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Wednesday, January 13, 2010 

In an apparent attempt to ensure that the remaining frequent fliers, those of us who have flown regularly though all the stupid terrorist hoopla, who have tolerated Canadian Proctology, who have stuck with United through delays and lost luggage, to ensure that even we dedicated fliers finally give up, United has started charging even their most frequent fliers for upgrades.

Even global services fliers will be charged $50 to upgrade a segment whether the upgrade is purchased with an “upgrade certificate” or with 15,000 miles (or whatever the amount is). The Very Appreciated Customer is given the illustrated friendly notice as a special finger in the eye thank-you for loyalty.

Either United really does want to keep frequent fliers off their planes or they let complete incompetents come up with their new money scavenging rules. I tend to think the latter, given the way the bag charge has resulted, predictably, in delays and violence on planes as harried passengers fight over overhead space.

If this charge came about through pure incompetence rather than malice, the company has failed to consider the impact of the charge on customers. For example: I fly 4-6 times a week and upgrade most of my flights. This might not seem much of a hardship, but last year I flew about 300,000 miles and at 600 miles an hour that’s 500 hours in planes or 10 hours a week not including waiting on the ground. It is a challenge to work in the confines of coach and it is certainly uncomfortable. If I couldn’t upgrade, I just wouldn’t be willing to fly so much.

That mileage was accumulated on about 200 segments and represented about $100,000 in revenue for UAL. One might reasonably argue that at an average price of $500 per segment a charge of $50 additional, or 10%, isn’t an intolerable penalty. Certainly that is true. It would have made no difference to me to expense $110,000 or $100,000. But that’s not the way this charge works, and UAL apparently failed to even begin to think this through. Because the charge is assessed after the flight is completed I can’t practically expense it. Like most frequent travelers, my time in the air is almost purely work-related. If I get a vacation, what I want to do most is stay at home, not get on a plane. United’s incomprehensibly stupid decision attempts to tax me, personally, $10,000 a year for my loyalty.

Over more than 15 years of far too much air travel, about 1.8 million miles, I have fought many times to book my own flights and I have stuck with United every time. I’ve stuck my neck out to justify what is frequently not the lowest fare because UAL has generally compensated my loyalty with a business-justifiable commitment to getting me where I need to go regardless of weather and other setbacks. But I simply can’t give united $10,000 out of my own pocket, much as I like the employees I have come to know.

I’m hoping UAL fixes this. As life goals go it may not be much, but I was looking forward to 2,000,000 miles.

Just as a note: I’ll be looking into other FF plans (American, Delta) to see if there’s a better deal. I’ll post what I find. My understanding is that airlines are generally willing to transfer the status of frequent fliers for the first year to capture the business.

If UAL needs to do this and wants to keep my business, they could assess a $50 charge at booking so I can expense it. I’d have no problem with adding 10% to my ticket fare to make whatever “lowest available fare” upgradable at no further charge; even if the charge is non-refundable – as long as it is expensible. Similarly, I’d be happy to add $15 to my ticket purchase price (that I can expense) for internet service whereas I would generally not pay the fee on a per-flight basis.

Think, United, think. I have Premiere Exec for life already and I’m so close to RCC for life, don’t blow it now.


Posted at 23:55:41 GMT-0700

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L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot

Saturday, September 19, 2009 

L’enfer is the story of Clouzot’s ill-fated inferno. It was a great disaster and never released but it resulted in some great footage, a lot of it experimental footage of spinning lights and water flows to recreate the sensation of a psychotic state, one brought on by jealousy in the movie.

Serge Bromberg does a good job of telling both the movie and the story of the movie in one continuous flow, filling in with actors some of the key unshot scenes and mixing that with the beautiful footage shot on location in France.

The actresses in the original movie were gorgeous and the two leading ladies, both stunning beauties of their time, were performing a lesbian scene in bathing suits and gave Clouzot a heart attack, not surprisingly, which was the last blow to the troubled production.

Posted at 20:21:39 GMT-0700

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Slovenka (Slovenian Girl)

Saturday, September 19, 2009 

Slovenka (2009) is the story of a young girl trying to make her way through college who finds easy profits in sex work given the endless flux of E.U. representatives visiting during Slovenia’s entry period.

