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The alarm buzzed, I rolled over, shutting off the annoying chime I set it to like I do every morning. I sat up, started to move my feet from the bed to the floor and all of the sudden it felt like I was floating. “I must still be really tired” I told myself as I put my feet on the floor and stood up. Then I was reaching for the wall balancing myself. Straight to the restroom and then back to bed, the whole time feeling like I was falling over. I send an e-mail to my boss: “Not feeling well, will work from home today.”

That’s how my Friday started. It is now Tuesday, four days after I first experienced the worst vertigo in my life, and that vertigo is still around, rearing it’s ugly head any time I try to do something quickly. Turn my head; Falling. Bend over to grab something; Falling. Rollover in bed; Falling. Normalcy seems to have come to a screeching halt on Friday. The doctor’s office was booked full when all of this hit so my wife took me to a non-emergency clinic, neither of us put vertigo into the “critical” column, ruling out the emergency room. I’ll just say the drive there involved a lot of nausea (and its results).

The staff were prompt in looking at me and quickly ruled out a neurological issue. They settled on something I had never heard of, vestibular neuritis. Essentially it is an inflammation of the inner ear, usually caused by a viral infection. There are not a lot treatment options, basically control the vertigo, nausea, vomiting, etc. as much as possible. The staff at the clinic said it could be a week or a month until it dissipates. The vertigo medication has done little to relieve my symptoms but my body seems to have adjusted to the nausea, at least somewhat.

After a short discussion, my wife and I decide a second opinion is in order and I made a follow-up appointment with my family practice for Monday night. We went and the doctor again confirms no neurological worries as well as the vestibular neuritis diagnosis. My vertigo is not dependent enough of direction to be BPPV, which has a few different treatment options. There is also a slight chance that what I have is something called Meniere’s Disease, but the doctor wants to hold off testing to see if my symptoms dissipate.

Today, Tuesday, has been a little worse than the last two days. There is ringing in both of my ears and I don’t seem as “sharp” as I did yesterday. Doing little things like taking a shower have become tedious adventures that require my full attention. I think the only way to describe it is to imagine being on a Merry-go-Round and spinning as fast as you can, then stepping off and trying to do your taxes. Now apply that to everything you do. Even this post is hard to write. Focusing is not easy when you are putting a lot of brain power into making sure you don’t fall over. I am otherwise healthy though, so when we walked down to the car to go to the office, I’m sure I just looked drunk.

I am otherwise healthy. I have to remember that. This puts on hold a lot of things that I had planned and it triples the amount of work my wife is doing on day to day basis but she has taken it in stride. We can hope and pray this dissipates quickly but if it doesn’t, we keep moving together. Well, I’ll probably be a few steps behind her holding her hand, balancing myself.

Craig Karamin and Ezequiel Minaya for the Wall Street Journal:

Marriott International Inc. said Monday that it has agreed to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. in a deal worth $12.2 billion that will create the world’s largest hotel company with more than a million rooms globally.

Under the terms, Marriott will forward 0.92 share along with $2 in cash for each Starwood share, for a total of $11.9 billion in stock and $340 million in cash. The transaction has a value of $72.08 a Starwood share.

I can’t say that I am thrilled by this news. I used to stay at Marriott properties almost exclusively and was never all that impressed. There were a few standout locations that I enjoyed staying at but a number of them were poorly maintained or just poorly built (lots of noise through the walls). My Marriott status was Platinum for quite a while but I never saw much benefit from that status and I actually had to deal with Marriott’s rather quick expiry of points more than once.

At the end of the day, these buyouts and mergers are not about you and I the customers but about the shareholders and the health of the business. We will have to wait and see what this means for the different aspects of the rewards and loyalty programs of both hotel chains.

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The NY Times piece on what is happening to the Nazi sites in the historic city of Nuremberg is a look into the conundrum of up-keeping history while not honoring it.

In this city, the rallying point for Hitler, is the largest piece of real estate bequeathed by the Nazis, and a burden only increasing with time.

First comes the sheer physical size: a parade ground bigger than 12 football fields. A semicircular Congress Hall that dwarfs any structure at Lincoln Center. Great Street, more than one-and-a-half miles long, with no structures on either side — a modern Appian Way where the storm troopers strutted between the old Nuremberg of Albrecht Dürer and the rallies idolizing the Führer.

Then there are its troubled history and the far stickier question of what to do with it. “These are not simple memorials,” said Mathias Pfeil, chief curator of historic sites in Bavaria, “because they symbolize a time we can only wish had never happened.”

