Northwest Airlines makes a bold cultural statement

Flying on Northwest Airlines recently, I had 18 hours to kill and decided to use part of it to play around with their in-flight entertainment. The music part is kind of cool, because you can see the song lists and easily skip past the ones you don’t like. Since most of it was crap, I decided to take my chances with some music I hadn’t heard before, and navigated to their world music page where I was surprised to see this:

Sorry for my crappy cell-phone camera… here’s closer look:


In Heroes Of Earth, Lee Hom Wang continues his signature chinked-out music style, made famous with his highly acclaimed last album Shangri-La. He shows his innovation once again, writing songs that fuse traditional Kun Opera with Hip Hop music.

It’s clear from the quote that Northwest Airlines aren’t coining a new term for Asian rap, and in it turns out that the phrase is the invention of Lee Hom Wang himself. However, seeing as how there’s no consensus among the Asian community that it is inoffensive, and that the airline takes great pains to remove even the slightest traces of offensive language from it’s in-flight entertainment, it certainly seems like an odd PR risk to take.

I had never heard the term before to describe a musical style and neither, I suspect, have many Asian Americans. And if you haven’t heard it, I suspect that seeing it on your Northwest Airlines entertainment menu could be a startling experience.

I do believe that words have only the power that we assign to them, and I find arguments that appropriating a word with negative connotations somehow accepts the validity of those connotations to be, at best, unconvincing. Maybe Northwest Airlines believes this too. And if so, bravo to them for throwing caution to the wind, and sacrificing potential future business in order to take sides on a cultural debate.

For the record, I listened to the album and actually enjoyed the rap songs on it.

Tyson speaks: “Holyfield was delicious!”

Gosh, it’s dead around here. Maybe it has something to do with the really, really hot weather we’ve been treated to in SoCal lately.

No time like the present to unearth this dumbass fake article about the Tyson-Holyfield ‘bite fight’ that Dre and I wrote back in, oh geez, 1997 or so?

The styles are stolen straight from that era’s My, but times have changed design-wise.

Next up, assuming continued paucity of content: the Nieman-Marcus cookie recipe page that got me a C&D from their lawyers about a decade ago.

The Pay Per Post Experiment

There’s been a fair amount of controversy lately about a new company called “Pay Per Post” which offers to pay money to bloggers for posting about specific topics. I was fairly curious about it, and I’m not really concerned with the ethical arguments, so I decided to play with it. I won’t do it here, and in fact I won’t link to Pay Per Post directly from here to avoid the confusion with all of the paid posts about the service. Instead, I’ve started a new blog here for that purpose. Since they have a requirement that the blog be up for 30 days before it’s eligible to make paid posts, I’ve used another page not suited to long term blogging, here, to make my first (and, so far, only) attempt at a paid post.

Looking through the blogvertisement opportunities they offer, it seems like most postings will get you $5 to $10. These posts should take 5-10 minutes to generate, so if they pay up it should get you maybe the equivalent of $60 an hour. If it becomes popular, I suspect supply and demand may drive that rate down (since that would be a king’s ransom for offshore bloggers). So far there isn’t any requirement on number of hits or blog popularity – a situation that I don’t expect to last, or spam blogs would rape them. The advertiser can set particular requirements: what kind of link, whether you include a graphic, some sort of specific phrase, and whether the post needs to be favorable to the product being discussed. So far, nearly every opportunity allows both positive and negative feedback, so they are really just looking to generate discussion and awareness.

Examples of current opportunities are: discussing the relative merits of moving to Florida, vacationing in the Bahamas, the first “Socially Conscious” search engine, and a Christian job placement firm that almost certainly violates the EEOC.

There is one other possibility: that it’s all a big scam to collect peoples’ social security numbers. Since the service has gotten some mainstream press, that seems unlikely. But the thirty day requirement (that a post must remain on your blog before you are reimbursed) means that, even though the status of my paid post is “confirmed”, it will be 16 more days before I know whether or not I’m really going to get my $10. And the company is so new that there haven’t been any confirmations of others being paid either.

I’ll write about it again when my $10 posts to my Paypal account, and then I’ll keep you guys updated on how it seems to be working.

