Posts Tagged with 'Chicago'

Is Third World Travel Dangerous?

Posted Monday, November 24, 2014
I've been asked this questions quite a few times over the years, mostly by people who, like me, also live in Chicago. The irony here is that Chicago has over 2000 shootings and 450 homicides in a typical year, so almost anywhere else outside of a war zone would be an improvement statistically.

This is not to say that Chicago is particularly dangerous for tourists: most violent crimes happen between drunken family members, rival gangs fighting for turf or drug deals gone bad. And these sorts of incidents almost never happen at places visitors frequent like the Art Institute or the Field Museum or atop the Tower-formerly-known-as-Sears.

Yet somehow my fellow Americans have gotten the impression that the only thing the fine people of South Africa ever do is riot, because that's the only time they ever seem to make the news. That Thailand is too dangerous because of the coups, Colombia too dangerous because of the drug lords, and Egypt too dangerous because all Arabs are potential terrorists.

As it happens, the first time I visited Thailand, a coup actually did take place while I was in the country; I didn't even know about it until I returned home. Colombia is full of friendly people and beautiful sites and is safe enough if you avoid the drug trade. I was in Egypt as an independent traveler during the First Gulf War and the greatest threat I encountered was to my wallet, being overcharged by the occasional taxi driver or offered fake gold jewelry or just-made-yesterday antiquities from the occasional shopkeeper. On the whole, the Arab world has a long tradition of providing warm receptions to visitors; just be prepared for buzz-inducing doses of syrupy-thick coffee when negotiating souvenir purchases.

Of course, a traveler still needs to remain aware of unfamiliar surroundings and use some common sense, like not walking around random neighborhoods while wearing a Rolex watch or carrying $10,000 in cash. The worst thing that's ever happened to me across 70 countries over three decades is being pick-pocketed -- and that was in Rome after being surrounded by a group of noisy 8-10-year-olds holding open newspapers.

Americans aren't the only ones mislead by their local media. I once got a call from my grandmother in Germany, asking me if my house had been damaged by the tornado. Of course, there had been no tornado in Chicago, but rather in rural Iowa 300 miles away. From the European prospective, Chicago was the nearest city anyone there was likely to have heard of.

And for many years, when I traveled abroad and people asked where I was from, the usual response was: "Chicago? Al Capone. Bang Bang." Thank goodness that eventually changed to "Chicago? Michael Jordan!" with the hand dribbling an invisible basketball!

Tags: travel, Chicago

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Third World Adventures with AT&T

Posted Friday, August 15, 2014
I am normally impressed with companies that are willing to hire the mentally handicapped. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with AT&T's approach, which is to place their mentally deficient into senior management positions.

With AT&T I get the chance to relive my Third World adventures without having to leave my apartment. For example, buying a train ticket in India can require standing in 5 lines before the process is complete. With AT&T, it can easily take being bounced around to 5 or more customer service reps around the country to resolve an issue.

But wait, there's more! AT&T employs technology to ensure that it wastes even more of your time than dealing with the bureaucrats in India. The automated phone system -- once you finally convince it to connect you with a live human -- is apparently designed to send you to the wrong person or place; this gives you the opportunity to chat with a large portion of AT&T's workforce over the course of an afternoon. Each of them, of course, ask you again for the phone number you were required to input to reach them in the first place and for your "security code," which can't be all that secure if you have to share it with the bulk of AT&T's staff every time you call.

To make things fun, about one time in 3, you'll get disconnected during a transfer and need to start from scratch. Best of all is when you actually find the right person to solve a problem and are almost finished when AT&T Uverse drops out temporarily, thus ending your call in mid-sentence.

The excitement never ends! Once you get your phone bill back to being close to the expected price, you can rest assured that the bill will go up a couple of dollars every month or two and then jump by as much as 50% if you neglect to get in touch with them for more than 6 months. Apparently, AT&T just loves to hear from you in person regularly, a half day at a time, so they can follow up your call with their customer satisfaction emails.

Sure would be something if they actually read those responses!

Tags: rants and raves, review, technology, Chicago, USA

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Review of Fernando's Restaurant, Chicago (2 Stars)

Posted Saturday, August 2, 2014
This is a place that seeks to underwhelm even the most modest of expectations. The food is pricy for the portions served, which are suitably sized for kid's meals. An $8.00 quesadilla appetizer consisted of two tiny quesadillas cut into thirds. The menu said 1.5 pounds of ribs for $17.99, which sounds like a fair price; unfortunately, they really meant ONE 0.5 pound order of ribs.

The food overall tasted slightly better than what I was served in my high school cafeteria, hence the very generous second star.

The waiter could have been French rather than Spanish; certainly, he was as friendly and helpful as your typical French waiter in Paris when you only speak English.

This might be the ideal restaurant to take a blind date you've already decided you never want to see again. Otherwise, I would stay clear of the place, even with a Groupon deal.

Located in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood: 3450 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

Tags: rants and raves, review, restaurant, food and drink, Chicago

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