by Alex on September 26, 2013
- There are not enough Dunkin’ Donuts in New England. Wait, I mistyped that. There are more Dunkin’ Donuts than people in New England.
- Almost every single New Englander I met was outgoing, friendly, confident, and chatty. Even the surly ones were hugely entertaining. e.g. When I enquired as to how a supermarket worker’s day was going, she replied “It’s Saturday, I’m stuck inside, it’s busy as hell…so pretty lousy. But the Sox clinched last night so I can’t complain. That’ll be 23 bucks, hun.”
- A lot of people still smoke there. California and London have skewed my sense of “normal” on this one.
- It’s one of the most beautiful parts of America I’ve ever seen. Water everywhere, tree-lined boulevards, quaint towns, pristine beaches.
- Hot sauce is quite hard to come by. My brother’s explanation is that while west coast food has heavy latin american influence, east coast food is mainly influenced by European cuisine and therefore not as hot-sauceable. (It is so a word, shut up.)
- You haven’t had clam chowder until you’ve had it in New England.
- Boston Logan International takes the crown for the worst airport in the developed world. Try parking there, I dare you.
- Tom Brady is 16ft tall and once threw over 400 touchdown passes in a single season.
- Clam bakes are delicious, entertaining, and scaleable. Everything good food should be.
- I could listen to a Boston accent forever.
- “Wicked pisser” means really great. And a “shit buddy” is a great friend. Not a shit friend. Counter-intuitive, I know.
by Alex on September 26, 2013
A few weeks ago I posted on Twitter about the shittiness of the Saturday-night stay rule that airlines use to fleece business travellers. If you’re not familiar with the rule, many airlines require passengers to spend a Saturday night in their destination city to get a half-decent fare. Wikipedia explains it further:
The rule is based on the airlines’ assumption that business travellers are more likely than leisure travellers to spend Saturday night at home. For example, a business traveler may depart on a Sunday or Monday and then return home that Friday or Saturday.
Business travellers’ demand for travel is less elastic and airlines attempt to increase their profits by price discriminating business travellers and leisure travellers. Business travels are also more loyal to a particular airline, and therefore are more likely to accept higher price.
Today, I came across a perfect example:
London to New York, roundtrip.
Leave on Wednesday, fly back at 10:25pm on Saturday night = £1521.45
Leave on Wednesday, fly back at 7:20am on Sunday morning = £480.45
Less than 9 hours difference in departure time but a cost increase of over £1000.
Dick move, right? The rule assumes that all businesses are big businesses and have huge travel budgets. What about the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that DON’T have big travel budgets. Or the leisure traveler who gets caught up in a rule that is purposely designed to screw the consumer?
Oh and here’s the hilarious “WTF?” cherry on this horse poo cake. The base fare on the Sunday flight is only £124. The rest is taxes and fees. And yes, the taxes and fees are exactly the same on the Saturday flight. So the airline jacked up the base fare by 850%. So there you have it, a £1000 “convenience” fee for business travellers to make it home in time to spend the weekend with their families.
by Alex on August 17, 2013
This mockup was made to show the difference between a single-deck and double-deck version of the new Boeing plane that eventually became the 747. It’s purpose was to convince former PanAm chairman Juan Trippe that he didn’t need a double-deck airplane and that a new category of single-deck plane, which came to be known as the “jumbo jet”, would scratch his “ocean liner style” itch.
To give an idea of what the single deck cabin and the double deck cabin would look like, two lumber and plywood mock-ups were built (see picture above for the single deck mock-up). PanAm chairman & his team flew down west to evaluate the options. “Would PanAm agree for the single deck?” It was a tense moment for Joe. After reviewing the mock-ups Trippe told Joe, “You made the right decision”.
by Alex on July 13, 2013
Recently I finished an interesting experiment. And as a result I’m 12 lbs lighter. But that’s not the headline outcome, not by a long shot.
About a year ago I started my weight loss journey and I’m delighted to say I’ve managed to keep 50lbs off ever since. However in the last few months my diet lapsed a bit, I was traveling a lot, and embarked on a new career chapter – none of which are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. As a result, I gave back a few of the pounds I lost. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. But it was enough for me to reconsider my approach to food, drink, and exercise.
But instead of going back to the regimen that was so successful for me in the first place, I thought I’d try a body hacking experiment. What would happen if I adopted an ultra-strict regimen with no cheat days? What would the effect be on my physique, my mood, my sleep, my concentration? The results were fascinating.
