[FoRK] Does exist, should exist, should not exist (travel edition)

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Thu Jul 12 07:41:36 PDT 2007

A few thoughts on things that I have long believed should exist that  
finally do, and a few more things that should exist that don't yet  
and things that do that should not.  And these aren't grand or fuzzy  
things (world peace, the universal multi-card, or direct brain-CHI  
interfaces) but rather the more pedestrian sorts of things that occur  
to you when you're at 36,000 feet over Virginia.  I mean, my modest  
meanderings don't hold a candle to those of FoRK's own Super Travel  
Man (tm), but hopefully there's at least a little bit of novel  
insight or, barring that, entertainment value here.

(1)  I spent more since the late 90s at about this altitude, in-route  
from someplace to somewhere else, than I would have preferred.  Over  
that period of time air travel became, really, unbearable.  I'm  
actually a pretty compact guy, but even so the standard carriers and  
standard seat sizes and ergonomics really just became absolutely  
untenable.  I am or was gold on various carriers and upgrading  
whenever possible helped some, but whenever I'd miss the upgrade and  
get stuck in coach, over the years, it just became brutal.  Got to  
the point where I would just avoid any trip possible.  Finally,  
somebody did something about that:  JetBlue.  Thank you, JetBlue.   
I've been flying them on my frequent trips to NY ever since they  
started flying direct from Austin early last year.  Reasonable seat  
widths and separation, a reasonable amount of fold-down room --- I'm  
writing this on a 15" PowerBook G4 quite comfortably, lid fully open,  
and the person in the seat in front is slightly reclined.  Just  
adding a few inches of extra legroom eliminates the cascading zero- 
sum reclining seat failure;  looking around I don't see anybody  
slamming the seat all the way back.  No need.  In-flight DirectTV ---  
though they seem to have eliminated the XM Radio --- etc.  Very  
nice.  Have had delays at JFK a few times and some flight cancels ---  
in fact, this very flight that I'm on was "canceled" at about 9am  
this morning and "reinstated" just a little while later --- but  
that's par for the course for any airline these days.  So, again,  
thank you JetBlue.  Does-exist:  a customer-friendly airline.

(2)  Should exist:  wi-fi / Internet on the plane.  C'mon folks.  For  
a long time the claim from the airlines was that it was too hard  
technically.  Complete bullshit.  So then they realized they weren't  
fooling anybody, and just sort of stopped responding about this at  
all.  I understand that this has now been tried on at least one  
airline and pulled because, eh, "the customers weren't really  
interested."  WHO ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING?  Do you people really  
think we're that stupid?!?  THAT is precisely the kind of bullshit  
anti-customer totally delusional asshole attitude that is why many of  
the mainstream carriers started hurting so bad.  I mean, really,  
screw you!  The first airline that offers this regularly on the  
routes I fly gets all my business, forever.  (Assuming they have  
JetBlue-like legroom or comp me gold for life so I can fly business  
or better all the time. ;-)  Generally speaking, get the (cell) phone  
thing worked out, too --- and stick a couple privacy cubicles back in  
the back, by the bathrooms so people can go get their gab on.

(2a)  Laptop power on planes.  Everywhere.  Every seat.  Do it.

(3)  SHOULD NOT exist...  and here I'm going to name names.  I used  
to love American Airlines.  They were my first gold status, and I've  
probably clocked more miles overall on AA than any other airline.   
(Thank you nerd-bird, dot-com bubble.)  But AA lost all my respect  
when they started the whole "red box" bullshit.  Look, that is just  
nasty.  Disgusting.  It's inedible.  And it's an offense against  
human dignity for you to even give it away, much less sell the damn  
thing.  A nasty, stale, and spare little bag of Tostitos crumbs, a  
totally chemical-tasting "turkey sausage stick" and a bag of Lorna  
Doone cookies that turned to dust sometime during W's first term in  
office?  With a packet of really sketchy "taco sauce"?  (What's that  
for, to dab onto the microscopic Tostito pieces that remain, or to  
try to mask the oily chemical aftertaste of the turkey stick?)  SCREW  
YOU WHOEVER INVENTED THE RED BOX, NO KIDDING, THERE'S A SPECIAL PLACE  
IN HELL FOR YOU!  You know, if they got rid of the Mansion at Turtle  
Creek catering and served the "red box" as lunch at just one American  
Airlines board meeting, that whole fiasco would be over, pronto.  Get  
a clue, AA.  And btw, fire that dork Jim Shahin.  I've been reading  
his column about nothing on the back page of your little American Way  
magazine since, I dunno, the Wright Brothers invented flight.  The  
sum of all and every column he's ever written is less information  
than is contained in this sentence and less entertaining than reading  
the passenger safety information card.  Again.  SHOULD NOT EXIST:   
Red Box, Jim Shahin's "column" in American Way.

