Holiday Air Travel Rules

Tis the season to be traveling around to visit family for whatever your holiday of choice is.  There’s a good chance you’ll be taking a plane ride, and, as I will be flying to Kentucky, I thought this might be a good time to review the rules of etiquette…especially if you’re going to be on my flight.

1. No seat yank-backs

See…there’s a pretty good chance that I’ve got my laptop open, maybe a drink on the tray seatback-pax-quentintable. So when you yank your seat back, you’re actually impinging on my space, endangering my computer and upsetting my drink. Now, you can tilt the seat back an inch or two…but that’s it, unless you specifically turn around and ask.

2. You don’t own the window shade.

I usually request the window seat because I like looking out the window, especially as I’m departing and arriving somewhere. But these days it’s a real crap shoot as to where you’re going to be placed. I was surprised on recent daytime trips where I was in the middle or aisle seats and the window passenger immediately pulled down the shade, not only cutting off my view but also cutting off light from my reading material. (The overhead lights weren’t working.) When you get the window seat, I reckon you are renting the seat, the area under the seat and the tray table…but how about asking first if you want the shade down? (I recognize that there is some debate about this among frequent fliers, but I’m afraid I’m going to have put my, er…foot down.)

3. No smelly carry-on food

These days, airljv-gas-mask-quentinines are cutting back on all sorts of amenities, particularly food. So I usually pack some innocuous snacks. However, an otherwise very nice couple next to me unpacked a veritable smell-orgy of foods they apparently had been cooking for the past few days in their shoes.


4. No rushing past people in the aisle waiting to deplane

Here’s a true story from several years ago. I was traveling through Pittsburgh on my way to Phoenix and the usual crowd was queued up in the back part of the plane. A stylish, yuppie’ish couple behind me were politely but earnestly asking folks if they could get through because they were in danger of missing their connecting flight. We all cooperated as the couple squeezed their way through. I didn’t mind at all. My companion and I had some extra time before our own connecting flight so we stopped in the airport bookstore to browse. And who should we see but the time-crunched couple casually picking out some magazines. And this is still true: I sidled up next to them, anonymously, and overhead the guy telling his wife/girlfriend, “Hey, that really worked well! What a great way to get off the airplane without waiting in that horrible line.”

I guess I’d still let someone squeeze past, especially if I knew that our flight had a delayed takeoff. But I better not see you in the airport bookstore.

Oh, and by the way, what’s with everyone in the rows behind me feeling the urgent need to rush out of their rows to get into the aisle so they can just stand and wait?


Author in gas mask photo (c) 2011, Jim Veihdeffer

Calling Jeana/Jessica Jones…again

About two and a half years ago I posted an item — “Calling Jessica Jones” — about increasingly annoying girl-calling-quintustelemarketer calls asking for a person by that name. As I said then, it turns out it’s not really the telemarketers’ fault–they were acting on what they thought was a legitimate request from someone seeking their goods.  And the reason I kept getting calls was that the telemarketers have a custom of re-selling old leads, much like banks selling junk bonds.

Happily, over this period, the calls have slacked off to almost nothing…maybe once every 6 months.

And then, just yesterday, she struck again!

Now, I keep my phone set in quiet mode during the classes I teach so I didn’t notice the voice message until several hours later.  It said, “Hey there, this is Kirsten from [garbled…sounds like “book words store”]. You had made an order with us on the 15th and for some reason our system has flagged it as fraudulent so, uh, we can’t send it until you verify your name and address. So if you just give us a call…”

Riiiiiight. Next thing you know it’ll be the IRS or Mystery Shopper calling. But I was curious what kind of fraud might be being perpetrated since about two months ago I had my credit card number hacked. So I called the outfit, which turned out to be based in Tennessee.

And guess who the person was who had ordered “bulk herbs”?

No, not Jessica Jones. Nope, it was Jeana Jones.

I had a delightful, cooperative chat with Ms. Kirsten who was nice enough to give me both the mailing address and email for the new Ms. Jones. The email was the same as before: The bulk herbs store had tried emailing that address but didn’t get a response.

But get this, the street address had changed. In March 2014, the address (which I visited) was in Phoenix in an apartment complex on N. 12th St.

The new address 16825 N. 14th St., #16, is several miles north of the old one . . . and I plan to pay a call there one of these afternoons.

But I’m sure it’ll be the same outcome: a nice lady will answer the door and have no idea who JJ is. And the apartment complex manager will not be allowed to give out any info.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m still perplexed as to what Jeana/Jessica gets out of this. She/he/it is not receiving any goods and is not out any money. So unless she’s some kind of industrial spy, neither Kirsten nor I see how the gimmick works. Clearly it’s not just a question of a mistaken phone digit — the perp has obviously changed her name from Jessica to Jeana and moved her putative address just a few miles to the north but kept my phone number to bait the vendors with.

