CategoriesTravelUncategorized

Airport Needs to Cut Specialty Lines, Improve Signs

Southwest Airlines, 737-700
All I want is a clear path through security and a seat on my flight with as little fuss as possible.

During a recent flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, I had a reminder that the security screening processes are concocted by people who are disconnected from reality.

It was actually a fairly light morning at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 4 as I was headed toward the checkpoint. I made sure I didn’t accidentally slip into the first class line and made my way to the agent. Her first words?

“Next time, make sure you don’t use the medical and family line.”

I told her I didn’t notice the sign.

“It’s there,” she said rather shortly.

I looked back again. All I remember is NOT seeing a sign for the first class line. But I also know that arguing with a surly TSA agent is not the way to get to a gate on time.

What I did was file the tidbit away for further reflection. And here are my conclusions:

1. There are too many specific lines that are too underused. There was not a single body in the first class line. There was not a single body in the alleged “medical and family” line. If nobody is there, why bother with them? It seems like a lot of effort for a tiny portion of the passengers. And why should TSA cater to airline customers? It’s not like you get frequent flier mileage for passing through TSA checkpoints.

2. When I’m headed toward a security checkpoint, I am driven for efficiency. That’s so I don’t hold up the line and consequently other people (who might be later getting to the airport than I usually am). I have my boarding pass and driver’s license in hand. Even though I thinks it’s a ridiculous mockery of true security, I’m unlacing my shoes to take them off already. I’m ready to clear the items in my pockets.

That’s where I focus my attention. If the airport has a bunch of lines for first class customers, medical and family, people with gluten allergies, passengers who prefer pot-bellied pigs to dogs and customers who drive hybrid cars … make clear, concise signs in large typeface. I am too busy trying to pass my way through the intestinal tract that is a TSA security line to notice tiny, poorly written signs. Make them big and make them concise, or don’t bother.

Better yet, test the signs out using real-world travelers – a nice mix of leisure and business fliers. If you have suits making these decision, they won’t be under the stress of getting to a gate on-time or the prospect of holding up a bunch of their fellow fliers.

CategoriesGear

Lessons Learned from 2 Years with a Pentax Digital Camera

This is what you can do with a Pentax DSLR.

Just before my trip to New Zealand (which was so awesome that I still can’t shut up about it two years later), I got a Pentax K-100 Super camera. It was my first digital SLR, and I learned tons from toting it on my misadventures.

And it’s given me some insight about the new entry-level Pentax, the K-x. Here’s my in-depth look at my camera and what it’s taught me to expect from the K-x.

CategoriesFitnessUncategorized

Returning to the Daylight at McDowell

McDowell Mountains, Coachwhip, Pemberton, Bluff, Dixie Min
Nice trails, awesome views

It’s been awhile since I’ve started and finished a mountain bike ride in daylight. With the brutal summer weather, I’ve spent the past few months starting in twilight and ending well after dark.

I came back to the day side Sunday – but only after watching a rather head-scratching car accident on my way to the trail (I suspect driving while texting was at fault).

Like a big dummy, I also left my two frosty, frozen bottles of live-giving Cytomax (perfect for our still-toasty temperatures, a late morning start and a long haul) home in the freezer. I didn’t want to ride without electrolytes, so I stopped at Slippery Pig Bike Shop Too. Doug hooked me up with some bottles, some of those new-fangled Alka-Seltzerish electrolyte tabs and cool water.

I put it in about 30 miles on the Pemberton, Dixie Mine, Bluff and Coachwhip (which is a trail named for a snake named after a coach whip) trails. I took down a pair of Clif shots and a Primal Strips vegan jerky bar (saltiness) in addition to my fluids. I think that wasn’t quite enough – I felt pretty worked for the rest of the day.

Pemberton GPS track
GPS track from an earlier Pemberton/Dixie Mine/Windmill ride. This does't show the most recent route that included bits of the Bluff and Granite trails.

The cool thing about riding in the day again is being able to see everything. I can carry my speed more confidently since every potential obstacle is in plain view. Things can hide on you at night … the circle of light from my handlebar and helmet lamps can’t show me everything. That makes things a bit more fun. I don’t think the county parks hold their organized nightrides until summer returns, so I won’t get my favorite fix of night riding for several months.