Away from airlines toward more general travel-related thoughts.

(4)  Provigil and Ambien.  Traveler's friends.

(5)  Should exist:  Mac ultra-slim solid-state instant-on 14"-15"  
convertible notebook / tablet w/ decent battery life.  C'mon, Apple,  
just *do this thing.*  Don't be such a tease.  You *know* we want  
it!  What does it take?  Tell me, I'll do it.  Naked laps around  
Central Park?  I'll do it.  You want my first-born?  Don't have one  
yet, but when I do -- take 'em.  Seriously.  Just make sure we get  
decent-sized solid-state drives in there.  You can manage 64GB,  
surely.  (For example, it needs to be able to hold a local copy of  
Wikipedia, the CIA WFB, and local Google maps cache at all  
resolutions for 2-4 most-visited cities and their associated data.)   
And it needs 4 hour battery life, or at least a slim-line battery of  
some kind.

(6)  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Earth:  Mostly Harmless  
Edition).  Cf. above:  local / Gears-based app / mashup that combines  
a smart cache w/ prefetch over Wikipedia, CIA WFB, and Google Maps.   
Perhaps some other stuff.  Would be nice on the phone, but I'll  
settle for it on the ultraportable.

(7)  If we can't have a decent ultra-thin Mac, then can we at least  
get a decent e-Book reader?  All the current offerings are crap.   
Really.  And let's get the backend part of that thing worked out.   
Really.  This is simple:  wi-fi, a web browser and integrated pdf  
viewer.  Interface to allow you to "print to" the device, and a  
simple cache management thing to allow the full "library" to remain  
on a server elsewhere.  Nothing else;  this isn't a PDA.  It's a read- 
mostly device.

(8)  Every mobile device manufacturer needs to standardize on mini- 
USB for hard-line data and power.  I mean, c'mon, China's figured  
this one out...

(9)  Hotels:  okay, look, you have to deal with this many, many times  
a day.  The new domestic US security restrictions almost guarantee  
that everybody is going to check in without at least one critical  
toilet item.  Toothpaste, mouthwash, hair spray, shaving cream,  
deodorant, etc. etc.  Either open the freakin' gift shop 24 hours or  
--- better --- make sure that there's a "survival kit" of all of this  
stuff, in every room, at all times.  I know, I know --- many are  
almost doing this --- but inevitably any time I get in late  
somewhere, check in after midnight with a 7am breakfast, gift shop  
closed at 11pm and doesn't open 'til 8 --- that's the time I realize  
I've got four days of beard going and no shaving cream, and that's  
the one thing they don't have in-room.  And the dry-shave is a  
complete whip!  Or if it's not the shaving cream --- they have that,  
but not tooth paste, and I forgot the tooth paste.

--

Back to planes...

(10)  They need to either lift the ban on smoking on planes, or  
implement separate "farting" and "non-farting" seating areas.  I  
mean, fuck.  And put the toe-pickers and didn't-shower-guy in the  
farting section, please...  At least when you had a smoking section,  
all the rest of this stuff wasn't all that noticeable!  'Nuf said.

(10a)  Don't even get me started on the kids and no-kids sections  
that are SO DESPERATELY NEEDED...!!!


--

And a small general rant.  Stop "sending your love."  Don't tell  
anybody you "send your love."  I hate that expression.  We should  
eliminate it entirely.  What the fuck does that mean, anyway?  How do  
you "send your love" to somebody?  FedEx?  UPS?  How do you pack it?   
Is there, like, a special rate?  I need to complain to whoever my  
parents are using to "send their love" because they say that all the  
time, yet I never get any deliveries.  Is the next-door neighbor,  
like, stealing it off my porch?  The only deliveries I seem to get  
are Amazon.  Now, *they* love me. ;-)


$0.02,


jb



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