Saturday, May 28, 2011

Delta, you idiot

I'm going to try to keep this one short. On the way back from Rome last Wednesday, Delta flew us back from CDG to PHL on a 757. A seven-fifty-seven! It might as well have been a 737. I have to say, it was one of the most cramped, uncomfortable flights I've ever been on. You could tell the flight attendants didn't like it either. Serving eight hours worth of food and snacks to all those passengers on a narrow body jet must have been painful.

Delta, I'm sure your accountants thought this was a good idea, but single aisle airplanes have no business crossing the Atlantic. Your passengers don't appreciate it and your employees don't appreciate it. Stick to wide body, two aisle jets like the 767, 777, and eventually the 787. Meanwhile, try moving your accountants' offices to the coach section of a decommissioned 757, then see what bright ideas they start coming up with.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Suburban Airport

Ok, just got back from Rome. The pictures aren't even copied off of the cards yet, so in the mean time, I thought I'd post this article which I meant to post just before I left...



I came across this rustic airfield one evening in early March. It was completely open, without even a fence separating it from the road. TSA would probably have you believe it's a hotbed of terrorist activity, but for a photographer, it's a gold mine. There was only one other car in the lot, and not a soul in sight, so I started wandering around the shacks hangers. I found an old roll of Provia 400F in my bag, so I popped it in the Xpan along with an 81A filter to warm things up (Provia tends to be rather frigid).

After a few shots, a gentleman came out of the "terminal" and started watching me, so I walked over. I told him I saw this place from the road and just had to stop and take a few pictures, if that was ok. He said it was fine, and to be mindful of my surroundings since they occasionally get "B landings." I assume this meant pilots sometimes use this runway as a backup in case they can't land at their intended runway. Please correct me if I'm wrong though.

As I took more pictures, the sleepy winter soul of this place started to show itself. Ten frames later I felt like I'd captured just enough, and left a little for next time. The sun had set, and it was getting cold. Time to go home.




Sunday, May 8, 2011

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art is a work of art unto itself. It's confusing as all-get-out to navigate, but its hard to beat as a photogenic open space to explore. These are some pictures I took with my Xpan on a cold weekend last January. I.M. Pei's fractal-like application of triangles throughout this structure is brilliant. And with the free admission, you get way more than you pay for. Also, they allow shoulder (camera) bags, but not backpacks. Last time I was at NGA, they made me check my backpack, but this time they didn't care about my camera bag. They just said not to put it over my back. Maybe they're worried about people backing into works of art inadvertently. In any case, make sure you stop in next time you're in DC.

National Gallery of Art

Friday, May 6, 2011

Euro Woes

Two Cents

We're doing a vacation rental apartment for our upcoming trip to Rome. This means we have to pay the balance of the rental to the owner in cash, on arrival. Since I like to know I have a place to stay when I arrive, I wanted to have the cash ready and waiting before departure.


My first attempt to get euros was with Wells Fargo. It sounded simple enough; go online, buy euros at a decent exchange rate, and have them shipped to me.

Well the first transaction failed due to "technical difficulties." Ok, I can deal with that. I tried again a couple hours later and got the same error. I called the phone number listed on the website (1-800-626-9430) and gave the guy my info. Little did I know he was just entering it into the website as well. Obviously, the response was, "Uh, I'm getting the same error." Thanks buddy. He said that perhaps my credit card was blocking the transaction.

Fair enough, so I called my credit card company. The lady who answered said there were not one, but three transactions listed for the full amount I was attempting to get. She assured me I would only be charged for one of the transactions at most.

Needless to say, I was getting fairly frustrated at this point, so I called Wells Fargo back and explained the situation. "Have you moved recently?" the woman asked. "Yes, about a week ago," I answered. "Bingo!" she responded, "We would never ship to a new address like that." I asked if I could just tell my credit card to approve the transaction, but she said that was not how it worked. I asked her how long I needed to be at this address before the transaction could proceed. Her response? Six months! Not terribly useful. So much for Wells Fargo.


Attempt number two was with Travelex. Their rates were basically the same as Wells Fargo (1.56 dollars/euro), and I discovered they actually had a physical location in my area. Great, I could just walk up and get my money.

I walked up to the counter the next day only to discover that their in-person rates were 1.68 dollars/euro. For a small amount of cash, this wouldn't make a huge difference, but we're talking about several hundred euros here, so it adds up. On the plus side they said I could order the euros online at 1.56, then pick them up the next day at the counter. "Great, I'll do that."

Or so I thought. The online transaction gave me a transaction ID, but it stated that the transaction failed. Again, I called the number listed on the Travelex website (1-877-414-6359) and gave them the transaction ID. The only answer I got was that, "some of my information could not be verified." I told the guy straight out that I had recently moved. He didn't say that was the problem, just that some of the information could not be verified. Ok, strike two.


Third time's the charm. I just walked up to the Travelex counter earlier today, gave them my credit card, and lo and behold, they gave me euros. On top of that, the rates had dropped slightly to 1.66, so I didn't have to bend over quite as far as I originally thought.

I guess the moral of the story is, if you're going to buy foreign currency online, make sure you do it before you move. Furthermore, if I had purchased a camera of the same cost, I certainly would not have gotten the virtual third degree.

I'd also like to point out Steven Frischling's excellent article on the topic of foreign currency exchange, from which I based this little adventure.

I'm ready to be in Rome.