Pluto Flyby

Posted on July 14th, 2015 in Life by andrija

It’s great to be living in the time when all planets have been visited for the first time in history. Pluto ends this story.pluto-new-horizons-up-close

Easter Came Early This Year – Because…

Posted on March 22nd, 2008 in Life by andrija

Easter is quite early this year, isn’t it?  According to CBC, the Easter Day is determined as the first Sunday after a full moon after spring equinox.  The earliest it can be is March 22, the latest April 25.  Enjoy the first holiday so far this year, it won’t be this early for another 220 years!

Arthur C Clarke Has Died

Posted on March 18th, 2008 in Life by andrija

Another master of Science Fiction and a great visionary, Arthur Clarke, has died.  It’ sad but at least, he had a long life – died at ripe old age of 90.  I will probably try to buy a book or two of his to reread (Rendezvous with Rama and the like)- the books I read as a kid are on the other side of the world.  On the other hand, maybe it would be better to re-read them in the language I first read them in anyway…

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Posted on February 20th, 2008 in Life,Vancouver by andrija

Despite looking like writeoff even by 18:00, by 19:30 the sky was mostly entirely clear! If I haven`t looked through the window, I wouldn`t have even realized it. From my apartment nothing was visible but when we got out of the building we were able to see it immediately. What luck! The total eclipse of the moon was very visible most of the time even though there were some clouds occasionally covering it. I managed to take a few pictures with a tripod but it looked nicer through binoculars.

Random Pictures from Vancouver, last Fall

Posted on February 18th, 2008 in Life,Vancouver by andrija

I took these pictures last fall… The first one is a nice combination of fall colours in front of Joyce station.

The second is the same thing. Have to decide which one to keep as official.

The next one is sunset at False Creek, at Science world (and no, I won`t be calling it Telus World of Science, ever).

Next one is again the same thing, but with more view of many cranes where the Olympic village for the 2010 Olympics is being built. I voted against, just so we`re in the clear.

And we have another picture in that area, as I was walking towards Best Buy. It was deep into fall and I was foolish enough to leave house way too late and too thinly dressed. Instead of sun I got sunset and then freezing as I was walking too much. This scene looked much better in real life.

Back to my apartment, here’s the view from my window on one weekend afternoon in early October (8th).

Then there`s one early morning before work when it`s all foggy. This is typical of October and November, especially around Halloween. This was on October 25.

And there was even snow, lots of it. December 7th.

Freaky weather

Posted on February 5th, 2008 in Life,Vancouver by andrija

Today is yet another day of freaky weather in Vancouver.  This morning I got up to see snow falling and everything was white, mostly.  When I left the building for work an hour later I expected snow as I walked out – instead I got hit by rain and had to quickly retreat to pull my umbrella out of the bag.  While walking I was battered by strong winds.  That was also the likely cause of my umbrella snapping – I got it in Japan in September and as usual it was dead in less than a year.  The only umbrella that lasted long was the one I got for free from a TELUS contractor while I worked on Lynx project (it’s been 6 years and it still works!).  It was a miserable though short walk from the mall to the office.

Then today at lunch time I had to run back home as I forgot to bring some motherboards I was about to sell via Craigslist.  It wasn’t raining any longer but it was cold and windy and cloudy.  An hour later, and now while still cold and very windy (office building door stays open due to wind!) – the sun is shining and the sky is at least partially blue!

What the hell?!

Travelling on stand by tickets is as bad as they say

Posted on May 25th, 2007 in Life by andrija

I’m writing this from Amsterdam Schiphol Aeroport, having paid 10 Euros for the privilege. Not cheap by any means but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to 450 Euros I had to pay for the return ticket from Amsterdam to Budapest.

This whole trip is turning into a, well, not quite nightmare but a tedious, expensive exercise. See, I work for a company providing airline services. Therefore I’m eligible for some discount tickets from my employer. I had to wait for 1 year service in order to be able to use this “benefit” so ever since I learned of it, I was looking forward to flying home on the cheap.

