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17th May 2013
American is changing its carry-on bag policy to favor passengers with underseat bags.
From : Matt Yglesias at Slate, today
American Airlines is looking to speed boarding times on its airplanes by offering advanced boarding to people who don't want to stick roller bags in the overhead compartment.
The basic idea is that folks with just an underseat laptop bag or purse can shuffle in quickly and sit down, and then everyone else will get on and start wrangling bags into the compartments. That way, in theory, you won't have as many people stuck waiting in the aisle while others are fussing with the compartment doors.
It makes sense, but it underscores the extent to which airlines are tying themselves in knots with different priorities.
It seems to me that managers need to step back, take a deep breath, and decide what their overall objective with the boarding scheme is. Do they want it to be as efficient as possible, or do they want to degrade average efficiency in order to optimally serve their high-volume elite customers?
The linked AP article
notes an interesting loophole:
The airline said that it will let passengers check a carry-on bag at the gate at no charge. That means savvy travelers will be able to move up in the boarding order and avoid checked-bag fees — $25 for the first bag, $35 for a second on flights within the U.S. — although they'll have to retrieve their bag at baggage claim after they land.
Chris Lopinto, president of ExpertFlyer.com, said the key could be American's offer to check bags at the gate for free. It won't appeal to business travelers on a schedule, who don't dare check a bag — ever.
"But that loophole would be great for people who don't care about checking a bag or have a lot of people in their party," Lopinto said. "If you're a family of four and American is going to gate-check your bags, that can save you $100 (versus checking the bags) and you can board earlier."
Jami Counter of travel website TripAdvisor said American's free gate-checking offer was so attractive that it could reduce the amount American makes from checked-baggage fees.
"Why would you ever pay a baggage fee if you can gate-check your bag for free?" he said. "That's a loophole you could drive a truck through. I see that being tightened."
Counter said passengers might swamp gate agents with requests to check their bag for free. "Now their two-minute savings just turned into a 15-minute delay," he said.
I generally check a bag when I fly, but I also tend to be flying internationally so I don't end up paying a fee. So this is interesting.
14th May 2013
I took a break from LJ and FB the last couple of weeks.
There was a wave of angst coming off my friends feeds, and I realized I needed to stop reading because it was making me sad. :
So I stopped. I probably missed many important events. I regret that, but I also recovered quickly after I stopped.
I don't know how often I'll be reading LJ. I'm taking it easy with it, though I intend to keep posting. I still haven't returned to FB, and don't know when I'll be back.
If I've missed something eventful in your life that you want to share with me, please do message or email me directly.
1st May 2013
From the : BBC
Working in Afghanistan, photographer Laura Lean noticed the wide variety of camouflage patterns used by members of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and set about capturing as many as she could.
"Each nation’s camouflage is unique," said Lean. "Despite the uniformity of their clothing, the camouflage fabric divides the soldiers that wear it into distinct groups. A lot of the designs have been formulated for the Afghan environment and yet the difference in patterns is extraordinary."
Click to go to the photo gallery.
I didn't even know some of these countries participated in ISAF.
26th April 2013
At dinner last night we tried to come up with a word that combined "creepy" and "sleazy". I offered "creazy", but I wasn't satisfied with it. :
(We were talking about American Apparel's ad aesthetic, if context helps.)
24th April 2013
People do say stupid things on Twitter, but the interface doesn't help.
I was looking at the help pages for Twitter today in the context of reading about yet another prominent person who mistweeted recently. :
I can't help thinking that the Twitter interface is a contributing factor. First is the ease in messing up the direct message syntax. Mistype a single character and your tweet goes awry. Second, if your tweet is too long, and your provider breaks the text up into multiple messages, only the first message remains a direct message; the rest of the tweet, quite reasonably enough, goes out publicly because it's not preceded by a direct message flag.
I don't have an easy fix for this. What I do is to use Twitter solely from the web interface or from a secondary handset on a separate number from my main phone which is generally my emergency phone. This means I have either a tangible reminder of the fact that texts from a given phone can go out to Twitter on the hand, or I'm actually looking at a Twitter interface on the other.
I'm not suggesting this is something everyone should do, but it's noteworthy that my second phone is a cheap prepaid handset. I think prominent people might be well-advised (by their publicists or PR people) to spring for something like that.
Or they could just not care and continue to provide everyone with the best in schadenfreude entertainment.
20th April 2013
There are a lot of guys out there who one time in their lives have one good idea, who then proceed to think that one good idea they had once means all the ideas they ever have are good. :
Then again, there are plenty of guys out there who don't even have that one good idea and think all their ideas are good.
18th April 2013
A tidbit of history about Mt. Gox.
: Mt. Gox
is the world's largest Bitcoin exchange, handling over two thirds of transactions.
Ever wonder where the somewhat odd name came from?
