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I'll help you earn free travel, but you'll have to put up with my sick sense of humor and political opinions.

Quick Grammar Quiz: Does the previous sentence imply that my political opinions are sick, or just my sense of humor?

Friday, January 31, 2003
America West has a website (intended for internal use) which will show you exactly how many passengers are booked on any of its flights.
The Vatican is looking to name a patron saint for the Internet by Easter. Goodness knows the pathetic websites of United, Continental, and USAirways could use one.

Thursday, January 30, 2003
Hooters Air really will be staffed by Hooters waitresses -- two per plane to serve beverages, etc.
The most important thing I read today -- Jude Wanniski's hawk/dove quiz which offers a debunking of common myths about Iraq. (Thanks to Mark Brady for the link.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
I haven't been able to travel -- or post -- much recently. Because I've been on the phone. With the IRS.

Well, I've been busy at work dealing with some crises (like a flood). So it's not entirely because of the IRS. But I've spent way too much of the past few days jousting at bureaucratic windmills. Yesterday I spent nearly three hours on the telephone trying to find out where to get a simple IRS form. Three hours of my life that I'll never get back.

After calling the main help line, the phone number for my local IRS office, several other offices, and the taxpayer advocate, I still had no answer.

Here are the highlights:
  • The form I needed cannot be printed from the website. Oh, it's there, mind you. With a notice on it that says it can't be used.

  • I ordered a form from the IRS over a month ago. Despite their 2 week time estimate, it never arrived.

  • I needed to file the form, and I was running up against a calendar deadline. So I called to find out where I could physically pick it up.

  • The IRS only has one answer -- call your local branch office. Or print it off the website.

  • My local branch office has a voice tree that doesn't give an option to speak to a person. The only opportunity for interaction is a voice mail box which promises that in the most pressing of cases, calls will be returned in 2 business days.

  • I called the forms distribution center. "We don't know where the forms are. We only ship them to our customers." Then where are the ones I ordered?

  • I remembered that there was a Treasury Department building with a "forms lobby." Noone at the IRS could tell me whether it still existed. They suggested I call that Treasury office. I was bounced to an operator elsewhere, who offered me a direct number. "Oops. That's the number you called. That's my number. Have you tried the website?"

  • I finally tracked down a number for that office. The conversation that I had was truly priceless:

      Me: "Could you tell me whether your forms lobby is still open?"
      IRS Woman: "It's not my job to answer that."
      Me: "Well, it's just in the lobby. I'm wondering whether you see a bunch of forms when you pass by there?"
      IRS Woman: "You've called the wrong number."
      Me: "Do you ever walk through the lobby?"
      IRS Woman: "Yes."
      Me: "Do you see any forms when you do?"
      IRS Woman: "I don't look."
      Me: "I'm not looking for an official statement from the IRS here. I'm just asking, as one very frustrated human being, for some compassion. Could you help me? Could you just tell me whether there are rows and aisles full of forms in the lobby of your building?"
      IRS Woman: "It's not my job." [Click]

  • I called the "Taxpayer Advocate" looking for help. They told me I called called the wrong number and would transfer me. Where, I asked? "I don't know."

  • My wonderful and able assistant finally took a list of all possible locations that could house the forms we needed. And got them.

Apparently, the IRS in Washington DC only had carbon copy forms that must be filled out on a typewriter! My office does not HAVE a typewriter.

However, an obscure rule does permit this form to be filled out by hand. Which I spent my morning today doing. And now, dear readers, you know why I'm stuck here -- and not on an airplane, or writing to you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003
USAirways is offering systemwide double miles. Remember that these are on top of all the other USAIrways bonuses.

Sunday, January 26, 2003
Lots of folks are angry at the changes to Delta's Frequent Flyer elite-level benefits, but the Delta American Express still have one of the better bonuses going -- up to 25,000 miles.

Friday, January 24, 2003
In fairness to United... Many of United's 747s have been going away, being replaced by 777s. That means the business class capacity drops tremendously (almost in half!) across much of the international route network. That means available upgrade inventory likely drops dramatically as well. So the upgrade inventory needs to be rationed somehow. Otherwise United would have had a whole bunch of flyers with upgrade certificates that could never be used, because there simply were too many coupons out there for the number of available seats. Making Systemwide Upgrades good only on pricier fares means rationing based on price.

