Monthly Archives: December 2010

Hunter S. Thompson, Conan O’Brien, Shooting Stuff

Just hilarious.

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Google Reading Level

Google recently launched a new feature that allows you to include the reading level of a given website’s text in search results. I did searches for the three blogs I write – Hold Fast, A Jigger of Blog, and Blogger Hamlin – and the results were surprising.

holdfast reading level
My writing on politics seems to be an even balance between the levels of reading levels. This is probably a good thing, though I would also guess that each one is determined by the type of post I write. I would imagine shorter posts highlighting video clips are in the basic category, while most other posts are intermediate, with the exception of wonky posts on economic or foreign policy. Obviously, though, I write a lot of those, hence the even balance. I would guess this even mix makes for a readable blog, but my traffic numbers belie that theory.

I’m really surprised there is any advanced reading material being created at my cocktail blog, let alone almost a third of the posts. I’m not immediately sure what causes that to happen, other than lots of ingredients and cocktail names are foreign.

I’ve done a bit of long form writing here at Blogger Hamlin and I would have guessed that it would have lead to a more uniform level of reading complexity. But I guess it’s a mix!

I really wish I knew what this fairly balanced mixture of reading levels across three different blogs means about my writing style. It seems that it’s more a statement about my writing than the blogs themselves, if those things can be separated. I’ll poke around and see what Google has to say about what these levels mean.

Pig & Monkey


Surely this is a metaphor for our economy, or something.

One Day with No Bags

Yesterday I had business meetings at Chicago O’Hare’s Hilton Hotel. The hotel is literally in the airport, with conferences rooms just a short, underground walk from the gate that I arrived in. Since I was going and coming back to DC in the same day, I didn’t bring any bags, just my Scottevest Tropical Jacket. Yes, tropical jacket. Though it was in the low-teens when I left DC and in single digits when I arrived in Chicago, I was only going to be outside for two brief moments through the day: while hailing a cab to DCA and while waiting for a cab to take me home from DCA. I was able to gut it out with only the Tropical Jacket, a sweater, a hat and gloves. In the jacket I packed my iPad, iPhone, earbuds, and a pen. That’s it.

This was really easy and even less stressful than my 10 day no baggage trip to Japan. Security was effortless and even though I was running late – I only made my flight by 10 minutes – I was able to move through the airport with ease.

What was more interesting was that I had at least two or three moments during the day where I frantically looked around for my messenger bag. Rolf Potts talked about this sensation at the start of his round-the-world no baggage trip. But while I was in Japan for 10 days, I never actually recall feeling like I was missing a bag. Yet yesterday, I did.

This little experiment was a real validation for me and no baggage travel. It especially made clear that for very short business trips, no bags is the way to go.

What Business Travelers (and I) Want

Via Frank II at One Bag, One World, this study of business traveler preferences is pretty interesting.

The top five most used airline ancillary services (in order):
1. Securing an aisle row seat
2. Priority security line access and early boarding
3. Airline lounge or club access
4. Securing a seat near the front of the plane
5. Extra leg room in coach

I’m no longer a travel once a week business traveler, but I really wouldn’t have thought the same things. I’ve also never been a business traveler who consistently flew first class (I’ve never booked it and only relied on upgrades to get it). So my list would be:

  1. Extra leg room in coach
  2. Securing a seat near the front of the plane
  3. Securing an aisle row seat
  4. Early boarding

I would also highlight the ease of upgrades and ability to frequently accrue reward program points as non-ancillary services that I desire. In terms of leg room, I’m 6’3″ or 6’4″ depending on the weather and have some chronic knee problems. Leg room is far and away the most important thing for me, as it can determine whether I enjoy a flight or if I spend it in pain. I will almost always upgrade myself for an economy plus seat if it means added leg room.

This also stands out from the study:

According to those surveyed, the least-used ancillary services are priority standby for an alternative flight and internet access. The latter may seem most surprising, however, it alludes to the use of in-flight time as a ‘safe haven’ to stay disconnected and prepare or play catch up before plugging back in on arrival.