I’m open to hearing explanations from anyone who might be in the know…

…including you, Jeana/Jessica. You know the number.


Samsung Names Celebrity Spokesperson


New Galaxy Note 7 Spokesperson Will Set Moderate Tone for Smartphone Damage Control

Phoenix,  Oct. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Samsung (NYSE: SSNLF) announced today that the company has engaged the services of one of the most temperate and respected spokespeople in modern public life to help offset recent technology woes the company has been experiencing with the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

The announcement naming Donald Trump was made at a press conference in Phoenix.

samsung-note-7-trump-quintus“I’ll convey the company’s interests in the kind of measured, honest and transparent tones that I’ve built my fabulous businesses such as my casinos, my university, my airline, my tremendously successful USFL football team, vodka, steaks, dietary supplement scheme and water bottles and other hugely winning products on. It may take some groping to get the exact, whatchacallit…verbiage…but once we get the company unshackled from all the liberal media bias, we’ll make this innocent company that’s the victim of slurs and totally unfair name-calling great again,” Trump said. “Guaranteed.”

“Game over for naysayers,” Trump added. “To be perfectly honest, this’ll turn the company around.”

Trump followed up the press conference with a Tweet:





Time to Vote Them off the Island

I confess…I’ve been watching the TV reality show “Survivor” from the get-go. There have been some shameful returning contestants and questionable editing, but one thing remains solid: getting voted off the island (though it’s not always an island, and, OK, sometimes they’ve jury-rigged the rules to bring someone back).

Herewith, we present four ideas or practices that almost everyone would agree need to be voted off the island.

1. Daylight Saving Time. Doesn’t save time or money (probably never did) and simply adds to the total aggravation in the world. “While most of North America and Europe observe DST, all those nations don’t change clocks at the same time, creating further discrepancies” (See National Geographic 2013), not to mention wreaking havoc with various religions’ prayer times (See also Washington Post “5 Myths”) and international conference calls.(update below*)


2. “Natural” label on foods. There is no legal, medical or biological definition of “natural”—and obviously there are numerous items — lead, arsenic, ricin, polonium, cyanide (which occurs naturally in the stones of apricots), and of course the pleasant-sounding “dog button plant” seed, aka, strychnine. (And don’t get me started on forcing GMO labels.)


Expiration/”Use by”/”Enjoy by” dating on foods. Serves no purpose, has nothing to do with health or safety, no consistent standards from state to state, methods of determining are often arbitrary… and results in massive waste of food, not to mention the water, land and transport needed to produce food which in many cases is perfectly healthy but illegal to even give away to charities, homeless and food banks.

best-by-crossoutIn short, printed food dates are not federally regulated and do not refer to food safety.

For example: Grade A milk sold in Montana must be labeled with a “sell-by” date 12 days after pasteurization, and retail sellers must remove that milk from their shelves upon expiration of the 12-day “sell-by” date. Compare this with other states, such as my home state of Pennsylvania that requires 17 days from pasteurization, California which requires a processor-decided date when product would normally (but not required to be) removed from the shelf, and Texas which has no requirements at all. (See Montana)

What is probably needed is a national standard so that your housemate (I’m not naming any names here) doesn’t simply toss your still-quite-useable milk carton without so much as a sniff test, leaving me, er, one, with dry Cheerios for breakfast.

Non-Metric (traditional) measurement: The International System of Units (ISU, i.e., metric system) has been adopted as the official system of weights and measures by all nations in the world except for Myanmar (Burma), Liberia and the United States (World Factbook). Pretty fancy company there, eh? And the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has identified the U.S. as the only industrialized country where the metric system is not the predominant system of units.metric-countries-300Isn’t it time the U.S. joined the rest of the world?

Runners Up

Two-year election run-ups – Canada: 11 weeks; Mexico: 3 months (with 60-day “pre-campaign” period); U.K: 139 days. Meanwhile, in the U.S. it’s about two years, with Ted Cruz most recently announcing his candidacy 596 days before Election Day.

iTunes updates – enough already. Every time Apple updates its iTunes interface I have to completely re-learn all the tabs and controls I had mastered.

The phrase “politically incorrect.” It’s almost always used with a snarky sneering tone, suggesting that we shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re “the right thing to do.” I know, I know, there are further implications and subtleties, but I can’t think of any usage situation where the phrase actually adds anything of value to a conversation. Imagine someone saying “I know it’s politically incorrect to suggest that ________ aren’t as smart as Whites…” or “I know it’s politically incorrect to call someone a __________.” I say:  say or don’t say it but don’t try to excuse your rudeness or insensitivity with a pre-emptive non-apology.

Update: I have since heard as a casual reference on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (Episode #586 – 10/01/2016) that DST is still with us because of the candymakers (Big Candy, I guess you’d call ’em) — apparently the later amount of daylight allows kids to stay out longer collecting candy. I’m skeptical of that and not sure if the show commentator was serious.

