Wednesday, August 30, 2006


It pays to be cheeky.

If you've been reading the previous entries to this blog, you'll know that I've suffered some inconveniences with JetBlue Airlines. Maggie (I'm going to start throwing in names of people I've met over here, so try to pay attention), who lives on the floor beneath me with Claire and Joanna (the two Irish ladies who also came over from UL) rather graciously offered to take me over to the airport so I could set the compensation ball rolling!

I met with the general manager, who was a pretty nice chap. He invited me into his office after briefly thanking me for my patience. I was a little taken aback by this pleasantness, as everyone before had taken a hard-line and been all 'this is what's what'. It's about here I realised that I could fleece this guy for all he was worth.

I sat in a rather plush chair in his office and sampled a 'Baby Ruth' chocolate from the jar on his desk as he entered a brief-spiel about how the baggage handlers in JFK weren't as reliable as he'd like them to be. He asked what I had been told regarding compensation - I informed him that I was told to present them with a receipt and I'd receive a refund. What I failed to mention was that I had been given a $125 limit. The receipt I gave him totalled $183.12. After briefly glancing at it, he suggested

"Let's round it off at $200".
"You're the boss!"

So he prints off a cheque, I endorse it, and he cashes it, on the spot! I'm worried he hears the "ker-ching!" noise as my pupils turn to dollar signs. Suppressing the grin that oh-so-desperately wants to surface becomes harder as he utters those next few magical words.

"What else can I do for you?"

"Well Norbert, it's like this - when my bag finally did come, the handle had been torn right off, and I'd like to think that surely you'd be able to at least arrange to have it repaired."
"Our policy considers that 'wear and tear'"
"Well Norb, it was a pretty new bag, and after two and a half days of being without it, I wasn't that chuffed to see I didn't get it all back. It's unusable, y'know"
"Hmmn... You're right. I might be able to do something about this..."
"It's a large 'Black 22'", I inform him - remembering back to the fateful day I was asked to identify it from a little brochure that they had in the Baggage claim office.

He calls a subordinate, into the office, and asks her to check 'downstairs' for a large, black, type 22 suitcase. As she scurries off to achieve her menial task, he once again turns towards me, and one again enquiries as to how he may be of further service to me.

"Well Norb- it's like this. On the first afternoon when my bag went missing, I was talking to Rebecca downstairs in the baggage office. She assured me I'd have it by that evening, and I'd receive a $30 voucher for my troubles... It didn't arrive that evening, or the following morning, even. Or the morning after that! Surely you can do a little better than just thirty dollars, right?"
"You're absolutely right, and we don't want to lose a customer."

So he pokes around on his computer for a moment, lets me know that he can give me $50 on top of the initial $30. Meanwhile, Janet arrives into the office with my new bag and it's pretty much the same as my old one. Once again Norbert is asking me what he can do for me, but at this stage I'm starting to feel like a bandit, so I decline when he asks if there is anything else that he can help me out with.

Standing up to shake his hand, he asks.
"How did I do?"

"You sir, know good customer service!"

Maybe the Superman bedsheets are why no lovely ladies spend much time in my room...

Thanks Norb!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A reason to be excited!

Why hello there!

So here's the latest. I'm in Pennsylvania! After two days of being without my luggage, JetBlue airways finally managed to send my suitcase onto me - sans handle. Bastards! They won't even compensate me for making bits of it either. They have, however, given me a $30 voucher for my next flight (big whoop), and I was allowed to spend up to $125 dollars on what I needed over those two days, so it's not all bad. Only problem is I've to figure out a way over to the airport to pick up said wad of cash... Might kick up a stink while I'm there and try and get that bag replaced - I'm pretty torn up over it!

Anyways - I've been on campus six days now, and I'm pretty settled in. In the coming days I might upload a video showing my dorm, or maybe even the campus itself, if I'm feeling ambitious that is (probably have to be done on a weekend though - rather than me looking like a spanner while people are trying to find their way to class).

Had my first lectures today. First was Journalism Production, which seems like it'll be a lot of work, but it should be interesting enough. I also had General Psychology this afternoon, it was great. The lecturer isn't quite as eccentric as I'd like, but he is quite hilarious. I was warned by someone in my building that he likes to play pranks on the first day, so I was expecting something funny. So everybody's waiting for class to begin, and the lecturer walks in, doesn't say a word, turns on the computer, and turns on the powerpoint presentation, the first slide comes up;

"Advanced Calculus and Chemical Engineering"

As he starts to hold up his calculator two guys jump up and literally run for the door, he stops them and explains that he was just testing to see how the class would react.

This guy should make the coming semester a little more interesting!

