The Google Flight Info Trick

When I first stumbled across this, I thought I was the only one who hadn’t heard about it. Now I find myself telling other travelers about it all the time and am constantly amazed that they don’t know it. If you want to see the current departure and arrival time, terminal, and gate for any flight, just type the following into the Google search box:

flight info [airline] [flight-number]

Where [airline] is the name of the airline and [flight-number] is the number of the flight. Example:

google-flight-info-search-box-text

Here’s an example of what you get back:

google-flight-info-search-box

It works from any browser on any device and for every airline and flight number I’ve ever tried. Good job, Google.

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Interstellar: See It in the Biggest Baddest IMAX Theatre You Can

Interstellar_film_posterChristopher Nolan is quite possibly my favorite living director. Inception soars among any other film in the last decade; as far as I’m concerned, the fact that it was not nominated for Best Director is one of the most damning omissions in Academy history.

The Dark Knight Rises, though in a different lane, was equally successful, and did Nolan ever “stick the ending” (his own words).

So my expectations for Interstellar were very high.

Nolan does not disappoint. While Interstellar does not rival Inception in terms of sheer cinematic virtuosity, or The Dark Knight Rises in terms of dramatic punch, it charts its own new territory on several dimensions:

  • The sound design will take you breath away. Literally. The score itself won’t earn any awards, but I have never experienced sound so carefully and majestically interwoven with the unfolding action and pace of a film. See it for that reason alone, but see it in the best-equipped IMAX theatre you possibly can. (My wife and son and I were fortunate enough to see it in the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in LA, where Christopher Nolan himself had tuned the sound system for showing Interstellar.)
  • The feeling not just of space, but of other worlds in space, has never been so depicted so immersively. Interstellar does for deep space what Gravity did for Earth orbit.
  • The special effects, and specifically the wormhole at the center of the plot, are innovative enough to have actually advanced science. Read the Wired article for more.

Though the path he takes to get there is sometimes elliptical and tenuous, in the end Nolan’s exploration of the central question—humanity’s existence beyond earth—resonated with me so deeply in the final scenes that afterwards I knew it was one of those films I’d be thinking about on my deathbed (should I be so lucky).

It is hard to ask a film—or a director—for anything more.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians-of-the-galaxy

When I first heard our 70+ year old neighbor remark that GOTG was the most entertaining movie she’d she’s seen in years, I knew I had to go. And within the first two minutes I realized why.

This is not another Star Wars. Or Star Trek. It takes cheekiness to a new level. But it’s a great level.

This new franchise is going to live long and prosper.

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Acupuncture for Oso

oso-supportIt’s all but impossible to relate to the scope of the destruction from the mudslide last week outside Oso, only an hour to the north of our house in Seattle. But Bill Wulsin (whose sister Virginia Lee sent me a guest post about Ukraine two weeks ago) just emailed me that he’s been part of the Acupuncture for Oso team that has come together to help the town and the emergency rescue personnel.

It’s just one way to help, but that’s how we get through these things. Please find yours.

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Her

ImageMy wife was reluctant to see Her because she thought it might simply be a quirky story that had garnered favor with the Hollywood in-crowd.

I convinced her to go only after Spike Jonze won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

I was right. In my personal opinion, Spike definitely deserved it because Her is a sci-fi epic poem—a true love story crafted directly from a writer’s hands and heart. You can almost see Spike having a dialog in his writing head with…Her.

And Joaquin Phoenix lives the role so completely you can’t get between him and…Her.

See it with an open mind and an open heart.

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Understanding Ukraine

[At a friend’s 60th birthday party last weekend, I met his sister Virginia Lee who had been in the Peace Corps in Ukraine 5 years ago. I asked her about the unfolding situation there, and her answer so enlightened me that I suggested she write it down. She asked me to post it because she didn’t have a blog. I was happy to because this is the kind of first-person truth about cultures around the globe that we should be helping each other discover. =Drummond]

Understanding Ukraine

ukrainePeople have been fighting over Ukraine for centuries. As a prime piece of real estate, it is strategically located between the Carpathian Mountains (and Europe) to the west, with the Black Sea (and access to the Mediterranean) to the south—and Russia on its northern & eastern borders. Not to mention that Ukraine has some of the most fertile soil in the world where sunflowers grow six feet high and heirloom tomatoes are the size of grapefruits.

Literally, “Ukraine” means “borderland,” which has been the perennially shifting border between east and west, Russia and Europe, however you want to draw the line. The Dnipro (or Dnieper) River flows right down the middle of Ukraine—through the heart of Kyiv actually—essentially separating east and west. To the credit of most Ukrainians, they embrace both cultures and both languages, as if their mother is European and their father is Russian. How can you choose between two parents? In any given Ukrainian city, you will find a Catholic church on one side of the street and an Orthodox church on the other side, with a Jewish synagogue either boarded up or hidden somewhere down the block.

So this tug of war between east and west is nothing new. What is new is that the Ukrainians finally have a chance to run their own country without the Lithuanians, Mongolians, Ottoman Turks, Poles or Russians telling them what to do, as has been the case for the past 1000 years. And this is the essence of the recent revolution in Maidan in Kyiv. In Ukrainian, it’s called “Maidan Nezolejnosti” and in English it’s “Independence Square,” which is where everyday Ukrainians have risked their lives to stand for freedom—the kind that we Americans take for granted.

I have learned most of this from my Ukrainian friends who I met during my recent Peace Corps service in Ukraine from 2007-09. I am in touch with them regularly, and what frustrates them most about the current situation is how their fight for freedom and independence has been co-opted by the media. To them, the real story is getting rid of Yanukovich, a Mafioso president steeped in corruption who bankrupted their country and ruined their economy. And then the focus shifted to the issue of Russians & Crimeans—a showdown between east and west and a rerun of the same old story, whose most recent version in history was the Cold War.

You can’t really blame Putin for seizing this golden opportunity to gain world attention, prove himself as a strong leader to his Russian following—and grab a prime piece of real estate in the process. Having visited Crimea several times during my Peace Corps service, I came away with the distinct impression that Crimea is both beautiful and dangerous, like a Russian hooker, who will not hesitate to betray (and exploit) you if you are not Russian. Regrettably, Ukraine has had to let Crimea go back to her lover.

I pray that the rest of the world will be there to help Ukraine heal her broken heart and rebuild her life. And not relive the horrors of Stalin and the Soviet era as well as the WW2 occupation of Hitler—and all the geo-political struggles that have been played out on the battleground of her sacred territory—all in the name of defining that elusive boundary between east and west. Perhaps it is Ukraine’s fate to be that borderland, so please let’s allow her the peace she deserves.

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The Seattle Seahawks Leave No Doubt

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

After two weeks of reading about the NFL’s #1 all-time offense playing the #1 defense, my favorite stat from the Super Bowl was:

Denver 8 – Seattle Defense 8

It simply leaves no doubt.

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