Scott’s Cheap Flights

I subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights, mostly for aspirational reasons, but even if me and my family travel relatively rarely, the service has still saved us more than its cost of subscription in the past few years. A recent email included this reminder about optimizing your chances of finding a great deal:

Things that actually will help you get a better price: searching in the Goldilocks window (2-8 months for international flights and for 1-3 months for domestic), searching flexible dates, avoiding peak travel times, and acting fast when you find a great deal.

The link in the quotation is to a page on their website that has more details.


I have the hiking bug, bad. And that’s a tough thing to catch when you live in South Louisiana: especially if the hiking you have in mind looks like this:

Goat Flats in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State

Goat Flats in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State

Reading things like Siddharth Dedhia’s [“2 days. 36 miles.”][sd] only makes it worse. This is the kind of thing I want to do with my daughter. (And with my wife, if she’s willing to join us.)




Biscuit from Popeye’s. Coffee from Seattle’s Best. Let each be their best.

I caught up with Yung while walking the length of Atlanta’s C Concourse. Apparently our daughter woke up at 5:15, came out into the living room, and wondered where I was. Yung walked her back to bed and got her back to sleep.

I’m sitting in a patch of sunlight not far from my gate but my flight isn’t for another THREE HOURS.

Oh well…

Traveling to SHOT


Checked bag with Delta: $25.

It’s interesting to note that all the counter personnel for Delta were African American women. Is this a positive sign or a negative sign? I’d like to think it’s a boon for equal opportunity, but does it also reflect a decline in status for such positions, who now are limited, much of the time, to shepherding passengers through a variety of “self” driven processes? Checking in. Checking bags. Etc. Passengers are essentially told to stare at touchscreen terminals and then tag their own bags, as opposed to interacting with counter personnel. We even haul our own bags to the TSA drop-off area.

Richard Stallman’s Travel Protocols

Most of the external readers to this blog will know that Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software movement, which he distinguishes from open source software, and as the man who put together the GNU system into which the Linux kernel was eventually embedded to become the GNU/Linux operating system. (The fact that it is too often called simply “Linux” apparently drives him nuts — one can hardly blame him for this.) One of the main ways he supports himself is through giving talks, mostly intended for non-technical audiences I might add, and he has developed an impressive set of instructions for hosts and sponsors.

The Other Paris Metro

[This post]( at _Sleepy City_ has a wonderful collection of photographs of the Paris Metro as glimpsed by a pair of daredevils willing to risk electrocution, pursuit by dogs and police, and the occasional surprise train to discover unused stations and trains. I am not so interested in the daring part than I am in the tableaus from another time. Stations lined with tiles. Trains made of metal and wood.

Traveling to Nashville

Over the last five days I have traveled from my home in Lafayette, Louisiana to Nashville, Tennessee in order to attend the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society. A log of my journey is below, but I have to say that thanks to the constant reminders from Leo Laporte on his “This Week in Technology” podcast, to which I subscribe through iTunes, I finally checked out Audible’s selection from audio books. I bought a novel and two nonfiction books and the miles quite literally just flew by. Before I knew it I was in Mississippi, then Alabama, then Tennessee, and then I was in Nashville and already almost to my hotel.

Waypoints for October 12:

  • 09:36 – leave the house.
  • 09:51 – get on Interstate 10 at Louisiana Avenue.
  • 11:56 – leave I-10 for I-59.
  • 12:58 – arrive Hattiesburg.
  • 15:00 – cross into Alabama.
  • 17:08 – arrive northside of Birmingham for overnight stay.

Waypoints for October 13:

  • 07:36 – depart Birmingham.
  • 10:19 – arrive Nashville (I-65 at Wedgewood Avenue).

Emboldened with such an easy passage, I decided to make almost the entire drive back on Saturday afternoon, leaving Nashville a little before three in the afternoon and getting into Baton Rouge around midnight. (I stayed the night with family, and then pressed on to Lafayette the next day.)

  • 14:42 – depart Hilton Hotel.
  • 17:41 – arrive westside of Birmingham (18th/19th Avenue Exit).
  • 23:56 – arrive Baton Rouge.

Next Time I Travel…

Next time I travel, I will definitely try the services of some place like [Cook American Express Travel Services]( to see if I can get first or business class tickets for as low as they say. Having been jammed into planes operated both by [Delta]( and [Continental](, I can only hope they haven’t decreased the legroom for better-class passengers in the same way that they have for economy passengers. (And, really, cramming three rows into the emergency area where once there was two? Surely that’s just plain dangerous.)