Revelations Shock Mormon World

New revelations from the Angel who started it all

  Hot drinks, wine, meat in summer and not having babies now OK!

Angel Macaroni reveals typos in original gold tablets

In 1823 Joseph Smith had a heavenly visitation, in which an angel named Moroni told him of a sacredwings-2-quintus-background-sept2016 history written by ancient Hebrews in America, engraved in a strange Egyptian dialect on tablets of gold and buried in a nearby hill.

However, it wasn’t until the most recent discovery of a new tablet that certain Mormon beliefs were found to be “slightly incorrect.”

The 18-year-old Smith was originally told it was the history of the ancient peoples of America, and that he himself would be the instrument for bringing this record to the knowledge of the world. Young Joseph obtained these gold plates from the angel in 1827, and translated them into English by the spirit of God and the use of a sacred instrument accompanying the plates called the uma thurman (sacred contact lenses).

Here’s how it came to pass, according to one of Smith’s close companions.

“As a consequence of the early brethren smoking Cuban cigars, drinking cheap wine in the hot springs while noshing on greasy chicken wings and overcooked brats, it was found that said brethren tended to get way rowdy and caused their wives much misery in cleaning up the next day, not to mention that the brethren were rendered completely useless in their husbandly duties. Thus the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently he inquired of the Angel Macaroni (nephew of the Angel Moroni, who was on leave of absence) concerning it. Macaroni dutifully prepared new gold tablets and impishly hid them in the usual spots. Unfortunately, when the tablet info was transcribed by one of Smith’s increasingly annoyed wives, it is believed that she made certain slight editorial “judgments” and redactions that significantly changed the Angel’s intentions.”

The new, correctly translated gold tablets indicate that Moroni had never intended to outlaw wine since it was a staple of  Jesus’ time — indeed of both Christian and Jewish worship.

As for “hot drinks,” Macaroni noted, “This is just plain silly. Why would we outlaw soup? And what about hot chocolate? Who in their right mind would forbid that?”

Mistaken texts forbidding the eating of meat except in summer, when it’s cold out, and in times of famine “should have been caught right from the get-go,” Macaroni pointed out. “Isn’t that sort of the point of a famine…that there’s no meat? I mean, cometh on, people! Getteth thou a clue.”

The new translation also indicates that mindlessly populating the world was “a big mistake, in retrospect.”

Here is the original, “mistranslated” text, verbatim from Doctrine & Covenants.

Doctrine and Covenants 89-REV

89: 7 And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.

89: 9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

89: 12 Yea, flesh also of  beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

89: 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

89: 16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine.

However, more careful renderings of the wine prohibition show that Smith actually allowed wine drinking with certain restrictions.

89: 5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.

89: 6 And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.

nephi-bread-water-wine-compositSmith then sayeth:

(Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at the Youngstown (Ohio) Mall February 27, 1833. HC 1: 327–329.}

“Many of thou think that ‘wine’ refereth to unfermented grape juice, but I say unto thee, if the Lord had meant simple grape juice, he wouldth have had Nephi say ‘grape juice.’ Nay, it did come to pass in 600 BC that the tribe of Lehi did drink of fermented beverages, sometimes a nice IPA beer, but generally a hearty red wine (no Merlot!), and only in moderation and thus also did Laman, Lemuel and Sam—though not always in such moderation for Laman, we art sorry to report. And yea six hundred years passed as the Son of Mary did enjoy the traditional four cups of wine — not grape juice! — as they did take their Passover Seder. And Yeshua did convert water to wine — not grape juice! — at Cana as well.”

P.S. from Macaroni: Forgetteth thou not also Nephi’s note to the thirsty: “He that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” That soundeth like a pretty good deal. (2 Nephi, 9:50)
PPS. Nephi wouldst like to addeth: “He commanded his disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it…and this shall ye always do.” 3 Nephi, 18:8,11

Historical note: Joseph Smith was well known to be an imbiber. In 1833, Smith suggested that church members abstain from tobacco, alcohol and hot drinks and only use wine at communion. However, his right-hand man, Martin Harris, indiscreetly mentioned that the prophet had drunk too much liquor while translating the Book of Mormon (Brodie, 144). He gladly took partook of alcoholic refreshments, particularly at weddings  where he notes in his journal  “our hearts were made glad with the fruit of the vine…according to the pattern set by our Savior Himself.” It wasn’t until 1836, at the height of a temperance movement, that Sidney Rigdon, a fanatical temperance enthusiast and Church leader, pushed through a ruling calling for total abstinence. Smith acceded, replacing wine with water in the communion. (Brodie, 167)

A moratorium on odious phrases

At restaurants: “How’s everything tasting?” or “How’s everything tasting for you?” etc. waiter

Comment: This phrasing is wrong on so many levels that that I’d have to delve into gerunds and participles to explain . . . which nobody really wants me to do. However, it’s easy enough to detect why it’s wrong using the time-honored linguists’ principle of substitution: Imagine saying “How’s that dessert tasting?” or “How’s that fish tasting”? or even “How are all the foods on your table tasting?”  In short, servers could just say “How’s everything tonight?” or “Does everything taste OK?” (Admittedly, those friends who are willing to go to a restaurant with me are tired of me harping on this to otherwise innocent servers.)