Given I am visiting Japan this year, it would normally be out of the question to travel home to Europe as well. But cheap tickets should help, right? I was counting on – at worst! – half price. The usual price is around 1200 dollars, for a return trip to Budapest via Amsterdam (or London or Frankfurt). I was therefore hoping for about 600 bucks ticket. After all, I am only going for 2 weeks so it wouldn’t be worth it to pay full price for such a short and exhausting trip.

Well, first of all, when the time to order tickets came, I found out that I don’t really have an abundance of carriers to choose from. Despite of us doing work for British Airways and Malev Hungarian Airlines – both of which projects I worked on, incidentally – we do not actually have ticket deals with either! I thought, oh well it’s not too bad since I usually fly KLM anyway, and we do have a deal with them.

One thing though – all these tickets are standby tickets. Which means, you show up at the airport and they let you on the plane – if there are free seats. With a little thinking you can figure out yourself that you should travel in low season and preferably in the middle of the week in order to minimize chance of being denied boarding. So I planned my trip and my time off around those facts – and not around when I wanted it. By doing so I ended up not being able to take advantage of Victoria Day statutory holiday to extend my vacation. So I was in the “minus” so to speak from the get-go. Anyway, I placed the request for tickets. Oh, did I mention that the minimum wait time is 2 weeks during which you have no feedback whatsoever regarding prices, availability etc?
Then the problems started. I got the reply that KLM does not fly to Budapest. Strange, since I was sure I flew with them before. Unfortunately, what happens is that KLM partnered with Malev to fly to Budapest, so the flight is operated by Malev only. Not a problem if you’re just buying tickets from KLM via travel agent or directly – they’ll sell it to you as if they were operated by them. But for standby tickets – no, you can’t.

That was when I made the first mistake. I should have said thanks but no thanks and booked the flight myself for the full price. I probably would’ve gotten a decent deal, two weeks before departure. But I decided to book the flight to Amsterdam only and arrange my own transportation from there.

I then received the approval to get the tickets. But not the tickets themselves. I was to go to “any Northwest Airlines ticket counter in Canada” to pick my ticket. Northwest is KLM’s North American partner. Ok… except that there is no ticket counter anywhere but at the airport. And as you probably know, Vancouver Airport is a major pain to get to if you don’t have a car. So I called the airport to find out when is NWA ticket counter open. They told me, till 6pm. But they weren’t sure.

So I called up Mabel – who often goes to Richmond for her toys fix – to see when she’ll go there next time. It was to be on Friday. We went there around 16:30 but there was no NWA ticket counter to be found anywhere. They were supposed to be there as they had a flight at 6 – or so they told me on the phone the day before – but there was nothing. I thought of taking it up with KLM directly but there was a massive line up – almost hundred people! This is of course highly unusual. I gave up, almost giving up the ticket entirely – if I only did! Before leaving the airport I glanced at the departures screen and found out the reason for lineups – flight 682 was canceled!! If that happened when I was to fly, I could kiss goodbye my ticket as the plane would be full for days.

I decided to come back next day – Saturday. I took public transit and of course that meant an hour each way of standing in packed buses and total of two transfers in one way. Between these two trips to the airport this ticket was already losing its value fast. Luckily this time there was a counter available – devoid of lineup as well. In about 10 minutes I had my ticket, and paid about 518 for the privilege. Not too bad but not outstanding either. The ticket would probably be around 800-900 hundred if I shopped around and bought it in advance.

Next few days I was looking at tickets from Amsterdam to Budapest. My friend Robert mentioned that there are some cheap companies flying to there – turns out only SkyEurope does that. Looking online, prices were very similar to Malev, however – about 80 euros each way at it cheapest. But SkyEurope flights were at extremely inconvenient times, such as 6:30 and 22:00, although you could get a ticket for 3 euros if you did that (one way only, the other would still be 80 euros or more). In the end, I could not get two tickets for 80 euros each unless I stayed overnight in Amsterdam. This seemed reasonable thing to do since a hotel room would pretty much cover the price difference to flying immediately – especially since “immediately” meant many hours later in the day. The last thing you want to do after flying for 9 hours is waiting 5-6 hours at the airport before yet another flight, not to mention a 3 hour drive home afterwards.

