Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fresno Co-Housing

Check out this development in North Fresno called La Querencia. It is a 28 unit sustainable neighborhood with common areas, pools, vegetable gardens, and solar panels. It looks pretty neat, and if I were in any position to be buying a house right now, this would be something I might consider. These are the kind of things of which Fresno should try and get a lot more.

Via Fresno Famous

Airline Stupidity Follow-up

I want to write a follow up post on my blog posts about United Airlines and the airline industry in general.

My Dad shared with me this Harvard Business Review podcast on the same topic, and it got me thinking more about the airline industry pricing and service.

I want to first share with you a flight I was on in Europe, from Brussels to Dublin a few years ago. I flew on Ryanair and my flight cost a total of about $16 USD after taxes and fees. The flight itself was 0.01€ (about a penny). This flight had no reserved seating, so it was almost a mad rush to get on the plane so you could sit where you wanted. There were absolutely no "frills" and if you wanted anything you would need to pay a premium (including checked luggage, beverages, etc.) These flights also came with a lot of advertising from posters, flight attendants, and I think even the pilots. I loved this flight, first and foremost because it was cheap and I was trying to travel through Europe with spending as little money as possible. But also because I got exactly what I paid for on the flight. I think this is a perfectly acceptable way to do business as an airline, or any other business and I think a company can do well at it. Ryanair may even be coming to the US.

The other way to operate an airline is to go all out, and provide all those frills for your customers. Obviously, you have to charge for those services, but they are all bundled in the price. This will also work, because people that don't want to worry about securing all the little frills will pay the premium to have them all included. This is evident in first and business class. People in first class arrive at the gate with the plane at the exact same time those in economy do. The reason people pay 3-7 times more for a first class ticket is exactly for those little frills. Being on a plane is almost exclusively for one reason and that is for travel/transportation.

My biggest issue is when these airlines are in the middle of cost increases and decide to go ahead with frill decreases. I think it is very dangerous to try to be in the middle somewhere, because that is where companies will get lost.

Here is my idea.
  • An airline should have a bare bones fee structure for the flight.
  • They could have different classes/cabins that would offer more leg room. Further back in the plane the less leg room the cheaper the flight.
  • Booking online can be utilized in a way that allows someone to choose all the frills they want for the flight. This could include beverages, snacks, light meals, blankets, pillows, checked luggage, magazine, newspaper, etc. The list could go on.
  • Each frill chosen would be an extra cost, and added onto the total cost of the flight.
  • Kiosks (digital or real people) could be accessed throughout the airport incase you wanted to add any of these frills to your flight, and of course when you check into your flight any of these frills can be added on.
  • I would remind customers to add any of the frills before boarding the plane. This way the airlines would not have to worry about bringing aboard extra magazines/food/etc. that are not going to be consumed. This will help alleviate fuel costs for extra weight.
  • For this kind of bare bones airline, advertising would be a great addition, but as always should be done tastefully and as unobtrusively as possible.
  • There could be other variable pay structures implemented as well. I've heard ideas before such as pay per weight, so that a passenger would have to not only pay more for heavier luggage, but their own body weight as well. The more weight the more it costs the airline in fuel.
What do you think of this airline structure? Would you fly on this airline?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All Foam and No Beer

Watch this video of a guy who looks like he is trying to win the fight before it even gets started by showing off and intimidation. It doesn't work.

I think this has marketing implications too. You can have the best marketing program around, but if your product or service can't live up to the marketing, the fight is going to be over very quickly.

Via Dallas Stars Blog

Geek Clock

If you enjoy math you will probably enjoy this clock. Instead of your regular 1-12 numbers on the front, it features the unit circle with radians and degrees.

It is also fairly inexpensive at $15.99 from Cafe Press.

Via UberReview


Watch this video of pranks played by a magician dressed up as an old man on a subway train and an amusement park. It is sure to put a smile on your face.

Via BoingBoing

Everything That Happens

If you haven't heard about David Byrne and Brian Eno's new album yet, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, you should definitely check it out.

You can listen to the entire album online for free at the website, as well as buy/download DRM-free digital copies, buy the physical album, or even the collector's edition.

The music is pretty good, and some of the songs are great on the first listen to.

More United Airlines Stupidity

I've written before about a stupid decision made by United Airlines to try and save money. It appears they are at it again with announcements that United Airlines will no longer offer complimentary snacks to economy class fliers across North America. After this, they will no longer offer free meals in domestic business class flights, and eventually end all complimentary meal service in economy class on select European flights. On top of this they will be raising prices of food you can buy on board.

