Cuba Cancelled

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

My previously scheduled talk for tomorrow night, Thursday, November 1, on Birding Cuba for the Brooklyn Bird Club has been cancelled due to transit issues and the continuing closure of Prospect Park where we usually hold meetings. It will likely be rescheduled in early December.

Update: The new date is Thursday, December 6 at the Litchfield Villa in Prospect Park. See you there!

JetBlue/ Fail

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I’m glad I don’t rely on JetBlue to book my hotels:

Select one of these popular Dutch Hotels in Bermuda

Do you see the mistake? Hint: Bermuda is not known for its tulip fields. :-)

Cuba Day 6 Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Sanctus Spiriti

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Day 6, Monday. This is mostly a travel day. No lifers today and few birds at all aside from caged Bullfinches and Mockingbirds. We first stop for an hour in Cienfuegos so the driver can get gas. While he does that, I explore town and encounter my first hustlers and beggars. I also find the first non-tourist shops where regular Cubans shop with pesos instead of CUCs.

Cienfuegos Shopping

#803-#805 in Old Havana

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

We arrived in Cuba today almost before we left Miami due to the difference in Daylight Savings Time (though this won’t be posted until some time later due to the lack of Wifi access in Cuba). Of course I got held up by the second most annoying customs inspection I’ve ever had to go through. The inspector looked at almost every piece of optics I had, most of which I had to explain to him. I had to put the spotting scope together and show him how it worked. He took photos of most of it. I’m not sure why. He was very impressed with my 17″ MacBook Pro. Apparently even in Cuba, Apple products are considered cool. Although I was the first one in our group through the metal detector (not sure why, but in Cuba they X-Ray you coming off the plane; looking for contraband I guess) I was the last one to exit customs. Still not as bad as flying back into Miami though.

But we finally got to the hotel around 11:30. The drive from the airport was interesting: Cuba certainly isn’t a rich country but somehow it doesn’t look like a poor one either. In many ways, it looks in better shape than parts of the United States. Poor but not rundown or abandoned. Many, perhaps most, buildings look a little shabby, but that’s common in any tropical country where you need to paint and repair annually or the jungle takes over. It took me a while to put my finger on the real difference I saw between Cuba and other places I’ve visited in the developing world: everyone’s in the same boat. In Panama or Puerto Rico, and to a lesser extent Beijing, there’s an obvious contrast between quite wealthy people and extremely poor people. I don’t see that here because I don’t see wealthy people, or big houses, or apartments, or mansions, pretty much anywhere we’ve been so far. We’ll see if this holds up as more of the country is explored. It’s often in rural areas where most tourists don’t go (but birders do) where you find the deepest poverty.

We grabbed a carb-heavy lunch at a local restaurant, and afterwards explored old Havana. Even before lunch I caught a glimpse of my first lifer, #803, Cuban Blackbird. on top of a building. However I didn’t get a good luck, and couldn’t swear it wasn’t a Greater Antillean Grackle. But we found several again after lunch with much better looks.

Cuban Blackbird

ZipCar 2010

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

2010 was the first complete calendar year in which I was both a Zipcar member and in New York the entire year. How’d it work out?


Airplanes in the Cloud

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Apparently the airport wireless does not reach into the plane though. Shouldn’t have bothered to board early.

American Airlines is now selling cheap (relatively) upgrades to first class at checkin at the airport. I wonder if I can get one online in advance? On a short hop–e.g. New Orleans to Dallas–it can actually be cheaper to by the upgrade ($35) than to check two bags ($50).

Is there a tethering application for the Android yet for those airports that don’t have free wireless? That would also come in handy when my parents’ wireless network flaked out over the holidays. If there isn’t, maybe I should write one.