Category: Travel

The art of getting bumped

Neat (via the New York Times):

[A]irlines continue to cut capacity in an effort to keep up with rising fuel prices, leaving fewer seats for passengers…. [T]here are some travelers who see the flight crunch as a lucrative opportunity. Among them is Ben Schlappig. The 20-year-old senior at the University of Florida said he earned “well over $10,000” in flight vouchers in the last three years by strategically booking flights that were likely to be oversold in the hopes of being bumped.

If you subscribe to the credo that there’s “nothing new under the sun,” then this is exactly the kind of pursuit you’d expect from young Americans who possess entrepreneurial spirit. There are many worse ways one could devise to maximize one’s benefit by exploiting some aspect of a system.

It’s refreshing to me to see a reversal in the trend of corporations destroying our society, even such an insignificant one. So, thank you, Mr. Schlappig, for doing the legwork. Perhaps others will gain from your pioneering ways.

5 more things President Obama can do right away

President Obama has been in office a good five days now, and he’s taken several important steps to signal his willingness to reverse some of the worst mistakes of prior administrations. Of course, followup is the most important part, but he has:

  • Pledged to close the illegal prison at Guantanamo Bay. Wretched legal reasoning from Alberto Gonzalez and John Yoo aside, the United States shouldn’t be torturing people and ignoring the right of habeas corpus.
  • Pledged to make government more transparent and accountable. From launching a White House blog to blocking the two-way street between lobbying and regulating, Obama seems determined to finally finish and cross the bridge to the 21st century Bill Clinton liked to talk about.

Sure, there are more, but you get the idea. Here are some of the next things I think he should do — with varying degrees of difficulty, but that probably will be received largely favorably — that will help this country get back on track as a place of freedom, innovation, equality, and opportunity:

  1. End the prohibition on shampoo, toothpaste, and beverages for travelers. Letting people take liquids and gels of any size through security at airports is long overdue. That particular security procedure isn’t making us any safer, it’s just irritating us and making us spend money in the airport. And here’s a perfect way to counteract that loss of revenue by airports —
  2. Restore the right of non-passengers to accompany their friends and family into concourses at airports after passing through the same security procedures passengers do. Remember those days, long ago, when you could have a drink or dinner with whoever took you to the airport while you waited for your plane? I barely do. Again, this won’t make us any less safe, but it will more than make up for airport vendors’ lost revenue from item 1 above.
  3. End the war in Iraq and pledge to spend money on the states. The states? You know, the ones that are united together, here in America? Restore funding to the state and local governments that the Bush administration cut. The money comes from us; it should go to us.
  4. Re-regulate the economy. The de-regulation in vogue during the Clinton and Bush administrations simply didn’t work. There’s a reason anti-trust laws exist. Make corporations accountable to society — the commons — not just their shareholders. I mean, if a corporation is a person, it should be liable for the harm it does to all of us, right?
  5. Invest in green jobs. The WPA and the CCC worked, right? How about investing money in building a new, environmentally friendly energy infrastructure? Create good jobs for Americans that won’t go overseas and will put us back in the lead when it comes to the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit our country was founded upon.

That’s just a few, off the top of my head. Can you think of any more?

The Carolinian approaches the Kannapolis, NC Amtrak Station, May 28, 2009


This kind of thing (previously) seems to tend to happen right around the time I’m about to take a long trip on Amtrak. Or maybe that’s when I most notice it.

I did ride 13 hours on Amtrak last Thursday, and it was pretty uneventful and relaxing. It was also supposed to be an 11-hour ride (which is a fairly typical delay, I think). And I’ve had a great time in North Carolina with my family. But how long, I wonder, will my scheduled 13-hour trip from Kannapolis to Manhattan take tomorrow?

Speaking of NYC, I enjoyed Yankee Stadium way more than I expected to.

going to NH

Below I’ve reproduced my first post to, the unofficial Dean Nation blog. One of the main contributors to the blog is my old dorm-mate from college, Aziz, who asked if I would guest blog during my New Hampshire volunteer experience. With 3,000 page views a day, how could I say no?

Top Ten of 2001

As this very strange year comes to an end, I believe it’s entirely appropriate for me to compose my year-end Top Ten List. I’ve decided to end the year focusing on the positive. Maybe I should break it out into categories, but I’m just too lazy.

