Lee Armstrong is a British computer programmer who wondered the same thing, so he started sprinkling devices on high places around the world that read the signals aircraft automatically send out regularly identifying who they are, where they’re flying to and from, how high they are, and other details.
The result is an app and web site called Planefinder. Click on it, and you’ll see in real time every plane in the sky except in some places where Lee doesn’t have receivers, such as rural parts of Africa or China.
While writing this commentary, I clicked on a plane flying from Australia and found it is Hawaiian Airlines Flight number 452 en route from Sydney to Honolulu. It’s cruising along at 531 miles per hour at 41,000 feet. It’s a two-engine, Airbus 330-200.
After the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the airline didn’t stop using the flight number, so for days, folks sent emails to Armstrong saying, “Hey, I found that plane.”
Sadly, of course, they hadn’t, and Malaysia Airlines soon retired the flight number.
Airlines generally do a good job of getting your checked luggage to your destination with you. Or at least getting it there a day or two later if something goes awry. But what happens to luggage that is never reunited with it owner?
Interestingly enough, it all goes to one place in Alabama. Scottsboro, Alabama, to be exact, to a company called the Unclaimed Baggage Center. If, after 90 days an airline can’t figure out who owns something left behind in an airplane or who owns a bag that has no identifying tags on—or in—it, it sells the stuff in bulk, sight unseen, to the Unclaimed Baggage Center.
The UBC doesn’t know if it’s buying a suitcase with a new iPad in it along with new designer clothes or if it’s getting a bag filled with rags. You name it, they get it, from laptops to heirloom jewelry. Stuffed animal heads, cashmere sweaters, African masks, fishing rods, designer shoes, fancy purses, loggerhead tortoise shells, skis, bridal gowns, guitars and other musical instruments . . . you get the idea.
You’ll save 20% or more over retail, and while you used to be able to buy on line, now you have to go to Scottsboro. More details here.
If you’ve seen the old postcards , you know about classic Florida. Before the walls of high rises along Miami Beach. Before the spring breaks of Ft. Lauderdale. If you look hard enough, you can still find stretches of uncrowded beaches, charming inns, cute shops, and a low-key lifestyle.
I’m indebted to Sara Clemence, the travel editor of the Wall Street Journal, for three of these four suggestions. Three are on Florida’s West Coast, the other is on the Florida panhandle, just below Alabama.
Fly into Tampa or Ft. Meyers to visit Anna Maris Island. You can rent an affordable beach bungalow, says Sara, and you’ll be right on the beach. Gasparilla Island (pictured) is served by the same two airports, but it’s a bit more preppy—folks wear tennis whites or pink and green, though Sara hastens to say this is no stuffy Palm Beach.
Gasparilla is unpretentious but just a bit more buttoned up than, say, Sanibel or Captiva Islands that are near Ft. Myers.
Those are two of my favorite islands. No chain hotels, perhaps America’s greatest shelling on Sanibel, and lots of privacy on Captiva
Her pick on the panhandle is Apalachicola. Fly into Pensacola and stop at some of the great BBQ spots along the way.
Great ideas for a low-key Florida vacation.
There are all kinds of vacations. There’s adventure travel, volunteer vacations, family vacations, and contemplative vacations. And usually we travel to see a place. But why not enhance the experience with a good book about that place?
I began thinking about this when my friend, Keith Bellows, who is the editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine told me he’d taken a solo trip to Antigua in the Caribbean. He took a book written by an Antiguan native named Jamaica Kincaid who wrote about the island in a book titled A Small Place.
Which may have led him to assign writer George Stone to write an article titled “Around the World in 80 Books” for the April edition of Traveler magazine. Stone chose several books perfect for an American road trip, such as John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways.
For a train trip, he recommends Agatha Christie’s—what else?—Murder on the Orient Express and Paul Theroux’s classic, The Great Railway Bazaar.
The message is, find a book that is related to your destination or style of travel and add another dimension to your experience. You’ll be the richer for it.
One of my favorite word is “sorted,” which can mean “everything is arranged.” As in, “Regarding tonight’s dinner reservations, darling, everything is sorted.”
I also like “Bob’s your uncle,” which means, “couldn’t be simpler.” Ask directions, and you might be told, “Just go one block, take a left, go another block, and Bob’s your uncle.”
Which means, there you are.
You can ask for a cup of tea by requesting a “splosh,” a “chupley,” or “blish.” A television remote control unit can be called a “blabber,” “zapper,” “melly,” or “dawicki.” Don’t ask me how those nicknames came to be, but you can find them in England’s Directory of Contemporary Slang.
For “amazing,” try it the way the teens put it: “amazeballs.” And remember, one goes to hospital, not THE hospital. Band-Aids are “plasters” and sausage and mashed potatoes are “bangers and mash.” I’ll let someone else tell you want “mushy peas” are.
Oh, and not many folks say “cherrio” anymore, though don’t be surprised if someone calls you “guv’nor.”