And in other news.....


So close I can almost smell Hurley's perma-armpit-stain!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Here's a Video!

I just felt like uploading this - hope you don't mind!

Memories, eh? Those awful mornings after the 'campouts', spraying Daly with the Jif we found in the garage, randomly jumping off the roof onto a tiny mattress, Maurice nearly tearing Pa's shoulder off...

We were really, really stupid kids!

Friday, August 25, 2006

What else did I get up to in New York?

Yesterday when I uploaded some more info on my Thursday in Manhattan Island, I neglected to mention that I went to Planet Hollywood on Times Square. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a hell of a lot tackier than it actually was. Most of what I saw there was downright cool. The main gimmick that Planet Hollywood boasts is the huge collection of movie memorabilia, and they had some pretty cool props that I can't show you because I forgot my memory card that day! However, I am going to try and get some relevant images from Google Image Search, and hope that I don't upset anybody by doing so!


Here's the exterior, right next to a Virgin Megastore, and down the road a bit from a rather large Toys R Us. (which I never got a chance to go inside - I still toss in my sleep because of that)

Above the bar they had a large selection of prop weapons from the James Bond Films. Up close, they looked really plasticy and fake, so I got a kick out of that. They also have moulds of actors' hands mounted on the walls- seems I have bigger hands than Wesley Snipes, Will Smith, Bruce Willis, and a couple of other A-list celebrities whose names I've since forgotten.

They take your picture before you get your table, then come up to you when you're eating your meal with a couple of copies of the photo in varying sizes, as well as on fridge magnets and keyrings, asking you for $20. Apparently whatever doesn't sell is sent back for recycling, which is kinda odd. The people at the Empire State Building tried the same thing, but they super-imposed a cheesy background and asked for less. This was my first experience of New York snobbery, with Maureen remarking "This kind of crap is just for people from Kentucky or something" (may not be an exact quote).

I also neglected to mention that I got myself a Hot-Dog from a street vendor, which was one of those things I was excited about beforehand. So I approached the surly bastard of a hotdog-chef, and asked him for a hotdog with everything on it. He gave me a dry, plain bun and a pathetic piece of sausage meat, and pointed at the mustard and ketchup dispensers. It was fairly mediocre, but the taste may have been skewed by my salty tears of disappointment.

I didn't have time to do a lot of things I'd have liked, such as checking out Ground Zero, or going to Ellis Island, or finding the Seinfeld Diner.

My weekend was spent down in Baltimore, Maryland, as Maureen and her friends had to give a talk to the students going to Leuven. One way or another, it was an excuse for a load of crazy American girls to amass for drinking purposes. I also got to try out my 'modified' ID for the first time in America. The burly bouncer stopped me at the door, and requested my ID. I gave him my driver's license. He studied it intently for a moment before admitting he couldn't find the date of birth on it. I replied "Oh I'm sorry - it's an Irish ID. The date is right here - the eighteenth of the fifth, eighty-six". Whoops. I just told him I'm twenty. Furthermore, the date I just gave him varies from the date on the ID. I look up at him, expecting the worst. A cursory glance at his dazed stupor, I could tell I was OK. He waved me in. Success! I celebrated my successful infiltration of an American drinking establishment by ordering a glass of water - on the rocks.

Even more Shenanigans from the Empire State!

Greetings! I'm cracking away again, trying to clear the 'backlog' of what I want to get said about my sight-seey business before I get onto other pressing issues such as observations about the USA, and focusing on those small cultural differences that jump out at me on a daily basis. To be honest, this blog is as much for me to keep a record of what I'm up to as much as it is for me to not have to e-mail people with news and pictures and whatnot.

So then! Still in New York? You betcha! On Thursday last I got to check out some hot Touristy Spots. Only problem; I left my Camera's Memory card in my Laptop, meaning that I only had the camera's internal memory to work off of for the entire day! There was much forehead slapping, believe you me...

So after a hearty breakfast of bagels with vegetable cream cheese (which is nice) Maureen and I once again ventured into the city. What'd we see again? Oh yeah...

(Note the guy oblivious to what everyone's looking at)

(These low-angle shots really aren't very flattering)

Liberty Island was pretty cool... We barely made the last ferry, so by the time we got out there it wasn't possible to go into the statue, or get a tour, but I wasn't really that bothered because with the lack of SD-card and my terrible memory, I'd probably just be wasting my money anyways. I did manage to get this shot, however, which I quite like.