  1. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring twice in one weekend, with Nick and the gang on Sunday
  1. Surviving the year despite one or more incidents in which being in a car could have gotten me killed
  1. Hearing that my brother was hired as a police officer in North Carolina
  1. Seeing a baseball game in Milwaukee with my brother (and spending time with my mom, and my dad, and the rest of my family, the rest of the year)
  1. Enjoying the Land of Evermor in Baraboo, Wisconsin with Amber
  1. Discovering new (to me) music by Built to Spill, Quasi, Death Cab for Cutie, Guided by Voices (um, and, oh yeah, seeing the Minders and Of Montreal in separate shows)
  1. Visiting Seattle in the summer, and seeing Jonathan (and going to the web design conference, at which I got to meet Zeldman briefly)
  1. Launching
  1. Trekking out to Ohio for the Sloan shows in Detroit and (especially) Cleveland, and road-tripping with Will
  1. Enjoying a sunny, lazy day at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in early April with Amber

Barely missed the top 10: my summer road trip to Chicago and Columbus; the end of the state employee strike; finishing the design, though not the production, of the new Minnesota DNR web site. Fairly far off the top 10: shaving off my six-month-experiment full beard (but that was a good thing—believe me).

Happy new year, everyone. See you in 2002.

116 hours round-trip

Descriptors for my and Amber’s recently completed trip to San Francisco: enjoyable. fun. exhausting. heartbreaking. inspiring.

It was all that and more. We enjoyed each other’s company. But let’s talk about Amtrak first. Two and a half days on the train (a total of 116 hours or so round-trip—but who’s counting?) was hard to take—though it was almost entirely due to the lack of good scenery in northeastern and north-central Montana, the miniscule number of food choices for vegetarians on the Empire Builder, our inability to really, um, go anywhere on the train [other than in the direction it pointed, without any effort on our part], the disturbing lack of facilities for washing oneself in “coach”, and not in any way due to the company. I take that back. It was great fun being with Amber, but some of the other people were not so companionable.

Example: the woman who felt it necessary to discuss her legal problems [including an interstate custody battle for which she did not want to go to California] with a (conceited) country lawyer, right behind us, very loudly, at 11 pm, two days after we first got on the train, when we [and several others around us] desperately needed sleep. That was unpleasant.

On the trip back, the Coast Starlight was 2 hours late getting to Emeryville (near Berkeley), CA, and we were scheduled only 1 1/2 hours of layover time in Portland to catch the Empire Builder on the final leg of our journey. This wasn’t the worst part. We were stopped somewhere in rural Oregon, nowhere near a station, when the conductor announced that there was “a minor medical emergency” and that we would wait for the paramedics. Rumors quickly spread of a man who was suffering heart attack symptoms. We never saw an ambulance, however. Instead we saw a woman arrested outdoors by three law enforcement officers, after her luggage was seized from our car and searched. I personally saw the cuffs being put onto her wrists. The medical emergency seemed to have been a weak cover story.

The results of the lateness of that train: we had to take a bus from Eugene, OR to Portland; we basically had to run from the bus to the train, which was departing mere minutes after our arrival; we were therefore unable to replenish our supply of trail mix, fruits, and vegetables in the (very palatial and pleasant) Portland train depot; we were therefore forced to eat more pre-packaged “vegetable patties,” complete with bun and egg-white binding agent, than we ever would have wanted to.

116 hours.

SF was great though—Haight-Ashbury, Guided by Voices (such super-skilled rock musicians!) free at Amoeba Records (a surprisingly great show for free!), a sunny day in Golden Gate Park, an incredible wealth of great art at SFMOMA (including a brilliant site-specific installation by Sarah Sze called “Things Fall Apart” made of a chopped-up Jeep Cherokee, strings, wires, and a sculptural collage of organic and inorganic elements that I can’t do justice to here). The food was great and cheap—Nick knows where to go. Don’t miss Intermezzo on Telegraph in Berkeley, among others.

We got to get out of Minneapolis as well—a good thing, except that the Bay Area has a way of making Minneapolis look brown, boring, and uptight, and feel very, very cold. Sigh.


Um, well, yeah, great. Traveling by train seems to have its risks. The recent Amtrak derailment runs the risk of derailing our ability to enjoy our upcoming trip….

On a brighter note, it’s spring, and it actually feels like it. See you in a couple weeks, Nick….

the domain name

This whole “gohlkusmaximus” domain name thing is really motivating me to post.

I actually told a couple people about the site today. I also realized that I have a bias against serif fonts. Betcha didn’t notice. [Note: that only makes sense in the context of this site’s first design.]

On the travel front, I may drive out to Berkeley from Minneapolis with Amber sometime soon. 2043 miles, 37 hours, according to Yahoo! Maps. The trip, should we choose to embark, promises to be fun and romantic.

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