driver said: “I can drop you at your car after I unload.” “I don’t want to wait” was his impatient reply.He them proceeds to step on my foot and reach THRU my computer bad to get his bag. Naturally, he knocks my keys from hand and ties himself in my bag. So I get up and block him from the door looking for my keys that have gone behind the seat. Argh! Keystone comedy. He’s still tied up in my computer bag, and the drive sees my keys and fishes them out. Roid rage man is now untangled running for the lot with bags in tow. So after sending Frau into check in. I go to put our bags in the car and retrieve our overnight bag. There’s Mister Happy trying to clean off his car. I only cleaned off the trunk and I was cold. When I left he was still there working on it. Hope it was good and cold. Argh!

6. My term as an unpaid driver

Took the “Natural Pool Jeep Safari”. Interesting in that the company depends on “volunteer” drivers. You get nothing for doing it. The question is do I incur any liabilities in doing it? I saw an old man and a young kid “volunteer” to drive. The old man was anxious to get going and was going before the rest were ready. Out at the “Natural Pool”, the old man switch with one of his party. That fellow almost pinned one of his passengers to the next Land Rover in line. One should inquire about the abilities of “volunteer drivers”.

7. ITSJ is limiting

Frau struck up conversations with several folks during the trip. She’s the extrovert. I never have much to add. I did take a couple of pictures for people in my travels. Made me think about that biz idea of taking pics for folks and giving them a card to download from a sie like photofish, kodak or such. If I could figure out how to monetize it.

8. Natural pool injuries

Took the “Natural Pool Jeep Safari”. Drove in that pack of 4 Land Rovers over to the back desolate side of the island. Volcanic rock. No signs. No paths to speak of. The “guide” drove the first one; volunteers the other three. I volunteered. (I’ve driven in Aruba several times before. I owned a 4 wheel drive before they were “kool”. Figured I’d be safer in control.) On the way there, we passed a lost White Jeep “day tripper”. He tagged along. (More on this later!)

We arrived at the “natural pool”. DOWN a terrible “stairway”. Straight down. 100 yards. Cardiac wife. But I don’t think I was up to that level of PT! It was steep. So, we hung out at the top. The “natural pool” was a rock formation that created a pool out of a high wall on the ocean side and lower one on the lee side. Each wave sprayed into the air and the pool backfilled gently from the low side. The tourists were in the pool. Then a slightly larger wave broke over the high wall. And the pool emptied and refilled quickly. Think washing machine for people with a spin cycle.

Back up at the Land Rovers we saw the bumped and bruised after the steep climb. Several bloody scrapes. Several obviously bruised limping folks. Guess there was a reason we all had to sign releases? The “guide” had a first aid kit. But several scrapes wouldn’t stop oozing. Needless to say, the fun was drained for those folks.

NO one had anything in the way of a kit. (I had some stuff for my wife. Drugs, fruit cocktail, flashlight, and multitool. I’d been to USAF survival school. But, I wasn’t ready for triage and disaster first aid.)

Needless to say, it gave me a wake up call.

Back to the guy in the white jeep who tagged along. He and his wife were off a cruise ship for 12 hours and wanted an “adventure”. They rented a little CJ4 jeep. (Not sprung like the Land Rovers; pretty little “girly” car.) He tracked us as we went over very bad ground. I was on a tour. If the Land Rover busted, it wasn’t my problem. If that fellow busted his jeep, he had a slew of problems. Triple A wasn’t making calls out there I don’t think. He didn’t have a GPS. Nor, a cell phone. And, if anything happened, he was going to miss his ship. He had to dodge around stuff that the Land Rovers could handle.

Lessons learned:

(A) Carry water. Don’t depend on anyone else.

(B) If they ask you to sign a release, then ask why?

(C) Cell phone, GPS, and “survival kit” are required for all “adventures”.

(D) Don’t assume “attractions” are safe.

(E) Pack good shoes if you’re not wearing hiking boots. (You may have to walk out!) Tourists in flip flops in the “natural pool” had scraped feet that then had to climb stone stairs. Hard with half a flip flop.

(F) Don’t forget ropes, garbage bags, and duct tape. (The land rover door came loose as we were banging around.)

