Sunday, October 15, 2017

60 Minutes Brave Expose on Big Pharma

QUESTION: Why is TV called a medium?

ANSWER: Because when it's well done, it's rare.

Old joke but very proud of 60 Minutes tonight who went up against a huge ad category (Big Pharma), when they broadcasted an expose on Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn sponsoring and congress passing a bill that helped Pharma Companies avoid DEA enforcement and ensure the flow of opioids continue to feed an increasingly addicted nation (many in her home state of TN) resulting in over 200K deaths.

Why?

Money of course. So sad how politicians continue to $ell u$ out at every turn. But very brave of 60 Min. to eschew Pharma ads (I counted $0 this week) in order to expose this travesty. Could not have been an easy choice. We need more journalism like this. Thank goodness (and our founding fathers) for the 1st amendment.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Grey - My Favorite Color

WHY IS GREY MY FAVORITE COLOR? That REALLY strong opinion you espouse... could it be the seeds were planted by a foreign government bent on sowing discord here in the US?


That would mean we're being manipulated to argue and be divided politically, among friends, families, etc. by agents of foreign governments (with sadly, probably some help at home as well). Throw in the small % of people who run corporations that own most of the major national media & technology within the USA and you have a recipe for manipulation not seen since the days that most of the populace was illiterate and uneducated and ruled by Monarchs.

What to do?
QUESTION EVERYTHING - ESPECIALLY YOURSELF.

Respect others' opinions.

If you consider yourself a "conservative", maybe read a "liberal" newspaper like the NY Times or watch a liberal TV show on MSNBC sometime.

If a "liberal" watch Fox News or read the NY Post and see the other side. If a "moderate" do both WITH AN OPEN MIND.

 STOP being railroaded into thinking a certain way just because you live in a certain geography or were “brought up” a certain way.

There's a reason they say you can't imprison the mind. Borders in the brain are self-imposed.


Think for yourself. Humans are imperfect but from Bangkok to Baghdad to Boston, most are good-hearted folks. Give your fellow human a break. Life is grey, it is not black and white. Which is why, grey is my favorite color.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Humans... We Suck.


Gotta say it... Roger Ailes' Fox News legacy from 1996 lives on in the Summer 2017 DC shooting. 

Dividing people to gain money, power, market share, career advancement, etc. has consequences... and we, the ever pliable and naive public are paying the price. 

Turning against our neighbors, fellow citizens and fellow human beings on demand and on command. 

Cuba has a similar problem in miniature. Only there, neighbors turn against neighbors and spy for the government for an extra bag of rice for the month. At least they have hunger as an excuse. 

Encouraging the dehumanization of others is dangerous. And media is powerful... especially in the early to mid-2000s when Mr. Ailes' grand experiment began to bear fruit and shape public discourse so powerfully. 

This didn't happen suddenly or in a void. Actions, positive, negative and in between... ripple through time... decades and centuries after we leave the earthly realm. 

May your ripples be lovely & kind ... not brutish & selfish. 

No. I have not been drinking. Much. 

Crazy Horse Prophecy Comes True


Mother Nature got you down? Yeah, she seems kind of angry.
Well, here is something uplifting. In 2016 we visited the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota, located in the poorest county in the USA where the avg. male life expectancy is 48. Let that sink in.
The famous Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief Crazy Horse predicted that the 7th generation would lead a resurgent comeback for his people. They are here and It is now happening with Lakota youth at the Red Cloud School (where 95% of graduates are accepted into college) leading the way.
Here is a link to a short, but inspiring photo essay. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Welcome to Florida.. Now Give Me Your Money!!!!


