androids2

Wisdom from A Chicken-Head: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Sacred Fools Theatre, Los Angeles, through October 19
Directed by Jaime Robledo, Script by Edward Einhorn, based on the book by Philip K. Dick
Starring Eric Curtis Johnson, Emily Kosloski, Lynn Odell, Corey Klemow, Kimberly Atkinson, Marz Richards, Bruno Oliver, Rafael Goldstein, Mandi Moss
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neinvogel

Lufthansa And SkyWay Robbery: Nonstop Rue

Lufthansa's current motto is "Nonstop You."
Lufthansa’s current motto is “Nonstop You.”

An account of a crime that happens all the time but is, apparently, legal.

Lufthansa’s policies allow it to collect three fares for two flights

neinvogelHow it works: Customer purchases ticket but misses flight. Seat is sold to standby customer for $600 more. Original customer told he must pay $500 in change fees plus the difference in fare for the next flight, even sitting in the same section. Customer told at desk he can get a refund, but told on phone he cannot. Customer not allowed to redeem ticket for less expensive one (even at a loss). Customer must choose higher fare and pay fees plus difference in fare to redeem original ticket. This creates a situation in which a customer is likely to find a less expensive fare with the same airline and pay out of pocket for it. Either way customer ends up paying twice for one flight, and the airline can collect three fares for two flights.

I have missed flights before. I am a few minutes late, I can see the plane parked on the tarmac, I watch it taxiing away as I pay a hundred bucks (or nothing) to get on the next flight. On April 6 I similarly missed a Lufthansa flight from Los Angeles to Venice, but it looks like I will never go, and that the company is banking on keeping the fare.

A friend drops me off at the Woodley Street Flyaway, a bus terminal in Van Nuys. It’s been remodeled since the last time I was there, and I wait in the wrong line. A bus to LAX passes me. It’s my bus. By the time I catch the next one, I’m really cutting it close.

I arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal to the sound of my name being paged. I reach the desk, hand over my passport, and say “My name is being called right now.” I am told that security has closed. I can walk on if I leave my bag with the person who brought me. I explain that the person who brought me is a bus, and that bus is gone. I ask if there are lockers. I can store my bag here and buy underwear in Venice. I’m not proud.

“Not since 9/11,” says the polite Austrian Lufthansa representative, “are there lockers.”

Meanwhile, someone on standby has just purchased my seat for $1900, or $600 more than my employer paid. I know she has my seat because she complains about it on the phone.

“Section VV. That one is way in the back,” she says. “But at least I’m on.”

“What time is the next flight?” I ask. I had a layover in Frankfurt where I was to meet a longtime colleague for the first time in person. Looks like I’ll miss that, but maybe I can even land a direct flight to Venice.

It is to be my first trip to Europe. My ticket is in Economy, class VV. I imagine that’s not particularly classy, come to think of it.

I am handed to another representative, who tells me there is a flight through Munich later in the evening. I should make it to Venice just a few hours later than planned. It will cost me $1100.

“Pardon me, but why is it going to cost $1100?” I expected to pay a hundred bucks, maybe $200 because the flight was international. I don’t know how these things work, but I know from the two times I’ve missed a flight in my life, I got on the next plane for free or for a hundred bucks; both times involved 15 seconds of typing on the gate agent’s part, or roughly six dollars a second.

“This ticket was purchased several weeks ago when the fares were lower. The fares have increased, so it will now be $1100.” I am told, The person telling me this does not look pained to be breaking this bad news to me, nor does he look glib.

“But you just made about $600 on that standby ticket you just sold,” I am saying. “You just sold my seat for $1900. How are you telling me that I must pay $1100 more than the amount I already paid?”

“I am sorry,” the representative says, not seeming sorry, or happy, or anything. Perhaps tired. “But it doesn’t work that way.”

It dawns on me that I might not get in a plane that day. I learn that the exact same flight tomorrow will cost me $800 more. Ditto for the Monday flight. After an hour (I am paged for at least 30 minutes during this conversation; it is maddening), the plane has left. I send emails to my employers from my phone.

Yet another representative appears from the back room behind the Lufthansa desk. She bears some notepaper with several numbers that start at $800 and go to $1500. All alternate fares. These amounts include something called a rebooking fee and a cancellation fee, both $250.

“This has happened to me before,” I repeat to the new person. “It has never cost me more than $100 to get on the next flight. All you have to do is type something. And I met the standby passenger who bought my seat for $1900.”