It once stood for Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange. The company started out as an exchange for Magic cards. In between they hosted an online fantasy turn-based strategy game. Then they hit it big with Bitcoins.
Full marks for corporate agility, I say.
12th April 2013
Nürnberger Bratwurst at Aldi!
: Nürnberger Bratwurst
were one of my favorite foods in Germany. They were inexpensive and easy to find, both from grocers and at sausage stands. I really missed them when I went back to the States, where they are not so common.
One of my complaints about Aldi
USA always was that while they carried some German food, they didn't have these tasty little bratwursts.
Now they do, at least for a limited time.
I went to Aldi yesterday evening on my way home largely because I was driving past and wanted to pick up something for dinner. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that in their refrigerated foods display they had packages of Nürnberger Bratwurst for $1.99 per package of 12:
package front and back
Here they are being heated up in a skillet with sauerkraut.
The German style Sauerkraut was also Aldi's store brand, Deutsche Küche.
The bratwursts are on the salty side but within the range of variation of those I had in Germany. They are actually German and might even come from the same supplier that Aldi uses there. Because they are salty they go very well served with sauerkraut.
The sauerkraut is not simply German-style but actually from Germany also. German sauerkraut tends to be drier than its American counterpart, and it comes in a variety of sourness levels. This sauerkraut was towards the less-sour end of the range in terms of German sauerkraut, which means that it was much less sour than American sauerkraut.
I heated it up in a pan that was too hot, but they still came out ok. I tossed the sauerkraut in after the sausages had browned a bit, but there was much less juice than I expected. Too little juice, in fact, to unlock the rather meager drippings. digitalemur helped me out with that. Thanks! :)
Serve with a dollop of mustard, perhaps a slice or two of dark German bread or a couple of potatoes, and you have a very basic but tasty traditional German meal.
Aldi has the bratwursts identified with a shelf label that says they are a limited time item "while supplies last". I'll be getting some more while I can.
11th April 2013
Two 1994 pound coins, one fake, one real.
Counterfeit : British one pound coins
have been a problem
for a number of years.
From an article in Significance Magazine.
In all the years I visited the UK I'd never found a fake pound coin. I was either lucky or insufficiently attentive, possibly both. A couple of weeks ago I finally got a coin that I recognized as fake. I thought I'd take a few side-by-side photos of this particular counterfeit next to a pound coin of the same date I believe is real.
In the images below the counterfeit is on the left and genuine coin is on the right. Click on an image to enlarge it.
There is a slight color difference, but more or less within normal variation for pound coins.
I tried to preserve the rotation of each coin as I turned it over. The fake coin is slightly out of alignment, but not to an obvious extent.
Two photos of the edge:
The reeding (graining) on the edge is fainter and uneven on the fake. The inscription is also crudely lettered compared to the real coin. Worse yet, it is the wrong motto. On a real 1994 pound coin, the edge should read "NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT
". Instead, it reads "DECUS ET TUTAMEN
", which has been used in other years, but not in 1994.
Both coins make a similar dull thud when dropped onto a table, as pound coins do.
I have not weighed the two pounds but there is no discernable difference in heft when held.
The BBC says
many fakes work in vending machines.mrreid.org
provides a convenient link to a WolframAlpha calculation of the current metal value of a pound coin. Currently, that calculation
estimates that the face value of the pound is about twenty times the metal value. That large difference is evidently enough to attract counterfeiters.
9th April 2013
Ta-Nehisi Coates, on "Why 'Accidental Racist' Is Actually Just Racist".
The assumption that there is no real difference among black people is exactly what racism is. Our differences, our right to our individuality, is what makes us human. The point of racism is to rob black people of that right. It would be no different than me assuming that Rachel Weisz must necessarily have something to say about black-Jewish relations, or me assuming that Paisley must know something about barbecue because he's Southern. The whole piece
It is no different than the only black kid in class being asked to explain "race" to white people, or asking the same question of the sole black dude in your office. The entire fight is to get white people to respect the fact that Mos Def holding a microphone is not LL Cool J holding a microphone, that Trayvon Martin is not De'Marquise Elkins, that wearing a hoodie and being black does not make you the same as every other person wearing a hoodie and being black.
is worth reading.
3D printing with metal will revolutionize coin counterfeiting.
There have been : real advances in 3D printing with metal
lately. At some point it's likely that this will require changes in circulating coinage.
According to the Royal Mint, 3% of pound coins in circulation are fake
. I got my first fake pound coin--one that I identified as such, at least--a couple of weeks ago. (I'll post photos when I get a chance.)
In the modern world, where the metal value of circulating coinage has little relation to its face value, counterfeiting to capture the difference becomes attractive. Once a circulating coin has a high enough face value, it starts to be worth counterfeiting. Empirically, that value appears to be somewhere above $1, as the pound and two euro coins are both among the most counterfeited coins.