I decided for 30 days I would have:
- NO white or refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, pasta, bread, potatoes, flour, etc)
- NO dairy
- NO alcohol
- NO red meat
- NO soda
- NO coffee
(For context, I drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day, at least one diet coke, and a glass of wine in the evening.)
The elimination of soda and coffee was to see the effect on my teeth and on my sleep and concentration.
Removing white/refined carbs, alcohol, red meat, and dairy was to see the effect on body composition and weight loss.
I wanted to see a) if I could even do this for 30 days and b) what the overall effect on my body would be.
I began the experiment on a Monday.
As I wandered bleary-eyed into the office on the first day, I instinctively lunged towards to the coffee machine but managed to catch myself before deploying the mediocre “americano” into my chipped and overused mug. I opted for green tea instead, a habit I maintained for the entire 30 days.
The rest of the day looked like this:
Breakfast: Protein shake first thing in the morning followed by fruit when I got to the office.
Lunch: The office salad bar (leaves, vegetables, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, tuna, etc) or cold grilled chicken and vegetables.
Dinner: All manner of chicken, fish, turkey, pork, eggs with every vegetable I could think of. Dinner was easy and satisfying every single time.
Snacks: Almonds, fruit, carrot sticks, etc.
Exercise: Nothing beyond my 4-mile roundtrip walk to/from work.
The first week was the toughest but not what I predicted. Giving up carbs, red meat and dairy was easy. It was the coffee and alcohol that proved very difficult. Coffee was such a habit that its absence in my daily routine was immediately noticeable. And I enjoyed a glass of red wine when I got home in the evening, especially after a hard day. But after the first week, the changes started to happen.
Immediately the weight started to come off. But I also had better concentration, more energy, no afternoon slumps, and the quality of my sleep had noticeably improved. The cravings also disappeared after the first two weeks as well.
I kept the routine up for a full 30 days, no cheat days, no cheat meals. And I dropped 12lbs and inches off my waist. I now wear a small size t-shirt and need a new belt.
But on the 31st day, something weird happened. I was finally free to eat whatever I wanted, drink a load of coffee, have a hunk of cake and wash it down with some wine. But I didn’t want to do any of that. Instead, I had my protein shake, my green tea, a salad for lunch, and a protein heavy dinner. It was the weirdest goddamn thing.
I kept thinking, if I’m going to have a cup of coffee then I want the best damn cup I can find. So I waited until I had access to one, and it was totally worth the wait. Made it all worthwhile. Same with wine, red meat, and soda. I actually paid £3 for a can of Diet Dr Pepper imported from the US so the reward would be so much sweeter.
So ultimately here’s what I found:
- for me 30 days seems to be what it takes to turn exception into rule, hardship into habit.
- it’s easy to lose weight even with kids and an office job as long as you have a shred of discipline.
- carbohydrates are a dangerous addiction with almost no value.
- good food is worth waiting for. If I want something that’s not so healthy, I’m going to find the most delicious, well made example I can.
I’m interested to see if I can apply this 30-day mentality to other challenges. Exercise, finance, learning, etc.
by Alex on June 17, 2013
Bust open a screw top wine at your next dinner party and your guests might assume you’ve nipped across the road to the gas station for the evening’s plonk. But does the screw cap deserve its reputation as the cheap and cheerful counterpart to the cork? Not so fast, bucko.
…the screw cap not only avoids the problem of tainted cork, it forms a tighter seal. Most critics say that this guarantees a better flavour for all but the more expensive wines (which may age better with more oxygen).
“We prefer seals that ensure the wine is not going to be faulty,” says Ewan Murray, spokesman for the Wine Society. “Wines that are ready to drink young are always going to be fresher under a screw cap.”
Wine experts and critics from across the spectrum, even Robert Parker, freely admit that from a pure technical perspective, a screw cap is a much more effective method of preserving the contents of a bottle, and it entirely removes the possibility of wine becoming “corked”.
But for a lot of people, the cork is so much more than just a device designed to keep the wine in the bottle. It’s an experience.
…for wine lovers, the distinctive creak and pop means something good is happening. It triggers associations – social intimacy, relaxation, nuanced aromas, celebration – that go far beyond just a slug of alcohol.
So a large bottling company and a cork conglomerate teamed up to make a handscrew cork. All the ceremony of a cork with the convenience of a screw cap. Clever compromise.