I recently had a 60 cent cashless only toll turn into a $15.60 bill because of Thrifty Car Rental and the State of Florida's super sneaky and shady "Gotcha!" toll system which allows Miami Airport Rental Car Companies like Thrifty to charge $15 a day in "toll admin fees" after the fact. I was there less than 24 hours, hardly went anywhere, used GPS to avoid toll roads, but no matter... If they play you just right, the fees they "earn" from tolls from unsuspecting visitors is actually more than the car rental itself. How much $ does this contribute to the rental car co's bottom lines? How many people go to the energy and trouble to fight a $15 charge, no matter how ridiculous?
New York State was recently outed for charging out of state EZ pass holders the cash fare, punishing them because they were from out of state, even though they had an EZ Pass.
This dishonest behavior and complicity by our government appointed authorities reminds me of another example. This one in Mexico, a third world country with a transparently corrupt government and correspondingly inept tourism authority where they advertise rental cars as low as $6 a day without conveniently mentioning insurance at $100 a day or more is REQUIRED by law. No insurance, no car. You find that out at the rental car counter, usually in the middle of nowhere. GOTCHA!
Travelers should not be treated as cargo or human ATMs. Governments and Companies that treat them as such, risk backlash (i.e. the airline industry's latest PR fiascos since they were allowed to merge) and worse. I think much of the rage we are seeing these days is a result of a series of small but more and more frequent injustices taking it's toll (no pun intended) on a seemingly helpless public.
Since the New York & Florida Dept. Of Transportations, Dept of Tourisms & partner rental car companies don't respect their visitors, maybe there are just too many folks visiting the state of Florida and New York spending too much $ and taxing their overcrowded highway system, thus they treat visitors like an ATM instead of with respect. Perhaps travelers should consider going to other nearby destinations. I hear the beaches in South Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas are kind of cool....and that the Catskills are overrated.
Here is a great article on Florida's "Gotcha" toll System.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day USA

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY USA: - I'm thankful for the unfettered opportunity to present our truthful travel and world experiences directly to our audience, free of government (or corporate) censorship, interference or fear of reprisal.
This simple but powerful right is still not enjoyed by too many in the world. May we always remember it, and not take it for granted and/or abuse it by presenting exaggerated, inflated, misleading or manipulated information to support a pre-judged position for the sake of money, power or influence.
May we always recognize, that each of us, by our very nature of being human, see things through a prism of beliefs and attitudes already embedded by our unique education, experiences, upbringing and exposure to information.
May we always seek to continue to evolve and grow based on new information and knowledge that travel brings and understand that we are all "works in progress" and deserve each other's honest but respectful dialogue, regardless of whether we agree with someone at any given moment in time.
May I judge less and love more and understand that life is a short but powerful gift that should not be squandered.
Travel safe (but not TOO safe) out there and Happy Independence Day everyone!
Rob

Saturday, June 10, 2017

When Travel Goes Wrong. The Trip That Wasn't



We were all fired up about our trip to Portugal's Azores Islands to film over the Memorial Weekend Holiday.

Weeks of planning had taken place and the Visit Azores folks had everything set for us and put together an excellent itinerary. This was going to be a great couple of episodes, but first, we had to get there.

Azores Air flies direct to the Azores once per day out of Boston Logan Airport at 9:05PM. Our flight was scheduled weeks in advance and was to leave on Thursday.

I had lunch with our Providence affiliate, WNAC Fox 64 and MyRI 64.2, so I decided to drive up from NYC via a rental car from Avis/Budget which has an office near where I live in Manhattan.

I booked a flight for the film crew on Delta Airlines leaving from JFK in NYC at 3pm and arriving in Boston Logan a little after 4 PM. Our plan was that I would meet them there around 5 PM after my lunch and a couple of afternoon meetings in Boston.

I was worried that the crew would be exhausted waiting around Boston Logan before catching our fight out hours later as we were to begin filming immediately on arrival to the Azores the following day shortly after  6:30 AM, so we'd all be sleep deprived.

Turns out, my worries were misplaced.

I began getting texts from the crew around 2 PM that Delta Airlines was postponing the flight. I began to get worried because I know things can go south quickly when this begins to happen. It was a rainy, dreary day but a little light rain shouldn't be enough to cancel flights, especially a shuttle flight from NYC to Boston which are pretty much every hour on the hour. I've made that same commute many times myself.

After receiving notification that the flight was going to be really late getting into Boston Logan, I decided to pull over at a rest area about 70 miles and 1.5 hours outside of Boston Logan to make some calls.

I alerted our travel hosts at Visit Azores and called Azores Air to see what our options were.

They indicated the crew should be at the gate no later than 8PM. Delta's new ETA for the crew's flight into Boston Logan was now 7 PM (or at least as best as my crew could decipher from the reportedly un-helpful gate agent at JFK's Delta terminal).

At that point, I could have booked the crew on the following evening's flight on Azores Air out of Boston as the ticket agent told me there were exactly 3 seats available. But those 3 seats would go fast and the Azores ticket office was scheduled to close soon.

