Ashtrays on planes…

Anyone who has taken a plane in the last 10 years around the world had a nice little message telling you that you are not allowed to smoke on board. And for those traveling on a US airline will have had the extra little bonus about the federal offense and that you will get sentenced to death in case you tamper with the detection device.

On a recent plane from Asia back to Canada, on board of a very recent 777 that had a completely updated interior, I got this message again. So can someone tell me why there is actually an ashtray in the lavatory, especially if it is placed just below the big “No Smoking in Lavatory” sign:

I can understand an ashtray in very old planes (those that are over 10 years old and that didn’t go through a complete overhaul since). But on a very modern one, I have to say that this evades me completely! Perhaps they are expecting the regulation to change, just as this is becoming the case with cell phones and wireless devices for Internet access.

Update 10 March 2011: I finally got an answer from the team at the AirplaneGeeks Podcast – here is the link to the episode with the answer:

Discovering Yokohama in Japan

I flew over to Japan this week-end, staying in the largest tower of that country, call the Landmark Tower, located in Yokohama. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit a little this interesting town. Overall, even without any Japanese knowledge, you can walk around, eat at restaurants and do some shopping. And with my very very basic japanese, I can actually say thank you :-)

Landmark Tower, Yokohama, Japan

Ontario vs. UK: Which is which…

Yesterday, I went to an Ontario Park called “Murphys Point”, about 150km South-West of Ottawa. Beautiful place. Having visited the UK last year, I was surprised by the similarity of the landscape in Ontario, Canada and some regions of the UK such as the Lake District or Southern Scotland. A hint, one has more hills and mountains than the other… I’ll let you be the judge :)

Is this in Ontario, Canada
Is this in Ontario, Canada?

Or is it this one?
Or is it this one?

Why leave the towels on the rack in hotel bathrooms?

In almost every hotel I’ve been in recent years, there has always been a little card in the bathroom with a text similar to this:

Dear Guest,
Every day, millions of gallons / liters of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once. You can help the environment by putting your towels back on the racks, which will mean “I will use it again”. If you leave it on the floor, it means “please replace”. Thank you for helping conserving Earth’s vital resources.

As a good Swiss who is mindful of the scarce resources on the small planet we all live, I always put my towels back on the rack. But nine times out of ten, when I get back to my hotel room in the evening, I find that all the towels in the bathroom have been changed! This leads me to a simple question: Why did I even bother?

Currently staying in San Diego, California, I guess that the underpaid illegal immigrants who clean the hotel rooms in the region don’t understand English very well, but the hotel management could explain the rule during training. If it’s to make the guest feel he did his ecologically-friendly action of the day to feel better when he steps in his huge SUV as he will have forgotten it anyway in the evening, then don’t bother putting that little card in the bathroom.

OK, I’ll stop my complain. But to all the hotel mangers out there, please stop providing me the impression that if I do this little thing, I’ll help save the planet, and then show me that you didn’t care in the first place and that this little card in the bathroom was just part of the hotel policy to provide a better “experience” to its guests.

Update: Day two of staying in the same hotel… I had to continue my experiment. Well, nothing changed, still got new towels when I came back to my room.

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What is it with receipts from taxi drivers in Miami?

Early this week, I went on a business trip to Miami, Florida and four out of five taxi drivers, when I asked them for a receipt, handed me a paper without writing anything down! I would have been able, at wish, to write down anything I wanted on these receipts and claim the money back… With one little problem: they would all have had my handwriting. Every time I asked the driver to fill the paper out, he looked annoyed, as if these 10 seconds could have been used driving a customer and making money for them.

Then again, after you’ve experienced them driving through the city, it might be just that… The red light is the enemy as it doesn’t make the $ counter go up. Two choices: accelerate and go through even if it is a dark orange or accelerate as fast as possible as soon as it’s about to get green to catch-up the lost time. The biggest problem with these two options is when you have more than one taxi at an intersection… :-)

Hello from Boston!

For Easter week-end, we went to Boston area to see friends. It’s nice to be back in the great city…

Downtown Boston

The biggest surprise was that the restaurant on 15 Union Street is no longer the “Marshall House”, but the lobster and clam chowder is still as good as before, even with that place under new management :-)

Winterlude in Ottawa

Every year, there seems to be this concept of “it’s really cold today, let’s do something outside”… In Ottawa, they call it Winterlude, e.g. North America’s greatest Winter celebration. At that time, you can skate on a 7.8 kilometer “skateway”, which in summer is a man-made river.

Skating on the Canal

There are also those who are much more gifted with their hands than I am and who take part in the International Ice-Carving Competition. Really impressive temporary-work of art.

International Ice-Carving Competition

And for those who wonder, there is a difference between -10? and -20? Celsius… when the air you breath freezes your nose, you can tell it’s cold outside :-)

Enjoying an NHL game

Already my second NHL game in three months… Looks like I am getting hooked to hockey if I continue at that rhythm.

a first NHL game

The most interesting thing in this game is that there where almost as many Toronto Maple Leafs fans as there where Ottawa Senators fans… and when you get the two groups together encouraging their teams, it combines “Go Sens Go” and “Go Leafs Go” into what sounds like “Go Sleeves go” :-)