What do you think of screw cap wine?
by Alex on June 16, 2013
In the 1950s United Airlines had “men-only” flights between New York and Chicago. Manly cities, you see. The flights had everything the 1950s man could want; steak dinners, closing stock market numbers as you board, a pipe and slippers, and a card table in the dedicated in-flight lounge.
I remember seeing this ad in the wonderful San Francisco Airport museum and wondering how long the service lasted and what prompted its demise. God help an airline if they tried to implement something like this today.
by Alex on April 12, 2013
American beer has always been a little bit of a joke. And rightly so.
To international tastebuds, it meant bottled lagers like Budweiser, Miller or Coors – commonly regarded by self-respecting drinkers as bland, corporate and lacking in credibility.
But the explosion in “craft beers” has lead to quite a revolution in the American beer industry. It’s actually pretty good stuff and for some weird reason very fashionable.
Somehow, beer from the United States has become not just widely respected, but achingly fashionable.
Visit a chrome-surfaced bar in London, Stockholm or Amsterdam and you’re likely to find Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Odell’s porter on tap.
“There’s a hipster cachet to it,” says Melissa Cole, ale expert and author of Let Me Tell You About Beer. “Craft beer is seen as sexy right now, there’s no doubt about it.”
But in my mind it’s all gone a bit too far. When you go into a pub or bar in any beer drinking country, you can always find an array of very cold lagers. Simple, refreshing, no pretense. This is basically all American beer was for decades. Very cold Bud lights, Coors, etc. But try going into a “beer works” or “ale house” or some other equally pretentiously-named establishment and try and get a cold lager. Nope. I went into one of these places last summer that was very proud of the fact that it had 24 beers on tap and more than twice that in the bottle, all proudly displayed on a huge chalkboard above the bar. When the waitress came to take my order, I asked for a cold lager, didn’t care which one. “A lager? I don’t think we have that brand.” I could have had any type of nut ale, chocolate stout, coffee IPA, blueberry bock or some other weird concoction (as well as some damn fine ales, don’t get me wrong.) But the reliable simplicity of a cold lager has been entirely eschewed in favour of boutique beers. It’s like going to a burger joint that serves potatoes wedges instead of fries.
Meanwhile the big beer makers aren’t refining their core lager product to appeal to the thirsty, hot beer drinker of today. No they’re creating monstrosities like Bud Light and Clamato. For shame.
I’m delighted to see American beer is getting the respect that it deserves overseas, but let’s not throw the baby out with the beer water.
via BBC News – US craft beer: How it inspired British brewers.
by Alex on April 9, 2013
For someone who crosses the Atlantic several times a year, I thought this was interesting. As they noted in the article, the winds across the Atlantic are already stronger and now areas of turbulence will be stronger and more widespread. Indeed on several eastbound transatlantic flights I’ve taken recently, the NYC-LON flight time was less than westbound transcontinental US flights (e.g. NYC – SFO). In other words, because of stronger winds, I could go from NYC to London faster than I could go from NYC to San Francisco.
Modelling suggested the average strength of transatlantic turbulence could increase by between 10% and 40%, and the amount of airspace likely to contain significant turbulence by between 40% and 170%, where the most likely outcome is around 100%. In other words, a doubling of the amount of airspace affected.
“The probability of moderate or greater turbulence increases by 10.8%,” said Dr Williams.
“‘Moderate or greater turbulence’ has a specific definition in aviation. It is turbulence that is strong enough to bounce the aircraft around with an acceleration of five metres per second squared, which is half of a g-force. For that, the seatbelt sign would certainly be on; it would be difficult to walk; drinks would get knocked over; you’d feel strain against your seatbelt.”
Besides passenger comfort, there’s also a business consideration here:
“It’s certainly plausible that if flights get diverted more to fly around turbulence rather than through it then the amount of fuel that needs to be burnt will increase,” he told BBC News.
“Fuel costs money, which airlines have to pay, and ultimately it could of course be passengers buying their tickets who see the prices go up.”
Pilots never knowingly fly into or stay in areas of sustained moderate (or greater) turbulence, not because it’s dangerous but because it’s not fun for the passengers or the cabin crew. So if they have to go further and further north or south to avoid it, then they burn more fuel. And those increased costs will inevitably get passed onto the flying public.
by Alex on March 24, 2013
Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield is a prolific tweeter. Not an interesting fact in isolation but there’s one important detail; he’s currently in command of the International Space Station. He tweets several times a day often with stunning photos taken from his vantage point 250 miles above the earth.
Yesterday he posted this beautiful shot of the entire Bay Area at night, each of the valleys clearly visible.