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Posts from the Popular Culture Category

The Man Who Flies Around the World for Free

Rolling Stone did a feature on Ben Schlappig, creator of One Mile At a Time, and it’s definitely interesting. In typical Rolling Stone fashion, I am sure it was edited and in some cases sugarcoated to make the story more intriguing (I for one have never heard of “the Hobby”), but it’s a good read. There is tons of insight into the frequent flier community, including this:

Early editions of Petersen’s magazine featured stories on deals from obscure carriers; instructed fliers on how to duck airline countermeasures; and showed readers how they could win a thousand free miles by subscribing to magazines like Esquire. By 1993, Inside Flyer had 90,000 readers. Two years later, Petersen took the community online as FlyerTalk.

And this:

For some, the game has evolved from a wonkish pastime into an ends-justified obsession with beating the airlines — less Rain Man, more Ocean’s Eleven. While the game’s traditional methods remain technically legal, these Hobbyists — imagine them as the Deep Web of the Hobby — use tactics that routinely violate airline terms and conditions, techniques that can span a gradient from clever and harmless to borderline theft. (Schlappig concedes that he pushes the rules but insists he is careful not to break any laws.) Take the practice of “hidden-city ticketing” — booking your layover as your final destination, like buying a ticket from Point A to Point C, then sneaking away at B — or “fuel dumping,” a booking technique that confuses the price algorithm to deduct the cost of fuel from a ticket, often at an enormous discount.

I decided to read the Flyertalk thread that talks about the article and it was painful. A lot of personal attacks aimed at Ben and his story made it hard to read. I’ve only met Ben a few times and he’s a nice guy, I don’t agree with everything he writes or the idea of pushing credit cards on readers to receive the sign-up bonus, but I am a little jealous that he gets to fly around to really cool places and do it in premium cabins and makes a living from it. I think anyone who is a frequent flier and says they aren’t jealous of some of Ben’s travels is lying to themselves.

For me, doing a full time schedule of around the world travel, even in premium cabins, sounds good on the surface but is something I would probably really struggle with. I like having somewhere to come back to, a base of operations. But I would definitely love to fly premium cabins to exoctic locales more than I do currently.

ESPN’s Kate Fagan with “Split Image”, a look at depression and suicide in the age of social media.

On Instagram, Madison Holleran’s life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on.

It’s a startling reminder that the “reality” presented on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is not always what it seems and that the so called perfection is often marred by pain or struggles.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of tweets and blogs sending their traffic to an article on Slate titled The Recline and Fall of Western Civilization. The article asserts that we as a society are broken because we recline our seats causing those behind us to suffer. It then takes the utilitarian view that reclining seats should be completely done away with. The first thing that came to my mind was, “are we really that bothered by seats reclining that Slate needs an article about it?”. Then I started thinking about the subtle “me, me, me” that was going on here cleverly disguised as “it’s for the greater good”.

Obviously, everyone on the plane would be better off if no one reclined; the minor gain in comfort when you tilt your seat back 5 degrees is certainly offset by the discomfort when the person in front of you does the same.

This quote in particular stood out. Unless you are a very tall person the amount of discomfort one receives from that same 5 degree seat recline is minimal as well. Sure, you may not be able to use your laptop on the tray table anymore, but the idea that you will be “uncomfortable” is a stretch. I am on an airplane a good chunk of every week and there are a lot of other things that are much more annoying and inconvenient than the guy in front of me reclining his seat.

Sure, I think it is annoying when a person reclines their seat right after take-off, or even better, the guy who does it on the ground after the flight attendants walk away, but I see some value in seat recline. I have had a few instances of back pain where I needed some recline to help relieve that pain and that 5 degrees made a difference. If we’re going to ban reclining seats then should ban all items that make trash (people litter), people who sit with their legs open on the subway (takes up my space), and so on.

Maybe what the author really wants to see is a seat like what ANA has installed on their Dreamliners, essentially a seat where the seat back is a shell, the bottom cushion slides forward, and the back cushion slides down. Such a seat gives a recline, but does not infringe on the space of the person behind.

I will say this. No matter how tall you are, products that keep the person in front of you from reclining, such as the Knee Defender, are not the answer. In the end air transportation is similar to a bus. If people want the experience of how nice commercial travel was in the 1960s then we’ll need to bring back regulation, make air travel unaffordable for a section of the population, and close a few airports… No? But it means a “better” travel experience for those traveling.

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker on a favorite sport, it’s intersection with dogfighting, and the sport’s effects

The whole article is gut wrenching but I think this quote sums up the reason football, in its current form, may be ended.

McKee got up and walked across the corridor, back to her office. “There’s one last thing,” she said. She pulled out a large photographic blowup of a brain-tissue sample. “This is a kid. I’m not allowed to talk about how he died. He was a good student. This is his brain. He’s eighteen years old. He played football. He’d been playing football for a couple of years.” She pointed to a series of dark spots on the image, where the stain had marked the presence of something abnormal. “He’s got all this tau. This is frontal and this is insular. Very close to insular. Those same vulnerable regions.” This was a teen-ager, and already his brain showed the kind of decay that is usually associated with old age. “This is completely inappropriate,” she said. “You don’t see tau like this in an eighteen-year-old. You don’t see tau like this in a fifty-year-old.”

With technology now able to see the effects of concussions and other brain related injuries football, and the wear and tear it causes on the body, are being examined even more closely. Will the sport go away entirely? No, there is too much money being made from it. Instead we will see more and more regulation put on the sport, especially at the high school and college levels, until eventually, it becomes unplayable.

Foxtrot for iPad announcement

Bill Amend, the author of Foxtrot, is going the self-publishing route.

I’m calling them FoxTrot Pad Packs, because I like the metaphor of collectable cards and how you build up your collection via booster packs. I made them myself using Apple’s free iBooks Author software.

My hope is to release new ones every couple of months or so. Assuming people like these first ones. This is all a big experiment for me.

I’ve always been a Foxtrot fan. I hope this venture is successful for Mr. Amend.