“She didn’t buy ‘your’ seat,” I am told. “It doesn’t work that way.”

“So how does my company get refunded?” I ask. Because I’m going to be in trouble.

“You need to call Customer Service,” I am told, and the Customer Service Representative writes down the number below the $1500.

“But aren’t you Customer Service?” I say. “I mean, we’re right here.”

“We have another flight coming in.”

Clearly they wanted me away from the desk. I walk upstairs and find a seat. It is odd to be carting my luggage behind me. Usually by this point in an airport the baggage has been checked and it’s Miller Time. But I move my seat to a corner so I can hear.

I call Lufthansa Customer Service about refunding the ticket price to my company.

“Your company bought a non-refundable ticket,” I am told.

“I was just told at the desk—where I’d been waiting an hour—that I needed to call you to get a refund,” I say.

“I don’t know why they told you that. Your company purchased a non-refundable ticket. According to the Rules of the Ticket, it can’t be refunded.”

“Wha – ”

“Do you wish to keep your ticket?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you wish to keep your ticket?”

“I heard what you said,” I say. “But what do you mean? I’ve just been waiting for an hour to get on the next flight and you’re hitting me with charges that would almost double what my company paid for the first ticket.”

“We have a $250 reinstatement fee plus the $250 cancellation fee, and as a gesture of Good Will we can waive the reinstatement fee. And we can keep that ticket valid in your name for a flight up until March, 2014.”

This is insane, and I tell them this, politely. This ticket was purchased for me but I screwed up and got there late, but I can’t even return it to the company who bought the ticket for me? What if I’d died on the road to the airport and missed the flight? Lufthansa would have just sold my seat to a standby customer and collected two fares?

Oh wait. That’s what they did.

I eat an expensive Mexican dinner within sight of the Lufthansa desk, then pay $50 for a shuttle home. I cancel the dog walker. My dog is aware I’m brokenhearted. I send a series of emails to my employer. The team is all en route and they’ll pick up the messages tomorrow. I’ll try to work out a way to do the job from home on Venice time.

So now I’m thinking that I’ll wait for the fares to get lower again, eat crow, pay $250, and fly to Venice in a cheaper season.

The next morning I eat a good breakfast and call Customer Service again. I get a thorough explanation of the charges, each of which is complete nonsense, in my opinion. I explain that Lufthansa did not lose a pfennig on me—in fact it made $600—and these extra charges and fare differences are onerous and usurious.

The Rules of the Ticket were explained again, as if the Ticket were listening, and would be angry.

“If your company had purchased a more expensive ticket,” I am told, “you’d have more flexibility.”

“So Lufthansa punishes people who buy the lower-priced tickets,” I say. I am on the website and I notice that there are fares that day that total $900. I ask why I wasn’t quoted these prices at the desk yesterday.

The fare needs to be the same or higher to have transferred your ticket,” I am told. “The computer will not even accept a reservation if the ticket is a lower price than your reinstated ticket.”

I reflect out loud how odious this is, that a $1300 ticket has already been purchased for a seat that was snapped up by a standby customer for $1900 because I was late. That I could not get my company’s money back despite no service being rendered. That I would have to pay arbitrary fees between $250 and $500 (because if a fee can be waived as a “Good Will Gesture” then it was arbitrary in the first place) just to think of buying another ticket, and then pay the difference in fare which, according to the Rules of the Ticket, needed to be higher.

And “The Rule of the Ticket” could not be overridden, apparently, by anyone.

“If you had purchased a more expensive ticket—” the representative says, after mentioning something about not making the rules.

“What’s more,” I add, “you basically guarantee that my $1300 ticket will expire, unredeemed, by making the charges to redeem it so ridiculous. I would have paid $250 to reinstate the ticket and get a fare below $1300 not expecting a refund, but you won’t even let me do that.”

“I will not be able to authorize a fare difference,” I am told.

According to California’s Office of the Attorney General:

California law requires that retailers who have a policy of not providing a cash refund, credit or exchange when an item is returned with proof of purchase within 7 days of purchase must inform consumers about their refund policies by conspicuously placing a written notice about their policies, in language that consumers can understand, so that it can be easily seen and read. Some companies may limit exchanges or returns for credit or refunds on all, or some products. Some may not allow exchanges or returns for credit or refunds at all. But whatever the limitation, it must be conspicuously disclosed.

While the small print in the ticket confirmation forwarded me by Human Resources does state that mine was a non-refundable ticket, it does not say that Lufthansa reserves the right to double-charge me to redeem a single ticket, which effectively is a triple-charge considering the money it made from a standby passenger.

