Friday, July 30, 2010

Jersey Shore and the NYSE

Occasionally the Hat Trick wonders where this country is going. This week the cast of the obnoxious MTV reality show Jersey Shore rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Oh my.

I understand having some celebrities open the market but the Jersey Shore cast? Isn't there 15 minutes about up? It kind of cheapens the experience for the firefighters and first responders who opened the market after 9-11.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Continental tries out new self-boarding system - Houston Business Journal

A little aviation news to keep with the theme of this blog...and to break-up some of the political warfare that has been coming out lately...

Continental Airlines is doing a limited self-boarding test at their Houston Intercontinental (IAH) hub to see how this system goes (click on the link above to read the whole story). The Hat Trick is not sure how this one is going to work out. I like the concept a lot...the Hat Trick has gladly embraced the self-service world that technology has created...from airline reservations, airline check-in, banking, bill paying and a host of others. But from my observations in the travel world I'm wondering how well a majority of the traveling public, particularly the leisure travel segment, will adapt to this system. I realize their will be an agent available to assist passengers and manually take boarding passes, as needed, but I still think it could create a train wreck in various circumstances (think Florida...especially Orlando and West Palm Beach!) if they open this up system wide.

However, the Hat Trick could be wrong on this and, more importantly, I would be interested in the outcome of the testing. Needless to say I would love to see it implemented but then I realize I'm a very small majority of the traveling public. We'll see where this goes but kudos to Continental for trying something new.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pat Sajak Gets Into the Mix

Great little piece written on the blog Ricochet by Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak on the "czarism" that is engulfing the Obama Administration. Sajak, tongue firmly in cheek, discusses how he is about to be named "Game Show Czar" by the Obama Administration.

Funny stuff, for sure.

But the underlining theme brings up a serious issue with this administration. Democrats, including then-Senator Obama, raised holy hell when President Bush used recess appointments for judicial nominees bogged down in the Senate swamp due to Democratic filibusters. The Democrats argued that the judicial nominees needed to be fully vetted by the Senate, as is written in the Constitution. They had a valid point during the Bush years and that point still stands today in the Obama Administration: under our form of government the Senate has to confirm judicial appointments, including Supreme Court justices, and cabinet appointments. These are the rules and (this is where the Hat Trick is going to get on the Republicans a bit) BOTH sides need to respect that, not just raise hell when the opposition party controls the White House and you want to make a political point. All this does is make the process more toxic and slow government down even more. Not a good solution.

However, these "Czars" that have become popular in the Obama White House are very problematic. The czars have quite a bit of authority, much like cabinet secretaries, yet have NEVER gone through a confirmation hearing. This is a real problem from a public policy standpoint. I understand the theory behind them: make government work better, more accountable, focus on specific public policy problems, etc., and avoid the toxic politics of the Congress, especially the Senate. However, by granting these sweeping mandates the Administration has created an opportunity for significant public policy decisions to be made without the blessing of the Congress and, indirectly, the blessing of the citizens of this country who elect the Congress.

You may not like the players in the sandbox (the Senate) but those are the rules that we are governed by in this country. To continue down the road of these "czars" only seems to me to be another step towards Directive 10-289 and the world of Atlas Shrugged.

The Hat Trick is Feeling Political Again

Now that I've been out of Washington for a few months and in the real world I have to admit I'm starting to feel a little political again. My readers may have noticed a significant lack of political fodder on the Hat Trick over the past few months...ironic since politics covers one-third of this blog's topics! I think the Hat Trick was feeling a major case of political apathy plus the stress of continued joblessness/career implosion and a move to New Jersey.

But lately I'm feeling more political and more interested in commenting on the public affairs issues that we are expect more political-oriented comments in the near future. For the liberal readers of this aren't going to like it much because the Hat Trick is decidedly concerned about how the Obama Administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress are performing.

It's about to get a little warm at the Hat Trick so strap in and make sure your seats are in the full and upright position!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Humor Alert: Gulf Oil Spill and Obama Administration

The Hat Trick is definitely amused by this one. A good friend of the Hat Trick's provided this interesting video on the Gulf Oil Spill and the Obama Administration's response to it. After watching this administration in action (or inaction in some cases) I have to say there is quite a bit of truth to it...especially in the area of "blame assessment" as I like to call it. When you are almost two years into a presidency there comes a time when you have to take accountability for some things, not just wine and blame your predecessor. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trip Report: Amtrak Acela First Class

Last week the Hat Trick had the opportunity to travel on the Amtrak Acela service between Washington, DC Union Station and Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. The Hat Trick, while primarily being an airline fan, also has a soft spot for train travel as a result of spending a lot of time in Europe while growing up and getting to experience train travel first hand.

For this trip the Hat Trick splurged and upgraded for the the First Class compartment of the train. I've traveled on the Acela before (and enjoyed it immensely!) but have always been in the Business Class section, which is the remainder of the train, so this seemed like a good opportunity to try out the upgraded product. In addition to curiosity I also made this choice due to timing and a need to eat and relax before a job interview!


The reason I even needed to take the train from Washington to Philadelphia was a last-minute, third interview with an organization. As my readers know, the Hat Trick has been unemployed for a year and a half and not liking it. Luckily Mrs. East Coast Wing was able to secure employment in New Jersey, hence our move to the state. We were in DC last week to supervise the move and close on our house which is chronicled in this previous post. We decided that instead of having me drive back and forth I could travel down with the family, take the train back for my interview and then come down with the second car after the interview. This is probably more information then my readers would care for but anyone who knows me knows that I am thorough when relating information!