So what else did I get up to that day? Why I took in a show on Broadway, of course!
After Maureen twisted my arm a little, I agreed to go see Chicago, expecting it to be a completely female-oriented waste of $110. Man, was I wrong! The songs were pretty enjoyable, the actors somehow managed to theatrically over-act while still reeling the audience in, laughing at the numerous hilarious sequences and feeling blue when the time came. It was quite a spectacle - hot girls (and guys!) in skimpy outfits cavorting around the stage for two and a half hours or so. Long story short, I'd recommend it. Just for the sake of adding another pic, here's one I took on Tuesday when we bought the tickets (it's this blurry because I was walking while shooting).

After this, I wandered around the rather bright Times Square at night, and took this photograph, which once again, just does not capture the sheer impressiveness of the scene.

For no good reason, here are some of the other things of interest I photographed while in Manhattan.

Here's Trump Tower.

Here's another shot from the top of the Empire State Building. It just gives you a better sense of the skyline.

This be the front of the Empire State.

This is Madison Square Garden, I didn't go in or anything, and even walked past it without even realising the first time I was here. It pretty much sits on top of Penn Station, the station I mention in one of my earlier posts.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More of the Craic from New York

Central Park
While in Manhattan Island on Tuesday, I had to check out Central Park.
So I did!

Part of the fun was the wildlife that roamed free in the park. Such as this little squirrel, eating a discarded Tortilla Chip:

While I was there, I was adamant about seeing that big fountain that seems to appear in every movie set in New York with a romantic theme (such as Mr.Deeds). So here it is, complete with female adornment!

The best part about being in the park is how it frames that famous skyline. I was lucky to get a pretty sunny day for picture taking purposes, but it is an odd juxtaposition, seeing lush greenery as far as the eye can see, but then by raising your eyes just a little you realise that you are not far from commercialism and industry at all.

Y'see what I mean, right?

After walking around enough in my new boots (which seemingly weren't made for walkin'), I developed a blister on my heel that pretty much covered the whole thing.

Later that night we went to Brooklyn and met up with Matt, Maureen's brother, who is quite the character. This guy can start a conversation with you in Irish and lead you along a predetermined conversation path so it seems as though he actually knows what the hell he's on about. He also puts on a fairly spot on Irish accent that he uses for picking up chicks. If it were anyone else I'd consider this behaviour as a product of a self esteem deficit, but when Matt does it, it's hilarious and endearing! The three of us ate at a rather good Café and I got a tipping tutorial. All in all, a good day. Got to ride the subway too, which was fun... Until I realised that Maureen didn't have a clue where the hell each train was taking us. Every destination we reached safely was a pleasant surprise!

Just for the hell of it, here's a poor shot of Manhattan from Brooklyn. It looked absolutely stunning at nighttime, but my camera just doesn't perform in night-time conditions (which may explain the expression on my face).

Believe it or not - this is what the photo looks like after I dicked around with it in Photoshop to try and drag out the lights a bit. Feel free to click here to see what it looked like before my input.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I hope I get to brush my teeth tonight...

Blogging LIVE! from Pittsburgh Airport, where I'm travelling light. Just one man and his laptop. Why? Because JetBlue airlines lost my bag.


The Story Begins

To all of those who thought that my incessant Bebo-blog ranting was a passing fad, it must pain you to see the existence of this webpage. However, nobody is forcing you to read this, so feel free to do something more constructive with your time!

So here's the deal, it's 21.40 on Monday Evening, I'm at Maureen's house in Long Island, NY, and I figured I'd detail what I've been up to these past few days.


Travelling was a cinch. Apart from my laptop bag being checked a second time before I got on the plane and the whole liquid embargo, the whole affair was a breeze. Drinks on the plane were free and the guy I was talking to wasn't a total nutcase! So far so good, eh? Plane arrived before schedule, bag came out very soon on the conveyor belt, so all in all it could be considered a great start.

Meeting up with Maureen at the airport, I caught my first glimpse of a Yellow New York taxi. The novelty soon wore off as I literally saw hundreds of them over the coming days. The day was spent complaining about the obscene heat and humidity, being scared witless on the NY roads, shopping and sweating. Met Maureen's Grandmother that night. Apparently I'm "a good fit for the family".



Tuesday was a long day. Took the train to Manhattan Island, and coming out of the station was quite an experience. An escalator takes you to street level, and the higher the escalator gets, the more of the city you see. As I got nearer to street level, there was one building in particular that seemed to keep stretching, the more I saw of it. Straight after I went to the Empire State Building and took some photos... Such as this one...

And this one!

Following this we went for some Dunkin' Donuts (mmmmnn), checked out Times Square (where they were recording TRL at MTV studios) and ate at a pretty terrible Italian Fast Food place.

Great, no? Check back over the coming days and I'll tell you even more about my exploits in the US.