Circulating coins aside, coin collecting has in recent years been dealing with a wave of fake coins produced in China
for the collector market. While it hasn't been particularly cost-effective to make fake American coins for circulation, it has definitely been worthwhile to fake collector coins.
In the same way modern laser and inkjet printers have made it necessary to incorporate new security features to paper (and polymer
) money, 3D printers will drive the adoption of security features
to circulating coins. It may also drive the incorporation of security measures like the EURion constellation
recognition features into 3D scanning and design software.
This : Buzzfeed post
has been making the rounds. The comment thread that followed was pretty epic. Two questions I had after reading the thread:
Is the poutine at Saus
in downtown Boston any good?
Have the Belgians learned to make poutine with their excellent frites, and if so where can one try them?
I can answer the first question fairly easily and inexpensively, and intend to go over there myself.
For the second, there is the internet. Four years ago, someone asked "Ou en Belgique peut on manger de la Poutine, LE plat québécois par excellence?" on Yahoo! Answers France, but all they got was a recipe. (Other Google hits are mostly about Vladimir Putin in Belgium, not helpful.)
So perhaps not.
You can't make a lot of progress trying to figure out human behavior unless you start from the premise that people are not rational but their actions can follow some observable patterns. :
That premise tends to derail observers who assume rationality. They often have difficulty getting their analyses back on track. Worse off are those who refuse to incorporate human irrationality and proceed to build a theoretical structure on false premises.
My own understanding of people improved enormously after I understood this.
7th April 2013
“Invasion: Diaries and Memories of War in Iraq”
I want to catch : this exhibition
before it closes. It's at the Bronx Documentary Center until the 19th, Thursdays and Fridays 4-7PM and Saturdays and Sundays 1-5PM.
I can't go today so my next chance is Thursday.
Facebook finally admitted they're confused.
They just asked me: :
How far are you from Boston, Massachusetts (United States of America) right now?
This is where I am
I'm in the same country
I'm in a different country
Your response will be kept anonymous.
I kept mizkit's comment
in mind when I answered.
6th April 2013
I was describing to digitalemur last week that I'd finally managed to dislodge Facebook's assumption that I was from Cincinnati. Now it thinks I'm from Montreal--certainly more plausible--but it took quite a number of "likes" to do it, where it only took two offhand "likes" ( : Skyline Chili
) to get them pointed in that direction in the first place.
As we were talking I suddenly realized why Facebook decided I was a lesbian. Early on I "liked" My Drunk Kitchen
. The LGBT link suggestions started not long after that.
No one would "like" Hannah Hart
's comedy cooking show if they weren't themselves lesbian, right?
4th April 2013
Snowing in London. Again.
I got the news : from the FT this morning
, but the Daily Mail has the pictures
Daffodils on Hampstead Heath, this morning.
John Lee, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: 'Looking at the radar there's an area of fairly light sleet and snow over the South East at the moment.
"I am astonished that you should call this an extremity of cold. In Boston, as you know, this would pass without remark. I am garbed for Boston." --Daniel Waterhouse, from Neal Stephenson's The System of the World
2nd April 2013
Wow, my Chinese reading comprehension is rusty.
Using : Chinese Tutor
's flash card mode, I've determined that while a lot of it is really wedged deep inside my brain, I can still dredge out some of my written Chinese if asked. At least, that's my conclusion based on the fact that I managed to unlock 225 words by memory and context.
This is better than I assumed by about a factor of two, although I know some of the characters are ones I learned after my one year of college-level Mandarin. I was supposed to know more than this so I have clearly forgotten a lot.
Still, I pretty much just bulled my way through in a couple of hours of staring at the screen and guessing, so it's in there. It's not easy to access, but it's in there.
More work to be done here.
29th March 2013
Cool photo with a great description.
Ben Sandilands, the Australian aviation blogger and journalist, about the launch
Thanks to Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, who was at a cruising altitude of maybe 400,000 metres at the time, this is what a real takeoff looks like.
No fuel saving namby pamby accountant friendly flexi-thrust waddle to the end of the runway mucking around which is our lot in most jet airliners these days.
This was real seat of your pants, er spacesuit, stuff, said to be blisteringly loud and much longer and more eyeballs through the back of their sockets pressure than a catapult launch from an aircraft carrier.
Silicon Republic reports
The Soyuz spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8.43pm (GMT) yesterday and docked with the ISS after a journey that lasted under six hours.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy along with Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) were the first station crew members to take this expedited route.
Instead of the standard two days it takes a Russian spacecraft to reach and dock with the station, the Soyuz crew arrived and docked with the ISS at 2.28am (GMT) after only four orbits of Earth.
They also provide a shot of the launch from a more traditional angle: