Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Slow Moving - Updated

I'm revising my original post about the work being done by Wingard Construction, and more specifically with our project manager, Shane.  This girl knows when to admit she was wrong.

I wrote about how we felt that our home was not properly protected against the rain and that we were mislead about the actions taken to prevent damage.  Turns out it was miscommunication and not deception that was the culprit.  Shane took the time to explain what was done to protect our home prior to the rain and then went into detail about how water would or wouldn't affect the work being done.  My frustrations with the delays caused by the city should not have been taken out on Shane.  He's still a dependable guy who's been doing what he can to get us back into our home.  As a former account manager, I should have remembered how much work goes into simultaneously juggling various teams and venders while keeping a client happy.

The schedule has been revised by two weeks now since we had to play the waiting game with the city, but a lot has actually been done to our roof now that trusses have gone on.  It seems like the roof was the biggest hurdle and the rest of the steps should have fewer delays.  I can't wait to see how everything comes together in the end.  It's been interesting to see the different stages, from initial shock of the fire and seeing our kitchen and master bedroom covered in soaked installation, after demolition and seeing just how much brighter our home can be without a roof (now if only going roofless didn't mean being exposed to the elements), to the current stage with the new trusses in place and the roof work getting started.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Helpful Flight Related Websites + How To Choose A Seat Online For Asiana Airlines

After a lifetime of being called a free spirit I think it's time to come to terms with the latent fact that I'm probably a bit of a control freak.  I can blame my past career all I want, but when it comes to travel I sometimes get obsessive about picking my seat.  That's why when I found out I couldn't select my seats for my upcoming flights on Asiana Airlines I started to feel a little panicked.  I checked the official website and after confirming my confirmation number was not going to get me access to a seat map I did what any normal flyer would do, I searched Google.

From Asiana's website:

  • The online advance seat assignment feature is currently available only for passengers who have purchased tickets on Asiana Airlines website (excluding US website) or mobile application.
  • For tickets purchased through our reservation center or travel agencies, seat assignments can be made at point-of-ticketing, or can be arranged via online check-in service up to three days in advance.

I know the first reaction to most readers is, "Why not call the reservation agents and have them book a seat."  That takes the fun out of actually seeing a seat map and being able to control my optimization from the best available seating combinations.   The wording of the above notification caught my eye and made me wonder if using a non-US website would allow me access regardless of having booked through a third party.  This brought me to some very useful websites.

Created by Amadeus, the software that powers a large majority of airline bookings, you can use your confirmation number for any airline using Amadeus to see real-time information regarding your flight.  This includes special meals, special requests, baggage allowances, seat selection (though you cannot choose or change seat selections, it only displays information).  Very useful for seeing what seats are available and for making sure any requests you made while booking your flight were actually updated.  For example, today I called the reservation agent to change the special meals I requested for my parents to no special meals and to add their frequent flyer information.  I also asked to see if we could get access to some blocked seats, but no dice.  Immediately after that call I checked and saw the updates for the requests I made.  Pretty handy one stop website.  Great especially if you are flying with an airline with a less than stellar website (Asiana's site kept giving me an error when I input my confirmation number).

Another useful site that provides more information than even some of the actual airline websites is expertflyer.  Here you can not only see the seat maps for your flight, but it also shows if the seats that were unavailable are actually unavailable because they are booked, reserved for premium customers, or blocked off.  You can even setup alerts for specific flights to notify you when certain types of seats become open.  That's how I learned a large majority of seats for two of my Asiana flights were actually blocked for assignment at the airport rather than because the flight was full.

Super happy I found both sites, but it still didn't solve my problem of being able to select my seats.  I almost gave up when I found a link through my beloved FlyerTalk to an elusive orphan page that allows access to seat selection!  At the writing of this post this link works, but if Asiana Airlines updates their site that may not be the case, but for now at least there's an answer to, "How do I select seats on Asiana Airline's website?"

