Flying, United and others

The last time we flew on United, one of their employees at the gate was absolutely obnoxious; another was polite and helpful, which is really the least any employee should be. The flight was miserable, largely because the flight attendants seemed to be deliberately acting to make it so. At two o’clock in the morning, nobody wants the lights on, nobody wants coffee, and nobody wants the attendants running up and down the aisle asking if you want anything. The attendants know this, because they were not doing any of that in first class, where the lights were out and everyone asleep. I suspect United has policies to make coach miserable, to incentivize customers to buy an upgrade.

Other airlines we’ve flown on over the last year have been less unpleasant. American was okay; Virgin and Southwest were very nearly good.

The TSA at one end was obnoxious; at the other end they were not obnoxious, which is as close to good as they ever get. There’s little to be done about that.

Often I consider buying from a business that has just sustained a big customer-service black eye, on the theory that they’ll be exerting themselves to do well, and their prices will be a little lower as customers chose their competitors. In the case of United, I won’t be doing that. Their obnoxious employee at the gate, the (I think deliberately bad) service on the last flight, and other incidents like this make me think that this is their business model, and will remain so until they come up with another model — no easy task. Also, the president of United gives the impression of being a lying weasel who can’t figure out what lie to tell. It’s hard to imagine him fixing things. So I won’t be flying United, and their CEO’s apology tour isn’t going to change that.

Arma virumque cano

Now, a reminiscence. In the early eighties I went to an Army recruiting station to enlist. I’d called the recruiter first, and he seemed quite keen for me to come in. When I got to the office, the recruiting sergeant said to a young man who was sitting there being recruited, “Get up and let Mister _____ sit down.” Welcome to the Army, kid. He got up, and I sat down, initially thinking this looked like a pretty sweet deal. On later reflection, I suspected what was done for me today would be done to me tomorrow, and I was right.

Ain’tcha gladger a badger?

Or would you rather be a beautiful tapestry, woven from a diverse collection of fibers?

In children’s books, it’s always a mix of species: A fox, a bat, a hen, two goats, and a talking bulldozer have an adventure. They learn to help each other, or to share, or both.

Why not a lion and a lioness, and a lion, and two lionesses, and another lion? Kind of a family (pardon the archaism) of lions. For example:

The lions and the cranes

The lions went to war with the cranes. Creeping near the edge of the river, the pride crouched in the bushes until the chief lion shook his mane and roared. Then they all leaped into the shallows, roaring ferociously as they charged the unsuspecting cranes. The cranes honked and flew away as the lions splashed through the shallows. “What’s with them?” asked one of the cranes. The oldest crane answered, “Who knows? Mammals are crazy.”

Having driven off the cranes, the lions celebrated their conquest of the river by killing and eating a wildebeest, and then sleeping in the sun all the next day.

Why don’t they write stories like that any more?

If you don’t like talking animals, you could base a whole series of folktales on talking machinery. I’ll start:

How Adding Machine stole the moon

One day Adding Machine said to Skid Loader, “Come and help me gather bolts in the junkyard.” Skid Loader agreed, and by sundown they had a fine assortment of hex-heads, and a few aircraft grade socket-heads too. They gave them all to Paint Locker to keep for the summer outage. During the night, Road Grader came, killed Paint Locker, and stole all the bolts. Finding the bolts gone, Adding Machine stole the moon from Road Grader, and set it up in the sky where Road Grader couldn’t reach it.

And that’s why the moon is in the sky, and not in the tool shed.

Such are the tales of my people.


Virtual private network

It’s been in the news that President Trump is to sign a law rolling back a recent privacy regulation:

“As shocking as this sounds, virtually nothing has changed about the privacy of the average American’s connection to the Internet as a result of this action by Congress, except perhaps a greater awareness that ISP customers don’t really have many privacy protections by default. The FCC rules hadn’t yet gone into effect, and traditional broadband providers successfully made the case to lawmakers that the new rules put them at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis purely Web-based rivals such as Facebook and Google.” — Post-FCC Privacy Rules, Should You VPN?, by Brian Krebs

So people are thinking about using a virtual private network to have more privacy. The linked article is the thing to read about VPNs.

Idiot plot

Not a tale told by an idiot, but a tale told of idiots:

“…an idiot plot is ‘a plot which is kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot’ and where the story would otherwise be over if this were not the case.” — seen at Idiot Plot