Happy 2015

Since the blog is (nominally) still open, it’s time for that annual post in which I wish those who still occasionally drop by a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

2014 was mostly a good year. There were new challenges and evolving (but welcome) responsibilities at work, and that created some stress at times, but it also taught me a lot about how to deal with people, work towards common goals, and to lead by example (and that sometimes means jumping into stuff that nobody else wants to do, or that some feel is beneath them); I’m also working with a great bunch of people in the new group I’m helping to lead, and that’s really nice! Some opportunities outside work emerged, and that’s also led to some new collaborative relationships that I have grown to value. And we’ve had a good year of quality time with family and friends (with a few turds finding their way into the mix, unfortunately—but it’s also been a learning experience of refusing to get caught up in the negative, and trying to focus on the positive, because time is scarce, and negativity just wastes it). Our family time has been especially rewarding this year.

We were happy to conclude 2014 with another huge Christmas celebration at the house (I think we topped 20 friends and family members this year – I lost count). We also hosted friends and family for any number of other events, and created some good memories. All good! And despite her health issues, Kiwi keeps plugging away, and Jefe continues to provide nearly nonstop entertainment.

Outside of Houston, we pulled off another successful Float Trip (another of our gatherings of friends/family that just keeps growing), a Ouachitas cabin outing with friends, and a few trips to Okiehoma to see friends and family. And I logged around 75,000 miles of butt-in-seat airline miles – the travel game is still on with United/Star Alliance for next year, even though it is evolving. 2015 looks to be Asia-heavy, with new Asian carriers continuing to move in to Houston and United trying to maintain their market share there. So we look to be seeing some new places this year!

I found myself in the hospital in early December, as olecranon bursitis of unknown origin (no injury that I recall) went septic, requiring IV antibiotics. That was inconvenient, to say the least, and fairly serious (to say more). That unplanned stay of three nights cancelled a planned trip to Israel (postponed three times now), but the folks at Memorial Hermann Memorial City took great care of me, for which I’m very thankful.

We lost my friend Scott Chaffin early in 2014. I miss him. And I’m sad that he couldn’t see our Cowboys play their best December in forever at the end of 2014, and for Tony Romo to play one of the best Decembers any NFL quarterback has ever played (TFG never hesitated to remind me Romo was worthless every time I halfway got excited about his potential way back when, and I can imagine TFG telling me not to get my hopes up about the playoffs). I really miss him.

So, on to the usual disclaimers — I rather doubt blogging will be all that much heavier here than it was last year, thanks to work, play, travel, and real-life interaction with friends/family. And yeah, sometimes it’s just a lot easier to post to twitter or facebook (plus blogHOUSTON is an animal that likes to be fed from time to time). But here’s hoping that if you’ve made it this far through the post, we manage to have some meaningful interaction in the near future.

Here’s to a super 2015!

United: The gang that can’t shoot straight

To say that Jeff Smisek’s tenure as CEO of the combined United/Continental airlines has been dismal is probably something of an understatement at this point. In so many ways, he’s taken two airlines that were better separately and made the combined entity worse. Much worse.

So the reporting of ongoing failures is hardly surprising. But in some ways, this tweet from @United sort of summed up the current degree of FAIL at the airline:

UnitedCLE

United Twitter promotion gets a couple of things wrong

So, there are a couple of problems here.

1) Note the team logo. That’s not the logo of the “home team” — that’s the logo of the Washington Nationals. There IS a United hub in Washington, but that’s not what this tweet was supposed to be about.

2) Cleveland was a Continental hub, but was the perfect candidate for the chopping block when the merger was announced, and is in the process of being de-hubbed. So people there are probably not that enthusiastic about the “home team” airline that can’t even get the team’s logo right.

Some nights, one just is not meant to get to Tulsa

Several weeks ago, I had a flight to Tulsa cancel on me about an hour before departure, due to an odd combination of weather and runway construction at the Tulsa airport.

I tried to get on a later flight (full, unfortunately), and ultimately wound up not going (flights with available seats the next day would not have gotten me to the funeral I wanted to get to).

Interestingly, the flight I tried to get on later that night wound up going out late, then diverting overnight to DFW (nearly two hours after leaving IAH). I suspect this was also due to weather conditions at Tulsa and the runway contruction project, although it could also have been for mechanical reasons. Here are a couple of screenshots I grabbed from tracking that flight:

Screenshot_2014-02-01-12-50-58 Screenshot_2014-02-01-12-53-31

What is interesting about this is that apparently the next day’s DFW-TUL flight was created as a bookable flight on United.com. As I was playing around with the United website, that DFW-TUL flight was coming up as a flight I could purchase, and as a flight I could redeem award miles for. Ultimately, it wound up going out too late the next day for me to have made the funeral, but that was once looking like an interesting option had I been able to get myself to DFW early in the day (until its departure time slipped).

Regardless, I found it interesting that the continuation (DFW-TUL) turned out to be bookable.

Scott Chaffin, RIP

News came today that my friend Scott Chaffin had passed, another victim of that damn lung cancer.

Scott Chaffin (photo courtesy of a Facebook friend of his)

Scott Chaffin (photo courtesy of a FB friend of his)

Like a bunch of people, I first ran across Scott via his awesome blog, The Fat Guy.

We became real-life friends in not much time at all. Scott was one of those guys who managed to cheer up everything and everyone when he turned up, and despite being the guy responsible for that, making YOU feel like the most important person in the room.

More than that, he was just a character, in the best sense of the word — and a well-read, fellow Cowboys fan with a great ear for Texas music and a love of tech geekery.

I have no idea why he took such a liking to me, but like so many of his friends, I was much the better for it. I am really going to miss him.

Confusion about who is paying the bills

Various media in Houston report that the Houston Housing Authority has implemented a new smoke-free policy in the public housing it oversees.

At least one resident of the public housing is upset (and a little confused):

“That’s not good, that’s not good at all,” said Georgiane Daniels. “You have lost your freedom. You pay the bills you should be able to do what you want.”

Umm, yes, but when someone else helps pay the bills for the public housing, then sometimes that generosity comes with strings.

A strange “gotcha” from Mitchell Schnurman

This is a strange twitter “gotcha” from Mitchell Schnurman, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News:

Of course, Obamacare represents interference with markets, large government (not small), and patronage (the “Navigator” program is not subject to much in the way of oversight, or even much in the way of minimal qualifications for the job — in other words, it’s a great way to provide jobs to those who support the President and his party, Chicago-machine-style).

Texas conservatives looking to provide SOME guidance as to what qualifications/training a “navigator” should possess have not exactly become anti-market, big-government zealots — and Schnurman’s insinuation that they are being hypocritical or contradictory is just silly.

Of course, Schnurman has a history of being silly (perhaps even biased) when it comes to politics (scroll down to “Houston is role model for pensions” — the column is no longer available, but it was intended as a boost to Bill White way back when). Maybe Schnurman should stick to business.