Comparisons flood in: If I miss a bus or a cab, do I pay more for the next one? If I buy a pass to Disneyland, does it cost more the next day? If I buy a theatre ticket and miss the show, do they not give my seat to someone else and offer me a refund? If I fail to hold my dinner reservation, does the meal cost more the next time? If I buy a coupon or a gift card and the price of the item I redeem it for has gone up or down, do I pay a penalty? In fact, name any other service in which the “Rules of the Ticket” makes redeeming one ticket more expensive than buying another.

Lufthansa has stolen my company’s money. I imagine it must be a great day for them when a busload of passengers arrives late, rather than just one.

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California German Immersion Program Gains International Acclaim, Growing Pains

Deputy Consul Stefan Biedermann (R.) presents a check to Franklin Elementary's German Immersion Program. (L-R) Teacher Soecialist Ana Jones, Glendale School Board member Jpylene Wagner, Principal Vickie Atikian-Aviles, Language Coordinator Frank Duscha

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GLENDALE, Calif.—Dignitaries from Germany and Austria toured a groundbreaking German language immersion program here, enjoyed a holiday “Winterkonzert” featuring more than 100 of its students, and presented Benjamin Franklin Magnet School a check from the German government.

Handing the $5,000 check to Principal Vicki Atikian-Aviles, Deputy Consul Stefan Biedermann of the German Consulate of Los Angeles praised Franklin Magnet, part of the Foreign Language Academy of Glendale (FLAG).

“You are preparing these students for the realities of the global economy,” Biedermann said after chatting in German with kindergarteners and fourth-graders, “where multilingualism is necessary.”

Germany’s Central Agency for Schools Abroad provided the check. Language Coordinator Frank Duscha works with numerous public and private German schools in the United States from the agency’s Los Angeles headquarters, providing financial assistance, teacher training, and exchange programs to schools from Anchorage to Ft. Lauderdale.

“(For potential teachers in Germany), we describe the Glendale area as a paradise,” Duscha says.

Herr Magister Andreas Lins of the Austrian Consulate-General reminded the packed auditorium of Winterkonzert attendees that, while Germany might be the largest German-speaking nation, “we mustn’t forget Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein!”

Franklin Magnet German Immersion students perform their "Winterkonzert"

All but a few of the students, who from kindergarten are instructed for 90 percent of their class time in German, are native English speakers, notes FLAG Teacher Specialist Ana Jones, yet by sixth grade are proficient in both languages.

Jones added that studying one language accelerates the acquisition of others.

“Studies indicate that as students become more fluent in their target language,” Jones says, “that they outscore monolingual students (in standardized tests).”

Audrey Klein, now the parent of a second-grader, helped to launch the German program in Glendale before her son entered kindergarten, and says the Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) made it easy.

“I met a German teacher in yoga class,” Klein, who was born in Glendale but raised in Bremen, Germany, says. “We were at first thinking of a charter school and had no idea a public school would support this. But we took the idea to the GUSD and the doors just swung open.”

In addition to German, FLAG boasts immersion programs in Italian, Spanish, and French at Franklin and Korean, Japanese, and Armenian at other schools across Glendale, the fourth-largest city in Los Angeles County.

Klein’s concerns about the program include constantly-looming budget cuts that threaten to increase class sizes.

“I’m a big fan of small classes with great parent involvement,” Klein says. “We have the parent involvement, but I hope we can keep the small, and that the program can continue.”

Another problem facing Franklin Magnet is the popularity of the programs testing the spatial limitations of the campus. Since it is a magnet school, students come to the German program from all over Glendale, La Crescenta, Los Angeles, and as far as Thousand Oaks, 40 miles away.

“The language teachers here are like a family,” says German kindergarten teacher Elke Tupanjanin, “and we would be very sad to move.”

But the growing pains are offset by parent involvement, the support of invested governments, and the enthusiasm of the students, who were clearly delighted to be singing in German for international dignitaries and parents.

German teacher Vera Sanon introduces her second grade class to Deputy Consul Stefan Biedermann

Second-grade teacher Vera Sanon says the children are aware of their talent, but humble.

“We had a visitor in class recently and the children didn’t want to ask him how many languages he knew,” she says, “because they didn’t want him to think they were smarter than he was.”

See also: Franklin Magnet School, German Consulate General, Los Angeles, German Central Agency for Schools Abroad,

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In-n-Out of Favor with the Lord: Fast Food Bible Passages

Do you really want fries with that?
Do you really want fries with that?

