How TripCase went all trippy on me

When I travel, I often use an app called TripCase. It usually works like a dream. I just forward my flight and hotel booking confirmation emails to TripCase, and my journey shows up on all my devices. Flight delays and other information is updated in real time.

I’m not looking for New England ..,

On my most recent trip, however, something went awry.

When I sent it my booking confirmations for Cathay Pacific flights CX713, Bangkok to Singapore, and CX712, Singapore to Bangkok, TripCase decided that I was going to New England in the United States.

I have actually been to Augusta, Maine — for Thanksgiving, no less — and I had a wonderful time. But I’m not sure how I could go there twice on successive days starting from different Southeast Asian airports.

Clearing the clutter

My name in Brett and I am a hoarder. I hate to let things go. And at the moment I’m having a minor crisis as I force myself to throw out things I know I’ll never need again but I can’t bear to part with.

To keep or not to keep?

And this is just the start. Once I reduce my possessions in Abu Dhabi to two suitcases and a carry-on bag, I will be back in Australia trying to pare down the accumulations of my entire existence into a manageable amount.

Continue reading Clearing the clutter

Flowering of the desert

The northern winter really is a good time to visit the United Arab Emirates. Few people may think of greenery and flowers when they think about the desert, but — thanks to the hard work of dedicated gardeners — it really does bloom at this time of year.

Here are some pictures I’ve taken in Abu Dhabi over the past few days.

Continue reading Flowering of the desert

It’s a small world after all

Yes, it’s a cliche, but like most cliches, it has a basis in truth. Amazing coincidences occur when you travel.

I’ve run into friends from home on the other side of the world and met people who know people I know, but this is probably the weirdest thing that has happened.

Take a look at this picture:

brettkl

Continue reading It’s a small world after all

The art of packing

I’m heading off on a magical mystery tour. I don’t even know where I’m going yet. But I do know when — on Friday. Which, as I am writing this, is the day after the day after tomorrow.

IMG_7590

I’ve been surfing the web, trying out various options, and expect to decide soon. But there’ll be more of that when I do. Right now, I’m staring at what remains in my suitcase from the last trip I took.

Continue reading The art of packing

Safety first, and always

safety

There’s no better way to make people switch off their attention than to start talking about road safety.

And yet, as long as people continue to die unnecessarily on the roads, it’s one conversation that we really must have.

I wrote this piece for The National in Abu Dhabi a few days ago, and it received a mixed response. Those who commented didn’t necessarily agree on the causes of the high number of fatalities, nor the remedy.

It is worth noting here that the United Arab Emirates has very modern roads and other infrastructure. But is also has an unacceptably high number of road fatalities — at a rate that’s four times higher than the UK, and twice that of Australia.

It is not unusual to see drivers chatting on their mobiles while they weave between lanes without indicating, at speeds much higher than the speed limit — which is, curiously and possibly uniquely, higher than the number on the roadside signs.

Occasionally, but not uncommonly, you’ll see an unrestrained child poking his or her head out of the sun roof while the car proceeds at full speed. And tailgating is so common you’d be forgiven for believing it to be mandaory.

Bad driving continues to be a problem, I argue, because too few people care enough to make the case against it.

As I say in the article, one of my primary school friends died in a car accident. So did one of my high school friends.

We cannot continue to accept this as a “normal” situation. In the UAE, where the situation is dire, some tough decisions about enforcement and education must be made. There and elsewhere, we must all strive to eliminate preventable deaths.

I have a little list

bdnotw

Despite their apparent omnipresence on the interwebs, listicles are not a new thing. When I first went to work in the UK, every mid- and downmarket tabloid newspaper was running daily items such as “15 things you didn’t know about Jimmy Saville” (although they missed out the really important one).

I don’t think they were called listicles then, but they were a staple of journalism because the editors knew that the readers liked them. Oh, and they were (and are) very easy and cheap to compile (except that the researchers had to used the newspaper’s clippings library to find their facts rather than Google).

If only they’d have devised a way of making people buy more than one copy of the paper to find out the next fun fact, which is essentially what websites do know by requiring you to click through to the next page for another meaty morsel.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what kind of clickbait headings I might use if I lowered myself to the level of running regular little lists.

Here are some off the top of my head:

Ten celebrities you don’t give a damn about any more

Twenty foods that will make you even fatter

Seven sex positions that will send you straight to hospital

Thirty-five excuses for not going straight home tonight

Eighteen people you wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire

Eleven countries you never knew existed — and one that doesn’t any more

Three things you’ll have forgotten by this time tomorrow

Fourteen places you may have left your car keys

Six billion people who don’t even know you exist

 

 

Sticks and stones

We all face criticism in life. The healthiest thing to do, of course, is to brush it off. But sometimes it gets a bit too much.

I’m thinking about a situation about four years ago when a television program dedicated 12 minutes of its one-hour running time in an attempt to eviscerate me over a few tweets I’d exchanged with the show’s host.

All is fair, I thought, until a young woman co-host, who I’d never met, started making comments about what my reaction might be to seeing her on the screen. I won’t repeat what was said, but it was highly defamatory.

I was encouraged to take legal action, but I didn’t because I knew that to do so would only draw attention to a show on a community station that had a very small audience. Better to do nothing than to give publicity to somebody who didn’t deserve it.

I was reminded of this tonight while reading some comments on a Facebook post linking to this piece I wrote about the shrinking size of airline seats. (Please read it and let me know what you think.)