The Trip:

I traveled to Washington's Union Station via the Washington Metrorail. After a hot trip on the Metro Yellow and Red Lines I arrived at the Union Station and proceeded to the ticketing level. Amtrak has several convenient self-service kiosks available and within two minutes I had my ticket purchased and was heading to Amtrak's Club Acela lounge. Club Acela is similar to an airline club (with the VERY noticeable exception of not having a bar!) that allows passengers to relax in a fairly quiet environment while waiting for departure. Soft drinks, juices, water and light snacks are available and clubs are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The Washington, DC location was a little worn and needed updating but was a much better option compared with the crowds in the main departure area given that it is a typical hot Washington summer with lots of tourists! One of the best advantages about the Club Acela is that First Class customers are invited to board the train first through doors that lead directly from the club to the tracks, bypassing the crowded departure lounge filled with people jockeying for position in the line to go out to the train (yes, even in an all-business class train!). Another bonus is that they enforce who can board first by turning back business class customers...a nice touch.

I was greeted upon boarding by one of the two cabin attendants and immediately asked if I would like a beverage. The service throughout the journey was very prompt and my vodka tonic was always quickly refreshed throughout the journey. Acela First also features sit down meals during the trip: the choices from my particular journey included the following (I traveled during the dinner hour):
  • Starter: Tom Douglas Rub with Love snack mix
  • Entrees: Small Plate (sliced fruit, cheese and almonds), Thai Chili mint salad, pan seared halibut or wheat ravioli (vegetarian option) and a lemon bar for desert.
I chose the halibut and found it pretty tasty and warm, which is a pet peeve of the Hat Trick. The beverage selection was comprehensive and included soft drinks, juices, red and white wine and a good selection of spirits even though they labeled Jack Daniels as a bourbon which my bourbon connoisseurs and readers from Kentucky know is really Tennessee whiskey...a minor point but something that still made me smile.

We departed and arrived on time and the trip was extremely pleasant. Overall the Hat Trick liked the First Class service on Acela but I'm not sure I would always pay for the upgrade. Regardless, it's a solid offering and I'm happy that it is available for individuals who regularly travel on the Acela and the Hat Trick, in the right circumstances, would definitely try it again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Move Complete

The "Big Move" is finally over and the East Coast Wings are now residents of the State of New Jersey. This past week was pretty busy with having to cart the whole East Coast Wing family down to Washington, DC (including our dog who is not adjusting well to any of this).

While in DC we got to supervise packers and movers in our house putting our whole life into boxes and loading it onto a truck...kind of amazing that they could get it done in two days. We also had the chance to say good-bye to some close friends who we will miss and to take a last walk in Old Town Alexandria. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Alexandria which I will review in a later was a nice stay although it had a little drama as well.

Mrs. Hat Trick and I also got to do something special...swim in the Potomac River across from Mt. Vernon, President George Washington's plantation home. A good friend took us out on her boat one afternoon as a farewell present and it was great to have that experience. The Hat Trick has ridden his mountain bike from DC to Mt. Vernon many times on the Mt. Vernon Bicycle Trail.

There was an added twist to the week. The Hat Trick got a call for a third interview with a company in Northern New Jersey so I had to make a quick trip back to attend the meeting. This included a trip on the Amtrak Acela which I will review in a separate post. While it was a long week of travel and craziness we got it done and ended the Washington, DC chapter of our lives.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moving Week For The Hat Tricks

Well's finally here! This week the Hat Tricks end almost 15 years in the metropolitan Washington, DC area and make the final jump to the Philadelphia/South Jersey area!

As I mentioned in June, my blogging abilities has been greatly reduced as a result of our impending move to the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. It's been a crazy few weeks with numerous experiences, both good and bad, but we are adjusting to life in New Jersey, coping with a small two bedroom corporate apartment (two adults, two young children and a dog...not fun!) and house hunting.

Currently the Hat Trick is blogging from the Alexandria Embassy Suites (a nice hotel by the way) as movers are packing our home in Alexandria, Virginia and will be loading the big moving truck today later today. Needless to say this experience has been filled highs and lows and some drama in-between but it seems to be coming together.

Our home in Virginia sold in a record eight days (!) and we have a contract out on a home in South Jersey that we hope to officially close on in late July. The new him is nothing like our Virginia actually has four REAL bedrooms (compared with two bedrooms and a loft in Virginia) and a huge yard for the junior Hat Tricks and our dog. The cost of this home was about $100,000 LESS (not a typo...LESS) then we sold our home in Virginia. Clearly there are some things to like in New Jersey!

I suspect that I'm supposed to pen something poetic about leaving Washington, DC and the memories I have compiled over 15 years but I have to be honest and say that I'm happy to get the hell out of here. The Hat Trick has always had an uneasy relationship with the city, particularly the crowds, cost of living and the types of people that live here. I've met good people and will leave some good friends behind but it is a lot hard to meet quality people here and I'm kind of tired of the search. All in all I think this is going to be a good move for the Hat Tricks and an opportunity to start fresh after a frustrating 15 months (and counting) of unemployment.

Wish us luck as we take the plunge!