TSA getting serious about luggage theft – arrests TSA agent stealing from luggage

The Transportation Security Administration is in the news a bit too much with stories of their staff stealing from our luggage.

The problems at JFK airport were so serious, that the TSA and Delta Airlines worked together to try and nab the crooks in action.

It didn’t take long till the sting operation turned up its first victims – TSA worker Brian Burton and baggage handler Antwon Simmons were caught on camera stealing a laptop, an iPod and 2 mobile phones.

The very people who are hired to keep our airlines safe are too crooked to be trusted with our valuables, a very worrying statistic, especially since this is by no means the first time TSA workers have been involved in luggage theft.

These two clowns even tried to hide their handywork by swapping tags on bags, which means the rightful owners would not only lose their stuff, they’d get it delivered days later than scheduled as it would be sent to the wrong airport. In the worst case, their bags may never be recovered.

Words like scum, filth and disgusting pop into my mind when I read about this – but I am happy the TSA is taking matters into their own hands. By regularly organizing these sting operations, their staff might start to think twice about robbing the traveling public.

I’m also concerned that TSA workers are able to leave the airport with our valuables. In any normal retail or manufacturing organization, you can only take home what you came in with. Being able to leave the sterile area of the airport with laptop computers and mobile phones that don’t belong to you should not be possible.

Diamondback Terrapin turtles shut down JFK airport

Well, there go all our anti-terror measures. Forget dangerous bottled water, or nail clippers – all it takes to shut down an airport is a bunch of lost turtles.

Yesterday morning, 78 of them decided to leave the bay and crawl onto an active taxiway. When an American Eagle flight noticed them, they notified the tower and the FAA halted all traffic for about 12 minutes.

It took a crew 35 minutes to gather up all the turtles and give the all clear for flights to resume.

What surprises me the most, is that this is apparently a fairly common thing – jets hit turtles several times a year at JFK. Surely a small fence could prevent the turtles from causing havoc at the airport? It’s one thing to be delayed due to bad weather, but to sit in a plane awaiting a departure slot because of turtles is just insulting.

The halted flights and clean up caused delays of up to an hour and a half, which is a pretty miserable way to start your vacation (if you were so lucky to be heading somewhere nice).

Hotel review – The Hotel On Rivington – New York

The Hotel On Rivington is a New York boutique hotel, right in the middle of the Lower East Side. The hotel is probably one of the easiest to locate in the entire area, because it stands 21 stories tall between the 4-5 story buildings.

The Rivington describes itself as a full-service boutique, and of all the hotels I’ve tried in New York, the Rivington is the one that will be the most memorable. I’ll admit right away that I am not a big fan of boutique hotels, as many of them tend to use the term to justify tiny rooms and snotty attitude. The Rivington proves that smaller boutique hotels can be welcoming, while staying true to their roots.

The building itself is fairly narrow, and Rivington is a pretty busy street, so don’t expect a large open check-in area (or lots of parking space, though Valet service is provided). On the ground floor is their restaurant (THOR) and the check-in desk is on the second floor.
Check-in was quick and efficient and I was quickly on my way to my 9th floor suite. It took me a good 20 seconds to unlock my door, as the hotel issues RFID keys which have to be held up against a small black square on the door. I wish the check-in clerk had mentioned this to me. Since this is a boutique hotel, they keep the hallways nice and dark, which of course does not help in locating the door key tag reader.

Once in my room I was pleasantly surprised by the layout and space available. The room is narrow, but long and consisted of a living space, bathroom and bedroom/work area. The living room has a pretty minimalistic design, but still offers a leather sofa, table and flat screen TV. Floor to ceiling windows let in a lot of light during the day, and provide an awesome view during the night.

The bathroom is equally well designed – some rooms offer a basic shower, while others have an in-room bath tub and steam room. The shower in my room took a little getting used to, as the top portion of the windows are open, and your private parts are only shielded by a frosted pane of glass in the bottom half. Still, it was pretty damn cool to shower at night while looking out over the city. (Apologies for the poor photo).

The bedroom has a (very small) desk and a Tempur-Pedic bed. This room also features floor to ceiling windows, and the bed looks right out over the city. There is something soothing about opening the (remote control) curtains and looking out at the Empire State Building while you drift off.

Along the hallway are closets, one of which hides the minibar and a safe (large enough for a laptop). The minibar is surprisingly well stocked, though not surprisingly, the prices are insane. In the minibar, you’ll find everything from full size bottles of Champagne and Tequila to 3 different “intimacy kits”, though you’d better be pretty damn desperate if you are willing to pay $23 for 3 rubbers and a tiny bottle of lube.

The hotel has very capable WiFi, though you do need a login key (which was provided at check-in). The desk area is far too small to get any real work done, and there was just one open outlet under the desk.

Rooms at the Rivington are not cheap, especially if you want something more than a basic room ($225). Higher rooms or corner suites start around $380/night and go over $650 for a “unique room”. If you need something really insane, you can spend a night (or two) in their 3 level penthouse suite which includes a massive 21st floor patio and hot tub.

The hotel provides in-room breakfast or a free breakfast in their ground floor restaurant. I ordered a room service breakfast which came to $44 with tip and service fee. I ended up eating the breakfast off the large headboard of the bed, since the desk is just too small to hold anything larger than a laptop. The french toast with fresh fruit was delicious, as were the grilled potatoes, but the $4.50 bagel was cold and did not taste fresh.

I had a very enjoyable 2 night stay the Rivington, and have become less judgmental about hip hotels. Sure, I’m still not hip enough for most of them, but I can see the Rivington being the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. The area around the hotel is much cooler than I had expected and the hotel is a real gem. Prices are high, there is no denying that – but this is New York City, and in New York City all hotels are expensive. Even a big brand name hotel near Times Square charges $349 for a basic queen bedroom. At that price, I’d say the Rivington is absolutely worth checking out.

London Black Cabs voted best in the world – Parisian cabbies the rudest

A European survey of 1400 tourists has revealed where you can find the best taxi cab service.

33% of the votes went to London, followed by New York (17%) and Berlin (6%).

London cabs were also given high marks for friendliness and knowledge of the routes. They do lose marks for being exceptionally expensive.

New York came second in almost every category, except safety. In fact, New York cabbies were voted “worst drivers”, though they make up for it with their knowledge of the city.

Taxi drivers in Paris were voted the most unfriendly, and rightfully so in my opinion.

In all the times I visited Paris, I never came across a single cab driver who seemed to posses the will to live, let alone the ability to provide friendly and reliable service to the millions of tourists visiting their country. Paris also takes the top place in worst taxi availability.

Geotagging cameras create accidental maps

One could easily spend hours browsing images on social photo-sharing sites like Flickr. From time to time I find myself on the site’s “interestingness” page, endlessly hitting the reload button and marvelling at all the beautiful photography. But one unintended consequence of all these photos has nothing to do with what they look like – it’s all the information like tags, camera type and location that’s created along with the images.

All that information has even allowed researchers to create virtual maps of the world’s most-photographed landmarks and places. According to the New Scientist, investigators at Cornell University have been analyzing the geotagged information automatically recorded by many new cameras when they take a picture. All the information has led to some interesting insight into what visitors find most interesting.

The top spots? New York tops the list as the world’s most photographed city. London however has the most photographed landmarks – sites like Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye and the Tate Modern art gallery all top the landmark list. Coming in at fifth place? New York’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store.

[Via Metafilter]