Advance Seat Assignment

You're welcome. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Week DIY Itinerary In China For First Time Visitors

Daniele convinced me to post the itinerary I created for China back when I thought Apple would be a bit more human and approve a two week trip to China for Daniele.  This is an itinerary for first timers in China who want to see the big sights but also go a little off the beaten path.  It's more realistic than the itineraries that most package tours tend to create, but it's also a little faster paced than what a lot of independent travelers may do on their first trip to China.  It's not for someone who wants to take their time to see every last sight a city has to offer or who takes a whole day to go through one sight, but it's good for people who tend to go through sights fairly quickly and would rather see more than dive deep.  It assumes you are fairly active/ in shape and will not be traveling with children or anyone with mobility issues.  I've adjusted the schedule a little bit since our original trip included time with my parents, which meant time on business related activities, but everything else is more or less the same.

This trip assumes flying in and out of Shanghai, but can also be adjusted to flying into Shanghai and out of Beijing(or vice versa).  Our original schedule had us heading to Beijing right away after Shanghai so that we could make it to a Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Westin both in Beijing and in Shanghai, but I will list it out South to North because train tickets may be easier to get in this direction since most foreign tourist head north to south starting in Beijing. I've also placed Huangshan at the end of the trip instead of at the beginning as originally planned.
Qibao, A Water Town Outside Of Shanghai

Day 1
Arrive in Shanghai - keep this day relaxed, adjust to being in China or just take the time to sleep after a long flight.

Day 2

Flights Booked!

Alright, flights are booked for Shanghai.  Strangely enough Apple would not allow Daniele more than one week of vacation, which seems so pointless and weird for a tech company.  I joked with Daniele that working in a US campus is only slightly a step up from the sweatshops in Asia.  Since they wouldn't even budge and give him 10 days, we decided he'd have to wait until next time for his first foray into the wonders of Asia (not counting Japan since Japan is similar to the rest of Asia as Germany is similar to the rest of Europe).  So instead of a month in China, I'll only being spending around 3 weeks.

Our flight to China is through Asiana Airlines and includes an overnight in Seoul.  We'll be staying in the tourist center of Myeongdong right in the middle of what many have dubbed "shopper's paradise".  Well, if you're female.  No joke, there are literally door to door cosmetic shops right around our hotel, Hotel Skypark Myeongdong 1.  A quick walk via Google Street View shows more cosmetic shops around our hotel than there are Starbucks in downtown NYC.

I've never been very girly, but seeing how the South Koreans treat skin care and cosmetics, and seeing the ease in accessing a huge multitude of products, I can see how it can become an obsession. I'm even excited to do some shopping.  

It's my first time flying Asiana Airlines and I'm not sure what to expect.  I'm hoping they follow the good service I've come to expect from Asian airlines, even some of the low cost airlines in Asia always beat out just about every American airline and most European airlines (with Swiss Air as the only airline where I experienced outright racism).  From what I've read Asiana Airlines provides more leg room (yay!), friendly service, decent food, and many service perks that no longer exist on airlines in America.  Will they be a contender against my beloved Singapore Airlines(wonderful service aside, people underestimate how much more comfortable Singapore's economy seats are because they have footrests)?  
Notice The Adjustable Footrest, Lifesaver!
Regardless of how the airline is, at least it's another airline to add to the list of ones I've flown on.  

In some ways I wish we were taking United just to see how much that route has changed since my last United SFO --> PVG flight in 2006.  Surprisingly, that was a time when flights on United were actually quite enjoyable, one of my favorites actually (decent food,friendly flight attendants, seats were more comfortable, and alcohol was free).  The only other time I enjoyed a United flight after that was a 2009 flight out of Heathrow(thank you friendly flight attendant who kept bringing me and my seat neighbor free wine from first class), since then their services have been less than lackluster. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

City Hall - Neighbor Rant

On Tuesday I received an email from my project manager at Wingard, there's been a slight delay having our trusses delivered and installed on our house.  We live on a one way street and the trucks delivering and installing our trusses are huge, they would block the street.  Thank goodness for our contractor, Shane.  He's been going back and forth with the city doing everything he can to get plans approved so that his team can have the go ahead.  It's frustrating as the home owner, but looking it at from the city's point of view, it's important to figure out how our contractor will have this work done with the least amount of disruption to our neighbors and the city.  This pushes our schedule back by at least a week, but it's times like this I couldn't be happier with our decision to go with a professional licensed contractor who believes in doing good work. 

The other bit of news this week is actually more annoying and frustrating.