Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dynamic flickr spell

I have changed my template to make the "glob" in pictures that I get from flickr dynamic. If you don't like the way it looks just refresh the page.

So now I don't have to change my template every day to put in a new set.

Waiting for my weight

I never completely trust what my scale says the first day back after traveling, especially from Europe. A 30 hour day, 8.5 of which were spent sitting in an airplane, tends to distort things a bit. Nevertheless, what my scale did say today was that I gained all of half a pound during my two weeks in Spain.

I'm not surprised. I was bit careful in what I ate while I was away, and I did do a lot of walking. I knew I couldn't have gained much, just because of the way my clothes fit. The problem is, I gained weight before my trip--five pounds since January, and I certainly wasn't anywhere near where I want to be back then. I have to somehow figure out how to exercise for 1.5-2 hours a day and have time to clean my office.

Of course, it would really help if I didn't eat so much. I'm so weak.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'm back

I'm back in New York, after an eight-hour, three movie flight. Right now I've got to go out and get some groceries, unpack, look at the mail, etc. But I will blog some later--if I'm still awake. I gained 6 hours, so it's really like 10:20pm for me already.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

What time was that flight again?

Report from Spain IV: The second mishap of our trip occurred Tuesday. I confused the time of our flight to Granada with the time of the one we will be taking back to New York from Madrid, 11:00am. Actually, our flight out of Barcelona was scheduled for 10:25. It didn't help that my e-ticket was in Spanish, and I didn't recognize the column headed SAL meant departure time. We arrived at the airport some time before 9:45--in plenty of time, we thought. We waited in the slow-moving Iberia Airlines check-in line. When it was finally our turn, the agent said it would be a miracle if we made the flight. We were dumbfounded. We asked why, since the flight left at 11. No, she said, it leaves at 10:05--just to make matters worse, they had changed the departure time after I got the tickets, without notifying me--why not, I don't know. They certainly had my e-mail address.

We still had a few minutes though, and I think we might have made it, except that we had to pay the overweight charges for our luggage. And unlike in America, they don't don't handle payments at the check-in counter. We had to go over to the Iberia sales counter to pay. So we went over there, and waited for a couple of Romanians to buy tickets to somewhere. We finally paid, took our receipt back to the check-in counter, got our boarding passes, and ran to the gate. There was no hold-up at security (which seemed much more laid-back that in the U.S.).

But we were too late, the gate personnel sadly informed us. This was one of those bus-to-the-plane deals, and they had already called for a bus just for us, but the plane had already moved out.

We were told to go to Belt 22 to reclaim our luggage. We went there, and watched a planeload of people get their bags. But ours weren't among them. I checked over by the lost luggage counter, but they weren't among the few they had there. Back at Belt 22, my wife flagged down an Iberia staffer, and she said they usually sent the returned bags to Belt 20. She advised us to watch both belts, but if ours didn't come in 15 minutes to see her at the lost luggage desk. We did that, but nothing of ours came on either belt.

I stayed and watched the three lonely unclaimed bags on Belt 20 make their unending circumnavigations, while my wife went to the desk. Eventually she returned and said our bags had been located (thank goodness), and they would be put on Belt 28--which was all the way at the other end of the baggage claim area. So we trekked over there, and found Belt 28, which stood motionless. So we sat down to wait. Ten minutes or so later, the belt started up, and we were finally reunited with our luggage.

Then we went back to the Iberia sales desk to see about another flight to Granada. The line wasn't too long. But when we gave the agent our boarding passes and explained what had happened (first in my wife's Spanish, then in her English), the agent was totally perplexed. As far as their system went, once the boarding passes were issued the tickets were used, so she couldn't exchange them. She came out of the sales booth and said she had to go over to the supervisor's office. She came back (rather quickly, actually) and told us that our tickets had been re-validated. Furthermore, they would do our re-booking at no charge, on the excuse that they had changed the departure time from 10:25 to 10:05 without notifying us.

The next flight was at 4:30. There was actually room on it.

