Friday, June 25, 2010

Up In The Air

I recently watched the movie "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, an HR consultant who's job is to fly all around the country and fire people. Ryan loves his on the wing lifestyle and the perqs he receives as a frequent flyer, particularly his accumulated frequent flyer miles. For Ryan, frequent flyer miles aren't something you cash in and treat yourself to a vacation with. They are for collecting and building to an ever higher total like trying to beat your high score in a video game. When he meets another frequent flyer mile junkie on the road and she asks him how many miles he has, he replies "Let's just say I have a number in mind, and I haven't hit it yet." That number, it turns out, is 10 million miles. When he finally reaches his goal he is told he is the youngest person to ever attain that status.

I started thinking about that and wondered just how long it would take for someone like George Clooney's character to fly 10 million miles. So I worked up a hypothetical itinerary for Ryan Bingham.

Let's assume he is based in New York, and being conscious of his company's bottom line, schedules his business so he isn't zig zagging across the continent every day, but instead tries to follow some semblance of the solution to the traveling salesman problem.

On Sunday night he flies out to Miami for his first appointment of the week Monday morning. Monday he flies to San Antonio for his next day of firing. Tuesday he takes off for Los Angeles, Wednesday he's off to Seattle, Thursday he catches a red-eye to Chicago, and Friday he's winging home for the weekend.

New York to Miami1086 miles
Miami to San Antonio1155
San Antonio to Los Angeles1210
LA to Seattle954
Seattle to Chicago1720
Chicago to New York733
TOTAL6858 miles

That's 6858 miles in one week. So how many weeks of this sample itinerary would it take to reach 10 million miles? 1,458 weeks or 27½ years! George Clooney is 49, and his character can probably be considered about the same age, so if Ryan Bingham joined the company when he graduated college at age 22, and flew an equivalent of the above itinerary every week of every year with no vacations, he could reach 10 million miles by age 49.

I'll leave the computation of the total cost to fly 10 million miles as an exercise for the reader.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What is the World Cup?

I don't follow sports very closely. I don't watch games on TV or check scores online. I do pay attention to the big events like the World Series, Superbowl, and recently the Stanley Cup only because a local team was involved.

I work in an international department and many of my colleagues and associates originate from or reside in countries other than the U.S., and it seems that for them the FIFA World Cup Tournament is an important international event on par with the Olympics. So I have been paying some attention lately, but didn't really understand how the tournament works.

I spent some time trying to find out, and I guess if you follow football or basketball playoffs it might already make sense, but it was new to me so I thought I'd share what I learned.

There are 32 national teams that compete in the tournament. They are the result of a qualification process that started with 204 national teams, making it equal to the Olympics in terms of national participation. The qualification began in 2007 and I did not research it enough to explain it.

The tournament is divided into 2 phases, the group phase and the knockout phase. For the group phase, the 32 teams are divided into 8 groups of 4 teams. Each team plays 3 matches, one against each other team in its group. Teams are awarded points according to the outcome of each match: 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 for a loss. At the end of the group phase, the 2 teams with the most points in each group advance to the knockout phase.

In the knockout phase the top 16 teams are paired up through another mysterious process called seeding, and play a winner take all match to advance to the next round. There are no draws in this phase. Tied games go into overtime play, and ultimately to a penalty kick contest if no decision is reached in overtime. The 8 winners play to 4 and then to the final 2 teams that compete in the championship match. The championship match is scheduled to be played July 11, and is expected to draw a viewing audience that rivals the Olympic opening ceremonies.

I might even watch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

For Emily Whenever I May Find Her - collaboration video

Carl England and I recently got together to spend some time working on this song from Simon and Garfunkel's "Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme" album. Here's the result.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pilates of the Caribbean

I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise. It was a great vacation with plenty of sun and balmy tropical temperatures. Though I no longer blog about it, I have been watching my weight lately, and just prior to departing on the cruise I reached a new milestone. I was resolute not to gain the 5 to 14 pounds acquired by typical cruisers, and intended to make use of the on ship walking/jogging track and possibly even the fitness center. The first cruise day I did a 1.6 mile power walk around the ship deck. Unfortunately that represents my total exercise effort for the entire trip. I succumbed to the Sirens' call of boat drinks and 24/7 available dining and came home with an 11 pound weight gain.

The cruise was one of the best I've been on. It had a great cruise director, and the dining room service team was very accommodating. It stopped at two ports of call that I have not seen before: Grand Cayman and Cozumel. In Grand Cayman I toured the port town of Georgetown on foot and walked to 7 mile beach. At Cozumel I took lunch and drinks at SeƱor Frogs and participated in a snorkeling excursion that was followed by free beer and margaritas.

But the best part was my luck in the ship casino. I started out losing the first night, but during the first day at sea I won the blackjack tournament and then won some more at the poker table that night. Over the rest of the cruise my winnings outpaced my losses and I came home ahead for the first time ever after a cruise.

Here are a few pictures.


Ship Pool

Boat Drinks

Caribbean Band

Seven Mile Beach