I noticed that most people out Sunday on the Pemberton were riding counterclockwise. Not my favorite way to handle it – the far north side is a long bit of false flat through some fairly sandy conditions. No thanks! I might go up the Bluff Trail and then take the rest of it counterclockwise. That could be fun. I also need to take the Windmill Trail further. Last time I rode it, it was pretty rocky and raw without much flow to it. But it might be worth another look.

CategoriesUncategorized

Phoenix Councilman Supplies Info About Residents to Special-Interest Group

Sal DiCiccio, a member of the Phoenix city council, has convinced me of something – that he’s funnelling information about residents to an outside organization to further his political agenda. Here’s how he did it:

Back in August, something strange popped into my e-mail box: a newsletter from Councilman DiCiccio.

I never signed up for it. I don’t even live in his district. I chalked it up as an anomaly until I got a newsletter from nofee2hikeaz.com a few days later. I also didn’t sign up for its newsletter.

DiCiccio and nofee2hikeaz.com, it turns out, have a common goal – opposing the Phoenix Park Board plan to charge for parking at less than 20 percent of the city’s trailheads.

City Staff Members Look Into E-Mail Mystery

On Sept. 8, I decided to ask city officials about what was happening: I contacted David Urbinato, parks department spokesman. He passed my e-mail to Toni Maccarone, the city’s spokeswoman. Here’s what she wrote to me:

" -- we did quite a bit of research, and the answer that we came up with is what we thought.  We do not share our city news list with anyone.  We’re sorry, but we are not sure how you got on these other lists. When I asked Councilman DiCiccio’s Chief of Staff Hal DeKeyser about it, he said that you may have been added to the Councilman’s list in a number of different ways because they have a separate, outside list that they maintain, and they add people’s e-mails from a variety of different sources."

Maccarone suggested I talk to DeKeyser. I know him – he is a former Scottsdale Tribune editor. I joined the paper as a reporter just after DeKeyser was effectively exiled to the then even-more-bustling (if you count retirees in golf carts as bustling) West Valley. There, he served as publisher of a flock of chicken-dinner publications like the West Valley View.

I decided to let things unfold a bit before talking to him.

I’m pretty sure DiCiccio had access to my information since I signed up for the phoenixnews e-newsletter. I registered using a personal address, not the one posted here at WanderingJustin.com.

Slip-Up Reveals the Connection

On Sept. 17, I got the break I hoped for: I received a newsletter from both DiCiccio and nofee2hikeaz.com – and the content was exactly the same: every subject line, every sentence, every idea. Identical.

To me, this is a major sign – likely outright proof – that Diciccio or someone working for him provided my e-mail information to nofee2hikeaz.com.

Both parties were stupid, arrogant or a radioactive combination of both.

Local Media is Watching

A reporter at The Arizona Republic also confirmed that the paper is curious about ties between DiCiccio and nofee2hikeaz.com. The reporter said interview requests for the website were not answered – and that DeKeyser denied any ties to the organization. Someone is lying. And the reporter has no motive.

Since the curiously similar e-mail blasts, I’ve continued getting DiCiccio’s Glenn Beck-ish squawking for the entertainment value. In his alternate reality, he is the only guy looking out for the little people of the impovershed Arcadia and Ahwatukee neighborhoods (someone has to make sure families there can afford the payments on their fleet of SUVs). In that alternate reality, it’s also OK to sign people up for e-mail lists against their will and to funnel their information to outside organizations that are not accountable or even willing to be interviewed by media.

It doesn’t seem the city has a policy governing how it handles residents’ e-mail addresses. So DiCiccio will probably escape censure from city officials. But I’m hoping he’ll answer for this and every other act of ethical dyslexia at the ballot box.

So what do you think? Does it look like DiCiccio or one of his staff members provided e-mail to addresses to nofee2hikeaz.com? If so, do you find that dirty pool?

CategoriesUncategorized

3 Bizarre Buildings Still Stand Tall in Phoenix

Capstone Cathedral Phoenix
The Capstone Cathedral is one of the most odd and distinct buildings in the Phoenix area.

3 Bizarre Buildings in Phoenix, Ariz
Despite its short history, the Phoenix metro area has amassed some unusual architecture. Here are three of the best-known odd buildings you’ll find in the Valley of the Sun.
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