9. TSA, Immigration, and airlines are NOT ADA
Traveling with Frau, I’m always concerned she’ll over exert herself. None of these things are ADA. Or even handicap friendly. No one cares how long you stand on line. Or how far you have to trek with luggage. Of if she can eat on time.
Argh!
How about a bakery number system? Have a large seating area for the scanning. Take a number and be seated. The “conceirge” can call numbers up say five at time. Same result but definlte less stressful. Bet you could even have TV monitors playing commercials and show a profit.
Or, have the “checkers” check you at one shared location (i.e, the airline check in counter). YOu come with your bags. Everything is done at once.
How do the politicians, the rich, and the celebrities do it? Certainly not like the rabble do!

10. Expect the unexpected

Delays and changes are inevitable. Be prepared to roll with the punches.

11. Pool lounge chairs can be dangerous

Frau slipped back into her lounge chair at the pool. Ouch. She’s still nursing a sore tail bone.

12. Explore all documents in advance

Tucked in our ticket folder was a discount offer for a cell phone in Aruba. Maybe I could have saved some money. Oh well.

13. Plan smartly

Building on previous trips, we have a template of the trip. It has lots of moving parts. On the prior trip, I had pre-shipped the luggage. Not cheap. $300? I think. But that was smart. For some reason, I didn’t do that this time. Bad mistake. It takes a lot of stress out of the trip once the clean clothes are in your destination. Why did that “good idea” get dropped? Beats me. Shouldn’t have!

14. Make dinner reservation before you go

We’d been warned to make the dinner reservations as soon as we got there. I had the bright idea to make them before we left. Didn’t action that one! As a matter of fact, we were so pooped and knotted when we got there, we waited. Dumb.

Interestingly, serendipity, two of our reservations at the Italian joint we had to take outside on the patio. That was all that was left. It was fantastic. Out under the stars, gentle breeze. Lucked out. Be a different comment if it was raining or cold.

15. Hotel key “barbara streisand”

THREE times I was locked out of the room. Bad key. Argh! First time, I got the “barbara streisand” story that I demag it by putting it near a cell phone or other electronic equipment. Unless my butt is magnetic? I kept my key in my back pocket by itself. Second time, I carried them to the room used one and put it on the desk. (Frau and I travel together.) So when it happened again, I asked the housekeeping to open it for me. She broke the rules and did. I took the key that had gone no where. AND, it wouldn’t work! When I took both keys to the desk and explained my experiment, I got a shoulder shrug. Argh!

16. Don’t break the spell (if possible)

I should have just ignored the world for the ENTIRE week. It was around mid-week when I called home. The angst reappeared and stayed the rest of the week. Should have not! There is a benefit in “leaving it all” behind.

17. Internet was cheap, if

The hotels make the internet a profit center. This hotel had wifi for 40 per week. Still scandalous. Versus 15$/day to use their computer in their business center during their hours. The macbookair performed almost flawlessly. The signon to their wifi was balky. Hibernating require a resign on. SO bringing it was worthwhile. The MCBA, like at home, has frequent reconnection. Obviously a flaw with it.

18. Rent a luggage cart

Just made it easy to move the two bags around.

19. Pre-ship luggage better

Why didn’t I?

20. Avoid air travel at all costs

New rule of thumb: Air travel is not worth the aggravation.

21. Shop the local grocery store (eye opening)

Went to the hotel shop, a bodega, the supermarket on the main drag. Small can of fruit cocktail — Frau’s favorite “low sugar” antidote — $3 in hotel shop, $1.90 in the bodega, and $1.25 at supermarket. Home between $.99 and $1.49. So you really get screwed at the hotel store.

Eye opening at the grocery store. Shelves were NOT well-stocked. They only had four cans of Fruit Cocktail and one was badly dented. Butcher shop had good looking beef. Bakery had stuff, but all in big quantities.

Back at the hotel, I discussed the supermarket with the bar guy. He said that food prices in general were down dramatically due to the price of oil. (Since everything comes from Venezuela, the price of oil is in EVERYTHING in a big way.)

22. Backup camera!

Probably should carry a backup camera. Cheap ones are pretty good now.

