Saturday, May 16, 2009

So Long, Coach: Get an Upgrade at the Airport

The unfortunate reality of business travel today involves cramped economy seats, rental cars, and second-tier hotels. These treasured tips for bagging an upgrade on your ticket class at the airport may be just what you need to say so long to coach.

  • Turn on the charm and ask nicely. If the agent at the ticket counter seems open and friendly, turn on your award-winning smile and ask politely if there is any chance for an upgrade today. While the chance of this working may be slim, it has worked for us in the past. Things to keep in mind: upgrading wholly depends on the authority of who you are speaking with, the open capacity of seats, and your status with the airline.
  • Look the part. We can all spot the difference between the well-traveled business exec and the casual traveler in sweatpants. Dress and act like a first-class passenger and your chances of getting upgraded are greatly enhanced.
  • Let the ticket agent know if you are traveling for a special occasion-a honeymoon or anniversary-and they may honor you with an unexpected upgrade.
  • Ask the ticket agent if they will add a code to your ticket, which will indicate to the gate agent that you are eligible for an upgrade. Do your research beforehand on which codes your airlines uses and when. Each airline has their own way of coding passengers and upgrades.
  • Ask the ticket agent about the cost of buying an upgrade. Depending on the flight, upgrades can cost as little as $150, which may be worth it for your cross-country trip.
  • Be willing to use your miles and upgrade certificates. For a flight of more than three hours, it can be a worthwhile use, especially on a packed plane.
  • When you board the plane, if you see an empty first class seat ask the flight attendant if it is available. Flight attendants will generally consider an upgrade if you are having an issue with your seat (seatbelt issues, broken seat) or problems with your neighbors (an upset small child, a smelly or oversized passenger).

  • When booking, try to add an OSI (Other Significant Information) to your ticket. This can be done when booking directly with an airline or with a travel agent. From the airlines perspective, an attractive OSI may be if you are a VIP, CEO, travel agent, magazine writer or event planner.
Originally published on NicoleWilliams

How to Use Twitter To Bypass The Endless Taxi Line At McCarren

by markj

Did you hear the news? Conferences and tourists are returning to Vegas. Well, they never really left, however as the economy begins to improve you can bet that the trade shows and tourists will make sure your arrival into McCarren International Airport is crowded and chaotic.

Once you have dealt with the monorail, and once you have made it to the bottom of the escalator and retrieved your bag you must deal with the dreaded Vegas cab line. During midweek, and for that matter during this down economy, the cab line has not been much of an issue, but on Friday nights and during conventions that line can be over half an hour long. How do you beat it? Easy.

Find a Skycap. Let them know they can help you with your luggage. Give the guy a nice tip and tell him you want to go to Yellow #1. Here cab drivers will get pulled out of the long cab line servicing the regular folks in order to pick you up at Yellow #1. No waiting.

Now during super crowded times even this Yellow #1 tip can have a line behind it. What do you do then, or for that matter if you want to take no chances on waiting in line? When your plane lands and the pilot allows you to turn on your cell phone, Twitter Vegas Cabbie (he is the one who gave us the above tip in the first place) and tell him your flight just landed and you will gather your luggage and meet him at Yellow #1.

He, or someone will @ reply you and by the time you get your luggage and head out to Yellow #1 your chariot will await you.

Ah the joys of social webbing in Vegas.

Original here

220MPH Solar-Powered Bullet Train on Arizona Horizon

by Jorge Chapa

sustainable design, solar bullet train, green design, alternative transportation, renewable energy, solar powered train, high speed rail

Travelers going from Tucson to Phoenix may soon be blazing across the desert in speeding solar bullet trains propelled by the sun’s rays. Hot on the heels of President Obama’s plan for High Speed Rail in the US comes the news that Arizona-based Solar Bullet LLC is proposing a new 220mph bullet train that will be entirely powered by the sun and will make the trip in 30 minutes flat.

sustainable design, solar bullet train, green design, alternative transportation, renewable energy, solar powered train, high speed rail

The adoption of high speed rail in the states stands to greatly curb greenhouse emissions while cutting down on our reliance on carbon-spewing cars and airplanes. Needless to say it’s one of our favorite transportation topics here at Inhabitat, so to say that this one caught our eye would be an understatement.

The system is being proposed by Solar Bullet LLC, founded by Bill Gaither and Raymond Wright. Their plan is to create a series of tracks that would serve stations including Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy, Red Rock and Marana, and may one day stretch as far as Mexico City. The train would require 110 megawatts of electricity, which would be generated by solar panels mounted above the tracks.

