justice was served…but the memory lives on

As 9/11 fast approaches, it behooves us to remember the severity of Osama bin Laden’s attack against the United States.

National Geographic documented the steps leading up to the massacre in mind-numbing detail, as does the following video shot by private citizens with a bird’s eye view of the catastrophy.

For more than a year the four Al Quaeda Jihadists who learned to fly the jumbo jets lived among us…breathing our air, walking our sidewalks, driving our roads. They shopped, ate, and slept…only steps away from us. While they worked at their horrific mission, we went about our own business…working as usual.

Thousands of American lives were lost on 9/11. Families were forever torn apart. Children, even newborns, lived on without parents. Gaping holes were left in all our hearts. Not to mention the one in NYC…a tangible reminder of our country’s vulnerability to enemies intent upon our destruction…at any price.

President George W. Bush retaliated by taking us to war against Saddam Hossein. The dictator eventually met his maker, Allah. The cost to the American taxpayer?

We’re still paying it off.

And the man who admitted to masterminding and financing 9/11?

Osama bin Laden was silenced forever by President Obama in April of 2011.

No war…no astronomical price tag…

…just good, ole-american know-how…and guts!!!

………hugmamma.   😆  😆  😆

comcast’s “secret weapon”

Comcast Center, the headquarters of Comcast - ...

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I can’t say enough about the quality of service extended by Mark Casem of Comcast Corp’s National Customer Operations. In my professional life I had worked several positions in the service sector, first as a store salesperson and department manager, then as a health insurance customer service rep, and then in the airline industry in personnel as benefits supervisor. While the jobs could be tiresome and tedious some days, what job isn’t, the gratitude of those I helped gave me satisfaction. And what remains with me to this day is the desire to make a difference in someone else’s day…for the better. I’m hopeful I’m succeeding, in small part, with hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.

Singapore Airlines flight attendants

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My husband and I both worked in the airline industry, which also requires public service. Airline employees today will agree, especially in the current economy, that their job security is dependent upon great customer service. Of course the range of quality is across the board, running the gamut from heavenly, like Singapore Airlines, to almost nonexistent in some of the larger carriers. My personal preference is Southwest who’s somewhere in the middle. But because their air fares are usually favorable, and their boarding procedures are quick, I would rank them a little higher. As a result I’ve not traveled on Delta or American in many years, and I can’t remember when I last flew United. Customer service is as important a consideration for me, as are prices and product. Jerk me around long enough and I will go elsewhere. Not a threat, just a fact.

I meet a lot of great people who service the public in restaurants, retail shops, banks, medical establishments, and other businesses, but a gem like Mark Casem is the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” But once found, he remains on hand, desiring to serve “above and beyond.” Lucky Comcast. Lucky me.

One Response to and the award goes to…

  1. ComcastMark says:

    Hello Hugmamma! I am happy to come across your blog again! I am glad to know this was addressed with the help of Mike. Mike Cardone is on of my colleagues (he works the later shift after I leave).

    I will share your daughter’s experience again to my contacts to make sure that they are all addressed and resolved. I am sorry that your daughter’s request was not accommodated the first time she called. I agree with you, (we) should have tried harder in meeting your daughter’s request.

    As always, we are here to help if you need more help in the future.

    Mark Casem
    Comcast Corp.
    National Customer Operations

guardian angels do exist…we just have to look for them…in each other…hugmamma. 😉

The New Guardian Angels

Image by ckaiserca via Flickr



redeeming air miles, “tricky” business

Pan Am Boeing 747SP at LHR

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News about airlines always grabs my attention because both my husband and I are former airline employees. He had worked for Pan Am; I had worked for Iran Air, and then TWA. Probably because we were always opposite the table from management, and are now paying passengers, I’m always sensitive to air carriers trying to “pull the wool over our eyes.” So the Wall Street Journal article “What Airlines Are Hawking” had me wondering “what now?”

We accumulate air miles with a couple of different airlines. We don’t really work at it like a science, knowing how restrictive their use can sometimes be. But we do redeem them from time to time. As a result of what I’ve just read I will, however, start looking at air miles differently. Evidently passengers can redeem them for more than a free trip these days. How about “Plastic surgery, big-screen TVs, IPods, lawn tractors, diamond necklaces, VIP passes to sporting events, casino gaming chips, dinner with the New York Yankees and designer handbags.” And, it seems, the inventory continues to grow. But there’s a catch.

