Saturday, April 25, 2009

trusting text messages?

So I've been booking some international travel these past few days and I guess my credit card company thought that this was out of character for me (they must not know me very well!). But instead of allowing the transaction to go through and calling me later to verify like they have done in the past, they rejected the transaction and sent me a text message.

First off, it's pretty annoying that the default behavior is to block the transaction nowadays, especially with someone who books international trains/hotels frequently. But the part that really got me was the text message. It had an 800 number to call in it and when you called that number, it didn't immediately identify itself as the bank. Very fishy (or phishy?).

In any case, I hung up and called the number on my card (which was different from the number in the text) and indeed, the text was legit. But really, are they expecting people to trust the text message and give away their credit card number to some automated phone system that doesn't identify itself? Strange.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fast Trains

Most of your know that I have a thing for fast trains. Efficient electric transportation directly to and from a city center just can't be beat! Which I why I was really excited to take the Acela a few weeks ago from DC up to Boston. And I was quite impressed. If Obama can be serious about this high speed rail network in the US, it might just be a very good thing!

The day started nice and early with a 9am train out of Union Station in DC. By 8:40 or so quite the line had formed by the track (as it's general seating, which I found sort of strange). The train was totally sold out, but I was able to get a nice window seat. The seats were quite spacious and there's a power outlet for every seat, which I definitely took advantage of in order to work on a paper for a good part of the trip.

The train ride itself was super quiet and the leaning into turns felt even smoother than the french trains that do that. However, there was no wifi, which seems like a huge oversight since the buses that go on the same route (Megabus, Bolt, etc.) all have wifi. It was probably for the best in the end to minimize distraction :)

The cafe car had tons of great veggie food as well...veggie burgers, pita and hummus, and a few other vegan items. Definitely a huge step up from traditional Amtrak fare!

Unfortunately, high speed doesn't mean very high speed in America. The train averages somewhere in the 80 MPH range, although it did get up to 150 for a little bit. Nothing like the 190 MPH on the French trains, but not a bad start.

Anyway, if they end up doing this Chicago hub for high speed rail, I'll definitely appreciate the quick service to Milwaukee and St. Louis if they roll out the same sort of train. Just please add wifi!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Cable Show

So two weeks ago I was down in DC for The Cable Show. This was my first time there and I didn't really know what to expect. A really wide variety of companies attended this thing - from equipment manufacturers like Motorola and Cisco to operators like Comcast to networks like NBC, Turner, Disney, HBO, etc. I guess I was expecting something CES-like with everyone showing their latest stuff.

Sadly, it was much more of a sales event than a showcase. Which I guess was ok, but not as cool :) The media companies all had some pretty big stars come out. Turner brought out Wolf Blitzer and Fox had Danny DiVito and a bunch of other people I didn't recognize! Our booth was right next to Turner, which owns Cartoon Network. At one point they had a dozen or so storm troopers come out and do battle in the booth which was pretty amusing. And they gave out a whole bunch of Clone Wars goodies!

We were showing off our sports service, TuVista. There's a video up on YouTube if you want to see more about it. The video came out OK, especially since they just came up to me and were like, put on this mic, we're going to tape you. So no planning, but it tells the story :)

While in DC, I was able to run over to see the Cherry Blossoms, which were in full bloom that week. I had always wanted to do that and was happy to have the chance! Sadly, I had to head up to Boston on the day they were doing the 10 mile race through the blossoms - that would have been so much fun! I was also able to meet up with a few wonderful MIT friends for dinner which definitely made the trip awesome!

Some good food was had as well. I highly recommend IndeBleu which is a sort of Indian-inspired restaurant with lots of veggie options. Vegetate was also really good, although on a block of abandoned buildings which was a bit odd.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

fainting in dc?

Sorry for the long break between posts here. I've been out of town on a crazy Chicago-DC-Boston-LA-Chicago trip. I'll be posting some updates about fun things at the Cable Show and CHI, but first a weird occurrence...

So my first day in DC, I had just landed and we went straight to the convention center to set up our part of the booth for our demo. I hadn't really eaten anything all day and was pretty hungry, but didn't think much of it. While setting up, I had to reach in a sort of contorted way for a cable and pulled something in my shoulder. Not really badly, but enough to want to take a break for a minute. So I stand up pretty quickly and walk around a bit to shake it off. But I can't walk, at least not well. My head was getting light and I could just feel my brain slowly shutting down and fading away. Apparently I stumbled a few steps and some people in the booth helped me to the ground. It was pretty scary!

As soon as I was down, I was feeling much better - although completely soaked from sweating. But the paramedics came anyway. Nothing was really wrong with me although my sugar was a bit low (not surprising since I hadn't eaten anything in quite some time). Anyway, a super scary experience!

Which would have been enough on its own. But then I had dinner with a friend who lives in DC and she told me that she had just recently fainted while at home. And then the next day I had dinner with another friend who also had fainted at work. Now there's something weird going on. Three people, all within a short amount of time, fainting for the first time in their lives in the same city. Something weird is going on there!

Google seems to be no help. But if anyone has heard anything about this, let me know. It's too weird to just be a coincidence.