Thinking about Traveling

With the recent trip to Indiana behind us, we find ourselves planning the next trip. We’re not entirely sure where we’re going, but go we will (at some point). With the heat pressing down here, we can’t help but think about cooler climes and the gear we might need:

* Like a decent backpack: The simplest would be the [REI Zip Travel Daypack][rei] which is 1200 cu in and is $30. The [Talos 22][t22] by Osprey has 22 liters (1800 cu in) of room and looks to sell on Amazon for about $90. (For the record, I like all the [Osprey packs][osp].)
* And maybe a better jacket: [like Eddie Bauer’s 365 system][365]

A comparison of the two Osprey bags I like:

Bag | Size | Price | Features |
:——– | :——: | ——- | —————————- |
Talon 22 | 22l | 99.00 | Full-fledged waist support |
Helix | 17l | 68.95 | Webbing waist support |


iApps for Kids

On our recent trip to Indiana and back, we carried with us two devices that were dedicated for our daughter’s use: a Leapster and an iPod video. The Leapster had a range of, hopefully educational, games for her to play and the iPod contained a dozen episodes of [_Fetch with Ruff Ruffman_][frr], one of the [PBS Kids][pbs] shows she likes to watch and that we think has substance.

At one point during the trip, Yung was in the back of the car with Lily and they were playing the Leapster’s version of *I Spy* and Yung kept commenting on how hard it was to see the screen. Indeed, I have looked at the screen of the thing, and I don’t know if it began life brighter, but it is now a dim thing.

“Why not,” I wondered, “go with a better screen and with a device that is more flexible as she grows up?” The Leapster is going to fade in relevance at some point soon, and its maker will want us to buy the next device in the line-up, much as we moved from the Leap-Pad to the Leapster.

And did I mention the cartridges are expensive? Approximately $25 per cartridge for a limited set of new features/games.

Add in the better, bigger screen of an iPod Touch for watching videos, and suddenly it just seemed like the right thing to do.

A quick search of educational apps for kids turned up the following results:

* For $11.99, iPhone owners can download *Starmap*, a “pocket planetarium” that helps users easily find constellations, planets, or shooting-star zones.
* *Flash My Brain Flashcards* and *StudyCards*, both costing $9.99, allow users to create their own flash cards.
* *Lexicon* ($9.99) is an animated flash-card application designed to help users learn more than 70 languages. Users can quiz themselves and record and play back audio on their iPhone to hear how they’re progressing with the language.
* The *Atom in a Box* application is a tool to help users visualize atomic orbitals, showing what the hydrogen atom looks like in three animated dimensions for $9.99.
* There is also a [Maps of the World][mow] application that has 20 historical maps in it.
* [I See Ewe][ise], described as “an educational game for the iPhone and iPod Touch that helps your preschooler learn to recognize shapes, objects, colors and animals and to learn their first sight words through two simple yet engaging games” sounds a little too little for Lily, but might be useful for someone else.
* There are several math apps, most starting at age 7 (*PopMath*, *Basic Math*), but some at age 3 (*Cute Math*, *Dotty Shapes*) as well as one enigmatically titled miTables Lite.
* There is a *Memory Match Kids* game.
* Something called *Pre-School Adventure* that Dad-o-Matic loves.

The *New York Times* has their own [listing][nyt].

*Wired* recommends: *Wordex*, *The Secret Garden*, *Shape Builder*, and for adults *Shadows Never Sleep* and *Knots*.

The “Travel Savvy Mom” blog has [a few suggestions][tsm].

**Update**: To some degree, the listing from _AcadianaMoms_ got this ball rolling, and so I would be derelict in my note taking if I didn’t include a few apps that came from their page:

* *Shape Builder Lite* got Lily’s attention right away, and she burned through the sample shapes in no time.
* *Trace* is a lovely basic side level game, but it requires a bit more than Lily could process when I showed it to her. (The player can trace bridges and ramps to get your little guy where he needs to go.)
* Finally, there is *Eliss* which is described as a “puzzler set in space where supernovas and vortexes are the norm” — er, shouldn’t that be *supernovae* and/or *vortices* — “as the screen fills with newly formed colored planets you must work to keep different colors apart while combining like-colored circles.” Eh, sounds a bit complicated, but its space theme may appeal to the Bean.


Overnight in Jackson

On our way back down, we decided to stay again in Nashville, which meant that our best bet was to push past Memphis, our usual midpoint stopover, and head to Jackson, Mississippi. (Not Jackson, Tennessee, which is one hour east of Memphis.) We have had such good luck, and experience, with the Memphis Hilton that we decided to try the Jackson Hilton, whose location we already knew. The reservations person we called said rooms were available, they just weren’t available at the state rate. Mind, this was at 3:30 in the afternoon, so why they were holding onto rooms at that late of an hour is beyond me.

It all worked to our benefit. While we went ahead and scouted possible Hamptons, we decided to wait to see if there was something like a Courtyard by Marriott hotel near the shopping center where we had spied a Barnes and Noble — books, coffee, and a decent play area are all admirable qualities in a place. B&N scores a perfect 3. As luck would have it, there was a new Hyatt Place hotel, which had an indoor pool, a great room, and a great rate. What a delightful surprise.

The view of our Hyatt Place hotel room upon entering.

After an hour or so in the pool, we cleaned up, had some pizza at a nearby local restaurant, grabbed a few groceries at a Fresh Market, and eyed the Apple Store. *Alas, there was no time.*