Triple AmEx Bonus Round!

Aha! Didn’t I warn you that the airlines might be up to their usual trickery? What a passenger’s air miles are worth depends upon his or her ranking by the air carrier. How’s that you say? “Airlines charge customers radically different prices, depending on their status and credit card.”

David Yu, who travels so much he has platinum status in Delta Air Line’s frequent-flier program figured he’d be the one to get the best prices. Using miles, he’s bought a computer printer for his college-age daughter, a handbag for his wife and TV speakers for himself.

“I’ve got miles to burn so I consider it free,” he said.

But when he told a co-worker he was thinking of spending 42,600 miles on the Bose headphones, she said she had just purchased the same product from Delta for 34,100 miles. They compared offerings on side-by-side computers, each logging in with their Delta frequent-flier number. Her price was 20% lower than Mr. Yu’s, even though she’s not an elite-level frequent flier with Delta and has fewer miles in her account.

United Airlines Boeing 777 N775UA @ Paris CDG ...

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So what’s up? According to Delta, merchandise pricing isn’t based upon a customer’s accrued miles or past buying history. While Yu received a sizeable discount off the regular price, 68,100, of the BOSE headphones, his co-worker got an even bigger discount because she has a Delta American Express gold card. Yu doesn’t. Furthermore a passenger who is a diamond-level frequent-flier and holds a fancy Amex Skymiles card “can get triple the buying power out of each mile than a regular frequent-flier without the co-branded credit card,” according to Jeff Robertson, Delta’s VP who oversees the Sky-Miles Program. United Airlines Mileage Plus managing director, Krishnan Saranathan adds “The more valuable the program member, the better the redemption rate.”

Primary lures for the frequent-flier programs remain free airline tickets and hotel rooms. But with air carriers selling more miles to partners like credit card companies, it makes good financial sense to encourage passengers to redeem miles for “merchandise which gobbles up miles without opening up more airline seats or hotel rooms for award.” Delta now offers 6,000 items and in excess of 30 different gift cards. When air fares are low, redeeming miles for merchandise, mostly travel-related, is popular. When air fares rise, it’s more attractive to redeem miles for air tickets.

American Airlines MD-80 flight 577.

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There’s been renewed fervor in frequent-flier miles since airline offerings have stepped “outside the box.” For example, Delta “is auctioning a spring training package that includes dinner with New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi and pitcher Joba Chamberlain, and a trip to China to build homes with Habitat for Humanity.” Last year American Airlines “sold three packages to the Kentucky Derby, including passes to special clubs and invitation-only dinners, for a total of 1.6 million miles.” For Paul Terrault, owner of a metals-trading company, who’s on the road more than 100 nights a year,

Winning an auction for 290,000 Hilton HHonors points–a trip with VIP perks to a Formula One race in Montreal with his son in June–hooked him on the program.

“No one gets access like that,” he said of getting into the hospitality suite and Hilton-sponsored garage. “I’m a jeans, gym shoes and Harley T-shirt guy, and they treat you like a million bucks.”

When another Formula One trip, to Brazil, went up for auction, Mr. Terrault grabbed that, too, for 420,000 points.

Hilton Hotel in Manchester taken in October 2009

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But there’s a caveat to all this. Buyer beware! While some of the merchandise up for redemption are true values, others aren’t. United Airlines offers a 10-inch Sony digital picture frame for 25,000 miles. The same frame can be had, with memory card, almost anywhere for $150. Instead those same miles could be exchanged for a discounted round-trip domestic ticket on UAL worth a minimum of $300, or even twice that amount.

Beat the airlines at their own game, and…

there’s probably a seat for you on the stock exchange…hugmamma.

another “small” story, japan

I love retelling “small” stories of people going about the task of daily living, like you and me. Found another one about a Japanese family trying to do what they would do under normal circumstances, in today’s Wall Street Journal. Seems to me that’s human resilience at its best. But, truthfully, what else can survivors do…but live. To stop is to die. And why would they choose to do that, when they’ve been spared. Instead they’ve taken the gift of life and moved on, vowing to remember those who have fallen.