I decided against it assuming Delta would make the flight happen. Bad decision.

Budget Rental Car Tire Goes Flat

To complicate matters, after visiting the restroom at the Rest Area, I discovered my rental car had a flat tire and, surprise, surprise...the car did not come with a spare tire.

Roadside Assistance was called but the folks they arranged to tow the car were 1.5-2 hours from being able to assist me, so now I was in danger of missing the flight as well. David, the very nice telephone agent at Roadside Assistance, advised me to abandon the car and get an uber to the airport if I could.
Budget RAC Doesn't Provide a Spare 

I set about arranging for uber pick up and was in luck as one happened to be in my area. Uber driver Keith swung by to pick me up and we were on our way, albeit in heavy traffic.

Minutes later I get a call from the crew informing me that the JFK flight had just been officially cancelled. Delta gate agents then suddenly became helpful and booked the crew on a flight out of LGA to Boston that would get in around 7:30 PM, it would now be really, really tight but we could still make it. The Domestic Terminal was a 15 minute walk / run from the International Terminal I was told.

I instructed the guys to sit up front as much as possible. They already only had carry on luggage/gear.

But flying out of LGA is especially nightmarish these days, with construction going on. I was afraid the crew's taxi wouldn't make it on time with car traffic a mess there.

They actually did, but it didn't matter because as soon as they arrived the LGA Delta Flight to Boston Logan began getting delayed, and eventually cancelled.

Unfortunately for us, all this happened too late, the 3 seats were no longer available and the ticket office for Azores Airlines was closed.

When I arrived to the airport (1.5 hours and $96 poorer from the Uber ride), I promptly checked in and received a call from my Azores Tourism contact, who, was working into the wee hours of the night there to try to accommodate us and save our trip.  I felt so guilty.

She suggest I fly in (it's not like I could just turn around and go home as I'm now in Boston, live in NYC and had abandoned my transportation due to the flat tire/no spare scenario) and then we either try to get the crew on the next flight in the following couple of days, or I could scramble and try hire a local crew there. Either way, hopefully,  I would still be able to shoot something.
Taxi Back to the Gate

Alas, after the Azores Airlines flight at was on the taxi way at around 9:30 or 10PM, we received word from the Captain that the flight had been cancelled due to a technical problem with the plane.

After waiting what seemed like hours for my checked luggage, I did a quick online search only to realize there were no hotels to be had in Boston as this was Harvard Graduation week. I had not graduated from Harvard, but even dumb little old me could figure out this was not my time to visit the Azores.

I could hang out in the Boston Airport for more than 24 hours and hope to catch the next flight to the Azores or take a train home (I was already exhausted having been awake since 6AM and it was now 12:30 AM the next day).

Trying For Shuteye @ Boston Logan Airport

I ended up sleeping (or trying too among the bright lights and constant airport announcements of "if you see something, say something" and "Lexus the official car company of Boston Logan" or some non-sense announcements)  at the Boston Logan Airport before taking the 5:05 AM train to NYC.

The Amtrak train home was by far the most pleasant part of the journey.

A lot of sweat equity and money was wasted on a trip that never materialized thanks to  bumbling, fumbling travel corporations that dropped the ball and just plain old lady luck.

I also share the blame because obviously, in retrospect, I should have never relied on airplane travel or even car travel, I should have just trained it. But with Amtrak's own woes of late, that carries it's own risk.
Train Ride Back Home

Is there a boat service up to Boston that anyone is aware of?

I've included  some photos and a short video of the entire experience. I hope you can enjoy it because I sure didn't.

P.S. Be on the look out for this and more misadventures in Season 5 when we premiere "When Travel Goes Wrong" in February 2018 and here's hoping the Azores trip gets rescheduled. Stay Tuned.

6/10/17 POST SCRIPT: 

Avis/Budget Adding Insult to Injury
Today I received this bill from Avis/Budget Rental Car for $182.04 for the Roadside Assistance and Towing.
Remember they didn't provide a spare tire in my car rental and advised me to call RA and take an Uber to the airport as a result. So let's see
(1) Original 1 Way Car Rental Cost NYC to Boston = $115
(2) Uber to Boston Airport = $75
(3) Roadside Asst. Cost = $182...
So my $115 Car Rental Tab has now more than tripled in cost to $372.04 for a trip I ended up never taking. Ouch. Talk about adding insult to injury.