Here’s the comment:

Facebook comment
Facebook comment

Now, I don’t know who Ian Staples is, and I really can’t complain about being called a “fatty singleton” in any jurisdiction where truth alone is a defence against libel.

But I do buckle at being called a “moron” by somebody who makes a plural by using an apostrophe.

 

 

Lucky to be alive

If I’d been born 200 years ago, I’d be dead by now. Before you say, or think, “Well, der, obviously …”, by “by now” I don’t mean the year 2015, I mean the age I am now, which is 54.

In fact, it was only 100 years ago, in 1915, that 54 was about the average life expectancy at birth for a human male. If we account for the fact that most deaths occur in the first few years of life, if I’d already made it to 20 in 1915 (and I didn’t subsequently get killed in the Great War), I’d probably still have only made it to 60. (Of course, your life expectancy increases the older you get, because it’s only an average. This interactive map for the US will provide you with some more fun facts.)

In my case, however, my undoing might have been as simple as the broken ankle I sustained in my mid-twenties. If I had been born before modern medical health care was available, nearby and affordable — and I’d sustained the same injury I did that night I was dancing with Sid Vicious* — I’d at least have spent the rest of my life walking with a pronounced limp. Depending on the time and place of my birth, and the prevailing cultur, that is If, say, I’d been a member of a hunter-gatherer tribe, I’d probably have been left to die.

What I’m getting around to is the fact that I’m feeling lucky to be alive, and especially so because that’s purely due to an accident of birth. (There, two cliches in one sentence, beat that Will Shakespeare.) Being born at the time I was and into a family with reasonably robust DNA — I had a great grandmother who lived past 100 (although her daughter died in her 50s) — has served me well. As have the facts that I had the proper childhood vaccinations, I’ve not been being killed in an accident and I haven’t had to serve in the military at a time of war.

Not only are we living longer, we are also, in general, much healthier — physically and psychologically. My mother, who is very active in her 80s,  noted that her grandparents “behaved old” when they were in their 50s. Attitude — your own and the way others see you — counts for a lot, too.

As far as work goes, I have plenty more in me. The Australian government expects me to keep going until I’m 67 — although there’s every reason to be believe that by the time I get there, the official retirement age will be even older. I will certainly be up for it, if it’s the kind of work I’m doing now.  From my point of view, I am as good as,  or better than,  I have ever bee; certainly have more skills than I did when I was 20 — because I need, and like, to keep up with new technology –and I have greater experience and knowledge, while retaining the same mental dexterity and passion for what I do. Physically, I won’t be running a four-minute mile, but then I never did.

In many ways, I’m living in the best of times. I have no idea what’s around the corner, but as long as it’s not a speeding bus with my name on it, I don’t really care. Or even if it is, I’ll at least know that things were pretty good, most of the time. As a friend, who just had two unanticipated career changes in a matter of months, has become fond of saying, onwards and upwards!

 

*Not the actual Sid Vicious, but the very talented writer, director and actor David Brown, who was playing Sid in a show of his own creation.

Should I cool it or should I blow?

 

I posted the following on Facebook the other day:

Does anybody else recognise that stage where you fall out of love — not with a person, but with a place or a situation? That thing when things you’ve accepted for years suddenly make you very annoyed? Example: I’m at the supermarket and before I’ve stowed all my groceries in bags and moved away, the cashier starts sending down the next person’s stuff.

Of course, this is not about shopping, as frustrating as that experience may be. It’s about making a Big Life Decision.

I’ve made quite a few of those in my time. Some of them have been beautifully executed, and have reaped wonderful rewards. Some weren’t so good. All of them involved leaving behind something that was familiar, but less than perfect (or even downright aggravating and/or depressing), and plunging into the unknown.

I’m not one for jumping out of planes or walking tightropes, but I do think it’s sometimes a good idea to frighten yourself to see what’s possible.

More on this later.

BTW: The headline is a reference to a song by The Clash.

 

A few thoughts

I’ve been browsing through my old debritz.net blog and found a few one-liners* that, I think, are worth revisiting. They date back to 2008,when I was living in Glasgow:

According to a Facebook application, I was Pablo Picasso in a previous life. It’s very flattering, but impossible. I was 12 when Picasso died.

What Australians call a “deposit slip” is called a “paying-in slip”  at my UK bank. For once, I prefer Australian English.

On the subject of tackling climate change … would it be possible to to harness all the energy currently used to delete spam emails to power the internet?

Research shows that the British – and especially the Scottish – are the world’s most sexually active people. As one comment on the Russian-language web forum tut.by says, it’s because the Scots don’t have to waste time taking their trousers off.

When is “free” not free? When it’s a discount airline ticket. My fare from Glasgow to Frankfurt with Ryanair was advertised at 0.00 pounds. But when taxes, baggage fees, insurance and other costs were added, the bill totalled 47.20 pounds. Still cheap, but more than I expected.

I’ve just encountered the worst busker I’ve ever heard, outside Woolworths in Glasgow’s Argyle Street. If I were the manager, I’d give her money to go and sing outside Argos. (Not long after I originally posted that one, Woolworths closed down. The really should have listened to me.)

A grownup – possibly a teacher or assisting parent – was leading some children through the White Tower at the Tower of London today. As we were all descending a narrow staircase, I heard her tell them that Sleeping Beauty was at rest in the tower waiting for her prince to come. “Hold on,” said one of the kids. “Isn’t that just a fairy tale?”
PS: I don’t understand why the woman even attempted to lie, because the truth about this historic site is a great yarn in itself.

Warning on a tin of Marks and Spencer peanuts: “May contain traces of other nuts.”

* May contain more than one line.