fun

Culture Fonolo Looks Awesome

I read the Consumerist regularly.   Its a great consumer advocacy site, and has interesting articles and finds mixed in with some gut wrenching horror stories.

When I read this post on Fonolo my interest peaked.  They’re offering a solution for a problem that everyone hates: IVRs, or Interactive Voice Response Systems.

The only thing more annoying and cumbersome than phone books is navigating automated phone systems.  When I call an airline, credit card, or major company it eats up so much time I usually end up spacing out and forgetting the prompts by the time I need to enter them.  I despise the turtle like pace when punching in info like zip codes and such, and then having it read back to me to confirm.  (I try and hit # to move on, but it ends up needing a 1 or something, sending me back to the original menu.)   Yes I’m quite impatient when it comes to this.   Gethuman.com is a good resource for reaching live CSRs, but Fonolo plans to rocket it into this century.

Fonolo is bringing a VISUAL approach to the archaic 1980s phone customer service technology we suffer with daily.  Fonolo will feature visible phone “trees” for a specific company.    For example if you’re calling United Airlines and need to  “Book International with Miles” you simply click through the tree, (instead of dealing with the many, many voice prompts leading you there.)  Then through their method of “deep dialing,” the site dials for you, immediately connecting you with that “branch.”

An added bonus:  Utilizing their site you can take personal notes and RECORD CALLS!  While various states laws apply regarding the admissibility of calls for court cases, it still gives YOU some concrete documentation for dealing with a company that might shift answers and policies with you.

The service will be free, offset by advertising.  I can’t wait for this to go live, and wish them the best.   It will definitely be in my bookmarks.

They’re at Fonolo.com.  If this sounds appealing you can watch a demo too.  Its pretty interesting watching him explain the concept and creation.

 

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Spring Storm

We had a large storm move through the eastern part of the Denver area last Monday.

I was at 13th and Grant watching the clouds billow up higher and higher. We only got a bit of rain compared to several miles east, but still the sky was a greenish black and looked quite violent.

My friend at work took this photo from Centennial Airport.

 

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Buenos Aires Roads

Streets, Roads, Subways of Buenos Aires, Argentina

These are high rez photos, hence the long loading time.

Eastbound Autopista 25 de Mayo, en route to city from Ezeiza Int’l Aiport (EZE)

West suburbs, including “Ciudad Evita”
“Severe Fines” (for speeding) Autopista 25 de Mayo
Autopista Toll Gates on 25 de Mayo
On the left “teletoll”
On the right “Exact Payment”
Avenida Corriente
Aeroparque Jorge Newberry (AEP)
“North Parking” and “Arrivals and Departures”
 

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Chelsea Pines Inn . New York

Over the summer I made plans to spend four fall days in New York City. True to my hopes the weather was absolutely perfect this October weekend. Booking a flight was the easy part. Finding a place to stay was not. I have a few friends in NYC, but like many New Yorkers their places are small and or shared. I didn’t want to impose and preferred to be independent without worry of disturbing people when returning from jaunts around town or coming in late at night.

Recommended budget hotels like the Pod were all booked. I checked out a few sites like New York 50- a site devoted to hotels and rentals for around $50 a night.  Needless to say the reviews were atrocious.  I found various lists of top rated budget hotels including this About.com collection, but they were booked too. I checked out a condo rental site with attractive rates, but balked when I learned they wanted a 50% deposit forked over via wire transfer. Yeah right. Take a credit card already – This isn’t 1950.  For a month I occasionally read reviews and prices. Holiday Inns, Hampton Inns and the other chains run north of $300 a night in Manhattan. The nicer hostels were booked. Tripadvisor’s reviews of budget hotels were actually amusing to read – if not frightening.  When finding a place for under $140 I would pull up the Tripadvisor review and read horrifying tales of bugs, mold, surly staff, and even beetles crawling over people as they slept. I wish I had bookmarked some of the reviews as they’re hilarious. I’m far from high maintenance, but I do require my room beetle free.

Someone on Lonely Planet mentioned the Chelsea Pines Inn to another poster looking for accommodations. It was the neighborhood I wanted to be in, for a very good price, and they had availability. Tired or searching and comparing I immediately booked it.

Chelsea Pines sits on 14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.  Typical to the area its a narrow building with five floors, with about four to five guest rooms per floor.  Giving the rooms a distinct style and character, each is dedicated to a former actor or actress from Hollywood’s golden years. There’s a sunroom and patio for socializing and meeting fellow visitors, and breakfast is served every morning until 11am.  Even though I always travel with earplugs just in case I wind up above a noisy street, the sounds below on 14th Street didn’t wake me at all.  It was fairly quiet at night, and central airconditioning helps too.   (Above photo of 14th Street taken from room.)

Something else makes this place special though: The variety and diversity in their rooms and rates. The deluxe, modern rooms on the lower floors are decked out in granite, have iPod docks, flat screen TVs and modern fixtures.  Standard rooms reside in the middle floors, and the fourth and fifth floor house smaller economy rooms with a partial shared bath – (not uncommon in NYC hotels.)  My room wasn’t as modern as the updated ones, but that was ok by me because the rate was below average for a place of it’s overall superb quality.  When I return I may opt for fancier accommodations, but this time my needs were simple.  There are plenty of economy rooms dotting the city, but being able to find an economy room that’s also in a well hosted and well kept building is rare.  I’m appreciative of proprietor Jay and the staff for offering their guests a variety of economic options, which results in a nice blend of guests too.

Although there were a few faces manning the front desk I didn’t meet, I chatted with the owner Jay a few times and met a small group visiting from Scotland.  Chelsea Pines is clean, comfortable, and more than spacious enough for myself traveling solo – and I’d recommend it as a “second home” to anyone staying in the city.

They’re at 317 West 14th Street in Chelsea, and about 30 steps from the subway too.  Check out Chelsea Pines Inn .com for rate details and their history.  And any other hotel should be so fortunate to have their Tripadvisor ranking.

If you find them booked when visiting NYC check out this article in New York Magazine listing other highly rated budget hotels.