New E-Kiosks Aim To Speed Up Airport Customs Process

Clearing customs after arriving in the United States is set to get faster thanks to a new electronic system. Rather than filling out declaration cards handed out during the flight, travelers will soon use self-service kiosks to answer customs-related questions. The machines will spit out a receipt which passengers will then show to a customs agent, along with their passport and travel information.

Known as the Automated Passport Control Program, the system aims to speed up the border-crossing process. The new technology was developed by the Vancouver Airport Authority and will be implemented in the Canadian city first. It will then be launched at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, which will be the first port of entry in the United States to make use of the automated system.”This technology will help expedite customs processing for passengers arriving to O’Hare, further strengthening Chicago as a global destination,” said Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a news release. “Being the first airport in the U.S. to implement these advances demonstrates how serious we are about making Chicago the first, best and most welcoming city in the country.”

[Photo credit: Flickr user CBP Photography]

Look Out For Goats At Chicago O’Hare

Twenty-five to 30 goats will soon start grazing at Chicago O’Hare Airport. The animals will help landscape 120 acres of foliage, including space near creeks and hill areas that are difficult for groundskeepers to maintain, CNN is reporting.

According to the news outlet, the city announced the plan on Wednesday as part of a two-year contract for “sustainable vegetation management grazing services” that will help them reduce costs and carbon dioxide emissions. To make sure the goats don’t get too close to runways, they will be separated from the airfield by security fencing and will remain supervised while on airport property.

CNN reports other airports that have brought goats in to landscape have seen mixed results. In San Francisco, goats are successfully used two to three weeks each summer to clear vegetation, which allows the airport to clear a firebreak without interrupting some endangered species that call the area home. But in Seattle, goats came and went within a week in 2008 because they were too effective, eating everything in sight – including native plants the airport wanted to protect.

Chicago’s herd is expected to arrive in about a month. Look out for them as you take off and land at the airport.

[Photo credit: Armin Kübelbeck / Wikimedia Commons]

Celebrating May Day: Images Of Workers Around The World

Today is May Day, when the world celebrates the struggles and sacrifices of the common worker. Like this cheese seller in Tupiza, Bolivia, photographed by Gadling’s resident cheese expert Laurel Miller. After some hard hours making her product, this woman comes to the market hoping to sell it all before the day is through. She uses a plastic bag on a stick to keep the flies away.

A range of unions and workers’ parties declared May Day a workers’ holiday in 1898. The date commemorated a three-day general strike in the U.S. that started on May 1, 1886, during which workers demanded an eight-hour day. Police fired into a protest by employees at the McCormick-International Harvester Company and killed three. On May 4, workers staged a protest against the killings at Haymarket Square, Chicago. A bomb went off and the police charged into the demonstrators. At least a dozen people died that day, including seven officers. Eight activists were sentenced to hang for the bombing, although there was widespread criticism about the lack of evidence.

American workers eventually got an eight-hour day, but it took several more major demonstrations and lots more people getting hurt. Many countries still don’t offer the benefits we now take for granted. Traveling around the world we come across people in lots of different lines of work. Some jobs are good, some are bad, and some are downright grueling. I’ll never forget a man I saw on a construction site in Damascus, Syria, back in 1994.

A crew was digging a deep trench into the sidewalk near our hotel, and every day my travel companions and I would pass by. Most of the men were down in the trench digging, but one guy had the job of sitting on an upturned bucket at street level manning a pump to take away water from the trench. He pulled on a rope attached to a pulley overhead, which yanked a crude pump at the bottom of the excavation. He’d set up a rhythm and sat there pulling all day. We saw him, every morning, noon, and evening, for days on end. We dubbed him, “The Man With the Most Boring Job in the World.”

I regret I never talked to him. While I’ve had my share of soul-destroying jobs, I bet he could have taught me a thing or two about what it means to work for a living. So Happy May Day, Man With the Most Boring Job in the World, and Happy May Day to all the other workers photographed in this gallery of shots by Gadling bloggers and members of the Gadling Flickr pool!


Cockpit Chronicles: How I Fell In Love With An Airplane (Video)

The MD-80 just might be the Rodney Dangerfield of the airline world. It just can’t seem to get any respect. But for those who really get to know the airplane, it offers some features, and admittedly a number of quirks, that has made it near and dear to many pilots. Against all odds, this Boeing pilot has fallen in love with the Mad Dog.

Passengers either love the airplane or hate it. And much of those feelings depend on where you’re sitting. A perch up in first class offers one of the quietest cabins in the air. Conversely, finding yourself in the back row between the engines and across from the lav would only be appealing to the truest aviation geek who somehow enjoys the noise.