We got our new tickets and headed back to the check-in counter, first removing all of the tags on our luggage from the missed flight. I hoped we could find the same check-in agent as the first time, but she wasn't there. But the check-in was easy anyway. There wasn't even a question of the over-weight charge--our prior receipt worked just fine.

So it was just a matter of waiting. We went back upstairs, through security again. Still laid-back. We found a sit-down restaurant and sat down. One of my three lambchops actually had a significant amount of meat on it. I wondered about the steel table knives--there was nothing to prevent someone from pocketing one and boarding a plane. I said that security was laid-back. But I think they are more worried about suicide bombers than hijackers at this point.

There were still nearly three hours until boarding time. There are a huge number of stores at the Barcelona airport--it's a shopping mall, basically. My wife got a cute skirt, and a pantsuit she had been wanting for a while. I got a newspaper and a little 8.50€ chotchka to remind me of the fun(?) I had in Barcelona.

Song of the Day (Monday): I Left My Wallet in Barcelona

Report from Spain III: Report from Spain II actually told of what we saw in Barcelona before my first report if you can follow that. This post details what occurred immediately after I posted that.

We left the internet place and decided to have some dessert. (This was after the over-priced mediocre paella at the tourist-trap restaurant we had wandered into.) We found a place and had sacher-torte and coffee. We then decided to take the subway back to our hotel. Big mistake.

I was the victim of one of the notorious pick-pocket gangs of Barcelona. It was the classic stall and distract method when the victim is getting off the subway. A wide, heavy guy got between me and my wife as we exited. She was out on the platform yelling while he blocked me, ostensibly to let a woman off. In the five or ten seconds it took him to do this, someone else got my wallet and my money clip, which was probably nestled in the wallet. I never felt a thing, despite having my wallet in my supposedly safe front pocket. He then moved out of my way, and I got off the train. Thirty seconds later at most I realized my wallet was gone, and I immediately knew what had happened.

They got all my credit cards, my ATM cards, and my driver's license. What they did not get was very much cash. My money clip had all of 10 euros in it. My large bills were safe in my other front pocket, along with my passport. There was also $41 in my wallet--my usual "emergency money." So they got about $54 in all. Assuming this was a crew of three, they averaged $18 each--less any service charge for converting the U.S. dollars.

We returned to the hotel, and I then started the hassle of trying to get new cards. I got the phone numbers to call from my wife's cards. (Hint: to make a collect international call in Spain, dial 1005.)

Citibank, American Express, then Chase for my Amazon Visa (Second hint: Make a list of all your card numbers and contact phone numbers and leave a copy back in your hotel room--I wish I had done this.) Complicating things was the fact that we were leaving for Granada the next morning. Since we were only going to be there three days, I was hesitant to have the replacement cards sent there, so I had them sent to the hotel in Seville, our next stop. Citibank and Amex were no problem. Chase faxed the data to Visa International. They said I'd receive a call from Visa International within "a few hours." Ten hours later we checked out of the hotel--no call from Visa International. We later checked our messages on our answering machine back in New York. That's where Visa International called.

Report from Spain II

Hi all! It's been quite a week, since my last post. I don't know how much I'm going to be able to post right now, since I'm on a computer at my hotel in Seville out in the hall for all of the guests to use, and I don't want to hog it.

Even though I have been able to hook up my camera to the computer, and view my photos on it, I don't seem to be able to upload them. So no pix right now.

First let me expand a bit on our time in Barcelona. It's a marvelous place. Antoni Gaudi's fantastic "moderniste" architecture is amazing, and there's plenty of other beautiful buildings to lend support. His Casa Batllo is unbelievable. It's hard to imagine that a family actually lived there. His Casa Milà, actually an apartment house, has a wonderful permanent exhibit in the attic about his work, and they have made one apartment into and example of what it would have looked like 100 years ago, with period furniture. Of course his amazing cathedral, which they've been working on for the better part of a century, draws huge crowds, but I liked his smaller works better--though his Park Güell was fun.

I'm going to divide up my posting, so it's not going to be one huge report. Stay tuned.