Greater Tokyo Area is the world's most populou...

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A Tokyo Reunion
by Michael Judge

American Airlines flight 153 from Chicago to Tokyo was nearly full and pleasantly mundane–young mothers bounced infants in the aisles, businessmen worked in the glow of their laptops, elderly couples stretched their legs near the restrooms. In the wake of the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, with the number of dead or missing surpassing more than 20,000, the ordinariness of the 13-hour flight was a comfort.

Given the fear of aftershocks and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant some 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, my wife Masae and I had joked that we’d be the only ones on the Saturday flight. Shortly before take-off, the Associated Press ran a banner on their mobile site saying that traces of “radioactive iodine” had been detected in Tokyo’s drinking water. Spinach and milk were also “tainted.” Foreigners were already leaving in droves–a mass exodus from the world’s densest metropolis was feared.

Indeed, when we told friends and acquaintances we were planning to return to Tokyo, my wife’s hometown and the city where we met 17 years ago this spring, some treated us like characters from Albert Camus‘s “The Plague.” Didn’t we understand the risks involved? Why subject ourselves to possible contamination if it could be avoided? Many governments were sending planes to evacuate overseas nationals. Washington warned against all “nonessential” travel to Tokyo.

Nonessential–a strange word. Was it nonessential to attend a family wedding we’d been looking forward to for months? When the wedding was eventually cancelled, was it nonessential to be near loved ones at a time when so many had lost theirs? My wife and I had chosen to live in America–we hadn’t chosen to abandon our family in Japan.

Nippon Professional Baseball

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Friends in and around Tokyo assured us that life here was continuing as close to normal as possible. To save electricity, trains ran less frequently and some businesses closed earlier. There were long but orderly lines at gas stations. After much debate, opening day of Nippon Professional Baseball, the equivalent of Major League Baseball, was delayed–by four days.

Still, on the train into the city on Sunday, we were relieved to see kids playing baseball and soccer in the parks. Laundry hung from clotheslines outside apartment buildings. Restaurants and cafes were busy outside the Nippori train station. Tokyo was full of life and open for business–even as cities as far away as Los Angeles sold out of potassium-iodine pills over fears of trans-Pacific traces of radiation.

Puburiba, the public bath run by my wife’s parents, was bustling late Sunday afternoon: Elderly men and women and families of all sizes and ages sought out the communal comfort only a sento can provide. But before we could settle in, we jumped into my father-in-law’s car and drove across town to dine with our nephew Tomo and his fiancee Yurie. They’d decided to postpone their March 26 wedding plans until September, but they remained in high spirits. Over ice-cold beer and the best Korean barbeque I’ve ever had, Tomo, Yurie and a handful of relatives and friends gave thanks for our being together, no matter the occasion.

Ryounkaku before and after Great Kanto earthquake

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On Wednesday we plan to visit the grave of my wife’s maternal grandmother, Makino, in the town of Noto on the Japanese Sea. She died last year at the age of 100. She was 13 when the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 struck, leveling Tokyo and surrounding cities and killing between 100,000 and 140,000 people. My wife’s paternal grandmother, Kaneyo, and her two youngest children died after fleeing the firebombing of Tokyo. The bombing commenced on Nov. 17, 1944, and didn’t stop until Aug. 15, 1945, the day of Japan’s surrender. More than 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, nearly all civilians, died in those nine months.

But the three didn’t die in Tokyo: They died in the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture, 220 miles north of the capital. Weakened by the journey, illness and starvation, they couldn’t digest the rice they were finally given in Yamagata, and they died of “burst stomachs,” according to my father-in-law, Yasumasa. Miraculously, he was the only survivor.


Image by midwinterphoto via Flickr

Yesterday, while we were shopping at a crowded Ikebukuro department store, news came that gray smoke was rising from two of the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, forcing workers to pull back momentarily. Shopping continued apace. News that an 8-year-old woman from Miyagi Prefecture and her 16-year-old grandson had survived for nine days in the wreckage of their home–which had been moved one kilometer by the force of the tsunami–filled the television, and was on everyone’s lips.

Mr. Judge writes about culture and the arts for the Journal.

“small” stories…big impact…hugmamma.