Airline pilots have been complaining for months about Boeing's deathliner

With the European Union grounding the 737 MAX, North America is one of the last places on Earth you can get a ride on Boeing's deathliner. Despite the brand-new jet's disturbingly similar crashes and hundreds of dead travelers, the FAA and U.S.-based carriers insist it's safe to fly. Several airline pilots disagree.

Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual "inadequate and almost criminally insufficient" several months before Sunday's Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found. ... The disclosures found by The News reference problems with an autopilot system, and they all occurred during the ascent after takeoff. Many mentioned the plane suddenly nosing down. While records show these flights occurred in October and November, the airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database.

Will another one go down before the problem is fixed? Capitalism is all about risk and inertia, and American businesses love taking risks and doing nothing. Read the rest

Man missed doomed Ethiopia flight by 2 minutes

Antonis Mavropoulos ran through the airport to catch his flight, missing it by two minutes. He demanded to be let on, for them to open the gate. He watched the passengers in the bellows board the plane.

Three hours later, as he was boarding the next flight to Nairobi, two security guards escorted him to the airport’s police station, over his loud protests — he did not want to miss his meetings in Nairobi.

But an official explained that he should “stop protesting and thank God,” instead. They could not let him leave before they had established who he was and why he had not boarded the flight, which had crashed.

Read the rest

Universal Studios is chipping their soda cups to limit refills

A room at a Universal Studios Florida hotel tonight will cost you $197-$536 (plus admission tickets to the park), but make sure that you do all your soda drinking in one compact session, because Universal has deployed the creepily named Validfill RFID system, which limits your self-service (that is, you do the labor) soda refills to two hours after purchase, and after the time window expires, "you are denied soda by a robot voice." Read the rest

Prague's fake weed shops

Weed is not legal in Prague, but that doesn't stop grifters from ripping off naive tourists. In this episode of Honest Guide, you'll learn about these places (and also the fact that most absinthe sold in Prague is fake, too.) Read the rest

Crowdfunding a suitcase that becomes a closet

Every year or two, I embark on a round of crazy book-tour travel where I change cities every day for weeks on end (35 cities in 45 days on two continents in 2017!), and I'm on a perennial quest for a piece of luggage that is fuss-free: I want to stumble exhausted into my room, late at night, and in a few seconds access everything I need to go to sleep and then get out the next morning. Read the rest

A service to help airline passengers get compensated for lost bags, delays, cancellations and overbookings

Airhelp is a service that helps airline passengers in 30 countries file claims (for delays, lost bags, overbookings, and cancellations) structured to increase the likelihood of paying out; the bots have made $930m in successful claims to date, and the company behind it only collects a commission when a claim succeeds. Read the rest

Deaf couple say Delta agent "refused to communicate" with them, kicked them off flight

When Melissa Elmira Yingst and Socorro Garcia checked in for their flight at Detroit, they were told they'd get a seating assignment together. But at the departure gate, the request was denied—and they claim the gate agent would not communicate with them except by talking at them. Thing is, they're both deaf.

The gate agent rolled her eyes at us. Melissa asked for her to write. After a few moments, she finally wrote on a piece of paper and said, the flight is full and can’t book us together. I wanted to continue to communicate and decided to try and write on that same paper but instead of giving us the paper we asked for, she crumbled it in front of us and threw it in the trash.”

Yingst says she pleaded with the agent — who allegedly refused to give her name but whom they identify as “Felicia” — to write down her end of the conversation, arguing that she was “denying us our communication access” by not doing so.

Here's where they story diverges: one of the women says "Felicia" pushed her when she tried to retrieve the note. But "Felicia" claims she was assaulted. In any case, "Felicia" summoned airport security and the women were removed from the flight.

Delta is backing its gate agent, stating that the women were barred from the flight because Garcia went behind the gate desk and "pushed" the gate agent when trying to retrieving the crumpled up paper. The women deny this and say Delta falsely told the media it had reimbursed them. Read the rest

Great article about bothies, the remote shelters of the British uplands

Stephen Hiltner trudges miles through beautiful moors and mountains to get to the next bothy [New York Times].

