The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Bleg: Should I get a Kindle?

Having already admitted to frequent flying, and looking at an enormous amount more in 2009 and 2010, I've started thinking about getting a Kindle.

So, I'm blegging for opinions.

I'm almost entirely sold because you can email PDF files and Word documents to a Kindle, to go along with the up to 1,500 books it can store in its 290-gram innards. Given the volume of reading I'll have in the week before each Fuqua residency, and given that much of it will be electronic anyway, it's starting to make more sense.

So, thoughts? Or, more concretely, why shouldn't I buy a Kindle?

American Airlines partner oddities

I fly frequently, more often as a "revpax" (revenue passenger) than as pilot. And I've mentioned before, given the two full-service options in Chicago (American and United), I long ago chose American as my preferred carrier. I have, in fact, been a member of their frequent-flyer program since 1988.

American is one of the two lynchpins of the oneworld alliance (typography and letter casing theirs), the other being British Airways. Only, they seem to hate each other's customers.

Exhibit: neither's customers can use or earn miles on the other's trans-Atlantic routes. Chicago to London? No choice, if you want your 3,953 elite-qualifying miles each way. Because miles are reedemable for travel and upgrades at up to 2c per (e.g., 25,000 miles for a round-trip domestic ticket that would otherwise cost $500), and elite miles are particularly valuable, BA's fare needs to be almost $100 less, all things equal, to make it worthwhile to fly the other airline.

OK, so I get that there are regulatory issues and other things they're taking into account. But I can hop a Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo and earn the same number of miles I can earn on a competing AA flight. So what gives?

It's even more peculiar when you start flying on BA flights on "domestic" European routes. Now it starts to annoy me.

Later this spring I'm flying to a European city to which the only reasonable connection is through Heathrow, and because it's a discount ticket, I'm only earning 25% of the miles flown for the trip. I could, of course, upgrade to a full-fare economy ticket for, oh, £200; but that's really not cost-effective, now, is it? I only discovered this by reading the fine print yesterday.

My conclusion will have to be, avoid BA flights when an alternative routing exists on another oneworld carrier. For example, to the place I'm going this spring, I could have flown American to another major European city and flown on Malév, Finnair, or Iberia, and gotten 100% mileage credit—and more miles to boot, because the routing is farther.

So again, why does British Airways not want American Airlines customers? Or is it American that doesn't want me flying BA?

Mostly done, except for the trim

Those guys are fast. The windows are in, except for the trim:

Also, given my proven ability to walk and chew gum at the same time, I managed to finish the CD ripping project while working on a complex client report. iTunes reports 5,570 songs and 49.4 gigabytes—15.5 days of music. I think that should hold me for a time.

Disruption at Headquarters

The Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters has temporarily moved about four meters:

Actually, some of the office simply moved into the International Data Center:

(The IDTIDC is behind the dressing screen in the corner of the room.)

All of this comes about because of the 95-year-old windows that the guys can finally replace today. I say "finally" because I ordered them in October. It took six months because (a) they new ones had to be custom-made to match the rest of the 95-year-old building; (b) that took three months; and (c) one typically does not want to replace windows in Chicago during the coldest February in 25 years.

Today it's 9°C, it isn't (yet) raining, and it's about time.

Obligatory photos of ripped-out windows to follow.

Update: Gah!

Already through the Cs

Through multitasking and some minor process improvements, I'm already through 92 of the re-ripping project I started last week. At this rate...I should be done sometime next month.

If the weather were warmer, I should point out, I'd be walking Parker instead.

New time-wasting project ahead

Sometimes upgrading or replacing something can expose deficiencies in one's own processes.

Last week, my four-year-old MP3 player died. It's pretty sad, actually. It's tiny (20 GB) hard disk just stopped spinning. So, not wanting to hear every background conversation of everyone in my client's office, I decided to replace it.

After much evaluation I chose the Apple iPod Classic 120. Then I fired up iTunes and sync'd up my library.

It turns out, that phase in the late 1990s when I ripped all of my CDs in Microsoft .wma format—not such a good idea ten years later. It also turns out, all those CDs I ripped at 64 kHz to save space—the new iPod has good-enough sound reproduction that I can hear it. And another thing, all those album art JPEG images I routinely deleted until about 2005, again to save space—yeah, the new iPod shows album covers, but (duh!) only when they're available.

So, now that terabyte hard drives cost about $150, and I have an iPod with excellent sound reproduction and the ability to show full-color album covers, I have a new project: re-rip all the CDs I ripped before mid-2006, this time at 256 kHz and retaining the album art.

There are only 700 or so. Shouldn't take too long...

Eat, bubbe! Eat!

One of my oldest friends—I mean, 5th-grade-old—opened a restaurant this past fall: Mint Julep Bistro, 53 W. Slade St., Palatine, +1 (847) 934-3000. The Chicago Tribune has now reviewed it:

Without reservations on a recent Saturday, we waited in the intimate lounge where, to management's credit, nobody pushed apps or booze on us. But we wanted both, and it fortunately didn't take long to fill our order. There's plenty of bourbon and a lovely wine list by the glass/bottle. We bypassed the bourbon (we’ll be back for that) and ordered a glass of French viognier ($6.25) and a winter white ale ($4.25) to accompany an order of three scrumptious, sizable crab cakes ($10.50). Fall-apart tender and made with the prime meat from the claw, the cakes were further enhanced with the well-balanced remoulade sauce.

But don't fill up too much. The menu is big, with one tempting entree after another starring seafood, beef, poultry and a vegetarian platter. (We heard a grateful remark from a nearby diner, who hadn't expected that.) I opted for seafood, and the menu’s plainly titled Shrimp 'n Grits ($16) belied a far more evocative entree: Six firecracker shrimp elegantly plated with a trio of perfectly fried, crunchy-tender grit cakes in a velvety bourbon cream sauce. Rich and almost over the top. My companion’s butcher’s cut steak ($22), a grilled-to-order cut from meat above the filet, arrived with melt-in-your-mouth acorn squash and potato-andouille hash that offered a fresh departure from plain mashed spuds.

Both chefs made appearances throughout their restaurant, stopping at tables and chatting with the clientele. Nice touch.

It's a long haul from the city, but some of us have plans to go back up there again soon. Rich, the aforementioned friend, has a smoker, and the pulled pork is worth the trip.

Long way home

It seems like a month, but it's only two days, 30 km of walking, fewer mojitos than planned (probably a good thing), less sunscreen than required (probably a bad thing) and other lists of things I did right and things I did wrong. Oh, and almost 500 photos taken, three books read, less than €100 spent (never mind how many US dollars), and 2,600 email messages dealt with, of which 1,200 went into the junk folder, 400 more should have, and 290 were status messags from various applications and processes running in the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center.

I'll be sorting through all of that tomorrow. At the moment, I'm at Princess Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten, waaiting for my plaane to Miaami.

Photos and cetera should start tomorrow.