How not to promote events (long rant)

I’ve mentioned Quinn’s Big City (QBC) a couple of times here (“here” being this blog, if not this blog in its current location), mostly in passing. I try to keep most of my long drawn-out ranting here; the longer pieces on QBC I have referred to as “verbiage pieces” and I try to keep my usual no-holds-barred rant style out of them.

For those of you not familiar with it, the centerpiece of QBC is a feature called the LOVIEE (Listing of Very Interesting/Exciting Events), a “best of Houston” events list with weekly, monthly, and holiday special editions. (Well, usually they are holidays, I’ve had one that was not for a specific holiday; it’s a long story.)

Anyway, so during the week when I’m not doing either paid work, out and about having a good time (at an event I posted to QBC or otherwise), Twittering, checking Facebook, writing a piece for this or Iced Tea and Ramen, or otherwise keeping myself entertained at home, I’m updating one of the upcoming LOVIEEs. It is probably easiest to show the process in a video, at some point I will post a video, probably to YouTube but possibly elsewhere as well, showing what goes into QBC (and possibly even my other blogs as well, but QBC is probably the most interesting one to make a video about).

Anyway, since I haven’t made a video yet, I’ll try to describe it. I have an e-mail box where people can send me stuff they want me to consider (and I have posted a few events this way) but the majority come from the cyberspace equivalent of a wild goose chase involving several local events calendars and myriad venue-, artist-, and organization-specific calendars. Some of these are better than others. I’m not going to name names (yet) but I am going to list just a few examples of the problems I’ve run into:

  1. Omitted details such as the starting time of a music act, or just one time without it being clear if that’s the time the doors open or the actual show time. I run across these a lot. Unless the act is really good or I’m running out of things to post, these are in danger of being skipped outright. Sometimes, such as for the New Year’s Eve LOVIEE, I have made exceptions, figuring it’s obvious most parties will not start until at least 8pm or so and most music acts will probably go on at about 9pm. If I do post anyway, it usually winds up being “no time given” which has the potential to come back and look bad on me when the venue decides to amend the listing later. Really, the time a show or event starts is basic information and there are very few excuses for not including it.

  2. No clear indication either way as to whether or not there’s a cover charge and if so how much it is. I try to avoid saying “no cover” or “free admission” unless it’s specifically stated. If it’s likely there’s no actual admission fee, sometimes I just make no mention of it. If I have the least bit of doubt, again, it’s like the time, “cover charge not stated.” The farther out from downtown the venue is, the less likely I am to attend your event if I’m not even sure the cover charge is within my budget at the moment. Nothing kills a night like being told the $10 budgeted for drinks or food would be needed just to get in the door, without advance notice of same.

  3. Venue/artist/organization Web sites that don’t provide a direct link to the calendar, or change it every month and make it part of a frameset. Very annoying, I should be able to bookmark your event calendar and be done with it, and come back in a month, three months, six months, a year and have the same URL work. Framesets are so 1996, and should never have made it into an HTML standard, but I’ll rant about that some other day.

  4. Event calendars so far out of date as to be useless. If we’re in December and I’m looking at a venue’s event calendar that is still showing October, September, or even January or last December, it’s so tempting to fire off an e-mail saying “look guys, you may as well take the damn thing down, it’s not doing anyone any good.”

  5. Venues, artists, or organizations that serve a Flash movie over HTTP as their primary online presence, instead of a Web site. (When I refer to a “Web site,” I mean something in HTML and CSS, preferably with only optional Javascript. I do not use the term “site” and especially not “Web site” for Flash movies.) Serving up only a Flash movie is gambling that my Flash plugin will both be present and will play the Flash movie. More frequently, that Flash plugin will be Gnash, not the Adobe official Flash player, so the latter is not necessarily guaranteed. I’m in a hurry rather often; rather than wait for Iceweasel/Firefox to load, I may well load up your calendar in Lynx. If I see “[EMBED]” and an offer to download something “application/x-swf,” you lose. Thankfully, this is a relatively rare problem.

That covers most of them. I’m sure I could probably come up with a few more. If you have others, either as an event list maintainer/blogger or just someone who goes out a lot, please comment.