Here income was so good that she managed to make a down payment on a new apartment, much to the amazement of her friends. But all was not well in the world: her studies suffered and she has to cajole professors into passing her; she tries to manage her relationship with her father and hide her life from him and his friends from a small town outside of the capital; and she comes into conflict with local pimps who want a piece of her profits.

While the movie was very well acted, compelling, nicely paced, funny, and well written, the conclusion left unanswered many of the drivers of the plot. While realistic and not a fatal flaw, the subplots seemed interrupted and left unfinished and the arc of the story didn’t quite achieve a satisfying conclusion.

Posted at 20:08:21 GMT-0700

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Kynodontas (Dogtooth)

Saturday, September 19, 2009 

Dogtooth (2009) is a Greek movie about a strange family where the parents create an alternate universe full of danger and mystery to confine their teenage (at least) children and control their exposure to modern life.

The movie is fully of amazingly clever premises: teaching children through the Naughty Hungarian Phrase Book technique to hide the meaning of any difficult (and many random) words; terrifying them of the world outside the estate walls with tales of terror and a lost brother (to whom they throw food and other things); the horrible terror that cats pose, ripping the unwary apart; that airplanes are actually very small and plastic and now and then when they fly over head just drop into the yard to be found by the winning child; and contests to decide the best of the children at every turn.

And then there’s the woman who is paid to have sex with the son and manage his urges who seduces the sisters and pays them with knicknacks from the outside world they treasure. And the porn she brings for the father to watch with his wife after the children are asleep, that ultimately goes astray. And lastly, the title, which refers to the K9 tooth, the adult one, which is the indicator of adulthood when it comes out.

There is so much promise in this movie that could have been a real pleasure to watch, could have been hilarious or disturbing. But it just wasn’t. It was slow and stilted and clumsy. The pacing was brutal and ultimately tedious and drained the humor out of the most absurd situations – like where the father released live fish in the pool as some sort of miracle and then went to catch them for dinner with a spear gun that should have had the audience laughing but were drained of life by the pacing and structure.

This movie was particularly difficult, not so much for what it was but for how great it almost was.

Posted at 19:55:56 GMT-0700

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Io, Don Giovanni

Saturday, September 19, 2009 

We saw Io, Don Giovanni (2009) at a gala opening at the Roy Thompson Hall at TIFF. It is the story of Mozart’s lyricist, Lorenzo da Ponte, and in particular their collaboration on Don Giovanni.

Lorenzo was born in the republic of Venice and was friends with Casanova there. Though a priest, Lorenzo was a libertine and his love of liberty brought him into odds with the Venetian Inquisition and Lorenzo was exiled. Casanova gave him a letter of introduction to Salieri in Vienna but he ended up paired with the upstart Mozart by the Austrian Emperor Joseph II and so the two collaborated on the opera that would chronicle Casanova’s life.

The movie works very well. The music is woven into the story and livens it, the acting is excellent. The cinematography is excellent, the movie is shot as if on the set of an opera using painted sets and scrims and brings engravings to life in a way that effectively blurs the boundaries between the opera being performed and the story of its creation.

Posted at 19:41:27 GMT-0700

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New Mural

Thursday, August 6, 2009 

Go FLUX space!

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Posted at 15:26:52 GMT-0700

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What’s with the blue cars?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 

Maybe the mustang convertible’s chick magnet is actually active. Or maybe there is a switch I don’t know about…

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Posted at 12:08:00 GMT-0700

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Ford flex rental

Thursday, July 9, 2009 

33 miles…

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Posted at 10:54:20 GMT-0700

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Jim Beam Red Stag Cough Syrup

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 

On a recent evening UAL flight I asked for a Jack on the rocks, as I sometimes am wont to do. The FA returned sadly with a little square bottle: the shape was familiar but the label wasn’t. “This is all we have,” she said apologetically. I gamely gave it a try.

It turns out it was Jim Beam’s new Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon. It tasted a lot like cough syrup to me, sickly sweet and alcoholic. I’m not a big fan of Jim Beam to begin with, but it is tolerable straight or on ice. This concoction was not. I returned the unconsumed portion.

I’m not a sweet liqueur person to begin with, and this even less so. UAL very kindly assures me (from the Catering Manager) that Jack is supposed to be on all flights so this was, fortunately, an anomaly.

Posted at 21:32:16 GMT-0700

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Windows Fail

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 

Why do people use windows for embedded applications?

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Posted at 22:42:35 GMT-0700

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