Of course, if a competitor doesn't restrictions use of similar certificates or reduce available business upgrade inventory, United will lose A will lose... I still think they would have been better off solving the problem in a way that didn't seem like as drastic a cut -- something like "H+ fare confirmable at booking" just as before but "lower fares confirmable within 30 days" or even "lower fares confirmable at the elite upgrade window"...
Dilution at the top for United? I sent this email last night to a friend that's a top-level elite ("1K") with United:
    Looks like I was right about Systemwide Upgrades being useable on Lufthansa (though on a standby/day of departure basis only). Of course, you can still use miles to upgrade LH flights on the higher fares (as long as it's on a LH flight number, not a UA codeshare).

    In other news/rumors, it looks like the promised extra goody for elites who requalified "the real way" (rather than through the extended qualification period) is only going to be a free companion ticket (not upgradeable). Also, it looks like the new Systemwides are only going to be valid on "H" fares and above. :(
That means no more upgrading the lowest fares internationally, folks.

United figures that it can increase revenue by either selling the seats that currently go to cheap upgraders or convince passengers flying discounted fares to pay more for the ability to upgrade.

The problem is that many 1Ks use their Systemwide Upgrades on inexpensive fares for personal travel, and give United much pricier and more lucrative business travel as well. Without the ability to do this, there's little reason to give United that lucrative business instead of, say, American -- which still allows its top level elites to upgrade from any fare.

There is a rumor that American could be headed in the same direction as United -- but if they stay put they'll offer a real competitive advantage and will likely pick up the business of many of United's top flyers.

If you're a United 1K, drop a note to the 1K email address and let them know if you're unhappy. Also, check out 1K Flyers.com -- where United's top flyers gather and can speak with a single loud voice to let their preferred airline know how they feel.

Thursday, January 23, 2003
And speaking of iDine, United has an iDine bonus offering that you can register for.
Forbes has a piece on iDine, one of the mileage junkies best friends (because it's free and gives you miles for something you're doing anyway).

Saturday, January 18, 2003
Amtrak is offering Buy One, Get One Free with promo code H259.
The 2003 Adult Video News Awards were given out last night in Las Vegas. Apparently, it was a big night for Evil Angel productions, which took home 19 honors.

I wonder, though, if it's a sign of category-inflation when they give out "Best Gonzo Tape," "Best Vignette Tape" (as distinguished from "Best Vignette Series" and "Best Foreign Vignette Series"), and "Best Sex Scene in a Foreign-Shot Production." Not to mention "Best Ethnic-Themed Video."

I guess that's just self-esteem meets porn.
Update your Asiana profile for 1000 bonus miles.
USAirways is offering 5% off for booking via their website.

Friday, January 17, 2003
The Delta-Continental-Northwest marketing alliance will be approved -- but with yet undisclosed conditions. No idea what this will all look like yet, as the devil is in the details. Government approval aside, I don't expect too much aligning of the respective frequent flyer programs because the Continental-Northwest programs (which are nearly identical) are far different from the Delta program (which has just been massively revamped).
Northwest Airlines has a new bonus miles promotion called Mile-a-Palooza. Various Northwest activities earn points which will be converted to miles (up to 200,000). You must register to participate.

Unlike the last Mileage Mania promotion, this one will allow you to track your points online -- a big improvement!

It isn't as generous/easy as the Fly Free Faster and Fly Free Faster 2 promotions last year, but then those only netted 10,000 miles each. And it seems a bit more lucrative than MIleage Mania. So if there's any chance you'll be having anything to do with Northwest in the coming months, it's definitely worth registering.

Thursday, January 16, 2003
250 free Priority Club points (Holiday Inn, etc.) for completing a survey.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Starwood refuses to honor its $85 Bora Bora rate, and the issue makes it into USA Today.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Delta has several signup bonuses for electronic statements, and they all expire tomorrow. Get bonus miles for choosing email statements rather than paper/mail. You are likely only to be eligible for one, and no telling which one it is until you try 'em..:
2,500 bonus miles for flying new Delta Connection routes roundtrip through March 15.

Sunday, January 12, 2003
More Amtrak discounts.

Discount code H259 is good for a 25% discount for travel booked between January 7-February 15, for travel between January 10-August 28 (except February 14-17 blackout). Three day advance booking required. Non-refundable, and not good on certain services (such as Acela Express, Metroliner, Downeaster).

Discount code H255 gets you a two-for-one discount.

