Thursday, November 30, 2006

A statement I wish were true

I wish this statement were true:

"(I sleep well every night, but) I get my best sleep on planes!"

This year I will do 10 trips to the east coast, and 9 of those have red eyes. Anyone have secrets for bulletproof sleep on planes?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sororities and the maximum number of residents

Carnegie Mellon's sororities only have 16 or fewer females living in them. The rumor was that more than 16 females living together was forbidden as the state considered it a brothel.

Not true, apparently. Snopes says it's not true in general either.

(But a random joke site says it's true!)


Chicago Midway, most boxed in airport I've ever seen.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I don't like wine very much. But I have developed an affinity for port. In fact, I like 6 Grapes a lot, and my favorite retailer carries it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for other good ports to try?

(I still love good beer. If you like beer and want good ratings on beer, check out Beer Advocate)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Opt out of receiving credit card offers

I hate receiving credit card offers. I don't need to receive them, I've got 1.5 credit cards, I don't need more cards. And if I want one, it won't be because I get an offer in the mail, it'll be because I researched it.

You can opt out of credit card offers - Opt out prescreen works with the credit bureaus so you can stop getting them.

Also, if you get credit card offers, don't forget to shred them so no one searches your trash and gets a card in your name!

(FYI: the site is FTC endorsed)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Delta + US Airways = crazy delicious?

US Airways trying to merge with Delta

This is big; as a former Pittsburgh resident, I'm a big fan of US Airways. As a kid, I loved Delta (because it brought me to Disney World).

Summary for those too lazy to read the article: Delta is operating in bankruptcy. US Airways is offering 8 billion, not to Delta, but to Delta's creditors. Delta doesn't want to merge.

The combined company would be called Delta. It won't happen until at least January when Congress re-convenes (they have to make sure it's not violating anti-trust).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tier Matching

I fly too much.

There are three major airline alliances in the world, Star Alliance (Notable partners: US Airways, United, Lufthansa, and Air Canada), oneworld (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific) and SkyTeam (Delta, Northwest, Continental, and KLM). The major benefit of these is earning miles on fewer airlines: if I fly on United, I get miles on US Airways (or vice versa). In effect, you need 3 frequent flier programs to cover the major US carriers. (Jet Blue and Southwest are different - they don't partner, and their miles expire much more quickly)

Well, not only can you earn miles for free tickets, but you can also earn status. Well, I thought that was cool - I flew so much on United and US Airways this year that I got Silver Preferred on US Airways. But the problem is I will probably start flying United a lot more as my work trips to Pittsburgh are going to lessen. And if I had status on United, I could get cool things like Economy Plus seats.

Well, here's the airlines' dirty little secret: you can ask for matching status on other airlines. Today, I requested status on American and United. And you can too. Sometimes you might have to ask for it through a travel agent, or you fax things in. But don't forget this, if you ever fly too much - you can be 'cool' on many airlines even if you don't fly with them much. I know that right now, I select slightly more expensive United or US Airways tickets because I get more miles. Other airlines are smart to compete with that bonus to level the playing field.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I have a problem

I have a problem. I spend a lot of time looking at flight prices and thinking about whether I should travel or not.

I spend a lot of time at Kayak. Every week, I read my domestic and international fare deals from

One thing I don't get is why I will sometimes see longer, more expensive flights that take off earlier and land later listed by the same airline on a search. For example, let's say I'm traveling to Pittsburgh, I just saw these two flight options listed:

Flight 1, US Airways, departs SFO 10:30pm, lands PIT 6:00 am. $499
Flight 2, US Airways, departs SFO 8:00pm, goes through Chicago, lands PIT 7:00am. $509

Now, I don't know about you, but I'd prefer flight 1 (too bad United has flights for half price that aren't direct). Well, I would go so far to say I don't want to see flight 2 in my results - I have to be at SFO earlier, I land at Pittsburgh later, and I pay more money.

However, people have departure time needs. People want to arrive by a certain time. People have airline preferences. And they don't want their searches to be more complex. I propose that an airline search doesn't even display flights that take off earlier, land later, and cost more that are on the same airline.

This creates another problem. What if I book a couple days after my friend does, and I want the more expensive, less useful flights so I can be on the same flight as him. How do we avoid users being confused that what was an option now isn't?

People who look for the cheapest, or direct with less regard to cost, flights won't often notice the longer flight, more money problem - it's people who are optimizing for both time and money who will. So this is a smaller crowd we're talking about.

I've included pseudocode about the first way I can think to filter. I can't figure out how to make this any better than O(number of flights^2) (but I've only spent 10 minutes), though with airlines separated, it gets to be a bit more reasonable in the real world.
List<flight> logicalChoices = new List<flight>();

for (Airline airline : airlines) {
flights = search(departureDateRange, departureAirport,
arrivalTimeRange, arrivalAirport,
for (i=0; i < flights.length; i++) {
boolean displayFlight = true;
for (int j = 0; j < i; j++) {
if (flight[j].totalDuration < flight[i].totalDuration
&& flight[j].departureTime > flight[i].departureTime
&& flight[j].arrivalTime < flight[i].arrivalTime) {
// assert flight[j].price < flight[i].price - ordered by price asc
displayFlight = false;
if (displayFlight) {

Display logicalChoices to user

Friday, November 03, 2006

The magic of voicemail

Attention potential callers:

If you call me 3 times and don't leave a voice mail, that's silly. Voice mail was intended for the type of communication that doesn't need a reply, or even the type that means "Please call me back". Text messaging works too. Also, email. 3 calls with no voicemail? That's just plain strange.