I was all ready to buy tickets and reserve a hotel room – until Steven told me over our regular Tuesday dinner that it would not be wise to do so when I’m not even sure I’ll end up in Amsterdam the day I was planning to. So I didn’t buy reserve in advance – a wise decision it turned to be.

On 23rd I showed up at the airport – only 20 minutes before check-in closed, due to horrible taxi service and even worse traffic; did you know it takes 15 minutes to get through to a cab dispatcher on a phone on a random weekday afternoon?! They made me run around to the ticket counter to first “list” for the flight, then they made me wait – the flight was full so maybe I couldn’t get on. Turns out, it was indeed. They didn’t let me on! I went to re-list myself for tomorrow – Thursday – and went home. At this point I was extra $70 in minus thanks to needless taxi drive. At least I didn’t waste money on connecting flight tickets and hotel!

Next day it was pretty much the same story – taxi was faster to show up though slower to answer the phone, so I was there earlier. But they made me wait again. At this point I was thinking of alternatives… but at the last moment they did let me on. So I got on, and got a dead center seat. I always book an isle seat as I find it really uncomfortable not to be able to stand up, go to toilet or get my gadgets out of my carry-on bag. Chalk up another minus – this was at least expected so I didn’t complain.

So now I get to Amsterdam. Instead of heading off to the gate for my connecting flight, I have to go to the baggage checkout – through passport control, thankfully seamless. Then I have to find the ticket counter to buy my tickets. I had to ask twice – see, there is no Malev ticket counter; it’s handled by KLM. Even their tickets look like any other KLM tickets. But just you try to fly on standby with KLM to Budapest… suddenly “oh, but it’s not us”. Kind of like Telus was telling us when it was time to pay us bonuses and give us raises – “yeah, sure, the company is doing great, but we’re the subsidiary that’s just breaking even”. Talk about double standards and brand misrepresentation. Anyway, that’s not the point.

Naturally, there’s a lineup. A big lineup. I take my number and wait close to half an hour. I get to the ticket counter… and get hit with a shocker sticker – 450 Euros!! That’s about 700 dollars! Way more than my four times as long trip and way more than about 300 euros that I was expecting to pay after taxes.  Not only that, but I was only able to get 18:00 flight, even though there was one earlier flight (to be honest, it might have been too late to catch it – no thanks to ticket counter lineup).
But that’s the thing… all it takes is one weak point and this stand-by house of cards collapses. I have a weakness like most people and am not always able to respond immediately to things like standing at the counter and being summarily issued a price in a “matter of fact” way. Thinking back, the only thing I could’ve done is to log on to Internet and buy tickets online, and save perhaps as much as 150 euros, if not more.  But I didn’t know where – and if – I can get access, plus there was extra time needed, plus I didn’t have a printer.  Maybe I didn’t need a printer – but I can’t know that in advance.

In the end, I paid more than a full price ticket when everything is added – yet I had all the aggravation I could get.  And I don’t even want to think of not being able to get on the flight back!
Anyway, I believe that the moral of the story is – don’t get stand-by tickets if you can’t get them for each and every leg of the flight.  As simple as that.  And if your flight is not direct, you should consider whether you want to use stand-by tickets at all.  The other moral is – don’t use KLM for standby flights, at least not the Amsterdam to Vancouver flight.

Postcards from my home town

Posted on April 21st, 2007 in Life by andrija

A high school friend of mine has started photography as a hobby when digital cameras started appearing – I guess it’s been 7 years or so. He has become so good that he got commissioned to make some calendars for our home town. A few days ago he sent me links to some postcards that were produced using his photos. I’ve been impressed with his progress – we got our first digital cameras around the same time and were into snapping shots but he made it into art, while me…
Palic postcard

Internet deprivation

Posted on April 15th, 2007 in Life by andrija

I lost my internet connection last Monday around 11pm. Since then I was only able to use it at work, or on dialup. So it’s not like I was totally unconnected, but it was pretty distracting as I had genuine need to check emails (due to active EBay auctions), new laptop I got for my dad that needs software updates, and various little things of daily life. I don’t think it would be easy for me to go back to dialup permanently – I rely on high speed connection too much.