Recommendation: Starwood Preferred American Express Card

There are many things that suck about travelling a lot for work, but one thing that doesn’t suck is that I just took a nine-day vacation in Europe (about which I might have more to say later) and paid for airfare and hotel not with cash, but with points accumulated in various rewards programs. For example, I stayed nearly 100 nights in Marriott hotels last year which entitles me to an untold treasure trove of perks and free stays that you can only imagine. Actually, I too can only imagine these rewards, because the Marriott Rewards program really sucks.

Consider, I average probably 1,200 points earned per night spent at a Marriott. But to spend one night in the heart of London, without being off in some outlying suburb that would require me to commute into the city for 45 minutes each morning, cost me 30,000 points. All Marriott hotels within the city of London were considered “Category 5” or “Category 6” based on location, so my 100 paid nights gets me something like 3-4 free nights. There are point-saver rates and such, but with restrictions and blackouts I wasn’t able to get them. I had the same problem last year when I tried to do Washington, D.C. on Marriott points.

You could get more Marriott points through a credit card that gives you 1 point per dollar spent, but considering that you’d have to spend nearly $30,000 to earn a free night worth $360, that’s not really much better than getting a 1% cash back card and choosing to spend the reward cash on a night at the Marriott.

I actually spent most of my time in London at a Starwood property. Starwood owns Westin, W, St. Regis, Sheraton, and I think a couple odd other chains. I was able to do this despite the fact that I didn’t spend too many paid nights in Starwood hotels last year.

There are two reasons I had enough Starwood points to finance most of my stay in London. Reason one is that I use the Starwood Preferred American Express Card, which also gives me a point per dollar spent, to pay for nearly everything in my life. And reason two is that Starwood points are worth at least three times as much as Marriott points, Hilton points, most airline points, and the cash rewards offered by cashback credit cards. With no blackout dates or restrictions, as well as easy to find and use special offers (check out points + cash) that can stretch your points out, you can do quite well. The worst case Starwood expenditure for a hotel in the same class as the aforementioned London Marriott (after for correcting for Marriott’s shameless “category inflation”) is 10,000 points. Using an easily available offer (that a very nice customer service rep pointed out to me while I was booking) I spent 5 nights at the Sheraton Park Lane for 40,000 points (I pay for all my work expenses on the card and get promptly reimbursed).

Remember, the Marriott charged me 30,000 points for 1 night.  On the Starwood card I get an easily redeemed (even before special offers and free nights) 3.6% return vs. Marriott’s pain in the ass 1.2% return on their card. Northwest Airlines offers a card at a dollar a point as well. Getting to from LAX to NYC and back (with significant restrictions) would cost you 25,000 points, worth $378 at for the exact same flights. That’s 1.5% of highly restricted return on investment that you may not be able to redeem if they go belly-up. United Airlines is much the same. Discover Card gives you greater flexibility but only 1% cash back. I haven’t seen any cashback cards that go over 2% except for certain types of purchases.

The other nice thing about the Starwood Preferred program is that the points are fully transferrable to airline miles on just about any airline (with a 25% bonus if you transfer 20,000 points), which makes airline rewards cards all but obsolete. And finally, Starwood hotels are generally very nice. One drawback is a $30 annual fee starting in the second year, but if you spend at least $3,000, those three Hamiltons will get you a night at the Westin LAX (Category 2, 3000 points). If you spend at least a few grand a year, and you take the occasional vacation, the Starwood Preferred American Express card really seems to offer the most bang for your buck.

Oh, and Marriott, you should be worried when super-duper Molybdenum-level members are steering people away from your rewards program.

The Google Anecdote

I have a couple of tech support contacts at Google (they’re low-level – don’t get all excited) for some projects I’m working on at work. I called one of them up the other day to try and figure out some junk about a Google API, and his response was that I should try Googling for the answer.

…I still haven’t decided if that answer was a complete cop-out or a sign of genius.

Introducing: Dutch Oven Pease*

*Temporary placeholder name

Dutch Oven will be born sometime in late-November/early-December and we’ve been given 98% assurance that he is, indeed, a she. We are, of course, beside ourselves with delight.

We got the ultrasound done today, and I was struck by the amount of technology that goes into these things. I wasn’t aware that they were able to predict what the child may look like based on the ultrasound, but, lo and behold, the technician gave me the following printout:

At first, I think we were offended, but then I realized that it would be sort of awesome to be Skeletor’s dad. The idea is still growing on Phet.

This kid is going to be awesome.

The Argument Against Net Neutrality

Senator Ted Stevens (R – Alaska), offers up the other side of the Net Neutrality debate.

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.