Discount code V529 still works. Save 20% on Amtrak travel to New York or Boston from stations in the Northeast (including all intermediate stations).
Free golf balls from Nike.
UPI headline: "Vampire saliva could help treat stroke"
Nine people in Reston and Herndon Virginia were arrested for being drunk in a bar (not for causing a disturbance or driving).
    "If the law says that if you are in a public location and intoxicated, you are subject to arrest," said Lt. Tor Bennett of the Reston District of the Fairfax County Police Department.
Saw this the other day but haven't been posting as much as I should... Northwest Airlines is joining America West in testing selling food on board.
Man removed from plane for making sexual comments to an airport security worker. After being detained, Sheriff's deputies determined he hadn't broken any laws. He was released and placed on a later flight. She says:
    Kelly Nobles, Transportation Security Administration screener at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, told police that Goldstein looked at her Wednesday and asked, ``Are you a real blonde?''

    Goldstein also said, ``If you and me were to have sex, I would want you to keep your uniform on,'' according to a police report. Other screeners also heard the remarks.

    Nobles told police she felt ``really uncomfortable and began to cry.''
He says:
    He said he simply asked the woman how often she is propositioned on the job, then continued talking to a group of men about porn star Ron Jeremy.

Saturday, January 11, 2003
Register for 500 Bonus Miles on Your Next Delta Flight. (Register by 2/28 and fly by 4/15.)

Friday, January 10, 2003
The TSA has blocked screeners from unionizing, citing security as a reason to forego the kinds of red tape that come along with a unionized work force. The American Federation of Government Employees AFL-CIO is challenging the decision. (Links via TAPPED.)
Win 250,000 American Airlines miles.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Chicago and Northwest Indiana residents earn 1500 United miles for using Mobil Speedpass

Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Six times the miles on USAirways shuttle (DC/NY/Boston) flights through March 31. Register and then provide both your USAirways number and your United number with your reservation. You'll earn triple USAirways miles and triple United miles for your trip.
Lufthansa is offering 500 miles for registering your email address with them (under "your profile" in the Miles & More section of their website). Delta is also offering miles for switching to online statements.
All DC-area residents should read Tony Woodlief's important instructions for riding Metro or risk having "your next-of-kin...retrieve a battered, heel-marked corpse from Metro Security."

Monday, January 06, 2003
Register by January 24th for double miles on United through April 4th. Here's the fine print:
    Purchase and fly segments with an e-ticket on any United or United Express route worldwide. Book your trip between January 4th and January 24th and complete your travel by April 4th. You'll receive double flight miles with any published fare in any class of service. Miles will be posted to your account upon completion of travel. This offer is valid for up to 10 segments.
Naked-air ready for takeoff. The very first nudist flight is scheduled for May, flying Miami to Cancun.
5,000 elite qualifying miles from America West for flying and taking advantage of offers from their partners.
Michael Ignatieff's Sunday New York Times Magazine piece has some important insights into the coming war with Iraq.

- It requires a political committment lasting several administrations.

- To succeed, the U.S. will have to engage the entire Middle East:
a) Convince Iran no to feel threatened by a United States-led democracy on their border.
b) Reassure Turkey that we won't create a Kurdish state which would be a threat
c) Encourage Syrian-Israeli peace
d) Coax Saudi Arabia into democracy

And even if we do all of that, unseating an Arab government while the ignoring Israel-Palestinian conflict will still lead to tremendous anti-U.S. backlash.

To achieve our security aims in Iraq really means to act as a hegemon over the entire Middle East -- and a successful hegemon which is viewed benevolently.

My own view is that this is impossible, but that's a tentative conclusion open to debate. The important point of the article is the need to broaden the discussion to the aftermath of an invasion of Iraq. Understanding the long-term scenarios and consequences is the only way to evaluate whether the campaign is advisable.

The current administration plan, outlined in today's Times, is to occupy Iraq (possibly with U.N. administrators) for a year and to keep the current state and most of the current government in tact. It seems that a unitary state might be less of a threat, and certainly less aggressive towards neighbors than breaking it up. However, it's a short-sighted committment which will either grow beyond the administration's statements or fail, and it's unclear how democracy (and thus an end to threats) can be achieved in a year with the current bureaucratic infrastructure remaining in tact.

(Thanks to Jon Utley for pointing out the article, since I didn't get around to yesterday's Times.)

Sunday, January 05, 2003
United to follow Continental and USAirways lead? It appears that mainline United may be turning over a whole lot more flying to its United Express partners, and has lined up the purchase of hundreds of 50 seat regional jets. Continental has turned its Cleveland hub into an RJ park -- 737s look like jumbo jets there. It's even possible to fly a one-stop transcon flight on RJs with Continental (Richmond-Houston-Palm Springs). Is this the future for United?