I have visited Nuremberg quite a few times and the Nazi sites always strike me as a strange intersection of history, hatred, and remembrance. Last time I visited I was with my dad and grandfather and there happened to be a heavy metal festival taking place on the site, with Metallica being the headliner. It was strange to hear metal being played as you read about the horrors of the Holocaust. During my second visit to the city, I even wrote in the caption for this photo about the strange dichotomy at the Nazi rally grounds.

Hitler stood here multiple times to give speeches during Nazi rallies. On this particular day it’s being used for a children’s marathon. The German people are torn on how to use these landmarks, they cannot be forgotten, yet they should not be glorified.

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So where is the line between teaching younger generations about the atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich and glorifying it? The story touches on the fact that most Nurembergers under the age of 25 have no historical context with which to view the rally grounds. They have always been there during their lifetime and associated with nothing that resembled war or struggle.

If you do visit Nuremberg, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center at the Nazi Rally Grounds) is a fascinating and sobering look at how the Nazi party took hold in Nuremberg, Munich, and finally Berlin. The center also tells the story of the Holocaust, the eventual loss by Germany, and the Nuremberg trials. It is on the site of the rally grounds and you can walk around them after visiting the exhibit.

A couple of stories popped up in my Twitter and Facebook feeds recently and I think they deserve a little attention. Not because they are amazing stories, but because they are titled as “travel hacking” and I think that term deserves a discussion.

The first article is on Business Insider and is about a blogger named Sam Huang and his “round the world trip in first class for $300”. To be clear, Sam is selling something. I don’t know exactly what it is but I would guess it’s a guide to earning miles with a credit card. He clearly sent out some feelers to see if anyone would be interested in carrying his story to hopefully generate some traffic.

Travel blogger Sam Huang recently cashed in his Alaska Airlines frequent-flyer miles for a $60,000 trip around the world, and luckily he took plenty of pictures documenting what it was like.

Right off the bat I see some interesting claims being made. One, this isn’t really a round-the-world itinerary, it’s a one-way purchased with miles and then a return at a later date, also purchased with miles. A true round-the-world goes in one direction around the globe and ends in the same city (or close to it) that the journey began. Secondly, the price seems quite steep. I cannot find anything on the Emirates website that hints at the price for a trip around the world in first costing $60,000. My guess is that Huang priced out each separate segment in first and is quoting the sum as the price of the trip which may or may not be close to reality.

The second story is this one, on Collectively Conscious, about blogger Scott Keyes. I have to give Mr. Keyes some credit as he looks for cheap fares and seems to be focused on travel rather selling a service or a guide to earn free miles.

This is nothing new for Keyes, who told us that he uses his massive collection of credit cards to gain points, frequent flyer miles, and plenty of other member perks all the time. He then turns around and uses those perks on vacations like his upcoming trip that will take him 20,000 miles on 21 flights — all for free.

The strand that ties these two stories together is the heavy mention and use of credit card miles. Both gentlemen use a frequent flyer credit card and use those earned miles for travel, but what neither article seems to touch on is how exactly they are doing it. More than likely they are signing up for cards and then spending enough on the card to earn the bonus miles probably offered for initial sign-up and then eventually cancelling the card. It is a stretch to call this “travel hacking”. The practice is definitely neat and draws in some pageviews, but relying on a credit card to fuel travel is not an easy undertaking but is being sold to readers as a cheap way to get from point A to point B in style (or on the cheap). For some people, cash back cards may actually be a better proposition, for others, a card that gives them points that they can use for purchases might work better. Just jumping into the airline/travel credit card game without a goal or an understanding of the risks, which range from devaluation to closing of accounts, is dangerous and something I discourage.

A telling paragraph in the Keyes story:

Keyes has a few methods to procure his frequent flyer miles, including opening new credit cards that award miles or points, letting airlines know when there’s a problem with his flight, and not being afraid to get bumped if a flight is full.

Opening new credit cards is at the forefront. Complaining about something broken or a problem on a flight I don’t have a qualm with, but it seems to be a tactic that gets abused. The last point about being bumped if a flight is full is a great way to earn airline vouchers if you have flexible plans. Just know that some of the vouchers come with restrictions and make sure you understand those restrictions.

It is sad to see “travel hacking” basically turned into a credit card ad and having people eating it up as a quick route to travel when it could backfire badly. Using multiple cards to earn the miles that are talked about in these articles takes organization and a firm understanding of the terms and how your personal credit rating works. It would be nice if such details were included in these articles and people were made aware of what was really going on.