But bothy culture, some longtime proponents fear, is imperiled by a generation unaccustomed to shrewdly guarded secrets. Map coordinates for the often hard-to-find dwellings, once dispersed only among hiking insiders, are now available openly on the internet. Popular hashtags have helped create something of a buzz on Instagram, where bothies are sometimes presented, misguidedly, as an alternative to Airbnb rentals. (The bothy code unequivocally prohibits the use of bothies for commercial purposes, and discourages their use by large groups.) A hugely popular and impressively researched guide, “The Scottish Bothy Bible,” published in 2017, lines shelves in stores throughout the U.K., the first of many bothy guides to achieve a kind of mainstream success. It, too, has increased foot traffic.

Some you could walk right by without noticing. (Photo crop: Stephen Hiltner/The New York Times) Read the rest

Freeway sign crushes car in terrifying dashcam footage

An Australian woman is in stable condition after a massive freeway sign toppled onto her car near Melbourne. The dashcam video, captured by the driver behind her, is absolutely terrifying.

(I wonder if this will fit in J.K. Simmons' insurance-claim wunderkammer.) Read the rest

Man with knife makes bomb threat at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport - suspect 'overpowered'

A man with knife made a bomb threat at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam today, and was 'overpowered' and arrested by Dutch police. Departures and Arrivals in the airport's hall 3 were evacuated, but have since reopened.

Here's what happened. Read the rest

Crowdfund campaign for a 500-kilometer walk across rural Japan

In January 2019, Peter Orosz plans to live broadcast his snowy trek across the Japanese island of Shikoku. He will also produce a printed field report.

The story is that last year I walked 2,700 miles from one end of Japan to the other, and now I will go back to walk the most interesting 300 miles in the winter, then write and print a large format Field Report about it. You will also be able to follow it live on YouTube and Instagram.

It costs $45 to support the expedition, for which you get a copy of the Field Report, an extra $20 will get your name in it as a Patron, and there’s also some cool hand-crafted stuff from my collaborators: a watercolor map, a book of essays on Japan by Alan Booth, an indigo-dyed towel. It’s shipping worldwide in Spring 2019.

Read the rest

The three coolest places in the world are Setouchi, Antarctica, and Pittsburgh

National Geographic compiled its list of the twenty coolest places on planet Earth in 2019. The top three: the small Japanese town of Setouchi, the continent of Antarctica, and the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Setouchi has the world's greatest small-town art scene and the coast looks like something from a movie about colonizing another worlds. Antarctica is the last place on Earth, a vast and unspoiled testament to nature's extremes. Pittsburgh has a giant Heinz ketchup bottle made of regular Heinz ketchup bottles. And it won World War II.

Here is the entire “cool” list: 1. Setouchi, Japan 2. Antarctica 3. Pittsburgh 4. Corsica 5. Cambodia 6. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 7. West Yorkshire, England 8. Hong Kong 9. Zimbabwe 10. Guyana 11. Oslo, Norway 12. Eritrea 13. KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 14. Bhutan 15. Dundee, Scotland 16. Uganda 17. Matera, Italy 18 Indonesia 19 Sibiu, Romania

Read the rest

The human and financial cost to summit Mount Everest is staggering

Everest isn't the most difficult mountain in the world to climb, but it is one of the most expensive. The individual cost of getting one's athletic ass to the top of the mountain range is between $40,000-$130,000. Most of this cheddar gets thrown at logistics. It takes a lot of money for a mountain outfitter to set up multiple camps at varying altitudes along the route to the top of the world. It takes considerably less money to hire the ludicrously underpaid Sherpa guides to set it all up and, if things go well, get their clients up the side of Everest and back down to base camp again in one piece. This in-depth video explains it all. Read the rest

Vardø, the witch capital of Norway

Chelsea G. Summers' beautiful article about a beatiful place recalls its ugly history: the murder of 91 "witches" in Vardø, Norway, part of a century-long persecution against which the Salem witch trials pale in comparison.