Saturday, January 04, 2003
Anecdotally (the numbers won't be out for awhile yet), there has been a sharp increase in lost baggage over the past week. This seems to an unexpected consequence of new TSA baggage screening procedures. Gate agents often put baggage tags on handles that are used to open the bag. If TSA opens the bag, the tag comes off. Lost bag.

Solution: make sure the tag goes somewhere that won't be tampered with if the TSA decides to open it. Watch where the check-in agent places the tag, and if necessary politely ask that it be moved ("for security reasons" :).

Friday, January 03, 2003
United is closing all City Ticket Offices as of January 28th and converting several cities to United Express-only service: Eugene, Ore.; Medford, Ore.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; White Plains, N.Y.; and Syracuse, N.Y.
Republican Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn to stay in Congress. Why is this news? Because the Air Transport Association interviewed her and said "no thanks" to her as their new executive director. Turns out she didn't make the top two.
Russian air traffic controllers are in the midst of a hunger strike. They are seeking a 30% raise (they currently make ~ US$427/month) and dismissal of top government officials in charge of air traffic.
List of airports where a boarding pass is required to get through security; that is, where a printed reservation/e-ticket document is not enough, so you have to check in out in front of the terminal or on-line rather than at the gate.
The TSA (also known as (T)housands (S)tanding (A)round and (T)remendously (S)wollen (A)gency) has grown alot since it was formed after 9/11. Congress set it on a rapid growth path, but capped its growth at 45,000 employees. So how did the TSA grow to 64,000 employees? They circumvented the cap by hiring employees under 5-year "temporary full-time" contracts.
Ryanair booked passengers on their January 1 flight between London and Eindhoven, Netherlands. Unfortunately the airport at Eindhoven was closed for the holiday.
Does this resemble your company's travel policy?
Woman gets $30,000 for refusing to wear pants. Gotta love those EEOC consent decrees. Brinks security hired her back, accomodated her preferences, and still has to pay damages.
Hilton website hacks. Hilton doesn't currently offer award redemption online, or does it? (Thanks to djohannw from Flyertalk.)

Go to any Hilton hotel you want to book an award stay at and select "Book a room." When the main reservation page comes up where you select dates and preferences, add the following text to the URL in your browser's adress line: &spec_plan_desc=HHonors+Redemption&spec_plan=HH

Press return to reload that page. You now will see the same page as before with a checked field "HHonors Redemption". Now enter your requested dates and click on "Next." On the rates page, you will now see the HHonors certificate rate if the hotel has award rooms available. The rate description for that looks as follows:

    Plan Description:
You can then go ahead and book it. But don't forget to print the cert before you travel.

You can also look up "point-stretcher" availability well by entering the following after the URL: &spec_plan_desc=HHonors+Point+Stretcher+Redemption&spec_plan=PS

If you're a Hilton diamond, try: spec_plan_desc=HHonors+Redemption&spec_plan=RC

This only works with Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn hotels and not with Doubletree, etc.

Thursday, January 02, 2003
New USAirways members earn 2,500 or 5,000 miles with their first flight. I've posted this before -- but I just realized it expires December 31, 2003 and I thought it expired at the end of 2002.
Great passenger quote. Over on Flyertalk.com, Matthew Clement writes that
    Flight attendants may be there primarily for my safety, but in a premium cabin they have significant customer-service responsibilities as well, regardless of what their training material may say. A business class ticket is ten times the cost of an economy ticket, and if I’m not receiving ten times the safety, I’d better receive ten times the service.



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Some of My Writings:

Thoughts on Academic Debate
-May '99 Rostrum

Thoughts on the War on Terror
-Winter 2002 Doublethink

Want to Know More About Liberty?

The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner
The Man Versus the State by Herbert Spencer
Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Why I Would Not Vote Against Hitler by Wendy McElroy (a plumb-line case against democracy and voting -- Ms. McElroy argues it is morally preferable to assasinate Hitler than to vote against him, because voting reifies the very system that allows a Hitler to come to power in the first place.)
Anarchist Theory FAQ by Bryan Caplan

Want to Know More About Inexpensive and Free Travel?

Flyertalk.com: Online Travel Community
Biddingfortravel.com: Bulletin Board for Successful Priceline Bidding
Sidestep.com: Airfare Metasearch Tool
ITA Software: The backend of Orbitz
TheTrip.com FlightTracker
Great Circle Mapper: Distances Between Airports
MileageAddict's Mileage Workshop: More Tips on Accumulating Miles and Points
MileTracker: Free tool for managing all of your frequent flyer point accounts

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