As much as a first visit to In-n-Out Burger is a revelation (“How can fast food burgers taste this good?“), it’s that much more special when a customer finds a verse from the actual Book of Revelation on his hamburger wrapper.

Since 1948 In-n-Out Burger has been a southwestern craving; a friendly burger chain with a simple menu, nearly 300 locations throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas, and Bible verses placed discreetly on the packaging of its signature fare. Today I, a lapsed Catholic Bible scholar (and those are the worst kind, really) try to draw some connections between the menu item and the type of salvation it promises.

To be clear, it’s not the verses themselves written on the packaging, but the book, chapter, and number of the verse. So not only must diners really be on the lookout for their Biblical metadata, which might get lost in the logo or copyright information, but they must also go home and check their Bibles.

They could also do as I did: track down the verses on my phone while waiting for the warm cheese of a Double Double to slowly drape itself over my heart.

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Verse: Revelation 3:20
Food item: Hamburger and cheeseburger
Meaning: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Interpretation: It’s pretty early in the Apocalypse when this verse shows up, so it seems reasonable that The Lord might want to start things with a hamburger. It’s presumptuous to think that as soon as The Lord walks in, you’re all going to eat, though. One assumes that The Lord has more important things to do than chew and digest when His creation is coming to an end.
Summary: It makes sense that if you hear someone knocking, you’d open the door, and that if you’re eating, you’d share it. Good advice.

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Verse: Proverbs 3:5
Food item: Milkshake cups
Meaning: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
Interpretation: When my children say, “This milkshake is too difficult to suck up through the straw! It’s hurting our brains!” I say something like: “Do what you’re told and stop thinking for yourself. You think you’re smarter than your old man? Don’t you think I want you to have nice things? This is a luxury, right here. Drink the damn milkshake.”
Summary: Don’t think for yourself; just drink the milkshake. You’ll be fine.

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Verse: Proverbs 24:16
Food item: Fry boats
Meaning: “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.”
Interpretation: Once I was in an In-n-Out in Las Vegas when a man clearly suffering from some kind of withdrawal walked in. He fell at least seven times, but did not appear to be righteous. Full disclosure: I wasn’t having a particularly righteous weekend myself.
Summary: That is some heavy stuff to think about when you’re eating your fries. I guess the first time you fall, it could go either way. It’s like Schroedinger’s Proverb. Falling once, you could be righteous OR wicked. The answer is in whether you get up. If you just lie there, you’re wicked. No more french fries for you!

Drink cup [image lifted from bridgeandtunnelclub.com]
Drink cup [image lifted from bridgeandtunnelclub.com]

Verse: John 3:16
Food item: Drink cups (excluding milkshakes)
Meaning: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Interpretation: Coke adds life, I’m told.
Summary: This money shot of Bible verses seems like it would be more appropriate for the packaging of a burger. After all, the restaurant is named In-n-Out Burger, not In-n-Out drink cup. Maybe more orders come with drinks than burgers. Me, I feel that if the person choosing Bible verses for the packaging had seen fit to quote Nahum, that he might have gone for something less mainstream than John 3:16. Or maybe he was a particularly big Nahum fan, and in order to get Nahum on the Double-Double, he had to put John on the drink cups. I suppose that’s a very hipster way of looking at it.

Double-Double [picture grabbed from GreasyCamera.com]
Double-Double [picture grabbed from GreasyCamera.com]
Verse: Nahum 1:7
Food item: Double-Double
Meaning: “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”
Interpretation: Sometimes the anticipation of a Double-Double outshines the gastric experience of it. Halfway through I usually feel like sneezing cheese, and that my pores are going to open up and ooze cheese. Up until that point, though, it’s really tasty. In fact, as I keep eating, and then eat the next one, the feeling goes away.
Summary: I guess you need to trust in The Lord if you’re having angioplasty, and The Lord will know if you’ve been faking it all this time.

I’d think that if In-n-Out’s founding Snyder family had gone through all that trouble to secret those verses on their wrappers, that they would reward customers with something more relevant to what they were actually eating.

For example, on a Quadruple-Double (the largest legal burgr In-n-out sells, with four pieces of meat and four pieces of cheese), an appropriate verse might be Romans 14:2: “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.”

Or for the special, speakeasy menu that features “Animal Style” and “Protein Style” offerings, Matthew 7:10: “Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?”

