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5 February, 2010
And hello from, today, London.
one says 'the best thing about my trip were the long international
flights' you know they must have had a very bad time at
their destination. This is the most awful visit to Britain I've had
in decades, with the only highlight being truly excellent flights on Delta
(review of Delta's astonishingly good Business/Elite service to follow
Things are so unbearable I'm
cutting my journey short and returning today (Friday) after less than 48
hrs in London. For this
decision I primarily blame my Dell laptop, but I'd like to share the blame
generously with the Hilton London Kensington too.
My laptop has a problem - it disconnects
from the internet randomly, with internet programs freezing when that
occurs. Dell is now telling me it might be a motherboard
issue; my guess is it is a Windows 7 incompatibility, but they're the
experts so I'll let them figure it out. I had suggested this to
them, but they said they would charge me money to troubleshoot any
Windows 7 related issues (even though their website claims my laptop to
be fully Windows 7 compatible), but they'd happily replace hardware for
The logic of this - phone support that costs
them little, compared to paying to courier me overnight a shipping box,
then paying to courier my laptop to their repair depot, then paying to
replace the motherboard, then paying to courier it back to me - is
nonintuitive, but, as I said, they're the experts. I hope.
As an interesting aside, I saw something on
one of these crashes that I haven't seen for a while, something I thought had
finally been obsoleted and which no longer occurred. It was a 'Blue Screen of
Death' - the sudden plain blue screen with large white type spewing out
an inscrutable error message and lots of hexadecimal, while the entire computer and OS crashes.
Clearly while Windows 7 might be better in some respects than its
predecessors, there are
other areas where it still needs improvement.
I've had an awfully frustrating and
costly time making international calls to Dell USA and also local calls
to Dell UK - interestingly, it seems that wherever I call, I usually end
up speaking to someone in India. Strangely, the people in India I reach
when routed through their UK number tell me they can't do anything on
behalf of the US people, even though my guess is that the 'US' people
are probably in the next room over in the same call center and they all
share the same common databases.
Most impactful was having one of my data files
damaged in one of these crashes and I can't complete its repair prior to the
computer crashing again (and again). Plus with getting something
like 5 minutes productive work out of every 20, and working on writing
that requires more than 5 minute attention spans, I'm totally dead in
Recommendation : Try not to have problems
with your computer when you're traveling. But how to do this? Try never to travel with a new laptop that
isn't 'battle hardened'. Learn the idiosyncrasies of any new
hardware or new software (the learning curve associated with Windows 7
is worse than I'd thought) before leaving home, not when on the road.
In other words, do as I say, not as I do!
The second challenge is with my hotel room at the Hilton
Kensington (in London). It is too hot. Currently the in-room
thermostat shows it to be a steamy 78 degrees, even though I've got the
window open as far as it will go and a cacophony of street noise from
the busy main road immediately outside is filling the room with
objectionable sounds and sirens, etc. It is 9.20 at night, it is cold outside, but
the temperature in my room has been steadily creeping up from 73 when I
returned to the hotel room at about 4pm. The Hilton refuses to
turn on their air conditioning (cooling). (Update at 7.30am -
still 78 in the room.)
On the first day's stay, it took six hours
of prevarication and outright lying before the staff grudgingly agreed
to turn the cooling on for a mere 30 minutes.
On the second day,
we started to go through the same charades of promises broken,
undertakings not honored, contradictory explanations, and requests for me to wait while mysterious
things were allegedly done. But eventually, I was bluntly told by the Duty
Manager that they would not turn the cooling on because it would cost
the hotel too much money to do so.
I pointed out that the hotel promotes itself as having a/c in its
rooms, to which he replied 'I'm sorry, but it is out of my hands'.
I asked him who was the person who could authorize the turning on of the
cooling, and he said that he was the only person that could do so, but
it was out of his hands and he would not. He offered to move me to
a new room, but when I pointed out the same problem would occur in any
room until such time as he agreed to turn on the cooling, his only other
responses were to bring a fan to the room (to recirculate hot air?) or
to send a bottle of chilled water to the room so I wouldn't dehydrate!
A new approach to 4 star hotel management.
They'll take their guests' money, but provide nothing in return if it
costs them money? Well, it is true that I'm staying there on a
very low Priceline rate, but it is unacceptable they've now decided
to allow their guests to swelter and sweat rather than to turn the
cooling on. If nothing else, if they're so cost sensitive, surely
it is costing the hotel substantial extra money to unnecessarily heat
rooms all the way up to 78 degrees?
Bottom line - I'm beat, in all respects of
the word. Not only can I not get a newsletter or feature article
to you this week, but if I were to stay, I clearly couldn't get you one
next week either. So, I'm rushing back home on Friday, five days earlier than
Two things to leave with you, one good and
one bad (you can decide which is which). First,
our Scotland tour
continues to gain new participants, meaning the price per person
continues to drop. Assuming no cancellations, it looks like we
have 17 people joining us, so this great tour gets
better and better in all respects. Please do let me know if you
wish to come too. I keep going back to the hotels asking for more
rooms, and soon there'll be none left to get!
Secondly, we've already had the shoe bomber
and now the crotch bomber. We've discussed in humorous detail
other possible hiding places for liquid or powder explosives, and it now
seems possible that our most extreme jokes (or should I say our most
extreme nightmares) may be coming true.
about bosom bombers and buttocks bombers - people with their
explosives being surgically implanted inside them, not left dangling
outside. The explosives would probably be activated by injecting
the activating chemical into the bags of explosive implanted inside the
Needless to say, such explosives are 100%
undetectable by any current method or by any method in present
development. Puffer/sniffer machines? No way. Metal
detectors? Nope. Whole body imagers? 'Fraid not.
Pat down searches? Don't think so (unless they take on a major new
dimension of intimacy). Visual inspection for surgical scars?
These days, the scars can be cunningly concealed, and anyway, is the
presence of surgical scars (and possibly the presence of augmentation
procedures) going to mean that any person so discovered is not allowed
The only possible saving grace is that an
internal bomb would have a fair measure of its explosive force absorbed
by the person's body - somewhat like a soldier who throws themselves on
top of an about-to-explode grenade to protect his fellow platoon
members. But, for sure, I don't want to be on any plane when such
a person goes into the restroom, presses their backside or frontside
hard up against the plane fuselage and injects themselves with the
activating solution. Would such an act blow a hole in the fuselage
and emperil the plane? My guess is yes.
Lastly, it seems that almost
everyone (including me) has seen fit to offer their comments on the
iPad. And now we can
also enjoy the wisdom and thoughts of Adolf Hitler about the iPad,
extremely amusing dubbed video.
In case you're unaware of this bit of
internet/Youtube trivia, there is an active cult of people who have
taken this particular film clip and overdubbed it with commentary on
anything and everything imaginable. I'm thinking I might come up
with a couple of dubs so we can enjoy Hitler's thoughts on Dell and
Until next week and the resumption of normal
newsletters, please enjoy safe travels