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16 December, 2005 

Good morning

Please don't tell me to get a Mac - it isn't going to happen.  But.... it has done it again.  Yes <sigh> another Microsoft Frontpage crash, shortly after 11pm on Thursday night, caused almost the entire newsletter to be totally lost without trace.  Microsoft does not have an auto-save function in Frontpage (it does in all the other Office programs) and so, on occasions like this, if I haven't been saving religiously all the way through, I can lose a huge amount of work.

This is terribly disheartening.  I am proud of reliably and regularly sending out quality newsletters every week, but when I lose an entire newsletter at 11pm, what can I do?  I am completely reliant on Frontpage to maintain my website and newsletter, but it is proving to be a totally unreliable tool (which makes me think of my Landrover, too...).

If anyone can suggest better newsletter creation software (running in Windows, not on a Mac, please), I'd love to know.

So here's what there was of this week's newsletter when it was last saved, earlier on Thursday.

The Christmas countdown is reaching its final week and final frenzy.  Soon it will be safe to go back to the malls without the crush of cars outside and crowds inside.  For me, all I can say is thank goodness for internet shopping.  With one exception, all my Christmas gifts this year (well, in truth, I didn't buy many!) have been purchased over the internet.

Which leads to this week's article (which happily was saved earlier in the day).  The book review last week was very popular, and so I've squeezed in a review of one more book you might want to buy for yourself or someone else for this week.  Best of all, no need to make another shopping trip to pick up a copy - to paraphrase a slogan, let your fingers do the walking..... it is available on Amazon.

This Week's Feature Column :  Ask the Pilot book review :  Written by a currently furloughed airline pilot, this is an interesting and easily readable book that mixes some interesting facts with some interesting stories and opinions.  A good read for your next flight, perhaps?

Continuing spam nonsense :  I wrote last week about how an inoffensive word in the previous week's newsletter caused some email servers to reject the newsletter.  And now, last week's newsletter suffered a similar fate.  It was fairly lengthy - 4300 words.  A single one of them - the name of a German dictator beginning with the letter H - was enough to trip the spam filters at some companies.

Let's understand exactly what the problem is here.  The problem is not the spam filters per se.  The problem is the idiots who mismanage them.  There is very clever and discriminatory spam detection technology out there, especially the Bayesian filtering which looks at a total email, and balances the number of 'good' words with the number of 'bad' words to end up with an overall probability of spam.  But setting a zero tolerance policy, so that one word, variously either innocuous (as was the case the week before last) or still far from 'dangerous' (as was the case last week) in an email message of thousands of words is enough to cause the entire email to be rejected is just plain stupid.

Shame on the companies that allow such stupidity to run unchecked on their email servers.

Continuing car nonsense :  The saga of my Landrover getting stuck in the snow, and the refusal of their Roadside Assistance people to help me, has now apparently been shared with both the CEO of Landrover in the US and the Managing Director of Landrover in the UK.  The net result?  Well, I turned down the offer of a free dinner from the Roadside Assistance people, but being lazy, accepted the offer of some free carwashes, detailings, and a discount on spare parts from Landrover.

It was a struggle not to laugh out loud upon being told of this offer.  A discount on spare parts isn't very useful with the vehicle still in warranty, and the car washes (provided free at present for each of the vehicle's not infrequent visits to the dealership anyway) and detailings are unexciting.  Why not be pro-active and try and re-affirm my relationship with the company by offering a discount on another Landrover?

Meantime, the lies and lunacy offered in justification for the non-assistance continue.  The Roadside Assistance (RA) people have now conceded that the 'local' Fire Service they telephoned, and who told them they wouldn't provide service to my location due to it being too far away, was telling the truth, but the reason the Fire Service wouldn't provide service and said I was too far away was due to RA calling a Fire Service location that was 25 miles north of where my house is.  My house is on the south side of Leavenworth, this Fire Service location was 25 miles to the north.