Or at the very least 1 Kings 19:8: “And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights.” I often don’t need to eat for a day after I have In-n-Out burgers, and plan to get a whole bag of them the next time Satan tempts me in the desert.

Below, my suggestion for the napkins:

The Lord Wipes Those Who Wipe Themselves
The Lord Wipes Those Who Wipe Themselves
"What Makes A Baby" by Cory Silverberg

Stork Contrast: “What Makes A Baby”

"What Makes A Baby" by Cory Silverberg

Cory Silverberg wanted to write a children’s book that addressed what makes a baby from a different perspective: one that didn’t assume the child was born to a heterosexual couple.

“It’s a book about where babies come from that makes no reference to intercourse,” Silverberg, the Sexuality editor of About.com, says.

But when’s the last time you read a children’s book with intercourse in it?

“I can’t think of any,” Silverberg laughs, “But most of them dance around the subject, as you’d expect. And that’s appropriate. But ‘What Makes A Baby’ doesn’t even make those assumptions.”

Silverberg’s “What Makes A Baby” addresses a world in which the means are more varied—infants arrive to single-parent homes, as the result of donated sperm or In-Vitro Fertilization or surrogates, to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered partners, via adoption and fertility treatments—but the ends are the same: a child who wants to know where he came from.

“‘Where do babies come from’ and ‘Where do I come from’ aren’t often recognized as two different questions,” Silverberg says. “By removing the heterosexual intercourse aspect, we can talk to everybody.”

The 32-page hardcover book was funded through a Kickstarter campaign. Canadian artist Fiona Smyth illustrated the full-color tome to reflect Silverberg’s request that “everyone not look the same.

“…so we’ve got purple people, people who look like trees…” he says. “It is very colorful and engaging to little kids.”

But the project has drawn the ire of some conservative thinkers.

Commenting to Canada’s LifeSite News, Michael O’Brien says the book ignores the consequences of non-traditional babymaking:

Based in a profound ignorance about human nature, and about what makes for a healthy family, it is the next stage in the self-destruction of the traditional family and healthy society that was once the foundation of Western civilization.

Further, children’s author and professor Dr. Christine Schintgen tells the site that “What Makes A Baby” is “social engineering”:

Instead of acknowledging the fundamental truth that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife is both the normal and the desired way to bring children into the world, this book will attempt to normalize morally problematic, and sometimes bizarre, forms of reproduction.

Calling the book a “graphic contribution to the decline of Western civilization,” Presbyterian pastor David Fischler is more subtle:

What would a book about making babies be without including those who can’t? If pre-schoolers aren’t made aware of in vitro fertilization, surrogate gay motherhood, fertility drugs, and the whole panoply of modern scientific and sociological options, they might grow up stunted and homophobic. And if a child really is the product of the intersection of a “turkey baster and a friend,” wouldn’t he or she want to know about that?

“I have no interest in insisting that my version is the only way,” Silverberg says. “But that’s the point: if you’re a member of any population that isn’t addressed by most ‘Baby’ books, now you don’t leave with the feeling of something being missing.”

Ontario native Silverberg now lives in New Jersey where his own partner is studying. They are not parents themselves.

“But this is the book I’d want for them,” Silverberg says.

Having co-authored (with Miriam Kaufman and Fran Odette) “The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness,” Silverberg initially lacked the motivation to begin “What Makes A Baby.”

“Then my friend, Jake, who happens to be transgendered, facebooked me and told me he and his partner were expecting a second child, and that their first child had questions,” Silverberg says. “Because I had one child to write for, I felt better prepared to do it.”

The Kickstarter campaign’s initial $9,500 goal was to fund a limited run and artist Smyth’s fee, but the project took in more than $60,000, so Silverberg is more ambitious.

“We’re printing more copies—domestically, in Minnesota—and hoping to develop an app in multiple languages,” he says. “Then, me and each of my friends will be sitting down and putting each book in an envelope by hand.”

Not with a turkey baster?

“You know,” Silverberg says, “this book is absolutely fine for biological children of heterosexual couples, too.”

See also: “What Makes A Baby” | Cory Silverberg | Fiona Smyth

Scream, “Black Devil Doll,” Scream!

Relentlessly marketed, inexpensively produced, and patently offensive, “Black Devil Doll” is a very special movie that does for feminism what the civil rights movement did for puppets.

Re-animated in puppet form the moment of his state-sponsored electrocution, unstable lover/fighter Mubia Abul-Jama (yes, I know) falls in love with sassy Heather Honeydew Boone. Continue reading

and Journal of Unintended Consequences