Although the project is still in its early stages of development and the estimated cost is a whopping 28 billion dollars, the idea that someday in the future we could all be riding on solar powered bullet trains is simply too cool to resist.

Original here

Ten Ways to Stay On Top Of Your Work

by Ali Hale

Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in work? Your inbox is overflowing, you have to move two stacks of papers to get to your keyboard, you have a constant nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten about something vital, and that major project you want to start work on still remains a pipe dream.

Some people say they “work well under stress”, but most of us are happier, healthier and more productive when we feel that we’re on top of things. With that in mind, here are ten tips to help you stay on top of your work.

  1. Don’t Take On Too Much
    If you’re overworked, is it because you’re not very efficient and waste time (be honest) or is it because you simply have too much work?

    All the time management tips in the world won’t give you more than twenty-four hours in a day. When you’re offered an exciting new project to be part of, when a colleague asks for a favor, or when you’re thinking about sticking up your hand and volunteering in a meeting ... stop and think about your other priorities. Remember that if your day is currently full and you take on new work, something else is going to have to go.

  2. Minimize Meetings
    Many time-management writers, from Tim Ferriss to Mark Forster, advocate avoiding meetings if at all possible. How often have you sat in a meeting, bored out of your skull, wishing you could be getting on with your actual work?

    If you’re obliged to be in regular meetings, try cutting the frequency (perhaps a team meeting every fortnight, not every week, would be just as effective) or the duration (it’s surprising how much can be accomplished in half-an-hour).

    If you can possibly avoid meetings, do. That goes doubly for meetings which are off-site – there’s a lot of wasted time involved in getting there and back.

  3. Make A To-Do List The Day Before
    If you normally work on whatever catches your attention, you’re working ineffectively, and you’re likely to end up feeling overwhelmed. Each evening before you stop work for the day, make a “to do” list for the following day. This should cover the crucial things that you want to get done. Make sure that at least one of them is advancing a long-term project.

    The next morning, start on your to-do list before doing anything else (checking email, gossiping round the water cooler, making a round of coffee).

  4. “Big Rocks First”
    There’s an oft-cited time management adage “Big Rocks First”. The analogy goes like this: if you had to fill a jar with sand and rocks, it’s hard (almost impossible) to do it by pouring in the sand first then trying to fit in the rocks. But if you fit all the rocks first, the sand can simply flow into the gaps.

    Fit your “big rocks” – the major things you want to work on – into your day first. All the little jobs like checking email, tidying your desk and making phone calls can fit into small time-gaps in between the bigger tasks.

  5. Work In Timed Bursts
    No one can sustain their concentration for hours at a time. And all of us find that we can speed up and focus well when it’s three thirty on Friday, or when we’re off on vacation for a fortnight. Take advantage of this effect by working in timed bursts: for example, work on that big report that’s been hanging over you for thirty solid minutes (no checking emails, Twitter, Facebook...) You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in a short space of time.

    It’s often useful to use this to do “big rocks” and then to relax your attention by attending to the “sand” tasks like answering emails.

  6. Develop Good Systems
    We often work inefficiently because we just haven’t taken the time to develop a good system for something. If a particular aspect of your job is always causing you headaches, chances are that you need to fix the system you use for dealing with it. (In many cases, this means consciously implementing a system!)

    For example, if you find that you’re always forgetting to follow up on action points for meetings, develop a framework to help you do this. That might mean that you schedule yourself fifteen minutes after the meeting to go through your notes and put your action points onto your to-do list.

  7. Limit Email Checking
    Most of us spend far too much time on email – some companies have even started introducing “no email days”, where workers are encouraged to phone or talk face-to-face rather than use emails. Reading and replying to emails can often be a distraction from getting on with more important work.

    Try “batching” your emails: instead of replying as soon as one arrives, set certain times of day (ideally, not before 10am) when you’ll read and reply to all your emails.

  8. Set Your Own Deadlines
    Wouldn’t it be nice if you could set your own deadlines? Well, you can, of course: just make your deadline before the one that management (or your client) has given you.

    If you aim to get each project finished a few days in advance of the “real” deadline, you’ll feel considerably less stressed (you’re working to your own time, not to someone else’s) and you’ll also be able to cope with any genuine emergencies that crop up, without blowing the deadline.

  9. Delegate
    One great way to stay on top of your work is to pass on low-level tasks to someone else. If you’re in management, you’re wasting your time and your company’s time when you perform tasks that a junior colleague could have carried out.

    (If, like many people, you’re not confident about delegating work, read Accomplish More Each Day: Four Steps To Easy Delegation)

    If you’re self-employed, can you pay someone else to do tasks for you? For example, you might find a student willing to do some administrative tasks, and you could pay an accountant to help with your taxes.