On my recent trip to New Orleans I flew on two different airlines, and was very disappointed to find out that on US Airways they no longer offer complimentary drinks, not even water! American Airlines still offer complimentary water/juice/soda/coffee, but no longer complimentary snacks. This causes me to compare these recent flights to airlines such as Horizon, which not only offer complimentary beverages and snacks, but even have an offering of complimentary beer and wine. It is these little things that often attract me to these airlines.

With a lot of these airlines taking away complimentary snacks and even complimentary beverages, I think it would have been much smarter for United Airlines to keep their offerings intact. At least for me, it is very easy to spend 5-7 dollars extra on an airplane ticket and get a complimentary snack/beverage when I am already paying 300-400 dollars on the ticket itself. When I get onto an airplane I would much rather not be bothered with things like worrying about bringing enough singles to give the flight attendant exact change for the "jumbo" cookie that looks semi-appetizing. Let me pay for things in as few transactions possible, it just feels like I'm paying more if I have to pay a few different times.

Via FastCompany

Thursday, August 21, 2008

He's Just That Good

Check out this video recently blogged by Luke Mundy, it's really great.

I think I especially like it because of all the balls I lost in the water on Saturday when I went golfing. This little skill would have come in very useful.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Trip to New Orleans

As I talked a little bit about before, I took a trip to New Orleans earlier this month. I went with my Dad, who was attending the Global Shaklee Conference and along with attending the events and learning about some of the VERY exciting product announcements, we got to see some of the city of New Orleans, LA. We had a few opportunities to walk the historic French Quarter and it was interesting how many places in the downtown corridor I remember from video of the city after Hurricane Katrina.

I'm going to share with you some of the photos I took while in New Orleans.

A big jester in a food court in the Riverwalk Mall

A large fountain with the Mississippi in the background.

Cemeteries are a lot different than what I'm used to seeing. It appears that all graves are above ground. (Possibly due to New Orleans being below sea level?)

A view of the stage at the conference.

My Dad blinged out with all the awards him and my Mom earned over the past year.

The city has amazing color on the buildings, especially in the French Quarter.

Tile street signs on the walls of buildings.

A view of St. Louis cathedral.

There is a lot of wrought iron through New Orleans.

A balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. And yes, those are giant beads.

More color.

Walked down Bourbon street.

More wrought iron.

I was able to try some amazing food while in Louisiana. On this plate is blackened catfish topped with lemon pepper shrimp and crayfish, with a cajun baked potato as a side.

A view of Bourbon street by night. It is a very bustling place.

Dad and I exploring Bourbon Street in the evening.

If I were to describe New Orleans in a phrase, it would be a tropical european city. The architecture (especially in the French Quarter) is very European, but as you walk down the street it is commonplace to see palm trees. The city definitely has a lot of personality, but there are some areas that are boarded up and neglected.

It was a great trip, especially since I got to spend time with my Dad. Living in different parts of the country does not allow a lot of opportunities to see my parents, so it is nice when I get the chance.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've mentioned before the online service of where you can watch a number of shows for free, all at one website.

I found today that they have all 4 seasons of Doogie Howser M.D. Now there is a trip down memory lane.

Olympic Thoughts

As you hopefully know, the Olympics are well underway in the great city of Beijing, China. One thing that has really struck me this year watching the Olympics is the athleticism of the competitors in the games. Of course this seems like a very obvious statement, but let me explain what I have been thinking.

First, being an athlete, especially one competing at this level means a lot of training. In my opinion, the biggest aspect of the training is gaining more control over your body and what it can do. This is especially noticeable in sports like gymnastics and swimming, but most Olympic events require some degree of adhering to form. Form, for example, is making sure every stroke in the freestyle swimming event is maneuvered perfectly, or in rowing making sure every motion of the oar is executed without mistake. The greater control you have over your body the better form you should have, and the better you should do. Of course, a certain level of physical fitness is required, but that is another aspect of getting your body to do what you want it to.

It is these minute aspects of form that allows Michael Phelps to win 8 gold medals, or allows a gymnast to hold herself hanging in mid-air on the rings for longer than what seems humanly possible, and I believe is what separates Olympic athletes from regular people (like me).

Mastering form is common place in many things we see everyday, and doesn't necessarily have to do with sports. It could be a bus driver being able to turn a tight corner and know exactly how much she has to move the steering wheel to avoid the line of cars, or the card dealer at the casino shuffling the deck with precision.

Here's a video showing slow motion HD video of skateboarders. It is really amazing what people can do with practice, and how they can make these pieces of wood with wheels move in the air.

skate - shot on red - 120 fps from opus magnum prod. on Vimeo.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Advertising With The Enemy

While watching a Foster Farms chicken commercial today it seemed odd to me that a company would use what is essentially the competition in their advertising.