23. “Survival Kit” Kangaroo pouch?


24. The lesson of the “white jeep”


25. Airline terminal fruit incident


26. “Long lines” action plan


27. Take some plastic bags


28. Hemorrhoid ring


29. Take pics for others


30. Honeymooners are “cute”


31. Some people shouldn’t wear bathing suits


32. What do the natives think


33. Is this buffet your last meal?


34. Glass and marble don’t mix


35. Humidity wrinkles paper


36. Have canned responses ready


37. Umpty ump jewelry shops in a row


38. No more “chirping”


39. Oil prices impact natives


40. Old vendor and his pickup truck


41. Rental car CDW


42. Locked the keys in the car (again)


43. What am I doing at the beach?


44. Giving feedback


45. Coffee


46. In plane cabin, baggage?

????

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JOBSEARCH: Building value on Facebook

So, you’re on Facebook and you have dotcomeraden! (https://reinkefaceslife.com/2007/10/23/fun-dotcomeraden)

Big deal!

What can you do on Facebook that is UNIQUE and helps your “facebook friends”?

Remember before anyone is motivated to do something for you (e.g., tell you about your perfect job they heard about; email you encouragement when you’re in a rough patch; just send you the latest joke; write you a LinkedIn recommendation; not “defriend”” you), you have to do something for them!

So, here’s an idea.

Facebook tells you every day, who among your dotcomeraden has a birthday. Send them an “hb”.

AND!

If you have dotcomeraden on Facebook who share a birthday, send them a message, a “you should be friends” Facebook option.

Here’s what I send:

*** begin quote ***

Best wishes on your mutual day.

I always thought birthdays were a great way to setup a granfalloon — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granfalloon — strange idea. A very important concept in “job search”. I’ve sent you connection suggestions of some “sharers”.

This is a Robbie Burns message. You know the gift to see ourselves as others see us. Facebook tells me that you share the day; it doesn’t tell you. Here’s a gift. A networking stretching weird one.

Nota Bene: They did say that “opportunity” knocks. What they did NOT tell you was what you’d find when you opened the door. It’s a great free offer requiring nothing more from you but to be open to something new. What throws you off, in this case, is that “opportunity” is disguised as a fat old man with strange ideas. ROFL!!!

fjohn

*** end quote ***

It’s a modest effort to build a community.

Even if I’m not elligible to be in it. Not sharing the same birthday, that is.

I’m hoping that in the coming months that one of my many “birthday grandfalloon” attempts tells me that they have “encircled” and had positive results (i.e., partied at the half-year point, made real friendships, exchanged “help” of whatever kind, or such!)

That’s why I’m doing the “birthday gathering chore” each morning.

:-)

Yeah, I know, get a life.

But what have you DONE to build value for your dotcomeraden on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, or such.

At least I’ve found one small thing.

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HARDWARE: Seagate reduces warranty from 5 to 3 years. Bad move!

http://www.plaxo.com/events/show/120404522

Lockergnome Blog Network]

Chris Pirillo posted a blog entry

Seagate’s New Warranty Policy – Who Are They Kidding?

*** begin quote ***

Reported this morning on ZDNet, the Seagate company will be changing its warranty policy on many drives, beginning January, 3, 2009. The statement from the company gives a figure of only 5 % of the failures occurring in their drives between years 3 and 5 of service.

This may be so, but if it is, it shows a policy that has been decided by people who know little about perceived value and human psychology.

In many cases today, a choice between a Seagate drive and a drive, of equal size, from Western Digital or Hitachi is possible. I don’t really consider Fujitsu or Samsung drives here, as they are not widely available, or well known to the average consumer. Seagate and Western Digital are the heavy hitters here, and many don’t know the name Hitachi, and are slightly more comfortable when told that Hitachi is really what had been sold for years as IBM-branded product. In a $75 to $175 purchase, the difference of 5 to 10 dollars is hardly worth worrying about, and many times the drives are sold at equal prices.

What then, affects the decision process?

*** end quote ***

Seagate blew this one. They’ve reverted to the competition. Now the only differentiator is price. That means that disk drives are a cheap commodity. Cheapest price.

How stupid!

Sell that stock!

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