The suggestion that RA spent 2.5 hours trying to solve my problem has now been expanded to a claim they spent 3 hours trying to solve my problem - I am expected to believe that, after they told both me and the local Landrover franchise's General Manager they couldn't/wouldn't help any further; they then continued for several hours, trying to do something more on their own without telling anyone (and without any results).

And the lie about the tow operator (who I called the next day) allegedly not answering his phone when they called him the previous night has now been amended to 'somehow their system messed up and his name/number didn't appear in their computer', so it now seems they never called him at all.

This lengthening litany of lies from the RA people leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  A Landrover person told me they're conducting their own internal investigation, but why is it taking two weeks so far for this investigation into a simple and self-evident problem to proceed?

Here are some short bits from my saved notes that I'd used to build much of the rest of the 'real' newsletter.  You'll have to do without my repartee and fillers.

Special limited offer - buy a set of Plane Quiet Solitude Noise Reducing Headphones ($200) and get a free First Class Sleeper ($39) as well.  Use the 'travelinsider' discount code (without the quotes) for an extra 5% discount.  First Class Sleeper really works, see preceding link for review.

Huge win for Boeing - Qantas placed an up to $24 billion order for up to 115 787s.

US airlines to lose billions in 2005 and 2006, rest of world to make a profit.

Its not just the unsecured creditors objecting to United's plans to reward top executives with stock when the airline exits bankruptcy.  The IAM and the Association of Flight Attendants have also filed their objections.  The IAM called the stock plan "grotesque" and the flight attendants asked the judge to reject the reorganization plan unless the stock plan is scrapped.

A bankruptcy court lawyer said giving top management stock in a bankruptcy is typical but United's plan is generous.  Typically a management stake is 5% to 10% but United's is 15% of a very large company and is outside the norm.   A hearing has been scheduled for January 18.

American Eagle will test charging coach passengers $1 for a 12 ounce soft drink starting next month on all flights in and out of Los Angeles.  If the test is successful American Airlines could adopt it fleet wide.

Virgin America has been awarded $10 million from the state of California to help train pilots, flight attendants and other employees.    So far the airline has not hired any workers other than management.   The money comes from the California Labor and Workforce development's Employment Training Panel which is funded by the Employment Training Tax paid by California employers.

Virgin Galactic plans are progressing and lots of people have already signed up for the short rides into space.  Maybe Sir Richard will be able to finance this out of the revenue from present sales of the future rides.

In the past, Pan Am (remember them....) had also sold tickets for future space flights - I bet those tickets aren't worth much now.

Independence Air getting smaller and smaller :  Independence Air, also known as FlyI, continued to trim its sails by announcing the elimination of service to four more cities effective Jan. 5.  Chicago, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Manchester (N.H.) will be dropped and frequencies will be reduced in most of their other markets.

A year ago, FlyI operated up to 600 daily flights. It now operates 210, which will be cut back to 170 in January.

The deadline for bids on the bankrupt airline is today (16th).  Depending on the outcome, their January flights might even reduce down to 0.

Northwest wins 'Scrooge 2005 award' by demanding that people flying on discounted bereavement and compassionate fares sign up for their WorldPerks frequent flier program before being allowed the discounted fares.  Just the thing you want when a family member is dying/dead - to have to join an airline frequent flier program!

Hilton has announced that eCheck-in is now available to guests who are Gold and Diamond VIP members of the Hilton HHonors award program.  Members can check-in on the web up to 36 hours and within at least two hours of their arrival.   The process takes about two minutes so all a guest has to do is collect the room key upon arrival.  The service will be available at more than 2,300 properties including Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton.

Self destructing text messages, voicemail, and email.

Cell phone usage in cars is increasing (this is news?).

30 people gone missing on cruise ships in the last five years (as reported to the FBI).  Congress to intervene.

More on mysterious disappearances.

This Week's Security Horror Story

80,000 names on the TSA watch and no-fly lists?  Including babies, too.

Differences - or similarities - between Japanese and western women/brides (what a strange thing to survey).  (And even stranger for me to report on....)

Air rage?  Or, perhaps, air passion!

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels.

              David M Rowell aka The Travel Insider

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