There’s no easy way to describe Vardø’s extreme, compelling weirdness. It’s hard to believe that Vardø once held a population of 5,000 in the many buildings that squat on concrete haunches around the harbor. Vardø’s hotels once burst with rich Russians who traded rubles for cod. The wharf once slapped with the sounds of fish being beheaded, gutted, skinned, salted and dried. The harbor once rang with the sounds of ships — at first small with sails, then larger with motors, then metal monsters — coming and going. Just 70 years ago, sailors swaggered in and out of Vardø’s bars and shops; just 25 years ago, more than 350 Sri Lankans staffed the fish processing plants. Now Vardø is a fraction of its former size, and its ghosts seems to hug you close.

Photo: Chelsea G. Summers Read the rest

My life on the road: watching life roll by from the corner of my eye

Two days of waiting in Casper, Wyoming, $1,200 and two new tires later, we were back on the road. Casper is a small city. It is one of Wyoming's most populated cities. It is a city flanked by mountains and, while we were being held captive by a blown out tire on a holiday weekend, a miserably cold, humid city.

It was a city we were happy to leave.

The man who taught me how to fight once told me that the only thing worse than getting punched is waiting to get punched. This holds true for many things in life. As my wife wheeled us back onto the Interstate, headed south, there was a tension in the air between us. We did not speak. We did little else but listen. Would the rest of our tires prove sound? Was there any indication that they might blow like one of our outer duelies had? When the next blow-out happens would it be one of our steer-tires? How fucked or dead would we be? The answer to this last question: pretty fucked and, depending on the speed we'd be traveling at when the blow-out hit, pretty dead.

Both of us were wondering these things. Neither of us talked about it until after we had stopped for the night.

Long distance trips can be full of new foods and interesting people that make for fond memories. More often, you're left to contend with hours of a ribbon of road cut through the plains mountains and dead towns that lost their vibrance years before you were born. Read the rest

My life on the road: stranded in Wyoming

Few things can fuck an RV up worse than a frozen water system. Grey, black and potable water tanks, water pumps and the delicate tubing that run through the undercarriage and into the living area of a motorhome don't do well when exposed to subzero temperatures. Some RVs, like ours, come with blowers that force warm air from the furnace into the undercarriage. Others, like our old rig, have systems that draw power from the chassis battery to keep the tanks heated and the liquid inside of them, well, liquid.

We started our first day headed south at -4° Celsius. We assumed that we'd be able to make it to Lethbridge, Alberta, a few hours south of Calgary. The overnight temperature would dip to -10° there. Fading headlights and the encroaching dark forced to a halt, short of our goal, in Claresholm. There, the overnight temperature dipped to -17°.

We knew that we could weather the weather in Lethbridge. Claresholm, cold as it was, would have been a test we weren't prepared to sit for. Fortunately, we were able to find a hotel. Even more fortunate was the fact that we'd winterized our RV well before the first cold. Our tanks were drained dry. Our lines were wetted with anti-freeze. For the first three days of our trip south, we traveled without any water, save what we brought with us in bottles. We used it to flush our toilet, brush our teeth, make coffee and wash. On the end of the third night, we felt it warm enough to risk de-winterizing the RV. Read the rest

My Life on the Road: Headed to Texas - chicken and booze in Bozeman

We left Claresholm after eating a continental breakfast of terrible coffee and decent muffins. The hotel’s owner chatted lazily with us as we noshed. He had been a manager of Woolworth's department stores, from Toronto, Ontario to Terrence, British Columbia. He served the chain loyally for decades of his life, never questioning when they sent him north, east or west. They fired him after 27 years of service. He’d become redundant.

I told him that I remembered eating grilled cheese sandwiches at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where I grew up. There was pride in his voice as he told me that, before McDonald's came along, the department store’s lunch counters were the biggest restaurant chain in the world.

The sun was high for it being so early in the day. We heated the RV’s engine for a half hour before wheeling south.

It’s a strange time to write for a living. Where normally I expect to raise an eyebrow when I tell folks what I do, my vocation of late has roused opinions and suspicions. I wasn’t sure if I would stand up to questioning at the border. I needn’t have worried: the border guard was more concerned about where we were going, how long we’d be there and whether we had any contraband onboard. In her rear view mirror, my wife saw our border guard staggering through a pee-pee dance from her booth to the border patrol facility a few feet away as we drove off.

Montana.

The mountains are different here than they are in Alberta. Read the rest

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