  10. Ask For Less
    Depending on your job, you might be unable to delegate anything – in fact, you may be overwhelmed with other people delegating work to you!

    If this is the problem, don’t be afraid to say that you're being given too much to do. Your line manager may not realise that you’re feeling swamped. Don’t moan about having too much work, but mention your concerns that some aspects of your work aren’t getting done (or are being rushed) because you have too much else on.

Original here

GM to Cut 1100 Dealers

Posted in: Dealers, Financial

GM has 15 days to meet a government deadline to successfully restructure or else enter bankruptcy restructuring proceedings. Chrysler has already been in bankruptcy court since May 1st.

A major element of restructuring for both companies is the ability to eliminate excess dealerships. Maintaining too many dealers in a much smaller market than it used to be is a major expense.

Yesterday Chrysler announced a cut of 789 dealers, leading to shock and sadness across the country. Not only because of loss of jobs and revenue, but car dealers are often important community members and sponsors of local activities.

Starting today 1124 GM dealers will get their pink slips. This represents 18% of the total GM dealerships. Those getting letters will be told their contracts which expire in October 2010 shall not be renewed. They are ones considered to be underperformers.

GM actually plans to eliminate 42% of total dealerships to a goal of 3605 by the end of next year. As GM is not currently in bankruptcy they do not have to publicly announce which dealerships will be receiving letters. Chrysler’s list is published below.

“We have said from the beginning that our dealers are not a problem but an asset for General Motors,” said Mark LaNeve, GM Vice President of Sales Service and Marketing. “However it is imperative that a healthy, viable GM have a healthy, viable dealer body that can not only survive but prosper during cyclical downturns. It is obvious that almost all parts of GM, including the dealer body, must get smaller and more efficient.”

Most recently GM CEO Fritz Henderson has said GM bankruptcy is probable. However it is expected the bankruptcy process will allow GM to successfully restructure its debt and expenses and survive as a lean green reinvention of itself.

Either way Volt will survive, only the dealer you might be hoping to get it from right now may not be there in November 2010.

List of Chrysler Dealers

Source (Detroit Free Press)

Wisconsin court upholds GPS tracking by police


Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody’s movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

However, the District 4 Court of Appeals said it was “more than a little troubled” by that conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to regulate GPS use to protect against abuse by police and private individuals.

As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights – even if the drivers aren’t suspects.

Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.

That means “police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone’s public movements with a GPS device,” he wrote.

One privacy advocate said the decision opened the door for greater government surveillance of citizens. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials called the decision a victory for public safety because tracking devices are an increasingly important tool in investigating criminal behavior.

The ruling came in a 2003 case involving Michael Sveum, a Madison man who was under investigation for stalking. Police got a warrant to put a GPS on his car and secretly attached it while the vehicle was parked in Sveum’s driveway. The device recorded his car’s movements for five weeks before police retrieved it and downloaded the information.

The information suggested Sveum was stalking the woman, who had gone to police earlier with suspicions. Police got a second warrant to search his car and home, found more evidence and arrested him. He was convicted of stalking and sentenced to prison.

Sveum, 41, argued the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. He argued the device followed him into areas out of public view, such as his garage.

The court disagreed. The tracking did not violate constitutional protections because the device only gave police information that could have been obtained through visual surveillance, Lundsten wrote.

Even though the device followed Sveum’s car to private places, an officer tracking Sveum could have seen when his car entered or exited a garage, Lundsten reasoned. Attaching the device was not a violation, he wrote, because Sveum’s driveway is a public place.

We discern no privacy interest protected by the Fourth Amendment that is invaded when police attach a device to the outside of a vehicle, as long as the information obtained is the same as could be gained by the use of other techniques that do not require a warrant,” he wrote.

Although police obtained a warrant in this case, it wasn’t needed, he added.

Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said using GPS to track someone’s car goes beyond observing them in public and should require a warrant.

The idea that you can go and attach anything you want to somebody else’s property without any court supervision, that’s wrong,” he said. “Without a warrant, they can do this on anybody they want.”

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office, which argued in favor of the warrantless GPS tracking, praised the ruling but would not elaborate on its use in Wisconsin.

David Banaszynski, president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said his department in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood does not use GPS. But other departments might use it to track drug dealers, burglars and stalkers, he said.

A state law already requires the Department of Corrections to track the state’s most dangerous sex offenders using GPS. The author of that law, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the decision shows “GPS tracking is an effective means of protecting public safety.”

Original here

Ford Engineer Builds 125 MPG 3-Wheeler, Puts It On Ebay

In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars

Martin Specht for The New York Times
Biking and walking are the principal means of transport within the suburb of Vauban, Germany.