Shopkeepers: “You have a good day now.”Dr Phil

Comment: at the risk of sounding churlish, we could do without the excessively good-buddyish “you.”

Someone observing you trip or stumble: “Careful!”

Stumble sign-blog backgroundComment: If the kind-hearted person had cautioned you before you tripped, that might do some good. But though the empathy is appreciated, it’s really pretty pointless to call out after the fact. Frankly, I don’t have a replacement that conveys the well-meaning concern you have so we’re open to suggestions.

Someone disagreeing with you: “That’s just your opinion!”

Comment: There can hardly be a more pointless argument since most things are someone’s opinion or someone’s interpretation of an expert’s opinion or someone’s interpretation of the data. But if one is really giving an opinion, countering it by calling it an opinion puts the discussion in a meaningless downward spiral…”Oh yeah? Well, calling it my opinion is just your opinion!” etc.

Service agent or tech representative wanting to know how to get back in touch with you: “What’s a good number to get in touch with you?” or “What’s the best number to call you back?”

Comment: Y’know, I was thinking I might give you my old discontinued telephone number or my ex-wife’s number or the fax number that I haven’t used for 10 years, but since you want a “good” number I guess I’ll just give you my actual current phone so you can call me when we get disconnected or you need to give me a price quote or whatever.*

tech support pie chartawesome-picture-swimming-pool-1-nice-ideas

Olympic coverage: “And now, in swimming news…”

Comment: I’m all for swimming, and they’re certainly magnificent athletes and I suppose it’s great when someone sets a new world record, but I can’t think of a more boring thing to actually watch (unless you’re a lap swimmer yourself) — half the time the athletes are under water and basically all you see are arms flapping in the water — and the number of times I wonder how the swimming world is coming along is approximately equal to . . . well, never.  

Presidential candidates: “Believe me” and “Trust me, it will be hyuuuuge” and “I heard…”

Comment: I’m not sure when “I heard” became a legitimate way to judge whether “thousands and thTrump-noseworkousands”
of people were celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey, or that the unemployment rate is actually 42 percent, or that your opponent’s email was hacked by foreign governments, or that Vladimir Putin used the N-word about Obama—but I’d like any candidate using this lame phrase to . . . well, fire it.

* related beef: When you dial into a company’s call center and the automated system asks for your phone number and numerous other details, why does the agent have to ask again? I’d understand if they said they just need to confirm the number, but they sound like they’re getting the info for the first time.  I actually heard a news report on this where the commenter said it may often just be a way for the call center agent to stall while they get their screens (or whatever) organized.

Save The Trump!

Sadly, The Donald doesn’t seem to realize that no one ever came out looking good by disparaging the family of a fallen war hero.

But of course that’s just the latest in a long…lonnnnng line of Trumpisms that would have sunk a less vainglorious sociopath who never saw an insult he could rise above.

However, this raises the specterhot water of a big problem for the Democrats: What if Trump continues to blather on and finally gets himself into such hot water that he has to be forcibly ejected from the race?

What if his tax returns, or the Trump “University” scam, or the Trump Foundation tax scandals, or further bankruptcies or attacks on foreign leaders result in him being somehow legally disqualified!

One can already see the RNC’s champion laying the groundwork for defeat by announcing that he “heard” the election is going to be rigged. “I have to be honest,” he added. (Really.)

But if Trump is somehow ejected for legal reasons, that leaves the GOP with the possibility of installing an actual, credible candidate who doesn’t see thousands and thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the destruction of the Twin Towers, who doesn’t hear that the unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent, who doesn’t wonder if a grieving woman is silent because “she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say” and who doesn’t believe that building high rises is some kind of patriotic sacrifice. “I’ve had tremendous success,” he added (really), apparently confirming the nature of his sacrifices.

I can think of one or two possible replacements who wouldn’t make fence-sitting Dems race to the porcelain clutching their stomachs.

So what the Democratic contender really needs is for the Trumpinator to stay the course and shut his mouth long enough to forestall being indicted until its too late for the Republicans to vet someone new.

Save the Trump! It’s the Democrats’ great white hope.

Update: This essay was posted prior to the most recent news articles, like “GOP officials think Donald Trump might drop out of election” and “The GOP’s Donald Trump freak-out”. Of course I’ve been predicting Trumpageddon for months now and have always been wrong.