I totally agree here. Time on a plane is basically the only waking time in my life when I’m not online. Having a couple hours where I have to be unplugged is a welcome break. I’ve never used internet on a flight when it’s offered and do not welcome the growth of in-flight internet at all.

Searching for a new carry-on

I travel a fair bit for work. Over the last couple of years I’ve also done something I’ve never done before: prioritized using the vacation benefits I get from work. As a result, I’m generally traveling quite frequently. My trips range from short work trips to more standard seven to ten day vacations. In all situations, though, I’m basically working with a carry-on sized piece of luggage (or, for work, a carry-on bag plus a backpack with a computer and work materials). My roller, the most common item, is a Victorinox Swiss Werks Travler 22″ and on shorter trips I use a small duffel/tote, also by Swiss Army. They’re both fine – the 22″ is as big as a domestic carry-on can get. The smaller duffel really isn’t better for more than 2 days of business travel, though it can hold my MacBook Pro.

At the end of the day, though, neither of these bags really fit my needs. First, I’d like to get something that can function as a backpack. I want the straps to be well-padded and comfortable; I also want there to be at least a sternum strap. Second, I want something lightweight and flexible. Third, I want a carry-on that actually functions like a carry-on. I want easy access to pockets and key items at angles that realistically exist in overhead compartments. My small duffel is all top oriented and doesn’t preserve access to any sizable pockets while being stored.

Right now the bags I’m looking at are:

  • Tom Bihn Aeronaut: This is probably the front-runner right now. The reviews online are stellar and it seems to be one of the two or three go-to bags in the carry-on bag geek world. The only thing holding me up on it is the high cost ($220+ depending on options).
  • Patagonia MLC: This seems to be the affordable option. It’s pretty basic and seems to be well suited for both business and pleasure trips – a shape that works for folding dress clothes, space for a laptop or iPad, good access to exterior pockets for documents. ($159)
  • MEI Voyageur: This bag has an incredibly simple design. The main compartment is huge (possibly too big) and it’s backpack strap system includes really robust waist straps. But the price is pretty great. ($136)
  • MEI Executive Overniter: Another great, straightforward three-compartment bag. It’s pricier than the Voyageur, but seems closer to what I’m looking for. My biggest concern with the MEI bags is delivery time – all sales are through the company and I don’t know what their timeline is for sales right now. ($200) [Update: I just exchanged emails with MEI and was assured that I could get either bag in time for my trips this month, so that is no longer a concern.]

I also considered, but decided to pass up a couple other bags. The GoLite TraveLite Convertible Carry-On was an early front-runner, but I don’t like the two  divided exterior pockets nor the lack of a sternum strap. The Red Oxx Sky Train seems like the other main fan favorite. No doubt, it’s bomber. But it’s expensive and a bit boxy for my tastes. Tom Bihn’s Tri-Star looks pretty awesome, but may be smaller than I want for those business trips where multiple dress shirts, pants, and shoes are needed. Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Pangea 40 Travel Pack seemed great, but I decided I didn’t want just a backpack, but a suitcase that converted to a backpack.

In a world where I wasn’t traveling extensively over the holidays and in January (Oklahoma, New Orleans, & Chile), I’d probably order all of these bags, see them in person, and return whatever I didn’t like. But I don’t think I have the time for it. I’m leaning towards getting one and hoping for the best.

A lot of my thinking on this is influenced by my experience doing the No Baggage Challenge for Charity with Scottevest. I know I can travel lighter than I have in the past and I want a small bag that lets me do that. There’s a much larger universe of specialized, kick-ass bags than I ever knew existed. This is a hard decision, so if anyone has experience or strong opinions with any of the mentioned bags, let me know.

Next Day Update…

The challenge I’m having is that I want a bag that works for both work and travel. In the case of work, this means the ability to hold a laptop. That makes the  MEI Overniter and the Patagonia MLC a bit more appealing, because of their three and two pocket structures in particular. The Aeronaut seems like the perfect bag for personal travel, but will it meet my needs for work travel?