VAUBAN, Germany — Residents of this upscale community are suburban pioneers, going where few soccer moms or commuting executives have ever gone before: they have given up their cars.

Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here. “When I had a car I was always tense. I’m much happier this way,” said Heidrun Walter, a media trainer and mother of two, as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.

Vauban, completed in 2006, is an example of a growing trend in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to separate suburban life from auto use, as a component of a movement called “smart planning.”

Automobiles are the linchpin of suburbs, where middle-class families from Chicago to Shanghai tend to make their homes. And that, experts say, is a huge impediment to current efforts to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes, and thus to reduce global warming. Passenger cars are responsible for 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe — a proportion that is growing, according to the European Environment Agency — and up to 50 percent in some car-intensive areas in the United States.

While there have been efforts in the past two decades to make cities denser, and better for walking, planners are now taking the concept to the suburbs and focusing specifically on environmental benefits like reducing emissions. Vauban, home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway.

“All of our development since World War II has been centered on the car, and that will have to change,” said David Goldberg, an official of Transportation for America, a fast-growing coalition of hundreds of groups in the United States — including environmental groups, mayors’ offices and the American Association of Retired People — who are promoting new communities that are less dependent on cars. Mr. Goldberg added: “How much you drive is as important as whether you have a hybrid.”

Levittown and Scarsdale, New York suburbs with spread-out homes and private garages, were the dream towns of the 1950s and still exert a strong appeal. But some new suburbs may well look more Vauban-like, not only in developed countries but also in the developing world, where emissions from an increasing number of private cars owned by the burgeoning middle class are choking cities.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting “car reduced” communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said. In previous bills, 80 percent of appropriations have by law gone to highways and only 20 percent to other transport.

In California, the Hayward Area Planning Association is developing a Vauban-like community called Quarry Village on the outskirts of Oakland, accessible without a car to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and to the California State University’s campus in Hayward.

Sherman Lewis, a professor emeritus at Cal State and a leader of the association, says he “can’t wait to move in” and hopes that Quarry Village will allow his family to reduce its car ownership from two to one, and potentially to zero. But the current system is still stacked against the project, he said, noting that mortgage lenders worry about resale value of half-million-dollar homes that have no place for cars, and most zoning laws in the United States still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Quarry Village has obtained an exception from Hayward.

Besides, convincing people to give up their cars is often an uphill run. “People in the U.S. are incredibly suspicious of any idea where people are not going to own cars, or are going to own fewer,” said David Ceaser, co-founder of CarFree City USA, who said no car-free suburban project the size of Vauban had been successful in the United States.

In Europe, some governments are thinking on a national scale. In 2000, Britain began a comprehensive effort to reform planning, to discourage car use by requiring that new development be accessible by public transit.

“Development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people,” said PPG 13, the British government’s revolutionary 2001 planning document. Dozens of shopping malls, fast-food restaurants and housing compounds have been refused planning permits based on the new British regulations.

In Germany, a country that is home to Mercedes-Benz and the autobahn, life in a car-reduced place like Vauban has its own unusual gestalt. The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents, like Ms. Walter, have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates.

For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club. Ms. Walter had previously lived — with a private car — in Freiburg as well as the United States.

“If you have one, you tend to use it,” she said. “Some people move in here and move out rather quickly — they miss the car next door.”

Vauban, the site of a former Nazi army base, was occupied by the French Army from the end of World War II until the reunification of Germany two decades ago. Because it was planned as a base, the grid was never meant to accommodate private car use: the “roads” were narrow passageways between barracks.

The original buildings have long since been torn down. The stylish row houses that replaced them are buildings of four or five stories, designed to reduce heat loss and maximize energy efficiency, and trimmed with exotic woods and elaborate balconies; free-standing homes are forbidden.

By nature, people who buy homes in Vauban are inclined to be green guinea pigs — indeed, more than half vote for the German Green Party. Still, many say it is the quality of life that keeps them here.

Henk Schulz, a scientist who on one afternoon last month was watching his three young children wander around Vauban, remembers his excitement at buying his first car. Now, he said, he is glad to be raising his children away from cars; he does not worry much about their safety in the street.

In the past few years, Vauban has become a well-known niche community, even if it has spawned few imitators in Germany. But whether the concept will work in California is an open question.

More than 100 would-be owners have signed up to buy in the Bay Area’s “car-reduced” Quarry Village, and Mr. Lewis is still looking for about $2 million in seed financing to get the project off the ground.

But if it doesn’t work, his backup proposal is to build a development on the same plot that permits unfettered car use. It would be called Village d’Italia.

Original here