If you haven't seen a commercial from Foster Farms, they basically consist of two larger than life chickens who strive to become 100% fresh and natural Foster Farms chickens even though they have a lifestyle that puts them at odds with the Foster Farms philosophy.

This means that this company uses a spokesperson that is the exact opposite of what they stand for. Is this a good strategy? Will people associate these unsavory chickens with the chicken that Foster Farms sells? They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity because people see something and remember it and not necessarily because it is good or bad.

We see this on tv in other commercials and especially at this time of the year here in the US. Political commercials often spend a majority of the time talking about the other candidates. It would be interesting to see effectiveness of this strategy in some kind of study.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Accent Game

As someone who has lived and traveled in and to multiple countries around the world, accents are very fascinating to me. I enjoy guessing people's accents, and so when I saw this game I thought I might be good at it.

I was not.

They give you 16 people saying different phrases from Rudyard Kipling's "If" and for each person you get to choose one of six countries given to you as options. I got 3 of 16 right. And what makes this more embarrassing is that I had 3 Americans and only guessed one of them correctly. I also guessed Canada and Scotland correctly. For some of the European countries I found it difficult because you get small ones like Slovakia, Belarus, etc. and you'd have to be pretty good to get those right.

My only other complaint about the game is that the phrases the people say are fairly short, and doesn't necessarily allow for much exposure to the intricacies of the person's accent. If the videos showed them reading a few sentences it might be a little easier.

I encourage you to check it out though, and see how you do.

Via Presurfer

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tight Pants

If you've ever been in public in the last couple of years, especially where junior high and high school kids hang out you have undoubtedly seen tight pants.

I want to be completely honest with all of my readers when I say, this is a terrible fashion idea. Whoever came up with this should have their fashion license taken away.

That is why this manifesto about why Tights Are Not Pants is so welcoming to me.


Via Presurfer

Friday, August 08, 2008

Useful Phone Feature

While here in New Orleans my dad forgot his cell phone at the hotel while we left on a short walk through the french quarter.

It got me thinking that cell phone companies should have a feature where a person can call in to their voicemail and turn on their call forwarding. This would mean that if you forgot your phone somewhere (or went swimming with it) you could use a friends phone and easily call forward your phone so you don't miss any important calls.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In New Orleans

If you were following my Twitters throughout the last 14 hours or so (specifically throughout the night), you are aware of the "fun" I had with my flights. I won't bore you with those details because you SHOULD be following my Twitter feed.

Here are a few observations of New Orleans since I arrived here about 2 hours ago.

-I have met mostly very kind and hospitable people
-It is humid here, and even though I expected it, it always hits me
-I would imagine people who live here are sick and tired of visitors coming and asking the same question after question about hurricane katrina
-I love southern accents
-I am not sure if it is just today, but the weather is all over the place. One minute we are thinking rain and shortly thereafter we've got blue skies

Orbitz TLC

I am currently sitting here in Las Vegas Mccarran Intl Airport (LAS) and I am experiencing what I have been very fortunate to mostly avoid throughout my travels thus far in my life: airline delays.

My flight was supposed to leave for Dallas/Ft. Worth at 12:40am however it looks more like we will be leaving closer to 3:00am. One thing that has been really nice is Orbitz TLC.

I purchased my tickets at and one perk is this Orbitz TLC program that alerts you of changes in your flights and your reservation.

So while most people waiting for this flight are oblivious to just how many times this flight has changed times, gates, and everything else I have been receiving almost real time updates to my phone in your both text messages and email. This is definitely a value added service.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Football Season

When I got home from work today Jonathan was watching the Hall of Fame preseason NFL game Colts vs Red Skins.

This means that football season will quickly be upon us! This week also will bring us the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing, which officially start on 8/8/08 (Friday).

This is a great week for the beginning of sports seasons.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wake Up!

That is the text I have set to flash on my phone when my alarm goes off in the morning. I set both my phone and my alarm clock to make sure I get up in time for work. However, when I really need to wake up I will often set my computer to start "yelling" at me with some sort of jarring music.

Here is another option.

I have found that using my phone to gradually wake me up by setting the snooze to fewer and fewer minutes each time it goes off when finally my alarm clock makes me at least sit up and rush over to hit snooze works the best to wake me up. It is about a 20 minute process, and I think it is very useful during stretches like the one I am in right now. Working 14 of 15 days in a row right now... not so much fun.

I have also learned that if I keep my alarm clock right next to the bed, I will inevitably get to the point where I am able to hit snooze a number of times without actually waking up, thus canceling the effects of said alarm clock. I now keep my alarm clock somewhere where I actually have to exert some sort of physical energy to hit snooze.