Associated Press vs. The Onion

The Associated Press reported this morning:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA called off the launch of space shuttle Discovery for a second time yesterday after a critical fuel valve failed to work properly.

Launch officials halted the countdown midway through the fueling process.  The seven astronauts had not yet boarded the shuttle for today’s scheduled early-morning flight to the international space station.

“Drats!” said astronaut Jose Hernandez in a Twitter update.

Drats indeed.  Toto, we’re not in 1969 anymore.

Practical Applications of a Dictionary

Overheard at Star Market yesterday:

Customer:  Do you have a paper cutter?

High School Student Clerk: (annoyed) What, like, scissors?

Although I’m disappointed in an education system that’s left a high school student unaware of what a “paper cutter” is, I should perhaps be giving her the benefit of the doubt.  Random House defines it as:

n. any device for cutting or trimming paper…

(She gave the guy some scissors, which he reluctantly accepted.)


This weekend was my first “real” JetBlue experience, discounting a quick hop from New York to Boston last year.  It’s not bad!  Let’s analyze some particulars.

First, in-flight DirecTV is a fantastic invention.  I did enjoy that the Travel channel remained “unavailable” for the whole flight (while everything else worked perfectly), as if to say, “You’re already on an airplane at 37,000 feet.  Just how much more travel would you like to be experiencing at this particular moment?”

I did not enjoy, however, the mandatory, unavoidable advertisement they play at takeoff describing how awesome DirecTV is.  If, hypothetically, the plane had just been sitting on the tarmac at JFK for 45 minutes, with one of its passengers happily watching Mythbusters, that passenger would be annoyed to have the ad kick in at the precise moment the Mythbusters were about to drop a car from a helicopter 4,000 feet in the air while racing another car at top speed across the desert toward the drop site.  In fact, that would be phenomenally terrible timing.

Second, although JetBlue does not include at-seat power ports for those of us with laptops and iPods, I appreciate that they do have a standard 110 volt AC outlet in the lavatory, for passengers who need to curl their hair or shave in preparation for landing (I imagine).

Finally, they seem to place particular emphasis on crew friendliness, based on the questions in their customer satisfaction survey.  One asks (I paraphrase), ‘Was the pilot professional and humorous?’  Oddly, yes!

Well, folks, some of you may have noticed that the sun has moved over to the other side of the plane, and that’s never a good sign.

Then, after we experienced the third largest jolt I’ve ever felt on an airplane:

Uhh, sorry about that bump, folks; that was just a little wake turbulence from another aircraft passing in front of us.  It’s pretty common around JFK; nothing to worry about.

The woman in front of me looked pretty worried anyway.  And if anyone’s keeping score, we still got the mandatory Airline Pilot Weather Report.

In the end, they did well enough to get me back on a few flights with their experimental All You Can Jet pass.

Wi-Fi Security Blanket

I’m writing bow from a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, thanks to wi-fi service now on AirTran.

This, I hardly need clarify, makes me almost giddy.

Now I can finally use ubiquitous Internet access like the security blanket it is, and on those rare occasions I might still find myself offline, just break down crying as if suddenly and unexpectedly deprived of the free use of, say, an arm.

Negative Sale?

Years ago, when Hayley Westenra’s My Gift to You album came out, I was unable to acquire a copy, on account of it having been released only in New Zealand, and further on account of me not living at the time in New Zealand.

Now, I’ve paid a return visit to eBay where I see I can not only buy a copy,  but can get it on sale!  For more money!  Wait…

A New Type of Sale?

A New Type of Sale?

I have no objection at all to paying that price, of course.  It’s just not particularly good marketing in the eBay listing.  Earlier this year, one of the 70 copies of her very first CD sold on eBay for over $3,000 (says Wikipedia — and for once I believe it, since if I had $3,000 to spend on a CD, that’s the one I’d choose), so an extra $7.36 is, in fact, quite a bargain.

Optimus Aux

I just learned about the Optimus Aux, and I already don’t know how I live without one.  It’s an auxiliary keyboard, where every button has an Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screen that can display an image customized to its programmed function.

Optimus Aux

Optimus Aux

The price I’ve seen rumored is $650, or about $43 per button.  It’s also not out yet.

How Not to Save $100

While researching flights through United Airlines, I clicked an advertisement about a discount when purchasing an “Economy Plus” annual membership together with a Red Carpet Club membership.  The description reads:

Save $100 off the regular price when you buy Economy Plus with United Red Carpet Club! When purchased separately, you pay $849. Purchase both now for just $774.

Err… $849 regularly… with $100 off… is $774?  I hope these calculations are done in a different department than the ones about how much fuel the aircraft needs to carry for a given flight.

(If it makes anybody feel any better, I wouldn’t have paid $749 either; I was just curious about their Red Carpet Club pricing.  The “Economy Plus” membership is borderline, at $349, or about six flights worth of individual upgrades.)

Coolidge Corner

I love Coolidge Corner in Brookline.  Let’s consider just a few things I experienced there this evening:

How Windows Work

Dear Guy in T-Mobile Store,

The enormous plate glass window separating the store from a very busy intersection is, as most windows are, transparent.  When you walk directly up to it and start picking your nose, many people will see you, very few of whom will have wanted to.

I believe the device you thought you were using is a door, which, when closed, is typically opaque.

Passer-by who was just minding his own business

I’ll See You in Court

Overheard from someone passing with a cell phone, in the tone one uses with a hostile witness in a courtroom:

Did she or didn’t she sleep with Jacob on Wednesday?

The Outcast

A boy and his father were shopping for another child’s birthday present.  The boy recommended a particular Bionicle figure, which prompted this conversation:

Father: Do you like Bionicles?
Kid: No.

Father: Oh.  Well, how do you know he’ll like them?

Kid: Most kids my age like Bionicles.  Like, most kids like sweet things like ice cream, but I don’t.

Rich Girl

Pop singers really need to stop remixing Broadway music into pop songs.  I woke up yesterday to hear someone — Gwen Stefani, it turned out — singing these lyrics to the tune of If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof:

If I was a rich girl — na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
See, I’d have all the money in the world
If I was a wealthy girl

This overly excited departure from Zero Mostel’s impoverished and weary Tevye was already disorienting to hear first thing in the morning.  It reminded me immediately of 1998, when rapper Jay Z remixed Hard Knock Life into a hip hop tune, thus taking me entirely by surprise when my rap-loving coworkers of the day loved the song without having any idea of its origin.

Irked by this latest Broadway reuse, I took the time to read the rest of Stefani’s lyrics online.  I wish I hadn’t.

In Fiddler on the Roof, the song is Tevye’s lament that, while it’s no shame being poor, he wouldn’t mind too terribly having some money.  Though he dreams first of an impractically ostentatious house with “one long staircase just going up, and one even longer coming down,” he reveals by the end what he would really do with his hypothetical fortune:

If I were rich I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray
And maybe have a seat by the eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men,
Several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

All he really wants is the luxury to sit quietly, studying and praying.  What, by contrast, does Ms. Stefani (who, incidentally, has sold 40 million records) want?

No man could test me
Impress me
My cash flow would never ever end
Cause I’d have all the money in the world
If I was a wealthy girl