Oops, wrong Sydney

The Daily Mail reports on a Dutch man and his grandson who got a most unpleasant surprise when the travel agency booked him on a flight to Sydney. The only problem was that it was Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, instead of where they really intended to go, which would of course be Sydney, Australia. From the article:

They flew into Nova Scotia in the east of the country from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with Air Canada on Saturday.

They even managed to board to a connecting flight to the wrong Sydney at Halifax on the east coast of Canada without realising their mistake.

Ordinarily, I’d say the first clue something is amiss would be the airline the flight is on. However, Air Canada does fly to and from both Amsterdam and Sydney, Australia. It would appear the flights out of Amsterdam may actually be operated by other airlines (Lufthansa, LH City Line, or BMI when I looked).

To be fair about it, were I not a US native and thus in relatively close proximity to Canada, I may not be completely sure just where Halifax is in relation to Australia. I’ll admit it, I failed world geography the first time I took it, and I usually at least get the continent right (and sometimes even which part of it) when given the name of a country. I don’t think Australia has a Halifax, much less a major city with that name where an airport would be located.

Anyway, after the dust settles, the travel agency is almost certainly on the hook for what can only be described as a first-class foul-up, even if the travelers were booked into coach for their voyage of error.

And they aren’t the only ones: the article mentions two prior known cases of misdirected travelers winding up in the much chillier climate of Canada as opposed to the warmth of Australia when booked on flights to Sydney.

The moral of the story: don’t trust your travel agent to be perfect. Mistakes happen. If you’re headed to Sydney, Australia, check your tickets against the actual IATA airport code for Sydney, Australia (SYD), instead of Sydney, Canada (YQY). Check the details of the trip and the duration for sanity: Houston, Texas, USA, to Sydney, Australia, should be a fairly long flight, definitely more than a little longer than a flight to New York City.

And to travel agents: remember, the only thing worse than lost luggage is lost passengers. Double-check your work. The embarassment you save may be your own.

Kid’s henna tattoo runs amok

From comes this story of yet another body art mishap, this time on a five-year-old boy who sat for a temporary henna tattoo while on vacation with his parents in Indonesia.

Cannon Cribb got more than he bargained for when after the henna wore off, he was left with a large welt in the shape of the Oriental dragon tattoo. The scar happened because the “henna” contained a chemical called para-phenylenediamine (PPD), normally used in hair or textile dyes. DuPont, one of the makers of PPD, specifically warns against using PPD directly on the skin as quoted below:

DuPont does not recommend and will not knowingly offer or sell p-phenylenediamine (PPD) for uses involving prolonged skin contact. Such uses may involve, but are not limited to, products formulated with henna for tattoo applications or other skin coloration effects. This use of PPD in prolonged skin contact application has the potential to induce allergic skin reactions in sensitive individuals.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it is this, and this applies equally to anyone doing any type of face/body art: never use chemicals directly on the skin which are not intended to be used in that fashion.

I wish Cannon a full and speedy recovery, and sincerely hope someone out there will learn from his misfortune.

Obama’s high speed rail missing a couple of pieces

A recent Inhabitat article brought to my attention by Karen Walrond shows Obama’s well-intentioned high-speed rail plan. I like the idea of high-speed rail in the US; it is long overdue, as the President admits.

However, there is a glaring omission on the map, as highlighted by Karen in her original tweet. There are no links planned from Houston to any other Texas cities. The omissions do not stop there: the “South Central” network does not connect to any other networks. Houston to Austin? Gas up the car, because it’s not happening on the train. Dallas to St. Louis? Forget it. Likewise, getting to, say, Chicago won’t be easy from the Big Easy (New Orleans).

I can understand leaving most of the western states out of the plan simply because there are more cows than people across large portions of states like Wyoming and Montana, and likewise for Iowa and Nebraska where there are almost certainly too many well-utilized corn fields to consider building any serious high-speed rail.

But really, Houstonians want to go places besides New Orleans and further down the Gulf Coast. Riding a high-speed train beats the heck out of uttering profanity at traffic while driving down I-10 to San Antonio.