Compared to a Boeing, there are so many sounds, levers and quirky features in the cockpit of an MD-80 that I can only do justice by video. So on my last week of flying the airplane back in February, I decided to document a few of the features that have made me fall in love with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 or the “Super 80” as we call it.

For all the quirks, as I mention in the video, it has an enviable safety record.

But let’s face it; the reason I’ll miss the MD-80 the most might have more to do with which seat I sat in. Bumping back from captain to co-pilot as these airplanes are retired means that I won’t find myself taxiing around La Guardia or Chicago, or any place for that matter as the captain does all the taxiing.

And the co-pilots I flew with were the hardest working aviators at the company. I will absolutely miss them as some became good friends along the way.

You never know, with the flood of A319s, A321s and new Boeing 737-800 and -900s coming at my company, I could be back in the Super 80 left seat soon, or in one of those shiny new jets. Either way, I’m glad I had the opportunity to fly the airplane before it’s gone.

[Photo credit: Kent Wien]

Related: “Captain on the MD-80? Why?” and “A Captain No More.”

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a captain co-pilot on the MD-80 757 and 767 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Falling In Love With The World’s Most Hyped Churros At Xoco In Chicago

I’m almost never game to wait in a long line to eat. But I joined a line stretching outside the door at Xoco in Chicago last Saturday because I couldn’t stand to hear another rave about the place without experiencing what all the fuss is about for myself. Xoco is a fast food Mexican place owned by former “Top Chef” master chef Rick Bayless, whom my colleague Laurel Miller once memorably described as an “all-around culinary badass.”

The place has a whopping 1,662 reviews on Yelp – 897 of them mention the otherworldly churros – and about the only people who pan it are those who can’t get a table. (There are only four restaurants in Chicago with more reviews on Yelp: Kuma’s Corner (burgers), Hot Doug’s (hot dogs/sausages), Girl & The Goat (New American) and Smoque BBQ.) I’ve been hearing about how unforgettably good this place is since it opened in 2009 – the place is a tourist attraction in itself – but was reminded that I needed to try it after seeing a write-up on it from Grant Martin in our budget guide to Chicago in late January.We arrived at 1 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, which is probably the worst possible time to try eat here. But the line moved fast and I actually needed the half hour or so to study the menu and the daily specials. I knew that I wanted a torta, a Mexican sandwich made on fresh bread from Labriola Baking Company (another great place to eat in Chicago’s western suburbs) that is cooked in a wood burning oven, but I was torn between getting the Choriqueso, which is made with homemade chorizo sausage, roasted poblano, artisan Jack cheese and tomatillo salsa, and the Baja chicken, which comes with homemade chipotle mayo, Napa cabbage/radish slaw and black beans.

I went for the Baja chicken, my wife got the pork carnitas and we shared an order of churros with sides of chocolate and soft serve vanilla ice cream. The bill, with no drinks was more than $40, including a hot chocolate we bought for our boys. My torta was absolutely mouth watering. The bread is crusty, the ingredients are fresh and the rich salsa and creamy mayo are an excellent accompaniment to a sandwich that is just about perfect. My only complaint is that at $11, it should be bigger. In fact, it was so damn good that I easily could have eaten two of them.

But the reason why I’m already salivating at the prospect of returning to Xoco is the churros. Good lord, the churros. Forget about the crunchy, flavorless things you buy from a cart on the street or in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican bakery. Those things don’t even deserve to have the same name as the treats that are served up at Xoco.

They literally melt in your mouth and the flavor is so intensely sweet and cinnamony that it brings a smile to your face. Really, I challenge anyone to walk into Xoco in a terrible mood, eat a churro and see what happens to your demeanor. These damn things could bring peace to the Holy Land for crying out loud. My wife liked to dip them in the sinfully rich, decadent chocolate but I preferred the cinnamon/vanilla ice cream combo. How do you want your Powerball winnings – lump sum or yearly payouts? You can’t go wrong either way.

After visiting Xoco in the city, I found out there was a Frontera Fresco with many of the same menu items a Norris Hall on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, only a mile from my house. I went there with my wife on a Friday at 1:30 p.m. and there was no line whatsoever. Even better, most of the tortas were $1 or $2 cheaper than they are downtown. I had the Cubana, which comes with pork loin and bacon, black beans, avocado, artisan Jack cheese, chipotle mustard, Morita chiles and homemade cilantro crema. It was pretty damn good though not quite as tasty as the Baja Chicken or the carnitas.

But the campus location, alas, has no churros. Damn them! But they do have soft serve yogurt – try the coconut – and some very tasty almond cookies and bread pudding. My verdict: Xoco is worth the hype, especially the churros, but if you hate to wait, head north to Evanston.

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara]